Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Small Taste of Heaven

If forced to pick my desert island grape there would have to be some very serious consideration given to Nebbiolo.  It took two days and two good meals to drink the latest bottle, a 2004 Gianfranco Alessandria Langhe Nebbiolo from the 2004 vintage.

The first evening it was reticent and closed, only opening up after about thirty minutes.  Pale red in the glass this definitely was cherries and flowers and earth in the nose.  The taste was that unique aspect that a good Nebbiolo has, cherries that are both sweet and sour at the same time.   Coupled with its sharp acid and its penetrating tannin it cleared away a bite of rib steak and refreshed the mouth.  After two glasses we vacuumed the bottle and saved it for another day.

'Another' day turned out to be today.  There was a double thick Kurobuta rib chop marinated in garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary and sage and then seared on the hot side of the grill and allowed to finish on the cooler side.  There was also gnocchi in a sage sauce.

The vacuum came out of the bottle and the room seemed filled with flowers.  This wine just smelled terrific and it would have been enough to just sit and sniff it all evening.  It lost nothing in the taste department, but the tannin had receded just a bit.  I last had this wine two years ago and loved it then.  The two additional years in the cellar made a noticeable difference.  This wine was definitely together.  I still love this wine.   14% alcohol and $18 three years ago.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kinkead Ridge 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

We're still clearing room for the 2008 Kinkead Ridge red wines by drinking some older vintages.  Last night was the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Bright, clear red in the glass this wine lacks the depth of color of the 2007 wine.  The nose is tart red cherries, cedar, a hint of cinnamon and a touch of vanilla.  The taste is pure, sweet  fruit that immediately livens up your tongue.  There are some tannins, but they are well integrated and there is an almost perfect balance of acid to fruit.  I was expecting a shorter finish, but the clean flavors persisted.  Light, elegant, refreshing and classy. It's an afternoon wine or a Cabernet Sauvignon for a lighter meal as opposed to a hunk of beef or game. 

Dinner was a chicken breast roasted in parchment paper and some pommes Parisian skillet roasted in duck fat.  The potatoes balls were crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside.  We added some roasted corn with basil and along with the wine it made for a mid-week feast.

I loved this wine and fortunately there are two more in the cellar.  13.1% alcohol land $18.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

2006 Kinkead Ridge Riesling

Back to trying some previous vintages Kinkead Ridge wines.  The latest was the 2006 Riesling.  The bloom of true youth is off this wine and it has settled into a lovely life as a mature adult.  Not as sharp, tart and focused as it was a couple of years ago, this wine has matured gracefully. 

There's still some lemon/lime aspect to it but now it's a more general, tart citrus.  There's also a subtle touch of apricot in this wine that was just beautiful.  It doesn't taste old, but it has evolved into a more complete wine.  The fruit is still good, the acid is still there to clear the palate, but that touch of apricot just adds a bit of elegance to the wine.

Drank over two nights, the first with a German seasoned pork chop and the second with some Asian spiced rice.    There are two more in the cellar and we'll mark them for late August consumption in 2011 and 2012.  10.6% alcohol and 1.2% residual sugar.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Few Other Cabernets

Continuing with the Cabernet Sauvignon wines discussed below, the other wine to get a first place vote was the 2007 Hahn Estates Central Coast Meritage from California.

The wine was almost black in the glass and while there was some fruit in the nose the primary aromas were cinnamon, allspice, vanilla and dry earth.  The fruit came to the fore in the taste with a good combination between black cherries and cranberries.  There was good acid and some ripe tannin and a tart finish with some length to it.  Good wine and my second choice of the entire group.  This wine was slightly different in that it was a Meritage wine, a blend of traditional Bordeaux varieties, though the label gave no hint as to what made up the blend.  Over the course of the afternoon the wine continued to improve.  14.5% and $23.

The oldest wine of the day was a 2001 Australian Cabernet, a Cockfighter's Ghost from the Coonawarra region.  The nose was closed at first and there was just a touch of brett in this wine.  The taste was ripe plums and dark berries with just a hint of a prune peeking out.  Dry mouth feel, good acid and tannin.  This was the wine which improved the most over the course of the afternoon.  The brett aroma faded and so did the taste of the prunes.  Still, this is a wine that is probably a year or two past its peak, but it was still good to drink.  13.5% alcohol.

The most controversial wine of the day was a 2005 Coniglio from Napa Valley. Two tasters loved this wine, one was somewhat neutral, one said it wasn't his favorite and I found it harsh and over the top.  Inky black color and almost viscous in the glass.  The nose was mostly huge dark fruit, black pepper and vanilla.  The nose reminded me more of an over-extracted Zinfandel.   The taste was sweet and hot with very ripe fruit, black cherries, blackberries.  The black pepper kicked in half way through, along with the tannin.  This wine seemed low in acid and the finish was hot and harsh.  One glass of this wine would satisfy me so a bottle would last several days.  15.2% alcohol and $28.

The final wine was a 2008 Twenty Rows Cabernet from Napa.  Medium color in the glass the nose was cherries and dry, dusty plums.  The fruit flavor was bright and loaded with medium dark cherries and a little blueberry.  Good acid, but the tannin in this wine was a little raw.  The finish had some nice length to it but the last taste in the mouth seemed to be that harsh tannin.  14.4% alcohol and $21.

The bottom line for me on these tastings is that I enjoy them, but my preference is still to sit down with dinner and two bottles of wine and see how they evolve over the course of the meal.    My mind still gravitates toward food friendly wines, and even though some of the huge wines are well made and exactly what the winemaker intended, I tend to be put off by them.  Then again, I'm no professional - just someone who likes wine.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cabernet Afternoon

I like afternoon wine tastings, especially when it involves good wine. There was one yesterday.  Our semi-usual group got together and worked through seven Cabernet based wines at a list price of between $15 and $30.   Five were from California, one from Australia and one from Chile. 

There was a wide array of styles and all of the wines were well made, though not all the wines suited every individual taste.  For what they were all but one of the wines succeeded. All but one was worthwhile.  Sadly for me that disappointing wine was one that I would have picked as a strong choice for a top finish before the wines were tasted.  Of the five folks rating the wines I think the Beaulieu Rutherford Cabernet from the 2005 vintage was everyone's bottom wine.

It started well with good dark color and a strong nose of black cherries, dark berries and vanilla.  It had a full sweet taste and a nice initial mouth feel with some good tannins.  Just past the mid-palate the wine disappeared.  I don't mean it faded quickly, I mean it totally disappeared.  The only thing one could say about the finish was that it was wet.  Rechecking this wine over the course of the afternoon only proved the initial impression to be correct, it faded more quickly than Linsay Lohan out on probation.  It was also near the top end of the price range.  The BV Rutherford has to me always been one the outstanding values in Napa Valley Cabernet.  Not this time.  14.4% alcohol.

At the other end of the day there was a near dead heat for the top wine between two bottles, Educated Guess 2007 from Napa Valley and a 2007 Errazuriz Single Vineyard, Max 1 vineyard from Chile.  Two tasters had each wine first and the other third ,with the difference being the fifth taster who picked the Educated Guess third and the Errazuriz fourth. 

The Educated Guess was dark and brooding in color with a nose of blackberries and sour, dark cherries.  The fruit was strong tasting and intense without being overly sweet.  Good acid and a nice backbone of tannin helped this wine along.  There was a big, dry finish with good length to it.  14.5% and $23.

The Errazuriz was entirely different.  The color was medium red in the glass and the nose was red cherries and herbs with only a suggestion of darker fruit.  Great acidity and surprising ripe tannin gave this wine more body and structure than the color indicated.  There was an elegance to this wine that suited my taste.  It too was 14.5% alcohol and checked in at $20.

The rest tomorrow. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

2007 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine has been sitting in the cellar since I picked it up at the winery last September.  Since the new 2008 vintage is out in two weeks it was time to see what a year of bottle aging did for the 2007 wine.

The color was a medium to dark red in the glass with a slight purple edge to the rim.  Still young.  The nose was full out fruit and a large whiff of oak with some vanilla and cinnamon peeking out.  The first impression from tasting the wine was a dry Coca Cola with some black cherry syrup mixed in for good measure.  The wine was full bodied with a great mouth feel.  The flavors finally settled down to the dark cherries playing with some fresh oak and spices.  It was warm and inviting.  Good acid, good depth of flavors and a nice bite a the finish made this wine go down quite easily.  This is a big wine with the flavor and the oak influence, but it was well balanced and delicious.

Dinner was a marinated veal rib chop cooked to medium rare on the grill and some fresh gnocchi finished in a brown butter and fresh sage sauce with a grating of Pecorino Romano cheese over the top.   Great with the wine.

The dogs got some of the fatty parts from the chop mixed in with their dog food and managed to entice a gnocchi or two by giving me the innocent and hungry look.  It helped Scott get over his depression of not having any squirrels to chase this evening. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Warming Up

A few Nantucket scallops, some fresh spinach, a few crusty rolls and a very good bottle of wine.  That made for a very nice evening on Wednesday. 

The scallops were seared in butter and olive oil in a well seasoned, hot, cast iron pan.  At the end we squeezed in some lemon juice, added some lemon zest, some parsley and one snipped chive.  The spinach was washed and lightly dried then tossed in a hot skillet and seared in about a teaspoon of bacon drippings. The spinach got just a wee bit of finely chopped fresh tarragon at the end.  Heaven.

The wine was the 2009 Viognier Roussanne from Kinkead Ridge.  Ripe, fresh, clean and a little restrained the wine was a perfect match.  Great acid and Viognier flavors matched well with the scallops while the earthiness of the Roussanne matched up with the spinach and the tarragon. 

I decided it was time to taste some Kinkead wines from the cellar as they are set to release their 2008 red wines in just over two weeks.  We'll need some space for what promises to be an outstanding vintage and that's a great excuse for tasting what the winery has done in the past.  There are several reds set to taste over the next week or so. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yakitori and Riesling

Several storms rolled through on Sunday and the last one is bringing relief from the oppressive heat.  Warm days are on the horizon but the high humidity is gone.  In between rain showers on Sunday we did some Japanese grilling.

Yakitori is marinated and grilled chicken pieces, lots of chicken pieces.  For my purpose that meant chunks of chicken thighs, livers and gizzards.  The marinade was Tamari, Mirin, brown sugar, ,chopped garlic and chopped ginger all cooked down for a few minutes.  A small amount was reduced further for a glaze.  The chicken parts marinated for about five hours and were then threaded onto skewers and grilled, the livers for three minutes, the thigh chunks for six minutes and the gizzards for nine minutes.  Just prior to being taken off the grill they were glazed with the ultra-reduced remaining marinade.  The chicken came off the grilled charred and flat out delicious.  Pictured above are the thigh pieces.

Of the three parts the gizzards were my least favorite as they remained tough, though they were tasty.  The livers were better than I expected though if I were not certain of the quality of the chickens I would have cooked them longer.  The thighs were tender, juicy and bursting with flavor.

Instead of Sake we opted for Australian Riesling, in this case a 2006 Grosset Watervale Riesling.  After an initial whiff of kerosene the wine got down to being a serious compliment to the chicken.  The fruit was strong but restrained, the acid was phenomenal and the hint of minerality a perfect match for the less than subtle flavors in the chicken.  Great pairing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How to Pour Sparkling Wines

Interesting paper in the new issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry on the correct way to pour sparkling wine to retain the most bubbles of carbon dioxide.

"On the Losses of Dissolved CO2 During Champagne Serving" concluded after bottles and bottles of study that the best way is to pour it is like a beer by tilting the glass and letting the liquid flow down the sides of the glass.  Less CO2 escapes in this method than when one pours directly to the bottom of the glass creating the temporary 'head' on the wine.

The article also points out that colder is better for retaining CO2. I will make a compromise and pour down the side of the glass in the future, but over chilled sparklers are not going to happen for me -- though I am available to help if some researcher wants to repeat this study.

The study can be found by clicking here.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Rose' After the Storm

After a terribly hot week that never saw the temperature dip below 75 degrees at night and always break 90 degrees during the day a cold front finally came through this evening about the time I was lighting the charcoal grill.  We delayed dinner for an hour until the rain stopped, and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset and the promise of a somewhat cooler week ahead.

After a week of fish, chicken and near vegetarian meals it was time for a steak and we opted for a large, rib steak.  Since the weather was still warm we went with a rose' instead of a red wine.

The wine was a 2009 Ramian rose' from Napa Valley.  The mix was 95% Syrah from Napa Valley and 5% Grenache from El Dorado County in California.  Beautiful, rich,  dark pink color and a nose of sweet fruit with ultra ripe red plums and strawberries foremost.  The taste was true Syrah and there was great acid to go with the fruit.  There was a mildly sweet taste, but a sweet taste due to good fruit and not residual sugar.  A pretty wine to look at in the glass and an even better wine to drink.  The alcohol was a little high at 14.1% so a little less was consumed.  Good effort for a California rose.  More "stuffing" than a European rose', but with the steak it was a great match.  $14 and a production of 145 cases.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

2006 Graves

When all was said and done with Sunday dinner the clear favorite wine was a 2006  Chateau de Callac, a white Graves.  This wine is still young and smelled of fresh oak and fresh Calmyra figs.  The oak stood out and wasn't totally integrated into the wine as yet, an unmistakable smell and taste - raw and fresh and clean.  Good acidity, great body and a luscious mouth feel helped this wine match up with the swordfish when it came off the grill.  13.5% alcohol by volume.   

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Visit to the Dark Side

The third wine to lose its cork on Sunday was a 2007 Macon Charnay Les Chenes from Domaine Manciat Poncey.

This followed on the heels of a rather disappointing Grenache Blanc discussed in the previous post.  Little did I expect that the Grenache Blanc would be the superior wine.

The Macon was oxidized in the nose and in the taste.  After two minutes in the glass it moved from oxidized to caramelized.  It was as though someone dropped a caramel candy into the glass and it dissolved in the wine.

Bad bottle so there's little else to say.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grenache Blanc

The second wine on Sunday was quite interesting and was another first for me, a 2009 Reserve de la Saurine with a listed locale of the south of France.  The wine is 100% Grenache Blanc, a variety I am most familiar with as a grape blended in small proportions into wines from the southern Rhone.

The wine was virtually colorless but had a surprising amount of body to it.  What fruit was in the nose was limited and had an almost muscat like muskiness to it.  The taste was much the same, extreme earthiness, good acid, but little fruit flavor. There was that muskiness on the sides of the tongue that is recognizable from some of the wines where it is used in a blending proportion. A good learning experience.  The second photo shows well what coloration the wine had in the glass.

For what it's worth neither the color or the flavor improved when served in something other than the champagne glass pictured. At $18 the wine is probably a pass. 13.5% alcohol by volume.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Few New Wines

Beautiful day on Sunday, but the hottest weather of year is promised for this week with temperatures hitting near 100 degrees.

Several new wines for me yesterday at friends' home.  First was an Italian sparkling wine from the Talento Trento area.  The wine was a Rotari Rose', 75% pinot nero and 25% Chardonnay. 

Nice pop when the cork came out.  Very pale copper color in the glass.  Lots of yeast and bread dough on the nose with a hint of strawberries and almonds.  Very dry taste with some suppressed strawberry and peach flavors.  Lively acidity, good bubbles.  The wine was marked down to around $15 and that's probably a good price range.  Nothing great, but a good, afternoon sparkling wine to whet the appetite before dinner.  It was an interesting introduction to wines from this area of Italy.

Dinner was to be grilled swordfish but we started the day with some individual pizzas done on the grill.  A crust, a dab of tomato sauce, fresh red cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes halved, provolone cheese, fresh mozzarella, a sprinkle of salt, a drizzle of olive oil and some aleppo pepper.  When they came off the grill we added some chopped fresh basil.  Good stuff.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Simonnet-Febvre Chablis 2008

The 2008 wines from Chablis continue to get great reviews.  My first taste of them was a Christian Moreau and it  was superb.  The second one to surface was the Simonnet-Febrve Millesime Chablis at $17.   This domaine is owned by Louis Latour.  It is also the first time I have seen this domaine in the market and so was my first taste.

Green gold in the glass and perfectly clear.  It had the perfect Chablis nose of a very lightly struck match, some wet limestone and some citrus.  The body was medium and the mouth feel was light and crisp without being delicate.  Wonderful acidity and good depth of flavor.  The finish was more than acceptable and ended with Chablis minerality.  How I wish more wineries could make chardonnay taste this good for $17.  12.5% alcohol.

There were some Chesapeake Bay clams, steamed with andouille sausage, onions and garlic as a starter and then some pan seared and oven roasted halibut with only salt and lemon juice to accompany.  The wine and the fish were near perfect together. 

Both of the wines from the 2008 vintage have been regular bottlings and have been very, very good.  I am excited about trying some of the premier cru wines from the vintage and perhaps a grand cru or two.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

August Berries and Veraison

August's local blackberries are in the market and they are tremendous this year.  A few pureed berries, a little sugar in the syrup and some fresh berries all poured over a slice of pound cake make a great dessert.

So far the berries are the only thing to recommend this month.  After a record hot June and a record hot July, August promises to be --- hotter.  Today and tomorrow are the only predicted days below 90 degrees for the next week and mid-week promises to be 100 or more.  Time for cheap white wine that can take a thorough chill.

Two of the local wineries (Kinkead Ridge and La Vigna) have posted photos on their websites and/or on Facebook of their Cabernet Sauvignon grapes moving into the ripening stage, a process known as veraison.  The hot weather has been kind to the grapes if not to the people, and both wineries expect an earlier harvest this year.  After last year's abysmal harvest in Ohio that is welcome news.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Non-Costly Italian White

One of my major complaints has always been the lack of inexpensive (read cheap) Italian white wines.  Italy does a great job on reds but the whites always seem to leave something to be desired, or a lot to be desired.  The French do a great job on less expensive whites and so do the Spanish, but the Italians don't seem to follow suit.

Tonight's wine was a 2008 Castlevero Cortese from the Piemonte region of northwest Italy.   Very pale, green gold color in the glass, little aroma, but fresh and lively on the tongue.  Light, pleasant, non thought provoking and refreshing.  In the end it just tasted like wine without any character at all.  It wasn't bad, it wasn't good, it was just there.  It washed down about two dozen steamer clams in a garlic and butter sauce and did it with style and a refreshing quality.    For $11 it was probably overpriced, but when the temperature is nearing 100 degrees and heat index is topping out at 110 degrees an inoffensive, light, somewhat innocuous wine fills the bill.  11.5% alcohol.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Berkshire Pork

Sunday's trip to the market was fun when I stopped by the butcher case.    One of my favorite butchers was on duty and he pointed me to a new item they are now carrying, pork from a Berkshire hog.  The Berkshire is an old English breeed of black pig.  Labeled Kurobuta pork this is basically the pork equivalent of Wagyu (Kobe) beef.  Compared to the regular pork the market carries this chop had much more marbled fat in the lean parts and more fat surrounding the lean parts.    It also carries a price tag just a little more than double regular pork.

The chop was grilled outdoors with just some minimal seasoning. One bite was enough to convince me it was a better product.  It stood up to the temperature of the grill better than regular pork.  This was more like eating a beef steak because the marbling retained much more moisture in the chop.  It did not develop the dryness I dislike in grilled pork.  The mouth feel was much better and the taste was excellent.  There was some fresh corn and pasta salad to accompany and the last glass of the Domaine de Gachon Saint Joseph discussed below.  The wine was still good.  The pork was delicious.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Domaine de Gachon 2000

Brick red in the glass with an unmistakable barnyard odor when first opened.  That faded quickly to a most acceptable level.  Cherry fruit, red plums, a few garden herbs, squeaky clean leather, some damp earth, a pinch of cinnamon and just a touch a vanilla. Good acid and still a bit of soft tannin on the finish.  The last of three bottles purchased about four years ago and probably the best of the three.

Grilled steak, baked potato, light salad and grilled peaches and blueberries for dessert. 

Wonderful wine at its peak made for a good evening yesterday.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thumbs Up / Thumbs Down

A package arrived in the mail recently from one of my friends who supply flamingo items.  She found this teapot and had to send it along.  The package should have been marked "open at your own risk."
After some long hours at work this week (60+) friends called last night with an offer for dinner.

They were trying a new recipe for a pork loin, marinated in an apple jelly, garlic, herb and grainy mustard marinade and then slowly grilled. It was delicious.

There were two wines, one very good and one a huge disappointment.  The very good wine was a 2005 Weingut Josef Leitz Rüdesheimer Drachenstein Riesling Kabinett from the Rheingau.  The petulance of its youth was gone but the high acid and sweet fruit was still there in near perfect balance.  It just seemed to dance around the tongue.  Truly good stuff and delicious with the pork.  8.5% alcohol and the original $12 price tag still on it.

The disappointment was a 2006 Beaulieu Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir Reserve.  The wine was jammy, highly extracted, dark, dense, woody, weedy, and overbearing.  In a blind tasting I would have picked it as a poor syrah and would have never pegged it as a pinot noir.  14.5% alcohol and $50.  I have no doubt it was the poorest Beaulieu wine I have ever tasted.