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