Monthly Archives: April 2014

Rabbit in Mustard Sauce

One of my favorite dishes from France – and I’ve found rabbit in the supermarket here outside Ann Arbor, so I’ll be making this every week or two! Farm-raised rabbit is lean but tender, with a unique flavor and a firm texture. Plus the bones make amazing stock!

20140426_113801Lapin a la Moutarde (Rabbit in Mustard Sauce)

  • 1 rabbit, cleaned and dressed – approx 1.5 to 2 pounds
  • 3 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme, or 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups dry white wine (anything *except* oaky Chardonnay)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Rub the rabbit pieces with salt, pepper, and thyme. Then brown them briefly In the olive oil in a large, heavy casserole, turning to cook all sides.
  3. Add the wine and shallots. Cover and cook in the oven for 45 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven, take the rabbit pieces out and cover them. Strain the pot liquid to remove the shallots, and return the liquid to the casserole, placing it on the range top on medium heat.  Using a wooden spoon and a whisk, use the pot liquid to deglaze the sides of the casserole, then add the cream, butter, and mustard. Whisk vigorously to combine and let it thicken slightly.

Serve the rabbit with fried potatoes or roasted vegetables, and nap the meat and sides with the mustard sauce.  Serves 4 – make sure everyone has plenty of napkins, because you’re going to want to use your teeth to get down to the bones!

Italian dinner with Antonio Cabibi

This past Wednesday I attended another event at Paesano in Ann Arbor; Antonio Cabibi is the importer for Sardus Pater, a cooperative in Sardinia. He had some incredible wines to show, and I ordered a half-case. (Note that the first wine is not Antonio’s).

“Sardus Pater” means “Father of Sardinians” in the local language, and all of the wine names reflect some element of history or tradition as well. The Sardus Pater cooperative was formed just after World War II, and today has approximately 200 growers, with only 300 hectares between them – which means lots of individual care for each vine. Most of their property is on the small offshore island of Sant’Antioco, where they have a large stretch of pre-phylloxera vineyards dedicated to the Carignano del Sulcis grape (not related to the mainland Carignan).

20140423_180516Sant’Antioco is very windy, so the vines are head-trained – grown in low bushes, without any trellising. The vineyards also pick up some mineral and salty notes from the soil and the air.

Sciarpa Prosecco (NV) Veneto – $15

Mineral and lemon aromas – and it’s quite dry, probably the driest Prosecco I’ve had in a long time. Very nice and refreshing – it’s not trying to be Champagne.

Sardus Pater “Terre Fenicie” Vermentino di Sardegna (2012) Sardinia – $16

Vermentino is the major classic white grape of Sardinia. It definitely shows a more mineral and briny character when grown near the coast. I even picked up a hint of meatiness – chicken soup or roast turkey. This would be great with a seafood risotto, or chicken with lemons – and it shouldn’t be served cold! We drank it at about 55ºF and it was perfect. Highly recommended.

Sardus Pater “Foras” Cannonau di Sardegna (2011) Sardinia – $17

Cannonau is probably Sardinia’s most well-known native grape variety, although DNA testing indicates that it’s a close relative of Grenache. This was dark, but had a little bricky color, and there was a strong, heady aroma with raspberries and candied-apples.  Not quite as big on the palate, however, but it was clean and round – I find a lot of Cannonau to have an unpleasant muddy edge.

Sardus Pater “Nur” Carignano del Sulcis (2010) Sardinia – $16

This is produced in 100% stainless steel, then bottle aged for a few years before being released. The wine is very dark and purple, with blue and black fruit aromas and a hint of earth on the nose. It’s much bigger and rounder than the Cannonau, with rich fruit, some herbs, and good food-friendly acidity. The tannins are soft and this wine is perfect for drinking right now. Recommended.

Sardus Pater “Is Arenas” Carignano del Sulcis Riserva (2008) Sardinia – $25

The riserva bottling of Carignano del Sulcis sees a little oak. It’s even darker in color, and the20140423_191845 oak lends a little toastiness to the nose. This is even rounder and lusher, and has a very big mid-palate. The fruit is extremely pronounced, along with some medium tannins along the gums and on the finish. This is extraordinarily long. It’s drinkable now, but I’m curious about what another 5 years in the bottle will do.  I’ll have a tough decision to make when I pick up my wine later this week!

 

Fadeaway Pinot Noir

I’m hoping this falls into the cheap-but-good category! Let’s see how this goes down with a simple onion & pepper pizza.

Fadeaway Pinot Noir (2012) Monterey County, California – $8

20140423_075404(0)Color: on the purplish side, but it’s not dense or opaque – which probably means it really is 100% Pinot, and hasn’t been stretched with Zin or Syrah.

Aroma: raspberry and strawberry fruit – just a little hint of cherry as well.

Taste: more fruit – it’s light and lively on the tongue, and the finish is very soft and easy with a little floral and forest-floor character.

Recommended – this is an eminently drinkable true Pinot for under $15, which is a rare find these days.

 

The Sum

Another catch-up tasting note; I had this at Terry B’s in Dexter last week.  It’s an intricate label, and I wish my pictures had come out better (Chad, your photobomb was blurred out – no worries!)

The Sum has a great pedigree – one of the winemakers is Tuck Beckstoffer, son of famed Napa grower and vintner Andy Beckstoffer. The wine is 75% Cab, with Syrah and Petite Sirah to finish off the blend.

The Sum Red (2011) California

20140415_173055Color: straight ruby red.

Aroma: a jammy and spicy nose.

Taste: cherry and kirsch, not too tight. Good acidity and balance, which is a challenge in Cabernet from California if the vineyard location, the breed of grape, and the weather aren’t in sync.

Nice overall; a good deal for a restaurant pour.

F Bomb Grenache

Had this a week ago and forgot to transcribe my notes – here we go!

F Bomb is made in Santa Barbara by the Dirty Pure Project.  It has a few percent each of Barbera and Lagrein – northern Italian grapes – added to the blend.

F Bomb Grenache (2012) Santa Barbara County, California

Color: garnet red.

Aroma: vanilla and cherry, with some definite heat.

Taste: bright, with good acidity and freshness. Mostly fruit notes on the midpalate and finish, but there’s a little earthiness in there as well.

Pleasant enough as it is, but not worth putting into your cellar – especially when you consider how many different Grenache bottlings from Spain are out there for half the price.

 

Wine-Tasting Report: Paesano’s in Ann Arbor

I found a great Italian place that does weekly wine-tasting events with distributors and importers. Paesano’s has a very interesting menu, and the wine events are a steal. Wednesday 6-8 with 5 wines and a selection of appetizers and shared entrees, all for just $25. Most of what they feature is not on their regular wine list, and you can order for retail pickup the next week. I had a blast last night, and I’ll be back their regularly!

This week’s selection were all from Nicola Biscardo – some are wines he makes, others are wines that he imports.  I ordered bottles of three of them – here’s the rundown!

20140409_194757

Veneziano Sprizzzissimo (NV) Veneto – $10.50

This is a pre-mixed Prosecco-Aperol cocktail, a nice alternative to Campari and soda. Served over ice with an orange slice, it’s only 6.5% alcohol, has a beautiful orange color, and is very pleasant. Just bitter enough to wake up your tastebuds, just a touch of sweetness so it’s still refreshing. A neat find.

Castellari Begaglio Salluvii (2012) Gavi – $18

Gavi is a white from the far northwest of Italy, made with 100% Cortese grapes. The owner of this brand has 9 separate Gavi properties that he vinifies and bottles separately – the Salluvii bottling is a careful blend of all 9 vineyards. It was served with Ahi tuna in pasta shells with a variety of house-made condiments, including pickled onions and smoked salt.

Color: very pale.

Aroma: lemon, lemon zest, and minerality – maybe a hint of lanolin?

Taste: Creamy, higher in acid by balanced and with a light texture. Citrus fruit and some stone fruit. This is a good pairing for poultry in cream sauce.

Tenuta Curezzo Nerosso (2011) Salento – $17

A ‘secret’ blend of Uva de Troia, Primitivo, and 2 other traditional southern Italian grapes. It was served with rabbit orzo.

Color: very dark – ‘nerosso’ means black-red, and this lives up to its billing.

Aroma: a very big nose, with jam, spice, and some alcohol notes. Reminds me quite a bit of Grenache. With some air, you detect notes of fresh mulch.

Taste: good acidity, and softer on the palate than the nose would lead you to believe. Lots of plummy fruit and some tar. Recommended.

Marchesi Biscardo Corvina (2011) Veneto – $16

Corvina is one of the three grapes that make up Valpolicella, and this is produced in a Ripasso style, but it can’t be labelled Valpolicella because the appellation rules require that the wine be blended. This was served side-by-side with Niccolo Biscardo’s Valpolicella, accompanied by lamb stew.

Color: purple-black in the core and purple on the edge.

Aroma: chewy and chocolatey.

Taste: excellent fruit. Fresh and with good acidity, would be a nice pairing with charcuterie. Also recommended.

Marchesi Biscardo Ripasso (2010) Valpolicella – $24

Ripasso means that it uses the leftover skins of the Amarone pressing to add some additional flavor to the partially-fermented Valpolicella wine (the juice is ‘re-passed’ over the skins). This adds some extra complexity and depth without the big cost bump of drying the grapes to raisins, which is how Amarone is made.

Color: just a little older looking – red instead of purple.

Aroma: spice and dried fruit, plus a little smoke.

Taste: a classic Ripasso profile, softer and smokier with an easy finish. He may have used some newer oak in this as well. With food, the herbal notes pop out as well as the soft structure into the finish. Also recommended.

Wine Tasting Report – Frei Brothers at Kroger Austin Landing

The mega-Kroger has been open in Austin Landing for about a year, but this was my first chance to attend one of their wine tastings. They really go all-out on Friday, with some very impressive hot appetizers and dinner options from the kitchen. And they have a full on-premise license, so you can open any bottle on the shelf if the tasting flight doesn’t appeal to you!

This week they sample Frei Brothers wine from California, and I had the roast vegetable flatbread and the Tuscan-style poached corvina.  The wines were a mixed bag, but the Merlot stood out positively.

Frei Brothers Chardonnay (2012) Russian River Valley – $17

Color: very bright yellow,

Aroma: predominately apple, with some toast and vanilla underneath.

Taste: high acid for a Chardonnay; the apple carries into the midpalate, but then oak dominates from there to the finish.  Decent enough, but not really noteworthy.

Frei Brothers Pinot Noir (2011) Russian River Valley – $23

Color: quite dark for Pinot; I suspect there may be something else blended in.

Aroma: cherry and oak, with some forest-floor and earth.

Taste: quite full-bodied and almost jammy. This is not really varietally correct, so I’m almost certain they threw in 15% or so of Zin or Syrah to plump it up. Disappointing, actually.

Frei Brothers Merlot (2012) Sonoma County – $20

Color: garnet red

Aroma: very inviting spiciness.

Taste: round, dark, full, with a big dollop of fruit throughout. This is nice stuff, darker and heavier than a typical California Merlot. On the finish, the acidity you expect finally makes its appearance. I think this is the star of the tasting.

Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) Alexander Valley – $20

Color: very dark purple.

Aroma: mostly earth notes, with some cassis and blueberry.

Taste: this is thinner in the mouth than what you expect. The Merlot is actually bigger than the Cab – this bottle is disappointing.