Sunday, March 30, 2008

When Life Hands You Lemons

The birth place of limoncello is in Southern Italy around the Bay of Naples , including Sorrento , Amalfi and the Isle of Capri. The liqueur was born early in the 1900’s on the island of Azzurra . There in the garden of a tiny boarding house, the proprietress, Maria Antonia Farace, tended a small garden of lemons. She started making a sweet lemon extract that was a hit in the house. Her nephew opened a bar soon after World War One, and featured the icy cold drink made from his aunt’s recipe and lemons!

Competing stories tell of a sweetened lemon liqueur being served by all of the best families in Sorrento around 1900. In Amalfi, the history of limoncello is even older – as old as lemon cultivation itself! The regions fishermen, it is said, always got a bracing shot of limoncello before braving the cold winds on the sea. Still other believes that we have the area’s monks to thank for the development this wonderful elixir. The one thing that is known is that Massimo Canale started a small production of handmade limoncello and trademarked the name in 1988.

Next time life hands you lemons or you are given a bottle of limoncello, try the following recipe.

1 pound of spaghetti
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/4 cups heavy cream (soy milk just doesn't cut it!)
1/4 cup limoncello or white wine
2 lemons, 1 peeled and 1 zested
1 cup (loosely packed) basil leaves, torn
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Combine garlic, cream, limoncello and lemon peel over medium-high heat in a medium-size sauce pot. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic clove and lemon peel from the sauce and discard. To the pot with the reserved pasta, add the sauce, the basil and a couple handfuls of Parmigiano Reggiano. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and toss to combine. To serve, top each portion with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano and some lemon zest.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Two Pair Beats A Flush

No, I am not revising the rules of poker.

Alexander Pope is quoted as saying, " A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" What about a pair of bald eagles roosting within view of your house? It sure beats a flush in my book.

The pair of wines we sampled this weekend were more of a disappointment. The first was a 2006 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir from New Zealand. It was thinner than most supermodels and about as appealing with little to no complexity.

The other was a 2005 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin from South Africa. Although beautiful in color, it had little aroma or flavor.

The best pair of the weekend was the eagles, hands down!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Oui, Oui, That's Fine By Me!

In a recent edition of Robin Garr's 30 second Wind Advisor newsletter, he discussed simplifying French wine. Authorities have proposed consolidating the current appellations into a somewhat simplified three-tier system.

• The third (bottom) tier will consist of "vins de table" (table wines). Beginning with the 2009 vintage, "vins de table" will be allowed to show grape variety and vintage on their labels. Grapes may be blended from any part of France. There will no longer be any constraints on production methods, for example on yields and irrigation, other than those of international wine industry norms (e.g. the banning of flavouring additives, certain chemical stabilisers, etc.) It is hoped that this will permit the appearance of French commercial wine brands to compete with those of the New World. The old regional "Vins de Pays" designation will disappear progressively after 2009.

• The second tier will consist of "vins de territoire" (territorial wines). Into this category will fall the more ambitious artisan-produced wines which are "vins de pays" at present; existing regional appellations such as "Bordeaux" and "Bourgogne," and regroupings of existing lesser AOCs. An example of the last is the regrouping into "CĂ´tes de Bordeaux" of the appellations Blaye, Castillon, Cadillac and Francs. As many as 50 to 100 appellations are expected to disappear in the next few years. The creation of new appellations will not be allowed.

• The first (top) tier will consist of "vins de terroir" (terroir wines) which will reinforce the AOC system at the top level. The intention is to guarantee quality as well as origin. New style-tasting committees for accepting or refusing wines will replace local vignerons, considered too subject to complaisance with poor quality and jealousy of outstanding performers, with presumably more independent judges such as journalists, oenologists, wine merchants and the like. The AOCs will draw up new specifications to replace existing decrees; it is intended that these should be in place for the 2008 vintage.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Top O' The Mornin'

St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about 385 AD. He traveled throughout Ireland, establishing monasteries, schools and churches which would aid him in his conversion of the Irish to Christianity. He often used the three-leafed shamrock to represent how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate elements of the same entity. His mission in Ireland lasted for thirty years. He died on March 17 in AD 461. That day has since been commemorated as St. Patrick's Day.

The leprechaun is derived from ancient mythology. They believed that the leprechaun used the rich green countryside to conceal himself. Thus the color green became associated with all things Irish, even down to the color of the beer.

When raising your glass today, make a traditional toast...

Here's to a long life and a merry one.

A quick death and an easy one.

A pretty girl and an honest one.

A cold beer - and another one!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Amarone...It's More Than Big

Pronounced ah-mah-ROH-neh, it means “big bitter” in Italian. Its full name is Amarone della Valpolicella. Its name comes from Vaio Amaron, the name of the vineyard originally owned by Serego Alighieri, a member of Dante Alighieri's family. Dante was an Italian Florentine poet. His greatest work: The Divine Comedy, is considered one of the last and greatest literary statements produced during the Middle Ages, and one of the first of the Renaissance.

This is a wine produced from exactly the same grapes as a standard Valpolicella. Corvina for richness and aroma, Molinara for smoothness and balance and Rondinella for color and tannin. But it is significantly different due to the unique wine making process called “Appasimento”. This technique involves selected bunches of grapes being dried for up to 3 to 4 months on straw mats or in boxes in specially adapted sheds, where the grapes lose approximately up to a third of their weight. The result is an intensity that would not be present with a traditional fermentation. Amarone is finished dry, but as the grapes pick up a raisiny quality and are high in alcohol, there is the impression of sweetness.

Amarone will age well and as the wine is quite full in body as well as intense in flavor, it is much more enjoyable when consumed 7-10 years after the vintage. Amarone pairs well with game, poultry (duck is a great match), lamb or aged steak.

Experience an Amarone. Go big or go home...Run with the big dogs...Big as life.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Chateau O'Brien- Not Magically Delicious

All the wines for our Virginia tasting came from the Chateau O'Brien vineyard. One of our members had recently toured the winery. Of the four we tried, only two had much charm.

Chardonnay is the primary grape variety grown in this state that also ranks 5th in US production. The first was a 2006 that had a beautiful straw to peridot green color. The nose recalled a ripe Golden Delicious apple and it proved to be a light bodied, unoaked gem. The reserve of the same vintage was bogged down in oak and had absolutely no finish.

The third bottle was a red blend called Buddy's Bistro and I would not serve this to my "best friend". It was rusty red, as if it was years older than it's 2006 label. Somewhere in the production, bottling or storage, it oxidized. Nasty stuff!

Luckily, our host opened the vineyard's dessert wine. It smelled and tasted like a warm caramel apple and finished crisp without being cloying.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Yes Virginia, They Do Make Wine.

Tonight our wine club explores Virginia wines. Virginia’s claim of “First in Wine” dates back to 1619. Though earlier settlers - notably the Huguenots on the Florida coast in 1562 and Spanish friars near El Paso a few years later - made wine from native wild grapes, the first commercial effort in the New World was at Jamestown. The colony was established in the hopes of supplying good wine for English tables.

Thomas Jefferson initiated the great American tradition of cultured wine appreciation. As minister to the court of Louis XVI between 1785 and 1789, he toured the wine regions of France, Germany and Italy, taking meticulous notes as he went. Back home he served the finest European wines during his two administrations at the White House, as well as sponsoring a variety of wine-growing experiments. He did his best to minimise wine taxes, having observed on his travels that “no nation is drunken where wine is cheap”.

The Jefferson Vineyards occupies 50 acres near Monticello, on the same land once cultivated by the Italian viticulturalist Filippo Mazzei, whom Thomas Jefferson had recruited in 1774 to grow European vinifera vines. Jefferson produces 8000 cases annually from its own grapes and fruit purchased from Carter Mt., Scoville, and other vineyards. The current winemaker is Frantz Ventre, who studied viticulture and oenology in Bordeaux.

Virginia’s modern wine industry began in the 1970s. The first vinifera grapes such as Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot were planted at Piedmont Vineyards near Middleburg. Hardy French hybrid vines, such as Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc and Chambourcin thrived until more suitable sites with higher ground providing frost protection and better drainage could be developed.

Since then the industry has exploded, with impressive new wineries and estates such as White Hall Vineyards, Kluge Estate, King Estate, Pearmund Cellars, The Winery at La Grange and others. The state boasts 120 wineries today.

Check back for the results from our tasting.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hey Marsanne, What's Your Grape?

The Hollies, a British rock group, wrote their 1960's hit song "Hey Carrie Ann, Now What's Your Game" about Marianne Faithfull, slightly changing her name.

The song lyrics included:

"You were always something special to me

Quite independent, never caring

You lost you're charm as you were aging

Where is your magic disappearing

Hey Carrie Anne, what's your game now, can anybody play?"

The beautiful teenaged girlfriend of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Marianne was also known for singing the pop hit "As Tears Go By".


A grape that makes fat, rich, full wines and one of the two major varieties used to produce the rare white wines of Hermitage and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. In the Rhone it is usually paired with Rousanne which adds finese and delicacy to balance Marsannes richness.

There has been renewed interest in Marsanne in Australia over the past decade. For many years the best known example was from Chateau Tahbilk in the Nagambie Lakes region of Central Victoria.

Wines made with this variety improve markedly with bottle age. Marsanne wine develops a beautiful golden color and the flavour rounds out to something resembling baked apples.

Synonyms: Grosse roussette, Ermitage blanc, Hermitage blanc.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Sample Of Wines Offered At Cosco

For just $21.99, you can buy a 2006 D'Arenberg, The Hermit Crab Viognier. It is a soft, smooth wine from the McLaren Vale region of Australia. Rich and complex with notes of honey and peach on the nose and flavors of spicy pear, mango and grapefruit in the mouth. Rated at 90 pts. by Wine Spectator, it is a blend of Viognier and Marsanne. Serve with grilled chicken, veal and lamb.

At $27.99 a bottle, try the 2004 Bodegas Y Vinedos de Murcia Pico Madama. Aged in American and French oak before being bottled unfiltered, it is a blend of Manastrell and Petit Verdot. The deep purple/opaque color is followed by floral and smoke aromas leading to a full-bodied wine with flavors of blackberry, black currents, licorice and a hint of mineral from the limestone soil.
Rated at 93 pts. by the Wine Advocate, this wine from the Jumilla region of Spain is served best with roast beef or filet mignon.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

You Can Buy Them In Grocery Stores, Drug Stores, Convenience Stores and Yes, Even Liquor Stores

Here in Minnesota, we can only buy wine, beer and spirits at a liquor store. But, travel to Wisconsin or Florida and your purchasing options are less limited. I like more options! I do!

It reminds me of the Dr. Seuss poem, Green Eggs and Ham.


I like green eggs and ham! I do!

I like them, Sam-I-am!

And I would eat them in a boat.

And I would eat them with a goat...

And I will eat them in the rain.

And in the dark.

And on a train.

And in a car.

And in a tree.

They are so good, so good, you see!

So I will eat them in a box.

And I will eat them with a fox.

And I will eat them in a house.

And I will eat them with a mouse.

And I will eat them here and there.

Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!

Say! The prices are similar to retail liquor store pricing but the convenience is unbeatable! Our local retailers are against these options, but I say, it's good, it's good, you'll see!