Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning"....  Alfred Tennyson
Wishing all of you success and much happiness in the coming year.  And tomorrow this tiny corner of the cyber world will begin it's eighth year, and there are still more wines to drink. 

Photo is a glass of 2005 Watervale riesling from the Australian producer, Grosset, taken at sunset on an evening last spring. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Some Progress

A little more progress to report on the recovery of my taste buds -- they are playing mean tricks on me.  There was a sparkling wine tasting two days ago at a local wine store.  I was there for another reason, but they offered a discount since I just wanted a sip.  I liked the all the wines they were pouring but two were my clear favorites, and they were the two cheapest.  They were two wines I  drank before and was not overly thrilled with.  This time they were my two favorites because the subtleties in the higher priced sparkling wines still escape me. But these two I enjoyed.

The two wines were the pictured Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blanc from California and the Gruet Blanc de Noir from New Mexico.  Both were on Christmas special for $15 and $17 respectively.  They were light and fresh and pleasing.  The Piper Sonoma was more crisp while the Gruet, with it's pinot noir shining through, had a bit more fruit and body.  The Piper will be the New Year's Day sipper here.

So I have progressed to liking cheaper wine.  For the pocketbook that is a good thing, but I'm still waiting for full recovery to get back to drinking better wine.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


There were quick and brief interludes of sunshine early this morning while walking at a nature preserve.  I particularly liked this large rock with moss, lichens, staining, and shadows that was sitting pond-side.  Some taller trees reflected in the water from the far side of the small pond.. 

The food was good last night and I can certainly see light at the end of this no taste tunnel.  I'll hold back over Christmas, but I am hopeful that by New Year's Eve things will have returned to normal.  I managed to acquire a few good bottles on sale during this shopping season - but the too will have to wait. 

There is a modest sparkling wine set for Christmas Eve tomorrow, and a slightly better bottle of bubbly set for Christmas day. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice 2014

Several things tasted good yesterday, and a breakfast waffle this morning was better than I expected.  I'm planning on two lamb chops to celebrate the winter solstice at 6:03 PM local time tonight, and that should be a good test of how much of my taste has returned.  Along with a small glass of a no expectations red wine with dinner there will be a glass of porto to end the evening.    I believe there is a small wedge of Stilton cheese in the house to go along with the porto.

So - at 6:03 PM a toast to all of you who read this, and a remembrance of good friends and good dogs who aren't here to enjoy the celebration.

In Gaelic, "A h-uile la sona dhuibh ‘s gun la idir dona dhuibh!"  --  May all your days be happy ones!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Judgement Reserved

I made my first attempt at something other than a bland jug wine last night with some fish.  The wine was a 2011 Domaine de la Furonniere Muscadet.  The color was bright and clear and inviting and the aromas were wonderful and full of tart fruit, sea spray and minerality.  I was extremely excited because I was in love with the aromas and was hoping for the same with the taste.

Sadly, the taste buds have not recovered to the point that my sense of smell has.   The first two sips were very good, but by the third sip it became mostly the acid that I could sense.  Even the fish, a piece of pan seared Alaskan cod, could not mellow things out.   I'm making progress but still have some time to go to recover my tasting abilities.  I switched back to the thing that tastes the best to me at this point, a glass of San Pelligrino sparkling mineral water on ice with the juice of half of a key lime squeezed in for taste.

Judgement totally reserved on the wine - and there are two more in the cellar.

2011 Domaine de la Furonniere Muscadet.  12% alcohol and $14.

Friday, December 12, 2014

West Coast

Ever so gradually things are beginning to return to normal in regard to being able to taste anything except salt and tannin.  Lighter beers are appealing and a small glass of off dry Riesling was recognizable and good at lunch today.  With luck and another week of being off the medications there should be some serious cork pulling and some wonderful food.

With cold weather settled in here for awhile I am still dreaming of a past California trip.  The photo is the beach at Point Reyes National Seashore in northern Marin County in California.  With huge storms blowing through that area I can guarantee the beach does not look this nice now. 

Monday, December 8, 2014


Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.    Buddha
Taste bud recovery seems to be heading in the right direction.  The nose is functioning fine and a bit of wine came very close to tasting good. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

♪ Winter Has Me in It's Grip ♫

♪ Think I'll take a summer trip.....♫*

At least a summer memory trip back to May of 2013.  Fresh seafood on this deck overlooking a coastal creek flowing into San Francisco Bay. There was a wonderful bottle of 2010 La Chablisienne Montmains premier cru Chablis to wash down the food.  Sunshine, warm temperatures, great location and good friends. 

* from a song by Don McLean

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December 2013

An after dinner treat from last December.  Clockwise from the top left: a glass of Warre's Warrior Porto, a slice of cranberry, orange and pecan bread, a small wedge of Stilton cheese, three slices of a medjool date stuffed with goat cheese and a square of dark chocolate with pomegranate seeds.  And in the spirit of this blog, a flamingo night light and a small statue of a Gordon Setter.  The plate is made from a dried banana leaf.

The Warrior port had been something I liked in the past but this particular bottle seemed acidic and lacking in flavor.  After it was gone I moved on to Graham's Six Grape.

Once the taste buds return I will do this again.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Season's Greetings

If one can't drink the only thing left is to rearrange the cellar.  While doing so a dried nut and pine cone wreath my mother made in early 1970's popped out.  It's been several years since I last saw it.
It now hangs on the front door for the season with a suitable centerpiece for this blog.

I  also found two lost bottles of 2001 Barolo that were written off as missing for two years or more.  When my taste returns and I trust it again one of them will make for a wonderful evening.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Cellar Door is Closed

For the next couple of weeks this blog will probably be off topic most of the time. The course of medication and treatment for a recently diagnosed problem has temporarily ruined my sense of taste.  I am very good with recognizing salt and tannin, but not much else.  Even a usually lifeless glass of unoaked red wine made me understand what a beaver tastes when it is gnawing on a tree.  White wines taste like sucking on a lemon.   Food is mostly bland and uninteresting.

The cellar door is closed until some sense of taste returns.  There are some notes on wines that never made it into this blog and they may be revised and published, but new bottles are off limits for two weeks.

The good news is that I have been promised that things should be back to normal by mid December - just in time for some good wines over the holidays.  The better news is that the course of treatment is working.  The bad news is that pictures of great food and wine only make me hungrier and more thirsty. 

The rabbit above was several weeks ago.  A neighbor dropped two off at the house and they had already been cleaned and brined to remove the blood.  I vivisected the bunny and it went into the oven with the carrots, olive oil, butter, rosemary, thyme, shallots and garlic for about thirty five minutes.  Good meal.  The rabbit's partner is currently in the freezer.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. It's the least controversial, sanest, and non confrontational day of the year.

A pot of morning tea and some fresh cranberry pecan and orange quick bread  were a great way to start.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Les Charming

The man in the produce section at the local market handed me the last of the fresh chanterelles of the season several days ago.  Along with some veal steaks cut into cubes, some chicken stock, a little flour, a little butter, some cognac and some sour cream they became a veal and chanterelle stroganoff.  Served with some noodles it was pale, and creamy, rich and satisfying, and just plain delicious.

It would have been easy to overwhelm this meal with a big red wine so I opted for a 2012 Cave de Lugny, Macon Lugny, Les Charmes, a modest white burgundy.  There was nothing fancy here, just a simple and crisp chardonnay without any pretensions.  Tart and lemony with touches of white pepper it made a perfect dance partner for the veal and mushrooms. 

The wine and the meal were simple,easy and quite tasty.

2012 Cave de Lugny, Macon Lugny, Les Charmes.  13.5% alcohol and $15. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Still Life

There is a new sushi shop in the area and it is a definite upgrade over what was previously available.  This is a Lady in Red Roll - visually beautiful and rather tasty. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Something New

Something new and very delicious arrived a couple of weeks ago via UPS.  It spent appropriate time resting from its long journey but finally one of the foursome lost its cork and fulfilled its destiny of providing pleasure.

The wine was a 2012 Benanti Rosso di Verzella  Etna Rosso fresh from the slopes of Mt Etna in Sicily.  It is a blend of  two new grapes to add to the list of wine grapes I have tasted - Nerello Mascalese (80%) and Nerello Cuppiccio (20%). 

There was spaghetti with meat sauce and pepperoni and it was time for a simple, Italian red wine to wash it down.  In that context this wine was almost perfect.  Fresh, fruity aromas and flavors of tart cherries jumped out of the glass when the wine was poured into it and sipped.  Those aromas and tastes just kept on giving with more swirling.  

The wine was light in color like Nebbiolo, tart with cherries like a Chianti and had a mouth feel like a not too serious Valpolicella.  On the finish its tannins gripped the sides of the mouth like a Langhe Nebbiolo, but added a bit of the earthiness of a Chianti.  Definitely an Italian red wine and definitely delicious and happy.  

One bottle will be put away for a time as an experiment, but this wine is so delicious to drink now that the other two will not last long.  It's also affordable.

2012 Benanti Rosso di Verzella  Etna Rosso.  14% alcohol and $15. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014


The best local brewery in this area is Rhinegeist (Ghost of the Rhine) in Cincinnati.  They just released their holiday beer which they are calling Dad.

To quote the can:
This hoppy, red ale balances crisp hops with juicy malts like a well worn flannel embraces the cold, early, dark days of winter.
The photo is from three days ago, but the weather is definitely un-sunny.  It is cold, gray and overcast  and we are expecting the first snowfall of the season this weekend.   I'm going to need a lot of flannel.

Rhinegeist Dad.  Red Ale - 6% alcohol.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

2003 Astralis

The wine for the rack of lamb and the chanterelles was once again from Australia. It was a 2003 Clarendon Hills Astralis. their high end syrah bottling.  This was a big wine full of fruit and depth and well integrated tannin.  Lots of blueberries and black raspberries in the initial sip with velvety tannins and great acid.  A viscous wine that coated the mouth and left its flavors lingering.  Rich and gamey and marvelous with the lamb, it just refused to fade.  There were herbs and spices in the finish and even a suggestion of soy sauce.   A wine that was a true treat to drink.

2003 Clarendon Hills Astralis.  14.5% alcohol and about $250.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fresh Chanterelles

The local market has been overflowing with fresh mushrooms lately and I have been unable to resist most of them. Pictured here are fresh, golden chanterelle mushrooms which wound up sauteed in butter and then tossed with pasta and cheese and served alongside a rack of lamb.  There have been king trumpet mushrooms on a pizza, fresh porcini in risotto and white beech mushrooms in a salad.

The first few days of November are for mushrooms what the last few days of March are for lettuce, spinach and early herbs from the garden.  And due in tomorrow are fresh hen of the woods mushrooms.  The last bounty of the year. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

New Addition to the Staff

It has been ten months since the last of the original crew of canines referenced in the title of this blog died.  This week we welcomed a replacement who was in need of a new home.  Her elderly owner had to surrender her when she was forced to relocate to assisted living after a diagnosis of dementia. She needed a home and I needed a Gordon Setter.  Problem finds solution.

I'm happy to report that she is definitely a kitchen dog and has been named sous chef for her skills of quickly cleaning up anything that falls to the floor.    She is also very attentive to the tree where the squirrels hang out, which is where her two predecessors spent a good deal of time.

Life is good.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Felsina Rancia

It has been some time since I opened a wine from the Fattoria di Felsina. That was remedied last night with a 2007 Chianti Classico Risesrva, Rancia.

Very dark wine and the aromas were all about ripe, red cherry fruit and dry Tuscan earth.  Lots of wines are earthy but, to me, there is a certain uniqueness to the Chianti region earth.

At seven years out from the vintage the tannins had mellowed somewhat in this wine and the fruit was really shining in the taste as well as the aromas.  Great depth and length to the wine. 

With a plate of sauteed, fresh Chanterelle mushrooms surround by some strozzapreti pasta and topped with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano the wine was even better.  The earthy flavors in the wine and the same flavors in the mushrooms complimented each other, while the fruit just highlighted the cheese.  Good meal - great wine.

2007 Fattoria di Felsina Beradenga Chianti Classico Riserva, Rancia.  14% alcohol and $40.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A 2011 Weekend

It was a strange weekend, starting cold and wet and finishing cool and sunny.  It started Friday night with an unusual combination of stir fried noodles, moved on to Saturday with some scallops followed by a small steak, and ended Sunday with a velveted chicken breast in a mustard sauce.

The 2011 Kinkead Ridge White Revelation went nicely with the noodles, which weren't too spicy.  It went even better with the sauteed scallop appetizer on Saturday.  The 2011 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc was excellent with the small steak with a cherry sauce underneath, and just as good with a simple chicken dish on Sunday night.

2011 Kinkead Ridge White Revelation.  13.5% alcohol and $14
2011 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Franc.  13.8% alcohol and $21.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Muscadet Sevre et Maine

Muscadet remains one of my favorite wines because of both the taste and the price.  The Domaine de la Folliette Par Clos de la Fontaine Sur Lie from the 2012 vintage was no exception.   Crisp and tart and bracing like a cold, January wind in your face, the wine was near perfect with a rainbow trout stuffed with lemon and herbs and tossed on the grill.    The trout was sweet and luscious and the wine bright and crisp.  Great meal.

2012 Domaine de la Folliette Par Clos de la Fontaine Sur Lie.  12% alcohol and $12.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Seasons Change

There is change in thee air this week. The warm, sunny period is giving way tomorrow to late October weather. Today it is 78 degrees and by Friday the high temperature will only be in the upper forty degree range.

Once thing that the extended fall gave us a last burst of cooler weather vegetables such as spinach and the red leaf lettuce pictured above.  I picked that up at the farm market this morning.  There won't be a great many more of these until spring which means there will be a fresh salad of some sort for dinner; perhaps some red onions, a few fall mushrooms and some herbs. 

No wine in this post - I just feel more into the lettuce and saying good buy to most of the local produce until spring.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Day Later

The remainder of the 2006 Produtorri del Barbaresco Barbaresco was vacuumed overnight and reopened with a duck breast accompanied by sauteed, fresh chanterelle mushrooms for dinner last night.  The flavors were still bold and rich, but the tannins were much more integrated.  While much softer they were still strong enough to support the wine.  This last quarter of a bottle was certainly the best.  Along with the rest of the meal it tasted like autumn.  Another wine that I would have been just as happy to sit there and sniff all evening.

The photo is from a walk yesterday morning in the deep woods.  The Virginia Spiderwort is a late summer bloomer in this area, but this particular one was deep in the woods and well protected.  A search of the area revealed only this last holdout against approaching frosts and cold weather. 

A beautiful day capped off by a beautiful wine.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Books and Barbaresco

There is a new book on the market, Barolo and Barbaresco, The King and Queen of Italian Wine, by Kerin O'Keefe and it's greatest accomplishment is to make me thirsty.  More on the book in another post.

To satisfy the thirst I opened a bottle of 2006 Barbaresco from the Produttori del Barbaresco yesterday.  Other than drinking it my best decision was to open the bottle eight hours ahead of dinner. This wine needed that much time to truly open up and bloom in the glass - and there were small sips throughout the day as an educational experience (and because I couldn't wait until dinner to try it).

The color was definitely a light and pale brick and garnet color with orange and light brown edges- no purple or deep red here.  The aromas in the glass from the first pour were the expected flowers and warm asphalt.  During the day the tannin subsided a bit and so did the road tar.  By dinner time this was still a tannic wine, but a lot had faded and the wine just smelled of earth and flowers.  The acidity was always there and the length of finish was long.  This was exactly what I was wanting when I was reading the book. 

There was a small, but thick steak grilled to the rare side of medium rare and it got a bit of lemon juice and olive oil after resting and being slice.  There were sauteed, fresh porcini mushrooms, a very small salad and some baguette sliced doused with olive oil and sea salt and toasted to go with the wine.  A small bit of the wine was put aside for tonight.  A delicious wine and my last bottle of that particular vintage.

2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco.  14% alcohol and $30.  Very much a bargain.

Monday, October 20, 2014

2010 Jarhead Red

This is a story of passing through a wine shop and being stopped in my tracks by a name and a label.  I put two bottles in my basket before picking up a third bottle and reading the back label.  Jarhead Red is a wine made for U.S. Marines by U.S. Marines.  A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each bottle go to a Marine Corps scholarship fund.   Nothing beats drinking wine made by former members of an organization of which I am a former member, and one which supports a worthy cause.  In this case the Firestone winery is involved by way of Captain Adam Firestone and Sgt Ruben Dominguez. 

This particular vintage is a blend of Cabernet Franc with Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah playing the backup role.  A couple of weekends ago I opened the first bottle at a pig roast where another, and much younger, Marine was  one of the guests.  It was definitely a full bodied wine but the brightness of the Cabernet Franc and it's cherry flavors really shone.  It was mouth filling and had just enough acid and tannin to support the fruit.  A very well balanced wine.  Once the cork came out it was the first of six assorted bottles to be completely drained.  Most of it was consumed by the two Marines in attendance and led to stories and raunchy jokes.  It was a fun time and wine.

Jarhead Red California table wine.  $14 and with the table wine designation it was under 14% alcohol.

Friday, October 17, 2014


The wine is Lucien Albrecht Cremant D'Alsace Brut Rose, a sparkling wine made from 100% pinot noir.  Fruity with strawberry and cherry flavors and a little bit of yeast.  The finish is dry and delightful.  A good way to end a Friday and start a weekend.

Lucien Albrecht Cremant D'Alsace Brut Rose.  12% alcohol and $19.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


"All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken."    Thomas Wolfe, Of Time and the River
The leaves are nearing their peak of color here and there was a young pig sacrificed to the god of a smoker last weekend.  Good food and good wine and more to follow. 

The tomatoes are mixed with parsley and basil and grated, fresh mozzarella cheese.  They were dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Roederer Estate

The wine with the pizza in the post below this one was Roederer Estate Brut, Special Cuvee from California's Anderson Valley.  The wine is blend of pinot noir and chardonnay.  It is tart and refreshing, a little bit yeasty, prickly with bubbles and finishes dry and refreshing.  The finish is long.  The yeastiness appealed to me the most.  It's not nearly as strong as champagne with the yeast, but it is there and recognizable. 

I resealed the wine after drinking two thirds of the bottle and finished it later that evening with some freshly popped popcorn with black truffle salt and butter. Amazing combination.

Roederer Estate Brut, special Cuvee.  $21 and 12% alcohol.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Grilled Pizza

Perhaps instead of grilled pizza the title should read pizza from the grill.  Regardless it was delicious.  The ingredients were a purchased crust, tomato sauce, olive oil, Provolone cheese, pepperoni slices, fresh mozzarella and parmigiano, and a little salt. 

It's sitting on an antique, but still very much used, flat burner plate from a cast iron, wood burning  stove.  When the fire in the grill was raging the cast iron went over the coals to get hot and after a minute or so the pizza went onto the cast iron.  The lid was clamped back on and after another minute the temperature was near 550 degrees.  It took four minutes to cook the pizza.  When  it came off the grill it got a dusting of fresh basil and oregano. 

To the left was the beverage of choice for the evening - the second half of a bottle started in the late afternoon.  Amazing how an overcast,  cool, and drizzly day can be brightened up with a good glass of sparkling wine.

It certainly improved my mood.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Riesling and Lobster

The local market had a special on Maine lobster tails just about the same time that I saw a recipe for a stir fry featuring lobster.  My usual luck is that events like these are at least a week apart with the lobster being off-sale by the time the recipe is noted. 

There were onions, peppers, garlic, ginger and pineapple in the stir fry mix and hoisin and oyster sauce in the liquid mixture.  I tossed in a few dried peppers to kick up the heat a little.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal but I kept thinking how much better it would have been with pork rather than lobster. 

The wine was a 2008 Jakob Schneider Niederhause Klamm Riesling Kabinett from the Nahe.  The wine was crisp and sharp with apple and lychee flavors mixed in with a good bit of lime zest.  It was drier in both mouth feel and taste than I am used to with Mosel Rieslings, and with the sweetness of the pineapple in the food this was great.  It was sharp and tart and only semi sweet.  Very long finish on this wine.  Sadly this was my last bottle of this particular wine and have seen no others in the market here.

Good meal and a good wine.

2008 Jakob Schneider Niederhause Klamm Riesling Kabinett.  8.5% alcohol and $16

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Home Again

“Agassiz does recommend authors to eat fish, because the phosphorus in it makes brains. But I cannot help you to a decision about the amount you need to eat. Perhaps a couple of whales would be enough.”................Mark Twain

It's good to be home and cooking again.  Last night was a fillet of red snapper that was pan seared and served with a mango, red onion, cilantro and lime juice salsa.  The rice was cooked in coconut milk.  The wine was a 2013 Kinkead Ridge Revelation White, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Albarino.  Good fish and very good wine.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

1999 Torbreck RunRig

With three good choices from the post below the way to make the decision was easy.  I shuffled and moved the bottles like nuts in a shell game until they were in a straight line and my friend whose back was turned for the entire process then chose "whichever bottle is on the far left."   That turned out to be the 1999 Torbreck Barossa Valley Runrig.

The wine, pictured above in a glass, is mature but not showing any signs of fading.  It is a blend of 97% Shiraz and 3% Viognier.  Rich and hearty aromas of black fruit and oak were strong.  The first sip was ripe, fruity, solidly structured and perfectly balanced between earth and fruit.  With some swirling and waiting while the rack of lamb cooked on the grill the tannins softened just enough to add a level of elegance to the wine.  There were hints of clean, dry leather, dusty earth, rich dark fruits and a finish the was long and delicious. With the lamb the wine was even better and a total treat to drink. 

1999 Torbreck Barossa Valley RunRig.  14% alcohol and $200+

Friday, October 3, 2014

Tough Decision

There comes a time when tough decisions must be made. What's great about this decision that faced me before dinner tonight was that there could be no wrong answer.  All three would be great with a rack of lamb.  What was even better is that none were from my cellar and I wasn't paying for any of them.

And the winner was........

That will have to wait for the next post.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.” .......... Hans Cristian Andersen
I'm not going in a hot air balloon, but I will be traveling for a brief period with only the wine I can carry with me.  The wine trip comes later in the year.

Things will resume shortly.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chianti Colli Fiorentini

It had been awhile since I had a Chianti so when a steak came off the grill and was dressed with olive oil, black pepper and lemon juice it was time to open one.

The choice was a 2011 Fattoria di Lucignano Chiant Colli Fioretini, the Chianti zone just outside Firenze (Florence).   The aromas were definitely chianti with tart, red cherries sitting on top of a base of Tuscan earth.    The wine had a medium body with cherry flavors and that wonderful dry and dusty finish that is unique to Chianti.  Nothing was out of balance and nothing was great about the wine - it was tasty and true to its origins and it washed down the steak just like it was supposed to do. 

2011 Fattoria di Lucignano Chiant Colli Fioretini.  14% alcohol and $14.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

La Vigna PR 2007

Once in awhile a wine truly surprises me, and there was one last night.  The wine was a 2007 La Vigna Proprietary Red Wine from a winery in southern Ohio from the  Ohio River Valley AVA.  I bought the wine five years ago on its initial release and it has been in the back of the cellar since then.  It was the first ever release from this winery.

It was wax sealed and after chiseling away at the closure the cork began to crumble on extraction.  I switched to an Ah-Soh and the cork came out in one piece.  The wine, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, was quite dark in the glass and very aromatic with blasts of fresh oak, vanilla, and cinnamon sitting on top of potent, dark fruit.  With lots of swirling the fruit aromas finally turned to black raspberries and dark cherries with some chocolate hints.  There was certainly nothing shy about the wine.

The taste was where the surprise came.  There was an unabashed saltiness to the front of this wine.  The initial taste was dark chocolate with seas salt which is such a popular taste in fine chocolates lately.  When the dark cherries joined the mix this was like eating a dry, chocolate covered cherry with salt crystals on top.  The flavors were deep and strong and the tannins were busy.  The finish was very long and had some good tartness to it to keep the wine from being too jammy.  It pushed to the edge of being too big, but never got there.  There was enough restraint in this wine that it never went over the top with jammy flavors.

This was a much better wine than I remember it being when it was released.  My notes tell me the other two bottles were consumed within a year of issue, the last being in the spring of 2011.  I should have waited longer on the other two because this one was totally enjoyable.  This wine was more remarkable in that I opened a 2008 vintage of the same wine a few moths ago and with that wine the fruit had faded leaving a primary taste of oak and the length to the finish was very brief.

Dinner was two grilled lamb chops and some oven roasted butternut squash.
2007 La Vigna Proprietary Red Wine.  13.9% alcohol and $22.

The photo is a block of Himalayan rock salt.  Winery link here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

El Coto Rosada

As usual in this area there is an end of summer sale on rose' wines. I bought a mixed case to carry me through until the next wave arrives in the spring.  The wines were marked down from as little as 25% and  much s 60%.  Some I've had before while others will be completely new to me.

It has been several years since I drank an El Coto wine so it was the first wine I drank out of the case.  It was delicious.  The wine is a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha.  It received a slight chill while a spatchcocked chicken cooked on the grill.  I opened the wine just as I was applying a glaze to the nearly finished chicken.  The glaze was a mixture of maple syrup, orange zest, red pepper flakes and fresh thyme.  It gave the chicken a spicy sweetness with definite orange flavors.

The wine was fresh and fruity with aromas and tastes of cherries and strawberries,  There was a dusty dryness in the aromas and that also carried through to the taste.  It gave the wine a distinctive sense of being from an arid region.  The finish wasn't overly long, but it was good and proper.  The flavors in the wine amplified the orange taste of the chicken.  Excellent match and one that may be repeated.

2012 El Coto Rioja Rosada.  13% alcohol and $9. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cotes du Rhone

If there's a better value in a basic, red wine than E. Guigal's Cotes du Rhone I would love to find it.  This wine from the 2010 vintage is packed with flowers, fruit and earth and has almost perfect balance.  It's also consistent from year to year as other vintages have been almost the same.  And they do this for less than $15.    Simply amazng.

After pouring the first glass the rest went into a decanter for a little more than an hour while dinner was working.  The tightness was gone by the time the steak hit the plate and the wine was making some beautiful music with the beef.   The acid and tannin cleared the palate between bites and sips.  The evening was long and wonderful.

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone.  14% alcohol and $14.  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

First Taste of Autumn

"Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers."
-  Carl Sandburg, Under the Harvest Moon
Thanks to a large cold front from Canada the temperatures which were 90 degrees last Saturday are 62 degrees this Saturday.   The humidity is gone and the dew point is low and the skies are clear.  This is as good as it gets in this area.

There was the first, fresh sauerkraut in the market this week, some fatty pork, butt steaks and some freshly made bratwurst.  They were all combined with apples and onions and the first of the seasons apple cider to braise away during the afternoon.

The wine was a beautiful friend who remembers, a 2007 Alfred Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett.  It's full of slate and apples and citrus peel.  Like the weather - it is almost perfect.  With the food I believe it is perfect.

2007 Alfred Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett  9% alcohol and $15 several autumns ago.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rhinegeist Franz

There was enough spice in the chicken meal described in the post below that I thought a beer would be the best accompaniment.  The only beer in the house was a Franz Oktoberfest from the Rhinegeist brewery in Cincinnati.  The brewery describes it as "untraditional" and it certainly was.    It was mellow with deeper flavors than I expected and wasn't the greatest match for spicy food based on hot peppers.  Cougar or Truth from the same brewery would have been better choices. 

Good beer but not for this meal.

Rhinegeist Franz.  5.4% alcohol  Munich and Vienna malts.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Local and Spicy

Harvest is in full force in this area and a trip through the farmers market provided nearly the entire meal tonight.  The chicken was local, as were the onions, the tomatoes, the very hot red peppers and the first of the fall garlic.  The herbs were from my garden so that left only the rice and the seasonings on the chicken as 'strangers to these parts'.

The chicken legs were marinated in lime juice and olive oil, and when they came out of the marinade the vegetables went into the marinade.  The seasonings on top were ancho chilli powder, smoked paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper.   The vegetables were poured over the top of the chicken and both went into a hot oven for thirty five minutes,  just enough time to cook the rice.

The local peppers were quite hot and provided a pungent and prickly sensation to go with the mellowness of the tomatoes and the chicken.  There was some brow mopping during the meal but it was all delicious.

There was a beer!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Drew - Fog Eater 2010

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days…Lightly, lightly—it’s the best advice ever given me. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly, my darling.
—  Aldous Huxley from Island
This is a wine that is dark in the glass but so light and agile on its feet.  It's full of fresh, medium cherry flavors with great tannin and acid underneath.  A full bodied wine that isn't heavy.  It's confident and real.  It's also delicious.  More please.

Drew Pinot Noir, Fog Eater, Anderson Valley.  13.6% alcohol and $45.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Falanghina - First Time Experience

There was something new at the market earlier this week, a wine that I had read about but never saw before in this area.  The wine was a Falanghina, an obscure white variety that thrives in the hills of Campania in southern Italy.  It's an ancient variety that survived primarily because it grew in such an off the beaten path location.  The wine that came home with me  was a 2012 Gran Passione Beneventano.

The minute the cork came out of the bottle there were flowery and citrus aromas filling the room.  The color was almost crystal clear with just a bit of green and gold.  With some swirling the aromas got a little stronger and for a while I was happy to sit and smell the wine.   The flavors were on the citrus end with orange peel being predominant.  There was some ripe apple and a bit of lychee lurking in the glass as well.  The mouth feel was full and almost creamy, but just I was about to criticize it for that it turned dry and sharp.  It left my mouth dry and refreshed with a wee bit of the same minerality I find and love in Chablis. 

There were some bay scallops sauteed in butter and olive oil with a tiny touch of garlic, some halved cherry tomatoes and a bit of fresh thyme and oregano to help the wine along.  A perfect match.

2012 Gran Passione Falanghina.  12.5% alcohol and $12.  A bragain.