Jump to content

Brad Ballinger

eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Brad Ballinger

  1. 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. 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. Had some friends over on July 3 for dinner. Starter of variations of goat cheeses, entree of grilled pork tenderloin with cascabel chile honey glaze. Dessert of cherry cobbler. 2003 Schloss Gobelsburg Zobinger Heiligenstein Riesling, Langenlois. I’m not sure I’d pick this out as a riesling if I didn’t see the label. Fat stone fruit. Low acidity. Viscous mouthfeel. And not as dry as one might expect. Lacking minerality. Just weird. 2005 Nicolas Paget “Harmonie” Touraine Azay-Le-Rideau. Oh my, does this go down easy. Lighter-bodied, harmonious balance (have to steal the word from the label) of citrus fruit and stony mineral. Bright acidity. Clean, rain water-like finish. 2001 Domaine du Baumard “Clos du Papillon” Savennieres. Unless you dig deep, this is nothing but mineral at its current stage of development. Almost in a funky way. This wine probably need some time in a decanter to be fully experienced and ultimately enjoyed. Still, it paired well with the goat cheese assortment we had. 2000 David Coffaro Syrah, Dry Creek Valley. I believe this was the first vintage for syrah from Coffaro. FWIW, it gave more of a Dry Creek impression than a syrah impression, if that makes any sense. Ripe red berries, a bit of pepper, short on acid and soft tannins. A light, but ripe wine (if that also makes sense). 1995 Ridge Zinfandel, Lytton Springs Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. 84% zinfandel, 14% petit sirah, 2% carignan. Take the Coffaro syrah and increase the acid, the tannin, the spice, and add complexity to the fruit, and you approach this wine’s profile. Some secondary elements of toasted oak, some chocolate, a bit of nettles. Very ready right now. 2007 Elio Perrone “Sourgal” Moscato d’Asti. Absolutely love this wine. Bottled in the fall of 2007 not long after harvest. Meant for early consumption. Light, floral, citrus, pear, and not too much sugar. 1993 Philip Togni “Ca’ Togni” Sweet Red Wine, Spring Mountain District. From a 375ml bottle. Pretty sure this is made from something called black hamburg, a version of black muscat. Although I’ve never had the wine before from any vintage or at any stage of development, my impression is that this one has faded and bit. Even so, there was a nice mixture of plums, violets, sweet cherries, and raisins. Soft and syrupy in texture.
  4. 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.
  5. Brad Ballinger


    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.
  6. 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. 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. 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. Brad Ballinger

    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. 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. Brad Ballinger

    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. Brad Ballinger


    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. 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. 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. Not when it's below zero in Minnesota, and there's no indoor rotisserie.
  16. Responding after the fact... We got together with our neighbors for a Slovenia-themed dinner. Yep, Slovenia, the culinary mecca of the world. Well, my ancestors came from there as did the female's from next door. We started with a caviar platter. Not Slovenian, but definitely NYE. Caviar and all the other stuff that goes with it -- chopped shallot, creme fraiche, chopped hard-boiled egg, lemon zest. Next was a soup that was chicken broth, egg (almost ended up egg drop like), parmesan, and parsley. Steaks with gorgonzola sauce (yes, it's Slovenian) served with dumplings stuffed with herbed cottage cheese were the main course. Lake Bled cream cake and walnut potica for dessert.
  17. Brad Ballinger

    pinot noir

    The only wine I've had from Spain that contains Pinot Noir is cava from Codorniu. But you're probably asking about something else. There are some producers (Mas Cargols, Rafael Bravo), but I haven't had any experience with them.
  18. Brad Ballinger

    Mystery bottles

    You need to purchase some good German Riesling wines, some good Loiire Chenin Blanc, and some good White Burgundy. To start. Of course, I need to add my disclaimer, that it all depends on taste and preference. Not everyone likes wine with age on it, no matter how much age. Others don't like wine unless it has age on it.
  19. My wife and I met a friend for dinner recently. The friend lives in Maple Grove. I wanted to try Kay's Wine Bar, but the friend said it is often crowded and tough to get in. So she steered us toward Pittsburgh Blue instead -- "For people who work hard and want to be rewarded." They also boast "a feedlots worth of parking." And, as far as what to wear: "Come in a stretch limo or stretch pants; there's no dress code at Pittsburgh Blue." It's a steakhouse first and foremost. The name comes from how steak is sometimes orderd -- black and blue, or "Pittsburgh" blue, charred on the outside, cool and raw (or close to it) on the inside. And, from the menu descriptions, the steak portions are huge -- including the Ribeye "Tomohawk Chop" for two ($32.95 each). One-third to one-half of the entree items are over $30, and the least expensive one is the buttermilk fried chicken ($16.95). As for sides, etc., this is an a la carte menu. Looking around us and taking note of the portion sizes, we decided to play it low key. We each ordered the Steakhouse Wedge salad ($6.95) and also the Cold Seafood Sampler appetizer tray for the table -- four raw oyster, three cooked and chilled shrimp, a mold of tuna tartare and half a chilled lobster tail ($39.95). The salad was enormous for the price. The appetizer tray not so much. Food quality was okay. The mignonette granita to go with the oysters was good, and I appreciated it as a granita and not a sauce. The lobster seemed a bit overcooked. The wine list is primarily domestic, and there is a wide price range with overall accessible pricing. You can spend more on your steak than on a bottle of wine -- just what a Pittsburgh steelworker might prefer if you read between the lines of the marketing. Not having ordered steak at a steakhouse, I can't really comment on the restaurant's main draw and focus. At 8:00 on a Thursday night, it was full and people were waiting. By 9:45, we were one of three tables still occupied. Two people were in the bar. The Twin Cities doesn't have many steakhouse joints (if you don't count the chains), especially outside of the urban core. I don't know mow much Pittsbrugh Blue will compete with Gianni's in Wayzata. Gianni's is quite a bit higher-priced, so that may create some migration. Pittsburgh Blue is located in the parking lot of the largest Arbor Lakes retail complex. I expect it to create a good draw, even if it is deserted by 10:00 on a weeknight.
  20. I recently had some Bell's Winter White Ale. Tomy palate, I couldn't detect much that makes it different from any other white or wheat ale. But, it being winter and all, I didn't really taste it side by side with anything else. I liked it nonetheless.
  21. I'm going to focus in on one word you included in your question -- Does ice wine benefit from cellaring...? Benefit lies in the palate of the drinker. What do you like in your sweet or dessert wines? Do you like the sugar to be prominent, entirely noticeable, and -- well -- sugary? Do you prefer the sugar to have an aged, brulee-like flavor profile? You mentioned Sauterens in your question. As they age, the sugar in Sauterens loses it's "sweetness" and takes on other flavors, some of which others have called almost a burnt-like quality (hence, my use of the word bulee above). And I've tasted some wines that may have been sweet when young, but are DOA decades later. So, as with any wine, it depends on how you wish to enjoy ice wine. If the matter is of extreme importance to you, you can always buy an old bottle trhoughh an auction website and try it side by side with a younger one to see which style you prefer.
  22. Jim, I enjoyed the note on the 1992 Sullivan. As you probably know, I open a 1992 every year on my wedding anniversary. Not really a clunker in the lot yet. Still to go are a couple of Diamond Creeks and a Fisher Wedding. Then the only bottles from 1992 will be Vintage Port.
  23. Okay, it's been eight days, and no replies. I'm guessing the Minnesota contingent would have a reply similar to mine, which follows... Never heard of it. I know nothing about the dining scene in that part of the state (Lindstrom, Chisago Lakes, Taylors Falls), and even less across the St. Croix (St. Croix Falls, Rice Lake, Osceola). So. . . Looks like you have to check it out for all of us. Please report back.
  24. Okay, an update. . . I've taken two more business trips. On the first of those, I drove out to Fishbones, 1.5 miles outside of Delafield, only to discover that the particular Monday I showed up was the first Monday they had closed for the fall/winter. So I went back into town and decided to give Zin another shot. Tried the Caesar salad again. Still bland as hell. Then I ordered a pizzetta. Given the name, I was thinking smaller than your average pizza. Wrong. I'm in the land of big portions. The thing could've easily fed three people. I couldn't even eat half of it. The flavor was good, but it was nothing more than sauteed wild mushrooms with some red pepper and other seasonings on a pizza shell. Some may have found it to be dry. I think I may be done with Zin. Next trip, I decided to head the other direction, and went to Coquette Cafe in downtown Milwaukee. I made a reservation on opentable.com. I was looking for a 6:30 time, but on the web site I only had the option of 6:15 and 6:45. I took 6:45 and showed up at that time. Place was dead. Three other tables out of at least 30 (tables -- it's easily a 100+ seat joint) had patrons seated. I counted no less than 10 front of house staff on duty. The menu looked appealing -- lots of typical and pseudo-typical brasserie fare. I ordered a duck confit salad with grapefruit vinaigrette and the steak frites. The word "salad" was a stretch. The greens that came with this dish could have easily fit into a 1/4-cup measure (not packed). The duck leg was large, and flavorful. The "salad" also came with two grapefruit sections, three huge marionberries. But it really needed more greens. Back to the comment about not many tables with customers -- I still had a few bites left of my "salad" when the steak frites arrived. Okay. I'm dining alone. I'm not engaged in conversation with anyone. So I'm not eating slow. And my entree still arrives early? The hanger steak was cooked perfectly, but it and the frites were swimming in a red wine sauce that was criminally overly salty. There was a side of aioli for the frites that was bland (could've used some lemon). I didn't order dessert. Overally, I felt rushed. Twice, my server asked me if I was ready to order my first glass of wine. The first time was as soon as I sat down. When I ordered my second glass (after the entree arrived), it showed up about ahlf-way through my entree. There's hardly anyone in the restaurant and at least ten service staff! On my way to Coquette Cafe, I had to battle road construction. The Mapquest directions didn't factor in that the exit I needed to take was closed, but I made it there anyway. So I asked the hostess for directions back to west 94. I followed her direcitons to the word, and narrowly escaped getting on east 94. Still looking for somewhere my next trip to the area. Maybe I'll just have to have dinner in Madison and then finish the drive.
  • Create New...