Saturday, June 20, 2009


So I have been working with a wine importing & distribution company since November '08. I am always tasting wines from the portfolio and have decided to include a few of the wines on this blog. After all, I am sure many of you enjoy wine with your food and if you don't, you need to start. They are excellent compliments to each other.

Some wines will be from the portfolio I work with, others will not be. All of the wines reviewed here will be from family owned properties. Usually the wineries will be boutique operations with a small case production emphasizing a hand crafted sustainable approach to wine making.

Raw Power Shiraz 2006
$15 or Under
Adelaide Plains, Australia

Falling just short of sniffing gunpowder and shooting up EPI pens there is ‘Raw Power Shiraz.’ A palate and marketing punch in the face, this wine screams at the anti-authoritarian crowd. The bottle adorns ‘Exploited’-esque skulls and safety pins on the label plus a totally punk rock importing story; that I cannot share in a public forum. Let’s just say the story on the back of the bottle is more ‘Spinal Tap’ than ‘Sex Pistols.’

This is an intense wine with fruit forward characteristics. The oak is well integrated on the palate. For a wine that boasts “Raw Power” it is not an oak bomb. The ‘Power’ is really in this wines longevity and resistance to deterioration after oxygen has been introduced, i.e. after being opened. You could pop this bottle and leave it open for 4 days and it would still be delicious on the 4th day. The oxygen aids in the evolution of the flavors.

Pair with pizza, curries, mexican food...cuisines with gutsy flavors

Taft Street Russian River Valley Riesling, 2008
$18 or Under
Russian River, California

Let’s start by saying that the Russian River Valley is the premiere area for growing grapes in this country. The fruit is consistently dazzling. Enter Taft Street who has been around for over 30 years. They went from being a mass-producer of wine then pulled in the reigns, dramatically. They produced 57,000 cases, now down to 15,000. What does this mean? It means a return to the heart & soul of the operation; crafting elegant, well-structured wines with more of a personal touch thanks to winemaker Evelyn White.

These guys focus on Pinot Noir & Chardonnay and there selections of these varietals are outstanding. I picked the Riesling to write about because it has a fun story attached to it. One of the grape farmers that Taft Street buys from called up Evelyn and said “Hey I have 7 extra tons of Riesling do you want it?” She of course jumped at the opportunity and made a fantastic wine. With the Russian River mostly devoted to Chard & Pinot Noir, Riesling is small production and always limited. There were only 380 cases made; which means a bit harder to find but worth it. Taft Street, after the great success of this Riesling will continue to make more in the upcoming vintages.

This Riesling shows an excellent balance of off-dry characteristics with a rich mouth feel. There is no malolactic fermentation; Russian River fruit doesn’t need it. The minerality is minimal but there and in harmony. This wine should be exactly what you expect from a Riesling, a little sweet, structured with layers of flavor and the perfect amount of acid.

Pair with white fish dishes, shellfish, cured meats and cheeses, fondues

Thursday, June 18, 2009


More Calcium than a glass of milk!
More Iron than an egg!
A super antioxidant!

Its not pomegranate, not a maitake (though these are arguably one of the most potent super foods out there)

Its Hijiki; a type of seaweed or sea vegetable. You can find it at most sushi restaurants. Its served in a little dish or bowl and great to pick at. In NYC there are a few Japanese markets that sell it. The one I usually go to is Katagiri on 59th between 2nd & 3rd. Arame is another sea veggie that is a bit milder than Hijiki and can be used alternatively for the following recipe. This makes a great summer dish for its refreshing and chilled qualities.

1/2 Cup of Hijiki
1 small bulb of Ginger, skinned and diced fine
1/2 Tbls of Sesame oil
1/2 Tbls Tamari Soy Sauce
1/2 Tbls Mirin
Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tspn Sugar in the Raw
2 Tbls Toasted Pine Nuts*
1 Tspn White Sesame Seeds

1. Soak the hijiki for 15-20 minutes in cold water. They will swell to 2x their original volume.
2. While the hijiki is soaking. Peel and dice the ginger and toast the pine nuts.
3. Heat up the Soy Sauce, Ginger, Sesame Oil, Mirin, Pepper Flakes. Add sugar and reduce.
4. Strain and press the Hijiki. Add to the ginger/soy mixture. Stir. Add the pine nuts and place in a bowl.
5. Chill for a few minutes.

*Toasted Pine Nuts are expensive. Sub anything you want here that adds color and texture; Green or Red Bell Peppers, Carrots, get the idea.

Sauteed Broccoli with Garlic & Sundired Tomatoes

If I were to go ‘Vegetarian’ this dish would be a staple of my diet. When I cook this dish its hard for me not to eat the whole head of broccoli. The flavors are robust, its healthy and soooo easy to make. It serves as a side dish to steak, chicken, fish, or on its own.

1 Head of Broccoli, florets broken off the stalk**
½ Cup Sundried Tomatoes
2 Cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced (more if you love garlic)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
2. Rehydrate the tomatoes for 5-10 minutes
3. In a skillet, over medium heat, sauté the sliced garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. If you notice the edges around the garlic getting brown lower the heat.
4. Chop up the sundried tomatoes and sauté with the garlic
5. Cook the broccoli for 1 ½ - 2 minutes. Strain and toss in with the garlic and sundried. Add some of the sundried tomatoe water (optional) and dust the broccoli with the adobo.
6. Dump contents into a serving bowl and stir to make sure the juices are dispersed. Taste and adjust.

**Those naked broccoli stalks...all the florets gone. DON'T THROW THEM OUT. They still contain nutrients. Make a pesto with them, slice them and pickle them, puree them with peanuts, cilantro, soy sauce and make a spread or dip. Just don't waste food ehh.