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An Eventful Friday – Sparkling, Port, Radio Talk Show and more

December 7, 2014 7 comments

Writer's Block Cabernet FrancAs you probably noticed, the number of posts on Talk-a-Vino is down very significantly. There are many reasons for that – different workload from my day time job, few time consuming projects we tackle at home, and of course the plain familiar writer’s block. Yep, the writer’s block – when there is lots running in your head, and you have a great difficulty to put something out on  the “paper”. I tried to address the last one using the wine, I would hope specially made for such an occasion – the wine called Writer’s Block and made by Steele Wines in California. I first saw this wine mentioned in the blog I follow, called Mrsugarbears, and as you might see in my comment to that post, “Must. Find. This. Wine” was the first thing I said. I found the wine, and I got the Cabernet Franc and Grenache to try, out of the vast variety of the wines under that “Writer’s Block” label (you can see the full line of wines here).

We opened the 2011 Writer’s Block Cabernet Franc Lake County, California (13.8% ABV, $17) – it had eucalyptus, tobacco and fresh leaves on the nose. Palate was showing a medium body, tart blackberries, green bell peppers and more tobacco. On Friday, the characteristic cassis showed up, which made me happy while finishing the wine. Not sure it helped with my writer’s block, but I will gladly drink it again. Will try the Grenache next time. Drinkability: 7+

Let’s get back to that Friday. In the morning, the shipment of Horsepower Syrah arrived. I’m not sure how I managed to get on the list for this first release of super-highly allocated wine – but somehow I did, back in May. The wines comes from the legendary Christophe Baron (Cayuse, No Girls), from the tiny vineyards in Walla Walla Valley, all farmed sustainably and biodynamically (here you can read more about Horsepower Vineyards).

Okay, so it is all great, but not my main point here. I got a shipping notice from UPS at the beginning of the week, and then I got shipping delay notice from UPS, saying that the wine would be delivered only on Monday, which would be a problem as I’m traveling again next week, and there would be good chance that nobody would be able to sign for the wine during the day. This is why the delivery on Friday was so exciting that I even decided to share it in this post. This was also the first wine I received wine in the nice wooden box – so here are some pictures for you.

The next event on Friday was a really a double pleasure. At the beginning of the week, I connected to the @TheVineWineClub on Twitter, and then I got a note about possibly joining a radio talk show about the wine. Really? Yes, I can talk wine, I actually love to talk wine, so I said that I will be glad to do it – and it instantly happened, right on that Friday. At 3 PM, I was a guest at the regular radio talk show called “Off the Vine Radio Show with Benita and Terricinia“, hosted as you can tell from the name, by Benita and Terricinia. The theme was about the sparkling wines, so to support the conversation I decided to open a sample which I recently got – Ferrari Perlé from Trento in Italy. I almost feel guilty talking about Ferrari wine just matter-of-factly – the winery was founded by the Guido Ferrari in 1902; he was responsible for bringing Chardonnay grape into Italy, and he can be pretty much considered a father of Italian Méthode Champenoise wine industry. Full range of Ferrari sparkling wines is nothing short of spectacular and again, it really deserves it own coverage in a separate blog post.

This 2007 Ferrari Perlé Trento DOC, Italy (12.5% ABV, $35, 100% Chardonnay) was absolutely delicious – fine mousse, delicate aromas of apple and hint of toasted bread, perfect balance on the palate – apples, yeast, toasted bread, acidity – just very classic wine, making you say “ahh” after every sip. Drinkability: 8+

And the radio show – it was fun all the way! Benita and Terricinia were great hosts, very knowledgeable about the wine, so we definitely had a fun conversation (I really hope I didn’t overstepped my boundaries by talking to much)! I’m not going to recite our conversation here, but if you got a bit of time, here is the link for you for the broadcast. And if you will actually listen to the program – let me know (honestly!) what you think.

And the last highlight of the day – Port and Madeira tasting!

The tasting was focused on the Graham Port wines, one of the oldest Port houses in Portugal. There were 4 different ports presented in the tasting. The first one was really special, produced in the total quantity of 500 cases (less than 300 cases imported to US). This port was produced as part of the “Six Grapes” line, but for the first time in more than 100 years, it was done using the best grapes from 2011 and 2012 vintages, which were both simply outstanding vintages (some are saying that 2011 was one of the two or three very best over the last 100 years), and this is something never done before. You can read the full story here. Well, for what it worth, here are my notes:

Graham’s Six Grapes Old Vines Port ($34.99) – young and aggressive. Needs some time to mellow down – it has a sharpness of young fruit which still needs some polishing when it comes to the Port wine. After a bit of the breathing time, will perfectly finish a meal.

2011 Graham’s Vintage Port ($75.99) – again, this is the port from the amazing vintage, so it needs a lot of time to develop. Young bright fruit, blueberries and blackberries, firm and powerful body, excellent balance. Give it a 20 years, it will show what it is capable of.

Graham’s 10 Years Old Tawny ($27.99) – delicious. Dried fruit all over – figs, apricots, touch of hazelnut. And I love the bottle’s look and feel – this is a new packaging for this port which I think makes the wine shine even more.

Graham’s 20 Years Old Tawny ($45.99 – great price!) – make it double delicious. More dried fruit, nuttiness all the way, extremely complex. Thought provoking and might make you forget all the world troubles if you will be left alone with the bottle. My favorite from the tasting.

Last but not least – Blandy’s Malmsey 10 Years old Madeira ($23.99 – an amazing QPR) – a bit of sweet fruit on the palate, lots of complexity between nutty and salty profiles – delicious all the way.

Here we are, my friends – one eventful Friday. Writer’s blog, be bone – I can’t deal with you. Cheers and have a great week ahead!

#MWWC13 Final Reminder!

December 6, 2014 Leave a comment

talkavino:

Time is running out… Write!!!!!

Originally posted on the drunken cyclist:

wine-stain1-3Today is the start of basketball season for both the boys and I have agreed to coach both of their teams–no I never claimed to be all that bright, so I am getting ready to run out the door. Before I go into the zoo that will be the first game ever for Sebastian, I thought I would remind you about this month’s Monthly Wine Writing Challenge.

This month’s theme, chosen by last month’s winner, Talk-a-Vino is:

serendipity_sign

The rules

  1. The Challenge is open to anybody and everybody. It helps if you have a blog, but that is certainly not a requirement (contact me if this is the case).
  2. Write a post based on this month’s theme: “Friend”.
  3. The post should be at least tangentially related to wine (after all, it is the name of the challenge).
  4. The post should be more or less around 1000 words (I routinely violate this rule…

View original 311 more words

Categories: wine

Month in Wines – November 2014

December 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Here we are again – November 2014 is now a history, so it is the time to summarize the wine experiences. Here is a run down of the best wines November had to offer – most of the wines are rated 8- or higher – with the exceptions possible. Well, I have to add that this post is somewhat unique. In a typical month, this would be really a summary, often including the wines already covered in the prior posts. This time around, I will include wines which will be still covered in the upcoming posts, so the links will be actually coming afterwords (flexibility of blogging doesn’t cease to amaze).

And now, in no particular order:

2010 Michel Chapoutier Marius, France (12.5% ABV, blend of Terret and Vermentino) – bright, uplifting, touch of candied lemon, refreshing acidity, good balance. Very summery overall. 8-

2011 Navaherreros Blanco de Bernabeleva Vinos de Madrid DO (14.5% ABV, $14.99, 50% Roussanne, Albillo, Macabeo and other varieties) – delicious. Plump and round, full bodied for unlimited pleasure. Adding new grape ( Albillo) is a nice bonus. 8

2008 EURL Gilles Bonnefoy Roussanne de Madone Loire Valley, France (12% ABV, 100% Roussanne) – another delicious Roussanne. To be honest, Roussanne is probably one of my most favorite wines. Big body, bright fruit of white plums with the touch of apple, vanilla, spices – all in a round and balanced package. 8-

2012 Willis Hall Viognier Columbia Valley (13.7% ABV, $22.99) – in a word, spectacular. Bright and perfumy nose, as expected from Viognier, and perfectly balanced, round, delicious body of the white fruit – just enough of everything, a perfect harmony. One of the best white wines ever. Period. 9

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2009 Parallax Zinfandel Amador County, Sierra Foothills (15.1% ABV, $5.99 at Grocery Outlet) – dense and dark, with enough smoke and raspberries. 8-

2013 Trader Joe’s Zinfandel Grower’s Reserve Paso Robles (13.5% ABV, $4.99) – open and simple, nice bright fruit – fresh raspberries and blackberries. An outstanding QPR. 7+/8-

2004 Viña Mayor Reserva Ribera del Duero DO (13.5% ABV, ~$20) – dark and powerful. Espresso, cedar box, black fruit, firm structure, perfect balance. Still young. 8

2010 Le Tourmentin Valais AOC, Switzerland (13% ABV, blend of Pinot Noir, Cornalin, Humagne Rouge, Syrah) – Delicious. Unmistakably old world, a restrained and earthy profile, but perfectly “vinous vino” as a call it – you fell like you are in a beautiful, hundreds years old cellar, surrounded by profound goodness of the great wines which lived there. I would gladly drink this wine every day… 8+

2006 Bogle Vineyards Phantom, California (14.5% ABV, Old vine zinfandel, old vine Mourvedre) – QPR of Bogle wines is nothing less of stunning. This was concentrated, dark and powerful wine, with firm structure and youthful elegance. Coffee, dark chocolate and spices taking this wine to the next level. 8

2004 Carlisle Russian River Valley Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard, California (15.9% ABV) – way too young. Smoke, raspberries, finesse, eucalyptus, menthol cigarettes – in a tight, firm body. 8

2012 Field Recordings Carignan Camp 4 Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley (14.1% ABV, 85% Carignan, 10% Syrah and 5% Cinsault) – fresh berries with a touch of cough syrup and some cranberries. 8-

2013 Field Recordings Cabernet Franc Hinterland vineyard Paso Robles (14.1% ABV, 88% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot) – delicious fruit forward wine – layers of fruit, coming in waves – blueberries, blackberries, blueberries again – fresh, just picked, plump and delicious. A distant touch of sweet oak to put everything together. Not the typical Cabernet Franc, but delicious. 8

2007 Teixar Garnatxa Vella Montsant DO (14.5% ABV, $75) – a textbook Grenache deliciousness. Dark red fruit, plums, mocha, dark chocolate, all weaved on the firm, muscular body. 8+/9-

2008 No Girls Grenache La Paciencia Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley (14.2% ABV, $65) – unique and different, very different. Also very unexpected for Grenache. Terroir all the way. Smoke and earth, with a good dollop of fruit and some coffee. 8

2004 Willis Hall Merlot Columbia Valley (13.6% ABV, $27.99) – menthol, eucalyptus, blackberries, touch of cassis, earthy and restrained. 8

2006 Willis Hall Vicki’s Choice v2.0 (13.5% ABV, $19.99, 50% Syrah, 35% Zinfandel, 15% Cabernet Franc) – probably caught at its peak, may be just the very beginning of the journey downhill. Mature fruit, over-ripe plums, still good acidity, nice coffee notes and a touch of spice. 8-

What were your most memorable experiences of the last month? Cheers!

 

 

 

My First Can of Wine

November 25, 2014 18 comments

Field Recordings Can TopNo, I didn’t lose it. The title of this post actually makes sense. To the date, I had the wine from the bottles of all forms and sizes. I had the wine directly from the stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. I had the wine dispersed by the machine. I had the wine from the keg. Yes, I had a boxed wine (and it was just fine). But – until yesterday, I never had wine from the can.

Yesterday I did. The Fall club shipment from one of my absolute favorite wineries, Field Recordings, included a can of wine. Not just any wine, but once again, one of my most favorite wines, Fiction (my personal wine of the year in 2011). When I saw a notice about the upcoming club shipment, which included a picture of the can, my first though was – hmmm, interesting. Really curious to try it.

Wine shipment arrived last week. After I opened the box, first thing I noticed was that the cans appeared a bit wrinkled. You know, when you hold the can of beer or any beverage, the surface is typically very smooth under your fingers – this was not the case, with the tiny, but noticeable ups and downs, the wrinkles (may be there is a better term to describe it, but I hope you got my point). Okay, it is the content what matters, right? It is obvious that the wine in the can is not intended to be stored or admired for the long time on the shelf – with its appearance it technically says “drink me now”.

Talking about cans, I had two other interesting observations. First, the can was 500 ml in size (somehow based on the picture I was expecting the full 750 size). And then instead of the short story which appears on the bottle of Fiction, the can’s “back label” contained the following tasting note: “Heady aromas of blueberry pie, luxurious suede couches, ham paninis and unlit menthol cigarettes. Firm tannins anchor flavors of grilled meats, cherry cola, sweet carob and black licorice chews, all cased up together conveniently in a cigar humidor. Drink tonight“. An interesting description, don’t you think? As I also got a bottle of Fiction, I was relieved to see the old a familiar story on its back label…

2013 Field Recordings Fiction Cans

Okay, let’s get to “it” – let me tell you what I though about the wine. 2013 Field Recording Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, $10 for 500 ml can, $18/bottle, 20% discount for catalog members; 31% Zinfandel, 26% Tempranillo, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 8% Touriga Nacional) – in a word, the wine was delicious. It took about 10 minutes for the wine to open up and round itself up in a glass (I didn’t dare drinking it straight from the can, I think it would eliminate half of the pleasure – but feel free, of course). I didn’t find grilled meat or suede coaches in the wine. But it had beautiful, ripe blueberries and sweet cherries, some vanilla dusting and may be a touch of mocha and sweet oak, all impeccably woven into a tight bundle of pleasure, sip after sip. This wine was on par with all the previous releases of Fiction, sans the aromatics. I couldn’t find the mind-blowing aromatics the 2010 Fiction was showing, but nevertheless, this was a silky smooth and delicious wine which I would gladly drink again. But I would honestly prefer to pour from the bottle. Drinkability: 8-

Did you have the wine in the can? What do you think about the wine you had and the concept as a whole? Cheers!

My #ZinfandelDay experiences – [mostly value] Zinfandels

November 22, 2014 9 comments

I like to celebrate grape holidays in a close proximity of my wine fridge – there is always a good chance that I have a good bottle of the appropriate celebratory wine. So if I would’ve been next to my cellar for the #ZinfandelDay, I would be able to chose between Turley, Carlisle and St. Francis – not too shabby, right? Only I wasn’t. I was traveling, so it was the whole different game.

Once again, I was in California. As it was mentioned many times in this blog, when I’m in a close proxomity of Trader Joe’s which sells wine, then Trader Joe’s it is. So I went to Trader Joe’s and bought 3 different Zinfandel wines – two of the Trader Joe’s own labels, and Ravenswood. Literally next door to my hotel, on my way back, I saw a store called Grocery Outlet, which I never heard of before. So I had to stop by and check it out. Interestingly enough, the store also had a wine section with the number of very interesting bottles, with prices starting from $2.99. When I saw another Zinfandel at $5.99, it was also quick and easy decision. And now, there were four.

Below I will share with you my notes on the wines, which ranged in prices from $4.99 to $9.99. Some of the takeaways were quite interesting, as I tasted the wines over a few days, but I will let you read through my notes as they are. And there was one more Zinfandel to mention. Here we go:

zinfandels2012 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Vintners Blend California (13.5% ABV, $7.99) – Crushed red fruit on the nose, touch of earthiness. Palate is a little thin on the finish, first showing a burst of dark fruit and smoke, but again, the finish was disintegrated with sharp acidity. This was the end of my notes on the first day – as you can see, I didn’t really like it. At the end of the second day, however, the wine showed a lot more round, integrated and balanced – dark fruit, spices and touch of herbs (sage). Drinkability: 7+

2013 Trader Joe’s Zinfandel Growers’s Reserve Paso Robles (13.5% ABV, $4.99, made with organically grown grapes) – Touch of fresh berries on the nose. Smoke, clean fruit, blueberries and blackberries on the palate. Clean, simple, easy to drink. Opened up even more at the end of day 3 (!) – smoke, sandalwood, round with nice open complexity. My favorite out of the 4. Drinkability: 7+/8-

2012 Trader Joe’s Reserve Zinfandel Lot #92 Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County (14.5% ABV, $9.99) – dark fruit on the nose with touch of blackberries. Hint of smoke and roasted notes on the palate, blackberries, restrained, somewhat round, but need more substance. This was the end of the day 1 – an okay wine (I’ve been nice here), but not anything interesting. At the end of the day 3 (!), very noticeable tannins came out with smoke and dark fruit, overall much better than before. Needs time? Drinkability: 7-/7+ (on day 3)

2009 Parallax Zinfandel Amador County, Sierra Foothills (15.1% ABV, $5.99 at Grocery Outlet)  – touch of fresh blueberries on the nose, just a touch. Round, clean, blackberries on the palate. Touch of earthiness. Finish somewhat lacking, need more complexity – this was an initial assessment at the end of the day 1. At the end of the  day 2 – nice complexity, spices, lots of blackberries, very noticeable tannins. An excellent steak wine, good balance, more dark fruit. Very impressive. Drinkability: 8-

So what do you think? A very interesting experience, if you ask me. It took these wines a few days to change and open up – the biggest winners were Parallax Zinfandel and Ravenswood, which improved quite a bit, from barely drinkable to pretty much delicious. And the most interesting wine was probably the least expensive Trader Joe’s Grower’s Reserve Zinfandel, which tasted fine from the very beginning and even throughout the three days. Considering its taste profile, it would make it a perfect Thanksgiving wine, as it will match a wide range of flavors.

Well, to top it all off, I need to include one more Zinfandel here. On the exact #ZinfandelDay, we had dinner at the 71 Saint Peter restaurant in San Jose, and as you can imagine, I wanted to start the dinner with the Zinfandel, just to properly acknowledge the holiday. Out of only three Zinfandel wines available on the wine list, 2012 Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel Paso Robles (14.5% ABV, $22 winery, $45 at the restaurant) was highly recommended by the staff. You know, when you drink the wine in the restaurant, you don’t have a luxury of playing with it for 3 days to see what will happen… The wine had ripe blackberries on the nose, and was dark, firm and concentrated on the palate, and also had some nice black fruit. I think it would open up more if it was given a chance, but it was gone way too quickly, so in the interest of fairness, I will not rate this wine.

There you have it, my friends – my [mostly value] Zinfandel experiences, with some interesting outcome, when even the inexpensive wines can evolve and surprise you. How was your #ZinfandelDay? Cheers!

 

Pleasures of the #GrapeDay – Delicious Tempranillo

November 15, 2014 15 comments

2004 Viña Mayor Ribera del Duero Once again I’m confessing my love for the “grape holidays” – knowing that the day has a special dedication to the specific grape variety makes selection of the wine to drink a much easier process. It also creates a feeling of the “special moment”, thus forcing you to open that-special-bottle-saved-for-the-special-occasion. Last grape holiday, the #GrenacheDay, prompted me to open a special bottle which was a lucky occasion, as the wine was about to turn over the hill.

Two days ago we were celebrating Tempranillo, a noble grape of Spain. Tempranillo is the most planted red grape in Spain, with the best and most famous wines coming from Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Toro regions. But over the last decade, Tempranillo lost its status of Spain’s exclusive treasure – it spread all over the world, with Australia, Texas, Oregon, California, Washington and other regions producing world-class wines.

Now, to select the bottle of wine for the proper celebration, one have to go to their own cellar or the local wine store – of course, with the exception of the lucky ones who live in a close proximity of the right winery. Unless you actually live in Texas, Oregon or Washington, your chances of finding those Tempranillo wines in the store are pretty much non existent. So for me, the choice was simple – Spain. I love Spanish wines, especially Rioja – and my cellar shows that. For the most of the day, my plan was to open the Rioja bottle in the evening – I was thinking about 2003 La Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi, which I had before and it was outstanding, despite a very difficult growing year. But then many of the twitter friends stated that they plan to open Ribera del Duero wines – and it got me thinking – do I have any options? Not a lot, but I do have a few bottles of Ribera del Duero, so actually, why not?

The bottle I pulled was 2004 Viña Mayor Reserva Ribera del Duero DO (13.5% ABV, ~$20). I was under impression that I wrote about this wine before in this blog – nope, I didn’t. The 2004 was an excellent year in Ribera del Duero, and Viña Mayor is an excellent producer. You put two and two together and what do you get? Five, of course! I love it when my wife takes a sip of the wine and says “wow” – one thing is to enjoy the wine by yourself, and it is totally different experience when someone else shares your enthusiasm – and it is not easy to impress my wife that much. Beautiful dark fruit on the nose, touch of herbs. The palate is just “wow” – multiple layers of fruit, touch of espresso, firm, dense, perfectly present, youthful, fresh, excellent acidity and overall very balanced. I’m glad I have another bottle – but it will have to wait for a while. Drinkability: 8+

There you have it, my friends – another successful grape holiday. How was your #TempranilloDay? Share your special moments, don’t be shy!

By the way, in case you are wondering – the next grape holiday is coming! #ZinfandelDay is on November 19th – luckily, you still have a bit of time to prepare. Cheers!

Beer Versus Wine (And Don’t Forget The Cider) + Food

October 9, 2014 10 comments

I don’t know what you think based on the title, but the premise of this [short] post is simple. The Wondering Gourmand has a permanent monthly feature in his blog, called “Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge”. In that challenge, you are given a choice of a dish, and you are supposed to come up with the wine or beer (and don’t forget the cider!) pairing suggestion which then gets voted for.

As a lucky winner of the September challenge, I had an opportunity to come up with the new dish for the challenge, and my suggestion was … deviled eggs! So now you can suggest a choice of pairing, and may be then get a lucky challenge of coming up with the next dish suggestion. Here is the link to the official post – use the comments section in the Wondering Gourmand post for your beer versus wine recommendations.

Beer Versus Wine Pairing Challenge – Deviled Eggs

Cheers!

Restaurant Files: Gastro Bar in Stamford, CT

September 29, 2014 8 comments

Stamford, the town where I live, is a vibrant, “alive”, modern city, with no shortage of the restaurants (according to the Trip Advisor, Stamford, a city of about 123,000 has 390 restaurants – I believe that accounts for McDonalds “restaurants” as well, but still). And nevertheless, when I think about new interesting restaurants or when I’m asked to recommend a restaurant in Stamford, I almost start mumbling – especially, if the request is for the new restaurant. I can easily recommend places in Norwalk and other towns near by, but Stamford is always a challenge. This is why I was very happy when I was invited to yet another bloggers dinner at the new restaurant in Stamford, called Gastro Bar.

I like it when the name of the restaurant becomes part of the experience, as it builds anticipation. Think about it – when you are planning to visit a restaurant called “Corner Cafe” – does it create any level of expectations and excitement? Not unless you do the research and figure out what people think about it and what is served at such a restaurant. At the same time, when you hear the name “Gastro Bar”, such a name right away creates a feeling of excitement, as it hints at the upcoming gastronomical experience.

Gastro Bar is located in one of the busiest restaurant enclaves in Stamford – Columbus Park. From the street you walk into the nicely decorated space – it has charm, but doesn’t overwhelm. The front wall of the restaurant is pretty much made out of glass, so even while you are inside, you have a feeling of the open space and feel connected to the street outside. Bar is very substantial, and looks very appropriate for the place which has the “Bar” as part of the name. As usual, we started our visit from a few drinks. The cocktails list was small, but the drinks were outstanding. Slow & Low (Slow & Low whiskey • muddled oranges & lemon • ginger beer) had delicious fresh orange, very refreshing. Gastro Mule (Hendricks Gin • pineapple juice, triple sec • St. Germain • Rose wine) was my favorite – I really don’t like sweet cocktails, and this was a perfection – very tasty and again perfectly refreshing. Wine list had a good selection, mostly focused on California and Italy. We ended up choosing 2011 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles – the wine was rich, with dark fruit and tobacco notes, beautiful depth and excellent balance; this was definitely a spot on selection for our dinner.

And then there was food. We started with the Fried Calamari (Smoked Aioli) which had a very good texture. Next appetizer was Oysters (Crispy oysters, avocado, pureé, grapefruit & radish), which were deep fried and served in a very unique way, with avocado and grape fruit. We had two pizzas, which were more of a tart style, with a very think and crunchy crust. Fig Pizza (goat cheese, 10 year balsamic, prosciutto, arugula) was delicious with large chunks of prosciutto and fig wonderfully balancing the goat cheese. Mushroom Pizza (mushrooms, bacon, fontina) was outstanding, with each ingredient contributing its own flavor profile, and every bite been cravingly delicious.

Up next – Salmon Tartar (Jalapeños, shallots, crispy potatoes, cilantro) – perfectly salmon, perfectly clean profile with nice heat in the back and textural contrast of crispy potatoes. Brussel Sprout Salad (Shaved Brussel sprouts, truffle oil, lemon juice, crispy risotto cake) was also very tasty, a nice combination with risotto cake. Fried Quinoa (Mango Chutney) had perfect balance of flavor and was quintessentially Mediterranean, very much resembling falafel – and it was very tasty in cobination with the mango chutney. Artichoke-stuffed Portabello Mushrooms also had an excellent balance of flavor, with artichoke complementing and extending the mushroom flavor. Albondigas (lamb meatballs, pomodoro, baby kale) had a clear lamb profile, and the dish worked perfectly with the Cabernet Sauvignon we were drinking. Crab Cake (arugula, fresh tomato, cherry pepper sauce) finished our appetizers selection, and what finish this was! Beautiful presentation, and the freshness of the crab cake was on par with the best crab cakes I had in a restaurant in Chesapeake Bay, made from the freshly caught crabs. Even thinking about this crab cake makes me salivate…

Out entrée started with Panzotti (butternut squash, toasted almonds, brown butter), delicious homey pasta, a perfect comfort food. Baked King Salmon (horseradish, beets, whipped potato, braised celery) was outstanding all the way. While salmon was perfectly cooked, for me the stars of the dish were vegetables – sweet beets and braised celery were just spectacular.

Then Chef Fernando Gomez showed up to personally present the Paella:

Chef Fernando Gomez presenting PaellaPaella (clams, shrimp, chicken, mussels, calamari, sweet peas, chorizo, saffron rice) was excellent, great flavor and texture, very well executed.

After all this food, I’m very glad that dessert was of a reasonable size. The Cheesecake had very nice density – not too hard, but not easily falling apart either. And as I like all the things coffee, the Espresso Crème Brûlée was just a wow finish to this outstanding meal with its clear coffee profile.

As usual, a big thanks to the Executive Chef Fernando Gomez, and I’m also glad that I had an opportunity to include into the picture our tireless guide to all the culinary extravaganza – Lin Kavanagh.

Linda Kavanagh and Chef Fernando Gomez

We are done here, folks. I hope I didn’t make you too hungry. And I’m also glad that Stamford now has restaurants such as Gastro Bar, where classic perfectly mingles with innovation and creativity. Cheers!

Disclaimer: I visited restaurant as a guest of the management. All opinions are my own.

Gastro Bar Stamford
78 West Park Place
Stamford, CT 06901
203-817-0392

http://www.gastrobarstamford.com

Gastro Bar on Urbanspoon

 

Do You Wine Club?

September 9, 2014 14 comments

International Wine of The Month ClubWhat do you think of the Wine Clubs? Do you belong to one, or two or five? Have you in the past? Would you recommend a wine club membership to your friends?

Yes, I know, the subject of the wine clubs was well discussed in the past, and it is hard to say something new here. However, a few months ago, I was asked if I would be interested in receiving a sample from the International Wine of the Month Club, which I accepted with the usual condition – I will write about the wines only if I like them. I tasted the wines a while back, and yes, I liked them – only now I finally found the time to write about it. But – I don’t want just to share the tasting notes and be done with it – I would like to take this opportunity to ponder at the subject of the wine clubs (beer and spirits too for that matter).

My love for the [wine] clubs started the way back, in the middle of 1990s, when I subscribed for the first time to the Beer Across America monthly club. To begin with, the club had a great story of two friends quitting their IT jobs, coming up with the concept and trying to (unsuccessfully) start the business, then literally with the last of their savings creating leaflets and going in Chicago neighborhood door to door, leaving those leaflets in the mailboxes of people in time for the holidays – and seeing the business to pick up. Every month UPS would deliver a box to my doorstep with two six packs of beer – not just any beer, but only microbrewery products, coming from all over the country. Today any wine store carries literally hundreds of selections – but this was 20 years back, and microbreweries very hard to find. Every shipment would also include information about microbrewery, about the particular beer we received, recipes  and lots more. I was definitely looking forward to those shipments – you would never know where the next beer would be coming from, and what the story might be behind it, so it was definitely fun.

I think I stayed with that club for about two years – the club changed the concept slightly at some point and went from the regular 0.33 beer bottles to the large format, 22 oz, and those started to accumulate, so I had to stop it as the whole process became somewhat boring.

Since that time I had a few other club experiences. For about year and a half, I was in the D&M Scotch club – this was great, very unique selections, but I just don’t drink enough Scotch, so it started to pile up, and I had to stop it; to be entirely honest, if I would be able to reduce the frequency of the shipments, I would still continue it. A few years back (say 6-7, to be more precise), many newspapers started their wine clubs. I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal wine club, but that experience wore off very quickly, as out of the case of wine, only 3-4 bottles would be somewhat drinkable, so paying about $180 for 4 “okay” bottles was not my idea of the bargain. I wouldn’t recommend the newspaper wine club – the selection there is simply not good.

All in all, I think all the wine clubs are different, and some of them have their place. For majority of the cases, you get a great deal of information with your wine club shipment – and I really like that. Also, for those few bottles which you will be receiving, you get two additional [oenophile-specific] benefits – you don’t need to chose anything, and you have an element of surprise with every “mystery” box you receive. As it was the case with the my sample shipment from the International Wine of the Month Club.

This club offers three different levels of membership – Premier, Masters and Collectors. The difference between the levels is in the price of wine you will be receiving – otherwise, each shipment contains 2 bottles of wine, which can be red and white, or just two reds. The sample I received contained the 2011 Bellingham The Bernard Series Small Barrel S.M.V. from the Masters series, and 2012 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc form the Collectors series, both wines from South Africa.

2011 Bellingham The Bernard Series Small Barrel S.M.V. South Africa (14% ABV, 75% Shiraz, 22% Mourvèdre, 3% Viognier) took one day to open up. Dark, Concentrated, with raspberries and blackberries on the nose, touch of tobacco and earthiness. On the palate, the wine was firm, structured, with cherries and lavender, touch of espresso, good acidity, hint of eucalyptus and sage, well balanced. Long finish with tobacco aftertaste. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc Estate Wine, South Africa (13.5% ABV, 89% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Semillon) is produced by the famed Klein Constantia, makers of the iconic Vin de Constance, favorite wine of Napoleon. This Sauvignon Blanc had gooseberry, fresh grass and lemon on the nose, with touch of sweetness. On the palate, the wine had nice zippy acidity, lemon zest, lemon and a touch of freshly cut grass and mineral complexity. It is interesting that this wine also required a day to open up and to develop a balance – from the pop and pour, the wine a was a bit disjointed and sharp, and it became soft, balanced and cohesive on the second day. I believe this wine can age, and it would be interesting to see what would happen with in a few years. Drinkability: 8

Remember I started this post with the question? How about a simple poll – I’m just curious what you think about wine clubs, so here are two questions for you. First, just tell me if you ever belonged to the wine club:

And now, if you did (or still do), how often do you get your shipments?

So, what do you think? Is there a wine club for you out there? Oh yes, before I will forget – wine clubs make perfect gift! I heard the holidays are coming… Cheers!

Sharing the Pleasure – Two Cabernets for the #CabernetDay

August 28, 2014 9 comments

Yes, it is a #CabernetDay, and a post about Cabernet wines should be rather appropriate – but somehow, I was on the fence about it, until the AME opened up a little bit… When the wine give you lots of pleasure, why not talk about it? Well, this is how I felt anyway.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc make some of the very best wines in the world, both when they fly solo, and when assisted by the other grapes. Myriad of love letters err tasting notes, blog posts and articles had been written to those grapes and wines, and hundreds millions of dollars traded hands for the pleasure of owning and drinking the Cabernet wines. Yes, we love our Cabernet wines (even Miles didn’t dare to poop on them). Thus I will not inundate you with another ten (or fifty) interesting facts, and instead will simply share the pleasure I had drinking the wines.

The greatness of the #GrapeDay is in the fact that it helps to select the bottle to be open. It also makes it appropriate to break a special bottle, and so I did.

Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

The first bottle opened was 2009 Gramercy Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley. What makes it special? I had only one bottle, and read some rave reviews advocating giving this wine some time – thus I was waiting for the “special occasion” (thank you #CabernetDay).

I don’t know how this works, but when I think about the wines in the terms of how I would describe them, I get some random analogies at random times. This time my brain decided to go with the athletes analogy. To give you an idea of how this wine tasted, imagine a runner, may be a sprinter – perfectly built slender body, perfectly visible muscles, everything is tightly wound and ready to spring at any moment. A perfectly looking, but minimalist body. That was the impression of this wine – restrained cassis notes, espresso, earth, plums, clean acidity, firm and perfectly structured – a great package all around. (Drinkability:8)

Neyers AME Cabernet Sauvignon

The second wine was 2005 Neyers Vineyards AME Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. What makes it special? I love Neyers wines – their 2003 Cabernet was spectacular, for instance. And I had only two bottles of the AME (I rarely buy wines by the case, so having only two bottles is rather common). I would say that this wine was special even for the Neyers – the AME constitutes first initials of the names of their 3 children – Alexandra, Michael and Elizabeth.

Going to the sports analogy, imagine the same perfectly built athlete, but make all the muscles at least 3 times bigger – still perfect body, no fat, just muscles, but much bigger frame and much bigger muscles. We are not getting to the bodybuilder sizes, but this might be Stallone rather than Schwarzenegger – I hope you got my point.

Delicious open nose of dark fruit, cassis, loads of cassis, eucalyptus, earth. On the palate – so many things happening – cassis, plums, earth, pencil shavings, dark chocolate and espresso combined, clean acidity, perfect balance, firm structure and powerful tannins – a wow wine. (Drinkability:9).

There you have it, my friends – two great wines in honor of #CabernetDay. What is in your glass? Cheers!

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