Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A New Friend

I took a long walk through the woods this morning and to get there one had to follow a paved path across a grassy area with a small stream running beside it.   My friend above hopped out onto the path and sauntered along in front of me for about 100 meters before finding a nice wet spot to go poke his head in the stream to search for a tasty bit or two.  We had a great discussion about how glad both of were that winter seems to finally be over.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Piper Sonoma

It has been a number of years since I drank Piper Sonoma sparkling wines.  They were part of the early influx of European sparkling wine makers to settle in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, but they are not one that I see every day in the local market.  The Sonoma County Blanc de Blancs jumped into my shopping cart at a sale price of $15 a bottle and pleaded to be adopted.  It was.

Clear, bright and loaded with bubbles it is quite an active wine.  Sharp and tart, young and fresh, almost prickly flavors of green apple dominated.  There was a bit of yeasty or baked goods flavors but this was a fruit forward wine.  Easy to drink and easy on the pocketbook.  That's all it was trying to be and it succeeded. 

Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blancs, Sonoma County Sparkling Wine.  12.5% alcohol and $15.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Barolo Again

Cool and wet early part of the day before the sun came out in the afternoon, but the morning made me thirsty for Barolo.

The result was a bottle of 2001 E. Pira & Figli, Chiara Boschis, Via Nuova, one of two bottles of this wine that has been in the cellar for some time.   Purchase records say it was purchased in 2006. 

I was expecting a newer style Barolo with redder color and fruit forward, but what I got was a brick red color with some transparency and some orange edges, and the wine was anything but fruit forward.  It was quite a mouthful for the first two hours.  I decanted half the bottle and let it sit.  There were wonderful aromas of flowers and earth and initially there was the tannic grip of death.

Four hours later when dinner, a small steak from the grill,  was ready the wine had mellowed a bit and wound up being very approachable. The fruit was at the red end of the cherry spectrum and the earth elements were really singing here.  The tannins faded to a great level that really stood up to the richness in the steak without overwhelming that flavor or the sides of the tongue.  The finish was long, dry and had just a touch of fruit sweetness at the very end.  I'm looking forward to the second half of this bottle.    And two years or more down the road I'm looking forward to the second bottle.

2001 E. Pira & Figli, Chiara Boschis, Via Nuova.  14% alcohol and $60.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pasta and Clams

The local market was full of fresh clams and the result is pictured above. Some Chorizo Iberico and some salt pork cubes were rendered and reserved.  Into a clean pot went olive oil, onions and garlic until they were fragrant.  Next in was some halved grape tomatoes, white wine and the clams and just a bit of sea salt.  The pot was covered and the clams steamed for just a couple of minutes.  A tablespoon of butter was the last addition and the pot was gently shaken until the butter melted and was incorporated. 

Some fresh linguine went into the center of the pasta bowl, the clams were arranged around the edges and broth and tomatoes were ladled into the center.  The chorizo and salt pork was scattered over the top along with some chopped parsley. Country bread smeared with olive oil was toasted and topped with a touch of sea salt to accompany.  Good meal.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


...and wordless too.

Avery's Bug Barf, a kiwi and pineapple soda.  $1.19.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

2005 Pommard

It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one's present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason.
Latin saying
This 2005 Pommard from Bouchard Pere & Fils hit on all five of the above reasons.  Deep and rich aromas of ripe fruit and earth literally flew out of the glass when the wine was first poured.  This was a wine one could smell from halfway across the room.  With a little swirling there were spices that joined the mix. 

This was a wine that played with the palate.  The depth of the fruit made one think the wine would be sweet, but the damp earth flavors and tannin kept the fruit in check.  It sat on the proverbial edge between sweet and savory and never went far to either side.  Add in length and depth and it was a remarkable wine.  It also has a good number of years of life ahead of it.  

Dinner was two lamb chops with rosemary, thyme and Dijon mustard with potatoes sauteed in duck fat to keep the chops company.     A perfect tribute to spring.

2005 Bouchard Pere & Fils Pommard.  13.5% alcohol and $60.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


“With so many trees in the city, you could see the spring coming each day until a night of warm wind would bring it suddenly in one morning. Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason. In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.” ― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Second Time Around

Having managed to save some of the Munselle Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc discussed in the post below this one it made its second appearance with a completely different meal a day later.  This time  it was joined by an oven roasted half turkey breast adorned with salt, pepper and fresh thyme.  There was a small pot of stuffing on the side with some tender leaves of the first, fresh herbs of spring - sage, thyme and tarragon. 

The wine was different by having spent a day under vacuum, but it was equally as good.  It was a bit more mellow, but that was an advantage with the fuller flavor of the turkey breast.  The fruit content was showing better on the second day.  It would be difficult to pick which day was the best, and that's a credit to the wine.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Green and Fresh

Yes, there is green grass in this picture, though two days later it was covered again in snow. 

There was a spring meal of fresh asparagus and Alaskan halibut and that called for a young, fresh wine.  I opted for a wine I picked up last May during a trip to California; a Munselle Vineyards, River Ranch, Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  I tasted the wine at the vineyard during a tour last May and brought a bottle home.  It was crisp and bright in California and the extra year of bottle age did not change that. 

This bottle was still fresh and herbaceous, but with a little bit of deeper flavor than I remember.  Very easy to drink with a slight chill to it.   The asparagus was steamed and served with a lemon butter and the halibut was pan seared and oven roasted with the same lemon butter sauce.  Great match with the wine, though it truly shone with the fish.

Sadly the Sauvignon Blanc is not currently available from the vineyard, but they make a number of other wines.  The story behind Munselle is quite interesting.  You can read that by clicking here.

2012 Munselle Vineyards River Ranch, Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  14.2% alcohol and about $20.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Few Words

"Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world." —G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

Friday, April 11, 2014


Rich and deep.  Savory yet suggesting sweetness.  Tannins and flowers and earth.  Dry and wonderful.

Dinner was marinated portobello mushrooms thrown on the grill until the edges crisped but the center remained moist.  There was a saffron risotto with fresh peas on the side.  Pretty plate but much better to eat it than look at it.  Perfect with the wine.

2007 Produtorri del Barbaresco Barbaresco.  14.5% alcohol and $35.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jungle Bird

It's not often when reading recipes in the New York Times that I have every ingredient on hand needed for the item.  This afternoon that happened with the drink pictured above, a Jungle Bird.  Per the article  (click here for the entire article) it is an old Tiki Bar drink that is suddenly popular again in some of the newer cocktail lounges in New York and Chicago. 

It has black rum, fresh pineapple juice, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and Campari all shaken over ice and garnished with a bit of pineapple.  Quite tasty on a sunny, spring day.  The flamingo is optional. 


Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.
Ernest Hemingway
Death in the Afternoon

Sunday, April 6, 2014

As Good As It Gets

For several years now I have believed that the red wines from Kinkead Ridge are at their best with about five years of age on them.  Five years gives time to all parts of the wine to integrate with each other.   

Yesterday evening was cool but very sunny and dry so I fired up the grill.  The entree was two Colorado lamb chops which were seasoned with salt and pepper and allowed to rest for four hours.  The were seared on one side over the hot coals then flipped over to the other side and moved to a cooler section of the grill.  They were painted with an emulsion of olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme and Dijon mustard and allowed to finish cooking slowly. 

No question that this was a red wine meal so I pulled out a bottle of the 2005 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.  This one was eight years out from the vintage and the minute the cork came out there was no doubt that the extra three years did great things for this wine.

The color was beautifully mature with all hints of purple giving way to a clear garnet.  The aromas were full of ripe, dark cherries, a bit of cinnamon, and vanilla.  The flavors were not fresh and bright, they were mellowed, dark and wonderful.  Even though the flavor wasn't fresh it was definitely not old, it was at that stage of perfect maturity.  There was just enough sweetness left to keep the wine balanced, but it was now on the more savory side of the taste spectrum.  The tannins were soft and inviting and the finish was dry and long and begged you to take another sip.  Perfect with the lamb chops and a small baked potato. 

2005 Kinkead Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.  13.1% alcohol and $18 six years ago.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Purple Cousin

“The snow has not yet left the earth, but spring is already asking to enter your heart. If you have ever recovered from a serious illness, you will be familiar with the blessed state when you are in a delicious state of anticipation, and are liable to smile without any obvious reason. Evidently that is what nature is experiencing just now. The ground is cold, mud and snow squelches under foot, but how cheerful, gentle and inviting everything is! The air is so clear and transparent that if you were to climb to the top of the pigeon loft or the bell tower, you feel you might actually see the whole universe from end to end. The sun is shining brightly, and its playful, beaming rays are bathing in the puddles along with the sparrows. The river is swelling and darkening; it has already woken up and very soon will begin to roar. The trees are bare, but they are already living and breathing.” ― Anton Chekhov, The Exclamation Mark
The purple crocuses have decided to join their yellow cousins.  Must be time for more Champagne!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spring Wine

The world is exploding in emerald, sage, and lusty chartreuse - neon green with so much yellow in it. It is an explosive green that, if one could watch it moment by moment throughout the day, would grow in every dimension.   -- Amy Seidl, Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World
Muscadet  is one of three wines that sing spring to me, the other two being a young Mosel Riesling and a fresh Chablis - not a premier or grand cru one, just a regular entry level bottling.    There was some fresh halibut on the plate alongside some white rice and spinach and there was this bottle of  2011 Domaine de la Garniere Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes.  It took much longer to type that name than it did to open the bottle, pour a bit in the glass and start enjoying.  Fresh, young, crisp, salty and refreshing.  Spring in a bottle.

2011 Domaine de la Garniere Muscadet Sevre et Maine Sur Lie Vieilles Vignes.  12% alcohol and $12.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This Morning

Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. ---Ralph Waldo Emerson

Two, warm, sunny days in a row.  Yesterday early I cleared away some of winter's leaves and such, and this morning I was rewarded with these blooming, yellow crocuses.  Corner turned and we are on to better days ahead with the weather.