Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Special Cuvee for a Special Restaurant

As I noted in an article in the Memphis Flyer (click here), Restaurant Iris is getting a exclusive cuvee from Robert Turner Winery. It is a testament to the level that Iris is operating at that an ultra boutique, high quality producer would bottle an exclusive blend for them. I had the pleasure of tasting the Robert Turner Winery Restaurant Iris Cuvee Chardonnay 2007 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley not 2 hours ago & I'm absolutely in love with it. Thats saying quite a lot coming from me considering that chardonnay is one of my least favorite varietals. As readers of my blog, you can attest to the fact that I've almost never written about chard. But this is something different entirely. Immediately the nose gave off notes of clove, apple skin, vanilla, hints of licorice & cinnamon. The palate was rich & layered with ripe pear, a luscious texture, mouthwatering acidity & a finish that stayed on my palate for an incredible duration. What struck is that I kept wanting to return to the glass to smell & taste again. It seemed to give me a new expression of flavors each time. That is, to me, the utmost sign of quality. When a wine holds my attention & brings me back to the glass time & time again thats when I know I've got something special.

Since this is a unique cuvee, Iris won't have much of this wine for a very long time. Go now! Experience this wonderful juice for yourself.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


In my business the holidays slip away very quickly. Who am I kidding it shoots right through everyone's fingers no matter what your profession! Amidst the insanity there are moments of calm enjoyment & pleasure that make me exhale & think to myself that no matter the craziness going on around me I can count on my family & friends to show me what the holidays are all about. Our very good friends Becca & Lee took Kelly & me out for a surprise dinner at The Blue Fish last week. We dined on one of the most delicious (& dangerous to harvest) animals on the planet...whole Alaskan King Crab. They don't call it Deadliest Catch for nothing, but I can see why they go to all the trouble. The friendly & very personable server brought out the whole crab for show before it went back into the kitchen for preparation. This delectable monstrosity took up an entire tray, not a little cocktail tray but the ones used to carry out 8-10 large plates to big tables. It looked almost prehistoric or alien with its pointy hard shell, multiple plump limbs & large claws. I could barely contain myself. The server prepared the crab for us by cutting off its juicy appendages, placing bowls of drawn butter by each of us & flipping the carapace over to reveal the succulent lump meat at the joints. As we all tore into our crustacean each of us remarked on how fun the process was & how it reminded us of being children. I hear that Blue Fish has just a small handful of these coming in for New Year's so jump on them now before they are all gone. It is simply delicious & so much fun. Thank you again Becca & Lee! We love you!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It Doesn't Always Have to Be a Special Occasion......

Sorry about the lack of posts, I've had the crud thats been going around. Luckily I was well enough to go out for dinner for my anniversary. We initially tried to go to Andrew Michael but they were booked up until 9. Oh well, better luck next time. So instead, we stopped by Joe's to pick up a little something special. I love all things Italian, of course, & Kelly loves Barolo....so we grabbed a 2001 Claudio Alario Barolo. 2001 was practically a perfect year in Piemonte, everything just came together beautifully from rain level, fog, all that. This perfect storm produced wines that are almost indescribable. Nebbiolo is without a doubt a grape type that needs some time to develop, soften & come together. With 7 years in the bottle I knew this was beginning to be ready, even though it could easily age for another 13. We popped this baby open & decanted. Immediately what struck me was the aroma of tar & dried rose petal........& that was just from the decanter across the table. Once I took a big whiff of my glass I got notes of truffle, forest floor, dried black currant & a sweet spice note that I couldn't quite place. This is what is exciting about wine. When I can't fully discern what a wine is expressing to me than I know its something special. Every time I sipped, I inhaled deeply & got more layers of aroma. Every time I sipped, the textures & flavors hit my palate in a different way. This wine is something special & made our anniversary that much more special. 7 year old Barolo & 7 years of love. How perfect.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Under the Weather

Uggh. I've got the ick that is going around. I'll be back with more posts after I get over this.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Aged Soave

I've said it before & I'll say it again. I am blessed with some ridiculously great friends (see my previous post about a little goodie from Becca & Lee). Last week my friend Elizabeth texted me to say that she had a book for Kelly & 2 bottles of wine for me. Score! She came over to talk vino & snack on a little dinner while catching up. When she unveiled the bottles I was taken aback....Pieropan Calvarino Soave 2004. 2004! Soave with some bottle age? Never thought to hang on to Soave. The garganega grape has never struck me as one built to go the distance. Granted yes, it is only 4 years of age but some whites fall apart after just a couple of years. Still, I've learned my lesson & I always keep my mind open. I needed to explore this on my own. The next night I popped open the bottle & poured a glass. It was a rich golden tone with a clean translucency. The aromas were of slightly poached apples, hazelnut & vanilla cream. The palate was round & full but not heavy with a crisp acidity on the finish. That finish just lingers & lingers & lingers. Thank you Elizabeth!!!!

Monday, December 01, 2008

My very good friend Becca gave me a plethora of gourmet deliciousness for my birthday. One such yumminess was a bar from Vosges Haut Chocolat. Anyone who hasn't heard of this chocolate company, go out & immediately buy anything you see from them, no matter how weird it sounds. The founder & head chocolatier, Katrina Markoff, starts with the best quality cocoa beans & crafts them into an unctuous & sublime chocolate. Many would be satisfied to stop there. Not Markoff. She adds in spices, herbs & even meat to create a flavor, texture & even aroma that has never been experienced before. Olives? Check. Smoked sea salt? Check. Curry? Check, & even bacon, yes bacon. The above bar, thank you Becca!, is called the Naga Bar. Its filled with curry powder & coconut in a deep milk chocolate & its....oh....so....incredible. What struck me immediately was how aromatic it is. The combination of mildly spicy curry & chocolate gives off a dark, savory sweetness that is exotic yet comforting. The snap of the coconut flakes adds a nutty sweetness & the chocolate itself is slow melting & not too sweet. I think I'm in love.

Ever Had Your Birth Year?

My friend Ken Neill invited Kelly & I over to his house this past holiday. Its a tradition of his to have his children & extended family over for a holiday meal & something special. Each year he opens up a selection of wines from some of his family's birth years. Now this was simply astonishing. I've been lucky enough to drink some old wines, but this was something truly exceptional. Before we got into the birth year blowout, we sipped a few aperitif wines. Ken poured me a glass of 2005 Kia Kaha Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, New Zealand. Given the age of this wine, I was curious to say the least. Sauv blanc from the new world is not built for aging. However, this tasted fresh, crisp & refreshingly delicious. Before sitting down to dinner I also had a glass of 1999 Prinsi Barbaresco from Piedmont, Italy. Readers of this blog know how obsessed I am with Italian wines so this was a nice treat, a nebbiolo with a little age on it. The color was a dusky rust tint with a dark core, aromas of rose, smoky tar & a ripe, rich texture in the mouth.

The first birth wine was a 1996 Landmark Damaris Reserve Chardonnay Sonoma County in honor of Ken's grandson JD. The color was, just as I expected, dark gold...almost amber tinted. The texture was similar to a light Madeira. It was juicy, with a soft acid that was barely detectable with a nuttiness on the finish.

Next was a 1994 Erath Reserve Pinot Noir Weber Vineyard Willamette Valley in honor of Ken's grandaughter Neill. Ken wasn't expecting too much from this bottle, but I was very excited & kept an open mind. Obviously Ken's cellar is the optimal storage facility so I had faith that the Erath would be drinking good. The wine had a dark core in the glass that gradually gave way to a ruby/brick color that dissipated towards the rim. On the nose was a wild, earthy, dried spice & fruit aroma that wafted up like smoke off a camp fire. It was still very much alive...& delicious. What a way to drink Oregon pinot noir, with a little age on it. The texture was succulent & velvety, like I imagine a silk scarf would feel like if I licked it.

Up next was a 1982 Robert Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley in honor of Evan. The color was still quite dark & the aroma had dark dried currant & leather on it. Unfortunately the palate was done for. It came on with a little fruit & spice but quickly dissipated.

Our next endeavor was a 1977 John Walker & Co Pinot Noir from Central Coast California in honor of . JW & Co is a wine merchant in San Francisco who over the years has had wineries bottle certain cuvees specifically for the store. This particular pinot was from the original Chalone Vineyard! The cork was a bitch to work with, completely disintegrated on me when I attempted opening it. Thank goodness for the decanter & filter. Its color was muddled & odd but the aroma was all earthy, mushroomy, dried clove, tea leaf....like they made this in an attempt to beat the Burgundians at their own game. Which makes sense considering back then, in the '70's, CA winemakers weren't going after the stratospheric brix levels that they are now. They were into subtlety much like their old world counterparts were. I digress. On the palate was a finely aged pinot noir. Silky, wildly textured, dried cherry & cola with a sensuality more than a flavor. Yes we had a bit to drink by now but this was a wine I felt rather than tasted.

Next was a wine I couldn't believe I was about to taste. When Ken showed me the lineup for the night it took every ounce of willpower not to scream & jump up & down. I wasn't seeing things, I was actually about to taste a 1971 Chateau Margaux. Oh......my. This rare & special wine was in honor of Ken's daughter, & my good friend, Molly. She is also pretty special & rare! The wine's color was alive, dark & without a hint of muddiness, with a gradual color transition working its way out from the core from dark ruby to pink. Aromas of sweet grass, hay, clove, dried cherry, currant, earth & leather spun out of the glass. This wine was still very much alive. Tasting it sent shockwaves of texture throughout my mouth from top to bottom & across my palate. It tasted of rocky soil, clove, vanilla with a presence that seemed to say "I may be 37 years old but I have a lot of life left." The finish continued on & on, I lost track really.

The last wine of the night was a 1966 Chateau Beau Site from the Saint Estephe district of Bordeaux. While opening this bottle to decant, Senator Steve Cohen pointed at the bottle & said "Saint Steve!" Hmmm. Our oldest wine of the night was in honor of Sherman, Molly's fiance. After the appropriate toast Marlinee stated that the was actually for her husband Max who himself was born in '66 & whose birthday was the very next day. We hoped that was going to be the only declaration she made that evening. I say that with the utmost love, Mar. Back to the vino. Its 42 years of age barely registered in the color. While there was a brick tint to it, the hue wasn't faded or thin looking. The one thing that shone through the most on the palate was the cocoa bean & coffee. It was almost immediate, very vibrant. The weight was surprisingly full for its age, it spread across my palate with a luscious texture & flavors of leather & dried cranberry.

Wow. What a night. Thank you so much Ken! I can't wait until next year!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The End or ?

One of the most inspirational people in the culinary Illuminati of Memphis is closing up shop. My friend Alyce Mantia is shuttering her eponymous gourmet deli & restaurant, Mantia's. Its almost TOO sad to report. Over the 8 years I've been in Memphis, Mantia's was the place that would inspire me to prepare some of the finest meals I've ever experienced. She became my friend, sometime employer, & over all culinary guru. Every time I would even think about heading over to Mantia's I would become giddy with excitement. What better way to pass the time than to purchase exotic cheeses, oils & spice blends? This shop wasn't just a retail store it was a destination. I could always count on Alyce & Joanna to be there with smiling faces & a recipe idea or story. There is nowhere in town to buy Jamon Serrano, which I think is VASTLY superior to Prosciutto di Parma. Nowhere. She kept a leg of this jamon to slice just like it should be done in Spain. I'm going to miss this place. I'm going to miss seeing the duck fat in the freezer next to the Buerre d'Isigny. I'm going to miss my favorite tuna salad in town. I'm going to miss the giant wheels of Humboldt Fog. I'm going to miss the way Alyce would pronounce French perfectly. Her Cassoulet was the most amazing dish I have ever tasted. Whatever Alyce does next I'm sure will be excellent. I love you Alyce!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spelunking We Will Go!

Christmas has come early. This past Monday we tasted through a slew of reduced priced wines at one of our wholesalers. There were a couple dogs yes, but what I found were some truly exceptional gems. Sadly, not every wine is appreciated when it is brought to market. Some of them are misunderstood, unappreciated or disregarded for reason or another. Many wines just aren't ready to be drunk upon release. Not every buyer in town understands these things. Fortunately, we get to reap the benefit of these poor bypassed wonders (such as the Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir from the previous post!). One such standout was the Gregory Graham Syrah 2000 Napa Valley. 2000 was not necessarily considered the best vintage in Napa, but if there is one thing I've learned its to not always listen to the critics. This dark, blue velvet toned wine was rich & unctuous but a little closed off at first taste. I went back to it after tasting through another 20-some wines & this second time it seemed almost awkwardly pungent. But I just knew something was there, I could feel that it was going to blossom.....& did it ever. After work the next day I poured myself a glass from the open bottle & took a big whiff. The nose had developed into a thick perfume of smoke, bacon fat, drying blueberry, beef jerky, fennel & clove. The palate was fleshy, rich & dark with a round unctuous texture that still displayed some bright acid. Bright enough for the rich dish it would need such as lamb with black olives, peking duck or braised pork tagine. There are next to no bottles left so the minuscule amount that we get in at Joe's will surely go quickly. I know I'm going to grab a couple for my cellar!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Small Guys Make Good Juice

Well its not as if this is a news flash or anything, but smaller producers just seem to make wine that is so much more expressive, beautiful & emotional than the big guys. Today I had a 375 ml bottle of Papapietro Perry Elsbree Vineyard Pinot Noir 2005 Russian River Valley. Not only was it a rich, luscious, velvety, silky, expressive pinot but it also had presence. That certain something that instantly registered as...well, special! The range of food pairings immediately ran through my mind. Duck with cherries, jamon serrano with manchego & olives, lamb shoulder in a red wine glaze, figs & goat cheese. Mmmmmmmm.

The Tube

Is anyone watching the new Top Chef? What do you think of the first episode?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Something Different

We were lucky enough to score some Novy Family Winery Blanc de Noir 2007 Willamette Valley $26.99. It may sound like it but it is NOT a sparkling wine. I know, I know wines designated a Blanc de Noir are typically sparkling but this (as my post title states) is something.....different. 2007 wasn't necessarily the best vintage for Oregon. Therefore, Siduri/Novy wanted to make the proverbial lemonade from lemons. Winemaker Ryan Zepaltas crushed their pinot noir grapes & immediately ran them off their skins so as not to pick up any color. Hence the Blanc (white) de Noir (from black grapes). The wine does have a slight flesh tone to its hue, but this beauty is all about the aroma & texture. The nose gives off aromas of star fruit, passion fruit, clove, white raspberry & a hint of soil. On the palate is a ripe viscous texture that is not overwhelmingly heavy (think of a balanced viognier or grenache blanc something Northern Rhone) or weighted. Its balanced with a bright acidity & a somewhat lanolin-esque finish. My immediate thoughts when tasting this was that it would be perfect paired with all the upcoming holiday dishes. Turkey, dressing, ham, even lamb!
Find this at Joe's, I'm not sure if anyone else got any. Yours truly had them send a sample bottle in since this market wasn't slated to receive any of this wine.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Going Veg

My friend The Chubby Vegetarian has prepared countless delectable, meat-free meals in his kitchen. One of the many things I love about him is his love of butter. Sorry vegans but you are only depriving yourself of soul-enriching goodness by avoiding butter so just get over it. His tomato-leek confit is simply sublime. He has made his own vegetarian sausage, roasted hen of the woods (tasted like a fresh seared halibut...so GOOD!) stuffed morel mushrooms. I could go on but I'm suddenly STARVING. He has inspired me to explore more vegetarian focused cookery. Yesterday I prepared a baked pasta to serve for lunch or dinner, busy week. I mixed organic whole wheat shells with sauteed onions, garlic, wild mushrooms, Field Roast's Italian Sausage, Oregon brandy, cream & some cheddar. There's some veggie love for ya!


Given that Obama won the election, I think its time to celebrate early rather than wait for New Year's. When it comes to celebrations I reach for Champagne. I know, its kind of cliche but I use any excuse to pop the bubbly. My current favorite is Chartogne-Taillet NV Brut, $53.99 at Joe's. This is a family owned Champagne house, a real farmer fizz. I can truly taste the love & affection that goes into this bottle. Unlike the industrial river of never ending, one-dimensional bubbly (Clicquot anyone?), Chartogne Taillet is complex & expressive. On the nose are aromas of toast, orange marmalade, mushroom & preserved lemon. The palate is creamy, bright & citrusy, with hints of earthiness, a luscious texture & a long, lingering finish. Maybe President Obama will pop a bottle on his first day in the White House!

Thursday, November 06, 2008


No secret. I love Italian wine. Love it. Love it. Delicious juice. This little beauty is an amazing score. Villa La Selva Felciaia 1998. With 10 years in the bottle this wine is fleshed out with a luscious texture, aromas of fennel blossom, dried cranberry, earth & a bit of barnyard. On the palate are tannins that are still very pronounced with a rich texture, dried cranberries, dried raspberries & a lengthy finish. I'm drinking it by itself but I think it would blossom with a braised beef dish, grilled lamb or even a plate of salami & olives. Sorry about the picture, it just wasn't turning out the way I wanted it to look. Find it at Joe's.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. I sliced open my hand & its been uncomfortable to type. I promise to have some posts up soon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Abyssinia, finally!

I have driven by the Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia for the entire 8 years that I have lived here in Memphis. I've always been curious about it but I've never made it in. Becca & Lee called & asked if they could take Kelly & I there for a belated birthday dinner. Becca tempted even further by promising to bring a bottle of Chateau Musar 1998 Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This is one of my absolute favorite wines & from what Becca said it would pair well with the cuisine. I decided to bring along a bottle of Weingut Knoll Ried Krietles Smaragd Gruner Veltliner 2005 Wachau, Austria. When we walked in the door of the restaurant, the first that hit me was the overwhelming aroma of toasting spices. Mmmmmm. The gruner was deliciously bright with fresh acidity & a nutty flavor profile from the bit of age on it. I ordered the lamb which was stir fried with Ethiopian spices, garlic & big chunks of onion. The smoky spice & texture of the lamb was perfect with the Musar's earthy gamy depth of darkness & gripping tannins. Ummmm. I always find it interesting that when I mention Musar is from Lebanon most people just throw back a big "?". But if you think about it, that part of the world has been making wine since the beginning of time.

Thanks Becca & Lee!!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe's Beer Tasting Sold Out

Yes its true dear readers. Joe's Wines Octoberfest Big Beer Tasting on Thursday October 23rd is SOLD OUT. Too bad so sad but seriously.....when are you going to learn to buy your tickets early????? All the good events always sell out so learn from this & buy early.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Total Lack of Journalistic Integrity

I just received this email from one of my most favorite restaurants. It pains me to see one of our esteemed (I'm being sarcastic here in case you can't tell) local journalists attack locally owned, small family restaurant that is passionate about what they do & strive to give their customers an experience they can't get elsewhere. Read this & then email that hack who calls himself a reporter Here's his email address: blunn@wmctv.com:

Hello Everyone!
You may have heard that recently Napa Cafe received a 69 on the health inspection and I want you to know what a bogus score it is. We have always scored in the high 80's or low 90's. The critical violations were: front door was open (while the servers were setting up the outdoor tables), the butter was at room temperature (softened for the table bread), and our dishwasher came in from outside and did not go straight to the sink to wash his hands-( he stopped to pick up the empty lettuce box that the cook had just emptied). These 3 deductions resulted in 15 points! The other points deducted ranged from no label on the pecans( in clear ziplock bags )to brooms stored on the floor and not hanging. The inspection was conducted 15 days ago and they reinspected only to bring it to an 85 which is the most they could possibly give me with the system they have in place. I want to assure you that we take health regulations very seriously not because of a score but because I want a safe and healthy environment for all of my employees and all of my customers.
The inspection process has always been unsettling. The inconsistencies are alarming to put it mildly. The rules change without notice and each inspector has their own interpretation of these rules. I have to admit that it wasn't until this recent score did I decide to get proactive.
I received an e-mail from the Memphis Restaurant Association yesterday regarding the meeting they are having with them today. The inconsistency is such a huge problem regardless if a restaurant fails or not.
And to add fuel to the fire Bill Lunn from Channel 5 could not wait to report that an East Memphis upscale restaurant was going to be on his segment. He did not contact me for a statement.
I appreciate your business very much and if you have any questions please contact me.
*The e-mail sent by the Memphis Restaurant Association.*
Dear MRA Restaurant Member,

Wight and I will be meeting with the Health Department this Friday, October 10th to discuss inspection procedures and regulations. We would like to have feedback from you about your recent experience with your Health Inspector to take into our meeting. All input is welcome (positive and/or negative). What was your overall impression of your most recent inspection? How does it compare with past inspections? Do you have specific suggestions as to how future interactions with Health Inspectors can be improved upon? Rest assured that your anonymity will be protected.

Please e-mail me at eli.cloud@gmail.com with your feedback.

Warmest regards,
Eli Cloud
Memphis Restaurant Association
Member Relations Director

The Great Lionello Marchesi

I'm not gonna lie, what's the point? You read this so you know. I am absolutely infatuated with Italian wines. This week I met & tasted with one of my idols, Lionello Marchesi. His love of the sangiovese grape is evident in his sublimely beautiful wines. I truly admire not only the exquisite quality of his wines but also his focus on showcasing this beautiful grape at all price points. As much as I hate to admit, we are in an economic crisis. Its nice to have options in the wine world across all price points. Lionello started me with his basic sangiovese 2006 (approximately $15 retail). The color was typical of the grape, dark ruby with an orange-red tint at the rim. It had the traditional nose & palate of Italian spice & cranberry. Next up was the Chianti Superiore 2006 (approximately $18.99) a classic example of the great Chianti district. It was on the darker side for a Chianti, but expressed the spicy clove, fennel, red berry nose I've come to expect from that region. The palate had significant weight & grip with a lusciously dark flavor & a bright beautiful acid. The next to be poured was a 2005 Chianti Classico Riserva (approximately $30.99). It was a dark, velvety beauty with supple tannins, licorice & black fruit flavors. Next was the 2005 Rosso di Montalcino ($?). As you fellow cork dorks know this is the baby Brunello. The Sangiovese Grosso grape used for Brunello is aged for less time & then released as Rosso di Montalcino. Its a perfect wine for an introduction into the beauty that is the Brunello. The Rosso has excellent concentration, a dark viscous texture with a smoky clove, fennel & dark licorice aroma & flavor. The tannins were pronounced due to its youth but they were integrated enough to be balanced.

I could hardly wait to get to my baby, the Brunello di Montalcino. I was a bit apprehensive about it given that it was a 2003 & that vintage was excessively hot all over Europe. That heat led to a lot of wines expressing roasted or cooked fruit nuances which to me overpower a typically elegant & balanced wine. This was not the case with this wine. Marchesi explained that his Brunello vineyards were very high up & their altitude saved them from being subjected to the monstrous heat of '03. Its color was dark purple with a red/rust tint to the rim. On the nose were aromas of fennel, clove, smoke, blackberry & a violet note. The palate was rich, supple bodied, ripe with layers & layers of sensually textured tannins & dark fruit. This Brunello didn't disappoint at all, it had a finish that just wouldn't let go. It kept going & going & going & left a lasting impression of dark spice & black fruit & a hint of soil as well.

Go out & support the economy! Buy a Brunello!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Beer Glorious Beer!!!!!!

Octoberfest in October, not September like it normally is. On Thursday October 23rd Joe's Wines is hosting an Octoberfest beer tasting at the Cotton Museum (65 Union Avenue) in Downtown Memphis. They will be pouring approximately 25 beers for sampling alongside some hearty Autumn fare. Tickets are $20/person. To purchase a spot, you may stop by the store, 1681 Poplar, or call 901.725.4252. For all you beer fanatics out there, this is not a tasting to miss. All your favorite craft breweries will be represented alongside some new houses that are just now being represented in Memphis. There is limited space available so act fast! Beer, brats...what else could be better??

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Love Affair Continues

As readers of this blog know, I am an absolute sucker for Austrian wines. Totally in love, can't get enough, can't live without, enamored....all that.

I truly feel that Austria is one of the most exciting, if not THE most exciting, wine growing regions in the world today.

Stift Goettweig has been producing wine for, oh about forever. They are producing some of the best gruner veltliner out there. At approximately 14% alcohol the Gottschelle gruner is among the ripest styles on the market. If it was a Wachau it would definitely be a Smaragd designated wine for sure (meaning the ripest). In the glass, this wine is richly golden with a viscous quality as it swirls around. The nose is laden with lemon & lime peel, slate, chalk, limestone, apricot & peach skin. On the palate is a rich texture, vibrant acidity, flavors of white peach, lemon curd & only hints of the residual sugar that the ripe alcohol level implies. The finish just sails on & on & on....& on. This is a wine that lingers for days. It would be perfect with bouillabaisse, seared scallops on a white bean & garlic saute, or shrimp & grits.

At $32.99 (at Joe's Wines in Midtown) it is on the more expensive side but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that its worth every single penny.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Happy Birthday

What better excuse than a birthday to cook up something delicious & pop open wines that I've been DYING to open. In honor of Richie's 28th bday, I braised some free range lamb shanks in wine, stock, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes, basil & oregano for about 9 hours. I took the lamb out of the braising liquid & reduced it by 2/3 to make a rich & savory sauce. On the side I served cauliflower that I roasted in the oven with cream, wine, garlic & onions. It almost came out like risotto. This meal called for something special, something earthy & spicy. So I popped open a 1995 Tinto Pesquera from Ribera del Duero, Spain & a 1997 Paterno II from Azienda Agricola Il Paradiso in Tuscany.

The Pesquera was laden with a mysterious spice & dense with earthy aromas. It smelled of dark, dried soil & rocky clay. The aroma was thick with clove, cinnamon bark, dried fennel seed, lavender & dried plum. The palate had mellowed over time. I could tell that upon release this baby was a little monster. Its tannins were soft & near disappearing, but when sipped with a bite of lamb, oh ....my. A wonderful pairing. The wines dried fruit & spice played off the gaminess of the lamb in a terribly good way.

I thought it couldn't get any better, but then I tasted the 1997 Paterno II. Oh....my....goodness. I haven't lucky enough to taste enough wines for so called "Classic" vintages. Not as much as I would like anyway. If this wine is any indication then everything you have read about the '97 vintage in Tuscany is without a doubt true. The first sniff of my glass was thick with barnyard, which gave way to fennel spice, violet, rosemary, dried currant, light graphite....it just went on & on! On the palate was a rich, super supple texture that caressed its way across & up & down my mouth. It gave flavors of blackberry, basil, clove, cinnamon, dried thyme, smoke & dried cherry. The finish just kept....on.....going. I was sad when I finished my glass. Because I knew there was no more to be had.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dinner this Thursday at Tsunami

Joe's Wines, 1681 Poplar, 901.725.4252 is hosting a wine dinner at Tsunami this Thursday. See below:

Thursday September 25th at 6:30 p.m. we are hosting Phillippe Bourgeois of Bourgeois Family Selections at Tsunami Restaurant. Phillippe will be leading us through a tasting of his top-quality wines paired with the magnificent cuisine of Chef Ben Smith. All of the wines that Bourgeois Family Selections imports are at the very least sustainably farmed with most either organic or biodynamic. Phillippe's extensive portfolio is comprised of small family growers (one has only 8 acres) finally bottling their own wines instead of selling grapes off to larger negociants. These wines represent the value and quality of French wines prior to a decade of price increases. Cost to attend this dinner is $65 (including tax & gratuity). There will be special discounts given for orders placed that evening. Our last wine dinner at Tsunami sold out in 2 DAYS so act fast. To purchase a seat, please stop by the store or call and purchase your tickets over the phone (901.725.4252). There are only 22 seats available. Don't miss out on the opportunity to interact with the man who is importing some of the most exciting wines in the market served alongside with Chef Ben Smith's excellent cuisine. The menu is as follows:

Domaine de Ballade Sauvignon Blanc-Colombard 2006 Cotes de Gascogne

Seared sea scallops with saffron beurre blanc and curry zucchini noodles.

Le Drunk Rooster Chardonnay 2007 Vin de Pays

Pepper crusted tuna with warm strawberry vinaigrette/salsa.

In Fin Rose 2007 Cotes du Ventoux

Roasted duck breast with Parmesan croquettes and grilled Asian eggplant.

Domaine de la Berthete Cuvee Sensation 2006 Cotes du Rhone

Szechwan lamb with sweet potato risotto.

Domaine de Chateaumar Cuvee Bastien 2007 Cotes du Rhone

Monday, September 08, 2008

BV tasting of the century

Yesterday I was extremely lucky to attend a vertical tasting of BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve. 21 vintages were poured from 1958 - 2004. Ken Neill, who purchased a seat at the tasting through the Brooks Museum's Uncorked auction, could not attend & asked if I would like to attend in his place. Uh.......YEAH! Even if I did have plans I would have canceled them! The wines were accompanied by an absolutely fabulous 4 course lunch prepared by Chef Wally Joe & Chef Andrew Adams. Thank you, thank you, thank you Ken! Below are my notes from the tasting:

1958: ruby core to a brick-orange rim, light sediment is evident but not as much considering its age. Clarity is muddled & cloudy but typical of age. A nose, of cedar, cinnamon stick, dried cherry forest floor & almond. The palate is very elegant, light & lithe but with a lively acidity for its age, hits on the sides of my tongue with a velvet finish.

1959: light ruby core, orange-rust rim, sediment is evident. Hints at sulfur on the nose with dried plum, obviously dead. Almost pinot noir-esque on the palate with barely a whisper of spice box, hot on the finish, over.

1961: sludgy, rust colored, looks dead. Roasted overcooked fruit on the nose with a funky, sulfur influenced aroma. The palate is tart, tastes of chambourcin. Dead.

1967: garnet core to a brick rim. Nose of currants, cigar box & anise.

1969: bright & clear, clean, rust colored rim, obviously filtered. Dark currant, smoke & slightly cooked fruit on the nose. Subtle, clean palate with bright acid but no mid palate. Hits at the back of the palate.

1974: Cloudy & rust colored. The nose is sulfurous with a pungent licorice/penicillin aroma. The palate is disjointed & seems astringent, hits the hard palate, acid is in line but the alcohol is hot & out of balance.

1978: Garnet color to a pink rim. Dialed down aroma, reserved, black fruits, light earth but not expressive. Soft, hot with no mid palate & unimpressive.

1979: Cloudy core, dark ruby color. Pungently dark core of spice & fruit, somewhat odd & disjointed aroma. Spice box, leather, tea, not impressive, simple & leaves the palate quite quickly.

1982: Cloudy core with a rust rim. , smells off with a pungent, sulfurous nose. Palate expresses cooked fruit with a tangy, light finish.

1985: Ruby garnet, slightly dark at the core. The nose is hot but has notes of black currant & plum. The palate is leathery, black currant, dried raspberry but falls flat on the finish.

1991: Nose of cognac, barrel spice, cedar, cigar box, leather. The palate if round, fleshy, voluptuous, spicy, coats the palate in a luscious fashion.

1992: Clean, ruby color. I found sulfur on the nose with a hint of dried berry. The palate was on the lighter side (lighter than '91) with smoky licorice with a pungent characteristic. Hits the hard palate.

1993: Nose of fill, mustard seed & cranberry. The palate is round, voluptuous, fleshy, leathery & had the most tannins of the night, so far.

1994: Spicy, anise laden nose. A rich, but not heavy, texture with a dark core of supple fruit, tea & cedar.

1995: Heavy with herbes de provence, anise & red currant on the nose. The palate is fleshy & round, big & brawny.

1997: Dark tinted core. A pungently dark, odd, cooked fennel aroma. The palate is big & brawny, the tannins are still too big. Almost overpowering.

1998: Dark ruby core of color. Almost no discernible aroma. Soft fruit. Finally...A MIDPALATE! Hints of spice box. Supple & caressing, just lovely.

1999: Light aromatic expression on the nose, simple & not very interesting. Lusciously powerful & gorgeous on the palate. The finish keeps going on & on with currants & dark blackberry.

2000: Still way too big, but has great potential.

2004: Huge & fruity. Typical Napa cab with big tannins & big black fruit. Seriously needs a steak!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

New video

Check out yours truly in this romantically lit video.

By the way, McCrea is spelled wrong (sorry guys!).

La Bella Italiana!

Check out my new article here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Italian wine tasting at Joe's

Mark your calender's. This Thursday is sure to be the mother of all Italian wine tastings. Joe's Wines will be hosting a tasting of 30-35 wines (with a beer or two) on Thursday September 4th at the Vine, 1819 Madison in BEAUTIFUL midtown Memphis, from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $35, call Joe's at 901.725.4252 to purchase.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Nothing better than aged bubbles

So I wasn't feeling that well at work on Saturday. All at once I felt nauseated & as if my batteries had run down. After a few hours of keeping myself moving & hydrating I started to come back to life. As much as you all might think, no I was not hungover! I'm not sure what was wrong with me. Richie was concerned not only for my health but also for our plans. We had planned to convene at his condo with our significant others to taste some wine & cook up a tasty meal. Well, after coming back to life, we were back on track. We both were ecstatic to discover that a well aged bottle of Champagne was tucked into the bubbly cooler. Pommery Brut 1992! What a find! We were eager to pop this little beauty open. I downloaded a program called WinePad to my iPhone so I took this as an opportunity to give it a run. The wine poured a rich golden hue with a distinctive clarity, & slow, tiny bubbles. The aroma gave off apricot, nuts, toast, brioche & orange peel with notes of chalk. Richie shouted "it tastes like a triple cream cheese!". In fact it did. It also had flavors of apricot jam, macadamia nuts, artichoke & a lengthy palate that still had so much vibrant acidity.

I love it when we find hidden little gems.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Latest From Lachini

Last Thursday, my very good friend Paula was in town so we decided to convene at Restaurant Iris for dinner. For those of you who haven't dined there yet, you are either living under a rock or you can't get a reservation. Trust me, make a reservation. I started with a French 75 cocktail, they do it seasonally so for the time being it is Hendrick's gin, simple syrup, lemon juice & sparkling wine. Quite possibly the best aperitif I have had. It's refreshing, delicious & gets your mouth ready to eat. Aside from the food, decor, service & overall atmosphere of the restaurant, I really love that they offer a wine list that is left of the norm. Anyone can slap a wine list together, but they take pride in offering wines that not only complement the food but are also interesting, unique & good values. We ordered a bottle of the Lachini Vineyards Pinot Noir Family Estate 2006 Willamette Valley, OR. What first struck me was how much of a departure the '06 was from the '05. Where the '05 was masculine & up front, the '06 was elegant, restrained but not subdued. This pinot was a gorgeous translucent ruby color (exactly how a pinot should look!), with aromas of forest floor, red cherry, tea, cola & black raspberry. It was very silky on the palate, so caressing & elegant but still giving great mouthwatering acidity. Go order this next time you dine there or pick up a bottle at Joe's Wines.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Wait for the Video

We just saw the movie "Bottle Shock". Don't waste your time. It was cute but kind of one-dimensional. Rent it later & decide for yourself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bounty of the Cellar

Kelly & I went to see Vicky Christina Barcelona late Saturday afternoon with Justin & Amy. It was absolutely FANTASTIC. I would see it again which is strange considering that I don't particularly like Woody Allen's films. But the best part of the evening was dinner at Justin & Amy's. We started with some olives & Manchego that I paired with a Cantina del Taburno Falanghina 2006 Campania, Italy ($18.99 at Joe's). The briny quality on the finish of the wine paired perfectly with the olives & the wine's fruit matched up well with the salty sweet nature of the cheese. At that point, Amy pulled out a surprise...Marimar Torres Chardonnay 1999 Russian River Valley, CA ($?). Wow! It was rich & unctuous with a slice of bittersweet fruit & almond on the finish. This wine had balls! The aroma leaned toward dried apricot & pineapple with a sprinkling of clove & some luscious vanilla. Yes it was cellared well, otherwise it wouldn't have lasted but more importantly it started its life as a truly exceptional wine. If you don't begin with great wine, you can't age it into being great.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I need a trip to France!!

I just finished reading "Adventures on the Wine Route" by Kermit Lynch. This man alone is responsible for introducing true expressions of French wine to the U.S. market. Luckily we are able to find some of his wines here in Memphis (check out Clos la Coutale Vin de Cahors of Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape). I will admit that this book is more for a wine lover. However, anyone who is remotely interested in wine & loves a good read that is informative & entertaining should pick this up. His prose is so laden with romance that I easily could mentally teleport myself to the regions he discussed. Ugggh I long for the Rhone Valley! It also made me even LESS of a fan of Bordeaux. Lynch really sums up why I loathe that region. They are money hungry, concerned more with pomp & circumstance & all about the facade. I want honesty of expression in my wines & he does a marvelous job of hammering home why that is so important. Maybe one day I'll be able to see that firsthand in the vineyards of Cahors or Cote-Rotie.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why not white? Part 2.

So one of my all time favorite wines has to be the Stadt Krems Sandgrube Gruner Veltliner 2006 Kremstal, Austria. Tragically, the Sandgrube Vineyard was annihilated by a hail storm late last year. Oh the horror! All those beautiful old vines destroyed! Well, there is nothing to be done now but move on. I grabbed a bottle of Stadt Krems Kremstal Gruner Veltliner 2007 ($18.99 at Joe's) to see if it could carry the torch of the Sandgrube. At first taste, it seemed a little limp, tasty but limp. So I had a glass or so & moved on. The next day I went back to it again & found something totally different. This wine had fleshed out & gained the body it lacked the day before & the balls it didn't have. It was not the flaccid wine from the day before, it was firm, full of life & ready to please! The acid was a clear beam throughout, the citrus, peach & white pepper spiced up the palate. Again, it was a revelation to see that whites can take a day to develop much like reds. I should re-think the way I look at white wine & a little thing called time.

Why not white?

When it comes to red wine I always think about if it needs to breathe & for how long. But when it comes to white wine that's not always the case. I tend not to think about how much or even if it needs to breathe. Why not? I don't know really. I've had 2 recent experiences that have made me re-evaluate the way I look at white wine. A few weeks ago, Justin & Amy brought a 2000 Chappellet Chardonnay from Napa Valley that they scored from the 'rents cellar. Thank god for relatives with collections that have given up drinking!!! To be quite honest, I was skeptical that this bottle was even still alive. An 8 year old California chard?? What??? But I'm always up for a new experience. The wine poured golden in color & had a very reserved almost hushed aroma. It was as if the wine was whispering. The palate was reserved as well, but there was something there...it was just hiding. Then something amazing happened. It blossomed into something I've never experienced before. Only after the wine sat in my glass for awhile & came to room temp did it flesh out into a robust, nutty, round & succulent wine with dried citrus, dried apricot & hints of mango with a superlong finish. I never, ever thought of Napa Valley chardonnay (or any new world chard for that matter) as being something to age. This was something new & exciting. It was a revelation. I know, I know. Chardonnay, a revelation? Well yes. But its because it began with the stuffing & quality to age & then was loved & cared for in a perfect cellar. Wow. Thanks Justin & Amy!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I just read an article in the New York Times magazine about a bakery/restaurant in Big Sur. After you read it you'll see that I'm missing the point by not touching on the focus of the article, but I wasn't struck by that. What struck me was the groundswell that was occurring around a bakery that essentially was serving croissants, jelly doughnuts & pizzas. Now granted they are making exceptional versions of these classics, but it got me thinking. That is the type of food that seems to strike me the most....well except for that incredible meal at Cyrus on my 30th & our recent best lunch ever at Jean-Georges (foie gras brulee WHAT THE F***!) What I love to eat the most are simple dishes that are made with excellent ingredients & prepared with love. Pizza at Justin's or Jeff & Kristy's or Kristi & Warner's. A beautiful ribeye steak with sea salt & pepper drizzled with olive oil & grilled to medium-rare. Pasta with sauteed tomatoes, garlic, onions & parmiggiano. For breakfast Kelly & I had simple slices of bread toasted in butter out of a skillet. Granted, it was Sheri McKelvie's cranberry walnut bread (the best EVER go get some at the Memphis Farmer's Market next Saturday) & organic butter but it was simple nonetheless. I guess I'm getting all "Alice Waters" up in here, but its true what she says. If you start with the best organic & preferably local ingredients & prepare them simply it will be an incredibly delicious meal.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Wa Wa Washington

Check out my new article here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What are you waiting for?

I don't have a large cellar by any stretch of the imagination, more like a small gathering. I do, however, have some gems that I'm curious to pop open. I'm thinking these little babies might be ready to go:
  • Tenuta Frigiali 1997 Brunello di Montalcino
  • Paterno II Toscano Rosso 1997
  • Cayuse Syrah Cailloux Vineyard 2001 Walla Walla, WA
  • Tinto Pesquera 1995 Ribera del Duero
  • Pierre Andre Gevrey Chambertin 1998
  • Clos Erasmus 1997 Priorat
I need a good meal & good friends to pop these beautiful little children open.

So, what bottles of yours are calling out to you?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Monday is My Sunday

Okay, yes, I'll admit it. When I heard that River Oaks was offering their wine list at 50% off on Monday I got excited. They have a pretty good wine list so I took this opportunity to try out some outstanding wines for a reasonable prices. I say REASONABLE because most restaurant wine list markup in this genre of restaurant are just offensive. Restaurants that don't markup in an unreasonable way: Napa Cafe, Majestic Grille, Restaurant Iris, Cafe 1912, Tsunami, thank you for that guys! But, I also know that restaurants do pay a ridiculous liquor/wine tax (24.25%) to the state. So anyway, yesterday we went out to River Oaks for a little vino & a snack. We started with a Rochioli Pinot Noir 2005 Russian River Valley. It had a beautiful translucent ruby color with aromas of black cherry, tea & hints of earth. The palate was delicate, medium bodied with ripe red cherry & bright acid. Our next bottle was the Carpineto 2001 Brunello di Montalcino. This is why I love Italian wines with a little age. The wine poured dark purple with a black core, aromas of barnyard, funk, forest floor, mushroom & black fruits. The palate was rich, dense, velvety & gave a long, long finish.

Two things are inexcusable when it comes to wine service at this level, or rather the level that River Oaks is portraying themselves to be at. One is improper temperature of the bottles. Both reds were served way too warm & required chillers, which I asked for. If they are going to serve warm red wine they should purchase more chillers or ask the table if they would like their red wine chilled down for them. I shouldn't have to ask, they should know better. Second, is a dirty wine glass. All three of our glasses that we were given with the first bottle were dirty. Not just "the dishwasher left some residue" dirty, I mean, greasy thumbprints & lipstick dirty. Again, a restaurant that wants us to see them of a certain caliber shouldn't allow this to happen. Eww.

Friday, August 01, 2008

In Fine Rose

Okay, I admit it. I'm a little mad about rose. With the disgusting, appalling, oppressive & downright hellish heat & humidity of Memphis, how can I not be? Last night I popped a bottle of In Fine Rose 2007 ($12.99 at Joe's) from the Cotes du Ventoux. It is a lovely little quaffer with nice pink hue, aromas of fresh berries with a little spice & a refreshing, fruity & dry palate. This isn't meant to be contemplated, its meant to be drank. Sometimes I don't want complexity, I just want refreshment & this wine offers it in spades. Drink up!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Encore, in the heat of the Summer

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.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Washington State Continues to Blow My Mind

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.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lachini Pinot Gris 2007

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!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Blinded by the Wine

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.

The reveal:

  1. Piazzano Rio Camerata 2005 Chianti $17.99
  2. Colognole 2003 Chianti Rufina $17.99
  3. La Valentina Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2005 Abruzzo $17.99
  4. River Aerie Sangiovese 2006 Columbia Valley, WA $19.99
  5. Coldisole Brunello di Montalcino 2001 Montalcino $64.99
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 brett barnyardiness. 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.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Worth a thousand words

This pic is from our latest trip to New York. I saw this sign at the Union Square Greenmarket. Enough said.

Sunday Dinner

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!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Good good pinot

I love a good pinot noir. 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, Siduri Sonoma 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!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rose Rose Rose!

Check out my new vlog. Lee Gordon produced this using his incredible talents. Thanks Lee!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The end of a vineyard

I'm sipping on one of the most stunning white wines ever produced. I've had the Stadt Krems Sandgrube Gruner Veltliner 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.

New Tasting Menu

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 sauvignon blanc from the Stellenbosch district of South Africa. The next course is a foie gras 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 vin cotto 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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

New Blog

Check out my friend Justin's blog here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Graham Beck

While Kelly & I were in NYC recently we stopped by the wine bar Xai Xai in Midtown Manhattan. I was intrigued by it after seeing it profiled on Wine Spectator in a video with James Molesworth. When we stopped by, it was a Wednesday around 5 p.m. & there was only one other couple there. I ordered a glass of the Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2006 for Kelly & a glass of the Graham Beck Brut for myself. The bubbly was classically styled, with toasty notes, a creamy texture, beautiful beading & a round texture. It was a perfect example of South African winemaking. That region is producing wines that straddle the gap between the Old World & New. I don't believe this winery is available in Memphis, but hopefully it will be very soon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Meat & Vegetables

This weekend I had two excellent meals that really stood out not only for their excellent quality but also for their polar opposition in the same genre. The first was at our friends Justin & Amy's house. Justin is an amaaaaazing cook who just so happens to be a vegetarian. As we walked in the door, Amy poured us a cherry-basil mojito (she is a master mixologist!) that was perfectly minty, sweet & refreshing with just an undertone of basil. Justin had prepared a mexican spread like no other: grilled corn with vegan mayonnaise, parmiggiano, chile & lime; quesadillas with cheese & vegan chorizo; black bean tamales & a spread of different salsas. The meal was outstandingly delicious, full of a variety of different bright flavors & just that right amount of heat which paired well with a 2006 Chateau Marouine Cotes de Provence rose & 2006 River Aerie Malbec, Columbia Valley. Justin just amazes me every time he prepares a meal for us. I am a without a doubt a meat lover, even though I don't eat it often, but I never...ever leave his dining room feeling unsatisfied in anyway. Hell, after this meal I was so stuffed I couldn't finish dessert!

The second meal was also Mexican in style & theme. Our friend Kristy's birthday was Saturday, in honor of the special day she & her husband Jeff had a mexican fiesta. Nice sombrero Jeff! First of all, the margaritas were fabulous. There is just nothing like a fresh margarita, it was obvious that they had gone through the trouble of juicing fresh limes instead of using a mix. Outstanding!! The dish that stood out to me the most was the goat. I have never had goat before so I was extremely curious. Kristy gets the meat from a farm in Iowa (I'm pretty sure she said Iowa) that humanely raises its livestock & uses no chemicals, hormones, etc. Jeff prepared the goat in a dark sauce laced with chilis, cumin & I'm not sure what else. The goat was succulent & tender & just melted on my tongue. The sauce had a smoky heat as opposed to a spicy heat that savory-sweet at the same time. I must say that I would definitely try goat again.......as long as Jeff is preparing it! HAPPY BIRTHDAY KRISTY!!!!!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wine Tasting

This just in:

Joe's Wines next big tasting will be held at the Vine, 1819 Madison on Thursday June 26th, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Cost to attend is $35 per person. They will be pouring a selection of wines from around the world, with each station focusing on a particular region (Austria, Washington, California, etc....) If you would like to purchase tickets, please stop in the store, 1681 Poplar or call 901.725.4252. With gas prices so high, why not skip your vacation & come to a wine tasting instead?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Post Vacation Depression

We just returned from NYC on Saturday & reality has set in. We are already planning our return, I'm planning my return to Morrell (to stock up on more incredible bottles & to converse with the lovely Harriet) & Kelly is planning our move to the city. Seriously, he wants to live there. I had hoped to do a bit more shopping for some boots & jeans but it just didn't work out that way. Instead, I spent my shopping budget entirely on wine but hey that was my plan anyway! We ended shopping only a little bit....but eating & drinking a LOT! We found a few lovely little wine bars:
  • Morrell Wine Bar: This cozy but beautiful locale was next door to one of the best wine shops I've ever been to. It had an extensive wine list & a menu of small plates perfect for sharing. We had a few glasses of rose (Kelly's was from Provence, mine was from Bandol) & a plate of charcuterie. The bar was curvy & sleek with a wall of wine to the left of the entrance. Very cool but very comfortable place.
  • Flute: This former speakeasy is below the street in a dark space with multiple pockets of plush seats & couches. The small but excellent selection of champagnes, sparkling wines & cocktails are perfect for a early evening. We found this place at about 5:05 on a Friday after walking around & sweating our asses off. Try the Marquis de Sade cocktail. I won't spoil it for you.
  • The Bubble Lounge: This Tribeca spot boasts an unbelievable amount of Champagnes & sparkling wines. Kelly & I found this place the last time we came to NYC & couldn't wait to return. This lounge is very cozy with exposed brick & dark red chairs & sofas. I love, love, LOVE Champagne so I was just a sucker for this place.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Viva Italia!

Check out my new article here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Kelly & I are in NYC right now. Just got here yesterday & it is hot as HELL. I should be used to this having lived in Memphis for 8 years, but it still doesn't help. Our driver was taking us over the Brooklyn Bridge & just happened to mention that it was 102 degrees! We didn't let that deter us from doing some exploring on foot. We happened upon Morrell Wine shop next to Rockefeller Center. We must have looked like vagrants because one of the wine stewards followed us & stood near us to prevent shoplifting! Hey, I can't blame her, I probably was soaked with sweat & stinky so....But after she engaged me in conversation & learned my tastes we were having a good time & I was spending too much money on really good wine. Kelly made a very interesting observation that "New York has places like this Morrell in one of their most heavily touristy areas. Memphis has rib & burger joints & shops that sell silly bobble heads or other crap. That shows you the different plane that New York is operating on."

For dinner last night we made reservations at Perilla in the West Village. We are huge Top Chef fans so naturally we wanted to eat at Harold Dieterle's (the 1st Top Chef winner) restaurant. The decor & layout were very beautiful. However, on this boiling day it seemed as though they didn't have the air conditioning on. That wasn't pleasant, but we got over it. The second strike was the poorly made sidecar cocktail. Kelly was not happy about it but he drank it. It needed more lemon & more sugar on the rim to balance it out. However, as soon as we sat down at our table we were very excited about the menu in front of us. Kelly decided on the spicy duck meatballs for a starter & I chose the halibut cheeks. Both were outstandingly delicious. The meatballs came with a raw quail egg on top that melted into the broth. Fantastic. My cheeks were seared crisp on the exterior with a juicy interior. For our entrees I had the roasted duckling breast & Kelly had the ricotta ravioli with fiddlehead ferns & truffle butter. Oh my goodness...We chose very wisely. Both dishes were perfectly cooked with delicious layers of flavor. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Manhattan. Just call ahead & ask if the a/c is working.....& don't order a sidecar.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Farmer's Market Dinner at Majestic Grille

I just received this release from the Majestic Grille. They are planning what is sure to be one of the best wine dinners this summer. Local food & good wine in an incredible setting. What more could you ask for?


Wednesday June 11 – 6:30pm

Reservations Required.

Hors D'Oeuvres

Pizettas - Carmelized spring onions, bonnie blue goat cheese, arugula

Radish "Sandwiches" - Sea salt and chive mayo

Bon Bon Shiraz Rose, South Australia 2007

First Course

Roasted Jumbo Scallop - Baby beets, oranges, mixed greens

Marquis Phillips Holly's Blend, Southeast Australia 2007

Second Course

Veal Tenderloin - Stuffed with chard, zucchini and fresh herbs with natural juices, sugar glazed carrots and roasted fingerling potatoes

Chris Ringland's Green Lion Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley CA 2005


English Strawberry Trifle - Fresh strawberries layered with sponge cake, English custard and canilla cream

Paringa Individual Vineyards Sparkling Shiraz, South Australia 2004

$55 per person plus tax & 20% gratuity. Slow Foods members $50.

Please call 901-522-8555 to make reservations. Seating is limited.

Monday, June 02, 2008

All Carova, All The Time!

Finally the Carova Milk Bar has reconvened. It has been far too long! I haven't blind tasted in quite some time so I suggested we do just that. Everyone brought a brown bag bottle that was not to exceed $25. After the reveal I could tell most of us had cheated on the price point, but what the hell.

Blind tasting is always so humbling. I'm a bit rusty but that just means I need to do this more often.

My descriptors were pretty spot on but I led myself astray on the varietals. Oh well.

Here's the lineup:

Sebastiani Barbera 2004
Tablas Creek Vermentino 2003
Bell Vineyards Merlot 2002
Pepper Bridge Merlot 2003
Isenhower Horse Heaven Hills Syrah 2004

For an extra added bonus, Michael Barar brought a 1993 6 Puttonyos Tokaji......mmmmmmmmm

I decided to share a Turley Cellars Zinfandel Rattlesnake Ridge Howell Mountain 2005 with the gang. Oh my god. It is no wonder that Turley is so highly sought after. They are truly exceptional wines. It was smoky barbecued pork in a glass......mmmmmm.