Monday, May 31, 2021

BONDING AT THE DINNER TABLE: SOBREMESA BY ANY OTHER NAME


I've always been a voracious reader and can never refuse a book. Lately I've been reading plenty of biographies and business books and was looking for something lighter for bedtime reading. So when Cam from Culinary Adventures with Camilla offered a new book to preview, I was all in! The book - Sobremesa: A Memoir of Food and Love in Thirteen Courses by Josephine Caminos Oria - arrived accompanied by two bottles of Argentine wine from Bodega Norton, courtesy of Kobrand Wine and Spirits. Most definitely an ideal package of pairings for the summer.

THE BOOK
Briefly summarised, the book is a poignant memoir of Josephine's life straddling two cultures: American and Italian-Argentine. But it's more faceted than that. It's also about Josephine's experiences with her culture and elders - in life and in spirit - and her encounters with them.

The book is full of ingredients of typical first generation American life: suburban everything, but with a thick layer of a specific culture, in her case, Italian-Argentine. We may agree or not, but so much revolves around food and the dining table. The dining table is where stories are swapped, the daily catch up happens, current events/travel plans/grades/life goals/any other topics are discussed, the food itself is oohed and aahed over, and then a few hours later it all moves from the dining table to the drawing room to talk through the rest of the afternoon or evening over dessert or a coffee/tea and perhaps a digestif. It is where children learn table manners but also how to socialise. This habit, common across most old cultures, is elegantly summarised in one word in Spanish: sobremesa.

As stories go, Josephine's is an intriguing tale of the spiritual world mixed into her daily life. Childhood in America, a stint in Argentina along with a romance that led her to making a family with the love of her life, lasting bonds with extended family in Argentina, return to America, and her business, all with the continued presence of her ancestral spirits and people dead and alive that influenced her life in so many ways. Read the book to find out more!

As is often the case, food evokes memories and memories are intimately tied to food. Josephine's vivid memories of food are chronicled throughout the book and at the end of each chapter she gives us a recipe. From salad to dessert, it's all there, and certain to inspire us to rustle up something in the kitchen.

THE FOOD
The thirteen chapters of the book = as many recipes, each a different course. After a long 2020 of minimal social contact, we had our first party to inaugurate return to life as we've known it. We had friends over for a Memorial Day lunch-that-lingered-into-after-midnight and I made the Ensalada de Palmitos (Hearts of Palm salad) with the orange vinaigrette rather than the salsa golf. We had it with smoked baby back ribs and potato salad, baked beans, etc. The acid in the vinaigrette perfectly cut through the fat in the ribs and the citrus flavours brightened it all up. Definitely will be a regular!

THE WINE
Founded in 1895 by Edmund James Palmer Norton, Bodega Norton is one of the most awarded Argentine wine brands in the US. The estate has grown to over 1,750 acres of estate vineyards and over 3,000 acres of land holdings. It has been owned by Austrian businessman and entrepreneur Gernot Langes Swarovski, of the Swarovski Crystal company, since 1989. Their diverse portfolio of wines is sure to offer something for every occasion, every meal, and every cuisine.

We opened the sample of the 2019 Bodega Norton Reserva Chardonnay, which was superb with the ribs and salads, but also the snacks of spiced nuts and appetizer of grilled corn-ricotta dip with potato crisps and crudités.

The grapes for this Chardonnay come from 30 - 50 year old (mature) vines, and the wine is aged in 100% French oak for 6 months followed by 3 months in bottle before release. The wine is a pale gold colour flecked with green, and offers a complex nose and palate of ripe citrus+stone fruit, a rather faint hint of vanilla, and a long mineral-edged finish.

We almost never have wine without food but I can see this being an afternoon sipper, especially with a riveting book to keep company. I can certainly say that I enjoyed both, the wine and the book!



 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

THE SINGULARITY OF CHABLIS

 

In May 2021 the French Winophiles group delved into all things #purechablis. For a primer on this month's gathering, see host Jill's preview post. Also join us on Twitter under #winophiles on Saturday, 15 May 2021 at 8 AM PST to chat about chardonnay and Chablis wine.

This event is sponsored by Chablis Wines who have generously sent wine samples, but all opinions in this post are my own.

CHABLIS, BURGUNDY
Map of Chablis AOCs (https://www.chablis-wines.com/)

Chablis is the northernmost wine region in Burgundy (Bourgogne), France and produces wine from one and only one grape varietal: chardonnay. Alsace, Lorraine, and Champagne are the only three French wine regions more northerly than Chablis. Although only the chardonnay grape is allowed, there are four Appelations d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) within Chablis:
  • Petit Chablis
  • Chablis
  • Chablis Premier Cru
  • Chablis Grand Cru
Wines from each Chablis AOC have their salient points but share one common trait: cool climate higher acid, dry wines, that are often described as citrusy, steely, and flinty. I received three samples - one Petit Chablis (Portlandian soil) and two Chablis (Kimmeridgian soil) - more on those below. I received them a day and a half before our Twitter chat so pulling things together was a bit of a rushed effort but worth it.

CHABLIS IS REALLY TERROIR
Terrior - climate and soil combined - informs the nuanced flavour of all edible things including coffee, cacao, and wine. Non-aromatic grapes like Chardonnay which aren't loaded with beautiful fruit and floral notes especially rely on terroir and vinification for the final outcome. Chardonnay is native to Burgundy and, dare I say, the best expression of the grape comes from wine made there. Especially from Chablis where an ancient seabed has formed two distinct sedimentary soil types: Kimmeridgian (clay + limestone) and Portlandian (dense, weathered limestone). Both are named after stages of the Jurassic epoch and both formed from heated and compressed remnants of ancient molluscs and shellfish. And if there is a wine that acutely reflects its soil more than - or even as much as - Chablis, I have yet to experience it.

THE SOIL
Kimmeridgian soil (www.chablis-wines.com)
Portlandian, Kimmeridgian, Portland stone, portland cement, limestone, ancient Roman tabby concrete - all same but different, all requiring pressurised thermal decomposition of molluscs. Created by heating (burning) shellfish shells, mixing with more shells, sand, and water, poured into moulds if you're making something like a wall, or occurring free-form in nature for millenia. Such a basin of limestone marl extends from the Isle of Portland, England (where Portland stone originates and where portland cement was invented), and runs down through 
the Loire Valley, Burgundy, and Champagne.

Tabby Walls at Ft. Livingston, LA (Payal Vora)

(Fun Fact: to see Portland stone, visit the UN headquarters in NYC or Buckingham Palace, London. To see dramatic shell-studded tabby walls, see the photo to the left or snag a visit to Ft. Livingston, Grand Terre Island, LA - I worked on that partially submerged structure after the BP oil spill in 2010 and it remains my most challenging and fascinating project.)

Grapevines love limestone soil - it offers an abundant source of bio-accessible calcium carbonate, enables greater nutrient uptake by the vines, excellent water retention and drainage capacity, so less irrigation and less chance of water-logged soils. All factors which work in favour of Chardonnay, a grape with early bud break that thrives in a cool climate. But despite the apparent similarities between Portlandian and Kimmeridgian, both soils have a remarkably different effect on the grapes. And that is further nuanced by the limestone and Jurassic limestone soil that interfaces with both, resulting in Chablis wine that is an unabashed reflection of the vineyard soil.

Chardonnay is grown and vinified in numerous wine regions of the world, but none are Chablis. There is no such thing as Chablis-style or -type of wine. The combination of each specific location, grape, climate, soil, water, and sun exposure makes singular Chablis wine that cannot be approximated or replicated in another region.

THE WINES
2019 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Vieilles Vignes de Sainte Claire
100% Chardonnay
14.5% ABV | SRP ~$35 | SAMPLE

This single vineyard wine comes from grape vines planted 70 years ago on Kimmeridgian soil and fermented with indigenous yeast. The vines' roots reach over 25 meters into the soil making more concentrated wines that express all the complexity and finesse of the Chardonnay grape and the vineyard. The wine certainly reflects the Brocard commitment to ecology and their 60 ha. of certified organic vineyards and 40 ha. of biodynamic vineyards.

Colour: 
Medium lemon-green

Nose: 
Gunflint, grapefruit rind, lemon, faint wet earth 

Palate: 
Same as nose with a rounded mouthfeel, long finish, and juicy acidity balanced by salinity. The 14.5% ABV definitely doesn't feel like it but will sneak up on you! A quintessential Chablis that is very food-friendly wine ready to enjoy now but could also be cellared for up to 5 years.

2019 Domaine de la Cornasse Chablis
100% Chardonnay
12.5% ABV | SRP ~$30 | SAMPLE

Under the tutelage of their winemaker father Alain Geoffroy, daughters Sylvie, Nathalie and Aurelie have launched Domaine de la Cornasse: a new wine for a new generation. They produce 100% Chardonnay from the village of Chablis from 20-30 year old vines sitting on Kimmeridgian soil.

Colour: 
Pale lemon-green

Nose: 
Faint gunflint, lemon, grapefruit, white flowers

Palate: 
Like the nose, the palate is juicy and redolent of citrus complemented by white flowers and a gunflint minerality. Medium body, balanced acidity, medium finish. A fresh and very food-friendly wine that's certainly ready now but could also be cellared for 2-3 years.

2019 Bernard Defaix Petit Chablis
100% Chardonnay
12% ABV | SRP ~$30 | SAMPLE

Fourth generation from a family of vine-growers, Bernard Defaix started with 2 ha in 1959 and the estate is now a 4th/5th generation family owned estate. The Petit Chablis vines are on hilltop plateaus on stony soils and it is truly a family operation with the founder's son Sylvain in charge of the vinification, the ageing, the bottling and the preparation of orders, his other son Didier in charge of the vineyard and the general management of the domain, while daughter-in-law Helene (Didier’s wife) looks after administrative and the commercial matters.



Colour: 
Pale lemon

Nose: 
Citrus, wet stone, white flowers

Palate:
The same notes on the palate as on the nose but also a bright juicy mouthfeel with a medium finish. Medium body, balanced acidity. This is a lively food-friendly wine that really shines when paired with fresh raw or minimally cooked seafood.

THE WINE + FOOD

We are having a rather slow start to summer in mid-California - the weather is cold, and the winter seafood is still plentiful. But the farmer's markets have late spring produce from warmer inland areas. So as soon as I found out which wines I was going to receive, I knew what I wanted to pair with them. Local seafood, local farmer's market finds, and a slew of celebrations. So we had a bit of a lavish weekday lunch with:
  • Halibut Ceviche: Our fish market had just received local halibut and I could not resist volunteering my other half to make us his excellent ceviche. It was exceptional with the Petit Chablis. The citrus in the ceviche and the citrus and mineral notes in the wine... wow! The mild earthiness of the very fresh fish brought a balance to the combination while the avocado and corn added a silky mouthfeel and a faint sweetness. 
  • Plateau de Fruits de Mer // Seafood Platter: Fresh prawns, littleneck clams, West Coast oysters, and a saffron aïoli with lemon wedges. The salinity of the seafood really walked closely with the salinity of both the Chablis. A perfect combination if you have the freshest local seafood.
  • Bruschetta à l'Oursin // Sea Urchin Bruschetta: The sweetness of the sea urchin in the simple bruschetta was sublime with all three wines but especially with the saline edge of the two Chablis.
  • Tartare de Saumon et Thon // Salmon and Tuna Tartare: Not much to say but that as expected, we loved this pairing with all three of the wines. The potato crisps brought another layer of saltiness that elevated each bite to something else. I will absolutely serve this again as an hors d'oeuvre. 
  • Mushrooms on Toast: A beloved Indian favourite and a colonial culinary vestige of the Brits. But so versatile and especially good when made with Kashmiri morel mushrooms. I made do with impulse-buy cremini mushrooms from our farmer's market and they did not disappoint, especially with the Jean-Marc Brocard old vines Chablis. The earthy mushrooms and the hint of earth on the wine were lovely together. Superb! 

So that was me, but the possibilities are endless even though the AOCs are four. So check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped, savoured, and enjoyed with our choice of Chablis wines:

Saturday, March 13, 2021

YAKIMA VALLEY WINES FTW #WINEPW

In March 2021 the Wine Pairing Weekend group is exploring the wines of Yakima Valley, Washington, USA. For a primer on Yakima Valley wines, see the overview in host Robin's preview post. Also join us on Twitter under #WinePW on Saturday, 13 March 2021 at 8 AM PST to talk about all things Yakima Valley wine.

YAKIMA VALLEY AVA

Image: https://www.washingtonwine.org/
The Yakima Valley AVA 
and the other AVAs in the region are on land that was originally inhabited by the Yakama and other native people before colonisation and resulting land grabs. It is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA in the southern part of Washington state in the Pacific Northwest region of the US.

Spanning approximately 70 miles east to west, it lies within the valley of the Yakima River. The AVA has over 18,000 acres of grapevines and has formally been an AVA since 1983, making it WA's oldest AVA. 1983 - not that long ago, right? I know! But grapes have been grown here since the 1860s. 


Today, 40-50% of WA state's wine grapes come from the Yakima Valley AVA, a fertile area that, prior to sharing space with grapevines, was full of fruit orchards and other cash crops. Even today, 80% of the US' hops production is in this area. The volcanic soil and temperate climate is ideal for high acidity in grapes. Cool but also warm enough to allow the grapes to ripen without turning jammy. The majority of grapes here are Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Syrah, and Merlot although as you'll read below, other varietals are also grown here. It's definitely an underrated wine region, one to keep an eye on!

I have been focussed on small wineries with a personal touch for a while now, and the fact that I was sent two wine samples from two small wineries with a personal story couldn't be more perfect. Athough the wines were complimentary, as always, all opinions are mine.

CÔTE BONNEVILLE
Côte Bonneville is the very definition of a family run winery. Hugh Shiels planted the DuBrul vineyard on a 45 acre in 1992 and established Côte Bonneville in 2001. Hugh, a former orthpædic surgeon and still a part-time doctor, his wife Kathy, formerly a physical therapist, and daughter Kerry who is the winemaker, together run the estate. Hugh and Kathy turned their love for wine into a winery, and Kerry left engineering to study oenology at UC Davis before bearing the mantle of winemaker. Here are three professionals who made an impact on people first through their professions and now through their stellar wines!

At DuBrul vineyard, from where the grapes for Côte Bonneville's vineyard designated wines come, the rocky terrain, poor soil, and deficit irrigation regimen coax small yields of small berries in small clusters from the vinesThe vineyard was awarded Vineyard of the Year in 2007 and 2009, and the wines continue to be acclaimed by critics and sought after by consumers. 
Image: https://www.cotebonneville.com/

2018 Train Station Cabernet Franc
100% Cabernet Franc
14.1% ABV | SRP $30 | SAMPLE

Sourced from a mere 26 rows of Cabernet Franc with own-rooted vines (not grafted onto different rootstock), this estate-bottled Cab Franc is a special one because there's only so much grape to go around from such few rows. As it turned out, in 2018 there was enough to set aside a small chunk to make a single varietal wine.

Colour: 
Medium ruby

Nose: 
Ripe red fruit - especially raspberry and strawberry, white flowers, vanilla, black pepper at the finish

Palate: 
This is a wine full of gaeity - it will immediately put you in a good mood. With a layered aromatic complexity and a rounded mouthfeel, it has the same notes on the palate as on the nose, and a whiff of dried violets. Medium body, balanced acidity, balanced tannins, medium finish. Despite the 14.1% ABV, it definitely doesn't feel like it. A fruity and very food-friendly wine that's certainly ready now but could also be cellared for up to 3 years.

CO DINN CELLARS
You don't have to know Co of Co Dinn Cellars long to know how passionate he is about wine making. I was already agreeing with him on everything I'd read in his introduction on his website, and then I had a phone conversation with him. His matter-of-fact intensity shows in everything he says, and the love for the craft of wine-making is more than evident in everything he says. Co will readily tell you that he is not a farmer and does not grow his grapes, but he will also tell you in depth that he is very particular about the grapes he sources and it clearly shows in his wine. Even though I have only tasted exactly one of his wines, I don't doubt for a second that all his wines are elegant and worth seeking out.

Although Co Dinn wines aren't on shelves in the Bay Area, they can be shipped directly to consumers and I highly recommend you take advantage of that.

2016 GSM Lonesome Spring Ranch Vineyard
41% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 29% Mourvèdre
14.7% ABV | SRP $45 | SAMPLE

The Lonesome Spring Ranch (LSR) vineyard is one of the "jewels" Co mentions in his intro. In its previous life the LSR vineyard was pasture and an apricot orchard. Established in 1996, this 109+ acre property is now a vineyard farmed using Vinewise management practices. But really, the talent is not just in the vineyard or growing the grapes, but in what the winemaker does with the grapes to make superior wine. And that is just what this wine is... superior in all aspects.

Colour: 
Deep ruby

Nose: 
Black fruit, a hint of cooked red fruit, dried savoury herbs, tobacco, black pepper, leather, faint baking spice

Palate:
The same notes on the palate as on the nose but also black cherry and lingering tobacco and coffee on the finish. Medium body, balanced acidity, soft tannins, long finish. This is a beautifully structured wine that really shines when paired with meaty food.

THE WINE + FOOD
As soon as I tasted each wine I knew what I wanted to pair with it. Here in N. CA we're going into spring but with some typical last minute weather vacillations, so I took advantage of the rain and cold and decided to pair the wines with pasta and meat courses at dinner. Farfalle with rapini, olio nuovo, and pecorino with the Cab Franc, and a compound salt-crusted ribeye with braised fennel and potatoes with the GSM.

Pasta, 1st course: The garlic and slight bitter notes of the rapini toned down by the al dente pasta, olio nuovo drizzle, and the salty edge of the pecorino were incredible with the juicy, ripe, fresh, acidity of the Cab Franc. The next day the wine had gone from a juicy wine to a more sombre one that would definitely be excellent with a dish that incorporates tomato sauce... something like meatballs with ricotta and a tomato sauce, bread on the side. Either way, this is a delicious wine and we couldn't have asked for a better pairing! 

Steak, 2nd course: The herbed compound salt-crusted steak along with the fennel and potatoes stood up nicely to the wine. At first, the wine was a bit closed and rather serious wine even after a 60 min. decant. Nevertheless, the complexity of the wine highlighted the slight sweetness and anise of the fennel and of course, was wonderful with the steak. And the potatoes, well, can't ever go wrong with get steak and potatoes! All in all, we really enjoyed the wine together with the food and if I had to summarise this wine in one sentence it would be: This wine needs food, and make it red meat!

As Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière, said, "Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit." And so, the first day the wine was quite tightly wound although still terrific with our steak, but when we revisited this the next day, it had opened up to a most delightful wine full of primary fruit aromas leading into greater depth. The structure and mouthfeel did not change drastically but every aroma was deeper, more pronounced, more present, lingered longer. We had it with charcuterie (no bread, cheese, etc.) and it was splendid! I love what Co at Co Dinn Cellars is doing and his passion for his craft is obvious in his wine!

So that was me, but the possibilities are endless so check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped, savoured, and paired with our Yakima Valley wines:
  • Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles leads the way with “Yakima Valley AVA – Blends of friendship and history with wines from Eight Bells and Pearl and Stone Co.”
  • Payal at Keep The Peas shares “Yakima Valley Wines FTW!”
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “Yakima Valley’s Sin Banderas Rhone Roses Compliment Dishes with Asian Flair” and “Mediterranean-Inspired Dishes Paired with Yakima Valley Wines from Dineen Vineyards”
  • Linda at My Full Wine Glass invites us to “Meet Kerry Shiels: A Yakima Valley winemaker with Vision”
  • Terri of Our Good Life shares 2 posts “Fortuity…Taking Advantage of Life’s Great Wines!”, and “Two Mountain Rose and Fennel Wild Mushroom Tarts”
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm is cooking up “Smoked Beef Brisket with Canvasback Cabernet”
  • Rupal the Syrah Queen gives us “Yakima Valley – Red Willow Vineyards Producing Some of Washington’s Finest Syrahs”
  • Jane of Always Ravenous makes our mouths water with “Filet Mignon paired with Washington Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon”
  • Martin with ENOFYLZ WineBlog is giving us “a Taste of Washington State’s Yakima Valley”
  • David at Cooking Chat has 2 posts for us also “Lamb Ragu Pasta with Red Wine from Dineen Vineyards” and “Sin Banderas Rosé with Corned Beef & More Yakima Valley Wine Pairings”
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table shares “Big, Beautiful Reds from Yakima Valley and Tasty, Meaty Fare”
  • Jennifer at Vino Travels tells us about “Italian Grapes of the Yakima Valley with Sleeping Dog Wines”
  • Gwendolyn the Wine Predator explores “Washington Syrah: Hedges, L’Ecole, VanArnam with Lamb Stew”
  • Susannah at Avvinare gives us “Malbec from VanArnam Vineyard in Yakima Valley”
  • Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “Tasting the Soul of Wine in the Heart of Yakima Valley”

Saturday, February 27, 2021

BARTENDER'S CHOICE FROM PRIORAT

 

This month - February 2021 - the World Wine Travel group is exploring the wines of Catalonia, Spain. Between reds, whites, and Cavas coming from this corner of Spain, there's a vast variety of wines to choose from for any occasion and we had a field day deciding on a wine for this review before ultimately settling on a unique wine from an equally unique part of Catalonia. See the overview in host Susannah's preview post and join us on Twitter under #WorldWineTravel on 27 February 2021 at 8 AM PST to talk about all things Catalan wine.

CATALONIA (CATALUNYA) + PRIORAT
Image: Catalonia, Spain. indigowine.com
Catalonia is in the northeast corner of Spain bordering France to the north and the Mediterranean sea to the east. There are four Catalonian provinces, of which Barcelona might be the most readily known globally.

Priorat is in Tarragona province in  southwest Catalonia, however, and is a Denominació d'Origen Qualificada (DOQ) for Catalan wines produced in Priorat county. The DOQ covers 11 municipalities that primarily produce intense, full-bodied red wines, and was relatively obscure to the wine world until the 1990s.

Priorat DOQ includes the valleys of the rivers Siurana and Montsant, and vineyards are planted on terraced slopes at altitudes between 100m and 700m above sea level. Priorat summers are long, hot and dry while winters are cold with occasional frost, hailstones, and drought. The area is characterised by its unique terroir of volcanic soil comprising black slate and quartz, known as llicorella.

The traditional grape variety grown in Priorat is Grenache, found in all the older vineyards. Amongst other red varietals allowed are: Garnacha Peluda, Carignan (or Samsó), Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. White varieties allowed are: Garnacha blanca, Macabeo, Pedro Ximénez, Chenin Blanc, Moscatel de Alejandría, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Pansal, Picapoll Blanco, and Viognier.

Along with Rioja DOCa, Priorat is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada), the highest qualification level for a wine region within Spanish wine regulations. Priorat wines are absolutely worth the effort and price but can also offer terrific QPR!

CLOS I TERRASSES
As James Russell Lowell said, "Fate loves the fearless". In 1988 a young Daphne Glorian, along with René Barbier, Álvaro Palacios, Carles Pastrana, and Josep Lluís Pérez pooled resources to purchase 17 terraces of vines situated ~400m above sea level in a wooded hollow just outside the village of Gratallops in Priorat, Spain, a rugged and wild region rich in history, poor in soil, and largely unknown outside Catalonia.

Fast forward to today, when Daphne's wines have evolved to become some of the most sought-after references for the Priorat region and some of the most desired wines in the world. Since 2004 all of the Clos I Terrasses vineyards are certified organic  with biodynamic practices.

2015 Clos I Terrasses "Laurel"
80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon
15% ABV | SRP $45

Sourced from 3 small vineyards in Gratallops and aged in amphorae and oak, Laurel is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is Clos I Terrasses’ second wine (the first and most well known being Clos Erasmus), made from the grapes from younger vines, or the occasional declassified barrel of Clos Erasmus. Nevertheless, it is a dense, concentrated Priorat wine with tremendous aging potential and perhaps it is inaccurate to call it a second wine because it really is in its own league.

Colour: 
Medium ruby

Nose: 
Black and red fruit, cassis, liquorice/fennel, tobacco, graphite, ink/iodine, leather, cloves, bay leaf, pepper. Somewhat medicinal.

Palate: 
This is a delicious - although untraditional - Priorat wine with a layered aromatic complexity and an unctuous mouthfeel. The same notes on the palate as on the nose, a bit more obviously medicinal and graphite laden. Full body, balanced acidity, grippy tannins that soften after ~30 min, med-long finish. An elegant, structured rich wine that begs for robust food.

THE WINE + FOOD
We thoroughly enjoyed this wine with a late night movie and bits and bites - an assortment of charcuterie including f
inocchiona, a Tuscan fennel-studded variety, Idiazabal, Manchego, and Gabietou cheeses, papas arrugadas, and a refreshing herby mojo verde. The charcuterie and the cheeses certainly were perfect with the wine but the salt-crusted papas arrugadas and mojo were outstanding! The fruit and inky fennel notes  in the wine worked marvellously with the finicchiona and the bright mojo. We have another bottle that we'll hold for a few more years to see how it develops. Another splendid wine from Clos Erasmus, and a must for Priorat red lovers!

Also check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped and savoured:
  • Allison and Chris from Advinetures look at “Cava: Spain’s Answer to Champagne”
  • Andrea from The Quirky Cork enjoys “Tapas with Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava”
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Pollo a la Catalana + Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat 2019”
  • David from Cooking Chat shines with “Mushroom Fricassee and Red Wine from Priorat”
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator brings “Sparkling Wine Secrets: Catalonia Cava from Marqués de Cáceres with Spanish Chorizo Kale Bean Stew”
  • Jeff from Food Wine Click looks at “Exploring the Variety of Still Wines from Catalunya”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass showcases “Pere Mata Cupada Rosé Cava: Finesse in a glass”
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest posts “Beyond Cava: Loxarel and Gramona Organic Sparkling Wines”
  • Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog shares “A Taste of Can Descregut; Grower Spanish Sparkling Wine From The Corazón del Penedès”
  • Melanie from Wining With Mel muses about “Innovative winemaking in Catalunya’s Penedès: Torres Gran Coronas Reserva”
  • Nicole from SommsTable pens “On a Hilltop in Priorat”
  • Payal from Keep The Peas joins with “Bartender’s Choice from Priorat”
  • Pinny from Chinese Food And Wine Pairing writes about “Enjoying Cavas of Different Price Points”
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles focuses on “Priorat DOQ in Spain’s Cataluña region and Franck Massard’s 2015 “Humilitat”
  • Steve from Children of the Grape describes “Cava by the Sea”
  • Susannah from Avvinare.com thinks about “Two Key Areas in Catalonia Wine Scene: Cava and Priorat”
  • Terri from Our Good Life dishes about “Chicken Empanadas and Azimut Cava”
  • Wendy from A Day In The Life On The Farm adds “Enjoying Tapas with Spanish Wines from Catalonia”


Saturday, February 20, 2021

A BANDOL RED AND LAMB BIRYANI

Image: Domaine de la Bégude

In February 2021 the French Winophiles, aka #winophiles on social media, are exlporing red wines of Provence. Find out more when the #winophiles tackle all things Provence red wine on Twitter on 20 February 2021 at 8 AM PST.

As I'd mentioned in my preview post, when we hear wine and Provence in the same sentence we almost always - and rightfully so - think of rosé wines of all shades made from grapes growing in impossibly sunny and clement weather in southern France. But in fact Provence offers more than delicately coloured rosé wines and visions of lavender fields near the Mediterranean sea. Formidable red wines come out of Provence just as well as rosé and white wines. Made from from a variety of grapes... something for everyone and for all kinds of pairings. 

Provence has 9 viticultural regions or AOCs (Appellation de’Origin Contrôlée). Among those, the ones known for red wine are Bandol (arguably the most famous Provençal red wine AOC), Baux de Provence, Palette, Bellett, and the newest AOC (since 1998), Pierrevert. Red wine grapes here include varieties found throughout much of France such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tannat, Counoise, Cinsault, and Cabernet Sauvignon, but also grapes not often seen elsewhere like Folle Noir, Calitour, Tibouren, Barbaroux, and Braquet. All in all about 36 grape varieties are allowed in Provence spanning a few different countries including Spain and Italy, although in Provence they are generally known by their French/Provençal names.

DOMAINE DE LA BÉGUDE
Located 400 m above and overlooking the Mediterranean, this winery spans 1300 acres of land including 57 acres of vineyards. The property enjoys both, Mistral-brushed sunny days and cool nights. Outstanding complex and elegant wines come from the outstanding garrigue-laden mosaic of soils combined with the 7 generations old winemaking pedigree of Guillaume Tari. Although we selected a red, La Bégude makes rosé, white, and red wines, all certified organic by ECOCERT.




2018 Domaine de la Bégude Bandol Rouge
90% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault
14.5% ABV | SRP $35

Colour: 
Deep ruby, almost looks over-extracted

Nose: 
Dark berries right up front, anise, baking spices, herbal notes mixed with earth, a faint hint of dried red roses. Quite lovely and definitely does not smell over-extracted.

Palate: 
This is a very elegant savoury wine with surprising complexity given its young age. The same notes on the palate as on the nose, but with an unexpected savouriness despite the overt berry-laden nose. Medium body, balanced acidity, grippy tannins that loosen up after ~1 hr. A beautifully structured wine that will undoubtedly benefit from 5-7 years in the cellar.

THE WINE + FOOD
We opened this wine to pair with a lamb chop biryani. Lamb is somewhat of a guaranteed match for most southern French red wines but the surprise was in how synchronised the dark berries, anise, garrigue, and the faint dried rose floral notes in the wine were with the complex aromatics and Kashmiri saffron in the biryani. The fragrance of aged Indian basmati rice was an added layer of elegance in this entire combination. 

I would not recommend this restrained complex wine with spicy food (like fiery South Indian style biryanis) but it is a match made in heaven for the layered complex flavours of North Indian biryanis or Persian food (the birthplace of biryani).

In India we never make things like tandoori anything, naan, or biryani at home because it is a bit of a chore, the flavour is never as good,  and tandoors are usually communal ovens not home cooking equipment. Nevertheless, I'm glad it was the dish of choice for my procrasticooking in the face of a project deadline. I needed a break from work and my post-work trip quarantine so this came at the right time.

Check out these blog posts and be inspired by what the rest of us sipped and savoured:

    Sunday, February 14, 2021

    RED WINES OF PROVENCE WITH THE #WINOPHILES

    Source: Wine Folly/Flickr

    It's already February 2021, we're in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, and trying our hardest to create the new normal while waiting with bated breath to return to the regular normal. Luckily, some things have remained the regular normal. Things such as our blogging community of French wine enthusiasts and professionals who meet every month for a virtual bonanza of wine. This month the #winophiles, as we are known, are exploring the red wines of Provence. When we hear wine and Provence in the same sentence we almost always think rosé wines of all shades made from grapes growing in impossibly sunny and clement weather. But Provence has more to offer than delicately coloured rosé wines and visions of lavender fields near the Mediterranean sea. Provence in fact, makes red, white, and rosé wines from a variety of grapes... something for everyone and for all foods.

    Red wine grapes include varieties found throughout much of France such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tannat, Counoise, Cinsault, and of course, Cabernet Sauvignon, but also grapes not often seen elsewhere like Folle Noir (a favourite!), Calitour, Tibouren, Barbaroux, and Braquet. All in all about 36 grape varieties are allowed in Provence spanning a few different countries including Spain and Italy, although in Provence they are generally known by their French/Provençal names.

    Provence has 9 viticultural regions or AOCs (Appellation de’Origin Contrôlée). Among those, the ones known for red wine are Bandol (arguably the most famous Provençal red wine AOC), Baux de Provence, Palette, Bellett, and the newest AOC (since 1998), Pierrevert. Provence red wines, although not as known as their sublime coloured siblings, the rosés, are in fact as serious a series of wines as any other.

    Provençal reds are complex, exceptionally food friendly, and cellar-worthy for years. One of my favourite pairings is lamb cooked with an elaborate mix of spices... it works hand-in-glove with the best of garrigue-laden Provence reds. Have I convinced you yet to visit, revisit, and dive into Provençal red wine offerings? Grab a bottle or two of your choice and explore with us on Twitter on 20 February 2021 at 8 AM PST under the hashtag #winophiles to talk about all things Provence red wines. To inspire you, here's a snippet of what you can expect from some of us:
    • Lynn over at https://savortheharvest.com/ has for us "Winning Red Wines from Provence with Lamb Meatballs: Domaine Hauvette and Clos Cibonne"
    • Susannah from https://avvinare.com/ is telling us how "Beef stew and A Glass of Bandol Rouge Warms the Heart"

    Saturday, December 19, 2020

    BURGUNDY VIA OREGON


    Burgundy via Oregon... or might we say Burgundy in Oregon? Either way, this month the French #winophiles are exploring the houses of Burgundy, France, that also have wineries in N. America. Get the intro here from host LM Archer, and then join in the conversation on Saturday, 19 Dec at 8 AM PST on Twitter under #winophiles. And, read more about what everyone else has to say here:

    THE WINES
    I received a Résonance Découverte Vineyard wine sample for this review. Résonance is the Oregon, US based venture of the famed Maison Louis Jadot, a Burgundy maison - house - founded by Louis Henry Denis Jadot in 1859 in Beaune, France. Located in the (somewhat) Burgundy of N. America, Résonance wines and Louis Jadot have a fascinating story starting from 1859, when Maison Louis Jadot and the state of Oregon were both founded, on two vastly different continents. From the winery regarding the eponymous single-vineyard Résonance:

    "It was a crisp spring day in April 2013 when Thibault Gagey and Jacques Lardière set out to survey a well-established vineyard named Résonance. Jacques had just retired after leading winemaking at Maison Louis Jadot for 42 years, and Thibault, whose family has operated Maison Louis Jadot since 1962, was ready to enter the business with a bold new project. They immediately felt a deep connection with the place, and after tasting through dozens of wines made with the vineyard’s fruit, Jacques sat back and said, “Perfect.” Pierre-Henry Gagey, the President of Maison Louis Jadot and Thibault’s father, agreed. They decided to keep the vineyard’s title, and they also named their new winery—Maison Louis Jadot’s first outside of Burgundy—in its honor. With the same meaning in English and French, Résonance evokes many great things to come. They added the tiny but all-important accent mark to represent this small but special connection between Oregon and France."

    Given the intertwined past and present of Maison Louis Jadot and the families that have made it a label synonymous with Burgundy wine accessible to those looking for high quality wine across two continents, it seemed fitting that, for an (maybe) apples to apples comparison, I also open a bottle of a Louis Jadot Bourgogne. Read on to find out what I found out about both the wines.

    2017 DÉCOUVERTE VINEYARD, DUNDEE HILLS AVA, RÉSONANCE
    100% Pinot Noir
    13.5% ABV | Sample (SRP $65)

    Colour: 
    Medium ruby

    Nose: 
    Ripe red fruit, flinty notes. A whiff of baking spices and black pepper.

    Palate: 
    Similar to nose: ripe red fruit, black pepper, baking spices, and a refreshing minerality. Juicy acidity, plush tannins, a medium body, with a lengthy finish. The wine opened up as it sat in the glass but overall it could use a rest in the bottle. I think it would be great in ~3 years.

    2018 LOUIS JADOT PINOT NOIR BOURGOGNE
    100% Pinot Noir
    13% ABV | SRP $20

    Colour: 
    Medium ruby

    Nose: 
    Red fruits, black cherries, leather, forest floor, dried roses, white pepper, slight hint of capsicum

    Palate: 
    This is a very elegant savoury wine with surprising complexity given its young age. Plums, raspberries, cherries, and fresh red fruit flavors on the palate with earthy red flowers, leather, mushroom, mineral notes, and a faint meaty/barnyard sort of note. Balanced acidity, prominent but welcome tannins in a medium bodied wine with a medium finish. This wine is delicious now, especially as it sits in the glass, but would also be terrific in 2-3 years.

    THE WINE + FOOD

    The wines were different but similar, harking back to their different but similar terrior. Expectedly, the Louis Jadot Bourgogne, despite being a regional classification, was a serious and restrained wine. In comparison, also as expected, the OR wine was a more open, fruit-driven, plush, but also elegant wine. Both wines opened up beautifully with time.

    We paired both wines with charcuterie, two washed rind cheeses, and homemade whole wheat bread. The charcuterie and cheeses were a superb match with the wines. The bread: an emphatic no. It has honey in it and that coupled with the sweetness of the whole wheat made a distracting flavour that did not clash but did nothing great to either wine. Because of Covid I was trying to "make do" rather than go out just for bread but next time I'll have biscuits if getting a baguette is not an option! Also, next time I'd pair the Bourgogne with herbed roasted chicken or quail and cherry compote, and the Résonance Découverte with garam masala lamb chops and pickled quince.