Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tips for the Lush Herb Garden?

As you know, I'm certainly not a chef, but I do like to cook. One of the things I like the flavor of, particularly with lamb or a savory potato dish, is rosemary. But I really hate, as does Mr. Lush, how its like dried hard grass seed. Well recently, I saw a recipe where someone used fresh rosemary to drizzle olive oil on something and I thought perfect! A way to get the rosemary flavor without the rosemary "seed" effect.
To get some readily available fresh rosemary, as well as other herbs, I thought I'd get an herb garden going this summer......and here it is, about 3 weeks in:

As you can see (clockwise), I've got some rosemary, oregano, thyme and basil, which are some of my commonly used herbs. Its coming along nicely, but I admit, this is only my second attempt at an herb garden and I'm a little lost as to when and how to dry the herbs. I've read some tips online and think I have a good idea, but I thought I'd reach out and ask if anyone else has any tips on when/how to best utilize this herb garden?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wines for Mother Earth

As some of you might know, I have a wine club –it's “byo” style and we try to balance some learning with some wine tasting and food pairing with a good solid dose of fun. This month, in celebration of Earth Day, our theme was “Wines for Mother Earth”. And since today is Earth Day, I thought I’d post some our favorite wines from that meeting. (I know, me and like every other wine blogger…. ;) According to the people who brought the wines, all of these are Earth Friendly (ie sustainable, organic, bio-dynamic or at least “uses many green practices”).  
  • 2007 Benzinger Signature Chardonnay-creamy/oakey, despite the description of “made like a French Chardonnay”. We liked it.
  • 2007 Robert Sinsky Pinot Noir-We like the Sinsky stuff. Its consistently good, the Pinot is no exception.
  • 2005 McIntyre Pinot Noir-this is what we brought, its from Taste of Montery Wine Club. As noted in a post from last yr, we love our Monterey County Pinots and this one was excellent, as usual. Smokey, dark fruit, long finish. Yum-yum. This winery will be among the first to be certified sustainable, according to the website.
  • 2007 Quivera Grenache/Zinfandel blend- Good, deep fruit, although needs a bit of air. Hint: this would be an excellent thing to bring should you get invited to a Lush BBQ this summer.
  • 2006 Honig Cab Sauv: I got the opportunity to meet Michael Honi at a winemaker dinner, nice guy and we have a bottle of this that’s signed in our wine fridge. The cab is very approachable, and doesn’t need food. That being said, its also probably not the wine to drink with a big juicy strip steak or ribeye.
Cheers and make sure to recycle your wine bottles, either through a recycling program, or post them on craigslist and see if someone makes cheeseplates or art with them and could use them for their business. What better than recycling AND helping stimulate our economy??

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Selective Tolerances?

There was this guy I knew back in the day who could drink an entire bottle of Jack and would still be standing, but give him 4 or 5 beers and he all the sudden had the tolerance of a 90 lb girl. I didn't get it and he explained it as he drinks Jack all the time and has a higher tolerance for it, but doesn't drink beer that often. I never really bought into the whole “selective tolerance” thing-you'd think alcohol is alcohol and the strength (%alcohol by volume) is the only varying factor, right? But then again since I’m an equal opportunity drinker, I typically have social occasions/dinners/outings where certain drinks are more appropriate than others so I guess whatever tolerance I have is somewhat even-spread. (like we bowl on Tuesdays. While the bowling alley does serve wine, there’s something about the bowling experience that fits with a bottle of beer, whereas a nice steakhouse calls for a nice bottle of wine, that kind of thing) But still, there’s times I feel like if I haven’t had beers in a while I might be lightheaded after just a few, or if its been a bit since I had vodka one good martini might do the same, yet wine might not affect me the same way.

Is it my imagination? Am I just used to drinking wine? It seems like a half bottle of 13.5% wine should "do more" than a few 5% beers, or at least equal? So, I wonder, taking into account the different alcohol percentages, DO people have “selective tolerances”?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Sauvignon Blanc Heaven

Let me introduce you to my favorite Sauvignon Blanc, the 2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle Horse Heaven. I bought it on a whim for a party, it was just under $12 at Sam’s Club, noted a “one time buy”. Typically the “one time buy” at Sam’s Club means they negotiated a good deal, bought a lot of it, and that’s all they’ll carry. Once its sold out, its sold out. (this particular one is sold on the winery website for about $16)

Now, as you might know, I’m not typically a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, particularly New Zealand Sauv Blanc-too grassy, too grapefruity, too tart pineappley, and honestly, anything that’s frequently described as having a “cat-piss” aroma is NOT a good thing. That’s my personal preference, and I know New Zealand Sauv Blanc has its following, its just not our thing. However, there have been a few Sauv Blancs I’ve discovered through Gold Medal Wine Club that I’ve liked, so I thought I’d buy it. At the very least, it will be a non-Chardonnay option for my party guests. To my surprise, I not only find it “ok” I actually really like it-and so does Mr. Lush. A LOT. Its fruity, a bit dry with a soft mouthfeel, vs a tart crisp one-much more “white Bordeaux” style, although it is 100% Sauv Blanc. Its really easy drinking, light, a great summer wine that will probably appeal to a large variety of palates.

Of course, upon researching it for this blog post, I find out why its different-21% of it is barrel fermented in older French Oak (most Sauvignon Blancs are totally fermented in stainless steel). Now, this doesn’t mean its “oakey”; French Oak is a mild oak and the use of the older French Oak would just barely soften it, which it has. To date, I have bought every bottle at 3 different Sam’s Club, some for me, and some for Lucy, who also likes it. I also just found out its rated a 90 by Wine Spectator, so don’t just take my word for it-hopefully you can score yourself a bottle!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring grillin red: Michel Gassier Nostre Pais Costieres de Nimes

Last week, Mr. Lush grilled some “beer up the butt” chicken and we had Mrs. Luce over to keep her company in Mr. Luce’s absence. If you’ve never had beer up the butt chicken, the “set up” is exactly as it sounds. They say you can just use the beer’s steam to season and what not, but we prefer to season and inject a bit, in addition to putting some spices in the beer itself. For these particular chickens, we rubbed one with a generic “chicken” seasoning and one with a “peppery mustard” seasoning. Now, normally I’m not a huge fan of mustard, but I thought I’d try this one out, as I’m really liking mustard on grilled meat lately.

For the wine, we served the 2007 Michel Gassier Nostre Pais Costieres de Nimes, rated a 90 from Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate: From the well-known Chateau de Nages, this estate, one of the brilliant Philippe Cambie’s clients, is a selection of the best old vine sites. Aged in equal parts oak barrels and tank, and bottled unfiltered, this limited cuvee is a blend of five separate grapes (Grenache, Carignan, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Syrah). A beautiful inky/ruby/purple color is accompanied by notes of truffles, licorice, damp earth, blackberries, and blue fruits. The wine possesses a long, rich, full-bodied texture, sweet tannin, vibrant acids, and an overall impression of opulence. It will drink well for 6-8 years. (RP) and Dark and toasty, but pure and racy, with raspberry ganache and blackberry fruit supported by licorice, spice and graphite notes. Nice grip frames the finish. Drink now through 2010. 800 cases made. –JM

It was a really nice "weekday" wine with just a little "earthy" overtones, not too overpowering or big....and it went GREAT with the mustardy rub on the chicken. Its about $16-17, so a great choice for your spring grilling!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Aging NV

As you might have read in previous posts, we like both sake and sparkling with sushi, but typically when we get sushi at home we have bubbly with it. One of our go-to's is Roederer Estate NV Brut. Its a cuvee, with the current notes citing a 60% Chardonnay / 40% Pinot blend. Typically it can be found at Sams Club for around $16, although you can also find it at most wine shops for around $21-23. I happened to luck out and run across 4 bottles on a closeout deal at Sams Club for $9.91, so that was choice last night. Its really a great deal for $16; crisp, a bit fruity, but nothing close to sweet, not too yeasty, overall a nice pairing with sushi.

A few months ago I happen to run across that deal, as well as some Veuve Clicquot for under $30 (normally $45+), I found myself wondering how long NV (non vintage**) bubbly should be kept, particularly ones from California. Typically NV Champagne (from France) can be kept for many years, although do be careful, since its non vintage you might forget which NV bottle you bought in 2005 and which you bought in 2010. So, should you be wondering as well, I'll share my results with you.

After a bit of research, which of course included a ton of caveats that aging potential is based on quality (duh), I found a safe estimate is a California NV sparkling should be drank within 2-3 yrs from the release date and Franch NV Champagne could be 5-10 yrs (or longer). I'm assuming my Sams Club was clearancing out stuff they got last year, so being extra careful, lets say the bottle we drank yesterday was officially released in late 2008. I'll need to drink my Cali bubbly by the end of this year to mid next year and the VC by 2015.

Now, the Lush Wine Cellar isn't big enough to store so much that I would worry about being able to drink our stock of bubbly within a year, muchless 5 years, however, it does relax my mind that I don't need to unload (or drink) the good bubbly deals. Because really, who doesn't LOVE a good deal and who doesn't HATE opening a bottle that's past its prime??

**Non-vintage: typically wineries show the year in which most of the grapes were grown on the bottle; ie a 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon means the grapes were grown during the 2005 growing season.  A "non-vintage" wine is one where the grapes might be from 2 or more years; often sparkling wine makers will blend aging wine with newer wine to have a consistent-tasting product.