Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Banyuls and dark chocolate, a winning parnership

What do you do when your daughter bake a dark, rich, full flavored chocolate layer cake? You simply open a bottle of Banyuls — certainly the best partner for chocolate — to enjoy with the cake.

Our Banyuls was the 2003 Banyuls Rimage Les Clos des Paulilles, produced by the Dauré family, a well established winemaking family in the Roussillon region. With breathtaking views of the Baie des Paulilles, Les Clos des Paulilles is located just north of the Franco-Spanish border and produces wines from both the Collioure and Banyuls appellations.

The Banyuls Rimage (which means vintage in Catalan) is made from Grenache Noir grown in red schist soils. Grapes are hand-selected and then destemmed. Fermentation is stopped by addition of grape spirit, then the wine continues to macerate on the skins for a few weeks before being aged in tanks.

The wine exhibited a dark garnet color and aromas of prunes and candied fruits. On the palate, it was sweet but not cloying, with a light to medium body and a long aftertaste of dried figs and raisins. The cake recipe was from the Scharffen Berger book The Essence of Chocolate and called for 100% unsweetened cocoa for the cake and the frosting.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chardonnay: The antithesis of a White Rhone Blend

For Tablas Creek Vineyard, a Paso Robles winery founded by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and importer Robert Haas, making a Chardonnay seems like the antithesis of the winery's mission: the production of wines based on Rhone varietals, inspired by the centuries-old traditions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape

So why producing a Chardonnay at Tablas Creek? Here is the story: in the early 1990s, as the Haas and Perrin families started importing Rhone varietal cuttings from Château de Beaucastel, a Sonoma winery requested a highly regarded clone of Chardonnay from Burgundy called La Vineuse. 1.5 acres were planted with the Chardonnay clone to get enough bud wood for sale. But three years later, the harvested fruit was so compelling that Tablas Creek decided to bottle that non-Rhone varietal, calling it Antithesis. Since that day, a small amount of Antithesis Chardonnay is produced every year.

Now, how is the wine? The 2004 Tablas Creek Antithesis shows a bright golden color and a pleasant nose of apple, pear, and spices. On the palate, it is medium-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel, leaving an aftertaste of brown sugar and spiced pear compote. The wine is well balanced and not oaky and buttery at all. Enjoy it with a creamy Asparagus Risotto.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dear friends and gorgeous wines

When our friends Marie-Claire and Gérard visited us this summer, they didn't come empty-handed. They brought with them three distinctive wines that they wanted to share with us: a red from the Gaillac region made from the almost extinct grape variety Prunelard, a 1995 Hermitage La Chapelle, and a Rivesaltes Ambré from Domaine Cazes. This became an excuse to invite a few additional guests —who were asked to bring their own favorite bottles— for a special wine tasting dinner at our place. So here are the wines that we tasted, the highlights of the evening being the elegant 1995 Hermitage Paul Jaboulet Ainé La Chapelle and the beautifully aged 1991 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon

First, with the appetizers:

• 2003 Domaine Plageoles Prunelard. The Gaillac region, which lies some fifty kilometers northeast of Toulouse is one of the oldest wine growing regions in France. Robert et Bernard Plageoles are energetic winemakers from Gaillac that are committed to reviving the region's obscure varietals rather than using better known and more accessible grapes. This wine is 100% Prunelard, an almost extinct grape variety. My notes: medium red color, plummy flavors with herbal and wild berry notes, light to medium-bodied, good acidity.

• 2005 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Ribbon Springs Vineyard, brought by our friends Jiyon and Mike. Established in 1971, Adelsheim Vineyard is a family-owned and operated winery situated in Oregon's northern Willamette Valley. The Ribbon Springs Vineyard is located on the Ribbon Ridge spur of the Chehalem Mountains on southeast facing slopes, at an elevation of 500 feet. My notes: medium red color, bright pinot nose of sweet fruit, medium-bodied, well-balanced, with smoky, peppery notes.

Now, with the Bœuf Bourguignon:

• 1995 Hermitage Paul Jaboulet Ainé La Chapelle. The name of Hermitage La Chapelle refers to the little chapel of Saint-Christophe overlooking the terraced vineyards along the Rhône. These vineyards has been owned by Paul Jaboulet Ainé since 1919. The wine is a blend of the best terroirs, including the prestigious hillsides of Méal and Bessards. Each one provides its own aromatic characteristics, giving the wine great ageing potential. My notes: orange-brick color, delicately perfumed nose, aromas of fading fruits and spices with flowery notes, medium-bodied, soft tannins.

• 1991 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, brought by our friend Jamie. Groth Vineyards & Winery was established in 1982. The winery is family owned and operated and specializes in the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay from Napa Valley's Oakville AVA. My notes: cassis and clove on the nose, medium to full-bodied, smooth and complex on the palate, lengthy, aromatic finish. This is a wine that has aged beautifully.

Then, with the cheese (hard cheese only!):

• 2003 Miner Family The Oracle Napa Valley Red Wine, from my cellar. This is Miner Family Vineyards relatively new signature wine inspired by Greek Mythology. It is a Bordeaux blend sourced from Napa Valley's renowned Stagecoach Vineyard. In 2003, the blend was 52% Cabernet Sauvignon; 31% Merlot; 17% Cabernet Franc. My notes: dark color, black fruits and vanilla nose, full-bodied, plush flavors on the palate, lenghty finish.

Last but not least, with Jiyon's nectarine pie:

• 1995 Rivesaltes Ambré Domaine Cazes. Domaine Cazes is a 200 hectares estate located at the heart of the Roussillon region in the Rivesaltes appellation. For the last ten years Cazes has been using new viticulture methods based on Biodynamics. The Rivesaltes Ambré is a 100% White Grenache fortified wine aged oxidatively in wood for seven years. My notes: deep amber color, aromatic nose of dried fruit, sweet and ample on the palate with long lasting notes of walnut and toffee.

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