OTBN- A Gift from Gundlach Bundschu

If you are on Twitter and a wine lover, you are probably aware that Saturday was Open That Bottle Night. One of many Twitter-born events that encourages readers to go ahead and open that bottle that you are saving for a special occasion. The bottle IS the special occasion so enjoy it now. Being awarded first place in Gundlach Bundschu’s Deed Day Poetry contest was in and of itself an amazing gift. The bottle they presented me with was enough to make me squeal and blush: A 1996 Cabernet Franc Jeroboam.

Now, let me preface all of this by saying that I have never had the privilege of enjoying a large bottle of fine wine. If I sound like a novice, it is because I am. Since receiving this bottle, I have envisioned the dinner party that I would build around the wine. I love Cabernet Franc but was not sure how it would change with age. Especially sixteen years and in a three liter format. I expected a softer fruit with some herbal qualities, so I made my best guess and planned the menu.

We began with a cheese plate, something to munch on while the littles ate dinner and got ready to settle in. Manchego, Gorgonzola with honey, goat cheese, olives and chutney. I was thinking the goat cheese would pair nicely. It took a few attempts, but we finally got through the wax seal and pulled out a healthy cork. Unsure about the level of sediment, we poured the wine into a decanter first. A beautiful tawny red, brilliant clarity, and life. The nose was really powerful, but so balanced, it was honestly hard to discern. Perhaps it was the fact that I was fighting a cold (horrible timing, I know) but it was like a big berry, plum medley. I expected the taste to be similar. I was wrong.

The fruit was subtle and smooth. Blackberry and plum softened with gentle tannins. Garden cuttings and damp shale came to mind. My husband said that it was like being back in the Sonoma cave. With newer wines, you can tell a marked difference between your first taste of the bottle and the last. It changes as it opens. This wine was consistent. Ready. Amazing from start to finish. And oh, what a finish.

For the first course, I served Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter sauce. The sweetness of the squash, herbaceous sage, and salty Grana Pandano all found a friend in the wine. Delicious. The second course was a pork tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto and sage with a salad of arugula, pear, and pecorino. Again, the wine shined with every bite. Finally, I served a chocolate pudding made with Akoma chocolate, Frangelico whipped cream, and salted pistachios. Divine. I would love to tell you how the wine paired with the pudding, but it didn’t make it that far. I was worried we wouldn’t be able to finish the magnum. Silly me.

I don’t have a lot of experience with aged wines. I don’t have the luxury of space and resource to just hold wine for great lengths. I have appreciated the experience and depth of the tobacco and leather types of wine, but it is not the taste profile I would generally choose (again, novice). This wine curled my toes and made me giddy. Sophisticated and yet so approachable. A gift in every sense of the word.

Many thanks to the wonderful people at Gundlach Bundschu. Your wines are always a delight but you humbled me with this bottle. Thank you for the inspiration to write and the encouragement to continue. This SAHMmelier is truly grateful.

A Taste of Home-Lamoreaux Landing

A few weeks ago, I had my first weekend away since becoming a mom four years ago.  When the possibility of a weekend jaunt arose, it was clear where I wanted, no needed, to go-home.  Well, not quite home, but close.  Although I have been in Austin for nearly half of my life, Upstate New York will always be home. So a trip to the Finger Lakes, to visit one of my dearest friends, was just what I needed.

I had visited Ithaca in the mid-90s and had stopped at a winery, but was just learning about wine at the time, so I thought I would have my hosts pick a few possibilities.  I was intrigued by the wine offerings at Lamoreaux Landing, but knew that was going to be our destination after corresponding with one of the owners, Josh Wig.

Lamoreaux Landing sits above Seneca Lake with magnificent views and an inviting tasting room.  Towering windows,warm wood floors, great displays, and plenty of browsing room.  A space large enough to accommodate summer crowds, cozy enough to linger on a quiet winter day.  As impressive as the room is, it pales in comparison to the wines.

When tasting, I find that the host can make or break your experience. Laura, the Special Events Coordinator, was our host and could not have been better.  Warm, patient, knowledgeable and an all-around pleasure.    We started with the Riesling.  They do six Rieslings here, three are Single Vineyard.  All were fabulous.  The ’08 Reserve has a good balance of minerality and fruit- a touch of citrus and orange blossom. The ’10 had more of a lemony long finish.  The ’10 Semi Dry had softer, honeyed fruit and a long finish.  Of the Single Vineyards, Red Oak was our favorite.  Really big flavor.  Honeysuckle and pear, creamy and delicious.  Although grown so close geographically, each SV Riesling was so different.  Round Rock has a clean minerality (shale/slate) and a touch of gooseberries (I got currant or something, but borrowed gooseberries from their description).  Yellow Dog has more stone fruit , blossoms, and a touch of citrus.

Knowing my palate would only stand so much tasting, we skipped around after the Rieslings and tried a few that were new to me.  The 42 North was an interesting blend.  Mostly Moscato, this wine had fruit and floral notes with a touch of spice (coriander) and would be great with Thai.  The 08 Chardonnay was lovely.  Held  mostly in oak, it had the creamy roundness you would expect, but the time in stainless steel gives the fruit more of a chance to shine.  At $12.99 it is a bargain.  The Estate Red is another excellent bargain.  Cab Franc, Pinot, and Merlot.  Perfectly balanced and a perfect Monday wine at $11.99.  Finally, the big surprise for me was a 2009 T23 Cabernet Franc.  An unoaked Cabernet Franc.  I have never had anything like it.  It has all the big fruit, earthy herbs that you would expect from a Cab Franc and yet, it had a light finish.  Cranberry and soft tannins, this wine would be really versatile in pairings.  Big enough, but not too big for about anything.  Really interesting wine.

When we headed out to Lodi, I had read the accolades in popular publications.  I was impressed by the property. I was rooting for my home state so I was really hopeful that I would like the wine.  I didn’t just like the wine, I LOVED the wine.  I was blown away by the quality for the price point.  I tried things that were completely new to me and was tickled by the depth and variance in the Single Vineyard Rieslings.  And to top it all off, the people were as delightful as the wine.  I cannot recommend this winery enough.  I’d like to say the day was without but disappointment, but there was one.  A big one.  They can’t ship to Texas.  Devastating.  But all the more reason to head back home.

Riesling Goes With Everything, and Sixteen Other Rules for Pairing Wine with Food.

Riesling Goes With Everything, and Sixteen Other Rules for Pairing Wine with Food.

Meg Houston Maker is a food and wine blogger and recently posted this piece in Palate Press. I thought I would pass it along since I feel she gives some really good tips for beginners.  As I said in my bio, trial and error leads to knowledge.  As you develop more of a sense of the qualities of certain wines and how they blend with your food, you will develop your own “rules,” which I hope are flexible.  I really liked how Meg talked about how the knowledge and experience gained from cooking for years helps. It allows you discern nuances in the wine and what flavors compliment each other.  She did not, nor does anyone, gain this kind of insight over night.  So, be gracious with yourself and enjoy the journey. If you missed this post originally, here is a bit more encouragement to enjoy the exploration: Calling All Wallflowers.  Want to learn more about Riesling?  Check out Sprechen Sie Riesling?

Playing Catch Up

So, I have a back log of wine pairings/tastings/reviews from recent weeks and rather than inundate with several posts, I am consolidating. Short and sweet. Then I can finally move on to the Lamoreaux Landing winery review from two weeks ago. Here we go-

Date Night dinner-Chicken Parmesan with ZD Rosa Lee Barbera(25). This is a fantastic medium bodied wine. Bright fruit, silky finish, vanilla and spice. Paired really well. This is a limited production wine so, if you want to taste its deliciousness, you best jump on it. I did the flour, egg, bread crumbs/herbs prep on the chicken. The Panko bread crumbs gave it a perfect crisp coating. I cheated on the sauce and used some Muir Glen organic sauce and added diced tomatoes, herbs, and wine. One of my best attempts.

Last night it was rather chilly in Austin and we wanted some comfort food. I dug through the pantry and freezer and did a quick, healthier version of Chicken and Dumplings. I sautéed onions and celery, used boneless, skinless breast and poached them in broth. Added poultry seasoning, thyme, and s&p. I used the Pioneer Woman recipe for dumpling recipe for a guide and did a corn/flour combo but used buttermilk powder/1% milk and added tarragon and thyme to the dumplings. I thickened the broth a bit with flour but it was on the soupier side. I added some peas and carrots and voila. The flavors paired really nicely with an 06 Gundlach Bundschu Pinot Noir. The earthiness of the herbs in the food brought out the minerality in the wine. Red fruit and spice, bright with a long clean finish.

On my recent trip to Ithaca, in addition to the winery visit, I had a couple of new tasty treats. One was an Arneis. I had never had this Piedmonte White and it was wonderful. Sometimes referred to as a Barolo Bianco, this grape has great pear and nutty flavors. Laura, my fellow flight friend got strong nutmeg notes in the Cristina Ascheri Arneis ($20) we had at Ithaca’s Just a Taste. It paired really nicely with the warm brie and apple crostini. A gem.

Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning a fantastic bottle of bubbles. With all the fun we were having, I forgot to write down the producer (my hosts are looking into it) but it was a Chardonnay and Malbec blend. I had never had Malbec in sparkling wine so I had to give it a try. Really fantastic-lots of body, yeast, and fruit and under 20. We all really enjoyed the bottle. I know it is near blasphemy to not have the name of the bottle, but there are very few making bubbles with Malbec. If you find some, treat yourself and let me know what you think. And the name of the producer. Ooops.

Hope you have some fantastic food and wine planned for Valentine’s Day! Not a fan of overpriced flowers, waxy chocolates, or over-crowded restaurants so, for us, it is just reason to open a good bottle. I am thinking a super velvety, round and sexy Noir de Noir (Alicante Bouchet) by Wellington.  And some Prosecco for dessert.  What are you opening?

Mosaics in the Making-non-potable thoughts

As a mother, I have often felt as if my sensory receptors are short circuiting.  It usually happens at about the time I am pretty sure I just stepped on a Lego that I already picked up twice on my way to referee a squall that has most certainly awakened the dead.  In a few brief moments I get a flash of life before children, followed by a version of what I thought motherhood would “look” like (usually a Maria von Trapp-esque sublime moment, happily instructing a crowd of patient cherubs).   And then I am quickly dragged into the ACTUAL present moment in which I’m probably still wearing the tank top I slept in, yoga pants with smears of someone else’s lunch, and I am mumbling something ferocious and unintelligible.  Not how I really want to be seen and certainly not what I have posted on Facebook.

Glennon Melton has a blog that is currently spreading like wildfire, and for good reason.  Momastery is brilliant and, to use her term, “brutiful.”  The first treasure I found was, “Telling Secrets,” about the healing that comes, for us and others, by simply being honest about who we are and where we have been.  In “Don’t Carpe Diem,” Glennon talks about the challenging moments of motherhood and the moments that make it worth the challenge. “Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in…Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. Kairos is those magical moments in which time stands still.”  The beauty of stopping in the midst of the chaos and realizing, “This is the first time I’ve really seen Tish all day, and my God – she is so beautiful. Kairos”

Which naturally led me to thinking about how God looks at his own children.  What if He always sees us in Kairos time?  As we are meant to be, as He created us to be?  A different reality altogether.  Not the idealized version of ourselves, but something even more beautiful.

Or maybe the spin cycle of motherhood is used to smooth out the jagged edges?  Or maybe they aren’t supposed to be smoothed out at all, but to fit perfectly with the other broken pieces.   A mosaic in the making.  We all have moments when we fail, when we feel “less than.”   We lose our tempers.  We choose to focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do.  We have thoughts and pasts and regrets that we wish we could undo. And yet, grace.  Unmerited favor.  Unconditional love.

What if he sees us without the scars, the fear, and anger?  Without the hurt and disappointment?  What if He sees past the barriers and walls we have carefully built over time and thinks we are so beautiful.  Even in crusty pants and in our less than stellar parenting moments.  Maybe he put us here, in this time, this place, to love others with jagged pieces, a little more smoothly.  To give ourselves and others a little more grace.

The Brew-Top 25 Beers of 2011

Since this is Superbowl week, it only seemed appropriate to dedicate this week’s post to the brew.  Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently compiled a list of the top 25 craft brews of 2011.  The number one, Don de Dieu, is from Unibroue, the makers of one of my personal favorites, La Fin du Monde.  I am going to have to check that one out for sure!  I have had more than a handful of them, but would love to hear from you about your favorites.

When I have a beer by itself, I like wheat, white, and dubbels.  With a hearty soup?  Porter or Amber.  Hot day?  Mexican or Pale Ale.  With a football game?  Depends on the menu.  What are you planning on drinking on Sunday?  And with what munchies are you pairing? And, in honor of my father,….Go Giants!

Top 25 Beers of 2011 – Wine Enthusiast Magazine – Web 2011.