Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chateau Haut Vigneau 2005

Last weekend the boys and I wanted to make a nice dinner for my wonderful wife and their mother. While I cooked, they set the table and then got dressed up. On the menu was going to be a carmelized apple salad with roasted walnuts, blue cheese and a spicy orange viniagrette (a favorite of ours for years), pork tenderloin medallions with an apple and jalepeno sauce for on top and roasted asparagus with aged balsamic and fresh lemon. What could I find in the cellar to pair with the sweetness from the oranges and apples, yet complement the jalepenos in both sauces and then be subtle enough for the asparagus? With the cellar needing restocked, I reached for the Chateau Haut Vigneau 2005 which is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. This ruby colored bordeaux is from the Pessac-Leognan appellation and more narrowly defined as the Graves subregion. This region is located southwest of Bordeaux. I opened and decanted this wine about 20 minutes prior to plating the food. It started off with aromas of both red and black berries, old plums, milled wood shavings, violet and some earthiness. I probably should have quickly gone downstairs and pulled something else. On the palate, this medium-bodied wine had some black fruits flavors, cherries, clove, toasted oak and some dirt from the gravelly terroir. The tannis were not too chewy for such a young Bordeaux, but the acidity was relatively mild and it really lacked a finish. It received an 88 point rating from the Wine Spectator. We would probably agree with this rating, or slightly lower. However, based on all the empty plates and the smiles, the dinner was a big success. Next time, I would choose a Rioja for this dinner. Unfortunately I was all out. The 2005 Chateau Haut Vigneau Bordeaux retails for about $20.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Miro Petite Sirah 2006

This is another wine that was generously provided by a PS I Love You winemaker - Miro Cellars from Geyserville, CA. Miro Tcholakov is the wine maker who also made the La Storia 2004 Petite Sirah for Trentadue Winery that I previously posted (Petite Sirah Day 2). The grapes for this 100% Petite Sirah were harvested from the Dry Creek Valley and then were barrel aged for 17 months in 40% new European oak barrels. 2006 was a relatively rainy winter with a cooler summer than the 2005 vintage. As a result, the grapes were harvested at a later date, thus producing greater depth and structure. The 2006 harvest was also lower in yield resulting in more intense flavor and concentration. This very dark purple wine started off with intense blackberry and blueberry aromas along with some toasted oak and herbal notes. On the palate, the black fruits dominated but there was a sour cherry flavor on the mid palate that was not very pleasing. On the back end was some nice earthiness along with some spice rack flavors that unfortuantely got covered by the sour cherries. Overall, the wine was well structured with nice acidity and relatively mild tannins, but had missed the mark with the cherries. This big and bold wine would pair well with grilled meats, strong blue cheses and spicy sauces. Be sure to decant this wine for at least a half-hour before serving. The Miro Petite Sirah received a 90 point rating from the Wine Enthusiast. Based on our first bottle, we would be in the 86-88 point range. However, I will taste a second bottle and update this posting following that tasting. This wine retails for about $20.

Friday, January 22, 2010


How? If you aren’t already a Fan of TorreBarolo on Facebook, simply become one by the end of January and you automatically will qualify for the drawing. If you are a Fan of TorreBarolo already, then easy, just continue to support the TorreBarolo Fan’s Page with your comments.

The rules:
1. As of January 31st, all names on the Fan page will be entered into a hat and we will draw a name. If the lucky winner is unable to redeem their prize, then we will draw a 2nd winner … and so on;
2. The prize of 3 nights at TorreBarolo has a value of €375 and is not redeemable in cash. As is standard at TorreBarolo, a security deposit will still be requested upon check-in;
3. The availability period for the winner’s 3 night stay runs from Feb 5th, 2010 to March 31st, 2010;
4. If the winner removes him/herself from the TorreBarolo Fan’s page before their 3 night stay, the winner forfeits their winning;
5. After staying at TorreBarolo, the winner will be requested to enter a review on the TorreBarolo website as well as on TorreBarolo Fan’s page;
6. The winner will be contacted via Facebook directly to their message inbox;
7. The final winner will be announced on the Fan’s page on Feb 1st.

The owner of this beautiful property is originally from CA.  As a lover of great food and great wine, Megan ended up buying Torre Barolo in the Piemonte region of northern Italy.  Check out her web page at

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Moulin De Toulet 2008

This 2008 Vin De Pays Des Cotes de Gascogne is a white Bordeaux from south west France produced by Maison Sichel. The Sichel family moved to France in the mid 1850's from Germany and opened their first wine shop in 1883. Hermann's grandson, Peter Sichel, followed his footsteps to France from England and became one of the top ambassadors for Bordeaux wines. He led the family business for 31 years. Today, his son Allan is the Managing Director of the family empire along with his brothers and their children. This white wine has wonderfully crisp aromas of exotic fruits, summer flowers and a little limestone. On the palate, the exotic fruits are up front followed by some juicy citrus and then a big sweet tangerine flavor on the finish. There is great acidity and length to this wine. It has a mild 11.5% alcohol content and is perfctly structured. If you are a Sauvignon Blanc drinker, you will love this wine. If you are looking for a crisp white with plenty of fruits, this will blow you away. It can be enjoyed by itself or with appetizers. We served this with Chilean sea bass with a lemon and caper sauce along with braised fennel and rice. Perfect pairing. Keep this wine cold. It retails for about $12.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Retsina Malamatina

A few weeks ago, I was coming back from a meeting with some business partners and we stopped at a Greek restaurant for lunch. One partner, who is Greek, said I had to try their specialty. The bottle cap on top should have given me a good idea what I was about to taste. This dry white, or should I say deep yellow, wine dates back nearly 2000 years ago. Back then, without the equipment and bottling we have today, pine resin was added to the wine to keep it from spoiling. Unfortunately, when they started using barrels, they did not remove this ingredient as it was now what they expected from this wine. It has the distinct aroma of pine needles, varnish and some citrus. We had a cleaning detergent that smelled like this as a kid. They claim you should also taste the pine resin, but it tasted just like what shoe polish smells like. I think I would prefer the shoe polish next time. Retsina is the name for a Greek wine that has been flavored with sandarac, a resin obtained from a Calitis tree. Who needs oak when you have pine resin. There is a minimal 11% alcohol content. It retails for about $4-$5. This has to be one of the most unusual wines I have ever tasted. Additionally, this is NOT a wine to pair with foods. No offense Peter but this is a big pass!!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Seven Artisans Petite Sirah 2007

This weekend we wanted to try some more of the Petite Sirah's that the PS I Love You members generously provided. And this one did not let us down. Sometimes a bottle catches your eye by the label and this one does. It does not have a label, rather all lettering is in gold and is hand written onto the bottle. This Petite Sirah is from Jeff Miller's 34 acre property on Clayton Road in the Suisun Valley, just outside of Napa. This big and bold wine was opened and decanted for about an hour before dinner. The aromas were constantly changing. I might even let it sit for another hour next time. It had a complex nose of big blackberries, blueberry jam, boysenberry and black pepper. The dark fruits carried onto the palate along with some red fruit. In the mid to back end was a bit of chocolate, pepper and anise.   There was a nice long finish, but also had big tannins. Even though it had a 14.9% alcohol content, it was masked well.  This is a well structured wine that I would actually hold for another 5 years before drinking. It pours well today but will be outstanding in years to come. The Seven Artisans Petite Sirah 2007 retails for $18. This was a hit in our house and we would recommend you picking some up. Only 435 cases were produced so get it now before it is all gone.  This will pair well with tender filets, ribs, venison or other meats, stews and goulash.

The Artisan Family wines also produces the Sly Dog Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon which I have enjoyed many times in the past. In fact, it was the wine of choice for a large dinner at my brother's ski house a year ago. Pick this one up as well. It retails for about $15.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

R&A Pfaffl Austrian Pepper 2008

The Pfaffl family winery has been producing wines for over 30 years, and in 1986 Roman Pfaffl was named Winemaker of the Year by the Austrian Wine Press. The grapes for this 2008 Gruner Veltliner were harvested in Niederosterreich (Lower Austria) in the Weinviertel (Wine Quarter) region which is situated just north of Vienna. This region is the largest wine producing area in all of Austria with over 30% of the vines being Gruner Veltliner. The Austrian Pepper is a straw yellow Gruner Veltliner that has a bright bouquet of orchard aromas including apples, pears, citrus and herbal notes. On the palate, the crisp citrus flavors of oranges and grapefruit are combined with some softer mellon and pear flavors. And, of course, a nice peppery finish on the back end. This peppery flavor is common to wines from this clay region. We served this on New Year's Eve along with a cheese fondue. This is a wine you could pair with many foods. I would highly recommend the 2008 Pfaffl Austrian Pepper. It retails for about $14-$15.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

The 2005 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon is from the Hope family owned and operated winery located in Paso Robles, CA.  The Hope family originally planted cabernet vines in 1978 and then began selling off the grapes to Chuck Wagner from the Caymus winery.  With the help of Hope farms, Mr. Wagner's second label "Liberty School", was started.  This 2005 is a medium-bodied cabernet that has a subtle chocolate covered cherries aroma with a hint of spices and a little vanilla. The fruity cherry and blackberry taste along with a peppery back-end taste is nicely combined with soft tannins. No need to cellar. This is nothing spectacular but if you are looking for an easy-drinking cabernet to drink with a burger or kabobs from the grill, give this a try. I would not pair it with a juicy grilled steak though.  I prefer bigger Cabernets but this one is OK.    Retails for about $14.