Grilled lamb in good company!

Great dinner last weekend at Chris & Molly’s (our dear friends) – Chris is a master griller and he impressed once again with his lamb chops! (pun intended). Serious winos in attendance contributed a tasty array of wines. While most of the wines delivered, the consensus seemed to be that the 1996 Clape Cornas stole the show with the lamb. I especially liked the 2002 Beaune-Greves 1er Cru burgundy from Michel Lafarge, even though it was perhaps a bit too bright and delicate for the lamb, but so satisfying, complex and charming like only an aged burgundy can!

Here are the wines and dishes to salivate over:

Champagne starter.

Fascinating wine – a 1987 Corton-Charlemange white burgundy from Mommessin, the producer of the famous Clos de Tart grand cru – who knew he had a white grand cru! Silky texture, copper tones (color and palate), unfortunately over the hill, with oxidized notes. Still a rare treat.

The ’97 Brunello Poggio Alle Mura from Castello Banfi was in good shape. On its own, it would have been attention grabber. Nicely mature, it seemed it should continue to drink well for at least a few more years.

Oh the mouthwatering, perfectly medium-rare, herb-crusted lamb – probably the best, tender-most grilled lamb I had ever had – what a treat! The Ottolenghi rack of lamb recipe can be found here. The exquisite quality lamb came from Draeger’s Market in Menlo Park.

Sides to go with the lamb. The ham and gruyere cheese seeded brioche from Manresa Bread Project was a special treat.

This 1996 Cornas from Clape was the crowd favorite – a wine with tons of character and complexity. Brown sugar / tree bark and porridge notes, iron, savory meat, olives, exotic (green) peppercorns, relatively lean, briny acidity went well with the lamb. Tasted prior to the lamb, it seemed quite austere. But with the lamb, it sang!

Pavillon Rouge 2000 Bordeaux – a very good second wine from Chateau Margaux. This would make a great dinner all on its own!

Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco 2008. Young but already elegant, red fruited, near silky, great acidity, with great potential. I really like the 2008’s and this Giacosa Barbaresco was a knock-out. Similar to Lafarge though, perhaps too light and elegant of a match for the lamb, but a great great treat!

And here we go – 2002 Beaune-Greves 1er Cru was like coming home – this wine made me smile and relax – Burgundy – there is just nothing like it! Elegant red berries, perfectly mature, great acidity, silky and charming. From the master of Cote de Beaune – Michel Lafarge.

Dehlinger has got to be one of the most satisfying new world producers of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Maybe it’s because it’s one with the most old-world sensibilities in their wines. Russian River Valley based, they make wines that taste real, unforced, from the land. Claret is the second wine of their Cabernet Sauvignon, made in a slightly lighter style than their top Cab. No fancy facade, just vivid wine with good acidity, inky, sleek, with earthy elements. It is perhaps because of their absence of flamboyance or flash, that they don’t seem to get very high critics’ scores, but the wines are highly respected among wine geeks, and I highly recommend them if you can find them. At 14 years of age, this claret was dense and very youthful.

Both the 2006 Raveneau Chablis Monts Mains and the 2006 Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc were in great shape!  The Raveneau was quite substantial for a Chablis. The Beaucastel blanc was weighy and dense, with notes of honey and hazelnuts.

Top sparkling rosé from Italy – Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta 2004 “Annamaria Clementi”. 100% Pinot Nero (Noir). Very serious wine – hints of citrus, raspberries and grass. Definitely a worthy Italian answer to Champagne. Great way to cleanse the palate at the end of the meal.

Great dinner!

#TasteCamp Explores #HudsonValley #Cider

From numerous trips to Greenwood Lake, I’ve become very familiar with two Hudson Valley cider makers, Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery & Applewood Winery. The former produces apple and pear ciders under the Doc’s Draft Ciders brand, while the latter recently introduced their Naked Flock ciders which replaced their Apple Dave’s Stone Fence Cider. TasteCamp presented a few opportunities to expand my Hudson Valley cider experience — starting with a trade tasting at Robibero Family Vineyards.

Among the various wineries at Robibero, Bad Seed Cider Company was pouring their inaugural release: Dry Hard Cider (6.3% abv, $12). The ciderie is co-owned by Devin Britton and Albert Wilklow, a 6th generation apple farmer. Devon is the cider maker – having a history of fermenting anything that would make a tasty beverage. Their Dry Hard Cider was clean, tart, and refreshing and hearing that they produced other styles incited me to visit on Sunday. The taproom was only a week old, yet there was already a decent crowd on my arrival. Devin was pouring four Bad Seed ciders as well as guest ciders from other Hudson Valley producers. I stuck with a sampler of his Dry, Cherried Away, Mapled Monk, and Blueberry. The Cherried Away was easily my favorite, basically the Dry fermented with tart sour cherries. This is one tasty cider. It took a few sips to start to appreciate the Mapled Monk, which is their Belgian Abbey augmented with a touch of maple syrup. There’s a bit of funk from being unfiltered and inoculation with Belgian abbey beer yeast. Very interesting.  Expect a lot more of these artisan ciders – I hear there’s a bourbon-maple combo on the horizon.

During day 2, our host, Carlo Devito, sponsored another Hudson Valley tasting at his Hudson-Chatham Winery. Among the participants were several cideries including the above mentioned Doc’s Draft and Naked Flock. Our host poured an almost cider – the Old Orchard Sparkling Apple Wine which resembled a sparkling cider (clean, effervescent, with a nice tart finish), but it came in at 10.7% abv – too high to be labeled a cider.

Another participant was Orchard Hill Cider Mill, from New Hampton and using fruit from Soons Orchard. They produce still and sparkling cider, the latter using méthode champenoise, whereas  both styles are bottle fermented and unfiltered. Their traditional Red and Gold labels (still vs sparkling) are clean and dry with the Red Label (7.25% abv, $10) having some toasted apple elements. The Gold Label (8% abv, $18) is slightly sweeter and lighter. Orchard Hill also introduced us to their Ten66 brand – the Jerry Lee Lewis of ciders – the killer. Named for the year of the Normandy invasion of Britain and inspired by that region’s Pommeau de Normandi, both the Red and Gold labels are delicious. The Red Label (20% abv, $30 375 ml) is mixed with apple brandy distilled from Soons Orchard apples  and aged in French oak wine barrels. The aged brandy is then blended with fresh unfermented Soons’ cider and returned to the barrel for extra aging. The result is a tart apple pie flavor with vanilla and nutmeg on the tail. The Ten66 Golden Barrel (20% abv, $30 375 ml) is even better, brandy distilled in 2005 combined with fresh juice and barreled in 2009 – a single barrel mistelle. Not a cider, but one of the best ciderie beverages on the market.

One of the most interesting collection of ciders the entire weekend was poured by Aaron Burr Cidery. These were apple and pear ciders from uncultivated fruit – foraged from wild or abandoned orchards in the Catskills. The apples and pears are small and mangled – providing more skin contact in relation to juice. The ciders are fermented using native yeast and unfiltered to create a cider style that was consumed when the country was founded. Obviously these are very small productions, maybe 100 cases, and extremely unique and tasty. Aaron Burr also produces an Appinette (8.4% abv) cider using 30% Finger Lakes Traminette grapes and 70% Orange County (NY) apples. It comes off dry, effervescent, with a tart – slightly bitter finish. Cheers for pulling these off; Aaron Burr ciders are highly recommended.

There are more cideries in the Hudson Valley waiting for my next trip. Hope to visit or taste Kettleborough Cider House, Annadale Cidery, Slyboro Cider House, and Breezy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill soon. Cheers.

Assistant General Manager – Live Nation Entertainment – Philadelphia, PA

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