Saturday, December 28, 2013

Dom Ruinart Brut Rose NV

The end of the year brings thoughts of resolutions for the coming year, making peace with the year that we've just experienced and, of course, a New Year's Eve party. Any New Year should have an obligatory bottle of Champagne to celebrate, whether it's a sweet California sparkling wine or a crisp and dry tête de cuvée from one of France's Champagne houses. Bubbling wine is both a tradition and a joyful way to count down to midnight.
Here's the lesson part. The differences in wine with bubbles is simple. True Champagne comes from the small region in northern France and sparkling wine is from the rest of the world. There are a few names for the ones found outside of Champagne. In Germanic areas it is called Sekt, in Spain it is Cava, and in California it is called whatever they want to call it. You may see some wines that aren't from France labeled Champagne. It's their right to do that, but in my opinion, they are charlatans and should be flogged with a grapevine branch.
I have had jobs that have afforded me the luxury of trying a lot of great wines. I have tried most Champagnes and sparkling wines that are available in the US, and a few that aren't. I've tried some of the heavy hitters like Roederer's Cristal, Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, and Taittinger. While those were all fantastic, one sparkled a little brighter than all the others for me while costing the same or less than these great wines. It was from France's first established Champagne house that often gets overlooked here in the US, but it shouldn't. It was Dom Ruinart's Brut Rosé. I used to have a bottle of the Non-Vintage (NV) Brut Rosé sitting in my wine cabinet waiting for me to set it free. I was waiting for a special occasion and realized special occasions don't come often enough so I should just open it now. And I did. And it was great.
The ritual of uncorking a Champagne is a different one for me. I don't see how loud I can make the POP, but I try to make as little noise as possible. Technically, the less it pops, the more bubbles are retained in the wine. Is it enough for you to notice a difference? Probably not. I just do it for the weird satisfaction of opening Champagne without the whole party knowing. It gives me the chance to have an extra glass before everyone sticks their glasses in for a taste.
Dom Ruinart's Brut Rosé was light, crisp and fruity while still remaining as dry as Brut can be. There were thousands of little bubbles dancing around popping the subtle flavors. The aroma from the glass is intense and fruity with fresh ripe cherries and red berries. The flavors translate from nose to tongue and is followed by a hint of Spring flowers. The overall experience of this Champagne was heavenly. I was eating some great French and Belgian cheeses while enjoying the wine, but I could have been drinking it with nothing as I watched the Times Square ball drop. If you celebrate the New Year and like a good Champagne that is worth a special occasion, try Dom Ruinart's Brut Rosé. You'll be a better person for it. Cheers.
Discover them here.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Domaine Gachot-Monot Côte de Nuits-Villages 2011

Here's a bit of boring geography. In southeastern France, there is a strip of land that grows grapes that make my favorite wines. The Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, or wine region, is collectively known as Burgundy or Bourgogne. The northernmost area of Burgundy, within the Côte d'Or, is the Côte de Nuits. Collectively, the area masterfully makes the best Pinot Noir in the world. Most of that was merely to let you know that I know where the wine I'm reviewing comes from. My lesson about the globe is over. Now, onto the wine.

Kermit Lynch is a wine merchant who travels Europe's wine regions looking for wineries that have outstanding wines, but may not have the means to distribute their wines efficiently or at all. The Gachot-Monot vineyard was such a find for Kermit. He saw that the area near the town of Corgoloin was ripe for the picking. (Pun intended.) Damien Gachot works the vineyards and makes the wine. Kermit Lynch brings it to the world. One of the fantastic wines that has made it across to America is the Domaine Gachot-Monot Côte de Nuits-Villages. The "Villages" at the end means it's more like a casual table wine rather than the super expensive wines from Beaune or other pricey areas. It's still nothing to snub your nose at. I got this bottle for just over US$30.

I had the distinct pleasure of sampling the 2011 vintage tonight. It emerged from the dark bottle the color of a flawless ruby. You could see through the glass, the wine and make out shadowy shapes on the other side. This was certainly not a deep, heavy wine that is prevalent in Bordeaux. It was light, easy and perfect. As with most French wines, there is a complexity to it that is hard to describe without sounding like a complete loon. There are hints of strawberry, cherry, limestone, mushroom, blah blah blah, typical aromas and flavors that wine experts impart on French Pinot Noir. The only thing you need to know is this wine is simply exquisite. It has a mild tannin structure so it doesn't make your face pucker. It has a bright fruity taste, but not sweet or jammy like some Pinots from California or Australia. The overall effect of the wine was that it made a hectic day fade into oblivion. I was going to pair it with something from the kitchen so I could tell you how it could be matched up. What happened was I just drank the wine and forgot to grab something out of the deli drawer. Even after drinking the wine by itself, I can still make a judgement call about what you can pair it with. Plan on a great meal of lamb, pork loin, or game birds (quail, pheasant) with some veggies, a little smoked Gruyere and bread. The upscale, but not ridiculously expensive, wine will match an upscale but not expensive dinner. Or, if you're really a mutton head like me, just sit on your couch and drink it while you're watching food shows on the telly. Love a French wine today. This French wine. Cheers.

Here is a link to Gachot-Monot.
And here is a Kermit Lynch link.
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rhiannon Red Blend Wine

These days it seems like every winery has their own special blended red wine. If it's from California, it probably has some Zinfandel and Merlot and a couple of others to make it seem like they spent countless hours inventing a one-of-a-kind vino to make the world beat a path to their doors. My thought is some of those wineries are just trying to take up more shelf space at the wine stores. Most of the time they are pretty good table wines. They don't have much character but they taste good and pair well with spaghetti.

When I heard that the Rutherford Wine Company was working on a new blend, my first reaction was there is going to merely be one more red wine I have to try fitting into the racks at the wine shop. I didn't know the name, hadn't seen the label, and didn't know what the blend was going to include. Their flagship brand Rutherford Ranch has been very good at making outstanding single varietals like their Cabernet, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc. So, as I thought more about it, I was cautiously optimistic about a blend from them. What emerged from their tasting room was what I was fortunate enough to try last night, Rhiannon.

Rhiannon is the Welsh goddess of magical birds, horses, Earth and fertility. It is believed that she represents the bridge between steadfastness and change. Translating that into wine speak, it means that every year's grape harvest is completely different than the last. Even though the blend of the wine is the same from year to year, the taste fluctuates with what the earth and climate do to the vines. It's the same in some respects, but different in others. What it means for the wine drinker is you get a different wine with each vintage, but it will always be good. Change with steadfastness.

This wine has a great label and the wine itself has won a lot of gold and platinum medals in wine competitions. Personally, that doesn't mean much to me. It could win a thousand awards but if I don't like it, then those mean nothing. Thankfully with this wine, the awards are accurately given. The wine is about a medium on the tannin scale which gives it a soft, even fruitiness that makes it easily drinkable. The main characteristics that I tasted were something like a bright red cherry and a touch of vanilla from what I'm assuming is oak influence. The aroma and aftertaste were the same for me with a kind of dark fruit salad explosion. It sounds messy, but it was rich and wonderful. This wine would pair nicely with baked ziti, pork chops, or, dare I say, a big juicy grilled hamburger. 

In a world full of red wine blends that fall short of interesting, Rhiannon is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Retailing for between $12 and $15, this could easily be my everyday red. Cheers.

Go check them out here.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tortellini Originali, Half Moon Bay, California

There comes a time in every man’s life when he’s decided he’s experienced the best “whatever” in his life; the best martini, the best massage, the best book. Recently, on a trip to California, I had a Best Sandwich Experience. As my portly nature would lead you to believe, I have had a few really tasty sandwiches in my life…then came “The Louie”. At Tortellini Originali in Half Moon Bay, California I had the best sandwich I have ever had.
Tucked away in a small strip center, Tortellini Originali is a shiny diamond waiting for you to find it. Here’s a little back story about the place. Granddad started a bakery in San Francisco. He made the wedding cake for Jumpin’ Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. He didn’t take a picture of them because he wasn’t star struck. He thought they were just a ball player and a blond. I love that! Dad took over for him and added the deli and moved to Half Moon Bay. Annalisa Miranda, the daughter, took over day to day operations with mom and dad still involved. Dad still makes all the pastries. Oh dear, the pastries! More on that later. It has all the atmosphere of a classic Italian deli with meats and cheeses, olive oil, fresh baked bread, and pastries. They also have a menu posted with some wonderful Italian deli fare including the best sandwich in the world “The Louie.”
The Louie seems pretty basic according to the ingredients listed on the menu. Breaded chicken cutlet, grilled onions, mozzarella, sun dried tomato, and arugula on either sweet bread or sourdough bread. What isn’t listed is how it’s seasoned and prepared. I opted for the sweet bread which hadn’t quite made it out of the oven when I ordered. To tide me over, Annalisa brought a little sourdough bread and butter to munch on. It was delicious, but I was anxious to bite into the sandwich.  It wasn’t long before the bread was done in the oven and the chef had masterfully put this monster together. The cutlet was pounded flat and lightly breaded with seasoned crumbs and fried in a light tasting oil. The chicken was laid upon a thick slab of fresh gooey mozzarella and topped with seasoned grilled onions and sun dried tomatoes. To top it off, they added crisp green arugula. I took my first bite hoping for a decent sandwich to end a great day at the beach. What I got was a tasty explosion that caused me to make a face like Guy Fieri makes after he tastes everything, that “Holy Mother of God, this is incredible” look. Since I have taken a vow to not stuff myself at every meal, I ate half of the sandwich and took the rest with me for later…which I ate heartily as a midnight snack. The Louie has lovingly entered my Food Hall of Fame right at the top.
To round out the great day my family and I were having, I told everyone to go find a pastry in the display. I am a sucker for lemony things so I got the lemon cream puff. It was the exact right thing to have after the world’s best sandwich. The whole meal, with bottled water, was completely reasonable. My wife, daughter and I had an outstanding meal for a little more than fast food and a little less than a sit down restaurant. If I lived on the West Coast, I would make it a point to travel down Highway 1 to visit Tortellini Originali again and again.

Again, they are located in Half Moon Bay, 225 Cabrillo Hwy, Suite 102C. Phone is 650-712-1408 or 415-286-0042. Go to there! Take in the beach and the ocean, and then go have some great Italian! Ciao. 
Here is the link to their Facebook page. Go like them!

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