Blog of Award-winning authors
ANDREW DORNENBURG & KAREN PAGE
Named one of GourmetFood.About.com's "Top 10 Food Blogs"
Named one of The Fifty Best Links for Epicureans
Named to MUG 400 for "distinctive contribution to life in New York"
"If you asked me what I came into this world to do,
I will tell you: I came to live out loud."
— Critic and novelist Emile Zola (1840-1902)
"There is nothing under the sun better for man than to eat, drink, and be merry. Go, therefore, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with cheer.”
— Ecclesiastes 8:15
Wednesday, March 26, 2008 — Although the arrival of spring prompts us to crave crisp white wines, an increasing number of the questions you've been asking us have to do with buying, cellaring and serving older reds.
In January I purchased a 1994 Vega-Sicilia Unico and a 1996 Opus One Proprietary. I have kept the wine at a constant 63-65 degrees, knowing that 55 is the ideal cellar temperature. Should I serve the wine at the 63-65 temperature, or a little higher? Also, decant or not, and if yes, how long prior to serving it? One last question: I plan to prepare a roasted lamb dish, but I have read that beef may be a better match for the Opus One. What would you recommend?
—Ray Leon, Fairfax
The 1994 Vega-Sicilia Unico — from arguably the best wine estate in Spain — is a powerful, spicy wine made from 75 percent tempranillo and 25 percent cabernet sauvignon. The 1996 Opus One Proprietary is 82 percent cabernet sauvignon, with the rest a blend of cabernet franc, malbec and merlot. Those or any other tannic red wines are best served at 60 to 65 degrees; start them out at the lower end of the range, since wine naturally warms to room temperature. (Lighter reds can be served even cooler; i.e., 50 to 55 degrees.) Roasted lamb would accompany either or both beautifully; other options to consider include beef, game (such as elk or venison) and game birds (such as duck).
Any wine over eight years old is likely to have developed sediment, which can be removed before drinking by decanting. The more tannic the wine — think California cabernets and Bordeaux — the greater the need to decant to remove those bitter or astringent specks of tannins and other insoluble materials that are as unappealing to the eye as they are to the tongue.
Let the sediment settle to the bottle's bottom by standing it upright, undisturbed, for at least 24 hours. Then, as you pour the wine into a decanter, stop pouring before the sediment comes out. Use a candle or other light source underneath the bottle to better spot when the sediment is approaching its neck.
How long in advance to open the wine is debatable. As we've unfortunately learned the hard way, older wines can be fragile. In some cases, excessive exposure to air can "turn" a long-cellared wine. So, starting the moment a bottle is opened, savor each sip. Some might peak within 15 minutes, but if you're lucky you might be able to experience its flavor unfolding over more than an hour.
At a local charity auction, I picked up a six-liter bottle (a Methuselah, I believe) of 2000 Chateau Landat Haut-Medoc, and I have no idea what to do with it. What advice can you provide on storage and consumption (i.e., is it best now or will it continue to get better with age)? And when it's time to drink it, besides having lots of friends over, what food would best complement this wine?
—Greg Ordun, Washington
We weren't familiar with this particular wine, so for input we turned to Peter D. Meltzer, author of "Keys to the Cellar: Strategies and Secrets of Wine Collecting" (Wiley, $30), which tied for the 2006 Georges Duboeuf Wine Book of the Year Award.
Meltzer wrote in an e-mail: "It is a relatively inexpensive (under $20 for a 750 ml bottle) cru bourgeois that has a limited shelf life. It should hold up for another couple of years, but why wait? If you have a wine cellar, lay the bottle on its side to keep the cork moist and to retard oxidation. If you don't have a wine cellar, that's all the more reason to consume it in the very near future."
Given the size of your mega-bottle (called a Methuselah elsewhere, it's known as an Imperiale in the Bordeaux region and is the equivalent of eight regular-size bottles), you should be able to drink your fill with roasted beef or lamb and still have enough left for lingering over a cheese course starring brie or Camembert.
My boyfriend, a novice wine connoisseur/collector, turns 30 in April. I would love to purchase a wine for him that was bottled in 1978, but I have no idea where to begin. The only "must" in this selection is that it be red.
When you're interested in buying wine from a particular year, consult a vintage chart to see which regions you might investigate. For example, the one compiled by MacArthur Beverages (http://www.bassins.com/resources/vin_chart.html) indicates that in 1978, Burgundy had a stellar year: a rating of 90 out of 100. Unfortunately, Burgundy prices have risen prohibitively.
Of the 1978 vintage, Meltzer wrote, "California and Bordeaux enjoyed a good harvest, and their bottlings are more accessible." Among the former, he singled out Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon ($84) and Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon ($64); his tips for the latter ranged from Château Lafite Rothschild ($259) and Louis Latour ($198) on the higher end of the price range to Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste ($54) and Château Canon-La -Gaffelière ($50) on the lower end. Those are all auction prices; retail prices may be higher.
To find available wines from 1978, visit Winesearcher.com and search by vintage date. If you're looking for wines at auction, visit Winebid.com. And, once you find that 1978, please enjoy it soon. Nothing lasts forever!
* * *
As happy as we are to answer questions about old reds, spring is when we can't get enough of fresh, crisp white wines, whose bright acidity makes them ideal pairing partners for all kinds of lighter dishes. Two of our recent discoveries feature zingy grapefruit notes marking their aromas and flavors.
Karen's first sip of the 2006 Hall Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($20) revealed this racy white wine to be a celebration of citrus: Grapefruit, lemon and lime flavors were accented by notable minerality and a dry finish. When we tasted it alongside chicken with spring vegetables in a lemon and white wine sauce, both food and wine sang. The same happened when we paired it with scallops, and we imagine it would be great with most any kind of shellfish.
Andrew's pick comes from a winemaker whose golf putts he'd focused on more than his wines: the NV Greg Norman Estates Australian Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir ($15). This refreshing apples-meet-grapefruit bubbly also paired beautifully with the same chicken and vegetable dish. A well-made wine, it has impressive staying power: We re-tasted it five days after opening (the half-full bottle had been sealed with a champagne stopper, then refrigerated) and were surprised to find its lively flavor and bubbles intact.
For more, visit The Washington Post Food section here.
Awash, the Ethiopian restaurant at 338 East 6th Street
The interior of Awash in the East Village
Enjoying an African beer (not so much our blackberry wine)
The vegetable combination at Awash, plus two meat stews
Meskel, the Ethiopian restaurant at 199 East Third Street
At Meskel, looking across Third Street at Mama's Food Shop
Vegetarian combination plate at Meskel in the East Village
Sunday, March 23, 2008 — Happy Easter! We're happy indeed to have kicked off our morning by enjoying scrambled eggs with some of the city's best ham, and by mulling over the city's best Ethiopian restaurants.
We love Ethiopian food, although its spiciness has historically taken such a toll on our systems that we've limited it to once or twice a year. Our last Ethiopian meal prior to this weekend was a disappointing dinner at Queen of Sheba more than a year ago. When we realized how long it had been since we'd enjoyed the flavors of sour injera and spicy stews, we couldn't stop thinking about it. Rather than returning to an old favorite such as Ghenet or Meskerem, we trolled the blogosphere for some new ideas, netting recommendations for Awash and Meskel in the East Village, and Ethiopian Restaurant on York Ave. in the 80s. We decided to pay a visit to the East Village, where we checked out both leads in that neighborhood.
Awash, situated amidst a (red) sea of Indian restaurants on the block of East 6th Street between First and Second Avenues, was empty for most of our mid-afternoon visit. We had an African beer (Addis) and a glass of blackberry-infused honey wine (and learned we prefer the traditional version sans blackberry), and shared a combination plate featuring all of the vegetable dishes on the menu plus chicken (doro wat) and lamb stews (yebeg alicha fitfit, as the lega tibs was not available as part of the combination). While we'd characterize the food as good to very good, we found it to be remarkably un-fiery. While this might make Awash a good spot to bring Ethiopian first-timers, we left longing for a bit more heat.
We found it in some of the dishes at Meskel, just three blocks south and a couple avenues to the east. While very casual in ambiance, we found the manager charming. "What took so long?" we inquired when the vegetarian combination plate we'd ordered was set before us less than five minutes after placing our order. He broke out into a huge smile and charming laugh. While we arrived too late to take advantage of the lunch specials, we duly noted their availability before 4 pm.
Do you have your own favorite Ethiopian restaurant in Manhattan? We'd love to hear about it, and will post your comments below.
Recommended Ethiopian restaurants in Manhattan:
Awash is at 338 East 6th Street (bet. First and Second Avenues). (212) 982-9589. Web: www.awashnyc.com
Ghenet is at 284 Mulberry Street (bet. Prince and Houston). (212) 343-1888.
Meskel is at 199 East Third Street (near Avenue B). (212) 254-2411.
Meskerem is at 468 West 47th Street (near Tenth Avenue). (212) 664-0520.
OK, so we haven't taken a real vacation (i.e. a week or more away from home) since 2005...but the beauty of living in Manhattan is that you can escape to another neighborhood and experience sights (and tastes!) that offer a respite from the usual. While strolling through the East Village from one Ethiopian restaurant to the next yesterday, we were charmed by a number of little gardens we never even knew were there:
The Creative Little Garden is on East 6th St. (bet. A and B)
The Creative Little Garden: "an oasis of tranquility"
Enjoying this public sculpture on our East Village stroll
Hands across the East Village yesterday afternoon
Rebekah Morin held by Carlton Ward (the most talented man
on stilts we've ever witnessed), as Ed Rice looks on
Rebekah Morin (top) in a scene from "Dido & Aeneas"
Closing scene of "Dido & Aeneas"
The Senior Chorus at LaGuardia High School takes its bow
Artistic Director Jody Oberfelder (center), flanked by her
dancers (left) and singers (right, in black), takes a bow
"For a modern-dance choreographer, 'Dido and Aeneas' is not just a story from Virgil’s 'Aeneid' or a 17th-century opera by Purcell but, most frighteningly, a celebrated work by Mark Morris. None of this seems to have daunted Jody Oberfelder, who has created a fresh, imaginative and utterly charming version of this piece in collaboration with the Orchestra of St. Luke's and the La Guardia High School senior chorus."
— Roslyn Sulcas, The New York Times (March 22, 2008)
Thursday, March 20, 2008 — Scenes from Jody Oberlfelder's work "Dido and Aeneas," which premiered in Manhattan last night. Our congratulations to Jody on a spellbinding performance!
Jody Oberfelder is at www.jodyoberfelder.com.
Credit: Juila Ewan
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 — We're back from Tucson (and will share photos from our visit to Janos soon), and happy to be sleeping in our own bed again. Looking for wine tips for Easter Sunday? Check out our column in today's Washington Post, "A Basketful of Bottles for Easter":
The first public miracle Jesus was said to have performed was turning water into wine at a wedding feast. (The wine was well reviewed, deemed to be the "choicest" served at the event.) This Easter Sunday, it's fitting that wine have a place of honor at the table.
On Easter that table is popularly graced with an elaborate brunch, and later in the day with ham or lamb accompanied by an array of spring vegetables, then often with chocolate for dessert. We've got just the wine for every course.
Brunch: Reach for a sparkling wine with a hint or more of sweetness that will mirror the sweetness in many brunch items. We loved discovering the NV Chateau Frank Célèbre Crémant New York Sparkling Wine ($20), from the label affiliated with the Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars in New York's Finger Lakes region. Made from 100 percent Riesling grapes, it has a flavor reminiscent of honeyed apples, and it is delightful with anything in the French toast, pancake or waffle family. Those who favor red sparklers can opt for Brachetto d'Acqui or sparkling shiraz.
Spring vegetables: Whether they adorn the table as crudites, salads or side dishes at lunch or dinner, spring vegetables -- such as asparagus, peas and new potatoes -- typically are best accompanied by a lighter-bodied, high-acid white. All the better if such a wine provides you with a conversation starter to share with your guests, as does the 2006 Fontana Candida Frascati ($13), which is refreshingly crisp with almond notes. One of Rome's best-selling varieties from one of its leading producers, this is touted as a wine that historically was drunk daily by popes and shared with the public on special Vatican occasions. Greet your guests with a glass, and let it carry you through any lighter dishes featuring poultry, seafood or veal.
Ham: Riesling is a classic, time-honored pairing with ham. Karen's pick this week is the 2006 Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling ($21), whose sprightly honey-kissed grapefruit flavors also bring out the best in shellfish and lighter fish dishes.
If you prefer your Riesling with a hint of sweetness elegantly balanced with bright acidity, opt for the 2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica ($25). Named for Beethoven's Third Symphony, it is the product of a collaboration of winemakers from Washington state's Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany's Dr. Loosen. It harmonizes Washington state grapes with Old World winemaking traditions, resulting in an exceptional Riesling worthy of a celebration.
Other options for ham include Gewurztraminer or chardonnay. With an aroma and elegant flavor featuring hints of ripe peach, the 2006 Tapestry McLaren Vale Chardonnay ($17) is a bargain. Prefer a red with your ham? Stick with lighter-bodied, fruitier reds, such as a cru Beaujolais or a pinot noir (including the one mentioned next).
Lamb: Pinot noir is to lamb what Riesling is to ham: a Holy Grail pairing you'll want to sample at least once in your lifetime. Andrew's pick with lamb is the 2005 or 2006 Jacob's Creek Reserve Pinot Noir (a steal at $13). It has loads of fruit (the flavor of juicy black cherries and plums), soft tannins and a long finish.
Two other recommendations from down under spotlight Australia's native shiraz. Their fruitiness made both a pleasure to enjoy on their own -- and sent them off the charts when played against the slight gaminess of lamb. We found the rich and velvety 2004 Tapestry the Vincent Shiraz ($50) mind-blowing with lamb: Its own slightly gamy nose and flavors mirrored those of the meat, while its spicy cooked-fruit (cherries and plums) flavors complemented it. (Decanting is recommended.) At half the price, the slightly leaner and brighter 2006 Tapestry McLaren Vale MV Shiraz ($25), ripe with cherry and blackberry flavors and cocoa notes, was stunning with lamb that had been seasoned with rosemary, which echoed hints of herbaceousness in the wine.
From Spain's first DO Calificada region, the rich 2004 Marques de la Concordia Crianza Rioja ($13) drove us wild when we tasted it with lamb. If you're a wine drinker who prefers your fruity reds anchored by Old World earthiness, you'll find a hint of mushrooms and a bit of smokiness in this one to balance all its cherry fruitiness. It is made from 100 percent old-vine tempranillo grapes, aged for 18 months in new French and American oak barrels.
Other options to keep in mind for lamb: merlot, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel.
Chocolate: Whether you're merely nibbling the kids' chocolate bunnies or indulging in a more grown-up dessert (such as Marcel Desaulniers's seven-layer Death by Chocolate extravaganza; the recipe can be found at http://projects.washingtonpost.com/recipes/2005/10/05/death-chocolate), your pleasure will be intensified with the right wine. Pour an NV Osborne Premium Pedro Ximenez 1827 Sherry ($16), whose Goobers-meets-Raisinettes sweetness is a fantastic accompaniment to chocolate.
If you mark Passover rather than Easter, stay tuned: We're planning a column next month devoted to wines appropriate for Seder meal. E-mail your questions to us at the address below.
As for this Sunday, no matter how you choose to spend the day, we hope that you (in the words of Ecclesiastes 9:7) "Eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart."
For more, visit The Washington Post's Food section here.
What are your restaurant "pet peeves"? It's OK to admit it — everybody's got 'em. We share ours with Gael Greene on her Web site at www.insatiable-critic.com.
You can also read about her surprisingly delicious visit to Olana, which was uncannily similar to our own experience there....
Scenes from Tucson:
The sunset from the dining room at Janos in Tucson
The sommelier starts us off with Prosecco
This cutting-edge hamachi amuse-bouche featured its own
accompaniment: a frizzante cup of mushroom tea
Roasted Beets, Belgian Endive and Pork Belly Salad with
Tangerine Vinaigrette, served with the prosecco
Wild Striped Bass with Blood Orange Vinaigrette, Braised
Salsify, and Black Olive Tapenade, served with 2006 Oro de
Castilla Verdejo Rueda
Seared Diver Sea Scallop on Moon Bean Blini with Spanish
Chorizo, Chipotle Muscat Sauce, and Candied Orange Zest
2005 Las Rocas de San Alegandro El Renegado Garnacha
Quail with Applewood Smoked Bacon, Mushroom Cornbread
Pudding, Pomegranates and Hazelnuts
2006 Paul Mathews Sonoma County Gamay Noir
Grilled Elk, Winter Squash Puree, Cranberry Beans and Spicy
Red Wine Reduction
2005 Jim Barry "Lodge Hill" Shiraz
Janos' amazing Dark Chocolate Jalapeno Ice Cream Sundae
Frost serves up housemade gelato in multiple Tucson spots
We especially enjoyed Frost's strawberry flavor (w/cookie)
Outside at Susan's enjoying Champagne and hors d'oeuvres
Andrew grills a butterflied leg of lamb seasoned with garlic
Plating grilled lamb with rosemary and sauteed zucchini
The table is set with the birthday girl's favorite flowers!
Susan Mabe, Andrew, Karen, and Susan Butler in Tucson
Susan enjoying her favorite flowers, and a wonderful dinner
The sold-out class on food and wine pairing at Janos
Dave Mabe shares a laugh with chef Janos Wilder
Rebecca Wilder and Karen Page at Janos in Tucson
A close-up of Rebecca's gorgeous necklace (made by Dora)
Andrew, Rebecca, Janos and Karen outside Janos
Tucson's beautiful sky on Saturday afternoon
Arriving J Bar in Tucson for Susan's birthday dinner
Andrew's first-ever J Dawg (w/fries!) at the J Bar in Tucson
A delicious dinner in the private room of the J Bar in Tucson
Delicious wishes for Susan's birthday from Janos and all
Christmas lights decorating the cactus trees in Tucson
Janos Restaurant and J Bar are at the Westin La Paloma at 3770 East Sunrise Drive in Tucson. (520) 615-6100. www.janos.com
Frost has multiple locations in Tucson and is at www.frostgelato.com.
Sarah Weddington, the trial attorney who argued and won
Roe v. Wade, delivers special remarks at Christie's
Hon. Leslie Crocker Snyder and Karen Page at Christie's
David Waltuck's team cooks our WCF dinner
Chanterelle chef David Waltuck and staff cook up a storm!
Painstakingly topping quail eggs with caviar eggs
A gorgeous plate of hors d'oeuvres ready to be passed
"I LOVED your speech…Bravo, you are really articulate and poised…(and she can write, too). Jokes aside, it was very moving and relevant and just the right note to end the evening...."
—an email to Karen from a guest at Dinner #1
Wednesday, March 12, 2008 — We've long had great respect and admiration not only for the talents but also for the amazing generosity of leading chefs and restaurateurs. That was only heightened this week, particularly after Monday night's Women's Campaign Forum annual gala "Parties of Your Choice: Women Meeting the Challenge."
At Dinner #1, the night's special guests included Donny Deutsch, Celinda Lake, Marshall Loeb, Karen Page, Borough President Scott M. Stringer, and Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy (OH-15), each of whom spoke for 60 seconds on the importance of the WCF. (The night's unannounced surprise guests included filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife attorney Tonya Lewis Lee.)
Our sumptuous dinner was prepared by David Waltuck, chef-owner of Tribeca's legendary Chanterelle restaurant, and his team. Other chefs who generously contributed featured dinners included Bill Telepan (Telepan), Fred Mero (The Four Seasons), Craig Koketsu (Park Avenue Winter), John Johnson (Town), Ian Chalermkittichai (Kittichai), Daniel Eardley (Chestnut), Joseph Pauling (Cafe des Artistes), Julian Alonzo (Brasserie 8 1/2), Mary Cleaver (The Cleaver Company), Mike Anthony (Gramercy Tavern), Franklin Becker (Brasserie), Dan Barber (Blue Hill), and Richard Brown (The St. Regis Hotel).
A special guest at Dinner #11 across town was Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group (Union Square Cafe, Eleven Madison Park, Tabla, The Modern, Blue Smoke, et al), where dinner was prepared by his own gifted Gramercy Tavern chef Mike Anthony.
After having mentioned that the evening's guest speaker at the pre-dinner cocktail reception at Christie's would be Sarah Weddington, the attorney who at age 26 argued and won Roe v. Wade, Karen was contacted yesterday morning by restaurateur Bud Royerof the Round Top Cafe in Round Top, Texas, saying that Weddington was also a friend and connected the two of them via email. What a guy!
Our hats off to these restaurant professionals for their invaluable support of the Women's Campaign Forum, and of pro-choice women political candidates.
Women's Campaign Forum is at wcfonline.org.
P.S. We're taking a break this week from our weekly wine column in The Washington Post, but will be back next Wednesday, March 19th, with our picks for Easter Sunday.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008 — Looking for perfect pairings? This week, they're not as hard to find as usual: Just click through to Pascale LeDraoulec's article and slide show on "Ten Perfect Food & Wine Pairings" on Forbes.com. Those looking for perfect pairings with heartier (i.e. red meat) fare need look no further than our column "Serving Hearty Fare? Uncork a Spanish Red" in today's Washington Post:
Spain devotes more of its land to growing grapes than any other nation on Earth. In
recent years, its 4.5 million acres of vineyards have been producing wines of
unprecedented quality, with impressive values to be found among them. With so
many of this season's stews and roasts crying out for a nice bottle of red, it's
an ideal time to pick up a few from Spain.
Many of the country's best wines are based on tempranillo, Spain's most important red grape, which traditionally is brought to its highest expression in the famed region of Rioja. Spain features a classification system much like France's and Italy's, with Rioja established as the first of only two DOCs (highest-quality wine regions) in 1991. However, our recommendations this week focus on wines from DO (the next-highest category after DOC) regions outside the glare of Rioja's stardom, where better bargains can be found.
Although you'll find a broad range of styles both within and outside Rioja, tempranillo typically features red berry and cherry flavors with earthy notes (often suggesting cured meat, leather, tobacco and/or spice) and an elegantly smooth drinkability.
Tempranillo is often blended with garnacha. The world's most widely planted grape behind airen, it's known elsewhere as grenache and brings bright acidity and fresh-berry fruitiness to blends and to 100 percent garnacha wines.
The unfamiliar terminology on Spanish wine labels can be frustrating for newcomers. So we'll try to simplify things for you with a question: Do you typically prefer lighter-bodied and fruitier pinot noir, or fuller-bodied and bolder-flavored cabernet sauvignon?
Those who answered "pinot noir" might also prefer younger Spanish reds that have spent no more than one year on oak. (Lucky you: Those wines typically are less expensive than wines that spend more time on wood.) Some regions' labeling makes it easy for you to find them: Look for the term "joven," which means "young" and indicates that the wine has spent no more than a few months on oak, if any at all; or "crianza," which indicates it has been aged for two years, at least six months of which were spent on oak.
Those who answered "cabernet sauvignon" might want to seek out Spanish reds that have spent more than one year on oak. Look for "Reserva," which indicates wines have been aged for three years, with at least 12 months on oak, or the even pricier "Gran Reserva," wines that have been aged for five or more years, with at least 18 months on oak.
Tempranillo is also known by many other aliases throughout Spain, including "tinta de Toro" in Toro, the DO created in 1987 that boasts the strongest sales growth of any wine region in Spain and is developing a growing reputation for its full-bodied and boldly flavored reds.
Toro is also the origin of Andrew's pick this week. The 2005 Monte Toro Joven ($12) is a young red wine with tart red berry flavors made from tempranillo, with peppery spice notes adding complexity without the benefit of oak.
To aid in identifying your preferred style, here are our other recommendations in increasing order of time spent on oak:
Unoaked: From the lesser-known Calatayud DO, we loved the 2006 Cubero Tinto Calatayud ($9), made from 75 percent garnacha and 25 percent tempranillo, whose red fruitiness with cinnamon spiciness made it a beautiful pairing with stronger cheeses. The 2006 Cubero Vinas Viejas Calatayud ($10) is made from 100 percent old-vine garnacha, which adds to the wine's impressive complexity, especially at this price point.
Aged five months in American and French oak: The 2004 Monte Toro Roble ($16), made with 100 percent tempranillo from 45-year-old vines, showcased intense, jammy and spicy red fruit flavors.
Aged eight months in French oak: The 2005 Sexto ($14) is a red blend from the Terra Alta DO in northeastern Spain. Its name means "sixth," as it was the sixth grape -- the relatively obscure lledoner pelut noir -- added to the blend of garnacha, carignon, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and syrah that winemaker Laely Heron credits with "adding an extra layer of complexity" that "made all the difference." This wine was our favorite with cheese; its generous red fruit was heightened by both of the Spanish cheeses -- manchego (sheep's milk) and valdeon (blue) -- we tasted with it.
Aged one year in American and French oak: Karen's pick from Sardon de Duero, just west of the Ribero del Duero DO, should appeal to adventurous lovers of Bordeaux-style reds: The 2004 Abadia Retuerta Rivola ($17), 60 percent tempranillo and 40 percent cabernet sauvignon, has a black-cherry and strawberry bouquet that is echoed with similar fruit flavors along with spicy notes, balanced tannins and a long, smooth finish.
Aged 20 months in American and French oak: From the Cigales DO known for its impressive rosé wines, this elegant red-fruited 2003 Museum Crianza ($20), made of 100 percent tinta del pais (yet another name for tempranillo), featured vanilla notes from the oak.
Along with the specific foods mentioned above, all of this week's recommendations were such a delightful match with red meat dishes -- from braised pot roast over egg noodles to roasted lamb chops -- that it turned the recent cold spell into a celebration of winter and Spain.
There is an increasing number of wonderful Spanish wine choices from outside Spain's best-known regions (Rioja, Priorat, Ribera del Duero, the last being the home of Spain's most famed wine, Vega Sicilia), along with a growing number of references to help you to discover them:
New this year is the "2008 Wines from Spain: Far From Ordinary Wine Guide" published by Wines from Spain, a division of the Trade Commission of Spain, with an introduction and tasting notes by Doug Frost, one of the few holders of both master sommelier and master of wine designations. A limited number of free copies of the 2008 Wine Guide are available at http://www.winesfromspainusa.com; allow six to eight weeks for delivery.
- Even more comprehensive is the 1,104-page "2007 Penin Guide to Spanish Wines" ($36), which reviews more than 10,000 brands and claims to be the most widely read Spanish wine book in the world. It's available at Amazon.com. The 1,172-page 2008 edition ($45) is due out in April.
For more, visit The Washington Post here.
Mumm's Olivier Cavil with Andrew Dornenburg and Karen
Page at the release of Cuvee R. Lalou at Per Se in NYC
Sitting down to lunch at Per Se restaurant in NYC
Pouring R. Lalou at two different temperatures showcased
the dramatic effect of temperature on flavor
First course at Per Se: butternut squash agnolotti
Winemaker Didier Mariotti describes the 1998 R. Lalou
Per Se's Tarte Tatin with Creme Fraiche Sorbet
"Cuvée R. Lalou truly reflects the G.H. Mumm vineyard, the heart of the house. Selecting and working with individual vineyard parcels; harvesting, pressing and vinifying each lieux dit separately — this is the dream of every Champagne oenologist."
—Didier Mariotti, winemaker
Saturday, March 1, 2008 — As we've both found ourselves under the weather this week, we'll take a minute to celebrate a healthier, happier moment spent toasting the release of G.H. Mumm's exquisite new flagship Champagne — 1998 Cuvee R. Lalou — over lunch at Per Se the other week.
The wine is a blend of grapes from seven of the best vineyards:
50 per cent Pinot Noir from Les Rochelles in Verzenay, Les Hannepés in Bouzy, les Houles in Verzy and les Crupots in Ambonnay; and 50 per cent Chardonnay from les Bionnes and Les Briquettes in Avize and la Croix de Cramant.
Winemaker Didier Mariotti remarked at lunch that his goal was to create a "gastronomic" Champagne, which became evident when we tasted the 1998 at two different temperatures. Served well-chilled to 42 degrees, the wine was crisply acidic and refreshed our palates by cutting through our dishes ("Contrast" in the words of our book WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT). Served noticeably less cool, at 52 degrees, the same wine's creaminess was heightened and enveloped the food with which we sampled it ("Compare"). We applaud Didier on achieving his mission, and demonstrating it so memorably.
The menu at Per Se included:
Mascarpone Enriched Butternut Squash "Agnolotti"
Brussels Sprouts Leaves, Crispy Pancetta and Sage-Infused Brown Emulsion
G.H. Mumm Cuvee R. Lalou 1998
served at both 42 and 52 degrees
Poularde Truffee Sous la Peau
Glazed Salsify, Roasted Cippolini Onion, Candied Kumquats and "Sauce Perigourdine"
G.H. Mumm Cuvee R. Lalou 1969
"Confit" of Fuji Apples iwth "Pate Sablee," "Confiture de Lait" and Granny Smith Vanilla Custard with "Creme Fraiche" Sorbet
G.H. Mumm is at www.mumm.com.