Friday, August 27, 2010

Getting My Kicks On the Road with a Travel-Ready Bordeaux

The works of the Beat Generation writers have enchanted me since I was in my early teens. There is something intoxicating about the call of the open road and the spirit of being free. In that spirit, I recently curled up with a copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road and a yummy '05 Bordeaux.
"All those lovely California cottonwoods and eucalpti brooding on all sides."

With that line, it is almost like Kerouac knew what my palate was experiencing as I sipped the Chateau Jalousie, a gorgeous wine full of earthy herbal notes, eucalyptus on the nose and dark fruit as formidable as  Route 66, that vintage highway to the West.
"Looked up and saw jackpines in the moon...mad drunken Americans in the mighty land."

Jalousie wants to take you places, its heady aroma reminiscent of a late-night excursion through a forest of pine trees, on a path well lit by a full Moon.
"Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk...the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed and burgundy red...."

The wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and boasts a deep red hue with a hint of orange on its rim. With some hot jazz from Charlie Ventura providing the soundtrack to my retro evening, the only thing better would have been a visit from the Father of the Beat Generation himself, reading to me aloud as we sipped  together...well, a Chick can always dream, can't she?
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer Sippin' at The River

As someone who has made a habit out of wine tasting, I always take into account the beauty of my surroundings. Tulip Hill's tasting room at The River in Rancho Mirage offers a smattering of Old-World style that adds a welcomed nuance to the experience.
The winery itself is located ninety minutes north of Napa Valley in Lake County, and produces primarily reds and a handful of whites. On this visit, I enjoyed a lemony and bright Pinot Grigio, followed by a series of interesting blends. Most notable was Delirious, a combination of Zinfandel, Sangiovese and Cabernet grapes. This one has exactly the effect that the name implies...the tasting notes never lie...
I prefer bold and fruit-filled reds, so the super-earthy, fresh soil of a 2008 Syrah wasn't exactly my style. I did enjoy the taste of Mirage, an '06 blend of that same grape with Merlot. A Sangiovese and Cabernet combo called Sangiovignon was no less fascinating, and its woodsy cherry-like flavor reminded me of a leisurely stroll through a mountain forest.
Here's tasting room manager Tom Montaney's take on the Cabepulciano, a Tuscan-inspired marriage of Cabernet and Montepulciano:
Can't wait to see what Fall brings to this little corner of the wine world...

Tulip Hill Winery at The River
(760) 568-5678

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Sweltering and Spanish-Inspired Weeknight Wine

Looking to escape the desert summer swelter, I headed into Zini Cafe Med in downtown Palm Springs one recent evening, where I had a somewhat ironic urge to sip on a tummy-warming and strawberry-inflected Tempranillo as I awaited my friend Carol's arrival for dinner. 
As I started to perspire (what did I expect?) it suddenly occured to me she might be waiting for me at Zin, sister eatery to Zini. Sure enough, I found my ever-smiling pal sitting inside the sophisticated bistro that is popular with my food and wine-crazed group.
Zin is known for its excellent wine list, and my favorite offerings are usually of the Rhone-inspired variety. I've been known to geek out over the stuff with owner and wine director Mindy Reed, who knows her vino front and back.
She agreed with me that a fruity and smooth Juan Gill Monastrell would be an excellent accompaniment to whatever sort of meat dish I would inevitably order.
Sure enough, the braised short ribs were tender, and the Spanish wine an excellent accent with its smoky, Old World earthiness. A perfect score, on a night shared a friend who warms the soul, well worth walking down the street to meet in the August heat.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Little Boomey and the Lady Almost Lost

I have done more than my fair share of dumb things in this lifetime..but dropping my iPod Nano in the pool the other night and rendering it senseless is way up there on the list. 
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth (thousands of really awesome songs were at stake) I was inundated with advice on how to remedy the catastrophe: shake the device a few times...turn it on and off...stick it in a bag of rice to absorb the moisture...I was even instructed to recite aloud a short tribute to the country that manufactured my musical toy (my warranty was printed in China, so I started there).
 I'm sure at this point you're wondering what any of this has to do with wine...well you is a celebratory liquid, one that is shared in good times and in bad...and this was I lamented the loss of this musical treasure trove, I popped open a 2006 Shiraz from South Australia called Little Boomey...and as flavors of dark plum and spicy black cherry washed over my tongue, something amazing happened...
I could have sworn I heard a sputtering gasp...and then...she was back! The familiar sounds of Derek and the Dominos washed over me like a warm tide of gladness...and with Little Boomey in my belly and a song in my heart, I felt alive I dedicated this little ditty, courtesy of Kenny Rogers, to My Lady...the iPod Nano I thought I'd lost forever:

Oh, it was the rice by the way...apparently it works like a charm every time...
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Fig, Meet Raisin

A recent Wednesday evening started out with fresh Smyrna figs...which I transferred to ae what crust pizza also topped with olive oil, shaved asiago cheese, cracked black pepper, salt and arugula upon cooking.
I chose an immensely concentrated 2006 Amarone della Valpolicella from Conte Di Bregonzo to go with it...deep, dark raisin met earthy fig in a passionate embrace...and it was diary coming soon...
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Friday, August 13, 2010

'Wine'ing Down With A Sunset Series of Sips

I always look forward to Friday afternoons that signal the end to a work week and the beginning of weekend leisure time. Recently, I found a new way to 'Wine Down' my week here in the desert.
Fantasy Springs Resort is hosting a weekly wine tasting in their scenic 12th Floor Wine Bar & Cocktail Lounge. For $30, guests will receive samples of six of the featured winery’s best varietals, nibble on assorted fruits, crackers and cheeses and get to rub elbows with a winery representative, who answers questions and discusses the various offerings tasted.
On this particular night, we tried some yummy offerings from Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars in Napa. First a delicious Twomey Sauvignon Blanc that was more reminiscnet of the crisp New Zealand style than what is produced here in California. I enjoyed the Twomey Pinot, which was full on raspberry and very food-friendly, and really liked the Merlot we tried, which was warm on the tongue and reminded me of a welcoming relative who makes you feel good deep down in the pit of your soul.
Silver Oak's Cabernet Duo was fabulous! First up was the Alexander Valley incarnation, rich and full of spicy winter fruit. The Napa Cab is a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot so its technically a Meritage,  big and ideal for lamb or hearty game. 
Speaking of game, Vino Chick is certainly up for a repeat visit to this enjoyable and well-attended event, sunset included please.
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Special thanks to:
Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tonight's Special...Tender AmlaPaste Served with a Little Chica...

I've enjoyed some strange pairings in my life, but this one takes the cake in terms of bizarre...I was recently gifted a bottle of something called Little Chica, a Spanish blend of Old Vine Tempranillo and Garnacha...of course I found the name hilarious, being referred to as Vino Chick in some parts...and in others as Chica, one half of the classic rock cover duo Chica and the Man.
Cool name notwithstanding, this '07 blend has colossal tannins, with dark rich fruit and color. Awesome with a hearty beef or chicken stomach was starting to rumble, and as I went to open the kitchen cupboard, it hit me...why not match up this Little Chica with something healthy? My doctor's assistant Jeni recently offered up a challenge of sorts when she asked me what I would pair with this special gooseberry paste I'm eating to enhance my pituitary function (I lobbied hard for a series of Syrah infusions, but no dice). This stuff is thick as a brick so I immediately thought red and hearty...
As the serene, white-bearded gentleman on the bottle would tell you...the effect of the clove-infused AmlaPaste, as it is called, spread on multi-grain rice crackers and joined with the hearty berries that Little Chica was showing, was simply mind-numbing...all of that fruit and spice packed together in one concentrated little sip and bite was invigorating...I still have no idea what a gooseberry is, but I suspect that if my pituitary gland could talk, it would thank me...
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Monday, August 9, 2010

Gourmet Gnoshing Makes a Match with Geriatric Garnacha

There's something to be said about friends who can cook. There's something else to be said about friends who are literally gourmet chefs. I am lucky enough to have a very good pal who has earned her stripes in the kitchen.
My friend Felicia is known for crafting killer cusine, and her cioppino is by far the best I have ever tasted. She and husband Mike add herbs from their garden to homemade meals that leave me swooning long after I've eaten.
Fresh mussles, crab, squid and scallops abound in this particular dish, swimming in a heady and aromatic tomato-infused garlicky broth.
I was charged with finding a wine to match this wonderful meal. I chose a budget-friendly Old Vines Garnacha (in France, the grape is Grenache) from Evodia. Old vines means that the wine comes from grapes that are at least 35 years old, and this one lives up to the billing.
Call me crazy, but don't call me late for this meal!! On the nose, it reminded me (in a good way) of freshly-tilled soil and vegetables, primarily bell pepper, and something else...leathery library chair. The only thing missing was Dad's pipe and the unmistakable aroma of Sweet Charity tobacco, wafting through the air of my childhood in tantalizing rings of smoke.
Full of spicy fruit, it was perfect with the briny and succulent cioppino, accompanied by crusty artisan bread smothered in anchovy paste.
Oh, and the wine was also yummy with bacon that Mike cures and smokes himself...I could really get used to this treatment...
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dynamic Duos Dazzle a Pair of Palates

What happens when you do a side-by-side comparison of two kickin' Zins, accompanied by stellar chargrilled eats?
If you're Vino Chick, you get happy really was all about duos recently...I was dining with Unorthodox Foodie, who created a pair of delicious a combo of arugula, shaved asiago and cherry tomatoes topped with balsamic vinaigrette made from scratch; the other a cantaloupe and blueberry offering with sprinkles of chopped organic tarragon.
In a fit of culinary brilliance, I seared and then slow-grilled two filet mignons, topping them with a melted gorgonzola and crabmeat combo. This is the dish that I suspect God must be serving to his inner circle in Heaven. 
The wines were a smoky Old Vine Zin from Sonoma-based Saint Francis Winery & Vineyards and a briary, thick-fruited 7 Deadly Zins from Michael David in Lodi. Both were unique in their match for the meal- the crisp charcoal lovin' I got from the meat and the big, bold and full-bodied flavors I tasted in the vino. I have to say, I preferred the jamminess of 7 Deadly to the tobacco-inflected Saint Francis. But both were almost too good to handle...the evidence is in my face-but for your own safety PLEASE don't look at the picture for more than a second or two...seems I spent a bit too much time in the pool that particular afternoon...
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Monday, August 2, 2010

Luck Be a Full Tummy of Smoky Perfection

It is Vino Chick's humble opinion that not much else compares to the succulence of slow-smoked cuisine. Even better when that fall-off-the-bone goodness is joined by some great wines.
Lucky's Cook House in Palm Desert offers delectable selections of cured, spiced and smoked meats and seafood with the vino to match. A crisp and peachy Inman Pinot Gris enjoyed with down-home bites of fried pickles just might be my favorite summer pairing. This Russian River gem was also perfect with Lucky's smoky crab cakes, with the mingling of sweet crab meat and melony vino tantalizing on the tongue.
Where there's smoke, there's fire, which aptly describes the one-two punch of a Maple bourbon-cured and grilled pork chop I enjoyed with 2004 Shafer Relentless, a maddeningly delightful Syrah that nearly tricked me into thinking someone had poured me a glass of blackberry pie. Shafer is surely one of my favorites, and it was hard for me to wipe the smile off my face as I devoured Lucky's campfire-inspired  baked beans, the best I have ever tasted.
So when I wanna get my smoke on, an urge that hits me pretty often, this is where I will go...where there is already a bottle Relentlessly calling my name.
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Special thanks to:
Lucky's Cook House
36902 Cook Street at Gerald Ford
Palm Desert

Nothin' Says Lovin' Like Some Gravy and Aussie Vino

Now that the weekend is upon us, I find myself feeling a bit homesick for my folks in South Jersey (not a shock for those who know me best), so I thought I'd revisit and divulge the details of a wonderful meal I shared with my desert friends and Mom and Dad the last time they came to town.
Have it be known...despite the fact that Mom is Polish, she makes the best Italian food I have ever had....ever...On this particular Sunday, we awoke at 6 AM to start the meatballs, a delicious blend of pork, veal and beef with garlic, oregano, breadcrumbs and assorted spices.
The gravy is a secret...don't even ask me because I will lay some hurt down...I will say that some serious hand-crushing of the San Marzano variety took place...with some East Coast attitude thrown in for flavor...
Of course, no spaghetti dinner (fantastic Tuscan bean and herb salad included) would be complete without  some killer vino. This time around, I decided to rip the top off of the pairings box with my bare hands and opened a 2007 2up, a meaty Australian Shiraz with truckloads of ripe dark red fruit and the tannins to match Mom's, gravy...
The wine was uber smooth, complimenting the acids emanating from the tomatoes...reaching out to touch the meal like E.T....and before I knew it...everyone's plate had beebn licked clean and the bottle kicked...which strangely enough is what I was hoping would happen.
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