Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

A few photo highlights of the year soon past.   Despite suffering through this long, lingering cold there will be a wee deoch an' doris and an off key and raspy chorus or two of Auld Lang Syne before bed.  Happy New Year to each of you.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Placeholder - A Yellow Flower

Sorry for the lack of updating here.  They day after Christmas I began developing a severe cold, an illness I have avoided for almost five years.  Each day, in almost every way, it has gotten more severe.  Wine and food are currently far from my mind and no one would want to read a blog about someone impatiently waiting for his next dose of medication.

There are several posts that are nearly completed but even putting them together is a chore.

Back soon, I hope.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

The holidays here got off to a wonderful start on Christmas Eve with cousins and other relatives and about twenty pounds of beef rib roast cooked all the way from rare to approaching shoe leather to satisfy the different tastes of the crowd. 

There were white wines to start the evening but when the beef was ready the "big boys" gave up their corks.  The two wines were both Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Reserve Cabernets, one from 1999 (14 years old) and the other from 1988 (25 years old).  Both were delicious, though both were probably just beyond their peak and beginning to go downhill.  That was particularly true for the younger wine. 

Both wines had the unmistakable aromas of prunes, and the younger wine held on to that aroma while the older wine eventually moved on to earthiness.  The younger wine displayed more fruit and deeper color and early on it was the favorite of the four who were drinking wine.  By the end of the meal the opinion turned and when all was said and done the 1988 was the star of the evening.

This wine had the earthiness one expects from the Rutherford area of Napa Valley and the fruit was a little less ripe.  It made for a wonderful balance and the the earth flavors matched better with the beef than the more forward fruit flavors in the 1999 wine.  I found the 1988 wine tasted younger than the 1999 wine by the end of the meal.  Good meal, good wines and good friends and family.

Merry Christmas to all reading this and best wishes for a great holiday season.

1999 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Reserve.  13.8% alcohol
1988 Beaulieu Georges de Latour Reserve.  12.6% alcohol. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner

Still licking my lips over the Asian slaw described in the post below, and the wine was an equal partner in that meal.

The wine was a 2009 Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner, Federspiel from the Wachau region of Austria.  The wine is biodynamic and proudly displayed its Demeter certification on the back label.

The wine was a bit reserved for a minute or two, but when it opened up it did so in a big way.  Lots of aromas of straw and earth with only a hint of tart fruit were followed by a very mineral taste with supporting flavors of tart, green grapes, a bit of grapefruit, and a hint of green apple.  The wine had a wonderful mouth feel and finished totally dry like a Muscadet. 

At the very end there was just a hint of sweetness, just enough to make one take another sip. The flavors in the Asian slaw were not hot and spicy so there was no need for sweetness in the wine, but the remaining flavors were just about perfect with the minerality in this wine.  Really tasty wine.

2009 Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner.  12% alcohol and $18.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Looking East

I tried something new last night, and Asian slaw with seared Ahi tuna. It won't be the last time for this.

The slaw is Napa and red cabbage, pickled ginger, cilantro, red and orange bell pepper slices, green beans and crispy lengths of fried wonton wrappers.  The sauce was an amalgam of many things - Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, hot sauce, ketchup, ginger, garlic and more all whizzed through a blender until smooth and consistent.  The tuna was dusted with salt and pepper and black sesame seeds and then pan seared in a hot skillet for just a minute or so on each side and then sliced. 

The flavors were delicious but it was the texture that made the difference here.  I had been hesitant to use raw beans, but they added a needed fresh crunch while the wonton wrappers added a much different type of crunch.  The tuna was rich but the sesame seeds gave it some pop.  The cabbages were crisp and fresh and the pickled ginger seemed to pick everything up.

It took twenty minutes to cut everything up and make the sauce and three minutes actual cooking time for the tuna.  Delicious.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Bit of Summer on a Winter Evening

Several words can describe yesterday's weather here - nasty, rotten, disgusting and miserable are four that come immediately to mind.  The storm front that came through made this location the borderline between rain and snow so we had sleet, ice, rain and snow at various times.  To the north it was all snow and to the south it was all rain.

Therapy arrived via a bottle of 2004 Paitin de Pasquero-Elia,  Sori' Paitin Barbaresco.  The minute the cork came out of the bottle I knew this wine was a winner.  It was like unwrapping a bouquet of roses.  Barolo and Barbaresco have a reputation of smelling like roses and if I had to suggest a wine to exemplify that aroma it would be this one.  Brilliant red color with medium depth in the glass, the more one swirled this wine the more flowers came out of the glass.  The flavors were bright red berries and cherries overlaying just a touch of darker fruit.  The wine had strong and forward tannins but there was nothing harsh about them.  There was a tartness that balanced out the richness of the fruit, and the wine lingered on the back of the tongue for a good amount of time after swallowing.  On a nasty night this was indeed a treat.

2004 Paitin de Pasquero-Elia,  Sori' Paitin Barbaresco.  14% alcohol and $47.  One more in the cellar.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Riesling and Lamb

I'm always open to new things but serving a Riesling with lamb stretched even my imagination, but when all was said and done it worked well.

The Riesling was an Alfred Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese from the 2011 vintage.  Clean and crisp, precise, a little bit of electricity, a hint of sweetness, tart apples and minerals were just the start.  There was a bit of kerosene when first poured but that dissipated quickly. 

The lamb was a blade chop withe bones removed and the meat cubed.  After seasoning with salt and pepper it got a quick stir fry.  The lamb was removed from the wok and in went some asparagus sliced into inch lengths, some minced garlic, dried bird chilies and a tablespoon of minced, fresh ginger.  Next in was a couple of tablespoons of Shaoxing wine and then two tablespoons of hoisin sauce mixed with a bit of water. 

The heat from the chilies and the wine were perfect together.  I was a little afraid of the asparagus but the sauce made it much more compatible with the wine.  The combination is something that will be repeated.

2011 Alfred Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese.  9.5% alcohol and $20.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cold Weather Red

The grill, and more importantly the patio on which it sits, were snow covered so two lamb chops got the pan roasting method indoors. 

During the past eight or nine years I have consumed more bottles of wine from Kinkead Ridge than from any other producer.  They are local, delicious and affordable.  The latest was a 2008 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon and it forces me to make a blanket statement.  While red wines from this producers are drinkable and highly enjoyable when they are young they seem to hit their peak at five years out from the vintage. 

This 2008 Cabernet has lost it's jam like, up front fruit and picked up some more subtle flavors and some elegance.  Both the wood and grape tannins that give the wine its structure have mellowed making the acid appear a little more prominent.  The flavor profile has changed to include hints of cinnamon and graphite along with the dark cherries and black fruits.  There is also a definite hint of graphite in the nose.  The finish was always long, but now it is also complex.  This is a much more enjoyable wine than it was when it was released.  Patience in cellaring definitely paid off here.

2008 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.  15% alcohol and $21.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


The squirrels have been busy raiding the feeder tree and Scott has been busy chasing them.  Last night when I got up to pour a second glass of wine he took full advantage to steal what part of the afghan he didn't already have.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Onion Soup

One of my favorite chefs passed away earlier this week, Judy Rodgers from the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. Her Zuni Cafe cookbook is one of my go-to references when I want something pure and delicious.

Today we have had sleet and ice and now we are in the early stages of a predicted 6 to 8 inches of snow.   What better day to make a large pot of Onion Soup with Tomato and Poached Egg.  The ingredients are simple: lots of onions, a bit of garlic and some thyme are cooked over low heat in a bit of duck fat until the onions are shriveled but still have a bit of tooth to them.  Chicken stock is added and a peeled and chopped tomato is the last ingredient.  When the soup comes back to the simmer fresh eggs are gently added and allowed to poach for three or four minutes.  Add some crusty rolls dabbed with some duck fat and roasted in the oven for a few minutes and this is a perfect antidote for a winter's day.

There was a small glass of Barbadillo Fino Sherry that only added to the pleasure.  There is soup left over and the weather looks to be terrible for three days.  I will be inside and happy. 

Monday, December 2, 2013


The second wine for the St. Andrew's Eve dinner was a Bouchard Aine & Fils Pommard, Premier Cru Les Charmots from the 2003 vintage.  Dinner was lamb chops grill roasted with herbs and mustard.

The wine was drinkable but some what marred by a bit of Brettanomyces.  Lots of swirling in the glass reduced it somewhat but even on the second day it was still noticeable.  Good body and a good sense of forest floor mixed in with the fruit, but the I would have preferred that the sweaty horse not walked through those same woods. 

Fortunately this was my only bottle of this wine, though I almost wish I had another just to see if it was only this bottle that was flawed.

If nothing else it was a good reminder of the aromas brett can produce.

The lamb chops were delicious.

2003 Bouchard Aine & Fils Pommard, Premier Cru Les Charmots.   Alcohol not listed.  $45.