Two Great Reds

The other day I decided to go to another wine tasting, I only go if I am free. You would think that since I always write about wines that I would center my life around wine events, but that is not the case. Most of the time I prefer having wine with friends over dinner. I find that some wine events are too pretentious for me, as I guess that I have been enjoying them for so many decades that the novelty wore off years ago. I also get annoyed when I see people preening and posing with stemware, as for me it is what is in the glass that counts and not who I can impress, not that I cannot discuss different wines and vintages.

I went to a wine shop that I enjoy near me, since they now have new owners and the wine tasting bar is the center of attention. I have found that D. Vine Wine is a relaxing way to go for an evening. They have a lecture about the wines from a gentleman that makes me a teenager compared to his years of wine experience. Also, the crowd that usually attends the tasting night are far from poseurs. Between the talks and the questions from the crowd, it makes for an interesting couple of hours and the wines are much better since the new owners. I have also enjoyed getting there a little early, as you never know what may be poured for the guests to get them in the mood, not that they need any prodding, but it is a great touch.

I got a chance to try two wines that I was not even aware of, which isn’t that difficult considering all the wineries that are out there and more it seems each year. The first pour that I had was Ferrari-Carano Prevail Back Forty 2011 from the Alexander Valley. Ferrari-Carano is a winery that I am well aware of, in their popular priced offerings, but this was far superior to their wines that I usually encounter when we are out for dinner. This is a mountain vineyard and they have added some Syrah and Cabernet Franc to the Cabernet Sauvignon wine and it is aged in a mix of Hungarian and French Oak, with some being older barrels. It was a great wine to start the evening off right and the next wine, I wasn’t even aware of, or maybe I just glance over it while reading about wines in the periodicals either from the post or on-line. Vice Versa Wine Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2015 was excellent. I wish all Cabernet Sauvignon wines could taste this good. Vice Versa Wine makes use of several different vineyards and this wine is their base wine and is a blend of fruits from Oakville, Saint Helena, Pritchard Hill and Napa Valley. There were only 250 cases of this wine produced, which is a shame, as most people will never get a chance to try it, and I guess that I was just lucky. Needless to say, I was all primed for the actual tasting event.

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Brunch at Beverly Hills Grill

After wine shopping we had really worked up an appetite and this was going to be our last meal with my Sister-in-Law before she went home. We went to the restaurant that is known in the metro area as the power breakfast location, in fact the breakfasts are so famous that some of the dishes appear throughout the day on the menu, but since we were there for a Sunday brunch we didn’t have to worry.

My Sister-in-Law opted more a lunch item in that she had Macadamia crusted Michigan Rainbow Trout with Coconut Sticky Rice, Micro Cilantro and a Cucumber-Mango Salsa. Michigan Rainbow Trout is not something that she can get at home for her and she was showing her allegiance to the state. My Bride ordered one of the specials that are written on the blackboards for the day She had the Shrimp and Grits with Andouille sausage, tomatoes, scallions and Cheddar cheese as it reminded her of New Orleans. I also went with the New Orleans flavor and got a special Eggs Benedict. This one was made with Lamb sausage, with a Spinach, Brussel Sprouts, Baby Kale salad and topped with a Rosemary Hollandaise sauce.

Instead of ordering the house Mimosas we made our own by ordering a bottle of bubbly and a carafe of fresh orange juice. We had a bottle of Jaume Serra Arte Latino Cava Brut NV. I thought it was a better choice compared to some of the bulk sparkling wines that we sometimes encounter for Mimosas. This Cava wine from Catalonia was made in the Metodo Tradiccional as the Champagne makers in France back in the Seventies started their campaign to eradicate the word Champagne from any label that was not from the Champagne region. It is made in the classic method only with Cava the classic grapes are Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada and when made from a good house the bubbles are tiny and continuous. This wine took twelve months to finish off its Secondary Fermentation and for an affordable bottle it was quite good, as I tried some first before I added the orange juice. My Bride took her sister to the airport and we look forward to seeing her and her family along with everyone else for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner.

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Four New Wines

I have to admit that there were more wines purchased at Elie Wine Company, but it was not from us. My Sister-in-Law was so amazed at the breadth of French wines offered in one location, that she decided to do some shopping and figured that she could store the wines with us, and that would be one less square cubic foot that would not take up space when they drive up for the holidays. She also decided to get some birthday shopping out of the way as well. You can tell that they are sisters.

The first wine that I will discuss is from Corsica and while this island may have an Italian heritage woven into the tapestry of its existence, it is a department of France and abides by the wine rules of France, which in some cases have been reworded to be more closely tied to the Common Market. Clos Canarelli Corse Figari 2013 is such a wine. The Appellation Corse Figari Protegée identifies the wine from Corsica and the village of Figari is in the southern tip of Corsica. The wine is eighty percent Niellucciu and the balance is equally split among Syrah and Sciaccarellu and while those are the local names for the grapes, we know Niellucciu as Sangiovese and Sciaccarellu as Mammolo, and the blending of those two grapes are one of the main types of wines on the island, and it also shows how the Italian heritage is always present. The Clos Canarelli was bought for a gift and so was the next wine that I will discuss. Chateau Carbonnieux 2012 is a Grand Cru Classe of Graves in the Bordeaux region. Chateau Carbonnieux is a Grand Cru Classe awardee for both their white and red wines, which is a bit more common occurrence in Graves. The winery is in the Pessac-Leognan area of Graves and this red wine is a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This wine starts of in fermentation in Stainless Steel and then ages in oak for eighteen months. Graves has a unique taste for Bordeaux as the area is named for the terroir; Graves means gravel and not a hole in a cemetery.

The two wines that she chose for different holidays coming up are rather unique and I think she must have been listening to her sister gush a bit about Cabernet Franc. Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Les Memoires Saumur Champigny 2015. Thierry Germain was originally from Bordeaux, but he has found a new life in the Loire Valley. While Cabernet Franc is one of the grapes used in Bordeaux it shines in Saumur Champigny and the winery is bio-dynamic and they only use used oak barrels. Les Memoires is from a separate vineyard plot that was first planted with Cabernet Franc in 1904 near Dampierre, so the vines are quite mature. The wine is fermented for ten to fifteen days, before it is aged for twelve months in oak and then it is bottled and rests for an additional six months before it is sold. The other wine that caught her attention is a Pinot Noir wine and that is a wine that both she and her husband really enjoy. The Domaine Charlopin-Parizot Gevrey-Chambertin La Justice 2011 is that wine. In the Burgundy region Domaine Charlopin-Parizot is a newcomer as they began in 1977 with four acres of vineyards and they now have sixty-two acres in several locations. La Justice is just east of the village and prized for its alluvial soil. This wine spends four to fourteen days in fermentation and then is aged for about eighteen months in new oak. So, it looks like we shall be enjoying some great wines during the holidays and I will have to find some wines to compliment these wines as well for dinner.

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Some Future Wines

The last day that my Sister-in-Law was in town we were going to go out for brunch, but there was about an hour or more wait, so she wanted to go see the wine shop that I had taken her husband to, when he was in town. So, we went to Elie Wine Company which was only about a ten-minute drive away, as we were going to go there afterwards, so we went before brunch and worked up more of an appetite. We were fortunate that Elie himself was there and he charmed the ladies talking about wines and his shop. While they were being entertained, I got a chance to meander around the shop and salivate about all the items that I would not be getting, but wouldn’t everyone like a vertical of Petrus?

I was looking for something interesting to add to the cellar, as if I have any room for any more, but that is the curse of a wine lover. Domaine Sylvain Langoureau Chassagne-Montrachet “Les Voillenots Dessous” 2015 fit the bill nicely. A nice affordable Red Burgundy. Domaine Sylvain Langoureau is a husband and wife team that are making wines in one of the most famous wine regions in the world and of course the French call them garagiste, but I think Le Pin was also considered that in the beginning. This is a couple who are completely hands on, and all the work is by their own toil and they are working with one of the most finicky grapes and Pinot Noir is the grape of Burgundy for red wines. Les Voillenots is another lieux-dits site or locality that some consider should get official recognition in Chassagne-Montrachet, but the wheels turn very slowly for change in that part of the world.

Elie touted me on another Rosé wine and this was from Spain and from a new region for me as well. The Bodegas Cesar Principe Clarete de Luna 2016 is a very pretty deep pink color in the bottle. I could not find much production notes for this wine, but I must presume that the skins were left after the pressing for a couple of days to get this deep color. The winery has been in production since 1982 in Cigales, which is just north of the Duero in Castilla y Leon and this wine had five thousand cases produced. The wine is eighty percent Tempranillo and then evenly split among Verdejo and Albillo. I am sure that we will try this one soon.
The last wine that piqued my curiosity was from the Jura and it is a Chardonnay, but not made in the traditional way for that area, as the wine is “topped off” instead of allowing the oxidation that the region is known for. It is more reminiscent of a Chablis from what I have heard and read. The Domaine Labet Fleurs Chardonnay 2014 is a blend of grapes grown in their five parcels of land, each with different aged vines. The wine has aged in old oak barrels for about fifteen months before bottling. It is always fun to try some new wines.

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The Wedding Reception

We arrived at the hall, and I looked for our table assignment and then it dawned on me, the theme of the wedding colors – The Detroit Tigers. That is what I get for being a jock, and I am far from one, as the Navy and Orange triggered my brain finally when I saw that we were sitting in Section 104 and at each place setting was a can of Coca Cola, a box of Cracker Jacks and a baseball shaped sign announcing the nuptials. I guess I was the only one that did not put everything in place in my mind, in fact some of the wedding pictures were photographed at Comerica Park and I began by typing Tiger Stadium, eventually I will get with what is going on in the world.

Our “section” was very close to the Bridal table, as the Mother of the Bride and her Sister, are considered to be sisters to my Bride and her sisters. It was quite the family event of the year. I mean my Bride considers the Bride of the moment more as a niece than a cousin and so do her other sisters. After the introductions of the new married couple the room was set up for the buffet dinner and the “sections” were called up for bat to make their plates and dine. It was a nice set up with an assortment of salads and the peppers that one could add to the salad had some great zing to them. There were three different options of meat as well as other sides. I am always concerned with most catering companies, as I feel that they rely more on MSG than on quality cooking, but I did not have any problems, so I was very happy. The only complaint that I heard about was that the Groom and a couple of other guests had certain dietary concerns and the hall messed up, even though it was in the contract, and I thought that was poor service. After the dining was finished and the cake was carved up, it was time for the special dances and then dancing for the guests as well. Each guest was asked to list a special song that they wanted to have played that evening and my Bride and I got a chance to swing to “You Make Me Feel So Young,” one of our theme songs from our wedding.

My one constant that I find about catering halls and companies is that they go out of their way to find the most profitable wines for themselves at the expense of those that try to enjoy wine. The wine selection was Liberty Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay and all were Non-vintage and what I would classify as jug-wine. These are all massed produced California wines and I tried the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chardonnay and they both were much sweeter than I had expected, but perhaps that is what is wanted by young couples at weddings. I then tried a glass of Riunite Lambrusco NV from my youth that is made in the Emilia-Romagna district of Italy and it was much sweeter than I recalled and it didn’t have the sparkling natural effervescence that I recall back in the day. While we did not drink much wine, others were enjoying it and the wedding was a success, and at the end of the day that is what mattered.

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An Afternoon Wedding

We recently went to an afternoon wedding that we were look forward to, to celebrate the forthcoming nuptials. The event was looked forward to by the families on my Bride’s side and even her Sister from Louisville was coming in and she was going to stay at our house. As is to be expected there was a whirl-wind of activity in the house in preparation for our guest and for the event. The wedding was held at a chapel and it was lovely. The entire bridal party was awash in navy and orange; and I really didn’t give it much thought as navy blue is the latest and greatest color these days for men’s tuxedoes, so I thought they were being avant-garde. It was basically Standing Room Only at the chapel and I had to park a couple of blocks away, because of the crowd. The Bride was lovely and radiant as she emerged from a room upstairs and proceeded to walk down the staircase to meet her Groom. The wedding was a real family affair as her cousin performed the ordained rites as he has done for several others in their families. After the ceremony there was about three hours of lag-time to accommodate the photos that were going to be taken.

Most of my Bride’s immediate family decided to meet at one of her Sister’s home since it was near the chapel and also near where the reception was going to be held. On the way to her Sister’s home we took a side trip and bought some appetizers and foods and wines to keep every entertained until we would all meet up again at the reception. We basically stopped and got finger foods. An assortment of cheeses and crackers, vegetables and some rotisserie roasted chicken. I mean it is always good to nibble especially with some wine, and the time passed quickly as we waited to go out for the dinner.

We picked up four different wines to try for our little impromptu party and I will only discuss two of them. Since we had stopped at a large local independent market my Bride and her Sister bought the best and most interesting wines that they found there. The first was a bottle of Castle Rock Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016 from Mendocino County in California. Castle Rock was founded in 1994, so they are a relatively new winery, but they have facilities in California, Oregon and Washington states. Most of the wines that they make are in large quantities, but not in the jug-wine category. This particular wine had around twelve thousand cases made and for a rather large output the wine was crisp and enjoyable and paired well with the casual foods that we were sharing. The other wine that I will discuss was Santa Carolina Chardonnay Casablanca Estate Reserva 2012 from Chile. Santa Carolina was founded in 1875 and they are now part of the Carolina Wine Brands, probably the largest wine concern in Chile with estimated two-million cases of wine produced each year. Casablanca Valley is a newer wine region in Chile developed in the 1980’s during the revival of the Chilean wine industry and has made its mark in white wines. This wine was produced using both Stainless Steel and older oak barrels. There was a very light oak flavor to the wine and it was very easy to drink. We timed the food and drinks quite well for our little party as everything was consumed and it was time to go to the reception.

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Back for a Meeting

I had actually missed three meetings of my dinner club, though I did continue getting my duties performed for the group, both prior and after each meeting. I truly enjoy the comradery of the group, but prior commitments precluded my attendance. I finally made it to another meeting without missing a beat. The meeting was held at the Masters Restaurant in Warren and we have had plenty of meetings there in the past, and the odds are that we will again in the future, even above the grumblings of some of the members who have even longer commutes than I do, and it was quite onerous, in that it took me almost three hours, because of the inability of people that drive that probably should not have licenses.

After getting to the restaurant and taking care of my initial duties for the club, it was time for me to greet the fellows and even welcome a member that had been gone for several years who had returned. The restaurant is under new ownership and I could not really detect any changes, we even had the same waitress that has put up with in the past dozen meetings or so. The new owners also decided against changing the kitschy décor which is all golf memorabilia, since the restaurant in structure is a copy of the famed club house that is seen yearly during the famed golf tournament known as the Masters. Our hosts that evening had ordered a couple of hot appetizers that were served in chaffing dishes in the back of our room and it was just a help yourself set-up. It was while I was studying the menu that I noticed slight changes in the new ownership. The first entrée that was offered was Atlantic Salmon which was broiled and served with a baked potato, no change there. The next two offerings were different. There was “Hawaiian Chicken” with a teriyaki sauce over rice pilaf and Tenderloin Beef Tips in a teriyaki sauce served over rice pilaf. The use of teriyaki sauce was new, as I had anticipated more of a Hellenic slant to the food from the new owners. I had ordered the beef dish and I found that the sauce was much saltier than I am used to, since most of the time I encounter tenderloin tips done in a Zip sauce, which is all the rage in the Metropolitan Detroit area, and if you have never encountered a Zip sauce it is basically drawn butter with garlic and a few other spices.

As has been the latest custom these days, since the guests purchase their own drinks, I was going to partner with another member and buy a bottle, but the wines sold by the bottle were just as pedestrian as the wines sold by the glass, so I opted to have a cocktail earlier and then a glass of wine with my meal. The most interesting red wine that I found was Wolf Blass “Blass” Black Cassis Cabernet Sauvignon Langhorne Creek 2015. Langhorne Creek is a designated wine area within the much larger Fleurieu region of South Australia. This was wine made with twenty percent of the wine aged in oak and I must presume the balance was aged in Stainless Steel. Wolf Blass was founded in 1966 and now does about five-million cases of wine a year from just about all parts of Australia. They were bought by Treasury Wine Estates which also bought Penfolds. It was a decent glass of wine from a restaurant that is not wine focused as I am sure that they pour more cocktails and beer compared to wine. I shall look forward to the next meeting, as it is a new venue for us.

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