Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Claudio's farm

This is Claudio's home, milkshed, factory and farm. I should clarify. It's the summer farm (yes, as opposed to the winter farm). It's roughly situated about 2500m up in the Italian Alps. In autumn, they pack up camp and cows and moo-ve below the snow line. This seasonal migration of man and beast (or transhumance/transhumanza) is still widely practised in the manufacture of Fontina Valle d'Aosta.

It is here that Claudio milks a small herd by hand twice daily.  His day starts at 3 am, ends about  9 pm and the result is the most glorious Fontina. So yes, another cheese post.

For anyone who has travelled to Europe and tried these historic cheeses, it is such a revelation. To be happily munching away on what could be the most glorious food accident, be it oblivious or aware to the historic (Fontina is at least 700 years old and Taleggio, for the record, dates back to the 10th century) roots of their lunch, what could be more blissful? When people say they eat, sleep and breathe history in Italy, they couldn't be more right.

It makes me glad to be studying food and researching cheese. I can appreciate the boring stuff but it is the "independent research" that is so much fun. However, we aren't in Italy this Christmas.. it is beautiful South Island New Zealand for me. So I am off in search of cheese over the holidays at factories and small farms. I am making a plan and should have a follow up post all about it in the New Year.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Thyme Hill

Merlot. A lovely bottle from Thyme Hill in Alexandra. Perhaps the Southernmost Merlot in the world?? I'll have to check.

We had this the other night paired with (this will likely make most wine lovers cringe) beef burgers. Not just any old burger. These were mixed with a chipotle pepper, stuffed (yes, stuffed) with a good aged cheddar from Kapiti and served on a sesame bun with the lot (egg and bacon). A light smattering of herbed mayo, dijon, sliced tomato and lettuce topped it off. I didn't have any beetroot (sacrilige I know).

The merlot paried up nicely with the mild earthy heat from chipotles in the burgers, herbs in the mayo and with the smoky bacon. Wonderful foil to the richness of the melted cheese as well. Of course the wine gets tasted alone prior to eating and it is a fantastic drop.

I got loads of dark berry fruit, currants, and black cherry. Some sweet wood aromas and faint floral (violet perhaps) notes. Definitely some herbaceous character (a little bay leaf) and subtle peppery spice. Lightly toasty but not overpowering, it is great drinking now but I think will benefit from a wee sleep as well. It is from the 2003 vintage so maybe at least another year or two will release some wonderful bottle age characters.

With 2003 being called an above average year for Central Otago, it certainly didn't pass by Alexandra and this wine is a lush and balanced mouthful. I'll be keeping a couple for later evaluation.

But it is definitely more than a burger wine so I had another glass last night with some grilled lamb chops. Rare.

All good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Who Ate All the Pies?

By now, if you are a Dunedin market goer on Saturday mornings, you know about the Pie Guys. Purveyors of fine pies and keepers of the shop, aptly named, "Who Ate All the Pies" in St. Kilda, Dunedin.

Now I am sure some of you (although I'll bet no one from North America, save the random British ex-pat) responded to that with "You fat bastard, you fat bastard, YOU ate all the pies!" Oops. Retroactive warning and disclaimer.. this post contains lyrics from rowdy football chants. More sensitive readers proceed with caution.

And maybe some of you said oh, I don't know.. Paul Gascoigne? Or maybe Mick Quinn or even Fatty Foulkes. Hey, who's the smart arse that said Shane Warne? Shh.

The origin comes from footballers who, likely through their love of pies, among other foods, um, gained a little weight. Foulkes apparently doubled his body weight in 8 years while playing for Sheffield back in the early 1900s. Pies indeed. I also read that it had little effect on his game. Myth or true legend, I'm not sure. And fans, who scoffed down meat pies in uncountable numbers, delighted in heckling the players (or any comfortably built person within earshot) with this lovely tune. Especially popular when the pie sellers would run out.

And these pie guys do run out.. every Saturday. These are becoming pretty popular pies around town. SO. I had to go and have a look (Ok, maybe a taste too) for myself.

Simon Niak and Marten Drijfhout, chefs, having been running the business since September 2003. They are young blokes but are a serious pie-loving lot and, from the look of the South Dunedin shop (very clean and tidy), they take all this business very sharply. The menu includes a range of regular pies and some more gourmet items. Beef, red wine and mushroom remains popular while chicken, white wine and tarragon also sells well. For the pie epicure there is a venison and an ostrich pie too. Herbivores need not worry, the selection includes something for everyone: a savoury salmon pie and a substantial vegetarian choice of feta, spinach, and red capsicum.

It is absolute pie heaven. The pastry is purchased now that they are so busy but they haven't scrimped on quality. Very dense flaky and meltingly savoury, the base crust is substantial but well browned. No undercooked pies here. The fillings are hearty with no overabundance of sauce (let alone that gelatinous mass that oozes from most commercial pies). All fillings are home-made with real ingredients from local sources if possible. At $3.50 - 4.50 for the single serves and $12.50-14.00 for the family size, they are a bargain.

I have tried most of the menu offerings now but still return to the my favourite: venison, redwine and rosemary. For the sake of a couple kilos, recruit some friends to assist with a little research and enjoy some of the best gourmet pies New Zealand has to offer.
Also available at the Carey's Bay hotel after 3pm.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

New Zealand Best Fish Guide

There is an old Calabrian proverb that says:

U pesce nata sempre: intra l'acqua, intra l'oglio, e intra'u vinu.

The fish swims forever: in water, in oil, and in wine.

Heard of the Best Fish Guide?

Maybe some of you have. There were a few media stories done about it when it was released back in November. But heading into the holidays I thought a reminder was in order. The guide will help you make better choices about fish to purchase. I say "better" choices as all species are either on amber or red alerts.

I am not sure when this will no longer be acceptable to New Zealanders. According to the guide, there is no management plan for any of the country's 68 commercial fisheries. To sustain fish stocks, the fishing industry and the people whose livelihood depends on it, there is a desperate need for action. The facts are on the website and I encourage you to read, download and use the Guide.

What would life be like without fresh fish? I hope we never find out. Please, foodies, as responsible consumers, it is critical we do our bit. What fish could end up costing in the long run is far too high to ignore.

So, what to do to help local species swim forever?

Get the Guide.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Muddy Water

The final tasting was a good one indeed.

We started the evening with a drop of bubbly. Domaine Chandon Brut NV. I've never actually had a California sparkler.. but there has to be a first time for everything.

A simple straightforward bubble. Pale straw colour, with lemon/citrus, green apple and light toast aromas. It had a good body, quite full, with a light sparkle and a fresh lemony finish. All of a sudden, I was craving smoked salmon.

Let the festivities begin.

Onward to the 2005 James Hardwick Riesling. A pale wine, leaning toward the green end. Lovely and light. With potential as well. Hold-onto-your-hat turkish delight filling the glass along with faint rose petal and I got a light pencil shaving on the nose as well. The sweetness (15g/L residual sugar) is there but it is still balanced and refreshing.

The Chardonnays were next. We tasted the 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and the 2004.

The 99 was a deep golden colour. Buttered toast and old wood. Still full in the mouth and teetering on balanced but definitely tasting a little tired. The 2000 was also golden and an absolute blast of biscuity/mealy aromas. Warm buttered brown bread and buckwheat honey. Wheew. Full and oaky and subtle baked fruit and custard apple lingering. Still solid, I'd be drinking it up on these summer nights.

The 2001 and the 2002 are the first Muddy Water Chards under screwcap. Both are unfiltered and there was a 5% drop of oak used in the progressive years. The 01 was a light yellow. All grapefruit and smoke on the nose. Even with full malo, there is a lively acidity happening and it is a little hot. The year was a warm one so consequently, there is alcohol abound. The 02 was a light straw yellow with a very involved bouquet. Faint almond cream perhaps? Very pleasant on the palate, I got the craziest, yet still subtle, flash of 'Werthers original'. Nicely balanced acidity. Pegged to be one of the favourites of the night.

The 2003 and 04 vintages were different beasts again. Both a relatively pale straw colour, the 03 had shortbread dough, cream and subtle nuttiness on the nose along with a little faint sweet grapefruit. Quite lively acidity as well. The 2004 has a story. One I won't tell here (that's at the discretion of the winemaker) but a good one indeed. All I have to say is that perhaps it is rewarding those sleepless nights. Of course, the wine is the fruitiest of the lot. Soft pear and custard on the nose. A rich wine with a substantial mouthfeel. It is slightly more balanced than the 03 but still warm from a good level of alcohol.

Down the list for me, the 2000. A yummy wine (and also because I can't stand to see a wine go past it's prime, it should be gone by then) showing age but that of a life well-lived. The 2002, 2004, 2003, 2001 and the 1999. Verticals are so interesting so a thank you to whoever suggested this for the night. I have only participated in a few verts and most of those with red wines so this was a treat. Especially with Belinda leading all the Vintages save for the 99.

The Pinot Noir was next.. and as usual, I am going to try another bottle. My first impression is that I liked it. Bottled in August, this was heavily scented.. some argued sulphur, but I think that was hasty. It did dissipate after a few minutes in the glass. I got that distinct band-aid smell, but I don't mind that if it softens with a bit of time. Wild berries, rhubarb and dried herbs, green capsicum, olive and faint earth perhaps? This garnet hued wine was full on. Lovely at the same time. Perhaps a vertical of these next year? I'll have to suggest that.

The 2004 Pinotage was another big wine. Maybe I had adjusted by the time this got poured. One whiff and all I wanted was a beef, red wine and mushroom pie. See the "Who Ate All the Pies?" post for that description. Maybe it was the munchies setting in but this ruby wine full of savoury aromas and pepper ("..was there some funk?" -overheard), priced a little high for just any old pie, still sang out for just that. A nice drop as well.

Not being able to deny the song. I stopped by the bakery this morning and bought a pie to have with it tonight.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

L'ultimo per questo anno

This is it. The final full on wine tasting of the year. Heaven knows what will happen. Well, I know what is planned but what will actually go on is possibly another thing entirely.

I have learned a lot from the presentations from various NZ winemakers and those who attend the tasting sessions. Amateurs and seasoned veterans alike, there is no shortage of enthusiasm and opinion. This is an avid group that I have been fortunate to find. They are good company and love their wine.

And what a way to end the season. Muddy Water.

Belinda Gould, winemaker for Muddy Water, is going to lead the session. The plan, which in addition to Riesling and Pinot Noir, will include a very exciting vertical tasting of six Chardonnays. But the review is later.

I'm rapt. I really appreciate the opportunity to taste wine in this manner. It really illustrates what is going on in the bottle and how wine profiles develop with age. Aging wine is likely one of the most daunting prospects for budding wine enthusiasts. Today there is so much information out there that this really shouldn't be the case.

Besides, for me, the hunt for that next great bottle is more important and I am proud to say, in my limited experience, that I have never opened a bottle from the cellar and had it been past it's peak. Perhaps that shows my lack of restraint, but I've never gone through wines before they are ready either. And that takes some doing. I am sure I will break this now that I have bragged about it but always having enough wine on hand and no shortage of people to enjoy them with certainly helps.

The point, however.. I enjoy the digression so much I rarely get past it sometimes, is the group tasting experience. Getting a few like minded friends together to share wine is the point. Sharing a bottle of a NZ Sauvy on a warm windless night on Lake Ontario is the point. Traveling to the other side of the planet to meet up with an old friend (Riedels in hand) for a few days wine indulgence and cooking is so the point. Sure, I write notes, save corks and record weather and menu details.. (doesn't everyone?) but never forget to have fun and enjoy the moment (as opposed to forgetting to take the notes.. hey that happens too). There are a lot of references in my book to others comments that I love to read months/years after the fact.

Wine is a convivial experience. Hell, food is the same. It is meant to be enjoyed and revered in good company. I often dine alone (student life) but willingly share the experience with anyone who cares to partake. I am reminded of this in a story or article I read, I'll have to find it again to share. Basically it is this: try booking a table for one in an Italian restaurant.. you'll see what I mean. So I have enjoyed wine in good company and must give credit where credit is due.

All tastings were held at Munslow's Wine Merchants in Dunedin. A fantastic little shop rammed to the rafters with a good selection of local (Central Otago) wines, a good Aussie selection, some Imports, and good local beers as well.

So a big thank you to Peter, Alastair, Laurie and the crew for a fantastic season of wines and convivality.
See you in the New Year!
Felicità per il nuovo anno!

Monday, December 05, 2005

When life gives you lemons..

If I were a lemon farmer, I'd be the Forrest Gump of the lemon grove. Lemon squares, lemon pie, lemon risotto, lemon sauteed prawns, pasta con limone, preserved lemons, limoncello.. I'm a huge fan of citrus in all its forms and the brightening effect it has on flavour.

Historically, lemons are native to the Northern Indian subcontinent. They arrived in Italy courtesy of the Crusaders, who, returning from Palestine and the Holy wars, brought with them citrus fruit trees so they could have the juices that they had become accustomed to drinking during their travels. The first groves were cultivated along the Amalfi Coast in 200 A.D. where they flourished in the ideal climate. Lemons were recognised for their medicinal properties and even as a symbol of love. They were very highly prized and given as gifts to royalty. The origin of the now traditional orange blossom adornment in bridal bouquets comes from a gardener's daughter stealing a cutting of the King's orange tree to sell for a dowry. The original orange blossom was placed there in recognition of the orange tree's "contribution" to the marriage.

Me, I prefer to eat that heady, fragrance in blossom honey. It adds a delicate nuance to baklava, and honey syrup soaked cakes. And don't tell my husband, but I even drizzle the one we brought back from our "honeymoon" on toast.

Beginning with the most common, supermarket lemon, the Eureka and the Lisbon, are probably the most widely available in New Zealand and far as I know, are typically imported for year round availability. They have true "lemon" characteristics, bitter, high in acid and juice. But availability isn't really a problem when they can be grown here.

If you're a bit of a green thumb, other types (borrowed from Copperfield Nurseries, Tauranga) are:

GENOA: Eureka type of lemon. Tree smaller than other lemons and is well suited to most home gardens. Bears heavily while still young and produces a heavy summer crop.

LEMONADE: Fast growing and bears quite heavily when young. Bears July to August. Fresh tangy flavour, fruit has pale yellow rind and relatively easy to peel.

LISBON: A strong growing, fairly large tree, bearing its heaviest crop in late winter and spring, a very hardy standard variety.

MEYER: Most popular lemon for the home garden but not a true lemon. May be a cross of a lemon and an orange or mandarin. Fruits heavily year after year. Thin-skinned, smooth, bright golden fruit throughout the year. Hardiest of all lemons.

VILLA FRANCA: Thornless and a smaller tree than Lisbon. Prolific and bears a heavy summer crop.

YEN BEN: Lisbon type but with a thin skin and smaller in growth. Fruits July. Fruit very juicy popular export variety.

Makes me want to plant a grove! And more importantly, it makes me want to cook.

So what to do with all these lemons and oranges..

My favourites are adding orange juice to the egg mixture for french toast and the juice and finely grated rind to muffin and cake batters. It brightens up a berry smoothie and nothing tastes like home-made lemonade (hot if you are unwell - with a drizzle of honey). Moving into salads and appetizers, dressings, marinades and homemade hummus taste fuller with a bit of lemon juice. Blood oranges and thinly sliced fennel with a wine citrus vinaigrette.

Careful when marinating meat though, if you are after flavour. Salt and strong lemon will "cook" the meat and cause a loss of moisture. This is the working theory behind ceviche and carpaccio. The seafood and meat are cooked (i.e. the protein is denatured) by the acid but not something you are after if you plan to roast, sear or barbecue the meat after marinating. With the quality of fresh beef in New Zealand, carpaccio is a treat with the fresh lemon juice permeating the meat and leaving flavours to soak up with good bread.

For crab cakes with a spicy aïoli, lemon juice is a must! Slice lemons and roast with chicken and potatoes. Preserve them with spices and salt for a Moroccan-style chicken and green olive tagine. A little lemon juice is essential in a stracciatella (egg drop soup) for me after having lime juice in a tortilla soup in Mexico. It might not be an authentic addition for most but a drop of real lemon just puts that little bit of sunshine in my bowl of wintery brodo di gallina.

Desserts are lovely with the addition of lemon as a focus or an accompaniment. I love rich lemon squares with a pudding-like cream over a dense buttery shortbread base. I think the cafe that used to do these so well at home used one from the Moosewood cookbook but I'll have to check. Lemon curd is an amazing filling for a 5 layer chiffon cake with Italian meringue icing. It looks fantastic and compliments the moist cake and silky meringue. It also is a good recipe for those who hate to waste because the yolks are used in the curd and the whites in the meringue. Likewise, blood orange curd and a softly spiced angelfood cake also makes good use of the entire egg. Lemon ices or granitas are an easy and refreshing end to a meal or anytime on a warm day. Not to mention a shot of straight-from-the-freezer limoncino or limoncello.

And the weather is getting warmer.

Bring on summer.. and bring me the limoncello.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Climbing Mt. Hector

I am "just a little bit annoyed" right now about a price increase of some of my favourite cheeses by Kapiti just in the past week.

The Mt. Hector is beautiful pyramid made with goat's milk. It is a natural rind cheese smelling slightly of damp basement and mushroom and is fantastically runny. Lovely when ripe, it gets all wrinkled and spotted with age (don't we all!) It is sort of Saint-Marcellin-ish in the shape of a Pouligny-Saint-Pierre. Sounds better in French.

There is a lot of possibility for the NZ cheese industry, but I believe it will need a good domestic consumer base to get established and survive. This cheese used to run between 5 and 6NZD and is now over 9 bucks! At these prices who is going to experiment?

I rang Kapiti but, as yet, haven't heard from their grocery channel manager. That was only Friday so it may take a few days. These things do. Hopefully it will all be some sort of terrible mistake and the price will drop. I am an eternal optimist and am going to go buy a baguette in anticipation.

I'll let you know.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Saint Clair wines

Time flies when you are having fun.

Another week has come and gone and now I have two sets of tasting notes to get out.

The Saint Clair tasting covered a lot of wines. Eleven. Three Sauvys, a Pinot Gris, a Riesling , two Chards, three Pinot noir and a Merlot.

The three Sauvignon Blanc, Vicar's 2005, Saint Clair 05 and the Wairau Reserve were tasted as a group. Although there was little to distinguish one from the other in terms of colour, the nose of these wines really illustrated the variance in style. The Vicars was typical tinned asparagus and vegetal/slightly herbaceous characters with a very lively lime acidity. The Saint Clair was the most popular of the lot at my table even after my assessment of sweaty armpit. When will I learn to be quiet? I rarely get beyond that if I pick it up. Sure there might have been some green capsicum going on but.. yeah. Same for the Reserve. Similar but with more. There was a minerally, pencil shaving aroma backing up the fruit as well. It was a very oily, rich wine and a very progressive style compared to the others. All affordable and with this range, definitely something for everyone.

Onwards to the 2004 Pinot Gris. I have to realize that when I try a new one, not to always compare it to others that I adore. But this WAS good. A showstopper of hazelnuts and buttered popcorn. Then sandalwood and almond cream. Word has it that the 2005 is even better. Put me down for a bottle. Depending on the growing conditions, I'll have to ask, I might be tempted to hang on to one for a few years.

The Riesling was also good and I was hard to pressed to decide on one to take home. Faint high petrol notes, an ethereal rose violet soft candy floss sweetness and a little lemon. Would you say oily? I guess so. It definitely had a feel about it. Evident in the glass. A nice wine.

I'd be tempted to drink (a lot of) either of these wines this summer. Maybe the Riesling with a blue cheese stuffed chicken breast and the Pinot Gris with a cheese platter or a light pasta dish. It is causing me to think a little.. this Pinot Gris. I can't wait unit my order comes in so I can decide once and for all.

The Chardonnay 2004 was also a solid effort. I think the "marmalade on toast" description oversimplifies this nicely complex wine but that is what I wrote down. It is a very tasty drop even with the hint of sugar on the finish. I also think I picked up a little diacetyl from the malo, a good thing. The Omaka Reserve was tasted next. Making a lovely statement, the nutty, nicely oaked wine still had a decent citrus and stonefruit balance. The time on lees and use of only half new oak is evident in the creamy, rich, mouthfull when tasted. Yum. Pricewise, the 04 is a good buy at $20 and with no price given on the Reserve, I would hazard a guess at just under $30.. not for everyday, but on the "sometimes an ordinary night needs a nice wine" list. I can certainly see it spiceing up a simple pasta supper (pasta bianco) or roast chicken and kumara.

Pinot Noir is always an exciting wine for me. I have only really got "into it" recently. I have drank it, but never really appreciated it as I have through these exercises.

The Saint Clair 2004 was the brightest wine in the glass. By that, I mean the ruby garnet colour wasn't all that deep but very brilliant. I expected cherry fruit, which I got but the year has softened or concentrated it a little to a dried cherry, plum. The complexity was subtle, bay leaf and green olive. With a blue cheese, it would really compliment with its faint barnyard notes. Whatever it is that makes Pinot Noir so good with cheeses and with game, albeit on the lighter side, was undoubtedly in this glass. The Omaka Reserve on offer was from the 2003 and 04 vintage. The 2004 was lovely with cooked cherry jam, smoke and sundried herbs. The ruby coloured wine was a chewey mouthfeel. Not green, maybe a little band-aid? I think so. And I also think it was a very nice wine. The 2003 was a mellower version of the 2004 with some higher spice or maybe bacon bit aromas. They were faint and it was the end of a long tasting.

Which leaves the Merlot. I am going to try it again, I think I should to do it justice... The 2003 Rapaura Reserve struck a chord. It was sweet soil smell. At first I thought mushrooms, but the sweetness, reminded me more of Brio (it is like the Italian version of coca-cola). The fruit was currants and some spice along with what I think was a more cedary oak Was that licorice too? Yes, I am asking myself what I was on that evening... so even though I am not a huge merlot fan, there was something in this that makes me want to give it another go before making a full out assessment. That said, I think it has a few years to go. Not a long sleep mind you, but definitely another year or two.

A good tasting.. and an olafactory workout. I can see the little cilia in their Olivia Newton-John legwarmers now..
I need the week for my senses to rest.

Mount Riley Update

The update. Yes. The Pinot Noir WAS as good as I remembered. Different to some that I like from the same region (Marlborough) but with the characteristics that I like in a Pinot Noir.

But I am getting ahead of myself.. let's begin at the beginning.

Mount Riley is the only commercial producer of a Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc in New Zealand. I think that is safe to say. Although a methode champenoise, it is a lemonade wine, very light on the fizz and lacking in what many would expect of a sparkler. They don't do alot of lees stirring to extract all the yeasty aromas because, as Digger said, " It isn't that type of wine." So not at all complex, still quite refreshing and I don't know if I would have called it blind, but there were certainly typical Sauvy characteristics floating around. Overall, more than I'd pay for it ($19) and not my thing, but if it you take it on design, it is exactly as it is intended.

The 2005 Sauvignon Blanc was anothertypicalMarlborough Sauvy. A little more than I was expecting.. it wasn't bad. It was all fresh lime and melon, perhaps a little tinned green bean. Not approaching what I would call sour, it still had quite a happening acid profile.

The Riesling was from the 2004 vintage. Made with both Marlborough and Nelson fruit. I am always keen to try riesling, it is a great grape. I don't know when it is going to get the recognition it deserves here in NZ.. and if you like to drink it I guess you should hope it doesn't.. if the corresponding price increase is anything like Pinot Noir from a few years back. I digress, anyhow, this was a lovely light style. Very pale straw, faint petrol, rubber eraser (?) and an ever so slight flinty edge. I think it had a bit of residual sugar but it should hang out for awhile. I'd be keen to taste a vert of these in a few years.

The Chards were impressive. The 2004 was a fresh tasting drop with lots of juicy ripe peach and a creamy texture. For $19, you'll hear no complaints from me. The 17 Valley, also from 2004, is a slightly deeper colour than the previous but still a pale-med straw. The buttered toast and tropical fruit make it a fantastic mouthful. That high note of picture theatre popcorn was interesting. Nice. One to allow a wee sleep and enjoy with a meal. I'd have to say that I'd likely have it with my favourite fast weeknight stand-by, a carbonara made with a lightly smoky bacon.

The Pinot Noir 2004 and the 17 Valley 2003 were tasted together. The 04 was bright garnet with ripe cherry and raspberry pie aromas and applewood tobacco smoke. A very pleasant just over $20 Pinot Noir. A solid food wine and I think gougeres would be a perfect partner. I love gruyere. And speaking of cheese, I think the 17 Valley would take the cake or rather, the cheddar. I'll predict spectacular results if served with a vintage cheddar platter. Well ripened cheeses will reward pairings with silky Pinot Noir (well integrated tannins only need apply). Sun ripened cherries, slightly floral, reaching but maybe chocolate, bacon or ham and a slight hint of smoke. Again, a vertical of some of these in a few years would be delicious!

The Merlot Malbec.. I am a fan of malbec and the sometimes crazy spice it can contribute. This 2004 concentrated faintly tarry bitter chocolate and smoke will be an interesting match for my barbeque sauce or any barbecued food I think. I'll have to share the "recipe" for the sauce sometime. (I say "recipe" because it isn't about exact amounts.) But a damn nice sauce if you ask me.

And damn nice wines too.

Next week, Muddy Water.