Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sushi at home with Riesling and Red Burgundy

At our local Japanese supermarket - Mitsuwa - located off of Saratoga exit off of 280 in San Jose, you can buy great quality, sashimi-grade raw fish and have your own sushi feast at home. We buy probably 10 different kinds (total about $50-60), and it's enough to stuff four people until they can't eat anymore, at about a quarter of what it would cost at a restaurant. And it's so much more fun to DIY! No fancy rolls, just sashimi, nigiri, and handrolls. Get a pack of dry nori (seaweed sheets), some shiso leaves, sprouts, cucumber, and avocado. Steam rice, add rice vinegar. Slice the fish. And sculpt your own sushi masterpieces to your heart's and stomach's content. Yum!

Always perfect with Kabinett (slightly off-dry) level of German Riesling, as the elements in the wine complement the umami elements in the fish, soy sauce and wasabi. I also like an entry level red Burgundy, the lighter the better, such as from the light 2007 vintage, with good acidity. It goes really well with heartier fish such as tuna and unagi.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kumeu River Chardonnay

The Wine Spectator's #41 in The Top 100 of 2009 wouldn't normally mean much to me. But when a wine shows up at a weekly Burgundy vs. New Zealand line-up at the staunchly old-world wine shop VinVinoWine in Palo Alto, I know there is something interesting going on. New Zealand's Kumeu River Chardonnay is starting to get reputation as more "burgundian" than a typical new-world chard.

From the first sip of the 2007 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, I tasted the unmistakable acidity I'd come to expect from New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, with a kiss of oak of a Chardonnay. 100% barrel fermented, 100% malo-lactic, 11 months maturation in small oak barrel (20% new wood) imparted no heaviness or butteriness of a Napa Chardonnay. I appreciated a relatively low level of alcohol - 13.5%. Some even ascribe Premier Cru status to the winemaker's Mike Brajkovic' finest cuvees. With a body somewhere in between a high-end Chablis (such as from William Fevre) and a white from Cote d'Or, to my palate it didn't have as much minerality as a white Burgundy. The wine's high acid gave it incredible precision, energy and brightness, atop of juicy grapefruit, citrus zest and touches of tropical fruit. With acidity like that, it should develop more complexity with age. It would pair with variety of foods - from cheese and charcuterie to salads to fish and so on. (I had it with pan-seared wild salmon sprinkled generously with high-quality extra virgin olive oil, served with a side of green salad from my garden - an easy and enjoyable combo.) 2007 Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay - quite a bargain at under $20 at K&L (elsewhere at $30-35).

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Giacomo Conterno Barbera with cheeseburger

I mean, what DOESN'T go with a juicy cheeseburger?! - IMHO, the greatest creation of American gastronomy! To continue his annual tradition of pairing vinous greats with burgers, Dan pulled out Giacomo Conterno!

Conterno is one of the top three names in traditional Barolo - the other two are Bruno Giacosa and Bartolo Mascarello. Yes, there are many others, commanding great respect and high prices. But you mention the name of Giacomo Conterno, and drooling starts. Barolo is Conterno's top expression, but the winery also make impressive Barbera - structured, deep, balanced, and not cheap. Now, of course I have asked in the past - why should Barbera aspire to greater heights than an everyday drink that Piedmontese have traditionally taken it for? But be that as it may, this year my friend Dan "the gour-man-d" served his fantastico garlic shiso burgers with two 2008 Conterno Barberas d'Alba - Cerretta (new vineyard) and Cascina Francia (venerable old vineyard). Cascina Francia which spends two years in large Slavonian oak barrels is even more serious than Cerretta. Excellent wines, especially for those who want to see how high a Barbera can climb, figuratively speaking. (For another example of spectacular, high-end Barbera, check Vietti's Barbera d'Alba "Scarrone Vigna Vecchia").

Dan's half-pound cheeseburger was amazing as always - juice-dripping hunk of melt-in-your-mouth ground cow, accentuated by shiso in place of lettuce. With burger though, a heartier wine such as Tuscany's Sangiovese (Brunello) or Cab-based wine (Bordeaux, Napa Cab, Super-Tuscan), or Umbria's Sagrantino or Veneto's Valpolicella, in my opinion, probably would have worked even better!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paella at Scott's with Marisa Cuomo, Bandol, and Marqués de Murrieta Rioja

These days with baby Evan, I find less time to get out for fancy dinners, much less document them. Fortunately, I found a few minutes to sit down and rave about my friend Scott's mouth-watering paella feast from Friday night.

The dinner started with tapas, which paired well with one of Italia's top white wines - Marisa Cuomo "Fiorduva" 2006 - a supreme expression of three (unheard-of) indigenous grapes (30% Fenile, 30% Ginestra and 40% Ripoli) from Furore on the Amalfi Coast of Campania. A fitting description from K&L website: "Fresh, like the sea, the wine envelops with lemony zip on the nose and notes of apricot and tropical fruit with hints of ocean air that continue from the bouquet onto the honeyed and floral palate." There is plenty of acidity and body. Italy's answer to white Burgundy? (How dare I?!!!) The 2006 is drinking with elegance, matching well the gorgeous tapas - padrons, red peppers with fried garlic vinaigrette, shrimps with lemon and garlic, and the intriguing toast with melted mozzarella, prosciutto and butter-fried sage - an unexpectedly flavorful and harmonious combination! Scott tells me that the secret of the garlic is to fry slivers just enough that they brown but don't turn bitter - a few seconds over, and you might as well throw them into trash! The time between golden brown and burnt / bitter garlic is very short. This step usually takes some practice with the timing.

And then onto the main course - paella with chorizo sausage, shrimp, and peppers. Finished on a grill! A couple of key steps to making the successful paella are building flavor into the the rice and using warmed chicken stock that has been infused with the saffron threads. Scott starts the paella on the stove top. Once all ingredients are in, he stops stirring the dish and finishes it on the grill over mesquite lump charcoal. On the grill he no longer stirs the paella but turns the pan to insure even cooking. As soon as the chicken stock is absorbed by the rice, a crust should start to form and the the paella is ready to serve.

The paella was perfect with 2001 Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial - a wonderfully deep, mid-weight Rioja that has entered into its adolescence with a complex combination of primary and secondary fruit flavors and hints of leather of aged tempranillo. The classical 2010 Tempier Bandol Rosé was a lighter, zingier alternative to the more robust Rioja.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ladies going gaga over my baby

Oh, and that's Delamotte Champagne (Champagne Salon's little sibling) in a Ridge glass - high-acidity refreshing pleasure for a hot summer afternoon in Palo Alto.

2007 Leflaive Macon-Verze at Donato Enoteca

Leflaive's Macon-Verze - entry-level white Burgundy from 2007 is drinking amazingly right now. I've had 2008 and 2009, and neither IMO can touch the 2007, which always reminds me of Champagne (without bubbles). Testament to the excellent 2007 vintage for white Burgundy and to its master Domaine Leflaive!

That's porchetta bruschetta at Donato Enoteca - delicious by itself and even better with Macon-Verze!

And Donato's ox-tail (atop of risotto) - stop-in-your-tracks fall-off-the-bone deliciousness!

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