Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

A few photo highlights of the year soon past.   Despite suffering through this long, lingering cold there will be a wee deoch an' doris and an off key and raspy chorus or two of Auld Lang Syne before bed.  Happy New Year to each of you.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Placeholder - A Yellow Flower

Sorry for the lack of updating here.  They day after Christmas I began developing a severe cold, an illness I have avoided for almost five years.  Each day, in almost every way, it has gotten more severe.  Wine and food are currently far from my mind and no one would want to read a blog about someone impatiently waiting for his next dose of medication.

There are several posts that are nearly completed but even putting them together is a chore.

Back soon, I hope.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

The holidays here got off to a wonderful start on Christmas Eve with cousins and other relatives and about twenty pounds of beef rib roast cooked all the way from rare to approaching shoe leather to satisfy the different tastes of the crowd. 

There were white wines to start the evening but when the beef was ready the "big boys" gave up their corks.  The two wines were both Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Reserve Cabernets, one from 1999 (14 years old) and the other from 1988 (25 years old).  Both were delicious, though both were probably just beyond their peak and beginning to go downhill.  That was particularly true for the younger wine. 

Both wines had the unmistakable aromas of prunes, and the younger wine held on to that aroma while the older wine eventually moved on to earthiness.  The younger wine displayed more fruit and deeper color and early on it was the favorite of the four who were drinking wine.  By the end of the meal the opinion turned and when all was said and done the 1988 was the star of the evening.

This wine had the earthiness one expects from the Rutherford area of Napa Valley and the fruit was a little less ripe.  It made for a wonderful balance and the the earth flavors matched better with the beef than the more forward fruit flavors in the 1999 wine.  I found the 1988 wine tasted younger than the 1999 wine by the end of the meal.  Good meal, good wines and good friends and family.

Merry Christmas to all reading this and best wishes for a great holiday season.

1999 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Reserve.  13.8% alcohol
1988 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Reserve.  12.6% alcohol. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner

Still licking my lips over the Asian slaw described in the post below, and the wine was an equal partner in that meal.

The wine was a 2009 Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner, Federspiel from the Wachau region of Austria.  The wine is biodynamic and proudly displayed its Demeter certification on the back label.

The wine was a bit reserved for a minute or two, but when it opened up it did so in a big way.  Lots of aromas of straw and earth with only a hint of tart fruit were followed by a very mineral taste with supporting flavors of tart, green grapes, a bit of grapefruit, and a hint of green apple.  The wine had a wonderful mouth feel and finished totally dry like a Muscadet. 

At the very end there was just a hint of sweetness, just enough to make one take another sip. The flavors in the Asian slaw were not hot and spicy so there was no need for sweetness in the wine, but the remaining flavors were just about perfect with the minerality in this wine.  Really tasty wine.

2009 Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner.  12% alcohol and $18.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Looking East

I tried something new last night, and Asian slaw with seared Ahi tuna. It won't be the last time for this.

The slaw is Napa and red cabbage, pickled ginger, cilantro, red and orange bell pepper slices, green beans and crispy lengths of fried wonton wrappers.  The sauce was an amalgam of many things - Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, hot sauce, ketchup, ginger, garlic and more all whizzed through a blender until smooth and consistent.  The tuna was dusted with salt and pepper and black sesame seeds and then pan seared in a hot skillet for just a minute or so on each side and then sliced. 

The flavors were delicious but it was the texture that made the difference here.  I had been hesitant to use raw beans, but they added a needed fresh crunch while the wonton wrappers added a much different type of crunch.  The tuna was rich but the sesame seeds gave it some pop.  The cabbages were crisp and fresh and the pickled ginger seemed to pick everything up.

It took twenty minutes to cut everything up and make the sauce and three minutes actual cooking time for the tuna.  Delicious.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Bit of Summer on a Winter Evening

Several words can describe yesterday's weather here - nasty, rotten, disgusting and miserable are four that come immediately to mind.  The storm front that came through made this location the borderline between rain and snow so we had sleet, ice, rain and snow at various times.  To the north it was all snow and to the south it was all rain.

Therapy arrived via a bottle of 2004 Paitin de Pasquero-Elia,  Sori' Paitin Barbaresco.  The minute the cork came out of the bottle I knew this wine was a winner.  It was like unwrapping a bouquet of roses.  Barolo and Barbaresco have a reputation of smelling like roses and if I had to suggest a wine to exemplify that aroma it would be this one.  Brilliant red color with medium depth in the glass, the more one swirled this wine the more flowers came out of the glass.  The flavors were bright red berries and cherries overlaying just a touch of darker fruit.  The wine had strong and forward tannins but there was nothing harsh about them.  There was a tartness that balanced out the richness of the fruit, and the wine lingered on the back of the tongue for a good amount of time after swallowing.  On a nasty night this was indeed a treat.

2004 Paitin de Pasquero-Elia,  Sori' Paitin Barbaresco.  14% alcohol and $47.  One more in the cellar.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Riesling and Lamb

I'm always open to new things but serving a Riesling with lamb stretched even my imagination, but when all was said and done it worked well.

The Riesling was an Alfred Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese from the 2011 vintage.  Clean and crisp, precise, a little bit of electricity, a hint of sweetness, tart apples and minerals were just the start.  There was a bit of kerosene when first poured but that dissipated quickly. 

The lamb was a blade chop withe bones removed and the meat cubed.  After seasoning with salt and pepper it got a quick stir fry.  The lamb was removed from the wok and in went some asparagus sliced into inch lengths, some minced garlic, dried bird chilies and a tablespoon of minced, fresh ginger.  Next in was a couple of tablespoons of Shaoxing wine and then two tablespoons of hoisin sauce mixed with a bit of water. 

The heat from the chilies and the wine were perfect together.  I was a little afraid of the asparagus but the sauce made it much more compatible with the wine.  The combination is something that will be repeated.

2011 Alfred Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese.  9.5% alcohol and $20.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cold Weather Red

The grill, and more importantly the patio on which it sits, were snow covered so two lamb chops got the pan roasting method indoors. 

During the past eight or nine years I have consumed more bottles of wine from Kinkead Ridge than from any other producer.  They are local, delicious and affordable.  The latest was a 2008 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon and it forces me to make a blanket statement.  While red wines from this producers are drinkable and highly enjoyable when they are young they seem to hit their peak at five years out from the vintage. 

This 2008 Cabernet has lost it's jam like, up front fruit and picked up some more subtle flavors and some elegance.  Both the wood and grape tannins that give the wine its structure have mellowed making the acid appear a little more prominent.  The flavor profile has changed to include hints of cinnamon and graphite along with the dark cherries and black fruits.  There is also a definite hint of graphite in the nose.  The finish was always long, but now it is also complex.  This is a much more enjoyable wine than it was when it was released.  Patience in cellaring definitely paid off here.

2008 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.  15% alcohol and $21.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


The squirrels have been busy raiding the feeder tree and Scott has been busy chasing them.  Last night when I got up to pour a second glass of wine he took full advantage to steal what part of the afghan he didn't already have.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Onion Soup

One of my favorite chefs passed away earlier this week, Judy Rodgers from the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Her Zuni Cafe cookbook is one of my go-to references when I want something pure and delicious.

Today we have had sleet and ice and now we are in the early stages of a predicted 6 to 8 inches of snow.   What better day to make a large pot of Onion Soup with Tomato and Poached Egg.  The ingredients are simple: lots of onions, a bit of garlic and some thyme are cooked over low heat in a bit of duck fat until the onions are shriveled but still have a bit of tooth to them.  Chicken stock is added and a peeled and chopped tomato is the last ingredient.  When the soup comes back to the simmer fresh eggs are gently added and allowed to poach for three or four minutes.  Add some crusty rolls dabbed with some duck fat and roasted in the oven for a few minutes and this is a perfect antidote for a winter's day.

There was a small glass of Barbadillo Fino Sherry that only added to the pleasure.  There is soup left over and the weather looks to be terrible for three days.  I will be inside and happy. 

Monday, December 2, 2013


The second wine for the St. Andrew's Eve dinner was a Bouchard Aine & Fils Pommard, Premier Cru Les Charmots from the 2003 vintage.  Dinner was lamb chops grill roasted with herbs and mustard.

The wine was drinkable but some what marred by a bit of Brettanomyces.  Lots of swirling in the glass reduced it somewhat but even on the second day it was still noticeable.  Good body and a good sense of forest floor mixed in with the fruit, but the I would have preferred that the sweaty horse not walked through those same woods. 

Fortunately this was my only bottle of this wine, though I almost wish I had another just to see if it was only this bottle that was flawed.

If nothing else it was a good reminder of the aromas brett can produce.

The lamb chops were delicious.

2003 Bouchard Aine & Fils Pommard, Premier Cru Les Charmots.   Alcohol not listed.  $45. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

St. Andrew's Eve

The St. Andrew's Day party is this evening since there were other commitments for tomorrow.  There is some smoked Scottish salmon and a pate' of Scottish hare and a sparkling wine to start the evening.

The wine is a Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rose' from Cave de Lugny.  The wine is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay.  The wine and the salmon are very close to the same color.

Lots of dry fruit flavors with hints of strawberry Pop Tarts.  Brisk and refreshing and a happy wine for a happy day full of sunshine after a string of overcast days filled with snow flurries.

Cremant de Bourgogne Brut Rose' from Cave de Lugny.  11.5% alcohol and $15.  Great for the price. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Castle Rock Pinot Noir

Anyone like a great bargain?  There's one pictured above....

There was some braised beef short ribs for a cold night and a bottle of the 2011 Castle Rock Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.  This time the beef was braised in white wine and chicken stock instead of red wine and beef stock so it presented a much lighter and brighter profile.  No tomatoes were involved here either.  The wine had a wonderful aroma of fresh fruit and spice, and it fell in that wonderful middle range as far as depth, strength of flavor.  Fresh cherries with a bit of raspberry, a bit of cinnamon and vanilla, and a touch of earthiness gave it a great flavor profile.  Nicely balanced acid and long finished made it nearly perfect with the beef ribs.  Good wine and at $13 a great price.

2011 Castle Rock Willammette Valley Pinot Noir.  13.5% alcohol and $13.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Muscadet Vieilles Vignes

Of course there was wine to go with the swordfish from the post just below this one.  The wine was a 2011 Domaine de la Garniere Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie by Olivier et Pascal Fleurance.

All the usual adjectives apply here - stark, tart, austere, and salty, but this wine also had a different side.  There was a bit of melon here - not a lot, but a definite presence of a not perfectly ripe honeydew melon.  It certainly gave the wine a bit of complexity I wasn't expecting.  

Swordfish is a meaty fish and this bit of melon seemed to match up well with it.  It just gave the wine a bit more body and that made a difference here. Very nice match.

2011 Domaine de la Garniere, Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, by Olivier et Pascal Fleurance.  12% alcohol and $15.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


It had been awhile since I fixed swordfish, but there's nothing like a new recipe and a sale to move it back to the forefront.

The inch thick steak was cut into chunks and dusted with salt and white pepper.  It went into a pan along with butter and olive oil.  The pan temperature was kept no higher than medium heat.  Much like cooking scallops, the cubes of fish were tossed and basted with the pan juices for a couple of minutes.  In went some crushed fennel seed, a tiny bit of garlic, some grated lemon peel and some red pepper flakes.  A minute later some lemon juice went in to deglaze the pan.  Add some steamed basmati rice and a few fresh fennel fronds and dinner was served. 

The fish was very fresh, sweet and little briny and the fennel added an earthy and anise touch.  The lemon juice kept things fresh.  Very good meal.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2009 Castiglion Del Bosco

I had just about exhausted my supply of the 2006 Castiglion Del Bosco Rosso Di Montalcino when the 2009 vintage showed up on the store shelves.  The store also had a bottle open for tasting, and after sipping a glass four bottles came home with me.

The wine was a medium ruby red in the glass and wasted no time gushing out aromas of tart red cherries and Tuscan dirt.  This was just about a perfect balance between intense fruit and dry earthy flavors.  The tart cherries were shining here but the earthy tastes let one know that this wasn't just a fruity wine.  Great acid and drying tannins supported all this. 

I opened another bottle at home that night to drink with two lamb chops that just came off the grill.  They were grilled on one side and then turned over and basted with a mixture of olive oil, Dijon mustard, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme while they grilled on the second side.  They were joined by some faro cooked in chicken stock.  I added some chopped, toasted pecans to the faro after draining the remaining liquid. 

The rich, gamey flavors of the lamb and the fresh fruity flavors of the wine were near perfect together.  The earthy undertones of the wine matched equally as well with the herbs on the lamb.    Both made each other better.

2009 Castiglion Del Bosco Rosso Di Montalcino.  14% alcohol and $22 with a discount.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

1997 Rioja Reserva

I'm still working on clearing storage space and the 1997 Marques de Grinon Rioja Reserva was the latest victim of the purge. 

Dinner was a rack of pork ribs, lightly seasoned and then smoked for three hours on the grill over hickory chips.  I normally do a strong seasoning when fixing ribs in this manner but I was missing several ingredients for the dry rub so these were a little mild.  Still, they were strong with smoked paprika (pimenton). 

I opened the wine about half an hour before eating.  There was very little going on here other than a medium, brick red color.  The wine as closed and not offering much so I decanted half of the bottle and gave the wine already in my glass some serious swirling.  Finally I got the dry, Spanish earth aromas that appeals to me in Rioja.  The tart red fruit was next to show up.  The flavors were clear and precise but were in the 'just ripe' range.  There was no intent to make a dark, extracted monster here.  Great body and high acidity.

This was very much a middle weight wine as far as the body and the ripeness level.  The longer it was open the better it got.  By the end of the meal it was showing its best with hints of spice and and fruit and that sense of earth.  Good wine and fairly priced.

Marques de Grinon Rioja Reserva, Coleccion Personal.  13% alcohol and $24.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


There are two milestones today.  Most important is the wine, a 2010  Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne from Domaine Long-Depaquit.  Historically there are seven Chablis vineyards that carry the Grand Cru designation.  Since Chablis is my favorite white wine and since the Chablis Grand Crus are still somewhat affordable I have managed to enjoy at least one bottle from each of them over the years.

Moutonne is the western corner of another grand cru, Vaudesir, at its border with another, Les Preuses.  It has a single owner in Long-Depaquit and the wines have always been classified as a Vaudesir grand cru.  In the last few years the French authorities have relented and allowed them to drop Vaudesir and simply list the wine as Moutonne, thus creating in theory and eighth grand cru.  After a two year search I finally located two bottles of what is now the smallest by far of the grand crus.

I opened one bottle to mark the second milestone, post number 1000 in this blog.  I originally had a different wine that I intended to open, but when the realization hit me that this would be post number 1000 I opted for the Chablis.

The color was bright and clear and the aromas were unmistakably Chablis.  Mineral aromas and the smell of summer rain on dry limestone overwhelmed everything until some crisp apple fruit began to appear.  The wine was full bodied and comforting in the mouth but the tremendous acid kept it from feeling tired or flabby.  Lots of apple and spring herb tastes.  There seemed to be a bit of oak in the finish which kept the wine from being too steely, but I am not a fan of oak flavors in Chablis. That is a small quibble on an otherwise wonderful wine.

There were oysters and day boat scallops for dinner and there is no better match.  My happiness quotient was off the scale.  The other bottle will rest for a few years and I'll try this menu again.

2010  Chablis Grand Cru Moutonne from Domaine Long-Depaquit.  13% alcohol.  $75.00

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

First Snow

Sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;
And after summer evermore succeeds
Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold:
So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.

William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part II
The first snow of the season was last night and summer's last survivor, the Butterfly Argyrantheumum, was covered with it this morning. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kinkead Ridge Riesling 2007

For the last couple of years there's been no Riesling produced by Kinkead Ridge due to weather, grapes, etc.  That meant it was time to crack open some of the older vintages of this wine.  Dinner was chicken legs marinated in lime juice and olive oil and pan roasted in the oven with tomatoes, onions, Serrano peppers and a little bit of garlic. 

The wine was a beautiful golden color in the glass, showing its bottle age.  The aromas were mostly lychees and limes with a bit of sweet apple tossed into the mix.  The acid was up front and tart and  carried the apple flavors, which tended most toward golden delicious.  A bit of residual sugar kept the acid in balance.  The finish was sweet apples all the way to the end and it took awhile for the finish to fade.  I've come to the conclusion that bottle age on any of the Kinkead Ridge wines is a good thing.  They're easy to like and drink immediately but for me their sweet sport is five years out from the vintage.  This wine drove away the melancholy from the post below. 

2007 Kinkead Ridge Riesling.  11.8% alcohol.  1.2% residual sugar.  38 cases produced.  $12. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Bit of Melancholy

It is definitely nearing winter here -- not so much in temperatures, but certainly in the amount of daylight we receive.  Soon only the pines will have foliage.  I don't mind winter as much as I mind November. It's certainly an omen of things to come with the darkness of winter.

Already I am missing fresh herbs from the garden, ripe tomatoes instead of the poor substitutes now appearing in the market, fresh berries that aren't flown in from Chile, fresh salad greens that aren't from California or from a hydroponic farm, and a few other things. 

On the other hand the apples are at their best right now as are winter squash and other fall vegetables, but we are still more than a month from the start of the best citrus fruits of the seasons. There are some new herb plants sitting in the sunshine coming through the windows that I'll nurture and use sparingly this winter before replanting them outside in the spring.

Time for some wine.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Spring Chardonnay

There was a very interesting wine to go with the chicken, pasta and chanterelle mushrooms described below.  The wine was a 2010 Spring chardonnay from the Bunter-Spring Winery.  The wine was from the Windsor Oaks Vineyard in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma.  It's not a wine that is in wide distribution. The wine was part of a three bottle lot in a silent auction last April at an event I was attending.  I was the winning bidder. 

I was pleasantly surprised.  The first sip was light and refreshing and almost had a Chablis like quality to it.  Green apple and lime flavors were dominant and the acid was great.  In the mid-palate the wine broadened quite a bit and some pear flavors and just a touch of pineapple crept into the mix.  The length was moderate and ended with a bit more acid.  Good wine with pasta and mushrooms. 

Lots of details on the label and I like that also.  Ingredients: Chardonnay grapes, water, tartaric acid and sulfur dioxide.  Wild yeast was used for fermentation.  Not fined.  Not filtered.  Residual sugar is 0.2 g/L. mph of 3.44.  Total Acid 6.63 g/L. Volatile acid 0.37 g/L.  13.8% alcohol. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fresh Chanterelles

Fresh Chanterelle mushrooms made an appearance at the market over the weekend.  They weren't inexpensive but they were certainly delicious.

After a gentle cleaning they were slice into large chunks and sauteed in clarified butter and a bit of olive oil until a good part of the moisture was gone and they were meaty and delicious.  A chicken breast was pan seared in another skillet and then tossed in the oven.  When it was done and resting under foil some shallots went into the skillet along with the remaining butter from the mushrooms.  A splash of Cognac de-glazed the pan and then it got a bit of chicken stock.  Once that was reduced in went some cream and a quick grate of nutmeg. Next in was some freshly made and cooked pasta. 

The pasta went on the plate, the chicken breast was sliced and put on top of the pasta and the Chanterelles went on top of the chicken.  A quick wisp of cheese finished the plate.  In the end I'm not so sure that the chicken was needed because that was the only thing left on the plate when dinner was finished.  The fruity flavor and meaty texture of the mushrooms were just about perfect. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Kinkead Ridge 2010 Syrah

It's been a strange few days to end October and get into my least favorite month of the year, November.  We had torrential rains and strong winds for the last eight hours of October, and while November dawned with some sunshine it soon turned gray, damp  and very cool.  It was time for some winter food and winter wine.

I slowly braised a few pounds of meaty, beef short ribs with onions, tomatoes, herbs, celery, carrots, wine and beef stock.  This is always a good way to fight back against winter because it slowly warms the house and produces all sorts of comforting smells.   Some mashed potatoes with chopped scallions and a small bit of horseradish mixed in and a small salad completed the menu.

The wine was one which had been resting in the cellar for more than a year since its purchase, a 2010 Syrah from Kinkead Ridge.  I loved this wine when I purchased it and this was the first of four bottles that I opened to drink.

My intial reaction when I purchased it was:
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. 
The electric purple is gone, having darkened and matured.  The black plums are still there, as is the white pepper, but some dark cherries have joined the mix.  The oak flavors have mellowed and integrated and now seem more like vanilla and cinnamon highlights. The finish remains long and pleasant and the tannins are just enough to clear the palate for the next sip.

With the short ribs it was almost a match from heaven.  Together they were strong flavored but balanced and a perfect warming antidote for the cold, damp days and nights to come. 

2010 Kinkead Ridge Syrah, Ohio River Valley.  14.8% alcohol.  $21.  91 cases produced.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fresh from Alaska

Thanks to the partial shutdown of the US government the start of the King Crab season in Alaska was delayed a few days. The government issues the permits the crabbers need and without those permits the boats stayed in the harbors. 

Good things are worth waiting for and that applies here.  The two legs pictured above were steamed on the boat, chilled without being frozen and put on a plane to quickly make their way here.  After the five week or so season king crab is only available frozen.  There is a remarkable difference in both taste and texture.

Because the quota was higher this year there was a price drop.  Last year the price approached $50 a pound, but this year it dropped to $37 a pound in the local market.  Last year I bought none and this year I at least jumped back in for a small order. 

I reheated the legs in parchment paper in a microwave at 50% power for five minutes, poured the fantastic Chablis discussed below and only added a small baked potato and a small salad.    All wonderful things.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chablis Vaillons

"O Oysters, come and walk with us"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk.
 Along the briny beach.."

Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass - The Walrus and the Carpenter
The wine was a 2007 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons.  The location was the midwest of the United States but the sensation was a salt marsh by the ocean with the wind blowing in from offshore.  Salty, refreshing, tart and crisp, invigorating, appetite inducing and comforting all at the same time.  Salty sea and limestone aromas sat atop a taste of pink grapefruit, lime zest and super crisp apple.  Extremely high on the pleasure scale.

2007 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Premier Cru, Vaillons.  13% alcohol and $45.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Petit Sirah & Sangiovese

There is a litter of Gordon Setter puppies only a few miles from me and it was time to visit them.  My visit had an additional purpose -- there was wine involved.   One of the owners of the litter makes a number of small batch wines each year and several folks had said that he does a good job.  It was time to find out.

The wines are made from purchased grape juice shipped in from areas more hospitable to growing grapes, though there is a just planted small vineyard on the property.  The wines I tasted were surprisingly good for the most part, though there was one that didn't work for me.  The two best were a petit sirah from 2012 juice and a sangiovese from 2011 juice.  Both tasted true to their varieties.  The sangiovese had the bright, tart dry cherry flavors that I love so much in a Chianti and the petit sirah had the brambly blackberry flavors and grape tannin that go along with the grape.  Both are young but these are wines to drink fresh and that's just what I did.  I brought a couple of bottles home with me as well.

The puppies?  Absolutely delightful of course.  It had been a long time since I sat down and played with nine, eight week old youngsters and they were in full play and attack mode.  My only mistake was wearing shoes with laces.  I picked up some new show laces yesterday after writing the original pair off to the experience. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Michel-Schlumberger - A Small Vertical

Having spent way too many years reading about wine one subject always fascinated me - a vertical tasting.  A vertical is simply tasting a number of vintages of the same wine at one sitting.  It has always been on my bucket list of life.

We did that Saturday evening with a group of friends when we grilled some steaks and opened five vintages of Michel-Schlumberger Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley.  The vintages ranged from 2004 through 2008, not a huge selection but certainly enough to get an idea of the similarities and differences in a closely related group of wines.  All of these wines came direct from the winery over the course of several years and had been resting in my cellar.

We opened the wines and tasted small samples while the steaks were on the grill.  They were tasted in a youngest to oldest order. There were differences but the similarities far outweighed them.  All the elements were there, dark cherry and red cherry flavors, leather, earth, tannin, and spices, but the proportions were different.  There were definite opinions formed before dinner, but when food became involved some of the opinions changed.

In the end, with six people expressing an opinion five people named the 2007 vintage as their favorite while one opted for the 2005 vintage.  The choice for least favorite was unanimous for the 2008.

Educational and fascinating......

Read more by clicking on "Read more" below

Friday, October 18, 2013

Happy Leftovers

During our recent cold and very damp period of weather I braised a large piece of beef chuck.  The  problem with this is there is always way too many leftovers when braising.  After three small meals from the roast there was still a thick chunk left that sat in the refrigerator for several days more. 

Two nights ago I lit the grill and tossed on a couple of chicken pieces that were thawed from the freezer.  It had been a few days since I had been to the market so it was thaw or stay hungry.    This also meant that there weren't any scraps to mix into the dog food that would be set down for Scott, pictured above. 

When the chicken was done and off the grill I decided to sacrifice the rest of the braised beef roast.  I took the beef and put it on the grate above the fire.  The vents were closed so the fire quickly went out and the beef warmed thoroughly over the residual heat while I ate the chicken.

After dinner I removed the beef and started to slice it up to go into the dog food when I tasted a thin slice.  The residual heat and the smoke from the grill was the perfect finish for that piece of meat.  It was just enough smoke to make it interesting and the beef was tender and moist.  The dog's dinner turned out to be better than mine.

Next time I will braise the beef a day ahead of time and and then reheat it on the grill. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Gruvee in this sense is Gruner Veltliner and to be very specific the wine was a 2010 Weingut Brundlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Gustabfullung from Austria.

Dinner was a fresh halibut filet seared in a skillet and then roasted briefly with thin slices of prosciutto ham.  The modest sauce was white wine, lemon juice, butter and capers.

The wine was under screw cap and got a slight chill.  When it hit the glass it was a borderline sparkling wine with tons of bubbles that lacked enough energy to rise to the surface.  Kerosene aromas were strong here, and it took a minute or so for that to fade to earth and mineral aromas.  Sharp and prickly on the tongue the wine was initially devoid of fruit, and it was a good twenty minutes before lime and kiwi flavors emerged.  The kiwi taste was interesting as it had a very sweet sensation to it that was immediately smacked down by the tartness of the lime.  These two flavors went well together but they weren't exactly friends.

Delicious and appropriate with the richness of the fish and the saltiness of the prosciutto.

2010 Weingut Brundlmayer Kamptaler Terrassen Gustabfullung.  12.5% alcohol and $14.

The bottle is pictured below

Monday, October 14, 2013


Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun.....     Pablo Picasso
 Yellow fall flowers with a few summer stragglers.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cote Rotie

I'm still in the process of clearing cellar space by drinking some wines that I've held for some time that promised to be ready. The latest one consumed was the 2000 E. Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde. 

There was heavy sediment clinging to the sides and the bottom of the bottle so the first half of the bottle was decanted through a steel mesh strainer and the second half was put under vacuum immediately.  The color was a deep ruby with just the beginning of an orange glow on the edges of the glass.  I used the largest glasses for this wine and stuck my nose in.  No question that this was a northern Rhone wine just from the aromas of raw, red meat, smoky bacon fat and leather.  Intense swirling finally cleared some, but not all, of the smokiness and revealed deep scents of black cherries and black olives.  The taste more than reflected those aromas.   This is a full bodied wine with grace and elegance and a wonderful mouth feel thanks to both sweet and dry tannin that coated the tongue.

Dinner was a large porterhouse beef steak grilled to the rarer end of medium rare with minimal seasonings of salt and pepper.  There was also a baked russet potato with cultured butter and black truffle salt.  By the time the potato was baked and the steak had rested the wine changed.  The black cherries were now the dominant flavor and there was a slight hit of blackberries thrown into the mix.  There were suggestions of both cinnamon and vanilla, but the still present leather, raw meat and black olives added some complexity.

I think this wine was perfectly aged and ready to drink, even though I think it will be a few years before it starts downhill.  Try as I might over the course of the meal I could not save the second half of the bottle.  The vacuum stopper came out and I poured another glass.  I was able to find a half bottle and pour enough for one glass into it.  It got the vacuum stopper and I drank what remained in the decanter.

2000 E. Guigal Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde.  13% alcohol and $60.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Golden Beets

A trip to the farmers' market yesterday resulted in my bringing home a large bunch of golden beets.  A few of them went into the oven and were roasted and one of those served as the appetizer and the salad for dinner last night.

After roasting they were peeled and sliced.  They got a little bit of salt, a few drops of olive oil, and some crumbles of fresh goat cheese coated in ground black, white, green and pink peppercorns.  I also picked some salad burnet from the garden and the light cucumber taste of the leaves was a nice counterpoint to the beets. 

There some golden borscht in the works with the as yet unroasted beets.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chateau Carbonnieux 2004

What to drink with two Colorado raised lamb chops and some slices of roasted butternut squash and some fresh spinach?

The answer turned out to be a 2004 Chateau Carbonnieux from Pessac-Leognan area of Bordeaux. 

I have a long history with this estate and just about all of it is positive, and this one was certainly no exception.  It was true to form and exactly what I was expecting when I opened the bottle. 

Of all the Bordeaux areas the Graves region, of which Pessac-Leognan is a part, has always been my favorite.  There seems to be more minerality to the wines from that area;  more earthiness and less up front fruit. 

The aroma was full of earth and leather with hints of graphite.  The upfront taste was cherries, a bit of tobacco, a suggestion of oak and a bit of blueberries.  The tannins were soft and warm.  This is far from being a heavyweight wine but there is an elegance and a liveliness that just makes it flat out enjoyable to drink.  The earthiness really kicked in on the finish to this wine. 

Remarkable with the gaminess of the lamb, which was grilled on one side and then flipped over.  A mixture of Dijon mustard, olive oil, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme and just a tiny bit of garlic was slathered on the first side while the second side face the heat of the grill. The herbs and mustard added an extra dimension. 

The second day the wine was paired with some roasted chicken legs and thighs and some faro cooked in chicken stock.  It was better with the lamb but it was delicious with the chicken as well. 

How long have I been in love with this estate.  The third litter of Gordon Setters that were born here in 1984 all had names starting with the letter "C."  One of the young ladies was named Dunbar's Carbonnieux.

2004 Chateau Carbonnieux Rouge  13% alcohol and $40.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Port for Autumn Evenings

A week or so ago we had an early cool spell here. The days were cool and sunny and the evenings clear and brisk.

After a small supper I opened a bottle of Warre's  Vintage Porto from the 1994 vintage.  It had been sitting in the cellar with one of its litter-mates for more than ten years so I made the decision to open one of them.

The wine was still young, but there were wonderful flavors of sweet, dark plums, the blackest cherries possible and a hint or two of  dark chocolate.  Those flavors kept changing over the course of an hour or so with the cherries coming to the fore, then the plums and then back to cherries.  It was on the dry side for a vintage port and I found that aspect very attractive.  The finish was long and sweet and yet remained refreshing.

On the second evening the traditional port accompaniments made their appearance.  I halved and cored a ripe pear and tossed it on the grill with the cut side down.  After a minute or so I turned the pears and filled cavity with some Stilton cheese.  The lid went on the grill until the cheese melted into the pear.  When the pears came off the grill some toasted walnuts were added.    What a great pairing with this wine.  It certainly brought out the plum flavors and a little bit of earthiness.

On the third evening there was still one small glass left and dessert was several squares of 60% cacao dark chocolate sprinkled with sea salt.   That was a wake up call for the cherries.

The remaining bottle is still tucked away and I think it will rest for at least another five years since the first one was in excellent condition and still young.  Great stuff.

1994 Warre's Vintage Porto.  20% alcohol and $55 dollars about ten years ago.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Slippery Jack Mushrooms

Joy, anger, grief, delight, worry, regret, fickleness, inflexibility, modesty, willfulness, candor, insolence - music from empty holes, mushrooms springing up in dampness, day and night replacing each other before us, and no one knows where they sprout from.  Let it be.  Let it be.

Chaung-tzu - Discussion on Making All things Equal
I found these slippery jack mushrooms growing under a pine tree this morning while the dog and I were out for a walk.   They appeared to be the first of many so a return trip to that spot is in order.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tri-Tip Roast from the Grill

I needed a second red wine meal to finish the Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhone discussed in the post just below this one and the market cooperated with a sale on tri-tip roast.  It received a salt rub for two hours, was dried off and placed over direct heat on the grill.  Four minutes is all it took for the first side, and it took another four for the second side.  It was moved off the heat to a cooler section of the grill and the lid went on the grill for another five minutes.   I don't think there is another beef roast that cooks as quickly as tri-tip.  It rested for five minutes and was carved into thin slices.  The slices in the picture were from the thicker and more rare end of the roast.  The narrower end came out medium. 

Strozzapreti with sour cream, cheese and lemon zest along with fresh tomatoes with olive oil and basil finished the meal. The wine was equally as good with the beef as it was with the lamb chops on the first night.  Twenty-four hours under vacuum did nothing to harm it. 

I also managed to snag the last bottle of this wine from the store where I bought the first bottle.  It seems I wasn't the only one in this area who liked it.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Domaine de la Solitude

Many more than several years ago I had a good run with Chateauneuf du Pape and Domaine de la Solitude was among my favorites.  In fact, it was a Chateauneuef du Pape that was my first experience with a wine that made me stand back and be amazed at how good wine could be. That wine was a 1957 Paul Jaboulet Les Cedres.  A friend who was a wine merchant purchased an old cellar and there were several bottles of that wine in the mix.  I bought all three and drank them over the course of the next few years.  Old and faded notes tell me that the last one was consumed in 1980.

I fell out of love with Chateauneuf du Papes when their alcohol content and extraction  started soaring and I have only two left in the cellar.  The same thing happened to Cotes du Rhone in the last ten years.  Too many of them are too big for me now and some of their appeal is gone.

It has been quite some time since I saw a Domaine de la Solitude in this area and when I saw this 2010 Cotes du Rhone I had to bring one home and try it.  It made me very happy to find that it was not over the top in any way.  It was fresh, alive, moderate in both alcohol and flavors and was fantastic with a couple of grilled lamb chops.  Everything was in balance here - the fruit, the tannin, the acid.  It did not lend itself to introspection or deep thought, it just made the food taste better.  Good wine - good bargain.

2010 Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhone.  14 % alcohol and $13. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


The surprise wine of the pig roast was the 2012 River Village Cellars Ohio River Valley Traminette, the second label for Kinkead Ridge Vineyards.  The grape is a new world hybrid of Gewurztraminer.  This version had 2.1% residual sugar.   The aromas were flowers and spices with plenty of nutmeg and allspice.  There were some sharp flavors of peach and pear and  underlying flavors of lemon zest. 

Where this wine shined was with the Jamaican jerk sauce that was one of the options for the pork.  This was not a subtle sauce at all.  It was a pureed mixture of green onions, a big handful of fresh ginger, a healthy dose of just ground allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, garlic, a bit of malt vinegar, molasses, brown sugar and soy sauce all highlighted by four Scotch Bonnet Peppers.  The food processor earned its keep with this concoction. 

For the first two days the sauce is way too hot to eat, but by the fourth day it was ready for the pork.  It was still very spicy but the allspice and nutmeg truly matched well with this wine and the residual sugar in the wine helped to tame the heat of the peppers.  Both the ginger and the fruitiness of the Scotch bonnets were clear and bright.

2012 River Village Cellars Traminette.  12.4% alcohol.  2.1 % residual sugar.  $12.  99 cases produced.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2007 Shypoke Charbono

There were several wines at the pig roast discussed in the post immediately below this one.  None caught the attention of the wine drinkers more than a 2007 Shypoke Napa Valley Charbono.  I drank several bottles of this variety more than twenty years ago, all from Inglenook. Early last winter I saw this Shypoke bottling on a tasting menu at a local wine store.  I was early for the tasting and had other appointments, but they sold me one of the six bottles they had available and I took it home and stored it for this pig event.

Some research on the internet showed me that this is likely the same vineyard that Inglenook used to produce their wine.  That good story can be found here.

So a few details:  there is likely less than 100 acres of this grape in the world and most of it appears to be in the Calistoga area of Napa Valley.  The grape is originally from the Savoie region of France where it goes by the name Douce Noir, translating as soft black

This is a very dark wine in the glass and the nose was full of black cherries and black plums.  It was a very fruity wine with those cherries and plums intermingling with a bit of pomegranate.  For such a dark and fruity wine there was good acidity and there was a ton of soft tannin.  The tannin didn't attack the mouth it just gave structure to the wine.  The finish was long and ended with a bit more fruit and just enough of the tannin to refresh the mouth for the next sip.  This wine made everyone happy. 

It was great with un-sauced pork from the pig, but the sweet sauces, the vinegar based sauces and certainly the Jamaican jerk sauce were not its best friends.  Still, it was definitely my favorite wine of the evening and one that made me smile.

2007 Shypoke Napa Valley Charbono.  14.1% alcohol and $30.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pig Roast

Busy weekend last and the results from the pig roast are pictured here.  The pig was 42 pounds and is shown on the roaster with apple wood smoke, resting on the table after cooking and being carved and 'pulled.'

It took a good crew to cook the pig and fix all the side dishes, and a small army to eat all the food.  There were numerous sauces to go with the porker from a mild, sweet tomato based one all the way to a fresh Jamaican jerk sauce full of habanero peppers.  Beer, wine, whisky, soft drinks and water added to the party.

The weather cooperated by being very cool and rainy at the start of the day to clear and pleasant by the time the pig had rested and was carved.   It was a great way to say hello to autumn in this area. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Talk Like a Pirate Day

No meed speak this day since it be International speak Like a scurvy pirate Day. Somehow thar gunna have to be spiced rum incorporated into dinner 'tis evenin'. So get wit' th' program 'n celebrate. 
I woe ye taste no meed that makes ye think 'o th' jolly roger flag.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Walleye and Kinkead Ridge

There was a sale on Walleye last week and it was less than 16 hours out of  Lake Erie. I had no desire to resist that temptation.  The results are above.  Some oil and butter were put in a clay baking dish and the dish put in a 500 degree oven until the oven came to temperature.  The fish was salted and dusted with white pepper and went in the dish skin side down and was baked for eight minutes.  It got a grating of lemon zest and some lemon juice when it came out of the oven.

The side dish was multicolored strozzapreti finished with some sour cream, grated cheese and coarse black pepper.  Red tomato slices with halved orange cherry tomatoes and basil finished the plate.

The wine was local also.  It was a 2011 Kinkead Ridge White Revelation, a blend of several varieties of white grapes including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino.

Crisp and fresh with some grapefruit flavors sitting on top of a bit of green melon and a few herbs.  Great acid to clean the palate and a good dose of minerality at the end to make it even more interesting.

Due to nasty weather this wine wasn't produced in 2012, but fortunately I still have a couple of bottles left of the 2011.  I'm starting to think this may be my favorite white from Kinkead Ridge. 

2011 Kinkead Ridge White Revelation.  13.5% alcohol and $15.  86 cases produced. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pickberry Red Wine

In two days our daytime temperature dropped from a humid 92 degrees for a high temperature to a dry 65 degrees for a high temperature.  Nighttime temperatures went from the mid 70's degree range to an overnight low of 42 degrees.  We went from chilled whites and rose' weather to big red weather in less than 48 hours.  I much prefer the latter scenario.

The big red I pulled out was a 2008 Ravenswood Pickberry Red Wine from Sonoma Mountain in California.  The wine is a blend of 59% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot.  The wine was deep garnet in color and nearly opaque.  The aromas were ripe berries and dark cherries mixed with a hint of earth and spice, but the fruit was very forward in the nose.  There was nothing reserved about the flavor, it was full on dark fruit flavors of cherries and black plums with a hint or two of pomegranate.  Tannins were doing their thing on the sides of the tongue and that kept the fruit in check somewhat.  At the end there was a good burst of acid that added a red quality to the fruit.  The length of the finish was a little short, but the wine was balanced and tasty and a great start for cooler weather and bigger wines.  This was a wine for a a good steak (pictured below). 

2008 Ravenswood Pickberry Red Wine.  13.7% alcohol and $45.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dinner Salad

If one is going to drink French rose' something from the south of France may be the perfect fit. And when it borders on being 'health food' so much the better.  The wine in the post immediately below was as suitable as one could get with the salad pictured above.

The ingredients were faro cooked in some chicken stock, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, Nicoise olives, blanched green beans and small chunks of oil packed tuna.  Everything was tossed with a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, Dijon mustard, an anchovy, Meyer lemon juice and salt and pepper.  A quartered boiled egg, some Romaine lettuce, lemon slices and a few crunchy bread sticks finished the plate. 

For a hot, dry evening it was definitely a refreshing change of pace.