Date Archives 2010

AVERNA Amaro dal 1868

Averna. The word reminds me of taverna. In my mind, there’s group of us lingering over coffee at the end of a long, particularly warm day early spring. We’re in a little town west of Palermo, in a caffe about a block from the ocean. It’s the season for alici, the little fresh anchovy fish that come in by the boatload, and are devoured at dinner.
Afterward, someone orders Averna, the Sicilian amaro, and we all sip from our tiny, stemmed glasses. A strong, dark liqueur, full of shadowy herbs, anise and other pungent, secret scents. Just what we need to settle down and relax before strolling back to the hotel – the way they’ve been doing it here ever since Averna amaro was first bottled in 1868.
Did this really happen? Did I see it in a movie? Did I dream it?
Anyhow, it’s what I pictured when I poured out my first sip of Averna after a meal this fall. I handed around glasses with a thimbleful of Averna in each, to dinner guests at home. Several had never tried it. A few refused it, a couple said they were leaving. I put the glasses in their hands anyhow. Everyone remained in their little groups, talking and sipping. Finally, they looked down at their glasses in surprise: the Averna was gone. Good night.

Pol Roger twitter tasting

This week, #PalatePress participated in the #Pol Roger twitter tasting. We tasted four: NV Reserve Brut “white foil,’ NV “Pure” Brut (non-dosage), Blanc de Blancs Brut vintage 1999, Brut Rose vintage 2002. (From Frederick Wildman, I should add.)
The house style is pretty light and crisp, which is why I was surprised to find that both now and historically, UK is their top market. Yet, this is also a very American style – that’s how I think of “light and crisp.” The style is consistent, throughout the range of wines we tasted this week.
Pol Roger is a house with its own long history: family-owned since it was founded in 1849.
And the only major house to continue hand-riddling.
Also, they use only indigenous yeast, according to Pol Roger’s Laurent d’Harcourt.
The next day invited a couple friends for “leftovers” – that was fun, too.

Wine for Chinese Take-Out

Earlier this year, I received 3 bottles of Pacific Rim Riesling. I took a clue from the Asian pictures on the labels, and immediately ordered take-out Chinese food. Which turned out to be the right thing to do. With the Asian spices of one dish and the sweetness of another, the Dry Riesling and the Riesling worked very well.
The third wine, Sweet Riesling, is really more of a dessert wine. It’s fairly uncomplicated, so try it with ripe fruit, plain cake or cookies (not chocolate).
Luckily, it took me a while to write about the wines. When I took them out again, I discovered the beautiful designs visible on the inside of the label when the bottles are empty.
Another great thing: the International Riesling Scale appears on the back of each bottle
Pacific Rim 2007 Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley ($9-$12)
Pacific Rim 2009 Riesling, Columbia Valley ($9-$14)
Pacific Rim 2009 Sweet Riesling, Columbia Valley ($8-$12)

Veuve Clicquot: Ready to Drink after a Short Trip

Veuve Clicquot travels. You knew this from a few years ago when they put out that great little suitcase. But now you’re only going to see friends or relatives for the Holidays. So Veuve Clicquot has 2 new carriers: a designer-patterned pink zip-cover for the Rosé and a tiny refrigerator-shaped case in the same bright yellow-orange as their iconic label for the Non-Vintage champagne. I was lucky enough to be able to test both.
After chilling over night in my refrigerator, I put them on a typical windowsill, this one at 67 F. After three hours, the champagne inside the bottle which had been left in the little fridge case was at 53.5 F, just about the right temperature to drink. The Rosé was at 56 F, just slightly on the warm side.
To compare, a US fridge is typically set at 40 F, and champagne just out of the fridge is 39-40 F, a little too cold to drink. After 20-30 minutes, it warms up to around 46-48 F, which is a great temperature to start drinking.
So now you know: it’s safe to take both the Rosé and the regular NV Veuve Clicquot to a party a couple hours away (just let it sit in a cool place for a few minutes to settle down from the journey) and the champagne will be ready to drink.

Bordeaux Soup, Part IV — Along the Dordogne River, on the Arcachon Bay, and Through the Vineyards

Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur vineyards also line the wide Dordogne River. There, several new families have taken up residence and are re-working the traditional vineyards according to the new AOCs’ specs. Near a traditional river fishing-hut with its winched-up net, Frederic Mallier is also going organic at Château de la Vielle Chapelle. Despite the frost, hail and other problems during the 2007 season, he has produced an extremely nice “everyday Bordeaux” with 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc which was my favorite in the tasting.
Also along the river are Dominique Meneret’s park-like gardens, golden at the end of the day, next to his vineyards. Since he acquired Château Brondeau in 1980 and Château Courteillac in 1998, he has been working to make a “cashmere wine,” smooth and elegant. Many of his wines have the feel of a Cru Classé; the 2009, still in barrel, was extremely promising, too.
Next door, at Château de Bel, Olivier Cazenave has fulfilled his dream of establishing his young family in a small house with vineyards. When we arrived one evening, we found he had also invited friends from Chateau Belgarde and Chateau La Mothe-du Barry to come over with their wines for an informal dinner. This was preceded by a long Apéritif during the sunset on a deck over-looking the river, where we sipped everyone’s wines while waiting for the mascaret – an remarkable, twice-daily tidal bore that comes up the Dordogne 70 km from the sea during certain seasons. And impressive sight I had never heard of before; I learned that in warmer months when the wave is higher, people surf this wave all the way up the river.
We experienced true historical life at Stefaan Massart’s Château Vilatte, where he grows his own wheat and bakes bread in the 19th century oven he renovated. He took over the estate at 19, when his father died in the early 1980s. Stefaan’s friend brought over a buggy drawn by a spectacular draft horse, to take us on a tour of the vineyards. Back at the house, looking at his curious collection of historic winery machines, we enjoyed a traditional, regional stew Stefaan had been cooking all day. Even his wines tended toward the historic, meant for ageing, like his merlot-based 2000: big, fruity and vibrant and great to drink right now, ten years after it was made.
Xavier Milhade of Château Recougne chose a different mode of transportation: he took us out on a simple oyster barge on the bay at Arcachon (Bordeaux’s seaside getaway). Along with blue-eyed, curly-haired Jonathan, our pilot, we had our aperitif wine – sauvignon blanc with a good balance of crisp and fruity — on the boat. Afterward, we went back to Jonathan’s oyster shack and feasted on fresh seafood matched to Xavier’s wines.

To hear more about my travels through the region, listen to me on iwineradio
To learn more about the region, visit the Planet Bordeaux visitor center – it’s about 20 minutes east of the city of Bordeaux — or check out the Planete Bordeaux website

Bordeaux Soup, Part III – Castles, Gardens and Terraces

…More on great Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur wines, most $15-$25…
Out in the countryside, we visited the amazing, still-lived-in 16th century Château le Grand Verdus which has been owned by the Le Grix de la Salle family since 1820. (It is now a national historic monument.) There, earnest, boyish 32-year-old Tom (who has three kids of his own – but they were in school when we visited) works the vineyards in an organic style with his father. After WWII, Tom’s grandfather realized that traditional family farms weren’t going to work in the future, and retooled it to vineyards. Thirty years ago, he even sent his son (Tom’s father) to work with Robert Mondavi in California because, by the 1970s, Mondavi had created a wine business of out very little. Now, Tom is looking forward to buying an optical sorter for the grapes, to save time; this estate is a very large producer – 70,000 cases.
Seventeenth century-style gardens greeted us at 17th century Château Pierraill, where Alice and Jacques Demonchaux’s son Arelien is now winemaker. Some have new owners, like Per Landin at Château de Parenchere, a Dutch businessman with a longtime passion for the wines and the region of Bordeaux. Astutely, he retained beautiful, young Julia Gazaniol as his marketing manager when he purchased the property from her family a few years ago, as Julia’s father Jean was ready to downsize. Jean continues to consult, and we enjoyed both their 2000 and 2007 Cuvée Raphael reds with our lunch.
At Château Lamothe de Haux, a property that houses four generations, we had lunch outside on a terrace above 19th century limestone caves, carved out for stone buildings built in the city of Bordeaux. Our terrace was also overlooked by the windows of a bed-and-breakfast apartment, available to rent in the chateau.

To hear more about my travels through the region, listen to me on iwineradio
To learn more about the region, visit the Planet Bordeaux visitor center – it’s about 20 minutes east of the city of Bordeaux — or check out the Planete Bordeaux website