Thursday, January 29, 2009

is it german, or is it french? let's split the difference

The wonderful area of Alsace has a beautiful controversial history... (click here to continue)

Organic wine & food matching: Gemtree Shiraz & Korean style barbecued shortribs

Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner. Contact Randy at
left, Gemtree's Melissa Buttery and Mike Brown

While organic or biodynamic wines coming out of Australia have been far and between, the movement does exist Down Under; and certification agencies such as Australian Certified Organic (ACO), Demeter in Australia’s Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI), and National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia (NASAA) have recently stepped up activities, with a number of leading producers (such as Henschke, Burge Family, Elderton, Noon, Wirra Wirra and M. Chapoutier Australia) making the transition to chemical-free, sustainable grape growing as we speak.

In the meantime, a perfectly delicious, biodynamically grown Australian red – the 2007 Gemtree Tadpole Shiraz (about $16) – has been popping up in markets across the U.S., and it has all the deep, black, bouncy, lush fruitiness Shiraz lovers look for in their reds; including an intense nose, suggesting raspberry liqueur, boysenberry jam and a veneer of vanillin oak, plus a soft medium-full body underlined by easy tannins, allowing the Shiraz fruit to gush forth and pleasure the palate.

The intensity of the Gemtree Shiraz is part and parcel of its McLaren Vale terroir; and indeed, for many years the stellar grapes from this 330 acre estate went into cuvées bottled by top brands like Rosemount. The transition from grower to producer started in 1994, when Melissa Buttery, daughter of founders Paul and Jill Buttery, joined the family business as a viticulturist, followed a few years later by Melissa’s boyfriend-turned-husband, Mike Brown, who happened to be an accomplished winemaker.

Always the keen environmentalist, it was Melissa who turned Gemtree towards organic and biodynamic viticulture. Not stopping there, in 1998 she initiated Gemtree Wetlands: taking twenty-five acres in the middle of the property and establishing it as a wetlands preserve in joint venture partnership with the nonprofit group, Greening Australia (South Australia). This arduous, long term project has involved the planting of some 20,000 native trees and shrubs, and the building of six interlinking dams to help regenerate the region and establish a haven for native frogs, birds and animals, while contributing to the self-sustaining aspects of the vineyard.

Korean Style Barbecued Shortribs (Kalbi)

The biggest plus about a good, sturdy, juicy Shiraz is that its dense fruitiness always lends itself to Asian style barbecued meats like no other wine can. A perfect match every time, for instance, is the Korean style of barbecued beef shortribs known as kalbi. In Hawai’i, where I grew up, no self-respecting hibachi homeboy or local take-out joint can make it without mastering the art of Korean barbecue. The good news is that it’s not that difficult, it can be done anywhere, and the fact that this toothsome cut of beef, in moderately sweetened, garlic and sesame seasoned, soy sauce based marinades, tastes absolutely delicious with a lusciously spiced Shiraz.

Everyone in the Islands has his/her own variation (or “secrets”) of kalbi, but here is a good, basic recipe to start with:

3 lbs. English cut (thick) beef shortribs, scored

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup sesame oil
¼ cup sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
3 stalks green onions, minced
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Combine marinade ingredients and pour over shortribs in zip-lock plastic bag (or in shallow Pyrex sealed with plastic wrap); marinate overnight in refrigerator. Broil (or grill) 8-10 minutes on each side until desired doneness.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rare wines since 1860 avaliable for sale.

What about that???Exclusive wine "treasure" collections now for sale!

Rare collections of old wines dated since the 1860 located on spot are now available...
All bottles are kept in temperature ranging from 57.2 to 62.6 Fahrenheit,humidity 68-75% at the underground space of our cellar.None of the bottles has suffered from level loss,which is a phenomenon seen on bottles over 20-25 years.Bottles are kept in zero to no light and absent of sounds.It is on buyers hands to know how to treat to a wine like those, from the time he receives it,people who got the knowledge on old wines will appreciate those "treasures" from wine houses across the world.

Prices range from 400-1600Euros
1860 Bottle price upon request

Do not hesitate to ask for your collectible "treasure"

Ode to French Bubbles

In keeping with my promise of yesterday's pie blog... I bring you my ode to French Bubbles, or rather Champagne (click here to continue)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

National Pie Day!.. mmm Pie!

Today is National Pie Day, and in celebration a recipe, and some ideas for making it wine friendly (click here to continue)

Organic wine match of the day: Maysara Jamsheed Pinot Noir & Szechuan baby back ribs

Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner. You can reach Randy anytime at

When Oregon’s “Papa Pinot,” the recently departed David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards, planted his first vineyard in 1965, he settled in the Dundee Hills just south, towards west, of Portland, where deep, red clay soils on bedrocks of basalt have yielded the type of gentle yet generous, red berryish, fruit driven red wines that have come epitomize Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

During the past twenty-five years, a number of other little pockets of Willamette Valley have been successfully planted by winemakers, five of which have been identified as sufficiently unique to merit their own official AVA (American Viticultural Region) designation. Among those “other” regions: the McMinnville AVA, located a good twenty miles southwest of the Dundee Hills AVA; closer to the Pacific’s maritime influence, and tucked into coastal mountain hillsides where slightly dryer weather and brighter days are offset by cooler nights and significantly shallower soils than that of Dundee.

From this emerging AVA, McMinnville’s 2006 Maysara Jamsheed Pinot Noir (about $27) stands out as a slightly “different” style of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: more aggressive, slightly steelier in acid, and more structured in terms of tannin and glycerol than the pretty, fruit driven Dundee Hills wines of old. Yet this is still a cold climate Oregonian, and so the Maysara shares the plump, juicy, wild berry traits of the finest Willamette Valley Pinot Noirs. The meager soils, however, also yield a more pronounced anise and clove-like spiciness in the nose; in the '06, becoming more pepperminty and green leafy/herbal on the palate, intertwined with muscular tannins and almost sweet, marionberry jam-like flavors.

While the Maysara’s intensity is a direct reflection of McMinnville’s terroir, another major factor is the low-impact winemaking and biodynamic viticulture practiced with great devotion by Maysara proprietor, Moe Momtazi (Moe's daughter, winemaker Tahmiene Momtazi, pictured right). It was, in fact, the attraction of staking out a somewhat remote, 532 acre, abandoned wheat farm, free from chemicals for at least seven years, that first attracted Momtazi to the Maysara site in 1997. Explaining why he opted for the holistic approach of biodynamics on the Maysara Web site, Momtazi says that “while organics share the biological agriculture background and methods, it stops short of the dynamic processes, or life force of the farm… biodynamics recognizes and responds to the life force of the living farm, considering the farm a living organism.” Hence, the increased sense of place you can’t help but taste in a Maysara.

Maybe it goes back to when I was a kid and loved to crash my O-gauge Lionel train through redwood Lincoln Log walls, but what I like to do with Pinot Noirs like the Maysara, with its collision of wild, zesty flavors, is match it with Asian or fusion styles of dishes with their own collisions of sensations; like the following reworking of Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Szechuan style baby back ribs. Don’t sweat the hoisin and chili paste – the hot, vinegary, sweet spices actually accentuate the fruit and star anise-like spiciness of the Maysara, and there is plenty enough tannin in the wine to absorb the fattiness of the ribs and the char from the grill. Have fun…

4½ lbs. baby back ribs (3 slabs)
2 cups hoisin sauce
2 tbsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. minced ginger
2 tbsp. Sriracha (Thai chili sauce; available in all Asian grocers)
½ cup honey

Cut rib slabs in half and place in a large pot of boiling water. Slow boil 90 minutes, or until tender (meat will shrink down from top of bone to at least half inch). Remove from water and let stand 10 minutes.

To make marinade, combine remaining ingredients and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 450 degress. Brush ribs on both sides with marinade. Place on a rack on top of a cookie sheet in the oven. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until shiny. Remove and cool. Cut into pieces and brush with more marinade. Grill on a hibachi or charcoal grill until hot. Serves six, and is particularly great with fresh, steaming white rice!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Value Pinot Noir- Review of '07 Greenstone Point

'07 Greenstone Point, Pinot Noir, New Zealand. I tried this at one of the Wine Mine Saturday tastings. And after trying a sip, I scrounged till I found it. For only $4.99, it was a fun easy drinking pinot. Starting out, it had pretty aromas, plum and red fruit. The flavors were also very tasty with lots of cherry, berries and a slight tang. This wine had an interesting mouthfeel that seemed almost, right on the edge, but not quite spritzy when I first opened it. With the convenience of a screw top, I was able to recap, leave on the counter overnight, and when I revisited the wine the next day, it had smoothed out with lots more bright cherry flavors and a smoother mouthfeel. Plus, hello? QPR off the chart! For a nice, easy drinking pinot noir, this was a fabulous value. It's hard to find a glass of tasty pinot noir for that price. $4.99 is less than the tax on other pinots I have. Grab this and enjoy it right away if you find it!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why "The Quiz" led me here

I discovered The Wine Hub when a colleague sent me a link to "The Quiz". Duh duh duh duuuuhhhhh........ You would have to understand, I am about as competitive as anyone that is trying to achieve the title Master Sommelier can be. I am eligible to sit the exam to become a Master Sommelier this year but will wait until 2010 to start the process when I, hopefully, will be readier that I am today.

And on that fateful day when I saw "The Quiz" in my in-box, it was as if Ivan Pavlov were there in my office trying to "investigate my psychic secretion", thereby making me salivate with just the mere suggestion of "The Quiz".
Well I did (salivate that is) and now I am hooked! Trust me, when I open up my e-mail every Tuesday and I see the link to "The New Quiz" it totally takes precedence over anything work, business or family related. To quote Monty Python, "Must...take..quiz..."

In addition to discovering "The Quiz", 2008 / 2009 has been a cool time for me.
I started a wine consulting business with a partner:
Professional Wine Consultants ,

I had a meeting with an editor for a Milwaukee WI magazine and became the wine and spirits writer (my first article will be in the April issue):
Milwaukee Home and Fine Living,

And I was asked to blog on the Wine Hub website!

So I will and hopefully they might be somewhat interesting, a tad humorous and indicative to some of the things I think about in relation to wine.

Thanks and on with the show!

Toni Johnson
Certified Advanced Sommelier

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wine Bar Wednesday - Laiola, San Francisco

Okay, so it's not exactly a "wine bar", but their charter does include a desire to be a cool neighborhood hangout suitable for small bites or large dinners and is built around a love of Spanish wines and/or varietals. What is that I ask you, if not the definition of a great wine bar? So, when I received their email: "The economy sucks. Tuesdays don't", my deep love of all things from Catalunya combined with their cute recessionista bait, and I knew it was time to hit Laiola (lye-O-la). Located at 2031 Chestnut Street in San Francisco's Marina District, the restaurant has a welcoming exterior. Once you walk in, you immediately notice a sophisticated appeal, that manages to stay homey. We got there pretty early.... Did I mention the email with the Tuesday specials called out "Sofrito-braised pork meatballs"? ...and the staff was just gearing up, but once they hit their stride, we found the service knowledgeable and attentive. When I first saw the wines by the glass, I thought, "Yikes!" as none of the reds were under $11, but when the wines arrived, it turned out Laiola serves 250 ml (1/3 bottle) carafinas, which is a great way to easily and neatly share a glass with a friend while still getting plenty to drink. Plus what a way to try a bunch of lovingly selected Spanish wines! The list which is exclusively Spanish or local expressions of Spanish varietals, has a lot of depth at all price points. Luscious Lush Thea as always was not only a fun companion but a great resource for picking out what wine to try.
I ended up ordering a '07 Cellars Can Blau, Montsant which is a Spanish blend of Syrah-Garnacha-Carignena. It has a lovely nose with a whisper of butterscotch and a hint of strawberry jam. The flavors were Berry Bold, with spice and blueberry and dark cherry flavors. Like a lot of European wines, this was definitely a little on the food slutty side. It was a good sipping wine, but great when paired with the snacks. Thea opted for the '06 Juan Gil Monastrell, Jumilla. If you read Brixchicks, you know I am extremely partial to the Monastrell-Mataro-Mourvedre grape. This wine was an excellent example. Lovely aromas even with a whiff of chamomile and a delightful blackberry savor. This wine was as tasty on its own as it was with the food.

As for the food. We ordered Chickpea Croquetas, crispy well seasoned sticks of olive-oil deep fried goodness. Patatas Bravas with chipotle mayonnaise. Perfectly fried wedges of potatoes accompanied by smoky rich sauce. Frying in extra virgin olive oils brings rich, floral notes to the food. And the sublime Sofrito Braised Pork Meatballs were simply delightful. The meat was perfectly seasoned with rich flavors and hints of exotic rabble rousing spices, led politely by cinnamon, demonstrating in a richly flavored tomato sauce. With the wine---perfect pairs.

Our server Jay, also helped us pick out a sticky, in this case a sweet Pedro Ximenez, which was delectable--raisin walnut aromas. Silky, syrupy mouthfeel. Great flavors of cherries and raisins. It went perfectly with the Churros---dainty puffs of crisp dough brushed with cinnamon-sugar and served next to a frothy demitasse of Spanish hot chocolate.

So if we apply Xandria's Wine Bar criteria:
Affordability - Adjustable QPR, which I think is a great idea. By reviewing the specials and adjusting your schedule, you can get super values on elegant, expertly prepared Catalonian delights

Wine list - Interesting. The wine list is like a virtual field trip to Spain. So if you currently love or want to learn more about Spanish wine, this is a good place

Wait staff- Very knowledgeable, and a good balance of attentive vs. intrusive. We had so much fun with our server. And Jay, the host helped us a lot with wine selections.

Food: Very good. We were in full on comfort food mode and loved what we picked (fried carbs-is there anything better?), but there are a lot of interesting salads, heartier meats, and stunning charcuterie on the menu we left untried.

In summary, two thumbs up. We loved it!
2031 Chestnut Street,
San Francisco, CA 94123
P: 415.346.5641

Monday, January 12, 2009

Organic wine match of the day: Ceàgo Merlot & chicken paprikas

For a free subscription to Randy Caparoso's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner:

Despite what that fellow Miles might have said about it, there is still a very good reason why you should drink ultra-premium California Merlot, which is the same reason why some of the state’s most prestigious winemakers – like Bruce Neyers and Selene’s Mia Klein – still specialize in the grape: it makes wine that can enthrall the senses the way Keira Knightley eats up a camera. Resistance is senseless.

Here’s another reason: the 2006 Ceàgo Camp Masut Merlot (about $25) is biodynamically grown, on top of being totally delicious; its classic red berry/black cherry Merlot aromas enhanced by pretty, floral, violet-like perfumes; and on the palate, round fleshy, finely polished textures punctuated by the luscious berry flavors and buoyed by soft yet sturdy tannins. Textbook.

Ceàgo, as it were, was founded by Jim Fetzer, former president of the same Fetzer Vineyards that was among the pioneers of organic grape growing in California. After the Fetzer family sold their winery and vineyards in 1992, Jim immediately set out to establish vineyards in Mendocino falling within even stricter biodynamic guidelines monitored by Demeter International. In fact, one of the best explications of the why’s and how’s of biodynamics can be found on the Cèago Vinegarden Web site.

“The ‘perfect marriage’ of food and wine,” said the late Roy Andries de Groot, “should allow for infidelity.” While the standard choice is red meat, my all-time favorite match for a full, lusciously fruited Merlot is something white (or rather, reddish): the classic, Hungarian style of csirkepaprikas, or chicken paprikas. Mr. de Groot (the blind Esquire food and wine author who, incidentally, was also the first critic to use a 100 point wine scoring system – not Robert Parker! – in the late 1960s) once proclaimed his recipe for paprikas – browned with goose fat, then braised with onions, garlic and, finally, a sauce pigmented by generous doses of the mildly spiced paprika chile before thickened in the end with sour cream – as one of the most glorious dishes in the world, and I cannot disagree.

Over the years I have taken some liberties with de Groot’s original recipe (I don’t, for instance, usually have the goose fat on hand); and of course, the variations come every time the bird hits the pot. This is, however, a close approximation:

1 whole 4-5 lb. chicken, disjointed (thighs and back necessary for flavor)
3 tbs. unsalted sweet butter
1 lemon
2 large sweet onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
6 large white mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 thin slices pancetta (or two strips thick bacon), sliced in squares
½ cup white wine
¾ cup chicken stock
Half bunch Italian parsley, chopped
Hungarian sweet paprika
Olive oil
Ground peppercorns and salt to taste
1 pint sour cream
10-12 oz. wide egg noodles

Rub chicken pieces with salt and juice of halved lemon, and set aside. In a large pot (preferably cast iron or Le Creuset), brown pancetta or bacon with drop of olive oil over medium heat. Add butter, and when melted sauté the onions and garlic until wilted. Add paprika (2 to 3 tbsp.) and stir into onion mix until it attains a fiery red color. Immediately add chicken pieces two or three at a time, browning them until both sides are impregnated with the paprika. Add sliced mushrooms, followed by white wine (burn off some alcohol), and then chicken stock. Lower temperature, cover pot with lid, and let it simmer for about 45-60 minutes, smelling the wafting perfume while enjoying your glass of Merlot and some sensuous vocals like Diana Krall or Madeleine Peyroux.

Remove chicken pieces, and stir in sour cream until the sauce reaches a creamy consistency, adjusting seasonings to taste. Add back chicken pieces, stir in most of chopped parsley, and over low temperature let pot stew for final ten to fifteen minutes while egg noodles are boiled al dente. When noodles are drained, place in large, wide bowl and coat with half of paprika cream sauce; lay chicken pieces over noodles and top with rest of sauce. Garnish with rest of chopped parsley, and serve.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Let's all drink (and think) locally

I'm tired of hearing about the economy, everyday there seems to be dire news and morbid projections. We'll get thru all this negativity eventually, but first I think we need to look around and make damn sure our local communities are the ones that survive first and foremost. For instance, on an outing yesterday in our local community, I noticed that three restaurants have folded in the last few weeks. Now granted, these are not the type of places I frequent anyway, being a wine guy and all, but I hate to see local people put out of work.

As a matter of fact, we went out to dinner last night in the Pearl District in downtown Portland. Things were pretty much their usual vibrant self, though I did get a parking spot out in front (hope this is not a bad omen). Anyway, we did our best to stimulate the economy - even went to yet another establishment for a lavish dessert course (complete with a 10 year old Tawny port).

Back at home, I was contemplating my navel after dinner (over a bottle of Ponzi's Dolcetto from Oregon no less) and I was thinking "what can I do about all this?" - remembering back to my gastronomic excursion of earlier, I flashed on the wine lists! Both of the establishments had a plethora of imported and North American wines but almost no regional wines save for the obligatory large wine company, nationally distributed Pinot Noir.

I live in a region that produces luscious, wonderful red and white wines not only from the Willamette Valley and southern Oregon but also from Eastern Washington. Literally hundreds of small producers make some of the most concentrated, consistent and food friendly wines on the market today and these producers provide a huge boost to their local economies in terms of labor as well as goods and services that are required for the production of these wines. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am one of those producers making kick-ass cult wines!).

Now if you are like me, I am still going to go out to dinner and will spend money (perhaps less frequently but still going out none the less). And when I do go out, I'll more likely choose a local establishment as opposed to a national chain. BTW, here's a little quirk about me, I cannot eat dinner without a glass of wine to enjoy with it. Furthermore, I won't eat my dinner if that glass is empty, preferring to wait until a fresh glass has arrived at my table.

But I digress. So here's what I was thinking - let's form an coalition to support our l9cal producers. This is true whether you are in the Niagara region, BC, Portland, Seattle, Idaho - whatever. When you go out to dinner, only order (if possible) wine that is produced locally (let's say within 300 miles or so - (this will also, in some small way, reduce our carbon footprint as well!). "My restaurant does not offer any local wines you say" - Eureka! - that's my point! If they do not, drag the wine steward's butt over to the table and explain to him (or her) that you expect the establishment to carry locally produced wines. If enough of us insist upon it, we can make it happen! And whenever you travel, do the same thing - if you go to Montreal, seek out locally produced wines to enjoy while there - Seattle, only Washington State wines - you get my point.

Next - we need to track and communicate about all this. I suggest forming a local blog, or use your own blog and encourage other people to write about the restaurants that have great wine lists, highly populated by local wines. This will drive business to them thus encouraging more places to do the same and publicize the whole movement. Maybe we should come up with a rating system, what do you think?

Lastly, what shall we call it? I've toyed with the idea of "Local First", a name already in play but not well used. Maybe it should be called "Local Vino"? Drop me a line, comment on this or email me your suggestions for a fitting moniker.

Until then - a toast to health and revitalization for the New Year!
Karl Dinger - Terra Vina

A Legend in his Own Right –John Marynissen 1925-2009

John came to Canada in 1952 with his wife Adriana by his side. Johannes (John) Marynissen was born in the Netherlands; had spent some hard years during World War II working in a German Munitions factory; and had lived in the underground for the final years of the war. The same year that John and Adriana wed, they decided to find adventure and a new life in Canada. So, they made their way here for a new life of exciting possibilities and new beginnings.

When they came to Canada, they had less than $100 but John and Adriana made their way to the Niagara region; saw the potential in the land; settled here; and never looked back. John’s first job was picking fruit at a local farm. A few years later they purchased the farm where the winery now stands.

John Marynissen was a true pioneer in the Ontario wine industry. When people told him it could not be done, he set about to prove that it could. He was always ready to push the limits of what was perceived to be possible with grape growing and nothing could be more visible than when John decided to plant Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in his vineyards, becoming the first to plant the grape anywhere in Canada – back in 1978. That same year, John was honoured with the title of Grape King due to his numerous years of planting and growing grapes which were sold to the local wineries that were opening and flourishing. Aside from growing grapes for the local wineries, John was spending some of his free time – not that there was much of that – trying his hand at winemaking.

His early years as an amateur winemaker saw him winning multiple awards and, in 1990, after much convincing by family and friends, John, with the help of his family, opened Marynissen Estates Winery. Although it would have been fairly easy for John to expand the business due to the very high demand for his quality red wines, he made the conscious decision to keep the operation small and focus on quality. That decision has paid off for them in the long run. The winery will be celebrating it’s 20th anniversary next year and has become known as a must visit winery when you are looking for great Cabernet Sauvignon – which, in theory, should not have survived the cold temperatures of Ontario – as well as a variety of other great wines.

Aside from a variety of awards won during his amateur winemaking years, John went on to win the Cuvee award for Best Red Wine in 1996 and 1997, the first Grapes for Humanity award by Tony Aspler and the Ontario Wine Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Perhaps the best way to sum up who John Marynissen was came from wine writer Shari Darling on the news of his passing. “I love and loved John. What I love most was his humility and brilliant simplicity in making such high quality wine. He was such a major contribution in building our confidence in the realm of Ontario’s ability to create world class reds. I will miss him. He is part of our terroir.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Organic wine match of the day: Thevenet Morgon & Eggs in Balsamic Butter

For a free subscription to Randy Caparoso's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner:

Ah, 2009… I’m already feelin’ it. Maybe it’s because of the wine and meal I had yesterday, when I was still feeling the previous day’s bloated repasts, nevertheless in need of sustenance, physically and spiritually: a Beaujolais with eggs in balsamic vinegar and butter.

Then again, the 2006 Jean-Paul Thévenet Vieilles Vignes Morgon is a wine that would make any jaded wine dude feel that way. This is real wine, and I’m not just blowing smoke. First, it’s red, which is a good start. Second, it tastes the way it’s supposed to; meaning:

1. Morgon is a Beaujolais grand cru, a village producing richer, broader, denser styles of reds than “regular” Beaujolais (which are usually light, limp, almost watery).

2. Yet it’s still a Beaujolais, made from the Gamay Noir à Jus Blanc grape, which will give a softer, rounder tannin feel than, say, most Pinot Noir based reds, even in the higher ranked Beaujolais crus.

3. It’s a vieilles vignes – from “old vines” (averaging 70 years, as it were) – giving this particular Morgon a deep, succulent, lip smacking raspberry and cassis-like aroma and flavor backed by earthy, organic notes of rustique, almost belying the wine’s flowing, fluid, youthful qualities.

4. The overall sensation is of a wine that doesn’t hold back… everything, from the natural taste of the grape to the sticking sensations of terroir, plopped right on the table for you to savor (preferably from big, balloon shaped Burgundy glasses).

As a winemaker, Jean-Paul Thévenet is among Beaujolais’ now-legendary “Gang of Five” – a group of defiant vignerons who believe wine should always be produced in the “old” ways, long before Beaujolais became a jillion dollar industry. Essentially: fermented on natural yeasts (none of the “super” yeasts that mainstream Beaujolais vintners utilize to exaggerate the Gamay grape’s blue-purple color and grapey, strawberry fruitiness); and then bottled unfiltered, unfined (so this wine is technically vegan – all grape!), and completely without the use of sulfites (so it tastes pretty much the way it would taste right out of the barrel).

As a grower, Thévenet practices la lutte raisonnée ("the reasoned struggle"): basically, sustainable grape growing, shunning the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in as much homage to the past as for preserving the health of vineyards for future generations.Like good Pinot Noir, the soft tannins of grand cru Beaujolais make them ideal reds for fish (especially salmon and tuna). Me, I prefer the gastronomic ideas learned long ago from the legendary Berkeley importer, Kermit Lynch. I still keep one of his newsletters from back in 1990 (now bound together in a book, Inspiring Thirst), prescribing, in Lynch’s words:

These eggs take no more than a few minutes to prepare, and you need not be a genius to succeed. THIS IS NOT BREAKFAST! First, you pour yourself a glass of Beaujolais… then you fry fresh eggs slowly in butter, covered, until the whites are firm and the yolks remain runny. Salt and pepper, then slide them onto a warm plate.

Deglaze the pan with two tablespoons red wine vinegar. Reduce by half, thicken with a slice of butter, and pour over the eggs. You will want bread or toast for sopping up the sauce… you will also want another glass of Beaujolais!

Although Lynch says this is fast, you can’t rush it: slow frying sunny-side-up (no one will see if you scramble it) over low heat with the lid is key; both the butter and cracked peppercorn keep the balsamic eggs in balance with the wine’s mild tannin and full-ish body; and being from Hawai’i, my eggs go right over a generous mound of steaming white rice, which tastes luscious when it absorbs the winey sauce.

Monday, January 5, 2009

2009 and some dust.

When Luiz Alberto asked me on OpenwineConsortium to bring my contribution to TheWineBlog my reaction at first was : WHAT THE HECK !? With my sloppy english o' mine, and the rust on my wine appreciation tools, what will I write and what will I do ?
So, I look upon TheWineHub, and think about it twice.

A website that has a globe-trotter vision of the wine world, just like mine. Nice.
A place where I could share my opinion on North America's products, and especially Quebec's (well, we are a true quebeccer with the lily flower on the heart, or we aren't!). So, one of my hundreds lasting neurons told to his neighbor : Hey dude ! Let's get goin' ! Just move with me to the nose and the thongue, so we can make a party and change her mind !
And if you are reading carefully from the start, you can tell right now that the thousand-one neighbors of this little silly neuron have moved together and conviced my reason to get rid of my shyness and to so damn write down here.

So, with my Harrap's French/English dictionnary as a weapon, and my Webster as a shield, I am taking my slooooooppy english, to get it better and see a whole new aspect of myself facing the wine.

Let me introduce myself a little bit before going farther.
My name is Alexandra, and I am also Assoiffée (that we can translate by : Thirsty). French blogging, I would describe myself as an amalgam between a gamer, a geekette, a meltal-head and a sommelier. Weird thing huh ? That could be simply this, but I like to get off the rails, like a Crazy Train. Well, enough talk about me for now, we aren't intimate yet, but ice is broken.

2009 is a new millesime, and lots of discoveries are awaiting !

So what will I talk about in this post ?

There is so much things to talk about, that I am wondering...

I told earlier that I am a sommelier. So, what is a sommelier ?
At my eyes, a sommelier is a person that is specialised in the service of anything that can be drunk. For some people, we are getting paid to drink. For others, we are glorified alcoholics.
Myself, I feel like I am an eternal student, always learning everyday, discovering things that I would never get in mind about their own existence, and mor of that, I am thirsty. Thirsty to discover, to know, and very thirsty in the physical way.
So, I am not only focusing on wines. I also focus on spirits, on beers, on liquors, on waters, on teas, on coffees, on juices... well, anything that can be drunk ! Alcohol or not ! So, finally, I think that a sommelier is someone who is sacrificing his/her taste buds, liver and stomach to save yours, and for the gastronomy advent !

Well, after this few words, I can not leave you without talking about a Quebec's product (I told earlier that I was a true quebeccer, with the lily/fleur-de-lys tattooed on the heart right?), something lightly different from the Icewines made in our neighbor province of Ontario.

Let me introduce you...

Cristaux de Givre is a sweet white wine, made by the vineyard ''Domaine Moulin du Petit-Pré'', at the Island of Orléans. Cartier, during his firsts travels in what will be later the Quebec, has given to this island the nickname of Isle-de-Bacchus, according to the wild vines growing everywhere. So this area offers a correct climate to let the vines and grape grow.

With the help of the VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) and the AVQ (Alliance of Vintners in Quebec), little producers are making better products years after years, like you know, our wine history here is not as old than in Europe.

Well, enough about history and geography, this could be a nice post later.

This product, ''Cristaux de Givre'' (translate by ''Frost Crystal''), was a fabulous surprise for me.
First of all, I had never tasted any wine made of Vandal-Cliche. And this meeting was famous !
Dark straw-yellowed, and a little bit sirupy in the glass, this shy wine needed to be warmed up a bit. Too cold, it was keeping its delicate aromas for itself !
Being intimate with, well it was a way to put the shyness away and to warm up the things between the wine and me!, smells begin to come out. Cooked spartan apple, apricot, bee wax (something I ''see'' often in sweet wines from North America). Almost normal for me. But, because there is a but, the best was yet to come. Spices aromas. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg. Just like a good ol' grandma's apple croustade !

A sip. Nice acidity, good sugar. Sweet enough, to caress the thongue and the mouth, acid enough to tell : Hey ! I still there ! Don't close your eyes too fast, don't orgasm now, I AM HERE !
Well, maybe this was abused, but I really really liked this one. Nothing to envy to the Sauternes to accompany foie gras or blue cheese.

If you want to try to get this wine, maybe you can communicate directly with the vineyard :

Vineyard and boutique Moulin du Petit-Pré :

7021, Avenue Royale
Château-Richer, (Québec), G0A 1N0
Phone : 418-824-7077
Fax: 418-824-3379

Enough for today, see you soon and don't forget to drink wisely.

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