Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz, 2001

Columbia Crest Two Vines Shiraz, 2001

Columbia Crest Shiraz, from the Two Vine collection, is readily available in the Seattle area for under $8. We bought this bottle about 2 or 3 years ago and tucked it away in the cellar. Last night, Kate secretly selected this wine to enjoy with a casual dinner in front of the TV. I was given a glass "blindly" to sniff and sip and try to guess the varietal and region. This is a common ritual in our household that adds to the overall fun of drinking nice wines. The color was a dark purple and almost opaque. On the nose were the aromas of blackberry jam, plums and Skittles. In the mouth was an explosion of sweet fruit flavors with a major load of blueberries, cherries and cotton candy. There was also a subtle taste of vanilla and oak accompanying the soft, smooth finish. This is a medium bodied wine with low tannins and a very "new-world" appeal. As I analyzed this "mystery wine", I was thinking Shiraz, but uncertain whether to guess Australia or Washington State. I told Kate my thoughts and she revealed the bottle and congratulated me on a good job of guessing the mystery wine. We both thought this wine was too much like a "candy fruit-bomb" and not our favorite style at this point in time!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Alberti 154 Malbec, 2006

Alberti 154 Malbec, 2006

This wine is produced by the Elvira Calle Winery in the heart of Mendoza, Argentina. There is no doubt, in my mind, that many of the great value wines are coming from countries like Argentina, Spain, Italy and Australia. Malbec wines tend to have an inky, dark quality with robust tannins. Malbec grapes are one of the six varieties of grapes allowed to be blended into red Bordeaux wine. This Alberti 154 has a pleasant deep red color that is nearly opaque. The nose shows aromas of plum, coffee and some smoke. In the mouth this is a medium bodied wine with inky flavors of dark cherries, raspberries and a hint of leather. There is ample acidity and well integrated tannins to provide a long and satisfying finish. We enjoyed this wine with some homemade Meatball Sliders and some sautéed Brussels Sprouts with olive oil and Parmesan. This is an excellent value that we bought from Esquin, in Seattle, for about $8. If you enjoy big red wines that go great with hearty fare or a juicy steak, you should be trying some great Malbecs from Mendoza.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Columbia Valley, 2006

Castle Rock Pinot Noir, Columbia Valley, 2006

Castle Rock Winery has built a reputation for producing quality wines at affordable prices. The company is one of the fastest growing in the industry. Castle Rock's wines are made from grapes grown in many areas of the West Coast states: California (Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Monterey County, Alexander Valley), Oregon (Willamette Valley), and Washington (Columbia Valley). The company has always focused on making wines with specific appellations in order to allow the local qualities of the wine to show through. The wines are made and bottled at wineries located in the various regions. We bought this bottle of Columbia Valley Pinot Noir at Pete's Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for under $8. The color is a deep ruby, much darker than what you would expect from an under $10 Pinot. The nose on this wine is real impressive with mixed red fruits, roses, cinnamon and caramel. This is a medium bodied wine with a smooth mouth feel and low levels of tannins and acidity. This wine is very fruity with cherry and blackberry along with some leather and spice. This does not taste like a typical Pinot Noir. Further investigation of this wine showed that it is composed of 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Syrah. Now everything is making sense, as the Syrah brings a lot of thunder to the mix. This is an easy-drinking wine that will appeal to any "New World" wine lover looking for an everyday sipper.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Carne Adovada

We are now spending about two months each year down in sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. We really enjoy Southwestern cuisine for the bold flavors and great use of spice and chilies. Amongst our favorite restaurants is Richardson's and Carlsbad Tavern, both serve their version of this traditional dish. While the traditional Carne Adovada was meat actually cured in a red chili paste, this version tenderizes the cubes of pork through a long cooking process with the sauce. This is a delicious New Mexican specialty of slow braised pork in a red chili sauce. Serve it with warm tortillas, rice and a southwestern cabbage slaw. Top with chopped fresh cilantro or green onion. Carne Adovada is also great in burritos.

Serves 4 to 6

4 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt or country rib meat,
trimmed of fat and cut into 1 to 2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons cooking oil
salt and pepper to taste
Chili Sauce
3 cups warm water
15 to 20 large dried New Mexico chilies (de-stemmed and seeded)
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons vinegar (cider or wine)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoons dried cumin
2 teaspoons salt

To make the chili sauce: Stem, seed, and rinse the chilies, then place them in a pot with the 3 cups of warm water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until tender. Allow to slightly cool. Puree the chilies in a blender with about 2 cups of the cooking liquid, onions, honey, vinegar and the seasonings. Add the remaining pepper liquid and blend again until smooth.

To prepare the pork: Season meat with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the large pot and heat to medium high. Place the meat in the pot with and cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat until lightly browned on all surface. Turn pieces as needed. Turn off heat.

To finish the dish: Pour the freshly made chili sauce over the browned pork and adjust heat to bring to a slow simmer. Cover pot securely and simmer very low for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Skim off any fat that has risen to the surface. At this point the meat should be tender and delicious. This dish can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to two months.

Southwestern Cabbage Slaw
This cabbage slaw is a great side dish for a Carne Adovada plate or any grill or picnic meal. Enjoy.

1 Green Cabbage, medium/small size
2 Carrots, shredded
½ Red Onion, finely chopped
¼c Cilantro, chopped
¾c Mayonnaise
1tbs Cider Vinegar
1tbs Honey (or sugar)
2 tsp Chili Powder
½tsp Salt (to taste)
½tsp Black Pepper (to taste)

Add all ingredients to a large bowl and toss well. Keep chilled (up to 6 hours) before serving.

Icon Grill

Icon Grill
1933 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
Tel: (206) 441-6330

Last night we decided to have dinner at the Icon Grill in downtown Seattle. We had dined here a few times in the past, but it has been about 5 years and it was time for a return. The Icon is located under the shadow of the Monorail within a few short steps form Cinerama and Top Pot Doughnuts. The restaurant has a fun and warm atmosphere. With warm colors ranging from red to gold, over sized chandeliers holding ornate blown glass art and an over abundance of scattered knickknacks; this place is a circus of interior design. The high ceiling room is laid out with a combination of tables and booths with beautiful cream colored marble tables. We decided to start with a special seasonal asparagus salad. The salad was composed of grilled asparagus, baby greens, hazelnuts, herb goat cheese with creamy mustard vinaigrette. We enjoyed the delightful pairing of flavors and will remember this as a possible "home recreation", in the near future. For our main course, Kate chose the Sea Scallops with Mushrooms and Pappardelle and I chose the Parmesan Lemon Cover Sole. My dish was the winner of the two. The Sole fillets were coated with grated cheese and panko, pan fried, and topped with lemon butter and fried capers. The fish was served with some creamy corn and cilantro spiked mashed potatoes and some fresh asparagus. We both enjoyed this dish rating it an overall "good", but not great. Kate's choice was a disappointment. Six medium sized scallops were served in a bowl with some pappardelle pasta and some wild mushrooms. The scallops were rather dry and flavorless and the pasta with mushroom sauce was rather bland and boring. We finished our meal with one of their "seasonal" desserts. This was a warm strawberry and rhubarb crumble, topped with vanilla ice cream. The crumble was delicious. It was very rich with butter, toasted walnuts, sugar and fresh baked fruit all served in a hot crook. The large scoop of ice cream helped to pushed it over the top. It was a nice way to end our dinner and to make us comment on how we would eat "light" tomorrow. Overall, we enjoyed our return to the Icon Grill. The fun atmosphere of the dinning room and the high energy buzz of the dinners makes this a fun place for a weekend outing. However, overall the food was not as good as it should be so the Icon will probably drop of our radar for another few years.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pascual Toso Malbec, 2006

Pascual Toso Malbec, 2006

We bought this Argentinean Malbec at Costco in Scottsdale, AZ, this past week. We were down there for a 10 day vacation and we were looking for a few wines to drink throughout the week. We found this Malbec to be a real winner. The color was a lovely dark ruby with some purple highlights. On the nose was black plum, earth and some smoky leather. This wine was a great marriage of old world meats new world. In the mouth it is a big wine with a mixture of nice dark berry and plum along with dusty tobacco and sage. The finish was long and refined. We drank this wine with a grilled flat-iron steak and a Caesar salad while sitting out at pool side at our Scottsdale condo. It was a perfect night with good food, good wine and good friends. We will be looking for more of this Malbec in the Seattle area. We paid about $8-9 dollars for this lovely Malbec from Pascual Toso. Nice job.

Columbia Crest Grand Estate Zinfandel, 2003

Columbia Crest Grand Estate Zinfandel, 2003

I have been a long time fan of Columbia Crest for producing excellent wines across a wide price point. We purchased this Zinfandel at the winery out in Patterson, Washington. We cellared it for the past year and a half. This wine has a deep, dark red color and is nearly opaque. The nose shows black cherry, vanilla and some toasty oak. In the mouth is and explosion of blackberry jam, cherry pie, fig, caramel and some toasted vanilla wafers. The mouth feel is thick, velvety and rich with good tannins and a gentle acidity. This wine is truly delicious and as we finished the bottle we wished we had another bottle in the cellar! This is an excellent varietal from Columbia Crest that is hard to find, but well worth the search. We paid about $15 for this beautiful Zinfandel.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Taste of Washington Weekend, 2008

Taste Washington 2008

This weekend is the Taste Washington wine event that showcases Washington State wines to the world. On Saturday morning we attended the seminar "Washington Wine Library TV". In town was Gary Vaynerchuk to host this wine tasting event while filming an episode of Wine Library TV. Here is Gary's profile as described on the Taste Washington website: Gary Vaynerchuk, self-trained wine expert, is revolutionizing the wine industry. His blog, Wine Library TV, boasts a cult-like following resulting from his enthusiastic, unconventional, and often irreverent wine commentary. In the name of “expanding one’s palate," Gary convinced Conan O’Brien to lick salted rocks and shared samples of dirt and grass with Ellen Degeneres.With a wealth of knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit, Gary re branded the family business as Wine Library. Within a five year time period, Wine Library grew from a $4 million dollar business to a $45 million business. What raised Gary’s notoriety even more than his business acumen was his foresight. Inspired by sites such as and, Gary leveraged technology to reach an untapped audience. His daily 20 minute webcasts caught the attention of a demographic new to wine and eager to learn. Within a short time, beer sales were outpaced by wine. While his youthful following broke down barriers in the wine industry, the business world (and Web 2.0) admired Gary for creating a new generation of branding, focusing on the Internet. Gary’s unique identity as both a wine expert and a “real person” has reinvented the concept of wine tasting for a new generation.

We enjoyed the tasting seminar which allowed us to be a part of Wine Library TV and to taste 6 different Washington State wines.

2005 Harlequin "Celilo Vineyard" Chardonnay, CG $28
2004 Nicholas Cole "Camille" Blend, CV $48
2004 Boudreaux "Reserve Champoux Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, HHH $100
2006 Cougar Crest Viognier, WW $20
2005 Gramercy Cellar Syrah, WW, $40
2007 Nefarious "Stone's Throw Vineyard" Riesling, CV $18

Later that evening we attended a party for Gary that was held at Seattle Wine Storage. This was a fun and wild event. The party was structured as a pot luck food and wine festival. About 75 Seattle area wine lovers brought over 100 different wines to be shared and tasted during the party. The wines were great and definitely "over-load" as the boisterous crowd swirled, sipped, drank and spit throughout the evening. After tasting about 40-50 wines, last night, we are moving slowly today!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Borsao Selection, 2004

Borsao Selection, 2004

This is a new release from Bodegas Borsao in the Borja region of Spain. This red is a blend of 50% Granache, 25% Tempranillo and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was aged for 10 months in French and American oak then stored for 14 months in the bottle before being released. The bottle has a distinctive orange label and a real cork closure. On the nose there is the sweet aroma of blackberries, plums and gram cracker crust. The color is a lovely purple with red highlights. This is a medium bodied wine that explodes in your mouth with sweet fruit flavors of raspberries, cherries and pomegranate. The use of these three grape varieties created a harmonious blend. The mixed berry flavors with hints of wheat and spice, make this wine very appealing. The tannins are well submerged and the acidity and alcohol level (14%) are under control. This is yet another example of a "New World" Spanish red that should be very popular. I bought this at Pete's Wine Shop, in Bellevue, for about $10. Very nice.