2007 Schloss Saarstein Riesling: Wonderful with honey glazed ham

dec. 25, 2010: our christmas dinner began around 10 p.m., after i got home from work, and after greg had prepared our first honey glazed ham. he did a fantastic job, as usual, and for the wine, he enlisted ron's help from winetree. priced at only $14.99, the wine ron recommend had a fruity nose and a pineapple flavor, with a smooth texture. i thought the flavor had inklings of lemon, while greg said it went very well with the ham. 9.5 percent alcohol. mosel-saar-ruwer. germany.

2007 Snoqualmie Whistle Stop Red Cabernet Merlot: Blackberry nose, tannic texture, overall somewhat stiff

dec. 30, 2010: the best thing about this columbia valley, washingtonian, is the nose -- all blackberry fruitiness with wafts of licorice thrown in for good measure. but the mouthfeel is tannic, and overall it comes off a bit stiff, like that guy at the party who just doesn't know how to relax. this 70 percent cabernet sauvignon and 30 percent merlot blend has a good price tag (under $10), but despite its roots, it seems tough and almost unnecessarily stoic. and that's after it's already been open for two hours. it's good for a one-time try, but i don't think i'll get it again. 13.5 percent alcohol. winetree. tim's recommendation.


2007 Las Rocas Garnacha: Peppery, creamy and unique

dec. 23, 2010: unfortunately, a good amount of the 14 hands chardonnay-pinot gris blend was used to prepare greg's excellent chicken. so we decided to open this garnacha, which was a gift from janet williamson, greg's aunt who shared her house with us for the woodward christmas this past weekend. greg said janet told him this was her favorite wine, and we have to say: it's definitely unique. i'm impressed with the peppery, smooth and creamy qualities of this spaniard, which are strong enough to make me say it's worth trying. greg said it's got a sweet nose, with some black cherry to the flavor. we also both agreed it reminds us, slightly, of a cabernet franc in that it has some green pepper, too. i think it's also less than $10, though we only saw it at big red liquors after the woodward christmas had ended. but as far as inexpensive wines go, this one is a worthwhile try, and i wonder if rob williamson had something to do with it. 14.5 percent alcohol.

2009 14 Hands Hot to Trot White Blend: Excellent

dec. 23, 2010: it would only be fair to pair excellent with excellent. and when greg is cooking, there's a better chance of that than anything else. he prepared a roasted chicken in our oven, basted the bird with about two cups of this 14 hands and some butter. even if we hadn't paired it with this recommendation from ron at winetree, the chicken, and the accompanying sauteed potatoes and onions, were fantastic. but with this blend of chardonnay and pinot gris, fantastic quickly turned to exquisite. seriously. if you want a good wine for a good price -- and you only have $10 in your pocket -- then consider this washington state brand, which was only $8.99 at winetree. good wine + good chicken + good company = triple good, and there's nothing better than that. 13 percent alcohol.

as for the specifics, i thought it had lemon flavors with smooth and creamy textures, mixed with a slight crispiness. greg really liked its fruity nose, while the flavor was, to him, a bit citrusy and sweet. we both, obviously, liked it very much. we think this is a wine we should share with our neighbors for dinner in january.


2008 Durigutti Malbec: The good interview

dec. 22, 2010: i came home from work in time to catch up a bit with laura howell, greg's former coworker, which was really good, since i hadn't seen her since october. greg had prepared pork loins, steamed broccoli and potato perogies. unfortunately i only had the last glass of this, since it had been opened for a while before i got here. we both liked it. greg said this 2008 is much better than the 2007. frankly, i don't recall the difference between the two, but i do like this vintage's ability to be what i wanted it to be at any given moment: flavorful, but not too fruity; tannic, but not overly so; consistent, but not so much that it's boring. in other words, this mendoza, argentinian, was the good interview. i just wish i could have had more. 14 percent. about $14. winetree.

2008 Crios Cabernet Sauvignon: Sour first night, tannic and flavorless the second

dec. 21, 2010: we like the crios malbec, which is fruity and fun. but this mendoza, argentinian, cab -- we bought it at big red liquors up in bloomington this past weekend -- was either a bad bottle, or it was just plain bad. it wasn't corked, but the sourness made it unpleasant to drink. it didn't seem to get much better after an hour or so of being open, either. 14 percent alcohol. $15.99

UPDATE: second night. we'd forgotten to pressurize it last night and so just screwed on the cap this morning hoping it wouldn't make a difference. (nothing against screwtops, either. i think there are more and more screwtops that are on the better side of good these days.) apparently our mistake was an improvement: this time, paired with a pork loin, steamed broccoli and potato perogies, it was tannic and the sourness had disappeared. so, however, had the flavors. this was like eating paper. a definite wallflower cab; drink if you don't want an accompanying personality.


2008 Arido Malbec: Spicy, slight tannins, may be good with brats

dec. 19, 2010: i bought this at winetree on friday on tim's recommendation, and we decided to open it tonight after returning from a fun-filled weekend with greg's family. this argentinian has an earthiness to the nose. the flavor is spicy with a uniquely prickly mouthfeel and slight tannins. it reminds me of the 2006 CARE syrah/tempranillo/garnacha because it's so spicy. it would be interesting to pair it with an andouille or green onion bratwurst from the newburgh butcher shop. greg said it has a tannic nose, with a rough mouthfeel. it reminds him of a montes malbec, but he said there are better malbecs out there. 14.5 percent alcohol. about $14.

by the way, we had a really good time in bloomington seeing greg's family for the woodward christmas on saturday, and then a brunch with fred, nancy, deanie, bob and chris today. the weekend was also notable because i got to experience first-hand the effects of fred's wine aerator. we tried it on a 2007 sola fred we had bought for fred at sahara mart the last time we were both in bloomington, and on an apothic red we had given him as a gift for christmas. it really made a difference for both of those wines, which we had thought were good even before the aerator entered the picture ... the sola was fruitier, and the apothic became lighter and even more flavorful. i was also really impressed by how quickly it processed the wine: you poured the wine into a small filter and it immediately sent it into the glass below. hardly any delay at all, with a very big boost in flavor.


Jean-Paul Le Damany's Calvados: A bit rough, but good flavor

dec. 13, 2010: i talked to my sister this morning. she's in italy now, traveling with sean on a break from their stay in gap, france, and that got me thinking about my aunt and uncles and second-cousins and the like who are living their lives in the old world. so i decided i'd try my second-cousin jean-paul le damany's calvados, which greg thinks is from 1996 or 1997. it's been hanging out in our basement for the past four years, since my father gave it to greg as a gift. jean-paul's version of calvados is a bit rough and has a good burn to it. but the flavor is definite apple, which is as it should be. the color is very clear, almost like water. i think i remember having an older vintage of calvados in normandy this past fall that was more of a yellow or bronze color. this is the perfect thing to have on an icy, 11-degree night, though to be honest, it's packing such a strong punch that i doubt i'll finish the glass.


Jay Juice: Island Mist Green Apple Riesling: Smooth, creamy, sweet

dec. 12, 2010: greg had suggested that i use part of jay's homemade wine as the white wine needed for the braised cornish hens recipe. but i'm really glad i didn't do that, because that recipe needed a dry white, and this green apple riesling is most certainly not dry.

the last wine i had that jay made was a 2008 blueberry wine. while that's only two bottles i've had that jay has home brewed, i've beginning to notice a pattern here: jay's got a talent for making smooth and creamy wines. that's a really good thing, since some of the more corporate versions of riesling are sometimes sharp, or acidic, and this riesling is neither of those.

that said, it was so sweet and smooth that we almost doubted that it had any alcohol in it at all. so we tested it with our vino-meter, and we found (if that odd contraption is correct) that it has about 10 percent alcohol in it -- even less than the dr. von bassermann-jordan riesling we had with the cornish hens (that was 12 percent). this is a very good effort. i don't know what jay does to make his home brews so smooth, but i think it's a really nice touch. thanks for the gift, jay!

2007 Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan Pfalz trocken Riesling: Citrus, light, crisp

dec. 12, 2010: we needed a dry white wine to deglaze a dutch oven i was using to braise three cornish hens as part of a recipe i saw on the food network and then found later via http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/claire-robinson/cornish-hens-au-vin-recipe/index.html

trocken means dry in german, and this turned out to be a really good pairing with this recipe (both as an ingredient to make the gravy, and as a wine to pair with the cornish hens once they were fully braised). we've had this wine before, and each time i think it's grapefruity and that greg won't like it much, he always surprises me, preferring to describe the tartness as simply a citrus flavor.

i really liked this recipe, and greg liked the flavor of the sauce and the hens. but he said he would have preferred for the sauce to be more of a gravy than a thin liquid. i did add some flour to the leftover sauce to make it thicker (that part was not part of the recipe), and the one cornish hen we didn't eat tonight will soak in that for at least one more night. otherwise, i braised these hens for about 40-50 minutes instead of the 20 recommended in the recipe (the comments on the web site said more or less the same thing), and the sauce combined with the crumbled bacon i had prepared to start the meal was just wonderful. i think if we get the gravy right next time, this will be a really good meal. 12 percent alcohol. winetree.

2003 Chateau Lalande-Borie Saint-Julien: Needs almost a 24-hour decanting

dec. 11, 2010: when it comes to wine you open on a whim, to wine you'd use to reward yourself after a working week, french wines are both bad and good, respectively. this frenchman was given to us by my father, and driving home from the office, i wondered what it would be like to let a 7-year-old bordeaux be the star of the evening. especially considering the minor catastrophe of a sandwich i made to accompany it later on, this 2003 was definitely an interesting, if testy, wine to experience. 

valued at about $30-35 (depending on which site you visit online),  this bottle, i realized a bit too late, was definitely not a wine you open without a great deal of patience. meaning: i opened it around 10 p.m., tasted it (some barnyard to the nose, sharp edges and tannins) and let it decant for about 30 minutes. then tasted it again (this time the fruits were starting to stand out, though there were still some rough edges), and let it sit for another 10 minutes. i poured a glass for greg (who wasn't that impressed), watched a really bad snl, and then contented myself with a bill murray film and a few sips throughout.

this wine got somewhat better, but it wasn't fantastic. so i let it decant overnight and, i hesitate to say, took a very small sip sunday morning ... just to see what about 11 hours can do to the flavor of a wine bottled in 2003. the verdict? at 9:30 a.m., the flavors were much the same as they were later sunday night, when i prepared three braised cornish hens in a dry white wine reduction (see next post). the fruits that i had tasted within 40 minutes of its opening on saturday were gone, replaced by a mildness that was neither rough nor exquisite. that night, we finished off what was left in the decanter, and greg liked it a lot better than he had the night before, saying it had opened up nicely, was softer, with not much of a nose but a fruitier flavor. as for me, this wasn't the best bordeaux i've had, but it does seem to be one more example of a french wine that's both fickle and hard to place in terms of flavors. 13 percent alcohol. gifts.


2007 Arnold Palmer Cabernet Sauvignon: Masculine, earthy, serious

dec. 10, 2010: we paired this with grilled steaks. i was coming off a nap, and greg was coming home from work, so it was a good night. this north coast californian was recommended by tim at winetree. starting out sour, it needed to decant. after about 20 minutes, it had mellowed enough to be a welcome pour into our glasses. this is a masculine cab, meaning it's heavy, with an earthy feel and flavor that would cost more at any other vineyard. but this arnold palmer -- yes, it's named after the golfer -- is a good buy at around $14. winetree. 14.1 percent alcohol.

2008 Bogle Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel: Rough, earthy

dec. 8, 2010: alright. bogle just doesn't compare to cline's old vine zin. this 2009 from california is rougher, and a bit more bold, than the cline, though the second night, it had mellowed a bit. for about $9 at schnucks, it's not bad in terms of flavor, but texturally, there are smoother versions out there. 14.5 percent alcohol.

2009 Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre Contra Costa County: Slight sweet, earthy

dec. 5, 2010: for a second bottle of the evening between the three of us, we opened this contra costa county californian. cline, as i've said before, is usually a reliable vineyard for us, and this mourvedre was no exception. it had some sweetness, but wasn't overwhelming, and the earthy qualities were good enough to have us easily drink the entire bottle. 15 percent alcohol. about $10. schnucks.

2000 Domaine Gauby Cotes du Roussillon Villages: Acidic, followed by fruity

dec. 4, 2010: aaron came to visit us this weekend, and we celebrated with a venison meal matched with this domaine gauby. greg, as usual, prepared a delicious meal with the venison he had shot last winter. the main thrust of this recipe was a fresh blueberry gravy and a red wine reduction (with apothic red, which is a blend of red zin, syrah and merlot) that included seared venison cutlets. wonderful!

we paired it with this 2000 gauby, which i wish i had decanted for several hours before, because when we opened it up, it was immediately acidic. also -- and this doesn't happen that often with the new world wines we are used to -- this 10-year-old old world wine had a thin line of mold on the top of its cork, but it hadn't moved down to the wine itself. i was a bit worried, and said as much, before we sat down to dinner.

but as the meal wore on, the fruitiness outshined the initial acidity. once again, as is common (in my experience) with old world wines, it was hard to distinguish the exact fruit flavors of this cotes du roussillon. but it was light enough to pair well with the venison. 14.5 percent alcohol. gift from alan.


2009 Layer Cake Malbec: Going against the grain, I am at least

dec. 9, 2010: apparently everyone loves this wine, including tim at winetree. wine advocate's robert parker gave the 2008 a 91-point rating, and other web sites followed suit with similar impressions about the 2009's "anise, chocolate and very pleasant touches of spice" (that one is according to http://www.vintagepointcellars.ewinerysolutions.com/) but i find it odd that no one mentioned the bitterness. don't get me wrong: we like it. this is definitely a fruity wine, and it's got enough tannins to make it slightly rough against your tongue. but this is a malbec? whoa, whoa, whoa. wait a minute here. maybe it's because we've had a memorable layer cake shiraz, but this, to me, isn't rough enough to be a malbec, at least not in the categories of a montes, or an xplorador. is this the new malbec: dark fruit and thin lines of bitterness? if so, it tastes like a mclaren vale shiraz ... from mendoza, argentina. about $14. winetree. 14.9 percent alcohol.


Red lentil soup (no wine): Delicious!

dec. 3, 2010: received a useful gift in my inbox today from my alma mater: a red lentil recipe. it sounded good, and all i had to do was buy some celery (with the leaves still on) and the lentils since we had all the other ingredients.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
8 cups vegetable stock (i used chicken broth, including 2 cups of chicken broth i made myself)
1 3/4 cups dried red lentils
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery leaves (or more, if you have it)
1/2 tsp red chile pepper flakes (less if you don't like spicy food, more if you do!) (i only used a 1/4 tsp)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (i added this as i ate the soup)
Salt and pepper to taste (i didn't add either one)
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the vegetable stock, lentils, carrots, celery leaves, and red chile pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked through. Stir occasionally. (it took about 45 minutes on our stove for all the lentils to cook through.)
Once the lentils are cooked, add the lemon juice. Mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup with lemon wedges.


2007 Chateau Pesquie Terrasses: Definitely earthy, slight tannins

dec. 2, 2010: not a bad secondary wine. earthy, tannic, balanced. 14 percent alcohol. maybe a gift from my dad, hard to tell.

Pedro Ximenez 1827 Sherry: Sweet like figs, and creamy

dec. 2, 2010: as far as after-dinner drinks go, this is a good one, not that we have much experience with sherry. but we both agree this spaniard has a fig flavor, is very pleasant and floats creaminess. it's almost too easy to drink, even without dessert, though we did have some german chocolate to go with it. 17 percent alcohol. winetree.

2008 Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel: Earthy, sweet, smooth, with some tannins

dec. 2, 2010: we're in leftover heaven, first because my parents left on a long trip, and second because we prepared our own meals that have been filling up space in our refrigerator. after a long day (for different reasons) for both of us, we opened up this californian, which in terms of brands, is an old standard for us. we like cline; it's been good to us. and this particular red zin is earthy, balanced, and slightly sweet ("please see greg's previous comments on this") so that it was a good match against andouille brats, leftover green beans/broccoli, chicken noodles and mashed potatoes. 15 percent alcohol. schnucks.