Sunday, December 30, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

When Old Friends Turn on You

I don't drink a lot of port, but this is the time of year that most of the port I do drink is consumed.  It's definitely nice on a cold evening with some Stilton or other blue cheese and perhaps a handful of nuts or some fruit.

For a number of years the local stores always have a sale in December on Warre's Warrior Porto, their entry level wine.  It's fruity, warming, and delicious and goes down much easier than it should. This year they changed the label on the bottle and labeled it as a "Reserve."  The sale price was quite appealing at $15, regularly $21. 

I opened a bottle Wednesday evening after we collected six inches of snow.  Warre's must have changed the blend as well as the label, because this wine is vastly different from what I was accustomed to from this producer.  It is thinner, more acidic, less flavorful and tasted more like flavored sugar water than a reliable porto.  This was a very disappointing wine and one I won't be purchasing again.  Time to move on to perhaps Graham's Six Grape Porto.

Warre's Warrior Porto Reserve.  20% alcohol and $15 and a terrible buy at this price and a horrid buy at the regular price of $21. This is sad.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Eve Part II

The second bottle we opened for the Christmas Eve shellfish dinner turned out to be very unfair to the wine that was opened first - see below.  Bottle #2 was a 2006 Clotilde Davenne Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses.  It's nost that the Muscadet wasn't good - it was, but this bottle was from another world.

There were layers of perfectly ripe fruit with crisp apples being the lead fruit, but there were pears and a bit of citrus there as well. The wine filled the mouth with those flavors but the structure that was there kept this from being a fruity wine.  Sharp edges of acid and limestone cut through the fruit and brought everything to life.  There was nothing shy with this wine.  This was an elegant woman in her prime wearing a simple black dress and flashing a Mona Lisa smile.  Gorgeous.

The rest of the dinner was delicious, but the wine was the star.  The dinner, pictured below, was a smoky, multi-layered chowder full of potatoes, corn, crab, clams, cod and calamari.  Alongside there was a lobster salad that was steamed lobster dressed with mayonnaise, lemon juice, a tiny bit of fresh thyme and dill.  The Chablis and the lobster were simply perfect together.

2006 Clotilde Davenne Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses.  13% alcohol and $70.  One more bottle in the cellar.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve

The Christmas Eve oysters were briny, plump, sweet, cold and luxurious. An extra person showed up who was stuck in town rather than being able to travel home for the holiday so we were able to open one bottle of wine with the oysters and a second with the remainder of the seafood meal - more on the second half of the meal later.

 The first wine of the evening was a 2010 Domaine de la Quilla, a Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie from the Loire area of France.  The wine is made just inland from the prime French oyster harvesting area.

This is a wine that isn't about sweet fruit and makes no pretense about it.  It is sharp, tart, brisk, and just reeks of minerality and earth.  Warmed up a little some solid fruit underpins the wine, but this wine is about earth and minerals - primarily oyster shells.  Being aged on it lees gives it a resemblance of an uncarbonated, sparkling wine in that one gets a sense of the yeasts remains in the finish.

With the oysters it was a wonderful match, and there were a good supply of oysters to get us through the late afternoon.

And in honor of the title of this blog, yes, that is a flamingo and Gordon Setter guarding this particular plate of the oysters.

Merry Christmas to all.

2010 Domaine de la Quilla, a Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Li.  12% alcohol and $15.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Very little wine this past week as a series of small problems kept interrupting the desired flow of my life. The best part was that most of my holiday shopping was done at the food and wine markets for some wonderful upcoming dinners.  The above photo of sweet peppers and fresh dill looked a lot like Christmas to me.  There is fresh salmon curing under the dill and it should be ready for Christmas Day.

The only thing left to pick up tomorrow for Christmas Eve is a bag of fresh oysters. I still must make  a decision on whether I will open a Chablis, a Muscadet or a bottle of champagne to go with them.  Life should always be about good choices.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cabernet Franc

There isn't a lot of wine from Colorado that shows up in Ohio, but the several that I've had the privilege to drink have been good, serviceable wines.  That's the case witih the latest one, a Boulder Creek Winery 2009 Cabernet Franc.

This is a full bodied wine that still retains some agility in the form of good acid and a definite perkiness.  Lots of bright cherry and berry aromas and flavors in this wine and just enough tannin to support everything.  Nothing brooding and deep here, just a happy wine that went well with a meal of braised beef short ribs and some fresh polenta. 

Boulder Creek Winery 2009 Colorado Cabernet Franc.  14.1% alcohol.  The wine was a gift from a friend.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

To Have and Have Another

Often the off the wall things turn out to be the most fun, and that's exactly what the new book To Have and Have Another, A Hemingway Cocktail Companion by Philip Greene is.

Anyone who reads Ernest Hemingway knows the man loved his beverages, and this book brings all of that front and center.  The author went through all the Hemingway writings and did a chapter on each cocktail that appeared in a Hemingway book or in his letters.  Want to know how many times and where a daiquiri is mentioned?  That's all here and so is at least one Ernest original recipe for the cocktail in question.  Greene is kind enough to list the book and chapters in which each cocktail appears.  Want to have a brandy and soda?  Pull out your copy of The Sun Also Rises and head to chapters one and ten and drink along with the characters.

Unique, fascinating, and unlike most modern cocktails one doesn't need  exotic spirits and strange ingredients to make most of these drinks.

Almost 4:00 PM here so it's time for a Martini and Chapter 19 of The Sun Also Rises.

Total fun and an excuse to reread some good books.

To Have and Have Another, A Hemingway Cocktail Companion.  Philip Greene.  2012.  Perigee Books.  $24 for 293 pages of fun.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vintage Champagne

One of my frequent haunts was hosting a caviar and champagne tasting last Friday.  Quite tasty and very interesting, but what it mostly did was just make me thirsty for more champagne.  Fortunately that was a very solvable problem. A bottle of 2002 Lancelot-Pienne, Cuvee de la Table Ronde, Brut had been resting quietly in the cellar for a few years.  The wine is a blanc de blancs, or made from all chardonnay.   

I brought home a small amount of caviar from the store and rubbed a plump chicken with inside and out with an herb butter and popped it in the oven sitting on a bed of butternut squash chunks.  I quickly made a small batch of buckwheat blinis and pulled the cork from the champagne. What a nose on this wine with some bottle age to it.  If ever one needed an example of bread dough and brioche aromas in champagne this wine was it.  There were hints of cardamon as well.  We poured two glasses stoppered the bottle.

There were wonderful, tart and sharp flavors of ripe fruit and bread.  The bubbles were proper and not overwhelming and the amount of flavor and length were great.  The salinity in the caviar, a variety from California sturgeon, was remarkable with the wine.  The blinis were toasty and warm, the caviar and champagne cold and cool respectively and they blended together seamlessly.  The bubbles in the champagne were great with the light crunch of the fish eggs.

The wine was equally good with the chicken after it rested for a few minutes.  Warm chicken and squash, cool champagne and some happy people and soon the bottle was empty.  Still smiling.

Lancelot-Pienne, Cuvee de la Table Ronde, blanc de blancs, brut.  12% alcohol  and $50.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Old Friend Revisited

More years ago than I care to admit, and when I was coming out of my initial French phase in wine and moving into Napa Valley wines Sterling was one of my favorites.  They made good Cabernet Sauvignon, a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc and a reserve Cabernet among other wines.  I bought a number of the reserve wines from 1978 through the mid 80's.  All were good and at that time they were in the upper echelon of Napa red wines. 

Last spring while wondering through a wine store there was an unadvertised sale and the 2008 Sterling SVR Reserve was on sale for $40.  The wine is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot.  I opened it last night with one of the last steaks from the grill before the December weather turns very crappy in this area. 

Nothing shy about this wine and a strip steak was just about the perfect accompaniment.  The wine was muscular but still supple with flavors of berries and medium dark cherries.  Their was a brightness up front to the fruit and a crispness from good acid.  There was a good amount of tannin here so the finish was very dry.  There were also some spices in the finish, hints of both vanilla and cinnamon and just a suggestion of sweetness.  All together it was quite a nice wine.  I'm not so sure that the $60 original price was fair, but it is a very good wine at $40.

It was nice to get reacquainted with Sterling and while they might not have the status they once had this was a good wine.

2008 Sterling Vineyards SVR Reserve.  14.9% alcohol and $40 on sale.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lopez de Heredia Rioja

Sometimes the  a wine just makes me smile and the 2005 Vina Cubillo from R. Lopez de Heredia did that.  We opened this wine prior to a recent dinner along with a couple salamis and some cheeses. 

There was an unusual nose to this wine, unusual in that there was a strong hint of anise or licorice resting just under the surface of some very ripe fruit and a good bit of dry earth.  One person was a little put off by it, but I loved it.  Full flavored with dry, sweet fruit and the taste of earth.  Great acid here and just enough tannin to support everything.  Long, dry finish that made me want a bite of meat and another sip of wine.  By the time the wine was gone even the non-licorice loving person had fallen for this wine.  It was that good with food.

The wine is a blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacho and the rest Mazuelo and Graciano and spent three years in the barrel before being fined with egg whites and bottled.

2005 R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Cubillo.  13% alcohol and $30. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Feast for St. Andrew

Friday was St. Andrew's Day and while the day was lacking in Scottish attire, it wasn't lacking for the spirit of the day.

There were two thick lamb chops, a barley pilaf, a wee bit of smoked salmon and a dram or two after dinner.

The wine of the day was from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley, A 2007 Michel-Schlumberger Coteaux Sauvages.  This is the premium Syrah wine from the winery and after a glass or two one could understand why.

Heavy aromas of black fruits and a small amount of earth in the nose.  Great and forward fruit flavors of blackberries and plums that were dense but never went into the heavy stage.  This was ripe fruit and not jam.  Great tannin structure that supported this fruit and kept it from being overbearing.  Good acid that gave it some interesting highlights.  Good length to the finish, though the very end was a touch sweet. Very tasty and well done.

The wee drams later in the evening were a 1991 Lagavulin Distillers Edition, the last two in the bottle.  Good day, good meal, good wine and good whisky.

2007 Michel-Schlumberger Coteaux Sauvage.  14.9% alcohol and $50.