WineCanine

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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Grayson Cellars Chardonnay 2005

You might be inclined to pass this wine by because of its uncompelling label and low price ($10), but that would be a mistake. The Grayson Cellars Sonoma Chardonnay 2005 is a big, full-bodied oaky wine that exemplifies the California style. If you're a fan of the Logan Chard of the last two vintages or the Sebastiani Chard of two vintages back, then this wine is for you. Good mouthfeel, no bitterness on the finish, and a 14.5 percent alcohol content make the Grayson Cellars Chardonnay a winner. Now if they could just do something about that label....
M. Zane Grey, 11:30 AM | link |

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Filet Mignon stuffed with Spinach and Blue Cheese

Our Dining In group met last night, and the dinner and wine were fabulous. Our group consists of five couples, and each couple hosts two dinners per year. The hosts are responsible for providing the entrée and the wine, and assign dishes for each of the other couples to make at home and bring to the dinner.

The star of last night's dinner was the filet mignon stuffed with spinach and blue cheese. Our hostess used a recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine, though I found it nearly verbatim online at a website of a Fox affiliate in Wisconsin. It is an absolutely delicious, rich, decadent way to prepare a thick filet, and a great excuse to break out the special Cabernets and Bordeaux-style red blends.

Filet Mignon stuffed with
Spinach and Blue Cheese

Serves Four

Ingredients:
3 strips thick sliced bacon, diced
6 cups fresh spinach, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 cup blue cheese
1 Tbs. fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 beef tenderloin filets (2 inches thick)
1-2 Tbs. Parmesan cheese, shredded

Method:
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Sear tenderloin filets in skillet over medium high heat. Set aside.

Sauté bacon in sauté pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add garlic and spinach; stir to coat with drippings. Add sherry and cook until nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes, scraping up bits from pan. Cool slightly.

Combine spinach mixture with cheese, thyme and seasonings.

Wrap a piece of kitchen twine around each filet and secure with a knot. Using the tip of a knife, cut an “X” about half way into each tenderloin fillet. Snip the undersides of each point of the X with kitchen shears to create 4 flaps. Stuff each filet with 1/4 of spinach mixture. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. (A short video explaining how to stuff a filet can be viewed at Cuisine at Home's website.)

Roast filets on rack in oven for about 20 minutes at 400°F for medium rare. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

The richness of this dish is best matched with a relatively light vegetable accompaniment. We had a delicious warm roasted vegetable salad, another recipe from Cuisine at Home. I'm going to subscribe.
M. Zane Grey, 9:42 AM | link |

Friday, April 27, 2007

THINGS TO DO (4/27 - 4/29)

Here is the most recent installment of Evan Finch's occasional Things to Do email newsletter.
 
Mark Vonnegut
Clowes Memorial Hall
Friday, April 27

Mark Vonnegut – son of author Kurt Vonnegut, Junior – will speak at this year’s McFadden lecture (at 7 PM) in lieu of his dad, who passed away April 11. It makes me proud of Indianapolis that this lecture sold out in a matter of hours, back when tickets originally went on sale. If you’ve got a ticket to this, please write me afterwards and tell me how it went.

Phone: 317.940.6444
Web: http://www.cloweshall.org

* * *

Stutz Open House
Stutz Building
Friday, April 27 – Saturday, April 28
 
The Stutz Building (1060 North Capitol Avenue) used to manufacture automobiles, back in the day. Now it’s full of people manufacturing art, which you may see and/or buy this weekend, as more than 60 artists welcome visitors to their Stutz studios between 5:30 and 11 PM on Friday, and between noon and 5 PM on Saturday. The main gallery will also be hosting a group show honoring the late Kurt Vonnegut, Junior. Admission is $12 for a two-day ticket.  Wine and food will be available.
 
Phone: 317.488.7374
Web: http://www.stutzartists.com

* * *

Fountain Square Musical Opus-A-Go-Go Hoo Ha
Wheeler Arts Community
Friday, April 27

I consider this the coolest thing happening this weekend. Local musicians Ebenezer and the Hymnasters (many of whom live and/or work in Fountain Square) will sing a recently-written collection of songs about their neighborhood.  Other artists and writers (including Jim Walker, David Campbell, Kate Rohl, Phil Barcio and members of Motus Dance) will perform, and the Wheeler’s gallery will be performing between 7:30 and 9 PM. You’ll find the Wheeler Arts Community at 1035 Sanders Street, next to the police station in Fountain Square, behind Bud’s Supermarket. Admission is $5.

Phone: 317.916.9375
Web: http://www.wheelerartscommunity.com

* * *

April Show
322 North Arsenal Avenue
Friday, April 27
 
A one-night sale of art to benefit poor, homeless and/or mentally ill Indianapolis citizens. Doors open at 7 PM, admission is free.  The website (below) should tell you everything that I’m not.

Phone: 317.974.1163
Web: http://www.aprilshow.org

* * *

U.S. National Synchronized Swimming Championships
IUPUI Natatorium
Friday, April 27 – Saturday, April 28

Get your fill of rhythmic, soggy glamour. Tickets are $5 on Friday, and $10 for the finals on Saturday.

Phone: 317.274.3518
Web: http://www.iunat.iupui.edu

* * *

Indianapolis International Film Festival
Various Locations
Friday, April 27 – Friday, May 4

Lots of films from lots of countries, playing all over the city. For locations, show times and film listings, see the website listed below. NOTE: Apparently Key Cinemas, on the south side, will be closing shortly after this year’s film festival finishes. So if you’ve been meaning to run down there and catch a movie, now would be the time.

Phone: 317.513.9370  
Web: http://www.indyfilmfest.org

* * *

L’Age D’or
Indiana Museum of Art, DeBoest Lecture Hall
Saturday, April 28
 
At 11 AM, the IMA will show this 1930 Luis Bunuel surrealist film in their DeBoest Lecture Hall. Here’s a partial synopsis, swiped from elsewhere on the web: “Scorpions are observed in a documentary segment. Partisans seek to expel Majorcan invaders (four Bishops chanting on a beach) but one by one succumb to their wounds. A delegation arrives by boat to find the Bishops turned to skeletons, and leaves a plaque celebrating the founding of Rome. Two lovers (Gaston Modot and Lya Lys) are found writhing in the mud, and separated; as he is led away the man becomes hostile and kicks a dog. Aerial shots of Rome alternate with shots of modern (1930) Paris. At her stately mansion, the woman mourns her missing mud-spattered suitor, and feels his presence through her magic mirror as he is still being escorted by detectives. She chases a cow off of her bed.” And that’s way before the flaming Christmas tree gets shoved out the window. Admission is free.

Phone: 317.923.1331
Web: http://www.ima-art.org

* * *
 
Vonnegut Redux: A Multimedia Memorial Event
Indiana Museum of Art, DeBoest Lecture Hall
Saturday, April 28
 
Hosted by NUVO editor David Hoppe, this 4 PM presentation will include readings of Kurt Vonnegut, Junior’s work by authors Dan Wakefield and Nelson Price. In addition, a scene from one of Vonnegut’s stories will be performed by the ShadowApe Theater Company. Poetry will be read by John Clark, and music will be provided by the ubiquitous Ebenezer and the Hymnasters. Attendees are invited to bring a favorite Vonnegut line or quote to contribute to an audio collage/recording. Tickets are $7 to the general public, $5 to students and seniors, and $3 to IMA members. The IMA is at the corner of 38th and Michigan Road. Call 317.920.2648 for ticket availability.

Phone: 317.923.1331
Web: http://www.ima-art.org

* * *

Another Antigone
Jewish Community Center
Sunday, April 29

The stalwart Jack O’Hara stars in this updated variation on that classic Greek tragedy you sort of remember from high school lit class. The JCC is located at 6701 Hoover Road. Curtain rises at 2 PM. Ticket prices are $10 for everyone who’s not a youth or a senior; otherwise, it’ll be $8.

Phone: 317.251.9467  
Web: http://www.jccindy.org

* * *

LINKS NO ONE ASKED FOR

BibliOdyssey is a collection of visuals from all manner of old books:

http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.com

Things Magazine is a collection of various online ephemera, presented with minimal commentary and maximal linkage:
 
http://www.thingsmagazine.net
 
And if you’d care to read about the Open Air School movement, as evidenced in Indiana, here you go:
 
http://www.statelib.lib.in.us/www/isl/indiana/tuberculosis
M. Zane Grey, 9:46 AM | link |

The Barking Dog

A friend has informed me that The Barking Dog Café, formerly in the City Market, is now located at 49th & Penn (115 E. 49th St.). They serve Down East cuisine, including lobster rolls. Open for lunch or early dinner, dine in or take out.

I haven't eaten there yet, but since lobster rolls are among my favorite foods it's now on my short list of places to try.
M. Zane Grey, 9:39 AM | link |

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Antioxidant in red wine kills cancer cells

A story in the Wine Spectator reports that a pigmentation chemical that makes grape skins and wines red has been found to kill human leukemia and lymphoma cells.

Results of the research, which was done at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, will be published May 4 in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
M. Zane Grey, 8:45 AM | link |

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Drinking for Dollars

Once upon a time, hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of years ago, someone became unusually generous after drinking a few glasses of wine, and someone else noticed. Ever since then, wine has played a major role in fundraising.

The most glamorous fundraisers are the wine auctions in the areas where wine is made. Napa County's 25th annual auction raised more than $10.5 million in 2005 and more than $68 million over the life of the event, which benefits Napa County health, youth and low-income housing non-profit organizations. Wine tasting fundraisers are enormously popular -- and what silent auction would be complete without a gift basket filled with wine and gourmet goodies?

Some wines raise funds all by themselves. The Big Tattoo wines were created to raise funds for cancer research after the two brothers behind the company lost their mother to the disease. Local sales of Big Tattoo wines benefit the St. Vincent Hospice.

Ehlers Estate, which produces delicious, highly-rated wines, is controlled by The Leducq Foundation, a not-for-profit philanthropic entity created to support international cardiovascular research. And a portion of the profits from the sales of Vinum Cellars’ excellent PETS Petite Sirah benefit the San Francisco SPCA and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Close to WineCanine's heart are the dozens of Weim and Cheese events that benefit Weimaraner rescue organizations including Weimaraner Rescue of the South, which took care of the homeless Zane (or Milo, as he was known then) and nursed him back to health so he could begin a new life in Indiana.
M. Zane Grey, 8:35 AM | link |

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Oakley Five Reds 2003

There are a lot of good red blends (or "mutts" as they're sometimes called) on the market right now -- Pillar Box Red, Sarah's Blend, Frontier Red, Red Truck, Jest Red, Red and Big Tattoo Red, to name a few. One that I neglected to try until just recently is the Oakley Five Reds from Cline Cellars.

It's an unusual blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet and Mourvèdre. As you might expect, it's robust, rich, and packed with forward fruit flavors of blackberry, cherry and plum, with a peppery finish. An easy drinker with plenty of body and a moderate 13.5 percent alcohol content, Five Reds is a perfect wine to take to a summer barbeque. (And at $10 a bottle, you might want to take two!)
M. Zane Grey, 12:55 PM | link |

Alcohol wholesalers on attack in Illinois

Illinois alcohol wholesalers are behind a bill that would make it illegal for wine consumers in that state to order wines from out-of-state shops. However, the bill (HB 429) would allow residents to continue ordering wine directly from wineries.

Illinois residents have been able to order wine from wineries and out-of-state retailers since 1992, providing that the state the shipper was in allowed similar shipments from Illinois retailers.

The bill disregards last year's Supreme Court ruling requiring reciprocal agreements between shipping states. According to that ruling, if out-of-state shops are not allowed to ship into Illinois, then Illinois retailers would not be permitted to ship out of state. This would be disastrous for such merchants as the Skokie-based Schaefers.com, which does a significant amount of online business.

HB 429 will be a battle between the lobbyists of the Illinois alcohol wholesalers and the Specialty Wine Retailers Association among others, and one that will be watched with interest in other states.
M. Zane Grey, 12:16 PM | link |

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mezza Corona Chardonnay 2005

"Italian Chardonnay" isn't a phrase that immediately comes to mind -- at least not to me-- where wine is concerned. Part of the reason for that is that Italian wines are usually named for the regions from which they come rather than for the grapes from which they are made. And who associates Chardonnay with Italy anyway? Chianti, Barolo, Barbera, Pinot Grigio, sure -- but Chardonnay?

Mezza Corona has figured something out that many European companies haven't: If you want to sell wine to the huge American market, give it a recognizable name and a familiar taste. Their Chardonnay is a mouthfilling drink with flavors of ripe apple and pear, with a little oak vanilla. It really is delicious, quaffable, and well worth its $7 (!) price.
M. Zane Grey, 8:32 PM | link |

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage 2003

A couple of days ago I had the opportunity to sample several Rhône wines of the 2003 vintage. These were all big wines (14.5 percent alcohol), and ranged from a Côtes du Rhône that is ready to drink right out of the bottle to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape that needs a good three to five years of bottle age to release its true potential.

My favorite was the Cuvée Albéric Bouvet Crozes-Hermitage 2003 from Gilles Robin. It's 100 percent Syrah, and is a huge, powerful, chewy wine. It has a wonderful nose of currant, plum and earth -- one of those wines that's as much fun to sniff as it is to drink.

After it makes it past the lips, this wine fills the mouth with complex flavors, and it leaves with a long, satisfying finish. It's quite a treat, and at $25 - $30 per bottle, an affordable luxury.
M. Zane Grey, 7:18 PM | link |

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wrongo Dongo 2004

Funny name, goofy label, really good wine!

Wrongo Dongo is a Monastrell made by Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil, a winery that also makes an excellent, eponymous old-vine Monastrell. It's under $10, light to medium-bodied and delicious, and leads with flavors of strawberry and raspberry, which continue through its fairly short finish. (Short finish? No problemo -- have another sip!)

Monastrell, by the way, is better known by the French name Mourvédre, despite the fact that it is a Spanish native. In France it's commonly used as a blending grape for Rhône blends, but it is in Jumilla that it is truly allowed to express itself.

This wine would be a good steppingstone for people trying to make the leap from White Zin to reds, and red drinkers should find it eminently quaffable too. Perfect for parties, grilled salmon, and summer.
M. Zane Grey, 9:50 PM | link |

Calina Reserva Chardonnay 2006

A few posts ago (scroll down) I raved about the Calina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, a Chilean offering with good nose, fruit, body and no rough edges for the wonderfully affordable price of $7 per bottle.

Today someone pointed out that Calina makes a Reserva Chardonnay too, so I decided to take it home to try it out. Could lightning strike twice?

Zap! Zap! Yes, it could! I've paid three times as much in wine shops for Chardonnays I didn't like as well as this one. In fact, if you paid $7 for a glass of wine this good in a restaurant, you'd think you were getting a good deal. (Hear that, restaurateurs?)

This wine tastes like it could be from California, and there's a reason for that. Calina is owned by Kendall-Jackson, and there's a definite family resemblance. The Calina Reserva is nowhere near as over-the-top creamy and buttery as the K-J equivalent, but the evidence of malolactic fermentation and French oak is there.

It's medium in body, at a reasonable 13.5 percent alcohol. On the palate is pear seasoned with a little nutmeg; it finishes clean and dry, with no trace of bitterness (something I am particularly sensitive to). This would be a perfect deck wine for summer, or to pair with grilled chicken or scallops.

And I did mention, didn't I, that it's $7 a bottle?
M. Zane Grey, 7:49 PM | link |

Brix on the rocks?

Although the sign in the window of Brix says "Closed for Kitchen Remodeling," the scuttlebutt in Zionsville is that the reasons the popular bistro has gone dark have more to do with irreconcilable differences than obsolete appliances.

Running a busy restaurant is no simple matter, and it's a sad fact that many partnerships don't survive the pressure cooker of management. In this case it's a family business, so one can hold out hope that sisters Jeni and Shari Jenkins have had fallings-out and reconciliations before, and will at least remain friends after the dust settles.

It's too early for a requiem quite yet (let's hope!), but ever since its humble beginnings in the old ice cream shop this restaurant has been an asset to the village with its imaginative and excellent cuisine, way-above-average wine list, and vibrant atmosphere. Zionsville just wouldn't be the same without Brix -- we wish them well, and hope for the best.
M. Zane Grey, 7:09 PM | link |

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Chicken recipe contest

Have an original chicken recipe that you don't mind sharing? Consider entering it in the 19th Annual Winning Taste recipe contest. The runner-up prizes of cookware, gas grills and cutlery may not be particularly compelling, but the grand prize of a week-long culinary trip for four to Provence would be worth the effort!

Your recipe must be original, and use fresh chicken as the main ingredient. Categories are Appetizer/Snack; Main Dish/Entrée; Light Eating; Grilling; and Quick & Easy.

Be advised that any recipe you submit is subject to being used or published without any compensation to you if you aren't a prize winner. But if you think giving up your recipe is an OK trade for a shot at an on-site crash course in French cooking and wine appreciation, surf on over to www.winningtasterecipe.com before April 30. And if you need a traveling companion, my passport is current....
M. Zane Grey, 10:07 PM | link |

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Three quick reviews

Arbanta Rioja (NV?)

An inexpensive, tank-fermented Tempranillo from Biurko-Gorri, Arbanta is a simple, straightforward Spanish wine with a nose and bright flavors of fresh red cherries. It's an easy drinker, not complicated or complex, that works well either as a sipper or an an accompaniment to tapas or -- what the heck -- a bucket of chicken. About $10.

Drylands Sauvignon Blanc 2006

From Marlborough, New Zealand. Dry and crisp, with subdued grapefruit on the nose. Light to medium bodied, well balanced, and not overtly grassy or citrusy. Long, clean finish with no trace of bitterness or sweetness. A nice team player that doesn't try to be the star of the meal. About $13.

Calina Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

From Rapel Valley, Chile. At $7, this is a genuine bargain and a great everyday red. It has that familiar tobacco nose that many Chilean wines have, followed by flavors of dark fruit, coffee and cola. A medium-bodied easy drinker, with barely noticable tannins. Sip it as a cocktail wine, or use it to wash down burgers and other grilled delghts. I really like this one!
M. Zane Grey, 10:16 PM | link |

Monday, April 16, 2007

Marquis Philips Holly's Blend 2005

Made in South Eastern Australia and imported by Dan Philips of The Grateful Palate, Holly's Blend is actually 100 percent Verdelho. It's hard to say exactly what "blend" might mean in regard to this wine in the future, but for now it's a combination of tank-fermented and barrel-fermented Verdelho.

Verdelho has its origins in Portugal, where it has long been used to make a type of Madeira. It's typically crisp, lemony and medium-bodied. Aging in oak barrels adds mouthfeel and richness, which Holly's Blend has but not in excess. If you'd like a white other than a Chardonnay but not too far afield, this would be a good choice. At $11, it's a great deck wine would work well with chicken and fish too.

Marquis Philips was originally a partnership of Australian winemakers Sparky and Sarah Marquis and American importer Dan Philips. Their collaboration spawned some excellent wines -- Sarah's Blend and the S2 Cabernet Sauvignon come to mind -- and although their collaboration came to an end, the wines live on. Just look for the Roogle....
M. Zane Grey, 10:09 PM | link |

Taking stock of Woodstock

I'm not a member of Woodstock Country Club, but I do go there several times a year for dinners held by the amateur theatrical clubs to which I belong. It's a comfortable place, like an overgrown Meridan-Kessler house with hardwood floors, Oriental rugs and tastefully elegant furnishings, and I enjoy being there.

The food and service haven't always been up to the standards of the rest of the place, though. I can remember many times when mediocre dinners were served barely warm, and the house wine wasn't worth drinking.

That has changed for the better. The last couple of times I went to a dinner there (last Saturday, and about a month earlier), the food was excellent and so was the service. It's no small task to serve and clear for 200 diners all at once -- especially while maintaining regular dinner service for the membership -- but the personable and bright staff there has it down.

The wine has improved, too -- at last month's dinner they were pouring Snoqualmie wines, and last Saturday a very pleasant Beringer Merlot. (I didn't check to see what the white was.) Maybe I'll be able to become a member one of these days -- but having just filed my taxes, I think I'll be sticking with the much more affordable White River Yacht Club for the foreseeable future....
M. Zane Grey, 10:58 AM | link |

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Devil's Angel Hair

Several years ago I went to Marietta, Ohio with a geologist friend to evaluate some oil wells. It was the first (and so far only) time I had been to Marietta, a lovely, well-kept small city nestled on the banks of the Ohio river at its confluence with the Muskingum. Founded in 1788, it is the oldest settlement in the state, and historically prosperous. Its location on two navigable rivers made it an excellent location for shipping and commerce, and oil further fueled the local economy after it was discovered in the area in 1860.

My favorite discovery during my trip to Marietta was Rossi Pasta, which set up shop there in the early 1980s. The high quality and creativity that they put into their products has earned them the business of hotels, resorts, and high-end retailers of gourmet foods like Williams-Sonoma and Neiman Marcus.

Just recently, Rossi Pasta added "Fire!" to its line, a flavor originally created for Neiman Marcus. Also billed as "The Devil's Angel Hair," this cayenne-infused Capelli d'Angelo adds flavor and heat -- lots of it -- to anything it is paired with. We just threw together some sautéed onions, red peppers and minced clams in a white sauce as a pasta-topper for a quick, late dinner, and the fiery pasta added complexity and kick. I'm already thinking about pairing it with grilled shrimp and veggies, or scallops in a cream sauce. If I need any other ideas, I'm sure I can find some at Rossi Pasta's excellent recipe collection.

I could rave about some of their other flavors too (Wild Mushroom Linguini!), but will leave that for another time. Rossi Pasta is available at eight Indiana locations, as well as at their online store.
M. Zane Grey, 10:55 AM | link |

Friday, April 13, 2007

THINGS TO DO (4/13)

Here is the most recent installment of Evan Finch's occasional Things to Do email newsletter.

Canopy
Harrison Center for the Arts
Friday, April 13

From 6 to 9 PM on Friday, April 13th (hey, that’s tonight), the Harrison Center for the Arts will present new work by textile artists Elyce Elder and Karen Woods (with music afterwards by North Carolina singer/songwriter Jason Harrod). The Harrison Center is just south of 16th Street on Delaware, attached to a church on the corner. It’s a very cool place. You should go there after work tonight. There’s food too. Who doesn’t like art and food? Please.

Phone: 317.396.3886
Web: http://www.harrisoncenter.org/

* * *

Yo La Tengo
The Vogue
Tuesday, April 10

Yo La Tengo is the best band in New Jersey, and maybe the world. And they’re playing The Vogue (6259 North College Avenue) tonight, on Friday, April 13th. Doors open at 8 PM, opening act starts at 9 PM. Tickets are like $17, and you can probably still buy them at the door tonight. Call 317.259.7029 to find out.

Phone: 317.259.7029
Web: http://www.thevogue.ws and http://www.yolatengo.com

* * *

OTHER STUFF THAT I HAVEN’T HAD TIME TO PUT INTO ANY ORGANIZED FORMAT

I think there’s a flea market and an arcade game auction at the State Fairgrounds this weekend. And a roller derby match coming up soon. Check their website: http://tinyurl.com/2zgqmw

On Sunday, April 15th, Paul Baumgarten is going to launch an exhibition of his photography at the Alcatraz Brewing Company. I forget what times. Call the bar (317.488.1230) and ask.

Other stuff, I don’t know. Check Nuvo and Intake. I gotta go.

* * *

LINKS NO ONE ASKED FOR

What in God’s name is this:

http://www.engadget.com/2006/07/17/the-led-pong-hat/

And this:

http://tinyurl.com/2fdg8u
M. Zane Grey, 3:31 PM | link |

A good $6.99 Cabernet

Last night I tried the Santa Julia Organica Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 for the second time. I'm happy to report that it's not just a really good wine for the money, it's a really good wine!

It was robust and smooth, with firm but friendly tannins, poured straight from the bottle. A brief decant would benefit it, but sure isn't necessary. As is typical of Argentine Cabs, it is packed with rich flavors of dark fruit -- if you've had Finca Sophenia or Errazuriz Max Reserva, you already have some idea what to expect. That it retails for less than $10 and is made with organically-produced grapes makes it an outstanding offering.

Santa Julia is produced by Familia Zuccardi, who have been operating wineries -- initially as a way to demonstrate the effectiveness of patriarch Don Alberto's irrigation systems -- since 1963. The operation is now managed by Don Alberto's son, José Alberto, who named the Santa Julia line after his daughter. In that regard it is similar to the Elyse and Jacob Franklin wines, named by Napa winemaker Ray Coursen after his daughter and son, respectively.

Sort of along those same lines, The Old Ball and Chain dessert wine from Sineann and Tait's Ball Buster Shiraz are named after the winemakers' wives. Submitted without comment....
M. Zane Grey, 9:30 AM | link |

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cumin-Mint Leg of Lamb

Last week I was developing a hankering for grilled leg of lamb, but didn't succumb to it until I got this recipe from Weber in an email.

The boneless leg I prepared weighed five pounds, so I doubled the recipe for the paste. I deviated by using a small food processor instead of a mortar and pestle, and it turned out just fine.

One of those little plastic containers of fresh mint that they sell at the grocery provided enough mint leaves to cover the lamb and make the sauce. (As it turned out, we used the sauce on our crushed baked fingerling potatoes -- the lamb was sufficiently delicious without it.)

Although this recipe doesn't call for it, I always pound an unrolled boneless leg of lamb into a uniform thickness at the beginning of the preparation process so it will cook more evenly. My tool of choice for this is an Estwing four-pound sledge hammer, available at fine hardware stores everywhere.

Cumin-Mint Leg of Lamb

Paste

2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 boneless leg of lamb, 2-1/2 to 3 pounds
1/3 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves

Sauce

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the cumin seed and peppercorns into tiny pieces. Add the garlic, salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Pound the seasonings into tiny pieces. Add the olive oil and lemon juice. Mix to create a paste.

2. Carefully remove any excess fat and sinew from both sides of the lamb. Place the lamb, cut side up, on a clean work surface. The meat needs to be a fairly uniform, 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick. If any sections are thicker, cut them off and cook them separately or make shallow cuts on the bias into the thicker section and spread or “butterfly” the meat into a thinner section. Spread half of the paste evenly over the inside of the lamb and the other half on the outside of the lamb. Lay the mint leaves down the middle of the inside. Tightly roll the lamb into a long cylinder. Using kitchen twine, tie the lamb at 1-1/2-inch intervals. Trim off the loose ends of the twine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

3. In a small bowl whisk the sauce ingredients until smooth. Let the sauce and the lamb sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.

4. Brush the cooking grate clean. Grill the lamb, fat side down first, over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until golden brown all over, 10 to15 minutes, turning once or twice and rotating as needed for even cooking. Move the lamb over indirect medium heat and cook to your desired doneness, 20 to 30 minutes for medium rare, rotating as needed for even cooking. Remove the lamb from the grill and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing. Remove the twine. Cut the lamb crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Serve warm or at room temperature with the sauce.

We served this with the Lagone Super Tuscan, which complemented it perfectly.
M. Zane Grey, 9:00 AM | link |

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Garretson Wines

Mac user, dog guy and winemaker Mat Garretson of the Garretson Wine Company stopped by yesterday, and brought along a few of his wines.

Garretson specializes in Rhône varieties, so the wines we tried were the G White, a white Rhône-style blend; a Roussane; The Celiedh, a Syrah-Mourvèdre-Grenache Rosé; and The Aisling, a 100 percent Syrah. They are all very nicely done -- I'm sure that the G White and The Celiedh will be making multiple appearances on my deck this summer, and I hope to have the Roussane and The Aisling -- each of them an exceptional, full-bodied and delicious example of its type -- over for special occasions. Look for the big G or a Celtic-style label on the shelves of your favorite wine shop.
M. Zane Grey, 9:30 AM | link |

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wine dogs, books and bugs

If you like wine and dogs and have a coffee table with a blank spot on it, consider covering it with Wine Dogs, a 536-page tome about the canines who live, work and play at wineries. It's filled with photographs, essays and anecdotes and even a 100-point Dog Rating Scale devised by Robert Parker. And if that's not enough, there's a second book featuring dogs at Australian wineries, a calendar, a plush toy and a poster.

Some winery dogs are learning new tricks. An experimental program in California is training dogs to sniff out an agricultural pest that produces a secretion that renders grapes unmarketable. Dogs promise to be more efficient, cost effective and accurate than humans in canvasing the more than 100,000 acres of Napa and Sonoma vineyards that could be harboring the vine mealybug.

A wag of the tail to Carlene for sending the bug-sniffer link.
M. Zane Grey, 11:09 PM | link |

Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

The Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 is perfectly agreeable from the moment you crack open its screwcap. By itself, it has just a tinge of that old Chilean green pepper component in the tannins, but with food (say, for example, grilled lamb) that becomes an asset. It has a nice deep blackberry nose, good color, black cherry on the palate and enough oomph to hold up to strong spices. This is a good, robust and relatively easy to drink wine, well worth the $10 price of admission.
M. Zane Grey, 12:55 AM | link |

Monday, April 09, 2007

Los Cardos Merlot 2004

"Los Cardos" is Spanish for The Thistles, named after the prickly plants that grow in and around some of the vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina.

Upon pouring it out of the bottle I thought the name was completely appropriate -- it was dark purple, had no aroma, and went down with a lingering heat and heavy tannins. This was at 6:30 p.m. By 6:45 the heat had moderated a little, and the palate had started to exhibit an herbal quality. Or was it weedy? Clearly, it hadn't won me over yet, but it was improving.

I stuck the cork back in the bottle and went out for a few hours. At 10:30 I returned, poured it into a decanter, and swirled it for a while. Another sniff, swirl and slug revealed great improvement -- now it had a nose of dark fruits, mainly plums and blackberries. On the palate it was more blackberry with an underflavor of dried spices, backed up by firm but agreeable tannins. It didn't show much complexity, but for $10 I don't expect a lot of that. After my wait (it's 11:30 as I write this), it became a dry, agreeable wine that would go well with grilled meats. At this point it would also be a good sipper, but five hours is a bit long to wait for a sipping wine to come around.

This is one of those $10 wines that you can open, leave on the kitchen counter for a day, then come back and enjoy -- or, alternatively, put in your cellar for three to five years. In either case, your patience will pay off.
M. Zane Grey, 11:20 PM | link |

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Eggs Benedict

Eggs Benedict on Foodista
Every now and then -- a couple of times a year maybe, say New Year's Day and Easter morning -- I'll make Eggs Benedict, my favorite breakfast treat. It takes a little bit of preparation, but when it turns out right the fresh homemade dish makes even the best restaurant-buffet version seem mundane by comparison.

Fresh, high-quality ingredients are important -- good muffins, fresh eggs and unsalted butter, and the best Canadian bacon you can find (or ham, if you prefer). For today's meal I used Neuske's applewood-smoked Canadian bacon purchased at Grapevine Cottage in Zionsville (it can also be ordered online directly from the source).

Instead of making my own Hollandaise sauce this time, I picked up a small container made in France by Delouis fils, also from Grapevine Cottage. It's delicious (and easy!), but I usually prefer to make my own, using the following recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Hollandaise Sauce
yields one cup

Ingredients
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 lb. unsalted butter, melted
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Method
Use a double boiler or a metal bowl placed over hot, but not simmering, water. Put the egg yolks in the boiler top, and beat with a wire whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice and gradually whisk in the melted butter, pouring in a thin stream. Slowly stir in 2 tablespoons hot water, the cayenne, and salt. Continue to mix for 1 minute. The sauce should be thickened. Serve immediately, or hold over warm water for an hour or two, but don't try to keep it too long without refrigerating.

Poaching eggs
I don't own an egg poacher, so the best method I've found is to put the eggs into little plastic wrap bags and drop them into boiling water, as amusingly detailed here. I smear a little butter on the plastic wrap before I put the egg in so it doesn't stick after it's cooked, and use a twistie-tie to easily close and open the bag. This method also makes it possible to season the egg before cooking, if you wish.

After you've made the sauce and put the eggs in their little bags, you're ready to start. After the water for the eggs comes to a boil, everything should come together in five minutes.

Eggs Benedict
serves two

Ingredients
4 eggs
2 English muffins, split
Canadian bacon or ham, enough to cover each muffin slice
1 cup Hollandaise sauce, warm
butter for muffins

Drop prepared egg bags in pot of boiling water. Cover pot, turn off heat and let eggs sit in hot water for 4 minutes.

While the eggs are cooking, sauté Canadian bacon on low heat in butter or bacon grease. The Canadian bacon or ham is already cooked, so the object here is to warm it to serving temperature without cooking it any more, which makes it tough and dry. When meat is sufficiently warm, turn off burner.

Toast and butter muffin slices, and top each with a layer of Canadian bacon.

After the eggs have cooked, unwrap them and place them on a prep plate. Using a spoon and your fingers, place eggs on top of Canadian bacon, then top with Hollandaise Sauce. Serve immediately.

Whether accompanied by coffee, sparkling wine, freshly-squeezed orange juice (or all three!), there are few better ways, in my mind, to start the day.

Possibly of interest to wine drinkers is that legend has it that Eggs Benedict was invented as a hangover treatment by Lemuel Benedict, a New York stockbroker, in 1894. As it happens, the New York Times ran a story about the dish today; if you're up for a little food history, go read it (login required).

And if you're just waiting for an excuse to treat yourself, here's one: April 16 is National Eggs Benedict Day.
M. Zane Grey, 8:00 PM | link |

Riondo Prosecco NV

Every now and then I'll jokingly refer to a wine as a "nice little breakfast wine," but the Riondo Prosecco really is. It's a frizzante (semi-sparkling) wine, light, crisp and clean, with hints of fresh apple and toast. Its low alcohol content (10.5 percent, not much more than the IPA reviewed a few posts down) makes it an excellent prelude to Sunday brunch or, in my case today, Eggs Benedict. It would also make a good apéritif before dinner.

Adding to its charm is the fact that it runs about $10 a bottle. At that price, there's no reason not to keep a couple of bottles on hand in the far recesses of the fridge for the next time you want to create a special occasion.
M. Zane Grey, 9:30 AM | link |

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2005

A friend of mine loves big, oak-bomb Chardonnays, but she doesn't have a high regard for Kendall-Jackson, to put it mildly. To quote, "It's on the same level as Sutter Home -- YUK!"

I know what she means, because I've had some K-J wines that I thought were, oh ... uninspired, to be generous. But Trinchero (which owns Sutter Home) makes some good wines, and so does K-J.

In my experience, what K-J does best is Chards. They're almost as consistent as Coca-Cola in maintaining their character and flavor from year to year, and they do it by blending grapes from different appelations to achieve the results they're after.

And K-J understands what it is about Chardonnay that trips people's triggers. Someone once wrote that "vanilla is like catnip for humans," and vanilla is what K-J uses plenty of oak for to deliver. Their winemaker surely uses malolactic fermentation too, to achieve the creamy mouthfeel that the Grand Reserve has.

At $19 per bottle, the K-J Grand Reserve competes with wines that cost half again as much. And if I poured it into a Flora Springs bottle, I'll bet my friend would love it....
M. Zane Grey, 8:50 PM | link |

Snoqualmie Sauvignon Blanc 2005

Sauvignon Blanc is one of those wines that I usually only drink in the summer, about the same time I switch from ESBs and IPAs to Weissbier and Oberon. So when I ended up with a bottle of Snoqualmie's Sauvignon Blanc 2005 the day before Easter (high 33°F, low 22°F), I really wasn't in the mood.

It won me over soon enough, though. This isn't a New Zealand in-your-face grapefruit bomb, but a rather more subtle Columbia Valley interpretation that substitutes melon for the Kiwi-style grapefruit. It's light to medium-bodied, with just a tinge of citrus and acidity on the finish that would help it pair well with food, particularly chicken or seafood. The colder it is served the more pronounced the acidity becomes, so it hits its stride as a cocktail wine after it warms up a bit.

And at $10, it's a bargain. When summer finally arrives and you're ready for something clean and light to drink after cutting the grass or while getting the grill fired up, this may be it.
M. Zane Grey, 8:25 PM | link |

Friday, April 06, 2007

How to boil an egg

Everyone has a favorite method of boiling an egg. As simple as it is, there are seemingly countless variations on how to achieve perfection, hard-boiled or soft. (If you search for "how to boil an egg" on Google, you'll end up with about 31,800 results.)

My preferred method is to put the eggs in one layer in a pot, put in enough warm water to just cover them, put the lid on the pot and bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them sit in the hot water for about 20 minutes before putting them in a cool-water bath. This prevents the harmless but unattractive green layer from forming around the yolk.

But if you're into precision, you'll want to consult The Science of Boiling an Egg, by Dr. Charles C. H. Williams, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter's School of Physics. Williams' original article and formula (yes, formula -- this is no ordinary recipe) was first published in New Scientist magazine in 1998, and has been reprinted several times since then in publications all over the world.

Williams' Web page on the topic contains a wealth of information about eggs apart from how to boil them successfully. My favorite bit is this: "Close inspection of a 'greened' yolk sometimes reveals several concentric rings; the yolk develops within the hen in spherical layers and the rings reflect variation in the iron content of the hen's feed or water."

Egg forensics -- it's what's for breakfast....
M. Zane Grey, 7:35 PM | link |

THINGS TO DO (4/6, 4/10)

Here is the most recent installment of Evan Finch's occasional Things to Do email newsletter.

Wes Janz’ One Small Project
Dean Johnson Gallery
Friday, April 6

Wes Janz is Associate Professor of Architecture at Ball State, and he’s fascinated by the use of “leftover space” as it pertains to the urban homeless. On Friday, April 6, from 5 to 9 PM, the Dean Johnson gallery (http://www.deanjohnson.com) will host a group installation exhibit with the work of Janz and his students. NOTE: You can also read a good Archinect article about Janz’ “One Small Project” by visiting http://tinyurl.com/yntrc8 .

Phone: 317.634.8020
Web: http://www.deanjohnson.com

* * *

Neko Case
The Vogue
Tuesday, April 10

Alt-country chanteuse Neko Case (sometimes vocalist for the New Pornographers) is playing The Vogue (6259 North College Avenue) next Tuesday, April 10. Tickets are $20 in advance from the Vogue or any Ticketmaster outlet.

Phone: 317.259.7029
Web: http://www.thevogue.ws and http://www.nekocase.com

* * *

NOT THIS WEEK, BUT NEXT WEEK

From 6 to 9 PM on Friday, April 13th, the Harrison Center for the Arts will present new work by textile artists Elyce Elder and Karen Woods (with music afterwards by North Carolina singer/songwriter Jason Harrod).

And a little later on Friday, April 13th, New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo will be playing The Vogue. Tickets to that show are $15 in advance, and are on sale now from the Vogue (http://www.thevogue.ws) or any Ticketmaster outlet.

On Sunday, April 15th, Paul Baumgarten is going to launch an exhibition of his photography at the Alcatraz Brewing Company. You go, Paul.

* * *

LINKS NO ONE ASKED FOR

If you’d like to enter the New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest, you may do so here:

http://www.newyorker.com/humor/caption

And, uh, that’s all I’ve got this week. Sorry. I promise to do better.
M. Zane Grey, 12:02 PM | link |

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Snoqualmie Whistle Stop Red 2003

What a wonderful wine this is!

Washington state wines tend to be a little lighter and brighter than their California counterparts, and the Whistle Stop Red 2003, a 70-30 Cab-Merlot blend, is no exception. It has good color, a nice, substantial nose, and flavors of black cherry and blackberry on the palate. Medium-bodied and easy to drink, this is a wonderful everyday wine suitable for quaffing by itself or as a companion to food (even Easter ham, come to think of it).

I'm always on the lookout for a $10 wine that won't let me down at home or embarrass me in front of company, and this one fills the bill. It's an unpretentious, delightful, delicious, likable, three-season winner. Try a bottle, then buy a case.
M. Zane Grey, 11:20 PM | link |

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Sam's sells

Sam's Wine and Spirits, the legendary Chicago wine superstore, has agreed to sell an 80 percent stake to Arbor Private Investments, a private-equity group that specializes in the food and beverage industry. Brian Rosen, the grandson of founder Sam Rosen, will retain a 20 percent stake and become the company's president.

The sale, which will enable Sam's to expand throughout Illinois, is seen by analysts as an indication that the wine industry is maturing. According to The Wine Institute, the U.S. is poised to replace France as the world's biggest wine-drinking nation in three years.
M. Zane Grey, 9:57 PM | link |

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Aia Vecchia Lagone 2004

This is what I needed: a $14 Super Tuscan!

Absolutely outstanding in its price range, Lagone is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sangiovese. It has enough forward fruit to please those partial to New World wines, but the flavors and acidity should make Old World fans feel right at home too.

Lagone starts with dark fruit on the nose, plums and raspberry. Lots of brambly fruit follows on the medium-bodied palate; moderate tannins add interest and structure, and support the long finish.

This is one of those wines that really excites me, and makes me want to squirrel away cases and cases of it. It's versatile enough to work as a cocktail wine, or as an accompaniment to beef, lamb, tomato-based pasta sauce and lots of other things.

Aia Vecchia also makes a higher-priced ($50) Super Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot called Sor Ugo. Now that I've tried the Lagone, I'm really interested in finding out what Aia Vecchia's flagship wine is like. When I find it, I'll let you know -- but in the meantime, go get Lagone!
M. Zane Grey, 12:24 PM | link |