Monday, July 7, 2014

NV Viñedo de los Vientos Tannat Alcyone $27.00 2nd review #DessertWine

A crowd pleasing gift.

Exotic, approachable and unique, this dessert wine form Uruguay is the most universally interesting wine that I have ever tasted. It is a very sweet wine, which makes it popular with non-wine drinkers. This Alcyone is my hostess gift of choice, and I love watching people react to the sweet chocolate/marshmallow taste.

I first discovered it at Vini-Volo JFK. It's not easy to find (I get mine at Astor Wines and Spirits in NYC) and it varies in price, but it's a guaranteed to be a welcome addition to almost any dessert course.

Recently, I paired it with cake, whipped cream and fresh strawberries. It really worked.  For the leftovers, it was suggested that I macerate the strawberries in the wine, brilliant idea. I'm thinking that I'll make a couple of recipe cards to add to the gift bags.

Monday, March 10, 2014

2014 Game Dinner: Cousino Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon `10 $11.99

It has been a rough winter - cold, dark and filled with snow.  What helps me get through the seemingly endless final weeks of winter? Counting the days until the Stockbridge Sportsman's Club Game Dinner, a fundraiser that shares the bounty of the year with neighbors and brings over 200 of us all together: writers, hunters, teachers, students, healthcare activists, carpenters, tradesmen, civil servants, business owners and a transplanted Fijian. The one demographic NOT represented at the dinner was vegetarians. This was my second year attending the annual Game Dinner, and I hope that I'll be able to write about for years to come.

The dinner had a special wine pairing, a French Rhone (reviewed last year) Chapelle St Arnoux Cotes du Ventoux, and the Chilean Cousino Macul Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon `10 above left.  There was a full cash bar for those who wanted beer, soda, juice or mixed drinks.

The fire in the member built fireplace added a glow to the room, and mounted trophies on the walls were a reminder of where our dinner came from.  This is a gathering of old and new friends sharing in the harvest, talking about the season and celebrating by raising a glass, swapping hunting stories, and online recipes while discussing schools, orchestra practice, writing groups and honeymoons. (public vs private, 9 hours practicing with 15 mins for lunch!, topics focusing on women, a B&B in Newport RI  - a fishing trip in guise of a honeymoon)

Dinner was presented in three buffet courses:

Appetizers: Smoked Trout Pâté, Smoked Pheasant, Wild Boar Meatballs with pineapple habenero sauce, Country Venison Pâté, Mini Bear Wellington with horseradish sauce, Squirrel & Rabbit Ragu, and Moose Sausage Sliders.

Main Courses: Smoked Salmon Cakes with Mango Sauce, Panko Crusted Cod and Pollack with Lemon Pepper and White Wine,  Moose and Elk Stroganoff over egg noodles, Venison Chili, Moose & Mushroom Stew, Polenta, Venison Meatloaf with a mushroom demi-glace, Grilled Moose, Smoked Bear with a Memphis Rub, Smoked Venison, Wild Fiddleheads and Winter Squash.

Dessert: Fruit cobbler, homemade fudge, and local Barrington Roasting Company Coffee.

Everything was local.  The club is set back in the Berkshire Mountain woods where generations of animals and hunters have co-existed.  The fiddleheads were harvested from a local riverbank.  Two Italian sisters made the delicious, creamy polenta, that highlighted the moose and mushroom stew.  The club's vice president made the Country Venison Pâté with pistachios, and he and his wife donated the Japanese Kabocha & Butternut squash from their garden too.

With two professional chefs in the kitchen, the Club's Peter de la Grande and David Pullano, this dinner is a meat loving foodie event.

At our table, between sips of the jammy, complex Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, as oohed and ahhd over the Venison Stew, Marc Fadding, the club VP and cook of both the Stew and Venison Pâté told us a he tweaked am online recipe for venison stew by adding red-wine and a rich, fresh venison stock he learned to make under the tutelage of Chef Gerhard Schmid. It was delicious, and the lean flavorful stew paired beautifully with the dark fruit layers of the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon.

The real pairing highlights of the evening was the Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile's Maipo Valley with both the appetizer Moose Sausage Slider, and the main course Moose and Elk Stroganoff over egg noodles.   At 14% ETO, this Cabernet Sauvignon was well balanced, added a fruity taste to balance the meat, and was a perfect match to the sweetness in both the slider bun, and the stroganoff noodles. What a delicious meal.

I'm counting the days until next year....

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Channing Daughters Mudd `06 $40.00

Wine and Food: The anatomy of a pairing

Planning a meal with a wine pairing shouldn't be daunting. Generally, unless you are a wino like me, you choose the food and then you choose the wine.  Pick out what you are hankering for or in the case of the Test Kitchen, add some variety to the menu. (I really shouldn't make chicken EVERY weekend)

Choose a wine that will enhance the meal, either a varietal/blend that you already like or try something new. The internet is full of wine advice (just searching "lamb,wine" will get you over 50,000,000 results) or just ask at your local wine shop.

I like wine shops, usually the staff are friendly and they like wine.  Let them know what you're cooking, what your budget is and what you like: red or white? dry or sweet? That's all a professional needs be able to recommend a wine, and before you know it, you'll have a wine guy/gal and they'll have a happy customer. (Never be afraid to set a budget. I've ranted for years about when I was timid and let a man sell me two $21.00 bottles of wine for making sangria, I refuse to go back to the shop, and it's been over six years  and 400 bottles since the infamous sangria ripoff.)

Last weekend, I proposed Shepherd's Pie with lamb.  My thought process was that it is a very cold, snowy February, I haven't cooked lamb in a while, the leftovers will reheat well and I have a baking dish from the `60's that I love to use.

When I thought of lamb, I thought Merlot and when I thought about what I had in the wine rack, I picked a bottle of `06 Mudd, a juicy and complex, predominantly Merlot red blend from Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton. A win/win pairing in my book.

I first discovered Channing Daughter's Mudd at a Winery Library Tasting.  If you are lucky enough to live near a vineyard, it's a great opportunity to check out the tasting room, try wines by the glass and decide on what you like. If you don't live near any vineyards, a lot of Wine Shops have tastings too,  but remember, wine and food work together, they bring out the best in each other.  To quote my favorite romantic winemaker Robin Pfeiffer "Wine and food want to be married". After one class with Robin and his wife Danuta, I became a romantic convert. There have been quite a few wines that I have sipped and thought "meh", but then I've had them with a good meal, and my socks have been blown off. (or my buttons undone... it all depends on how much wine)

The `06 Mudd in my wine rack hadn't traveled very far since it was bottled.  Channing Daughter's Mudd Red Blend was grown, hand picked, stomped, aged, blended and bottled less than 30 miles away from the Test Kitchen. The only thing I needed to do was buy groceries.

A lot has been written about buying fresh from the farm and seasonal, but I'm writing this in the dead of winter, the streets are piled high with salt & pepper snow and the trees are glazed in ice. For the next couple of months, I'll be buying my ingredients at the grocery store.  En route to the Test Kitchen, I stopped at Fairway Market in Douglaston, Queens to shop. 
I'm a Kitchen Witch -  it's magical for me to plan, shop for and cook a meal.  Choosing the wine is like putting final piece of the puzzle in place - when you add the wine, you reveal the finished picture.

(Yes, I am about to compare the tastes of a meal with art, simply because poetry and eating is sooo 18th Century)

CC Pollock ONE  Wikipedia
Sometimes I get the pairing wrong, and for me, the meal ends up like a Jackson Pollock painting, intense pieces that cause confusion on my palate, but if you concentrate, you can appreciate the work and the subtleties- you just have to dig a lot deeper to appreciate it.
(Please Pollock fans, no e-mail, art is SUBJECTIVE)

CC Turner The Fighting Temeraire Wikipedia
Sometimes I get it right, and a meal can be like a J.M.W. Turner sunset - harmonious with the surrounding ships balanced by the intense focus of the light as it colors the scene. (In my mind, the wine is the light)

Using too much tarragon made
my beet salad
a bit like a Pollock. oops
Reality check: the meal I'm writing about wasn't a Pollock or a Turner, it was a simple hearty meal that was enhanced by Channing Daughter's `06 Mudd - a red blend rich with layers of Merlot, Syrah, Dornfelder, Cabernet Franc and Blaufrankisch. At 12% ETOH, it is well balanced, complimentary to the fattiness of the lamb and the subtle seasoning of rosemary & garlic.

You can't buy the `06, `07 or `08  Mudd anymore, they are all sold out.  It's a small batch wine.  The `08 was only 141 cases and 54 magnums - that's just 1800 bottles (2700 liters or 713 gallons for those non euro types) - The wine can't be bought at the Vineyard, it could be tucked away in cellars, a few bottles may be in restaurants or in wine shops or, like mine, it is already poured and enjoyed.  Mudd is a hand made limited number, which makes it an artisanal wine. Pick some up if you can find it and make yourself an ARTisanal meal (hah! get it? I finally tied in my musings on Turner and Pollock with pairing food and wine)

The upshot on all my musings?  Life is too short not to enjoy every moment.

Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts on a bed of Mache
Shepherd's Pie
Pillsbury Crescent Rolls (I'm a long time fan of bread in a can!)

For dessert, I got to play with fire! (I may be a bit of a pyromaniac...)
I made my very first Crème brûlée.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lenz Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon `07 $40.00

I'm starting to feel guilty about drinking this wine.  I should buy a few bottles, keep them in the cellar, and just drink one bottle a year.... but I have impulse control issues (let's just leave it at that...).

At the test kitchen, sometimes, I let the host pick the menu.  When he chose Beef Wellington with Napoleon for dessert, I smiled and thought that this meal WILL NOT be my Waterloo.  It was my first time making a Wellington or a Napoleon, but, with my usual bravado in the face of challenge, I jumped in head first and embraced the opportunity to create a culinary riff on Naval history.  The meal was perfect to showcase the Lenz Cabernet Sauvignon, and who am I to deny a man who plays the banjo while I happily putter in the kitchen? (I am a very lucky girl)

Now for the review:

Lenz Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon `07 unfiltered and unfined (Dr. Scribner would be thrilled).  What a full, lush wine.  At 13% ETOH, it was an excellent, traditional, old world style foil for the lean tenderloin wrapped in mushroom duxelles, prosciutto and puff pastry.

The truth is, I was sipping it all day as I cooked. (hey, it was 6:00 somewhere) By the time the meal was ready to be photographed... there wasn't a lot of wine left - maybe enough for a pairing - I smiled, praised Julia Child and toasted to a terrific afternoon of cooking and blissing out to my very own live acoustic soundtrack.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is flavorful, slightly dry, with notes of dark forest berries.  It's a smooth, classic, left bank type Cabernet that winemaker Eric Fry makes right here on Long Island's North Fork. I really did kick myself for drinking it while it is still young (ish).

It was so much fun pairing it with a special meal (we even broke out the good china).  I was delighted to sip it as I cooked and drink it with dinner. Thank you Lenz.  I'll be buying more, and I'll try to let it sit in the cellar long enough to mature to its full potential.

I paired the wine with a dinner of:
Beef Wellington
Herb roasted Russian banana potatoes
Red and green leaf salad with toasted walnuts & shaved Parmesan with a Honey/Balsamic dressing
I made a Napoleon for dessert.