At Least Four Shades of Gray

Normally the weekend after Thanksgiving would give shivers to me.  For ages in the retailing industry, it meant extended hours.  It also meant that I would have to find time to schlep some thirty cartons that are stacked and stored in a makeshift closet in the basement that is two bookcases wide and two bookcases deep, and for years I tried to rebox the decorations and indicate that they hadn’t been used and hopefully for my knees and back, that the number of cartons could conceivably diminish even by one carton.  The reason for the urgency, is that the first Friday in December has become the Annual Ladies’ Christmas Party, that has been staged, long before I arrived on the scene. 

This year, actually a couple of months ago, after twenty-seven years, my Bride wanted new flooring in the living room and dining room.  We had heard rumors from the neighbors that the original owners who had built the house had a small fire caused in the basement from an incinerator, when back when people could legally burn stuff, so we had refrained from a fear of the unknown.  Why a fear?  We knew from the library that we probably had beautiful natural hardwood flooring in the living room, but the dining room would have been directly over where the incinerator was.  My Bride found a wonderful bamboo flooring that she wanted, now you have heard horror stories about no merchandise, we had the flooring delivered almost immediately.  Our horror story was that due to a lack of workers, even in the building trades, we had to wait almost three months for the installation and it was after Thanksgiving.  I proceeded to pack everything in those two rooms, and we figured out how to move the existing furniture elsewhere in the house.  Our paint scheme was three shades of gray, two opposite ends of the spectrum of gray and what was called in the clothing industry as griege (the natural tone of wool and the stock market used to quote griege goods and they may still do); as the bamboo was a streaked multi-shade of gray and taupe. I have to admit that I can still paint, even though the ceiling in the living room seemed to get larger as the day progressed.  After all the painting we had to get the furniture back for Thanksgiving and then moved the furniture back out for the new floor installation.  We also discovered that we had the most beautiful and almost pristine natural hardwood flooring that we were now covering up with another hardwood flooring.  Who knew?

In case you were wondering, to celebrate the new completed flooring, we a dinner of Pork Tenderloin and a bottle of Acrobat Pinot Gris Oregon 2019.  Acrobat wines are made by King Estate Winery, and back in October 2016, there Pinot Gris was listed as one of the “Top 100 Best Buy” by Wine Enthusiast.  The winery sources fruit from all three main AVAs in Oregon; Willamette Valley, Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley.  The wine is aged Sur Lie for four months in Stainless Steel.  The wine was a nice soft straw color and offered floral notes, and flavors of Fuji apples and pears, with balance acidity and a finish of fruit and minerality.  Just for the record Pinot Gris happens to be more famous as the Italian Pinot Grigio, and both Gris and Grigio translate in English to Gray.  

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Thanksgiving 2021 Part Two

We had all the food even after twenty-four diners from Thanksgiving, so we all went to the missing sister’s house to continue the revelry.  More Thanksgiving, more birthdays, more food and of course more wine.  It was also the meeting of the dogs.  The Louisville clan had just gotten a new puppy, as they got used to having their one son’s dog always underfoot and then he moved and took the dog with him, though that dog is always making appearances at their home as well. The one sister that didn’t come for Thanksgiving, just got a second dog and they are still training the puppy and they were afraid to leave the dog alone.  The day reminded me of a French theatrical farce, because we had the puppy up on the second floor of the house, the older dog on the main floor of the house and the puppy from Louisville in the basement, but all three kept making appearances throughout the day and night.  I decided to stake out my claim at the Dining Room table and I opened up a bottle of Louis Jadot Macon-Villages Chardonnay 2020. Louis Jadot began as a negocient in 1859 based in Beaune, one of the centers of the Burgundy region of France.  The Louis Jadot firm has a portfolio of wines from the basic regional wines to some of the most lauded vineyards in the region.  This wine is from the southern part of Burgundy, close to Beaujolais.  Macon-Villages is the largest appellation of the Maconnais, as there are forty-three communes that can use this designation.  The wine is done in Stainless Steel and it is very crisp and fruit forward with a nice finish of terroir.

So, I just kind of stayed put for the entire time and a lot of the other men ended up sitting at the table, as the sisters seem to congregate at the kitchen table.  My Bride when she wasn’t playing cards or putting out appetizers or reheating all of the food that we brought from the night before, would bring me plates of cheese and crackers, and she would also get a pour of wine, in fact my table was good for visiting, because of the wine.  The other great thing is that she has finally stopped asking me what I would like on my plate.  You understand that since she is already in the kitchen with the buffet set-up, I am just one less body to add to the congestion of an ad-hoc buffet line.  Speaking of wine, we also opened a bottle of Black Star Farms Arcturos Sur Lie Chardonnay Old Mission Peninsula 2017, a Michigan wine.   Black Star Farms is rather unique in that it has vineyards and tasting room facilities on both peninsulas, so that they are kind of surrounding Traverse City which is kind of the focal point for all of the wineries in the area.  In 1998 Black Star Farms purchased Sport Valley Farm which was a one-hundred-twenty-acre equestrian facility, and the stylized black star was part of the architectural décor in the main house.  This was a nice medium bodied wine done in Stainless Steel.  It offered notes of ripe citrus, and some floral and finished with a bit of terroir.

When we finally had the dinner portion of the buffet set up, a continuation of yesterday’s fine meal.  Imagine having a big gathering and getting to serve leftovers, but the food was secondary, and there was still more revelry surrounding the holiday and the November birthday honorees.  I had no problems enjoying a plate full of leftovers, though by the end of the week, if there is still some, I may not be as enthusiastic (though it will be good training as I get entrenched in being a retiree).  The last of the wines that I opened was Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot Indian Wells Vineyard 2011.  Chateau Ste. Michelle is the oldest and one of the most prestigious wineries in the State of Washington.  They are known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, but are famed for their Riesling.  It was founded as the American Wine Growers in 1954 by the merger of two that companies that followed the repeal of Prohibition; the National Wine Company and the Pomerelle Wine Company.  The National Wine Company had planted Vitis vinifera grapes in the Columbia Valley, and under the consultation of Andre Tchelistcheff they planted even higher quality grapes in 1967.  These were under the name of Ste. Michelle Vintners and the first wines released were Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Semillon and Grenache. This wine had fifteen percent Syrah blended in with the Merlot and was aged for eighteen months in a mix of French and American Oak, both new and used.  The nose was soft on this mature wine, and there was still black fruits and some vanilla, with a nice medium finish of terroir.    

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Happy Thanksgiving 2021

If it is the time of the year, that all the Christmas cards and newsletters have gone to the Post Office to be mailed, the gifts for the out-of-towners have been posted and all the local gifts have been wrapped and bundled by family, it must be Thanksgiving Day.  It has been crazy here, beyond the normal craziness, as we have been updating the living room and the dining room, which is a story all by itself.  Let us say, that the Bone China, Silverware and Crystal had to be packed up along with everything else in those two rooms, first for the cleaning, then the painting and then getting the house ready for twenty-four guests for dinner.  We had a quiet Thanksgiving, not everyone came this year, but it was because of a new puppy.  By the time the crowd started filtering in, we said two, a few came then and some made it by six.  I cracked opened a bottle of Korbin Kameron Semillon Moon Mountain District 2018 from Moonridge Vineyards and Moon Mountain District is in a curious position as part of it is Napa Valley and part is Sonoma, and Korbin Kameron Semillon Moon Mountain District 2018 is an Estate Grown wine. Semillon is probably one of the least known, major varietals in the wine industry.  It makes some of the greatest sweet wines and it also makes some of the greatest dry wines.  Its home is Bordeaux, though it is done extremely well in parts of Australia and among a few wineries in California.  A wine that starts in Stainless Steel and finishes in oak.  I actually had a chance to try this wine ahead of time before the actual tasting and I reserved some of the wine for my cellar, and I knew that my Bride would love it.  She did. This organically made wine used native yeasts and had a nose that I would call plush floral and citrus, and it brought notes of citrus and ripe pear with a nice lingering long count finish.  There were only twenty-five cases made and we got a case.  The perfect start for the day, but it did overpower the other white wines on Thanksgiving Day.

We had an impromptu set up and used the breakfast room, the dining room and the living room to make sure that everyone had a table to sit at.  We had a mix of flatware, plastic utensils, fancy disposable plates and serviettes (that is Canadian for paper napkins). We started off with appetizers, nothing fancy but an assortment of cheese, crackers, fruits and vegetables.  We were utilizing every oven in the house to get everything done, and warm.  The turkey was carved during this time, I really couldn’t greet people properly as I was carving away.  Our turkey doesn’t look like a Norman Rockwell painting, but we did a twenty-three-pounder stuffed and put in a roasting bag and cooked in a roaster, upside down.  The bird actually was falling apart and I had to take it out of the bag in pieces to carve.  It was delicious, the best part of being the carver, is that you have to make sure and taste all the different parts to make sure that it cooked properly (who needs to eat after carving?).  The next wine of note that I want to mention is Roberts + Rogers Reserve Chardonnay Napa Valley 2018.   I should have probably opened this wine to start as this wine was aged for almost twelve months.  Sixty percent of the juice was aged in French Oak and forty percent was aged in Stainless Steel and then the two juices were blended and then finally bottled.  It was a stellar example of a California Chardonnay, that would probably fool people in a blind taste test.  It was crisp and buttery and very smooth, with some floral notes and a nice finish that evoked a desire for another taste. 

Then we finally got to the dinner, which out of necessity is always set up as a buffet on the island counter in the kitchen.  Of course, she had to make her Caesar Salad and the turkey and the gravy were outstanding.  To be truthful, I never enjoyed turkey, until I had my Bride’s cooking, because I grew up thinking that turkey was a cousin of cardboard.  For the sake of honesty and transparency, there was something called a Tofurkey.  She also made two tenderloins, one in a traditional olive oil, garlic and rosemary and the other was braised in Mexican Molé Sauce for the more adventurous.  There were also all of the obligatory sides, ahem, except for the Armenian Pilaf and it was duly noted.  After the buffet counter was cleared it was filled up again with pumpkin pies, sweet potato pies, pecan pies, apple pies, cherry pies and of course a Birthday cake for all of the birthday honorees in November.  While some continued with white wines, I had to open up an interesting red wine for the day.  I went with a bottle of Celani Family Vineyards Tenacious Estate Napa Valley Red Wine Unfiltered 2012.  I had tasted and wrote and bought some of this wine about five years ago.  When I first had the wine, I was told that it was created in the image of Le Pin and Chateau Petrus, and quite a lofty goal.  The wine is a blend of seventy percent Merlot and thirty percent Cabernet Franc.  The wine is aged in new French Oak for twenty-two months and has become their affordable signature wine.  This had a big nose of black fruit and strawberries, with a taste that was dominated originally by the black cherry, and finishing with some rich terroir and some great acidity for cellaring. I may have opened it early, but it was a great way to see how it was cellaring, before I even think of a newer vintage that is resting.

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Shades of the Old Neighborhood

At the end of my old neighborhood was Patton Park, named after General George “Blood and Guts” Patton, one of the military heroes of World War II.  The Park was famous in the day, because after the Independence Day parade, which ended at the park, later in the evening courtesy of the local merchants, there was fireworks, and it was the only place in the city for a parade and for the pyrotechnics. The extreme tip of the park actually was in the border of the adjacent City of Dearborn and across the street from the park was an Italian restaurant called Roman Village and by the fuzzy logic of the day, the tip of the park and the restaurant became part of the neighborhood, regardless that it was in another community’s boundary and jurisdiction.  There are times when I try to explain to my Bride the geography and the geo-political climate, that only a true resident of the area, will understand. 

I mention all of this as background, because my Bride had invited another couple out for a casual dinner at a restaurant named Antonio’s Piccolo Ristorante, it is called piccolo, because the size of the establishment is much smaller compared to their other restaurants called Antonio’s Cucina Italiana; and they all owe a debt to the original which is still packing them in at Roman Village; and why they didn’t use that name for the other restaurants, I cannot explain.  The other couple followed my Bride’s tout and had the Seafood Manicotti, stuffed with Mozzarella and Ricotta cheese, Lump Crab and Shrimp topped with a Palomino Sauce.  I had to be the rebel of the crowd, and find another dish that would work with a bottle of wine for the table, as the other couple were not as much of wine drinkers as we are.  I had the Polenta Delmar Alla Valentino which was a combination of fresh Shrimp, Scallops and Whitefish, sauteed in a Spicy Tomato Sauce over Polenta.

With all of the dinners ordered, it was easy, as I knew that we were going to have a white wine, of course, we knew that before the dinner selection, as the other couple only drink white wine.  We had a bottle of Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC, Friuli-Venezia Giulia 2019.  Livio Felluga is named after its founder, who came to the region in the 1930’s, and is most known for their blended white wines. The family goes back six generations of wine makers originally from Isola d’Istria in modern day Slovenia.  Friuli Colli Orientali DOC (Eastern Hills of Friuli) is a famed district noted for the stratified, mineral rich soil, layers of marl and sandstone. The fruit was hand-harvested and gently destemmed and maceration and fermentation was done in Stainless Steel vats on the lees for several months, and then aged for a short time in the bottle before distribution, The wine was a pretty straw color with a nose offering floral notes and white fruit and natural spice. On the palate it had very pleasant fruit, with a tanginess, and a nice medium length finish of fruit, salt and terroir.  I think everyone was pleased, because they all wanted seconds.         

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Catching Up with The Caller at Dinner

Attempting to get together with The Caller is harder than finding a smooth road in Michigan.  Since, the moment that he and his charming wife both retired, they may have to hire a full time Social Secretary.  We actually made our next dinner get-together and it is in May of next year, we were meeting them, at Ciao Amici’s in Brighton, which is about half way between both of our houses.  I was also acting as a courier or delivery person, as he really enjoyed a wine at our house the last time, and asked if I could get them a six pack of the wine, so knowing my brain, I carried the six pack into the restaurant and put it in our booth, so that we made sure that they took it home.  Also, during our conversation, I had to remind my Bride that she had some money from one of her girlfriends that asked her, if she would purchase a gift certificate to the restaurant.  All duties were completed and we were all able to have a nice leisurely dinner.

When we get together, meals are a long affair and thankfully we started early at the restaurant, because by the time we left, the restaurant was hopping.  We began by getting a couple of appetizers for the four of us to share. We had an order of Calamari that were flash-fried and served with a fire-roasted red pepper puree. We also had a platter of Mussels Arrabiatta that were sautéed with onions, Hungarian peppers and garlic in a spicy tomato basil sauce. This may be our new appetizer, as I am sure that if we had four platters of this dish, there would have still been demand for more, the sauce was just perfect.  We started off with a bottle of Franco Serra Gavi DOCG 2018. Franco Serra is produced by the Sperone family who has been making affordable wines for four generations.   In 1920 Antonio Sperone opened a wine shop in Torino selling local bulk wines to consumers, but his concern of selling a better product, compelled him to start his own winery in Puglia.  His business was destroyed during the bombings of World War II which caused his grandson to open a new facility near Milan where they produced vermouth, sparkling wines, spirits and wine.  In 1965, the family purchased seventy-five acres of prime vineyards in the Piedmont and built the current winery in the small town of Mombaruzzo near Monferrato. Gavi or Cortese di Gavi DOCG is the white wine jewel of the Piedmont.  It is one of the most important white wines in Italy and one of the most popular that it exports.  The DOCG status was awarded in 1998 and with that award are all the rules that must be followed and obeyed.  The Cortese grape is an indigenous grape from the Gavi region and has been recorded since the 1600’s. The wine had a soft floral nose with a touch of sweet fruit, it was a bone-dry wine with bright acidity with a tinge of cucumber and a nice medium finish of the mineral terroir.  It worked very well, even with the tomato sauces of both dishes.

After our salads, both of the wives had the Lamb Shank Lombardia on a bed of Parmesan risotto with a natural braising reduction.  The Caller had Chicken Gorgonzola with roasted red peppers, Gorgonzola cheese in a garlic sauce.  I had Scallops which were pan seared and served with a bacon and spinach risotto and finished with a Port wine reduction.  I might add that all of the dishes were excellent.  Our Brides were asking for a big red wine to pair with the Lamb Shanks and I wanted something more unique for them to try, and finding one that would work with the chicken, and I would make it work with my scallops.  We had a bottle of Bodegas Alto Moncayo Garnacha 2017.  Bodegas Alto Moncayo was founded in 2015 in Campo de Borja DO in the Aragon region of Northern Spain; and Campo de Borja DO was granted in 1980.  While it was recognized fairly recently the area was recognized for wines back in the times of the Roman Empire.  The winery is a partnership of the Andalucía winemaker Jorge Ordenez, the Australian winemaker Chris Ringland and Bodegas Borsao one of the largest and most influential producers in Campo de Borja.  This is a big Grenache (Garnacha) wine that shows off the forty- to seventy-year-old vines and Grenache is the flagship of the winery and it is the King of grapes for this region of Spain.  This wine was aged for twenty months in new barrels and it is a heady 16 proof. I think that I was the most smitten by this wine, but then I have found over the years that not everyone is a fan of Grenache, which is bit harder to appreciate compared to a Cabernet or a Merlot. The wine was offering both a nose and taste of dark fruit with a tinge of Chocolate and a great medium to long finish of terroir.  A great dinner until we get a chance to meet again.   

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November 2021 Wine Club Selections

Each month I always look forward to the choices from The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan.  A class act operation, where I and every other patron knows that he won’t have to wade through the wines offered at gas stations, drug stores, convenience stores or big box stores.  Every bottle of wine that is on the shelf or still in the case, has been personally vetted by the owner and his reputation rides on each bottle, even the ones used for the club selections.  Beyond the impeccable collection of wines, another added bonus, is that club members automatically get case discounts, even if they only stop in to pick up a bottle or two.  And when you go to pick up your Club Selections, allow yourself some extra time, so that you can taste a wine or two that they just received, it is hardly ever a duplicated pour. 

The first selection representing the Old World is Domaine Berthet-Rayne Cuvee Vieilles Vignes Cote du Rhone 2019.  Raoul Raymond when he was in his twenties, took over his family farm and uprooted parcels of cherry groves to plant vines.  In 1978 with the help of his son-in-law Christian they set up Domaine Berthet-Rayne.  Originally the Domaine Berthet-Rayne created a range of wine to be only sold in France, with property in the Cote du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Between 1995 and 2000, the estate first began exporting wines in Europe and then finally to the United State of America.  The Domaine has twenty-nine hectares in Chateauneuf-du-Pape on diluvium alpin soil and they are on the left side of Rhone between Orange and Avignon and share some of the famed terroirs of Coudoulet and Chapouin with their clay-chalk soils. The Cuvee Vieilles Vignes actually means Old Vines, with the average age being forty-years-of-age and some of the vines being seventy-years-of-age.  The wine is a blend of seventy-five percent Grenache, fifteen percent Cinsault and ten percent Syrah.  The wine is certified organic by EccoCert and the Domaine is cultivated and plowed in an environmentally friendly manner. It is described as being a dark ruby/purple wine, full bodied with notes of black cherry and cassis, with complex tannins for cellaring potential and a silky finish.

The second selection representing the New World is Kenwood Vineyards Pinot Noir Monterey County/Sonoma County 2018. Kenwood Vineyards was established in 1970 in Sonoma.  It was founded by the Lee family when they purchased the estate and winery of the Pagani Brothers that began in 1906 and were successful until Prohibition.  In 1999 the winery was bought by F. Korbel and Bros. and in 2014 Kenwood was bought by the international beverage concern of Pernod Ricard.  Kenwood Vineyards has twenty-two acres of estate vineyards and also sources fruit from dozens of other growers in Sonoma.  The winery has been known for years for some of their Single-Vineyard wines, as well as some of their other collections.  The first time that I ever had a wine from Kenwood Vineyards was their famed Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is ninety-six percent Pinot Noir and three percent Zinfandel and is part of the winery’s Discovery Series.  The fruit is sixty-four percent Monterey County and thirty-six percent Sonoma County.  The wine is described as having notes of black cherry, smoky oak and dark cola, with strawberry and cherry on the palate along with layers of tobacco and smoked bacon with a finish evoking cinnamon pie-crust. 

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David and Goliath

It had to happen here in Michigan and especially in the Detroit area.  It was originally going to happen on the west side of the state in 2020, but we know that a certain bug created havoc that year and we are still suffering the aftermath.  One of the national big box wine stores finally figured out how to maneuver around the Byzantine codes and rules of the wine laws in this state, and not only that, but they also figured out how to work around the rules that apply to the liquor laws as well as for beer.  While the media was deciding if two masks would suffice, the invasion began, and then all of a sudden, the media was ecstatic that there was a wine shop in our midst.  The only reason that they were excited was that Goliath had deep pockets and could afford full page ads in newspapers and local periodicals.  All of the (David) local wine shops that have eked out an existence and survived the draconian rules of the last year or so, who can’t pay for full page ads really did not exist.

Alright, I guess I have a built-in bias towards national big box operations, because I was in retail my entire life and for the most part, I worked for independent single store operations.  I even did my personal banking with small local banks, where, believe it or not, everyone knew my name and I was able to cut through a lot of red tape on a weekly basis. I even like the old-fashioned grocers that had butcher shops that could do special requests, fish mongers that would tout what the freshest selections were and produce that was not wheeled in by bulk.  Can I get excited like the media expects?  Absolutely not, I have never enjoyed being in sterile environments with wide aisles conducive for hi-los.  I do appreciate that they do some education for their employees.  This is not to say that I have not availed myself of this operation.  They are within walking distance from the casino-resort that we stay at every time we go to Las Vegas to see the children and grandchildren.

I like warm cuddly places, the store that I worked at for the majority of my career, until an eminent domain case closed us down was described by most of our customers as an old slipper and I think that is appropriate.  When you walk into a shop or a restaurant and you automatically feel comfortable and at ease, is a wonderful feeling. That is the feeling that I get, when I walk into my local wine shop, and I am sure that there are other shops as well.  The “David” shops of the world will survive the onslaught of these big box stores, because they offer customize service, they know what you enjoy and they can offer wines that you don’t mind trying.  They are not promoting a corporate designed wine that for some odd reason tastes the same vintage after vintage.  So, to be truthful, I really don’t care about the big guy, let me go in and have a tasting of some unique wines.  A winery that maybe only makes two barrels of wine, is of no interest to big box, but it is totally interesting to the wine lovers.    

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I Like Old Wines

Years ago, when I was first teaching myself about wines, there was one lesson that I could not learn.  The lesson was, how to sate my curiosity about older wines.  When I think back about all the wines that I consumed, give or take a few older wines, I drank wines that should have been in the cellar for at least twenty if not thirty years.  Wines were made for cellaring, especially back then.  I splurged a few times over the years growing up and an older wine was unique.  Today, the majority of the wines, as far as I am concerned, are made for instant gratification and I guess I was part of the generation that actually pushed this trend into focus.  Today, wines are written about, stressing the fruit forward nature of the wine, the floral nose and spiciness, even the beautiful length of terroir that some wines convey.  Older wines have a maturity, that allows the flavors to mellow, as well as the tannins for a rich, sometimes indescribable flavor, especially for me, who disdains descriptors, but loves mellow wines. Two wines will help this narrative, that we just had in the last week or so with dinners at home. 

At one time, I was trying to be a blogger like the “cool kids” and write about all of the international and national wine days. The only problem was that the articles didn’t really sound like me, so I stopped writing about them.  Then a few years ago, after some prodding from others, I got an Instagram account and eventually I will get my blog and Instagram on the same page, but that will take at least two years more to achieve.  Though Instagram has a “story” page and I think that I will start posting for the “days” there.  The other day was International Merlot Day, so I suggested to my Bride that she make something for a red wine, before she pulled out a chicken or fish dish for dinner.  She ended up making a Pork Tenderloin in a Portuguese Braising Sauce and it was delicious.  Since, I have always been partial to Merlot, it was easy for me to find one in the cellar and I also selected by Durand cork screw, just in case.  I selected our oldest Merlot in the cellar and it was a bottle of Lockwood VSR (Very Special Reserve) Estate Grown and Bottled Merlot Monterey 1998 in one of those heavy glass bottles that some writers cry about, because it may cost a little more to ship, but denotes a quality wine from the winery. Any information that I may have had is long gone, as I received it, before I even thought about writing this blog.  This wine was produced in San Lucas and I have found a Lockwood Vineyards in Napa Valley, used the same logo and font, but listed nothing as lofty as this wine.  I am sure that it came from our club “A Taste of Monterey.”  With the aid of the Durand, the cork came out smoothly.  The wine had a deep ruby color with a bright ruby at the ring and no browning, and the ullage was still fine.  The wine still had a nose offering some dark fruit, but it had softened, and the fruit was just there in the taste like an old Merlot, but it had mellowed along with the tannins and the oaks, into a very velvety rich and mellow wine with a lingering finish that just kept reminding me of the wine.  There was even a nice good pour of wine left over that I enjoyed the next day and it did not disappoint. 

The other wine that we had also with of all things, a Roasted Pork Tenderloin, was a bottle of Viansa Winery “Sempre Avanti” North Coast Red Wine 2000. We received this wine as a gift, and it was only rediscovered when we had all that free time to rearrange the wine racks last year, when we were all living under a lockdown.  Viansa Winery was founded in 1990 by Sam and Vicki Sebastiani and currently under the management of their sons Chris and Jon, and there is almost a hundred years of winemaking by the Sebastiani family in Sonoma, and now all of there wines carry Sonoma and not North Coast appellation.  “Sempre Avanti” translates to “Always Forward” and was coined by the grandfather Samuele Sebastiani in his early days.  Another wine with no history, but I don’t feel that I would be too far out on a limb to say that the wine was a blend containing some classic Italian grapes (e.g., Primitivo or Zinfandel).  Even with the Durand the cork broke and I had to strain and decant the wine using my coffee filter and funnel method.  The wine had a pretty ruby color with no browning, and a soft nose.  The fruit had blended in with the tannins for another velvety texture, but with a short finish with no terroir. I would never be able to tell you what grapes I tasted, but it was delicious with dinner and very smooth.  The old wines are just best to describe them as mellow.       

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Our Last Wine with Ms. Yoga

While we were at The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan with Ms. Yoga, they were getting busier, and we were deciding on some wines to take home.  We did not get carried away, as we have a money pit project that I will eventually get to, when it is done.  Ms. Yoga decided that “John’s Store” was a great place to visit and she really liked the last wine that tasted.  So much so, that she insisted that we allow her to treat us to a wine for dinner at home, before she took off the next day.

We had a bottle of Domaine Berthet-Rayne Cuvee Tradition Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley 2019. Raoul Raymond when he was in his twenties, took over his family farm and uprooted parcels of cherry groves to plant vines.  In 1978 with the help of his son-in-law Christian they set up Domaine Berthet-Rayne.  Originally the Domaine Berthet-Rayne created a range of wine to be only sold in France, with property in the Cote du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Between 1995 and 2000, the estate first began exporting wines in Europe and then finally to the United State of America.  The Domaine has twenty-nine hectares in Chateauneuf-du-Pape on diluvium alpin soil and they are on the left side of Rhone between Orange and Avignon and share some of the famed terroirs of Coudoulet and Chapouin with their clay-chalk soils. The wine is a blend of sixty-five percent Grenache, twenty percent Mourvedre, five percent Syrah and ten percent Cinsault. The wine was a nice dark ruby/purple color with notes of black cherries and cassis.  The palate offered dark cherries, and silk tannins with a nice medium finish with terroir.  When we got home and opened a bottle of this wine, it was great before we had dinner and was excellent with our dinner as well.  Just a lovely wine.

The name of the winery rang a bell with me, but the label was rather modern and not what I expect from a classic region as Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  A unique feature about the wines from the region is that the bottles all have the Papal keys designed on the glass, and since I was thinking about the wine, I actually tasted the 2011 and then we had the 2011 vintage with a dinner.  Back in 2014 the final bottle of a grand meal and this was part of my notes the last time we enjoyed Domaine Berthet-Rayne Chateauneuf du Pape 2011. The area is called this because it was the “New Castle of the Pope” in Avignon in the Fourteenth Century, and it is one of the oldest appellations in France. This famed wine from the Rhone Valley is made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsault and Syrah varietals. This area is known as the driest area of the Rhone, and in extreme cases, the wineries must ask for special permission from the French Government to water the vines. As I have a natural fondness for Rhone wines, a Chateauneuf du Pape holds even a higher degree to me, as I always find it to offer more richness to the glass.

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Another Round of Tasting with Ms. Yoga

Mame Dennis Burnside was at The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan and she was having fun.  Ms. Yoga has the personality that can be bigger than life, especially when she is having a good time.  She and my Bride have been friends, before I met my Bride.  I was definitely the third wheel that day in the wine shop, as I was taking photos and notes and those two were making the most of the trip. Though my Bride usually pours the balance of her tasting into my glass, unless she gets really excited about the wine. 

We had for our first red wine, Enrico Santini “Poggio Al Moro” Bolgheri 2016.   Enrico Santini grew up in the Bolgheri district of Tuscany, which is one of the newer wine district designations in Italy.  He is also considered a true “garagiste” there, with his small organic estate where he produced his first wine in 1999.  He actually transformed his house and garage into a winery to achieve his dreams and goals and he already received accolades and admiration for what he has accomplished in a short period of time. This wine is a blend of thirty percent Sangiovese, thirty percent Cabernet Sauvignon, thirty percent Merlot and ten percent Syrah.  The wines were all separately macerated in Stainless Steel and then spent three months in small French Oak barrels, with additional aging in the bottle prior to release.  I found the wine to have a dark cherry color with a good nose and a good finish.  It was quite fresh and different from other wines that I have had from the area and very easy to drink, with or without food.

We then had Baron de Montfort Chateau du Mignon Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2016. The property is a family-owned estate and the Baron also owns three estates that he manages with his niece Anne de Foucauld, Countess Bertrand de Sercey; of which they have sixteen hectares in Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and fifty hectares in the Cotes de Castillon.  The wine is a blend of seventy percent Merlot, fifteen percent Cabernet Franc and fifteen percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The average age of the vines are thirty-five years of age, grown using organic techniques and the ground is limestone and clay.  They use machine harvesting and a mix of cement vats, Stainless Steel and oak barrels, of which twenty percent are new.  Black fruits dominate this wine, but with a silkier palate from being predominately Merlot and then a nice medium finish ending with terroir.    

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