Monday, September 24, 2007

Van Halen update

Just got tickets this morning for Van Halen (with David Lee Roth) for Dec. 18th in Anaheim. Floor seats. Yesssss! They sold out here within minutes, but I think they added new shows. Looking forward to it!! No new songs, they'll just be playing their classics. Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang, will be playing in Michael Anthony's place. The first clip below is from their latest performance to kick-off their 2007 tour; and an early demo of what would become "Beautiful Girls."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Culinary Institute of America, Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, (St. Helena, CA)

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone ....It looks kind of dark and foreboding, but is really incredible inside!

I had the chance to visit here a few weeks ago during a trip to Napa. Located right next door to Beringer in St. Helena, the building houses the restaurant and the Culinary Instutue, where Brother Timothy (of Christian Brothers) made brandy and wine for many years.

Outside eating area.

Watching the Chefs work their magic.

Let's get to the food!
For starters, my friend Jeff and I had "Today's Temptations" (an amuse bouche).

Amuse Bouche: (pictured from top) A pepper sauteed with tomato salsa (surprisingly, the pepper was not hot at all). Next (where the fork is) a Spring roll, and on the left is salmon mousse with capers and crème fraîche on crostini.

Olives & Olive Oil on the table. Nice touch.

For my entree, I ordered the Spring Chicken with this Fresh tomato-part-salad-with-stuffing creation... Hard to explain and I should have taken pictures! Arrrgh. Wine: Groth Sauvignon Blanc.
The few pics I did take were of the amuse bouche and the French Onion soup, which the lady sitting next to me was having.. and, according to her, was absolutely wonderful.. it looked incredible with a big pile of Gruyere chese baked on top.

Thanks nice lady, for letting me take pictures of your soup!

The restaurant offers seating at the bar near the Chef's station (these are seasoned Chefs, not students). There is also more traditional restaurant seating, and also outdoor seating... which looked quite lovely. The waiter who took care of us was very attentive, and the food was excellent and fresh (the Spring Chicken was incredibly flavorful, I asked if they brined the chicken, but they said no). The price was very reasonable for Napa standards. I didn't have enough time to tour the entire facility... apparently during the day, they have cooking demonstrations. But I did check out their Kitchen store/Bookstore which had all the latest and greatest. I'm looking forward to visiting and eating there again.

Below is their website link. Nice wine list!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tokaji Aszu Essencia, Monimpex, 1976 (more than 6 puttonyos)


This bottle of Tokaji Aszu Essencia, Monimpex, 1976, was given to our class in Napa, from Bob Trinchero's cellar. Thanks Bob!

The sweet, dark-honey-colored wine Tokaji is opulent, decadent and sexy. It has been known for bottles of Tokaji to last for over 200 years. Russian tsars used to drink this since the 16th century. Tokaj became the first European region to have its vineyards classified. Louis the 14th of France declared Tokaji "the wine of Kings and the King of wines" and it became the favorite drink of Peter the Great, Voltaire, Goethe, and Schubert. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great stationed soldiers in Tokaj to protect her vineyards.

A steep decline in quality production of Tokaji took place after World Wars I & II. But in 1989, wine writer Hugh Johnson revitalized the Tokaji industry by becoming part owner of the Royal Tokaji Wine Company (which included investors like Vega Sicilia). Truly, a fascinating history of a wine we rarely hear of!

I love this wine and all forms of this wine.

Appearance: Golden amber (with a bit of sediment).

Taste: Think of apricots bursting in the sky like fireworks and drizzling down on you like honey. It smelled that way, too (apricots, marmalade & honey).

Tokaji (pronounced, "Toe-KI" rhymes with pie), is made in the Tokajhegyalja ("Tokaji hills") region of northeastern Hungary. The wine is grown from the grapes, Furmint, Harslevelu, and Muscat Blanc. The harvest happens very late with "noble rot" setting in, and picking goes well into November.

Tokjai is usually measured in degrees of sweetness, that being, 3, 4, 5, and 6 puttonyos. 3 puttonyos equals 60 g/l of residual sugar, and it increases by 30 g, up to 6 puttonyos, which equals 150 g/l of residual sugar. What we (our wine class at the Society of Wine Educators) were drinking, was Tokaji Aszu Essencia contained 180 g/l of residual sugar. There also exists, "Tokaji Essencia" which is made of the free run juice of the dry, shriveled grapes. This is even more rare and can contain 450 g/l to 800 g/l of residual sugar.

I was going to take a picture of all of us having the Tokaji, but I felt like a big nerd doing so. But since we were all nerds, I should have gone ahead. Instead, I waited until the end of class and took a picture of the almost empty bottle. This was probably the only chance that I will ever get to try a wine like this. It was remarkable and beautiful.

References: 1). Jancis Robinson, "Oxford Companion To Wine";
2). "Tokaj - The Wine of Freedom", Laszló Alkonyi

* * *

When I usually have Tokaji at home for dessert (I can afford to buy the 4 puttonyos, which is about $26), I make an apricot compote and serve it with pound cake (which I buy from Trader Joe's.. it's very good for store-bought). Here is the recipe for the compote:

Apricot compote. For just over 1 1/2 cups of sauce:

1 cup dried apricots

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons Dark rum (or brandy).

2 cups boiling water.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Rinse the apricots and put them in an oven proof dish that has a cover.

Stir in the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the rum (or brandy),

Pour the boiling water over them and put the covered casserole in the oven. Allow to bake for approx. 30 minutes.

When the apricots a soft, remove from the oven and strain off and save the juice.

Puree the apricots in a processor with the reserved water until you have the right liquidity, you may not use all the juice. Add the remaining liquor and stir.

The puree can be served either hot warm or cold.

Slice the pound cake into slices an inch thick. Serve warm compote on top. Pair this with the Tokaji and experience bliss.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Take Your Wine to Work" Day

Last week, I took a few wines to my M-F job at the 401k advisors company. My workmates were very excited to be trying wines and our CEO wanted us to start at 12pm (we waited til 5, though).

Here are the wines we tried, and in the order that we tasted them:

1). 2005, Panilonco, Reserve Carmenere, Colchagua Valley, Chile - I was curious when I saw this at Trader Joes, so I picked up a bottle since I like Carmenere. This wine was a bit disappointingbut for $3, you really can't complain... the wine was off-dry (almost sweet).

2). 2005, Concha y Toro - Casillero del Diablo, Carmenere, Chile- Another Carmenere. This however was very satisfying.. good body and very cabernet-like, with lots of plums and blackberries. For $6, this would make a good every-day kind of wine. My workmates enjoyed this as well.

3). 2004, Chateau Chasse-Spleen, Moulis en Medoc, Bordeaux, France - A left-banker from the Medoc.. this Cabernet based blend had a light body, with cigarbox on the nose, and red berries and spice on tasting. This was the 2nd least favorite of the wines according to my workmates, but it was my #1 favorite. Price: $30.

4). (NOT PICTURED)2005, Montes, "Alpha", Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile - Color: Dark. Aromas: Mushroom, licorice and some green pepper. Medium bodied, and well-balanced. Taste: Spicy, some wood, and black berries. Nice finish. Everyone across the board liked this wine. $16.

5). (NOT PICTURED) NV, Grove Street, Meritage, Napa Valley, California - Tastes like a wine you would pay $30 for. Appearance: Dark, opaque plum. Taste: Tart cherry and some oak. There was a little heat, but also a long finish. All in all, very tasty and would make a good everday wine. My peeps were fans of this as well, which is why someone took this bottle home with them.. they took the Montes, too. Price: $10.

6). 2005, Kirkland, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California. - From Costco! I was shopping around there one day and my curiousity got the best of me. Had to try this. Lots of black fruit, cherry and spice with good acidity, this was an enjoyable wine. A little alcoholic, but overall, enjoyable. Unattractive label. My female workmates said they would buy this wine, but use a decanter when they served it. $18

7). 2004, Penfolds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bin 407, South Australia - This dark, medium-to-full-bodied wine was ripe with red berries, cedar and eucalyptus. This was a favorite of my male workmates. $24.

8). 2004, Torbreck, Woodcutter's Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia - A bit fat, this plummy wine had loads of cherries, more plums and blackberries. Definitely lacking in structure. I was expecting a bit more, but, oh well. $18.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Study break!

Fake beer for kids? Yep! That's right.

There's also fake wine, champagne and cocktails for kids.

To read more,
click here

Monday, September 03, 2007

Time Waits for No One

Heard this song by The Rolling Stones the other day in the store, and it just stuck in my head... at least it's a great song. Found it on Youtube used in this clip of a walking tour of Westwood that is actually quite lovely.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Big Pimpin'

Had this at the store today... 1999 Chateau La Mondotte. A right-banker from the St. Emilion region of Bordeaux. Beautiful, opulent dark fruit, like blackberries lightly sauteed in butter, with a side of toast, please. Finish: long, like a slow day at work. 80% Merlot and 20% Cab Franc. A long time ago, when I first started drinking wine, it was Blackstone Merlot. This is way better by a thousand times. Is it worth $350 a bottle? It's beyond my price point...but it is phenomenal.