Tag Archives: red wine

Wine O’Clock: Fair Oaks Ranch Zinfandel Reserve 2005

26 Jul

Yes, I’m still alive and YES, I’m still drinking wine.  Here’s proof – an empty bottle of Fair Oaks Ranch Zinfandel Reserve 2005.  A recent local Groupon deal netted me $75 at Wine Insiders, an online wine-monger with a similar price-vs.-quality philosophy as Barriques, for only $25.  I ended up with 6 bottles in the $10-$12 range for only $30, including shipping.  While I wasn’t familiar with any of the wines I ended up with, at $5 a bottle, I wasn’t out much either way.  After Sumptuary opened my eyes to the raw power of the California Zinfandel, I had to delve deeper into the grape.

Fair Oaks Ranch Zinfandel Reserve 2005

Varietal: 100% Zinfandel

Vitals: 12.5% abv

Company Line: *crickets*

My take: deep ruby in the glass.  Jammy blackberry and black cherry play off spice and cedar in the nose.  Wild berries and bramble dominate the fore-palate with leathery tannins and a hint of pepper bringing home a long, dry finish.

This Zin is a lot tighter and dryer than I tend to prefer, but it nonetheless hits the standard notes of the varietal.  Probably not an example that I’d revisit, but more accessible for those who prefer a more straightforward, mellowed-out red.


Wine O’clock: Catalpa Pinot Noir 2007

17 Feb

Another day, another Barriques e-mail special washing away the haze of a shift spent catering to the eclectic masses of Middleton, WI.  The smooth subtlety of pinot noir is just what I need to scrub away the coffee grounds, scone crumbs and spent tea leaves acquired over eight-plus hours behind the bar.  Serenity now.

Wine: Catalpa Pinot Noir 2007

Vitals: 14.0% abv; Region – Alto Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina ; Aged 12 months on new French oak; Ageing potential – 8 years

Company Line: “Bright red ruby color. Aromas of blueberry and gooseberry jam, with hints of caramel and chocolate.  In the mouth, it is elegant and well-balanced, with smooth tannins and intense red fruit notes.  Great with soft cheeses, poultry and lamb.”

My take: deep garnet red in the glass with some floaty bits that stick to the side of the glass.  Blueberry and eucalyptus dominate the nose with a ribbon of milk chocolate upon deeper inspection.  Cherry and plum skins come to the front of the palate, which is pleasantly powdery as a result.  The overall impression is of a dark cherry truffle coated in dark cocoa powder.  Paired naturally with a salad of Granny Smith apples, walnuts, bleu cheese and blueberry vinaigrette.  A wine that added refinement to a day that desperately needed it.  And a steal at $11.99 (some $6 off retail).

Wine is fine: d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Shiraz 2008

25 Jan

Another great new wine from the Barriques Wall of 100 tonight which means two things – tasty and $10 or less.  This one comes highly regarded as one of my boss’ favorite new wines (oh, and its spot (#82) on the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2009 doesn’t hurt).  After hearing nothing but gushing praise since its arrival at the stores, I took the plunge and grabbed a bottle on my way home the other night.  I’m 26 now.  Sometimes you just have to treat yourself.  Cuz I’m worth it.

Wine: d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Shiraz 2008

Vitals: 14.5%; 100% Shiraz; McLaren Vale, South Australia

Company line: “The name ‘Stump Jump’ relates to the significant South Australian invention – the Stump Jump plough. This plough became a popular piece of machinery for ploughing fields because of its ability to ride over stumps and gnarled “mallee” Eucalypt roots and snags, saving valuable time and resources by not stopping the draught horse.

Inviting fresh plum aromas leap out of the glass with raspberry and pretty pot-pourri notes providing more complexity. The palate is juicy and spicy with an abundance of red fruits that are fresh and vibrant. Licorice and rose petals come through on the mid palate and an under-lying earthy complexity is evident all the way through. The tannins are powdery and subtle on this juicy ready to drink red.”

My take: opaque burgundy with ruby highlights in the glass.  Bursting with juicy, overripe blackberry and raspberries in the nose.  Dark fruits dominate the palate, which starts with a sweet berry flourish, transitioning into a lightly tannic dry and spicy finish that singes the sides of the tongue with its alcoholic brunt.  Juicy and ripe, this shiraz went down great with the punchy Italian beef my mother made for my birthday.  A whole lot of deliciousness for under $10.

Wine is fine: Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Green Label Syrah-Shiraz 2007

16 Jan

Syrah? Shiraz? Syraz?! Shyrah? Schlemiel! Schlimazel!

Another wine courtesy of my patron of fine food and drink, Ms. D – this Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Green Label Syrah-Shiraz 2007 (the clubhouse leader in longest beverage name on 43N/89W) comes well-recommended.

Wine: Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Green Label Syrah-Shiraz 2007

Vitals: 13.5% abv, 88% Syrah/12% Petite Sirah blend, 14 months in French oak

Company line: “Intense plum and clove aromas are the friendly greeting from our Green Label Syrah-Shiraz. Made from grapes grown in Paso Robles and Monterey, this concentrated and complex wine has soft tannins, and blackberry and boysenberry flavors layered with notes of smoky bacon, sweet vanilla, and bittersweet chocolate. -franciscopollawinery.com”

My take: dark ruby in the glass.  Aroma bursts with ripe blackberry and plum with a spicy finish.  Juicy dark fruits are bolstered by smoke and leather and enriched with lush chocolate, contributing to a dry but smooth tannic finish. A bold and full syrah that would stand up well to rich, meaty dishes and pair well with fruit and chocolate-based desserts alike.  A solid value sub-$15.  Thanks again, D.  You know how to keep a guy’s wine game tony on a budget – exactly what we here at 43N/89W strive for every day.  Well, at least a couple times a week, anyway.

Wine is fine: Astica Cuyo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

8 Jan

Who said wine and football don't mix?

BARGAIN ALERT!  Tonight’s wine may very well be the cheapest available at Barriques at $4.99/bottle.  Look out, Chuck.  All the way from the Cuyo region of Argentina comes the Astica Cuyo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.  Is it a bargain or is it just a cheap wine?  The low buy-in to find out garnered a look.

Wine: Astica Cuyo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Vitals: 13% abv, Cuyo Region, “Produced from grapes hand-picked in the Cuyo Valley, which lies in the northern boundaries of Mendoza and lies at very high altitude (800 to 1,100 meters above sea).”

Company line: “The wine presents a ripe blackberry aroma with a smooth, round, fruity palate.  Ideal to drink with grilled meats, roast, and full-flavoured dishes”

My take: Dark garnet in the glass.  Nose is somewhat muted but provides some dark berry along with a leathery ribbon.  A cooling minty/anise flourish distracts somewhat from an otherwise one-note ripe blackberry palate.  Body is on the thin side and finish is dry and short.  A little rough around the edges for the seared porkchop with braised carrots and twice-baked potato I whipped up for dinner tonight, but not an entirely awful experience.  I’m not sure I would add this to my regular rotation, but you can certainly do worse for five bucks.

Wine is fine: Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

5 Jan

This wine brought to my mouth and your computer screen courtesy of a fantastic friend from the Left Coast (thanks, D!).

Wine: Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Vitals: More-than-you-needed-but-still-cool-to-know fact sheet (PDF), 13.5% abv, Columbia Valley AVA, 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah, 2% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec

Company Line: This Cabernet Sauvignon highlights concentrated Washington State red fruit in an accessible style. It has plenty of complexity and structure, and is also very versatile with food–try it with beef, pork or pasta” – BOB BERTHEAU, HEAD WINEMAKER

My take: deep ruby in the glass. Nose is smoky with notes of tobacco and black cherry skins.  Mouthfeel is on the thin side and a little hot in alcohol.  Dark fruits push through the drying ethanol  but the effect on the palate remains somewhat parching and muted.  Cool.  Dry.  Smooth.  Somewhat lacking in depth for the strength, but otherwise a pleasant drink.

Along with the wine, I was spoiled with this cool little accessory above (among other things), the Rabbit Aerating Pourerfrom the people who brought you that crazy-elaborate but damned-if-it-doesn’t-open-a-bottle-in-3-seconds opener.  It claims to give you all the supposed benefits of a long rest in a traditional decanter in a matter of seconds as you pour the wine from bottle to glass.  Aside from looking pretty darn cool, this thing really does amplify the bouquet of the wine much like swirling or slurping.  Side-by-side tasting with the unaerated sample has confirmed this on several occasions since I’ve had it.  Not sure where you get such a technological dynamo, but you should find one.  Pretty cool stuff.

Like the back of my hand: Mushroom Risotto w/ ’06 Anchor Old Foghorn

6 Oct

risotto and foghorn

Risotto has always been one of my favorite Italian dishes not only for its rich creamy texture and toothsome bite but for the wide range of flavors it can take on based on available ingredients.  It was also a dish that I assumed was out of my league to make for myself.  A little courage and a little research on my part rid me of my apprehensions and I have made several versions of this dish to date.  One of my favorites, both out at restaurants or in my own kitchen is mushroom risotto.  The savoriness and soft texture of the mushroom pairs perfectly with the creamy/al dente body of the risotto.  With a little practice and an attentive eye, the mystique of risotto can be dissolved even by an amateur like me.

Dish: Mushroom Risotto

Ingredient Rollcall:

  • 1 cup of  high-starch short-grain rice – arborio is the most easily available in the US at most grocery stores, though Carnaroli is more commonly used in Italy.
  • ~3 cups of stock – chicken is most common, though I used a 2:1 mix of chicken and beef stock for a richer flavor.  Vegetable stock could certainly be used to keep the dish vegetarian.
  • ~1 cup of wine – again, white wine is traditional, though I used a mix of red wine and dry sherry for color and depth of flavor
  • ~2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, diced (though I used green onion in a pinch)
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • large handfull of mushrooms, medium dice (any variety will do, I happened to have plain old button on-hand)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

How I do it:

  1. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Saute diced onion, mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper until onions are translucent, ~5-7 minutes.
  3. Add rice to pan and saute until translucent around edges, another 5-7 minutes.  In general, you don’t want the onions browning, as the caramelization will overpower lighter risottos, but the richer nature of this recipe can handle a little Maillard.
  4. In 1/2 to 2/3 cup doses, add stock to the pan and stir often.  Do not add more stock until the previous dose is nearly absorbed.  The rice should start to develop a creamy “sauce” as you continue to cook off the starch from the rice. This should take another 15-20 minutes to cook through all the stock.
  5. When the final liquid addition is nearly absorbed, remove from the heat, and quickly stir in the butter and parmesan until fully melted. The resulting texture should be creamy, but not soupy.  The risotto should spread on the plate, but not leave a puddle of excess liquid.  The rice should be al dente, with a toothsome bite, not mushy.

The key to a good risotto is a watchful eye and active stirring hand.  The more you stir, the more starch will slough off the rice, lending to a creamier texture in the end.  In fact, many recipes omit the finishing butter and cheese altogether, with sufficiently creamy results.  This is another option for the health conscious.  If you happen to know any people like that.


Coating the rice in olive oil

Anchor Old Foghorn, first brewed in 1975, was the first modern bareleywine brewed in the reborn American craft industry.  Its elder status among its peers is well-deserved as its depth of flavor is rarely matched within the style.  This bottle has been sitting for over three years and has certainly matured with age.  Notes of dark, overripe fig, raisin and black cherries are highlighted by anise and caramel.  The dry-hopping has imparted a predominantly herbal character as time has passed.  The dark fruity esters in this strong ale served as a great complement to the mushrooms, red wine and beef stock in the risotto.

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