Archive for July 2011

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Bodegas Gormaz Vina Gormaz Blanco 2009   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday (though it could be Tuesday or Thursday) I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s about all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.  

Some weeks  things just don’t work out the way you planned them.  This was one of those weeks.  In the fun tug of war that Ms. R and I have when it comes to our social calendar, she won this week.  We were out of the house pretty much every night.  However, before she could get me out of the house last night, I managed to sneak in this week’s offering.  Yep, I know yesterday was Friday– but that is the hand I was dealt.  Just after 5 pm, as a colleague, whom I like very much, and I were finishing up some work related matters at the house, I thought, “It’s now or never”.  So I offered him a taste of this week’s offering:   

Bodegas Gormaz Vina Gormaz Blanco 2009Bodegas Gormaz Vina Gormaz Blanco 2009 ($7).   Verdejo is an interesting grape.  While it does not offer overwhelming complexity, it offers enough.  It also carries such a different flavor profile from the more everyday Sauvignon blanc/chardonnay offerings in the marketplace that it is worth seeking out.  Straight out of the bottle, from the Spanish region of Rueda northwest of Madrid), this blend of 70% Verdejo and 30% Viura (also known as macabeo) put out an almost nut-like bouquet with hints of some sweet spice mixed with mineral and a touch of elastin.  Once it opened, it offered some tropical fruit notes including pineapple.  There were soft fruits on the palate and the wine seemed to have more body to it than one would typically expect from a white wine.  The wine was balanced by a touch of mouth-watering acidity on the clean finish.  This would be a great wine for a crowd– not expensive, easy to drink and different enough that people will ask you where to buy it.  Rated **

After writing this review, I consulted Jancis Robinson’s excellent Oxford Companion to Wine in which she notes that wines produced  from Verdejo are “aromatic, herbaceous (somewhat reminiscent of laurel), but with great substance and extract, capable of ageing well into an almost nutty character.”  The Vina Gormaz Blanco 2009 definitely has that nutty character to which she refers.  But it had not occurred to me to age this wine.  But now that it’s out there, why not?  I may buy a couple of bottles and just let them sit for another 2-3 years to see what happens.  At seven smackers a bot, this is a low-risk proposition.

 No Recipe this week folks– though I may have a little something coming out of this weekend.  But put this out with a little Manchego Cheese with some quince paste and you won’t be disappointed.

Posted July 30, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

If I Could Drink But One Wine for the Rest of My Life, What Would it be? (Or, What Would Gilligan Have Done?)   3 comments

What is it about brand-name designer wines that get people hooked to the exclusion of all else?  I was faced with this question during a casual dinner the other night at a cafe on the beach.  I confess there were moments during this dinner when I actually felt shipwrecked.  Though I will say that it ended reasonably well.

If you have been reading this blog, you know that variety is an integral component of our wine drinking habits.  We take a very democratic approach to the wines that end up on our table.  I won’t say that all of them are fabulous.  But I can say that most of them are very decent, food friendly, delicious wines that I am happy to drink any time.  And yet, what do you do when confronted a member of the “I only drink high-end Napa Cabs” crowd. 

First off, it would be difficult to argue that the quality is not there.  Surely, for the most part, it is.  Though I find that the value is not necessarily there.   Yes, you get a pretty good drink, but at an exorbitantly high price, no?

But just Napa wines, really?  Look, I enjoy a fine Napa cab as much as the next guy.  But if that was all I could drink, I would be bored. 

There are people out there that revel in being able to order expensive wines to show off their social deftness as well as the refinement of their palates.  Yet if all one drinks are expensive wines, how sophisticated can that palate be?  Can you know what is truly good if you have not tasted and admired what is truly bad or what is good but may be lacking in certain traits which keep it from being great?  In an odd way, it borders on conspicuous consumption. 

Boredom aside, what do you lose?  What about wines that are good/great from another place?  You lose the minerality that is found in Chablis.  You lose the unique sweetness found in Volnay.  You lose the acidity of the Barbera.  You lose the terroir and concentration of Priorat or its more affordable cousin, Montsant.  And what about the glories of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel?  The powerhouse of flavor found in Barolo?  The velvety insistence of well-made merlot from France and Napa.  And what of the refreshment of Cru Beaujolais?  It’s a bit like the Ginger-Maryann debate.  Really, must I choose one? 

There is the economic motivation.  I suppose there are people out there for whom money is no object.  They can afford to drink these wines as often as they like, limited of course to availability.  I have said it before, and I will say it again.  It is just grape juice!  Good grape juice, yes, but grape juice nonetheless.  And I personally I have a problem seeing the value proposition in paying $150, $400 or $1,000 for a bottle of wine no matter where it is from.  I am a drinker and for me the intangible joy of drinking such expensive wines does not approach the value assigned to the wines by the marketplace.

Then there is the snob appeal.  Wine as a differentiator in the social pecking order: If you can’t afford to drink this, then you (a) aren’t a  serious wine drinker, (b) don’t know enough about good wine to be a real judge of quality and/or (c) don’t measure up in some intangible manner.  Also, because these higher end wines tend to have limited production, owning and drinking them somehow makes you special because not everyone can get their hands on the good stuff, you  know.  There is also a bullying aspect to this that I find distasteful.

How about the fact that implicit in the decision to limit one self to say Napa cabs or Barolo is the notion that no other wines are better.  Better at what moment?  And for what purpose?  If I’m having a spaghetti carbonara, I don’t want to be drinking an oaked California Cab.  Give me that Barbera and a Brunello right after!  I can get excellent examples of each for less than the cost of a bottle of Opus One (currently $170-$190 a bottle), and still have plenty of change left over for a few runs to White Castle!

So if I could drink but one wine the rest of my life, what would it be?  Although it seems extreme, I would give it up all together.  I would rather remain with the memories of the variety of tastes I have had rather than risk losing all of my vinous remembrances washed away by the sensation of drinking a singular sensational wine till the end of my days.

All right, Chuckleheads, you don’t really buy that load do you?  I suppose if I HAD to choose I would do so– after all, I can always read this blog to fill in the lacunae of memory.  But please, just don’t make me choose today. 

Posted July 29, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Wine Etiquette

To Spit or to Swallow?   4 comments

Austin: Who are you today, Baby?
Robin Swallows: My name is Robin Swallows.
Austin: Swallows.  That’s an interesting name.
Robin Swallows: Maiden name is Spitz.
Austin: Well, which is it, Baby, Spitz or Swallows? 

The situation: you go to a wine tasting where many different wines are being poured.  The idea is to sell you some of those wines.  You approach the first table with wine glass in hand.  You receive a small pour.  You sniff.  You swirl. You sip.  And then?  Which is it, Baby?

That indeed is the question.  Having spent virtually no time pondering it, I can say the choice is fraught with risks.   But why spit to begin with?  Seems like a waste of perfectly good wine, no?  Typically, professional tasters do this when assessing a number of wines to determine relative quality and to make buy/no-buy decisions.  No good can come of making a decision to a buy a bottle, case (or a pallet) of something toward the end of an afternoon of swallowing wines.  Been there, done that. 

But if you do swallow before ordering, Caveat Emptor.


Proper Technique– notice the slight lean forward and the wine clearing all clothing. And you get extra credit for standing on the barrel.

Technique.  The Goal–  to taste your wine without wearing your wine.  First off– don’t take too much wine into your mouth.  A small mouthful is usually sufficient.  Swirl the wine around your mouth to hit every part of the tongue.  Salt, sour, sweet, bitter zones.  Lean forward slightly and aim for the spit bucket.  Push the wine out but not too forcefully expelling it in a steady stream.  Try not to miss– nothing pisses off tasting room staff than some yahoo spitting on their bar.  If you must, bring your face closer to the spit bucket, but watch out for the nasty splash back (for this reason alone, you may want to snag your own personal paper cup for this purpose).  

Spit Buckets.  There are unwritten rules when using the spit bucket.  First, if the tasting event you are attending is a social gathering, then ask if it is ok to spit right into the bucket.  Seems that some folks who are there just to drink, don’t like the sight of spitting wine any more than say the spitting that accompanies chewing tobacco.  More often than not they will hand you a plastic cup for you to do your business.   But if you’re in a winery, the spit bucket is your friend.

Drains.  First time I saw this was with a wine maker friend who spurt out into the drains at the winery.  Cooool!  I don’t have many opportunities to do this at home, so had to go for it.  Just watch out for splashes on your trousers, or worse, Ms. R’s white sandals!

Socially Unacceptable?  Not for me.  Socially unacceptable is getting so toasted you can’t tell the difference between a wine glass and a spit bucket.  I save those nights for when I’m home or with close friends!  More on the value of good friends shortly.

The Wrong Technique. Spit? Swallow? Spit? Swallow? What to do? NOT THIS.

Swallow.Reasons to swallow?  We need reasons?

Like Waka Flocka Flame raps “It’s a party, it’s a party, it’s a party!”  Just remember, you can have too much of a good thing.  Otherwise, you could end up like Judge Rivington who reportedly fell off of the ferry after the Spring Tasting sponsored by Niles and Frasier Crane’s Wine Club.

This is an obvious reason to swallow– it tastes good.  Ultimately, wine is a food item, is it not?  And given that, it is meant to be and should be enjoyed and savored.  Putting aside all the talk of the mystical-magical-transcendent properties of wine, it is about bringing a little more enjoyment to life, a meal, a moment.

Look Ma, No hands!

Are there wines that are just too good to spit?  Naturally and when this happens, I swallow with the best of them.  But even too much good wine will take you to the Point of No Return.  I read recently about a very well-known English wine writer who several years back had so much good old French Bordeaux at a “tasting” that she uncharacteristically misplaced her tasting notebook.  “Woopsy!”

Can you be too thirsty to spit.  This is the Danger Zone.  Think of it– hot summer day, crisp white sipper sitting on ice.  Your last meal was earlier that morning  Could a couple of quickly quaffed glasses be so bad?  (“Hey, is that Waka Flocka on the iPod?”)  Oh Yeah– just don’t forget to just hit the water and the buffet table before the party goes out-of-bounds.

Is it possible to be too grossed-out to spit.  Yes.  But, that’s not me.  But you know what’s really gross?

Judge Rrrrrrrrrrivinton are you in there?

Well at least she’s got nice– um– shoes and a little help from a good friend.  But I don’t envy her choice of spit bucket.  I suppose for some people, the matter of spitting is not one of whether to do so, but rather when: Spit NOW or Spit LATER.

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Posted July 24, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Wine Etiquette

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Domaine Sainte-Eugenie Le Clos 2009   2 comments

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday (though it could be Tuesday or Thursday) I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s about all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.  

Back in 2006, I had a dinner at La Pentola Dell Oro Osteria in Florence, Italy.  Scrolling through their menu earlier today, I came across the following menu item:

Risotto al Verde

Mantecato al burro con spinaci e pecorino toscano

I never had this dish when I was last there, but the thought of a risotto tonight was just more than I could resist.  And  spinach laced risotto would hit the spot.  Now La Pentola’s version has cream and butter.  We’re trying to cut back on calories, so held off on that.  My version has a sautéed spinach blended into a mushroom broth that is used to prepare the risotto.  Filling and satisfying, serve this as a first course before a roasted/grilled meat.  And maybe I will add the butter and cream next time. 

Domaine Sainte-Eugenie Le Clos 2009 ($9). From Languedoc, this blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan and Grenache felt a little flabby to me since the acidity was just a tad too soft making it a not so great food wine.  Still, this does have some elements that recommend it: baked cherry pie and cedar notes on the nose which played out on the palate.  A short to medium finish with medium tannins.  It would have been so much better though with slightly higher acidity.  Still, I enjoyed this enough that I would have it again.  Rated **


Green Risotto with Pecorino 


  • 1 cup of dried mushrooms reconstituted in 4 quarts of boiling water, creating a mushroom broth.  Season with a smal amount of salt (1/2 tsp.)  Remember the Pecorino brings a natural saltiness to the dish at the end.
  • 3 tbsps EVOO for the spinach
  • 3 cups of baby spinach
  • 3 tbsps EVOO for the onion
  • 1 Medium sized White Onion finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Pecorino Romano cheese


  1. Boil dried mushrooms in 4 quarts of boiling water, creating a mushroom broth
  2. While the mushroom broth is being prepared, saute the spinach in 3 tbsps of EVOO  until wilted and shrunken in size.  Set aside.
  3. Add spinach to the mushroom broth and blend with a hand blender (or use a regular blender being careful not to scald yourself with the hot broth– ie., use the lid of the blender)
  4. Saute the White Onion in 3 tbsps of EVOO in a frying pan until soft, but not carmelized
  5. Add the arborio rice and stir with the onions for 3 minutes over medium heat
  6. Using a ladle, add enough of the broth to cover the rice and turn heat down to low
  7. Gently stir the rice adding the spinach-mushroom broth as you go along until the rice puffs up and is fully cooked.  Be patient, this could take 20+ minutes.  (cooking tip: keep a glass of wine with you during this part of the meal prep)
  8. Once the rice is fully cooked (a little al dente), stir in the Pecorino
  9. Serve immediately

Serves 2-4

Sybarite Sauvage ©

Posted July 20, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Parés Baltà Ros de Pacs Penedès 2010   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday (though it could be Tuesday or Thursday) I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s about all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.  

Rozay Crazay:  Seems like the Universe has gone wild for the rosé.  Why is that?  Have we forgotten the days of Lancers?  Mateus?  Riuniti?  OK, so this is not that.  But as with those other earlier incarnations, I still get a happy thrill from popping the pink bottles.  It’s sexy.  It practically guarantees a great night with that special someone.  At the very least it creates the right mood that occupies the space between lightness and romance, between flirtation and the brush of an eyelid on a cheek.  

The Zeitgeist in favor of rosés is almost overwhelming now.  It could be that they are having their moment because there are so many good ones available.  But what makes a good rosé?  Transluscently pink.  Aromas of strawberry harvest.  A touch of sweet ripe red berries, balanced by a refreshing mouthwatering acidity. 

So what do we have here?

Parés Baltà Ros de Pacs Penedès 2010 ($11).  This vino sported rich and robust strawberry and almost cherry-like flavors as it opened up.  This Spanish wine is constructed with typically French varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Syrah.  It was delicious, yes.  It had refreshing acidity, yes.  It had clean crisp flavors that I kept coming back to.  But it was barely a rosé to my eyes– darkly hued by comparison to traditional rosé standards, this Spanish rosé challenges traditional notions of what a rosé should be.  It is more robust than the traditional French style.  I see it less as a rosé and more as a very light red wine.  Does that really matter?  No.  Rated **1/2.

Michel-Schlumberger La Flirt Rosé of Merlot 2010 ($20).   Ms. R and I matched the Parés Baltà against the more traditionally made rosé made by a favored Dry Creek Valley producer, Michel Schlumberger, which we had leftover from a couple of nights ago.  Watermelon and just ripened strawberry flavors dominate.  Sweetness balanced by acidity in a more classically French styled rosé.  Also Rated **1/2.

 Take your pick or do as we do– drink them both!

But what to eat with such nice wines?  After a  holiday week filled with beef and pizza, we were ready for lighter fare.  Fresh tilapia was available at the market tonight.  I’m thinking we need a traditional lemon caper sauce to go with it; but I also want some starch.  How about a basil linguine with red onion, haricots vert, garlic and tomatoes?  There is enough pasta here for 4 people.  But just try to not eat more than your share!  Yes, garlic, capers, lemon, tomatoes and rosé.  So many flavors.  So very good. 

Cedar Planked Tilapia with Lemon-Caper Sauce 


  • 1 lb. Tilapia
  • 1 Tbsp. EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 Garlic Clove thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp. Sweet Butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Nonpareil Capers


  1. Soak cedar planks in water for at least 30 minutes.  Longer is better. 
  2. Meanwhile, drizzle 1 Tbsp. of EVOO over the Tilapia and season with salt and pepper
  3. Heat your grill on high.  And when ready, place moistened planks on grill and turn off the burner(s) underneath the planks.  The idea is to scorch the planks but not burn them.  Place Tilapia on the planks and cover grill to cook using indirect heat from the burner(s) that are not directly under the planks.
  4. While the Tilapia is cooking, heat up a pan and put 3 tbsp Olive Oil in pan and add Slice Garlic till aromatic, but do not burn it
  5. Add White Wine and Lemon and bring to a boil
  6. Reduce Heat to simmer and add Butter and Capers
  7. Reduce sauce by one half but be careful not to burn it– turn off heat and set aside
  8. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste
  9. When Tilapia is done cooking (about 6-10 minutes), remove from grill and plate dressing the fish with the lemon caper sauce

Serves 2

Sybarite Sauvage ©

Basil Linguine 


  • 1 lb. Basil Linguine (spinach works fine as well)
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1 Garlic Clove thinly sliced
  • One medium-sized red onion cut into thin slices
  • 2 cups of haricots vert (frozen work fine)
  • 4 Campari tomatoes quartered or 10-15 grape tomatoes halved
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  1. Bring 4-6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot and add enough 1/4 cup of salt so that water is salty to the taste
  2. Boil linguine in salted water until cooked al dente
  3. While pasta is cooking, warm up EVOO in a large pan and add garlic and saute over medium heat for 30 seconds until oil become fragrant (do not burn the garlic)
  4. Add garlic, red onion and haricots vert.  Cook until onions are soft– about 5 minutes
  5. Once these ingredients are cooked add the tomatoes to warm up but do not overcook them
  6. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings to taste
  7. Once pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta
  8. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss.  If needed, add some of the pasta cooking liquid to the pan.  Toss again until coated. 
  9. Plate alongside the Cedar Planked Tilapia– no cheese necessary

Serves 4 (maybe)

Sybarite Sauvage ©

Posted July 13, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

El Coto Blanco Rioja 2009   Leave a comment

You want a picnic wine?  How about a warm-summer-day-on-the-deck-wine?  Here it is.   After I wrote the review, I had this with slices of a spicy Italian sausage and it did not seem to be a bit overwhelmed.  In fact, even a little bit better.

Sometimes, you just want to drink something that you don’t want to over-think.  Yep, I know, that whole notion runs counter to one of the premises of this blog.  My bad, so here’s our review:

El Coto Blanco Rioja 2009 ($9).  Made from 100% viura grapes farmed in Rioja Alavesa, it wears a pale straw-colored robe.  On the nose, soft florals dominate offering whispers alternating between jasmine and citrus.  An almost salty-like minerality prevails giving the wine a refreshing quality.  Not a particularly terrific finish.  But very quaffable indeed.  Rated **

But I think that this could also be much better with raw oysters on the half-shell.  Now that suggestion is pure speculation, because the Sybarite Sauvage’s larder was absent such bivalave mollusks.  Did I hear someone mention shrimp cocktail?  Yeah, it’s summer– you try it and let me know.

Did someone say viura?  What is that?  Viura which is alternately known as Macabeo is a varietal grown in Spain and is often blended with other varietals as it makes its way into the cavas (the Spanish sparkling wine) that I generally favor over champagne.  So sue me.

Want to learn more about Viura from someone who really knows what she’s talking about?  See Jancis Robinson’s discussion at

Posted July 10, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

A Tale of Two Cabs   Leave a comment

Which of the following two Cabs would you like to drink?

 Wine #1: Dry, dustily tannic and somewhat closed down, this Cabernet clearly wants some time in the cellar. It has rich, juicy blackberry and cherry flavors, but the tannins and acidity close in fast, locking them down and making the wine astringent and tart. Give it a few years, or decant if you’re opening it now.

Wine #2: The fragrant bouquet of blueberries and flowers is followed by admirable complexity, sweet tannins, a medium to full-bodied, graceful mouthfeel and no hard edges. Drink this outstanding * * * Cabernet over the next 15+ years.

Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, USAPretty simple decision, huh?  Wine #2, is the hands down winner, right?  But for the price of a single $34 bottle you can have them both, for they are the same wine:  Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

A quick word about the 2007 vintage.  This appears to be an excellent one according to the established wine-press– 94-97 points per the Wine Spectator, 95 points per the Wine Enthusiast and 96 Points according to the Wine Advocate.   So expectations for this wine should be pretty high.  And at $34 that would seem justified.

Two reviewers.  Same Wine.  Two different experiences.  In fact Reviewer #1 had what I would call a pretty unpleasant experience.  Aside from the disparate reviews, what I find puzzling is Reviewer #1’s generous rating:  90 Points.  How can an astringent, tart and closed down wine be a 90-pointer?  Is he rewarding the wine for what it will become?  Perhaps, but how can he know for sure?  Is he rewarding the Frank Family for past performance?  I hope not.  

Some comparative observations drawn from these two reviews are worth calling out:

Nose: Reviewer #1 got hung up on the wine being closed down while the other got a “bouquet of blueberries and flowers”.  Off the bat, it seems like two different wines.

Fruit: Reviewer #1 got “juicy blackberry and cherry flavors” while Reviewer #2, despite talk of that “bouquet of blueberries” did not really give us much information on this point.   This seems like an odd omission.

Tannins: “sweet tannins” vs. “dustily tannic”– one pleasant and one, not so much. 

Acidity: Reviewer #1 seems overwhelmed by acidity, while Reviewer #2 noticed “no hard edges”.  

Mouth Feel: “astringent and tart” vs. “graceful mouthfeel”. 

These two reviews emphasize what a personal experience wine really is and so any attempt to reconcile them is futile.  But it might also indicate that there may have been some bottle variation or worse, depending on where it was tasted, perhaps damage in transport. 

Assuming no bottle variation and no damage to the wine, what are we consumers to do, given such contradictory information? It is best to remember that reviews are merely opinions, not scientific fact, despite the scientific exactitude implied by that 100 point scale.  As with all things that one experiences through the senses– be it Painting, Food, Sculpture, Wine and even Lovers– notions of Beauty are intimately personal.  Let us then make this totally personal.  We shall taste and make up our own minds. 

We shared a bottle of the Frank Family cab amongst 4 of us during a picnic supper of charcuterie, cheese and marinated Lomo Saltado (that’s right we recycled the Independence Day fare) Steak Sandwiches on crispy baguettes with a garlic-paprika-mustard-aioli prior to the outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  

Now we’re not professional reviewers, but we know what we like and what we do not.  Generally, whenever I see wine reviews that take such different views of the same wine, I tend to generally agree with the lesser review.  Whether that’s a coincidence or just the way my brain is wired, I can’t say.  But merrily, not tonight, as the more flattering review prevailed.   Here is my take:

Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.  The wine was indeed closed, but only in the beginning.  Then it blossomed and gave us a pretty nice experience: By turns, notes of cassis and eucalyptus mixed with just a hint of vanilla on the nose.  Dark fruit and cherries on the palate.  The tannins were soft and sweet.  And a touch of acidity on the back-end polished it off.  It kept evolving down to the last drop.  I found it to be a pretty well-balanced wine– and my experience to be closer to Reviewer #2.  Rated ***

So who does #2 work for?  He works for us.

OK, maybe we like to think that, but not really– in fact, he may be the Number 1 of the wine world (you know who I mean).  

The identities of the two professional reviewers?

Reviewer # 1 Wine Enthusiast Score: 90. —Steve Heimoff, April 01, 2011. 
Reviewer #2: Wine Advocate  Score: 93. —Robert Parker, December 2010.
Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007But just to compare this to a Napa peer, my buddy brought along another 2007 Napa wine from a favorite and fabled producer:  the Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2007).  By comparison to the Frank Family Cabernet, this one did seem closed off.  A good wine with solid fruit and more chewy tannins but lacking the complexity of the Frank.  Perhaps with another few years in the bottle this wine will overtake the Frank Family Napa Cab.  But not tonight.  Rated **1/2

Posted July 7, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in A Tale of Two...

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec 2008   Leave a comment

This little guy doesn’t have a guilty bone in his body.  Neither should you.  Every Wednesday I will write-up a wine that I feel delivers good value for drinking in the middle of the week.  Aside from quality, my only other criteria is price.  To start, less than $15, but ideally less than $10, for a 750 ml bottle. 

I will also add any recipes that I paired with the wine.  I hope to leave you with a recipe that you can use to match up with a wine of your choice if you can’t locate the one I recommend.

No-Guilt Wednesday is not about compromising on quality.  It’s about all about drinking good wine that does not break the bank, eating good food and of course, it’s about sharing with the ones you love.  

Graffigna 2008 Reserve Malbec, Centenario, San Juan, ArgentinaGraffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec 2008 ($8).  A killer value in wine!  Initially hints of graphite on the nose.  Dark fruit on the palate.  Age-worthy tannins.  From the San Juan region of Argentina, which is north of Mendoza, I have been seeing some fine wines coming from here.  Rated **1/2


Map of Chile South America

This week’s menu was the lazy man’s offering.  Not being particularly motivated today, and this particular Wednesday being on the heels of a busy July 4th weekend, I chose the Path of Least Resistance.  Ms. R and I had some ravioli from Trader Joe’s– filled with 3 cheeses, artichoke and olive.  I made a quick butter/EVOO/sage sauce and that was dinner.  We sat at the newly acquired Café Table now residing on the deck just off the living room.  Lazy— yes— but romantic and we did not go hungry.

Lazy Sage-Butter Sauce


  • 2 Tbsp. Sweet (unsalted) Butter
  • 3 Tbsp. EVOO
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage chopped


  1. Heat up the EVOO in a pan (I prefer a cast iron frying pan)
  2. Add the butter so that it melts but does not burn or carmelize
  3. Add Sage
  4. Season with salt to taste
  5. When pasta is ready, (reserve 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the pasta water) drain and add to the pan with the sauce
  6. Pour 1/4 cup of the pasta water and let the sauce coat the pasta– add more water if necessary
  7. Grate some Pecorino over the top and serve

Sybarite Sauvage ©

Posted July 6, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Independence Weekend   Leave a comment


When I was younger (much younger), July 4th was one of my favorite holidays.  I remember being thrilled and a little bit terrified by the loud explosions that accompanies fireworks displays.  Then came my teenage years and young adulthood and I shied away from being a flag waving kind of guy.  So there was a period of time when I didn’t feel compelled to attend fireworks displays although there was one memorable trip to Manhattan to watch the Macy’s Fireworks over the East River from Tudor City.  There was also the insanity of getting out of there along with thousands of others (some of whom thought it would be fun to throw fireworks into the crowd).  Yeah, that was FUN.

Then about 12 years ago, as my marriage was in the midst of disintegration, I started to reexamine what it was to be me.  Newly separated, where did I see myself with my newly found independence going?  The notion of Independence rang with an unexperienced and personal clarity for me.  This was not merely an opportunity to leave a less than ideal situation– it was an opportunity redefine my personal destiny.  An opportunity to create something greater or destroy everything.  It is frightening and exhilarating as the same time– like being on a roller coaster without seat belts.

Toward the end of 2000, Ms. R came into my life.  She is a dynamo of positive energy.  She helps to define the path that we are both on.  In early 2003, Ms. R had the idea to throw a party the weekend of July 4th.  Thus was born the first Independence Celebration– a way to celebrate our country’s independence and our own very personal independence.  This event, and its sister hangover recovery New Year’s Day event known as the “Hair of the Dog” Brunch, have become not only culinary milestones for me– an opportunity to stretch my capabilities in the kitchen– but also personal markers for us to see who we are and who are the friends that help to define us the most as the years have gone by. 

In the past, I have tried different cuisines and I try not to repeat dishes.  This year, is no different.  The main event was a Peruvian dish called Lomo Saltado which I have had in  Peruvian restaurant.  A little East Meets West kind of thing going on: Steak marinated in a combination of primarily soy sauce, vinegar and cumin.  Traditionally, this is stir fried, but we had a grilled version from Bobby Flay this year.  Easy to prepare and delicious.  Everyone was looking for the recipe.  It’s out there on the internet.   We served it with a variation on the classic Moros y Cristianos (Black Beans over White Rice) flavored with turkey bacon instead of a ham hock– another big hit.

In prior years this has been a predominantly wine event.  But this year, beers all around and my buddy, CK’s high-test Margaritas as well as a Jamaican rum punch that another friend brought.

To open, however, I served a grilled sausages and a version of a Spanish dish, Grilled Camarones al Ajillo (Garlic Prawns).  I love this dish because you cannot put too much garlic in it.  Just be sure to allow at least 30 minutes for the marinade to soak in.

Grilled Camarones al Ajillo

2 lbs of shrimp thawed and peeled

For the Marinade:

  • One head of garlic– separate, peel and roughly chop the cloves
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup EVOO
  • 1/2 cup Amontillado (a semi sweet sherry) 


  1. Liquefy all ingredients in an electric blender– this will yield a beautifully green marinade
  2. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and insert in a one gallon plastic bag
  3. Pour the green marinade over the shrimp and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
  4. 1/2 hour before grilling, remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature
  5. Meanwhile bring the grill to a high temperature
  6. If you are inclined to do so, skewer the shrimp with previously hydrated bamboo skewers; if you’re lazy like me, just put them on the grill, but be prepared to lose a few as they slip through the grill grate.
  7. Grill the shrimp for no more than a couple of minutes per side
  8. Serve immediately

Sybarite Sauvage ©

Posted July 4, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love