Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Asterix's Magic Elixir!


OK, I'm late. I usually post about my annual holiday liqueur, but I was just crazy busy this year. Here it is now as promised. For those of you who got a bottle without an actual ingredient tag, You can print it up from here. 



In my second Sommelier post in NYC, we inherited a cellar full of the most terrible assortment of inexpensive spirits which should never have been brought into any restaurant desiring more than a star in the New York Times reviews. Chef was just going to throw them out, and I volunteered to turn them into something useable, or at the very least, promo-able to regular guests or irate customers (of which there were very few). Cheap gin became Lemon Anisette, a decrepit bottle of eau de vie became a Raspberry-Lime cordial, an obscure bottle of Marc de Champagne became "Love Potion 33," an infusion of Hawthorn Berries and Rose Petals with Strawberries and Gold Dust that swirled and pulsed in the bottle as if an impish spirit had been trapped in the bottle. But the one that grabbed the attention of several critics was my Cranberry Kirschwasser. It was a leftover bottle of Massenez Kirsch blended with organic cranberry juice, white creme de cacao liqueur, and sugar. After a shot of this (and the better part of a bottle of Vacqueyras), she proceeded to buy a round of liqueurs for the next table, and then to arm wrestle them over their dinner checks. 

The recipe is rather simple, if you're patient, and makes rather a lot....I use it for Christmas Gifts. The acidity is bright, and purifying. Depending on the strength of your Kirschwasser, you can adjust flavors to your own tastes, and it's rather harsh the first few days, but mellows with age. 

2 -750ml bottles Kirschwasser 
––(my personal preference is Steve McCarthy's Clear Creek Distillery in Oregon)
300ml White Creme de Cacao Liqueur
––(any brand, but DeKuyper or Marie Brizard are most suitable)
––(any brand, organic is better)
750ml  by volume superfine (bar) cane sugar
1- 32oz bottle of Lakewood Organic Black Cherry Juice (NOT Juice Blend). 
1 - teaspoon Organic Vegetable Glycerin
2 - teaspoons Organic Vanilla Extract

Combine the Liqueur and Juice Concentrate and make a syrup of an equal part (600 ml/about 3.5 cups) of sugar. Combine remaining sugar with the Cherry Juice, and reserve for adjusting flavor (this should be about a liter). Combine Kirschwasser and 750 ml of the syrup in a large pot or dispensing jar. Add vanilla. Stir well, and allow to rest at least overnight, up to 3 days if tightly sealed. 

Add 500ml of the sweetened cherry juice and the glycerin. Stir and let rest another day, stirring several times during the wait. 

Add additional cherry juice and/or sugar until desired strength is desired (my last batch used a rather potent Kirschwasser and I ended up using about 3/4 of the sweetened juice). It will still be rather harsh at this point, as the cranberry may need several weeks to fully incorporate, but is suitable for bottling once the desired strength is achieved. 

Try pouring over ice cream (affogato style), or serving with fresh chocolate-cherry chunk cookies. It also makes an interesting addition to a classic Manhattan cocktail, or a simple digestif after a traditional duck dinner!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Last of the Red Hot Burgundy Lovers

Back to Greek Wines tomorrow, but for tonight, I had the last of my four prized Louis Jadot 2015 burgundies.

The Vacuvin is now put away, as I opened the last of the sample bottles from a recent Jadot tasting: Jadot Nuits-Saint-Georges "Les Boudots" 2015.
Red cherry, and ripe raspberries on the nose with a bit of wildflowers.....no, daisies. Richer earth terroir than the last three tastings, moist soil with plenty of organics, plenty of red raspberry, bing cherry, and cassis. Not the dairy element like 
the last few, but not missing it....there's a hint of lemon candy pushing it's bright fruity finish to the end. Save it if you want, but you don't need to. The tannins are mild, and the fruit uncomplicated. Delicious. I'm having this with Chicken Burgers with aromatics (onion, garlic parsley), duck bacon, and sharp vermont cheddar on a buttermilk biscuit, but this would be fine with any poultry, or fuller flavored fish. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Jadot Trois!

Oh, the life of a sommelier. So busy you don't have time for anything but leftovers!


Well, in this case, I'm perfectly happy, because my leftovers include about a third of a bottle of Jadot Chambolle-Musigny "Les Drazey" 2015. A very interesting nose with ripe red apple and, curiously enough, cactus pear and/or dragon fruit on the edge. Something cactus-ey.  Still a lot of noticeable terroir on this one, but more limestone than in my previous posts. And some interesting sulphite flavors, like mineral water, probably from a natural spring. Black cherry, elderberry, red currant on the palate, again with a subtle touch of crème fraîche, but not overdone in the least. I'm picking up a bit of green oak. mainly on the finish, which is fairly lengthy for such a young wine. I'm enjoying this with a quick fricassee of duck and mushrooms over waffles, but I could easily see it with spring lamb or venison, or even a hearty vegetarian dish of mushrooms (shiitake or oyster) and root vegetables (celeriac, parsnips, crosne, or jerusalem artichokes).

I won't say it's as ready for drinking as readily as my previous posts, but don't wait TOO long. Tannins are there, but complex, and will meld with that lactic flavor and become art. FIve years should do, drink within ten. This is a foodie wine. 


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Jadot Deux

Day two of Jadot tastings. Today's pick is a 2015 Volnay Clos de la Barre. Compared to the Gevry yesterday, this wine is more about the nose, with faint aromas of rose and cherry blossoms. It's again terroir driven (as it should be), but less clay and more limestone, and even though I'm drinking it colder than I'd like, the minerals are well focused. Off the top of my head, I started to think "somewhere between Pommard and Red Meursault" and, I'll be darned, look at the map!

Bright Griotte cherries with a hint of crab apple on the palate, and a tart finish with a hint of crème fraîche (is that a touch of malolactic I detect?). Once again, a wine with duck if I were to say something off the top of my head. Roast suckling pig with cassoulet, sure, but this would be excellent with a piece of stinky french cheese, or a stronger fish like spanish mackerel, bonito, tuna, or bluefish. I'd even say a whiter fish like dorade/orata/bream dressed with a good strong olive oil. Buy it now, drink it now, but save a few bottles for that Christmas Goose. And next year's. And next year's.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Duck and Pinot Noir? Jadot Say!


Duck and Pinot Noir? 

You don't say!

Jadot says.

I recently worked a small Maison Louis Jadot wine event at my current employer and got the opportunity to taste a few creations of Frédéric Barnier, the technical director of Côte d'Or at the house. One notable one was his Gevrey Chambertin Clos Saint Jacques. Particularly because of the third course of the meal, Duck Breast with a Five Spice Jus over Sweet and Sour cabbage (still a bit crisp!) and Candied Kumquat with edible nasturtium (both local, nasturtium courtesy of my friends at Harpke Farms).

FIrst off, let me say, Florida needs to grow up! This was the first properly cooked piece of duck breast I've had since relocating from New York City to Florida. Duck is NOT POULTRY! It is RED MEAT! TREAT IT AS SUCH! Thank you Chef Jeff for leaving it medium rare.

Back to the wine!



For a baby of a Gevrey-Chambertin, it's quite nice. A LOT of red currant...no...lingonberry, on a firm terroir-driven base of magnesium carbonate (clay) and iron sulfite. Or is it iron sulfide (fool's gold)? Almost no rocks....must be lower in the vineyard. Interesting malic and tannic acidity, if it wasn't already opened, I wouldn't have opened it for a few years.

I'm going to add this to my Buy Now, Drink Later list. Get a case, and have a bottle or two every year and watch how it grows. It's delicious now, but will be phenomenal in 5 to 10 years. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Bitter End of 2016


Every year around the holidays, I make a batch or two of some kind of liqueur to give as presents, and occasionally throw last year's batch up for grabs after a year of aging. This year, there are three. 

Last year's chamomile liqueur aged gracefully, and is now akin to a fruity, potent sauterne with the sedative power of a Benadryl. While I still prefer it made with Steve McCarthy's Clear Creek Williams Pear Brandy as I've done in the past, The Fidelitas Obstler Pear and Apple Eau de Vie held up well and developed with time. 




One of my favorites is still in testing. A classic Amaro heavy on the gentian and wormwood, with galangal, iris root, and angelica. The base infusion is flavored with dried seville orange peels, but I felt it needed a darker fruit for the base syrup. At THIS point, I'm heading toward black cherry, although I recently discovered a source of frozen red currants. Maybe both?



And finally, my classic Earl Grey Liqueur. I've made this one since 1999 every few years, and is an important ingredient in my Earl Grey martinis. It's based on a product that Twinings tried to market here in the US back in the eighties that I fell in love with and have never forgotten. Usually, I use blood orange peels, but this year's will be brighter using tangerines. And of course, I only use Twinings, infused into california brandy, with orange blossom honey, citrus peels, and sugar. Tea strength is determined by a classic British tea service. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Grape By Any Other Name Would Taste As Complex

Recently, I had an opportunity to taste a cult wine from Linne Calodo, a Paso Robles winery that specializes in "GSM" wines, Rhone style blends containing various percentages of Grenache, Syrah, and perhaps one of my favorite grapes, Mourvèdre.

While the 2014 blend was primarily syrah, the mourvèdre was pretty evident to me, adding a depth of character beyond the predominate pepperiness of the Syrah: baked blueberries, a touch of camphor, and a meatiness I would sooner pair with bison over a beefsteak anyday. I had flashbacks to a pairing I did at the James Beard House many years ago using Matt Cline's "Small Berry Mourvèdre," a wine that's stuck in my memory for its intensity (yes, that's a recommendation, and it's still available on their website at last peek for $70, $56 for wine club members). One of the waiters––and a wine savvy one at that––said he'd never heard of Mourvèdre, and I assured him he'd had it many times, and just not known it's name. This grape appears in many of my favorite wines over the years, at least in some small part, if not in it's entirety (like the Small Berry):

  • Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant (see previous post)
  • Mas Amiel Cuveé Specialé 10 Ans d'Âgé, a delightful fortified dessert wine that the French pair with chocolate when the rest of the world isn't watching. so they can keep it for themselves
  • Domaine Tempier Bandol, my traditional Thanksgiving pairing with giblet gravy and sausage stuffing
  • Château Beaucastel Châteauneuf des Papes (and the Perrin Brothers' various American blends from Tablas Creek, and their more traditional Perrin Reserve Côtes du Rhône)
  • Ridge Geyserville, where Paul Draper always referred to it by its other name, preferred by the immigrant farmers in California, Mataro)

So YES, you've had this grape, so don't be afraid of it. It's humble beginnings in California as a table wine wine/jug wine can be ignored, thanks to the likes of Rhone Rangers like Cline and Randall Graham, who returned it to it's pre-phylloxera glory (it proved difficult to graft to American rootstocks and remained a blending grape for many years). And while it's European offerings known as Mataro or Monastrell might remain a mystery here in the states, give them a try! Less expensive bottlings may be a little bitter or gamey for American tastes, but try them with food!