Sunday, July 31, 2011

Alli M. Enjoyed a Little Lamb (yes, this is a newsworthy headline)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a wine pairing dinner featuring Mark Tarlov, the proprietor of Evening Land vineyards.

I've been looking forward to this dinner since Amanti Vino announced it in June.  Evening Land is an Oregon vineyard that makes excellent chardonnays and pinot noirs.  Evening Land's wines have been celebrated since their first vintage four short years ago in 2007.  And though I don't believe in relying on ratings alone (I'm looking at you Achaval Ferrer), I've tasted the 2008 Evening Land "La Source" pinot noir sevand I absolutely love it.  I should have written it up, but I think that was one of the nights I was shirking my responsibility as your dedicated Wineocrat!

Over the course of the dinner, we enjoyed 7 different wines (5 of Evening Land's and two from Tarlov's other vineyards).  Despite the added "competition," the 2009 "La Source" pinot noir was my favorite. It was complex, yet accessible with layers of  cherry, plum and a hint of violet (and II tend not to pick up the non fruit notes).  Though "La Source" is not necessarily in the typical wineocrat price range (mid $50s - mid $60s), it is worth the splurge.  Plus, it could have been worse, the "Summumm" might have been my favorite (approx. $120)!!!  Then again, it was a very, very close second......

Enjoying a well made pinot noir is not surprising for me, so the biggest revelation of the evening was that, I FINALLY enjoyed a lamb dish.  I have tried lamb in many ways over the years and I have never liked it.  I've really wanted to like lamb because it pairs with so many different wines, but it has a gamey aftertaste to me.  However, I CulinAriane's lamb so very tasty.  When I complimented Chef Ariane after the meal and told her I'd never liked lamb before, she responded that I liked this lamb because," it doesn't taste like lamb."  She was absolutely correct!  It turns out she had served us a very special type of lamb that is only available 3 months out of the year.  The lambs are from a farm called Lava Lake.  They are 100% grass fed and raised on an organic diet with no antibiotics or added growth hormones.  I look for these same attributes in the other meat and poultry I eat so I was happy to find that the only lamb I enjoy is raised in this way.  It also helped that she braised the meat so perfectly and to me, a good braise is close to godliness.

As I (reluctantly) left the restaurant, I introduced myself to Mark Tarlov and told him I'd be visiting The Willamette and Evening Land in September.  He enthusiastically gave me his card and told me to e-mail him.  Hopefully I'll have a great write up from Evening Land in September.

Until the next sniff, sip, or quaff (which will be long before September),


Alli M.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday with several good friends at Otto, a very good family style Italian "pizzeria" with an even better wine list.  It's actually one of Mario Batali's places and though I've been disappointed by many of the celebrity chefs' restaurants I've visited, Otto has yet to disappoint.

There were eight of us, but since it was a "school night," we only made it through 3 bottles of wine:

Almondo Arneis Vigne Sperse 2009: Arneis is a white wine that most people don't know anything about (but should).  To me, it's the wine you introduce to your friends who always force you to order a bottle of Pinot Grigio.  Almondo Arneis is fresh and crisp with a nose and palate full of citrus.  Despite the lightness, it has some nice structure and slight body which allows it to hold up to lighter dishes like salads, vegetables and other light appetizers.  Moreover, it's one of the least acidic Italian whites out there so it tends to be less "puckering" when drinking by itself (which it also does nicely).  None of the white wine drinkers at the table had ever heard of Arneis and all were asking me about it over the course of the meal.

La Spinetta Barbera D'Asti Ca' di Pian 2007: To me, Barbera D'Asti is always a good bet because it can be light to medium bodied and it is very versatile.  Unless you're going for a super light salad or appetizer or a super heavy pasta, beef or venison, Barbera will likely go well with your meal.  The La Spinetta has lovely cherry and cassis notes.  It went particularly well with the thin crust mushroom pizza we ordered and seemed to go down very easy around the entire table!

And the 3rd bottle - Moscato D'Asti of course!  I didn't catch the label, but it was crisp, sweet, bubbly and just as enjoyable as I expected it to be.  Plus, it went incredibly well with the "Black & White" (I don't even want to try to explain it - just look it up on Otto's web site and know that it was even better than described).

I really enjoyed the Arneis, the Barbera D'Asti and the Moscato D'Asti, but the best blend of the evening was the gathering of friends from various parts of Manhattan and New Jersey.  Nothing complements wine better than good company (and it sure beats Lardo pizza - the one culinary misstep). 

Until the next, sniff, sip and quaff (which I promise to write up before I turn.....well, let's just say I'm old enough to be characterized as "Old Vines" but much, much younger than the oldest vines in California),


Alli M.