Saturday, June 26, 2010

Live blogging red wine 1-12

For those who may not know what I am doing: this is the speed dating of wine tasting. 3 minutes per wine for the winemaker to charm us.

Nicholas Cole 05 Camille Bordeaux style 45% merlot 28% cab franc 25% cab sauv 1% petite verdot
This is their current release 14.6% alcohol 500 cases $35 Natl distribution Founded 2001 Merlot sourced from Canoe Ridge, other grapes and wines are estate. 41 acres planted. All hand harvested, min irrigation. Sustainable practices. 1150-1275 elevation. Whole berry fermentation. Free run juice. All french oak, new and neutral 65% on the Camille. Native yeast secondary, hopes to use for both eventually.

Spofford Station 04 Cab Sauv This is the current release. Holds 4 years in barrel. 14.9% Neutral French and American Oak. 90 points from Paul Gregutt. Lynne Chamberlain grows grapes and makes wine. $36. Uses her cab skins to feed the cattle, called Cabernet cows.

Castello Banfi 07 Belnero 82% Sangiovese, also some cab, syrah and merlot 13-14% alcohol $39 New wine, this is the second vintage Horizon project: fermenter is part stainless, part wood. Can adjust wood easily.

Monthaven 07 Cabernet Sauv. 3 liter package: Octavin bag in a box 13.9% alcohol $23.99

Dark Lady 09 Pinotage Doolhof Wine Estate 13.5% alcohol South African Imported by Worthwhile Wine Co. Bio-wine initiative -reverting grapes to native fauna and flora. Aged in toasted oak, lots of mocha and chocolate.Worthwhile brings in 18 different producers, 4 pinotages. $19.

07 House red blend Magnificent Wine Co @magnificentwine Walla Walla 7 grape blend cab sauv 32% syrah 31% merlot 30% 50,000 cases $13. All negociant grapes, all Columbia Valley

Ortman from Paso Robles 08 Sangiovese 100% Sangio $20 13.8% alcohol 2nd generation, Matt Ortman is the winemaker, they buy the fruit. 500 cases. Goal is balance, fruit as focus, varietal characteristics. Hand picked, de-stemmed, punch down open top. 1 year old barrels and older, all french oak.

06 Louis M Martini lot 1 Cab 15.48% Napa wine. 1000 cases $120 retail One of these things is not like the other. This one sure stands out. Goal is approachable yet can last. Hand harvested, vibrating sorting table, submerged cap and then punchdown. Nationally available in top accounts.

07 Isenhower Cellars Cab Columbia Valley fruit, winery in Walla Walla 14.5% alcohol 325 cases, $28 retail Only sells direct. Only de-stem do not crush cold soak 3 days. Only free run. 50% new french oak.

08 The Crusher Petite Sirah 13.5% alcohol, CA Delta 10,000 cases, $12 Reverse osmosis to cut down on alcohol. Ripe blackberry fruit.

Desert Wind 08 Ruah 46% merlot, 40% cab sauv, 14% cab franc Columbia Valley 14.5% alcohol $20 10,000 cases 60% american oak 40% french. Greg Fries winemaker. 92% estate grown.

The final wine:
Duckpond 08 Red Blend 52% merlot, 29% syrah, 19% cab sauv 14.5% alcohol Oregon based winery but these grapes are from Washington. 13 months French and American oak. $15. 2500 cases, this is their second vintage of this wine.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Whites wines live blogging wines 7-14

08 Jordan Russian River Chardonnay $25 100% french oak, half new 28% malolactic, they have been reducing that number each year. 13.3% alcohol. Wines to compliment the table. Not overwhelm but work well with foods.

aMaurice Cellars Walla Walla 08 Columbia Valley Viognier They make 7 wines. 3 whites, 4 reds. 14.5% alcohol 314 cases made. Whole cluster pressed 100% french oak min 2 years old. Some more sweetness than the last viognier.

Cadaretta Sauv Blanc 79% 21% semillon 3000 cases est 2005 first crush 2006 14.1% alcohol $23 dist 20 states. No wine club.

Le Chateau 08 Chardonnay Walla Walla $25 50% new oak 50% 2 year oak 13.6% alcohol 150 cases made Bruno Corneaux consulting winemaker, Tim Donahue winemaker

The 09 Crusher rose of pinot noir 13.8% alcohol saignee style made in Clarksburg, Sac delta 1400 cases $12 48 hours added viognier and cofermented 13% viognier "Red wine drinkers rose"

Cornerstone 09 Sauv Blanc Single Vineyard St Helena 13.9% alcohol 700 cases $25 1/2 wines sold direct to wine clubs Made in "Napa Valley style"

08 Concannon Chardonnay Livermore 6000 cases 13.5% alcohol $15 New conservancy program, old school winemaking practices, conserve the land Have given away land rights never, must remain agriculture always. Med toast 100% new oak. Full malolactic.

Live Blogging whites wines 1-6

Dusted Valley 09 Rambling Rose rose14% alcohol 52% mourvedre 29% cuonoise 16% syrah remainder viognier They make two brands Boomtown and Dusted Valley 15 wines from Dusted valley 5-6 wines from Boomtown Nice wine for a 90 degree day in Walla Walla 16 hours maceration bin 166 South African yeast 273 cases $18 retail dist mainly tasting room PNW

DeLille Cellars 08 Chaleur Estate Blanc 62% Sauv Blanc 38% Semillon they also make Doyenne Rhone style wines. This Chaleur is Bordeaux style hand pick, small batches, chill, whole berry press, free run into barrels --60% new french oak, stay in barrel 3-4 months Alcohol 13.9% 2000 cases $34

08 Duck Pond Pinot Gris $15 99.5% stainless steel fermented Alcohol 13.5% Willamette Valley 12-15,000 cases Jory clay soil, red clay.

Centine Bianco from Banfi Tuscany 30% chard, 40% sauv blanc and 30% pinot grigio $10-11
Non native grapes for the region. New oak.

Kung Fu riesling Charles Smith Single vineyard 1.5% residual sugar $12 25,000 cases national distribution
K vintner 09 viognier Single vineyard, 800 cases $22 bio-dynamically farmed no new oak Nice new world viognier

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Strawberry Balasmic Black Pepper Jam

This is a very easy recipe. The key, of course, is to use the best possible strawberries.I bought mine as an add on to my mystery box from Mariquita Farms. I advise experimenting with the amount of both the balsamic and the pepper. Our goal was to keep the jam child friendly.

We made two batches. I'll include details for both below.

To start slice and crush 1 flat strawberries, large berries hulled. Keep in mind that the more crushed your berries are before beginning the less chunky your end product will be. If I were making this for myself I would prefer larger chunks but as I knew this jam had a future on almond butter sandwiches for K we mashed aggressively.

Batch one
12 cups mashed berries
6 cups sugar
6 tsp pectin powder (We used Pomona Pectin)
6 t calcium water (calcium water+ 1/2 t calcium powder and 1/2 cup water, shake and store in fridge)
6 T balsamic
1 t black pepper, finely ground

Batch two
8 cups berries
4 cups sugar
4 t pectin
4 t calcium water (see above)
5 T balsamic
1 t black pepper

Bring sliced and mashed berries along with calcium water to a boil in a large sauce pan. Combine sugar and pectin and add to boiling fruit. Stir vigorously for 2 minutes to dissolve pectin. Return to a boil and continue cooking until fruit begins to jell. Remove from heat, add balsamic and black pepper. Fill jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Note: I sent some of this to one of my authors. He reports that his wife enjoyed it with: Apple-Gouda sausages and Binkert’s Weisswurst.
Seems like an odd pairing to me but perhaps I'll try it someday.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Farnum Hill Ciders

A little while back I was lucky enough to receive three samples from Farnum Hill. I put them in the fridge to chill, got busy and promptly forgot about them. This past weekend, looking for something to drink while watching the NBA finals, I found them, waiting, in the back of my fridge.

If I lived closer, I would love to go and visit their orchard. I have family that has an apple orchard, though they do not make cider. The list of apples is intriguing with many I have not heard of before including Hubbardston Nonesuch, Ribston Pippin, Tompkins King. On their site they mention that any fruit that they have, you are welcome to taste:

During October more and more rare heirloom apples, surprising in flavor, shape and color, come in for tasting and sale. In the farm-stand you’ll find a big free tasting array with some historical information on each variety. While waiting for time travel, try biting into fruits that distant forebears ate, in the Old World and the New. Take home apples enjoyed by Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and even Louis XIV!

Now onto the cider. First the disclaimer: I am not a cider expert. I have fond memories of sweet cider from my childhood. I far too frequently lament the lack of that cider on the West Coast. My introduction to alcoholic cider came later as a teenager spending a summer in Ireland. I could say that since that time I had tasted and studied ciders around the world, but I'd be lying. To be honest, they are something I have wanted to know more about but they've remained on that list of things to do when I had more time.

The three ciders I sampled were:

Extra Dry: The first I tried. Pale gold, bubbly and dry. I loved the fruit flavors on the nose and their balance with the acid. From their site: Richly aromatic, suggesting myriad fruits of the earth, and the earth itself, with a complex, palate-cleansing balance of fruit, astringency, and acid. Made, like Semi-Dry, from a range of late-harvest, difficult apple varieties. Alcohol content 7.5% by volume. The leftovers made for an fun variation on short ribs braised in beer.

Farnum Hill Semi-Dry Cider: This was my friend's favorite. Bubbly with a fragrant nose. From their site: Golden, gently bubbly, with a delicious array of tropic fruits, citrus, and mysterious aromatic notes in the nose and on the palate. Our Semi-Dry cider is much less sweet than semi-dry champagnes. We use that much-abused word “dry” in a literal-minded way, striving to balance the faintest sweetness against sharpness, astringency, and fruit (which is different from sweet). Alcohol content 7.4% by volume.

Farnum Hill ‘Farmhouse’:
Pale gold and bubbly, with some sweetness Their site says: "Citrus, pineapple, bittersweet apple, and a trace of the barn. Farmhouse astringency is nowhere near the extreme, but shows a certain tannic edge. Alcohol content 6.5% by volume.

These ciders are not always easy to find so check out the link on their website :
If you are able to visit they are at:
Poverty Lane Orchards & Farnum Hill Ciders
98 Poverty Lane
Lebanon, New Hampshire 03766
Office: (603) 448-1511

Saturday, June 5, 2010

World Cup of Wine @ Solano Cellars

I know this may surprise any regular readers, but in this post I am going to talk about wine. Don't worry though, in a couple of days I'll be back to canning recipes and whoopie pies.

Tonight I attended the second in a series of tastings that Solano cellars and their associated stores are hosting in honor of the World Cup. As their website states:

A friendly competition between wine-growing regions
from around the world. We're putting reputations aside
and letting you decide in a fun and exciting

Each week, we'll be hosting a variety of tastings
where one can sample the best wines each region
has to offer. At the end, you vote and the winning
country and the best wines move on.

The others are left to watch from the sidelines.

Tuesday, June 22nd, Quarterfinal 1 at Vintage Berkeley Vine Street
Thursday, June 24th, Quarterfinal 2 at Vintage Berkeley Elmwood

Tuesday, June 29th, Quarterfinal 3 at Solano Cellars
Thursday, July 1st, Quarterfinal 4 at Vintage Berkeley Elmwood

Tuesday, July 8th, Semifinal 1 at Vintage Berkeley Vine Street
Thursday, July 10th, Semifinal 2 at Solano Cellars

Final: July 15th at Vintage Berkeley Elmwood

I missed the Thursday night France vs. South Africa tasting. News that it was close made me wonder about the wines served. Curious, despite spending the day tasting at Tapas in the city, I napped and headed over for Portugal vs Australia. 12 wines were tasted and we were asked to list both our top 3 choices as well as our pick between the 2 countries. My pick: Portugal and it was not even close. My wine of the night was the 09 Soalheiro Alvarinho, which was almost perfect for a warm night in the East Bay. Coming in 2nd for me was the 06 Cabriz Reserva Dao blend. Third was the Hewitson "Miss Harry" an Australian wine from the Barossa Valley.

What is interesting to think about though is how and if one can judge a country versus another based on 12 wines. Clearly, we all have our biases. As the tasting is not blind those come into play. What also comes into play, of course, is the wines selected for the tasting. I'm hoping that once the competition ends, they will release a list of all of the wines that competed. I am confident that an effort has been made to choose wines that are representative of the countries or regions involved, but also think it would be easy to "fix the competition" depending upon selections. That said, here are my picks for the remainder of the tournament. Note that given my history with the NCAA tournament, a wise soul would pick against me. Also note that I have generally chosen the countries I would like to have win rather than those that I expect to win.

France v South Africa: Winner: France (I did not attend. I find it hard to believe this was close.)
Portugal v Australia: I came in and left thinking Portugal. We shall see what the voters decide.

Spain v Chile Spain
Oregon v Austria This could be an interesting night. Given that it is a Thursday I'll not be there. I'll choose Austria but will not be surprised to see Oregon win.
Germany v New Zealand Germany

Washington v Argentina I'm picking Washington but don't expect them to advance past the next round
California v Hungary I'm going to be really surprised if California does not win. I'm also expecting Hungary to surprise some people.
Italy v Croatia Italy and I would guess it is not close.

Which takes us to round 2, picks dependent upon my first round picks
France v Portugal Sorry Portugal. I imagine the pinot is not showing that night. France easily.
Washington v Italy Another easy win for Italy.
California v Germany This one hurts. I expect California will win, especially given that this is at Elmwood.
Austria v Spain Austria

Which takes us to the next round:
France v Italy Why are these on the same side of the bracket? Despite the early near upset, I'm going with France. This seems like the night not to miss. Given, of course, they both make it out of the earlier rounds.
California v Austria: This is why I lose the NCAA tournament pools every year. It comes down to heart versus mind. Maybe Jason could fix this round for me? I expect California to win.

Which takes us to the final showdown:
France v California
My pick, France. Thus essentially guaranteeing a wine for California.

Be sure to follow along to see exactly how wrong my picks are. If you can, head out one night and vote!

And just in case anyone is curious, despite my vow to buy no more wine, I came home with 4 bottles, most not from the tasting:
09 Soalheiro Alvarinho (my favorite of the night)
08 Cornica Malvasia
07 Coenobium Rusticum Bianco
89 Pinon Vouvray

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mr & Mrs Miscelaneous

Some of you know that I eat ice cream often. It is not so much that I love ice cream, but that K does. I admit that all things being equal, I will choose salt over sugar at least 75% of the time. But when you have a child, you eat ice cream. Unless, I suppose, you are one of those anti-sugar parents. Clearly, if you read this blog you know that I am not anti sugar. I'm anti junk food, but a scoop of good ice cream as a weekly or bi-weekly treat is worth every extra workout minute.

Luckily for K, there is very good ice cream available in the Bay Area. Her first love was Sketch on 4th street in Berkeley. Ruthie and Eric saw her rather often as we went through that first year of preschool and my transition back to work. They offered her her first marshmallow and laughed with me as she cried, because she reacts poorly to new foods. I think in the couple of years that we were regulars, K never ordered anything besides vanilla. Personally, I still miss the fruit flavors and the simply amazing hot chocolate.

After we moved to the city we tried Bi-rite, Humphry Slocombe, Three Twins and of course Mitchells. All had there plusses and minuses. Bi-rite has my beloved salted caramel, usually had some cookies and cream type favor for K but also features long lines and difficult parking. Humphry Slocombe's flavors were a bit exotic for K and my favorite of their flavors, afterschool special is not available at the store. We both liked Three Twins but their limited flavor options and distance from home and school meant that we go rarely. Which means that by default Mitchells is our ice cream store of choice. Two blocks from our apartment, it has K's beloved cookies and cream, always with sprinkles. I'm quite fond of the seasonally available pumpkin. But, when the pumpkin window ends, I have trouble selecting a flavor that truly excites me. Also, on the occasional warm day in the Bay Area waits can be awful. We waited 40 minutes one night.

Which brings us to Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous, our new favorite ice cream store. Even though it is across town from home, it is very conveniently located near Piccino where we eat weekly. And, hey, organic. As I've said here before, Piccino is the perfect restaurant for us: food that both K and I enjoy, a good by the glass wine list and wonderful service. I can not say enough good things about it. Our new routine is dinner at Piccino followed by the short walk down the block to Mr and Mrs Miscellaneous. We've been several times now and have been delighted each time. K loves both the chocolate chip and the cookies n cream. She was also delighted to discover today that they will put whipped cream on a cone. On my first visit I tried several flavors including the ballpark: Chocolate, Pretzels, Anchor Steam beer before settling on the chocolate malted featuring the Valrhona crispy chocolate balls K and I fought over last fall. On another visit I liked the pralines and cream. This afternoon, though, I had what is without a doubt my favorite ice cream of the year. Good enough that after finishing my cone, I ordered a pint to go. The flavor is called Old Fashion and features cherries, Makers and almonds. It is good enough that when K suggested we walk with our cones I said no to focus on the ice cream. I can only hope that my bourboned cherries are so good.