Wine. Food. Reviews. Recipes. Lap it up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Well, phooey!

My blog is still Bloggered. All the art for past postings disappeared, but then I arrived at a fix. It worked ... for about five minutes. Try, try again, I guess -- I really hope I don't have to end up redoing all the links I made over the years....
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:10 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, July 12, 2010

Things change, and remain the same

WineCanine is back!

Actually, I never really went anywhere — it’s just that Blogger decided not to support FTP anymore, and it took me a little while to figure out how to deal with that. If this post shows up, it means things are back to normal, or close.

If you want to see what I’ve been doing in the meantime, follow this link.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:58 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

National Wine and Spirits to become Republic National

Indianapolis-based National Wine and Spirits, the largest distributor of wine and spirits in Indiana and Michigan, has agreed to be acquired by Republic National Distributing Company. Headquartered in Atlanta, Republic National is the nation’s second-largest distributor of premium wines and spirits in the United States. With the addition of NWS, Republic National will operate in 22 states and Washington, DC. NWS will now become Republic National Distributing Company of Indiana.

More changes to Indiana’s lineup of wine and spirits distributors could be on the horizon. The state makes a conspicuous gap on the distribution map of Miami-based Southern Wine and Spirits, the nation’s largest distributor with operations in 29 states. Stay tuned.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:26 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cruz Andina Malbec 2006

Last Saturday evening I was planning on making a grilled leg of lamb seasoned with salt, cumin, garlic and hot curry powder, along with baked cauliflower and palak paneer. I had been waiting for a good reason to try the Cruz Andina Malbec 2006, and this was going to be it.

Dinner turned out very well, and my only regret was that I hadn’t come up with a reason to try the Cruz Andina sooner! It is unlike any other Malbec I’ve ever had, and it is absolutely one of the most enjoyable — right up there with Achaval-Ferrer’s Finca Altamira, though at a fifth of the price.

With the first sniff it’s evident that this wine has been treated to a generous amount of oak, and it has: Sixteen months in 100 percent French oak, 30 percent new. Tantalizing aromas of vanilla-tinged dark berries and spice box waft from the glass; the wine washes over the palate with creamy layers of mocha, dark fruits and melting tannins then gradually takes its leave with a long, satisfying finish.

This wine pushes all the right buttons for me. I’m a lover of new-world Bordeaux-style blends, and this is an old-vine, high-altitude Malbec blended with 10.5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, three percent Merlot and one and a half percent Bonarda. That’s not exactly a classic blend, but it sure works!

And no wonder. Cruz Andina is a collaboration between Veramonte, one of Argentina’s oldest wine families, legendary Chilean vintner Agustin Huneeus (think Quintessa), Carlos Pulenta, a third generation Mendoza vintner, and Chilean winemaker Alvaro Espinoza, who gets most of the credit for helping to sort out that country’s Carménère-Merlot mixup. The result is a spectacular wine with roots on both sides of the Andes — and at $19, one you can afford to not miss.
J. Silverheels Gray, 5:21 PM | link | 1 comments |

Monday, March 01, 2010

Earthquake Zinfandel 2008

Earthquake ZinfandelEarthquakes have been in the news a lot lately, popping up in such an unlikely place as Chicago, rattling Okinawa, and causing death and devastation in Haiti and, most recently, Chile.

Through my friend Tatiana I have met several very nice people who live in Chile, including her sister and parents who make their homes in Santiago, as does her good friend Anita. After news of the Chilean earthquake came through I checked with Tatiana to see if everyone was OK. Her immediate family was fine, but she hadn’t heard from all of her friends yet, including Anita.

Several of us in Indianapolis have dined and drunk with Anita on her visits here.  She’s a fun, vivacious person (or, as Tati puts it, “crazy”) — and she has two Weimaraners, so you know she has to be nice! I don’t think I’ll be contradicted if I say that as the days with no word from her stretched on, we all became increasingly concerned.

Today, finally, over Facebook came the word: Anita and her family were OK, though her sister who lives in Conception — the quake’s epicenter — is having a hard time. But she did survive an 8.8 earthquake, which, unfortunately, many hundreds of people did not. I was relieved to know that everyone I knew in Chile and their families were safe.

A couple of hours after getting Anita’s update I went to Costco for my weekly gas tank fill-up. While I was pumping Ethyl (sounds dirty, doesn’t it?), I made the snap decision to go in and get a frozen pizza for dinner. On my way to the pizza cooler I decided to cruise the wine department, and something caught my eye: Earthquake Zinfandel.

I had seen this wine before, but had never tried it. It’s made by Michael and David Phillips, who also make 7 Deadly Zins, a wine I find to be just OK. Today, though, the name spoke to me: Earthquake.

What the heck, thought I. It’s just $18 or so, so why not give it a try? Costco seems to vet their products pretty well, so chances are it wouldn’t be awful. And if it was awful, there’s always Plan B.

Got it home, fiddled around a bit, finally popped the cork and poured some in a glass. Gave it a sniff. Wait, what’s that? Another sniff. Sniff sniff sniff. COCONUT! WTF? Coconut?

Yep, coconut, plain as day. Holy moley. Never got such a strong nose of coconut before, and can’t say it’s something I really want to find in my wine unless I put it there myself for some inexplicable reason, along with a little paper parasol.

Well. Swirl, swish, swallow. Hmm. Not bad! Gave it some more time, and the coconut moderated to vanilla, which I like (vanilla: catnip for humans). Some big blackberry and plum flavors emerged, and each sip made me want to take another. This is some pretty good stuff!

The short story: This wine ended up far exceeding my expectations, and it’s well worth a try. Just close your eyes and imagine you’re at Rum Point having a coconut daiquiri until it comes around.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:46 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Snack time

J. Silverheels Gray, 8:36 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Sirène, the green fairy from Chicago

The Green FairyI’ve been interested in Absinthe for quite some time. It’s a legendary drink — the green fairy, Van Gogh’s muse. It became a scapegoat in the battle against alcoholism and was banned in the United States and a few other countries.

More specifically, a certain component, Thujone, was banned. Thujone is a component found in a number of plants, including some junipers, mugwort, common sage, tansy and wormwood — most notably grand wormwood, Artemisia absinthium. It is Thujone that has been singled out, fairly or not, as the component responsible for Absinthe’s reported psychedelic effects.

While Absinthe was banned in the United States, several brands grew up that contained no thujone but had all the other characteristics of the beverage, including its green color and anise flavor. The real thing was contraband from other countries, sort of a liquid hashish verte.

A few years ago Absinthe accidentally became legal in the United States when some laws were recodified, and the ones that banned the beverage slipped through the cracks. Since then some famous brands have been appearing on these shores, and domestic producers have started making artisanal blends, sometimes from old, traditional recipes.

One new world Absinthe that deserves your attention is Sirène, which is made in Chicago by the North Shore Distillery. After consulting my local rep and verifying his opinions with the Wormwood Society, I chose Sirène to be my first green fairy.

I went with the traditional method — an ounce of Absinthe, diluted with three ounces of water drizzled over a sugar cube placed on an Absinthe spoon. (Where did that spoon come from, anyway?) The ritual is fun, and the drink is delicious, as long as you like licorice and green herbs. A couple of glasses don’t bring up anything psychedelic, but at 120 proof I’m sure it wouldn’t take many more to resurrect the 1960s, if not the 1890s.

Bottom line? If you haven’t already, give Absinthe a try. Google can provide you with plenty of information about its history and use, and your local purveyors can guide you to some good examples. And that multicolored Triceratops out in the driveway? You just never noticed it before.
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:49 PM | link | 1 comments |

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Want to legalize restaurant corkage? Read, then write

corksWine lover and attorney Darryn Duchon has drafted language that could be tacked on to any existing bill that is working its way through the Indiana General Assembly or substituted for the original content of a stripped bill.

In a nutshell, this proposed bill would give restaurants the option of allowing their patrons to bring their own wine and to establish corkage fees. It would also allow patrons to store their wines at restaurants.

None of this is legal at the moment, although some restaurants quietly allow their customers to bring their own wines anyway. No logical reason for forbidding restaurants to have this option exists — but when were Indiana alcoholic beverage laws ever based on logic?

The full text of the proposed bill may be found at

To email your state representatives, go to
and type in your home address; this will provide an email link to your state and local representatives.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:06 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stephen Vincent Crimson 2007

CrimsonStephen Vincent is a Sonoma winery that offers a basic California lineup of wines: Cab, Merlot, Zin, Pinot Noir, a Syrah blend, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The namesake of the company is a former Gallo marketing guy, and the head winemaker was one of the founders of La Crema.

Crimson, the Syrah blend, contains 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon – and what a nice blend it is! It starts with a nose of dark berries and just a hint of cigar box from the French oak, and follows up with more dark fruit on the palate. It’s big, mouthfilling and soft, with just enough tannin to keep it from being flabby. This wine isn’t terribly complex, but it is agreeable – a big, friendly, satisfying red that is easy to get along with, whether drunk by itself or paired with food (burgers or meat loaf come to mind). At just $8.99 per bottle, it makes a great house wine or weekday drinker.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:10 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who needs snow tires?

I’d like to have one of these powered by a diesel Mercedes W123 wagon – looks like it works very well, as long as dry pavement isn’t involved.

Armstead Snow Motors from Seeking Michigan on Vimeo.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:40 AM | link | 1 comments |

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mobile Mobile – cell phone Christmas music

A British ad agency had the idea to string up a bunch of discarded cell phones and program them to play music. The result is really kind of charming....

J. Silverheels Gray, 9:01 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fort Wayne retailer challenges wine shipping law

Gift BasketA Fort Wayne liquor store has filed suit against the State of Indiana, charging that existing wine shipping laws violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and discriminate against liquor stores in favor of wineries.

Lebamoff’s Cap n' Cork had been shipping wine to area customers who joined wine clubs using a third-party delivery company for more than 20 years until last May, when Indiana State Excise Police showed up and cited the company for violating its alcohol permit. State law prohibits delivery of alcohol by liquor stores unless they use their own employees. However, another state law allows wineries to ship directly to customers using a third-party common carrier, so Cap n' Cork owner Andy Lebamoff and his attorney, Robert Epstein, maintain that Indiana law discriminates against retailers.

According to a story published in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Lebamoff says he received permission from the then-Alcoholic Beverage Commission in the 1980s. He said the wine comes from an out-of-state retailer to an in-state wholesaler. Then it is sent to Cap n' Cork for delivery by UPS. “It's a good business. We collect sales tax for Indiana,” he told the paper, and said that he collects $110,000 a year in taxes from the wine clubs. “We're just looking for fairness.”

But there is no record at the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission of Cap n' Cork receiving permission to ship their product via common carrier, an ATC spokesman said, and in any case the scope of a package store permit would prohibit the practice. The excise police have cited one other liquor store in the state for similar shipping violations.

To thicken the plot, the excise police cited Cap n' Cork because of a complaint filed by Jim Purucker, who is the executive director of Wine and Spirits Distributors of Indiana, a lobbying organization funded primarily by Olinger Distributing and National Wine and Spirits, companies that distribute alcoholic beverages in Indiana. The organization opposes direct shipment of wine to consumers.

According to the Journal-Gazette, Purucker received a mail solicitation to join the National Rifle Association’s wine club, so he joined to see what would happen. What happened was that UPS delivered a box of wine to him, sent by Cap n' Cork. Purucker then joined the Wall Street Journal’s wine club, and shortly received another box of wine from Cap n' Cork.

Under Indiana law, the shipments were illegal for at least two reasons. First, retailers can’t ship alcoholic beverages. Second, while wineries do have limited direct-shipping rights, the customer must first have a face-to-face transaction with the winery.

The owners of Cap n' Cork feel that they’ve been caught up in a turf war, and that the restrictions unfairly limit their ability to operate. Lebamoff said Cap n' Cork has an aggressive Internet advertising initiative and can't use its own employees to deliver to customers hundreds of miles away. And his attorney has an idea why Indiana’s wine-shipping laws are so restrictive and, he maintains, discriminatory.

“This is an archaic state,” Epstein told the Journal-Gazette. “Thirty-five states allow direct shipment of wine without hassle. But not here.”
J. Silverheels Gray, 9:36 AM | link | 0 comments |

Soul Food


From the December 21 and 28 issue of The New Yorker.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:56 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, December 03, 2009

More True Tales From The Wine Store

All I can say is, the people who make these videos have definitely spent some time in the wine business. A wag of the tail to WineFeline for the link!
J. Silverheels Gray, 5:16 PM | link | 0 comments |

The bad blogger: My latest excuse

German Shorthaired Pointer

Actually, I can click just fine. After all, I’m a Weimaraner, not a German Shorthaired Pointer – that means I can do it all! I just haven’t been.

So, I’m behind. Where to start?

Well, how about with some stored-up Zionsville scuttlebutt? As yesterday’s Times-Sentinel reported, the restaurant and tea house Serenity has been busted for serving alcoholic beverages without a permit.

Two undercover Indiana State Excise Police officers and their spouses dined at Serenity on Oct. 2 and were served wine; on Oct. 9 owner Karin Glass was served with a search warrant and the excise police confiscated beer, wine, a laptop, reservation books, a menu chalkboard and miscellaneous paperwork. Glass was then charged with selling alcohol without a license, a misdemeanor, and maintaining a common nuisance for alcohol, a Class D felony. If convicted of the felony, she could be subject to $10,000 fine and as much as three years in jail. A jury trial has been set for Feb. 23 in Boone County Superior Court II.

An established Main Street business, the Grillmaster’s Garden, closed its doors abruptly in early October. A message from owners Jon and Kristen Carr that was posted on the store’s web site (now down) attributed the closing to a combination of past business decisions, a struggling economy and street construction in downtown Zionsville. The store was emptied of its inventory virtually overnight, and the Carrs no longer own the building, which is currently for lease.

On a more positive note, Oobatz! has opened what its owners hope will be first of several locations in a strip mall at 1576 W. Oak Street (SR 334), just west of Ford Road. In a nutshell, it’s kind of an upscale combination of an Italian restaurant and a sports bar with a very nice outdoor seating area featuring a fireplace and one table with a fire pit in its center. Menu items include calamari, pizza, lasagna, spaghetti and cheeseburgers, among other things. There is both an adult room with a bar and a family room. Prices are low to moderate; the beer and wine lists are not extensive but adequate.
J. Silverheels Gray, 11:07 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

True Tales From The Wine Store

There are a whole bunch of wine-related animations on YouTube worth looking for. Here’s one of them – I’ll link to some others, too....

J. Silverheels Gray, 1:03 PM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Novy Family Russian River Zinfandel 2007

Novy Family WineryFrom the husband and wife team of Adam Lee and Dianna Novy Lee, the makers of the fabulous Siduri Pinot Noirs, comes the enormous, fruity Novy  Russian River Zinfandel 2007. Right out of the bottle it’s a bit hot (and at 15.1 percent, no wonder), but after it sits in the glass or decants for a just a few minutes it smooths out and becomes a mellow, luscious, well-behaved wine. Not the least bit raisiny, it exhibits plenty of dark fruit flavors, primarily plum and blackberry. Absolutely wonderful, a good deal at $19, and in my opinion woefully underrated at 89 points. Seek this one out, Zin lovers.

How the Lees got into winemaking is one of those up-from-the-bootstraps stories that people who dream of having their own wineries can take encouragement from. They both grew up in Texas, and met while they were both working retail at Nieman-Marcus in Dallas, he as the wine buyer and she in the epicurean department. In a nutshell, they fell in love, pooled their resources (a total of $24,000) and worked a one-acre plot in Anderson Valley where their first vintage of Pinot Noir produced 107 cases.

After their wine was in the bottle, they heard that Robert Parker was staying in a hotel in Napa Valley. They dropped off a sample of their effort with the concierge, Parker gave it a 90-point rating, and their wine business was off and running. Not bad for a history major and a marketing major who had to resort to retail!
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:38 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, August 17, 2009

It’s tomato time!

Now that the tomatoes are really ripe and basil is plentiful, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches are again a staple at Chez Canine. A couple of pieces of toasted whole-grain bread, some sliced homegrowns, crisp bacon, fresh crunchy lettuce, a few basil leaves, plenty of mayo, a few plops of horseradish, and it’s a meal! (Add a fried egg if you want, and call it breakfast.)
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:36 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

10 drugs you shouldn’t use while driving a car

J. Silverheels Gray, 5:52 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, July 27, 2009

Constellation Brands selects NWS in consolidation effort

Constellation BrandsConstellation Brands, whose first-quarter profits slid by 85 percent, is streamlining its U.S. distribution network in an effort to market its products more efficiently.

Four distributors have been chosen to market Constellation’s products in 18 states, a move that consolidates more than half of the company’s wine and spirits business to one distributor per market.

In Indiana, the winner was National Wine and Spirits, which will take over several lines including Robert Mondavi, Toasted Head, Kim Crawford and Inniskillin from Olinger Indiana. Both distributors will sell the affected brands simultaneously for 30 days. National already has several Constellation brands in its portfolio, including Drylands, Nobilo, Blackstone, Clos du Bois, Hogue Cellars and Ravenswood.

Olinger’s parent company, Southern Wine and Spirits, is one of the distributors selected to market Constellation’s products in other states in which it operates. Rounding out the list of chosen distributors are Republic National Distributing Co. and Johnson Brothers Liquor Co.

Constellation is the world’s largest wine producer in terms of sales volume. It also produces beers, ciders, spirits and other specialty drinks.
J. Silverheels Gray, 4:28 PM | link | 1 comments |

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday funny

Mother Goose and Grimm
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:59 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Casa de Vila Verde Vinho Verde 2007

Casa de Vila Verde Vinho VerdeWhen hot weather comes around – like now, for instance – wine drinkers often start looking for something to drink that’s a little lighter on the palate than, say, a big, buttery Chardonnay. For that, the 2007 Vinho Verde from Casa de Vila Verde is an excellent candidate.

Made in the far northwestern corner of Portugal, Vinho Verde means “green wine,” a reference to its freshness, not its color. It is made mainly by small producers from local grapes you‘ve probably never heard of – Loureiro, Arinto, Trajadura, Avesso and Azal.

The one from Casa de Vila Verde (“House of the Green Village”) is a good example. It’s fresh, crisp and clean, with a little green apple on the nose and some nectarine and light citrus on the palate. It’s pleasant and refreshing to drink, and relatively low in alcohol at 11.5 percent. It is lightly acidic, not at all sweet, and reasonably priced at $10 per bottle. In addition to being the grape-based equivalent of a cold beer on a hot day, it would pair well with fresh fruit, light cheeses, chicken and white flaky fish.
J. Silverheels Gray, 8:44 AM | link | 0 comments |

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Weim and Cheese benefit is June 20

Weim & Cheese ’09
Louisville Weimaraner Rescue’s annual Weim and Cheese fundraiser will be held this coming Saturday, June 20 from 5 until 9 p.m. at Indiana Downs in Shelbyville, Indiana. The event will feature silent and live auctions, raffles, wine, beer, spirits and hors d’oeuvres. Tickets may be purchased at the door for $35, or for $30 in advance by calling (574) 892-6736. Donations of raffle and auction items are welcome; contact LWR for more information.

And Hobbes wants me to let you know that the Southwest Ohio Doberman Rescue Annual Picnic is coming up on June 27 at East Fork State Park near Cincinnati. Food, drink, silent auctions and fun for dogs and humans pretty much all day; contact SWODR for more info.
J. Silverheels Gray, 10:58 AM | link | 0 comments |

Moody Meats opens locations in Carmel, Zionsville

Moody MeatsMontgomery County farmers Adam and Lucy Moody have opened a new retail outlet in the Village of West Clay, and will open a Zionsville location in the first week of July.

Long familiar to denizens of local farmers markets, the Moodys have been selling sustainably produced, humanely raised chicken, beef and pork grown at their Lone Pine Farms since 1997. In 2000 they bought a processing facility in Ladoga, and now control every step of their farm business from pasture to consumer.

Their first retail store is in Avon at 235 N. State Road 267. The recently-opened West Clay shop is located in the Harvest Fresh Market and Deli. Moody’s Butcher Shop in Zionsville will open at 11145 N. Michigan Road, in a small strip center just south of Altum’s garden center, and will stock beef, pork, chicken, lamb, seafood, handmade sausages, specialty burgers, fresh eggs and deli meat and cheeses.
J. Silverheels Gray, 7:29 AM | link | 0 comments |