July 29, 2009

Dirty South Wine Celebration Dinner #1 @ Woodfire Grill

It's old news now that Atlanta's Hardy Wallace of DirtySouthWine was the winner of Murphy Goode's search for a social media-and-wine-genius. Hardy has mad skills as a wine taster and guru of social media. He is also a friend and I have enjoyed his company as a co-conspirator at various wine events over the past few years.

Last night, a mutual friend put together a celebration dinner for Hardy at Woodfire Grill. I was lucky enough to be invited. Rowdy was there, too.

Woodfire Grill has been at the forefront of Atlanta's local/slow food dining scene since Michael Tuohy put it on the map a few years back. Lately, it's buzzing anew with the work of Kevin Gillespie, who is one of the contestants of Bravo's Top Chef season 6. Hardy and Rowdy are no strangers to Kevin and the gang at Woodfire....to say we got treated well is an understatement.
The food at Woodfire is outrageous. Some highlights:

Salmon Tartare on Avocado Salad
The salmon was so fresh and delicate, it just melted in my mouth with the equally fresh avocado. Just heavenly.


What can I say here? Deconstructed BLT with crispy bacon, two red and yellow tomatoes, greens and garlic toast. Killer.

There was also a lot of wine, here are a few memorable bottles:

1996 Billecart-Salmon Grand Cuvee-Fantastic -Soft copper color. Nose is layered with strawberry, yeast, something akin to chicken stock. Racy, effervescent and stony palate. Long, drying finish. Kept improving. So good. Thanks Rowdy.

1998 Chateau Musar (Lebanon)--Interesting wine. Hardy decanted 5 hours or something like that. It needed it, and maybe more. Buttery, honeyed. Long finish. Improved in glass. Fun.

2006 Foillard Morgon Cote du Py-Pretty tight at first. Slowly gives way to a floral, earthy, back cherry fruit. Woudl like more time with this, we were cruising through wines at this point. Delish with the rib dish.

2003 Arcadian Pinot Noir Dierberg-Penetrating nose of asian spice, cranberry, stone. Palate is laser-like, bright red fruit, wild berry and a wallop of cranberry-laced acidity. Still young.

1990 S. Anderson Cabernet Richard Chambers-Not quite as impressive as the '89 we had at Rowdy's last winter, but pretty damn nice for a 20 year old. Slightly funky, old dank olive Cab nose. Soft dark fruit, cedar, olive notes. Fun for what it is. I'd drink again.

1992 LaJota Cabernet 11th Anniversary-This was really a treat and showign quite well. What I want in a 17 year old Cab. Young as hell too. Just kept unfolding in the glass and sang with my pork dish. Layers of black fruit, sweet spice....more time needed with this one too.

Thanks to Peter. And to the gang for another real good time.

Woodfire Grill on Urbanspoon

July 27, 2009

3 Wines Last Week-2000 Lanessan, 2005 Pax Syrah Alder Springs, 2005 Frescobaldi Chianti Nipozzano Reserva

Just three wines last week; was a bit under the weather and didn't do too much damage.

2000 Lanessan Haut-Medoc: Nice showing; perhaps my best bottle yet. Pencil lead, tobacco frames tart cherry fruit that turns to bitter chocolate cherry with time. Dry, chewy finish that floats softly on the palate. A pleasure. What a great buy this was at $15-$17. This was a great match with Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Short Ribs
2005 Frescobaldi Nipozzano Chianti Reserva: Black cherry and leather on the nose. Palate features sour cherry, licorice and dry chewy tannins. Finishes with a slightly persistent heat and earth notes. Nice match with the spinach and olive pizza. Not overly complex, but a decent value at $17. Maybe some upside.
2005 Pax Syrah Alder Springs

Opaque purple in the glass. Like motor oil. Really closed up tight right now. Even with two hours in the decanter this is not showing much. Violets and candied cherry on the nose. Palate is dominated by dark grape juice notes. Seems rather simple now, perhaps it is due to youth. Some heat on the finish is a bit annoying. Not sure, I keep striking out with Pax lately. Perhaps I'm just drinking them too young??? About $40 from Pax wines.

July 24, 2009

Rosebud Atlanta--Jerry Garcia Dinners August 5 & 6

Chef Ron Eyester, of Food 101 fame, opened Rosebud on July 6. Some very positive frist impressions here, but that should be no surprise. Ron rocks.
Apparently, he's a Deadhead, too.
On August 5th and 6th, Rosebud is hosting a two night run of Jerry Garcia memorial dinners. Hey now ATL-heads, come out and show Ron some love and celebrate the legacy of JG.

It's $49 per person which includes a 5 course tasting menu, live Dead music, and other fun stuff. You know the food will be great. I'll be there on the 5th celebrating my b-day, so come say hi.

Some Old World Love-2005 Frescobaldi Chianit Nipozzano Reserva

Here's something you wont ever find on the back label of any new world wine" "This estate was founded in the 11th Century." As the Frescobaldi website exclaims "700 years of Tuscany in a glass." I ruminated over that fact while enjoying a couple of glasses of this fine little Chianti last night. 700 years ago....hmmm...Here's your quick history lesson for the week.

This 2005 Nippozanno was #76 on Wine Spectator's Top 100 for 2007. That doesn'tmean much to me as the WS Top 100 seems to feature a lot of the brands that advertise in the mag, but I digress. My note on this wine from last night: Black cherry and leather on the nose. Palate features sour cherry, licorice and dry chewy tannins. Finishes with a slightly persistent heat and earth notes. Nice match with the spinach and olive pizza. Not overly complex, but a decent value at $18-$20. Maybe some upside, too.

July 19, 2009

5 Wines this Week...and Tasty Bites Too

So, I decided I would start posting round-ups of wines I drink over the course of each week or so. Some weeks it may be two bottles, some weeks ten. This week, there are five worth mentioning.
The 2007 Navarro Gewurz is a kicking bottle of wine. Ripe, tropical fruits, and a bracing, cleansing acidity that just zip across the palate. Delicious white wine for summer drinking. A steal at $12 direct from Navarro.

Got the 2005 Artadi Vinas de Gain Blanco on the clearance wall at Ansley Kroger for $8.00. It's a $30 bottle of wine. Not sure it's worth it's original asking price, but it's a nice melon-scented, lemony white that is ready for immediate drinking. 100% Viura. This was a perfect match with Jose Andres' Andalucian tomato soup
and this deconstructed chicken salad, which was the bomb.

Not much more to say.
A perfect summer salad for a small crowd.

The 2005 Arcadian Pinot Noir Dierberg was too young. Painfully so, but I know that going in. Opened in the name of science to see what was up; it is still wrapped up tight. Revisit in 2011. Or later. About $45 direct from Arcadian.
2004 Tardieu-Laurent Saint-Joseph Les Roches is a nice, old-world, 100% Syrah. 13.5% alcohol says the label. Old-worldish, slightly rustic nose of dark fruit, dusty red fruit. Leathery, with licorice flavors that wrap around plum fruit. Finishes with some pronounced tannins that really persist on the back end. Not sure it's the right wine on a hot, humid night, but it's a nice buy for a S-J syrah. Has some upside IMO. About $20 locally.

2003 Alesia Syrah Sonoma Coast is just my kind of wine; don't know what else to say. Dark and meaty, tarry, plummy palate. Lush. Nothern Rhone-ish, with expansive dark fruit and some lilting acidity hanging in. Nice Syrah. One left out of my six pack for drinking over the next year or so. $35 direct from Rhys/Alesia.

July 12, 2009

Chowing Down at Chao Chao and the Joy of Well-Priced Wine Lists!

I've been away a bit, visiting the family in CT. Yeah, I'm a Yankee.
Spent some time drinking killer wines with my brother, who is a wine dude himself, and turned me on to good wine about 10 years ago with a 1997 Shafer Cabernet Hillside Select, one of the finest Cabernets produced in CA.

Thursday night, we dined at Chao Chao in Sandy Hook, CT. Sandy Hook is a quaint New England village town about 40 miles southwest of Hartford and 60 miles northeast of NYC.

We were glad to see Dr. Mark Greene there dining with his two daughters, just in case, ya know, any of us fell ill. :-)

Chao is a great little fusion restaurant with a diverse menu that ranges from outrageous sushi and sashimi , to great tapas, and main plates. I didn't get pics, but we shared a killer tapas plate of chorizo-stuffed puff pastry served with a wedge of Manchego and a honey dipping sauce, and the tuna mignon served over baby bok choy and forbidden rice. Heavenly.

Best part, for a wine lover, is a wine list that is diverse and well-priced.
There was plenty of small/family Cali labels one doesn't always find on restaurant lists (Melville Syrahs in the $40s/and Brewer-Clifton Pinots in the mid-$50s). There were also some nicely priced Burgs and Rhones, like Beaucastel's 2003 Coudelet at $55. A wine you'd be lucky to find in ATL for under $40 at retail.

However, the real deal was the 2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard at $68. Say what? I almost fell off my chair. This is one of my favorite Cali pinots I've had in recent years and it sells for $60 direct from the winery. $68 off a restaurant list is just awesome. Those who know Arcadian know Joe Davis makes wines that need some time; the '01 Sleepy Hollow is just now starting to reach its potential. We grabbed one right away and threw it in the mix with the other bottles we carried in.

It was a great night of food wine. All the wines showed well and the food was outrageous. Fun to stumble upon a great wine list at a hidden little gem of a restaurant. Another plus, the wines are stored actively, the Arc bottle was pristine.

Coupla wine notes:

2001 Arcadian Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow

Stunning, haunting, sleepy hollow-funkness aromatics that cascade across the table. Black cherry, earth emerge with time as broad strokes of blackberry fruit and notes of mushroom stock weave in and out. Layers and layers unfold as it sits in the glass. My brother worked his last glass for three hours and it was still singing along as it neared midnight. Bravo.

1999 E. Guigal Hermitage
This one came from my brother's cellar. Drinking quite nice right now. Opened for 30 minutes before pouring. Nose shows some bacon and earth, waves of black cherry come and go. Palate is dark cherry, with some licorice and a nice swath of acidity that gives enough lift to keep things interesting. Meaty notes on the long, slightly tannic finish. Really in a good place and terrific with the pappardelle and veal bolognese.

A great meal and a spectacular night at Chao Chao.

July 6, 2009

Post July 4th Fun at Leon's Full Service Decatur

What to do the night after July 4th when one is on vacation for a week?
Round up some friends and throw down a few cold ones at Leon's Full Service was my choice.
It's an easy choice when there's so much to like about Leon's.
Six of us descended upon a crowded Leon's around 7PM Sunday night.

The first round of drinks included my Ayinger Brau Weisse
We also ordered a few Miller's Cucumber Coolers for the girls. The cocktails at Leon's are no joke, full of freshly squeezed fruit juices. I'm not a huge fan of cucumber juice, but this was a tasty summer cocktail.

We started with two orders of fries with garlic aioli, goat cheese fondue (yum!), madras curry katchup, and horseradish mayo. The goat cheese and horseradish sauces are killers.
Some bacon in a glass and peanut butter made it to the table as well There's not much else to say here; it's bacon in a glass, people. The peanut butter is just goofy, but I liked it again.

We ordered several other plates, but it was around this time that camera was acting up and the beer was flowing, so no more pics. I finally gave the shrimp gyro a shot, it was delicious with tender, sweet shrimp, onion, pickles and a cooling yogurt sauce. All the dishes on our table were kicking, with the exception of the mussels, which were just ok. Sauce here needed an ass-kicking to shake things up a bit.

All-in-all, Leon's more than delivered again.

An additional kudos to Leon's for taking care of their wines in several Eurocave-like wine refrigerators. It's nice to see a local restaurant go the extra mile and maintain their wines in optimal conditions. It's not often that bottles of red wine arrive at restaurant tables cool to the touch. Bravo, Leon's.

I can also recommend a fun post-Leon's activity: walk a couple blocks to The Chocolate Bar, sit outside and try a Tiramisu martini. It's time for bed after this one.

Leon's Full Service on Urbanspoon

July 1, 2009

Checking out Mercantile's $15 and Under Wines

Seeing as how I'm a morning regular at the San Fransisco Coffee on Dekalb Ave, Mercantile stares me in the face everyday. I tend to visit the shop occasionally; their Inman Park and Kirkwood sandwiches are pretty darn good.

This past month, Mercantile started carrying wine. You may have seen the sign out front proclaiming all wines under $15. I'm here to tell you, they aren't lying; all wines in the store are under $15. Problem is, they only have about five bottlings in stock right now. The guy that rang up my order didn't seem to know much more than...'uh, yeah, we have more wine coming.' Cool. Guess I'll check back next month.

I picked through their vast selection and picked a bottle to take for a spin. The 2008 Domaine de La Janasse D'Orange Rose. Check this out: It was under $15. $12.99 to be exact. It was a decent rose, but nothing too exciting. A bit two sweet up front and it lacked the acidic punch I like in a rose on hot day. Tad flabby for me.