Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Triple Zero at Last

Ever since first reading about Jacky Blot's "Triple Zéro" via Jim's Loire about two years back, I've been wanting to try it — well, really, to drink it. As I kept reading over the ensuing months (then years), it started to dawn on me that the reason I'd never had that chance is that Jim was keeping it all to himself. More recently it became clear that a little bit of "Triple Zero" did indeed escape the grasp of Mr. Budd, at least enough for some to make its way across the pond. I began to hear of sightings here and there around the vinoblogosphere. Yet still, nary a glance had I of a bottle, much less of a glass, full in hand.

Finally, I figured it out. It's all being slurped up by the staff and regulars at Bar Boulud. I stopped in yesterday afternoon, looking for a cool respite from the city heat with a little time to kill before meeting a friend. Frankly, I had a glass of water, a sit down and maybe an icy cold beer in mind. But as soon as I spotted a lineup of Triple Zero bottles behind the communal bar/table, my mind was changed. "Are you pouring that by the glass?" "Yep," came the response. Said glass was in hand before I ever got around to perusing the rest of the by-the-glass offerings (a quite well rounded list, I might add). It turns out that Triple Zero not only headlines the glass pour list at Bar Boulud, it also serves as the base for one of the bar's signature cocktails. No wonder it's evaded me all this time....

Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant "Triple Zéro," Domaine de la Taille aux Loups (Jacky Blot) NV
12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: VOS Selections, New York, NY.
It's been said enough times before but it still bears repeating: "Triple Zéro" takes its name from the fact that its method of production involves neither chaptalization, tirage nor dosage. Instead, Jacky Blot simply harvests only ripe, healthy and pristine Chenin Blanc from his vineyards in Montlouis when the fruit on the vine has reached a potential alcohol of 12-12.5% alcohol. After about three months of barrel fermentation, Blot then bottles the wine with about 14-15 grams of remaining residual sugar. Fermentation then completes in the bottle.

The result, after disgorgement, cork finishing and a little more age, is a wine that displays its pétillance much more clearly to the mouth than to the eye. Triple Zéro has a richness that belies its non-sugared nature, a testament to the quality of Blot's fruit and the skill exercised in his production method. Those facets are re-emphasized by the wine's vinosity and its very Chenin-ness, which both come through in spades. There's an enticing dash of funk on the nose, sitting quite comfortably alongside prettier aromas of lavender, peach blossom and quince. And as rich as it feels up front, the wine finishes bone dry, laden with minerality and palate cleansing acidity. Just the refresher that was needed after a long, hot day traversing New York sidewalks and subways.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Suds: Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale

It's been about a year since first I landed on Ballast Point, not as a member of the Navy, mind you, but as a willing explorer of the finer things in brew. I'd stopped in for a visit at one of my favorite Philly-area beer distributors, The Beeryard, in search of a certain IPA I'd tasted during a Philly Beer Week event. Though they had not what I was seeking, the man behind the counter, along with the help of another guy who seemed to be just hanging out, were only too happy to guide me to the IPA from San Diego's Ballast Point Brewing Company as a viable stand-in. Rather than dive head first into a full case, I picked up a Ballast Point sampler case. And while I fully enjoyed their "Big Eye IPA," it turned out to be their lighter, fresher Pale Ale that really set my taste buds alight.

Fast forward a year and there I was back at The Beeryard, this time in search of something light, fresh and quaffable for summertime refreshment. I'd gone in hoping for a case of Gaffel Kolsch but, again, my primary goal was not satisfied. No worries, as in my perusal up and down the high-piled aisles I stumbled upon an old friend, that very same Pale Ale from Ballast Point I'd first tried a year earlier.

Ballast Point's "Yellowtaile Pale Ale," you see, was actually a perfectly apropos replacement, as it actually is a Kolsch (Kolsch is a stylistic subset of the Pale Ale family), brewed in very much the same style as traditional German Kolsch such as that from Gaffel. It could be argued that it's just a touch more assertive in both the alcohol and hoppiness department than most of its German counterparts, but I do mean just a touch. It's still first and foremost about cool, immaculately clean, crisp and refreshing mouthfeel. And at 5%, it's still very much in my session beer comfort zone. This time I jumped in case first, and came up happy.

Nota bene: A quick look at Ballast Point's website suggests that they have dropped the "Yellowtail" moniker, now calling this brew simply "Pale Ale," though the label still sports an image of its former namesake fish.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bandol par Pieracci

For those of you — and I know that there are at least two of you — who have been waiting patiently for the answer to last Friday's installment of Name That Wine, it's demi-revelation time. For the full answer to the dual puzzle, you'll need to visit the comments stemming from that most recent quiz. For now, I'm prepared to tell you that one of the corks — the lower, the longer, the red stained (again, you'll have to revisit Friday's post) — was drawn from the very bottle of 2007 Bandol from Domaine Pieracci that's pictured at right.

Today's post, though, is really about a pair from Pieracci: their 2007 rouge and 2008 rosé. I'd never even heard of the estate until last year, when I picked up a couple of each of the above on a hope and a lark. I chose to open them each quite recently, inspired by a discussion with a friend about how much we both enjoy good Bandol but how deplorably infrequently I actually find occasion to drink said Bandols. So, situation remedied, at least in part....

Bandol Rosé, Domaine Pieracci (Jean-Pierre Pieracci) 2008
$27. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: A Thomas Calder/Garagiste Selection, Free Run, Seattle, WA.
Though lacking the fine bones and indefinable subtlety of the benchmark Bandol rosé of Domaine Tempier, I nonetheless found plenty to enjoy in Pieracci's expression. Vigorous and masculine, with an assertively herbaceous nose and front palate rounded out by red summer berry fruits. Full flavored and not shy in the body department, yet food friendly and well balanced in its display of Mediterranean sunshine. The year-plus it's spent in bottle has done it no harm, presumably allowing its fruit richness to subside enough that those Mediterranean coast-driven aromatic traits — rosemary, red earth, sun-dried tomatoes — could display their full breadth. It held up well over the course of an entire week of varying stages of "openness," losing some of its aromatic complexity along the way but maintaining its freshness and appeal.

Bandol Rouge, Domaine Pieracci (Jean-Pierre Pieracci) 2007
$29. 14% alcohol. Cork. Importer: A Thomas Calder/Garagiste Selection, Free Run, Seattle, WA.
This, on the other hand, turned me off much more than on. Though not overtly modern in the sense of being doped up with toasty oak or sexy winemaking signatures, it was still not what I look and hope for in Bandol rouge. Nonexistent was that sense of sauvage, of animality, of fierce tannins and latent herbaceousness bridled, in the best cases, by earthy depth and ever-so-perilously maintained balance. Instead I found plump, super-ripe fruit. Tannin was there, but not with enough of a frame to carry its fat. Though labeled at 14%, I'd peg this at much closer to 15%, showing every bit the effect of the ripe '07 vintage character of so prevalent across Provence and the Southern Rhône. I'm certainly willing to reserve judgment until I have the chance to try Pieracci's red from a more restrained vintage, but this was definitely more in-your-face full-figured than I want or expect from Bandol. Ever optimistic, though, I'll hold my remaining bottle for a few years and hope for transformation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Facelift for Fabrice Gasnier

When last I wrote about the Chinons of Fabrice Gasnier at any length, it was at such length (three long posts — not quite King Lear but close enough) that I've not returned, at least not in writing, at any significant length since. Fabrice's wines, nonetheless, have remained stalwart on my home table, finding a spot in regular, relaxed rotation, much akin to wines like those I wrote up last week: familiar, enjoyable and solid, even if not the most remarkable of their kind. Given that some subtle but meaningful changes have been afoot at the estate over the last year or two, I figured it's about time for an update, something I've been meaning to do for some time now.

In the years since Fabrice's father, Jacky, gradually but surely began to step back from his roles in the farming and wine making practices, the estate has seen two corresponding facelifts. First was the Vignoble Gasnier label (at left, above), from the years when I originally got to know the Gasniers' wines in the 90s, followed by the switch to the Fabrice Gasnier label of the early Naughties. Both earlier versions, if you take note of the fine print, gave credit to Jacky and Fabrice.

More recently, as of last year (vintages '06 - '08 depending on the bottling), it seems that Fabrice decided to take primacy, reincorporating as Domaine Fabrice Gasnier and replacing his père's name with that of his wife, Sandrine. The label above is from the 2008 vintage of Fabrice and Sandrine's Chinon "Vieilles Vignes" bottling, number two in their four-level hierarchy of red bottlings. Supple, ripe and forward, well-balanced and expressive, the wine's drinking easily right now, delivering warm red fruit, delicate tannins and gentle acidity across the palate, but should continue to age gracefully for some years to come.

Along with the new front label came an updated rear etiquette, displaying the realization of ambitions that Fabrice had hinted at when I last saw him back in 2004. He and his father had already farmed organically for many years, and Fabrice had begun conversion to biodynamic farming practices just a year or two prior to our visit. As you'll see, he's now gone whole hog, taking on the onus of bureaucratic responsibilities necessary to obtain and maintain both organic and biodynamic (Demeter) certification. It matters not to me — what's important is what's in the bottle, not what's on it — but I hope the step proves beneficial to the reception of his wines on his home and away markets.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SF Natural Wine Week Starts Tomorrow

The second annual running of San Francisco Natural Wine Week kicks off tomorrow, August 23, 2010, with a bevy of events running through to its August 29 finale. I could tell you all about it but why, when Wolfgang Weber is doing such a smash-up job with the SF Natural Wine Week blog. Don't miss it if you're anywhere near the SF Bay Area this week. Whether you're the biggest natty wine geek on your block or just a flat out lover of honest vino, it looks like there'll be plenty of good juice flowing with great food dished up, to boot.

I'd love to put together something like this in Philly. Question though: is my fair city ready for it?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Underground Wine and the Fête de Ploussard in Pupillin

This weekend, several wine growers in Pupillin are opening their doors to the public in celebration of both their local specialty — Ploussard (aka, Poulsard) — and the 40th anniversary of Arbois Pupillin as an officially AOC-recognized sub-district of the Arbois.

Image courtesy of affaire-de-gout.com.

Wishing I were there to aid in the festivities aside — and heck, even wishing I had a bottle of Pupillin Ploussard in the cellar with which to celebrate from afar — I thought I'd at least share a video clip from today's proceedings for your viewing enjoyment.

It seems that eight years ago, a group of those very same vignerons buried a cache of their Ploussards underground as an experiment in aging. Today, up came those bottles and out came the corks. Aside from a complete lack of convenience, I've often thought this would be the ideal solution for long-term cellaring. Why have all that wine you don't want to open for, say, eight or more years taking up space in your modest wine fridge? All you'd really need is a spot in the ground, a metal box and some plastic wrap to protect the bottles, and a shovel (not to mention a strong back and plenty of time), though a backhoe would certainly appear to make the job easier.

The video is not embeddable, so you'll have to visit Info Franche-Comté at France3.fr to check out the clip. Aside from footage of excavating the buried treasures, the video includes interviews with Pierre Overnoy and Jean-Michel Petit, among others. (Thanks to Wink Lorch for the heads-up.) The commentary is in French without subtitles, but even without any grasp of French it should be relatively easy to follow along and get the gist of things. Enjoy the view, and bonne fête!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Name That Wine

There's been a rather long hiatus since the last episode of Name That Wine. Today seems like as good a day as any for a rekindling and, hopefully, a little fun for all. Just to make things a little more challenging, I've doubled the trouble. So bring it on: What've I been drinking?

And for extra credit: The Ps abound. Is there a connection?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grüner Veltliner mit Wurst

As a general rule, I'm all for diversity when it comes to putting food on the daily table. After the better part of ten years as a strict vegetarian and another five as a vege-pescatarian, I've been an enthusiastic omnivore (some might say over-enthusiastic) for the last ten or so. I've been an equally enthusiastic culinary explorer, always willing and ready to try something new.

All of that said, there are certain dishes I'm happy to return to time and time again. That's especially true now, during my local growing and farmers market seasons. Just for instance, I'll happily eat blueberries every day when they're in season locally — and I've been doing just that, pretty much every morning, thanks to the folks at Blueberry Hill Farm, participants in my home farmers market. Same goes for the chicken pot pies from Lindenhof Farm; they may not be all that summery but they're delicious, easy for those nights when you're not up for actually preparing anything, and very wine friendly. The most recent addition to my regular rotation has been Birchrun Hills Farm bockwurst — mild yet intensely flavorful white sausages, a side project from one of my favorite local cheese producers. I wrote about them here not long ago, in the context of pairing them with a Cheverny Blanc from Thierry Puzelat. And I enjoyed them again just a few days ago — simmered in Guinness then finished on the grill, along with grilled onions and zucchini. This time I matched them up with...

Kammern Kamptal Grüner Veltliner "Heiligenstein," Weingut Hirsch 2006
$20. 12.5% alcohol. Stelvin. Importer: Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY.

There were some interesting parallels between Puzelat's Cheverny and Hirsch's Grüner Veltliner "Heiligenstein." Both showed slightly cheesy/yogurty aromatic character when first opened. In the case of the Puzelat, the lactic nose blew off; with the Hirsch it stayed. It's a trait that I've often found tends to appear when a white wine, particularly a higher-acid white wine, is beginning its downward spiral. I'd wondered, in fact, if I might not have forgotten this in my cellar for a year or so longer than ideal. That first sniff suggested that might have been the case. There was still plenty of life on the palate, though, where there was vibrancy in the acidity department along with a very appealing citrus-and-cream element — another similarity to the Cheverny, though this time it was lime rather than orange.

As borderline underwhelming as the wine was on its own, it was a completely different story when paired with dinner. One of those matches where the wine plus the food combined to give a heightened experience on the sum side of the equation. Subtle when served solo, in the presence of the sausages, dabbed with a little coarse ground German mustard, the wine really came alive. The acids electrified and danced, the fruit came out of hiding and that slight onset of cheese went into complete remission. So much for the wine being on the down slope; it just needed a willing partner to bring it back to full blossom.

The sausages may have come from Pennsylvania, the wine from Austria, but there's little question in my mind that this one goes down as a check in the column in favor of the success and importance of regionally inspired, traditional wine pairings.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bubbles 'n' Cheese and Roamin' the Rhone at Tria

After a professorial sabbatical spanning most of the summer months, I'll be back with a vengeance in September. Philadelphia's little treasure, Tria Fermentation School, has just rolled out their September schedule of classes and I'll be there on back-to-back days in the beginning of the month.

First up will be an event I expect to be as fun as its subject matter will be delicious — a seminar on the pleasures of, as my co-instructor Erin McLean of Tria has coined it, Frizzante and Formaggio. I'll be pouring a selection of Italian sparkling wines, each of which will be accompanied by Erin's choices from the world of Italian cheese. When: Thursday, September 2, 2010, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.

Twenty-four hours later, I'll be back at the podium with an overview of the wines of France's Rhône Valley. You can count on a selection that showcases the diversity of the region, from white to rosé to red; from South to North; and from fun and funky to deep and serious. The date: Friday, September 3, 2010, from 6:30 to 8:00 PM.

The place:
Tria Fermentation School
1601 Walnut Street, Suite 620
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 972-7076

As always, the seats in Tria's intimate classroom space go fast, so don't delay. Hope to see you there.

Update: Well, don't say I didn't warn you. As of Wednesday at 5:15 PM (less than two hours after the new schedule was announced), both classes are sold out. The folks at Tria do keep a waiting list and have even been know to add SRO seats if demand is high enough, so give 'em a call.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Uncomplicated Pleasures

If you read enough wine blogs, especially at the more geeked-out end of the spectrum, or just here for that matter, it may sometimes seem as if there's a constant march forward, ever seeking out something more complex, something more obscure, more I-drank-it-first than yesterday's experience. There's no question that those pursuits do keep wine blogging fresh and help to keep the love of wine alive. But I also expect that the people doing all of that exploring and writing are still drinking simple wines, too, and continuing to find pleasure in them even if at a more quotidian, less rarefied level. I know that, for me, there are plenty of nights where I actually don't want something challenging or provocative, instead preferring to sit down with something simple, straightforward and just plain old easy drinking.

Saumur Champigny, Domaine Joulin (Philippe Joulin) 2008
$18. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Oslo Enterprise, Takoma Park, MD.
Sometimes that wine comes unexpectedly, in the form of something that's not familiar. I'd never had the Saumur Champigny rouge from Philippe Joulin so opened it on a night when I was up for anything. Something complex or challenging, something easy, maybe even something not so nice. This came out on the simple, straightforward point of the spectrum -- fresh, lively and supple; well balanced and direct. None of the gut, crunch or intense energy of, say, the Chinons of Bernard Baudry or the Bourgueils of Catherine and Pierre Breton; nowhere close to the depth and complexity of the Saumur Champigny's from Clos Rougeard, nor the richness of those from Thierry Germain. The only thing complicating this picture is the question of quality-to-price ratio. If this were three or four bucks less per bottle, there would be a good argument for slotting this into regular rotation for just the kind of nights I described above; at $18, though, it under delivers.

Barbera d'Asti, Roberto Ferraris 2009
$14. 14% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
At the totally expected end of the spectrum sits the Barbera d'Asti of Azienda Agricola Roberto Ferraris. I've been selling Roberto's wines for well nigh ten years and enjoying them for several longer, although oddly enough I've only written about them once before, for my guest contribution to the Barbera 2010 blog. Ferraris makes a couple of wines of ambition but the wines in his portfolio that I most enjoy drinking are his single vineyard "Nobbio" bottling and this, his Barbera d'Asti "normale." The 2009 just came ashore in the last few weeks and is already drinking great. Less dark, rich and jammy than the iterations from 2007 and 2008, the '09 epitomizes what I like most about good, straightforward expressions of Piemontese Barbera: it's juicy, snappy, full of blueberry and black cherry fruit, completely soft when it comes to tannic structure but alive and zingy on the palate thanks to Barbera's naturally high acid profile. Barbera also has natural tendencies toward giving high potential alcohol and, at 14%, this is indeed "stronger" than I normally like to go for everyday enjoyment. In this case, though, the 14% alcohol is completely balanced and integrated, showing up only via the pleasantly warm glow the wine delivers in the belly. Perfect Monday night pizza wine and, as long as we're talking QPR, a spot-on value at its price point.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Exploring the Côtes du Vivarais

It's been over for a little more than two weeks now but I'm still missing my daily dose of Le Tour de France. As my cycling crazy brother-in-law — who was up with my sis, niece and nephew for a visit this weekend — said, "This year's race was too short." I doubt if any of the racers would agree (aside perhaps from Andy Schleck who I'm sure would like to have had another couple of chances to recoup those lost seconds), but true fans, true lovers of the sport, are always left wanting more.

Aside from the excitement of the race itself, and this year's edition was nothing if not exciting, I always enjoy seeing the event pass through various parts of the French countryside. Some spots are very familiar — I still vividly remember Kirsten Gum's interview with Prince Philippe Poniatowski several years back when the route passed through Vouvray — while others are new discoveries.

One such spot that was a horizon opener to me this year was the Côtes du Vivarais, through which the Tour passed on Stage 12. I've never traveled through the Vivarais and have drunk wines from the region only on rare occasions, as little seems to make its way overseas. My daily coverage of the 2010 Tour provided the impetus to get to know the region a little better, and to taste something along the way.

Technically part of the Southern Rhône, though actually just as close to the southernmost reaches of the Northern Rhône, the Côtes du Vivarais is something of a nether region, forgotten in between its two more famous neighbors. The region is rugged and — judging from the photos I've seen and the footage of the Stage 12 climbs — sparely beautiful, defined by the range of old mountains that roll across the landscape as well as by the Gorges de l'Ardèche that traverse the area.

The view to the south from the summit of Mont Mézenc,
the highest peak in the Vivarais at 1,753 meters.

Viticulturally, the Vivarais is also something of a transitional zone. Syrah is more important there than in the heart of the Southern Rhône yet, unlike in the Northern Rhône, Grenache is also a key player. First recognized as a VDQS zone in 1962, the Côtes du Vivarais was granted AOC status in 1999. There are roughly 550 hectares under vine, tended by nearly 140 different farmers; yet with only 22 independent producers/bottlers, a great quantity of the zone's wine is produced in regional caves coopératives. As in the overall Rhône region, red wine is the heart blood of the zone, constituting about 80% of total production, with the remainder split between rosé (15%) and white. Per INAO guidelines, the reds must constitute a minimum of 30% Grenache and 40% Syrah, with both Cinsault and Carignan allowed as minor blending partners.

Côtes du Vivarais, Mas de Bagnols (Maria et Pierre Mollier) 2005
$13. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Free Run, Seattle, WA.
According to the importer/E-tailer that brought this into the country, Maria and Pierre Mollier's expression of Côtes du Vivarais rouge is a blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. While that would appear at face value to go against the INAO's requirement of 30% or more Grenache, it's entirely possible that the discipline refers to the plantation in the vineyards and that the winemakers then have the flexibility to blend as they see fit in the cellar. Of course, it could also mean that the Molliers simply make wine as they see fit. Whatever the case, what's truly important is whether or not the wine is good and expressive – the raw materials are only a means of achieving that end. It is, both good and expressive.

What it's expressive of is exactly the kind of dichotomy I've already talked about in geographical terms above. It shows some of the sun-baked, garrigue-scented red berry fruit typical of the Southern Rhône, offset by the kind of meaty, floral, blue-fruited characteristics I associate with the more approachable side of Northern Rhône reds. It's low alcohol, bright framework, too, evokes the North while there's a baked-fruit character more reminiscent of the Mediterranean. I'd not go so far as to say it reminded me of Saumur rouge, nor of the Northern Rhône reds from Gonon or Dard & Ribo, as suggested by the above-referenced E-tailer. I would, however, heartily concur that this is solid juice, showing some lovely bottle development, and a pretty tremendous value at its $13/bottle tarrif. Definitely worth the exploration.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A First Look at Adsum

"I am here" (or at least I was a few nights ago). That's the chosen name, in its Latin form "adsum," for the new Queen Village/Southwark-based bistro owned and operated by Chef Matt Levin. The moniker seems not so much a statement of hubris as it is a conveyor of personal space. Levin has moved away, at least in part, from the intensive molecular gastronomy approach that earned him accolades during his stint as top chef at Lacroix, moving more toward, as he suggested in an interview with Meal Ticket earlier this year, food he'd actually take comfort in eating himself.

Beyond the obvious shift toward simplicity relative to the Lacroix days, Levin's new approach begs a simple question: does the food at Adsum actually deliver on the promise of comfort? Let's take a look.

Foie gras poutine
This dish would seem a sure hit on the comfort scale, in spite of the PETA-pounding, haute-cuisine knock up added by the fatted liver. The idea was right, and the combination clever, but the execution could use some work. Bordering on being both overcooked and under-seasoned, the duck-fat fries were tepid when delivered to the table. The rest of the elements — foie gras, cheese curds and gravy — were right on, though there wasn't quite enough gravy to go around.

Grilled rock octopus, black pepper caramel
This sounded much more unusual on paper than it was on the plate, as the "black pepper caramel" essentially boils down to being barbecue sauce — and very tasty, I might add. The octopus was cooked perfectly, ever so lightly crisped by the grill on the exterior but tender and just a wee bit snappy, not at all tough or chewy, at its core. The char from the grilling combined with the caramelized sauce to form a granular texture that didn't really bother me but was slightly off-putting to my dining companion.

Fried chicken, collards, ham hocks, hot sauce
Along with the FG poutine, the fried chicken seems destined to be the signature dish at Adsum. Philadelphia Inquirer food columnist Rick Nichols has already deemed it the best fried chicken in the city. While I can't say I've eaten my fried chicken way around town to the extent that Rick has, I can certainly see why he liked it so much; the chicken itself was drop dead delicious. The battered skin was ightly crisped and crunchy without being at all overbearing or greasy while the meat was juicy, moist and almost flaky in its delicacy.

More crumbly than flaky, the biscuit, a clear nod to the dish's southern origins (as if the chicken and collards weren't clear enough) was flavorful but too dry, needing either a dose of gravy or a more breakfast-oriented slathering of butter and jam to render it less palate parching. And the ham-hocked, hot-sauced collards? At first bite they were a revelation — surprisingly tender yet toothsome, highly caramelized yet still delivering the requisite kicks of vinegar and porky goodness. As the bites continued, however, the red pepper hot sauce driven heat built and built, eventually to the point that it was robbing the dish of its otherwise nuanced flavors.

Whole fish, shrimp salt, popped wild rice, green sauce
Popped rice – little more than a gimmicky distraction adorning the corner of the plate – aside, this was the most completely satisfying and well balanced dish of the night, helped along no doubt by the first appearance of any seasonal ingredients. Though the skin on our black bass could have benefited from just a bit more pan-crisping, the fish itself was moist, flavorful and cooked to a tee, with a welcome brightness provided by the tangy spice of the green sauce, a sort of guacamole/tomatillo salsa hybrid.

The real star of the night.

Mama's Little Yella Pils, Oskar Blues Brewery, Lyons, Colorado.
Much like at nearby Southwark (one block due east at 4th & Bainbridge) and Chick's Cafe (two blocks west at 7th & Kater), the primary focus of the beverage program at Adsum appears to be cocktails. There's a list of six or seven house concoctions that looked not only quite creative but also quite inviting, enough so that I'd happily venture back for a drink at the bar sometime. I'm not a fan of cocktails with food, though, so it was on to the wine list I went.... And then, quickly, on to the beer list, which thankfully included several things I'd actually opt to drink, regardless of circumstances. "Mama's Little Yella Pils" actually struck me more like a kolsch, round, clean and less bitter than the classic Pilsner profile. Just the refreshing kick needed for a hot night in the city, and a fine accompaniment to the broad spectrum of flavors and textures that crossed our plates.

There's some dialing-in to be done in the kitchen at Adsum. The wine list needs major improvement, or at least corkage needs to be allowed. But overall, there's plenty to recommend and, certainly, plenty of potential.

700 South 5th Street
(at Bainbridge)
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 888-7002
Adsum on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Les Chevaux de Christian Ducroux

More on the lovely 2008 Régnié from Christian Ducroux and the horses that help(ed) make it happen. French fluency couldn't hurt but the video speaks for itself.

(Subscribers may need to click through to the blog to view.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Oh Marcillac, How I Miss Thee

Man, do I miss me my Marcillac.

When I say "my," I mean the Marcillacs of Philippe Teulier at Domaine du Cros. I sold them for many a year but that was, likewise, many years ago now. It's not that they're not still available out there somewhere; it's just that I liked having them immediately at hand. The regular bottling from Domaine du Cros, called "Lo Sang del Païs," used to sell for around $10, even less, and was hands-down one of my favorite everyday wines. Still would be if it were still more easily obtainable, as it's still priced well under $15. There are other Marcillacs, certainly. Jean-Luc Matha's is plumper, easier, more accessible. And I hear tell of a Marcillac from Domaine Causse-Marines, but I've yet to see it, much less try it. But when I think of Marcillac, it'll always be the wines from Domaine du Cros that first come to mind.

Marcillac "Cuvée Vieilles Vignes," Domaine du Cros (Philippe Teulier) 2002
$16 on release. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Wine Traditions, Falls Church, VA.

The inspiration to open this bottle came easy. Stage 13 of the 2010 Tour de France began in Rodez, less than 25km from M. Teulier's estate, which is located just east of the village of Goutrens. Had I been covering that stage, this would have been my featured wine of the day, sans question; however, guest blogger Ben Wood was at the reins that day. Ben chose to focus on Gaillac, a perfectly appropriate choice given that the half-way point of the stage route passed quite close to Albi, center of the Gaillac region. Through happy coincidence, Ben wrote about Gaillacs from Domaine des Causse Marines, also a producer of Marcillac as mentioned above, and Domaine des Terrisses, whose wines happen to be brought into the US by the same importer — Wine Traditions — as Domaine du Cros.

Now, back to my Marcillac.... I had the pleasure of meeting Philippe Teulier, all too briefly, when he visited my workplace back in the early '00s. One of the questions I remember asking him about was his views on the age-worthiness of his wines. His simple answer: "Lo Sang del Païs" is best drunk young, in its first two-to-three years, though it might go five; the "Vieilles Vignes," on the other hand, comes into its own at five and has the capacity to last for ten years in good vintages.

Opening this bottle of '02 VV on the night of la trezième étape reminded me, in beautiful terms, of why I go to the trouble of cellaring wine. Still vibrant in color, its aromas have developed, since its more prickly, peppery youth, to something that is more closely evocative of an old school Médoc wine with some bottle age under its belt. There's something about this old Marcillac, though, that's much more enjoyable – and joyous – to drink than equally old Bordeaux. Maybe it's that component of blood and iron, expressions of both terroir and the aptly named Fer Servadou so inimitable to good Marcillac. While there's great bottle development here, there's also plenty of fruit – blackberry and cassis, in particular – and a vitality of structure that suggests the wine could easily go another couple of years without losing stride.

Alas, this was my last bottle of the 2002. Now I'm missing it even more....

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sunday Suds: Dogfish Head "Namaste"

There's a whole lotta mashing up going on around the craft beer globe these days. Brewers are teaming up in twos, threes and tens to ply their trade, flex their creative muscle, share techniques and no doubt learn a few things along the way. Sometimes its happening right around the corner, sometimes its bringing together brewers from oceans away.

One of the most active progenitors of this collaborative craze has to be Sam Calagione, founder, owner and head brew cheese at Delaware's Dogfish Head.

Now in its second year as a summer seasonal, Dogfish Head's "Namaste" was originally conceived in 2009 via a four-way, intercontinental team-up between Sam and his wife Mariah, Dogfish Head lead brewer Bryan Selders, and Leonardo DiVincenzo, owner of the central Italian craft brewery Birra del Borgo. There was an aspect of charitable giving in the mix, too. Part of the proceeds for the first-year sales of "Namaste" were donated to Armand Debelder of Drie Fonteinen, who lost about a third of a year's production of his lambics and gueuzes due to a thermostat malfunction in the storage area at 3 Fonteinen. In that first year, "Namaste" was available only on draft and only at the Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, DE. This year, Sam, Mariah and Bryan brewed a bit more, enough to to pour on draft as well as to allow for a limited bottling in crown-sealed 750s.

"Namaste" is brewed in the tradition of Belgian white ales. Given the wheat, coriander and citrus elements in the mix, Hoegaarden would seem the most obvious point of comparison; "Namaste," however, is a touch rounder and broader in texture and also a tad darker in both its color and flavor profiles. Whether that's the result of the use of entire slices (dried) of orange rather than just the zest or whether it's just the Dogfish Head signature showing through I can't say. What I can say is that the brew is refreshing and very easy going down, a bit short on the finish but very tasty up front. At only 5% ABV, it's also quite light by the standards at Dogfish Head, a brewery best known for its over-the-top, hop monster and ancient recipe inspired creations. You can read more about it at the Dogfish website as well as on Sam's blog.

If the info on the DFH site is correct, "Namaste" may not be available outside of the state of Delaware. I enjoyed this bottle, shared over dinner with friends, at Wilmington's Domaine Hudson. Whether there's any still available there I don't know but, if not, there's plenty of other great stuff to choose from on the restaurant and wine bar's recently expanded and quite adventurous list of 120+ bottled beers.

Oh yeah, as for the title of today's post, I know it's not Sunday but, in homage to the crazy cats at Dogfish Head, so what? I drank this on Saturday and wrote about it on Monday, so Sunday it is. After all, it's my blog and I'll do what I want.

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