Archive | July, 2017

Rediscovered Foods – What We’ve Been Drinking

28 Jul

2017 – Dock View North Early Evening

I know. It looks idyllic and it is. But don’t try to sit down there and admire the view for anything longer than three minutes unless you’ve brought a transfusion. The twin engine mosquitoes love early evening.

I have rediscovered a food that I had all the time when I was a kid. I mean it didn’t disappear; it’s just that I didn’t eat it anymore. And we’re not talking fluffinutters here – real non-childish foods. And now – I’ve fallen in love with it again. This happened to me this summer. I’ll tell you all about it later in the post.

Then there’s wine. What did we drink this past few weeks. In a nutshell – really really good shit. Here are just a few.

I bought a bunch of Bordeaux Futures over the years. Always hard to determine when to pop the cork. One of my faves is Château Duhart-Milon. The vintage that I brought to the party was the ’06. It needed a lot of time to get ready – so I decanted for about three hours. Enjoyed with Rye and Ginger Steak – rib eye steak marinated in Canadian rye whisky, fresh ginger, and thyme. This wine delivered on the promise of Bordeaux. A dustiness of red and black fruits supported by a backbone of tannin. Medium to full-bodied. Smokey but still closed off enough that I’ll wait on the other ’06’s..

The friend that I travelled to Priorat with brought the 2014 Torres Salmos #450734 $31.95. This is made by the large Torres operation – although in Priorat it’s difficult to impose a mass production approach and, I believe, they have tried to reflect the region in this wine. Wow! If you’ve never had a Priorat Garnacha/Cariñena wine, you are getting a detention. If you have, you know the power of these wines. They are unmistakable. We sniffed nd sipped this and both agreed that this is Priorat. Heightened alcohol and fruit galore from the Garnacha. Colour, stability and backbone from the Cariñena. It was great with a pork tenderloin.

In our market, we don’t get very many wines from Emilia-Romagna. It probably has as much to do with customer recognition as anything else. I mean everyone knows Tuscany, Piedmont, Venezie but Emilia-Romagna might be a bit foreign to them (pardon the pun). We popped a cork on the 2014 Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon #225086 $27.95 and revisited this region. Despite its vintage, this had the nose of a wine dominated by an aged Sangiovese – cherries, leather. It wasn’t as big as a Super Tuscan tends to be; less International and more Old World – gutsier – I liked that. Some barrel characteristics without any creaminess or vanilla – solid tannins. Italian evening bistro wine. Great food wine.

Summer evenings scream, “Pinot Noir!” We enjoyed the 2012 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir #510842 $37.75 from Oregon. Oregon, New Zealand, and Ontario Pinots are my favourite New World takes on this grape. They tend to be leaner and more powerful and mineral than others I’ve tried. This one stuck to that script. Blackberry, tea, and earthiness on the swish and swallow – medium plus finish. This might be a bit more soft (or, as they say in grammar class, “softer”) than what I’m used to from Oregon. Might be that it’s evolved and tannins have integrated. But, what a treat.

One last mention – 2013 Alto Moncayo Veraton Garnacha #173211 $27.75. These guys make great wine and, despite this one being their least expensive, it is perhaps my favourite and, yes, maybe I’m influenced by price in that assessment. 100% Garnacha, this is huge – Priorat-like – in experience and alcohol (15.5%) – warm in the mouth with fruit front and centre. Vines from 30 to 50 years of age at 300m to 500m. Rich, chocolate, anise, big mouthfeel, intense black fruit. Glad I have one more left.

That rediscovered food?

When we barbecued, my father would charge up the charcoal using about enough starter fluid to propel a Gemini rocket. Before he dropped the lit match on the grill, he had to dress in a  flame retardant suit. Singed eyebrows weren’t uncommon. The food tasted like it had been dipped in kerosene. I believe to this day that my father, an oil man who worked 37 years for Imperial Oil (Standard Oil of New Jersey), was just trying to contribute to the bottom line by going through a liter and a half of starter fluid per meal.

And, when we barbecued, my mother would put out freshly sliced garden tomatoes, spears of cucumber, and………..wait for it……..fresh garden radishes. Big, hot, beautiful radishes. And, we sprinkled salt….hell, we poured salt on to our side plates and dipped the radishes into the salt for every bite. Pure heaven.

And, until this past few weeks, I hadn’t really done that for a long time. Oh, I’d purchased radishes (probably grown in a hot house far away) and sliced them into a salad. But, I hadn’t had locally grown radishes, sprinkled with salt. Man, makes me want to get up and have a couple right now – the burps are a bit of a unforced error, though.

The other thing is green onions (scallions) with the same salty treatment. Always at the table in the summer of my youth. Beautiful.

So, if you don’t have your own garden patch, get thee to a market somewhere near you and get some locally grown, big, red, sassy radishes. And, ignore the #fakenews about salt being bad for you. Douse these little buggers in salt and enjoy. I’m thinking the wine to pair – is whatever you’re already drinking because nothing will really pair with them. Maybe best to stick to beer – that’s what dad had – Old Vienna.

Cheers.

Bill

Too Few Friends – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

27 Jul

When I was away, I found out that I only had two rosé friends. That’s very close to 100% of my friends, BTW. Unless you count the imaginary ones. I have a mess of those guys.

I had taken a bunch of rosés to the cottage but had only two takers. And you know what that means? I had all those rosés to myself! The only problem? Among them, I had brought the 1500 ml bottle of Bertrand’s Côte des Roses Rosé (above). It’s a big bottle – good news. The bad news is that no one would pitch in and help me drink it. And, it doesn’t fit upright in the cottage fridge.

So, once opened, you have to finish it – normally not a problem for the undersigned. But, accidents happen on the water when alcohol is involved. Story for another day. So, no big, beautiful bottle of rosé for me. Lesson learned.

The corollary is that the cottage is not the place to experiment with wine for guests. If your guests haven’t heard of it (Arneis, Melon de Bourgogne, Mencia), don’t expect them to prefer it to wines/grapes that they are familiar with no matter how much they trust you. And, when you’re the host, you give guests choices and bend to those. Not everyone wants to ‘try’ something when they’re sitting on the dock getting mellow and sun burnt.

Last weekend’s (July 22nd) LCBO release is entitled “Old Favourites + New Favourites”. It’s about Old World and New World wines – where they intersect and where they differ. At the mid-to-high end of the price spectrum, there are some absolute stunners. In the mid-price stunner category is the 2014 Luca Malbec #167312 $34.95. This wine is made by Laura Catena so you can count on attention to detail, expression of place, and experimentation with traditional practices.This comes from high altitude (3500 feet) both well established and newer vineyards. It is fresh yet doubles down on first impact – broad, full darkish fruit and, although the alcohol is middle range (13.5% ABV), it has a bit of heat. This is a food wine. And, remember it is an Argentine food wine – so, think grilled burgers, steaks. This proves the point that all Malbecs are not created equal.

A more reasonably priced red is the 2014 Papale Linea Oro Primitivo di Manduria #261784 $22.95. I’ve recommended this before in other vintages – most recently the 2013. You can read that review here. Made from the Primitivo (early ripening) grape which is Italian for Zinfandel, it carries a lot of the same characteristics understandably. Puglia is a hot place – grapes get ripe and this is reflected in this wine – fruity, big flavours, alcohol starting to get a bit high (14% ABV). This vintage has more of a dried fruit experience like a Ripasso does. Great summer evening or autumn wine.

Despite the rosé discussion above, I’m not shying away from them. This week, the 2016 Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé #701318 $18.95 is a typical Tavel – darker pink (check the pic out), more red than salmon. It’s fruit forward with heft that you don’t usually experience in a crisp, refreshing Cotes de Provence. That does sacrifice some of the refreshment but it’s a great food wine – acidity on the finish and even a little tannin peeking through. Great value Tavel!

The previous release (July 8th) has a must buy from Piedmont – the 2015 Fontanafredda Raimonda Barbera d’Alba #023135 $16.95. This is a lightish, bright red with cherries and spice in the gargle. Almost too easy to drink – dry, fun, and fresh. Think bistro red and you’ll have it. If you think all wines need to be big and brawny, skip this. Barberas can be quite variable in quality. But no worries of being underwhelmed here. I bought one of these to try and am headed back for half a dozen more.

Also from the July 8th release is one of the most opulent wines that I’ve ever had at this price point – 2015 Bastide Miraflors Vieilles Vignes Syrah/Grenache #320499 $19.95. Maybe it’s my Grenache/Garnacha addiction but so what? But, it’s more Syrah (70%) than Grenache (30%), you say. Well, I love Syrah too. No serious wood treatment so pure ripe fruit on the nose and the swallow. Some of the telltale Roussillon notes of lavender and other scrubby stuff as well as some pepper on the medium length finish. It scores high on the GSS (Good Shit Scale) – between Really and Really Really. This wine reminds us that although Roussillon brings us mass production wines, it also makes wines like this one – crafted with integrity.

Just a quick recommendation on an available  sparkling that I’ve mentioned a bunch of times – the Bailly-Lapierre Pinot Noir Brut Cremant de Bourgogne #420984 $23.95. If you can’t afford to buy Champagne, I believe the next best thing in sparkling wine is Cremant de Bourgogne (unless I’ve said something else in an earlier post – in that case, I’ve changed my mind). This is made from Pinot Noir and although not as dry as the fabulous Louis Boillot Perle d’Or that I recommend from time to time, it’s dry enough and the wee bit more lends creaminess. The Pinot comes through on the finish for me along with lemon peel. Exceptional cuvée!

Saw the HBO documentary about Bowie’s last 5 years and listened to his last album – Blackkstar when I was doing the final edit on this post. Man, he was special. Enjoy this video. The definition of cool. And, check out the song Dollar Days on Blackstar on whatever streaming service you use – pure Bowie.

Cheers.

Bill

 

Porcupine Leading to Drinking Alone

25 Jul

A loon captured in front of our cottage by my cousin’s talented photographer wife, Brenda Dickie

Just returned from three full weeks at the lake. No wireless, no television, just sports radio and expensive data through my iPhone. So, haven’t been following the news – wine news or world news. Although I’m guessing that The Donald did something to get Daddy’s attention.

So, how about a story from the wilds of Muskoka?

You can hear the echoes on the lake: the lonesome whippoorwill (homage to Hank Williams); the haunting call of the loon; the laughter of children swimming; and then there’s THE SOUND.

The sound might remind the untrained ear of someone dragging a hammer claw under the floor of your abode. Or, a small jet aircraft revving on the runway prior to takeoff. It occurs only at night while you sleep. It’s loud, the vibration moving up through the floor, through the bed frame, through the mattress and into your bones. The Director lies sleeping. I, on the other hand, leap from the bed a la the man in the Christmas poem to see what is the matter.

Most would wake and yell, “What the hell is that?” I, however, in a matter of seconds, know exactly what ‘that’ is and simply say, “Oh shit, the porcupines are back.” Yes, folks porcupines can plague even a seasoned cottager like yours truly.

A porcupine pre-glue sniffing

What the heck do porcupines do that makes that sound, you ask? Well, they gnaw on the striated beams that support our cottage with their humongous sharp teeth. Striated beams are made by gluing together a zillion strands of wood. They are as hard as steel.

Years ago, the porkies gnawed right through the floor of our cabin (an abode since torn down) and through the hole, you could see their beady little eyes blinking as they tried to extract as much salty glue as they could from the plywood. That’s right folks – porcupines are glue addicts (Editors Note: They love the glue because plywood glue has salt in it – they crave salt). Imagine the strung out porky retired to his little whatever it is he lives in, bending over a small paper bag of hard won glue, taking a big sniff, and saying, “Far out man, that’s good shit,” as wisps of resin float about his little prickly face.

This last time, I got out of bed and proceeded to pound on the floor over the area where I surmised the porky sat. I yelled, I pounded, I stomped, The Director slept. Seriously?

Eventually, the big fellow – I just noticed that I’ve assigned a gender to this creature. Let’s see – the animal’s a pain in the ass, has no ambition, is glue addicted and up drugging at 3 in the morning – of course, it’s a ‘he’. Where was I? Oh yeah, he crawled out from underneath the cottage and waddled up the path and into the woods. Phew, it’s over. Back to bed? Unfortunately I’m not built like that. Once up – I’m up – really up. That’s a surprise?

This brings me to the wine. You knew that I’d get there. My challenge? Pairing wine to three in the morning in your pyjamas and Googling on your phone “how do I get rid of a porcupine?”

What did I do about the wine? Decision tree on pairing: no food – just empty calories at that time of day – unlike the alcohol, wink, wink; palate a little muted by snore breath; heart racing because, although I know the porcupine isn’t going to burst through the door and begin shooting his quills shouting, “Say hello to my lil’ friend,” I’m just a little anxious; and most importantly, I don’t want to upset my whole three weeks of wine planning by taking a bottle out of turn when the mothership is a one hour drive away.

You might say – how about Port? Too nutty and heavy. Or, maybe a cup of tea? Tea? You think I drink tea? Red wine? Naw, too intense.

As it turned out, there was an open bottle of Chardonnay in the fridge. It’s a familiar label in this market – J. Lohr Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay #258699 $19.95 . It’s a great value Chardonnay with some oak but nothing chewy or over-buttery. Ripe, round and medium weight. This night a glass went perfectly with my frantic internet search for creative ways to rid myself of a beast. OK, it was two glasses.

How can an animal survive with a glue sniffer’s approach to life? Well here’s how, the only predators that porkies need to fear up here are Subarus – the official car of Muskoka. They just go about their business without a care in the world. You can shoot them or poison them and I don’t have the heart for either. So, I’m stocking up on the J. Lohr and learning to live with it.

So, if you’re up in the night with a bit of anxiety and some homework to do, I’m suggesting a medium weight Chardonnay. It doesn’t solve your problems because that, as we all know, requires Scotch. But, it sure beats tea.

Or, might you have any suggestions from personal late night experience?

Cheers.

Bill

Confession – it was two and a half glasses!

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