Monday, January 28, 2013

2008 Renwood Fiddletown Zinfandel

So tonight I've decided to open a bottle of Zinfandel since I'm looking for something a little more jammy to balance out my spicy dinner, after all, it's taco night!  And for this Zin we've traveled north into California gold country, Amador county in the foothills of the Sierras for the 2008 Renwood Fiddletown Zinfandel.  Now apparently the Fiddletown appellation is the oldest AVA in Amador County, and the vines tend to be at higher elevations than other vineyards in the county, about 1,800 feet higher in some cases, so let's see what that does to the wine.

The color is somewhat lighter than your typical Lodi Zin with a certain amount of opacity.  The nose is rich in fruit, with sweet ripe berries intermingled with cherries and plums, balanced by a bit of dusty spice.  The taste is surprisingly not as fruit forward as I would have expected, in fact it's like a delayed fuse as the first taste seems to be dominated by smoke, cedar and some spice, then an explosion of fruit midpalate, with rich plum and blackberries, fading into some peppery spice note on the finish.  The tannins are pretty big in this wine, supporting a very tight, dry finish.  This wine is a bit high in alcohol at 16%, but you'd never know it from the aroma or taste (I suppose that can be a good thing!).

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 7.5.  I'll be the first to admit that on the first taste I wasn't very impressed, but as the wine breathed a bit, it got its footing and was quite nice, and a good value as I think I bought this at World Market for about $9.  And tonight I'm having this with my favorite classic chorizo and frijole tacos, ole!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

2008 Starmont Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Well, I think I'm finally getting over this cold or some sort of virus, at least I am well enough to drink a little wine again!  So tonight I've opened a bottle of 2008 Starmont Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with dinner.  I think I've had this before, though you never know, and I know I have a few bottles of it in the cellar, so why not enjoy one?

The color is a deep ruby in the glass that gets progressively brighter towards the edges.  The nose is a delightful combination of anise, tobacco, cedar and ripe berries with a bit of sweetness.  The taste is a bit of ripe fruit at first blush that quickly evolves into rich leather and dark chocolate notes midpalate.  The tannins are nicely structured for a rounded, velvety mouthfeel and a wonderfully long, dry finish.  This is the full package for a wonderful wine to sip all through a lazy afternoon, it makes me wish I'd opened this one earlier!

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8.5, a wonderful Napa Valley Cabernet that I bought for an even more wonderful price of just $18 at  Tonight I am enjoying this one with a cajun crusted cod filet, served with some orzo with Parmesan and freshly steamed wax beans (have I mentioned there is a young lady I work with who had no idea what wax beans were?  young people today really frighten me sometimes!).  And yes, I know cod and Cabernet is an unconventional combination, but when have I ever given the impression of conventionality?

Friday, January 25, 2013

A wonderful Italian dinner!

Recently I had the pleasure of discovering a wonderful Italian eatery not very far from my home, of course I knew it was there, but I had no idea how good the food was!  The little gem is called Flo's Pizzaria Ristorante and Sports Bar, and I think it's the last part that threw me off.  Now to be fair, I had known about this place but had never been in, until I found out that one of my students from last semester's Finance Ethics class that I teach at Grand Valley State University was an owner of this place.  So, given I didn't want to have a conflict of interest, I told him I'd come out for dinner after the semester is over (you know how easy it is to bribe ethics professors with food right?) and recently I had the pleasure of dining in Belmont.

Now to be fair, we enjoyed a few items that were not regularly on the menu, but quite a few are there everyday, so for any local folks that would like a nice, tasty Italian dinner you can enjoy anytime, this is a great place.  We started with an eggplant parmigiana appetizer that was simply delicious, perfectly cooked (i.e. no bitterness in the eggplant) with lovely breading that offered great texture contrasts.  Then we had the main course, which was really four courses in one, sort of an Italian sampler that included Spitini alla Siciliana that was basically a beef tenderloin, sliced super thin, tenderized, then coated with a layer of breadcrumbs, ham and cheese (a secret family recipe) and rolled up and grilled.  I expected it to be very dry, but it was moist, and the flavors of the wood grill on the beef were outstanding.  Next was the classic Italian sausage and peppers (on the menu every night!) that they make themselves, and the seasoning was just perfect.  Trust me, having lived in New York with many close Italian friends, this is the real deal!

Oh yes, then there was the wine.  Davide Ucello, my student and the proprietor honored me with two bottles of wine that was produced by his uncle in the town where he was born, Partinico in Sicily.  The first was the 2006 Honoris Causa, a blend of Nero D'Avola (75%) and Syrah (25%).  This wine had wonderful aromas of black currant, ripe plum and leather, with just the faintest hint of anise. The taste was marvelously fruit forward, with ripe berries and a jammy like fruit, which gave way to a wonderful spiciness midpalate.  The finish was quite dry and long, with well structured tannins that supported the velvety finish.  Overall that would be an 8.5 in my book, even though I have no idea where I could get more!

Now back to dinner, on that platter of deliciousness, we also had some wonderful baked manicotti, stuffed with spinach and beef, it was all at once rich and fresh as the spinach was a nice counterbalance to the richness of the beef and sauces.  This one was Davide's mother's recipe and it was fabulous!  Finally, we had some fettuccine with Italian Gorgonzola sauce (this one is also on the menu everyday) which was simply delicious but deceiving, since it looks like plain boring fettuccine Alfredo, but once you taste it, the Gorgonzola blows you away!

Then of course there was the second bottle of wine, which I honestly can't tell you much about from the label.  The 2008 V90 Vinovantarossosicilia, which from what I've been able to find is a blend of Nero D'Avola (85%) and Merlot (15%).  This one is similar to the Honoris Causa, but the addition of the Merlot to the blend adds something quite different.  This one appears to be a somewhat lighter body, and the nose presents some lovely red fruit and floral notes, and a good bit of sweetness.  The taste is very fruity, with a lot of ripe blackberry and plum that transitions to a somewhat woodsy blend of earthy flavors midpalate.  The finish is quite nice, very rounded, almost voluptuous, with nicely balanced tannins to support the bright fruit.  Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8, as I just liked the first bottle a bit more.  The crazy thing is that these wines are quite good in their own right, but they aren't on the menu at Flo's!  We will have to do something about that.

So if you are in the Grand Rapids area and are looking for a nice Italian dinner, or just someplace to grab a pizza and watch the game, I can't recommend Flo's Pizzaria Ristorante and Sports Bar in Belmont more!  In fact, for you locals, I mentioned to Davide that I planned to try my best to make it up for dinner at least once a month, so on the third Saturday of every month I plan to be there.  Let's make it an event!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

2010 Borsao Garnacha

So tonight I had the pleasure of dining out at the Spain Restaurant in Tampa and overall it was a wonderful dinner along with a few glasses of 2010 Borsao Garnacha!

The wine was quite nice, very fruit forward with aromas of leather, ripe berries and tar. The taste was quite nice, with plenty of fruit up front, but the tight tannins made for a wonderful finish.

On the recommendation of Pablo, my Ecuadorian server, I enjoyed this wine with the Bistecca Santiago, a lovely braised beef tenderloin with chorizo, peppers, onions, mushrooms and a delicious sauce that really balanced the fruit of the wine. I would rate this one a solid 7.5 if not for the wine for the evening as a whole!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2001 Burgess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Tonight I am just in the mood for a nice glass of Cabernet, forget the pairings and all the rest, I just want to relax!  So I've decided to open a bottle of 2001 Burgess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, after all how can you go wrong with a Cab that's had over a decade to mature?  Now to be fair, this is somewhat of a delayed vertical tasting since I had a bottle of the 2000 Burgess Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at the beginning of December, so let's see how the younger stacks up.

The wine has a deep violet color, with a good bit of opacity, and a brighter ruby along the edges.  The nose is an interesting combination of leather, ripe plum bordering on prune, mint and an earthy, barnyard sort of smell.  The taste is very fruit forward, with a burst of ripe cherries and blackberries that settle into some cedar and Asian spices midpalate.  The tannins are very supple, giving this wine a round mouthfeel, and providing for a long, structured finish.

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8, it's not quite as nice as I remember its older sibling, but still a heck of a nice Cabernet after a dozen years.  Tonight I am pairing this wine with some instant Indian food of all things!  I bought a package of Bombay potatoes from the World Market a few weeks ago, so I figured I doctor those up with a little more spice and some fresh veggies, and put it over some steamed basmati rice, for a quick, east dinner on a night I really don't feel like cooking!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

2005 Chateau de Camensac Haut-Medoc

So yesterday I received my 2012 State Tax forms in the mail, and that made me think of this wine.  No, I don't have anything against this wine or chateau, but it was a gift last year from my friend Chea for helping her do her taxes.  And since tax time is coming up again, I thought I should crack open this bottle and enjoy it!  For those of you who know me, I am a big fan of Bordeaux, and in fact I learned to like red wine in Paris back in the mid-1990s, and one of my favorite Bordeaux was the Haut-Medoc (I think I brought back like 5 bottles in my carry-on bag!) so you can imagine I've been looking forward to this one.

This wine has a wonderful deep purple color at the center, edging out to bright ruby.  The nose is just what you would expect from a well crafted Haut-Medoc, rich aromas of leather, mint, a touch of cedar and dried flowers.  The taste is somewhat fruit forward, with muted flavors of cassis and berry that transitions to a bit of sour cherry and some black pepper spice midpalate.  The tannins are soft and well rounded, making for a classic, bone dry finish.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8.5, it's a little more expensive, but well worth it!  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a rare New York strip, with some Danish bleu cheese crumbles melted over the top, along with a baked potato and some steamed broccoli, a classic steak house dinner done at home.  The wine paired very nicely with this meal, as the flavors stood up well to the red meat, but the dry finish really played well with the rich flavors of the Danish bleu.  And now I need a nap!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2007 Salinas Monastrell

Tonight I've returned to Spain for a wine selection to go with my dinner, so I've landed on the 2007 Salinas Monastrell, from the Alicante region of Spain.  Now for those of you unfamiliar, Monastrell is more commonly known by its French name, Mourvedre, the third component of the ever popular "GSM" blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.  It's somewhat unusual to find bottles of Mourvedre, but Spain has made it a much more popular option under the Monastrell moniker.

This wine is an inky purple toward the center of the glass, that bleeds to a lovely garnet around the edges.  The nose is a nice blend of tart cherry, leather and some earthy notes of forest floor, or as some of my friends would say, a bit of a barnyard smell.  The taste is very interesting, with some notes of tart cherry up front, quickly followed by a lovely combination of oak, truffle and dried herbs.  The finish is quite tannic, but it's also fairly long, making this a rather pleasant sipping wine.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7, not only because I find it pleasant, but it was also a super value!  I bought this one on clearance at my local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's for only $3.50, so how could I complain?  Tonight I am pairing this with a rather interesting dinner of Swai fillet baked with butter, lemon and fresh dill, a baked potato and some steamed broccoli, and the somewhat tannic nature of this wine really amplifies the acidity of the lemon and aromatics of the dill.  You wouldn't think it would work, but it really does!

Friday, January 11, 2013

2010 Santa Alicia Reserva Cabernet Savignon

Ah, it's good to reach the end of a long week, and what a perfect way to end the week by opening a nice bottle of wine!  Tonight I am enjoying a nice Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley of Chile, the 2010 Santa Alicia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon.  This is the second bottle of Chilean wine I've had this month, and I must say I haven't been disappointed.

The color of this wine is a deep purple at the center, easing to a bright ruby along the edges.  The nose is quite interesting, with aromas of ripe plum and blackberry intermingled with oak, spice and a grassy smell that creates an odd complexity.  The taste is quite fruit forward, with ripe berry flavors that quickly give way to some tar, tobacco and spice midpalate.  The finish of this full bodied wine is quite lush, with firm tannins providing just the right bit of tartness to balance the full mouthfeel.  This is a very nice Cabernet that will likely not benefit from much more age, and is drinking quite nicely right now.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7.5, as it's a nice wine, and a terrific value at under $10!  I bought this bottle in a "mystery 6-pack" of wines from, so I'm not sure the exact price, but all 6 bottles were $50 I think.  Tonight I am pairing this with Sandmann's barbecue, which has recently returned to the Grand Rapids dining scene (being from the south side of Chicago, I love me some barbecue and Sandmann's is the real deal!), so I am having some rib tips, biscuits and cole slaw, and the nicely structured finish of this wine makes it a great pairing to the sweet and spicy sauce on my rib tips, YUM!

Monday, January 7, 2013

2011 Terra Andina Cabernet Sauvignon

Tonight I am enjoying a nice, easy going wine from Chile, the 2011 Terra Andina Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine with a label that screams enjoy wine!  This is a bold Cabernet, and based on the label, one that should be enjoyed despite it's youth, perhaps best exemplified by my favorite statement on the label, "Terra Andina wines are meant to be enjoyed, not collected."  Words that are true of any wine, not just this one!

The wine itself has a deep ruby color, and a nose that is somewhat unusual for a Cabernet, with aromas of ripe berry, leather, rosemary and chive (chive on eh?), with a bit of musty, earthiness as well.  The taste is quite fruity upfront, with ripe plum, black currant and a sweet, jamminess that transitions to some lovely spice notes midpalate.  The tannins are soft, as is the finish, which seems a little lackluster, but pleasant.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7 as it's a decent, everyday wine and a terrific value, this was out monthly Wine Club January selection that I bought from for only $7!  Tonight I am pairing this wine with some hot Italian sausage with onions and peppers, and a little linguine tossed with garlic and olive oil, a nice Italian meal paired with a Chilean wine!  Salut!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

1999 L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Merlot

It's the first Saturday of the month, so you know what that means!  It's Cellar Saturday, that wonderful day when I reach back into the cellar for a wonderful, usually older bottle of wine to enjoy!  So tonight's adventure is an older bottle, but ironically one that's only been in my cellar since last May when I visited the winery on my trip to Walla Walla, the 1999 L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Merlot!

The wine is a lovely deep ruby in the glass, and the nose presents a lovely combination of anise, tart cherry and fresh herbs.  The taste has a bit if ripe fruit up front that quickly transitions to some wonderful raspberry notes along with some dusty mushroom and earthy notes midpalate.  The finish is very subdued, with some soft tannins supporting a lovely combination of chalky spice and dark chocolate.

Overall, I would rate this one a solid 8.5, a solid Merlot that's just drinking wonderfully right now, and a decent value, since I think I bought this one for maybe $35?  Don't hold me to that!  Tonight I am pairing this with a wonderful Northwest dinner of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, baked with a lovely glaze of honey, butter and fresh dill, served with a baked potato and some lovely green beans almondine.  This reminds me of many wonderful dinners I enjoyed when living in Portland and Seattle from 1999 through 2004, when this wine was a new release!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2008 Cantina del Grifone 1967 Toscana

Tonight I need to relax!  I've returned to work which is always a challenge after being out for more than a week for the holidays.  Why is it that holidays are always so much work?  I long for the days when I was a kid and it was all waiting, then opening presents, eating till your heart's content and then someone else was there to clean up the mess!  At any rate, tonight I am enjoying a nice little bottle of Tuscan wine that I picked up at Trader Joe's over said holiday break, the 2008 Cantina del Grifone 1967 Toscana, a nice blend of Sangiovese (85%), Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) and Syrah (5%).

The wine is a very nice, rich ruby color in the glass, exhibiting the proper characteristics of a Sangiovese blend.  The nose just starts speaking Italian to me, scents of anise, oak, and the spice section of my local Italian market (so what would that be, perhaps some oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme?).  The taste is fairly smooth and well balanced, nothing that makes your heart skip a beat, some ripe fruit on the front end, intermingled with some floral notes leading to a hint of tart cherry midpalate, and a smooth dry finish with a bit of cocoa powder.

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 7, not because it was such a spectacular wine, but because it was just a fantastic value at only $6!  Trader Joe's has a lot of wines in this price range, and I find many of them to be worth considerably less, but this one is a new favorite!  Tonight I am pairing it with a bit of linguine with some homemade red sauce, the perfect accompaniment to a nice value Tuscan red!  Cin cin!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2010 Espelt Old Vines Garnacha

To start the new year, I've decided to make a new dish and try it with a new wine!  So tonight I am enjoying a Spanish wine (lately I've come to really appreciate the breadth of the wines Spain has to offer), the 2010 Espelt Old Vines Garnacha, a lovely Spanish take on Grenache, a wine I've also taken quite a shine to over the last few months.  This particular wine hails from the Emporda region in the northeastern corner of Catalonia, a place where wine was rumored to be introduced by the Phoenicians in the 5th Century BC.

This particular wine has a very dark, brooding color in the glass, a bit unusual for a Garnacha which in my experience tends to be a bit lighter. The nose over very pleasant, with notes of ripe berries, smoke and the faintest hint of woodsy earthiness.  The taste is a burst of ripe fruit at the outset, ripe berries and plums, that quickly transition to some floral notes intermingled with spice that really makes this wine interesting.  The youthful tannins play nicely for a long, smooth finish (we're talking 30+ seconds here!).

Overall, I would rate this wine a solid 8, it's a wonderfully complex wine that's drinking well now, and it was a tremendous value at under $11 at my local wine merchant, G.B. Russo's.  Tonight I am enjoying this wine with a meal that's somewhat off the beaten path.  Recently, I was at my butcher and he had a lovely looking tied pork roast that was on sale, so I decided to buy one, even though I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  So over the course of time I decided to sautee some aromatic vegetables, onions, peppers, celery, carrots, garlic and turnip in some olive oil, while browning the roast.  After the roast was browned I put it in a slow cooker.  After the vegetables began to caramelize I poured in about a half bottle of basic dry red wine, and then let the alcohol burn off for a few minutes.  I put that mixture in with the roast, and then added 2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes (if you use regular plum tomatoes, make sure to add a bit of sugar to make up for the sweetness of the San Marzano tomatoes).  I added some fresh oregano and let that simmer all day long.  About an hour before finishing I added some fresh basil to the mixture and in the end, I had a lovely roast pork, perhaps the most tender, fall apart roast I've made, and a wonderful sauce to put over it.  Now tonight I served this over white rice, but it would be perfect with orzo, or even some smaller pastas like orecchiette.  Delicious!