Posts Tagged ‘BevMo’

Wine and Food… Dude!

February 6, 2012

I’ve been on a good run in picking wines over the last week or so…

Admittedly, I’ve been picking up a lot of wine that’s already been reviewed by other folks over that time period.

Take this one, por ejemplo…

Castello di Volpaia 2008 Chianti Classico

Kara and I were browsing the aisles of BevMo, when I came across the Castello di Volpaia 2008 Chianti Classico.  In reading the notes that were posted, this Chianti had a flavor profile that I was looking for.

Plus… It always helps when you find out that Robert Parker Jr.’s Wine Advocate scored this one a 90.

And I ain’t gonna lie…

The label just looks legit.

Really…

This is a beautiful looking bottle of wine.

Look…

See? Classy, right?

But…

On the real…

Chianti Classico was never meant to stand alone…

That's better...

I had these buns left over from barbecuing the weekend before last, so I decided to use ’em up.  The weather was still good this past Saturday, so I preheated the grill to “Sear your face off!” and got to prepping…

But first…

The wine!

The Castello di Volpaia is 90% Sangiovese.  From what I’ve read, the other 10% is Merlot and Syrah (but I could be wrong).

Color: This bad boy is a deep, dark, burgundy.

Nose: Definitely Earthy.  Soil and mushrooms dominate the nose.  The primary aromas are backed up by bright, red cherries.

Taste: Big cherries and raspberries up front.  This wine has some Earthy round tannins.  What really does it for me is the long, lingering finish of cranberries that gives way to a mouth-watering acidity.  To say this is a food wine is a little bit of an understatement.  This Chianti Classico DEMANDS food.

Score: This wine is just sick! At 16 bucks, it is guaranteed to punch you in the mouth with awesome.  90+

Back to the food…

Cheddar Turkey Burger with Horseradish Aioli and Herb Roasted Potatoes

Okay…

To say this wine demands food is a bit of an understatement, as well…

This wine deserves company…

Kara, it's time for dinner.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Beer (Can Chicken) Me!

September 4, 2011

Do you ever watch the Maury Povich Show?

As far as daytime talk shows go, Maury’s has to be considered one of the best… EVER.

It’s not that Maury brings anything special to the table as a host, or as an interviewer.  If fact, sometimes he’s a little too condescending for me.

The unsung heroes of the Maury Povich Show are the producers.  They’ve created a very simple format that is always… always… ALWAYS entertaining.

When you watch the show, there are really only three topics you are ever going to see…

There are the episodes where parents complain about their out-of-control children and have them sent to boot camp.

There are the paternity test episodes.  Though entertaining, they kind of bum me out.  I cannot for the life of me understand why you, as a parent, would want to broadcast questions of your child’s paternity to the world.

But my favorite Maury episodes are the ones dealing with EXTREME PHOBIAS, like this one…

Now look…

I’ve seen plenty of these episodes.  I’ve seen people afraid of cotton balls.  I’ve seen people afraid of olives.  I’ve seen people afraid of masks.  I even saw a nurse… A NURSE who was afraid of BANDAIDS!

Now as weird as these phobias seem, and as ridiculous as the Maury Show makes these people look, you have to know that the fears that these people have are REAL.

If you think about it in terms of percentages, you run into folks with these types of phobias every single day…  You just don’t know who they are unless they tell you.

For the longest time, I had always hoped for the day when I would meet a person with a fear like that…

But to actually go on a date with one of them, and to see their phobia in action… Well that was a dream come true.

Here’s the story…

When I was in college, about a year before I met my beautiful wife (I love you, Kara!), I had started to date a girl I had known since I was in high school.  I’m leaving her name out, but she shares the same name as a famous actress.  For the sake of this post, I will refer to her as Jennifer Aniston.

About two weeks into our relationship, Jennifer Aniston and I went on a date to the San Francisco Zoo.  Now, you have to know that during this time I was finishing up my Biology degree at San Jose State University, so I was really excited to show off how much I knew about all the different animals…

I showed her everything!

The zebras!

The hippos!

The lions!

The monkey house!

And my personal favorite… The gorillas!

Everything!

Come lunch time, we were exhausted… So we made a pit stop at the food court.

If you’ve never been to the food court at the San Francisco Zoo, you have to know that it is outside.  Surrounding the entire food court there is a bunch of netting.  The reason for this is to keep the animals out.  I’m not talking about the zoo animals… I’m talking about the city animals… Especially the birds.

Seagulls…

Crows…

Pigeons…

Birds, man…

Birds!

So there we are… Jennifer Aniston and I… Eating lunch.

I had a nice, juicy burger.  Since Jennifer Aniston was a vegetarian, she had a very healthy basket of french fries.

Now, I can’t recall a thing that we spoke about.  I just remember that she was smiling a lot.  I mean… Why wouldn’t she?  She was on a date with me!

I have to admit that I couldn’t pay attention to what she was saying, because I was hyper-focused on what she was eating… And HOW she was eating it…

The fries at the zoo are served vertically in a 32 ounce soda cup.  The fries are sooooooo greasy that the cup becomes translucent within minutes.  Next to her cup of fries, she had a 16 ounce soda cup filled to the top with ketchup.  So there she is… smiling… laughing… telling me how awesome I am… and, all the while, she’s dipping her fries in this ketchup.

Look… There’s nothing wrong with putting ketchup on your fries, but there was something wrong with HOW MUCH ketchup Jennifer Aniston was putting on HER fries.

It was UNREAL!

After each dunk, the fry would be completely covered in ketchup… COMPLETELY!  From one end to the next, these fries were COVERED.  She would pause for a moment to tell me something, and then she would dunk the fry AGAIN!  By the time each fry went into her mouth it was SATURATED WITH KETCHUP!

You know, there comes a point at which ketchup makes the transition from a lovely condiment to the MAIN COURSE.  Jennifer Aniston exceeded that threshold by a longshot.

It was UN-F-ING-REAL!

Sorry…

I kind of took a tangent.

Let me get back on track…

So there she is.  Jennifer Aniston is eating her fries, and telling me how rad I am, when… all of a sudden… something changed…

First I saw it in her face.  Where there was once a smile, her face began to turn to stone.  At this point, she wasn’t looking at me… She was looking through me.

Next, she began to move… wildly.  In one motion, she began to stand up while waving her hands in all directions.  As a result of her frantic motions, the ketchup soaked fry that was once in her right hand began to fly across the food court.  Her body, began to reach for higher ground.

Before I knew it, she was on top of the table… hands still waiving.

The airborne fry had found a new home, having been propelled onto the patch on the back of a Hell’s Angel.

Jennifer Aniston began screaming, “GET IT AWAY!  GET IT AWAY!”

When I looked around the table, wondering what she was talking about, I spotted a lonely pigeon on the ground.  It was chewing on a dropped french fry right next to where her feet had been.

So there I was… My date was flipping out.  Everyone in the food court was staring us down.  And I’m pretty sure that a member of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club was ready to kick my ass.

I shooed away the pigeon, gave my apologies to the biker (from a distance), grabbed Jennifer Aniston by the had, and headed for the exit.

On the way home, Jennifer Aniston was very apologetic, “I’ve been afraid of birds ever since I was a child.”

“Birds?  Really?” I asked, “Why are you afraid of birds?”

“You know how all birds kind of look the same?” she explained, “Well… When I was a little girl, I used to think that they were all the same bird… I thought that they were… you know… following me.”

As much as I felt bad for her, having to deal with a phobia like that… In the back of my mind, I was kind of stoked.

Finally!

Finally, I had found a person in real life that had one of those crazy Maury Povich Show type phobias.

“Good thing,” I thought to myself, “I will never have to deal with a phobia like that.”

Or so I thought…

Let’s fast-forward a few years…

Jennifer Aniston and I only went on a few more dates before we called it quits.  In the years since then, I had met my future wife, I had earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from San Jose State, and was in the process of getting my teaching credential.

As part of the process for getting my credential, I had to do a little student teaching.  It’s a pretty neat gig, being a student teacher…

I taught a 6th period Biology class at a high school right down the street from my apartment.  Since the only class that I taught was in the afternoon, and most credential classes are held at night, I got to sleep in every morning.  I would usually wake up around 10am, watch a little Price Is Right while eating my cereal, and ride my bike over to the high school around noon.

I would always try to show up to the school during 5th period, so I would have some time to prep for my class and observe how my master teacher was running his class.  The students in the 5th period class were very used to having me sit in on lectures and experiments with them.

So…

One day, I showed up to school during 5th period (like normal).  After locking my bike up, I headed toward the classroom.  Now, even though there was a paved route to the room where I taught, the quickest way to get to the room was to walk an unpaved path between two trees.

I was about halfway along the path, between the two trees, when I felt something…

This something was unlike anything I’d ever felt before…

It felt as if someone had just punched me in the back of the head!

Feeling shocked, angered, and defensive, I spun around with my fists up… I was ready to fight!

When I turned, however, there was nobody there.

“Maybe,” I thought, “there was somebody in the parking lot.  Maybe someone threw a rock at me.  Maybe they were hiding behind one of the cars.”

As I started walking back toward the parking lot to check out what was going on, I felt it again.

Someone… or something hit me in the back of the head… AGAIN!

Furious, I spun back around.

And again… Nothing was there!

Was I being attacked?

Was I imagining this?

Was I going crazy?

“Hello?” I shouted.  “Is anyone there?”

Confused, I started making my way back toward the classroom…

And then I saw it!

Out of the corner of my eye…

I looked up in the sky, only to see the silhouette of two long black wings… and two sets of razor-sharp talons…

It was a crow!

And it was coming right at me!

I ran into the classroom, barely closing the door behind me before the crow was able to catch up.

Everyone in the class turned their attention toward me.  Seeing that I was covered in sweat, the students began to ask me what happened.

“There’s a bird out there…” I panted, “and it just attacked me!”

After their laughter died down, I told them, “Just you wait!  After school, let’s take a look at those trees out there, and I’ll show you!”

Sure enough, when the day ended, a group of about ten students met up with me to see what was going on…

“That’s where it happened,” I showed the kids, pointing to the trees I had walked between.

As we looked closer, I noticed that there was a nest in one of the trees… and there was chirping…

I realized that there must be some chicks in the nest.  The crow must have been protecting her young.

Just then, a student walked by us, and began to make his way between the trees.

“Be careful,” I warned, “There’s a bird over there attacking people!”

“Yeah right!” he responded as he continued walking.

And then we all saw it…

The crow that had assaulted me earlier, starting going after the student.

As the kid spotted the bird, he dropped his backpack and took off screaming.

So here’s the deal…

I totally understand why the bird attacked me.  It’s perfectly natural for a mother to be protective of her offspring.

But even so…

Ever since that day, I have gone the way of the Maury Povich guest… I have gone the way of Jennifer Aniston…

I am deathly afraid of birds!

Not all birds.  I ain’t afraid of no penguins or peacocks.  I don’t give an F about a turkey or a duck.

But when it comes to city birds, like pigeons, seagulls, and crows, I just can’t hang.  I can’t!

I don’t just hate those birds…

I FEAR THEM!

Now, you know that recently I was able to get over my hatred of eggs, but when it comes to my fear of birds… it’s kind of tough for me.  I don’t want to get to a point where I want to pet a pigeon, or give a crow a hug.

What I really want is REVENGE!

Albeit symbolic, I can’t think of a better way to get back at a bird then to shove a can of beer in its body cavity and roast it on my barbecue.  So that’s what I did last week…

I present to you, BEER CAN CHICKEN: The Revenge!

I got a 5 pound bird. I rinsed it, dried it inside and out, and rubbed it with "beer can chicken" seasoning... Yes... That stuff exists.

Next, I got a can of Coors Lite and poured half of it out into a measuring cup for later. I put a bunch of holes in the top of the can, sprinkled some of that seasoning into the can, and placed the can in a special "beer can chicken rack" (Yup... Those exist too!).

The next thing I did was to arrange the chicken so it stood upright with the beer can up its butt. To make sure the wings cook evenly, tuck them behind the chicken's back.

Place the chicken on a grill set to indirect heat on medium. Notice the drip pan under the chicken. Only the three burners to the right are on. Shut the lid and check back in an hour or so. Make sure the temperature of the grill settles in between 400 and 500 degrees F.

The nice thing about roasting a chicken is that you’ve got time to chillax while it’s cooking.  Kara used this time to make us a nice cheese plate…

Say, "Cheese and Olives!"

And what goes well with cheese?

Gloria Ferrer 2008 Carneros Chardonnay

You got it!  Wine!

We picked up the Gloria Ferrer 2008 Carneros Chardonnay the other day while we were tasting at BevMo.  The Wine Enthusiast gave the ’07 vintage a 90.  For ten bucks, it’s one of the few actual deals there.  Here’s the breakdown…

Color: A beautiful golden yellow.

Nose: Baked apple.  Pear.  Guava.  Delicious.

Taste: There’s this great lime fruit acidity that lingers and dances on the tongue.  The acidity is balanced out with an oaky vanilla creaminess and green apple fruit.

Score: This wine is a steal and a half.  Buy yourself a six-pack, and bring it to your next wine party.  Give this crowd-pleaser an 89+.

Back to the dirty bird…

The chicken is ready when the thickest part of the thigh is 180 degrees F. My chicken was ready in about an hour and 20 minutes.

I let the chicken rest on the counter for about 15 minutes while Kara whipped up some horseradish mashed potatoes. The foil tent is to keep the chicken hot and moist. It also fights off cosmic rays.

I cut myself a piece of leg, thigh, and wing. It's plated next to Kara's delicious horseradish mash. Yummy yummy, you big dummy.

Now, you cannot enjoy a dead bird unless you have the perfect wine to go with it…

Paul Jaboulet Aine 2007 Parallele 45 Cotes Du Rhone

The Paul Jaboulet Aine 2007 Parallele 45 Cotes Du Rhone runs for 10 bones at BevMo, but you can find it at hella places.  This Cotes Du Rhone is 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah.  Check it out…

Color: Deep burgundy.

Nose: This is big and inky, with stinky blackberry and granite.

Taste: Big fruit of blackberry, blueberry, and plum.  There’s a great acidity with this one, balanced out with a little graphite and leather.  The horseradish potatoes brought the blueberry fruit out in a major way.  The fruitiness and acidity of the wine paired nicely with the richness of the bird.

Score: Another gem.  Give the Parallele 45 a solid 88+.  This is the perfect wine for roasted meats.  Keep it in mind for Thanksgiving.

So, you gotta know that I still am afraid of birds.

It still doesn’t mean that I can’t take out a little revenge when necessary…

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Gettin’ down at the Strip… Mall.

August 30, 2011

Sometimes the place to be is the strip mall.

Think about it!

If you’re hungry, just head on over to Panera…

Panera... I dare ya!

I got me half a turkey sandwich and a bowl of black bean soup.

If there’s a BevMo nearby, and it’s a Saturday, you can do a little wine tasting…

Well what do you know?

Six wines on a lazy Saturday? Why not?

More so than normal, I was really stoked on the wines they had for tasting…

The Cala Blanca 2009 Verdejo was crisp... Hella crisp.

The Gloria Ferrer 2008 Carneros Chardonnay was the bomb. It had a great balance of creaminess and acidity. For ten bucks, we had to buy us some.

The Triplebank 2010 Marlborough Pinot Noir was nice and ripe.

The Francis Coppola 2008 Director's Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley fell a little short of what I have come to expect from Dry Creek Zinfandels, though it did stay true to the style of the region.

Gnaughty Vines 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley was a fruit bomb. Though delicious, it came across as a little fake to me.

The Corazon de Plata 2010 Syrah/Tennat had a nice mix of dark fruit and bicycle tires.

BevMo even had some cheese and crackers for us to enjoy…

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

Not a bad way to spend a weekend…

Not bad at all.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

About last night…

August 14, 2011

Here’s the deal…

I told you yesterday that I was going to a party.

And I did.

Kara and I headed down to Gilroy to visit our friends, the Rockings, and have a good old-fashioned campout in their backyard.

They provided the food and beer.

Fat Tire and a Taco.

And of course…

I brought the wine.

Red Splash 2007 Red Wine by St. Francis

I picked up the Red Splash 2007 Red Wine for $9 at BevMo, because I wanted something simple.

Just a nice red wine.

The Red Splash did not disappoint.

Here’s the breakdown…

Color: Dark burgundy.  Almost purple.

Nose: The wine smells very oaky, with a little vanilla action.  The nose is also very hot.  You can smell the alcohol.  That’s not a good thing.  There is a nice red fruit component with hints of cranberry, raspberry, and cherries, but the alcohol distracts from it.

Taste: I like the taste of this one.  The body is medium to light for a Cabernet/Zinfandel based wine, but there are some nice lingering tannins that stick around for a while.  It’s got that cherry and cranberry fruit that I smelled earlier, along with some good oak.  There is a richness to this wine.  It made me want some cheese.

Score: This is a good wine.  It’s not trying to be anything but a red table wine.  I could imagine that this wine has the chops to pair with a variety of foods.  Pizza.  Steak.  Baked potato.  A light salad with goat cheese and walnuts.  This wine makes me hungry, and that’s what a table wine should do.  Give it an 86+.  Give it a try.

Here’s the thing about last night…

We had a blast.

But it did get a little crazy…

A good idea?

Stay Rad,

Jeff

The Rules of the Game Hen

August 11, 2011

You know I hate eggs (although I have been Facing My Fear).

I’ve alluded to my fear of birds (I’ll tell you about it some day).

I have, however, been really into roasting poultry lately.  There’s something really fun about tending to a bird in the oven.  Trussing.  Basting.  Butchering.  It’s kinda primal.

To those that know me well, I’ve been looking very primal lately.  Up until this morning, I hadn’t shaved in about a month.

I’ve also been getting primal in my eating habits.  I’ve been throwing a lot of meat on the grill.  You can’t get more primal than heating flesh over an open fire, can you?

Birds!

Back to birds…

I’ve been on a huge Rock Cornish Game Hen kick in the last few months.  I’ve got my Oven Roasted Game Hen down to a science at this point.  I love the richness of the bird.  I love the gamey (obviously) flavor of it.  It takes me back to those primal roots.  You remember how our Neanderthal ancestors used to crossbred chickens to produce smaller birds with bigger breasts and a tastier flavor, don’t you?

On Monday, I decided to mesh all of my primal inclinations, and roast a Game Hen on the grill… with the help of Weber’s Big Book of Grilling.

Here’s how to make it…

Almost always, game hens come frozen… So the day before, I like to thaw out the hen under some cold water in the sink (if you don’t want to quick-thaw it, put it in the fridge two days before you plan on cooking the bird).  After the thawing, I will brine the hen in a stock pot over-night.  The brine is made using a pot of water, half a cup of brown sugar, half a cup of salt, one bay leaf, a bunch of fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden, and one orange and one lemon thickly sliced.  This brine should ensure that the bird is juicy and flavorful when all is said and done.

The next day is when the magic happens…

Finely dice up some green apple, carrot, yellow onion, and celery.  Mix it up in a bowl with some room temperature butter, salt n’ peppa, and a little fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden.

Remove the hen from the brine, and try to stuff as much of the veggie butter mix in the body cavity as you can.  Using cotton butcher string, truss the bird up nice and tight so the legs and wings are snug against its body and the cavity is closed up.  Rub the body of the bird with more of the veggie butter mix.  Set any extra mix aside (we’ll find a use for it later).

Now it’s time to prep the grill…

Put a drip pan with thickly chopped pieces of apple, celery, carrot, and onion along with some salt n' peppa, fresh rosemary and thyme, and butter under the grates of the grill where you will be placing the bird.

Replace the grates on the grill.  It’s time to pre-heat.

The bird will be roasted using indirect heat on the grill, so turn on the three exposed burners to high and close the lid for about ten minutes (until the grill gets between 400 and 500 degrees fahrenheit).

While the grill is heating up, melt some butter in a saucepan with salt n’ peppa, rosemary, and thyme.  You will use this to baste your bird.

Now, let’s roast this sucker!

Turn the exposed burners down to medium high. Place the bird breast side down on the grates over the drip pan (not on the flame). I like to make sure that the cavity and legs are facing out to make it easier to check the temperature of the bird. Using a baster, coat the bird with some of that melted butter. Shut the lid.

Even though we are keeping the lid shut, you do need to pay attention to your grill.  You want to make sure that the temperature of the grill stays between 425 and 475 degrees fahrenheit.  Adjust the burners accordingly.  Every 15 minutes or so, go back to the bird to baste it with more of that melted butter.

The bird is done when the thickest part of the thigh is 180 degrees fahrenheit (45 – 80 minutes depending on your grill).

It should look like this…

Booyah!

I like to serve game hen with cornbread stuffing.  Remember the diced veggies and butter left over from stuffing the bird?  Mix those veggies in with your favorite instant stuffing.  It’ll be dope.

When the bird is done, remove the back and cut the hen in half.  Serve it on a plate with some stuffing.

Yum!

Yum!

“Hey Jeff,” you may be asking, “What wine should be used to pair with this bad ass game hen?”

Well…

Here’s what I had…

Joseph Drouhin 2007 Bourgogne Pinot Noir and a cook book.

I’ve had this  Joseph Drouhin 2007 Bourgogne Pinot Noir in the wine fridge for about a year now.  The current vintage is on sale at BevMo for $13.39, so I’m guessing it cost me that much.  Joseph Drouhin is one of the great shippers of wine from Burgundy.  This is his entry-level Pinot Noir.

Color: Of course this wine is light burgundy in color.  Like any wine made from 100% Pinot Noir, I was able to see my fingers through the wine.

Nice!

Nose: Red grape skins.  Minerals.  A hint of bacon fat.  Strawberry.  Red bell pepper.  This wine smelled delicious.

Taste: The fruit is a little bit tart up front.  Think of cherries, cranberries, and under-ripe strawberries blended together.  The mid-palate transitions to tomato seeds and vines.  It has a nice finish of green bell peppers.

Score: I liked this wine a lot.  It was really fun to drink.  It’s the kind of wine that makes you think.  This was a solid 89+.  Pick it up!

The Drouhin went really well with the bird.  The fat and gamey taste of the hen elevated the normally light styled Pinot Noir to having the full-bodied apeal of a Cabernet Sauvignon.  It also highlighted some raspberry flavors that had been hidden in my initial tasting.   Very nice!

One could say the pairing of the Burgundy with the game hen RULES… At least… I did.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

PS – When it’s time to clean up, don’t throw away the hen carcass or the veggies from the drip pan.

Use it to make a bad ass stock!

Throw all of those leftovers into a stock pot. Fill it up with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and leave it uncovered for 3 hours.

When all is said and done, you're gonna have this awesome game hen stock. I used mine to make risotto.

Lates!

This changes everything!

July 28, 2011

Remember The NeverEnding Story?

Remember when Bastian first starts reading?

There’s this troll-looking dude that flies around on a bat, and he’s hanging out with a guy in a top hat who rides a racing snail.  So they’re chillin’ in the woods, when they hear a rumbling in the distance.  It gets louder and louder and LOUDER.

Eventually, out from the trees comes a giant dude made of rocks riding a tricycle.

See? I told you!

They called him the Rock Biter, since his diet consisted of rocks.  I guess you are what you eat.

Anyway…

The Rock Biter starts hanging out with the other dudes, and they get to talking about this thing called The Nothing (an entity that is threatening to destroy their world of Fantasia).  The dude on the racing snail and the troll begin to tell of the things they had heard second-hand, but the Rock Biter had an actual run-in with The Nothing.

He told them about this beautiful lake that was in the center of his home town.  It was loaded with plenty of delicious lime stone rocks (which would be important to a rock biter).  But one day… One day The Nothing came, and then the lake was gone.

“What do you mean it was gone?  Did it dry up?” the racing snail dude asked.

“No.  It was just not there anymore.” the Rock Biter responded.

“What?  Like there was a hole instead of a lake?” the troll dude asked.

“No.  A hole would have been something.  There was NOTHING there!” the Rock Biter explained.

I totally understand what the Rock Biter was saying.  You can talk about The Nothing as much as you want, but there is no way you could ever understand it unless you experienced it.  In the movie, the Rock Biter moves with just a little more urgency because he knows what The Nothing is all about.  He wants everyone to understand what The Nothing is.

I started thinking about The NeverEnding Story last night while tasting some wine.

I started to think about The Nothing.

I’ve always been a fan of Riesling.  I’ve especially been into the Rieslings of Washington state.  I’ve never been afraid to bring a 6 dollar Riesling to a dinner party, because they are always crowd-pleasing.  They always have a nice balance of acidity and a little residual sugar.  Perfect with food.

Recently, I’ve been reading through Kevin Zraly’s wine book, and he spends quite a bit of time talking about the wines of Alsace (specifically Riesling).  While reading it, I was all like, “I know about Riesling.  I know that the stuff from France is gonna be a bit more dry.  I know it’s gonna have nice mineral notes.  I know it’s gonna have some good acid.  I know it all.”

Apparently, I had no clue.

It turns out that Alsatian Riesling is my Nothing.

Here’s what went down…

Alsace (France) vs Washington State

I picked up two completely different Rieslings from two different stores for two different reasons, and decided to taste them side-by-side…

F.E. Trimbach 2008 Riesling from Alsace, France

I picked up the Trimbach 2008 Riesling at BevMo for $21.99.  Easily, the most I’ve ever paid for a Riesling, but this is the first wine that Zraly suggests you taste in his book.  If I am to know about the Rieslings of Alsace, I’ve got to taste them.

I figured that if I really wanted to get to know this wine, I had to compare it with something I was familiar with.  So yesterday I picked up this…

Chateau Ste Michelle 2010 Riesling from Columbia Valley, Washington

The Chateau Ste Michelle 2010 Riesling will set you back $5.99 at Trader Joe’s.  This is my go to Riesling.  This is the one that I bring to parties.  This is the one that is just delicious.

And now…

The tasting.

Sing along with me! "Feelin' so fine. Tasting some wine... Side-by-side!"

Color: The Trimbach was a straw yellow.  It was considerably darker than the Chateau Ste Michelle’s pale yellow hue.

Nose: The Trimbach was hella complex on the nose.  Tons of small, not quite ripe, green apples.  White raisins.  There’s this crushed vitamin C characteristic that is really cool.  There’s also a little lime, fig, and motor oil.  The Rock Biter would also appreciate the lime stone minerality of it.

The Chateau Ste Michelle smells EXTREMELY sweet, in comparison.  There’s lots of fruit on the nose.  Pear.  Apple pie.  Peaches.

Taste: This is where it gets fun.  The Trimbach is RAZOR SHARP in its acidity.  I never understood the whole “Razor blades on the tongue” description that Gary Vaynerchuk talks about until I tasted this Riesling.  This is intense!  There’s a ton of lime and grapefruit on the palate.  There are also hints of green apple skin and walnut.  But really… the star of this wine is the dry, sharp, mouth-watering acidity.

The Chateau Ste Michelle, in comparison, is almost dessert-like in its approach.  I never felt that way about it before.  This thing is SWEET.  It has light peach and mango fruit on the palate.  There is a nice, clean acidity to this wine, but the fruit wins out.

Score: By all accounts, the Trimbach was everything I’ve read about Alsatian Rieslings, but nothing I could have ever expected.  This wine is a game changer for me.  I could write about this wine until my fingers fall off, and you still wouldn’t understand it.  Much like The Nothing, I need you to know how great this is.  Give it a 91.  Buy it.  Save it as an aperitif to a fancy seafood dinner at home.

The Chateau Ste Michelle is a good Riesling.  It is a respectable 87, and a real value.  I have no problem with popping this open with some Tuesday night Tai food.

But that Trimbach…

That Trimbach was something.

And since we had plenty of the bottle left after the tasting, Kara and I had the rest with dinner…

Meatless Mediterranean cabbage wraps and romaine salad of cucumber and dill by KaraIsRad. Entertainment by Dish Network.

The Nothing teaching me about Riesling?

Ain’t that something!

Stay Rad,

Jeff

Bringing the Wine. Calling the Bluff.

July 25, 2011

At the end of a recent post, I found this comment…

“Dave Thevegetarian Says:
July 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Reply   edit

If I would have known my meal would be featured on Stay Rad, I would have picked more handsome looking menu.  I demand you come back soon for another night of vegetarian goodness.  Don’t blow this by not bringing more wine.

Thanks,

Dave Thevegetarian

PS – Seriously.  Bring more wine.  I’m running low.”

Later that day, Dave texted a picture of grilled halloumi to me, via my wife (I don’t own a cell phone), with the message, “Come on over… and bring the wine.”

Never having been one to back down from a challenge, I yanked two random (yet related) bottles of wine from the rack, grabbed Kara by the hand, jumped in the car, and shouted, “It’s on!”

Kara began to shake her head.  “Again?!?!”

Once we arrived at the House of Thevegetarian, I reached into my fanny pack to see which wines I had picked…

A Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah and a Syrah. Who'd a thunk it?

Since there was no halloumi left, we jumped right into the wine.

First up…

Montgras 2009 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - Syrah

Here’s the thing about the Montgras 2009 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon – Syrah

I first started following this Chilean blend a few months back when I saw that Jay Miller of the Wine Advocate gave this wine a 90.  When I saw that it was $9.99 at BevMo, I picked up a bottle and really liked it.  The next week, BevMo started their 5 Cent Sale.  I was stoked to see that it was on the list of 5 cent wines, until I saw that they jacked up the price of it to 17 dollars!  Since I liked the wine, I still decided to pick it up with a savings of $1.50 per bottle (when you buy two).  What’s crazy is that now that the 5 Cent Sale is over, BevMo lists the regular price of the wine at 17 dollars, but sells it for $11.38 with your BevMo Club Card.  Meanwhile, Wine Library lists the regular price as $12.98, but sells it for $9.99.  If I lived in New Jersey, or if I had a free shipping coupon, I’d hit up the Wine Library for this one.

Aside from the weird pricing thing with the Montgras, there is also a question about the blend.  I could have sworn that when we checked the back of the label, it said it was 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Syrah.  Jay Miller refers to it as a 50/50 blend, as do all of the websites that quote Jay Miller’s rating.  The Montgras website says it’s 60% Cab and 40% Syrah, so I should go with that, but remind me to have Dave check his recycling bin.  As Tom Cruise once said to Jack Nicholson, “I want the truth!”

Now remember… I’ve had this wine before, but have never scored it.

Here’s the breakdown…

Color: Reddish purple.

Nose: Chalk (I love chalk!).  Plum.  Raspberry.  Tobacco.  I really loved the bouquet.

Taste: There is an instant BIG plum attack, followed by tobacco and green bell pepper.  The one drawback was the tannins.  They were HARSH!  I love mine big and round.  Not harsh.  I made a note that it would probably be best served after some decanting or cellaring for a year or two.

Score: I was surprised by the Montgras.  Maybe it’s bottle variation.  Maybe I’ve become a harsher critic.  I just remember liking this wine a whole lot more a few months back.  The first time around, I would have said this wine lived up to the hype… But this time, I was kind of disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong.  The wine has a beautiful nose, and the balance of fruit and vegetal flavors is interesting.  The problem is those harsh tannins.  I just can’t get over it.  At 86 points I cannot justify paying 12 bucks for it.

Up next…

Kendall-Jackson 2006 Syrah. Crappy tasting room. Crappy cork. Coincidence?

Dude!

You know how I feel about the Kendall-Jackson tasting room by the Healdsburg Plaza.

You don’t!

Oh man…

Okay…

In short, it sucks.

If you want the full story, click here.

When I pulled out the 2006 Kendall-Jackson Syrah, Dave was all, “I thought you hated Kendall-Jackson.”

“Their tasting room is for the birds, but… I already had this Syrah.  We may as well try it.”

Here’s what I thought…

Color: Reddish purple.  Much like the Montgras.

Nose: Chalk (mmmmmmmm).  Plum.  Tomato.  Nice!

Taste: A very nice combination of dark fruit, chocolate, and bell pepper.  The tannins are very soft and round.  Good finish.

Score: Believe me, I really wanted to hate this wine.  I really did.  There was just one problem.  The wine was good.  You cannot deny how delicious this thing is.  I’m giving the wine an 87.  The Kendall-Jackson website says current vintage of the wine is $16, but I’m pretty sure I got it for around $12 at Safeway.  If you are in a pinch, and looking for a nice Syrah, you may want to give the Kendall-Jackson a shot.

The Thevegetarians had opened up some nice wines as well.  I really liked their wines, but I promised not to score them.

I can respect their wishes, but…

They did give us a tomato from their garden before we left…

Tomato del Vegetarian

Look… I said I wouldn’t score the wine, but I didn’t make any promises about tomatoes.

Lucky for me, I just found a ripe tomato in my back yard this morning…

A Rad Tomato

So I decided to do a little head-to-head tomato challenge today…

Who will win? Who gets cut?

Tomato del Vegetarian:

Looks: A light brick-red color.  This tomato was the bigger of the two.  It was about the size of a racquet ball.  There was a low flesh/seed ratio with lots of juice-filled seed-pocket space.

Bite: The membrane was a little bit chewy, but not unforgivably so.

Flavor: Sweet, but with a green sensibility.

Score: This tomato was very nice. Considering his inability to build a succesful fantasy baseball team, I was surprised that Dave was able to produce such a good tomato.  This tomato would taste great sliced up on a turkey sandwich.  I give it two wedges and a stem.

Not bad.

A Rad Tomato:

Looks: A much darker red.  Let’s call it ruby.  My tomato was about the size of a large ping-pong ball.  With a much higher flesh/seed ratio, this tomato had much smaller seed pockets and a meatier flesh.

Bite: There was a nice snap to the membrane, and the flesh was the perfect blend of meaty and juicy.

Flavor: Sweet and dark tomato flavor.  Much sweeter than the first one.  It had almost a salsa-esque flavor to it.

Score: With these two tomatoes, it’s all about preference.  I think the sweetness and texture allows this tomato to stand on its own.  I’d love to have this one quartered with a plate of charcuterie.  I give it three solid wedges.

The winner!

It looks like when it comes to tomatoes, the Rad ones always come out on top…

The cream always rises...

And just so you know I didn’t pre-plan my victory, I took this picture in the off-chance that Dave’s tomato would have won…

In Dave's dreams...

Stay Rad,

Jeff

When the wife’s away, I drink her wine. Go Giants!

July 15, 2011

So…

Tonight, my wife went out to dinner with a few of her sorority friends from San Jose State.  I was invited, but it just seems more like a “girls night” type of thing.  I decided to skip it.

Tomorrow, she’s going to Napa with some other friends.  Again… it’s a girl thing, so I’m out.  Don’t trip, though.  Come Sunday, Kara and I will be heading up to Healdsburg for a few days in celebration of our first wedding anniversary.  Believe me… I will have my wine time.  I will have my food time.  I will have my Kara time.

There are three things I must do when Kara is away.

1)  I must eat greasy food.

2)  I must watch tv that she rather would not.

3)  I must open up her wine and have a taste.

So, earlier I made myself a greasy plate of red, white, and blue potato hash (She took the camera with her, so you’ll have to trust that it looked delicious).  Right now, I’m watching the Giants beating the Padres 2 to 0.  And here’s the wine…

Redtree 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. When the wife takes the camera, I steal pictures from the interweb.

Kara decided to pick up the Redtree 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon at the BevMo 5 Cent Sale.  Cecchetti Wine Company, the producer of this California red wine, gives a suggested retail price of $8 a bottle.  BevMo is selling it for $10 during the 5 Cent Sale.  My guess is that you would normally be able to get the wine for 6 or 7 bucks (Let’s all check BevMo.com after the sale is over).

Wilfred Wong (the resident wine taster for BevMo) gave the 08 vintage of this wine 88 points.  The Wine Enthusiast gives the current vintage an 85, calling it “A great wine to buy by the case for a house red.”  The wine maker pitches this screw-top cab as being both fruit-forward and food-friendly (They are also, apparently, fans of alliteration).

On the real, though… We both know you’re reading this to know how I feel about it…

Color:  Rose bush red.  It is light in color.  I can see my fingers through the wine.

Nose:  Chalk dust (I do love chalk!), orange peel, cocoa, and a little bit of tomato.  Not bad at all.

Taste:  There is some fruit at the beginning, but not what you’d expect.  It tastes a little like a cranberry, orange, and lime zest cocktail.  There is some nice acidity that would go nice with pasta, pizza, and pistachios (I can do it too, Redtree).  The only drawback with this wine is that it is extremely thin.  There is not much of a backbone at all.  I would drink it now if I were to buy it again…  I mean… If Kara buys it again.

Score:  83.  Pitched as a value red table wine, I can’t see the value in spending any more that $6 a bottle for it.  I’ve paid less for better (L’Authentique anyone?).  Again… It’s not bad.  It just ain’t that great either.

Well, look what happened…

I start writing, and the Giants extend their lead to 4 – 1.  I should do this more often.

Did I mention that the wife will be away tomorrow?

Stay Rad,

Jeff

The House of Thevegetarian: A Bordeaux Vertical w/ Enough Food to Make a Man Grow Horizontally.

July 10, 2011

Remember when I asked you to pick which wine I should drink?

Fine then!  Go here to refresh your memory.

One of the wines I featured was this guy…

Chateau Ballan-Larquette 2006 Bordeaux

At the end of the post, this guy (the winemaker for Chateau Ballan-Larquette) asked me to let him know what I thought about it.

Well…

The other day at BevMo, I was checking out the wines for the 5 Cent Sale (again… a total scam), and I found that they had the 2007 and 2009 vintages of the exact same wine I already had.  I decided right then that I had to purchase those other vintages and do a vertical tasting.

The problem is, 3 bottles of wine is just too much for one man to drink alone (1 bottle is too much).  So I needed to make an event out of it.

That’s where the Thevegetarians come in.

Dave Thevegetarian has been my best friend ever since we were in third grade.  Third grade, man!  If you want to figure out how long we’ve been friends, take the age that you are supposed to be when you’re in third grade (I’m too lazy to ask my Kara.  She teaches third grade.) and subtract that from 33.  That’s about how many years we’ve known each other, or something.

Dave and his wife, Kara Thevegetarian, both happen to be vegetarians, coincidentally.  They love throwing dinner parties.  I would invite the Thevegetarians over for dinner at my house more often, but I doubt they would eat my Blue Cheese Burgers.  They had us over for dinner last Friday.

“You bring the wine,” Dave told me, “and I’ll make some dope food for you, home boy.”  In spite of Dave Thevegetarian’s odd choice of words, I pulled my three bottles from the old wine fridge along with a little bubbly, grabbed Kara by the hand, and headed over to the House of Thevegetarian.

“It’s on!” I shouted.

“Oh brother!” Kara responded.

We arrived at 6:30 pm to a table loaded with vegetarian hors d’oeuvres and a cork screw.  I opened up the three bottles of Chateau Ballan-Larquette and arranged them thusly…

Chateau Ballan-Larquette 2006, 2007, 2009, and vegetarian goodness.

While waiting for the wine to breathe a little, Kara Thevegetarian poured us each a glass of this…

Clos La Chance 2009 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc. Why it was kept in the vegetable crisper is beyond me.

I’ve always been a fan of Clos La Chance.  So much so, that KaraIsRad and I were married there.

See! I told you!

The Clos La Chance 2009 Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc is a grassy lemon/lime machine.  The perfect aperitif on a hot summer day.  I’m not giving you a score for this one, ’cause I didn’t take any notes on it.  Let me just say that I recommend it.

On to the vertical tasting…

The Cateau Ballan-Larquette is a “value” Bordeaux.  The list price for this one is $19.99.  At BevMo, you will pay that much for it during the 5 Cent Sale, but when it’s not on “sale” you should be able to get it for about 15 bucks.  This wine is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc.  It spends 12 to 18 months in steel and cement tanks.

Up first…

2006

Color:  Ruby red with a little rust.

Nose:  Chalk (I love chalk), Cola, Green Bell Pepper.

Taste:  This wine is GREEN!  Bell peppers for days!  There is also a spicy black pepper component.  Good acidity.  There is a little bit of bacon fat in this one which really brings the whole thing together.

Score:  A solid 88.  Solid!

How about some food?

Roasted Asparagus Soup by Dave Thevegetarian.

Up next…

2007

Color: Same ruby color as the first.  Maybe a little darker.

Nose:  Bright Cherry.  A little wood shop action too (Strange, since to my knowledge this wine is not oaked).

Taste:  Very green with some SHARP tannins.  Sour Cherry.  Acid.  A little rubbery bike tire thing.

Score:  I originally gave this one an 87, but after the tasting was completed I gave it a retaste.  It just doesn’t hold up to the other two wines.  I now give it an 86-.

Note:  I bought this wine two weeks ago at the 5 Cent Sale.  All of the vintages at Bev Mo were 2009, but I found this one tucked in the bin.  At Bev Mo, they display their wines upright at room temperature.  There is a strong possibility that this bottle was sitting around the store for two years before I bought it.  Not being stored properly, this bottle may not represent the 2007 vintage properly.  Two questions:  A) Have any of you tried the 2007 Ch. Ballan-Larquette and have notes to share?  B) Would any of you ever buy an odd-vintaged wine that was not stored properly?

What?  You want more food?  Okay…

Stuffed Zucchini Crumble. It tasted WAY better than it looks.

Alright.  More wine…

2009

Color:  Same as the rest.

Nose:  Blueberry.  Cocoa.  Chalk (I love chalk).  I’m looking at my notes from Friday.  It says “DOPE!”

Taste:  Bell Pepper.  There is this sweet lacquered wood taste to it.  See that table in the picture above.  Imagine taking a bite out of that, but in a good way.  There is also a cranberry and white pepper component.

Score:  The 09 was my favorite.  It edged out the 06 because it was a little more complex.  Give it an 89+.

For fun, I also had the other folks rank the wines before I revealed my scores.  Here’s what they said…

KaraIsRad: She liked the 07 the best.  It was followed closely by the 09 which barely edged out the 06.

Kara Thevegetarian: She also thought the 07 was the best, but she liked the 06 better than the 09.

Dave Thevegetarian:  He was very much in my camp, scoring the 09 as the top wine (followed by the 06 and 07).

The takeaway for me was that this is a wine that can be consumed young.  If you are going to hold it for a while (I had mine for 3 years), make sure that you store it properly.  Put it in a cool place if you do not have a wine fridge, and keep them on their sides.  Decanting for 15 minutes to a half and hour is a good idea.  The 07 did start tasting off after a few hours, but again… I think it was doomed from the start.  I am looking forward to tasting more wines from Ch. Ballan-Larquette.

What?  MORE FOOD?!?!?

Baked ziti of smoked mozzarella. Like a circus, this dish was "in tents"!

After the business of the night was done with, we had a really fun time hanging out.  We even had a dance off.

Here is what my camera saw…

Sparkling white wine paired with sparkling bon fire.

Emile's California Champagne by Guglielmo.

Croatian Fig Brandy. Yikes!

Good times, but now I’m hungry…

Dave called my bluff and brought me some fruit. What a sweetheart.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

This wine makes me want food… Now!

June 12, 2011

Setting the mood: I have this tempranillo decanting in two huge wine glasses. The candle is for show. It will not be lit.

There are a few advantages to having summers off.  One such advantage is having a ridiculous amount of time to kill.

The other day, I spent almost two hours at the Gilroy BevMo just looking at wine.  Scoping the labels.  Reading the blurbs.  Scouting for deals.

A “deal” is NOT the same as a “sale”.

They are having their 5 cent sale right now.  It’s a scam that will be discussed on another day.

By deal, I’m talking about value.  A Rad wine at an equally Rad (if not Radder) price.  With so much time on my hands, I found that the best deals (on paper) were in the Spain, Chile, and Argentina sections.  I came across hella wines that were highly rated by the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Not Wilfred Wong!  Again… will discuss on another day) that were in the 10 to 20 dollar range.

From that BevMo adventure, I ended up buying 3 bottles of wine.  Of the bottles, the one that I am the most excited to taste is this bad boy…

The Mas Que Vinos 2007 Ercavio Tempranillo Roble cost me $10.99 and was given a 90+ rating by Robert Parker.  Now, Gary Vaynerchuk would tell me to trust my own palate, but I must say that my palate usually agrees with that of Robert Parker.  For 11 bucks, why not try it?

Now, it’s time to taste…

Mas Que Vinos Ercavio Tempranillo Roble 2007

Those smudges on the label are not supposed to be there. I'm that messy.

Color:  This wine is a DARK ruby.  There is a not quite rusty rose color along the outer edge of the glass.

Nose:  One sniff of this tempranillo filled my mouth with cocoa powder.  You know how you’ll be opening a packet of instant cocoa and a cloud of powder wafts up to your nose?  THAT kind of cocoa powder.  The chalkiness of the nose also reminds me of opening the box for a new bicycle tube.  There is a green component to this wine as well.  Slightly minty.  A little like fresh lettuce from the garden.  There is a deep note of plum.

Taste:  I don’t want this to throw you off.  My first thought in drinking this wine was of a grapefruit.  Imagine that tart citrus component of a grapefruit.  Now take away the mouth-puckering sour aspect.  I guess I’d call it essence of grapefruit.

Now, take that grapefruit and dip it in chocolate.  Delicious!

There is a lingering acidity.  A little lime.  There are some nice soft tannins that tell me this is as good as this wine is going to get.

This wine is a solid, confident, beast…

This wine makes me want food… Now!  I want tacos.  I want burgers.  Bruschetta.  Cheese.  It is extremely versatile.

After my initial taste, I jumped up to raid the fridge.  My initial thought was to grab some cheese.  Since I was thinking about tacos, I grabbed some hard cotija cheese from Mexico (Literally!  I flew down to Mexico just now to get this cheese).

While I was cutting the cheese (Childish joke.  Though not intended… appreciated!)  My mouth began to water with this flavor of caramel and chocolate (Rollos anyone?), so I grabbed some strawberries.

The saltiness of the cotija paired very well with the acidity of the wine.  The strawberries did a great job of stepping up those chocolate notes.

This wine is a solid, food friendly, mo fo.

Considering that this is my first official review for this blog, I had a tough time scoring this wine.  I must tell you that I loved it.  You must also know that I doubt it has the structure to last another two years in the cellar.  All I’m thinking right now, however, is that I want to go buy a whole case right now.  I want to drink this wine with as many different food pairings as I can.  It is THAT good.  But… I’ve had better.  But… It’s only 11 bucks.

I’ve got to tell you, I could not have asked for a better wine to score first for you.  This is THE threshold for me.  I’m giving it 90 points, and I’m telling you that you MUST try this.

Rubbery, synthetic cork. Chocolaty, authentic wine.

Stay Rad,

Jeff


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