It presents as an intensely deep and dark purple, almost black. Strong legs. No sediment yet. Good nose. Lots of red and black fruit aromas. Same on the palate. Blackberry, raspberry, currant, blueberry, plus anise and other spices. Delicious. Big. Should age well. Grade: A- (with potential to rise)
This non-vintage Champagne was a delightful accompaniment to our New Year's Eve dinner of steamed Maine lobster and a tossed salad. The lobsters were sweet and succulent (and easy to pry out of the shell), almost as thought they were soft shell (but wrong season and wrong coast for shellers). The champagne was medium bodied, with bright acidity and a ton of scrubbing bubbles to refresh the palate. Good citrus, apple, and pear notes. Toast, of course. Yum.
Christmas Dinner was Alton Brown's Roast Duck (salty but yummy), with Emeril Lagasse's Wild Rice and Cornbread Dressing, Tawny Port Gravy, and roasted carrots. Somehow this menu said Red Burgundy and the Drouhin was a great answer. Medium bodied ruby color. Strong bouquet. Cherries, cola, and raspberry. Long finish. Two bottles left in the cellar and I think they will need drinking over the next year or two at the outside. It's at peak and not going to get better. Grade: A-
Christmas Dinner 2013:
My reward for spending the day in the kitchen:
One of the joys/headaches of a decent-sized cellar is the lost bottle. Occasionally a bottle is slotted in the wrong rack or recorded improperly or not recorded or whatever. The joy comes when you stumble across the lost sheep and finally get to try it. Provided, of course, that the bottle's not over the hill.
This 2000 port was bottled in 2004 and probably purchased that year or 2005. I located it last weekend while digging out another bottle, so it had been peacefully aging for 8 or 9 years. Good LBVs can age well in bottle, so I figured it was worth a chance.
The Sandeman had thrown a ton of sediment, which required decanting. But the color was still an incredibly deep purple-black. Huge legs. Strong bouquet suggestive of figs, cherries, raisins, vanilla and spice. On the palate there was a high alcohol burn and a suggestion of menthol on the finish.
As noted when last reviewed in 10/2012, I had targeted this wine for drinking in late 2013. So I popped it tonight to serve with veal osso buco (using the recipe from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking cookbook). As expected, the wine was at peak or just past it. The bouquet was redolent of tobacco, earth, fall leaves, dried herbs, and red fruit. On the palate, it suggested blackberries, black cherries, prunes, and cedar. This bottle was slightly better than the last one. Grade: A-/A
At age 31, the 82 Gruaud Larose was brilliant. The fill was still in the neck (although just barely). Decanted 30 minutes before dinner. It's a medium-deep ruby with just a bit of brick at the rim. It offers a huge bouquet, which suggests dried currants, blackberry, prunes, leather, tobacco, and cedar. Much the same on the palate. Long finish. A wonderful match for rack of lamb. Grade: A++
Although my 55th birthday actually was on Wednesday, we ended up having to delay celebrating because my dear wife took a tumble and busted her tibia. Now that things have settled down, however, we decided to celebrate tonight. I did a roast beef tenderloin with Bearnaise sauce, potatoes au gratin, and sauteed mushrooms. Yum. (Tomorrow night I plan to have a rack of lamb and mushroom risotto for my birthday dinner part 2. If the warden ever asks me what I want for my last meal, it's going to be tough to decide between these two.)
I poured the 1995 Ridge Monte Bello,which is a blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. According to Robert Parker's 1998 review, Ridge winemaker "Paul Draper feels it is the biggest, brawniest, and most muscular Monte Bello of the 1990s, and in need of 10-15 more years of cellaring." I've been sitting on a half case since 2000 and finally opened one tonight, since it's now had the requisite 15 years of additional cellaring. Candidly, I think Draper underestimated the wine's need for time.
Although this bottle had thrown a lot of sediment, the wine remained a deep purple at the center fading to deep ruby at the rim (when the glass is tilted for viewing). No signs of being 18 years old (other than the cork crumbling when I tried removing it with a Screwpull, such that I ended up needing to use my butler's friend opener). Decanting and breathing for a half hour helped the bouquet open up, but it also was surprisingly youthful. Lots of black and red fruit associations, but few markers of maturity. Ditto the palate, which was also dominated by red and black fruit flavor associations. And tannins! It's still pretty brawny in that regard. So the rest of my bottles go to the back of the cellar for a couple more years. Indeed, I think I'll wait three more years until this wine is of legal drinking age.
Grade tonight: A- (with potential to rise)
Now for a Dunhill Peravia and a Dow 20 year old tawny port.
Differences in wine quality between vineyards have long been attributed to processing techniques and seasonal variation. But research now suggests that regional differences between wines are shaped by microbes — specifically, fungi and bacteria. Cultivating certain grape microbes may actually improve wine flavor. ...
For example, Napa Chardonnay musts were loaded with the bacterial group Firmicutes and the fungal group Eurotiomycetes. By comparison, Sonomy [sic] Chardonnay musts contained high concentrations of the fungus Botryotinia fuckeliana and Proteobacteria. They found that the grape variety also strongly influences the microbial patterns across regions and vintages.
What's more, the team discovered that local environmental conditions — wind, temperature and relative humidity, in particular — are responsible for driving the biogeographical diversity in microbial communities. Vintage also affects grape must microbiota, and this fits in with the influence of climate, given the change in climate between years.
"What we are really seeing here is that region, environmental conditions and grape varieties shape the microbial communities of the grapes that make it into the fermentation process and shape wine quality," Bokulich said.
I bought a half case of this wine at the winery many years ago (for an amazing $27/bottle) and tucked it away at the back of my cellar. When I opened a bottle in 2011, I wrote that "With 5 bottles left in the cellar, I plan to open the remainder roughly every other year to 2020 or so." Tonight I opened another bottle to see if the plan was on track.
This is a really exceptional Cabernet (with 9% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Franc). On visual examination, it is a medium depth ruby red with a trace of brick at the rim. The rich and strong bouquet is more reminiscent of a mature Bordeaux than a Napa Cab. There is a lot of cedar, leather, prunes, and violets. On the palate, there is a surprising amount of fruit remaining, including blackberries, blueberries, and blackcurrants. On the fairly long finish, however, the leather, cedar, and tobacco come into play. The tannins are smooth enough that I may need to accelerate my drinking plan to use up the last four bottles by 2017. For now, however, I'll plan to revisit this excellent wine in spring 2015. (Maybe with Easter lamb?) Grade: A
With Helen out of town and having no obligations tomorrow, I decided to revive an old PB.com tradition: bachelor dinner night. As longtime readers will recall, a bachelor night dinner consists of steak, potatoes, and an obligatory-but very, very small portion of-green vegetable, accompanied by a good bottle of red wine and followed by a Dunhill Peravia (smoked indoors no less!) and Dow Tawny 20 Year Old Tawny.
Tonight's red wine was a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from longtime PB.com favorite Behrens Family (a.k.a. Erna Schein and Behrens & Hitchcock). Reportedly it includes 10% each of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. A pretty ruby color. Spicy and toasty aromas of vanilla (new oak, I assume), blueberry, raspberry, cherry, and nutmeg. On the palate, blueberry and blackberry are the dominant flavor associations. Firm tannins suggest some aging potential, but it is very drinkable now and it is hard to resist the temptation to drink it up. I have 3 bottles left in my cellar and will probably drink up two between now and, say, 2017. I'll save the last until 2024 on the theory that 15 years is the usual outer limit for Napa Cabernet.
I had picked up a lovely locally grown organic sweet pumpkin (about 3 pounds) at Bristol Farms and was debating what to do with it. I adore pumpkin in savory applications and, of course, dote on Italian cuisine. So I decided to make an "Italian" stuffing for a roasted pumpkin.
I cut off the top and cleaned the pumpkin of all its seeds and strings. Rubbed the interior well with a cut piece of garlic. Seasoned the interior with salt and pepper. Gave the interior a light spray of Pam, put the top back, and baked it for about 75 minutes in a 350 oven.
Using a 12-inch Calphalon nonstick frying pan, I fried off the pancetta over medium heat until the pieces were crispy and the fat had rendered. I transferred the pancetta pieces to a paper towel covered plate to drain and poured off all but a tablespoon of the fat. I then sweated the carrot, celery, and onion (which I lightly salted) over medium low heat under they were tender. I cranked the heat back up to medium and added the tomato paste, italian herbs, pepper flakes, garlic, and mushrooms. I cooked them until the mushrooms had softened. I then transferred the whole thing to an All-Clad 3-Quart saucier, to which I then added the pancetta, tomatoes, tomato sauce, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. I let it simmer slowly over medium-low heat. After it had simmered for a while I tasted it and adjusted the seasoning with salt, pepper, and a dash of Tabasco.
Meanwhile, I fried up the ground veal and pork. When they were ready, I drained it briefly on a paper towel covered plate, and then added them to the saucier.
Finally, I added the cooked rice to the saucier. Removed it from heat. Eyeballed a healthy dose of Parmesan and mixed it all.
I then pulled the pumpkin from the oven, mopped up some liquid that had seeped out of the flesh, and filled it with stuffing. (I had a lot of stuffing left over, which will go into a casserole tomorrow night). I topped the stuffing with bread crumbs and more Parmesan, which I lightly oiled with a spray of Pam. I then put the stuffed pumpkin back into the oven until the topping was golden brown and delicious.
Although this recipe sprang from my imagination rather than classic Italian cuisine and, if it had come from Italy, it would have been closer to Southern Italian than Tuscan cuisine, I nevertheless paired it with a Tuscan red wine. The 2010 Il Bruciato is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 20% Syrah sourced from grapes grown in the emerging Bolgheri region. Deep purple-ruby color. Has not thrown much sediment. Smooth, well-integrated tannins. Pretty acidic, which made it a great match with the meal. On the nose and palate, it suggests cherries, raspberries, currants, and earthy vegetation. Plus, it's a great value. I picked up a half case at K&L Wines at $23/bottle. Not a wine for the cellar, but a great value for drinking in the near term (say through 2015 or '16). With a bump for value, it's grade is B++, shading towards A--