Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2006 PlumpJack Reserve Cabernet

     We had the 2006 PlumpJack Estate Cabernet from Oakville over at a friend's house the other day. She and her husband had won a great collection of Napa Cabernets in a charity auction so my husband and I were very happy to come over and help them sort through their winnings. They had never tasted any of the PlumpJack wines before so it was selected for opening. I decanted it while we admired their haul.
     In the glass, this wine was an almost black, opaque ruby color with a dark ruby rim. It had intense aromas of baked mixed berries and cherries, cocoa and toasted oak. It had intense, concentrated fruit flavors: blueberry, blackberry and plum with some baking spice and a long, dry finish. It was full-bodied and well-balanced with medium+ acidity and alcohol and strong but smooth tannins.
     It was delicious now and we were absolutely delighted that they shared it with us but I do imagine that it could have become even better with a little more time.

2006 John Anthony Cabernet at the BRC Gastropub

     Last week, we went with some friends to the BRC Gastropub which is located on Shephard south of Washington Avenue. They had a full house so we went to the bar. Everyone was pretty set on some kind of beef entree so we started with a bottle of the 2006 John Anthony Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. 
     This wine is 100% Cabernet, reasonably priced on their menu and truly delicious. It had intense aromas of ripe blackberries with some vanilla and a bit of dried herb. The blackberry/ black cherry flavors were dominant but didn't overpower. It was well-balanced with 14.5% abv, medium+ acidity and heavy tannins ending is a mineral-laced long dry finish.
     We were seated pretty quickly considering the crowd. We started with the Pickle Jar appetizer and the Blue Crab Beignets (fried crab fritters). My entree was the boneless short rib with blue cheese potato salad, my husband had the chicken-fried steak sandwich (which is potato chip crusted pan-fried tenderloin) and sour cream mashed potatoes and both of our friends got the Pub burger with cheddar (with which you can never go wrong). The service was excellent. Everyone felt the wine was an exceptional complement to their meal so we ended up getting a second bottle.
     A great weekday evening; good wine, good food and good friends!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2007 ZD Founder's Reserve Pinot Noir

      We are having several holiday meals/celebrations this year due to family members' different schedules. Today, we had a mini-Thanksgiving type lunch with an herb roasted turkey breast, sweet potatoes, cornbread dressing and green beans. I served this with a bottle of 2007 ZD Founder's Reserve Pinot Noir. Only 750 cases of this wine were produced. The front of the bottle features a picture of Norman deLeuze, ZD's founding partner, who was particularly fond of Pinot Noir. The grapes were all sourced from a six acre block in their Carneros Estate Vineyard which has been certified organic for more than a decade following their founder's philosophy for creating a healthy vineyard environment.

     In the glass, this wine was a sheer garnet red. It had fresh aromas of raspberry, cranberry and black cherry with hints of dried herb and a bit of old leather. It was perfectly balanced with a medium body, medium+ acidity, satiny-smooth fine tannins and 13.9% abv. Flavors of berries, cherries and tea with light toasty notes ended with a medium length finish. It was a perfect pairing with the roasted turkey and delicious on its own. ZD- Zero Defects, proven to be true again!

    

Friday, December 24, 2010

2006 Nickel & Nickel Kelham Vineyard Cabernet

     After a few weeks of non-stop parties, crazy work hours and endless crowds, we are at home on Christmas Eve. I have been wrapping presents for hours and my husband is cooking dinner. He opted to open a bottle of 2006 Nickel & Nickel Kelham Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville (Thank you very much, Jeff & Amanda!).
     As you may know, Nickel & Nickel is a project of the Far Niente partners with a focus on 100% varietal, single vineyard wines. The grapes for this particular bottle come from the Kelhams, who have been farming in Napa for 35 years at the base of the western hills of Oakville.
     This wine is an opaque dark, deep ruby red color with a ruby rim. Intense aromas of cassis with tobbaco and smoke. Full-bodied+, 14.7% abv, heavy tannins yet very well-balanced. Intense ripe fruit flavors of blackberry and cassis with some toasted oak with a l-o-n-g, dry, bit of black licorice finish. So delicious!
     Mild weather here in Houston for awhile, my poor husband preps his food and heats the grill and a monsoon hit. He broiled the filet mignon and lobster tails in the oven and they came out absolutely perfect. His side dishes were asparagus with a bit of garlic and olive oil and baked potatoes filled with Boursin Pepper Gournay Cheese, all done in the oven. Fantastic!

     Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pol Roger Champagne Event at The Tasting Room

     Last night, my husband and I went to the Pol Roger Champagne event at The Tasting Room in Uptown Park. This tasting was set up with a live feed with the winery and with the importer for a question and answer type discussion during the event. This was the first event of this type that TTR had hosted. It was an intimate group setting which was limited to only twelve guests. I think the format does hold great promise but we did experience some technical difficulties on our end which I am sure will be rectified in the future.
     Pol Roger is one of the smaller Grand Marque Champagne houses which has been family-owned and operated since its establishment in 1849. They own 50% of the vineyards from which their grapes are sourced which is very unusual and obtain the rest exclusively from 1er and Grand Cru vineyards. Their total production is 1.5 million bottles per year yet they maintain their traditional production methods including hand-riddling every bottle.
     We were fortunate enough to taste four of their offerings:
Pol Roger Brut Reserve "White Foil" NV- The blend was equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It displayed light toasty aromas with touches of lemon zest and floral notes and had a creamy-smooth dry apple lightly lingering finish. $61.99
Pol Roger Pure Brut NV-I was very excited to try this one as I had not had this particular zero dosage style and it did not disappoint. It was also equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It had fresh aromas of citrus, peach and yeasty bread dough with a fabulous acid attack in the mouth with a zesty green apple, chalky finish. $71.99
Pol Roger Brut Blanc de Blanc Vintage 1999-100% Chardonnay, of course. This was a more complex, full-bodied style with a warm brioche and honey bouquet with some mineral and floral notes. It had a toasted almond, lightly-spicy long buttery finish. $143.99
Pol Roger Brut Rose Vintage 2002-A blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier. This wine was a bright salmon pink with endless bubbles and lots of ripe strawberry and raspberry aromas with some floral notes on the nose. It was full-bodied with a lingering dry, fruity finish. $112.99
     All four of these Champagnes exhibited the expected crisp, dry elegance of each particular style. All were exceptional, you are only limited in your selection by your own style preferences, occasion and budget. (Prices shown here are those at The tasting Room).

   

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tasting the Languedoc

     I went to a seminar and wine tasting on Monday evening at the Wine School at L'Alliance Francaise. It was presented by Charles "Bear" Dalton, the fine wine buyer at Spec's and a local wine personality/guru. The subject was "Tasting the Languedoc". As many wine drinkers know, the Languedoc region of France was not taken very seriously for years in regards to any type of quality wine production, it was often referred to as the "wine lake" of southern France, quantity was great but quality was not. Over the last two decades, this reputation as a region of mass or bulk wine producers has begun to change with a new focus on quality that is due in part to outside investments.
     We tasted ten wines over the course of the evening ranging in price from $6.99 to $32.71 and I felt most were interesting, pleasant and very drinkable (there was only one that I just did not care for at all). I am listing my three favorites here:
Domaine Font Mars Picpoul De Pinet 2009- Made from the Picpoul grape, this white wine had fresh citrus aromas and flavors, high acid, medium alcohol and finished with a medium-length crisp minerality. At $10.83, a great alternative to your usual chilled summer patio sipper.
Domaine Cantussel "Cuvee Cantussel" Minervois 1999-A brownish garnet red color, this wine is a blend of "Old Vine" Carignan, Grenache and Syrah. Strong black fruit aromas from the Carignan with hints of the earthy garrigue, dusty tannins and a lightly spicy finish. Interestingly "old world" for $14.99.
Chateau D'Aussieres Corbieres 2004-Opaque brownish red with a garnet rim. A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre aged in old oak. Intense aromas of ripe blackberries and plums with notes of coffee. Medium+ acid and tannin with medium alcohol and a subtle but lingering savory, black-fruit finish. $32.71

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2007 Primus Red Wine Blend

     We stayed in on Saturday night which is pretty unusual for us but the kids were home again (it is finals week) and we wanted to get our holiday decorating done. My husband decided to grill hamburgers for dinner. While we were at the grocery store we picked up a bottle of the 2007 Primus Red Wine Blend. This Chilean wine by Veramonte from the Colchagua Valley is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, 8% Merlot and 7% Carmenere.
     In the glass, the wine was an almost opaque purple. It was intensely aromatic with fresh ripe fruits-blueberry, blackberry and plum, with hints of dried herb and licorice. It was well-balanced with good structure, full body, smooth tannins, medium+acidity and 14.5% abv. Strong blueberry and blackcurrant flavors with some vanilla and a lengthy slightly spicy finish. We both felt that it was a little overbearing with our hamburgers but we really enjoyed it after dinner on its own. A great wine for approximately $15 a bottle.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2007 Gluttony Old Vine Zinfandel


     We are still working our way through the Michael~David wines that my husband purchased at the wine dinner. The 2007 Gluttony Old Vine Zin from Amador County is the only one that I had not officially reviewed yet. When my son and his girlfriend said they were going to be home for dinner, he requested my southwestern pork tenderloin. I had not made it in almost two months and I saw the opportunity to review the last of the three Zinfandels paired with similar meals.
     In the glass, the wine was an almost opaque purple with a ruby rim. It had the intense aromas of a baked mixed-berry cobbler: raspberry, blueberry, vanilla, a bit of cinnamon and caramelized sugar. It tasted of ripe, juicy black cherry and blackberry with a bit of coffee. It was medium-bodied and well-balanced (despite the intense fruit) with high alcohol (16.5 abv), medium acidity and light velvety smooth tannins. It had a medium length, lightly jammy finish which paired perfectly with the chipolte seasonings on the pork tenderloin. After much trial and error, I do believe that fruit-forward Zins are the best wine pairing for slightly spicy chipolte-seasoned meats.


Related posts:

Monday, December 6, 2010

2008 Wrath "Ex Anima" Chardonnay

     The 2008 Wrath "Ex Anima" Chardonnay has fairly intense aromas and flavors of lemon, apricot and fig. It is a well-balanced, full-body Chardonnay that was aged in neutral oak giving it good structure yet preserving the fresh fruit flavors. It has medium alcohol, medium+ acidity and has a lingering finish of pineapple, laced with a bit of minerality.
     I was served this in a restaurant with lower lighting so no comment as to the color. It was very food friendly in that it did not overpower boiled shrimp remoulade but cut easily through a crab cake with sweet corn and leek cream sauce. Absolutely delicious!

A Christmas Party at Brennan's

      Saturday evening, we went to my husband's company Christmas party at Brennan's in downtown Houston. This restaurant always provides an exceptional experience. Over the years, in addition to just having dinner or brunch there, I have been to numerous events, from my own high school graduation luncheon, to private dinner club seating at the chef's table in the kitchen, to large dinner parties in the various private party rooms and I have never been disappointed. I was pleased to discover over the weekend, after not having been there in a while, that nothing has changed.
     The evening began with a choice of drinks and various passed hors d'oevres. The wine options were 2008 Wrath "Ex Anima" Chardonnay and 2006 Delectus "Argentum" Red Blend. The courses ran as follows.
  • Brennan's Turtle Soup w/ a dash of Sherry
  • Shrimp Remoulade
  • Intermezzo-Texas Citrus Sorbet
  • Tournedo of Beef with Jumbo Lump Crab Cake
  • Bananas Foster
     The room was lovely and lit to perfection, the service was impeccable and the food was as remarkable as it has always been; one more exceptional experience at Brennan's.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Brut Champagne NV

 
     The Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label has aromas of toast with a bit of citrus. It is full-bodied with flavors of ripe apple and hints of vanilla ending with a lightly lingering mineral-tinged creamy finish. A classic Brut NV Champagne, crisp, dry and elegantly effervescent.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

2009 Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio

     I was grocery shopping without a real dinner plan (I had already picked up some Milanese-cut chicken breasts and zucchini) when I came upon the older lady that hands out the cheese samples. She knows that I will partake so she immediately handed me a napkin with cheese cubes and crackers. It was a Dutch garlic cheese and it was delicious. I was immediately inspired to make macaroni and cheese with it. My pantry is fairly well-stocked so I knew I had everything else I needed except a bottle of Pinot Grigio to go with my newborn dinner plan. I chose a bottle of 2009 Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio from Italy's Trentino region for $12.99.
     In the glass, this wine was a pale straw color with a watery rim. It had surprisingly intense aromas of green apple, peach and orange peel with a bit of a floral note of honeysuckle. It was nicely structured with medium body, medium alcohol (13% abv) and a zesty medium+ acidity. Its initial fresh apple and melon flavor ended with a lightly lingering, crisp citrus finish. It paired perfectly with the marinated grilled chicken and vegetables as well as with the creamy macaroni and cheese. We really enjoyed this wine; I think it would work well with a lot of different meals and, at this price, it is one that I will definitely keep in stock.


    

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rapture Cabernet by Michael~David 2006

     Time constraints for cooking dinner and good prices at the grocery store meant that last night was steak night. Baked potatoes, steamed broccoli and filet crusted with sea salt & fresh ground pepper with a bit of bleu cheese melted on top. So easy yet always so good!

     Dinner was served with Rapture by Michael~David 2006; this wine is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petite Sirah and 2% Merlot. In the glass, it had a dark, almost black, ruby core with an orangish-red rim. It had intense aromas of ripe blackberry, black cherry, toast and a bit of vanilla. It was full of ripe berry flavor with hints of oak. It was full-bodied with high alcohol, acid and tannins. It had a lengthy dry, black cherry finish. Delicious!

Related posts: Michael~David Wine Dinner at Max's Wine Dive
Michael~David Lust Zinfandel 2007

Friday, November 26, 2010

2004 Ondarre Reserva Rioja

     The 2004 Ondarre Reserva Rioja was garnet red in the glass with a bit of a brickish rim. It had aromas of dried cherry, raspberry and licorice. Flavors included those of the aromas as well as cranberry with a bit of tobacco. It was medium-bodied, 13.5% abv with mild, dusty tannins and high acidity. It had a medium-length dry finish. A very nice example of Rioja!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ruinart Brut Rose Champagne NV

     The Thanksgiving feasting ended early today. We are winding it down here with Havarti cheese with crackers, fresh berries and Ruinart Brut Rose Champagne. The slightly tart berry flavors are perfect with this snack and it will be wonderful with a turkey sandwich with a bit of cranberry sauce if anyone actually gets hungry again tonight. Fragrant, crisp and very bubbly; absolutely delightful!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

2006 Caravan Cabernet

     Grilled vegetables, filet mignon and baked potatoes at home paired for the upteenth time with Caravan Napa Valley Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon by Darioush. This combination is always a winner. I tend to keep a bottle in stock at our home at all times. It is a familiar favorite that is never wrong.
     A classic Napa Valley Cabernet with intense aromas of ripe black fruit, licorice and a bit of smoke; big fruit flavors of black cherry, berry and plum with dark chocolate and pepper. It has medium+body and is well-balanced with a long, smooth finish. Delicious!


One down and another awaits another day!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

2008 Montes Cabernet Carmenere at Artista

     We were attending a musical last night at the Hobby Center with some friends so we went to dinner first at Artista which is located right next to the theater. I ordered the caesar salad and the salmon entree for dinner and a glass of the 2008 Montes Cabernet/Carmenere Limited Selection from the Apalta Vineyard in Colchagua, Chile. My husband ordered the mixed grill special and the same wine.
     We are very familiar with the Montes line but had not had this particular wine. We both really enjoyed it and felt it worked well with our different meals showing itself to be very food-friendly. It had aromas of plums and blackberries with traces of vanilla. It was well-balanced, medium bodied with strong dark fruit flavors with a silky smooth medium+lengthed finish. I would definitely order it again.
     A very good wine at a reasonable price (approx $17/ a bottle retail).

Monday, November 15, 2010

2007 Trefethen Double T Red Wine at Flemings

     We went to Flemings Steakhouse-River Oaks on Friday night. They are running a special right now called the Memorable Meal. We ordered one of those and added another salad and filet as we knew that we did not need two desserts. It was more than enough food (if there is really ever such a thing as enough lobster). We ordered a bottle of 2007 Trefethen Double T Red Wine. We have had the Trefethen Cabernet before and have always enjoyed it but had not tried this particular wine. It is a Cabernet Sauvignon Bordeaux-styled blend.
     We really enjoyed this wine as well. It was a medium-bodied, well-balanced wine that worked well with our meal. It had a classic Cabernet profile with aromas and flavors of concentrated black fruits and a jammy, peppery medium-lengthed finish.
     Great meal and a great wine!

Monday, November 8, 2010

2005 Hazyblur Shiraz

     After a large brunch buffet earlier in the day, I was keeping dinner simple, it was just my husband and I as the kids were both out. We were camped out in front of the TV and were ready for some red wine. My husband opted to open a bottle of 2005 Hazyblur South Australia Kangaroo Island Shiraz. I tossed a salad (lettuce from the garden, grated white cheddar, chopped roasted red pepper and green onion, tossed with Balsamic vinaigrette) and topped it with warmed up slices of our leftover tenderloin that we had brought home from the wine dinner on Friday.
     In the glass, the wine appeared almost black with a ruby rim. Aromas of smoke, bacon and licorice were prevalent. Flavors were of black raspberry and blackberry with hints of smoked meat. It was medium+ bodied with moderate acidity, medium tannins and 14.9% abv. It had a medium+ lengthed peppery finish.
     Overall, a very enjoyable wine and a nice complement to our "leftovers".

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Opus One Wine Dinner for Pappas Grill's Farewell

     Magnum opus is the greatest achievement of an artist. Last night, the Pappas Grill Steakhouse hosted their final wine dinner before the restaurant closes for good tomorrow. The Opus One wine dinner may very well have been their magnum opus amongst many great wine dinners. 
     The evening started with passed hors d'oeuvre served with Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. Karen D'Amour, an Opus One Winery representative, was there to tell the story of the creation of the partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild. The dinner courses prepared by Chef Michael Gaspard were as follows:
  1. Risotto of Maine Lobster with citris and chive oil paired with 2008 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Fume Blanc.
  2. Slow-cooked Niman Ranch pork cannelloni, smoked tomato and aged Texas white cheddar paired with 1994 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Grand Cru, Pauillac & 1999 Robert Mondavi Winery Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
  3. Roasted Beef Tenderloin with horseradish crust & wild mushrooms in red wine paired with 1997 Opus One Napa Valley-en magnun & 2007 Opus One Napa Valley                
  4. Caramel Creme Brulee served with 2008 Robert Mondavi Winery Moscato d'Oro Napa Valley 
      The food was all wonderful and perfectly paired to each wine. The evening was bittersweet, however, as attendees knew it would be their last time. Many dinner-goers were regulars at the many wine tastings and dinner events that had been held over the years and many friendships had been formed during these times.
     The lease on this restaurant is up and renewal was decided against. The last construction expansion of the Southwest Freeway changed the exit ramps and the location is no longer what it once had been. The Pappas Grill Steakhouse is a one of a kind venue in the organization but all of the employees are being absorbed into the many other Pappas restaurants. The regulars, in the meantime, will have to find a new outlet for their wine events fix but hope remains amongst all with whom I spoke that the Pappas Grill concept will rise again in a new and better location. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wine Pairings for Thanksgiving

My husband and I usually host our families at our home on Thanksgiving. We always cook a traditional herb-roasted turkey and gravy with a savory dressing/stuffing with fresh onions, peppers and herbs, sweet potatoes (1/2 with marshmallows and 1/2 without) and the cranberry sauce. Other family members bring desserts and various side dishes. There are always green beans and usually mashed potatoes, broccoli/rice casserole and macaroni & cheese. My mother-in-law always brings flaky rolls with strawberry butter.

When choosing wine for this day, I first consider what works best with this meal, my guests, how much I will need and what I want to spend. I try to buy a minimum of half a bottle for each adult and depending on who has come to town and how long it may stretch, I might buy more. I always buy wine that I will enjoy in case it is not consumed that day. I don't want to be stuck storing something that I don't enjoy myself.

Pairing wine with the turkey is the easiest part, something that will complement rather than cover its mild flavors. It gets tricky when you consider the sweetness, tartness or creaminess of all the individual side dishes. In recent years, I have started with sparkling cranberry cocktails, usually an inexpensive Prosecco mixed with cranberry juice. If you want your bubbles straight, Extra-Dry or Rose Champagne will pair better than other styles such as Brut.

I also open a few different bottles of wine to accommodate everyone's tastes. Top white wine picks include dry Riesling from Alsace or Washington, Argentinean Torrontes from the Salta region, lighter Italian-style Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc from California. Red Choices include Beaujolais-Villages (rather than the traditional Nouveau), a light Pinot Noir, Rioja with Garnacha in the blend, or a light-bodied Merlot or Cabernet for my die-hard red drinkers. 

Most importantly, you should enjoy what you pick so you can enjoy the feast, the merriment and feel thankful for what is in your glass!    

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2007 Sloth Zinfandel

     I admit that I have had a bit of an obsession with Chipolte based seasonings for the past few months. When I made the pork tenderloin recently, I decided then that the next time I was cooking baby back ribs, I was going to season them with my same dry rub. I did just that last night and served them with chipolte bar-b-que sauce, roasted potatoes and salad. 
     Remembering how well we had liked the Lust Zinfandel with the chipolte pork tenderloin, I decided to open another Zinfandel from the Michael~David Family of Wines, a bottle of 2007 Sloth from Mendocino. I had first tried this at a wine dinner that we had attended. I had been in the minority in that group preferring it to the the bold Lust. 
     At the dinner, it had appeared very purple; that is the reason I don't always like to comment on color when I have wine out, as there is usually not the same bright light that I have in my kitchen at home. This evening it appeared to be a deep opaque ruby with a bright ruby rim in the glass. It had aromas of dried cherry and mixed berries with touches of cinnamon. It had flavors of red cherry, blackberry and a bit of under-ripe plum. It had 15% abv, moderate tannins and medium acidity. It had a medium-length, slightly peppery tart dry finish.
     It also was bold enough to stand up to the chipolte seasoning (which was slightly sweeter in this format due to the sauce) and worked really well with the meal proving yet again that Zinfandel is just a good wine for bar-b-que.

Monday, November 1, 2010

2005 & 2006 Luna Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

      We had some friends over for dinner on Friday night. I had put out almonds, crackers, a mixed cheese plate and a basil/mozzarella/tomato Caprise salad to start off our evening. Crabcakes with a creamy tomato Creole sauce were the next course and then filet mignon with potatoes and broccoli were following. Dessert was chocolate covered strawberries and mini cannolli.
     Everyone wanted only red wine so we opened a bottle of 2005 to follow the 2006 Luna Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve from Napa Valley that we had already opened; this gave us the opportunity to do a mini vertical tasting. The two wines were very similar in color, aroma and flavor. Luna Vineyards definitely does an excellent job of maintaining their style through different vintages. They were each a deep, dark ruby in the glass with a ruby rim. They had the typical aromas and flavors of blackberry and black cherry with some minerality and cedar notes. They were both well-structured and full-bodied with each having slightly over 14% abv and high acidity balancing dusty tannins. Both were absolutely delicious with a lingering finish. 
     While there was not a group consensus on which was best, if I was pressed to choose, I would say that I had a slight preference for the 2006. It had a bit more fruit and spiciness with extra notes of licorice and allspice. Overall, I was very happy with both of the offerings from Luna.

Monday, October 25, 2010

2009 Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc

     I have served the 2009 Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, a few times and it has always been well-received. It is a clear, very pale wine that is freshly aromatic with grapefruit, lime and bell pepper with a bit of grassiness. It has flavors of pineapple, grapefruit, bell pepper and dried basil with a zesty acidity and a bit of saltiness in its long tart finish.
     I have served it alone as a patio sipper, with grilled vegetables and tilapia, as well as with cold boiled shrimp for an appetizer. It has worked well each time. Very good, very affordable wine!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Houston Cellar Classic-The Grand Tasting Experience

     The Grand Tasting Experience held yesterday at The Tasting Room at Uptown Park was the finale of the three day Houston Cellar Classic-A Celebration of Wine & Food. Houston-area winelovers came in droves to taste over ninety wines and sample menu items from local restaurants. 
     The parking lot was partitioned off to provide tent space for food booths. This allowed wine tasters to have small snacks between tastings with diverse offerings such as cheese plates from the Houston Dairy Maids, lettuce wraps from Pei Wei, fried chicken from Max's Wine Dive, shrimp ceviche from Frank's Chop House and risotto from Ristorante Cavour, just to name a few.
     On the patio and inside, there were about fifteen tasting stations to accommodate the large crowd who sipped and swirled through. I only tasted nineteen of the offerings, I intentionally skipped several good ones that I am already too familiar with in an effort to find some new treasures.
     The 1999 Pommery Cuvee Louise-Champagne was subtle perfection. Other favorites were Nickel & Nickel Ponzo Zinfandel, Numanthia Termes-Tempranillo, Two Hands Bellas Garden Shiraz, Benziger Tribute and "M" Cabernet Sauvignon by Michael Mondavi.
     The crowd was a friendly group of enthusiastic wine lovers all ready to share their thoughts on the many different wines. A good time was had by all and money was raised to support JDRF-Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International. The Houston Cellar Classic is an annual event that should not be missed if you are a lover of food and wine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lust Zinfandel 2007

     My husband loves this wine so he purchased quite a few bottles at a recent Michael~David dinner that we had attended. Last night, I decided to open a bottle to serve with dinner. I was making a roasted southwestern pork tenderloin, sweet potato fries (w/ chipolte ketchup) and a salad consisting of baby lettuce (fresh from my garden) with strawberries, red bell peppers, red onions and walnuts tossed with a white balsamic-raspberry vinaigrette.
     This turned out to be a great pairing. It is a bold wine that really stood up to the strong chipolte seasoning while complementing the fruit flavors. I opened the bottle a 1/2 hour before I served it as I have found this wine to be more enjoyable when I do so.
     The Lust Zinfandel by Michael~David 2007 was a dark purple color with a ruby rim. It has intense aromas of very ripe mixed berries and baking spices-both allspice and ginger with hints of cedar. It has flavors of creme de cassis, milk chocolate and also more of the baking spices. It is very structured with firm tannins and a long creamy, heavy fruit finish.

Related post: Michael-David Wine Dinner at Max"s Wine Dive

Monday, October 18, 2010

2006 Fontanella Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

     I hate to say that I am not sure who gave me this bottle, but what a nice gift! I had slow-simmered a beef stew all evening. I keep waiting for the cool weather to hit us here in Houston, TX, (it was 82 for most of the day but I am ready for a season change) and randomly, through the grace of Bacchus, made this wine selection. Turned out, I chose a really easy-drinking, light to medium bodied cab which was perfect with my stew.
     I found the 2006 Fontanella Cabernet Sauvignon to have a medium ruby-colored core with a rosy rim. It was lightly scented with blackberry, dried sage and violets. It was well-balanced and well-structured with refined tannins, flavors of blackberry, dried cherry and a hint of nutmeg. It had a pleasant, medium-length earthy finish.
It was delightful as an accompaniment to the light beef stew but will probably be even better with some age. I definitely want to check out this winery on my next trip to Napa!

 

2006 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon

     Last night, we enjoyed one of my favorite wines from Napa Valley, a bottle of 2006 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon. I almost always have a bottle of this in the house and it is one that my husband and I frequently order at restaurants when we are having any type of steak. We have introduced numerous friends to this wine and they always love it.
     On the nose, there is intense black cherry with vanilla and smoky aromas; on the palate, there is more rich black cherry flavor with dark chocolate and a bit of chili pepper. It is always perfectly balanced. A medium+ body with mild tannins ending with a lightly spicy, fruit-filled lingering silky finish. Always absolutely perfect!

Friday, October 15, 2010

2008 Selbach Riesling

     I purchased this bottle of 2008 Selbach Riesling from Spec's Wine & Spirits for about $14. It was produced in the Mosel region of Germany. In the glass, it is a clear, pale straw color with a watery rim. It has clean, crisp aromas of lemon pith, peach and a bit of slate. On the palate, it has flavors of lemon verbena, granny smith apple, a touch of honey with a mineral edge. It is a well-balanced off-dry wine (just the barest hint of sweetness) with low alcohol (10%), high acidity and a lingering light citrus finish. Very refreshing, a nice wine at a nice price!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Steve Burgess of Burgess Cellars at The Tasting Room at Uptown Park

     The Tasting Room has added the 2006 Burgess Cellars Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon to its wine list. To promote their latest addition, Steve Burgess came to Houston to meet and greet with local wine lovers at the Uptown Park location. Although Steve grew up on the Burgess property, he did not join the family business until 2005. He helps out with all aspects of the business but primarily focuses on sales and marketing.
     Their Cabernet is blended with some Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot. It starts with spicy aromas with ripe berries. It has rich flavors of blackberry, cherry and cocoa with just a bit of oak. It is full-bodied with smooth tannins and a long creamy, hint of vanilla finish. 
     I was lucky enough to get to taste their Merlot and Syrah as well. The Merlot is a 100% varietal and to quote Steve, "a real crowd pleaser"; it is one of those Cab-lover Merlots. Full-bodied, with rich aromas of black cherries and plums, same flavor profile with a hint of mint or eucalyptus and a touch of smoke, ending with a silky finish. Their Syrah is blended with Grenache, it has aromas of blueberries and raspberries with a bit of licorice, fruity flavors of mixed berries and cherries with some chocolate to balance the slightly oaky, more firmly tannic finish. Both promise to be very food-friendly.
     Burgess Cellars has an outstanding reputation for making wines that are all perfectly balanced due to a true understanding of how best to utilize their terroir. All of their wines are crafted from estate grapes sourced from their three vineyards. The 2006 Burgess Cellars Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is a must-try on your next visit to TTR.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Houston enjoys a Taste of Napa Valley

     The Napa Valley Vintners Association was in Houston this week. Almost 70 wineries were represented with about 200 wines at Minute Maid Park yesterday afternoon. Locals in the media and wine trade flocked to the event to taste the latest offerings from Napa Valley. Although I did my best, I was unable to make it through the entire line-up. I am just going to comment on some of my favorites although there were many more noteworthy wines.
     My top pick amongst the Sauvignon Blancs was 2009 Conspire from Rutherford. It was a beautifully balanced wine with honeysuckle floral aromas with hints of minerality and citrus notes. It had flavors of pineapple and kiwi, bright acidity and a creamy tropical finish. Other Sauv Blanc favorites were from John Anthony Vineyards, Peju and Heitz Wine Cellars. St Supery's Virtu, a white Bordeaux-styled blend, had both cantaloupe and peach aromas and flavors with a refreshing acidity and was absolutely fantastic as well. Both the 2008 Monticello and Pahlmeyer Chardonnays were very good but the 2008 Signorello Vielles Vignes Chardonnay had multiple layers of flavors and was so well-balanced that I felt it was the most outstanding. 
     There was an overwhelming number of Napa Valley reds to try and so many deserve mention but I will keep it as short as possible. My Pinot Noir top picks were 2008 Trinitas Cellars and the 2008 40th Anniversary from ZD Wines. The Blackbird Vineyards entire line is noteworthy but the 2007 Illustration, a Merlot dominated blend, deserves special mention with its intense aromas of plum, black cherry, smoke and mint with flavors of ripe plums, berries, dark chocolate and licorice with smooth tannins and a long succulent finish. Left bank Bordeaux-styled favorites included 2005 St Supery Elu, the 2005 Sodaro Estate Blend and 2007 Facets of Gemstone. Cabernet top choices were 2006 Gemstone "Ten", 2005 Schweiger Vineyards Spring Mountain2004 Peju HB and the 2005 Meander. Both the Zinfandel and the interesting "Porque no" blend by Tres Sabores were also very enjoyable.
     Schramsberg Vineyards was offering tastes of four styles of sparkling wine: 2006 Blanc de Noirs, 2006 Brut Rose, 2007 Blanc de Blanc and 2001 J Schram Signature. Each of these was an exceptional example of each style all made in the traditional method; crisply acidic and food friendly.
     As I stated, this is the short list from a long list of truly outstanding wines. After my taste of Napa, I just find myself wanting more, so get ready to drink up, Houston, some great wines are coming our way.

Monday, October 11, 2010

2007 Luna Vineyards Napa Valley Red Wine

     After a hearty late lunch yesterday afternoon, we kept dinner simple. By that, I mean we opened a bottle of the newly released 2007 Luna Vineyards Napa Valley Red Wine and I made an assorted cheese plate with crackers and almonds. This wine is a Bordeaux-styled blend made from 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Merlot primarily sourced from Howell Mountain.  
     In the glass, it was a dark garnet red with aromas of blackberries and cedar. It had rich flavors of sweet cherries and berries and cocoa with smooth tannins and a medium length peppery finish.
     It was a delicious easy-drinking wine that should be even more interesting after some time in the cellar.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

California vs Bordeaux Wine Tasting

     I attended a California vs Bordeaux wine tasting last night. The wines we tasted from Bordeaux were 1994 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Premier Cru Classe-Pauillac, 1999 Chateau Rochebelle Grand Cru-St Emilion and 2004 Chateau Pontet-Canet Cru Classe-Pauillac. The California Cabernet Sauvignons were 2005 Clos Pegase Napa Valley, 2005 Silver Oak Winery-Alexander Valley and 2006 Flora Springs Winery-Napa Valley. 
     My favorite Bordeaux of the three was the Chateau Pontet-Canet. It was a deep ruby with mild aromas of red cherry, smoky tobacco and licorice and had flavors of juicy blackberry, vanilla and hints of oak. It was well-balanced with smooth tannins and a dry, slightly oaky finish.
My favorite from California was the Clos Pegase. It was garnet colored with aromas of creme de cassis, cherry, leather and cedar and had flavors of black cherry, ripe plum and cocoa. It was also well-balanced with smooth tannins and had a toasty, ripe berry finish.
While all of the wines were good, we did order a bottle of the Clos Pegase to have with dinner.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Napa Grille-Urban Wine Bar

     Today, I met a friend for lunch at the Napa Grille Urban Wine Bar in Sugar Land. I had not been there in a couple of months so I was surprised to see that they had expanded and were now twice the size from my last visit and had also gone to a full bar. It was a beautiful day and they had it all opened up to enjoy it.
     We sat on the edge of outside and checked out the new menu. I ordered the bleu cheese angus burger and a glass of 2007 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet. The burger was huge, coated with bleu cheese and topped with a hunk of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and red onion strings and came with a big side of fries. The wine was very good though not a complex, serious drinker; it was perfect with my lunch. It was just an easy-drinking cab, bright ruby colored, fresh aromas of ripe cherries, light in style, very fruity flavors of blackberry and plum with hints of vanilla and cedar with light tannins and a light lingering finish.
     I am now looking forward to my next evening trip to the Napa Grille to try out some of the new menu items while listening to some live music. The re-do looks terrific and there are some great specials as well.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Hope at the Vineyard on the Square

     Tonight, we went to The Vineyard wine bar in Town Square in Sugar Land where they were having a complimentary wine tasting of Hope Estate wines. The tasting was to kick-off a month long promotion where The Vineyard will be donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Hope Estate wines (by the glass or bottle) to the Breast Cancer Network of Strength.
     Winemaker, Ryan McCann, was there to talk about Hope Estate wines and the Hope Estate vineyards in Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia. The owner, Michael Hope, has transformed an historic estate into a dynamic new venue with a new dining establishment called Harvest Restaurant and an amphitheatre. Hope Estate now provides a fantastic location for premium wine, fine dining, private functions and spectacular outdoor concerts and events. They have had Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Chris Issak and Whitney Houston all perform.
     It was obvious that Ryan McCann loves his life. He lives on-site at the vineyard, sees the concerts from his front yard, does private tastings with some of the performers and makes fantastic wine. I tasted his 2007 Chardonnay and Shiraz. I particularly liked the Shiraz. It was a dark ruby color with aromas of blackberry, plums and brown spices. It was well-balanced with smooth tannins and flavors of juicy blackberries, a bit of chocolate with a spicy, peppery finish.
     The wines will be at The Vineyard all month so go and enjoy a good wine and support a great cause, as Hope Estate says, "Where there's wine...there's Hope."

Friday, October 1, 2010

October is Texas Wine Month

     The history of wine in Texas starts much the same as everywhere else in the Americas. It began in the 1600’s when Spanish missionaries started cultivating grapes at the Ysleta Mission which was located in the present day El Paso area. Out of these humble beginnings grew an industry that today produces 2.4 million gallons of wine and over $1 billion dollars in revenue annually from its more than 160 wineries.

     This industry has also increased tourism with nearly a million visitors each year taking the opportunity to visit Texas Wine Country. "Texas is one of the fastest-growing wine destinations in the country," says Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples. Charming winery bed and breakfasts, boutique cellars and large wineries on huge vineyards provide a diverse experience.

     The Texas Department of Agriculture has created a “Texas Winery Passport” to help you get started on your wine country adventure. This can be picked up at any Texas winery or tasting room. Track your visits by entering each one’s code on the passport and start redeeming for wine traveler’s rewards after just four stops. More information on this can be found at http://www.gotexanwine.org/.

     They also have suggestions on how to plan your trip starting with selecting one of the four regions. There are many miles involved in a complete tour of Texas’ wine country so they have broken it down into eight Texas Wine Trails. Each trail offers a unique taste of each of the different regions. Texas Wine Month is a great time to start as it has developed into a state-wide wine promotion. Sales incentives, winery tours, wine festivals, in-store tastings, restaurant pairings and many other activities will increase the fun. Be sure to consult the calendar of events to get the most from your trip.

     Texas Wine Month is celebrated each October as the harvest winds down at most Texas vineyards. Come now and see why Texas is the 5th largest producer of wine in the U.S. 
    
     No matter where you are this month, be sure to pick up a bottle of Texas’ finest and give a toast to the Lone Star State. As Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said, “The Texas Wine industry has come of age” and that is a very good reason to share a bottle of Texas wine.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Michael~David Wine Dinner at Max's Wine Dive

On Tuesday night, I attended the Michael~David Wine Dinner at Max's Wine Dive. The daughter/niece of the two winemakers, Melissa Phillips Stroud, was there to meet and greet and answer any questions dinner go-ers had about the various wines.
The menu courses prepared by Chef Michael Pellegrino:
 1st A goat cheese and grape skewer with chocolate reduction sauce paired with Petite Petit which is 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot.
 2nd Venison tartare on crackers with fig served with the new Sloth Zinfandel.
 3rd A wild boar filled pasta square with cherry sauce, a wild boar stuffed baby bella mushroom with raspberry sauce and, my favorite part of this course, shredded wild boar surrounded with masa and fried with a plum sauce served with Gluttony Old Vine Zinfandel.
 4th Lamb Osso Bucco with roasted pumpkin risotto was perfectly paired with the Rapture Cabernet.
 5th Dessert was chocolate with berries paired with Lust Zinfandel.
I found the dinner to be really interesting and enjoyable and thought it was well paired to the wines. The Petite Petit was different and I really liked its aromas of baked blueberry cobbler and the jammy blackberry finish. Each of the three zinfandels had their own personality-the Lust seemed to be the favorite of all with whom I spoke. My favorite of the evening was the Rapture, a blend of 90% cabernet, 8% petit sirah and 2% merlot. It was the only non-purple of the evening with its deep garnet color, ripe berry aromas with hints of leather and cedar, plum & blackberry flavors and a long finish.
Be aware that all of these wines have fairly high alcohol levels ranging from 14.5%-16.9%. I was not driving so I enjoyed full tastes of each and did wake up with a slight headache in spite of the heavy meal.
Due to the layout at Max's, wine dinner participants are spread throughout the bar which makes it difficult for a group discussion but if you are looking to just discuss with the ones you came with, it works perfectly. Overall, a wonderful time was had by all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Houston Wine Fest Media Party at Cork Soakers

The Houston Wine Fest Media Party was held last night at Cork Soakers wine bar located in downtown Houston's east side. Cork Soakers opened in March and has been a great addition to the area with its diverse wine list with many options by the glass. There was a good turn out and an enjoyable time was had by all at this comfortable and relaxed venue. Complimentary wine and prize drawings added to the fun.
The party was held to kick-off the inaugural Houston Wine Fest weekend which starts tomorrow at noon at historic Sam Houston Park located in downtown Houston at 1100 Bagby. The event goes through Sunday evening and benefits Texas Children's Hospital. There will be 200 wines from around the world, food pairings from local restaurants, other specialty food, novelty and accessory merchants with live jazz and salsa music.
Come out this weekend and enjoy some wine under the park's shady trees, a great time is promised and it is all for a good cause.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Darioush Wine Tasting at Pappas Grill

I went to a Darioush wine tasting last Friday. What a delight! I found every bottle we tasted to be exceptional. Darioush is well-known for their Bordeaux styled wines so I was already familiar with both the Darioush "Signature" and the Estate Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. They are both highly rated and consistently good. The Caravan is the lower priced of the two and is something that I keep in stock at home. The wines in the line up for the evening were all from Napa Valley and included:
2008 Signature Viognier, 2005 Signature Chardonnay, 2005 Signature Merlot, 2007 Signature Shiraz, 2007 Estate Caravan Cabernet Sauvignon, and both the 2006 & 2007 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 was opened by mistake which was a bonus to all who were present.
The Viognier varietal has been hit and miss for me at tastings in the past but this offering was an absolute stand out. It was very fragrant with floral notes of jasmine and orange blossom and even stronger aromas of tangerine and mandarin orange with hints of nutmeg. It had refreshing flavors of nectarine, cantaloupe and lemon zest that were balanced with a tart acidity that still left a lingering peach cobbler finish. This wine is going to make me bring home my first bottle of Viognier.
Their "Signature" Chardonnay has been added to my husband's list of chardonnays that have "pleasantly surprised" him. It was definitely not his over-oaked expectation; it was creamy lemon pie with a hint of mineralty and an acidic citrus with a side of caramel apple finish. 
The Shiraz was another one that I must purchase for our home as it had quite a bit going on. Pomegranate, blackberry and clove aromas with flavors of blackberry and beef with a bit of chocolate coffee in a long finish. It truly had all the flavors of a complete meal in the glass.
The Merlot and all of the Cabernets were exceptional as well. In comparing the Cabernets, I preferred the "Signature" to the "Caravan" but there is also a $40+ price difference. In comparing the two years of the "Signature", the 2007 was my preference; it seemed to have a little more going on and a smoother or silkier finish.
Overall, I am very impressed with all of the Darioush line that I have tried thus far. I just learned that they have a Cabernet/Shiraz blend named "Duel" that I am looking forward to trying next.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2008 Hellfire White Wine

A friend brought this bottle back for us after an Oregon vacation. It was put away and forgotten about until last night. I was making a corn chowder with crabmeat. I had gotten a great deal on the crab so I had bought extra. I decided to harvest the last of my jalapenos from my garden and stuff them. The soup was simmering, the cornbread (my stuffing base) was baking and the dipping sauce was made and chilling which left me with 20 minutes. I went to check to see what kinds of whites were available in our cellar.
I decided it was time to open this bottle of 2008 Hellfire, a white wine blend from Columbia Gorge. It had mild floral aromas of honeysuckle and jasmine with freshly sliced pear and a bit of slate. It was crisply refreshing, I knew it was going to work well with my spicy stuffed jalapenos. Flavor-wise, it had more of the pear with granny smith apples and hints of honey. It had a very dry, medium length finish.
It is a blend of pinot gris, chardonnay, gewurztraminer, riesling and sauvignon blanc and sells on-line for $15.00 a bottle. I wish I had tried it earlier in the summer, I would have ordered some more. It would make a great patio sipper as well as being a good pairing for some of our lighter summer meals.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Beringer Vineyards Wine Dinner at Pappas Grill

We went to Pappas Grill last night for the Beringer Vineyards wine dinner. The food was spectacular as always and I got to try several wonderful wines. Chef Michael Gaspard began our evening with pieces of rolled tuna/avocado sushi and artichoke fritters which were paired with 2007 Alluvium Blanc from Knights Valley. This white blend is predominantly sauvignon blanc and semillon with some chardonnay and viognier. It was very fragrant with aromas of toasted nuts and baked pineapple. It was crisply acidic but also had a honeyed creaminess with flavors of pineapple and citrus which I really enjoyed.
Spicy crab salad on top of
chilled english pea bisque with lemon and herbs was served next. This was so delicious, I could have eaten several bowls. This course was paired with two Napa Valley chardonnays, the 2006 "Limited Release Sbragia" and the 2005 "Private Reserve". They were both full-bodied with a long finish. I would say that the Sbragia was my favorite of the two although they had similar profiles of lemon, figs, butter and hazelnut, for both aromas and flavors. The differences were the Reserve had more oak and mineral flavors while the Sbragia had a caramel with a cinnamon/nutmeg quality and was also a bit more acidic.
The next course was warm beet salad with figs, leeks, pancetta and local Texas blue cheese. This was topped with red wine vinaigrette which was paired with the 2007 Napa Valley Pinot Noir. This medium-bodied wine was surprisingly fresh tasting with black cherry flavors along with pepper and dried herb accents.
The main course was a 55 day dry aged rib-eye with wild shitake mushrooms in smoked red wine served with 2002 and 2006 "Private Reserve" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. These two wines also had almost identical profiles: sweet ripe blackberries, dark chocolate, a bit of minerality and toasted oak with smooth tannins and a long finish. It was easy to see how well this winery maintains their style through the different vintages. The 2002 was a bit more creamy while the 2006 was more fruit-forward, both were excellent. The room was evenly split on which was preferred.
Summer berry shortcake came next, this was an almond cake with lightly-macerated berries and orange-scented whip cream served with 2004 "Nightingale", a blend of botrytis-affected sauvignon blanc and semillion. This Napa Valley dessert wine had flavors of apricot and peach with hints of caramel. I generally prefer coffee with dessert so I was surprised when I really did enjoy this one.
Angela Balboa was the winery representative at the dinner. I always appreciate these events more when someone is there to talk about the production of each wine. As Beringer is the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley, she had many stories to share. Once again, my expectations for the evening were exceeded and an excellent time was had by all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Brunch at The Tasting Room at Uptown Park

We went to brunch yesterday morning at The Tasting Room at Uptown Park in Houston. They serve this from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on Sundays. The last time that we brunched there, they were trying out a buffet but had now gone to a menu with a new chef. There was a good variety of choices ranging from omelets to sandwiches, salads, a hamburger and pizza. We started with some $2.00 mimosas made with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. I prefer this to the orange juice option which is also available. They also make a peach/basil sangria which I did not try.
I ordered the "Carolina Shrimp and Grits". It was on the appetizer portion of the menu for $9.00. It was delicious. It came in a normal-sized bowl which was filled to the middle point with grits which were cooked with small bits of ham and peppers and topped with 4 nice-sized grilled shrimp. I also had a side of fresh fruit for $3.00, this was a little over a cup of blueberries, stawberries, honeydew melon and grapes; it was very fresh. I hate it when you get a bowl of mushy fruit. My husband had the "Seared Tuna with side arrugula salad" which was tossed with a champagne ginger vinaigrette for $14.00. It was also very fresh and quite good. In lieu of ordering off the dessert menu which did sound tempting, we opted to split an order of French Toast for our final course. It was $10.00 and came with 5 halves of toast with maple syrup and vanilla bean whipped cream. I would say that while this was good, it did not top the "Creme Brulee French Toast" at Max's Wine Dive (also a part of the TTR group) which is my new standard by which to judge all french toast for all eternity.
I would definitely go back to TTR for Sunday brunch, I was a bit sorry that I had not gotten the truffled mushroom omelet with rosemary potatoes when I saw that go by to another table. The temperature will be cooling down soon and it will be nice to eat out on the patio. The menu was diverse and had options from very light to more filling. Our server told us that it changes often and with the seasons so it shouldn't get boring and there should always be something new to try. Of course, it is hard to beat a $2.00 mimosa and isn't that what Sunday brunch is really all about?

Friday, September 3, 2010

September is California Wine Month

For 6 years now, California Wine Month has been celebrated in September. In addition to it being a beautiful time of year, harvest and crush are imminent. Three years ago, I visited Napa Valley right at this same time. The weather was perfect for spending the days outside touring the vineyards. If you wanted to escape the sun for a bit then you could head inside to a tasting room or out onto a winery's covered patio for a tasting. Sitting outside and enjoying a glass of a favorite new wine in the sunshine was the ideal way to spend the day, just California dreaming. Wherever you may be, September is the time to fill your glass with some of the best that California has to offer and give a toast to the 3000 wineries that make 90% of all U.S. wine, making California, and therefore, the U.S., the 4th largest producer of wine in the world.
Cheers to you, California, enjoy wine month!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

09/02/10 Cabernet Day, I'll raise a glass to that!

In case you have not heard, today is Cabernet Day. This is the brain-child of Rick Bakas at St. Supery Vineyards. Worldwide, across four continents, there are over 50 wineries, 600 wine drinkers and 100 restaurants participating both on-line and with on-site events today. Early indications suggest that it will be the biggest on-line wine tasting ever held. Anyone can participate by using the #Cabernet tag on social network sites. Information is being shared while both virtual and real tastings are happening. Everyone is invited to critique their favorite Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc wines.
I celebrated Cabernet Day early this year. We had friends over for dinner last Friday and, for the main course, I cooked a 5 lb beef tenderloin with twice baked potatoes. We shared 3 different Napa Cabernet Sauvignon that night.
I enjoyed it all too much to make tasting notes but I assure you that they were all excellent.

Our line-up included 2006 Luna Cabernet Sauvignon-North Fork, which seemed to be the group favorite, followed by 2005 MacCauley and 2003 Rutherford Hill. Each is a wine that I would recommend.

Just because I celebrated early, it does not mean that I won't be celebrating again. Raise a glass of your favorite Cabernet tonight and tell the world what you think, everyone out there really does want to know!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

2009 Yealands Sauvignon Blanc

I served the 2009 Yealands Sauvignon Blanc when a friend and her children came by to swim, my own teen-aged daughter was there to lifeguard. I am typically a fan of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, particularly from Marlborough, as I really like the higher acidity levels that they can obtain there. I picked this bottle up at the grocery store for about $11, the "carbon zero" label attracted me to it. The menu was simple: cold-boiled shrimp, guacamole with chips, lots of fresh fruit (with ham & cheese sandwiches for the kids).
I felt that this was a really good wine for the price point when we tasted it. It was a pale straw-color in the glass. Although it called itself intensely aromatic on the bottle label, I felt that it was a more lightly-scented sauvignon blanc. Aromatically, the lime hit first and a minerality that I would call wet stone. I could also pick up black current, fresh cut grass with hints of jalapeno. On the palate, the flavors were more intense than I had expected, there was a lot of citrus. The lime was there but the flavors of grapefruit and pineapple were far more pronounced. For $11, I would absolutely purchase this wine again. I really liked the clean, zesty acidity and the nice lingering finish.
This wine comes from the largest privately owned vineyard in New Zealand which is operated according to sustainable principles. The winery was built under the New Zealand Green Building Council's Accreditation Program. The wine is a certified carbon zero product.


*Second Thought added on 10/13/10 http://tinyurl.com/SecondThoughts

Monday, August 30, 2010

2007 Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay-Atalayas Vineyard

After a weekend of heavy reds (both meat & wine), I made grilled chicken with linguini alfredo and a caesar salad for dinner tonight. I opted to serve it with a bottle of 2007 Casa Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Chardonnay.

My husband is not a Chardonnay fan. He always expects California wood-chewing chardonnay circa 1990 even though he has been exposed to numerous ones that he finds "surprisingly good". He extolled the virtues of the dinner and wine and even poured himself a second glass with a second helping of pasta (although he had plans to hit the gym shortly thereafter and usually does not partake on those days).

With the first sniff of this lemon-colored wine, you could tell it had some exposure to oak-aging but not overwhelmingly so. The fresh-squeezed lemon scent was dominant. The second inhalation was full of butterscotch notes. With the next swirl and sniff, it was pure lemon-butter. It invited you to take a sip, so I did. It had enough acidity to cut right through the alfredo sauce. On the palate, it was honey-covered toast that ended in a lingering creamy lemon-butter finish that made you want to look at your plate to check to see what you were eating. Delightful!

This wine is from the Casablanca Valley in Chile which is known for producing exceptional white wines. The winemakers choose to grow their grapes organically and bio-dynamically. The crisp freshness and natural flavors are very pervasive in their final product. At approximately $20 a bottle, this is a great wine at a good price.