Cakebread and the Cuvee de Fail: Rubaiyat

March 3, 2010

Enjoy this lovely poem, from the namesake of the bottle in question:

Here with a loaf of bread beneath the bough,
A flask of wine, a book of verse --
and thou Beside me singing in the wilderness-
And wilderness is paradise …
(The Eleventh Quatrain of the Rubáiyat by Omar Khayyám)

…now about the wine. 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Syrah…wait…WHAT??!!!…Pinot Noir and Syrah, yes. Two grapes from two different planets. Two grapes that have absolutely no business being in the same bottle. It presents a confused melange of light floral notes, bright sweet berry flavors, and smokey hung meat — much like what we could imagine our prehistoric ancestors might have proudly piled on an altar as an offering to the gods. This wine is recommended by the vintner as an accompaniment to light picnic or barbecue fare — which describes a scene similar to that of our ancestors around the altar. Imagine a group of cavemen in a woodland clearing, a stone firepit going with the corpse of some animal sizzling away, and piles of other gathered comestibles; now, replace the woodland clearing with a suburban back yard, the stone firepit with a gas grill, and the cavemen with palate-impaired philistines wearing baseball caps. Bingo. I think we know who this wine is for.

Rubaiyat is only available only at the winery; limiting distribution is a way to limit the brand-damage blast radius (see article on Trollinger below). To remove any remaining doubt, the vintner recommends serving this (red) wine chilled — which would mute the flavors — now why would they want to do that?

Two requests for Cakebread:

  1. Please stop making this wine; the Pinot Noir and Syrah may be decent on their own, and if they can’t hold their own as varietals, have Germain Robin turn them into brandy. Whatever. Just stop the madness.
  2. Admit this was a mistake that you keep making to present the illusion that it was deliberate. Limited distribution, recommendations to serve chilled with low-brow food, etc., support this theory, but it’s even evident in the blend percentages. I posit that the first vintage of this wine was a simple error in the barrel warehouse: you had nine rows of pinot noir barrels, and when you rolled them out for blending, someone lost count and you got a tenth row (of syrah) by accident. Hey, it can happen to anybody when the occupational hazards involve alcohol.

Cellar Surplus Recipe Idea #1

March 3, 2010
Half way through my last case of 1966 Krug Blanc de Blancs, I basically just got sick of it.  Fortunately, I found this tasty recipe:
* 2 large egg yolks
* 2 tablespoons sugar
* 1/4 cup 1966 Krug BdB
* Poached Pears, recipe follows
Fill a 1-quart saucepan half-full with water over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
Place all ingredients in a medium stainless steel bowl and whisk until well combined. Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the sauce is thick and doubled in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough so that it will support a ribbon of sauce trailing off the end of the spoon when lifted.
Serve warm over poached pears in small bowls or decorative glasses.
Poached Pears:
12 pears
1 bottle sweet white wine, (Moscato, Muscat, Riesling, etc.)
1 vanilla bean, split
Cut a small “x” on the bottom of each pear. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and set up a large bowl of ice water. Add the pears to the boiling water and cook for 15 to 30 seconds, just to loosen skin. Remove and immediately plunge into the ice water. Slip the skins off the pears. Halve and remove the pits.
Combine the wine and vanilla bean in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pears, cover and simmer gently for 3 to 5 minutes, or just until the pears are tender.
Remove the pears from the poaching liquid and chill. Top with the sabayon.
(I use the remainder of the bottle in a Buerre Blanc for a course in the same meal, but I suppose you could drink it too.)

Alsations, Asian Food, Degustation and Disgust (a plea to sommeliers)

March 1, 2010


When dining out at a Japanese/Sushi restaurant, ordering “Omakase” is the way to get the best experience possible: entrust yourself to the Chef. Put yourself at the Chef’s mercy, and the results will be a culinary epiphany that will enrich your life. It is very likely that you will try something you have never had before, ingredients and/or combinations thereof. Unfortunately, applying this technique to other styles of cuisine is not as reliable, despite the trend of most high-end restaurants inviting this option with degustation menus. While many mistakes can be made with the food itself in these tasting menus, there is no mistake more common or egregious than the epic epicurian failure of poor wine pairings. I’m not going to single out a particular restaurant or particular degustation/wine-pairing menu therefrom, because I don’t want to get sued; I will instead presume the guilt of all restaurants with such menus, and make this desperate plea to their sommeliers: STOP PAIRING SWEET ALSATIONS WITH ASIAN FOOD — FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Whoever started this trend should be impaled on a giant satay skewer and waterboarded in a vat of Trockenbeerenauslese. What grows together goes together, and you can’t get much further apart than Southeast Asia and Northern Europe. The cloying sweetness of tropical and stone-fruit flavors in that late harvest Gewurz doesn’t complement the heat of that Thai curry at all; it clashes like blue and orange, like fire and ice, like Metallica and frickin’ Joan Baez. Just cut it out — seriously — or I’m never setting foot in your restaurant again…yes you.


199? Trollinger at Hotel am Schlossgarten

February 25, 2010

Stuttgart is an excellent example of a modern city that hasn’t lost its old world charm; it is a clean, efficient city with all the amenities of the present day, yet with character and traditions from ages past prevalent everywhere. One such tradition is a wine known as Trollinger. When my wife and I arrived at Hotel am Schlossgarten, we were greeted with a gift of a bottle of Trollinger. Being a collector of wine who is unafraid of the esoteric and obscure, I found it curious that I had never heard of Trollinger, and inquired of the concierge. He became visibly nervous, stuttering something in a mix of German and English about it being a humble country red wine of limited production, found only in the area of Wurttemburg; he concluded by very distinctly and emphatically observing that “this wine…it is *not* exported”. Folks, there is a reason it is not exported: it is ass. Do not drink this wine. Trollinger is to blame for the fact that I find myself dry-heaving as I write this, and on any occasion when I reminisce about an otherwise delightful vacation. Perhaps some traditions are better left in the past…


1921 Chateau D’Yquem at Maison de Ble

February 25, 2010

I’d always wanted to try Chateau D’Yquem, based on all the rave reviews.  I had a chance to try a 1999 while dining at Maison de Ble in Lyon.  It had an enticing brilliant canary yellow color, and the flavor was an explosion of stone-fruit and honey.  I detest stone-fruit.  The flustered Sommelier de Ble brought us a bottle with more age on it, but it had clearly gone bad as you can see from the brown color.  Disgusting.  The bottle broke when we were trying to get the cork back in — no big loss — it’s not like it was drinkable.


1961 Pétrus at Il Buco di Monstro

February 25, 2010

The last bottle in the cellar of Il Buco di Monstro, an ancient trattoria in the hills above Verona, and a bargain at €5000. Pétrus’s flavor profile typically features aromas of ripe mulberry, black currant and spicy vanilla oak; in this bottle, the funk of wet animal fur overpowered all else. We left half the bottle for the busboy, and stiffed the waiter.