Monday, April 30, 2012

2005 White Bordeaux

Back in the stone age one of my epiphany wines, wines that were an awakening for me, was a 375ml bottle of 1970 Chateau Carbonnieux Blanc.  Originally a Graves, the wine now carries the Pessac Leognan appellation.  Completely remarkable wine that was about ten years old and yet was alive, fresh and so very much appealing. Over the years there have been other vintages of this wine that I have loved almost as much as the 1970. 

Let's not mince any words here - the 2005 vintage is not very good and was a major disappointment for me.  When the cork came out of the bottle the only aroma was that of oak.  It took a minute or two of swirling before any fruit flavors came out of the glass, and those flavors were predominantly of figs.  Even the figs weren't enough to overcome a heavy taste of oak that ran from the first sip through the finish. 

To be fair, the person I shared the bottle with loves oak in wine and he thought this bottle was very good, though he too felt by the end the wine was tired.

I failed to find any charm in the wine and my happiest thought with this wine was the knowledge that because of the high price I only bought one bottle. Sadly, this means I will likely never know if this was a bad bottle or a bottle representative of this vintage.

$52 and 13.5% alcohol.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

2007 Chablis

I was scanning the cellar list the other day decided it was time to drink a bottle of the 2007 basic Chablis that were listed.  It is four plus years out from the vintage and drinking one should be a good test of their progress.  The one I chose was from Vincent Mothe.

Beautiful light golden color with a touch of green on the edges,  Great nose of minerals, apples, lemon zest and some pear.  After a little bit of swirling there was a hint of talc in the nose.  Crisp, tart, refreshing mouth feel, and that was followed by great flavors of apple and citrus.  Medium body with good length to the finish.  I don't know for certain, but for a basic Chablis from an affordable producer I believe this wine is as good as it will get.   There is one more in the cellar and I wouldn't be surprised if it made an appearance at next months lobster festival.

Dinner was a piece of Alaskan Rockfish oven poached in butter and tomatoes.  Great taste to the fish but the meat was on the tougher side.  Very good with the wine.

12.5% alcohol and $18

Friday, April 27, 2012


The New York Times Magazine had an interesting food article last Sunday (April 22).  Thomas Keller of Per Se and The French Laundry was reworking recipes from classic French chef Fernand Point. 

All three caught my eye but the "sliced beef fillets from the banks of the Rhone" caught my eye because I had all its ingredients on hand without going shopping.

The recipe was simple and delicious.  Pan sear the fillet in salted butter and finish it under the broiler to your desired degree.     Slice it and lay it on a base of compound butter which contained unsalted butter, chopped parsley, chopped chervil, chopped tarragon and Dijon mustard.  I added a roasted and slice sweet potato.  Delicious.

I did opt away from a Rhone wine and landed in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley for a 2008 Michel Schlumberger Le Sage Merlot.  Lots of blueberries and cherries in the nose and taste with some warmth of earth to fill it out. Good acid, an appropriate level of tannin and a dense finish of dark fruit.
A little understated and delicious.  Great with the beef.  14.5% alcohol and $28.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Sometimes it's not about the fruit, and the 2008 Domaine des Baumard Savennieres is a good example.The fruit definitely plays second fiddle here to intense minerality.

The nose was reserved and then with hints of  dry rocks being moistened with the first drops of rainfall - a refreshing and invigorating aroma.  In the background one finally gets a bit of the honeysuckle one expects in a chenin blanc wine.  Medium body with tremendous acidity and a mouth feel that first gave hints of sweetness but then kicked into totally dry.   Crisp and sharp finish with some good length to it.  The fruit flavors when they finally appeared were a combination of peach and pear. 

Interesting wine and one that I really liked but certainly not going to be everyone's favorite.. 

Dinner was half a trout from the charcoal grill with just some herb butter as a topping and a light apple salad.  Simple and good.

13% alcohol and $14. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Post Easter Treat

One very good thing this time of year is the usual sale on lamb in the week following Easter.  What wasn't sold for the holiday sells for less about a week later.  Taking advantage of this I picked up a leg of lamb for a very good price.  Since I wasn't planning a party I de-boned the leg and cut it into one large roast and three smaller ones.  Three were tightly wrapped and frozen and one was butterflied and grilled.

After flattening it out with lots of small cuts the lamb was sprinkled with granulated garlic, onion salt, a pinch of cumin and some black pepper.  It marinated in the refrigerator for about three hours.  While the grill was heating I smashed some garlic and salt together, added chopped rosemary, a little bit of fresh mint, some Dijon mustard, some red wine vinegar and some olive oil.  All that was whisked into an emulsion.  I put a very light coat on one side of the lamb and tossed it on the grill for three minutes, turned the roast and put a liberal coating on the just grilled side.  After three minutes over direct heat the meat was moved to a cooler section of the grill to finish cooking.

The wine was a 2007 Humintas Weed Farms Syrah from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.  It was opened and half was decanted about an hour before dinner was ready, with the remainder being placed under vacuum.

Wonderful nose of fruit and leather.  Flavor full of blackberries, some blueberries and a hint of coffee.  Full flavored, good acid, firm tannins and a long finish that ended with a hint of dry earth.  Nicely balanced wine and somewhat understated for California.  With the lamb it was even better.  The wine and the light smoke on the lamb really hung out together in the mouth and they were a very happy couple.

Along with the lamb there was some pasta with sour cream, fresh mint, a little Pecorino Romano cheese and cracked black pepper.

14.5% alcohol and $18.

The finished plating is after the break.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spaghetti Red

I'm always on the lookout for an inexpensive red to knock down with plate of spaghetti with red sauce.  A  good spaghetti red needs flavor, tartness, and a dose of tannin to clear the palate.  It needs to be simple and drinkable without requiring heavy thought.

I found one with the 2009 Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona, a IGT Toscano wine.  The wine is primarily Sangiovese and that gives it forward and tart cherry fruit and grounds it into the Tuscany region.  There's also some cabernet sauvignon, a little merlot and some syrah blended into the wine.  That adds some depth and a little richness to the wine while not totally overwhelming the Sangiovese.  Good balance, good flavors and a nice finish to go with a simple dinner.

14% alcohol and $15.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Drinking Local

Along with buying local meat and produce we are finally blessed here in Ohio with a good number of more than drinkable local wines, those from Kinkead Ridge, La Vigna, Meranda-Nixon come immediately to mind. Thanks to a law which went into effect in late March those of us in Ohio will now have access to local spirits.  The legislature finally repealed another vestige  of prohibition in allowing craft distilleries. The new law also permits them to sell their products directly to the consumer and to allow for tasting on site before one buys. 

One local group came on line last year, Buckeye Vodka from Crystal Springs Distilling in Dayton.  Woodstone Creek in Cincinnati has been in business for several years making a range of distilled spirits.  I can certainly vouch for the quality of the Buckeye Vodka.

Another new operation has begun just north of Dayton with the Indian Creek Distillery which is making rye whisky using two, small 200+ years old copper pot stills.  There's a very interesting story with this distillery and you can check it out here

Flat Rock Distillers, just east of Dayton has 100 cases of bourbon currently aging, and there are others opening soon.  Buckeye Distillers (no relation to the vodka folks) is making fruit infused liqueurs.   These folks have their grand opening tomorrow and I happen to have no plans for the day......hmmmm.

Lots more on this from the Dayton Daily News here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Patelin de Tablas Blanc

For me some of the most interesting wines coming out of California in the last year or so are white wines using traditional southern Rhone grapes.  They are different, and most of them have been quite good.

Here's another good example, a 2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc from the Tablas Creek winery in the Paso Robles area,  This is the California outpost of Perrin Family of Chateau Beaucastel from the Rhone.

The blend is 50% Grenache Blanc, 33% Viognier, 10% Roussanne and 7% Marsanne, a who's who list of white grapes from the Rhone.

Very floral nose with bits of honeysuckle vine, white flowers and freshly cut melons.  Tart and sharp in the mouth with a great taste of grapefruit, apricots, melon and citrus zest.  Long, tart finish that ended tasting a little like a white peach. 

There was a second preparation of shrimp and clams in a tomato, fish fumet and fennel sauce with some added orange zest.  Great match with the wine.

13.5% alcohol land $14 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2007 Riesling

Since the 2007 Merkelbach Riesling was so good about two weeks ago I decided to open another from that vintage on Easter.  This time it was from the Rheingau instead of the Mosel;  a Leitz 2007 Rudesheimer Klosterlay Kabinett.

Medium color in the glass, the nose had an initial whiff of kerosene and then went quickly to apple skins and lime peel.  Full bodied and mellow wine with good acid and a taste of a sweet apple and not totally ripe pear.  Good finish that left the mouth refreshed.  Nothing spectacular, but a well made delicious wine at a reasonable price - and that's hard to argue with.

9% alcohol and $14

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Inadvertant Bottle

I had no intention to drink this bottle of 2005 Chateau De Sales, a Pomerol wine.  It was resting comfortably in its space at the bottom of the rack while I was pulling a different bottle from near the top.  Bottle "A" slipped from my hand and made first contact on the very top of bottle "B" - the De Sales.

Bottle "A" survived the fall but when I examined the De Sales there was a crack in the upper neck and already there was liquid seeping from under the capsule. Nothing left to do but open the bottle and enjoy it. 

Sadly the neck cracked when pulling the cork so the wine was immediately decanted using an ultra fine stainless steel filter that nests inside the decanting funnel.  That removed the glass, and there was just a tiny bit, and the sediment, and there was some of that as well.

Medium dark color and a nose that immediately screamed "Bordeaux."  There is a certain mix of fruit, earth and tannin that I only find in Bordeaux wines and that's exactly what this wine had.  Cherries, plums, a little graphite, a hint or two of cassis, an unmistakable taste of earth, and a certain type of tannin.  All that was in this wine and it had wonderful balance and after some breathing time had a great sense of class.  It wasn't the biggest wine on the block, but it was certainly elegant and delicious.

Dinner was quickly changed from some left over turkey to a quick firing up of the grill and tossing on some lamb chops and roasted potatoes.    

Many years ago I cut my wine teeth on Bordeaux and at one time it probably accounted for over 50% of the wines in my cellar, and quite a number of those were second growths.  With the prices of these wines in today's market they have now become a rare treat, and they are wines that I miss. 

13.5% alcohol and $45 several years ago.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The First Rose' of Spring

The latest sure sign of spring is the arrival in the wine departments of the first rose' wines of the year.  In this case it was a 2011 Guilhem, Moulin de Gassac, a Pays D'Herault  from the Languedoc region of France.

Very pale pink in the glass and when the light hit it just right one got a touch of salmon orange as well.  Lots of red berries and strawberries in the nose and those fruits dominated in the taste as well, though there was a touch of peach with this wine as well.  Light, pleasant, happy, good acidity, nice fruity finish - just about everything one is looking for in a rose'.

The wine is a blend of 40 grenache, 40% carignan and 20% syrah.

12% alcohol and $12.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gin and Tonic

Great, warm, sunny day yesterday so I practiced a little for summer and made a gin and tonic with a strange twist.  I made the drink with John's Premium Tonic Syrup, which is an all natural product made in Phoenix AZ.  You can read the ingredients in the picture above.

Not being mass produced and purified the syrup is a dark brown liquid full of quinine. One uses club soda as the effervescent liquid.  It gives the drink a light brownish hue instead of the totally clear drink I'm used to, but the taste is distinct and unique and one I like very much.  Bitter, prickly, a suggestion of sweetness and perfect in a tall glass with some Plymouth gin.

Cinchona courtesy of Wikipedia here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris is not a wine that comes close to being in my regular drinking rotation.  Other than bottles from Alsace most of the ones I've tasted have been insipid at best.  It's just not a wine that excites me.

However, give me a good sale price and I'm willing to try one on for size.  That's what happened when I picked up a bottle of Montinore Estate 2009 Pinot Gris from Oregon's Willamette Valley.  The wine had moderate alcohol levels and was made with organic grapes from am estate that practices biodynamics. 

Very pale in the glass and not much of a nose to get excited about, but there was a taste of just ripe pear and apple and just a hint of some tropical fruit.  Plenty of acid made this quite a refreshing wine in the way it felt in the mouth.  Nice long after taste that was clean and prickly.

Definitely a summer style white wine that could stand up to a deeper chill than I usually put on my whites.  It went great with a pan seared piece of Pacific cod that was minimally seasoned. 

Nice effort and a nice wine.  13.4% alcohol and $11 on sale.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Riesling Heaven

The 2007 vintage in the Mosel, as in most of Germany, was considered outstanding, due in large part to almost three extra weeks of hang time for the grapes from flowering to harvest.

The 2007 Alfred and Rolph Merkelbach, Urzinger Wurzgarten Kabinett is certainly not a wine that is going to disprove that assessment.  Pure, concentrated, crisp, deep, and delicious are a few words that come to mind.  Light nose of citrus blossoms and white fruit - apples, pears and white peaches.  Wonderful flavors of pear and apple and a mouth feel like silk.  Great acidity and balance, a hint of sweetness near the finish turned to crispness at the very end.  My mouth felt refreshed and ready for another sip.  Great feeling of off dry slate as well.

There was a slow roasted (six hours) pork shoulder that was sweet and porky and falling off the bone good.  Crisp skin and soft and moist interior. Great match with the wine, though I suspect that almost anything would have been good with this wine.

This is what Mosel Riesling should be all the time.  Pure joy and a perfect wine for a cool spring evening. 9% alcohol and $14 - an absolute steal at this price.