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Archive for March, 2011

On Sunday morning I woke up early and went to the market. Overnight, we had what I hope will be the last snow of the winter and it seemed like perfect weather for meatballs. I got home from the market and went to work. I like to make my meatballs and sauce in the morning so it has the day for the flavors to marry. After I had completed my work in the kitchen, I headed downstairs to continue work on my cellartracker project and kept an eye out for a good pairing.

The Meatballs
I have always loved a good meatball, probably because my mom’s are so good. I remember her meatballs from when I was a little and she still often makes them when we go home. Her spaghetti and meatballs are one of my favorites meals as they deliver a lot of comfort, love and flavor.  In developing my take on meatballs, I have tried to measure up to my mom’s while also doing a few things to make them my own.

One of my takes on meatballs has to do with how I handle the breadcrumbs. I incorporate breadcrumbs three ways — sautéed with the garlic, shallot and onion; soaked in milk; and added to the ground meat. I use ground beef, veal and pork (about 2 parts beef to 1 part veal and 1 part pork). I sauté some garlic, shallot and onion with garlic salt, celery salt, salt and pepper, poultry seasoning and the breadcrumbs. While that is on the stove, I soak some breadcrumbs in milk and when done I combine everything in a bowl and combine the sautéed ingredients with the meat, add the breadcrumbs soaked in milk  and then add more bread crumbs, dried parsley, parmesan and pecorino cheese, a couple of eggs and some chopped pine nuts. I cook the meatballs in a pan at a gentle heat and pull them when I think they are about 75 percent cooked. By this time, I have made a basic tomato sauce and add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

For a wine pairing, I actually considered pouring a red wine from Jura. I really like the wines from Jacques Puffeney and Jean-François Ganevat — they are bright and acidic and seem like they would pair well with Italian fare. I also considered something from Arianna Occhipinti, but inventory is starting to dwindle and all of her wines had been entered in cellartracker and I wasn’t inclined to undo any of my work quite yet. In the end, I found the perfect candidate — a Dolcetto d’Alba from Cappellano.

The Wine
Teobaldo Cappellano is considered a legend and one of the last great traditionalist winemakers in Barolo. In 1983, he banished all journalists from his cellar unless they agreed to review his wines without scores.  As a result, he is not very well-known in the United States — but is held in very high esteem in the wine world. He was once quoted as saying, “If there is one thing that makes me crazy, it’s spitters of wine…the ones who taste a wine by rolling it around in their mouths and then they spit it out. I worked my butt off to make wine to drink, not to spit!”

He has been described as a “wine artist,” and a “poet, philosopher and winemaker in his spare time.” He was also president of the influential Vini Veri group and a longtime leader of Italy’s sustainable agriculture movement. He was best known in Italy for his Barolo Chinato, a tonic of wine, spirit and herbs, chiefly quinine, invented by his uncle Giuseppe at the end of the nineteenth century. Endorsed by the House of Savoy, the former Kings of Italy, Cappellano’s Barolo Chinato became the standard by which all others were measured.

The estate produces 2 Barolos, 2 Barberas and a Dolcetto. Annual production is around 15,000 to 20,000 bottles. The wines are fermented along traditional lines for 2-3 weeks, without added yeasts, in stainless steel (designed by Cappellano himself) and glass-lines cement vats. Then they go into barrels for a minimum of 3 years, sometimes longer. They are bottled without filtration. His wines are imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

Teobaldo Cappellano died February 20th, 2009 after a serous illness. He slipped into a coma while undergoing surgical treatment and never recovered. He was 65 years old. His son Augusto carries on his legacy.

His Barolos will put you back at least $90 a bottle, but his Barbera and Dolcetto are good values, the Dolcetto is available for about $25 a bottle. Aromatics of red fruit and some Old World funk on the nose. Red fruit with sour cherry and cranberry, some vegetal notes — good acidity and soft, dusty tannins. This bring a bit more structure than some of the more fruit driven Dolcettos, certainly a more soulful and thought-provoking example of the varietal. The wine is very food friendly and comforting — a very good wine and a solid pairing with the spaghetti and meatballs.

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I spent much of the weekend entering my wines into cellartracker. Though it is rather time consuming process, I had come to the conclusion that I need to do something to track my wines. In the process of getting organized, I realized I had more Muscadet than I had thought. I decided to do something about that and set aside a bottle from Luneau-Papin. I thought it would be fun to cook something on Sunday that might pair well with it. I have had the wine on three previous occasions and really liked it. It’s an interesting example of the varietal in that it offers just a touch of residual sugar. It spent 42 months on the lees — it’s a bit rich and almost creamy, but brings all the acidity you would expect from a Muscadet.

There’s nothing like Muscadet with fresh oysters or clams and it is always a great choice for seafood dishes. That said, the varietal is very versatile and pairs well with many things beyond just seafood. I happen to love it with spicy Asian dishes.  A few weeks back, I made curry laksa — and was eager to make it again. The Pueri Solis seemed like a perfect pairing. The spice would work well with the touch of residual sugar and acidity. In addition, the soup’s broth has some sour and citrus flavors (in part from the fish sauce, lime juice and red curry paste) that would pair well with the wine’s citrus notes.

Unfortunately, this time my curry laksa was not quite as good as the previous effort. I made the chicken broth from scratch, buying a whole chicken and cooking it with water, a couple of celery stalks, a couple of carrots, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, lemongrass, a little fish sauce, soy, mirin, fresh thyme, curry powder, tumeric and various other spices. After the chicken was cooked, I removed it and let it cool and then pulled all of the meat. I put the broth through a strainer and put it aside.

In a dutch oven, add some curry paste and oil over medium heat. After about 7 minutes, add shallot, ginger and garlic. After 5 minutes, add the chicken, serrano pepper, green onions and spices (curry powder, tumeric, poultry seasoning). Add chicken broth, 2 star anise, 2 cloves and a small handful of chopped cilantro and simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, you could also add shrimp if you like and simmer until cooked (about 5 minutes). Add coconut milk, more cilantro and baby bok choi and let sit for 10 minutes.  In a bowl, place bean sprouts, green onion, cooked Chinese noodles and bean thread, add the soup and 1/2 of a boiled egg.

The last time I made this, I only used chicken thighs that I dry rubbed with curry, tumeric, cumin and salt and then grilled. I thought the meat was much more flavorful and resulted in a better bowl of soup. I was able to improve this on the second night by adding some grilled chicken that I had marinated. I also opted for David Chang’s Slow-Poached egg that puts the standard hard-boiled to shame.

The Muscadet did pair very well, though a riesling, grüner or chenin blanc might also be good options.

The Luneau-Papin Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Pueri Solis 2005 is imported by Louis/Dressner Selections. Pierre and his wife Monique are the seventh generation to run the domaine, though their wines are more likely to be found listed under Luneau-Papin or even Pierre Luneau, than under the estate’s true name (Domaine Pierre de la Grange). There is a broad and varied range of cuvées produced at Luneau-Papin, which in many cases reflect vineyard or terroir of origin.They have approximately 40 hectares of vines, with 38 hectares planted to Melon de Bourgogne and the remaining 2 hectares committed to red varieties. The vineyards are situated in Le Landreau, Vallet and La Chapelle Heulin, about 20 kilometres from Nantes itself. The vines average forty-five years although some are well into their seventh decade.

Related posts:
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Le L d’Or 2005
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sevre et Maine L D’Or 2002
Pierre Luneau-Papin Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie Excelsior 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sevre et Maine “3″ 2005
Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Granite de Clisson 2007
Domaine de la Pépière “Vieilles Vignes” Clos des Briords Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2007
Michel Brégeon Muscadet Sevre et Maine 2002

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Domaine Gramenon is one of the most respected producers in the Rhône. In his book on the wines of the Rhône valley, Robert Parker classified Gramenon in the same category as Beaucastel and Fonsalette.

In 1998, owner Phillipe Laurent nearly doubled the area of his vineyards by purchasing some 50 acres in Vinsobres. A year later, he died in a tragic accident and his wife decided to sell some 35 acres the Perrin brothers at Beaucastel.

Michelle Aubery-Laurent and her son Maxim-François continue to make wines in a pretty natural way, with sulphur dioxide used just at assemblage. Their vineyards are farmed organically, and they never filter or fine their wines.

Their wines are not very well-known in the United States as they are available on a limited basis, though it seems they are starting to get more attention.  Someone familiar with their wines from years ago recently told me they made some rather odd wines. He had not had any of their wines in a number of years. I poured him some of the 2008s from Domaine Gramenon and he seemed to like them and say these were not the wines that he remembered. I originally found Gramenon’s wines through Kermit Lynch’s newsletter. He described them as a pure expression of biodynamically farmed, old vine fruit with knock-out flavors tempered by a core of strong minerality. My first vintage of the Sierra du Sud was the 2007. I think I paid $28-32 a bottle. The 2009 can be found for about $22 a bottle.

The Sierra du Sud is 100% Syrah, half aged for seven months in old oak. Like the 2007, it is very deep, dark inky ruby in color, with bright aromatics of red and dark fruit and some earth and bubble gum. It explodes in your mouth with black currant, plum and more bubble gum. This is even more approachable than the 2007, perhaps just a bit more ripe as well. The 2008s had a bit of funk and a little more going on — which is not to say I didn’t like the 2008s, as I do consider myself to be pro-funk when it comes to wine. The 2009 might be a bit less complex — just pure, unadulterated fruit — definitely in the quaffable and fun category. 13.5% alcohol. Imported by Kermit Lynch.

More wines from Domaine Gramenon:
Domaine Gramenon La Sagesse Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Les Laurentides Côtes du Rhône 2007
Domaine Gramenon Côtes du Rhône Blanc Vie on y Est 2008
Domaine Gramenon Ceps Centenaires La Mémé 2000

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Esther Nin received degrees in both oeneology and biology before beginning her career supervising wine projects across Spain. Esther shares her time as Clos Erasmus winegrower icon Daphne Glorian’s right hand, as well as several additional consulting projects. She later bought a tiny parcel (less than 3 acres) of old vines on the steepest hillside slopes above the village of Porrera. The 2004 was her debut vintage, producing three barrels  from 80 to 100-year-old vines. Nit de Nin is 60% Garnacha and 40% Carinena aged for 18 month in French oak.

Deep, dark ruby/violet in color. Nose of dark fruit, plum, earth, and cocoa. Black cherry, blackberry and blueberry with kirsch, vanilla and spice. Plush, ripe and opulent — with a long finish. This bordered on being a bit much, though I did like it — just not sure it was worthy of all the critical acclaim. 15% alcohol. Imported by Eric Solomon.

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