Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I nailed it!

Veal is not a meat I really grew up eating - the closest thing I had to it was pork... but it happened that I married someone who is quite fond of the veal chop. He orders it when he sees it on menus, and though I don't tend to order it, I have looked upon it fondly and wondered, could I make a nice veal chop at home?

I believe I have tried to do this before, and found I had myself an overprice dry pork-chop-like piece of meat. But tonight, the result was different.

I had purchased a couple of nice veal chops from Bristol Farms in Long Beach, and instead of seasoning them dry, I seasoned them with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and coated them with a generous amount of vegetable oil. I would have used olive oil if I had it on hand, but canola oil was what I had, and that's what I used. The reason for this coating is that my last experience with a veal chop produced an excessively dry chop, and I had heard that a Tuscan style of grilling meat involved a generous marinade of olive oil. Hence the oil. And there was a smidge of Dijon mustard added for flavor.

The result was good. The chops were broiled in the oven, just a few minutes on each side, then left in the oven after the broiler was turned off so the insides could cook a bit after both sides had browned. The chops were nicely golden brown and crisp-appearing on the outside, and on the inside, just a hint of pink but not too rare - they were beige/pink on the inside. Perfectly moist, delicious, flavorful, a tad gamey but not excessively - I basically nailed the recipe and was very happy with the turnout. I would definitely make these again, in this manner!

I served it with steamed baby bok choy, because it was what I had.... any greens would have been a good accompliament.

Finally, the wine. We did have some with the chops - something perfect, in fact: 2004 Paulo Scavino Barolo - delicious, aromatic on the nose, silky on the palate, with just the right amount of fruit (ie not too much goopy fruit), a tiny bit of grip but not too much, not too acidic - a soft wine, really, but perfect with the delicate flavors of the veal - this is a wine that didn't need a steak or heavy game meat - it was delicious with the veal and by itself, and it only made me think I really don't drink enough Italian wine - I really need to get myself down to The Wine Country and stock up on maybe a 6-pack of an assortment of delicious Barolo. That would be serious fun.

So there you go - barolo and veal rib chop - if you haven't tried it before, do experience it, because it is a whole lot of goodness!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kabinetts on a Friday

A week has not yet passed since Johan and I completed the Long Beach Marathon, an event celebrated with a very nice bottle of one of our favorite grower Champagnes, Pierre Peters non-vintage Blanc de Blancs, which we paired with seared scallops, followed by delicious, tender braised lamb shanks. Delicious...... but I digress. Just 5 days after the marathon, we hosted our first SCGGG (pronounced S-C triple G) "Southern California Grape and Gripe Group" wine tasting at our place... and the topic was German Riesling Kabinetts any vintage, and guess who picked the topic....

Yes, I was reponsible. By Friday afternoon, I was starting to wonder why I picked a topic I deal with every day. Why hadn't I chosen Tuscan reds? Or Piedmont reds? Or Oregon Pinot Noirs? Or red Burgundies? In other words, why didn't I choose a wine I didn't work with every day? I'm not sure what the answer is, but for some reason, the topic Riesling Kabinetts came to my mind, the e-mail was sent, and there was the theme to this month's SCGGG tasting.

There were 7 of us in attendance - Lester, Brian, Tom, Linda, Bennett, Johan and me, and 7 bottles of wine. They were the following:

2008 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Kabinett
2007 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett
2007 Wegeler Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett
2005 Kunstler Reichstal Riesling Kabinett
2002 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett
2006 Dr. F. Weins-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
2004 Joh. Jos. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett

All the wines were bagged as this was a blind tasting. Everyone then ranked the wine in order of preference. Then all the wines were scored to see which wine was most liked and which was least liked.

The wine that stood out the most was the one that seemed to be the oldest - it was darkest in color and most mature in flavor and aroma. Everyone at the table thought this was the 2002 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett since it was the oldest of the wines on the table; however, it turned out that everyone was wrong! The most mature wine was the 2005 Kunstler Reichstal Riesling Kabinett! What a surprise. In retrospect, in some ways it made sense - the 2005 vintage was much warmer than the 2002, and the Rheingau, where Kunstler is located, is much warmer than the Mosel, and typically, wines in warmer regions and in warmer vintages mature faster than cool regions and cool vintages. But even so, it was a surprise, as the 2002 Haart did not stand out at all as being an older wine - it was fresh and zippy and young.

Of the other wines, they showed varying levels of perceptible residual sugar - the 2006 Weins-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett was sweeter and fuller-bodied than the others, and I liked it, while others thought it was too sweet - I felt this represented the very ripe 2006 vintage very well, and would have been terrific with an Indian or Thai food dinner. The 2008 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Kabinett was favored by many as it showed very good acidity and crispness owing to the cool 2008 vintage. The 2004 J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett also showed some good acidity along with slatey minerality.

Overall, it seemed that more people liked the mature flavors in the 2005 Kunstler and the wine that didn't show that well in the overall line-up was 2007 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett - which is quite shocking as I've always loved loved loved this wine! And I believe I still do... but the wine might be in a "dumb" phase or something, or this bottle didn't show particularly well, because even in my notes I indicated, before the unmasking, "not my fav."

Here's how the overall rankings went, along with my personal rankings in parentheses:

First overall: 2005 Kunstler Reichstal Riesling Kabinett (I ranked it first as well)
Second overall: 2004 J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett (I ranked it last!)
Third overall: 2007 Wegeler Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett (6th)
Fourth overall: 2008 Von Hovel Oberemmeler Hutte Riesling Kabinett (5th)
Fifth overall: 2002 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett (4th)
Sixth overall: 2006 Dr. F. Weins-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett (2nd)
Seventh or last overall: 2007 Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett (3rd)

Looking at these results once again, the day after the tasting, I am struck by the same feeling that I had last evening after hearing these scores: I think my taste buds prefer wines, especially these types of wines, with a good level of residual sugar and richness. I rich-tasting Kabinett does not bother me (see above the 2006 Weins-Prum and the 2007 Fritz Haag). I'm surprised the 2007 Wegeler made it as far up as it did in the list. Overall, though, I tended to agree with others than the aged wine was impressively so, even though it wasn't that old!

In the final analysis, it was an interesting tasting, everything turned out great - we had an Oktoberfest theme with some tasty sausages from Alpine Village Market in Torrance, some Dusseldorf mustard, and some cheeses.

And most finally, I look forward to the next SCGGG which will be one with wines I don't taste on a regular basis. :)

Thank you to everyone who participated and brought such great single vineyard Kabinetts!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

By popular demand: a wine review of a wine available in Vancouver!

So I have a little following of readers from my hometown of Vancouver, thanks to a few family members who keep up with me on the blog, and also a new addition to my blogroll to the left, Gigi, who writes a food blog with an emphasis on restaurants in Vancouver.

The Vancouver readers have requested some reviews of wines found in Vancouver, so I racked my brain then remembered that I did enjoy a fun wine when I was last in Vancouver.

The wine was a Bordeaux: 2006 Chateau Peychaud - an unassuming red blend of Cabernet and Merlot from Cabernet and Merlot's home region of Bordeaux. My father had purchased a couple bottles of this in advance of our visit, and we enjoyed the wine on two separate occasions (though oddly, we thought the wine tasted differently both times - probably our palates and the food that went with it, but maybe not!) The wine is rich in fruit and earth, balanced, with some smooth tannins, a perfect French red, not too goopy or alcoholic. I recommend it for those seeking a good and inexpensive Bordeaux to drink with anything from steak to lamb to chicken, even. We had the wine with Chinese food on both occasions and that worked too.

So, cheers! I think my father bought it somewhere in Richmond, not sure which store. Good luck!

Hosting my first official wine group wine tasting a few days after a marathon

I'm looking forward to hosting a wine group wine tasting just 5 days after I am doing the Long Beach marathon - fun, fun! The topic: German Riesling Kabinett - any vintage. Each person will bring a wine in that category; the wine will be known ahead of time, but on the evening of, I will bag the wines as they come in, label them with a number, and everyone will rate the wines according to preference.

Food: shall I make my famous Chinese noodles? (my mom's recipe) Or roasted turkey legs (to show how well German Riesling Kabinett goes with roast turkey) Or have a cheese plate with plenty of blue cheeses (to show how well blue cheese goes with German Riesling)? Or all of the above?

It's not a dinner, but munchies are always nice when there's wine involved, now isn't that right?

We'll see who can attend and what they will bring. I'll report here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

2006 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett and Fantastic Indian Food at Vij's (Vancouver, BC)

What? I have a blog? Yikes, if my blog was a vineyard, and I was the grape-grower/winemaker, my vines would be all askew by now, and who knows what grapes will have gotten burned or otherwise badly exposed...... good thing I'm not a winemaker, just a wine appreciator!

So here I am, the day after a long, long day yesterday, Saturday, which started out with a 8 mile tapering run (Long Beach Marathon is in 7 days), followed by a drive out to Camarillo to drop my sister L at the outlet malls while I did a tasting at my account Bellavino Wine Bar in Thousand Oaks (a very nice wine bar by the way - if you are out that way, give owners Richard and Diane a visit), followed by a drive back onto the L.A. side to drop off sister in the Melrose area, and take myself to downtown L.A. to the Kings season opening game at the Staples Center..... traffic was a bit hellish due to the confluence of factors including a Dodgers Game, a concert at the Nokia Center, an adult conference at the convention center, and tens of thousands of other people wanting to go the same direction for some reason or another!

But I digress. What I have been wanting to blog about for some time is about a unique experience I had when Johan and I were in Vancouver, B.C. a couple of weeks ago for my sister K's wedding. First off, we had a fabulous week of great people, family and friends, and of course, a superb and beautiful wedding. Second, we enjoyed awesome sunny weather for 10 days straight which is more than one can ask for in Vancouver! Third, we got to go to one of the restaurants that is all the rage in Vancouver, called Vij's, which was one of the restaurants Anthony Bourdain's Vancouver episode focused on, an episode I haven't had the pleasure of watching, but have heard friends talk about (and speak well of). Anyway, friend Derek took us to Vij's, a restaurant that doesn't take reservations, and has massive long lines, so we went early, at about 5:30 pm, and were the first ones to be on the waiting list.

The protocol is to wait in the bar, and have some drinks, and indulge in some of the free munchies that the staff, and owner Vikram Vij himself, generously pass around. I found myself becoming a little full on the delicious munchies, among them casava fries, and other fried tidbits whose names escape me. The bar is towards the back of the restaurant, and is a little bit dark, but the atmosphere is serene and upscale, and gives one the anticipation of an exciting culinary evening ahead.

Forty five minutes or so passed, and a table came open. A wine list which I had perused during the waiting period was now under discussion. The list was an interesting one, and I was impressed that there were 4 German wines on the list, most of which were Riesling Kabinetts from various producers that I knew. As well, there were Gruner Veltliners from Austria, various wines from British Columbia, California, France and other wine regions around the world. Derek and Johan both encouraged the idea of a German Riesling if I had one in mind, though I did state that I didn't need to drink one if they were bored with me always ordering German Riesling when we were out (yes, this did happen a few times). But they both assured me that if there was one I liked and felt would go with the cuisine, that I should go ahead and order it.

There was one I liked, and that was the 2006 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett. Up in Canada, of course this wine is not imported by my employer Rudi Wiest, but by some agent and through the B.C. Liquor Board through a system with which I am not familiar. There was no back label to indicate how this wine arrived here, but I was happy it was there and I was indeed familiar with the wine.

2006 German Rieslings are among my favorite, and though this is not a lauded vintage by the wine media and those who feel they are in the know about German wine vintages, I really do love them. 2006 came sandwiched between 2 "better" vintage - 2005 a nice perfect warm vintage all over Europe with nice clean dry weather throughout harvest making for near perfect wines, and 2007, a vintage with a long, cool growing season due to an early bud break and a nice consistent weather pattern throughout all the way to a pleasant harvest. 2006 on the other hand had a hellish harvest in many areas, with warm but wet weather throughout the harvest season, if I recall correctly, with many estates suffering with rotted fruit that they had to sort out and throw out, ending up with much lower yields than they had anticipated. Wines made had more botrytis than usual, and more concentration. Some reviewers did not like the vintage at all. I did like it, because among other things, I know that the best estates have the best vineyards sites, and the best vineyards are the best largely because they are less susceptible of the negative aspects of vintage variation. In other words, they have better real estate that tends to make better wines year in and year out.
Additionally, the best estates have reputations to uphold, and they would never jeopardize that by making substandard wine. So in 2006 they tended to make half as much wine as in normal vintages, by throwing out so much less-than-perfect grapes, and using only the best and healthiest grapes for their wines.

The Brauneberger Juffer vineyard where this wine is from is more usually associated with the Fritz Haag estate, where Schloss Lieser Estate owner and winemaker Thomas Haag's brother Oliver Haag is now the owner and winemaker. Thomas and Oliver's father, the famous Wilheim Haag, who was the winemaker at Fritz Haag for about 50 years before handing it to his son Oliver had given part of his Brauneberger Juffer vineyard holdings to Thomas for the Schloss Lieser Estate. Another geek-worthy factoid about the Brauneberger Juffer is that this is a steep hillside vineyard that is unique because there is not a big forest on top of the hill, but it is pretty bare, so in wetter years, there is not big mass of water holding in the roots of the trees of the forest above the vineyard seeping water downwards toward the vines. In fewer words, this means the Brauneberger Juffer vineyard tends to be drier in wetter vintages such as 2006 (ie. more protected).
So the wine came, and we sipped it before we had our food and it was absolutely perfect. Delicious, rich, and refreshing at the same time, the Kabinett has more richness than a Kabinett in a cooler year (say 2008, 2004, or 2002), more botrytis than a Kabinett in years 2005 or 2007, and more acidity than a hotter vintage (say 2003). It was yummy in a bottle, and it showed the magnificence of this top vineyard site, and this esteemed winemaker.

When the food came, dishes after dishes of saag paneer (spinach with white cheese), curried goat (so tender), lamb popsicles (rack of lamb chops), curried cauliflower, cricket bread (which I declined to try), and various other wonderful things..... the wine sang an even sweeter, purer song.

Unfortunately, it was not a magnum! It did, at some point, get low. So another bottle was in order. We should have gotten another German Riesling, but I wanted to be adventurous, so went for a Gruner Veltliner from Schloss Gobelsburg, an estate I have also visited, in Austria, so I thought it would be a fun wine at this meal.

Well, unfortunately, you cannot taste this wine with this food. It is like drinking water, but with 12 or 13% alcohol. I kept trying to taste the wine, but I couldn't get any read on the wine until I stopped eating, and then I could appreciate the subtle flavors in the wine, which were good, but totally wasted on this fairly spicy cuisine.

So it is with great dispair that I still must listen to folks tell me "Oh my God that wine is sweet!" and opt to drink only dry wines, never veering from their dry-wine post. I am a lover of dry wines of all types, but I cannot drink them with certain cuisines. I cannot drink Gruner Veltliner with Indian food, and though I did not try it, I do not think I can drink dry white French wine, dry white Italian wine, dry white any wine with this food, and I doubt I would enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or even Zinfandel with it. I don't know, call me biased... and maybe I am because I already liked the Schloss Lieser Kabinett on its own so maybe it is me..... but I just feel there is definitely a wine-food pairing thing here, and people who cannot drink a German Riesling Kabinett with some foods are perhaps missing that magic.

But not I! I'm happy I got to experience Vij's, and share that it is some of the best Indian food I have experienced, and that they have an awesome wine list that "gets it" too. So check it out next time you are in Vancouver, B.C.
(Photo above is Thomas Haag at his estate Schloss Lieser in September 2007)