Saturday, December 27, 2014

Tuesdays with Dorie with K (Late): Buche de Noel

Tuesdays with Dorie time again! It would be hard to exaggerate here how nervous I was about this recipe. K and I tend to be very good at making cakes that taste good, but well, decorating can be a challenge. Plus, for several years now, we have had the annual "yelling about the gingerbread house," during which we takes turns blaming each other for the house's eventual collapse. (Spoiler: this problem can helped by toothpicks.)

But onto the Buche. K decided that she wanted to skip the praline and instead decorate with marzipan because "that is what a buche is supposed to have." So that simplified things quite a bit. The cream cheese based filling was simple enough, though I would up the quantity next time. The cake also was easy. Then it was onto the first rolling, which went better than expected. Unrolling revealed a few cracks but we continued on, filling and rolling again, reminding ourselves that any cracks could be hidden by frosting. Now onto the frosting, which sure enough, hid our cracks.

The verdict: much easier than a gingerbread house! The taste: I loved the filling and cake, K was enamoured of the frosting. We'll be making this one again. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesdays with Dorie, With K: Rugelach

And we are back, with another installment of Tuesdays with Dorie. Up first this month, rugelach. A cookie, that K points out, she has never eaten. How that is possible I do not know, but anyway, on with the baking.
First off, the dough, which features butter and cream cheese. A combination that I am pretty delighted by.
K made the dough, which we then put in the fridge overnight.
Then it was time to think about the filling. K had little enthusiasm for the suggested coconut, pecan, chocolate and raisin mixture so we opted for dried apricots, chocolate and pecans.

Next up, rolling out the dough, filling and then rolling the pieces to form logs. Our logs were perhaps not the most perfect ever, but into the freezer they went to chill before cutting and baking.
The end result:

K's verdict? Another thumbs up.

My verdict: also a thumbs up. Although we did have some cracking issues with the rolls, most of the rugelach held together and the flavor was excellent. Next up: the recipe I am really worried about: Buche de Noel.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesdays with Dorie, with K: Cranberry Crackle Tart

Ready to bake

Here we go again. This time the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was the Cranberry Crackle Tart, found on pages 135-137 of Baking Chez Moi.

K was less enthusiastic about this one, at first. "Cranberries, I don't like cranberries very much." "Look at the recipe K." "Meringue, I love meringue." Midway through her first slice "I'm not even done yet and already want more." So clearly, another hit.  

As expected, the hardest part of the recipe for K was rolling the crust. I sometimes wonder if I need to buy some Play-doh for her to practice with. Or perhaps I am just not instructing her properly? Any advice more than welcome. 

Once the dough was rolled out and baked, K covered it with a perhaps slightly thicker than suggested layer of our homemade raspberry jam. She then made the meringue, which was her favorite part of the project. Once the cranberries were added, she piled the meringue on top of the crust and waited impatiently for it to bake. 

By the way, if you'd like to bake along, the December recipe choices are already up on the Tuesdays with Dorie site:
December 9 – The Rugelach That Won Over France on p. 301
December 23 – Gingerbread Buche de Noel on p. 86

Rolling and grumbling

Can I just eat the meringue?

Close up of the first slice

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesdays with Dorie, With K: Palets de Dames

The galley. As you can see, already well used.
And here we go: Tuesdays with Dorie. What is it? Well, a group of bloggers baking through the books of Dorie Greenspan. In this case, one of my favorite new books, Baking Chez Moi. As I said when I introduced her for a talk at Omnivore Books, I took the galley home the day it arrived and K started baking that very night. We were five cakes in before Dorie's event at the store and her suggestion that I ask K if she would like to try joining the Tuesday group. As I reported on Twitter, her response? "Do you have to ask?" So here we are. Twice a month we will be joining the other participants in baking a recipe and blogging about our experience.

First up, Palets de Dames, a simple recipe of butter, sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla. Once the cookies are baked and cooled, they are dipped into an icing made with confectioner's sugar, milk and lemon.  Although traditionally the icing is left white, as you will see below, K decided to opt for green.  

The verdict: This is a very easy recipe and a great way to get started with the Tuesday group. As you can see below, K has already started experimenting with creative variations!

Dough, in process.
Rolling the dough into balls for baking.

Apparently there was a plan all along.
K's own creation, and apparently the reason she opted for green icing: an ice cream sandwich featuring lime ice cream from Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous!

Friday, October 24, 2014

2015 Tour de France Route

Well, the organizers sure did not choose an easy wine route! Plus, the short time trial is an interesting change. 

What do we have?
Running from Saturday July 4th to Sunday July 26th 2015, the 102th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,344 kilometres (before ratification).
  • 9 flat stages
  • 3 hilly stages
  • 7 mountain stages including 5 summit finishes
  • 1 individual time trial
  • 1 team time trial
  • 2 rest days

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Giro 2015 Route Map

Spreadsheet time already!
DISTANCE: 3.481,8 Km, average 165,8 Km  
TYPE OF STAGE: 1 individual time trial, 1 team time trial, 7 stages for sprinters, 5 medium mountain, 3 medium mountain with summit finish, 4 high mountain with summit finish  
The route:

May 09, Stage 1: San Lorenzo Al Mare - Sanremo (Team time trial), 17.6km
May 10, Stage 2: Albenga - Genoa, 173km
May 11, Stage 3: Rapallo - Sestri Levante, 136km
May 12, Stage 4: Chiavari - La Spezia, 150km
May 13, Stage 5: La Spezia - Abetone, 152km
May 14, Stage 6: Montecatini Terme - Castiglione Della Pescaia, 181km
May 15, Stage 7: Grosseto - Fiuggi, 263km
May 16, Stage 8: Fiuggi - Campitello Matese, 188km
May 17, Stage 9: Benevento - San Giorgio Del Sannio, 212km
May 18, Rest day
May 19, Stage 10: Civitanova Marche - Forlì, 195km
May 20, Stage 11: Forlì - Imola (Autodromo Ferrari), 147km
May 21, Stage 12: Imola - Vicenza (Monte Berico), 190km
May 22, Stage 13: Montecchio Maggiore - Jesolo, 153km
May 23, Stage 14: Treviso - Valdobbiadene (Individual time trial), 59.2km
May 24, Stage 15: Marostica - Madonna Di Campiglio, 165km
May 25, Rest day
May 26, Stage 16: Pinzolo - Aprica, 175km
May 27, Stage 17: Tirano - Lugano, 136km
May 28, Stage 18: Melide - Verbania, 172km
May 29, Stage 19: Gravellona Toce - Cervinia, 236km
May 30, Stage 20: Saint-Vincent - Sestriere, 196km
May 31, Stage 21: Turin - Milan, 185km

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wines of La Vuelta: The Final Stage: Recaredo Brut Nature Cave 2008

Santiago de Compostela 9.7 km Timetrial
And this is how the Vuelta ends: with a short time trial. No changes are expected today. Alberto Contador should win the race, followed by Chris Froome and Alejandro Valverde. Was Contador sandbagging at the beginning of the race or simply not certain of his form? One way or the other, he was clearly the strongest rider in the race. Froome raced well, also recovering well from his Tour injury. With Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara home training for the world championship race, the only question is: who will be our stage winner? 
In other news, congratulations to Adam Hansen on his 10th consecutive grand tour. Also, my favorite photo of the race:

On the road: bad weather and a very slippery surface. Our early leader: Malori at 11:12. Most of the remaining big names were taking the course very gingerly. Really, another dull day. That has mainly been how this Wines of the Vuelta has been: good wines, mainly dull stages. I promise, other days had excitement!

Stage: Adriano Malori

2 Jesse Sergent (NZl) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:08  
3 Rohan Dennis (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:09  
4 Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky 0:00:17  
5 Jimmy Engoulvent (Fra) Team Europcar 0:00:18  
6 Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Team Katusha    
7 Maciej Bodnar (Pol) Cannondale    
8 Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana Pro Team    
9 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:19  
10 Damien Gaudin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale    

GC: Alberto Contador

Wine: Recaredo Brut Nature Cave 2008
From Frankly Wines $35.99
Christy says: One of the pricier cavas on the market, but it's fantastic - clean, mineral, biodynamically grown.

From the producer: In 1878, Recaredo Mata Figueres was born in the town of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. In 1924, his son, Josep Mata Capellades, began to work in the world of cava and produce some bottles. It was he that was the founder of Cavas Recaredo. “Can Recaredo”, is the name by which our firm has always been known.
Josep Mata Capellades built the cellars in his house, in the historic centre of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia. Some parts of the cellars are over 80 years old, and have been conserved retaining their original form.
It was Josep Mata Capellades who forged Recaredo’s identity, based on know-how, professionalism and hard work. He marked the way forward in his own style, being a pioneer in the production of totally dry cavas, the Cavas Brut Nature, in working with oak barrels and in longer-aged cavas.
Currently, the third generation is at the forefront of Cava Recaredo. 

I say: I am a big fan of sparkling wine. But know very little  about Cava. I tend to think most often of inexpensive bottles used in mimosas. For the record, I hate mimosas.
This article from Eric Asimov tells me that I am not the only one.  From the article "If ever a grape needed a champion, it may well be xarello. It suffers pronunciation woes (in Catalan, it’s shah-RELL-lo; in Castilian, hah-RELL-lo; in English, zah-RELL-oh). It has spelling issues (it’s often written xarel-lo among numerous other renderings). Most important, it is guilty by association as a key component of cava, the Spanish sparkling wine that most people consider at best cheap and cheerful and at worst a headache in a glass."

This wine is not that. Clean and floral with small bubbles. Not at all like the cavas I have had in the past. It could stand up to food, but I liked it as an aperitif.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wines of La Vuelta Stage 17: Envinate Vina de Aldea

Ortigueira - A Coruña 190.7 km

And they are back from a rest day with a likely to be dull sprint stage. Rest day news? More withdrawals including Uran, who was clearly ill the last few stages. and the rarely spotted Zubeldia. Not too many sprinters left at this point: Matthews, Boonen and Degenkolb the most prominent. Sure enough, the predictable early breakaway to start the day: Dennis (BMC), Mas (CJR), Favilli (LAM), Teklehaimanot (MTN) y Jungels (TFR). They would get a gap, but it never got very large as those remaining sprinters were determined to challenge the stage. Sixty kilometers to go and it was under four minutes and it kept coming down. Forty kilometers and it was three minutes. Twenty kilometers and down to two minutes. 
The finish, by the way, has some cobbles. Perhaps that will inspire Boonen? Thirteen kilometers to go and just about one minute of a gap remained. Ten kilometers to go and indeed the gap was finally under one minute. Dripped from the break: Teklehaimanot. Five kilometers to go and forty seconds were left of the gap. Meanwhile on Podium Cafe the talk had turned to folding sheets. No, really
Hey, Sky at the front of the peolton. Protecting Froome on the cobbles? At three kilometers, a seventeen second gap still. One kilometer to go and still a slight gap. But they would be caught. At the end, the expected sprint between Matthews and Degenkolb. But at the end, also as expected Degenkolb with the stage win.

Stage: John Degenkolb


1.ESPCONTADOR, Alberto201Tinkoff - Saxo67h 51' 07''
2.ESPVALVERDE, Alejandro151Movistar Team67h 52' 43''+ 1' 36''
3.GBRFROOME, Christopher191Team SKY67h 52' 46''+ 1' 39''
4.ESPRODRIGUEZ, Joaquin131Team Katusha67h 53' 36''+ 2' 29''
5.IRLMARTIN, Daniel102Garmin Sharp67h 57' 24''+ 6' 17''
6.NEDGESINK, Robert34Belkin Pro Cycling Team67h 57' 50''+ 6' 43''
7.ESPSÁNCHEZ, Samuel41BMC Racing Team67h 58' 02''+ 6' 55''
8.ITACARUSO, Damiano65Cannondale Pro Cycling68h 00' 17''+ 9' 10''
9.ESPNAVARRO, Daniel71Cofidis Solutions Crédits68h 00' 31''+ 9' 24''
10.ESPMORENO, Daniel137Team Katusha68h 03' 21''+ 12' 14''

Wine: Envinate Vina de Aldea 2012
From Frankly Wines: Mencia grape, a selection from Alice's Wine Society and I just happen to have a couple left over bottles that haven't migrated to the shelf. It's from a group that focuses on "Atlantic" wines from Spain and Portugal 
More from Christy here.

From the importer: Envínate (Wine Yourself) is the brainchild of 4 friends, winemakers Roberto Santana, Alfonso Torrente, Laura Ramos, and José Martínez.  This gang of 4 formed back in 2005 while studying enology at the University of Miguel Hernandez in Alicante.  Upon graduation, they formed a winemaking consultancy, which evolved into Envínate, a project that focuses on exploring distinctive parcels mainly in the Atlantic-inflected  regions of Ribeira Sacra and the Canary Islands.  Their collective aim is to make profoundly pure and authentic wines that express the terruño of each parcel in a clear and concise manner.  To this end, no chemicals are used in any of the Envínate vineyards, all parcels are picked by hand, the grapes are foot-trodden, and the wines are fermented exclusively with wild yeasts, with a varying proportion of whole grape clusters included. For aging, the wines are raised in old barrels and sulfur is only added at bottling, if needed. The results are some of the most exciting and honest wines being produced in Spain today.

Viña de AldeaAldea means “village” in Gallego; thus, this is Envínate’s “village wine”, produced from a combination of –minimum- 60-year-old plots located in the ancient vineyard region of Ribeira Sacra.  This cuvee is made up of 90-95% Mencía with other co-planted varietals blended in.  The native vines are grown on steep slopes made of slate and sit in between 400-600 meters elevation.  This vintage Viña de Aldea was foot-trodden in open top plastic tubs, fermented spontaneously with wild yeasts, with 40% whole clusters included, and raised in old barrels for 11 months with no racking and no SO2 added until bottling.  It is a very fresh and elegant vino tinto with classic, lifted aromatics of black pepper, pomegranate, and herbs, which leads to an elegant and crystalline palate with loads of saveur, peppery tannins, and a dry finish.  This is more than a village wine in our book, but a superb example of Ribeira Sacra and a wonderful benchmark for the region. 300 – 6 packs produced

I say: How could I resist one of Alice's picks? This is an easy to drink wine. Currants and berries, black pepper and herbs.That earthiness that Christy did not get a chance to revisit was indeed clearly apparent on day two.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Wines of La Vuelta Stage 13: Lopez de Heredia Blanco 2004

Belorado - Obregón. Parque de Cabárceno 188.7 km
The stage:One for a breakaway? Maybe. Inrng and Podium Cafe suggest Philippe Gilbert. Our breakaway of the day:

With 78 kilometers remaining, their gap was 2:45. Courtesy of the Cycling News live race updates we have word that there are bears ahead "The word reaching us the Parque de Cabárceno is that some 60 bears will have a grandstand view of the finish from their field at the far side of the barriers." If I were more awake, there would be an excellent joke to be made. 
Three abandonments today: Brett Lancaster, Fischer and Van Den Broeck.
Fifty-six kilometers to go and the gap was still 2:30. Under fifty kilometers to go and the break starting to come apart, leaving only five out front. Orica continued to lead the chase behind.  Twenty kilometers to go and their gap was just over one minute. But they would be caught. As they got closer to the line a late attack by Daniel Navarro would succeed, giving him the stage win.

Stage: Daniel Navarro
GC: 1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 48:59:23
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:20
3 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:01:08
4 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:01:20
5 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:01:35
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:01:52
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:02:13
8 Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida 0:02:37
9 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:02:55
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale 0:03:51

Wine: Lopez de Heredia Blanco 2004 
From Frankly Wines $27.99
Always a classic - sometimes it doesn't always need to be latest, greatest, coolest

Read this article from Eric Asimov to learn a lot more. 

From the producerFor a hundred and thirty one years, three generations of the López de Heredia family have devoted themselves to producing exceptional and unique wines. Masterpieces which have achieved that which the founder of the company, Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta, defined in the late nineteenth century as the "Supreme Rioja".
Vineyard care, a scrupulous selection of grapes, ageing in oak barrels in the heart of deep underground galleries, and the later ageing in bottles, all contribute to making these illustrious wines with their exceptional bouquet.
Special mention ought to be made of our white wines. If there is one bodega experienced in producing old white wines, it has to be López de Heredia. To talk in our bodega of white wines being exclusively young and uncomplicated, would be asking for trouble. We have never been averse to ageing white wines in oak for as long as reds, and the result is much more surprising than might be expected. When this type of wine has spent a long time in contact with oak, the oaky tastes and aromas are overly noticeable and even unbalanced.  Nevertheless, when left for a few more years in bottles, the rough edges of oak become sufficiently polished and balanced to create a seductive bouquet of spice, bitter almonds, vanilla and walnut, trademarks of the majestic and opulent Viña Tondonia whites.

On the 2004 vintage:
Clasified by The Regulating Council as EXCELLENT. This year we were producing from 157 ha of the 170 own by us in our 4 vineyards. We harvested a total of 890.475 kg of grapes. The absence of spring frost joined to the good environmental conditions that helped the fertilisation fought against the difficult moments that we pass during the budding, delayed by the low temperatures during that period. All this weather conditions end up into a good and high yield harvest. The summer time was unstable with high risk of storms but Autumn was fresh and full of light and this weather allow us to obtain very high quality grapes and harvest slowly and so that we could choose to pick the grapes on the perfect maturation moment. The Harvest started on October the 4th in Viña Gravonia and finish on November the 5th.
Tasting note:
Colour: Pale gold. Nose: Fresh and almost sweet. Complex and developed. Bouquet with aromas of third generation. Taste: Fruity, complex, developed and fine.
Grape Varieties:
Viura (100%), from our own vineyards.
I say: Going classic today, because as I don't usually drink La Vuelta, I have not done this one before.  And, yes, for those not familiar with the producer, this is a 10-year-old bottle of wine that I bought just weeks ago. This is gorgeous and indeed complex. Stone fruits some woody notes. Almonds, salt, sherry wax. Buy this one if you can.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wines of La Vuelta Stage 12: Gonzalo Gonzalo Rioja Gran Cerdo

The stage: Well, that is not an inspiring profile, unless you are a sprinter.  Of course, no Cav at the race, so I admit to being less than excited. Today they have eight laps around Logroño before finishing in what is likely to be a bunch sprint. How do you say, likely to be the dullest day of the race in Spanish? On Cycling News, Vuelta technical director Paco Giner has explained the thinking behind today’s stage. “Everybody needs to relax. It’s good to do that for this time of the year,” he said. “The season is long and there are many difficulties on the route. Sprinters deserve to have such a chance. People like it for the spectacle it delivers. Fiesta is part of La Vuelta.”

That said, they are in Rioja, so today we have a blog post. And there is Matthias Krizek, who with one hundred kilometers to go had a solo lead of 7:25. In the next ten kilometers he lost about a minute of his lead, but it was clear that the bunch was in no hurry to catch him. Seventy-six kilometers to go and the gap had dropped another minute to 5:30. Fifty kilometers to go and it was hovering over three minutes. And so it went. With fifteen kilometers to go, it was under one minute. And then the catch and by ten kilometers to go, they were all together. Time for the sprint trains to assemble. And, well, no surprise really:
Degenkolb, with a crash behind. 

Stage: John Degenkolb

Wine: Gonzalo Gonzalo Rioja Gran Cerdo 2012
$15.99 from Frankly Wines

Christy says: Producer only recently brought into the US. It's Rioja Alavasia, but declassified. Not highly oaked. If you've seen the label with the winged pig on it - this is that

From the importer, Critical Mass Selections:
The Wine Love - La Rioja

Gonzalo Gonzalo and Mar Mota are the two free spirits responsible for bringing us these fantastic wines from La Rioja. Gonzalo Gonzalo comes from a family of wine makers and has seen all aspects of the wine making industry - from the industrial wineries in Spain to the small vignerons throughout Italy and France. Now producing wine in the most natural ways possible, Gonzalo Gonzalo has found his home back in La Rioja. Mar Mota comes from a family of artisan cask makers and studied oenology and chemistry in the University of La Rioja. A firm believer in biodynamic winemaking, Mar Mota teams with Gonzalo to make some of the best natural wine that comes out of spain.

I say: I'm splitting Rioja into two days. First up, something new to me. I'll admit it, I was very curious about this one.  Deep and dark in the glass. Berries, violets, and much lighter than I expected, but with enough earthiness to keep it grounded. An excellent value.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wines of La Vuelta Stage 11: Quintana Out and Pacharan

Pamplona - Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar 153.4 km

Two days in a row with a Vuelta post! Actually, there will be wines almost everyday this week. That said, we have no rest for the weary with a mountain top finish, the day after the time trial. Podium Cafe preview here.  Inrng preview here
The big question going into today's stage was how would Quintana look after his crash yesterday. Unfortunately, it was answered very early, as he was forced to abandon after a second crash. Now we wonder if Valverde or J-Rod or Uran or a few others could challenge Contador. 
Back on the road, three more abandonments: Pinot, Bouet and Morabito.  Also on the road, after 70 kilometers of racing, our break of four, Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida), Johan Le Bon (, Pim Ligthart (Lotto Belisol), and Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), had a four minute gap. With 56 kilometers remaining, and still no live video, Kiryienka attacked and was out front solo. With video starting, Kiryienka has pushed his lead to one minute. 

Coming up they have: a long and steady climb, followed by a fast descent, a short valley road and then the climb to the finish. All in 35 kilometers. Katusha continued to lead the chase. Kirby and Kelly on Eurosport have already decided that Kiryienka is doomed. But one never knows. 

Eighteen kilometers to go and his gap was hovering around two minutes. Fifteen kilometers to go and it was just above one minute. And sure enough, as they started to climb Kiryienka was caught. 7.5 kilometers to go and Arredondo launches the first attack. Froome meanwhile was not looking good at the back of the bunch. New attacks by Barguil and Gesink. Barguil was brought back quickly while Gesink dangled out front. Lots of attacks coming from the very small favorites group behind. Three kilometers to go and while Dan Martin attacked, Froome appeared to be dropping, but he kept bouncing back. Two kilometers to go and Froome had made it back to the front of the group at the 14% section. Flying by him though, Contador, but the other favorites stayed with him. Just over one kilometer to go and Gesink was caught. One kilometer and Aru attacks, quickly getting a gap. He would hold on, with the favorites sprinting for places behind.

Stage: Fabio Aru
2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:06  
3 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha    
4 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo    
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:07  
6 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:14  
7 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing Team 0:00:15  
8 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin Sharp    
9 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:00:18  
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:21  

1. CONTADOR, Alberto 201 Tinkoff – Saxo 40h 26’ 56’’
2. VALVERDE, Alejandro 151 Movistar Team 40h 27’ 16’’ + 20’’
3. URAN, Rigoberto 177 Omega Pharma – Quick-Step 40h 28’ 04’’ + 1’ 08’’
4. FROOME, Christopher 191 Team SKY 40h 28’ 17’’ + 1’ 21’’
5. RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin 131 Team Katusha 40h 28’ 31’’ + 1’ 35’’
6. SÁNCHEZ, Samuel 41 BMC Racing Team 40h 28’ 48’’ + 1’ 52’’
7. ARU, Fabio 21 Astana Pro Team 40h 29’ 09’’ + 2’ 13’’
8. ANACONA, Winner 2 Lampre Merida 40h 29’ 18’’ + 2’ 22’’
9. GESINK, Robert 34 Belkin Pro Cycling Team 40h 29’ 51’’ + 2’ 55’’
10. CARUSO, Damiano 65 Cannondale Pro Cycling 40h 30’ 47’’ + 3’ 51’’

Wine: Baines Pacharan de Aranon Slow Berry Liqueur $34.99
From Frankly Wines
Christy says: Sweet neat, but I like it on the rocks and cut with some sparkling water

From the producer:
Since time immemorial it has been popular in Navarre and the Basque Country. The actual date of its discovery is unknown, but this liqueur was consumed by both nobles and vassals alike during mediaeval times, due its healing properties.
The tradition of making Pacharan first arose in Navarre. Pacharan is a liqueur made by macerating the fruit Prunus Espinosa (sloe berry, blackthorn fruit, patxaran) in anise.
It is known that Pacharan was included among the dishes served at the wedding of Gonofre of Navarre (1394 - 1428), the illegitimate son of King Carlos III and Doña Teresa de Arellano in 1415. It is also known that Queen Blanca I of Navarre (1385-1441) drank Pacharan because of its medicinal properties when she fell ill at the Monastery of Santa María de Nieva in 1441.

Casks and tradition. A good way to define a Pacharan such as Baines Oro. When Licores Baines first started operating in 1844, it used casks to store its liqueurs. For this reason, as we well know the effects of wood on the product, the original process has been maintained. 500-litre oak casks which are used to macerate selected sloe berries in quantities of more than 250 grams per litre for at least six months.
A unique product, with an intense ruby red colour, violet edges and a medium robe. The nose is fruity, sweet, complex, balsamic and harmonious, and the mouth is dense, voluptuous and rounded. Pacharan at its best.

More here from the Wall Street Journal on Pacharan. 

I say: Trying this one on the rocks. It actually reminds me a bit of Bachelor's Jam. Very bold and fruity, but with a spiced and alcoholic bite.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

More Vuelta Wine: Heading North with Bengoetxe Getariako Txakolina

The race: While we were away, watching but not writing, the race has continued. What has been happening? Well, it has been very,very warm and there have been sprints, with a few climbs mixed in. Also, Contador has admitted that he is trying to win the race, after insisting early on that he was not in shape. 

The current GC is:
1 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 35:58:05
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:03
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:08
4 Winner Anacona Gomez (Col) Lampre-Merida 0:00:09
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:28
6 Joaquím Rodríguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:30
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:01:06
8 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:19
9 Rigoberto Urán (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:01:26
10 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano

Today, after a rest day, we have Stage 10, an individual time trial. The Podium Cafe stage preview is here. Also, check out the stage preview on Inrng here. I liked this bit of info from the preview: Borja, today’s stage finish, is a town of just 5,000 people but remarkable for two different facts. First, it gives name to the house of Borgia (Spanish Borja [ˈborxa] is read [ˈbɔɾdʒa] in Catalan, then Italian, where the spelling becomes Borgia), a powerful family during the Italian Renaissance. This house produced two popes, many enemies and a handful of infamous legends. If you have heard or read stories about popes having wives and children and taking part in orgies, the Borja/Borgia family is probably behind them. Second, in 2012 a local old lady tried to restore the Ecce Homo, a religious painting, with a disastrous result which gave notoriety to an otherwise irrelevant fresco.

If Tony Martin does not win today, I'll be shocked and indeed, he came in at 47:02, 11 seconds ahead of Fabian Cancellara to take the stage lead. The main excitement though, was expected to come from the gc riders. Can Chris Froome take time out of his rivals? We shall see. 

An excellent prize indeed. Meanwhile, time for the gc riders. On the course, Froome looked slow in comparison to Contador. But the split screen pictures can be deceiving. Behind, Quintana is reported as 33 seconds behind Contador, but would that hold up? At the first time check, Contador was ahead of his rivals. And then, yikes: Quintana crashed. He was back up and riding, but was the Vuelta gc done for him? There will be lots of climbing still ahead, but he will lose some significant time today. Back on course, Uran was in with a provisional third, a very good ride for him. Froome in with a provisional 8th, slower than expected. Behind him, Valverde in with a provisional 7th. Contador, provisionally 4th. Finally, Quintana finished and he had indeed lost a lot of time, 4 minutes down to Martin and 3 minutes to many of his rivals. 

Stage: Tony Martin

The wine: Bengoetxe Getariako Txakolina 2011 $19.99  
Christy says: One of the few producers in the region working organically and naturally. From Jose Pastore's book

From the importer, Jose Pastor:
Distinctive wines, wines that speak of their terruño, come from lovingly tended and organically farmed grapes.  It is this nurturing philosophy, rare in the Basque Country, a region dominated by industrial farming and winemaking, which drives Iñaki and Rosa Maria Etxeberria to produce Bengoetxe.

One of the few producers in the D.O. that's not located right next to the coast, and in or directly near the town of Getaria.  Using historic evidence of pre-phylloxera plantings that vineyards were inland, Olaberria, Iñaki fought for years to be included in the D.O.  Finally he persuaded the Consejo Regulador- the governing body that controls membership, winegrowing, and winemaking rules for Getariako Txakolina- to grant them D.O status in 2008.

Bengoetxe's terruño gives a different face to Txakoli. Their village Olaberria is a little warmer, especially in the summer, and the soils more clay dominated than their coastal neighbor's. Their grapes are riper, sturdier grapes.

Thankfully, the Etxeberria's do not intend to make a copy-cat Txakolina. Classic and slow wild yeast fermentation takes place in small 3.000 litros vats, located in their home garage, then the wine is raised on the lees up to a year with no batonnage.  SO2 levels are kept to a minimum and because all CO2 “is natural” (not injected) the wine does not often show the spritzy character of other Txakolis from Getaria.
Bengoetxe: 95% Hondarribi Zuri and 5% Gros Manseng, from a single certified organic 3.5 ha vineyard planted on a moderately steep slope of mostly clay, located in the highlands of the province of Gipuzkoa, this is fermented with wild yeasts in small 3,000 liter steel vats, and raised on the lees for up to one year.  It is bottled unfiltered and unfined. All CO2 is natural. It shows lush lemony fruit, hints of grains, a touch of petrol and chamomile/a uniquely savory Txakoli wine to pair with Serrano ham, sheep’s cheeses, fresh seafood and poultry. 1.700 cases produced.
I say: I admit it, this producer is a little further north than today's stage. But I wanted to include it. I really liked this wine. Bracing acidity, but also richer than I expected, with that lemony fruit mentioned above. Tangy and mineral.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wines of La Vuelta Stage 2: Ouled Thaleb Syrah

As I said, I'm not blogging every stage. But geography made this one impossible to skip. And by geography, I don't mean the designed for the sprinters, flat stage. Instead, I mean the proximity to Morocco and the chance to drink a Moroccan wine. 

That said, I'm having trouble focusing on the coverage, as pictures from this morning's Napa earthquake are dominating local news. The extent of damage will take quite some time to determine, but the early pictures show significant property damage and there are reports of at least 87 injured, three in critical condition. It was the largest Bay Area quake in 25 years.

Today is a rare chance for the sprinters at this year's race, so one would expect a breakaway that is eventually chased down. Indeed, on the road, there was an early break consisting of Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) and Romain Hardy (Cofidis). Their gap got as high as almost five minutes early in the stage. With forty kilometers to go, it had dropped to around two minutes. Thirty five kilometers left to ride and it had dropped to 1:19. It appeared the catch would come earlier than expected, as there was the possibility of crosswinds and echelons ahead. 
Seventeen kilometers to go and the group was all together. Sadly, no echelons. But to the front, the sprint trains were beginning to form as they neared the finish. A very technical finish awaited them. At the end, Bouhanni, with ease.

Stage: Nacer Bouhanni
Race leader: 

The wine: Ouled Thaleb Syrah 2010
 From Frankly Wines

 From Nomadic Distribution
Domaine Ouled Thaleb was established in 1923.  Located in the Zenata coastal appellations between Casablanca and Rabat, Ouled Thaleb led the renewal of the Moroccan wine industry in the 1990’s.  While most of their fruit is Estate grown, Ouled Thaleb partners with neighboring growers in order to produce classic style wines under the direction of winemaker, Stephane Marriot. Grapes are grown organically.

100% Syrah
 Fermented in concrete tanks aged in French oak for 12 months

I say: As I said above, how could I resist a Moroccan wine? Blackberries, spice, and some smoke. Fresh and as a friend said "supple." An excellent burrito pairing, but also very nice on night two. I'm a fan.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

La Vuelta: We Begin with Sherry

So here we are, or really, they are, in Spain for the 69th edition of La Vuelta. As I said earlier, I won't be drinking wines for every stage, but for a selected few during the race.
But first, the race. La Vuelta is the third of the season's grand tours, following the Giro and the Tour de France. The year's route map is below:
What do we have?
Running from Saturday August 23rd to Sunday September 14th 2014, the Vuelta will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3239,9 kilometres.
5 flat stages
13 hill and mountain stages
1 team time trial stage
2 individual time trial stages

Distinctive aspects of the race
12,6 kilometres team time trial stage
44,5 individual time trial stages
40 summits

I'm going with "the gang's all here" as my theme for this year. Because, Vincenzo Nibali aside, essentially all of the top GC riders are here from Nairo Quintana to Alberto Contador to Chris Froome and many more. Not here, with a last minute withdrawal is defending champion Chris Horner, due to low cortisol levels apparently resulting from a Bronchitis treatment. You can check out the complete startlist here. I'll also suggest checking out Viewers' Guide to the 2014 Vuelta a España! For Indifferent Spanish Cycling Fans on Podium Cafe. Because, really, Chris is funnier than I am.

For our opening stage we have an oddly shaped 12.6 kilometer team time trial.  Within those kilometers, 22 roundabouts!
If you are new here, I like team time trials, but not everyone agrees with me. I've explained team time trials before, here and here, in brief, in a TTT, each team rides together with the time taken as the fifth rider crosses the line. As they ride the course they take turns pulling on the front and then return to a place in line with their teammates. As I've also said before, a TTT rarely wins a Grand Tour for a rider, but a loss of time to rivals can be significant, though with a course this short, perhaps not as much as in other races.
Off they went, with MTN, the first team on course coming in at 14:42. Orica sets an early leading time of 14:19. Next in the lead, Cannondale, by less than one second. Coming in 3 seconds down, Trek. Perhaps their reported crash this morning slowed them down? Slow times for many teams today, with bigger gaps than expected. Sky in at provisional 8th. OPQS in at fourth. It was looking good for Cannondale. But at the end, Movistar, by six seconds.
Stage: Movistar

The wines: Hidalgo Napoleon Amontillado 
San Leon Manzanilla 

Both from Frankly Wines

Since they are riding in Jerez, Sherry was the clear choice. And why not two to compare styles? After all, I am still searching for the Sherry that makes me say "Yes, I get it now."

About those styles:
Manzanilla is a variety of fino sherry. It is generally pale, delicate and salty.
In contrastamontillado begins as a fino Sherry which contains around 13.5% alcohol. The cap of yeast though that makes a fino is the key to amontillado as well, however it is the inadequacy of such layer that makes the wine. Without this layer, the amontillado Sherry has to be fortified until it contains 17.5% alcohol, after which the Sherry is allowed to slowly oxidize in porous oak casks. The resulting Sherry is therefore darker in color and richer in flavor than a fino.

So what did I think?
As you can see on the left, as expected. the Sherries were very different in appearance. 

The Manzanilla was a very pale yellow. It tasted both slightly bitter and salty. It was mild and easy to sip.
In contrast, the Amontillado was a much deeper, brown color. It was dry but full bodied with what we decided were non-sweet caramel notes. It also paired really well with the shrimp burrito I tried it with. As I said to a friend, it may very well prove to be my "gateway sherry." Which would be great, because I have felt for a long time now that I was missing out by not having developed a Sherry love. Thanks for encouraging me to keep trying Christy!