Monthly Archives: March 2010

D is for Durif

In the late 1990s DNA profiling determined that Petite Sirah in California was a field blend of Peloursin, some actual Syrah and mainly Durif, which is a crossing of Peloursin and Syrah.


Let’s break it down.  Petite Sirah is a darkly-colored, fairly tannic grape grown in warm climates like California, South America and Mexico.  Sometimes it’s bottled as a single varietal – I especially like the ones from Elyse, Judd’s Hill and Neal Family – these wines are bold, with spicy blue and black fruits.  At other times it’s used to beef up red blends.

A field blend, not as common as it once was, is a mixture of different varietals planted in the same vineyard.

Peloursin is an obscure French grape, now found in California and Victoria, Australia.

A crossing is when two varieties within the same species are combined to create a new varietal.  Think Pinotage (Pinot Noir x Cinsault) or Müller-Thurgau (Riesling x Sylvaner).

Durif was spread into southeastern France in the 1880s by Dr. Durif and while it was resistant to diseases such as downy mildew, it didn’t really produce any high quality wine and the French authorities weren’t too keen on having it very widely planted.  You can now find it in North and South America and several areas of Australia; Rutherglen, Riverina and Riverland.

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My kind of ice cream

photo courtesy of lickin' it

A student in our blogging class recently started a “badass ice cream blog” called Lickin’ It. 

Many of you probably know that I don’t care much for sweets, but here is some ice cream I could envision finishing a meal with: vanilla bean creme anglaise, bourbon, candied pecans.  Yes, please.

You have to respect a girl who tries to get her dinner date drunk with dessert.

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Planter’s punch

New Orleans has an incredible cocktail culture, dating back to the 1800s. 

It’s home to two booze-themed museums: The Museum of the American Cocktail and The Absinthe Museum of America, it’s the birthplace of Peychaud’s bitters, it boasts multiple signature cocktails like the Sazerac and the Ramos Gin Fizz and it hosts “the most spirited event of the summer”, the annual Tales of the Cocktail.

I was therefore quite surprised by the following.

I couldn't bring myself to sample one.

These "hand grenades" were all over town. The bright green is not from the cup, but rather it's the actual color of the drink. When I inquired about the drink, all the bartender would say was it's "melon-flavored" and the recipe is a secret (then he proceeded to fill the cup from a soda gun). The best part of this drink was the plastic grenade garnish.

Fortunately, the evening was saved when we made our way to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar.  Built in the 1720s and named after a hero in The Battle of New Orleans, it boasts the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States.  We had Planter’s Punch.  The first printed reference to this drink was in the New York Times in 1908.


This recipe I give to thee,
Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong —
I know whereof I speak.

I’ve seen little agreement across recipes: some suggest Jamaican rum, others list a combination of light and dark rum, some suggest almond syrup, while others use superfine sugar and the citrus ranges from lemon to lime to orange.  I think the one I had contained pineapple juice.

Here’s Dave Wondrich’s recipe that appeared in Esquire.

3 ounces dark rum
1 ounce lime juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
1/4 teaspoon superfine sugar

Stir the above over ice and pour into a well-iced collins (highball) glass.  Garnish options: citrus of your choice, pineapple, cherry.

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Rock you like a hurricane

A survey reported that 95% of all first-time tourists to New Orleans go to Pat O’Brien’s.  I did, too.

Founded in 1933, this bar is home to the Hurricane cocktail.  Potent, sweet and oddly popular, the mixes are available for purchase all over town.

O'Brien, with the help of a liquor salesman, came up with the drink to use up an abundance of rum. During WWII, spirits like whisky were in short supply and bar owners and restaurateurs would be forced to buy rum (which was plentiful) in order to get their whisky.

Between examing the ingredients and sampling a cocktail, I still had to look up the recipe upon my return home.

Hurricane sans mix:
– 2 oz light rum
– 2 oz dark rum
– 2 oz passion fruit juice
– 1 oz orange juice
– 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
– 1 tbsp simple syrup
– 1 tbsp grenadine
– Garnish: orange slice and cherry

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a hurricane glass (shaped after a hurricane lamp). Garnish with a cherry and an orange slice.

Please note the 4 oz. of alcohol in this drink.  You’ll be a “ragin’ cajun” in no time.  Do you think the Scorpions have been to Pat O’Briens?


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Fool me once

Beware certain vendors on Bourbon St., New Orleans.

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Interview, FCI style

We’re in the process of building our team of wine instructors and we want to see potential instructors in action before bringing them onboard. 

So, in the name of education, I had to go drink wine and eat cheese at Murray’s this week.

6 wines and 6 cheeses go head to head.

I attended “The Harmony of Wine & Cheese” with instructors Louise Geller (in the cheese corner) and Amanda Crawford (in the wine corner).  Amanda did a great job; she was friendly and approachable, she easily commanded the room, she knew her stuff and most importantly, she picked some delicious, off-the-beaten-path wines.

1. Channing Daughters Scuttlehole Chardonnay 2008.  Unoaked, this Chardonnay had notes of citrus, green melon, fresh herbs and honey.  From the North Fork of Long Island, the high acid style of this wine was a perfect complement to the high acid, lemony goat cheese it was paired with; Vermont Butter & Cheese Coupole.  A classic pairing here would have been Sauvignon Blanc, especially an old world style, such as Sancerre, but the local Chardonnay did the trick.

2. Étoile Chardonnay Domaine de Montbourgeau 2006.  From the Jura region in SE France, this is Chardonnay made in a purposely oxidized style, giving lots of nutty notes (think fino Sherry).  The funk of the wine helped to offset the intense fruitiness of its cow’s milk cheese partner; Jura Erguel.  This pairing illustrated, “what grows together, goes together”.

3. Grignolino “Pogetto” La Casaccia 2008.  gree-nyo-LEAN-oh is native to the Piedmont region of Italy and tends to be pale-colored with lots of red berry notes, some spice, high acid and low tannins.  Tannins and lactose are not friends and when paired together will often yield a metallic finish.  This fresh, fruity and tart wine was a swell partner for the fruity, floral, washed rind cow’s milk called Rubloz, from high in the western, French-speaking part of the Alps. 

4. Lambrusco “Bocciolo” Ermete 2007.  Like raspberry pop rocks, this wine dances on the tongue.  Say what you will about Lambrusco, but a fruity wine with a bit of sparkle and a bit of sweetness is just about the perfect thing when there’s salty meat or cheese involved.  The cheese pairing was Podda Classico, a cow/sheep combo aged for just over a year from the island of Sardinia.  The cheese was crunchy, salty, nutty and intense, but once Lambrusco was added to the mix, both went down easy. 

5. Viña Bosconia Reserva, Lopez de Heredia 2001.  The current release from this very traditional producer had notes of pomegranate, dried cherries, black tea and rose petals.  The dill and coconut from the American oak were evident, along with a bit of musty funk.  It was paired with Mrs. Quicke’s Cheddar from Devon, a traditional, cloth-bound cheese with intense horseradish and damp basement notes (certain bites were reminiscent of corked wine).  The funk of the two proved a pretty partnership.

6. Alvear PX Solera 1927.  From the Montilla region in southern Spain, this is a fortified wine made in the style of Sherry (think solera system).  The grape is PX, Pedro Ximénez, and the wine had notes of prunes, marmalade and toasted hazelnuts.  While super sweet, it still finished very clean.  A classic pairing with a sweet wine is blue cheese.  Louise instead went with Monte Enebro, a salty little devil of a goat cheese from Castilla y León, Spain.  This was hands down the best pairing of the night. 

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Wine coach

I recently learned that wine coaches exist.  Life coaches and dating coaches weren’t enough? 

Maybe wine coaches wear track suits bearing their initials, like Steve Bruce, soccer coach for Sunderland. This guy looks serious.

Another option could be short shorts and a wine glass instead of a whistle.

Regardless of the length of the pants, a stop watch, a clip board and tube socks would be required.  I picture a lot of shouting.  Some possible activities: overseeing tasting practice, running swirling drills, speed glass washing exercises, motivating the wine team prior to big drinking events.

p.s. This marks my 200th post – a big thank you to my readers.  Maybe I would’ve hit this number sooner with a wine coach.

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World water week

March 21-27, 2010 marks UNICEF’s annual “World Water Week”, where restaurants all over the country will be asking guests to donate money for the tap water they consume.  Even $1 will supply a child with safe water for 40 days.

The project started in 2007 with just 300 restaurants in NYC, but now has spread to thousands. 

All of the funds raised go to UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene programs, with the goal of bringing clean water to millions across 100 different countries. 

Their website is full of troubling statistics: of the 900 million people who don’t have access to clean water; half are children, water-borne illnesses are the second leading cause of preventable death in children, 4,100 children die per day from water-related illnesses and the list goes on.  Get out and do your part.

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Blood into Wine

Maynard James Keenan, of Tool front-man fame, is making wine in Arizona with the help of Eric Glomski, the former winemaker for David Bruce.  A documentary titled “Blood Into Wine” tells their story and here’s the trailer:

The wine is being distributed locally by Martin Scott.  I’ve sampled the Primer Paso under the Caduceus Cellars label (it was either the 2006 or 2007).  It’s a Syrah/Malvasia blend, or as they say on their website, “Arizona’s answer to a Côte Rotie.”   It was full-bodied and smoky, with high acid and notes of blueberries and black tea. 

Keenan may have named the winery after the symbol of the American medical profession, but he’s also given the name “Merkin” to his vineyards.

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