03 March 2015

NV Cooper's Hawk Meritage "Lux"

You don't really think of Chicago as a winemaking region, but back during Prohibition it was second only to New York City as a market for California grapes. Most people don't know that you could legally make 200 gallons of wine a year for home use during that time, with other exemptions for religious consumption. According to When the Rivers Ran Red: An Amazing Story of Courage and Triumph in America's Wine Country by Vivienne Sosnowski (which I reviewed in 2009), lots of west coast fruit made it to the Windy City via train:
Chicago, California's second most important grape market, took 7,000 cars of California wine and table grapes in 1924. Nearly one-third of Chicago's inhabitants were foreign born, including 138,000 from Poland, 112,000 from Germany, 59,000 from Italy, 30,000 from Austria, and 5,000 from France. On one day alone--October 20--289 cars of California grapes arrived in the city, most of them destined for wholesalers on South Water Street.
Cooper's Hawk is a winery and restaurant based out of Orland Park, a suburb of Chicago. Sourcing grapes from California, Oregon, and Washington, they make wine at the main facility and distribute it to their restaurants in Illinois, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as through their website.

The company has recently launched a green initiative involving recycling wine bottles. From the press release:
In 2012, founder and CEO Tim McEnery installed a state-of-the-art wine recycling line (the only one in the US) that de-labels and sanitizes up to 2000 wine bottles per hour. This year alone, Cooper’s Hawk has saved over 215 tons of glass from landfills and 1 of every 5 bottles is reused again for upcoming vintages.

Cooper’s Hawk other ‘go green’ initiatives include reduced energy consumption, increased recycled component usage their wines and reduced water consumption. The winery also tries to make socially-responsible investments, whether by purchasing a Bottle Recycling & Sanitizing equipment or investing in smarter technology.
NV Cooper's Hawk Meritage "Lux"
59% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec
American (sourced from multiple states)
$40, 13.9% abv.

The blending makes it difficult to determine the age of this wine, but on whole this release presents as relatively young. It shows firm tannins with dominant aromas of plum, and black cherry. Dark fruit flavors follow through with a long finish. While a great steak wine at the moment, it will definitely show some improvement in the next five years as the bold body softens.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review.

24 February 2015

North Carolina Winemaking for Nomacorc

My latest post is live on the Nomacorc Blog:

Stomping Grapes with the Tar Heels: Regional Spotlight on North Carolina

It was fun interviewing the winemakers remotely, which is why the only North Carolina wines I've tried have been from The Biltmore Estate.

P.S. Check out Wine Turtle for a roundup of the 103 Best Wine Blogs. Your humble correspondent plus a bunch of other friends and great writers are represented!

21 February 2015

Ty & Maddy's Southern Sweets & Treats

I've got a complicated history with popcorn. I enjoyed it as a kid at the movies and at home with our little electric popper that had a slotted tray for butter on top. When I first visited the Mall of Memphis in the early 80s, I was amazed at a shop that sold nothing but popcorn in dozens of different colors and flavors... not to mention that said shop piped the smell of popcorn throughout the mall, luring everyone.

In 5th grade, I got my first set of braces and suddenly popcorn created a nightmare of picking and prodding. I avoided the treat for orthodonture reasons until my senior year, by which time I'd lost the taste for it. Flash forward twenty years, and I discover that the sister of a friend has a little shop right around the corner specializing in homemade popcorn blends. Hmmm...

Ty & Maddy’s Southern Sweets and Treats
1150 Dexter Lane
Suite 105
Cordova, TN 38016
(901) 359-1010

The brick and mortar shop grew out of a school and sports team fundraising operation led by a former math teacher named Michele Murgatroyd. Pictured above is the Chocolate Dream popcorn, made with dark chocolate. I didn't actually get to try this because I gave the bag to Julia as a gift. But I'm sure it is as delicious as...

I got a bag of the Buffalo Chicken & Ranch and a bag of the caramel cashew. I lean more savory than sweet but on a rainy Saturday afternoon it's nice to go back and forth. Both were delicious and tomorrow I'm going to find a good movie to watch at home while the weather continues to be bad here in our dear River City.

But Ty & Maddy's had more to offer...

Homemade dog treats! In many flavors and sizes. It was important for me to buy a mixed bag and bring it home for my blogging intern to sample.

I'd like to share a better photo of Bella devouring one of the baked cheese hearts, but it was difficult to keep her in check while balancing the camera. Suffice it to say that she is a big fan and I look forward to parceling out the other treats over the next two weeks.

17 February 2015

Ethiopian Coffee

I was sad to see the previous Cordova Ethiopian restaurant close, but a new one opened up a couple of months ago. And it was a joy to have lunch there this weekend with dear friends including Jennifer Biggs of The Commercial Appeal.

Ethiopian Restaurant and Coffee
8195 Dexter Road
Suite 104
Cordova, TN 38016

Biggs recommended the coffee ceremony, which I was not previously aware of. It starts with roasting yirgacheffe over medium heat until the beans are properly roasted.


While our hostess took the beans to grind by hand, sprigs from the coffee bush were burned in a clay pot like incense.


I said thank you in proper Amharic (አመሰግናለሁ) but managed to spill coffee on my shorts, so that's kind of a wash on the etiquette front.


I had mine with just a pinch of sugar as recommended by our hostess. While I love dark, bitter coffee, the sugar was a nice countermeasure to the smokiness of the freshly roasted beans. I hope to return with friends and will try to do a better job of balancing the demitasse and saucer.

13 February 2015

2012 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon

This is the third vintage of Faust that I've tried following the 2005 and 2011 releases. Previously I've tried these bottles on my own at home, but this one showed up at the family Christmas dinner last year.

I brought Austrian dessert wines for my Mom and sister-in-law, but Faust was chosen specifically for Dad who had spent the afternoon smoking a ribeye roast to a perfect rare in the middle using his Big Green Egg. With fresh horseradish sauce and Mom's amazing sweet potato casserole, it made for the perfect pairing. You don't necessarily have to wait for a big family holiday to enjoy a serious Napa red, but it's so much more enjoyable to share with loved ones.

That's why I love a good dinner party. We shouldn't have Thanksgiving dinner every night but once or twice a month it's a good time to have a special meal with a big group of people and open some nice bottles of wine. When you spread out the duties over the group it's not that expensive, and is always a lot of fun.

2012 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, California
80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot
$55, 14.5% abv.

Rich plum and dark berries with gentle aromas of oak and coffee. Big flavors now with a long finish. On the palate it has a bold presence and solid tannins that are strong now but will certainly mellow as the wine approaches the decade mark. I continue to be impressed by this wine and look forward to future releases. Buy a case and try one a year to study how it develops over time. Highly recommended.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review.

09 February 2015

Saké and Cheese Tasting

In December, I got to participate in a very curious online tasting along with other wine writers around the world. We had a pairing of saké and cheese, two things that you don't normally think would go with each other. How did this come about?

Our tasting was hosted by a charming couple Jesse Pugach is the Sake Specialist Southern Wines & Spirits, while Liza Kaplansky works for the Marin French Cheese Company. Their mutual passions pair surprisingly well and it was great to share in their enthusiasm during the tasting featuring both domestic and imported bottles from SakéOne. Most of my notes were conversational and live on Twitter, but here are brief descriptions of the four pairings.

Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo
Forest Grove, Oregon
$14/750ml
Clean and crisp with a beery flavor, excellent for the newcomer to the world of saké.

Marin French Petite Breakfast Brie
Thick and firm with a buttery flavor. Why am I just now learning about breakfast brie? This is amazing and was my favorite cheese of the evening. Highly recommended.

Momokawa Organic Nigori
Forest Grove, Oregon
$14/750ml
Creamy and mild with a clean finish. Nigori is the style that is unfiltered and must be gently agitated before consuming, and it pours as a milky white fluid.

Laura Chenel’s Chévre
Mild, not too much of the classic goat aroma/flavor, with a salty mouthfeel. Needs some cured meats to go along with it.

Kasumi Tsuru Kimoto Extra Dry
Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
$27/720ml
Kimoto is an ancient style that takes twice as long as the modern brewing process. The result for this bottle is earthy and mushroomy, which would definitely appeal to fans of certain French wines bearing those characteristics.

Laura Chenel’s Ash-rinded Buchette
Excellent pairing with this one, which was funky and earthy, a little tart, and very savory. It was difficult to move on to the next matchup and work on Twitter when I just wanted a moment to sit back and enjoy the two together. But that's what leftovers are for, and the next day I gave each element the time it deserved.

Yoshinogawa Winter Warrior Junmai Ginjo
Niigata Prefecture, Japan
$27/750ml
Floral nose with hints of anise. Very interesting and smooth, with a mild body.

Rogue River Blue Cheese
This Oregon cheese is perhaps the best known and most widely distributed of the four. Creamy, buttery, tart, with just enough earth, this is a classic domestic bleu.

Note: These bottles and cheeses were provided as samples for review.

05 February 2015

The Woodhouse Wine Estates

The Woodhouse Wine Estates is run in Washington by Bijal & Sinead Shah. I recently covered their Daríghe, and their other wines are named after family friends (Steve Dussek, retired chief operating officer of Nextel) or their children (daughter Kennedy Shah). Bijal operates a number of enterprises both here and in India focused on haute coture and high technology, while Sinead is a 777 pilot for United Airlines. Having made wine for years in Washginton, they're now a presence in Napa.

2012 Kennedy Shah Riesling Reserve
Yakima Valley, Washington
100% Riesling
$25, 13.3% abv.

This delightful bottle shows nice notes of ripe peach alongside elements of tropical fruit on the palate. Bright acidity and a gentle finish. Outstanding with grilled halibut topped with a mango salsa.

2010 Dussek Family Cellars
Columbia Valley, Washington
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
$36, 13.8% abv.

Bright red cherry, plum, firm and chewy tannins, long finish. Good now, will certainly improve over a few years of aging and development. I'd love to try this with braised short ribs over polenta.

Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.