Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Wines

It pays to have good friends at Christmas as witnessed by the two wines that went down very easily with a second prime rib of beef dinner of the holidays.  There were a few preliminaries but the highlight of the day was definitely the 2003 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars SLV Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1996 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Napa Valley.  The Mondavi was a medium color and was turning to brick on the edges as it has begun to show its age.  Still full of fruit and spices, but the fruit had mellowed into a nice melange of cherry, cassis, cinnamon, vanilla and graphite.  Good acidity and enough tannin to carry everything the wine was offering.

The Stag's Leap wine was much younger and a much darker color.  The nose was less evolved but still full of dark cherries, a few blueberries, a tiny bit of vegetable that I found appealing and clean whiff of dry earth.  Full flavored with the cherries dominating.  There was a richer mouth feel to this wine, and the richer feeling stood up a little better to the beef than the Mondavi.  Good acid and a nice level of tannin at the finish made this wine a winner.

Very difficult to choose a favorite here as both wines offered their best efforts and were quite enjoyable.  I loved them both.

Prices unknown but the Mondavi was 13.3% alcohol and the Stag's Leap was 14%.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Second to wine my drink of choice is single malt Scottish whisky, and I was into this even before falling in love with wine.  I am particularly  fond of the whisky from the Isle of Islay.  A few weeks ago the New York Times was kind enough to taste twenty of these whiskys and publish their top ten choices. Sitting at #6 on their list was a new whisky to me, Kilchoman.  After a short search I located a bottle and picked it up a week or so before Christmas. 

Kilchoman is the newest distillery on the island by 124 years according to their website which you can find here.  It is a small, farm distillery which does the entire process from growing the grain to aging the whisky on site.  They began distilling in 2005 and began releasing whisky in 2010.   There are several whiskys listed on their website and the one I was able to find was the 2010 Winter Release.

One whiff of the whisky and it is obvious it is unmistakably an Islay.  The distinct peat and iodine aromas are there.  The smokiness is there also, though it is not as prominent as in a few of its longer established neighbors.  The taste is full of sweet grain, hints of orange and other citrus, and smoke.  There is a luxurious mouth feel to the whisky, but it is most definitely lighter than it's bigger neighbors.  The iodine and the peat sneak in on the finish.   All together this is good stuff and my search for a bottle was worth the effort.

46% alcohol (92 proof) and $60.

Monday, December 26, 2011

An Alexander Pope Christmas Eve

A friend  phoned two days before Christmas to ask a favor.  He lives on a large farm in the area and several folks were coming on Christmas Eve for a pheasant hunt and they were short a dog.  Scott volunteered to help them with their problem.  His manners weren't the best in a hunting sense, but he did find and point the birds well enough that the day was a success.  It was successful enough that as a reward he provided dinner on Christmas Eve.

"See! from the break the whirring pheasant springs,
And mounts exulting on triumjphant wings:
Short is his joy: he feels the firey wound,
Flutters in blood, and panting beats the ground."

Alexander Pope
Windsor Forest 1.111

The wine was one that I purchased three years ago based on past experience with it. It had been resting in the cellar since it arrived.  The wine was a Fontodi, Chianti Classico Riserva, Vigna Del Sorbo from the 2004 vintage, a blend of mostly Sangiovese with some Cabernet Sauvignon added.

For dinner we cleaned and then cut up the pheasant into serving pieces.  The pieces went into a pan with some rendered bacon and were browned.  I added some shallots, a small clove of garlic, a carrot, some bay leaves, white peppercorns, mint and parsley and a cup of red wine.  I covered the pan and braised the bird for half an hour.  The pheasant pieces were removed and some fresh cranberries and some honey were added to the pot and the sauce reduced until the berries popped and softened.  Add the last minute I added some sour cream.  There was also some soft polenta flavored with black truffle salt and mascarpone.

The nose on the wine was unmistakable as a Chianti, dry and dusty, fruity, cherry aromas and some herbs.  Very dark and very full bodied in the mouth, the cabernet gave an extra dimension to the wine.  Lots of acid and dry, earthy tannins here.  When the wine met the sauce on the pheasant they took things to another level entirely.  The cranberries and honey mixed with the dry, tart cherries in this wine for a nearly perfect flavor combination.  The flavors in the finish continued on for nearly 30 seconds.  Just a wonderful wine and a great match with the food - and there are two more bottles in the cellar.

14% alcohol and $80

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Look Homeward, Angel

"In the morning they rose in a house pungent with breakfast cookery,  and they sat at a smoking table loaded with brains and eggs, ham, hot biscuit, fried apples seething in their gummed syrups, honey, golden butter, fried steak, scalding coffee.  Or there were stacked batter cakes, rum-colored molasses, fragrant brown sausages, a bowl of wet cherries, plums, fat juicy bacon, jam.  At the mid-day meal they ate heavily: a huge hot roast of beef, fat buttered Lima beans, tender corn smoking on the cob, thick red slabs of sliced tomatoes, rough savory spinach, hot yellow corn-bread, flaky biscuits, a deep dish peach and apple cobbler spiced with cinnamon, tender cabbage, deep glass dishes piled with preserved fruits - cherries, pears, peaches.  At night they might eat fried steak, hot squares of grits fried in egg and butter, pork chops, fish, young fried chicken...."

Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel.

No passage in a book has ever made me more hungry than this one, and Wolfe remains among my favorite authors.    Best wishes for great food and great wine during the holiday seasons. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Another Bunch of Bubbles

I'm still working my way through a group of American sparkling wines and this time it's back to California for Domaine Chandon and their Brut Classic.

Domaine Chandon led the European invasion to California to produce sparkling wines thirty years ago.  I've been to the winery on a couple of occasions and eaten at the winery restaurant both times, but it has been awhile since I tasted their wines.  This particular wine carries the California appellation, and not the Napa Valley one. 

This bottle was loaded with carbon dioxide.  When the cork came out of the bottle the Gordon Setters thought it was a gunshot and they were ready to go bird hunting.  That pop was clearly an omen as this wine bubbled like one of those tall bubble lights that go on Christmas trees.    This was the little engine that could for sparkling wine.

The nose had a definite apple aroma to it, with some citrus and maybe some pear.  There was also a hint of cardamon in the nose.  Wonderfully bright and fresh flavors of tree and citrus fruit, tart and sharp acid and lots of tiny bubbles all chimed in to produce a great balanced flavor profile.  This went down very easily.  At the finish the cardamon and perhaps some apple pie spice left a nice memory in the mouth.   

Dinner was a small piece of Alaskan salmon that was pan seared and then finished in a sweet and sour sauce.  There was no problem with this combination.  Very tasty.  After dinner we poured one more glass since there was no dessert for the evening.  There was a single, small square of white chocolate - the last piece in a package.  A bite of chocolate and a sip of wine and my mouth felt like it was at the circus  eating cotton candy and those large, orange, marshmallow circus peanuts.  This was totally unique and unexpected flavor combination and it made me laugh.  Note to self to buy another bar of the white chocolate and try this again with some other sparklers.

$15 and 12.5% alcohol

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Clos Du Val Reflections

Clos Du Val opened in the early 1970's in Napa Valley, set off of the Silverado Trail in what would later become the Stags Leap AVA.  Their style was more European than most in California and has remained so over the years.  It had been at least twenty years since I tried one of their Chardonnays so I remedied that with a bottle of their 2008 Carneros vintage pictured in the glass above. 

The color in the glass was clear, bright and pale yellow.  The nose was a little bit woodsy but with citrus and pineapple coming through as well.  This was a nicely proportioned wine in the mouth, full without being overbearing.  Definite apple notes up front with pineapple and a bit of mango coming in at the end.  Nice mineral quality to the finish on this wine.  

Dinner was gray sole, dusted with a light coating of flour and pan seared in some clarified butter.  There was a pan sauce with a touch of the wine, some lemon juice, capers and parsley to finish it out.  The fish was rich and melting in the mouth and the wine was just about perfect with it.  Very easy meal to finish and sip more wine. 

13.5% alcohol and $24

Monday, December 19, 2011

Another Round of Bubbles

Prices for American sparkling wine continue be wonderfully low for the quality one gets.  This time I opted for a sparkler from New Mexico, the Gruet Brut. 

There was a lot of pressure on the cork as it came out of the bottle and quite a nice pop.  Light color in the glass with a good string of bubbles rising.  Tart and citrusy aromas with a good whiff of cotton candy.  Good fruit taste with ripe apple and Meyer lemon tastes predominating.  Delightfully tart but with a touch of sweetness to balance things out.  Full flavored and long lasting finish with some roasted nuts at the very end.  Very easy to drink.

There was an appetizer of shrimp and a main course of pan seared swordfish on a bed of brown, basmati rice.  The citrus quality in the wine was delicious with the swordfish - a nice marriage of flavors.

$15 and 12.4% alcohol.  

Friday, December 16, 2011


I purchased a case of assorted wines in October, and the case consisted completely of wines I had not tried before, either the winery or the grape. The Huber 2007 Zweigelt from Austria fell into the category of new grape for me.

I was in need of a red wine to drink with  some thinly sliced, left over flank steak and when a friend dropped by on an errand I twisted the cap off this wine.

The wine had a reddish brick color to it without a lot of colorization.  Dry, dusty nose with aromas of earth, spice, unripe berries and mushrooms.  Medium weight and body to the wine and the depth of flavor was somewhat lacking.  Good acid, a little tannin and a short finish completed the package.

There was nothing wrong with the wine, but then again there wasn't really anything right about it either.  It was not unappealing, but it didn't create much of an appeal.  In short - it was red wine. 

I'll try another Zweigelt when I see one, but I won't be rushing out to get another bottle of this one.

13.5% alcohol and $14.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Old Reliable

For more years than I've been drinking wine Louis Martini cabernets have been solid, honest wines.  The 2009 Sonoma County vintage is no different.  The bright, fruity nose with some earth and spice to it matched up with flavors that were more in the red fruit profile than black fruit. Ripe red cherries and berries overlaid a darker base, but the base simply gave more substance to the wine.  It never interfered with the bright flavors.  Good acid and the right amount of tannin.  The skies were clear,  the grill was lit, steaks were on sale, and so it was beef and honest, red wine for dinner.  Goof stuff and a straight forward wine.

13.8% alcohol and $16

Saturday, December 10, 2011


It's a hard choice as the whether sparkling wine or sherry is the best bargain in the market at the present.  This wine certainly makes a case for sherry.

The wine is a Lustau Solera Reserva  Dry Amontillado "Los Arcos."  The name is a mouthful and so is the wine.  Golden brown color and a wonderful aroma of toasted nuts, a bit of spice, and a dry, clean breeze.  Lots of dried fruit flavors in the taste but the overwhelming impression is of walnuts, almonds, caramel, and light touches of iodine.    Long finish that despite the use of the word "dry" finishes with just a hint of sweetness. 

There were remnants of a Stilton cheese and it went well with that, but it went better with a handful of toasted walnuts.  Experimenting a little farther we tried it with a few Picholine olives and that was another success.  However, I think we reached the summit with a cheap can of smoked almonds.  That was a flavor sensation I could repeat daily.  Really good stuff.

20% alcohol and $19.  An absolute steal at that price.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Young Burgundy

I was in an earthy mood last weekend so I made a rabbit and mushroom risotto.  I poached the rabbit lightly, then took the meat off the bones and used the poaching liquid as the stock for the rice.  Another part of the cooking liquid was the water from soaking dried porcini mushrooms.  Once the porcinis were soft I pureed them into a paste with some of the liquid and that got added to the pot as well.  There were also some sauteed, fresh mushrooms in the mix.  At the very end we added the chopped rabbit meat and some pecorino Romano cheese. 

My first option was a Nebbiolo D'Alba , but instead I opened a 2009 Michael Sarrazin & Fils Maranges.  I recently purchased this wine and decided to try it while more was still available in the market.  Good choice.

Lots of earthy aromas in the nose left no doubt this wasn't a new world pinot noir.  It took a couple of minutes for some fruit to begin peaking out of the glass.  Bright cherry flavors overlaying the earthy components, with good, sharp acid and just enough tannin to clear the palate.  Full bodied wine with a delicious and lengthy finish.  Great match with the mushrooms in the risotto, very complimentary tastes.  I picked up two more bottles to put in the cellar.

13% alcohol and $28. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs

(Candida comes in with glasses, lemons, and a jug of hot water on a tray.)

Candida: Who will have some lemonade?  You know our rules: total abstinence. (She puts the tray on the table, and takes up the lemon squeezer, looking enquiringly round at them.)

Morell: No use, dear.  They've all had champagne.  Pross has broken her pledge.

Candida (to Proserpine): You don't mean to say you've been drinking champagne?

Proserpine: (stubbornly): Yes I do.  I'm only a beer teetotaller, not a champagne teetotaller.

George Bernard Shaw

It's a great time of the year to drink sparking wine because with the holidays approaching there are some tremendous discounts to be had.  While this Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs is not champagne (it's from the Carneros region of Sonoma County, California) it certainly sparkles and bubbles.

There was a pretty copper color in the glass, and a nose of strawberries and lemons with a hint of cardamon, almost like a Christmas cookie   Tight bubbles and great fruit and cookie taste.  Just off dry with great acid and a wonderful fruity finish.  There was some fresh cod loin baked in ginger and sesame and some garlic and ginger spinach for dinner.  Good match with the wine as the fish retained its richness and the wine balanced that out.

$16 and 12.2% alcohol.  Super price for this wine.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kung Fu Fighting

Good meal last week end.  The market had some wonderful looking yellowfin tuna. I coated it lightly in crushed black, white, green and pink peppercorns and seared it on both sides until just crusty, but kept it dark pink in the center.  The sauce was a reduction of two parts soy sauce and one part orange juice.  The topping was a small amount of heavy cream that was whipped until stiff.  At that point I put in a healthy dose of wasabi powder.  Brown rice and sugar snap peas that were poached to crisp tender status completed the plate.

The wine was a 2010 Kung Fu Girl Riesling by Charles Smith wines out of Washington's Columbia Valley.   The wine was closed up before some serious swirling in the glass.  Finally some lime zest and white peach aromas started coming out of the glass.

The wine was tart with good white peach flavors, a little apricot and some citrus.  Good mouth feel to the wine and it finished just off dry and with a good mineral quality to it. Very good with the tuna as the small amount of sweetness paired well with both the peppercorns and the wasabi.

One mark of a good wine is that it is gone before one's thirst is quenched and before everyone has had enough.   That happened with this wine.  Toward the end of the meal I reached for the bottle for one last glass, and the wine had disappeared. 

Very good bargain and a totally drinkable wine.

12.5% alcohol and $12.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Shakespeare for a Dreary Day.

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

Sonnet 73

Saturday, November 26, 2011

White Burgundy and Fresh Truffles

Life is too short not to indulge oneself on occasion.  That was the case when I walked through the market the other day and found fresh, black truffles in the produce section.  The price was a not so subtle $240 a pound, though fortunately I wasn't in the market for a pound.  I did bring home a few small ones, enough for one meal for three.

I sliced the two largest truffles into paper thin slices and tucked them between the skin and flesh of two boneless chicken breasts.  They were pan seared on both sides and the shoved in the oven to finish cooking.  The remaining truffles were chopped medium fine and tossed into some melted butter and olive oil to warm through.  When the truffles were warmed we tossed in home made pasta, a touch of heavy cream and a large tablespoon of mascarpone.  We sliced the chicken breasts and laid the slices beside a serving of the pasta. 

The wine was a 2008 Domaine de Pouilly, Pouilly Fuisse from Andre & Vincent Besson.  The nose on the wine was surprisingly earthy with the aroma of dry, fresh earth and ripe fruit.  Wonderful acidity with the first sip.  The mineral and earth flavors were dominant, but there was a good base of ripe fruit to compliment them.  This was definitely a meal for the nose.  Between the earthy aromas of the warmed truffles and the earthiness of the wine it was almost enough to just smell what was on the plate and in the glass.  The two made beautiful music together.  Nice long finish to the wine, nothing out of balance. 

$34 and 12.5% alcohol. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mr. Tulkinghorn's Port

"Mr. Tulkinghorn sits at one of the open windows, enjoying a bottle of old port.  Though a hard grained man, close, dry and silent, he can enjoy old wine with the best.  He has a priceless bin of port in some artful cellar under the Fields, which is one of his many secrets.  When he dines alone in chambers, as he has dined today, and has his bit of fish and his steak or chicken brought in from the coffee-house, he descends with a candle to the echoing regions below the deserted mansion, and, heralded by a remote reverberation of thundering doors, comes gravely back enriched by an earthy atmosphere, and carrying a bottle from which he pours a radiant nectar, two score and ten years old, that blushes in the glass to find itself so famous, and fills the room with the fragrance of southern grapes.

"Mr. Tulkinghorn, sitting in the twilight by an open window, enjoys his wine.  As if it whispered to him of its fifty years of silence and seclusion, and it shuts him up the closer.  More impenetrable than ever, he sits, and drinks, and mellows as it were, in secrecy."
Charles Dickens, Bleak House

Port can do that to you.  It's a wine to sit and sip and think about, mostly because I drink it in the evening of shorter, fall or winter days.  The wine here was a 2003 Noval late bottled vintage port.  Warm, grapey nose with cinnamon and wood notes.  Mouth filling sweetness balanced by just the right amount of acid.  Lush and thick with flavors of dark and red cherries.  Lingering finish that begged for a few more pecans and little bit of Stilton cheese.  Two, small  glasses makes a wonderful evening.

$19.5% alcohol and $21.  Good price.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The days are becoming dark and dreary here.  I was cleaning up the plants in front for the coming winter and found the last blooms of summer today, three small flowers from a pot of multicolor verbena that apparently gave life one last shot with the recent (and continuing) rains.  They survived frost and freeze but time is certainly against them now.  The opening lines from a Thomas Moore poem apply, though this isn't a rose....
 'Tis the last rose of summer
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone....
Two weeks ago there was another survivor, the last fruit from the yellow, pear tomato plant that was in a protected spot.  I picked and ate the tomato before cutting down the rest of the dead plant and tossing it in the neighborhood mulch pile.  It's unripe sibling was sacrificed to the tomato gods because of the hard freeze coming that night.  Now it's on to winter and tomatoes that taste like red and yellow cardboard.  In six weeks the seed catalogs will be arriving and I can start thinking of spring again.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Paolo Scavino Barolo

There was good Italian food a few evenings ago.  Dinner was fresh, home made, duck egg pappardelle with porcini, shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms in a light cream sauce with a bit of marscapone stirred in at the last minute. 

About an hour before eating I opened a 375ml bottle of Paolo Scavino Barolo from the 2004 vintage. The wine went into a jug to breathe.  There was almost no nose in the wee bit I poured into a glass and the flavor was tight and tannic.

The hour did wonders for the wine.  The nose was flowers, tar, leather and cherries all in perfect balance.  It was good to just sniff the wine.  With some swirling the aromas left the glass and floated over the table.  Tart, red cherries led off the taste, followed by mushrooms and hints of sweet tobacco.  The tannins had calmed down to a point where they played a supporting role to the fruit tastes.  Full bodied and mouth coating feel to the wine, and then there was a bit of acid and extra tannin at the end to clear the palate.  The mushrooms in the pasta sauce had a love affair with the cherry flavors in the wine.  Good stuff together.

This was a wine to savor, and we did.  It took a couple of hours for the two of us to kill this bottle slowly.  There is a  full sized bottle of this still in the cellar, and I wondered how it would taste being 750ml.  Would the wine be as ready as this half bottle?  We decided to wait for another day on the larger bottle, but we certainly enjoyed the little brother. 

$28 and 14.5% alcohol

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Off the Wall

Interesting wine the other night, a 200 Humanitas Malbec with a Schlumberger Bench designation in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley. Since there aren't a tremendous number of Malbec based wine from California this one was worth a shot.

Humanitas is an interesting winery run by the (now) former manager and former winemaker of Michel Schlumberger, hence the Schlumberger Bench designation.  The winery and estate were sold last week and the new owners replaced the wine making team and the management.  A good portion of the profits from the Humanitas wines are donated to charity.

The wine had an interesting brick color to it.  The aromas were pretty much tart, red cherries and raspberries. The first sip was tannic but fruity,  medium weight red fruit with good tannin gripping the sides of the tongue.  Halfway through the first mouthful some vegetable characteristics began to make a statement.  There was a definite green edge to the wine.  While it can be a detriment if there's too much of it, this added to the wine's appeal for me.  It wasn't overly ripe and tasting of jam or jelly.  The vegetable inferences just made the wine a little more complex.  There wasn't tremendous length to the finish, but it was more than suitable for the wine; the same with the acid.

The weather is still holding here so there was a small steak from the grill and some pan roasted potatoes.  The wine and the steak were very good together as the acid and tannin stood up to the flavors of the meat.  Nice combination and a good wine.

$30 and 14.4% alcohol

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Victim of Love

There was a new shipment of wine from Michel Schlumberger in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, California.  One of the wines was the 2008 Faux Pas red wine, a mixture of equal parts cabernet sauvignon and syrah.   With apologies to the 70's group the Eagles this wine was a Victim of Love, a song from their Hotel California album.  It was a victim because it had to share it's time and space and food with the Clarnedon Hills Astralis discussed below, and that was a wine I loved.

It's unfair to make a comparison and very unfair to even attempt to judge Faux Pas since this was certainly not a level playing field.  Nevertheless we did manage to drink about half the bottle.  There is more of this wine so I'll let it rest for a few months and try it again.  Judgement reserved.

$40 and 14.5% alcohol.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Quite an evening last night with good friends, a very good meal and a wine that was impossible to ignore.  The wine in question was a 2003 Clarendon Hills Astralis from the Fleurieu region of South Australia.  Dinner was a grill roasted rack of lamb with a side dish of wild rice, basmati rice, Gruyere cheese and toasted pecans.  Basically it was a "welcome to winter" meal with hearty food and rich wine.

We opened the wine early and poured a couple of very small glasses, then set the bottle aside.  There was oak and dark fruit aromas in the nose, but not much else.  The wine was black and opaque in the glass. The taste was black fruit jam with a lot of of oak.  We poured a couple of good size glasses, then set those aside to breathe while we worked on dinner and a bottle of Crispin cloudy, hard cider and a few snacks.

When the meal was nearly ready we went back to the wine.  During its hour in the glass it decided to bloom.  Great aromas of blackberries, dark cherries and vanilla.  Wonderful fragrances.  The flavors were pure, sweet, blackberry jam and dark, juicy plums.  The tannins were soft and integrated thoroughly into the wine.  For a wine that literally coated the mouth and tongue there was surprisingly good acid.  The flavors continued to linger in the mouth until the next sip. 

With the lamb the wine simply got better.  The sweet, slight gaminess of the meat was an almost perfect match for the fruit flavors and the tannin in the wine.  The pecans in the rice dish brought out a brighter, less dark, fruit flavor in the wine.  There seemed to be more cherry flavors with the pecans.  The interplay between the food and the wine was just remarkable.  Each was better with the other than on its own.  The good acid in the wine kept the taste fresh and kept each of us going back for more.  A rare and appreciated treat.

14.5% alcohol and $245

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oestricher Lenchen Kabinett

Cellar inventory can be good or it can be bad.  This time it was good in the sense that I discovered an unaccounted for bottle.  My records showed that I had two bottles of the 2005 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Kabinett Riesling from the Rheingau.  The reality was that I had three bottles.  I had two choices.  I could correct the inventory or I could drink the bottle of wine.  I opted for drinking.

Good color to the wine, just past pale green gold.  The nose of wet slate, lime zest and honey highlights was strong as well.  If nothing else I could have sat and sniffed this wine all evening.  The taste was first about the super sharp acid, then going into lemon, lime, and  white peach flavors, and ending with drying minerality.  One could almost picture gray slate with some electricity dancing above it. 

There was some monkfish in a coconut milk and Thai curry paste sauce for dinner and the residual sweetness in the wine seemed to be best friends with the heat from the curry paste.  Delicious together.  Very good wine.

$22 and 8.5% alcohol.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Sometimes I walk through a wine department and something virtually jumps off the shelf into my cart.  That was the case the other day with a Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut sparkling wine.  I wasn't looking for sparkling wine, I really wasn't looking for anything in particular, but there was a sale for a couple of dollars off per bottle and it just hit me that it had been awhile since I opened a bottle of sparkling wine.

I picked up the bottle then went back to the seafood section and bought some very large shrimp and brought the wine and the seafood home.  The shrimp were simple - peel and de-vein and toss in a moderate pan with some shallots, garlic, dried hot peppers, some olive oil and butter, a little pimenton and a splash of fino sherry.

Nice nose on the wine with fruity notes and a bit of yeast.  Good dry taste with subdued fruit and baked goods.  There seemed to be just a touch of cardamon in this wine.  It was dry without being austere and I liked that very much.  Good match with the shrimp which were served over some basmati rice.  After cleaning everything up and settling into the recliner there was enough for one more glass to sip while the dogs chewed their post dinner rawhide.

With the holiday season coming up there should be some good prices on sparkling wine and I may have to redo the evening.

$23 and 12% alcohol.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Picpoul de Pinet

Good little wine the other evening, a 2010 Picpoul de Pinet Cuvee' Prestige by Foncalieu.  The wine is a Coteaux de Languedoc.  Bright green in the glass and mostly herbs in the nose, primarily some hints of thyme and rosemary.  Tart and bracing at first taste there was some green apple and grape flavors to go along with the thyme in the taste.  Refreshing and pert.  The finish was equally sharp.  If you're looking for big, rich fruit this is probably a wine to avoid.

Nice match with a fresh, whole trout that was stuffed with rosemary, lemon thyme and tarragon and grilled over some collected apple wood that burned down to the ember stage before meeting the fish.  Rich and smoky fish and light and refreshing wine and brisk and cool evening.  Nice.

12.5% alcohol and $11 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Summer's Over

Warm, sunny and a pure delight yesterday, but last night the damp, wet, cold front came through overnight and it is now gray, dingy and drizzly here.  There may be a day or two of Indian Summer yet to come, but for all practical purposes we're close to November, my least favorite month of the year.

We fired up the grill and sacrificed a large rib-eye steak to the grilling gods as a thank you for the summer past.  The wine was a 2006 Mazzocco Maple Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel from California's Dry Creek Valley.  Almost black in the glass, the wine was virtually opaque.  Warm blackberry and dark cherry jam in the nose and those same flavors were there in the taste.  Pure taste of those fruit with some prickly tannins mixed in.  The mouth feel was intense and the flavors just lasted forever.  A well made wine and quite tasty, but it was a bit big for my taste. 

We sipped one glass with the steak and then poured a second glass to go with a chunk of Rogue River Creamery blue cheese from Oregon.  The wine was big enough to be called a near-port and one taste with the blue cheese brought all that home.  Great stuff with the cheese.

15.8% alcohol.  No price since the wine was a gift.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


There was a grand opening for a new market in this area, Earth Fare.  Since I was in the neighborhood on an errand there was no need not to stop in and see what it was like.  Nice store, and definitely a competitor to Whole Foods.  One of their opening day specials was packages of two, medium lobster tails, and a package came home with me for dinner.  They were steamed simply over some salt water and served with a butter and lemon juice dipping sauce.

The wine department was adequate and I did manage to find a few interesting things.  The wine with the lobster tails was a 2010 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc / Viognier from California.  The blend is 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier.  The nose was definitely Chenin Blanc with the bloom of melon and honeysuckle aromas.  Nice pear and tart apple taste and great acidity.  The Viognier provided a nice mouth feel to this wine.  Tart finish with crisp fruit notes made it a very nice bottle of wine with the lobster, and we finished the bottle two days later with some fresh sea scallops.  Good with those too.

13% alcohol and $13.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Rabbit and Chablis

One thing I like very much but rarely eat is rabbit.  We solved that problem the other day when a few  "bunnies" showed up at the market.  I divided it into pieces, and tied the loin and flaps together.  They went into a hot pan with some butter, olive oil, and the peeled carrots that was quickly thrown into the oven.  We turned the rabbit pieces after ten minutes and added the garlic, onion, chopped rosemary and lemon thyme.  After ten more minutes we added the leeks and some of the wine for dinner.  All that got another fifteen minutes.  At the end we swirled in one last bit of butter.

The wine for the evening is pictured at the right, a 2009 Joseph Drouhin Chablis, Vaudon.  This is the basic Chablis from Drouhin.

It might be a basic Chablis but it is very good. Bright, green-gold in the glass, the aroma was tart, minerally and not all that fruity.  There was some hint of lemon, but the wine was basically closed up.  We used some in the rabbit, poured a small glass and let the rest breathe until dinner.

By the time we ate the wine was showing signs of tart, green fruits and some citrus.  Highly acidic in a very pleasant way.  It left a wonderful dry, almost chalky feel to the mouth at the very end.  Absolutely delicious with the rabbit.  The butter and oil  in the dish were rich and the citrusy quality of the wine really played well with that.  There was no citrus in the dish save for the citrus quality that the wine imparted.

A very nice match and a very tasty and savory wine at a more than reasonable price. 

12.5% alcohol and $22.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cool Weather Braise

No doubt with the weather, it is now mid-Autumn and the cooler nights make for some good eating and good wines, and a hearty braised beef is warming and rewarding.

I browned a small chuck eye roast with a good amount of marbled fat and tissue in it, then tossed in some carrots,onions, celery,  garlic, canned tomatoes, anchovies and tomato paste,  Thyme and rosemary were in the mix as well as some wine.  The meat braised in a low oven for four hours and then was allowed to cool completely in the pan.  The fat and spent vegetables were removed, the broth thickened slightly and everything was rewarmed for dinner.  Packaged, extra wide egg noodles were the only side dish.

The wine was a 2008 Michele Chiarlo Barbera D'Asti "Le Orme."  Medium red in the glass the wine was earthy in it's aromas.  This was a damp earth as opposed to a dry earth.  Lots of bright cherry flavors with more than enough acidity in the taste, but it was correct here.  Two hours later, while the beef was still cooking, the wine finally opened up and was much more balanced.  By dinner time the wine was really showing well with the fruit and earth equally balanced in both aroma and taste. The medium body and acid cut through the richness in the meat.  Good bottle of wine for a good meal.

13% alcohol and $16.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Dumpling & Heaven

Nice dessert the other day courtesy of the local farmers' market.  One of the best local restaurants (Rue Dumaine) makes frequent appearances at the market and they were there this past Thursday with a variety of items, including the apple dumpling pictured above.  We added the whipped cream which had a few drops of Calvados in it, a dusting of Ceylon cinnamon and the mint leaf.  The sugar was restrained a little so the dumpling wasn't overly sweet.

Wine?  Of course there was wine, a 2005 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese.  Just about a perfect match.  Great acidity, clean, pure flavors of apple and peach, wonderful sweetness and a great finish that was both dry and tart.  Extremely focused wine.   Heaven.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Too Big?

After the rain cleared out yesterday afternoon it was a nice evening, so we fired up the grill and cooked rib-eye steaks. There were some local sweet potatoes courtesy of a farmers' market so the menu called for a big wine.

The wine was a 2002 Reilly's Clare Valley Stolen Block Shiraz from Australia. It had been sitting in the cellar for four or five years.  Lots of wonderful, ripe fruit in the nose, mostly blackberries and black plums.  The wine wasn't shy about filling the mouth with flavor.  Unctuous flavors of dark fruits and fruit jams with bits of cinnamon, leather and vanilla adding to the mix coated the tongue and the side of mouth, and they clung there for some time.  There was still some tannin showing and almost enough acid to carry everything.    In the end the wine was just a little bit too big, even after sprinkling the rib-eye with some blue cheese bits.  This was a sipping wine and not a drinking wine, and after one glass I was satisfied. 

15.5% alcohol and $24

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thanks, Canada

Good price on some large, fresh Prince Edward Island mussels at the market on Sunday.  They looked too good to resist and at $3 a pound it was a quick choice for dinner.

Some garlic and ginger and shallot went into a large, heavy skillet with some olive oil.  When that was active and fragrant in went the mussels and a light splash of white wine.  On went the lid and when the mussels began to open I added a large tablespoon of Thai green curry sauce and stirred it into the broth.
The result was way beyond good.  The mussels were plump and just cooked through while the sauce was spicy, sweet, earthy, and a perfect match.  There was a good amount of crusty bread to soak up the juices.

The wine was the last glass and a half of the Kinkead Ridge Riesling discussed below.  Just barely off dry it was very tasty with the mussels, but remarkable with chunks of the bread dipped in the sauce.

Good meal.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kinkead Ridge Riesling 2010

Cool, crisp mornings usually means that Scott the Gordon Setter is frequently busy keeping the local squirrels in good physical condition through an aerobics program he has designed for them.  Not so this morning when the Bella Balloon sailed overhead.  He was otherwise occupied until the barking became too much and he had to come in the house.

Cool, crisp, fresh and primary also describes the 2010 Kinkead Ridge Ohio River Valley Riesling we had with dinner Thursday night.  When this wine was released back in May it had just been bottled and seemed loose and light.  Four months bottle age helped this wine.  Now it is definitely focused and the Riesling flavors are coming to the front.  This wine had a very linear taste - most of the flavor seems to run down the center of the tongue while the sides pick up the acidity.  Very good with two grilled Kurabota pork, rib chops.  One was cooked with minimal seasoning of salt and pepper and the other had some added paprika and once it was flipped on the grill the top was coated with a mango chutney.  Hard to choose between the two chops but the wine was great with both.

$12 and 11.9% alcohol

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Donhoff Riesling 2005

Beautiful fall weather here so there was a beautiful wine to celebrate the day.  The wine was a 2005 Donhoff Riesling from the Nahe region. Riesling with a little age on it is nearly always good and this was no exception.

A bit of kerosene at the very beginning, but that quickly blew off  and left a precise and tart nose of lime, peach and a bit of pear skin.  Solid mouth feel and full bodied.  Wonderful flavors of stone fruit with dry and crisp citrus on top of it.  Sweet at the edges but tart at the finish.  Just a wonderful wine to go with some pork cutlets with both a mustard sauce and a an oriental sweet and sour sauce.  Throw in a small salad and a couple slices of crusty bread and it was a great meal.

Very nice to sit outside on the patio under a shade tree and sip this while watching one of the dogs chase squirrels and the other sit next to you in case there were snacks to go with the wine.

9.5% alcohol and $21

Friday, September 30, 2011

Saladini Pilastri Falerio

Here's another bottle from the mixed case of wine I picked up a month ago, none of which I had ever tried before.  Falerio is a small enclave in the Marche area of Central Italy.  The wine is a blend of Ugni Blanc and two lesser known grapes, Passerina and Pecorino. The vintage was 2010.

Pale color, lemony nose with some hints of anise.  Crisp and tart, with the lemon showing bright and fresh.  The anise flavor faded more into fennel on the taste.  Good length to the finish, ending with a last little burst of lemon.  The first half of the bottle went down with some grilled chicken with minimal spicing, but the second half on day two was even better with a fennel and shrimp risotto.  The fennel taste in the wine was great with the dish.  The acidity cut the richness and the fennel overtones really matched well.  Good honest wine that went great with food.

13% alcohol and $14.  Good wine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Great Laugh

Here's two videos that made me laugh long and hard.  The first is from a week or so ago and the second is a reply to the first and was posted a couple days ago.

Caution: Subtitles on the first are a little over the top.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Beaune - Boucherottes 2006

The autumn style weather is still here and I after reading an article on line I got in the mood for Burgundy.

The Burgundy of choice was a 2006 Louis Jadot Beaune Boucherottes premier cru.  I opened the bottle as we began dinner prep and poured half of it into a decanter, and a little bit into my glass.  Very closed nose with earth and spice but no fruit showing.

Forty-five minutes later the beef tenderloin was sauced and ready.  The wine was still closed but after some swirling there was enough fruit to plunge ahead.  This was a very reticent wine, it kept refusing to give up very much in the way of aroma save for earth and wood spice.  Near the end of the meal the cherry flavors began to emerge and the silkiness of the wine started to bloom.  Acids and tannins were great and the mouth feel was wonderful.  For the last bite or two of beef the wine was a great foil.  I loved the earthiness in the wine. 

Later that evening I poured another glass from the now re-corked bottle.  The fruit was much more pronounced and the wine had mellowed, but it still wasn't ready.

The last fair sized glass was left for the next evening, and twenty-four hours was what this wine needed.  Wonderful, ripe fruit aromas, finally subdued earth and a wonderful silky feel in the mouth.  It was difficult, but I forced myself to drink that last glass slowly.  Lots of smiles.

$25 and 13% alcohol.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pleasures of Autumn

Technically it isn't Autumn here yet, but thanks to our Canadian neighbors to the north the weather has been unseasonably cool.  That means that fall food is back in vogue, as is the case pictured above.

The roast is a six pound, bone-in pork shoulder roast.  It was brined for six hours in a mixture of kosher salt and sugar.  After that it was rinsed and thoroughly dried.  A mixture of kosher salt, sugar and smoked paprika was rubbed all over it and it was wrapped tightly in plastic film and refrigerated for 24 hours.

While it came to room temperature after its stay in the refrigerator I built a small fire in the grill.  The coals were all pushed to one side and the roast was placed on the far side.  A drip pan partially filled with water sat under the roast and a few apple wood chips were tossed on the fire.  The lid went on the grill and I monitored the vents so that the temperature in the grill never got above 325 degrees.  Five hours later the roast was done and the air in the neighborhood smelled of pork and apples.  A few hungry neighbors wandered by to check things out.

The pork rested for about half an hour while I made a sauce from some of drippings from the catch pan, some sugar, vinegar, mustard and mango chutney.  When that had reduced we carved the pork, opened a couple bottles of apple cider and spent a wonderful evening sitting outside watching the blue sky turn into evening pink.  The dogs even managed to get a few pork tidbits mixed in with their dog kibble.

Life can be very good, and very delicious.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Weingut Max Ferd Richter

I recently had the pleasure of tasting seven wines from Max Ferd Richter with Dr. Dirk Richter of the estate in Mulheim Germany. Informative and delicious are the two words that would best describe the experience.  It was a drop in tasting rather than one that was formally organized so there was a fair amount of one on one conversation about the wines.

Most interesting  was tasting both a Kabinett and a Spatlese from two separate vineyards.  The wines involved were the 2009 Graacher Himmelreich and 2009 Veldenzer Elisenberg.  The Elisenbergs were sharp, focused and very precise with citrus and peach flavors. There was a distinct difference between the Kabinett and the Spatlese, with the Spatlese being more full and fruity while the Kabinett was dry and racy.  The Himmelreichs were fuller wines from the start, explained by Dr. Richter by saying there was clay in the slate soil of this vineyard that lends fuller flavor  whereas the Elisenberg is slate and quartz primarily.  I was getting apple and yellow plum aromas from the Himmelreich wines.  I loved the Kabinett, but the Spatlese quickly put it to the rear.  Very, very good wine and one I could sit, smell and sip all day.

Click below for the rest of this article.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Another wine from the mixed case I picked up recently was a 2008 Neckenmarkt Blaufrankisch from Austria. 

I like all kinds of wine, and though I do have my favorites I still try and keep an open mind about the rest.  The nicest thing I can say about this wine is that it was inoffensive.    It was light, which I expected, but it was almost devoid of flavor, of acid, of tannin, of any form of soul or reason to exist.  It wasn't bad, it just didn't seem to be there at all.  It was enough to make one wonder what the point was or even if there was a point to be made.

The steak was good from the grill and the soup pictured below was delicious.  It was yellow tomatoes and yellow peppers cooked together and pureed with just a hint of heavy cream, a tiny touch of garlic and salt and pepper.  That was the best part of the meal.

13% alcohol and $10.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vinho Verde

Some wines are just plain fun.  the 2009 Gazela Vinho Verde from Portugal is certainly one of them.  As you can tell by the picture the wine is almost colorless, and it was that way in the glass.  About the only thing breaking up the monotone was the near bubbles clinging to the side of the glass and slight head on the wine.  Almost fizzy would describe it.  The taste was highly tart and sharp, almost prickly on the tongue.  Young, fresh, zippy, uncomplicated, happy, glad to be free from its bottle are a few of the words or phrases that come to mind.

Dinner was a whole Branzini, stuffed with rosemary, lemon thyme, lemon slices and fresh dill and then tossed over hot coals that had more fresh dill tossed them for smoke effect.  The before shot is pictured above and the after shot is pictured below with some lettuce, beets,pickled onions and goat cheese.  Tasty fish with a notable herby taste and a particularly good match with the wine.  Fun meal.

$7 and 9% alcohol.