'Tasted: American Sauvignon Blanc'

Triangle Offense and Octagonal Boxed Wine

Despite the plethora of incredible restaurants in Los Angeles, We have been staying in this week. We love to cook with each other, and y’know, the NBA playoffs are happening: there seems to be a basketball game on every night. Last night Our beloved Lakers were playing the Suns. We DVR’d the beginning of the game, broke-open a box of wine (review below) and prepared Our dinner.

She’s a scrappy cook and tends to just open the refrigerator, stare a few moments, and come up with something. The night’s (clean out the frig) menu: coleslaw, sauteed mushrooms, and turkey burgers in the shape of hot dogs because She only had hot dog buns. Here’s how it went down:

First up was the coleslaw. For the salad We used:

1 bag of shredded white cabbage
1 large endive, sliced in rounds
1/4 of a white onion, diced
4 pepperoncinis, roughly chopped
6 cornichons, roughly chopped

We prepared the dressing in a separate bowl, whisking together:

2 parts mayo
1 part sour cream
2 tbs tarragon vinegar
3 tbs Dijon mustard
dash of celery seed
pickle juice and cornichon juice to taste
salt and pepper to taste

We mixed the dressing into the salad, and put in the frig. Next, We got to work on the turkey burgers-in-shape-of-hot-dogs. Into ground turkey We mixed in:

1/4 of a white onion, roughly chopped
4 tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tsp of dried thyme
1 tsp of garlic powder
salt and pepper

Mix, mix, mix by hand and then get shaping:

The burgers-shaped-like-hot-dogs struck Us as hilarious and some rather pornographic conversation ensued.

Next up was chopping some crimini and shitake mushrooms and thinly slicing a shallot. We placed the hot dog buns in a warm oven and heated two pans on Her trusty antique stove, “Sparky.” He manned the stove, keeping an eye on the turkey and stirring the mushrooms, while She prepared a small pre-dinner cocktail: vodka on the rocks with a splashes of Campari and soda water, and a generous squeeze of lime. Refreshing and delicious.

Within fifteen minutes all the hot stuff was ready. We pulled the coleslaw out of the frig, made a quick adjustment, adding more salt and a dash of Tabasco. We each poured ourselves another glass of wine (or rather, turned the little spigot and filled up our glasses) and then plated up:

He bravely went for two turkey burger/dogs, adding a couple of slices of Swiss cheese to each. She went for just one, but buried it in Krugermann pickles (hands down the best pickles We’ve ever had–made right here in L.A.).

We sat ourselves down in front of the tv, turned on the Lakers game, had a “cheers, big ears” and got to work.

‘Octavin’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, Silver Birch World Wines 2009 (sample, $23 / 3.0L)

She said: Pouring the wine from a box brought back memories of sneaking sips out of the neighbor’s big box of Franzia while babysitting their brats. (Was I the worst babysitter ever?) The wine has a golden-ish hue, which seems unusual for Sauv Blanc. On the nose I get fresh cut grass, some grapefruit, and honeydew melon. On the palate the wine has a nice balance of tropical fruit/acid/alcohol. It’s zesty, but not overwhelmed by acid. The finish is round and soft. Very enjoyable, indeed. And it was a great match for the meal, especially the coleslaw. 

He said: I haven’t had boxed wine since I snuck some white zinfandel from my parents in, umm, the mid-80′s. A little darker and cloudier than what I typically imagine an SB to look like. A rather mild nose with a little grapefruit and citrus. Fresh and clean in the mouth with nice acidity levels. A perfectly drinkable wine that was great with the pickles and coleslaw. I’m glad I like it because there are 3 liters in the box.

Dinner was great, the wine was good, the game…ugh. Also, screw technology. At the end of the 1st quarter (on time delay from DVR), He went to check his email and happened to see the halftime score, which made the 2nd quarter boring to watch. To make matters worse, at the end of the 3rd quarter, He got a Facebook message on his phone that made clear the Lakers had lost the game. He placated Her throughout the 4th quarter, knowing Her excitement during the little Laker rallies were fruitless, but didn’t want to ruin the game for Her too. New Rule: Absolutely no cell phones, computers, pagers, carrier pigeons or any other communication devices during DVR’d Laker games.

We resisted the urge to console ourselves with the entire box of wine (3 liters, whoa). Next game: Thursday–it’s going to be the good news day.

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Bounty and a Blanc

One of the great pleasures of living in Los Angeles (and yes, Doubters, there are many of them) is everyday of the week there is at least one neighborhood farmer’s market somewhere in this sprawling city. My new digs are just a few blocks away from one of the best: the Sunday Hollywood Farmer’s Market.

On this past Sunday We strolled down busy (and yes, grimy) Cahuenga with a pushcart and a fistful of cash in search of the day’s lunch and dinners to come. The pushcart We had in tow was in my garage, which is a kind of junk yard of tenants past. Or so I thought. The rickety black thing only lasted about two blocks before we abandoned it in frustration. It had become a burden with it’s wobbly wheels and plus it was way too short, causing Us to hunch over. We figured a homeless person could put it to better use than Us.

We arrived at the market and it was hopping, the partitioned streets spilled over with shoppers, vendors, musicians, an occasional clown (is that what the guy in the Carol Channing wig, red lipstick, and tie dye t-shirt was?), and tourists. It was a terrific scene. (Produce wise, it is a Citrus Fantasy at the market right now–but no need to buy any, my yard has bountiful trees.)

In about an hour We bought as much as we could carry and hungrily headed back home. As soon as We arrived We unpacked our bounty, popped open a bottle of wine, and got to chopping.

For wine, We slurped a 2008 Honig Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. It was a perfect match for The Organic Fresh Veggies Beautiful Sunny Day First Weekend in My New House Sitting on the Porch Luncheon. Sauvignon Blanc has become a go to wine for both of Us for al fresco dining on a warm day. The Honig seemed especially apropos for our market driven menu as the winery sustainably farms and uses solar power. I’ve been a fan of the winery for over a decade, but it was His first time trying the brand.

The bottle was a hit: We both agreed it had pleasant acid, bright grapefruit flavors, and tropical notes. I also detected almonds and a creaminess in the finish which reminded me of apple cobbler. Or maybe it was the apple I was eating? I don’t know…but it was a delicious bottle that went too quickly. It was truly a great day and meal.

Later, my (sweet and rather short) neighbor came over, looking very concerned.  Had I seen her black push cart, it was missing from our shared garage. Oops.

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Highly rated bargains: Us v. Wine Spectator

Perusing our “stolen” copy of Wine Spectator, we noticed editor picks and reviews of highly rated bargain wines. We decided to find as many of these and compare our notes with those of WS.

First off, it was difficult to find the wines. We avoided our local boutique wine shops in favor of liquor and grocery stores, assuming these would be pretty mainstream bottles and easier to find at these types of retailers. As it turns out, it took us three stores to find only three of the wines listed. It seems like wines being featured in such a huge magazine would make wine buyers for these retail chains take notice and stock these bottles. Right?

We took our three selections up to the cabana, by the fire, and out of the way of the looming rain.

Sauvignon Blanc, Bogle Vineyards, 2008 (California, $11.49)

Wine Spectator said: Mouthwatering and intense, with grass, lemon-lime and green papaya flavors that are highlighted by a zingy acidity. This has great intensity, with a silky finish. Drink now. Rating 88

She said: Very pale and translucent, yellow/green color. Nose is immediately hit with lime peel, gooseberry, and lychee. Also lots of acid: smells active and fresh, if a bit bracing. In the mouth limes, lychee, grapefruit, and a bit of grass. Tastes like Spring. Whew–the wine needs something spicy or sushi or some kind of food to pair with it. Enjoyable and very reasonably priced. Not very refined or elegant, but intense. A long, quenching finish. Would be great with that avocado and citrus salad we had at Canelé the other night. 

He said: Very translucent and watery in appearance. Lemon, lime, citrus on the nose. Smells crisp, clean and good. There is a little heat in the nose too. My first sip was a little disappointing, not as crisp an SB as I prefer. Subsequent sips prove crisper and the acidity is showing up. Lingers in the mouth for quite a while. I don’t really love or hate it, it’s an average-to-good drinkable wine. I will definitely finish the bottle.

Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Château Ste. Michelle, 2008 (Washington, $11.49)

Wine Spectator said: Bright and jazzy, with pretty pineapple, grapefruit, elderflower and spice flavors that linger on the finish without excess weight. This just floats on for a while. Drink now through 2012. Rating 90

She said: Golden hue. Swirl shows viscous texture. In nose: butter, wood, butterscotch, lemon curd, burnt orange peel. Rich and full on the palate. Honey, buttered popcorn, creme brulée. There is a heaviness at the beginning and then right before the swallow there is a harshness. The citrus flavors are not bright, but rather cooked or like custard. High in alcohol. Not my style, but the wine is fine, smooth, and silky. Like the Bogle we tasted, think this wine needs food to take off some of the rough edges. Would pair with trout almondine or monkfish with a cream sauce. score:

He said: Why am I smelling an herbaceous smoked turkey sandwich? Is this the wine? Wait, the fire in our “tasting room” is beginning to smoke. Ok, back to it. Golden and shiny with a little cloudiness. All butter, butterscotch and wood on the nose. Soft and big in the mouth (that’s what she…) and more butterscotch. The bottle text proclaims “subtle oak” but I don’t think it’s so subtle. I really like it, this is what I imagine a big, oaked chardonnay to taste like. And it has the creaminess I like.

Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Hogue, 2008 (Washington, $13.99)

Wine Spectator said: Bright in flavor and silky in texture, with creamy pear and apricot flavors that linger on the refined finish. Holds on nicely Drink now through 2012. Rating 89

She said: Whoa, so much wood and yuk on the nose…can barely go back for another sniff. Really smells terrible and I would say it was corked, but it’s a screwcap. Very golden color. In the mouth the wine is all wood and butter with a touch/kick of acid at the finish. The flavors in the mouth are much more pleasant than the nose. Butterscotch and some orange, and vanilla bean in the finish. I actually like the way it tastes, but it smells awful. In comparison to the Chateau Ste. Michele the flavors are more clean and fresh, but also shows an intensity. Again would pair with fish in cream sauce or even clam chowder. The stink on the nose is hard to take, but I like the mouthfeel and flavors…makes the wine very hard to rate.   score:

He said: Oh, gross. Smells like compost. I can’t pinpoint anything because I can’t keep it by my nose long enough. I would think it’s corked, but it’s a screwcap. It has the equivalent smell to the sound of the word “hogue.” Not quite as bad in my mouth, a little buttersco–wait, gross, still gross. Too much heat. I don’t want another sip. It tastes like eating old hot dogs on lunchbreak at the paper mill. Get it away from me. This should be recalled.

So, we are in agreement with WS on the Bogle and both admitted we overlooked the green papaya flavors.

We liked the Chateau Ste. Michelle but don’t agree (or understand) the flavor profile listed. She said “maybe pineapple.” But bright, light and “jazzy” this wine is not. [Note: This is Him typing: what the hell does jazzy mean?]

And finally the, urgh, (sorry I can hardly type it without remembering that stank) Hogue. We can’t believe we are tasting the same wine. This wine is bad. The other two are quite nice recommendations for their value, but this one should be avoided at any and all costs.

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List w/out Commentary: Canelé Last Night

  • L. Preston Dry Creek Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, CA 2007
  • avocado citrus salad with grapefruit and lime, arugula, and cracked picholines
  • chicken liver pâté
  • chanterelles over polenta
  • oven-roasted pork chop with small potatoes, brussels sprouts, and apples
  • buena chica cheesecake
  • cookies and confections
  • Bordeaux Château Cadillac, France 2006

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What does the recycling bin say about us?

Opening four bottles of wine (for the blind tasting test) means having leftovers. Last night we got through two of the three bottles but were still, er, thirsty. The only bottle left was the one He declared tasted like “hot wet trash.” We gave it another try. The day of being opened had mellowed the garbage flavors for Him, but he still said He hated it. And then proceeded to drink the rest of the bottle. That’s my boy.

The Results Are In

blind-tasting-results

Wines poured for the blind tasting:

1. Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, Hess, 2007 ($9.99)
2. Bourgongne, “La Foret,” Joseph Drouhin, 2007 ($11.99)
3. Chardonnay, Koonunga Hill, South Australia, Penfolds, 2007 ($9.99)
4. Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, Honig, 2008 ($13.99)

The results: He guessed #1 and #2 correctly. Half right. Half wrong.

He Said: On all steps I guessed #1 SB, #2 Chard, #3 SB #4 Chard. On the notes I scribbled, “Positive #2 is chard. Questioning #4. Don’t like #1. Prefer 3 to all of them. Questioning #3.”
When she got home she poured me a glass and right away I knew it was chardonnay. Not sure what went wrong on #3 & #4.
When we came up with this idea I said I wanted a chard and an SB vis-a-vis, not 4 wines on the table. And, it should be noted that she was super hungry when she got home and was making and eating food while preparing the test. I said loudly while I was sequestered in the bathroom, “Make sure you mark each one so you know which is which”. Well, when I asked for the results, she was flummoxed and couldn’t remember which was which. So, I’m totally disputing the outcome.
I think this shit was fixed.
Postscript: SB #1 is really gross, it smells like hot wet trash. I’m over wine, get me a beer.

She said: Easy there, Angry.
True, I was starving and was snacking and then got a little confused about which wine was which. But this was resolved quickly–I can taste and smell the difference.
How I chose the wine: I wanted a combination of different areas and styles for both grapes. I’m familiar with all four bottles and knew that like varietals would be slightly different from each other.
Getting half right is fine. I find it interesting that He doubted himself on the two He got incorrect. Trust your instincts, Boy.
As for picking the favorite, #3, it is NOT ACCEPTABLE to write: “Don’t care why…” He must begin to differentiate the smells, textures, and flavors that suit His palate. This is the point.

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Big Mac’s Mondays: Er, Sort of

This isn’t exactly Big Mac’s Mondays. We are still on vacation in Santa Cruz (Aptos, actually), but decided to go to the local liquor store to keep up our schedule. It’s a working vacation.

Deer Park Wine & Spirits is the local liquor store, but it is actually a little fancier than Big Mac’s. Unlike Big Mac’s, you cannot buy Wonder Bread, Folger’s in a can, Cheez-Whiz or Bubbleicious; although you can rent or buy a boogie board. And the Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuissé costs $5 more.

As for wine, We went for a Sauvignon Blanc. The wine reviewed is actually the 2nd SB we had today (or, actually, His 3rd…wink wink).

The first (second) SB was at Seascape Resort, but only after We tended to a tween boy who had just fallen from a bike and had apparently broken his wrist. We sat with him and told him funny stories while We waited for his mom to arrive and take him to the hospital. He was cute. Really cute. He said “Oh no, this is my writing arm.” We told stories about our own broken bones and to each story he replied with sympathy, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” And then he asked for Vicodin.

Anonymous, newly pubescent boy, whomever you are: get well soon.

For our kindness the resort gave Us each a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, bracing, refreshing. On the way back, We stopped at Deer Park Wine & Spirits to continue that taste profile. Our reviews of what We bought are below. As usual, We didn’t do any background research on picking out the wine…We just bought what we were in the mood for that wasn’t too pricey. Later We did a little internet snooping and provide a few facts about the winery after our reviews.

tangentTangent, Edna Valley, Paragon Vineyard, San Luis Obisbo, California. ($11.99)

She Said: Pale, yellow-green color; very bright and clear. On the nose: no hint of wood but smell grass, gooseberry, wet stones, and flint. The acid of the wine is apparent just in its smell: sharp and strong. The mouth is richer than I anticipated. There is a mild creaminess, but overall it is very characteristic (or what I think as being characteristic):  bracing acid, unripe pear, gooseberry, grass, lychee. No petrol. Has a New World profile. A really good value at $11.99. Seems perfectly suited for fish, etc., goat cheese, avoid cream or heavy butter. Had a second taste (or fourth or fifth) and sensed green apple, riper fruit flavors, pineapple, stone, mineral, asparagus, green bean–seems more fresh green veg than fruit. Keep thinking about it. And this means I like it… a lot.

He Said: Very clear-watery, gold-green color. On the nose it is very grassy with light citrus and some new carpet (edit: she says that is a chemical thing I am smelling and I also crossed out floral. In the mouth there are strong flavors of pineapple and gooseberry, It’s clear, crisp and tangy with very nice acidity, which all last for a nice minute in the aftertaste. All in all, a terrific SB for the price. If I was rating on pure value it would be a 4/5. I don’t think of this as a typical SB, I may not have guessed it instantly.

Facts: It’s easy to find out about Tanget, the winery has a slick, informative website that gives all kinds of facts and accolades.Their focus is “offering fresh, crisp and vibrant wines of true varietal character… [they are the] first California winery to focus solely on alternative white wines.”

About the winemaker: “Tanget wines are made by veteran winemaker Christian Roguenant, who brings more than 20 years of winemaking experience, encompassing many countries and five continents. Born in Burgundy and educated in Dijon, Christian cut his winemaking teeth on Champagne, then California sparkling wine…”

About the vineyard: “Both of our estate vineyards, Paragon and Firepeak, have earned the Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Vineyeard Certification. Farmed by our Pacific Vineyard Company, we have owned these vineyards since Jack Niven, the winegrape planting pioneer, began planting them in the early 1970s. Certification of these vineyards proves our collective commitment to environmental stewardship, economic viability, and equitable treatment of employees.”

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A Happy (and totally on-the-fly) Thanksgiving

turkey

On Wednesday we left Los Angeles and drove to Santa Cruz (Aptos, actually) in the slow-moving holiday traffic, not yet knowing what we would do for Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe we would go out, maybe we would cook a fancy meal, or maybe we would have turkey sandwiches while watching football. We kinda knew a whole turkey was out of the question time-wise (and it’s just the two of us, so who needs a whole bird).

When we arrived to town, we stopped at the local grocery store (that just happens to have a liquor store next door with a decent wine selection) to find out what time they closed on Thanksgiving: 1:00pm. Hmm, so we needed to make a menu and do our shopping by then, if that is the route we choose.

It was the route we chose. We woke up somewhat early and brainstormed a menu. We then scoured the internet looking for recipes, Her veto-ing several of His recommendations: marshmallow yams, green bean casserole with fried onions from a can, etc. (He grew up in Texas). He finally acquiesced to these deletions, as long as there was beer bread, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs.

Here is what ended up being on our menu (links provided to all the dishes for which we used another person’s recipe).

Honey Roasted Turkey Breast
Apple + Sausage Stuffing
Soy Sauce + Onion Gravy (a throw back to Her veg days)
Cream Cheese and Chives Mashed Potatoes
Sriracha Deviled Eggs
Sweet Pickle Deviled Eggs
Curry + Parmesan Deviled Eggs
Creamed Spinach
Beer Bread
Apple Pancake + Kahlua Whipped Cream

winesAnd the wine…We decided to take advantage of Deer Park Wine and Spirits’ local-centric offerings. Our selections:

Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey, Morgan, 2007 ($12.99)

Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, Storrs, 2007 ($19.99)

Carignane, Cienega Valley, Wirz Vineyard, River Run, 2006 ($18.99)

And for when we wanted to transition to hard liquor (and when does this not happen?), a jar of Limeade, Santa Cruz Organic ($4.99) to mix with vodka and top with a splash of soda.

He Said: First and foremost I am thankful for rap music. Also: the best friends and family anyone could ask for; good, local organic food on a regular basis; wine, wine & wine; the housing market and construction industry recovering (albeit slowly) so a dude can actually do some architect-ing and put his $175K education to use; a certain decadent compound in Silverlake; California in general; and more than anything, Her. Her intelligence, Her enthusiasm, Her body, Her libido, Her.

She Said: I am thankful for…artists, wine, love, beauty, my dead dog (not the dead part), my family (with special shout-outs to my mother who is the hero of my life and to Linda who I miss more than I’ve ever missed anyone or thing), cherished friends, music, the best-est (sweet-est, sexi-est, clever-est…you get the idea… but I get Him) boyfriend, and for lingering moments of optimism, joy, and purpose that come from simple things like reading Maria Kalman’s wonderful essay.

Big Mac’s Mondays: Sauvignon Blanc, While It’s Still Hot

bmm

Each Monday (well, nearly everyday, actually) We trek down the hill to a favorite neighborhood liquor store to buy a bottle or two. In our quest to learn about and taste wine that is accessible and inexpensive We’ve found Big Mac’s to be a great place to spend our money. (We’re also regulars at the many local wine shops in our neighborhoods–and you should be too.)

Here are our weekly tasting notes from a bottle purchased at Big Mac’s. Although We don’t do background checks, some facts about the wine can be useful, so We provide some notes at the end of our review. As usual, We follow a basic tasting method: swirl, smell, slurp…and savor.

We pick out bottles based on price and what We’re in the mood for. It was a hot afternoon–We went for something cool. (But it didn’t turn out to be that crisp.)

simi

Simi, Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, 2007 ($12.99)

She said: Very pale and translucent appearance with a tinge of green in the yellow. No golden hue here. In the nose a hint of oak, suggesting some tropical flavors. If just smelling the wine would not guess sauvignon blanc–maybe something more floral from South America? In the mouth the wine is clean and fresh with a silky texture. Flavors of pear and light citrus, also some nuttiness and sharpness that reminds me of a young Parmesan cheese. There is a long finish with some tropical notes. The wood detected in the nose is not overwhelming in the mouth, but does say hello. This is not a style I typically go for in the grape, but it is pleasant. Lychee? Pair with shellfish (obvs) and maybe a bright, young goat cheese.

He said: Very clear yellow gold in color. On the nose I am getting lemon and candy. Maybe lemon Sweet Tarts and a Lemon Drop cocktail, and a hint of honey. Very high acid throughout, I can feel it in my nose. Apricot in the finish. Drinks just fine alone, but would be good with fish. All in all, an OK wine, I think I need to drink it again because the notes I have are a little vague. Which leads to a point: take good notes no matter what you think you will remember.

Facts: The history of Simi is interesting (no, they didn’t pay us to say this–but please, please: send free samples). The winery started in the late 1800′s in San Francisco by an Italian family that had immigrated to the United States during the Gold Rush. They soon bought land and moved to Healdsburg in Sonoma County. The founder’s daughter, Isabel, saw the winery through prohibition and there was a succession of women winemakers–a rarity at the time. Simi survived prohibition, but it forced the winery to sell off most of its vineyards. In 1970 Isabel sold the winery but continued to work there, influencing its practices and marketing. In the early 80′s Simi was sold again, this time to the big guys: LVMH. During the conglomerate’s ownership the winery began to buy back the land it had been forced to sell during tough times. LVMH sold what was now a famous label for $50 million in the late ’90′s to biggest wine distributor in the world: Constellation Brands. Once again, like the past wines we’ve had from Big Mac’s, this is a big hitter in terms production, popularity, and…making money.

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