31 July 2013

Hahn Family Pinot Gris & Pinot Noir

I've tried the wines of Hahn Winery a few times over the years, going back to 2007. Recently I had the chance to try two of their recent releases, both featuring that lovely brushstroke rooster label that I love so much.

2011 Hahn Winery Pinot Gris
100% Pinot Gris
$14, 14.5% abv.

Lots of tropical fruit and melon on the nose with a slightly musky undertone. Bright acidity and a round mouthfeel. A short finish, and a wine that would pair quite well with grilled quail and fresh pineapple.

2011 Hahn Winery Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
$14, 14.5% abv.

Light strawberry aromas and flavors, low acidity and a mild finish. Fairly delicate for a bargain Pinot Noir and one that I enjoyed with a roast beef and horseradish sandwich on a hot Saturday evening.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

29 July 2013

Barefoot Wines of July

It's summer and it's time for a handful of inexpensive bottles that you can throw on ice and enjoy with whatever you've got on the grill. For example, here's a trio of Gallo's Barefoot Wines from California.

NV Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$7, 13% abv.

Light, gentle lime peel flavor, round mouthfeel with low acid and a soft finish. Recommended as an appetizer wine with those bacon wrapped shrimp coming off the fire.

NV Barefoot Zinfandel
100% Zinfandel
$7, 13% abv.

Big and jammy with dark fruit. Dominant profile of black plum with undertones of cherry. A good burger and pizza wine.

NV Barefoot Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
$7, 12.5% abv.

This is a fairly restrained and quiet wine, with mild blackberry aroma, no tannins, and a short finish. I ended up converting this into some really delicious sangria with the help of oranges, triple sec, and a few other bits of magic. And for the price, you could make all kinds of red wine cocktails with it.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

26 July 2013

Steelhead Vineyards

Steelhead Vineyards is a Sonoma winery named after the steelhead trout, a threatened freshwater fish species of the Pacific northwest. It's also found in the cold water streams of Northern California wine country, and this particular winery is engaged in conservation efforts to save the trout.

I love cooking and eating trout. It's got a wonderful flavor, looks beautiful on the plate, and is pretty easy to cook. And I love to fish: I've enjoyed many wonderful weekends throughout my life fishing for local bass, bluegill, perch, catfish, stripers... I'm not a master angler but I've caught and consumed many fish from our lakes, ponds, and rivers. What have I never caught? Arkansas trout. I've been on canoe trips when I was able to reach down and pick up a trout out of the water, but couldn't get one to take any sort of bait. My father and I stood bare-legged in the Ozarks' White River while watching our lures bump off the heads of the snooty brown trout. Dad thought he caught one but upon reeling it in realized that he had merely snagged it in the gills and couldn't claim it as a catch.

I'm willing to admit that part of it might be my own technique and experience: bass have been known to gobble up frogs, slow moving birds, and anything else that moves. Catfish will gobble up the most rancid scraps of chicken liver hung off a trotline--no actual rod and reel needed, and I won't even go into stink bait recipes. But trout seem to require such finesse and artistry, which is why they attract the hardcore fly fishers.

2011 Steelhead Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc
North Coast
3,000 Cases Made
$12, 13.5% abv.

For a bargain Sauvignon Blanc, this is quite delicate. The nose opens up with light mild peach. On the palate it has balanced acidity with a gentle round body. Quite tasty and one that would in fact match well with trout.

2011 Steelhead Pinot Noir
100% Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast
2,500 Cases Made
$15, 13.8% abv.

A fairly strong Pinot Noir, with elements of red cherry and bold tannins. There's a big fruit flavor with a little earth underneath, and a long finish. Sturdy for this particular grape, and perhaps well suited to roasted lamb dishes.

2010 Steelhead Red Wine
65% Zinfandel, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Syrah
North Coast
2,700 Cases Made
$15, 14.2% abv.

Another big, fruit-forward wine, but I preferred this one to the Pinot Noir. Bold plum and chocolate dominate the aroma and flavor profile. A big bodied wine with huge tannins that dry the palate, but one that I would strongly recommend for summertime BBQ dining. It would be perfect with smoked pork ribs doused in a sweet Memphis sauce.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

24 July 2013

DaVinci Wines

The Cantine Leonardo da Vinci cooperative was formed in Tuscany in 1965 and continues making wine today in the spirit of the legendary Renaissance artist and inventor. Leonardo was a legendary doodler, and his sketches of helicopters and war machines and parachutes were strangely prophetic... Or perhaps less surprising if you've seen the school notebooks of bored young boys. Yes, I got to see my design of yard lights that would charge up via solar energy during the day and glow at night featured in the SkyMall catalog on a flight to Cincinnati.

I could stew over that missed opportunity, or I could fix some tasty food and enjoy a pair of delicious Italian wine samples. Let's take the latter path.

2012 DaVinci Pinot Grigio
Alto Adige/Trento
90% Pinot Grigio, 10% Chardonnay
$12, 12.5% abv.

Peach and apricot with a touch of buttery popcorn underneath, making me think that the Chardonnay saw a little oak and gives the wine a little deeper structure. Bright fruit, tart acidity, and a medium finish. Great with a grilled chicken salad, chilled on a hot summer day.

2011 DaVinci Chianti
90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot
$9, 13.5% abv.

Plum and spice dominate the nose, while there is a mild body with low tannins and a red cherry finish. This is a perfect middle-of-the-week pizza wine, tasty after a half hour in the refrigerator. Delicious with a nice NYC-style pepperoni floppy slice.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

22 July 2013

One Pizza, Don't Hold the Anchovies

The humble anchovy doesn't get a lot of respect in the world of pizza (or anywhere else), but I love that tiny salty fish. However, I rarely order pizza with anchovies, because I don't know what kind they've got, how fresh the jar or can is, and frankly, if I'm going to eat anchovies I want them cooked by somebody that actually likes them.

Julia has been bugging me to make homemade pizza, and our friends Brett and Lynn gave me a pizza stone last year. I've been slow to use it and decided to do a practice pie tonight using a few ingredients I knew Julia would not enjoy.

The sauce is a can of imported San Marzano tomatoes cooked down with three cloves of garlic, half a glass of Zinfandel, and a handful of dried mushrooms. All cooked down until thick and then blended with a stick blender.

The toppings are sliced fresh mozzarella, roasted yellow cherry tomatoes, oil-packed anchovy fillets, all baked to perfection, then graced with a dash of chopped fresh basil and grated Grana Padano cheese.

I'm a little out of practice when it comes to homemade pizza, and it's really too hot to be playing this game today, but I look forward to rebuilding my skills for a future dinner party, with lots of individually designed pizzas for each guest.

19 July 2013

Wine Sippy Cup XL

Back in April I reviewed the Wine Sippy Cup. Now comes the upgrade: the VinoGo™ XL ($17). This one will hold just a little under half a bottle of wine, so be careful filling it up before hitting the playground or PTA meeting.

Why did I go with the "Party Pink" color option for the topper? My girlfriend Julia loves this thing, and I let her pick out the shade. I went with plain white on the first one and that was judged as boring. After posting a few pictures of it on Facebook, I noticed a lot of friendly comments about the product from some of my female friends.

I will note that beloved friends and wine experts who happen to be female have openly criticized my often casual approach to wine, such as drinking Colorado Cabernet Franc out of a hotel tumbler while making osso buco in said hotel room. And there is something to be said for the perfect wine with the perfect glass, such as my recent experience with the Riedel Malbec glass and the fact that I don't let anyone else drink out of my Gruet Riedel Champagne flute. But at the same time, wine doesn't have to be so serious 24/7.

The wine sippy cup is great for casual table wines, gentle summer sippers, or as fun gifts for a wedding or baby shower. I'm tempted to drink pomegranate juice out of it at work just to see how long it takes for someone to call Human Resources. (To any family members or co-workers reading this, I am strictly joking.)

Look: it's hot outside, it's nice to unwind with a cool glass of inexpensive wine, and I say hoist the sippy cup and enjoy yourself. Cheers!

Note: This product was provided as a sample.

17 July 2013

Montefalco Wines of Umbria

I rarely if ever quote directly from press releases or back labels, but this particular pitch caught my eye:

Don't you know about the bird? Well, in Italy everybody’s heard, about the bird! If you're not in the know, the bird is the hawk, the symbol of Montefalco, the medieval town in Central Italy (Umbria) rebuilt by Frederick II in 1249.

Little did the writer know that I'm the kind of guy who got excited about seeing a Cooper's Hawk in the cove outside my bedroom window. I ran outside and captured it in four different poses as it was chased away by a Mockingbird (state bird of Tennessee, natch). I'm not an active birder but I did truly enjoy the 2011 comedy The Big Year, and having spent a lot of time in the woods and traveling, I'm always excited to spot a bird I've never seen in the flesh before. Such an interest translates well into wine, with the opportunity to chase after certain rare grapes, regions, or vintages. Unlike birders, I get most of my interesting finds delivered to my doorstep.

Note to bird breeders and international rara avis smugglers: Please do not send me any bird samples. I prefer to wait for natural migration patterns or the odd summer storm to deliver interesting birds to my backyard.

As mentioned in the top quote, these wines come from one of those ancient little towns in the middle of Italy. Umbria is a region associated with famous towns like Assisi and Perugia, and I enjoyed my visit there. The cities are not big like Rome and Milan, the name is not as well associated with romantic writing about Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna, but the food, wine, and people are wonderful. Here are three tasty wines from the small medieval town of about five thousand citizens. Two of them feature the iconic, tannic, regional, dark grape known as Sagrantino.

2011 Scacciadiavoli Grechetto dell'Umbria
Umbria IGT
100% Grechetto
$15, 13% abv.

This Greek grape found its way to Italy a very long time ago. Despite the thick skin this grape produces very delicate white pear flavors, low acidity, and a mild, clean finish. Serve with a traditional rustic fava bean soup.

2010 Arnaldo-Caprai Montefalco Rosso
Montefalco Rosso DOC
70% Sangiovese, 15% Sagrantino, 15% Merlot
$23, 14.5% abv.

This bottle had a nose of red cherry with tart acidity and firm tannins, showing that the Sagrantino can be really bold even at 15%. Later there were notes of leather and cedar on the finish. I'd suggest a simple quattro stagioni pizza with a single topping on each quarter representing a different season. I don't know why this dish hasn't caught on here in the US, perhaps in a version with our own local delicacies. The ones I had in Umbria featured ham, olives, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms above the tomato sauce and mozzarella. I finished off an entire one while chatting with the chef one cold December day in Perugia...

2007 Perticaia
Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG
100% Sagrantino
$48, 14% abv.

If Italy teaches you anything, it's patience. Despite the fact that this wine is six years old, the pure Sagrantino makeup means that it remains bold and big. Another half decade might be required to soften these strong grapes. The Perticaia features a dominant profile of black cherry with a touch of cinnamon. Bold tannins and blackberries follow on the palate. Nice, big finish. This would be amazing with a rich venison stew full of garlic and perhaps a few truffle shavings for depth. The wine would certainly stand up to it.

Interested in birds and wine? Be sure to check out my friend Dezel's site My Vine Spot. A lot of his reviews end with gorgeous photos of the local avian population of the Washington, D.C. area.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

15 July 2013

2012 Line 39 Pinot Noir

I first tried the wines of Line 39 back in April and was delighted to give the Pinot Noir a sip and a swirl. I spoke in that post about the importance of latitude (from whence this wine gets its name), but lately I've been thinking a lot about terroir and how some of the more complex geology is due to meteorite impacts over the past several million years... Sometimes, we're not just drinking a wine, we're consuming stardust.

At $11, this one is a great bargain, and while it's not the most delicate Pinot Noir on the market, it is a fun sipper with a lot of great balance. If you're interested in the world of bargain wines, be sure to check out my pal Jon Thorsen's blog called The Reverse Wine Snob. It focuses on wines under $20, with occasional splurges on Saturday. I had fun hanging out with Jon in NYC and like his daily posts on affordable wines.

2012 Line 39 Pinot Noir
Central Coast, California
100% Pinot Noir
$11, 14.4% abv.
10,000 cases made

It opens up with a nose of ripe strawberry and earth, with a touch of pencil shavings. Mild and round with a little tannic bite on the finish. Full bodied for Pinot Noir, and one that will stand up well to heartier cuisine. It may sound like an odd pairing, but I really enjoyed this chilled and served with crispy fried chicken.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample.

12 July 2013

Online Ribera del Duero Tasting

I recently got a chance to join an online tasting featuring the wines of Spain's Ribera del Duero region with my pals from Snooth. I have more detail on the region and additional tasting notes from my NYC Ribera tasting.

If you're interested in these wines you can watch the video with Snooth's Gregory Dal Piaz and Ribera del Duero Sommelier Roger Kugler. We happy wine bloggers were joining in the chat session and on Twitter and elsewhere.

2012 Bodegas Peñalba López Montecastrillo Rosado
100% Tempranillo
$14, 14% abv.

I was most excited to open this bottle, given the fact that I firmly believe every summah season should feature as many rosés as possible. This one featured bright acidity with elements of lemon and watermelon. Highly recommended to keep cold in the fridge so that after a long day at work and a rough commute, you can pour yourself a glass of pure summer pleasure.

2011 Bodegas Cuevas Jiménez Ferratus A0
100% Tempranillo
$22, 14% abv.

This was a personal favorite of mine. French oak, big body, huge tannins, bright acidity, delicious. Meaty aromas, deep with spice and dark fruit and all sorts of delicious old world elements. I loved the label and said that it reminded me of Blade Runner. Later, I would make this:

2008 Bodegas Matarromera Crianza
100% Tempranillo
$30, 14.5% abv.

For the first time in my lengthy wine tasting career, I found a bottle that was entirely about the forest. This particular wine was deep and green with dried figs, stewed fruits, under notes of pine sap. I found myself wanting to grab the backpack and go hiking for a few days.

2009 Bodegas Emilio Moro Malleolus Reserva
100% Tempranillo
$49, 14.5% abv.

For a wine region that has a lot of challenges and does not pump out the massive volume of easier vineyards, there is an amazing level of diversity in the aromas and flavors represented. This well-aged example was rich with mint, plum, and huckleberries. However, the firm tannins indicate that this wine could continue to improve over the next several years.

My exposure to the wines of Ribera del Duero over the past year has convinced me that when and if I get the chance to visit Spain, this region will be at the top of my list of places I must see.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

10 July 2013

BWR Classic: Steak Tartare

In going back through my old posts, I smile at those that feature one or both of my dearly departed dogs. At the same time, I know that they would appreciate that I still crave things like steak tartare, and that they liked the fact that my "sloppy" knife skills would allow bits of tender delicious beef to hit the floor while they were nosing around in the kitchen.

* * *

I've said this before and I'll say it again: one of the joys of cooking is that you don't need to travel to a fancy restaurant to try a fabled dish if you've got access to the proper ingredients and have the requisite skills and determination. With that in mind, I recently attempted steak tartare. Naturally, I followed Bourdain's recipe from the Les Halles Cookbook.

My first introduction to the dish was actually on the playground in elementary school. Lest you assume that I attended an elite branch of the Lycée Français, this culinary lesson took the form of arguments over them damned Europeans eating raw beef, and eventually a library encyclopedia settled the issue. For years afterward I assumed that the French and Germans always ate raw meat. Fast forward to 2009, and I've become that which terrified me. And I like fresh mayonnaise on my fries. What happened to that all-American lad?

While we're talking about childhood, I'll also note that this dish will disappoint both of my parents. Mom has strict rules against raw meat and raw eggs, and Dad can't stand mayonnaise. (Family dinners are harmonious, fear not--Mom's steak just goes on the grill long before the rest of ours, and Dad just avoids cold salads that are bound together with mayo.)

But I did make the mayo from scratch, and divided the batch into two parts, one of which was seasoned with Sriracha. I left the diced shallots and cornichons on the side to allow for desired mixing at the table, but I loved the presentation of the egg yolk sitting in the pile o' meat.

Want to improve the flavor of your frozen fries? Add some garlic cloves and rosemary during the last few minutes of cooking and toss it all with some good sea salt. Not perfect, but quite nice. Serving them in a parchment paper cone is purely optional, but aesthetically pleasing.

Steak tartare is a lot of work, and I'm not sure that it's worth it for a casual dinner. Mincing the steak by hand, trying to keep everything cold... On top of that, you only need a little bit per person. For some reason, I can easily consume a properly roasted rare 16 oz. prime rib, but I was defeated after three ounces of tartare. It's so rich, so flavorful... think about the difference between eating a grilled filet of salmon and the equivalent amount in sashimi. It's delicious, but if you're not used to consuming a lot of raw flesh it tires you out quickly.

For the wine, I popped open the 2004 Dog House "Zeke's Zin" from the Central and North Coasts of California. $9, 14.4% abv. It's 76% Zinfandel, 11% Syrah, and 9% Petite Sirah. It's got a big blackberry jam profile with hints of coffee afterwards. Still pretty strong after five years, but with a couple of hours of breathing it smoothed out nicely. And proceeds from these wines go to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

I was initially attracted to this wine not because of the producer or the grape, but because it featured a little e-collar around the neck. Any dog owner has come to recognize this item with a mix of sympathy and humor. Even The Roommate, who eschews all forms of alcohol, thought it was adorable, and loved the printing on the collar that said "Two paws up!"

Both of my dogs are fine, but in honor of the pups out there that are recovering from various surgeries, I pulled out their old e-collars for a photo. (The collars were removed shortly after and both boys got treats.) That's Macbeth the fox-red Labrador on the left and Wolfgang the mutt on the right. Two good dogs who guard the wine stash when I'm away from home.

I picked up this wine at Whiskers Wine & Spirits in Cordova. The owners are animal lovers and are engaged in various fundraising activities for the local Humane Society and other related causes. In a gesture that might bring a tear to your eye, they've got an entire wall devoted to a memorial mural called the "Rainbow Bridge" where customers can post photos of deceased pets.

Tarte Ratatouille

I had the unexpected pleasure of spending a weekend by myself in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis. I've got a lot more to discuss regarding the local restaurants in an upcoming SeriousEats.com article, but here's something I mentioned on Facebook, and thanks to a lot of comments, I'm elaborating here on the blog.

Saturday morning I walked over to the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market, held in the parking lot of First Congregational United Church of Christ, known to parishioners and locals alike as First Congo. It's the kind of church where you'll attend a class on bicycle repair or participate in a drum circle, and it fits in quite nicely with the neighborhood.

The market is smaller than the ones located downtown or at the Agricenter, but has its own funky charm. You can get your organic vegetables and baked goods from the two dozen stalls, but you can also get a henna tattoo or some handcrafted jewelry. And the prices are great--my haul at right (including some delightfully tasty chantenay carrots) was a mere $9. I like the kind of cooking where you look at what is in season and tastes good first, and then build the menu.

I had to grab a few things from the grocery store. Here's the general idea for my take on a French classic.

Benito's Tarte Ratatouille
1 Chinese Eggplant
6 Spring Onions
2 Yellow Summer Squash
3 Cloves Garlic
2 Big Tomatoes
1/2 Tub Ricotta Cheese
1 Egg
Fresh Thyme
2 Cans of Croissant Dough
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

When I'm talking about spring onions, I'm talking about the ones that have a big bulbous bottom, yet still have delicate green stalks. Feel free to substitute shallots and thin green onions for garnish. Start with the eggplant. I like long thin Chinese Eggplant because it slices into bite-size pieces and isn't full of seeds. Cut everything about 3/16" thick. Set aside and get ready for some sautéing.

Slowly pan fry the eggplant in olive oil until it becomes soft and tender. Set aside, and get to work on the squash. Slice up the onions and cook those until translucent, and then add in minced garlic. Set aside, and be sure to keep all the ingredients separate in your holding area. Traditional ratatouille gets all mixed up, but we're keeping the pieces distinct and beautiful in this dish.

Slice the tomatoes and drain a lot of the liquid using paper towels. Mix the onions and garlic and egg with half a tub of ricotta cheese, and season with black pepper and fresh thyme. Set aside.

Lay down one full sheet of croissant dough on a greased cookie sheet, and then use the other can to cut out some strips for borders. Poke a few holes here and there, and bake at 180°C/350°F until just golden but not brown. Take out and let cool for a bit, and check for any overcooking on the bottom.

Smear it with the ricotta blend, and then start layering your vegetables. I had big squash and tomatoes, so those I cut into quarters before layering. Just keep doing overlapping slices until you run out of room. Like one vegetable more than another? Don't be afraid to double up, or substitute zucchini, or whatever sounds good. I think it could benefit from some mushroom slices myself.

Throw it back in the oven until the edges are golden brown and watch out for any burning on edges. Remove from the oven, garnish with chopped onion tops, and enjoy with a cool Sauvignon Blanc.

If you try this, or come up with your own variation, let me know what you think!

08 July 2013

CrossBarn Wines

CrossBarn Winery was founded about a decade ago in Sonoma by winemaker Paul Hobbs, who has had a long career in the wine industry as a winemaker and consultant. Grapes are sourced from around Sonoma to create a Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Sauvignon, and the two wines featured below.

Both of the wines I received are enclosed with convenient screwcaps. With the summer picnic, BBQ, and party season, I find myself reaching for screwcap bottles when I'm headed out of the house. True, I keep an emergency corkscrew in the glove compartment, but it's so much easier just to pass the bottle to the host or hostess and not have to worry about an opener.

2012 CrossBarn Chardonnay
Sonoma Coast
$25, 14.1% abv.

80% fermentation in stainless steel, 20% fermentation in neutral French oak. This yields a wine that is pretty bright and tart. Vibrant ripe peach aromas dominate with lots of white fruit on the palate. Bold acidity and a crisp finish. I found it to be a fun match with spicy blackened catfish.

2012 CrossBarn Rosé of Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast
$18, 12.5% abv.

This wine followed the same 80/20 fermentation pattern as the above. I love a dry rosé, and Pinot Noir often produces some of the best. This one retains an elegant and demure French style, with mild flavors and an overall profile of wild strawberries. Strongly recommended with chicken salad sandwiches and mild cheeses during a picnic.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

05 July 2013

June Rieslings of Alsace

While I've sung a lot of praises for Alsatian Pinot Gris in the past year, it would be wrong to deny the German grape's influence in this hybrid region of France and Germany. This online tasting (through Twitter) provided us with an opportunity to sample four recent bottles of Riesling from Alsace.

2011 Meyer-Fonné Riesling Reserve
Alsace, France
$15, 12% abv.

The family behind the Domaine came to Katzenthal from Switzerland in 1732, but the winery is a more recent operation. The body is light and mild, while the flavors are dry pear with crisp acidity.

2011 Domaine Ostertag Riesling
Alsace, France
$24, 13% abv.

The name of this winery means "Easter Day" in the local dialect. The wine has a nose of ild peach with low acidity, round body, and a gentle finish. Quite an elegant summer sipper.

2010 Trimbach Riesling
Alsace, France
$15, 12.5% abv.

The venerable Trimbach estate has been around since 1626 though the center of operations has moved around due to the ravages of war over the centuries. This little Riesling has just a touch of citrus but lots of minerality. The most austere and most Germanic of the tasting.

2011 Domaine Weinbach Cuvée Theo Riesling
Alsace, France
$25, 13.5% abv.

This Domaine was established in 1612 by Capuchin monks (the same order whose distinctive cloaks gave us the word cappuccino). I found this Riesling to be the most mysterious of the group, with dark floral aromas and a very mild body. It is one that did not give up its profile easily when chilled, but opened up over time and with warming to reveal gentle white fruit flavors and just a hint of acidity.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.

03 July 2013

2010 Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon

Noble Wines 337 Cabernet SauvignonNoble Vines is a Lodi winery that names each of their bottles after the particular clone used. (The exception is the 1 Red Blend.) When I've talked about grape clones in the past, people have gotten concerned that these are either knockoffs, or genetically modified plants, or something else strange. But the reality is well-known to anyone that's ever taken a cutting of a plant and raised it in a jar of water on the windowsill.

The 337 clone comes from a specific vine in Bordeaux, selected for disease resistance and performance in a certain soil type. It's a newer clone that drives the big, fruit-forward style of red wine that is currently very popular. Cuttings can be taken from that vine and grafted on to other rootstock in France and around the world, and as those vines grow, new cuttings can be made and entire vineyards can be established. Eventually these vines may drift away from their original plant, and certainly environmental variables have a major impact on the wine that is made. But clones are a great way to remove some of the unknowns and establish reliable plants.

2010 Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon
Lodi, California
77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec, 5% Petite Sirah
$15, 14.5% abv.

Red cherry and raspberry aromas, with an underlying scent of plum. Firm tannins and a mouth drying finish. The flavors are dominated by red cherry, with smaller hints of cassis, coffee, and leather. Decanting is recommended, and with some air the tannins are softened and the wine is ready to be enjoyed with a nice grilled burger or rack of ribs. Keep this one in mind for barbecues this summer.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample.

01 July 2013

2003 Remhoogte Bonne Nouvelle & Oklahoma Onion Burger

This red wine blend from South Africa is the result of a partnership between winemakers Michel Rolland and Murray Boustred. From the $39 sticker price, $20 goes to building clean water wells in Ethiopia through the Wine to Water charitable organization. They're also working with a line of budget California wines from Lodi that are available through the website, again, with a big part of the sticker price going to the charity, which operates clean water efforts in many developing countries around the world.

Memphis has some of the cleanest tap water in the country, and thus it can be rough to deal with that foggy soft water of Fayetteville, Arkansas or the sulfurous springs of Tuscon, Arizona. But it's nothing like dealing with rural well water, full of squiggly nematodes and vulnerable to fouling. Or backpacking in the deep mountains and straining the mosquito eggs out of pond water before dosing it with iodine. If you've ever had to collect rainwater or melt snow for the sake of survival, you have a profound and personal appreciation for the pristine, healthy water we take for granted, use to water our lawns, and spray all over our cars.

2003 Remhoogte Bonne Nouvelle
46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 19% Pinotage
Stellenbosch, South Africa
2,200 Cases Made
$39, 14.5% abv.

It starts off with a nose of rich plum and stewed fruit, and those bold fruit flavors continue on the palate. Dusky undertones of earth and old cedar closets appear later, with a touch of tobacco. Even at the age of ten, this wine remains bold with firm tannins, though decanting helps tremendously. Ultimately a wine that has a great deal of character and rewards slow, methodical appreciation over time.

I found myself hit with a powerful craving for these Oklahoma onion burgers written about by one of my colleagues at SeriousEats.com. I normally leave white onions off my burgers due to a little heartburn issue, but cooked ones cause no problems, and something about the steaming of the meat with onion juice and seasoning the buns as well caused my mouth to water.

The recipe isn't lying--you use nearly half an onion per burger. And while the result can get a little messy, it's well worth it in the flavor department. I'd suggest going heavy on the yellow mustard and sliced pickles. I served it simply with some good organic kettle chips, and washed it down with a cool glass of the South African wine.

Not a bad way to spend a hot summer day, and to pause for a moment and be thankful for having access to clean clear water from the artesian wells of Memphis.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample.