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Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

[Above: Cornbread-stuffed Quail, Johnnycakes, Soft-poached eggs with Hollandaise at HUSK]

If you’re ever in Charleston, South Carolina and you’re looking for a bite to eat, head to the corner of King and Queen and take your pick from three highly-touted restaurants, two of which I can vouch for being terrific. [The other, 82 Queen, was raved about by others in our group].

They serve up classic southern fare at Poogan’s Porch, including the softest, most pillowy biscuits mankind has ever seen served with a delicious apple honey butter.  I had the Shrimp and Grits, they were absolutely spot-on.

Right next door to Poogan’s Porch is HUSK where Beard-award winning chef Sean Brock is doing some great things.  First:  The bar. It’s separate from the restaurant, in the alley between HUSK and Poogan’s Porch.  They serve up serious craft cocktails [a sip of their Monkey Gland was quite nice] and local brews.  Definitely worth a stop even if you’re not eating. Go up to the second floor and take a load off in the classy, red-leather decked, AC-blasted lounge area.

The restaurant itself is down-home but a little dressed up. The biscuits and gravy are a great starter, and my above pictured brunch was amazing.  And they serve house-made pork butter with their rolls.  It’s a little salty, but quite tasty.

After brunch, our wonderful waiter brought us each a small digestif of Txakoli (pronounced sha-co-LEE).  I can’t remember ever having it before, or even hearing of the grape.  Apparently it’s a specialty in the Spanish Basque country, and it’s exactly the kind of white wine I like – light, refreshing, citrusy, zippy, acidic.  It smelled like Cava and went down like Vinho Verde. I made a point to track some down when I got back.

On Monday, I stopped by Solo Vino on Cathedral Hill [easily the best shop in town if you’re looking to track down a Spanish wine].  Not only did they have 3 different Txakolis but 2 or 3 Txakoli Roses.

Make sure to hit up Solo Vino this week for their Spring Wine Sale – all bottles 20% off through Saturday.  I got the 2009 Amaztoi Txakolina [$15.99 on sale, $19.99 usually] and it’s a wonderful sip.  It’s a very pale shade of straw, slightly fizzy with a nose full of minerals and even a kind of wheat-like quality.  The sip has tingly acidity all over the place with some pears, more herbs and a dry, minerally finish.  It just screams summer wine – try it with seafood or, probably best, all by itself in the 90-degree heat.  Now if I could only track down some of that.

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It was a busy February for G. Sheaves. It was full of great events and opportunities, concerts, and a couple of fun stories for the Heavy Table. But hardly any wine blogging! Rest assured I wasn’t not drinking, and looking back through my notes I have a bunch of good recommendations for you all. And, thanks for all the great feedback on my ID rant.  A lot of people commented that they’ve had some similar experiences, which is unfortunate.  The moral of the story is to find a store in the metro where you feel welcomed and appreciated.  Shoot me an email, gsheaves [at] yahoo.com, and I’d be more than happy to let you know of one in your area.

On to some recommendations:

1 through 3) Wines from the current shipment of the Minnesota Wine Club.  I mentioned Jason Johnson in my recap article from the MN Grape Growers Conference.  He has generously supplied me with three wines from his current shipment (sign up before March 12th to get it), and I’m happy to report back that they’re all very good examples of what’s coming out of our state right now. The Carlos Creek American Chianti is a soft, accommodating red wine. It has gobs of strawberries and baking spice in a lighter body. The sip starts out with a tinge of sweetness (berry sweet, not sugary sweet), and continues to a soft, slightly acidic finish. The tannin is very much muted – this is a fruit driven wine. Staunch white wine drinkers should try this. I sort of knocked the quality of MN reds in the previously mentioned article – I’m glad to say this is one of the good ones.  The Falconer Vineyards Frontenac Rose is, in the words of The Runaways, a ch ch ch ch ch CHERRY BOMB!  I think this is a wine better suited for the summer – I can imagine it going down perfectly with some grilled chicken.  This is not like those dry, French, austere rosés, like Tavel or Lirac.  It’s fruity and light, as is the MN red wine style. There may be a fair amount of wine drinkers that will find this wine as too great a departure from the rosés they’re used to. If you like it though, there are a lot of good Frontenac Rosés being made in MN right now, and this is a good starting point. Finally, the 2009 St. Croix Vineyards Delaware is about as easy to drink as wines come. It’s light and floral, with well incorporated sweetness and some herbal notes on the body. Riesling fans take note of this one – it has a fair amount of sweetness, but it isn’t so sweet that it masks the flavor of the grape.  I get some honeydew melon and pear, and the finish is even a little on the dry side – it’s like a slightly drier Moscato. A great MN white, all around. Great picks, Jason!  I look forward to your next shipment!

4 and 5) 2005 Overgaauw Cabernet Sauvignon. From the portfolio of Z Wines, this Stellenbosch beauty is one of the best Cabs under $20 I’ve had in quite some time.  It’s full of blackberries, dirt, some bell pepper, even a little black olive.  It’s smooth, powerful and luscious. Get it at France 44. Also, that Jean Daneel Signature Chenin Blanc I mentioned in the article was a Best In Show winner at the MN Monthly Food & Wine Experience this year. It’ll be in the mid $20s, but definitely worth it.

6 and 7) Is is still too cold out for Sauvignon Blanc?  I think it may be, but here are two real good ones anyway. The 2008 Domaine du Salvard Cheverny has an intensely herbal nose with green-fruit flavors and some prickly acidity in a light-medium body. It goes from tart to dry and is ultra refreshing. Fans of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc will enjoy this one, as will fans of its Loire Valley neighbor, Sancerre. I got it at Zipp’s for $15. Also, eating at Sea Change for restaurant week a couple of days ago, I had the 2009 Mapema Sauvignon Blanc from Mendoza, Argentina. It was herbal and citrusy (I could have just smelled it for days), wonderfully bright and perfect with some briny Hama Hama oysters. Can someone let me know what stores around here carry it? It should probably be around $13.

8 and 9) How about a fun Greek wine?  The 2008 Greek Wine Cellars Assyrtiko from the island of Santorini should be on your table next time you have seafood. It has a floral nose with some light citrus, which continues to the body, a little herbal twang with more bright citrus and a distinct minerality shows on the finish. It’s an expressive wine for being so light bodied. Get it at Cork Dork Wine Co. for $12. And while you’re there, do yourself a favor and pick up the non-vintage Patrick Lesec Petite Crau. An everyday value red wine if there was ever one, It’ll be one of the better $8 investments you’ve made lately.

Are there any wines/regions/grapes you’d like to hear more about?  I’m more than happy to go investigate for my readers.  Leave a note in the comments or write me and I’ll get right on it.  Thanks for reading!

G.

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Wow, have I not posted here in like three weeks?  Where did January go all of a sudden?  Well, I can’t say I’m sad about it, seeing as my shoulders have curled up into a permanent shrug. It’s now February – the month that’s shorter than all the others because it’s historically despised, and by the looks of Chicago (I mean, if it’s still there) this one won’t be any different. Despite what certain weather-predicting rodents have to say, I’m not holding out hope for an early spring.

Tonight, nothing sounded better for dinner than some super-cheesy, stick-to-your-ribs Mac. I add ground mustard and paprika to my roux (thanks, Alton Brown) when I’m building the cheese sauce for a little more nuanced kick to my childhood fave.

A fine accompaniment to the Mac was the 2008 ‘Eve’ Columbia Valley Chardonnay [$11.99 at The Wine Thief].  It’s a Charles Smith wine, you may be familiar with his Kung Fu Girl Riesling (which is a great value-priced Washington Riesling).  The Eve is a Jekyll & Hyde-like Chardonnay – on the nose you get that unmistakable vanilla smell from French oak aging.  But the sip does a complete 180 – it’s crisp and light, effervescent and acidic.  Lots of apples and a lean, dry finish.  It still has that rounded Chardonnay mouthfeel, but it’s no butter-bomb.  Good value and a good one for the Chard-shy.

I picked this up during my first visit to The Wine Thief.  It’s a great little shop for those who haven’t been. Each wine gets a personalized, often cheeky shelf-talker. Wines are organized by style, not region, and they are all good value wines (not many over $20). I didn’t stop in to the adjoining Ale Jail, but a quick glance at their selection looked pretty impressive.

Other Things Of Note:

Check out Simple, Good, & Tasty for a preview of the Sub-Rosa Dining Series, the latest venture from chef Nick Schneider (Cafe Brenda, among others). Myself and Kate Sommers (@ForkKnifeSpoon) will be covering this for Heavy Table. Great food, wine and classical music? Just about my three favorite things ever. I’ll have to fight the urge to write the snobbiest recap article in history. Mmm, yes, the nose on this Savennieres is as haunting and moody as the Sarabande of Bach’s sixth cello suite.

The new Starbucks ‘Trenta’ cup holds an entire bottle of wine.  So, yeah, there’s that.

For a serious insider’s look into cold climate wine, add Enology In Minnesota to your RSS.  Katie Cook, U of M Enologist, knows her stuff.  It’s detailed, both scientific and anecdotal. Check out her very interest post from January 27th on terroir in Minnesota.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Brahms and I have a bottle to finish.

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[2 Live Crus…(Beaujolais)]

Did you know that 2009 is being hailed as one of the finest vintages for Beaujolais ever? Robert Parker, Janice Robinson, Tyler Coleman and pretty much everyone else in the know are raving about it. I probably drink less Beaujolais than any other major wine region out there. And I absolutely despise Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s probably the one style of wine I can unequivocally say I have never enjoyed. What can you say about a wine whose common flavors include banana peel and bubble gum? Regular Beaujolais, for me, is just too thin. But because it’s devoid of tannin and made in a fruitier style, it’s probably the red wine I’d give to a staunch white wine drinker to introduce them to the dark side.

But here’s the secret for the serious red drinker: CRU Beaujolais. There’s a spine of  hills that runs through the center of Beaujolais, with soils of sandy clay over granite. 10 villages/areas in the very center are allowed to label their wines by their place names. These wines are the fullest, most concentrated Beaujolais. They still have that uber-fruity profile, but with more tannin and heft, making them much better balanced and more interesting. They don’t make Nouveau in the Cru villages, and their wines may not even say Beaujolais on the bottle. Other great thing about Cru Beaujolais, it’s usually under $20, and often closer to $15. Cru Beaujolais delivers that great restrained, Burgundian style at a discount.  Go to the Burgundy aisle of your wine store and look for the following ten place names, in very rough order from lightest to heaviest in style:

Chiroubles – Brouilly – Fleurie – RégniéSaint-Amour – Côte de Brouilly – Juliénas – Chénas – Morgon – Moulin-à-Vent

I personally seek out Morgon and Moulin-à-Vent most often.  Those places have soils richer in iron and manganese, producing darker, richer red wines. Those are also the least likely to taste like regular Beaujolais.  If you manage to snag a 2009 from Julienas, Chenas, Morgon or Moulin-à-Vent, you might want to wait a year or two before opening. These are the richest wines from the best vintage this region has seen in decades – they should be given a little time to find themselves.

But the ’07s are ready to rock, so I picked up the 2007 DuBoeuf ‘Jean Descombes’ Morgon [$14.99 at Surdyks].  It’s a very drinkable wine – the French would call it gouleyant. It’s a dark ruby/purple, with a musky and fruity nose, with a nice soft attack of bright red berry fruit with a moderate amount of acid through the sip. The flavors build to an sharp finish. It’s light and smooth, but expressive with berry flavor. If you can find any of DuBoeuf’s ’09 Cru Beaujolais – you can not go wrong.  Also, any ’09 Beaujolais-Villages is a good bet as well.  That’s the name given to wines grown outside of the Cru villages, but still closer in to the center of the region.

With all the hype, I couldn’t help but try one of the lighter ’09s.  I found the 2009 Paul Cinquin ‘Domaine Des Braves’ Régnié [$17.99 at France 44] to be a very serious wine that probably could have used even another year in the bottle, but was great with Mussels Marinara and a Seahawks victory last week.  It sported a dark magenta color with a funky Burgundy nose, lots of wood smells. A smooth sip follows, with strawberries and asphalt – very much like a Burgundy Pinot. Medium body, dry finish.  Based on my first experience with ’09 Beaujolias, I say chapeau bas.

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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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[5 Wines For Thanksgiving]

I don’t understand why wine columnists lament having to write the annual Wines to Pair with Thanksgiving article.  To me, tackling the subject of America’s most culinary holiday from the perspective of wine should be looked forward to!  It should be a time to synthesize all that you’ve learned about wine over the past year and offer a fresh take on what might elevate your turkey feast to sensational new heights.

Of course, every Thanksgiving Wine article must end with a version of this obligatory statement: “The most important rule for wine pairing at Thanksgiving is to drink the wines you love.  After all, the holiday is about taking stock of the blessings of family, friends and abundance, and the wines you bring should reflect a gratitude for being able to share them with the people you care about.”  But to me, that should be the rule for every holiday.  Hell, that should be the rule for every Tuesday.  Wine is a beverage of thought and reflection, of community and conviviality.  You don’t need a holiday devoted to those principles to make wine special.

Wine pairing for Thanksgiving is slightly an exercise in lunacy.  It isn’t like a normal pairing, because you’re looking for a wine that will be good with potentially a dozen different dishes.  And if you’re bringing wines to a Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll have only a rough idea of what the dishes will be or how they’ll be prepared [side note, Mom, let’s not have a fiasco like last year and just keep the marshmallows in the fruit salad, k? thx].  What makes it easy, however, is that since no pairing will be perfect, you’re really just aiming for crowd pleasing wines.

So, yes, drink the wines you love this Thanksgiving.  But if you’re not sure what you love, I humbly offer five areas of suggestion to help guide you:

1) Sparkling Wine. Bubbly is a no brainer on Thanksgiving, or any holiday for that matter.  Mumm Napa Brut Rose (Around $20, widely sold) would be a great starter.  Roses in general would be a good flavor match for T-day (think cranberry sauce).  Another good sparkling pick would be the Saint-Hilaire Blanquette di Limoux [$13.99 at Surdyk’s] – it’s light, yeasty and apple scented.

2) Viognier. Of course, you can’t go wrong with Chardonnay for Thanksgiving, but let’s give some love to different fuller bodied white.  Viognier just tastes like autumn – creamy and musky with tart apricot flavors.  The La Forge Estate Viognier I blogged about earlier this year would be a good one.  Pine Ridge’s Chenin Blanc-Viongier blend is an ever-present, budget conscious bottle worth consideration as well.

3) Rhones. Red wines from the France’s Rhone Valley are an excellent match to stand up to the array of rich foods you’ll be faced with.  These Grenache-Syrah blends are round and robust, and provide refreshing acidity and spice.  If you don’t usually splurge on wine, a $30 Chateauneuf-du-Pape would instantly endear you to everyone at your Thanksgiving get together.  Though, there are great examples of Rhones to be had under $20.  Ask Russell at Cork Dork Wine Co for a recommendation, he has a great selection of Rhones. For widely stocked Rhones, you can’t go wrong with any $15-20 Rhone (usually styled Cotes-du-Rhone) from E. Guigal, Perrin et Fils, or Jaboulet.  Surdyk’s has all three. 

4) Pinot Noir.  Pinots are a perfect match.  Especially if your Turkey is on the dry side, you don’t want a red wine to be choking you with tannin at the T-day table.  Pinot Noir will complete a nice balancing act against all your dishes with its earthiness, light body and tart flavors.  Burgundy, as opposed to domestic Pinot Noir, is especially good.  They’re more restrained than your jammy strawberry Pinots from California.  They have more fungal (in a good way), rustic flavors that are already at your table.  I’m going to bring a 2000 Arthur Barolet Chassagne-Montrachet I bought at a ridiculously discounted price during Haskell’s Summer Sale in July.  They have a great selection of Burgundy at all their locations.

5) Domestic/Local Wines. I throw this in as a general category.  Since it is a harvest holiday, it’s not a bad idea to think local or at least domestic.  I’m bringing the Summerset Frontenac from Indianola, Iowa that I wrote about for Heavy Table, but there are many good Minnesota Wines to bring as well.  For refreshing whites, try the Seyval Blanc from Alexis Bailly or the La Crescent from Saint Croix Vineyards.  The latter would be very nice with pumpkin pie.

There you have it – a few ideas, though certainly not comprehensive.  Everyone will tell you Zinfandel is great for Thanksgiving, so is Gewürztraminer, and same thing with Chardonnay…(you see where I’m going with this).  Just remember, it’s a celebration.  Plan your wine accordingly.

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So, this is happening.

I suppose it’s about time, still can’t help but die a little inside.  No more Lake Calhoun, no more patio at McGoverns.  It’s back to corner booths at the Liffey and my commute now lasting two full podcasts of Planet Money.

Check out my article over at Heavy Table if you get a chance: Lake Wine & Spirits great store in a convenient location for me.  Good thing I stocked up there before the skies opened up.

The 2005 Conde de Valdemar Rioja Crianza is a real nice wine at $13.99.  It’s velvety and soft with vanilla, red berry fruit and wood.  Has a soft spicy nose and a clean dry finish.  A characteristic Rioja at a good price.  Also really liked the 2007 Castello d’Alba Douro Colheita – for $8.99 this Portuguese red gives you some good sweet strawberries and earth in a light body.  A great value wine, one for the Tuesday night DiGiorno.

Stay warm, readers.  Coming up this week, the complete G Sheaves guide to buying Thanksgiving wines.

 

 

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