Pursuing Pinot is Moving!

Hello, friends.  I am proud and excited to announce the release of my new website, Pursuing Pinot.  In addition to blog posts, it contains other resources including:

Small Sips – brief comments and recommendations

Upcoming Events – tastings, classes, and events related to wine

Resources - publications, websites, and other resources that may be of interest

The site will continue to evolve and grow, but it’s ready for its debut! Find it at: http://www.pursuingpinot.com.

All posts will now be featured at the new address, so please update your bookmarks. I hope you enjoy the new site and I look forward to your comments, questions, and feedback.

I am heading to Oregon on Tuesday, August 14 to participate in the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference. Following the conference, I will be visiting Ken Wright, Winderlea, and other friends in Willamette Valley.  Please check the site for daily updates.

Cheers!

Meet + Eat

Meet + Eat is the tagline for a unique new restaurant in Charleston, Two Boroughs Larder.  Located at 186 Coming Street, the restaurant is made up of two connecting rooms with a distinctly rustic feel.  Menus are date stamped and change frequently, featuring the freshest of locally sourced fish, meats, and produce.  Josh and Heather Keeler are the proprietors; Josh is the Chef and Heather manages the front of the house.

After perusing the offerings, my friend and I decided on a Chilean Carménère to accompany our food selections.  We started with Tuna Conserva and Clammer Dave’s Clams.  The succulent tuna reminded me of duck confit and was served with beautiful apple green Shishito peppers.  The clams were steamed with sparkling wine and served with Meyer lemon and fresh herbs.

Lamb Ribs

For our main courses, we shared Moorish Lamb Ribs presented with blue apricots and shaved vegetables and Pan Seared Red Grouper garnished with corn, baby carrots, and jamon (ham).  Each dish was perfectly cooked and seasoned and a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.  A side dish of tiny roasted turnips complemented both entreés.

The menu includes small and medium sized plates as well as full sized main courses.  Available all day are artisanal breakfast sandwiches and “Bowl-O-Noodles” featuring Keegan Filion pork with a soft boiled egg and spicy pork broth.  Along with a reasonably priced wine list, there is a large selection of bottled beer and a rotating selection of draft beers available.

Josh and Crew

As if all of this wasn’t enough, Two Boroughs Larder also has a number of items available for purchase including eggs, cheeses, and charcuterie.  I strongly encourage a visit to this friendly restaurant–you’ll feel at home from the moment you step foot inside.

Cheers!

Reach for Rose

Grenache Grapes

It’s summer and time for those lovely pink wines, dry rosés (not White Zinfandel!). The French consume more rosé than white wine and Americans have been catching on. Wine stores are stocking a wide variety to choose from, ranging from pale pink to deep rose in color. Rosés are fun to drink and perfect for summer because they go with a wide variety of foods and you don’t need to worry much about vintage, label, etc.

Among my favorites is Domaine Houchart Rosé from Provence, France.  The wine is a lovely salmon color made from 5 grape varietals, primarily Grenache and Syrah.  It is crisp and fresh, full bodied and loaded with dark red fruit flavors.  You should be able to find this wine for under $14 per bottle.  Enjoy it as an aperitif or with shellfish, chicken, or light cheeses.  Domaine Houchart is an elegant super star among rosés – you will love it and so will your friends.

Another of the French wines I purchase frequently is from the Rhone Valley, Château de Campuget.  This wine is slightly deeper in color, aromatic, and full of red fruit. It is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache grapes. Nicely balanced, it is delightful on its own or paired with lighter dishes.  This wine typically retails in the $10 range.

A third rosé, which is completely different from the previous two, is Starmont Rosé from the Napa Valley.  Starmont is a bold blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec.  As you might expect from this blend of grapes, the wine is a brilliant ruby red with bold citrus notes and aromas of strawberries.  Somewhat fruitier than the French wines, Starmont is not quite as food friendly and works well as an aperitif or with salads or cheeses.  This wine should be available in the $10-$12 range.

Pack a picnic basket or head out to your porch or patio and enjoy a lovely glass or bottle of rosé with your favorite summer foods.

Santé!

Newton Wine Dinner

Newton Vineyard and Carolina’s Restaurant teamed up to present a wonderful wine dinner on a recent Tuesday evening. Debbie Marlowe of The Wine Shop of Charleston coordinated the fine event. The 30 of us in attendance were greeted with Chandon’s Étoile Rose (Newton and Chandon are sister companies within the Moët Hennessy Group) and passed hors d’oeuvres. 

Soon after, we were seated and the wine maker, Chris Millard, introuduced us to Newton Wines and the 2008 Unfiltered Chardonnay that would accompany the first course, a salad of arugula, grilled peaches, toasted hazelnuts, and crispy prosciutto.  Newton Vineyard believes in natural fermentation techniques and does not filter its wines in an effort to preserve the natural depth of flavors, bouquet and strucuture.

Chef Jill Mathias demonstrated her considerable skills with the second course, a pan roasted duck breast presented with pickled blueberries and oyster mushrooms, paired with 2007 Unfiltered Merlot.  The Merlot grapes were grown in volcanic soil and were small that year, resulting in a highly concentrated wine.  The artistry of the food and wine pairings continued with the entree of braised Waygu beef belly served with 2008 Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon.  I loved this wine.  2008 was a hot growing year that resulted in a big wine with sturdy tannins.  Highly drinkable now, it will only improve with some aging. Chris blended the Cabernet with small amounts of Syrah and Petit Verdot to achieve his vision for the wine.

Finally there was dessert with chocolate ganache and aged gouda.  The wine served with dessert is a unique Newton blend called The Puzzle.  It is a classic Bordeaux style wine, the 2008 vintage containing 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, and 11% Petit Verdot.  The blend changes annually and just over 1,000 cases are produced.

Kudos to all involved in this wonderful wine and food event.  Try a Newton wine for a future event of your own.

Cheers!

Birthday Bubbles

I just celebrated another birthday and made sure there were multiple opportunities to share some bubbly with friends and family.  The first bottle was 2007 Rouge de Noirs, a sparkling Pinot Noir by Schug, a well known Sonoma winery.  The wine is a beautiful deep rose color and raspberries are the dominant flavor.  It is wonderfully crisp and dry on the palate with loads of bubbles.  This bottle is priced at about $30.

Several days later, a friend and I enjoyed a bottle of Mailly Grand Cru Brut Réserve from France.  This wine is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay.  It is light gold in color with fine bubble structure, dry with a hint of toast.  This bubbly is a perfect apéritif wine and would also pair beautifully with creamy chicken dishes, cheeses, and fruit desserts.  Total Wine carries this label.  Expect to pay $40 or so.

The last of the three Champagnes was Pehu-Simonet Selection Brut and it was enjoyed with my brother, Douglas, and his wife, Theresa.  It was sublime. Pehu-Simonet is a grower producer Champagne.  The “Selection” Brut is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.  Grown on north facing slopes, the cool weather produces grapes that show more earthiness than fruit.  We loved this wine with its fine bubbles and lasting, minerally finish.  Prices range from $42-$60 depending on where you are shopping.

A santé!

Claret

What do you think of when you hear the term claret?  I used to think of people sipping claret in the 17th and 18th centuries, knowing it was a red wine, but not much else.  Claret evolved from the French “Clairet”, the name of a dark rosé made in Bordeaux and exported until the 18th century.  Over time, the meaning of claret changed and was used in reference to the red wines produced in Bordeaux, France.  Today, it would be unlikely to hear Bordeaux referred to as claret anywhere outside the UK.

French Bordeaux can be any combination of the following permissable grape varietals:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.  Also permitted, but rarely used these days, are Malbec and Carménère.

Other countries also produce wines called claret.  Last week, my friend, Sheila, and I shared a bottle of 2007 Ciel du Cheval Claret produced by Ken Wright under his second label, Tyrus Evan (Ken’s sons’ middle names).  The grapes are all Washington state grown and then vinted and bottled by Ken.  When I tasted this claret at the winery last October, I was impressed and it was just as good as I remembered. The wine is a deep, clear red in color and full of dark fruit flavors with just enough tannins to provide structure, but silky smooth in the mouth.  We enjoyed the wine with pasta in fresh marinara sauce and gorgeous stuffed zucchini blossoms, all courtesty of “Chef Sheila”.

Keep claret in mind when selecting a red wine that might be a bit different from what you typically purchase.  After all, variety is the spice of life!

Cheers!

Wining and Dining in DC

With our Captain, Daniel

Greetings.  Last weekend was a fun and food filled adventure in one of my favorite cities, Washington D.C.  My daughter, Hilary, and I made a return visit to Michel Richard’s Citronelle, the restaurant where we began the celebration of her 21st birthday 11 years ago.  We were seated at an upper level table with an excellent view of the diningroom and gorgeous open kitchen. 

Laurent and Catherine

After being welcomed by our charming captain, Daniel, and presented with menus, a half bottle of Gaston Chiquet Brut Champagne seemed like a good starting point. From the prix-fix menu I chose the “Mosaic Surf and Turf”, an artistic arrangement of paper thin slices of carpaccio, salmon, Japanese eel, scallop, and various vegetable garnishes. It was unique and delicious. Hilary had English pea soup with lobster – also beautiful and delectable.  With the main courses, rack of lamb for me and braised beef cheeks for her, we enjoyed a half bottle of Château Cos Labory 2008 Saint Estèphe, recommended by our handsome and knowledgeable sommelier, Laurent.

Dessert – how to describe the dessert Hilary chose?  In this case, a picture is worth many words.  The “egg white” was meringue, the “yolk” lemon curd.  The “egg shells” were white chocolate, filled with a cream filling and more lemon curd.  It was yummy – extremely rich – but the presentation was definitely the “wow” factor!  Just in case we hadn’t had enough to eat, a lovely plate of tiny petit fours was presented and I enjoyed a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise while Hilary finished off with an espresso.

Citronelle is a special occasion restaurant and worth every dollar.  The beautifully presented food, extensive wine list, and flawless service, guarantee an extraordinary dining experience.

Cheers!

“AWOL”

Hello, friends and readers.  I apologize for my absence over the past weeks.  I caught a nasty virus and couldnt’ smell for 2 weeks, so there was no interesting wine tasting going on for me!  Then I went to Jamaica and that was all about rum.

There have been some interesting articles of late.  (As an aside, I just don’t understand the issue dates on magazines.  My April 30, 2012 issue of Wine Spectator arrived somewhere around the end of March.) Oh well.  Anyhow, Matt Kramer contributed a one page article in that issue that resonated for me pertaining to how we all tend to save bottles for “special occasions”.  Matt stresses that we should be focusing on the “who”, not the “when”, as it is the person or people with whom we share a bottle that makes it special. 

I remember opening what would have been a wonderful bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with my daughter a few years ago only to find it had been kept too long and was undrinkable.  Last Christmas my brother decided to open a bottle of Krug Champage that had been kept too long and moved too much and it, too, was past drinking.  The worst of all was a 1983 bottle of Roederer Cristal that my friend, Chip, had kept for far too many years and it had turned rusty and lost its fizz.  Talk about disappointments!  So, the moral of the story is, drink your special wines with your special people and ENJOY THEM!!

I am heading to Washington, D.C. for a fun weekend with my daughter, Hilary.  I promise to have some interesting wine stories and photos for next week!

Santé.

Catherine

Zinfandels

Hello, everyone.  I had the opportunity to enjoy two terrific Zinfandels with friends last week.  The first is Old Vine Zinfandel 2009 from Seghesio in Sonoma County.  Like most Zin’s, it is robust and fairly high in alcohol at 15%. The wine is deep red in color with aromas of dark berries and spice.  It is full bodied and silky smooth on the palate with a long finish.  Seghesio’s “old vines” are truly that with vineyards planted between 1920 and 1950.  This wine would pair well with spicy foods or rich cheeses.  It received high ratings from the major wine journals, scoring between 92 and 94 points.

The second wine is one I have had before and enjoyed, again, with friends over dinner Saturday evening.  It is Peter Franus 2008 Brandlin Vineyard Zinfandel from Napa Valley.  This is another giant wine with heavier spice than the Seghesio and rich blueberry flavors.  Mr. Franus is also growing grapes on old rootstock dating back to the 1920’s.  We enjoyed this fabulous red with grilled lamb chops, freshly picked asparagus, and yummy, cheesy scalloped potatoes.  Wine & Spirits Magazine rated this wine 94 points and awarded it “Year’s Best Zinfandel”.  These higher end Zinfandel’s retail in the $30+ range.

Life is good!

Dining with Friends

Last night I enjoyed dinner with my dear friends, Andrea and John, at their home.  I took a bottle of Alexana 2007 Revana Vineyard Pinot Noir for us to drink with dinner.  We enjoyed a sparkling Vouvray with caviar canapes while John, who is quite the chef, completed dinner preparations.

The first course was a fabulous dish of fresh asparagus in carbonara sauce (pancetta, onions, egg, and cheese).  The main course was grilled salmon served with farro and roasted beets with goat cheese.  After a break, we finished up with cannoli and fresh raspberries.  It was a fresh, beautiful, and seasonal feast.

Upon opening the Pinot, we determined that it would not benefit from decanting.  In previous posts, I have noted that although 2007 was a challenging year in Oregon, some lovely wines were produced.  This 2007 was a gorgeous, clear, ruby red color with just a slight tawny tinge.  The aroma contained elements of fruit, herbs, and spices. John’s immediate reaction upon tasting the wine was caramel – it reminded him of tarte tatin (caramelized apple tart). 

The wine was superb with the asparagus.  It was good with the salmon and vegetables, but better with the asparagus because of the rich sauce.  As we discussed flavors and mouth feel, we determined that this wine did best with foods containing some fat.  We also thought that beets were difficult to pair with wine because beets are so strongly flavored.  If we were to drink this particular wine, again, we thought that pork, lamb, or duck breast with substantial sauces would be ideal.

As always, it was so much fun sharing a special wine with special friends who appreciate wine and food. 

Cheers!

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