Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Did the Chicken Feet Cross the Road?

To get to my plate, of course!

I wanted to cook something interesting tonight... And it was absolutely delicious. The first course - chicken feet. Fried, and then brined with Xiaoshing wine, star anise, ginger, bay leaf and cloves, and then braised and finished with a sauce of fermented black bean, brown sugar, ginger, garlic and oyster sauce. There is a reason these are popular in Asia and the Caribbean Islands... They are WONDERFUL! Second course was braised and grilled lemon marinated baby octopus on oven roasted potatoes. YUM! It all went great with a wonderful little southern Rhone white, Little James's Basket Press from St Cosme, the oldest estate in the southern Rhone.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

It’s That Pink Time of Year Again

It is once again that time of the year when we must remember those important words from winemakers Charles Smith and Charles Bieler who in unison proclaim, “Yes you can drink rosé and still be a Bad Ass!”

Spring marks the beginning of rosé season, when wineries release those fresh, delicate pink wines, and sadly often in very limited amounts. Rosé wines are made from red grapes. The grape skins have very limited contact with the juice, hence their a pink color. As a rule, the shorter the contact, the lighter the color. While rosé can be sweet, off dry, or bone dry, today I’m talking about the decidedly dry type. The flavors of these wines tend to be subtle versions of their red varietal coun
terparts – strawberry, cherry, watermelon, and raspberry.

These wines are perfect for spring and summer, as they are served chilled and they are probably the most versatile and food friendly wines on the planet. The light body and delicate flavors make them ideal picnic wines that go well with roast beef, chicken or ham sandwiches, egg or potato salad, and even chips and dips. They are great for back yard barbeques, easily handling hamburgers, chicken, and even steaks. If you are looking for a porch pounder, there is nothing better than a glass or two of rosé on the back deck on a sunny day—no food required. They are great values, often being priced in the 10 to 20 dollar range, so you can enjoy them as often as you like.

Rosé got a bad reputation after the winemaker at Sutter Home invented White Zinfandel completely by accident (an arrested fermentation). This initiated a flood of sweet wine cooler-like blush wines from California that many people mistakenly think of when they see the rosé section. When I have a rosé tasting at the store, these same people run the other direction. After I chase them down, tackle them, and force them to taste MY pink wines, they sheepishly admit they were very, very wrong, and often end up taking home a bottle or two.

There are hundreds of rosés on the market, made from a large variety of grapes and from a large number of countries. Rosé was first made in Provence in southern France, and a great many beautiful examples come from this area still. The wines from here tend to be light in color and delicate, elegant examples. Bieler Pere at Fils ($11.99) from Aix-au-Province is one of our best sellers year in and year out. A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rolle, and Cinsault, the wine shows aromas and flavors of strawberries and raspberries with an underlying herbal note and a refreshing acidity. Mas de La Dame from les Baux de Province (Grenache, Syrah. Mourvedre, and Cab) offers up red berry and peach flavors for $15.99. Finally, St. Roche Les Vignes from Cotes de Provence makes a consistently good one from a blend of Grenache and Cinsault with lush berry aromas and flavors.

There are many other countries getting into the production of these pink beauties. Mulderbosche, $11.99, from coastal South Africa is a rosé of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. There is an initial blast of grapefruit on the nose followed by minerals and strawberries. A sip results in a mouthful of minerally red berries with a perfectly balanced acidity.

Italy is making some great rosés, with La Spinetta’s spectacular Il Rose di Casanova being one of the best rosés anywhere, period. It is made from a blend of Sangiovese and Prugnolo Gentile. With luscious aromas and flavors of tart cherry, pomegranate, and honeysuckle, this wine shows a remarkable complexity and perfect balance. It is not cheap at $24.99, but if you are a lover of these wines you HAVE to try it.

The U.S. of course has gotten into the act, and showing particularly good success with Pinot Noir. Rosés from this thin-skinned temperamental grape are elegant, harmonious, and well balanced. Copain, Banshee, and Ponzi all make excellent examples, although they are a little pricey at around $19.00. Finally, if you want an elegant rosé wrapped in a beautiful package, look for Birichino Vin Gris. Done in a Provincial style from Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Rolle, this brilliantly bright and crisp wine with its flavors of wild berry, citrus, and cherry along with the gorgeous label makes you think spring even if you drink it outside during a blizzard. All for $16.99!

So get in the pink! Get some of these harbingers of warmer days ahead. You will truly enjoy them, and whatever you eat with them will taste better than you can imagine.