Monday, October 29, 2012

Gold Medal Wine Club's early bird sale

Many of you have had their stuff and liked it...and are always bummed when I tell you it's the last bottle, so here's your chance to sign up (if you do, don't forget to tell them I referred you!)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Anchovy Butter, Moroccan Carrots & Cab Franc

A couple weeks my wine club had a Cabernet Franc Vertical pairing dinner – with the 2004-2006 Adobe Road Cabernet Franc. As a wine club member I was able to get some library selections and we were able to get 2 of each bottle so it was a good sized dinner party. While we’ve had some other verticals, this was our first Cabernet Franc one! The wines were delicious-although one of the 2004s was past its prime, so if you have it, drink it! There was no clear favorite; it seemed to be was tied between the 2004 and 2005, although the 2006 was also lovely.
For dinner we had filets seasoned with garlic and tarragon, served with anchovy butter on the side (recipe follows), along with some Moroccan carrots (recipe follows), loaded baked potato casserole, and I think one other side. (my apologies if I forgot your contribution!) Anyway, this was my first time making – or even tasting – anchovy butter. It was relatively easy to make, but I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous because it smelled very anchovy-ish during the preparation stage, however I couldn’t even taste the anchovy once it was melted on the steak and even took another pat. All but one person loved it, and it paired well with the cab franc, so it’s something I’ll keep in the rotation (although not too often!). The carrots were actually amazing with the cabernet franc – and I don’t even like cooked carrots that much! For a "normal dinner" pairing I would recommend using cumin, coriander, and tarragon into as many dishes as possible. We looked at a cumin lamb recipie but opted against it because we wanted to focus on the nuances between the vintages, which was a good call, although it would’ve been an amazing pairing and is something I'll try next time I have a Cab Franc.
Here’s a couple of recipes from the event
Anchovy butter (makes about 20 ½ inch pats)
  • 6 anchovies packed in oil
  • 1 ½ stick of butter, room temp
  • 1 tbs chopped tarragon
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
Mash or food process ingredients together and then pour on a plastic wrap sheet. Roll into a log and refrigerate for an hour or more. Slice into pats and top steaks. (we chose to serve it on the side and allow guests to top their steaks themselves.) 
Moroccan Carrots 
  • 4 medium carrots (3/4 pound), thinly sliced on a mandoline
  •  1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Large pinch of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt

1. In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the carrots for 1 minute. Drain.
2. In a large skillet, combine the carrots with the orange juice, water, coriander, cumin and cinnamon and simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the sugar and the butter. Season the carrots with salt and serve. Credit:

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Join me for #blindtober

If you’ve followed my blog before, you know I love blind tastings, so much that every October Mr. Lush and I taste everything we can “blind”. (for those of you who are nor familiar with the term, tasting wine “blind” means you have to guess what’s in the glass-usually the varietal, although experts can guess even more!) We accomplish this at home by switching off who pours the bottle; last night I selected a bottle, poured Mr. Lush a glass, and he correctly guessed it was a Chardonnay from California.

By no stretch are we experts-we both get more wrong than we do right, and we don’t try to guess the vintage or even specific AVA (although occasionally we might…but usually fail!). Naturally if its from our own collection we do better, because we can narrow it down. But we spend all year drinking and learning about wine, so it’s a good time to really focus in and apply what we’ve learned. Sometimes we throw each other easy ones, sometimes we mix it up and throw each other a curve ball, but we have fun with it.

I initially called this experience the Blind Ambition Tour (yes, that is a Madonna reference) but this year I’m going to tweet about my experiences with the hashtag #blindtober. My twitter name is stlwinelush and so I invite you to join me this October – taste wine blind and tweet about your experiences. Going to someone's house? Have them pour you a glass before showing you what it was. Head into a bar and tell the bartender to pick something out for you. Or, for even more of a challenge, head into a bar like Flemings, where they have 100 wines by the glass and ask them to make you a flight-so you’ll have 3 wines to guess. If you fail epically, don’t fret-we’re there with you. Get out of your comfort zone and give it a shot.

I’ll keep an eye out for the #blindtober tweet, cheers!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Grilled Buttermilk Chicken & Rose

Rose wines are a Lush favorite of summer, and so is grilling. (truth be told, grilling isn’t a season for the Lush Household, it’s a lifestyle!) For a recent wine club event, Mr. Lush found a recipe for grilled chicken drummies that pairs wonderfully with rose, so we thought we'd share:

• 1 quart buttermilk

• 1 tablespoon onion powder

• 1 tablespoon garlic powder

• 2 tablespoons kosher salt

• 2 tablespoons sugar

• 1 tablespoon ground cumin

• 1 teaspoon pepper

• 4 lbs chicken drumsticks/thighs (any combo or all one, we used drumsticks)

1. In a large bowl, mix buttermilk, onion and garlic powder, salt, sugar, cumin, and pepper.

2. Rinse chicken thighs /drumsticks and pat dry. Trim off excess fat. Submerge chicken pieces in buttermilk brine. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours, or up to 1 day.

3. Lift chicken from brine; discard brine. Wipe excess from chicken with paper towels.

4. Lay chicken pieces on a barbecue grill over medium coals or medium heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 4 to 5 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Cook, turning frequently, until browned on both sides and no longer pink at the bone (cut to test), 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Enjoy with your favorite rose-it went great with 2011 Andrieux & Fils Rose Cotes de Provence Cuvee Victoria, 2011 Domaine Les Aphillanthes Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé, and the 2010 Division Rose (from Washington). The Les Aphillanthes was a little fruitier than the other two, but all 3 were dry and stood up to the chicken.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Scallop Showdown

I’ve recently discovered how amazingly easy it is to make seared scallops. Dry them with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper, sear in butter for 3-4 minutes per side (10-12 per pound size). 2 big keys: start off with good quality, fresh (not frozen) scallops and don’t touch the scallops until they are seared-no constant flipping.

Last week, Miss G came over and we had a showdown with a couple of whites to see which paired best with the scallops:

2010 Watermill Gewurztraminer: from the Oregon wide of Willamette Valley, courtesy of Miss G. Crisp, dry Gewürztraminer with grapefruit which carry through the palate. Pear and floral notes round out the finish, making it a perfect pair for spicy Asian food.

2010 Artiste “Dog Rose Tree” Pinot Grigio. (I’ve talked about Artiste wines before in my Artiste Series Quests. They recently started a new line of Modern wines. Taking a New World approach to winemaking, Artiste “Modern Wines” are single origin, vintage wines that express unique varietal character, and each micro-lot wine is adorned by contemporary art on the label by American artists.) I'm normally not a huge fan of pinot grigio, but this was lighlty citrusy, but not overpowering, crisp, just a hint of herbal/grassy notes.

Results: Well, we’re torn. I didn’t put lemon on my scallops, so I preferred the Pinot Grigio because the additional citrusy was a nice addition to the food. Mr. Lush and Miss G drizzled lemon on the scallops, so they preferred the Gewurztraminer and felt the citrusness of the Pinot Grigio competed with the lemon on their food, instead of complemented it. Both were excellent, good acidity and crisp ness, so you couldn’t go "wrong" with either.

 Bottom line: normally we go with a lightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc, like the Chateau Ste Michelle Horse Heaven I’ve blogged about in the past, and I think next time we’ll head back to that. It’s always fun trying new things though!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Manihi Motu Picnic

We recently took a trip. Not just any trip, but my #1 bucket list item: a trip to the South Pacific. We went with my parents to the islands of Huahine and Manihi. Aside from seeing the most beautiful sunsets and gorgeous blue/green water, shark feeding, and me scuba-diving for the first time, one of the more interesting days we had was a motu picnic. (A motu is pretty much a deserted mini-island) It's more than just one picture can dictate, so here's the day:

We started off by hand fishing (no reel, just a block of wood with string tied around it, a rock and a hook)
I caught mostly these pink ones-smaller, but tasty!

After catching enough fish to feed a small hotel:

We arrived at the motu:

Our boat and captain/fisherman:

We went snorkeling:

And our captain found an octopus:

Which most of us "tried on":

(not me though, I was..uh..busy being the photographer and videographer!)

After snorkeling, the captain/octopus catcher cleaned the fish and we fed birds:

Here's the fish we're eating for lunch-I'll explain where the big ones went later. ;)

Here's our captain/octopus catcher turned chef-notice the octopus on the grill???? Yep, that was the one that was on Mr. Lush's face not even an hour before!

Here's our lunch:

So if you've been keeping track, our captain/fisherman/octopus catcher/chef is pretty talented-we're pretty sure he'd win Survivor, that's for sure. Well it doesn't stop there....remember the big fish (grouper) we caught that didn't end up on our plates? Well, he tied a rope around them and caught this:

Yep, he's a shark catcher-and whisperer! We all posed with this "cuddly little sharkie":

No hook used, so we just let him back into the lagoon:

Then Mr Lush took a stab at it...and caught two! Now, in my defense, the camera battery was dying and my reaction time was off, due to my shock he caught not one but two AND one of them practically landed in my lap, so I was a little late on the record, but here's what I have:

Whew! That was a seriously jam packed day-we thought we'd get caught in a storm on the way back, but luckily our ponchos ended up being more of a fashion statement than utility:

Time for some more Hinanu!

Friday, April 27, 2012

What makes a good wine bar?

There was recently an article in the RFT about the nine best wine bars in St. Louis:

In the event that the link is no longer valid, I do want to capture what they were:
  • 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Bar 
  • Remy's Kitchen & Wine Bar 
  • Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar  
  • Sasha's Wine Bar  
  • Pomme Cafe & Wine Bar  
  • Ernesto's Wine Bar  
  • The Wine Press  
  • Robust Wine Bar  
  • Vin de Set
(I have not yet been to Bridge, but I have been to the rest.)

It got me thinking-what makes a good wine bar?  About 2 or 3 years ago my wine club visited a wine bar a month - we didn't hit them all, but the basic requirement was they needed to have at least 15 options by the glass. Selection/ variety is important, probably the most important thing, in my opinion, in a wine bar. But what else makes a good wine bar?? How big of a difference does price play? What about the price per glass/bottle ratio? Food selection/ambiance? What about a combo wine bar/wine shop - does the option to purchase a bottle at retail (either with no or minimal corkage) and drink it there intice you or turn you off? (like St. Louis Wine Market or Balabans) Are things like quality of glassware/variety of sizes for different wines important?

Monday, April 16, 2012

My new favorite electronic invite

As I’m sure you’ve heard me mention, I have a wine club – the wine club’s invites are managed by an electronic invite site. I used to use evite, but I got tired of the huge ads and what not so I’ve switched. Recently, one of recent favorite “electronic invite” sites, Socializr, got bought and at first, things just didn't work right, then my favorite features went away- some I could pay for, but overall, even IF I wanted to pay, it wasn’t the same. Enter Anyvite. Things I like about it-it has an easy mobile interface (although it defaults to it when viewed in mobile, some people like that, some don’t) it doesn’t limit my description, let’s me customize the picture, still limits attendance and allows for comments, reminders, etc. You can even have an RSS feed on your website to keep track of invites. Things I don't like about it- not very "fancy" looking and the default mobile presence requires seperate clicking to view RSVPs and comments and the link to view it "standard" is at the bottom. One other thing is different-it counts "maybe's" as a "yes" in your total count, so make sure people know that.
Here's a quick look at the standard version online- as you can see, a small ad ontop, but really user friendly.

Here's the mobile version- as you can see, simpler, no pictures, seperate links to view guest RSVPs and comments, but very easy to RSVP and get the address. Note, I deleted the address and I put some arrows in to point out certain things, so this is a modified view.

All in all, I like Anyvite and will use it as long as it keeps offering these features for free! It took some serious googling to find it, however, so I wanted to share it with you all!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Beef Strogonoff Sandwiches

Last night I made some sandwiches for wine club and they were great with the wines- pinots, merlots, and red blends (all from the 45 degree line). The recipe was requested, so here it is. Please note I used a thinly sliced strip steak, versus the tri-tip, simply because we had an extra one to use, and I bought a pre-mixed pack of  dried mushrooms and let them soak for 30 minutes, vs using fresh ones - other than that I followed the recipie pretty closely.

• 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, divided
• 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 1 pound assorted fresh wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle, oyster, crimini, and stemmed shiitake), cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
• Coarse kosher salt
• 1/4 cup dry white vermouth
• 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1 1 1/2-pound tri-tip roast, excess fat trimmed, meat cut against grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices, slices cut crosswise into 3-inch lengths
• 1 1/2 minced shallots
• 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon plus 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 cup low sodium beef broth
• 1/2 teaspoon Hungarian sweet paprika
• Crusty bread, halved.
• 1/4 cup sour cream

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add sliced wild mushrooms to skillet; sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper and sauté until mushrooms release juices, about 6 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high; sauté until mushrooms are tender and brown, about 4 minutes longer. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Remove from heat. Let stand at room temperature.

Add vermouth to mushrooms and boil until almost evaporated but still moist, scraping up browned bits, about 1 minute. Stir in whipping cream; remove from heat. Season to taste with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Cover; set aside.

Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in another large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add beef slices to skillet and sauté just until brown outside but still pink in center, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer beef slices to plate; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Add sliced shallots to same skillet, reduce heat to medium, and sauté until golden brown and tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in flour and 1 teaspoon tomato paste (mixture will clump). Add broth and paprika and whisk to blend, scraping up browned bits. Simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Season sauce to taste with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Whisk remaining 3 tablespoons oil and 2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste in small bowl to blend. Brush oil-tomato paste mixture lightly over both sides of bread slices. Broil bread just until lightly toasted, watching closely to avoid burning, about 2 minutes. Slice and arrange toasts on large platter.

Add beef slices and any accumulated juices to shallot mixture in skillet; bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, then stir in sour cream. Remove from heat. Season to taste with coarse salt and pepper. Rewarm mushroom mixture over medium heat. Divide beef mixture among toasts, then top each with mushroom mixture.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Let's fly at 45 degrees and taste the similiarity

This month's theme for my wine club is Flying at 45 Degrees ...why, you ask? Well, aside from wanting to encourage our New World-oriented palates to branch out across the ocean, there's also some serious comparative value at looking at wines that are around the 45 degree mark in latitude. Notice how Washington, Bordeaux and Burdundy are all right there:

While the growing season is slightly shorter from beginning to end than more southerly wine regions, the number of sun hours received in the 45 degree latitude mark is equal due to incredibly long days at such a high latitude – receiving up to 17 and a half hours of sun each day. (I remember when we were in France in June it felt like the day lasted forever - at 10pm you could still see for miles. In Ireland it was even more insane with sun from 7a-11:30p!) So, the climate, soil, and winemaking techniques differ, but some say the latitude similarity is the reason for the similarity in quality of the wines. We'll see!

Monday, February 20, 2012


It’s always a nice surprise when we get a varietal or blend that we aren’t familiar with in a wine club shipment. It doesn’t happen often – not because we’ve had a ton of varietals, but there’s a reason the varietals aren’t on every wine shelf- difficult varietal, specific climate needs, etc.

Well, in the past month we’ve received not one, but TWO of the same lesser known varietal, Aglianico [ah-LYAH-nee-koh] from two different wine clubs. (Aglianico is an Italian variety primarily grown in the southern part of Italy, performing best in hot climates and volcanic soils, although both of these were from California) I don’t recall ever having it, although it’s possible I tasted it but would remember having a bottle with dinner, for example.

The two we received were the 2006 Domenico Winery Aglianico and the 2009 Benessere Winery Aglianico. Clearly we chose to try the 2006 first, and the pairing recipe called for lamb, so a dinner was born. We bought a leg of lamb, seasoned with some thyme and tarragon, put it on the grill and opened up the bottle to taste.

Now, we’ve gotten in the habit of opening up the bottle for dinner about 30-60 minutes before dinner pouring a small glass to determine if the wine should be decanted, or just left in the glass and bottle to air. (in order to really allow an open bottle to aerate, you need to pour a small amount into a glass to get air into the wine in the bottle- not just uncork it)

Back to the wine – the recipe had called for lamb or a “heavily marbled ribeye” so we took that as the wine will be tannic and strong – we anticipated it would need some time and we were right. Right out of the bottle it was astringent and strong. We poured our glasses and decanted it while the lamb cooked, about 45 minutes and it opened up nicely. While still strong, it was no longer astringent – just tannic – and it was really wonderful with the lamb cutting through the fat. It continued to evolve with flavors of dark cherry and currant, with a little bit of spice. By the time we were finished with the lamb, it had softened to the point of no longer requiring food, so we clearly could’ve kept the 2006 for another 2+ years. Naturally we’re quite bummed, because that means the 2009 should be cellared for quite some time before reaching it’s peak.

Trying new wines is fun, so keep an eye out for something you've never heard of!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

History of the Artist Series Quest

I was skimming my blog and realized I haven’t posted much on my Artist Series Quest in quite some time. One might think I haven’t been actively collecting – but one would be wrong. I have about 20 labels already taken off, with another…at least 30 ready to be taken off. But my inability to finish projects is not the point of this post- it’s to talk about the reason for my affection towards “artist series wines”.

When I was .. well, we’ll say a bit younger.. I worked a restaurant that had an excellent wine list and the owners were committed to their staff knowing about wine so we often had the opportunity to taste wines before a shift, or if a table wanted to give us a glass, we could share a little bit with them. It was a wonderful kick start to my wine knowledge – but also propelled my palate quickly past the “entry” level wines, thus I’ve always had a taste for wines that are more expensive than my pocketbook would like. One of the wines I learned about was the Kenwood Artist Series. I had mentioned it in another post, but since then the link has changed, so I’ll tell the story now:

In 1974 Kenwood released a wine (what is now their Artist Series) with a drawing of a naked lady on it. It was rejected by the ATF because it was “obscene”. They then submitted a new label, but with a tongue in cheek twist-it was the same label but with a skeleton where the lady was. It was also rejected. So, finally in 1975 they released the “Hillside” label- the same label, just with no lady, no skeleton. (no…fun). Times changed and in 1994 they released the same “Naked Lady” label – the originally rejected one – and it was accepted! Here’s a picture of the 1994 label, along with a very grainy picture I took at the Kenwood winery earlier this month of the 3 labels:

This was a very interesting story with a nice twist of sex, art, and booze. (while at the winery we also picked up 2 free posters; one of which was indeed, the 1994 label!) Times have certainly changed - you can find all sorts of provacative labels now! The best part about the Kenwood Artist Series is the wine is always great and ages well. So, I decided to try other wines with art-based labels -  typically if a new "artistic" label is released for a bottle, it's because the wine is special, whereas if it's just mass printed year after year, it may or may not be special.   I've liked most, if not all, of the wines with a true unique-to-the-vintage "artist series" label, thus, the Artist Series Quest was born! Currently my quest is focused on the Gundlach Bundschu artist series - a bit pricey, but I'm on the lookout for a deal....