Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Spring won't let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.... Gustav Mahler

We are finally starting to get more warm days here, days filled with spring sunshine.  We are by no means through with winter weather, but it will not be the dominant pattern from here forward.

Yesterday the resident canine, Ms. Birdie, and I took a lengthy walk along the Great Miami River.  Two weeks ago with snow melt and heavy rains the river was above flood stage and filled with brown mud flowing down stream.  Yesterday it it was clear, bright and back in its channel.

It's time for a change in menu habits with more grilling and lighter fare.  The wines I drink will match that trend as well - the Chablis from last week is the first indication of things to come. 

Our walks will get longer also.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


The second half of the dinner from the post below this one was a beef tenderloin in a crushed, black pepper crust.  It was a very good piece of meet, and the peppercorns had some of their bite removed by sauteing them in olive oil prior to becoming the coating for the tenderloin.

The wine for this course was a 2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia from Napa Valley.  This particular Insignia vintage has some history behind it - it was the Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 2005 and it is a wine that Robert Parker scored 100 points.  That's a lot of hype for any wine, and the type of hype that would normally send me running in the opposite direction.

I pay attention to Mr. Parker and to James Laube, the California Cabernet Guru of the Spectator, for unusual reasons.  Their palates and mine do not agree so they serve as a great guide on wines to avoid.   That said - I liked this wine, but I didn't love it.

Things began with inky dark colors and a full on fruital assault on the nose.  Immensely fruity wine with black cherry and blackberry jam flavors.  The tannins had settled in and provided a structure without insisting on playing a leading role.  Even with the richness of the fruit there was still ample acid to support everything.  The finish was quite lengthy and finished with a fruity but dry note.  This wine was full of itself without being overpowering.  And yet, something was lacking and I'm still not sure what it was.  Perhaps the best way to describe this wine was to say that it wonderfully correct and beautiful but lacked any personality to make it stand out. 

2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia.  Napa Valley red wine. 14.5% alcohol and $270.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


An excellent dinner last night was a replacement for one that was postponed during one of the February blizzards in this area when driving became hazardous and every one stayed home.  

I was responsible for the first course and it was well received and very good.  There was lobster ravioli in a brown butter sauce finished only with some fresh white pepper.   There is a local place that makes ravioli daily and these were from them, saving me much work.

The wine was a Jean-Paul  & Benoit Droin Grand Cru Chablis, Vaudesir from the 2011 vintage.  It was a beautiful wine in the glass with a pale gold color.  One sniff was all it took to know that this was Chablis.  Rain on dry earth (petrichor) and ocean spray were strong.  The wine was closed up a bit and took half an hour for a true taste to emerge, though the dry and crisp mouth feel was evident from the start. 

When the wine did open up the flavors were bold with hints of fresh picked, green grapes and a bit of citrus, but this wine was more about its place than its flavor.  It was Chablis  and it tasted like spring.  With the ravioli it was even better as it cut both the richness of the lobster and the pungency of the brown butter.  A wonderful pairing.

2011 Jean-Paul  & Benoit Droin Grand Cru Chablis, Vaudesir.  13% alcohol and $70.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Just a Few Old Memories

Spring cleaning is underway here and I decided to tackled my oldest file cabinet.  Since the files were very old and mostly ignored for some time it is a slow task. I find myself stopping and looking or reading because of the memories generated.  One of the folders contained a number of old wine labels from the time where they were easy to remove from the bottle by simply running warm water into and over the bottle.  It also contained hand written notes about some of the wines. 

My notes on a 1979 Chateau Montrose, a second growth Saint-Estephe written in 1989.

Lots of cedar and cigars in the nose.   Dark color with no browning on the edges.  Strong flavors of cherries, cedar and graphite.  Long finish with lots of fruit.  Strong tannins.  Dinner was a lamb stew.  Shared with Steve M.

The wine may have been memorable, but apparently Steve M.  wasn't because I have no idea who he is these twenty five years later.  Perhaps another bottle of Montrose would help me remember.  ☺

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Last Day of Winter

The last day of winter and the weather was on that cusp - cool and gray but not cold nor biting.  The grill is up and running and there was a two rib thick pork chop from a Berkshire hog that spent half an hour warming up with a mop sauce of cider vinegar, dark soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, granulated garlic and onions, salt, pepper, oil and water.   It was basted half a dozen times both directly over the coals and when it was finishing on the cooler side of the grill.   

The wine was one of my favorites - a Riesling from Alfred and Rolf Merklebach in the Mosel.  Specifically it was and Urziger Wurzgarten Spatlese from the 2009 vintage.  With it's sharp acidity and its taste of ripe apples it was just a dream with the fatty pork.  And the sharpness of the vinegar on the surface of the chop was a perefect partner for the residual sugar in the wine.  This was a treat.  I have never had a Merkelbach wine that hasn't been a thrill to drink.

2009 Alfred Merkelbach Urziger Wurzgarten Riseling Spatlese.  9% alcohol and $20.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


We were treated to a preview of spring yesterday - 70 degrees and lots of sunshine.  A Hemingway Daiquiri, AKA a Floridita, seemed in order.  Fresh lime juice, fresh grapefruit juice, simple syrup, Maraschino liqueur and rum.  Shaken vigorously with ice until astoundingly cold and strained into a glass with fresh ice.  A thin slice of lime for garnish.  Repeated.  Early to bed and very happy.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cidre Again

Five years old and smelling of ripe apples. fresh earth and mushrooms.  Log lasting bubbles and a wonderful taste of tart apples.  Very nice.  The last bottle.

Ettiene Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut de Normandie.  5.5% alcohol and $8

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Little Dickens

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

Charles Dickens
Great Expectations
 2012 Benanti Rosso di Verzella.  14% alcohol and $15

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Second Time Around

“Wine enters through the mouth,
Love, the eyes.
I raise the glass to my mouth,
I look at you,
I sigh.”
―W.B. Yeats
From the post below... The Mt. Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon in the glass on the second day after being opened.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mountain Wine

One sure way to test the palate for complete recovery is to pop open a mountain wine from Napa Valley.  They are full of tannin and take some time to mature.  Since part of my palate problem was the production of less saliva than normal tannic wines have been a challenge since tannin seems more pronounced with less saliva.  

I opened a 2008 Mt. Veeder Winery, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, made with mountain grapes.   The cork came out about four hours prior to dinner and that proved a blessing.  The initial sip was pure tannin and not pleasurable at all.  By the time some beef stroganoff as ready the wine had changed dramatically.  The tannin seemed much less brutal.  There were wonderful aromas of earth and cedar and tobacco.  The flavors were not shy and full of dark berries with some red cherries for highlights.  The tannins were still strong but they were manageable.  With the food the tannins mellowed considerably and provided a structure to both the food and the wine.  They were quite good together.

I drank just less than half of the wine and poured the remainder back into the bottle for an overnight stay under vacuum.  The next day it accompanied some asparagus and Gruyere ravioli in brown butter sauce.  What a difference another twenty four hours made.  This wine was really singing some beautiful music on the second day.  The tannins were friendly and warm and the fruit was ripe and sweet.  This time it was a total joy.

I very much dislike putting numeric scores on bottles of wine. No need to go into the reasons for that here, so let me just say that if I were scoring this wine it would have scored significantly higher on day two. 

2008 Mt. Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.5% alcohol and $40.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Still Winter

The previous, resident Gordon Setters for whom this blog is partially named would have been apoplectic if they looked out the door and saw this Eastern Gray Squirrel casually eating hickory nuts and cracked corn under a crab apple tree.  The current, resident Gordon is napping and dreaming of spring and her coming dinner.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Yesterday was dark and stormy with four more inches of snow.  Today is sunny and clear but after sunset the temperature will plummet to zero again.  A Dark and Stormy seemed like the perfect drink a cold, but sunny day.   Dark rum, ginger beer and lime juice to carry me away to the tropics if only for the afternoon. 

"After all tomorrow is another day"..... Vivian Leigh.  Gone With the Wind

Monday, March 2, 2015

Winter Wine

Wine gives a man nothing... it only puts in motion what had been locked up in frost.
Samuel Johnson

Calamari and bay scallops, spring onions and zucchini as a fritto misto. Good food - better wine.

2009 Kinkead Ridge, Ohio River Valley Viognier Rousanne.   14.2% alcohol and $16

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cullen Diana Madeline

Our wine for Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) this year was from the Margaret River area of western Australia.  The wine was a 2003 Cullen Wines, Diana Madeline - a blend of 72% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 4% petit verdot and 4% malbec.  It has been resting in the cellar for a number of years and yesterday was its time to shine.

The wine got four hours in a decanter before dinner, though there was a small sample taste when decanting.  That sample taste was very closed and offered little in the way of aroma and only basic fruit and tannin in the taste.  The four hours in the decanter totally transformed the wine.

When the lamb chops (pictured below) and pasta, filled with pureed asparagus and Gruyere cheese, was ready so was the wine.  There were strong and beautiful aromas of freshly crushed red cherries and darker berries.  There was a not too dry aroma of clean earth as well.  The wine was fully colored and dark in the glass.  The taste was a total balance between red cherries, a few berries and a much darker flavor of cassis.  There were ample tannins, but they were certainly not harsh.  They gave a great structure to the wine and left a sensation of graphite on the finish.  This wine was excellent from the tip of the tongue to the back of the throat.  Despite the luscious fruit this wine stayed more to the savory side of life and with the lamb it was near perfect. 
2003 Cullen Wines, Diana Madeline.  13.5% alcohol and an internet searched replacement price of $130.