Sunday, March 31, 2013

Fontodi Chianti Classico

"Come boy, and pour for me a cup
Of old Falernian. Fill it up
With wine, strong, sparkling, bright, and clear;
Our host decrees no water here.
Let dullards drink the Nymph's pale brew,
The sluggish thin their blood with dew.
For such pale stuff we have no use;
For us the purple grape's rich juice.
Begone, ye chilling water sprite;
Here burning Bacchus rules tonight!"
Gaius Valerius Catullus

The wine last night was a 2006 Fontodi Chianti Classico, my last bottle from this particular vintage purchased several yeas ago.  Dinner was a flattened chicken bathed in fresh thyme, oregano, rosemary, garlic, fennel and olive oil.  It was a wonderfully fragrant meal and so was the wine. The aromas were tart fruit and dry summer earth. The taste was dry, tart cherries, precise tannins and that particular sense of earth that makes Chianti unique when made correctly.  This wine was more than correct - it was delicious. 

2006 Fontodi Chianti Classico.  14% alcohol and $28.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Three Barolos

Beef Barolo is a hearty winter dish and when the long awaited evening came  the weather decided to "winter" again.  Fortunately the snow came late in the day just as everyone was arriving back home from the dinner.

There were three Barolos with the dinner along with a Cabernet blend.  The wines were in no particular order so everyone sampled their way through them before dinner and then started the meal with their favorite.

The first bottle was the youngest, a 2004 Pio Cesare.  It seemed to be the most closed and would have benefited from decanting.  Lots of rich fruit and strong tannin in this wine and it seemed a little awkward.  It was like a teenager whose body is changing from childhood to maturity.  The parts were all there, they were all good but at the moment they didn't all go together.  Still this was a good and delicious wine that I would like to taste again in three years or more.

The second wine was a 2001 Giovanni Corino Vecchie Vigna.  This was moving into some serious territory at eleven years of age, but it was still young.  It had deeper flavors than the Pio Cesare and a different type of tannin, these being more fine grained and tight.  Again, decanting would have helped this wine tremendously and by the end of the evening it was really beginning to blossom.  Full fruit flavors of dark berries supported the tannin.  Good grip in the middle of the wine.

The third was the bottle I took to the dinner, a 2001 E. Pira & Figli,  Chiara Boschis, Via Nuovo which is pictured a couple of posts below this one.  This wine had an advantage over the other two as I decanted it early in the morning, cleaned the bottle and then decanted the wine back into the bottle.  The extra exposure to the air was a definite benefit.  This had the best fragrance with the quintessential roses being in full bloom beside a just paved highway and the tar that goes along with it.  Much earthier than the other two wines and not as deep.  There was an almost perfect balance between the fruit and the tannin here.  This wine had the longest finish of any of the three.

All together it was a delicious meal with three very good wines.  I would have loved it if the other two had been decanted.  I was particularly intrigued by the Corino and would love to drink another bottle of that one a few years down the road.  I do have one more bottle of the E. Pira in the cellar and it will get a year or two before I open it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Wine

The Barolo dinner last Sunday was excellent - good food, good friends, and some very good wines. 

Because the world is never perfectly ordered, let's start with the dessert wine, a 2001 Fattoria Lavacchio Riserva Vin Santo del Chianti Rufina.  Dessert wines are not something I do that often, but this one was quite interesting.

This wine is made by drying the grapes either on straw mats or in clusters hung in the rafters of the winery until they dehydrate.  Obviously this produces less wine, but it concentrates the sugar and makes a lush wine. 

It was a dark amber color in the glass and had an aroma of the freshest golden raisins.  The wine was definitely sweet and the first few sips it seemed perhaps a little too sweet.  The dessert the wine was paired with was a strawberry and rhubarb pan crisp which had a lot of acid from the fruit.  The wine and the dessert were made for each other as the fruit knocked down some of the sweetness in the wine and the wine mellowed out some of the acid in the dessert.   Fascinating combination.

More on the Barolos shortly...

2001 Fattoria Lavacchio, Vin Santo del Chainti Rufina, Riserva.  14% alcohol and $30 for a 500ml bottle.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Calm Before the Storm - Literally

Gray and overcast this morning, but that will change soon as near blizzard conditions are just west of us and heading this way. In spite of that there is a Baraolo dinner planned for this evening and I just double decanted the wine I am putting in the mix with several others. It was uncorked and slowly poured into a decanter leaving the sediment behind. I rinsed the sediment out of the original bottle and then decanted the wine back into the bottle and vacuum sealed the bottle.  Of course I poured a wee dram into a glass.  The wine is a 2001 E. Pira & Figli,  Chiara Boschis, Via Nuovo.

Very closed up, but after half an hour it is hinting at ripe fruit, flowers and earth.  Very modern in style at the moment, but time will tell.

The worst of the weather conditions are not due in until much later in the day after the dinner.  If the weather arrives early I'll be staying home and this bottle will get my full attention while the snow blows (up to fourteen inches) and the winds howl (35 to 45 mph gusts).  

Friday, March 22, 2013

Steak and Red Wine

Did you ever see the customers in health - food stores?  They are pale, skinny people who look half - dead.  In a steak house, you see robust, ruddy people.  They're dying, of course, but they look terrific.... Bill Cosby
Yesterday was a 'looking terrific' day.  I have made a distinct effort to cut back on red meat and have been moderately successful, but when inch and a half thick rib steaks are on sale it's still hard to say 'no.'  A hot charcoal grill, a thick, fat strewn steak, lots of smoke, neighbors coming outside to sniff the air - it was a good evening.  And with steak there is almost always red wine.  The one in the glass is a 2006 Phoenix Ranch Napa Valley Syrah.  It was as good as it was the last time with a steak.

2006 Phoenix Ranch, Napa Valley Syrah.  13.9% alcohol and $30.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Top Form

Paraphrasing John "Hannibal" Smith from the old TV series The A Team, I love it when a wine comes together.  That's what appears to have happened to the 2008 Kinkead Ridge Ohio River Valley Riesling.  There was some left over pork and a lot of strange little ingredients that got combined into a spicy, Asian inspired, twice cooked pork dish with rice noodles for dinner. 

The first whiff of this wine was sulfur and kerosene and a little bit of the 'just struck match' aroma.  Ten seconds of swirling and that went away and was replaced by white peaches and  not fully ripe pears and just a touch of rain on dry limestone.  There was a great balance between crisp and sweet in this wine and that made it ideal with the meal.  Medium body and strength of flavors put it in great harmony with the food.  Neither dominated the other, they just got along like old friends reminiscing. The small bit of sweetness at the end was a good counterpoint to the heat from the four dried chiles that were in the multi-layered sauce. 

I've had a couple bottles of this wine previously, but this one was the best and though there are two more in the cellar this wine is great right now and at least one of the remaining bottles will be gone soon.

Kinkead Ridge Ohio River Valley Riesling.  12.1% alcohol, 1.2% residual sugar.  $13.  225 cases produced.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Budget Buster

There was a dinner of leftovers planned for Saturday but a trip to the local market changed things as the first truly wild salmon of the spring made an appearance.  In this case it was Columbia River King Salmon and since it is very early the fish are known as springers.  They enter the river in March though they don't swim upstream to spawn until autumn.  And since they don't eat once they enter the fresh water of the river they must have a super high fat content to sustain them until their trip. Springers are known to have a fat content as high as 22%, double what a farm raised salmon will have.  Their numbers are limited and that means the prices are high, around $48 a pound by the time they reach Ohio.  Pictured above is slightly more than half a pound.

With something this rich simple preparation is best.  It got some salt and pepper and was pan seared, flesh side down, in a hot skillet.  The fish was flipped and then spent five minutes skin side down in a 425 degree oven, bringing it to a melting medium rare.  A final sprinkle of Malden salt and a few drops of lemon juice and it became a small piece of heaven.

The wine needed to be bold to hold up against the strong flavors so I opted for a local white wine, a 2011 Kinkead Ridge Viognier - Roussanne.  There were wonderful aromas of spring blossoms and dried apricots.  The full body in the wine held up great against the fatty fish and the acid cleansed just enough of the palate to make one want to repeat the process over and over.  A lighter bodied white wine would have had some trouble here, but this wine made some beautiful music with the fish. 

2011 Kinkead Ridge Viognier Roussanne, Ohio River Valley.  14.2% alcohol and $17.  77% Viognier and 23% Roussanne.  110 cases produced.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Warm Evening

The air temperature wasn't warm, but there was certainly some heat in dinner last night.  Calling these items spicy salmon cakes is an understatement when one mis-measures the amount of of fiery, Thai chili paste that goes in the recipe.  A tablespoon went in the mixture of salmon, peppers, lemon grass, red onion, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, cilantro and ginger instead of the requested teaspoon.  The true measure lies somewhere between those two as these cakes were quite tasty, but they were definitely spicy.  They were served with a pyramid of black rice and some spinach wilted in some sesame oil and sprinkled with a few drops of black vinegar.  The topping on the cakes is a mixture of chopped, pickled ginger, mayonnaise, lemon juice and grated fresh ginger. 

Monday, March 11, 2013


Clean. Pure. Crisp. Refreshing. Precise.  Delicious.

2011 Cave de Gortona Sancerre.   12.5% alcohol.   $18. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kinkead Ridge 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Why is it that when there is a heavy snow storm, such as the one that hit this area leaving between eight and nine inches on the ground earlier this week, I get the urge to grill something?  It was a heavy, wet snow so that meant shoveling the path to the grill wasn't an easy task.  Perhaps it had something to do with a big sale on prime porterhouse steaks.

With a big steak one needs a big wine and so I decided it was time to try a 2010 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon that had been resting since coming home from the winery with me last September.  This is a thick, dark wine with powerful fruit aromas, mainly black cherries and black currants.  It took some swirling to get the wine to open up a little.  This is not a reticent wine, it's in your face with fruit, tannin and wood.  It's well balanced and tasty and it was more than good with the steak, but if you're looking for subtlety look elsewhere.  As good as it was with the steak it seemed even better with a baked potato with butter and black truffle fleur de sel.  The truffle aromas were really great with the wine. 

Two days later the wine had settled down a little and wasn't as big and I liked it better.  There are three more bottles in the cellar and they will wait at least another year before seeing the light of day, and I will decant them about two hours ahead of time. 

2010 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Ohio River Valley.  15.2% alcohol.  162 cases.  $20.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Last October I made a contribution to a local school to help with expenses for a science / engineering project.  The students were trying to build a hydroponic gardening system using recycled materials.  If they were successful they were going to share the harvest.  Among the other things involved was using heat from the sun, a few solar panels and a storage battery to run a small heater if it was too cold, and to run a few grow lights if it was too cloudy.   Since the project finally had some success (after a few early setbacks) pictured here is my first dividend from that investment - red oak leaf lettuce.  Next week I am expecting more lettuce and a few tomatoes.  It's not exactly the same a Community Supported Agriculture, but in late winter it is more than sufficient.

Last night I cleaned the lettuce and added a few mild ingredients and a light dressing for a very fresh salad.  The only problem is that it made me even more eager for spring. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Off the Wall

Sometimes it doesn't take much to pique my interest.  That was the case with this 2011 Domaine Nigri Confluence from Jurancon region of southwest France when I realized it was made of three grape varieties that I had not tasted before.  The wine was 80% Gros Manseng, 10% Camaralet and 10% Lauzet.  I was aware of Gros Manseng from having had wines made from its cousin Petit Manseng, but the other two were totally new to me. 

The color in the wine was a very pale gold and the aromas were pineapple spring rain.  The pineapple was there in the taste. The nose had led me to expect a sweetish and ripe taste but what I got was the flavor of pineapple with almost no sweetness.  There was also some honeydew melon aromas and flavors.  A little swirling and some waiting and the wine never did move from that profile.  Moderate acid and a small amount of tannin were present.  This was a nicely balanced wine.

Dinner was a chicken breast baked in parchment paper with some thyme, rosemary and goat cheese in the wrapper.  This wasn't the best match for the wine as this dish could have used a touch more acid, but the wine was still quite tasty.  On the second day it remained constant except that the acid seemed to have increased a little. 

Interesting wine and one I liked.  There are two more bottles to experiment with as far as matching it with food, but I'll give them a few months before trying another one.

Domaine Nigri Confluence.  13% alcohol and $18.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Spring Temporarily Postponed

And I was going to fire up the grill tonight. I still will fire it up, but first I will have to shovel a path to it.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Instant Spring

It has been a week since the sun shined in this area - or the clouds have permitted the sunshine to actually reach the ground.  It was time to take drastic measures and the quickest way to sunshine proved to be through a bottle of wine.  In this case it was a 2009 Graccher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett from Weingut Max Ferd. Richter.  This wine was spot on with its acidity and crispness and the light and airy feeling it left in the mouth.  There were aromas of citrus blossoms and wildflowers and a fresh citrus and crisp apple flavor.  A bit of residual sugar sitting on top of a dry, mineral taste kept things in balance. 

It took all day to drink the bottle, a late morning glass with a bite or two of smoked salmon,  and afternoon snack with a couple shrimp and some Gruyere cheese and a glass with a cheesy pizza for dinner.  The last glass was as good as the first.  This morning the sun is shining, and though it is going back to cloudy this afternoon I have a new remedy for cloudy days. 

As an interesting side note to the wine, it was purchased two years ago during a wine tasting with Dr. Dirk Richter from the Richter estate. 

2009 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Graacher Himmelreich Riseling Kabinett.  8% alcohol and $20.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shall We Dance?

I've been on a kick lately of opening bottles with some age on them, including the 1990 Hermitage discussed below.  Tonight was a 1996 Nuit St. Georges Les Fleurieres from Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron.  Dinner was an oven roasted chicken with black truffle butter rubbed between the skin and the meat and a mixture of  wild and white rice. For an hour and a half while it was roasting the house smelled wonderful, earthy and delicious.

I opened the wine about half an hour before dinner.  The color was a medium pale red with definite shades of orange on the rim.  The aromas were locked up tight for the first few minutes but then dark, red cherries and dry forest aromas began peeking out.  The first few sips seemed overly tannic and a little tired.  By the time dinner was ready the tannins eased and the fruit came to the the fore.  Halfway through the meal the wine finally got itself together.  The nose was wonderful with old fruit aromas and that bit of forest.  The tannins subsided to a supporting role.  The wine was not big and robust, but there was an unmistakable elegance to it.  The wine was Ginger Rogers and the chicken was Fred Astaire and there was a definite waltz happening between the two.   Nice wine that is probably just a bit beyond its peak, but wonderful to drink.

1996 Nuits St. Georges Les Fleurieres from Jean-Jacques Confuron.  12.5% alcohol and $60 eleven years ago.

Cold Winter Day

Winter keeps dragging on here, cold temperatures, gray skies, spitting snow. My mind and body are ready for spring.

Pictured are pinto beans soaked overnight then cooked with bacon, onions, carrots, celery and rosemary. At the very end two cups of red wine which was gently simmered down to half a cup was added.  Some olive oil and some grated Pecorino Romano cheese made for a warming late lunch before a light dinner.