Gougères are a specialty of the Burgundy region. These small cheese puffs are usually served as apéritif with a glass of Kir. They are delicious and easy to make, basically a cream puff dough (pâte à choux) with grated Gruyère cheese added to the dough before baking.
I don't think it is too hard for anybody to follow the ABC of Wine Tasting, which involves 5 basic steps also known as the 5 Ss: See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, and Savor. But if you want to drink wine like an expert, things become significantly more complicated. This article lists the ten most important attributes that one should look for in a wine, according to winemaker Aaron Pott
The first two, Typicity and Sense of Place, are I think the hardest to perceive. How to identify the unique properties that identify a grape varietal, or the land, the terroir from which the grapes are grown? These two are also tightly related: “A wine with a sense of place has typicity and wine that shows typicity shows a sense of place,” says Pott.
As I looks at the next seven attributes listed, Complexity, Integration, Elegance, Length, Balance, Power, and Texture, I think Integration, Balance, and Elegance are the ones I personally care the most. They're also related: “Elegant wines don't necessarily need to be complex but most certainly are integrated,” says Pott. Moreover, elegant wines don't require power and length, but they do need balance.
Now, the last attribute is for me the most important of all: Pleasure. “In the end,” concludes Pott, “the only question is, Do I like this?”
The whole article is here.
Technorati tags: wine food & drink
Roughly a year ago, my daughter convinced us to go vegetarian one day a week. There's plenty of good reasons to do so. It saves natural resources, decreases waste, reduces your contribution to global warming, and it's good for your health. The other fun part is to discover new vegetarian recipes and experiment with all sorts of ways to accomodate tofu, vegetables, legumes, and spices.
So last Thursday (that's our vegetarian day of the week), I decided to make pasta with goat cheese, lemon, and asparagus, a recipe that looked fresh and seasonal. As for the wine that could go well with the dish, I really got inspired to choose the 2002 Vouvray Sec Domaine de la Fontainerie Cuvée C, which was slowly aging in the cellar.
GC's Tasting Cafe is a casual and friendly place downtown Menlo Park, offering a good variety of sandwiches and small plates based on cheese and charcuterie. Thanks to Gérard, co-owner and Maître Fromager, the cheese selection is particularly expansive. The place is also a tasting room where you can purchase your own wine or taste by the glass. The wine selection includes well chosen wines from local wineries as well as from California, Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere.
For the party, I was asked to choose some of the French wines sold at the cafe that would go well with the cheese, and so here is what we tasted:
• 2006 Sancerre Les Monts Damnés Domaine Roger Moreux: Sancerre, located in the eastern part of the Loire Valley, is regarded as the spiritual home of Sauvignon Blanc, producing wines of great minerality and elegance. Les Monts Damnés or Damned Mountains is a terroir of chalky purity with an abundance of crushed oyster shells and wet stones. Domaine Roger Moreux has been making wine since the 16th century. It is located in Chavignol, a small village within the Sancerre appellation, also known for France's most famous goat cheese, the Crottin de Chavignol. The wine had an attractive, floral nose. The palate was crisp, with notes of grapefruit, and a persistent stony finish. And of course, it was delicious with the goat cheese.
• 2006 Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume Domaine Séguinot-Bordet: Chablis is located at the north of the Burgundy region, along the 48th parallel north which places Chablis at the northern extremes of viable viticulture. The soil is a mix of Kimmeridge clay from the Jurassic age, with the same chalk layer that is found in Sancerre and up to the cliffs of Dover. The appellation produces white wines only, all made from the Chardonnay grape. Thanks to the region's cool climate, the wines have more acidity and less fruit than Chardonnay wines made in warmer climates. Domaine Séguinot-Bordet is a 16 hectare family estate that has been growing vines since 1590. For young winemaker Jean-François Bordet, the main emphasis is to get the best fruit possible through careful pruning, debudding and harvesting. The wine had a focused nose of stone fruit, and a complex, mineral backbone on the palate. It was much less fruity than the Sancerre but nonetheless not less intense.
• 2005 Chorey-Lès-Beaune Vieilles Vignes Dominique Laurent: Chorey-Lès-Beaune is the Burgundy village appellation closest to Beaune. The appellation has no grand or premier crus, but the village wines have gained reputation of being among the best value on the Côte de Beaune. The total area under production is 136 hectares, the vast majority of this being Pinot Noir. Dominique Laurent is a renowned grower-producer in Burgundy. He owns only tiny parcels of vineyards and buys grapes or new wine from various growers, focussing on old vines, low yields and minimal intervention winemaking. The wine had a pleasant earthy nose of red cherry. The palate was tart, light-to-medium bodied, firm, but rather unbalanced in terms of acidity.
• 2005 Côtes du Rhône Domaine du Pesquier: Guy Boutière from Domaine Pesquier farms around 30 hectares of vines spread among Gigondas and Côtes du Rhône vineyards. The Côtes du Rhône is a classic Rhône blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan. It had a nose of sweet berry fruits and spices. The palate was full-bodied, quite robust, and richly flavored. A stronger wine, perfect with the salami.
• 2005 Château Charmail: Château Charmail is a Cru Bourgeois in the Haut-Médoc appellation, bordering Saint-Estèphe. It is produced by the Sèze family who also owns Château Mayne-Vieil in Fronsac. Planting is 48% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, an unusually high proportion of Merlot for the Médoc. I think this was the best red wine of the evening. It had a nose of black fruit with some notes of licorice. On the palate, it was medium-bodied, still young and tannic but very well balanced, tasty, and excellent with Petit Basque.
Technorati tags: wine food & drink
Earlier this month, on a cool and rainy Saturday morning, we drove north towards Marin County for some wine tasting. Deciding which wineries to visit was easy: only two wineries in Marin County have tasting rooms opened to the public.
Our first stop was for a hearty lunch at the Station House Cafe in Point Reyes Station. Then after driving about 2 more miles north on Highway 1, we found the entrance to Point Reyes Vineyards.
Earlier this year, our wine tasting group met again, this time for a blind tasting of Cabernet blends from Washington state. Each guest brought a mystery bottle that was quickly covered by one of our homemade purple velvet bags with a random letter pinned to it. The guests had to also bring their own glasses to be placed in a semi-circle in front of them, one glass for each wine.
What do you do with a few pounds of strawberries? a strawberry themed meal of course. First start with a Strawberry and Mixed Green Salad, followed by a Strawberry Risotto. The salad is fresh and fruity and the risotto creamy and tasty and not really sweet.
Marin County? A little known wine region for sure. Located north of San Francisco and just a stone's throw from Napa and Sonoma, this county has more suburbs than vineyards, with just approximately 200 acres under vine, planted to Pinot Noir, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon.
It's a coastal region, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the San Francisco Bay to the east, with a climate marked by relatively warm winters and very cool summers. Thanks to a long growing season, the resulting wines are characterized by a high acidity, low alcohol, and bright flavors.
Winegrowers and winemakers Jonathan and Susan Pey of Scenic Root Winegrowers are pioneers in the production of wines grown exclusively in Marin County. Their Shell Mound Riesling was named after the many mounds of oyster shells left by early Americans settlers across western Marin County. The wine is estate grown in an eighteen year-old vineyard located less than eight miles from the cold Pacific Ocean. While the vines require meticulous work, very little is done in the winery. After hand-harvesting and hand-sorting, there is no oak, no blending, and no malolactic.
The 2007 Pey-Marin Vineyards The Shell Mound Riesling Marin County is only 11.8% alcohol. It had a bright color and a mineral nose with notes of citrus. On the palate, it was dry and crisp with a nicely concentrated mouthfeel and aftertaste. Try it with an Alsatian onion tart, it's delicious!
Technorati tags: wine food & drink
The other day, my daughter found a delicious salad recipe that she made for us last Sunday. The salad, a mix of asparagus, green onions, and cucumbers, combined with various chopped herbs and lemon vinaigrette, was fresh, crunchy, and bursting with flavors.
How familiar are you with the wines of the Rhône Valley? Although the Rhone Valley is among France's best wine regions, we are not always aware of its multi-faceted viticulture and wine traditions.
The Rhône Valley consists of two fairly distinct viticultural regions. The Northern Rhône is characterised by a continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. It produces red wines from the native grape Syrah, which is sometimes blended with white grapes, and white wines from Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. The Southern Rhône has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot and dry summers. The region produces red, white and rosé wines, which are generally blends of several grapes including Syrah, the drought-resistant Spanish grapes Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Carignan, as well as Cinsault, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Clairette.
For this tasting, we had a selection of seven white and red wines from Northern and Southern Rhône. Here are the wines that we tasted:
•2006 Crozes-Hermitage Blanc Albert Belle Les Terres Blanches: a former member of the local co-op, Domaine Albert Belle has developed a solid reputation for producing top quality wines. The estate has now 19 hectares over 4 communes and two appellations, Crozes-Hermitage and Hermitage. This Crozes-Hermitage Blanc is a blend of Marsanne and Roussanne. My notes: light golden color, shy nose, fresh and light-bodied on the palate with an oily mouthfeel. Butterscotch aftertaste. Pretty nice.
•2007 Le Secret Ivre Domaine Pierre Gaillard: Pierre Gaillard started working in the wine business at a very young age and is now considered one of the Northern Rhone's best producers. Le Secret Ivre, which means The Drunken Secret, is 60% Viognier and 40% Roussanne. My notes: golden color, floral aromas on the nose, somewhat unbalanced on the palate. Not a crowd pleaser.
•2005 Saint-Joseph Domaine Coursodon Silice: Domaine Pierre Coursodon is a 12 hectare estate in the Saint-Joseph appellation — the second largest appellation in the Northern Rhône after Crozes-Hermitage — growing Syrah and Marsanne grapes. Harvests are manual and vinification is traditional. My notes: 100% Syrah. Deep color, expressive fruity nose, fresh and supple on the palate, excellent with charcuterie.
•2005 Cornas Eric et Joël Durand Empreintes: Cornas, a Celtic word that means burnt earth, is one of the smallest appellations in the Northern Rhône. The production is only red wine from the Syrah grape. Domaine Eric et Joël Durand is located in the southern part of the Saint-Joseph appellation and is also making wine from the neighboring Cornas. My notes: 100% Syrah. Dark color, peppery and blackberry aromas on the nose, full-bodied, great texture on the palate, multi-dimensional. Very classy, a big favorite of the evening.
•2006 Lirac Domaine de la Mordorée Cuvée La Dame Rousse: Lirac is located along the right bank of the Rhône river, opposite Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in the southern Rhône Valley. Domaine de la Mordorée is named after the poetic local nickname used for the woodcock that flies over the region during its migrations. The domain produces wines from the Châteauneuf du Pape, Lirac, and Tavel appellations. The Dame Rousse cuvée is half Syrah, half Grenache from 40-year-old vines. My notes: deep color, sweet fruit on the nose, but after the Cornas, seemed aggressive in the mid-palate. More detractors than amateurs.
•2005 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Domaine Chante Cigale: Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the most renowned appellation of the Southern Rhône Valley. Its terroir is characterized by a soil covered with galets or pebbles. The pebbles retain heat during the day and release it at night, which accelerates the ripening of the grapes. It also retain moisture in the soil during the dry summer months. Thirteen grape varieties are allowed to be used in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape of Domaine Chante Cigale is a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre and 5% Cincault. The average age of the vines is 50 years. The vinification is traditional and ageing is done with a combination of foudres, new barrels, and cement tanks. My notes: deep color, aromatic nose, rich and full-bodied on the palate, tasty finish, another favorite of the evening.
•2005 Gigondas Domaine Raspail-Ay Réserve: Gigondas is one of the best appellations in the Southern Rhône. The production is mostly Red with a small amount of Rosé. The place has been renowned for the quality of its wines since Roman times when it was named Jocunditas, which means joy or pleasantness in Latin. Founded in 1854, Domaine Raspail-Ay is a respected 18 hectare property around the village of Gigondas. My notes: a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre. Deep color, ripe berries on the nose, full-bodied, bigger than the Châteauneuf, slightly more rustic but good.
For our next meeting, we'll be pairing wine and cheese, so don't miss it!
Previous wine club tastings:
• Pinot Noir Tasting
• Second "Guess The Wine" tasting party
• Wine and Cheese pairing
Technorati tags: wine food & drink
Founded in 1971, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards is a winery located in the heart of Sonoma Valley, in Santa Rosa, California. It was named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi in recognition of the saint's love of the natural world. The Saint is also credited with bringing European grape cultivation to the new world.
The winery's President, Christopher Silva, is a fifth generation Sonoma County native that believes that the best wines can be grown in Sonoma County. His mission is for St. Francis Winery to become the premier producer of Sonoma wine. He is also seriously engaged in green practices such as water and energy conservation, wild life and natural resource preservtion, and use of solar energy.
I recently received a sample of the winery's new releases sent to me for review by Kobrand Corporation and so here are my tasting notes:
Some food is not easy to pair with wine — asparagus, artichokes, green salad with vinaigrette — but apparently, you can now purchase a seasoning blend called Vignon that makes food more wine friendly.
Vignon's secret ingredient is umami, as the seasoning is an umami-rich blend of Parmesan cheese, mushroom, and tomato, balanced with salt, garlic, and citric acid. Umami, a Japanese word that means tasty, savory, is one of the five basic tastes sensed by the tongue. The four others are sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
Now, is this working? Fiona Beckett, a food and drink journalist that writes for Decanter Magzine, is unconvinced:
“With cooked asparagus, it was weird, again removing the vegetable's characteristic grassiness, but also having no perceptible effect on the two unlikely wine pairings I'd put up against it, an over-oaked Languedoc Merlot and a Blossom Hill white Zinfandel.”
“Vignon is obviously not intended for people like me, who believe in the art of food and wine pairing,“ she concludes. ”But that's not saying it won't be successful. It can be ordered, if you're curious, from www.napaseasoning.com.”
Now, can't you simply add a stir-fry of mushroom to your asparagus or some shaved Parmesan and a drop or two of balsamic vinegar to your salad? I am sure that that should do the trick.
Fiona Beckett's article can be found here.
Technorati tags: wine food & drink
While I was in Paris earlier this month, my father-in-law took me out to a nice lunch on the Île de la Grande Jatte.
The Île de la Grande Jatte is a 2 km long island just outside Paris. It has been made famous by the painting Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte), by the French artist Georges Seurat. Seurat was not the only artist inspired by the island. Other painters, like Monet and van Gogh, also found their inspiration there. At the time, the island's grassy banks provided a popular getaway for Parisians.
If you happen to be in Paris in winter, don't pass up the chance to eat oysters. Whether you choose to go to a simple bar à huitres (oyster bar) or one of these glamourous brasserie, you can check how fresh and bright they are as oysters are traditionally kept on display on stalls that stand outside the restaurant.