Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

The New Year's Eve wine was a Lucien Albrecht Cremant D'Alsace Brut Rose, a French sparkling wine from Alsace. The wine was made from 100% Pinot Noir.  Beautiful color, with a good fruity and biscuity nose.  Small, active bubbles.  The taste?  Close your eyes and imagine a slice of fully ripe strawberry with a tiny drop of raspberry preserves on top.  Place that slice of strawberry on top of a warm biscuit straight from the oven and start munching.  That pretty much describes this wine.  Flat out delicious.  Great acid, nice fruity and long finish.  12% alcohol and $26.

Happy New Year to all of you and thanks for reading this.  Tomorrow starts our fourth year, but it seems like yesterday.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kinkead Ridge Syrah, 2005

No need to beat around the bush here so let's just go for a one word description. How about amazing.

About a month ago when I matched a physical inventory of my wine with the computerized inventory  I found a discrepancy for this wine.  The computer showed that I had one bottle, while the physical inventory proved there was really two bottles.  A delightful problem.  Of the four Kinkead Ridge red varieties the Syrah has usually been my least favorite.  During tastings at the winery and elsewhere I've always liked the Syrah, but it was usually my least favorite of the reds. 

I opened this bottle last night wanting a simple red with a pan seared, small  steak.  What popped out of the bottle and into the glass was anything but simple.  The noses was classic, cold climate Syrah.  It smelled of dark fruit, raw meat, white pepper, and spice. The color was a glorious medium red, and that was the only indication this wasn't a wine from the northern Rhone.  The taste was fruity and spicy with a great depth of pure syrah fruit, wonderful acidity and just enough oak to balance everything.  There was a natural sweetness to the wine that had nothing to do with sugar or over extraction, it was sweet because of perfectly ripe fruit.  The tannins had settled to a supporting role, but they were still evident and gave the wine a great structure.  It was good with the steak, but in this case the steak was almost secondary.  Five years after the vintage this wine was a shining star and a credit to the vineyard and the winemaker.   

My only regret is that I only have one more bottle. Rest assured that the three bottles of the 2008 that I own will not be touched until 2013.  And I know what local market still has a few bottles of the 2008 vintage sitting on the shelf - at least until the weekend.

13% alcohol and $16 on release. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2001 Stag's Leap Fay Vineyard

Christmas dinner was a thick slice of prime rib of beef and two really good wines.  The best of the two was the 2001 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Fay Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  The nose was fragrant with plums and vanilla, some dark cherry aromas and a hint of cedar.  Fully flavored wine with the fruit, tannin, acid and oak being in near perfect balance.  Great, fresh taste of dark cherries, currants and a little graphite.  Wonderful finish that ended with fruit.  Medium bodied wine that paired beautifully with the beef.  Perfectly mature at this point in time but showing no signs of heading down hill.  A joy to drink.  13.9% alcohol and around $70 at the time of release.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve Notes

Christmas was nice and quiet, partly by design and partly due to necessity.  The necessity part was because of a fall on the ice on Wednesday that required an emergency room visit to make certain the back of my head was still attached.  Heads and asphalt do not mix.

Christmas Eve was the wine pictured here and in the post below, a 2002 A. Lancelot - Pienne Cuvee' de la Table Ronde Champagne.  There was also a large pile of fresh off the plane oysters.  Wonderful nose on the wine, yeasty with hints of cardamon and warm spices.  Wonderful body and a flavor of ripe apples and pears and the yeasty component all blended together.  Moderate bubbles and it was fun to watch them rise.  The crisp acidity and the oysters were a near perfect match.  The wine chilled in a snow bank in front of the house so we were able to use mother nature to help it along.  Good wine.

12% alcohol and $45

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hexamer Quarzit 2004

We made another attempt at the Vietnamese inspired Shaking Beef over the weekend and it was a success again.  The wine went beyond success.

In this case it was a 2004 Hexamer Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg 'Quarzit' from the Nahe region of Germany.  The 2009 version of this wine appeared in the market recently so I thought it was time to try its older brother while storing three bottles of the 2009.

Lime, minerals, and white flowers poured out of the glass with some swirling.  A tiny hint of kerosene added some complexity to the nose.  I would have been very happy just to sit and smell this wine.  The taste was mineral infused apples and white peaches with lime zest adding some highlights.  Wonderful body, good length of finish and edgy acid all combined to make this wine delicious.  Six years out from the vintage is just about perfect.  There's one more bottle in the cellar and we'll revisit it in a couple of years.

8.5% alcohol and $18


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chianti and Mushrooms

An improvised dinner late last week turned out to be a happy event. Being rushed in the morning no one took anything out of the freezer to thaw for dinner.  The weather still being bad no one stopped to get anything on the way home from work.  We took what was fresh and that was a package of Cremini mushrooms and we grabbed some pasta from the cabinet.  While the pasta boiled we sauteed some pancetta until crisp in a cast iron skillet.  We drained the oil and added some duck fat to the pan and in went the roughly chopped mushrooms and a pinch of thyme.  At the end we added some garlic.  Finally we added a little heavy cream and a good dose of mascarpone cheese and some grated Pecorino Romano.  When the pasta was done it was added to the skillet as well.  Rich, warm, rewarding and just plain good.

The wine was a 2006 Felsina Chianti Classico.  The nose was rich with dried, tart cherries, a little Tuscan earthiness and a hint of spice.  Of medium weight and body, the wine tasted of those cherries and had some wonderful depth to it.  The finish was dry and tart and left a great taste of cherry at the very end.  The acid cut through the richness of the pasta sauce and the earthiness in the wine played nice with that same taste in the mushrooms.  This was a good pairing that briefly took us from cold and snowy Ohio to a warm and gentle Italian wine region, rather like a quick mini-vacation.  13% alcohol and $21.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Olabisi Syrah

Back to the Syrah tasting. Another interesting wine was a 2005 Olabisi, Suisun Valley, King Vineyard.  This was a huge, heavily extracted wine.  The nose was about the ripest of blackberries and perhaps a little bacon fat.  There were some vegetative hints in their as well.  The taste was dominated by rich blackberry jam, dark plums and a bit of chocolate at the very end.  This wine lingered in the mouth for quite some time.  It was not an unappealing wine, but it overpowered the barbecued rubs on the plate.  One glass with a heavy meal would certainly be all I would want.  15.3% alcohol and $32. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Winter Snow - Summer Wine

Two degrees this morning.  It's warming up a little this afternoon, but all that really means is more snow tonight.  This weather is unusual for this early in winter, late autumn actually as winter is still six days away.  I hope this isn't indicative of the rest of our winter.

Dinner last night was a pan seared trout fillet and fresh spinach lightly wilted so we went with a summer wine last night, a 2008 Sancerre from Domaine Andreu Neveu.  There were a couple of bottles of this wine left in the cellar from last summer.  One was discussed here.   My notes are very consistent for this wine, lots of grapefruit, fresh hay and a few herbs at the end.  It smells and tastes like a picnic in a just cut hayfield in late May or early June.  Crisp, tart, edgy and just plain good.  One could close one's eyes and get a suggestion of spring from this wine.  Long, dry finish and it matched well with a pan sauce of the wine, Meyer lemon juice and butter that covered the trout.

$25 and 13% alcohol.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Good meal of multi-colored, multi-flavored strozapretti, pictured above before cooking.  The package contained plain, basil, spinach, tomato, beet and squid ink pasta.  While it cooked we cut a zucchini into cubes and sauteed it in some olive oil with garlic and a touch of oregano.  When the pasta was done it went into the skillet with a small amount of chopped tomato and some grated cheese.  Salt and black pepper finished the dish.  The wine was the remainder of the bottle of Gavi discussed a few posts below.  The wine had faded a little, but it was still crisp and drinkable and was a good match for a warm meal on a cold night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Qupe' Syrah 2008

This was the young wine that I took to the Syrah tasting on Saturday and it was the youngest wine of the day.  It was my second favorite of the day, primarily because it went so well with the large plate of barbecued ribs that were in the center of the table.  A bright nose of red cherries and red plums was followed by medium depth and the full flavor of those cherries, the fruit component was delicious.  This wine wasn't brooding and dark, it was open and welcoming.  Great acidity meant it went well with the food.  It finished with more fruit and a nice hint of spice at the very end.  13.5% alcohol and $18.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Five Wines

Friends hosted a Syrah tasting yesterday afternoon. The event was originally scheduled for today, but weather conditions were anything but promising so the event was moved up a day. It turned out to be a good idea as the weather has turned from cold and gray to colder and white; it's snowing and the wind is beginning to pick up with the weather people saying gusts of 45 mph this afternoon. A good day to stay home.

There were five wines on the table. Usually at these events there are clear winners and losers, but that wasn't the case yesterday. There were four very good wines and one wine that was simply outclassed, though it was more than drinkable. There was plenty of food and a lot of good discussion.

In the end the wine of the day was a 2005 Syan Shiraz from the Pyrennes of western Victoria in Australia. This wine started slowly, offering very little in the nose. It was a big wine, full of fruit and extract and alcohol, 14.8%. Dark fruit taste with plums and blueberries and a little spice in the mix. There was a tiny hint of chocolate at the end. Nice wine, but nothing to get excited about. An hour later this wine began to bloom. The heaviness seemed to disappear and the nose changed dramatically. The blueberries were strong and there was a wonderful mix of oak and cedar in this wine. It was quite an appealing wine. A little research after the fact revelaed the wine to have been aged in American oak hogsheads for 18 months and bottled unfiltered. It was simply a wine that needed time out of the bottle to show its true stuff.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hearty Meal, Huge Wine

Yes, that's snow under the wine bottle in the picture above.  The wine was a 2006 Mazzocco Lytton Zinfandel.  This was a very big wine with a nose full of blackberry jam, strawberry jam, and a lot of alcohol.  The wine was almost viscous in the mouth and coated the tongue with intense fruit flavors. The finish was semi-sweet and had great length to it, but "refreshing" isn't in this wine's vocabulary. 

This was the wine that we drank with the long braised pot of short ribs and long ribs discussed below.  After braising the meat was removed from the pot, the braising liquid thoroughly skimmed of most of the fat and then returned to the dish with the meat.  The whole thing was allowed to cool to room temperature and then was refrigerated for two days for the flavors to mellow.

When the dish was reheated, a little unflavored gelatin was added and allowed to do its thing by providing a great mouth feel to the meat.  The whole thing was soft, rich, warming, satisfying and a perfect meal for a cold night.   

There would have been two ways to go with wine and we went with the big wine, though one large glass was all.  A high acid red that cut through the remaining fat in the dish would have been just as good, but there was nothing wrong with the Zinfandel complimenting the meat. 

15.6% alcohol and the wine was a gift from a friend.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Simple Italian White

Along with the beets discussed in the post below there was a roast chicken for dinner, nothing fancy, just simple good food.

The wine was a 2009 Stefano Massone Gavi Masera from northwest Italy, a wine made from the Cortese grape.  Almost clear in the glass the wine was a little short in the nose, but fortunately there was some good flavor of white peaches and lemon zest.  Tart and perky and with enough zip to cut through the richness of the chicken and the heartiness of the roasted beets.  No deep thoughts here because this isn't a wine that calls for much thought.  Just drink it and enjoy it.  12% alcohol and $14.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Beets - Making Do

One of the pleasures of cold weather early in winter (or near winter) is spending time in the recliner by the front window and reading. In this case I had my nose in a cookbook by Lidia Bastianich, Lidia's Family Table. There were some fresh golden beets in the house so a recipe that caught my eye is pictured above. The beets were roasted and the greens and stems were separated, cooked in water until tender and chopped. I added some red leaf lettuce for color and instead of soft, fresh goat cheese I used freshly grated Pecorino Romano. The dressing was balsamic vinegar, salt and olive oil. It turned out to be a combination of a salad and vegetable to go alongside a roasted chicken. Super good stuff.

More on the wine later, but it was a good meal for a cold day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Michel-Schlumberger Cabernet Franc

Friday night we took the show on the road so to speak. Several of us got together for a dinner at a 90 year old relative's home. Wanting something simple we modified the pan seared and oven roasted chicken breast recipe from several posts ago. In this case we knew we wanted to drink a red wine so we put a glaze of reduced balsamic vinegar, honey and pan juices over the top of the breasts for the last five minutes of roasting and then drizzled some more of the mixture over the potatoes and carrots when the entire one skillet meal came out of the oven.

The wine was the 2008 version of Michel-Schlumberger's Cabernet Franc which arrived via their wine club. We pulled the cork and poured a couple of glasses just prior to the chicken being done. This wine had a bright, happy nose of cherries and spice. Some wines have a brooding aroma, some are serious, some are lean and austere, but this one just smelled happy. The medium bodied wine was full of the flavor of those cherries and they were just as happy in my mouth as they were in my nose. The hint of spice was here as well, a touch of vanilla, a bit of cinnamon and just a suggestion of cloves. The acid was great and the length of finish and the flavor in the finish were wonderful.  Nice interplay of flavors between the wine and some rosemary in the vegetables and a definite affinity between the wine and the balsamic glaze. Good meal and a very good wine.

$40 and 14.6% alcohol

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Braising Weather

December comes to Ohio. A huge pot of beef short ribs are braising in the oven; ribs, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, a couple anchovies, red wine and stock. The house smells wonderful.

Friday, December 3, 2010

2008 Handley Gerwurztraminer

I loved the nose on this wine, lychee and ginger sitting on top of tart, dry pineapple and green apple.  There was a whiff or two  of kerosene just to make it interesting, but that dissipated quickly.  Full, rich body to the wine, almost unctuous in its mouth feel.  Lots of tart, crisp acid to balance the big flavors of apple and lychee.  As the meal went along the wine opened a little more and some white flowers jumped into the aroma mix. A hint of quickly fading sweetness at the end brought everything together.

Dinner was leftover turkey pieces quickly reheated in a skillet with an Asian style vinaigrette added at the end to change the flavor profile, soy sauce, fish sauce, ginger juice, rice vinegar and sugar.  The small amount of ginger juice really picked up on that flavor profile in the wine.  Good match.

$9 from a closeout bin  and 13.5% by volume.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc

It was a good St. Andrew's Day celebration, and it was quiet.  There were lamb chops that were pan seared and oven roasted to medium.  There was corn and peas and some potatoes, and most of all there were some good beverages.

The wine of the evening was the 2007 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc.  If you're fortunate enough to have some of this wine I'd suggest you open one and drink it.  Wonderful aromas of fresh, tart fruit, a hint of oak and vanilla, great medium body, and perfectly balanced between the acid and the fruit.  Just about everything in this wine has come together into a wonderful package. 

It had only a couple of minutes in the glass but it opened up quickly to do a pas de deux with the lamb chops.  What a great pair these two made.  It was very difficult to save any of this wine for tasting on a second day, but there is one small glass under vacuum.  It's a little high in alcohol at 14.9% but it drinks like a wine at 13.5%

The Scottish evening finished with an Oban single malt followed by a 1991 Lagavulin Distiller's Edition Islay malt.  Peat smoke, iodine, seaweed, malt all aged to total perfection in a Pedro Jiminez sherry cask.  A wee bit o' heaven in a glass to carry one off to bed.