Sunday, February 27, 2011

Henry Fessy Morgon, 2007

Quoting an old song by Dinah Washington here...
What a difference a day makes
Twenty four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain....
The wine in this case was a Henry Fessy, Morgon from the 2007 vintage.  We drank this wine over two days and it was like drinking two different wines. 

Day one was with a pan seared strip steak and some mixed veggies sauteed in butter and olive oil.  The cork came out of the bottle, the wine hit the glass and there was fruit and flowers everywhere.  It was like walking through a florist's shop.  Wonderful, happy flavors of ripe, sweet fruit, tart acid and good mouth feel.  Sweet pleasant finish that was all about fruit.  Very good with the steak and good to just sip the second glass. 

Day two was with a lamb and beef and pasta dish.  The wine was vacuumed overnight but when the liquid hit the glass it was quite a different wine.  Where had the flowers and fruit gone?  They certainly weren't in the wine.  In place of fruit and flowers the wine was giving off damp earth and dark, woodsy  aromas that weren't there on day one.  The flavors in the wine matched the nose, dark, brooding fruit instead of bright cheerful fruit.  The earthy taste was there along with the fruit.  The tannins were strong on this day, and they had been very weak on the first day.  The acid level was still good and still prominent at the finish.  On day one the wine was bouncy and happy and on day two it was brooding and asking to be taken more seriously.   

I liked this wine on both days.  It's youthful side was fun, while it's serious side stood up well to the stronger flavors in the lamb and beef dish.  Had they been poured side by side I never would have picked them as the same wine.  Forced to choose, I would go with the flavor profile from the first day. 

13% alcohol and $10.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Other Side of the Coin

The second wine in the shipment discussed in the post below from Michel-Schlumberger was the 2008 vintage of La Brume chardonnay. The same plan was in effect here - taste one of the three bottles when it arrives and possibly order more.

We fixed a Dungeness crab risotto to go with this wine. The crab meat was removed from the crab and a light stock or nage made with the shells and a chopped shallot. That was the stock used to make the risotto, which was just rice, a pinch of saffron, a little wine and the stock. Just as it was done the meat from the crab was stirred into the rice.

Over the last several years every wine I've had from Michel Schlumberger has been very good to excellent. The previous two vintages of La Brume chardonnay have impressed me. Not so much here. This is my least favorite wine from this estate.

The nose was a little musty but that quickly blew away to some grapey aromas and a tiny bit of melon. Full bodied and lush in the mouth, the wine had some melon character and some off apple flavors. Neither of those flavors was strong. The finish left a bitter impression that I didn't care for. In the end that finish reminded me of skin from a not so perfect apple. The acid seemed about right but the crab was rich and a wine with more acid would probably have been better here.

Putting more of a chill on this wine might be a better idea. I'm sure that others will like this wine more than I. Perhaps I might even mark some of this down to bottle shock from its long journey from California,though that wasn't a problem with the merlot. We'll let my second bottle rest for a month or two and try it again.

14.5% and $32

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Le Sage Merlot

Now that the worst of winter is supposedly over that means that wine shipments which were curtailed during December's and January's extreme cold and have started again. The first one in the door contained two wines from Michel Schlumberger. Last fall I upped the shipments from two bottles to six bottles, three of each wine. I usually share the wines with a friend and after more than several good wines we decided to split the cost of the six bottle shipment and open a bottle soon after it's arrival. This shipment contained the 2008 Le Sage Merlot and the 2008 La Brume Chardonnay.

With the weather turning a little nicer there was a rack of lamb done on the grill and some very small potatoes roasted whole in a cast iron skillet with some olive oil and a little lamb fat and rosemary for flavoring.

When everything was done we pulled the cork and poured the wine. Nice fruit on the nose and it took a minute or two to come up with blueberries and currants. There was also a cinnamon like aroma in the wine. The taste definitely fell into the blueberry and dark fruit category and there was a tiny hint of vegetable in the wine that I liked a lot. A suggestion of vanilla added a little complexity. Full bodied taste with some silkiness to the mouth feel. Deep flavors that lasted. Nice acid at the finish that balanced out the fruit. Good wine and wonderful with the lamb.

14.5% alcohol and $32 from the winery.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spring's New Growth

Vineyard owners tend to get a rush when they see the first new growth of spring on the vines.  I get excited when I see the first buds of fresh herbs coming out of the ground.   That happened this morning.

After entirely too much snow and cold weather in this area the jet stream has moved back north and we were blessed with a week of above normal temperatures, even getting two sunny days at 65 degrees.  There are a few herbs that get an early start, dependent not so much on warm weather but on lengthening days to begin their season, in particular the tarragon and chives.  Both were above ground this morning and they are just a promise of what will be happening over the next month with the sage, thyme, and lavender.  It's fortunate that they are cold hardy because winter is by no means over and there will likely be more snow and ice before true spring arrives.  The rosemary winters over in the house, but it is now sitting in it's large pot basking in the sunlight on the front step.  It's still two months until the annual plants, primarily basil, parsley and chervil are ready for outdoors, but this is a start.

The photo is the tarragon peeking above ground for the first time since last fall.  It's a spring tonic to me.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Firesteed Pinot Noir

The 2008 vintage in Oregon is considered outstanding for pinot noir.  I've tried several and found them to be very good but a little bit expensive.  Finally we tried the bottom end of the Oregon price range with a 2008 Firesteed.  The result?  Tasty and a great value.

Pale in the glass the nose was pretty much bright berries and tart cherries and a little bit of damp earth or forest floor action.  Medium body and flavor, but those flavors were pure and juicy.  The earthiness also came through along with a slight suggestion of spice.  Good acid, but a perhaps a bit low on tannin.  This is another wine that doesn't cry out for thought or attention, it just asks to be consumed. 

$10 and a bargain at that price.  12.3% alcohol.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Last weekend there was a beef barolo and some polenta to consume, a not so tough job.  It was made less tough by the choice of wine, a 1998 Luciano Sandrone Cannubi Boschis Barolo.

Three hours before eating the wine was decanted. It was tight and closed and offered very little in the nose except for the requisite road tar.  A small sip revealed little beyond that tar and some basic fruit taste and a huge tannic bite.  Over the next couple of hours the wine sat, and occasionally swirled in the decanter while we sipped a couple of other wines.

Shortly before eating we poured a small amount into some glasses and swirled.  The wine had come alive with an aroma of fruit and flowers, a little bit of road tar, and warm spice.  It was hard to take my nose out of the glass long enough to drink it.  The taste was totally ripe fruit with cherry flavors and some berries supporting.  Full and lush in the mouth with bits of earth and tar floating by along with cinnamon and a wee bit of nutmeg.  Wonderful acidity.  The tannin in this wine was abundant, but it didn't assault the tongue, it simply wrapped it in a strong embrace and squeezed.  Remarkable length of finish to this wine, it seemed to go on for about a minute.  The tannin and acid at the very end just refreshed the mouth.

With the food the wine was even better as the two played off one another.  A rare treat and one of the better wines I've had in some time.  

Price - quite expensive.   13.5% alcohol.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Unbroken, A Difficult Read

I just finished a difficult book.  Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption was written by Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Seabiscuit.

The book is the story of Louis Zamperini, a U.S. Olympian in 1936.  Zamperini was a favorite to go into the 1940 Olympics as one of the top running prospects for the U.S.  WWII changed all that.  Instead Zamperini enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became of bombardier in the Pacific theater.  His plane crashed between Hawaii and Palmyra Atoll.  Three people survived the crash by climbing into two inflatable rafts and drifting westward for nearly two months, fighting off sharks and starvation the entire time.

Two survived and were captured by the Japanese, taken first to Kwajalein and then on to Japan as prisoners of war. 

Great story, well written, but extremely difficult to read.  For me the author did too good a describing Zamperini's confinement, torture, abuse, starvation etc.  The majority of the book dwells on this, and there were times when the descriptions were so intense I had to walk away from the book for a day or two. It took two weeks to read the entire book.  In the end it was fascinating and uplifting, considering that Zamperini is still alive and living in southern California.  It was another reminder that humans are capable of some appalling behavior, not that I really needed another reminder.

I definitely recommend the book if one is able to tolerate the descriptions of torture.  If there is any thought of a movie from this book I'm not sure it could get past the censors.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Leitz Out 2009

A few more 2009 German Rieslings made their appearance in the local market.  An even larger number showed up in my "in-box" via offers from New York, Washington DC and others.  Every one I've tasted from this vintage has been good and latest is Leitz Out from the Jos. Leitz in the Rheingau.

There was just a hint of sulfur or flint when twisting off the cap.  Next up was some citrus, a tiny bit of pineapple and a fresh mint leaf just plucked from the plant in the spring.  The taste was sweet apple, mixed with the pineapple and mint. Light and refreshing and totally alive with acid, the medium body just lit up the mouth.  That sweet apple taste hung around in the mouth before turning to citrus at the very end which was quite dry and pleasant. 

There was a small piece of salmon that was pan seared after being coated with Chinese five spice powder, salt, and pepper.  Once the fish was done the pan was de-glazed with splash of white wine, a little rice wine, a shake or two of fish sauce and a drop of toasted sesame oil and a squeeze of lemon.  A bite of salmon, a sip of wine and the winter blues flew out the door. 

While this may be  an entry level wine it must be said that if every entry level wine was this good the world would be a much better place.   $13 and 10% alcohol. 

Really good stuff.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Italian Wine / Greek Food

4 degrees this morning (-16 c) and that means that last night was also quite chilly.  There was a samll Greek salad and a casserole of pastitsio in the oven.  Ground beef, ground lamb, cinnamon, oregano, tomatoes, garlic all simmered together and then covered with a yogurt and cheese infused bechamel sauce before going into the oven.

The wine was a 2007 Marchesi di Barolo Barbera Monferato, Maraia.  Smelling the wine made me happy.  Lots of red fruits and earthy spice, a little vegetable aroma and a medium body just made the wine smell like very early summer.  Light and happy on the tongue the berries were sweet yet tart.  Good acid and tannin and a long finish.  The cinnamon in the pastitsio really picked up this wine.  Nothing overly complex here, just solid wine that was the perfect antidote to a cold evening.  We added some crusty bread and soon quit caring that it was too cold outside.

$10 and 13.5% alcohol.  Outstanding value.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nebbiolo D'Alba

Interesting wine in the market the other day, one I had not seen before in this area.  The wine was a 2007 Damilano Nebbiolo D'Alba.  We cracked open the bottle and decanted half the wine for about an hour while we worked on some veal picatta and ricotta gnudi.

Of course a splash or two hit the glasses while the wine was being decanted. The nose certainly brought up thoughts of the traditional versus the modern style in this area of northwestern Italy.  The tarry and earthy aromas were pretty much absent here but there was a ton of sweet fruit in the nose and a light bit of oak.  After an hour in the decanter the wine was still fruit forward with bright, red cherries predominating.  They were ripe, but still maintained a sour edge.  There was a bit of cinnamon and a few other spices.  The taste was all about the fruit on the front of the mouth and it was ripe and pleasant.  It wasn't until the finish when the nebbiolo tannins finally kicked in to let one know what this wine was all about.  Medium body, not a lot of depth, good acid and an acceptable if not overly long finish.  An easily drinkable wine, but perhaps a little too soft and fruity.

It's biggest selling point was the $15 price tag.  14% alcohol by volume.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Vinatge port

We opened a bottle of vintage port a few days ago and have been working on it glass by glass since, watching it change as it breathes.

The wine is a 1992 Dow's Quinta Do Bomfim.  The first day it was somewhat closed in and smelled mostly like chocolate covered raisins and alcohol.  It wasn't the most complex vintage port I've had, but it was warming and comfortable and a cold, snowy night. After a glass and a half I vacuum stoppered the bottle.

A day later the wine smelled like a Christmas pudding - raisins, candied fruit, cinnamon, cloves, chocolate.  It was still not overly complex, but it did open quite a bit and was much better than the first day.  One could detect the alcohol on the finish.

Day four was last night and the parts finally seemed to have come together.  The Christmas like aromas and tastes were there, but they had finally blended together into a solid core.  Some elegance had arrived on the scene and the alcohol heat had dissipated  somewhat.  Last night it was at its best.

This is a good wine, but not a heavyweight by any means.  Solid effort, good flavor and probably at its peak now.  There is one more glass left for this evening, another cold and snowy one.  A decent value when purchased a long time ago.  The $35 price tag is still on the back of the bottle.  20% alcohol by volume.

Friday, February 4, 2011


There are a huge number of grapes in the world that lend themselves to wine.  Respecting the efforts of those folks growing these grapes and making the wine I feel it is my duty to drink what they produce.  At least that's my rationalization for adding one more grape to my tasting list, Bonarda.

In this case the wine is a 2009 Colonia  Las Liebres, or Colony of Hares, a wine out of Argentina.  The wine was a purplish color in the glass and the aroma was almost pure fruit.  There were raspberries, strawberries and some currant.  Those flavors were persistent in the wine and there was little to interfere with them.  There was good acidity, soft tannin, and a medium body.  The whole thing made for a pleasant little wine that went down very easy.  I could get no oak aromas or taste from the wine, but learned after drinking it that the closest this wine came to oak was the bed of the truck the grapes road in on their trip to the winery.

I liked this wine because it was just there for drinking and seemed to have no desire to be more than it was.  We drank it with a pan seared, oven roasted, small steak and some gnocchi tossed in the pan drippings while the steak rested.

A note on Bonarda:  The grape is thought to be of Italian origin and like Carmenere in Chile, a grape that is nearly extinct in its home area.  Some think it is the same grape as Charbono in California, and obviously some don't.  Until recently it was the most planted red grape in Argentina, now being surpassed by Malbec.

13.9% alcohol and a fantastic $9.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


No, not an abstract. Just a little bit of today's weather.

It started late last night with freezing rain coming down on top of the snow. There were a few snow flurries and some sleet mixed in with the freezing rain. With temperatures in the mid 20 degree range it freezes on everything, including the tree outside the front door.

In several hours it will warm up to the mid 40 degree range and we are expecting thunder storms. After that the temperature will drop again into the low 20 degree range and we are expecting more ice before it all changes to snow tomorrow morning.

Did I mention the 40mph wind?

I'm looking at a bottle of 1992 Dow's, Quinta Do Bowfim vintage port. My first thought is to save it, but when I look out the window my heart is telling me to pull the cork. Decision upcoming.