Sunday, December 31, 2006

Welcome to Amateur Night!

Also know as New Year’s Eve.

All across this great land, people of different religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations and socio-economic status will come together for an over-priced buffet, open bar and a “champagne toast at midnight.” All for the low price of $75 per person ($140 per couple).

In all fairness, many of us will be attending wine dinners, small parties or very, very small parties involving two people, a couch and a bottle of something bubbly—wink-wink, nod-nod, say no more.

New Year’s Eve symbolizes much of what is wrong with the alcohol culture in this country. Not because it’s a booze-propelled frenzy of dancing with a lampshade on your head, making out with your neighbor’s wife and singing terribly out of tune. That sort of thing has been going on since someone left a pot of berries sitting around a little too long.

The problem is that too many people only drink a couple times a years, and when they do, they have no idea what they’re doing. Especially here in the South, drinking is an odd social taboo for so many. Lots of people do it, but they don’t do it well. Drinking means long periods of abstinence followed by occasional nights of overindulgence.

A great many ills in the world can be traced back to alcohol, to be sure. Drunk driving, alcoholism and violence top the list. But in this country, some of those problems arise because of the way society treats alcohol as a forbidden fruit/recreational vehicle.

The puritanical attitudes of some of our forbearers still drive the wicked image of any sort of booze. It wasn’t that long ago that alcohol was completely outlawed in this country. Some counties here in the South are still “dry.”

At least that’s the official story.

Don’t you know that Europeans had a good laugh about Prohibition. We kicked out the British, fought a war with each other and endured all the other trials of a newly formed nation, only to deny ourselves the right to drink to our accomplishments.

Predictably, the 18th Amendment was not a great success. People drank anyway; gangsters flourished; and down here, some good-old-boys made a sport of outrunning the law with a trunk full of hooch, now known as NASCAR.

Another result was the decimation of a flourishing wine industry. We can only surmise what the United States wine biz would look like today, had we not taken that asinine detour.

Thankfully, this country’s wine industry is once again flourishing and growing, despite our government’s dubious treatment of it. More and more people are coming to see a glass of wine, a pint of beer or a martini as part of a healthy lifestyle.

In my view (and not just mine), wine is the healthiest of those choices, but research seems to indicate that beer and cocktails in very moderate amounts are actually good for you. Or, maybe it’s just that the people who enjoy a drink after a long day tend to lead happier, healthier, more balanced lives. Either way, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where alcohol wasn’t demonized. I was allowed to taste beer and wine at an early age. There was no mystery to it. My parents also provided great role models for responsible drinking.

Although now I have a bit more of a bacchanalian attitude about drinking, I’m still very responsible about it. A glass of wine or a beer is part of my meals, as much as a salad or a loaf of bread. Anymore, I have no interest in a steak if there isn’t a glass of red wine to accompany it. It just isn’t the same experience.

And I only occasionally dance with a lampshade on my head.

I wish all the revelers that will consume a month’s worth of drinks tonight would spread those drinks out over a month and actually enjoy them. Instead of swilling André Extra Dry at midnight, they would sip a glass of Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blanc or Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’ Aqui.

As for me I’ll be dipping fondue (thanks for the pot, mom) and sipping something really tasty.

It won’t be Champagne this year. Wine Blogging Wednesday #28 reminded me that the sparkling wine of this great post-Prohibition country is every bit as good as the noble wine from across the Pond.

And for you, gentle reader, I won’t ask you not to drink and drive, because I know you’re much too smart for that. Instead, I’ll ask you to stay off the road altogether, because of all the other idiots.

Have a safe and wonderful New Year’s Eve and I’ll see you in ’07.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A Few Thoughts on WBW #29

By way of introducing Wine Blogging Wednesday #29, I’ll offer a few last quotes from my recent reading material.

In "Adventures on the Wine Route," Kermit Lynch quotes lengendary Burgundy winemaker Henri Jayer:

"We tend to count too much on science, when, before, people gave importance to natural things. One thing is certain, the ancients were not dumb, and if they established a tradition it was because of their experience, They tried to eliminate unfavorable elements and preserve what worked best.”

Almost twenty years later, in "A Hedonist in the Cellar," Jay McInerey writes this about Biodynamic vintner Robert Sinskey:

"Sinskey attributes the new subtlety of many California Chards in part to a new appreciation for the vineyard itself, and a de-emphasis on high-tech interventionist techniques."

I hope modern winemaking is moving towards reduced use of chemicals and artificial fertilizers. However, I do sympathize with winemakers and grape growers who do it in order to survive. We need to find a balance that we all, and the planet, can live with.

In any case, I’m happy to support winemakers and growers who listen to the earth and the vines, and treat them with respect. So without further ado, here is Wine Blogging Wednesday #29:

Biodynamic wines hosted by Fork and Bottle

See you on the 17th.

And, I promise. No more quotes.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Nice (Wine) Rack!

I’ve been doing some wine reading lately, as previously mentioned. One of the things that jumped out at me is that two writers in a row made analogies between wine and women.

Of course, if women can be seductive, intoxicating, beguiling and often magical, with the ability to be soft or firm, subtle or brassy, gentle or acidic, then I suppose the comparison is apt. I might also add that both have the potential to leave you penniless and confused.

Here is a quote from "Adventures on the Wine Route," by Kermit Lynch:

"This all reminds me of an acquaintance who always seemed to have a new girlfriend. His girlfriends always had two things in common: huge breasts. His choices might be pretty or not, intelligent or not, interesting or not. Nothing seemed to matter to him as long as the breasts were enormous. It was such an impractical way to assess the quality of a woman that it began to seem almost perverse. And I have an almost identical reaction to those who go gaga over an inky, oaky, monster wine…."

We have all known that guy.

Another quote from "A Hedonist in the Cellar," by Jay McInerney:

"In the mid-1990s, the typical Napa or Sonoma Chardonnay had much in common with a vanilla milk shake or, figuratively speaking, with the reigning queen of Baywatch, Pamela Anderson."

I think the analogy is pretty clear.

I’ll admit that if I compare my taste in wine to my taste in women, there are some similarities.

If you were to line up all the women I have dated, you would be hard pressed to spot the common denominator. The same can be said of my wine rack, my music collection and my art (I use that term very loosely to describe certain objects in my house used for decorative purposes).

I don’t like homogeny. I enjoy the diversity that life has to offer and it surprises me when others do not. I want my wine rack to reveal the complexities and contradictions that define me as a person. Not to mention, I don't want to drink the same thing every day.

Who wants to live in a world with filet mignon but no cheeseburgers? Mozart but no Rolling Stones? Robert De Niro but no Three Stooges? Audrey Hepburn but no Sophia Loren? Screaming Eagle but no Tavel?

Apparently some people do.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"E" is for Eclectic Unabridged (v 1.1) - Cite This Source
ec·lec·tic [i-klek-tik]
selecting or choosing from various sources.
made up of what is selected from different sources.
not following any one system, as of philosophy, medicine, etc., but selecting and using what are considered the best elements of all systems.
noting or pertaining to works of architecture, decoration, landscaping, etc., produced by a certain person or during a certain period, that derive from a wide range of historic styles, the style in each instance often being chosen for its fancied appropriateness to local tradition, local geography, the purpose to be served, or the cultural background of the client.

I’ve not been keeping up with my alphabetic romp through the world of wine. Of course, if I only focused on this endeavor it would be mind-numbing for me and a bit painful for my readers as well. So, I throw an entry in this category whenever the mood strikes.

I have been concentrating on grape varieties, but sometimes that’s just not practical. “E” is a good example—finding a good example of ehrenfelser, emerald riesling, elbing or edelweiss just isn’t that easy.

So, I thought it would be interesting to give you a peek into my wine cart. I consider myself to have eclectic taste in wine (after reading this you can tell me if I'm correct). What follows is a very honest representation of an average case of wine for me, along with a few words about why I picked each wine.

d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier-Marsanne McLaren Vale 2005
70% viognier 30% marsanne. I love the wines of d’Arenberg, and this is one I have not tried. Plus, I love Rhone-style whites, especially viognier. ($11)

Torbreck Cuvee Juveniles Barossa Valley 2005
60% grenache 30% mataro 10% shiraz, from ancient vines. This is something that was recommended by my favorite wine merchant. Embarrassingly, I had no idea what mataro was. Duh, it’s mourvedre. Torbreck also has a great reputation. ($16)

Château Belingard Bergerac 2005
I don’t buy much Bordeaux, but I don’t want to forsake it altogether. For the price, this blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot looked worth a try. ($8)

Bodega Lurton Malbec Reserve Mendoza 2004
The Lurton brothers have provided me with many good bottles. They may be an international mega-corporation, but they make some great wines. The minimal fining and filtration mentioned on the label also helped me decide. I'm also a huge fan of Argentine malbec. ($11)

Horton Norton Orange County, Virginia 2004
I love Horton. I love norton. It’s a sentimental pick also, because I’ve been to the winery. ($11)

Salvador Poveda Monastrell Toscar Alicante 2005
Unfiltered, natural decanting, dry farmed, stony soil, dry climate, traditional fermentation—need I say more? When done right, Spanish mourvedre is spectacular. ($12)

Hayman Hill Meritage Reserve Selection Monterey County 2004
44% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 14% petite verdot, 8% cabernet franc, 4% malbec. I’m a sucker for California clarets, especially when they use all five of the Bordeaux grapes. Another recommendation from a trusted source. ($12)

Domaine Coste Chaude Cotes du Rhone 2004
70% grenache, 30% syrah, elevated vineyards, bottled unfiltered, Robert Kacher Selection. I’ve been a fan of Robert Kacher wines for many years. Knowing a little about importers can make wine buying much easier. ($8)

Lucien Albrecht Cremant D’Alsace Reserve Rose NV
100% Pinot Noir. The Albrecht family has been growing grapes in Alsace since1425, and is one of the most respected names in the region. Also, I must have bubbly on hand at all times. ($16)
(Note: this has been already been consumed. It's exquisite. It goes to show that you should always have sparkling wine in the house, just in case someone gets a great job offer at an unexpected time. Not me, of course. Congrats, E!)

Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno Vigna Piediprato 2003
50% montepulciano, 50% sangiovese, WA 90. Okay, so I still pay attention to Robert Parker’s ratings. I liked the description and I need to buy more Italian. ($10)

Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling Finger Lakes 2005
American wine growers all owe a great deal of gratitude to Dr. Frank. He believed in the potential of this country and New York State for making outstanding wines. I love his wines and this one in particular. ($11)

Celler Pinol Ludovicus Terra Alta 2005
35% garnacha, 30% tempranillo, 25% syrah, 10% cabernet sauvignon. This is handled by Olé Imports, which is an importer to watch. 60 year-old garnacha vines plus unfined and unfiltered equals yum. ($10)

I picked up this case right before Christmas, so the wines are a little pricier than a regular case, but not by much. My general rule is to stay under $15 with an average bottle cost of $10. And since it is winter in the South, the red/white ratio is much heavier on reds than if it were August.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

We're All Winners

George F. Will recently wrote an op-ed article for the Washington Post commenting on Time Magazine’s selection of You as Person of the Year. For those of You who may have missed it, Time decided that bloggers and YouTube artists are the modern-day equivalent of Thomas Paine and Ben Franklin, and are well on the way to making the mainstream media obsolete.

Now, I enjoy YouTube as much as the next person…but that comparison seems weak at best.

Will isn’t impressed with Time’s selection either. He chalks it up to self-absorption and a culture of navel-gazing. A quick look at any random MySpace page or blog confirms that much of user-created online content displays all the depth of an ashtray.

I thought long and hard before I started writing a blog and had several aborted attempts, which I deemed not worthy of anyone’s time. Writing social commentary and opinion is something I enjoy immensely, but there are many others already doing it and most them are much better at it than I.

I created Brim to the Dregs with a very specific purpose: to write my version of a local wine column. There are two already in local papers that fit the traditional model of reviewing individual wines, but I felt like there was a need for a broader, more relaxed style of wine writing.

It’s worth mentioning that I have the credentials to aspire to such a goal. I have been a professional/freelance writer on and off for a decade; I have been an avid wine enthusiast for the same period of time; and I spent several years in wine sales.

While I haven’t developed local readership (hopefully this will come eventually), I have discovered the wine blogging community.

The wine blog world strikes me as the online version of standing around the local wine shop on Saturday afternoon, tasting wine and swapping recommendations with fellow winos. (Incidentally, that type of experience is the only thing I miss about retail wine sales.) The main difference is that we can chat with people from down the block, across the country or around the world.

If I didn’t read wine blogs, I wouldn’t know that there is riesling from Idaho, sparkling wine from Massachusetts and Ohio has six AVAs. Writing and reading about wine has reinvigorated some of the enthusiasm that working with wine every day had drummed out of me.

I read a variety of blogs and other online journals, etc. on a regular basis. Some of it is great. Some of it is mediocre. Some of it is just plain awful. However, the vast majority of the wine blogs I read are very well written and have a purpose. It’s not just a self-love fest.

As for me, I do my best to hold Brim to a high standard. One of my goals for 2007 is to take this blog to the next level—­better writing, more photography and a better layout. I’m challenged and inspired by what I read on other wine blogs, and I want others to feel the same when they visit my little corner of the blogosphere.

I think what the online community has to offer is community itself—a community that has no geographic boundaries­. Blogs, personal Web pages and the like offer everyone a chance to reveal a little (or lot) of what they are all about. For better, or worse.

But does that qualify “Us” as Person of the Year? I think not.

My vote goes to Paris Hilton. I luv her! OMG!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Merlot Musings

I’ve read several recent articles about the “Sideways Effect” on merlot. The film’s demeaning of merlot has apparently caused some folks to take a second look at this oft-maligned grape.

The New York Times ran this article along with tasting notes on several merlots. They seem to think that Washington State may be merlot’s savior. The cooler climate allows for a better expression of the grape.

This would seem to make sense because merlot gained its fame in the vineyards of Bordeaux, which isn’t exactly noted for its warmth. Much of merlot’s disrepute comes from California merlot, which has been over-planted and vinified into plonk.

Even this association is unfair in my opinion. One of the best bottles of wine I have ever had was a bottle of Beringer 1997 Bancroft Ranch Private Reserve Howell Mountain Merlot. Although it has been several years, I can still recall the inky-purple color and the lush flavors of plum, blueberry, chocolate and mint. It was heavenly.

St. Clement is another Napa merlot that I've enjoyed over the years. While it is somewhat difficult to make a spectacular bottle of straight merlot (Chateau Petrus and a few others aside), merlot is a fantastic blending grape, softening tannins, adding roundness and deepening color.

I was reminded of merlot’s potential the other night when I opened a bottle of Domaine de Montpezat 2001 Merlot Prestige 'Les Enclos.' Domaine de Monpezat is located in Languedoc and planted in a combination of Bordeaux and Rhone varietals.

This merlot is no wimp. It’s dark purple with a nose full of black fruit and briar. On the palate, it’s a real mouthful of wine: deep, concentrated flavors of plum, blackberry, cedar and licorice framed by firm tannins. Even better, it's around $12, depending on where you shop.

It restored my interest in merlot.

This is yet another one of those wines that gets passed over on restaurant lists and wine store shelves. Although some of Montpezat’s wines are labeled as Coteaux de Languedoc, this one is a Vin de Pays d’Oc.

It reminded me of a woman who once told me that her daughter had visited France and told her to never buy anything with Vin de Pays on the label.

What a load of manure.

There are countless wines of excellent quality that come from vineyards that the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine has not deemed worthy of appellation status. This Montpezat proves that careful vineyard management and good wine making are much more important.

It also proves that you shouldn't take wine advice from Hollywood.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Shouts Out

As 2006 draws to close, I want to give props to some of the folks that have inspired and encouraged me along the way. I mentioned recently that becoming a wine blog reader has paid huge dividends for me. Here are some of the reasons why.

I have my girlfriend, E, to thank for reminding me about the great writing on, and I have Eric Asimov and The Pour for inspiring me to write a wine blog. Eric is my guru, and he proves that just because you’re very knowledgeable about wine, you don’t have to be a pretentious jackass.

Writing a wine blog when no one seems to be reading can a lonely, pathetic experience. A big thanks to Dr. Debs at Good Wine Under $20 for being the first of my fellow bloggers to mention Brim in her blog. The good Dr. has a great palate and seamlessly blends her enjoyment of good wine and good food.

Another early reader was Jeff at Twisted Oak Winery. Jeff writes El Bloggo Torcido, which has made me laugh out loud on many occasions. He is a winemaker with a rebel spirit and a truly Twisted sense of humor.

Speaking of a wicked sense of humor, I love the Wine Chicks and their irreverent take on the world of wine and wine sales.

Dezel at Virginia Vine Spot is a tireless, advocate of Virginia wines and a great blogger. Kudos for showcasing the wines of Virginia, which I love dearly. I am long overdue for a trip to the VA wine country.

I have Lenn at Lenndevours to thank for reminding me that New York State is no longer one of the “other” wine states, but one of the big dogs. He is also the brainchild of Wine Blogging Wednesday, which is a wonderful thing.

Tom Wark at Fermentation gives me my daily dose of wine industry reading. Tom writes a top-notch blog that is accessible even to people like me who aren’t quite as wine biz savvy. He is also a fantastic promoter for the wine blogging community.

Another top-notch wine blog is Vinography, Adler writes a blog that is a must-read for every wine drinker and his links to other wine blogs are the most comprehensive and inclusive.

Thanks to Wine Blog Watch for keeping me up to date on who has posted lately.

Of course, cooking and wine are a natural fit, so I have to mention some of the blogs that combine the two.

Culinary Fool was our kind host for WBW #28 and writes a culinary blog to drool over. She inspires me to get serious about cooking.

David at Cooking Chat is a newcomer to blogging like myself. Cooking Chat is a great read and full of killer recipes and great wine picks.

Tastes of Life is another new blog. Victoria is writing an excellent blog full of interesting wines and her thoughts on cheese and chocolate. Check it out.

And then there is Basic Juice, which combines wine, food, music, commentary and awesome writing. It’s a thing of beauty.

Of course, I’ve missed some folks, but you need to look no farther than my links to see who I’m reading.

Peace out and best wishes for a prosperous 2007 to all of you.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Francly, My Dear...

I am so very sorry.

I really can’t help myself. Bad wordplay is a curse I must live with.

Anyhow, I’m doing a somewhat unusual weekend posting because there is something in my glass I just have to write about.

I love cabernet franc. Maybe it’s my tendency to root for the underdog. Maybe it’s the cherry and spiciness. But cabernet franc occupies a special place in my grape pantheon. I love to see it in blends, and I love to see a bottle of straight-up cab franc on the shelf.

So when I saw a bottle of Preston Winery Cabernet Franc 2002 at the latest Mr. Friendly’s wine sale, I just had to have it. Preston is a family-owned winery in Washington’s Columbia Valley.

Unfortunately, their Web site is a bit out of date and doesn’t even mention a varietal bottling of cab franc. However, while doing the Google search, I did run across this interesting piece about cabernet franc being the new “It” grape in the Northwest.

The nose on the Preston is a mix of black cherry, pencil lead and vanilla. The flavors are more of the same with a certain smokiness and firm acidity. It’s a wonderful drink of wine and a great expression of the grape.

As a rule, I don’t like any grape being “en vogue.” Just like I don’t writers excessively putting words “in quotes.”

But if it means that more winemakers will focus their attention on cab franc, I can live with it. Another reason I have a special fondness for cab franc is that it performs quite well here in the Southeast. Both Virginia and North Carolina are having great success with it.

Speaking of which, I have a bottle of Horton Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2002 at home, which I’ll soon be tasting. It will be interesting to see how they compare.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 15, 2006

WBW #28 and Hangin' with Kermit

The reports are in from Wine Blogging Wednesday #28 and the Culinary Fool has neatly compiled them for your viewing pleasure.

This was my first WBW, and it was everything I thought it could be and more. I’m honored to be in the company of such interesting and knowledgeable people. Other than the ego gratification of seeing my words in the blogosphere, writing a wine blog has made me a wine blog reader, which in turn has been a great learning experience.

And speaking of learning, I’ve been reading "Adventures on the Wine Route," by Kermit Lynch. It’s a fascinating tale of his journeys through France, tasting wine and meeting winemakers and growers along the way.

Although he can be a bit pompous at times, the stories are never dull and there is a wealth of information about the French wine regions. Overall, I like his perspective on wine and winemaking, especially his aversion to heavy fining and filtering. Seeing “bottled unfiltered” on a wine label frequently clinches my decision to try something.

He also makes an interesting point about the shipping of wine. He insists all his wines be shipped in refrigerated containers. I wonder how many of the wines I drink have been compromised by poor shipping conditions. The thought of a container full of wine sitting at the Port of Charleston in August makes me cringe.

Moore Brothers Wine Company, which has a location in my hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, touts that all their wines are shipped in temperature-controlled containers and their stores are as well (temperature-controlled, that is). It certainly makes sense, but there is the added cost to be considered.

It makes me even more militant about wanting more local wineries in the U.S. If the winery is a short drive away (or right down the street), there isn’t a need for refrigerated containers, not to mention the fuel expended on shipping.

Of course, I’ll always want wine from far away, but I’d like some local options as well.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wine Blogging Wednesday #28

Drink a bottle of sparkling wine and write about it. That’s an assignment I can live with.

The bottle I selected was S. Anderson Blanc de Noir 1998 Napa Valley. I was familiar with S. Anderson because of their claret from the Stags Leap District, which I've found to be outstanding as well as a screaming good deal. Sadly, I'm not sure they still produce the claret.

As with their claret, this sparkling wine did not disappoint. It’s ironic that what drew my attention to this particular bottle was that it was on clearance. Knowing my local wine shop as I do, I guessed that this wine had been passed over for more familiar names, proving that it’s good to take chances sometimes.

I couldn’t find a geek sheet on this vintage, but the 2000 vintage is 100% pinot noir with 0.9% residual sugar and only 660 cases produced.

Upon hearing the gentle “pop” when I removed the cork, my anticipation grew. When I saw the gentle foaming of the wine and the color that I can only describe as "champagne," I began salivating.

The nose was a lovely mix of toasted bread, apple (not cheap-ass, supermarket apples, but really good, fresh heirloom apples) and pear. The first sip revealed more of the same, as well as delicate cherry flavors, a bit of nut and very nice minerality. As the wine opened up during dinner, the complexity grew, leaving me searching for more descriptors.

Two things really struck me about this wine:

1.) A wine like this proves that sparkling wine from California (and elsewhere) can give Champagne a run for its money and sometimes can flat-out beat it up. The complexity and elegance of this wine rivals Champagnes that I’ve had at twice the price and more. It was $19.99, down from the original price of $24.99.

2.) I relish discovering wines that others have passed over. While so many wine shoppers seem content to buy the same-old familiar brands, I have always looked for the oddballs and the unknown. That, to me, is the thrill of wine buying. If I wanted to always get the same thing—I’d buy Woodbridge.

Depending on your budget, this could be a budget buy or a special occasion wine. I’m proud to say that I drink sparkling wine quite often, so I frequently look for less expensive sparklers. I love how sparkling wine works with so many different kinds of food. We enjoyed the S. Anderson with sushi. Yum.

I also think that drinking sparkling wine on regular basis shows that you understand that every day is a special occasion and life itself should be a celebration.


Monday, December 11, 2006

I Have Returned.

When I began this blog, I promised myself that I would be diligent in posting regularly. Like with so many of my promises to myself, I’m backsliding.

The approaching holiday season and the trials of daily life have knocked the wind out of my sails when it comes to finding time to write. My only consolation is that I see a slowdown with many of my fellow bloggers as well.

During my sabbatical, I have, of course, stayed busy tasting, cooking and enjoying all the things that this blog is dedicated to, so I have quite a bit of material to cover. I’ll try to be brief.

On a personal note (which I do try to avoid), this weekend was one of remembrance. December 7th is not only a day of historic significance, but one of personal significance for me; it's the birthday of a departed friend.

The only proper way to remember my old friend was with a weekend of gluttony. That’s the way Big Sully would have wanted it.

One of my weekend indulgences was some traditional Southern food. I cooked up a batch of BBQ (the noun as opposed to the verb) and my little Jewish girl from Queens whipped up a batch of triple-bypass mac-and-cheese. It ain’t good for you, but it sure is good.

For anyone who wants a taste of real Eastern North Carolina BBQ (although I now reside in South Carolina, this is the real deal), here’s how:

Buy a Boston Butt that will fit in your crock pot. Sear it on your grill (preferably over a wood/charcoal mix). Drop it in a crock pot with a 12 oz. beer. Cook on low eight hours. Drain off half the liquid. Continue cooking another 12 or so hours. Drain off all liquid and pull meat apart. Douse liberally with Scott's BBQ Sauce. Cook on high one more hour, adding more Scott's as needed to keep moist. Add more sauce to taste. Serve on rolls. Stuff your face.

What wine do you serve? Zinfandel would be my choice, but any fruit-bomb wine of your choosing would also work. We enjoyed ours with a glass of Vinum Cellars Chard-No-Way Chenin Blanc, just because that’s what I felt like drinking.

Another one of my weekend indulgences was a treat from my girlfriend, the aforementioned Jewish girl. Although I don’t do it often, I enjoy the occasional cigar. When paired with a wee dram of The Macallan 12 Year scotch, I’m in heaven. The cigar I enjoyed was a new discovery for me—Rocky Patel Vintage 1992 Churchill.

Okay—this was supposed to be brief.

I’ll wrap it up with another new discovery: 2004 Ten Mile by Nine North Wine Company. This is a field-blend style red wine sourced from vineyards throughout California. One of the winemakers invloved is Jim Regusci, of Regusci Vineyards in the Stags Leap District.

Ten Mile is rich and lush with lots of dark fruit that caresses your palate like a fur glove. If you can locate a bottle, I suggest you give this one a try.

I’ll be back Wednesday with a posting for WBW. What a great excuse to drink something bubbly.

Friday, December 01, 2006

d'Arn That's Good!

Please forgive the cheesy title. Sometimes I can't help myself.

I have plenty of love for the wines of Australia. I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for some of the high-alcohol, fruit bomb shirazes that hail from Down Under. Piping Shrike and Wishing Tree are two of my favorites.

However, as with California, there are plenty of industrialized, character-less wines that fill up the Australian section of wine stores everywhere. There are times when I pass over Aussie wines because they can be somewhat predictable.

One Australian winery that never lets me down is d’Arenberg. The quality and character of their wines always seems to shine through. Among the larger producers, they seem to be marching to the beat of a different drummer.

Another reason I like d’Arenberg is that they produce a wide range of wines from the cheap to the not-so-cheap. If you have read previous posts, you’ll know which end of that range I’m buying from.

Which brings me to the subject for today: 'The Stump Jump'. This is d’Arenberg’s value entry in the “GSM” category. Australian growers have had great success with some of the Rhone varietals, and the grenache-shiraz-mourvèdre combination is a popular blend in the McLaren Vale, where d’Arenberg is located.

I won’t bludgeon you with the minutia of d’Arenberg’s winemaking techniques, but their Web site is a goldmine of history and information about the winery. They treat their grapes and the winemaking process with great respect and it shows in their wines.

I’ve had ‘The Stump Jump’ before, but when I took my first swirl-and-sip from the glass last night I was reminded of just how good it is. Its flavor is full of black cherry and plum with some earthy/smoky notes and a bit of white pepper. It’s also balanced and not at all heavy or cloying.

At roughly $8 a bottle, it’s an Australian wine that has a permanent spot in my wine rack. The vintage we enjoyed was a 2004, but I happen to know there’s a bottle of 2005 with a new screw cap enclosure on its way to my wine rack as I write this.

I’m confident it will live up to its predecessors.