Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Man's Trash......

....Is my nectar of the Gods. A friend called me up recently, asking about a certain wine he had just opened. "It's all wrong" he said, "it's oxidized and tastes like sherry". I asked him what specifically the wine was, and after he read the label I had to suppress a bit of a giggle, The wine in question was an Alvear Pedro Ximinez Montilla-Moriles Solera 1927. It turns out he had mixed this up with another very different wine at a tasting he attended and wasn't at all what he was after, and would I be willing to take it off his hands. "You Betcha!", this Alvear is one of my favorite dessert wines, stuffed full of dried fig, banana bread, chocolate, sweet spice, raisin, etc.... I just love it and a 500ml bottle can usually be had for less than $20. Montila-Moriles is a wine region near Adalucia, Spain that produces wines very similar to sherry (Jerez). This particular one is made entirely of Pedro Ximinez grapes that have been dried to near raisins before being vinified, as well as coming from a Solera that was begun in 1927. I paired it that night with decadent dark chocolates from Richart. I also love it with blue cheeses like Cabrales, Maytag, or Cashel Blue.

Photo borrowed from ulteriorepicure.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

For every wine there is a season

Dr. Vino is giving away a few copies of his new book. All you have to do is tell him what your favorite season is for drinking wine. Right now is my favorite wine season, the weather is getting a little cooler, the leaves are turning, the winds whip up and rustle the branches and the scatter the fallen leaves. The air manages to smell clean, yet earthy at the same time. I crave Cru Beaujolais, Chinon, Red Burgundy, Rhone Syrah. These wines in my mind have a parallel to the early fall. I just wish this season lasted longer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Friday night's malty delights!

The Lovely wife and I co-hosted a Beer tasting party with friends in Columbia Heights this past Friday, and I'm thrilled with how well it went. Even if I was a bit overzealous in the breadth of my selections for the evening. The turnout was great, everyone was inquisitive and adventurous, hey free beer and great pizza from Pete's Apizza who's gonna complain right? If I could make corrections for the next time, more of less beer is definitely on the list, though the 26 folks that did show up were well beyond my expectation, 6-8 selections is probably more ideal than thirteen.

The beer mostly came from my closet/cellar of slumbering goodies, all East-coast craft beer from Maryland to Quebec. Several one-off beers, anniversary brews that seemed to come around for a number of brewers over the last couple of years. The lineup featured a dozen some odd beers(some very odd) including Allagash Interlude, Four and Odyssey. Dogfish Head Red & White and Theobroma. Brewer's Art Green Peppercorn Triple, Unibroue Edition 2005, Middle Ages 10th Anniversary IIPA, Weyerbacher Decadence 10th Ann., Southern Tier Unearthly, Southampton Publick Houses' 10th Anniversary Old Ale, and Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence Stout. The defunct Heavyweight brewings' Biere d'art was just that, a touch over the hill, showing a little more oxidation than I would have liked.

Had I remembered to grab my camera, I surely would have posted pictures of all the imbibing, merriment, and jollity, but since I was camera free, you get none of that. All of that was going on though, trust me. What I was pleasantly surprised by was that no clear favorite emerged, some really liked the Uber-hoppy beers like the Southern Tier or Middle Ages. Some the Malt bombs such as the Southampton, and some loved the more complex beers like the Theobroma, or the Interlude. All in all a good beer night.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Omnivore's Hundred

I saw this over at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail and was intrigued, it originally got started over at Very Good Taste. I thought it might be neat to see how I stack up...... The ground rules as stated were,

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at Very Good Taste linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi(*)
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet Pepper( I'm giving myself a half point for having tasted the tiniest sliver of a raw scotch bonnet, and it was still too much. Yikes!)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda(*)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (I'm counting chocolate covered ants here)
43. Phaal(*)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi(*)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin(*, I'm still not sure here)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillettea
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkilll
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

76.5 out of a Hundred, not too shabby a number, I did have to use Wikipedia to figure out what several of these were(*)..... And see #26 for how I got a half point. I crossed of three items due to my issue with eating offal,.....just, can't, go, there.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Battle for Ultimate Cabernet Supremacy!

Well, ultimate supremacy may be a bit overreaching, but it was a tasty showdown between Cabernets from Washington and California. Some of our group were conspicuously missing due to uncontrollable circumstances, or struggling under the oppression of a nasty illness, but we soldiered on. The evening began with a couple of rare treats from the yesteryear of California wine, a 1979 Gundlach Bundschu Rhinefarm Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 1974 Charles Krug Napa Valley Vintage Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ( see this Vinography post for some great info on this wine and the Charles Krug Winery). Both of these wines showed beautifully, a testament to the greatness and potential longevity of good California cabernet. We were worried at first about the Krug, with an ullage at the low shoulder, but we worried for naught as it drank very well, first showing aromas and flavors of forest floor, black truffle, and finishing with an almost pemmican like meat/berry overtone. For me the Gundlach Bundschu stole center stage, at nearly thirty years of age it sang with such harmony and integration that any specific flavors had to be teased from the wine. Hints of currant amidst leather, dried fruits hinting at wild strawberries, this was just a joyful wine, to smell, drink, experience.( If you can't see it, that price tag says $6.99, about $16 today, still won't buy you wine this good.) Bless the Luna's for bringing these along!

Fast forward to 2003 in the Walla Walla Valley, the Whitman Cellars Cabernet showcases much that is good about Washington State wines. A beautiful dark garnet/purple color, the aroma of this wine was pleasant, full of currant and berries with a slight confected overtone. No candy in the flavor though, just pure elegant fruit, fine grained tannins, excellent balance, and a great finish.

The next five wines were tasted blind with only the knowledge that there were at least 2 California and 2 Washington cabernets. 1 wine poured first, and then 2 at a time, all of the bottles bagged and numbered, without further ado I present.....

Blind Wine #1 - First whiff, big alcohol punch right to the schnozz, there may be some fruit in there but the nose is really a hot, wet mess. Fat on the palate, with a spicy kick from the alcohol, some jammy black fruits, and with aeration a host of vegetal overtones. Yikes! I pegged this one as California and gave it a $20 price tag as I felt someone spent a little money crafting this train wreck.

Blind Wine #2 - The nose has a touch of sweetness right off the bat, blueberry/blackberryish with a spicy whiff of alcohol, and the flavors mirror this. Simple, cheap, but tasty. Again California, but a price range of $10 to $12 I'm guessing.

Blind Wine #3 - Bold nose of black-currant with hints of olive weaving through, leaning towards full-bodied, but this wine was all elegance. Fine supple tannins, pure complex flavors, and a lingering, weightless finish. Delicious! The group pretty much all agreed that this was Washington and I gave it a price tag of around $20-$25.

Blind Wine #4 - Initial reticent nose, but with some agressive aeration a bit of dark fruit overtones appeared and soon after some notes of mint as well. Big rough hewn body, this one took a swing at my palate with big meaty fistlike tannins, the fruit was a bit punchy as well. But after 20-30 minutes this guy calmed down and showed a bit of his debonair side, big and brawny yes, but not entirely inelegant. California, $20(ish).

Blind Wine #5 - The nose has a nice perfume right off the bat, bright red fruits, followed up by a whiff of oak and chocolate. Strong oak flavors wrapping up rich dark fruit on the palate, but well balanced and a long finish with a nice bite fro the tannins. I waffled on this one, but in comparison to the others I felt this was the second Washington state wine and pegged in around $25.

The Reveal........

Wine #1 was Gordon Bros Cabernet 2001 from the Columbia Valley, we were all way off here, though who could blame us, none of that trademark elegance that Washington wines are known for, just an overblown mess purchased for $18.99 several years ago.(I was especially disappointed here not only because this was the wine that I brought, but I've had much better wine from Gordon Bros. in the past. Much Better.) Ray's Station Cabernet 2005 coming from Sonoma and Napa California was #2, available for generally between $10 and $15. The wine we all pegged as Washington was indeed from the Columbia Valley, it was Barnard Griffin Cabernet 2006, purchased for around $25 and an excellent example of Wasington State Cabernet. Wine #4 was Calistoga Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet 2002, purchased for approx $30. The Final wine was Louis Martini Napa Valley Cabernet 2005 picked up for about $20.
All in all, the wines were generally representative of their origins and in most cases offered excellent value.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #45

Wine Blogging Wednesday is being hosted this month by Tim Elliot at Winecast, a great wine podcast and blog. The chosen theme is European rieslings, and I picked two, a Bollig-Lehnert Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Spätlese 2005 and a Rene Mure Riesling Cote de Rouffach 2001. The Mure unfortunately had become oxidized and was a shadow of its former self. The Bollig-Lehnert was a different story entirely.

Bollig-Lehnert is located in Trittenheim along the Mosel River, most well known, if not the best of German wine growing regions. The estates wines are imported by Derek Vinnicombe through WineSellers Ltd. The Apotheke vineyard near Trittenheim is a highly regarded vineyard site and the steep slopes and preponderance of blue slate make for great growing conditions for Riesling. This 2005 spätlese is a livewire, racy, crisp, with steely minerality, and a good core of green apple, apricot and melon fruit. The nose is mostly melon and apple blossoms. Sweetness is restrained and well balanced by the zippy acidity, all in all a great value at the $20ish that I acquired it for.

See my post on the Weingut Baumann 1975 for my thoughts on a German Riesling with more than a few years under the belt.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Thierry Gardinier and Chateau Phélan-Ségur

Chateau Phelan-Ségur is situated on a gravelly mound in the appellation of Saint-Estèphe near Chateaus Montrose, Bel-Air and Calon-Ségur. The vineyards were purchased in 1805 and 1810 by Irishman Bernard Phelan, and the estate is currently owned by Xavier Gardinier. Xavier operates Phelan-Ségur along with sons Thierry, Stéphane and Laurent, with the assistance of controversial consulting enologist Michel Rolland.

This past Tuesday I had the oppurtunity to taste through a selection of wines from past and present vintages along with Thierry Gardinier. Beginning with the 1996, we then tasted through a selection of vintages culminating with barrel samples of the 2006, 2007, and an early preview of a new project beginning with the 2007 vintage called Feu aux Roses.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 1996 - This was a very sexy wine...., perfumed, elegant, voluptous, silky. Immensely enjoyable, it is a wonderful thing to taste great Bordeaux with a touch of age on it, this should drink wonderfully for years to come.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2000 - From the "big" vintage, this one was a little quixotic, rich, full mouthfeel, some dark fruit flavors up front but not any more forthcoming than that. A bit dead and disappointing. Nothing off, just nothing on either, I suppose it could have been a bad bottle?

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2004 - Back on form with a much overlooked vintage, the '04 is fresh and vibrant, with primary flavors of cassis, cherry, and cedar underpinned with crisp acidity and fine minerality. Look for this to evolve well over the next 5 years or so and develop into a fabulous drink.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2005 - Displaying characteristics of the vintage, this was a strong muscular wine, firm tannic structure and rather young and closed off. Some tobacco like earthiness, maybe a touch of vanilla wrapped around a black fruit core, wait a couple of years and check it out again, I think given time this will be a winner.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2006 - This was a barrel sample, still several months away from being bottled but showed well nonetheless. Soft tannins, red fruits, cigar box, floral overtones and a lithe freshness, look for this one to be an early drinker.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2007 - Still very young this Phelan-Ségur was deep and inky colored, with very strong tannins that need a bit of softening yet. Overall quality is often hard to judge at this stage though I feel this will be somewhere in between the '04 and '05.

Feu aux Roses 2007 - Named after a boat belonging to original Phelan-Ségur owner Bernard Phelan, this interesting new project appears to be an attempt to challenge the Cult wines of California while retaining a sense of Bordeaux Terroir. Fermented in 500L double barrique with no racking or pumping over, just gentle turning several times daily. A dense mouthfeel coupled with intense dark fruit flavors on top of mouthcoating tannins, this will be a big wine for certain and I would be very interested to taste the fruits of their labor on release. With as minimal a quantity as they are planning to release I may never see this wine again, as the importer said that a total five 6pks will likely be available.