Friday, August 31, 2012

National Cabernet Sauvignon Day

I almost missed yesterday's celebration, primarily because I didn't know about it.  Apparently someone determined that August 30 is National Cabernet Sauvignon Day.  My first reaction was - should this be in August?

My second reaction was to open a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.  I hate to miss a good party.

I opted for local again with a 2007 Kinkead Ridge from the Ohio River Valley, a wine soon to be five years of age.  Good choice as the wine seems to have has pulled all of its pieces together and after about half an hour of decanting  it was a very good wine.

Dark color to the wine, and there were great aromas of black cherries and plums.  Oak aromas were there, but they were almost cedar like.  Full bodied wine with a smooth mouth feel as the tannins have integrated.  Good acid in the wine and a fresh and graceful finish.

There was a rib eye  sale so a prime one pound one went on the grill and since it was just me eating and drinking the dogs got most of the fat mixed in with their kibble for dinner.  There was still some left over for a snack today.  The dogs tend to be beer drinkers so they got no wine.  Good match with the steak and there is half a bottle left to savor over the next couple of days.

2007 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Ohio River Valley.  15% alcohol and $18.95.  240 cases produced.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2006 Kinkead Ridge Riesling

The fall release of red wines is this weekend at the Kinkead Ridge winery in Ripley, Ohio.  As usual in gearing up for the event I pulled out an older vintage from them to start getting my taste buds in shape.

Though the release is red wines, I pulled out a 2006 Riesling because dinner was a little spicy.  Inch thick pork chops were thrown on the grill with just salt, pepper and wee bit of olive oil.  When the first side was properly browned I flipped them over and applied a semi thick coating of a peach and habanero pepper chutney.  The chutney got all warm and oozy while the chops finished cooking.

The wine was definitely mature when the cork came out of the bottle.  The bloom of youth was gone and in its place was an attractive, mature adult.  Deeper yellow in color and the aromas changed from fresh and prickly citrus and crisp apple to more apricot and ripe peach flavors.  The first sip seemed a little oxidized, and it probably was.  That said this was a great match for the pork and spicy chutney.  The acid was still there in the wine to clear the palate and the deeper flavors of the apricots stood up and embraced the chutney.  This was a really nice match.

I sat outside when the evening cooled and the residual sweetness in the wine turned out to be a great match for a small piece of Roquefort cheese that served as dessert. 

The wine is fully mature and I don't see it getting any better, but then it doesn't have to get better because I intend on drinking the last two in the near future.  It is certainly interesting to compare this vintage to younger ones.  Might have to to do a vertical here.

Kinkead Ridge Riesling, Ohio River Valley.  10.6% alcohol.  184 cases produced.  $11.95

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow

I went deeply into Chinese inspired food again, specifically a dish from the late Barbara Tropp's China Moon cookbook with the simple name of Bunny Stew.  There was a sale on rabbit and I had all but two of the lengthy list of ingredients needed and they were easy to find.

The rabbit sat overnight in a marinade of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, Shao-Xing, chilli sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and onions.  Wiped dry, the pieces got a quick browning in some oil and were set aside.  Ginger, scallions and garlic went into the wok with some oil and a minute later in went diced onion, carrot and celery.  Next in was a sauce of chicken stock, Shao-Xing, hoisin sauce and soy sauce.   Next was a smashed stalk of lemon grass.  The rabbit legs went in next and five minutes later the loin pieces were added.  The entire thing was covered and simmered for ten minutes.

Quite an unusual and tasty mixture of flavors and aromas.  Since the stew was not spicy-hot I went with a dry wine, a 2010 Nigl Gruener Veltliner, Freiheit from Austria.  Bone dry with aromas of white pepper, melons, and a few flowers .  Electric feel in the mouth with acid and tastes of citrus and melon.  Decent length and a bracing finish.  There was enough body to the wine to stand up to the Asian flavors, and they bowed politely to each other before the wine and ginger fell in love and wandered off together to live happily ever after.  Good match.

Nigl, Gruner Veltliner, Freiheit.  11.5% alcohol and $14.  A bargain.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Really? No, Reuilly!

Dinner a few nights ago was a wonderful piece of Alaskan halibut.  It was dusted with some salt and white pepper and a bit of smoked paprika.  It got a quick pan sear on the fleshy side and then was flipped over to the skin side and finished in a hot oven for a couple of minutes. 

The wine I pulled out was a 2009 Denis Jamain Reuilly, Les Pierres Plates from the Loire valley.  The wine is sauvignon blanc.  Pale, green-gold color in the glass the wine smelled of fresh crushed apples and green grapes and a few wildflowers.  Very nice nose.  The first sip was an eye opener - super tart, fruity but dry and then minerality on steroids.  This was a fresh, mouth filling wine.  Halibut is a rich fish and this wine cut through that perfectly.  The finish on the wine was a bit short, but in the end it was that taste of minerals that hung on as the final sensation.  A little research and I understood.  Reuilly sits on the same Kimmeridgian limestone that makes Chablis so distinctive.  It sits on an old seabed full of shells and marine deposits.   

Very nice wine at a very fair price.

2009 Denis Jamain Reuilly, Les Pierres Plates.  12.5% alcohol and $17.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Near Perfect Evening

When the weather gets things right in this area it can be spectacular -- like yesterday evening.

Dinner was outside yesterday as the humidity was low, the temperatures moderate and trending down toward cool.  Most of the day was spent with Scott or Doer on the grooming table on the patio.  It had been awhile and they were both a little shaggy.  Tons of dog hair to pick up afterwards so the patio was clean and pristine.

The grill was going with a tri-tip, beef roast smothered in Indian spices, which considering the amount of beef eaten in India is probably an oxymoron.  Cumin, coriander, chilli powder, ginger, garlic, salt, black pepper, a touch of curry powder, mustard seeds, and a few other things all mashed with olive oil and smeared on the roast.  It sat at room temperature for an hour and then cooked quickly over high heat on the grill.  It rested for a few minutes while I made a salad.  It was sliced thin across the grain and served with only its juices.

The neighbors wandered by because the aromas from the grill were a little different.  I threw an oil cloth on the grooming table and it became the dining table.   There was a spicy kick from the dark crust on the exterior and a strong, juicy, beef flavor on the interior of the slices.  They brought beer so that became the drink of the evening, and I threw some bread on the grill to add to the meal.  In the end the beef was gone, the salad was gone and I think even the crumbs of bread disappeared.  Clean up was easy

The evening finished with the last bit of Gobernador, a dry oloroso sherry discussed here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Subject Was Roses

The subject of the evening was supposed to be a steak from the grill with olive oil, lemon juice and a good bottle of wine.  Instead it became an evening about wine, roses and stereotypes.  Read enough about Nebbiolo based wines and the aromas of roses generally finds its way into the discussion if there is some age to the wine.  The 2004 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo D'Alba, Valmaggiore is case in point.

There were two of these in the cellar and I decided it was time to open one.  I poured a small glass and decanted the rest and let both sit while the steak went on the grill outside.  When I walked back into the house and got near the table I smelled roses, sweet summer roses.  This soon to be eight year old wine just poured its heart into imitating a bunch of roses.   It was as fragrant a wine as I've had for some time.  After some swirling in the glass it was even more pronounced.  Fascinating.  I've picked up this scent before in barolos and babarescos, but not like this.

The taste was precise fruit, dark cherries mostly with a bit of red plum.  Wonderful mouth feel to this wine and great drying tannins on the finish which left the impression of the other sensation a good Nebbiolo is supposed to have - road tar.  This wasn't as strong as the scent of roses but it was there and easily identifiable.  There was a sweet earthiness to the after taste, but the finish was a little bit abbreviated.

By the time the steak came off the grill a fair portion of the wine was gone and it was obvious that it wouldn't see a second day.  Wonderful match with the richness of the prime steak.  The wine had the lush fruit in the beginning but ended with the drying tannin that simply made one want to repeat the process over and over.    Quite a pleasant evening.

2004 Luciano Sandrone Nebbiolo D'Alba.  14% alcohol and $39.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Yellow Tomatoes - Part Two

To finish off the plethora of yellow tomatoes late yesterday morning there were yellow Bloody Marys for brunch.  Whole yellow tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper were thoroughly chopped in the food processor and then put through the food mill.  The mixture went into a tall glass of ice with some vodka and lemon juice in the bottom, and a celery stick was added to stir it all together.

I believe that covered three food groups:  fruit because the tomato is really a fruit, vegetables with the celery stick and grain with the vodka.  Total health food. 

The tomatoes were local, and the celery was from the local farmers' market which insists that it come from within 50 miles of here.  The vodka was from the distillery just up the road about ten miles.  Only the Tabasco, the Worcestershire, lemon juice and the glass had a carbon footprint worth talking about.  After the second drink I wasn't overly concerned about the carbon footprint.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Yellow Tomatoes

It's been a remarkable year for local tomatoes - a great vintage. Not only are they very good, they are plentiful.  One thing that I am thankful for is that everyone seems to plant yellow tomatoes and then they only want to overindulge on the red ones.  I'm partial to red, but when every tomato growing friend gives me yellow tomatoes I'm more than willing to make yellow tomato soup.

Seeded tomatoes, a few shallots, some olive oil, a little sea salt, a touch of vodka, and some white pepper all cook slowly together until the liquid reduces.  The mixture goes through a food mill to remove the skins and a little cream is added to give it body and richness and small bit of lemon juice to up the acid.  A drizzle of olive oil, some fresh, chopped basil, a few slices of toasted baguette and one has a great lunch.

And there is enough to freeze to repeat the meal several times over the next couple of months.

And there were still enough tomatoes left for a yellow Bloody Mary.  More on that later.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrating Julia

Yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Julia Child's birth, and while I don't think she would appreciated the fuss that the national media gave the day I'm sure she would have loved a good meal to celebrate.

For me it was an excuse to pull out and cook from my well worn copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking Vol 1.  After some research the final meal was from page 366,  Escalopes de Veau a la Creme - veal scallops, sauteed in butter and oil with shallots, mushrooms, white wine, beef stock and cream.  There were no substitutions of ingredients and no variation from the procedure, it was done strictly the way she wrote it.  In the end there was not a bit left and the only change I would have made (and will in the future) is to finish the dish with some lemon juice and/or lemon zest. 

Her recommendation in the book was for a modest white Burgundy and my answer was a 2009 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Les Setilles.  The wine is a blend of 80% chardonnay from Pugliny Montrachet and 20% chardonnay from Meursault.  Pale green - gold color in the glass the wine smelled of fresh citrus with hints of apple and pineapple.  There was a wonderful mouth feel to this wine and the flavors were precise and sharp - sweet, ripe golden delicious apple, freshly zested lemons and a hint of pineapple and tropical flavors.  When the pineapple appeared I thought the wine might be going too tropical, but that flavor aspect remained a highlight and not a dominating part of the wine.  Great acidity and a nice, though not overly long finish.  There was a suggestion of oak but certainly nothing strong.  Very well balanced wine that for an entry level Bourgogne was well made and delicious.  It was perfect with the veal, but of course Julia said it would be.  At a price point below $20 it was also an outstanding bargain - so much so that today's excursion out into the world will produce a couple of more bottles of this wine for near term drinking.

2009 Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Les Setilles.  13% alcohol and $19.99

Monday, August 13, 2012


A good meal sometimes needs a good dessert, and that is something I don't normally do.  The cannoli above was filled with a ricotta and marscapone.  The edges were coated in warm chocolate and covered with chopped pistachios.  A few shaves of dark chocolate completed the decadence.  Rather tasty.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Old Faithful

There's a lot to be said for consistency, especially when one is talking about being consistently good and fairly priced.  

That's certainly the case with the 2010 M Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone Belleruche.  It's like every other year of this wine, flat out good.  Dark purple in the glass and a nose of fresh fruit.  Tons of bright strawberry flavors from the 80% of the wine that is Grenache.  Underlying that is some darker notes of plums from the 20% Syrah.  Good acid, medium body and nice almost sweet finish make this a red wine to love.  Not a wine to ponder, just a wine to drink, and that's what I did with a thick, grilled strip steak and some redskin potatoes roasted in duck fat.  

2010 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes du Rhone.  14% alcohol and $11.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summer Fare

One of the very best things about Asian food is the sometimes very short cooking time. This is especially true in the summer when one doesn't want to heat up the house too much.  The time here is spent in prepping the ingredients.

The last hot day gave me a craving for General Tso Chicken.  Chopped chicken thigh meat, sweet red peppers, onions, garlic, peanuts, scallions,  tsin tsin peppers and a sauce with about twelve ingredients - very strong on chilli bean paste, vinegar and a little brown sugar.  The rice went into the rice cooker while the wok sat in the coals on the grill.  Four minutes outside in the heat (with a beer in hand) and dinner was ready with plenty of leftovers for the next day.

Sweet, spicy, strong, tart and good eating.

The beer was a Goose Island IPA out of Chicago.  Cool, bitter and refreshing with the food.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bright Colors and Good Wine

No doubt that dinner was colorful a few nights ago.  It was also quite tasty and there was a remarkable wine paring with it.

The fish is a pan seared Coho salmon fillet.  The rice is black, forbidden rice and the tomatoes are black cherry tomatoes tossed with olive oil and sea salt and set on fresh basil leaves and some crumbled goat cheese.  The sauce was what made the meal so interesting.  It was white wine, grapefruit juice, orange juice, shallots, ginger and saffron simmered together until reduced to a syrup and then finished with a few swirls of butter.  Sharp and citrusy, and yet earthy from the shallots and saffron and perky with the notes of fresh ginger.

My first inclination for wine was a dry Riesling, but the saffron called me elsewhere.  The choice was a 2010 Kinkead Ridge Viognier Roussanne.  The wine is a blend of 42% Viognier and 58% Roussanne.  The wine is full bodied and bold with aromas of oranges and herbs and it was a seamless companion to the orange flavors in the sauce.  The Viognier picked up the saffron and earthiness while the oiliness of the Roussanne work great with the acid and the richness of the salmon.

The black rice added an extra dimension to the taste. The dark flavors were a great contrast to the brightness in the wine.  This was a truly good match between food and wine and by the end of the evening there was none of either left.

The wine was high in alcohol but with this food that didn't seem to matter.  Something more delicate might have been overwhelmed by the boldness of the food.

2010 Kinkead Ridge Viognier Roussanne, 15.1% alcohol and $15.95

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I've been buying more sherry in the last year for two reasons.  First, I don't think there is a category of wine out there that gives better quality for the money.  Second, most of the ones I've tried have been delicious.

The delicious certainly came into play with the latest purchase, an Emilio Hildalgo, Oloroso Seco, Gobernador.  Medium to dark amber color in the glass the wine seemed a bit closed for the first couple of minutes.  After five minutes the wine opened up with aromas of fresh roasted nuts, freshly ground coffee and some dried citrus peel.  After a few more swirls the dominance of the various aromas changed and there was also a note or two of cocoa powder.  Great wine for sitting and sniffing.

The taste was an interesting play between walnuts and dried citrus with an interesting bitter note that reminded me of sorghum molasses.  There wasn't a lot of that molasses flavor, but it was consistently there and it made for a good highlight.  Another point is that this wine smells sweeter than it tastes. The very front end in the mouth has a sweet impression, but that quickly goes dry and stays that way through a long finish.  

There was a plate of thinly sliced sopressa salami, some smoked almonds, a few olives and bit of gruyere cheese to munch with the wine over the course of an evening spent watching the London Olympics. Good stuff.

Emilio Hiladalgo, Gobernador.  20% alcohol and $23