Sunday, February 28, 2010

Eric Titus of Titus Vineyards

Friday I had the pleasure of speaking by phone with Eric Titus, second generation winemaker at Titus Vineyards in Napa Valley. Titus isn't one of those big, splashy, they are a small family of people who love wine & love sharing what they can do with their lovely estate vineyards. This Thursday March 4th, Christophe Smith will be coming directly from Titus Vineyards to pour their wine at a wine dinner at one of the best restaurants in town, Restaurant Iris. I do believe the dinner is close to selling out if not sold out already. If they're sold out its worth it to get on the waiting list because you never know...

I first tasted their cabernet franc back in the fall & really fell in love with it. Its not brash & overblown, it is plush & round & filled with spice & fruit. So beautiful.

So I asked him, "why cab franc in a valley so cab sauv obsessed?"

"Back in early 90s we were doing a lot of replanting. At that time we decided to step up our cab program so we tore out chard & zin. The minority on the estate at the time was cab, no bordeaux varietals really at all. We decided to pursue more bordeaux varietals, The cab franc was meant for blending. At the time we were selling all of our fruit to Charles Krug, Cuvaison, BV, sean larkin, Pine Ridge, Clos Pegase. As the vineyard took shape we realized cab franc was way over planted. My brother & I started using more petite verdot in blends in order to get more stuffing & body. Therefore we had lots of cab franc to use. As opposed to just selling it off we decided to make use of it. Titus was still a very small label at the time, only about 1500 cases. No one was doing just cab franc so my brother & I decided to make a first edition cab franc of only 100 cases. That particular varietal has never been on the front of Wine Spectator to my knowledge. Cab franc never had its day in the sun but its a little more close to peoples hearts, the wine lovers or wine geeks. We had such a huge response from that first edition that its just grown & grown. We are on our 13th or 14th vintage. People really love it."

Do you think Napa needs or has any innovation? What keeps Napa in competition with the other dynamic & exquisite wine growing regions in the world?

"Well you know I think cab franc is a good example of the innovation in Napa. Most people think the wineries here are only watching the bottom line. I see people out here innovating with & exploring zinfandel, petite verdot, even a little charbono. There is s certain amount of innovation for sure. Many winemakers are trying to put forth that they are doing something different. To some extent they are compromising themselves somewhat because its thought of that cab sauv is the only napa grape. When you go to shops you just don’t see a lot of Napa cab franc or petite verdot on the shelves. I think that there will always be that faction that is trying something new."

When was Titus founded?

"The property was purchased in 69, first vintage in 90. Before 1990 we sold off our fruit to a few other wineries."

Do you farm sustainably, organic or biodynamic?

" I would say that everyone who farms on a smaller scale in Napa has a more environmentally positive approach for sure. By and large, we are low impact in our farming techniques. Thats almost a given with the smaller guys. We understand the direct effect we have on our surroundings but more importantly our business. In my opinion some wineries with the certifications (organic, bio-dynamic) are using it as more of a marketing ploy than anything. In terms of my own practices, we are lucky that we don’t have a lot of pest pressure on our vineyard. We weed with tractors, shovels, we control mildew with elemental sulfur which is organic. Thankfully we are also in fertile soil so we don't have to use chemical fertilizers. Low impact is something that we see most everyone doing."

Our conversation was brief but Eric was a pleasure to talk to. I really am looking forward to the dinner. Call Restaurant Iris to get on the list!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Beer Glorious Beeeeeer!

I don't believe I have ever blogged about a beer on here but there is a first time for everything. Magic Hat is new to the Memphis market so I wanted to give them a try. I popped the cap on the Spring 2010 Unfiltered Motion series.

I know the wine glass might be a little much but the beer is so beautiful I couldn't help myself. Its golden & delicious looking. Its quite light & refreshing as well. Nice notes of hoppiness, spice & back note of malt. I can see myself drinking quite a bit of this in the spring & summer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Seven Hills at Napa Cafe

I apologize in advance for my lack of photos for this one. You'll just have to take my word for it....this dinner was out of control. They really know how to do it at Napa Cafe. Don't miss the next wine dinner or better yet go in for dinner this week & dine on their delicious fare alongside a wine from one of the best lists in town.

First course:

Roasted fresh figs stuffed with local goats cheese & orange blossom honey
paired with Seven Hills Talcott Vineyard Viognier 2008

Seared Scallops with brown butter, granny smith
paired with Seven Hills Riesling 2008

Duck Confit Tostada
paired with Seven Hills Tempranillo 2006

Bison tenderloin & Bison shortrib "shepard's pie" with truffled demi glace
paired with Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard
Seven Hills Pentad 2005

Dark chocolate pate with fresh raspberries
paired with Seven Hills Merlot 2006 Seven Hills Vineyard

The food was fantastic & the wines paired so well. I was especially pleased with how well thought out the pairings were. The scallop dish was lacking some acidity when tasted on its own. But when tasted with the riesling it all made sense. The wine gave that acidity that the dish needed.


Winemaker Dinner Benefiting Brooks Museum of Memphis

On Sunday February 28th Flemings Prime Steakhouse will be hosting Silver Oak & Twomey Winery for a dinner benefiting the Brooks Museum. Winemaker Ben Cane is the special guest. A live auction of some really cool trips (including a trip to Seattle's Taste Washington!) & items will be occurring during dinner. An abundance of good food & wine, awesome auction items, all benefiting one of the greatest museums. Tickets are $150 per person.

For more information & to purchase tickets click here.

Italian Wine Dinner at Spindini

Wednesday February 24th at 7:00 p.m. join me at Spindini as they host Robin Riddell with Winebow Imports. A rustic & hearty five course menu will be paired with four exquisite wines from Winebow's extensive Italian portfolio. For the dessert course Spindini will be showcasing their housemade limoncello. I LOVE limoncello! All this for only $60 plus tax & gratuity. For reservations call 901.578.2767.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

This Thursday

There are still a few spaces left for Napa Cafe's wine dinner with Seven Hills Winery this Thursday February 11. Check out this droolworthy menu.

For reservations call 901.683.0441

I'll be there salivating over their fantastic food & Seven Hills' outstanding wines.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The music

Does certain music make you want to cook or drink wine or both?

It seems that most music I like makes want to get in the kitchen & pop a bottle or two.

I'm listening to the xx right now & it really makes me want to prepare a delicious meal & pop something special.

Go to grooveshark & check them out:

What music gets you going?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Swine & Wine Dinner

Pig. Pig. Pig.

What a holy animal.

Last night was the first night of the 2nd annual Swine & Wine Dinner at Andrew/Michael Italian Kitchen. Snout to tail was definitely the theme of the 7 course meal....& every single bite was incredibly delicious. So deftly seasoned & presented in a very straight forward way. Chefs Michael Hudman & Andrew Ticer displayed outstanding technique with every single plate. It takes a lot of technique to prepare certain cuts of meat in not only interesting way but a delicious way. What I really loved was that they didn't bury the pig with too much of one thing or another. Their technique & preparation highlighted & enhanced the wonderfully earthy pork flavor. And why shouldn't they have? The pig was a pasture raised Berkshire breed from Newman Farms in Missouri.

First course: Porchetta of pig head, pork conserva, fried headcheese. Everything was tender & perfectly seasoned. Delicious. We paired this course with Falesco Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone 2008. Past vintages of this wine that I've tasted I've thought were insipid quite honestly. However, this vintage is crisp & bright with a luscious citrus note.

The next course that my iphone took a decent enough picture of was: Lardo wrapped shrimp, confit of pork tongue with pickled fennel & squid ink vinaigrette. This course was paired with Prunotto "Fiulot" Barbera d'Asti 2007. Nice grip, bright cranberry fruit, hints of herb & heightened acidity.

Up next was a braised & seared pork belly with hazelnut raviolo stuffed with farm fresh egg yolk that was barely poached so it was perfectly creamy & runny. I love egg so much. Egg & pork belly with the unctuous & creamy richness of hazelnut puree was simply heaven. This we paired with Valle Reale Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2006. The wine was bold enough to stand up to the rich belly but also had razor sharp acid to cut through the fat of the belly & luscious egg with hazelnut.

Final course: smoked ham hock panna cotta with fig preserves & cinnamon-sugar pork rinds. Rich, smoky with an undertone of pork flavor. It was sweet without being cloying & paired very nicely with Argiolas Perdera Isola dei Nuraghi 2007. The wine added this note of spice that amped up the earthy undertones of the dessert.

I'm sorry that I wasn't able to post pictures of the other three courses but the photos just didn't turn out. Trust me. Next time Andrew-Michael does a Swine & Wine dinner book early to make sure you have a spot!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Bottles, Conversation & Friends

Sunday is a great day for bottles of wine & good friends. Just recently we had our friends Rusty, Glenda, Elizabeth & Steven over for a nice meal.

I tried my hand at making some fresh pasta as you can see from the picture above. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out quite so well so I had to ask Kelly to run to the store to pick up some Barilla linguini. It was perfectly delicious with my braised lamb.

I did make some fresh pasty dough & that turned out wonderful!

I baked the pastry & filled it with a vanilla mascarpone cream & blueberry-kirsch compote.

Elizabeth poached pears & stuffed them with cranberries, walnuts & blue cheese & served them over arugula. So incredibly delicious.

I tossed the braised lamb with linguini, roasted garlic, mushroom duxelle, caramelized onions, tomatoes & truffle butter.

Rusty & Glenda brought along some bubbles to start us off.

Oregon makes some of my most favorite wines. This Argyle bubbly was crisp, nutty, creamy & delicious.

Elizabeth brought along a delightful Domaine Carneros Brut 2005 that was bright, full of fruit & had a luscious texture.

She also popped open a super yummy Logan Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow Vineyard 2006. It was rich but not heavy & had a perfect balance of acidity & a creaminess that didn't weigh down my palate. Delicious.

Sam, I thought of you when we opened this bottle. Your beloved Burgundy. I think I get why you love them so. Thank goodness I hung to this as long as I did because it was magically delicious & I imagine that it wouldn't have been this good if we drank it when it was young. It was earthy, brooding & very sensual.

This gorgeous Bordeaux was fantastic. All kinds of clove, tart dried cherry, leather & a dried meat element.

Rusty & Glenda had another surprise for us. A Lost Highway 2002 from Barossa Valley. It had a port-like aroma & a rich concentrated blueberry note on the palate. I imagine that this bottle was difficult to drink when it was young but with a little age it had calmed down. Quite a powerhouse.

Lastly, we finished ourselves off with a Seven HIlls Merlot 2007 Seven Hills Vineyard. What a beautiful bottle. Merlot in Washington State is something so different than I've had from elsewhere. This was bold, dark & laden with plum & baking spices with a nice earthy note on the finish. I can't wait for the Seven Hills dinner at Napa Cafe on Feb 11!

Nose to Tail

So, whose going to the Andrew Michael Swine & Wine dinner? I'll be there on Wednesday.