Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Phelps Family Christmas Eve Wine Tasting

The Phelps family decided to have a wine tasting on Christmas Eve as a gift between the 6 of us. We have all taken to the wine and food pairing challenge so this seemed like a lot of fun and a great gift at the same time. Here is what we assembled:

• Ayler Kupp altenhofchen Riesling Kabinett 2007 with marinated Strawberries & Gold Rush Bars
• Coppola Sophia Blancs de Blancs Sparkling with Brie
• EOS Moscato Dessert Wine with Goat Cheese
• Voga Italiano Pinot Grigio with Prosciutto wrapped Cantaloupe
• Connecticut Valley Winery Raspberry Dessert Wine with Blue Cheese
• 2009 Ancient Fire Amarone #2 with Parmigianino/Reggiano Cheese
• 2006 Beringer Knights Valley Alluvium Blanc with Goat Cheese & Smoked Salmon Pate
The Riesling and strawberries were left for the dessert course, so back to that in a bit.

Each of us introduced our wines and foods, talked about what we were aiming for and suggested any tasting procedures specific to the selection.

Dessert wines and cheeses of strong character are generally matches made in heaven. With two wine options and several goat and blue cheeses to try, we all spent some on those from the start. The EOS Moscato was incredible with both the goat and blue cheeses, and was the standout for me.

The Sophia Blancs de Blancs was stellar but not surprising as many small batch sparklers from the US don't get nearly enough attention. This one is even more unusual in that it is made from all white grapes where most are made from a blend or red grapes. The real kick with this selection was the cocktails we made with the marinated strawberries and syrup the next day.
The Connecticut Valley Raspberry dessert was very flavorful although not as sweet as I expected. It paired well with the pungent blue cheese as was expected and it also paired very well with the goat cheese. While we weren’t disappointed we aren’t sure the wine was as true to its style as it could be.

We discovered the Voga Pinot Grigio on a trip to Montreal. We had bought it at SAQ and took it to a wonderful BYO restaurant, L'Acadamie, for dinner along with an Amarone. The melon wrapped with salty meat was an initial question mark for me not being a melon lover. In the end the melon flavor was in good balance and the freshness of the whole package succeeded. I went back for more which I would have bet against when it was introduced.

The salmon pate, though not tried by all, was a hit with those that paired it with the Beringer Alluvium Blanc. The smoky flavor of the pate really set the stage for the smooth and oak influenced flavors of the wine. Even Margot, who was skeptical of the pairing, commented that the two went together well. Donna expressed some surprise that I brought smoked salmon anything as I have not historically been a fan. She of course loved it being more familiar with smoked salmon.

The Amore went well with the hard cheese purchased for the pairing but many preferred having it with the blue cheese originally meant for the dessert wine.

For dessert we indulged in the Ayler Kupp altenhofchen Riesling with strawberries marinated in the wine, and gold rush bars which are like a brownies with dried fruit and spices instead of chocolate. This was a perfect way to end the parade of different flavors and textures. With manageable sweetness the strawberries and bars allowed the medium dry wine to dance with them and enhance their characteristics. It was at this time we found the marinated strawberries and the sparkling wine made a great cocktail to cleanse the palate.

With this experience in hand it is clear that for those looking for something fun to do challenging themselves to a food and wine pairing should provide immense enjoyment.


Holiday Wine Dinner

So Julie, Margot, John and I sat down to a nice holiday dinner on the 18th. This month was our turn to host. The menu and pairings are below. Not everything turned out as planned but we sure had some laughs over it.

Black Currant Dessert Wine
Mixed Apple Salad with Maple Caramel Drizzle paired with 2007 Hard Cider
Cider & Pepper Marinated Steak Tips Wrapped in Lettuce paired with 2007 Hard Cider
Cranberry & Cola Slow Cooked Lavender Pork Chops
Baked Stuffed Apples with Apple Cornbread Stuffing served with 2009 Pinot Noir
Apple Crisp served with 2007 Vidal Ice Wine

We also tried a Cabernet/Foch from an up and coming NH winemaker. We found it to be a bit fuzzy, but with great flavor. The wild Foch presentation was easily found.

The maple caramel drizzle was candy by the time it got to the table so I'll have to go back to the drawing board on that one. This bottle of hard cider was not my best, but it proved to pair well to open the meal. Everything got good reviews and can certainly say I enjoyed it all. I hadn't cooked with lavender before so I wasn't sure what to expect. It was amazing.

What a way to celebrate the holiday season!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rum Redux and RumBa

Rum has been on my mind since our trip to Jamaica last month. I made a rum cream after finding nothing at the state liquor stores and not wanting to buy and ship. Strong, but flavorful in all the right ways. Two new drinks go with it as well as those described in my last post on rum.

Coconut Creme

3 oz homemade rum cream
1 oz Malibu rum

Appleton Morning

3 oz homemade rum cream
1 oz Appleton Special

Meet me at RumBa! If you are into rum and from Boston you'll get this. You should get this. RumBa, the rum bar at the Intercontinental in Boston has 100+ rums ready to drink with curiosity accessible prices for the size of the drink. I tried the Cruzan Black Strap and lusted after the Appleton 21 and a host of others that will be tried before I'm gone! The Cruzan was slightly sweet and had a nice long and clean finish.

After the stop at RumBa I ordered a book on rum history which informs us of the Boston roots of the early rum business. "Rum: The Epic Story of the Drink That Conquered the World", July 2005, Charles Coulombe. This hopes to be a great read. We are already planning a trip to St. Croix to visit Cruzan!



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dessert Wines

Any avid drinker can tell you the tale of when they first drank a good dessert wine. Vidal Ice Wine, Montreal QC in 2005. The honey, dried fruit, peaches and apricots left me stunned. Iced ciders, more ice wines and some Canadian whiskies were most excellent on that trip.

I had been making country and kit wines for a year or so by then, but nothing that fit with "good" dessert wine. The first dessert kit was a WinExpert Vidal wine base with a Vidal flavoring pack that added at the right time and with a little age creates a beautiful, rich delight. This wine has been tasted alongside many dessert wines and while the differences are perceptible, they are not game changing but in the most exceptional cases. My mother loved this as a birthday gift.

Since then I have made both fruit and kit dessert wines with much enjoyment. While I write this I am drinking the 2008 fresh fruit plum dessert wine which is aging surprisingly well. My notes on this wine indicate several previously unused techniques were used, acid balancing and manual degassing. Some experiences are so enjoyable learned hands on. Sweet plums with a nice tart hit are dripping with sweet juice. You want some too!

We just bottled the WinExpert Riesling Ice Wine which has a distinctive wild and profound character like many dessert, late harvest and ice wines. It needs some age before a more thorough review can be had. The glass of left over tasted great. AS/FA/VC look out!

I have a bottle of the 2009 "Super S" Strawberry Dessert wine in the freezer. The berries were picked in Londonderry at Sunnycrest in June. This wine was well cared for and has high expectations to meet. More next time.