Friday, December 21, 2007

The Culture of Wine & Food

Certain consultants in the city of Memphis are striving to make this city desirable for the college educated 24-35 yr olds. Thriving cultural activities is the major driving factor when these individuals are deciding what city to settle in. Doesn't wine & food qualify as culture? Look at the amount of independently owned restaurants here. That says volumes about how important, dare I say sacred?, food is to our city. Wine is quickly becoming that way too. Look at the statistics. The U.S. is poised to overtake Italy in total yearly wine consumption. Italy! And this small southern city is drinking its fair share! It's not only the upper crust either. Everyone is drinking wine, and getting more curious about it. Wine drinkers are getting younger and younger. 21 & 22 yr olds are buying Sicilian nero d'avolas, Spanish tempranillos & Oregon pinot noirs. Its very exciting! But the previously mentioned consultants aren't factoring in the thirst for wine or the need for wine professionalism when looking at what draws people to Memphis. I hear rumblings of a Memphis Food & Wine Experience. The forward thinkers need to get behind that immediately. That event could bring big money, huge exposure & a better image for Memphis.

Bubble Time!

Check out my latest article here. The only thing I love more than writing about Champagne & sparkling wine is drinking it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Noble Rot From A Noble Man

Alois Kracher has passed away. I know I'm a little late in reporting this, but posting about death just seems very difficult to do. I was never able to meet Mr. Kracher, but I did meet his son Gerhard last year in Chicago at VinDiVino's annual trade tasting. Gerhard was so full of life & so overwhelmingly friendly. I can't help but think that he got that from his father. Seth Allen of VinDiVino Imports had this to say about Kracher "The loss of a close friend is tragic, but saying good bye to Luis Kracher renders me senseless". He continues on to say "Much will be written, and indeed, just hours after Luis left us, much has already been written about the greatness of his wines, about their originality, the singularity of their expression, and about how they cast a wave of adolescent vitality upon the reticent and formal domain of "world class" wine. To these heartfelt expressions of appreciation and even idolatry I can only say that I also stand in the ovation, one more hedonist glowing and sated, just another fan."

His wines are so haunting, they can rattle you to your very core. The sheer power of them are simply astonishing. I feel sorry for those who think that sweet wines are too simple, too adolescent. But honestly, to hell with them. There is more for me. Everyone owes it to this great man, & great winemaker, & to themselves, to taste the beauty he gave us. May his soul rest in peace.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rose Wine For Winter Time

I know. It's winter time, time to put away the rose. But here in Memphis, it was actually 75 degrees yesterday. Yeah, no such thing as global warming??? Anyway, Kelly and I had our friend Mezmary over for drinks and some television watching the other night. I popped open one of my last bottles of Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2006. It had a lovely pale salmon, onion skin color. So delicate and pretty. On the nose were classic pinot noir aromas of cherry, earth & minerals. That delicate hue of pink hid a supple, mouthfilling wine. It was elegantly rich, with ripe black cherry, bright acidity & a hint of tea. The acid was nice and refreshing. Everything about this wine was beautiful. It simply is the best rose I've ever had. I wish I had some olives and dried meats to go with it!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Aussie wines, yet another disappointment

Last night, in celebration of Kelly successfully defending his Master's thesis, I prepared a nice meal. I seared some beautiful strip loins of beef in butter & olive oil, set those aside and began work on the sauce. I sauteed baby portabello mushrooms in the same pan I seared the steaks in with sherry, red wine, beef stock, onions & garlic. After reducing that for a bit I stirred in butter, poured that on a rectangle serving dish and placed slices of the rare steak over the sauce. On the side I served roasted garlic mashed potatoes & baked broccoli. De-licious!

So I wanted a bold red wine to pair up with the steak & sauce. I pulled out a bottle of 2003 Shirvington Shiraz from the McLaren Vale region of Australia.

Very disappointing. It was rich, almost port-like, with heavy tannins, a bitter astringency, no mid-palate, a very odd stewed fennel flavor profile & a finish that left my palate exhausted with alcohol. I almost wanted to get up and brush my teeth after tasting it. 96 points Robert Parker, whatever. Is his palate so jaded that all he can appreciate are overpowering wines that are exhaustive? Even Kelly didn't really care for the wine & he LOVES big, bold, tannic wines.

Oh well, you win some you lose some.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday Suppers at the Majestic Grille

Last night Kelly, Richie, Meagan & I went to the Majestic Grille for their Sunday Supper. The menu included a winter green salad with cucumber, tomato, feta, onion & red wine vinaigrette; pork loin braised with apples & cider, rosemary & garlic potatoes, smashed roasted parsnips & carrots & a warm apple cake with chantilly cream. All this food for only $60 (which feeds 4).

The salad was bright & delicious, with a bitter hit from the greens, crispness from the cucumber, yummy salty feta, tart & delicious red wine vinaigrette, an overall winner of a salad.

The main course of pork loin was perfectly tender & moist. Braising in apples & cider created a rich and savory sauce that was a perfect foil to the tender pork. Add to that earthy parsnips & carrots & rosemary potatoes, all in all it was a perfect dish for a cold evening. Not to mention a perfect match for a glass of MontGras Reserva Merlot from their new wine list.

So we come to dessert. From our table I could see into the kitchen where Chef Patrick Reilly was putting the finishing touches on our warm apple cake. When it hit the table I immediately was hit with a spicy sweet aroma & I instantly began to drool. This was warm, moist, spicy & not too sweet. I hope and pray that they put this cake on their regular dessert menu so we can have it more often.

Everyone should try Majestic Grille's Sunday Suppers. Last nights meal was superb & we will be sure to return for more.

Ridge Vertical

I have been lucky enough to have acquired, over time, 3 different vintages of Ridge Geyserville. This is the winery's description of the Geyserville vineyard:

First RIDGE Geyserville:
Location: Western edge of Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.
Elevation: 200'
Soils: Gravelly loam
Age of vines: 40-year-old zinfandel, 12 acres.
11-year-old zinfandel, 15 acres.
121-year-old mixed blacks, 5 acres.
21-year-old petite sirah, 5 acres.
11-year-old petite sirah, 3.5 acres.
111-year-old carignane, 7 acres.
Training: Head trained (no trellis), spur pruned.
Yields: 1-3 tons/acre
Climate: Occasional morning fog, warm days with frequent evening breezes.
Exposure: Southern

This particular vineyard is owned by Leo & Evelyn Trentadue.

Michael Barar so nicely provided us with a bottle of 2005 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay, which just so happened to have been named #2 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 of 2007. Check out this pdf file on the vineyard. The color was pure golden straw. On the nose were aromas of cream, lemon curd, kaffir lime & orange. The palate showed minerals, lemon, fresh bright acid, lemon leaf & a long long finish.

Okay, so here goes.

First up is the 2001 Geyserville. It held a purple core that stretched to a ruby tinted rim. The nose held aromas of fig, soil, blackberry, black raspberry & licorice. What immediately struck me about the palate was the vibrant acid, it was so fresh & lively. Flavors of blackberry liqueur, spice & star anise led into firm tannins. I wish I had a few more bottles of this because it will continue to develop nicely.

Next was the 2002. The core was purple colored leaning to a ruby-pink rim. The nose displayed fig, blueberry, raspberry & milk chocolate. On the palate were firm grained tannins, light dustiness, flavors of cocoa powder, raspberry & tannins that hit the hard palate on the roof of my mouth.

The 2003 held a darker color than the 2002. Aromas of dark chocolate covered raspberry with smoke & red currant leaped out of the glass. The palate was tight & needs time to develop. Aromas of fresh red fruit was slightly diminished but there was evidence of a great wine that just needed some bottle age.

Last but not least (thanks to Richie & Meagan) was the 2004. The color was slightly more translucent than the 2003, almost a pure ruby color. The nose was very elegant with light cinnamon, lavender, rosemary, fennel & brown sugar. A fresh bright acid, reminiscent of the 01, drove a palate that was drier than the 02 or 03. Flavors of licorice, pretty red & black fruit drifted on a long finish that goes on & on. Wow.

Overall it was an eye opening experience. Throughout their subtle differences the family resemblance & terroir of Geyserville was evident. I hope I get to participate in many more vertical tastings.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Winter Wines

Check out my latest article. Winter is my favorite season, and I'm so glad we are actually getting one this year. Of course, the moment I say that it will turn to 70 degrees and humid. No such thing as global warming??????????

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Bicycle Built for Two

I recently tasted a few wines from Tandem Winery at Star Distributor's holiday trade show. The standout was the 2004 Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir. The first thing that struck me was the beautifully translucent ruby color. It is exactly the way a good pinot should look. I've grown a bit weary of pinot noirs that are overly aggressive and almost syrah-like. What struck me next was the lively aromas of clove & cinnamon. I know those aren't classic aromas, but they were so intoxicating. Those spice aromas led straight into a luscious textured palate that covered my mouth in velvet. I can't wait to taste it again.

Cuckoo for Aussies

Check out my latest article here. Dan Phillips is a bit intense, and his responses show just that. Ego is one thing, but C'MON!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Viva Espana

Passion is not confined to certain parts of the country, or the world for that matter. I grew up in a very small town in Illinois. Wine was on the table, yes, but it didn't play a bigger role than the food did. It was just there, much like salt a pepper. I can remember my grandmother, Ta, bringing wine home from Spain. Specifically the Torres Sangre de Toro, which is widely available all over the country. But back then it was exotic. I can remember just staring at the bottle, and the little black bull hanging from the neck. It was just simply the most mesmerizing thing I had ever seen. This bottle, and the wine inside, was actually from another part of the world. A place where I would grow up to eventually see, but at the time it was a place I could only imagine. I felt a connection to Spain, and the wine. Ta would talk about Spain as if it were a relative. The country played a role in the stories of family, memories that she gathered over a lifetime. Invariably this storytelling time would revolve around a meal she was preparing for us, the food nurturing our bellies and the words nurturing our hearts. Maybe that is why Sangre de Toro will always have a special place in my heart. Every time I see the bottle I think of Ta. Every time I hold the bull in my hand I think of my Spain.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Beef Carpaccio

I absolutely love Beef Carpaccio. It is a perfect meal for meat lovers in this triple digit heat. Kelly thinks that I make the best Beef Carpaccio in the world. I won't argue :)

First, I start with the best quality beef I can find. Normally I would go to Charlie's Meat Market, 4790 Summer Avenue 38122. They have a great selection, excellent quality and a true "butcher" atmosphere. However, with Sunday being my only day off I went to Fresh Market. I've experimented with a number of different cuts of meat for this recipe such as tenderloin and sirloin, but I've found that strip steak works the best. It has the most flavor and best texture and mouthfeel.

Next, I coat the steak with a heavy blend of sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. If you've had the steak in the fridge for sometime, let it come to room temperature before searing. Get a medium-sized skillet SCREAMING hot. Add enough olive oil to barely coat the pan and place in the steaks. After 2 minutes check them, if there is a nice brown crust flip them over. After both sides are crusty and brown place both of the steaks on a plate and in the freezer for 5 minutes. Placing the meat in the freezer makes it firm up and cool down quickly. Take the steaks out and slice them into 1/4 inch slices. Place them on a sheet of plastic wrap and cover with another sheet. Using a rolling pin (or empty wine bottle which is what I normally use), bash the hell out of the meat until it is very thin. Arrange the thin steak on a serving platter. In a mixing bowl, toss one package of pre-rinsed baby spinach or arugula with the juice of half a lemon. Drizzle the beef with truffle oil, scatter with coarse sea salt (I prefer Maldon, which you can buy at Mantia's, 4856 Poplar Ave. 38117, along with the truffle oil), top with spinach and shaved Parmiggiano-Reggiano. I like to use a vegetable peeler to get nice cheese shavings of the block of Parmiggiano. The best accompaniment with the Carpaccio is thick slices of grilled rustic Italian or French bread.

To pair with the Carpaccio I poured a 2002 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, Argentina. The supple tannins and sweet black fruit paired nicely with the earthiness of the beef and truffle. The full body and nice acidity cut through the texture of the beef. Delicious.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sunday is For Eating & Drinking

It never ceases to amaze me how much my friends and I love to cook great food and pair it with great wine. This past Sunday, Patrick, Sabrina and I got together to cook, drink wine and talk about what pairs best with what wine. As we like to do, we allowed what was fresh and beautiful to influence what our meal would be. Everything except for the proteins. Patrick was curious to know how a pork roast would pair with a 1997 Felsina Chianti Classico he had. And I wanted to see how my 2002 Shea Wine Cellars Shea Estate Pinot Noir would do up against a roast duck. These two meats obviously needed some overnight treatments. My duck laid in a brine of water, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, peppercorns, star anise and a dash of balsamic vinegar. This overnight bath helped to tenderize and impart good flavor. Patrick nestled his pork loin in a dry spice rub, garlic and olive oil. At Fresh Market Sabrina found beautiful shrimp, bay scallops and crab for a luscious seafood bisque to pair with a 2006 Zaca Mesa Viognier.

We started off with a mixed olive tapenade that I prepared at home and spread on crisp homemade crostini. This paired harmoniously with a 2005 Cantina Del Taburno Falanghina. The brininess of the olive and sharpness of the garlic contrasted nicely with the minerality and bright fruit and acidity of the wine. Next was super fresh salad of avocado, mixed greens and fresh pink grapefruit. Gracias Sabrina. This zippy salad paired amazingly well with the 2005 Alois Kracher Pinot Gris. I've never had a botrytis affected pinot gris, my concept of what a pinot gris can be is now truly changed forever. Everyone in Memphis should taste this wine.
Next was the seafood bisque and Zaca Mesa Viognier. The wine was a cool pale silver-gold hue with a nose of apricot and rosehip tea. The fresh oily texture, creaminess and apricot fruit paired wonderfully with the creamy richness of the soup. The sweet crab and scallops brought out more fruit and acidity in the wine. Lovely.
We retrieved the duck from the oven, nicely browned and crisp and perfectly done. The Shea Pinot Noir that I paired with it still seemed too young. Even though I wished it was ready to drink, it does mean that Oregon can produce serious, age-worthy pinot noir. It had a deep ruby-purple color with a nose of fennel, licorice and black cherry. The palate of black fruit, olive and bright full acidity cut through the richness of the duck and played off its gaminess. I re-tasted it with the olive tapenade and it was stunning together, an explosion of olive!
The '97 Felsina and Patrick's beautifully roasted pork loin was heavenly. The herb and smokiness of the pork and its hit of garlic blended seamlessly with the flavors and supple textures of the perfectly aged Chianti Classico. The varied terroirs throughout Italy produce such beautiful wines that can't be reproduced anywhere else in the world. The meal and wine was incredible. I don't think I ate again for a few days.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Riesling Like Never Before

I've tasted the future and it's Austrian Riesling. The 2005 Stadt Krems Steinterrassen Riesling is amazing. The acidity is mouthwatering with an exceptional hit of limestone minerality. The aromas pack white peach, nectarine, apricot and chalky limestone all together with a hit of green herb, smoke and petrol. The finish is fresh and bright and lasts for what seems like hours. I would love to taste this wine with some yellowtail or tuna ceviche or sashimi with a bright citrus element. Wow! The wine does need a few minutes to allow the alcohol to blow off and balance out. Other than that, it's practically the perfect wine. Especially in this ungodly Memphis heat.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Best Champagne in the World

My friends Sabrina and Patrick recently purchased a bottle of 1988 Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill Cuvee Champagne. It was quite a rare find at a local wine shop. I'm not telling you which one because I'm going to go purchase the last few bottles from them. I know, I'm being selfish. I was lucky enough to be with them when they chose to open it.

It was truly stunning. This was one of the rare wines that brought tears to my eyes. In a good way. An overwhelming feeling of elation poured over me as I took in the complex flavors and textures. The color was pure golden straw. On the nose I found brioche toast with orange marmalade, dried apricots and golden raspberry. The palate exhibited a creamy mousse with bright dried citrus peel, kettle corn and dried apricot.

What was truly impressive was the versatility of this wine. We tried it with olives, various cheeses (suprisingly enough it didn't work with the triple cream cheese), and even smoked duck. It transformed into something different to handle each different dish. Amazing.

Austrian Food and Wine Pairing Event

Event: Food and Wine pairing featuring the wines of Austria with Joe's Wines and VinDivino Imports National Sales Manager Anne Zakin

Location: Tsunami, 928 S. Cooper, 901.274.2556

Date: Monday August 27 6:30 pm

Cost: $40 per person

Info: The racy and vibrant wines of Austria will be paired with Chef Ben Smith's innovative Pacific Rim cuisine. The ripe fruit and eye-popping acidity of Austrian wines are a perfect match for the bold and clean flavors that Chef Smith's kitchen creates. To purchase tickets call Joe's Wines 901.725.4252 or stop by the store at 1681 Poplar in Midtown.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Off to Louisville

I'm off to Louisville, KY this Wednesday for a little fun with Kelly. We are staying with our very good friends Paula and Doug. I just want to eat good food, drink good wine and shop a little. Does anybody have any suggestions on where I should go????

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Tattooed Sommelier

It never ceases to amaze me how varied in appearance, socioeconomic background and culture the wine drinker can be. I myself have 4 tattoos (including one large one on my back); that doesn't really fit the stereotype for the typical wine drinker. That is the beauty of the wine world as it is today. People from all walks of life are drinking and learning and yearning to learn more about wine. There is a wine for each and every person out there. Wine drinkers cross all boundaries. That makes it so much more fun.

Except for the occasional pompous "wine ass", but those people aren't wine lovers truly. They love the status dropping names like Petrus or some other boring, tired old First Growth gives them. Or so they think. True wine lovers are explorers, they are curious, they are experimenters, they are hunters hunting that perfect bottle. The hunt can be exhilarating, especially when it ends with scoring a truly exceptional bottle.

Cork dorks know a comrade when they see one. The dead giveaway is the twinkling eyes while salivating over a gruner veltliner, nero d'avola or cortese. It's not about the next best thing, it's about exploration. We are not a trendy group. We're just unpretentious and unprejudiced when it comes to a wine's origin.

We are all tattooed by what bonds us. Some tattoos just aren't visible.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

VinDiVino Tasting in Chicago pt 1

Sorry that I've been away from blogging. Kelly and I made the jump and decided to adopt a new puppy. The house has felt so empty since Otis' passing and Hank was getting lonely. So we adopted a brother and sister from the Humane Society. More on that later.

Recently, I was lucky enough to go to the annual Vin diVino Grand Tasting in Chicago. All the winemakers were there pouring their incredible (yet way too young concerning the reds) wines. Enrica Scavino, Peter Zemmer, Franz Hertzberger (be still my heart), Kerstin Klamm and Gerhard Kracher to name a few.

Austria is the future. I'm telling you right now. The wines I tasted up in Chicago were the most pure, vibrant, racy, lively, honest and expressive of place that I've ever experienced. The minerality and acidity were spine-tingling. I truly was amazed. Kerstin Klamm of Domane Wachau was the first person I spoke with. As she was pouring her beautiful rieslings and gruner veltliners she explained the differences in the '05 and '06 vintages. She also led me on a virtual tour of the Domane's vineyard sites in the Wachau region. I immediately wanted to book a trip to Austria. Kerstin was very friendly and very informative. But the star was her wine. The 2006 Federspiel Gruner Veltliner is astounding in it's raciness, purity, crisp fruit and staying power. I popped open another bottle that I brought home from Joe's (1681 Poplar, 725.4252), and I was shocked at how it got better as the glass warmed up. Never once did I detect the alcohol even when the wine was room temperature.

It took every ounce of my willpower not to make a beeline for Kracher's table the moment I walked in. Kracher makes life altering dessert wines unlike anything I've ever tasted. Much to my surprise Gerhard makes a dry pinot gris and rose of zweigelt (brush up on your Austrian grapes because they are coming on strong). The '05 pinot gris was drinking beautifully with crisp acid and lovely textures. Unfortunately, I think the '06 was suffering from bottle shock. Gerhard brought it with him from Austria so it traveled quite a bit. However, once it does settle into itself it will drink beautifully. I did have to pull myself away from the table to taste more of the dry style wines. Otherwise, I would have blown my palate by diving into the stickies.

Another surprising Austrian winery was Umathum. Their dry muskat was simply a stunner. The aromas were of traditional muscat (floral, sweet fruit, candied ginger) but the wine itself was bone dry and razor sharp. It does have a hint of sweetness in the mid-palate but the prickly acidity washes it away on the finish. Incredible.
Austria is the future of wine.

Monday, June 04, 2007

A Night at the Carova Milk Bar

It had been a long while since the Carova Milk Bar had convened. Too long in fact. Michael Barar, the world renowned viola player, requested that we meet to sip and dish at Casa de Richie and Meagan. The lineup was positively drool worthy:

  1. Canella NV Brut Rose of Pinot Noir
  2. Clos des Lambrays Domaine des Lambrays Morey St Denis 2001
  3. I Giusti e Zanza Belcore Toscana 2000
  4. Loring Wine Cellars Hungry Like the Llama 2005 Pinot Noir
  5. Dunham Cellars 2003 Columbia Valley Syrah
  6. Mitolo Jester 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon McLaren Vale
The Canella had a beautiful onion skin color, a toasty strawberry and raspberry nose with a crisp, light slightly creamy finish that lingered on the palate with good acidity.

Red Burgundy. What can I say that hasn't already been said? It's center was ruby with light brick rim. On the nose I found fennel, lavender, unripe cherry, tarragon and earth. The palate!! Silky, supple, cherry and earth carry over from the nose, balanced acidity velvety tannins, almost no alcohol detectable, and beautiful balance. The elegance and minerality was amazing. I wrote in my notes "I can smell the plot of land this was grown on". Amazing.

Italian wines are so unique to me. The Belcore's color was a deep purple with a nose of chocolate, plum, berries, anise, earth and olive. On the palate the chocolate carries over and with it a medium body, firm tannins and the earthiness from the nose. The texture is the true star of this wine. It is soft suede and a firm ocean breeze.

The Loring Pinot Noir had a ruby color and a very new world new barrel funk of licorice, green pepper, toasted oak and hints of smoke. The palate was all cola, hazelnut, black cherry and rhubarb. It was so far from being ready to drink with huge tannins, large fruit and no secondary characteristics. But, I could discern that this wine will be incredible in about 5-10 years.

Washington is, in my opinion, producing some of the best red wine in the world. Particularly with syrah and merlot. The Dunham had a dark purple center and a ruby rim. The nose was bright with blueberry, blackberry, nutmeg, star anise, hoisin and white pepper. It was elegant and masculine at the same with beautiful textures and distinct aging potential.

And lastly we come to the Aussie, a big ass 2006 Cab from the McLaren Vale district. The nose was pure eucalyptus, menthol and chocolate. On the palate I found chocolate, mint and raspberries; but no earthiness. I was disappointed by the lack of a mid-palate, unfortunately. But quite honestly, this wine could get better if given time. Maybe.

All in all, a very fun and educational meeting of the Carova Milk Bar. Thanks Richie, Meagan, Michael, Jenn and Anna!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cooking for the Soul

Nothing makes me feel better than cooking a good meal. Especially when combined with good friends and great wine. When I need to fill up my home, and make it feel less lonely, the scent of sauteing garlic or the texture of raw beef in my hands does just that. This past Sunday Sabrina and I got together for a little culinary therapy. We decided not to have any preconceived ideas of what to prepare and allowed what was fresh and beautiful at the market to inspire us. That inspiration came in the form of fresh rapini, fresh morels and a beautiful NY Strip. I wish I had pictures. We salted and peppered the steaks and drizzled with olive oil. Next we grilled them rare and let them rest while we prepared the morel sauce. Sabrina reduced some veal stock and cream sherry until it was rich and concentrated. To that she added the diced morels and let them braise for a bit until their earthy flavor was permeating the liquid. As if that wasn't enough, we poured in some cream to enrich the sauce.

A dish as rich, earthy and hearty needs a wine that can stand right up to it. We opened my last 2002 Morgan Gary's Vineyard Pinot Noir and a 2003 Justin Justification. The pinot was drinking beautifully, it was silky in texture with balanced acids and absolutely no hint of alcohol. The Justin still needed time, it was still brimming with stewed fruit and fuller tannins. No secondary or tertiary aromas and flavors had developed yet. The Justin winery stated that this particular bottle should be drunk now. I should have known that they were referring to the American palate, which likes young, fruity and tannic wines. Lesson learned.

Nights like these are what are helping me get through this incredibly difficult time. Wine and food are emotions. Each sip and each bite are a celebration of Otis' life.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In Memory of Otis

I've lost my best friend. Recently, I had to endure the tragedy of having to put my dog Otis to sleep. I miss him more than I can verbalize. He was only 9 years old and should have had much more time in this world. I miss him so much. This house of ours seems painfully empty. There will never be another soul like him. I miss him. He was loved so dearly. I loved him with all my heart. This world is worse off without him.

I miss you so much Otis. We'll never, ever forget you. Every glass of wine I raise will be to you. Every crumb I drop on the floor when preparing a meal will be for you.

I miss you.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Paradise Ridge @ the Blue Fish

Date: Tuesday, May 1

Place: The Blue Fish, corner of Cooper and Young,

Time: 5-9?

Details: The owner of Paradise Ridge winery will be on hand during dinner service to interact with guests regarding their wonderful Russian River Valley wines.

I do enjoy these wines, they are worth checking out. I do however think that the Cabernet Sauvignon is not something to drink alone. It's drinking partner should be a well marbled steak. On its own it is too big for the mouth.

The Times

There is a fantastic article in the Times today click here. I love how Alice Feiring connects people and wine. Towards the end of it, I won't ruin it for the reader, she makes recommendations on what to drink with what type of person. The article is touching and well written. I found a sister in obsession when she says that her "170 bottles weren't nearly enough. I would feel comfortable with about 1,500."

Peoples lives are so interconnected, we affect each other in positive and negative ways. Hopefully with the right wine we can affect one another more positively.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Wine is

Wine tastes better with friends. It is more of everything I could ever wish it to be. Simplicity becomes complexity. Fruit becomes fresh picked and sensual. Textures turn to silk, velvet and leather. My heart swells on a wave of tannin and acidity. I love the way wine tastes when I'm tasting with someone I love. Love makes me want to share. When those that I love are in my home, I want to share the beauty of bottles with them. I want to let loose the songs that grapes have to sing. Our souls yearn for what wine can give them. We welcome it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Recent Vino

I've had some quite amazing wines recently, that I have never had before. Lucky me, right?

Gruet Demi-Sec NV, New Mexico:
nose: light toastiness, yeasty, brioche french toast with plum preserves
palate: lightly fruity, crisp white cranberry, acidity is evident but soft

I was very pleasantly surprised with this sparkler. The winery was founded by two Champenoise, don't ask me why they settled on New Mexico. I think the term Demi-sec will be misleading to some because of its low amount of residual sugar (only 2.5g/l). To me it was less sweet than Moet's White Star.

Coturri Lost Creek Vineyard Yorkville Highlands Pinot Noir 2001:
nose: hazelnut, mixed wild berry compote, lavender, crushed fresh dirt
palate: hazelnut carries over, wild blackberry, earth, pomegranate molasses, sour cherry

Coturri never ceases to blow my mind and take my palate for a roller coaster ride. We had just drank '98 Nuits St Georges before this, what an amazing contrast. To me, drinking Coturri wines is like drinking wine made one hundred years ago. They are non-interventionists.

Feudi di San Gregorio Piano di Monte Vergine 1999:
nose: black currant, vanilla, light balsamic, dried rosemary, black raspberry and blueberry
palate: full mouthfeel with lively ripe tannins, big, brawny, earthy and voluptuous

Kelly summed this up perfectly by saying "this is exactly the kind of wine I like. I don't like my wine to hide".

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dishing at Dish

Just returned from Dish, and I wasn't thrilled with the service. It wasn't terrible, just not very present. The server acted as if we were an inconvenience as opposed to guests. All I'm asking for is awareness, presence and a bit of care. If you don't like your job-quit! If he was having a bad day, he needs to just suck it up and give good service. You can't bring outside baggage to your job. It is counterproductive.

I'm sure I'll still go back because I look the food and the patio. Maybe our server will be in a better mood. We'll be sure to sit in another person's section next time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wonders of Washington

I went to a tasting of Chateau Ste Michelle wines last night and was yet again very pleased with the quality. The Columbia Valley designated wines were the best in my opinion. At their price point they offered the best quality and level of interest. It's been said over and over but it's true, Merlot and Syrah are the two star grapes of Washington.

My favorites of the night were:

Ste Michelle Dry Riesling: New to the market. Light silver color with aromas of peach, mandarin orange and jasmine. The vibrant acidity elevates the nectarine and peach flavors and washes away what little residual sugar there is. The fruit hits in the mid palate and the wine finishes dry. Light stoniness is evident. Lovely.

Ste Michelle Horse Heaven Sauvignon Blanc: Pale straw color with aromas of lemon peel, lime and light stone. Slightly creamy on the palate which leads into bright acid. The finish lingers with lemon and grapefruit. Pair with meaty/flaky grilled fish with a grapefruit salsa.

Ste Michelle Rose (95% Syrah, 3% Mourvedre 2% Viognier): Bright pink/purple color with a nose of mixed berries and light hints of cinnamon/clove. The fruit hits sweet on the palate and lingers but the acidity is high enough as to wash that all away and keeps it from being cloying. Full bodied for a rose. Pair with grilled chicken.

Stella Maris Red "Star of the Sea": Dark purple color with aromas of spice, dark fruits and leather. The black fruits carry over to the palate along with dried meat and spices. The tannins are evident and balanced. Very plush. Fantastic. Worth every penny of the $30 price tag. Pair with grilled lamb or beef, and dried meat (Jamon Serrano, Breasola, Speck).

The Snoqualmie line of wines were insipid and hollow. But what can be expected for their under $10 price?

Ste Michelle Estates produces excellent wines. Seek them out. The good news is that they are readily available and affordable.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Can't Live Without (culinary edition)

Things I can't live without:

  1. Henckels Santoku Chef's Knife
  2. Butcher Block cutting board
  3. Garlic
  4. Champagne/Sparkling Wine
  5. Syrah
  6. Red cast-iron Dutch Oven
  7. Olive Oil
  8. Spiegelau wine glasses
  9. Chefmate wine fridge
  10. Onions
  11. Stainless steel skillet
  12. Cheese
  13. Chocolate
  14. Pomegranate Molasses
  15. Vinegar (balsamic, red wine, etc.)
  16. Tokaji
  17. Puff pastry
  18. Dried cherries
  19. Beef
  20. Lamb
  21. Duck
  22. Scallops
  23. Clams
  24. Saffron
  25. Rice
  26. Maldon Sea Salt
  27. Tuna
  28. Nuts
  29. Chateauneuf-du Pape
  30. Gas Stove
This list could go on and on, but I think it's starting to get out of control.

What can't you live without?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Family Dinner pt 2.

Angela and Mick came over for dinner Sunday night. I decided that a mix of fussy and comfort was in order. We hadn't seen them in 3 years so I thought that something special was just right. I began by making a paste of fresh thyme, fresh garlic, olive oil, Au Bon Climat Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir, salt & pepper. I took this paste and rubbed it all over 2 beautiful NY Strip Steaks, letting them sit for over 2 hours. With the steaks, I prepared a dutch oven full of fresh cauliflower, onion, garlic, thyme, cream, white wine and stock. This casserole roasted away for roughly an hour. Next was the salad, simple one of fresh baby spinach and a balsamic-pomegranate vinaigrette.

Kelly had just purchased a new tv and rug for the living room, so we obviously were waiting to show that off.

They arrived, finally. We quickly realized that it had been almost 3 years since we had seen each other last. Instantly we vowed never to let that much time pass before getting together again. I had a small cheese and olive plate prepared to snack on while dinner was being prepared. Two of my favorite cheeses, Croutin du Chavignol (an aged mold ripened french goat cheese) and young Manchego ( a Spanish sheep's milk cheese) and mixed Italian olives were the snack. Both the cheeses and the olives paired wonderfully with the Alfred Gratien NV Epernay Champagne that we popped open. The creamy mousse of the Champagne and its crispness paired beautifully with the cheeses. The salty olives elevated the fruit in the bubbly.

After pulling the steaks off the grill and slicing them up, beautifully rare, it was time for dinner. The cauliflower was tender and rich, a perfect contrast to the earthiness of the beef. With it we drank a bottle of 1999 Selvamaggio Cabernet Sauvignon from Tuscany. Seek this bottle out, Neil Empson Selections.

Dessert was a puff pastry tartlet filled with roasted pears, Bleu d'Auvergne cheese, toasted walnuts and honey. My theory was that it would pair perfectly with a late Harvest Muscat from Foris. My theory proved correct, the honeyed nectar-like sweetness was a perfect match for the pairs and contrasted the saltiness of the cheese. The acidity in the wine cut right through the richness of the cheese as well. Even Kelly liked it and he despises dessert wines. All the more for me.

All in all it was a lovely evening. I can't wait to see Angela and Mick again. I missed how Angela can laugh so hard that she makes herself cry. The food and wine was a catalyst for the laughter.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Family Dinner

Kelly has invited some friends over for dinner this Sunday and I'm contemplating what to cook. Sometimes I attempt something a bit elaborate and fussy, but this time I think it will be different. It's finally winter, my favorite season, and this season makes me want to prepare meals that wrap themselves around you. Sometimes elaborate food is no match for the warmth and comfort of a roast chicken with crisp and tender oven kissed vegetables. The whole process is enlivening. From the readying of the chicken for the oven, to the scents that drive spikes of memory into my entire being, to the succulent end product. Nothing says welcome to my home better than that.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Dance

I've just returned from seeing a performance by Ballet Memphis. They are some of the most talented and inspiring artists I've ever seen. We are truly lucky to have creativity of this caliber in our city. What does dance have to do with wine and food? Well, creativity in every realm inspires us to think greater things and to think more creatively in our own industry. Sitting there watching these beautiful bodies sculpt a piece of art through movement inspired me to think of wine in many different ways. It made me think of the the ballet that winemakers dance with their grapes when creating a cuvee. It made me think of the dance that wine performs with food. And it made me think of how moved I can be by a truly special bottle of wine.

I will continue to support Ballet Memphis and I hope that the rest of the city of Memphis does as well. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Just got back from a great meal at Umai, the new asian-french fusion restaurant in the old On Teur space on Madison Ave. I searched for their website but I guess they do not have one. The space is cool and hip in a Japanese grafitti/New York vibe kind of way. The music was way too loud but it's Midtown so I guess that's expected. My friend Jeff and I split the Spinach Gyoza stuffed with a mushroom duxelle, the poached cod over choi sam in carrot curry broth and the lobster dumplings. The standout was without a doubt the Gyoza. They were moist and just firm enough with a big mushroom flavor that was cut with soy. Perfectly done. The cod was buttery and an excellent contrast to the char on the choi sam and the spice in the curry broth. The carrot's sweetness wonderfully counterbalanced the heat in the curry. The wine list was small but nicely complimented the menu and decor. Prices were good and so were the portions. Not too big not too small. They got busy towards the end of our meal, which was nice to see. Everything about this place, from the asian newspaper wallpaper in the bathroom to the warm wood bar tables and bamboo wall design, makes me want it to succeed. Check it out!

Sunday, February 04, 2007


I'm watching "Mondovino" for what seems like the 15th time. This documentary is absolutely enthralling, moving, informative and entertaining. However, for some reason my subtitles aren't working so I have to watch it without. Most of the movie is in either French or Italian. But there is something about wine that transcends language. Yes I may not understand what these people are saying but I can feel what they are trying to convey. The scenery is incredible, the passion of these people is palpable. Why is it that grapes can only be grown in the most beautiful places in the world? Wine isn't just a beverage it's a food, it isn't just a food it's a philosophy. With that philosophy we can bridge differences in culture and language. I truly believe that wine and food is one of the most powerful forces on earth.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Keep to yourself

I just got back from a pretty rough dining experience. Kelly and I went to Bari for a nice Italian meal. Bari is always wonderful and I will continue to go there. However, we neglected to ask to be sat in the non-obnoxious asshole section. Not 10 minutes into our dinner we were already annoyed by how loud and grating the table next to us was. These grown adults (all above 60, or at least looked it) behaved like children. One nasty little fur-laden lady yipped about an experience at the plastic surgeon (she obviously ordered the wrong procedure) before launching into how to cheat the political primaries. Across the table her dining partner went on and on about dressing his daugther up like a tramp for some dance number they were to perform in front of his friends. Ick. They then followed us into the bar (where we attempted to escape them) and continued to terrorize us and the poor innocent bar patrons. Two women actually left the bar to sit outside in the cold while they finished their wine, just to escape these excruciating individuals. Uggh.

The moral of this story is keep to yourself when dining out. Don't allow your bullshit to spill over to other tables.