Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More comfort food and a gorgeous Vacqueyras

It was getting cold outside and I was craving for something hearty and soothing. The answer was easy: Braised Pork Roast with Prunes and a bottle of 2001 Vacqueyras Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux Cuvée Lopy.

The Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux, which literally means blood of the stones, is a 17 hectare estate in Vacqueyras, a small appellation in the southern Rhône Valley not very far from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Almost 11 hectares are planted to Grenache with smaller plots of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. The white grapes are Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Rousanne, and Viognier. The domaine is farmed using organic techniques. The cuvée Lopy refers to the name of the farm where the winemaker was raised. The blend is 75% 65 year old Grenache and 25% 40 year old Syrah.

The 2001 Cuvée Lopy had a dense, dark color and a sweet, forward nose of black fruits. On the palate, it was rich, luscious, silky with a long lasting finish. And absolutely sensational with the prunes.

My braised pork with prunes (and potatoes)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Second Guess The Wine tasting party

Earlier this fall, we had our second annual Guess the Wine tasting party where guests are asked to identify the varietal, region, and vintage of the wine. To add to the fun and ensure that the tasting was completely blind, each wine was transferred beforehand into a completely random bottle. That evening, we tasted 6 different single varietal wines from different regions including Australia, California, France, and New Zealand. Here they are:

• 2006 Pouilly Fuissé Les Folles Vieilles Vignes Domaine des Nembrets: located in the south of Burgundy, Pouilly-Fuissé is one of the best known appellation of the Mâconnais. It is a white only appellation producing wines from the Chardonnay grape. Domaine des Nembrets is a tiny estate west of the town of Mâcon. The wine is made from 50 year old vines from a south-west facing vineyard called Les Folles. Grass is left to grow on the vineyard to force the roots of the vines to dig into the deep topsoil. The wine is fermented and aged in 100% stainless steel. My notes: light golden color, peach, tropical aromas on the nose, light to medium-bodied, good acidity on the palate, grapefruit notes and minerality on the finish. Because of its crispness and minerality, some guests identified the wine as a Sauvignon Blanc.

• 2006 Georges Vernay Viognier Le Pied de Samson: the Domaine Georges Vernay is a 16 hectare family owned winery with vineyards mostly in the Condrieu and Côte Rotie appellations. Georges Vernay (now retired) is renowned for having almost single-handedly resuscitated the Condrieu appellation as well as Viognier the local grape. The cuvée called Le Pied de Samson comes from vines growing on the upper slopes of Condrieu (above 300 meters), an area excluded from the appellation because of the elevation. The wine is aged in stainless steel vats. My notes: light yellow color, fragrant nose of litchi fruit and rose petal, fat mouthfeel with fresh raspberry notes on the palate, spicy finish. Not everybody was familiar with the Viognier grape but those who had tasted it before were able to recognize it.

• 2006 Amisfield Pinot Noir: Amisfield is a New Zealand producer of Pinot Noir, aromatic whites and sparkling wines. It is located in Central Otago, the most southerly wine producing region in the world where Pinot noir is the leading grape variety (approximatively 70% of plantings). The estate consists of 60 hectares of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. My notes: medium red color, raspberry, vanilla on the nose, medium-bodied on the palate with some acidity, rather short finish, slightly disappointing. Many guests were confused about the wine and few identified it as a Pinot Noir.

• 2001 Joseph Swan Zinfandel Mancini Ranch Russian River Valley: located in California's Russian River Valley, Joseph Swan Vineyards is a small family-owned winery specialized in vineyard designated Pinot Noir and old vine Zinfandel. The Mancini Ranch vineyard was planted in the early 1920's on the Santa Rosa plain of the Russian River Valley. Although the majority of the vineyard is Zinfandel, it is interplanted in the old traditional Italian style with a mix of varietals. My notes: red-brick color, attractive floral nose with notes of cinnamon, medium-bodied on the palate with complex berry flavors. Some guests mistaken it for a Pinot Noir. Personally, this was one of my favorite wines of the evening.

• 2005 Buehler Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley: Buehler Vineyards is another small family-owned winery located in the mountains east of St. Helena in Napa Valley. The Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from grapes grown on hillside estate-owned vineyards (35%) blended with grapes from other Napa Valley vineyards located on the valley floor. My notes: deep garnet color, blackberry and plum aromas on the nose, medium bodied plate with a good balance between acidity and tannins, tasty fruity finish. A very good wine but not showy, which is what confounded some of the guests.

• 2005 Kurtz Family Vineyards Boundary Row Shiraz Barossa Valley: Kurtz Family Vineyards is located in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. The name Boundary Row refers to the fact that vineyards in the Barossa Valley traditionally have no fence lines to divide the properties between neighbors. Instead, a Boundary Row is planted and the yield from this row is shared. The wine consists of 5 different blocks that were picked and fermented at differing times. My notes: dark and deep color, ripe fruit and pepper on the nose, full-bodied and warm on the palate, notes of eucalyptus on the finish. This was maybe the easiest wine to recognize.

For the second year in the row, our host Jean won again, with our friend Marcus in second place. Now, is Jean going to win again next year? Stay posted! Meanwhile, for our next tasting event, we'll be tasting some Pinot Noir.

Previous wine club tastings:
•  Wine and Cheese pairing
•  Champagne Tasting
•  Tasting the wines of South America

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Back to Basics: Lasagna and Chianti

For me, lasagna is the ultimate autumn comfort food: hot from the oven, soft, creamy, cheesy, and topped with a rich tomato sauce. Now try lasagna with a good Chianti, like the stylish 2005 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico. That's what we did the other night.

Although Rocca di Montegrossi is a relatively new name, it's already a respected quality Chianti producer located in the picturesque town of Gaiole in Chianti in the province of Siena.

The 2005 Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico has a deep color and aromas of sweet ripe fruits on the nose. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied, juicy, round and well-balanced with some mineral character on the finish. Definitively a truly pleasurable complement to the lasagna.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Marsanne Roussanne Blend from Cline Cellars

In 1991, Fred Cline and his wife Nancy relocated their winery from Oakley, Contra Costa County, to the Carneros region where Fred pioneered the planting of Rhône varietals including Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Fred chose to farm his vineyards naturally and sustainably using organic cover crops, compost teas, crushed volcanic rock and oyster shell, natural mined sulfur and sheep grazing.

The Marsanne used in the blend comes from four acres planted on the winery's Carneros estate. Marsanne is a white grape variety commonly found in the Rhône Valley where it most likely originated. With Syrah and Roussanne, it is one of the three varietals permitted in the Hermitage appellation. This was the first planting of Marsanne in the region. The blend has also a smaller amount of Roussanne from Cline's Sonoma Coast vineyards near Petaluma. The wine is fermented in stainless steel to preserve fruitiness and freshness.

The 2007 Cline Marsanne Roussanne Los Carneros was the wine I brought as I was invited with some good friends for lunch. Our host had cooked a sumptuous meal starting with a soft-boiled egg topped with whipped cream and salmon roe, followed by a Baked Pork Tenderloin in Pastry with Provencal Vegetable Gratin, and ending with a Grapefruit and Champagne Granité.

I think the wine did a pretty good job with the food. Showing a bright golden color, it had aromas of ripe pear and apple on the nose. The palate was round and mellow with some juicy acidity and a mineral finish.

soft-boiled egg topped with whipped cream and salmon roe, baked pork tenderloin in pastry, and Provencal vegetable gratin

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