Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Drew & Guigal

As far as the weather goes yesterday was just about perfect and very unusual for this area at the end of August.  There were almost no clouds, the humidity was low and the temperature topped out at 78 degrees.  There was a small group that got together for dinner to cook a cow.  In reality it wasn't the whole cow, but it was a 4 inch thick, dry aged rib-eye steak that was half grilled and half roasted.  It was delicious.

There were two wines and both were very good.  The first was a 2006 Drew Family Cellars, Ridgeline Syrah from the Mendocino Ridge AVA.  A number of Syrahs in California have gone the way of some of the Cabernet Sauvignons.  They have become big, over ripe monsters with very high alcohols and syrupy sweetness.  The Drew was certainly cut from a different cloth.  The nose was hard, dark cherries, some earthy spice and some wisps of raw meat.  The wine was a definite purple, showing its young age.  The flavors were definitely fruit forward with dark cherries, some plum notes and that little bit of raw meat.  Great acidity and tannin, a medium mouth feel and a long, smoky finish that stretched on for a good time.  With the food it was almost perfect since there was enough tannin and acid to cut through the fattiness of the steak. 

If I had to compare it to a European wine it would be Crozes Hermitage.  There wasn't quite enough depth to rival a Hermitage and it was a little too refined for a St Joseph.  This wine still needs a couple of years. but the good news is that there are two more in the cellar.  It disappeared quickly.

The second wine was a 2003 E. Guigal Hermitage.  Deeper and darker than the Drew in the glass, this wine had a touch of brett to it that took several minutes to work it's way out.  Dark color, notes of raw meat and plums in the nose.  The taste was deeper and fuller than the Drew but the wine tasted a tiny bit hot, and a little bit old.  Long finish to this wine as well and it was still a joy to drink when the brett aromas faded. 

Drew, 14.4% alcohol and $33.
Guigal, 13% alcohol and $70.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Roero Arneis

Another of the wines in the recent mixed case was an Arneis, Specifically a 2009 Antico Contado Roero Arneis Renesio from the Piemonte region of northwest Italy. This is an old variety that is enjoying something of a renaissance and the Roero region is at the forefront.

Very bright green/gold color in the glass the wine smelled like the perfectly ripe pear one gets when they hang on the tree until fully ready to eat.  This was a very full bodied wine and very mouth-filling. The pears were there in force with a tiny bit of apple and yellow plums underpinning the pear flavor.  There was very good acidity for such a full bodied wine.  The finish was fruity and then bone dry with acid. 

Dinner was also a little unusual.  A nearby farmer is now producing and selling locally Cornish hens, small chickens with a full taste.  I brought home one that was 1 1/4 pounds then stuffed it with fresh sage, thyme and rosemary, dusted it with some coarse salt, put it in a small skillet and popped everything in a 350 degree toaster oven for 40 minutes.  The result is pictured below.  There was some fresh bail gnudi served in a freshly made sauce of just harvested red and yellow tomatoes to go with the poultry.

The acid in the wine killed the richness of the hen and the flavors in the wine were a nice compliment to the gnudi, which were full of ricotta cheese and fresh basil.  Good meal.

13% alcohol and $15.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rosebank 16 Year

One can't live by wine alone.

For some time I've been searching for a bottle of Rosebank Scottish whisky.  Obviously, from the picture I finally found a bottle.  Rosebank is a lowland malt, triple distilled, and lighter than its highland cousins.  The distillery closed in 1993 so it took some searching to find a bottle.  This bottling was by Gordon & McPhail and was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2007.

The nose was quite flowery and lightly fruity.  Good warmth and there were hints of orange and honey flavors.  This was a very elegant and refined whisky, more like a cognac than my usual island whiskys.  Very easy to drink. 

46% alcohol and $70

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Good piece of salmon last night for dinner.  I dusted it with salt, garlic powder and pimenton and then pan seared each side quickly.  It then went into the oven to finish cooking.  Cabbage coleslaw and a couple of just picked yellow pear tomatoes rounded out the plate.  The wine was a glass of fino sherry.  More about that later.  Good meal.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc 2004

Over the last few days I've been following via Face Book and other media the journey of some Kinkead Ridge wines to Australia, purchased by a private consumer and shipped via FedEx. That certainly made me thirsty for a Kinkead Ridge wine so last night I opened a bottle, my next to last, of the 2004 Cabernet Franc.

Dinner was a filet mignon, pan seared on both sides then tossed in a moderate oven to finish cooking.  There was a pan sauce with the drippings, some shallots, vermouth, cognac, blackberries and butter that simmered while the meat cooked.  When the filet were done I put the sauce on the plates in an attractive swirl, placed the filet in the middle and topped it with some more of the sauce.  There was a green salad and some roasted tomatoes also on the plate.

The problem with the wines from Kinkead Ridge is that are so easy and good to drink that it takes a lot of willpower to let them age.  This bottle was stashed away in an odd location so it did get some bottle age to it.  The aroma was wonderful, full of black raspberries and bright cherries and clean earth.  Those aromas had mellowed into a wonderful bouquet.  The wine was medium weight in the mouth and the flavors were soft and appealing.  Both the cherries and raspberries were there, along with a touch of cinnamon and some subtle hints of vanilla.   The acid was still wonderful in this wine and there was just enough tannin to complete the package.  The wine was fully mature, lean, svelte, and all the parts were completely harmonized.  This wasn't a loud, brash teenager, this was a mature woman with a few discreet stories to tell.  They were stories I bought into, and they were just about perfect with the filet and the sauce.  Wonderful bottle of wine.

12.9% alcohol and $15 when purchased.  355 cases produced.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summer Reading

Three new books and one old standard managed to get me through the late July and August heat wave.  With temperatures in the mid to upper 90 degree range it was time to stay inside and read.

From the bottom up.....
Authentic Wine by Jamie Goode and Sam Harrop MW, subtitled Toward Natural and Sustainable Winemaking. If one is into understanding the technical aspect of grape growing, wine making and more this is a valuable book.  Technical writing, but thoroughly readable. I'm about 2/3 of the way through it and know much more than I did about organic, biodynamic, sustainable viticulture, etc.    My only complaint is the incredibly bright cover.  I have examined the book thoroughly and I have no idea where the battery replacement compartment is, and there must be a battery to a make a cover this bright. University of California Press.

To End All Wars, a Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild.  A completely fascinating and readable account of World War War I from mostly a British perspective. The author not only examines the military aspects of the war but also the anti-war and labor movement in Britain at the time.  Remarkably these two sides overlap each other with members of the same families being on different sides of the issue.  If there's a "history streak" in your reading habits I recommend picking up this book.  Really good stuff.  Houghton Miflin Harcourt. 

A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  I read this novel a long, long time ago in a galaxy far away....it was first published in 1959.  I was in a book store recently and there was a new, paperback edition, and since I have fond memories of the book it was time to give it another try.  This one is set at a New England prep school in 1942 and 1943.  Short, dramatic, moving and just a good story about shattered dreams.  It's a much deeper book than I remember from first reading far too many years ago.  Scribner.

A Vineyard in My Glass by Gerald Asher.  No one writing about wine moves me more than Gerald Asher.  This book is collected essays, mostly  from Gourmet Magazine.  Some are 20 years old but they are fresh and alive.  I subscribed to this magazine for 20 years, and most of those years it was just to read Asher's columns. More than any critic or wine writer this is the person I respect the most and the one who set me off on some serious wine quests.  Keep this one by your bedside and a chapter a night will make you thirsty the next morning.  University of California Press.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cotes du Rhone

There was a special on flank steak at the market the other day so we bought several, divided them in two and froze what we didn't fix the first night.  The first part was rubbed with garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, cayenne, salt, chipotle powder and pepper and allowed to marinate for several hours.

When the steak came off the grill the top came off a bottle of Cave de Rasteau, Le Dome du Grand Bois, Cotes du Rhone from the 2009 vintage.  This was one of the wines in the mixed case discussed below.  The wine was a mixture of grenache, cinsault and carrignane.  Fruity, straightforward nose that had a few traces of spice and earth in it.  Purplish in the glass.  Good medium body and good fruit flavors of berries and earth.  Good tannin profile here, a fair amount of it, but the tannins were ripe and friendly.  This is a happy wine.  It takes no deep thought to enjoy it and it washes down good food  leaving a pleasant taste in the mouth.  It does it with little expense also.

There was some ratatouille to go along with the steak and the wine may have been even a better match with the eggplant, zucchini, squash, onions, and tomatoes in that dish.  Very tasty with the veggies.

13% alcohol and $12.50

Friday, August 19, 2011

2006 Le Corti Principe Corsini

Some pasta with fresh tomatoes, basil and a couple grated cheeses called for a Chianti.  This time it was an Agricola Le Corti, Principe Corsini, Chianti Classico from the 2006 vintage.  The nose was red fruit and earth, just like Chianti should smell.  Dark red fruits, good earth tannin, great acid, nice balance, and a good finish.  All this for a reasonable price.  Not spectacular or earth moving, just a good medium weight red wine for summer drinking. 

$15 and 13% alcohol.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The 2009 Benaza Godello was a very interesting wine.  Beautiful color in the glass, pale golden with a slightly green edge to it.  The nose was all about white flowers and tropical fruits.  There were hints of papaya and melon, and from sniffing the glass my initial reaction was that it was going to be fat and a little overblown with fruit, an uber-ripe California chardonnay minus the oak.

One sip put that impression to rest.  This wine had a tremendous spine of acid.  While the nose screamed fat and amorphous, the feel of the wine in the mouth was more Chablis like.  It had sharp edges to it that really balanced out the big fruit tastes of papaya, melon, and pineapple.  It never went over the top, the fruit and acid just balanced each other perfectly.  There was a lengthy finish that ended totally clean with a definite minerality to carry you to the next sip.  I was very impressed with this wine.

The wine is from the Monterrei region of Spain, a small area adjoining the extreme northeast corner of Portugal.   This was my first ever wine from that region, and my first Godello.  It definitely won't be my last.

There was a small plate of pasta with shrimp for dinner the first night and this was a good match.  The second night there was a pork chop, sprinkled with paprika and grilled.  When the chop was turned on the grill we covered the top with a peach and habanero chutney and let that warm while the chop finished cooking.  Great match with this wine.

$13 and 13% alcohol. A very reasonably priced wine.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Trip to Bountiful?

There was a trip to another out of state store Monday and I approached it in a different manner than my usual method.  I put together a case of inexpensive wine that matched one of two criterion, each bottle had to be something I've never tried before or it had to be from a producer that was new to me. I ended up with a very mixed case from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, New York, California, and Scotland. Obviously the bottle from Scotland was a single malt whisky, but the others were all wine.

One part of the excursion that was unexpected was the reaction from and the interaction with the personnel in the wine store.  Monday is their least busy day so they had time to spend on my project.  When I moved from section to section the in store "expert" on those sections was there to talk wine and make suggestions.  Two of the bottles were not displayed on the shelves, they were tucked away in back awaiting shelf space.   My not being a novice or new wine drinker proved to be a challenge for them as some of their early suggestions  were rejected with comments like, "I had that about fifteen years ago." 

Fun day and there will be some interesting wines to try over the next few weeks.
The pictures don't have much to do with the story, they are just shots of a morning glory vine on the fence around the patio and in the adjacent tree. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Morning Sun

Scott, one of the dogs, and I went for a walk Saturday morning.  My walk was leisurely, but his was busy.  Six turtles found a wonderful spot to warm themselves in the morning sun.  They were quite content until Scott got too close. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Summer Bounty

One of the true treasures of summer in Ohio is tomatoes.  In August one tends to almost overdose on them to make up for the dearth of a good tasting tomato once late fall and winter arrives.    Yesterday I picked a good number of cherry tomatoes and then friends dropped by with a huge bag of full sized ones from their garden.  Pictured above is the result of a few minutes of work - the best local Bloody Mary in the world, made with fresh tomato juice.

We filled the blender with tomatoes, threw in some Worcestershire Sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice, salt and pepper and punched the 'liquify' button.  After a minute we passed the resulting liquid through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and skins.  We let the mixture settle for an hour.

This was as fresh and local a Bloody Mary as is possible.  The tomatoes were grown locally.  The vodka was distilled about fifteen minutes from here and the basil used for the garnish was grown in a huge pot by the patio. We don't do lemons in Ohio and there's no substitute for Worcestershire Sauce so those items remain non local.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chateau de Riviere

Slightly out of the area the other day and there was a wine store across the street from my appointment.  It's great fun exploring a brand new store simply because one sees things that are new and different from those in one's the usual haunts.

One wine I had not seen before was Chateau de Riviere, a Chinon from the 2009 vintage.  We tossed a veal chop on the grill, fixed a small salad and some fresh corn and pulled the cork.  Light purple/red in the glass and Beaujolais like in its depth of color.  Fresh aromas of sweet red cherries, a little earth and a tiny bit of spice.  Light and pleasant on the tongue with a good acid attack up front.  Flavors were full of light fruit, but despite the lightness they were full flavors.  Good tannin on the side of the tongue and a surprisingly long finish that ended with an earthy feel to it.  Nicely balanced wine and a great summer red.  Perfect match with the veal chop which had been marinated in olive oil, rosemary, garlic and lemon zest prior to being grilled.  

12.5% alcohol and $13.50

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Farmers' Market Day

The spring here in southwest Ohio was very wet, and that delayed the farm folks from getting a number of their crops in the ground.  The last month has been very hot so the crops are making up for lost time.   Pictured above was part of today's haul at the local Farmers' Market.  On the right is a sweet dumpling squash.  There are two golden globe eggplants and one purple and white globe egg plant.  Obviously the long, purple veggie is another variety of eggplant.  There were some just picked cherry tomatoes to round out the photo.  Not pictured were some small zucchini, the first of the local onions and some heirloom tomatoes.

I bought a large amount of the cherry tomatoes and plan on making a large batch of Bloody Mary mix with them.  That drink is so much better with freshly made tomato juice than it is with the canned variety.

To make things even better, one of the best local restaurants was there with side dishes prepared with nearly 100% local ingredients (we don't make olive oil in Ohio).  Dinner tonight will be all local - a pan seared local chicken breast with ratatouille and a roasted beet and onion salad with local goat cheese.  No decision yet, but I'm betting there will be local wine also.

Life is good.   

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I picked this wine up two years ago at the Kickapoo Creek winery in Illinois.  I was visiting some friends in the area and we stopped for a tasting at the winery.  Out of twenty some wines this was the one I found palatable.  I really didn't care for their chocolate wine.

Norton is a unique grape in that it is not a vitis vinifera grape, it is a vitis aestivalis and was first isolated in Virginia.  It is also unique in being one of the very few native grapes that doesn't have the "foxy" off putting taste that most native grapes do, though most are vitis labrusca.  More info on the grape here.

I took this wine to the picnic last Saturday that is discussed below.  So how did it taste?  Pretty good, but not great.  Very dark color and a nose of heavy grape and black cherry, but they were unusual and not the typical taste of cherry one gets in most wines.  Let's call it very, very ripe black cherry. Very lush mouth feel.  There was decent acid and some good tannin.  The most unusual part was the finish.  The wine was going along great, one got a hint of sweetness and then it just stopped.  It went from flavorful to "gone" in a matter of a second.  The next sip produced the same results, as did any sip the rest of the evening.

All that said, it was a highly drinkable wine and had it's charms.  No one at the picnic disliked it.

The wine was not vintage dated, but according to the folks at the winery is was a mixture of the 2006 and 2007 vintages.

13% alcohol and $16.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Blue Nun

Saturday was  fun.  Some friends hosted a retro or "redneck" dinner with appropriate wines.  In other words, cheap stuff.  I made three contributions to the evening, and the first was a 2009 Blue Nun, German Table Wine.

This was an extremely popular wine in the 70's and early 80's here in the U.S.  For a significant number of people it was their introduction to German wines and I should be included in that group.  At the time it was labeled as Liebfraumilch, quite often shortened to Leap Frog Milk.  The blend has obviously changed because the label now says German Table Wine. There was quite a bit of razzing from my friends at the wine store when this bottle appeared in my cart at the checkout counter but in spite of the shouts of derision I took the old lady home with me.

The wine was basically colorless in the glass with some hints of green/gold at the edges.  Flowery nose of ripe blossoms and fruit.  There was no hint of citrus in this wine.  Medium body and a less sweet taste than I remember.  The acid that so marks a good German wine was missing here so the wine tasted flat.  There was no edge to it to balance out the sweetness that was there.  For $3 more one could move up to a good basic Riesling.

$9 and 9.5% alcohol.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chateau Bel Air

I really don't buy much Bordeaux any more.  I used to buy quite a bit of it and at one time had a number of second growths in the cellar.  Of course they used to be affordable.  Times change and today there aren't that many in the cellar because of the price inflation. 

A couple of weeks ago I found this bottle of 2009 Chateau Bel Air in a wine store at $14.  That's certainly a price that made it worth a try.

There was nothing outstanding, ethereal or life changing about this wine, but it was certainly good and tasty.  The color was medium and definitely young at the edges.  The aroma was young as well with some medium dark berries, a hint of cassis and a touch of cedar.  Medium body and mouth feel and a pleasant fruity finish that ended with a moderate dose of tannin to clear the palate.  There was a roast chicken for dinner and some brown rice mixed with a few vegetables and the wine was equal part of a good meal. 

Sadly they sold out of this wine, but today it was back in stock so I added two bottles to the cellar.  It will be fun to try it again in a year or two.

13% alcohol and $14.  Good buy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Apple Cider

Another something new for dinner tonight, a French apple cider.  To be precise it was a 2009 Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie, an unpasteurized  and unfiltered  cider from Normandy.

Golden  color in the glass and a tremendous nose of rich apples, yeast and bread dough.  Tart and full flavored there was a great balance between intense apple flavor component of freshly baked  bread.  Lots of flavor and a long finish that ended sweet but dry. 

Dinner was a grilled pork chop and we stuck some apple wood chips on the coals for a smoky flavor, and basted the chop as it grilled with cider vinegar and oil.  Nice combination and very complimentary flavors.

5.5% alcohol, 375ml and $7.