Friday, July 31, 2009

Julian does Casetta...

They say a picture speaks louder than words. But a picture doesn't actually speak, and a video does, so its far to say that a video speaks louder than a picture which speaks louder than words. 

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A bottle of rose and a meal for $16.99!

Recession Proof
Guest blogger: jeff z @rossowineshop

2008 Chateau Mas Neuf Rosé 
Costieres de Nimes - Price: $11.99

Made with 45% Cinsualt, 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 15% Syrah. A brilliant little southern French rosé. Chock full of fresh strawberry and cherry aromas, but ripe fruit, later in the season-ripe. On the palate fresh squeezed lime and lemon zest with red fruit and a crisp, bracing finish. Perfect with almost any Summer dish, like the one below.

Cost of Risotto -- $5
Cost of Rosé -- $11.99

Cost of dining al fresco with your BFF (under $20) --- "Priceless"

Spring Green Risotto
Ina Garten

1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped fennel
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine
4 to 5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 pound thin asparagus
10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, or 1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, preferably Italian
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving

Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the asparagus diagonally in 1 1/2-inch lengths and discard the tough ends. Blanch in boiling salted water for 4 to 5 minutes, until al dente. Drain and cool immediately in ice water. (If using fresh peas, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes until the starchiness is gone.)

When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, drain the asparagus and add it to the risotto with the peas, lemon zest, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.

Whisk the lemon juice and mascarpone together in a small bowl. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone mixture plus the Parmesan cheese and chives. Set aside, off the heat, for a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Campy Campari.

Friends! Lovers! I have been traveling for about 2 weeks straight - so please forgive my absence! 

Today I would like to speak of my good friend, Campari. As I was stranded in the Denver airport this past Monday, I found an "in" to the American Airlines Admirals Club. My boss has a lifetime membership there dating from 1965. The bartender had probably been there since 1965 as she wasn't quite with it, as they say. 

Campari is wonderfully refreshing - bitter and slightly sweet. So let's give wine a rest for the day and toast to the beverage made of fermented artichokes. Or thats the rumor anyway - you got anything different??? 

You can get this anywhere. So don't ask. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

CDP in Disguise?

Artadi, Vinas de Gain, Rioja, 2006. 

It's no secret to anyone I've talked to int he last 7 weeks that the red wine paper on the Master of Wine exam was very difficult for me! The first 4 wines were from... you got it! RIOJA! Where did this one think they were from? BORDEAUX, my friends, Bordeaux. Don't know how, don't know why, but that was my best educated guess. 

And last night when blind tasting I had this in SOuthern Rhone. To which Peter replied, "Would you get that color in Southern Rhone?" To which I replied, "Shut it Hunken." to which he replied, "Maybe you want to give it another guess?" To which I replied, "No, final answer." To which he replied, "Well, then you're wrong." To which I replied, "Shut it Hunken."

Now I stand behind my S. Rhone guess - as this wine had moderate (and in retrospect perhaps LOW) acid, which is sort of a Grenache (and incidentally, Tempranillo) trait. It was moderate plus alcohol to me, label says 13.5%, but I am not buying that, and very nice fruit extraction. A modern Chateauneuf-de-pape. But of course, the alcohol would have been more like 15% for CDP and perhaps, yes, Hunken is right, the color would have been so dark. And the tannisn were slightly more grippy than CDP, I guess. What do I know?

At any rate (was that most boring thing you've ever read or what? Almost put me to sleep to write it), the wine was lovely and had nice Framboise flavors - hello Southern Rhone from Spain. 12 to 14 months in 40% new French Oak... ain't that a bitch?? How can one identify Rioja without the American Oak?

$26 at K&L, though I'm sure its pretty widely available at other stores. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

There's a stink in my Loire!

I recently blogged about the 2006, but found the Catherine and Pierre Breton, Bourgueil, "trinch", 2007 at the Cheese Store of Silverlake for $19.99 and thought BINGO! The 2006 was so delish - how could the 2007 let me down? 

Well, for starters, this wine suffers from a little problem that we call reduction. It was shockingly very very stinky - hard boiled egss kinda stinky. I was shocked because these wines are usually so beautifully made that I just can't imagine what went wrong here. I take that back, I know what went wrong here, but how did it happen to my fav Breton??

Frequently with a little oxygen via decanting the eggy aroma will go away - but sometimes its just too far gone... Well this sort of did half and half. We decanted and swirled... some of it blew off, it certainly became a lot less offensive, but some of it didn't, and I really am not into wine with stink. I like to smell the fruit and the savory elements of Cabernet Franc and sadly I felt that the stink overwhelmed the fruit. 

While I really really really want to recommend this wine, its a tough one for me. My friend Marcel said, "This smells like something you'd pay a lot of money for at a fancy restaurant." and I thought that was hilarious, because in some ways he's right - I think a lot of flawed wines are tolerated as the product of "terroir" and are served at fine places. And, just for another opinion, Peter really liked this wine. So decide whose side you're on and go see Julian at the Cheese Store either way. They also just got in the "new" vintage - 1998 - of Lopez de Heredia Rose. It's $28.99 so I refrained this time as we really are trying to budget... But I know its delicious.  

This budgeting crap is so hard.. and that's part of the reason the wine blog has been so sparse lately!!! We are drinking samples - I will have to start to blog on those!

Saturday, July 11, 2009


It's been cocktails aplenty at the Christine-Hunken household lately... as we have run through our stash of wine and have yet to replenish. The damned economy!

This is, of course, a Margarita, with Herradura Reposado and Patron Orange Liqueur. FRESH lime and lemon juice, a little simple syrup, kosher salt and viola! Happiness in a glass. 

We went to Lucques last night to celebrate my new position with Veritas... and instead of Champagne I had a grapefruit cucumber-something and Peter had a Caprihina and we felt like we were on vacation, which was nice because we haven't had one of those this summer yet. 

So pour yourself up a little vacation cocktail... I have one in my future tonight...  

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pourtal.. it's a date!

What a month for celebrations! For Americans, July has the 233rd year of Independence and France her 220th. The “People” arose July 14th 1789 and stormed the 450 odd year old Bastille prison, number 232 Rue Saint-Antoine of Paris. Her revolution was internal and justice was swift. So swift, necessity being the mother of invention, a guillotine was the outcome for most of the royals.   


From Wikipedia I quote: “In the early afternoon of around 1:00, the crowd broke into the undefended outer courtyard and the chains on the drawbridge to the inner courtyard were cut. A spasmodic exchange of gunfire began; in mid-afternoon the crowd was reinforced by mutinous Gardes Françaises of the Royal Army and two cannons. De Launay (the prisons Governor) ordered a ceasefire; despite his surrender demands being refused, he capitulated and the vainqueurs swept in to liberate the fortress at around 5:30. When the rioters had entered the Bastille, they collected cartridges and gunpowder for their weapons and then freed the seven prisoners (which they had to do by breaking down the doors, since the keys had already been taken off and paraded through the streets). Later, the governor and some of the guards of the Bastille were killed under chaotic circumstances, despite having surrendered under a flag of truce, and their heads paraded on pikes.” 


Join the beautiful and talented Cara Bertone and the owner of Veritas John Winthrop (Los Angeles’ based direct wine importer of supreme French wines) at Pourtal on Tuesday, July 14th when we will feature wines for the “People” (hold the pikes). 


They will both be there to share the storied wealth of these fantastic French country wines: Olivier Merlin’s Macon "La Roche Vineuse" 2006 (the secret choicest table wine of the Big Dog French winemakers) or the Jo Pithon Anjou "Les Pepenieres" 2005, an absolutely mind-bogglingly, stunning Chenin Blanc. Rounding out the red Burgundy contingent with Roland Thevenin’s Monthelie 2005 or Camille Giroud’s "Le Croix Moines" Maranges 1er Cru 2006 (an extraordinary “sleeper” wine for lover’s of les vrais Pinot Noir). Plus, who could not have the ultimate red summer sipper, Michel Lafarge’s deliriously guzzleable Bourgogne Passe-tout-grain "L'Exception" 2006, a Gamay & Pinot Noir tout de suite tradition or the sturdy Michel Guignier Morgon "Cuvee A L'ancienne" 2005. All told, we will have 18 wines to celebrate with AND one of the descendents of the Bastilles Governor De Launay, a Touraine Rose of such discretion and delicacy, capitulation is de riguer! 


To those who joins us on the 14th, a complimentary Kir will be served to all who recite the serment du jeu de paume (the Tennis Court Oath). 


“We swear never to separate ourselves from the National Assembly, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the realm is drawn up and fixed upon solid foundations.” 


In the immortal words of Phineas Beck, “These French people know how to LIVE!” Salute! 





Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Whole lot of crap.

Sorry for the terrible photos, but there were taken surreptitiously with my iPhone. 

All I have to say about the Ed Hardy rose is.... seriously????

Is this where the world of wine is going? Or worse yet is this where Whole Foods - our "local" "organic" "specialty produce" store is going? 

There's a reason I stopped buying wine at Whole Foods. Where there are many reasons, but this is definitely one of them. I hold Whole Foods in a higher position in my mind than Vons, Pavilions, Albertsons - at least the lighting is better and its cleaner - and then I see this. Increasingly they stock these sort of commodity wines that really have nothing to do with wine at all. I expect this at Ralph's and Vons, and I know there's a market for "wine as beverage" but this is far worse than that. It's "wine as novelty", it might as well be for sale at Spencer Gifts in the mall.  

What's most amusing about this wine is the description, "Hot pink color with violet highlights". And its from France? How many hot pink roses do you see from France? No variety, no region listed as far as I can see... (Please correct me if I'm wrong) Put Ed Hardy on it and the people will buy it? In my heart of hearts I truly don't think people are that dumb. Let's see if Ed Hardy is still in style next year and if the brand can evolve into something more authentic. Let's see if our neighborhood Whole Foods at 3rd and Fairfax can get back to walking the "local" walk and not just talking the "local" talk. I know many small importers and wineries (and I'm not talking about my own!) that have had no luck with the wine people at WF and now I see why - they support the big guys.  

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independent thoughts...

I thought THIS was a very interesting article on South African wines in the New York Times this week, and I am prompted to comment based on a tasting the Peter and I did at El Vino last night. 

Two friends of ours came to the tasting. It was early. We weren't busy. So we got to talking about a recent trip they recently took to Stellenbosch. They loved the wines, actually there are very few consumers that I talk to who don't LOVE South African wine. However, I am not one of them! I kind of agree with the article, and while I know there are other regions which have the same problems as South Africa, in SA it seems to be a bit of an epidemic. 

The burnt rubber aromas that the article sites, from an article written by Jane MacQuitty, MW, of The Times in London, have been omnipresent in most the SA wines I've tasted in recent memory. And no, I can't name producers because I tend not to remember wines that don't appeal to me. And I hate to make sweeping generalizations... but even in the MW program we are taught that the rubbery aromas are often indicative of South Africa, although we are encouraged to refer to it as "iodine" aromas, as burnt rubber appears derogatory. On the red wine paper this year, the only wine I got right - out of 12! - was the South African Cabernet. It had the tell-tale aromatics of burnt rubber... ooops... I mean iodine that made it a real "banker" for me. 

A few months ago, in prep for the exam, I was deep into listening to wine podcasts to fill every moment with wine. I listened to a great podcast on the UK Wine Show with wine faults expert Sam Harrop, also an MW. And I found his explanation of this phenomenon entirely satisfactory, as he knows far more than I do about these things. 

Many soils in South Africa are nitrogen deficient. Therefore musts are nitrogen deficient. Yeasts use nitrogen as a nutrient source. A lack of yeast available nitrogen (YAN) during fermentation, means that yeasts use the amino acid cysteine as a nitrogen source, a metabolic process that produces hydrogen sulfide (H2S). H2S smells like rotten eggs. If left untreated, hydrogen sulfide is then reduced to disulfides, which in turn can be reduced to mercaptans, producing rubber, garlic and onion aromas. Super yuck. H2S can be treated by adding copper sulfate or giving the wine a good vigorous racking to introduce oxygen to the must which will help breakup these complex sulfur bonds. However, most disulfides and mercaptans cannot be treated and once formed are there for good. Yikes!

The point being, healthy fermentations require a little work and maybe even the addition of nitrogen (usually in the form of DAP - diammonium phosphate), though some believe this is just yeast junk food and shouldn't be used at all. Who knows? It all depends when you add it - as it can cause its own problems if added too late in the fermentation process. All I know is I'd rather have a drinkable wine with DAP added then one that smelled of burnt rubber. 

Anyway, some technical thoughts for the day...  

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tavern is terrific! Part 2.

No, I know you think I'm biased, but I'm not. This morning after Bootcamp Peter and I were trying to think of where to have breakfast and we thought about all the BAD places there are in town, I won't name them, but you know what they are. I have yet to have a breakfast that blew me away. Wait, I take that back, brunch at Ammo is totally fab. But other than Ammo, the usual suspects suck. 

So we drove to Tavern - all the way to Brentwood - in our workout clothes. And half way there as we were sitting in traffic on the 10 I thought, we should have just eaten at home, this is too much trouble, etc. etc. 

BUT after we sat down and ordered and I had tea and Peter had coffee and Suzanne came out to say Hi, we were so very glad to be there and then the almond croissant came out and we were in heaven. We ordered the smoked fish plate and the oatmeal with cherry compote and all I can say is that there really is no reason to have breakfast anywhere else in the city. It's totally reasonably priced and well worth the drive. Here's a peak at the breakfast menu. As a bonus the dining room is gorgeous and they welcome you in whatever attire you are wearing! 

Next time I am ordering the butter crumbed eggs, which reminds me of a glorious brunch I had at Prune in NY last summer...

breakfast menu

Soft-scrambled eggs with fontina and crème fraîche 
Butter-crumbed eggs with arugula and soft polenta 
Chorizo and eggs with fried potatoes 
Priests pancakes with Vermont maple syrup 
French toast with bananas foster and hazelnuts 
Smoked fish with toasted rye & redwood hill cream cheese 
scottish oatmeal with dried fruit and steamed milk 
Housemade granola with milk or yogurt + berries 
Seasonal fruit / berries 
Fried potatoes 
Vande rose bacon or ham 
Country pork sausage patties 
Toast basket with butter and jam 

From the larder 

Almond croissant 
Pain au chocolat 
Walnut bundle 
Monkey bread 
Pecan sticky bun 
Caramelized apple turnover 
Cornmeal blackberry shortcake 
dried cherry and almond scone