Last Saturday I stopped by Cost Less Wines and Liquors in Stamford. This is almost the routine stop for me, as every Friday and Saturday there is a wine tasting in the store, and as I’m sure you know by now, wine tastings offer opportunity to experience difference wines and learn from that experience (and such wine tastings are usually free!).
Four wines were open on that Saturday night – one Champagne and 3 red wines. The Champagne was Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, very simple and elegant, with nose of yeast and apples (may I add it is very reasonably priced too?). Then there were three reds. First one was Chateau Lafleur Gazin Pomerol 2004, one of the properties managed by venerable Christian Moueix, owner of Chateau Petrus (one of the world’s most famous and equally expensive wines). This was a typical Bordeaux wine, with good fruit and unmistakable earthiness, or terroir as it should be called properly.
The next wine was one of my favorite California Cabernets – Neyers Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, bristling with black currant and eucalyptus flavors, very nice and balanced wine.
All three wines I mentioned were good – but rather typical. And yet the title of this post promised “most unusual wine”. This leaves us with the wine number 4 to be the most unusual wine, right?
Yes, and unusual it was! Ceretto Monsordo 1998 from Langhe DOC. Wines produced in that area of Italy are typically single grape varieties – I’m talking about Barolo and Barbaresco, made out of grape called Nebbiolo. Ceretto Monsordo is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Nebbiolo, but it is only a tiny step towards “unusual”.
What makes me say that it was the most unusual wine (for me, of course – all the experiences are personal)? My reaction to the very first sip was: this is how liquid steak should taste like. While fruits, tannins and acidity are definitely present in good balance in this wine, the main sensation is savory, as piece of good steak, grilled with enough spices on it. Yes, the flavor can be described as earth, tobacco, pepper and smoke, but such a description will not fully convey the sensation of having a sip of that wine in the mouth.
Am I getting too excited? May be. As I said, the experiences are personal. All I can tell you is that you should try to find that wine to have first hand experience with it – and I will be glad to compare notes later on.
But – this begs the question: what is your Most Unusual Wine?
As promised, this is follow up post to compare Thanksgiving expectations with experiences.
When it comes to the food, the star of our table was dish called Turducken. First time I read about turducken in the late nineties in the Wall Street Journal. Since then we made it a few times for Thanksgiving. The dish is somewhat labor-intense, but absolutely delicious when done right. The word turducken comes from the fact that the dish consists of partially deboned turkey, with fully deboned duck going inside of turkey, and then deboned chicken going inside of a duck. The idea of enclosing birds into each other during cooking is not new, it had being done in Europe for centuries. Turducken specifically is considered to be originated in New Orleans – and one of most popular cooking styles for it is Cajun.
The process of preparation starts from deboning of chicken, duck and then turkey (turkey is only partially deboned with legs and wings left untouched). Next very important step is brining. As critical as it is for smoking, brining helps to retain the moisture in the meat during long cooking time. Brining typically takes 12 hours, so you need to plan your time accordingly.
After brining, the process of preparation starts from laying down the turkey, adding spices (or stuffing) on top, then putting in the duck, repeat spices again and then chicken, plus you can put any desired stuffing as the last layer (we used smoked sausages in our case). The next step is to sew the turkey together and place it in the oven for about 5 – 6 hours. The resulting bird is very moist and flavorful, and – may I add – very easy to carve.
So what about wine? Turducken and all the side dishes, such as yams, pumpkin and wild rice stuffing, are very flavorful, so it is hard to tell apriori which wine will work the best – therefore it is an opportunity to experiment. We tried Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau - this wine was completely lost next to turducken. Next one was Claraval, Spanish Grenache/Tempranillo blend – this wine well complemented the variety of flavors.
The winner was Serradenari Barolo 2005. It was decanted for 3 hours prior to the dinner (as always suggested for classic Barolos), and the wine showed beautiful layers of fruit and earth, which worked very well with turducken and other dishes at the table.
Of course we shouldn’t forget about desert. No, there was no pumpkin pie at the table. Yes, it is violation of the tradition, but when nobody likes the dish, it is hard to justify getting it on the table. Instead, Pecan pie is one of traditional staples of the sweet portion of our Thanksgiving dinners:
You are saying that coffee or tea would be the best match for such a dish? You are right, however, there are some exceptions here. We were lucky to have Rivesaltes 1936, a desert wine produced in Roussillon region in South of France (courtesy of my friend Zak). This wine is a natural sweet wine, made out of Grenache grape and produced in the same style since 13th century. This wine has luscious layers of nuts, honey, cloves and other spices, without overpowering sweetness of many of the ice wines. It drinks as a very light wine (despite high alcohol content0 and perfectly complement many different deserts.
So, I told you what was on our Thanksgiving table. Now, I would love to know what was your most memorable dish and wine?
Thanksgiving day – friends, family, lots of food and wines. Culinary delight is definite part of the holiday – every possible ( and impossible) web site is full of new recipes to try and recommendations on what to serve.
I would love to write the blog post right after the dinner – but this would be literally impossible, as desire to sleep after a big meal will interfere. Therefore, let me just share my quick expectations. The staple dish for tonight is turducken – chicken inside duck inside turkey, all de-boned, of course, except turkey legs and wings. That is already in the oven and holds a big promise of the tasty meal ( pictures and details – in the later posts). There will be a lot more of traditional fall flavors – squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes – all taking part in the feast.
Variety of flavors is expected of the food, and it is hard to tell which wine will work the best. Therefore, when in doubt – experiment! We plan to have Beaujolais Nouveau ( Joseph Drouhin), Barolo, Zinfandel and Claraval (Spanish red). Which one will pair the best? Hopefully one of the wines on the table. And if not – wine program for tonight also includes Rivesaltes 1936 and Bruichladdich 12 – expectations, expectations…
What will be on your table tonight?
Until later – Happy Thanksgiving!
I’m sure you saw in my prior posts mention of QPR – Quality Price Ratio. I like wine in general – but being able to achieve high QPR makes it even more enjoyable. One of the best ways to reach high QPR is to buy wine online. Wine-searcher is the best tool I know to find the wine online, but when it comes to buying wine it is hard to beat Wine Till Sold Out, or WTSO (you can now find them also on Facebook). What I like about WTSO is price (of course), simplicity, reliability and service. They do respond to your e-mails, and answer your questions! The reason I emphasize that is because when you deal with “value” businesses, often you have to give up on some of the elements, like service, for instance – and WTSO is pleasantly different. Information on the web site is simple, easy to understand and comprehensive, and wines are available on, well, first come first serve basis – yep, I missed a few wines are dearly regretted.
Just to give you an idea of what WTSO can bring you, I decided to collect the e-mail notification during one week (week of November 15th), so here is the information in the form of the table:
|Date||Time||Wine Name||Rating(s)||Original Price||WTSO Price||Min # ofBottles||% off|
|Nov 15||12:02a||Andre Farjon La Deveze Cotes du Rhone 2007||$19.99||$11.99||4||40%|
|Nov 15||12:50p||Charles Heidsieck Brut Champagne Reserve Rose NV||WS93, WE92||$79.99||$49.99||2||38%|
|Nov 15||3:01p||Bodega LuzDivina Amigo Baloiro Beirzo Mencia 2005||RP 91, W&S90||$30.00||$13.99||4||53%|
|Nov 15||4:19p||Miguel Torres ‘Salmos’ Priorat Red 2007||W&S91,WS90||$39.99||$23.39||3||42%|
|Nov 15||7:33p||Juslyn Vineyards Vineyard Select Napa Valley
Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
|Nov 16||12:02a||Champagne Charles Ellner Cuvee De Reserve
|Nov 16||11:49a||Reserve du Chateau Croix Mouton Bordeaux Superieur 2009 by Michel Rolland and Jean-Philippe Janoueix||$23.99||$12.99||4||46%|
|Nov 16||4:18p||Robert Storey Cellars Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2007 by Bill Knuttel||JHN92||$31.99||$17.99||4||44%|
|Nov 16||8:47p||Soos Creek Wine Cellars Artist Series #7
Columbia Valley Red Wine 2007
|Nov 17||12:01a||Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino 2003||RP90||$90.00||$39.99||2||56%|
|Nov 17||12:00p||Valsanzo Vina Sanzo Reuda Verdejo 2009||RP89||$19.99||$10.99||4||45%|
|Nov 17||3:31p||Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards Trilogy
Napa Valley Red Wine 2006
|Nov 17||9:32p||St. Supery Vineyards & Winery Elu Napa Valley Red Wine 2003 3.0L Double Magnum||W&S90,WRO92||$350.00||$159.99||1||54%|
|Nov 18||12:03a||Coelho Winery Paciencia Willamette Valley
Pinot Noir 2007
|Nov 18||10:55a||Bodegas Y Vinedos Recoletas Vendimia Seleccionada 2004||RP90||$40.00||$19.99||4||50%|
|Nov 18||1:34p||Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico Irpinia Rosso
|Nov 18||6:03p||I Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri, DOC 2007||WS92,RP90||$29.99||$19.99||4||33%|
|Nov 19||12:01a||Tom Eddy Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005||JHN94||$90.00||$39.99||2||56%|
|Nov 19||1:03p||Benessere Vineyards Napa Valley Estate Sangiovese 2006||JHN90+||$45.00||$15.99||4||64%|
|Nov 19||4:01p||Gonfrier Freres Chateau de Lyde Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux 2009||$17.99||$10.99||4||39%|
|Nov 19||8:02p||Portal del Montsant Santbru 2007||RP93||$47.99||$23.00||2||50%|
|Nov 20||12:02a||Maroon Winery Spring Mountain District,
Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
|Nov 20||8:42a||Warwick Estate Professor Black Stellenbosch
Sauvignon Blanc 2009
|Nov 20||1:07p||Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli DOCG 2003||RP91, WS90||$149.99||$59.99||2||60%|
|Nov 20||5:05p||Chateau Bizard Serre de Courrent Cotes du Rhone 2007||$34.99||$19.99||4||43%|
|Nov 20||6:55p||Saintsbury Lee Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir 2007||WS93||$49.99||$29.99||4||40%|
|Nov 21||12:03a||Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico Irpinia Rosso
|Nov 21||11:35a||Domaine Fond Croze Cuvee Romanaise Cotes du Rhone 2007||RP91||$18.99||$12.99||4||32%|
|Nov 21||12:47p||Casali di Bibbiano Argante Toscana Red Blend 2006||WS91||$44.99||$18.99||3||58%|
|Nov 21||4:03p||St. Supery Vineyards & Winery Elu Napa Valley Meritage 2004||TWN92||$64.99||$34.99||3||46%|
|Nov 21||5:50p||Domaine Drouhin Arthur Dundee Hills Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2007||IWR91, WS91, ST90||$55.00||$19.99||3||64%|
To give you an idea about ratings: WS stands for Wine Spectator, RP = Robert Parker, WE = Wine Enthusiast, ST – Stephen Tanzer, WRO = Wine Review Online, TWN = The Wine News, JHN = Jonathan H. Newman. Min # of bottles column specifies minimum number of bottles to buy to get free shipping, which I never saw exceeding 4. Time column specifies the exact time when WTSO e-mail arrived to my mail box.
If you will scroll through the table, you will see that during one week, 31 different wines from California, Oregon, France, Spain, Italy and South Africa had being offered. The discounts ranged from 32% to the 64%, and wine ratings had being the range of 89 – 94.
Is WTSO The place to get all your wines? Of course not – you can’t beat good wine store, such as Cost Less Wines I talked about before. However, combination of QPR and good service definitely should put WTSO on your short list of places to buy the wine from. Happy hunting!
Last Thursday, November 20th, was exactly 4 month as I started writing this blog. Four month sounds round enough to take a look back – of course, of course, this is too short of time to make any conclusions, however, when in the journey, knowing where you are can help you understand where are you going and how can you get there. Let’s talk some numbers first – and not because they mean something, but because they are simply available, and we, humans, like to play with them.
So the blog stats for 4 month include 52 posts, 1975 views, 98 comments and 15 e-mail subscribers. Is that good? I don’t know. Is that bad? I don’t know either. These are just numbers as they are. Well, I think I like 52 posts – it translates into 13 per month, which then translates into about 3 per week. There are also some other numbers which I want to mention – the “treble journey“. In my quest to try wines made out of 300 different grapes (this is where “treble” is coming from), I was at 240 four month ago, and now I’m at 277 – 37 grapes were added. Considering the challenges of finding wines made out of obscure grapes, I think this is very decent performance. I also will add 15 more in the near future, which will put 300 within practical reach – yes, it will be all covered in this blog.
During this 4 month, I learned a lot. I learned how to find new subjects, how to use keywords. I didn’t learn how to use categories – I hope this will come one day. I found some themes which will definitely continue here, like Experiences and Expectations. I think I had some good posts, and some which are just okay. Did I have any bad ones? Quite possible, but I will let you, my readers, to be the judge.
What I definitely want to have more of is interaction. I want my posts to be a catalyst for the conversation. I would love for this blog to be the place to exchange experiences – and I will get there, sooner or later.
What is ahead? I didn’t know I’m asking myself a difficult question. I don’t want to convert this post into a to do list. Therefore – I can only say that I will continue to look for my true style, and you should expect more posts about wine, food and life.
In order to drink wine (better: drink GOOD wine), we all have to get it somewhere. Outside of getting the wine as a present, “get wine” equals “buy wine”. There are few ways to go about buying wine. You can do it at the winery – often works well, you can try before you buy and get information. Then of course you can buy it online – this is most difficult method, as you have to know precisely what you are doing, wine can be damaged during shipping (I don’t mean broken bottle, think about summer heat, for instance). And the simplest way – buy the wine at the good local wine store. Well, it is simplest if you happened to know where this good local wine store is.
I want to bring to your attention my favorite wine store in Stamford – Cost Less Wines & Liquors (1073 High Ridge Road, (203) 329-2900), the good wine store. What am I looking for in a wine store? Yes, of course wine, but this is not the point. In no particular order, but good prices, selection, service, knowledgeable staff and overall store organization are all very important for the good wine store. Lets talk about these elements.
Store organization: Cost Less is easy to navigate. All the wines are grouped into the regions with easy access, with sparkling wines and kosher wines located in the separate sections. Beer and all different types of liquors (Scotch, whiskey, cognac and so on) located along the wall:
Great Selection: Store offers great selection in every section. Despite the limited size (store is not huge), all wine making regions are well represented – California, Washington, Oregon, France, Spain, Italy, South Africa, Germany, Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Israel (I’m sure I forgot something) – and all sections are well stocked. There is a lot of interesting wines on the shelves, such as Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon (96 points from Wine Spectator, and don’t forget to look at the price):
Another point on the subject of great selection is Growers Champagne. Demand for Growers Champagne is quite recent phenomena, so very few store carry them. Here is a brief description from Wikipedia: “While large Champagne houses, such as Mumm, may use grapes sourced from as many as 80 different vineyards, Grower Champagnes tend to be more terroir focused, being sourced from single or closely located vineyards around a village.” Cost Less got great selection already, and probably will offer even more in the future (if you had not tried one yet, I highly recommend that you will try it rather sooner than later):
Great selection of beers, with a lot of quite unique offerings (you can see one of my previous posts on this subject – all beers came from Cost Less). Excellent selection of cognac, tequila and vodka, and amazing selection of scotch, including some very unique offerings (note to self – not to use “unique offerings” repeatedly… but what should I do if I think they are?):
If I may, I would like to mention that Rosebank distillery is closed, so I don’t think there are too many bottles left as the one shown above. And if you take a look at the prices (30 years old single malt for $220 – WOW) that brings us to the next characteristic of a great store – good prices.
Good prices: as you can already see from the pictures, there are great prices all over the store. All the wines and liquors are well priced, compare to any other wine store in Stamford and around. There is also 10% discount on the mixed case purchases (as long as the wine is not sold at the minimum state price). On this subject, I must bring to your attention one of my favorite California Cabernet wines, Ladera:
Service and knowledgeable staff: you got it all. Store owner, Zak, is always available to answer questions, recommend wine or simply stand aside and let you browse through the selection without any pressure – I think this is the great talent ( I really don’t like being attacked in the store as you walk in – that never happens at Cost Less). If the wine you are looking for is not available in the store all you need to do is to ask Zak to get it for you – it is that easy.
And to add one more point: if you reading my blog, you know how much I value opportunity to “experience” things. Along these lines, every Friday and Saturday, there is wine tasting at the store, where you can experience great wines, such as, for instance, Charles Mara or Duckhorn:
With the holidays coming, and wine being definitely important part of any celebration – head on to the Cost Less, you will not regret you did (hmmm, sounds like an advertisement, and I really didn’t mean it… or may be I did, just a little bit). Ahh, and don’t forget that Beaujolais nouveau will be released on Thursday (November 18, 2010) – who knows, I might run into you at Zak’s…
Last Friday we attended “Around The World in 80 Sips” wine tasting event in New York City, organized by Bottlenotes. The idea of the event is to present wines from all over the world, from such wine stalwarts like France, Italy and Australia to literally unknown wine producing countries such as Lebanon. There were more than 100 wines presented in the event, which was not free ($75 standard ticket price, we paid $50, courtesy of The Austrian Wines).
Overall, I found the event somewhat challenging to enjoy. No, nothing wrong with the wines – there were a number of very good wines to taste. My first issue was really (I mean, really) loud music. There was not possible to talk face to face, never mind listening to the explanations about wines. The second issue was the sheer crowd. I really like wine tastings, big and small – if I only have a chance, I attend them as much as possible – wine tastings are the best places to learn and experience. I’ve being to all kinds of events – trade only and consumers, with thousands of wines present and with the handful of wines. I never being to the event where you have to stand for 10 minutes, not even in the line, but with your arm with the glass fully extended through the crowd, in the hope that wine will make it into your glass – mind you, we are not talking about tasting Petrus or Screaming Eagle here.
Leaving all the inconveniences aside, there were a number of good wines from those I was able to reach. Particularly, there were a number of interesting wines from Austria. This is where I managed to pick up grape #277, Rotgipfler, with the wine called Stadlmann Rotgipfler Tagelstiner 2008. My particlar favorite here was Fritsch Pinot Noir 2004, which had finesse and elegance of the classic Pinot, with more pronounced earthiness, typical for Austrian wines. It is interesting to note that we went through 3 bottles to really get the beauty of this wine showing – first was so so for some reason, second one corked but the third one was shining.
My overall tasting favorites were a couple of wines from New Zealand. First, a Pinot Noir 2007 from Palliser Estate in Martinborough. There were a number of good Pinot Noir wines from New Zealand, both from Martinborough and Central Orago, from 2007 and 2008 vintages. This particular Palliser Estate Pinot Noir had the most elegance out of the group, with classic Pinot smoky nose and restrained fruitiness of the New World wine.
The other two of my favorites where two white wines from New Zealand, one of them being total surprise. First was Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from the same Palliser Estate. I have to honestly admit that I have a weakness towards New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs – I enjoy them very much. The Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc had more of everything – not that it was a fruit bomb, no, simply the fruit was a lot more pronounced, such as in-your-face-gooseberry. I would put Drinkability of this wine at 8+.
And the surprise came in the form of Riesling from New Zealand. Why the surprise? First, I never had before a Riesling from New Zealand. Second, based on the experience with neighboring Australian Rieslings, which I find too dry and not pleasant, my expectations were quite low. And the surprise was in the fact that this particular East Coast Riesling from Giesen was actually tasting like … German Riesling, only done more in the fruit forward style (not sweet at all, the Kabinett level), very nice and pleasant.
To conclude: am I grateful for the experience I had? Of course. Wine tastings are always fun. Will I attend another Bottlenotes event? As of right now – I don’t think so, but hey, you never know…