Interregnum

A Few Hints on the Day Before Thanksgiving:

The Red Wines for tomorrow are Gamay and Pinot Noir, maybe a lighter Grenache.  Don’t annoy someone with god damn Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile which makes EVERYONE’S mouth taste like they just ate a tea bag. Go soft.  Gentle.  Gentler.  Beaujolais Village Cru.  2011 Morgon.  2009 Moulin-a-Vent.  Maybe a Grenache from north of Barcelona.  Yes.  That’s the spot.

The White Wines are Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris (avoid Grigio if you can), Gewurztraminer, perhaps. Honestly most white go, since a lotta guys will be drinking beers and the women will start drinking the wine the minute they start to ignore their kids, so whatever really, right ladies?  A nice blend, like Connundrum always works.

We got delivery tonight. Bobbo is baking pies and making some appetizers for tomorrow. He does a great raspberry baked brie and a crab dip.  Then again, doesn’t everyone.

The Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2012 is fantastic for under $10 a bottle. We have been getting it for between $9 and $10 and have been having a bottle or 2 every night. It is the time to indulge and it is a great year! Remember, this wine can ONLY be drank between Nov. 16th and Jan. 1st. The brave drink it to Jan. 15th. I am a brave man! Santé! A wonderful holiday to you, even if you don’t celebrate it.  In much of Aerica, It has turned into a time to celebrate friends and family, no matter how much you hate it!

Mortal Sin #1

Everett Ridge 2009 Preston Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma)

 

One of the best locations in the world – the Preston Vineyards in the warm, rolling hills of the Dry Creek Valley.  Sauvignon Blanc grapes loving the sunny days and cool nights, many times touched by whisps of fog. Bottle that purely and organically.  Wait about (3) three years and change.  Stir in Wild Mushroom Lasagna with a Bechamel Sauce and some garlic bread and this becomes something beautiful.  The wine is a tease, no longer available in markets.  Somewhat waxy, dull floral nose (which increase citrus scents when it warms up) open on to a really nice combo of pink grapefruit, muskmelon and a hint of the same lime you find in the nose.  I would give it a 15. People who are on the Follow list currently or within 24 hours of this posting will be e-mailed the recipe for the Lasagna.  Oh, and its No-Boil.  Those that asked me and I assured them Bobbo cooks his own noodles, he looked at me, rolled his eyes, and said “as if.  This ain’t Top Chef…”

Wild Mushroom Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce and a thin crisp garlic bread; 2009 Everett Ridge Sauvignon Blanc

 

Wineguy’s Wine #6 – Marsanne / Viognier blend

Treana 2008 Marsanne / Viognier (Central Coast, California)

Price Point: $18-20
Availability: 4
Color: Deep, Golden Honey (White)
Varietal(s): Marsanne, Viognier
Weight: Medium
My Rating: 16 (1-20 scale)

 

I hope my e-mail followers remain patient while I formalize the editing process here.  I promise to have it done within the next few posts, so that when I post, it is posted. Blogger Desperately Seeking Editor!

OK then.  If you remember how I described my last wine, the Clos du Bois Calcaire Chardonnay as high in alcohol and needing to be matched with food, this bottle of golden sunshine is equally high in alcohol, yet its uniqueness allows it to stand on its own and it almost dares food to touch it. The color is a deep golden yellow.  One of the colors of the sunset you see as you watch it go down over Morro Bay. The legs are full, announcing the 14.5% ABV (alcohol by volume). Funny thing is this wine never gets ‘hot.’ The alcohol never overpowers it and the multi-faceted and ever-changing aromas keep punching through to the end. This is the kind of wine you want to drink with your nose, just swirl around and continue to take deep whiffs of to the very end in order to appreciate the variety of smells flying out of the glass.  First came honey with a punch of apricots; the next sniff was all peaches; the next was a hint of kefir lime with mysterious but intense floral notes, perhaps honeysuckle or acacia. However, in every whiff, there was the honey with a slight waxy, lanolin undertone. Yet, always that rich, unctuous honey.

While Marsanne is the slightly predominant grape (with 55%), the floral, bright, peachy Viognier (45%) shines through on your first sip.  The Marsanne provides a nice backbone and structure to the intense flavors of the lighter stone fruits such as peach, apricot, mango & nectarines, as well as a bit of a deep citrus, perhaps pineapple, which allows the acidity and structure of this wine to come through and stand up, again all wrapped up in this cloud of honey. The deep long finish lights up a hint of minerality, but just a wisp. A majority of the grapes in this wine came from the Santa Lucia Highlands, who’s cooling climate helps give the wine these stunning aromas and flavors.

We paired this with a simple meal of Pumpkin Ravioli in a Sage & Brown Butter Sauce and Chicken Chipolata with a Shallot Reduction.  The wine paired well, although my favorite glass was the one I had after the meal while watching Real Time with Bill Maher (I had to – Ann Coulter was on – HAH!). 

Pumpkin ravioli in a sage & brown butter sauce; chicken chipolata with a shallot reduction; Treana 2008 Marsanne/Viognier (yeah, and a Fuji Apple Pear Sobe, so?)

Viognier is an aromatic grape variety known for producing textural white wines with strong stone-fruit flavors. On the nose Viognier wines can be very floral, showing aromas that are quite honeyed in sweeter examples. Apricots are the variety’s classic flavor association, often with a richness that can be interpreted as ripe peach. In the late 1960’s just 40 acres (16ha) of Viognier vines were all that remained in the world. It took interest from Yalumba in Australia’s Eden Valley to breathe the first signs of life back into the variety, along with a handful of enterprising wine growers in California, notably Calera. During the 21st Century, Viognier has had a remarkable renaissance, and is now found in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the US, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and even Japan. In some locations, notably California and Australia, Viognier has emerged as a prestigious niche variety. The reason for Viognier’s former decline is also the reason for its current cachet. It is hard to cultivate and not naturally predisposed to producing healthy reliable yields. Moreover, Viognier grapes have naturally low acidity and require a great deal of sunshine to ripen properly. Too much heat and they yield overblown, hotly alcoholic wine that lacks the fresh, steely, apricot zing that is part of the variety’s appeal. It is precisely this difficult balancing act that has led to so many Late Harvest Viogniers being created. As winemakers anxiously wait for their grapes to develop the right flavors, the sugar levels go through the roof, often leaving a sticky Late Harvest style as the only option. Both Condrieu and Chateau Grillet (in France) produce sweet versions of their wines to complement the dry ones, particularly in hot vintages, which drive yields down and sugar levels up. The terroir required to produce quality Viognier is warm and sunny, with a specific soil type. The steep granite slopes of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet have proved able to create perfumed Viognier wine that confidently treads the tightrope between feminine, elegant fragrance and sinuous muscularity. On the Cote Rotie, Viognier is co-fermented into the appellation’s Syrah-based wines, and even the permitted 5% makes a significant difference to the final product. Here, the limestone soils of the Cote Blonde have proved well suited to the variety (and certainly better than the darker, ferrous schists of the Cote Brune). Other terrains have not been so successful, particularly those lacking good drainage. Californian Viogniers in particular have tended towards the over-powerful end of the spectrum, many reaching 15% ABV. In Australia, Eden Valley Viognier produces the nation’s finest examples of the variety, although the cooler areas of New South Wales are also showing significant potential as Viognier-producing regions. Ongoing DNA research at the University of California Davis has suggested a genetic link between Viognier and the Piedmont varieties Nebbiolo and Freisa

Marsanne is a full-bodied white grape that is commonly blended with Roussanne or Viognier. Often touted as a Chardonnay alternative, Marsanne has weight and structure, but often lacks the fruit and perfume needed to make it a complete wine. This explains the long-standing tradition of blending it with the more aromatic Viognier or Roussanne.  The tradition of Roussanne blending has its roots in the steep, granite-based soils of Hermitage of the northern Rhone, but is also used in the broader Crozes-Hermitage and Saint-Joseph appellations. In the Savoie and Languedoc, however, Viognier is most often its blending partner. As a single varietal wine, Marsanne can be produced in a number of styles. In Switzerland and northern Italy it is produced as both sweet and dry wines. The Marsanne grape probably originated in the northern Rhone Valley, most likely from the area around the village of the same name, and it is one of the eight permitted grape varieties in the Cotes du Rhone appellation. It is grown extensively in California and Washington, but the grape seems to have found a natural home in Australia, where three-quarters of the world’s Marsanne is now grown. Marsanne first made its way to Australia in the 1860s where it was planted in the states of Victoria and South Australia. The Tahbilk winery was among the first to grow Marsanne in the Nagambie Lakes district, and now boasts what may be the oldest productive Marsanne vines in the world, the ‘1927 Vines Marsanne‘. Old vine Marsanne has the potential to age for up to 15 years and can develop deep amber colors and nutty, orange-marmalade flavors. In its youth Marsanne may be lightly colored with straw, and even green, hues. There is a typical earthen minerality to good quality Marsanne with honeysuckle and melon notes being characteristic of the young wine. Marsanne’s berry clusters tend to be loose and the variety is more productive and less temperamental than Roussanne. In hot climates, Marsanne can struggle to develop enough acidity to prevent its weight from muting its flavor, but cooler climates can produce complex and age-worthy wine.

*The descriptions of Viognier and Marsanne were taken from wine-searcher.com and edited somewhat by moi for clarity.

Wineguy’s Wine #5 – Chardonnay

Clos du Bois 2009 Chardonnay ‘Calcaire’ (Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California)

Price Point:  $25
Availability:  6
Color:  White
Varietal(s): 100% Chardonnay
Weight:  Medium
My Rating:  13 (1-20 scale)

 

Thirty years ago, when Clos du Bois was a small family owned operation located in the heart of Healdsburg, the drinking age was still 18, and I was just opening my eyes to the wondrous world of wine, it was this wine, Calcaire, and it deceased sister, Flintwood, who I still mourn, both from the age when intense butter-bombs were appreciated and revered, that not only taught me what malolactic fermentation REALLY was, but firmly cemented me as a Califoniaphile. These two wines, along with Clos’ Merlot, Seghesio Zinfandel and La Crema Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were my introductions to the wine world three decades back.  When I found this bottle on the stores of one of my favorite wine shops here in Rhode Island, I was tickled at the idea of travelling back in time. Of course, it’s true, you really can’t go home again.

The aromas I found (while the wine was cold) were intense green apple, vanilla & baking spices.  As the wine warmed, it opened up with lovely lemony, pear and toasted oak scents. The color was a deep, golden straw and the texture was medium bodied, yet heavy for a white, with what appeared to be “gorgeous gams” (by “gams” I refer to the legs of the wine on the glass*). After my second glass this turned into the perfect wine to swirl around to a spacey random screensaver while listening to some Damien Rice. The flavors, similar to the aromas, light citrus, apple, pear, vanilla, and buttered lightly burnt toast (a hint of the medium to heavy toast put on the barrels), are all wrapped up in a luscious malolactic creamy envelope and topped off with nice acidity. The flaw is in the alcohol.  It is the one flaw in this baby. I like my Chard’s ready to travel. I don’t have a fridge on the third floor where I sit and type this. If my Chardonnay gets warm, I don’t need it to make me sneeze. My third glass was like drinking a Kitty D. special. At an almost chilly 63 degrees room temp, it became almost undrinkable … focus on the almost. So yes, this is a nice bottle of wine. Definitely needs food. Unlike a true butter-bomb, serve chilled. I should have waited to have it with dinner, but I’m not known for my patience.  

*Legs, or to some, tears, are nothing more than a measure of the alcohol, or in wine’s case, ethanol, found in each glass. The physical properties behind are referred to as the Gibbs_Marangoni effect. I could sputter on about the chemical weight of water vs. ethanol, yada yada, so let’s not. Let’s just say that the legs or tears of a wine are a measure of its alcohol content and nothing more.  The heavier the legs, the higher the alcohol. If you want to amaze your friends with a neat trick, place a playing card over the opening of the glass.  Without oxygen, the legs will stop falling.  Remove the card, they will begin again.

**Chardonnay is undoubtedly the noblest white grape in the world. It can produce the greatest variety of wines in the greatest variety of areas. DNA profiling has concluded that Chardonnay is a cross between the notoriously unstable Pinot Noir and an ancient, and now almost extinct, variety called Gouais Blanc. Burgundy, France is the location Chardonnay’s birthplace, and few dispute that claim. Chardonnay is fairly low in character, meaning that it is not terribly impressive on its own, or vastly distinguishable from other white grape varieties you would find in a mass produced white blend. Much of what determines the personality of a Chardonnay is what the winemaker does to the grapes. Using oak to ferment and/or age the wine produces vanilla flavors, while adding richness. Leaving the wine on the spent yeast cells, or lees, adds complexity and a toasty note. Conducting malolactic fermentation (turning the harsher malic or apple acids in the wine to softer lactic or milk acids) reduces the overall acidity and produces a softer, creamier wine. None of this is derived from the grapes themselves but from the hand of the winemaker. Chardonnay is hardy and versatile and can grow successfully in all but the most extreme wine regions around the world. It can make great — though somewhat different — wines almost anywhere it’s able to be grown. Cool climate Chardonnays tend toward a dry crispness and clean fruit flavors. Warmer climate Chardonnays lean toward richer honey and butterscotch flavors. In Burgundy, Chardonnay goes into ALL the region’s white wines. It’s one of the three grapes — along with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier — allowed in Champagne and the only grape in blanc de blancs. Chardonnay is everywhere. Chardonnay is particularly compatible with oak, and many wine producers have been criticized in recent years for over-oaking their Chardonnays. Since then, a series of unoaked Chardonnays have entered the arena and are gaining momentum, Newton’s Unoaked Chardonnay from California comes to mind. Traditionally, famed unoaked styles have come from northern Italy, Chablis, and Burgundy’s Mâconnais district.  Chardonnay’s versatility is the main reason why it has become one of the most recognized wines in the world. You can expect a tremendous variety of flavors, medium to high acidity, medium to full body, and minimal fruit to tropical fruit. And you can count on a wine that’s never going to surprise you with sweetness.

**The last paragraph on Chardonnay was taken from a work of Peter Alig to which I made editorial updates and changes.

Committing Venial Sins and Confession to a Pork Belly

One thing that I find the most frustrating – I drink more wine than I write about. Way more wine than I have a chance to commit them to typographic memory. What can make that worse is, sometimes, when I go back to have a wine a second time, the situation of the taste… bar v. restaurant … meal v. drink … you get the picture, changes something about the wine.  I don’t want to be one of those people running around talking into their phone to record things, but it may be not too far down the pipeline. 

Same thing with food.  October 9th was a big milestone for me on my new journey back into the world of wine, what with almost 30 years of dancing around wines, grapes, vineyards, all sorts of places or things associated with the vine. I started teaching about wine again.  I did beer classes in 2010 and taught wine from 2005 through 2009  I did so many seminars in the late 90s and early 00s in California.  I still remember when I sold about 18 cases of almost “gone” Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (gone meaning it had only a year or so left in its life) with nothing but my mouth and a tub of shucked oysters and some lemons.  I have forgotten the exact things I spoke about Tuesday in class (although I started following the syllabus I developed in the beginning of the class, I’m sure). Those that know me say I go off on tangents.  I’m sure we will be on one by the end of this post. We may be already.  Who knows?  I want to memorialize my meal after the class. The Chef at One Bellevue invited Bobbo and I (or is it me?) to sit down and enjoy a 4 course meal on him.  A perfect ending to a perfect day.

Crispy Pork Belly, pickled red cabbage, golden raisins, cider gastrique

Both of us began with Crispy Pork Belly, a perfect combination of skin, fat and meat drizzled with the most divine (too gay? ok, exquisite then…) cider gastrique with a perfect amount of acid to cut through the thickness of the dish and a nice big glass of the unctuous and dark Belle Glos Meiomi 2011 Pinot Noir. I continued on with Chef Thiele’s Grand Chowder, which is a kind of medium consistency clam chowder base, then nicely supplanted with scallops, shrimp, & lobster.  It has a rich, refined consistency and is spiced properly so it doesn’t fall flat on you from the richness of the cream.  It paired perfectly with the suggested Ferrari Carano 2010 Chardonnay which has a nice backbone of acidity but the proper buttery, creamy base and late summer stone fruit upnotes. This was followed by the sushi-grade rare Ahi tuna steak with blackberry reduction.  It was red meat from the ocean, a rancher’s dream. I had my Mr. Miyagi moment when I was about to order a light Chard when the server recommended something different based upon the exercises and lecture from the class earlier.  Instead, I had the smooth, light, balanced and extremely aromatic 2009 Erath Pinot Noir. Fit the dish to perfection.  The quality of the tuna and the blackberry glaze made it a hearty and sweet dish while the bed of lentils it laid on gave it a salty and earthy quality.  We shared an Artisinal Cheese & Fruit plate while a mysterious bottle of Renwood 2004 Amador Zinfandel Ice Wine appeared before us.  The whole meal was capped off by shots of Redbreast 12-year Irish Whiskey, a smooth easy-drinking whiskey from County Cork, last years Irish whiskey of the year.