Sunday, January 30, 2011

2008 La Vigna Red

There was a small tri-tip roast beef Friday evening.  Seasoned with salt and pepper, pan seared and then stuck in a low oven for 40 minutes to it came out evenly cooked to a beautiful dark pink when thinly sliced.

The wine was one I was anxious to try.  I bought four bottles of La Vigna's proprietary red wine last spring after tasting it at the winery and put it away.  La Vigna is a relatively new winery east of Cincinnati, this being their second vintage.  It carries the Ohio River Valley appellation.

We splashed a fair amount in a large glass and swirled.  The wine was definitely purple on the edges.  Lots of intense, ripe aromas of bright cherries with a  few darker cherries there as a base.  There were some hints of cinnamon and oak, fresh oak.  The taste was ripe, tart cherry flavors intermixed  with some earthy overtones.  Medium body to the wine and firm, strong tannin and great acidity.  At the very end the darker flavors made their presence known.  There was an elegance to this wine that I liked very much.  There was nothing intense about it, it was sleek and great with the food. 

It will be fun to try this wine again over the next few years.  It's still locked into a young phase judging from the bright purple color so I think we'll try another one in the spring of 2012 and go from there. 

$22 and 13.9% alcohol

Friday, January 28, 2011

Caol Ila'

One more post about Scottish whisky before we get too far removed from Burns Night. 

We did a comparison tasting of the different ages of the same whisky from Islay off the southwestern coast of Scotland.  I have an affinity for whiskys from that area.  Neither the 12 year old nor the 18 year old was a shy fellow.  We cut each whisky with a dash of water. 

The 12 year old was strong with iodine, peat and wood smoke in the nose.  Distinctive taste of Islay with those three aromas coming together with some smoke.  The end result and the finish was a touch on the harsh side, but still quite tasty.

The 18 year old had definitely lost its harsh edges.  The nose was different in that the smoky aroma was less wood and more peat, and there was a hint of salt spray in the nose.  The taste was much more mellow and smooth, the additional six years in cask working some magic.  There were caramel notes in the taste along with a small hint of honey.  The Islay character stayed true to form.  Nice, long finish to this whisky.

A a pronunciation note: Cull e-lah is as close as I can come.

$48 for the 12 year version and $75 for the 18 year old.  

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Burns Night Dinner

The celebration for Burns Night was simple. but quite delicious.  There were pan seared and oven roasted lamb chops, a few mixed vegetables and a small dish of "neeps and tatties."  The chops were rubbed with garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper, and a tiny bit of Dijon mustard.  The neeps (turnips) and the tatties (potatoes) were cooked separately and then roughly mashed together before being popped back into the oven to re-warm for the last few minutes with the lamb. 

The wine of the evening was a new vintage of an old favorite.  It was a 2006 Gianfranco Alessandria Langhe Nebbiolo.  I picked up two bottles of this a week or so ago and two hours before dinner we decanted one of them.  The 2004 vintage of this wine is tremendous and a total value for a mini-Barolo.  This bottle was no different.  Medium red color and a nose of bright cherries, earth, and a classic nose of roses.  The taste was pretty much the same, wonderful sweet red cherries some sensation of flowers and a hint of earth.  The wine was loaded with tannin, but it only served to carry along the other flavors.  For the sale price if $18 it was a total steal.

The tannin and the lamb were a match made in heaven.  Rich tasting lamb soothed by drying tannins and the tannins themselves smoothed out by the flavor of the lamb.  The wine surprised me by being very good with the turnip part of the mash.
There were several Scottish whiskies throughout the evening.  It started with a before dinner glass of 12 year old Caol Islay, pictured at the left.  Immediately following dinner was a wee dram of Dalwhinnie Distiller's Edition.  At the end of the evening there was a small amount of Lagavulin Distiller's Edition 1991 to carry one into the land of sweet dreams.  It was a very good evening.

Good wine, good food and good spirits.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Party Time

Happy Robert Burns Day.

No, there won't be haggis, but there will be some lamb and a few traditional side dishes this evening.    

Monday, January 24, 2011


Like most other people who drink wine I tend to overlook Chenin Blanc.  It just doesn't make a large blip on the radar.  Saturday night we put a temporary end to that with a 2009  Sauvion Vouvray. 

The nose was all about peach and pear skin mixed with some honeysuckle vines.  It smelled like summer, and considering there was more snow on the ground that was a needed aroma.

The wine was medium bodied with razor like acid sitting on top of the peach and pear taste.  At the front end of the mouth the wine had a sweet presence, but by the time one swallowed it the acid had taken over to give a crisp finish.  Very good length to the finish.

Dinner was a shellfish risotto.  The rice and some shallots were toasted with a little olive oil and we added a small pinch of saffron. The liquid was a nage made from a small shallot and shells from the shrimp.  While the rice cooked we cleaned the shrimp, sliced some fresh scallops and barely steamed a small bag of little neck clams.  At the end we added a wee bit of the clam juice to the risotto, then added the shrimp and scallops, popped a lid on the pot and let the seafood just warm through.  Add in a small salad and a couple of crusty ciabatta rolls and dinner was worth the week that preceded it. 

The front end sweetness on the Vouvray wasn't the perfect introduction with the food, but once the acid kicked in the pairing was more than acceptable. 

$16 and 12% alcohol.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

McLaren Vale Shiraz

Since the weather was cold to a fault there was no sense not to drink a wine from a warmer region with the braised beef discussed below.  That wine was a 2005 Oliverhill Winery, Jimmy Section Shiraz from Australia's McLaren Vale.  Just the nose was enough to warm things up, lots of pure, ripe fruit, some wood and a small amount of earth.  Dark cherries, ripe red plums and a bit of blueberries were prominent in the taste.  Full bodied, fair amount of acid, and a rich base of wood to support it all.  Nice length of finish that paired well with the heartiness of the beef.

This wine went down very easy considering its 15.3% alcohol.    Nice wine.  $24 several years ago.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Snow

Another storm is rolling through, and we are already over our usual amount of snowfall for winter in this area.  Temperatures are going to drop after the snow stops falling with a low of near 5 degrees tonight and near or below zero tomorrow night.  I could use a little global warming about this time. 

There is a wonderful piece of beef that was braised two days ago and has been resting in the cooking liquid for two days.  It's back in the oven now with the finishing touches applied so there will be a warm, hearty meal shortly.  Somewhere in the cellar is a wine to match the evening mood; warm, rich, and tasty.  No doubt the evening will end with me sitting in the rocker in the front window watching the snow fall.  Most likely there will be a glass of port in my hand.  Sometimes I love winter.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sangiovese, the End

The fourth sangiovese wine of the evening was a 2001Geografico Chianti Classico.  This wine reminded me of an old Bette Davis movie, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  Calling this wine over the hill was would be an understatement.  Old, tired and used up.

There was some faded fruit of a decent level, but what were once most likely cherries were now raisins and prunes.  The acid was a little flat and the tannins were harsh.  Considering this was a very good to excellent vintage in Tuscany this wine should not have been this far gone.

12.5% alcohol.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sangiovese, The Ringer

Along with the three Italian versions of sangiovese wines was a 2007 "R" from California's Jeff Runquist Wines.  The grapes are from Amador County.

This was the most fascinating wine of the night along with being the most unusual.  There was also nothing shy about it and the "R" definitely doesn't stand for "reticent."  This was an in your face wine.

The aroma out of the glass was immensely fruity and reeking of oak, vanilla and alcohol.  My first reaction was to dismiss this wine as out of balance and exaggerated.  After tasting the wine it wasn't out of balance, and while it may have been exaggerated it seemed intentional.  The taste was full of dark cherries and blueberries all wrapped around sweet vanilla and oak.  There was still some acid to go along with both the large amount of wood tannin and grape tannin.  Rather than an attractive woman this wine was an Olympic weightlifter, muscular and full of itself. 

I liked the way the wine tasted by itself, but it totally overpowered the food.  Still it is a wine I would like to try again in two years, and then two years after that.  I am curious as to whether the wood will eventually integrate into the fruit. 

15% alcohol - price not available. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sangiovese Part 2

My personal favorite of the four Sangiovese based wines at the Saturday dinner was the 2006 Querciabella Chianti Classico.  For me it was a wine that was hard to fault.  The nose was a sweet and sour cherry aroma with the requisite earthiness, but this wine added a touch of light smoke.  Full flavored with ripe cherries and a few hints of darker fruit.  By itself it was a pleasure to sip, but with the meal it was a delight.  The firmness of the body, the tannin and the acid were totally balanced and played with the food like they were lifelong friends.  This wine was much more together than the Il Nero di Casanova discussed below and that gave it the edge for me. 

The happiest news is that I have two bottles of this wine resting in the cellar so there are some good drinking times ahead.

$28 and 13.5% alcohol.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Our usual group got together on Saturday and tried four Sangiovese wines with some Italian food. Three were very good, one was not. Three were Italian wines and one was from California.  We tasted all four wines before getting into the food, then re-tasted them with the food.  The outcome was quite interesting.

One of the top two wines with the food was a 2007 La Spinetta Il Nero di Casanova Toscana Sangiovese, and IGT wine.  Earth and dirt in the nose in a great balance.  Very reserved at the start and very tightly wound.  It offered promise along with tannin and structure.  By the time the food arrived the wine began opening.  Great sour cherry taste sitting on top of that earthy taste.  The tannins were still strong and so was the acid.  This wine probably needs a couple of years to show its best but the parts are all there when it does.  Really good stuff with the food.  $20 and 13.5% alcohol.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2009 Chablis

The first of the 2009 vintage Chablis made an appearance in the local market recently. If I could only drink one chardonnay based wine it would have to be Chablis.  I love simple Chablis and I  am very happy drinking premier cru and grand cru versions as well.

The wine of the day on Sunday was the William Fevre Champs Royaux.  Palest gold in the glass, there was also a light green tint to the wine.  The nose was sharp with white fruits, dry mineral and oyster shell aromas.  If one closed ones eyes it smelled rather the seashore on a warm spring morning.  The taste was quite tart with apple and white peach flavors, good depth and a long, long finish.  The wine was austere and reticent but there were little hints that a year more in the bottle would see the wine bloom. 

There was some fresh, Alaskan cod for dinner.  It was pan seared and then butter and wine were added to the skillet to make a pan sauce.  Some chopped parsley went in at the last minute.  Wonderful playfulness between the wine and the fish.   A good meal.

$23 and 13% alcohol.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cotes du Rhone

Bright, sunny and bitterly cold yesterday but that did nothing to stop a craving for a steak from the grill.  The two inches of over night snow proved no deterrent either.

The wine was quite interesting.  We opened a 2007 Clos du Mont-Olivet, Montueil la Levade, Veilles Vignes Cotes du Rhone.  The last few years Cotes du Rhone wines have seemed to pick up weight and extraction.  They've become more fruit forward and the alcohol content has crept upward.   For the most part this wine is the antithesis of that.  The nose was earthy and clean and not at all fruit driven.  The fruit that was there was raspberry and strawberry but it was playing second fiddle.  There was a tremendous burst of acid at the beginning before the fruit in the wine kicked in.  Good fruit flavors without being overpowering.  This was leaning a little to the rustic side with earth and oak being as prominent as the fruit.  Very dry and reserved on the finish but the length of flavor was good.  The alcohol level was still high at 14%, but it carried very little of the sweetness that high alcohol wines sometimes exhibit.   Excellent wine with a grilled steak. 

14% alcohol and $14.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Adelsheim Pinot Gris

Interesting wine a few days ago, a 2009 Adelsheim Pinot Gris from Oregon's Willamette Valley.  Greenish yellow in the glass and a tart nose of green grapes and lemon zest.  Grapey taste with a musky dryness to it.  Medium body and a fair amount of acid.  A little short in the finish. 

There was a pan seared trout fillet with some zucchini to round things out. Nice match with this wine.  I don't normally buy or drink Pinot Gris, but this one came recommended from a distributor.  Not a great wine, but drinkable and good with the food, and sometimes that's all one needs.  Good bargain also at $15.  13% alcohol.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Love Riesling

Very interesting meal for New Year's Day and one that we hadn't done in quite some time.  The meal was a semi-traditional Choucroute from the Alsace region of France.  Basically it was fresh sauerkraut with bacon, onions and apples braised in Riesling and vegetable stock in a low oven for most of the day.  Some bay leaves and juniper berries were also in the mix.  For the last hour we added baby back pork ribs, smoked sausage and a few pork steaks.

What wasn't traditional was at the very beginning.  On New Year's Eve when the steak had finished cooking on the grill I added some hickory chips for smoke and then slowly smoked two sections of pork shank (pork osso buco).  They spent an hour and a half in that smoky environment and picked up a wonderful aroma and a dark bronze color.  They were added to the pot early and braised along with the sauerkraut and apples.

The smokiness added a new dimension to this dish and one I really liked a lot.  I rinsed some of the saltiness out of the kraut before braising it but it was still piquant and sweet at the same time.  The house smelled wonderful.  The almost finished dish is pictured below.

The wine was Alsatian as well, a 2004 Hugel, Jubilee Hugel Riseling.  Flowers, soft yellow fruits and kerosene on the nose.  Viscous wine and almost oily in the mouth.  Lots of body.  Great acid balance.  Flavors of citrus, honey, almonds and flowers with subtle bits of the kerosene floating by at times.  Long finish with honey, acid and almonds at the end.  A wine I could drink more of, and probably will.  $20 and 13.5% alcohol.

Why I love Riesling is one of the reasons it seems to be a hard sell to others.  It can be made into so many different wines that without advanced knowledge it's hard to know what one is getting.  This wasn't like German Rieslings, it wasn't like Australian Rieslings, not like Austrian Rieslings and it certainly wasn't like American Rieslings.  It was it's own wine and it was lip smacking good.