17 September 2014

Kaiken Wines of Argentina

Kaiken Wines was founded in Argentina in 2002 by a Chilean winemaker, Aurelio Montes. The two countries produce very different styles of wine but there's no reason not to celebrate both.

The name of the winery comes from the upland goose or caiquén that migrates back and forth over the Andes between the two countries. Both of these bottles celebrate Argentina's most famous grape and do so in an impressive manner.

I would strongly recommend both of these wines with a wide assortment of grilled meats. You can't recreate a full churrascaria in your home but now that the weather is getting nice, don't be afraid to toss a little lamb or goat on the grill along with the beef, chicken, and sausages. Although summer is the traditional time for outdoor cooking, I get so much more pleasure from it when it's cool or cold. Nothing better than sitting on the back porch with the smoker for a few hours without sweating or having to deal with bugs. And if you happen to get cold, just move a little closer to the fire box.

2011 Kaiken Terroir Series Malbec
Mendoza, Argentina
80% Malbec, 12% Bonarda, 8% Petit Verdot
$12, 14.5% abv.

Chocolate, leather, a touch of tobacco on the edge. Firm tannins, big dark berry flavors. I love a blend like this, and it's a good bargain. Definitely chewy, but perfect for those sizzling slices of beef or lamb.

2011 Kaiken Ultra Malbec
Mendoza, Argentina
96% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon
$22, 14.8% abv.

Black cherry, leather, coffee, medium tannins, long finish. The more serious of the two, I'd save this for the more tender rare cuts of beef. It is still strong enough that flavorful seasonings and smoke will not cancel out the great elements of the wine.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

14 September 2014

Birthday Weekend

This weekend, I turned 38. I was in Nashville to attend the wedding of a cousin a decade my junior, but I also got the opportunity to take a road trip with Bella and hang out with my buddy Paul for the first time in quite a while. I received a lot of kind Facebook birthday wishes over the past couple of days, with many questions about which wines I consumed. And the answer is zero.

Instead, I enjoyed great cocktails prepared by people other than me. Between the wedding and a dinner at my grandparents' house, Paul invited me to my first visit to The Patterson House, a small speakeasy with an eclectic range of spirits and recipes as well as a list of rules that must be followed. I had a lot of fun with the Summer Negroni and would share pictures, but alas, they discourage the use of cell phones at the very dark bar and it makes for a more pleasant experience.

Back at Paul & Anna's place, I was treated to martinis. I overhead a conversation about what size to fix, and discovered that they had developed an internal standard of sizes depending on mood and occasion. As I am currently working on a lot of process standard documentation in the day job, I was happy to lay out the proportions for them in proper retro style. Enjoy!

Slightly better version with adjusted recipe... I can never quit tinkering with these things.

12 September 2014

Josh Cellars Wines & Contest for First Responders

Josh Cellars and the Gary Sinise Foundation are teaming up with a contest to award five first responder organizations $10,000 each. To nominate your local volunteer fire department, for instance, go to Facebook and complete the entry form. First responders are not only police officers and firemen but also trained civilians that are either part of an official support program (like my father) or merely happen to be in the right place at a bad time. Growing up in Scouts, I received first aid, CPR, and lifeguard training, but Dad also had my brother and me attend courses for weather emergencies, airport crash drills, and taught us on the actual scene how to assist as first responders for a horrific car accident.

The entry window for the contest is open until September 17, so be sure to suggest your local organization soon! (Rules here.)

2012 Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Sonoma County
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$13, 13.5% abv.

Very mild and gentle, light acidity. Trace scents of flowers with a restrained profile of grapefruit and lime peel. Perfect with a smoked turkey and avocado sandwich.

2012 Josh Cellars Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
$17, 13.5% abv.

This Pinot Noir shows notes of plum and leather. On the palate there are medium tannins and a long finish. As it is still relatively young, I'd suggest decanting for an hour before serving with grilled steaks or roast lamb.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

07 September 2014

2013 Domaine de la Perrière Sancerre & 3 Guys Pizza Pies

Irish mythology has a concept called geis. It's a sort of rule/curse that if the hero violates the geis, something bad will happen. It's how Cú Chulainn bit the dust, because he had two conflicting geasa: he couldn't refuse the gift of a meal, but he couldn't eat dog meat. One day he was offered some roast hound, and he was trapped in an impossible position. He didn't die right away, but by breaking the taboo he was weakened and it's all wrapped up in some love triangle drama with Emer and Lugaid and was soon killed in battle.

Editor's Note: BWR does not condone the eating of dog but the author is making a point that will become clear soon, and ancient Ireland was a weird place.

I'm not an absolutist on wine and food pairing, and I often like to mix things up to see how they work. But I do have a personal geis that I don't break. When presented with a bottle of Sancerre, I'm going to eat seafood, and preferably oysters. There's just something about that Loire valley Sauvignon Blanc that is so distinct from how the grape is expressed everywhere else on the globe, and I just love it with any seafood that actually tastes fishy or salty. No bland cod, give me marinated mackerel.

2013 Domaine de la Perrière Sancerre
Sancerre AOC
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$25, 12% abv.

This bottle is light and lemony with a gentle body and a mild finish. Faint floral notes on the nose as it warms up, but overall a subtle and well-balanced wine that delivered the reliable and enjoyable experience that I've always experienced from this little part of France. So what did I pair with it?

A local pizza place called 3 Guys Pizza Pies offers something called the Vampire Killer: red onions, feta cheese, minced garlic, kalamata olives, and anchovies. I get it without the onions, but they're one of the few places that I trust with anchovies (the fishies are always large, taste freshly opened, and are not treated as the punchline to a joke).

The photo from a month ago shows the pizza at the bar with a pint of Ghost River beer (I toured the brewery in 2009), but this weekend I picked up another and had it with the Sancerre. And the pairing was amazing. Granted, it's on the salty side, and afterwards nobody is going to want to kiss you, but the fish, olives, and cheese all work together well with a wine that has just the right amount of acidity and a hint of minerality.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review.

06 September 2014

Summer with French Rosé

I've always associated rosé with spring and summer, but I certainly enjoy this style of wine throughout the entire year. When it's hot outside, it's a cool and refreshing beverage. When it's cold, it's a reminder of sunshine and flowers and blue skies.

As I've said many times, pink wines get a bad rap for an association with cheap White Zinfandel or the idea that they are exclusively for women. But they're just a bridge between red and white, able to pair well with just about anything. These three are affordable selections from the South of France, where the style was perfected.

2013 Domaine les Hautes Cances Rosé
Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne
1st saignée: Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan
2nd saignée: Grenache
3rd saignée: Mourvèdre
$15, 13.5% abv.

This is the strongest of the three, showing bright raspberry flavors with a tart, big body and a firm finish. As you can see from the grape listing, this is due to the saignée method in which some juice is bled off (hence the name) early in the winemaking process. This gives you two things: a stronger red wine and a rosé as a byproduct. And on top of that, the rosé will be ready for consumption earlier. This one is interesting in that it involved so many different grapes in three different bleedings.

2012 Marrenon Petula Rosé
Luberon, France
95% Syrah, 5% Grenache
$12, 13% abv.

The most restrained of the three. Mild and gentle with faint notes of bing cherry. Light acidity, a delicate finish, and a wine that I would love to pair with grilled amberjack and fennel.

2013 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Rosé
Côtes du Rhône, France
Grenache & Syrah
$8, 13% abv.

This one is a repeat from April, but it's still a delightful wine. Light aromas of tart raspberry with flavors that follow, including a burst of lemony acidity. Round mouthfeel with a beautiful salmon color and a long, tart finish.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

04 September 2014

August Alsatian Pinot Blanc

I've written surprisingly few articles about Pinot Blanc over the years, though I love it more and more as time goes on. It's often confused as a variant spelling of Pinot Grigio, and while both grapes are light-skinned mutations of Pinot Noir, Blanc/Bianco is golden and Gris/Grigio is pink.

Gris is everywhere in varying levels of quality, while Blanc is not as widely cultivated but if you find a bottle, it is likely to be of the middle to higher tiers. I've had great Pinot Blanc from Oregon's cool climate, but these three come from Alsace. A delightful grape from one of my favorite regions is a great combination.

As summer winds down, these wines are absolutely wonderful with picnic fare and quiet weekend lunches on the patio.

2012 Louis Sipp Pinot Blanc
Alsace AOC
100% Pinot Blanc
$14, 12.5% abv.

Gentle ripe apple aromas with a dry flavor and a gentle mouthfeel. Balanced acidity, just beautiful.

2012 Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc Tradition
Alsace AOC
100% Pinot Blanc
$17, 13% abv.

Bartlett pear, just a touch of sweetness. Low acidity and a round mouthfeel. Fruit forward. I enjoyed it with a ham sandwich and potato salad, which, going by ingredients, is fairly authentic for the region.

2011 Maison Keuntz-Bas Pinot Blanc Tradition
Alsace AOC
100% Pinot Blanc
$16, 12.5% abv.

Light and mineral with a tiny hint of citrus peel. Medium acidity and a delicate finish. Highly recommended if, like me, you're a fan of the restrained style.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.

01 September 2014

One Smart Pet Food Company

As part of a bag of early birthday gifts, my parents gave me some dog treats from One Smart Pet Food Company based here in Memphis, Tennessee. The company makes all natural treats for dogs and cats, and my particular present was a packet of Memphis Style BBQ Bones ($10/8oz.), made from pork shoulder, brown rice flour, lentil flour, water, and natural smoke extract. No artificial ingredients or weird scrapings from the slaughterhouse floor.

As soon as I opened the bag, Bella expressed an interest in the contents.

The treats are shown here next to a wine cork for size comparison. Note that wine corks are not acceptable dog toys and should be kept out of reach.

Bella decided to look pitiful while I was taking photos and reading the ingredients.

"Guess what, Bella? It's not your birthday!" I ate two of the treats. After all, I like smoked pork shoulder, lentils, and brown rice. I've made homemade dog treats in the past and one particular batch made from a recipe in one of my bread cookbooks was so tasty that I ate more of them than Wolfie did. "Bella, did I mention how tasty these are?"

These are drier and harder than your average human snack, but you can definitely taste the meat. I wouldn't mind serving these with a little ramekin of BBQ sauce.

OK, she waited long enough. Bella was enthusiastic and enjoyed two of the small treats. I have a feeling that she'll be bugging me for another one later on today. But she deserves it, she's a good dog.