Thursday, December 24, 2009

What To Drink With Fruitcake

Tyler Colman has a nice thread about fruitcake over at Dr. Vino. I'm making note of it because unlike most Americans, I actually like fruitcake, and I was impressed with the photo of one cut very thin, so light shows through the glace fruit.

I was also frankly disappointed with the pairing suggestions. Port, Madeira, Auslese...jeez, guys. Here's what to drink with fruitcake: Vin du Bugey-Cerdon "La Cueille" VDQS sparkling wine from Patrick Bottex. His winery is in Ain in the Rhône-Alpes, and he uses the Altesse grape, very successfully. It's light, it's bright, it's refreshing, with just a bit of cidery sweetness.

h/t Fredric Koeppel at "Bigger Than Your Head" for the image.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hangin' at The Usual Suspects #7

It's December, when everybody in The Business works overtime. So this entry is being somewhat hastily assembled, and will more than likely be subject to revision.

On this night, Les challenged us to move beyond our usual Francophilia, so the proceedings opened with a bottle that actually has a regular place on his wine list: The one and only R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosé 1997:

Elaine: There is some yellow fruit here, and something pea tendrils.

Dave: I'm mostly picking up oak spice. No red fruit. Is this grenache or tempranillo or what?

Elaine: Oh, look, it's actually on the label: 60% grenache, 20% tempranillo, 20% viura. It's kind of spicy and citrusy, and there's a note of baked or maybe stewed apple.

Dave: A little caramel at the end. To me, this seems to be mostly about barrel flavors.

Karl: Don't write this down, I'm getting a little sherry note.

Dave: Why not? It makes sense, it should be a little oxidized. It's 12 years old!

Elaine: The tannins taste of grape skin.

Dave: Now I'm finally getting some red fruit.

Elaine: This isn't really doing anything for the food.

Dave: Maybe it's a bar wine.

Elaine: Yeah, a 12-year-old bar wine.

At some point during this dialogue we ordered the duck appetizer and the all-important crab rangoons. About which Elaine clarified an earlier opinion. "It's not the perfect universal match for wine," she said. "It's more like a good control--it softens the effect of tannins and acids."

D. Ventura Vina Do Burato Ribiera Sacra 2008:

Elaine: This smells like a fruit-rollup.

Karl: An organic one.

Elaine: I haven't seen one in years. Whatever happened to them? This wine smells like the apricot one. And grape.

Dave: It smells like a Twizzer!

Elaine: Is that a hint of cigarette?

Dave: January is coming soon. What's the grape?

Elaine: Mencía.

Karl: (Reads the label) "Grown on slate and loess. Unfiltered."

Dave: Who is D. Ventura?

Karl: Jesse Ventura's brother...wait, here's the actual winemaker's name: Ramon Losada Fernandez.

Elaine: Violets, roses, minerals...very like a cru Beaujolais.

Dave: I'm getting cherry, and some cherry-pit-like tannins.

Elaine: It smells like sour cherry pie; there's so much mineral character, it's stoney, dusty--minerals entwined with tannins.

There followed an enlightening discussion of fried pies. Elaine is an aficionado, who knew? I asked her if she meant those horrible things from Hostess that you find in C-stores attached to gas stations, and she said no, not those, but ones that were made locally. And sure enough, there is a local producer, called Towne House Fried Pies. You can get them at the Enmark station on Tunnel Road in East Asheville. The bakery is on Parker Road in Riceville, which is less than 15 minutes away, so we assume a degree of otherwise unobtainable freshness.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hangin' At The Usual Suspects #6

The moon won't be full until Wednesday, but that ol' satellite was nonetheless tugging on some synapses.

As promised, tonight is Cab Franc night. Les has two for us, a Bourgueil and a Chinon. My last experience of Chinon was the truly astounding Château de la Bonnelière '05 from Marc Plouzeau, which tastes of intense dark cherries and berries and blood. So the bar is high.

James Petit Cuvèe des Gallucher "Tradition" 2007:

Dave: Cherry. Cherry and almond.

Elaine: Cherry all the way; even cherry-skin in the tannins.

Dave: Maybe a note of sweet tobacco?

Elaine: This is not as purple, not as floral as I remember the last vintage.

Karl: It's light and fruity like Beaujolais, except with tannin.

Dave: I'm not picking up minerals at the end. Certainly not iron.

Elaine: I don't know, this seems pretty developed, like it spent a lot of time in barrels. There's a style here, but I can't put my finger on it. Almost like Beaujolais, but with the structure of a Chianti.

We pause to order the miso-glazed pork-and-green-apple kebab with kimchi. And crab rangoons.

Olkey-Morey "Cuvèe des Tireaux" Chinon 2005:

Elaine: Look how much darker this is!

Dave: Yes.

Elaine: It is possible that crab rangoon is the perfect wine food. I'm willing to research this. Anyway, we're wine snobs, we're supposed to have wine and cheese. I knew this guy who was just totally against having wine with cheese.

Dave: That's nuts. All those old pictures you see of the peasant with a wheel of cheese and a bottle of wine? There's a reason for that. Cheese cuts the tannins. Wait, I have a real-world example! If you brew tea, and make it too strong, you can add all the sugar you want, but the tea will still be bitter. If, instead, you add milk, then the tannins are ameliorated. (Here's a link to why.)

Elaine: This has the bloody quality.

Dave: Olive. Green olive.

Elaine: Definitely less clarity of fruit than the Bourgueil, more savory. Although there's plenty of fruit…blueberry.

Dave: Very pure fruit, with the savoryness.

Elaine: It's hard to know what people mean sometimes, although I had an "aha!" moment with a pair of customers the other day. One said she thought pinot grigio felt like linen going down her throat. I told her she was probably tasting the minerality in the wine. And you could see the lightbulb going off over her head. I have no idea what linen tastes like.

Dave: I think of linen and lanolin. Maybe because they both start with "L"? A kind of waxy character. In texture, also.

Karl: Kimchi makes the wine burn in your mouth.

Elaine: The Chinon doesn't seem that tannic on its own.

Dave: I'm getting more berry aromas and flavors now.

Elaine: Yes, some raspberry there.

Karl: Chinon with lamb, mushrooms, and penne works. With the meat, the tannins are a plus.

Elaine: These just aren't bar wines. They're dinner wines. I feel like we're not doing them justice; they're very subtle.

Then we went in back and found the "Lord of the Rings" pinball machine. The moon isn't full yet, but it's full enough for some multi-ball play.

PS: My band, The Wellhouse, will be at The Still this Friday night out on the New Leicester Highway. If you've ever wanted to get in touch with your Inner Redneck, this is the time and place. (The Still doesn't have a website. Most of the customers I've met there didn't seem to give a rat's ass about Social Networking, or anything else, for that matter.)