Restaurant Files: Paloma in Stamford, Connecticut

June 28, 2015 6 comments

Paloma RestaurantI don’t think I ever confessed my love to the city of Stamford in this blog. Meanwhile, it is the city where I live for the past 20+ years, and it is one of my absolute favorite places in the US (yep, I’m biased like that). Compared to many towns of the same size (about 128,000 people live here), it has very unique and different architecture, beautiful downtown, and lots of areas directly adjacent to the water – the Atlantic Ocean (Long Island Sound, to be more precise). You don’t have to take my word about “unique and different” – come for a visit one day.

Over the past 5-7 years, number of areas in Stamford completely changed their appearance, especially at so called South Side (this is the area mostly by the water). The industrial landscape of the small repair and hardware shops and construction companies was replaced by the beautiful apartment buildings and brand new stores, such as Fairway Market, with obviously lots of people now living in the area. So all those people have to eat somewhere, right? Besides, Connecticut is considered one of the primary “foodie” areas, so it is a given that the newly developed areas attract new and interesting restaurants.

This is exactly what I want to present to you today – recently opened (second half of 2014) Paloma Restaurant at Harbor Point district of the city of Stamford, a brand new development which is still sporting lots of construction cranes as the major decoration. Paloma is a Latin-themed restaurant, part owned by the celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez. We visited restaurant with the group of bloggers, so as usual, I would like to share with you our experience (don’t continue reading if you are hungry, please – I’m not responsible for any excessive drooling and its consequences).

We started with cocktails before the dinner. Allegre Hemigway (Avion anejo tequila, atlantico reserve rum, lime, ruby red grapefruit, maraschino liquor) was nice, may be somewhat simplistic, but refreshing enough. The Bacon Old Fashion (the duke’s baconized bourbon, simple syrup, bitters) was somewhat disappointing. My problem is that if it says “bacon”, I need to taste that bacon – this was not the case here. It was definitely very potent, but I was unable to taste any bacon. If anything, I would probably serve this cocktail with a piece of bacon in it – well, I finished it anyway.

You know that I have to talk about the wine next. The wine list at Paloma is short, but well constructed with a good international selection of wines, both by the glass (generous 6 oz pour), and by the bottle. For the white, we had 2013 Adelsheim Pinot Gris Willamette Valley Oregon – bright flowers and white stone fruit aromatics on the nose, dry, crispy and restrained on the palate. For the red we had 2013 Casas del Bosque Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva Maipo Valley Chile – typical mint and black currant aromatics of Chilean Cabernet, velvety texture, perfect balance, dark fruit with a touch of herbs, full body – one delicious wine with a great QPR ($41 at a restaurant). I can tell you that Casas del Bosque is becoming one of my favorite Chilean producers – I recently had their Rosé, Carmenere and now Cabernet Sauvignon – all excellent wines.

Before we get to the food I have to mention that the wine list at Paloma greatly extends into the Bourbon, Scotch, Tequila, and my perennial favorite, Mezcal. I should’ve probably mentioned that as an “after-dinner” element, but while we are talking about all the drinks I would like to make sure you will be aware of that. I had one of the beautiful Mezcals from Del Maguey, which at $12/pour was an excellent value – and it was delicious. If you like this type of drinks, don’t miss it when you will visit Paloma, as they probably have the best list in Stamford in both selection and the prices.

Now, to the food! We started with Shrimp Tempura Tostadas (creamy aji mirasol, mango salsa) and Crab  Tostadas (chile arbol aioli, avocado puree) – nice single bite appetizers, good flavor and very easy to eat.

Our selection of appetizers continued with Lobster Ceviche (passion fruit, habanero sauce) – pleasant, but too sweet to my taste. Next, Tai Tiradito (snapper crudo, aji rocoto sauce, crispy hominy) – the snapper had nice crunch to it; overall, this was very spicy, but refreshing. Albondigas (meatballs, chipotle broth, mint, queso cotija) had very good texture, nicely done. But to be entirely honest, Mexican Street Corn (chipotle crema, queso cotija, herbs) was one of my two most favorite appetizers – an excellent array of flavors, very delicious. Combination of spicy chipotle crema and cotija cheese was just spot on. And the Queso Fundido (huitlacoche, wild mushrooms, corn tortillas) was another favorite – there was not a morsel of a crunchy cheese left in the skillet – everyone at the table loved it.

Next it was the time for the main course. Cuban Style Chicken (Cuban marinated roasted chicken, pickeled salad, tamarind chicken fried rice) was perfectly cooked, with lots of flavor in the meat – it was definitely well marinated. Fried rice was excellent, and the sauce was marrying all the dish’s components perfectly together. Braised Short Ribs (ancho-cacao rub, seasonal vegetables, horseradish gemolata) was one big chunk of beef – fork-tender and very flavorful, one of the definite highlights of the evening.

Camarones Mojo de Ajo (jumbo shrimp, chile de arbol butter, crispy grits cake) were first of all beautifully presented. The shrimp was perfectly cooked, but the real star of the dish was the crispy grits cake, as it had an excellent texture and flavor profile. Garganelli Pasta (chorizo, cauliflower, grilled escarole, tamarind reduction) was a comfort food – homey, satisfying, delicious; something you can poke at for a while, just trying to stretch the pleasure.

Now the last but not least – desserts! First, we had Churros (dolce de leche and agave-vanilla crema) – an absolutely delicious rendition of one of my favorite treats; a different shape, but a very familiar taste. Cheesecake (salted caramel, cherry chunk cookie cumble, ice cream) also had an unusual presentation, and the salted caramel component made it into a perfect after-dinner treat.

On the subject of the liquid desserts I would like to once again mention the excellent drinks selection at Paloma – from the liquors to bourbons and on to the mezcal, this is definitely something not to miss.

Overall, it was definitely a very good meal, and I’m glad we have another interesting dining option in Stamford. Hope you enjoyed the pictures. Cheers!

Paloma
15 Harbor Point Road
Stamford, CT 06902
Phone. 203-998-7500
http://www.palomagrill.com

Click to add a blog post for Paloma on Zomato

Time To Travel: Experience Wine-Friendly Inns

June 25, 2015 2 comments

Today I would like to offer to your attention a guest post written by Stef Schwalb, Director of PR and Marketing at BnBFinder.com. I don’t know about you, but I love staying at the Bed and Breakfast Inns when I travel for fun. All those B&Bs offer so much charm and personality, it is totally different and much more relaxing experience compare to any of the major hotel chains. And as this is a wine blog, of course we will be talking about wine-friendly places. Here we go…

At long last it’s time for summer travel, and thankfully, there are several destinations where oenophiles will feel right at home. In fact, it may surprise you to know that B&B’s across the country are not only located in several industry hot spots, but many also offer amenities with wine lovers in mind.

Inn on Lake Granbury, Granbury, Texas

Image courtesy of Inn on Lake Granbury & Jumping Rocks Photography

Granbury, TX is located in the heart of Texas Hill Country, a region that’s increasingly becoming ripe for wine tourism, and Granbury’s Historic Town Square provides travelers with plenty to enjoy, including outdoor activities such as golfing and biking, live theater, concerts, fine dining restaurants, specialty shops, festivals and wine tours. Plus, a visit to the D’Vine Wine of Texas store includes onsite wine making, daily tastings, and more. All of this is found within a short distance of Inn on Lake Granbury. Situated on three acres of landscaped gardens, this cozy lakefront retreat offers guests unique, upscale accommodations, ranging from elegant rooms and luxurious suites to fully-furnished guest house rentals. Each one features hardwood floors, European decor with Hill Country accents, heated bathroom floors, steam showers, stone fireplaces, outdoor porches and balconies. In the morning, guests can indulge in a five-course breakfast, and in the afternoon, there’s an enticing wine and appetizer hour too. Other amenities include a saltwater pool with waterfall, conference facility, and plenty of personalized service. Romantic walks down the winding pathways to the edge of Lake Granbury, coupled with relaxing on the bluff beneath stunning live oak trees overlooking the lake, make this wine country retreat more than memorable.

The Inn at Gothic Eves, Finger Lakes, NY

Image courtesy of The Inn at Gothic Eves & Jumping Rocks Photography

The Finger Lakes region of New York is fast becoming a go-to destination for wine lovers. Initially known just for its renowned Rieslings, the area continues to expand in varietal offerings as well as things to do for travelers headed to there. Whether it’s fishing in spring, swimming and boating in summer, skiing in winter or foliage tours in the autumn, visitors will find a wine to pair with every season and activity, including the many hiking trails and overlooks to breathtaking waterfalls. Centrally located to the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes’ Wine Trails, Watkins Glen International Race Track, and the Taughannock Falls State Park, The Inn at Gothic Eves in Trumansburg, NY is a great place to take it all in. This historic B&B, built in 1855, features eight luxurious suites, six of which are named after wines including Riesling, Syrah, and Bordeaux. All accommodations come with private baths, fireplaces, fine linens, sitting rooms, wet bars, period furnishings and modern amenities including flat-screen TVs. The plush accommodations perfectly complement the comfort guests enjoy at the onsite spa, complete with hot tubs and massage treatments. It’s an ideal spot for relaxation and revitalization. Each morning breakfast is made from fresh local produce and organic ingredients for a farm-to-table meal. Situated close to Cornell University and Ithaca College, The Inn at Gothic Eves is also a popular destination for families of college students.

Stanford Inn by the Sea, Mendocino, California

Image courtesy of Stanford Inn by the Sea & Christine Gustafson

Mendocino, CA is a paradise for nature lovers, foodies, and arts and culture enthusiasts alike. Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities in breathtaking scenery, attend a variety of music and arts festivals, and best of all, indulge in culinary adventures including wine and craft beer tastings year-round. There are 100 wineries in the county, so ensuring a good night’s sleep is paramount for the palate. At the pet-friendly Stanford Inn by the Sea, guests stay nestled atop a meadow overlooking the beautiful Mendocino Bay in comfy accommodations that feature wood-burning fireplaces, private baths, and exquisite views. Quality of life is what it’s all about at this eco-resort. Here cyclists and paddlers can find their groove on the Big River and beyond at Canoe & Bicycles too!, while those looking to recharge physically and mentally can head to the Wellness Center for spa services, yoga, gardening and cooking classes, nature tours and more. The inn’s certified organic gardens serve as the primary ingredients for the Ravens’ Restaurant’s exceptional vegetarian cuisine that could easily convert even the most hardcore of carnivores. The menu is also complemented by an award-winning wine list which focuses on the finest selections from Mendocino County. These wines are primarily organic or produced according to traditional methods, without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. If you find one you like it’s easy to enjoy more since many of the wines are also available for purchase at the inn’s store onsite.

Prospect Hill Plantation Inn Charlottesville, Virginia

Image courtesy of Prospect Hill Plantation Inn & Wowi Zowi Photography

Charlottesville, VA is for wine lovers, and as the “Napa Valley of the East Coast,” there numerous vineyards to visit as well as a plethora of activities travelers can enjoy during their stay. History comes alive at historic sites such as Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello and the University of Virginia, while the arts and entertainment scene flourishes at downtown marquees that features both local artists and famous names. Outside the city, the scenic countryside provides an idyllic drive over winding hills and low mountains punctuated by exquisite vistas of open space. Hiking and biking trails and kayaking the James or Rivanna attract the active crowd, and nature fans find the appeal of roadside orchards a huge draw during harvest time. Speaking of which, we’d be remiss not to mention the Monticello Wine Trail and area’s award-winning small-batch breweries you’ll find along the Brew Ridge Trail. At the elegant Prospect Hill Plantation Inn, the oldest continually occupied frame manor-house plantation in the state, the Findley Family will provide all the guidance you need to navigate the area – in addition to comfy accommodations that feature private entrances and baths, working fireplaces, air-conditioning, and a full gourmet breakfast in bed. Most rooms also include revitalizing whirlpool tubs. The onsite restaurant features a creative menu, with a distinct European character that is influenced by the season and the availability of fresh, local, and organic ingredients. Situated on 40 stunning acres, the breathtaking grounds of this authentic 1700’s former wheat plantation are just 15 miles from downtown and within 30 miles of more than 25 boutique wineries.

The Dinner Party Collective – Full Winter Menu

June 24, 2015 3 comments

TDPC Logo The Dinner Party CollectiveLast week I presented to you a complete Summer Menu from The Dinner Party Collective project – and now the winter menu is published. Here are all the links for you in one place:

The Winter Menu | June 2015

Cremini Mushroom Soup | Winter Menu | Appetizer

Pan Fried Quail with Vincotto Glazed Grapes | Winter Menu | Main Course

Poached Pear Chocolate Puddings | Winter Menu | Dessert

Wine Pairings | Winter Menu | Southern Hemisphere | June 2015

Now we really need to hear from you, our readers – did you cook the full dinners or any of the separate dishes? If you did, how did you like it? Did you try the suggested wine pairings? If you did, what was your exact wine? Did the pairing work for you? Did you like the format of the menus? What would you change?

Bottom line – The Dinner Party Collective is a young project, and we need your feedback to help us grow, so get to it – set the date, call your friends and start cooking.

Meanwhile, I heard the season will change soon – and TDPC team is already back to the drawing board… Cheers!

 

 

True Passion: Amore Cucina and Bar, or a Visit with the Dough Scientist

June 19, 2015 15 comments

I’m sure that everyone involved in the craft, no matter what it is, has passion for what they do. Sometimes the passion simply shows through their work. But every once in a while we come across the person who simply exudes that passion, readily sharing it with the world through the words and deeds. In this series (as an engineer, I like to organize things), which I call “True Passion”, I plan to share my encounters with such a True Passion.

Amore RestaurantCan a visit to the pizza restaurant blow your mind? I mean the mind first of all, not even the palate? In the nation raised on Pizza Hut and Little Caesars, pizza is such a no-brainer, isn’t it?

We (bloggers) got together for the dinner at Amore Cucina & Bar in Stamford, Connecticut. Amore has an interesting story – in essence, it was the second oldest restaurant in Stamford, originally opened in 1975. In 2014, the original owner of the restaurant sold it, so we were visiting a new reincarnation of the Amore.

As we were finishing our customary chat and the round of cocktails before the dinner, the man walked in with a glass jar in his hand. Bruno DiFabio, Six-time World Pizza Champion and a new owner of Amore restaurant, came to share with us his passion about the … dough. Look, I love bread and all the things made out of dough, but I never even tried to think about dough as something which can solicit emotions (no problems, you can call me whatever you want, I’m still a student of life, one moment at a time). The dough for me was something you can quickly put together, or maybe buy at the local supermarket for a $1 for a big plastic-wrapped ball.

Make no mistake – dough can be an object of passion. Have you heard of the mother dough, essentially a dough which is always alive and used to start a new batch of dough every day? How about foraging your own wild yeast, from the different and totally unexpected places, every morning? How about super-digestible pizzas, which are a rave now in Europe – heard about those? When you meet a person like Bruno, you realize how the true passion looks like. And don’t discount the Pizza passion – having both gas and wood-fired oven in one relatively small restaurant? I think it really means something.

Well, this is the post about Amore restaurant, so as much as I would like to continue talking about our conversation with Bruno, I want to move on to the food, so I can inundate you with pictures. But if you want to know more about Bruno, here is the link – besides, visiting Amore restaurant might be a right thing to do as well.

Okay, let’s talk about our dinner, which was a true demonstration of the Bruno’s Pizza magic, and mastery of the Chef Jarred, who joined Bruno after his previous gig at Washington Prime. As usual we started from the cocktails. I had French Quarter (G’Vine Floraison Gin, St. Germain, Green Grapes, Basil Leaves, Lemon Juice, Fever-Tree Tonic), which was nice and refreshing. The the food started arriving on the tables, in multiple sets, above and beyond our expectations.

We started with the Bruno’s Bread w/ Sunday Sauce – very simple, but delicious. By the way, according to Bruno, it is a myth that you have to cook tomato sauce for hours and hours – you can pretty much develop the flavors within an hour, there is not much else you can achieve with the extra cooking time.

The next section of our menu was called Round Pies. The Round pie pizza at Amore is a thin-crust pizza, cooked in the wood-fired oven. Here is what we had:
New Haven White (little necks, Amore bacon, house mozarella, smoked lemon juice) – this pizza is a tribute to the Connecticut staple, Frank Pepe‘s White Clam Pizza, and it was excellent.
For the Queen (San Marzano, flor di latte mozarella, pecorino romano, basil, local egg) – while we think that adding egg to many dishes is a new discovery in the US, it appears that Italians had put an egg forever on Margherita Pizza – I love that food learning. The pizza was outstanding.
The Holy Cheesus (House Mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano, fontina, burrata) – that was simply a Wow. No further comments.

Next up – Square Pies. This is a Neapolitan style pizza, also known as deep dish. This pizza is made in the gas-fired oven, where the temperature can reach 900F. It all comes down to the dough – I always thought of the deep dish pizza as heavy, but it is not in Bruno’s hands…  Here is what we tried:
Juliet (Houze Mozzarella, gogonzola dolce, fig jam, prosciutto, agrodolce) – excellent, great combination of flavors.
Pitt Master (Pulled pork, red onion, mozzarella, BBQ sauce, agave nectar) – different and excellent again

You must have Greens with dinner, right? So rest assured, we had a salad – pretty unique:
Arugula and Beet Salad (Goat cheese and candied walnuts) – what is unique about beets and arugula? How about beets which were braised in veal and chicken stock, and then pureed? This is not your typical beet salad, isn’t it?

And then there were Plates – with literally no holds barred. Take a look:
Meatballs (Sugo, house ricotta, agrodolce) – these were okay, a bit dense.
Octopus Puttanesca (Tomato, Sicily olives, garlic, n’duja sausage, capers) – this was excellent, the capers were deep fried, very nice heat overall.
Tuna Crudo (Calabrian chiles, toasted pumpkin seeds, red onion, torn parsley) – outstanding.
Shrimp & Polenta (tomato, house bacon, polenta) – that sweet polenta was just something else – another wow dish.
Lasagna Balls (Bolgnese and sugo) – forget arancini – this is what you really want to eat. Perfect crunch, and you can taste real lasagna, inside and outside. Yep, another wow.
Chicken Scarpariello (house sausage, peppadew, garlic, Italian polenta, green shallot) – spectacular flavors, really an excellent dish.
Whole Branzino, roasted and fried – wow!
Pasta Carbonara (linguine, guancalle, parsley and egg) – and wow again – so fresh and so light, you just can’t stop eating it.

After all that food do you think we still had room for Dessert? Well, actually, we did – but luckily, only for one:
Budino & Fat Pizelle (butterscotch, whipped cream, berry reduction) – a delicious concoction.

Yes, this was the end of our evening. I hope you were not too hungry before you read this post – sorry, forgot to give you my usual warning. If you are local, or if your travel will take you to Stamford, Amore Cucina & Bar might be your little neighborhood gem… Until the next time – cheers!

Amore Restaurant
921 Hope Street
Stamford, CT 06907
Phone: 203-357-1066
http://amorecucinastamford.com

Click to add a blog post for Amore Cucina & Bar on Zomato

The Dinner Party Collective – Full Summer Menu and Detailed Wine Notes

June 17, 2015 16 comments

TDPC Logo The Dinner Party CollectiveAs you might be aware, I was recently invited to join a group of food and wine bloggers to create full seasonal dinner menus with suggested wine pairings, to make it easy for the people to bring their friends and families together to have a great time, great meal and great conversation. The project was called The Dinner Party Collective, and after a few month of the hard work, we finally published the first menu, which we simply call a Summer Menu. As you can judge from the name, this is the suggested menu for the Northern Hemisphere, for those of us who are lucky (or not, if it is 90F and humid) to live through our summer season. The Winter menu will be published shortly.

I had a pleasure of pairing the Summer menu dishes with the wines. I don’t know how successful was that pairing, only you, dear readers, will be able to figure that out, hopefully after you will have the dinner based on those delicious recipes. I essentially created a long post, explaining the logic behind each suggested dish pairing, so I will not be repeating it here  – I will provide all the links for the Summer Menu at the end of this post, including the one on the pairing details. However, I still have a few wines to talk about here.

Salmon and Rosé

The main dish of the Summer Menu, Salmon Tikka, was not trivial for me to pair, due to the wide range of spices and the cooking method. I ended up cooking the dish, religiously following the recipe, and then invited a few friends to taste those potential pairings together, to find out what works and what doesn’t. Here are the wines which we tried, with the tasting notes:

2014 Famille Lançon La Solitude Côtes du Rhône, France (13% ABV, $14.99, 70% Grnache, 30% Syrah)
C: bright pink
N: strawberries, touch of lime
P: strawberries, good acidity, soft, delicate, medium-long finish
V: 7+
With Food: nicely complemented the fish, provided delicate backbone.

2013 Casas del Bosque Carménère Reserva DO Rapel Valley, Chile (14%ABV, $11.99, 100% Carménère)
C: Dark Garnet
N: Floral, mint, touch of chocolate, vegetative, hint of dark berries
P: dark spices, mint, smoke, tar, good acidity
V: 8-
With Food: was not universally good for all. The spices had a bit of a mismatch on the finish, but overall was not bad.

2011 Château de Brézé Saumur AOC, France (13% ABV, $17.99, 100% Cabernet Franc)
C: Dark ruby
N: Tobacco, blueberry, good intensity
P: minty, complex, layered, luscious, delicious overall
V: 8
With Food: excellent. Very good match with the wine been just a touch bigger than the food, adding nice sweet profile when consumed together.

2013 Bodegas San Valero Particular Garnacha Cariñena DO, Spain (13.5%mABV, $14.99, 100% Garnacha)
C: Dark Ruby
N: minty, herbal nose, green bell pepper
P: herbal dominated profile, but with a lot of fruit, dark chocolate, tobacco, earthy complexity
V: 8
With Food: worked very well, with wine adding some powerful notes to the combination of food and wine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Château de Brézé Saumur was the favorite of all the wines and probably the best pairing – problem is that this was a unique shot, as it was absolutely atypical of Loire Cabernet Franc, hence the absence of the generic recommendation. Yes, I know that suggestion of the Grenache pairing with fish raises more than a few eyebrows, but based on the flavor profile of that dish, I stand by my recommendation.

That’s all I wanted to share with you today. I think we came up with a beautiful menu for a great family and friends dinner, so I hope you will feel inclined to make it – and then I really want to hear your feedback on the wine pairings (and the menu itself).

Here are all the links for the Summer Menu:

The Summer Menu | June 2015 – The menu itself, as you would expect it at a restaurant

Wine Pairings | Summer Menu | Northern Hemisphere | June 2015 – detailed explanation as to why and how the wines were chosen

Fresh Summer Salad with Tangy Buttermilk Lime Herb Dressing | Summer Menu | Appetizer

Salmon Tikka with Mint Chutney | Summer Menu | Main Course

Mango Tarte Tatin with Spiced Syrup| Summer Menu | Dessert

That’s all I have for you for today. I hope you are already following The Dinner Party Collective – if not,  you need to fix it right away, so you will not miss on lots of great recipes and lots of fun. Until the next time – cheers!

Wine Pairings | Summer Menu | Northern Hemisphere | June 2015

June 14, 2015 Leave a comment

talkavino:

Yesterday the full summer menu was published, and here are the detailed notes on the pairing of the summer menu dishes with wines. Let me know what do you think!

Originally posted on The Dinner Party Collective:

Aperitif/Pre-Dinner Drinks

Anna Codorniu Brut CavaFor starters, let’s greet our dinner guests with a glass of … bubbly. I don’t know about you, but when guests arrive at my house, I want them to have a glass in their hand pretty much as soon as they walk through the door. Sparkling wine is a great way to start the evening. There is something magical in those little bubbles slowly running towards the surface. There is definitely an unlimited choice of Sparkling wines available nowadays, but just to simplify the problem of choice for you, I would like to bring to your attention Cava – a sparkling wine which comes from Spain. Cava is made in the same way as Champagne, using the so called Classic Method, or méthode champenoise. Similar to Champagne, Cava offers the full range of options, both stylistically from white to rosé, as well as from super-dry (Brut Nature-type)…

View original 1,565 more words

Categories: wine

World-class American Tempranillo

June 13, 2015 18 comments

If you will ask me “what is your favorite wine”, I would always honestly tell you that I don’t have one. Which is generally a true statement. With may be an exception of the Spanish wines – and Tempranillo wines in particular. Deep, deep down, I know that I have a tiny bias towards Tempranillo. Or at least if you will ask about the most memorable wine experiences, Tempranillo wines would be definitely at the forefront.

The “world-class” is not necessarily a generic term when it comes to wines – but this is how I like to refer to the wines which are best of the best in my opinion. The “world-class” in my vocabulary is reserved to the wines which don’t leave you indifferent; these wines solicit emotional response from the person drinking them, and for the most cases that response is a simple three letter “word” – wow (is this actually a word? Not so sure…).

Tempranillo is a great grape of Spain. Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro are close to any oenophile’s heart, with lots of unquestionably world-class wines, with hundreds years of winemaking history. Tempranillo made it to the California at the beginning of the 20th century, but was planted in the wrong places too many times (Tempranillo does the best on higher appellations and in the cooler climates), and was mostly used in the blends. In the 1990s, it made it to Oregon, Washington and then Texas, where it started showing excellent results in the single-varietal wines. I had an opportunity to taste single-varietal Tempranillo from Abacela winery in Oregon, and few of the Tempranillo wines from Texas, and they all were good and promising wines.

Couple of days after I published my Spanish Wine Recommendations posts, I got an email from Danielle Irwin, who I knew as a blogger at Naggiar Vineyards, the winery in the Sierra Foothills region in California, where her husband Derek works as a winemaker. Danielle offered to send me a sample of their Tempranillo wine, bottled under their own label as Irwin Family Vineyards. As you can imagine, I gleefully agreed (I rarely refuse a sample, never mind a bottle of Tempranillo), and in a few days the package arrived with two bottles and a letter from Derek inside. The letter included all the technical details regarding the Tempranillo bottle, as to where the grapes were growing (specific plot of the estate vineyard at 1,500 ft elevation), when the grapes were picked (in October 2010), how grapes were fermented (stainless steel and large format French oak barrels) and then how the wine was aged. I let the wine rest for a few days after the trip (to try to avoid “bottle shock”), but then patience worn out, and I opened that bottle…

Irwin Family Vineyards Tempranillo

2010 Irwin Family Tempranillo Piedra Roja Block 22 Sierra Foothills ($36, 13.5% ABV, 90% French Oak, 10% American Oak, 28 month)

Color: Dark garnet
Nose: Cherries, cedar box, spices
Palate: Dense, chewy, layered, blackberries, dusty texture (reminiscent of the famous Rutherford Dust). Great complementing tannins, soft but well supporting the structure. Perfect balance. Coffee and mocha in the long lingering finish.
Verdict: outright delicious, world-class wine. Drinkability: 8+. I would drink this wine in a heartbeat at any time. As an interesting side note, the wine paired amazingly well with the Comte cheese.

Derek mentioned in his note that this wine was inspired by the wines of Toro region, which typically are the most concentrated renditions of the Tempranillo, and I definitely see that parallel.

The second bottle was a Tempranillo blend:

Irwin Family Vineyards The Bull

2013 Irwin Family Vineyards The Bull Sierra Foothills ($24, 13.8% ABV, 44% Tempranillo, 28% Malbec, 28% Petite Sirah)

Color: Dark Garnet
Nose: sweet plums, vanilla, nutmeg, dark chocolate
Palate: medium body, touch of spices, perfect acidity, nice textural presence, nutmeg, impeccable balance, lots of dark chocolate both on the palate and in the medium-long finish
Verdict: Delicious! Drinkability: 8. Bonus: works very well with food, especially charcuterie (meat and cheese).

There you go, my friends – two delicious wines from the region which I really want to explore in depth (Sierra Foothills), and the world-class American Tempranillo. You don’t have to believe me – head over to the Napa and taste it at Irwin Family Vineyards, or sign up for their wine club (Tempranillo is only available for the club members). Cheers!

[May Not Be The Best In The World But] Great Gifts For Dad

June 12, 2015 11 comments

During 2011 I wrote a number of posts for the project called The Art Of Life Magazine – of course talking about my favorite subject, wine. The project was closed and  even the web site is down, but as I still like the posts I wrote, I decided to re-post them in this blog. To tell you the truth, if I would write such a “Father’s Day Gifts” post today, I would write it differently. But I can always write it differently some other time, and for now – here is the original.

Note that the series was written for a slightly different audience – I hope none of my readers will take offense in the fact that sometimes I’m stating the obvious…

Considering that Father’s Day is rapidly approaching, let’s talk about gifts for Dad. Even if Father’s Day is not celebrated in your country, remember – any day is a great day to get a present for your hard-working Dad.

This is the wine blog, so of course our gift suggestions will be related to the wine. And while I’m sure everybody wants to buy the best gift ever, not all of us can afford that ideal present, so let’s look for a few options in different price categories. Let’s start.

Under $15:

You think it is impossible to get a great bottle of wine under $15? Think again. Here are two suggestions:

What: Bodegas Volver La Mancha DO, Spain

Why: This is a serious man’s wine. There is nothing wimpy about this wine. It has super-broad shoulders, it is bone dry, and it has strong tannins grip, strong as dad’s handshake. At the same time, it is very balanced and elegant, and if you will try it with a mildly sharp cheese with some fig jam on top of it, you might find heaven on earth.

Bodegas Volver

What: Le Petit Chambord Cour-Cheverny, Loire, France

Why: Same as the one before, this is the wine for a real man. Brighter than sun acidity, supported by good fruit, very balanced. Another trait which many dads possess – it needs patience, as it will greatly improve with age. Give it 10-15 years and prepare to be amazed.

Cour Cheverny 2007

Under $100:

A different game, seems to be lots of choices, but it is not always the case. Let’s look at some suggestions.

What: Peter Michael Chardonnay (there are many options, but either one will do).

Why: When Dad will try this wine, he will experience [very strong] emotions. Who knows, he might even cry. This wine will remind him of his true love – wife, if he is happily married, and his dreams – if he is not. Incredibly balanced, with all components (fruit, acidity, vanilla, toasted oak, tannins) being in perfect harmony. Once Dad will experience this wine, it will be one and only Chardonnay he will be willing to drink.

Peter Michael Chardonnay

What: Adrien Camut Calvados 6 years old

Why: It is reminiscent of a Dad in a tuxedo. Calvados is a cognac’s relative, only made out of apples. Calvados has the same alcohol content as cognac, but it is not aggressive at all compare to many cognacs which are. It is pure elegance and class, exactly as a man in tuxedo feels like.

Camut Calvados

What: Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal

Why: Because it will make Dad to think of adventure. May be he will finally go to safari, after dreaming about it for more than 20 years. May be Dad will recall the warmth of campfire under an open starry sky. Pleasant roughness paired with deep smoke flavor – it will make dad’s heart to pump faster and happier.

Mezcal Del Maguey 

Unlimited, or at least above $3000

This is the category for those who has everything – but even when you have everything, something is probably still missing… Let’s look for some options – and I guarantee you, it will not be easy to find.

What: Taylor-Fladgate Scion Very Old Port

Why: Because I want one for myself? Okay, but on a more serious note, this port is made out of the pre-Phylloxera grapes in approximately 1855, so this wine is about 160 years old! It is awe-inspiring for any wine lover, and to say it has limited availability would be an understatement. But – if you can afford it, make an effort, find it – and Dad will thank you profusely.

What: Domaine De La Romanee-Conti La Tache, Burgundy, France

Why: Because I want this one too? Domaine De La Romanee-Conti, or DRC for short, makes literally the most amazing wines in the world. These wines are literally impossible to find, so it you will present such a bottle to Dad, I’m sure he will really appreciate the sacrifice(s) you had to make to get it for him.

DRC La Tache

Our session is over – hope I was able to help! Good luck with all the presents, and Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

Thoughts on ‘Pairing Wine and Food’

June 10, 2015 3 comments

talkavino:

Here is the post which I wrote for the new interesting project I’m involved in. We (The Dinner Party Collective crowd) want to recreate the Art of “food together” by offering complete seasonal menus which people around the world can use to bring friends and families around the dinner table. Where there is food, there should be wine, and the wine should “work” with food. Here are some thoughts on making food and wine work together. Enjoy (and share your thoughts)!

Originally posted on The Dinner Party Collective:

Salmon & Wines | The Dinner Party Collective

Written by Anatoli (of Talk-a-Vino)

The Dinner Party Collective started a few months ago by Margot (of Gather and Graze), as an attempt to reinforce the Art of Food Together as one of the best forms of human interaction. The result is a complete menu which you can enjoy cooking and serving to your guests and family – but in essence, there is a lot more here. We (TDPC crowd) want to offer you more than just a menu you can cook. We want to make your meal an experience. How? By going to the next step and pairing food with wine. Food is definitely a centerpiece of a meal experience, but the addition of wine takes it to the next level. Something which we call a “food and wine pairing”, when done successfully, creates a heavenly combination out of the bite of food in your mouth and a…

View original 700 more words

Categories: wine

Daily Glass: Summer Perfect

June 7, 2015 9 comments

Is there a such thing as “summer wines”? When I think about this subject, I’m always torn. I don’t have any problems drinking Provençal Rosé or crisp light white wine in the winter, and I would never refuse a glass of heavy and hedonistic California Cabernet in the summer. But is it only in my mind that I’m so open-minded (hmmm, was that a pun, and was that intended?) – in reality, I would usually gravitate towards reds in the winter, and Rosé and white wines as the temperatures starts rising. After all, there might some merit to the summer wines concept. Anyway, let’s proceed.

Today I want to bring to your attention a summer-perfect collection of White and Rosé wines – they were all samples I got recently (some are even not so recently), but most importantly, they will perfectly brighten up your summer day.

Let’s start with the two of the excellent Rosé wines from France – Domaines Paul Mas. Last year, I was lucky to taste through the Paul Mas portfolio of red wines, and after tasting Rosé wines this year, I can only say that it is not for nothing Paul Mas is considered a specialist in “Affordable Luxury”.  The first wine was 2014 Côté Mas Rosé Aurore Sud De France Pays d’Oc IGP (13% ABV, 30% Cinsault, 20% Syrah, 50% Grenache, $12.99 SRP, 1L bottle) beautiful concentrated pink color. Fresh strawberries, lemon zest and limestone on the nose, fresh strawberries and lemon zest on the palate, vibrant acidity, very balanced, medium finish – a perfectly refreshing wine for the hot summer day. This wine creates a feeling of a calm and relaxation, it is like a lazy summer day (Saturday!) distilled in the glass. (Drinkability: 8-/8) I have to add that I love the festive label, and of course the wine has an amazing QPR at $12.99/1L bottle.

The second wine was even more interesting – NV Paul Mas Cote Mas Cremant de Limoux Brut Rose, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($18.99 SRP, 12% ABV, 70% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin, 10% Pinot Noir). This sparkling wine comes form the cradle of the sparkling wines winemaking – St. Hilaire, which claims to start production of sparkling wines in 1531. Well, this is not a subject of this post – the wine itself was outstanding though. Beautiful salmon pink color, touch of yeast and toasty bread on the nose. Perfectly present toasty bread on the palate, clean acidity, light creaminess. Right from the fridge shows very astringent. As the wine breathes and warms up in the glass, it shows more minerality while staying very dry. Drinkability: 8-

From France, let’s move two Italy – here I have two summer wines from the Banfi selection. First, NV Maschio Prosecco Brut Treviso DOC (SRP $13, 11% ABV, 100% Glera)- nice, clean nose of white peach. Palate restrained and quite dry, with touch of peach, light creaminess, very refreshing overall. The wine complemented well spicy food as well as chocolate dessert. Drinkability: 7+

Next wine – 2013 Fontana Candida Terre dei Grifi Frascati DOC (SRP $13, 13% ABV, 50% Malvasia Bianca di Candia, 30% Trebbiano Toscano, 10% Greco, 10% Malvasia del Lazio) – on the nose, touch of candied fruit, white flowers, touch of lemon, overall very pleasant. On the palate, lemon, candied lemon peel, touch of tropical fruit, good acidity, medium-long finish. Drinkability: 7

Continuing our European tour, we are now arriving to Spain. First up – delicious sparkling wine – NV Anna de Codorniu Brut Rosé Penedes DO (SRP $14.99, 12% ABV, 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay). This Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine produced by the same method as Champagne, has very interesting story behind it. Anna was a name of the heiress of the Codorniu winemaking family which started making wines in 1551. In 1659 Anna married winemaker Miguel Raventós, and their direct descendant José Raventós was the first to commercially produce Cava in 1872 using méthode traditionelle. The wine itself was excellent – fresh, slightly yeasty nose, fine mousse, firm on the palate with crisp acidity and touch of strawberries. This wine would make a perfect sip any time, summer day or not. Drinkability: 8-

Next wine is another Spanish classic – 2014 CVNE Monopole Rioja (SRP $14.99, 12.5% ABV, 100% Viura). Monopole was the oldest white wine from Rioja, starting from 1915. The wine has dry and pleasant nose, with a hint of white fruit. On the palate – touch of the white stone fruit, lemon, and crisp and bright acidity. This wine needs time to fully develop in the bottle, so if you have some space in the cellar, throw a few bottles in and forget it for the next 5 years or even longer. Drinkability: 7+

Another wine from CVNE, which was a first time experience for me – 2014 CVNE Viña Real Rosado Rioja (SRP $13.99, 12.5% ABV, 85% Viura, 15% Tempranillo). The wine was perfectly Provençal in style – hint of strawberries on the nose, dry, crisp and restrained on the palate, steely acidity combined with firm structure, light but noticeably present wine. The wine would perfectly fit any hot summer day (and not so hot too). Drinkability: 7+/8-

Old York Cellars Pinot GrisI have one last wine to present to you. This time, we are crossing Atlantic ocean and arriving at New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey makes wines, and I wrote about them before. Today I’m bringing to your attention an excellent summer wine from the same winery – 2013 Old York Cellars Pinot Gris American Table wine, New Jersey (SRP $18, 12% ABV) – clean and crisp nose, touch of Chablis-like minerality. On the palate – restrained white fruit, crisp acidity, touch of minerality. Overall very refreshing. Drinkability: 7+/8-

And we are done here. Enjoy the summer with the glass in your hand. Cheers!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,896 other followers

%d bloggers like this: