Bacchic Reflections

  
Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved.
                                                                         Old German Proverb

         My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne.
                                                                            John Maynard Keynes 

 
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Great Reds for Winter Feasts....
                            B.E.'s Cellar Notes

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B.E. on organic and biodynamic wines
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      Starting a Wine Cellar:   B.E.'s  Wine Tips
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N E W S.....for wine lovers:

Event: 
Triangle Restaurant Week for 2015 will take place from Monday, January 26 – Sunday, February 1 and will include more than 80 of the area’s premier restaurants in this week long culinary celebration including the Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club. The Fairview Dining Room’s Executive Chef Jason Cunningham and creative culinary staff have created a special three-course prix-fixe winter menu for lunch at $15 and dinner at $30 that includes a choice of an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Enjoy experience at these Triangle Restaurant Week prices, that won’t last for long. For reservations go to OpenTable.com or call 919.493.6699.

Wine factoid:  Normacorc of Zebulon, NC, has sold over 20 million synthetic wine closures worldwide.

Wine 'growlers' ??
You may know the term for beer, served in liter or 1.5 liter refillable jugs, but it's an old and traditional wine concept in Europe, where it's common in the countryside to take your own jug to the local wine vendor or cooperative for refill. I'd much prefer this practice to boxed wines--brings new meaning to the term "drink local."  But who does it? And where? 
          In Virginia, Michael Shaps Wineworks near Charlottesville has adapted the practice--the first to do so in the U.S. as far as I know--and it's one I hope takes off.   As Michael tells it in his newsletter:
"After the success of the bag-in-the-box wines, our winemaking staff is eager to reveal their latest innovative project--wine growlers.  It is common practice in France for customers to bring their own jugs to fill up at wineries, hence the name Mon Bidon, meaning “my canteen.”  Available mid-January in both white and red blends, growlers are a one-time $10 cost for the “jugs” and $25 to fill with wine.  The growler is a half gallon, equivalent to 2 1/2 bottles of wine. That’s just $10 per bottle!  Stop by the winery and be the first in Virginia to own your very own wine growler."      virginiawineworks.com
     Good  everyday quality, of course, is paramount--but my experience of Shaps' wines means no worries here.
(And his Meritage Red is outstanding.)


Wine Buy(s) of the Week

Barco Reale di Carmignano 2011, Tuscany ** $11-14.99 
I used to recommend this red blend (mostly sangiovese, 20% cabernet sauvignon) from the Cappezana estate north of Florence, so it is nice to revisit it. Still a very good value, somewhat rustic in style as befits its popularity as an everyday red in Florence and Siena--earthy, with wild berry flavors, a streak of minerality--a worthy match for pizzas, hearty meat pastas, sausage and peppers and the like.
Quattro Mani Barbera d'Asti 2012  Piemonte**   $14.99 at The Wine Merchant in Cary. Barberas from Asti are juicier than the more weighty Barbera d'Alba reds, more drinkable sooner. Highly versatile with lighter meats (they recommend braised rabbit ragout), pizzas, pastas (especially carbonara), with black cherry flavors and good acidity.
Chateau Musar. Various wines, unique and excellent, worth a search. On some 370 acres in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, the Hochar family produces unusual blends such as Chateau Musar Red, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cinsaut and carignan, from mature vines that yield a lot of character. The Jeune Rouge** and Jeune Blanc** are charmers, the Musar Cuvée Rosé is lively, fresh and delightful. Prices range from $17 to $48 (and up for older vintages).  Note:  Musar's guiding light for several decades, Serge Hochar, recently died, sadly. He will be sorely missed in the wine world.

Markham Cellar 1879 Red Blend 2012,  Napa Valley $25**+  A very tasty and drinkable blend of several red grapes, with flavors of ripe berries, toast, vanilla that get more intense as the wine airs. Fine for roast loin of pork.

Carmen Carmenère Gran Reserva 2012, Maipo Valley, Chile, $18-23**+. Another dark and bold red from the carmenère grape, once thought to be merlot but identified as a Bordeaux variety and now something of a star in Chile. Lush and supple in texture, with flavors of black cherries and tobacco accents; it is good to see this variety emerge as a worthy red--a bit one-dimensional, perhaps 15-20% cabernet sauvignon would add a layer or two of flavor.

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Sandeman 20 Year Tawny Port. Tawny Ports are a great gift for the winelover--or your dinner hosts. Silky texture and rich flavors of dried fig with hints of nuttiness shine from 20 Year Tawny Ports which are excellent for after-dinner fireside sipping--especially with Stilton, not overipened but just at the creamy, slightly grainy stage. A fine finish for a winter feast.

  
Seasonal Reds -- Pinot Noir   [see also  Wines for Winter Feasts ]
With gamebirds and other fowl in season, as well as roast pork and other lighter meats, Pinot Noir is a super choice--especially the lighter ones, which tend to be less tannic and more fruit dominant. Flavors of berries, cherries and a bit of spice complement the meats nicely.
Olema Pinot Noir 2012, Sonoma ***  $19.99  I was especially delighted with this fresh, lively tasty Pinot--quality at a very good price. Made from 80% Russian River fruit, which largely accounts for its juicy cherry and black raspberry flavors.
Others to look for:  Gloria Ferrer Carneros 2012, $22-25**+, lots of good, rich black cherry fruit; King Estate Acrobat 2012, Oregon, $18** lighter style, very appealing; Rodney Strong 2012 Pinot Noir, Russian Rive Valley, $19-25**+  Elegant, aromatic, probably better with a little time on it; good now with baby back ribs; Anton Bauer 2012 Pinot Noir, $20, is also very good with nice Pinot intensity.

Rodney Strong 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon  Sonoma  $20 *** An excellent value, this Cab displays vibrant fruit flavors of ripe berries, lively balance; eminently drinkable now, it's one to have on hand for spontaneous grill action.


La Casaccia 2013 Grignolino, Piemonte $16-18*** Cherry color, cherry flavors in this juicy little red, made from organically grown grapes in the central Piedmont region of northern Italy.  Fresh and bright--great for pork, salami and other smoked meats, sausages. Find it at Caves Taureau in Durham or Wine Authorities in Raleigh.
Anton Bauer Cuvée 2012, Wagram  Austria   $16-17**+   A juicy blended red that is an excellent match for the lighter meats (veal, pork, chicken) but an appealing richness suits beef as well as savory cheese dishes. 

                                                        




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