Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Next New "Other" White Meat

Apparently, breeders have come up with the second "Other" white meat - goat! Seriously, I'm not kidding or just trying to get your goat. Really! Most Americans have never eaten goat and might even be turned off by the idea, but, trust me, many people around the world eat goat - all over South America, Mexico, Somalia, Eritrea, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Spain and our very own Southwest to name a few. Goat is good, but I recently tasted some that was truly denuded, neutered, no goat flavor at all. Apparently Turkey was the first white meat and pork was promoted as the "other" white meat after being "deflavored", now goat joins the list as the second "other" white meat. It was tender, but flavorless like lamb without any lambness, or veal without any vealness. After a long hard search, I found some goat online from a company in Colorado, but was the search worth it? It reminded me of pasteurized, homogenized, corporate American eggs. The last time I had a really flavorful egg was in the South of Italy where I was served eggs the color of the orange southern sun and bursting with flavor. Then there are the simulacra passing for strawberries, and tomatoes that look perfect and have no flavor. I mean, where's the beef? How about some locally grown, sustainable, non-genetically modified real food. The name of my next supermarket will be Real Foods. How about you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Crush pARTy In The Desert

Please sir, can I have some Chard, actually anything chilled? A red on ice? Iced Tea? Some cold beer? Okay, okay, don't have a Twit in the desert! My wife found the first cold quaff. Nimbus ale, locally brewed, a cool draft at last. It seemed we had to hunt and peck for some chilled wine - La Chasse de Chardonnay! Finally, we scored. I had been hoping to score some Nichols and Nichols Chard but it was nowhere to be found. At this point Hess Chardonnay seemed like a good alternative.This was followed by fuller versions of Chard such as Decoy, ZD, and Stag's Leap. After cooling down we were able to summon some appetite and found the perfect Chardonnay pairings - tuna sashimi and marlin shashimi.-  both were exquisite with any of the Chards. The marlin sashimi was incredible. In fact, the food in general was fabulous.

Tucson restaurants really put their best feet forward. Pulled pork sliders were the thing. At least half a dozen versions were presented - all good. Fabulous scallops prepared perfectly by the Grille at Hacienda del Sol greeted you just after the entrance. Scallops in the desert, tuna sashimi in the desert, marlin in the desert - a throwback to geologic times in Arizona? Nah, just fresh ingredients from some of Tucson's top restaurants.
So many restaurants, so little wine, but some of the wine was exceptional. We'll get to that in a minute. First, a list of restaurants to check out in Tucson: El Charro - a local chain of Mexican restaurants, Downtown - a bistro avatar of Janos , one of the top restauranteurs in the city, Harvest &  Zona 78 new avatars of the Grille at Haciendo del Sol.

Survivors of the Depression II, excuse me, the Great Recession ( 45 Tucson restaurants closed in the fall of 2008): Vivace - old Italian standby, Acacia - moved North, Flemings - corporate steak house, Armitage - uptight apparently cool wine bar in the Foothills, Lodge On The Desert - remodeled and retrofitted just in time for the "recovery", Feast - still there, Azul - en el norte de Tucson a La Encantada. Pastiche - restaurant, wine bar and wine shop offered a unique and very useful feature - business cards with the wine name on the back and a brief description of the wine. The descriptions weren't that accurate, but then how many tasting notes are? Just to have the name of a wine that you like on a card is a tremendous help and reminder, clever marketing, too. How many times have you tasted a wine that you loved and you couldn't remember the name. What a great innovation which should be imitated at every wine event. Bravo, T.M.A. and Pastiche!

These little cards helped me to easily note the remarkable wines of the evening, Between all the food booths some interesting wines could be found. Although many of the wines seemed like the usual commercial fare, some wines stood out.In addition to the Chards already mentioned, The Henriot Champagne was a cooling fresh beverage that was a perfect match with the tuna shashimi. The reds that most stand out in my mindare from Niner, especially the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. While the 2005 Heitz Cabernet wasn't exactly on a par with the famous 1974, it was quite good, a significant improvement from recent decades of mediocre wine. The 2008 Robert Craig Affinity was delicious as usual, but surpassed UMHO by the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are looking for a monster Cabernet, look no farther than The Sledgehammer - big with explosive flavors. Doube T Red from Napa had a more modest profile, but full of black fruit flavors - a little friendlier, not such a brute.If fruit bombs are your thing, the 2009 Manifesto from Lodi will be your friend..If you are looking for something lighter still, become a fan of 2008 Dutton Goldfield Pinot Noir.

If you don't follow California wines, poke around the wide selection of Italian wines from Zonin.The Prosecco was light and fruity - a perfect wine to start the evening on the patio. Seeing a Vermentino brought back wonderful memories of the Cinque Terra, but alas, this version from the Maremma was so fruity it tasted American, at least wasn't defective like so many Vermentinos from Sardinia. The big event was the Zonin Amarone, a beautiful, big rich version of this wine made from the unusual Corvino grape partially dried on bamboo racks in Valpollicella -rich, velvety, smooth, flavorful -perfect.

If you didn't make it to Crush this year, put it on your Facebook page next year. If you were there, we had a great time, didn't we? I even copped a few bottles of white Burgundy in the silent auction, maybe  you will next year.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Crush : A Moveable Feast @ Tucson Museum of Art

Come and get it! Hot wine available for tasting. Hot food, too! April 1st, April Fools Day! To paraphrase a little, they say that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the desert sun. The sun was setting, but the thermometer was not. The plaza of The Tucson Museum of Art was in the 90s at the start and cooled down to 85 or so as the evening wore on. Last time I attended Crush, the temps were perfect, in the low 80s. Once when we were in Britsh Columbia, we commented on the rain to the first native we saw. "Well, it would be British Columbia, if it weren't raining." Commenting to a Tucsonian about the heat, "After all, it's Arizona." I guess I'm still a Northerner at heart. Though I usually do well in the low humidity of the desert with temps up to 93 or so, the red wines did not. They all tasted "hot" with lots of acidity and tannin standing out. In old "English Houses" the room temperature could be 55 Farenheit. Somehow I think the right temporature for reds in 63 degrees. I once tasted Kent Callaghan's Arizona Reds during a January windstorm that brought the winery to about 45 degrees. Kent had a remarkably simple system for bringing the temperature up. Pour the wine in the glass, place the glass in a pitcher of hot water, place the thermometer in the glass, remove the glass from the hot water when the temperature reachs 63 degrees, taste It took me a little while to get the hang of it. My first glass of ultra cold red tasted like liquid sandpaper. No flavor, no nothing, except tannin - purple/black liquid. The next glass at 63 degrees was full of complex black fruit flavors, balanced with gentle velvety tannins giving some backbone. I've learned so much about what a difference temperature makes to the taste of wine in Arizona. Once in a while, I get a glass pour of a perfect Chardonnay at a perfect 55 degrees.. A fresh stream of "stony", "mineral" liquid flows down my gullet and I feel as if I am by a cool stony brook. The heat led us to seek out cool Chardonnay. We found some excellent ones among the multiple food stations scattered around the T.A.M. plaza. In fact, this year, Crush seemed more like a food tasting rather than a wine tasting event. Tucson restaurants were strutting their stuff. Wine shops were strutting their stuff. The food was excellent, the whites refreshing and many of the reds delicious. Look for more about the wine and food  at the Crush pARTy in the coming days and weeks.   
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