Thursday, December 27, 2007

By Request: Mushroom Stroganoff Recipe

Our Mushroom Stroganoff recipe is inspired by the Horn of the Moon cookbook’s Mushroom Tofu Stroganoff.


  • About 1/2 cup dried Bolete mushrooms (or other earthy dried mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup warm water and 1/2 cup half & half or milk
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • One medium chopped onion
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
  • Basil (fresh or dried)
  • Dill (fresh or dried)
  • Salt
  • About 3 cups thick-sliced button mushrooms
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Spinach Fettuccini (or the noodles of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped Arugula
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups sour cream

  • Soak dried Bolete mushrooms in warm water and milk/half & half for a couple of hours.
  • Sauté chopped onion, crushed garlic, basil, and dill in butter for 10 minutes.
  • Add thick-sliced fresh mushrooms, cayenne pepper, a little salt, and chopped rehydrated Boletes. Sauté another 10 minutes or so. Add Bolete soaking liquid. Simmer until reduced by about half.
  • Cook spinach fettuccini in a large pot of water.
  • While the noodles are cooking, melt butter and add poppy seeds in a fry pan and cook for 5-10 minutes.
  • Turn off mushroom pan (if still simmering) and add sour cream and chopped Arugula and chives.
  • Toss noodles with butter/poppy seed mix.
  • Plate the noodles, and top with the mushroom/sour cream sauce.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2005 & Christmas Eve Dinner

Ridge Geyserville (Zinfandel) 2005 – California
Rich, fruity (black cherry, blackberries, some spice), smooth, perfect balance of fruit and tannins. This, to us, is the perfect red wine – possibly our best Ridge yet, and we’re huge Ridge fans. 77% zinfandel, 17% carignane, 6% petite sirah. The label says it will “develop greater complexity over the next ten years.” We suggest buying a case and opening a bottle (or more) every year until then. Wow. House/Yes. $35

[Update: As previously mentioned, if we find a wine rated elsewhere, we will note those ratings – but only after we write our reviews. This received an 88 from Wine Spectator.]

Mushroom Stroganoff, with fresh button mushrooms and wild dried (and rehydrated) Boletes. You wouldn’t know it was vegetarian.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Best Affordable Holiday Wines

We thought we’d list three wines – sparkling, white, and red – perfect for the holidays. All are affordable (under $12), widely available, and go good with most any type of food. They may not be our absolute favorites in each category, but all are excellent, versatile, and reliable.

Sparkling – Cristalino Rose Brut Cava Non-Vintage (Spain)
This is a wonderful, fun “adult Kool-Aid” wine. Very little sweetness for an inexpensive pink sparkler. Good with food, or on its own. We generally appreciate the price/quality ratio of nearly all Spanish Cavas. Cristalino also makes a nice regular Brut, just as pleasant and affordable, if you can’t bring yourself to go with a “pink” wine.

White – Barton & Guestier (B&G) Vouvray 2005 (France)
A wonderfully integrated expression of Chenin Blanc. Tastes of pear, apple, and definitely some weight (more so than the typical ethereal California Chenins). The faintest hint of softness (pretty typical of almost all Chenins) but with just the same hint of acidity to balance it out. A pleasant surprise if all your impressions of Chenin are cheap, light, and sweet.

Red – Beringer Founder's Estate Pinot Noir 2005 (California)
It's hard to find a reliably good yet affordable California Pinot. This Beringer tastes like the skin of a red apple, with a nose of roses and blackberries. It's slightly smoky, with some decent tannins. Just enough weight to be sipped on its own, but still light enough to pair well with most holiday dinners.

Covey Run Late Harvest Riesling 2005 – Washington

Honey, sweet (4% residual sugar), some pear notes. Not enough acid to balance the sweetness, for us. This would be good for those folks who simply like pleasant sweet wines. A No for us. Probably about $10.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Rosemount Estate Shiraz Grenache 2004 – Australia

When we first tried this wine years ago, it was Grenache/Shiraz, probably indicating that the blend was more Grenache than Shiraz. Now it’s 55% Shiraz, probably because of Shiraz’s ascendancy in popularity. It’s pretty close in taste to a pure Syrah (see our Columbia Crest review), and has almost a beefy nose. Plumy tastes, fresh and fruity. A House wine for all these years, and still so. About $10.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Columbia Crest Pinot Grigio 2006 – Washington

Floral nose; tangerines and mild spice on the taste. Another “good surprise” Pinot Grigio for Ken (see previous entry of Stone Cellars Pinot Grigio on Nov 21). We’d love to see just a tiny bit more acidity on the finish; nonetheless, a House/Yes. $9 on sale (usually about $13).

Monday, December 3, 2007

Covey Run Morio Muskat 2005 & a BIG Snowstorm

Covey Run Morio Muskat 2005 – Washington
Muscat is one of those under-appreciated grapes/wines, much like Chenin Blanc. Muscat/Moscato is a different grape than Muscadelle (and a different wine than Muscadet). We often try any of these that we see, as such adventures can lead to real treasures. This wine has floral notes and sweet citrus on the nose. Tastes of tangerine, grapes. We find this somewhat similar to an inexpensive Riesling, but sweeter and more “grapey” (in a good way). It’s a pleasant sipper, but we’d love to see a bit less sweet and a bit of acid to balance it out. Yes for Francesca, Maybe for Ken. $8

Friday, November 30, 2007

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava – Spain

Nice mixture of citrus, kiwi, and bread dough on the nose. Tastes of lemon, melon. Nice dry/melon/acid finish. Yes. $7 on sale (usually about $10).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Salmon & Domaine Ste. Michelle Sparkler

Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs (Non-vintage) – Washington
Not what we expect from a sparkler made from Pinot Noir grapes. Nose of lemon and a touch of yeast. Tastes of lemon, citrus, and maybe a little tangerine. We had this several years ago and had forgotten our rating, but looking back on old notes it’s still the same. No. $10 on sale (usually about $14).

Due to our circumstances of a new move and not wanting to travel, it was just the two of us for Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in years. We had salmon in herb butter, a lemon/herb rice creation, good old Ocean Spray cranberry sauce from a can, and our famous pumpkin chocolate cheesecake (which has been a hit at any holiday occasion we’ve brought it to).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lost River Rainshadow

Lost River Rainshadow 2006 Columbia Valley – Washington
This is a 60/40 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion, similar to a French white Bordeaux blend. The Semillion softens the acids of the Sauvignon. This wine is neither-here-nor-there for us, but it’s pleasant and “good wine making.” If you like this type of blend, and/or semillion, it’s definitely worth a try. A Maybe wine. $12.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wine & Cellar Temperatures

We don’t have a fancy wine cellar, but we do have a basement room which stays in the mid 50s in winter and the mid 60s in summer. In winter, we bring a few bottles of red up at a time so we have a selection for each evening’s meal that is closer to 65-70, which is our preferred red drinking temperature. In summer, we just leave everything in the “wine room” until we’re ready to select a bottle. For whites, we keep age-worthy wines (big Chardonnays, Hungarian Tokaji, some German Rieslings) in the “cellar” and our everyday drinking whites in a second refrigerator in our studio/cabin. When drinking whites, we usually prefer them when they’ve been out of the fridge for about 10-15 minutes, but we’re not sticklers. Sometimes we like certain whites crisply cold, other times almost up to cellar temperatures. When in doubt, experiment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stone Cellars Pinot Grigio

Stone Cellars (Beringer) Pinot Grigio 2005 – California
For a long time Ken had a prejudice against Pinot Grigio, considering them flabby, boring, and just “white wine.” Francesca kept bugging him to try some. This is a pleasant wine, with some orange/citrus on the nose, and light tastes of pineapple. A bit of acidity makes it crisp. A Yes wine. $8

Saturday, November 17, 2007

San Juan Vineyards Siegerrebe 2006 - Washington

San Juan Vineyards 2006 Siegerrebe – Washington
We first found this wine several years ago at the winery. It was the only wine they produced from grapes grown on the island (San Juan Vineyards has other nice wines, but grapes are sourced from other Washington locations). The Siegerrebe is a cross between a Gewurztraminer and a table grape. This wine has a great floral nose, and tastes of lemon and apple. A very pleasant sipper. House/Yes. $12.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Red Diamond Syrah & Crepes

Red Diamond Shiraz 2002 – Washington
This was a nice surprise. Full of plum and black cherry notes. Also some nice edge – as if it had a tinge of Viogner in it (which some winemakers blend in sparingly) – that gave it almost an apple-skin tang. A House wine. $8 on sale (usually about $12).

Breton Crepes. Whole wheat crepes, with sautéed vegetables and fried egg on top. Spinach side salad.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Not only do we love wine and food, but we’re also home beer brewers. We appreciate a well-crafted IPA or Amber Ale, and we always buy the small-name craft beers at stores or pubs. But corporate America has been subtly sneaking into the craft beer marketplace, by introducing beers that by their labels can seem like true craft beers, but aren’t.
Not only do the faux craft beers taste (to us) more watery and less “crafted,” but we deplore the deception that is made to confuse consumers (and, of course, probably to try to drive the small brewers out of business by the big corporates).
Blue Moon is made by Molson Coors, and tastes as wimpy as does any beer with “Coors” on the label. Henry Weinhard is owned/made by Miller. Redhook by Anheuser-Busch.
If you want great-tasting real craft beers, consider avoiding the above brands, as well as beers by Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing, Widmer Bros. Brewing, Goose Island, and ZiegenBock. These brewers are owned all or in part by one of the Big 3. We’ll report on others as we become aware of them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

B&G Bistro Wine Pinot Noir 2005 – France

It appears that the “Pinot Noir light” craze is here. This is fresh, fruity, like a Beaujolais Nouveau but with Pinot Noir instead of Gamay grapes. To us, better than either a Beaujolais Nouveau or the previously rated Echelon Pinot. And better than most reds we've had in bistros in France - this has some balance and roundness, not the youth and harshness too typical in France. Yes. B&G is a very reliable producer (see our review of their Vouvray). $9.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Echelon Pinot Noir 2006 – France

Still another French/California hybrid. Like a French bistro wine – pleasant, “red” wine. If it were 5 Euros in a café in Paris, it would be good. At $11 on the U.S. grocery store shelves, it’s a Maybe, at best.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Parducci Petite Sirah 2004 – California

Tastes of plum, dark cherry. Nice and dark – as a winemaker once said to us, “wine that stains your teeth black.” Petite Sirah is a related grape to Syrah/Shiraz, but individual nonetheless – almost Zinfandel-ish at times. A Yes/Maybe wine for us. $11.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ridge Zinfandel – California

Ridge is one of the oldest and most well-respected Zinfandel producers in the world. They focus on a philosophy of making smaller-production bottlings from individual vineyards, and, as often as possible, using old-vine Zinfandel grapes. Some of the vines are more than 100 years old. We’ve loved Ridge wines for years, and they are our go-to wines for special meals. They’re also the wines we turn to when we want consistently great reds, no matter the occasion. Many of Ridge’s Zins are actually “Bordeaux-style” blends – but the main grape is Zinfandel rather than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. To paraphrase something we read in a wine magazine several years ago: “Your $100-a-bottle cult Cabernet wine snob friends won’t believe that they’re drinking a $30 bottle of Zinfandel.” Most Ridge wines are in the $25-35 range. Several of their bottlings can be found at retail, but others are only available through the winery’s mailing list.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Choosing Restaurant Wines

Recently, the Wall St. Journal’s wine column discussed what to do when a less-experienced wine enthusiast asks your (more-experienced) opinion in picking a wine from a restaurant wine list. The column discussed the dilemma of not knowing their price range, and not wanting to ask and embarrass them. Our solution is quite simple: We narrow it down to red or white, then simply suggest two wines, one inexpensive and another higher-priced bottle. We hand them the wine list so they can read the descriptions (and also “privately” see the prices). The decision is thus theirs, and we all get to experience a fine wine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beringer Pinot Noir & Eating Local

Beringer Founder's Estate 2005 Pinot Noir
It's hard to find a reliably good affordable California Pinot. This Beringer tastes like the skin of a red apple, with a nose of roses and blackberries. It's smoky, with some decent tannins. A House/Yes wine (definitely a House for Francesca). Price unknown, probably under $12.

[Update: As previously mentioned, if we find a wine rated elsewhere, we will note those ratings – but only after we write our reviews. This was recommended by Smart Money in their August 2007 issue. We don't know what vintage or grape source - a critical issue with Beringer's Pinots.]

Most of us can’t very well eat completely “locally,” as the authors of Plenty (the 100-Mile Diet) did. (And although it’s a great book and a wonderful message, one must remember that it was obviously written by two journalists with a “concept” for a book in mind.) But we really enjoy eating as local as we can. Last night we had corn from the farmer’s market, picked that morning from a field about 8 miles away – amazingly sweet and tender. We accompanied it with a Shaggy Mane Mushroom Alfredo (the Shaggy Manes were from our pasture), spiced with home-grown basil. Yes, the Alfredo noodles were commercial. The wine was a Columbia Crest Riesling (don’t know how far from our Washington home it was grown and produced, but still within the same state). Chocolate-chip cookies from a local bakery (and we really don’t care where they got their ingredients – at least they were “home made” and not from a package at the grocery store). At the farmer’s market we also picked up local tomatoes, peaches, and lettuce mix – all from no more than 20 miles away. For us, it’s certainly about health – for ourselves and for the planet, but it’s also supporting local producers and simply a way to eat the freshest foods imaginable. The sad part is that even a simple meal such as this would be totally unavailable, impracticable, and downright impossible for 90 percent or more Americans - ain’t no wild Shaggy Mane mushrooms growing in New York City.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Columbia Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2005 - Washington

Columbia Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Washington)
Another Sauvignon in the "half-way" style between California and New Zealand. Green apple on the nose; with tastes of green apple and some grassiness. Also a nice bit of acidity. Yes. Pretty sure it was less than $10.

[Update: As previously mentioned, if we find a wine rated elsewhere, we will note those ratings – but only after we write our reviews. The 2006 vintage of this wine received an 85 from Wine Spectator.]

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Covey Run Sauvignon Blanc 2005 - Washington

Covey Run Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Columbia Valley (Washington)
A nose of grass and floral notes. The flavors and mouthfeel are half-way between a California and New Zealand style – tart green apples, tangerine. Smooth and pleasant. A House/Yes wine (especially at this price). $6.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Columbia Crest Semillon/Chardonnay 2002 - Washington

Columbia Crest Semillon/Chardonnay 2002 Columbia Valley (Washington)
This has some pear on the nose, and is a buttery, creamy blend. Just not distinguished enough. A Maybe for Francesca, a No for Ken. $4. (At that price, though, it’s certainly worth a sample in case your tastes aren’t the same as ours, as we generally like Columbia Crest wines.)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Chateau Ste Michelle Gewurztraminer 2006 - Washington

Chateau Ste. Michelle Gewurztraminer 2006 Columbia Valley (Washington)
This very slightly soft Gewurz has a citrus, floral nose. It has nice layers of taste – lemon, tangerine, and a hint of cinnamon spice. A House/Yes wine. Price unknown (probably $7-10).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ravenswood Zinfandel 2005 - California

Ravenswood Zinfandel 2005 Vintners Blend California
The label says it again – full, dark, spicy, fruity. Ravenswood has long been one of our House wines, and remains so. We’re obviously Zin fans (as our accolades of Ridge have shown), and Ravenswood is at the top of our reliable, affordable list. Raspberry, pepper, and a nice touch of oak/tannin. Hard to go wrong with this one. A House wine. $10.

[Update: As previously mentioned, if we find a wine rated elsewhere, we will note those ratings – but only after we write our reviews. This received an 85 from Wine Spectator.]

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Redwood Creek Pinot Noir 2005 - France/California

Redwood Creek Pinot Noir 2005 (France, via California)
This Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d’Oc is “produced” in France but imported and bottled by Frei Brothers Vineyards in California. More California winemakers are looking outside their borders, and it’s paying off. We previously found a great Corsican Pinot Noir from Mark West (California), and this Redwood Creek is another example.
The wine has a cherry nose, and lots of layers of flavor and texture – black cherry, some tannins, even some of our preferences for “French dirt” tastes. It’s almost “halfway” between a true French style and a California fruity one. A House/Yes wine. $6 and a fabulous buy.

Famous Fish Tacos

We’ve proclaimed ourselves the masters of Fish Tacos, so thought we’d share the secret recipe.
Fish – our favorite is Halibut, but we had Cod last night, and have enjoyed other flaky fish. We didn’t care for Talapia.
Cooking Spice – a homemade mix (all ground) of:

  • Cumin – 1 tsp
  • Coriander – 1 tsp
  • Smoked Paprika – 1/2 tsp
  • Red Pepper – 1/4 tsp
  • Salt – 1/8 tsp
  • Garlic powder – 1/8 tsp
This makes enough spice for several dinners. We grind all with a large mortar & pestle, and store the left-over spice in a tightly closed jar.
We pan sauté the fish in Olive Oil and maybe a teaspoon of the spice mix, until the fish flakes apart.
Tacos – We alternate corn and flour, but generally prefer flour tortillas “soft fried.” We use a 1/8-inch layer of Olive Oil in a large fry pan, and cook the tortillas until they are “not-quite” crispy. Drain on paper towels.
Vegetables – We almost always use chopped onion and cabbage. Usually red onion and green cabbage, but sometimes red cabbage and yellow onion. We’ve also substituted Arugula for the cabbage and it tastes great, but offers a different texture.
Crema/Sauce – We experiment with Cremas a lot. Last night we used:
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • juice from half a lime
  • approximately 1/4-1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • grated 1/4 of a very large green apple (maybe 1/2 cup grated)
  • several splashes of a Tabasco-type hot sauce
  • a few grindings of salt
Other Cremas we’ve made (usually always with the base of sour cream/mayonnaise) have been garlic & lime; sweet red pepper sauce & onion; green onion & green olive. The possibilities are endless.
NOTES: We seldom measure anything (unless we’re baking, which we don’t do much). We experiment and substitute a lot. When in doubt, we think fewer elements are better than many. (For example, we’d rather have our fish tacos with fish, crema, cabbage, and onion, rather than a “normal” taco loaded with meat, beans, cheese, lettuce, onion, salsa, sour cream, black olives, jalapenos, tomatoes, and more.) We don’t worry about pairing any particular wine with any dish. We usually drink whatever wine we opened before dinner with whatever we end up cooking.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Chateau Ste. Michelle Rose 2006 - Washington

Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Rose 2006 Nellie’s Garden Columbia Valley (Washington)
Floral, rose notes on the nose. A fizzy strawberry taste, but not sweet. A Maybe for Francesca; a No for Ken. $7-10 (we don’t remember).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Covey Run Lemberger 2005 & Steelhead

Covey Run Lemberger 2005 Columbia Valley (Washington)
A basic “red wine.” A nice one, but red wine nonetheless. Few distinguishing characteristics. We occasionally taste reds that are good wines, but just nothing very special. Before we remembered the price of this bottle, we said to ourselves, “this is a Yes wine at $7; if it were $15 it would be a No.” $6 locally, and if close to that price in your area worth a try.

Columbia River Steelhead from Washington. Pan grilled yellow pepper slices in butter, basil, and thyme, sprinkled with Parmesian. A side of left-over angel hair pasta in a left-over sun-dried tomato alfredo sauce.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Thoughts About Vintage Years

Over the decades, much as been made of vintage years – “the 2000 was so much better than the 2002” or similar sentiments. In our opinion, vintage years matter very little, especially for the New World wines (U.S., Australia, South America, etc.) most folks purchase most frequently. Sure, a sophisticated palate can probably tell the difference in a side-by-side tasting between the 2004 and 2005 Cline Zinfandel (or whatever). But very few of us ever do such vertical tastings. We look for a reliable producer and a wine we like, and usually we get a good bottle, no matter the vintage year.
All that said, things can get a little trickier for premier French Bordeaux or Burgundy and such. We also know a few particular American wines well enough that we can tell the differences between vintage years.
Finally, we think the situation with “bad bottles” – whether they’re corked, were stored improperly, etc. – is much more of an issue than worrying about vintage years for New World wines.
We'll delver into the last two topics in a future post.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Shrimp Tortellini & B&G Vouvray 2005 - France

On July 31, 2007
Barton & Guestier (B&G) Vouvray 2005 (France)
One of our constant favorites. Wonderfully integrated expression of Chenin Blanc. Tastes of pear, apple, and definitely some weight (more so than the typical ethereal California Chenins). The faintest hint of softness (pretty typical of almost all Chenins) but with just the same hint of acidity to balance it out. A House wine. About $10 if we remember.

Shrimp and tortellini alfredo.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc & Salmon

On July 29, 2007
Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2006 (New Zealand)
We’ve come to expect “exploding” tastes of grass, acid, and tropical fruits from New Zealand Sauvignons. Monkey Bay at first almost seemed disappointing (especially to Ken). But upon sipping, we realized that its more subdued tastes paired better with food. We found a nose of grass and pineapple, and tastes of the same that were better integrated than many NZ Sauvignons. A Yes wine, maybe a House wine upon our next sampling.

Pan sautéed salmon, with a home-made cherry chutney. Fresh asparagus with a butter/herb sauce.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, Ridge Chardonnay, Kenwood Pinot Noir Rose & Scallop Salad

On July 27, 2007
“Jason” (Pahlmeyer) Chardonnay 2004 Napa Valley (California)
Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay Home Ranch 2002 (California)
Kenwood Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Rose 2005 (California)

We had dinner at friends, who are also wine lovers. Leah (with Perry’s help, of course) made seared scallop salad. Perry supplied a Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, from one of the “cult” Napa wineries. This was a big (although not as big as the “regular” Pahlmeyer Chard – Jason is the second label from the winery) California Chard, full of oak, buttery tastes, baked apple. Very well integrated. A Yes as a Special Occasion wine. Pahlmeyer wines are generally only available to the mailing list and at some restaurants. Jason has a wider distribution and is available at some retailers. $30-40.

We brought a Ridge Chardonnay – one of the few whites that Ridge makes. (Interesting that both we and our friends felt that a Chard would work well with scallops.) The Ridge had a nose of mushrooms and earth, and tastes of mushrooms, some dark pear/apple fruit, and a nice layer of minerals. As with all Ridge wines, this seems very well integrated. Yes as a Special Occasion wine. About $30 when we purchased it.

The Kenwood was a nice sipper with appetizers. Just plain pleasant. A Yes wine. Price unknown.

Bruschetta appetizer, with seared scallop salad. Dessert of Haagen Dazs ice cream (lazy we were).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gloria Ferrer Carneros Pinot Noir 2005 & Omelette

On July 26, 2007
Gloria Ferrer Carneros Pinot Noir 2005 (California)
Oh, my, this was nice. We saw it on the shelves, and decided to try as we love Ferrer’s Blanc de Noir sparkling wine (also made from Pinot Noir grapes). Gloria Ferrer is owned by the Spanish company that makes Freixenet Cava. This Pinot is definitely European in style – almost like a French Burgundy. Nose of dark cherries and earth. Tastes of minerals, cherries, and a little spice, with a great tannic/toast finish that’s not overdone. Beautifully integrated. (Ken likes to say that drinking wines like this is like tasting “French dirt” – meant in a very good sense.) A House/Special Occasion/Yes wine. $23.

We wanted something simple and light, so had an omelette with sautéed squash, red pepper, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese inside.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Clean Slate Riesling & Wontons & Cherries Jubilee

On July 25, 2007
Clean Slate Riesling 2006 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany)
We first found Clean Slate in Vermont nearly a year ago, but hadn’t seen it since. This wonderful and wonderfully affordable German Riesling has a grassy, grapefruit nose, with tastes of lemon and orange. It has that classic European balance of minerals and acid to go with the delicate fruit flavors. A House wine. $9.

Wednesday Night Dinners
The recipe pick was for a dessert (unusual for us), Cherries Jubilee Crepes. We made some simple veggie wontons as a first course, and the dessert was really the meal for us.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Chateau Peyraud Bordeaux & Scallops

On July 22, 2007
Chateau Peyraud 2003 (Bordeaux, France)
We found this inexpensive Bordeaux blend in our local wine store. Pretty good for a cheap French Cabernet/Merlot blend (we imagine, the label doesn't specify). Tastes of spice, blackberries, some weight and tannins. Not too well integrated at first, but rounded out a bit after it had been in the glass for awhile. A Yes/Maybe wine. $13.

Scallops pan braised in a sauce of sake, olive oil, sweet red pepper spread. With Saffron rice on the side. Big red wines aren’t “supposed” to go with delicate foods like scallops. So what? We enjoyed the combination.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Carlson Syrah/Cabernet & Beringer Chenin Blanc & Tuna

On July 20, 2007
Carlson Cougar Run Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Colorado)
Ken was into a red tonight, so had this chewy Cabernet/Syrah blend (much more on the Cabernet flavor side, to me). Firm tannins, almost a Bordeaux style, but not as smoothly integrated. A Yes/Maybe wine. We got it at the winery at a closeout price, but more recent vintages should retail for about $14.

Beringer Chenin Blanc 2006 California
Francesca finished the rest of a Chenin Blanc we’d opened a few nights before. We think Chenin is a hugely under-appreciated grape, in any of its forms (it’s also the Vouvray of France) and wherever it’s from (South Africa is getting known for Chenin). That generally makes it quite affordable. This Beringer has some definite softness, but is still good with food. It’s also an excellent “adult Kool-Aid” summer sipper. Feint notes of pear, with a floral overlay. A Yes wine (almost a House wine at its price), about $6-7.

Wine note: We generally find that opened but unfinished white wines seem to keep just fine in our refrigerator for several days.

Tuna steaks pan braised in a sake-wasabi sauce. Asparagus with a gorgonzola-thyme cream sauce.

Food note: The “wasabi” found in delis and most Japanese restaurants (even some supposedly very good ones) usually isn’t the real stuff. It may have some horseradish powder and green coloring, but it’s not the real deal. Authentic wasabi can be found in some Japanese food stores and through sources online.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DeBeque Canyon Gewurztraminer & Artichokes

On July 17, 2006
DeBeque Canyon Winery Gewurztraminer 2005 Colorado
A stunner. One of the few times I’ve almost exactly agreed with a label’s description, which reads: “Aromatic, with hints of citrus, orange and spice. Barrel fermented one year to develop an Alsatian style.” Add “melon” to the above, and a very hint of sweetness – almost, not quite, dry. This wine shows that “smaller” appellations can produce great wines. Definitely a House Wine on our list, but may be limited in distribution. Available on-line at $13 (from the winery).

Steamed artichokes (gigantic!) with melted butter. Garlic in the steaming water. Had one of our “less-than-healthful-or-natural” sides: Packaged crescent rolls baked with Swiss cheese inside and sprinkled with shredded Parmesan cheese on the outside. So what.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Buehler White Zinfandel & Crab

On July 11, 2007

Buehler White Zinfandel 2005 (California)
This white Zin is drier and less fruity than the Beringer we reviewed on July 5. It is well integrated, with mild notes of Zinfandel’s signature tastes – blackberries, spice – but very smooth and light. No oak or tannins, obviously, yet a little acidity. A Yes wine. $8 retail in our area.

Puerto Rican Crab, with fried Plantains on the side.
(For an overview of our “Wednesday Night Dinners,” scroll to the bottom of these posts.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Scarlet of Paris Pinot Noir & Mushroom Souffle

On July 10, 2007
Scarlet of Paris Pinot Noir 2005 (France)
It used to be that unless you knew French geography and wine, and had a good memory, you were pretty much stumped by French wine labels. In many ways, that’s still the case, but it’s nice (for Americans, at least) that a few French producers are actually putting grape varietal names on labels. This is a wonderful, fruity (cherries, plum) Pinot, yet with a definite French flavor profile – some minerals and very well integrated. One of our House wines. $10 at retail in our area.

Mushroom & Brie Soufflé. The fluffiest, puffiest, lightest soufflé you could ever imagine. Only four eggs (free-range local), brie cheese, crimini mushrooms alongside King Boletes (fresh-picked from the forest), and a touch of Dijon mustard. How deliciously delightful!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ste. Chapelle Chenin Blanc 2005 & Shrimp

On July 8, 2007
Ste. Chapelle Soft Chenin Blanc 2005 ("American"/Idaho)
“Soft” usually means semi-sweet in wine terms. Of course, there’s a huge range of sweetness, and even sometimes a completely dry red may be described as “soft” (see our description of Ridge Sullivan yesterday). The Ste. Chapelle has tastes of ripe peach, pear, and orange. It’s frankly sweet (but not sugary), with only the merest hint of acidity, yet it works well as a summer-sipping aperitif wine (which is how we had it tonight). A Yes/House wine (House for when we really want that type of wine). Price about $7.

Shrimp, apricots, onion sauté. Grits with green chili and cheddar cheese.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Ridge Zinfandel 2005 - California

On July 7, 2007
Ridge Zinfandel Sullivan 2005 (California)
We recently saw an interview in Wine Spectator magazine with chef Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry and Per Se). Keller was asked what’s in his personal wine cellar, and this one-of-the-world’s-best-chefs said: “A lot of Ridge Zinfandel.” Ken was exposed to Ridge wines when he lived in California two decades ago. They are still his favorite red wines, and for a “high-end” wine are surprisingly affordable (usually about $25-$35 per bottle). Tonight we had a new bottling of Ridge Sullivan 2005. This is significantly softer than most Ridge Zins. Blackberries, some tannins but not monster mouth-puckering. We think this is a nice addition to Ridge’s line. A Yes wine. $24 (only available through Ridge’s ATP mail-list program). Literally any Ridge wine is for us also a House wine (we’re on their mailing list), despite being in our “Special Occasion” price range.


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc & Salmon

On July 6, 2007
Arbor Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Columbia Valley (Washington)
Disappointing. Not bad, just nothing. No nose, no distinguishable taste. Not even “boring,” as there isn’t enough there to be bored with. A “No” wine. Price unknown, probably around $10.

We eat a lot of salmon, and tonight we pan braised it with a little olive oil, white wine, and a red-cherry reduction we’d made up shortly before. A side of (leftover) potato and wild mushroom gratin. (The soft cherries left over from the reduction also went darn well on a small bowl of ice cream.)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Leftover Wines & Shrimp Louie

On July 5, 2007
After a hike in the hot sun for Kenneth Juan and a bike ride in the hot sun for me, we decided a nice cool salad sounded splendid for dinner. Our Shrimp Louie Salad was built on arugula topped with purple onion, radishes from our garden, hard-boiled free-range local eggs, orange pepper, tomato, and a sauté (wine, homemade garlic olive oil, parmesan cheese) of mushrooms & shrimp. The piece de resistance -- Thousand Island dressing.

Leftovers – nice cold whites.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Columbia Crest Shiraz & Beringer White Zinfandel & Chili Casserole

On July 4, 2007
Columbia Crest Shiraz Two Vines 2003 Columbia Valley (Washington)
Ken went with a red. This is already one of our House Wines – affordable, quality wines we turn to on a regular basis. Plum, dark cherry, a bit of spice, and nice fruit. Even a nice mildly tannic finish. About $10.

[Update: As previously mentioned, if we find a wine rated elsewhere, we will note those ratings – but only after we write our reviews. This wine in the 2004 vintage received an 86 from Wine Spectator.]

Beringer 2006 White Zinfandel (California)
Still another House Wine. Francesca turned to this to accompany our dinner. White Zin gets a bad rap, but this is a fun, fruity, soft wine. Strawberries on the nose and palate, a bare hint of acidity, but mostly pleasant softness that goes well with spicy food. About $7.

(For an overview of our “Wednesday Night Dinners,” scroll to the bottom of these posts.)
Francesca lost (won?), so she cooked a Green Chili Quinoa Casserole. Excellent layers of taste, with tortillas, quinoa, tomatoes, green chili, cilantro, and cheeses. Both wines went well with the dinner.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Ryan Patrick Chardonnay & Leftovers

On July 3, 2007
Ryan Patrick Vineyards Naked Chardonnay 2006 Columbia Valley (Washington)
Nice. Tastes of ripe apples, has some weight and mouthfeel, and a tiny hint of buttery-ness, but none of the “toasty oak” writers love to mention. We really prefer unoaked Chards, and enjoy the fruit flavors of the grape. This is a Yes. Price unknown (probably ~$10).

Leftover quiche. Side salad. Nothing special to mention.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Silver Lake Sauvignon Blanc & Risotto

On July 2, 2007
Silver Lake Columbia Valley 2003 Sauvignon Blanc (Washington)
Not bad, but not special. Some hints of green apple on the nose and palate; more toward the California style than the bright New Zealand type. Possibly a bit old and tired? Most contemporary Sauvignons are best drunk very young. For us, not worth a repeat visit unless we found a new release to try. A Maybe/No wine. Price unknown (probably ~$10).

We both worked late, so had a simple butternut squash risotto (from a box) with braised fresh Kale – a little herbed olive oil, a splash of whatever white wine we had open, a sprinkle of a favorite Italian Spice mix. (We usually shy away from spice mixes, preferring individual spices, but we really enjoy Dean Jacob’s 4 Bread Dipping Seasonings.) Good complementary foods.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Yalumba Shiraz and Quiche

On July 1, 2007
Yalumba Y Series South Australia 2005 Shiraz 94%, Viogner 6%
Classic Rhone blend, with Viogner giving some softness to the Aussie-style Shiraz (although I always think of it as “Syrah”). Some spice, bright acidity. We first had this in Banff, Canada, last winter, and enjoyed it enough to purchase again. Very good everyday wine, not quite there for our house-wine list. A Yes wine. $11 retail in our area.

Whatever’s-in-the-frig Quiche. Arugula, wild onion flowers (from a hike today), thin sliced red peppers. 5 eggs, some half-and-half, Asiago and Fontina cheeses, sage, thyme, dash of nutmeg, Dijon mustard. All in a frozen pie shell. Good mix of tastes. Not one of our greatest Quiches (we do them somewhat frequently and fairly well), but very good.