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!

Doing Penance

Le Grand Noir 2011 Pinot Noir (Limoux, France)

Last Years Label

Ok, had a totally sinful weekend at Sharpe Hill Vineyards & Winery & Restaurant & Favorite Place in the Northeast for me to go for an autumn afternoon.  More pictures soon.  RIght now I am sitting here, proud as punch of myself to have not engaged in the SubSin of Gluttony called Laute, expensive gluttony, actually purchasing a mixed case of wine for $141 which is $13 a bottle. So, let’s complete our penance and drink ’em up, eh?  Le Grand Noir 2011 Pinot Noir is full of fresh cherry pie and vanilla.  It contains about 14% Grenache.  It comes from south central France where we don’t usually get wine from.  It is a soft, silky drink with lots of delicious flavor and a luscious body, but no roughness.  It’s THAT bottle of red wine to sit and drink. Screw food.  Repent you bad bad sinner.  You know your wicked guilty.  Pour yourself another.  I have a dozen.  Island Spirits & Wines on Broadway in Newport has 20% off wine and liquor (I think – don’t qoute me) until October 31st.  With tax this wine was under $10.  Damn its good.  I will talk about our fantastic trip to Sharpe Hill this weekend tomorrow.

          Road to Sharpe Hill Vineyards

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.

Wineguy’s Wine #2 – Carmenere

Viu Manent 2010 Gran Reserva Carmenere (Colchagua Valley – Chile):
Price Point: $13 – $15 btl.
Availability: 7
Color: Red
Weight: Medium-Full
Professional Ratings: 87-90 (scale 60-100)
My Rating: 16 (scale 1-20)
 This beautiful, easy drinking Chilean red has a beautiful dusty, herbal nose full of dark cranberries and wild mountain blueberries. The herbal notes are cleaner once you taste this deep yet crisp wine – greek oregano, eucalyptus, cinnamon, all followed by more dark berries, black and blue, and a hint of dark chocolate. The tannins are almost non-existant once you pair this beauty with food (Bob made his famous Lamb Ragú over rigatoni – more a Greek flavored dish than an Italian one) and the medium finish is one of warmed burned Italian bread, white pepper and exotic spices of the subcontinent.

What is Carmenere you ask? It is a dark-skinned red grape variety originally from the vineyards of Bordeaux, which has found a particularly suitable home in Chile where it is sometimes also known as Grande Vidure. A late-ripening variety, Carmenere needs high levels of sunshine and a warm summer to reach its potential, but in the right environment it can produce fine, deeply-colored red wines, with the attractive meaty plumpness of Merlot and the gently herbaceous, cedary notes of Cabernet Sauvignon.These similarities are not altogether surprising, as Carmenere is considered by some to be the ‘grandfather’ of several Bordeaux varieties, genetically ancenstoral to Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbec, which makes it also related to Merlot.

Go on, try it! You’ll like it!


Wineguy’s Wine #1 – Bordeaux

Château Les Grands Maréchaux 2009 (Côtes de Bordeaux, France)
Price Point: $20 – $22
Availability: 8 (but going FAST!)
Color: Red
Varietal(s): 84% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon
Weight: Medium to Full bodied  
Professional Rating: 88-92 (50-100 scale)
My Rating: 17+ (1-20 scale)

What? Me rave about a French wine? Maybe something from the Languedoc, sure, but a Bordeaux? Never! Life Lesson #3487 – never say never! 2009 was an exceptional vintage in Bordeaux for a myriad of reasons and Robert Parker is calling it the best in 32 years. That’s something people! Robert Parker is a deity in Bordeaux. While those $500 bottles are nicely cellared and waiting for Godot, the Bordeaux blends from the Cotes de Bordeaux (or rather, the surrounding countryside that is not “top notch” as Thurston Howell III would say) are priced just right and drinking beautifully.

This blend, which relies heavily on the Merlot and uses the two Cabs for added structure and nose, is rich, unctuous, and ready to drink now through, maybe, 2014 or 2015. The color is a deep ruby red. The nose is full of licorice, violets and the herbal notes that the Cabernet Franc bring to the bottle. The minute it hits your mouth it is elegant, silky, full of dark jammy fruit, black cherries, cola and mulling spice but fresh and lively at the same time. It is definitely an food wine, not something to just sit around and sip. We paired it with a porterhouse steak with a red wine and shallot reduction and the de rigueur baked potato w/butter and sour cream. I was shaking the last bits out of the bottle … the finish on the wine was clean and the tannins were light but present, enough to hold up to a good cut of meat. This is an exquisite wine that is already a favorite. Our wine seller at Bellevue Wines actually opened a bottle for us to try a few weeks ago and sent us home with the bottle. We returned the next day and bought a case. It IS that good. Definitely decant it just to aerate it before serving.

For those that are not familiar with what makes a Bordeaux wine a Bordeaux wine, let me try to explain it as best I can. Unlike in the “new” world (the US, South America, Australia/NZ, South Africa, etc.) where wines are “usually” described by the varietal or majority of varietal grape in the bottle (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio (ok, it applies to some of the old world, like Italy, as well), in much of France, Spain, Germany and Italy, wine is called by the region it is grown in and only certain grapes are allowed to be grown in that region. For example, in Burgundy, France, only Pinot Noir can be made into a Red Burgundy and only Chardonnay can be made into a White Burgundy (for the most part). This also applies to the most northern most region of Burgundy, the Champagne region, where only Pinot Noir & Chardonnay are allowed to be used in making true Champagne. In Bordeaux, there are three main red varietals that are principally used: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc. Sometimes, small amounts of other varietals such as Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère are allowed, but only Petit Verdot is really still used, and only in moderation. The latter two have moved to Argentina and Chile, respectively, where they are making wonderful varietal wines. Different regions of Bordeaux use different grapes as the main base, but it is almost always either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, with Cabernet Franc added in. The regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol are famous for their Merlot based wines with Cabernet Franc. This wine would be very close to a poor man’s version of one of those famous Pomerols like Châteax Pétrus or Châteax Le Pin.
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