Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In vino veritas: wine grapes are an early warning system for the effects of climate change

Because wine grapes are extraordinarily sensitive to temperature, the industry amounts to an early-warning system for problems that all food crops—and all industries—will confront as global warming intensifies” says Mark Hertsgaard in a recent article in Slate Magazine. “In vino veritas, the Romans said: In wine there is truth. The truth now is that the earth's climate is changing much faster than the wine business, and virtually every other business on earth, is preparing for.

In California, for instance, it is still hard to predict the effects of climate change on Napa Valley wines. However, “there is a fifteenfold difference in the price of cabernet sauvignon grapes that are grown in Napa Valley and cabernet sauvignon grapes grown in Fresno in California's hot Central Valley,” says Kim Cahill, a consultant to the Napa Valley Vintners' Association. “Cabernet grapes grown in Napa sold in 2006 for $4,100 a ton. In Fresno the price was $260 a ton. The difference in average temperature between Napa and Fresno was 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some winemakers are actually very happy with the current situation. Pancho Campo, the founder and president of the Wine Academy of Spain, explains: “some of the most expensive wines in Spain come from the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa regions. They are getting almost perfect ripeness every year now for Tempranillo. This makes the winemakers say, 'Who cares about climate change? We are getting perfect vintages.' The same thing has happened in Bordeaux.

The Rioja Alavesa Wine Region from OenoSpeak - A sommeliers journal

But in Burgundy, “producers are very concerned, because they know that chardonnay and pinot noir are cool-weather wines, and climate change is bringing totally the contrary. Some of the producers were even considering starting to study Syrah and other varieties. At the moment, they are not allowed to plant other grapes, but these are questions people are asking.

The wine industry doesn't seem to be ready to adapt to climate change and this is worrisome because the industry has much incentive to act. “If winemakers aren't motivated to adapt to climate change, what businesses will be?” asks Hertsgaard. And he concludes, quoting Darwin: “it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

The full article is here.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dinner at Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts

A few days ago, we were on a East Coast trip with the firm intention to try some good local restaurants. So one saturday night, we had a reservation for Craigie on Main, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a restaurant with excellent reviews.

When we arrived for our 9:00pm reservation, the place was busy like a beehive but fortunately, we didn't have to wait too long for our table. The place was crowded but we know now that it's for a good reason: the food is fantastic and as they explain on the menu, they also want you to feel right about it. The restaurant prioritizes local and sustainable food and buys it from small independents farms and growers. About 80% of the bottles in the winelist are from organic and biodynamic vineyards. Moreover, this is real food with tasty, earthy flavors, not Molecular Gastronomy.

Salad of Hiramasa Sashimi, red onion-shiso salsa, avocado, harissa-rose vinaigrette

Ragoût of Forest Mushrooms, Boudin Noir, and Veal Sweetbreads, farm-fresh poached egg, smoked foie gras sauce

Vermont Organic Pork Three Ways: Crispy Suckling Confit, Spice-Crusted Rib, Grilled Belly, caramelized endive, satsuma tangerines, pioppini mushrooms, parsnip purée, tawny port

We chose a 2003 Château Poujeaux to go with the meal. Still firm at the beginning, it evolved nicely during the dinner, revealing a spicy, mineral nose and a multi-layered palate. It worked well with the rich aromas of the food.

At the end of the dinner came a complimentary cup of chocolate, hot, thick and mildly spicy, and we felt just right about our evening.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Oddball Wines Tasting

The other day, we had an interesting theme for our wine tasting: oddball wines. Everybody was asked to bring what he or she would consider an oddball wine and this resulted in a surprising set of bottles. They were served blind and we tried to identify what they were, but I have to say that most of the time, we were just completely puzzled and we had no clue as to what the wine was or where it came from!

Here are the wines that we tasted:

• 1985 Adams Chardonnay Yamhill County: I could not find any information on the internet regarding the Adams winery. This wine is from Yamhill County, which, with over 80 wineries and 200 vineyards, is considered to be the center of Oregon's wine production. My notes: deep yellow color, apple cider flavors, tasted like a mature Chardonnay or a Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend from the Graves region.

• 1985 The Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay Yamhill County: located in the Red Hills of Dundee appellation in Oregon, the Eyrie Vineyards was founded by David and Diana Lett in 1966. This was the first planting of Pinot noir and Chardonnay in the Willamette Valley. In 1979, the 1975 Eyrie Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir won tenth place among Pinot noirs in blind tasting at the Wine Olympics in Paris. My notes: dark yellow color, nutty, oxidized, Sherry taste.

• 1991 Panther Creek Reserve Pinot Noir: located in McMinnville, Oregon, Panther Creek Cellars has been producing Pinot noir since 1986. The reserve Pinot Noir is a barrel selection coming from different vineyards within the Willamette Valley. My notes: copper color, sour cherry and flowery aromas, actually pretty pleasant, tasted like a mature Pinot Noir.

• 2007 Chinon Charles Joguet Cuvée Terroir: located in the Chinon appellation, in the heart of the Loire valley, the Domaine Charles Joguet was founded by Charles Joguet in 1957. The wine production is mostly red with a little bit of rosé and made from Cabernet Franc only. The Cuvée Terroir is a blend of several vineyards and is made to be drunk young. My notes: unfortunatelly, I found the wine not drinkable and most likely, the bottle was flawed.

• 1999 Masi Osar Rosso del Veronese: this is Masi's only wine made from Oseleta, an traditional grape from the Valpolicella area, almost completely abandoned, due to its extremely low yields. The grape is harvested late to get higher concentration, roundess and a higher level of alcohol. In Italian, osar means to dare. My notes: dark color, raisiny, tannic, seemed high in alcohol, tasted like a Petite Sirah.

• 2005 Château de Bellevue Lussac St Emilion: the blend is mostly Merlot with some Cabernet Franc. Farming is organic with the use of green fertilizers and biodynamic techniques. Grapes are 100% hand-picked. My notes: citrus on the nose, medium bodied with some acidity on the palate, green pepper flavors, didn't taste like a Merlot to me.

• 1998 Sandhill Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley: Sandhill Winery is a small, family owned winery located in the Columbia Valley, specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Gris. My notes: typical Cabernet aromas, woody, tannic, young.

• 1995 Bussia Soprana Barolo: Bussia Soprana is located in Monforte d'Alba, which is widely considered one of the best areas for making Nebbiolo-based wines. My notes: light copper color, flowery nose with aromas of wild wood berries, light to medium bodied, tasted like a mature Pinot Noir.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Why is Easter food so good? Deviled Eggs and Chardonnay make a heavenly combination

Deviled Eggs are soft, creamy, and highly addictive and I thought that this was the reason why they were called deviled. But I was wrong, devil is actually a culinarity term that appeared between the 18th and early 19th century, and it is used to describe dishes prepared with hot seasonings, such as cayenne or mustard.

The egg is an important part of the culinary traditions for Easter. It is the symbol of the rebirth of the earth during springtime. Moreover, eating eggs was forbidden during the Christian Lent season, so in order to keep them from spoiling they had to be hard boiled, resulting in a large amount of eggs ready to be eaten for Easter Sunday.

Our friend's beautifully made and absolutely delicious deviled eggs

With the deviled eggs that our friend made for Easter Sunday lunch, we drank an excellent 2007 Storrs Chardonnay Stu Miller Vineyard from the Santa Cruz Mountains. The wine had a nose of citrus with mineral notes, a crisp, fresh, slightly smoky palate and a lingering finish that worked particularly well with the curry-flavored eggs (the ones decorated with the red bell pepper strip).

We also made Pysanky or Ukrainian eggs, decorated using a batik-like technique

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