December 29, 2010

Some Holiday Wines: 2006 Shafer Cabernet Hillside Select

Spent the holidays in Connecticut visiting the family and eating and drinking a lot. A quick recap on some of the wines will pop up in posts as I get back to posting a bit.

My brother was kind enough to treat us with a real fine bottle of California Cabernet. Shafer Vineyards, located in the heart of Napa Valley, is modern California royalty to lovers of California Cabernet. Their Hillside Select bottling is a mythical wine that has achieved cult status in the last 15 years. Many people wait years to get on the Shafer mailing list just to get access to the Hillside Select. It regularly receives scores in the high 90s, and even gets some triple digit scores from major wine critics...if that matters...

We decanted the 2006 for two hours, and it probably needed more. Very big young California Cabernet. Rich dark fruit, cedar notes, some black licorice, too. Long, long finish. Big, heavily fruited wine that really needs some time to shine. Obviously a very fine wine that will be even finer on down the line.

December 17, 2010

My Favorite Wines of 2010--Once Again, My List Goes to Eleven

As I asked last year, why is it that every December we get bombarded with lists of the year's bests: best movies, best sports plays, best wines, etc..? Perhaps it has something to do with our human desire to quanitfy and control things in nice, neat little lists.

Never one to shy away from bandwagonning, I've decided to contribute to the madness with a list of my top wines for 2010. It is, kidding aside, a good way to look back on wines drank, remember good times and stories shared, and memories made.

This list respresents wines that I found particularly moving throughout the year. Some are blockbuster wines that I was fortunate to taste, some are wines that I owned that showed well on a given night, perhaps due to the situation in which they were consumed. Many I've already discussed here.

You will find that most end of the year best-of lists go to well-rounded numbers like 10, or 25.
Well, in honor of one of the greatest movies of all time, my list, once again, Goes to Eleven. Sorry, Spinal Tap references never get old.

1993 Edmunds St John Syrah Durell-As reported in my post here, this wine was incredible and really stood out in a night of amazing wines. I can't think of how an aged California Sryah could show better than this wine did. Full of meaty, bacony-dark fruit goodness. Forget about wines of the year, this is just an incredible wine.
2001 Edmunds St John Los Robles Viejos-I like ESJ wines so much, they made my list twice this year. This little Rhone blend is a gem. A wine that costs all of $20 and continues to kick ass nearly 10 years from vintage. Steve Edmunds is the unsung genius of California wines. Provided, of course, you like old school wines that aren't all gooped up and spoofilated.

1994 Chateau Rays Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve-If not for the next wine in my list, I'd say this is the finest Chateauneuf du Pape I've ever had. I brought this wine to Rowdy's legendary Cassoulet dinner last spring. An intoxicating perfume...clean, spiced-red fruit palate that just dances through the mouth and leaves a lingering finish. Beautiful weight. So delicate, yet so penetrating. Profound wine.
1995 Henri Bonneau Chateauneuf du Pape Reserve de Celestins-As I said above, perhaps the finest Chateauneuf du Pape-based wine I've ever tasted.  Henri Bonneau's wines are things of legend. There isn't much of it, and it's very hard to find. Bonneau makes some of the longest lived Chateauneuf du Pape using traditional methods with out modern intervention. (<--See Bonneau's cellar in the pic to the left). The 1995 is a youngster still, but so damn good. Dark, dank, brooding nose. Palate is loaded with blood, smoked meat, tobacco, dark fruit, earth. So incredibly loaded with funky-earthy minerality and deep dark fruit, that it feels like a meal in a glass. Yet, it's so well-integrated and pure. A profound wine and a real treat.

1996 Domaine Lambrays Clos des Lambrays- My favorite Red Burgundy of recent memory. A beautiful, yet still youngish Grand Cru from Lambrays. I couldn't keep my face from returning to the haunting dark and perfumed nose. there's also an expressive, slightly sappy fruit. Incredibly feminine and powerful at the same time. A joy to drink.

1990 Krug Champagne Brut-No words for this. It's just brilliant. Thanks Rowdy.

1989 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain- Textbook aged California Cabernet. Takes 30 minutes to come out of its slumber...and then it's pretty, tobacco, cedar nose. Palate features leathery candied red fruit, more tobacco, and a sweet dark plumminess that fills the mouth.

 1982 Hanzell Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma--Again, another brilliant older California Cabernet in a Bordeaux style. Drank this with my brother during my birthday weekend and it was a great bottle. Hardly shows its 28 years.

2000 Arcadian Pinot Noir Pisoni-I like me some Arcadian, I've made that point here plenty. Joe Davis' Pisonis can turn into real beauties with time. In the past year, I had both the 1997 and 2000, and both were stunners.

2000 D'Auvenay (Bize-Leroy) Puligny-Montrachet en la Richarde-A lowly village wine is not supposed to be profound. Unless its made by one of the genius domains in Burgundy, Domaine Leroy, owned by Madame Bize-Leroy. This 2000 D'auvanay la Richarde was really lovely. A Beautiful nose that was floral and captivating. So precise on the palate...Pure and refined. A minerality, the essence of wet stones and flowers. Like your grandmothers garden in spring. A revelation, but an expense revelation at that. 
2003 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos Jesbal Selection de Grains Noble-The only dessert wine on my list as I don't drink a lot of dessert wines. I would, however, if I could afford to drink nectar like this often. A revelation of what Pinot Gris can do when ripeness is pushed to the extreme and handled by the masters at Zind-Humbrecht. A beautiful and powerful wine that was so incredibly rich, yet also crisp, dry and long. It was incredible and paired well with the decadent desert pictured below and prepared by ThirstySouth:
It was a good year of drinking, for sure. Made even better by the fact that I shared many of these bottles with great blokes like Eat It Atlanta, Rowdyfood, and Thirsty South. Oh, yeah, The Legend, too, but he has no link. He's just The Legend. 
Cheers and See you in 2011.

December 10, 2010

An Unintended Study in Contrasts: Bordeaux vs. California

You may recall the post from earlier in the week regarding the motherload tasting of Cru Beaujolais. That was certainly a good time, but later that same evening we had time, perhaps more time, to contemplate some additional wines over dinner. Three of the wines served during dinner provided an interesting study in styles of  wines that are highly rated, not inexpensive, and often used in comparing old vs. new world wines styles. The three wines were the 2003 Chateau Angelus, a Grand Cru Class Bordeaux from St. Emilion, and two cult Cabernets from Napa Valley, the 2008 Rivers Marie Cabernet, and the 2008 Kapscandy Cabernet.
What is interesting about comparing these wines (and that was not the intention of this tasting) is just how different these wines were. The Angelus, a Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend from Bordeaux, showed some of the textbook qualities one looks for from great Bordeaux wines. Despite being from the ripe 2003 vintage, it was full of floral elements, long cedar notes, and a darkness of fruit that permeates without overt sweetness. It was young, but still a pleasure to drink with the beef tenderloin.
Now...both California wines were obviously young being from perhaps this comparison is unfair at the onset. However, the fact that the California wines were nearly unpalatable to my old-world leaning palate is worth noting. Also, worth noting is that there were 8 other people at the table with varying interest in wine who agreed with my assessment. Both of the California Cabernets were uber-ripe and extracted, dripping with sweet fruit to the point that they were really difficult to drink and overpowered the food.

What is interesting is that the two California wines have garnered much praise from popular press like Wine Spectator, and wine critics like Robert Parker. Parker has come under fire in recent years for almost single-handedly leading to the proliferation of spoofilated-wines, wines that are highly extracted and loaded with alcohol. See, Parker likes those type of wines, and when he slaps a 100 point score on a wine (as he did with the 2007 Kapscandy Cabernet), people go ape-shit for the wine. I suppose it comes down to personal preference; there are plenty of people who might appreciate these wines. There was a time when I might have liked these wines...but that time is long gone now and tasting wines like these only confirms that for me.

As long as people remain moderate drinkers for the rest of their lives, no help with alcoholism would ever be necessary.

December 6, 2010

A Beaujolais Exploration

Recently attended a crazy night of wine and food at the home of a local wine enthusiast. The main event of the night was to taste through a large lineup of Beaujolais wines.

I've recently had some great experiences with current release Cru Boos, but this tasting was off-the-hook with multiple vintages, producers, and villages represented. We were fortunate to have Beaujolais bottles in the lineup from as far back as 1983, all the way up to the current 2009 vintage.
I'd like to say I took notes or could remember my thoughts on all of these wines, but that's just not reality. There were 34 bottles of wine spread out across the room...I tasted and spit, and tasted and spit, and swallowed some. As I discussed with several of the cool dudes in attendance, including ThirstySouth and EatItAtlanta, I was impressed how the majority of the 30+ wines were really well-made and interesting wines that spoke of a place. What's more, many of the wines cost less than $25! Cru Beaujolais really does deliver some bang-for-the-buck.

As for favorites from the lineup and from what I remember: The 1983 Devillaine Saint Amour was still rather alive with dusty cherry fruit and a bit of a tannic bite. Gets bonus points for being totally quaffable at 27 years of age.
Also very strong were a trio of Cru Boos from Masion Louis Jadot's Chateau des Jacques bottlings.
The two Moulin-A-Vent from 2003 showed the ripeness of the hot 2003 vintage (Eat It Atlanta dropped the knowledge here), and the 2005 was drinking on point right now. As for my favorite, that distinction goes to the 2007 Thevenet Morgon Viellies Vignes. Like a powerful young Burgundy, it was full of stemmy goodness and crunchy red fruit. A real treat, but it should be noted that it was perhaps the most expensive Cru Boo in our pack.
I won't drive you cray with all the notes on wines we drank after the Cru Boo tasting...that's right...the tasting was just a warm up. However, it looked a little something like this:

A great night with some great wines and food, and some real fine company.

November 29, 2010

Wines I'm Thankful For: Arcadian

I've posted many times here on one of my favorite California wineries: Arcadian. Joe Davis, winemaker and owner of Arcadian, strives to make wines that "Challenge the Style of the New World." His Pinot Noirs, Syrah, and Chardonnay speak of old world sensibilities; they show lower alcohol levels, bright acidity, and most have the ability to age longer than most of their California counterparts.

It is also a bit of a Thanksgiving tradition for me to open some Arcadian wines on Turkey Day. This year, I opened another 1997 Pinot Sleepy Hollow, as well as the 2005 Fiddlestix.

The 1997 was memorable once again. The wine looked mature; it was a cloudy pinkish-orange in the glass. There was, as is often characteristic of Arcadian pinots, still a good dose of lively acid keeping the wine feeling fresh. Tart cherry fruit and cranberry notes danced amidst a nose that smelled smoky and slightly funky. A great example of California Pinot Noir with some age on it.
The 2005 Fiddlestix was good, but not showing nearly the tertiary characteristics of the older Sleepy Hollow. It was still rather primary and probably needs another few years to shed its youthfulness. Still, it was another good wine with which to celebrate the holidays.

November 22, 2010

Maison Louis Jadot: 2006 Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St Jacques and 2006 Nuits St Georges

Checked in on two 2006s from Louis Jadot this weekend. The 2006 vintage will forever live in the shadows of the heralded 2005 vintage; yet, 2006 red can provide a lot of enjoyment, and in many cases, you won't have to wait as long for the wines to come around. Jancis Robinson has a nice summary of 2006 here. This past weekend I opened two bottles from Louis Jadot, one was village level, and one premier cru.

The 2006 Nuits St. Georges was already drinking quite well. Rather simple right now, it was mostly strawberry fruit and spice. Not too much depth and relative short finish with a bit of heat. Perhaps some short-term cellaring will bring out some tertiary characteristics. A good match with my simple roast chicken dinner. 

The 2006 Gevrey-Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques was quite pretty, despite its youthfulness. A real step up in depth and detail from the village, it offers a glimpse now of what it will become in  5 to 10 years. A wine full of perfume, floral notes, cherry fruit, and a strong acidic spine. Nice wine, but not cheap at $65.

November 17, 2010

2007 Alto Almanzora Este: Because I Can't Drink Grand Cru Every Day

Alto Almanzora’s 2007 Este is a blend of 45% Monastrell, 25% Tempranillo, and the balance Syrah, Garnacha, and Cabernet Sauvignon. It is sourced from vines in located in eastern Andalucia in the south-east corner of Spain. The wine was aged for six months in French and American Oak.
The wine shows ripe blue and black fruit that is rich, but not totally overbearing. There's an attractive peppery-spice to the wine as well. The oak treatment is fairly restrained for a mass-produced, inexpensive blended wine. The nice thing about this wine is that is a fairly interesting everyday red wine drinker that costs all of $10. I bought mine at Ansley Kroger, but most of the shops in town carry the wine. Go get some.

November 11, 2010

The Cru Boo Train Rolls Along:2009 Louis Jadot Chateau de Jacques Moulin-a-Vent

I've been drinking my share of 2009 Cru Boujolais lately. I can't help it; the stuff is great, and a relative bargain in today's dollars. One cannot drink Grand Cru every day, you know. Well, perhaps some people can drink Grand Cru every day, but not me .
Moulin-A-Vent is one of the finest of Boujolais' Grand Cru vineyards. It produces wines that have a good deal of structure, rich fruit tones, and the ability to age well. The 2009 Chateau de Jacques Moulin-A-Vent from MasionLouis Jadot is perhaps my favorite 2009 to date. The wine is full of bright red fruit, dashing acidity, with a real  rocky-mineral laden power to the finish. Just terrific with the Cassoulet I made last weekend. It's a crowd-pleaser wine that will get the attention of wine geeks and non-geeks alike. And it is quite a deal at $20. Go get some.

November 6, 2010

No Wine Before Its Time: Especially Grand Cru Burgundy!

Got together with the usual suspects this past week to drink some Burgs. The Legend was here, as was Rowdy.  We drank some nice wines, but I think we also schooled ourselves again. Not that we didn't know this would happen, but its always good to drink in the name of science. See, the thing is, most Grand Cru wines from top producers in Burgundy, arguably some of the greatest wines known to man, take time to reveal their glory.

We drank two wines from Domaine Faiveley, a respected, old-school house that has been making killer Burgundy for seven generations. One of the wines Wednesday night was the 1999 Corton Clos Des Cortons 
The second Grand Cru of the night, also from Faiveley, was the 1998 Latricieres-Chambertin.
You're thinking, huh, those wines are each more than 10 years old, they should be starting to strut their stuff. Ha! Think again. While each wine showed glimpses of the beauty they hold, neither was really ready for Grand Cru drinking experiences. The '99 was actually a bit more giving with some nice layers of fruit and earth, but the '98, despite its beautiful nose, was wrapped up tight. Allen Meadows, author of Burghound, and one of the world's foremost experts on Burgundy, recommends beginning to think about drinking the 1998 Latricieres in 2013!....we should have heeded his advice.

The lesson here is one of patience when it comes to drinking the great wines of Burgundy. One must adjust one's thinking and realize that 12 years from vintage in just the beginning when it comes to great Grand Cru Red Burgundy.

November 1, 2010

Lunch at FarmBurger

Hadn't been to Farmburger in a few months, so stopped in for lunch Monday with my teacher-workday-no-school-post-Halloween candy-coma-son. I've always liked my meals at Farmburger. I can't say I'd proclaim their burgers as really that special, but their food ethics make them worthy of special attention.

The onion rings steal the show, as usual. These are damn fine rings along with the tasty smoked paprika-spiked mayo dipping sauce.
I got the Farmburger No.1. It's a rather vanilla choice, I know, but sometimes a cheeseburger with caramelized onions is what I'm after. The No. 1, in its simplicity of toppings, offers a good  possibility that my FarmBurger wont fall apart into a soupy, gloppy mess...oh yeah, that happens, and not just to me.
This visit to Farmburger was made all the more fun by the conversation I had with my son during lunch. He loves animals, and is recently beginning to put the pieces together about where his food comes from. Kids gonna be a vegetarian soon, I see it coming. He's also inquisitive, as all kids are (nod to Aristotle and John Dewey), which lead to the following questions, prompted by the large pictures of beautiful cows and pigs on the wall at Farmburger:

1. "So Dad, how many hamburgers can you make from one adult cow? I'd hate it if they killed a cow just to make a couple burgers."
2. "Do they put the cows to sleep before they kill them? It would be sad if they didn't put them to sleep first."
3."Do you think the cows get to say goodbye to their families before they get killed?"
4. "Do sharks have meat? I'd rather kill sharks for food instead of cows."

As for lunch at Farmburger, it was good, as usual. My son, despite his line of inquiry, really liked his cheeseburger, fries, and root beer. He wants to go back...for now.

Farm Burger on Urbanspoon

October 27, 2010

2009 Cru Boo Recap!

I thought it my be time to recap some of my favorite wines from the past couple of months, those being the several really interesting 2009 Cru Beaujolais I've drank. 2009 was a great vintage for Beaujolais and these wines all show terrific young energy, site expression; and best of all, most are priced in the $18-$20 range.

The 2009 Morgon from Marcel Lapierre  is a rather big and powerful wine with plenty in reserve. It's already pretty juicy and gamey, but it has room to improve over the next few years. Nice stuff that I picked up for under $20 at Tower on Piedmont
The 2009 Morgon Delys from Daniel Bouland. 
This wine was also quite large with lots of game and meat notes. A good dose of ripe red fruit, too. Got this one for $23 at Toco Giant in Druid Hills.
The 2009 Morgon Corcelette from Daniel Bouland was full of meaty and dark black raspberry flavors. It was earthy and funky with lip-smacking fruit that is young and crisp. This was $20 at Tower on Piedmont. Another winner in 2009 Cru Boo.
The 2009 Fleurie from Villa Ponciago. From the winery website, "The Villa Ponciago domaine enjoys ideal conditions for expressing all the finesse, elegance and silkiness of the ‘’queen of the crus’’: the omnipresence of the slopes, the crystalline rock, typical of the appellation, plus northeast and south-southwest exposures." The Villa Ponciago is showing the lightest of the Cru Boos on my list. It is clearly a wine that needs some time, which is characteristic of Fleurie. This will be a beauty of a wine a few years down the road. Right now, it really needs some air and to be paired with food to coax it out of its shell. At $17, it's another great buy in 2009.

October 21, 2010

Dynamic. It is: Lunch at Dynamic Dish

Had another stellar lunch at Dynamic Dish last week. I hadn't been to Dynamic in nearly a year, which is bad on me, as each visit at Dynamic seems to wow me with a stellar food experiences. Lunch was great, as was my lunch companion, EatItAtlanta, who surprised me and showed up with a nice bottle of white Burgundy in hand. There are worse ways to spend a Friday afternoon.
We both started with a bowl of the day's soup. Roasted Georgia eggplant and cannelini beans blended to a lush, creamy consistency and topped with a ginger-almond cream and other goodies. Quite simply, this soup was brilliant, and soul satisfying on a cool fall day.
We also shared some of the veggie plate, which was an amazing mix of butter beans, quinoa, feta, scallions, and more in rich stock. Another beautiful dish that spoke to the season and was so damn tasty. So good, I got another order to go.
I also had the roasted tofu wrap, which was equally delicious, just perhaps not as sexy to see in pictures. Jimmy seemed to really like his turkey sandwich as well. Not really much I can add but to say the meal was a home run on each level. Tasty and clean food that makes you feel good all over.

October 17, 2010

More Cru Boo for You 2: 2009 Daniel Bouland Morgon Corcelette Villies Vignes

I've been blazing up the 2009 Cru  Boujelais recently as you may remember. Recently, I tried another 2009 from Daniel Bouland, the Corcelette from Morgon. Morgon, one of the Grand Cru vineyards in the Beaujolais appellation, produces earthy wines that can take on a Burgundian character of silky texture after five or more years of aging. These wines are generally the deepest color and most rich Cru Beaujolais usually featuring a mix of powerful dark fruit and iron and meat.

2009 boluland corcelette

The Bouland Corcelette was full of meaty and dark black raspberry flavors. It was earthy and funky with lip-smacking fruit that is young and crisp. Another winner in 2009 Cru Boo.

I bought this wine locally at Tower on Piedmont for $19.99.

October 14, 2010

The Black Sheep Carmenere: 2009 Oveja Negra Carmenere/Cab Franc

Had the opportunity to recently taste another Chilean Carmenere blend from the Maule Valley. Oveja Negra means “black sheep,” though, the Oveja Negra wines certainly does not deserve to be outcasts! Per my my last post, you'll see that Chile’s Maule Valley, is on Chile's Central Valley.
The wine carries a modest 14% alcohol. The wine features heady notes of black and red currants that waft from a glass. The blend is an interesting blend of 71% Cabernet Franc and 30% Carmenere. There is a bit of oak here, not quite as obtrusive as some, but it's here. There is also a wisp of of smoky blueberry, which leads to a slightly warm finish. The wine is obviously young, and I would certainly like to revisit it again in a couple years. The wine represents a decent value at $12. If I were a grader, I'd give it a B for what it is.

October 11, 2010

A Chilean Blend: 2008 Palo Alto Reserve

I was recently able to try a current blend from Palo Alto wines in Chile. According to their website, Palo Alto"was born in 2006 with the aim of presenting the best of the Maule Valley." The 2008 Palo Alto Reserve is a blend of 60% Cabernet, 25% Carmenere, and 15% Syrah.

The wine is nearly opaque in my glass. Dark purplish-black color. On the nose, the wine shows some serious green pepper notes upon opening, the Cabernet speaking the loudest at first. With air, thick blue and black fruit scents emerge. There's some prominent new oak here, it's a bit of a detractor right now. Perhaps in time, some of that oak will get mellowed a bit, but it's present now. The wine retails for around $10 and is a decent value for that price; especially if you like big fruited-new world-ish wines. It would do well matched with some grilled meat on a cold night.

Disclaimer: This wine was provided to me as a sample from the pr folks at The Thomas Collective.

October 6, 2010

Domain Olivier Leflaive Tasting

I was fortunate to be invited by Frederick Wildman & Sons to participate in an online tasting with one of the top houses in Burgundy, Domaine Olivier Leflaive. Domaine Olivier Leflaive was founded by brothers Olivier and Patrick Leflaive in 1985, though the Leflaive family has made great white Burgundy wine in the Cotes de Beaune for over 80 years.
This tasting was made even more special by the fact that Patrick Leflaive joined the tasting via live video stream. The wines were all outstanding. They were young wines, and while tasty now, there are even better days ahead for these wines. My notes on the wines are below. You can also see some of the other comments from the tasters that night on the Tastelive Wildman Wines page.
  • 2008 Olivier Leflaive Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Vergers Clos Saint-Marc - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru (10/5/2010)Rich lemon and honey butter on a palate that is also all about the acid. For the acid heads. This one really pops in the mouth. Terrific length. Goes on and on. Needs a couple of years, but great material here. I likey.
  • 2008 Olivier Leflaive Meursault - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault (10/5/2010)
    Almond and buttered toast nose. It is supple and slightly buttery sweet now on the palate. Structured too, and some acidity peeking about. A good village, it's just a bit rich to me at this point.
  • 2008 Olivier Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet (10/4/2010)
    Somewhat linear, but rich, too. The richness of '08 shows. Still, the wine seemed not ready for action. Patrick said this one needs more years to unwind.
  • 2007 Olivier Leflaive Meursault 1er Cru Charmes - France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru (10/4/2010) Really exquisite and elegant nose. Floral. Beautiful palate impression with white flowers, lemon peel, and buttery toast notes. Crisp acid that just dances along. Young and racy, but already giving. Quite long. Very nice with some upside for sure. 
Posted from CellarTracker

September 30, 2010

Even More Cru Boo For You: 2009 Marcel Lapierrre Morgon

As I said in my post last week, 2009 was a great vintage for Cru Beaujolais. I tore into another bottle this past weekend, the 2009 Marcel Lapierre Morgon.
Morgon is a special piece of land in Beaujolais, the wines from Morgon are far different than the regional, and rather insipid, Beaujolais Nouveau that has penetrated the American market so well. This 2009 was packed with dense, juicy red fruit. There's also clean, stony and earthy elements. That being said, the wine is also quite a monster right now. Really big and powerful palate impression with plenty in reserve. Nice stuff. Compelling wines these '09s.

I picked up the Lapierre for $20 at Tower on Piedmont. Go get some. Drink one now, and bury a couple to try a few years down the road. You won't be disappointed.

September 27, 2010

Good Eats: Cakes & Ale: Still Decatur's Finest

Paid another visit to Cakes and Ale last weekend. Hard to believe it had been four months, but time does fly. Once again, Cakes & Ale demonstrated their understated brilliance and I left as happy as ever. Half a dozen visits and I can find nary a miss in any bit of food they've served me in that time.
What Cakes and Ale does so well is that they pack wonderfully seasonal and fresh flavors and textures into all their dishes. This visit, a simple house-confit of tuna with farm egg and veggies salad just sang. 
Crispy beans and red potatoes tossed in a house pesto with a perfectly cooked farm egg with moist-fatty tuna was just delicious.
The menu featured a half dozen main plates that showed a leaning toward the coming fall season. When chef Billy came out later in the night we joked about being ready for fall weather and food; hence his menu starting to lean in that direction.

The quail dish was simply one of the more satisfying dishes I've had lately. Well-seasoned and succulent quail over silky and decadent polenta topped with eggplant, onion, fresh figs, and a drizzle of aged balsimico. I freaking loved this dish and my mouth is watering now as I write about it.

My wife opted for the gnocchi with braised lamb, green tomatoes and pecorino fresco. It, too, was rather sublime and a wonderful nod to the coming fall season. Again, you may not need me to tell you, but Cakes & Ale is the real deal and a treasure in the still-developing Decatur dining scene.
Cakes & Ale on Urbanspoon

September 22, 2010

A Tale of Two Bottles of Wine: 2003 Tablas Creek Espirit de Beaucastel

I opened my last bottle of the 2003 Tablas Creek Espirit de Beaucastel this past weekend. I went through a period when Tablas Creek was one of my favorite California wineries. Tablas Creek makes great Rhone-styled wines in Paso Robles, CA. The Espirit bottling represents a collaboration between Tablas Creek and the Perrin family who operate one of the Rhone Valley's greatest estates, Chateau de Beaucastel.

Coincidentally, while Tweeting about my weekend drinking activities, local wine instructor, aficionado, and blogger, Elizabeth Schneider of Wine For Normal People was ready to open the same bottle. We agreed to open the bottles this past weekend and post on our experiences following our respective tastings.
According to my Cellartracker account, I had consumed (and really enjoyed) 5 bottles of this wine (as well as several other vintages of numerous Tablas Creek wines) over the past four years. Initially, this 2003 revealed a rather brawny and tannic wine that needed some time to shed its youthful outer shell. This  recent bottle was the most "ready" of any of the bottles opened. The tannins had mostly faded to a sweet backdrop and the darkish fruit was open, sweet, and lush. The wine will probably drink well for many more years, but there's really no reason to wait to open a bottle.

Now, it seems that my bottle showed a lot better than the bottle that Elizabeth opened. You can find her full report on her blog, but a snippet from her review reveals a bottle that was, "tight, acidic, and lacked any fruitiness. It had harsh vinegar notes and was thoroughly unpleasant." An experience that was far different than what I tasted in the bottle I opened.

So, what's the point of a post on the two bottles here? Well, as Elizabeth deftly points out, there are a couple of points. One being that bottle variation exists because wine is a fragile, living substance that is open to numerous conditions from barrel to bottle that may compromise the wines vitality and ability to age. There were 2000 cases of this wine produced, that's 24,000 bottles of wine! There are bound to be some inconsistencies. The other lesson here is that is difficult to judge a winery on the sampling of one random bottle of wine. Remember this the next time you want to write off a wine or winery after just one taste.

Oh yeah...the last point is that Tablas Creek makes great wines. Go get some!

September 20, 2010

Cru Boo Kills It In 2009

I will admit it, I was slow to warm to Cru Boo. Perhaps it was due to my being weaned on domestic wines, I somehow missed the wonder that is Cru Beaujolais until recently. However, now that I am firmly in the old school camp when it comes to wine, Cru Boo makes all kind of funky sense to me. I guess it was bound to happen when one heeds the sage advice of DirtySouthWine over the years.

In case you were wondering, 2009 is a bit of a homerun for Cru Beaujolais. 2009 was a hot year, with just a bit of rain in the summer that lead to optimal ripeness and concentrated, powerful wines. Remember, Cru Boo is not Beaujolais Nouveau, the often insipid-not-too serious-wine you find with funny labels in supermarkets. Cru Boo is serious juice.
 I recently tried the 2009 Daniel Bouland Morgon Delys that I found around town for $23 at Toco Giant in Druid Hills. This is seriously funky juice. The wine showed a deep red to purple color. It was really wound up initially, not giving off much of anything....With air, the nose gets gamey (ha ha), with tastes of iron and blood, too. Really dense and powerful palate presence; yet the wine is not heavy. There is a lot of material here, or at least that's the impression. The darkish fruit leaves a lasting impression on the palate. It's a powerful wine that tastes good now, but will be a real treat 5 years down the road. Buy a few bottles and forget them; you won't be sorry.

September 16, 2010

Edmunds St. John: The Best California Wines You're Still Not Drinking

Last summer (yeah, it's been a year already), I posted about one of my favorite California wineries, Edmunds St. John. I titled that post, The Best California Wines You're Not Drinking. Well, either for lack of creativity, or the fact that I really like Steve's wines, I'm revisiting that idea.

I've sung the praises of Edmunds St John wines many times here over the past year. Most recently, last winter I wrote about the profound and sublime 1993 Edmunds St. John Syrah Durell Vineyard.
This weekend I opened the 2001 Edmunds St John Les Robles Viejos, a California Rhone blend made in the style of the great wines of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region in France. The 2001 Viejos blend was again deep and dark with notes of garrigue, pepper, and dark fruit. Nice touch of acid runs across the back end. Drinking perfectly now. Yeah. Just a joy to drink. A nine year old Cali Rhone blend that held up nicely over two hours and still has some upside. Hello. It's a $18 wine. How does Steve do it? I think he might just be a genius.

September 13, 2010

Getting Funky with LIOCO

Recently had the opportunity to try two new wines from LIOCO. Lioco is a hip newish Cali winery that focuses on creating wine in the European tradition in that the wines speak of a place and a people. In their own words, the folks at Lioco strive to create wines that speak to the drinker and say "this wine came from this place only, and could not have come from anywhere else. This is a wine of origin."

The two wines I tried were both Chardonnays: the 2008 Demuth Vineyard and the 2009 Sonoma Coast.

I drank the the 2008 Chardonnay Demuth with Rowdy who brought a bottle over the night (along with some other goodies). The Demuth was really freaky when we opened it; showing lots of smoke, ash, and lime notes. Brisk acidity here that really drove home the rockiness (in a good way) of the wine. The acid presence made us think Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was also pretty wound up. I wouldn't be surprised to drink this in 5 years and find it still grooving. A helluva unique California Chardonnay.

The 2009 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast was a bit simpler, but as a blend, it should be. There was some cool minerality to the steely palate, but also some overt buttery sweetness that was slightly cloying. One of the cool things about the '09 Chardonnay is that it was bottled by ATL's own, DirtySouthWine, who has done some work with the folks at Lioco in his new life in Cali. I bought the 2009 Chardonnay for $18.00 at the Kroger in Ansley Mall. It's well-worth it's asking price.

September 6, 2010

Sun In My Belly: Good Eats in Kirkwood

Finally made another visit to Sun in My Belly for lunch last weekend. While breakfast and brunch seems to be what everyone raves about SIMB for, we stopped by for lunch.

The sandwiches were really tasty, a thoughtful use of flavors and textures that one doesn't usually find in casual lunch fare. Most sandwiches are $8.95 and come with the choice of one side.

The Truffle Chicken Salad Sandwich with Arugula showed clean and precise flavors, it was earthy, creamy, peppery. Just great. The Edamame and Carrot salad with Black Sesame Seeds and Sesame Vinaigrette was tasty as well, but to be honest, it could have used a little salt.
The other sandwich we tried was a winner. Called The Napolean Complex, the sandwich featured pressed Brie, Prosciutto, Red Onions, and Fig Jam on Foccacia. Alongside was a beet couscous topped with goat cheese. The brie and prosciutto was gooey and delicious and the fresh-baked foccacia was right on. The couscous was visually appealing, but like the other side, it lacked some punch in the flavor department and could have used some salt and pepper.
The other cool thing about Sun is that they also offer catering services and are a full-service coffee bar. We finished our lunch with an iced latte with fresh cinnamon syrup. 

Even more importantly, Sun is open later now (until 9PM most nights) and there's a little sign near the coffee shop that states guests are encouraged to bring in their own wine for a $5 corkage fee. Yep. You know where I'll be going for dinner real soon. Look forward to my next visit. 

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