Tilapia fillet with lemon butter – answer to the wine pairing challenge

In the last post, I posed a food-and-wine challenge, to which I will now supply my answer.

Food-and-wine pairing challenge.
Which of the three wines displayed on this photo was the best match for the Bobby Flay's pan-fried tilapia fillet, topped with lemon-butter and green olive tapenade, with a side of roasted butternut squash with vinaigrette dressing?

1. Vosne-Romanée "Vieilles Vignes", Alex Gambal 2007 ($60.00).
2. Pouilly-Fuisse "Les Ménéstrières", Domaine J.A. Ferret 2005 ($50.00).
3. Pouilly-Fuisse "Les Vernays", Domaine J.A. Ferret 2005 ($27.00).

When I think seafood and butter, naturally I think white Burgundy. Especially 1er cru or grand cru with creamy richness that typically comes from a combination of ripe grapes and oak barrel aging. But also, I look for acidity to cut through and contrast the butter. Here I had two white Burgundies that I knew from tasting the day before were rich. I also knew that the "Les Vernays" was already in its drinking window while the "Les Menetrieres" still needed a couple of years to open up. I wasn't entirely sure which one would match better though, so I tried both. "Les Venays" was more open and fruity, and quite rich, overpowering the fish. "Les Menetrieres" was a bit leaner at this stage and more acidic, which matched the fish better, but still a bit too round and even bland. At this point, it occurred to me that the lemon in the butter and the olives on top of the fish were the key (as they say "pick the wine to match the sauce!") - I needed something leaner and more acidic. Since normally I don't pair red wine with fish, reluctantly I tried the red Burgundy. And.. voila! Alex Gambal's Vosne-Romanee "Vielles Vignes" 2007 is a very perfumy, elegant, very complete wine with light-to-medium body and light texture - and it turned out a major hit with the lemon/olive mixture, not to mention the vinaigrette over the squash. Not only did the body of the red wine match the dish that after all wasn't all that rich, but also the cherry flavor on Pinot Noir really added a delicious dimension to the fish. The refreshing acidity and the earlier approachability I have observed in the 2007 vintage red Burgundies were very much appreciated in harnessing the lemon/olive tartness of the sauce and the light texture of the fish.

In the past two weeks, I started noticing a pattern: light bodied high-acid fruity wines like red Burgundy or Frappato (Sicilian red) pair exceptionally well with seafood - no doubt common knowledge for experienced sommeliers but quite a revelation for me!

What we talk about when we talk about wine

In a week, a wine board I like to participate on will celebrate its first birthday. Realizing this, and thinking back over the many online conversations I have had, spanning from Tahiti to Burgundy, by way of Mount Etna, Rioja and Cornas, I thought it was an apposite moment to bring up the topic of why it's so important to have these venues for conversation, banter and arguments.

Knowledge and taste are such slippery, ever-changing things; our palates and opinions evolve, inevitably. And one great spur to their evolution is, along with the simple tasting and drinking of wines, discussing them with people who have a similar fervency, people who are informed, ask questions and spout thoughts.

What I have found fascinating in the eclectic, angry, roving, uncommon group of oenophiles on the Wine Disorder board is the challenge of it. In order to join in the fray, to confront a conflicting or ill-formed opinion, one's own opinion needs to be clear, expressible, and thought-through. Even to chip in with related commentary requires a cataloguing and systematizing act of the brain. Someone will call you out – and that's part of the fun.

This I love. I also enjoy the play with the rigor, the allusiveness, the humor, the extraneous, geeky nonsense. Because ponderousness is a bad old saw in the wine world, I like that I can flee preconceived notions and skip off to a playground for sharp winos.

My palate has changed and evolved over the past year, and this is in part due to the questions other oenophiles have put to my set of prejudices (which I also try to assail here, but in a less back-and-forth way). I would never, too, have thought to drink Overnoy Poulsard, say, or Clos Roche Blanche Pineau d'Aunis, or orange wines without the steady tide of fresh thoughts and tastings provided by that group.

Which is why I have decided to toast Wine Disorder with a nice glass of leesy chardonnay.

Mazel tov!

Michel Leon Gewurztraminer 2008

Price: $11.99 at Trader Joe's
Recommended by: We're fans of Gewurztraminers
Comments: We've been drinking more Chardonnay lately. Why, since other white varietals are so good? Particularly Gewurztraminer, and this one reminded us why we're such big fans. Michel Leon is fairly dry, but with some really nice fruit. It has some floral notes and a bit of spice. It was a perfect complement to the Indian food we had for dinner, and we look forward to having this wine again. Chardonnay, as we noted some years ago, kinda sucks (OK, OK ... with the exception of a few).
Rating: 7.5/10

Michel Leon Gewurztraminer 2008

Price: $11.99 at Trader Joe's
Recommended by: We're fans of Gewurztraminers
Comments: We've been drinking more Chardonnay lately. Why, since other white varietals are so good? Particularly Gewurztraminer, and this one reminded us why we're such big fans. Michel Leon is fairly dry, but with some really nice fruit. It has some floral notes and a bit of spice. It was a perfect complement to the Indian food we had for dinner, and we look forward to having this wine again. Chardonnay, as we noted some years ago, kinda sucks (OK, OK ... with the exception of a few).
Rating: 7.5/10

Fresh-Hop Ales

Writer Christian DeBenedetti, who reported on San Diego’s craft-beer scene in our June issue, recently took a trip to the Hamptons in New York to harvest hops (the delicate green flowers that give beer flavor). Here, he tells what beer lovers c...

Natural Wine: Some History

As the San Diego Natural WIne Summit is over and the San Francisco Natural Wine Week revs up, the whole discussion of Natural wine is on fire. Yet, I'm tired of it (but would love a drink please) and wanted to move on and off the topic. Just as I was thinking about getting down to my California notes, a thoughtful comment flew in, and I realized I had to make something quite clear. Natural Wine is not something I defined. Nor did Joe Dressner, nor did Jenny & Francois. My posted definition (two topics down) was out of frustration because so much misinformation by well meaning but perhaps new enthusiasts was being spread like fluffanutter over the blogosphere. The parameters needed to be stated, clearly. I did it. The movement started in the Beaujolais town of Morgon (my favorite spot for Beaujo) in the late 70's by Jules Chauvet and Jacques Neoport with Marcel Lapierre. Fed up with chemical farming and additive winemaking these men (and followed by the so called Gang of Five) sought to make a wine from healthy soil, without yeast, bacteria, chapitalization, sterile filtration or sulfur. The Chauvet methode to me is controversial, but...

Social media encounter: the L’Anima wine list challenge

I took part in a social media experiment today. Before you all groan and close your browser windows in desperation, let me explain what this was about. It was an initiative by high-end Italian restaurant L'Anima to engage with the wine twitter/blogger community to help shape their wine list. The official spiel is: On Monday, August 24th 2009 the...

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Palate Food + Wine

Palate FOOD + WINE 933 South Brand Boulevard Glendale, CA 91204 Hiding smack in the middle of car dealerships and lamp stores in downtown Glendale is a wine bar worthy of repeat visits. For once. Let’s get to the point. Smooth cool, steel pub chairs and long silver tables overflow in every room. A modern concrete bar with a European handwritten blackboard takes center stage. It feels [...]

Wine ethanol, lightest bottle, oxygen, supermarket brands – sipped and spit

183586153_9c086eba4e_mSIPPED: waste wine
A new company is turning waste wine (and beer) into ethanol. Marquee investor: Shaq. [LA Times]

SPIT: bodybuilders
A new, lightweight (300g) glass bottle will debut in the UK next year. [Decanter]

SIPPED: “indelible stain”
Michael Broadbent’s lawsuit against Random House, publisher of the The Bilionaire’s Vinegar, only serves to draw attention to the “indelible stain on his record” that the Rodenstock/Jefferson bottles represent. [Slate]

SIPPED: wine geekdom
Jamie Goode explores the love-hate relationship between oxygen and wine, corks and screwcaps. [Wines & Vines]

SIPPED: public sector frugality
A general in the British Army made the news for £1.49 supermarket Merlot for his guests–among other cost saving measures. No moat cleaning for him! [Timesonline.co.uk]

SIPPED: private label brands
“A $3 unknown wine at Safeway makes you think ‘how can it be any good?’ while a $3 wine with the Trader Joe’s imprimatur makes you think ‘how bad can it be?’” [Wine Economist]

SPIT: pricing information
A pet peeve: winery and wine store web sites that don’t make it easy to tell the price and/or legal possibility of shipping without doing an arduous check-out or profile procedure.


Slate Wine Tasting

I like this idea. Slate is holding an online wine tasting. Well, actually, it is a traditional wine tasting hosted by Slate's wine critic, Mike Steinberger, but it does have an online component. This Wednesday, August 26th, Mike will be tasting the following wines:Domaine des Aubisieres Vouvray Silex 2007Les Heritiers du Comte Lafon Macon 2007Domaines Ott Cote de Provence Rose les Domaniers

The Grail by Brian Doyle–book review by (PB)

Author Brian Doyle tags along with Jesse Lange of Lange Winery in the production of its specialty--Pinot Noir taking you to the fields, the tasting room, the winery and finally to the bottling of another vintage of the finicky grape.

Doyle's writing style is absolutely unique as he utilizes the run-on sentence in masterful fashion in such a way that works and only adds to the feel of relentless busy-ness that marks the daily routine of the winery and even though my English teachers and my own editors would have never let an article of mine presented in such fashion off their desk, Doyle makes it work. :)

Of the Willamette Valley Pinot Noir which is reviewed below this entry, Doyle writes; "[It's] the work horse of the winery, the foot solider,the flag bearer. It's the one they sell the most, the one that generally is the general public's introduction to Lange Winery. It's a cheap paradox Pinot: It's the cheapest but its not cheap. It is the least renowned but it reflects the most craft. it draws the least applause but should arguably draw the most." pg.194-95

The Grail
was delightful reading and I finished it while sipping the aforementioned wine and subsequently reviewed wine and it just doesn't get any better than that except for perhaps tasting it at the winery with the makers explaining their craft. Raise a glass to the folks at Lange and wineries everywhere who don't simply make a beverage--they create a potable and palatable piece of art!

The Wines of Jerez – Part 1

Welcome to our video podcast: Jerez – Part 1 – Video Show #73.

Right Click Here to Download File and iPhone users – Click here to View Video

Many of us are familiar with the name Sherry, but admittedly know little about the wine – or for that matter, the area that is famous for it. Jerez de la Frontera, or Jerez for short, is located in the Andalusia region of southwestern Spain. Wine has been made in this region since 1100 B.C., and is so ingrained in the culture that in present day terms Sherry and Jerez have largely become synonymous. This city of over 200,000 is the hub of the world Sherry trade, and has a fascinating cultural background – due in no small part to 500 years of Moorish influence.

Sherry is a fortified wine made from the Palomino, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel Romano grapes. As with most fortified wines, alcohols typically run 15-20%, which allows it to travel well, and accounts for its origins, as well as its longstanding popularity in the U.K. as an aperitif or with meals.
In this part of Spain, there are soils of lime, clay and sand, but in widely varying proportions, and mixed in pockets with small amounts of various minerals. The soils run from chalk white sand to very dark clay, which is considered important because lighter and darker soils produce somewhat representative colors of Sherry.

Join us as we delve into this region of Spain and explore the vineyards, wine, and culture of Jerez.

Lange Pinot Noir 2007 wine review (PB)

At the risk of you losing you--the reader--I HAVE to explain a few things about this wine regarding its background. Stay with me!

I have been reading a book called The Grail by Brian Doyle in which he chronicles a season in the life of the folks of Lange Winery in Oregon. So I set out to find a bottle of their Pinot Noir which is what they are known for.

I would look for it on each business trip I would take and when I would travel out of state. I was never successful until this June when I was in Minneapolis on business. Billy (of this blog) went into a wine shop in Excelsior Minnesota and EUREKA! I found this bottle of their lowest tiered Pinot. I paid $25 for it which is significantly above the internet price of the upper teens.

That didn't matter as you would have thought I found one of the Jefferson bottles of Lafite...

This Pinot is sourced from Willamette valley fruit and presents with a cherry/black cherry hue with candied cherry aromas from afar. The nose has elegant spice highlights and sweet celery.

Palate--This is cleanly made, gentle berry flavors that are fairly fleeting. It has a nice mouth feel and is artistically made.

After taste--is delicate but almost a candy apple note.

Wine is unlike any other beverage. It is a total experience and spending a year with the folks that made this wine--even in the pages of a book--I can only hope of finding one of their single vineyard Pinots on one of my travels in the future. Raise a glass and pick up The Grail! (you can read a review of the book in the post just above this one)

Château Cantenac Brown 2003

Back to reality, with tonight’s University Challenge yielding less than 5 points to the Wino intellect (or lack of).  And this despite a dumbing down of questions this series, to include word games, “modern” music and, of all things, 20th century architecture.

My lack of success at quiz events is partly due to lack of knowledge, and partly due to lack of due care and attention.  I think they named a driving offence after me.  But there must be some random knowledge stored up there in the old grey matter.  For example, I am sure I heard that the wines of Margaux are feminine and gently perfumed.

Juicy fruit, and some Cantenac for some reason

Château Cantenac Brown 2003 smells rich and earthy, and tastes hot, spicy and masculine, in a Usain Bolt sort of way.  With a finish of approximately 9.58 seconds, it kicks blackberry crumble with a sprint of cayenne pepper into the very finish line of your palate.

After a glass, it developed into something slightly more subtle but remained a great partner for spicy pepperoni pizza.  I guess the Margaux weather in 2003 was more tropical than temperate.

Tennessee Direct Shipper Applications and Instructions Available

Wineries are now able to apply to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission for a Direct Shipper license. Direct Shipper licensees may ship no more than 1 case (9 liters) of wine to a Tennessee consumer during a calendar month and total shipments to each consumer may not exceed 3 cases (27 liters) of wine during a calendar year. Only Tennessee consumers located in a wet region are allowed to receive wine shipments, and common carriers will not deliver shipments to an address that is located in a jurisdiction that has not authorized the sale of alcoholic beverages. A complete list of jurisdictions that have approved sales of alcohol is available on the Wine Institute website.

The first step in the direct shipper application process is registering to pay taxes, by submitting an “Application for Registration” to the Department of Revenue. The “Application for Registration” form must be completed by hand (Do Not file online version of the application.) Direct Shippers should select “Wholesale Gallonage” and “Sales and Use Tax” in section 1 and describe their business activity as “direct shipping” in section 15. Direct Shipper’s are not required to post a bond.

Once the Department of Revenue has processed the application for registration the direct shipper applicant should receive two documents: a “Certificate of Registration” and a letter confirming the tax registration process has been completed. Do not submit the Direct Shipper License application to the Alcoholic Beverage Commission before receiving these documents. The confirmation letter issued by the Department of Revenue must be submitted with the Direct Shipper License application. Direct shipper license applicants must pay a one time non-refundable fee of $300.00 and an annual license fee of $150 to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission before receiving their license. Payment totaling $450.00 should be included with the application packet. In addition, the following documents should be submitted with the direct shipper’s license: copies of contracts with common carriers shipping wine to Tennessee consumers (also known as “Alcohol Shipping Agreement”), a copy of the applicant’s organizational document, and a copy of the applicant’s federal basic permit.

The direct shipper’s license is valid for 1 year from the date of issue. Direct shipper’s must file reports, pay a state sales tax of 9.25% and pay excise tax. The Department of Revenue will send the appropriate reporting forms and instructions to licensees based on their filing status. The application forms and instructions are available on the Wine Institute website. Wineries should remember that shipping to consumers in Tennessee without a license is classified as a felony. Should you have any questions please contact Wine Institute’s State Relations Department at 415-356-7530 or abones@wineinstitute.org.

-Annie Bones, State Relations - Wine Institute

Attack of the Stupid Wine Legislation

Withstupid Maine legislators have once again taken it upon themselves to protect their state's children from any possible exposure to alcohol. Let's hear it for them. This one is particularly absurd

A new law goes into effect on September 12 that will prohibit children from observing wine, beer or alcohol tastings. The new "Blind Wine" law was passed in response to another law that was passed which would have allowed wine, beer and spirit tastings in off premise establishments (grocery stores and wine shops, for example). The language reads: "Taste-testing activities must be conducted in a manner that precludes the possibility of observation by children."

According to Maine State Representative David Webster, "I and a number of other legislators were concerned regarding the idea that grocery stores will have families going into them to shop and seeing adults standing around drinking hard liquor."

And you know what that leads to right? Crack Cocaine use. You betcha.

The problem with Representative Webster's explanation for his ludicrous legislation is that he does not accompany it with any explanation as to why a child seeing someone sip wine or bourbon might cause so much harm to that child that their must be legal blinders placed over the children's eyes. In all fairness, that part of his explanation to the reporter in the story linked above may have been edited out. But still, I can't imagine what that explanation would be. Let's try some out and see what we get.

1. When children observe adults sipping wine, they immediately become 50% more predisposed to becoming alcoholics. NAW.

2. When children observe adults sipping wine in a grocery store, they become much more likely to take a soft drink off the shelf and begin drinking it without paying for it. NOPE

3. When Children observe adults sipping wine in a retail setting, they are likely to fall over into a catatonic state. HUH UH!

4. Maine Legislators bowed to pressure from temperance organizations who claimed any exposure to drinking was bad for children, presumably because drinking, in any form is bad, and those legislators realize no politician ever got voted out of office for supporting any law, be it dumb, stupid or unsupportable with logic, that claimed to protect children. BINGO! WE HAVE A WINNER.

reBlog from stsupery.com:

I found this fascinating quote today:

There is a vast array of wildlife at Dollarhide. Ducks, geese, egrets, cranes, owls, bees, jackrabbits, foxes and a bald eagle family can be found frequenting one of the seven lakes on the property which teem with large mouth bass. Our rattlesnake population helps keep the burrowing pest population from munching on the vine roots and eroding hillsides with their tunnels. It is not uncommon to see mountain lion or bear prints after a rain, a warning to deer who love to eat grapes and tender young vines.

I recommend checking out St. Supery Winery’s blog.


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Vive Brazil

By chance this is the year of France in Brazil and Casa do Porto organized a professional business trip.
We took a nice T.A.M. flight to Vitoria where our friends greeted us at the airport and drove us (me and Carlos) to our hotel to drop-off our luggage.
Following, we visited Vitoria’s boutique and restaurant and had a “gargantuan” dinner of grilled fish, lobster with a group of friends which ended late.

The next day, Sunday, we went with TV crew and a group of journalists to visit a farm where coffee is grown in biodynamic technique. The charismatic boss Enrique showed that there are a lot of similarities between is way of making a good coffee and ours of making good wine. The other days were dedicated to interviews, professional tasting and meal with our importer’s clients.

We met a lot of people in Vitoria, Belo Horizonte and especially Sao Paulo. Many articles were already published and I realized that this big and beautiful country has a quality distribution network.