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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wine Storage Uncorked: Top 5 Crucial Wine Fridge Features

Well it's the last day of May, summer is nigh at the door, which means all those bottles of wine you've been collecting and storing in your pantry are about to get cooked. Everyone's situation is different, but for most folks storing their wine treasures in the appropriate environment is the key to aging wine. So don't be left out, if you've been considering purchasing a stand alone unit or a built-in to beat the coming summer heat, then I have a timely article written by guest contributor; Matthew Delaney of the Wine'd Up.

Today we've been asked to share with you the top five features you should pay attention to when purchasing a wine cooler. We've been avid fans of Cuvee Corner for a while and were honored to write this article for Bill.

So, what type is the best? That depends! [You knew I was going to say that, right?) Where are you going to put it? Do you plan on building it into cabinetry or letting it stand alone? What are the most important characteristics for you? Can you handle a little noise or does it need to be absolutely silent? Do you want multiple temperature zones? [See below]

Compressor based coolers still have their place in many homes because they can vent their heat through the front and be built in to cabinets, bars, kitchens, etc. They are a little bit noisier since their cooling system runs in cycles and they do vibrate a bit, which many experts say can lower the quality of the wine over time. But they are a must for built-in installations.

In my experience building a thermoelectric wine coolers into any cabinets, isn’t a good idea. Why, because it needs ample space on all sides to vent the heat. Block that space and you've created a nifty fire hazard which could create unpleasant special effects and pyrotechnics. But thermoelectric wine coolers come with a host of other great features that make them preferable as stand alone units. They run in virtual silence, do not vibrate, are energy-efficient, and more environmentally friendly than their compressor based competition. You're also more likely to find multiple temperature zone models with thermoelectric coolers.


1) Honey, does the cat look drunk to you? (Lock)
If you live in a home constantly invaded by ninjas, clepto's, and kitty soft paws, you know the importance of keeping precious goods under lock and key. Wine isn't an exception, it's the rule! Not all wine fridge doors have locks. Sure, you can hire Hawkeye to protect your wine from afar with his trusty bow and arrow, but considering the Avengers just made $1,000,000,000 in 19 days, that could be a bit pricey. Built-in locks aren't a prevalent feature, but they do exist- If you need one, make sure the fridge's features list specifically states it has one.

2) Is your wine protected from gamma rays? Unlike the Incredible Hulk, exposure to various rays doesn’t make your wine better. Luckily, wine cooler manufacturers are nearly always using upgraded doors compared to older models. Dual-paned glass is just a start in today's wine storage environment. Standard dual-paned glass adds to the insulation and begins to protect your wine, while thermal treated and tinted dual-paned glass is even better. UV rays and heat are the enemies of good wine and your wine storage's door should rival Captain America's shield for protecting the wine against their hostile invasion.

3) Wow, look at the size of that... Yes, size matters. Especially when choosing wine storage. You don't want to grow out of your wine storage like an angry hulk grows out of his shirt ( won't like me when I'm angry!). Go a bit bigger than you think you need (if you have the funds) to avoid needing to buy more space later. You will save money in the long run investing in the correct size up front rather than having to buy a second unit later on.

4) How many zones does it take to satisfy The Avengers?
I know what you are thinking, "Thor always wants chardonnay, Tony demands Bordeaux, and Black Widow likes to pop the bubbly, so how do I keep them all happy?" If you don't want your next house party to end with your house in pieces, you may want to invest in a dual or multiple zone wine fridge. You can more precisely chill each beverage to super hero expectations. The good news is that upgrading to multiple temperature zones really isn't always as essential as it sounds. Most units already have a small temperature variance inside from top to bottom; placing your whites and reds strategically will allow for a natural difference in temperature that can be further compensated by taking the reds out for a few extra minutes before drinking.

5) Compressor, thermoelectric, or arch reactor?
Okay, so you might have a tough time finding an actual arch reactor (except those of you who have Tony Stark on speed dial). For the rest of us, the decision of cooling technology in wine fridges comes down to two choices, 1) compressor based technology or 2) thermoelectric systems. Yes, there are hybrid models, but let's not go there for sanity's sake.

We also don't believe that quality wine storage should require a Tony Stark size wallet, so we at have decided to periodically give them away for free [please see website for details]. It's our way of becoming a super hero for wine lovers on a tight budget and getting the rest of you to forgive us for all the cheesy comic references. In fact, we’ve decided to create a special coupon just for readers of this blog. Feel free to visit WhichWineCooler.Com anytime and use the coupon code "CuveeCorner" for 5% off anything you want [through August 31st, 2012]. We hope you enjoy a chilled glass on us soon- Cheers!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wine of the Week: Columbia Crest Reserve 2008

Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that sometimes he has to eat them. ~ Adlai Stevenson

Time for another wine of the week post and this time in the WOTW spotlight is one of my favorite wines. I've been grabbing a couple bottles of this wine every year since their 2003 vintage and honestly folks, I'm impressed with it every year, I can highly recommend it to you without a moment of hesitation. That said, I'd recommend laying it down for a few years at the least, but it will really reward the patient in 10 years, hello 2018. But, if you can't resist, it's drinking nicely now, with loads of dense red and dark fruit, spice, cedar, framed on a solid structure.

I'm not sure what the price is outside of Costco, because this is the only place I've ever purchased mine. Speaking of price, the price of this wine has steadily and may I say sadly, has been going up year after year, this year it's selling for a whopping $36.99 moving into the "occasion-wine" category. This vintage is sold out at the winery [where it sold for $45], but a few Costco's still have it in stock, here in the San Diego market. That said, you better get off your rusty-dusty, if you'd like to secure a few bottles for the cellar. I buy this wine every year, there's no need to "taste-first", because my experience with their "reserve" label has taught me one thing, "just grab, it's going to be fab". Oh yes, for you folks keeping score, I hung 91 mouth watering points on this bad-boy.

Because I'm a wine-geek, keeping the empty bottles, like a Sci-Fi geek collecting action figures, this year I've noticed a few changes on the back [painted-on] label. One case production is up from the previous years, nearly seven thousand cases produced for the current 2008 release, this is still a small production run for a very popular, well made, fast-selling wine.

The second thing I noticed on the back label was the term, "le petit chai"; which means a small boutique winery operating on its own, within the larger frame work of Columbia Crest. A winery with broad brand recognition among the value oriented vino-sapiens. It's what they call the artisanal approach to winemaking, a homage if you will to small production or boutique wineries, even to top châteaux of Bordeaux if you really want to stretch it.

"We pick these wines to showcase the vintage rather than the house style, to express what happened during the season," Head Winemaker Juan Muñoz Oca, stated to Wine & Spirits.

The third thing I noticed is the use of the phrase "crafted in a classic Bordeaux style" something I've not seen used to describe this single vineyard Reserve wine in the past. What you have in this the 2008 vintage is a simple blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot, a classic left-bank style. Many vino-sapiens who like to think of themselves as "insiders" will smirk when they see the term "reserve" on any wine label. I believe rightfully so, because the term typically does not have any real significance. But in this case I believe Columbia Crest is using the term in the appropriate context, they easily meet the definition of the term as it was originally intended, as their reserve wines represent the finest 1% of their overall total production, with most of the fruit coming from a single vineyard source.

This wine is a run not walk, buy recommendation, remember those who hesitate, go home empty handed. As always, I'd recommend getting two bottles at the very least and more if you have the space or the coin. Try one now, just to see what all the fuss is about and sock the others away, then forget about them. If you want drink some now and drink often wines, then may I recommend a few bottles of Cam Huges 257 $15, which they still have in stock at the Morena Costco. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wine Gadgets Uncorked: Wine, Stop and Pour

"The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity." - Walt Whitman

If you're looking for a new "pourer" then look no further than the highly colorful Wine, Stop and Pour from Cork Pops. I was sent a sample of this product for the review process and looking at it, I was quite skeptical, especially because the color scheme is quite flamboyant, reminding more of a brightly colored dogs chew toy, than something I'd use to pour wine.

But my skepticism was soon swept away by this products seamless and effortless ability to pour wines, without so much as single drip down the side. As hard as I tried to make it not work correctly, it performed like a champ, never splashing or spilling an errant drop anywhere other than my glass. The added bonus; is if you are a tasting room attendant or working the bar, this pourer would be a great way to control pour size, the silicon seems to control flow speed no matter the angle. I was also concerned that it could possibly impart a off-flavor, but I couldn't detect anything was awry in that department either, great job.

It's very easy to get out of the package, but when I dropped into the wine bottle pictured above, it was a little loose fitting in the bottle. I thought oh-brother it's going just fall out, soon as I tip the bottle to pour. But to my amazement, it didn't even move, just poured my wine, easily and effortlessly. Even Mrs. Cuvee who is ever hardly impressed by anything, gave it a "wow".

Regarding the use of the supplied [heavy] metal chrome plated cork, while it goes in rather easily preventing the wine from further oxidation [tasted the same wine next day and no issues]. It's another whole thing removing it from the pictured standard Bordeaux bottle, I had to hold the silicon pourer with one hand and remove the cork with the other. Dropping the cork into holder is easy and seamless and it does not fall over, as long as you're not bouncing it in.

That said, for a SRP of $12 you get a product that actually does what it says it does and more. It also gets my recommendation and a thumbs up from the Mrs., until next time folks, remember to sip long and prosper.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Sonoma Valley Uncorked: Kunde Family Estate

It has been said; "the more things change, the more they stay the same" that sentiment rings true every time I visit wine country. Whether it's the Sonoma Valley or the far flung corners of Paso Robles, the one true constant, which never changes is finding great wines for reasonable prices. The second thing that never changes is finding great food, hanging with good friends and exploring exciting new adventures.

Having just returned from a fantastic week in the Napa and Sonoma Valley last week, I've many new stories to tell and of course a few favorite new wine-finds to share with everyone. I often like to say to myself and Mrs. Cuvee, "okay this trip, we are going to attempt to show some restraint in purchasing wine", a feat for me which is easier said than done. Especially, when the quality of the wine being tasted is so very good, like the wines we experienced in our [comped] sit-down Kinneybrook Room tasting experience. My son, Mrs. Cuvee and I had a opportunity to sample their Reserve Chardonnay, 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Kunde Meritage 202 and for me an opportunity to revisit the 2008 Century Vines Zinfandel.

Mrs. Cuvee and I first experienced the Kunde Family Estate back in 2005 on a cold damp winter morning, where we had a chance to sample their wines, take the "cave-tour" which they still offer, we walked away with a few gems back then. Every time I have an opportunity to taste their wines, I always come away with a few favorites in tow. So much has changed since that last visit, they have modernized the tasting room, it's much brighter and inviting. Most of the observable changes come in the form of a new parking lot, a brand new deck over looking a newly built man-made pond, plenty of deck chairs and umbrellas which invite lounging and the flower strewn trail, leading to the large cellar doors.

Honestly, do yourself a favor if you find yourself in the area, Kunde Family Estate is a place you need to stop, sip and relax. Whether you choose the "Mountain-Top" experience, a Sustainable Hike, a Horseback Ride, the simple pleasures of the Kinneybrook Room like we did, or you just want to belly-up to the tasting-bar, they have something for everyone. Their prices for the tours and the wine are very reasonable, when compared to many of their counterparts in area, delivering  palate pleasing QPR in every sniff, sip and slurp.

Okay here's the skinny [or what some folks will call the tasting notes] on the wines I took home. I failed at showing any restraint having taken four bottles of each, nothing like putting your money, where your mouth is.

2008 Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel: This wine has a SRP of $35, under a cork closure. As I often say during these live tastings, like they guy with no filter, tasting the wines out of order at times, "this is the big boy in the room". To say this wine is a monster of finesse, would be a huge understatement. Depth and complexity draped over abundant red and dark fruit, making this Zinfandel the mother of all "old-vine" Zinfandel's. The Zen of Zinfandel's should really be the title of this wine. In a game of poker with other supposed old vine zins, this wine would be "all-in" sitting pretty with a full house and no I'm not bluffing.

Folks this Zinfandel is the "real-deal", not a pretender to the throne like so many other so-called Old-Vines Zins. This wine is produced from the Shaw vineyard [don't miss this] which is reported to be 126 years old, Booyah! This is my third encounter with this same vineyard and oh my the layers of flavor, piped with nice acidity, give the fruit real pop. This is how you do it, not a jammy note insight, this wine is seamless and the flavor sails on into the horizon. Well done, I give this wine 93 points.

2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley: Many folks think you have to go to Napa to get a decent bottle of "Cab" but nothing could be further from the truth, this wine blows that misconception out of the water, like a broad-side from old Ironsides [the oldest commissioned U.S Navy ship afloat]. Bold, fresh, and delicious are the words that immediately spring to mind for this 2009 Kunde Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Its glass staining ruby color immediately tells you this is a wine to take seriously, tasting great now, immediately approachable.

Bang, bang black cherry and fresh blackberries scents easily grab your attention. In the glass, right out of the bottle, no decanter in sight, after the first slurp, mouth-filling flavors of blackberries, ripe plum, rich toast and dark chocolate plays nicely in the background. A touch of chalky tannins on the finish, reminding you it's still a youngster, but one that has great aging potential. If you’re looking for pairing suggestions, this wine will be right at home with the “classic” complements to Cabernet: grilled steak and prime rib, it's also very impressive with the Duck Confit prepared at Bistro Ralph in Healdsburg, Ca. My score for this wine is 92 points and it sells for $45.

2008 Kunde Meritage 202: As for the 202 on label, it's a silent reminder of how long the Kunde Family Estate has been making wine, as the two hundred and second bonded winery in the U.S. The other name on the label, meritage, indicates that it's a Bordeaux style blend. One which incorporates, 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot. This wine is the recipient of a 3-day cold soak, barrel aged 18 months in 53% new French oak and pump-overs twice a day, producing a an elegant blend, which beams with rich red and dark fruit from start to finish, in a word this wine is plush. You will find this wine a bit flamboyant, putting my snout in the glass, wow a bouquet of roasted coffee, florals and plum liqueur inviting the first long slurp. After the first splash down, dark bakers chocolate, dark plum and ripe cherry, toasty oak is accompanied by a full-bodied, deep, luxuriously rich, framed with good structure. Again this wine is young, giving boat-loads of youthful flavors, but laying this wine down a bit will reward the patient. My score is 90 points and this wine sells for $30, well worth the price of admission.

Okay folks, I know it has been some time since I posted, nearly two weeks, "yikes" but I appreciate you hanging in there. I have much more on the launching pad, so keep your score cards handy it's going to be fast and furious. Until next time, please continue to sip long and prosper, cheers!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Champagne Uncorked: Simple Pairing Suggestions by Chef Christina Martin

A timely article written by guest contributor; Chef Christina Martin who following her stints at Blackfish, Village Belle and Vedge, Christina is excited to launch her new endeavor, Marché as owner and executive chef.

It has been said, “In victory one deserves Champagne and in defeat one really needs Champagne, supposedly attributable to Napoleon who knew both sides of that coin quite well.

Many folks ask me what pairs with Champagne? But honestly what doesn't pair with champagne is the question. So many things goes or pairs so well with it, that it was hard for me to decide. But here is what I like. I have recently discovered in learning about French culture and French cuisine that not only is their food amazing but their wines are fantastic and some of my favorites. When it come to simple solutions to pairing; Champagne is at the top of the list. I also learned that while much French cusine can be found in the rich and creamy category, it is also light, in a strange and wholly anticipated kind of way.

You don’t have to eat large portions like many Americans do to feel satisfied. A warm baguette, a piece of brie and flute filled with your favorite Champagne makes the ultimate perfect snack. It doesn’t get much better unless you’re at a cafe in France. [Lol]

I find many seafood entrées pairs oh-so nicely with Champagne, take scallop’s for example, sautéed in olive oil and butter and then you can place the scallops on top of some orzo with a Beurre Blanc sauce. Looking for the right wine to go with the sometimes difficult pairing of roasted asparagus, Champagne pairs ever so nicely and as a bonus it’s super easy to prepare, just olive oil, salt and pepper then roast in oven for 10-15 minutes or on the barbeque, done.

How about roasted artichokes - same with olive oil, salt and pepper, bada-bing bada-boom, just like that you’re ready to rock with appetizers, which pair really well with Champagne. Fresh Fruit is another option that goes nicely with champagne and would add a nice bit of contrast to the roasted veggies. Or for a twist on simplicity you can pair with raw items such as; Radishes - with just a tiny bit of unsalted butter, a pinch of salt and you're off to the races.

And if brunch is your thing; it's my latest craze to pair Chapagne with eggs Benedict or even Eggs Florentine, a marvelous mouth watering Sunday afternoon kind of thing, a pairing reminding me of a song Etta James sings so beautifully, I want a “Sunday kind of love”.

French cooking might seem complicated but it really is not. They use local, fresh, seasonal ingredients in the simplest form to create some amazing dishes. And when you pair with an excellent vintage or even non-vintage Champagne you have created a meal which can be elegant as any four-star restaurant experience. “There is no love more sincere than the love of food” -George Bernard Shaw

Cheers and Bon Appetit!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Popsicles Uncorked: Wine Inspired Recipes

Look out kids, looks like Mom and Dad want-in on the Popsicle experience [boozy pops], kicking traditional flavors to the curb and opting fill those molds with their favorite wine, sangria or other adult beverage instead. Or if you're feeling lazy, can't seem to get off your rusty-dusty up-off the ambitious-boy recliner then you maybe very interested to know that Kim Crawford, the New Zealand winery most famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, has teamed up with People's Pops according to an article I found on the People's Pops is a New York-based ice pop company known for taking local, sustainably grown fruits and transforming them into mouthwatering good ice pops.

Don't worry; even if you don't live in NYC they deliver! People's Pops the winery and ice-pop duo has collaborated on two delicious wine-infused pops including this simple but super yummy Pinot Noir blackberry frozen treat. It's not cloyingly sweet and being that it's ice cold, it's sure to make any warm weathered happy hour even happier. Read More

Friday, May 11, 2012

Tuscany Uncorked: 2003 Castellare I Sodi DI S.Niccolo Toscana

"It ain't so much the things we don't know that get us into trouble", 19th-century humorist Josh Billings remarked, "It's the things we know that just ain't so." 

One thing, I like to think I know; is how to pick winners and losers when it comes to wine. It does not matter if it's a varietal, I've never experienced before or a wine that is very familiar and or common place. Because once you've built a tasting frame work or foundation, you start to see patterns [or at least I do] and from this, the rather easy ability to give the thumbs up or down.

That said, I've finally uncorked a Tuscan treasure, I brought back from my first trip to Italy back in 2008. Wow, folks this wine is as good or perhaps even better than the day we purchased it while visiting Castellina in Chianti. A great little town to visit within the heart of the Chianti Classico area, replete with upscale restaurants in town, a modest but fun to see wine museum, a castle to climb into and a overall easy going laid back atmosphere to soak up the beauty of the Tuscan country side.

Mrs. Cuvee and I stayed on a vineyard right outside of town, about a stones-throw from Castellare di Castellina and just a short jaunt into town.  We were there in September, right before the harvest and oh-man was it humid like a San Diego August often can be. If you don't mind the heat, it's a great time to go, experience the harvest first hand, pick a few grapes yourself, along with plenty of opportunities to slurp down a lot wonderful styles of Sangiovese. If you happen to find yourself in the Tuscan region, tooling around the country side, looking for a great wine tasting experience, Castellare in Chianti is a wine destination which demands your attention. I wanted to bring back more of these wines, but between Mrs. Cuvee's stern glare and my burgeoning suit case I had to settle for just one bottle [sigh]. We tasted so many well made, layered and complex wines in their modern, well maintained, tasting room that day, it was a shame I couldn't bring more back with me.

Looking back at the details about this wine, this tasty blend of 85% Sangiovese and 15% Malvasia Nera appears to be their flagship wine and for good reason. This wine has made the Wine Speculator Top 100 wines list on numerous occasions and has even wowed the Cellar Tracker crowd, with an average score of 92.3 points. So when I slapped this bottle with 93 points, I see my score is in fine company. By the way their highly touted and high-scoring 2005 is available at the Mission Valley Costco for about $58, if I recall correctly, just a couple of cases in stock though.

This wine is completely shot through, with layers of complexity, that were only unwound and worked out in a two hour decanter session. On the nose, brilliant ripe plum notes, meaty earth and florals were abundant. After the first slurp, the
dried spices and flowers, red currant, dark ripe plum, shot through with unsweetened but very subtle black licorice, while this wine wonderfully, full-bodied, plush velvety tannins, there is abundant rich, ripe and yet delightfully complex fruit found in the first sip and the last drop. Again, this wine is another of those bottles in which you wish you had purchased the magnum.  I hope you find a few of these bottles for yourself in the near future, to see what I'm talking about, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Travel Tuesday: Sonoma Canopy Tours

Wow, this is going to be an amazing road-trip this week, as Mrs. Cuvee, my son and I embark on a week long odyssey, exploring the best of both Sonoma and Napa Valley. There is so much to see and do, it's hard to know where to start. But from Zip-lines to medieval Tuscan Castles, we plan to squeeze as much into this trip as humanly possible. More exciting is this will be my son's very first time in either Napa or the Sonoma Valley and can't wait to share with him all the reasons cork-dorks like me are always up for a visit.

Often when you think about a trip to Sonoma, you think wine-tasting, busy tasting rooms, vineyards and avoiding the wine-club pitch. But what you may have not thought about, I know I didn't; was going on a Zip-Lining adventure through majestic old-growth forest, my feet skimming past the tops of a coastal Redwood forest, climbing up a spiral staircase like Robinson Crusoe and sailing across a deep natural ravine almost 300 feet below.

A visit to Sonoma Canopy Tours makes for a fun family outing, it also makes for a great destination to day-trip from San Francisco for a few quick, but zippy hours of fresh air and beautiful surroundings. I'm really looking forward to my first "real" zipline adventure, I'll let you know how it turns out. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Monday, May 7, 2012

About San Diego: Paint N Vineyard

“A writer should write with his eyes and a painter paint with his ears” ~ Gertrude Stein

Hopefully after tonight's class, I'll be a bit more confident in both of these artistic areas, but I won't count on it. The last time I had a brush in my hand was back when I needed to get my deposit back from the land-lady. So a new concept has come to the San Diego wine scene and yours truly has been invited to splash a few colors on a canvas, slurp some wine and perhaps even get in touch with my inner-artist.

That said, Paint and Vineyard color my interest, piqued. I can't wait to get that brush in my hand, a blank canvas before me and hopefully make a splash of artistic delight, but most likely it will turn out more like my finger painting projects when I was back in school. Mrs. Cuvee will be joining me for the evening and I can't wait to see how she colors her world.

The concept of Paint N Vineyard in Scripps Ranch area, is pretty simple, bring a few bottles of wine, a few friends and they furnish the rest, paint, the canvas, brushes and apron, coupled with the instruction of seasoned artists and step by step instruction, a great painting is easily within your grasp. The cost is $35 per student and is BYOB. It could make for a very unique first date night or even a smart way for professional folks looking for a great retreat venue. I've included a video below, which helps you get a good idea of what the glass is like and what to expect. I'll update this post with my finished painting tomorrow. Until next time sip long and prosper!

Here's part two, the day after my first, but hopefully not my last art class at Paint and Vineyard. You'll will find their studio neatly tucked away on the right side of the Carroll Canyon Road exit on I-15 in a small office park, back behind and to the right of the martial arts school. Don't drive too fast or you will completely miss it. Just below you can see my so-called work of art, hey don't scoff too loud, as you can plainly see I'm no writer and neither am I an artist, but I think in this case it's more about the journey, than the destination.

The part you don't want to miss out on; is the fun atmosphere of this art studio where you can learn some basic techniques on painting, while being encouraged at the same time to let go, seize upon that inner artist and above all have some fun. Mrs. Cuvee and I had a great time learning basic brush strokes, how to blend paints, add perspective, shadowing. But mostly the thing I came away with it's a fun evening out, something very different, and the opportunity to bring my own wine, perhaps a few snacks to share before hand with the other students. I'd would recommend giving Paint N Vineyard a swirl yourself, until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Russian River Valley Uncorked: 2009 Gary Farrell RRV Pinot Noir

Hey what's on the menu? Ah yes, the quintessential question we all want to know as we head home after long day at work. We may also be having that same thought, when we show up to a new restaurant, attempting to make our minds about whether we'd like dine there for the evening or move unto a something a little more enticing.

If you happen to be craving Pacific Northwest inspired recipes, as I often do, then could I recommend getting your hands on a good bottle of Pinot Noir from the great winemaking team at Gary Farrell in Sonoma, especially if wild-caught Sockeye Salmon will be part of the dining choices for the evening..

When it comes to smartly paired food and wine recipes, I like to follow the traditional line of thinking on the subject. It's often said that; "when in Rome do as the Romans do" a well known axiom providing folks with the basic rule of thumb, to pair regional wines with regional cuisine. While this rule works in most situations, it's something which doesn't always hold true for locally produced new world wines. Is there really any such thing as regional foods here in states, well yes and no, but what wines do you pair with them or does that even matter.

With the onset of the "modern" food movement many progressive foodies and chefs have advanced the idea that any wine, can be paired with any dish. While that may sound like one of those wonderful no boundaries concepts, I don't really think it's a viable premise. I mean c'mon most of us don’t or won't want to put freshly sliced dill-pickles all over our chocolate birthday cake [remember exceptions don't make the rule].

It could be the same reasons most of wouldn't consider pairing a delicate white wine, like Riesling, with a cowboy-sized grain-fed, perfectly broiled T-bone. Nor will most of us attempt a brawny, full throated Shiraz, with baked Tilapia covered in cilantro-lime sauce. And why, because they're mismatched flavors and textures, but hey feel free to experiment if you like. But remember, just because you can do something, that doesn't always, mean it's a good idea. That said, so what do we pair, well that choice is entirely up to you, but I just like to lead with the common sense approach, one that has worked pretty well so far, but when I'm in doubt, I turn to folks who've got the whole "pairing" thing dialed in.

What I'm setting the stage for is the review of another delightful sample of the 2009 Gary Farrell, Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma; while at the same time introducing you to one of my favorite pairings. I'm a pretty simple guy in this regard, I bust out the cedar planks, fire up the grill, seasonings, evoo, splash of lemon juice and I'm off to the races, coming along side is my famous bacon and mushroom risotto, so simple, yet so satisfying. The flavors merry together very nicely with Pinot Noir, but not just any Pinot will do the job. Because it's so difficult [if not impossible] to produce high quality PN, for a tiny cost to the consumer. So yes, you'll have to spend more than $10 to find the type of PN that will rock your palate like nothing else will and please I don't want to hear the same tired old line, that all wines are created equal.

This is the kind of wine that won't really be helped with those new fangled aerators, so I recommend decanting for at least an hour before dinner [if you can] with a traditional decanter. I know some have floated the idea that traditional wine decanting is "so-passe", oh-no on the contrary folks, it's those new "fangled" aerators which over promise and under perform. How do I know, I've been sent plenty to review and have purchased a few myself, I've not seen any appreciable differences, they remind me of a hamster wheel. Decanting takes time, it's not rocket science.

Swirly, Sniff and Slurp: Mean while back at the review, going in for the first fly-over the decanting wine, whoa a potpourri of cola, cherry, ripe raspberry and rich earthy notes. Giving it a few swirls in the glass, revealing a vibrant, but lightly colored ruby core. On the palate a dusting of cola, summer strawberries, baking spices flavors, adding a layer of complexity to the savory ripe plum note and touch of cranberry. Vibrant acidity, lean fruit and polished tannins round out this wonderful Pinot Noir sporting lovely alluring New World vibe, while tipping its cap to Old World at the same time. I scored this wine 90 points, it sells for a SRP of $42. Until next folks sip long and prosper cheers!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

About San Diego: The Beverage Factory

While most of us know, a majority of wine is consumed within 24 hours of it being purchased, most vino-sapiens also understand there is a big difference between the “drink now and drink often” style of wines and the type of wines that will benefit from a few more years in the bottle.  

Once you make the leap from the average wine slurping, box-toting, vino-sapien to the über geeky-collector or the wanna-be-wine blogger, whose pantry is over-flowing, with last weeks haul of must-have and can never get again wines, then you know you’re in need of a serious wine storage solution.

Which begs the question, do you find yourself thinking about wine storage these days? Well if you are, you have most likely been to many of San Diego’s big-box stores in search of the perfect solution. I started my own search in those same types of stores, that was until I started doing a bit more research and found out about a place called the Beverage Factory right here in San Diego. Not only do they have a great website, but if you’d like to see the units up close, which most folks do, ask a few questions in person, poke around, I’d recommend a trip to their easy to find showroom located just behind Miramar Road. Honestly, folks this a wine geek’s paradise, especially when you consider all the other gizmo’s and gadgets to be found there.

I would recommend bringing a few different styles of bottles with you to their show-room. Because one of the problems many folks run into with wine storage units, is that they are made to only accommodate the Bordeaux bottle shape [arrgh, frustrating]. As we all know, not all wine bottles are created equal, which means you’ll lose a good deal of bottle-count space to the Burgundy and Rhone bottles shapes, you know the one's I mean, with the flared bell shape, and the deep punt. What ends up happening as a result, you're forced to taking shelves out to accommodate, losing precious space. By the way, getting those shelves out on your own can be a little tricky, ask for a demonstration. So it’s always a good idea, to get a unit on the larger side of the equation, because the ability to organize of your cellar properly will quickly come into play otherwise.

The next thing to be concerned with is, where you will put the [monstrosity] cooler, most of them are as large as your refrigerator and since delivery is “extra” it takes at least two folks to get it into your house safely [speaking from practical experience]. It really is a big job. Second it needs to be set up in a place that has very little direct sunlight. Most units have a light reflective glass door, but you’ll be doing yourself a favor keeping it out of direct sunlight. For most of these units, keeping them in a garage is convenient, but it's not recommended, because of the wide temperature swings, that can be found in the average garage. I found another helpful article on the subject from my friends over at Food and Wine magazine and have linked to it here.

I ended purchasing an Avanti five years ago, it's still going strong, makes some funny noises now and again, had a bit of a humidity control issue, that I resolved. The funny thing is I ended up storing it in my living room of all places, right next to the fish tank, makes for some very interesting conversations when we have guest over for the first time. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Wine of the Week: Gary Farrell 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Welcome to the first day of May and my very first Wine of the Week post for the month and another dreary cloudy day here in San Diego, uggh, hello May-Gray.

With the month of May, just getting started many folks are starting to think about the upcoming swim-suit season, where some will bare more than others and rightfully so, while still others will just let it all hang-out, regardless of how it may appear.

Now a new "app" has come along, which some rush to call, “controversial” [new media buzz word] which measures how-hot or not a person may be. C'mon really, this is just a new twist, on the age old question, "mirror, mirror on the wall who's the fairest of them all?". Nothing really new to see here, just a re-tread of the same old tire and the beat goes on.

But on the flip side of that coin, most folks think they look better than the average joe. The funny thing is that; according to a survey conducted by UCLA and California State University researchers found that most of us think we're better-looking than average. In fact most folks think they fall somewhere, between a 6 and a 7 on a 10-point scale better looking the average vino-sapien. The online survey sampled a group of about 26,000 and readers, ranging in age from 18 to 75. Contrary to the popularly pushed narrative, self-esteem would seem to be at an all time high, but whose keeping score anyway.

You can see this same issue or constant theme in the world of wine, collectively we put out our measuring sticks, [no, not the one the President carries] add and or subtract points based on list of criteria to determine which wine or wines are the fairest in the land. Some wines also think they are more attractive than they really are, but that is not the case today, as I've uncovered another wine, which I think is among the fairest in the land, swimming in sea of Chardonnay sameness.

That said, this Chardonnay, a true Cuvée, sent to me as a sample for the review process, is far better than average. As you may know, I'm never too ecstatic about Chardonnay or other white wines in general. But, every once in a while, I have a reason to pop the cork on a good one, especially when I know it will [potentially] pair amazingly well with what I have on deck for the evening meal. Last night was the perfect occasion to pop the cork on the Gary Farrell, Russian River Valley 2009 Chardonnay, in a word, wowsers. Mrs. Cuvee, who hardly praises anything with more than her typical; "uh, it's okay", gave this wine a "good" to great rating.

As for me, wow soon as I got a splash of this bad boy in my glass I knew, I was in for a real treat. Vivid aromas escaped easily from the glass, fall apples and ripe pairs mingle nicely with caramelized oak, and you could smell the freshly buttered toast and vanilla richness, giving an open invitation to dive in.

A barrel aged Chardonnay, which I’m guessing is 2nd use French Oak for twelve months or longer. The fruit was sourced from some top [undisclosed] vineyard locations within the Russian River Valley, most likely grown on Wente Clone root-stock. Quick tasting notes, this wine is super rich, very creamy from the first splash to the last drop. Don’t chill this bottle too much or you’ll miss all its subtle nuances. This wine is no slouch in the flavor department either; delivers baking spices, wet-stone, clove, hazelnut and a bite of crisp ripe apples, painted over a fresh canvas of acidity, making for a mouthwatering delight.

Part of the reason I believe this wine is so stunning, can be found in the winemakers note; speaking directly about the 2009 vintage, “Chardonnay and Pinot have shown excessively small berries resulting in wonderful, concentrated flavors.” I scored this wine 92 points and it sells for a SRP of $32. Personally, I'd lay down a few bottles; layers of complexity will reward the patient, with another year in bottle.

I paired this wine with one of my favorite meals, a recipe taught to me by my lovely Hawaiian born, Mrs. Cuvee. It is simply called Chicken Katsu-Curry, served over freshly steamed brown rice, with a side of lightly salted edamame pods. If you are not from the islands, you may scoff at this recipe and its supposed pairing with the style of Chardonnay from Gary Farrell, but once you try it, there is no going back. If you're interested in my preparation technique, leave a comment below and I'll return the favor with my recipe. Well folk that’s all I have for you today, continue to sip long and prosper cheers!
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