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Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Chicken Soup, and Tajine

This past week saw us lying low at home with the weather being cold and wet, and downright unpleasant. To start we cooked a lovely chicken soup, with nice winter vegetables, along with most of a chicken, the recipe can be found here. After that, it was on to a non-meat Moroccan Merguez Tajine, using Tofurkey and Trader Joe’s sausage. That was paired with nice Brown Basmati rice and a fresh green salad. You cannot go wrong with Chicken Soup on a cold winter night, but the Tajine also hit the spot quite nicely.

To pair with the diverse dishes, I went into the cellar for a bottle of 2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot. The bottle is OK, but the real interesting aspect is the fruit that I was having a problem recognizing. It is a fruit that I have found often in French Bordeaux, at least the ones I have tasted, a Black Currant. I have tasted this fruit in wine before, but I could never really lock down what it was. I double checked Daniel Rogov’s book and sure enough it was Black Currant, at least according to his last tasting. So, once again, you learn new things every day! The Yogev blend is a classic Bordeaux blend, and the wine also shows notes of tobacco and some nice earthy elements, all of which would have made me think this was a French wine, if not for the fact that I knew it was not.

Either way, it started off nice, but over time the Black Currant became too dominant and tilted the wine off balance a bit. Still, it is a lush and medium to full bodied wine that has nice mouthfeel and one that is probably a bit past its peak.

The wine note follows below:

2007 Binyamina Yogev Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot – Score: B to B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine, with a hint of brown, is filled with dirt/mineral, blackberry, cranberry, Black Currant, date (from slight oxidation), cedar, and bramble. Over time the Black Currant becomes dominant and tilts the nose a bit off balance. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine has lovely tannin, bramble, dirt, blackberry, date, black currant, along with a lovely mouthfeel. The Black Currant again becomes dominant on the palate, throwing it a bit off balance, but still nice. The mid palate is balanced with acid, lovely tannin, oak, tobacco, and coffee. The finish is nice with tobacco, coffee, oak, black currant, black berry, and bramble. Black Currant, tobacco, and coffee linger long on the palate after the wine is gone.

Chicken Soup, Moroccan Merguez Tajine, Kielbasa Stew, and a plethora of wines

This past weekend saw us hosting a meal for my Nephew and friend who had just completed his qualifications to start his PHD at Berkley University.  The meal started with a nice Chicken Soup (recipe here) and my wife’s awesome whole wheat challah.  It was followed by two stews that were consumed heartily.  Benyamin Cantz joined us for the meal, along with some of our dear friends, and as I was preparing the stews, I could hear Benyo saying “never use the same ingredients in two dishes that are served during the same meal”.  So as I reused Yukon potatoes and carrots in the two stews, I knew I would hear it from him.  That said, the flavors of the two dishes were so very different that it worked out.  The tajine recipe starts off with browning both ends of sliced Merguez, cut into one inch tubes.  Once both sides are browned, I remove them from my Dutch Oven and brown the onions.  I always throw in the salt and pepper at this point to help soften the onions and make them release their water and increase their sweetness.  Once the onions are browned nicely, throw in all the spices, and make sure the spices coat the onions.  Once the spices are evenly distributed, throw in the other vegetables and let them get some of the spices coated on them as well, and cook them for 10 or so minutes to help them release their liquid.  At this point throw in the sun-dried tomatoes, the wine, water, browned Merguez, cinnamon stick, and vegetable stock.  Throw this in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour.  Then add in the chickpeas and fruit and let cook for another 30 or so minutes.  Remove the cinnamon stick and serve.

Moroccan Merguez Tajine (recipe)

1/4 cup of olive oil
2 pounds of Merguez sliced into one inch tubes
6 cloves garlic

3 large onions cut into chunks
Salt and pepper
ground turmeric
ground cumin
cayenne pepper
ground cinnamon
ground cardamom
ground ginger
garlic powder
ground coriander
Pinch of saffron threads

4 Yukon potatoes cut into chunks
6 carrots cut into chunks
1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup of white wine
1 cinnamon stick

1 can cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup of dried dates

The kielbasa recipe can be found here on another blog posting.  It came out OK, but not as glorious as my previous attempt.  The stews were paired with brown basmati rice, and a nice fresh green salad.  To pair with these foods, we went to a collection of wines that were brought by Benyo from his personal stash and from my stash as well.  A side note, some of the wines were well past their prime, and some were a bit past their prime.  Please do not look down at the work, rather look down on us for holding on to these puppies for too long.

The wines are listed in the order that they were consumed:

2004 Four Gates Rishona (750ml) – Score: A-
I need to start by stating that this was a bottle that Benyo made for us, as it was a 750 ml bottle, rather than the released 375 ml sized bottle.  The color on this brown tinged/dark ruby colored wine, was hopping with chicken cherry cola, coffee, mature oak, fig, and raspberry.  The mouth on this intense and full bodied wine was layered with bright black cherry, coffee, and oak.  The mid palate was bracing with bright acidity and oak.  The finish was long and tantalizing with more cherry, oak, and coffee, layered under a canopy of mature flavors.  This is clearly a wine that needs to be consumed now, but to some, this was one of the winners, which was shocking given the list of wines we enjoyed.

Elvi Wines Adar Cava Brut N.V. – Score: B+
The nose on this bubbly and effervescent light pink colored wine, is hopping with strawberry, lemon, and cherry.  The mouth on this light to medium bodied wine is packed with small bubbles that are active and alive, they mingle well with the strawberry and cherry.  The mid palate is alive with bracing acidity.  The finish is medium long with core acidity, strawberry, bubbles, and a lemon burst at the very tail end.  Drink UP!

2009 Terra Vega Shiraz – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is filled with dirt, mineral, raspberry, plum, violet notes, and cherry.  The mouth on this medium bodied wine starts off with cherry, raspberry, and plum that flow into a lovely acidic mid palate, with spicy wood, tannins, and coffee.  The finish is long with spicy wood, cherry, plum, coffee, and pepper that all linger on the palate after the wine is gone.

1989 Gan Eden Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: N/A
I still remember this wine in its youth.  It was fantastic and some of the best Cabernet I have ever tasted.  That said, this was kept too long, which is no affront to Craig (wine maker at Gan Eden).  The nose on this mahogany was relegated to oak and  some dark fruit.  The mouth is still tannic and oaky with bright acidity, but the fruit was all gone and a bit off.  What more can be said, this was a glorious warrior in its past, but if you still have some, it should be left to lie in the bottle for sentimental value.

2005 Four Gates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley – Score: A-
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, plum, oak, and spice.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied is concentrated with fruit that follows the nose, blackberry, cassis, and plum.  The mid palate is balanced with oak and still gripping tannins.  The finish is long and graceful, with spicy oak, black pepper, cassis, and a hint of leather.

1998 Four Gates Merlot – Score: B
This is another one of those wines that was held too long.  It was still there, but not at the Four Gates level.  In the evening it still had a bit of a nose, but was off.  By day the wine was less off, but the nose was all gone.

Galil Mountain Meron (77% Syrah, 11% each of Cab and Petit Verdot) – Score: A
The nose on dark garnet to black colored wine starts off with a quick hit of blueberry, and then continues to show rich and ripe plum, cassis, blackberry (almost bursting with juice), tobacco, ripe black cherry, sweet oak, fig, smoke, and pepper.  The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered and concentrated with rich ripe fruit at the attack on a bed of lush and integrated tannins.  The mouth follows with layer after layer of more ripe blackberry, cassis, plum, and black cherry in a concentrated and concerted attack.  The mid palate flows perfectly with oak, soft integrated tannins, crazy spicy and smoky nuances, chocolate, and tobacco.  The finish is long and spicy with black cherry, ripe and nicely extracted black fruit, tobacco, smoke, and oak.  Quite a nice wine, and one of the winners of the evening.

2003 Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Vineyard’s Choice (97% Cab, 3% Cabernet Franc) – Score: A
The nose on this inky black wine is screaming with bright and ripe blackberry, cassis, cherry, and gobs of rich and spicy oak.  The mouth on this massive full bodied wine is layered with blackberry, cassis, and plum.  The mouth is balanced with spicy oak, still gripping tannins, and nice acidity.  The finish is long with ripe black fruit, spicy oak, and chocolate.  Quite a nice wine, and one that still has a bit of time in it, but may be close to its peak.

Chicken Soup, Moroccan Stew, and a nice Teperberg Cabernet Sauvignon Silver

After last week’s stew, this week we wanted a slightly different stew.  So once again, I started with a not so interesting stew recipe, and then modified the day lights out of it!  The Moroccan stew is clearly a different beast than last week’s stew, but equally yummy!  The recipe starts off the same way by browning the sausage, after that of course the spices and vegetables change, but fun none the less.  We also, cooked up a chicken soup that was needed all around, in the house.

Moroccan Sausage Stew

  1. Olive Oil to coat pan/pot
  2. 1 pound of Kielbasa cut on the bias into one inch chunks
  3. Two or three sweet onions cubed into 1 inch squares
  4. 2 or 3 good shakes of sea salt
  5. 4 or more garlic cloves
  6. Ground Coriander
  7. Ground Cinnamon
  8. Ground Cumin
  9. Ground Ginger
  10. Saffron
  11. Half a package of Trader Joe’s Frozen Sliced Bell Peppers
  12. 1 or 2 eggplant (depending on size)
  13. Two large sweet potatoes cubed into 1 inch cubes
  14. 1 can of diced tomatoes (15 or 28 oz)
  15. 1 can of cooked chickpeas
  16. 1 to 2 oz of honey
  17. Salt and pepper to taste

Start by taking a large dutch oven and place into it a tablespoon or two of olive oil – just to coat the bottom.  While waiting for the oil to get hot enough, cut the Kielbasa into 1 inch cylinders on the bias, and then start to brown the cut edges.  Once one side is browned, flip them to the other side.  Once all sides are browned, take the meat out and drop the cubed onions into the oil.  Add the salt to the onions to help the onions release their liquid.  Sauté the onions and once browned, throw in the spices and garlic, and make sure the onions are fully coated with them.  From there on, add the vegetables into the pot one at a time.  Once the vegetables have released their water, add in the diced tomatoes, chickpeas, honey, and last spices.  Cook the stew until the vegetables and meat are combined into a singular and uniform form.  The best part of this stew is the crazy smell and aromas that come exploding out of this stew.  Like many Moroccan dishes (Tajine, etc.) the combination of spices make for a truly pungent experience.

The meal started with the chicken soup, and was followed by the stew along with quinoa and fresh green salad.  To pair, I went looking for a wine that had enough stamina to stand up to the rich stew, and I decided on a Cabernet Sauvignon.  With that classification set, I chose the 2006 Teperberg Cabernet Sauvignon Silver.  The wine is mevushal, and it is still quite a joy.  The fruit is a bit over the top and rich to start, but the wine has enough body to match the rich fruit nose.  The wine note follows below:

2006 Teperberg Cabernet Sauvignon Silver – Score: B+
The nose on this dark garnet to black colored wine is really nice for a mevushal wine; it is hopping with blackberry, plum, cassis, meat, ripe and rich black fruit that almost overpowers the nose to start, and spicy oak. The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine is soft with almost mouth coating tannins. The black fruit comes through strong on the mouth that leads to an oaky and balanced mid palate. Initially, the finish is closed, but opens up with a fair amount of air. The finish is long and spicy with black fruit, spicy oak, and a smooth finish with pleasant tannins that linger long on the palate, after the wine is gone.

Lamb Tajine and Four Gates Pinot Noir, Ella Valley Pinot Noir, and Others

This weekend saw us enjoying a lamb tajine/tagine.  We have spoken about the recipe before, but this time we modified it a bit more, by making the meat secondary and making the vegetables more primary.  We started off by marinating the meat overnight, in a bag with almost all of the Tajine’s core spices.  This intensified the flavor of the middle eastern spices, while also marinating the meat and tenderizing it to boot.  We also threw in more vegetables when cooking the tajine, the extra vegetables, included butternut squash and more potatoes and onions, than called for.  This lowered the meat’s flavor profile, but the spice profile, as screaming.  The cinnamon, cumin, and cloves permeated the dish and added to the overall success of the dish.

To match the tajine, we opened a few bottles of Pinot Noir.  The Pinots that were not DOA, were able to hold their own and were enjoyable.  There were unfortunately a few DOA Pinot Noirs.  I had two, and two friends each brought a dud.  The good news was that were more bottles to be had and they were enjoyed by all.  The wine notes follow below:

Ella Valley Pinot Noir 2005 – Score: A-
This wine was a real winner and highly enjoyed.  The nose on this dark ruby colored wine is crazy alive out of the gate, and grows more and more as the wine sits in the glass.  The nose is packed with cherry, oak, hot out of the gate, and vegetal notes.  The mouth of this medium to full bodied wine, starts off red and heavy with tannins and continues to grow darker as the wine opens up.  The mouth starts with cherry, raspberry, and vegetal almost earthy flavors.  As the wine opens, the wine moves from a red wine to a bit darker flavored wine, that shows cassis and more black cherry flavor.  The mid palate shows not yet integrated tannins, oak, acidity, and coffee.  The finish is super long, with more acidity, tannins, and oak.  This wine is really nice, and is not yet at its peak, and a wine that will smooth out in a year or two.

Four Gates Pinot Noir 2000 – Score: B+
This wine has moved just over its peak and is time to drink up.  The nose on this ruby red colored wine, is hot (out of the gate) with cherry, raspberry, currants, and oak.  The mouth of this now medium bodied wine, has integrated tannins that are not as velvety as they used to be, along with cherry, currants, and acidity that bleeds into the mouth.  The mid palate is acidic at its core, with light oak and now integrated tannins.  The mouth is not as soft as we would guess, because of the acidic core.  The finish is medium long with acidity, light tannins, and hints of oak.

Yarden Pinot Noir 2003 – Score: N/A
Unfortunately, this bottle was dead on arrival.

Galil Pinot Noir 2005 – Score: N/A
Again, this was dead as well.

Katlav Cabernet, Ella Valley VC Cabernet, Zemora Castra Red, and Tajine

Tajine Pot

Tagine Pot

This past weekend I decided it was time to go out and make some food that was not quite run of the mill.  On my last trip to Israel I went to a Moroccan Restaurant and fell in love with Tajine (there seems to be a discussion about the correct spelling of Tajine or is it Tajine :-), either way the food tastes great!).  So I started searching for recipes to how to make a Tajine.  Well the official manner is with a Tajine itself used to slow cook or braise stews.  The beauty of the Tajine is the evaporative and condensing powers it beholds.  You see the genius behind this earthenware pot is in its tight seal and its tepee cover.  The tight seal means none of the flavors or good stuff evaporates outside of the pot.  Meanwhile inside the pot crazy stuff is going on.  The meat, fruit, and spices are percolating away and getting denser and richer and flavors are melding into the liquid which is evaporating under the oven’s heat.  But because of its ingenious cover, the liquid that evaporates and does not leave the well sealed pot, condenses and further adds flavors to the overall dish.  The sad thing is that most of us do not have one of these killer pots, or one big enough to feed 12 people.  So I went with my Le Creuset knockoff from Lodge, which did the trick.  The dish came out fantastic and was really a hit.  Of course with all that spice packed food, one needs wine that will stand up to the intense flavors.  So I had a few wines that have been sitting in the cellar waiting for their time on the table.  All of them hail from Israel and they were fun to drink, but No A’s today, my friends.  One wine scored an A- but no knockout.  Still they were enjoyable and kept up with the meal, which was the most important thing.

On an aside two of the wines traveled with me from Israel (the Castra Red and the Katlav Cabernet).  You remember my visit to the Katlav Winery and my visit to the Zemora Winery on my previous trip to Israel.  The good news is that you do not need to go to Israel and schlep one back.  The Katlav Cab and Merlot are available here in the US – it is imported by Abarbanel (who is really not stepping up – but that is a different topic for another time).  Do a quick Google on Katlav Cabernet and you will find many reputable shops that carry the wine (along with the far better Merlot).  The Zemora wine is not currently exported to the USA – but the winery is supposedly being sold, so I have no more information at this time.

The wine notes follow below:
2004 Zemora Castra Red – Score: B+
This wine is a blend of 65% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 3% Shiraz and 2% Petit Verdot. The nose on this inky black wine is very Syrah like (which is strange given that the wine is so low in Syrah) Blackberry, cassis, mint, and wood. The mouth on this full bodied wine is layered, starting with cassis and blackberry, but mixed with some tart cherry and blueberry. The mid palate is a tannic and green, the finish is nice but dominated by wood and acid

2002 Ella Valley Vineyard’s Choice Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: A-
The nose on this black colored wine has blackberry, cloves, plum, and wood notes. The mouth on this soft full bodied wine is filled with blackberry, cassis, and wood. The mid palate is lush and balanced with caressing tannins. The finish is long with wood, tobacco, and hints of chocolate. This soft and full bodied wine is another example of the 2002 curse. It is a wine whose fruit is going fast and one that is well balanced without an overpowering wood presence.

2005 Katlav Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
This nose on this deep garnet colored wine is filled with blackberry, cloves, and spicy wood. The mouth on this medium bodied wine has notes of blackberry and plum. The mid palate is acidic and herbal. The finish is filled with oak, oak, and more oak. The spicy oak overpowers the finish and I think takes away from an otherwise decent wine.

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