Archive for October 2011

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills (H3) Cabernet Sauvignon 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 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.  

This was another tough week.  What a I do to pay the bills and to fund the wine habit as well as recent focus on slimming down forced me to delay the Wednesday review.   But here, on a Friday, I am.  I decided to review a widely available Columbia Crest wine today.  I also asked Ms. R to give her comments on this.  Certainly, the price is right.   

Columbia Crest Horse Heaven Hills (H3) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($11).   Very shallow nose with a slight grapey dustiness.  Simple ripe cherry flavors.  On the finish there are tannins to lend structure.  On a retasting the next day, I found that some herbal flavors started to emerge.  But from my perspective, the wine is flawed because of its lack of acidity.  Ms. R says, “This is bringing nothing to the table.  I can see teenagers drinking this and getting off on it.”  I hate to admit it– I have created a Frankenstein.  But in the end, I agree with her assessment if not her sentiments.  Turn my nose up at it if offered to me?  No.  Buy it again?  No.  Rated * 1/2

Happy Halloween Everyone!

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Posted October 28, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Olivier LeFlaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles 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 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.  

Another Wednesday?  Back from the gym and showered and feeling thinner, it was time to celebrate a bit.  I’ve been told that I shouldn’t deprive myself too much.  Like that’s a real problem.  So, I looked over the recent acquisitions from my local wine merchant.  Last week we went for the almost Bordeaux from Northern Italy.  Today, we get to try a widely available Burgundian white from a biodynamic producer.   My Sybarite-in-Training served me some thinly sliced quince with manchego.

 Olivier LeFlaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles 2009 ($15).   On the nose we get some clean florals leading to flavors of apricot and quince.  Mineral sensations finish this off with a pleasing citrus-like acidity.  In summary, a nice quaffing and tasty white that is great to serve with a simple appetizer.   Rated **

Just in case you were thinking it, this producer, as far as I know, is no relation to Flavor Flav.

Raw Quince & Manchego Slices

Do you really need instructions for this?  It’s a great combo– try it.  OK serve some salted pistachios on the side and call it a day.  It’s all good!

© Sybarite Sauvage 

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Posted October 19, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

Red Wine with Fish: Can we all get along?   Leave a comment

With all due apologies to Rodney King this is one question that many people don’t really struggle with simply because they follow their initial inclination to reach for that bottle of white.  And that usually works out pretty well.    So why mess with success?

Let’s first try to understand why do we do that.  There is the worn out cliché that whites should be paired with fish and reds with meat.  I have fallen victim to this thinking– truthfully, there’s a little guy inside my head who bangs the drum for the white wine when aromas of fish seep from the kitchen.  But, this seems so, what’s the word, prejudiced?  And yet, who hasn’t had the experience of drinking a red wine that unfavorably enhances the fishiness of seafood? 

So why bother with reds?  Well, while I enjoy the whites, I am not always in the mood for white even if I am having seafood.  Also, not all whites do well with fish– think rich whites or buttery California Chardonnay.  Having had some really pleasant experiences with red wine and fish, it’s time to think about what makes a red wine compatible with fish.  In my experience, I have come across some combinations that really work.  The first was suggested to me by good friend, B the Elder: Salmon & Pinot Noir.  A second, by trial and error on my part: Garnacha and Tilapia, a white fish.   A third, I wrote about back in June (https://sybaritesauvage.com/2011/06/09/no-guilt-wednesday-aia-vecchia-lagone-2007/) is smoked trout with a Tuscan blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Still another suggested by another friend, who is very partial to Chilean Carmenere, is fresh tuna– the “other red meat”.  I personally have not tried that, but it does show promise. 

So how to identify red wines that would pair well with fish?  A couple of thoughts:

Acidity.  I think a key component in matching a red wine to fish is a key element in all good white wines– acidity.  The Pinots that I enjoy the most, have that.  Certainly, the Garnacha has that as well.  My guess is that Barberas would also fit the bill.  Cabernets– probably not so much.  Not that some of these don’t have acidity, but not with the same level of intensity as the first mentioned varietals.

Geography.  A second hint that a red wine would work with fish is geography: Red wines that are produced where seafood is abundant are more likely to match up well with the local cuisine.   The two examples cited above (Pinot Noir & Garnacha) fit the bill.  In the case of each of these two suggested combinations, geographic coincidences suggest that the combinations would work.  Whether by design or accident, I can’t say.  Much of the best salmon comes from the Pacific Northwest, home to extraordinary Pinots.  It would be natural, would it not, to seek to marry two crucial elements of that local culinary scene together.  And the result is magical.  But what about my recent discovery that Cannonau (aka, Garnacha) from Sardinia plays well with tilapia.  (see https://sybaritesauvage.com/2011/08/19/sella-mosca-cannonau-di-sardegna-riserva-2007/)  Now it seems that tilapia were originally found in freshwater areas of the Mediterranean. The fish were raised for food in ancient Egypt and have long been a staple of Mediterranean cuisine.  Now, I can’t say based on this that Tilapia was consumed in Sardinia, but clearly, fish is a chief component of the Sardinian diet.   

But as I did a little bit of research for this posting, I came across a couple of examples worth trying even if they don’t neatly fit into the two guidelines I set forth above.  One stood out as worthy of experimentation Merlot with tuna or monkfish.  The combination with tuna is especially appealing given tuna’s meat-like qualities.  Mmmmm, to be continued… 

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Posted October 17, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Wine Etiquette

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Maculan Brentino 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.  

Last night I had a good friend and colleague over for dinner.  He does not make it over to the states often, so I wanted to make sure that it would be memorable.  Being English, he is a lover of fine clarets.  And we had that, indeed– a 2000 Chateau Duhart-Milon from Pauillac– a Grand Cru Classé from Domaine Barons de Rothschild (Lafite).  Now that’s not our usual mid-week fare, I grant you, but when moments with good mates are rare, you have to take advantage.  The conversation shifted from our work to talk of family, kitchen renovations (his house, wife and children are currently smothered in dust), rugby and cricket.  Half-way through, Ms. R joined us for a glass or two.  The Duhart-Milon was a beautiful pairing with our gorgeous medium rare filet mignon and two side dishes.   One of those sides is was brussels sprouts– which can be challenging to cook in a way that brings out the flavorful nuttiness that it harbors without the heaviness of flavor that dark green vegetables can sometimes have.  I decided a two-step cooking process was called for– steaming to provide moisture and ensure they are fully cooked followed by a saute over medium heat for carmelization and finished with a little bit of Dijon mustard added at the end of the cooking to enhance and bring out the natural flavor of this magnificent vegetable.  Ms. R, not normally a fan of Brussels sprouts, loved these. 

This worked so well, that I offer this simple preparation for the next time Bordeaux or Bordeaux-style blends are on the menu.  And speaking of Bordeaux blends…

Maculan Brentino 2008

Maculan Brentino 2008 ($11.50).   Today’s wine is a far more affordable Bordeaux style blend from Veneto, in Northern Italy.  55% Merlot and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, this little wine surprised with its finesse.  Fruit, yes, but not so much to overwhelm.  But let’s start at the beginning.  Medium bodied and with a hint of sweet spice on the nose that the belies bright cherry and pomegranate flavors.  It seemed more Cab than Merlot.  The tannins, while soft, still lent support to the overall experience of the wine, though it was the acid that brought the right amount of balance.  The finish, though medium in length, was still satisfying.  Rated ** 1/2

 

Brussels Sprouts Dijonnaise

Ingredients

  • 10 Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and cut lengthwise in half
  • 2 Tbsps EVOO
  • 2 Tbsps Unsweetened Butter
  • 1 1/2 Tbsps. Dijon Mustard

Procedures

  1. Steam Brussels sprouts until cooked through, but not mushy.  They should still retain their bright green coloration.
  2. Place the sprouts in a bath of ice water to stop the cooking process and set the green color and strain
  3. Warm up the oil and butter in a large saute pan and once melted add the sprouts cut side down.  Cook over medium heat for a few moments until carmelization occurs.
  4. Stir in the Dijon Mustard and remove from heat to avoid burning the mustard.
  5. Serve alongside any meat or fowl.

Serves 4

© Sybarite Sauvage 

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Posted October 12, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday

The Accidental Winemaker   Leave a comment

Not all of us who love fine wine are so fortunate to have come to it early in our lives.  We don’t have the advantage of having it presented as part of our everyday cultural experience.  We don’t get to grow up amongst the vines, with the vineyard as our playground.  But many of us, who come to love wine, have had that seminal moment when wine begins to reveal itself to us in a oenological strip-tease of sorts.  Starting with sweeter wines, usually.  My first memory of wine, for example, came as a child at Christmas time when my grandmother, who was never really a drinker, would down a small tumbler of Manischewitz concord grape wine while preparing Christmas dinner.   Don’t ask what a nice devout Roman Catholic lady was doing drinking a Kosher wine at Christmas– I have no idea how that started.  What I can tell you is that somehow, that bottle of very sweet juice, appeared at the Holiday table every year (complements of one of my Schaeffer-swilling uncles, no doubt) with greater regularity than Santa Claus himself.  And while we were not encouraged to drink it, somehow, my cousins and I always found a way to garner a few sips of that childhood nectar for ourselves.  That, it turns out, was a gentler introduction to wine than Ntsiki Biyela had.  

This lady with the lovely smile is Ntsiki Biyela, a South African winemaker who found herself making wine by happenstance.  Borne and raised in Zululand in the village of Kwa Nondlovu, Ntsiki (pronounced n-SEE-kee), short for Nontsikelelo, had no wine pedigree whatsoever.  Yet despite these odds, in 2004 she has found herself as the winemaker for Stellekaya after studying oenology at Stellenbosch University.  She has been named the Landbouweekblad Woman Winemaker of the year.   

Her story is an unusual one: She grew up as other young village girls did, performing daily chores like fetching and gathering firewood from a distant forest.  She also studied in a poorly equipped rural school.  After doing well in secondary school she was given an opportunity to study winemaking on a scholarship.  Seizing the chance to do something that wasn’t even part of her culture must have taken a tremendous leap of faith, not to mention bravery.  It must also have been startling for her given that she was disgusted by her first taste of wine– a dry one at that.  (I can only imagine that she may have been expecting a taste of that sweet nectar from my childhood.)  But as she became more familiar with it, it is clear that she had found her calling.  

After graduating from Stellenbosch, she was recruited to be the winemaker at Stellekaya, an established winery.  Rather than staying with the more traditional South African approach to red wines with pronounced wood flavors, she tries to produce wine that showcase the fruit in the most elegant way possible. 

I have been in touch with her recently and have learned that she is traveling in Italy where she is learing the Italian approach to Sangiovese based blends at the Tuscan winery, Petra.  She tells me that she has fallen in love with this most Italian of varietals and that she has been able to identify some similarities between the Italian versions and her South African version.  It will be interesting to see how the differences that she is able to experience will translate into her winemaking on her return home.  That kind of learning can only result in production of even better wines in her hands.   The Stellekaya winery, by the way, produces its own Sangiovese-Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend called Hercules.   

An amusing anecdote in from a recent newspaper profile of her illustrate the humility of her approach to winemaking and appreciation:
 

The vocabulary of the wine world sometimes amuses her.  At one tasting, she listened to the connoisseurs as they detected the intricate flavors.

“One is saying, ‘I am picking up hints of cassis,’ and another is saying, ‘I can smell truffles,’ ” she recalled.  “I probably shouldn’t have done this, but I said what I was smelling was cow dung.”

She did not use those words to be mean, she said.  In one of her two worlds, cow dung is used to make floors and walls.  “It’s a smell I grew up with.  I didn’t grow up with truffles.”

 We are blessed to have such gifted and motivated people in the cellars.   

 
 
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Posted October 6, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in Food-Wine-Love

No-Guilt Wednesday Wine: Gretzky Estates Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005   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.  

Wayne Gretzky is not a wine guy.  He will be the first to tell you so.  No matter, he put his name (and number) on the bottles.  His rep is on the line.  And he does not need to worry that this will embarrass him.  Originally, set at a retail price of $30 per bottle (with $1 dollar going to fund Gretzky’s foundation to connect kids and sports), you may ask, what is this doing on No-Guilt Wednesday?  Simple– got it at an almost giveaway price.

Gretzky Estates Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($9).  This has a candy-like quality on the nose with a hint of something chocolate as well.  This is new world, fruit forward, ripe red cherry with pomegranate bits, quite drinkable, easy and a little fleshy.  A sweet spiciness on the finish with a little peppery sensation that catches in the throat every few sips.  Acidity adds backbone but the tannins were too soft to make this truly interesting.  Forget about aging this– it is built for drinking right at this moment.  This is better than merely good, but is definitely not in the very good category.  Good value for the dollar.  Rated ** 1/2

Some people hate shopping for food.  For us, it is an opportunity to explore new ingredients.  The supermarket is fine for our everyday needs.  But a good weekend farmers market can bring pure magic.  This week’s new ingredient is rainbow chard.  It looks so beautiful, who wouldn’t want to eat it?  Sautéed in a little peanut oil with shallot and garlic it formed an earthy filling for our panko-dill crusted chicken breasts.   Served with a celeriac root puree and an heirloom tomato salad.  What will we find at the market next week?  Wait and see…

Rainbow Chard Stuffed Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Rainbow Chard
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 large garlic clove 
  • 2 tbsps. lightly flavored peanut oil (not strongly flavored roasted peanut oil)
  • 4 chicken breast halves
  • 3 tablespoons, EVOO
  • 1/2 cup Panko Bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsps. fresh chopped dill

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Saute the chard, garlic and shallot in 2 tbsps. of peanut oil; when wilted, turn off heat, separate out into four roughly equal portions and set aside.
  3. Make three length-wise cuts on the underside of each chicken breast half: one in the middle being careful not to cut all the way through and two on each side of the channel created by the first cut.  The idea is to be able to stuff the chard into the crevices created by these cuts and then enclose the chard filling within the half-breast.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the sautéed chard into the cavity of each breast and wrap around to enclose the chard.  Set aside.
  5. Place olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat.
  6. While the oil is heating up, mix the panko with the dill in a shallow bowl and roll each piece of chicken in the panko-dill mixture.
  7. Place breasts (cut side down) in the now hot saute pan and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Move the pan into the hot oven and cook for 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 175°– the bread crumbs should be golden brown on top. 
  9. Top with fresh dill for garnish, if desired.

© Sybarite Sauvage

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Posted October 5, 2011 by Sybarite Sauvage in No-Guilt Wednesday