Posted on | March 26, 2015 | Written by David Bertot | No Comments
Some of the first wines I ever fell in love with were Cabernet Sauvignon blends from California. When these wines hold their fruit, structure, and alcohol in balance, they can be excellent. Four and a half years ago my love affair for Italian wines was enhanced by joining the IWM team, so truthfully I haven’t focused on Californian wines much as of late.
Recently my wife and I enjoyed a lovely visit from my in-laws. My father-in-law loves California Cabernets, and they gave us a gift of Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace from the 1997 vintage. What better way to celebrate than opening this bottle for a big Sunday night family dinner? It was a hit! We started the evening with extremely thinly sliced pieces of Jamon Iberico Pata Negra de Bellota along with 2 sheep’s milk cheeses. The main course was pa- seared porterhouse steak with roasted potatoes and sautéed asparagus. After decanting the wine for about 1.5 hours, the wine evolved nicely throughout the course of the meal. Red Rock Terrace refers to Diamond Creek’s seven-acre parcel of north-facing Cabernet Sauvignon vines in northern Napa. The wine was rich, balanced, and velvety in texture while displaying flavors of cherry, leather, and dusty tannins. With 12.5% alcohol, it’s all about balance.
Recipe for porterhouse:
• Buy the best possible porterhouse steak at your local butcher.
• Finish in 500-degree oven until you have an internal temperature of 125. Let the steaks “rest” in aluminum foil for 10 minutes, and they will naturally reach a perfect internal temperature of 130 to 135 degrees.
• To make the Beurre Noir sauce, deglaze the pan with half a bottle of neutral, red wine, making sure to get all the little burnt bits from the bottom. Add a chopped shallot and few sprigs of thyme and reduce by half over medium low heat while the steak are resting. Finish the sauce by taking off heat, straining, and whisking in 3-4 pats of cold butter. Serve immediately with slices of meat.
The French 75 is one of the iconic cocktails created by the great, Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. Harry is credited with creating scores of cocktails as well as some of the first cocktail recipe books. The French 75, named after the 75mm field gun used by the French army, has a few incarnations, and variations on the French 75 can include cognac, sloe gin, or St. Germain. The original recipe, written down in “Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails,” calls for gin, lemon, a little simple, served in a Highball glass over ice. The Savoy Cocktail book claims a recipe of gin, powdered sugar, and lemon juice, tall over ice. In today’s bar scene, however, you would be hard pressed to find a gin-based French 75 in anything other than a champagne flute.
I think the French 75 combines the best of spirits drinking into one glass: floral and botanical notes from the gin, a healthy dose of acidity from the lemon, and the beautiful sparkling mousse from the champagne. Taking the French 75 to Italy is an easy jump. As in any cocktail, the ingredients are key, and they don’t need to be traditional. Finding the elements of the cocktail and creating a balance is the linchpin to a successful variation. I like to play with Prosecco, Limoncello, a hefty grappa, and even amortized wines such as Cocchi Americano—Italian sprits and liquors that lend themselves to the bright, acidic, and citrus flavors of lemon and gin.
It’s important to remember that the base of the cocktail is the mixing of the spirit and the citrus; therefore, playing with the balance and the strength of the two is the way to find your ideal French 75. Also, don’t forget the sweeting element—a French 75 should always have a bit of simple syrup, sugar, or sweet liquor to create a even keel between the acid and the spirit. This can be a straight simple syrup, a flavored syrup, powdered sugar, agave or even a sweet liquor. My favorite Italian variation of the French 75 uses gin, Limoncello, lemon juice and Prosecco. The viscous, boozy Limoncello adds a zesty punch and a bit of weight to the original cocktail, and it eliminates the need for added sugar. For a lighter more refreshing twist, try replacing the sweeting agent with Cocchi Americano. This will decrease sweetness while imparting more complex finish.
The effervescent and elegant element of the 75 is the sparkling wine. Arguably the only true “French” aspect of the cocktail, champagne helped a basic cocktail become a refined and inspirational drink. These days you can choose your bubbles from across the world—Cava from Spain, Prosecco from Italy, sparkling wine from Australia or the Americas. Each will impart the exciting sparkle required, but each will also give an extra flavor profile to the drink. My preference is to stay dry, a nice brut champagne is usually a go-to choice, but Prosecco is a more cost effective and, sometimes, a more flavorful substitute.
Building the French 75 is important. As in all cocktails, start with the least expensive ingredient first; in a shaker start with the sweeting element (unless you’re using the Limoncello, option, in which case add it later) add the citrus juice and spirit (gin, cognac, vodka). Shake vigorously, strain and pour in the glass. Gently pour the bubbly on top, careful not to fizz or over fill. Take your garnish, a twist of your citrus is the best choice, and rub it around the rim before placing it on top of the bubbly. You can build your 75 in a champagne flute, coupe, or highball glass. Don’t try to pre-batch this cocktail because you will lose the bubbles.
Here are a few of my favorite recipe variations:
The French 75
3/4oz Lemon juice
¼ oz Simple Syrup
1 oz London Dry Gin
Shake lemon, simple, and gin Champagne flute with a twist
Long Italian 75
1 oz Vodka
½ oz Lemon Juice
Shake limoncello with vodka, and lemon juice, pour into a tall glass over ice, add a twist
Sloe Gin 75
3/4oz Lemon juice
1 tsp Powdered sugar
1.5 oz Hayman’s Sloe Gin
Mix the powdered sugar with the lemon, shake with the sloe gin and pour into your glass of choice. Layer with the Cava.
If you loved this Italian twist on a classic drink, don’t miss Julia’s post on Negroni.
Bordeaux was in force recently in New York City with an all-day tasting and an evening black-tie bacchanal in the magnificent Saint Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue. The following day Sotheby’s Auction House hosted another Bordeaux tasting and dinner. This weekend in Bordeaux over 3,000 members of the trade and press will descend on the region for a week long tasting of barrel samples of the 2014 vintage known as “en Primeur.” Today, I’ve decided to return to my wine roots. I’ve chosen two great Bordeaux; one is a Sauternes from Château Rieussec, and the other is a Saint-Émilion from Château Bélair-Monange.
Château Rieussec has been a leading wine in Sauternes for over 150 years. In the eighteenth century, the Rieussec estate belonged to the Carmelite monks. The estate was confiscated during the French Revolution and sold at a public sale around 1790. In 1855 it was classified as a Premier Grand Cru Classé, receiving its ranking in part due to the quality of the soil and terroir. In 1984 Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) acquired Château Rieussec, and at that time, the estate then consisted of 272 acres, with 168 acres planted to the vine. An extensive new cellar was built in 1989 to further extend the ageing period in barrels and consequently enhance the quality. The quantities of the Grand Vin were reduced. In 2000, further renovations of the cellar took place with construction of a fermentation room. Recent releases have garnered high praise from wine critics.
Château Bélair Saint-Émilion 1er Grand Cru Classé, located in the village of Saint-Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is owned by the dynamic father-and-son winemaking team of Christian and Edouard Moueix. The pair is closely associated with some of Bordeaux’s most successful wines, like Pétrus and Château Trotanoy of Pomerol and Château Magdelaine, a Saint-Émilion 1er Grand Cru Classé. They also have one of California’s great wines, Dominus of Napa Valley. This historic property, based in the dead center of Saint-Émilion, has been producing wines since the mid 1300’s. In 2008 Château Belair was sold in its entirety to J-P Ets. Moueix. After the sale, Château Belair name was changed to Belair-Monage, which was chosen by Christian Moueix, in the memory of Anne-Adèle Monange. In 2012 the Moueixs officially merged Château Magdelaine into Bélair-Monange to create Château Belair-Monange St. Émilion, Premier Grand Cru Classé B, one of the great wines of Bordeaux. Château Belair Monage increased its holding and size in 2012 following the 2012 Classification of St. Émilion.
Château Rieussec is a blend of 92 % Sémillon, 5% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Muscadelle. The 2010 growing season had its ups and downs for the sweet white category. For the reds it was perfect, but for the sweet whites it was more challenging. Up to mid June there was fairly high amount of rainfall, causing unevenness during the flowering and leading to uneven grape size. July through September was very dry with superb daytime temperatures and cool nights, which was perfect for slow ripening of the grapes. One consequence of the dry weather was smaller grapes and a reduction in volume. A classic textbook Sauternes of deep, bright yellow, this ’10 wine has a floral nose with beautiful scents that nicely integrated with the wood and fruit. Its palate is all about finesse and elegance with an incredible freshness, complexity and concentration. It has a long finish with gorgeous long flavors of exotic fruits, spice, and honey.
The extraordinary Bordeaux 2009 vintage was a stellar success at Château Bélair -Monange. The Moueixs began the 2009 harvest with a strict selection in the vineyard, reducing yields and picking later. The Moueixs introduce optical sorting with an end result of allowing them to choose the riper fruit for eventual fermentation. Consequently, the 2009 Belair-Monange is a richer, more concentrated, complex and fleshier wine than previous vintages. A beautiful ruby red, this wine has a nose that bursts with red plums, black raspberries, cherries, mocha, and dark chocolate; it’s smoky, spicy, earthy, and just lovely. On the palate, the wine is medium-full bodied with explosive flavors of ripe, pure red and dark fruits. Seductive with a lush texture, this is a wine made for the ages, built to last for 40 years—it’s a real treasure!
I knew that Dolcetto had many DOCG regions—it has seven, to be exact, and I knew that always enjoy Dolcetto as an everyday drinker, so I was excited to try the Quinto Chionetti San Luigi Dolcetto di Dogliani 2010. Dolcettos are among my favorite go-to wines at home because of their versatility. I always say that if you are invited to a dinner and do not know what is being served, bring a Dolcetto, and you should be fine as they pair well with so many varieties of foods.
The name Dolcetto means “little sweet one” in Italian, and along with Nebbiolo and Barbera it is one of Piemonte’s signature grapes. Evidence suggests that this grape has been growing in Piemonte for centuries and it’s traditionally produced as a light (both in color and weight) table wine that you’re meant to drink one to two years after release. The wines made from Dolcetto are known for a light purple color, and its low tannins that make them easy to drink. Depending on which DOC they come from you can find black cherry and licorice with some prune flavors, light cherry, raspberry—sometimes jammy—with hints of spice. And while the name implies a sweet wine there is nothing sweet about them. They are normally dry wines.
I found that the Quinto Chionetti fits with the recent the trend is for bold Dolcetto versions made from grapes that have been given a longer hang time to amplify their power and age-worthiness. This trend now gives us two distinct Dolcetto styles: a traditional light style as well as a big, concentrated style. While traditional styles are light purple in color with low tannins, the modern styles are much darker in color with heavier body, blackberry, dark cherry, black currant, prunes, licorice, coffee and dark chocolate. The Quinto Chionetti San Luigi Dolcetto di Dogliani 2010 was an intense ruby color with purple reflections. The nose had warm pleasant aroma of berries, currants, spice and mineral with a slight herbal tone mixed with perfume and flowers. The palate was full with great freshness and balance, as well as good weight, offering fruit, followed by some dusty earth, herbs, a nice minirality and somewhat chewy tannins. This wine is joy that will make you rediscover the grape all over again.
Quinto Chionetti, whose name has become synonymous of the Dolcetto di Dogliani, is 83 years old; he’s essentially the soul of the estate and is known as a laborious winemaker who is loyal to tradition and is respectful of his land. He followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, who made wine since the beginning of the 20th century (1912), gaining reputation for their quality wine resulting from low yields and rigorous selections. Like his forefathers, Quinto makes his wines are from high altitude, organic vines and only natural yeast.
Widely considered the highest, purest Dolcetto expression, Dolcetto from the Dogliani was elevated to DOCG status and grown to the virtual exclusion of other varieties. Dolcetto di Dogliani (also labeled simply “Dogliani”) is dark and low-yielding; it’s picked later and super-selected. It’s concentrated, with weight and structure that is foreign to other Dolcettos. It’s a wine that can be mouth puckering and tight, but with a bit of time in the cellar, you get a satisfying, rich, chunky, vigorous wine that offers a new, surprising side that you would not imagine from Dolcetto. This certainly was my experience when I tasted the San Luigi Dolcetto Dogliani 2010–and for under $28, it can be yours too!
Spring is here, and it’s time to break out the rosé and decadent whites that are exhilarating, distinctive and sublime! Transitional seasons like spring and fall call for rich whites, so today I am reaching for two delicious offerings from California. Although we have a great selection of wines from Italy, France and Spain, we have a few special gems in our cellar that hail from bit closer to home.
First is the family-owned boutique estate Kistler. Located in Northern California’s wine producing region of Sonoma County, Kistler produces ten different vineyard-designated bottlings, all of which offer their own personality and character. The second comes from Sine Qua Non, another highly sought-after cult estate and a contender for one of the most unique winery programs, focusing primarily on Rhône grape varietals. Winemaker Manfred Krankl feels strongly that each vintage makes a completely unique wine; thus he gives each wine a unique name. He also creates the artwork for each new label himself. The wines are made in tiny quantities each year, bearing a whimsical name that tells a story about the inspiration behind each wine.
This ’13 Sonoma Mountain is a full-bodied wine with balanced acidity and a dusting of minerality to offset its rich fruit. You’ll find delicious flavors of peach and vanilla, with buttery brioche notes and subtle aromas of white flowers.
A blend of 30% Roussanne, 40% Chardonnay, and 30% Viognier, this ’98 is rich and viscous, offering flavors of white peaches, honeyed apricots, coconut, and exotic fruits with high pitched aromatics with notes of lemon, lime, petrol and apples. Golden in color, the wine still offers surprisingly lively acidity for its richness and massive power.
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