Empties Report

I’m a little behind on my dead soldiers recap. So, let’s get started.

Dauvergne Ranvier Crozes-Hermitage 2013 vin gourmand.

DR Crozes-Hermitage 2013 paired with grilled tuna and a cashew broccoli/cauliflower medly.

I first became familiar with Dauvergne Ranvier around 2009. They were exporting pretty little Côtes du Rhone and Gigondas selections that surprised me for the price point.

The viticultural region (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée – AOC) of Crozes-Hermitage is known mostly for light, early drinking syrah wines. The 2013 vintage was turbulant around harvest time and François Dauvergne & Jean-François Ranvier decided to stick with this style. However, thanks to their concentrated parcel selection, 2013 surpassed my expectations of the overall region.

The color is a dark purple with ruby reflects and a pretty high alcohol aréole (sometimes called “legs”). The nose offers black fruits and a hint of saddle. The flavors are on target, black plum and black peppercorn, with a finish that seems a bit hot (alcoholic), but that’s my fault for opening it too young and not allowing it to breathe long enough. I’d keep it in the cave another 4-5 years.

3 1/2 stars out of 5.

Bodegas Etchart Privado Torrontes 2015

Valle de Cafayate-Salta, Argentina

13521980_830687697063720_7534880941977455295_nI love torrontes. They are incredible food wines that pair with the hardest to pair cuisine. One of the years that I judged for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Uncorked! competition, nobody wanted to be on the torrontes panel because the varietal was just entering the market and some mediocre references were being pushed. I volunteered and there were some flabby, uninspiring selections, but when this unique, Argentine white is done well, it is amazing! I tasted several that day that made me fall hard in love.

The 2015 Etchart Privado comes from a cool climate and has clean freshness. The green color dances with life. The nose is characteristically aromatic in the sweet grapefruit, rose range. The mouthfeel is light and offers a bright, crisp finish. The flavors are lemon-lime, white peach and geranium. Check it out: we had this for lunch with oven baked salmon and sesame broccoli. 13439204_830687663730390_129799340225387011_nThen we finished the bottle with our first cantelope of the season and the flavors changed to lychee and baking spice. So versatile.

3 1/2 stars out of 5






Gassies Margaux 2009 – – Superstar of the Week

I’m not going to spend too much time telling you about this estate. Gassies is the second wine of Château Rauzan Gassies 2éme Cru Margaux (here, let me translate that: classified in 1855 as a second tier quality level from the Margaux AOC or, in other words – a heavy hitter). The classified growths of Bordeaux are allowed two wines – their namesake and then a second wine. The second wine is made from the younger vines on the estate and are often considered an early quality indicator for the big brother’s potential in any given vintage. When purchasing for my own cellar I have a tendancy to prefer second wines.

I found this bottle at a supermarket last year on sale for under 20€ – a steal, especially for the highly rated 2009 vintage.

Transporting my super wine find back home.
Transporting my super wine find back home.

I had the impression that it hadn’t been selling well. This was the first vintage after the Quié family changed the name of the second wine from Le Chevalier de Rauzan-Gassies and it didn’t have too much recognition yet. Too bad, so sad! My intention was to keep it for another 5-6 years, but I got impatient and opened it to go with lamb chops and rosemary, garlic potatoes.  We finished it with Lindt dark chocolate – the textures were amazing together.

The blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, and cabernet franc was outstanding. The color is purple-black and the nose gives dark cherry, forest floor, and pencil shavings. 13435533_828641840601639_1942302604889642766_nThe flavors are of ripe cherry, raspberry, red & black currants, rock dust, and cedar. The tannins are F-I-N-E and elegant, but deeply concentrated. I am kicking myself for not snatching more bottles because it has a cellar potential of at least 12 more years and it will be gorgeous in 8.

4 stars out of 5.



Sangaetano Primitivo do Manduria 2013

Wrapping up the week with PIZZA NIGHT!

Don't laugh at my Halloween goblet! I don't have to worry about it breaking.
Don’t laugh at my Halloween goblet! I don’t have to worry about it breaking.

<If you ask any of my friends and neighbors what wine to pair with pizza, the answer is going to be “Bordeaux.” But then again, that’s their answer to any pairing question…. I happen to think Italian wine pairs well with pizza, but hey, when in Rome… er… you know what I mean.>

The end of a long week deserves to be celebrated even if you don’t feel like going ‘ all-out.’ There’s a newish wine shop in town that I wanted to visit, so we placed a pizza order and went to pick out a wine while it baked.

Listen, folks, as much as I love the idea of you hanging on every word I have to say about wine I am not the consultant in your local wine shop. Nothing can replace the advice the curator of a wine shop’s selection has to offer. They know their stock and have, hopefully, tasted it recently. Always ask for advice – which is what I did.

I told him I wanted:

1) Something ready to drink that evening,

2) Italian (so difficult to find in Bordeaux for the reason I mention above), and

3) Under 12€.

He gave me two different options and I picked the Primitivo.

Primitivo is the old world cousin of red Zinfandel [clarification: all Zinfandel is red, but I know you’re thinking about that pink wine, so don’t.] The Italian versions are a little less jammy and much lower in alcohol than what we find in the California selections, but even this one nudged up to 14.5%.

13450985_828641877268302_6314535127641960281_nIt displayed a deep purple color with aromas of black currants. The flavors were complex notes of dark chocolate, briar, black plums, maduro tobacco, and white pepper. The body was medium with a balanced tannic structure. Dessert were some cupcakes from the new “American” pastry shop next door to the wine cave. I can’t wait to go back and tell this cavist guy he was spot on.  Those cupcakes, notsomuch.

Du Jardin

I’ve successfully grown one whole cucumber in my garden this year.

Well, there were more than that, but our dog, Roxiegirl, has a vegetable addiction. One summer, we left her overnight and this is what happened to my broccoli plants.

Before Roxie found my broccoli.
Before Roxie found my broccoli…
…and after she found my broccoli.

Anyway, I snatched the one cucumber she was kind enough to leave on the vine and harvested some basil leaves for this summery, garden cocktail.

DU JARDIN [from the garden]

In a glass:

  • One inch grated cucumber
  • 4-5 leaves basil, rinsed

Muddle to release the basil oils

  • One and a half ounces Martini Bianco

Fill with tonic water and ice cubes.

Garnish with a cucumber slice.


^^Oh, look!^^An amateur video of me making a mess!^^

Its freshness is perfect for a hot, late afternoon aperitif and invigorates the palate for the upcoming dinner. The crispness of the cucumber mingles with the savory basil and the bitter citrus & vanilla notes of the Martini Bianco vermouth rounds it out.

In the States, we would never think to use a vermouth as the base of the cocktail. Before I moved to Europe, if someone had suggested drinking a straight vermouth, I would have gagged a little. On one of my visits home I was relieving a buffalo wings craving and asked for a Rosso vermouth on ice. It took the bartender and the bar manager and the general manager about twenty minutes to figure out how to charge me for it because it’s never more than a garnish in most American cocktails.6a00e553b3da20883401b7c7915b89970b

Vermouth is a fortified wine – a wine base that has been (with endless proprietary blends)  flavored with fruits, herbs, or spices (aka botanicals) and then distilled and sweetened. Since the wine has gone through a distillation process, it stops evolving, allowing it to be kept for longer periods of time.

It’s a shame that it’s almost always found on the bottom shelf in the gin section. Thanks to Bond, James Bond the martini drinkers in America seem to be the only ones buying it and just the extra-dry versions. A touch is poured into a glass, swished around, and then dumped out adding a hint of the herbal flavors to the vodka or gin. The original purpose of this spirit was to make a medicinal tonic more palatable – that whole “spoon full of sugar” concept. The various botanicals that flavor the spirit were prescribed by European doctors to calm the ailments of their patients.

If you hesitate to purchase a bottle of vermouth because you know it’ll collect dust in the back of the cabinet, fear not! Many brands sell 375ml sizes. Be aware, though, the smaller the bottle, the less value for your money. A regular 750ml bottle is not going to be expensive and there are endless ways you can use it – add a splash to your next pasta sauce, your tomatoes du jardin will thank you.