March 31, 2010

A Well-Aged California Cabernet: 1989 Laurel Glen Sonoma Mountain

Laurel Glen has been around since 1981, and has developed a quiet history of creating age-worthy wines at prices that won't break the bank. Many of their mid-to-late-80's Cabernets are still drinking well today. Saturday night, I popped the '89. It showed really nicely,especially considering that '89 was one of the wors vintages of the '80s for California Cabernet. Unlike many modern-styled Cali Cabs made with higher alcohol, overt fruit, and low acidity, Laurel Glen, and older-styled Cabs like Diamond Creek amd S. Anderson, with low(er) alcohol and high(er) acid, tend to age quite well and develop tertiary characteristics over time. It should be noted that this wine checked in at 12.5% alcohol.

I strained the wine into a decanter as the cork was shredded to pieces by the time I finally wrestled it out of the bottle. Initially, the wine seemed tired...just couldn't figure what she wanted to be. I was concerned...After about 20 minutes...Hello...Mint, tobacco, cedar nose. Palate features leathery candied red fruit, more tobacco, and a sweet dark plumminess that fills the mouth. Just a kiss of acidity hanging in to let you know she's alive...and it keeps getting better with air. Really nice balance and length. I don't drink a lot of California Cabernet, but I know a good one when it hits. Terrific.

March 26, 2010

Washington Syrah Tasting

Was fortunate to be invited by the good folks at Tastelive and Hospice du Rhone to participate in an online tasting of some fine Syrahs from Washington. It was a strong lineup, all of the wines I'd like to own and drink again. Also, several of the wines were deserving of some time in the cellar.

We kicked things off with the 2007 Gramercy Cellars Syrah Lagniappe--($40)...13.9% alcohol...I really liked this wine. My favorite of the tasting. It showed the old-world charm I adore. Herbal and earthy, with black olive notes, pepper, and a very soft weight to the palate. Alcohol on the low side, too. Very nice effort.

The 2007 Delille Cellars Syrah Doyenne ($40) was somewhat heavier and riper than the Gramercy. That being said, it remained rather clean and precise on the palate. There was a lot of dark fruit and some of the nearly 15% alcohol was showing. It's a big Syrah. Not exactly my style, but it has some charm. Needs some time in the cellar.

The 2007 K Vintners Syrah Phil Lane ($65) was a real powerhouse Syrah. Dripping with dark, ripe fruit, it was a mouth coating, lush wine. Thick and viscous, it coats the palate with dark fruit and structure. Another wine that needs time and/or a big piece of meat. Recorked and put back in the fridge, I'm going to see what this is like after 48 hours.

The 2006 Columbia Valley Syrah ($30) was the least interesting wine of the night, but that's perhaps because of the decent showing of the other wines. It was a fine everyday Syrah that seemed correct in everyway. Perhaps that's a compliment itself. Represents decent value.

All-in-all, it was a fine night of Syrah from Washington. While I'm not regularly a buyer of WA Syrah, I'd be happy to own and drink all of these wines again. Thanks to the folks at Tastelive and Hospice du Rhone for another good time.

March 22, 2010

Incredible Cassoulet & Legendary Chateauneuf du Pape

Got together with some of the usual suspects Friday night for another amazing night of wine and incredible food prepared by the Rowdy one. Friday night he made the most incredible Cassoulet for what is becoming Dr. Feelgood's annual Cassoulet Dinner.

We started with a few 2007 CdRs we tasted blind. The 2007 Clos du Caillou Les Quartz was the winner.

We then moved on to some real gems of Chateauneuf du Pape.

1990 Domaine du Pegau-In the zone. Beautiful wine. Wonderful aromatics. Minerality. Peppery red fruit. Sexy wine. Not showing its age. A treat. Wish I was sitting on a case. Great with the Cassoulet. Classic Pegau that still has some life ahead of it.

1994 Chateau Rayas-Another outrageous showing of this wine. Floral, feminine, and beguiling nose....lavender, raspberry, Provencal herbs. Intoxicating. Clean, spiced red fruit palate that just dances through the mouth and leaves a lingering perfumed finish. Beautiful weight. So delicate, yet so penetrating. It got all of our attention. On a table of heavy hitters, this wine stands out. Drinking on point. With the cassoulet it was pure joy.

1995 Henri Bonneau Reserve de Celestins-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 the pic to the left of  Bonneau's cellar circa 2006). 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 glides effortlessly. An absolute powerhouse wine. A real treat.

March 16, 2010

2007 Wind Gap Chardonnay Sonoma County

Wind Gap wines is the new project by Pax Mahle, who formerly made wines under his namesake winery: Pax Wines. Wind Gap is Mahle's new project since his breaking ties with the ownership group that was at the helm at Pax.. Thanks to a local wine enthusiast, I was able to try this terrific Chardonnay over another great lunch at Bocado on Atlanta's west side.

The 2007 Chardonnay is tropical and full-bodied, yet it doesn't ever become to Californian. It lacks some cut to make it truly outstanding, but it is a fine Cali Chardonnay that would be great on the deck in summer with shellfish or grilled fare.

March 15, 2010

Lunch at Watershed

Stopped in for lunch at Watershed in Decatur last week. Hadn't been to Watershed in a few months, and it is certainly a great stop for lunch in Decatur. Most of the sandwiches are in the $8-$12 range; however, sides are extra, so lunch is not exactly cheap here. That being said, the sandwiches are rather large and one could pass on a side and still get filled up. I ended up taking half of my chicken salad sandwich home.
 The white truffle chicken salad sandwich was really tasty. One of the better lunch sandwiches I've had in some time. Loaded with earthy truffle notes and creamy chicken salad spiked with golden raisins on a hearty buttered bread.

 Also splurged for some onion rings which were light and clean and perfectly crispy.
My lunch companions were also quite pleased with their sandwiches; I had a bite of the ham and cheese sandwich and it was quite nice as well, layered with warm ham and rich, cheesy goodness. New restaurants seem to come and go often in town and it's easy to forget about old standards like Watershed. Clearly, though,Watershed is worth a visit. I'll be back again soon.

March 14, 2010

2003 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Drank a real nice Cali Cab on Saturday night. Mount Eden Vineyards has a long history of producing top-notch, old-school styled California Cabernet. They are often brooding and austere when young, and require 5-10 years in the cellar to begin to reveal what they will become. Leather, mint, and red fruit on the nose. Palate shows classic old-world Cab sensibilities; there is leather, tobacco leaf, cassis. It's slightly austere, too. There's beauty here, but you have to work for it....It really pops with the ribeye. Young, but quite tasty. My kind of Cali Cab. And, in today's marketplace of stratospheric prices on California Cabernet, Mount Eden can still be found for $35.

Drank the Mount Eden with ribeyes smothered in caramelized shallots and pommes anna ala Thomas Keller. The pommes anna is a delicious dish that offers a nice alternative to more common potato offerings. Thinly sliced potato layered with shallots and prunes, covered in clarified butter and backed until crispy. Well worth the effort.

March 8, 2010

Cassoulet and Burgundy

Had some of the usual suspects over for Thomas Kellers "easy" Cassoulet last week. Some nice bottles brought by all. No real notes but some thoughts from what I remember....It's all a little foggy as lunch earlier in the day at Bocado included several bottles...

Pics here courtesy of the jedi master of the camera, Rowdy, who also put together a video clip of the evening which can be found at Rowdyfood.

Some really nice Burgs with the food, but the star was a '97 Grand Cru from Dominique Laurent.

1997 Dominique Laurent Charmes Chambertin--The Legend brought the heat...Wine of the night, and day, for me, and I think we all agreed. Stemmy, and earthy, but so nicely touched with dark fruit and notes of vanilla under the slight hints of green. Still some energy on the back side, but damn fine with the food.

Good times with good friends, good food, and very nice wines.

March 4, 2010

Quick Review: Lunching at Bocado

Met three local wine enthusiasts at Bocado for lunch recently. It was my third visit to Bocado, and I've now left happy three times. This time, we brought wine, a lot of wine, so my recollections aren't perhaps totally clear.

That being said, the food and service were really top-notch. Bocado staff was more than accommodating to our wine-dork requests for multiple wine glasses and spit buckets, while wine bottles laid strewn across our table. 

We each ordered a sandwich and cut them all in fours so to be able sample a bit of each. The burger was quite tasty,though perhaps a touch past done for my liking. My favorite was again the roasted cauliflower and eggplant sandwich with pickled veggies, cilantro, and spicy mayo. It's very much a roasted veggie banh mi. Yummy stuff, but some serious spice that didn't exactly fit too well with the wines...if you find yourself lunching at Bocado with wine.

We also had a few orders of garlic-herb fries that were seriously addictive.

After several bottles of wine, we talked to the chef into whipping up a couple orders of brussel sprouts which aren't on the lunch menu and usually only  appear at dinner. I don't even recall how they were done exactly, but they were finished with shaved parmesan and croutons. Delicious. 

I've yet to try Bocado for dinner, but I've certainly had three very tasty lunches there in the past couple of months. It is certainly worth a visit if you have not been.

March 2, 2010

Duck Confit & 2007 Louis Jadot Savigny Les Beaune La Dominode

As promised, here is the final product from my duck confit fun this past weekend. This dish is from Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook. If you like duck conift, this dish is worth checking out. The conift is browned to crispy on the outside, then warmed through in the oven. It is served over brussel sprouts and a mustard and creme fraiche sauce seasoned with shallots, thyme, and chives. The duck is meltingly tender and the texture contrast with the crispy skin is just delicious. An A+ dish.

With the confit we drank the 2007 Louis Jadot Savigny Les Beaune La Dominode. Duck confit and red Burgundy is as good as food and wine pairing gets. The 2007 was young, but showed great potential. It was lean and light on its feet as young SLB can be at times. Glad to have a few more to rest in the cellar for 5 years.

March 1, 2010

Duck Confit: A Work in Progress

Drawing inspiration from the killer duck dish I had on my visit to Cakes and Ale last week, I decided to do some duck confit myself this weekend. It's a process you need to spread out over a couple of days, but it's well worth the effort.

It all started with about 3 pounds of duck fat from Your Dekalb Famer's Market. It aint pretty, but after an hour in a large stock pot over low heat I was left with 5 cups of pure, golden, rendered duck fat.

While the duck fat was rendering, I got to work on making Thomas Keller's Green Salt Rub for the duck legs. The green salt recipe is from Keller's Bouchon cookbook. Sea salt is ground in a coffee grinder along with bay leaf, parsley, thyme, and black peppercorns. It's an easy process that leaves you with some really tasty salt that's also quite nice on eggs, burgers, or just about anything, really.

 I then rubbed the green salt liberally over six duck legs before placing the legs in the fridge to marinate for 20 hours.

On day two, I melted my rendered fat, cleaned the marinade off the legs, and submerged the legs in the liquified duck fat. I then covered the pot and placed in a 190 degree oven for 10 hours until the meat was meltingly tender, but not falling off the bone. It's important to keep the legs intact at this point.

After 10 hours in the oven, I removed the pot and let it cool slightly before straining the fat and pouring it back over the legs. It then cooled and solidified until it looked like it does in the last picture to the left. The finished confit can now rest in the fridge for up to two weeks, though I doubt mine will last that long!

Watch for a recipe using the confit legs in the next few days.