Saturday, June 30, 2012

TdF 2012 The Prologue and Pierre Péters
From LeTour:
"6.4 km in the heart of Liège on the very same course where Fabian Cancellara burst onto the scene in 2004. I guess he wants to perform particularly well, even if just to get even for the bad luck which kept him out of the spring classics... Moreover, I have not forgotten he is the defending champion, having won the most recent prologue in Rotterdam (2010). In 2013, the 100th Tour will start directly with a road stage, just like last year’s, so it goes without saying that prologue specialists should do their best to seize this opportunity."

So we begin with a short time trial around Liege. With television coverage rather than a live feed. And a lot of commercials for the Olympics. And some Liege trivia from LeTour:
192,000 inhabitants•Head of the canton of the Province of Liege (Belgium)
Specialties : Jupiler beer, peket (aperitif), Herve cheese, white pudding, Liege syrup, boulet a la Liegeoise.
Economy : metallurgy, transport, new technologies.
AKA : the Ardent city
Sport : Standard (football). Liege Basket. Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

The stage: Well, as some announcers would say, this is not a day that the Tour was likely to be won or lost. Rather, a 7 minute or so appetizer of sorts to the action to follow in the next three weeks.The predictions were for a close race dominated by the time trial specialists: Fabian Cancellara, Tony Martin, and more than a few others. And at the end of the day, what did we have? Well a Cancellara victory and that is always a happy thing, especially after his early season injury. But also a show of strength from pre-race favorite Bradley Wiggins as he gains 10 seconds on Cadel Evans.

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan 0:07:13  
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:07  
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quickstep    
4 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10  
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:11  
6 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team    
7 Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Argos - Shimano 0:00:12  
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:13  
9 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing Team    
10 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 0:00:15  

Wine: As always, I start with Champagne, this one from the Terry Theise portfolio: N.V. Pierre Péters Champagne Blanc de Blancs Brut Cuvée de Réserve 

From the importer: With Champagne, from the importer becomes a bit more complicated. Why? Disgorgement dates, which tell you "when the wine was uncapped from its extended aging, its flavors polished with a bit of sugar or sweetened wine, and the bottle sealed with a cork. After being disgorged, Champagne is ready to be sold." See more from Jon Bonné here.
Having this info is a good thing, but can make it hard to match the bottle in hand with descriptions online. The portfolio website has Terry's comments on a disgorgement date from 2009. The new Champagne catalog (read it) has 11/11 disgorgement info whereas the 2011 catalog has info on a 12/10 disgorgement. My bottle? Disgorged 6/11.

So I wrote to Terry. and asked. His reply: "That June disgorgement is an in-between one. What I taste on-site each March is noted as such. With subsequent disgorgements, some I drink, some I don't. If I'm told the assemblage will change with an upcoming disgorgement, I note that information in the catalogue. If I can taste it pre-disgorgement, I do."

So instead, the catalog's words on Péters in general: "How the wines taste  //  Let’s put it this way: if Blanc de Blancs Champagne has something in common with Mosel wine in general, then these are like Saar wines, a concentration of the minerally essence of the type, and straining at the leash as though the fruit wanted to burst free and run at full gallop. Lately I have described the wines as starched,  for they have that crisp stiffness. Though not exceptionally high in acidity, they are exceptionally low in pH, which gives them their attack on the palate and their trilling high notes of aroma. My best German wine customers tend to prefer these to any Champagne I offer. "

I say: This wine is always a joy. A friend I have known since the age of 5 or so, came by to drink this with me and it was a perfect wine to share with her. Light yellow with small bubbles. Some apple, some pear some flowers. But, really, this was a time to talk and remember and not to analyze.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Coming Soon: Wines of the Tour de France
It has been a little quiet around here lately, but for good reason as I'm knee deep in prep for my annual Wines of the Tour de France. Which means I am spending my time finding the best wines to pair with this year's route. So far, I've been to 6 stores with my faithful excel spreadsheet in hand and consulted with a few NY stores on email and twitter. My 10-year-old has even suggested that I stop mumbling about wines from the Pyrenees and has mumbled herself about her mother's wines of the Tour ocd. As always, I'm struck by how much easier it is to source my Wines of the Giro.

I started this project to force myself to drink different wines. As much as some might imagine the best plan of attack to be the so called greatest wines from each region, budget is a reality so representative or interesting is a more realistic goal. Some wines may be more expensive than others, but these are wines that are readily sourced now and almost always under $50 if not much less.

In case you haven't followed along before, the rules. Note that these are my rules and any inconsistencies or quirks are my own.

1 For each stage of the race, drink a wine that comes from the closest region to either the start town, finishing town or actual route.
2 Each day, publish a post describing both the days race action and the accompanying wine.
3 In cases when the stage takes place in non wine-growing regions, find an alternate local drink. Beer, cider and hard alcohol are typical substitutes.
4 Some pre-drinking is allowable, to avoid 7 a.m. wine tasting, but all wines must be consumed no more than two weeks before the start of the race. Thus, wines tasted at trade tastings in January do not count. 
5 However, wines purchased at an earlier time, that I have in my so-called cellar, are perfectly acceptable if they pair with the route.
6 The first stage is for Champagne and the final day in Paris is paired with either Champagne or a wine from the winner cyclists home region.


Friday, June 15, 2012

TdF Stage 20: Cav and Wiggins!

Always magnificent "A little road stage, the shortest of the Tour (120 km). But it will no doubt be an apotheosis, with the traditional finish on the Champs-Élysées. Always the same, always magnificent since 1975. We already know more or less what will happen: a festive start in Rambouillet, two short hours before things really get going, and then a sudden, spectacular acceleration to mark the peloton’s arrival in the Parisian circuit. All of this before 1.5 billion TV viewers, nothing to sneeze at! For the rest, I do not think any brave riders will be able to slip under the radar of the sprinters' teams. On paper, Mark Cavendish can dream of a fourth straight win."

"This was a hard Tour. They are always hard – they never seem to get any easier, in fact they get harder. It is impossible to describe how tough the Tour de France is."--George Hincapie in Velonation
Today George Hincapie finishes his 16th Tour de France. He is most widely known as a key domestique of Lance Armstrong, having been the only rider to assist Armstrong in all seven of his tour victories. He also rode for Alberto Contador in 2007 and for Cadel Evans in 2011, making him a member of 9 Tour winning teams. There is a lovely piece here, from longtime cycling writer Samuel Abt. I'm hoping, as I'm sure many others are, that he gets the ceremonial role of leading the peloton onto the Champs-Élysées.(Spoiler: he did.)
Team Sky has gone yellow on twitter:
TeamSky 5:28am via Web
It's all smiles in the peloton. Just reaching the finish in Paris is a beautiful moment regardless of your position #TDF12

There will, by the way, actually be a race today, but only at the very end of the stage. Almost all of the day will be ceremonial until the final sprint, probably the most prestigious in cycling. The favorite is Mark Cavendish and I am hoping that he'll win.
From twitter:
MarkCavendish 2:32am via Twitter for BlackBerry®
The most famous bike race finish in the world. The most beautiful boulevard in the world. Avenue des Champs-Elysees..

And, well, some 'fashion' humor:
Good to see the people who made Tommy V's polka dot shorts had a sense of humour

The Tour reaches Paris and the riders can see the Eiffel Tower. Last stage is a victory parade with a high speed race at the end, not easy.
UCI_Overlord 7:26am via Web
Legitimately emotional over the retirement of @georgehincapie. Nice gesture to see him lead the peloton onto the Champs-Elysees. Cheers!

Off they go around Paris. I've said this before, but my love of the sport comes from coincidentally being in Paris for the final stage years ago. It was magical and the final stage each year takes me back to that moment. After the Hincapie tribute (joined by Chris Horner for some unknown reason), the attack being. And Jens!

 Final lap:
Does the bell ringing guy train in the off season with the Shake Weight? #TdF12

And wow was that impressive:
Bradley Wiggins claims an incredible and historic overall victory at the Tour de France after leading out Mark Cavendish to victory!

Heckuva dig by Wiggins. Watching the YJ do that is one of the most unusual things I've seen on the Champs-Élysées.

Stage: Mark Cavendish
Final GC and the first ever British winner of the Tour:
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 84:26:31
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:03:21
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:06:19
4 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:10:15
5 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:11:04
6 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:15:43
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:15:51
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar 0:16:31
9 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:16:38
10 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 0:17:17

K is excited for the final Tour stage.
Wine: Ridgeview Bloomsbury 2009 (I do so wish I had their Cavendish)  From Franklywines

"The sparkling wines from Ridgeview Estate [...] are superb and will forever put to rest the notion that England is not capable of making good wine." - Eric Asimov, New York Times"
From the producer:
Ridgeview was founded in 1994 by Mike and Chris Roberts and is dedicated to creating world class sparkling wines in the South Downs of England. Our vineyards specialise in growing classic grape varieties to make the highest quality bottle fermented sparkling wines. The world class status of our wines is reflected by the number of national & international medals and trophies we have received since the release of our first wines from the 1996 vintage.
Bloomsbury: The Blend: A Chardonnay dominant blend which is supported by the fullness of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Tasting Note: A light gold colour with a fine persistent mousse. Citrus fruit aromas and a hint of melon and honey. Chardonnay dominance brings finesse, along with crisp fruit freshness and toasty notes. The two Pinot’s add depth and character. A beautifully balanced finish. Will age gracefully over time as the Chardonnay matures.

Ageing: Drink now or age for two to three years.

Serving Suggestions: An excellent aperitif as well as a great accompaniment to shell fish. The crispness makes it ideal with oily fish such as salmon and smoked trout. It would be difficult to beat a glass of Bloomsbury alongside a refreshing sorbet.

I say: Yes, English sparkling wine. Check out this piece from Eric Asimov in the New York Times.  Light and golden. Soft with bread, nuts and yeast that become more pronounced as it warms up a bit. Is it as good as either the Peters or the Gimonnet from earlier in the Tour? No. But it is quite good? Yes. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cherry Day 2012: Chutney

Along with our brandied, bourboned or ryed cherries, for the past three years we have also made cherry chutney. We have experimented with different recipes, but in the end, came back to a slightly modified version of the "Simply Delicious Cherry Chutney" from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Cherry Chutney (Slightly modified)
Makes ~eight 8 ounce jars

4 1/2 tsp whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick, broken
10 cups Brooks and Rainier cherries, pitted
2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped sweet white onion
1 cup white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup raisins

Put allspice and cinnamon stick in cheesecloth to create a spice bag.
In a large non-reactive saucepan, combine cherries, apples, onions, vinegar, garlic, salt and spice bag. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently for about 20 minutes. 
Add the brown sugar and stir to dissolve.
Add raisins, return to a boil, continuing to stir frequently for 20 minutes.
Remove  the saucepan from the heat and discard the spice bag. 
Ladle the chutney into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

And now the key: like all chutneys, this becomes much better with time. The Ball book recommends 2-3 weeks. I would advise 2-3 months. The first time we made this we were disappointed with the taste prior to sealing the jars as the vinegar overpowered the other flavors. The jars ended up languishing on our shelves, for about 6 months. Finally, we opened one and to our surprise it was a huge hit. 
So. . .wait if you can. 

Rainier and mini sour cherries waiting for thei

Friday, June 1, 2012

Wines of the Giro: The Complete List

In case you were not following along each morning. . . 
Now, onto Tour de France wine planning. 


Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle 
Brut Avalanche 09

Aalborg Akvavit
Heeirng (Peter Herring)


Venturini Massimino 
Valpolicella Classico 2010
La Stoppa Ageno 2006
Masseria Venditti,  Sannio Rosso
07 "Coenobium Rusticum" Bianco
Paolo Bea Umbria Rosso Vigna 
 San Valentino 07
05 Brunello di Montalcino
Claudio Vio Pigato
 Busto Arsizio
Lecco/Pian dei Resinelli
Castello di Luzzano 
Bonarda Frizzante - 2010

Nusserhof Blaterle VdT 2007
2010 Pacherhof Kerner 
Valle Isarco
Bressan Rosantico
 Roccolo Grassi 08 valpolicella
Costaripa 'Mazane' Garda 

Zuliani Groppello