ANDREA’S A-LIST JANUARY 2007
HAPPY NEW YEAR! By now hopefully you have enjoyed the incredible Champagne Drappier Blanc de Blancs. If not and you are waiting for your daughter’s debutante ball or something, just keep in mind that Valentine’s Day is coming and you may want to check it out before then – as my husband John always says, whether it’s a new flame or your long-time love, “Don’t pick an important occasion to try out new material.” Good advice, and it’s priced so you can afford to do a little advance tasting research/quality control. 2006 – THE YEAR IN WINE – I mostly prefer to look ahead rather than back each time a new year begins, but in the world of wine vintage weather merits a little comment. Argentina, Chile, the Loire Valley and Austria appear to be really strong, as was Tuscany in Italy and Washington State. Spain overall was solid. Burgundy and Bordeaux both faced variable weather conditions that kept vintners hopping to adjust and react in both the vineyard and cellar. Of the two, Burgundy will probably fare better, as Bordeaux had quite a lot of September rain, leading to rot. That said, great producers will make good wines, but sadly will have a hard time charging less than the “great wine” prices of their hugely (and in many cases legitimately) hyped 2005s. As I previously reported, Napa had some really challenging weather, with cool spells that stretched out the harvest for some producers’ reds unrelentingly. As such, quality will vary a lot depending on exact fruit sources, vintner savvy, and luck. Looking forward, what will this mean for prices? My prediction is, not much at the macro level. What I mean by that is, even though production quantities are pretty ample and global competition is fierce, wineries from the classic zones seem pretty fearless and plan to continue putting out lots of high-priced wine. Searching will yield bargains, though, as the supply reality continues to settle in, so that is exactly what I will be doing – searching. Of course I will share with you the very best of what I find. Coming in 2007 – There is lots to look forward to, including some regions we haven’t explored before – ever tasted any wines from Austria? You will soon! I am very excited about them. I will also be adding webcasts of selected tasting notes and pairings to my site. Please log on now and check out the home page link to a web demo of one of last month’s A-List recipes – the Chocolate and Chorizo Sausage Bites. It’s such a wacky (and wonderful) recipe I had to feature it first! I cannot wait to hear what you think. January wines – Lynmar redux? Yes, because I really wanted to ship this wine before the last of it is gone, and because I think it will be a really fun old world/new world comparison with this month’s barnyard-y, quintessential red Burgundy offering. An amazing Chardonnay that in our blind comparison tasted like world-class French Meursault, rounds out the offerings. As we’re always proud to do, the value of this trio exceeds your monthly club charge by a few bucks. Enjoy!
NICHOLSON RANCH RUSSIAN RIVER CHARDONNAY, CALIFORNIA 2004 This is a wine my husband John and I discovered the way we do so many of the little-gem California producers we have in the club – by stumbling over it in our own back yard. Or in this case, it was actually our front yard. Several months back when we were renting a place prior to moving into our house, we had the chance to meet our then-neighbors, Mike and Leah Smith, when they were out walking with their kids and dog. After Leah learned about what we do (including the club), she dropped a bottle of this wine by and said, “Mike would kill me if he knew, but I want you to try this.” Her husband Mike is the winemaker for Nicholson Ranch, and I guess felt a little sheepish about parading his handiwork in front of us. And I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous because what if we didn’t like it? But on the contrary, we loved it when we tasted it, both giving each other one of those “are you thinking what I’m thinking?” looks. Yes. We were both thinking, “Wow, this tastes like topclass French white Burgundy – Meursault or Chassagne.” But better in one sense too – it has that luxuriant ripeness and “fatness” in the mouth for which California Chardonnays are famous, while maintaining great balance. As a gut check, we followed our common practice of getting another bottle, and tasted it blind against French white Burgundies and many other great California benchmark Chardonnays. It won the tasting (and held up beautifully over several days in the refrigerator, to boot). What is it about the wine that seems “Burgundian”? There is a hint of stony, mineral scent (think wet gravel/clay) that segues into a richer fragrance of toasted almonds and hazelnuts, then a smoky-fruity smell like grilled pineapple. As I mentioned, the palate is at once sumptuous (honey and pineapple) and lively. I cannot wait to see how this wine evolves with age. If you have storage space I strongly recommend you get a few extra bottles to age for 3-5 years. Nicholson Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2004 $30 Seared Scallops with Tarragon Mushroom Sauce Serves 2
¾ lb sea scallops Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper Olive oil 1 T unsalted butter, approximately 1/2 small shallot, minced 1/4 c Chardonnay or other dry white wine 4 oz mushrooms, sliced 1/4 cup heavy cream 3 teaspoons chopped tarragon, or more to taste Season scallops with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 tablespoon oil to medium high in a heavy skillet. When the oil is hot add about ½ tablespoon butter and when the butter foams, add the scallops. Cook until the first side is golden brown, 2-3 minutes, turn, and cook another 2-3 minutes until the other side is golden brown. Remove to a plate and tent with foil until ready to serve. Meanwhile, reduce the heat in the pan to medium, add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add a small splash of the white wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits. Add the mushrooms and remaining butter and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms begin to brown and soften. Add the remaining wine and continue stirring until it is nearly evaporated. Stir in the cream, season with salt and pepper and simmer 1-2 minutes to reduce slightly. Stir in tarragon or chervil, spoon over scallops and serve immediately.
GIVRY CLOS DE CHOUE, DOMAINE CHOFFLET-VALDENAIRE, BURGUNDY, FRANCE 2003 This is the style of wine my husband John would drink every night if he could: stinky, earthy, animal-y, beefy like bouillon. Alas, it’s a style that’s hard to come by. Usually you get those characteristics in collectible red wines that have been well-cellared, at which point the fruit has faded with time. This wine offers a rare juxtaposition of those haunting and hedonistic “otherthan-fruit” fragrances and flavors that John loves, plus an abundance of plush, crushed cherries thanks to the very hot, ripe 2003 vintage. It all adds up to a true rarity for wine styles in general and, especially, for French red Burgundy, for the simple reason that it is also affordable. That’s A-List to a “T.” As is always the case with Burgundy, we only got a little bit so it’s critical to get your re-orders in quickly and we’ll do our best to fill them. Our last red Burgundy, the Bouley Volnay, was gone lickety-split. Though it tastes exciting now, I think this will cellar well for 5-7 years. Part of the affordability factor in this wine is due to its origin. The village of Givry (jhee-VREE) is part of the Cote Chalonnaise sub-district of Burgundy, which is south of the main Cote d’Or area. Because they are off-the-beaten-path and less well known, Cote Chalonnaise wines are major favorites among sommeliers due to the quality they offer for the price. Do this wine and your palate the favor of pairing the bottle with food. While it is delicious on its own, like all French Burgundy (and frankly most old world wines, period), it is best showcased with food. Should you not feel like cooking, have it with cheese. A mild (not too tangy or funky) fresh goat cheese will work well, as will a nuttier, semi-firm to firm style such as SaintNectaire or Comte. If you are in the mood to take up the tongs, this recipe is really easy, and comes together quickly. It is a cheese “crostini,” but instead of the base being toasted bread it is roasted shiitake mushrooms. You can use just about any cheese you like to top the crostini. It makes a great first course, or lunch or light supper. Givry Clos de Choue, Domaine Chofflet-Valdenaire, Burgundy 2003 $28 Shiitake-Cheese Crostini Serves 4
1 lb large shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed Olive oil spray Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 t dried thyme, or to taste 5 oz mild, semi-firm cheese or mild fresh goat cheese (see recommendations above) Preheat oven to 475F. Place the mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet and liberally coat both sides with olive oil spray. Season on both sides with salt, pepper and dried thyme and place in the oven. Roast until mushrooms are golden brown, a total of about 10-12 minutes depending the size of the mushrooms, turning once halfway through the cooking. If the mushrooms look dry when you turn them, spray with additional olive oil spray. Remove mushrooms to a plate and top with slices of the semi-firm cheese, or spread with goat cheese, if using. Serve immediately.
LYNMAR PINOT NOIR, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 2004 This wine makes an intriguing juxtaposition of the “new world” California Pinot Noir style versus the quintessentially “old world” version of our red Burgundy in this shipment. Pinot is the signature grape of the Lynmar Winery and of the Russian River Valley, and we recently got to see the distinctive character this region lends Pinot at a comparative tasting there with the winemaker Hugh Chappelle (who used to make the famous Flowers Pinot Noir), consultant and vintner super-star Paul Hobbs, and winery owner Lynn Fritz. My stylistic impression of Russian River Pinot Noir has begun to solidify now over years of tasting these wines. That said, it is hard to “pin down Pinot” from any single appellation because the ultimate style is so heavily influenced by the particular clones, or sub-varieties, of Pinot Noir that a winery chooses to plant. Here’s what I’ve come up with, as characterized by the Lynmar: purple-tinged ruby color and a hint of translucence that’s typical of the light-pigmented Pinot grape; layered fragrance of dried cherry, smoke black tea leaf and a bit of dried orange peel. The palate is plump but slightly tangy cherry (think Jolly Rancher rather than Lifesaver cherry), with silky tannin and a haunting smoky/tarry quality on the finish. There’s greater fruit intensity here, and the dish I’ve paired has the bitter element of broccoli rabe to compliment the smokiness. Having tasted some older Lynmar Pinots, I think you can easily cellar this wine for 3-5 years. There is very little left, so prompt reorders are again imperative. Bowtie Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Prosciutto 1 large bunch broccoli rabe Kosher salt 8 oz dried bowtie pasta 4 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced 3 T olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced Freshly ground black pepper Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, for grating Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Trim the bottom inch from the broccoli rabe stems and cut the broccoli rabe into 1-inch pieces. Add the broccoli rabe to the pot and boil until just al dente, about 6 minutes. Using tongs, remove the broccoli rabe to a salad spinner. Return the water to a boil and add the pasta, cooking until al dente. Meanwhile, spin the broccoli rabe to remove the moisture (it will not be completely dry). Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium and when it is hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften but not brown. Remove from the heat until the pasta is done, then return to the heat and add the pasta, broccoli rabe, prosciutto, and black pepper and cheese to taste, tossing to combine. Taste and season with additional salt if needed (the prosciutto and cheese are both salty so this may not be necessary). Serve immediately. Serves 4