May 2021 Wine Club Selection

Getting back in the swing of things after a vacation and I had jumped the gun, so I had to go back to visit The Fine Wine Source twice in one week. Certainly, one of the better places to visit, especially twice in a week.  It is always a pleasure to pick up the monthly wine selections, and I don’t even look at the wines, until I get home. When I am there, we talk of other wines and subjects.  Somedays and sometimes, they are just so busy, that as a retired merchant, I just smile and appreciate their situation.

When I unpacked my wine bag, I looked at the Old-World selection first, and, it was in one of those impressive heavier bottles, that one doesn’t normally find in popular price wines. The wine was Enrico Marcato “La Giareta” Cabernet Franc Colli Berici 2016, the wine was formerly produced by Marcato Winery, which Enrico’s family still owns.  Enrico Marcato after working with his family in the Veneto region went and studied wine making at the University of Milan.  This was followed with work at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California and also at Wynns Winery in Coonawarra, Australia.   In 2003 he became the chief wine maker at Marcato Winery, and he also expanded his knowledge working for three years with a winery in Kazakhstan.  In 2014, he began Enrico Marcato Family of Wine.  The wine is pure Cabernet Franc, which is known as the third grape of Bordeaux, and this varietal is planted around the world and has its own legion of fans.  Colli Berici DOC is located in the center of the Veneto region, between Padova and Verona, while south of Vicenza.  The designation allows for red, white and rosé wines, both in still or Spumante.  The juice for this wine does the initial fermentation in Stainless Steel for ten days, and then is aged in oak for twelve months.  There was a production of eight-thousand bottles. The tasting notes for this wine suggest red berries and herbs with soft tannins and a long finish.  This wine won’t stay in the cellar long.

The New-World selection for the month is Classified Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2018 from American Vintners.  American Vintners was long in creation mode, but finally came to fruition.  The production end is in Monterey, California while the offices and sales are located in Rochester, Michigan.  Today, they now have over forty-five wines, not only in California, but world-wide, and some of their brands have developed their own ideas and concepts.  “Classified Wines” are small batch wines from small vineyards that they have found and kept classified, which makes sense as I have discovered two different Pinot Noir wines produced by them from Sonoma, one from the Russian River and this wine from the Sonoma Coast. The Sonoma Coast AVA is one of the largest regions by area in the Sonoma region, but only a small portion is used for grape production.  Most of the AVAs were created using geological and climatological data, whereas Sonoma Coast was created in 1987 for political and commercial reasons. The problem was the term “estate bottled” was more clearly defined, as being wine from grown and vinified from one AVA, and this new AVA was over-arching of areas to work around the ruling.  The tasting notes for this wine offer a dark-cherry color with a floral nose; black cherry and strawberry notes on the palate with undertones of white pepper and nutmeg.  I am sure that this wine will not stay in the cellar long either.

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Going Home from Vegas

The last time we were in Las Vegas was in January 2019 and I have photos of snow on the palm trees and on the mountains, and when we flew back, we had a blizzard that didn’t look bad, until we got to our subdivision and got stuck, a half block away from our house.  We carried all the luggage to the house, and finally got the car unstuck and drove it a mile away to leave at a hospital parking lot, because it was the only area clear.  We were going to hold off our following trip to Vegas for May or June 2020 to see our old grandson graduate, well you know what happened that year.  We were all packed to fly home, and they were talking about snow in Detroit at the end of April, another example of Global Warming and should someone give back his money and award?

We were at the airport and made it through Checkpoint Charley, except that my Bride had forgotten that she had a bottle of water in her carry-on luggage, and she had also forgotten to pull her laptop out of her under seat bag.  The good news is that she didn’t get a colorectum examination on the spot. We had a couple of hours to waste at the airport, and there are only two places one could take off the mask for a respite, even though we had both shots; one was in the airport casino smoking lounge and we don’t smoke or at a restaurant that had a bar.  Since, we knew that there would be no real beverages or food for the next several hours of travel, we had to make the most of it.  We went to a PGA Tour Grill, even though we are neither golfers or really interested in the game.  I also might add, that they have not taken a tip from The Masters and kept food and beverages at ridiculously low prices, but it is an airport and a pack of LifeSavers is three bucks.  My Bride, true to form had a Caesar Salad with Chicken, and I had a Chipotle Chicken sandwich.

The best part of the meal was the nine-ounce pours of wine.  I guess everyone at the airport had the same idea and it was a zoo, so it was one of the few times that I could not take an actual photo of the wine and the bottle and I have to resort to stock images found on the web.  My Bride stayed loyal to herself and had a glass of Del Vento Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC (-), bottled by GI SPA, Trento, Italy. The rooster is a symbol of good luck, and Del Vento translates to “of the wind.”   The Venezie in the name, most people think is for Venice, the historic and romantic city of canals, island, bridges and gondolas, but it is actually for Tre Venezie, Triveneto or “Three Venices.”  These three are Venezia Euganea, Venezia Giulia and Venezia Tridentina and they were three Italian administrative regions which existed from 1866 to 1919 and now correspond to Veneto, Friuli-Venezie Gulia and Trentino-Alto Adige; Delle Venezie covers the entire area with the exception of Alto-Adige or Sudtirol. The DOC laws allow that the wine must be at least eighty-five percent Pinot Grigio and then there is a long list of local grapes that may be used to blend in.   This wine is produced using Stainless Steel and the maturing time is not long, so as to keep the freshness of the fruit. This was a nice crisp Pinot Grigio that was just easy to drink and refreshing.  I went with a glass of Charles & Charles Rose Blend Columbia Valley (-) from a collaboration founded in 2008 between Charles Bieler and Charles Smith, under the umbrella of Trinchero Family Estates. A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre.  Another easy drinking wine and between the chilling and the slightly sweet finish it was a nice pairing with the spices of my sandwich.  By the way, when we got to our parked car, there was several inches of snow on the car, and thankfully the snow brush was still in the car, but it seems that unlike the last return drive, most of the snow was at the airport and almost none at our subdivision.  

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Our Last Night in Vegas

I am sure that anyone else that was writing an article with a title like that, would give you a spectacular night of revelry, drinking, gambling, dining and other hedonistic pursuits.  Sorry, we were out there to visit the children and grandchildren and with Las Vegas being almost run into the ground like here in Michigan, the odds of getting all of my children together was a long shot, as they had to work to maintain their employment and their families.  We were going to meet my son and his wife at a new Fusion-style restaurant called JING in Downtown Summerlin.  What a joke, the music was so loud, that a gang-banger in his car with the volume and the bass turned all the way up, would complain that he couldn’t hear the “music” in his car, because of the restaurant.  We had a reservation, the first hostess couldn’t hear and took us to another party’s table and dumped us, then we went back and they gave us a big booth, and the manager had a fit, and moved us to a patio table, so that we could be right next to the speakers, because I am sure that he had someone that would tip him big for that booth, at least that was the attitude he impressed me with; and I have been going to Vegas way before he was even born.  Our table was so loud, that I left our waitress a couple of dollars for her effort of bringing water and we left. 

We made a phone call and secured a table for dinner at Grape Street, where my Bride and I had lunch a couple of days earlier.  Thankfully our eardrums had not been damaged and we could have a nice dinner and conversation, I think my son, was embarrassed, because he said that the last time that he had been there with his wife, it was just an upscale restaurant, and then he went with his wife there again after we had left and he told me it was fine again, it was just our night that they were trying to make everyone deaf.  It was all good, because we started out with Baked Brie in a puff pastry with toasted hazelnuts, caramelized onions, and apricot preserve.  We also had a platter of Crab Stuffed Shrimp, Snow Crab stuffing, Scampi Sauce with Cheese and Charcuterie.  Our Daughter-in-Law had a classic interpretation of Chicken Piccata with free-range breast cutlets, leek mashed potatoes, asparagus, and lemon, caper butter sauce.  My Bride had the Blackened Salmon with hearts of Romaine, pineapple, mandarin oranges, garlic croutons and Caesar dressing.  My Son and I both had the special of the evening and the first time I ever had a dish like it; we had Spicy Scallops, and were they ever, with a Seafood Risotto and asparagus.  We were stuffed after dinner, with no room for dessert.

The wine selection was kind of easy, as I knew that a white wine was the way to go, but with the Blackened spices and the Spicy Scallops, I thought I needed a white with a bit more body and character.  I went with a bottle of Domaine Champalou Vouvray La Cuvee les Fondraux 2018.  Catherine and Didier Champalou both came from vignerons families.  They started their Domaine in 1983 in Vouvray in the Loire Valley.  Vouvray is the home of Chenin Blanc and is known locally as Pineau de la Loire.  The Pineau de la Loire can be made as Petillant (Sparkling), Sec (dry and crisp), Demi-Sec (off-dry) or in a botrytized wine called Moelleux, and the Domaine Champalou makes all four versions.  They own a total of twenty-one hectares of vineyards on clay and limestone soils; and they have embraced sustainable farming.  La Cuvee les Fondraux is their Demi-Sec offering from a four-hectare plot with vines averaging about forty-five years in age.   The grapes are immediately pressed and goes directly to oak barrels for slow fermentation, and they keep tasting the juice, until they find the proper balance of sugar and then the juice is chilled to stop the fermentation.  The wine is then aged in the same barrels on its lees for eleven months before bottling. It was a perfect way to end our trip, especially because we could have a nice conversation.     

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Everything, but the Kitchen Sink

For years, one of the most famous restaurant chains across America, never had a location in Michigan, so we got used to the idea of at least having a fast lunch at least once a trip to Las Vegas, especially since we could walk over there from our hotel/casino.  I am talking about The Cheesecake Factory.  The Cheesecake Factory actually had its roots in Detroit, Evelyn Overton found a recipe for a cheesecake in one of the local papers.  Her take on the recipe was a hit, and she once had plans to open a shop, but the reality of raising a family took precedence.  Though she did continue making cheesecakes and had converted her basement into a baking kitchen.  In 1972, after being empty nesters, Evelyn and her husband Oscar decided to move to Los Angeles, California and see if she could fulfill her dream.  With hard work and diligence, she was up to twenty different cheesecakes and some other desserts that she was selling to other restaurants.  Her son David, decided to open a restaurant to feature the large selection of cheesecakes and desserts.  In 1978, the original restaurant opened in Beverly Hills, California and now they have over two-hundred locations, both locally and abroad. 

In my past life, I had always heard about the restaurant and how they had a certain animosity towards potential investors in Detroit, and that is why they never opened in their home town, and when they did, they opened not where everyone expected them to open.  Memories are long.  If you have never been to The Cheesecake Factory and if you have, you know that you are given a book and not a menu to decipher.  I have never been in the restaurant industry, but I had always heard that one should keep the menu, short and sweet; not only do they not follow that advice, but they offer their take on international dishes, and everything is fresh and made in house. Also, I would recommend that you go hungry, as they don’t skimp on the portions, the concept of nouveau-cuisine is not part of their vocabulary.  They don’t get flustered with requests or changes, and they even understand the concept of sharing. My Bride had a half-sandwich of chicken-almond salad and a side Caesar salad (which was about the size of a Caesar salad as an entrée in some restaurants).  I had their Bacon-Bacon Cheeseburger covered with Cheddar and American Cheese, Crispy Bacon and Thick-Cut Slow Roasted Smoked Bacon and their “Secret Sauce” with a side of Sweet Potato Fries for my Bride.  We split our choices and were very happy.  We never have a problem getting a table there, because our late lunch is considered a very early lunch on the West Coast. 

Part of the book that they call a menu, also contains some cocktails, beer and a wine list.  Just like their food menu, they have a wine carte that is better than some dinner restaurants we have been to.  With all of the choices I chose a couple of glasses of their “house wines” for us to have with lunch.  I know it sounds rather daring, as there is no mention in the wine carte of the actual winery used for each wine, we had The Cheesecake Factory Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley 2018 and The Cheesecake Factory Merlot California 2017.  The Cheesecake Factory Pinot Grigio Columbia Valley 2018 was made for them by Columbia Crest Winery of Paterson, Washington.  Columbia Crest Winery was established in 1983 and their first wine release was in 1984. Columbia Crest is one of the largest wineries in Washington, along with their parent company Chateau Ste. Michelle.  The winery has a several tiers of wines, but the bulk of their business is in the popular price range and I never have a problem selecting a wine from this winery, if it is one of my choices.  This was a nice crisp, very easy drinking Pinot Grigio and it made my Bride happy with her lunch.   The Cheesecake Factory Merlot California 2017 is made by Beringer Vineyards of Sonoma, California.  Beringer has the honor of being the longest continuously operating winery in California.  They have a range of offerings from affordable generic table wines to single-vineyard cuvées and a private reserve label. Brothers Jacob and Frederick Beringer had their first harvest in 1976 in what is now St. Helena AVA.  Frederick built his Rhine House, a Victorian mansion in 1883 which is now the main visitor building at the winery.  This home was added to the US National Register for Historic Places.  They even survived Prohibition, the first dismal nanny-state disaster, by getting a Federal License and producing sacramental altar wine.  After Prohibition, they were the first winery to offer public tours which was the start of making Napa Valley a tourist destination. In the 70’s Beringer was bought by Nestlé, and then it changed hands a couple of more times and is now owned by Treasury Wine Estates, which also owns among other labels Penfolds and Stags’ Leap.  In 2015, Mark Beringer became the Chief Winemaker and he is the great-great-grandson of Jacob Beringer.  While Beringer owns vineyards in Napa and Sonoma as well as their leased vineyards are all certified sustainable.  Since, I have always been partial to Merlot wines, a well-made popular priced wine, especially with a burger is fine with me, and there are often times when I want a burger and a glass of wine.  The walk back to the hotel, may have been a bit slower, than the walk there.   

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Our Favorite Place for Brunch

After booking the flight and the hotel, we booked this brunch, and it was mentioned often as we talked about the trip.  We were making a return trip to Echo & Rig Butcher and Steakhouse.  Echo & Rig was the first establishment that we had been to, that besides being a restaurant, was also a butcher shop.  Not the butcher shop of my youth, where you had to take a number and then  get all of your meats wrapped in paper after he cut or sliced or ground your request.  Here is a butcher shop that not only cuts the meat, they age the meats, and they make their own charcuterie.  The butcher shop is on the main floor, opposite the bar, and the restaurant is upstairs that takes full advantage of their butcher shop. It was all the more enticing, because every morning, including the morning of our brunch there, that we would walk past the restaurant in the Tivoli Village complex as part of our daily 6K walk. I am also not the best photographer, so in case you can’t decipher the message that is emblazoned on their window, it is “A hot dog at the ballpark is better than steak at the Ritz.” – Humphrey Bogart 

At least once a month since our last brunch at Echo & Rig, I was reminded how my Bride was looking forward to her Lemon, Ricotta and Blueberry pancakes.  I had requested to be out on the verandah overlooking the fountain and the entrance to Tivoli Village. We were of course the first in line to get into the restaurant, as I guess we were rather anxious.  We were taken upstairs and outside and we met our waiter, a little while later, another employee that was over the years our waitress and at a times the manager came over to greet us by name.  Talk about getting a swelled head and feeling special.  I had the Short Rib Hash, made of Prime Short Ribs, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Bell Peppers, Shallots with two poached eggs and Smoked Paprika Hollandaise Sauce.  My Bride was crestfallen, because she even mentioned to our waiter that her favorite dish was not on the menu, so she had the Smoked Wild Salmon plate with Cream Cheese, sliced Tomatoes, Capers, Red Onions and a toasted Bagel.  We also got a side order of the house made bacon, and we had both forgotten how great bacon could be, when it isn’t from a commercial package.  I was later talking to the Manager while my Bride was away and lamented that her favorite dish was no longer on the menu. The manager was aghast and told me that the dish was on the menu, just written up differently and that our waiter should have realized it, especially after my Bride described it, so thoroughly.  It hurt me to tell my Bride what I had discovered, but by then we were stuffed.

 Our waiter also had a problem understanding what we meant, when we referred to their older way of touting their Mimosas as bottomless, as now their menu only lists Bottomless Handcrafted Bloody Mary.  He told me that they usually just put a bottle of sparkling in an icer and bring over a carafe of fresh-squeezed orange juice, as he got flustered thinking that we may need additional Mimosas and he wasn’t prepared for that.  The first time that we were there we had this wine, I had never heard of the wine that was being poured, but since then I have noticed other restaurants back home touting the same wine for their Mimosas. Wycliff Brut California Champagne is by the William Wycliff Winery which is under the umbrella of the Gallo Winery group. This screwcap bottle of sparkling wine is geared strictly to restaurants and catering companies, so that the consumer cannot check the retail price of the wine or buy it on their own. Since it is part of Gallo, I am sure that they have made sure that they were grandfathered in with the term “California Champagne.” This wine is made by the Charmat Method, which is a more economical way of producing a sparkling wine and since it was being mixed with orange juice, it was more than adequate. Traditionally the wine would be made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and I will presume that all or part of those grapes are being used. All I can say is that it was a great way to start the day off.  The only thing lacking was the screw cap, instead of the classic pop of a cork, but it was still a great way to start the day.

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From Clark Street to Sammy’s

As soon as I wrote the title to this article, if you are from my generation and from Delray or Southwest Detroit, it sounds like I am going to talk about the old neighborhood.  Alas, I am not going to talk about the Cadillac Motor Car plant or the famed park that has an outstanding ice arena that has seen some of the Red Wings play on.  The Clark Street that I am going to mention was the site of an infamous gangland massacre in Old Chicago and the bricks made a circuitous trip to Vancouver and finally now reside at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.  My grandchildren didn’t recall going there, the last time we took them, so it was brand new to them again I was really looking forward to recreating an older photo that we have of myself with three of the grandchildren as we were lined up for our mug photo.  The last time that we were there, my Bride took the photo, this time I guess the mug photo line-up is such a big tourist attraction that you have to have their photographer take your photo, so that you could buy it later at the gift shop.  I would have opted for that, but even though we were the only people in the room, the photographer would not take the photo unless we had our masks on, and to me that negated the whole photograph of a before and after type of photo.  I guarantee that no one was ever photographed or lined up at a real line-up with a mask on. 

After touring the museum and I think the kids may have enjoyed it more, since they were older, they really wanted to “take” us to Sammy’s Woodfire Pizza & Grill at Sammy’s.  When one thinks of Vegas, they think of The Strip and then the Downtown district and both sections are very glittery.  There are plenty of small local, almost neighborhood casinos interspersed along the main and secondary streets of the city.  It was the first time that we ever ventured into one of these venues, though in the past, we have been in drug stores, grocery stores and even gas stations that have maybe a half dozen machines waiting to take your spare change. The kids love this place, and they knew that I had to go there for the Duck Tacos, because they all know that I love duck dinners,  There was a ton of food ordered and to give you an idea here is the list: five orders of Lobster Bisque with Sherry, a platter of Truffle Fries, two orders of Braised Short Rib tacos, shrimp tacos, four orders of Duck tacos, Mini-burgers, Margherita Pizza, Mozzarella Pizza, two orders of Chicken Wings, Pork Dumplings a “Messy Sundae” and an “Apple Pie Pizza” and the two desserts still were only partially consumed by the crowd that we had at two tables. 

We may have started off with Margaritas, but we eventually ended up with wine (of course we did).  First, we had Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC 2019.  Mezzacorona is a group of co-operative wineries and brands, established in 1904 in Trentino.  The winery is known as the “Citadella del Vino” and they recently built a state-of-the-art facility to better serve their fifteen-hundred growers.  Mezzacorona claims to produce more Pino Grigio and Chardonnay than any other Italian winery.  With the wine being produced by so many small vineyards, the fruit is hand harvested to this day.  There is no production information, but I sure that I may surmise that the fruit is aged in Stainless Steel for a short period.  I say this, because the wine is green and flinty, crisp with a light floral nose and a soft finish.  A perfect wine for food and lots of talking and merriment.  Next was Daou Vineyards & Winery Pessimist Red Blend Paso Robles 2018.  Daou Vineyards is located in the Adelaida District of Paso Robles and was established in 2007 by George and Daniel Daou who had originally built a successful IT business.  They bought part of the Hoffman Mountain Ranch and in 2012 bought the rest of the property and now have two-hundred-twelve acres.  The Hoffman Mountain Ranch had been the first modern commercial winery in Paso Robles after Prohibition and created by Stanley Hoffman with assistance by Andre Tchelistcheff. All the estate fruit is hand harvested and has been certified as sustainable farming practices. The Pessimist Red Blend 2018 is a blend of sixty-two percent Petite Sirah, twenty percent Zinfandel, sixteen percent Syrah and two percent Lagrein.  There are no production notes, but I well venture to say that the wine saw some barrel time, as Daou is big on Bordeaux varieties and also Rhone varieties.  The wine was a deep purple with floral notes, big dark and red fruit, with some butter and vanilla (oak) and a nice smoky finish.  A couple of nice popular price wines with an interest spread of food for dinner and a repeat of a museum that at least my Bride and I remembered, and I can guarantee you that we were not in Southwest Detroit, even if it sounded like we were.  

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Honoring Our Grandson

One of the main reasons that we were in a hurry to go to Las Vegas, was to do something for our eldest grandson, who graduated from high school last year.  We were going to throw him a graduation party, but I think most people realize that last year was kind of chaotic.  It was a rather open invitation we gave him, when we told him that we wanted to take him out for dinner, along with his girlfriend, because we told him to pick a restaurant, and there are few restaurants to choose from in Vegas.  He never chose, and never got back to us, so we made the decision for them. 

That afternoon My Favorite Daughter was all excited because she wanted to take everyone to her latest discovery.  We went to T.K. House of Bread & Armenian Restaurant.  When we walked in, I got a chance to practice my all, but forgotten Armenian language skills, and of course the Armenian that my family spoke was totally different compared to the Armenian that is spoken by the later immigrants, years after the Genocide. Some of the dishes were different both in spelling, and presentation, but My Favorite Daughter was excited.  She insisted, before we got there, that she was treating and she was ordering plates of food like it was going out of style.  It was all good, especially knowing that he had the market locked up, and it was a chance for my grandchildren to try some foods that they would not get at home. Of course, my Bride and I nibbled and noshed, and I even had pop (no liquor license and I survived) because we had a big night ahead of us. 

We took our grandson and his girlfriend to Marche Bacchus French Bistro & Wine Shop, where my Bride and I have gone several times before.  It is in the middle of an older residential area build around three man-made lakes that only Howard Hughes could have envisaged and created.  From the front, it looks like a small wine shop and wine bar in a small neighborhood strip center, but appearances are deceiving.  The wine shop is quite large, not like one of the chain discount operations, but very impressive with the selection well thought out.  Behind the wineshop is this terraced restaurant built out on the lake and during the day, we have seen black swans enjoying the water. Our grandson and his date were both rather adventuresome as we started off with Seared Foie Gras with Lingonberry Jam, Brioche, Aged Balsamic Reduction and Frisee Salad.  This was followed by Escargot “Persillade” a classic interpretation with Garlic Herbed Butter and Parmigiano Bread Crumbs.  His date ordered a dish that required extra time, so we filled the extra time with an order of Beef Tartare with Quail Egg along with Pine Nuts, Capers and Pain de Mie Toast Points.  The kids actually tried all three appetizers, though I am not sure if they would have them again.  My grandson had the Steak “Frites” a Wagyu Flat Iron Steak with Sauce Bearnaise, Frites and Herbed Butter, while his date had the Bistro Chicken, an organic Roasted Half Chicken with Asparagus, Roasted Tomatoes, Fingerling Potatoes and Lemon Crème.  My Bride had Seared Scallops with Lemon and Mascarpone Barley, Snap Peas, Radishes and Citrus Jus.  I had the King Cole Duck Breast with Mushroom Risotto with a Brandy Fig Sauce. The four of us split two desserts, one was a Crème Brulee and the other a Limoncello Souffle. 

With the Seared Foie Gras, we went with Chateau Lapinesse Sauternes 2017 from the Siozard family.  The Siozard family settled in the 19th Century on the banks of Dordogne opposite Saint-Emilion and they now operate about sixty hectares in Bordeaux, Graves, Sauternes and Barsac. They are now in the sixth generation of the family. The wine is pure Semillon and manually harvested over many passes to only pick the botrytised (Noble Rot) grapes, the musts are obtained by direct pressing and settled, while vinified at low temperature.  The wine is aged for twelve months in Stainless Steel to achieve a golden yellow color, with a floral nose, and notes of melon, dried apricots and candied fruit, with a long finish of apricots and some terroir.  A very nice House choice to accommodate the dish. My main job was after ascertaining what my Bride was having was to go and select a wine from their retail shop and they charge ten dollars for a corkage fee. I was getting a bit frantic, as I was sure that a Pinot Noir may be a bit over the top for the scallops, but I knew that she would be a trouper, but then I saw something that would make me a hero to her, and have her forgive me about having a red wine.  I selected a bottle of Domaine Charles Joguet Chinon Cuvee Terroir 2016 from the Loire Valley and made from Cabernet Franc.   In fact, they have been growing that grape for years and locally it is called Breton, after the Abbot that nurtured the grape, and one of the famous sons of Chinon, Rabelais also wrote about the wines when he had a moment of free time.  The vineyard dates back to 1830 and was planted entirely with Cabernet Franc; and some of their other vineyards go back to at least 1789.  In 1957 after artistic studies of painting and sculpture in Pare, Charles Joguet took over the family business and the initials JMV that adorn the tin capsules stand for his mother, Madame Veuve Joguet-Malecault.  The juice spends four weeks in cold maceration and then is aged for about fifteen months in a mix of French Oak from new to up to fourth year usage, then the juices are mixed and stored for another six months prior to bottling.  This was just a lovely wine, layered and complex and offering a true Cabernet Franc experience. Our waitress was going to get glasses for our two guests, my Bride said no, I would have probably let them have a taste.  It was a wonderful evening, not the graduation party that we wanted to throw for him, but it worked and since he is now attending courses in Engineering, it may be a while before he can have Wagyu beef again, maybe when he graduates again.   

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A Sparkling Rosé from Austria

One of the great benefits of visiting Las Vegas is seeing the family.  Trying to get as much time with the families as possible without smothering them, preventing my kids from working and also trying to prevent the grandchildren from attending school.   The other thing is that as the grandchildren get older, they get used to eating certain foods and we kind of upset the apple cart.  They have a Grandmother that is quite level-headed and eager to please, but they have a Grandfather that is a pain-in-the-arse about certain things, especially restaurants and especially fast-food, and I am hardly a nutritionist.  So, getting everyone to agree on a restaurant is a bit of challenge, and even I must bend.  I really enjoy going to independent restaurants, but the grandchildren have been indoctrinated to understand chain operations.  In Las Vegas, chains abound with Five Star Chefs and their restaurants to the coffee shops and burger-joints that seem to be everywhere. 

One night we ended up at P.F. Chang’s which has locations in Detroit and Las Vegas.  In the 1960’s Cecilia Chiang had two restaurants, and the second one was in Beverly Hills, California and it was successful.  Her son Philip took over the administration of the business and continued with success.  The first one in Los Angeles was called Mandarette and the newer one was called Mandarin.  Mandarette was a special treat for an Arizona restauranteur named Paul Fleming and he and Philip Chiang created a new restaurant called P.F. Chang’s in 1993 and today there is over three-hundred restaurants across the United States and in twenty-five countries around the globe.  The wok is the star in the kitchen, but the food is all fresh and their credo is “Farm to Wok.” In fact, it was kind of amusing that one of the grandchildren enjoys wontons, but she kind freaked out when she found out that they were “crab” wontons and not “cream cheese” wontons, but I do think that she survived. There were plenty of dishes on the table and everyone was sharing and exploring, in fact, I even tried something different, but if and when we go again, I will probably go with my tried-and-true entrée.  The desserts were fun, I am not quite sure what the connection there is with a Chocolate Lava Cake and Vietnam, but it was popular around the table.  The “Fire and Ice” dessert was the one that captivated the crowd with the presentation.  It was Bread Pudding and Vanilla ice cream encased in chocolate, ignited with run and served flaming. 

Since P.F. Chang’s is affiliated with Fleming’s Steakhouse, the wine selection is rather interesting and usually better than one finds in plenty of restaurants. We had a bottle of Weingut Markus Huber Sparkling Rosé Niederosterreich NV. The family run winery of Markus Huber was founded in 1648 and is in its tenth generation from the Traisental Valley and the entire winery is certified as “Sustainable Austria.” They have forty hectares and also have seventy contract growers.  In 2007, Traisental DAC with three designations was granted, but it is only for Gruner Veltliner and Riesling wines. This region has had a history of grapes going back thousands of years to the Bronze Age. This wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Zweigelt and this blend is found not only in Austria, but Slovenia and the Czechoslovakia.  Zweigelt is a crossing of Saint-Laurent with Blaufrankisch, and is the most widely planted red wine in Austria.  This particular wine had the fruit harvested from two small vineyards in the Traisental Valley was aged for four months on the lees.  The wine was a very pleasant salmon-pink with a small number of bubbles, so it could have been aerated, as there is no mention other than “sparkling” on the label.  It was very pleasant with a touch of cherries and berries, not too acidic or too tart.  I thought it worked well with the dinner and I think that it would be nice with almost anything dish, especially with appetizers.    

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A Day of Shopping at Downtown Summerlin

I would say that for the last fifteen years when we have stayed in Las Vegas for pleasure, we stay in Summerlin and not on The Strip.  I mention Summerlin, usually in passing, but Howard Hughes purchased twenty-five-thousand acres in the Las Vegas Valley and that made him the largest landowner in the area and he originally planned on moving his businesses there.  That was in 1952 and the land was undeveloped for decades, Hughes died in 1976 and the Summa Corporation was organized and developed by his heirs, and they created this master-planned commercial and residential community, named after Jean Amelia Summerlin, Howard Hughes’ paternal grandmother.  In 1988, the corporation began and in 1990 the first residential village, park and school had become developed.  In 1994 Summa Corporation became Howard Hughes Corporation and continued with the development and has almost been consistently Number One in new home sales.  In 2016 they created Downtown Summerlin, a mix of shopping, entertainment and restaurants.  My Bride likes shopping there, me as a retired clothier, I just like to follow her around.

We ended up at one of our favorite haunts in the complex, the Grape Street Café, Wine Bar & Cellar.  Nineteen years ago, it was created by Chef John McKibben offering a California style bistro, with wine, beer and spirits.  I am even partial to the tables, as they utilize reclaimed wooden wine crates for the table tops.  We just decided to get a casual lunch, because we were going to see the kids later that day for dinner.  We ordered a Roasted Bulb of Garlic, because that is always a pleasure to munch on.  We had a Poached Salmon Platter with artichokes, capers, tomatoes cherry peppers, asparagus, and a dill-scallion sauce.  We also order a plate of Crab Stuffed Shrimp which was snow crab stuffing with a Scampi finish, along with Artisanal Cheeses, cured meats, nuts and fruit preserves.  Basically, three plates in the center of the table and we just kept filling up a small plate with goodies. 

Somehow wine, always makes the occasion better, shopping or stopping in and having a quick bite between shopping, wine always works.  My Bride always zeroes in on Pinot Grigio lately, if she gets a chance.  She went with a glass of SeaGlass Pinot Grigio Central Coast 2019 which is under the Trinchero Family Estates.  This wine is ninety-seven percent Pinot Grigio and three percent Chenin Blanc.  The wine is fermented in Stainless Steel tanks in cold temperatures avoiding all oxygen and it did not undergo malolactic fermentation.  It was also bottled early to maintain crispness and the fruit flavors noted for this varietal. The wine offered some lemongrass and grapefruit to the nose, with notes of apple and pear and some refreshing acidity which wants you to have a second glass, and it had a slight finish of terroir of minerals.  I went with the Martin Codax Albarino Rias Baixas 2019.  Martin Codax is a co-operative of growers in the Rias Baixas.  It was formed in 1986 and is named for a famous troubadour from the 13th Century of old romantic Spain.  The winemaker and one of the original founders of Martin Codax is Luciano Amoedo, who was also one of the most vocal in getting Denominacion de Origen (DO) appellation for Rias Baixas in 1988 and the main varietal for the co-operative is Albarino, which accounts for ninety percent of their production.  This wine was light and crisp and had a nice flinty terroir in the finish and I was totally happy with the wine for lunch.

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Proshyan Brandy Factory

While we were at our son’s house having pizza, he was showing me one of his collecting hobbies.  He enjoys collecting curious decanters of liquors, liqueurs and wines.  I have leaded crystal decanters, but his are more unique.  There are skulls, guns, cars and swords.  I am not sure if he has tried the various vodkas, mezcal, tequila and other beverages from these decanters.  They remind me of the old ceramic wine decanters of the Fifties and Sixties, that I wrote about a few years ago.  Two of the bottles were from Casa Vento winery from Italy.  The decanter with the hunter and his dog is Casa Vento Chianti, but there is no black cockerel on the bottle.  The other of a Falstaffian individual sitting on a couple of wine barrels, while he holds another wine barrel above his head with the tap open is a Casa Vento Vino Santo Duca D’Asti.  Both of these bottles have no vintage years on the labels, so I can presume that the wine was bulk table wines made for immediate drinking, and the decanters were more costly than the wine.  Both of these wines were imported by Vento Wine Import Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio, and I wonder if this was a vertical structure of the winery at one time.  I did a search of the import company and the last listing I could find was 1972.  There is a Casa Vento Winery in Italy at the present, but I could not verify, if this is the same winery on the decanters.

What really caught my eye as I was looking at these curios was that they were from the Proshyan Brandy Factory of Yerevan, Armenia and the “bottles” contained their Semi-Dry Pomegranate wine.  Pomegranate wines, and the fruit itself have long been a staple product in Armenia.  Armenia has been considered one of the cradles of civilization and they have long been known for producing beer, wine, brandy and later even Cognac.  With all of the grapes grown in Armenia, brandy evolved in the Nineteenth Century and brought Armenia fame.  After the Genocide, and then Armenia becoming Armenia SSR under the Communists, all the brandy distilleries were not allowed to produce their own product, but they could sell their product to the Yerevan Brandy Company, because the Socialists or Communists were very non-understanding and totally against the concept when it came to the Free Market.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, some individuals were able to grasp the concept of individualism, capitalism and pride of craftmanship.

The Proshyan Brandy Factory was originally located in Proshyan, just outside of Yerevan, since 1885.  The Socialists or Communists had all but shut down the facility over the years and it was bought in 1995.  It soon became the largest Brandy and Cognac producer and reviving an almost lost industry and brought additional pride to the struggling nation, after they achieved their independence from the Soviet Union.  They have since branched out into wine, fruit wine, liqueur, vodka and canned fruit.  They have also gone into the kitsch market with the novelty decanters, which I am sure are probably a decent selling item for souvenirs and keepsakes.  The odds are that my son, will never open the decanters and drink the wine, which is probably good, because I would venture to say that the wine is bulk wine made for immediate consumption and not for cellaring, but they are quaint and add décor to his family room along with his print of Mrs. DeVito’s painting of the man with the two dogs.

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