Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Archive for March, 2010

Wine 2.0

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Posted by Burke Morton On March - 27 - 2010

This is, I understand, a parody of French infomercials. I saw some infomercials like this when I was in France last month, and this is entertaining. However, it is also entertaining in other ways without that frame of reference....

Popularity: 5% [?]

White Wines from Southern Oregon

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Posted by Burke Morton On March - 20 - 2010

The longer I've been in wine, the more captivated I am by white wine and the wide range of possible flavors that it can give you. This spectrum of flavor is far, far broader than it is in red wine, but somehow white wine has become less satisfying to us as a wine buying public. I don't think white wine has more of an intellectual appeal, besides such a descriptor is better reserved for specific wines that are somehow more mentally stimulating than emotionally nurturing. I can see many possible reasons why red wine has become so popular, though I suspect that it'll be quite a while before I decide I don't have better things to think about than this. For now, I'm willing to settle on the idea that white wine is becoming less fashionable.

If indeed white wine has become significantly less fashionable, then that means that too many people will miss out on the two very exciting wines that hit my glass the other day, both from Foris Vineyards in southern Oregon's Rogue Valley.

I have a long history with Foris, back to the days more than a decade ago when they had a bad label design, which I will admit I actually kind of liked for the fact that you simply couldn't stop looking at it--like a train wreck! Well, if it happened to get you to pick it up, as it did me, you'd find a mesmerizingly chewy Pinot Noir, and you'd go back and buy more. Now the labels have some sleek style, more reflective of all of the wines in their line-up, especially the whites. I love the Pinot Blanc from Foris, but the public doesn't clamor for Pinot Blanc the way I'd like, so common business sense meant that I spent more time getting under the skin of the excellent Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.

I tasted the Riesling and the Muscat Frissante recently, and they were evocative, fulfilling wines. The Riesling--which is a standby for me--is scrupulous, teasingly aromatic, and tensile, plus it is dry enough to make you rethink your definition of "dry". This is great winemaking, because the Riesling is utterly drinkable, and for $13 that's overachieving.

The Muscat is made in the Moscato d'Asti style, so it has plenty of sugar and plenty of acid to buttress that; low alcohol and light fizz so that you can consume it on your deck in the heat of the day; and such an expansive, perfumed aroma that you feel like you've walked into the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. $15 seems cheap for this wine! This one is probably a one-off, because there is usually only enough fruit every year for the dessert wine. Since 2009 yielded a bumper crop of Muscat, I'd take advantage of this and buy a case and drink it liberally, as few wines will bring as much joy this summer as this one will.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Burnet Ridge Cabernet Franc

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Posted by Burke Morton On March - 19 - 2010

Two weeks ago I tasted a wine that should create a stir, but it probably won't, just because it's from fruit grown in Ohio. The Ohio State University manages a research vineyard on the shore of Lake Erie, and they called Chip Emmerich, winemaker at Burnet Ridge Winery (based on the west side of Cincinnati), and asked him if he could use it. Obviously Chip said yes, since I'm writing about the wine, and he made a first rate wine.

Burnet Ridge generally makes wine from fruit grown in California and shipped on a train to Cincinnati. Burnet Ridge wines are reliably delicious. The most popular wine is called Purple Trillium, a delicious wine made from a blend of Bordeaux varieties. This isn't Chip's first foray into Ohio wine: a few years ago, he made an excellent Pinot Gris, also from Lake Erie fruit.

The Cabernet Franc that I tasted had just been bottled. It had a marvelous floral aroma that kept me coming back for another sniff again and again. So compelling was the aroma that five minutes passed before I actually tasted the wine itself. The wine was treated to some maturation in American oak, but the aroma didn't reveal this at all. It does show up in the flavor profile with a dusty cinnamon quality that is very attractive. Chip tells me that this is because he used Minnesota oak, which has a tighter grain than the more commonly used Missouri oak. Whatever the case, the result is delicious. It has been released, and you can inquire about getting some here.

Popularity: 8% [?]

A Syrah from Dry Creek & a Bowl of Chili

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Posted by Burke Morton On March - 16 - 2010

Ridge Vineyards shipped the 2004 Lytton Estate Syrah as last month's ATP wine. I sat on it for a few weeks before popping one open. The wines from Ridge are the archetypes for food friendly California wine, reminding us that a wine from the Golden State need not be a shameless hussy to be delicious. In fact, non-slutty wine is actually useful for something other than horrendously expensive pancake syrup or an overly sweet and tarry glass of "wine" (which is about the limit of utility for any overtly self-conscious wine). To wit: we were having beef brisket chili with butternut squash (a variation on the one in Bon Appetit a while ago) that I had made last week, before it got warm, intending to have it the following day, but of course it was 65 degrees the next day, so we waited. We had it Saturday night, as the temperature outside dropped. This meeting of flavors in the mouth provided me with an good illustration of the vagaries of wine pairing.

If you stick your nose into the glass, the wine has a heavenly and complex scent dominated by aromas of oranges and blackberries. Ridge's Syrah is comprised of co-fermented lots of Syrah and Viognier, with an addition of Grenache to add some complexity as well as corpulence. As for the chili, its spice is driven by dried ancho chiles with an underlying flavor from puréed oven-roasted tomatoes. The chunks of brisket stand up well with a mighty beefiness. I included accompaniments of diced red onion, cilantro, and chihuahua cheese to finish it at the table.

A taste of the wine after a mouthful of the chili provided a beautiful confluence of flavors--the smokier notions of the wine emerged, the fruitiness lying in the background of the ancho chiles came forward, and the feeling of the two together was very smooth. Yum.

My next bite happened to have no red onion in it, and when I tasted the wine, it had a strong flavor of black pepper, no presence of fruit, with the result of a rather searing quality. Yikes.

I made sure to have red onions in every bite after this.

I've said this a few times in other articles, and many times in other venues: one change can make all the difference in a successful wine pairing. BUT!--if you know your chef (or your own cooking), and you know your wines (i.e., the wines you happen to have on hand), then choosing wine for your meal should be a matter of imagining the flavors in your food (or just taste what you're cooking) and recalling the flavors in your wines and imagine the way they might fit together. This takes some trial and error, but is not an insurmountable problem (this is more about feel than science, so it's accessible to everyone). Besides, as you experiment, you get to drink a boatload of wine (be responsible), so where's the problem?

Popularity: 6% [?]

Moroccan Food and Wine in Paris

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Posted by Burke Morton On March - 12 - 2010

I love Moroccan food. Love it. Exotic, exciting revelatory flavors (for a westerner...) make up the engine of this culinary tradition, and it is indeed a tradition. You quickly form the idea when you read the cookbooks or visit the countries of North Africa that the entire populace is comprised of foodies. In the U.S., it is the foodies who have gotten into Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian cuisine for its fascinating combination of sweet and savory made ever more enchanting by its aromatic glow. Slow Food adherents have also gravitated to North African food, as much of it is cooked in a tagine (pronounced tah-zheen'), a conical cooking vessel in which foods are braised with a small amount of water. I have even found that avowed non-foodies cherish the experience of this food because its charms are so foreign yet undeniably winning (don't think it converts them into foodies, though).

Culinary Responsibility--Putting Moroccan Food on the World Stage
Keeping up with the Joneses--acreage-wise--was a serious, occasionally very bloody European pastime for a few centuries, extending well into the 20th Century, long after imperialism was unfashionable. After relinquishing conquests in India and the Western Hemisphere to other colonial powers (mostly the British), the French needed something else to do. Perhaps they were seduced by the exotic fragrance of the souks (open air markets) of the southern Mediterranean, because one of their first steps was to occupy North Africa. France invaded Algeria in 1830, and within fifty years they added Tunisia as a protectorate, and did the same with most of Morocco by 1912.

Well, ever the epicures, the French were curious about the culinary traditions of the colonially oppressed (such equanimity!), and you the can find the fruits of this in the Vietnamese and North African restaurants that are ALL OVER Paris. I stumbled upon a small Moroccan place on a Paris side street and had a quick lunch of harira (soup) and b'stilla (a filo pastry with a sweet and savory filling--squab in this case), both of which were delicious and well-priced. And they served a Moroccan wine, a Cinsaut-Grenache-Carignan blend, that was very good with the food.

Dinner at L'Atlas
We went to l'Atlas, a serious Moroccan restaurant, for dinner after my day in Champagne. I had heard of the place from an American I met in Paris a couple of years ago. Despite having a somewhat overdone website, it is not a formal place at all, and is an extraordinary dinner experience. Within moments of taking our seats, our server brought out a small bowl of olives and another of spiced potatoes. Add some mint tea with a few dashes of orange flower water and you begin to get the idea of the heady experience to come. I started with a delicious plate of house-made merguez sausages, but when I tasted my wife's harira (the soup), I was insanely jealous. It was cold outside and the soup was not only warming, but exquisitely flavored--balanced and evocative, like the best cooking always is. We decided to split the Couscous Fassi, a fabulous dish of lamb, steamed chicken and vegetables served over couscous. The scent turned heads throughout the dining room as the server brought it to us, and it was as delicious as the aroma promised. The menu said it was for two, but it could have fed four easily.

Yes, yes...but what about the WINE???
Oh yeah, we had some and it was good! The Phoenicians got the ball rolling wine-wise in this region some 3,000 years ago. The Romans (God love 'em) amplified wine making traditions across North Africa 1,000 years later, after they pasted Carthage (for the third time) and decided to stay. As the Romans pillaged their way west from Tunisia to Morocco, they planted more vines (without which they apparently never traveled) in the most ideal locations. No place was more ideal than the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, where the best wines are still grown today. We ordered a bottle from this region: Zniber Vineyards 2006 Domaine Riad Jamil Rouge, from the A.O.G. of Beni M'tir. (A.O.G. stands for Appellation d'Origine Garantie, of which there are 14 in Morocco, each with its own specified grape varieties. It is intended to be an indicator of location and quality, and but only time will tell if this actually tells us anything meaningful.) The Riad Jamil turns out to be a dynamite wine made of 100% old vine Carignan. North Africa was once the source of an ocean of cheap wine bound for consumption in France, so in a sign of how determined the wine industry in Morocco has become in the last 15 years, the grapes for this wine are hand harvested from strictly limited vine yields. A world away from that bistro plonk of yesteryear, this dark, dark purple wine has intense black fruit oriented flavors, especially in the black plum and black raspberry range. The spicy (cinnamon) aroma is driven by a rich scent of black fruit preserves, and the cinnamon returns on the interminably long finish. By the way, as is common with concentrated (low-yielding old vines) Carignan, the texture is loaded with glycerin--the kind that makes your teeth slick. It's a great feeling. This wine is available in the U.S., but not widely, so check Wine Searcher if you are interested in tracking some down.

Popularity: 27% [?]

Decanting White Wine

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Posted by Burke Morton On March - 11 - 2010

Christian Moreau of the eponymous domaine in Chablis, explaining when it is a good idea to decant white wine.

Popularity: 6% [?]

Video Today

You don't need to speak French to know that the iPad can double as a Champagne Sabre.... Happy New Year!

Popularity: 83% [?]


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