Monday, January 28, 2013

An Oxymoron

The oxymoron in the title is not the wine, it's the photograph of the 2009 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Langhe Dolcetto, Masante sitting in the snow.  Winter snow is as far from this wine as one can get.

This wine shouts summer from the first whiff after the cork is out to the last slap on the bottom of the bottle to try and force out a final drop or two.  This is crushed blueberries mixed with some strawberries and a stray raspberry or two for good measure.  There's some acid and there's a bit of tannin but mostly this is about ripe, summer berries.   There's an underlying bitter aspect also and that makes this wine fresh and racy and keeps it from being too one dimensional. It's a remarkable balancing act.

Despite the snow there was a thick rib eye steak from the grill and few potatoes cooked in duck fat from a skillet set on the same grill.  Summer meal and summer wine in the dead of winter. 

2009 Poderi Aldo Conterno, Langhe Dolcetto, Masante.  14.5% alcohol and $20

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Different Sense

How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea....  All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart.
Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek, Chapter 7

This wine wasn't really about taste, though it certainly had one.   What it had in taste was light fruit,  high acid and a sense of somewhere else.  It was certainly full of sea shells and sea spray and that was more a sensation in the mouth than a taste.  First with salmon and then with a cod and corn chowder it transported the mind from the American mid west to a cold, desolate sea shore where the wind is blowing and everything smells clean and pure.  And it did all this with a frugal heart of $10.

I liked it a lot.  I did.

2010 Stephane et Vincent Perraud, Selection des Cognettes, Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Sur Lie.  12% alcohol and $10.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


I went against my usual practices the other day.  I was braising some duck legs and vegetables and almost always I opt for a Burgundy or a pinot noir with that dish.   This time I went with a Bordeaux, a 2006 Chateau Larose-Trintaudon, an Haut Medoc cru bourgeois.  The wine was 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot and per the label spent a year in oak barrels.

This was a brick red wine with beautiful aromas of dark cherries and raspberries and just a touch of vanilla.  Medium body and mouth feel led to a strong black raspberry and cherry taste.  The taste was deeper than the bouquet led me to expect.  Good length and a soft, dry finish to this wine.  It was very good with the duck, but two days later the remains were even better with some braised short ribs.

This was a very fairly priced wine with true Bordeaux character and a wine that didn't try to be more than a sound, drinkable wine.

2006 Ch. Larose-Trintaudon, Haut Medoc cru bourgeois.  13% alcohol and $18.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tasty Dolcetto

We went red to go with the pork dish discussed below and it was quite a good decision.  The wine was a Domenico Clerico Lange Dolcetto, Visadi from the 2010 vintage.  I pulled the cork about two hours before dinner and this wine was totally closed up and offering nothing.  Out came the decanter and in went the wine.  Two hours later it decided to bloom a little.

Deep, dark purple in the middle, the wine had a bright purple edge to it - no shades of red here, this wine was purple.  Dark fruity aromas and some saddle leather aromas were predominant.  Full bodied with very dry and astringent fruit flavors.  There was a sweet sensation that was immediately balanced out by a bitter note, both sensations being highly noticeable but neither was overdone.  Long, dry finish on this wine.  The more time it spent in the decanter and glass the more fragrant and tasty it became.  There's another bottle in the cellar and it will get four hours breathing time when its cork is removed.   

I tend to do riesling with my pork and the acid balances out the fattiness of the pork, but this wine balanced the pork with astringency. It cut through the fat flavors of the pork and left the mouth ready for the next bite of meat.  Good wine.

201 Domenico Clerico Langhe Dolcetto Visadi.  13.5% alcohol and $17.  A bargain.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Simple Things

Unhurried food is sometimes just what I need and the pork roast pictured here was definitely unhurried.  It started the day prior when the pork shoulder (aka Boston Butt) was rubbed with a mixture of kosher salt, black pepper and brown sugar.  It was tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and went back in the refrigerator for twenty four hours. 

It came out of the refrigerator two hours before it went in the oven.  It was unwrapped, and excess salt was wiped off and it was allowed to rest.   It got a light dusting of salt and went into a 325 degree oven in a V rack set in a pan of water and it stayed there for five hours.  It was basted a couple of times with pan liquid and then allowed to rest for an hour after it finished cooking.  It was a clear and cold day with a north wind so the oven gradually warmed the back of the house and the aromas filled the same area.  The dog drooled every time he walked through the kitchen.

A crisp, salty-sweet exterior and a moist, unctuous interior just reeked of pure pork flavor.  The original recipe called for a peach sauce, but the pork was so wonderfully good I never got around to the sauce.  A small pasta salad and a couple of warm, hard rolls for soaking up juices was all that was needed for a perfect ending to the day.  Of course there was wine.....more on that later.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dry and Delicious and Inexpensive

Since it was founded in 1972 Dry Creek Vineyards in Sonoma County in California has been consistent in several things.  One of the things they've been most consistent at is producing a dry Chenin Blanc that is affordable and easy to drink.  Not only have they made this wine for all these years, but the style has remained consistent - stainless steel fermented and aged. 

The grapes for this particular wine come from Clarksburg in the Sacramento Delta where Chenin Blanc seems to do extremely well.  The wine is bright and happy with honeysuckle and melon aromas and a crisp flavor to match those aromas.  Uniquely different than chardonnay and sauvignon blanc and happily so.  It washed down some steamed cod with sesame oil, lemongrass and ginger flavors and did just as good a job with some cheese the next day.  Great value.

2011 Dry Creek Vineyards, Clarksburg Chenin Blanc.  12.5% alcohol and a true bargain at $9. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Older Kinkead Ridge

Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run.
John Keats, To Autumn

There were a couple of lamb chops and some potatoes fried in duck fat for dinner and I opted for an older wine.  There aren't a lot of older Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced in Ohio because until recently there weren't a lot of folks making them.  There were two bottles left of the 2004 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet so I opened one of them.

There was a mature nose of ripe fruit, and a mellowness that comes with some age.  There was a touch of oak, cinnamon and vanilla.  Wonderful, amalgamated fruit flavors that blended together red cherries and red plums with some underlying black currants.  The weight was medium and there was good acidity and a finish with a lot of length to it.  Nothing about this wine was over ripe or over done.  This was a fully mature wine that showed no signs of the blush or freshness of youth, but it certainly wasn't a faded rose.  It was still blooming and offering a great deal of pleasure.  With the lamb and potatoes there was definitely some three part harmony happening.  I put a couple of CD's in the player and Sonny Rollins, his saxophone and I finished the wine over the course of the evening.

Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.  13% alcohol and $18. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Local Wine, Local Food

With several good wineries in the area it is not difficult to drink local wines in the winter, but it is more difficult to eat local foods.  If one extends the range of local out to about 150 miles it becomes a little easier, and that's what we did.  We extended the range to Canada - particularly Lake Erie for some Walleye.  In Ohio Walleye is considered a sport fish and Ohio caught fish can't be sold commercially, so the Walleye in local markets comes from the northern parts of Lake Erie controlled by Canada.

The wine was easy, and it was a 2010 Kinkead Ridge White Revelation, a mixture of more than several white varieties but including sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, riesling, and albarino.  I liked this wine when it was released almost two years ago, and i like it even better now.  There's a ton of grapefruit in the nose and a bit of green hay.  There are great grapefruit flavors that are balanced out by some honeydew melon flavors and just a hint of sweetness to balance out some blazing acidity.  Refreshing, pleasant and fully together.

The walleye was skinned and the filets were dusted with salt and pepper and then pan seared on both sides in ghee in a hot skillet.  Once they browned lightly they were removed and a splash of the wine tossed into the pan along with unsalted butter.  For the last few seconds a small bit of dill went in and the pan sauce was ladled over the fish and it was sprinkled with some fresh chives.  There was a small salad and some rice cooked in a fish stock made with the walleye bones and head.  Just about a perfect match with the wine.  Dill can overpower things, but this was a perfect amount to flatter the crispness and the slight grassiness in the wine.  Good meal.

2010 Kinkead Ridge White Revelation.  14.8% alcohol and $15.  67 cases produced.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rioja Gran Reserva

The first true highlight of the year has come and gone, and with a little willpower I made it last two days.

That highlight was a Ramirez de la Piscina Rioja Gran Reserva from the 2001 vintage.  Amazing stuff.

The wine is 100% Tempranillo from 30+ year old vines.  After fermentation it spends two years in wood and then ages for three more years after bottling before its release. 

The first night was with a grilled, prime strip steak.  I decanted half the bottle two hours before dinner and vacuumed the remainder of the wine.  There were strong aromas of earth and herbs and spice sitting on top of a base of ripe fruit.  Super pleasant.  It was medium red color with a bit of orange at the rim.  Warm and wonderful taste of spiced fruit and earth and a sense of elegance and maturity.  The finish was lengthy.  With the steak the earthiness was pronounced and strong.  A great meal and it was very difficult to not drink the second half of the bottle.

The next night there was a plain, oven roasted chicken with carrots and onions and saffron rice.  On this night the earthiness of the saffron brought the fruit to the front of this wine.  The dryness of the wine matched well with the juiciness of the chicken, the wine cleaning the palate after the richness of the chicken coated the mouth.  It is impossible to pick a favorite meal with this wine since it was brilliant with both meals.  I hope this is an omen for a great year.  One more bottle in the cellar.

2001 Ramirez de la Piscina, Rioja Gran Reserva.  14% alcohol and $39.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Riesling for the New Year

From a food perspective the new year started with some pork ribs and sausages braised with sauerkraut, apples, onions, juniper, a little caraway and some apple cider.

More than anything that meal is just an excuse to open a good Riesling.  We did just that.  The wine was a 2007 Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Kabinett from the Mosel region.  The brashness of youth was gone from this wine, and it had settled into its late teenage years when the body tends to mature while the spirit stays young.

Sweet aromas of apples and peaches with some citrus zest led to smooth flavors of golden apples, a barely ripe peach and some sage.  The acid was a slap in the face to start and then the wine mellowed out in the mid palate before a little more acid finished things off in a refreshing manner.  Tremendous length of finish in this wine.

The acidity was dancing with the richness of the pork in this pairing while the sweet sensation of the fruit balanced out the acidity from the sauerkraut.  Delicious meal and a wonderful wine.

2007 Markus Molitor, Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, Kabinett.  8.5% alcohol and $21.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Prime Rib and Petit Verdot

During the holidays there was the usual extended family gathering that featured prime rib of beef.  There were four wine drinkers in the crowd so there were some good bottles. My contribution this year was a 2007 Michel-Schlumberger Dry Creek Valley Petit Verdot, a wine not made every year.

The wine was inky black and almost totally opaque.  Lots of blackberries, black currants and mulberries in the aroma and in the taste. On the first sip I was afraid the wine was going to be too jammy but there was some restraint here.  The acid was acceptable and the tannins were full but not overly drying.  Nice balance to the wine and it was one I liked.

The star of the meal, however, was a 2001 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was another big, dark wine but with a slightly different flavor profile.  This was full of dark cherries and graphite and a ton of oak and vanilla flavors.  There was much more wood to this wine and a much longer finish.   That finish was a tad too sweet for me, but this was still an outstanding wine.

2007 Michel-Schlumberger Petit Verdot.  $40 and 14.5% alcohol

2001 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon.  $100 and 14.5% alcohol.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


It wouldn't be a great holiday without a couple meals that featured beef so there were two meals featuring prime beef over the last couple of weeks.  The simpler of the two was a two inch thick, bone in, rib eye steak done on the outdoor grill during a time when it wasn't snowing.  It was quickly seared on both sides and then moved to indirect heat to finish cooking to a beautiful medium rare.

The wine was one that I had on hand for a year or more, but since it never made it onto the inventory list it was forgotten.  The wine was a Domaine Besson Givry, Premeir Cru, Le Grand Pretans from the 2008 vintage.  The wine had a beautiful color in the glass and a nose full of soft fruit and earth with some spice mixed in for good measure.   With medium body and medium depth of flavor there was nothing outstanding about this wine except for the fact that is was totally honest and completely delicious.  It never tried to be more than it was, a very good table wine at an affordable price. 

Domaine Besson, Givry Premier Cru, Les Grand Pretans.  13% alcohol and $18.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Year Number 6

Hard to believe but today, January 1, is the start of the sixth year of this out of the way resting place for electrons in the world wide web.  Some of the vines currently sacrificing their fruit to keep me interested were not even planted when this thing began. 

As a toast - here's a glass of Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut Rose, the California outpost of Louis Roederer.

The color is deceptive as this wine is not nearly as big and full as the color.  Good, dry fruit flavors, a yeasty nose and a sweet tart finish definitely say new world, but there is homage to the champagne here.  The blend is pinot noir and chardonnay from a very cool valley so that the tartness remains. 

American brut roses don't get any better than this.  Just delicious.

$30 and 12% alcohol.