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!

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.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A consistent rosé does it again

Each spring as I go through my round of rosé tasting, I always pick up the latest release from Château Beauchêne. The 2012 Le Pavillon from the Côtes du Rhône lives up to its reputation of being an inexpensive and quaffable wine. These aren't classic wines, but solid performers that are light and easy to drink. The strawberry and kiwi is fresh and light on a mineral beam that finishes clean.

This wine is food-friendly as well. You should be able to find it for less than $10. The producer has a solid reputation for steadiness and consistency. It's a great wine to pick up a case for entertaining, your guests will love it.

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

Monday, May 27, 2013

A luscious Bordeaux Blanc

I previously wrote about Château Haut Sarthes Montravel Bordeaux Blanc, praising it for its food-friendly profile, but noting that the citrus was a bit too forward to drink alone.

Guess what? Same blend, different experience entirely. Well, not precisely the same blend. The 2011 Château La Freynelle is another Bordeaux Blanc made with Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle, but this blend is 60-30-10, whereas the 2011 Château Haut Sarthes was 50-40-10. And despite the higher Sauvignon Blanc content in the Château La Freynelle, the citrus notes were decidedly more subdued, making this blend a delight to drink on its own.

Having said that, this blend is very food-friendly as well. This widely-available wine can be had for $10 to $15, and it stood up well with marinated swordfish. It should also do well with lighter fare such as sushi and sashimi. A really nice find for the price.

Interestingly, Wine Spectator (which scored it an 85) notes that this "forward white offers good grapefruit," while I thought the grapefruit was quite subdued. Which is why my tasting notes are just as good as the "experts." At the end of the day, it's all about personal preference.

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