Monday, January 31, 2005

My Two Day Old Liano... I Love to Pump

Home alone with the kiddies usually does not lend itself to serious wine drinking. If you’re lucky, you can steal a moment or two to swirl your glass and have a pensive sip but I have learned from experience that those moments are usually to be had after the little rodents are tucked away in bed.

But with a veggies lasagna on the table, imagine my joy in finding a bottle of Liano on the counter, albeit two-thirds drunk. It is the pleasure of the pump. By essentially vacuum packing the remaining wine, oxidation of the wine is slowed, and it can be saved and enjoyed another day.

Liano 2000, Rubicone, Umberto Cesari ($29 SAQ)
Hailing from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, this Sangiovese-Cabernet mix got me thinking about how the Italians really do make great “food wine.” I have come across a number of wines from pretty well all over Italy that share similar traits; an evoquative, warm bouquet and on first sip, deceptively thin on the palette. One senses that Burgundian boom, as it gains amplitude as it reaches the back of your mouth, but it is when you eat that it really shines. The Liano smelt like fermenting plums mixed with whole wheat toast. On my first sip, it was slightly alcoholic, but a little fruitier than most of the Sangiovese Cab blends that one sees from Tuscany. All that changed with the Lasagna as both the fruit and the alcohol seemed to fade away, being replaced with that beautiful sangiovese “earthiness,” and refreshing acidity. Nothing mind-blowing, just the perfect drink for the circumstance. Ah, the pleasure of the pump.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Comfort Dinner: Pork Chops and a St. Joseph

So we bought an entire organic pig…. Getting older can be a weird thing sometimes.

The Food

Pretty straight up, broiled chops with herbe de provence, braized sweet and sour cabbage À la Wally (cooked in apple juice with raisins and a touch of curry), and a little stir fry of zuchinni, red bells peppers, thyme and a touch of tarragon.

The Wine

Saint-Joseph 1999, Clos de Cuminaille, Pierre Gaillard ($29, at the time)
I met Pierre a couple of years ago and when I asked him about this bottle in particular, he said it was in a bit of a dormant stage, so best to wait until at least 2005. From what I remember, it was way too tannic for my burgundian, white-loving palette.
The fun of keeping wine is trying to pick the right moment to begin to open those bottles that you have been eyeing and dying to drink. I have slapped this one back on the racks a couple of times but tonight the spidey senses were tingling, so here’s how it went.
Well integrated tannins, very dark serious fruit with an almost kirsch-like finish. Underneath the fruit, loads of black pepper mixed with could be best described as bay leaves. Not the richest northern rhone that I have ever drunk, but long and elegant, staying in the background and adding a little complexity to everything on the plate. Wouldn’t have worked in 2002, that’s what you get for patience.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Jour Fruit with Rezin and Bergeron

Tastings are few and far between these days so one must jump on every opportunity that presents itself. I have had a number of comments from local Quebecers as to what is available so I will note SAQ beside the price if they are available locally, that is if you can find a store that is open.

Chardonnay d’Arbois 2000, Terre de Gryphée, Domaine de Tournelle ($24...importation)
I love Jura whites. As they are aged in casks that once held Savignan, they take on certain characteristics of Vin Jaune, particularily a slightly nutty, oxidative quality. Not the richest Chardonnay, but interesting and fun to drink. Aside from a slight Xeres feel, hints of browning apples, as Martin pointed out, notes of pineapple Confit. Organic with next to no sulfites, the prefect match for guineau hen or other exotic fowl.

Jurancon Sec 2002, Cuvée Marie, Charles Hours ($25...importation)
One of my favorites year after year, the SAQ has refused to carry the Cuvée Marie because of tartric acid buildup (think of little flakes of snow like in those christmas figurines). Too bad, because it is consistently one of the better and most interesting whites available. The 2002 is the cleanest and what it may lack in aromatic complexity, it gains in facility. I still have 1999’s that drink wonderfully. Perfect for those coriander based That dishes.

Pinot Gris 2002, Barriques, Ostertag ($31…SAQ)
It seems like Ostertag is leaving more and more residual sugar with each milliseme, which is good. I love his Pinot Gris Franholz with it’s creamy texture and rich palette. I found the Barriques a little thin but all in all a very charming drink. I would drink it as an aperitif with hors d’oeuvres.

Macon-Chaintré 2001, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Valette ($26...SAQ)
One of the newer AOC’s in Burgundy, this was an interesting wine. Typical Macon styling, very, very fresh. Super toasty in the nose with floral notes, almost like sweet apple blossoms. A bit thin after the wood disappeared but this is a nice light chardonnay. A good buy.

Marsannay 2002, Les St-Jacques, Fougeray de Beauclair ($33...SAQ)
Marsannay is the most northern AOC in the Côte de Nuits, and consistently the most reasonably priced. Super dark berries but very tightly wound. This isn’t Chambertin nor is it’s price. I would wait a couple of months for it to mellow a bit.

Coteaux de Languedoc 2002, Montpeyroux, Domaine d’Aupilhac ($24…SAQ)
While 2002 was not the best of years for much of France’s south, there are those who have managed to make decent wine. The Montpeyroux, with it’s 30% Mourvèdre, still manages to be a big wine, though one can feel the autumn rains while one sips. Still, for those who want a big Chateauneuf style wine at a reasonable price, this is great. I would give it an hour in carafe before guzzling away.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

8 Wines from Carpineto

It’s been awhile since I blogged a degustation, though this is the type of tasting that I love. We were 12 people, it was animated by the owner and it covered a full range of his wines over a couple of different millisemes (most of which are available here in Montréal).

Carpineto is a classic Tuscan based house doing mostly red and mostly sangiovese wines. Reasonably priced and usually reasonably good was what I knew of them so here’s the way it went.

Farnito Chardonnay 2003 $27
Fully oaked and while it is still young I have a feeling that it is too much for the matière underneath. Very pear with lot's of white flowers. And while much of Burgundy is artificially acidifying their wines in this grand year of the over-ripe, the Farnito was remarkably well balanced. I asked if they tweaked their wine and he said no. He kinda smiled weird after that.

Chianti Classico 2002 $22
The year that most wine sucked, and while this chianti had an interesting bouquet (tobacco and smoked plum) it lacked a certain amplitude and flesh. A bit bogus.

Dogajolo, Toscana IGT 2003 $18
The dog, Carpineto’s baby IGT (80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet) was very grapey. Very international, could have come from anywhere. It was simple but soft and ripe with a really nice, well-balanced acidity. A good spaghetti wine.

Chianti Classico Riserva 1999 $36
A mix of 3 different Sangiovese clones aged in old and new Slovakian and French casks. Carpineto likes to give their top wines an extra year in cellar before release and it shows. The wine had a lot of kick, nicely integrated tannins and a weird mix of red and dark berries that combined in your mouth to become this mystery fruit, recognizable but undefinable. Not the richest of wines but very Italian.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 1999 $38
The winner of the day. 90% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo. Two years in massive Slovakian foudres. Softer and riper than the Chianti Riserva, it had a wonderful structure. Smooth integrated tannins, it smelt like violets and tasted like ripe berries. Super elegant, super pretty. A great buy for the price.

Brunello di Montalcino 1998 $71
The softest expensive Brunello I have ever tasted. Almost too easy drinking. It had that characteristic licorice and dark fruit mix but lacked a certain oomph. Nice way to enter the world of Brunello but not at this price.

Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 $81 (magnum)
Love it or hate it, this is the best selling wine from Carpineto here in Québec. They use both American and French Oak which gives it a slightly oaky feel. I kinda know this wine a little too well. Good for the price.

Vin Santo del Chianti 1986 $65 (375ml)
Classic mix of Trebbiano and Malvasia, dried on straw mats, then pressed and slow fermented for 3 or 4 months before spending 16 years in chestnut barrels. Cool wine. I was expecting more caramel but it was slightly oxidative which in the end kept it fresh. I tried it with 5 different Italian cheeses and was best with the Gorgonzola. Needs some stink I guess. Bet it would be killer with a crème brulé.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Two Tajines and a Cali Merlot

I think I’m almost done with California. As a buyer and wine lover, I hate the idea of completely writing off an entire wine region but once again I got bunged by California. Not to say that I haven’t recently enjoyed a couple of Cali wines but for the most part, they just don’t ‘eat well.’ It could be the tunnel vision that results from ageing, but I hope it’s my palette. I find they lack subtlety, just perverse amounts of jammy fruit backed up with a behemoth oakiness. Ya, I get it… vanilla. It’s better in ice-cream. Two glasses seem to be more than enough for me, which is bizarre considering my penchant for that second bottle.

The Food

Tajine is the Moroccan method for slow cooking. It is essentially a glazed base of a flower pot with a ceramic Fez Type cap. Spices are similar to Indian, though aside from cumin and coriander seeds, one uses dates, prunes, raisins, cinnamon and saffron. I did a veal with date and golden raisins, and a chick pea-sweet potato tajine with coriander, ginger and a touch of cinnamon. A little couscous on the side and we were propelled back a couple of years when we spent a month traveling around Morocco.

The Wine

Merlot 2000, Reserve, Raymond
I figured that with the cooked dates and raisins, my Merlot really be in it’s element. Spicy and sweet was on the table, so why not in our glasses? Manon’s reaction to her first sip was oooh, juicy. Mine too. But it just didn’t seem to go anywhere after that. It lacked ‘cut,’ that acidity that keeps these types of wines from becoming too thick and heavy on the palette. It worked ok with the Veal, better with the chick peas which seemed to bring out hints of black pepper, but all in all, I think I would have been better served by a ripe Duoro. Once the meal was finished, it was way too linear, like syrupy plum juice. Not awful, just a bit boring and heavy.

Here’s a couple of Californians that I drank recently that I did like (I’m trying to keep the door open).

Pinot Noir-Mondeuse 2001, Au Bon Climat.
Classic Savoie mix combines the amplitude and richness of great cali pinot with the rustic bite of Mondeuse. Original, complex and makes you say yummm.

Chardonay 2002, Reserve, Benziger
Full on caramelly lushness that one associates with warm weather chardonnay but without the excessive wood.

Cabernet Sauvignon 1995, Napa Valley Reserve, Beringer
Costs a million dollars and although I opened these at work and thus only had a taste, but that’s what it is all about. So rich and textured, I can only imagine the fun drinking a whole bottle.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Caution to the Wind

There are times when what you feel like drinking and eating draw you not necessarily in complimentary directions. We wanted to eat our favorite japanese-style grilled salmon, we wanted to drink a great red burgundy. We had a dozen raw oysters as an entrée but sweet German Riesling was the half-drunk fridge bottle. Neither of the pairings struck me as particularily natural, but hey, sometimes one has to go with the flow.

The Food

Tasty and easy to prepare, we rolled thin salmon filets into 4 inch high roulades, picked them with tooth picks to keep them together and then rolled them in sesame seeds with a sprinkle of olive oil. Under a hot grill for a couple of minutes and they’re done. Easy. The salmon is served on a bed of spaghetti thin cucumber slices, with a tamari, ginger, curry and grapefruit sauce. I hedged my bet with the wine by adding some cinnamon and nutmeg to the rice. A stir fry of asparagus and multi-colored bell peppers added some crunch and color on the side.

The Wine

Riesling Spatlese 2001, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, S.A. Prum
I want this stuff running in my taps. It has the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity, that undeniable Riesling petrol nose, and loads of fruit. Very few wines are as elegant and fun to drink, and as malleable as a great Mosel Riesling. But as I sucked back and chewed on that first oyster, so delicate in it’s salinity and richness, I had a feeling that my Riesling had met it’s match. And it had. Once the Riesling reached the mid-palette, the oyster was over. Not horrible by any stretch of the imagination, in fact the natural saltiness of the oyster seemed to bring out a little more sweetness and fruit in the wine, but that was perceptible for maybe a millisecond. There is a reason that bone-dry Muscadet exists.

Savigny-Les-Beaunes 1er Cru 1997, Les Serpentières, Maurice Ecard
I have already reviewed this wine (April 25, 2004), but that was with Pizza Hut and a hockey game as accompaniments. Many people love Pinot Noir with Salmon. But as a fanatical white wine drinker, I tend to avoid by principle this mix, especially when one considers how a slightly oaked white Bordeaux or Italian sauvignon can reach phenomenal heights with the tamari-grapefruit sauce. I hate to say it, but it was exceptional. I have tasted a number of Beaune Reds that have displayed traces of those sweet, earthy spices like nutmeg and cinnamon and my rice seemed to bring out hints of clove, previously hidden between beautifully textured layers of fruit. It was soft, rich, and juicy like any great Beaune, with the perfect feel in the mouth to accompany grilled salmon that was still slightly raw in the middle of the roulade. Great.