Sunday, April 29, 2012

2006 Chateau La Roque Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint Loup Rouge "Cuvee Les Vielles Vignes de Mourvedre"

Wow!  After that mouthful of a title do I really need to write anything else for a nice, lengthy blog post?  Well of course I do, because the Languedoc is not well known enough to most of the world and they are making some really good wines these days.  I'm here to help spread the word!  Coteaux du Languedoc, where this wine is made, is the 2nd largest AOC in the Languedoc, and rather than being one contiguous area, the classified growing areas are a number of separate areas scattered throughout a large portion of the Languedoc. Most of the wine produced in the Coteaux du Languedoc is made from red wine grapes, with the main varietals being Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre, with Carignan and Cinsault also being allowed by the AOC. It is also important to note that Coteaux du Languedoc has only had AOC status for 25 years, and the area anticipates having many additional AOCs in the future as the growers and winemakers find out more about each of the many microclimates in the region.

You would think that this would be a relatively young region based on there short period as an AOC, but that is absolutely not the case.  Wine has been made in this are since Roman times, and the De La Roque brothers planted new vines in the Chateau La Roque estate vineyards in the 13th century!  The history in the Languedoc region is long and storied, but it is in recent times that the attention to quality vs. quantity has really improved turning the Languedoc into a great up an coming wine region.  It is these types of regions where great wine values can be found, and this offering from Chateua La Roque is no exception. 

Made from 90% old vine Mourvedre and 10% Grenache, the wine is a very deep, garnet red in your glass.  The nose brings aromas of black cherry, blueberry, game, and just a hint of barnyard that is quite pleasant.  On the palate I get cherry, blackberry, and blueberry fruit with a spicy element on the finish.  Decent acidity and solid tannins bring some structure, and an enjoyable finish.  Overall this is a good and interesting wine that can be found for about $20.  I found it in a cool shop I just discovered not too far from my Long Island home called Lake Side Emotions in Stony Brook, NY.  

I happened to sip this all by itself last night and it paired really well with my glass, but this is a pretty food friendly Mourvedre.  Its not just a big ball of muscle and power.  This would be great with just about anything on the grill.

As a final side note, this wine is imported by Kermit Lynch who has even more interesting info about the Chateau on his website at  


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pan Roasted Free Range Chicken With Lemon & Sage

4 free range chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1.5 tablespoon butter
Sea salt
Black pepper

Serves 4 to 6

This recipe is about as simple as it gets, and it's the rare recipe that I made up on the fly that didn't need any tweaking the second time around. They key is having good quality free range chicken and fresh herbs. I prefer to buy whole free range chickens and quarter them myself. When I quarter them, I debone the breast, but I leave a small portion of wing bone attached to it. This gives you the benefit of still being able to effectively brown both sides of the breast while getting some added flavor to the dish from the bone, but you could certainly make it with a fully boneless breast.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle sea salt and pepper on the chicken breasts while you heat the olive oil over medium high heat on a oven safe skillet, preferably cast iron. Once the oil is heated, place the breasts in the pan skin side down. Let the breasts cook until they easily release from the pan - about 6 minutes. If they don't release, they are not ready to turn. Once they release, flip the breasts in the pan and sauté for 3 minutes. Drain all but about 1 tbs of liquid from the pan and then roast in oven until chicken is cooked through - about 8 minutes. Return the skillet to the stove top over low heat. Squeeze lemon juice evenly throughout the pan and sprinkle sage throughout the pan. Add butter and melt and then spoon the liquid all over the breasts.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board and slice crosswise. Plate the slices and spoon a little bit of the sauce over the slices and serve. I served this with roasted asparagus and a Parmesan couscous and it was delicious. This dish will pair well with many whites and especially well with something with medium body and nice but not overwhelming acidity.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Home on the Range...My Free Range Chicken Rant

I must confess that I was not originally drawn to the natural and organic food movement. Free range chicken? I figured a chicken that ran around a lot would be skinny and that a fat, lazy chicken might taste a little better. Well after years of frustration randomly getting bad chicken in the grocery store, I'm here to say that I'm a believer in organic, natural, free range chicken. I'm done with pre cut up breasts, thighs, and drumsticks from a factory farm. I'm done with chicken that has seen more steroids than an NFL linebacker and more antibiotics than the Center for Disease Control.

I'd love to say my motivation was pure and for the betterment of the world and fair treatment of chickens everywhere, but the fact is that the natural, organic, free range chicken just tastes better. Regular chicken is sometimes OK and sometimes as rubbery as an old set of Goodyears. The problem is there is no telling what you'll get on the table when you look at the chicken in the store. With free range chicken I've found very consistent results. After trying numerous free range chickens I've discovered that they're always moist, juicy, delicious and never tough or rubbery.

So get to your local store and do something good for the treatment of chickens out there and try some free range chicken. Your taste buds will thank you. Free range chickens can be found at many stores, farmers markets, and most definitely at Whole Foods where I buy them.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

2009 I Campi Campo Vulcano Soave Classico

Soave. Easy enough to say compared to some other Italian wines, but it kind of sounds funny doesn't it? Just saying the word makes me think of that awful Gerardo hit from the early 90's - "Rico Suave." Up until now, Soave also hasn't conjure up the greatest wine memories for me. When I think of Soave, I think back to its original heyday when my parents served it out of jugs and it was so bad that as an underage drinker, I had no desire to steal it out of their fridge. Its safe to say that these thoughts of Soave don't exactly take me to my wine happy place, but that all changed for me a couple nights ago when my new friend Melissa at 67 Wine on Manhattan's Upper West Side recommended a great Soave for me to try.

Before I get to the wine, lets talk a little about Soave in general. Soave is a wine that has suffered abuse at the hands of some larger producers as well as governing bodies, but recently a core of producers are working to produce better quality wines and increase the reputation of this region in the Veneto. There are DOC and DOCG zones in the region and both require the use of at least 70% of the Garganega grape, with many other white varietals allowed to complete the blend. The additional varietals are dependent on whether its a DOC or DOCG. There is also a "Classico" designation for wines made from grapes that are grown in the oldest parts of Soave in the hillsides.

The 2009 I Campi Campo Vulcano Soave Classico is a light straw color that moves towards clear at the edge. The nose is somewhat closed, but there are some nice citrus elements of lemon and grapefruit. On the palate you get more of the same citrus with pineapple and some other tropical fruits but without any sweetness. There is also some very interesting minerality. For me, the most enjoyable part of this wonderful Soave was the crazy cool finish. I got a really unique, refreshing, and mineral drying sensation on the top of my tongue with long lasting waves of mouthwatering acidity on the sides of my tongue on the very back of my palate. It was fascinating and like nothing else I have ever tasted. I tried this wine amongst many others in a quest to find some new white varietals that my wife and I can both enjoy. Mission accomplished with the I Campi Campo Vulcano Soave!

Pair this with a glass and some sunshine. At a price of just under $20, I'll be buying much more of this to enjoy by the pool this summer with cheese and crackers or other pre-dinner fare. It could also pair nicely with lighter chicken and fish dishes. No more thoughts of jug wine and bad 90's songs for me anymore. Thoughts of Soave can now take me to some very good places.


Friday, April 6, 2012

2007 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District

Sometimes a glass of wine can just take you to another place and time. When that place is in the Stag's Leap District looking out across the vineyards to the Stag's Leap Palisades to the east, then I'm a pretty damn happy man. I've had the good fortune to visit Napa Valley many times, but for me there is no place that has memories quite like my visits to the Stag's Leap District. The landscape around the Silverado Trail is just beautiful, and I love that it still feels a little bit like you're off the beaten path. There are many fine wineries there, and one my favorites for the wines and the tasting room is Chimney Rock. Every time I have a glass, my mind takes me back to that beautiful place.

In your glass this outstanding Stag's Leap District Cab is a deep purple-red in color. You get aromas of black cherry, blackberry and just a hint of vanilla. In your mouth you get some fantastic fruit and just enough acid, but its really the tannins that make this wine stand out. They are somehow big and soft all at the same time, and they help frame a really nice and sneaky long finish. For me, I think this is what makes wines from the Stag's Leap District so special. When done right, they have a mouthfeel that is just wonderful and absolutely unique to this tiny little slice of Napa Valley. In 2007, Chimney Rock has clearly done it right!

From a pairing standpoint, this wine was made for grilled red meat. It would be perfect with steak, lamb, or venison. At a price of around $60, its not an everyday red, but it's well worth it for special occasions.