Monday, September 29, 2008

Boston's Autumn Bounty

I hope Taster Dad doesn't mind me posting his photo from Boston last weekend. This little neighborhood market had such pretty gourds for sale. I'm bummed we didn't go inside--we would have, but the checkout line was too long. I guess that means it's the place to go...


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Kitchen Day

The weather is crappy this weekend but, I don't mind. It's giving me a chance to do something I haven't done in a long time--spend the day cooking. Yesterday I baked gluten-free banana bread, and apple-crisp. In case you're wondering what the point of gluten-free banana bread is, let me tell you, it's delicious. I also cut the sugar in the recipe with xylitol so we can eat it completely guilt free. I got the recipe from the Bob's Red Mill GF Mix package. The weird thing is, their website has a different recipe posted, so I'll post the one I used at the end.

Some of the ingredients I like to use are more expensive than regular grocery store items and with the rising cost of food, it can be hard to justify the upgrade to organic or additive-free alternatives. The way I look at it is prices are rising one way or the other, and I'd rather channel that extra money I'm paying toward supporting a more sustainable and healthy way of producing food than to support an un-environmental food distribution system. We're already paying a lot more for food thanks to rising transportation costs, so whenever possible, we can change the paradigm by buying more fresh local produce and maybe even cutting back a bit on processed food which is often actually more expensive when you consider the nutrition you're getting.

Yesterday, was also a good day for watching cooking shows. I was inspired by Lidia Bastianich who was making focaccia with her grandsons (she's such a good Grandma!) and José Andrés who was sipping Alberino and sampling fresh mussels. For lunch, I made a wonderful Tuscan-style cannenelli dish with sautéed diced nitrate-free fruitwood smoked BACON, diced red pepper, grated carrot, chopped garlic, ground sage, and a can of drained and rinsed cannenelli seasoned with paprika, sea salt, fresh parmesan and plenty of fresh extra virgin olive oil. My favorite Olive Oil available here locally is Paesano from Sicily. Of course, I've yet to try Spanish olive oil, and I hope to visit some day so I can try it... I also made a focaccia last night to go with some pesto stuffed lasagna.

I had a lot of leftover Béchamel from my mid-week butternut squash lasagna that I cooked for visiting family. So, I used some of it for the pesto stuffed lasagna (I threw grated cheese into the rest of the sauce and made macaroni and cheese). My downstairs neighbor is a proud Italian father and cook. He introduced me to a different way of preparing lasagna. Rather than laying out the lasagna in layers, he stuffs and rolls the individual noodles cannoli style. I had some wilting basil and a tub of non-fat cottage cheese laying around so, I made a pesto filling with it and rolled it up into four leftover lasagna noodles. You know; those four noodles that are always left because a pound of lasagna never actually fits into a 9x13 dish?

By the way, try that butternut squash lasagna recipe sometime--it's a fantastic Fall recipe (just beware the leftover Béchamel and four noodles). It's a lot of work, but you can spread it out over two days if necessary. We served it with some simple tossed greens and zucchini and summer squash cut lengthwise, marinaded in olive oil, balsamic, and tarragon, and grilled up on the old GFG (George Forman Grill). Delish.

But, what about the wine? Oh...right... Here is a little rundown of our food and wine pairings this week:

Bruschetta topped with chive chevre & caramelized onions:
Jewell Towne Vineyards Alden 2005

Butternut Squash Lasagna:
Bartholomew Park Merlot 2005

Pesto (stuffed) Lasagna:
Rijckaert Pouilly-Fuisse 2006

Bob's Red Mill GF Banana Bread

1/3 C. Canola Oil
2/3 C. Packed brown sugar
2 Large eggs
1 t. Vanilla extract
1 3/4 C. Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose GF Baking Flour
2 t. Baking powder
1 1/4 t. Cinnamon
1 t. Xanthan gum
1/2 t. Salt
1 1/2 C Mashed ripe bananas
1/2 C. Chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 9x5 inch loaf pan. Cream together oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large bowl. Add flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and cinnamon mixture to egg mixture, alternating with bananas. Beat until smooth. Add walnuts. Transfer to pan. Bake for 1 hour.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Last Summer Fling?

I guess I should have gotten this post up a couple of nights ago--before summer officially ended but, my parents are in town from the west coast so I have a good excuse for being tardy. At any rate, we did actually drink this within the bounds of the summer season, and with Fall starting yesterday it was almost our last summer fling... Technically though, our true last summer fling was at Legal Seafoods on Long Wharf with a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

Willm Pinot Gris

Vintage: 2005
Appellation: Alsace
Alcohol: 13%
Aromas: Apple, pear
Flavors: Apple, violet, tangerine

Summary: Very apple/pear nose with nice round mouth feel of apple, yet crisp with mineral undertones and floral overtones. As the wine opens up, very distinct flavors of tangerine and zest come to the fore. This isn't a complicated wine but, it's a great white sipper. We paired it wish simple roasted chicken but it could just as easily be sipped on it's own as the perfect accompaniment to some barefoot backyard sprinkler supervision.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Cross Post, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sanderlings

This is a being posted simultaneously on SMU.

This is my home office space. That is my monitor and my wine. The other day, I came across a flock of Sanderlings feeding at low tide with the sun going down. This creates dramatic colors and an opportunity to get some great shots. In these lighting conditions, shutter speeds become slow and the depth of field become shallow. This makes for difficult shooting conditions, especially when working with active, twitchy birds. Such is wildlife photography.

The 50 Sanderlings were feeding and being “relatively” quiet. I couldn’t pass this up especially because they were quite content to allow me to approach them and with patience, I was able to get a working distance from 10 to 50 feet. But hand holding 300mm lenses, kneeling in the mud and getting down low, the best policy is to over shoot.

Taking pictures can be a joy, and I shot 100 or so knowing that the majority were going to be blurry because of the activity of the subject and the low light. That means hours of culling through pictures, sending them to the “cutting room floor”. Then deciding on the best of the best that are worthy of posting becomes a laborious task. A nice glass of wine will help.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Sonoma County
Blended with Cabernet Franc and Merlot
Vintage: 2004
AVA: Dry Creek Valley
Alcohol: 14.4%

Color: Garnett
Intensity: Dark
Aromas: Cherry, plum, jam, raisin, violet, rose, mint, tar, allspice, anise
Flavors: Strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, cherry, currant, mineral, anise, allspice, coffee, chocolate.
Body: Full
Acidity: Moderate
Sweetness: Dry
Tannins: Suede
Finish: Long

Summary: This is a very highly extracted wine, very dark and rich. The wine is what you would expect from Dry Creek Valley, it is fruit forward, well balanced, very intense in its flavors. The finish goes into a very pleasant spiciness with mineral and earth on the mid finish then back to cherry and blueberry. There is a slight mint quality that shouldn’t surprise. What does surprise me is a lack of a eucalyptus component that is very common in the region. This isn’t a flaw, just an observation.

I think the Cabernet Franc and the Merlot bring a great deal to the table. The fragrant qualities of this wine stay right to the end of the glass.

I would have this with big foods. Pizza, roast beef, grilled mutton dishes, barbeque, grilled Portobello mushrooms or you can do as I’m doing, enjoying it while posting. Summer is about over here in New England. It is starting to cool off. I’m ready for a big wine again. Yah, I’m enjoying this.

Post Script: Just a few photos for the SMU post.

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse

(c)2008 ShootingMyUniverse


Taster B's photography.

This is a team wine blog. Most of my contribution has been in the area of photography. Photography is an integral part of our blogging style.

Recently, I’ve notice a lot less, “Honey, have you done the photo shoot yet?” from the office. It seems that Taster B has been taking her own shots. I’m very please with what she has been doing and that she has warmed up nicely to the Nikon D80. We just got in a second body and I was chastised for grabbing both cameras to do a recent shoot after work. (Ooops!, Taster A has to learn to share.)

In all seriousness, I want to take this opportunity to point out that Taster B shot the following:
Saucy Pouilly Fuisse
Mendoza Bonarda
Another Bodacious Bordeaux
Stop and Smell
Hugel - Twitter Taste Live


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Saucy Pouilly-Fuisse

We tasted a 2006 Rijckaert Pouilly-Fuisse recently that provided a surprising twist. On the nose were of course, melon, wet stone, and a bit of butter and, there was something else there too...bacon?
But, it was in tasting this wine that expectations were turned on their heads: Béarnaise. Pure unadulterated Béarnaise sauce. So, what is Béarnaise? Well, it's a sauce comprised of eggs, tarragon, and vinegar. Perhaps, this wine exhibited a touch of lemon too which technically would be more of a Hollandaise. A very rich, and very meaty white wine, even for a Chardonnay. Not a fan of buttery chards? Well, I would suggest trying the Rijckaert Pouilly-Fuisse regardless just for this unique (and yummy) taste sensation.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bianco Aldo Barbaresco

Had a little guilty indulgence with a 2004 Barbaresco last weekend. I wouldn't call it infanticide (it is drinking well already)...maybe more like watching a preteen beauty pageant. It would be okay let this one collect a nice layer of cellar dust before breaking it out again.

Bianco Aldo Barbaresco

Vintage/Vendemmia: 2004
Varietal: Organic Nebbiolo
Price: $39.99
Aromas: Smoked meat, sarsaparilla, marzipan, Turkish delight
Flavors: Strawberry, cherry, cola, licorice

Summary: Just a little bit of Eau du County Fair comes off the nose to kick off the parade of aromas. From there it runs the gamut from savory to sweet. Just as many flavors take turns jumping into the spotlight starting with the berry, and mild livestock, smoked meat, and spice. Nicely balanced acidity and tannins--and plenty of it. The Piedmont wine equivalent of a fluid stroll through a vivid street bazaar.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Is Taster A a foodie?

I was turned onto this list by Sonadora. I had to give it a go. A list of 0ne hundred foods items. Which have you had?

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (I used Italics)
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
(Hey, I've made fruit wines.)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes

22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (okay, next trip to San Fransisco, but I'm from Mass, I don't tolerate crappy chow-da.)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I've had Cognac and I've had fat cigars, but not together.)
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (Not on purpose)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk (This was an important part of my first daughter's diet. She was allergic to cow's milk)
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (I confess.)
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail

79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Not a bad list, but where is the pizza? The golubtsy? Where is the yak butter dahl, the falafel? Golubtsy is Russian stuffed cabbage. Most cultures have a stuffed cabbage.

Fruit wines I’ve made are apple, choke cherry, elderberry and blackberry. I’ve had tomato wine, pear wine, black current, and rhubarb wine. Wild berries off the bush: blackberry, raspberry, cranberry, boysenberry, blueberry and gooseberry.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Mendoza Bonarda

This wine really threw me for a loop. We originally purchased it at a South American wine tasting last winter at a local wine shop. We had tasted it at that time and found it's most notable characteristic to be floral aromas. Opening the bottle last night, floral was the least notable attribute--in fact it didn't even get noted. After two days, I still find it almost impossible to characterize this wine.

The ruby red color is impenetrable. The nose is slightly garish at first. The taste is unexpected--leather and chocolate in stark contrast to the cherry Ludens nose. The body is aqueous. The texture is unctuous. Overall, the impression this wine gives is very misterioso.

Colonia Las Liebres 2005

Grape Variety: Bonarda
Region: Mendoza, Argentina
Alcohol: 13.4%
Price: $9.99
Aromas: Blackberry, blueberry, mint, smoked meat, almond
Flavors: Leather, chocolate, raspberry, cola

Summary: An interesting and dynamic combination of flavor and texture. What it lacks in elegance it makes up for with exoticness. It's sort of El Mariachi meets Mia Wallace meets Hopsalot. A little bit wrong in that kitschy hip kind of way where wrong is so right.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Zinfandel & Sonoma & Stuff

The press release went out last week announcing the big Wine Blogger Blind Tasting Challenge at the 2008 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa in October. The taste-off line up will consist exclusively of Sonoma County AVAs and I'm thinking I should probably get some practice if I want to be a contenda. To that end, I put a couple of Sonoma wines in my basket in a recent online wine purchase. Well, one was a Chardonnay that I just bought for when my relatives visit. The other was a Zin but it turned out to be out of stock so I took the bottle of comparable CA Zin that was offered as a substitute. It was a 2006 Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel. I'm not going to expend the effort to go into great detail about this wine since we weren't overly impressed. Its a decent Zin but it's also around $28. It's got the requisite über ripe fruit going on and everything and is no doubt drinkable but, I found it to be a little on the flabby side and generally lacking in backbone so I think for the money, you'd do better to spend another six or seven bucks for one of these superior Sonoma selections.

Since we're already knee deep in the Sonoma Zinfandel plugging, I may as well mention a totally relevant event that the guys over at Wine Biz Radio tipped listeners off to in their most recent show/podcast. That's right, the 5th Annual Spotlight on Zinfandel is being held this weekend, September 13th and 14th at participating wineries in beautiful Sonoma. Of course, I know from our visitor map here at Smells Like Grape, that most of you are nowhere near Sonoma, and so probably can't make it but, it's still good to know what's going on...Maybe next year.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Bodegas Navarro-Lopez Granrojo Garnacha

We ordered this bottle to go with our tapas the other night. It had nice aromas and flavors of blackberry and perhaps a hint of blueberry. Very mellow on the palate with a hint of spice. Sorry, I can't be more detailed but, I didn't take notes. It obviously paired well with all the food we ordered that evening because we managed to polish off the bottle but, it went particularly well with the smoky chorizo stuffed poblanos in pine nut cream sauce. Suffice to say, it was good and I wouldn't hesitate to order it again.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Another Bodacious Bordeaux

Don't you love it when another taster validates one of your tasting notes? I do. That's why I am excited to tell you about tasting the Château La Rame 2005 Bordeaux.

On the nose, first thing to hit me was banana and pomegranate, as well as, the ubiquitous garrigue notes. By the way, sorry if my use of "garrigue" rubs anyone the wrong way: I know how charged the topic of aroma descriptors can be. For purists it's probably too broad, and for laid-back types, it's probably too pretentious sounding. Let me just say that there are times when aroma compounds come together to become a scent unto themselves--an amalgamation of individual odors. Even though I really haven't personally smelled the scrublands around the Med, I have smelled the scrublands outside Elko Nevada when the sage is blooming in early July. I have also smelled a fair number of wines from southern France that share a certain sharp herbal note that is common to the oily foliage of woody herbs such as lavender, rosemary, and sage but that isn't any of those in particular. I suppose one could also say "herbaceous" in place of the French "garrigue" but if it's a French wine, why not use the term that sprouts from the place?

With the first sip, I found the wine to be really quite chewy, with lots of plum and pomegranate. There was also a cool sensation on the tip of my tongue. I took another whiff, and got a picture in my mind of slicing a piece of bark off a green branch. It took me a minute to track back to the memory but, then I remembered sucking on a green birch shoot which tastes like a cross between wintergreen and sarsaparilla. The finish on this wine is mildly spicy and moderately long. Firm tannins and ripe fruit make this a pretty big wine which contains 13% ABV. The moderate acidity is ample for pairing with food. I think it will be interesting to taste this wine in another two or three years.

But, I promised a story: I'd started tasting ahead of Taster A who was finishing up something on the computer. When he came over I let him start, and after a couple minutes I said "I need to talk to you about this wine when you've gotten through your evaluation." When he was ready, I said "this is weird but, I'm thinking birch bark." He looked at me, and then he pointed to his tasting sheet where he'd written "Black Birch."

So, there you have it. Independently corroborated. If you ever sucked on a Black Birch shoot as a kid, definitely try this wine, and see if you don't find the same thing we did.

Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time trying to find out what the grapes are in this blend. I have sketchy information that suggests it is a Cab/Merlot blend but, I'm not convinced. I have contacted the Mad Rose info desk and if I get an answer, I'll post the blend as an addendum.

9/5/2008 Addendum: Haven't heard from Mad Rose but we're finishing the bottle tonight, and I gotta say--it's tasting pretty cab-like.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Juicy Wine Aromas

I was reading a description of a Rosé we tried recently. It was a French wine, and a French review so I didn't get much of the translation but I was able to pull a few words out that I recognized: strawberry, raspberry, floral...But, there was another descriptor that intrigued me: amyliques. What is that? I wondered if it had something to do with fruit esters but I didn't know for sure.

To track down the answer, I enlisted the help of the wine search engine. My synopsis on what the sleuthing turned up is that the term "amyliques" is more or less synonymous with "Juicy Fruit" as in, the gum. Isoamyl acetate, AKA banana or pear oil, is the main flavoring in Juicy Fruit. Across the pond, this same flavor is sometimes described as "Pear Drop" (a hard candy with the same flavoring). Some wine lovers just say "smells like Isoamyl acetate." Personally, I usually stick with "ripe banana" but from now on, if it's really kinda juicy-fruity I might call it "banana oil."

While we're on the subject, I also wanted to turn you onto a handy wine aroma/flavors list I discovered in my Able Grape search. Tom Stevenson, the author of Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia has published his "mind jogging list" of aromas along with attendant varietal AND chemical names (woohoo! Food Biochemistry!) on It's an interesting, and even entertaining peruse with the added benefit of being educational.