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Wines of United States

February 29, 2012 5 comments

When you run a wine tasting, one of the great ways to keep people engaged all the time is to ask questions – trivia type and not. One of the simple warmup questions I like to ask  the audience is “What do you think, how many states make the wine in the US? This sounds simple enough and goes into “your guess is as good as mine” category. People usually start with some random number (trying to put sense into it, though), and sometime someone will say “all 50″ – often just as a joke . Actually, it is the correct answer – for w while, all 50 states produce some wines.

So did you ever think of exploring and experiencing the wines of all 50 states? I’m sure that you had California, Oregon, Washington and New York wines, but what about the other 46 states? Last week in Florida, I came across Lakeridge Winery Southern Red Premium Table Wine produced in Clermont, Florida.  This wine  allowed me to add one more grape to the grape count – Muscadin. And this wine prompted this blog post and the table which I would like to share with you, which lists my experiences with the grapes and wines of all United States to the date:

State

Tasted Wine

Visited Winery

Comments

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona

Y

Arkansas
California

Y

Y

Colorado
Connecticut

Y

Delaware
Florida

Y

Georgia
Hawaii

Y

Pineapple wine
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine

Y

Y

Maryland
Massachusetts

Y

Y

Truro Vineyards, Nashoba Winery
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Jersey

Y

New Mexico

Y

New York

Y

Y

Fingerlakes, LI, Hudson
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon

Y

Pennsylvania

Y

Y

Chaddsford
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas

Y

Utah
Vermont
Virginia

Y

Y

Chrysalis, Williamsburg Winery
Washington

Y

West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming

What is your experience with wines of 50 states? Can you count and share? It is definitely a fun exercise and it might bring some good memories back while you will be at it. Happy counting! Cheers!

Taste Expectations, Or Notes From The Blind Tasting

February 28, 2012 2 comments

If you had been drinking wine for a while, I would expect that you have developed certain taste expectations. As you drink the wines from the different regions, you find that the wines from the same geographic locality made from the same grapes would have somewhat of a similar taste and style (yes, of course, I just described what is properly called Terroir without using the word itself). At some point, the associations between the origin of the wine and its expected taste become engrained in your mind. Looking at the bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you are expecting to find bright acidity and citrus flavor profile even without opening the bottle. Looking at the bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon you are expecting to find good amount of fruit with some explicit black currant notes and probably good amount of tannins – note that I’m really trying to generalize here, but you got the point.

This is the way the wine was for a very long time. However, when you taste modern wines, do you have a feeling that your expectations no longer valid and don’t match the reality any longer? I had this experience many times lately, when Amarone didn’t taste like anything expected (you can find my rant of pain here), or when unoaked Chardonnay tastes rather like Pinot Grigio – and there are many more examples of “taste confusion”.

Recently, I had another case of “broken” taste expectations – this time it was somewhat sanctioned, as we did a double (almost) blind tasting. The theme was set a bit ambitiously, as France and Italy. The “ambitious” part is coming from the fact that these two countries on their own have such a variety of wine production that it makes literally impossible to recognize the grape or at least the style of wine (either one of those countries would provide a plentiful selection for a double blind tasting on its own). Anyway, with the main goal of having fun with the wines, we actually had a great time.

We blind tasted 5 wines, which happened to be 4 reds and one white. For what it worth, here are my notes as we were moving along:

#1 – Very nice, a bit too sweet. I think Italy, Super Tuscan/Barbera/Dolcetto

#2 – earthy, nice, little green bell peppers, roasted notes? Bordeaux?

#3 – France, nice bright fruit, good sweetness, noit enough acidity? No idea about the grape.

#4 – interesting, lots of fruit, very nice – no idea.

#5 – great, round, good fruit – no idea.

While I understand that these a rather limited wine descriptions, would you try to guess what was what? Well, you can see the answers below in the picture (wines are set in the order we tasted them, left to right):

 

Here is an actual list: 2007 Comm. G. B. Burlotto Barolo Verduno; 1995, Chateau Haut-Corbin Saint-Emillion Grand Cru; 2009 Petracupa Greco di Tufo;  2005 Pascal Marchand Pinot Noir and L’oca Ciuca Brunello di Montalcino DOCG – now compare that with my guesses above…

In case you are curious – of course we voted for the favorite – Brunello (#5) was a clear winner, with Greco de Tufo (#3) trailing it closely behind (one point difference).

Where is the case of broken taste expectations? Fruit forward, bright and loaded wine with well masked tannins and almost non-existing earthiness, bright purple in color – 2007 Barolo? I’m very far from Barolo expert, but this doesn’t match my expectations of Barolo, albeit well decanted. Even winning Brunello was quite uncharacteristic, lacking earthiness and tartness, the traditional Brunello bite. I can’t comment on Greco do Tufo (it was actually quite nice), and the only varietally correct wine was 1995 Bordeaux. Am I making too big of a deal from varietal correctness and taste expectations here? It depends. On its own, both Barolo and Brunello were good wines, but if I would order either one in the restaurant with the goal of pairing with food, that could’ve been quite disappointing…

Okay, I can’t leave you with this sad impression of disappointment – it was not that bad at all. Also, we had a great cast of supporting wines, even with some pleasant surprises.

First, two sparkling wines. Chevalier de Grenelle Cuvee Reserve Saumur AOC, a blend of 90% Chenin Blanc with 10% Chardonnay was very good, full bodies sparkling wine, with good notes of apple and toasted oak. In addition to good wine, this was also a very special bottle – a magnum with metal imprinted label. Second sparkling wine was even more unusual – Abrau-Durso Semi-Dry – a sparkling wine from Russia, made by reincarnated famous producer of sparkling wines for Russian Tzar (original company was created in 1870). This wine had just a hint (a whiff) of sweetness, lightly toasted apple and nutmeg on the palate. Very refreshing and delicate. I suggest you will find a bottle and try for yourself – there is a good chance you might like it.

And for the last surprise – 2002 Fontanafredda Barolo DOCG. Why surprising? If you will look at the Wine Spectator’s Vintage Chart, you will see that 2002 was regarded as a very bad year for Barolo, with the rating of 72 and recommendation of wines being past prime. I decanted this bottle at some time in the late morning, and by the early evening, when we actually drunk it, it opened up very nicely – while it was lacking powerful tannins, otherwise it was quite enjoyable wine, very balanced with quite a bit of finesse.

Play with your wine, get friends together and do the blind tasting – I guarantee you will learn something new about your palate, your wine preferences and may be even your friends!

Cheers!

Valentine’s Day Food and Wine Experiences

February 22, 2012 5 comments

For many years already Valentine’s Day became our “home” holiday. What I mean is that we are not going to the restaurant – instead, we attempt to create the best possible experience at home. This past Valentine’s Day our attempt was quite successful. First, there was a Champagne. Ahh, what so special, say you, a sparkling wine? Well, we don’t drink Krug every day – Krug is our “special” sparkling wine, as both me and my wife fell in love with it 3 years ago, and nothing beat that ever since.

It was Krug Grand Cuvee Brut NV. Beautiful effervescent nose, with only a hint, a whiff of toasted apple, yeast and fresh bread – the same lightness on the palate, with perfect balance of fruit and acidity. Yes, I know, I fail to give you a critic-worthy description with lots of different elements of soil, the fruit and more – so you will need to take my word for it – this is The Champagne. Once you try Krug…well, you will continue to appreciate many other sparkling wines, but Krug will be the one you will crave. And if you care for my rating, I will put Drinkability at 9+.

Believe it or not, but Krug was only the beginning of amazing wine experience. The next wine blew me away in many senses. First, it was a realization of a dream. For the long time, I wanted to try Carlisle Zinfandel – consistently high ratings in Wine Spectator, great reviews – many factors contributed into making Carlisle Zinfandel an object of desire. I signed up for the waiting list for the mailing list, I asked around – all to no avail. Then a few month ago I saw a bottle on the Benchmark Wine Company’s web site, priced at about $30 – voila, I got the bottle. Now I just needed special occasion.

Special occasions are easy, right? Valentine’s Day is special enough for us, so the bottle of 2000 Carlisle Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley was opened. The description? One word – “wow”. Beautiful nose of red fruit and smoke (raspberries and blueberries plus a hint of smokiness, to be more precise). Perfect balance of fruit, tannins and acidity on the palate – more playful fruit, eucalyptus, cedar box, spices, tobacco – all components are playing together to deliver an amazing experience.

Here is one interesting note for you. Carlisle web site has a table which is called Drinkability Chart, which lists all the different wines from the different vintages and ideal drinking window for those wines. According to that chart, optimal drinking window for this particular Zinfandel was 2002 – 2005. Well, what can I tell you? If you got a bottle of Carlisle which you think is undrinkable – send it my way, and I will thank you profusely. And just to show you how much I loved this wine, I have to tell you that this is the first time I put Drinkability of wine at 10-! Here is the link to my ratings page – you can judge for yourself.

As you can see, the wines were great – but there was also food. This year we decided to do a Rack of Lamb. Rack of Lamb is a dish which we typically enjoy in the restaurants (especially in French Canada), but it is not that difficult to make at home (once you overcome the sticker shock of a good rack of lamb).

I need a lot of rosemary with my rack of lamb – and this is what we did. A little bit of fresh pepper, and lots of fresh rosemary – with addition of some fresh sage as well. Here is the rack of lamb ready for the oven:

There are couple of techniques  which I started using lately when it comes to roasts – and I like the results so far. First one is preheating oven to 500F – temperature is lowered one roast is put in, but it is enough to develop a nice crust. The second one is not using any salt until the roast is done ( so only using finishing salts) – the rationale here is that salt is draining juice out of the meat so it is better to be put on at the last stage. So far I had being very happy with an outcome using these simple rules. After 40 minutes in the oven ( 500F to start, then lowered to 400F), here is the final result:

And here is plated version:

Yes, I know, I should work on presentation – you don’t have to tell me that. But the taste was great, and lamb also paired quite well with the Carlisle Zinfandel – to double the pleasure!

That’s all, folks, for our wonderful Valentine’s Day food and wine experience. It will be hard to beat it next year, so I can only wish tat the next year will be not any worse than this year.

Cheers!

Following Wine Till Sold Out (Again) – Super Wednesday, February 15

February 20, 2012 2 comments

Once again, Wine Till Sold Out (a.k.a WTSO), one of my favorite online wine stores, had its “Super Wednesday” – an event which takes place about 4 times a year where the wines are sold online in rapid succession. Compared to some of the past “Super Wednesday” events (here is the post about the one from about a year ago) WTSO changed the model slightly. Previously, during Super Wednesday WTSO was offering wines at any price range, but as of lately, the wines are limited in price up to $18.99, and therefore all the wines have the same minimum quantity requirements of 4 bottles (minimum quantity is required to receive a free shipping, you can technically buy wine in any quantity). Considering that limited cost, these events are even called “Cheapskate Wednesday” now.

Quite honestly, I like the old model more – when it comes to the unknown wines, even at a lower cost, I usually buy one bottle just to try, and then more if I like the first one – as I don’t know majority of the wines offered in the events such as this one, paying $40 to $76 for 4 bottles of wine I might not like is not a great proposition – my preference is to look for the gems (and WTSO is The Place to find them), and to get one or two bottles of the wine which looks more interesting instead of four bottles of unknown wine.But if you know the wines, then of course there are lots of values to be had – but you have to act fast – and you have to use Twitter, as it is the only place where each new wine is advertized.

Anyway, I collected information about all the wines which were offered. I used different approach this year, so between improved Twitter and automated web site snapshots, I was able to collect a lot more information compare to the previous posts. Before I will present the full table to you, here are some of the comments and notes. The whole event took about 18 hours, from 6 AM Eastern until midnight on the same day, February 15th. About 100 wines had being offered, from $7.99 to $18.99. Some wines lasted only for a couple of minutes, and some lasted for 20 minutes or a bit longer ( very few). A lot of wines had being rated on the 100 points scale. Here is a quick guide to the rating abbreviations: WS – Wine Spectator, WA – Wine Advocate, ST – Steven Tanzer, WE – Wine Enthusiast, WRO –  Wine Review Online, W&S – Wine and Spirits, MS – Mari Stull, JHN – Jonathan H. Newman, D – Decanter Magazine, rating goes in stars ( 5 stars is max). And here is the table:

Time Wine Name Rating Orig. Price WTSO Price % off
6:00a Soda Rock Winery Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 JHN91 $35.00 $14.99 57%
6:08a Bodegas Y Vinedos Pujanza Pujanza Rioja DOC 2007 WA91 $34.99 $16.99 51%
6:30a Encantado (You Know The Winery!) Carneros Chardonnay 2010 $32.00 $13.99 56%
6:36a I Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri, DOC 2008 WS90 $29.99 $15 50%
6:48a Bodegas Silvano Garcia Vina Honda Crianza Jumilla, Spain 2006 WA91, ST90 $21.99 $12.99 41%
6:59a St. Francis Winery & Vineyards Sonoma County Syrah 2006 $20.00 $12.99  35%
7:17a Villa Andretti Napa Valley Chardonnay 2009 $28.00 $11.99 57%
7:24a St. Francis Winery & Vineyards Claret Sonoma County Red Blend 2007  41%
7:28a Toad Hall Cellars Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2007 JHN91-92 $25.00 $14.99 40%
7:32a Clos Du Bois North Coast Chardonnay 2010 50%
7:39a Kenwood Vineyards Jack London Vineyard Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 WRO89 $35.00 $18.99 46%
7:42a Andre Farjon La Deveze Cotes du Rhone 2007 By Philippe Cabie 40%
7:47a Thumbprint Cellars Three Some Winemaker’s Reserve Sonoma County 2008 $45.00 $17.99 60%
7:55a Adobe Road Winery Alexander Valley Meritage 2005 62%
7:59a Chateau Galand Bordeaux Superieur AOC 2005 $31.49 $12.99 59%
8:04a David Bruce Winery Los Gatos Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay 2009 $24.99 $14.99 40%
8:19a Turn 4 Bennett Lane Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 $25.99 $15.99 38%
8:33a Inman Faily Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006 ST90 $45.00 $17.99 60%
8:44a Wine Guerrilla Coffaro Vineyards Block 1 Old Vine Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2009 $40.00 $17.99 55%
8:52a Bouchaine Vineyards Napa Valley Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2006 92 53%
8:59a Shadowood Alexander Valley Merlot Reserve 2008 JHN92 $31.99 $13.99 56%
9:03a Chateau de Lyde Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux 2009 $17.99 $9.99 44%
9:15a Mario Perelli-Minetti Winery Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007 93  64%
9:18a Montes Limited Selection Leyda Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 #82 Top 100 2011 WE!
9:22a Villa Petriolo Chianti DOCG 2008 $19.99 $9.99 50%
9:37a Mathis Wines Sonoma Valley Grenache 2006 MS90 $39.99 $15.99 60%
9:53a Starry Night Winery Lodi Zinfandel 2007 50%
9:59a Bodegas Ondarre Reserva Rioja 2004 #58 Top 100 Wines 2010!  WS91, D**** $22.99 $11.49 50%
10:18a Kingsford Manor Winery Napa Valley Rose Wine 2010  JHN88 $18.99 $8.99 53%
10:33a Chateau Pavillon Bel-Air Lalande de Pomerol 2006 91 55%
10:38a Sergio Mionetto Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Sergio Rose N/V $14.99 $12.09 19%
10:55a Oriel Wines Sygnet McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 93WE! 93 73%
10:58a Chateau De Ribebon Bordeaux Superieur 2009 By Aelie Aubert WS89 $18.99 $10.99 42%
11:15a Spicerack Vineyards Punchdown Sonoma Coast Syrah 2008 ST88+ $29.99 $13.99 53%
11:30a Soda Rock Winery Alexander Valley Chardonnay 2009 $28.00 $14.99  46%
11:45a Bodegas Rejadorada Rosum Joven 2009 $12.99 $7.99 38%
12:00p Pessagno Winery Idyll Times Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 WE90, CG90 $40.00 $17.99 55%
12:05p Brancott Estate Classic Range Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010  WRO91 $13.99 $8.49 39%
12:15p Veraonte Winery Ritual Casablanca Valley, Chile Pinot Noir 2007  40%
12:22p Grupo Bodegas Olarra Ondarre Cava Brut Millenium N/V $21.99 $10.99 50%
12:43p Rouvre Saint Leger Laudun Cotes du Rhone Villages Blanc 2009 by Philippe Cabie $30.00 $17.99 40%
12:57p Kunde Faily Estate Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 WS87 $20.99 $9.99 52%
1:15p Azienda Agricola Piancornello Rosso di Montalcino DOCG 2009 90 45%
1:21p Terre Domini Solare Prosecco N/V $12.99 $8.99 31%
1:38p Infinity Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $24.99 $12.99 48%
1:53p Thumbprint Cellars Winemakers Reserve Four Play Alexander Valley Red 2009 JHN91-92 $45.00 $17.99 60%
2:09p Juslyn Vineyards Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2008 WA87 $34.99 $14.99 57%
2:17p Bodegas Poesia Clos Des Andes Malbec Reserva 2006 92 WA! 90-92 ST! WA92, ST90-92 $36.99 $16.99 54%
2:33p Nord Vineyards Estate Wines Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 90 68%
2:37p Boisset Faily Estates Lyeth Sonoma County Meritage 2008 $19.99 $10.99 45%
2:52p Petizos Mendoza Malbec 2007 $14.99 $9.99 33%
3:00p Bodegas Beronia Rioja Rosado Tempranillo 2010 $21.99 $10.99 50%
3:15p Mockingbird Hill Winery Sonoma County Chardonnay Reserve 2010 By Zach Long JHN91+ $27.00 $12.99 52%
3:27p Chateau Le Gardera Bordeaux Superieur Grand Vin De Bordeaux 2008 WS89 $15.99 $8.99 44%
3:36p Sola Winery Napa Valley Zinfandel 2006  58%
3:41p Clos des Miran Cuvee Speciale Cotes Du Rhone 2009 $15.99 $9.99  44%
3:51p The Barrister Sonoma County Red Wine 2010 JHN92 $35.00 $14.99 57%
4:04p Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel Pena Roble Ribera del Duero Joven 2007  90 56%
4:13p Maxwell Creek Winery Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $22.99 $11.49 50%
4:18p Chateau Tanesse Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux 2009 $20.99 $10.99  48%
4:33p Doolittle Farms Moniz Vineyards St Helena, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 JHN92 $40.00 $17.99 55%
4:38p Noyes Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2007  JHN91-92 $34.99 $18.99 46%
4:54p Bodegas Poesia Pasodoble Mendoza Proprietary Blend 2007 WA89 $15.99 $9.99 38%
5:09p Lincourt Vineyards Santa Rita Hills Unoaked Chardonnay 2010  JS90 $19.99 $12.09 40%
5:23p Yokayo Wines Buteo Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007  50%
5:31p Pope Valley Winery Eakle Ranch, Napa Valley Red 2007  JHN91 $30.00 $13.49 55%
5:38p Cline Cellars Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007
5:42p Villa Rocca IGT Pinot Grigio 2011 $15.00 $9.99 33%
5:56p Orentano Wines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2005 $36.00 $17.99  50%
6:14p Fitch Mountain Cellars Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 by Mike Duffy pp
6:18p Cantina Pieve Vecchia Chorum Montecucco Sangiovese DOC 2007 WE88 $18.99 $9.99 47%
6:36p Madonna Estate Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir Reserve 2008 JHN92 $40.00 $17.99 55%
6:52p Conti Serristori Chianti Classico DOCG 2007 $19.99 $10.99 45%
7:08p Vina Almirante Albarino Vanidade Rias Baixas 2010 WA90 $23.99 $12.99 46%
7:19p Mumm Napa Carneros Pinot Noir 2007 $32.99 $16.49 50%
7:26p Bell Canyon Cellars Napa Valley Estate Vineyards Red Blend 2009 JHN91-92 $27.99 $12.99 54%
7:33p Bodega LuzDivina Aigo Vinademoya Mencia 2006 WA90 $21.99 $9.99 55%
7:54p Mazzocco Winery Mendocino County Hopland, California Sauvignon Blanc 2009 JHN88-89 $16.99 $9.99 41%
8:04p Massimo Rivetti Serraboella Barbera d’Alba Red Wine 2005 91 65%
8:09p Thumbprint Cellars Winemakers Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
8:11p Ottimino Ottimino Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2006 WE89 $32.99 $13.99 58%
8:27p Abadia da Cova Ribeira Sacra Barrica Mencia 2008 93 W&S! W&S93 $28.99 $13.99 52%
8:43p Stonehedge Winery Terroir Select Pallini Ranch, Mendocino Zinfandel 2006 JHN90 $30.00 $13.99 53%
8:56p Vinedos de Villaester Taurus Toro Tempranillo 2005 WA88, ST88 $14.99 $8.99 40%
9:15p Maison Alain Paret Valvigneyre Cotes-Du-Rhone Viognier 2009 WS88 $22.00 $10.99 50%
9:27p Abelis Carthago Lui Selection Castilla Leon Red 2005 WA90 $28.00 $14.49 50%
9:50p Jermann Venezia Giulia IGT Sauvignon Blanc 2008 WA88 $35.00 $15.99 54%
10:06p Oriel Wines Midnight Rabler Rutherford, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 WS88, WE87 $35.00 $16.99 51%
10:16p Carles Andreu Cava Brut Nature Reserve N/V WA87 $33.00 $13.29  60%
10:31p Benessere Vineyards Napa Valley Rosato 2009 JHN88 $18.99 $8.99 53%
10:47p Trinity Hill Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2007 89 58%
10:53p Passalacqua Heritage EstateGia Domella Cabernet2006 by Nick Goldschmidt WE90 $39.99 $14.99 63%
10:57p St. Francis Winery Behler Vineyard Sonoma County Estate Merlot Blend 2005 JHN92+ $45.00 $18.99 58%
11:04p Bodega Catena Zapata Catena Malbec Mendoza 2009 #58 Top 100 Wines 2011 WS!
11:10p Croix de Basson Cotes de Provence Organic Red Wine 2007 $16.99 $9.99 41%
11:26p Bodegas Vistalba Tomero Malbec Mendoza 2010 $19.99 $9.99 50%
11:33p Valley Gate Vineyards Versada Vineyard, Napa Valley Chardonnay 2009 JHN93-94 $39.99 $15.99 60%
11:49p Sonoma Acres Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009 JHN92+ $29.99 $13.99 53%
11:55p Fattoria Vignavecchia Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 91 53%

Happy analysis! Enjoy! And don’t forget to grab a glass of your favorite wine while you will be at it. Cheers!

Gastronomique, Without Fiesta

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment

I love tasting food. Tasting menus, wine tasting flights, tasting events are definitely my favorite way to experience food and wine. When I’m in the restaurant which offers a tasting menu, when affordable, I would always go for one.

Last year in Miami we went to the Sra. Martinez restaurant, we took the tasting menu, and it was a great experience – I wrote a blog post about it, which was titled “Fiesta Gastronomique“. The tasting menu which we took had about 10 different dishes, all brought to the table one by one, by the different people, given all the explanations about the food, in a perfectly orchestrated performance – hence the “Fiesta” in the title.

This year we went to another restaurant of the same chef, Michelle Bernstein (she owns Sra. Martinez), called Michy‘s (we even saw chef for a few minutes talking to the customers). Same as last time, we decided to go for the tasting menu. There were two tasting options available – one with an addition of the cold appetizers and one without. When we asked for advice as to which one would be recommended, our waiter told us that unless we are very hungry, he suggests taking the shorter menu – boy, were we happy with his recommendation as dinner progressed.

I can assume by now you are wondering why the post’s title leaves only Gastronimique and removes Fiesta from this experience? We had an amazing food -but it was presented in a different style. We still had all the explanations, yes, but the food was arriving all together in the family style setting – first three appetizers, then three entrees and then two desserts – all exquisite, great tasting food – but Fiesta was not there – it was rather quiet and relaxing gourmet dinner. Don’t get me wrong – I highly recommend Michy‘s and would gladly come back, and in case you are in Miami – don’t miss it, I’m just doing my best to convey the experience we had.

Anyway, let me entice you with some pictures and some additional notes. First, let’s start with wine. The wine list looks very good, with lots of different selections (it has more of a world-wide flare, where wine list at Sra. Martinez had decidedly bigger selection of Spanish wines). We ended up drinking 2009 Sicoris Costers del Segre DO, which is a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Merlot and Syrah. The wine have good fruit, medium to full body, a little sharpness on the edges but with good overall balance of fruit, tannins and acidity (Drinkability: 7+).

Our first appetizer course consisted of three different dishes. The first one, called Squash Blossoms with creamy polenta, was the best, simply incredible in the balance of taste and texture:

Foie Gras with Stuffed Pancake was also very good:

And then Beets Salad (how did they know I’m a sucker for a beets salad?):

Next three entrees showed up. First, Homemade Fettuccine with Carbonara Sauce – delicious:

Next, Slow Cooked Short Ribs – out of this world! These short ribs were cooked for 6 to 8 hours, and it was showing. Also, they perfectly paired with Sicoris wine, which was an added bonus:

Last, but not the least entree was Snapper in Malaysian Sauce – tasty dish, and very large in size, so once again we were very happy with the fact that we took shorter version of the tasting menu:

Now, the dessert course included two dishes. First one was Brioche Bread Pudding – it was good, but not my favorite:

And the last dessert, Baked Apple Pie, was another “to die for” experience – probably the best Apple Pie I ever had:

All in all, it was a great experience – great food, great wine, outstanding service (impeccable is the right word). Thank you for the wonderful meal, Chef Michelle Bernstein! [Ahh, watching too much Iron Chef...] Cheers!

Michy’s
6927 Biscayne Blvd
Miami, FL 33138
(305) 759-2001

http://michysmiami.com/

Michy's on Urbanspoon

Color Me Happy

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Why? Very simply, in one word – Anticipation. Anticipation is a big part of enjoying the wine. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me anticipation starts when the bottle is in my hands. Before I can actually hold that bottle, it is just  a dream – I can dream of drinking DRC or Screaming Eagle one day, but this will only be a dream, a big “theory”. Once I hold the bottle, the dream is over – in a good sense, as this is when anticipation starts. This is “IT” – now it is practically possible, not theoretically, so now you can start planning that special moment – even if it will take place 10 years from now, but you know that barred all unforeseen circumstances, you will experience that bottle.

Case in point – 2008 Alban Patrina Estate Syrah Edna Valley. Why? Alban was one of the very first wineries in California which started producing “Rhone-style” reds (and I really like Rhone wines). Alban wines are almost impossible to get (it’s being already more than two years since I registered for the waiting list to get on the mailing list) and they are very highly regarded by all those who was able to try them. So now, thanks to the Wade’s Wines, I’m a happy owner of the wine I was dreaming about.

Hello, anticipation. Yes, color me happy! Cheers!

Tishbi Winery Experience – Wine, And Lots More

February 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Continuing the “Israeli Experiences” series, I want to talk about great experience at Tishbi Winery.

While Tishbi family had being in the “grapes business” since 1882, the actual Tishbi Winery was founded in 1984 in the foothills of Carmel mountain in the area called Zichron Yaacov. in addition to the vineyards in Zichron Yaacov area, Tishbi also owns vineyards in North and South areas of Israel.

First we had to walk around the Visitors Center (which is brand new and modern looking), as there was huge group (about 100 people we were told) participating in the tasting. Very nice modern facility, spacious and airy. Of course the first thing we saw was wine:

Riesling (as you can see, it is called “French Riesling” to distinguish from Emerald Riesling which is another Riesling variety growing only in Israel):

Sauvignon Blanc:

Jonathan Tishbi Special Reserve ( this wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and it comes from Sde Boker vineyard located in Negev Desert):

Barbera/ Zinfandel (!) Port (very interesting to see Zinfandel grape somewhere outside of the US):

The next thing we noticed after all the wines was … chocolate! Not just random chocolate bar as a condiment – the shelves full of Valrhona Chocolate. It appears that Tishbi recently became one of the biggest distributors of the Valrhona chocolate in Israel. As part of the tasting, you can experience a special pairing of various “single cru” Valrhona chocolates with Tishbi’s wines.

Finally we managed to escape the Visitors Center and found out that we can have a tasting in the cafe next door, which we did. Here are some of the note for the wines we tasted:

We started with 2011 Tishbi Gewurztraminer, which was very nice, clean and simple, without strong bite which Gewurztraminer often has. 2008 Tishbi Special Reserve Chardonnay had a good body, good white fruit expression with hint of vanilla, but it was a bit too sweet to my taste.

Those were the only white wines we tried, and then we switched to red. The first red was very surprising to me – 2011 Tishbi Cabernet Syrah. What is so surprising in the Cabernet? Well, note the year – it is last year’s harvest, and this Cabernet Sauvignon didn’t spend any time in the oak barrel! Moreover, it was poured from the stainless steel tank, which was located right there in the cafe. You can bring your own bottle and get it filled with this Cabernet Syrah blend for about $5 – this is the real deal, move over two buck chuck. I also would like to note that this was a very good wine – clean, with good fruit expression and perfect acidity. After that we tried a number of Tishbi Estate wines from 2007 vintage. 2007 Tishbi Estate Cabernet Sauvignon had a beautiful classic nose, but was a bit too sweet on the palate. As an added bonus I need to mention that it had Ruby Cabernet grape as part of the blend – which is a new grape for my grapes count, so I’m advancing to 361 now. 2007 Tishbi Estate Merlot was simply perfect – great balance of all the components. 2007 Tishbi Estate Syrah was also very good, with pepper notes on the palate, full body, good concentration of tannins. 2007 Tishbi Estate Petite Sirah had good dense fruit and full body, coupled with the perfect acidity.

Last but not least we tried 2006 Tishbi Barbera Zinfandel Port wine. This wine spends a year and a half in the oak barrels before it is released. The wine was excellent, with good fruit and perfect balance, not overly sweet – and it also paired very nicely with the Valrhona chocolate (which is somewhat expected from the port). By the way, below you can see the process of pouring of that 2011 Cabernet Syrah:

At this point we took a little break, and had nearly perfect cup of cappuccino:

When we went back to the Visitors Center, we noticed something we overlooked before – a full distillery! Located right there in the Visitors Center, there is a still pot which is used to produce Tishbi Brandy:

And here is an illustration which explains distillation process:

Here is the end result of the distillation – Tishbi 16 years old Brandy:

We were lucky, as we were also able to try that 16 years old brandy (typically you can try it only if you buy a bottle – considering that it costs about $450 for the bottle, you can imagine that I wouldn’t be trying that Brandy otherwise). Can’t help but to comment that I think price is a bit high (okay, way too high).

All in all, we had a great time at Tishbi – if you are visiting Israel, it is well worth a trip. Otherwise, you can find Tishbi wines in the stores in US, and I would definitely recommend them. That concludes my report, folks – cheers!

Oh, My Sweet Valentine… – 2005 Version

February 8, 2012 2 comments

As I did recently with the post about Champagne, let me present you with an article written for the same Stamford Times newspaper in 2005 – talking about sweet wines for your special Valentin’s day, which is coming up in less than a week. For what it worth, here it is in its entirety.

* * *

Well, Valentine’s Day is around the corner. All stores are full of heart-shaped things, candies in particular. Seems that “sweet” is closely entwined into our tradition of Valentine’s Day celebration, and sweets and romance are usually go together. While we are on the subject, did you ever think of where the word “honeymoon” came from?  If you know the answer – great, you can skip the last paragraph, if not – please keep reading and you will get an answer at the end.

Now, let’s talk about sweet substance which usually doesn’t come in the heart-shaped form, but nevertheless is worth mentioning – let’s talk about sweet wine. So how come the wine can be sweet? Do they add sugar to it? No, usually, nobody adds sugar to the wine. Sugar is developing in the grape as it ripens, and it is a result of photosynthesis ( no sun – no sugar  – no wine, very simple formula). As the grape ripens, the amount of sugar is increasing, thus the idea is very simple – the longer time grape spends under the sun, the sweeter it becomes. The later harvest is, more sugar the grape will have. Have you seen words “late harvest” on the wine label? What it telling you is that the grape spent more time on the vine and was harvested late, thus you should expect that the wine under such label will generally be sweeter.

Well, then, if sugar is naturally present in the grape, how come most of the wine we drink is not sweet at all – they are so called dry wines? After grapes are pressed, when grape juice is fermented by adding yeast, the fermentation process stops by itself once all sugar is converted into alcohol – this is why we usually don’t taste sugar in the wine. Based on that fact, we can see that if grape has too much sugar, we might get wine very high in the alcohol, which will usually defeat the purpose. The fact that amount of sugar in the grape needs to be controlled, often dictates the starting date of harvest. But when the goal is to produce sweet wine, the grapes are usually left on the vine for as long as possible, they shrivel under the sun, almost becoming raisins, plus very often it is desirable that the mold, called Bortrytis cinerea, or “noble rot” will develop on the grapes. This will ensure that grape will have maximum concentration of sugar, which will be then only partially fermented into an alcohol, thus producing sweet wine.

One more fact would be interesting to note – as it is necessary to wait until the grapes are “raisiny” enough to be made into a sweet wine, usually small quantity of suitable grapes is harvested, and also such suitable grapes should be picked by hand multiple times. This translates into the fact that very often sweet wines carry a high sticker price (however an exception, but some German Rieslings, for instance, can go for $400 per 375 ml bottle)

To make sweet wines even more concentrated, as unusual as it sounds, next after sun and heat comes frost. This is how so called ice wine is made – grapes are harvested well into the winter months, when temperature drops below 17°F. Frost leads to the further dehydration of grapes, thus ensuring even higher levels of sugar and flavor in the grape. The grapes are pressed while frozen, and usually very limited quantity of the grape juice is extracted, which in turn means once again – you guessed it right – high prices. Just to add a historic prospective, ice wine was first produced in Germany at the end of 18th century and since then it is becoming more and more popular and it is now produced in other countries with great success (Austria and Canada are two of top contenders).

So where sweet wines are made? The answer is – pretty much everywhere. While covering all different sweet wine regions in this article would be impossible, let’s take a quick tour around the world.

We will start in … France, of course. Some of the best sweet wines in the world are produced in the region of Bordeaux called Sauternes. Sauternes wine is made primarily out of grape called Semillon. The most famous wine in Sauternes are made at Chateau d’Yquem – you wouldn’t regret having Chateau d’Yquem served at your romantic dinner.

While we are in Europe, let’s make another stop – Germany. Assumingly, German Rieslings don’t need much introduction. Riesling wine is made out of the grape with the same name – Riesling. There are different levels of sweetness (five of them) in German Rieslings – starting from the one called Kabinett, which is a semi-dry wine, and going to the one called Trockenbeerenauslese ( TBA in short), which makes very rich, sweet, honey-like wine ( the price also follows the trail).

Of course when talking about wine, we can’t forget about Italy. While most of its fame is coming from the red wines like Barolo and Barbaresco, there are a number of well known sweet wines coming from that beautiful country. Asti Spumante, a sweet sparkling wine, would be one. Moscato di Asti would be another one – lightly fizzed wine with a fresh and delicate aroma. Vin Santo out of Tuscany (produced in the Chianti region) might also sound familiar.

Let’s cross the ocean now – in United States, sweet wines are produced in the number of regions, best of them arguably coming from upstate New York and state of Washington. These sweet wines are usually made out of Riesling grape. Canada is also worth mentioning as since 1973 it became a very respected producer of ice wine and compete very well in that category with both Germany and Austria.

While there is more to the geography of the sweet wines ( we didn’t even get to talk about Australia, Chili, Spain, Portugal and others), let’s talk about how and what to serve them with. The serving temperature range for the sweet wines is rather large, from 50°F to 65°F. You can chose the serving temperature depending on what characteristic of the wine you want to bring out – for the sweetness you can serve it warmer (57°F – 65°F), but if you want to stress light and refreshing side of the wine, you can serve it colder (50°F – 57°F).

What to serve with the sweet wine?  One possible choice – nothing. After all, there is plenty of sugar in that glass to qualify as a desert by itself. But if you want to have the sweet wine with food, the rules are the same as for any wine in general – it can either complement or contrast the food. You can serve sweet wine with desert to complement it, or you can contrast – serve a nice Riesling with blue cheese, for instance.

One thing left before we conclude – the answer to the “honeymoon question”. The word comes from ancient Persia, where it was a tradition for the father of the bride to provide a month-long supply of alcoholic beverage called mead (made out of honey) for the groom to be enjoyed after the wedding. As lunar calendar was used at that time, hence the “honeymoon” word.

With this we will conclude our short journey to the world of sweet wine. This Valentine’s Day, bring a bottle of sweet wine to your sweet Valentine, and to make sure it will taste the best – enjoy it together! Cheers!

Touching Time

February 5, 2012 3 comments

I have a special fascinations with man made things which last through time. I remember looking almost in awe at the stone in London which had guarding rail around it and little plaque declaring that this stone was laid there in 1012 (I might be off by a few years, but you got the idea). On another occasion ( about 20 years ago, very shortly after I came to US), I was visiting Metropolitan Museum in New York, and I saw a large structure in one of the rooms which resembled Egypt Pyramid, actually bearing the age of many thousands years. I couldn’t help myself not to put a hand on the wall and touch those thousands of years – the very next second extremely loud and angry voice came out with the words “Don’t touch the Temple!”.

Wine holds special place for me when it comes to its relationship with wine (here is an earlier post on that subject).  While in Miami, I was able to literally touch upon wine and time once again (only touch, not taste). We went for a dinner to the restaurant called The Forge, located in North Miami Beach. This restaurant is a landmark on its own, being in existence sine 1920s. But the object of particular interest is their wine cellar, located on the lower floor.

From the first look you take on those bottles, the only thing you can say is “wow”. Then you say it again and again, as you walk around that spacious cellar, beautifully appointed in mahogany. Inside the cellar there is a separate gated section which holds owner’s private collection. That collection has a full line of Chateau Lafite, starting from 1822! The collection is curated by the Chateau Lafite itself, and recently the bottles were re-corked and toppled off with 1982 Chateau Lafite, which was deemed “good enough” for that purpose.

Leaving owner’s collection aside, the main cellar holds so many jewels that any oenophile will tremble in the knees just walking around. Here are few pictures I would like to share with you.

1873 Mouton Rothschild:

Here is close up on the label, in case you can’t see well enough on the previous picture:

Mouton Rothschild Artistic series ( don’t know if picture is good enough for you to see, but it is Chagal and Picasso labels):

Domaine Romanee Conti, of course:

Look at this beauty – 1957 Petrus!

The cellar holds quite a few large format bottles:

And here are couple of general views ( note that cellar is available for private parties…):

And one more:

If you are curious if the opportunity to look at the bottles was enough to replace the dinner – no, we had dinner there – but food was not on par with the view we had before.

We did pretty good with the wine – 2006 Stella Maris Red Wine from Washington state was nice, round wine, with good red and black fruit both on the nose and the palate, good acidity, medium to full body. Overall, while wine list appears to be a huge book, split into countries and styles of wine, it is not easy to find something interesting and affordable at the same time. Of course, you will be gladly served that 1957 Petrus for about $45,000, so if you plan to celebrate something that special, can I please (did I say “pleeease”?) get an invitation?

Talking about the food, for the appetizers we ordered Salmon Croquets and Roaster Cauliflower florets. The Cauliflower was probably one of the tastiest I ever had, but the salmon croquets were on the mushy side. Here is the picture:

Then we had two steaks, and while the place is considered to be a steakhouse, they were just average, not memorable at all (I would gladly take instead Capital Grille steak at any time). Here are two pictures -

New York Strip:

And “steak and eggs”, steak was encrusted with coffee and pan-seared:

The dessert somewhat compensated for the entrees, though, as it was the best souffle I ever had – chocolate grand marnier souffle:

All in all, it was a great and very memorable visit. If you have an expense account, your possibilities are endless at The Forge. If you are like me, coming for the great “wine and time” experience, you might have better luck with fish. Cheers!

 

The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

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