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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


The second day drinking the Chateau Simone (discussed below) was better than the first day.  Some, but not all, of the rustic elements blended into the background, though this is still a wine that never made it to elegant.  Good stuff.

An hour after finishing the wine the blueberry gallette was portioned and consumed.  Simplicity.....store bought puff pastry, fresh blueberries, some cornstarch, some lemon juice, a little sugar and an egg wash.  Thirty five minutes later I took the picture above.

Monday, September 1, 2014

2004 Chateau Simone - A Rare Bird

Whether one goes by acres or hectares Palette is the second smallest recognized wine region in France, larger only than Chateau Grillet.  It is near Aix-en-Provence.  I had never seen a bottle in the U.S. until a friend who was working for a time in Marseilles brought one home as a gift in 2007.  Though not a wine drinker he ventured into a wine store in Marseilles and this was the wine the proprietor recommended to him.  I still have never seen one in the U.S. though I'm sure an internet search would turn one up.  I was just happy to put this bottle away for seven years.

The wine is mostly Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault though there is also some Syrah, Carignan, Castet, Mansoquin, Muscat Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Théoulier, Tibouren, Picpoul Noir and Muscat de Hambourg.  It's a veritable witch's brew of grapes.  The witches must be related to Dorothy's and Toto's friend the Good Witch of the North because the wine is delicious.  Perhaps it's the good witch of the south of France.

The medium garnet color was mostly the result of the wine throwing some heavy sediment over the years.  From the color alone I would have guessed it as an older burgundy.  Aromas of clean earth and pine forest were prominent though there was a good fruit base underneath.   The first glass was somewhat reserved and not offering much in the way of flavor but by the second glass the strawberry taste of Grenache was peaking through as well as some raspberry fruit.  I wouldn't use the word elegant to describe this wine but there was some grace mixed in with its rustic elements.  Great acid and a good dose of tannin showed up in the very long finish.

Lamb chops from the grill were a nice accompaniment to the wine as the gaminess of the lamb was a great match with the unusual flavors in the wine.

Now it's either an internet search or time to send my friend back to Marseilles.

2004 Chateau Simone, Palette.  13% alcohol.  Price unknown.