Tuesday, February 28, 2012

10 Knots

Once in a while e-mail offers for wine seem magically to appear in my in-box.  On occasions I sometimes stake advantage of an e-mail and order some wine.  10 Knots Viognier is one such wine.  There was an offer made and it was a fair price and I was in the mood for something a little different.  Including shipping it was four bottles for $50.

The wine is from the 2010 vintage and carries a Paso Robles designation and is a blend that just meets the legal requirement to be labeled a Viognier.  The wine is 76% Viognier, 12% Roussanne, 9% Marsanne and 3% Grenache Blanc.  75% is needed to be labeled a varietal wine.

Light and pale in the glass the nose is a nice mix of melons, apricots and unripe pear.  I drink a fair amount of a Viognier and Roussanne blend from here in Ohio and those aromas were easy to pick out.  There is strange little smell of unripe pear when those two varieties get together and this wine has it as well.  Those same fruits showed up in the flavor, along with some blanched almonds.  Good mouth feel to the wine and a surprising acidity at the end. 

There was a pan roasted cod loin for dinner alongside a dirty rice - carrots, shallots, celery and smoked sausage and parsley added.  The cod was sweet and the wine was crisp.  Very good wine and at that price point an outstanding value.  The other three bottles are sitting in the cellar and at least one will be saved for the lobster gathering at the end of May.

14.5% alcohol and $12.50

Monday, February 27, 2012

Open That Bottle Night

Since Saturday was the last Saturday of February that means it was "open that bottle night."  John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter came up with this idea during their stint as the wine correspondents for the Wall Street Journal.  The basic premise is that all of us put away bottles of wine that are a rare treat or hold some sort of emotional grip on us.  They are the bottles that never get opened because we are always 'waiting for that special occasion.'  Mr. Brecher and Ms. Gaiter declared the last Saturday in February as the special occasion to open that bottle. 

My bottle for the event this year was a 1997 Domaine Zind Humbrecht Clos Windsbuhl Pinot Gris, a nearly fifteen year old white wine from Alsace that I have had for some time and never found the reason to open.

Gorgeous, golden honey color to this wine and I loved looking at it in the glass.  The nose was strong in apricots, lychee, and mixed, sweet herbs.  There was nothing shy about it, nor was there anything subtle.  The aromas were strong and distinct.  The wine was very viscous in the mouth, oily and full.  The apricots were there in the taste with just a touch of pineapple and citrus.  The remarkable thing to me was the sense of honey in the taste, or more correctly the precursor of honey in the taste.  There was a feel and a sense that this wine was going to turn sweet, as though honey with its wonderful aromas was just off the tip of one's tongue.  The wine's body signaled sweet, but the wine never went there.  Instead one got some wonderful acidity and an wonderfully long, viscous finish that ended with a sense of dry herbs.  Fascinating wine and one that I spent most of the evening savoring before vacuum sealing it for the second day. 

Dinner was Alsatian as well, a Coq au Riesling, chicken browned and simmered in chicken stock, Riesling, bacon, mushrooms, pearl onions and finished with a small dose of heavy cream.  Good dish but the wine was the star of the evening.

On Sunday a friend stopped by with his OTBN bottle and we began with the Pinot Gris.  It had lost nothing overnight, and it gained a much better set of aromas - more complex.  His OTBN bottle was equally as good.  It was a 2003 Torbreck Descendant from Australia, a wine that was 92% Shiraz and 8% Viognier.  Deep, dark and wonderful wine that should last another ten years. 

14% alcohol and $70.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Last Barolo

The final Barolo of the five we drank at the dinner last Saturday was a 2001 Beni Di Batasiolo.  It was also the least favorite of the crowd and never really factored into any of the discussions.

Dark and fruity nose with some hints of pepper and herbs - no roses or road tar.  Impenetrable color in the glass.   Full bodied, full flavored and to be polite - very generic.  There was little to recommend this wine and it was no surprise that it was the least expensive wine of five.  Not bad, just suffering in comparison to the others - each of which had unique characteristics.

In the end I preferred the Francesco Rinaldi, as did the others.  My second favorite was the Brezza, though it seems to be starting downhill.  The Alessandria and the Boglietti both needed some major decanting time and it was hard to choose between them, though if forced to I would go with the Alessandria. 

There was additionally a Valpolicella and a Napa Cabernet that found their way to the table.  That's a discussion for another time.  Planning is already underway for a repeat of this dinner next February.

13.5% alcohol and $45

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Barolo San Giovanni

The baby in the crowd at the beef Barolo dinner that's being discussed below in more than a couple of posts was from the 2004 vintage, a vintage that gets some great reviews.  The wine was the San Giovanni from Gianfranco Alessandria, a winery who Barberas, Langhes and Dolcettos I love.

This wine is over sized and full of itself.  Deep, inky dark, impenetrable and needing a lot of time.  Highly fruit driven, fully extracted, tons of oak and tannin, good acid.  It definitely makes an impression, and  mostly it's favorable.  Even at this stage it is not without  things to recommend it, primarily a lush mouth feel and properly ripe fruit.  The second day did little to soften this wine, though there was finally some bouquet coming out of that last glass.  Subtlety is not its strong suit.

Judgement reserved for five more years since there is more of this in the cellar and it won't see the light of day for a while.

14.5% alcohol and $90

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Enzo Boglietti Case Nere 2001

Moving along with the Barolo dinner the next wine was a 2001 Enzo Boglietti Case Nere.  I was very happy to see this wine since I have a bottle  in the cellar. 

Dark wine in the glass with no hint of browning at the edges.  The aroma was very closed with oak being the main thing coming out of the glass.  It took quite a bit of swirling to loosen a bouquet.  Faint traces of fruit and road tar were about all it was giving up.

The taste was strong with good depth and the beginning of black cherry flavors.  Both the oak and grape tannins were strong.  The acid was also high in this wine.

As dinner progressed this wine finally started to open and reveal some good fruit flavors while the tannins began to subside a little.  It was giving hints of some elegance.  the food helped this wine quite a bit.

The second day proved again what an advantage the Rinaldi wine had with its decanting.  The Case Nere had settled down and was balanced, fresh, lively and delicious.  I think I will wait about three more years to open my bottle, and it will definitely get decanted.

14% alcohol and $70

Monday, February 20, 2012

2001 Brezza Barolo

All things being equal the Rinaldi Barolo discussed below had a major advantage over the other four Barolos.  It was decanted the day before the dinner while the others were opened about an hour or two before the dinner.  That may explain why the only bottle that was completely empty was the Rinaldi.

The 2001 Brezza Barolo had some much sharper edges to it.  It was darker in the middle, but still just beginning to brown at the edges.  There was more weight to it, the tannins were stronger and the wine seemed to have more substance.  The aroma was still closed on this wine but some swirling brought out earth, road tar, a few flowers and dark fruit.  The fruit was deeper and sweeter in taste than the Rinaldi.  The tannins were stronger and a little more gripping as well.

Still, this wine was quite good with the food and as the evening progressed it improved.  The finish was quite lengthy. 

Since there was still some of this wine left two of us got together on the day after to taste the remnants of this wine, and two of the others.  The wine was much more open and showing more traditional Barolo aromas of flowers and earth.  The tannins had leveled off somewhat and the wine was more together.  Good wine but if I had to rate the five it would have been in third place.

13.5% alcohol and an internet average price of $43.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Franceso Rinaldi

When all was said and done last night there were five Barolos with the braised beef and warm polenta discussed below.  While it was a two horse race for the best wine, the finish wasn't that close and the wine of the night was the 1996 Francesco Rinaldi & Figli, Cannubbio.  The double decanting on the previous day gave this wine a head start on the others.  The wine was in full bloom when it went into the first glass. 

The scent was roses, earth, a little road tar and sweet fruit and there was nothing shy about the strength of that scent.  The flavors were much the same with some warm spice thrown into the mix.  The acid was great and the tannins were not in attack mode, they were in a caressing mode.   The wine was soft, warm and inviting, but firm.  With the food it was even better as it seemed to get better with each sip.  

The wine looked most like a pinot noir in the glass and it was as elegant and smooth as a good Burgundy in the mouth.  Fully mature but in no danger of going down hill.  Sadly it was my only bottle of this wine.

13.5% alcohol and around $80. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Middle Aged Barolo

Bright and very sunny today here for mid February.  There is a large group meal tomorrow featuring a Beef Barolo with fresh, warm polenta and several Barolos.  I'm taking a couple and I know others are bringing more. After doing some internet research on one of the wines I'm taking I decided to decant the wine this afternoon to remove the obviously heavy sediment.  I double decanted the wine, going first into a carafe and then back into the cleaned out bottle. The result is that I nearly had enough sediment to plant seeds.  I added it to the large pot by the front step that spends the spring and summer full of basil.  Can't think of a better fertilizer for basil.

I love the color on this wine.  It is just a perfect picture of a mature Barolo color.  I also fell in love with the intense aroma of this wine.  There was no mistaking the sweet scent of roses and herbs that flowed from this wine. 

Of course once it was decanted I had to sample it to make certain it was up to the group's standards by tasting a small glass.  Should I declare the wine bad and take another bottle to save my friends from a bad experience?  Best not to tempt myself with another glass of wine today that might weaken my willpower.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Oban Distillers Edition 1995

This is my third vintage of of this particular west Highland single malt whisky and they keep getting better.  Rich and fragrant nose of grain and citrus fruit, primarily oranges.  Oak and saltiness also seem to come through the nose, not surprising since it was aged on both American white oak and a used Sherry barrel.  Medium body with a wonderful oily feel in the mouth and all kinds of bitter oranges chiming in for highlights.  Warm, sweet finish that reminds me of a very unsweetened Drambuie.

A splash of cool water to dilute it opened up some subtlety and smoke to go with the orange flavors.  Wonderful dram for a cold night.

42% alcohol (86 proof) and $80.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Lustau, Solera Reserve, Light Manzanilla, Papirusa. 

Floral and nutty with the aroma of lightly toasted almonds.  Salt spray taste with almonds and green olives.  Light, refreshing, squeaky clean and acidic on the tongue.  Sharp and salty on the sides of the mouth.  Toasted almonds, green olives, cheese and roasted peppers to help it along.  Slightly chilled.  Great aperitif.

15% alcohol and $18.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey

It's always fun when a group is together and there is a wine on the table that no one in the crowd has ever tasted.  That was the case Sunday at the Super Bowl party with a bottle of 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City, Colorado. The wine that was a gift to me from a friend who previously lived in that area.  My only other experience with a Colorado wine was a Cabernet from a winery in Larkspur, Colorado in the early 1990's.  That winery is apparently no longer in business.

I opened the bottle to go with the Sicilian loaf pictured in the post just below this one. 

The color of the wine was purplish red, but it wasn't a dense color.  There was some dark fruit on the nose, a touch of vanilla and cinnamon and a definite blast of mint.  The taste was much more full than the color indicated with fresh, dark and bright red cherries.  There was a hint of raspberry, some light vegetable tastes and the mint.   The acid was very good on this wine and there was just enough tannin to make the wine interesting.  The vegetable taste I found pleasant and added a different dimension to the wine.

All together the wine fell on the lighter end most Cabernets, but that is also an end that deserves more attention and respect.  Everyone liked the wine and it was the first bottle to be completely gone, and perhaps that is the best indicator.  I think it would make a perfect summer Cabernet.

I would like to see how bottles from this winery change and evolve as their vineyard ages.

Good stuff.  14.9% alcohol and $22.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sicilian Loaf

I attended a seafood oriented Super Bowl Party yesterday so I took something that was not seafood related at all. 

This Sicilian Loaf is a mixture of ground chuck, ground sirloin, ground veal, garlic, eggs, parsley, Italian spices and bread crumbs.  The mixture is thoroughly mixed and then patted into a large, flat rectangle on a piece of parchment paper. The meat is then layered with Prosciutto ham, provolone cheese and sprinkled  with bits of sun dried tomatoes.  It is then rolled into a jelly roll and baked. 

Just before the last ten minutes the top is lined with more provolone slices. After the mixture cools it is wrapped in aluminum foil and refrigerated over night.

I sliced the mixture and made a spicy mustard of mustard powder, mustard seeds, honey, vinegar, tarragon, horseradish and dried, fiery peppers all pureed together.  The mustard went into a hollowed out yellow pepper and the meat went onto a large platter lined with parsley and cilantro and I scattered some grape tomatoes around for color.

Despite the seafood theme there was enough red wine to go with this dish.  More on the wine in the days ahead.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Silene 2009

One type of wine that I drink less of than I would like to is Syrah from the northern Rhone.  The better examples have become quite expensive and very few seem to show up on the shelves of stores in this area.  I have a few older ones resting in the cellar, but it has been awhile since I tasted a young vintage.  That changed earlier this week with a 2009 Crozes-Hermitage Silene from J L Chave'.

Medium to dark purple color in the glass and a distinct nose of dark, red fruit, dry earth, fresh meat  and squeaky clean leather left no doubt about the origin on this wine. Only a northern Rhone syrah smells like this.  The taste was bright and tart and full of dark berries, spice, a touch of vanilla and a hint of cinnamon.  There was also a bit of an under ripe taste to this wine, a taste I very much appreciated.  This wine is dialed back from the ultra ripe fruit bombs that seem to be so in style.  It was refreshing and that that leanness made it perfect with a small rack of lamb and some pasta.

After cleaning up the table and dishes I went back for another small glass and the exposure to the air did even more for this wine.  It really bloomed in the glass and smelling it was almost as much pleasure as drinking it.  There is enough acid and tannin to give it a few more years, but it so good it is certainly not a crime to drink it now.  Not cheap, but not a budget buster by any means.  Excellent value.

$30 and 13% alcohol.