Thursday, February 28, 2008

Estancia Pinot Grigio 2006 – California

This nice wine starts with a nose of lemon and fresh thyme. The tastes come on as lemon, with a tiny touch of honey (taste, not sweetness). Some nice acidity, even a little “tingle” on the tongue. Yes (maybe a House after a second tasting). $9

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Review: The United States of Arugula

The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp
We were a little late discovering The United States of Arugula (published in 2006), but found the book to be a wonderful history of American food in the 20th century. Beginning in the late 1930s, the book chronicles the taste makers that changed America’s eating habits from meat and potatoes to sun-dried, free-range, and organic. The biggest changes began in the 1950s, with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and with her appearance on American television. The story ranges from personalities who may not be well known to most people (such as Clementine Paddleford or Mollie Katzen), to the icons of American food – Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, and a host of others. If you have an interest in food and cooking – and in how we went from canned peas to baby Arugula in the grocery store – The United States of Arugula is a great read.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

French Onion Soup & Marsanne

d.A. (Domaine Astruc) Marsanne 2005 – France
Deep, pineapple nose. Tastes of pineapple and honey (not sweetness). Definitely some oak. Marsanne is a “third-tier” grape that is usually worth a try (at any reasonable price). Yes. $8

French Onion Soup
(Recipe for 2)

  • In a medium sauce pan, sauté 3/4 of a large onion in equal parts olive oil and butter, until the onions begin to brown and caramelize a bit.
  • Add ground thyme, white pepper, sage, and whole thyme, to taste. (Tarragon is often a traditional spice, but we don’t care for it.)
  • Add 2 cans of beef broth, or equivalent stock. (We’ve also made this with chicken stock as well as with homemade veggie stock – most anything works.) Add about 1/4 cup dry white wine and a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce. Scrape the pan to make sure all onion is well mixed. (If using a lighter chicken or veggie stock, we sometimes add red wine instead of white. Or even sauté red onions instead of yellow.)
  • Simmer uncovered, and cook until reduced by about 1/3. The longer you simmer, the more infused will be the onion flavor.
  • Put into individual broiler-proof soup tureens.
  • Top each soup with a round of toasted French bread, and about 1/4 cup of grated Gruyere (or other) cheese.
  • Broil just until cheese melts completely but before it starts to brown.
  • Serve with additional slices of French bread (toasted or not) and Parmesan cheese.
  • (Some recipes call for a flour roux after the onions have been sautéed, but we find any flour in the soup makes it drab and grainy.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

George Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2005 – France

Classic French Beaujolais-Villages – nose of lemon, black cherry, a little plum. Light tastes (it is a Beaujolais) of red grapes and a little spice. Some good minerals and acid. We enjoy the Gamay grape for just this type of wine that it makes – light and fun, yet if you go beyond the Beaujolais-Nouveau or Beaujolais to the Beaujolais-Villages wines, you gain much more in complexity and character. Many folks serve Beaujolais slightly chilled; we prefer it at cellar or cool room temperature. (See our previous entry for our opinions on wine temperatures.) Yes. $8 on sale (usually about $11).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

d.A. (Domaines Astruc) Shiraz/Viogner 2006 – France

This was a pleasant surprise from the “value” section of our local wine shop. Floral notes and violets on the nose (which we’d attribute to the 20% Viogner), and well-integrated tastes of earth, mushrooms, and a tiny bit of tangerine on the mid palate. We’re constantly surprised by the French winemakers who are finally catering to an American market by listing grape varieties, but this wine lists the classic French Syrah grape with the trendy Aussie spelling! House/Yes. $10

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lost River Community Red 2005 – Washington

The label doesn’t say what grapes are in this red blend, but it tastes to us sort of like the common Aussie blend (but less common in the U.S.) of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Another nicely made wine from Lost River, but it’s just another average, OK, “red” wine. Maybe. $12

Saturday, February 9, 2008

House Wines

(We’re going to be traveling and away from computers for a week, and we aren’t going to even think about posting again until we return on February 17. Enjoy your wines and dining until then.)

If you’ve been wondering what are our House wines, here is the complete list. We have not indicated differing vintages (and there can sometimes be vintage variations), nor different bottlings within a winery’s offerings. In a few cases, we have specified a particular wine. (For example, Mark West is a California winery which sources grapes from around the world. We don’t care for their California Pinot Noir, but did hugely enjoy their wine made from Corsican grapes.) On this list, you’ll find wines from California, Washington, Colorado, France, Australia, New Zealand, and Spain. (Next up, we’re planning a concentrated effort to see what’s new and exciting in South African wines, as well as to revisit some of our old tastings from Chile and Argentina.)

This is the cheat sheet we take with us to the store, although we’re always sampling and trying new offerings from the shelves. Also, this doesn’t represent all the wines we enjoy – rather it is the ones we like that we find most reliable at a good price, without having to do any thinking. We do have a separate list of higher-end (and higher-priced) wines we know and love, but those are for special occasions and not for our House wines. With a few exceptions (such as some of the Colorado wines), these should be widely available, affordable (under $20; most are $10-15, or even less, especially on sale), and reliable year-after-year.

Brancott, Yvecourt, Columbia Crest, Turning Leaf, Covey Run, Canyon Wind, Geyser Peak, Barnard Griffin

Villa Wolf, Meridian, Chateau St. Michele, Columbia Crest, DeBeque Canyon, Covey Run


Covey Run, Clean Slate, Snoqualmie, Chateau St. Michelle, Beringer, Greenwood Ridge, Columbia Crest

Peace, Stonehedge, Carlson, Penfolds Thomas Hyland, Cambria, Redwood Creek(France)

Domaine de Caillan, Oxford Landing, Yalumba

B&G Vouvary, Beringer, St. Chappell, Yalumba

Beringer, Buehler, B&G Rose Anjou, Le Ville Ferme

Columbia Crest, Stone Cellars

Clos de la Clemanciene, Remy Pannier

George DuBeuf Beaujolais-Villages

Ravenswood, Rosenblum, Stonehedge, Ridge

Castle Rock, Coyote Creek, Mark West(Corsica), Scarlett of Paris, Beringer, Redwood Creek(France), Parducci, Cambria

Barnard Griffin(C-Merlot), Columbia Crest(Merlot-C)

Columbia Crest, Castle Rock, Yalumba(S-Viogner), B&G Cotes du Rhone, Red Diamond, Los Planos, Rosemount(S-Grenache), Lindemans, Domaines Astruc(S-Viogner)

Los Rocas

Penascal, Tapena

Bouvet Brut, Cristalino, Segura Viudas, Domain Chandon, Gloria Ferrer

Sandeman Tawny

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Gnarly Head Zinfandel 2006 – California

This has a black cherry and almost perfumy nose. It tastes smoky, with blackberries and plums. There’s not too much oak or toast, and it has a dry finish. Yes. $12

Monday, February 4, 2008

Trimbach Gewurztraminer 2004 – Alsace, France

Yes, the French make Gewurztraminer, just as do the Germans. Alsace is on the border of France and Germany, and in many ways shares cultures, cuisines, and wine from both countries. This Gewurztraminer has a deeply aromatic, floral nose. The tastes are of honeysuckle, with some real weight and depth – almost as if it has seen some oak (which would be unusual for a Gewurztraminer). This is so different from a soft (every-so-slightly sweet), ethereal American Gewurztraminer. For us a Yes, but be forewarned if your Gewurztraminer tastes run toward the lighter style. $17

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Quick Bouillabaisse & Chardonnay

After watching a very old episode of Julia Child’s old TV show, The French Chef, we had a craving for a simple bouillabaisse. Thus, our Bouillabaisse for Two Recipe.

  • About 3 cups fish stock, clam juice, or whatever’s on hand (we had some frozen shrimp-shell stock) in a saucepan
  • Separately, sauté a leek, some sliced onions, and crushed garlic in olive oil (we used fennel oil) until soft
  • Add some kind of sliced tomatoes (we used grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise) and simmer until the tomatoes just begin to soften
  • Add vegetables to stock pan, and add a half cup of white wine
  • Season with saffron, thyme, white pepper, and salt
  • Let this simmer for 15-20 minutes to blend the flavors
  • About 5 minutes before serving, add fish or shellfish (we used a few shrimp, and a couple of small Dover Sole filets)
  • Serve in large bowls, accompanied by warmed buttered bread

Domaine Talmard Macon-Chardonnay 2006 – France
The nose starts off almost like a Sauvignon Blanc – crisp apples and grassiness. The tastes come on wonderfully with green apples, some buttery oak, and a hit of citrus/grapefruit on the mid palate. It has a nice, “unusual” lingering finish for a cheap white wine. We tend to like cheap French whites more than cheap French reds. The label gives a nod to Americans (actually listing Chardonnay as the grape, rather than having to know that most Macons are Chards), and the taste is another of those 50/50 French/American styles. Yes. $10