I feel so bad for employees of restaurants whose a/c is on the fritz in the DEAD of Memphis summer. Kelly & I enjoyed an evening out at Encore with our friends Jennifer & Charlie Lowe. It was a bit stuffy due to the troubled a/c. Needless to say we were sucking down ice water like crazy. In the past I had been very, very disappointed by the wine selections at Encore but this time I was pleased to find some interesting quality selections. It seems as though they are paying more attention to the wine selections which is nice to see. I had a glass of 2006 Kracher Pinot Gris from Austria, an outstanding thirst quencher in the sticky heat. Jen had the lobster stuffed scallops that were succulent & delicious. Kelly dined on the mushroom ravioli which he absolutely loved as well as the blood orange cocktail. "I could drink 3 of these!" he said. My dishes were very good as well. I enjoyed the crab & lobster corn chowder, much to the amazement of my dining companions. "It's summer!" I love soup so I don't care what season it is. My next dish was the tuna tartare on potato gallettes with wasabi aioli. All of which were fantastic.
Richie & I watched a video project about the history of the Washington State wine growing regions on Tuesday. Of course we had to drink some WA state wines. Both of us are big fans of WA syrah & we both believe that grape is the star of WA (along with merlot). Richie was kind enough to pop open his 2002 McCrea Cellars Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Syrah while I brought along my 2004 SYZYGY Columbia Valley Syrah. We decanted both knowing that they both were brawny & needed a little development time. The SYZYGY had a spicy, smoky, meaty aroma mixed with blueberry & blackberry jam. On the palate were flavors of pomegranante, blueberry, smoke, clove & fennel. The McCrea was a bit odd & closed down at first & seemed hot. After 10 - 15 minutes in the decanter it blossomed into a "iron fist in a velvet glove". It had power but didn't hammer away at my palate, more like caressed it. The texture was sensual & velvety with flavors of dried game meat, dried blueberry, black cherry jam & smoke. The finish sailed on & on & on......& on. Over 3 hours both wines continued to develop & never seemed to let up. That is a true testament to the quality & aging potential of a great WA state wine.
Wow. I have been a fan of Lachini wines for some time now & I always look forward to trying something from them that I haven't had or haven't had in awhile. The 2007 pinot gris was just released, therefore you should find it out in the Memphis market. Obviously, I got my bottle at Joe's in Midtown. The first thing I noticed was the vinolok enclosure. Glass stoppers are not only esthetically pleasing but they also serve their purpose. Much better than cork & in a prettier fashion than screwcaps. The wine's color is this sleek silver tone. On the nose I found aromas of apricot, white peach & chalk. The palate is round, supple, bouncing with acidity & very full...but not overtly heavy & in no way flabby. Try this bad boy out, it is one of those perfect summer wines!
In typical fashion, last night's blind tasting was humbling for its participants. Every time we blind taste we always say how we need to do it more often. I chose the theme & wines this time, so I didn't get to fully participate. I wanted to pick a lineup that would be of good quality & maybe a little unexpected without being too esoteric.
Piazzano Rio Camerata 2005 Chianti $17.99
Colognole 2003 Chianti Rufina $17.99
La Valentina Montepulcianod'Abruzzo 2005 Abruzzo $17.99
River Aerie Sangiovese 2006 Columbia Valley, WA $19.99
As you can see, my theme was sangiovese. I threw the montepulciano in there because it is related to sangiovese, a quite close relative actually. To me it would have been a ringer or melded in perfectly. Thankfully it was the latter. I was surprised at the River Aerie, I've enjoyed it in the past but up against the Italians it just fell flat & had almost no personality. The quality was there but it "didn't speak of its place" as everyone quite poignantly pointed out. Everyone seemed to be going towards the Rhone throughout the tasting. Once I poured the Brunello it shored that hypothesis up for everyone even more because of the its heavy brettbarnyardiness. They were quite surprised to see that they were all sangiovese instead. That Coldisole was sooooo deliciously dark, rich, vibrant & complex. It is worth every penny, truly.
This goes to show that you may think you know a grape but tasting blind will make you realize that you don't.
Last night Kelly & I had a lovely dinner at Kristi & Warner's house. To start the evening we had these interesting little things to the right which are wild hibiscus flowers in hibiscus syrup. We dropped a flower & a little syrup into the bottom of champagne flutes & filled them up with Louis Perdrier Rose Brut NV sparkling wine from France. Both the flowers & the bubbly were a gift from our friends Justin & Amy (thanks Justin & Amy!) The syrup just slightly sweetened the bubbly enough to be refreshing & fruity. The flowers themselves had the consistency of dried fruit or fruit roll ups. They are a bit addictive once you've popped one in your mouth. Next we had a bottle of Smith Madrone Riesling 2005 Spring Mountain, Napa Valley. I've been curious how this wine has developed over the years. When I first had it the wine was linear & bright with lots of acidity & peach, meyer lemon flavors. This bottle could have been aged for another few years! It was still very bright with notes of slate & dried lemon & lots of vibrant acidity. We enjoyed a salad that the lovely Mez brought over of spinach, strawberries, almonds, red onion, dried cranberries & blueberries, Laura Chenel Herb Chevre & an organic raspberry vinaigrette. It was perfectly fresh, light & delicious. Kristi's main course consisted of tamarind marinated
shrimp with brown jasmine rice, fresh peppers, celery, onions & garlic in a coconut ginger broth. The dish had a mild heat with a creamy texture & super aromatic spice....Yummmmmm! Our next bottle of wine was Torre Muga 1998 Rioja, yet another bottle I've been curious about. Obviously I've been cellaring this one almost too well because of its youthful weight & texture. It was still bold & dark & had only slightly softened from the first time I had it years ago. It was at first very new world in style with dark ripe fruit on the nose & palate that spread out & became earthy & spicy. What a hell of a finish on this thing, Wow! This wine could have lasted another 3-5 years at least even though it was oh so delicious now. For dessert Kristi grilled fresh peaches with rosemary & salt & topped them with vanilla cream & balsamic vinegar. The balsamic was a perfect touch adding a tangy sweetness to the luscious texture of the fruit & cream. That was fun!
I love a good pinotnoir. I haven't been drinking much of it lately due to both price escalation & a kind of boredom of the varietal. It seems we are inundated with pinot after pinot, a veritable sea of bland juice. But there are still many great wines made from this so-called "heartbreak" grape. Case in point, SiduriSonoma Coast 2006. At $30 a bottle this isn't necessarily an inexpensive wine but then again, its all relative. Not to mention that you get what you pay for. Good wine is like good food, sometimes it costs a bit but almost always its worth it.
The first thing I noticed about this wine is its elegantly translucent color. Some people might call it pale, especially compared to the hedonistic ripe fruit bombs of Santa Lucia Highlands or Sta Rita Hills. There is a smoky sultry quality on the nose, but still dialed back enough that it isn't overwhelming. The nose gives aromas of dark cherry, smoke, cardamom & hints of tea & earth. When the first sip of a wine makes me close my eyes & blocks out my surroundings, wow! That speaks volumes. The palate shows a sensually silky texture, a round smoothness, acidity that is just bright enough to elevate the strawberry, black cherry & cola flavors. This is a truly exceptional wine that is drinking surprisingly well for its youth. Drink up!
I'm sipping on one of the most stunning white wines ever produced. I've had the StadtKremsSandgrubeGrunerVeltliner 2006 Kremstal, Austria many times, but it just never ceases to truly amaze me. This pure, concentrated, ripe white has layers of white pepper spice, peach, apricot, minerality & acidity. It is simply stunning. Which makes it all the more tragic that the Sandgrube vineyard in Kremstal was obliterated by hail in late 2007. The vineyard has been replanted but it won't be producing for at least another 5 years. But how can these newly planted vines ever reproduce the magic that the old vines so liberally displayed? Each sip of this sublime wine almost makes me cry thinking of how I'm drinking history & helping this beautiful thing along to extinction. But its too delicious to stop.
Restaurant Iris has changed their tasting menu & it is absolutely delicious! Chef Kelly English continues to prove that he is one of the most talented chefs in Memphis. To be honest, I just returned from Manhattan & I think he is just as talented as anyone working up their now. He has a way with ingredients that showcases & emphasizes their simple purity while also putting his stamp on them... in an elegantly delicious way. The new tasting or "degustation" menu has a bright tomato "caprese"-style salad with fresh local tomatoes marinated in sherry vinegar, house made mozzarella & balsamic syrup. Jeffrey Frisby has paired this course with a sauvignonblanc from the Stellenbosch district of South Africa. The next course is a foiegras terrine with watermelon pickles. Then they are offering a scallop "latte" in a creamy, savory truffle broth. The main course is a lamb loin with a vincotto glaze, grilled peaches with feta & a parsley pursulade (sp?)
Restaurant Iris is a welcome addition to the Memphis dining scene that is sure to continue to wow us in a comfortable & elegant fashion.