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!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Try something new when dining out

Dining at a new restaurant, one you've never visited before, is not just a great opportunity to try something new when it comes to food. It's also an excellent opportunity to experience new wine. Maybe it's a varietal you've never tried before, or perhaps a region; regardless, dining out is a great time to try something new in wine.

My brother and niece were visiting this weekend and as we were disuccsing dining opportunities, my brother suggested lamb. Well, I said, there's a Greek resatuarant about two blocks aways that's always busy and I've always wanted to try.

It was settled; we went to Melantios Greek Char House. In addition to the sumptuous menu, the Greek wine choices by the glass were plentiful, and I was determined to try one.

One of the specials that night was a lamb shank slow cooked and then roasted to deliciousness. I knew I wanted a Greek wine but I really had no clue what to order, so I let the server steer me. And his recommendation was really delicious.

It was the Ktima Tselepos Cabernet/Merlot blend from 2007. The blend is 70/30, producing a rich wine that is sumptuous and a bit fruit-forward, but retains the stern structure and dryness of a Cabernet Sauvignon. It wasn't a cheap pour at $14 per glass, but it was an excellent match for the lamb shank. I'll be curious to see how much it fetches retail for a bottle.

Often when we dine out, particularly when we are trying out a new place, we can slip into a mode of safety when reading a wine list. We can have a tendancy to look for something familiar, whether it be a particular brand or varietal. But if you can resist that tendancy toward safety, you can find some great wines, new styles, and new regions that you might not otherwise experience but for visiting that restaurant.

Got any great wine stories to share of when you let yourself be steered toward the unfamiliar on a wine list? Please share in the comments! I'd love to read them.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Despite Two Left Feet, this wine can dance

My friends Nate and Steve recently had me over for dinner at their new Chicago condominium in Edgewater, a fabulous place just a block away from Lake Michigan. I offered to bring a wine, but wanted to know ahead of time what they were preparing so I could select an appropriate bottle from my cellar, er, closet.

I had several bottles ripe for drinking, but each were quite different in character. And when they said grilled skirt steak, my choice was easy.

Ah yes, there was that bottle of Mollydooker that had been lying in my closet for about 3 years, which translates to about 6 to 7 years cellaring time given the fact my closet has been known to hit temperature extremes that make grown men weep in terror. Not temperatures high enough, mind you, to completely cook a bottle. But over time, and a very short time it can be, wines kept in a closet can age more quickly and become over the hill before you know it.

I have largely been blessed with success, with only one wine so far going over the hill on me (and thank goodness I drank two good bottles of that before opening the third a year later). A closet can be an excellent option for wine storage when you don't have the space or the money for a wine refrigerator (and besides, the key to buying the right wine refrigerator is not the brand of the refrigerator, but the brand of the cooling unit it uses). If you have a closet where you can avoid wide fluctuations in temperature, particularly at the high end, you can safely store wine there for several years at a time. I currently have some wines in my closet that have been there for 7 years.

The skirt steak was sans marinade, so I chose the 2007 Mollydooker Two Left Feet, a blend made with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. The history of Mollydooker is pretty interesting and worth reading. This was a big wine with strong fruit as one would expect from an Aussie Shiraz, but it was not a fruit bomb. It was smooth and velvety, with a texture and flavorful hint of butterscotch. And when the skirt steak was sprinkled with just a bit of truffle-flavored salt, it was a delicious match.

While I probably could have held this bottle for a bit longer, there probably wasn't a whole lot left to go. The tannins were very soft, but still detectable. When I bought the wine, Wine Spectator rated it an 88, but Robert Parker gave it a 93. It certainly was in the realm of deliciousness when served with that skirt steak and a side of roasted red pepper.

I give it a 9 using my scale at the left.