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!

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.