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.