Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ridge Geyserville and Lytton Springs - 2 Zins from '04

I roasted a new brand of organic chicken tonight. It was good, but perhaps not worth twice the price of our standard Amish chickens. We located a pair of half bottles from Ridge and decided to do a Zinfandel tasting. These are two of my favorite zinfandels; they are consistently well made. Paul Draper, the owner and winemaker, deserves credit for popularizing zinfandel and exploring its manifold possibilities through single-vineyard bottlings.

The Geyserville is the fuller-bodied of the two, with considerable structure and an oaky, bacony aroma. It's a bit stronger than the Lytton and spends more time in the barrel. Its texture is denser and the flavors tend more towards dark fruits. The Lytton Springs bottling is softer, fruiter, and more accessible. Like the Geyserville its full-bodied and tannic. Both wines are complex, well structured, and the perfect match for game, lamb, and spicy foods.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Domaine Lignéres Notre Dame Corbieres 2002

Having enjoyed the first two wines I tasted from this estate, I decided to purchase the single-vineyard "notre dame" bottling. It is 100% syrah and a few dollars more than the other selections, at $30. I prepared grilled bison strip loin with asparagus and fingerling potatoes roasted with bacon, blue cheese, and sage. The bison was surprisingly moist and tender, and the potatoes were delicious.

The wine is the most dense of the three I've tasted and clearly syrah. Its flavors are round and supple, similar to an Aussie shiraz. Like its companions, it's a little shorter on the finish than I would prefer, perhaps owing to the domaine's preference for fruitiness over acidity. Nonetheless, it is a pleasurable wine and the ideal companion for grilled red meat.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Domaine du Dragon Cuvee Saint-Michel Cotes de Provence 2003

I pan roasted Bell & Evans game hens tonight and served them with oyster mushroom ragout and roasted baby beets and carrots. It was all quite tasty. Particularly so when accompanied by this wine from a dreadfully named domaine. It's a medium-full bodied wine with a deep purple color and a rich integrated finish. I tend to like my wines a little "bigger" than the accompanying dish, and this one was just that. For twelve bucks or so, it's a really nice wine and great wine a variety of dishes.

Congratulations Chef Hugh Acheson

Congratulations are in order for Chef Hugh Acheson of 5&10 restaurant in Athens, Ga. He has been nominated for the award of Best Chef: Southeast by the well-respected James Beard Foundation. (Click here for a list of other nominees, including blog-favorite, Paul Kahan of Blackbird.) Chef Acheson's work in Athens is truly extraordinary, from his selections of raw oysters and cheeses to his interpretations of classic regional dishes. I will always remember the porcini risotto I tasted on my first trip for a Luna wine dinner. Its delicacy is unparalleled. Rarely is such talent found in a metropolis, never mind a college town like Athens. Congratulations Chef!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Domaine Lignéres Cabanon de Pascal Corbiéres 2002

Last week I blogged about the excellent "Aric" from this producer. Tonight I tasted the single-vineyard bottling named "Cabanon de Pascal," named for the vineyard manager not the philosopher. This wine sells for a few dollars less than the Aric but exhibits all of the flavor and depth (although it has no connection to obscure legal historical figures). The aroma is floral and pleasing, leading one to expect a delicate wine. But on the palate, it's expansive and well-structured, showing layers of red-fruit, tannin, and acidity. Lighter bodied and more accessible than its sibling, this wine displays beautiful provençal herb notes and an assertive finish.

We tasted it with grilled flank steak and red potatoes sauteed then roasted in goose fat. They were, without question, the best roasted potatoes I have ever eaten. Stephanie admitted the same, although she didn't know about the goose fat (if she reads this, it may be the last time I make them). The outsides were crusty and golden, and the insides were as delicate and creamy as mashed potatoes. The wine was a lovely match, although perhaps better suited to lamb dishes.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

New Wine in Old Bottles

Eric Asimov has a nice article in the New York Times today on the recent increase of counterfeited or otherwise fraudulent wines. With the escalation of prices for coveted older wines, it is not surprising that some folks have attempted to trick purchasers by counterfeiting labels or refilling wine bottles with inferior wine. In an attempt to determine whether some recently purchased bottles were legitimate, Asimov reports, the buyer invited a number of wine experts to taste samples and give their opinions.

Asimov suggests that concerns about wine fraud are fairly recent, and at least in the narrow circumstances of faking individual bottles of expensive wine, he may be right. (Of course, folks have been passing off counterfeit Cuban cigars to unsuspecting tourists for decades. Check out the excellent collection of counterfeit bands on Cigar Aficionado.) But fraudulent wine has been a problem for a long time. Burgundian winemakers were recently exposed when they used wines from southern France to bulk up their pinot. I am particularly interested, though, in the buyer's decision to convene a panel of experts to sort out the legitimate wines from the frauds. This practice actually has a considerable history itself. Since the 19th century, courts in England and America have admitted testimony by wine experts in cases of alleged fraud. It certainly seems like the kind of subject where an expert could aid the jury in an area outside the competence of most folks. So anxious wine investors of the world, please email me if you'd like my services as attorney or expert.
(For the sake of attorney ethics regulations, the previous sentence was intended as a joke and not as an advertisement for services.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

Domaine Lignéres Aric Corbiéres 2002

We may have found a new house wine. I'm very excited about the possibility.

Last night we drank this charming bottle of wine from France's Mediterranean coast. It's a blend of Carignan (60%), Mourvedre (25%), and Syrah (15%). The Lignéres family owns the property associated with Chateau La Baronne, and they now produce a number a single-vineyard bottlings. (Check out their website. It's fantastic.) The "Aric" is named for the Visigothic king Alaric, for whom the local mountain range is named. I couldn't pass this wine up, knowing how important Alaric II was for European legal history. His 506 A.D. Breviary (also known as the Lex Visigothorum) was a compilation of contemporary Roman law for his Roman subjects in Spain and Gaul. Works like this were valuable in keeping Roman law learning alive after the fall of the western empire.

But naming a wine after an obscure legal figure isn't enough to make it our house wine. It must, of course, taste good. This one certainly did. It showed heady aromas of violets, berries, and oak. It was medium-bodied and delicious to taste. It could have used a longer finish, perhaps with better developed tannin or greater acidity. Although the bright, artistic label (depicting antique winemaking tools) looked more New World than Old, the wine was pure Provence. At $20 a bottle it may be a bit too expensive for a house wine, but it was certainly worth the price and more.