Chateau Rigaud Faugeres 2007

     Ok so I haven’t written about wine for a while; it isn’t for lack of experimentation. I recently went and hit Total Wine and B-21, two of the largest wine retailers in the Sarasota-Bradenton-St. Pete area. I bought about twenty-five bottles in the $12-$30 range; the best of the litter so far is Chateau Rigaud “Faugeres” 2007.  Here is the Wine Advocate review. Parker barrel tasted it, and I agree with the “vivacity” and “ripe-richness”.  The family had a great dinner tonight, Jim M. is home so he cooked up some great rack of lamb ribs while i did the garlic mashed potatoes and a seafood pot pie. We had a key lime pie and coffee for dessert. Now the pot pie is simple yet awesome; Bristol Bay, Alaska salmon, Alaskan cod, sautéed pearl onions. I added a bit of browned sage sausage for the hell of it this time. And even though the crust came out buttery, sweet, and brown, we decided to put it off until brunch tomorrow: just too much. So: back to the wine. We had this huge platter of grilled lamb, the wine was slightly less than room temp at the beginning of the meal maybe 65f. it was good, but interestingly the tannins were in the forefront, (and they WERE there) and then the Parker fruit bomb burst at the end. That was fine, it went well with the well-herbed and spiced chops, even with the roasted garlic mashed. As it warmed up to room temp however, everything smoothed out. I took a swig straight from the bottle after everyone hit the rack, (went to bed for you brits) heathen that I am. Silky, but without the density Parker mentions-not that it isn’t structured, but if HE says density, I figure a little overload. This was just a nice middle-way, more than water but less than milk. Nice. Next, a couple of ounces in a stemless Riedel Burgundy glass. The nose is…fragrant, almost like that of an excellent IPA- the follow through swallow is a blend of tannins and round sweetness that usually means a pricier wine. Absolutely coats the teeth and the glass afterward, you’ll need the enamel-replacing toothpaste, and i guess that’s a good thing. Parker says a “mind-boggling value”. Maybe a bit of hyperbole on his part, but this wine at $14 beats the rest that I had in the $20-$30 range for French and Spanish reds this month. Finally: the grapes. The bottle says appellation Faugeres, and that it is a red Languedoc wine. I was thinking a Merlot-Cabernet blend- it is actually Syrah and Grenache, like many Cotes du Rhones. Whatever; it is good.

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Great Men

Ok…I find that I often resort to Hyperbole. Like my brother-in-law Jim M. stated in one of his columns, the word hero is overused. So I think,  is the term “Great Man.” But recently two men have passed who I think qualify…it is the end of an era with them gone. I would compare it to the day Adams and Jefferson died…or similar. Two great men, and I guarantee you’ve never heard of them, so an attempt to educate…

      Jay Hammond and Walter “Wally” Hickel. Two mavericks before it was cute, two self-made men who owe nothing to no-one except for ambition and ability. Both defined the era of Alaska statehood more than any other.  Hammond, a marine corps fighter pilot in world war II,  provided Alaskans w/the framework for the permanent fund. He believed in simple common sense, and you’ll never meet a humbler appearing ex-two time governor than this man. He, like Sarah Palin, married an Alaskan native and created a Lake Clark spread for his family that might rival  the days of  “Big Valley” or “Bonanza”…Alaska style.

     From the appearance of his hotel, the opulent grand dame of Alaska the  “Captain Cook“,  you’d think Hickel the opposite. The man who has a 10,000 bottle of wine cellar at the Crow’s Nest and has written several books barely had an education. Legend has it he arrived in state with thirty-seven cents but  a boat-load of confidence. To go from that to founding the “Institute of the North“, where world leaders traipsed into his presence long after he was out of the executive office to discuss the future of countries above the 57th parallell…Amazing.

     I won’t go into too much detail. You can hit the links and explore their biographies. Just remember as you look at the current crop of politicians hoping to get elected and then immediately kowtow to every interest that will further their selves…remember two humble men in a far off corner of our empire. Two guys who could have been prototypes for John Galt, but with the empathy and compassion that is necessary to  lead.

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut

Ok, i told my bro-in-law I’d get writing again, and what a nice topic this is: a Cotes du Roussillon Villages wine…I saw it at the Wine Discount Center on Elston, actually got an email from them here. This is, as the write-up mentions, a Top 100 wine this year…for $11.99!

     I decanted the bottle yesterday.  Like many French wines, it is a blend: Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan, the last being an old vine deignee. The first sip while eating a little ham and brie? A little too muscular, slight pepper, and even medicinal. extreme dark, obscuring coloration, heavy on the palate w/slight tannins.

     Doesn’t sound like I would like it, eh? Well i gave it an hour, and then tried it with beef, a better pairing as the first coupling was one of opportunity, while the second was by design. Mmmm. A convergence. The wine had relaxed, was much lighter on the palate (which is what I am looking for these days) while the pepper from the syrah was much more forward but in complete, absolute harmony with the other elements. This is a mouth filler without overstaying its welcome. Long finish… but round. Little tannins to speak of.

     Ok, you say that was by design, an intended result by the addition of the beef dish? No. I corked it overnight. Today around one I had lunch, and there was not a hint of difference after a day. Longevity- we like that in a wine. And according to the Spectator, this is just the beginning of Bila-Haut’s run. Drinkable 2010-2017. This, at this price? Get it by the case.

Polish Presidential Plane Crash

      No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke..the President of Poland, Lech  Kaczynski, and the Chief of Staff of the Army were killed in a plane crash in Russia.  They were on the way to a memorial service for victims of the Katyn forest massacre. Not a bad joke, but tons of irony there. And as we look, tons of irony everywhere. First, Kaczynski’s twin brother is head of the opposition party. President Obama just reneged on a deal to provide Patriot missiles to Poland in return for hosting U.S. missiles interceptors (read part of the “Star Wars plan)- reneged after the Poles greatly angered the Russians in accepting those missiles. This comes into play because the Poles, who liked George Bush and supported him with combat troops in his wars, is being treated like an out of favor suitor by the Obama administration. The Poles, and other affected Eastern Europeans, have not jumped on the Obama bandwagon.  And then of course there is why they were offered the missiles in the first place: Poland is the largest of the former Soviet satellites to embrace the West.

     So: I could write a conspiracy column. If we were still in the cold war, I would. Just remember that before the cold war, before the Soviets, the same stuff went on. Just under a different name. Now the continuation of the “Great Game” seems like fantasy.  Maybe so, but Obama has practically given Russia the green light to recoup its’ regional hegemony. Don’t be surprised if they do. Just remember that  sometimes when you think you are the clear-cut winner in an ideological struggle, the other side lies low, regroup, and strikes when the iron is hot.

Iditarod 2010- Alaska Girls Kick Ass!

     The Iditarod truly is amazing. To line up on fourth avenue in Anchorage for the symbolic start, to watch the stoic mushers and eager dogs head out into the midwinter Alaska dark and cold…everyone should experience it once. Eleven hundred miles through unforgiving weather and terrain featured in movies and stories like Krakauer’s “Into the Wild“, or even London’s “Call of the Wild.” This is geography that is…well…wild. It kills.  Sometimes  a dog that dies. Even though every single observer will tell you that the dogs live to run, this has cost the sport in the lower forty-eight, both in viewers and sponsorships. So much so that one four-time winner, Jeff King, put up fifty-thousand of his own money as part of the purse. How many other sports do you see such selflessness just for love of the competition?

     But it’s far ahead of any other world sporting event in one other significant, dramatic aspect: It’s the only major race that has always featured men and women in the same race, mano a mano, may the best sex win. And women often do. There are the pioneers like Libby Riddles, and the triumph and tragedy of multiple winner Susan Butcher. This year though features someone, a woman, who just might get the race the attention it deserves.

     Her name? Zoya DeNure…a former international runway model from Wisconsin who saw a sled dog demonstration, fell in love, and settled in the small town of Paxson, Alaska to follow a dream. Like most mushers, Zoya raises her own dogs with her husband, John Schandelmeier. Currently she is in the top three going into Willow. Would it be fair for the beautiful thirty-three year old to get attention for the race because of her looks? Probably not…but if she can stay in the top three, Make it a race to Nome, possibly win by pure grit, maybe some of the big sponsors will reappear or hitch up for the first time.

     It’s ironic: television shows “Outside” always feature Alaskan bachelors as quirky, ideal mates. Maybe with a Zoya win, the rest of the lower forty-eight will discover a huge secret, let out only sometimes, but which you’ll often see on bumper stickers and t-shirts from Juneau to Fairbanks…Alaska Girls Kick Ass!

two nice european wines

     A few weeks ago I tried and enjoyed la Vielle Ferme 2008, a Cote du Ventoux red; found it at  Just Grapes downtown Chicago for a reasonable $11.99. Yesterday, well yesterday I was in the Wine Discount Center on Elston and found the same vintage for $6.99! This is my find of the year, two months in. You will not find a better quality wine anywhere in the U.S. for that price. If you are in the area, stop buying that crap Barefoot stuff, spend a dollar more, and buy it by the case, what a great daily house wine. Another good deal there is the Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2008.  apparently it recieved a 91 rating by International Wine Cellar, and at $8.99 a bottle, also unbeatable- except by maybe the aforementioned French red. Finally, a bit of serendipity- the guy helping me decide (Rob) turns out to be a DLI alum, from 1970- a Chinese linguist who also worked for NSA!

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