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A few mature French wines

February 29, 2016 Leave a comment

I was to bring a bottle of 1982 Chateau Calon-Segur, St Estephe over to Lou’s house. The first was, perhaps, drinkable to some extent.  It was not by the time I arrived at Lou’s house.  The second bottle bore absolutely no relationship to wine so down the drain it went.  Both of these bottles were quite cheap, due to their mid-shoulder fill, proving they were dangerously low fills for a wine of such young age.

We kicked things off with a bottle of 1995 Michel Colin-Deleger, Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Charmois from the Earthquake Cellar.  It smelled of the sea with rather mature flavors in the mouth which were delivered with a freshness owing to good storage.  We soon moved on to the pair of Bordeaux selected by Lou.  The fill of the 1983 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac was in the upper shoulder.  While not ideal it was still worth the gamble.  You could see from the color and the smell of roast earth on the nose that it was not the freshest bottle.  It did clean up after several hours of air proving to be a solid, mature Bordeaux of no particular distinction.  This is due to storage and not the chateau.  There was no mistaking the deeper and more pigmented color of the 1979 Chateau L’Evangile, Pomerol as it was poured.  This was reflected in the deep nose and lively fruit in the mouth.  It was the wine Lou and I kept drinking that evening.  It was perfect stuff, really.  I kept drinking it until my daughter kept texting me to return home so that I could read to her before bed.  We were all happy that evening.

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1995 Michel Colin-Deleger, Saint-Aubin 1er Cru En Charmois
Imported by Chateau and Estates.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The lovely golden color makes way to a surprisingly aromatic nose which is evocative of the sea.  The white and yellow fruit is mature with a linear style of delivery.  The wine itself took on some density.  I suspect it was never that complex for it is the attractive mouthfeel that I remember most.  ** Now.

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1983 Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Pauillac
Upper should fill.  The nose reveals a little roast, noticeably more advanced than it should be, eventually taking on smoky, menthol aromas.  In the mouth the wine does expand a bit after several hours of air.  There is red fruit flavors, salivating and not quite tart acidity with lively, grippy tannins.  Though this bottle is not generous and the finish is a little short, I cannot think of anyone who would refuse to knock back a glass.  ** Now.

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1979 Chateau L’Evangile, Pomerol
Shipped by Beylot.  Imported by Majestic Wine and Spirits.  Alcohol 12%.  Top shoulder fill.  There is a soft, start of red fruit, a minerally middle, expansive finish, and persistent aftertaste.  The wine is quite lively with salivating, almost sappy acidity.  There is still good fruit that is slightly tart and mixes quite well with the old wood notes.  It is even a little racy at the end.  **** Now but will last.

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Five different Spanish wines from five different vintages

February 26, 2016 3 comments

The parade of interesting wines I have tasted continue with five selections from Spain.  It is interesting enough that each one is from a different vintages.  Having drunk a modest share of mature red Rioja I suggest you try the 2010 Bodegas Olarra, Cerro Anon, Rioja Reserva if you want a similar experience at an affordable cost. The nose smells great with blood and meat, offering a counterpoint to the somewhat short finish.  The 2011 Trosso del Priorat, Lo Petit de Casa, Priorat  is no amped up Grenache based wine.  Made from the youngest vines on the property, it is an elegant wine that will make you think of stones.  The 2012 Barahonda, Barrica, Yecla offers strong value for only $12.  Whereas the 2011 vintage had more complex, mature flavors, this latest vintage tastes younger and cleaner.  The 2013 Finca Villacreces, Pruno, Ribera del Duero  is a generous wine offering up strong aromas and a cloud of flavors in the mouth.  It is a little on the young side but if you don’t want to wait a year then double-decant it several hours ahead.  If you only try one wine from this list then the 2014 La Zorra, Teso Rufete, Sierra de Salamanca is the one.  Not only is it produced from old vines of the rare variety Rufete, it smells and tastes like nothing else.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2010 Bodegas Olarra, Cerro Anon, Rioja Reserva – $17
Imported by Classic Wines.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose is great with bloody and meaty aromas which smell like a musky, mature Rioja.  There are similar black fruit flavors in the mouth with slight grip, integrated tannins, chocolate powder, and some cherry notes.  The finish is a little short with ripe and polished wood tannins.  Neat!  *** Now – 2020.

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2011 Trosso del Priorat, Lo Petit de Casa, Priorat – $16
Imported by the Spanish Wine Importers.  This wine is 100% Grenache.  Alcohol 14.5%.  This is a different sort of wine with framed suppleness around very fine tannins.  There is a great note of dark stones, not to be confused with minerals.  *** Now – 2018.

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2012 Barahonda, Barrica, Yecla – $12
Imported by OLE Imports.  This wine is a blend of 75% Monastrell and 25% Syrah that was aged for 6 months in French oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There is a black, mineral start then focused flavors of slightly bitter black fruit, camphor, and a minerally aftertaste.  ** Now – 2017.

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2013 Finca Villacreces, Pruno, Ribera del Duero – $19
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 90% Tinto Fino and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The strong nose delivered aromas of tar and some oak.  In the mouth is a cloud of flavor which exists around black stones, lipstick, and some very fine tannins.  The wine is certainly black fruited but has a citric aspect.  This dry wine reveals more power with air, taking a few hours to open up.  It eventually reveals dried herbs in the finish which is only when the tannins are noticeable.  *** Now – 2020.

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2014 La Zorra, Teso Rufete, Sierra de Salamanca – $19
Imported by De Maison Selections.  This wine is 100% Rufete sourced from 60+ year old vines on granite and sand soils.  It was fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged for 4 months in French oak.  Alcohol 12.5%.  After a wee bit of stink blows off this aromatic wine smells distinct.  There are moderately ripe flavors of minerals and red fruit with an ethereal sweetness.  The wine becomes dry towards the finish where herb flavors come out. It leaves a satisfying tang in the end.  *** Now.

A diverse pair of Italian red wines

February 24, 2016 Leave a comment

I finally took a closer look at the bottles of wine from La Stoppa that were sitting on the shelf.  It is only then that I noticed the new vintage of 2013 La Stoppa, Trebbiolo Rosso.  Incredibly, it was nearly two years since Lou and I drank the 2010 vintage.  This latest vintage is just as good with dark red fruit, red grapefruit, and a little funk.  It is a wine you can savor or quaff!  The 2009 Antichi Vigneti Di Cantalupo, Agamium, Colline Novaresi is in a similar vein to their 1981 Ghemme that I recently drank.  It is a gentle, dry wine that is perfectly balanced.  Just think of a slightly juicy mix of tar, leaves, and black fruit.  What I like about both of these wines is that they have distinct personalities and are priced under $20 each.  These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 La Stoppa, Trebbiolo Rosso – $19
Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.  This wine is a blend of 60% Barbera and 40% Bonarda.  Alcohol 13%.  The nose revealed vigorous aromas of dark red fruit with high-toned and earthy bits.  The wine was lively in the mouth with dark cherry and a hint of red grapefruit flavors.  It only takes one hour for this to drink well.  The good clean fruit takes on a bit of that 1960’s Californian animale flavor.  The juicy acidity makes you want to quaff the wine.  However, you can savor the bottle of two nights without any yeasty, Pilsner outbreak.  *** Now – 2017.

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2009 Antichi Vigneti Di Cantalupo, Agamium, Colline Novaresi – $17
Imported by Tenth Harvest.  Alcohol 13%.  There is an attractive nose of tar and leafy aromas.  In the mouth the wine remains focused with citric, dry, black flavors and a mineral finish.  Everything about the wine is integrated, the flavors, the slightly juiciness, and the finish which leaves gentle, fine, ripe tannins.  *** Now – 2019.

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Notes from the dump bin: 1999 Corino, L’Insieme

February 22, 2016 Leave a comment

L’Insieme or “together” is a charity project spearheaded by Elio Altare.  Eight winemakers from Piedmont formed a group where each made a wine called L’Insieme based on their own particular blend.  In my case I tasted the blend from Giovanni Corino.  After double-decanting the wine, I found it was firm so we let it sit for a few more hours.  The wine morphed from tasting just past prime maturity to a mouthfilling wine with interesting perfumed and floral notes.  Even Jenn found it rather good.  If I were to try another bottle I would double-decant it four hours ahead of time.  This wine was purchased from the dump bin at MacArthur Beverages.

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1999 Giovanni Corino, L’Insieme, Vino da Tavola – $30
A Marc de Grazia selection imported by Bacchus LTD.  This wine is a blend of 50% Nebbiolo and 50% Barbera with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Alcohol 14%.  The nose remained firm with Bordeaux like aromas.  In the mouth this maturing wine began with firm, black fruit flavors, polished wood, dry tannins, and an assertive finish.  With air it developed blue, weighty fruit matched by integrated acidity.  Though the structure remained, it took on cinnamon notes and a little coarseness near the end.  This bit of ruggedness did not deny the wine from developing mouth filling flavors that became both perfumed and floral.  ***(*) Now – 2020.

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“Customary Before Prohibition”: Moving back in time with food and drink through the Picayune Creole Cook Book

February 19, 2016 Leave a comment

As I have previously described in my wine cookery posts the post-Prohibition years in America saw the rise of recipes where wine is an ingredient.  These recipes appeared in both newspaper articles and cook books.  There were indeed several books dedicated solely to wine cookery but other well-established cook books were updated to include sections or simply recipes involving wine.  One such cookbook is the Picayune Creole Cook Book.

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The Times-Picayune is a newspaper which originated during 1837 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  In 1900, the paper published their first edition of the Creole cookbook.  A number of editions were published over the last century introducing new formatting and additional recipes.  The sixth and seventh editions, published during Prohibition, do not contain any recipes that require wine or liquor for both food dishes and drinks.

Back in December, I was showing my wine cookery books to my friend Sudip as part of our general discussion about the history of cookery books.  Sudip loves to cook and in his exploration of Creole and Cajun cooking he purchased a facsimile of the 1901 second edition of the Picayune’s Creole Cook Book.  We quickly decided it would be fun to cook a few recipes involving wine so I purchased the ninth edition published in 1942.  Titled The Original Picayune Creole Cook Book the title page notes that it was Reprinted from the Fifth Edition, Containing Recipes Using Wines and Liquors Customary Before Prohibition.  As this edition is, in effect, a restoration of original recipes with wine, there is no wine cookery chapter nor wine specific indexing.  Instead the wine inclusive food recipes are integrated throughout.  The wine and liquor based drinks appear in the chapter “Domestic Wines, Cordials, Drinks”.  Here you may find Moselle Cup, Elixir of Violets, and Louisiana Orange Wine.

Sudip and I coordinated our menu which we prepared at my house.  We could not just jump straight into cooking so we started with a bowl of Ponche au Vin de Champagne a la Creole or Champagne Punch a la Creole.  I made sure to include good wine in the form of The Rare Wine Co, Les Mesnil, Champagne and Pierre Ferrand’s Dry Curacao.  The punch was pretty good.  With added sparkle from seltzer water the sweetness from the shaved pineapple and strawberry slices were balanced out by the lemon juice.  It was a rich punch so after two small glasses it was time for Sudip and I to move into the kitchen.

Ponche au Vin de Champagne a la Creole

Ponche au Vin de Champagne a la Creole

The punch recipe and indeed everything else we picked pre-date Prohibition.  Thus we were not looking at a new post-Prohibition flavor profile, instead we went straight back more than 100 years.  My ninth edition notes that some recipes may be made without wine, as even some Creole cooks object to wine, but for other recipes it is essential.  This includes our venison and chicken dishes for “the success of the dish depends greatly upon the flavoring given by  a small addition of wine.”  That is about the extent of the discussion on wine in food.

Our menu consisted of Gumbo aux Huitres (Oyster Gumbo), Supreme de Volaille a la Reine (Breast of Chicken, Queen Style), and Salmi de Chevreuil a la Creole (Stewed Venison a la Creole).  These dishes were accompanied by macaroni with cheese and roasted carrots.  The chicken and venison dishes both include wine.  I picked the chicken recipe because the breasts are stuffed with quenelles (forcemeat) and mushrooms then simmered in Madeira.  Likewise the Venison is stewed in Claret.

We continued the use of good beverages that day by using Blandy’s 15 year old Malmsey for the chicken and 2008 Domaine de la Solitude, Pessac-Leognan for the venison.  The later was a tasty wine, already taking on a firm, mature profile.  If I faulted the wine it would be for a lack of weight.  Regardless, we all practically finished the bottle while cooking.  In keeping with the menu suggestions in the cookbook we should have started with a Sauternes but with punch and four bottles of wine already selected for the evening, adding one more bottle would have done the four of us in!

Gumbo aux Huitres

Gumbo aux Huitres

The Oyster Gumbo, made without wine, calls for a tremendous volume of oyster liquor. Quarts of it in fact.  We wonder if the fresh oysters were kept at home in water due to a lack of ice or refrigeration.  In that case the home cook would have access to as much oyster liquor as needed.  We drank this with our white wine being the  2008 Varner, Chardonnay, Home Block, Spring Ridge Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.  Lou introduced me to Varner many years ago with the 2008 vintage.  Based on his recent experience I opened this bottle which was drinking perfectly.  Though you get the butterscotch and pineapple flavors the wine remains flavorful rather than overbearing in any sense.

Supreme de Volaille a la Reine

Supreme de Volaille a la Reine

The Chicken Queen Style requires chicken breasts to be stuffed with a chicken forcemeat and mushroom mixture.  On top of the breast is place the fillet.  The whole piece is then basted with melted button, sauteed on the bottom then cooked for 15 minutes in Madeira with a lid on the skillet.  Our chicken breasts were rather large so did not complete in time.  Perhaps chicken breasts were smaller back then.  I have noticed a number of wine cookery books utilize Madeira for flavoring.  I find this fascinating as Madeira was no longer the wine of choice in America during the 1900s.  Perhaps it is a holdover from the last great Madeira decades of the mid to late 19th century when it was still widely drunk.

Salmi de Chevreuil a la Creole

Salmi de Chevreuil a la Creole

The Stewed Venison Creole style reminded me exactly of boeuf bourguignon.  It is essentially the same recipe but with venison.  Which is not surprising given this is a Creole recipe.  Sudip found that after the recommended 45 minutes it was still very liquidy so he doubled the cooking time to reduce it.  I should add that Sudip used fresh mushrooms instead of the canned mushrooms despite the claim that “This dish will be improved beyond estimation if a can of mushrooms is added”.

With the chicken and venison we drank two mature red wines.  The NV (1960s) Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast Counties turned out to be a cleaner version of the magnum of NV Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon Bin 271, North Coast Counties which I opened in November.  It had an old school, sweet red wood profile with only some funk.  A solid enough wine which remained drinkable for a few days.  The 1974 Veedercrest Vineyard, Petite Sirah, Batch 2, Cask YUG 77, Sonoma County proved to be the best bottle I have yet opened of this wine.  It sported fresh and clean red fruit with supporting leather.  Whereas the Sebastiani leaned towards the funky spectrum, the Veedercrest was an elegant example of Petite Sirah that many would enjoy.

It was all great fun and you can be assured that another dinner will be in the works.

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2008 Varner, Chardonnay, Home Block, Spring Ridge Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
Alcohol 14.3%.  The rich nose yielded aromas of butterscotch and yellow fruits.  In the mouth the wine was still fresh and drinking very well. There were butterscotch flavors that mixed with pineapple and some toast.  All of this was delivered with weight.  Best on the first night.  **** Now – 2017.

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2008 Domaine de la Solitude, Pessac-Leognan – $25
Imported by MacArthur Liquors.  This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The nose reveals hints of maturity.  In the mouth the red and black fruit mixed with leather and watering acidity.  The wine is firm with apparent structure.  It is actually rather tasty but could stand to have more fruit weight.  It eventually took on some licorice and mature notes in the mouth.  *** Now but will last.

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NV (1960s) Sebastiani, Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast Counties
Alcohol 12.5%.  There were sweet, old smells on the nose.  In the mouth were old school flavors, sweet red wood, and roasted earth by the finish.  The flavors were clean but certainly different.  With air the firm cherry fruit took on some foxy notes.  ** Now but will last for quite some time.

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1974 Veedercrest Vineyard, Petite Sirah, Batch 2, Cask YUG 77, Sonoma County
Alcohol 12.5%.  The tart red fruit was very clean with hints of leather and some old school notes.  There were minimal, fine tannins, a citric finish, and decent aftertaste.  Still fresh  *** Now.

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Plan Pegau is back

February 18, 2016 Leave a comment

In the latest release of Plan Pegau, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are still present in the blend but the wine itself shows more of the deep flavors I expect from Pegau.  This appears to be because it utilizes more fruit from sources located closer to Chateauneuf du Pape.  Another apparent change is that the two previous releases Lot #10 and Lot #11 suggest a single vintage blend whereas this release Lot #11-12-13 suggests a three vintage blend.  Regardless, this is certainly a step up from the Lot #10 release I tried before.  I would even suggest you let this release age for half a year before you try it again.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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NV (Lot #11-12-13) Plan Pegau – $22
Imported by Hand Picked Selections.  This wine is a blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Merlot, and 20% Carignan, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Danlas, Alicante, and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from vines averaging 40 years of age.  The wine was fermented in concrete vats then aged in a mix of concrete tanks and very old French oak casks.  Alcohol 13.5%.  The flavors show rounded edges with hints of red fruit but overall dry, black fruit comes out by the middle.  There is some depth, some minerals, and a dry structure with air.  Need a little cellar time.  *** Now – 2020.

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A South African Trio

February 17, 2016 Leave a comment

Our recent exploration of three South African red Bordeaux blend wines began with the 2013 Ridgeback, Journey, Paarl.  This is an effusive wine to drink over the short term.  It should continue to offer up supple flavors of black fruit, and leather for the next few years.  The 2010 Morgenster, Lourens River Valley, Stellenbosch steps things up.  The nose reveals the large inclusion of Cabernet Franc while notes of tobacco and leather reveal the oak aging.  The oak comes across more in flavor than in drying tannins.  I suggest you let this lively blue and black fruited wine rest for a few months then start drinking it over the next few years.  The 2011 Rustenberg, John X Merriman, Stellenbosch is a young, well-made wine that has interesting fruit, fresh acidity, and the structure to develop for several  years.  It will clearly benefit from short-term aging so I suggest you drink the two other wines while this one slumbers in your cellar or fridge.   These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Ridgeback, Journey, Paarl – $13
Imported by Cape Starz Wine.  This wine is a blend of 35% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Petit Verdot, and 16% Cabernet Franc.  Alcohol 14%.  The flavorful, almost effusive wine, has a core of black fruit and picks up some tartness towards the finish. The wine puckers the sides of the tongue before taking some leather.  With air it reveals supple flavors and a note of leather. There is a little bit of spirit in the end.  ** Now – 2018.

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2010 Morgenster, Lourens River Valley, Stellenbosch – $26
Imported by Cape Classics.  This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 7% Petit Verdot that was fermented in stainless steel then aged 16 months in French oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  The fresh aromas reminded me of Cabernet Franc, eventually developing hints of tobacco and red plums.  In the mouth were lively flavors of blue and black fruit which were almost supple.  There was a tart red hint.  The wine sported a fine texture and not too much in the way of tannins.  Overall the wine was nicely integrated with smoke and tobacco notes from the oak.  *** Now – 2020.

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2011 Rustenberg, John X Merriman, Stellenbosch – $27
This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% albec.  Alcohol 14%. Imported by the Indigo Wine Group.  The nose was tight with a slight hint of greenhouse in the end.  In the mouth were focused and finely textured flavors of blue fruit that mixed with ripe tannins and dry spices.  Clearly tasting young this has the fruit, fresh acidity, and structure to develop.  With air the wine remains fresh with more concentration, density, and drying structure.  *** 2017-2022.

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