I Try

Thanksgiving morning and the house was already a hive of activity. My Bride was preparing for some thirty people to come over for the holiday and I try to keep a low profile, until I am called for. She was concerned, because the largest turkey she could find was an eighteen-pound bird, so she bought an additional turkey breast as well. There was also concern because she had to make two batches of stuffing, because some didn’t want to have any stuffing that had been in the birds, which she normally mixes with the balance of the stuffing that she makes, so she made one complete pot of stuffing that was chaste. She also made her famous Caesar dressing without anchovies, because of some that were allergic to those tasty little fish. She was trying to get some of the dishes prepared early as there was a huge tenderloin to deal with as well, not to mention all of the sides that are needed for the meal.

Some of the guests actually showed up at the proper time suggested, as they were making their strategic battle plans for shopping on the next day. The table in the breakfast nook were covered with the advertisements from the papers, which is fine for them, as our shopping had already been finished, in fact the packages were already wrapped and bundled by families. The day before she had also mailed the cards with the newsletters and had even shipped the parcel for the Las Vegas families as well, she is very organized. If I had one complaint is that the newspaper which normally costs two dollars, charges five dollars for the Thanksgiving issue and I think that is outrageous, considering all the extra income the paper receives for the advertisements any ways. We tried to clear the table to place appetizers out for the punctual guests. We had a pâté that was just wonderful, as I was afraid that I would eat the entire plate along with mustards and cornichons. There were plenty of different cheeses set out, and for the aged white cheddar, we also had drizzled honey on the slices. My problem is that I can usually make my entire meal just from the munchies.

I tried to proselytize the concept of wine to those that usually say that our wines are too dry. I had filled one of the refrigerators with some wines that need chilling and I even put some wine that I thought would win over the nay-sayers. I opened up a bottle of Chateau Thivin Beaujolais Villages Rosé 2016. Chateau Thivin has been around for about six-hundred years and is in the heart of Brouilly in the Beaujolais region. This wine naturally is made from Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc and after the grapes are macerated the juice is left with the skins for a natural coloring and this fruit is from vines averaging fifty years in age. After the one day, the juice is fermented in Stainless Steel to maintain the fruit. It may have been the best Rosé I have had all year and they all agreed to try it, but to wine lovers it was great, but to those on fence, it just was still to dry. Our Daughter-in-Law brought a bottle of wine that was the hit of the early guests. She brought a bottle of Fenn Valley Vineyards Red Currant Wine NV. Fenn Valley Vineyards is from the west side of Michigan near Lake Michigan and they offer a wide range of wines not only made from grapes, but from other fruits as well, plus they are known for the charity events that they host from time to time. This winery in Fennville has a slogan “the lake effect everyone loves” playing off of the fact that the lake effect there in the winter brings extra snow-fall, but during the summer it allows a great climate for growing and harvesting grapes. The red currant that this wine was made from is a member of the gooseberry family and creates a sweeter wine that was a hit for the non-vinifera crowd.  I always think that today’s fruit wine drinker may become tomorrow’s wine drinker.   The Thanksgiving holiday was off to a great start.

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Dinner at Rocky’s

They say that the busiest night of the year in the restaurant trade is the night before Thanksgiving. Most people that are traveling to a destination for the holiday have arrived and since the majority will be cooking that Thursday, everyone wants to have a respite from the kitchen the night before and spend the time with family and guests. I guess we were no different, as the Kentucky clan were up, there was a group of us celebrating the event as well as their wedding anniversary and the birthdays of their two twins, a “two-for” as they say.

They wanted to go someplace different for the evening and asked us to select a venue and we chose Rocky’s of Northville, a place that we have been to often, as it is not far from our home and the hotel where they were staying. Rocky’s is a stand-alone building that looks a little out of the way for the area, as it looks like it should be up-north in Michigan. There is a full grown stuffed bear in a glass cabinet, plus lots of trophy games mounted on the walls. The menu is wide enough to sate most diners. We started off the meal by just ordering plates of fried Calamari with roasted Garlic, Capers, Pepper Rings and Provencal Sauce as well as some plates of Shrimp and Crab Cakes with Pineapple Salsa and Chili Aioli as well as some Fried Brussel Sprouts with a Balsamic glaze and Bleu Cheese. I won’t mention all of the dishes ordered, but my Bride had the Pan Roasted Monk Fish with White Pepper Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus and Herb Tomato Butter. I had a mental debate between the Braised Short Ribs and Roast Duck. Since I knew what the next day’s menu was at the house I went with the Maple Leaf Roasted Duck with Spätzle, braised cabbage, vegetables and a Cranberry-Orange relish.

The beverage part of the meal has to be included, as Man does not live by water alone. We started off with a bottle of St. Francis Chardonnay 2014. This is a Chardonnay from both estate and non-estate vineyards in Sonoma Valley, Russian River Valley, Carneros and Alexander Valley, so hence it carries a Sonoma County AVA. The wine is ninety-six percent  Chardonnay with a touch of Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne and it aged for six months in French Oak. This wine worked very easily with the first part of the meal. The other wine we had was from Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., namely their Cloudline Pinot Noir 2014. This is a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley and this was the first year that they used twenty-five percent of the fruit from the Rose Rock Vineyard. The wine I thought had good color, but the nose and the body were on the light side from what I expected and but it still worked well for the entrees chosen. It was a fine way to start the long holiday weekend.

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A Syrah and a Merlot

I always look forward to the last wines to be tasted, because by rights, and if the tasting proceeds as it should, the last two should really shine.  This was the case the other night when I did a tasting at D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia, Michigan.  I go to the tastings whenever I am free on a Tuesday night to discover, I hope, something interesting and perhaps I wouldn’t try as I am walking down the aisle at a wine shop.  I really don’t need any more wines, especially if I listen to my Bride, but as you may have heard, husbands have selective hearing or at least that is what we are accused of.

Wrath Ed Anima Syrah 2014

The fifth wine of the evening was listed as only having nine barrels produced and when I went to the winery they had listed this wine as having two-hundred-twelve cases made and the math seems close enough to me, either way.  The wine they poured was Wrath Winery Ex Anima Syrah 2014 from Monterey County.  I have to admit that I am a bit biased towards this winery and the county, as I seem to have quite a few bottles resting from both the winery and the county.  The fruit for this wine was harvested from their San Saba Vineyard which is just below the Santa Lucia Highlands, a famed AVA sub-region of the county.  This wine was a blend of grapes that were aged in Stainless Steel and neutral oak and the Syrah was very pronounced.  It had very purple bubbles as it was poured and showed extremely long legs and I remarked to the fellow across the table from me, who I might add just passed and is now a full sommelier (and congratulations are in order), that I thought this was would be excellent with a roast turkey.  He cocked one eyebrow as he looked at me, but over the years I have opened a Syrah as one of the wines with that dish.  I am very happy to see that Wrath Winery is getting some shelf space in Michigan.

Taft Street Merlot 2014

The last wine of the evening was a Taft Street Winery Merlot 2014 from Alexander Valley.  I had never heard of Taft Street and they consider themselves as a “Garagiste,” the term that is used in a slightly mocking manner in Bordeaux.  The winery originally began in a “garage” in Berkley back in 1979 and they are now in Sebastopol.  Here was a wine that for all intents and purposes was a Merlot as there was one percent of Petite Sirah and one percent Syrah and the fruit was harvested from the Hansen Vineyard Ranch.  The wine spent twenty months in oak, and they produced fourteen-hundred cases of this beautiful wine.  I guarantee you that I would have walked right pass this wine without giving it a second glance, but now I know the difference.  I will also take this moment to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving, if you are in the States.

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Bordeaux and Maipo

It is very interesting to see what type of wines are being offered at a wine tasting, especially when there is no theme or featured winery. This happened to be the situation when I last visited D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia. In a normal slate of wines for a tasting, the wines featured go from white to reds, and from lighter to fuller; and I mention this, not for the seasoned wine drinker, but for those that do tastings infrequently or have just thought about trying it for the first time.

I was a little surprised to see that the third wine for the evening was from Bordeaux. Chateau Pillebart 2015, in hindsight would have been my logical choice for the first of the red wines. Chateau Pillebart is on the slopes of Castlemoron-Albert the smallest village in France and is located in the Entre-Deux-Mers which is the largest sub-region of Bordeaux. This wine is a blend of ninety-six percent Merlot, with three percent Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon making up the balance. This wine was aged in Stainless Steel, instead of oak, so the fruit is forefront, but it still had a light taste, especially when compared to other Bordeaux wines.

The fourth wine of the evening and this one had more body was Echeverria Family Wines Propuesta Red Blend 2013. This wine is from the large Maipo Valley of Chile, and the winery originally was a producer of bulk wine, until they decided to step up their game; they were the first Chilean wine to be sold by Harrod’s of London. This wine is eighty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon, ten percent Petit Verdot and the balance is Malbec. The wine was aged for eight months in oak and it had long legs and good color and nose, nothing outstanding, but worthy of a second glass.

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Two Crisp Whites

I found that I had a free Tuesday, so off I went to another wine tasting at D. Vine Fine Wines in Livonia, Michigan. This wine shop and wine bar tends to have a wine tasting class almost every Tuesday night, and there are some that make it the night to go tasting. They have assorted wine tastings whenever one wants to venture in, but it is on Tuesday when the tastings are conducted by Lee Hershey and his vast knowledge of wine and his years in the wine trade. I met Lee years ago, when my Bride and I took one of his wine classes during the Culinary Extravaganza at then Schoolcraft Community College and now it is Schoolcraft College and they have one of the finest culinary programs in the state.

The first wine of the evening was from the Wine Cooperative of the Orvieto Community, one of the oldest cooperatives in that particular area of Italy. The cooperative began in 1949 and had thirteen vineyards and it now has one-hundred-fifty vineyards as members. The cooperative also has their own aging and bottling facility and have received official sanction for their wine. The Cardeto Orvieto 2016 was just a crisp white wine that was the perfect way to start the evening off. This wine is a blend of Trebbiano, Gracietto and Chardonnay grapes. The average age of the vines used is twenty-five years. This wine fermented for three weeks and then was bottled where it then aged for four months before it was released. Just a very easy drinking wine and as a side note, if one had several bottles of this wine and lined the labels properly, one would get a panoramic view of Orvieto from an ancient engraving.

The second wine of the evening really caught my attention as I have been enjoying some of their wines for years through the only wine club that I belong to. The Wrath Estate Winery Ex Anima Chardonnay 2014 was a keeper. The fruit came from their San Saba Vineyard that is located just below the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey. This wine was ninety-five percent Clone 4 and the balance was from the Kistler Clone and it was a delightful Chardonnay, if I do say. The wine spent four months on the lees in Stainless Steel, so it an un-oaked Chardonnay. Ex Anima means “from the soul” and I felt that it described the passion that I have encountered from other wines from Wrath and they are now a Sustainable Certified winery. The funny thing is that most of the attendees were not enamored by the wine, which allowed me to take some home with me that evening, their loss was my gain.

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MWWC#36: Environment

“Wait Master, it might be dangerous… you go first.”

Jeff at The Drunken Cyclist won the honor of winning the last Monthly Wine Writers Challenge and his reward was picking out the theme for the next challenge. He chose “environment.” I am the not the person to ask about the environment, as I can appreciate the end result from those that work the soil, I am lucky if I can grow dirt. It is pretty sad, that as a homeowner, that I or my Bride can not grow anything, and when we do get kind of successful the local rabbits and deer seem to cut short our progress. Thankfully the world of wine, does not have to depend on my ability to grow anything.

I thought of the recent fires that ravaged the wine country in California and then in Spain. I read some of the transcripts and even followed the first-person narratives of those that were in the midst of that tragedy and quite candidly, they did a much finer job, then I could, even if I tried to rehash the events and the drama. Then I thought of the recent new designations for wineries as they strive to be more than stewards for the land, as in the French “Agriculture Biologique,” which I applaud, but most of it is beyond my comprehension of being a good farmer.

So, my brain started a series of non-sequitur thoughts until I followed Igor and countless others who said “Walk, this way.” I followed them not down to a laboratory or even down a rabbit hole, but I walked down to the cellar. Those grand images of old wine cellars in Gothic mansions where the dust is part of the charm. The environment of the wine collection, something near and dear to the heart of those of us, who like to collect and drink wines.

The wine cellar is part of the lore of wines. Who cannot get excited when they see pictures or perchance an actual visit to some of the cellars of the grand estates on the continent. Where one can find bottles that have been resting since they were once laid down, which explains the wonderful libraries of wines that still exist, some perhaps past their prime, and others still waiting to show that they still have it. Some are like catacombs with cobwebs defying all that enter, not to defile the rest of the bottles. Those lucky souls that have the old bottles of vintage Port that have a daub of paint on the bottle, so that if the bottle is moved, it will end up in the same resting position elsewhere.

The closest that I ever got to being in a cellar of this stature was when we booked a tour and wine tasting at Neibaum-Coppola which was in the original structure built by the Finnish Sea Captain Gustave Neibaum who started Inglenook way back when. Our tasting was held in one of the old cellars, or with the magic of Francis Ford Coppola, maybe it was created to look like an old cellar, but it made the Rubicon taste all that much more wonderful. I have also had the privilege to be in some wine cellars of some old restaurants that are still in existence and that is a marvelous visit as well.

Nowadays the cellars are show rooms, just like they are putting small cinemas into the new houses. They have state of the art systems to keep the wines at a constant temperature and humidity. The woodwork and the marble in these rooms are as elaborate as a formal dining room. The wine magazines like to feature these elaborate rooms with their wonderful hordes of wines, usually in vertical runs. Not only is it possible to have house-envy, but now cellar-envy, as some of these cellars may have cost as much as my home.

When I first learned about wine cellaring when I was in high school, the main points were constant temperature (with an allowance for some fluctuation), darkness and the lack of vibration. These three rules I have always tried to maintain. My first attempt in my parent’s home was some shelves in the basement. My first home had a coal chute, under the front porch and next to what is called a Michigan Cellar for storing home canned goods. The house had been converted to a natural gas furnace, so the coal chute was perfect with racks that I built using two by fours. In our current house, I was able to actually build a cellar that is adjacent to two outside walls of the basement that have no insulation, but the walls adjacent to the actual basement are stuffed with insulation and so are the rafter above the cellar and the room stays nice steady fifty-five degrees with no mechanical assistance. I call it a cellar, but it is really just an oversized closet and with racks on both sides of the room, I can not turn around in the room. I built it to hold nine-hundred bottles, but I somehow have managed to cram around thirteen-hundred bottles in it, and yes, I am proud of that boast. I also managed to give it a bit of a cellar feel, by paneling the walls with the end crates of wooden wine crates that I carefully took apart, and when I ran out of wine crates, I actually pasted wine labels from all of the wines that I had drank that did not end up in scrap books. The racks I had ordered from a company and I had to assemble them like tinker-toys of my youth and when I get motivated I will finish the room with a crown molding of all the corks I have saved with this future project in mind. That is the environment for my wines.

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Two Enigmas

Leave it to Ms. Yoga to write to me about a couple of wines that she enjoyed, actually she bombarded me with six new wines. Some may not consider me a bona-fide wine blogger, because I tend to ramble on about wines, but that is just my style. I like to enjoy the moment and I like to have fun. Yes, wine can be very serious to me, but not at the expense of the moment. I guess that is why my collection of assorted wine drinking friends put up with me, because I guess I have a sparkle in my eye when the subject of wines arises. Ms. Yoga is an old friend of about twenty-five years and she and my Bride even have a longer run in friendship, and some how food and wine and merriment are always part of the equation when we are together.

Ms. Yoga does quite a bit of traveling in her present position and she enjoys having a glass or two of wine after hours, when she isn’t doing her yoga. Thankfully she does it, and not me, or I might be The Crippled Wine Raconteur. She usually drinks white wines, but she will never turn away from a red wine and she wrote to me that she enjoyed Apothic Wines Inferno 2015. I have had a couple of the wines from this winery and they are an enigma for the wine blogging community in that their wines are all “proprietary” which means that they do not list any technical information, in fact it is sometimes impossible to decipher what types of grapes that they even use. Their Apothic Red is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon while their Apothic Crush is a blend of Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir. The Apothic Inferno is unknown at the moment, but their selling feature is that it is blended in Whiskey barrels, which is not totally unknown as even the Robert Mondavi group have done this, and I have had two different wines that were aged in Bourbon barrels, including one that uses the famed barrels of Pappy Van Winkel. I haven’t tried the wine, but I am sure that it is a full-bodied wine like their basic Apothic Red with some whiskey traces and one day I may get a chance to try it.

The other enigma wine that she wrote about is Cooper’s Hawk Winery Sparkling Almond NV. Cooper’s Hawk Winery also has a chain of restaurants with thirty locations which also offer wine tastings as well, and I am not sure if Ms. Yoga went to one of their restaurants or had the wine elsewhere. Cooper’s Hawk Winery also produces about six-hundred-thousand gallons of wine per year, which is quite the amount of wine. The winery is located in Lodi, California, but the fruit I would hazard a guess is from many areas, as they offer scant information and no technical information. Even the grapes are not listed, though I did see one site that suggested that the wine is a blend of Viognier and Roussanne and steeped with almonds for flavoring and since it is a sparkling wine, I will go out on a limb and opine that it is probably produced by the Charmat Method, which is widely used for bulk production. Most of the reviews that I read about this wine were positive, and I think that I would try it, as I have very fond memories of a Tante from Milwaukee that I never met, that was a confectioner, and every Christmas while my Mother was alive, she would send her a twenty-five-pound box of hand-made and hand-dipped Marzipan; and that taste is what I compare to every piece of Chocolate Covered Marzipan that I have ever tried. So, Ms. Yoga is two for two, for two wines that defied any real research about the couple of wines that she enjoyed, but are worthy of a taste, if I ever encounter them.

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