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