Sunday, October 28, 2007

2005 Des Voigne Cellars The Duke

Des Voigne Cellars is a relatively unknown boutique winery new on the scene here in Washington. The Duke is sold out, but the others of the 2005 vintage are still available. I'd recommend them if you're looking for interesting new wines that you can afford. I mean, California wineries have just lost their mind with pricing (the average price for a California Cab is now $80 bottle).

I bought this bottle from the tasting at Nabil's shop. I liked the Duke very much at the tasting in June, so I thought I'd open it up and see how it's doing. I'm going to say it needs a bit more time. It was a hot wine. It's only 14.5%, but it is big and spicy and it burns. It's an odd blend of Zin, Cab, Cab Franc and Merlot which gives it a very berrilicious flavor, but it's still a titan. I drank it with some spicy pork ribs that Sara made and it stood up just fine. In fact, it looked me in the eye and said, "You think that's spicy? That ain't spicy."

This is a wine that can't make up its mind. Is it a Bordeaux Blend? Is it a Zinfandel? It's both... ?! It is not got that mineral taste that makes Turley so interesting. And it is not a smooth, sexy, opulent wine. It is really its own experience. And surely a food wine.

If you got some of this, sit on it. I think it'll mellow a bit more.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

2005 San Valentino Scabi

This wine is awesome. I love everything about it. The price is $18 (but I got it for $12 from Garagiste). I really dig the label as well. It's modern and simple, but conveys the thought that you're getting a classy and well-made wine. The wine itself was great too--more on that in the following paragraphs.

The only thing I don't like about the wine is its unfortunate choice of names. Scabi. Too easily confused with scabies.

Anyway, this is a great Italian wine. It's centrally located Sangiovese, with even less in the way of obnoxious tannins than most Sangiovese. Yes, smoother than your average Chianti and a nice dark purple color. It restored my faith in wine after the previous night's experience. I could even detect a little bit of the "notes of tobacco" that the Garagiste reviewer promised.

Lake Chelan Winery Stormy Mountain Red NV

I've been to Lake Chelan once. A group of guys I went to college with and their current wives and girlfriends and I rented a cabin on Lake Chelan for a long Fourth of July weekend. It was very beautiful. The lake, however, was freezing cold as melted snow is its principle source of water. It was fun, but I got bored after the first two or three days. I can only beat everyone at chess so many times before it gets old for everyone involved.

There are lots of apple orchards. It is a good climate for that. I question how good the climate is for growing grapes. So it was with a very skeptical mindset that I opened this bottle. There's something I find a bit off-putting about non-vintage wines in general--like they're cheating.

Anyway, this wine of unknown composition was a clear, purply color. This added to my trepidation, since I generally distrust wines I can see through. Maybe it was a Pinot? Maybe a badly made Syrah? I may never know or care enough to find out.

The wine itself was surprisingly not bad. It was thin, no body to speak of, but it was smooth and had a decent enough flavor and smell. One could drink it. I'd cook with it. If I had to rate it, I'd give it two stars. It's better than the average Pinot Noir I've had.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

2004 CR Sandidge Syrah

I don't know how much it costs because I didn't buy it (I just got to drink some). But I suspect that CR Sandidge is one of the more underrated Washington wines for it's price. The 2004 Syrah was a great wine, good to drink on its own before dinner and drink now without decanting. It's a dark, cool purple color and has great flavor and body. It's a bit earthy, very smooth, more like a Coonawarra Shiraz than a Washington Syrah. In fact, it reminded me a bit of the Bin 128. Anyway, it was good, I'd recommend it, and maybe have some cheese with it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yalumba Museum Reserve 50 Year Old Tawny Port

Regular readers will remember to celebrate my wedding, I opened a bottle of The Grandfather. Well, I had another bottle of really old port I was saving for a special occasion -- the Yalumba Museum Reserve 50 Year Old Tawny. Turns out the special occasion was my bachelor party at Morton's.

Robert Parker gave it 96 pts. It was about $50. The port was a great way to finish the meal. We all had steak, of course, and then chocolate souffle, then the port. It had great color and flavor. It smelled quite strongly of alcohol and had quite a bit of burn going down. It was a quality product and I'm glad I tried it, but it just wasn't the amazing experience I had hoped for. The Grandfather was much more pleasant. The Museum Reserve I could almost have mistaken for Brandy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

happy hour: McCormick and Schmick

Last night I went looking for happy hour food. Sara was having dinner with a friend, so I figured I'd go get me some $6 burger and wine special. But, oh the horror! Upon arrival I discovered Ruth's Chris no longer does their "late" happy hour. They're under "corporate management" now (whatever that means) and so they only have the 4pm happy hour.

Other than a certain multi-billion-dollar CEO of a certain company I used to work for in the lobby talking business with someone, the place was dead. In the past, even on a Monday night, the bar was always packed. The bartender seemed quite depressed. He said he'd understand if I wanted to leave. And I did.

So I ambled across the sky bridge to McCormick and Schmick. Their late night happy hour starts at 9:30pm and is still going strong.

I had their S&M, er, M&S Cheeseburger ($2) their Hummus Plate ($2) and a glass of Penfold's Kanooga Hill Shiraz/Cab ($8). Obviously it's not a $6 meal, but it's pretty close. If I had really wanted to stick to the $6 limit I could have got a glass of beer and a cheeseburger and come pretty close. However, I wanted a glass of wine as I watched the Rockies finish their sweep and they don't have the $3 wine special at M&S.

The burger was pretty good. Nice and hot, but juicy-pink in the center. No mayo by default and it comes with Fries, which Ruth's Chris did not. The Hummus plate was good, but I wouldn't pay more than $2 for it: the red chips were a bit stale in places. The hummus itself was well-made with garlic and some time of oil on top, but without that overpowering flavor some hummusses (hummi?) have.

The Kanooga Hill Shiraz/Cab was what you would expect from the lower end Penfold's wines. It's as good a bet as any other by-the-glass wine, typically cheaper than the others and more reliable. This one hit the spot and went well with the burger.

I now pronounce M&S the new King of Happy Hour.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Penfold's The Grandfather Port

So, back when Raph and I were roommates, we had this crazy Australian neighbor. He was the kind of guy who would just walk right through your back yard while you were grilling dinner without asking. He was also of the opinion that most things Australian, when it came to wine, were generally superior. As we got to know Ben better, he made some good points and our livers all, collectively, suffered.

So, one day I was checking out a wine shop I'd not been to before. It was called Arista and they had a few bottles of Penfold's The Grandfather port. It wasn't cheap; I think I paid about $80 for it (though I now know better prices are to be had). I mainly bought it so I could set it up in my living room and every time Ben came over he'd see it and wish he had some. I told him I was saving it for a special event.

Well, the bastard just had to show me up. He flew to Australia and bought a bottle of Penfold's The Great Grandfather port, which is even better and more expensive, and set it up in his kitchen so I'd see it every time I came over. Lucky for me that was about the time I bought a house and moved away from his smirkiness.

So, I decided the special event I was saving The Grandfather for was my wedding. Only problem with that little plan was I was so busy the day of and at the wedding that I forgot all about it. So a few days later when Ben's parents were in town we had dinner then went back to my place and opened The Grandfather.

It is not like opening a normal bottle. The thing comes in a wooden box with a clear plexiglass sliding cover. The top is not wrapped in foil, but coated in red wax. It comes with a second cork and instructions on how to use it (soak in water for one hour before re-corking). We cut the wax, drowned the re-corking cork and all had a sip.

It's the best port I've ever had. Well, the best of this sort. There are some old Vintage Kopke's that really make me happy, but that's a different sort of port all together. As far as the brown stuff goes, this was truly great. Completely smooth, sweet but not overly.

So all I have to look forward to are my Vintage Kopke's when they come of age, and Ben's bottle of The Great Grandfather, which I eagerly await.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

on corn

Sara is reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. I haven't read it, but she's been telling me some of the things it says about corn. Which is what lead to this little exercise:

Last night we went to Safeway to get some sort of dessert and went about reading all the ingredients lists to find something that didn't have corn products in it. Almost everything in the candy aisle, the cookie aisle and the baked-goods area contain corn syrup. The only exceptions were some imported chocolates and cookies from Europe, and a single type of Mocha-Hot Chocolate powder.

But even if you manage to find something without corn syrup, it's next to impossible to find something that doesn't have any corn related product: corn starch, corn flour... even xanthan gum is derived from corn.

Preview: I'll be posting about two amazing ports this week. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

on storing wine

While I was on Maui, I happened to walk past the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse at the Grand Wailea. They were closed (it was early in the AM), so I'm not sure what it is like inside. From the outside, however, it looked like they had gone and stacked a bunch of very expensive wine in the big plate glass window, with the labels facing out so we could all see how spectacular their wine list was. If you've ever driven down highway 29 in Napa, pretty much everything you see was represented. At least three or four bottles deep.

There is a reason Maui is a vacation destination: the sun. Everyday the sun comes up and cooks those bottles of wine. It's very sad. I wouldn't order any wine from that branch unless they showed me where they had been storing it first.

Most wine is fine at room temperature for seven or eight years. Most of us won't be storing wine for 40 years; most American and Australian wines are meant to be drank much sooner.

For serious storage, you can buy a fridge to meet your needs. The fridge keeps things cool, which slows or stops various chemical reactions that can make the wine go bad. Most modern wine making techniques, however, will remove agents that would lead to such reactions (depending on the wine). It's only over very long periods of time that these things tend to become an issue. Or if you have older bottles of wine; though I suspect if you have any '62 Bordeauxs, you already know this.

The key to casual wine storage is keeping the temperature consistent and keeping it out of sunlight. Changes in temperature cause the cork to expand and contract. You don't want that. Sunlight has UV rays that can cause the wine to break down in unpleasant ways. These are your two biggest enemies.

To that end, you want to keep your non-refrigerated bottles in the coolest, darkest place in your house. Someplace you don't go into very often. Closets under stairs, basements, etc. I have a spare bedroom in which I put heavy, velvet curtains over the windows and plugged up the heat vents with a bathroom towel. I keep the door to the room closed and the lights off, except when we go in to pick out a bottle. In the summer, I unplug the vent and let the A\C keep the room cool.

Considering Ruth's Chris is a consistent Wine Spectator award winner, you'd think they would know better.

Monday, October 1, 2007

another explanation

Again I apologize for the long period of time with no posts. We just got back from our honeymoon. Regular posting will resume shortly.

In the meantime, I will plug the 2005 Portteus Zinfandel one last time. The 2006 is coming soon, so this may be your last chance to get some. Ben and I had a bottle the other night and it is still tasting quite nicely. Best Zin in Washington.