Friday, May 20, 2011

Osso Buco and a Super Tuscan for dinner

The other day, I found some veal shanks at the store and decided to make Osso Buco, a dish where the veal is braised in wine, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and herbs for at least 2-3 hours. The result is a full-flavored stew that calls for a rich and tasty Italian wine so I chose a 2007 Antinori Il Bruciato Bolgheri to accompany the Osso Buco.

Bolgheri is a wine region located on the southern coast of Tuscany and well known for its red Bordeaux style wines also called Super Tuscans. Thanks to a unique combination of sandy-clay soils, a sunny, dry, and moderately windy microclimate, and the effects of a maritime influence, Bordeaux grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, tend to thrive there. Before the creation in 1994 of the Bolgheri Rosso and Rosso Superiore DOCs (Denominazione di origine controllata), the Super Tuscans of the area—wines of high quality but made outside DOC/DOCG regulations—were typically sold under the simpler designations Vino da tavola or IGT Toscana.

Il Bruciato is produced by Guado al Tasso, Antinori's Bolgheri estate located on the coast, 96km (60 miles) south-west of Florence. The wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Syrah and other black varieties. Fermented in stainless steel, it was then racked off into oak barrels, where it aged for 8 months before being bottled.

The wine had a dark red color and an aromatic nose of moka, licorice, and black fruits. On the palate, it was full-bodied with a juicy mouthfeel and a smooth earthy finish. The wine was quite tasty and I thought my Osso Buco that I served with Polenta was quite tasty too!

Osso Buco with Polenta

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Pinot Noir doesn't need to be that expensive to be good

It is true that Pinot Noir is one of the most expensive wine varietals. It is quite famous for being difficult to cultivate. The vines are not very vigorous and the berries have a very thin skin, which makes them especially prone to fungal infections. It is also one of the most troublesome wines to ferment, as its fermentation is fast and dificult to keep under control.

But if you're looking for a well priced and well crafted Pinot Noir, try the the 2007 Saintsbury Pinot Noir Garnet Los Carneros.

Founded in 1981 by winemakers Richard Ward and David Graves, Saintsbury Vineyards was named after English writer George Saintsbury, perhaps best remembered today for his Notes on a Cellar-Book (published in 1920). That collection of tasting notes and personal observations is one of the first books on wine written in English. The Saintsbury Club, a prestigious London dining club that still meets twice a year, was founded in 1930 in Saintsubry's honor.

The winery has been producing Garnet, an affordable and early-drinking style of Pinot, since 1983. It is made from Pinot Noir grown in the Los Carneros appellation, an area much cooler and windier than the wine regions further north in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. After the wines have spent a few months in barrel, the lots selected to become Garnet are assembled and the wine is bottled in early summer.

The wine shows a bright medium red color and a nose of violet and black cherry. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, quite juicy, and very refreshing. It is perfect to accompany grilled fish on the barbecue. Try it with Grilled Fish with Orange-Fennel Salsa.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

A very royal British wedding - in Menlo Park, CA

A week ago, we were invited to the wedding of a British friend in Menlo Park, California. Although Menlo Park is not Buckingham Palace, the reception was a royal treat. The bride and groom were totally charming, the location stunning, the ceremony very moving, the eight course Chinese banquet exquisite, and I had the honor of selecting some California wines for the reception and dinner.

Our first wine was the 2009 Stuhlmuller Estate Chardonnay Alexander Valley. Stuhlmuller Vineyards is located at the southern edge of the Alexander Valley, just north of the Russian River Valley appellation. The 150-acre estate vineyard borders the Russian River and has a predominance of alluvial gravel-type soils as well as some rocky soils in the hillside sections of the vineyard. The wine was fermented with 100% indigenous yeasts. Aging occurred in both barrels (94%) and larger casks (6%), all of which were French oak (8% new). 85% of the wine underwent indigenous malolactic fermentation.

The wine had a bright nose of citrus and stone fruit. On the palate, it was crisp, elegant with a distinct mineral quality. The wine worked really well with the various hors d'oeuvres as well as with our first course, the crisp Tempura Tiger Prawns served over a bed of spring mix salad.

Tempura Tiger Prawn Salad

There was a second Chardonnay for the remaining courses, the 2009 Crossbarn Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. Crossbarn is winemaker Paul Hobbs' second label. The wine was produced from selected vineyards within the Sonoma Coast appellation. 60% of the wine was fermented in tank, 40% in oak barrels using native and commercial yeasts. It was aged five months in French oak barrels where it underwent malolactic fermentation.

The wine had a nose of spiced apple and pear. On the palate, it was quite full and nutty with a creamy texture. Quite a typical California Chardonnay and a good accompaniment to the moist and flaky Baked Honey Glazed Soy Sea Bass.

Baked Honey Glazed Soy Sea Bass

Our red wine was the 2008 Chappellet Mountain Cuvée. The Chappellet Winery is located in Napa Valley, in the eastern hills between Yountville and St. Helena. It has been producing wines since 1967 and was one of the first wineries to be established in the Napa Valley after Prohibition. Mountain Cuvée is a winemaker's blend of Bordeaux varietals made for early consumption. It is 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Malbec.

The wine had a nose of dark fruit and coffee. On the palate, it was medium to full-bodied, with a round mouthfeel and a well balanced finish. It was very food friendly and worked particularly well with the Skaking Filet Mignon, cubes of filet mignon sautéed with lemongrass, onions, and garlic.

Skaking Filet Mignon

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