Archive for December, 2010

Unbelievable Christmas gift from my brother, the 2007 Palacios Les Terrasses Priorat. Thanks J!


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Here are a few jumbled thoughts – I think all the pushing, digging and shoveling this weekend just wore me out.  I feel more deflated than the Metrodome.

It’s called Petit, but it’s not small: Looking for a big red blend to warm up with?  Get to Surdyk’s and pick up the 2007 Bogle Phantom [$15.99 on sale, usually $19.99].  A blend of Petit Sirah, Old Vine Zinfandel and Old Vine Mourvedre, it has a dusty currant and violet nose and a super smooth, silky and powerful body with dark blueberry and some vegetal flavors just barely peeking through.  The tannin is heavy but luscious.  This is a crowd pleaser – and at 14.5% ABV it’ll warm you to the core.

A good red from MN?: One of my biggest wine goals for the year was to seek out locally made wines on a more regular basis.  I usually opt for the whites, because cold-climate red wines are much more stylistically different from those made from European red grapes.  I like to think that cold climate red wines taste clean, in that they’re usually a lighter, leaner expression of grape flavor.  Though people who hate local wines because of this style would probably term it hollow. So I’m always thrilled when I find a new local red that I can heartily recommend to those who prefer both styles.  The 2007 Northern Vineyards St. Croix Reserve is a wine with fantastic depth and flavor for being MN-WI grown.  It’s medium-full bodied, a little peppery, and quite dry.   Make sure to open and decant this for an hour – it smells and tastes like a Ziploc bag right after uncorking, but opens up beautifully after that.  Take a trip to Stillwater and check the place out – nice little tasting room, friendly staff, and the St. Croix Reserve is currently on sale for $14.95.

‘Inn’?  Keeper:  Made my first visit to The Inn recently.  The place just looks like a winter bar – from the wooden-crate bar backing and bookshelves to the dim lighting and mustachioed bar staff, it’s the kind of place I’d want to wind down in after running a dogsled race.  On DeRusha’s advice, I had the Captain Wentworth which is pretty much the best Manhattan you’ll ever have, and though it was maybe a bit heavy on the walnut bitters, it was delicious.  What really warmed me up [though it was still a balmy 30 degrees out] was a sample of a Hard Cider with Tequila that were being passed around the bar – classically spicy, but the tequila added a nice floral/earthy component that was incredibly tasty.  I didn’t even think to ask if I could get a mug of it, which is probably for the better since I don’t think I would have stopped at one.

Vin Brule: It’s about this time of year I start getting the craving for Mulled Wine.  One of my favorite things about Italy around Christmastime is street vendors selling little mugs of it for about 2 Euro.  I was in Venice this time two years ago – it was cold, rainy and cloudy all week.  My respite was in a Piazza just north of the Ponte dell’Accademia that was decked out like a mini Christmas village.  I’d get a cup of mulled wine and a sfogliatina, sit back and watch the piazza – pigeons swarming, teenagers loitering, tourists photographing, and the marvel of tall Italian women deftly navigating the uneven cobblestone in their five-inch stilettos.  I really like Marcus Samuelsson’s Aquavit version, though I might substitute brandy for vodka.

That’s all for now – time to find my Ugly Sweater.   

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A big thanks to Heavy Table for letting me indulge in my Falstaffian love affair with Uptown’s bounty of Pad Thai.   Thanks also to my crew of judges for helping me choose a winner in a contest that was like picking the cutest puppy in a litter.

Not mentioned in my article were the wines we drank with our Pad Thai feast.  I shopped a sale at Zipp’s to find two domestic Rieslings that might complement the noodles.  Rieslings with Thai or Chinese cuisine are getting to be one of those “so cliche but so good you can’t help yourself” wine pairings [like lamb and Bordeaux or oysters and Champagne].  Reasons? First, Riesling is usually semi-sweet, which tempers the chile-spice found on many Thai dishes.  Also, Rieslings are a lighter white wine with usually very high acidity.  These are both nice features when you have a weighty-tasting sauce on your plate [like a thicker peanut sauce or sticky Kung Pao].  Also, many of Riesling’s hallmark flavors are very much in sync with Thai cuisine – think lime and honey.  I like Zipp’s stock of Rieslings, pretty convenient that it’s across the street from True Thai. 

How about my first Riesling from Michigan?  I only bought it because I’ve never had a wine from Michigan before, and I very much enjoyed the last odd-region Riesling I got from Zipp’s.  The 2008 Chateau Grand Traverse ‘Whole Cluster’ Riesling [$14.45 on sale at Zipp’s, usually $16.99] was everything I enjoy in a Riesling – clean flavors, tart acidity, mild sweetness.  It was almost colorless with a nice grapefruit nose.  The lighter-bodied sip had nice tart green apples and was slightly off-dry – just enough sweetness to balance.  Light, bright and tasty – and very nice with the Thai.  Much recommended.

A less successful effort was the 2009 Badger Mountain NSA Riesling [$8.95 on sale, usually $10.49].  An organic wine [NSA = No Sulfites Added] from Washington’s Columbia River Valley, it had a deep golden color and a toffee, honey kind of nose.  The sweetness was sticky, almost cloying and the finish is unusually harsh for a Riesling.  It was confusingly buttery and the orange-fruit flavors were kind of disjointed.  Was it the Muscat Canelli in this wine that threw me?  Not sure, I guess all I can say is that for the same price, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s basic Washington Riesling is head and shoulders above this one.

Our judge’s contribution for the night was a favorite bottle of both mine and his – Sokol Blosser Evolution, ’13th edition’ [around $18, widely sold] an ever-changing Oregonian blend of nine mystery grapes, pressed separately and layered into an off-dry, mellow citrus flavor.  Low-acid, larger body, very smooth.

There’s lots of great content coming your way, big reds for the cold weather, good whites from Stillwater, good bubbly for the holidays.

Photos by Sarah Jane Walter

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