Monday, April 12, 2021

La Rioja Alta

Usually the top wine from any property should be the best. However, individual tastes decide the favourite.
I belong to a generation that were able to buy great Rioja...the 60's and early 70's...lovely soft vanilla aged gems. I remember spending a holiday in north Spain...where a restaurant had a ladder up to the bottles placed in the wall. I got to be a regular and was allowed to climb up to chose my choice for the evening. Not only so many goodies...but also reasonably priced. Rioja winemakers became greedy in the 80's...stretching the wines to make more. They got back on track in the 90's and the style split...the traditional version and the new technique.
One property that kept the old style was La Rioja Alta. Viña Ardanza Reserva was a regular house wine for many years. The next one up in quality was the Gran Reserva 904...for the special occasion.
Now we get to the nitty gritty of this post. For the very special occasion we would try a bottle of the Gran Reserva 890. Even back then...I was not the biggest fan. The wine should have been my favourite...but never was.
So...ordering a mixed case...I added a bottle of the 890. It was not a very special occasion. Those days are gone. A great bottle on a Tuesday and a glass of water on Saturday if you get my thread. Every day is special.


La Rioja Alta
Gran Reserva 890 2005
Rioja
Spain

The wine is a mix of Tempranillo (95%), Graciano (3%) and Mazuelo, produced from their own old vines that are more than 40 years old and planted in the Riojan town of Rodezno. It spends 72 months in American oak barrels, 20% new... and here lies my problem.
Much as I love the style...I always find the 890 has a touch too much dryness.
Nose to me is always more Bordeaux-like. Vanilla aromas. Mocca and cassis. A balsamic bite. Dominant acidity. Don't tell me I need to lay it down...it is over 15 years old. In no way a bad wine...it is just that we don't gel.
Points 16.5

The food was more Italian then Spanish.
Bruschetta followed by Black Carbonara.



Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Memory Lane #1

I have been drinking wine for over 45 years..and in the early days I dealt with the wine trade in England. My search for older vintages lead me to a couple of merchants..one being Reid Wines...a few miles south of Bristol, England. I had lived in Bristol before I moved to Germany...so I was back there a couple of times a year. I usually ordered the wines...then picked them on my visits (I drove over). Co-owner was a guy called Bill Baker. Now..when whoever made us all..decided to build Bill...he didn't cut corners...and the end product was a one-off! Bill passed away in January 2008. Now..before you think this 'Memory Lane' is going to be a sad post. Forget it. Bill Baker probably never knew the meaning.



 

The Telegraph obituary report at the time....and I smiled as I read it...mentioned him taking a few cases of vintage wines with him when he traveled abroad. I once arranged to meet him at a top restaurant in Bristol who he supplied wines to. I waited at the bar with my glass of something. Bill 'rolled' in. As I mentioned..he was large..but carried it well. Talking about carried..he was carrying a picnic basket...We sat at the table and he opened it...to reveal 5 bottles!! Now I remember..at least I think I did..only drinking one...where the other 4 went to...we can only summise. Reid Wines was in the picturesque village of Hallatrow...in an old converted Mill. If I called and said I wanted to come over..the answer was..'be here at 11.30 for lunch'. On arriving...a table outside by the stream..some old oddity of a half-bottle as an apéritif..with some paté de Foie Gras..then a decent red. Another memory..which I should try to forget...was driving a few miles (a few more that it should have been)..meeting him for dinner...and returning by car along misty country roads...would never do it nowadays...ah..the recklessness of youth! Another memory is of joining him at the top country house 'Gidleigh Park'..for some memorable wines. He once visited me in Germany. We had a guest room..and a normal size bed. He managed. He asked if he could use the bath...don't ask me!! My wife cooked us dinner...and 'bonvivant' was had by all. He was 'expressive' about wine and people...and said if a wine was crap. He maybe annoyed a few..I never had a problem with him...oh yes I did...trying to keep up with him. On one visit he told me about a regular meet of all local merchants...once a month I think..where each one took along something special. He kindly invited me along..a privilege..and the rest of the group accepted the 'extra' visitor. Great wines...although my memory goes back to a whisky..which I never drink...it was a malt..about 40 years old..and as near to a great Cognac as you can get. The wine trade is full of 'odd' characters...it must be the liquid. Bill Baker was the last of a long gone style of merchant/gourmet/imbibber..call it what you like. They don't make 'em like that any more. The materials are no longer available! Telegraph report here 

Enjoy the video with Jancis Robinson

 

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Clemens Strobl

Discovering a fairly unknown property still gives me great pleasure.
Clemens Strobl in Kirchberg, Wagram is one case.

Clemens Strobl is a family business in the second generation. Uncomplicated and not bound by tradition. Experimentation and curiosity is their aim. With passion and enthusiasm. Mixed culture instead of monoculture. These are the key points of winemaker Clemens Strobl's philosophy. Only his own grapes are hand-selected and carefully processed. With his wine manufactory, he fully concentrates on organic viticulture with an appreciation for flora and fauna. Birdhouses and beehives are small signs of the times. When it comes to vinification, it's then a case of "less is more". Spontaneous fermentation is a must and aging is in stainless steel, wooden barrel and concrete egg. Pure, terroir-focused wines that are fun to drink. Extract-rich finesse and elegance provide, thanks to the relatively light alcohol for high drinking flow. Hence my later gulping note!! 

During my writing cramp last year I tried a few of the properties Grüner Veltliner.
The top one...
Pfaff (Pfaffenberg) 2016 had impressed.

Finally got round to the Riesling of the same vintage.

Clemens Strobl Paffenberg Riesling 2016
Wagram
Austria

Vines are 35 years old.
A gentle whiff of petrol...gets me every time. Aromas of peaches. Slightly smoky, then comes the stone fruit. Peach flavours, thrilling minerals...vibrant...total harmony...tried not to gulp this...a riverting Riesling....sumptuous and with an elegant creaminess.
Points 18.25

Italian-style food with the wine...Bruschetta and Pasta Bavette Nero Carbonari.


Friday, April 02, 2021

Sunny Afternoon

As winter fades away...and hopefully the world gets back to some sort of sanity...the sight of the warm sun does actually convince you all is not that bad.
A fresh bread roll...


one of the assortment of Greek Honeys recently purchased...

a fine Havana...
and a good book...


at the moment the story of the Kinks. I think everyone knows the song...


All that is missing nowadays...is a few friends to enjoy the gastronomic times with you.

 

 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Birthday Boy Barry

My birthday is over...and a success. The food and wine I mean.
It was on a Saturday. Good planing from my parents 75 years ago!

The way I have run my business stood me in good stead to cook for 7 people. Organised...and keep your cool.

Table prepared the day before...and the Iberico Cutlets put into a marinade of Mustard and Honey. 24 Hours in the fridge. 
                                        


On the Saturday morning...the post arrived...and I had received a letter from the Hessen State Minister, Volker Bouffier, congratulating me on reaching 75!
Nice touch...hope Prince William remembers me in 25 years.
                                    
Menu printed...
                                    

The Panko Crusted Sea Scallops were prepared and placed in the cool cellar.
                                    
Went and had a midday sleep...hey....I am 75...I can do what I want!
Fresh mushrooms fried...garlic added...then cream and coconut milk. 
                                    

Cooked pasta...and added to sauce. Now all I had to do later was warm it up...and I always think it tastes better after leaving it all to enjoy each others company for a couple of hours.
The Cutlets taken out of the fridge...2 hours before...so that they would not get a shock later.
All ready to go...so made myself beautiful...and waited for my three daughters and two son-in-laws to arrive.
                                    

Salad washed and ready to be covered in Sesame Oil and Raspberry Vinegar.
Scallops 4-5 minutes in the frying pan...only a little olive oil. On to the salad and served. Mmmmm...was the verdict.
                                     

I am a clean cook...and the kitchen always looks tidy...would not feel happy if it looked like a battlefield.
Cutlets into the pans...five minutes in all...then into oven for about 15 minutes...just circulating air 160 degrees.
Warmed up the sauce slowly and was able to sit at the table..so not to lose any points for not being visible. Only joking...but the children were telling me I may lose points for not having made the baguette on offer.

Now...I was going to take a photo of the cutlets...just forgot...and by the time I thought about it...there were only the bones. Not pleasant viewing...so I leave it to your imagination. Again...and I repeat again...it was all excellent.
Man...was I proud of myself.
                                    
Three cheeses with some shortbread biscuits...the sweetness of the biscuit really does go well with them...were enjoyed by all.
A few wines were tasted... my concentration on two.
                                    
Tablas Creek Vineyard Esprit Blanc de Tablas 2014
Adelaida District Paso Robles
San Luis Obispo County
California
U.S.A.

Notes from the Estate:
The wine is a blend of three estate-grown varietals, propagated from budwood cuttings from the Château de Beaucastel estate. Roussanne(72%) provides the core richness, minerality, and flavors of honey and spice, while Grenache Blanc(23%)adds green apple and anise flavors, a lush mouthfeel and bright acids. Picpoul Blanc(5%) completes the blend, adding a saline minerality and tropical notes.
My notes...
Lovely honey and yellow pear aromas...with a touch of wax. The palate is beautifully smooth and would not have to hide itself next to it's
Rhône relatives.
Rich texture...again...honeyed..and spicy pear. The Grenache Blanc giving it a lift at the finish.
Points 18
                    

Gritsch Singerriedel Ried Smaragd Grüner Veltliner 2018
Wachau
Austria
The Singerriedel in the east of Spitz is one of the most famous sites of the Wachau with soils of paragneiss, mica slate and silicate-rich brown earth.
Dense -yes oily- nose with quince...almonds, orange zest and lots of dark minerality. Very much lush Wachau! Plump texture on the palate tobacco,
fresh orange peel, mineral underlay. Restrained acidity and minerality in the finish, but never heavy-handed despite 15 vol% alc.
Points 17.5

A good night's sleep...then only a little bit to tidy up as I had done most of the cleaning while cooking. Nothing worse than getting up to a pile of plates and glasses.
                                     

Just to prove I can eat without wine...I prepared myself a good breakfast before I left to play 5 hours of snooker. My way of spending a perfect Sunday.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Viva España

I have a birthday soon...and my wish is that I cook for my family.
The kitchen is small...so the food has to be easy to prepare...well...not easy...but space is restricted. Iberico Chops is the plan...and trying a few ways in advance.


Garlic, Thyme and Rosmarin is on the left...on the right Mustard and Paprika Powder. Have tried with Honey...but although it tastes good...not easy on the eye.
Pan Fry them...till they are nice and crispy looking...2 times 2 minutes should do it. Then 17 minutes in the oven...160 degrees...Circulating Air.


Marqués de Murrieta Castillo Ygay
Gran Reserva Especial 2010
Rioja
Spain

This vintage is 85% Tempranillo and 15% Mazuelo, aged 24 months in American and French oak barriques. The former in American...the latter in French.
In 166 years...this is only the 53rd vintage. All the Castillo Ygay fruit comes from a single vineyard called La Plana...planted on a plateau 485 meters above sea level...the youngest vines here were planted in 1950.
Down to business...used the Coravin...but poured 3 hours before tasting.
A wonderful fragrant, enticing and complex wine.
Ruby violet colour. Nose throws up black fruits...aromas of truffle, balsamic, marzipan with airing.
Palate with finesse and elegant...this is not a sweet fruit blockbuster.
Silky and rich with currants and raspberries...and a fresh tart finish.
Points 18


Saturday, March 06, 2021

Ain't Life Hard!

Only allowed to play Snooker twice a week..so some free time.
Below some evening pleasures.
A very fine Bratwurst...above the average...
with some Potatoes au Gratin (Dauphinoise) and fresh mushrooms.

Decided to try the other Ott in the celler...the recent Rosenberg 2018 was still too youthful and with baby fat.

Ott Grüner Veltliner Spiegel 2018
Wagram
Austria

Orange zest on the nose, a glossy texture, hidden exotic fruits dragged upwards by a fine acidity. This is much more harmonious than it's sibling.
Points 17.25


I love throwing leftovers into a pan...
A mediterranean vegetable curry...

Way back when... a wine merchant told me they buy Alsace wines...but nobody bought them...so they had to drink them themselves. Hard life ain't it!

Albert Mann Riesling Schlossberg 2015
Alsace
France

Had tried a glass a few days earlier...needed air...
Tried again after it had filled it's lungs.
Colour: Straw yellow with bright reflections, bright and clear.
Nose: Closed at first but then showed mango, ginger, apricot, peach and citrus...
Mouth: Initially closed. Spicy components...the orange and citrus notes opening...peach and apples...this is not searingly dry...just a trace of sweetness. This no doubt down to the Schlossberg site. Very good and perfect with the food.
Points 17.75


My favourite fish at the moment is Sea Perch. What to have with it? Some Ravioli and a light mustard sauce.


A half finished bottle of white Burgundy seemed to wink at me from the fridge.
Fabien Coche Meursault Charmes 2015
Burgundy
France

Rich...the aromas of hazlenuts(with air), honey, caramel...lead you down the path to a medium bodied palate of citrus and yellow fruits. Maybe a touch heavy at the moment...
Points 17.5

Friday, February 26, 2021

Lockdown...What Lockdown?

Lockdown still very much in force...the Gastronomie are hoping Easter will be a date to get things going again.                                     

My good friend Karl Hodapp...Rebstock...Gasthof/Restaurant in Waldulm...has not been sitting around doing nothing. He has his vineyards...and he has his 'Brennerei'...Distillery.

Evenings he has free of course...so I was there for two days. Spent the daytime walking, listening to music and reading. Just relaxing from the day job.
I arrived midday...and where was he?...in the Brennerei with son Basti.
Basti ist 13...been driving a tractor for 20 years.  

I unpacked and took the walk high up to Karl's best plot...Russhalde...naked of course at this time of year...but all prepared for the coming months.
                                  

Karl no longer sends his grapes to the local Co-Op.
Heinrich Männle in Durbach has the recent vintage. We hope for great things.
Walking back down...the smoke from the Brennerei confirmed what Karl was doing.                                     

That evening we were just the two of us...as Basti was with his grandparents.
Karl's lady Laura had prepared a dish already in the oven.

I had bought along all the wines for the two days...and this evening the first was a recent favourite. I have been trying a few White Burgundies recently.
Marc Colin Chassagne Montrachet Les Cailleretes 2015
Burgundy
France

It costs € 80,-- which for top wines from this area...is fairly reasonable!
This is already quite open and forward. Lightly toasted, lemon tart, hazelnut aromas. Lemon and citrus notes. Light on it's feet with a gentle creamy texture and a fine finish.
Points 18                     

Hirtzberger Honivogl Grüner Veltliner 1994
Wachau
Austria

The second wine had my name on a white label on the top...in Karl's handwriting. He asked why...then remembered that the wine had already paid a visit to Waldulm a few years before...not been touched...and had been transported back to my cellar                                    

I had brought along my Butler's Friend...as I expected that the cork would not freely leave it's partner. Clever Barry...but it was not fooled...the Butler got fired...and Karl left and returned with a decanter. Pushing the cork into the bottle as we poured...the medium dark yellow liquid flowed into it's temporary home.
Wonderful nose...Grüner Veltliner extra class. Flavours threw up spices and loads of nuance. Still amazingly young. A real experience.
Points 18.5

A good night's sleep...breakfast I bought at the local cafe and ate in the car.
Off to Achern...first Cafe Glatt...to pick up some chocolates that my wife likes.
Then to the local Supermarket to buy for the evening meal. I was cooking. Me...cooking for a top Chef!

Bought some Sushi from the Supermarket and sat out on my balcony...the sun was pleasant. Had a nap...then up to Karl's apartment. I had the key...so did not have to trouble him...happily burning fruit a hundred metres away.
I was going to prepare a Thai-Style curry...WITH PULPO.
I had wanted the arms only...but at the Supermarket...without my glasses...(can't see with them wearing a mask) ...and standing a few metres from the display... I had pointed to some Pulpo. It was not until I arrived back and opened up the package...that I saw it was not cooked. You have to laugh...and it went into the Bio-bin. I did tell Karl to empty it in the evening! I had enough other items...so it was a Vegetable Curry.

Basti was with us this evening and kindly gave the thumbs up to my food.
Karl ate 3 portions! I rest my case!
The Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2018 was enjoyed with the Curry.
                                    

Two 25 year old French ladies (reds are male, whites are female)...were to be tasted tonight.
The Corovin was the tool to be used to extract the liquid.

Ampeau Puligny-Montrachet Les Combettes 1996
Burgundy
France

Golden colour...nose flinty....apples and vanilla. Buttery...still some oak. Flavours of burnt walnuts and caramel.
Points 17.5

Ampeau Meursault Charmes 1996
Burgundy
France

Coravin pressed down...OK...for the first glasses. Next time...Coravin pressed down...cork went down.
Gold colour...nuttiness...toasted ok...but not harmonius. We concentrated on the sister. Karl said he would try it again next day. He did...and the day after that...it just went on improving. So my points really do not do it justice.
Points 17....Karl marked it 94/100 after 2 days. Lucky guy!

Again...a great evening.

Next morning...breakfast in the car...the Autobahn was empty on a Saturday...and I was home in 90 Minutes. Porsche Cayenne...had it 10 years now...still wonderful!
                                       


Unpacked...prepared lunch...sun was shining
                                    
Had my Havana Cigar ready...doorbell rang.

Package...bottles of wine...does it never end?