October 27, 2011

Wines from The Loire Valley

I recently started paying more attention to wines of the The Loire Valley in France. The Loire Valley is a rather diverse wine area with a history of producing crisp, fresh, and often unadulterated wines that speak of a place and taste like the land. The most prevalent Loire Valley wine varietals are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc for white wines; and Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Gamay for the reds.

Recently, I opened both the 2009 Vouvray "Le Bouchet" from Francois Chidaine. The village of Vouvray white wines are exclusively Chenin Blanc, and they can vary from bone dry to sparkling to dessert-like sweet wines. This one from Chidaine was rather sweet and viscous upfront, but showed a decent amount crunchy acidity. A wine that can for a long while in bottle.

I also recently tried a Pinot Noir/Gamay blend from Domaine du Moulin, produced by Herve Villemade, who makes biodynamic wines from grapes crushed the old fashioned way: by foot. The 2009 shows even more depth than the 2008 right now, depsite its youth. A truly interesting and vibrant wine with and energy and audacity that will make you swear off mass-produced, over-oaked American supermarket wines in a hurry. Oh yeah, it costs about $15.

The nice thing about many of the Loire Valley wines, both reds and whites, is that they are very good, age-worthy wines and can be bought for around $20. If you have not tried Loire Valley wines;  you must.

October 21, 2011

Dry Soda

I was recently able to sample some soda from the Dry Soda Company. Dry Soda, you say? Yep, that's right. Dry Soda was developed several years ago by a Seattle mom who wanted an option to sugary sodas of which most Americans drink too much. Each bottle of Dry Soda has between 45-70 calories per bottle and all are sweetened with a touch of cane sugar and flavored with natural ingredients. The "dry" in the name actually comes from wine nomenclature where dry typically means "less sweet."
The Dry Soda company sodas are note your run-of-the-mill soda flavors. Instead, you'll find flavors such as Vanilla Bean, Lavender, Blood Orange, Juniper Berry, and Dry Rhubarb. The sodas are all quite tasty. I think my favorite is the Juniper Berry, it's more of an adult flavor for soda that has a bit of a gin flavor to it. The Vanilla Bean is great, too, tasting a bit like a classic cream soda without the heavy sugary finish. These sodas will soon be available in the Atlanta market, so be on the lookout.

October 17, 2011

It's Good to Drink with Friends

Drinking with friends, it is a good thing.

However, for the sake of this little update, I'm using that term in slightly different way than what you might expect. It pertains to a bottle of wine I opened this weekend. See, this wine, made by Arcadian (one of my favorite California wineries) is actually named in honor of a friend of mine. The wine is the 2003 Arcadian Winery Syrah Starlane Vineyard Robert O. Fleming Cuvee. Robert O. Fleming just so happens to be an Atlantan who I've come to know quite well as a co-conspirator in many food and wine gatherings. As an early partner in the development of Arcadian wines, Bob has been forever immortalized by Joe Davis at Arcadian with several eponymous cuvees. Bob is one the most knowledgeable wine people I know, when he talks about wine...I listen. If anyone deserves to have a bottle of wine named in his honor, it's Bob.
So while I didn't actually share this bottle with Bob, he was there, in spirit.

As for the wine; it's an old world-styled Syrah. It has some northern Rhone leanings. Rather dark and brooding with notes of BBQ meat (Bob is also a BBQ afficianado) and built to age for a long time. A very good wine, indeed.

October 10, 2011

A FarmBurger Lunch

Realized it had been a couple months since I had paid a visit to Farmburger, so we stopped in for lunch this past weekend. Farmburger has gone big time now that they have a second location in Buckhead, but the original shop in Decatur is still on their game. I've been eating a lot of beef lately, so on Saturday, I opted for the No. 4, a Chicken Burger topped with pickled onions, arugula, and goat cheese. It was a damn fine chicken burger. Not at all dry which can sometimes be the case with chicken burgers. Had to get an order of the kick-ass FarmBurger onion rings as well.
We also tried the red bean chili (good), and the soup of the day, a creamy tortilla and roasted chicken concoction that was much better than I expected. Don't know why I didn't expect much, but low expectations can be a good thing. The soup featured a rich, salty (but not too salty) base that was creamy and homey with nice chunks of roasted chicken and tasty slivered tortilla chips on top. It was a good lunch, I needed a nap afterwards.

Farm Burger on Urbanspoon

October 6, 2011

Chilean Carmenere & Pastel de Choclo

I was recently able to sample a couple bottles of Carmenere from Chile. I have drank a bit of Chilean Carmenere before and actually think it's darn good wine to go to when one wants to find a value wine under $15. That being said, I can't say I drink a lot of Chilean wine, as I'm a bit too obsessed with wines from the motherland most of the time.


Along with the wines came a recommendation to try the wines with the Chilean dish called Pastel de Choclo, which translates roughly into Sweet Corn Pie. Pastel de Choclo is apparently, somewhat of a national dish in Chile and other parts of South American. I mean, who doesn't love a meat and corn pie? The pie was actually really tasty in a down-home-peasant-food-stew kind of way. A perfect dish for a cold night, or to start your day with if you plan on doing manual labor for 10 hours. I included the recipe below for those interested in making the dish.

The 2007 Falernia Carmenere Reserva was a good match for the dish. As with many Carmenere, the wine was brawny, plummy., chocolaty, and tannic, which actually played quite well off the sweetness of the corn and richness of the beef. The wine was a bit oaky for me, but there was some nice underlying material here and the wine could probably use a bit more age to shed some of that young oak. A good wine for its $14 asking price.

Pastel de Choclo (Sweet Corn Pie)

by Pilar Rodriguez
Serves 6 to 8

1 whole skinless chicken (3 lbs.) boiled and shredded
1 ½ lbs. ground beef
3 cups chopped onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 pinch cumin
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
½ cup raisins
10 black olives, pitted
3 hard boiled eggs cut in wedges (4 to 6 pieces)
Black pepper to taste, freshly ground

Sweet corn topping:
12 cups fresh or frozen sweetcorn
1 cup cream
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 pinch fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons melted butter
5 leaves of fresh basil cut in julienne
8 teaspoons sugar (optional)

FILLING: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions and the crushed garlic with the oregano, pinch of cumin and salt until the onions are cooked. Add the meat in one layer, and cook until golden. Then, using a spatula, turn the meat and sauté the other side. Once the meat is cooked, add the sweet paprika and mix well. (If you stir the mixture from the beginning, the result will be too watery). Prepare this filling the day before and once cool, refrigerate until needed.

SWEETCORN TOPPING: Using a food processor or blender, gradually grind the corn, adding the cream as you go, until a smooth, uniform purée is achieved. Put the mixture in a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring constantly. When it thickens, withdraw from the heat, add the beaten egg and melted butter and mix well. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper and reserve.

ASSEMBLY AND BAKING: Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Grease a baking dish or 8 individual ramekins. Fill the baking dish or each ramekin to 1/3 with the filling. Add a layer of the shredded chicken and then arrange the raisins, olives and egg wedges evenly on top. Finally, cover with the corn mixture. For an authentic finish, sprinkle sugar on top. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve immediately.

October 3, 2011

Alex Elman Wines

I was recently given the opportunity to taste some new wines from Alex Elman. Alex is a wine insider who spent many years in the wine business before setting out to make her own wines in 2009. She is also the self-labeled, "Blind Wine Chick," having lost her sight due to a complication from diabetes.

The Elman wines are all made from vineyards in the Mendoza wine region in western Argentina and are crafted with non-interventionist practices. Elman believes in wines that are "true to the soil and climate of their places of origin." Organic grapes from sustainably farmed vineyards are used in each of the four wines.
The 2010 Alex Elman Torrontes, a grape variety indigenous to Argentina, shows a nearly-translucent yellow in the glass. It smells like spring; scents of white flowers and peaches. The palate shows a good deal of tropical fruit, think pineapple kissed with a healthy dose of palate cleansing acidity. The wine comes in at 12.8% alcohol, which is quite low by today's standard. It's a nice wine; a wine that would be great on a hot summer day alongside some grilled shrimp.
I also sampled the 2010 Malbec. Malbec has historically been used as a blending grape in Bordeaux and Argentina. More recently, Malbec has been used as a stand-alone varietal in Argentine wine. Malbec produces brawny, tannic wine that matches well with rich, hearty foods. Elman's rendition here fits this model; it is a Malbec worth a look in the sub $15 price range. A wine that could age a bit, too.

I received these wines as samples from The Thomas Collective.