Budget Wine: La Fleur Du Roi Red Bordeaux 2012


, ,

la fleur du roiThis is what cheap Bordeaux should taste like.

Simple plum with chocolate hints that peek around the funky earth that reminds me of decaying leaves (which to me is a pleasant aroma). This is an everyday wine but it has the vigor to move the mind placing you in a forest in early fall. An under $10 wine that can do that is to be treasured. The palate is  round up front but tart acidity is immediately apparent so the texture feels layered despite being a bit slender. The tannins are soft at first and then gently drying with acidity driving the medium length finish.

80% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Sauvignon.

A humble but sincere wine with an autumnal flair.

The hushed but hopeful Northern Sky by Nick Drake with its softly vibrant texture captures the mood.

Score: 87

Price: $10

Alc: 12.5


Why are there only 354 Masters of Wine?


masters of wineA Master of Wine is someone who has passed the rigorous tasting and theory exams and submitted an acceptable research paper to the The Institute of Masters of Wine. There are currently only 354 in the world. Why?

1. There are approximately 800 volatile compounds in wine that human beings are able to smell along with the 5 basic tastes that we detect in the mouth.

2. When combinations of odors and flavors are present the intensity of one is reduced by the presence of others. This is called hypoadditivity–the more aromas there are to smell the less any of them will be clearly detected.

3. We use 4 senses when tasting wine (audition being relatively unimportant unless you’re listening to music), but the input of one sensory modality can influence the others. Tastes influence aromas, aromas influence taste, color influences both, as do tactile impressions. This makes it hard to focus attention and distinguish analytically various sensations.

4. Except for detecting sugar, bitterness and spoilage, evolution has designed us to respond more readily to visual stimuli rather than aroma or taste,.

5. Assessing wines requires assigning meaningful words to sensations, a skill that no one develops naturally, and for which there is no settled vocabulary,  since it has no application outside the rarified domain of wine or food criticism.

A better question might be “Why are there so many Masters of Wine?”

Importing Local Cuisine



fried spamAs the virtues of eating local food have gone from a radical idea to a commonly accepted norm in the food world, it has systematically distorted our understanding of the history of cuisines. The “romantic” idea is  that, in our pre-industrial past, food was based on what the land could provide. Historically, cuisines developed locally from peasant dishes in the country-side to more complex high cuisine in the cities. That idea now sits comfortably alongside the notion that truly authentic food must have a pure origin in local foodways that resisted the bastardization of outside influence.

As I argued in American Foodie, nothing could be farther from the truth. The mixing and matching of ingredients, cooking methods, and recipes has been going on ever since humans could move about the globe. (The habit of calling border food inauthentic is one of my pet peeves.)

But if you want a more authoritative source for what’s wrong with this idea of authenticity along with a fascinating tour of the fascinating cuisine of Hawaii, check out this paper by food historian Rachel Laudan. (H/T Gary Allen)

Using Hawaiian cuisine as an illustration of her more general thesis, she argues that entire food systems have been transplanted from one region to another and that many of the world’s best known “local” dishes were invented to serve tourists.

Laudan argues that cuisines are held together by culinary philosophy not agricultural resources and specifies different meanings of the word “local” which show the idea of a “homegrown” cuisine to have only limited application.

The article makes me hungry for some fried spam.

Wine Review: Lamoreaux Landing Gewurztraminer Finger Lakes 2015


, ,

lamoreaux landingI love Gewurztraminer, a wine so flamboyant it’s the drag queen of the wine world. But it grows well only in cool climates. The California versions are so ripe they lack acidity or are made from grapes picked too early and so never deliver the over-the-top aromas Gewurz lovers love. The cool climate Finger Lakes on the other hand is Gewurztraminer heaven. Almost every winery makes one and they are usually dead on, with explosive flavors, a slightly oily, fat body and a finish so bitter it makes Planet of the Apes seem like a comedy. Well, Ok that’s an exaggeration.

Lamoreux Landing’s Gewurztraminer is representative.

The  perfumed nose unfolds to reveal hints of lychee supported by grapefruit and lime zest. In the mouth, the citrus spine is enlivened by tropical fruits and mineral notes that make the wine feel fresh despite the medium body and slight, glycerin texture. It finishes with that passionate bitter note that demands a tear in the eye despite all the joyous bouquet. With sugar, acidity, and bitterness in equipoise it’s heady without being rambunctious. The lanolin and alcohol are under control. Once you make peace with the bitter finish of a Gewurztraminer romance may commence.

Gewurztraminer can be a wonderful food wine if you’re serving something spicy with some heft. I served it with chicken braised in coconut milk, ginger and Mexican chorizo—Gewurz and coconut were made for each other.

Score: 88

Price: $15

Alc: 13.9%

Gewurztraminer is a Bjork wine—flamboyant but weighty with combustible melodies and the bittersweet lyric of “Hyperballad”

Cuisine de Garbage




Nick Tahou’s Garbage Plate

This weekend we took a break from wine tasting and visited sites near the Finger Lakes.

Niagara Falls was of course stunning and powerful.niagara-falls

I also paid a visit to my Alma Mater from the late 60’s, SUNY Geneseo, and was thrilled to discover the bar that was a before-and-after class ritual is still there.idle hour

But the highlight of the day, the attraction that put “the Falls” to shame was Rochester’s essential dish—the garbage plate.

A large quantity of home fries and macaroni salad topped with your choice of a meat or two—sausage for me—and slathered with onions, mustard and meat sauce ( and cheese, ham, fish, or eggs if you want). This is 2:00 A.M, close down the bar, several sheets to the wind type food. (I wasn’t, but the imaginative projection was effortless.)

None of the parts are remarkable; they are in fact worse than ordinary. But the combination, when the fat, mayo, sauce and mustard all kind of melt together, is surely greater than the sum of its parts.

And as far as I know to get one you have go to Rochester, N.Y.

It was invented at Nick Tahou’s Hots about 50 years ago which is the version I sampled, another venerable institution still going strong.nick-tahous Nick is now among the dearly departed but his legacy lives on, a legacy that us lesser mortals can only hope to emulate.