So I finally have found time to sit down and write the first “Grapevine” my newsletter between newsletters. Unlike the traditional snail mail newsletter, this piece gives me the opportunity to speak a little more about things I find interesting with food and wine. One other difference between this newsletter and the regular newsletter is the items you see here are pretty limited so you have to move quick if something looks interesting.
LAKELAND – FINALLY
It looks like the Lakeland store will finally be open this weekend. Richard DeAngelis is running that store for me and has real passion for food and wine. If you find yourself in Polk County or have friends in the area, please let them know we are open. The address is 9525 South Florida Ave, Lakeland FL 33813. The phone # is 863-644-8181. Our hours of operation there are the same as here, Monday through Friday 10 am to 7 pm and Saturday 10 am to 5 pm. Of course we also have the wine down on Friday from 5 to 7 pm and Saturday sampling noon to 5 pm. I will be working in that store one and a half days a week to start, most likely Wednesday and Friday.
MY LATEST COOKBOOK PURCHASE
Those of you who are Wine of the Month Club Members know I have a fairly extensive cookbook collection. My latest purchase is the third cookbook by FoodTV star Mario Batali entitled Molto Italiano. For those of you unfamiliar with Batali, he is also the owner of several New York restaurants that focus on different styles of Italian cooking. While I have never eaten in his restaurants and I only occasionally see his cooking shows, I have a great admiration for his cooking style and his passion for life.
Molto Italiano starts off where his second book, My Two Villages leaves of, with Batali preaching the gospel of fresh ingredients prepared simply. Those who think that all Italian cuisine involves red sauce and pasta will find this book enlightening. It you already know and love true Italian cooking then you are likely to discover many new favorite dishes within the covers of the book. The recipes in this book are easy to moderately difficult and the ingredient lists are short. Like all of Batali’s books this one emphasizes the quality of the ingredients prepared in simple, straightforward ways.
If I have one complaint it would be that this book does not cover any new ground. Like My Two Villages it is a friendly, easy book to work with but this book could easily be entitled volume II. When you have as many cookbooks as I do and limited storage space I like each book to be distinctive and this one is not. Aside from this small criticism I enjoy this cookbook and look forward to preparing many meals from its pages.
FOUR GOOD DEALS YOU SHOULD NOT MISS
2001 HENRY DE VEZELAY
Bourgogne Blanc reg. $15 NOW $8
The town of Vezelay lies between the Chablis district and the rest of the Cote d’Or. The soils are the same as Chablis but the climate is warmer so the Chardonnay that grows there takes on a unique character. Like Chablis this wine has an intense minerality from limestone rich soils. Where the wine differs is the fruit spectrum of the aromatics, with notes of tangerine and white peach dominating. Because of the age of this wine, you will want to decant for half an hour before drinking. That may sound weird for a white wine but the additional oxygen really opens this wine up and builds dimension. Try this wine with fried oysters for an amazing combination or with roasted fish.
Sauvignon Blanc Magnums reg. $35 NOW $10
This wine has been the house wine for a famous local restaurant for a few years but they made a change recently and left the distributor with around 20 cases in stock. Most people would be scared of a four year old SB but I know the wines made by Randy Mason and took a gamble. As it turns out the wine is really good and an absolute steal. Even the regular 750ml bottles are regularly $16. Don’t think you can drink a mag? Drink half and throw the rest away, you are still ahead.
As you might expect, this wine has a fairly deep golden color. The nose is a blend of lemon curd, vanilla and green fig. The feel in the mouth is initially pretty oily, with a bit of zip coming across on the finish. This wine still has plenty of fruit but needs to be drunk soon. If you have a couple of friends over it will go fast. Serve with grilled fish, baked chicken or a spinach frittata.
2000 CLOS VALMANA
reg $40 NOW $20
I have a distributor who has changed direction with their portfolio and is looking to get rid of some wines they no longer represent. They are dumping a lot of great wines at very reasonable prices and I am snatching up everything as fast as I can. One such opportunity is this amazing wine from the Catalonia region of Spain. The wine is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Syrah and is the sort of wine that really gets the cerebral juices flowing. When you pour a glass you are going to smell some leather, cassis, some toasted wood and a bit of dried mushroom. In the mouth this wine is big, with a lot fruit framed by firm, powerful tannins. If you want a point for comparison, think of this wine as really ripe Bordeaux or a California Meritage with more structure. You want to drink this wine with a roast, steak or leg of lamb. This wine also has the potential to age for another five years in the cellar.
1997 LOUIS ROEDERER
Blanc de Blancs Champagne reg $90 NOW $40
Most of you know I prefer to focus on grower Champagnes but when a deal like this comes along, I have to buy in. This Champagne is produced entirely Chardonnay grapes and is aged on the lees for six years. It is a robust, powerful style of Champagne with toasty, yeasty components and a baked bread aroma. This Champagne is a little too big to guzzle, it will work better with a luxurious dinner such as lobster tail (poached in butter) or veal scaloppini.
PHOENIX VINEYARDS, Napa Valley
You may have seen and already purchased the Chardonnay from this property as it is a newsletter feature. If you have been in store you probably also noticed we have several other wines from Phoenix, including his Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and his Meritage wine Rancho Napa. Space was too limited in the snail mail newsletter to cover all these wines so I thought I would take the time now to feature these amazing wines.
CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2002 ($25)
This wine captures the essence of Napa Valley Cabernet. The nose is black raspberry, black currant, pencil lead and vanilla. In the mouth this wine has a big core of fruit that evolves on several layers before the framework of tannins frame the wine in. You can certainly drink this wine now but it will improve in the cellar for five to ten years. 300 cases produced.
MERLOT “Little Blackbird Vineyard 2001 ($25)
The difference between most Merlot under $20 a bottle and those over $20 a bottle is pretty extreme. While most inexpensive Merlot is soft and pretty sappy, those over $20, when well done, offer up a lot more structure and power. This wine, a single vineyard, estate wine from Phoenix is a great example of the other side of Merlot. The color is very dark and the nose is an inviting blend of black cherries, licorice, wood smoke and dried plums. On the palate this wine has a more reticent sense of fruit that sits behind the moderate tannins. You will want to serve this wine with some protein, either pork, tuna or beef tenderloin. 400 cases produced.
RANCHO NAPA 2000 ($20)
This wine is the biggest surprise of the bunch, in part because this wine is based on Cabernet Franc and it is also from the 2000 vintage. The nose is an interesting blend of mint, cherry and sandalwood. On the palate this wine is smooth and soft, with layers of flavor that unfold all the way to the finish. There is very little tannin in this wine so it drinks well now with hard cheeses, pan fried steaks or baked pasta dishes. By the way, the blend of this wine is 56% Cabernet Franc, 37% Merlot and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 660 cases produced.
SANGIOVESE Blood of Jupiter 2002 ($19)
The name of this wine is a good descriptor for the color of this wine, blood red. The nose has the loganberry, dried cherry aroma of Sangiovese, kissed with a little blackberry syrup. The feel in the mouth is richer than Chianti and more fruit driven than a Brunello. It has a luxurious, rich feel that keeps going and going, a little like Zinfandel. Serve with braised lamb shanks, pork tenderloin or roasted turkey. 400 cases produced.