The first of many – Head to Head Aerator Challenge

Yes it’s Thursday, and in all rights I should be typing up a sweet recipe for you to enjoy on another “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner!”  Well, perhaps I’ll add a cooking tip at the bottom of this post…  Anyhow, Tonight we had some super delish, filet mignon steaks, so I wanted to have some good red to pair with my dinner.  I picked out a 2007, Valley of the Moon, Cuvee de la Luna.  This wine has held a lofty place in my “go-to” Bordeaux style blend list of yummy wines.  So, “the wife” said to me, “Oh, that’s young!”  I was thinking to myself that yeah but the 2007s are drinking like champs so go with it right?  But Wait!  I have my Soiree, and since Vinturi never hooked up a completely unimportant wine blobber named Norcalwingman with a free sample Vinturi, I had to pick one up on woot.com.

Now in the left corner, weighing in at slightly more than its competitor:  VINTURI

A heavy plastic or some other clear material V-shaped funnel type thing, with a nice filter screen and resting stand.

And in the right corner, don’t call him glass-jawed Joe: Soiree

A gasket wearing glass bulb, with some etched swirl lines.

Soiree v. Vinturi
Soiree v. Vinturi

Well, it’s not really that exiting but in my completely unscientific test.  The nose on the glass poured with the Soiree seems to have a higher/more robust aroma.  The taste of the two are nearly comparable, but the olfactory sensation on the Soiree glass does seem to edge ahead of the Vinturi.

Round 1 Victor, by 1 point:  Soiree

Stay tuned for more head to head action.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for, a great tip on cooking your Filet Mignon.

I used my gas grill tonight, I fired it up and brought the temperature up to about 350 F, on the built-in thermometer using the left two burners of my 4-burner grill.  I placed my two steaks on the right side, upper grill shelf and cooked for approximately 20 minuted, until an instant read thermometer read 120 F.  I removed the steaks from the grill, placed on a plate and covered with foil.  In the mean time, I turned up the heat on the two burners to high.  After about 5 minutes of rest, I returned the two steaks to the grill and placed directly above the flames.  I seared each steak on both sides for approximately 3 min/side and served immediately.

These steaks may be the best I’ve cooked yet!  They were medium/medium-rare in temperature and supremely browned, just on the outside.  I hope this tip might help you with your next steak, you have got to try this method!

Cheers
Brian

Advertisements

Tom Simoneau, “The Wine Guy” – A Make-a-Wish Charity Auction Lot

A few months back I attended the annual Make-a-Wish event at the Sonoma-Cutrer vineyards and was lucky enough to win one of the live auction lots, the Wine Experience with Tom Simoneau “The Wine Guy.”

Make-A-Wish May 2010
Make-A-Wish May 2010

The stars aligned and we were finally able to schedule this event and get together to taste some great wine, eat some great food, and have some amazing conversations about the juice we all love.

Here’s a little background on Tom, I snagged this clip from his website, http://www.tomsimoneau.com/ (I’ll add some personal color from our experience).

Tom Simoneau, the KSRO Wine Guy for the past thirteen years, knows the wine business. A grape grower, a winemaker, a wine marketer, wine educator, wine judge and wine critic, Tom Simoneau is the walking definition of “Wine Guy”.

Born in Maine and educated in Boston, Tom shunned graduate school at Boston University to form a country rock and roll band. It was his musical career that eventually placed Simoneau in wine country. “We based our California operation in Healdsburg because it reminded us of Maine and it was close enough to San Francisco, so we could pursue our dream of a record deal.”

Since Tom is “The Wine Guy” here is a his syndicated wine minute from our Make-A-Wish Event:  Click Here to play audio – Make-A-Wish072910.

Tom Simoneau - The Wine GuyNorcal Wingman on-air Live this Thursday!

I will be on the radio with Tom Simoneau this Thursday, July 29th around 4:30 PM, on KSRO’s The Drive with Steve Jaxon.  You can listen live by visiting KSRO.com and clicking on “Listen Live” or tuning into 1350 AM, if you live in the greater Sonoma County area.  The Drive is on daily, from 3:00PM to 6:00PM (Pacific Time of course) and usually features local Sonoma County luminaries, of a much higher caliber than myself.  Check it out HERE.

Tom and his wife Brenda really put out the red carpet for us. We decided upon a Cabernet Sauvignon tasting and Tom said he had something creative he’d put together for our group.

Our group, was not an ordinary tasting group, I can’t remember what Tom said exactly, but he said he was going to really have to put something special together.  Included in our tasting crew were Sonoma-Cutrer’s new winemaker, Mick Shroeter (formerly of Geyser Peak & Penfold’s) his lovely wife Linda, my wife’s Aunt and Uncle who are also wine grape growers and home winemakers, and me and “the wife.”

TastingCrew
The Tasting Crew - Pictured (from left to right): Brian & Michelle Wing, Mick & Linda Schroeter, Sharon & Bob Duste, Brenda & Tom Simoneau

Upon our arrival we were greeted with glasses of Chandon bubbly and we began getting acquainted over some fantastic hors d’oeuvres, prepared by Tom’s wife Brenda.

Chicken Salad on Fresh Cucumber
Chicken Salad on Fresh Cucumber

Now, just to be clear, Tom and Brenda’s house, “Simoneau Ranch,” has one of the most spectacular views of the Alexander Valley that I’ve ever seen.  They’re located just east of Hwy 101 in Healdsburg and the view from their back porch looks across the Simoneau vineyards, and up toward the Geysers and off to the right in the distance you see Mt. St. Helena, a truly stunning spectacle!  Anyhow, I digress.  We chatted about wine and toured the property.  Tom showed us his vineyards and gave us a nice look at his cellar where he has cases upon cases of wines stacked to the ceiling, ribbons and awards for his wines, and some empty bottles, “trophies” of past experiences, each with a story.

After the tour it was back up to the house where we enjoyed some more snacks and tasted Tom’s two wines, a Chardonnay, “Brenda Lee’s,” a lovely, lightly oaked Chard, with about 10% malolactic fermentation, and his Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  Oh, I forgot to mention, Tom used to sell his grapes to Silver Oak up until recently when the economy tanked so now he just makes his own Cab (it’s great by the way).  Well after some tasty snacks, a goat cheese flan (see recipes below) and some bacon wrapped figs stuffed with blanched almonds, we got on with the main event.

Tom and Brenda had set up a double-blind, Sonoma versus Napa, no-holds-barred Cabernet Sauvignon battle royale!

Double Blind
Six Cabernet Competitors

The Cabernet Contenders:

From the West (Sonoma County):

2005, Jordan, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvigon, $52
2005, Chateau St. Jean, Cinq Cepages, Sonoma County, $75
2004, Robert Young, Scion, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, $58

From the East (Napa County):

2006, Oakville Ranch, Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, $60
2006, Swanson Vineyards, Alexis, Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
, $75
2005, Revana Family Vineyards, St. Helena, Cabernet Sauvignon, $149

All Set for a great Tasting
Table for 8 with 48 Glasses

We each tasted though the wines together and discussed the characteristics and qualities we saw, smelled and tasted.  It was quite an educational experience for me.  Having both Tom Simoneau (who also teaches wine tasting/judging at the local community college) and Mick Schroeter discussing and dissecting the wines and then sharing what they experienced and comparing that to what I was getting out of them was really cool.

A Great Tasting
Blind Tasting Crew at Simoneau Ranch

It gave me insight into what a world-class wine maker looks for when tasting and judging wines.  It also made me feel pretty good about my own palate and overall sensory capacity for wine, I’m making some incremental improvements (if I do say so myself).

So when it was all said and done, we had a clear winner and two wines that were so close that second and third place could have been combined into a tie for second.  Here are some of the scoring details:

First Place: 2006, Swanson Vineyards, Alexis, Oakville, Cabernet Sauvignon. Big and Juicy with grainy tannins, hints of licorice.

Second Place: 2004, Robert Young, Scion, Alexander Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Coffee and Cocoa cover this Alexander Valley beauty, great tannic structure that is well representative of the AVA.

Third Place:  2005, Chateau St. Jean, Cinq Cepages, Sonoma County Red Wine.  Soft and supple, ripe red fruit and easy drinking tannins make this Sonoma Valley Red shine.

And the Winner is...
The Favorite Cabernet Is...

A great time was had by all and I can’t wait for next year’s Make-A-Wish event so I can try and win again.  Not only did we have some great wine and great conversation but the money made from Tom’s donation and my winning bid goes to help out a great cause.  The Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation® grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.  Please support them if you can, it’s an amazing organization.

Again, I want to extend a heart felt thank you to Tom and his wife Brenda for being such gracious hosts.  This was truly an exceptional experience and it could not have been possible without their generosity to both the Make-A-Wish foundation, and to us.

Cheers!
Brian
norcalwingman

Below are the recipes of a few of the outstanding treats Brenda Simoneau prepared for us, Enjoy!  Be on the lookout for a cookbook by Brenda in the not to distant future.

Savory Goat Cheese Flan

Recipe by Brenda Simoneau

1 cup half-and-half
8 oz. sour cream
3 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
8 oz. Bucheron goat cheese
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp. of unsalted butter at room temperature

Depending on the size of your ramekins (custard cups) generously butter 6 – 8.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While the goat cheese is cold remove the rind, place goat cheese in your mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it come to room temperature. Once at room temperature, mash with a fork. Add one egg at a time mixing well. Add the sour cream and mix well. Finally, add the salt, thyme, and half-and-half. Mix well.

Divide the custard among the ramekins, place them in a baking dish, and add very hot water to the pan so it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake until the custards are set, about 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Place the ramekins on a cooling rack and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Serve warm in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each ramekin, turn them out, and serve with a simple green salad.

Kalamata Olive Breadsticks

Recipe by Brenda Simoneau

1 tsp. active dry yeast
5 oz. warm water
1 tbs. olive oil
2 cups of flour
1 tsp. salt
30 pitted kalamata olives roughly chopped

This recipe makes about 76 skinny breadsticks. You’ll want to set up more than one baking sheet, so you can quickly rotate them in and out of your oven.

Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let it stand for about 10 minutes. Stir in the olive oil.  Add the salt, chopped olives, and 1 cup of flour. Stir until everything comes together. Add half cup flour and stir until the dough comes together. Add a ¼ cup of flour and stir until the dough comes together. Lightly sprinkle some of the remaining flour on your work surface and knead the dough. Sprinkle and incorporate more flour as needed until the dough is smooth and soft.

Pat the dough into a rectangle (roughly 6” x 14”) on a surface that you can use a knife on. Lightly brush with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

The dough should be very elastic now making it very easy to shape your breadsticks. Cut off a piece of dough about as thick as a finger. Lay it on your work surface, roll back and forth as your hands work out to the ends. This stretches out the dough to the desired length. Remember they will puff up in the oven to about twice the thickness that you rolled them out to. Lay them about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the pan and bake for 10 more minutes. Continue baking and checking every 3 minutes or so until they’re crisp and golden.

Chicken Salad

Recipe by Brenda Simoneau

1 poached boneless, skinless chicken breast
¼ cup diced celery
¼ cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ sour cream

Slice the chicken against the grain, and then chop into small pieces. You want about one cup. Place the chopped chicken and all other ingredients in a bowl. Mix together. Taste and then adjust the salt and pepper.

Serve on cucumber slices, crackers, or toast.

2007 Peterson Sangiovese – Dry Creek Valley

A few months back we had a great trip through Dry Creek Valley and stopped at some great wineries and tasting rooms.  I had never been to the “Family Vineyards” tasting rooms just off of Dry Creek Road near Lambert Bridge. There are three or four winery tasting rooms and an olive oil company tasting room.  Our group all split up and we headed out to opposite corners, we decided to visit Peterson Winery’s room.  I must say, I am so happy that we did.  We left there with a six pack of wines, three of which were this Sangiovese.

Here it is, 2007 Peterson Winery, Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley.

2007 Peterson Sangiovese
2007 Peterson Sangiovese

The Nose: Herbaceous and spicy, smoky meat like game, perhaps wild boar, dark plums and date, musk and sage.
The Taste: Big and complex, waves of spice and fruit scream “Old World Tuscan Countryside,” herbs and dark berry coupled with sandalwood and smoked wild boar roast (Cinghiale Anyone?)
The Mouth Feel:  Solid tannins grab the front palate and take a slow journey through the mid, pit-stop at the cheek and meander through a terrific finish
The Color: Deep and dark, this is no Chianti, this is Barolo or Montepulciano, heavy blood red, thick and massive.
The Nitty Gritty:
Varietal: 100% Sangiovese
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County
Alcohol: 13.9%
pH: 3.53
TA: 0.68g/100ml
Barrel Aging: 23 months
Type of Oak: 20% 2-year-old Hungarian oak,
80% 4-8-year-old neutral oak barrels
Bottled unfined and unfiltered
175 Cases Produced
$20 Retail at the winery, currently limited to wine club, with 6 bottle limit
Notes provided from Peterson Website http://www.petersonwinery.com/pdfs/Sangiovese%20DCV%202007%20FINAL.pdf

The Verdict:  It has been a very long time since a wine has had this kind of effect on me.  This wine brings me back to the Tuscan countryside like no other Sangiovese I’ve ever had.  If you ever take my advice or recommendations, buy this wine.  93 Pts / A

2007 Peterson Sangiovese
2007 Peterson Sangiovese

I paired up this wonderful wine with some 5 year aged parmesan a wonderful salty match for this big complex wine, enjoy!

Cheers
Brian

Not Bad for a Thursday Night – Saturday Summer School Edition #2

Another week of summer school is down, thank god!  I’m tired.  I volunteered to help out “the wife” this weekend at her winery’s wine club pick-up party.  Let me tell you, I have the best of both worlds, that of a wine consumer and living on the fringe of being “in the industry.”  I was recruited to do some pouring, help with set-up, and general support of the party.  Here’s where it gets cool.  The party included a cooking demonstration with Chef Mateo Granados;

Chef Mateo

and wine tasting seminar with Sonoma-Cutrer’s new winemaker Mick Shroeter.

Sonoma-Cutrer Winemaker Mick Schroeter

The wine seminar was a side-by-side tasting of three of Sonoma-Cutrer’s 1999 Vintage Chardonnays, The Founder’s Reserve, The Cutrer, and Russian River Ranches.

A Great Lineup

So this won’t be a post with anything I’ve cooked (Yet!)  It will be a gratuitous plug for the Sonoma-Cutrer winery and wine club, as well as for Chef Mateo and his catering business.

Chef Mateo’s focus is on Yucatan cuisine utilizing fresh, local, sustainably and organic or bio-dynamically farmed produce and meat.  Let me just tell you, It is amazing!  In addition to catering, Chef Mateo has a mobile restaurant that sets up in random spots around Sonoma County (mostly in the Healdsburg area).  Here’s a great post from Heather Irwin (Bite Club Eats) on some of the latest gossip on Chef Mateo’s Mobile restaurant. (http://www.biteclubeats.com/2010/06/mateo-on-the-move-again.html)

Chef Mateo and "the wife" (Michelle)

So Today’s menu included four great dishes, each paired with one of Sonoma-Cutrer’s awesome wines.

1.  Tacones, Olive oil Guacamole with Carne Asada – Paired with “The Cutrer”
2. Papadzules, an Egg Stuffed Tortillas with Pumpkin seed and epazote sauce – Paired with “Founder’s Reserve”
3. Ceviche curado with chicharone – Paired with “Russian River Ranches”
4. Empenadas stuffed with fingerling potato and fava – Paired with “Les Pierres”

The cooking demonstration covered the Ceviche Curado and Papadzules.  Chef Mateo is really into cooking with what’s in season.  He said he would normally use some tomato with the ceviche but they are not currently in season so he used rhubarb to add some tartness instead.

Here’s the recipe courtesy of Chef Mateo Granados.

Cured Bolinas halibut, chicarrones, & market greens—severs 4 people

Ingredients:

1 lb. halibut or your favorite white fish

5 Meyer lemons

¼ lb. pork back fat

1 bunch radishes

½ lb. curly cress or watercress

Good quality olive oil

Sea salt

Cure halibut:

-on a sheet pan place a layer of plastic to coat the bottom of the pan

-thinly slice fish

-add the juice of the 5 Meyer lemons

-cure 45 min. at room temperature

Chicarrones:

-dice pork fat into 2 inch dice

-generously salt the diced pork and let stand for 10 min.

-slowly render pork until crispy

-remove to cool

Market Salad:

-shave radishes

-pick cress

-mix together in a small bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt to taste.

Plate:

-arrange 4-5 slices of cured fish (do not dry) on a 10” plate

-garnish with market salad

-sprinkle chicarrone for texture

Ceviche Curado

The food and wine pairings were all fantastic and it was fun to hang out with some wine club members, drink some great wines and play some croquette.

Norcal Croquette

I’m kind of partial, but I have to say that being a wine club member over at Sonoma-Cutrer actually has some pretty serious benefits. This event was no cost to the wine club members!  I highly recommend checking out this club, they do events across the US to accommodate their non-norcal members, so even if you don’t live in wine country you can enjoy the benefits of membership.

Well, I’m sorry I didn’t provide you a “Norcal Wingman” prepared Not Bad, hopefully this will be a viable substitute.   The ceviche is an awesome warm summer day dish, it’s cool and refreshing especially when paired with a great Chardonnay.

Cheers
Brian

2008 Big House Red – Box Wine Breaks Out!

I haven’t had the pleasure, or displeasure, of pouring box wine since I don’t know when.  I guess when I was a waiter our red and white house wines were big boxes that were served from a bar gun, so that’s probably the last time I ever cracked open a box of wine…  But all of that aside, I’ve been reading and viewing a bunch of reviews of new higher quality “box wines,” so I have high hopes for this one.  Get out your waiter’s box cutter and let’s go!

The Nose: The nose on this wine is not quite like the bent nose of some mook just busted out of prison, it’s actually pleasing for a red blend.  Hints of berry and red cherry.  There is something reminiscent of wood and smoke, like a dried out cigar box.
The Taste: Supple fruits come out to play immediately, spicy black pepper is predominant, there may be just a touch of medicinal or band-aid (just super slight), the finish has a touch of bitterness.
The Mouth Feel: There is a touch of tannins on the front palate that fades away into the mid palate, mid to late palate is reasonably structured and the finish is long and has a nice minerality to it.
The Color: Ruby red to purple throughout, very pretty IMHO.
The Nitty Gritty:
13.5% ABV
3 Litre Box w/spigot
The blend includes:
Syrah, Petite Sirah, Granache, Montepulciano, Mouvedre, Sangiovese, Tannat, Aglianico, Nero d’Avola, Sagrantino, Barbera, and Tourigo.  I always thought Montepulciano was Sangiovese, but perhaps they sourced some juice from Montepulciano!?
I found an online retailer selling 3L for $16.99

The Verdict:
After a hiatus of drinking box wine, since I stole sips from my grandmothers cup of Franzia, I was pleasantly surprised.  This wine has character and structure comparable to a $6-$9 bottle of any other Red Table Wine, like Bob’s Spaghetti or something like that.  So for your $/yumminess ratio, this should fit the bill for any party of average Joe/Jane winedrinkers.  I believe this would make an exceptional BBQ wine, the smokey and spicy character would pair up decently with any red meat slathered in Sweet Baby Rays!

80 pts, C+ to B-

NOTE:  This wine was provided to me as a professional sample.

Addendum: 05/12

Great News!  This wine is great with spicy pepperoni pizza!  Two days after cracking the seal and still tastes the same, nice spicy character an excellent companion to leftover pizza!

When should you decant a wine?

I had a great wine that got better as it opened up, sadly I reviewed it before it really opened up to me to show its true character.  Over the last glass of it, a day later, my wife and I discussed the topic of decanting and when and why you should/shouldn’t decant.  She mentioned that a co-worker (also a winemaker) said she will only decant a bottle after tasting it.  The reason being is that some wines may actually “fall apart” if decanted, for example a properly aged bottle of wine may not need to be decanted to “open” it up and could be damaged by the extra exposure to air.

Interestingly, in a quick twitter poll, I received a couple of answers from the wine bloggoshpere.

From:@Whoreplied: @norcalwingman— tweet  (Their Blog URL — Give them a click!)

@blogyourwine: @norcalwingman I say old, bold or both! Some whites benefit, and I’ve even seen Champagne decanted!  (their blog http://www.blogyourwine.com/)

@LarryTheWineGuy @norcalwingman I like to decant older wines with sediment and younger tannic wines. It always looks nice tho. #wine #wineblog #winereview (http://www.overabarrel.net/)

@stevepaulo @norcalwingman If I decant or aerate, I will mention it. My reviews are basically bottle open, pour, maybe a little time (10 mins) in glass. (http://notesfromthecellar.com/)

…I just asked earlier today, so I may post some more replies as they roll in…

When do you decant a wine?  Please leave me comments, I’m trying to figure this one out!

Cheers,
Brian

[poll id=”2“]

2007 Rued, Sauvigonon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley

Just a quick wine review this time.  Paired this one up with the latest “Not Bad for a Thursday Night Dinner.”

I picked up this bottle a couple weekends ago on our wine tasting trip through Dry Creek Valley.  Rued was having a killer “sale” on their sauv blanc.  So it was a real no brainer.

2007 Rued, Dry Creek, Sauvigonon Blanc

The nose: Green apples and a slight hint of banana peel, like the inside of the banana peel, not the outside.  The banana peel really gets to me, it’s super subtle but I swear it’s in there.  Some minerality on the nose
The Taste: The apples come charging in here, crisp, fresh and green.  The flavors are really dancing on your tongue (well on mine anyhow)
The Mouth Feel: Light bodied wine, this would be a superior picnic vino, but paired well with my mirepoix chicken dinner
The Color: Light straw, pale yellow
The Nitty Gritty:
ABV 13.5 %
$16 Retail (0n their website https://www.ruedwinery.com/xe/xe.asp?page=viewitem&p=429&cat=wine) I believe we got it on sale for around $12 or so.

The Verdict: This wine is great.  A truly drinkable wine, I don’t know how much longer it’s got, not that it showed any signs of aging, but for an ’07 Sauv Blanc, great!

Points: 88
Steve Paulo Scale: B+

2006 Ty Caton – Sonoma Valley – Caton Vineyard Malbec

I’m trying really hard to do these wines their due justice, but I fear either my palate or lack of descriptive ability is hindering them…  Nonetheless, here I go again.

I was able to sneak this open before the wife said anything.  Malbec is, or at least historically, has been her favorite varietal.  Ever since she visited Chile with her wine business program in college she’s loved it, just ask her sometime.

Anyhow, I digress.

2006 Ty Caton, Sonoma Valley - Caton Vineyards Malbec

After a few swirls and warming it up in my palm, I can detect some smoked meat sneaking through the blueberry fruit.  There’s a touch of earth, almost like mushroom.  The wine tastes good with decent tannins, not that I would expect “enamel stripping” tannins (thanks Vince, that’s great).  There is a hint of band-aid in this which deters a tad, and I think that the finish is a little weak.  The wine is labeled as 14.3% alcohol but it verges on the edge of hot.

I am still enjoying this wine and give it an 82, or a B/B-.