It’s a nice chilly evening up at the condo we are lucky enough to have access to through “the wife’s” family and we’ve just finished off a great bottle of Michel-Schlumberger “Coteaux Sauvages” and we still need more vino…
So it is on to the Seven non-vintage Red wine of Spain. This box of wine is a blend of, you guessed it, seven varietals including 24% Shiraz, 24% Cab, 11% Garnacha, 11% Graciano, 10% Tempranillo, 10% Merlot, and 10% Petit Verdot. If you are after your century club, this may help…
Anyhow, this is a red with a baked/cooked fruit character, not too bad and definitely a valid second bottle if you are trying to save the good stuff or have a house full of people who wouldn’t differentiate a great bottle with a handle of Gallo.
Read that last part, good for large family gatherings that tend to happen around this time of year… Get my drift?
Anyhow, I wish you all the best and happiest of holidays! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the NorCalWingman!
Why indeed! My personal journey with wine began with this king of wine grape varietals. I was seduced by its sultry and supple twisting of my taste buds. I was introduced to really good wine early on as a waiter at a semi-fancy steakhouse back in 1994. I became acquainted with a little cab from Alexander Valley called Silver Oak. It has long since been my favorite Cabernet and only until recently it has remained atop my list of sinful pleasures.
I have had a fun journey with wine and spent time pooh-poohing white varietals, and passing other reds, eschewing them as crap and pining for that king of wine, Cabernet Sauvignon. So what is it exactly that makes this one grape so captivating?
I guess there are many reasons. First of all the, I would say, the best known wine region (historically) would be Bordeaux, France, the centerpiece of which is our King, Cabernet Sauvignon, with its cohort of Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and to a lesser extent Carmenere. These wines demand the highest prices and receive the highest praise.
Secondly, there must be something more to it than just the praise and history. It must have something that connects with humans. Perhaps the taste. Perhaps the physiology of the grapes themselves. Big, tight, juicy bunches with thick skins. Is it that Cabernet Sauvignon is just a great growing fruit, and over time we have evolved alongside this grape and due to survival of the fittest, Cab Lovers dominate? Well, I don’t know about such things, but hey… It’s a theory.
Regardless of this, Cabernet Sauvignon continues to dominate the wine industry and demands respect from the lesser varietals. We all know and love this king of the vinifera, and can’t wait for the next report from the wine writing gods, pontificating the 100Pt monster.
So Join us in celebrating its reign, this September 2nd in the #Cabernet Online twitter tasting. You can sign up for free at http://cabernet.eventbrite.com/
What’s your King Cab of choice? Is Cab King for you?
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
A recent adventure to Costco netted me a six pack of new and different wines, mostly from the South of the Equator. This particular winery came highly recommended from “the wife” as she had visited Chile while studying wine business in college and in particular, really expressed how great this winery and her experiences there were for her. Anyhow, enough with the fluffy pre-story, let’s get on with the show!
2007 Casa Lapostolle – Cuvée Alexandre – Cabernet Sauvignon – Apalta Vineyard – Colchagua Valley
The Nose: Deep dark red fruit, dark black cherry and currant, cedar overtones and tobacco box
The Nose + Soiree: Surprisingly this wine showed no difference on the nose with the Soiree.
The Taste: Rich and bountiful fruit with strong support from the tannic structure, unwinding the oak and exposing cigar humidor
The Taste + Soiree: The Soiree helps out here really bringing out the cherry fruits and maturing the sweet tobacco
The Mouth Feel: Luxurious and velvety with big tannins on the mid-palate. Long and complex finish with toasty oak and wet stone.
The Mouth Feel + Soiree: Soiree livens up this already vibrant wine, softens the tannins and moves the finish to expose more minerality.
The Color: Deep and dark brick and ruby red
The Nitty Gritty:
Grape Variety: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon 15% Merlot
Single Vineyard: Apalta Estate
Aged 10 months, 25% New, 75% Second year French Oak Bordeaux Barrels
Chile is an amazing wine region and every Cabernet Sauvignon I have had from the region has been a stellar performer, and this wine is no disappointment. I highly recommend this wine.