Every bottle has a story

I am not a wine expert, but with each bottle I try and share with friends, I learn more. Wine is an exceptional social drink; it is the marijuana of alcoholic beverages because it must be shared. I seek to share with you my thoughts and experiences as I drink the wine in my closet, as well as my enthusiasm for the finds that come my way and the excellent values that I find. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences too, so please share!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Domaine Bourdic "Zappa"

Is it an homage to Frank Zappa? Or an esoteric reference to a family member of the wine makers? A nod to someone in their lineage?

Identifying the provenance of the "Zappa" name on this blend by Domaine Bourdic is a bit like solving a mystery. Even the winery's website isn't conclusive, but it does provide hints. And so does another wine blogger.

The winemakers hail from southern France in a beautiful region commonly known as "the Midi". It is part of the appellation Languedoc-Roussillon. It's a shortened form of the Midi-Pyrénées. The estate is located near the town of Pézenas, not far from the Mediterranean coast. Its website provides a rather terse description of the wine and nothing about how it was named. However, on the homepage, winemakers Christa Vogel and Hans Hürlimann start off by saying, "We decided to come to the Midi as musicians, and then discovered ourselves as wine makers."

Hmm, musicians. A slight hint, but nothing more. They do have a Facebook page where I asked them directly whether the name was a reference to Frank Zappa.

The bloggers at Candid Wines make a musical reference when writing about the estate in general and the wine in particular: "Across the board, the Bourdic wines are a notch quieter, less burly, and more approachable to our tastes. If the Languedoc goes to 11, these wines stay at 8. (Spinal Tap anyone? Seems an appropriate reference for a winery that produces “Zappa”)."

Close, but still not a precise connection. I guess I'll just have to wait and see if I get a response on the winery's Facebook page.

What I can tell you about "Zappa" is that it is a very inexpensive red blend of 50 percent Syrah, 33 percent Grenache noir, and 17 percent Tempranillo. It's more commonly priced at $9 a bottle, but I bought mine at Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck), where I paid $13. Whole Foods always does that with the cheaper wines. It's frustrating, but often they are the only local retailer carrying these wines.

I paired it with a pan-seared lamb loin with chimichurri that was accompanied with a medley of sautéed summer squash, zucchini and red bell pepper, and baked butternut squash seasoned with nutmeg.

As expected, because of the Tempranillo, this wine was thin both on the nose and taste when first opened. This did not concern me because experience has taught me that Tempranillo often starts that way, even in blends, but given time and contact with air will develop full fruit and a fine mineral quality. In fact, when I drink Tempranillo by the glass at a restaurant, I always ask how long the bottle's been open - not because I'm concerned that it's been open too long, but not long enough.

It was an excellent pairing. Given time, the wine opened up beautifully and developed a rich nose of dense fruit. The tannins were smooth and velvety, and it wasn't a fruit bomb despite the nose. These blends are excellent and are common for that region of both southwest France and northeastern Spain. The $13 I paid is not a bad price, but should you find it for $9-$10, which is the more typical price, this wine is an excellent value.

I score it with an 8.5 using my scale at the left.

Addendum Jan. 2, 2015: I received a reply to my question posted on the Domaine Bourdic Facebook page. The wine, indeed, was named for Frank Zappa, as winemaker Hans Hürlimann is a big fan.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Domaine du Vieux Lazeret 2007 and 2008

It has been quite a while since I updated this blog, for which I apologize. It certainly was not because I have not been drinking any wine! And so I return with this post about two very lovely, but quite different, Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the same house.

I brought these wines out of my cellar, er closet to an annual dinner hosted by my friends Curt and Tim. For Christmas evening Tim prepared a cassoulet, an excellent meal to pair with a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I selected the 2007 and 2008 by Domaine du Vieux Lazeret because as I was updating my inventory, I learned that these bottles had fallen into the "drink now" category. Because my wine cellar is a closet, I cannot keep wines for the full length of what the recommended cellaring time may be. Needless to say, I was a bit alarmed and worried these wines might have gone bad, and that would be unfortunate.

Happily, we all were quite pleased to discover that the 2007 might have had some more time left (sadly, it was the last bottle in my closet), while the 2008 was perfect (I do have one more of the 2008). Despite coming from the same house, each wine was quite different.

The 2007 had a delightful herbal and earthy bouquet blooming out from the steely garnet color as we decanted. This wine had plenty of leg on the glass, as well as firm tannin that suggested that despite the "drink now" warning this wine might have endured another year in my closet. There was a delicious sour cherry note mixed with some chocolate and cinnamon. Wine Spectator was a bit stingy rating this an 89, but I rate it with a 9 using my scale at the left.

The 2008 was a different animal right from the first pour. Rather than a sharp garnet, this was a ruby red, and the nose was lush with blackberry. The spice notes were still there and some delicious cocoa at the finish, but the tannin was softer. This wine was definitely ready and drunk at the right time. Wine Spectator rated this one an 88, which I'm inclined to agree with. While the wine was delicious, it was pretty narrow and lacked that characteristic bigness so commonly associated with Southern Rhône reds. I will also rate this with a 9 using my scale. And given the fact this wine was definitely ready, the other bottle in my closet will not be there for long.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel, Vintners Blend, 2011

I haven't been a fan in general of Zinfandel, which often can be a fruit bomb. But I've always been a fan of Ravenswood, and the 2011 Old Vine Vintners Blend is a great bargain at $10.

Make no mistake, there is strong fruit in this bottle; it is juicy and jammy. But it's finely crafted to make it easy drinking with a combination of cherry and herbs and a finish the makes it a great pairing with grilled meat. Wine Spectator recently rated it as a Best Value. Plenty has been made, too, so it should be easy to find (I even found some in a Walgreens!). I hear the 2010 is really good too! And you should be able to find it in some shops (I know I did!).

Another great bargain. I score it 8.5 using my scale at the left.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Famille Perrin, Côtes du Rhône Villages, 2010

Nothing is better than finding a $10 wine that drinks like something more expensive, and this one does. The Famille Perrin line is from the fabulous house Château de Beaucastel, crafter of some great Châteauneuf-du-Pape and some high-end Côtes du Rhône Villages, the latter costing you close to $40.

The Famille Perrin line retains that richness and earthy quality with a nose filled with cinnamon and dark chocolate. The fruit is subtle and lightly hoisted on a mineral beam that gives a clean finish with smooth tannin. It's cherry, but it's not. It's cassis, but it's not. Currant, perhaps, but it's not. Delightful, it is! This is a great wine for a party because it won't cost you a lot to impress your guests.

This is a great bargain. I score it 8.5 using my scale at the left.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A raspberry of a rosé

When drinking rosé, what's the fruit that initially comes to mind? For me it's always been strawberry. I would almost venture to say that strawberry is the sin quo non of rosé. But what of raspberry? That's what the label on the Charles & Charles 2010 Columbia Valley Rosé says, and when I tasted it, I had to agree. This rosé has a delightful crisp raspberry flavor that is really interesting. This makes it a tad sweeter than other rosés, but not too sweet. It finishes dry like a delicious rosé should.

This wine is a blend of Syrah, Morvèdre, Cinsault, and Grenache, very much a Rhône style, not unlike the whites from that region. It holds up with bolder and spicier dishes too. I had it with my "famous" Balinese pork dish, which is both sweet and spicy. See the recipe below.

This has been a great year for rosé and I have found many wonderful wines for $12 and less. And this one comes right up to that $12 price point. I have seen it for more, but seriously, if you shop around, you'll find it for $12.

Wine Spectator scores this an 88. I give it an 8.5 using my scale at the left.

Balinese pork recipe

I find the best pork to use is boneless rib meat. But the meat from boneless pork chops works also (not as tender though IMO).

Partially freeze the meat so it's firm and easy to slice, but not so hard you can't slice it.

Slice the pork thinly and lay out on a plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper; use a lot of black pepper.

Depending on how much pork you use, you can make layers, salt and peppering each layer. Let the pork sit for a while with the salt and pepper.

Prepare/ready the following:

One small or half a medium onion, thinly sliced (use either white or red)
2-3 whole cloves of garlic, or use about a teaspoon of minced garlic
2 teaspoons of ground ginger
150 ml of hot water (hot from the tap is fine)
5 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce (the thick kind, Indonesian style)
1/2 teaspoon of sambal olek (more if you like it really spicy)

Stir the sweet soy sauce into the hot water so it's all mixed.
Heat oil in a wok (I used bacon grease for added flavor, but sesame oil is good too, or just regular corn oil).
Stir in all the pork at once, stir around.
Add the garlic, stir until pork is cooked.
Add sliced onion and ground ginger, stir quickly (the ginger will start to coat the wok).
Add sambal olek, stir so that the chili is distributed evenly.
Add the water and sweet soy mixture, stir and scrape the wok so the ginger that stuck to the wok gets mixed in too.
Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer and cover.

While the pork is simmering, start your rice.
Check the pork occasionally and stir.
When the rice is done (or after about 20 minutes), remove the cover from the pork and let it bubble for a while so the liquid evaporates slightly and thickens.
Serve with the rice.

This also goes well with a Riesling or Gewürztraminer.