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Monday, March 31, 2008

2006 Evil Cabernet Sauvignon

Any Mercyful Fate fans reading this out there? Maybe you know the song “Evil”? Maybe you've watched this video and know how awesome they are? Could this wine be appropriate for the Mercyful Fate fan and the wine snob? Let's find out. (Note: This wine is in no way associated with Mercyful fate, but I do think an advertising blitz with the two together would be amazing.)

Twizzlers, alcohol and a bit of alcohol on the nose.

This is a big wine – a lot of fruit, but there's some solid wood to give it some balance. Big fruit – black cherry, blueberry, plum – though it's not over the top – oak and acid balance this all out. Cedar, oak, spice, and nice tannins give it great backbone. As it opens some raspberry comes forward as well as some earthy and chocolatey notes.

The oak and some strawberry notes come through on the finish.

How much for this evil bottle? Ten stinkin' bucks. This is what QPR is about - it may only be March but this will almost certainly go on the bargains of the year list – I'll be hitting the wine shop and grabbing several more bottles of this when I get a chance.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Blackbird review - 3/28/08

Our original Friday night plans were canceled at around noon – not wanting to sit at home, I suggested we go out to eat someplace nice – we had a great meal at Blackbird around a year ago, they had an opening, so I snagged it.

The amuse bouche was sturgeon, radish, and fava beans.

Here are one of the items that has made Blackbird famous – crispy veal sweetbreads with pickled golden turnip, green apple, candied coriander and goat's milk caramel

Fran's appetizer was berkshire blue cheese salad with treviso, seckle pears, blood orange and crispy artichokes

My entree: braised organic pork belly with toasted farro, braised kolrabi greens, hibiscus jus and fried rosemary

Fran's entree: cable farm country fried rabbit leg and chorizo with wilted romaine, baby carrots, candied pecans and spring peas

For wine, we had a great bottle of Burgundy: 2004 Domaine Saint Martin 'Hervelets' 1er Cru Fixin. No picture or notes sadly, but it was a nice bottle we'd have again.

We each had dessert, but didn't take photos – the restaurant was getting busy and I felt self conscious. I had a cheese plate with a selection of five: capriole farms 'sofia' - goat's milk, greenville, indiana - with beet-apricot chutney (I don't recall much of this one). nancy's camembert - sheep and cow's milk, old chatham, new york -with huckleberry mostarda (very brie like. fium'orbu -raw sheep's milk, corsica - with pickled grapes (a bit too pungent and funky for me, the grapes were good however). comte - raw cow's milk, jura, france -with honey and smoked almonds (the only thing I recall about this was the almonds which were quite good). great hill blue - raw cow's milk, marion, massachusetts - with grilled shallots and balsamic (the best of the lot – the cheese was strong but the shallots were stronger, a great mix).

Fran had roasted pineapple with brioche ice cream, hibiscus and puffed 'cinnamon toast'

Service was good – our waiter was friendly enough, but was consistently busy – I found myself unable to find him several times when I had questions. While my napkin was always folded when I got back from the bathroom and our coats were pulled by the time we made it to the door – when we were leaving no one helped (or even offered) to help us move the table. Not that big of a deal, but at their prices, flawless service is expected.

Blackbird is tight – very tight – the tables are so close together you actually have to pull your table out if you're sitting against the wall. With about six inches between tables you are very close to the people next to you. This isn't a big deal if you go at a slow time and no one is next to you, but by seven o'clock, every single seat in the restaurant was full. I personally find sitting so close to people to be uncomfortable, but the food makes up for it.

The food is exceptional. The amuse was a bit blah for my tastes – but as I'm not too big on seafood that's to be expected. The sweetbreads were phenomenal – I'd go back for this appetizer alone. The pork belly was great – it almost melted in your mouth, kohlrabi greens were excellent, and the toasted farro was one of those interesting grains you don't really see anywhere.

Fran's rabbit had a faint hint of chicken to it – the spices and breading were definitely southern influenced, but as you got closer to the bone, the gamey notes came through (that's a good thing). Fran didn't think her salad was terribly interesting – the blue cheese was clearly aged for a long time, but the rest was somewhat meh.

While this may not my favorite restaurant in Chicago, it's certainly up there. The food is exceptional and is really what would make me go back. The slight service gaffes were disappointing but forgivable. Personally, while I'd eat here again, I'm in no rush - there are so many great places I'd like to try that this really didn't grab me in a way that say, Frontera Grill or Avenues did.

Friday, March 28, 2008

N/V MPX Mas De Monistrol Cava Brut

I've been singing the praises of cheap Spanish cavas for a while now – for $7 at World Market, this seemed liked a safe bet.

A bit of apple and a bit of metal on the nose.

Disappointing – a bit metallic, somewhat oily, and a touch of fake sweetness. I suppose I'm getting some apple, but it's all very artificial.

Tart green apple candy on the finish.

I'll be passing this one up next time I'm at the shop. It's no worse than some of the mass market cheap domestic stuff, but you can do better at this price.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Carnivale Review

We recently visited the restaurant Carnivale in downtown Chicago for my sister-in-law's birthday. We were a party of six, but I only snagged photos of Fran and my food.

We started with a sampling of five different ceviche. When I think ceviche, I think somewhat finely chopped fish in a bold marinade. This was more sashimi style with some sauces and marinades, but nothing quite bold. Now, this isn't to say any of this was bad – all five were quite good, just not quite what we expected.

For an entree, Fran had the Pernil – rum glazed pork shoulder with rice and beans plus plantains. She referred to the plantains as phenomenal but felt the dish as a whole, while very good, was nothing extraordinary and ultimately found the $20 pricetag questionable.

I had the Bistek Palomilla – a prime ribeye with fried yuca and garlic mojo. It's tough to mess up a prime steak and they certainly didn't – cooked just right with a flavorful Latin influenced sauce and perfectly cooked yuca – this was an excellent dish which sold me on the restaurant.

The wine list? Solid. I am a fan of places that put premium wines on the by the glass menu – Dom Perignon by the glass? Phenomenal. The wine list has an emphasis of Spanish and South American wines with a variety from the rest of the world as well. Markups were standard – in fact I was surprised at the fact that some bottles were as low (for a restaurant wine list) as they were.

Service was flawless – among the best we've had in Chicago.

The bottom line? Good Latin fusion food that may or may not be overpriced - I can determine that on my next visit - but overall it's a great place - fun and quite loud (no romantic dates here) - with a nice wine list and solid food. I'd go back.

N/V J Winery Brut Rose

I enjoyed our last J sparkling bottle and figured now is as good as ever to try it.

Strawberry and bread on the nose.

Dry, but quite fruity – a lot of strawberry and cherry – as the bottle opens some subtle toast comes through. I'm also getting some almond notes mid-palate plus some very nice floral – perhaps orange blossom - notes. There's quite a few layers here and a lot going on that I can't place my finger on.

Some tartness – green apples and perhaps some citrus – lingers on the finish.

This is not a cheap bottle at $35 – but it's definitely high quality and quite interesting.

Monday, March 24, 2008

2006 Echelon Pinot Noir

I don't quite recall where I bought this – I'm thinking Trader Joe's, and I'm certain it was on the $6-8 range.

Overripe strawberry, earth, and funk on the nose.

Funky – earth, barnyard, tart blackberry, overripe strawberry, some spicy notes, and relatively firm tannins. When I use the term “overripe” I basically mean on the cusp of rotten – imagine berries that have been sitting a bit too long in the fridge, are squishy and a little gross, but not yet moldy.

Spice and oak linger on the finish.

I'm not sure about this one – there's some depth here but the flavor profile just isn't working for me.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

2005 Domaine Chevillon Chezeaux Bourgogne

I got this one a while back – yet another clearance find, $16 or so regular, closer to $6 on sale – not bad at all.

Tart cherry on the nose.

This one was open for a couple hours before we tasted it – nicely balanced and somewhat simple on the palate. Light, but certainly tart cherry, a bit of earth – but really not much, a reasonably zing of acid – everything here is solid, but all just very mild.

A bit of chocolate presents itself on the finish, some acidic notes lingers, and some cherry does as well – not surprisingly the finish is mild, but it's lasts for quite a long time.

At under $10 this is perfect, for the upper teens there's just not enough happening in the glass to make this a value. With contemplation there's some reasonable depth here, but unless you're studying the glass it's little more than an easy quaff.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2006 Blason de Bourgogne Pinot Noir

I recall enjoying the 2004 of this one, so I didn't hesitate grabbing the new vintage for six stinkin' bucks.

A funky nose to be sure – raspberry and earth.

Quite light in body, but overall this is tart, somewhat sharp acid, some earthy notes, herbs – notably sassasfrass and anise - and some light raspberry for fruit.

Other than some spicy notes, nothing really grabs me on the finish.

Not bad, but it's certainly nothing outstanding and not as enjoyable as I recall the 2004 being. For the price, it's more than acceptable – not deep, but it's light, easy drinking, and food friendly.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

2005 Esser Cellars Pinot Noir

This was at the local wine shop for $10 – easily the cheapest PN in this particular store – and it came with an (admittedly lukewarm) recommendation.

A strong nose of funk and, raspberry.

Cherry – in a Twizzler kinda way – blueberry, funk, earth, dirt, a bit of oak, and just a bit of sweetness.

The oak and some spicy notes come through on the finish.

For a domestic Pinot Noir at this pricepoint, this is among the best we've had. Just a bit too funky and strange, but definitely a lot of Pinot varietal qualities and for $10, I'm content.

Monday, March 17, 2008

N/V Cristalino Cava Brut

This cheap Cava is available widely and since we've been on a sparkler kick I figured I'd grab it for $6.

Oh no – that metallic scent is here on the nose with some apples.

Crisp apples, a bit of pear, some lemon, some nuttiness, and even a bit of toast – not bad. I was fearing the metal notes would be present, but no sir. Quite good.

The finish fades quickly – apples and yeast, but nothing that lasts.

Alright, Segura Viudas makes a better product and I'd go for that before this one again, but if you're at the local grocery shop this is probably your best bet in the price range.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

2005 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mouton Cadet

The 2005 Bordeaux is being raved about, and I'm not about to drop $650+ on the big names – I will spend $6.50 though. This is just a simple Bordeaux, a blend of mostly Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc thrown in for good measure.

The only thing I can really get on the nose is chocolate.

Fairly light and mellow – a bit of fruit, a bit of oak, and a touch of spice. Mostly cherries and blackberries, the oak gives some mildly fuzzy tannins, and I'm getting just a little mint and basil.
The finsh fades quickly with only some cinammon and cherry notes lingering. As the bottle opens, the fruit becomes a bit more pronounced. This is nicely balanced – not too fruity and acidic enough to really drink well.

For $7 this isn't bad – it's well balanced and easy drinking. If it has one flaw it is in its simplicity, but for seven bucks I'm content.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

N/V Korbel Brut

After realizing we've never actually tried this one when we had the Korbel Chardonnay a while back I figured we should try what all the kids are drinking - $8 on sale, why not?

Metallic notes on the nose.

Citrus mainly – orange and lemon - some unpleasant fake sugar, and the bubbles fade fairly quickly.

Just citrus on the finish – oranges mainly.

Noticeably worse than the (same priced) Chardonnay sparkler. The only way I could recommend this is if you were making mimosas.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

2002 J Winery Russian River Valley Brut

This was $25 at the store and I figured I'd grab it to keep on hand, so well, you know, it's Sunday night, and we were eating leftovers, so what better time to crack open a sparkler?

Light toast and grapefruit on the nose.

A fairly bold palate – dry, crisp, yeasty, a bit of toast, tart green apples, and a bit of grapefruit zest. Somewhat disappointing in terms of bubbles – a solid stream to start, but after the bottle had been opened for two hours this was basically flat – flat though it may be, some interesting poached pear and sharply acidic notes really came through as the bubbles faded.

The acid – coming in citrus notes - really lingers on the finish leaving your mouth puckering.

For $25 this is about right for a domestic sparkler - the relatively quick failing of the bubbles is disappointing, but not a dealbreaker.

Friday, March 07, 2008

2004 Antinori Pèppoli Chianti Classico

This goes for about $15, but I grabbed it on clearance for half that.

The nose is mostly earth, funk, and strangely raw meat.

Fairly firm tannins, raspberry, cherry, earth, chocolate, cedar, and a reasonable amount of funk.

A lot of spice comes through on the finish – cinnamon, clove, nutmeg – quite interesting.

Even at fifteen bucks this is solid. A lot of complexity here and overall, an enjoyable bottle. If it wasn't sold out, I'd cheerfully grab a few more bottles.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

2004 Freie Weingartner Wachau Gruner Veltliner

We haven't had GV in a while – this one was $10 and I believe we may have had this producer before – but this was some time ago.

The nose on this one is tough – floral notes, maybe chamomile?

Slate, minerals, stones – yep. Spice, tartness and acid with just a touch of sugar. Not much for fruit other than some extremely unripe tropical and stone fruit.. I am getting some vegetable notes – green and lima beans mainly.

The finish is quite acidic and leaves the mouth watering. A bit of peach and other (unripe) stone fruit as well...maybe even some pineapple.

I recall having two bottles of GV in the past – the first being quite good and the second we poured down the drain. This is somewhere in between. It is what it is – I won't pass GV up at a tasting but I don't see buying one again in the near future.

Monday, March 03, 2008

N/V Binny's Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Tradition Brut Vin Mousseux

I was perusing the aisles looking for something cheap and interesting – I walked by this bottle a few times and thought nothing of it, until the back label caught my eye from an endcap “Selected and Bottled for Binny's” - interesting – for $6, I'll try it.

No question on the nose – anjou pears.

More pears on the palate, as well as some apple notes – but seriously, for fruit this is all pear. A little bit of yeast, and even a bit of toast – nice, crisp, and quite dry. After two hours of being opened, there's still a solid stream of bubbles.

The only thing that really presents itself on the finish is some lingering acid and some mild nuttiness – I'm thinking almonds.

For $6, this is yet another absurd value – a bottle of wine many people – myself included – pass by all the time and perhaps don't even consider because of the price. Not only is there's no strange metallic notes that a lot of cheap sparklers have, but there's actually some reasonable complexity and long lasting bubbles. Recommended.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

2003 Owen Roe Sinister Hand

I grabbed the second to the last bottle of this at the wine shop on clearance for $14 – normally this goes for over $25 if I remember correctly. The labels appear to have been damaged which may be why it was marked down.

Blackberry and oak on the nose – somewhat tight.

This definitely needs an hour – if not more – to open up. Rather smokey, quite of a bt of oak, barnyard, earthy, funky, spicy, herbal (anise, oregano, mint) with a bit of dark black fruit too – overripe blackberry and plum. A hell of a lot is going on in the glass.

Cherry and funky barnyard on the fnish

Why didn't I grab both bottles? Because I'm an idiot. A solid bottle all around in the $20s or below.