Autumn reds for autumn foods – Rhone always delivers!

As weather turns chilly and leaves turn colors, much of what we eat turns toward warm, savory autumn meals and wine-enthusiasts’ thoughts often turn to warm and approachable Rhone style red wines.   Paired with hearty stews, and game night chili, the so-called “Rhone Varietals” are a solid red wine choice for the season’s cuisine.   Indeed anyone who has enjoyed a slow-cooked cassoulet paired with a Chateaunuef du Pape knows how wonderful this seasonal dish can be!

Grapes used in France’s Southern Rhone, or Rhone Varietals as they are often called (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan and several more which are produced in smaller quantities, 13 in total) are so-named because they are the primary components of the world famous wines of the Rhone Region.   By contrast, the Northern Rhone wine region features red wines produced principally from the single varietal Syrah mostly, yielding completely different personality which warrants a separate discussion.  Regarding the Southern Rhone, even if the grapes themselves are unfamiliar to many of us, many people have heard of wines from famous Southern Rhone sub-regions like Chateauneuf du Pape and Gigondas, not to mention the high-value and popular regional wines called “Cotes du Rhone”.

When blended, Southern Rhone grapes lend different character to their wines, Grenache brings spice and red berry fruit characteristics, Syrah contributes structure and smooth savory pepper and smoke qualities, while Mourvedre adds deep color and leathery dark fruit flavors.   When combined into a blend – Rhone wines from different makers and regions can range from round, deep sophisticated classic Chateauneuf du Pape to herbal, raw-meat-game flavors of top Gigondas, to rustic, fruit driven and affordable regional wines called Cotes du Rhone.

In a restaurant setting, an easy technique to locate these wines is to keep it simple and remember three letters: G, S and M (for Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre).   Many winemakers around the world use the acronym “GSM” when naming wines that contain Rhone varietals and blends of them.   So with a quick reference to these three letters, or mention of Rhone Varietals, a knowledgeable restaurant sommelier will lead you to these wines.   Important to remember, is that these varietals are used in blends and on their own, in wines all over the world.   Differences between the old-world French and new-world versions fall along typical old/new-world lines with the French exhibiting slightly more herbal and complex savory fruit flavors while new-world versions are more dense and fruit driven.   But all over the wine world, Rhone varietals are produced with great success – so one needn’t focus purely on actual French Rhone wines (although you wouldn’t be disappointed!).

Australia has a celebrated wine history driven in a large party by Rhone varietals (Syrah, or Shiraz as the Aussies call it, and many containing traditional GSM blends).   South America and South Africa both are making waves for their Rhone varietal wines.   And in California there is even a group of wine-makers called ‘the Rhone-Rangers’ because of their steadfast commitment to making top quality Rhone blends, and several actual French Rhone winemakers are producing wines in California.   An added bonus: wines blended of these grapes from anywhere in the world are regularly food-friendly, so you cannot go wrong!

After some experimenting, you can identify different styles that appeal to you and can then seek them out in restaurants and at PLCB State Stores.   Here are some I recommend: 

Widely available Rhones/Rhone Styles at Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Stores:

Cotes du Rhone – regional wine meant to be consumed within a few years of release, these are fruity approachable wines with rustic Rhone characteristics.

PLCB Code: 8132 E Guigal Red Wine Cotes du Rhone 2010 $14.99 Sale Price: $12.99

PLCB Code: 6794 Perrin et Fils Cotes du Rhone Villages $12.99 Sale Price: $11.99

PLCB Code: 6557 M Chapoutier Belleruche Rouge Cotes du Rhone $14.99

PLCB Code: 45213 JL Chave Mon Coeur Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2012 $21.99

Gigondas – meaty and rustic, often accessible when young, but can last many years.

PLCB Code: 33532 Domaine de la Tete Noir Gigondas 2012 $29.99

PLCB Code: 48191 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas 2011 $34.99

PLCB Code: 45033 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas 2012 $39.99

Chateauneuf du Pape – round, smooth and classic, Chateauneuf wines may last a long time, but don’t be afraid to try them when only a few years old.

PLCB Code: 7278 Domaine De Mont Redon Chateauneuf du Pape $41.99

PLCB Code: 6790  Clos de l’Oratoire Chateauneuf du Pape $44.99 Sale Price: $39.99

PLCB Code: 48462 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape La Crau 2011 $84.99

New World – generally more fruit driven but highly satisfying

Australia: PLCB Code: 46194 D’Arenberg Stump Jump GSM 2011 $9.99

Australia: PLCB Code: 38883 Schild Estate Grenache Mourvedre Shiraz Barossa Valley 2012 $14.99

USA: PLCB Code: 45523 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rouge Paso Robles 2011 $17.99

Pittsburgh Restaurants (subject to change of course):

Open Bottle Bistro in Shadyside (5884 Ellsworth Avenue) serves the J.L. Chave Selections’ “Mon Coeur” Cotes du Rhone for $9 per glass, and will sell a recent vintage of Domaine de la Solitude Chateauneuf du Pape from the 500+ year old producer for $95 per bottle.

Dinette in Shadyside (5996 Centre Avenue) serves a Cotes du Rhone, Domaine du Joncier 2012, for $11 per glass and $42 per bottle.

Lawrenceville’s Allegheny Wine Mixer currently features a Rhone blend from Corbieres (Southern France) for $9 per glass and $36 per bottle.  (Chateau Spencer La Pujade Corbieres – Carignan/ Mourvèdre/Syrah/Grenache – Languedoc, France 2012)

ROOT174 features Le Garrigon, Cotes du Rhone for $10 per glass

Downtown, The Carleton’s Wine List contains a Rhone section with 15 Rhone wines by the bottle, ranging in price from $32 to $220.  This list also features several Australian GSM blends and another section dedicated to American Syrahs and Rhone-style blends.

Stagioni serves TWO Rhone blends by the bottle, one from Vacqueras (Domaine du Terme, Vacqueyras, Rhone, 2010 $50) and a Cotes du Rhone (J.L. Chave Selections’ “Mon Coeur” 2012)

Eleven features several Rhone wines in the bottle list, ranging from $45 to $210.  None by the glass.

Legume features a French Rhone-blend (Corbieres) and an American (Qupe, Santa Ynez Valley), none by the glass.

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South American Wines at e2 Restaurant

Despite the (never ending) wintry weather – everyone showed up last evening to learn about some South American wines at Chef Kate Romane’s e2 Restaurant (www.e2pgh.com).   Our go-to staffers (Adam and Will) were ready for us, but we got extra help from attendees Kate, Lee, and Susan who helped get the tables arranged and ready for the entire group (I thank them for their help!) – We had a community feel from the start, which is always nice!

To kick things off, we talked about the Chilean and Argentine wine industries which date back to the mid-1500s (a solid 300 years before we had much wine industry in California) while we tasted an Argentine Sparkling wine from Mendoza.  In attendance was a retired bank executive who lived in Argentina in the 1960s and shared stories about bringing great Argentine wines back to the US every time he returned, and also a Peruvian couple who noted correctly that the original Chilean grapevines were brought through Peru centuries ago.   Despite the incredibly long history of making wine in Chile and Argentina, winemaking as we think about it today made its transition to modern-style production in the mid 1800s after the introduction of French wine grapes.  Since then the ups and downs of politics and economics have affected winemakers, but great improvement has taken place in the past 20-30 years.  

Our goal last night was to taste the wines individually, then taste all the wines with food and assess the differences and note improvements or degradations in flavor/experience.    Our dinner menu included:   short ribs in a smoky tomato braise, a dirty risotto with pancetta, hot peppers and mushrooms, romaine and arugula salad, chocolate bread pudding for dessert with berry mess

A lively discussion followed and everyone seemed to enjoy the combination of foods and wines, especially the Lapostolle Clos Apalta, which by far was the most expensive wine on the table, but in my opinion is a special wine, and two people said it was the best wine they had ever had… so pleased we could include it in the event!   Here are notes and prices for the wines:

Santa Julia Pinot Noir Rose Brut NV, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB 17019  $11.99) – 100% Pinot Noir, Maipú and Uco Valley vineyards, Mendoza, Argentina, Charmat method, second fermentation at 14°C, Creamy, fresh, red fruit delicate flavors.

Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Especial 2012, Casablanca Valley Chile (PLCB 46536 $12.99) – 100% Sauvignon Blanc  (Grape used in Sancerre and BDX blends), Valle de Casablanca – Mineral Soils and red clay, Crisp and fresh, slight grassy nose with grapefruit and citrus flavors – clean finish.  W&S90, A delightful wine part-way between the light crisp Euro SB and the face-puckering NZ or full figured CA SBs

Vina Cobos Felino Chardonnay 2011, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB 39322 $18.99 ) – 100% Chardonnay  (White Burgundy Grape), From American winemaker Paul Hobbs, 95% aged in Stainless Steel, 5% Oak, Distinctly “new world” Rich tropical pineapple and peach flavors with medium weight . RP88. Hotter, arid desert = very different chardonnay compared to cool weather Burgundy, Score too low in my opinion, I would award solid 90pts.

Bodega Norton Malbec Reserve 2011, Mendoza Argentina (PLCB regular item 7019 $18.99) – 100 % Malbec , a blending Grape of Bordeaux, and main grape of Cahors France, #36 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2013  WS92 100% French Oak aged 12months (50% new), Deep dark purple color, black fruits, violets and tobacco,  World Malbec Day = April 17th Jancis Robinson says Malbec = a more rustic Merlot.  Bodega Norton founded 1885 by Englishman Sir Edmund James Norton who was in Chile/Arg to build railway bridges, but loved the region and founded Norton – Norton family owned Bodega until purchased by Swarovski in 1989, huge investments in quality and commercial success have followed.

Lapostolle Clos Apalta Colchagua Valley 2009, Colchagua Valley, Chile (PLCB 31420  $79.99) – 78% Carmenere, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, Bordeaux Grapes – until recent DNA tracing tests, much of Chile’s Carmenere was thought to be Merlot,  2005 vintage (same 96pts score) ranked #1 on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2008.   Inky dark color, polished and complex herbal, earthy dark fruit and spicy flavors, a special wine that shows sometimes money spent on a wine is rewarded by quality!    Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle (founder of Lapostolle in 1994) in Chile is great granddaughter of Grand Marnier creator in France.   World famous winemaker Michel Rolland has been winemaker for every vintage since 1994.   Family still owns an estate in Sancerre.

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Next up: Rhone Tasting!

Our Bordeaux tasting/dinner at e2 (www.e2pgh.com) was certainly tasty and instructive – so we are moving forward to our next region where we will dive into some interesting wines of the Rhone region.   We will taste and discuss the wines as a group, and then finish with a dinner to see how they stand up (or change/improve) with food.   I am a huge fan of Rhone wines as I feel they offer great value for money and, even at the lower price points, a great deal of character and sense of place.  

An added dimension for this tasting is the inclusion of two currently unavailable vintages of Chateauneuf du Pape wines (2001 Marquis Anselme Mathieu and 2007 Chateau de Beaucastel), acquired through a friend who shares our interest in wine and was quite generous to help us include these fantastic wines in our tasting.

Seats are available for this Wed Oct 30 event at: http://www.off-the-grid.ws/2013/10/30/rhone/

France’s Rhone Region produces what many consider to be the most characterful, rustic and big wines in France.   Join us to taste two Rhone whites and three Rhone reds, including the historic and hard to find 2007 Vintage of Chateau de Beaucastel!!!   If you are interested in the flavors of the Rhone – you won’t want to miss this tasting/dinner.

We expect a fantastic dinner from our friends at e2 (probably something with Lamb this time) that will match wonderfully with the rustic Rhone wines.

Domaine de la Solitude, Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2012 – Southern Rhone White, exotic fruit flavors and clean finish.

J.L. Chave Sélection Saint-Joseph Blanc Céleste 2011  (90pts IWC) – Northern Rhone White from Roussanne and Marsanne grapes, rich and deep with long finish.

J.L. Chave Sélection Saint-Joseph Offerus 2010 (91pts IWC) – Syrah-based Northern Rhone Red, red fruit flavors, spicy and sleek.

Chateauneuf du Pape Marquis Anselme Mathieu 2001 – Fully mature example of Chateauneuf du Pape red, 90% Grenache grapes, blended with 10% traditional Southern Rhone grapes (13 varieties permitted).   This wine is light to medium bodied, with layered fruit flavors – not powerful at this point in its maturity, but pleasingly complex.

Chateauneuf du Pape Chateau de Beaucastel 2007 (96pts Robert Parker, 96pts Wine Spectator) – This is a serious and highly sought after wine, from one of the most successful vintages of the past two decades – Rich and complex with more Syrah content than most Chateauneuf du Pape reds this one shows flavors ranging from cedar to licorice to red fruits and floral notes – – tasting this will be interesting as it will be interesting to see how many of us agree with the critics!

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Australian Wine and Food (and Cheese) at Marty’s Market

Another beautiful evening was spent with the nice folks at Marty’s Market – Regina and her Chef Steve and their entire crew made us feel welcome yet again with some great food.   And as always, the mixture of food, wine, and energized people made for a memorable experience.   Especially nice to see some new faces in the crowd too – glad to grow the group!    Here is what we had – Nice pairings all!

FIRST COURSE – Fried Oyster, Shiso, Pickled Shallot, Remoulade

WINE: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Dry Riesling 2011 (92 pts) – Dry Rieslings from Australia provide fresh, light bodied wines with complex flavors of lime, citrus and honey and a stone-like minerality on the finish.  Like licking a wet pebble, but in a good way!   Many people at the dinner enjoyed their first ever experience with a truly DRY Riesling – great fun to expand horizons!  (PLCB – no longer available)

SECOND COURSE – Roast Leg of Elysian Fields Lamb, Parsnip, Australian Cheddar Leeks, Jus

1st WINE: d’Arenberg Grenach/Shiraz/Mourvedre 2011 (89 pts) – From the historic McLaren Vale Vineyards south of Adelaide, this Southern Rhone blend of Grenache Shiraz and Mourvedre has generous ripe, red fruit flavors and savory finish.   Taste to me like a solid Cotes du Rhone, and a fantastic value at $10.99 (PLCB code: 46194 $10.99)

2nd WINE: Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz 2006 (92 pts) – From the super arid regions of Langhorne Creek, this Shiraz is a heavy-weight with dark fruit, plum and earthy flavors followed by a long finish.  This is our ‘cheese-guy’ David’s favorite Shiraz!    Big Country, Big Wine!  (PLCB code: 25489 $18.99)

THIRD COURSE – Lamingtons, Chocolate, Coconut, Strawberry

WINE: Bleasdale “The Red Brute” Sparkling Shiraz NV (90 pts) – Not what you might expect — this bubbly is broad, with dark fruit flavors delivered in a rich but dry package.  (PLCB code: 22835 $15.99)

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Women Wine Dinner

We are all excited about our wine and menu for our upcoming “OTG Women Wine Dinner” www.off-the-grid.ws .   Graciously hosted at e2 (www.e2pgh.com ) by chef/owner Kate Romane – the combination of tasty menu and delicious wines caused this event to sell out quickly.   Menu and wine accompaniment are as follows: 

1st Course:  anti pasta with local charcuterie by Crested Duck Charcuterie, seasonal selection of cheeses and veggies served with grilled focaccia

WINE: Taittinger Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvée, California USA – a well respected American sparkler that provides consistent pleasure year in and year out.   Both Chief Executive and Production Manager are women at Domaine Carneros.

2nd Course:  zucchini & prosciutto risotto with shrimp

WINE:  Jean Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rose Provence 2012, Southern France – Both Jean Luc’s wife and daughter work with him to produce expressive wines from France’s Southern Regions.

3rd Course:  farmer greens with light vinaigrette, goat cheese and toasted walnuts

4th Course:  ricotta ravioli with oxtail ragu made with heirloom tomatoes and farm herbs

WINE:  Eden Hall Shiraz Eden Valley 2005, South Australia – this partly woman-owned winery has two female winemakers who have built a successful reputation for producing big Australian Shiraz.

WINE:  Chateau d’Or et de Gueules, Cuvée Trassegum, Costieres de Nimes 2009 – produced by the highly capable Diane de Puymorin, this blend of Syrah and Mourvedre should provide an instructive new world/old world comparison with the Aussie Shiraz.

5th Course:  It’s a secret (probably something with some seasonal fruit… and probably a Sauternes)

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Wine and Cheese Iberian Style – Tasty Stuff!

Another Wine and Cheese event at Marty’s Market (http://martysmarket.com/), another sold out crowd – even had an active waitlist for this event!   Given the tasty wine and cheese line-up combined with Marty’s Market’s gracious accommodation; I am not surprised this was a popular event.   The friendly and engaging atmosphere was typified by the quick offer from our wine-enthusiast friend Jerry P. to help pour and distribute the wines (more than 200 glasses total!), despite the fact that he and his wife came to relax and enjoy the event – I was missing one helper, so Jerry stepping in was certainly appreciated.    My Co-Conspirator David “Cheese-ologist” Bennett and I especially enjoyed the intelligent and thoughtful comments from the attendees, even when sometimes disagreeing with one of us!  We are looking forward to our Italian tasting on April 18th….

The four tastings below are all wonderful individually, and in some cases the combinations were positively romantic – one person commented that the final combination of Valdeon and Rioja Reserva caused her to want to “make out with someone”!   Sounds good doesn’t it!??!

Here they are in the order we tasted:

FIRST COURSE

GARROTXA – Garrotxa is a pressed cheese made from unpasteurized goat’s milk. The cheese is named for the area of Catalonia where it was traditionally made. It has a firm white interior and a natural grey rind. Garrotxa is produced in small, two-pound wheels. Production of this cheese almost completely disappeared until a revival in making it during the 1980’s.

ANNA DE CORDONIU CAVA – From ultra-historic-and-famous Codorniu Cava house in Spain—not far from Barcelona—30% traditional Cava grapes compliment a heavy dose of 70% Chardonnay. The wine is produced using the French “Methode Traditionale”. The light effervescence and delicate flavors provide a satisfying start to any event.   (PLCB Code: 33033)

SECOND COURSE

AZEITÃO – Azeitão is a distinctive raw sheeps’s milk cheese that is coagulated with cardoon thistle instead of traditional animal rennet. Azeitão is named for the villaige where it is made in the foothills of the Arribida mountain range in Portugal where sheep feed in lush pastures of grass and herbs. There is a simple farmhouse beauty to this round shaped cheese, and the taste is exquisitely gourmet.

ESPORAO RESERVE WHITE – From Portugal’s Alentejo district, east of Lisbon near the Spanish border, this medium to full bodied white wine is unapologetically rich and full flavored with notes of stone fruits and spice. Blended from indigenous Portuguese grapes, the Esporao Reserve White shows the complexity and sophistication of a fine White Burgundy.  (PLCB Code: 45923 $18.99)

THIRD COURSE

ZAMORANO – Zamorano is a hard sheep’s milk cheese very similar to Manchego, but it has a more robust taste and a much smoother texture.   The cheese is made in Zamora, Spain, where it is aged 6 months.  The cheese is rubbed with olive oil, which results in a brownish rind (whereas Machego is more green, they both have the same zig-zag pattern on the rind).  The milk is from 2 breeds of cold weather sheep, the small Churra and the Castilian sheep.

QUINTA DOS MURCAS ASSOBIO – From Portugal’s famous Douro Valley (where Port has been made for past 400 years).   This wine has a deep, vibrant red color and the spicy aroma of berries and violet. In the mouth the delicious flavor blend of berry and black cherry envelope the mouth with long persistent finish.  (PLCB Code: 38001 $15.49)

FOURTH COURSE

VALDEÓN – Queso de Valdeón is wonderful blue cheese from the northeast province of León, Spain. It is wrapped in sycamore maple or chestnut leaves, and is often compared to its sharper cousin, Cabrales. It’s a mixed milk cheese, in that it uses milk from both from cows and goats. I am often asked which cheese is my favorite, and usually this cheese is at the very top of the list.  You can pair this cheese with a BIG red, or sometimes it goes equally well with a port.

MARQUÉS DE RISCAL RIOJA RESERVA – From Spain’s most famous wine producing region, the Rioja Valley, this Reserva contains 90% Tempranillo grapes with small amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo to finish the blend.   Winemaking includes two years in American Oak casks (possibly some from Pgh Region!) and minimum one year in bottle before distribution.  An elegant wine with vanilla and red fruit notes, the finish is full and smooth.  (PLCB Code: 6372 $18.99)

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Five Champagne Dinner: NICOLAS FEUILLATTE, NATALIE FALMET, MICHEL LORIOT, BRICE

Every now and then, I get the urge to do something a little crazy – fortunately I am generally risk-averse, so my occasional craziness rarely ends in fisticuffs or embarrassment for my family.

Recently, I have run across a number of instances in which a hotel or restaurant or event boasted a “Champagne Reception”, or offered a “glass of Champagne” with a dinner, but what they meant was “we offer you the cheapest possible bubbly junk-juice”.   Being a fan of the “real deal” Champagne (Sparkling wine made in the traditional method IN Champagne), I took offense and decided to try and correct the gaff…  This never works.   Such is the food industry’s pervasive desire to squeeze the most possible margin out of the customer that lying about bubbly is broadly accepted.  

After hearing from my wine-ing and dining pals similar stories of “Champagne” (as advertised) rarely being actual Champagne – I decided that we could all educate ourselves, AND have a fantastic meal if we put on a dinner with ONLY CHAMPAGNE accompanying the food courses.   From a culinary standpoint this might crazy, since Champagne’s high acid levels can wreak havoc on the palate and burn out the taste buds unless paired carefully with foods that are complimentary in flavor and acid balance.   Even though one or two Champagnes might be plenty, we made plans for FIVE Champagnes and FIVE courses (go big or go home!).

The Amuse course paired a Smoked Salmon wrapped Parmesan Crisp with NICOLAS FEUILLATTE BLANC DE BLANC 2004.   This Feuillatte 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc is one smooth customer –  from the tiny bubbles and smooth effervescence to the even-keeled citrus and green apple flavor notes – I enjoyed tasting this Champagne, especially with the smooth richness of the smoked salmon!

 

First course we went a little over the top with TWO Champagnes (is more of a good thing ever bad?).   We chose a head to head comparison between grower/winemaker NATHALIE FALMET’s BRUT and BRUT NATURE.   These share a similar blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but the BRUT NATURE receives zero dosage (the sugars added to make the otherwise austere Champagnes more easily palatable) at the end of the winemaking process, whereas the BRUT gets the typical 12 grams per litre (anything less than 15 g/litre is considered BRUT).  The comparison was certainly instructive, with slightly more than half the diners preferring the traditional brut style to the more intense, zero dosage sibling.  The food pairing worked nicely with these two Champagnes.   The Ricotta Agnolotti (reminded me of a ravioli) was especially successful in countering the intensity of the zero dose BRUT NATURE.

 

Second Course we moved to a Blanc de Noir (“white from black grapes”): CHAMPAGNE MICHEL LORIOT BRUT RESERVE NV which is a somewhat rare instance of 100% Pinot Meunier.   The third most popular grape of the three Champagne Grapes, Pinot Meunier is generally thought to be un-ageworthy by itself and used mainly as a blending grape to impart lush fruitiness to cuvees of mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.   However there are a few geographic areas thought to be excellent for Pinot Meunier and Michel Loriot is located in one of these areas, a few miles due west of Epernay (one of Champagne’s two main cities along with Riems).   In this instance Loriot goes all the way with Meunier and the result was a very positive reception and possibly the most popular Champagne of the evening – the wine was fresh and fruity with a earthiness at the finish that I thought was a spectacular match with the Mushroom Risotto.

 

For the third and final food course (dessert was the final course) we went big in every respect.   Chef Alan created two treatments of duck to counter the richness of the CHAMPAGNE BRICE GRAND CRU VINTAGE 2002 “MILLESIME”.   With 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay from four of the most famous Grand Cru locations (Ay, Bouzy, Cremant and Verzenay), this wine is rich, and complex and much like Remi Brice’s description during our visit in 2009, “more like an beautiful wine than a Champagne”.   Very impressive, and a wonderful way to finish out our evening of LOTS of Champagne – hopefully all taste buds left intact, and our intellects were appropriately stimulated in the pursuit of Champagne experience – there were certainly many smiles among the diners as people slowly filed out.

 

Off-the-Grid Sunday Supper Series

Champagne Dinner at Marty’s Market

September 30, 2012

 

AMUSÉ

Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Blanc de Blanc 2004

Smoked Salmon Wrapped Parmesan Crisp with Chive Crème Fraiche

 

FIRST COURSE ~ HEAD to HEAD

Champagne Nathalie Falmet Cuvee Brut Nature NV

Champagne Nathalie Falmet Cuvee Brut NV 

Roasted Pear Crostini with Speck,

Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese and Arugula

 Ricotta Agnolotti with Mirai Corn Puree

 

SECOND COURSE

Champagne Michel Loriot Brut Reserve NV “Blanc de Noir”

 Mushroom Risotto

 Melted Leeks with Shaved Pecorino Romano

 

THIRD COURSE

Champagne Brice Grand Cru Vintage 2002 “Millesime”

 Seared Duck Breast with Crispy Smashed Red Potatoes, Apple and Fig Jus

 Seared Duck Rillettes with Orange Marmalade

 

FINISH

Big Picture Farm Goat Caramels

Askinosie Chocolates

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The “Judgment of Pittsburgh” – one of a kind tasting event!!

So far as I am aware, there has been no other tasting in the world that combined the film “Bottleshock”, an actor guest (Hal B. Klein who played “Shenky” in the film), a history lesson (guest Elizabeth Downer was a member of the Academie du Vin in Paris, and knows Steve Spurrier, played by Alan Rickman in the film) AND a blind wine tasting with wines representing modern versions of the varietals featured in the film.   In addition to this event’s rarity, we are quite stoked because we think that a blind tasting with food and a little history and movie-making experience will make for a really fun time!  It has been sold out for weeks but we are finally here and ready for a great time – here are the wines to be tasted (blind, just like in the actual “Judgment of Paris” tasting):

  • US Chardonnay – the subject of the film: Chateau Montelena 2009
  • French Chardonnay (White Burgundy) – Louis Latour Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot Blanc 2006
  • US Cabernet Blend – Josh Cellars Cabernet 2009
  • French Cabernet (Bordeaux Blend) Cordier Chateau Andron 2009
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Cordier Chateau Andron Medoc 2009 Bordeaux

Cordier’s Chateau Andron 2009 has a lot going for it.   It is from the highly respected Medoc region within Bordeaux AND this vintage is considered by many to be one of the best in memory!   Bordeaux wines are some of the most famous in the world, and pricing can be very high – indeed some of the top Bordeaux wines fetch prices that would make most people wince in financial pain, and even then many of the wines must be held for years before proper enjoyment can take place.   However, the Bordeaux region also produces countless wines, priced for the ‘rest of us’ that are approachable from a price and taste standpoint.   Cordier is a well-known Bordeaux trading house with history dating back to the 1800s, and although Cordier carries a number of very highly regarded (and priced) wines, their vineyard connections and wine-making expertise is not lost on their more affordable wines, such as the Chateau Andron.

In the glass Chateau Andron is a deep garnet color and the nose exhibits dark fruit notes with a pleasant, perfume-like character.   Upon tasting, the Andron’s density is immediately apparent, and this blend of 50% Cabernet, 48% Merlot, and 2% Cabernet Franc is more weighty than expected at this price point – not thick in viscosity, but dense in flavor.   I enjoy the blend of earthy, savory notes with the sweet, dark fruit flavors – and the balance of these is clearly successful, with the flavors flowing evenly through the finish with no sharp edges or disappointing harshness (aspects that could be present in a less well made wine or perhaps a lesser vintage).   This wine is good – and especially good at the reasonable $30-ish price point in three local restaurants (list below).

To my knowledge, these are the three local restaurants that carry Chateau Andron Medoc 2009

Legume Bistro  http://legumebistro.com/

Paris 66  http://www.paris66bistro.com/

Stagioni  http://www.stagionipgh.com/

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Esporao Tasting at Legume Bistro 7May12 (with Pedro Lopes Vieira)

6pm-Formal Tasting with Dinner, 7pm-Bar

Join me welcoming Pedro Lopes Vieira to Legume Bistro for a formal tasting at 6pm followed by a casual visit in the bar at 7pm.

In the past few years, Esporao’s Wines, have amassed a huge list of high scores and best value awards, including two Best Value ratings and five scores 91 pts or better at The Wine Enthusiast.  Esporao is one of Europe’s fastest growing wine brands – join us for a taste!

Below are the wines slated for our tasting Monday at Legume (comments from distributor Aidil Wines) –  Chef/Owner Trevett Hooper is planning nettle soup and some vegetarian platters followed by a lamb and barley risotto dish with some charcuterie for the tasting.  Sounds TASTY!!  Reserve your seat by purchasing at this link: http://www.off-the-grid.ws/esporao

Whites:

Esporao Monte Velho White – Vinification:  De stemming, must chilling, skin maceration, pneumatic pressing, cold settling, fermentation temperature control with selected yeast inoculation in stainless steel tanks, centrifuging, fining, cold stabilisation and filtration.   Description:   Ripe and perfumed, with notes of tropical fruit, it’s mouth-filling, fruity and balanced, finishing with elegance.

Esporao Verdelho White – Comment:  This is a Regional Alentejo White, made exclusively from the Verdelho grape, one of the top local varieties.  Vinification:   Destemming, must chilling, skin maceration, pneumatic pressing, cold settling, fermentation temperature control with selected yeast inoculation in stainless steel tanks, centrifuging, fining, cold stabilisation.   Description: Cristal clear, citric color with green hues. Intense and complex aroma, with citric and tropical fruit notes suggesting nectarinas, mango and passionfruit. Fresh and elegant palate, with good fruit depth and cleansing acidity.

Esporao White Reserve – Vinification: De stemming, must chilling, skin maceration, pneumatic pressing, cold settling, fermentation temperature control with selected yeast inoculation in stainless steel tanks and new oak American and french oak barrels, centrifuging, fining, cold stabilization and filtration.  Description:  THE ESPORAO WHITE FEATURES A DISTINCT LABEL EVERY VINTAGE. THE ELEGANCE OF THE WINE DERIVES FROM THE 15 YEAR OLD VINES. WITH PEACH, MELON AND A SPICY OAK NOSE, THE PALATE IS RICH, CREAMY AND FRUITY.

Reds:

Esporao Monte Velho RedThe best selling wine in Portugal, Vinification: Fermented and staged in large stainless steel vats only.    Description:  Subtle aroma of red berry fruits with balanced notes of American oak adding complexity. Rich flavors of ripe red berry fruits with good depth and a soft tannic structure.  

Quinta dos Murcas AssobioDescription: A deep, vibrant red color and the spicy aroma of berries and violet. In the mouth the delicious flavor blend of berry and black cherry envelope the mouth with long persitant finish.

Esporao Red Reserve:  Avg. age of vineyards 25 years  Vinification: Desteming of hand selected grapes followed by long fermentation (10 days) in stainless steel tanks. Malolatic fermentation and aging occurs for 12 months in French and American oak.   Description: Deep ruby color and complex aromas of ripe fruits and vanilla. Rich flavorsome palate, good depth of fruit, well structured with firm tannins. A great example of the excellence of this region and the flagship of the winery.

Quinta dos Murcas Red Reserve: Vinification – A vibrant mix of Tinta Roriz, Tinta Yellow, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Tiny, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, and Sousão grapes and aged in barrels of French and American oak barrels  Description:  This wine presents a complex aroma with hints of red fruit and subtle notes of smoke. Its sophisticated notes of fruit and subtle toast are well structured on the palate.

Quinta dos Murcas 10yr Tawny   Vinification: Produced with A grade, top quality grapes and aged in oak barrels.  Description: Both extremely elegant and dense,this oak aged Port wine boasts balanced acidity and fine fruit notes.

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