Wine and Dinner Out

Matt’s Uncle called unexpectedly the other night to tell us he was in town and to ask if we happened to be free for dinner. Unless we already have plans we are always up for a night out as otherwise it’s just me cooking dinner, and the bbq pulled pork I made could wait for another day! Plus we haven’t seen Matt’s Uncle since Thanksgiving, so it’d been awhile.

We headed to Cafe Atlantico downtown, not a restaurant Matt and I had been to before. It’s kind of South America meets I don’t really know what. For example, I had the Bacon wrapped Cornish Hen with deconstructed Mole and seared Watermelon and Bruce (the Uncle) had Flank Steak with Malanga Puree (I must confess I do not know what a Malanga is, but Bruce said it was potatoish). Matt had the Duck Confit. Both Matt and Bruce said their meals were excellent and well done. I wasn’t so happy with mine. It had 2 rounded pieces of Cornish Hen wrapped in bacon which were about the size of a big scallop and were excellent. The bacon was seared perfectly and matched well with the hen. However, the entire plate was covered with deconstructed Mole, which you had to mix all together to get Mole sauce. With a fork. It didn’t work well. And then the rest of the hen, 2 legs, were piled on top of each other done in a spicy moist outer coating with nothing going for it but spice and the meat was dry and flavorless. Also, seared watermelon is just weird.

The wine list was long and expensive. Only 5 bottles under $30 that I could count (and the online version isn’t current) and bottles ranging up to $975. Bruce chose a 2004 Flowers Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. It had a real cork, was 14.2% alcohol by volume and appears to be available online for around $50. The color was a pretty garnet. On the nose were violets, ripe cherries and raspberries. In the mouth it had a medium feel. I found raspberries and a little earthy/natural taste. Overall it was very smooth and seemed very food friendly, if you liked your food.

As for the restaurant, our server was attentive, brought new wine glasses when we ordered the Pinot Noir with bigger bowls and poured just the right amount in the glass. We were seated immediately and the restaurant was fairly packed for a Tuesday night, there were very few open tables. The restaurant had several levels, so if you don’t want to climb 2 or 3 flights of stairs make sure to ask to be seated on the ground level. Upstairs where we were seated was a cute “tapas” bar thta sat perhaps 6 people. The tapas looked interesting and you could get them matched with different wines. I also liked that the restaurant offered many wines by the glass, plus flights of wine, a concept that often seems to escape restaurants in DC.

Food…mine was the only disappointing entree. Both Bruce and I had the Baba for dessert, which may have been one of the more bizarre desserts I’ve ever had. It was sweet bread (like pound cake but fluffier) soaked in rum, over what was supposed to be coffee gel and topped with this cream thing. Too much rum, the bread was soggy and fell apart, the coffee gel wasn’t gel and it tasted like rum. The cream was really thick. Thicker than yogurt, but tangy like yogurt.

If we returned I would get a different entree or do the tapas bar instead. And definitely skip the dessert. Matt had an odd thing involving bananas and chocolate, but he said the banana parts were just weird and didn’t taste right. I wouldn’t go anywhere near it as I can’t stand bananas. My only other complaint was that you don’t get bread to start or anything.


Weekend Round-Up 3/30/07

Lots of great tastings in the area for you to check out this weekend!

On Saturday Out of Site Wines in Vienna, VA will have “Superstars from France and Spain” on the tasting bar from 1-4pm.

Unwined in Alexandria is having a great event on Sunday at 5pm, West Coast Wine Tasting. You need to RSVP though as space is limited: Please RSVP to 703.820.8600 or

Tonight at Arrowine in Arlington you will find a tasting off Italian wines from 5:30-7:30pm.

Saturday at Arrowine there will be more than 10 wines being poured at the Super Tasting of values.

At the Curious Grape in Shirlington from 6-8pm tonight is a tasting of Springtime in Italy.

Tomorrow at the Curious Grape from 12-4pm is the Art of the Blend featuring “interesting” blends.

On Wednesday, April 4, at the Curious Grape (I know, not the weekend, but you’ll deal) are New Arrivals from Austria from 6-8pm.

Spring Selections from France and California will grace the tasting bar at the Curious Grape on Thursday April 5 from 6-8pm.

Tonight at Church Street Cellars in Vienna, VA wines from Australia will be poured.

A Thousand Flowers

Tonight found us drinking a bottle of 2005 Hop Kiln A Thousand Flowers. The wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Muscat Canelli. You can find it on the Hop Kiln website for $14, though I think ours’ cost a little less because it came in a club shipment. It has a real cork closure and is 14.1% alcohol by volume.

I thought this blend might work well with our dinner, which was Chicken Roll-ups (a recipe I found at the age of 8 in the Mini-Page consisting of chicken and sharp cheddar cheese rolled up in Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and topped with a cheddar cream sauce), green beans and white rice, because the flavors are really creamy and the wine said it worked well with chicken on the label. I was wrong. The flavors didn’t work at all and the creamy nature of the sauce made the wine taste bitter. So instead, we drank it after dinner.

The nose of this wine is very aromatic, and you don’t even have to stick your nose in the glass to smell the flowers jumping out. Honey, honeydew melon, white flowers and spice; an intensely sweet aroma. In the mouth, it’s not nearly as sweet as I expected, given the nose. I find apples, but not crisp apples, more like slightly past their prime apples. It’s light at first, but mid-palate it gets heavy and the melon flavors are more pronounced than the apple.

Overall, I think this perhaps does better as a stand-alone wine than it does with food, though perhaps a light white fish with very minimal sauce or flavoring would be an okay match. Or possibly with a spicy dish. I would serve it very chilled and drink it on the porch this summer if I had any more.

At the Taverna Again

We found ourselves back at the Lebanese Taverna this week with our out of town guest. It’s one of our favorite “go to” restaurants as the food is always excellent, the wine list is surprisingly deep and interesting and it’s close to our current apartment. Many of the dishes contain lamb or beef, so I thought a Zinfandel would be a good choice, since restaurants seem to always want to know your drink order before you even have a minute to look at the menu. But I knew I was having the lamb and beef shwarma, so….. 😉

I chose a 2003 Kenwood Yulupa Zinfandel, which from visiting their website, I gather is a series that was created especially for restaurants. And really, that’s not terribly surprising, as it was a decent, easy to drink with your dinner wine. My notes say that nothing about it stood out, but it was food friendly and worked well with the meal.

Stats for this bottle: cost us $27, was 14.5% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. On those nose I got raisins and figs. In the mouth is was smooth and fruity, with black currants, a little black pepper and some plum. I have to quibble with the restaurant though, which is my only fault for the Taverna, and something I have experienced each time I visit. The red wines are simply served too warm. We had a beautiful day, and room temperature was warm. Really warm. And I think it took away from the wine. Plus, our server filled our glasses to the brim, which always makes a wine harder to enjoy.

And now essence of….well everything

Ladybugs yesterday…..milk, fish and chicken, plus lots more today. What is wine coming to? 😉

An extensive article appeared in the LA Times today (see, I told you I read lots of papers) about the fact that Congress passed a law in 2004 requiring disclosure of potential allergens in food products on labeling which is slated to affect wine labels. I’ve read other articles about this recently and seen blogs posts about in the past weeks.

I haven’t weighed in on the debate raging over requiring wine labels to have a listing of all ingredients included in a “nutrition information” section (will there be a calorie label next, because frankly I have no desire to know how many calories I consume with the volume of wine I drink) mainly because I think it’s a tad bit stupid to require a listing of things you can’t even prove are actually in there, it’s simply the potential that it might be.

I will say that some of the techniques listed are less than appealing to me. However, techniques to make all kinds of food and drink products are not all that appealing to me either. I took Food and Drug Law in law school. I read cases that would make your stomach turn.

Now what I cannot get a sense of is how frequently such methods are used in wine-making or if they are used by many producers or what. The article quotes a man named Charles Smith, the chairman of a CA company called Vinovation, Inc saying basically that he has 1200 clients for whom he transforms bad batches of wine into marketable products by the use of various additives. 1200 wineries seems like a lot, though according to this article, as of November 2006 there were 5,970 wineries in the US alone. Then again, this is only one man with one company.

So I guess my question remains, how many wineries would a labeling requirement affect? And are there known cases of anyone having an allergic reaction based on the fact that chicken( eggs, fish, etc) was used during the fining process of wine-making? I’d be curious about that.

Though I think some of the comments by the people interviewed for this article are more intriguing to me than the rest of it. The article quotes the Smith man as saying: ” “For all of the posturing about terroir, very little wine sells because it is distinctive,” Smith says. “Additives are cosmetics. They are supposed to enhance, improve a wine. [Wine enhanced this way is like] a beautiful woman whose makeup is invisible. It’s the clumsiness of the winemaker who is using the additives that is the problem.” Those wines end up tasting “tarted up,” he says, instead of improved.”

A very odd comment from a man who makes his livelihood by doing this. Additionally, the remark about wine not selling because it’s distinctive causes me to cringe and think about the oft-touted idea that wine is growing more homogenous (usually blamed by purporters of the idea on the desire of wineries for points and good ratings from various critics).

My final comment on the article is in relation to a quote from the General Counsel to the Wine Institute: “The problem with listing additives, says Lee, the Wine Institute general counsel, is it could change consumer perception of all wines. “Wine would look engineered instead of natural,” he says.”

If there are additves, isn’t it engineered?

Get Twisted DC!

It’s official: Pimp Daddy of Twisted Oak will be making an appearance in NOVA/DC this spring. El Jefe announced the potential dates of the trip on El Bloggo Torcido yesterday and I got an email confirming it which I need to respond to. He’ll miss the Cherry Blossom Festival, but who has time for that %@#$! when there’s %@#$! wine to drink anyway?

The potential dates ate in late April, around the 25th. The idea is that bloggers will get together and organize (or I’ll do it by myself if I need to!) an event somewhere in the area. Pimp Daddy will bring the wines and Twisted Oak will pick up the corkage fees. Attendees buy their sustinance and such (that is if you need more than wine to survive at dinner). Anyone can attend and events organized by bloggers in Indianapolis and Minneapolis have been really
%@#$!ing great according to the blog reports. (Though really guys, we’re glad you’re finally coming somewhere that doesn’t end in “apolis.”)

But I NEED help! Last I knew, restaurants in VA can’t have BYO or corkage. You gotta buy it there. I found this list of DC restaurants with corkage fees, though I have no idea how recent it is and many of the restaurants (um, hello 1789 and Capital Grille) are WAY beyond my nightly budget. Glancing at some of the websites for the places listed I can’t find any info on corkage or bringing your own wine policies. So first, help me narrow down the list, then let’s make sure we can actually bring wine in and that we can get a reservation. I’ve probably been to around a dozen places on this list (most recently McCormick and Schmick’s and Pizza Paradiso (a place I frequent with a not so great wine list and no where have I ever seen that they allow corkage)) and most were good, but many were special occassion type places (read: the bill was more than my monthly grocery bill). I’d appreciate the assitance of other local bloggers in this endeavor and in getting the word out. (Leah, Dezel, any interest in this kind of an event?) Any other DC area readers interested? Shoot me an email at and we will get this together!

2004 Roshambo Syrah

I attempted to serve the 2004 Roshambo Syrah from the Frank Johnson Vineyard with our dinner. It didn’t work. The alcohol and heat on this wine when I poured it just wouldn’t go away. It took well over an hour sitting in our glasses before the alcohol scent disappeared and I could actually attempt to drink this.

The wine was 15.5% alcohol by volume, had a cork closure and came in a wine club shipment, yet another one without a price list.

Eventually on the nose I found raspberries and cloves, plus a bit of earth and oak. I was trying to serve this with pasta, fresh tomato sauce and fresh grated parmasean, but that didn’t work out, so we drank it by itself after (long after) dinner. Perhaps food would have helped this wine out, but to be honest, I’m not so sure. In the mouth there really weren’t any flavors. It was very muted and all I can say is that the wine was bitter, astringent and thin. It really didn’t do much for me. I can’t find this online, but I really hope we it didn’t cost too much.

Ah, the benefits of signing up for WineQ, I can choose the wines I want when I want them. And I hopefully won’t end up with wines like this one that don’t do much for me, since I can read other user’s reviews before I queue up anything! (I have convinced Matt that we will be signing up when we get back from our upcoming CA trip! Woohoo!)

Sniff Sniff…Is that Ladybug I smell?

Back in 2001 I was working in NYC, living in Hoboken and my commute was horrendous…it literally took me an hour and a half (or more depending on delays) on a combination of the PATH, the Subway and walking 22 blocks to get to work. I picked up the habit of buying the NY Post on the first leg of my commute, mainly for Page Six, I will admit, but I also read the news, and then the New York Times on the second half. To this day, I still read both of those papers online, plus a handful or more other papers.

I have to say, in all those years, this is the first time I recall the Post having a news article (I rarely even recall a wine review to be honest) about wine that didn’t involve stolen wine.

Apparently there is a new threat to the aroma of wine: Ladybugs. While good for pest control, it has been found by a new Iowa State University study that Ladybugs emit a foul smelling liquid that can be detected in very small amounts by the human nose. Likened to the scent of green peppers and roasted peanuts, the aroma has been dubbed “Ladybug Taint” and is reportedly becoming more common in wine. The article isn’t long, you can find the AP text here.

The article asserts that the Ladybugs are being mixed into the grapes during the fermentation process. I will have to poke around the internet today to see if I can’t find out anything more, but if for nothing else, “Ladybug Taint” made me chuckle this morning.

Marimar Pinot Noir

Our second bottle with our company and pizza this week was a 2004 Marimar Estate Pinot Noir from the Stony Block Vineyard.

The bottle came in a club shipment and it cost $42 minus whatever the club discount is. It was 14.5% alcohol by volume and had a real cork closure. This is an unfiltered wine.

In the glass the wine is a pretty ruby red color. On the nose I found strawberries and currants. It feels very light in the mouth and I am getting berries (raspberries and strawberries), a little spice and some oak. It has a bit of a kick at the end.

I much preferred the Alderbrook we had earlier in the evening. For the price, I was not all that impressed with the flavors or the depth of this wine. I found it a bit thin and lacking in flavor in the mouth to quite justify the price tag. We had a bottle of Marimar Earthquake Vineyard Pinot Noir perhaps a month before I started the blog to celebrate my passing of the bar and I remember that being an excellent wine, so I was disappointed that this one just wasn’t nearly as good. I do have another bottle of the Earthquake hanging around so perhaps I will consume that one in the near future so I will have a better comparison point.

WBW #32-Regular v. Reserve

Thanks to a heads up from Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20, I’ve been alerted to the fact that the theme for WBW #32 is posted and it’s a doozy! Hosted by The Wine Cask this time, you can find all the details here.

This month we are being asked to pick a regular bottle and a reserve bottle of the same varietal from the same vintage from the same vineyard. I will have to check my collection, but I am afraid that I just drank the last non-reserve version of a wine for which I also have a reserve version last week.

Pertinent details (besides what the theme is) are that you need to submit your reviews to The Wine Cask by SUNDAY April 8 and the round-up will be posted on April 11. That gives us less than two weeks to find, drink and write our reviews of the wines. The main idea is to compare the regular and the reserve and determine what, if any differences exist and if the cost difference is worth springing for the reserve.

I am going to find this to be really difficult. We leave to visit the in-laws in Los Angeles come April 6 and April 8 is Easter Sunday, so I’m not sure that I will have the time to do this WBW as finding and drinking the two bottles in less than 10 days is going to be troublesome. I’ll do my best, but no promises. I hope I don’t have to sit this one out as I haven’t missed one yet since starting Wannabe Wino.