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!