Two More Reds

When one is at a wine tasting, I always look forward to the last two wines of the evening, as the wine selection usually builds up to a crescendo in full body and taste. Wines start with the lightest and work their way up, as the taste buds can appreciate the gradual change. This particular evening at D.Vine Fine Wines was no different.

The penultimate wine selected for the tasting was Paoletti “Bella Novello” Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. Paoletti was established in 1994 and their first release was in 1989. This wine was eighty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance was Malbec; and the grapes were harvested from twenty-year-old vines. The fruit was harvested from two sites, the Oak Knoll District and the Silverado Trail in Calistoga. The wine was aged for eighteen months in a mix of forty percent new oak and the balance was neutral. It was an enjoyable wine in the affordable price range.

The last wine for the evening is becoming one of the darlings from Napa Valley and I have written about the winery and their wines a couple of times before. The Tank Garage Winery “All or Nothing” Red Blend 2015 and they have a catchy slogan of “Never Dream Alone” as well as one of the most unique tasting rooms, a restored Art Deco gas station in Calistoga. The wine is a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Malbec and Mixed Black grapes. The “mixed black grapes” of Napa are a kind of well-kept secret of Napa Valley of indigenous native grapes of unknown lineage and are usually lumped in with other grapes. This wine was aged for fourteen months in forty percent new oak, which is a blend of 70/30 French/American Oak. Another Zinfandel wine that I found totally interesting and worth looking for.

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A Pinot and a Zin

I would say that I have been enjoying the organized wine tastings at D.vine Fine Wines and I find them to be an attractive offer at twenty dollars for the six tastings and some cheese and crackers; and yes, I pay for the tastings, just to make it clear that I am not a shill for anyone. I have been there twice now, when the room is extra busy because of a Social Media group that has also attended. I am sure that I must look rather strange, as I create a little photo-booth to take the pictures, so that I can also show the color of the wine. Even though the tasting is conducted by a moderator, I have had some ask me for my opinions, as if I am a maven, but I answer as honestly as I can.

The third wine of the evening was an old friend of mine, at least I like to think that, as we purchased a mixed case from the winery, after doing a tasting there, we also walked the grounds of the estate, the spa-resort and then we had dinner there as well, with some extra special memories. The Bernardus Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2013 was a wonderful wine and well worth the price of the admission for the evening. The estate wines are labeled Marinus, the middle name of the owner, and also the name of his restaurant on the grounds and his other wines are under the Bernardus label. The winery is located in the Carmel Valley, but this wine’s fruit comes from the Santa Lucia Highlands and comes from Rosella’s Vineyards, Pisoni Vineyards, Gary’s Vineyards, Sierra-Mar Vineyards and the Tondre Vineyards; all of which I have had the pleasure of enjoying wines from these growing fields. The wine is entirely Pinot Noir and it has been aged for twelve months in neutral oak barrels. The wine featured long legs, deep color, a good nose and was very reasonably priced for a Pinot Noir of such heritage.

The fourth wine of the evening is a varietal that I am gaining more respect for, as I tended to eschew it for years, and that is Zinfandel. Klinker Brick Winery of Lodi, California is in its sixth generation of wine growers and makers. Their wine TranZind Red Blend 2013 was another Zinfandel wine that I found to be most agreeable and it has the Lodi-Mokelumne River AVA. From the name, one can tell that Zinfandel is the main grape and it is eighty percent old vine Zinfandel and the balance is Petite Sirah, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine has been aged for sixteen months in American Oak and it had a mellow flavor and not the Zin-bomb that I am always wary of. Though Lodi seems to be the initial home for Zinfandel and there are some wineries that take real pride in making the best that they can.

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A Gris and a Chard

I had another chance to go to a wine tasting near my house at D.vine Fine Wines. It is all predicated on our schedules at home. I am still working a bit in my semi-retirement phase doing whatever I can to help and my schedule is not totally up to me. Then there is my Bride who works and does volunteer duties as well, so we are not always in sync for time. If this happens, I am trying to go to do some wine tastings to see what I may not otherwise try.

The first wine that I tried for the evening was a WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Gris 2016 from the Yamhill-Carlton Appellation in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. WillaKenzie Estate was created by Bernard Lacroute when he bought a four-hundred-twenty-acre cattle ranch in 1991. He began planting in 1992 and his first wines were produced in 1995. He planted Pinot Gris in 1992, 1993 and 1996 on 14.2 acres on his estate. The winery is now Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine, but the winery was sold to Jackson Family Wines in 2016. This wine was a very soft gold in color, very balanced and what I look for in a Pinot Gris (Grigio).

The second wine of the evening was Mira Winery Chardonnay 2015 from Napa Valley. Mira Winery is quite unique as the have bi-coastal wine tasting rooms. Of course, the first is in Napa Valley, and the second room is in Charleston, South Carolina; as a side note, I must say that we had a wonderful time there, but there were no tasting rooms when we were there. The fruit for this wine came from the Oak Knoll district in Napa Valley. The wine had a nice golden color and I could discern a touch of pineapple that I found appealing, and you know how much I dislike using descriptors for taste.

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Father’s Day 2017

Another Father’s Day has passed and the traditional day is celebrated where the honoree goes out into the backyard and displays his culinary technique on the barbeque. As you may have ascertained, I am not one of those fathers, though I laud and appreciate those that do. I could probably get lost on the way to my backyard. We had no plans for the day, though I did hope that it would include some wine, after all why should this day be different from all other days? My Bride gave me some wonderful gifts including some heavy reading for some time to come, as she got me a copy of Raymond Kevorkian’s The Armenian Genocide, a very impressive tome with almost two-hundred pages of notes to the over one thousand pages of scholarly writing, and as she told me, there are not photographs.

On a lighter side, I asked if there was anything that she wanted to do, as she had been hinting around that she would like to go to the cinema. I have to admit that I am not a fan of most of what is available, but then I guess they are not marketing films towards me, so we went to see Wonder Woman. The period settings were well done, but most of these “blue-screen” films do not excite me, and I longed for my youth and Lynda Carter and many of you may have to Google that reference. After the film, we went to the city of Northville and had dinner at The Garage Grill & Fuel Bar that we have been to several times. Upon arrival, we were told that the dinner menu would not be available until four o’clock three different times, which kind of irked me, because I figured that by the time we ordered something to drink, it would be time; I can be a real curmudgeon at times. My Bride wanted something light so she had the “Pacer Salmon Salad Bowl” which was herb crusted Norwegian cedar roasted on a bed of Kale and other greens with shaved Brussels Sprouts, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried fruit, onions and a Pomegranate Vinaigrette. I had the “Big Block Boneless Short Ribs” which were classically prepared braised short ribs on a potato puree with sugar snaps, cremini mushroom and water chestnuts.

The wine that was poured was Summers Andriana’s Cuvee 2014 from Summers Estate Winery. The wine was a mix of fifty-nine percent Sonoma County and forty-one percent Napa Valley. The wine was Cabernet Sauvignon, at least eighty-one percent of it was, the balance being Merlot, Petite Verdot, Shiraz and Petite Sirah. The wine was aged for sixteen months in French Oak of which half were new barrels. Summers Estate Winery is part of the much larger Bronco Wine Company and it was a very pleasant wine. The day was enjoyable and I heard from our children and even from some of the grandchildren, which is a way to make me smile even more.

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Another Grad Party

I guess a quirk of my personality is that if I like someone, I tend to razz them and some people don’t get it. Thankfully one of my nephews for sure gets it and he gets a kick out of his crazy uncle (I guess). Some people just can’t appreciate my humor or that it is just my way of letting someone know that I like them, or I can just be totally social, but the warmth is not there. The honoree of the day takes it all in stride, in fact when I saw him earlier before the party, as my Bride was there to help with some of the food arrangements, I kidded with him, that he must have forgotten to shave for his party. Sure, enough when he returned after going with his parents to get some more stuff for the party, he took the time to shave, and then I got a chance to razz him about that as well.

The graduation party was a joint venture with another family who had a son in the same class as our nephew, so there was a lot of hub-bub in the kitchen area of the hall that was rented. There were multiple women in the kitchen each working on the dishes that they had brought for the party. There was one long table that was set up as a buffet style with all of the assorted dishes laid out it in a logical order. I kind of cheated that day, under the guise of checking how the ham was heating up, I kept liberating some slices, but there was so much ham there, it was never noticed, except perhaps to Commandant Bride. I am such a picky eater, that when the time came to make a plate of food, I just had the ham and the Armenian Pilaf that my Bride had made for the party.

The day was an unusually hot day so we took two bottles of white wine and one bottle of red, as I especially wanted the Louisville clan try the red, before they took off to go home. The white wines were a no-brainer for the day. The Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay 2014 from the Sonoma County has been a crowd pleaser from the first time that I tried it, and they have been making it since 1973. The maritime section of the Sonoma County is perfect for Pinot Noir and for Chardonnay, and when I think of Sonoma-Cutrer I automatically think of their Chardonnay. The red wine that I took was one that I had bought from a wine tasting event that I had attended. The J Pinot Noir 2015 was a wine that I really enjoyed and the J is for Judy Jordan who got her start from her father Tom Jordan of Jordan Vineyard & Winery. J Vineyards & Winery began only making their sparkling wine and have just recently begun making some still wines and Pinot Noir is a natural, considering that it is used in their sparkling wine. The wine carries a California AVA, but there was considerable quality and coordination on the fruit. The lion’s share comes from the Olson Ranch from the Santa Lucia Highlands (and I am very partial to the Pinot Noir wines that I have had from there) and then twenty-six percent comes from the Russian River Valley, while four percent comes from the Santa Maria Valley; none of which are shabby. Alas, I could not get a comment from the Louisville clan about the wine, because they did not want any more wine to try, because of the long drive home, and I totally understand that. As for the honoree of the day, he had a grand time, along with all the people that came to enjoy the moment with him.

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A Planning Meeting

I am a graduate of the Detroit Public Schools and I am proud of the fact. I think that I have more fond memories of my Elementary and Junior High School days, but that is because my High School was away from the neighborhood and we were all splintered off to different schools. I have mentioned Woodrow Wilson Junior High School often. Our first reunion which was an open year get-together was at a bar and I was kind of railroaded into chairing the second reunion that was the start of an enjoyable event. I even had the honor of addressing the last graduating class of the school and that was pure pleasure. Now that I am semi-retired I am not totally a master of my schedule, but I was able to go to a recent planning session for the up-coming event and I am looking forward to it. I do lament that in this age of instant gratification, people have no desire to pre-plan or make a payment for something down the road and I don’t understand it. There is a malaise that has become all too evident today, that people want to reap the rewards that others do, which in the long run will destroy the desire of those that do, to persevere.

The last planning meeting that occurred was at a restaurant from the old neighborhood, instead of a bar and at my age, I enjoy having dinner with friends, instead of just drinking. The meeting was held at Vince’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria and I go back to the days when it was just a carryout pizza joint, where they handed you the pizza over the top half of the screen door, before they added the restaurant and banquet facilities. I looked forward to having my favorite dish of theirs, the gnocchi with meat sauce, since it is a dish that somehow has disappeared from most menus.

Prior to the planning meeting the group met in front of Woodrow Wilson Junior High School for a group photo and it was a hot afternoon. So, I decided to cool off first before dinner with a glass of La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna DOC 2015. This wine is made by Sello & Mosca, the largest wine producers on the Isle of Sardinia and have one of the largest contiguous wine estates in Europe, though they are now owned by the Campari Group. Vermentino is the most important and known varietal on the island, and is also known as Rolle, Pigato and Favorita. The wine is a very pale straw yellow and offers a crisp taste featuring very strongly the mineral taste of the terroir. With my dinner of Gnocchi, I switched gears and had a classic red wine to compliment the meat sauce. I had the Castello Banfi Chianti Classico DOCG 2014. Chianti is the perfect wine for such a simple dish that I had, and the Sangiovese laden wine. This particular wine is only aged in wood for a couple of months and does not have all of the nuances of some of the great Chianti wines, but it reminds me of a much finer production of the classic “Dago Red” wines of my youth, and that was part of the entire evening. All in all, it was fun and I am looking forward to the upcoming reunion.

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The Out of Towners

Our family in Louisville came up for a family function and I was playing phone tag with my Bride about when we could all get together. The question was whether my Bride should wait for me or if I should meet her at the hotel that they were staying at. I was running a bit late and I had to cross town, so I told her to meet them early and spend some time and I would have a bit to eat with them, depending on the time that they actually got to the restaurant. With their traffic and unloading of the vehicles and the traffic I encountered they had just arrived a few moments before me and they had ordered a bottle of wine, but were only studying the menu when I got there.

We were all meeting at Sweet Lorraine’s Cafe & Bar which is very close to our house and it has been a place that I go back to years ago, at their original location when I was in college. It was only a couple of days earlier that I had read in the paper that they were closing the original location and were going to focus on the restaurant at the hotel. Back in the day,  the restaurant made a big splash, because they were similar to Alice Water’s place in San Francisco. They were very avant-garde with the dishes and they are still offering dishes that have a little nuance that is not encountered in the regular eateries. The other great thing is that one never leaves hungry. I had made it a point to have a late lunch, just in case I would have arrived late to see them, and so did my Bride, so while everyone else was having a full dinner, we just shared an order of Steak Fajitas that was ample for us to share.

My Brother-in-Law selected a fine bottle of wine that would pair with the entrée dishes that were ordered. We had the Ramon Bilbao Crianza 2013 that was pure Tempranillo. Ramon Bilbao was established in the Rioja Alto back in 1924 and they are firmly ensconced in the region making quality wines. This particular bottle was a Crianza which by law in Spain requires a minimum of twelve months in oak and then another twelve months in bottle before being released. The barrels as they are aging are selected for different grades of each vintage. This was such a smooth and appealing bottle that the first bottle evaporated and we had to enjoy a second bottle during dinner. It is always good to see the Louisville clan and we would see them one more time on this abbreviated trip.

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