Domaine Prim Grand Cru Corton Renardes ’98

Posted in Wine | Leave a comment

Voices From the Jacuzzi

My semi-retired status permits me the opportunity to supplement my 6:00am swim with some additional treadmill time at the Riverwalk Athletic Club, located at the Heritage Hotel in Southbury, CT. I go back  at 11:00ish and will watch a movie: walk at a slow pace, covering 5 to 7 miles depending on film length. OR, listen to music: walk at a fast clip while listening to my playlist of curated fast tracks, covering 4 to 5 miles. 

Either way, after my stroll I treat myself to 10 minutes in the hot tub, with my tender right knee positioned directly in front of one of the Jacuzzi jets. Given the time of the day, more often than not, I have the tub to myself, and enjoy pleasant solitude with only the bubbling water to break the quiet.

And then there are times when someone else steps into my semi-private domain.  And on the occasion that I am about to relate, that someone else was a house guest to the hotel.

Someone else: “Do you play the banjo?  I’m on my way up to New Hampshire to play at some country/bluegrass thing. I’ve been playin’ the banjo forever. Just makes me happy.  An’ I know an’ play all the great ones like Foggy Mountain Breakdown an’ Doggy  Salt an’ Cotton Eyed Joe an’ o’course Dueling Banjos.  Everyone loves that one!  It’s from the movie “Deliverance”. It’s an interesting movie, but there’s a scene in it when this guy gets raped by some ugly-looking backwoods guy.  That’s pretty grim to watch.   That backwoods guy sorta looks like my second cousin Nestor. I like watching the film but once the banjo part is over I shut it off. I play lotsa other stuff, too.  Like I learnt how to play a thing called Brandenburg Number 5 by Bach.  Not the whole thing, mind.  Just the part they call the cadenza.  An’ then one time I was playing at this thing they call a Bar Mitzvah.  It’s a Jewish thing, ya know. I guess it’s a special birthday thing for a boy.  An’ early on in the party all the folks form a circle an’ dance a thing called the whore-ah; an’ I learnt how to play their song called have-a-neg-eelah. All the family dances in this big circle an’ then they put the boy on a chair in the middle of the circle, an’ a couple of the older relations hoist him up high an’ everyone continues to dance around havin’ a good time!  After that they asked me to play Dueling Banjos which I did.  But I didn’t tell them the part about the guy getting’ raped in the woods.  Ya know that circle dance they did?  Well, I was watchin’ cable one night an’ they had this documentary thing on Indians.  An’ the Indians were dancing around in a circle in front of their teepees just like they did at the Bar Mitzvah thing.  ‘Cept they didn’t put anyone in a chair an’ put ‘im in the circle. Ya know, I don’t care what people say, but they put alotta good stuff on cable.  One night I caught a thing on cable on the Civil War an’ there was this sad song that played in the background, [sings] two brothers on their way, two brothers on their way, two brothers on their way, one wore blue and one wore gray, one wore blue and one wore gray, as they marched along their way, fife and drum began to play, all on a beautiful morning… it’s a sad song isn’t it? [continues to sing] one was gentle, one was kind, one was gentle, one was kind, one was gentle, one was kind, one came back, one stayed behind;  cannonball don’t pay no mind;  if you’re gentle or if you’re kind; it don’t think of the folks behind; or of a beautiful morning.  It’s a sad song an’ I don’t play it too much. I like to play other things because the banjo makes me happy.



“I don’t play the banjo.”

*I wanted to be full-on retired but the opportunity to lead wine tastings for my friend and former Grapes’ colleague Dave Fieber, who opened a specialty wine shop in New Canaan, was a deal that proved impossible to refuse. Four times a month, I do what I love to do (communicate what I love about wine) AND fund my birthday vacation to Walt Disney World. 

Posted in Stories & Brief Tales | Leave a comment

Aldo Conterno Langhe Nebbiolo ’19

Posted in Wine | Leave a comment

Kalimotxo Braised Short Ribs w/ 2019 Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel

Kalimotxo [KAL-ee-MOH-cho] is a traditional drink from the Basque in Spain.  It is an equal blend of dry red wine and cola, and it was thought to be a great way to camouflage a “rustic” quality red!  That case notwithstanding, the concoction is an excellent base for braising beef short ribs.  I served the short ribs over my favorite pasta, pappardelle. 

This is a recipe that I originally wrote up in 2013.  And ten years ago I chose a Blanc de Blancs Champagne as the coordinating wine.  Why?  To shake the apple tree.  To encourage citizens to move Champagne beyond toasting New Years, Valentine’s Day and the other six highlight days in the year, to popping the cork with… With?  With Food!  Good Food!  That recommendation still stands.  But…

But I just hosted a wine tasting when Zinfandel took front and center.  And Zinfandel conjures images of Waylon Jennings in our ear, long tables outside with trays & platters of smoked brisket, ribs, pulled pork and sides that are a delight to the eye and palate.  A richly flavored Zin is part of the experience.

Let’s shake the tree again.  There is more we can do with a quintessential Cali red than consign it to outdoor grilled food & American regional barbeque.  This Basque inspired recipe blends a flavorful dish to which we open a flavorful red that will complement the dish — neither wine nor recipe detracting from the other.  At the tasting we also had two Primitivo’s from Apulia that would also play with this recipe.

Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel ’19 (Lodi, CA)
Nestled in the heart of Lodi’s most prestigious Mokelumne AVA, sit 750 acres of estate vineyards, many of which have been farmed consistently by the Felten family for 6 generations. The soils are comprised of deep granite sandy loam, giving wines of this region a distinctive minerality. Situated at the edge of the Sacramento Delta, Pacific breezes gust through the Mokelumne AVA, cooling grapes, and creating a Mediterranean climate ideally suited for growing varietals such as Zinfandel, Syrah and Albariño. This, OVZ, is made from vineyard blocks up to 120 years old. Delta Breezes and the associated fog allow the winery to retain above average acidity for the region, providing notes of dark cherry and spices. Barrel fermentation provides additional structure to a thin skinned varietal. The extremely low yields of century old vineyards bring notes of raspberry and cranberry, with a hint of black pepper. The result is a balanced and complex Zinfandel perfect for both Summer barbecues and Fall fire pits.

Kalmotxo Braised Short Ribs

6 ounces of Tanqueray Gin
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
3 blue cheese stuffed olives
A goodly amount of ice
¼ Cup Olive Oil
4lbs Short Ribs seasoned with salt & pepper
1¼ cups diced onion
¾ cup each diced carrots & celery
3 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp each tomato paste & smoked sweet paprika
1 tbsp anchovy paste
1 Bay Leaf
¼ Cup Dry Sherry
2 Cups each dry red wine & cola
1 Zest of Orange
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp Sherry Vinegar
2 tsp minced fresh thyme
½ minced orange zest

1. Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other obscure ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size.  Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming.  Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!

2. Preheat oven to 300°

3. Heat ¼ cup oil in large Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add ribs and brown all sides, 8-10 minutes, then transfer to a plate and set aside. Reduce to medium low.

4. Sweat onion, carrot and celery in the drippings until softened, 6-7 minutes.  Add garlic, paprika, tomato paste, anchovy paste and bay leaf; sweat 2 minutes more.

5. Deglaze pot with sherry; cook until almost evaporated, 5 minutes.

6. Stir wine, cola and zest of one orange into pot.  Return ribs to the pot, increase heat to high, bring liquid to a boil, then cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Transfer pot to the oven

7. Braise ribs until fork-tender, about 3½ hours, turning the ribs every hour.  Remove pot from oven.  Transfer ribs to a plate.  Cover ribs to keep warm

8. Strain braising liquid from pot, discarding solids.  Skim and discard fat from surface liquid.  Transfer liquid to skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

9. Whisk together cornstarch and 2 tsp of oil, then whisk into liquid, cook two minutes.

10. Off heat, stir vinegar, thyme and minced zest into sauce.  Place ribs in sauce to reheat, five minutes

n.b.  I couldn’t  resist trying some Kalimotxo.  Half red wine and Coca Cola? Much better that I was expecting… think Sangria without floating fruit!

Posted in Sandy's Table | Leave a comment