Wines for Fall Entertaining: Two Cabernets, Two Styles
When leaves turn color, the weather nippy, it’s time for fall wines. After summer, fall eases us gently into cooler weather and a different food taste profile. I am suggesting to you two different Cabernet wines, both from Napa Valley, well made, different from each other, for enjoying now or keeping for a few more years. They are:
Narsai David Vineyard 2004 Cuvee Venus (named for Narsai’s wife), and Hagen Heights 2004. The Narsai David wine is grown by the noted West Coast food personality, Berkeley-ite, and ex-restaurateur, Narsai David. This wine is produced from cabernet sauvignon, and 3% of cabernet franc, vinified together. Narsai’s vineyard is on Conn Valley Road just outside of St. Helena on the Napa Valley’s east side.
Hagen Heights 2004, on the other hand, is produced from another single location vineyard on Hagen Road just south of Napa city, on south west facing slopes. This is an old vineyard area, re-discovered in recent times, planted by D.J.Smith, its owner, and a noted political consultant in California.
Both wines are now five years old and drinking very well. They both have that ripe structure currently fashionable, with very deep color, a fragrant aroma, and well balanced flavor. They both show that attractive come hither-ness of classy Napa wines and have reasonable alcohol. One of the differences between them is the vineyard sites, at opposite ends of Napa Valley. Here is your opportunity to taste the difference in terroir. A suggestion would be to taste these two Cabernets together with a rich meat dish to see what I mean.
For three vintages now, Corti Brothers has offered H.P.O. a lovely, low alcohol, slightly sparkling white wine produced from a grape variety created at University of California, Davis, by Prof. Harold P. Olmo, our most eminent grape breeder. The variety is Early Muscat, crossed in 1943 and introduced for planting in California in 1958. Early Muscat is a cross of two table varieties: Muscat Hamburg and Muscat Queen of the Vineyard. Muscat Hamburg is itself a cross of schiava grossa x Muscat of Alexandria. The other parent is an Hungarian variety crossed in 1916, comprising several Hungarian varieties, a French, Scottish (Duke of Buccleuch) and a very early ripening pinot noir.
In Oregon, this ostensible table/raisin variety (it has seeds) found a lovely home. In the Willamette and contiguous valleys between Portland and Eugene, it ripens and produces the deliciously flavored, low alcohol, slightly bubbly white wine which is a delicious dessert--or any time wine--which we label H.P.O., Prof. Olmo’s initials. Since fall and winter desserts tend to be rich, here is a wine which juxtaposes flavors: light, fragrant and frothy to be served with full, rich desserts. H.P.O. 2008 is perfect for drinking with upcoming Christmas panettone.
Corti Brothers packs for sale some very fine shredded coconut which I think is by far and away the best of its type. Produced from selected coconuts in the Philippines, one of the three largest coconut producing countries–the other two are India and Indonesia–very little thought is given to this product. It should be more popular and once was. Having found this source for tasty, high quality, white coconut meat, I decided to offer it to our customers.
Originally written “cocoanut,” due to a lapsus in Dr. Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary, coconut seems not to be recorded in western cookery until the mid 1800s. It appears commercially in the US in the 1890s from the Franklin Baker Company of Philadelphia. For about 90 years, shredded coconut was very much a regional or specific product in the American diet. In the South, Ambrosia, a salad of sliced fresh oranges, sprinkled with shredded coconut, was a special winter dessert treat. A new take on Ambrosia–definitely to be tried–is found in the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, (2006, Norton) which is a delicious starter salad, but not the canonical recipe. The laconic comment by Marion Cunningham in her revision of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook (1979), states, “(Sliced bananas may be added at the last, but then it is not strictly ambrosia.)”
Long before our interest in all cuisines from Asia and southeastern Asia, shredded coconut was a basic ingredient in American baking and dessert making. Remember Baker’s German’s Chocolate cake, coconut macaroons, even the movie theater staple, the Mounds Bar? All tickled our fancy. Now, with V. Alisos coconut you can try some of these dishes again. Ambrosia is a delicious, refreshing change of pace, but unfortunately its elements are perhaps too commonplace for us now. But sometimes, it is just this “commonplace-ness” which makes a dish tasty. We could do worse in our cooking.
Coconut cream pie, coconut pudding, coconut shrimp are all made with shredded coconut. Certainly fresh coconuts are now more available, but there is almost an atavistic feeling about the taste and texture of shredded coconut–a familiar exotic ingredient!The two styles of V. Alisios Coconut which Corti Brothers packs are: Unsweetened Fancy shred and Sweetened Large shred. These are packed in re-sealable, 8 oz. stand up pouch bags. Once opened, please store cool or freeze.
The 2005 vintage in Bordeaux was fine throughout the appellations. In fact, Jancis Robinson, has written in various of her columns for the London Financial Times that 2005 Bordeaux is excellent in every area. She particularly recommended Château de Paillet-Quancard 2005, a Premières Côtes de Bordeaux wine. The appellation Premières Côtes de Bordeaux is an appellation just to the north of Cadillac, southeast of Bordeaux city. This property belongs to the Quancard family, an important Bordeaux shipper. It is 36 hectares of vineyard in the commune of Paillet, on the right bank of the Garonne River, planted to 80% merlot, 15% cabernet sauvignon, and 5% cabernet franc.
Deeply colored as are the 2005 wines, it has the distinctive scent of green coffee beans, the hallmark of merlot with a firmness given by the cabernets. Its flavor is full yet delicate, compared to say, California wines, and it has a lovely scented finish which is so typical of Bordeaux and its surrounding appellations. The particular appellation is rarely as fine as this.