Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tasting Notes: Del Rio Vineyards, Rogue Valley, Oregon (JM Thursday Wine Series 9/18/08)

Normally I'm wary of tastings limited to just one winery because as we've discovered on our wine trips, sometimes you just don't like anything from a particular place. Luckily the featured vineyard, Del Rio Vineyards and Winery, located in Rogue Valley, Oregon, had a good range of wines, several of which were very nice.

2007 Chardonnay:
Flowery nose with mild citrus on the palate and a mineral finish.
Rating: Very Good

2007 Pinot Gris:
Peach nose, lots of mineral on the palate, but a somewhat harsh alcohol finish.
Rating: Good

2006 Viognier: 96% Viognier, 4% Chardonnay
In spite of the blending, this one was a rather basic Viognier. It didn't have much on the nose and was a little bitter on the finish.
Rating: Okay

2007 Rose Jolee:
Slightly sparkling. The nose is very sweet with notes of summer flowers. It was floral with strawberry on the palate. The tasters generally rated this as being slightly more sophisticated than Cold Duck. I thought it was a fun pink wine and hit that sweet spot between too dry and too sweet.
Rating: Good/Very Good

2005 Syrah:
The nose is a subtle blend of grape and dark fruit. It's smooth with dark fruit and butter. The final finish at the back of the palate was a little bitter. It probably wants food.
Rating: Good

2005 Claret: 41% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Malbec
This was the favorite of the evening, at least for me and Hubby. It has a nice nose that promises a lot, and then delivers with dark berry, cedar, and butter. Plus, who doesn't feel sophisticated when drinking a wine called Claret, even if it turns your teeth purple?

A Note of Apology to My Wonderful and Faithful Readers (the rest of you can skip ahead)

Gentle readers,

The Random Oenophile apologizes to all of you for being so slack about updating the blog lately. This is a time of great turmoil and transition, and I humbly beg your forgiveness. I shan't insult you with excuses except to say that managed care companies are a sadistic lot that have kept me running in circles for the past week. The good news is that although I have not been writing as much, I have been imbibing, and thus have much to say about my recent adventures.


Cecilia Dominic
Miss Random Oenophile
Who thinks that Miss Manners is actually kind of scary-looking. Still, I do believe that manners are important when drinking wine...and purchasing fuel. So if you have half a tank, go on your merry way and stop contributing to the crisis.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Oenophile At Large: Dining OTP

Yep, I've gotten behind again, but this week's post is a nice long one.

Starting one's own small business takes a lot of time. And paperwork, let's not forget the paperwork. The irony is that one of the reasons I went into business for myself is that I was tired of having to depend on others for a large part of my job. No, I'm not a control freak. Now some stranger at the zoning board in Sandy Springs has my business license application, and I'll be submitting managed care apps soon.

One of the benefits to doing this is that business-related stuff as well as my new god-daughter are taking me into the wilds Outside the Perimeter, or OTP, as we ITP people like to call it. There are some good restaurants up there. Here are a few we've tried in the past couple of weeks:

We went to Relish for dinner one weekend recently with a large group. I'm typically wary of gourmet Southern, but they seem to focus on keeping it simple, so there's nothing weird on the menu. The table shared the Pimiento Cheese Fritters and Hot Potato Chips with blue cheese sauce for appetizers. They didn't last long. I'm not normally a fan of pimiento cheese, but I do like fried cheese, and the fritters were quite tasty, especially with the pepper jelly. The hot potato chips were fantastic. I chose the Fried Green Tomato Salad for my entree, and although I can't really say it was healthy and couldn't finish it, I liked it. The tomatoes were cooked perfectly and not greasy, and the fresh mozzarella and tomato jam gave it sort of a fried caprese feel. So yeah, gourmet Southern, but done well. Hubby had the hamburger and noted that he liked the spices in it. We shared a side of mac and cheese. It was mac and cheese, good comfort food. One of our dining companions ordered the signature dessert, Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding, which is essentially donuts chopped up, baked, and served over espresso cream, and I had to have a bit, for the sake of the blog, of course. See the sacrifices I make for y'all? It seemed to be a very efficient way to have coffee and donuts. Hubby, who is somewhat of a donut purist, wasn't as enthused.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Casual and open; the patio is probably very nice right now; a little noisy inside
Food: Very good
Wine list: Not bad; wines not listed online, but there is a good variety
Wait staff: Good; they handled our large group well
Desserts: Very Good
Vegetarian friendly? Not unless they want to stick to sides
Kid friendly? Somewhat; there were kids in there
Would I go back? Yes

The accountant my colleagues recommended is waaaay north in Alpharetta. On the way back from our last appointment, Hubby and I stopped at Ray's Killer Creek, which is the Ray's restaurant specializing in steak, to celebrate my incorporation going through. We both started with a House Salad, which has cranberries, blue cheese, and candied pecans. I liked the roasted balsamic dressing. I had the Prime Rib Dip, which was served with French Fries. Hubby had the Kobe burger, and no, this isn't a theme with him. I promise, he trusts that the chefs OTP can make things besides hamburgers. The meat on the Prime Rib Dip is shaved, so it was easy to eat and tender. The fries were cooked perfectly and nicely seasoned. I had a glass of the Casa Silva, Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (Colchagua Valley, Chile), which was too acidic on its own, but was really good with the food, which demonstrates the principle of pairing fatty food with acidic wine. The acid cuts the fat, and vice versa. The wine ended up with nice dark fruit and leather.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Business at lunch, probably elegant at dinner
Food: Very good to Excellent
Wine list: Has a good variety of reds and whites
Wait staff: Very good, attentive
Desserts: They looked really good, but I was too stuffed to try one that trip
Vegetarian friendly? It's a steak place. That would be no.
Kid friendly? Ummmm, no.
Would I go back? Yes

The Oak Street Cafe is a new addition to Roswell. I ate there on a combination business license/see the god-daughter trip because I'd gotten a flat tire, and, well, it's a long, complicated story. I just have to say I'm very grateful for good friends. The lunch menu is sandwich- and salad-focused with a choice of soup, salad, or fries on the side. I had the Lafayette sandwich, which is chicken with bacon, Emmenthaler (a mild swiss), grilled onions, "smoky mayo," and lettuce on baguette. I got salad for the side. My friend got the special, which was essentially a gourmet roast beef sandwich, with salad. We were pleased at the size of the salads; usually lunch places throw on a few leaves of lettuce with a little dressing. This was a lot of leaves with blue cheese, toasted pecans, and a little vinaigrette dressing. They seem to like that blue cheese/pecan combo on their salads OTP. I didn't have dessert or wine, but in spite of my not having partaken of alcohol and sugar, I thought it was a really good lunch. The food was fresh and made to order, and my friend and I agreed that we'd go back.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Casual
Food: Very good; I would have preferred the salad dressing on the side
Wine list: Short
Wait staff: Good for the format (order at counter); they magically know who ordered what and bring it to you
Desserts: Don't know; seemed to have limited choices
Vegetarian friendly? There are a couple of options, but generally not.
Kid friendly? Yes, there is a kids' menu. However, there is no changing table.

Just a reminder: Wine tasting at JavaMonkey this Thursday!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tasting Notes: ABC's at JavaMonkey, European Reds and Whites at Sherlock's

When someone mentions the "ABC's of wine," sometimes they mean the basics, and sometimes they're referring to "Anything But [that boring] Cabernet and Chardonnay, please!!!" The JavaMonkey tasting this week was the latter. Here are the wines in the order that they were poured (numbers one and two on the tasting list were switched):

2007 Falanghina dei Feudo San Gregorio (Sannio, Italy): 100% Falanghina grapes
Hard to say, but easy to drink, this one was probably the favorite of the evening. It's dry and mineral with a nice citrus finish.
Rating: Very Good

Trivento Torrontes (Mendoza, Argentina): 100% Torrontes
Has a peach/apricot nose with floral and honey flavors over a mineral base. Apparently it was very good with the garlicky bruschetta tasting munchie.
Rating: Good

2004 Rubrato Aglianico dei Feudi di San Gregorio (Aglianico, Italy): 100% Aglianico grapes (yes, they're serious about this anything but... business)
This light-bodied red had a lingering buttery finish. I liked.
Rating: Very Good

2005 Nobul Red Tempranillo (Madrid, Spain): 100% Tempranillo
Generally unremarkable until it opened a bit, then was a nice, smooth red wine with mild fruit.
Rating: Good

2007 Alamos Malbec (Mendoza, Argentina):
This one was all about the smoke and dark fruit. It wanted barbecue, and it wanted it right then.
Rating: Good, would be excellent with food

2004 Kunde Estate Syrah (Sonoma, California): 90% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon (is that cheating?), 3% Viognier, and 1% Zinfandel
I'll just skip to the rating, which I noted as being berry good. Yep, it's a berry bomb, and I liked it.

Hubby and I poured at Sherlock's yesterday before our Grange adventures (see previous post). The theme was European Reds and Whites with one wine snuck in from that strange European country of California (that's a joke -- yes, I am smarter than a 5th grader!).

We requested that Warner send us the wine list ahead of time so we could prepare ourselves for questions and tell stories about the wine. Those of you who know us irl should not be surprised by this. The problem is that every time I do research for Sherlock's wine tastings, the wine rep actually comes, so I don't get to talk. Yep, the wine rep showed up, and I sulked at first, but we ended up being busy enough that we both got to do a fair bit of talking and maybe even show off a little. The extra stuff is below the ratings.

NV Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana (Spain):
This one was interesting because it was a dry sherry, which is totally unfamiliar to most American palates.
Rating: Meh (or should I go with my recent idea of designating wines I didn't like at all with moo?)

A family winery in Andalusia (Southern coastal region) since 1792, the Hidalgos were originally in the salt business. It showed in the wine, which had a salty overtone to it. It was a little better with olives and almonds, but still not to my liking. I don't think any of our tasters liked it, either.

2007 Xarmont Txakolina (Spain):
This effervescent (see: slightly bubbly) white is all citrus and mineral and would be perfect for an afternoon by the pool or on the back patio with tapas. This was one of the more popular wines of the afternoon, maybe because it followed the dry sherry and was thus really good by comparison.
Rating: Very Good

From the Basque region, this wine is usually served from a great height into a small tumbler and allowed to settle. I did not allow Hubby to climb the shelves and try this.

2004 Roshambo Rock, Paper, and Scissors Chardonnay (Sonoma County, California): Peach-pear nose and hazelnut and peach on the palate, this Chardonnay was actually good. It's still slightly oaked, so I was surprised that I liked it so much, although I shouldn't be because Hubby and I went to the old Roshambo tasting room in 2004 and loved their wines. We're hoping that they'll ship to Georgia now that the laws have loosened up a bit. If not, we'll just have to visit them at their new tasting room in Sonoma.
Rating: Very Good

2005 C.H. Berres Riesling "Impulse" (Mosel River Valley, Germany):
This is a mostly dry Riesling with a little bit of residual sugar and peach-citrus flavors over mineral. Hubby liked it, which was his surprise for the afternoon because he's usually anti-Riesling.
Rating: Very Good

The "Impulse" in the wine's name comes from the new energy infused by the winemaker, Marcus Berres, who took over his family's winery with the 2004 vintage while still in his late 20's. Would go well with Asian cuisine.

2006 Vina Gormaz Ribera del Duero (Ribero del Duero, Spain): 100% Tempranillo
Seriously, two disappointing Tempranillos in a week? What is the world coming to? This one was all earth and leather with the berries sneaking out as it opened, but it was still too much terroir, not enough fruit for my palate. Others loved it, though.
Rating: Okay-Good

2005 Barco Negro Douro (Douro, Portugal): 30% Tinta Roriz, 30% Touriga Franca, 40% Touriga Nacional -- all Portugese varietals, the second one is related to Tempranillo
Dark fruit nose with cherry and plum flavors with just the barest finish of mint, this red was definitely drinkable.
Rating: Very Good

The name comes from one of the Barco Rabelos, or boats used to transport Port on the Douro River from where it was made to Vila Nova de Gaia, where it was sold and stored. The Barco Negro ran at night and had a black hull. The Port barrels were also black, as supposedly were their contents, which was a dark, dense, and rich Port wine.

2004 Guelbenzu EVO Ribera del Quieles (Spain): Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Tempranillo (exact percentages apparently a trade secret)
Medium-bodied red with slight toasted bread and lots of currant flavors. The flavors dwindled disappointingly as it opened.
Rating: Good to Very Good

The town of Cascante in the Navarra region of Spain has been making wine since Roman times. The Guelbenzu winery has been selling commercially since the early 1800's. The EVO is not a Rachael Ray reference, as one taster guessed, but rather a Spanish word meaning eternity that was supposedly derived from the cry of the priestesses of Bacchus (god of wine and partying), who would shout, "Evohe! Evohe!" or, in modern parlance, "Party on forever!" in the course of their Bacchanalia.

Bottom line: A Chardonnay that I liked and a Riesling that he liked? They definitely had to come home with us.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Oenophile at Large: The Grange

I have a lot to catch up on, but I wanted to go ahead and post my review of The Grange.

Hubby and I arrived at Decatur's new Irish pub at about 6:45 and found it to be pretty crowded with only one table available outside and a couple of empty ones inside. We chose seats at the bar and took stock of what had changed since it was the Angel. The first thing we noticed was how much brighter it is inside. The formerly dark walls are painted white, and the carpets have been replaced by wooden floors. Or have they always been wooden? It's been so long since the Angel closed that we couldn't remember. Either way, it's now brighter, although the inside layout is the same with the bar in the center, booths and tables to either side, and the fireplace in the back. It looks a lot more open, but it should still be nice and cozy in the winter.

The Grange is run by four siblings who actually are Irish, and they're hands-on in the running of the restaurant. Colin, behind the bar, took care of us, and we saw the others around throughout the evening. The entire bar, all four sides, seemed a bit much for him to handle, and he and his sister noted that they'll be better prepared next weekend with a bar back. In general, they had only a few of the problems that one might expect for an opening night, for example, the kitchen getting behind and overwhelmed.

Hubby and I started with the Risotto Balls, which are Parmesan risotto with bits of bacon that are breaded and fried and served with marinara sauce. They're an original take on cheese sticks. The house salad is a small plate of lettuce, sliced cucumber, and tomato with a savory oil, vinegar, and tarragon dressing. Hubby got the burger, which was cooked medium and served with "chips" (fries), and he reported that the seasonings in the burger were very good. I had to wait a bit for my Guinness Braised Brisket, which was served with fr, er, chips and a side of peas and carrots. It was flavorful and tender, although I would have liked for some sort of sauce with the meat, perhaps some of the cooking liquid. One thing I appreciated about the brisket is that it wasn't a bit greasy. We made the acquaintance of a nice couple at the end of the bar, and they gave us reviews of their food. The Meat Pie was "a little dry," and the mashed potatoes could have used some gravy, but the Shepherd's Pie was very good. For the sake of completeness, I made a sacrifice for the blog and had the dessert "The Dubliners," which are profiteroles with Guinness ice cream and dark chocolate honey sauce, even though I was already full. They were excellent.

As for libations, yes, it's a pub, so the beer list is over twice as long as the wine list, but both have an interesting variety. I started the evening with a Chouffe pale ale and then went on to sample the house wines, which are from Twisted Winery just south of Lodi, California. I had the Merlot, which is a fairly straightforward berry bomb, the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is still fruity but has a little more complexity and a hint of caramel on the finish, and the Zinfandel, which is everything one might want in a Zin, especially after it breathes a bit, as one would expect from that region. All three wines were very smooth and went well with food. Hubby stuck with beer. Our new friends sampled the beer as well as wine and deemed the 2007 Astica Malbec to be "so-so," but the El Coto Crianza was good.

The bottom line is that once they make the necessary tweaks like putting an extra person behind the bar and getting the kitchen flow worked out, this should be a really fun place to hang out, eat, and drink. I really like that they chose an interesting label for the house wines and that the noise level, even at the bar, allowed for easy conversation. I think that the Irish sibs are well on their way toward making The Grange a true community pub.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Open, light, friendly, good noise level
Food: Very good
Wine list: Nice range for a pub; they don't have the Brick Store's beer list but should have enough variety to make most people happy
Wait staff: Very Good at the bar; seemed to have adequate numbers out in the restaurant
Desserts: Very Good; only two choices, both chocolate-centered (which is fine with me)
Vegetarian friendly? Yes, if they want to mostly stick to starters and salads; only one vegetarian entree
Kid friendly? Surprisingly so with a kids' menu
Would I go back? Yes, regularly

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Oenophile at Large: Grownups' Night Out in Decatur

I am now officially done with my former job except for some contract work I’m doing for them. The problem is now that whenever I’m connected to their system, the rest of my internet applications don’t work, like it’s greedily sucking up all my bandwidth and probably a few other things, too. Oh, and the final "stuff from my desk" count: 5 boxes, one very full bag, another plastic shopping bag, and some journals carried out by hand along with my lower back support. That was really interesting when people tried to hug me on the way out.

In my last post, I wrote about pouring at Sherlock’s with Hubby on August 23. The adventures didn’t stop when we put the bottles away. Okay, we did take a quick breather for Mass.

Tangent: Three things I love about being Catholic (don’t worry, I’ll keep this brief and leave the heavy spiritual thinking to Dan):
1. Drinking alcohol is allowed, even in Church, although Communion wine is not very good.
2. They have Saturday evening services so you can sleep in on Sunday.
3. The pope says we can believe in aliens!

We just happened to go by Tastings afterward, which was already getting busy. We shared the “Tuscan Picnic” meat and cheese plate, which has Asiago, Parmesan, Gorgonzola, Peppered Salami, Sopressata, Roasted Red Peppers, and Toasted Pine Nuts, all served with crostini.

I got a taste of each of the following. Please note that all were tasted with food:

Inama Vin Soave, Soave Classico (Veneto, Italy): 100% Garganega
This medium-bodied white had a nice apricot/pear nose. It tasted mineral with almond and honey.
Rating: Good

Coltibuono “Selezione R.S.” (Chianti, Italy): 100% Sangiovese
A nice red with berries on the nose and a buttery finish.
Rating: Very Good

Telmo Rodriguez Dehesa Gago (Toro, Spain): 100% Tempranillo
Ripe, dark fruit nose with a caramel/pepper finish
Rating: Okay

I confirmed that I still like the Fife Redhead Red Zinfandel and other stuff, and Hubby got to have some this time, too. For some reason, I didn’t get vintages – sorry! I do have two things that I don't like about Tastings: it's over air-conditioned (see: freezing!), and the layout is such that it's hard to maneuver around inside, especially when it's busy.

I’m not sure why we decided we were hungry for dinner after that huge snack, but that’s what we did. Deciding what to have for dinner typically takes some negotiating. Maybe it’s because we’re both Pisces and can’t make up our minds about anything. Café Lilly? No, he would feel under-dressed in shorts. The same went for Cakes & Ale, and it was really crowded, anyway. I didn’t really feel like ethnic, and as for getting into the Brick Store, forget it. So we ended up at Sage.

The last time I reviewed Sage, I complained that they hadn’t updated their menu in a long time. They do have a few items that looked unfamiliar (and aren’t on the online menu, which is still the November 2007 one), so it looks like they’re keeping their favorites and changing some things seasonally. I can’t complain about that; it's a formula that works for a lot of places. Hubby had the “Mafia Steak,” which was essentially steak and mashed potatoes. I combined the Crisp Duck Confit and Baby Greens Salad for my entrée. Overall, it was a good experience, and they were very accommodating when we were chased inside by the rain.

After dinner, we hung out at Twain’s and watched the Olympics. Their wine list is limited, but I was still able to find something to keep me occupied for a while in addition to the male singles’ diving finals. I had a glass or three of the Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon, which I knew would be good because we’ve been to their winery. I had never been inside Twain’s, and I was surprised at how big it is. I was also pleased to discover that their kitchen doesn’t close til late, so my midnight jonesin’ for onion rings (wine munchies?) was satisfied. They might take the billiards thing a little far by designating their bathrooms as "Balls" and "Racks." Speaking of going too far, later in the evening, I was treated to a play-by-play analysis of what was going on in the "Racks" room by a drunk co-ed as she wiggled and waited. She'd probably been watching too much Olympic coverage.

I have a confession: we ended up at the Waffle House at 1 a.m. Yes, we decided to relive some of our college days. Nothing much to report there. I’m all about a pecan waffle in the wee hours of the morning.

As much fun as we had, we were sure to enjoy responsibly. I'll also add that we walked to, around, and from Decatur. It was grown-up fun and exercise, too!

Next weekend, we get to have a new adventure! Last Fall, we’d started in the (probably bad) habit of stopping by the Angel after Saturday evening Mass for a glass of wine and a snack. I called it bribing my non-Catholic husband to go to church with me; he called it keeping in line with his Scottish heritage to stop for alcohol after church. Either way, we were disappointed when the Angel closed and we couldn’t do that anymore. We’re thrilled that it’s reopening as The Grange this coming weekend, September 6. We’ll be there!

This week on the blog: Still catching up – Late Summer Beer Dinner and Breast Cancer Benefit at Feast; Midtown Restaurant Week at One Midtown Kitchen; going OTP for dinner in Roswell