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(for friday night) Pairing with Ottolenghi's Chicken with Hazelnuts, honey, safran (and rose water)

Full disclosure, never had this exact chicken dish...

However, from prior tasting dinners with similarly-spiced foods, if I have to pick just one varietal here it's riesling (kabinett or Spatlese). Second would probably be roussanne.

Also think gewurztraminer would be a good match here, but of the two I'd choose riesling just based on more experience with the precise spice pairing.

I'd be reluctant to pair either chardonnay or nebbiolo with the dish. I love chenin blanc but the dish may be too busy for it.

Please report back.

about 10 hours ago
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Help me identify this beer!!!!

about 10 hours ago
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Three Philosophers 2007

High 5. Try a couple quads alongside it. Please report your tasting impressions.

Aug 26, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Help me choose my wedding wines!

What are the vintage years of these wines?

Also as previously asked, what's on your food menu??

Pending those answers, all of the red varietals are potential candidates (pinot, merlot, cab, malbec, syrah, etc.). If I had to pick one varietal, without a vintage year and with no knowledge of the menu it would probably be pinot or cabernet.

However, in the whites I'd tend to rule-out sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio; instead favoring chardonnay and especially riesling due to it's food-friendliness.

Moscato also tends to be quite food friendly, so in a sparkler I'd choose that, though I have no experience with the specific bottle on your list.

If you have the vintage years and the especially the food list a more definitive answer can be provided.

Aug 26, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Wine pairing suggestion for vegan dinner?

Savory tempeh: chardonnay or riesling
Grilled polenta: chardonnay hands down
Garlic-sauteed chard & green beans: several whites work here (Chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc among others)
Roasted red peppers: again, chardonnay & riesling are nice here as are some light reds (beaujolais, rose)
Gremolata: chardonnay if mild to moderate seasoning, riesling if heavily seasoned.

So, to my palate, bottom line the two safest wines to match the components of this meal are chardonnay and riesling. When I look at the totality of the meal, I get the sense there may be a fairly high spice level (savory, roasted, garlic-sauteed, gremolata)... the spicer the meal becomes the more riesling is the single-most fool-proof match.

Aug 05, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Wine matches for a 3-course dinner

1st course: Several wines match sweet potato, but with the curry I'd really narrow it to riesling.

2nd course: If it were just the pork belly I would be looking at some reds (as well as whites). But given the pear and fennel I'm sticking to whites... Also I'd like to switch the cheese out as the most brilliant wine pairings for parmesan aren't necessarily great with pork. Bottom line, I like riesling here, but substitute emmental for the parmesan to better match the wine. If you want to switch from riesling then go gewurztraminer and substitute the parmesan with gruyere. Ultimately I'd leave the riesling on the table from the first course and just add gewurztraminer for the 2nd.

3rd course: Moscato d'Asti, otherwise a dessert muscat. The port and sherry recs are nice too.

Jul 14, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Which red wines go with seafood?

I like pinot noir with grilled tuna... like it alot... but in general I pair "seafood" with white wines.

However when it comes to pairing Pinot with "meat" I generally prefer it with dark turkey, chicken or duck as opposed to lamb or beef...

So ultimately the best wines for your dinner will depend on the specific meats and seafood you plan to serve.

Jul 06, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Wine And Food Pairings

Hi Doc:

While I can't argue with your motto "to each his own"... I'm just wondering what you base your claims on... do you have extensive experience pairing a wide range of wines with different foods... and as a result of actual food & wine tasting you've reached your conclusions?

Or... do you have little such experience (perhaps by choice) but find the notion that certain wines might pair with certain foods goes against your notion of "palate independence" ?

Jul 05, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Same winery,varietal,and year ?

I definitely have found a difference from bottle to bottle... but in most cases I think it wasn't a bad bottle, but rather that either: A) my "palate memory" of the prior bottle was not accurate (usually over-glorified otherwise I wouldn't be buying the second bottle)... OR B) I was serving different dishes (even just moderately different), and the difference on the food side resulted in a different impression on the wine side.

Jun 27, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Cask Ales in the US

Pap I can only speak to how common "hand pumps" are at the microbrew bars I frequent: answer is "not very common". You might find 1 or 2 beers on hand pump at even a good microbrew bar.

Of course a hand pump is just one aspect of cask ale at a bar...

Jun 27, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Belgian Trippel Blind (or Bland?) Tasting

After my initial foray into "tripel - dom" I lost interest in this brew type.

Last night looking for something new to try I popped open a Westmalle Trappist Tripel and a St. Bernardus Tripel. Neither tasted blind. Actual notes follow:

Westmalle: Okay... sort of a sourish light to medium pale ale. No rush to have another... just lacks a memorable flavor.

Now, all but giving up on Tripels at this point...

St. Bernardus: Nicer than Westmalle... much less sour... almost has a "sugary" edge. I'd try this again... as close to a "benchmark" Tripel for my palate as I've found.

Jun 22, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

What wines to pair with wedding brunch?

That's obviously a tight price range. To answer re the specific wines you mention: definitely would not pair this menu with sauvignon blanc, and in rieslings wouldn't go as ripe as spatlese... would prefer a kabinett. But at $4... I've had food-friendly kabinetts under $10 in the past, but that's been a few years, don't recall any as low as $4... you might find a domestic riesling cheaper than Germans.

In sparklers, you can get NV Moscato d'Asti's in the $7-8 dollar range. That's a very food-friendly wine.

Jun 21, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Midwest Stout Blind-Tasting Championship and random stout notes

Yes... I keep the bottles in a cool basement then give them a slight chill with about 10 minutes in the fridge before tasting.... They warm up to room temp during the tasting and I note any changes in flavor profiles.

Jun 17, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Midwest Stout Blind-Tasting Championship and random stout notes

So now with North Coast Old Rasputin, Bell's Kalamazoo, and Samuel Smith's Chocolate firmly established as baselines in this taste-off, I'm branching off to taste-test some stouts with more limited availability.

The candidates in this round are:

Ass Kisser Porter Pounder
Dieu de Ciel Peche Mortel
Evil Twin I Love You with My Stout

All beers were sampled blind, actual tasting notes follow:

Beer 1: Nice texture... really good lingering soft flavor... perhaps lacking a bit of a dynamic edge in favor of smoothness.

Beer 2: Bigger, richer. Beer 1 isn't bad, Beer 2 is just more: complex, bolder....

Beer 3: More sophisticated than Beer 2... same bigness and complexity, less harshness. VERY well-made stout.

At this point it's 2 vs. 3.... re-tasting:

Beer 3: Semi-sweet, complex, big yet smooth...

Beer 2: Just less sophisticated by comparison

Another sip of 3 elicits the "yum" response...

Re-tasting Beer 1: inoffensive but not remarkable.

Clear winner of this trio is: Beer 3.

Revealing the beers:

Beer 1: Ass Kisser Porter Pounder
Beer 2: Peche Mortel
Beer 3: Evil Twin I Love You with my Stout (the winner!).

ILYWMS will move on in this taste-off.

Jun 16, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Search for Everyday-Drinking Pale Ales

Blind Tasting June 12, 2014.

Candidates:

Bell's Two-Hearted PA
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed (the benchmark)
Firestone Walker Union Jack
Founders Centennial

Actual tasting notes follow:

Beer 1: Nice, fruity, almost missing a sharp bitter edge

Beer 2: Drier... almost puckery... I definitely prefer Beer 1 at this point

Beer 3: Nicely balanced... mildly bitter sweet.

Beer 4: Nice... balanced.... lingering flavor... slight bitterness predominates...

Initial results: Clear loser is Beer 2.

Further tasting:

Beer 1 vs. 3: nearly a tie but sipping and re-sipping the nod goes to Beer 1

Beer 1 vs. 4: 4 is nice but the overall character is a little undefined in contrast to Beer 1 which is "yummy".

Beer 3 vs. 4; Somewhere around even.

Last sip of Beer 1: yes, just a more completely structured beer and slight winner over 3 and 4 which are both respectable, and Beer 2 which was just unpleasant.

***************************
Revealing the beers:

Beer 1: Deschutes Fresh Squeezed
Beer 2: Bell's Two-Hearted
Beer 3: Firestone Union Jack
Beer 4: Founder's Centennial

Interesting that Bell's 2-hearted was such a loser. Just found it at a liquor store across the state line where they have Bell's products... I haven't liked it in the past. Probably haven't had it for at least 7 years.... and don't care for it now. In contrast, Bell's Kalamazoo stout scored very highly in our stout tastings.

Jun 15, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Midwest Stout Blind-Tasting Championship and random stout notes

On Friday two friends and I did an impromptu blind tasting of Old Rasputin vs. Bell's Kalamazoo Stout.

In general the consensus was that Beer 1 was somewhat softer yet with a full rich flavor and texture whereas Beer 2 was similar but with richer and somewhat "harsher" flavor edges.

My friends both slightly preferred Beer 1, primarily for the relative smoothness. I'm a bit more active stout consumer, appreciate both and found it difficult to pick between the two.

Revealing the results:

Beer 1: Bells Kalamazoo
Beer 2: NCOR

An interesting follow-on note: BK is 6% abv ! vs. 8.2% for NCOR. In a world of high-abv stouts, it's quite amazing the amount of flavor BK achieves at 6%.

It's been probably 7 or more years since I've had a BK and was very impressed... used to love Bells Expedition Stout (a 10.5% abv imperial monster) which I used to get in other parts of the country.

Jun 15, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Best inexpensive wine?

Hi Gasp: generally I like your blog article quite alot.

However there are at least two major errors of omission IMO:

1: No mention of riesling anywhere in the article.

2: A very useful general rule is to look for "common" labels in sensational vintage years. So, for example, follow all your guidelines PLUS focus on the best vintage years to really stack the deck in your favor.

Jun 12, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine

Midwest Stout Blind-Tasting Championship and random stout notes

Summer Stout Semi-Finals: blind tasting for "baseline" year-round stout:

Challengers:
Great Divide Yeti
Great Divide Oak-Aged Yeti
Great Divide Oak-Aged Chocolate Yeti
North Coast Old Rasputin

This was a close contest of similar-tasting well-made stouts. However at the end, 2 clear "winners" emerged. Actual tasting notes follow:

Beer 1: Rich, luscious... Very smooth for such a deeply-flavored stout. Still I'm not 100% on what I think of the flavor itself... as though it has edges that may not quite fit together...

Beer 2: Slightly less smooth than #1. Hint of chocolate on the rich flavor.

Beer 3: A bit "brighter" than Beer 2....

After the first 3 I'm leaning slightly to Beer 2...

Beer 4: Smooth-flavored with hints of chocolate and cherry....

Re-tasting for head-to-head comparisons:

4 vs. 2: both good, maybe a slight nod to 2 for richness and chocolate notes

4 vs 3: slightly favors 4...

4 vs. 1: slightly favors 4...

2 and 4 emerge from the above with a small margin...

3 vs. 1: slightly favor 3, but close.

Final Choices:
1 is the "loser" though hardly bad (reveals as Aged Chocolate Yeti).... perhaps that explains the incongruity of some of the flavor notes mentioned above. Another year in the bottle might resolve that and I have one bottled in 2011 to try...

2 and 4 are the "winners".... 2: Oak Aged "regular" Yeti; and 4: Old Rasputin...

Honorable mention for 3: "regular" Great Divide Yeti...

This tasting focused on stouts available in the midwest on a nearly year-round basis. I will now use these as baseline stouts to compare others that are very limited release.

Jun 11, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Summer Beer Rundown 2014 -- What are you drinking this year?

My beer pattern isn't as seasonal as it used to be. I drink PA's, barleywines, and stouts pretty much year-round. If you're out of the heat (i.e. in the AC), the season isn't as noticeable beer-wise.

What's different is I probably slack off on the percentage of each of the above and swap it out for more wheats and fruit-wheats.

Jun 02, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Midwest Stout Blind-Tasting Championship and random stout notes

3rd Round of Qualifiers in blind tasting. The challengers:
Great Divide "Regular" Oak Aged Yeti
Great Divide Espresso Oak Aged Yeti
Lagunitas Cappuchino Stout

AFTER tasting these, there was a follow up pitting "Regular" (non-oak aged) yeti against the winner of the above.

Actual tasting notes follow.

Beer 1: Luscious. Elegant texture. hint of lingering mocha... Rich but not overly explosive on the palate

Beer 2: Somewhat "yucky" flavor... not much else to say

Beer 3: Really nice scent that doesn't translate to flavor on the palate. Definitely better than 2 however.

Second flight pits 1 vs. 3:

Beer 3: Okay... not a readily definable flavor...

Beer 1: Really big by comparison... the winner tonite and it moves on in the competition.

Revealing the beers:

Beer 1: G. D. "regular" oak aged yeti. (The "winner")
Beer 2: G. D. oak aged espresso yeti
Beer 3: Lagunitas Cappuchino
******************************

With Beer 1 open I decided to try it vs. Regular (non-oaked) Yeti, one of the winners of a prior round. I re-poured them in different glasses and tasted blind:

Beer A: Luscious, lip smacking, coffee-ish...

Beer B: Slightly softer version of Beer A?

Re-tasting: Beer A just seems sharper and bolder than B, but not necessarily better. This is close, near a draw. It's like Beer B has 1 gear and Beer A has two but they are still about equal in overall impression.

Revealing the brews: Beer A is "Regular" non-oaked Yeti, and Beer B is Oak-aged yeti (plain, not the espresso or chocolate varieties). I guess this makes sense, that the oak aging produces a softened version of the regular bottling. Both are quite nice and will move on to the finals which will feature the following:

North Coast Old Rasputin
Sam Smith Organic Chocolate
G.D. Regular Yeti
G.D. Regular Oak Aged Yeti
G.D. Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti

So the finals aren't overly represented by Great Divide I will try tasting the Yeti's alone to find the top 1 or 2, then pit that against Rasputin and SSOC. The problem being as in today's tasting, I couldn't find a preference for reg yeti vs. the oaked version :) We will see.

THEN, once this great baseline stout is established I can start pitting it against rarer stouts for which I can only get a few bottles per year.

Jun 02, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

White Wine For A "Sweet & Savory" Dinner

That isn't much to go on....

If I have to pick one white here, it's riesling around kabinett. It will match "sweet" better than most, pairs well with alot of seafood dishes, and is an overall very food-friendly wine.

As for reds I'd like to know what "meats" are being served... but pinot matches the catch-all category "seafood" as well as any other red so I'm fine with your choice there.

Please report back on how you found the pairings.

May 30, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Wine
1

Midwest Stout Blind-Tasting Championship and random stout notes

Good questions...

1: "Midwest" just means "available on the shelf or tap in the Midwest U.S.", not necessarily brewed around here.

2: It is a mixed-bag of stout styles. I guess the reason I don't mind mixing them is that I drink them that way too... sort of inter-changeably.

May 25, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Search for Everyday-Drinking Pale Ales

Interesting mini-tasting last night:
Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Fresh Hop vs
Deschutes Fresh Squeezed

The SNSH held up really well. Nice mild to moderate bitter range, very fresh and well-made.

By comparison though, every sip of DFS yields just a more complex flavor with a more dramatic immediate impression.

All-in-all SNSH is very impressive and may in fact be better tasting to my palate than Torpedo or even SN Celebration. I still have a bottle of each of those so might do an exclusive Sierra Nevada tasting soon.

May 25, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer
1

Midwest Stout Blind-Tasting Championship and random stout notes

2nd Round of Qualifiers in blind tasting. The challengers:

Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti
Rogue Chocolate Stout
Sierra Nevada Narwahl

Actual tasting notes follow:

Beer 1: Very nice. Rich flavor. Coffee with hint of chocolate.

Beer 2: Big initial impression BUT this is a strange taste of sorts. Can't quite say I love this, but definitely "impressed" by it.

Beer 3: Rich, big complex stout. Hints of chocolate and cherry.

Flight 1: 1 is the "clearest" basic stout. And I like 3 more than 2. Beer 2 is the loser of first tasting

Flight 2:

Beer 3: Quite nice, complex, smooth, rich. Coffee w/ hint of cherry.

Beer 2: Just shuddering. Not a fully developed / integrated set of flavors.

Beer 1: Good if a "basic" stout.

OVERALL: Beer 3 is the winner tonite and will move on. Beer 1 gets an honorable mention.

Revealing the brews:

Beer 1: Rogue Chocolate
Beer 2: Sierra Narwahl
Beer 3: Yeti Oak Aged Chocolate

*****************************
A bit surprised as I've tried Narwahl in the past (can't recall if blind or not), and thought I liked it. Just didn't hold up tonight.

May 24, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Red Draw

The recipes here run everywhere from straight tomato juice to something resembling a bloody mary mix. I suppose all would work though I've only tried the former. Definitely not just Texan but might be central-states in origin: I had it growing up further north in Tornado Alley in the 60's and 70's where we mostly called it "red beer" or "tomato beer".

Reading the recipes I'm intrigued about a more bloody-mary type version, with some pepper and lemon/lime, etc. I had a one of the worst, probably the single worst beer ever "Ghost Face Killah" last week; a beer brewed with habanero, jalapeno, serrano and a couple other peppers. As bad as it was, if it were watered down to a sensible heat level with some tomato juice and other ingredients, it might actually be pretty good!

May 22, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Midwest Stout Blind-Tasting Championship and random stout notes

Yesterday began the arduous task of finding / updating my go-to stout lineup. I'm going to start with brews that are most widely available throughout the year in order to establish some "baselines". Then we'll finish up with some brews for which I only have 1 or 2 bottles per year.

For this first qualifier there were 4 candidates, tasted blind:

Great Divide Yeti (regular Yeti)
North Coast Old Rasputin
Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout
Samuel Smith's Chocolate Stout

I should note that within a very wide latitude I've drank so much stout over the years that I use flavored and unflavored brews inter-changeably. You'll see that throughout this taste off.

Should also note that to my palate, more than any other beer type, the flavor of stout is very temperature-sensitive and should not be served too cold as the flavors can lock-up and be a bit harsh. For me, the ideal temp is probably around 60-ish.

Actual tasting notes follow:

Beer 1: Nice rich flavor. Mild coffee and dates....

Beer 2: Sweet, tasty. A bit thinly-textured....

Beer 3: Dry, bitter. Just an uninteresting, singular "dusty" flavor.

Beer 4: Big, a bit harsh.
After Round 1 my preferences were still TBD, so after awhile to warm in the glasses on to Round 2:

Beer 4: Very complex, semi-dry wbut with a mid-range bittersweet flavor spike. Well made.

Beer 3: Yuck

Beer 2: Undeniably delicious if a bit over-stated.

Beer 1: Very nice. More of a classic middle-of-the-road stout.Mostly coffee with a hint of date / cherry.

Final ratings: The only certain loser here is Beer 3. Beers 1, 2, and 4 are still in the race. Beer 1 was probably the most classic stout, great at both chilled and room temperature. Beer 4 is very big but did better as it warmed. Beer 2 is tasty, obviously a chocolate stout, and suffers a bit from a thinner texture than the others.

Revealing the Beers:

Beer 1 (current "winner"): Old Rasputin.
Beer 2: Samuel Smith's Chocolate Stout
Beer 3: Rogue Shakespeare
Beer 4: Yeti.

These results come as no surprise. For years Old Rasputin has been among my go-to stouts in several regions of the country. A masterpiece of classic stout both in the bottle and on tap, not too overly nuanced, just a great rich brew.

May 22, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Search for Everyday-Drinking Pale Ales

Not exactly an "everyday" PA, but tried the Evil Twin "Yuzu" pale ale this evening. Just alright. Reminded me of a lightly-fruited wheat beer like a very faint peach wheat or raspberry wheat. Nothing to hate, but nothing to really get excited about. Glad I tried it.

May 20, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Miscellaneous Barleywine Tasting Notes

the lowest price I've found (not that there's alot of bottles available) is $14.95 for 22oz.

In comparison, Foghorn is like $12 for a multi-pack, so Mirror Mirror is over double that.

May 20, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Random beer tasting notes....

A few recent random tastings:

1: Ommegang Tripel Perfection. I didn't love this. Non-blind tasting and didn't have it with a baseline comparison. Just okay, probably wouldn't buy again.

2: Unibroue "Grande Reserve 17". This is supposed to be a some sort of "spiced" brew. Label says it was bottled in 2011? Anyway very uninteresting, a totally disconnected set of flavors.

Lips of Faith 2013 Le Terroir. This is billed as a "dry hopped sour ale". Again, it's just okay. Definitely a sour. Didn't taste it alongside another one.

The above 3 brews were all very highly applauded by various rating forums. Leaves me wondering what they were thinking. THe TP was fair, the Le Terroir I guess okay if you like that style, and the 17 just plain what(?).

May 19, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer

Miscellaneous Barleywine Tasting Notes

So this new release of Deschutes Mirror Mirror barleywine just came out. I went for it at a rather ridiculous price but you only live once.

Anyway, tasted it blind v. my go-to barleywine: Anchor Foghorn.

Tasting notes follow. Interesting to note that during the tasting I thought I "knew" which was which, turned out I didn't :)

Beer 1: Delicious. First taste was like a honey cake with very modest alcohol blast considering it's a BW.... lingering, delicious.

Beer 2: Oh yeah... very bold and complex....

Round 1 was about a push: each very respectable in it's own right.

Round 2

Tasting Beer 2 first: On the sweet side of bittersweet. Strongly flavored.

Beer 1: very satisfying...

Round 2 narrowly goes to Beer 1 because it is a bit more "sweet and delicate" while Beer 2 is more "big and strongly flavored".
*****************************************
I conclude by liking both of these ALOT, but with a narrow preference for Beer 1 (which I thought by now I knew which it was)...

Revealing the winner:

Beer 1 is...... Anchor Foghorn.

Should be noted that the Mirror Mirror was "brand new" 2014 release and the bottle itself says "best after July 2015". Definitely going to buy several more bottles of this to lay down and age despite the absurd price... It definitely has that big taste that has me thinking it will mellow and "caramelize" into something really interesting over the next few years.

May 19, 2014
TombstoneShadow in Beer