There is so much great wine out there waiting to be tasted! I recently had two wines, both excellent, a Vouvray and a Chinon, made by a couple of producers whose wines I had never before tasted. No matter how familiar (so-so, at best actually) I start to feel with the Loire Valley, I taste something new and remember how many skilled producers there are making wine. And I have tasted so little of it. I need to make another trip out there...
Friday, June 29, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
A Chablis completely rocked my world last time I went to a Sotheby's pre-auction tasting. It was my first real Chablis, and what a way to start. Domaine William Fevre is among the very top producers in Chablis, and the Grand Cru designated Le Clos vineyard produces what many feel are his top wines each year.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I am so happy to find that I might be a big fan of the 2005 vintage in the Willamette Valley. Like '04, '05 was another tough one in which yields were low. It's interesting, though, that although yields were reduced in both years, the wines of '04 are quite different from those in '05. The '04 wines I've tasted tend to be lush and fruit forward, concentrated and dark, new world in style. Those I have tasted from '05 are much lighter with prominent acidity, and seem to be showing a more Burgundian variety of aroma and flavors like forest and dried leaves, flowers, leather or animal, and earthy characteristics.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
A cocktail moment: this is a refreshing and delicious drink for the summer weather. A riff on the classic Gin Rickey, adding raspberry syrup. I came up with this last summer when, after a visit to the Russian groceries of Brighton Beach, BrooklynLady and I had to find many uses for raspberry syrup.
I like Marco Polo raspberry syrup. Ingredients: raspberry juice, sugar. Made in Slovenia. I also like Hendrick's Gin, although it is strongly flavoured (I add the "u" when discussing gin) and that gets lost here. You could use Gordon's or any gin, and it would be fine.
Here is the recipe:
- Two fingers of gin over ice cubes in a rocks glass.
- Squeeze the juice of half a lime into the glass.
- Add about an ounce of raspberry syrup.
- Pour contents of glass, including ice, into cocktail shaker.
- Shake it like you mean it.
- Pour back into glass, top with club soda, stir.
- Drink up.
(Before the shaking, left.)
(Before the drinking, below.)
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I love Beaujolais. There, I said it. And now that I said it, I feel free, like dancing in the streets. Okay, an exaggeration maybe, but I do love the wines of Beaujolais. I'm not the only one, either. Many wine people hold these inexpensive and maligned wines in high esteem. These are lively and lovely wines that go great with all kinds of food, and if you spend $20 on a bottle you're buying the top of the line.
Some people just don't get it when it comes to Beaujolais. You know why - the whole Beaujolais Nouveau thing - the sweet, inexpensive, and often plonky wine that some people immediately think about when they hear "Beaujolais." When this kind of person walks into a wine store and asks for help selecting a wine for $15 or less to bring to a friend's house for dinner, and the staffer suggests a Beaujolais Villages for $12, this person says "really, a Beaujolais, huh?" and instead buys a J. Lohr Cabernet or something. We can't protect everyone from themselves, can we?
But that person is most likely not reading this blog (unless they are my parents, and they're forgiven). you are, and you already know how great Beaujolais can be. So what can I, a Brooklynguy, add to our collective understanding? Well, I got to thinking...if I had the $$$$ I would do a full tasting tour of Burgundy. I would really delve into the terroir, see how Auxey-Durresses differs from Monthelie, and that from Puligny. I would buy wines made by a few producers in Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, and Morey St Denis and open them all at the same time to understand something about the character of those soils.
That would cost a fortune. So I instead read Burgundy Report and whatever else I can get my hands on that talks about that sort of thing, and I catalog the Burgundy wine I do get to sample in this blog.
But I COULD do that extensive type of tasting tour in Beaujolais. I can afford that. And as far as I can tell, no one else has done anything like that and written about it online.
So here goes, The Beaujolais Challenge, a la Brooklynguy. I hereby pledge to you to taste at least two examples (I would say more, but it ain't easy to find a Saint Amour!) of wine from each of the 12 appellations of Beaujolais:
Beaujolais Beaujolais Villages, Brouilly, Cotes de Brouilly, Chiroubles, Chenas, Fleurie, Julienas, Morgon, Moulin a Vent, Regnie, and Saint Amour.
I will give tasting notes, sure, but I will also try to learn something about the appellation and think about the wine in that context, and in the overall context of the Beaujolais region. I am thinking that I will try to choose a producer who makes wine from every appellation, if such a producer (not a negociant) exists, so as to be better able to focus on variation of location, not of wine maker. But I will taste more than one wine per appellation in order to think about wine maker variation too.
And I pledge to you to do this by the end of summer, 2007. So I have three months exactly - summer starts tomorrow people. This is going to be fun. I hope to enlist some of my wine drinking pals in this endeavor. Wish me luck!
Monday, June 18, 2007
The other night I was drowning and who came to the rescue? Deetrane, that’s who. He’s sort of like a wine superhero. Wine Man, if you will. He rescues flailing wines from the murky depths of the secondary market, whisks them off to the safety of the dinner table, just when you need them the most.
When BrooklynLady and I had Deetrane, his wife PJ, and their friend from LA over for dinner on a recent Wednesday night we served the following menu (and PJ is vegetarian, hence the distinct lack of animal):
Red lentil soup with mint
BrooklynLady’s Portobello lasagna
Greens with fresh goat cheese
BrooklynLady’s home made ice cream sandwiches (she baked molasses cookies and used them to sandwich ginger and green tea ice cream. Utterly ridiculous. I could have eaten 17 of them).
We went with a Bisol Prosecco with the soup – bubbly seemed like a good match for the earthiness of the soup. Plus, it’s fun to drink sparkling wine. So far so good. I wanted to open a 2005 Burgundy with the mushroom lasagna, made with béchamel, somehow rich and light at the same time. I decided on the new Bourgogne from Voillot, a wine I LOVED last year. Shouldn’t 2005 be even better?
Maybe, but the wine was completely green and unpleasant. Decent enough on the nose, with some fleeting raspberry fruit, but all wrong on the palate. Off bottle? I don’t think so, cause it wasn't corked or cooked. It was just bad. It happens sometimes - wines that are great some years are not as good in other years. Confusing that in a great vintage this wine would be so much worse than it was in a so-so year. Anyway...
So we’re having a very nice evening, great company and delicious dinner, but no one can stomach the wine. BrooklynLady has discreetly placed her glass out of arm's reach, everyone else was sipping and literally wincing in pain. A cruel wind began to blow. Hark…is that Wine Man I see? Yes, Deetrane happened to bring a bottle of well aged Rioja with him that evening, tucked into his utility belt. Out came the cork and our evening was saved!
Deetrane and PJ visited La Rioja Alta on their honeymoon and loved the whole experience. La Rioja Alta is an old school producer, cellaring their wine for many years until they feel it’s ready for release. They make many wines, including the Reserva 890 and 904, their top bottles. The Vina Ardanza Reserva shoul cost between $25-30 upon release (but I’m sure Deetrane got a good deal).
I am a neophyte in Rioja in general and certainly with La Rioja Alta, this was the first time I tasted their wine. But based on this bottle, I will definitely be back. And by the way, the Wine Doctor recently reviewed this same wine the other day, but the 1999 vintage, and enjoyed it very much.
1996 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva, price unknown.
Pretty dark garnet color. Aromas literally burst from the glass upon pouring. Vibrant and rich smells of black cherry with a bit of chocolate, something herbal underneath. Very enticing – demands that you take a sip. The wine is just delicious – juicy, rich and mouth-filling, but light and lively on the palate. Black cherries with undertones of chocolate, earth, and herbs. I loved this wineand it pared perfectly with the lasagna.
I found a few bottles of the 1999 vintage at a store I don’t usually go to, and I’m deciding whether or not to dive in…
Friday, June 15, 2007
That is the question. Apparently We can invent controversy over just about anything. Immigration bill - controversy. Is global warming a real threat - controversy. Future of the war in Iraq - controversy. Decanting wine - controversy. Which one of these does not belong with the others?
If you guessed "decanting wine," you're wrong.
The answer is global warming. There is no real controversy here regarding global warming. It's happening and we have to deal with it, and it's going to require creativity, innovation, and social flexibility on a large scale.
There is some controversy, however, about whether or not we should decant wine. People decant wine for three basic reasons:
1) To separate the sediment from the juice.
2) To expose wine to oxygen.
3) To pour wine into pretty crystal vessels, thereby impressing our guests.
No controversy surrounding number 1. Many wines have a lot of sediment as they age, and this can be bitter and unpleasant to taste. Leave the wine to stand upright for 24 hours so the sediment falls to the bottom of the bottle, then SLOWLY tilt the bottle, pouring off the wine until only about an ounce is left at the bottom. I like to then pour that through a coffee filter, just to check it out. It feels good in my fingers, and I like to taste it, just not while I'm sipping the 1986 Sociando Mallet with BrooklynLady on our anniversary.
As for number 3 - knock yourself out. I even do this when I'm alone sometimes. It's fun to decant wine. So Sue me.
The controversy surrounds number 2. All of us heard somewhere or other that we should decant wine to help it open up, to facilitate the fullest expression of its aromas and flavors. Thisis absolutely commonplace. I bet that you regularly decant wine, and if you don't, you don't have a decanter and you're going to buy one. Many producers recommend decanting their wine when drinking it young.
So what's the controversy?
Some wine geek/people contend that if you have to decant wine in order to elicit aromas and flavors, if it needs this "artificially quick" oxygen injection, you shouldn't be drinking it. It's not ready, in that case. Jancis Robinson, in her seminal wine encyclopedia, The Oxford Companion to Wine, presents this argument in some detail.
I am absolutely guilty of drinking wine before its time. I am still rounding up the patience to age certain bottles. When my resolve falters (and I'm not Dubbya - my resolve does falter from time to time), I decant. But I must admit, I was struck by reading about this - this idea that I shouldn't be decanting or drinking these wines. Decanting will still fail to ensure that the wine will show its fullest expression, and therefore I should probably just hold onto it. But maybe decanting, if done a few hours in advance, can approximate the effects of bottle aging.
This is one of those things that I will never really resolve for myself, unless someone invents a reasonably priced time travel device. If I could taste that 1986 Sociando Mallet back in 1990 with a decanter, right along side the same wine in 2006 decanted (to remove sediment, of course) - maybe I would come to a meaningful conclusion.
Does decanting young wine make up for lack of years in the bottle? Just curious - what's your opinion?
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Hard to believe it's already Wine Blogging Wednesday time again. Created by Lenn almost three years ago now, WBW is a chance to try wine with a blogging community from around the world, to share experiences, to learn something new. This month our host is Catie at Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine, a blog devoted to Walla Walla Valley, Washington wines.
West coast wines are daunting to me, I must say. I just don’t enjoy the big and dense high alcohol wines that I tend to encounter from the California. California wines tend to be expensive, and quality tends to suffer at each price point in comparison with their counterparts from the old world. There are certainly exceptions – I’m not bashing west coast wine as a rule, even though it might sound that way. I am saying that in my limited experience, and with my limited wine budget, I have not yet found a reason to prioritize California wine.
But California is not the only state on the west coast making wine.
I learned several years ago that I enjoy Pinot Noir from Oregon, and that there are a few producers who make great wines at fair prices, prices that rival what I would spend for a bottle of Burgundy of similar quality (if not similar style). If there are Oregon wines that I love, might there be Washington wines that I love, at reasonable prices? I asked myself this question two years ago and I admit I’ve been pretty slow about getting answers. Probably because Cabernet based wines and Syrahs are not my passion. Also because the wines that sounded interesting to me tend to be in the mid to upper $30 range, and I usually don’t spend that kind of dough unless I already know and like the producer.
I did order a few bottles of Washington wine online though, just to take a shot. I relied on descriptions from the online store, word of mouth, and what I read in magazines. I narrowed it down to a few producers: Betz, Andrew Will, and Mark Ryan. Mark Ryan’s wines were the cheaper of the bunch, priced in the mid $30’s, and they had interesting names like Dead Horse and Long Haul. These are Bordeaux blend wines with most of the grapes coming from what is supposedly one of Washington’s best vineyard sites – Ciel de Cheval, or Horse Heaven Vineyard. If not WBW, then what better excuse to crack open a bottle?
Problem: the Mark Ryan bottle I have, while a Bordeaux blend, is not primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, as Catie requested. I hope she’ll let me slide with my blend of 48% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Franc, and then Cabernet Sauvignon and petit Verdot making up the balance.
2003 Mark Ryan Long Haul, $33 (Avalon Wines).
Dark purple and inky. Roasted aromas dominate, along with the heat of alcohol – this is 14.7%. With vigorous swirling I can smell some dark fruit, but it is fleeting. The nose even two hours later is nondescript with strong alcohol heat. The palate is also blurry. I’m trying to be forgiving here because I understand how difficult 2003 – very hot. But good wine makers make good wine in tough vintages. This wine is a fruit bomb, and the fruit is not impressive. At least come with sweet ripe juicy fruit if you’re gonna be a fruit bomb. This is roasted fruit that gives way too quickly to alcohol and Maybe Mark Ryan wasn’t trying to make a fruit bomb, but if this was supposed to be old world style wine with complex nuances, it is even more of a failure. After two hours open I could sense some cassis and some roasted black fruit, but the flavors were still out of focus and the wine is completely unsatisfying. And at $33, I feel a little ripped off, I must say. And I stored the wine properly, and all that. I just didn’t like it.
I’m not done with Washington, not at all, but I could sure use some suggestions about what to taste in order to keep going. That’s why I’m glad it’s WBW. Can’t wait to read the roundup.
Friday, June 08, 2007
This place was really great - terrific food, and I mean terrific. Seasonal, fresh, uncluttered, vibrant flavors, balanced, interesting, and satisfying. Terrific. Professional service, lovely ambiance, this place has it all, except for the wine list, but we'll get to that.
So why now, why Grocery? I'm desperate people! We live in NYC and cannot think of a place where we really want to go for a special dinner. So come our anniversary and our old standby 360 in Red Hook was closed for renovations, we needed a nice place on Saturday night. Let's give Grocery a shot. We joked around about how lame the place would be, about how low our expectations were. About how it was impossible to be disappointed because we already knew it would be all hype.
We ordered glasses of Charles de Fere Brut Blanc de Blanc Reserve. I've been developing quite a crush on Champagne lately. Blanc de Blanc indicates that the wine is made entirely from Chardonnay, and Brut refers to the level of sweetness in the wine. Although there is a classification that is drier, Brut is pretty much as dry as it's gonna get unless you're in a specialty shop. We loved this bubbly- great lemony and yeasty aromas, the mouth feel was full and light at the same time, flavors were bright, bubbles were fine. Even at $12 a glass, we were happy.
I now know that Charles de Fere is not technically Champagne, although some of the grapes do come from Champagne. I also know that an entire bottle should cost about $10, and that it's been called "the blue light special" of Champagne. Champagne lovers or Champagne snobs might even turn their noses at de Fere. Goes to show that regarding wine, you will always do better when you follow your own tastes, when you don't allow yourself to be turned onto or off of a wine because of reputations and reviews. If I find a place that sells this blue light special at $10, I'm buying a case! If I weren't sure of this, the following quote from the importer's website closed the deal:
The World of Charles de Fère. Where wine becomes something different, something special. Wine with a secret spirit so exciting that you can actually see it. Thoughts that last but a moment, the time required to float to the lip of your glass and attain freedom from earthly limits. A taste you can feel.
While we were perusing the menu, some one (one of the owners, I think) brought out a mouth amusement, or amuse-bouche if you understand only French. Chilled celery root puree with dill creme fraiche and small potato fritters. The celery root was served in those silver two-sided things that bartenders use to measure booze when making cocktails. Cool, smooth, and earthy, refreshing with celery and dill, this was yummy. The potato fritters were impossibly light and airy on the inside, yet fried crisp on the outside. I would have happily enjoyed this whimsical warm weather riff on Eastern-bloc cuisine with my blue light bubbly all night.
But then came our appetizers: BrooklynLady had roasted artichoke with a poached egg, I had a special salad of various micro-greens (mache, chervil, etc), radishes and smooth farmers cheese. Both were utterly delish. BrooklynLady wants to put a poached egg on everything now. At this point we understood that we were all wrong about Grocery. There was serious skill going on here, and within an eating framework that I appreciate - everything was available at the farmers market that morning.
Service was so good that you never really noticed them, which for me is the true test. They appeared before you realized that you needed them, they never rushed us or cleared one plate while the other was still eating, they poured wine without overfilling the glasses, they replaced cutlery and brought more water - these things might be obvious, so why do they almost never happen, even at "good" restaurants?
BrooklynLady ordered roast pork loin with spring vegetables and bacon, and I had a vaguely wintery duck with mushrooms and red wine reduction. The wine list, and here is the only problem I can think of with Grocery, offered few bottles under $50, and the whole list seemed a bit off to me. How could there be so many Mourvedres and not one Loire red wine? Not one Pinot for less than $70? Nothing on the white side excited us and paired well with our dishes, so we went with a 2005 Christophe Pacalet Julienas for $47. Hard to swallow - $47 for a Beaujolais! And when it turned out to be so-so at best, thin and dilute like sour cherry juice, we were sad.
I may be finished with wine in restaurants. Deetrane has said for a while now, just pay the corkage and bring your own wine. Another debate for another time...
Entrees were superb. BrooklynLady's pork looked like a TV dinner - there were carrot cubes and peas scattered about and the sauce was clear and glossy. Another whimsical move on the chef's part, because there exists no TV dinner that begins to approach what was happening with this dish. SO GOOD. And my duck was thinly sliced, a generous portion, the flavors of the mushrooms and the red wine complimented perfectly.
We didn't have time for dessert, but we saw such lovely looking confections going by that we had to try something. Our waiter told us that the steamed ginger pudding (!) would take a while, so we ordered instead the chocolate and fig cake with passion fruit sorbet and coconut ice cream. Ridiculously good, and I'm not even a chocolate person.
A word of caution - the check was a hefty one (even though they forgot to charge us for the glasses of bubbly, an omission we did not have time to go over with them, but we will straighten that out next time).
So that's it - our new favorite place for a special meal - Grocery. Live in or visiting Brooklyn? Like great food and excellent service? Check it out...
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
I was lucky enough to taste some very interesting wines this month, many of them quite delicious and memorable. Here are some from the past few weeks that did not get their own post:
2005 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie, $10 (Chambers Street). Everyone went gaga over Pepiere's Muscadets this year. I wonder if the excellent review and scores in Wine Spadvocator had anything to do with that? Deservedly so, anyway, as the Clos de Briords (made from old vines) is truly superb, and at $13 or so, are you kidding me? But what about the "regular" Muscadet from the same vintage? This wine is light straw colored with saline smells and citrus peel. Very steely and tense in the mouth, yet light and fresh tasting, very pure. Delicious with shellfish, and I understand that this is a cliche, but I really mean it. This wine is DELICIOUS with shellfish. I can imagine sipping it alone, but then again, I love briny acidic Muscadet.
Monday, June 04, 2007
You know how every so often you read something on a wine blog that captures your imagination, something about a wine you have never before tasted, something that sounds completely different and exciting? That doesn't happen too often for me, but when it does I am very happy. A while ago I read Eric Asimov's post on a rose from Rioja and felt so inspired.
Friday, June 01, 2007
I know it's kind of lame to simply quote an entire piece from another blogger, but this is just too good. Check it out - Rusty's new self-help guide. These next couple of paragraphs might change your life!
From the most recent Pinot File newsletter:
Stop Hiding and Start Living With Pinot Noir
Do you have feelings of inadequacy? Do you suffer from shyness? Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive? If you answered yes to any of these questions, ask the Prince about Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is the safe and natural way to feel better and more confident about yourself and your actions. PinotNoir can ease you out of your shyness and overcome any obstacles. Pinot Noir will let you show the world you are ready to do almost anything. Shyness and awkwardness will become a thing of the past. Discover the many talents you never knew you had. You will notice the benefits of Pinot Noir almost immediately. A regimen of regular doses of Pinot Noir will allow you to live life the way you want to. Stop hiding and start living with Pinot Noir.
Caution: Pinot Noir is not for everyone. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use Pinot Noir, but women who wouldn’t mind being pregnant or nursing are encouraged to try it. Side Effects: Loss of money, loss of clothing, loss of virginity, loss of motor control, desire to dance like a retard or perform table dancing, heightened erotic lustfulness, may cause pregnancy, may make you think you can play all-night strip poker, may make you think you can sing, may give you the illusion you are tougher, stronger or better looking than others, may make you think ex-lovers are dying for you to call them at 4 in the morning, may give you the illusion that people are laughing with you, and may be a factor in getting your butt kicked. So what are you waiting for? Stop hiding and start living with Pinot Noir!
It was my pop's birthday and the place he wanted to eat was closed, so we wound up at Flatbush Farm, a restaurant that we liked but didn't love. When you have a 4 month old baby with you who needs to be sleeping in 90 minutes, your options are somewhat limited. This was the only place in the neighborhood where we would definitely get a table for five people without a reservation, hopefully outdoors on a lovely evening, and where a baby might not be a disturbance to other diners.
We did get to sit outside in what is truly a great outdoor dining space - lots of room between the tables, plenty of trees and green, an airy and luxurious feeling to the place.
We start with a bottle of Astoria Prosecco, which retails for $7 a bottle and goes for $24 here. Whaddayagonnado, eh? We order two salads, both excellent, although a little over dressed. Frisee with mushrooms and blue cheese, and bibb lettuce with radishes and craime fraiche. Tasty and fresh ingredients, delicious outside in the garden. And the waiter brings five plates for us, which he should do, but since it so rarely happens without asking in restaurants, we thought it was nice.
Sorry to say, though, that things went downhill from here. The problems we experienced last time with the restaurant (spotty service, inconsistent and overpriced food) were still present, maybe worse this time around.
A pet peeve: I hate it when after considering what every one at the table will eat, I spend time with a wine list, order a wine, and am told that the restaurant is out of it.
Ma and pa order the spare rib special with greens and baked beans (good sides, so-so at best on the ribs), brother and I order the duck that I loved last time (this time, too fatty, poorly presented, mushy lentils, gloopy citrus sauce - the opposite of how good it was last time), BrooklynLady goes again for her French-dip sandwich. I order a bottle of the Shinn Estates Wild Boar Doe - Long Island wines on the mind I guess.
Waiter disappears for almost 10 minutes and comes back to tell me that actually they do not have that wine. Waiter should know that when handing me the list. Or at least when I spoke the words "Wild Boar Doe," waiter should say whoops, we're out of that one, sorry."
So I go for the cheaper but very tasty 2006 Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny that we had last time. He goes away again, another 10 minutes, and comes back to tell me that that wine also is gone! Ridiculous. We went with a Bierzo that was pleasant, but that is totally beside the point. The place is half empty and they can't manage themselves better than that? Waiter crowned his achievement by pointing to a $55 Gigondas on the list and saying "This one is a Bordeaux and it's really good."
I am just not a fan of dinner at the Farm. If you want a nice place to have a drink in the garden, go for it.
Labels: Restaurant Review