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Brad Ballinger

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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About Brad Ballinger

  • Birthday 08/02/1961

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  • Location
    St. Paul, Minnesota
  1. Should I trade my Spanish wine?

    I would not make the trade. You should be able to find that vintage of Les Terraces rather easily in the Los Angeles area, and it will likely be under $30, especially if on sale. You can certainly find other vintages, too. Palacios makes other priorat wines that are designed for the long haul. Les Terraces can be enjoyed now or later.
  2. Expensive Wines Wasted on Untrained Tasters?

    Ditto for me. And I end up going out to dinners with some Twin Citites wine enthusiast types where we each bring wines. I feel like a cheapskate at times since the wines I'm bringing are generally lower-priced than the industry or media darling wines brought by others. Yet, I've often found the wines I bring "hold their own" or are sometimes preferred to wines that costs two or three times as much.
  3. What to eat with these wines?

    Pineau de Charentes is really more of a cognac. Serve nuts. The salmon would be fine with the Carbonnieux. No cream sauce, though. Oxtail would be fine with the Lynch-Bages. The wine, however, isn't going to be as structured/complex as other vintages, but should do okay. With the recioto serve parmesan-reggiano and similar hard, aged cheeses.
  4. Montesquieu

    Not with the company that called you, but with others. I don't buy wine (or anything) over the phone unless I'm the one placing the call.
  5. Vegan Dinner w/ wine pairing

    Looks good from here...
  6. Vegan Dinner w/ wine pairing

    A very good Chinon producer in that price range (and probably even less) is Charles Joguet. They also make a Chinon Rose, which might be a better match for these dishes. I'd probably go white. An Alsatian producer, Josmeyer, uses organic methods and produces Pinot Gris (for your first course), Gewurztraminer (for your second), and Riesling (for your third). All at the low end of your price range, if not lower. The only exception might be if you seek out the "Le Dragon" bottling of their Riesling. For your dessert, many people like muscat with chocolate and berries. Others prefer something like Late Bottled Vintage Port. Again, both options are in your price range, probably on the low end.
  7. Wedding Wines to Pair with BBQ

    First, have beer available. Lots of it. But good stuff. Red: Just go with a Ravenswood Vintner's Blend Zin or Cline Old Vines. White: Pierre Sparr "One" or Hugel Gentil or Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling. Pink: Rosa del Golfo Rosato or Domaine Fonsante Vin Gris.
  8. sourcing albarino

    Do Oklahoma laws allow you to receive wine shipped from other states? If not, my suggest would be to go to the nearest wine retailer with the best reputation or largest selection. If there are no Albarino wines there, ask the person in charge if any distributors they work with carry any Albarino in their portfolios. This will probably be whoever provides the retail with most of the Spanish wines. Assuring the retailer you're good for a case may get one ordered for you. You may have to travel to Tulsa or OK City to make that happen. If that's where you are and you strike out, and if Oklahoma doesn't allow you to receive wine shipments, then I guess you know one thing you'll be doing on your next out-of-state trip.
  9. Mosel Wineries

    The good thing about where you are staying is that there are many towns in the immediate area (Graach, Wehlen, Urzig, Zell, I could go on) that have multiple producers each. Part of your fun will be just popping in on some of them. In Bernkastel, there is also a large tasting room that features dozens of producers from the area. In my experience, most places do not require an appointment. But I did not get to JJ Prum. I would definitely visit Christoffel and Merkelbach in Urzig.
  10. How do you like your wine lists organized...

    Another data point, but not much different from what's been stated already. I prefer to see a list that separates bubbles, whites, reds, and dessert/fortified. Within those categories, it doesn't matte that much to me how the wines are categorized as long as each contains the following information: vintage year (with the exception of N/V bubbly or certain ruby and tawny ports), region, and varietal. I would generally only prefer to see the varietal listed if it is actually listed on the bottle's label -- as is the case with most New World wines and some Italian wines. But I don't have any heartburn if a list tells the patron that Sancerre is Sauvignon Blanc or that Cornas is Syraah or that Barolo is Nebbiolo. I definitely do not like lists that categorize wine by character or style (i.e., light, fruity whites, full-bodied reds, etc.). When I see German Riesling wines listed in the spicy white wine category, it just makes me cringe. With 400+ wines, definitely separate by country/region within each broad category of bubbles, whites, and reds.
  11. Wine fraud?

    Not much more to add to the above. The biggest scam potential and market for this sort of thing is with respect to wines being sold at auction. But not just for older vintage wines. Also, for in-demand wines regardless of vintage (think wines highly praised by certain critics). Does that mean a whlesaler or retailer couldn't fall prey to wine forgeries? Of course not. But most of these frauds are committed against the consumer directly.
  12. Cornas

    I think Jim meant Juge (Marcel Juge) and not Joge, if you end up trying to locate those wines. But I'm also writing to add support for what Jim had to write about Cornas. I've had the 1997 Clape (and I have one more bottle yet). It is ready now, and you won't need much aerating time, but may need to decant for sediment. One other tidbit: Cornas differes from a Northern Rhone appellation not yet mentioned, Cote Rotie, in that Cornas is 100% syrah and Cote Rotie wines will contain some viognier.
  13. [DES M] Lucca

    I was in Ankeny on business recently. On previous visits, I had given up on finding anything good to eat around Ankeny, also known as the Franchise Capital of the World. It was usually a pizza order placed to Big Tomato and a bottle of wine in my hotel room. On this particular trip, however, I had a colleague along, and having her in my hotel room with a pizza might not be that cool, so we looked for somewhere around Des Moines to check out. I wanted to stay away from Trostel ventures (don't ask why), and other places I looked at were very pricey for a non-profit company's expense account. But Lucca had a two course prix fixe for $25 that seemed worth our time. We were able to park right in front (rock star parking). But I must digress for a moment to ask you Iwegians about the "back in angle parking" in downtown Des Moines. What the hell is up with that? Someone please explain it to me. Back to the restaurant. The decor is stark. Brick walls, hardwood floors, high ceilings, white linens. The hihg celings helped not make sound too much of an issue, but a carpet here and there or a tapestry would do wonders. The menu had many attractive options in both first and second course sections. We both opted for the gnocchi (made fresh everyday) perfectly flavored with butter, EVOO, parmesan, sage, and some other herbs I've forgotten. The gnocchi themselves were feather light and pillow soft, and melted in the mouth. I am hard pressed to recall better that I've had. For the second course, my colleage ordered salmon on yellow lentils and I had a pork stew-like thing. Both were good, but didn't quite reach the quality of the gnocchi for overall impression. Mine could've had some bolder flavoring. Since my colleage was also vacillating between the salmon or another pasta dish, the server surprised us by bringing a dish of the pasta she was considering for us both to share. It was linguine in a cream sauce with prosciutto, peas, and other stuff. We polished it off. I brought my own wine, so I didn't get a look at the wine list. I was charged $15 corkage, which is reasonable. The server decanted it (it was a 1974 Barbaresco) with a funnel, so I was glad to have that done for me. Service was very professional. I can think of many restaurants in larger cities that could take a lesson from the staff at Lucca. The place is definitely on the "must return to" list for me.
  14. Milwaukee Help Needed

    Yet, another update. Probably not the last. On my latest trip, I arrived in Pewaukee on a Monday night after seeing too many cars in the ditch to count -- big snowstorm. Needless to say, once I arrived at the hotel, I didn't venture out. Ordered a pizza from Marty's Pizza (not bad) and had some of my six pack of New Glarus Fat Suirrel (nut brown ale). The following night, with the roads cleared, I ventured to Nashotah and the Red Circle Inn on the recommendation of a co-worker and Saltydog who mentioned it in a PM. Here's the kind of place this is. If you can identify with the following you've been there. This is a place where parents take their adult childred and adult children take their parents. The parents end up paying nine times out of ten, but they wish that the adult children would make more of a gesture. It is also busy on prom weekends and the local Red Hat Society women show up once a year. Most of us know someplace like this. The Red Circle Inn was most certainly an inn at one time. I don't know if it is anymore. The charger plates boast that this is Wisconsin's oldest restaurant. On a Tuesday night, it was Tuesday Night Lobster specials. All of the specials were seafood related featuring lobster and oysters. I didn't go there mostly because I didn't like my white wine by the glass options. I ordered the veal sweetbreads (with mushrooms and angel hair pasta in a red wine sauce), duck (half a duck with montmorencey cherry sauce), and the Grand Marnier souffle for dessert. The sweetbread dish was over-sauced, even though the sauce was quite good. The sweetbreads were large and melt-in-your-mouth tender. The duck was cooked very well, and served with wild rice, julienned carrots, and steams broccoli and zucchini. The sauce was a bit gelatinous, but the tart flavor was a good foil to the duck. I was "warned" beforehand that if I desried a souffle, I should order it at the time the entree arrived. The duck portion was quite large, so I had them box the breast part so I could enjoy the souffle. On the recommendation of the co-worker who steered me here, I ordered a vanilla souffle. I was later advised that my co-worker must have meant the Grand Marnier souffle, and I'm sure she did. There was barely a trace of orange flavor in the souffle, and the creme anglaise served with it made it 99.5% vanilla in flavor. But soufffles are the restaurant's signature desserts, and they do a good job. The wine list is 100% American, which was a little disconcerting to this europhile. The first wine I ordered (a Clos du Val Pinot Noir) was not in stock, so I settled on a Babcock Syrah. The wine was served in cruets (small carafes) which the server then poured into the glass. A bit too much pomp, but it saves on glassware if one orders a second. Service was friendly and professional. My souffle was comped because my co-worker knows the owner, and I dropped that information. This was a step up from what I've experienced so far, but the prices are on the steep side -- most entrees are over $30. Yet to try on future trips are Roots, Crazy Water, Old Town Serbia Gourmet (when I'm really hungry), and North Star Bistro.
  15. New Year's Eve: What are You Eating or Serving?

    Not when it's below zero in Minnesota, and there's no indoor rotisserie.
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