Happy Halloween Friday!
Last Wednesday I had a small “what is it” quiz where you were supposed to figure out what was that object in the picture:
Well, somehow it happened to be a difficult question ( or may be it was just boring). Anyway, here is the answer – this is “The Original Lancashire Bomb” – a cheese, produced in Lancashire in UK.
This cheese is covered by the black wax and shaped like a bomb, hence the name. I found it in my local Costco store, and by the time I left the store a number of people just stopped me and asked “what is it???”, which prompted the mini quiz. In case you are wondering , the cheese was very tasty.
And now, to the more important business. The time has come for the new round of Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, this time it will be the challenge number 13, so it should be known as #MWWC13. I know that I already promised that it will be devilish, and I had some ideas – but actually, I’m not as mean as it might appear at the first sight :), so I hope you will like this theme, which will be … wait for it…
Serendipity! I have to admit – not being a native English speaker, while I know the word, I often have to reach out for the dictionary if I want to understand the full context of the sentence which contains “Serendipity”. So this theme might still be challenging, but it will force you to look for the happy moments, which is definitely a good thing in my book.
As Jeff the drunken cyclist now is hosting the challenge, I will let him to come up with all the dates for submission deadlines etc., but you have a theme and you can start working on it now. Let’s make sure we will have a record participation in #MWWC13! I promise to be a “nudnik” and will remind you an ample number of times.
That’s all I have to say for now. Now, back to my original dilemma – Zinfandel or Petit Sirah for tonight? Grrr… Happy [winey] Halloween! Cheers!
When my phone chimed today in the morning with the WordPress notification about one of my posts being linked, I noticed that it was linked to the post about Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.
For those who might not know – the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge is a brainchild of Jeff the drunken cyclist, a monthly (or so) wine writing competition started a bit longer than a year ago. In this competition, the winner of the round assigns a new theme, and all the interested wine bloggers and writers can submit their entry within designated time frame; the winner is determined by the popular vote.
When I saw the WordPress notice, I figured that the linking post was probably about the conclusion of the challenge, and I thought that the post once again mentioned all the entries in the competition. When I clicked on the link and read the post, I realized to my big surprise that it was actually an announcement about winning of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #12 by yours truly!
It was totally unexpected, definitely very humbling and greatly appreciated – big “thank you” to all who voted for my post!
The theme of the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge was “Local”, and my entry was almost an afterthought of the post describing great experience I had while visiting the local wineries in Woodinville in Washington – definitely glad I was able to connect the dots.
Now as the winner of the challenge I get an honor of selecting the theme for the next round. In his post, Jeff mentioned that he expects me to come up with ha devilish theme for the Monthly Wine Writers Challenge #13. I think the “devilish” direction makes a lot of sense due to a number of reasons – a) we are talking about #MWWC13 ( note the 13 here); b) Halloween will be celebrated this week; c) I’m a big fun of “Cutthroat Kitchen”, where the host Alton Brown throws his “devilish” challenges at the contestants. I don’t have the exact theme yet, but I have some ideas, so you should expect to hear the announcement shortly – stay tuned…
Thank you all again and cheers!
This post is a continuation of the series about my winery experiences in Woodinville, Washington. Here are the links for the first four posts – introduction, Elevation Cellars, Pondera Winery, Des Voigne Cellars, Sparkman Cellars and Guardian Cellars.
… and I arrived at a small shopping plaza (also known as strip mall in some part of US), only with wineries instead of shops. I decided to start with Fidélitas, which had a bright and shiny sign and was one of the two wineries recommended by Randy at Sparkman cellars. The tasting room was similarly busy (not!) as all the previous ones – a few people at the counter, and that is about it. I introduced myself to the girl at the counter, explained that I’m a blogger and asked if I can have a complementary tasting (the exact same thing which I did at 5 previous wineries). The reaction on girl’s face was rather resembling a consequences of an unexpected bite into a lemon. She was equally not moved with my business card (no, I was not expecting a bow or applause, but at least may be a mild interest I had at the other wineries?), and she sternly explained that free tasting is granted only to visiting winemakers; she will do it for me, but only as a big exception, and if I will come again, it will not be free anymore (please understand – we are talking about ten dollars).
I think this “warm welcome” affected the way I perceived the wines. Randy mentioned that Fidelitas makes big wines – and while the wines were good, they were not the big wines I was expecting. Here is what I tasted:
2013 Fidelitas Klipsum Vineyard Semillon Red Mountain – Nice, clean fruit, sweet nose, dry on the palate. Drinkability: 7
2011 Fidelitas Malbec Columbia Valley – cut through acidity, a food wine. Drinkability: 7
2011 Fidelitas Boushey Vineyard Red Wine Yakima Valley (48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc) – Excellent, clean, Bordeaux style. Drinkability: 8-
2010 Fidelitas Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain (92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petite Verdot) – powerful over the top tannins, clean and round, Bordeaux style. Drinkability: 7+
2010 Fidelitas Champoux Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills – forthcoming tannins, nice, good acidity. Drinkability: 7+
I spent less than 15 minutes at Fidelitas. After a leisurely 15 seconds walk, I arrived at my last winery of the day, Mark Ryan. I opened the door and walked towards the tasting counter, only to find out that…
To be continued…
Dining in New York is tricky. Well, if you are on an unlimited expense account, it is pretty straightforward – New York has no shortage of amazing chefs, so your only hurdle might be scoring the reservation, and then you are almost guaranteed an amazing experience. It is a bit more complicated if you don’t have an access to that wonderful “no holds barred” source. In such a case, you have to do your homework, and still you are taking chances.
Going to the concert at the Town Hall in Midtown Manhattan, I did my homework and came up with the French restaurant called Saju Bistro Bar and Restaurant – 3.5 stars on Yelp, French cuisine, two dollar signs. Yes, 3.5 stars is not that much, but being in the Theater district, your options are quite limited, so all together it sounded like a place worth trying.
The place did feel like a French bistro from the moment we walked in. By the entrance, a sitting area open to the street – you can feel as you are in Paris, just sitting down with a cup of coffee, and watching the people and the street. If you do want to be in the more enclosed area, walk to the back and get the table surrounded by the French bistro-type paintings – the atmosphere is definitely there.
We got situated at our table and got the menus. Of course I had to start from the wine list, which was somewhat small. Wine list’s focus was on France and California, with the number of wines priced quite reasonably. Thanks to my encounter with Paul Mas wines earlier this year (here is the post), when I saw a 2011 Paul Mas Carignan Vieilles Vignes from Languedoc, this was a very easy decision (the fact that the wine was priced at $34 was also very helpful). The wine had a fresh red fruit on the nose, and medium body with a touch of warm spice, overall it worked quite well throughout the dinner.
The menu at Saju Bistro has a reasonable size – it doesn’t overwhelm and makes your dinner experience nice and easy. We decided to start with a few appetizers which can be shared among 4 of us.
Grilled Vegetables Aïoli (Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Carrot, asparagus, Eggplant, potato, Broiled Egg, home made Aïoli) – if you ever tried to grill vegetables, I’m sure you know that behind the seeming simplicity, grilled vegetables are super-easy to ruin. This dish was done perfectly, with the eye-happy grill marks and prefect crunch. Home made Aïoli was a delicious complement to all the vegetables.
Assiette de Charcuterie (Saucisson sec, procuitto, country pate, breseola, garlic sausage, cornichons) – I was a bit concerned that this dish would be enough to share for 4 people in a French restaurant, but our waitress, Alissa, assured us that it will be perfectly shareable – and it was. Very tasty selection, very generous amount, just an excellent dish all around.
Paté de campagne (Country paté, célery remoulade, cornichons, toasted bread) – you can’t go wrong with the Country paté dish in a french restaurant – you just have to make sure you save some bread in the bread basket, which we did. This was another excellent appetizer, again – perfectly shareable.
For the main course, we wanted to try all the different things, so here is what we got:
Lapin des Garrigues au Romarin (braised boneless rabbit, sautéed gnocchi, French sweet peas, white wine reduction with fresh rosemary) – this was so homey, an outstanding comfort dish, with the perfectly melding flavors.
Pumpkin Ravioli (two-colored pasta, pumpkin filling, truffle sauce) – seasonally appropriate, this was quite tasty, but the filling was a bit too sweet to my taste – I would take it more to the savory direction. Still, I would say it was a successful dish.
Filet Mignon au poivre (French fries, haricots vert, pepper sauce) – when it comes to the steak, proper execution is a key – and this steak was done perfectly – succulent cut of meat, delicious pepper sauce – excellent dish.
Grillade de la Mer (Grilled Shrimp, Octopus, Clams, Mussels, Calamari, Sea Bass, served with sautéed Pommes Rissolées. Grilled Asparagus and Persillade) – in a restaurant, I’m generally a seafood guy, probably 9 times out of 10. There were two dishes which I was considering – Bouillabaisse or Grilled seafood. Alissa recommended to go with the grilled seafood – and boy, was that a great advice. Perfectly cooked calamari, shrimp, mussels – absolutely delicious.
You can’t leave French restaurant without having the dessert, right? Of course not, that would be a crime! We chose two desserts to finish our evening:
Profiterole (Puff Pastry, Vanilla Ice Cream, Hot Belgian Chocolate) – profiteroles is one of my very favorite desserts, and these were delicious!
Lemon Panna Cotta (Chilled Eggless Lemon Custard and Red Berries Coulis) – perfectly refreshing, very light, great flavor and very generous amount of berries. An excellent dessert!
Before we part here, I want to acknowledge our waitress Alissa one more time – she took a great care of us – the food was coming timely, the wine was always in the glass just at the right amount – she did really an excellent job – thank you Alissa!
There you have it, my friends – a great restaurant experience in midtown Manhattan. If you see any of the Broadway musicals in your future, then you might want to check out Saju Bistro. Cheers!
Saju Bistro Bar and Restaurant
120 W 44th Street
New York, NY, 10036
Yes, there been a lapse in the wine quizzes and subsequently, in these Meritage posts – the quizzes will resume at some point, I just think that I exhausted the ‘grape’ series and need to come up with another series which can last for a while – if you have any suggestions, please let me know. But – I came across quite a few interesting articles well worth sharing, and – I also have a mystery object for you to guess what it can be – so let’s have some fun!
Instead of providing the answers for you today, I have a mini-quiz. A few people saw this and asked – “What is it????”. So the idea came – why don’t we make a quiz out of it? Please take a look at the picture below and let me know what do you think this is, and as a bonus part, name the place of origin of this object:
Please provide your answers in the comments section, as usual.
And now, to the interesting stuff around the vine and web!
First, I came across an interesting article by Tim Atkin, Master of Wine and an author of a number of wine books. In this article Tim is talking about the problem with 100-points wines, which seem not to be a “universal truth” for everybody. He is talking about his personal experience with 3 of the 100-points wines, where his own ratings were not anywhere near that perfect score. I can also attest to having the same situation with two of the 100-pointers I was able to try. Yep, a classic case of YMMV – but read the article, it’s definitely worth your time.
We all know the carrying power the words “super-tuscan” have – attach those to the simplest bottle of wine, and everybody are immediately interested. Put some effort into that bottling – and you can easily ask for $90+ per bottle, and you will have no problems selling the wine at that price. Yes, the Super-Tuscan is an Italian phenomenon, and now some producers in France, in the Rhone valley to be precise, are trying to create something similar – a Super-Rhone wine. Here is the link for you to read more.
Have you heard of the Pappy Van Winkle? Well, if you didn’t, may be it is better to leave it like that? Pappy Van Winkle is an American whiskey, a Bourbon, which has such a cult following that while it costs a lot more than absolute majority of single-malt scotches of any age (prices for the simple 10 years old start from about $300), it is literally impossible to find, especially the well aged bottles of 15, 20 or 23 years old. I think it is one of the most fascinating stories for any of the alcoholic beverages, considering that it got to such a prominence in less than 10 years. The story of Pappy Van Winkle definitely worth few minutes of your time – here is the link to the article.
Bordeaux is coming back! Well, of course it never really left, but it lost its luster, especially in the eyes of the millennials, and finally the folks at Bordeaux decided to do something about it. The Bordeaux wine Bureau (CIVB) is starting a global campaign in US, China, Japan, UK and a few other countries to convince the wine buying public that Bordeaux is well and alive, and worth their hard earned money. You can find more details about the campaign here.
Last for today – a few words about 2014 harvest, which have mostly completed in thew Western hemisphere. This article from Wines and Vines presents some interesting numbers – for instance, the whole grape harvest in California was a bit less than 4 million tons. It also goes beyond the numbers and presents some of the trends – as an example, some growers in California Central Valley pull out the vines and replace them with the nuts – our sacred beverage, wine, is only a business for many, and it must be profitable, or else. Go read it for yourself.
And we are done here. The glass is empty – but the refill is on the way. Cheers!
This post is a continuation of the series about my winery experiences in Woodinville, Washington. Here are the links for the first four posts – introduction, Elevation Cellars, Pondera Winery and Des Voigne Cellars.
… and I walked into the winery called Sparkman Cellars. From all the wineries I visited in Woodinville, this was the only winery which was on my original list. It was also mentioned by someone at one of the previous wineries as the place to visit.
I barely finished explaining to Randy, a gentleman at the tasting counter, that I’m a wine blogger and I would like to taste through the wines, as I was literally attacked by one of the two women standing at the same counter. “Where are you from?”, she said, quite demanding. “Stamford, Connecticut”, I said, hoping we are done with the subject. She gave me a big understanding smile and said again “no, where are you from, REALLY?”. I generally don’t have a problem explaining to people that they hear a Russian accent, but this time around I was simply annoyed at the intensity of this inquiry, so I sternly repeated my answer “Stamford, Connecticut”.
At this point Randy decided to defuse the situation with the glass of 2013 Sparkman Cellars Birdie Dry Riesling Columbia Valley – it was nice and clean, with good acidity and that interesting savory minerality of the Washington Rieslings, which I now learnt (I hope!) to recognize as a trait. Drinkability: 7+
The next wine – 2012 Enlightenment Chardonnay French Creek Vineyard Yakima Valley was delicious. Chablis nose (minerality, gunflint, hot granite), which I always enjoy in Chardonnay, was clearly present in this clean and round wine with a touch of vanilla. Drinkability: 8
Meanwhile, the lady next to my changed the tactics and explained that she is genuinely interested in recognizing the accents and figuring out where the people are from. May be it was a good wine, but I also decided to change my “I’m going to ignore you” stance, so we pretty much became friends by the end of the tasting, and both ladies kept telling me how much they like the wines at Sparkman and number of other wineries in the area, and also gave me lots of recommendations on other must visit wineries in Woodinville.
The tasting continued with 2011 Sparkman Cellars Wilderness Red Wine Columbia Valley (34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Malbec, 15% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre, 8% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot) – rather an eclectic blend as you can tell. The wine was quite delicious, but a bit over-extracted to my taste. Drinkability: 7
2011 Sparkman Cellars Ruby Leigh Columbia Valley (67% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon,11% Malbec) was named after the youngest daughter of the winery owners. The wine was light and playful, showing the notes of the smokey raspberries, with medium body and medium finish. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Sparkman Cellars Ruckus Syrah Red Mountain (93% Syrah and 7% Viognier) – delicious dark fruit, roasted notes, spices. Perfect clod-climate Syrah, beautifully restrained. Drinkability: 8
2011 Sparkman Cellars Rainmaker Cabernet Sauvignon Yakima Valley (95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec) was delicious – dark power, tobacco notes, baking spices, very complex with long finish – on outstanding wine. This wine was poured as a “mystery wine” for the wine club members (you can see it above in the picture in the paper bag). Drinkability: 8+
This concluded the tasting at the Sparkman Cellars – sorry for the brief notes, I guess I was a bit distracted at this point. If you need better descriptions, you can take a look at the Sparkman Cellars web site – all the wines are presented quite well there.
Before I left the winery, I asked Randy what other wineries should I visit in my little time left until they all will be closed for the day (absolute majority of the wineries closes at 5 PM on Sunday), and he recommended Fidelitas and Mark Ryan, which were both outside of the industrial park, however still within 5-7 minutes driving distance. As I walked out of the Sparkman Cellars, another winery attracted my attention, and of course I decided to stop by…
To be continued…
… and I entered the world of music at the Des Voigne Cellars. Soft jazz music was playing in the background, as I was greeted by the big white dog – of course I started the visit from getting acquainted with the winery dog first – ear-scratching is usually the best way. Melissa, who owns the winery together with her husband Darren (the winemaker), was smiling with relief from behind the counter, happy to see that we made friends.
There was no doubts that music ruled here – it was not only in the air, but also on the labels and inside the glass:
If you can, spend a few seconds and look at these labels in detail. Both the graphics and the names of the wines are created by Darren, the winemaker, and these definitely join the list of most creative labels I ever saw. And the wines were on par with the labels.
We started with the 2013 Des Voigne Cellars The Groove White Columbia Valley (Chardonnay, Marsanne, Rousanne, Viognier) – vibrant and fresh on the nose, and perfectly clean and simple on the palate. This is the wine to enjoy any time, with or without the food – you just can’t go wrong with it, and at $18, it is simply a steal. Well, almost – with 43 cases production, it’s not going to stay around for too long. Drinkability: 7+
The 2010 Des Voigne Cellars The Groove Red Columbia Valley (43% Syrah, 36% Sangiovese, 17% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot) had a very welcoming nose with touch of spice, more spices weer present on the palate with some roasted notes. Another excellent effort, and again a great QPR at $20 (your chances are a bit better with this wine – 210 cases produced). Drinkability: 7+
The next round was very interesting as well – take a look below:
I was trying to figure out if there should be a correlation between the choice of label (a performer or an event) and the wine itself, but didn’t come to any conclusions. If you tasted these wines, I would be interested in your opinion on this subject.
2012 Des Voigne Cellars San Remo Sangiovese Columbia Valley (100% Sangiovese, Candy Mountain Vineyard) – my first experience with Washington Sangiovese – and a very pleasant one. Nice, clean and simple wine, medium body, some interesting cherry undertones. Definitely playful and resembling the original Sangiovese (the Italian version), only in the lighter package and more fruit driven. Drinkability: 7+
2012 Des Voigne Cellars Duke Zinfandel Walla Walla (95% Zinfandel Walla Walla, 5% Malbec Wahluke Slope) – yet another “first” encounter – first time ever I was tasting Washington Zinfandel. Very nice rendition, unusual nose, showing classic Zinfandel’s smokey raspberries on the palate, light, clean and well balanced. Drinkability: 7+
2010 Des Voigne Cellars Montreux Syrah Columbia Valley (96% Syrah Weinbau Vineyard, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon Dionysus Vineyard) – Finally, the first Syrah of the tasting (out of the 3 wineries – somehow, I expected to see it a lot more often) – inviting nose of red fruit, touch of coffee, baking spices and lavender on the palate, overall very clean and balanced. Drinkability: 8-
Do you want to see more cool labels? Here you go:
2010 Des Voigne Cellars “Untitled” Columbia Valley (57% Cabernet Franc, 29% Syrah, 14% Petit Verdot) – if previous three wines can be characterized as “playful”, these two were the serious hitters. This wine showed excellent concentration, powerful and firm structure, clean Cabernet Franc profile with cassis and bell peppers, as well as grippy tannins. I think it will perfectly open up in about 5-7 years, so you will need to give it time. Drinkability: 8-
2010 Des Voigne Cellars Duet Columbia Valley (94% Cabernet Sauvignon Dionysus Vineyard, 6% Merlot Bacchus Vineyard) – unusually perfumy nose, soft and round on the palate, with good depth – perfectly drinkable now, no need to wait. Drinkability: 7+
So we had the music record, musical events and performers and the musical notations – what’s left is someone to put this all together – The Composer:
2011 Des Voigne Cellars The Composer Wahluke Slope (99% Malbec, 1% Syrah, both from Weinbau Vineyard) – this was a delicious, light and round wine, with good amount of fresh red berries on the palate – simple and very pleasant. Drinkability: 8-
My musical excursion completed, and it was the time to move. The next winery was the only one on my original list, which I planned to visit from the beginning. Short drive around the buildings (moving from Building B to Building E), and I walked into the winery called …
To be continued…
“What other winery do you recommend I should visit here?” I asked Steve before leaving. “Pondera”, he said. Okay. Short, very short walk from the building A to the building B, and I entered the tasting room of Pondera Winery.
I was greeted by Mel, one of the three owners of the Pondera winery. Pondera is focused on Bordeaux varietals, and it achieved a substantial recognition as a Bordeaux blends producer. As we were woking through the tasting, Mel proudly showed me a collection of gold medal-winning wines – 7 of Pondera wines received double gold medals in the blind tasting competition. Pondera 2009 Prima Donna red wine was recognized as one of the Top 100 wines of Northwest – not a small achievement by all means.
The tasting started from the 2013 Pondera Chardonnay Sagecliff Vineyard Columbia Valley. The wine had a subtle nose of vanilla, and more of the same on the palate. The wine spent 7 month on the lees, and while it had a creamy mouthfeel, the mid-palate was a bit heavy for my taste. Drinkability: 7
The next wine was 2011 Pondera Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley (90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot) – the nose was rather muted, but the palate had a classic cassis and bell peppers – nice, clean and round, with a good balance. Drinkability: 7+
2011 Pondera Entwined Columbia Valley (57% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec) showed as a classic Bordeaux blend – if I would sniff the glass without knowing what is inside, I would definitely think of classic Bordeaux, made in a bit more of a fruit-forward style, but still quite restrained. The wine showed equally well on the palate – cassis, blackberries, touch of chocolate, clean acidity – and asking for a bit of time with very noticeable tannins. The only non-classic Bordeaux component was a beautiful label. Drinkability: 8-
2011 Pondera SVS Number One Columbia Valley (59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec) was yet another classic Bordeaux rendition. Yes, I’m guilty of abusing the word “classic” here, but this was my true impression. Soft, round, clean and perfectly classic. Drinkability: 8-
2011 Pondera Malbec Stillwater Creek Vineyard Columbia Valley (97% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon) was, in a word, outstanding. Round, soft, polished, with delicious blueberries and blackberries – this was one of the very few wines I didn’t use the spittoon for in the tasting. Just a pure pleasure. Drinkability: 8+
The last wine was a special treat – 2009 Pondera Prima Donna Columbia Valley (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon) was made only once, in the exceptional year (2009) only from the 2 exceptional barrels. Delicious, classic Bordeaux style, big, powerful, with chewy tannins and long life perspectives in the cellar (if you can get a bottle, there is). Drinkability: 8
Here you go, my friends. A wonderful Bordeaux blend experience – if you are looking for the bright, delicious, cassis-loaded glass of joy, jot down the name Pondera Winery, and see if you can find a bottle or two. Meanwhile, I’m off to continue my Woodinville discovery journey, stepping literally 5 feet to the left into another door…
To be continued…