Why coffee? First, this is the answer to the last “What is it” post – it is actually Kona coffee berries (picture taken at Greenwell Farms in Kona, Hawaii). The reason to chose that picture was simple – I was fascinated by a number of similarities in coffee production and wine making – in both cases I’m talking about very good coffee ( Kona is one of the best coffee types in the world) and very good wines. Coffee berries are picked by hand, and also they are picked selectively – only individual ripe berries are taken from the bunch, and the rest is left to ripen. Coffee beans have their skin removed (sounds familiar?), and then they are left to dry under the sun (same as the grapes used for production of Amarone, one of my favorite wines). Once the coffee beans are dried and cleaned, they are left to rest for at least a month or two, before they will be roasted – and this is the step which is enforced by the years of experience and tradition, and nobody asks for explanations – this have to be done just because it has to be done. Again, the same element of mystery and tradition as in production of a good wine. And last, but not least – complexities of the final beverage. Good coffee, similar to the good wine, has layered complexity and brings a lot of pleasure. Anyway, I will look for more obvious picture for the next “what is it ” game.
Now, let’s talk about updates. First, the Treble certificate from the Wine Century Club has finally arrived! Not that I want to brag, but let me share the picture with you:
‘nuf said – getting to the Quattro level will not be too easy, so don’t expect to see a picture of another certificate any time soon.
Lastly, I’m continuing writing posts for The Art of Life Magazine. Last two posts were in “Forgotten Vines” series, talking about Jerez (Sherry) and Madeira, both wines are hard to find, but worth seeking – you can find posts here and here.
That’s all for now, folks. Cheers!
Can you guess from the title alone what this post will be all about? If you are not new on this blog, I’m sure you got it figured out, and if you didn’t spend much time here before, you can check this post, it will give you a hint. Yes, you got it right – I got to 300 different grapes, and now can officially apply for the Treble level at the Wine Century club! For anyone interested in seeing the copy of that application, you can find it here: Application_WineCentury_Treble.
This “Treble Journey” was interesting. It required complete focus: entering the wine store, you are on the mission. You are not looking for a nice bottle of reasonably priced Cabernet Sauvignon – instead, you are looking for the wine from most obscure place (of course it is also located in the corner of the store you’ve never being to before), hoping it is made out of grape you didn’t try yet.
Reaching this 300 grapes level was big and often simply a communal effort. My friend Patrick was finding and bringing wines from Switzerland. My friend Zak, owner of Cost Less Wines and Liquors, was going after all of his suppliers asking for rare grape recommendations. I had to spend a lot of time trying to find unusual wines on the budget, sometimes bringing them from across the country or half way from across the world (for instance, Emerald Riesling, which grows only in Israel). A lot of time went also into “grape research”, making sure that grape is unique or at least an officially recognized clone, and not just a different name for the grape already accounted for.
Anyway, here I am. 301. The grapes which helped to cross into the treble world were Findling (swiss clone of Muller-Thurgau), Coda di Volpe (Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio), Pigato and Pugnitello:
Both Findling and Lacryma Christi were nice wine (which is not always the rule when you are going after rare grapes), but the great thing was that Treble Journey finished in style, thanks to Pigato and Pugnitello wines. This 2009 Punta Crena Pigato Vigneto Ca da Rena from Liguria in Italy was one of the very best white wines I ever had – full body, great balance of fruit and acidity, with fruit taking back seat and letting polished roundness to shine – outstanding (Drinkability: 9). And 2006 San Felice Pugnitello from Tuscany was also outstanding, earthy and pungent, very balanced with long finish (Drinkability: 9-).
Well, the Treble Journey is over. Am I done with this [tedious] process of grape discoveries? I don’t think so. The next level called Quattro, and it requires… yep, 400 grapes! Anyone cares to join? Let’s go!
When I restarted this crazy “grape quest” in May of 2010, I had no idea that I will be able to move from about 210 grapes to almost 300 in 7 month. But it’s actually happening – after this report, I will be 3 grapes away from 300. And those 3 additional wines (grapes) are simply waiting for its moment, quietly resting in the cellar. Looking back, yes, I had to use some clones, but in any case I was able to advance here without use of a secret weapon, the wine with 152 grape varieties in it!
Last big group of new grapes was largely based on varieties from Georgia. This latest group consists of 3 grapes from Italy, one from Hungary and one from Israel. Another interesting detail is that 4 out of 5 are part of the main application table – I really hope that main table will be complete one day!
Schiava – 2009 Elena Walch Schiava Alto Adige DOC, Italy – nice soft red wine, medium body, has a little gaminess.
Ruche – 2005 La Mondianese Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOC, Italy – Nice, gamey wine, very earthy and well balanced.
Erbaluce – 2008 La Torrazza Erbaluce di Caluso DOC, Italy – very acidic while cold, and showing some fruit when warms up, but not very distinguishable overall
Portugieser – 2008 Gere Villany Portugieser, Hungary – Again, gamey wine, very tight initially. Opened up after two days, became quite drinkable. Will beneft from a few years in the cellar.
Emerald Riesling – 2009 Teperberg Terra Emerald Riesling, Israel. It is not the fiurst time I write about Teperberg wines. This Emerald Riesling was a bit sharp on the edges and a bit dryer than you would expect from “semi-dry white wine”, but it was drinkable nevertheless.
The Treble Journey is nearing it’s finishing line. Will there be a Quattro Journey? Well, you will be the first to know…
Previously, we discussed how expectations affect the taste of wine (you can read about it here and here). Sometimes, it is probably better to have no expectations at all! You don’t get upset, and you don’t get too excited if you simply have no expectations at all and just take life events one by one as they come up – oops, let’s stop this philosophical spur, I might not dig out of that hole or get beaten up.
Let’s talk about wine, for which I had no expectations whatsoever. On the Treble Journey road, you come across many different wines. Some of them make you regret you ever touched the bottle, and some of them make you feel really happy you did. This wine, Le Cousin Rouge from Anjou region in France, made out of the grape called Grolleau, definitely belongs to the second category.
The reason? This wine is unique and different. Not because it is bio-dynamic wine – this is great, but not enough. It is simply different from majority of the wines I ever had, and has very unusual flavor profile. In one of the earlier posts, I called the wine I had a liquid steak ( and I said it was the most unusual). I didn’t know that the “unusual” wine will have competition – and it does, as I would like to call this Grolleau wine a liquid salami. Yes, you read it correctly. It has such a balance of acidity, earthiness and pungent feeling it leaves on the palate that I can only compare it with nice Italian salami. You don’t have to believe me – just find this bottle of wine, try it and let me know what do you think.
And of course the great thing is that I’m inching forward towards that 300 number, which gets closer and closer. I’m glad to make such discoveries along my Treble Journey – and I wish to your palate many happy experiences!
When I restarted my Wine Century Club crazy grape adventure in the May of this year, I had no idea how long will it take to get from about 200 grapes (was not so easy to get even there, trust me) to the 300 grapes, which are required to achieve Treble level.
I started documenting the journey from Doppel to the Treble level with one of the very first posts in this blog. On July 20th, I was talking about grape number 240. It is middle December now, and I’m crossing into the last ten. The last advance, from #283 to the #291 was mostly made due to the Georgian wines, where a lot of authentic grapes are used. So in no particular order, the latest group includes the following grapes:
Kisi – from very nice white wine Marani Kondoli Mtsvane Kisi 2008, Georgia
Mujuretuli – red grape used in the famous Georgian wine called Khvanchkara
Aladasturi – red grape used in another Georgian wine, Alaverdi Me and You 2002, Kakheti – nice and round wine
Tsolikauri – white grape used in Georgian wine called Tvishi (Teliani Valley Tvishi 2005) – the wine was surprisingly good, with a hint of sweetness, good fruit and acidity
Tsitska and Chinebuli – white grapes used in the Bagrationi sparking wine I wrote about in my previous post.
In addition to these Georgian grapes, two more wines added 3 grapes:
Picolit and Malvasia Istriana – used in white Italian wine Jermann Vintage Tunina 2006. This was one of the most unusual white wines I ever tried, full bodied, with the tart fruit expression and pronounced sense of place.
Roter Veltliner – white grape from Austria (wine was called Ecker Roter Veltliner 2008). I’m not sure I would be able to distinguish Roter Veltliner from Gruner Veltliner, but at the same time I never tried…
All together that brings us to the number 291. And to put the final target within the reach, more wines are waiting to be tried, which will add Coda di Volpe, Erbaluce, Portugieser, Ruche, Grolleau, Schiava and Pigato – you do the math.
So the fun journey continues, and I will make sure to report on it. As they say on the radio, stay tuned…
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.
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…
This is the last post in the series about our experiences at Hotel Fauchere in Milford, PA ( previous two posts can be found here and here). Have to warn you upfront – if you thought that there are too many photos in my posts, this one will be extreme – there are way too many pictures I want to share. Here we go…
Culmination point of our weekend getaway was chef’s tasting dinner, long anticipated and planned for. The dinner took place at The Delmonico Room at Hotel Fauchere – for historic reference behind the name and relationship with The Delmonico Room in New York, you can click here. Anticipated is fine, but what’s up with planning? Considering love of wine in the group, we decided to take upon the pairing of the tasting menu by ourselves. For the tasting and pairing experience, this was a good decision, for the service part – not so much. Not that I can really complain about service, all the plates, decanters, glasses and silverware were flying around properly, but the service was delivered in the stark contrast with “everybody smiling” (if you read my previous posts), I would say it was delivered with the stone face. There can be some objective reasons to that ( we brought our own wine, therefore I guess we questioned the level of wine service)… Anyway, let’s talk about food and wine
So we had 7 course tasting menu with two very small “single byte” dishes at the beginning and in the middle of the dinner. Menu focus was on the local, seasonal and fresh ingredients, and I think mission was accomplished quite well. We selected 7 different wines to pair with the dishes – 4 whites, 3 reds.
2009 Domaine Eugene Carrel & Fils Rousette de Savoie Altesse, France
2007 Staglin Family Vineyards ‘Salus’ Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley
2009 Jorge Ordoñez Málaga Botani Sierras de Màlaga
1995 Domain Cazes Ambré Riversaltes Languedoc-Roussillon
We made a lot of good decisions with this set – but more about it later.
And here are the three reds:
2005 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley
2005 Chateau La Grange Clinet Premier Cotes de Bordeaux
This was also a great selection, all worked very well with food – so lets get some details.
The first dish in tasting was Tortelloni A La Zucca (Seared Diver Scallop, Black Walnut, Sage Butter). Wine pairing – Rousette de Savoie Altesse.
I would honestly question composition of the dish, as pumpkin tortelloni didn’t do anything to the scallop, tortelloni looked almost as a presentation piece. At the same time, wine worked very well with all of the components in the dish – apple, leeches and earthiness worked well with pumpkin filling, and wine had enough fruit and acidity to complement scallop. One important thing to mention here – with this wine I was able to make a progress in the treble journey, as Altesse is a grape from Savoie which I never tasted before. Color me happy – 273.
The next dish was Foie Gras De Canard (Porcini Mushroom, Brussles, Pear, Pomme Maxim). Wine pairing – Staglin Salus Chardonnay.
Salus is produced by Staglin Family, one of California cult wine producers from Napa Valley (Staglin Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 just got WS 98 rating). Salus was one of the most beautiful chardonnays I tasted lately. Vanilla, butter, caramel, toasted oak and acidity of the wine worked perfectly with heavy but creamy texture of the foie gras.
Next dish was Roasted Black Sea Bass (Caramelized Sunchoke, Garden Chard, Cabernet Franc Emulsion). Wine pairing – Mara Pinot Noir.
1. It was one of the best versions of Roasted Sea Bass I ever had. So, by the time I realized that I didn’t get a picture of the dish, it was too late.
2. And I guess it was also too late because everybody got carried away after taking a sip of Mara Pinot Noir.
Mara Pinot Noir was really a centerpiece of the tasting. “Oh my god” was major phrase at the table after the first sip of the wine. I don’t think that wine should be described in terms of color, fruit and acidity. This wine should be described in terms of opulence and decadence it cast upon the table. “Total and absolute balance” would be the right way to put it. Anyway, if you can find a bottle, you should experience it for yourself ( about 250 cases total production). In my “drinkability” ratings it is defnitely a 9+.
Next dish: Sautéed Squab (Confir Potatoes, Red Peppers, Serrano Ham). Wine pairing – Bradford Mountain Zinfandel.
Deep earthy and gamey flavors of the dish ( tasted almost like a fried liver), were complimented well by spices and acidity of the wine. This was definitely a good combination.
Following on, major entree: Duo of Farm Raised Rabbit (Bacon Wrapped Loin, Rabbit Scrapple, Chestnut, Garden Carrots, Natural Jus). Wine pairing – Chateau La Grange Clinet Premier Cotes de Bordeaux.
Bordeaux had being nicely decanted, so it was open enough in time for this dish being served. Coming from magnificent 2005 vintage, this wine can be drunk right now, but will improve with some time in the cellar. The wine worked well with the flavors of the dish – combination of tender, a bit gamey loin and fresh garden vegetables was well complemented by dark fruit flavors in the Bordeaux.
And now it is time for desserts: Cheese Soufflé (Pinot Noir Must, Grape Aspic, Rose Champagne Granite). Wine pairing – Botani Sierras de Màlaga.
I discovered Botani Muscat at the dinner at The Capital Grille. This wine delivers incredibly bright acidity and fruit combination, every sip feels like it is full of live. That acidity was instrumental in this pairing. The wine worked quite well with both Granite and Souffle components of the dessert.
And last, but not least, one more dessert: Gala Apple and Granola (Apple Jack Caramel, Foraged Crabapple Confit, Cinnamon Gel, Pecan Brittle, Mulled Cider Ice Cream). Wine pairing: Ambré Riversaltes.
If Mara Pinot Noir was best of tasting, then this was the most interesting wine. This wine, made out of White Grenache, is made in the Solera style – it spent 7 years in the open tubs, developing delicate flavors. Ambré Riversaltes exhibited fresh and balanced flavors of toasted apple and caramel, which perfectly worked with “apple many styles” flavors of the dessert.
That’ s all, folks – it is time to conclude the report on the Hotel Fauchere experience. All in all, we had a great time, and will gladly do it again. The life journey continues…