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Dinner at The Kitchen Table, Goosebay Sauvignon Blanc, and Hagafen White Riseling

A few days ago my friends and I returned to The Kitchen Table for some good food, wine, and camaraderie. The last time we were there, after Chef Long had left the establishment I was not in love with the wine list or the food. My wife and I had some poor experiences, and I was worried that this would be another poor repeat performances. Thankfully, the food was wonderful and so was the wine.

I must say that the wine list, even now, at the TKT is still lacking in two main areas, Sparkling and red. The sparkling wines are truly undrinkable, with the Herzog Brut and the Bartenura Prosseco both being non starters. I understand the issue here, balancing the price to the product. However, there are many lovely mevushal options, including Hagafen Brut and the new Drappier Champagne! Both are far better candidates than the ones on the list. In the red selection, there are so many better options than what is available. The newly minted and available Shiloh wines are lovely, including the Barbera and the Legend. There are tons of beautiful mevushal wines from Allied and Happy Hearts, two kosher wine importers that are not Royal Wines.

I know, be happy with what we have, and so I attempted to make the best of it. I had no interest in ordering or drinking any of the red or bubbly options, so we went with some lovely white wines. I had recently tasted the 2010 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc, at the Herzog International Food and Wine Festival and it was awesome again! Bright and acidic, yet bursting with ripe fruit – quite lovely! I also, had the opportunity to taste the wines from Ernie Weir’s Hagafen Winery in Napa Valley, and I tasted the 2010 Hagafen Lake County White Riesling Devoto Vineyard – it was awesome! White Riesling is making a big push now in the kosher market. It is sweet, another big theme in the world of wine in general, yet it is sophisticated enough to meet the other growing theme – kosher wine drinkers in search of good wine. Read the rest of this entry

2012 Herzog International Wine Festival – part two of wine notes

As stated in the previous posting on this lovely event, there were many wines to taste and there was no way I could post all the wine notes in a single posting. Here is my follow-up posting on the wines tasted at the event, including the wines that I loved and did not love.

The wine notes are listed in the order that I tasted them:

2010 Domaine Netofa – White – Score: B++
The nose on this light gold colored wine shows clean and lovely nose of green apple, peach, grapefruit, kiwi, light quince, and rich/nice loamy dirt and mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich and balanced with nice minerality, along with nice bright fruit that mingles well in the mouth. The finish is long and spicy with nice quince, tart green apple, grapefruit, and green tea.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve, Unoaked – Score: B
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, the wine was flat without much to grab your attention. The nose on this straw colored wine has apple, lemon, nice mineral, bright acid, and melon. The mouth is somewhat plush and the finish has citrus to round out the wine.

2010 Binyamina Chardonnay, Reserve – Score: B+
This wine did not show nearly as well as its 2009 sibling, though not as bad as its unoaked twin. The nose on this dark straw colored wine has light oak, brioche, lemon, nice spice, light creme, and honey. The mouth is round with spice, summer fruit, and oak influence.

2011 Tulip White Tulip – Score: B++
This wine is a blend of 70% Gewurztraminer and 30% Sauvignon Blanc with the sweet and floral notes of the Gewurztraminer showing nicely with honey and guava, while the green apple and bright lemon notes from the Sauvignon Blanc blend together in a unique manner. The nose on this straw colored wine hits you with mineral, light honey, bright lemon, green apple, and guava. The mouth is nice and honeyed with light petrol, and citrus. The finish is long with both sweet lemon creme and bright lemon at the same time, along with fig, and tart notes. This is a great wine that would go well with fish or sushi.

Read the rest of this entry

2012 Herzog International Wine Festival – a feast for all the senses under the big top!

This past week I was under a big top enjoying kosher wines from around the world and Chef Aaron Todd’s sumptuous splendors were available for all to enjoy. The event was the 2012 Herzog International Food and Wine Festival (IFWF) that was being held at the stately Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City. Last year’s event was held at the state-of-the-art Herzog Winery, in Oxnard CA. The intimate lighting and setting was lovely last year, but the combination of the Royal’s larger wine portfolio, the wonderful food, and the growing crowds made it feel like the event was getting too big for its britches. So, with much dismay we waited to hear where the event was going to move to. When the word came out that the event was going to be held at the legendary Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City – the event became the must attend hot ticket event for everyone who enjoys food and wine in the LA area – which is about all Los Angelenos.

Now before anyone thinks the event was held in the stately Los Angeles Ballroom – it was not. Actually, it was held in the lovely Plaza Pavilion, whose name does not even begin to give the unique 9,000+ square foot space its due. The event was moved from the somewhat cramped, yet intimate, setting of the winery to a beautiful tent that is a permanent fixture in the hotel and the social calendar of many a LA party hopper. Actually it is with good reason, if I may say so, as the room is a long rectangle with sufficient yet dim-able lighting and enough space to host the many food and wine stands that the 500 or so attendees partook of. Never during the evening did I feel cramped or claustrophobic like I did last year. Further, while the smell of charring wood and meat is a huge turn-on (for me), it totally messes with my olfactory abilities, which when attending a wine tasting (not drinking) event – really bites! There were copious examples of carnivore delights, which were all prepared on site, but the smells did not permeate the walls of the pavilion. The larger space allowed for more vertical sitting spaces with round tables, in case you were not heads down like I was tasting wines. Also, the ability to stroll out of the pavilion and sit in the reception area, a few feet away, made for a far more roomy feeling event. Finally, the pavilion’s lovely champagne, antique gold and chocolate-brown colors, along with the chandeliers and wall-to-wall carpeting made for an evening of sheer elegance and grandeur. Just an aside, while the surroundings were indeed attention grabbing, the guests who attended the event were equally well draped. Some came with tails and a top hat, others dressed to kill in evening ware gowns and suits. I of course, jeans and long sleeve shirt, however, the majority of the crowd were clearly channeling the elegance of the evening.

The confluence of events that just happened to fall on Wednesday, February 15th, made it feel like the odds were stacked against a successful foray out of Herzog’s home base. First it rained – I mean pouring rain! If any of you saw L.A. Story, I hope you can appreciate how rare that is – even in the so-called winter! Further, POTUS decided to do not one, but TWO drive-bys, bringing traffic to a standstill while people craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the most powerful man in the free world. Still, blessedly, nor rain nor sleet nor traffic (the latter a very common malady that Los Angelenos are used to) can keep good citizens of LA from enjoying some seriously good wine and food. The event to me was a major success for many reasons, but the main reason was the fact that sure the event was attended by Jews interested in seeing what wines to buy for the upcoming Purim and Passover. However, there was a large contingency of party goers who attended the evening festivities to enjoy good food and wine – irreverent to their religious and dietary beliefs (which trust me in LA is saying a LOT)! The opportunity to show the L.A. glitterati that the word kosher does not relegate one to an automatic 15 minute timeout, is serious step forward for the kosher industry. Read the rest of this entry

Second days of Passover meals and wines…

To celebrate the end of Passover, we had friends join us for two of the four meals on the last days. We spent the entire Sunday cooking, and while it was crazy work, it was a ton of fun. We had a TON of help from our friends who were spending Passover with us, so MANY thanks to them!!

Sunday Night Menu:
Herb Encrusted Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf
Eggplant salad
Passover Meatballs
Fresh Salad

Wine Menu:
Leftovers of Elvi Ness Blanco and Yarden Pinot Noir from Saturday

Monday Day Menu:
Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf
Eggplant salad
Stuffed Vegetables
Fresh Salad

Wine Menu:

2003 Carmel Shiraz, Single Vineyard, Kayoumi – (Israel, Galilee, Upper Galilee) – Score: A-
As one peers into the inky black colored depths of this wine with purple halos you are immediately met with waves of tobacco, tar, licorice, black pepper, oak, espresso coffee, roasted meat, blackberry, cassis, plum, and herb. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich, lovely, and concentrated with blackberry, cassis, roasted meat, plum, lovely integrated tannin, and herb. The mid palate flows off the mouth with balanced acid, oak, lovely tannin, tobacco, and tar. The finish is super long with nice tannin, oak, black fruit, black pepper, dirt, herb, and licorice.

2003 Four Gates Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: A- to A
This wine continues to impress and is keeping strong to my previous notes. The first thing that hits you when you open this bottle of wine and peer into its purple-black stare is the ripe blueberry notes that come screaming out at you, along with blackberry, cassis, plum, tobacco, chocolate, tar, and rick oak. The mouth on this full bodied, mouth filling, concentrated, and inky structured wine comes at you in layers with fruit that follows the nose, ripe blackberry, plum, cherry, blueberry, inky black tar, and oak. The mid palate is balanced with acid, oak, tobacco, and chocolate. The finish is super long, black, and spicy, with rich oak, chocolate, tobacco, tar, and blackberry. This is a truly wonderful wine that is highly structured with lovely tannins and a wine that still has a few years left under its belt. The nose is killer with the lovely ripe blueberry and blackberry, along with the oak, tar, and chocolate. It follows through with the mouth till its tantalizing finish. Quite a powerful wine that still has its sea legs beneath it and one that has a bright horizon ahead of it.

Read the rest of this entry

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken, Basmati Rice, Mevushal Wine, and Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc

This past weekend we were laying low, so we went for our old and simple but highly enjoyable standby; my wife’s patented Lemon Rosemary Pepper Flake Roasted Chicken. We paired the chicken with some lovely brown Basmati Rice, and some fresh green salad. To pair with the chicken and rice I opened a bottle of 2007 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc.

The chicken was great, the rice was cooked well, and the salad was, as always, very enjoyable, but the wine was basically alive for 10 minutes. It was very much like the bottle of 2007 Ben Ami Chardonnay, that died very quickly, right after opening. This is very much in line with the thread on Rogov’s forum on the subject of mevushal wines. The cooking/boiling/Pasteurization process that many wineries do to some of their wines, causes red wines to taste cooked or stewed after 6 months to a year, while white wines just go belly up much faster than they should. The clear exceptions to this very unfortunate “rule” are the Herzog and Hagafen wineries, which besides making good quality wines; also boil/pasteurize their juice as early as possible. We spoke about the mevushal process before in a previous posting about the Hagafen winery, which we visited this time last year. Hagafen does a wonderful job of creating wines that are mevushal and very good as well. Goose Bay is a winery that makes fine kosher wines as well, but they do not do the mevushal process well. They are distributed and imported by Royal Wines, but they do not use the same mevushal process that is clear. While I like the Goose Bay wines, this one lasted too long in my cellar.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B- to B
This wine is past its peak. Like many mevushal white wines, this one tastes dead. The nose on this light gold colored wine initially shows lovely notes of grapefruit, lychee, green apple, melon, and petrol, and honey. However, soon the lovely notes make like a leaf and fall away, leaving more core notes of oak, green apple, and lemon peel. The mouth and finish follow the nose, and this medium bodied wine is no fun – no more. Drink up or use as cooking wine.

Viognier, Chardonnay, Kosher Korbel, Black Bean Soup, Lemon Rosemary Chicken, and Portabella Risotto

This past week we spent time with friends and family and it was a lovely time for all. Family came in from out of town and we were excited to see them and spend time with them. We started the meal with Brazilian Black Bean Soup. We have made this soup a few times already and the recipe is from the classic Mollie Katzen Moosewood Cookbook. The soup hit the spot given the colder temperature that has hit our area. The Viognier was nice with Kiddush, but it is over my friends – drink up or cook with it. My hope is that the 2008 or 2009 Goose Bay Viognier is coming out soon. The Goose Bay Viognier was lovely for some time with a classic perfumed and flowered nose, but those days are well past and please heed my advice – drink up or dump it. Once the wine was gone, we moved on to another bottle – which may well have been the biggest surprise of the evening!

Benyamin came by again this week and he brought a bottle of wine that I thought was going to be a total waste of time, but was more than happy to try out of sheer curiosity. In the end, it turned out to be my favorite wine of the evening. It was not the highest scoring wine, but it was the most enjoyable wine because it shocked me so and was downright tasty still after all of these years! The wine I am talking about is the N.A. Kosher Korbel Brut Champagne from 1997! This puppy is more than 13 years old! This wine sold for 13 dollars at the time. The wine was all the rage in 1995 and the re-released with a different vintage in 1997. The wine was never released again after that, which was a shame, but for those two years the wine was great. I do not remember it very well from back then, but from what I remember, I was not a huge fan. That all changed last night! The bubbles were lovely and soft, the mousse was almost foamy with a continuous attack of effervescence that did not let up all night. The bottle disappeared quickly, but even the bit that we left to the side was wonderful throughout the meal.

Following the sparkling wine and the soup, we moved on to the main course of Portabella Mushroom and Sweet Potato Risotto, Lemon Rosemary Pepper Flake Roasted Chicken Recipe, Cold Roasted Green Bean Salad, and Fresh Green Salad. To match these dishes, I pulled out an interesting pair of Yarden Chardonnay. Both of the wines hail from the 2007 vintage, a 2007 Yarden Chardonnay, and the 2007 Yarden Odem Vineyard Chardonnay. The wines were way too young and are not ready to drink – either of them. The wines were tight and not open, almost DOA out of the bottle. After a few hours, long after the meal was over, the wines were open and nice, but I do not think that even they are hitting their stride. These wines are way too young, maybe asleep, and need another year before they will show their best stuff. Right now my money would be on a Four Gates Chardonnay, if you are looking for a full bodied, fruity, and luscious California Chardonnay. We have tasted them in the past few months, both the 2004 and 2005, and they are both stunning. That said, in a year or a bit longer the two 2007 Yarden Chardonnay wines will be ready to party and show their white stripes.

For dessert our friend brought us another masterpiece, Kahlua Chocolate Cake! The cake all but about disappeared, and that was because we pulled it from the table before that could occur. Our many thanks to our friends and family who joined us for the meal and who were very kind to share their wonderful cake and wine with us.

The wine notes are listed below in the order they were served:

2007 Goose Bay Viognier (New Zealand, North Island, East Coast) – Score: B
This wine is on its way out 😦 The perfume is now gone. The nose on this light gold colored wine has grapefruit, lemon, slight floral notes, cut grass, smoky and tasty oak, honey, and citrus. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has lost its original oily and perfumed charm, now it has only a citrus body, with peach and pear along for the ride. The mid palate is bracing with acid, toasty oak, and lemon. The finish is long with more acid, caramel, straw, toasty oak, and lemon/grapefruit. It is a shame as this was once one of my favorites. I hope there is a new vintage coming out soon.

N.V. Korbel Brut California Champagne (USA, California) – Score: B++
This wine is from 1997! Are you kidding me! It was the second and final kosher run of the winery. The nose on this straw colored wine was filled with a yeast and mushroom nose, toast, herbs, asparagus, and lemon. The mouse on this medium bodied wine was filled out by the small bubbles of the lovely and still very alive mousse, toast, yeast, mushroom, and lemon. The mid palate was bracing with core acidity, and toast. The finish was nice along with more nice small bubbles, toast, mushroom, and lemon. It was a lovely wine that was drunk quickly and one that paired well with our hearty black bean soup. Really a shock that this 13 dollar wine survived this long and was more than acceptable! Kudos to Benyamin Cantz for keeping it so long and in such good quality, and for sure to Korbel for making a reasonably priced kosher wine that could live this long and taste maybe even better than I remember it tasting originally!

2007 Yarden Chardonnay (Israel, Galilee, Golan Heights) – Score: A–
This wine was closed and tight to start, it took it a good hour or two to come out of its shell. This wine is still not ready to enjoy at its fullest without a fair amount of up front effort. The nose on this lemon colored wine has butterscotch, butter, lemon, toasty oak, mint, pear, peach, and apple. The mouth on this full bodied wine has toasty oak, pear, peach, lemon, apricot, and apple. The mid palate is heavy with acid, toasty oak, butterscotch, and a touch of mint. The finish is long with more oak, butter, butterscotch, bright citrus, lemon, and toasty oak. The toasty oak, butterscotch, and lemon linger on the palate.

2007 Yarden Odem Organic Vineyard Chardonnay – Score: A– to A-
This wine takes a very long time to open up – clearly not it’s time to be drunk yet. Once it opens, the nose on this gold colored wine is filled with toasty oak, honey, ripe fig, caramel, butter, spice, rose notes, apple, grapefruit, and lemon. The mouth of this full bodied wine is mouth filling with ripe fig, apple, grapefruit, lemon, cloves, and toast. The mid palate is balanced with bight acidity, caramel, butter, and spice. The finish is long with more toast, oak, ripe figs, right citrus, and butter. This is a lovely wine, but not yet ready to show its best stuff. Leave this one alone for a year and come back.

Shiitake Mushroom & Sweet Potato Risotto along with Goose Bay Viognier

This past week we were looking for an easy and slow weekend, so we opted to stay home and cook a lovely risotto. We have made risotto many times before, but this one was the best by far.  The main difference this time was that we fried the shiitake mushrooms separately in a large pan, and we browned the sweet potatoes and onions in another pan, and then before the last round of water, we put the fried shiitake mushrooms and pan fried sweet potatoes into the risotto mixture. Initially it looked like there were too many mushrooms, but when we warmed it up the next day the smokiness of the fried mushrooms permeated the flavor and they shrunk a bit more in the pot, making for a lovely looking and tasting dish.

The shiitake mushrooms stayed dark brown while also keeping their texture and structure. The sweet potatoes were cubed a bit large, so they too remained whole but soft when reheating for the Friday Night Shabbos meal. As usual, do not complete the risotto the night before, instead leave that for Friday. Friday before sunset add in a cup or a cup and a half of rice milk and mix the dish up well. Then throw it cold in a 225 degree oven for an hour+ and it should come out warm and delicious.

Shiitake Mushroom & Sweet Potato Risotto Recipe
Three sliced onions
1tbl of Canola Oil for every round of browning
2lb of shiitake mushrooms – sliced
Sea Salt on each batch of onions, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes – to help with browning
2 yellow sweet potato
4 or more cups of broth brought to boil and then kept warm on the stove in a small sauce pan
1 to 2 tbl of olive oil
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of dry white wine
1 to 2 cups of rice milk – USE only before shabbos

Dice half the onions (1 and a half onion), slice the mushrooms and place in separate containers. Also dice the other half of the onions, and cube the sweet potatoes, and place in containers. Now in one pan heat up 1 tablespoon of Canola oil and sauté the onions until golden brown. Then add the mushrooms in a single layer at a time, and sprinkle them with sea salt. Make sure to not overcrowd the pan, so that you brown the mushrooms instead of steam them. After the mushrooms get nice and browned and slightly crispy pull them out.  Add another tablespoon of Canola oil (making sure to not have the oil splatter as the pan is VERY hot at this point), and brown the next batch of mushrooms. Once all the mushrooms are done, remove them, and add in oil once more and then start on the sweet potatoes. You want them to get a bit browned, but more important than caramelization, is that they start to smell sweet as they give off their starch and break down the sugars. Remove them from the pan once they start to get very soft.

Then in a small sauce pan bring the 4 cups of broth to a boil and then keep them on the fire on a low simmer, for use in a few minutes. Now, in a large Dutch oven or Pot add a tablespoon or two of Olive oil and heat it up. Then add in the other diced onion(s) and sauté them until soft. Once browned, throw in the spices and herbs and the two cups of rice. Make sure the coat the rice with oil and once they start to dry and stick to the pot, throw in a cup of dry white wine. Once that is gone, put in a cup of water at a time, from the sauce pan, until it too is soaked up by the rice. Once the rice has soaked up three cups of water and the wine, throw in the mushrooms and sweet potato. Mix them all around until they are correctly integrated with the rice, and then throw in the last cup of water.

At this point the dish is complete and let cool over night. On Friday afternoon, remove the pot from the refrigerator and let the pot come to room temperature. Next, add in the 1 to 2 cups of rice milk, depending on how the mixture is setting up and place in an oven at 225 degrees. One to two hours later the risotto is ready.

When I smelled the risotto and the lovely smoky mushroom smell oozing out of it on Thursday night, I knew I needed a white wine with an equally powerful perfume and aroma. I went into the cellar and brought out a bottle of 2007 Goose Bay Viognier. I have spoken often about Viognier and about this particular bottle before. It has a lovely perfumed nose, but only after two hours of air time. Well folks, I have bad news, that nose is gone and so is the wine – mostly. It is still alive, but the nose and the lovely floral aspects are all but gone, which is a real shame. I only have one more bottle, so it is not too bad for me. Drink this up if you have more.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Goose Bay Viognier – Score: B to B+
This wine is on its way out 😦 The perfume nose lasts for only a brief moment, and even then it is not overpowering as it has in the past. The nose on this light gold colored wine has peach, mint, lychee, grapefruit, rich and spicy oak, slight perfume, and citrus. The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off being oily and perfumed with peach, grapefruit, and lychee, but that quickly dissipates. The mid palate is bracing with acid and oak, and slightly out of balance. The finish is long with more acid, rich and spicy oak, and lemon tartness. As the wine airs, it loses much of its fruit and becomes a bit more balanced but also more like a single trick pony that is not so awesome. The mouth turns to quince, grapefruit, and jasmine. The mouth softens with less bracing acidity, but it too is short lived. Soon the wine becomes and oak bomb with lemon and slight notes of grapefruit. Drink up!

Lentil Rice Pilaf, Lemon & Pepper Roasted Chicken, Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc

The last time I was in Israel (for my Nephew’s wedding), I picked up some oily pilaf mix for rice from a spice dealer at the shuk.  You can make it yourself, it is really simple.  It is a combination 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.  Either way, we threw a cup of it into two cups of brown basmati rice, and it was ok, but it needed more of the mix, as the rice overpowered the minute amount of the pilaf mix.  My wife made her famous lemon hot pepper chicken, and we had a nice relaxing shabbos.

To match the brown rice and lentil/onion pilaf, chicken, and fresh green salad, I opened a bottle of the Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc.  I must say that I never really get tired of Goose Bay wines.  They are a bit more expensive than when they came out, but they still keep a fine QPR (Quality to Price Ratio), and the ripe, floral, and perfumed nose and flavors of their wines, make them unique and wonderful to just enjoy.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Score: B++
The nose on this light straw colored wine was hopping with ripe gooseberry, light petrol, lemon, green apple, lychee, melon, oak, and lemon/orange peel. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is rich with tart apple, lemon, gooseberry, and lychee. The mid palate is bright with bracing acid, light oak, and citrus peel. The finish is super long and tart, with lemon, gooseberry, and citrus peel lingering long on the palate after the wine is gone.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Mushroom Risotto, leftover Braised Flanken, and some Goose Bay Chardonnay

OK, I can already hear you all wondering out loud, has he really lost it?  Yes, we had leftover alcohol and brown sugar braised flanken with some Chardonnay.  To be fair, there was only a bit of the flanken left over, and it was not the main player on the table.  The clear star of the evening was the killer risotto.  Once again, Italy’s creme rice dish, showed its muscle and nutty flavors.  We love Risotto, and have no problem enjoying it for days or weeks on end.  So, when given the chance to make some, I jumped at it, and it came out wonderfully.  We started by peeling, cubing, and then roasting the sweet potato in the oven at 400 degrees.  In the mean time, I whipped together the usual risotto recipe, where we start with two or three onions diced and then sautéed in olive oil until they are perfectly caramelized.  In the mean time, we started another pot with onion soup mix and water and brought it to a boil.  Once the onions were caramelized, we threw in four garlic cloves and then some basil to boot.  Once the garlic and herb coated the onions, we threw in two cups of Arborio rice, and made sure they were coated with the oil and herbs s well.  Then starts the dance of hydration to dry to hydration to dry and – well you get the point.  You first hydrate the pot with a cup of white acidic wine, and then let it get absorbed into Arborio rice and then continue hydrating the pot, a cup at a time, from the boiling liquid you have alongside it.  In our case, it was the fore mentioned onion soup mixture.  We kept hydrating the pot, until the half way point, when we threw in the thickly sliced mushrooms.  They quickly started to release their liquid, and slowly started to shrink.  After a couple of minutes, we resumed the hydration dance, until the risotto was 90% of the way there.  At that point I threw in just enough liquid to get close but not complete the mixture.  In other words just a cup or so less than what is needed to force the Arborio rice to release its starch.  I did this because; I had another warming ahead of me on Friday night.

Risotto Recipe:
3 onions diced
16 oz of sliced mushrooms
2 large sweet potatoes cubed – roasted in the oven
4 or 5 garlic cloves
2 cups of Arborio rice
1 cup of white wine
5 cups of chicken/vegetable stock
2 cups of Rice Dream before reheating

Friday night, right before the Sabbath, I threw in the roasted sweet potato chunks, along with two cups of rice dream, and mixed it to the best of my ability, right before I left for synagogue.  When I came back and took the dish out of the oven, it had come together perfectly.  The starches had released themselves in a balanced manner, and they did not overrun the dish in any way.  Instead, the risotto was integrated with its companions in a singular, creamy, and homogeneous manner.  The sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the earthiness of the mushrooms, combined well with the Arborio rice, wine, and flavorings to add a dimension of nuttiness to the mix.

So back to the wine, yes I had a Chardonnay and I loved it.  The Goose Bay Chardonnay was fine and did not need to be rushed or consumed quickly, but I did anyway.  In the end, I could had drunk a red wine with the risotto and meat, but instead I enjoyed a wonderful wine, that was buttery and fruity and had just enough oak to make it easily stand up to the risotto, and not be conflicted by the flanken.  The wine note follows:

2006 Goose Bay Chardonnay – Score: B+ / A-
The nose on this light gold to gold colored wine is rich and not your common run of the mill Chardonnay.  The nose is almost perfumed Viognier style from the extra rich and ripe fruit.  The nose continues with rich ripe peach, honey, lemon, sweet oak, ripe guava, alongside some almond or toast.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine carries the rich and perfumed nose with rich ripe peach, guava, and honey.  The mid palate is balanced with still bracing acidity that almost is a bit tart, but that calms down over time, along with oak, and toast.  The finish is almost mouth coating and lingers long on the palate with tart and bright fruit, rich butter, sweet oak, honey, and a fair amount of vanilla.  This is a wine that is not at the end of the road, but is highly enjoyable right now, except for the tartness that fades with air.

Hanukkah Cheese and Wine party with Zinfandel, Viognier, and Bordeaux

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.

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