Checkmate


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Just shy of nine years, and our game of chess via post card has finally come to a close. We’re both alive and as far as I can tell we are in possession of functioning livers. It was a white rook in the end. . . I’ve managed to buy and use five chess boards in the intervening years, the latest, from ChessPlus allows pieces to fuse and later split; the hybrids pieces can move according to the rules of either piece.

Jumping Juice Windy Cottage Pinot noir 2017


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A slight name change, but identical label with a subconsciously matching photo. It’s clear that my thinking when it comes to photographing wine bottles is unchanged. . . 13.5%, Taggerty, Warragul, Gippsland, Victoria. The best part is the nose – vibrant, filling and primary. Mashed berries and spice, it’s only later that the shadows and black cardamon appear. A little clunky in the mouth – like vegetable juice – with too much amplitude and acid. Awkward where you might hope for nuance and softness.

Context. I’ve been listening to a trio of books. The Overstory (by Richard Powers) – It’s superb, though I can only handle one short story per day, there’s too much to absorb and I keep wanting to rush home from my nocturnal walks so I might Google the featured Northern Hemisphere tree that he is painting with such vivid language. How to Change Your Mind (Michael Pollan) …

Dinner


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One day ago, I would never have considered my life incomplete. . . and then I discovered tomato rice topped with charred and crispy cheddar. . .

The details can be found here.

I’ve tinkered slightly, using a paella pan for all steps and using a different cheddar. For the record – fry  1.5 medium onions (rough dice) and 1 green chilli (de-seeded and roughly chopped) in olive oil. When starting to take on colour – add 10 chopped Roma tomatoes. Let this simmer, stirring occasionally, till a thickish sauce has been created. Add 3 cups of cooked basmati (from 1 cup of dry rice), mix and toss and pat flat. Add 2 large handfuls of grated cheddar – I used a smoked cheddar. Grill for 3-4 minutes – allowing the cheese to brown in parts.

J.J. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Auslese Goldkapsel 2010


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7.5%.

I have a cluster of these gold cap sweeties in my wine fridge, remnants from a small and distant windfall. They poke out at my attention, promising precision and joy. There seems to be a small market for such things, I’m not sure my drinking partners approved. . . A sugar cane / toffee apple nose, sulfur and more than a whisper of botrytis. . . a tooth ache wine – sweet and stinging; intense and pleasingly thick – like apricot nectar.

Closely related.

15, 17


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A Margaret river pair. . . infants really, not yet ready for battle.

2017 Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay (13%). Still dominated by a shroud of oak and cream, butterscotch and curry leaf; the fruit obscured, but the quality is apparent. From 2021 perhaps.

2015 Cullen Diana Madeline (13%). A few weeks earlier, I had tried a 2013 Diana Madeline and was struck by the poise and balance. Possibly the best youngish DM I can recall. . . This in contrast is  unresolved, smudged. Black currant and a sharp prod of menthol, creamy and rich in the mouth – inky, dark chocolate tannins.

Penfolds Grange 1996


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Warm and effusive, this seems hardly more than adolescent in development. Deep with menthol and spice, soft leather and raisins. A PX soaked Christmas pudding nose. . . Terrific structure, even to this hard to please observer. . . Super balance of size and well rounded tannins.

Context – the 15th or 16th bottle of the night, proceeded by a pair of St Henri – a very cuddly and compelling 2012, and a stern but softening 2002.

Leeuwin and Giaconda


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A chardonnay pair.

First the Leeuwin, an ascendant 2015 Art Series. There is much to observe and admire, the superb acids, the texture, balance and sting. It’s the showier and more impressive of the two, the aftertaste more enduring, the energy more compelling.

The Giaconda was older, possibly on the other side of its peak, a 2012, also under stelvin. It’s the more smouldering and aromatic wine – flint and curry leaf with a citrus edge. The shape is stubby in comparison, with more sticks and stones. Traces of black cardamon.  

Image: 1/8th of the Nobu Omakase.

Vieux Telegraphe ‘La Crau’ 2005


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CNdP. 14.5%. Cork. Cellar.

It’s taken over a month to finally open this half bottle, so long it feels illicit. . .

I’ve been preoccupied with reading, exercise and meditation; I’ve suddenly become less thirsty, I suspect it is a temporary phase, my cellar still beckons. . . but I can’t recall another time in my adult life when I’ve felt so dry. . .

Still stern and formidable, the rigid spine immediately apparent; even on the nose it’s blunt and heavy – raw meat and plum, powerful, dusty, plodding. . . Unforgiving in the mouth, an opening assault of chalky tannin and alcohol, the subsequent sips softer (only) through habituation.

Mee Godard Passerelle 577 2016


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Like a spinning top – it holds its shape and line only for a moment before losing control. Lush and evocative, a delicate pretty nose – raspberry cream and blue flowers. Quick, tart and dense with signal, it’s only later that it seems to stagger and splutter unflatteringly.

Related.

Sumagiyya and more


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This Gazan beef stew was adapted from my favourite cookbook of the moment – Zaitoun. Warm and soft – a curious but wonderful mix of flavours – caraway, sesame, sumac, pomegranate, spinach and  melt in the mouth beef shin.

For six with leftovers:

In a large le creuset pot or similar fry 2 small onions (diced) in olive oil. After 5 minutes of so, which they have taken on some colour add 6 cloves of garlic which has been roughly chopped. Push to the side and then add 800g of cubed beef shin (1 inch pieces) which have been seasoned and dusted with cornflour. When suitably coloured add the base spices – 1.5 teaspoons each of ground coriander, allspice and whole caraway seeds. Before the spices burn – add 500mls of chicken stock and 2 tablespoons of tomato puree. The meat should be just covered with liquid. Turn the …

L’Anglore Tavel 2015


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13%. Grenache et al, presumably. Cork.

2019 has seen a curious inversion of priorities. . . the days I open a bottle are now notable, where once it was the abstemious that were the exception. I credit the dog that bit me four months ago – a chain of events starting with injury and then recovery and a renewed interest in meditation, dharma and exercise has shoved wine to the end of the queue. . .

I still have a stash of cellared wines which I plan on enjoying, but perhaps more sporadically and less obsessively. . .

With a plate of salmon and Hasselbacks – a glass of exemplary Tavel. Medium/pale red; a super nose – pure, light, luminous. Lavender flowers and rhubarb. Playfulness and unity. . . Lush, crunchy, joyous. It seems quite complete and self contained. Well paced, the back end with flesh, texture and energy.

February notes


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Midway through the lunar festival and the chance to open and revisit some older bottles. . .

Not in picture – a green skinny bottle of unsurprisingly fresh and pert Grüner. Prager Hinter Der burg 2008. 12%. Screwcap. Pale, peppery and primary. Peach, pollen and polished stone. Super texture – in retrospect, like a mouth full of citrus and white flowers. Lovely acidity and poise. My drinking companion thought it was a 2018 riesling – so fresh. It’s the more expensive (though I’ve long forgotten the price) sibling to this bottle that I tried a decade ago.

Also unseen – a bottle of 2010 Mountadam Chardonnay. It’s become a butter ball – round and full, very old school / 1980’s in shape and accent. Butterscotch and almond meal. In passing.

The half bottle of the 2011 Lake’s Folly Caberents is starting to turn I think. Still …

William Downie Gippsland 2015


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Digging through my old photos, this 2014 image struck a cord, it seems the closest in subject to the label.

The wine question – 13%, Diam sealed – is jagged and brisk, quite different in character to the 2014 example. A volatile, acetic nose, dust and undergrowth; rhubarb and the impression of late autumn. Very fast, nervous, skeletal. . . this seems to be transitioning.  

Silkwood ‘The Walcott’ Pinot noir 2017


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Pemberton, Western Australia. 13.5%. Approx $A30

The bottle I tried on a warm day at the cellar door had much more red fruit and a playful touch. . .  days later, at home with rain – it seems more savoury, smoked and dusty. . . sour edged and slightly globular, pleasing weight and texture, quite good (?88-90) and very reasonably priced.

Postcard: Foragers


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Sophie Zalokar

A small room simply furnished with long tables and populated by eager communal diners armed to gills with BYO bottles of wine. On the back wall a large crinkled photograph of a free range pig. . .

As you drive in there’s a for sale sign – this wonderful place with it’s wonderful chef (Sophie Zalokar), modestly priced $80 set menus of local produce and thoughtful and soul nourishing food is in transition. . . Be nimble.

Pictured – a plate of beef brisket – smoked and slow cooked for 12 hours, on a bed of creamed corn and off set with locally sourced purple carrots and dill.

Related tasting note: 2004 Moss Wood Cabernet. Sealed with stelvin – the notable thing is how youthful this appears. Wrinkle free and with puppy fat. . . Last tried over a decade ago I’d be lying if I said it was unchanged, but looking at my notes, it …