Monday, July 31, 2006

Antichi Vignetti di Cantalupo Agamium Colline Novaresi 2003

Stephanie and I were enjoying the first couple episodes of Friends on TBS, and we decided to pair Joey's long hair, Rachel's old nose, and a lot of high-waisted pants with this bottle of obscure Piedmont wine. On the side, we had grilled pork chops and asparagus and some of the best fennel and mushroom risotto I've ever had.

Colline Novaresi is located north of Piedmont in the northwestern corner of Italy. The primary grape varietal is nebbiolo, famous for its role in Barolo and Barbaresco, but here it's known as Spanna. It's a medium-bodied red wine, with moderate oak and raspberry and blueberry notes on the aroma. Stephanie detected a bit of ash on the palate, and I found it to resemble the slightly citrusy character of a Rhone wine. I'd recommend it with red sauces, pork, chicken, and veal.

Be the first on your block to try a bottle.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Chateau Rives-Blanques Chenin Blanc Dedicace Limoux 2003

It's summer and it's very hot in Chicago, so I should be grilling, but I just can't stop purchasing fun cuts of meat to braise (that, and my grill isn't working). Tonight we had braised veal breast with white beans, carrots, and rosemary. The breast isn't terribly popular these days, but it's inexpensive and delicious. It has plenty of rich meat, some fat, and great bones for gelatinizing sauces.

To match I chose this Chenin Blanc from Southern France. Regular readers know how much I enjoy chenin, and I jumped at the chance to taste one from outside its normal French home (the Loire Valley). This was a very nice wine - dry, but with a certain roundness probably due to the intensely hot 2003 vintage. There's an aroma of wet dog, but once you get past it, the wine offers a nice mix of herb, grass, and melon notes. I'd prefer more acidity to increase its food-friendliness, but I guess it can't be helped in years like '03.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Bastille Day Eve Dinner

Les Bleus may have lost the World Cup final, but we were still in enough of a Francophillic mood to celebrate Bastille Day Eve last night with a four-course dinner. It was, in fact, something of a Cask 79 reunion dinner as we were joined by co-blogger Jonathan, our first guest diner at the new house.

Dinner began with Stephanie leading the group in a rousing chorus of "Chant de guerre de l'Armée du Rhin," aka La Marseillaise. After the singing, we sat down to a course that I have been hoping to make for some time: Roasted Marrow Bones with Parsley Salad. The bones are soaked overnight in cold water, then dried and roasted for 20 minutes in the oven. The gooey marrow is then scooped onto toast with a bit of parsley salad. After debating with Charlie over what to serve with course, I chose a bottle of Henriot Champagne Souverain NV, hoping its acidity would cut the richness of the marrow. It did just that, and it even nicely matched the shrimp Stephanie grilled in lieu of the marrow.

The second course was a hearty lentil soup garnished with lardons and lavender. The lavender added pleasant flavor in addition to clarifying the French theme of the dinner. The main course consisted of grilled quails served over mashed red-skinned potatoes with creamers full of collard-green sauce on the side. I had prepared the collard sauce once before and again found it worked excellently with the gamy quail. The quail, and the soup before it, were paired with 2002 Volnay-Santenots 1er Cru from Thierry et Pascale Matrot. I love the values offered by pinot noirs from the Cotes du Beaune in southern Burgundy, and this one was no exception. It was only medium-bodied, but its red-fruit flavors, silky tannins, and background acidity made for a delicious gustatory chord. Like some of the others wines we've tasted recently, this one promised to confirm my belief that even medium-bodied wines can age exceptionally well.

Dinner was capped off with a wedge of Roquefort and a half-bottle of Carmes de Rieussec Sauternes 2003, the second wine of the famous Chateau Rieussec. It was rather light-bodied and not terribly sweet, but it showed hints of botrytis and nice acidity. This is one to drink early and often.

Someone then suggested that we storm something; I believe I recommended the National Guard building around the corner; but the mood passed and we finished the wine. Vive la France!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nicholas Joly Savennieres Clos de la Bergerie 1997

I had some time to kill before picking up my folks today, so I dropped by the House of Glunz on Wells Street. Every time I visit I marvel over the complete vertical of Nicholas Joly Savennieres Coulee de Serrant that they have dating back to 1992. When I have $1000 to blow on wine, these will be the first that I buy.

I love the chenin blanc grown in France's Savennieres appellation in the Loire Valley. For my money they are the best dry white wines available anywhere. Joly's Clos de la Bergerie is less exalted than the $80 Coulee de Serrant, but it is absolutely fanatastic. Joly practices biodynamic farming throughout his vineyards, and the corks tend to be covered in mold. But the wines are intensely flavored and perfectly structured, showing ripe fruit and bracing acidity. At nine years old, this wine was glorious and clearly improved the flavor of some rather middling pork chops. Even in the empty glass I can smell the lingering melon, honeysuckle, and peach notes. It could certainly last for another decade - unfortunately it was Glunz's last bottle.

Some Lovely Values from the New House

We have been settling down on Hirsch Street this week and have enjoyed a series of delightful wines that I thought I'd put together in a single blog post.

First, I discovered a bottle of Chateau Haut Batailley 1999 from Bordeaux's famed Pauillac region on sale recently. We had it with the left over leg of lamb, this time served with a cucumber and wild mint sauce. At seven years old it was beginning to show some maturity. And while it lacked a long and intriguing finish, it performed admirably for a classified growth Bordeaux priced at only $16. The wines from '99 are worth seeking out; they're considerably cheaper and earlier-drinking than those from 1998 and 2000.

The following evening we drank another older $16-bottle, this time a Bodegas LAN Rioja Gran Riserva 1996. Made entirely of tempranillo grapes and smelling decidedly of black truffles, this medium-bodied wine proves that ageworthy wines don't have to be enormously ripe and extracted. I have since forgotten what we ate with it, but the wine an incredible value, perfect for game.

Breaking from these hoary bottles I took at stab at a bottle of Carmenere from Apaltagua in Chile's Colchagua Valley. Carmenere was originally a Bordeaux varietal that was transplanted in Chile and mistaken for Merlot in the 19th century. After the phylloxera attacks in France earlier in this century, it was not replanted in Bordeaux and was thought to be lost until grape geneticists discovered in growing in Chile. Carmenere is noted for its often overwhelming bell pepper aromas and flavors, and while this wine was unmistakably Carmenere, it managed to combine the earthiness of the peppers with some ripe fruit and a well-toned finish. At $12, this proved to be a remarkably food-friendly and well-balanced wine.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cos d'Estournel St. Estephe 1995

Stephanie and I just closed on our first home purchase, and to celebrate our ascension into the ranks of the landed gentry we selected a bottle of that most gentrified of wines, classified growth Bordeaux. Among a number of worthy contenders from the mid-1990s, we selected the Cos d'Estournel 1995 from the St. Estephe region on Bordeaux's left bank. Along with Ch. Montrose, "Cos," as it is known, was the highest ranking property in St. Estephe according to the 1855 classification (Deuxièmes Crus). To accompany such a noble wine, I roasted a whole leg of lamb (just for the two of us), and Stephanie prepared a delicious side dish of potato gratin.

The wine was bold, but not so big that it obscured the flavors of the lamb. At just over 10 years old, it struck a nice balance between lingering fruit and emerging maturity. The black currant notes folded over earth, lead, and fine tannins to create a wine of extraordinary depth and lasting pleasure. Like many other 95s, the Cos was just reaching the point where it wouldn't be considered totally inappopriate to begin drinking it, but its backbone of tannins, acidity, and forthcoming maturity indicates that it will offer many more years of enjoyable drinking.

Perhaps I'll buy another bottle to save for when we sell the house.