Archive for September 2011

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Buehler Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008   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 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.  

Buehler offers three different Napa Cabs.  Their top two Cabs are the Papa’s Knoll Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (300 cases– $45 from the winery) with the  grey and white label with maroon and gold banners. The second is the Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (1,800 cases– $36 from the winery) with a grey and white label with gold banner. 

Papa's Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa ValleyBuehler Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, EstateBuehler Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Estate

This week’s wine is not one of those two.  This is the more humble Napa Cabernet (15,000 cases– $25 from the winery)– a wine with 30% Cabernet from the estate but 70% from other parts of Napa– with a green and white label and gold banner.  No matter, this is still a wine worth coveting.  It pays to go green.  But at this price, what is this doing on No-Guilt Wednesday?

Buehler Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($15).  Normally this is available for $20 or more.  But my wine guys offered me a good deal on this at just a few pennies below $15.  How could I say no?  As I started to drink this, I felt compelled to sip and then gulp this beauty.  It was just drinkably good.  Then I stopped myself and thought, “What the hell is going on?”  Hints of cocoa on the nose.  A healthy respect, but not deference to the fruit.  Yes, black fruit– insistent black plum, black cherry and cassis.  The wine has an herbal quality that straddles between the fruit and the acidity and ever so tenuously chalky tannins.  I felt this wine even had a touch of wood mushroom mutating kaleidescope-like into maduro tobacco on the longish finish.  This is a wine that  I could sip all night long.  I did.  I will again.  If you can get this for $20– jump on it.  If you can get it for $15, buy a case and a half.  Just remember to ease up on the gulping and sip this beauty– if you can.  Rated ***

Ms. R and I were celebrating one of life’s anniversaries– OK my birthday.  I have been thinking of mushrooms all week– besides wine, what else would a Sybarite be thinking of this time of year?  She wanted to go out to lunch.  It was pouring outside.  I preferred to stay indoors with the ingredients in ye olde larder.  Herewith the…

Simple Mushroom Crostini

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons, EVOO
  • 16 oz. Crimini and/or mixed mushrooms – chopped
  • 1/2 of medium red onion finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves, garlic – finely minced
  • 1/4 cup Amontillado
  • 4 tbsps. parsley – finely chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Rolls, sliced and toasted on top only

Method

  1. Place olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat
  2. Add red onion and cook for 1 minute
  3. Add garlic and cook with onions until onions are translucent
  4. Turn up heat to medium-high and add mushrooms stir to incorporate with coat  with oil/garlic mixture
  5. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper and taste for seasoning
  6. Add Amontillado and cook until liquid is evaporated
  7. Add 3 tbsps. chopped parsley
  8. While mushrooms broil bread in a toaster oven until golden brown on top but still soft on the bottom
  9. Spoon mushrooms onto toast
  10. Top with remaining parsley for garnish, if desired

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Posted September 27, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Celler El Masroig – Sycar Red Montsant (2004)   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 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.  

Celler El Masroig Montsant Sycar (2004)Celler El Masroig – Sycar Red Montsant 2004 ($13.50).   As I was perusing the racks at one of my local suppliers the other day, this one caught my attention.  Not because it had great reviews.  It had none, other than some generic tasting notes from the wine merchant’s staff.  But, Montsant is a favorite appellation of mine and at $13.50 from a 7-year-old vintage, it was hard to pass up.  According to Espavino, the 2004 vintage in Montsant is considered an excellent vintage– though I did not know that at the time.  This wine, like most wines from this part of the world is a blend, in this case, Syrah 50%/Carignan 50%.  Thanks to the syrah in the blend, this starts off with earthy notes leading to brooding black fruit blending with a hint of chocolate and a tempting ripeness and jamminess.  If that were all, the wine would be just OK.  But the carignan steps in to  deliver a punch of acidity and brightness that conspired with a peppery finish offset by sweet tannins.  This is a wine of its place at a good price.   Rated ** 1/2

Growing up, I remember the flour-coated deep-fried eggplant disks that were among my favorites.  As soon as they were out of the pan, I would generously salt them and revel in their crunchy exterior and their hot fleshy interior.  These days, I try to stay away from deep-fried anything.  But I still love eggplant.

A tip on cooking eggplant.  Make sure to sweat out any bitterness it may have by salting the chopped eggplant for about 30 minutes before cooking and ensuring that any liquid released is properly drained.  Also, once this dish is fully cooked, the eggplant will start to break down, so any stirring of this dish needs to be gentle so as not to mangle the eggplant.  

Sometimes oddest combinations jump out at you when need to make dinner with whatever happens to be in the fridge.  It’s kind of like going to a college mixer and checking out who is hooking up with whom.   Hello, fennel and red bell pepper!  This is all good stuff and it made a hearty sauce with the whole wheat penne I had on hand.  The eggplant took on the role that meat usually does and the other ingredients purred along like back up singers at a Bob Dylan show. 

Penne with Eggplant Refrigerator Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 medium-sized eggplant peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 fennel bulb cut in half, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper chopped into medium-sized bits
  • 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts coarsely chopped
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 4 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 6 tbsps chopped fresh parsley

Procedures

  1. Heat up a large frying pan and saute the garlic till it becomes aromatic, but does not brown
  2. Add the eggplant cubes, fennel, red pepper and artichoke hearts, and crushed red pepper.  Season with salt.  Once the eggplant is cooked but still firm, add the tomato sauce and the red wine vinegar.  These can be combined ahead of time in a measuring cup.  Bring to light boil and then reduce heat to simmer and cover.
  3. While the sauce is simmering cook your pasta in salted water (whole wheat penne works well with this sauce).
  4. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce.
  5. Mix pasta with the sauce and add the pasta water if needed to loosen the sauce up.

Serves 4

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Posted September 21, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Dawn of the Living Millennials   Leave a comment

The history of winemaking and drinking in America is pretty well documented.  But what of the future?  What are our children going to be drinking?  

Being a Boomer (a “Late Boomer” so to speak) does not qualify me to tell you what our children are going to do.  In fact, being the father of a Millennial, and all the guesswork entailed by that precarious distinction, is likely to disqualify me altogether.  But that has not stopped me from speculating in the past and it won’t stop me now. 

Before we go on, let us define in general terms who we are and who they are:

                • The Greatest Generation–those born before 1928
                • The Silent Generation–those born from 1928-1945
                • Baby Boomers–those born from 1946-1964
                • Generation X–those born from 1965-1980
                • Millennials–those born from 1981-2000

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials are confident, connected and open to change.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Millennials is their use of technology.  They are more connected with gadgets and social network profiles than any generation before.  Demographically, they are also the most diverse of generational groups in American history– whites making up only 60% of the grouping and Latino and Asian populations surging to 32% from the 21% in the generation of Baby Boomers.  They are also apt to be more highly educated than their elders.  Interestingly, although this group places a high value on marriage and parenthood, they are less likely to be married than their predecessors were at the same age.  Maybe that’s because they spend too much time playing video games.  But this is a generation that has more time to work out at the gym– perhaps because they are not preoccupied with keeping spouses in a state of marital contentment while they raise children of their own. 

So a healthy lifestyle is pretty important to them.  And with time to burn, they can hit the bars after working out.  It seems only natural that wine could be part of that healthier lifestyle.

What are they drinking now?  I suspect the same stuff we all drank in our younger age: sweeter, less complicated plonk: semi-sweet white wines and big fruit driven red wines.  And since they don’t yet have a whole lot of money to spend on wine, the sub-$15 wines are going to thrive– especially on those nights when it’s just them, the PlayStation and their joy-sticks (they still use those, right?). 

Before they ever taste an ultra-premium wine, they will discover that one doesn’t need to spend a ton of money on such nectar to derive great enjoyment from wine.  And with fewer employment prospects for college graduates in recent years, they will continue to look for value in the short to mid-term.  Whether that will change in the long-term is anyone’s guess.  What I can say is that when I was their age, the quality and variety of wines available, let alone the information about these wines, was simply not as great as it is today. 

One tool that the Millennials have to mine for that value is technology: the internet with its ability to locate and condense information about wine will help this generation acquire the best quality wines for the money.  Intertwined with that notion is that the internet will also provide an ability to identify the lowest cost providers.  Those wine merchants, who tap into the Millennials’ aptitude for technology will thrive, even if the margins are thin.  

As the first members of this generation reach the age of 30, we know that their palates will evolve.  Will they continue to support the growth of wine consumption in America?  Of course they will.  What seems clear is that they are much more catholic in their tastes than prior generations.  Why should their wine habits depart from this trend?  This generation of locavores is coming of age in a land of hand-crafted brews with a diversity of cuisines and cultures that is no longer confined to urban centers.  It would, therefore, seem inevitable that those who do develop a taste for wine would follow the precepts of localized diversity, at least to start– “Look at what I found in my own back yard!”  I am optimistic that they will develop a love for wines made by smaller producers that deliver good value.  And with good wine being produced throughout our country, it would not be surprising to see them seeking out what is most local first.  

But being perhaps the most diverse generation in America history, can we expect them to confine themselves to only what is local?  Probably not.  And when they start to reach out to the rest of the world, they will look to smaller producers, seeking out the best of them. 

While there is much that we can teach these youngsters, there are a few things that we (especially Boomers) can learn from them as well.  The use of technology, for starters.  They are using technology to reach out to the greater world.  In a sense, the world is getting smaller as they expand the reach of what is in their backyards.

The globalization of the boutique winery movement started a few years ago.  I believe that Millennials as wine producers, merchants and consumers will take this to places we can’t even imagine. 

Must... learn... to... spit... PRO--PER--LY...

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Posted September 21, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Beronia Crianza 2007   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 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.  

Wednesday again?  My 20-year old Sybarite-Daughter asked me out to the movies tonight.  Could I say no?  Wine is important.  Food is important.  Ms. R is important.  But nothing so important than the Sybarite-in-Training.  The movie– not so great.  But since I’m not going to start reviewing film, no need to name.

After the movie, on arriving at Casa Sybarito, the Wednesday urge took the form of the Beronia Crianza which called out to me with its siren song.  There is no secret that I really like this wine.  I have reviewed it before. 

Beronia Crianza 2007 ($13).   A little smokiness on the nose to start that transitioned to, and I mean this in a good way,  Smith Bros. cherry cough drops.  I know, this is supposed to be “medicine”, but we ate these things like candy back in the 4th grade and I simply love that smell.  This is another example of how personal wine is and why even after having tried a wine previously, I can still find a new taste sensation and a remembrance of my personal history in a wine bottle.  This vino hits all the pleasure centers on my tongue.  It has a pleasing viscosity.  On the palate, there are savory elements, leaving an almost tarragon like sensation mixed with blackberry in the back of the mouth.  Finishing with acidity and softly elegant tannins and a lingering desire for another sip.  You could spring for the $20+ Reserva from Beronia, and that would be great, but for $13 this is one you should not pass up.  Rated **1/2

Tonight, the Sybarite-in-Training and I arrived too late to really think about a meal more elaborate than a grilled cheese sandwich.   The Beronia brought me back to my childhood.  The sandwich, transported me to my college years.  Years ago, a great friend of mine was attending an all Women’s College with a cafe that featured an inexpensive sandwich known as the “Syrian” (Pita with Muenster Cheese and Tomatoes).  As a result, I don’t eat this thing, or a variation of it without thinking of her and those times.

Sometimes, the simplest things provide the greatest pleasure: an honest wine, an uncomplicated sandwich, a smile from your child, or a memory created many years ago.  I have all of these. 

Now it’s probably politically incorrect these days to name a sandwich after a country that has been ruled by the Assads for as long as I have been politically aware.  What to call this thing?

The Patty Melt 

Ingredients

  • 1 Pita, cut around the edges to create two halves
  • Jarlsberg cheese thinly sliced and enough to cover the two Pita halves
  • 1 Heirloom tomato chopped (a Campari tomato will do as well)

Procedures

  1. Split the cheese slices between the two Pita halves
  2. Split the chopped Heirloom tomato between the two Pita halves
  3. Bake in a 400° toaster oven for 4 minutes or until cheese is bubbling
  4. Pull out of the oven and place one half over the other (as you would with a grilled cheese sandwich)
  5. Cut the sandwich in half and serve warm

Serves 1 (Or can be shared;  in fact, it tastes better when shared.  But you will be making more of them.)

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Posted September 15, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: The Labor Day Edition   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 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.  

Labor Day and the short week that it brought with it made this No-Guilt Wednesday a little bit more difficult for a couple of reasons.  First off, I was eating and drinking pretty much the whole weekend.  And there were leftovers from the weekend waiting to be consumed.  Second, with it being a short week, the reality of my everyday life had to be compressed into 4 days and that sadly left little time to think about menus for Wednesday. 

But that’s not to say, we did not try some interesting wines that fit within our parameters.  Herewith, a white, a red and a dessert to have after the meal.

Domaine LaFage Cote Est Blanc 2010 ($8).  From Languedoc-Roussillon, this one sports some attractive floral components finishing with brisk acidity.  Has a Sauvignon Blanc feel to it, though there is no SB in the blend Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay, Marsanne.  I can see this with a raw shellfish appetizer (oysters, clams, etc.) or perhaps a steamed lobster in these, the waning days of Summer.  Rated **
 
Michele Chiarlo “Le Orme” Barbera d’Asti 2008 ($12).  A touch of ferrous minerality on the nose leads to raspberry and blackberry sensations on the palate.  Balanced with the right amount of soft acidity.  Tannins to spare.  A lovely wine for the money.  Vintage in and out, this one keeps delivering great value.  I had this with a grilled duck l’Orange.  It delivered in a big way.  Rated ** 1/2
 
There was no dessert wine, but here is a wonderful little dessert that is as easy to prepare as it is to eat.  Last weekend, we had good friends of ours, including Tanya, over for dinner.  While I normally do not use my friends names in this blog, I named the dish after her as she inspired me to create it because of her sweet disposition.  It is a twist on the red-wine braised pears you may have had.  It is also so easy since it is made stove top and then cooled and served with an aged Manchego.  The red wine stains the fleshy part of the fig in an irresistible carmine.   It’s sweet and sensuous.  Need I say more?
 
 

Braised Figs Tanya

Ingredients

  • 1 Doz. Fresh Figs with stems trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 Cup of dry red wine
  • 1 Cup of Amontillado Fino (a Spanish sherry)
  • 1/2 Cup of Agave Syrup
  • Manchego cheese sliced into 1/8 inch slices just before serving so they will not dry out)

Procedures

  1. Whisk together the Wine, Sherry, and Agave Syrup in a bowl until the honey and agave are absorbed
  2. Pour into a large frying pan and heat
  3. Place the fresh figs (cut side down) in the pan
  4. Bring the pan to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer
  5. While the syrup is reducing, make sure to spoon it over the figs
  6. Reduce the wine sherry mixture by half– you want a syrup which should coat a spoon, but not so thick that it become gloppy
  7. Remove the figs from the pan and turn them cut side up in a serving plate
  8. Drizzle the syrup over the figs and place manchego on the outer edges of the serving plate.

Serves 6 (4 fig halves per person)

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Posted September 10, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

You Just Got…Jacked Up! The No Wine With Football Myth   Leave a comment

This is gonna leave a bruise.

 Caveat: Without apologies to any non-U.S. readers– this is not about Soccer or Fútbol.

Should we drink wine with football?  There are hard-core football fans out there who will tell you that wine has no place on Sunday afternoons during the football season.  No place at the Video Temple or at the Tailgate Party.  No place next to the buffalo chicken wings, hot dogs or nachos (the latter two being imports, by the way). 

But this sort of reverse snobbery by the beer-swilling hoard has some historical antecedents.  Herewith, a cursory, expurgated  and heavily opinionated view of this history.  How did beer get to be so closely associated with football?  How did wine get to be excluded and shunned? 

In Colonial times, ales, ciders and home-made hooch– being less expensive and more accessible to the Early American populace– were preferred.  And the wines that were acceptable at that time included the sweeter (and fortified) Madeira which seemed more in tune with the American palate.  Thomas Jefferson, who is indisputably the most wine educated president we have ever had– having travelled and tasted his way through Bordeaux and Burgundy as well portions of Germany and Italy– needed to fend off charges that he was too Frenchified in his manners, dress and tastes to be considered for the presidency.  While he did much to introduce wine to the U.S., T-Jef was also held up as an example of runaway connoisseurship and more than a whiff of wine-related elitism.  You see where this is going, don’t you? 

Jumping ahead to the 20th century, Prohibition also took its toll on the consumption and production of wine in this country.  During that 13-year period, vineyards were replaced with other crops– although individuals were permitted to produce wine for their own personal consumption.  And while wine was no doubt smuggled into this country, I have little doubt that you had to pony up some serious simoleons to get it in an unadulterated form.  It was much easier to get some illegal firewater from your local distiller.   And let’s face it, once Prohibition ended, the wines that were produced were of inferior quality to the more expensive imported stuff.  It was perhaps inevitable that the more consistent quality of domestic beer would easily win out and would be best positioned to accompany the Sunday Football Ritual in households across the Land.

The 1960’s gave us the golden age of the cocktail in America– Tom Collins, the Highball and of course the Martini, which fueled rise of the Mad Men and, naturally, the Three-Martini-Lunch.  I suspect that this shift in consumption habits toward elegant cocktails must have been a reaction to some degree to the fullness one feels after a few brews.  

Cinema also picked up on this and played a role in the acceptance of wine.  Aside from his signature shaken-not stirred beverage, James Bond was often overheard ordering bottles of vintage Bollinger champagne, usually to lubricate the skids leading to the efficient disrobing and debauching of his female companion of the moment. 

You can feel the momentum changing. 

But the late 1960s also gave us a conservative in the White House, Richard Nixon, who, as I have noted in these pages (https://sybaritesauvage.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/another-nixonian-dilemma/), took elitism to a very different level.  Unlike T-Jef, who was generous with his wines to a fault, the Tricky One, was never one to put sharing at the top of his agenda.  Reportedly, on at least one occasion, pouring the very good stuff for himself only (while his guests unwittingly drank a lesser quality wine).  Imagine what those two late Presidents would have been like in a sand box.  Umm, let me see…

Like my shirt? So what do you have there?

Get your paws off my stuff, Dick!

 

But I digress.

Wine– the alcoholic beverage of the Counter-Culture?  In a reaction to the conservative values of the Establishment, Hippie culture embraced values and props that were a departure from the norm.  Such things included a rejection of the hard liquor concoctions of their parents’ generation and an uneasy acceptance of wine if we are to judge from some of the music of that time.  For example, War’s 1970 classic, Spill the Wine, speaks to the alien nature of wine with a sexual charge that could be discomforting:

I could feel hot flames of fire roaring at my back
As she disappeared, but soon she returned
In her hand was a bottle of wine, in the other, a glass
She poured some of the wine from the bottle into the glass
And raised it to her lips
And just before she drank it, she said:

Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl
Spill the wine and take that pearl, Spill the wine and take that pearl

And there is the lyric complaint intoned by Jimi Hendrix: “Businessman they drink my wine”.   But the counter-culture soon resolved itself in James Bondian fashion when the Rolling Stones sang on Pass The Wine (Sophia Loren):

I’m glad to be alive and kicking
I’m glad to hear my heart’s still ticking
So pass me the wine, baby, and let’s make some love

Acceptance of imported Portuguese roses and the Reunite on ice soon followed in the Disco Era starting in the middle to late 1970s seems almost preordained. 

And in America at this time, you could not really think of the rise of wine without mentioning the Tasting of Paris and Robert Mondavi.  A detailed examination of both subjects is beyond the scope of this post.  However, the Tasting of Paris (https://sybaritesauvage.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/tasting-of-paris-may-24-1976/) was a game changer since it legitimized in the view of the world that American wines could be the equal or the betters of their French counterparts.  In the U.S., even people who had never tasted wine up to that time (that would include me) heard about this event and took a patriotic pride in that success.  Mondavi, for his part, worked tirelessly to promote the notion that American wines could be among the world’s greatest.  Ultimately, this led to the Opus One joint venture with Mouton-Rothschild (one of Bordeaux’ first growth producers). 

But wine , despite its success, here in America, is neither a drink of the masses nor a drink that is part of our everyday culinary culture.  By this, I mean that it would be found on the humblest of dinner tables the way one finds Coca Cola there.  It still has a long way to go before it can break the near-monopoly exerted by beer for the past 200 plus years.  Simply because it was late to the party, however, does not mean that it should be excluded from our culinary traditions.  

Example:  I recently watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s show, No Reservations, where he hung out with a bunch of locals at a Provençal bar on a Sunday morning eating charcuterie (that’s processed meat products including all manner of sausages) and cheese accompanied by copious amounts of wine and a whole lot of crappy singing.  No one is standing around trying to pick out the scents of flower blossoms or garrigue in the bouquet of the wines being consumed.  It was just a bunch of guys finishing off a long night of partying with their buddies by drinking a few more toasts before heading home.  In America, we are a long way from that more relaxed approach to wine.  Pity us for that.

My good friend, B the Elder suggested to me that one has beer simply because that is what goes well with the cuisine served on Football Sunday.  That is a chicken and egg problem as I see it because it presupposes that we were eating chicken wings, nachos and hot dogs before beer was introduced.  The opposite in fact is the truth– the cuisines adapted to the beverage that was being drunk.   Had that beverage been wine, we might have very different food come Sundays in Autumn.  I’m thinking charcuterie again.  Now, I’m not suggesting a wholesale abandonment of beer.  Just that we have the choice of wine available as an equal on Sundays.

Is there any connection between Football and Wine that we can point to for inspiration and let’s face it– Legitimacy?  In fact there is.  Vince Lombardi with his trademark close-cropped haircut was not a Hippie.  Pretty much the anti-Hippie in his personal style.  In fact, a symbol, at least in his personal style of the conservative older generation of the time. 

We know Lombardi of the Championships.  We know the Lombardi Trophy awarded to each year’s Super Bowl winner.  Do we know Lombardi the restaurateur?  Well, there is this little establishment known as the Vince Lombardi Steakhouse in Appleton, Wisconsin which has been awarded a series of Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence since 2005.  Sounds good, so far.

But wait a minute, according to owner, Vince Lombardi, Jr.: 

“My father enjoyed eating out with friends. A great meal, good friends and a couple highballs of scotch were his main form of relaxation during the football season.  He would have loved this wonderful steakhouse.” 

All right, so the old man didn’t have anything to do with this restaurant.  And wine does not appear to have been his first choice– at least during the season.  And maybe he’s turning over in his grave contemplating the liberties Young Vince has taken.  We’ll never know.  But what we do know is that one of the greatest names in football history has rightly or wrongly become associated with fine wine.  Moreover, being of Italian descent, how could he not have enjoyed a few good glasses of wine?    Though, sadly, he died an all too early death from cancer, I have an image of him in his retirement watching a game in his wood-paneled living room while sipping on a fine wine with his stocking feet up on the furniture.  Maybe he’s doing that right now.

Then there is Don Shula– he of the “Perfect Season”.  His Shula’s Steak House has also won a number of the same Wine Spectator awards– and at least he’s still around to endorse the place. 

So we have a connection between wine and great football coaches.  Though these connections may be tenuous, I say it is enough to pop some corks come Football Sunday.  You see, I just need a small shove to fall into the abyss.

While not advocating the abandonment of beer, the beauty of wine is that one can drink it without getting that bloated sensation brought on by beer.  OK, so “beauty” is not a word that we should use in the context of football, unless one is referring to the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders.  So let’s just say that this is one of wine’s strategic advantages. 

The matter settled, at least as far as I am concerned, what wine for football?  Red or White?  Easy—

Garçon, bring another Quarterback.

go with the color of blood. 

Domestic or Imported?  My gut reaction says buy American.  But if one can drink an imported beer during the game, why not an imported wine?  OK, maybe not French wine (apologies to T-Jef).  See, I can compromise.  Thus, I won’t turn up my nose at an import.  But an American institution calls for an American wine– a Napa Cab, a Dry Creek Valley Zin, a Washington State or Oregon Pinot Noir.  These are what I will be sipping.

But how to respond to the bold flavors of the Sunday Football Table?  Follow the Lombardi/Shula leads– Grill some thick freakin’ steaks.  Pile on some pomme frites–uh, French Fr– uh, — screw it, just nuke a potato.  Put some brocoli on the plate, if you must and be a man about it!  There’s blood being spilled on the gridiron.  There should be blood on our plates.  Keep your nachos!  By the way, if you want that beer, go ahead.  It will do just fine with the steaks. 

That goes for you ladies as well– unless, you’re sipping some vintage Bollinger.  In which case, I’ll see you at halftime.

An Eagles cheerleader in a bikini on the beach.
With Love from the City of Brotherly Love: A sandbox any of us would want to play in. Pass the Bubbly, please!

 

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Posted September 9, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

Ruffino Modus 2007   1 comment

The House of Ruffino is one of the best established names in wine in the world.  Founded in the 1870’s by the Ruffino cousins, Ilario and Leopoldo, by 1913, lacking any male heirs to continue the business, they sold out to the Folonari family.  Ruffino is a name that has become nearly synonymous with Chianti and the straw bottle cliché.  That changed in the 1970’s as the traditional bottle was abandoned for a more modern (and patented) “Florentine” bottle.

The Modus Brand was introduced in 1997– a moment when Super Tuscans were very well established in the market place.  A short history of the Super Tuscan: 

In 1968 Azienda Agricola San Felice produced the first ever “Super Tuscan” called Vigorello, and in the 1970s Piero Antinori, whose family had been making wine for more than 600 years, also decided to make a richer wine by eliminating the white grapes from the Chianti blend, and instead adding Bordeaux varietals (namely, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).  He was inspired by a little-known (at the time) Cabernet Sauvignon made by relatives called Sassicaia, which openly flouted the rules set down for traditional wines in Tuscany.  The result was one of the first Super Tuscans, which he named Tignanello, after the vineyard where the grapes were grown.  Other winemakers started experimenting with Super Tuscan blends of their own shortly thereafter.   Today, a Super Tuscan from a good producer can easily cost $100 plus.  If you want to check out a more comprehensive history of the Super Tuscans, click on the link:  http://www.intowine.com/italys-super-tuscan-wines-history-recommendations 

Ruffino Modus 2007 ($37).  Modestly priced (by Super Tuscan standards) this blend of 50%Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Merlot, wine pours out in a dark robe.  Earthy and leathery notes as well as dark bitter chocolate and espresso mixed with unripe black plum/blueberry flavors intermingle on the palate.  While this wine had a long finish, I found its extraction heavy to distraction.  Whatever the vinification manipulations employed, it appears that the character and freshness of the Sangiovese fruit was sacrificed to the more brooding flavors absorbed from the small oak barriques used in the aging of this wine.  To quote Ms. R, “It’s good, but not for THAT price!”  Given her economical style of expression, I should just let her write these reviews.  Rated **   
 
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Posted September 4, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love