Saturday, February 28, 2015

Open That Bottle Night

An empty glass waiting for something wonderful.

It's the last Saturday in February and that means it is Open That Bottle Night, a night to open a bottle that has been saved for a special occasion that never seems to come.  Tonight is that occasion.  We'll have a complete report tomorrow, but in the mean time "open that bottle."

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cider in the Snow

“I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter's evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot, along with some sugar and a drench of cream. I know the delicate art and mystery of so cracking hickory nuts and walnuts on a flatiron with a hammer that the kernels will be delivered whole, and I know how the nuts taken in conjunction with winter apples, cider, and doughnuts, make old people's tales and old jokes sound fresh and crisp and enchanting, and juggle an evening away before you know what went with the time.”                     Mark Twain
A glass of Christian Drouin Sparkling Cidre. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Dinner last night  was pork chops with sauteed apples.  I decided to go with apples to drink as well.  The apples in this case were a bottle of Christian Drouin sparkling Cidre Pays d'Auge, the same area that produces Calvados.  This is a natural cider from 100% apple juice with no sugar or yeast added, just the natural yeast from the apples.

The color was a beautiful pale gold and the cider smelled like fresh baked apple pie with slight hints of smoke.  The taste was tart and fresh with just a suggestion of sweetness.  The bubbles added another great dimension. 

Just about a perfect drink for the pork and apples.   It was light enough in alcohol (4.5% ABV) that it remained refreshing throughout dinner, and there was a glass to sip with some Gruyere cheese after dinner.

Christian Drouin Sparkling Cidre.  4.5% alcohol and $9.   Very much a bargain.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Delicious Cancellation

It started very early early in the morning and it snowed for most of the day.  Thanks to the ten inches of snow that accumulated during the day the wine tasting featuring eight 2004 Barolos was postponed to a later date.  I had to make due with a 2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico with dinner.

It has been a year or so since I opened a bottle of this wine, and this was the first time I drank the 2010 vintage.  No disappointments at all.  There was a ton of fruit, that sense of dry, Tuscan earth and the acid and crispness that keeps things in balance.  Bursting with fruit on the front of the tongue, it moved seamlessly to the tannin on the side of the tongue and the wonderful crisp finish on the back.   There was a small bit of bitterness in the back of the throat, but that was still me recovering from the recent palate collapse and not the wine.   The neighbor didn't notice the bitterness at all.   

I have never been disappointed with a bottle of Fontodi Chianti Classico, and that string of delicious wines continued with this bottle.

2010 Fontodi Chianti Classico.  14% alcohol and $35.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chilling out

There is not much else to do today but stay in bed. The overnight temperature was -12 f degrees (-25 c) and with the wind the chill factor was -25 f (-31 c).   The furnace is working overtime.  It is sunny this morning and we should reach a balmy 16 f degrees today (-9 c) before more snow arrives this evening.   

I spatchcocked and roasted a large chicken yesterday evening, in part because I wanted the oven heated for awhile.  The wine was a Dry Creek Vineyard dry Chenin Blanc from the Clarksburg AVA in Sacramento Delta area of California.  It has been a number of years since I tried this wine, but Dry Creek Vineyard has had Chenin Blanc in its lineup of wines since 1972. 

The nose was floral and sweet with some hints of white pepper that had been freshly ground.  The taste was dry and flowery reflecting the nose.  There was god acid and just a suggestion of sweetness at the end (0.6% residual sugar).    The finish was brief but crisp and appealing.  This is not a wine to brood over, just a good, basic white wine that makes food taste better. 

Dry Creek Vineyard dry Chenin Blanc.  12.5% alcohol and $10.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Coteaux Sauvages 2006

It was brutally cold and snowing last night so we cooked Steak Diane indoors, though we dispensed with the flambeing part.  At it's base this is really a pan seared steak with a brown sauce to cover it. 

Throwing caution to the wind I pulled out a wine that for the last three months I never would have attempted.  The wine was a 2006 Michel-Schlumberger Coteaux Sauvage, a red blend of syrah and viognier from Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley in California.  This wine had been resting in the cellar for five years and I wanted something more upscale than what I had been trying for the last three months.  In short - it was the best wine I've had in that period by far.  Perhaps the problem all along was that I no longer have a taste for less expensive wine, though the doctors and medications tend to disprove that.

Wonderful aromas of dried meat and earth filled the glass.  This was a wine that was not short on fragrance.  It was singing of summer.  There were tastes of dark fruits and blueberries and ample tannin to support those flavors.  The acid was very appropriate.  This was not a shy wine but it was not overpowering in any way.  Throughout the course of the evening it kept opening up, softening,  and it retained its just opened fragrance to the end.  It was so nice to totally enjoy a good wine again. 

There is one large glass left for this evening.

2006 Michel-Schlumberger Coteaux Sauvage.  14.6% alcohol and $60.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


It has now been three months since a two week medication regimen destroyed most of my sense of taste.  I was repeatedly assured that it was a problem that would recover in six weeks to six months.  It has now been three months and I'm happy to say that things finally are returning to a more normal state of affairs.  Food is pleasurable again and wine is finally starting to truly taste good again.

The wine has been the interesting part of this.  For the last month some wines have been very good until they got to the very back of my tongue.  Most turned exceedingly bitter at that point.  That too seems to be changing thanks to a Riesling, a Merlot and a Syrah and a fair amount of beer.  The Syrah, though very dry, actually left a bit of sweetness on the finish two days ago.  It tasted like heaven to me after three months staying away from alcohol.

Naturally there is a small, bright side to this story - since neither food nor alcohol tasted very good I lost nearly 30 pounds.  Some clothes that had been boxed to go to a second hand store now fit again.  It's not a diet I recommend. 

The true test will come in two weeks.   I purchased a seat at a local retrospective tasting of 2004 Barolos and Barbarescos.  Ten wines to taste.  I couldn't help myself. 

The photo is a Birch tree just off my patio.  In a true sense it illustrates how food and wine tasted for the last three months - rough, dry and scaling.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Rare Bird

There was Asian inspired lamb and asparagus for dinner last night.  The dish was full of stir fried lamb and asparagus, spring onions, a few hot peppers and a sauce full of soy sauce, hoisin sauce and toasted sesame oil.  It maybe the dead of winter but this dish was pushing the boundaries of spring. 

The wine was a 2013 Kinkead Ridge Riesling from the Ohio River Valley.    Great aromas of fresh fruit and petrichor, that wonderful sensation of rain on dry earth.  The flavors here were light to match the alcohol content but they were vibrant with lime and lemon.  Very easy wine to drink and thanks to bad weather last year the last of this wine for awhile - save the two more I have in the cellar. 

2013 Kinkead Ridge Riesling.  11.4% alcohol and $12. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Winter Braise

It's been both cold and very wet here, though we were fortunate enough to be just south of the latest blizzard.  Braising season is in full swing here and above is a braised and smothered lamb shank.  The shanks braised in a white wine and tomato broth and vegetables for about four hours until they were quite tender.  The shanks were removed and the broth and vegetables separated.  The broth had most of the fat removed and went into the bowl with the shanks.  They went into the refrigerator for an overnight stay and pot vegetables were discarded.

New carrots, onions, and celery were cut and sweated in some olive oil and the shanks and broth were added back in.  Some Cannelini beans were added and everything was rewarmed until the vegetables were tender.  Three, cheesy polenta squares were sauteed until crisp on the exterior while the lamb reheated. 

The wine was a 2009 Foppiano Vineyards, Russian River Valley Petite Syrah.  It was dark as night and had aromas full of dehydrated blueberries and currants.  It was quite tannic and had a firm grip.  Truth be told it was a little much for me and I would have opted for something lighter.  I've had this wine before and it was wonderful but the palate problem is still not totally gone.  It left a bitterness in the very back of my mouth that wasn't there the first time I drank this wine.  The front end was delicious. 

2009 Foppiano Vineyards, Russian River Valley Petite Syrah.  14.9% alcohol and $22