Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chateau Bel Air 2009

I don't drink very much Bordeaux any more because the prices have gone beyond high and into the realm of being ridiculous.  That doesn't mean that if a bargain shows up I won't drink it.  That was the case when an out of state wine buying trip produced a 2009 Chateau Bel Air Haut Medoc  from Domaines Joel Irigaray for a reasonable $15.

It rested for a week and then I pulled the cork to go with some pan seared and oven roasted lamb chops.  This is definitely on the savory side of Bordeaux.  There was clean earth and black cherries in the nose.  The taste was much the same with good fruit, lots of tannin and correct acid.  The fruit was secondary here and even after forty minutes breathing it was still somewhat reserved.  Medium length to the finish and it ended totally dry.  Very good with the lamb.

The vacuum stopper went in the bottle and it went back in the cellar for a day.  On the second day there was a small strip steak on the grill and some pan fried zucchini.  The fruit came on much stronger on the second day, though the backbone of earthiness and tannin was still strong.  The finish was still a little short but this was still a drinkable wine.  Good with the steak.

Going back a number of years I remember reading notes from Hugh Johnson or Michael Broadbent where they were discussing lighter Bordeaux as being 'luncheon clarets.'  I think that's a fair description for this wine.  It's not big enough for a serious meal or pairing, but it's a good wine for a light supper or a lunch.  With it being full summer here it also made for an acceptable summer red.

$15 and 13% alcohol.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chapoutier La Sizeranne 1998

Late last week there was an impromptu meal of a very thick cut pork chop seasoned and slowly roasted on the grill before being seared and browned at the last minute.

It took some time for the meat to cook so we contented ourselves with a Chapoutier Belleruche and some appetizers. 

When it came time to eat the surprise for the evening was a 1998 Chapoutier La Sizeranne Hermitage.  Northern Rhone Syrah based wines are one of two places that would contend to be my desert island wines, the other being Barolo and Barbaresco. 

This one was certainly not a disappointment.  Smoky and meaty nose with just a hint of funky barnyard, and that hint left rather quickly.  There was a little age showing on the edges with the beginning of browning, but otherwise is was still a young looking wine.  Intense gamey flavors with some smoke and a definite savoriness that matched well with the pork.  Wonderful length to a finish that still showed some tannin and good acid to refresh the mouth.  Very much on the savory side of red wine and probably not everyone's choice, but I loved it. 

13% alcohol and somewhere in the $70 range on the internet.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Shrimp and Riesling

Good sale on shrimp yesterday so we opted for a sweet and sour sauce and a bottle of Riesling.  The Riesling of the day was the recently released 2010 Kinkead Ridge Ohio River Valley.  I was originally not overwhelmed with this wine when tasting it at the winery, but I still liked it.  You can read that review here. It was time to try the wine with food after it had rested quietly in the bottle for an extra month.

The shrimp dish consisted of shrimp, snow peas, onions, garlic, red bell peppers all stir fried in a sweet and sour sauce.  Lots of stuff in the sauce but the primary ingredients were vinegar, sugar, ketchup, Shaoxing rice wine, corn starch, sesame oil and hot garlic/chili paste.  The peas and peppers were stir fried and removed from the wok.  The garlic and onions were next and once they were fragrant we added the shrimp.  When the shrimp were almost cooked we added the peas and peppers back in and dumped in the sauce until it thickened. Delicious dish, though  I wish I had cut back a little on the toasted sesame oil. 

The wine was much improved from my first taste of it last month and it was near perfect with this dish.  There was just enough heat in the shrimp to match nicely with the 1.2% residual sugar in the wine.  The apple flavors were there but they were now joined by a little pineapple and perhaps some lychee.  The acidity was great with the richness of the shrimp.  Great combination and by the end of the evening there was no shrimp and no wine left. 

11.8% alcohol and $11.95

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fino Sherry

I don't think there's a less appreciated wine than sherry and consequently it's a very under priced wine. I was shopping out of state the other day and the store had a very good selection at low prices so we brought several home. 

The bottle in question here is a Wisdom and Warter Fino Sherry.  Very pale in the glass and an aroma of lightly toasted almonds.  Lots of light almond flavors in the taste along with seawater and salt and yeast.  Light and delicate on the tongue while staying brisk and refreshing.  Nice long finish that leaves the mouth totally dry.  We drank a medium glass while dinner cooked and by the time the meal was ready so was my appetite.  Very good stuff and very under priced.

17% alcohol and $11.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Chateau Guiot

Dinner was a grilled steak last night, but not wanting a heavy wine I opted for a 2010 Chateau Guiot Rose from the Costieres de Nimes region of the southern Rhone in France.  The wine is predominantly Grenache with some Syrah for depth. 

Neon pink color in the glass and a nose of pure strawberries and raspberries with just a hint of peach.  Bone dry, light and racy on the tongue and ending with pure fruit.  This is a happy wine.  It was great with the steak and it worked particularly well with some fresh basil which was tossed with several lettuces and some red onion for a salad.    Good little wine.

13% alcohol and $11.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lemelson Dry Riesling 2008

Last night was my second experience with this wine, the first being about ten months ago and those notes are here.  This time around it was less Australian and more Alsace.  Good fruit, just off dry, nice mineral aspects, much less kerosene in the nose.  Very good wine.

Dinner was fresh monk-fish.   The fish was cut into serving portions and very lightly seasoned.  It went into a very hot cast iron skillet on the grill and was seared on both sides.  We added a lot of chopped garlic, fresh ginger, sliced green onions and some Thai red chilies that were crushed.  Once all of that stir fried for a minute we added a mixture of soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, some Shaoxing wine and a pinch of sugar. With some brown, Basmati rice it made for a great meal.

The wine was nearly perfect with the monk-fish.  There was just enough heat in the chilies to match up with the residual sweetness in the wine.  Though it is labeled as "dry" there is a touch of sweetness in this wine, not as much as in a German Riesling, but certainly more than in and Australian version.  The fruit profile in the wine - citrus, white peaches, lychee - was a good fit with the flavor profile of the fish and the rich sauce.

Good wine.  13% alcohol and $20.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Morning Walk

Took a lengthy walk along the river this morning.  This was a volunteer lily that was growing against a stone outcropping.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Leftovers for lunch today.  Clockwise from the top - the remainder of a strip steak sliced thin, pieces of leftover chicken breast, freshly roasted red bell peppers, artisan made cottage cheese, a few spicy pickles.    The whole thing was held together by the remainder of the garlic and saffron aioli, which was much tastier on its third day

Wine?  The last glass of the Kincaid Ridge white Revelation, 2010.

Dry Creek Zinfandel

Drinking Zinfandel is a rare thing for me.  It used to be one of my favorite wines, but that was fifteen years ago when alcohol levels were around 13.5%.  Once they routinely exceeded 14%, then 15% I stopped drinking them because they were more port-like and simply overpowered anything one wanted to eat with them.  My only use for some of the near 16% versions is as a topping for shaved ice - the ultimate snow cone.  That diluted the wine and the sweet and prickly flavors came back.

There are exceptions and one is pictured above, a 2007 Dry Creek Vineyards Sonoma County " Heritage" Zinfandel.  What makes sit a heritage Zinfandel?  According to the label they took budwood off some of their century-old vines and grafted it onto new rootstock.  Whatever it was worked.

Bright but deep color and nose of brambles and earth.  Great, ripe fruit flavors of blackberries and other dark fruits, nice mouth feel and good integration of some wood tastes and aromas.  Sharp acid in this wine.  This is not a shy wine, but it's balanced and almost refreshing, two things most Zinfandels aren't. 

There was a strip steak from the grill, a few mushrooms and a baked potato.  Great combination and a wonderful meal.

$21 and 13.5% alcohol.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Young and Fresh

The best of the local farmers' markets began operating yesterday.  In the past it has been difficult to get to there because work always interfered.  Since that's no longer a problem I made the drive yesterday.  Because of the continued wet weather in this area things are behind quite a bit.  Still there was some fresh asparagus soup, some nearly still warm eggs from an Amish farmer and some wonderful lettuce pictured below.
The lettuce went into a wonderful salad with a few fresh herbs and some red onion.  That was paired with a cup of the asparagus soup and some salmon cakes using the left over salmon from the post below.

The salmon was chopped and I added a small amount of smoked salmon to the mix, along with some lemon thyme and a chopped shallot.  For a binding I used a homemade roasted garlic and saffron aioli; roasted garlic, lemon juice, a bit of salt, an egg yolk, a wee bit of Dijon mustard, a pinch of saffron, some lemon zest and some olive oil.  We buzzed the concoction in the blender, gradually adding more oil as needed until we had a wonderful tasting mayonnaise.  Once the mixture was formed into cakes they chilled out for a short time in the refrigerator and then were rolled in panko crumbs and sauteed until warm and crisp.

With the salmon, soup and lettuce all being remarkably fresh there was a need for a fresh wine so we opened one of the Kinkead Ridge White Revelations that we picked up a couple of weeks ago at the winery.  Sharp, tart and fresh and almost a perfect counterpoint to the richness of the salmon cakes.  There were more herbal flavors that popped out along with the citrus. The austere minerality in this wine just made wonderful music with  the food.  This was a wine much better with food than it was by itself at a tasting.

$13.95 and 14.7% alcohol

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sockeye Salmon

One day only  special at the market yesterday was Alaskan Copper River sockeye salmon at a reasonable price.  Pictured is about three quarters of a pound that was barbecued last night.  It started flesh side down over hot coals, then was quickly flipped and basted with a mixture of butter, ketchup, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, dry mustard and lemon juice all whisked together.

We added some oven roasted redskin potatoes with garlic and rosemary and a small salad to round out a meal.

Beverage of choice for this meal was a couple of Left Hand Brewing Company Saw Tooth Ales out of Longmont, Colorado.  Great summer beer.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer Fare

Hot, mid-summer weather is apparently here to stay for awhile so we're in summer cooking mode as well.  That means just about everything gets cooked outdoors.

Today that was what can best be described as Scarborough Fare Chicken, or perhaps Simon and Garfunkel Chicken.  A handful of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme was chopped fine and then spread between the skin and the flesh of a brined chicken.   The un-chopped herbs are above. 

The whole thing went on the grill over indirect heat for about and hour an a half until it was perfectly cooked and perfumed with the herbs.  For the last few minutes some slices of fresh fennel were grilled directly over the coals, basted with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and Dijon mustard.  Some of the basting liquid was also applied to the chicken during the last fifteen minutes of cooking time.  When everything was removed from the grill we toasted some slices of rustic bread over the coals and rubbed them with a garlic clove and drizzled them with some olive  oil.

The wine of the day was from Dry Creek Valley's Michel-Schlumberger, a 2010 Rose of Merlot, named Le Flirt. Great aromas of strawberries and raspberries.  Beautiful dark pink color in the glass.  Medium body with great acid and a bone dry finish.  Great with the chicken and even better with the grilled slices of fennel.  Good, inexpensive wine.  Hopefully summer will taste this good every day.

$15 and 13.2% alcohol.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Leoville Las Cases 1986

I bought this bottle of 1986 Chateau Leoville Las Cases in 1989 and it has been hanging around in the cellar since that time.  I said at the time of purchase that it was a bottle of wine for my retirement party, and Thursday night several us sat down with a rack of lamb and opened this wine.

Between purchase date and consumption date the wine garnered some phenomenal reviews, some even calling it the best Las Cases ever made.  I can't answer to that but I can say that this was simply a remarkable wine that ranked with some of the best in my memory.  From the time the cork cleared the top of the bottle the bouquet was strong and seductive with layers of flowers and fruit mixed with earth and spice.  It was nearly enough to just sit and sniff the wine.

There was the beginning of some browning at the edges, but there was nothing in the nose to indicate age.  It was fresh and alive and the more one swirled the more aroma the wine produced.  The taste was equally impressive.  There were black cherries, cassis, cinnamon, vanilla, fresh earth.  The mouth feel was great and the flavors just coated the tongue.  The acidity was more than acceptable and there was soft, warming tannins to coat the tongue at the end. 

The lamb was minimally seasoned with salt and pepper and browned in a skillet, then sprinkled with fresh rosemary and thyme and garlic then grilled over indirect heat to medium rare. The wine and the lamb were like a couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary - perfect together and winning the test of time. 

If I had known the wine was going to be this good I would have retired a few years ago.

12.5% alcohol an original price sticker of $40.  I do remember getting a discount on the wine because the label was soiled and I'm certain that it was part of a mixed case purchase so I could get another ten percent discount.  Replacement price from a few internet sources would be $400 + or -. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

William Fevre Chablis Les Clos 2006

This year's lobster party also served a second purpose since it fell one day after I retired from what is hopefully my last job and career.  It pays to share good bottles with friends because they tend to return the favor and one of them brought out the 2006 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos from Domaine William Fevre for the lobsters.

This wine was a little darker in the glass than the Vincent Mothe discussed below. The nose was much more open, amplified and distinct with white flowers, grapefruit, and some hints of an exotic fruit that I still can't identify.  The flavors in the first sip was the grapefruit along with lemon curd and wet rocks.  The longer one kept the wine in the mouth more flavors emerged; a tiny bit of butter, roasted nuts.  The mouth feel was not what I was expecting as there was a lusciousness to this wine that belied all the acid.  About the time thoughts off it being too rich started the acidity kicked in and just took over.  The richness faded and there was that bracing tartness and minerality on the finish.    

As good as the Vincent Mothe was with the lobster, this wine was obviously better.  I took my time with this wine, sipping slowly and eating lobster to the point where I mentally left the party for a few minutes.  Remarkable stuff and a rare treat.

13.5% alcohol and $100 plus.

There's one more very, very special bottle that I've saved for a number of years before heading back to much more pedestrian wine.  Notes on that wine in a few days.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vincent Mothe Fourchaume 2006

One of the two best wines at the Lobster-fest discussed below was a 2006 Vincent Mothe Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume.

The wine was pale yellow and crystal clear in the glass with a nose of ripe but tart apple, wet limestone, and freshly grated lemon zest.  The taste was much the same as the nose but one could add a wee bit of pear to the mix.  Tremendous mouth feel to this wine and acid that many wines could only envy.

There was an experiment of sorts with the lobster dipping sauces this year.  The major one involved clarifying some butter with a few sprigs of lemon thyme and a few rosemary leaves and then removing all the solids.  When the butter was rewarmed for dinner strips of lime zest were steeped in the liquid for half an hour and a few drops of lime juice added to the mix.  This was far and away the best dipping sauce with the wine and the lobster.   The standard butter with lemon juice was fine and good and the mayonnaise based sauce with reduced shellfish stock and Maytag Blue cheese was surprisingly good with the lobster, but the compound flavors in the clarified sauce just picked up all kinds of subtle flavors in the Chablis. There were just subtle hints of the thyme and rosemary and there was the perkiness of the lime that just married so well with this wine.  It was a wonderful match and one that can be repeated one more time, as there is another bottle in the cellar for another year.

13.5% alcohol and $30.