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.