Thanksgiving 2022

Count Alfonso Romero: “What time will the guest arrive?”

Butler: “Oh, well, no one arrives first, Sir. They all come in last.”

We were planning on having thirty guests for Thanksgiving, which I don’t know about you, but for us, it was a matter of logistics.  We were planning on using the dining room, the living room, the breakfast nook and if need be, the library, after we stopped cooking with one of the roasters in there, we were also using a roaster in the family room, which could be commandeered for more seating, as we also had to make room for a dog cage in there as well, while some were watching the traditional Detroit Lions attempt to play football on Thanksgiving.

And so, it is.  We told everyone to come between two and three for appetizers.  Nothing fancy, we had several hard cheeses and a Baked Brie topped with Onion Jam for a savory finish.  And some others added to the cheese selection, like a twelve-year-old Cheddar and a ten-year-old Gouda.  We also started with a Liver Mousse with Truffles.  I also told my Bride to start the cooking a little later, and it was still chaos.  The majority showed up three hours later, and as far as I am concerned, it was in very poor taste and was disrespectful.  We started out with a couple of white wines, and I always like to have something a little interesting.  The safe white for the evening was Bonterra Vineyards Chardonnay California 2020, here is a wine where the fruit has been harvested from different regions in the state.  Seventy percent of the juice is aged in a mix of French and American Oak and only fifteen percent is new, the other thirty is aged in Stainless Steel.  When all that juice is blended together there is a delicious bottle of Chardonnay that shows some of the creaminess without hitting you over the head with it.  The wine also delivers some crispness, and a touch of minerality and for the price, I think it is a great bargain, especially for crowds.  The more daring and interesting wine I thought was the Cline Family Cellars “Seven Ranchlands” Viognier North Coast 2021.   Cline Family Cellars is a producer based in Carneros and known for Zinfandel and Rhone varieties and established in 1982 in Oakley.  Fred Cline is one of the original Rhone Rangers of California.  The “Seven Ranchlands” is a way of honoring both the seven children of the Cline family, and the seven vineyard ranches.  The fruit for this wine is from the Catapult Ranch Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap, and the balance is from the Diamond Pile Vineyard at the base of the Wild Cat Mountain.  The grapes are handpicked at night, where they are destemmed and pressed, and allowed to settle for forty-eight hours before racking.  The Catapult portion was inoculated with wild yeast, while the Diamond Pile portion was allowed to ferment naturally in barrels.  After fermentation, the wine was aged in neutral French Oak for six months before blending and bottling.  This was a very soft colored white wine with notes of mango, guava and pineapple. On the palate tones of dried apricots, pears and banana in a full-bodied wine with nice acidity and a nice finish. 

For main dinner, we were making two turkeys, that is why we had two roasters set up in the house, because we could not a twenty plus pound turkey, so we had to settle for a couple of smaller ones.  Also, one of our guests brought us an eighteen-pound Standing Rib Roast, or if you prefer Prime Rib.  They made it easy for us, as their butcher had cradled it and tied it, and the night before they had applied a rub.  We had the meat dishes covered, we also had Roasted Cauliflower with Garlic and Parmesan, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Balsamic, Armenian Pilaf, Stuffing (there has to be stuffing with Turkey), and Mashed Potatoes.  I always knew that I had several interesting wines in the cellar, but I recently had a wine at my local wine shop, that I thought was a real winner, especially with the Standing Rib Roast and I could make it work with the turkey as well.  We had Beaucanon Estate Cuvee Louis Cabernet Franc Napa Valley 2012.  Beaucanon Estate is located on the historic Longwood Ranch, that originally was part of land that belonged to the founder of Sonoma.  It became the Longwood Ranch around 1860, and it was sixty acres owned by a dairyman, in the 1970’s Chardonnay was planted there.  It is now ninety-four acres planted with classic Bordeaux grapes with sustainable and organic farming practices.  The first winery was built in 1987 and production was for thirty-thousand cases; seven years later that created a state-of-the-art facility to produce twelve-thousand cases.  The de Coninck family started this winery in 1987, and the family is a nine-generation wine merchant from the Right Bank of Bordeaux going back to 1740.  Louis de Coninck joined his father in Napa Valley after training in Saint Emilion.  This wine undergoes fermentation and maceration in open barrel and concrete with skin contact for four to five weeks, followed by fourteen months in a mix of French and American Oak, with thirty percent new.  A nice deep ruby/garnet wine with notes of red and black fruit, candied cherries and spice.  On the palate black fruit dominates with some cocoa, the tannins were very smooth and elegant, with nice acidity and a finish of terroir.  My Bride was very happy with the wine and food, but not with the behavior of the guests.    

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After Van Gogh, Chartreuse

We try to frequent the restaurant Chartreuse, after every visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts.  It is in the legendary Park Shelton, which was originally the Wardell Hotel, named after Fred Wardell of the Eureka Vacuum Company.  When Diego Rivera was painting the famed murals at the DIA glorifying the automobile and the assembly line, he lived at the hotel, with Frida Kahlo.  Later the hotel became the Wardell-Sheraton, then the Park-Sheraton and went from a residential hotel to condominiums. 

Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails opened in the corner of the hotel in 2015 and became the Restaurant of the Year in 2016. We got in and started off with a couple of appetizers that the three of us could share.  The first was Lamb Tartare with Carrot Puree, Crispy Mushroom, Shallot, Pickled Mustard Seed, Chive, Crema and Grilled Sourdough.  The other has become the dish that they get the most raves for, so we tried it.  The Twice Cooked Egg with Werp Farms’ Greens, Brussels Sprout, Salty Cheese and Warm Shallot Vinaigrette.  The two ladies both had the Linguine with Butternut Squash Puree, Parsnip, Rutabaga, Turnip, Brown Butter, Sage and Chestnut.  I went a bit more Old School, if there was any doubt, with the Berkshire Pork Chop with Andouille, Calypso Bean Cassoulet, Corn Bread and Honey Mustard.  We then shared the Chocolate Cookie with Raspberry Jan, Chocolate Ganache, Candied Almonds, Cardamon Anglaise, and Toasted Almond Anglaise. 

The three of us also enjoyed a bottle of Xavier Courant “Merci La Vie” Bourgueil 2020 from Domaine de L’Oubliee.  Bourgueil is an appellation for red wines in the Loire Valley and must be at least ninety percent Cabernet Franc, and most of the time, the wines encountered are pure Cabernet Franc. The local name for Cabernet Franc is Breton, and not a reference to Bretagne, but to the 17th Century monk, Abbot Breton of Bourgueil Abbey who has been credited as the one who brought the variety to the region, planting and tending the vines.  The region also is known for the alluvial gravel along the banks of the Loire River.  The Domaine is organically farmed.  After the harvest the grapes undergo maceration and fermentation in a concrete vat for thirty-one days, and then aged for ten months in concrete and bottled unfiltered.  This pretty ruby red wine offered notes of red fruits and spices.  On the palate a softer medium-bodied wine with tones of raspberry and cranberry with secondary tones of green pepper and the ethereal quality known as undergrowth, with a nice finish of terroir.  The wine I would describe as more like an elegant Beaujolais Cru, instead of a Bordeaux feel.  A wonderful way to spend the day. 

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“Van Gogh in America”

“Van Gogh in America” celebrates the Detroit Institute of Art’s status as the first American museum to purchase a painting by the artist; and the hundredth anniversary of that purchase. The first American exhibit was in 1913 and not a single piece of art of was purchased.  In 1922, the DIA purchased his “Self-Portrait” of 1887, and it was featured along with loans of works by Paul Gauguin and Paul Cezanne.  In fact, the next four paintings that were purchased by American museums were all in the Mid-west (Chicago, Kansas City, Saint Louis and Toledo) and they were also in this exhibit. 

My Bride and I and one of her girlfriends went to see this once in a lifetime collection of immense proportions of the works of Van Gogh.  We had to book a time slot, and then when we go there, the ladies had to check their coats and their purses, they were allowed a clear plastic bag “purse” for their valuables.  This was because of the obscene actions of protesting climate activist Nazis that attempted to splatter the “Mona Lisa” with soup and glue themselves to the walls in the gallery at the Louvre. I would venture to say that it almost felt like there were as many guards as there were patrons, but the art was on loan from around the world from both museums and private collections, so security was vital.  The exhibit was awesome, and we had to go backwards in the galleries a couple of times to look at some of the pieces several times, as we wouldn’t probably get a chance ever again in our lifetime.  At the end of the exhibit there was a gift shop, and my Bride purchased the last copy of a book, that shows a color photograph of every painting done by Van Gogh, and our “Founders Society” membership helped here.

When I was in high school, on occasion there were times when I skipped school, I guess I can admit it now, to go to the DIA to absorb all the different art collections, and we are still enraptured with the collections and we go there periodically for a wonderful day trip.  Surprisingly, the DIA had abbreviated hours, we had planned on having some wine in the Kresge Court and then go for dinner afterwards, across the street at Chartreuse.  The DIA was closing, except for “Van Gogh in America” ticket holders and Chartreuse wasn’t going to open for another hour.  We were told to try a small little café around the corner from Chartreuse and we went in for some wine. Her girlfriend ordered a Bloody Mary and said it was the spiciest concoction that she had ever had, she drank it slowly and she was glad that she also had a glass of water as a chaser.  My Bride and I had a glass of Jaume Serra Cristalino Brut Traditional Method Cava NV from J. Garcia Carrion.  J. Garcia Carrion is the largest winery and the second largest fruit juice producer in Europe.  They were founded in 1890 and produce wines in ten different DO regions of Spain, and also more wines and brandies outside of the DO regions.  Their major label is Don Simon was created in 1980 and one of the first box wines in Spain, the label is now used for their Sangria, juices and soft drinks.  Jaume Serra is made in the Traditional Method that is required for Cava and is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo. There is not much to go glean from the company, but the wine was very refreshing and very tasty and filled in the hour that we had to keep ourselves occupied with.

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How to Spend an Anniversary

I would like to think of my Bride and I as romantics, well let me tell you how we spent our last anniversary.  We were over-dressed in our gymnasium sweat suit attire at a recycling center, which in my youth would have been part of a scrapyard.  Unfortunately, as I have mentioned in a past article, my Bride lost her mother at the age of 96, which is a great milestone to achieve, and few are honored to make it, with sound mind and in good health.  Years ago, when both of her parents were alive, my Bride pushed for them to create a trust and it served them well.  Of course, I keep asking my Bride, what terrible thing did she do, that she named my Bride as the Executor of the Trust.  She is even doing her penance without any renumeration.

All this is because all five sisters got together to try to clear out “stuff” accumulated over the last almost seventy years in their parent’s house and garage.  There was a vintage pool table from the Roaring Twenties, not the “Mandated Twenties” of this century, that somewhere along the way, someone attempted to refinish one part, and that part has disappeared in lore, and the table was quite useless.  We discovered how to dismantle it, and I am still wondering how they actually got it, into the basement, back in the Fifties.  Anyways, as I wander, my Bride had rented a dumpster and most of the sisters, their spouses and children all chipped in for the physical work.  You have to remember that the “our” parents survived the “Great Depression” and there was value in almost everything, and there was a method to their madness of making use of stuff.  We all became quite adept at learning the value of “scrapping.”  We made so much from recycling iron, steel, aluminum, brass, and copper that the dumpster, which we filled to the brim was paid for, which explains why we were so jauntily attired standing in line with the people that we see, who make a living touring neighborhood on trash and garbage day, picking up the stuff, that other people have thrown away. 

We got home exhausted, but we had a dinner to celebrate.  We had filets, potatoes and broccolini; and we didn’t even bother with a dessert.  We were still in a recycling state of being and I went into the cellar to find something and I found a split, which was enough wine for us that evening after the day we had.  Splits or half-bottles are always iffy, but there were plenty of other bottles waiting if necessary.  I got my Durand, just in case, as well as a funnel and coffee filter.  We opened up a bottle of Alain Jaume & Fils Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1998.  Avignon was the home for the French Pope who did not want to live in Rome, hence the name.  The firm was established in 1826 and Domaine Grand Veneur is their flagship wine as well as the base of the firm.  Chateauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most famous designations in the Rhone Valley, originally thirteen varieties were allowed, and now it is up to eighteen, but three are the predominate grapes.  The original rules were so strict and precise, that they actually were the basis for the Appellation Controlee laws.  Years later, the curious law that Chateauneuf-du-Pape banning UFOs went into effect and is still on the books.  This wine is made of fifty percent Grenache, twenty percent Syrah and thirty percent Mourvedre.  The Syrah and Mourvedre are aged in French Oak and the Grenach is aged in concrete vats for fourteen months.  Considering the age, the cork came out in one piece, but I did use the funnel and coffee filter, because of the number of dregs that were visible, and we still got two good glasses of the wine.  The wine still had a very deep purple color, without any brown tinges, and offered notes of rich black fruits and spices.  It was a big wine, even at twenty-four and offered tones of black cherry and plums, tobacco and cinnamon were secondary and the tannins had mellowed out and were very suave and finished with a nice long count of terroir.  A hell of a wine to finish off the day, but especially my Bride’s job will continue for some time, thankfully, she is retired.        

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Fine Wine Source Club November 2022

I am constantly asked to join wine clubs, I guess there must be a reason, but I am still ecstatic about my local wine shop and club at the Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan.  I may sound like a broken record, but this club, is more like a club and when I walk in the door, I am greeted with a barrage of hellos.  And it isn’t just me, because I see this occur to almost everyone that I see who enters, and that includes vendors.  It is just a comfortable shop, akin to describing your favorite pair of slippers that are just perfect and that you always reach for. Two curated wines every month for under thirty dollars, and it also allows you to get case discounted pricing, even if you just stop in to get a bottle, and even with our cellar, that still happens.  I always enjoy my visits there, and I always look forward to the special event wine tastings as well, as some of the impromptu tastings.  Sometimes there is just something new that they think a customer should try, especially if it is not the usual suspect.

The wine representing the Old World this month is Franco Serra Dolcetto D’Alba 2022.  Franco Serra is produced by the Sperone family who have been making affordable premium wines for four generations. In 1911, Antonio Sperone opened a small wine cellar in Torino where he crafted vermouth and other fortified wines. He then bought a winery in Puglia and eventually built a bottling facility in Torino. They grew wisely and slowly and in 1983 they purchased seventy-five acres in Piedmont and built a new winery and they expanded into more markets not only in Italy, but abroad as well. The winery is named Serra for the region where the vineyards are and Franco for Antonio’s uncle.  The wine is pure Dolcetto and named for the district (Alba). The grapes are hand harvested.  Three weeks of maceration and then four weeks of fermentation in Stainless Steel; followed with three months of aging in the bottle, before release.  The wine is described as having note of violets, red currants and smoke.  A medium bodied and dry red wine with moderate acidity with tones of plum and blackberry and finishes with a touch of almond.

The wine representing the New World is Three Wine Company Faux Pas Contra Costa County 2021 and their sentiments are “the dirt, the micro-climate and don’t screw it up.”  Actually, winemaker Matt Cline’s philosophy is that; the dirt, the micro-climate, and sustainable winegrowing form the cornerstone of good winemaking, and he places them in every bottle of wine he produces. He has a passion for preserving and educating on the historic varietals to California, such as Zinfandel, Mataro and Carignane.  He and a like-minded group stood up to the State and saved an historic vineyard.  This wine is blend in two ways, first the wine is a blend of forty-seven percent Carignane, thirty-nine percent Zinfandel and fourteen percent Petite Sirah.  The Carignane is from the Joaquin Jose Vineyard which was planted in the mid-1880’s with an average age of over one-hundred-thirty years.  The Zinfandel came from the Vineyard Lane and Oakley Road Vineyards.  The Petite Sirah is from the Mazzoni-Live Oak Vineyard planted also in the mid-1880’s of which only 1.9 acres remain, but is part of the seven-acre portion of the vineyard that is planted to the same varietal.  The other part of the blend of this wine is that it is a blend of rosé and red wine lots fermented in Stainless Steel tanks.  The rosé portion is a blend of mostly Zinfandel with some Carignane with about twenty-two hours of skin contact and fermented for forty-two days.  The red wine portion had the Carignane fermented on its skins for thirty-one days, while the Petite Sirah was fermented for fifteen days.  All the lots were unfined, and once the blending was complete, the wine was aged for four months in Stainless Steel.  This wine is suggested to be lightly chilled before serving.  According to the notes, the wine begins with notes of pomegranate, berries and candied peaches and ending with a dominate finish of cherries.  Strongly touted for fish and fowl.          

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The Graduation Dinner Continues

It was fun watching our grandson indulge in one of his grandfather’s quirky enjoyments.  I would venture to say that most teenagers don’t go out on a regular basis for fine dining, in fact over the years, we have discovered that we had best results taking the grandchildren to establishments that they feel more comfortable with, like Italian, Asian-Rim, Mexican, Middle Eastern, casual casino dining and pizzerias; of course, I draw the line at fast food, after all, I do have to eat as well and my sport coats are not totally out of place in a real restaurant.

My Bride went with Pecan Encrusted Mediterranean Sea Bass with Haricots Vert and Crushed Corn Cream Sauce.  I went with Duck Magret with Potato Puree, Roasted Beets, Sauteed Broccolini in a Black Truffle Sauce.  Our guest of honor, went very simple and cautious and had the Bistro Chicken with Baked Mac & Cheese.  I had chosen earlier in the wine shop a bottle of Chateau Maucoil Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2018.  The estate of Chateau Maucoil begins with its Roman occupants, a cantonment for Caesar’s legions.  Then it became part of the Orange-Nassau family, and the succeeding families have been allowed to maintain its letters of nobility.  Some of the plots planted in 1895 still exist. In 2022, Domaine Duseigneur, has taken over the estate and the estate has been rated organic over the years.  There are twenty-five hectares of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and eighteen hectares of Cotes du Rhone Villages. It is one of the few estates that still maintains all thirteen grape varieties that are allowable.  There are three distinct terroirs on the estate; red clay, hard limestone rocks and sandstone, and sandy hillsides.  The fruit is still harvested in the ancestral way of manual harvesting, and undergoes three passes for the proper selection of grapes over a period of four to six weeks.  The youngest of the vines average about forty years of age.  The wine is a blend of sixty percent Grenache, fifteen percent Syrah, fifteen percent Mourvedre and ten percent Cinsault.  The grapes are sorted and put in concrete vats, by variety and by plot.  After maceration and fermentation for thirty days, the wines undergo a mixed aging of vats and barrels of a wine for twelve months, before being blended.  A pretty ruby red the wine offers notes of black fruit, smoke and spices.  On the palate, a rich blend of blackberry and plum, with nice balance and elegant tannins and a nice finish of terroir. 

For dessert my Bride wanted a classic Crème Brulee and our guest of honor chose three scoops from the daily selection of house-made sorbet and gelato.  I was a bit more decadent and enjoyed a glass of Dolce Late Harvest Wine Napa Valley 2014.  Dolce was created in 1985 by Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel and is the only winery dedicated to making a single late harvest wine in America.  A twenty-acre estate in Coombsville at the base of the Vaca Mountains with a combination of gravel, volcanic ash, loam and clay.  A blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc and as they wait for the botrytized grapes, the harvest exceeds over six weeks of painstaking inspection of the clusters. A lovely golden hued wine that offers notes of orange zest, vanilla bean and butterscotch.  On the palate a creamy blend of ripe oranges, pears and apricots with caramel, vanilla and nuts, rich, but not cloying, perfect acidity to be mouthwatering and a nice long finish of fruit and terroir.  

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Another Grandson Graduates in Vegas

We are probably one of the few people that go to Las Vegas and don’t gamble.  For us, whatever happens in Vegas, is not a big deal and we don’t have to hide about it.  We go for the kids and the grandchildren, but somehow and thankfully so, we are not the grandparents from the old Shirley Temple movies that we grew up with on television when the sets and the movies were all black and white.   

Even though most people want to erase the memory, we all basically lost a year or two, because of a draconian decision to see how docile and ovine we could be.  We had planned on attending our first grandson’s graduation in Las Vegas, but that was in 2020, but America slipped on a banana peel.  By the time, we could get out there, the momentum of the occasion was over and our grandson was already attending college and working.  So, we had to come up with a Plan B and instead of a graduation party, we would let the graduate chose a restaurant to celebrate at.  So far, neither of the two have selected Picasso, but we still have three out there to go. The first graduate wanted us to choose, and so we selected a nice idyllic setting on the water in Las Vegas.  We went to Marche Bacchus, and the second graduate had no idea, so we repeated with Marche Bacchus again. 

We chose the restaurant, for several reasons.  It is on the water, it is a wine shop and they sell the wine at retail and then apply a corkage fee, and it is a French Bistro, which is different from the restaurants that they would normally go to.  It is located in a little strip center in the middle of an older, established residential neighborhood, that is totally devoid of any of the trappings one would associate with Las Vegas. The current owners purchased the restaurant in 2007 from another couple from Burgundy and they just maintained the quality and the style that was already there.  We also wanted him to try some dishes that he might have a chance to try.  We ordered for the table Beef Tartare, with hand cut Tenderloin, Capers, Shallots, Cornichons, Egg Yolk, Dijon and Brioche Toast Points.  We also selected an order of Seared Foie Gras with Almond Butter, Vegetable Jam, Torched Grapes, Pistachios and Toasted Croissant.  Now, I ask you, what kind of grandfather would I be, if I didn’t have the graduate try a little Sauternes with the Foie Gras.  Much to my Bride’s rantings that I will get the restaurant closed down for serving a minor, I don’t even think that they could possibly have a magistrate that stupid that would disagree with a grandfather attempting to have his grandson appreciate the finer things in life.  So, we indulged with some Chateau Lapinesse Sauternes 2018 from Vignobles Siozard. It began in the mid-19th Century; and is managed by twin brothers that represent the Sixth Generation of the Siozard family.  The wine is pure Semillon is grown on a 2.5-hectare plot of red soil that is manually harvested until all of the botrytised grapes have been picked.  The maceration and fermentation are done at cool temperature and then the juice is aged for twelve months in Stainless Steel tanks.  A pretty gold color with notes of quince, melon, apricots and exotic florals.  On the palate a rich taste of candied fruits and nectar of flowers, with a nice finish of fruit and the desire for another sip. I have tried many wines over the years with Seared Foie Gras and I think that Sauternes is the best choice.  

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Saying Goodbye to Our Host

I guess it truly was a moment of serendipity that we ended up at the Las Vegas Food & Wine Festival at Tivoli Village.  We really went to Las Vegas to spend time with the children and grandchildren, but who could say no, when we were asked if we would like some tickets, and they were VIP tickets to boot.  It was getting late for us, not for the locals, as we were still maintaining Detroit time, so we went off looking for our host to thank him one more time.  Of course, by this time we had our crystal wine glasses with wine, a “swag bag” which in reality was a nice wine bottle carrier and some munchies, that we were going to take back to our room, which conveniently enough was right across the road from the festival. 

We didn’t quite stop at every table, because we normally don’t drink straight Tequila, and we seldom drink beer (me sometimes, her never).  I did kind of glance over all of the chef’s and the food that they were serving as it wasn’t as germane to my articles, and my charming Bride ventured to more tables than I did, and she was in Heaven.  By the time we were leaving, the crowds were getting thicker and we basically covered the entire area again, which really gave us plenty of additional footsteps, if you are one of those like my Bride that has a wristwatch that counts your walking, in the pretext of keeping us healthy as we were eating all of these wonderful dishes and drinking some interesting and wonderful wine.

We finally found our host and it was in a tented booth celebrating the wonderful cheeses of Italy.  There were these charming young ladies slicing up and serving from large wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  A perfect way to finish the wine in our glasses, and the cheese was so great that we really didn’t even need any cheese; and I am the fussiest and the biggest pain in the arse when it comes to cheese.  Not only that, but besides the fresh cheese that was being sliced and served, there were these little prepackaged shrink-wrapped containers of the Parmigiano Reggiano that didn’t require refrigeration, so we grabbed some of those to enjoy later as well.  We thanked our host several times, before we left, and later on he sent me several photos, some that I used for these articles, from the official photographer of the festival.  I guess my attire or at least my hat, made it easy to find me in the crowds.  Thank you, Alan.   

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Two From Riboli Family Wines

While we were at the Las Vegas Food & Wine Festival at Tivoli Village in between grazing on all the munchies, a fellow at one of the wine tables asked me if I had ever had a Los Angeles wine, and I had never been to Los Angeles and the only vacant land that I could think of, was where the Hollywood letters are mounted.  The Riboli Family Wines of San Antonio Winery began as the San Antonio Winery; the vineyards are gone, but the winery is still there (along with a Cultural Heritage Board Monument Number 42.  The winery is over a century old and named for St. Antonio.  Many wineries disappeared when the government first attempted to treat the citizens as children, and they have not learned their lesson, but San Antonio Winery survived the Volstead Act (Prohibition), by making altar wines and in the process, became one of the largest makers of altar wine.  It is estimated that there were about one hundred wineries in Los Angeles, but because of Prohibition and then the Great Depression, they were the only one to survive in the city. They have always had business relationships with vineyards, as well as their own vineyards.  The fourth generation of the family is the Riboli family and they now have vineyards in Paso Robles, Monterey and Napa Valley. Their brands are Maddalena Wines, Stella Rosa, San Simeon, Highlands 41 and Opaque.

The first wine that we tried from the Riboli Family Wines was their Opaque Darkness Red Wine Paso ZinRobles 2018.  The winery is certified sustainable by CSWA. This wine is all estate grown and a mix of Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah.  Each of the small lots of varietals were fermented individually, then blended and aged for fourteen months in a mix of French and American Oak.  Opaque was a good name for the wine, as it was extremely dark purple with notes of black fruit and coffee beans.  On the palate plum, blackberry, raspberry and vanilla and cooking spices; with a finish of more fruit.  

The second wine from Riboli Family Wines was their Highlands 41 “Black Granite” Red Blend Paso Robles 2020.  Millions of years ago, the ancient sea covered the Highlands 41 vineyards leaving fossils and limestone soils.  In 1934, Highway 41 was completed connecting Yosemite to the Pacific Ocean and cutting through the heart of Paso Robles.  Once a seabed, the Creston Highlands is 1,300 feet above sea level.  Creston Highlands is in the Creston District AVA, one of eleven sub-districts of Paso Robles.  The wine is a blend of forty-five percent Zinfandel, twenty percent Petite Sirah, fifteen percent Malbec, ten percent Syrah and ten percent Merlot.  The wine was aged for ten months in neutral American Oak, with ten percent being new.  A nice deep dark wine that had notes of boysenberry, elderberry and violets.  On the palate a meaty wine with tones of cassis, some mocha and violets with a finish of terroir.

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Prohibido Wines, Loica and Bodegas Alconde

I have to admit that most of the fun at the Las Vegas Food & Wine Festival was actually getting a chance to try the foods, and many were from touted Chef restaurants on The Strip that we don’t get to anymore.  Since we stay in Summerlin to visit our children, it is easier to stay there, then to drive the twenty minutes and get into rush hour traffic, no matter the hour on The Strip and then parking is another issue, but since we are into walking, we can handle the hikes. 

We had a chance to try two wines from Prohibido Wines and it was great, because they have limited production and they do not ship to Michigan; shades of the old days.  As you can decipher, Prohibido means forbidden and the name harkens back to the days of Prohibition, when politicians thought they could legislate what was best for the people; it didn’t work then and it really doesn’t work now, for thinking people. The first wine that we had was Prohibido Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2016 and this was their first issue and vintage.  The wine was aged for thirty months in oak barrels and they produced two-hundred cases.  It was getting dark, but the wine was a pretty dark red with notes of black fruit, spices and leather.  On the palate black cherry, blackberry and some vanilla, with a full-bodied wine with good tannins and a medium count finish of more fruit than terroir. While I had the 2016, my Bride had the Prohibido Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, made with Organic grapes from Yountville (Napa Valley) 2019.  There was no discussion of production of this wine, but it could conceivably have seen thirty months of oak aging as well, though there were only fifty cases produced of this wine.  For a young wine it showed remarkably well and offered a similar tasting profile to the 2016.  The 2016 was drinking perfectly, and after tasting the 2019, I would venture to say that there will probably be some great secondary and tertiary notes and tones if this wine is cellared for a few years.

There were also two wines, one from Chile and one from Spain, that we really enjoyed, but I could only find sparse information especially on the wine from Chile, except for brief almost nothing one sentence descriptions like from a poorly written wine carte.  The first was Loica Andes Series Exotic Blend Cachapoal Valley, Chile 2014. I can only opine about this wine, as Cachapoal Valley is between the Maipo and Colchagua valleys.  The two main varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere.  This wine had a deep color, and reminded me of an aged Medoc.  The second wine was Bodegas Alconde “Magicae” Reserva Navarra 2013.  This wine was a blend of Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Navarra has been a wine making region, with the earliest mention in 1356.  Bodegas Alconde is a cooperative that began in 1956.  This wine was aged in oak for eighteen months.  The wine was a garnet red with notes of red fruit, spices and toast.  On the palate the red cherry and raspberry was complimented by full-rounded tannins and a medium count finish with fruit and some terroir.           

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