As I stated in my previous post, my heart was in the Shabbos but my mind was on my trip that I was taking to New York. All the thinking did not help make the trip any less miserable. Once again I have proven to myself that flying to New York is hard enough, doing a stop in between is miserable and downright idiotic. Lets take a step back here and explain the situation. The Jewish Week holds a wine tasting every year, showing of the top kosher wines they thought made an impression to the wine judges. This past year, they tasted through some 400+ wines and came up with a long list of wines, many of which I like and some I did not like. Anyway, the tasting was this past Sunday, the 3rd of March, 2013, at 1 PM. To get there from the west coast, it would mean either sleeping in NY for Shabbos (not an option), or flying out Saturday Night.
I LOVE Jet Blue, but they canceled flying out Saturday night from San Jose airport, and now only fly out Saturday night from SFO – AHHH!!! So, the only other option was Delta, which I should never have done, because it meant a stopover in Atlanta. The idea was to fly out by 10:45 PM, have an hour in Atlanta and hop on the 9 AM flight to NY. That all sounded OK, no storms in the forecasts, no crazy storm trackers or watcher on the news – so it looked like I was in the clear! Not so fat, turns out that there may not be Godly reasons to not fly – but Delta is more than capable of creating man-made disasters – all by itself!
I arrived to the airport with an hour to go, and by the time we took off, I was in the airport for some 3 and a half hours! AHH!! Yep, you guessed it Delta screwed up and lost a tire on landing so the plane could not take us to Atlanta. By the time they fixed the plane, the man fixing it broke another part and we had to deplane and get on another plane – a gate over. By the time that plane was fueled and had everyone’s bags repacked – we were two+ hours behind. I slept like a baby on the plane, but by the time we arrived in Atlanta – I knew I was cooked. The connecting flight was 5 terminals over and the “plane train” could not get me there in time to save my bacon. So here comes the best part – I arrive at the gate and the plane was not departed, but the man would not let me on – no matter how much I screamed and begged. However, he gave me a printed ticket (I have not sen one of those in years) and told me to run to the next terminal where the Laguardia flight was boarding. I ran like a mad man, and in the interim broke my hand luggage! One thing after another – I know! Anyway, as I get to the gate the lady tells me that there is no such flight, I say what – the man told me there was a plane boarding now! She says – oh sure – that is one gate over, the dude gave me the incorrect gate number! Anyway, she walks me over and I start talking to the gate agent who tells me – once again – sorry the gate is closed and the plane is leaving. This is when the other gate woman turns into SuperWoman! She says – OH NO – this poor man has been through enough. She swipes her card, opens the gate door, walks me down the jetway – and bangs on the plane door! Seriously! She screams – open this door!
Now – let me please recap, I have a ticket – printed ticket, for JFK. I am trying to board a plane for which I have NO TICKET – none whatsoever! Actually I have a ticket for a totally different airport! Think of me as one of those lost souls dropped on a plane. That was me! Of course, I have no checked luggage – for two days, but still, this is COOL! The unflappable stewardess, behind a massive closed door replies; the door is closed. The gate attendant is equally unflappable, and she fires back (sorry bad use of verbage) open the door, you forgot this guy! Will you believe – the stewardess blinked and opened the door! Heck these folks were half way through the security demonstration! I was told grab any seat – we need to move. I grabbed the first window seat I could find, and promptly went back to sleep! WOW!! By the time I land in Laguardia, I had two hours to go and once I finished davening, I hopped in a taxi and found my way to the City Winery. Read the rest of this entry
This past week was Shavuot and though we had no friends over we did get to enjoy some lovely kosher wines from around the world. Along the way, we had some delicious meals at friends homes and ours as well. We made some tasty beef tongue, using a very simple and basic recipe, and we had some great braised meatballs. To complement these lovely dishes my wife made her killer spinach kugel and we had some fresh green salad and quinoa.
Wine wise we had some very interesting wines from around the world, wines that many would belittle but ones that I liked, though none were anything to write home about. Still these are all reasonably priced wines that are also mevushal and taste fine. Some are plain quaff wines and one was a bit above that level.
We had a bottle of the 2010 Weinstock Cellars Alicante Bouschet, a wine we enjoyed some six months ago and my how the wine has changed! Gone are the violet and heady spice and in their place – rich cedar and forest berries demand your attention. The wine showed itself quite well and is one that will live well till 2015. Read the rest of this entry
Purim came and went and with it we had the opportunity to taste many a wine. Some of the wines were mevushal and some were not. On the whole, the mevushal wines did the worst, but hey that is not an iron clad rule, as described on my blog of what is kosher wine.
Also a slight disclaimer, it was Purim after all, and I did drink these wines – so the notes many be a bit light or off, but I would not print it if I did not believe it.
Some of these were mine and some were wines that others brought. In the end, we tasted three Pinot Noir, and the other two could not even hold the Four Gate Pinot Noir’s jockstrap. Instead, the Eagle’s Landing and Barkan Classic just stood around and were not even finished – we are talking about purim! With many people coming over to our table for wine – none could finish those bottles.
The wine notes follow below:
2010 Barkan Pinor Noir – (mevushal) Score: N/A
This tasting was even worse than the previous one – sorry, this is not a wine I could possible serve to my guests. It has a basic nose, but the mouth tastes of stewed fruit – no hope to be enjoyed. Mevushal wine at times really does bite! Not a single person, drunk or even tipsy could like this wine. I started with it and it failed on all accounts. Read the rest of this entry
To say that life has been hectic would be an understatement, so while wine was enjoyed the real joy of writing about them had to be put on hold. Well, things are still hectic, but we now have enough time to sit down and write these up. Over the past month I have had the opportunity to taste some very experimental wine (not written about here), some really wonderful and standout wines that will be available soon, and some wines that are still not available, but was given the chance to enjoy it early on. Of course, we enjoyed some bottles that really impressed us, while others were just – ok.
The wine notes follow below:
2009 Borgo Reale Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie - Score: B
The 2009 Borgo Reale Pinot Grigio is a nice simple white wine that is clearly a wine built for enjoyment with our without food. The nose on this straw-colored wine is striking with rich peach, intense lemon, apricot, grapefruit, light floral notes, green apple, lemon rind, and mineral. The mouth on this light to medium-bodied wine is nice and bright, with lemon, green apple, and peach. The mid palate is packed with bright acidity, lemon, something that can only be explained as vanilla, lemon rind, and floral notes. The finish is spicy and medium long with more rich lemon, apple, mineral, peach, and lemon rind. Green apple, lemon, floral notes, and mineral linger long.
The nose on this purple to black colored wine is smoky and screams with tobacco, chocolate, tar, alcohol (to start), graphite, rich cedar, blackberry, ripe plum, raspberry, fig, mint, and herbs. The mouth on the medium to full-bodied wine is rich and layered with mouth coating integrated tannins, blackberry, plum, raspberry, fig, mint, and cedar. The mid palate follows the mouth with balanced acidity, chocolate, tobacco, tar, more cedar, and black pepper. The finish is super long and spicy with rich blackberry, plum, vanilla, herbs, chocolate, tar, tobacco, black pepper, and salty celery. The tar, tobacco, plum, black pepper, and salt rise on the finish and linger long.
N.V. Four Gates Pinot Noir Kosher - Score: B++ to A-
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine explodes with cloves, spice, dirt, celery, chicken cherry cola, raspberry, plum, herbs, coffee, and menthol. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and layered nice chicken cherry cola, plum, and raspberry, along with heavy spice, and mouth coating tannin. The mid palate, like all four gates wine is balanced with bracing acidity, more dirt, nice tannin, crushed herbs, eucalyptus, and oak. The finish is long with chicken cherry cola, crushed herbs, dirt, celery, spice, raspberry, oak, coffee, and vanilla. Chicken Cherry Cola, crushed herbs, and vanilla rise on the finish.
On the week of 5/28/2010 we were again staying low, after having had a previously hectic week. So when lying low, we always go for lemon roasted chicken and rice. However, like I stated in my previous post, I had bought some pilaf mixture at a spice store in the famous Jerusalem shuk of Mahane Yehuda. The mixture (from what I can tell) was made up of olive oil, raw lentils, dehydrated raw onions, and a couple of spices. The spices were not initially obvious, but the ones I could pick out were curry, cumin, paprika, and maybe cloves or ginger, though I could not be sure.
This time I poured the rest of what I had (a cup or two) of the pilaf mixture and two cups of brown rice into a pan. I let the lentils and rice soak up the oil that was in the pan, and then hit it with a cup of white wine, and three cups of water. The rice came out nicely, and we had a fresh green salad to go along with it.
I was in the mood of a red wine, so we went with the Borgo Reale Chianti. I must say that when looking for kosher Italian wines there are really only two options; Borgo Reale and Cantina Gabriella. They are both fine wine procurers and are almost always have a high QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). The wine was a bit weird I must say out of the bottle, but with time it got better. I would recommend opening the bottle and trying it, and then making sure to have drunk enough to lower the level below the shoulder (wide part of the bottle), let it air for a few hours or more and try it again.
The wine note follows below:
This past weekend saw us fall back into an old favorite; Puttanesca. We have posted here many times before about our enjoyment of the unique flavors and textures that Puttanesca has to offer. The saltiness of the olives and the body of the anchovies mingle together so well, that it almost feels surreal. Well this time was no different, and we paired it with a combination of whole wheat spaghetti and Quinoa, thereby leaving us with many options of how we would enjoy this wonderful sauce. As usual we added in fake soy meat and some thick sliced mushrooms, which add even more textures to the party. We enjoyed the Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, along with the aforementioned grains/pasta, and a fresh green salad.
To pair with this wonderful dinner, I went for a bottle with a fair amount of acidity, and enough body to keep up with the Puttanesca. The first thing that came to mind was the classical pairing of pasta sauce; a Chianti. Luck had it that we had a nice 2004 Borgo Reale Sangiovese Puglia, which turned out to be fine, for the evening. By the next day, it had fallen on its face, and was just a shadow of its former self. Clearly the acidity has kept this player in the game far longer than it deserves to be, but that is the joy of a low PH. Drink this bottle now, and enjoy it.
The wine note follows below:
2004 Borgo Reale Sangiovese Puglia – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dull ruby colored wine, with a hint of orange is oaky with tart cherry, loamy dirt, raspberry, and a nice dollop of spice and pepper. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft and follows the nose with tart cherry, loamy dirt, and raspberry that almost feels velvety and full in the mouth. The tannins are all but gone, and were probably perfect 6 months ago. The mid palate is balanced with acidity, oak and spice. The finish is nice and long with bracing acidity, soft to almost nonexistent tannins, tons of spice, and tart cherry. This is quite a nice bottle that has clearly survived because of its low PH, and needs to be drunk NOW. It should have been drunk 6 or so months ago, when it was probably better.
This past Hanukkah saw my friends and family gathering around for an evening of cheese, latkes, and wine. The main issue revolves around finding kosher cheese. There are many issues that revolve around cheese for observant Jews, as listed in the link. For some time we observant Jews were left with things like Muenster cheese and American cheese – AHHH!! I am so glad to say that we now have real cheese my kosher friends! For our party we used cheese from many manufacturers. The first one hails from the state of Oregon – Tillamook Medium Cheddar Cheese. It is a nice cheddar cheese that does not taste like water. The second cheese we had was a lovely and simple Brie from the company called Les Petites Fermieres. The brie was nice and simple and not very complex or stinky, but interesting enough. The interesting part was that we had a chunk of the brie lying around in the refrigerator after the party and man did the brie turn into a nice, soft, stinky, and nutty flavored brie! So if you want the brie to get real interesting – all you need to do is unwrap the package, and leave it lying around in your fridge for a couple of weeks, and man will it turn into what I am used to when I think of brie. The third cheese we had was a simple but fun Les Petites Fermieres Monterey Jack. The Monterey Jack tastes creamy with a mild flavor, and matches well with soft wines. The rest of the cheeses we had on the table were a nice Blue Cheese and a couple of goat cheeses. I was not a huge fan of the Blue Cheese as it wrecked my palate and the goat cheeses were OK, but a bit too mild, to say the least.
For latkes we punted and served potato pancakes from Trader Joe. They were pretty good and that is all one can ask. Finally, we went with many wines – five to be exact. Three disappeared quickly, the Bordeaux was awesome a few hours after the party, and the Italian Zinfandel (Primitivo di Manduria) was quite nice as well, after it finished opening up and smoothing out later that night.
So many thanks for all the folks who came by and the wine notes can be found below:
2007 Château Haut Philippon – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is a rich and enveloping nose of loamy soil, cherry, raspberry, cassis, and fig. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is a nice soft wine with an enveloping mouth that is not complex in any way, but after many hours of air, the wine fills out nicely. The tannins are soft but are ever present, along with cassis, and raspberry that mingle nicely. The mid palate is balanced with core acidity and integrating tannins. The finish is long with more cassis and raspberry, rich loamy soil, and soft tannins that linger long on your palate after the wine is gone. The wine fills out with nice mouth coating tannins. This is a nice wine for the price and nice as well because it is Mevushal!
2004 Borgo Reale Primitivo di Manduria - Score: B++
The nose on this light garnet to garnet colored wine is hopping with cherry, cola, raspberry, plum, pepper, mineral, and bramble/earth/dirt. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has integrated tannins, sweet core, ripe fruit, cherry, raspberry, and plum. The mid palate is balanced with core acidity, earth and dirt, along with cola. The finish is a long earthy/dirty finish with red fruit, dirt, and nice intense pepper. A nice Zinfandel wine, that works well. It is not a wine that will fill out, drink up and enjoy.
2005 Hagafen Zinfandel - Score: A-
This wine is now close to its peak and it is opening nicely now, it was the clear winner of the evening. The nose on this purple to black colored wine is black with ripe fruit, blackberry, plum, mounds of chocolate, spice, sweet oak, and vanilla. The mouth on this full bodied wine fills out with mouth coating tannins that are integrating, but still present. The wine shows a rich, black, and full mouth with blackberry, nice tannins, and semi-sweet oak with raisins. The mid palate shows more integrated tannins vanilla, rich and sweet oak, and balanced acidity. The finish is long and supports the wine’s full mouth with more rich oak, vanilla, and bright acid that carries the rich and ripe black fruit, acting like a bow around this lovely package.
2005 Herzog Zinfandel Special Reserve – Score: A-
OK, as an honest human I must admit I hated this wine a year ago! WOW, what a difference a year makes. Man, this wine needs a ton of air, but the wine cleans up really nicely with oxygen. The nose on this light garnet to garnet colored wine has a huge and rich nose that starts with rich oak, ripe Napa fruit, chocolate, plum, raspberry, fig, intense spice, and pepper. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and extracted, classic ripe red berry along with rich mouth coating sweet oak tannins that are now well integrated. The mouth softens with air and becomes rich and enveloping, nice. The mid palate is soft with ever present tannins that are going to stay for a couple of years, more sweet oak, and balancing acidity. The finish is super rich and long with sweet oak, ripe fruit layered on top a few shakes of pepper, along with chocolate that is balanced by nice tannins, and more rich ripe fruit. Get a bottle within the next few months and open it and taste it, and then leave it open for a couple of hours and come back and finish it with a table of friends!
2007 Goose Bay Viognier – Score: A-
The nose of this light yet bright straw colored wine was filled with classic Viognier perfume, grapefruit, apricot and citrus aromas. The mouth of this medium bodied wine is strikingly fruity while also being infused with the perfume quality. The mid palate is strongly acidic and laced with grapefruit, lemon, and green flavors. The finish is acidic in an almost puckering way. I must say, that a nice perfumed nose and mouth while still dry, is great with heavy foods like roasted duck or turkey. But because it is so dry, it fails to stand up to spicy foods. Personally, this wine felt a bit lighter than it did before, and maybe it is coming up against the wall. So, if you have a few bottles lying around, drink one now and check out where it is for you.
2006 Borgo Reale Chianti Riserva, a lovely parve Spaghetti Bolognese (san fromage), and the Brunello di Montalcino story
Two weeks ago saw us laying low and the weather was turning cold and wet. It was also the night before Halloween (Hallows Eve’s). We love when the kids come around the house and we get the chance to hand out candy. This week after shabbos was over, we handed out Halloween pencils and it was a ton of fun. It was even more enjoyable because last year was a train wreck. You see Halloween fell on Friday Night last year, and since we cannot hand out food or anything else on shabbos, we were not able to share stuff with the families that came by. So given the situation, we went with Spaghetti Bolognese (san fromage), which we have had a few times in the past. A quick aside, we almost exactly copied the past attempt, without even trying – which is cool! Anyway, to pair with this dinner, I chose a bottle of wine that I have been looking forward to trying, because I love Chianti and it is Mevushal, and further, it is a Chianti Riserva. You see Italy defines its regions and regulations through an older and somewhat maligned group called the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and the more reputable Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). The DOCG was created after many in Italy’s food industry started to raise serious concerns over the DOC’s “loosey-goosey” denomination that it seemed to give to anything that was not moving.
In many ways this is all quite ironic and sad, because the very accusations that were levied on the DOC are now bearing down on the DOCG, like a freight train down the Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Incline Railway (sorry I got caught up with Tennessee – watching the CMAs). For the better part of three years the DOCG’s reputation has been under fire because of an allegation against some of the top red wine producers in all of Italy, the famed wines of Brunello di Montalcino. These wines were given the coveted DOCG recognition in 1980, and quickly became one of the best red wines in all of Italy. But in September 2007, the wine world was shell shocked by acquisitions that one or more percent of the Brunello wineries and some major ones as well, were substituting grape varietals for the requisite Brunello Sangiovese grape! The very same accusations that were leveled on the DOC were being brought down on the DOCG in late 2007. But the story only gets better! A month or so after the accusations were leveled, the consortium of Brunello producers voted to keep Brunello 100% Sangiovese. To put perspective on this, say U.S. orange juice producers (who placed a label of 100% orange juice on their containers) were to be accused of not using oranges for their juice, and so the USDA started pulling the orange juice containers from the store shelves. So what contrived answer would they come up with? Why that is obvious of course, we will just change what 100% orange juice means! AHH!!! Are you kidding me! What a joke! Well, thankfully, they all voted to keep things status quo, but to me, just the vote alone shows the corruption and ineptitude that riddles the DOCG and the DOC. Well, if you thought that is where it ended, just you wait! Man we need to make a movie out of this stuff! If there were not enough bureaucracies (DOC, DOCG, Siena public prosecutor, etc.), involved in this mess, the USA had to way in! Yep – we always need to stick our noses where it does not belong. Under the guise of consumer protection the TTB has demanded that all Brunello bottles have a label reassuring consumers that the Brunello bottles sold here in the USA are 100% Sangiovese. Well, after two plus years of investigating, the Italian authorities have come back, and have stated that they have magically closed the case. So, you would think it would be riddled with accusations, charges, fines, etc. – NOPE! No real data at all. So in a game of chicken, the TTB has come out saying that they will not play these games, and require a real answer and continued labeling until they have more answers, and as of this pointing it is still the case. Even if the consumer is not the real story, we have to be happy to see the TTB strut their stuff, and try to get to the bottom of this mess.
So where does all this leave us? I saw a wonderful posting by Tom Maresca, and it does have its points. Still, I have serious issues with what lies below the surface. We as a nation and a country are slowly becoming more and more desensitized to wrong doers. We are also willing to let things go when they are actually not such a light subject. You see, the real issue here my friends is that if the DOCG and the Brunello producers were serious about their jobs, and prideful about their history and artistry, they should either fess up to what they really are (or are not) or just admit that they are not doing their job. The DOCG should maybe rethink their name FDOCG (Forse Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) or DOCG? Come on, The DOCG cannot guarantee anything it is not scientifically or conceptually enforceable. It is the classic story of trying to sell yourself as more than you are. The DOCG should not be selling themselves as more than what they are – an organization that defines the rules, but not one that can or should be attempting to enforce them. If there is a closing line to this whole thing – I would go with a small Brunello producer, who under a veil of anonymity, spoke with Jeremy Parzen, and came up with an awesome line and story.
As a small producer, we have been treated like we had nothing to say. We felt absolutely NOT represented by the Consortium, neither protected. DOCG means that our Appellation of Origin is Controlled and Guaranteed. This was the only supposed role of the Consortium. None of these things was provided by them: obviously NOT the controls, NOT the guarantee and, sometimes, NOT even the origin. So I am asking myself what is the reason of the Consortium to be. Right now, the Consortium is just a cost for a small producer, and it’s giving no advantages at all. Many people will soon leave, I am sure.
I could not have said it better myself! I hope I have brought a different angle to this madness and I hope you have enjoyed it. The wine notes for the Chianti follows below:
2006 Borgo Reale Chianti Riserva – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is initially hot but blows off soon, rich cherry, raspberry, roasted herbs, and heavy vanilla. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft and mouth filling without it being mouth coating, the tannins are integrated nicely, and give the wine a slight lift, along with cherry, raspberry, and plum. The mid palate is brightly acidic, along with coffee and vanilla. The finish is medium long with bright red fruit that lingers long on the palate after the wine is gone. The wine need to be drunk ASAP, it is throwing sediment, and does not last long after the bottle is opened. I opened the bottle Friday night and by Saturday day it was astringent and most of the fruit is gone.
This past week we had to endure through Tisha B’Av, so I wanted to make sure that we may something that would give Shabbos its due respect, and I came up with one of my new treats – Spaghetti alla puttanesca. It is a dish that my friend showed me a year ago, and is one that has quickly become a staple in our house. I love the Kalamta Olives (not Italian of course, but the best black olives that we can find), the spicy peppers, and the spicy rumors around the dish’s name (hint read the Wikipedia link above). For protein, some add in tuna or salmon. Instead, we add in soy meat/protein from one of the many purveyors of the fake ground meat. It adds a bit of depth and a nice texture overall to the dish. I have posted a before about my interest in this dish, and Emeril’s recipe. With all that tomato sauce, the dish needed a nice acidic wine to pair with, and I reached for a wine that I thought would work. Well initially, it was OK, but unbalanced and over the top acidic. However, the wine did a 180 degree change and became quite a wonderful wine that is not only balanced, but also more flush and fruity. The wine is the 2007 Borgo Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and one that is reasonably priced and Mevushal to boot. The wine paired nicely Friday night, but it got even better on Saturday day (after staying up all night sealed in a 375 ml bottle in my refrigerator) and paired well thank you with medium hard cheeses.
The wine note follows below:
2007 Borgo Reale Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – Score: B+
This wine caught me by surprise, in a very pleasant manner. When I first opened the bottle Friday night, I was unimpressed. It was a red wine with an average nose and a blunt/aggressive mouth that felt out of whack to say the least. However, all that changed after a few hours of air. I must stress that while the wine improved drastically from where it was Friday Night, the wine did lose its finish, with so much air. So, I would think that just a three or so hours of air would get it to where it is smooth, balanced, and enjoyable, without losing its finish. This is NOT a wine for long cellaring, but a wine that has a body and a life that simply needs a bit of air to be its muse.
The nose on this garnet colored wine is hot out of the bottle, with cherry, raspberry, currants, and some roasted herbs. After a few hours of air, the wine’s nose goes black with black cherry, rich/fresh plum, currants, and rich loam. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off red with raspberry and cherry. It flows into a mid palate of tannin, coffee, and bright acidity. The finish is long and bright with red fruit. However, with more air, the mouth fleshes out into an almost new wine. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is rich and almost mouth coating. The tannins have fully integrated and are carried by rich black plum, black cherry, and loamy dirt. The mid palate is still bright with acidity and a hint of coffee. The finish is average now with more rich fruit, tobacco, and mineral flavors. The wine lingers long on the mouth from the acidity, but the finish still feels short. This is another winner by Borgo Reale that is both Mevushal and reasonably priced to boot. Still not for celllaring, enjoy this one now or in a few months. This is a wine that will be comfortable at a spaghetti party or at a formal affair.
Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Sweet and Sour Brisket, Roasted Root Vegetables, Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana, Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux, Galil Cabernet, Borgo Reale Chianti Classico, Kadesh Barnea Gilad, Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay
The first night of Passover found us with friends and we had the usual four cups of wine ritual, that makes Passover a wonderful precursor for Alcoholics Anonymous Meetings The wines are listed below in the order that they were drunk, also we had quite a few folks, so please do not think I actually need to attend some AA meetings.
Once the first two cups were drunk we started in on the Matzoh (we only use shemurah matzoh), Maror (our custom is to use endives, because they are so easy to clean), and then the meal. Mind you I am really happy with how the meal came out. We started with hard boiled eggs with salt water poured over it. There are many people who are starting to make this simple dish Haute Cuisine, but that is so broken. The reason for the boiled egg is to remind us of the temple’s destruction and how we used to have a Passover Sacrifice, which is oxymoronic.
The meal started with a new dish for us and a major hit on the table – Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf. A friend of ours was kind enough to share the recipe, and I hope she does not mind me sharing it with all of you. It is crazy simple to boot!
Herb Encrusted baked Fish Loaf Recipe
1 loaf of Gefilte Fish
1 onion slices into thin rings
3-4 tsp of a mixture of any Italian Herbs you want (we used Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, and Savory)
2 tbsp of oil
Garlic Powder, Paprika, and Black Pepper
Mix the spices and oil in a bowl and drop the sliced onions into the herb mixture and mix around to coat the onions well. Next drop the loaf into a baking pan and coat it with the garlic, paprika, and pepper. Then drop the onions on top and cook covered for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Then flip the loaf, remove cover and bake until the pan is dry and onions are crispy.
We made three loafs at a time, by simply tripling the recipe and using a large baking pan. The fish was a hit as were the onions. The thing that was awesome was that the fish was permeated with a really cool herb and garlic flavor, not just flavored on top – really cool. We of course served it cold with a nice cold eggplant salad. We make our own, but it is available in small plastic containers at the supermarket as well.
The fish and eggplant went well with the Castello di Cesare and the Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay. After the fish appetizer, we moved on to the main course of Sweet and Sour Brisket and roasted root vegetables. I have described it a few times before, but put simply I braise a whole brisket and ONLY a whole brisket. I have no idea how anyone can braise any other version of a brisket, really. Without the top layer of fat to keep the meat moist, it would turn into shoe leather, which I have been forced to eat from time to time.
My World Famous Whole Brisket Recipe
10 white onions sliced thinly and browned in batches
1 10 or more pound whole brisket
1 can of whole berry cranberry
1 cup of ketchup
20 or more garlic cloves
1 bottle of a nice Cabernet or full bodied Merlot
So Anyway, place the browned onions in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Then take a whole brisket and rub it with garlic powder, black pepper, and tons of paprika on both sides. Next take the cloves and puncture the top of the meat (fat side up) and place a clove in each whole – make sure to NOT puncture the meat all the way through. Finally, place the meat fat side up into the roasting pan, and pour the cranberry and ketchup mixture on the meat and then pour the bottle over the mixture. The liquid should NOT cover more than half of the meat – if it does stop and add no more liquid of any kind. I need to stress this, as the meat exudes tons of liquid and the fat melts on top of that. Anymore and you will have a mess and worse a boiled chunk of meat, which is NOT what is meant by braising meat. Finally roast the meat for 4 or so hours. After it finishes cooking, let it cool over night and then slice it the next day and rebraise before serving for at least another two hours.
The roasted vegetables were pretty simple; toss whatever vegetables you want to roast in a deep pan with oil, garlic, paprika, and cumin. Roast until just puncture soft by a fork.
The wine notes follow below:
2001 Four Gates Merlot M.S.C. - Score: A
The color of this wine is a beautiful deep garnet. The nose on this wine has strong aromas of blackberry, dark plum, cranberry, eucalyptus, and oak. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and complex. The mouth is full with blackberry, plum, and raspberry and then layers in mint. The mid palate adds core acidity, eucalyptus and lovely integrated tannins. The finish is long and satisfying with black fruit, chocolate, and vanilla. A wonderful wine – it is at its peak if not a bit over the other side – drink up!!
2005 Kadesh Barnea Gilad (Undisclosed mixture of Merlot/Petit Verdot/Syrah) – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet-brown colored classic Cote’ de Rhone wine blend, is heavy in earth, cranberry, cassis, and oak. The mouth on this balanced medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry, cassis, and earth. The mid palate is jammy with red fruit, acidity, and nice oak. The finish is smooth, balanced, and long with red fruit and oak. The clear winner of the night, and just as good as when I tasted it in NY.
2002 Chateau Graveyron-Carrere Bordeaux – Score: B
The nose on this ruby/light garnet colored wine was the best part of this wine, with pencil shavings, blackberry, mineral, and oak. The mouth on this astringent medium bodied wine was unbalanced and really not there. The fruit was there, but overpowered by the mineral and musty French flavors. The mid palate had a nice acid core, but the finish was what threw the wine into a tizzy. It needed a ton of air, and even after all that, it was the least appreciated bottle of the night.
2007 Galil Mountain Winery Cabernet – Score: B
The nose on this dark ruby colored wine was also the best feature of this wine, it had lovely notes of blackberry, raspberry, and spice. The mouth on this medium bodies wine was also off and astringent. It may have been the bottle, or the fact that it was shipped to me recently. I will be taste wine again in the future and will repost. The fruit did show, but was overpowered by the acidity and astringency.
2007 Castello di Cesare Bianco Lazio Toscana – Score: B
The nose on this straw colored wine is super crisp with citrus, apple, peach, and lychee. The mouth on this light bodied wine is extra dry, with citrus and green flavors. The mouth is not as crisp and sharp as the nose is and is a letdown, almost flat. The mid palate is citrus with a nice but not so long finish. A bit brighter and fresher than what we tasted in NY.
2008 Tierra Salvaje Chardonnay Estate Bottled – Score: B+
This wine is controversial to say the least. Many people on the table hated it while I really liked it. This is not a democracy; it is more like a benevolent dictatorship. Still, it is important to tell readers that many hated this wine, and that it may not ring true with you. So on to the notes:
The nose on this brilliant golden colored wine with green halos is almost sweet with clear vegetal leanings, bright acidity, spice, green apples, pear, and lychee. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is not sweet at all; rather it is almost bone dry, which is funny given its sweet nose. The mouth is semi rich with green apples, flowers, and dry tea flavors. The mid palate is acidic and dry. The finish is medium long with more apples and nice acidity. This is not a big or complex wine, but a nice dry change of pace and a quite nice quaffing wine, especially given its dirt cheap price.
2007 Borgo Reale Chianti Classico Vespertino – Score: B+
I must start by stating that this wine needs air like Frankenstein needs a new marketing agent! It was the second worst bottle of the night, but I truly felt all it needed was air. Sure enough 24 HOURS later, it was really yummy and tasty. The wine had opened and now the ruby colored wine has a nose filled with cherry, raspberry, and cranberry, along with a nice dollop of chocolate. The mouth of this medium bodied wine follows the nose with more of the same fruit, in a soft mouth that you feel throughout. The mid palate is still bright with acidity, and the finish is long with more bright fruit and chocolate. A really nice showing, it just needs a TON of air or time.