Monday, April 5, 2010

Until we see each other again...


I leave for Shanghai tomorrow morning. It's going to be a difficult trip - we'll be burying my grandfather. I jump at the chance to visit the motherland, but not under these circumstances. No, not like this.

I haven't been thinking about this trip - no itinerary planned, no activities, not sure of the places I want to visit. We'll see what happens when we get there. What I do have is my camera - looking to really put my wide angle to good use. And of course, a big part of this trip is going to be the food that's coming into season. Lots of copious note-taking, lots of photos, and hopefully, I'll come back from the trip with new culinary inspiration.

Blogging is not going to happen while I'm there. I'm certain of it. Will be missing the start of En Primeur madness in Bordeaux, but that's ok. I've heard of some interesting wine bars and shops opening in Shanghai - guess I'll have to see for myself. World Expo 2010 opening soon as well. So, mes amis, hope everyone stays well as we head into spring...I'll see you in a month.


2008 Nahe


2008 Paul Anheuser Riesling Kabinett, Schlossböckelheimer Königsfels, QmP Nahe

This is a discovery for me. My first time tasting a wine of Nahe, Germany. For riesling, this region certainly sits in the shadow of its big brothers - southeast of the Mosel, and southwest of the Rheingau, Nahe rieslings are said to combine the best aspects of its more famous brethren - the steely slate minerality of the Mosel, with the richness of the Rheingau.

Certainly proves its worth - this wine is spectacular. Very pale colour, nearly clear at the rim. While very young, the bouquet shows a lot of slate, lots of pure minerals, and citrus fruit. Undeniably German, and can go with the best of young Mosel wines. Even shows a touch of green. Very complex, very well defined aromas, especially in a young wine. Palate shows great balance, with very high acidity. Finishes a bit coarse, but this wine will age beautifully.

This wine is the epitome of precision. Focused, bright, pure riesling. Very, very impressive indeed.


1983 Rheingau


1983 Balthasar Ress Riesling Kabinett, Winkeler Jesuitengarten, QmP Rheingau

I've drunk this wine before. This being the last bottle I had, the plan was to drink it over the summer, maybe as part of a comprehensive look at '80's and early '90's reislings. But, this being my last weekend in's meant for drinking right?

I love these old riesling. Golden in colour, with orange flecks at the rim, showing an incredibly focused bouquet of oily minerality, stewed apples, pears. Follows through on the palate, good sweetness, very harmonious, very balanced. Great length on the finish. I could drink these wines forever.


Look at the colour!


Just one more...indulge me. Look at how dramatic the colour of red wine changes as it matures. Which one would you instinctively go for, without knowing what was in each glass?


1985 Rioja


1985 Coto de Imaz Gran Reserva, DOCa Rioja

Second wine of the night, and clearly the most spectacular wine I've drank this year. Unfortunately, I don't have the opportunity to drink a lot of old wines, and this release was one I was going to buy, regardless of price. From the same producer as the last wine, the 2004 Coto de Imaz. The only difference (besides vintage) was that this wine was a Gran Reserva, implying a longer aging period, both in oak barrel and in the bottle, before the wine was released.

With these older wines, you have to temper your expectations. I wanted really hard to just fall in love, but I had to remind myself that this wine was a year older than I was. Thankfully, there was no need for any trepidation - the wine was spectacular. Shows a very mature colour, all brick red, amber edges, deep orange/red at the core. Holds onto its saturation very well - still showing colour at the rim. The bouquet was stunning. My goodness. Showing a lot of stewed strawberries, very pure, gently aromatic and very mature. The minerality, the narrative connecting this wine with the 2004, underlines the still intense fruit. Focus remains. I'm not going to by hyperbolic and say how young the wine was on the nose. This was clearly a mature wine, clearly one over 20 years. What was so fascinating was its intensity, its focus. A grand old man with all his faculties of mind and body intact, but showing the wear of his years.

Very harmonious on the palate, elegant, showing the fruit aromas - stewed strawberries, plums, red berries. Very balanced, showing how special wine can be when all its elements integrate perfectly. Acidity rides high on the finish, leaving the faint impression of very fine tannins. Extraordinarily long, spice-filled finish. Yes, the wine is old, but still has lots of fight and vigour left. Easily can go for another 10 years.

The wine held up well over the 2 days we drank it. Remains focused - many of these older wines begin breaking apart with air. And with pan-seared Delicious all the way, the acidity perfectly cutting the fat, the flavours just melding and creating a symphony of lights on the palate.

A grand example of how important a wine classically-made Rioja is.


2004 Rioja


2004 Coto de Imaz Reserva, DOCa Rioja

Finally, onto the wines sealed under those corks. The first wine of Thursday night, the start of my month off from civilization. I'd been sitting on this bottle for a few months, just for this occasion - to drink alongside a bottle of 1985 Coto de Imaz Gran Reserva, featured next. Same producer, different vintage...there is no greater pleasure that can be had.

Dark colour, deep red and purple, still glimmering. The minerality is very much the centerpiece, just a striking wave of crushed wet rocks, spring brook, and mineral water. This is the narative that connects the 2004 with the 1985. Fills with darker berries, strawberries, some spice. What a lovely aroma - at a very youthful stage, but there's excellent intensity, focus. Just sings of what classically made Rioja can deliver in the bouquet.

The palate is just delicious. Berries dance, but there's a tightness and austerity that's extraordinary. Tension in the wine, tannins are tight but focused, very fine. Long, spicy finish, beautifully traditional Rioja, with the potential to age in a very good way.


Corks, old and new

Is it obvious now? I've written earlier about what a cork can tell you - the most important information it provides is cellaring condition. The young wine on the left...cork shows no seeping, perfectly even stain on the end. The one on the right - showing more wear and tear. Cork is mishapen, drying out, with a deep stain in the center. Still drew out quite cleanly, in one piece. A miracle, considering it was about 25 years old.


Uncorking a mystery


Uncorking old bottles of exciting! Never know what to expect. Of course, it could all go so horribly wrong, in so many horrible ways. But when it all comes together, you're reminded why you do it. We're reminded why we spend countless hours, hard-earned money, and general health of body and mind to understand the mystery and the suspense of great wines.

Two wines lined up. Which one is the mature forefather, which one is the youngster? Pretty obvious, no?


Sunday, April 4, 2010



I can't remember the last time I've drank so much over a 3-day period. Going out for a long run soon - need to detox because I'm pretty sure it's not good to get on a 15 hour flight with a hangover. Pressurized cabin, cramped seating, ugly flight attendants, shitty food, and all.

We had friends over for dinner last night. Was talking wine to one of our guests, when we were rudely interrupted. You see why I don't like cooking dinner for more than 8 people? Anyways, good to see everyone again, and a great excuse to quietly polish off two 6-packs.

---Blogger's note, 4:47 pm:

So, just came back from my run, legs hurt, toes hurt, but otherwise, still breathing. Ran 10 km in 38:05.17, about 5 minutes off my time from a year ago. Good stuff, especially since I wasn't at my best today - not enough food going in, not enough water, alcohol still swimming in my veins. Hoping to get that time down to about 35 minutes, but a good start. The Don River ravine was full of people today. Which makes it a bit annoying - constantly swerving to avoid running over toddlers begins to feel like razor blades are attached inside the shoe, cutting into your ankles everytime you roll.

More wine tonight - finishing up a bottle of Nahe riesling...the next time I'll be touching any wine, it'll be in another country.


On cooking

It's late, but a quick word before I (finally) head to bed. Right. And I need to go for a long run tomorrow - technically, later today. 10 km, in the ravine.

I'm thoroughly convinced that people appreciate subtlety in Chinese cooking. For our dinner service tonight, for 20 people, I cooked a few dishes. The star was asparagus, of all things. A really simple dish, literally 5 minutes. But everyone loved the dish, and asked endless questions about how I cooked it. Subtlety. There's no need for lots of seasoning, lots of different sauces and whatever. My goal was to express the freshness of the asparagus to the fullest - anything that obfuscates the natural flavour of the asparagus is a disaster.

Keep it simple. I don't understand why people don't get that simple, simple concept. That's why the majority of people can't cook for shit, no?


Friday, April 2, 2010

Tasting greatness

I'm sitting now, after a long dinner, with three glasses of wine. I'm drinking a 1985 and a 2004 Rioja, from the same producer, along with a 1983 Rheingau riesling. All three wines are sublime - they taste of wonder, and the grandeur of what true terroir wines can deliver. And I'm reminded why I fell in love with this fickle, sometimes frustrating obsession.

Photos, and an in depth look at these wines, in a few days.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

No more

And would you look at's April. New month, new rules. No more hustling links on facebook and twitter. It's annoying, and tacky, and I just don't do tacky.

My hits are going to suffer, but at least my pride won't. Please add me to your google reader, blogroll, etc. - it'll be much easier to follow my writing that way. Trust me.