One Spanish, One French

The joys of wine are that there is always something new to discover, you don’t have to go to the market and keep buying the same wine every week.  At my local wine shop and wine club The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, I know that I am not going to get a run of the mill bottle of wine, found in every gas station, grocery store, drug store and party store; and even some of the big names make wines for this niche as well.  I am not trying to be a snob, but I think that I may as well try another wine, that is how we find our “house wines” and they can change when something new is discovered. 

Bodegas Vina Hermenia Rioja Crianza DOCa 2016 was an excellent find.  Vina Hermenia was established in 1949.  The winery was named as an homage to the memory of his wife.  The winery is located in the largest sub region of Rioja and is now named Rioja Orientale (Eastern Rioja) since 2018, since the region was historically known as Rioja Baja, but not in lower of quality, but because Rioja Alta is on an elevated altitude.  The wine is a blend of eighty-five percent Tempranillo and fifteen percent Grenache.  It is aged in a mix of American and French Oak casks for twelve months and then another six months in the bottle before it is released.  It has a garnet color with red fruit for the nose with a touch of vanilla.  The taste offered cherries and nuts, with a nice finish, just a well-balanced Rioja from the old school and my erudite scribbled note says “tasty.”

Chateau d’Alix Pessac-Leognan Rouge 2016 and Pessac-Leognan is an appellation for red wines of Bordeaux that was carved out of the Graves district in 1987, including some of the chateaus there were listed in the Graves Classification of 1959.  Chateau d’Alix is a joint venture of Muriel Belloc, a third generation wine-grower and her husband Jean Noel who is also a wine grower.  In 2008, they began with a clean slate of sixty hectares, of which twenty-one hectares were planted in the AOC delineation.  In 2012 they had their first vintage in a brand-new cellar.  The average age of the vines are five years, so it is a young tasting and fresh wine and an equal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The fruit is harvested both mechanically and manually.  Fermentation and maceration are done in Stainless Steel for about a month and then the juice is aged in oak for twelve months. The wine offers red fruits in both the nose and the taste with some nice gravelly terroir in a medium finish. I think the winery will definitely show promise for the future, if this young wine is an indication.

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Thanksgiving 2020

Christmas cards and newsletters mailed.  Christmas gifts wrapped and shipped for the out of towners.  Christmas gifts for the locals wrapped and bundled by family.  All of these accomplishments are achieved by my Bride the day before Thanksgiving.  For the last twenty-five years we have been having the families congregate here for dinner and drinks. We even made plans to have four families sit in four different rooms in case we were invaded by hobnail booted Gestapos, because of snitches.  The concern was for my ninety-four-year-old Mother-in-Law, who has lived through plenty of unique situations, but not a lockdown.  In her youth, a house was quarantined if a member of the family had an infectious and deadly disease, now the whole state is penalized and her family continues to see her and make sure that she is good.  Alas, the propaganda machine was so fierce this time, that slowly every family canceled, so instead of four families dining on one turkey, multiple turkeys had to be bought and prepared, so more people could venture out to be with other potentially ill people at the grocery stores.

We actually had decided to have just a very fancy dinner for the two of us, but then another sister invited us to join her family of five, so that only seven would be in the house and even Gladys Kravitz could not scream for Abner.  So, my Bride switched gears again and made Armenian Pilaf, Stuffing and her Caesar Salad to take to her sister’s house, and we made a side trip to drop off allotments of those three dishes to her Mother’s house and to leave some for one of her other sisters, who was bringing an apple pie, that we were going to take to the sister that we were going to dine with.  Confused yet?  Don’t worry, then we found out that the sister and her husband that basically live with my Mother-in-Law had not planned on a Thanksgiving dinner, so besides the sides, my Bride stopped and got an order of turkey and a slab of ribs to take to her Mother’s house.   While this was going on, the sister that we were going to join decided that she wanted enough food to also send to her Mother, so they made a turkey, a standing rib roast and a glazed ham, plus more sides.  The day began with some wonderful cheeses; cranberry and amaretto and a mango and apricot paired with some delightful artisan crackers and we could have made a whole meal from that.  Finally, besides the mentioned apple pie, our host made a pumpkin/cheese cake pie and my Bride made for the first time a Lemon Meringue pie and all the desserts were great.

My Brother-in-Law besides manning the helm on the turkey and the standing rib roast opened up the first bottle of wine.  A new wine to me, but the concept I tend to see more often and I have read both pros and cons towards it, but if it brings new wine drinkers into the fold, I think it is all for the best.  We had Cask & Barrel “French Connection Chardonnay Central Coast 2017.  The wine is produced under the umbrella company of American Vintners offering forty-five wines.  They source wines from Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Lodi, Monterey and Russian River as well as from Italy, France and Spain.  The production is based in Monterey County, California and the Sales and Marketing offices are in Rochester, Michigan. This particular wine was aged in French Cognac barrels for three months, and offered a nose of pineapple, coconut with some vanilla and had a nice finish of oak and spice.  The first wine that I opened for the evening was one that we had discovered on our last trip to Petoskey.  We had an estate produced and bottled Mackinaw Trail Winery, Inc. Unrestricted As-cen=sion 2017.  The winery was founded in 2004 and they now have a second generation working as a winemaker.  The winery owns thirty acres, but presently grows on fifteen acres.   The Unrestricted As-cen-sion 2017 was an interesting little blend of thirty-four percent Sauvignon Blanc, twenty-five percent Chardonnay, twenty-two percent Riesling and nineteen percent Pinot Blanc.  This had a sweeter nose and was a nice balanced wine and it was an easy drinking wine for the all to enjoy.  The second bottle that I opened and it is becoming kind of a tradition for me was a bottle of Syrah, and I really like Syrah with turkey, maybe it helps that I like the dark meat and I also like it with beef.  The Marilyn Remark Syrah, Arroyo Loma Vineyard Monterey County 2005.  I have very little information about the winery as my early paperwork, has, I guess been filed permanently away.  After a trip to the Rhone Valley, the Marilyn Remark Winery has begun producing Rhone style wines since 2003, but alas the owner retired and sold in 2016.  This wine was delightful and still had a nice deep color and a nose, and finish that betrayed its age. It was a pleasure having a wine that was so well made.  Here is hoping that Thanksgiving 2021 will be more joyous and families and friends will be able to gather again in peace.   

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Two Different Sangiovese Wines

Imagine having two different wines from Tuscany, both pure Sangiovese and totally different from each other.  That happened when I picked up these two wines from my local wine shop The Fine Wine Source, and it can get fun when I wander in there, especially these days, when shopping local.  Tuscany may be the most romantic of all the wine regions of Italy, even made famous by the cinema and famed for some forty odd sub-regions of wine making.  The three most famed sub-regions of Tuscany are Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile de Montepulciano and all use the Sangiovese grape, though it has many local names for the same grape, in fact forty-one percent of Tuscany uses Sangiovese, even with the invasion of the French varietals that have been making inroads in Tuscany and Italy.  The dark berries of Sangiovese are known to be prized for its high acidity, firm tannins and generally well balanced, in fact it probably is the most grown varietal in all of Italy.

The Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso 2015 was a new wine for me.  Bibi Graetz was an artist first and finally fell in love with his family’s vineyard that originally only produced wine for the family and in the mid 1990’s he began making changes and with his family estate and another twenty small organically farmed plots, he now manages seventy-five-acres to produce his wines.  Casamatta is considered his house wine, and like some of his other wines, it has a unique name as it means “Crazy House.” 2015 was a great vintage year across Italy and it was excellent in Tuscany.  Casamatta uses the youngest fruit grown from his estates around Florence and Sienna.  The fermentation is less than a week in Stainless Steel and then all the juice was the different plots are then blended together and aged for six months in Stainless Steel to maintain the freshness of the fruit.  It was a very fun wine with cherries and raspberries and some notes of chocolate to me.  It was a very different glass of Sangiovese and better with lighter dishes instead of big heavy Italian dishes, actually great to start the dinner off, in my book and would get the taste buds requesting more.

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 is the perfect way to finish a big Italian dinner with the big plates of food.  The original Palazzo goes back to the 15th Century, and run by the Tuscan family Tircerchi.  The Gnudi Angelini family has owned the estate since 2002. Societa Agricola Altesino is one of the leading estates in Montalcino and was the first to introduce a “cru” single vineyard wine in its Montosoli label.  Brunello di Montalcino was the first region to get the DOCG designation.  They have over a hundred acres planted with vineyards on the estate and the majority is Sangiovese.  The basic Brunello di Montalcino is aged for four years, with a minimum of two years in large Slavonian Oak casks.  The wine is a beautiful garnet color and an enticing nose of cherries, red fruit, and lavender.  A big chewy wine, is the best way for me to describe it, and it will hold its own for a good twenty years.  A really solid wine, but over the years, I have learned to expect the best from Altesino. 

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Le G de Chateau Guiraud

In the old days, some of the grand houses in Sauternes used to make a Bordeaux Blanc Sec for themselves and some of their friends, because all the interest was in the Sauternes and the Noble Rot that they successfully nurtured.  Sauvignon Blanc has been discovered the world over for its refreshing taste.  The combination of Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon for ages was just a Graves and Sauternes “secret” and now it is going great guns in parts of Australia as well.  Bordeaux Blanc Sec used to be a hodgepodge of varietals in Graves and in other parts of Bordeaux that bottles white wines in a dominate red wine region.  Sauternes historically used Semillon and especially the Noble Rot grapes and tempered the juice with Sauvignon Blanc, whereas the Bordeaux Blanc Sec is predominately the acidic Sauvignon Blanc and tempered with the addition of the palate pleasing Semillon. 

Chateau Guiraud is classified as a Premier Cru in the 1855 Classification of Sauternes and Barsac.  It was originally known as the Noble House of Bayle, but it was bought by Pierre Guiraud in 1766 and passed through many generations of the family until it was bought by a group of French winemakers in 2006.  The Chateau has two-hundred-ten-acres, of which the majority of the land is planted with Semillon and the balance is Sauvignon Blanc.  Along with the famed Chateau Guiraud, their second wine label is Petit Guiraud which is made from younger vines.  They also produce Le Dauphine de Guiraud (Sauternes) and Chateau Guiraud Pavillon Rouge (Bordeaux).   Then there is Le G de Chateau Guiraud their Bordeaux Blanc Sec or Dry White Bordeaux wine.  Over the years the winery has been rather independent even in their labels, what started out very Napoleonic in Black and Gold, like many of the other houses, ended up continuing with the colors, but softening the look with simple Helvetic font, instead of floral scripts.  They were also rather innovative by opening up a Bistro La Chapelle in the most sacred part of the estate in the chapel. 

While most Bordeaux Blanc Sec wines are predominately Sauvignon Blanc, Le G de Chateau Guiraud is fifty/fifty.   The fruit is manually harvested using small baskets and fermentation is for about three weeks.  Eighty percent of the wine is aged in the barrels from the last vintage of Chateau Guiraud and twenty percent is done in Stainless Steel. The average aging in the barrels is seven months with regular stirring of the lees.  This is a very lush and full-bodied white wine with a delicate gold tinge, a very refreshing wine that leaves one chewing the wine to appreciate the suppleness of the fruit and the terroir that lingers and beckons for another taste.  It most assuredly passed the Bride’s test for desirability and it comes in a handy easy to carry six pack. 

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Another Raid on the Cellar

I keep trying to raid the cellar, especially for one of a kinds and potential old wines, both of which can be iffy.  So far, we have had five bottles that had seen better days, so that is not too bad of a ratio.  I am also trying to make some room, because new wines are already creeping in and creating a back log in the basement again.  I guess there are worse problems to have in the world, but slowly, but surely, we are making headway and cleaning house. 

It was going to be one of our Sundays at home, actually for a while it will be every day at home, as we are in quasi-lockdown again, only this time it was mandated by a department as an end run around our Supreme Court.  Oh, the joys of jurisprudence and scofflaws.  We were having a nice breakfast of eggs, bacon, cheese, toast and coffee; and to finish it off properly some Mimosas.  Later on, our dinner was going to be Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes and Mixed Asian Vegetables.  We are skipping desserts at home, since she has had a successful time with weight reduction and I have had a rather lackluster result, but I think I still have the concept of finishing food, if there really isn’t enough to use as leftovers for another meal.  I have lost almost twenty pounds and I would like to double that loss if possible, but with the winter arriving and gymnasiums and spas basically closed, it will be more of a challenge. 

We probably drink fewer bubbly wines, but we seem to still an accumulation anyways.  I grabbed a bottle of Sieur d’Arques Saint-Hilaire Blanquette de Limoux Methode Traditionelle 2012.  Limoux is in the Languedoc wine region and wine was introduced to the area by the Greeks in the 5th Century BC, but it was in 1531 when the Benedictine monks from the Abbey of Saint Hilaire, a town near Limoux allegedly produced the first sparkling wine.  The claim of the sparkling wine discovery has proponents in Champagne that argue who was first and that is not for me to decide (thank God).  The Lord of the region at the time, the Sieur d’Arques was a huge fan of this wine and when the local wine growers decided to rename their winery after him.  The AOC Blanquette de Limoux is the first AOC in the Languedoc and one of the first appellations in France.  The association of wine growers created the Société des Producteurs de Blanquette de Limoux in 1946 and in the 1990’s changed the name to Sieur d’Arques.  The Traditional Method, which has a second fermentation in the bottle is used for the Blanquette de Limoux wines.  Blanquette is a local name for the Mauzac grape variety, and to confuse matters three other local varieties are also known as Blanquette and they have nothing to do with this famed wine.  Originally by regulation this wine was totally Mauzac, but lately the regulation has been softened to appeal to new generations of wine drinkers, and the wine has to be ninety percent Mauzac and the balance can be Chardonnay and/or Chenin Blanc.  The grape is known for its high acidity and low alcohol and delivers flavors of honey and green apples.  I am very happy to say that this wine was very fresh after eight years and it was almost a sin to add the tincture of orange juice.  The wine that I grabbed from the cellar for the roast beef was Rockside Vineyards Night Flight NV, an Ohio Red Table Wine.  We bought the wine along with some other wines at the winery in 2014 and it was actually an enjoyable trip and visit.  We had been to a winery earlier that day and we were touted to go here, because we told that they had some great Cabernet Franc wines, and that was all that my Bride needed to here as we loaded the information into our GPS.  At the tasting room, we had the good fortune to meet the owner Ron Rutter, who handled the tasting room duties. He told us a little bit about himself, that he was a retired Air Force officer, and then had been an executive with a company, but the desire to be a wine maker took him from California to Ohio for the next stage of his life. He explained that because there was no appellation and the grapes all came from Ohio, there was no vintage year, per the rules and he joked that it saved him having to have new labels reprinted each year.  Night Flight was a red blend wine of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Noiret which was a very easy drinking wine.  Chambourcin and Noiret are Cold Hardy hybrids that are found in the Mid-West and Northern States.  Here was another wine that I wasn’t sure what to expect, we really enjoyed it at the winery, and it was great with dinner and it did not show any signs of having peaked.  Two more in the plus column from having been stored properly and a great reason to have a cellar. 

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Two Interesting Italian Wines

I may not get out as much as I used to this year, I still enjoy going to my wine shop The Fine Wine Source.  There are times that I need to place an order, times to just shop and buy and most of the time I get to discover some new wines.   There is always wine to discover, especially without the need to break the bank.  Anyone can just go and buy the classics, or the hot new trendy wines, and then there are times to take the word of the professionals that taste wines for a living and they discover interesting wines, that for one reason or another, you might pass on, just walking up and down the aisles or scanning the shelves. I also have to admit that I have a soft spot for Italian wines, as they are among some of my earliest memories growing up and getting a glass of wine with dinner as a kid.

A new wine for me is Caruso e Manini “Naturalmente Bio” Perricone Terre Siciliane IGT 2017.  Caruso & Minini is a joint Venture between Stefano Caruso, a third-generation winemaker and Mario Manini, owner of a marketing firm in Northern Italy.  In 2004 they started a winery in Marsala, in the extreme western edge of Sicily, and they have an old Marsala wine structure called a Baglio as the home of the winery. They have one-hundred-twenty-hectares which is composed of their two vineyards; Giumarella and Cutaja.  They grow local varieties like Grillo, Catarratto, Grecanico, Inzolia, Zibibbo, Nero d’Avola, Frappato and Perricone as well as some international ones like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot.  Perricone is basically grown now on the western side of Sicily, though at one time, it was grown throughout the island.  Highly aromatic with strong tannins, it is usually blended.  The grape was almost wiped out by phylloxera and basically replaced by Nero d’Avola.  Terre Siciliane IGT encompasses the island of Sicily and was created in 2011, to replace the old Sicilia IGT and to be under the Sicilia DOC, and Terre Siciliane means Sicilian lands.  The wine is made entirely in Stainless Steel from its twenty days in fermentation and then another six months in aging.  The wine is then let to age in the bottle for at least three months before it is sold.  It is quite vibrant and earthy with some notes of licorice that I noticed, but I have always been a fan of terroir. 

The other wine that I am going to discuss is Allegrini La Grola Veronese IGT 2014, what a lot of restaurants are calling a “Baby Amarone.” Allegrini is a family business located in the Valpolicella Classico zone of the Veneto and famed for their Amarone della Valpolicella. They have been in the wine growing business since the 16th Century, but it was in the 1960’s that they really carved out a reputation for their fine wines.  All of their wines are from their ninety hectares of vineyards and all with southeast-facing slopes.  While they are famed for their Amarone, they also produce wines with the Veronese IGT that stray from the rigid rules of Valpolicella.  La Grola is a premium single vineyard cuvee that is ninety percent Corvina Veronese and ten percent Oseleta.  Initial fermentation is done in Stainless Steel, Malolactic fermentation in barriques and then aged for sixteen months in oak, then blended for another two months, followed by ten-month aging in the bottle.  This was a nice big wine and a lot of bang for the buck, as far as I am concerned with some notes of vanilla as a bonus with the dark fruit and a nice long finish.   

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November 2020 Wine Club Wines

My local wine club, the Fine Wine Source just released the wines for November, and I am making sure that I write about them in a timely matter.  Having a wine shop in Livonia, I guess was a brave gesture, because the shop is in a small strip center, and the City of Livonia has no downtown, it is an example of a city that converted from a classic Michigan township of thirty-six square to a city, basically overnight, because they wanted a horse racing track, and the laws of Michigan require a race track to be in a city.  The track is gone, but the city is still going strong, but because it was a township with farms, it never developed a downtown like other cities.  I do believe it is the only major city in the state that still has a viable and working farm, it is a turkey farm that has been in business since 1948 and they will clean and dress four-thousand turkeys for this Thanksgiving.  Of course, as always, I have wandered a bit, but I do enjoy visiting my local wine shop, and as they always say “Support your local businesses.”

There are always two wines each month, an Old World and a New World wine.  The Old-World selection is Chateau Ducasse Graves Red Bordeaux 2016.  Chateau Ducasse is an estate bottled red wine from Chateau Beauregard Ducasse in the village of Mazeres in Graves.  Graves is the oldest and most historic commune in the Medoc, going back to the days of the Romans, the gravel (graves) soil was useless for the farmer, but ideal for the vineyard, as it made the vines struggle which causes the rich complex flavors that the world has come to appreciate from this area.  Siblings Marie-Laure and Jacques Perromat are the sixth generation at Chateau Beauregard, whose family goes back to 1850.  This twenty-seven-acre estate is predominately planted with Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc as they produce three labels of white wine from the grounds.  They also produce two red wines; Chateau Ducasse and Chateau Beauregard-Ducasse.  The wine is a blend of fifty percent Merlot, forty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and ten percent Cabernet Franc.  The 2016 vintage has been described as a “classic Graves wine.”  The wine is a medium to full bodied Red Bordeaux offering dark fruits and firm tannins.  Easily a wine that will merit five years in the cellar. 

The New World Wine is Cambria Estate Vineyard and Winery Pinot Noir Clone 4 Santa Maria Valley 2014.  Barbara Banke along with her spouse Jess Jackson acquired the original Tepusquet vineyard in 1986, and then with their daughters Kate Jackson and Julia Jackson have kept the family business going, nurturing cool-climate varietals ever since.  The estate cover fourteen-hundred-acres of undulating topography and an assortment of soil types.  Four-hundred-eighty-three-acres are planted with different clones of Pinot Noir.  Santa Maria Valley is located in the northernmost part of Santa Barbara County and it was the first Sub-AVA in the county and awarded the status in 1981. This wine is described as have a nose offering dark fruit, cocoa and spice, while delivering velvety tannins, juicy acids and a savory finish with terroir.  It has been described also of offering flavors of ripe Cranberries and Rhubarb and is suggested as a perfect wine for Turkey, Salmon, Tuna or Swordfish.

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What a Bunch of Winos

I often think that is what the neighbors and the recyclers must think when they look at our orange recycling tub that we put out once a week.  Actually, I have no problem with recycling and I know plenty of people that find it onerous.  In the past I actually used to save the bottles and give them to people that were making their own wine, either the old-fashioned way, or the new way with concentrate-juice.  Those sources have disappeared, so periodically I have to discard the bottles.  In the old days, pre 2020, unless we had a party here, there were not that many bottles.  This year with the lockdown mandate that extended forever, was found illegal and unconstitutional, and it has been reimposed now by a department of the state, I have actually had to drink wine at home, along with the rest of the population that now drinks at home.  I very seldom drank at home, unless we had company, I preferred dining out and having wine at restaurants; that all went South, as many restaurants have closed or may still not make it, with the second round of lockdowns. 

What it is forcing me to do, besides discovering what we have in wines and giving me a steady stream of articles, otherwise, this blog would have dried up, like the crocodile tears of many of our governors.  I actually remove the labels from the bottles and save them for my wine scrap book, usually to the chagrin of my Bride.  Most of the current wine bottles use an “Avery” type of printed label that removes quite easily.  Rinse out the bottles, preheat an oven to 255º and bake the bottles for fifteen minutes, then carefully lift up an edge with a razor blade, while holding the bottle with an oven mitt.  Once, the label has been worked off of the bottle, place the glue side down on wax paper, as I have found that the glue residue doesn’t adhere to it, but it will on aluminum foil or blotting paper.  I then use square coasters as weights to keep the labels from curling up, and the next day, they are ready to be stored. 

I liken dining and drinking at home to camping out, because I really like to go out for dinner.  My Bride is an excellent cook, but she works and I like for her to be pampered as well.  This year, we have been camping out quite a bit, you can say, and it is hard to keep all the empty bottles neat in the garage, until it is time to make another orange tub statement.  I find around two dozen bottles is enough for a load, after all, I have to carry the tub to the curb.  Thankfully the President lit the fire under some companies and it looks like we have two sets of successful vaccines created and then it will be just like getting an annual flu shot, and I still have to go and get my second pneumonia shot and I have to make my appointment for my shingles shot.  Oh, the joys of attaining the ranks of being a Senior Citizen, after all, I think it was only yesterday that I was immortal.

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Casa Pernoi

We just recently ate at Casa Pernoi, the latest restaurant from the creative mind of Luciano Del Signore, and I have sung his praises for years.  In fact, my Bride and I started going to the original Del Signore restaurant started by his father in Livonia, right after we got married.  Fonte D’Amore was just a great old-fashioned Italian restaurant that could please everyone and it was always packed.  We probably ate there at least once every other week, it was so affordable, delicious and we always tried to have our same waiter, not to mention I could go to the bar in the back and join the cigar smokers.  My Bride used to joke that I could probably run for political office, because I was always working the room, there were so many customers of mine that had discovered the restaurant, just like we had.  They also had to greatest “Garlic Soup” at least that is what I called it, it was an Eggplant and Garlic Puree, but since I am not partial to eggplant, I changed the name and everyone knew what I wanted.  He went on to open Bacco, still one of the best in the Greater Detroit area.  He went on the create a little chain of pizzerias, called Bigalora Cucina, after he was totally happy with the pizza dough that he created and totally different from all others, and from this chain he also created a couple of food trucks that had the exact same pizza oven installed on them, that are in all of his restaurants.  The man never rests.  He then came up with Pernoi, which eventually morphed into Casa Pernoi and well worth the trip to downtown Birmingham to enjoy his culinary artistry. 

The four of us had an excellent dinner.  The beginning of the meal centered around the bread basket that featured four different breads, made in house, and my Bride and I are not bread eaters, but we ended up asking for a second basket, the bread was that great.  So, we ordered some plates that enhanced this appetizer portion of the meal with an order of European butter with Maidan salt, Roasted Garlic Puree with aged Balsamic, Calabrian Hot Chile Peppers and an order of Duck Rillette with Apple Butter and Ground Cherry, which my Bride said that it reminded her of Foix Gras, in that it was so rich and luxurious.  Our Daughter-in-Law had Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter, Walnuts and Gorgonzola.  Our Son had the Rigatoni Spicy Palomino with an addition of house-made Italian Sausage.  My Bride had an order of Branzino with Green Olives, Artichoke, Cannellini Beans and Grape Leaves (and I knew that, as soon as I saw that on the menu).  I went a little out of character and had the Michigan Venison Loin wrapped in Bacon, with Braised Red Cabbage and Pear Butter.  We also had dessert, our Daughter-in- Law had “The King” which was Banana Bread, Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter Banana Gelato and Brown Butter Popcorn.  Our Son had the Cannoli Cake which was a Cinnamon Cake, Sweet Ricotta Cream, Orange Marmalade, Chocolate Crunch and Pistachio Streusel.  My Bride ordered the Cookie Plate which had Pistachio Biscotti, Amaretti and Seasonal Jam Cookies.  Just as we were getting ready to leave Luciano came into the dining room and that was reason for us to stay and catch up a little bit.

My Bride began the evening with a Negroni, which is becoming her favorite cocktail of choice these days.  I started off with Bravium Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2018 by winemaker Derek Rohlffs using fruit from the Reis Vineyard.  The wine is basically sold by their mailing list, a few boutique shops and select restaurants.  The Russian River Valley is located in the center of Sonoma County and is known for its cool and long growing season.  The fruit is hand harvested at night, and spent eleven months in a mix of French and Hungarian Oak, of which twenty-one percent was new.  Very Old World in that the wine evoked apples, pineapple and vanilla, floral notes, good acidity and a flinty-terroir finish. We then went with Band of Vintners “Consortium” Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2018.  Four winemakers, one Master Sommelier, and two wine executives got together to create an affordable bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine is predominately Cabernet Sauvignon with some Merlot and Cabernet Franc blended in, and the fruit is from sustainably-farmed vineyards.  The wine was aged for fifteen months in French Oak that delivered a wine with dark fruits and some pepper notes it was still a bit feisty as I think it was opened too early, but still a solid wine. While they were enjoying their desserts, I decided to have a liquid dessert, and a couple of cookies as well.  I enjoyed a glass of Niepoort 10-Year-Old Tawny NV.  Niepoort is a family-owned producer of Port and wines in the Douro Valley in Portugal, and it was founded by Dutch immigrants in 1842.  Originally all the grapes were bought from grower vineyards, but in 1987 they bought some Quintas and now they have their own acreage and vineyards to build on.  They were once known for their Colheita ports, but now the emphasis is on Vintage Port, including Tawny, LBV and White Port.  Aged Tawny Port is the epitome of Tawny Port, made from the best wines of undeclared vintages, that have to be in the casks for at least six years. This wine is made from the following grapes varieties; Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cao, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Amarela, Sousao and Tinta Roriz.  The wine was served chilled and the aroma of orange and lemon zest, and flavors of caramel and honey with a nice long sweet finish is really better than a dessert to me, perhaps a good cigar, but I gave that up years ago, back in the days of Font D’Amore.

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Some New French Wines to Taste

I lament that the wine industry has had to change the way business is conducted, though from the reports that I have seen, wine consumption is up since the lockdown began.  So many businesses have been closed for periods of time, that a lot of the populace has learned to drink at home again, and hopefully they are still drinking responsibly.  Wineries could do tastings outdoors, but with social distancing.  Wine tasting is part of the experience of wine shopping, unless you are at a drug store or grocery store and that experience has been curtailed, but not extinguished.  It has become more personalized and unfortunately not a group experience, which does take some of the fun away.  Also, the shops need less help in the store, because there are less glasses to be washed and less areas to keep clean, and more people that are unemployed, but the consumption is up and understandably acknowledged.

I got a chance to try some wine that the shop got a tremendous deal on, in a three-liter bottle of Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve 2017.  While Famille Perrin, a wine maker and a negocient, is a relatively new company founded in 1997, the Perrin family has been making wine since the early 1900’s when Pierre Perrin inherited the Chateau de Beaucastel estate.  They are now in the fifth generation of a family owned and managed business.  Besides the original estate, they make wines with famous appellations, and regional wines from the Rhone Valley.  Their portfolio also includes the La Vielle Ferme brand which started in the 1970’s and they also have Miraval.  They produce Red, White and Rosé wines and surprisingly the majority of the wines that they produce center around the three famous varietals of the region; Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, though there are nine more varietals that are sanctioned, but seldom seen. The Cotes du Rhone appellation was created in 1937 as a catch-all for all the wines not from the more prestigious regions of the Rhone Valley and it is now one of the largest selling districts in France.  This was just a lovely wine, but I had to pass, just because of the size of the bottle, as our parties don’t seem to move that wine anymore.

I also had a tasting of Chateau Montlandrie Cotes de Bordeaux Castillon 2010, produced by Denis Durantou.  I could barely find any information on this wine other than it was a Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend.  Until 2009, the wines were sold as Cotes de Castillon and then the appellation became Cotes de Bordeaux Castillon.  All of the wines of this appellation are red and they must be predominately Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are allowed to be a supporting grapes and Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere are also permitted.  The appellation is a combination of Blaye, Cadillac, Castillon and Francs, as each of these entities were not strong enough on their own for name recognition.  The amazing thing was that I also had a tasting of the 2015 and they were the same price and they both were excellent, and I really had trouble distinguishing one from the other.  Which I found very interesting and just another joy of wine tasting.

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