Friday, December 18, 2009

Aged Oregon Riesling

I couldn't stop thinking about it. It kind of haunted me. Back in July while I was at Argyle Winery for a white wine seminar during Pinot Camp. Rollin Soles, the winemaker/owner, waxed poetic about a '88 riesling that he popped a week before. He was trying to make a point about the ageability of riesling in Oregon. All wanted was some of that wine! So I raised my hand & asked him to go fetch a bottle so we could taste it for ourselves. He laughed & said he'd try to fish one out of the cellar. After the seminar we dug into lunch & I sort of forgot about the '88 since I was STARVING! The National Sales Manager, Chris, came over to my table & poured me a glass of wine. It was the '88!! Ever since then I've been lusting after some good, aged riesling.

Lo & behold! What did I come across today? Some Argyle 1996 Riesling! I was a little sketched out by it at first because it appeared as if it might have leaked. But I popped it open anyway & poured myself a glass. Its a beautiful straw, gold in the glass. On the nose I get petrol, preserved lemon, dried apricot & lemon curd. The palate is creamy but zingy with acidity, a little hazelnut & a menthol. I'm super impressed with how this has held up. The finish just hangs on & on & on! My mouth is salivating for more.

Seven Hills Riesling & Some Roman Style Gnocchi

My friends Justin (aka The Chubby Vegetarian, which doesn't really fit since he isn't chubby) & Amy invited Kelly & I over for dinner Tuesday night. Whenever we dine at Chez TCV its always unique, always interesting & always super delicious. After an exhausting day at the store Justin could tell I needed a stiff drink so he immediately offered me a glass of Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old Single Barrel Bourbon. This heavenly Kentucky elixir was brimming with notes of brown sugar, vanilla, clove & smoke. Perfect to take the day's edge off. After we finished our Bourbon I popped a bottle of Seven Hills Rielsing 2008 Columbia Valley (suggested retail $14.99). This racy, bright riesling is a blend from Evergreen, Willard & Snipes Vineyards. At 11% alcohol is light, lithe & refreshing on the palate. Its crisp & clean with electric acidity that was perfect as an aperitif.

While we sipped on this tasty little riesling Justin worked on his pumpkin gnocchi.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Wine to Cozy Up To

Its no secret that I feel as though Washington State is producing some of the best wines on the market. The quality far surpasses most California wines at similar price points as well as offering more uniqueness, layers of flavor & different dimensions. Right now I'm sipping on a glass of Nicholas Cole Cellars "Camille" 2003 $39.99. The wine is gorgeously textured with this leathery quality that caresses me as I'm sipping on it. It has earthy, pie spice & dark fruit aromas with a little anise note. The palate is luscious & gripping but not overwrought or cloying the way many other New World blends of this type can be. I could drink this & drink this until there is nothing left & to me thats a huge compliment.

The Anniversary Dinner

8 years! Its hard to believe that Kelly & I have been together for 8 years. I know its a cliche but time really does whiz by. This year alone feels as if it never even happened.

We made reservations at Chez Philippe in Downtown Memphis' Peabody Hotel. We were going to celebrate with our very close friends Marlinee & Max since it also happened to be Marlinee's 29th birthday. They've been to Chez quite a bit but neither Kelly nor I have dined there. I was really excited because this restaurant is supposed to be the best in town. I knew I wanted to start with some Champagne & I had been holding on to the perfect bottle.

This beautiful Champagne has been resting peacefully in my wine fridge for over 3 years. Its hard to believe how patient I have been with it because I could always drink bubbles! I think if we all drank Champagne more often we would all be happier. Gosset Grand Reserve Brut is produced in the Ay district of Champagne & is comprised of almost half chardonnay with the other half being pinot noir & pinot meunier. This gorgeous, sexy wine poured golden in the glass with barely noticeable bubbles. At first I was concerned that something was off given the lack of bubbles but on the palate it was a different story. Creamy, succulent, round, rich, toasty, apricot marmalade but really it wasn't about flavor it was more about texture & emotion. It sent ripples through my body that unraveled downward & then rippled back up into my head. It was like being touched by someone I was achingly attracted to for the first time.

After sitting down at our table I perused the wine list & selected a Alsatian riesling for us to begin with. I was craving acidity & brightness & this bottle, I felt, was going to give it to me. Unfortunately, the majority of the list was simply overpriced wines that weren't very exciting. The food menu seems sleek & modern while the wine list just felt stodgy & boring. There was a little glimmer of hope so we stuck to that.

They didn't set the tone right at first when the amuse bouche of beef tartar was brought to all of us including the vegetarian at the table. He called twice the week prior to inform the restaurant that he was a vegetarian so the fact that they didn't have a veg-friendly amuse bouche ready for him was inexcusable. A restaurant of that caliber should never have set that down in front of him. He is paying just as much as everyone else at that table! I was concerned of course because I obviously wanted him to enjoy this just as much as me.

Domaine Schlumberger "Les Princes Abbes" Riesling 2006. Tautly wound at first but after a while it woke up & electrified my palate with bright acidity. I loved the classic note of petrol on the nose. That to me is what a good riesling should always have. Some people might not care for it but I CRAVE it. It paired perfectly with my first course of Salmon "Pastrami on Rye" which was perfectly cured wild salmon with dill, caviar & rye toasts (sorry for the lack of a pic). I wanted more. The next course was a Hearts of Palm & Roquefort Casserole. Which looked very pretty in its simplicity. However, the flavors were a little disjointed. The palm was bright & tart & the roquefort was rich & pungent. Unfortunately, the casserole itself was watery & the crumbs on top were almost not even connected to the dish itself. They just fell off as I tried to eat it.

Marlinee's course was rich, creamy, unctuous & oh so very delicious. Foie gras is god's gift to us all.

Max & Mar brought along a truly amazing wine for us all to enjoy. Marlinee isn't necessarily one of the most wine obsessed people I know. Honestly, she just wants something that tastes good but doesn't really want to dwell on it. On her recent trip to Denver a friend of hers poured her a wine that she absolutely fell in love with. I have never heard her talk about a wine this much as long as I've known her. Luckily we had some from that same producer at Joe's Wines. Behold the wine of the night (not counting the Champagne of course!):

Over 150 year old nerello mascalese vines are the source for this earthy, elegant, sensually spiced, velvet textured wine. I kept wanting to smell it over & over again! Honestly, if I would have blind tasted this I would have immediately hypothesized that it was Burgundy....sorry Sam.

When I first tasted this wine almost 2 years ago I remember being astonished at how exotic & expressive it was but in a way that was comforting & almost homey in its rusticity. Wow, wow wow. We have one & a half cases left at the store & I am going to stash 6 for myself so whoever wants it better get there soon!

My next course, Florida Keys Yellowtail with Periwinkles & Saffron Brown Butter was a very pretty course.

The fish was nice & crisp & the skin had a near perfect texture. I couldn't really taste the saffron in the sauce but the butter gave nice richness. The periwinkles were.....odd. The texture was interesting but they tasted as if they'd been marinated in algae. Very strange. I devoured my fish though.

Next course was a Duo of Neola Farms beef that was beautifully plated & had wonderful earthy, grassy beefiness. It was a perfect foil to the rich & bold Terrebianca Campaccio 2001. This SuperTuscan was almost too big, surprising given its 8 years of age. I loved the struggle between its acidity & tannin.

My apologies for the "crime scene" nature of this photo but by the time I realized I hadn't photographed my was too late.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Book

I'm reading what is fast becoming one of the most interesting, compelling & ultimately challenging wine books I've ever read. Great art, & therefore great wine, is supposed to do just that. Challenge. Over my short career in wine my palate has transformed & developed. It has been influenced by countless different wines & a small handful of individuals (not counting the few winemakers I've had the pleasure of interacting with). However, books have always been a sort of refuge. A place to teleport myself, get excited, become someone else & be inspired. Jonathan Nossiter's "Liquid Memory" is something else entirely. While I find it intriguing & intelligently well written, I also find that its challenging some beliefs & mindsets of mine.

Nossiter is a firm believer in "terroir". For lack of a a detailed description this is the mindset that a wine (or any agricultural product really) is, or should be, a direct expression of its place. The climate, soil, sun exposure, mineral content, etc. is what makes a wine. I believe that too. In my experience, some of the best wines I've ever had are indicative of their origin. Nossiter rails against the New World for its "Botoxification" of its wines. Why manipulate a wine to turn it into something that its not? He sings the praises of Burgundy, Jura & especially a small group of French winemakers who carry the torch of terroir that was passed on from their ancestors. To me it almost seems as though he is implying that only a few regions throughout Europe should be producing wine because only these regions make wine thats worth drinking. I have a big problem with that. How many of us can afford to drink, much less have access to, the great Burgundies of Jean-Marc Roulot or Dominique Lafon? I wish that I could drink aged Brunellos, Barolos or Riojas on a regular basis but I don't have access to them & I most certainly can't afford them.

Are New World wines inherently bad or of poor quality? Are they not what wine is supposed to be according to Nossiter? I credit many inexpensive New World wines from Spain, Argentina, Chile & (god forbid) even Australia for helping me get excited & interested in wine. I'm thankful for quite a few of them because having them in my arsenal has helped me excite many customers & has helped me lead them on a path to many different wine experiences.

Throughout the book some of the highlights are when the author is with a winemaker who is sharing an older vintage of their wine. He writes in a very experiential style that transports you to the whatever wine cave he is in. Its quite exciting. But they are mostly drinking wines that most of us will never have the pleasure of drinking or even laying our eyes on. Yes I feel like I'm missing out by not being able to explore Burgundy the way I would like to but I also feel like that isn't the end all be all of what wine is.

Many wine nuts out there don't have deep cellars or deep pockets. We scrape together whats leftover from our paychecks to buy bottles we feel passionately about & if we are lucky we have someplace in our home to put them. We wait patiently for the moment that seems right to open them & we drink them in. More often than not we share them with friends & fellow wine lovers because that to me is utmost expression of wine can be. Sharing can make a mediocre wine taste incredible. Sharing can make a great wine transcendent.