Monday, July 30, 2012

Beaulieu Napa Cabernet

Some of the best bottles of Napa wines I've consumed over the years have come from Beaulieu Vineyards.  The sad part is that most of them came from the 1970's.  A 20 year old 1970 Georges de Latour Reserve that I drank in 1991 certainly has a high place on my list of ten best wines to pass my lips.

For a number of years my "go to" Napa cabernet sauvignon was the BV Rutherford bottling.  For years it was high quality and under $20.  That's not the case with the price anymore.

Moving down a step farther is the BV Napa bottling from the 2009 vintage, which is what I opened last night. 

The best thing about it is that it tastes like Napa Valley cabernet.  Rich fruit, with dark berries and plums predominating.  Full bodied with good acid and tannin and a bit of oak on the front end.  The wine seemed to fade just a bit in the middle but finished well with fruit and oak.  The very end was dark, dry, and perhaps a bit bitter - a taste I particularly liked.  The bitterness more like unsweetened chocolate and was not at all out of place. Nothing to make one turn a cartwheel here, but a good, solid wine at a fair price.  It's a wine to drink now or hold for a couple of years.

There was a tri-tip beef roast cooked medium rare on the grill and a side dish of rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes.  Perfect match for a good cabernet.

2009 Beaulieu Vineyards BV, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.  14.5% alcohol and $17.99.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cider Time

Cider is showing up in the pubs and bars in this area alongside the usual taps of draft beer.  Last week I was in an Irish pub in the Cincinnati area and rather than a Guinness I opted for a Magner's Cider, an oak aged version from Ireland.  Crisp and sweet at the same time, it was really good with a fish sandwich and some chips.

The other night there was pork chops for dinner and the cider craving hit me again.  The only one on hand at home was a 2009 Etienne Dupont Cider from Normandy.  I bought several bottles of this cider last year and put two away after drinking a couple of them.  A little chill and one of them was ready to go with the pork chops.

Earthy and fruity aromas with a little bit of baked goods going on as well.  The taste was pure, sweet apple with hints of mushrooms, which weren't there in the previous bottles. Great acidity and balance and a wonderful sweet-tart finish. 

2009 Cidre Bouche' Brut de Normandie, Eteinne Dupont.  5.5% alcohol and $7 for 375ml.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lobsters and Rias Baixas

Normally my lobster consumption is restricted to the end of May when the local market flies in a plane load from Maine.  Fortunately for consumers the harvest has been spectacular this summer and prices have dropped.  A different local market bought a bunch and sold them for $7.99 a pound and I pounced on that opportunity.  The results are pictured above with some just picked that day sweet corn.

At the larger gathering in May the wine is nearly always Chardonnay based, Chablis more often than not.  This time I decided to go with a Rias Baixas from northwest Spain.  The wine of choice was the 2011 Laxas from Bodegas As Laxas.  Light color, fresh, salty, and fruity aromas.  Austere mouth feel with lots of green apple and acidic fruit.  The wine mellowed in mid palate with a touch of ripe sweetness and a hint of ripe peach or apricot.  Long, perky and fresh finish to this wine.

The wine was quite a contrast to the richness of the lobster and the buttery dipping sauce and was a good choice for the lobster.  That said, in the end I still prefer a Chablis with my lobster.

12.5% alcohol and $15

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blanc de Blancs

There was a temporary break in the weather yesterday and we celebrated with some bubbles on the patio in the evening.  The bubbles came from a 2006 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs  from the Carneros region at the south end of both Napa and Sonoma valleys.  Pale gold color and a nose of tart fruit and yeast.  Good flavors of crisp apple, some pear and perhaps a bit of white peach.  The wine had a great flavor profile, it started out tart and bracing and then in mid palate it moved into a sweetness that finally faded to a brisk, tart finish on the back of the palate.  Along the way there was just a touch of toast to add some complexity.

To help it along there were a few oysters on the half shell and some baguette slices toasted with olive oil and sea salt and spread with a fresh, Sonoma goat cheese.  Good wine and a better evening.

12.5% alcohol and on sale for $16. A bargain.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

M.F.K. Fisher on Wine

It had been some time since I last read anything by Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, though several of her books are in my library.  I read them years ago, but they've been gathering dust for awhile.  Although primarily a food and travel writer she loved good wine and great martinis. Her biographer from a few years ago, Anne Zimmerman, has collected her writings on liquid subjects into the volume Musings on Wine and Other Libations

It's a different approach to wine since it's not review oriented, it's simply older essays on travels and dinners revolving around wine and ranges from Europe in the 1930's to Napa and Sonoma through the 1970's and 1980's.

There is no sense of urgency or immediacy about her writings, these essays are calm, reserved, elegant, and in soft focus.  They invoke a different place in time and have that glowing aura of old memories about them.  Time can often be a very flattering filter.

The book is a series of essays in semi-chronological order and though I read them in order, that probably isn't necessary.  Each stands on its own.  I particularly liked the second entry, Long Ago in France which covers restaurants in Dijon along with old wines and old waiters. 

This would be a perfect book for winter - sit by a window or a fireplace and disregard the outside weather.  I read it in this hot summer and it is equally good now.  It's a burgundy with some age on it, not old but showing class and elegance.  It's a treat for the mind as well as the eyes.

Published in 2012 by Sterling Epicure, New York.  $15.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Crozes - Hermitage

Since yesterday was Bastille Day there had to be French wine with dinner.  But yesterday was also the centennial of the birth of Woody Guthrie so there had to be something quintessentially American as well. Essentially that meant steak and wine.

The steak was a bone in rib steak, simply seasoned and tossed on the grill to medium rare.  There was ratatouille on the plate as well as the summer vegetables are in full season.  Yellow squash, onions, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and a few herbs all cooked together and allowed to cool just a bit.  Flavorful and healthy.

The wine was a 2000 Domaine Belle Pere et Fils, Crozes Hermitage,  Cuvee Louis Belle.  Beautiful old color in the glass with some brown beginning to appear at the edges.  Quite a bit of sediment in the first small pour so I filtered the wine with a stainless mesh screen from that point onward. 

There are times when all it takes for me to love a wine is to stick my nose in the glass and this was one of those times.  Full on aromas of ripe, red and black berries sat on top of warm spices - cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla.  There was an earthy quality in the nose as well and each of those components were in perfect balance.  This was an eye closing aroma - close the eyes and let one's mind go where the aromas take you.  They took me to some wonderful places.

The flavor profile matched the aromas of the wine perfectly.  The fruit was dominant but was so well supported by the earthiness and the warmth of the wine.  Rich cherries, dark berries, spice from some oak, and herbs from the earth all played their roles.  The tannins were firm, but not drying at all, they just gave a structure to the wine. Over the course of the evening the wine wine continued to improve and the last glass was certainly the best.   

Once in a while there is a bottle that reminds me of why I love wine, and why it isn't just a beverage.  This was one of those bottles.  The only sad note is that this is the last bottle of the two bottles I purchased of this wine about eight years ago. 

Original price $30 and 12.6% alcohol.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Nero D'Avola

Very good dinner last night and a very good, summer weight red to wash it down.

The wine was a Brondello Nero D'Avola from Italy's Sicilia IGT.   Medium color in the glass and a good whiff of berries in the nose and a touch of fennel or anise.  Great up front fruit flavors of ripe blackberries.  Medium body and weight in the mouth with good acid and just enough tannin to keep things in balance.  Average length to the finish, but overall a good little wine and fun to drink.

Dinner is pictured above.  There was a sale on prime strip steaks so one was grilled to medium rare.  The potato salad was from the Thursday farmers' market and used local white, yellow and purple fingerling potatoes, local green beans, local shallots, champagne vinegar and blue cheese.  The tomatoes and blackberries were local and the basil was from the large pot by the door.  Only the the wine and champagne vinegar were more than ten miles removed from their point of consumption.

13% alcohol and $9.  A bargain.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fresh Fruit

The hot weather is back, though the humidity is much lower.  The market was stocked with just picked, local blackberries this afternoon, and they found their way into a cocktail this evening.

The berries were pureed with sugar syrup and then put through a strainer to remove the seeds.  The puree went into a cocktail shaker with lime juice and a healthy dose of Plymouth gin.  That mixture got a thorough shaking with ice and then was poured over fresh ice into a tall glass.  A bit of seltzer water completed the deal, along with a slice of lime.

Quite tasty and the official name is a Blackberry Fizz. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Coming Together

A little over a month ago I looked at the 2011 white wines released at the end of May by Kinkead Ridge.You can read the original report here

At that time I described the 2011 Riesling as light and nondescript.    I also mentioned that I had seen the same thing from previous vintages of this wine.  It was such a hot week last week that something light in the wine department sounded good so I pulled the cork on one of the Rieslings.  Six weeks out and the wine is beginning its change.  There is more aroma of apples and honeysuckle coming out of the glass and the flavors are becoming more distinct.  It's beginning to taste like Riesling instead of a generic white wine.  There's a little more body and a little more substance to the wine.  The finish had just a hint of sweetness that complimented the wine.

It took three days to drink the bottle, having a large glass with several different types of food.  It was best on the second day some chicken thigh yakitori.  Nice pairing with the soy sauce, brown sugar, mirin, and ginger in the yakitori sauce. 

The photo is a vine on the neighbors patio that must be full of sweet nectar since every ant within crawling distance seems to visit the blossoms frequently.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Record Heat, Wine and War

There comes a point with the weather that I tend to shut down, crawl in a hole and stay there until the situation passes.  Usually this is because of a heavy snow storm in the winter and the time is spent braising something and watching the snow fall through the windows.

In this case things are shut down because of the heat,  four records in the last six days for high temperatures were broken.  Those records were set in 1874. Today is predicted to be the fifth record and they are predicting 105 degrees.  The area has also recorded three records for the highest low temperature for a day - meaning simply that it doesn't cool off at night.

Even the kitchen is shut down because I don't want to add any more heat to the house.  Since most of my wine is consumed with food the wine consumption is also down - one bottle of Riesling lasted four days.

The best thing to do is sit under the ceiling fan and read, and there happened to be a good book that fell into my hands on the recent out of town trip.  Wine & War - the French, The Nazis & The Battle For France's Greatest Treasure by Don and Petie Kladstrup was published in 2001 but it isn't a book I was familiar with.  This particular copy was in a box of used books and as it turns out it's a copy signed by the authors.

The book is totally fascinating and I had difficulty putting it down.  The book is just what the extended title says - a battle to save France's best wines from being shipped back to Germany during WWII.  For a wine drinker the names are very familiar - Jayer, Drouhin, Huet, Taittinger, Hugel, and Miaihle de Lencqesaing.  Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, the Loire, Alsace  all were targeted by the Nazis and all lost considerable portions of their cellars to confiscation.

Totally fascinating the lengths and methods these folks went to and through to protect their wine, and totally tragic how the wine makers were captured, arrested, tortured and killed in the process. 

The authors live in France and did extensive interviews with survivors or descendants of victims and that certainly keeps the book from being dry or dull.    Good stuff here.

 Broadway Books (Random House) 2001.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fresh Pinot Noir

During my recent out of town excursion there were a couple of good meals and a pretty good wine.

The wine was a 2011 Block Nine, Caiden's Vineyards Pinot Noir, which carried simple a California appellation, though the winery is located in Calistoga at the north end of Napa Valley. 

We were trying to find a wine to match both duck breast on a bed of roasted beets and quail breasts on a bed of fresh spinach.  The evening was quite warm so we decided to look for a lighter red and the Block Nine seemed to fit the qualifications with its 13.1% alcohol and its 2011 vintage date.

Light, fresh, clear burgundy color and lots of cherries and strawberries in the nose, along with a hint of vanilla from oak.  Medium to light bodied wine with a full on fruity flavor of the berries and red fruit.  The oak was very much just a suggestion and added some complexity without being a major building block of this wine.  Not a wine to save,  just a wine to open and enjoy with good food and good friends. 

13.1% alcohol and $16

Monday, July 2, 2012

Silver Oak and Catching Up

It was more than nice to get away for a short time, but not nice coming home to 100+ degree temperatures, large storms with high winds, lengthy power outages and more storms.

There are more than several notes that are starting to get dated so I'll try and catch those up a little.

The first is a 2003 Silver Oak, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that was consumed a couple of weeks ago.  Silver Oak is a long time producer from Napa Valley, but this is grapes from Sonoma.  The unusual thing about Silver Oak is that it uses 100% American oak for its barrels instead of French oak or a mixture of the two.  That does make it stand out in a crowd.  There is more tannin, a more vanilla taste, a strength that one doesn't get from French oak.

Lots of good fruit, dark cherries, currants and graphite in this wine.  Good acid and unusual strength from the oak - robust comes to mind.   Long, delicious after taste here.  One other interesting fact about Silver Oak is that it is a couple of years behind the curve in releasing wines.  They tend to release the wines when they are ready to drink, after aging them longer in the barrels and then in the bottle before letting them go to market.  As a result of releasing when the wines have more age on them Silver Oak is the second leading premium cabernet in restaurant sales in the U.S.

Good wine and interesting because of the oak.  The Frisbee behind the bottle has nothing to do with the wine, but has a lot to do with the dogs.

14% alcohol and $70.