When I crave a good glass of white I normally will not reach for chardonnay. I've had some that are quite exceptional but unfortunately most have tended to be from California, which are too big & viscous for my palate, or from France, which decent one in Memphis tend to be too pricey. However, one of my favorite importers, Bourgeois Family Selections, brings in a delightful wine from the Macon district of Burgundy that is absolutely delicious. The thing to remember is that I'm not tasting chardonnay so much as I'm tasting Macon. I'm tasting the plot of land this wine was grown on. It's round & lush without being heavy. The acidity is quite bright & leaves a clean feeling in the mouth. Fruit is evident such as pear & apple but there's also spice too which keeps it interesting. Domaine des Gerbeaux Macon Solutre $21.99. Grab a bottle & try to stifle some of that awful summer heat & humidity
We finally ate at Sweetgrass the Carolina low country style restaurant that opened a few months ago in the Cooper-Young 'hood of Memphis. The C-Y is brimming with great eats; Tsunami, Beauty Shop, DO Sushi so Sweetgrass really had to bring it if they wanted to keep up with these wonderful restaurants. The decor is very minimal, with slight design elements that echo the Carolina theme. The wine list was ok but not very interesting except for the Charles & Charles Cab/Syrah blend. I'm obsessed with Washington State wine so I zeroed in on this little beauty. Great glass of wine for the money.
Bonnie, our lovely server, explained the menu quite nicely & recommended some of her favorite dishes. One of which was the Tuna with fried oysters & a mustard bbq sauce. It was outstandingly delicious with bright savory notes from the mustard & the oysters positively MELTED in my mouth.
Next we tried the arugula salad. Baby arugula is one of my favorite greens & the chef obviously highlighted their slightly sweet slightly spicy nature by adding a vinaigrette that wasn't overpowering. As delicious as it was it could have been that much better with more salt in the vinaigrette.
Kelly had the gazpacho & it was nice but the flavors didn't seem integrated. It tasted more like a simple bloody mary with some veg floating in it.
I was craving the Newman Farms Osso Bucco but they were out so I kind of waffled a bit on what to order. Bonnie had heard me say something about my not liking duck breast but really liking duck leg so she said she would ask the chef if he would leave of the breast & put an extra leg on. That was really cool, very professional & a great example of what a good server is by her doing that. My duck arrived, I dug in & was in absolute heaven! The skin was super crisp & the underlying fat had rendered perfectly so as to still be present & rich but not overwhelming. The meat was super tender & rich. I absolutely loved loved LOVED this dish! I will be going back for the duck again....& to try the osso bucco soon. While we were finishing our meals Chef Ryan Trimm came out to thank us for coming in & ask how everything was. He was friendly, personable, genuine & just really cool. I love supporting chefs like that as opposed to those with attitudes that could care less if you walked in the door or could care less if you like their food or not.
Sweetgrass is definitely a welcome addition to Cooper Young & the Memphis dining scene in general.
Last night I was reminded of why I love Italian wine. Nick at Bari Ristorante poured me a glass of Vietti Arneis & it is a truly exceptional white wine. A few months ago I tasted this stellar wine at a trade show for their local distributor. I was blown away then & I was blown away last night. It's crisp, floral, nutty, gorgeous acidity & a nice mineral note. Unfortunately, the distributor is out but I'm told that it is on its way from Italy so have patience. It shall return...& when it does I'm snatching it up!
Last Sunday I told a story with food. I told a story about my family & how greatly influenced I am by them. Food & wine would never have been a part of my life without them & tried to convey that. Without my father I would have never had an appreciation for oysters rockefeller. My mother & father showed me what food can be. That it is of course what sustains us but it should also be an opportunity to enjoy ourselves & connect with family. Whether it's through simply sitting at the table with them or remembering them through recipes.
eaTABLE underground dinner club, which I sous chef'd for at their first dinner, asked me to be the chef/sommelier for the second meal. I of course said yes thinking that this would be great fun but it was a LOT OF WORK. Still though, it was a great experience.
When I was making my grandmother's hot sauce I felt as if she was there with me, & my Dad too because she crafted the recipe & he showed me how to make it. After she passed away he took up making the hot sauce & I'm so glad he did. The stuff is fiery but so addictive. My grandmother (who we called Ta) made these incredible empanada style things that she called saltenas. When I was a kid I didn't really care for them due to their strong flavor of cumin & olives with beef & raisins. For me she made simple cheese saltenas. After she was gone we didn't have them for quite some time but my Mom started making them again & whenever she does I shovel as many as I can down my gullet. Mom always knows to make an extra bunch so that Kelly & I can take them back to Memphis with us.
With the eaTABLE dinner I wanted to feel like my family, & especially my grandmother, was with me & to make them proud. Unfortunately, I was unhappy with quite a few things that we put out but I got lots of positive feedbacks from the diners so hopefully they enjoyed everything. Cooking for anyone is very special but cooking for a large group of food loving peeps is nerve wracking. Afterwards I was completely exhausted but elated all at the same time. Too bad my grandmother wasn't there. I think she would've enjoyed the saltenas via the third generation.
I just recently re-tasted a pinot noir that I have had before but sort of forgot about. Belle Glos has a sort of second label pinot called Meiomi. Last night a friend brought over a bottle of the 2008 Meiomi Pinot Noir to enjoy over a nice meal & a book discussion. Sipping on this wine immediately brought to my mind the discussion of sweetness whether perceived or actual. The way I see it brix levels & residual sugar may be examined & show that a wine is technically "dry". However, I feel that perception is more important. To me this pinot noir is all about sweet fruit. Anything resembling texture or spice is secondary. This is obviously a "crowd pleaser" type of wine that is not really wanting to have a personality so much as just be considered "good" by a majority. What signifies good? Well I think most people will taste sweet fruit & say "I like this". So perhaps they've achieved good. To me its rather uninteresting & boring but then again I always want more. Texture, acidity, spice, fruit etc. I find it interesting that this wine seems to be so desired. Its on restaurant lists, on the shelf at most stores. So I guess it begs the question "Is this really want wine drinkers want?"
Yesterday we popped a few bottles. We get a lot of samples at the shop & sometimes they start to pile up. It was time to make a dent in them.
First we opened Coeur Esterelle Rosé 2009 Cotes de Provence $16.99 at Joe's Wines. Just looking at the gorgeous pale salmon, onion skin color made me all happy & warm & fuzzy. It was one of those wines that I just couldn't help but stare at. However, I can't stare too long without getting thirsty.
In the glass it was bright, refreshing, crisp & mouthwatering. It had great notes of dried strawberry, tarragon & nice minerality. I could easily drink this down on a hot day out on the patio....or in the nice cool air conditioning.
The next bottle we popped was the Turnbull Old Bull Red 2007 Napa Valley. There are certain properties I come to expect a lot from & Turnbull is one of them. This bottle was unfortunately not an indication of their consistent quality. It was out of balance with too much fruit, alcohol & viscosity. I don't care what anyone else says about residual sugar or whatever--this wine was sweet. Fruit is one thing & sweetness is another. Without balance a wine cannot hide anything & unfortunately all I tasted were its flaws.
I've just had the pleasure of interviewing winemaker & Blood Into Wine film subject Eric Glomski about his experiences in Arizona wine country. Tomorrow evening, Thursday June 3rd at 6:30 p.m., join me for a tasting of the wines of Arizona Stronghold followed by a screening of the film Blood Into Wine. For tickets to the screening & wine tasting click here.
In the trailer for Blood Into Wine one scene in the vineyards makes them look reminiscent of the Rhone Valley. Is that a fair assumption? "In general I would say yes – although we must remember that the growing regions of the Rhone span a great distance from north to south. Cote Rotie in the north is quite different from Gigondas in the south. Overall, though, I would say that one could easily find sympathy with parts of Italy, southern France, or even Spain."
What was it about your site that made you feel as if you could produce good wine? Was it the soil type? Micro Climate? Or perhaps overall terroir? Did it resemble a special vineyard you had visited in another part of the world? "I believe strongly that Macro-climate is the biggest factor dictating the quality of a wine growing region. Geography, geology, and soils – of course – are very important factors within this larger picture. You could have the best soil in the world (take a viticultural classic such as limestone) and plop them down in the tropics or northern Alaska and it wouldn’t really mean much. I worked as a professional ecologist prior to falling in love with wine – and yes – the highlands of Arizona spoke to me – and the reminded me of some of the great wine growing regions of Europe. In Arizona, finding the right climate is all about elevation. There is a magical elevational band between the heat of Phoenix and the chill of Flagstaff around 4000-5000 feet that is perfect for growing vitis vinfera."
What are the largest obstacles you've had to deal with over the course of your winemaking career in AZ? "COLD. RAIN. HAIL. IGNORANT Bureaucrats."
What is it you hope people take away after viewing the film? "Well, first and foremost I hope it kept their attention and made them laugh a bit. Alongside that, I also hope they come away with a deeper understanding of how profound the quest for making great wine is – and how this quest brings both the winemaker and the wine drinker closer to the land we walk upon."
Who (if anyone) is your winemaking hero/mentor? "Ken Foster, who was my primary mentor at David Bruce Winery (and now the winemaker for Mahoney vineyards in Carneros), is at the top of my list. Ken taught me about blending – the core art of winemaking. The late Don Blackburn from Marinus in Carmel (as well as Byington in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Rhys Winery and others) had a profound influence on my perception of wine history and philosophy. I have others, and too many to list."
What do you feel are wine drinkers prejudices when it comes to where a wine originates from? Have you experienced that yourself being a fairly young wine region? "I try to remind folks that when the very first folks planted grapes in Napa (for instance, Gastave Niebaum – the founder of Inglenook in the late 1800’s – once the greatest Château in our Country) everyone gave them hell too. All I can say is “bring it on!”. I love the notion of being the underdog. I love the idea of changing people’s perspective when they least expect it. I once wrote on an early Page Springs label (my family winery) – “Enjoy this wine with lamb, soft ripened cheeses and an open mind”."