Tag Archives: dessert wines

Blandy’s Alvada Madeira: The Choice of America’s Forefathers

27 Apr

Blandy’s Alvada 5 Year Old Rich Madeira, $18/500ml bottle. 19%ABV.

Color is dark walnut. The nose offers sorghum; a rich, molasses-like perfume with tropical fruit notes; spun sugar, hazelnut, and almond. Deep, Rich, and Opulent are excellent descriptors for this fortified wine, both on the nose and palate. There is an initial sweetness on the front palate that shifts immediately to a gently sour richness on the side, top and back palates, expanding across them in a wave like a beautiful bourbon and changing to a rich, spiced almond tart with a delightful and lingering finish.

Barrel-aged and mystical, yet lighter than whiskey and fruitier than cognac, Madeira wine is much like the island off the coast of Africa from whence the name originates: exciting, rare, and uniquely tropical. Madeira was a favorite of America’s Founding Fathers: both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to enjoy it regularly, and Madeira was toasted upon the signing of the Declaration of Independence! These days, we can toast our own independence from the drudgery of daily life with a snifter or rocks glass, two fingers of Blandy’s Alvada, and serve either with an ice cube or neat. It is imperative to provide a large-enough glass (wine, port, cognac, or whisky)  to allow the expansive nose and flavors to treat your five senses– it would be a mistake to ignore the provocative depth of flavors provided!

 

 

 

Alvada Madeira has the flexibility of sparkling wine: it can be served alone or with food; as an apéritif, a course-bridging palate cleanser, as an accompaniment or featured, as a specialty course, or, as it is most commonly known, as a dessert wine or after-dinner drink. With the bounty of flavors and the long lifespan after opening, I am surprised to not see madeira more often in wine pairings or on the lists of after-dinner drinks.

 

I have enjoyed cognac, port, sparking wine, and dessert wines for years, and only recently added madeira to my repertoire a couple of years ago. I can tell you, the delicate mouthfeel, intricate flavors, and intense complexity have been a real pleasure to enjoy and share with guests. You should try it, and let me know what you think!

 

à votre santé!

 

Saturday Night Cellar

8 Feb

I’m in the middle of a huge sports show, working crazy hours but thankfully at least, sleeping in my own bed. Since this project started, however, I’ve been too busy for wine. Tonight at last I got an opportunity to hit the cellar and look for something to enjoy. I’ve recently been enjoying some vintage Italian red wines, but tonight I saw a white burgundy that I couldn’t resist. Then, because I love dessert, I pulled out a half bottle of 2010 Sauternes I’ve been wanting to taste. Here we go:

Louis Latour Montagny “La Grande Roche” Premiere Cru, 2011. Cote Challonaise, Beaune, France. Sourced locally at $24/bottle, available online around $21. ABV 14%.

Pale straw in color with a nose of apricot, pear, and honey. Smooth in the mouth and very savory, the fruit sits back along with reduced acidity on this rich, round wine. Notes of marzipan, almond paste, chalky limestone and buttery oak. Shows best with food; a basic roast chicken paired beautifully but a spicy sauce with lots of garlic was too much. No regrets in this price range.

Montagny

Château Peillon-Claveries DuBourg Sauternes 2010; $9/375ml Bottle from Empire Liquor in Forest Hills NY; 14% ABV.

I saw this in the local store gave it a shot. Pale gold in color and nose of rich, sweet apricot. In the mouth, delightfully rich and sweet fruit with nice acidity and good structure. I think it’s the first sauternes I’ve had of the 2010 vintage, and I have high hopes for the top producers. Certainly worth the money for a dessert wine, fun, nicely made, well placed and a good bang for the dessert wine buck. I’m quite likely to pick up more.

What’s in your glass tonight?

Peillon-Claveries Dubourg

à votre santé!

 

 

Dinner With Friends- #MWWC11

10 Aug
Note: This post is 1) different that what I normally write, 2) about a recent wine dinner, as well as 3) a response to my friend Jeff ‘s request for submissions to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, #MWWC11 which if you really want to (if you blog & want to write about wine)  you can see here.  Or if you ride or like comic writing, you should check out my favorite  section of  Jeff’s blog, which I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy this post! Feel free to comment and let me know -JvB
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A friend I’ve not seen for 28 years was in town for a family wedding- his! So I invited Joe & Kaz to come to our home for dinner while they were in NYC, visiting from Osaka Japan. Joe has lived in Japan for almost two decades and I knew we’d have a lot to discuss. I was a little nervous about making dinner since our Western meals are quite different than those in the East, so I enlisted my (much) better half to help create a solid dinner plan, while I, as in classic form, worried and worried about what wines to serve.

I stared into my cellar, pondering choice after choice, changing my mind several times. Finally I settled on a small- production petite sirah I’ve been holding for a special occasion to pair with beef, and a vinho verde I love on hot summer evenings. I grabbed a bottle of Chateau de L’Aulée AOC Méthode Tradtionelle brut sparkling wine from Touraine, France so we could toast the wedding. And just for fun, I selected two half bottles of dessert wine, a port and a sauternes. I felt prepared. No, really I felt terrified, but at least I had wine!

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Since both my wife and I are freelancers in the arts and work a lot of (ok, almost all) evenings and weekends, we rarely get to entertain. We also didn’t know how busy we would be prior to our dinner. As my schedule got increasingly hectic, she agreed to shop while I was working. Our menu plan included several cold salads that I could help prep and she could execute while I was grilling the entrée. The butcher didn’t have the cut of meat I wanted available, so she purchased several shoulder steaks and we agreed to make kabobs to allow us to serve efficiently.

As she sliced a butternut squash and put that into the oven, I cubed the beef and dumped it into a bowl for the marinade- then diced fresh garlic, onion powder, cracked 4-color pepper mix, and ground some Himalayan salt on top. I added two heaping tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, then raced to the cellar to get a bottle of my ‘everyday’ red table wine– a bottle of 2011 Los Vascos from Colchagua, Chile which is managed by none other than Baron Eric de Rothschild.

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This wine is one of the best values I keep in my cellar at about $10 a bottle, and is great to drink but doesn’t break my heart if I need a lot of it to make a meal taste wonderful. I poured it on the beef and mixed my marinade happily, putting the bottle aside as a backup to the Petite Syrah, then covering the marinade bowl and sliding it into the fridge to continue the prep.

Annette and I chopped Israeli cucumbers and diced roma tomatoes, parsley and scallions for a cucumber/tomato salad that could be dressed quickly with oil and balsamic vinegar. As I washed vegetables for the kabobs, she cut yellow and red peppers for me, moved to prep an avocado salad that had to be made at the last minute, then put sweet peas and water into a pan to cook while I scraped & preheated the grill.

Thirty minutes had passed and we were moments away from our guests arriving, so we enlisted a daughter to set the table while I aerated and decanted the petite sirah, using a True Fabrications Aerating Pour Spout to pour into the decanter. The petite sirah was a gorgeous, near-black purple in color, delightfully aromatic with the scent of african violets, and exciting even to pour. I was happy that the spout had caught some sediment as well as aerating. I rinsed it and set it aside, then pulled the meat out and built the kabobs for grilling, using mushrooms, onion, cherry tomato, yellow and red pepper, and of course the marinated steak cubes.

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Joe and Kaz arrived and we greeted them, opened the bubbly and toasted their wedding, and I took them with me to the backyard to grill the kabobs while Annette completed the salads and vegetable courses.

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The grill ran about 550 degrees and while kabobs require about five minutes a side for medium well (turning over once), I prefer to turn them every three minutes as neither the vegetables nor the meat always turns as one wants. After a quick sear, I moved several kabobs to a higher level to grill them to medium rare over the same duration. We chatted about their trip, enjoying the sparkling wine until it was time to take the kabobs off the flame.

Following our guests into the dining room with a plate of burning hot skewers, I noticed that Annette had made a couscous (when did she find time to do that?) and also managed to plate the butternut squash rings so that they enclosed the steaming hot green peas, a neat little visual I didn’t know was in her repertoire! I refreshed flutes with sparkling wine and poured the petite sirah, as Joe gave a quick Japanese blessing, “Itadakimasu” or いただきます.  A few bites in, Joe exclaimed his joy at the wine, which made me beam proudly and take time to explain my choice, ignoring the earlier requests from my 13-year old daughter who had begged me not to wax poetic about wine tonight…sorry, sweetheart!

Modus Operandi is the Napa, CA home of winemaker Jason Moore. I was introduced to his wines by a fellow oenophile who INSISTED I try Jason’s cabernet sauvignon- I loved it, noting the depth and complexities of flavors, with an unusual bonus: chocolate covered strawberry notes on the finish. I quickly joined the Modus wine club and have been a fan ever since. Jason may not be the first of the independent winemakers that I decided to champion and support, but he is highly accomplished and we share an affinity for passion in the things we do. His work is exemplary.

Back to the dinner table: Joe noted the sirah was more black in color than red, more floral than fruity on the nose, and deeply complex. I agreed, and explained that it was made in very limited quantity (only two barrels produced) and that I chose it specifically to complement both the meat and array of vegetables due to its flexibility to pair so well with grilled foods. I have a full review of the ’09 sirah here.

 

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The meal I had been so worried about had been a success, and we talked late into the night. After a small intermission we cleared dinner, I made coffee while Annette served berries and some small pastries I’d picked up at Financier for dessert, and I brought out the dessert beverages to our guests. These included the 2006 Chateau Doisy Vedrines which is showing beautifully right now, a tawny port from Kalyra Winery, from Santa Barbara, CA that I just tasted recently on my Wine Blogging trip, and a calvados: Christian Drouin Coer de Lion “Selection”, a delightful digestive that offers apples, spice, and cinnamon-all the best parts of apple pie- in the glass.

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We sampled sips of all three, and a little XO courvoisier that was a gift from a client.

My fears of failure seemed to have been conquered by paying great attention to detail. Fresh, flavorful, and colorful food well-paired with tasty wines and made for a lovely, memorable evening with old friends and our spouses. While I don’t know when I’ll see my friend Joe again, I hope that Annette and I will work harder to entertain more guests at our home sooner, rather than later.

à votre santé!

 

 

 

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