New Year’s Eve 2022/2023

We had the daily double for the holiday, we were doing New Year’s Eve dinner and then everyone was coming back here the next day for a New Year’s Brunch.  I thin part of it was logistics, because it was the best location for the Louisville contingent.  We had to make room once again for a dog cage in the family room as they now travel with a pet, and only the pet thinks that it is a lap dog.  I don’t know what happened, but I was very sick for a day, it started in the morning and by a little after nine in the evening, I just snuck off in the shadows and went to sleep, I ate nothing for the day, but I did try some of the wines that we were pouring, before I called it a night; and left my Bride to be the perfect hostess.

Actually, she got off pretty easy as our son insisted that we have an homage to his late grandmother, so, we had an evening of Polish food; and he did all the cooking and catering basically for the evening.  He insisted that the real version of Pierogis is with pork and veal that have been pureed, instead of potatoes and cabbage.  He also made Stuffed Cabbage with beef and veal.  I did some consulting with other wine people to find what they thought would pair with cabbage, which has its own unique characteristics.  The consensus was to have a Rosé wine, and it did work very well, as I heard the next day.  So, besides having a couple of Chardonnay wines open, one of the main wines was Clarendelle Rosé Bordeaux 2021.  Clarendelle is part of the Clarence Dillon Wine Group, which was established in 2005 and they offer four wines; a red, white, rosé and a dessert wine with the fruits coming from Dillon estates across Bordeaux.  The selling point of this wine is that the Dillon family in 1935 bought Chateau Haute-Brion.  The wine is a blend of sixty-five percent Merlot, thirty-two percent Cabernet Sauvignon and three percent Cabernet Franc.  The fruit was harvested in the last two weeks of September and had direct pressing, and a short maceration and fermentation period, presumably in Stainless Steel, to maintain the crisp, fruit flavors.  The pale pink-salmon colored wine offered notes of tropical fruits like Pomegranates and Lychee.  On the palate, tones of fruit, a touch of menthol, pepper with very soft tannins, fresh with a medium finish of fruit. 

Now not only did he make all the main courses, he also did a traditional Polish dessert.  He made Nalesniki z Serem, or Crepes with Sweet Cheese and I understand that he did a yeoman’s job, since we don’t have a crepe pan.  Now you have to understand that we had people coming in from about five in the afternoon and a continuous influx up to the Midnight hour.  My Bride came up to check on me, but she said that I was totally out of it, even with the fireworks that were going off and everyone yelling Happy New Year, though I probably feel that it is safe to say that no one sang Auld Lang Syne.  Another consensus was that I have a lighter red, perhaps not as dry as what we usually serve, and a few recommended a Gamay, but I did have some lighter reds in the cellar.  We served Black Star Farms Vintners Select Red Table Wine Michigan NV.  The Vintners Select collection is a blend of different vintages of all small lots with unique characteristics.  The wine carries a Michigan appellation as eighty-three percent of the fruit is from the Leelanau Peninsula and seventeen percent is from Old Mission Peninsula.  This wine is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Teroldego, Merlot and Petite Pearls.  The wine is aged in a blend of newer French, European and American Oak.  The wine was described by the winery as a full-bodied red, but I thought it was more of a medium bodied red wine.  It had a nice deep garnet color and offered notes of dark fruit and spices.  On the palate there was dark fruit flavors with some spices and a touch of cocoa.  Even though I didn’t eat, I did taste the wine, before I called it a night and I thought it should pair quite well.    

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Day 2022

Another sister had volunteered her home for a Christmas brunch, it was the first Christmas without the Matriarch of the family and the sisters were all trying to test the waters to continue traditions.  Last year as in all the previous years, the families all crowded into the house that they all grew up in, and the mother at 95 was still having a brunch on Christmas Day.  It was good and all the local sisters were together.  Of course, I can remember for years my family would do the same thing for every Sunday and holiday at my grandmother’s flat back in Detroit, but my father and his two sisters all lived with in a block of each other.  That era will never be duplicated. 

We were not the first to get to the brunch, as after church, my Bride went to a Senior Facility, and as a Eucharistic Minister served Communion for those at the facility that wished to partake.  She then picked me up and we drove across town for the gathering.  There were scrambled eggs and ham, pancakes and brown-sugar dusted bacon for the crowds.  And what would a brunch be without Mimosas?  The first Mimosa, I tried was made with Member’s Mark Asolo-Prosecco Superiore DOCG NV.  I did not know the brand, but I have since found out that it is sold exclusively through Sam’s Club big box stores.  Member’s Mark is their house label.  The fruit is all harvested from the vineyards surrounding Asolo, in the Veneto region of Italy.  The wine is made with eighty-five percent Prosecco (if it wasn’t from a Prosecco region it would have to be called Glera, and the other fifteen percent was a mix of Blanchetta, Perera and Boschera grapes, which are three indigenous white varieties of the region; definitely three for the Century Club, if I do ever get my arse in gear to attempt to fill out the questionnaire.  This sparkling wine, I am quite sure was done using the Charmat Method.  I tried a taste, before completing the Mimosa, and it was nice straw to golden color wine with medium size bubbles with notes of pears, apples and lemon zest.  On the palate the tree fruits had nice acidity, some yeast was detected and perhaps some honey.  I then added my tincture of orange juice and it was a nice Mimosa, perhaps a bit on the sweeter side, but it worked.

We continued noshing during the day, and then they started playing a dice game, that they all played when they were together up at the family cottage in Ontario, Canada.  I am the only in-law that doesn’t share those cottage days, as I appeared much later on the horizon.  We brought some wines to the table, but one of the wines was a big hit, both on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day, and we actually were taking orders for it, from a couple of people, so we had to make plans to go and get some more if possible and that will be an article on its own.  Another sparkling wine that was used for the Mimosas is a brand that has been around forever to me and that is Andre Champagne Cellars Brut California Champagne NV.  The wine is from E&J Gallo Winery and they have a couple of sparkling wines in their portfolio that carry the “California Champagne” designation.  There is no listing of the varieties that are used to make the wine and the wine does mention Secondary Fermentation on the label, and I am sure that the wine is made in the bulk Charmat Method.  The light-colored wine with medium bubbles offers notes of pears and lemon zest, while on the palate both flavors are apparent with some acidity, and it is just a good easy drinking sparkling wine that blends very easily with orange juice.     

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Eve 2022

What by all rights in a proper setting, Christmas Eve would have been a totally joyous occasion, but with the Matriarch of my Bride’s family having passed away within the year, it was a day of observation and reflection.  As with most institutions that are no longer in vogue in today’s society, families have become splintered, as fodder for today’s idea of culture.  The five daughters are attempting to keep the family intact, and it will be the next generation that will have to make it work, as it seems that families lament that cousins no longer know each other, whereas in my day, you tripped over cousins all the time at family get-togethers from holidays to birthdays. 

We had Christmas Eve at one of the sister’s houses and all but the Louisville clan made it, but it was already known that they would be able to attend the New Year’s weekend celebration.  We got there early to help, as my Bride has always been one to chip in and get the work done, as she is a planner and not a procrastinator.  I have to give my sister-in-law credit; she had announced that dinner would be at five in the afternoon and she would begin serving at that hour.  There were plenty of appetizers laid out and a few of us made the most of the noshes, in between getting dishes out of the ovens and into warming chambers; and constantly checking the meats with thermometers to make sure that all was at the proper settings.  One of the wines being poured early on was La Marca Prosecco DOC NV. The company was founded in 1968 as a cooperative of wine growers in the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy.  Since its beginning it has now grown and comprises nine cooperative wineries predominately in the Prosecco DOC region. These wine growers comprise some nine-thousand hectares of vineyards of mainly Prosecco (or Glera when the grape is not from the DOC district) as well as a few other grape varietals for some of the other wines that they produce. La Marca uses the Charmat Method and they do a great job with it.  In 2007, Wine Spectator magazine listed La Marca as being one of the “Top 100 Wines of the Year.” The wine is an easy crowd pleaser and never disappoints.  A nice soft-golden color with medium size bubbles, the wine offers notes of citrus and stone fruit and a touch of honey.  On the palate it has tones of citrus and peaches in a refreshing off-dry wine with nice acidity that beckons for another glassful.

For the main entrée dishes, there was an air-roasted pre-brined Turkey with an Apple Stuffing, a Roast Pork Tenderloin and if that was not enough, there was also a Standing Rib Roasted cradled and tied.  I offered my help with the meats, about letting them continuing cooking out of the oven, just tented with aluminum foil, until it was time to carve, and I am good at kibbitzing about such artwork.  It was amazing that at five, the house became alive with diners, so alas, a lot of the appetizers were not enjoyed as much as in the past.  We had taken a couple of whites and reds for the dinner, but my brother-in-law wanted me to try this wine that he had found and my Bride was raving to me about it from another evening when she was with her sister.  We had a bottle of Bodega Aleanna El Enemigo Cabernet Franc 2018 from Mendoza, Argentina. El Enemigo means the enemy, and the vintners Adrianna Catena and Alejandro Vigil applied this quote on the back label “At the end of the journey we remember only one battle: the one we fought against ourselves, the original enemy. The one that defined us.” The wine was ninety percent Cabernet Franc with ten percent Malbec blended in. The fruit came from the Gualtallary district of Mendoza, an elevated district with deep-calcareous, rocky soil.  Maceration and fermentation were done over a five-week period and then was aged for sixteen months in hundred-year-old foudres (very large casks). The wine had a beautiful deep garnet color, with notes of red and black fruits. On the palate it started off very jammy with ripe berries and black currants with good acidity and a smoky edge, but it opened up during the course of the meal and the initial jammy tasted softened up; it turned out to be an excellent and refreshing wine choice.

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Donnafugata Contrada Marchesa

I sometimes think that I am the only blogger I know that has not written about this lauded winery.  It is because, I only write about wines that I encounter, which may explain the myriad of wines that I write about. I normally try to write in a somewhat chronological sequence of wines, but for a while, all bets are off, but it should still work.  One of my cast of characters is The Wine Raconteur, Jr. (a name that he gave himself) and he and his family went to the old country for a vacation, as he watched his parents, his wife and children reacquaint themselves with Sicily gave me a bottle of wine that he made sure was not being exported to the States. The name of the winery is a very romantic take on the novel Il Gattopardo, and “Donna in fuga” is basically “woman on the run” about Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples, who escaped to Sicily ahead of Napoleon’s army in the early 1800’s and the wineries are basically on what was her estate at one time.

Donnafugata is a wine company based in Sicily, by the Rallo family who have a history of winemaking going back to the 19th Century.  Donnafugata was established in 1983 by Giacomo and Gabriella Rallo and is now in the hand of their children.  They have five different wineries located in different sub-regions of Sicily, including on the neighboring island of Pantelleria.  The wineries use both indigenous varieties and international favorites and they produce both DOC and IGT wines, because of the grapes that they grow.  They have about three-hundred-thirty-eight hectares of vineyards between the islands of Sicily and Pantelleria.

I am going to discuss Donnafugata Etna Rosso DOC Contrada Marchesa 2018 and the first vintage of this wine was 2017. The wine is pure Nerello Mascalese and grows on the northern slope of Mt. Etna at Castiglione di Sicilia at around 750m above sea level on lava soil, rich in minerals.  This vineyard is about two hectares in size, with some vines about eighty-years of age.  The fruit is manually harvested and the fruit goes through further selection on a vibrating table and destemmer to only select ripe berries.  Fermentation and maceration on the skins is for about twelve days in Stainless Steel.  Then aging for fourteen months in French Oak and an additional twenty-two months or so in bottle, before being released for retail.  The label represents a volcano-goddess adorned with jewels, flowers and fruits, as well as the village of Castiglione di Sicilia.  The wine is described as a light-ruby-red with notes of red fruits, balsamic, rosemary and thyme and some cinnamon.  On the palate tones of raspberry and cherry, great balance and a fine tannic texture with finishes with a long count of the volcanic terroir.  The winery feels that it will age for at least ten years.  A wonderful gift, and now I have to figure out a special dinner and occasion to make it totally magical.

Posted in Wine | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year’s Eve Ramblings

When I was young New Year’s Eve was a night to go out with your date to a night club, have dinner, wine and Champagne and dance the night away.  We had people that personified cool for that night on the town.  No body did it better when I was growing up than the ones that had style.  They were there for their enjoyment and for their lady.  They didn’t pose, they actually had a good time.

Somewhere along the road night clubs disappeared, and there might be four different seating times for the same New Year’s Eve.  Dance floors disappeared, well that is expected when music stopped being romantic and so did couples.  All I know, is that that night, became a cash-cow with no revelry.  Service is now expected to be poor on this night, and a guaranteed tip is factored in.  The cool factor is gone, we now have a dinner parties at the house and it has become a tradition.  So far, so good, and we will see how well this tradition continues.  I am glad that I learned from the best.    

My Bride and I wish that the New Year bring you plenty of love, luck, health and happiness.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas Dinner with The Wine Raconteur, Jr. 2022 Part Two

While we were all enjoying our wonderful dinner with our hosts The Wine Raconteur, Jr. and his charming Bride, our host went and opened up another bottle of wine, while we were still nibbling away at all the food that he had made.  A couple of years ago, his Bride bought an existing business, they have done wonders with it, but not everyone can appreciate the retail industry, that is why he has been cooking up a storm for us, as she has discovered that December is not a good month socially, when one has a retail establishment.  TWR, Jr. is no slouch either, as he has a real day job, is now a retail coach and assistant, and he decided that he was not busy enough, along with parenting and got into local government, not in a rubber-stamping position like a school board, but real politics, as in City Council and he is now Mayor Pro-Tem.  He recently had to attend a wine tasting, a tough job, but someone has to do it and he opened up a bottle of wine that he enjoyed from that duty. 

We were going to have a glass of Browne Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2019.  Browne Family Vineyards is part of Precept Wine, which is the largest privately owned wine company in the Northwest.  Unfortunately, there is very little real wine information to garner.  The winery is located in the heart of Walla Walla, Washington and is inspired by the proprietor’s late grandfather.  The fruit is sourced from the estate’s vineyard in the Spring Valley district of Walla Walla and throughout the Columbia Valley.  The wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with four percent Petit Verdot. This wine had to open up, because at first it was rather unassuming.  A deep garnet color and when it opened up it offered notes of dark fruits, oak and spices.  On the palate notes of cherry, cassis with medium tannins and finish more of fruit than terroir.  Perhaps we should have had this wine first.

After the dinner table was cleared, we feasted on a selection of cookies, also made by The Wine Raconteur, Jr. and in appearance and taste they could have easily come from a high-end bakery and very reminiscent of my early days when there was an abundance of bakeries.  After the cookies and coffee, we were poured glasses of Casa Cuervo 1800 Melenio Tequila Extra Anejo Jalisco, Mexico.  The 1800 represents the year that Tequila was successfully aged in wood, and this bottle was originally known as Cuervo 1800 Tequila and is known for its trapezoidal shaped bottles which pay homage to the Mayan pyramids.  The brand is owned by the Beckmann family, also the owners of the Jose Cuervo.  This Tequila is “extra-aged” and matured in French Oak Cognac barrels.  It was a pretty dark amber color with notes of vanilla.  On the palate some red fruit, vanilla and cinnamon with a nice finish of some mint and chocolate, which I have to presume that some of these flavors came from the former Cognac barrels.  A delightful glass of Tequila, not even close to the firewater of my youth, that used to be downed in a shot glass after some lime and salt.               

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Dinner with The Wine Raconteur, Jr. 2022

We always look forward to our time with The Wine Raconteur, Jr. (and that is a sobriquet that he chose).  We had Christmas dinner at their house, though it was a bit touch and go, because their son became ill, and they had to check if he had the dreaded disease that you had to test, to determine if you had it, but he just had a classic bug, that has never had a cure for, so all was good.  This meal was going to be at their house, as we tend to alternate.  We tried to be gracious guests and offer food and we were told that it was all taken care off.  We started with a Triple Cream Brie with a Savory Topping, and then he also made Bacon-wrapped Dates, one of his specialties, and this year I tried them and they were quite tasty.  The evening started off with Domain Chandon Brut California NV a delightful wine, that my Bride and I had a chance to visit, years ago.  It was the first time that a French sparkling house owned a winery in Napa, a joint venture of Moet and Chandon and John Wright, back in 1973.  The fruit is from cooler regions of Napa, and including their own estate in Yountville.  It is a blend of seventy-three percent Chardonnay, twenty-six percent Pinot Noir and one percent Pinot Meunier.  The wine is made in the Methode Traditionelle and a minimum of twelve months is required to make the finished product.  The initial fermentation is done is Stainless Steel and the second fermentation is done in the bottles after riddling, it then corked and aged for at least three months before release.  The wine is a pretty straw color with tiny bubbles and offering notes of stone fruit, toast and vanilla.  On the palate a nice cream texture of fruit, vanilla and bright acidity with a touch of sweetness (how I enjoy my Brut wines) and a nice finish.    

For dinner we were treated to an excellent version of Roasted Leg of Lamb and we were joking, because I said that it really is one meat, that someone would really have to try very hard to over cook it and it was cooked to perfection with just a very simple use of spices.  His pan of Roasted Potatoes was just as outstanding, I eat potatoes, but these potatoes were truly stellar, and my Bride who never says no to potatoes was deeply in love.  And finally, the Haricot Vert were as executed as well as by any restaurant we have ever been to.  A truly special and uncomplicated meal (and he sent us home with enough leftovers that we enjoyed for a following two days). 

Well even though, he didn’t want us to bring anything for the dinner, I just had to find something interesting, while I was down selecting a nice Christmas present for him as well.  I brought to the table a bottle of Chateau L’Eglise -Clinet “La Petite Eglise” Pomerol 2000.  It is a small ten-acre estate formed in the 1950’s from parcels of Clos L’Eglise and Chateau Clinet.  Since 1983, it was owned by the late Denis Durantou and he has been singled out as the man behind the prominence and accolades bestowed upon the estate; his daughters now manage the estate.  They have some of the oldest vines in Pomerol and Merlot is about eighty-five percent of the plantings and the balance is Cabernet Franc.  While this wine is their second label, it gets the same attention as the first label and is typically aged in eighty percent new oak.  This nice deep claret with no browning offered notes of dark red fruit, cassis, mushrooms, cedar and some chocolate.  On the palate there was still tones of cherries and raspberries with elegant soft textured tannins, still excellent acidity and really a bright finish of fruit and terroir.  I would venture to say, that this wine still had some years of potential, but it was a beautiful mature wine and Merlot and Cabernet Franc were so suave with the Roasted Lamb.                

Posted in Dining, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas 2022

My Bride and I wish everyone a very

Merry Christmas

May the Season bring you plenty of

health, happiness, luck and joy

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two Unicorn Gifts

Some time it is fun, just to walk around my local wine shop, The Fine Wine Source, and look at some items that I won’t be tasting, maybe dreaming about, but not tasting.  I mean life would be boring, if there was nothing to dream about, or to aspire for.

Quinto do Vallado ABF Porto Muito Velho 1888 was bottled in 2016 in celebration of the estate’s Three-hundred-year anniversary, a tribute to Antonio Bernardo Ferreira I, who bought Quinta do Vallado in 1818.  A limited edition of 933 bottles of 75cl, all of them numbered and packed in a solid walnut casing with a unique crystal decanter produced by Atlantis in Portugal of a replica of one used by Antonio.  This port wine was in three 650L barrels, since 1888; and after a century the three barrels still had 700L of pre phylloxera wine.   The wine is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and others.  I went to a couple of sources to report on the wine.  The wine is described as having a seductive color of mahogany with hints of green when stirred.  The complex notes offered were of dried fruits, figs and plums, vinegar iodine and spices.  On the palate, a remarkable freshness that agrees with the nose, with perfect balance and a never-ending finish.

The other gift was a six-pack of “600 Points Grands Cru Classes.”  The perfect way to enhance a cellar immediately, as each bottle was rated 100 Points by the Wine Advocate.  The six wines were: Chateau Pontet-Canet Pauillac 2010, Chateau Leoville Poyferre Saint-Julien 2009, Chateau Cos D’Estournel Saint-Estephe 2016, Chateau Montrose Saint-Estephe 2010, Chateau Pape-Clement Pessac-Leognan 2010 and Chateau Pavie Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2010.  All legendary wines with great pedigree.  And they could all be opened that evening with a grand meal and enjoyed.    

Posted in Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fine Wine Source Wine Club Selections December 2022

Well, I did stop at my local wine shop, The Fine Wine Source in Livonia, Michigan, to pick up the wine selections for the month of December.   As you have noticed, I spend some time at this shop, as they have a great selection of wines not normally encountered, as each is curated by the owner and his staff, and they have a great wine club to boot.  It is not uncommon to keep seeing the same faces, stopping by to taste some wines and take some home; some days it is like a family reunion.  While I was getting my wine club selections, they asked me if I wanted to try some wine, it must have been rhetorical, but those wines are for another time.

The first club selection was representing the Old World was Lini 910 “Labrusca” Bianco NV from Lini Winery of Correggio, in the heart of Emilia-Romagna and minutes away from Carpi, which is considered the Lambrusco Capital.  Founded in 1910 by Oreste Lini, this family-owned and operated winery is now in its fourth generation.  The current generation has maintained the family tradition of creating a benchmark for artisanal Lambrusco and their trademark of a dry Lambrusco.  For some of their wines they use the Metodo Classico, which is the approved name in the EEC for making a sparkling wine similar to Champagne.  The Lini Winery was also the first Lambrusco to get listed in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of Italy.  Labrusca is the ancient Roman name for Lambrusco and is considered by many to be the first grapes used to produce wine in the region; and Bianco means white.  Labrusca originally was meant for the “wild vine” grape varieties and their clones and one of these is Salamino, and this wine is pure Lambrusco Salamino vinified white in a sparkling wine.  The wine is from Emilia and was processed using the Charmat Method, which is the bulk production system used for Prosecco and many other sparkling wines world-wide.  The wine spends about three quarters of a month in large pressurized tanks (the Charmat Method).  The wine is said offer a savory and salinity experience with tones of red fruit and berries and juicy minerality with a clean and lingering finish.

The wine representing the New World is Three Wine Company Gather Red Blend Contra Costa County 2019 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.  The grapes sourced for this wine are from plantings in and around the Bay Area town of Oakley in the north-east corner of Contra Costa County.  All of the grapes come from vineyard blocks with extremely sandy-loam soils called Delhi Loam.  The wine is a blend of sixty-four percent Carignane, twenty-six percent Petite Sirah, four percent Mataro, four percent Black Malvoisie and two percent Alicante Bouschet.  With Carignane as the basis of this wine this deep-dark wine offers notes of black fruits and spices.  On the palate black cherry and pepper (Petite Sirah), balanced with a lingering finish of pepper.  Described as a showstopper.           

Posted in Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment