Pizza dough

I love making dough.

Perhaps it is because we have known how for over 6000 years, but the why is more recent. Starting with Pasteur. . .

Take 15g of dried yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and waken them up in 100mls of warm water. Within 10 they will be breathing, bubbling and producing carbon dioxide.

While waiting for the yeast to activate, add 1 teaspoon of rock salt to 450g of white flour. I use '00' flour, which has more gluten. It is the gluten which gives the dough its texture and spring. The gluten molecules go from random spirals to a networked structure, all with the addition of water, kneading and yeast. Salt also changes the gluten net work, making it tighter and firmer. The calcium impurities in rock salt give even more strength.

Set this living mixture aside in a warm spot and cover. After 20 minutes it will be quietly bubbling and popping and all the time expanding. After 90 minutes or so (depending on the temperature) it will be ready and doubled. Punch it down (still not sure why this is done, but it does feel good), divide and roll into two pizza bases and scatter with some polenta grains, to give some added crunch.

Kooyong Clonale Chardonnay 2007

Mornington, Victoria, Australia. Chardonnay. Diam. Approx $A25

As the book mark indicates, I am only a chapter in to this wonderfully evocative novel, full of adjectival brilliance, by Peter Carey. It's been sitting on my bookshelf for a few years, waiting for the right moment. Which is one reason I visit my local library in preference to bookstores. The time pressure and the notion of a black-mark should I return the book late is what I need to finish what I start. . .

Made from 10 different clones, the Clonale is very clever winemaking. It is well priced, well made and seems to have enough complexity to interest the trainspotters and enough generosity to appeal widely. Grilled summer fruit and butterscotch, with essence like texture, and a seam of ripe pineapple and cream throughout.

Very good.
Now - 2011.

Yelland & Papps Greenock Shiraz 2007

Yelland & Papps ShirazMy tasting notes for the Yelland & Papps Greenock Shiraz 2007 have been sitting on my desk for 2 months awaiting a write up, unfortunately life’s events have got in the way, apologies for the delay.

Perfumed shiraz fruit, leather, earth and a hint of chocolate. The powerful and juicy front palate holds much promise, with mouthfilling berries and aniseed however there is little in the way of tannin and the flavours quickly drop away. A better showing was found on the second day, though the finish was still a tad short.

For what its worth, several respected critics have rated this wine highly. We tasted this bottle alongside the 2007 Grenache and Cabernet and it definitely appeared to be the weaker sibling.

Score: 87/100
Price: $30
Closure: Screwcap
Alcohol: 14.5%
Other Opinions: The Wine Front (Subscription Required)
Would I buy this wine?

Delicious SA Sauvignon at a good price

I've been slightly concerned by the direction that South African Sauvignon Blanc seems to have taken of late. The emphasis has been shifted towards methoxypyrazines - the grape-derived compounds that give that grassy, green pepper character. Now these can be positive in small doses, but when they're the main flavour signature, it's a bit...

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NWR: mobile phones

Both our kids have much better phones that Fiona and I do. Younger son has an LG Cookie KP500 touch phone. He's pretty good with his possessions, but a few weeks ago fell onto his phone and killed the LCD screen. I was a soft Dad and, after finding out the cost of repair (c £45) bought him a new one, and then sold his old phone on Ebay. It raised...

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Extremism in the Defense of Vineyards Is No Joke, I Guess

The advocates of biodynamic methods of agriculture range from the mildly committed, who employ bio-dy techniques selectively and ignore the mumbo-jumbo aspects, to disciples for whom the words of Rudolf Steiner and Nicolas Joly are gospel.

The last part of that sentence, or something similar, was much on my mind late in the afternoon of Wednesday, July 8, as the group I was with paid a visit to Weingut Peter Jakov Kühn, one of the most highly regarded estates in Germany’s Rheingau region. The winery, situated at the outskirts of the incredibly charming village of Oestrich, offers nothing fancy and neither do the unpretentious Peter Jakov Kühn and his wife Angela, who are friendly and down-to-earth, though she is more forthcoming than he, who is the shyer of the couple. (She is a former German Wine Queen.) Both, however, are passionate about their 18-hectare estate (a bit less than 47 acres) and the wines they produce.

PJK has been certified organic since 2004 and this year became a member of Demeter, the organization that certifies biodynamic estates. Much of what Peter Jakov Kühn does in the vineyard, along with being scrupulously meticulous, seems like common sense. Compost the vineyards with estate-produced materials in the Spring. Plant crop cover between vine rows in the Summer and in the Spring plow it under. Avoid chemical nutrients. Apply minimal pressure in the winery; stainless steel and large barrels for riesling, with a light filtration. Anyone could do that.

Peter Jakov, also, however, follows many of the stipulations of biodynamic agriculture as laid down by Rudolph Steiner in his famous lectures of 1924: horn compounds of manure and silica; teas of horsetail, stinging nettle and chamomile to spray on the vines; careful consideration of the phases of the moon to supplement the “movement” of the wine, including during bottling.

We stood with Angela Kühn by a vineyard that sweeps up to one side of the winery, accompanied by the winery’s 13-year-old Labrador, Acino. Here’s where things got a little sticky. One of the group mentioned that the rows did not have great shoots springing from the tops of the vines; were they cut back?

“No,” said Angela, “in the best parcels, we don’t cut the tops of the stems to give a message to the vines that no one wants to damage them and cut off their lives. If you cut the stems, it creates a sense of urgency and power because their lives are in danger, and they want to regenerate the next generation. This pushes the sugar level up. By not cutting the stems, by reducing the stress and gently tying the stems back” — the stems are wreathed along the top of the row and tied with soft but durable material — “we create a more balanced wine. Vineyards that get not only care and concern but love, we feel the vines will profit from it.”

This is the point where I throw my notebook and pen into the air and say, “Oh, please!” Not really, because my mother taught me better, but come on, the vines think their lives are in danger if you cut the stems? You have to love the vines, not just take care of them? Does the same principle apply to tomato plants and rutabagas? Amber waves of grain? Corn as high as an elephant’s eye?

But these are sweet and gentle people, and their attempts to live and work in harmony with nature are touching, and the wines they produce, which is really the issue here, well, the wines are pretty damned wonderful. (And all the wines are closed with screw-caps.)

Take, for example, PJK’s basic wine, the Jacobus Riesling trocken 2008, made in stainless steel. My notes: “Big, ripe, fleshy; yellow plums, camellia, honeysuckle; intense, concentrated, seductive; full, lively, dynamic; v. spicy; crushed stones, pulverized slate and gravel; really great.” The price in Germany is 8.60 euros, or about $12.50. An amazing wine for the price. Jacobus is named for the founder of the estate, Jacobus Kühn, who started making wine here in 1786.

The next level is the stainless steel Quarzit Riesling trocken 2008, and the name tells it all. My notes: “V. stony, v. pure and intense, v. spicy; yellow flowers, yellow fruit, stone fruit; huge hit of minerals, slate and limestone; v. dry, crisp, vibrant, austere.” This is, one admits, a little demanding; it needs a year or two. 13.90 euro, about $19.50 to $20.

We tried two of PJK’s top rieslings. The Oestrich Doosberg 2007, aged in 2,400-liter barrels, is a brilliant medium gold color; the wine is intense and concentrated, coiled like a steel spring, offering incredible energy and nerve and verve; it’s very ripe, very spicy, sleek and lithe and racy, and could stand to mature for two or three years before being opened, or you could wait until 2015 to ‘17 and see how it develops. Extraordinary. Not surprisingly, the price goes up at this point, 26.60 euros, about $37.50. The Mittelheim St. Nikolaus Riesling 2005 — current release is ‘07 — is powerful and earthy and exotic, an eloquent expression of pure minerality with hints of petrol, jasmine, crystallized ginger and a touch of banana, all leading to a finish that’s almost brutal with granite and limestone. This too needs a few years, say 2011 or ‘12 through 2016 or ‘17. 24.60 euros, about $34.75.

Finally, there was the Oestrich Lenchen Riesling Spätlese 2008, a pale gold-colored wine of piercing minerality that offered subtle touches of lemon, lemon curd and peach, a wine delicately sweet, winsomely floral and sustained by such a surge of acidic nervosity that the glass feels electrified in your hand, and then from mid-palate back the whole package turns startlingly dry and austere. A lovely and slightly challenging riesling that needs a year or two in the bottle. 18.30 euros, about $26.

So, at this point, Readers, you’re saying, perhaps rather smugly, damn your eyes, “Ah ha, F.K., now you have to revise your negative opinion of biodynamism and admit that it works!” Well, what I will say is that Peter Jakov Kühn is a brilliant winemaker and that he certainly makes brilliant wines, making that judgment on a brief exposure. If biodynamic methods in the vineyard contribute to this brilliance, then I will say that, yes, the principles work here. I wonder though: If Peter Jakov Kühn did not bottle his wines “in a diminishing phase of the moon,” would they be any less brilliant? If he did not spray with, say, the horsetail compound, would the wines be less compelling? Would Peter Jakov Kühn — meticulous, thoughtful, hard-working and attentive — not make brilliant wines under any circumstances?

The wines (or some of them) of Weingut Peter Jakov Kühn are imported to the U.S. by Domaine Select Wine Estates.

Images of the winery and Angela Kühn & Acino are by Ernst Büscher; image of Peter Jakov Kühn is by Tim Wegner.

News, Notes and Dusty Bottle Items – Summer Twilight Edition

More flotsam and jetsam from a wine-fueled life …

Wine Spectator Annual Restaurant Awards

Janko’s Little Zagreb restaurant is the quintessential college town restaurant.  Located in Bloomington, IN it’s an Indiana University tradition alongside the Irish Lion and Nick’s.  Precious few students don’t make at least one pilgrimage to Zagreb’s over the course of four years of school to mark a special occasion or to soak up Dad’s ATM card on a parent’s weekend.

It’s a steakhouse throwback.  Founded in 1979, it could have just as easily been started in 1959.  It’s a homey spot with red checkered table clothes, baked potato’s wrapped in aluminum foil with enough whipped butter to close down an arterial passageway, iceberg lettuce salads and waitresses with enough mileage on them to have seen it all before most of the kids nowadays were a twinkle in their Dad’s eye.  Oh, yeah, and the steaks are tasty, too.

Most college towns have these sorts of “joints.”  Refreshingly, as is the case with Zagreb’s, most of these places are without irony, as well.  It’s a joint for the sake of being what it is, not a facsimiled approximation with a wink.

I appreciate that.

I am a fan of “joints” having previously noted that we’ll know when widespread wine culture in America has arrived when joints start getting the wine gospel.  I’ll take a local restaurant with some genuine history and wear on the edges over the Capital Grille any day of the week.


At first blush, you wouldn’t think that Little Zagreb would be a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence award winner either by dining experience or the wine list, as marked by the standards held by those who know too much about wine.  However, there is something to be said for local spots that migrate to higher ground from the chock-a-block mindlessness of wine lists filled with supermarket Cabs, Merlots and Chardonnay’s.

Many decry the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards as a capitalistic enterprise exchanging the Wine Spectator brand name and a plaque in exchange for a check; I won’t argue the fundamentals of that point.  Nor will I argue the fact that I have been to Little Zagreb’s and nobody from Wine Spectator has likely ever flown into Indianapolis and made the hour and twenty minute drive south to Bloomington.  However, I will point out that, by and large, the Wine Spectator Restaurant Awards highlight independent restaurants – and whether they are white table cloth or red checkered, there’s something to be said for continuing to isolate the mostly independent restaurants in the country who attempt to make wine a serious part of their line-up.

Here are three cheers to Little Zagreb’s and the other joints in America who do it on a daily basis and serve a nice bottle of wine along the way.

Updates and Notes

As noted previously, The Markham Mark of Distinction Program is currently running and has announced their 10 finalists.  You can vote for the winner of one of two $25,000 grants to a non-for-profit that will use the money to make a mark in their local community.  I won’t name my favorite, all are worthy, but check out the site and cast your vote.

What I wrote about a year ago

The Return of Wine Hieroglyphics

Happy Birthday To Me!

Well dear wine blog readers, I am one year older today! Not sure about that whole wiser part, but I certainly try.  In honor of my birthday tonight we will be opening multiple Zins in a blind tasting format for my post for WBW #60- I Have Zinned.  I hope you will all join me for WBW’s 5th Birthday on August 12! Stick with me for another year and help me next year as I bid adieu to my 20s and say hello to my 30s! With that, here are some Wannabe Wino Birthdays across the years:

1st Birthday Cake Smash!

1st Birthday Cake Smash!

3rd Birthday-Bubbles!

3rd Birthday-Bubbles!

27-not nearly as cute or exciting :)

27-not nearly as cute or exciting :)

Posted in Misc

Hiking Across South America

My friends Matt and Stef are taking a year to hike across South America, which makes me very jealous and also a bit sad. Before they jetted of for SA, they lived up above the Wine School. They are publishing beautiful photos of  their adventures on their travel blog:  Stef and Matt

Seigneurie d’Arse 2006 ~ Fitou

Seigneurie d'Arse 2006
Seigneurie d’Arse 2006

This is a jolly little number from just up the road in Cascastel des Corbieres. A pleasing cooked plum nose with well balance red fruits and mild tannins on the palate.There is also a little spice in the finish making a pleasant summer wine and good value for money.

Cost = €3.80

Cascastel des Corbieres
Cascastel des Corbieres

Produced by Les Maîtres Vignerons du Paradis (, Grand’Rue 11360 Cascastel des Corbieres

Jamie Oliver Teams Up with Naked Wines.

Norwich, UK (Press Release) July 31, 2009 — Popular chef Jamie Oliver has recently launched his latest venture; a new partnership with UK wine retailer Naked Wines (

“A brilliant bit of news… is teaming up with a fantastic company called Naked Wines,” announced Jamie. “The great thing is, they have the same passion for food and wine as we do, and we’re working with really small, unsung wine producers from around the world, giving the smaller vineyards the chance to share their beautiful wines with the rest of us.”
Jamie’s official website now has a dedicated wine section which matches recipes to wines, offers general wine tips and promotes seasonal cases selected by Jamie himself.

“Jamie’s approach to food inspired us to launch Naked Wines, and he was the chef we wanted to work with above all others” explained Rowan Gormley, Founder and CEO. “The wine industry is often shrouded in emperor’s clothes, but Jamie’s shown that you can be be casual (as opposed to stuffy) and professional at the same time.”

To find out more about Naked Wines, and the work they’re doing with Jamie, visit Jamie’s new wine page at or call 01603 281 800.

Weekly Twitter Wine Mini-Reviews Round-up for 2009-08-01

  • 06 Prime 'District 4' Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Big & about as classic & concentrated black cherry as you can get. Bravo! #
  • 08 C. Donatiello 'Marie Pavie' Rose (Russian River Valley): Ultra low-production, slightly oakey but all strawberry, all dry, & all good. #
  • 07 Eagles Nest Winery Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon "Starboard" (Ramona Valley): Dessert wine. Like a bing cherry liquor w/ more bite. #
  • 06 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): Will stand up to most chocolate and laugh in its face. Blackberry with a hint of cocoa powder. #
  • 06 Quintessa (Rutherford): Bring your shades or this will blind you with its awesomeness. Bring a wallet full of cash or you won't get any. #
  • 07 Ch. Ste Michelle Eroica Riesling (WA): A little WA, a little Alsace, a little Mosel, a little tasty, a little flabby. #
  • 06 L'Ecole No 41 Merlot (Columbia Valley): Kind of like the story after a potentially hot date; a bit spicy, a bit peppery, and even juicy. #
  • 05 Snows Lake TWO (Lake County): Red, spicy, beautiful and BIG. Needs a min. of 5 yrs. or it will probably kung fu your tongue. #
  • 06 Magnificent Wine Co. Syrah (Columbia Valley): The spice is niiiice. But attempting this wine without food is a very big no-no. #

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Vinography Images: The Russian River


The Russian River
Somewhere deep in the fog of this image, grapes are busy growing. This is the engine that makes the Pinot Noir of the Russian River Valley so wonderful. The river acts as a catheter, drawing the fog inland to cool the grapes and provide the large diurnal shifts in temperature necessary to grow world class Pinot and Chardonnay. -- Alder Yarrow

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What is it About Wine?

Browsing through the wine blog world makes it obvious that for many, wine is much more than a simple beverage. I have yet to find the same sort of passion from someone writing about soda! Those of us who appreciate wine for all the little nuances each taste offers can easily get caught up in a web of sensory fulfillment that borders on passion.

For me, wine exploration is a pursuit that fulfills both an intellectual need and the need for simple enjoyment at the same time. Each vintage has something new to offer and the vast number of wines available means that there will always be something I have never tasted before.

The experience begins before the bottle is even opened. The anticipation of what will be found under the cork (or other closure) for a wine nut like me can stir a little bit of excitement at the beginning of the process. Will I like the wine? Will there be obvious flaws in the wine? Will this be the best wine I have ever tasted?

Once the first glass is poured it is time to swirl it around and look at its color and clarity. While not necessarily the most critical factor since most commercial wine now receives some form of filtration to remove sediments, it can imply how careful the winemaker has been in protecting the wine from too much oxygen contact.

Aroma is by far the factor that speaks of the wine’s character. The first smell identifies any faults in the winemaking process. Brettanomyces, a yeast that can give the wine aromas ranging from band aid to barnyard depending on the particular strain is the first deal breaker for me. I know some people tolerate this and some even enjoy it but my nose sees this a serious flaw. Corked wine is not the fault of the winemaker and can be rectified by exchanging the bottle for a good one. Less common in commercial wine is oxidation and bacterial spoilage found in some “home made” wine.

A wine’s aroma should represent the varietal listed on the label. Cabernet should not smell like merlot and pinot noir should not smell like Gamay. For my taste, chardonnay should not smell like the juice from a toasted oak tree but that is for another post. Many low to mid cost wines have become so homogenized through blending and manipulation that even the best palate can have difficulty determining the varietal in a blind tasting.

Wine should speak to where the grapes were grown. California pinot should not have the same characteristics of red Burgundy any more than Washington syrah should smell like Côte-Rôtie. It does not make one regions wine better than another, just different.

Now that the time to taste the wine has finally arrived, it is all about balance. Acidity, tannin structure, sweetness and “mouthfeel” are what separates a well made wine with one that has been manipulated to cover up any flaws in the juice. Winemakers routinely adjust acid, which is fine, but too much manipulation can make a wine seem contrived.

Wine appreciation has been a wonderful journey that I hope will continue for many years. I would love to hear what you look for when tasting wine.

Freakish find: Recession Red

Their ‘92 label.    An awesome woman I work with named Kuni was kind enough to give this to me, knowing what a wine geekoid I am. Using grapes from the 2007, 2008, 2009 season, I wondered if this would be another typical leftover wine blends. I like being surprised. When it comes to wine that is. Cheap [...]

Mini Vertical #11: Vieux Telegraphes

It is interesting to see what a few years in the cellar can do for a wine. Two years ago I was not highly complimentary of the 1998 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe "La Crau", yet time has done wonders for this bottle (tasted blind vs. its younger sibling, below). Starker, crisper, with scents of damp campfire embers, old leather, old cherries...spicy and cheesy, wet stones also compliment this gorgeous nose. On the palate it seemed older, more distinguished, focused, with soft velvety tannins, good acidity and a deceptively long finish. Nicely done.
cork. 14% alcohol
Score: 18/20
Price: C$67 (SAQ)

Despite being three years younger, the 2001 Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe "La Crau" showed more "bricking" at the edges, which mistakenly led me to believe this was the older bottle. More prunes and cooked fruit on the nose as well - perhaps this bottle was not as well treated as the '98 above? Beautiful aromas of wild flowers and meaty truffles, definitely the fruitier, jammier wine. Soft and oily at first, but a monster tannic presence and a long finish. Much hotter and less balanced, the three of us just didn't like it as much as the '98 above.
cork. 14.8% alcohol
Score: 17/20
Price: C$59 (SAQ)