Sunday, September 30, 2012

Twin Peaks

Once in a while with wine one finds oneself on mountain tops or peaks, drinking wines that go above and beyond being merely good.  When there's a simple but delicious dinner and both the wines selected for the food reach those summits it's truly a special day.  Friday evening was one of those days.

The first of those wines was one that I purchased several years ago on a trip to California, a 2001 Ferrari Carano Tresor, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.  It is from a mixture of vineyards in the Alexander Valley in northern Sonoma County. 

Dinner was a three and one half inch thick porterhouse steak, seared in an ultra hot cast iron skillet on a grill and then slowly roasted over the grill.  The edges of both the strip section and loin section came out medium for the person who prefers meat thoroughly cooked, while the interior of each side came out medium rare to rare for the ones liking meat cooked in that manner.  A little salt and pepper was the only seasoning and after resting for ten minutes the steak was simply carved into slices.  While the steak was cooking we opened the wine and let it breathe.

It was obvious from the first swirl in the glass that this was a special wine.  The nose smelled of dark cherries and berries set over a base of dry, clean, just tilled earth.  The flavor was mouth filling with dark fruits, spice, cedar, and a light suggestion of chocolate.  The tannins were mature in that they were a big part of the wine but still soft and warming.  There was a wonderful, lengthy finish that left a taste of elegance in the mouth.    Classy wine, but sadly, my only bottle. 

2001 Ferrari Carano Tresor.  14.5% alcohol and $45 at time of purchase.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nuits Saint George

The simple burgundy from last week whetted my appetite for something more substantial from that area.  That something turned out to be a 2005 Jean-Claude Boisset, Nuits Saint Georges, Premier Cru Chaines Carteaux.   The wine was much darker in the glass than the simple Faiveley bourgogne that spawned the desire for something more substantial.  Very good nose of dark red and blue fruits, some spicy earth overtones and a bit of squeaky clean leather.  The first sip was tart and a little tannic so I put the wine aside and fixed dinner, about a 45 minute project.

After time to breathe in the glass the fruit came more to the front in the wine.  There was a touch of red cherry, but a good does of medium dark cherries and the sense of clean earth.  The more I swirled the better the wine became.  Medium to full bodied, certainly not the biggest wine, but a well balanced wine with good tannin, great acid and a good finish just made me smile with its length.

Dinner was a spice rubbed, pan seared duck breast and a risotto of porcini mushrooms and roasted buttercup squash.  This was a great match for the wine as they each improved the other.  The fruit in the wine was great with the duck, as was the acid.  The earthiness in the wine highlighted the mushrooms and the squash.  Life can be very good - and tasty.

There is one more bottle in the cellar.

2005 Jean Claude Boisset, Nuits Saint Georges, Chaines Carteaux.  13% alcohol and $50.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Octoberfest Meal

The weather remains unseasonably cool - more like late October than late September, so for the first time since early April winter style food went into the main oven to braise.  And since it was a German inspired meal the wine had to be German as well.  The wine was a 2009 Max. Ferd. Richter Riesling Kabinett from the Veldenzer Elisenberg vineyard.  I picked up this wine when the current proprietor, Dr. Dirk Richter, was in town for a drop in tasting a year ago. 

The one pot meal was pork spareribs and shoulder cuts with sauerkraut, apples, onions, and celery all braised in just pressed, local apple cider.  For the last half hour some fingerling potatoes were added to the mix.  There was a wonderful interplay between the sweetness of the cider and the bitterness of the sauerkraut and the tenderness of the pork.  A similar interplay was at work with the wine - the bitterness of the sauerkraut and the off dry sweetness of the wine were dancing while the crispness of wine sang a duet with the pork and apple cider.  Wonderful match.

After a brief blast of sulfur the wine settled into an aroma of apples and pear and that unique smell one gets when fresh rain hits dry, exposed rocks.  A very tart taste up front was balanced by a mid palate sweetness that flowed into a wonderful sweet/sour finish.  Great as it was to just sit, sniff and sip, it was even greater with the food.  Sadly, this was my only bottle of Kabinett from this particular vineyard, though there are a number from some of Richter's other vineyards resting in the cellar, and a bottle of the Sp├Ątlese from the Veldenzer Elisenberg site.

8.5% alcohol and $20

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Modesty Has Its Virtues

This modest wine with little or no pretension appeals to me.  The 2009 Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne, or basic burgundy, has no dental veneers for a brighter smile, no silicone breast enhancements, no tattooed on eye liner, doesn't spend all day at the gym sculpting its body and it doesn't walk down a runway in an exaggerated, stomping manner to say "look at me."  It just tastes good.

The wine has bright cherry flavors with an undercurrent of clean earth and spice.  It perky with acid and the body is medium to light.  The finish is appropriate to the rest of the wine.  This is the cute, neighborhood girl who just smiles as she goes about her business of roasting a chicken on the grill and bringing it to the table to enjoy with her.

13% alcohol and $20. 

Friday, September 21, 2012


Lunch on the patio was interrupted today when a few late season grasshoppers kept landing on the table.  They were bright green having just come from munching on a bush that was revived by the latest rain.  In the time it took to go inside and get the camera one of them jumped to the fencing surrounding the patio.  In less than a minute the insect went from bright green to the striated colors of the wood that it landed upon.  A bit later it hopped off to munch on something else.  Time to repaint the patio fence.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cote Rotie

One wine that I always wish I could drink more often is Cote Rotie.  There’s a complexity that I love to those that I have been privileged to drink and, one of my all time favorite wines was a bottle of 1978 Guigl La Mouline - remarkable wine that I drank in 1990.  Sadly Cote Roties are expensive and one rarely sees them in the market in this area.  A friend solved this problem late last week when he opened a bottle of the 1990 E. Guigal, Cote Rotie, Brune et Blonde for an impromptu dinner to celebrate the arrival of his first pension check. 

The wine is like most Cote Roties, a blend of mostly Syrah with some Viognier blended in. 

The wine was a mature garnet color in the glass with just the beginning of some browning at the edges.  The aroma was pure cold climate Syrah, meat, spice and leather with the added floweriness of the Viognier on top of it.  This is another wine where I was content to just smell it.  There were dark flavors of black fruit bordering on jam.  Wonderful, rich  mouth feel to this wine.  Great acid and tannin kept the richness in check. The finish was long and pleasant but the age of the wine was noticeable at the end.  My best guess is that this wine peaked about two years ago, but it is beautiful in its declining years.  I happen to have a bottle of this wine in the cellar and moved it to the “drink now” section. 

13.5% alcohol and $60.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

While the Pig is Roasting

Continuing on with the pig roast wines it should be pointed out that one can't roast a pig and not have something to drink during the last hour or two that it is cooking.

The first wine of the evening was a 2010 Frei Brothers, Russian River Valley, reserve chardonnay.   The Frei Brothers are part of the Gallo Wines family.

This is a hard wine for me to describe.  It tasted like chardonnay, there was some crispness and acid to the wine, there was a touch of butter - but only as an accent and not a leading note, and the finish was pleasant and crisp. 

However, like way too many mass produced wines this one simple has no soul.  There is nothing here to call attention to that separates it from numerous other wines.  It's well made and no doubt sells well, but it has no story to tell and no sense of place to it.

13.5% alcohol. Price not available.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Remains of the Day

All that remains of several seconds of time are pictured above.  Those are tail feathers from a blue jay who had a near death experience under the squirrels' favorite feeding tree.  Here's the story....

There were some corn kernels and scattered seeds under the tree and the blue jay was hungry.  The tree sits near a low, dense evergreen.  The blue jay dropped down from the tree to eat the seeds and a stray cat immediately bounded from the evergreen where it had been lying in wait.  Just as the cat leaped to catch the jay Scott, the resident Gordon Setter and sworn enemy of squirrels, saw the cat.  The tree is only two setter bounds from the step where Scott was standing.  Both the cat and the dog were airborne together from different trajectories, but with the same spot targeted as ground zero - and that spot was occupied by the jay.  The cat landed on the blue jay and Scott landed on the cat.   Blue jays are noisy birds and do a lot of screaming, and this one was no exception especially since it was in the grasp of the cat.  Cats in peril do a lot of screaming and this one was no exception, especially since it was in the grasp of a Gordon Setter.  Much noise and hilarity ensued.

The cat released the the blue jay and attempted to turn to face the dog who by this time had the cat's tail secured in his mouth.   When Scott tried for a better grip the cat managed his escape and headed for a large pine tree with Scott in pursuit.  The cat made it up the tree and the blue jay managed to hop back up into the feeding tree.  The end result was that both the bird and the cat survived the ordeal though the jay left the two above tail feathers under the tree.

Nothing like a little life's drama played out before one's eyes.  I celebrated with a wee dram of Lagavulin single malt from Islay later in the day and Scott celebrated by peeing on both the evergreen and the pine tree.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Purple Angel

Another pleasant surprise from the pig roast was a 2004 Purple Angel by Montes from Chile's Colchagua Valley.  The wine is a blend of 92% Carmenere and 8% Petit Verdot.  It was also the most controversial wine in that a few people loved it and few were put off by it.

The key difference between those who liked it and those who didn't was the distinct presence of an anise flavor in the wine.  Along with its dark color and full, fruit flavors the wine had a very identifiable hit of the licorice.  There were very dark, but rich, fruit flavors of blackberries and black currants along with some vegetable flavors working into the mix with the anise.  To me the anise was a highlight and not overpowering at all.  Highly extracted wine and there was nothing shy about it.  Good acid and appropriate tannin also made an appearance. 

To me the most unique thing about this wine was the finish.  Despite the dark, forward flavors from the start through the middle, the end had a bright, red cherry note to it.  It was that small surprise at the end that elevated this wine from good to very good and made it the most interesting wine of the night for me.

It was tasty with both the plain pork and the Memphis sauced pork, and it came the closest to being a match for the Cincinnati style sauce.  

2004 Montes Purple Angel, Colchagua Valley Chile.  14.5% alcohol and $40.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sauced Pork

As I mentioned in the last post there were two sauces available at the pig roast.  One was a homemade version of a popular Cincinnati sauce from The Montgomery Inn.  It's quite sweet and tangy and not my personal favorite.  The other was a Memphis, Tennessee, style sauce with molasses, Jack Daniels whisky, tomatoes and other ingredients.  There's a bit more heat to it and it's less sweet.

Both those sauces overwhelmed the Schaefer Riesling, but the Memphis style sauce found a soul mate in a 2008 Zincinnati Zinfandel, a special blend made by McNabb Ridge Vineyards in Mendocino County north of Napa Valley for a local Cincinnati distributor, Tramonte and Sons.  It even comes with a pig on the label, reflecting Cincinnati's heritage as Porkopolis because it was once the hog butchering capital of the U.S.  The city is also home to the annual Flying Pig Marathon.

Lots of up front aromas of blackberries and oak.  There was a good, fruit forward taste reflecting those berries, and there was a good dose of the usual Zinfandel tannin. The fruit in the wine picked up the tomato taste in the sauce and the tannins made some good country music with the whisky flavors.  There was a touch of heat in the finish of this wine.  Nice match with the Memphis sauce. The Cincinnati style sauce was still fighting battles with any wine that came near it. 

Zincinnati Zinfandel from McNabb Ridge.  Price unknown.  15% alcohol.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Near Perfection

I might as well start at the very top with the wines from the pig roast.  One wine was a near  perfect match with the un-sauced pork.  The wine was the 2008  Willi Schaefer Riesling Qualitatswein from the Mosel.  This is Schaefer's entry level wine, a blend of several vineyards. 

The wine was like drinking a liquified golden delicious apple.  It was crisp and tart, yet gave a suggestion of sweetness only to turn dry at the end with a suggestion of slate.  Those flavors were outstanding with the light smokiness in the pork.  The sharp acid in the wine was a perfect counterbalance to the juiciness and succulence of the pork.  The finish on the wine totally cleared the palate and made me eager for the next bite and sip. These two together made the party briefly fade to the background and made me quite happy that there is more of this wine in the cellar, along with a decent number of Schaefer's single vineyard wines from various vintages.

This is certainly not the best Riesling in the world, but at that point in time and with that particular pig it was as good as it gets. 

There were two sauces to go with the pork (more about them later), but the Riesling and the sauces were like the Montagues and Capulets or the Hatfields and McCoys - they weren't going to get along until a few people died in the fighting.  But with the plain pork this wine was remarkable.

The guest of honor with it's skin removed after cooking.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Pig's Butt

That's exactly what the above picture is - a pig's butt.  Beginning early Saturday morning just as the rain ended a 41 pound, young pig went onto a combination grill and smoker.  It stayed there for most of the day while being basted and misted hourly with beer, apple juice, and wine.  Every two hours sit got flipped from one side to the other.

A little after 5:00 PM we finally got to taste and eat it. It was moist, tender, lightly smoky from hickory wood and flat out delicious.  The group was the same one that gets together for the lobster-fest in May, a Fourth of July party in the summer and the Beef Barolo dinner in the winter.  That usually means there was a lot of wine - and yesterday was no exception.  I'm still going over and transferring notes from my phone but there were enough bottles to carry this blog for a a week or more.

Below is the finished product after we stuck the obligatory apple in its mouth.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lost Treasure

I was re-arranging and re-cataloging the wines yesterday morning and tucked back in a corner was a wine that wasn't on the latest inventory.  I can't believe this one slipped through the cracks but I'm glad it did.

The wine is a 2006 Condrieu Les Terrasses de l'Empire from Georges Vernay.  It had five years bottle age on it so I decided not to wait any longer and opened it for dinner with some grilled swordfish marinated in olive oil, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice and red pepper flakes. 

The wine was a medium gold in the glass but still smelling of honeysuckle vines, pineapple, lychee and earth.  Rich, luxurious wine to sip with flavors of pineapple, very ripe peach, a little cantaloupe.  A full bodied wine that sat on that edge between sweet and dry.  A long rich finish was balanced by acidity that turned into a dry, mineral end.   Good match with the swordfish but if the wine as any richer it might have need a different meal. 

The last glass was sipped slowly over the evening and the wine mellowed further and the aromas just grew into a complete bouquet of flowers. 

2006 Georges Vernay Condrieu Les Terrasses de l'Empire.  14% alcohol and a $60 sticker on the bottle.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Two More Red Wines

There were two other red wines from the 2010 vintage released this past Saturday at the Kinkead Ridge Winery.

There was Petit Verdot  for this vintage, something that doesn't always happen, the last time being 2007.  The best way to describe the color is "black."  This is a dark, highly extracted wine with loads of black fruit and even more loads of tannin.  Good fruity aromas of blackberries and earth, almost jam like in the nose.  That sensation of jam carried over into the taste as well.  To be fair, this wine hasn't totally come together in the bottle yet, but when it does it promises to be a mouth full.  The 2005 is delicious at the moment and this wine should come along and in five years or more should be wonderful.  15.5% alcohol  $21.99.  63 cases psroduced.

That leaves the Cabernet Franc pictured above from a previous vintage.  This is usually the most forward of the Kinkead Ridge red wines and this year is no exception.   There's a brighter color to this wine and the shades are more red than purple.  Fresh aromas of red cherries and a bit of red currants in the nose.  There's some vanilla from the oak as well.  Bright, cheerful flavors of those red fruits are supported by a good structure of acid and tannin.  It has the sweetest taste of any of the red wines, almost candy like on the first couple of sips.  There's a tiny bit of heat at the finish.  This wine will be gone by the time the Petit Verdot is ready to drink.  15.3% alcohol.  180 cases produced.  $19.99.

There is good news on the 2012 vintage as well.  The hot, dry summer has been more than kind to the grapes and the promise is there for some tremendous wines in a couple of years.  As of this morning the torrential rains predicted for this area as the result of Hurricane Isaac have yet to show.  For grapes in this area we've reached the time of year where the rain isn't such a good thing. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kinkead Ridge 2010 Red Wines

It's always a fun day when the best local winery releases their wines, and yesterday Kinkead Ridge released their 2010 red wines. There's always a good crowd,  and the crowd always has a good time and yesterday was no exception despite the overcast skies and the continuing threat of predicted downpours from the remnants of Hurricane Isaac. Fortunately, Isaac was just about the only no show for the day.

Let's start with a wine that was far and away my favorite of the four wines released, the 2010 Syrah.  The wine was a dark purple color and was a bit paler at the edges - almost an electric purple.  Wonderful fruity nose on this wine with bits of oak and a hint of smoke.  It has deep flavors of black and red plums and white pepper, very deep flavors.  The wood is noticeable but not overpowering and there is a good amount of tannin.  The acid is great in this wine and it gives the wine a sharpness and an edge that balances out the deep flavors.  The finish is long and smooth.  Over the years I've tasted nearly every vintage of their red wines on release and this one is certainly at the very top.  A year or so ago I opened a 2005 Syrah and it was the best wine I've had from Kinkead Ridge.  I'm hoping for the same with this wine.  14.8 % alcohol, $20.99. 91 cases produced.

Next in line for me was the Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was an inky dark wine that never thought about paling at the edges.  It had a big, muscular frame that was evident just from the aromas.  It had rich flavors of black cherries, black currants, oak and vanilla.  There was nothing shy or reticent about this wine.  It made a delicious statement.  Good acid, strong tannin and a mouth filling finish.  Very young and needs a couple of years to come together.  15.2% alcohol.  $20.99. 180 cases produced.

Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot tomorrow.