Thursday, May 30, 2013


The edge of the sea is a strange and beautiful place.  All through the long history of Earth it has been an area of unrest where waves have broken heavily against the land, where the tides have pressed forward over the continents, receded, and then returned.  For no two successive days is the shore line the same.
 Rachael Carson.  The Edge of the Sea.  1955

Photo: Pacific Ocean at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California

Fontaine - Audon

In the past the wines for the Crustacean Celebration have been chardonnay based, primarily French.  This year we threw in a sauvignon blanc based wine, Chateau de Fonatine - Audon, a Sancerre from the 2008 vintage.

There was no mistaking the sauvignon blanc in this wine.  There were grassy aromas mixed with some citrus zest.  This was not a fruity wine at all, it was more about texture and minerality.  It was more about how this wine felt in the mouth than it was about how it tasted.  There were drying tannins and a sense of wet limestone that were very appealing.  The finish was long and dry.  This is a wine I liked but a wine that could have used just a touch more fruit in the taste.  Of course it had the disadvantage of being on the same table with the Les Preuses described below, and that would have been unfair to vast majority of wines.

2008 Chateau de Fonatine-Audon Sancerre.  13.5% alcohol and $32

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kinkead Ridge Spring Release

To end the holiday weekend yesterday we drove to Ripley, Ohio for the release of the 2012 white wines by Kinkead Ridge.  That they were able to release three white wines from such a dismal year for white grapes was remarkable, but it did require some adjustments to the usual line up.  Two of the three wines were released on a second label, River Village Cellars, because they contained grapes not grown in the KR vineyard. 

Only the Viognier Roussanne was released on the primary label and for this vintage the mixture was 68% Roussanne and 32% Viognier.  The blend is usually higher in Viognier than Roussanne (2011 being 77% Viognier).  There were great aromas of citrus peel, honeysuckle, and super ripe melons.  This was a full bodied wine with orange and light tropical fruit flavors and crisp acid to hold it together.  It's still a unique and pleasant wine.  14.8% alcohol, $17, and 91 cases produced. 

There was no white Revelation this year, instead there was a River Village white wine.  This wine is proof of how bad the vintage was for white grapes.  The wine is about 70+% Seyval, a hybrid grape not normally used here.  It was purchased and used for this vintage so that there would be wine available for sale. The rest was what the estate vineyard gave them, a little chardonnay, some sauvignon blanc, a little albarino and some semillon.  Crisp, sharp, and light with aromas and taste of grapefruit and herbs.  Medium bodied wine that just cries out to be chilled and poured on the patio on a spring evening.  Simple and direct and rather tasty.  13.3% alcohol.  $10.  160 cases.

The third wine was the biggest surprise to me in that it is a wine that I don't usually care for, Traminette on the River Village Cellars label.  This is another hybrid that has Gewurztraminer as one of its parents.  I have always found its flavors of ripe fruit and spices to be too agressive and a little funky.  This year it was toned down with the addition of the estate grown riesling and that had to be what made the difference.  It's still spicy with bits of nutmeg and cloves in the nose, but the riesling seems to balance out this vintage.  Definitely a wine for some spicy Asian food, and early this fall it will get a workout with a roasted pig and a spicy, Jamaican jerk sauce served on the side.  12.4% alcohol.  2.1% residual sugar.  $10 and 99 cases produced.

Al together - not the best whites I've had from Kinkead Ridge but considering the vintage the wines are not only easily drinkable they are still delicious.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Les Preuses

There were four white wines at the Crustacean Celebration on Saturday, three based on Chardonnay and one on Sauvignon Blanc.  In reality there was only one wine since the 2006 Domaine and Selection Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses, by Clotilde Davenne made the other three seem common.  Without reservation this was the best white wine I've had in several years.  There was restrained fruit, bursting minerality, tremendous body, almost perfect acidity, balance, a long lasting finish and a sense of class and elegance that is hard to find.  The acidity and the minerality took hold of the lobster and caressed it,  One didn't need anything else during the evening but to sit outside on a cool, beautiful evening and eat small bites of fresh lobster and sip this wine. 

The wine was six plus years old so the youthful impertinence I sometimes get from Chablis was gone and in its place was an evolving, sleek product that made me perfectly happy.  Just beautiful.

2006 Domaine and Selection Chablis Grand Cru, Les Preuses, by Clotilde Davenne.  13% alcohol and $85. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Crustacean Celebration

Yesterday was the annual lobster cookout with a group of friends and relatives. What started sixteen years ago with three people had now progressed to almost twenty - and since there were shrimp and calamari that came to the party we rechristened the event as the Crustacean Celebration.  Two of the guests of honor are pictured above shortly after emerging from the steamer.  Those two and more than 3000 of their compatriots caught a plane from Maine late Friday night and were set to go at 9:00 AM on Saturday morning. 

Lots of good food and a number of good wines and over the next few days we'll get into all of it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Barnett Vineyards Bliss

It would be impossible to find a day in this area where the weather could be more perfect.  The sun shone all day, the humidity was low, there were few, if any, clouds and the temperatures never moved past 63 degrees.  I spent the day pulling weeds, planting flowers and mulching some open areas --- and building a big appetite.

Just before the lamb chops hit the grill I pulled the cork on a bottle of 1996 Barnett vineyards, Spring Mountain District, Cabernet Sauvignon from California's Napa Valley.  This was the last bottle of this wine in the cellar and today seemed the perfect day for an older wine.

The color was still great with just the least bit of orange at the edges.  The wine was closed up at first but the nose soon opened up to be a veritable walk through a flower garden.  Blossoms and fruit and a touch of cinnamon literally filled the room.  The first sip was a little reticent but it soon opened up to a wonderful mixture of dark fruits, firm but inviting tannin, solid structure and just enough acid to keep everything in balance.  Balance is the key word here. The parts were all wonderful, but when they came together they were greater than any single part.  When Napa Valley restrains itself a little the wines can be magnificent, and this wine was as good an example as one will find.  Just about perfect.

The lamb was browned on both sides over hot coals then taken off the grill and painted with a mixture of Dijon mustard, olive oil and garlic.  A mix of fresh thyme and rosemary was scattered over both sides of the chops and then they were set vertically on the grill over indirect heat until medium rare.  Some roasted carrots, a small salad, some crusty rolls and a glass of the wine and we were convinced that every deity that is worshiped in the world came together to bless this meal.  I wish there was another case of this wine in the cellar.

1996 Barnett Vineyards, Spring Mountain District, Cabernet Sauvignon.  13.8% alcohol and $65 about twelve years ago.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kinkead Ridge

This coming weekend marks the release of the white wines from Ohio's Kinkead Ridge Vineyards,  the best of Ohio's wineries.  As is my habit in getting ready for the event I drank an older vintage.  In this case it was a white Revelation, a blend of a number of varietals, and a wine that because of a poor spring in 2012 won't be available from the 2012 vintage.  

The blush of youth and the electricity of a new wine is gone from this particular vintage and in its place there's a wine with depth, flavor and class.  The gangly edges are gone and it has grown into something beautiful.  It's very white Bordeaux in style with some grassiness, gooseberries, white peaches and some yellow figs in the flavor.  It's a medium bodied wine that can stand some hearty fare, but is still agile enough  to know its place as a compliment to food.  It's really drinking well right now.

It accompanied the plate pictured below.... blanched white asparagus, ripe Roma tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese, lightly smoked chicken breast slices, lightly blanched sugar snap peas, thin slices of salami, some marinated red onions, fresh basil and fresh lettuce.  The whole plate was dressed with a light vinaigrette with some pink peppercorns in the mix.   

2010 Kinkead Ridge White Revelation.  14.5% alcohol and $16.

Monday, May 20, 2013


In one sense it was a wasted weekend, but it was certainly a lot of fun.  The new Dan Brown book, Inferno, arrived on Thursday and I finished page 461 early Sunday evening.  I know of no one currently writing who can grab a reader's attention and keep it like Dan Brown.  Even if one puts the book down to do other things like tidy up the house, fix lunch or dinner, or make certain the canines get proper attention it's hard to leave this book alone.  When I walked by it, it kept calling to me to read just one more chapter.

Of course there are 'baddies' up to no good and good folks trying to stop them, but the problem here is trying to tell which is which.  The plot turns and twists in this novel are like a contortionist in a pretzel factory.  Along the way one picks up quite a bit of medieval Italian history and a good bit of information on Dante's Divine Comedy which serves as the centerpiece of the nefarious plot the baddies are trying to execute.  I had a great time stopping to check both Google and Wikipedia for info and pictures of some of the Italians referenced and the places visited by those in the novel.

Since this plot twists and turns so much I won't attempt  begin to describe it.  It's an easy two day read if one doesn't stop to check the internet for the people and places.  Fun - just plain fun.

Inferno by Dan Brown.  Doubleday 2013.  $29.95 and 461 pages.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chateau Guiot

Warm and summery here yesterday so it was good rose' weather.  The wine of the day was Chateau Guiot from the Costieres de Nimes in southern France.  The wine is blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah.  The color was almost electric red, looking almost like an old fashioned 'red pop.'  The nose was full of super ripe strawberries and a plum or two.  It was crisp and sharp and not as full bodied as the color suggested.  The strawberries were there in the taste, but so were pomegranates and it was a nice balance between the two flavors.  Good length to the finish.   

Dinner was some chicken thighs grilled over applewood for a slight, smoky flavor.  There was also a warm, French style potato salad dressed with olive oil, Dijon mustard, a bit of white vinegar and some fresh tarragon.  Great combination with the wine.

Chateau Guiot, Costieres de Nimes.  13.5% alcohol and $12.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Surprise Find

If one reads this blog for any length of time one will realize that I love Chablis and I drink a number of them from a multitude of producers.  There has been one producer that I have searched for in the local stores and/or some of the websites I visit and have never been able to find.   That changed in California when we stopped into a small market to buy some cheese for dinner and I wondered through the wine section.  There sat a bottle of Chablis from my missing producer - La Chablisienne, the cooperative in the Chablis region that usually produces high volumes of wine.

In this case the wine was a premier cru, Montmains, from the 2010  vintage.  Two days later we opened the bottle with some seafood.  Bright lively color and a somewhat reserved aroma filled the glass.  There was the tartness up front and a mellowness in the middle and that unmistakable minerality of limestone in the finish.  The body on this wine was a wee bit more full than I am used to and there was a light noticeable flavor of oak.  Delicious wine that I'm happy to have found, but not my favorite Chablis.

2010 La Chablisienne Montmains premier cru.  $25 and 13% alcohol.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Couple Restaurants

During the California trip there were a couple of restaurants  that I found more than good - so let's look at them in reverse order starting with Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar in downtown Healdsburg, California.  The name should tell you what you need to know about the cuisine, but the unique part of this restaurant is that it specializes in small plates meant to be shared among everyone at the table.  That allows for eating a wide variety from the menu while still keeping the price very reasonable.  Our table of three shared a plate of raw oysters and clams and some boiled shrimp.  That was followed by three entrees, a small plate of fish tacos, a lush macaroni and cheese filled with delicate bay scallops and my personal favorite pictured above, fried Ipswich clam strips with Shishito peppers, parsley and a lemon lime aioli sauce for dipping.  I would have been perfectly happy to eat three servings of those clam strips.  With drinks the tab was still less than $90. 

The previous day we were in Point Reyes Station in western Marin County north of San Francisco en route to beaches and a WWII era lighthouse.  This town could be used for filming a spaghetti western but it had a great restaurant in Osteria Stellina.  This is a small place across a side street from The Cowgirl Creamery, a producer of some of the best cheese in northern California.  The theme here is modern, rustic Italian inspired.  I opted for the pasta dish of garganelli, caramelized English peas, pancetta and Straus Family cream.  Warm, filling and flat out tasty.  A meal for three here was just under $75.  Interestingly, before returning home the Sunday edition of the San Francisco Chronicle put Osteria Stellina on its list of the top 100 places to eat in greater San Francisco. 

Full menus for both restaurants are at the links provided.

Still to come - wineries, wines, wildlife and two dogs.

Friday, May 10, 2013


The plane home has landed and the California trip is now a great memory.  I was in Marin County, about half an hour south of the start of the Napa and Sonoma wine areas - a very good place to be.  I managed to get to both areas, but there is never enough time to see everything one wants to see.  I visited a couple of old favorites and a couple of new places that are now on the favorite list.  There was way too much good food, and an equal amount of good wine to go with it.  Add in some good friends and it made for a wonderful trip. 

My new friend, above, dropped in to say hello while I was standing on the dock in a tidal creek that flows into San Francisco bay.  I admit that a quick vision of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds entered my mind. 

Lots of notes on food and wine to get to in the coming weeks. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pizza and Torrontes

Day two with the bottle of Torrontes discussed in the post immediately below this one was a bit better than the first day.  Sadly, it was better only because I put a thorough chill on the wine.  Once the wine began to warm a little in glass the saccharine taste returned. 

The pizza was done on the charcoal grill.  There was a good crust, tomato sauce, fresh sliced tomatoes, provolone cheese, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella cheese.  Some fresh basil was scattered over the top when it came off the grill.  The pizza was first class.  The wine wasn't.

I will be away for a little over a week doing some on site research in the northern California wine country.  I'm sure there will be a note or two when I return.