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A Shabbat in Jerusalem with epic old world wines

As I have been posting so far, I enjoyed my last trip to Israel and Europe, and I am almost done with my Israeli winery posts. Last we left off, we had just had our second kosher wine tasting at DD’s house, and the first of the three wineries we visited on Friday – Domaine du Castel Winery. However before we get back to the other two wineries we visited on Friday, I wanted to post about the wines we enjoyed over the Shabbat that followed.

I will leave the story for another day, but I can say that Jerusalem was smoking hot Friday and Shabbat (chamsin-like), but thankfully dry. I spat throughout the tastings on Friday, where we went to Tzora Winery, Flam Winery, and the afore-posted Castel Winery. However, some of the group were less careful about spitting and combine that with the searing heat that did not cool till almost midnight – and that made for a viscous 1-2 punch that slowed some folks at the dinner table on Shabbat. However, come Shabbat day all were active and wine was flowing like bonkers. I brought over two wines, as I was asked to drink and forget Israeli wines, please, which is all I could have access to!

However, I was able to find the lovely 2016 La Vie Roubine rose and a total pass of a wine, the 2016 1848 White blend, flat and unimaginative, and the fantastic NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer, so I was 2 for 3, which is a very high batting average, but not a good wine present average. Though the NV Yaacov Oryah Old musketeer hopefully makes up for it.

Friday Night

The walk to dinner was preceded by a quick davening in a Sephardic shul that brought back memories of my youth when I spend Shabbosim in Jerusalem. Old and young mingling and davening with their own expressions and intonations, but all still together in spirit and fervor, a real joy. Of course, the other great part is that there was no schlepping of any sort! Gotta love praying in Jerusalem! There was a class by some Rabbi, but I remember none of it, I think that is clear enough.

As we made our way up to our host, the heat was receding a bit, but that is like saying it is easier to walk through torrential rain than a hail storm. It was tough, and it was straight uphill, a small fact that everyone felt free to not disclose to me ahead of time, very nice! To be fair I was not the one schlepping the 8 bottles of wine up that hill, those were strapped to the back of the “not so with us” participant, who courageously powered up the hill, weaving here and fro but upwards all the same! I had to stop once and when we arrived at our host’s home, I was literally blanched and unable to stand – the heat, the hike uphill, it took a toll on me and I must have drunk a gallon of water until I was human again.

Finally, we were ready for kiddush, at least most of us, and that was done on grape juice! Like what! Grape juice! Then I realized – this may be the home of a Frenchman, but it is also home to a few kids who drink grape juice first and then wine. The smallest of the three drinks wine just fine, but the other two enjoy tasting it. The house itself is quite lovely and the fact that it is still standing, notwithstanding the three young terrorists that live within its walls, is a testimony to the building skills of the masons and builders of Jerusalem!

I will skip the food as I was not really tracking what I was eating, not because it was not great, but more because I was greatly enamored by the wines in front of me and the need to sleep ASAP, it had been a long day at that point. Read the rest of this entry

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Assorted wines tasted these past few weeks

Well, I have finally caught up on my main wine themes throughout these past few weeks – but I also realized that I had missed a few wines here and there, and so I am creating a catch-all post to track these last few wines that have slipped through the cracks.

They are a hodgepodge of wines that I have tasted, but people were asking for the notes – so the easiest way to get them all up is to put them here in one post

The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

This is fun, a really lovely nose, with white pepper, hints of funk, with good sweet notes, mounds of crazy honeysuckle, honey, showing pineapple, mango, and nice grapefruit, and lemon sorbet. The mouth on this medium bodied is where things go slightly off course, this wine is not as dry as I had hoped, with good acidity, but too much sweet notes, with good balance, showing more of crazy floral jasmine notes, with blossom as well, giving way to sweet citrus, and tropical fruit. The finish is long and tart, crazy acid, with slate, rich sweet notes, and tart fruit. This is more of a very good dessert wine to me than a “dry wine”, but a fun one either way. Drink Now.

2014 Saporta Rioja – Score: B+ to A-
We also tried to taste the Saporta Crianza, but it was corked 😦
This is a lovely wine, with a nose of bright fruit, fresh and vibrant, with good notes of coffee, tar, earth galore, dark cherry, vanilla, and nice spices. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is well made, with good acid, very nice dried and almost candied fruit, with herbs galore, mint, rosemary, and sage, with nice earth, dried raspberry, and more cherry. The finish is long and acidic with a good core of mineral, spice, nutmeg, and tobacco. Nice! Drink by 2019.

2001 Herzog Syrah, Special Reserve – Score: A- (not mevushal)
Lovely wine, I am shocked it is still alive, with crazy white and black pepper, with lovely roasted meat, with mushroom, and truffles. The mouth is layered and quite alive, with good acid, still nice tannin, rich and still richly layered, impressive and attacking with great focus, with lovely juicy fruit, showing green notes of tobacco, menthol, and herb. The finish is long and green with crazy spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, with lovely herbal notes, and tar galore. Bravo!! Drink up!

2014 Hajdu Counoise, Eaglepoint Ranch – Score: B+
The nose starts off hot, with lovely pepper, warm spices, lots of sweet oak, sweet dill, with hickory notes, roasted meat, and black fruit abounds. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is deeply extracted with more of the sweet oak, lots of rich searing tannin, that gives way to blackberry, blueberry, hints of peach, and white fruit, followed by raspberry, and crazy heady spice. The finish on this lovely wine is spice first and tobacco second, with nice mineral, earth, leather, and rich black tea. Nice Drink by 2019

2010 Damien Gachot-Monot Bourgogne – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
I must admit I was expecting more old world notes to start from this wine, it starts off more Cali in style than Burgundy, but as it opens it literally transforms within 10 minutes to a classically old world wine, insane, with clear sweet notes of dill, herb, and dried cherry, to start, but with time that changes to rich loam, dirt, earth, with mounds of saline, mineral, and lovely sweet juicy raspberry, dried red fruit, and lovely spice. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is clearly sweet, and Cali in style to start, but with time, it opens to classical Burgundy, old-world notes of hints of sweet notes, but far more balanced, with mushroom, hints of barnyard, candied life saver, all wrapped in mouth drying tannin, that flows into smokey oak, charcoal, and lovely tilled earth. The finish is super long, richly balanced with impressive acid, with more smoke and mushroom lingering long, with almost hints of smoked meat, spiced plum, and candied fruit. A fun experience and a crazy good price! Drink by 2019

2014 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot, and 10% Syrah. The nose on this wine starts off fruitier and more accessible than previous vintages, showing a more new world in style. With more time that changes a bit and straddles the two worlds, with nice roasted meat, mounds of smoke, mineral, hints of mushroom, dirt, and tar, with sweet spices, and lovely blue fruit. The mouth on this lovely wine is still very controlled even with its new world leanings, but it is clearly fruitier than previous vintages, with mounds of blueberry, boysenberry, wrapped in searing and draping tannins, that give way to dark cherry, dried herb, menthol, and forest berry that are cocooned by sweet oak, and balanced by lovely acid and dirt. The finish is long and searing still with more tannin, but well balanced with green notes of tobacco, foliage, mushroom, and mounds of mineral, graphite, and black olives. A very fun wine indeed! Drink by 2020

2014 Shirah One-Two Punch – Score: A-
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah. The nose on this wine is lovely, with black and blue fruit, showing cherry, blueberry, and lovely earthy and spicy, cloves, all spice, really impressive and fun, with coffee and vanilla. Lovely medium body with great spice, with great acid and focus, showing nice blueberry and raspberry and spicy oak with coffee and candied currant. The finish is long and spicy, with mineral, and dill with smoke and candied fruit. Drink by 2020.

Vertical tasting of Elvi Wines Clos Mesorah, Invita, and more in Miami

eli-wines-2009-herenza-reserva-2010-herenza-reserva-2009-clos-mesorah-2010-clos-mesorah-2013-clos-mesorah-2014-clos-mesorah-2005-elvi-wines-el26-2008-elvi-wines-el26Over the past week, I have been posting on winery’s that I visited while in Israel and the new 2014 French wines, that I tasted in Paris. Well, the funny thing is that I did not need to leave the United States to taste all of the newest releases of Elvi Wines (or current releases if you live or visit Europe, yeah we are always last to get Elvi wines here in the USA), along with an epic vertical of the Clos Mesorah wines.

Elvi Wines

I have been a fan of Elvi Wines for a long time, ever since I posted my first in-depth article on their wines, in 2012. Dr. Moises Cohen, the owner and the head winemaker of Elvi Wines, continues to create masterpieces that grace my top 25 wines of the year, every year running.

A year after I wrote my article, I was honored to meet Moises’s entire family, first at the KFWE in NYC in 2013, and then two years after that, when my wife and I stayed at Clos Mesorah just two hours by train outside of Barcelona, Spain.

One of the biggest issues I think that has held back this lovely winery, has been the labels. I am really happy to see that they are being streamlined under six major labels, though more streamlining would be better still, and is coming soon, as you read on. The major issue is that Dr. Cohen makes a lot of wines from all around Spain. Starting in Rioja, where he makes his epic Herenza wines. Next we move on to Priorat, where he makes the lovely EL26 wines. Then on a 20 minute ride east to the Montsant region, which is really a sub-region of Priorat, where he makes his world-famous Clos Mesorah wines. Moving south to the center of Spain, you will come upon, the La Mancha wine regions, where the Adar red comes from, along with Invita, and the Vina Encina wines. Finally, there is the Cava region, where the lovely Cava is made.

With all these DOC, wine regions, the labels were hard to manage. You see, by law you could not have a single label, that included multiple wine regions, under the Spanish wine laws, until recently! So until now, even if you wanted to have three total labels, it would not be legally possible in Spain, and you cannot sell wines in the USA with illegal Spanish labels. Unless, you made all the wine labels, with the all-inclusive – table wine moniker! Which is a horrible and stupid idea, because the meaning, life, and reality of Elvi Wines and the ship as its logo, is that they are all sourced from different regions throughout Spain! EL26 does not taste like Clos Mesorah at all, and the vineyards are only a 15 minute drive away from each other. Sure, they have some different varietals in the blends, but the point of wine regions is the differing soil, climate, and environment that makes for vastly different wines.

This is still taking shape, but I look forward to the seeing what Elvi will turn out now that they can legally keep the distinct wine regions on the label, while merging the marketing angles down to fewer overall labels.

If you look at all of the wines that Elvi makes – they do fall into three overarching categories. There are the upper level wines, the middle ones, and the lower level labels.

The upper level wines, include the EL26, Adar red, Clos Mesorah, and Herenza Reserva. The El26 has been made in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. The Adar red has been made in 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. The Clos Mesorah has been made in 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2014. Finally, the Herenza Reserva has been made in 2009 and 2010. All of these are up to the current releases, there are more vintages not yet released. Read the rest of this entry

My top kosher 25 wines of 2016

wall of wineWell, I have posted my year in review, and now I wanted to get to my top wines for 2016. Please beware that I know I missed many wines and that this list does not include wines that I have tasted that are not available on the open market.

I wanted to make this post short and sweet – so the criteria are simple I could care less about price, color, or where it was made. All that matters is that it is/was available this year sometime to the public at large and that I tasted it in a reliable environment, not just at a tasting, and that it was scored an A- to A or higher. Also, there are a few lower scoring wines here because of their uniqueness or really good QPR. I also included some of the ebst wines I tasted this year – they are at the bottom.

On an aside, there continues to be a whole mess of madness around wines notes and scores, even the Jewish Week weighed in on the matter. So, let me explain this really simply – go look at some of my recent blog posts – they talk about some nice enough wines, but wines I would not specifically buy. They have all the nice words and such, which were all true and to the point. But without the final value score, I can tell you a Cabernet is full bodied with good fruit and spice – and you may say cool I want that – but then I would say well, yeah but it was not complex or layered. You could try to reason that out of the words I wrote, because the words complex and layered are missing. However, the simple fact that it was scored a B+ or whatever, would have told you that it is not always a wine worth going after (unless it is the Terrenal or such where it gets a QPR moniker).

My point being that wine notes – without a proper context (AKA a real score) – is like looking at a wedding hall through a slit in the window. Sure you can “see” the hall, but are you really sure you want to get married there? I never scored wines to tell people to listen to my score. I score wines to set the context and to always read the notes to see if that sort of wine works for you!

I posted this about my scores – and what they mean, so I hope these are useful to you. OK, enough of the darn score rant for the day, back to the matters at hand, being wines of the year. The list is long – get over it. It is a list of wines that I would buy, have bought, and will buy again – simple enough I hope. I hope you enjoy!

2014 Elvi Wines EL 26 – Score: A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Carignan, 35% Grenache, and 20% Syrah. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine is fruit forward with dark candied raspberry, blackberry, and spiced boysenberry, with root beer and earth, showing spice, anise, and cranberry. The mouth is beautiful and controlled, with great mouth coating tannin, sheer elegance, with great sweet and focused fruit, lovely extraction, showing ripe and tart strawberry, raspberry, and boysenberry all mixed together into a compote, with black fruit and earth. The finish is ridiculous, some of the best of the evening, with sweet fruit and ripe structure, yet balanced and focused, with coffee, leather, and sweet spices, nutmeg, and mineral galore, with scraping graphite, BRAVO!!

2014 Capcanes Peraj Habib – Score A- to A
This wine is a blend of 45% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Carignan. This wine is showing far more accessible than previous vintages. The 2014 vintage in Spain makes fro wines that are easily approachable now and yet has the power to last a long time. The nose on this wine shows nicely, with chocolate and oak, along with crazy red fruit, roasted animal, toast, graphite, and lovely smoke, with floral notes galore. What a lovely wine, full bodied with great extraction, ripping acid and great crazy tannin that gives way to blueberry, blackberry, lovely cherry, and insane fruit focus that is backed by intense graphite, and mineral, scraping mineral, with mouth drying tannin all coming together into a far more accessible wine than any year before. The wine is really young but accessible, with insane fruit and mineral all coming together. The finish is long and epic, with leather, and rich extraction lingering with coffee and sweet spices coming together beautifully. Bravo!

2013 Covenant Cabernet Sauvignon, Solomon lot 70 – Score: A- to A
Really lovely but pushed nose, with ripe black fruit, tar galore, with garrigue, earth, and rich blackberry. The mouth on this full bodied wine is rich and extracted, showing an impressive attack with rich focus of blueberry, intense gripping tannin, spicy oak, sweet dill galore, with massive almost tactile mouth showing black fruit focus, with impressive inky structure that gives way to black and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with green notes, foliage, good dirt, all wrapped with dark chocolate, leather, tobacco heaven, more green notes, and rich Asian spices.

2014 Elvi Clos Mesorah – Score: A- to A
This wines a blend of 50% Grenache, 35% Carignan from vines that are 105 years old, and 15% Syrah. Wow what a California Syrah nose, with intense root beer, watermelon, crazy how this smells like Shirah Syrah, with blueberry, and boysenberry, and spiced plum punch. The mouth on this full bodied wine wow, the mouth is full bodied, extracted, and crazy rich, with layers of extraction and concentrated fruit, showing searing tannin, ripping acid, that gives way to black and blue fruit, blackberry, plum, with crazy chocolate and coffee coming together to show mouth drying tannin, with earth, spice, cloves, black pepper, and spicy, with heady spice and blue fruit. The finish is long and spicy, with sweet spice and fruit that gives way to chocolate, roasted meat, and graphite. Really impressive wine bravo!

2010 ELvi Wines Rioja Reserva – Score: A- to A
Wow what a glass of umami, pure hedonism, bravo! The nose on this wine is pure joy, with root beer, blueberry, roasted meat, black pepper, mushroom, dirt, smoke, and toast. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is far more accessible than the 09, with sweet fruit, earth, dirt, sweet blue fruit, crazy candied and juicy blue fruit, that gives way to cherry, candied and spiced raspberry, with mouth coating and drying tannin, rich juicy and concentrated fruit, with insane focus and attack. The finish is long and juicy, with sweet fruit, nutmeg, sweet baking spices, milk chocolate, smoke, and crazy spices, anise and licorice. Bravo!

Read the rest of this entry

Elvi Wines – Winery Visit to see Moises and Anne Cohen in Montsant Spain

IMG_4840
It always starts the same way, a blank page, you can look at it as a blank slate/canvas, or you can look at it as yet another post that feels at time like you are bearing your soul and feelings for all to ponder. Still, when it comes to writing about stuff you love, the fear of a blank page turns into a flowing river of text, the hard part is cutting it down to something manageable!

When it comes to Elvi Winery – I can only let my fingers do the talking, much like Moises Cohen’s wines do for themselves. It was our first day in Barcelona, and it saw my wife and I making our way to Clos Mesorah, a lovely vineyard 2 hours out of Barcelona, by train. Of course, things do not always go as planned, Moises the epitome of a host sent us detailed instructions for how we are to get from BCN to his lovely home. Sadly, time and luck were not on our side, two times on our travels to the lush vineyards of Montsant, we ran into Murph. First the train from BCN to the main train station of Barcelona was just pulling out as we walked from the ticket handler, a minute faster and we were on that one. Well, then the next domino fell, the next train would get us to the train station after the first of two trains to Clos Mesorah was pulling out, of course! So, a minute delay cost us two plus hours, such is life when traveling in a country that is foreign and complex like Spain.

But I am digressing, if anyone has read this blog before, you will know my appreciation for all things Spanish, when it comes to wine. To me they are the best kept secret in the world of kosher wine. Sure, Royal Wines has jacked the prices up on Capcanes – ever since taking over the distribution in the US from Solomon Wines. The prices are almost double for the Peraj Habib and Flor du Flor, and they almost double the Clos Mesorah prices in the US, as well. Still, if you go for the lower priced wines, there is nothing close in terms of QPR, and that is what makes kosher Spanish wines so special.

The best part of Spanish wines is that over ripe and unbalanced flavors do not find their way into the kosher Spanish offerings. Do not get me wrong, they are new-world wines of course, but they are balanced and controlled, something I think Israel could emulate, if they wanted to move to the next level. Read the rest of this entry

When a meal with friends and family is so much more than food alone

2014-11-29 22.48.47A few weeks ago, for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we found ourselves in New York City with friends and family. We were there for the wedding of our nephew, and we stayed for Shabbos at the parent’s home of friends of ours. For the meals we ate Friday night at YC and EC, who rolled out a spread that was insane and beyond the imagination of myself and my family. For the following lunch and wedding – I will post separately.

Friday evening started by us taking an Uber, right before sundown to the home of YC and EC. As I am always wont to do, I came with a box of wine in arms, part for the hosts, part for me to taste at the hosts’ home – right before sundown, and part for other friends who wanted some very special wines, of which I will touch on in a bit.

As we entered the home, the aromas in the air were very specifically redolent with the smells of roasted animal, to be exact, roast rib. To attempt to relate the smell is beyond what I can describe on a virtual piece of paper, but I will of course give it a try! The aromas are seared into my mind, simply because I find those aromas heavenly when done correctly. The smell of searing meat, truly must tickle something in my frontal lobe, something prehistoric, something almost caveman, because when I smell it, the aroma makes me break out in smile for no other reason then just absolute joy. The smell that night was beyond cerebral, it was almost emotional, evoking deep seated feelings of joy and awe all wrapped in a cocoon of realization of what was soon to be served. All of this was happening, with the backdrop of an orange sky outside that I could not help but smile and feel so much thanks to our hosts for going so far out of their way to entertain us. After sipping on some 2011 Savia del Sol Rioja, one of the bottles I brought to taste, we made our way to synagogue for an hour or so, and then made our way back to our hosts’ home.

While we relaxed on their plush and comfortable couches, we watched our hosts play chef and sous chef, as they put the finishing touches on the dishes I will attempt to describe. Then we made our way to the beautifully set table, laden with plates and the requisite three glasses a person, to make the Friday night Kiddish. YC chose to share a bottle of 2011 Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon. I am very appreciative of this fact, because I am happy to say that the 2011 is clearly still ripe, and almost overripe, but a far better wine than Yarden has been creating for a few years now. Since 2008, I have found little from Yarden that I really like. Why? Well, it is clear they have made a conscious decision to make their wines a bit more ripe then they had in the past. That, coupled with overall horrible vintages for Northern Israel, Yarden has been creating wines that I have passed over for the past few years. The 2011 Cab is OK, and one that I could drink, but not one that I look forward to buying. I will try to get some 2011 Galil Yiron and see if that is also back, or is it still dead since 2009 as well. After Kiddish, we washed our hands, and were rewarded with some lovely sugar free bread that was one of those examples of perfect balance between freshly baked with a lovely crust outside, while being light and fluffy inside, while also being slightly dense and gooey as well – impressive and highly addictive! Read the rest of this entry

Elvi Wine Winery Tasting

Dr. Moises Cohen, owner and head wine maker of Elvi Wines, fell into his current love as part of his thesis defense of his other love – Agricultural Engineering, which he received from the Technion in Haifa. For the next 21 years Moises has used his degree and knowledge to build patented technology that allows vineyards to be remotely monitored on all aspects of the vine’s health and stress. Telemetry ranging from the vine’s overall health to how much water it has consumed and how much it still needs! It turns out that with some really cool technology a vine can tell you all the info you can ever imagine without damaging it in any way. The telemetry data allows the vineyard manager to control the water, fertilizer, and/or vineyard fans to cool or heat the vines.

Moises and his wife, Anne who holds a degree in History of Art and is a Sommelier, has been consulting with wineries, all around the world, to manage their vines and to make wines. In 2003, Moises started Elvi Wines, while continuing to being a wine consultant for wineries across Spain and South America. The duality of seasons between the northern and southern hemispheres allows Moises to help each in their own wine harvest and growing seasons.

Dr. Moises Cohen, the winemaker, is passionate about the terroir, and their winery’s name (Elvi) says it all; an abbreviation as Cohen explains it; EL (elokim or general rules or mother nature, just as you want, as you feel, as you believe) is always above VI (vino, wine). Wine is a mirror image of the vineyard and the wine maker. The more the wine maker manipulates the grapes and the wine, the more it feels and tastes fake. The more he/she lets the grapes and wine change and age naturally, the more the wine will be able to show its true terroir characteristics. All of the Elvi’s wines come from organically maintained vineyards! Further, the wines are brooding with earthy and mineral notes that show the terroir in ways that are quite enjoyable.

Read the rest of this entry

Kosher European Wines, Hagafen Wine, Kosher Meat Lasagna, White Bean and Kalamata Soup, Vegetable Kugel

This past weekend we had a bunch of friends over to the house and we were so happy to celebrate the good health and recovery of a dear friend of the family who honored us by coming on over for the meal. It is starting to feel a bit chilly around here, so we thought it would be great to try some lovely White Bean and Kalamta Olive Soup. The link to the recipe was the best I could find on the web. The one I use is from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook, which I have no right to place on my blog, please buy her book she is a genius!

The soup is simple to make, and I follow her recipe to the tee, short of adding in a wee bit more wine than her recipe calls for. Personally, that is the ultimate compliment, using someone’s exact recipe, with little or no change, because it is perfect as it is.

We then cooked up meat lasagna. I have modified the lasagna many times, as I am constantly looking for the perfect lasagna that is not too dry or too runny. I think I have finally done that! This past week the lasagna was killer, very tasty, and it was solid without being the least bit dry. The recipe is a change from another cookbook I use, but I have modified this one to not worry about sharing it. Also, I wrote a lot about the process, so the recipe looks long, but I am just adding in my years of struggle with these recipes to make sure you do not. Overall a pretty easy recipe:

Meat Lasagna Recipe: (Makes two pans of lasagna)
2 Tbsp. Oil
2 chopped onions
5 garlic cloves smashed (or just use the frozen garlic)
2 lb. of ground meat
1 sliced green pepper
1 sliced orange or yellow pepper
3 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce
12 oz. of red wine (more acid and tannin the better)
4 to 5 Tbsp. parsley
2 tsp. sugar
3 tsp. of basil
salt and pepper to taste

16 oz. (18 pieces) of dry lasagna noodle (normal pasta that needs to be cooked)
1 LARGE eggplant sliced 1/2 inch thick

In a large Dutch oven or tall walled pan, heat up the oil until shimmering and then throw in the chopped onions and cook them till they are close to being browned. Then throw in the crushed garlic and as soon as it starts to smell garlicky, throw in the ground meat. Be careful never to burn the garlic, as that is nasty! Move around the meat and make sure it nice and browned. Now throw in the sliced peppers and lets cook until tender. Then throw in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, red wine, herbs, salt and pepper. Now mix the pot around a fair amount until the wine color disappears and the tomato color is bright. Keep cooking the sauce until it reduces by 20% or until the sauce looks nice and thick. This step is VERY important, so do not skimp on this, it takes time but you will be generously rewarded.

At this point, bring a very large pot of water to boil and then place the lasagna noodles and cook them 1 to 2 minutes before al dente. We do this because we want them to finish in the oven. NEVER TRY the already cooked or NOT cooked pasta – it does not work. Cook the pasta and you will get the lovely texture that is not available any other way. Once cooked, pour out all the water, and put in some cold water in the pot to keep the pasta from drying up. Read the rest of this entry

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca and a nice bottle of Savia del Sol Rioja Crianza

This past week we were looking for some down home cooking and relaxing recipe, which brought us to our modified version of Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. I have nothing against the original version, but as I have stated in the past, I love to cook once a week and enjoy leftovers. So we cook a bunch of the Puttanesca before the weekend and enjoy it throughout the week. Also, I want to be able to eat a bunch of it and not feel guilty. So instead of pounding the spaghetti, I eat the sauce, which is filled with good stuff. I add in just one ingredient to the recipe, two pounds of ground soy “meat”. It tastes great, is good for you, and not nearly as caloric as the spaghetti.

We looked for a good wine to pair with the red tomato, anchovy, and olive sauce, and came upon a new wine on the market, the 2007 Savia del Sol Rioja Crianza. Rioja is a region in Spain and is a wine made totally from Tempranillo grapes. The Crianza is a wine that is aged two years, with one of those in oak, the other being in the bottle. This is one of those wines that we have had in the past that start off showing red wine characteristics. Overtime, the wine turns more black on the nose and the palate. The wine was fun to start off with, but became even more fun as the wine became richer and more intensified. This was a real fun wine to drink and one that I was able to enjoy slowly, allowing me to watch it progress through its life cycle in the glass and bottle, once it had more air.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Savia del Sol Rioja Crianza (Spain, Navarra) – Score: B++
This is a fun wine that starts off displaying red wine characteristics and over time shifts into a black wine. To start the wine shows its red side. The nose on this purple colored starts off with spicy oak, plum, raspberry, crushed herbs, loamy dirt and vanilla. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is full in the mouth with plum, raspberry, oak, and nice tannins. The mid palate is balanced with nice acid, oak, spice, and nice tannin. The finish is long with raspberry, plum, spicy oak, vanilla, nice tannin, and a drop of chocolate.
After many hours the wine turns black as the night with a nose of ripe blackberry, raspberry, dark rich plum, herbs, chocolate, tobacco, along with nice cedar notes and a hint of vanilla. The nose is enveloping and some of the lovely characteristics are hidden. The mouth is full, concentrated, and coating with nice and well integrated tannin, smoky notes, ripe blackberry, plum, and raspberry. The mouth is almost explosive with the attack of cedar, nice tannin, along with bright and ripe black fruit. The mid palate is balanced with acid, cedar, more smokiness, chocolate, and herbs. The finish is super long with ripe blackberry and plum that linger long on the palate along with chocolate, tobacco, licorice, and mounds of vanilla.

Ramon Cardova Rioja and Roasted Chicken

We had a quiet weekend planned, so I roasted a small chicken by simply placing a rub of; garlic, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, and cumin over the chicken and let it rest over night.  The next morning, I sliced onions and red potatoes and placed them under the whole chicken and we roasted it for 1 and a half hours.  My wife did her, always appreciated, red pepper flake roasted chicken.  The chicken(s) were quite lovely later that evening, and the potatoes and onions went along with them quite nicely, to boot.

To match up with the roasted chicken, I took out a Rioja to match the rub on the chicken.

The wine notes follow below:

Ramon Cardova Rioja 2004 – Score: B+
The nose on this bright-colored ruby red wine is filled with cranberry, cloves, coffee. The mouth of this medium bodied wine is soft and starts with fresh raspberry and cherry. The middle is spicy, with integrated tannins. The finish is long with leather, coffee, and vanilla accompaniment.

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