20060831

Wino and The Caveman emerge from offline slumber

It's great to see fellow wine bloggers Water into Wino and The Caveman back online and posting once again. These guys have been busy doing some amazing non-blog-related things over the last few months this summer. Now, simultaneously, they are back at it, and I for one am happy to see it.

Of all my peers, these two bloggers mean a lot to me. Water into Wino launched his site at exactly the same time I created Weingolb and we both started out with a penchant for Cabernet Franc wines, an eye for Niagara wines and a prolific output. That was back in December 2005. Though we've gone off in different directions (he's been hunting funnel clouds while I've decided to stay at home and eat more) I still consider a kinship there. Guess I better get his link back in the sidebar now that he's back from Kansas!

The Caveman has such an deep and established repertoire in wine that I wouldn't try to compare myself to him. He is a seasoned sommelier, a keen import specialist, and from the looks of it, an awesome cook. Now he's a going to be a wine journalist with a regular wine column touting massive distribution. But like me, he is from the Montreal area and surrounded by the same state-run catalog that I am. So I feel a strong kinship with him too. When he did a rundown of the best rosés at the SAQ earlier this year, I was hooked on every word. I look forward to reading his column in the Gazette.

All that aside, the real reason you should read these blogs is because they are down-to-earth, passionate and written with enthusiasm and care.

20060827

I ♥ NY

anastasia myskinaI'm currently in love with New York City, as my Top 10 Wining and Dining Experiences in NYC from earlier this month indicates. But I've also been very much in love with tennis, as anyone who has read Weingolb during the last week could easily see.

Therefore I can have only the greatest of anticipation for the US Open, which starts tomorrow [update: GAME ON!] at New York City's Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Hmmm... A couple of Coronas in the Flushing Meadows... this Grand Slam tennis event is screaming out for serious picnicking, isn't it?

ME & MONTREAL ♥ ANASTASIA

I spent long hours at the Canadian Open in Montreal watching the world's best women players and, in particular, the magnetic personality and undeniable talent of Anastasia Myskina. So let me help out any of my New York readers who have tickets to the two-week long tournament and will be spending long hours camped out around the hardcourts waiting for their favourite athletes to appear. Here is a summary of my advice for eating and drinking in style at sporting events.

WINING AND DINING TIPS AT THE OPEN: WHERE DINNER IS ALWAYS A WINNER

DO find a vendor, be it a deli, a bakery or grocery store, near the site that has reliable good food that doesn't cost an arm and a leg and haul it in the main gates with you. Read the How-To

DO pack your own meals, using today's food cooling technologies, not coolers themselves. How-To

DO figure out how you can bring in your own wine (though this may be frowned upon so don't do something stupid and get yourself arrested). How-To

...and finally...

DON'T eat annoying food in noisy packaging while watching matches on the more intimate tennis courts

daniela hantuchova
What the...?
daniela hantuchova
Hey!!
cracker jack
Stop that!

These people are working hard out there. Dude, have some respect.

dinara safina
The diligent Dinara Safina deserves it.

ai sugiyama
Awesome Ai Sugiyama commands it.

nicole pratt
And Nicole Pratt just won't stand for anything less.

20060824

A go-to French bakery for pastries and baked goods, to go

fromentierWithout Le Fromentier, Montreal's finest breadmaker, I don't think I could've survived my life as a tennis-spectating nomad last week. It helped that this artisanal bakery was on my daily route to the tournament site. I would make a morning trek to its sprawling subterranean studio filled with various giant ovens, both wood-burning and industrial ones, and stock up on fuel for the day.

Le Fomentier does not have a web presence. They are well known in Montreal though. Certainly everyone in its neighbourhood knows how to find the place: 1375 Laurier E. (514-527-3327). When you visit you can pick up the "Carte des pains" pamphlet. But since I'm worried that people like me are not so good at retaining scraps of paper in the Google age we live in, I'm giving Le Fromentier a web presence right here. If for no other reason than it will help me and my friends more easily keep track of which of our favourite loaves are baked on what day.

Le Fromentier, atelier de boulangerie

Carte des pains - Bread Menu

Levain intégral
Le Fromentier et son petit sifted whole wheat flour coated in flour, sesame or sunflower seeds [Daily] *
Le Fromentini sifted whole wheat flour coated in black sesame seeds and tamari [Daily]
La Baguette deux sésames sifted whole wheat flour coated in brown and black sesame seeds [Daily]
Le Mont-Royal sifted whole wheat and rye flours [Tues, Wed, Fri]
Le Sociétal sifted whole wheat flour [Tues, Thurs, Sat] *
Le Prophétique spelt and kamut flours (wheat-free) [Tues, Fri, Sun]
La Bande des sept wheat, barley, oat, rye rice and corn flours with sunflower seeds [Tues] *
Le Galette d'Hippocrate spelt and quinoa flours (wheat-free) [Wed, Sat]
Le Berlinois sifted whole wheat and rye flours, walnuts, caraway and cumin [Wed]
Le Kamut savoureux kamut (wheat-free) [Wed]
Le Céres spelt flour, amaranth, millet and black sesame seeds (wheat-free) [Thurs]
Le Paradis perdu sifted whole wheat, rye flakes, soya, buckwheat, barley and oatmeal [Sun]

Levain et levure
Les Fougasses sifted whole wheat and bleached flours with black olives and thyme or olives and sundried tomatoes [Daily] *
Les Baluchons du Fromentier flavoured rolls (stuffed with artichokes, olives, tomatoes, etc.) [Daily] *
Les Pizzas du Fromentier various toppings [Daily]
Le Provençal sifted white flour, olives, gruyère cheese, thyme and oregano [Tues, Thurs, Sat]
Le Trio sifted whole wheat with barley, oatmeal and flax seeds [Wed, Fri]
Le Concassé raw wheat, rye, cracked whole corn and barley, peeled millet, flax seeds and honey [Fri]
L'Américucurbitacé sifted whole wheat, corn, squash and sunflower seed shells [Sat]

montreal baked goods les lunettes lemon swirl marron chestnut twist tordon orange algerian pastry fillingPousse lente à la levure
Le Nuage white flour [Daily]
La Coudée white flour [Daily]
La Baguette white flour [Daily]
Le Plateau white flour [Daily]
La Dodue, le Pansu et le Panophile sifted whole wheat and white flours [Daily] *
Le Fiérté sifted whole wheat and white flours [Daily]
Le Gros Albert mill-ground kamut [Tues]
Le Grand blond sifted whole wheat and kamut flours, goat's milk [Wed, Thurs]
Le Baguette d'Albert mill-ground kamut [Fri, Sat, Sun]
Le Sourissimo sifted whole wheat and kamut flours with large chunks of gruyère cheese [Sat]
Le Monferrand sifted whole wheat and buckwheat flours, goat's milk [Sat]

Les Succulents
Les Trois Raisins sifted whole wheat and white flours, Sultana, Thompson and Corinthian raisins [Tues]
Les Noisettes et abricots sifted whole wheat and white flours, apricots, hazelnuts, goat's milk [Wed, Fri]
Le Noix et pavot sifted whole wheat, white and rye flours, walnuts, dried apples, coated in poppy seeds [Thurs, Sat, Sun]
Le Baguette aux noix sifted whole wheat, white and rye flours, walnuts, dried apples [Thurs, Sat, Sun] *
Les Raisins sifted whole wheat and white flours, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove [Thurs, Sat]
Le Pain du verger white flour, apples, milk, eggs, butter, sugar, cinnamon [Fri, Sun]
Le Révolution noire sifted whole wheat and white flours, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, cranberries [Sat]
Le Caravansérail sifted whole wheat and white flours, dates, orange, dark chocolate [Sat] *
L'Irrésistible sifted whole wheat and white flours, raisins, walnuts, dark chocolate [Sun]

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) Le Fromentier makes too many different pastries -- just a few of them are lovingly photographed above -- to commit them to a baking schedule that would allow one to intercept them as they emerge on the cooling racks. However, a thorough and summerlong investigation has revealed that the best viennoisserie called L'Agrumier or "the Citrus-y one" is reliably for sale each weekend, and usually Fridays too (LF is open every day from 7 am, but closed Mondays). This amazing Danish with candied orange and anise is at the height of authentic French pastry making and definitely worth the week of waiting. Other favourites are noted with an asterisk above.
I have to say that last week Le Fromentier made my marathon tennis adventures more sane. And certainly more French too, which is something that in the face of losing defending champ Amélie Mauresmo for this year's tournament roster, cheered me and my innate Frenchness up a great deal (perhaps I just misused the word "sane").

As far as I was concerned, I had my French baked goods and I got to see French tennis star Nathalie "pass the raisin dutchie" Dechy. I was happy.

nathalie natalie dechy wta tennis player tennis canada centre center

20060823

A wine almost as divine as Santangelo: Triacca Sassella Valtellina Superiore 2002

drinking wine playing tennis prince raquet italian red wineYesterday, I mentioned how dismal the food options were during my week of watching tennis at the Roger's Cup in Montreal. Fast food and catering in a can is how I would summarize eating on the site at Jarry Park. I didn't broach the drink situation though, other than to explain that you really needed to pick your poison and bring it in through the front gates yourself. Here's why...

CLEAR BEER

To be entirely fair, the beverages on the tournament grounds seemed to be a bit better than the food. I did have a Sleeman, which was okay at $5.50, though I made a poor choice in opting for the light-as-tap-water Sleeman's Clear Ale. As for the wine, I recognized a few reliable and modest wines in the SAQ tent. The problem was that their prices were anything but humble.

WINES, PRICED TO THE NINES

Take for example, the rosé Domaine de Gournier. This 2005 Cévennes was my delicious pink standby all summer long. It wouldn't fare well with me over the tournament though. The cost of a glorified thimble-full of the stuff was exactly half the price it would cost me to buy an entire bottle at the shop across the street. There were a couple of reds and a couple of whites available as well but they were either New World or Bordeaux, essentially ruling out anything that I would typically choose for a picnic lunch.

So I hustled in a Triacca Valtellina Superiore Sassella 2002. Sassellas are from Lombardy with minimum 90% Nebbiolo. Coming out of such an off year and from a relatively low pricepoint, I expected it to be less than dense. It was. I'd call it a medium-bodied red, with lots of tobacco and underbrush, some well ripened fruit and a dry finish. Not very profound but very quaffable. Being quite less than weighty, the wine was suitable for an Italian sausage and rotini lunch in the sun. And it flowed at the right time: in preparation for Italian Mara Santangelo's second round tie with Swiss Martina Hingis.

mara santangelo first round match at&t cup 2006mara santangelo first round match at&t cup 2006mara santangelo first round match at&t cup 2006

I saw Mara Santangelo win her first match the day prior. She is a deliberate and pensive player unlike any other, at least on the women's tour (but reminiscent of Davide Sanguinetti on the ATP tour). Santangelo has an unusual style, hitting very flat off both sides. Her shots seem to be effortlessly put back into play because she doesn't add topspin to the ball.

Triacca Valtellina Superiore Sassella 2002It's a bit dream-like really, and with her good anticipation she never seems to run, never seems to break much of a sweat. She strikes the ball well in front of her body, especially on her backhand shot, which makes her grip look a bit odd. But the angles that are opened by this are nothing to laugh at, as victim Sybille Bammer of Austria eventually found out. Hingis in the next round was a bit too tricky to overcome. But I do have to say that other than champion Ivanovic, Santangelo was the only Montreal opponent with a real chance to beat the Swiss star, having taken a three-game lead in the second set after a first-set loss in a tiebreak.

As it turns out, Mara Santangelo is resident of Cavalese in Trento, which is situated in the same northern and mountainous region at the top of the boot as Lombardy. I imagine her enjoying her own stash of good regional Italian wine after matches on the road and then fine espresso in the morning before practice. Brava, Mara!

And this just in... Mara Santangelo beat regular Top Ten'er Anastasia Myskina last night in the warm-up tourney for the US Open so she must be doing something right to turn on her game at just the opportune moment.

Casa Vinicola Triacca, Villa di Tirano, Lombardia, Italia. 13%

20060822

The top-flight tennis life, not as fine as you'd think

Especially when it comes to fine wine and good food

Results are in from Uniprix Stadium where it was "The Swiss Miss" Martina Hingis against Ana Ivanovic (six-foot and Serbian) in the 2006 Roger's Cup championship final, which didn't get decided until Monday because of weekend rain. I enjoyed waiting to see the Serb pounce on a few too many puffballs served up by her opponent. Ivanovic cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 victory in under an hour. It made Jennifer Capriati's wins over Hingis seem overly complicated and drawn out.

ana ivanovic practice tennis canadaHaving spent six consecutive 12-hour days on the tournament site at Jarry Park and then returning a final time to see the trophy match, I got a real good first-hand look at what it's like to eat on the road, away from home. Though tennis might be considered a game of privilege the food and beverage services surrounding this stop of WTA Tour was certainly no splendid repast (maybe that's what five-star hotels are good for). I, like some of the smarter travelling athletes, found that it was best to plan ahead and customize meals to some degree. It sure beat having to run to the snack bar. The threat of fast food was always there but you mustn't be fooled! That $12.75 hot dog with chips ain't gourmet -- only its price is.

EGOS AND ALLERGIES

Montreal's eventual champ Ana had an allergic reaction to something she ate on the first day she entered the grounds to practice. As I snapped photos of her technique, she stopped hitting to talk to her coach. "I have bumps on my lips" she said as she sat down. Her trainer looked at her swollen mouth. "Looks like an allergy," he replied, not too panicked to withdraw (wise idea since she would be the eventual winner of the tourney where umpteen others had already scratched out). "Or like a pimple?" Ana uptalked, half bemused, half disgusted.

I'd be disgusted if I had eat on location every day during the tournament. I've seen what some of the food is like, and even in the luxury boxes strewn around the courts and in the player's salon, I knew I could do better. And I did. I expect to share a few posts on how I ate and drank over the course of the tournament last week. Hopefully, some people will find it useful and I'll make up for my blogging absence at the same time.

HOW TO SPECTATE IN STYLE

Before I post the full details on my vacation surrounded by asphalt, here are some general key pointers for roving wining & dining, especially in stadium situations:

  • Choose plastic, not glass
Wolf Blass is a real leader in bringing wine to sporting events. I've written about its keen sense of sponsorship in the past. Now, with its sporty new plastic bottle developed to store wine, they're bringing wine to sporting events in a whole other way. Smuggled in, through the turnstiles. That's because the security team that searches your bag is really looking to prevent glass items from entering the sports arena. So find a Blass non-glass bottle, preferably a half-size one so as to remain inconspicuous, and fill it with your favourite grape juice
  • Get thermal
Thermal sleeves really work well to keep drinks cool on hot days. Charge it and the bottle you are taking in the freezer for a few minutes and then it's important to keep it in the shade over the course of the day. You won't be disappointed. Or forego the sleeve and plastic bottle and just use a thermos. But be careful, some guards won't let in with a cooler and some consider a big hulking thermos to be equally as offending. Find out what exactly what you can bring in before you depart for the site.
  • Pre-slice your food
You don't want to get caught entering with a big sharp steak knife so no matter what type of food you are bringing to the game, cut it up into bite-size pieces before you wrap it up and take it with you. The best thing about bite-size lunches is that you shovel away at it while you stay focused on the action going on the playing surface. And who wants sandwiches all week long anyway?

20060819

Led Zeppelin's favourite summertime wine? Pierre Delatour Colombard Chardonnay 2005

Pierre Delatour Colombard Chardonnay 2005
This ornate orange label holds behind it a simple slaking wine. In gold and green, a sundial with various odd glyphs à la Four Symbols is emblazed across the front of this vin de pays. Definite rockstar wine material. I'm thinking The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, Sonic Youth in Daydream Nation, but of course mostly this thingie.

At first taste this wine could almost be mistaken for lemon lime jello shooters served at a bar playing "Black Dog" where your older cousin has dragged you. You give the drink in front of you a chance since he's buying. Mmm. Not bad. And since there's lots of spritz, the refreshment value is certainly well delivered. Rock n' roll!

Your local bar should definitely be serving this wine. I picked up the Pierre Delatour Colombard Chardonnay 2005 because it was dirt cheap, fairly well-reviewed and white: three things I am not accustomed to seeing happen all at once. My impression is that this wine is no greater find than a Viña Sol from Torres but coming in under $10, it is much cheaper. I'd say it's easily more than a third cheaper than the everyday white bottles I buy.

The blend makes for a pale yellow colour. Its prickly mouthfeel almost generates some pucker but ends up dancing across your tongue -- a sign of a true summer wine performer. It seems to be mostly made from Colombard as there is not a lot of structure that you would think the Chardonnay grape would impart. Like the limited attributes of Vidal grapes, Colombard should be approached with a thirst that demands instant gratification. And perhaps some Zep.

Also good with a chef salad with loaded with ham and fresh yellow bell peppers.

Gascogne, France. 11.5%

20060814

20060811

Farm-fresh food goes from bike to kitchen to dinner plate

equiterre farm vegetables food basket program organic sustainable agricultureequiterre farm vegetables food basket program organic sustainable agricultureequiterre farm vegetables food basket program organic sustainable agriculture

Eric rode the bicycle, Gordon prepared the food, and I ate every last sweet seasonal morsel. For the love of God Frank Bruni, you're eating out much too often if you're foregoing this deliciously green fare for some sad August gratin!

We ate sun-dried tomato sausages, whole grain rice and ratatouille. The sausages were jammed-packed with flavourful basil and the perfectly cooked rice was dotted with peas, but only the vegetables in the ratatouille were actually from our local farm. But man, there were a lot in there: tomatoes, green zucchini, yellow zucchini (the flattened round type), onions, bell peppers, garlic, parsley and of course eggplant. It was so good the way Gordon cooked it. All the components were nicely caramelized, not mushy but just tender. I don't how he does it. I don't think anyone does.

If you're in the Montreal area, this kind of seasonal eating is available to you (minus Gordon's kitchen skills). André Samson of Farnham is our grower. Consult Équiterre for more details on their organic food baskets program.

By the way, it's a coincidence that my ratatouille was the last post on Weingolb. That dish was called Aubergine Continental -- a totally different recipe really -- so thankfully I get to avoid comparison.

20060810

20060809

Top 10 Wining and Dining Experiences in New York City

In a nod to De Long Wine Moment's recent roster of nominees for the Worst Wine Ever, the following Top 10 is an equal-opportunity listing celebrating both extremes of my trip last week. Can you separate the best from the worst? The wheat from the chaff? The Château d'Yquem from the [yellow tail]? If so, then you've got the chutzpah to consider yourself ready for New Yawk.


    esca best dessert I've ever had in New York or anywhere in the world
  1. Dessert at Esca. I had a flourless chocolate tourte topped with Espresso gelatto and it so puts to shame the French desserts so many Montreal bistros are trading in. Best dessert I can remember eating in a restaurant. David Pasternack has got a good thing going in this Lupa-et-al spinoff designed to honour seafood and fish. We each had a primi dish before diving into dessert and those were promising too. Next visit I will make time to try more.

  2. Market-based corkage fees. Chez Loup had an interesting exchange rate for Canadians who had brought in their own bottles along with a newspaper clipping that said the French restaurant charged $2 for BYO wine. Not sure what currency that $2 was because on the bill it rang up to $8 USD per person.

  3. that diner from Seinfeld upper west side broadway and 112
  4. Tom's Restaurant. AKA that diner from Seinfeld. I believe this real-life restaurant is nestled way up on Broadway near 111th Street. I managed to peer in. Shockingly, one quick glance was all it took for me to solidify the fact that Seinfeld was not actually shot in New York. I'm betting Will & Grace wasn't either!

  5. Transparent restaurant food safety enforcement. Three words: Check this site! Searchable Restaurant Inspection Information from the NY DOHMH



  6. Diverse street food. Another way Manhattan kicks Montreal's food-vendor-less ass. Not only can you find a wiener and a bowl of sorbet at the same intersection, take a stroll down any avenue in summer and you're likely to find a food fair that turns things up an even higher notch: roasted corn on the cob with jalapeno butter, freshly-squeezed lemonade, Transylvanian chimney cakes. You want it, you got it. And surprisingly cheap Häagen-Daz cones, especially considering that this is Manhattan!

  7. Free street food. And not just around the marketing madness that is Madison Avenue. Vegan pushers who swarmed around Colombus Circle really wanted us to try free cello-wrapped vegetable sandwiches that were the size of a Nano. Really! And they didn't want to pay us to do so! Stepping in dogshit also at no charge, so when eating on the street, better watch your feet.

  8. la storia di sant ambroeus biography italian history milano menuResurrection of fat saints. Ultra-swank pastry lounge Sant Ambroeus has made a dazzling return to the Upper East Side since I was last walking down Madison in 2001.

  9. American cheese pride. And overall homogenity of cheeses and other dairy. I couldn't find a tub of cottage cheese anywhere. Lots of Monterey Jack though.

  10. Frozen Margueritas that mean it. These are easy to find in the Village, especially during the dog days, but it's worth a trip to the South Street Seaport. A fivespot gets you one serious Marguerita. Remember to ask how to get back to that subway station stop BEFORE you order.

  11. Reuse of paper and cardboard products. Hmmm. Is this one good or bad? You think you know? Well don't get cocky. The reason this is so prevalent in every wine shop you come across is due to New Yorkers' apathetic approach to those nifty cloth shopping bags that have built-in compartments for all your food and wine needs. Get with the program people!

20060808

20060804

2 become 1: Soup Burg is now an even smaller hamlet

manhattan soup burg closing signThe sign on the wall said it all. It was clear Soup Burg, the tiny diner that was a remnant from another time, would not be keeping up with the Joneses on Madison.

The sign said:

No Smoking in the Kitchen Area

In fact, the Kitchen Area as well as the Dining Area had both been non-smoking for years, but the antique warning remained above the well-seasoned grills of the galley for every customer to see. Little indications like this really tell you how out-of-time this coffeehouse restaurant was.

Soup Burg itself was an antique along Madison Avenue. It stood out like a sore thumb on a well-manicured hand of painted fingernails and bejewelled knuckles.

view approaching from whitney museum of american art cafeOver the years many may have stumbled upon it while visiting the Whitney Museum of American Art. That's how my friend Catherine and I had come across it. The Whitney's in-building café -- the perfect picture of modernity -- left something to be desired so we had ambled down a block or two to find burgers at reasonable price at the Burg. This was much more along the lines of what we were looking for; a $15 club sandwich in a museum basement was not.

And it was at that point we saw the real sign -- the sign which read that tomorrow Soup Burg would close its doors forever on Madison. I was tempted to run back to find a curator. If he couldn't restore this relic and permit people to continue to enjoys its charms in the future, at least he could pass along a few ideas for the sake of the Whitney café.

manhattan soup burg inside the diner on Madison AveSoup Burg was truly a rare portrait of unpretentiousness along the avenue. Its mustard, a deliciously dark and malted concoction, was strictly self-service at your table. The waiter, who eventually resigned himself to posing for a photo on what was his last weekend on the job, politely smiled when taking our order. But he wouldn't ask how you'd like your burger cooked and how you'd like your burger dressed. Instead, he would just take down an order number. And that was enough. Which is great. By perfecting their kitchen craft -- and not by serving plates that are made to order -- Soup Burg had been making the third best burgers in the city (according to Time Out NY).

The home-made iced tea at Soup Burg was unsweetened and fresh daily. It was fantastic and refreshing -- refreshing because it was a hot day but also refreshing because it wasn't the ubiquitous canned Nestea. Downing two glasses of it made for the best swan song Soup Burg could muster on this particular Saturday and we pulled ourselves back up the block to the Whitney.

soup burg rip upper east side diner sign of the times
Closed

SOUP BURG 922 Madison Avenue (73rd Street); the branch at 1095 Lexington Avenue (77th Street) is open.

20060803

SNAKSHOT ON MADISON


manhattan madison avenue imagine slow cooking tangine spices

20060802

WBW #24 Loire whites... Everything AND Chardonnay: Domaine de Bellevue Grande Réserve 2004

Domaine de Bellevue Grande Réserve 2004I thought it was going to be a long while before I heard Chardonnay get roundly dismissed again. But there Eric was last night, telling me he'll gladly drink "Anything But Chardonnay." Humph. I'll have to remember that next time I'm uncorking my $40 Burgundies.

Little did I know that I had just uncorked a Chardonnay moments before and it was getting socked back in seconds, nicely slaking our thirst in the heat. Domaine de Bellevue Grande Réserve 2004 was the Loire white wine I had picked out when Alder at Vinography organized this month's WBW topic. It was, in fact, Chardonnay. Eighty-percent Chardonnay. Or so some serious googling helped me to discover.

And that's the irony with the ABC campaign. It is such a wide-sweeping generalization that those who trade in its whacked-out wisdom to it are bound to get tripped up by it. Our glasses of Chardonnay were all drained before long, even Eric's. So is it the Chardonnay these ABC types don't like or is it the way Chardonnay is most often produced in the New World? Rhetorical question.

Of course the New World has spawned a backlash against Chardonnay. Google’s even more adept at seeking out answers to this. Just type in new world chardonnay backlash. At our table last night, the results were quite different. No backlash for the Chardonnay of Saint-Pourçain, which comes across totally unlike a buttery oaky Chard would.

TAKE A LOOK AT THE LOIRE

With added Sauvignon and some possible traces of Tressallier, this wine is rather unique. Uniqueness is one of the great aspects of the Loire region. This massive valley reaches out to so many different areas that it features a whopping variety of wines, especially whites.

My Saint-Pourçain selection in particular is a bit of a curiosity in that it’s rather far-flung from the actual valley part of the Loire. To find Saint-Pourçain you need a map of France entire and then look to the very centre of the Hexagon. The area carries a VDQS appellation (Vin Délimité de Qualité Supérieure -- neither a Vin de Pays nor a full-fledged Appellation Controllée). Many wine-producing villages on the fringes of the Loire are given VDQS status and are expected to eventually achieve an AOC someday.

Domaine de Bellevue Grande Réserve 2004Another odd aspect of Saint-Pourçain is that it used to be big. Big like Bordeaux. But that was way back in the middle ages, which is an old part of the Old World that most European wineries are wise not to emphasize. Nevertheless, Saint-Pourçain labels often capture some of that Medieval cred (which may be oxymoron considering how vile those wines must’ve actually have tasted then). Credibility aside, the quaint lettering and out-of-time coat of arms do at least offer a Medieval mystique. I like the label.

In any case, today’s Saint-Pourçain maintains a focus on cool-climate wine production and the regional Tressallier grape often makes a strong contribution in this regard along with Sauvignon.

A TASTE OF THE NOT-SO-OLD OLD WORLD

So how did this Chardonnay taste? Well, many modern Loire whites are using it with their Sauvignon and this bottle could be considered a nice example of the success that regional vintners have found with such a blend.

Here are my notes on the Domaine de Bellevue Grande Réserve 2004 Saint-Pourçain: Pale yellow colour with a nice aromatic intensity. Bread and mineral notes are most strong. On the palate it is grapefruit and a bit grassy. Some other herbal hints come out, especially if you pair it well with food. I'd have this with roasted cauliflower in a scallion butter and caper dressing. Quite dry is this wine, with a lovely lively acidity so it should be pretty amicable with any meal. Also serves to quench your thirst if you are not lucky enough to have any food nearby.

Thanks to Alder for hosting a real refreshing topic this month.

Jean-Louis Pétillat, Meillard, France. 12%

20060801

Introducing Snakshots by Doktor Weingolb, chowtime operative

snackshot pictures of snacks food photographyEver since I got my spiffy new digital camera one month ago I have been unable to arrange enough online space for my food and wine photographs. Doktor Weingolb Snakshot changes all of that right now.

VISUAL FOOD DIARY LAID OUT LIKE AN ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT BUFFET

Snakshot is a simple but accommodating home to all the images of snacking that don't get a proper write-up or index entry on Weingolb. At heart, Snakshot is a visual food diary. Yet it possesses the strong spirit of an all-you-can-eat buffet. And yes, I personally have eaten what's being depicted, which means that this makes for some nice voyeurism. So live vicariously and check it out. It's a feast for the eyes and it's constantly piling up.

Backwash

Starting today, other enhancements are materializing on Weingolb, which is good because I've been getting more visitors than ever. A little housekeeping goes a long way in making folks feel at home, or at least that is my hope.

In addition to the prominent link for Snakshot in the sidebar, index entries have been rearranged. The goal here is greater usability. I've had comments that finding entries on specific wines are hard to track down so now posts that feature specific wine reviews are separated from posts on food or other dining topics. This should make scrolling down the alphabetized listings a bit easier, though knowing the appellation or grape variety of the wine you are looking for is still key to finding what you want. As always, the Search This Blog tool at the top of every page is time-and-again the smartest way to navigate to your desired information.

Secondly, I wanted to make the Weingolb archive display in chronological order. That way, things flow in a natural order when you scan through one of the previous months bulleted at the bottom of every page. You can read in the same direction that entries were posted and adhere to the chronology of the blog. A minor issue really, but in the end I found a fantastic JavaScript patch from Casa Patologico, a Spanish/ English-language blog. It always presents to you a choice on how posts are displayed, on both headline pages and archive pages.