Tuesday, January 31, 2012

River Village Cellars

The 2009 vintage in this area, southwest Ohio, was miserable from a weather standpoint.  It was wet and cold and basically a washout.  Still there were grapes and if there are grapes there must be wine.  There was.

There was a pan roasted rib eye steak the other night so I grabbed a 2009 River Village Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is the second label for one of my favorite wineries, Kinkead Ridge.  The year's entire production of red wines was moved off the primary label and bottled under this second label and sold at a more than reasonable price.

Nice cherry flavors with some earth notes underneath it, and surprisingly it was dry earth and not the wet mud that dominated much of the harvest.  There was a small suggestion of darker fruit, but this primarily stayed on the red end of things.  Unmistakably Cabernet, but definitely on the light side.

Good wine with the steak, and there was no sauce or heavy seasoning on the meat,  just a simple steak and a simple wine to go with it.  Nothing wrong with that, and at the price a good buy.

13.1% alcohol and $11.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Salad Days

No wine here. A more austere week for eating following a couple of large meals last week.  Golden beets, roasted and peeled with grapefruit sections, goat cheese and croutons dressed with a vinaigrette made with grapefruit juice, Dijon mustard and olive oil.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Liquid Dessert

Burns Night was a chance to do something that I don't usually do, open a dessert wine.  In this case it was a 2007 Ferrari Carano Eldorado Gold from California's Sonoma Valley.  The wine was a botrytised blend of 91% Semillon and 9% Sauvignon Blanc.  This was a wine that I picked up at the winery during a visit in 2009.

The wine had a deep golden color, as pictured at the left, and a wonderful nose of perfectly ripe apricots, golden figs and golden raisins.  Thick and sticky on the tongue the apricots were joined by some honey, the before mentioned figs, a touch of herbs and just a suggestion of pineapple.  Nicely balanced wine that really lingered on the tongue.  It was quite sweet but there was still enough acid to keep it from being syrupy. 

Dessert was a mixed bag.  There was a shortbread cookie topped with a coconut caramel sauce, a slice of freshly baked gingerbread and a small scoop of caramel and sea salt gelato.  Hard to argue with any of them, but together they made a nice test for the wine.  It went best with the coconut caramel shortbread.

13% alcohol and $40.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Burns Night Riesling

There was a salmon course during the Burns night dinner that begins with the post below this one. Few things are as Scottish as salmon but this one had an unusual twist in that it was full of southeast Asian spices.

The wine was a fully mature 2005 Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Kabinett from Germany's Rheingau region, a wine I have had on several occasions.

The wine has evolved into a beautiful light gold color and after an initial burst of kerosene it smelled of peaches, pears, apples and citrus.  Sweet on the front of the tongue the wine added some lychee to the flavor profile of the other fruits. The finish was sweet, but tart, and left a wonderful mineral taste on the back of the tongue. 

The coho salmon was roughly chopped and combined with some lemon juice, chopped red and yellow sweet peppers, chopped red onion, soy sauce, black pepper, cayenne, Sambol Oleck, brown sugar, cilantro and just enough fresh bread crumbs to hold the mixture together in small cakes.    Just prior to hitting a medium hot skillet the cakes were coated with panko bread crumbs.  They were sauteed on each side just until the crusts were crisp and the salmon was lightly cooked.  The sauce was a puree' of mayonnaise, lime juice, grated fresh ginger and pickled ginger.  A small slice of the pickled ginger garnished the top of each cake.

There was some heat in the salmon and that matched well with the residual sugar in the wine while the acidity in the wine paired with the richness of the salmon.  The ginger flavors were an added bonus as they seemed born to be with this wine.  Great recipe and a great match with a wonderful wine.

8.5% alcohol and $22.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Burns Night Treat

There was a lengthy, multi-course meal last night to celebrate Robert Burns'  Birthday, and I'll have the details in several installments over the next couple of days starting at the very top of the ladder with a 2002 Corison Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

We pulled the cork about an hour before dinner and splashed out enough wine to give it some breathing room.  Beautiful color in the glass and a nose of blackberries, dark cherries, cinnamon, cardamon, vanilla and a bit of earth. We put the wine aside without tasting it and returned to it later when the third course of the meal hit the table.

The Corison was paired with a filet mignon of beef, seared and then pan roasted.  While the filet rested we made a pan sauce of a splash of the wine, beef stock, blackberry jam, blackberry vinegar, Dijon mustard and fresh blackberries.  The sauce was finished with a few swirls of butter.  The side dish was a rendition of neeps and tatties, or potatoes and turnips.  The vegetables were cooked separately, riced, combined with some chopped spring onions, milk and butter and then roasted in a loaf pan while the beef cooked.

The nose on the wine had virtually blossomed by this time and the blackberries and cherries were joined by some currants. They were definitely singing some harmony.  The dark cherry flavors dominated on the palate but had some strong support in the mixture of baking spices that were in the original nose.  There was an earthiness to the wine that appealed to me.  The tannins here were smooth and integrated and almost Burgundian in their mouth feel.  This wine was not in your face or over the top in any way.  It was refined, graceful, mellow and classy.  There was no pretension in the glass and the wine made no attempt to be more than it was.  It was elegant.

The cherry and blackberry flavors married perfectly with beef and the sauce while the neeps and tatties brought out the earthiness and perhaps a bit of mint in the wine.  It would be hard to imagine a better pairing.  Wonderful wine and there is a glass remaining for this evening.

13.6% alcohol and $70

Monday, January 23, 2012

2008 Simmonet-Febvre Chablis

We opened this for a late Friday night dinner with some friends.  Dinner was a chicken roasted in a closed pot.  The wine was opened before dinner with some olive tapenade and a couple of mild cheeses and some toasted bread slices.  The wine was a 2008 Simmonet-Febvre Chablis Millesime.

The color of this wine was darker than I remember from a previous bottle.  The wine smelled wonderfully tart with sweet citrus and a bit of toasted nuts.  The hard edge of youth was gone here and the wine has matured into something different.  The angles were more smooth and the flavors were softer with sweet apples, pears and the hint of hazelnuts.    Long finish to the wine and a pleasant blast of acid to clear the palate at the very end. 

This wine has fully matured and has acquired a bit of elegance.  There are two more bottles in the cellar and they won't stay there long.  For a simple, inexpensive Chablis this is hard to beat.  Very pleasant wine.

13% alcohol and $12.99

Saturday, January 21, 2012


It had been awhile since I opened a Condrieu and after consuming this one I should probably drink more.  The wine was a 2006 Georges Vernay Les Terrasses de l'Empire.  Medium yellow in the glass, the nose was incredible ripe with peaches, nectarines, apricots and toasted nuts.  This was a very viscous wine and clung to the side of the glasses.  Wonderful flavors of the above fruits with a touch of pineapple coming along for the ride.  Full bodied and a wine that cried out for some food.  There was a small pork roast and it matched up well with that, but the side dish was amazing.  Sliced carrots and parsnips were sauteed with some shallots, butter, tarragon and a pinch of sugar and pan roasted until they began to caramelize and develop a slight char.  Great combination of flavors withe wine.  The parsnips were rich and warming and the wine had great acid to balance that.  The shallots had their usual pungency and the viscosity in the wine paired with that. 

We sipped this over the course of the evening and it showed no signs of fading, but it definitely was most brilliant with the vegetables.  There's now a post-it-note on my last bottle of this wine to repeat the vegetable dish when I open the bottle.

14% alcohol and $52

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dr. Jeckyl and His Friend

At times wines can have two personalities and the 2009 Michel Schlumberger Dry Creek Valley Maison Rouge house red certainly did over the last two days.

On day #1 there was fresh three cheese ravioli and a home made tomato sauce, full of garlic, tomatoes, shallots, anchovies, tomato paste, red wine etc.  The Maison Rouge was really pleasing with this.  Fruity and not a lot of tannins on the front end, it was full flavored and matched well with the hearty food.  I previously had a bottle of this wine and thought it merely OK, but this one was definitely good.

On day #2 dinner was left over roast chicken from the Burgundy meal one post below this one.  Talk about a mismatch - those two fought each other like bitter enemies.  The wine tasted over extracted, sweet and hot.  It had no finesse or joy to it at all.  It left a nice warm feeling in the mouth and at 14.9% alcohol that wasn't surprising. 

I saved one small glass and later that evening I lightly toasted a slice of baguette and tried the wine for a third time.  It was certainly better than it was with the chicken, but it still tasted sweet and hot.  The obvious answer here is to open this wine only if you have a good pasta with tomato sauce to go with it.

14.9% alcohol and $20.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Small Celebration

A little bit of good fortune came calling at the door recently, and thankfully we were home when it knocked.  Good fortune calls for a celebration so out came a Bouchard, Pere & Fils Chambolle-Musigny from the 2005 vintage.

Dinner was a roast chicken, but we elevated it somewhat by slicing a black truffle and inserting the slices between the chicken skin and the meat.  The bird roasted in a medium oven until the last few minutes when we turned the oven up to crisp the skin.

I opened the wine while the chicken was roasting to let it breathe.  Medium brick color in the glass, dark but not opaque.  Heady aromas of clean earth and cherries poured out of the glass.  Nice to just sit and sniff this wine.  Medium body with great fruit flavors of those cherries with suggestions of spice and earth.   Mouth filling with flavors and true Burgundian silk.  The tannins were soft and sweet and there was more than enough acid to balance the wine.  When this wine was first released I tasted it and wrote that it was a very big wine with an in your face attitude.  The wine has since mellowed into something much better.  It's not the biggest dog in the litter, but it certainly has all the other qualities it needs.  Wonderful sweet finish that just slowly faded and made one eager for another sip.

With the chicken and truffles the wine really bloomed.  The earthy aspect of both the wine and truffles hung out together while the fruit played a piano solo for them, most definitely Dave Brubeck playing September Song.  Very, very good wine and meal.

13% alcohol and $55

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige

A few weeks ago we drank a Mumm Napa Rose sparkling wine, and it was a little too sweet and fruity for my tastes.  This time the sparkler of choice was the Mumm Napa Brut Prestige from Napa Valley. 

Good bubbles in the glass and a fruity nose of ripe apples and peaches.  Full flavored and very fruity taste, though nowhere near as fruity as the rose'.  The acid was good, but I prefer more.  The finish was tart but the very end left a residual sweetness. 

We drank this with a smoked trout and creme fresh dip served with toast points and apple slices. The wine improved greatly with the trout as the smokiness in the trout seemed to tame some of the sweetness in the wine.  Good match and everyone liked the two together. 

Bottom line - this was a bargain at $16 but at it's usual $24 I wouldn't buy another.

12.5% alcohol and $16

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Asian Inspired Chicken

It's not often I see a recipe and have nearly everything on hand to make it, but this happened the other day with an Asian inspired chicken roasted in a pot.  The only ingredient I was missing was a daikon, and that was quickly remedied. 

In short - the daikon was chopped and added to some peanut and sesame oil in a pot along with chopped garlic, the white part of scallions, some sliced shiitake mushrooms and some slices of fresh ginger.  That cooked for about seven minutes and was then removed from the pot.  I added a little more oil and then browned a whole chicken on all sides.  When that was complete the veggies went back in along with a small amount of chicken stock, a little soy sauce, some Shaoxing wine and three, whole star anise.  I covered the pot and it went in a low oven for an hour.  There were some new smells that filled the house and both Gordons kept poking their head in the kitchen and sniffing.

I carved the chicken into serving pieces, added a tower of brown Basmati rice and some of the pot vegetables to the plate.  The broth was a little flat so I added a couple of tablespoons of rice vinegar and the scallion tops.

The wine was a 2009 Leitz Eins Zwei Dry #3, Riesling Trocken.  Dry nose of flowers and a touch of citrus.  Tart and fresh with some apple tastes joining the citrus.  Good acid and a sharp fresh taste in the mouth.  Very low sweetness on the finish with a chilled, crisp apple filling in for any residual

This was a good flavor match with the chicken.  There was no spicy heat involved here so the dryness of the wine was refreshing and a nice compliment to the ginger flavors and the aroma of the star anise.  The acidity cut through the richness in the chicken.

12% alcohol and $15

Monday, January 9, 2012

January Morning

Skys streak to yellow
The stars and firelight slowly die.
Weariness from laughter
The music's flashing, soaring ride
That swept us to a wondrous world
And it left us gazing at a new-- January morning.
Ian Tyson

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Double Black

Most of my consumption of Scottish whisky is confined to the single malt variety, and most of those are single malts from Islay.  However, just as much as I like varietal wines, I also like blended wines that make for a unique experience.

With that in mind I purchased a bottle of Johnny Walker's newest entry in the U.S. market, Double Black.  According to the Johnny Walker website this is a limited release for the market.  They took the regular blend for Black Label and added more island whisky and aged the blend in a more thoroughly charred oak barrel.

The result is very good.  There's a wonderful nose that suggest the peat and coastal aromas from Islay, but the front end of the taste is still a little reserved -- good suggestions of dried fruit and honey with just a bit of peat.  The finish is where the difference lies.  that is where the smoke from peat fires and the taste of oak from a charred barrel come to play.  They are there in full force and reminded me of sipping a whisky by a charcoal grill or a campfire.  Long finish that leaves the suggestion of smoke lingering in the mouth.

I sometimes drink blended whisky with ice, which is the way most Americans do it, but my single malts I usually drink neat with just a splash of water.  Having tried the Double Black both ways I found a compromise that suited me best - more than a wee dram in a glass with one, small ice cube.  With a little bit of swirling one gets just enough dilution to open up the whisky while cooling it to a little below room temperature.  Very good stuff.

40% alcohol (80 proof) and a list price of $40, but on sale for $33.

Friday, January 6, 2012

After Dinner

Prior to the other evening I really don't remember the last time I drank a glass of Cream Sherry.  If I had to guess my estimate would likely be in decades rather than years. The main reason that this changed was due to the 375ml bottles of a range of Sherries that are currently available in the local market from Lustau and a few other producers. 

I purchased five different bottles in the Solera Reserva range from Lustau and the Capataz Andres DeLuxe Cream was one of them.  Needing something to finish the evening about an hour after a meal I opened this bottle and was delighted with the contents.  The wine was beautiful deep, reddish brown, perhaps mahogany, in the glass and the aromas were dried fruit, a very sweet prune and some toasted nuts.  I could particularly pick out some aromas that I've found in a couple of Oloroso wines that I've had lately.  The Perdo Ximenez added more complexity.  The prunes were front in center in the taste, but there were other dried fruits, some smoke and a faint suggestion of Nutella - hazelnuts and chocolate.

The wine was deep but not overtly sweet, it just sat on a line that was perfectly balanced,  There were a few crackers and a small bit of Roaring 40's cheese from Australia that matched up well with this wine.  Good stuff and not my last bottle.

$9 and 20% alcohol.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Though my ancestry is primarily Scottish and English there was German that sneaked onto the family tree in the late 1800's.  Their major contribution seems to have been to give me a love for beer and sauerkraut. The New Year's Day meal is pictured above.

I started by browning pork shanks in some oil, then removing them from the pot and adding onions, thyme and crushed juniper berries.  In went some chopped apples and then the pot was filled with fresh sauerkraut, a few bay leaves, the browned pork shanks and half a bottle of Riesling.  That slowly simmered away, covered, in the oven for two hours.  I removed it from the oven, adjusted some seasonings and added two racks of baby back pork ribs and it went back in the oven for another hour.  The entire house smelled wonderful.

There were cornmeal muffins to go along with the main dish and those were used to soak up some of the juices covering the plate.

The wine was a 2005 vintage Weingut Leitz, Rudesheimer Klosterlay Kabinett Riesling from the Rheingau region of Germany.  The bloom of youth was gone and the wine had a wonderful whiff of kerosene and then fragrances of ripe apples, pear skin and some lemon zest.  Perfect balance between sweetness and acidity and a great flavor of apples, a touch of pineapple and some apricot. 

Great wine with the sauerkraut as the sweetness played with the acidity of the fermented cabbage.  The acidity in the wine also picked up on the lusciousness of the pork, especially the juicy shanks.

The year is off to a good start.

8% alcohol and around $20.  Two more in the cellar.

Monday, January 2, 2012

California Meal

Made an overnight trip last week and coming home I realized it was getting late and there was nothing for dinner. I stopped at a local market that was four blocks off the interstate and since it was still the holiday season they had live Dungeness crabs in a tank.  I adopted one for a brief period of time. 

After settling back in the house I threw a bottle of Mumm Napa Rose sparkling wine in the fridge and threw a potato in the small oven to bake.  I also had enough lettuce for a small salad.  The dogs weren't quite sure what to make of live food in the house and the crab was certainly a lively one even though the claws were restrained in rubber bands.  When the potato was nearly done we put the beast in a bamboo steamer and waited for twelve minutes. 

The wine was a neon pink color in the glass and the bubbles were going full bore.  Lots of strawberry and cherry aromas with a touch of yeast to add some complexity to the nose.  Sweet, fruity taste of ripe strawberries and raspberries, with good acid and a nice mouth feel.  Sadly this wine seemed less focused than some of the previous California bubblies I've drunk lately.  I felt the wine was just a touch sweet for a "brut."

When the crab was ready, we cut  open the potato only to find the inside nearly rotten and still hard.  It went into the garbage so we ate crab and salad for dinner.  The crab was sweet and earthy at the same time.  It was dipped in some melted butter with Meyer lemon juice added.  The wine certainly cleaned the palate with it's acidity after a bite of crab, but the sweetness was still there.  Not the best match in the world, and since there is a bottle of Mumm Napa regular brut in the cellar I decided it was  the wrong decision to go pink with the crab. 

Good wine, and if one likes a less dry sparkling wine it would be much more appreciated.  12.5% alcohol and $16.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Day

The wine was a Gloria Ferrer 2006 Blanc de Blanc from the Sonoma section of Carneros in northern California. Beautiful color, a good number of bubbles, a nose that was crisp with apple, mellow with a little melon and warm with some yeast.  Flavors in excellent balance with apples and pears playing a leading roll.  Oysters on the half shell, freshly opened with salt spray and seaweed and adorned only with a light grind of pepper and single drop of lemon juice.  Nice way to end the year.

Something I never thought I would see.....today marks thee start of the fifth year for this blog. 

Housekeeping stuff:

I don't rate wines, but I certainly love to drink them.  I love the way food and wine often compliment each other - and I find the times they don't to be almost as interesting.  This blog was a solution to answering friends' e-mails and phone calls in regard to "what are you drinking and cooking."  It seemed like the best way to answer those questions.  It's still fun so it isn't going away any time soon.

There really are two dogs, Scott and Doer, both Gordon Setters and they love the unusual things that often show up mixed in with their dog kibble.  On the right occasion a flamingo also might appear because thanks to the same friends mentioned above there is a sizable collection of "flamingo-ana" that has found its way to my doorstep over the years.

12.5% alcohol and $16 - a fantastic bargain.