Burgs at Berns

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Thanks to Ron for setting up a nice weekend including dinner at Berns and lunch at Restaurant BT. Ron worked with sommelier Brad Dixon to come up with some great wines at great prices. They were mostly selected from vintages without huge reputations, but producers that make great wines consistently. The wines included the only magnum of DRC that I (and I think Ron) had ever had.

We pre-gamed in Ron and Bev’s suite with the 2000 Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc by Taittinger, which features a lovely toasty nose and lemon curd finish.

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At Berns Brad started us with a 2005 Meursault JF Coche-Dury. A lot of the 2005s have premox problems, but not this one which offered abundant fruit, with a nice thread of minerality and butter to balance it. The predominant nose was lavender with a bit of wax.

Our first red Burgundy was a 1978 La Romanee Bouchard Pere & Fils. This was all about bacon and smoke, later developing some coffee. The wine has great structure and is drinking very young. It was Ron and my Wine of the Night.young coffee

We tried a 1953 Volnay-Santenay from Pierre Ponnelle, which was a great year and great producer, but not estate grown. As Brad had warned, it was a bit over the hill, although Linda liked its oxidized character. Initially closed, it opened up eventually, but was tired. The finish was surprisingly sweet. but very sweet on the palate

The big boy of the night was 1983 Grands-Echezeaux Domaine de la Romanee Conti from Magnum. Immediately upon pouring it was very bright, almost to the point of being spritzy. Lots of young baking spices, a hint of something green, maybe pickled asparagus. Later on rhubarb. On the palate it was very fruity, and eventually began to finish with smoke and bacon. It was an excellent wine, and a magnum at $1300 was a solid buy, but the retail is several times that, and would not be worth it.

Where can you go after that? A different valley, for sure. 1975 Côte-Rotie La Mouline was a stunning Rhone that offered excellent structure and very fresh fruit.

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For dessert, Brad produced a really interesting 1927 Bastardo Leacock’s Madeira. Bastardo is one of the mixing grapes that used to be used in Madeira, but it is now almost extinct, and it was only twice ever bottled by itself. One of those times was this wine, which had a great spearmint nose, and was slightly drier than a Bual. The wine had great acid and a long, clean finish with a touch of caramel and orange peel, hazelnut. It was very bright.

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We also drained two other Madeiras that very nice, and it gave us the opportunity to compare the sweetness levels of Verdelho and Sercial.

1937 d’Oliveiras Sercial Madeira was quite dry, and not quite as complex as 1912 D’Oliveras Verdelho Madeira. This is my favorite sweetness level of Madeira, as it goes with almost any food. It was almost as complex as the Bastardo.

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Brad set Bev up with a flight of Armagnac. The first was everyone’s favorite, a 1960 Vieil Armagnac, a producer none of us had heard of. The other two were both from Francis Darroze, a 1962 and 1963, but both seemed a bit harsh.

We finished with deconstructed Macadamia nut sundaes.

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Thanks to Ron for setting up a great evening, and to Brad for his generosity with the wines!

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Alcorn McBride Paint Night

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Last year’s favorite company activity was paint night at Painting With A Twist, so we decided to repeat it. This time, instead of a lighthouse, we painted a gecko, and it was fun to see how the subject matter encouraged everyone to let their imaginations run wild.

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Riedel Stemware Seminar

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A few years ago Linda and I attended a Riedel stemware seminar while on a Celebrity cruise. The premise of the seminar was that different shaped glasses make wines taste different.

We went in very skeptical but came out completely believers. So much so, in fact, that I ordered four sets of the glasses and have conducted the same seminar for my co-workers and members of my wine group. Everyone who has ever gone through it has been amazed at the effect that even small changes in the shape of the glass can make.

So when I heard that Riedel was conducting a seminar just a block from our Chicago condo I had to sign up for it again. Why? Becuase for $90 you get four excellent wines, and can keep the glasses they’re served in!

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Dani and I attended last night, and even though the venue was less than ideal for wine tasting (outdoors, noisy band nearby) it was still impressive. We also discovered a few new things I hadn’t heard in the previous seminar:

  1. The wine smells different depending upon where in the glass you place your nose. This was particularly apparent with the sauvignon blanc, which smelled like grapefruit on either side and like yeast down in the center.
  2. The glasses are dishwasher safe, but don’t use soap, as a hot glass absorbs the soap and becomes cloudy when it cools. Because of their height, you need to put them on the bottom rack.
  3. The Riedel decanter that looks like a coiled cobra has an interesting property: if you turn it around at an angle once before you pour, it dispenses exactly one glass of wine.

Although The City Winery Riverwalk was packed last night, the seminar was undersubscribed, and they backfilled with random bystanders (who didn’t get to keep their glasses). This was a tactical error, because these folks weren’t really interested in the seminar, and yacked through what was already a difficult listening environment. However we did meet an interesting guy and his son who sat next to us, and talked with them at length afterward.

The wines selected for last night’s event were all superb, especially the chardonnay and pinot noir. They were chosen for their intense varietal character and winemaking style, and I would be happy to have any of them again:

  • Matua Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
  • Beringer Luminus Chardonnay
  • Etude Pinot Noir
  • 2013 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon
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Tesla

At the urging of co-workers, I bought one of the first Tesla Model S cars when they first came out, and three years later traded it in for one of the first Model X cars. They are both phenomenal vehicles, especially the controls, almost all on a single touchscreen, and the acceleration. The Model X is great for my needs, as I can comfortably take six large adults to lunch.

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Chicago Museums

We picked the right weekends to visit Chicago. The weather was perfect. We originally scheduled this trip for our Next season tickets. The Alps-themed meal turned out to be lackluster, but we had a lot of fun anyway.

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We visited the  Art Institute of Chicago, which is HUGE. We even bought a season pass so Dani can go back with friends.

IMG_1624The next weekend we took the “L” to the west to Oak Park to see the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studios and take a very interesting walking tour of the other houses he designed.

IMG_1533We also got to see a bridge stuck up during the annual Chicago boat migration.

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Speaking of museums, last year Dani and I also visited the nearby Museum of Broadcast Communications.

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Back in 2014 Linda and I visited the Field museum.

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And Dani and I visited the Chicago History Museum (which was quite good) and the International Museum of Surgical Science (which was… memorable).

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And way back in 2007 we made Dani’s first visit to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry while on her college tour.

 

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New York Dining

Waitress Preview Day 2

We’ve had a fabulous long weekend in New York, and although the purpose of the trip was to see the new musical, Waitress, we also had a chance to visit some favorite restaurants, and try a few new ones. Here’s a recap:

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We began with a dinner for two at Momofuku Ko, which I’d read about in a favorite book The Rosie Project. Dani was still flying in from Chicago when Linda and I had a delightful meal, made special by a wonderfully welcoming staff. Not every course was a home run, but it hardly mattered because everything else was perfect.

For lunch Friday Dani was still at her friend’s apartment, and Linda and I stepped back into 1962 for lunch at La Grenouille, a classic French restaurant, and the last of its kind. This is a place they talked about going in the series Mad Men, and it’s unchanged.

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Dani caught up with us for our anniversary dinner at Eleven Madison Park. We’ve had two of the greatest meals of my life here, and one awful one. Fortunately they’ve returned to form, and although this one wasn’t quite as memorable, it was exceptional, particularly the service.

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Despite our feelings about The Donald, we stayed at the Trump International Hotel, because we got a deal on hotels.com, and someone has to pay the unfortunates who work there. One plus is that one of our favorite New York restaurants is just downstairs. We had a lovely lunch at Jean-Georges, which—even thought the prices have doubled in the time we’ve been going—is still the best lunch deal in town, with the same food as dinner at a fraction of the cost.

A great thing about New York is that you can actually dine really late. So after the wonderful Waitress production we had an 11pm reservation at db Bistro Modern, a reliable late night choice operated by Daniel Boulud, whose high end restaurants we view with less favor.

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The stunning highlight of the trip, and one of the best meals of our lives was Easter lunch at Caviar Russe, where we had the caviar tasting menu, an eight course extravaganza where every course incorporates caviar in a meaningful way. The wine list is extremely attractively priced, which just makes things better. Linda and I had one of the best meals of our lives here in 2014, and this one was even better. So of the greatest meals I’ve ever had, Caviar Russe occupies two of the top five spots. (For those keeping score, the others are two different meals at Eleven Madison Park [neither of them recent] and New Year’s Eve at Victoria and Alberts.)

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We had a reservation at The NoMAD, operated by the Eleven Madison Park folks, but after such a spectacular lunch it would have been a waste. So instead we went to a local Turkish place, ABA Turkish Restaurant, which was very popular, and fine, but actually not as good as our Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurants in Orlando. But after that lunch, it hardly mattered!

We finished off our culinary extravaganza  with a Monday lunch at Vaucluse, a new French brasserie by Michael White, owner of, among other things Marea (which we aren’t wild about). Vaucluse is a beautiful room, and the brasserie food was elevated, yet traditional. The best Salade Lyonnaise of my life is my parting memory of New York.

Quite the culinary whirlwind, and something we can only do every couple of years, but there were some truly memorable experiences that we’ll hopefully be remembering long after the Amex bill comes.

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If you can just do one thing in New York, I have to say—well, see Waitress! But other than that, Caviar Russe is the place to be.

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Waitress

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Waitress Preview Day 2

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This anniversary trip to New York City features a lot of fine dining, but it started because of Waitress, a new musical based on the movie, and with a score by Sara Bareilles. Dani asked for tickets for Christmas, and I was able to get them prior to opening night.

Sara tells the story of how she became involved with the show in her biography, Sounds Like Me. At the time she didn’t know the director, Diane Paulus, was quite famous, and she hadn’t seen the movie. But when offered the job she went home and watched it, and immediately wrote the first song for it.

That song and most of the others are on an album, What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, that she released last year, and which Dani and I have been listening to in heavy rotation. It’s a great album, but it’s very, um, Sara-ish. So it was with some trepidation that we went to see the show, since not many people can sing—or even play—a song the way Sarah Bareilles does.

I’m pleased to report that: 1) this cast—and especially the lead, Jessie Mueller—can sing them that way; 2) the onstage band is on top of it; 3) this is an amazing Broadway show, not just some pop songs set to a movie. In fact, the songs fit so perfectly that, having not seen the movie, I can’t really imagine it without the songs.

What’s remarkable is how polished the show and cast are given that we saw it on the second night of previews. There might have been one song in act 2 that I would have cut, but other than that I wouldn’t change a thing. The audience agreed, and was wildly enthusiastic from the moment the lights dimmed. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a more enthusiastic audience.

I was struck by how much of Sara’s album made it into the show, although one great song, Door Number Three, didn’t make it in recognizable form. But for the most part her album will give you a great idea of what this show sounds like, even if you can’t exactly figure out who will be singing what number.

Needless to say, we loved the show, and if I could see it again tonight, I would!

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Momofuku Ko

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I’ve wanted to visit Momofuku Ko ever since I read about it in the excellent book, The Rosie Project, which you should definitely read. It’s very hard to get a reservation, but thanks to split-second timing last week I was surprised to be able to get in on a Thursday evening.

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The layout is a bit like l’Atelier, where you sit at a counter facing the chefs and watch the food being prepared. The ambiance of the restaurant is great, with excellent music at just the right level, so it’s easy to hear your companion, but no other guests, thanks to a large gap between each pair of seats.

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We absolutely loved all the personnel at Momofuku Ko. They were all warm and gracious, and genuinely glad we were there. The sommelier, Chase Sinzer, in particular, spent a lot of time with us, and helped us select a couple of superb Burgundies.

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The meal consisted of 16 courses, mostly tiny bites, and some were spectacular. I had been expecting a very sashimi oriented meal, but actually very few courses resembled anything I’d had before. Highlights included a miniature pomme soufflé; chopped black bass sprayed with shiso mist; a nice serving of Osetra caviar (that didn’t particularly go with the accompanying sweet potato puree); the visually stunning razor clam with basil seeds (a signature dish); a roasted potato served in a delicious bouillabaisse broth; and foie gras that was frozen and finely shaved over lychee.

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I must admit that not all the courses were home runs. Spanish mackerel with a runny baked egg was not particularly flavorful. Most of the hot dishes were misses, especially a tough sirloin (although the accompanying potato churro was wonderful) and the chicken pie.

Two dessert courses were pleasant and not too sweet, and at the end Chase comped us some Green Chartreuse, which we had never had before, and really enjoyed.

It was a delightful evening, and I would definitely return to Momofuku Ko.

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Florida International Wine Competition 2016

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This was my 25th year judging wines at the Florida State Fair International Wine Competition. It was a strange event this year. Now held before the fair begins, it’s always a bit creepy going to the abandoned fairground.

Various factors, mostly organizational, have caused the number of entries to dwindle from a high of 1800 to less than 400 this year. And last minute conflicts and miscommunication reduced the judges panel this year to only 8, down from a high of 21.

Still it’s aways a fun event, and although California wines were almost absent from the slate this year, New York wines made an excellent showing, with a single New York Winery taking two of the top five prizes.

Jeanne Burgess from San Sebastian and Lakeridge swept the Florida categories. Go Jeanne!

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Steve’s Birthday Food and Wine Festival

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For my 60th birthday, everyone at Alcorn McBride got together and secretly planned a spectacular progressive lunch. Each person decorated their office to match one of my interests, and prepared one of my favorite foods. And Martin matched them all with wines. Needless to say, after 17 offices, we were all having a pretty great time, and the celebrating went on into the evening. Thanks everyone, for a very memorable birthday!

IMG_1134Best to take cover when Mike is opening the Champagne.

IMG_1138We started with a Champagne reception in the Sales area.

IMG_0211They gave me a Champagne sword. I decided it would be smarter not to test it.

IMG_2293Who would have imagined that Jim would do bacon? This was actually the most amazing wine pairing of the day, an Alsatian white.

IMG_1086 Dmitri did Hawaiian shorts and tira misu.

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Adam did Asian food.

IMG_1123Hunter did “Things Steve Hates,” including Chick-Fil-A and wine coolers!

IMG_1090Martin’s theme was Burgundy, and of course he had the best wine.

IMG_1091Joy’s Star Trek theme featured exotic Klingon food and wine.

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Devin did Kitty Kat Nap Salad from Yellow Dog Eats

IMG_1097Loren’s theme was writing, and her food was PB&J (and her wine was sweet and tasty).

IMG_1099Alex made lamb burgers from Australia.

IMG_1110Alan’s theme was Tesla, complete with his own home-made Jacob’s ladder and home-made chili from a wild boar that he single handedly wrestled to the ground.

IMG_1179Kara was one of the main organizers, and was constantly on the move, which may or may not explain why she is blurry here.

IMG_1102Justin’s theme was Epcot, of course.

IMG_1116Scott’s theme was Wicked. Only one witch died to make this green cocktail.

IMG_1119Joseph is our beer expert, and he picked a delicious stour and porter, and made beer floats!

IMG_1106JR did Smoke House garlic bread using my recipe, and it turned out better than I’ve ever done. I’m jealous.

IMG_1171Alex provided hats and took advantage of this one to give himself a Steve-inspired pony tail.

IMG_1165Will tries on one of the hats provided by the warehouse. It may be a bit small on him.

IMG_1182Chris models another of the hats from the warehouse crew.

IMG_1121Mike’s office was ballroom dance themed, with pate and Champagne.

Thanks for a fabulous birthday, everyone! It was unforgettable!

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Sommelier Recommendations

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Ron has received many recommendations of “off the radar” wines from Sommeliers, mostly in the New York restaurant scene, and decided to organize an event to try them out. He had the wines shipped in and organized a wonderful tasting at the Capital Grille, to which he invited Orlando area somms and wine people.

The wines were presented mostly in flights of three, and by an odd chance the group’s favorites in almost every flight was the third wine!

Ron also added five of his favorite wines, all of which were, in fact better than any of the recommended wines.

My favorites were the 2011 Antoine Arena ‘Grotte Di Sole’ Blanc (a Vermentinu from Corsica!) and the 2012 Marie et Pierre Benetiere “Cordeloux” Côte-Rôtie.

Afterward we started bringing out older gems during a late, late lunch. I left around 4pm, and they were just getting started!

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Bereche & Fils Champagne
Chardonnay
Clean, high acid, chalk lime
90 pts

Georges Laval Champagne
Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, crushed by foot
Ash, beef broth
88 pts

Chartogne-Taillet Champagne 2008
Pinot meunier
Yeasty, mouth filling, long, toasty
93 pts

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Jeanne Francois Ganevat Chardonnay Le Montceau 2013
Green, short, very light
87 pts

Claire Naudin Aligote ‘Le Clou 34’ 2013
Aligote
Very floral nose like a southeastern wine, heavy
90 pts

Antoine Arena ‘Grotte Di Sole’ Blanc 2011
Vermentinu from Corsica
Vanilla, oak, marvelous complexity, rich, buttery, spicy finish
94 pts

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Ch Simone Palette Blanc 2010
Petroleum, waxy, slightly oxidative in the mouth, short
90 pts

Moreau-Naudet Chablis ‘Forets’ 1er Cru 2012
Flinty, crisp, spicy, acidic
88 pts

Stephane Cossais Montlouis Sur Loire ‘Le Volagre’ 2008
Chenin Blanc
Lush, balanced, toasty
92 pts

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Claire Naudin Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune ‘Orchis Mascula’ 2011
Beautiful red fruit Burgundian nose, light bodied, cherries, very drinkable, do not age
90 pts

Chateau de Fosse-Seche ‘Reserve du Pigeonnier’ 2004
Cab Franc
Slightly cheese nose, pimiento, metallic, balanced, dust, tight
86 pts

Domaine du Collier Saumur ‘La Ripaille’ Rouge 2011
Cab Franc
Vanilla, a bit tannic, short
87 pts

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Castello Conti Boca ‘Il Rosso Delle Donne’ 2010
Nebbiolo
Vanilla, sour cherries
92 pts

Domaine Faury Saint Joseph 2013
Syrah Rhone
Vanilla, silky, balanced, slightly thin finish
92 pts

Ganon Saint Joseph 2012
Syrah Rhone
Rotisserie Meat, fruit, black olive, vanilla, earthy, mint
95 pts

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Jean Michel Stephan Côte Rotie 2012
Smoked meat, silky, tannic
95 pts

Marie et Pierre Benetiere “Cordeloux” Côte-Rôtie 2012
Dusty nose, bell pepper, silky
96 pts

Gangloff Côte Rotie La Serene 2000
Bologna, somewhat off balance, like the nose  much better than the taste
91 pts

Balthazar Chaillot Cornas 2012
Smoked meat, awkward
89 pts

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Clos de la Roche Grand Cru George Linier 1985 (Steve)
Youthful, complex, leather, cherries, very balanced
95 pts

Echezeaux Mongeard-Mugneret 1985
A bit thin, iodine
89 pts

Baron Pichon Longville 1975 (Steve)
Extremely youthful, big fruit, tobacco, umami, gravel
94 pts

Borgogno Barolo 1982
Minty, vanilla, youthful, elegant wine
93 pts

La Mission Haut Brion 1966
Roses, gun metal, cedar, gingerbread, iron, cardboard, still extremely fruity, a particularly fresh bottle
95 pts

 

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Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando – Linda’s Road Trip Blog

I flew up to Chicago on Friday to spend some time with Steve and Dani. The weather is very strange this time of year – we had lunch outside yesterday and it went from very sunny to threatening to rain with the temp varying by 20 degrees all in the course of one meal!

IMG_7764Our view of the Wrigley Building.

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Yesterday we went on a tour of the Chicago Theater which is about to celebrate its 95th birthday. It was originally built as a movie palace – outside of stunning architecture its claim to fame was air conditioning when it opened. Since films were silent then it has a massive pipe organ – the largest pipe was built of wood and was just over 33 feet long! The organ console has “special effects” buttons built in for car horns, sirens, etc. to accompany the silent films. The theater sat over 3500 folks and was actually a medium sized theater for the chain that it was a part of. When it opened there were well over 100 ushers employed all of whom had “to be well brought up young men of good character with a minimum of a high school education”. They also had to be 5’7″ tall and 135 lbs. to fit into the standard uniforms. Similar to our Disney operator signaling systems today, there were elaborate button and light panels all through this massive building so the ushers could communicate where empty seats were. Very impressive for its day!

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I finished a cross stitch that I have been working on for 4 years this afternoon so we are going to take it to a framer tomorrow morning before we leave Chicago.


 

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Our first road trip stop is in St. Louis. We are staying in a Four Seasons with a lovely view of the arch which unfortunately is closed due to urban renewal around its base. Also unfortunate is that the view of everything around the arch is a collection of decaying riverfront factories with black walls and smokestacks – no wonder they built the arch so high – perhaps the goal was to be able to see into another state!

Strangely adjacent to this nice hotel is a new casino which is quite lovely but filled with the dregs of humanity – dedicated gambler that I am even I was scared off and retreated back to the room.


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Memphis was much nicer than St. Louis. We stayed at the original Peabody – what a wonderful blast from the past! And best of all the ducks are still there. It was so fun – the Duck Master comes out (sort of like a Ring Master) all dressed up in a fancy red coat and after a spiel to the crowd (of several hundred) he ceremoniously lowers red carpeted duck sized stairs and escorts the ducks to the elevator for the ride to their duck palace on the roof. In Orlando, once released from their fountain the ducks broke the land speed record to escape the lobby full of children; the Memphis ducks seem to have much more decorum and walked down the aisle with a majesty that would have befitted the Queen of England.

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We ate at a restaurant called Flights. They had wine flights of course but also had food flights as well – so for example they had a salad flight consisting of (3) salads – thank goodness we just ordered one – portions were huge – I forget this is the South and all. Along those lines it is kind of telling how many billboards there are for cardiac care!

In the morning we took a quick drive down Beale Street just to check that off the list (they were still cleaning up from last night’s partying). It’s not quite as romantic at 8:30 AM!

I took my turn at driving today as we continued down I-55 through Mississippi – what a great drive! I have spent so much time driving in Florida with idiots that I had forgotten what it was like to share the road with folks who know what they are doing. And best of all there are virtually no towns en route, so there aren’t any cops either. Everyone has agreed to go 80 MPH and it’s an overall dandy arrangement. I was driving Steve’s stretch Lexus which is SO comfortable – the only bad thing is there is absolutely no feedback as to how fast you are going – I caught myself doing 90 at one point!


IMG_0370New Orlean’s French Quarter defies description – you have seen the pictures of course but the ambiance is kind of like the seedier part of Las Vegas mixed with the funkiness of San Fransisco’s water front with a dollop of New York street life thrown in for good measure. Walking the streets is kind of like driving in Florida – you have to assume you are going to be cut off at every pass – folks start to drink around 11 AM and it is legal to carry drinks with you on the street – so it’s a happy but directionally and balance wise challenged crowd. Bourbon Street is sort of like an exercise in natural selection – the street itself is closed to traffic but the cross streets are not – you get the picture.

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Just one block over from Bourbon is Royal Street – a very different vibe. There are still many tourist shops here but there are some fine antique stores as well. We spent an hour in one that was more like a museum with price tags. It was not uncommon to find prices around $75K and there was a painting that had been sourced from the Vatican that was close to $1M. And heaven knows what they had hidden in the back! The place was huge and among other treasure they had a collection of precision world clocks from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Commander’s Palace turned out to be a dud – incredibly high wine prices, a fairly limited menu and fractured service – oh well.

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Last night however we went to and absolutely fabulous new restaurant (R’evolution). Great wine list and the food was outstanding. Steve and Dani had a 1907 Madiera to finish off the meal – perfect in every way!

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Halloween in New Orleans is… well let’s just say it ain’t Disney style.

On Bourbon Street one passes cigar puffing men in red tutu’s and matching bustier’s with a lot of muscles and an overall bad attitude. The young ladies in similar attire go down the street without comment. The young ladies (?) hooking for the strip clubs hang out with mostly bare tops covered perhaps by black paint at the most. They are about 15′ away from young boys tap dancing on the street in violation of every child labor law I have ever heard of. We saw a very dapper pair of elderly men (clearly well monied) with impeccable suit jackets, killer shoes and no pants save for very colorful boxer shorts. Then there was the black robed young woman with a large live snake draped around her neck. And the crazy guy naked but for black Speedo who was bragging about being both drunk and high on cocaine… And everyone else is just pretty much 3 sheets to the wind. Several schmucks had fallen by the road and were sleeping it off on the sidewalk. And this was about 5 PM last night. So what I could not get my head around was about this same time a NOLA police car was driving down the road – could not fathom what infraction they were going to go for first? These folks have taken live and let live to a whole new level!

IMG_0471So what I neglected to mention is the music. Music oozes from every pore of the French Quarter – they seem to be be born knowing how to play an instrument. There is nothing repetitive about it – every performance is improvised – as opposed to soul music this is music from the soul – amazing! There was a street band led by an older black lady clarinet player – the best I have ever heard! Her name is Doreen Ketchens; here is one link on YouTube but you can find others as well:

There was also a band that played in a lounge in our hotel. The room was about the same size as lounges on cruise ships and I always felt a slight rocking sensation (but it might have been the champagne…).


IMG_0529Yesterday we had had enough of the city and drove about an hour out of town to a riverfront plantation, Oak Alley. It was a rainy day so it was very uncrowded and it was a little easier to get a sense of what it must have really been like. It is named Oak Alley because an unknown Frenchman planted an avenue of oak trees 80 feet apart in the early 1700’s. He never lived to see them in their full majesty but now they have grown together and form a magnificent arch leading to the river. They funnel any breeze and in the early 1800’s a wealthy French officer built a magnificent home at the end of the Alley for his bride (who sounds like she was actually a pill but whatever.)

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The plantation grew sugar cane and employed about 100 slaves. There was an inventory of them from the mid 1800’s and their values ranged from $25 for a very sickly older person to $1500 for a skilled self taught botanist. Morality aside, just from an economic standpoint most of them were not given sufficient food/clothing to survive adequately – they had to supplement their incomes/food by raising crops and animals in their “spare” time; seems a pennywise approach to treating your work force.


 

 

So then it was off to Biloxi and the Beau Rivage. It is kind of sad – sort of a southern Las Vegas built on the cheap for senior citizens who have never gotten the chance to travel anywhere else. The only fun fact is for inexplicable reasons it is mandated that the casinos themselves have to be built on barges. So the hotels are built on the water’s edge and the barges are seamlessly attached to them – you can’t detect the seam from the inside. And no, I cannot figure out how they deal with the tides and it’s bugging me…

IMG_0550Last night we had a lovely dinner in a steak house on the top of another hotel – they had a very nice wine list and also were having a 50% off special on the wine – no limits! Had some really good Burgundy at below retail – yeah! And I even won $15 at the casino last night.

Eating habits in the South – no wonder insurance rates are so high! It is just kind of sad. We went to a sushi restaurant in Biloxi and out of 40 rolls only 3 or 4 of them did not feature tempura battered something or overall deep fried or both. Yuk! Amazingly their sashimi preparations were spot on.


 

En route to the Panhandle I was amazed by the sophistication of Mobile, Alabama – beautiful waterfront convention center and great local restaurants.


 

 

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Our final stop before Orlando was in Destin, Florida, at a kind of funky pseudo bed and breakfast with a killer Gulf view.

IMG_0573 I am going to sleep with the doors open and the waves lapping outside.

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Alinea – a Return Visit

Alinea is widely regarded as the top restaurant in the United States, but when we visited five years ago we weren’t impressed. The service seemed stiff, and there were too many directions involved in how to eat each course.

But it had been a few years, and since then we’ve enjoyed many meals at their related restaurant, Next, which changes its entire concept three times a year.

Both restaurants use an advance ticketing system, and it takes quite a bit of planning to book a table. In addition, Alinea won’t accept a booking for odd numbered parties, so we waited until Dani was out of town.

This visit immediately felt different than last time, as the waiters were much more friendly. Linda and I shared a reserve wine pairing, and that was plenty for both of us, because the wines were more eclectic than actually great, although there was an impressive 2005 Chateau Palmer near the end.

I was surprised how many of the courses were the same as five years ago, but there were also many new ones. I don’t think anything was as good as some of the things we’ve gotten at Next, but there were some fun items.
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These pieces of paper picture different food items, and the small tastes on top of them are designed to taste like the pictured item, even though they appear completely different.

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Pretty but not remarkable.

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This is an actual slab of concrete, but the concrete-like pieces on top are food.

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This was several courses. The best and most interesting thing of the night was a shellfish I was unfamiliar with called Percebes. There were two on the piece of driftwood, and they were consumed by simply biting off the tiny bit that extended from the shell. All the rest of that is just decorative.

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Another beautiful presentation, all edible.

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There were some interesting flavors here, but again it’s mostly about appearance.

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This was a new fun experience: a green apple flavored balloon full of helium, so you could bite it, inhale, and talk like Donald Duck. Just don’t get it in your hair!

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This was the final course, which was the same as last time, and didn’t thrill us. They put down a mat and the chef decorates it with dessert. It’s not particularly interesting, just outre.

The menu was presented at the end of the meal. The size of the circle indicates the size of the course, the darkness of the circle indicates the intensity of flavor, and the position of the circle indicates sweetness (the farther to the right, the sweeter).

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In summation, I thought Alinea was better than last time, but still not anywhere near the top of my restaurant scale. There are many places in Chicago I’d rather go, including Next, Boka, Grace, Intro and Sepia. Also, having just been to Victoria and Albert’s for Linda’s birthday the week before, it really pointed out how the experiences are not remotely on the same level.

Maybe in another five years we’ll give it another try.

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Linda’s Birthday at V&A

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For Linda’s birthday we invited Ron and Bev to join us at Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian.

We’ve been going to this restaurant every Christmas Eve for twenty years, and we should really try to get there more often, as everyone treats us like family there. Plus, it’s the closest restaurant to our house, and was recently voted #6 in the country by Trip Advisor.

The restaurant has recently changed from two seatings per night to one, which makes it nice, because you have your table for the night. Given that it’s always sold out, it was nice of Israel, the manager, to find so much space for our wines.

When Linda and I go we usually have the wonderful wine pairing, but this was a special night, so Ron and I coordinated to bring some spectacular old French Wines.

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I feel like the restaurant, which was always great, has really upped their game during our last few visits. This meal began with four of the best courses I’ve had anywhere.

IMG_0114We love the Osetra caviar, and Chef Scott Hunnell’s cauliflower panacotta provides an amazing base for it. Israel poured a Champagne from their list that was a great match.
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The Alaskan salmon rolled around crab and topped with caviar was also a wonderful new dish that went perfectly with our Aubert chardonnay.
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The sable fish with soy  and mushroom really went well with the Burgundies we were starting on.
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And this new langoustine dish had us going back to the Aubert to match its butteriness. Wow, four great dishes.
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The chicken and pork dishes that followed were good matches to the rest of our Burgundies, if not quite at the same stellar level.
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And the Australia Wagu worked well with the Bordeaux.
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We had our favorite server, Anita, who we’ve missed on our last few visits.

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Our first dessert included their sour cream ice cream, which everyone  knows is my favorite! There was also a chocolate dessert, but we just asked them to box that and brought it home for Chastity.

By the end of the evening we were the last table, and we had a chance to chat with many of our friends from the staff. A final surprise when we got home: Israel had placed a birthday gift in my wine bag for Linda, a gorgeous Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru! What a wonderful night with old friends.

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Wine Notes

This was one of the best flights of six red wines I’ve ever had, with every wine showing beautifully. My favorite of the night drifted back and forth several times, but I finally settled on the 1959, which after three hours had an almost infinitely complex nose.

2010 Aubert Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard (Steve) 94 pts

Honey, spice, butter, toast

1961 Pierre Ponnelle Echezeaux (Ron) 96 pts

Cherry, young, Asian spice

1959 Leroy Grand Echezeaux (Steve) 98 pts

Green leaves, brioche, red fruit, mushroom, iron, curry, spearmint, really evolved over 3 hours

1978 DRC Romanee St. Vivant (Ron) 94 pts

Dates, cherry, bread

1997 Leroy Romanee St. Vivant (Steve) 94 pts

Wood, sour cherry, floral, violet, spice

1982 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron) 95 pts

Dust, wax, plums, black fruits, smoke

1982 Ch Haut Brion (Steve) 94 pts

Roses, wax, herbs, wet gravel, red fruits

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Corn Maze and Apple Picking

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We took advantage of cool weather and beautiful blue skies to drive 60 miles west of Chicago to All Season Apple Orchard in Woodstock, Illinois. From Late August until early November they have a corn maze, apple orchard, and many other attractions.

We were fairly early, and I expected to be almost alone, but there were already hundreds of cars in the parking area, and a long line to buy tickets. I guess everyone else thought is was a great day to pick apples, too. Once inside, it wasn’t particularly crowded, as the place is huge, and it was mostly families with small children playing on the bounce houses and in the corn pit.

We began by watching the pig races, which were pretty funny.

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Then we ventured into the maze. Dani complained that I was looking at the map, but I pointed out that she was taking the well-trod paths, which seemed much the same thing. There was a fun “Clue” type mystery to solve by finding clues in the maze and punching your card.

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Once we found our way back out of the maze we had a quick bite to eat (while dodging the bees who really liked our cider). Then we took the wagon ride to the orchard to pick apples.

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We paid extra to pick Honey Crisp apples, and boy are they sweet and crisp, especially right off the tree!

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I had never been in a corn maze or picked fruit before, and both were really fun activities.

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From Lincoln to Twain

At the start of the Labor Day weekend Dani and I made a quick overnight road trip to Hannibal Missouri to see Mark Twain’s birthplace. Along the way we stopped in Springfield, Illinois to checkout The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, where some of Alcorn McBride’s gear is used. After a nice lunch at Incredibly Delicious we headed for the museum, parking in the underground garage to escape the 95 degree heat.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum

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I’m a huge fan of BRC Imagination Arts, the designers of this experience. Bob Rogers is a master storyteller, and this facility demonstrates the power of storytelling like few others I’ve encountered.

It’s amazing how much information you can retain when it is presented in a meaningful and moving context, and that’s what the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is all about.

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Both of the automated shows are real blockbusters, with amazing effects and immersive narration that really draws you in.

The “Holovision” show Ghosts of the Library uses a live performer and many of the effects developed for BRC’s famous Expo ’86 Spirit Lodge Show (and Knott’s Berry Farm’s Mystery Lodge), plus some new effects that will delight even jaded theme park goers like me.

The Lincoln’s Eyes show uses multiple screens and a lot of moving scrims and impressive theatrical sound to very effectively tell Lincoln’s story in an unconventional way.

Don’t let these elaborate shows fool you into thinking this is shallow theme park-like entertainment. You’ll leave them with a truly deep knowledge of history, having learned many things you never knew you didn’t know about a seemingly familiar story.

Equally impressive to me was the way that Lincoln’s childhood and presidency were presented in two separate walkthrough exhibits. Signage didn’t overwhelm, but was just enough to invite reading and interpreting each stop. I wish all museum curators would learn how to do this.

Similarly, the displays of artifacts were perfectly interpreted, with just enough information to draw us in without overwhelming us with verbiage, yet with plenty of hard information that was easy to absorb. I certainly learned ten times as much as I expected to.

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This museum is a delightful place to spend as little as a couple of hours, or as much as a full day. Highly recommended.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum is at 212 N 6th Street, in Springfield, Illinois.

Hannibal, Missouri

In the afternoon we headed west, across featureless cornfields, for Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain’s boyhood home, and the setting for Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Hannibal sits just across the Mississippi River from Illinois, and it’s a bit of a one horse town.

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The major industry seems to be tourism along the four blocks of historic shopping that run from the Mark Twain Museum up to the statue of Tom and Huck.

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We stayed at a charming bed and breakfast called the Dubach Inn, and had dinner three doors away at LaBinnah Bistro. After dinner we walked down to the steamboat landing on the Mississippi River.

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In the morning we had a delightful breakfast with other guests of the hotel, who were emcees for a steampunk convention that happened to be in town for the weekend, and would provide some interesting color along the main street during our stay.

Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum

Our first stop was the Mark Twain Museum. The ground floor provides a fairly elaborate interpretation of some of Twain’s books, including Tom Sawyer, The Innocents Abroad, and his time in the gold rush territory of California. While these displays looked nice, they didn’t do a great job of conveying their message, especially to their intended audience, which seemed to be children.

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The upper two floors of the museum did a much better job, displaying artifacts and artwork from Twain’s life and books. For those with the patience to read the detailed signage, there was a lot of interesting information here.

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The museum ticket is available as a package that also grants access to other buildings down the street, and that’s definitely worthwhile. You can tour the homes that provided the inspiration for Tom, Huck and Becky, and all were interesting.

At the end of the street is a statue of Tom and Huck at the foot of the path that leads up to the lighthouse.

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Mark Twain Cave

After browsing through the steam punk festival’s booths, we headed three miles down river to Mark Twain’s Cave.

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This cave may not be filled with spectacular stalactites and other formations, but it is rich in history, since it is the cave from the Tom Sawyer novel (and four other Mark Twain books). Walking through its labyrinthian passageways really brings the book into focus, and the guides do a great job of identify various locations mentioned in the book.

 

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It’s a very easy cave to traverse, with flat floors, no steps, and no climbing. It’s also a cool 52 degree respite on a hot summer day, so bring a jacket!

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After our tour of the cave, we headed back, stopping at Lover’s Leap for a last look at what is still very much Mark Twain’s Hannibal before heading home.

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Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon Vertical

Ron organized this four decade tasting of one of California’s first great flagship wines. We met at Eddie V’s and began with three flights representing the 70s, 80s and the 90s/2000s.

I was struck by the distinct stylistic difference between the flights. The 70s represented old school California winemaking, while the 80s showed a distinct Bordeaux influence, and the wines from the 90s/2000s reflected a significant leap in overall winemaking technique.

Although I scored the wines throughout the evening, all of the wines were of such consistent quality that the scores aren’t really meaningful. The Ridge wines improved through the three flights. The group’s favorites were the 72, 74, 81, 91 and 96, while the 2007 was felt to have long term potential.

Following the formal tasting the attendees poured an additional dozen wines. These wines, all French, were consistantly of stunning quality, all rating well into the 90s. Many of these wines were poured blind.

The most impressive moment of the night was when Ron identified the appellation, year, and producer of the 1999 Cote Rotie. That definitely earned a round of applause!

My notes:

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Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon

Flight 1

1972 – wood, some, good fruit, wax

1973 – a bit maderized, caramel

1974 – tight, acidic, wax, wood, dill, slightly short, still has some years

1975 – corked

1977 – good fruit, simple, balanced

(Raymond 1974 CS added for contrast – fruit, vanilla, probably what happens to a fruit bomb after 40 years)

Flight 2

1981 – big fruit, blackberry, smoke, tobacco

1984 – coffee, dill

1985 – acidic, good fruit, slightly off balance, dill

1987 – vegetal, dill, slightly off balance

Flight 3

1991 – big fruit, vanilla, dill, some, coffee, the most complex of all

1992 – good fruit, a bit vegetal

1996 – game, tobacco, gun oil, Bordeaux like

1997 – big sweet nose, tannic, very ripe

2007 – big fruit, vanilla, seems balanced

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Dinner Wines

1971 Corton alexis Lichine (Steve) – light color, lilacs, strawberry, cedar, delicate, balanced, nice fruit finish

2006 Dominus (Andres) – black cherry nose, very tannic, ripe prunes, vegetal, much too young

1978 Antonin Rodet Richebourg (Ron) – burn wood, vanilla, fresh fruit, herbs, Fig Newton

1999 Cote Rotie Le Grandes Places Jean-Michel Gerin (Steve) – Bacon fat, olives, superb. Blind identified exactly by Ron!

1966 Ch. La Mission Haut Brion (Ron) – fully mature Bordeaux, very balanced, tobacco

2003 Ch.Cos d’Estournel (Gary) Dense, coffee, chocolate, very tannic, gravel

2005 Ch. Las Combes (Martin) – Great fruite, balanced, vanilla, tannic

2010 Ch. Pontet Canet (Steve) – Surprisingly accessible for its age, huge fruite, vanilla, slate, stones

2009 Ch. Gazin (Andres) – Big, silky, fruitier than the 2010. Blind identified as a 2009 Pomerol by Steve

2010 Cardinale (Brian) – Superb steak wine, black cherry, baking spice really smooth and balanced. My favorite

2001 Ch. Rayas (Ron) – Light, elegant, fully mature. Misidentified as Burgundy (again!)

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Michigan Wineries

Dani and I made a day trip around the lake to visit some Michigan wineries. It was an easy drive, and there were some nice wineries (although not really world-class wines).

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Farewell to Evanston

It always seems a shame to sell a place, just when you get it perfect. The Evanston condo served Dani well for six years, beginning with her Sophomore year at Northwestern. Here is a look back.

Before

Evanston Condo
OK, it is the world’s ugliest building.

Evanston Condo

Evanston Condo

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Roommate Era

Dani's Evanston condo master neatend up a bit

New Furniture

Dani's Evanston condo dinign and living

Dani's Evanston condo lighting

Dani's Condo: Finished!

Remodeling

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Hardwood Floors

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New Tile

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The View

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VeggieKabobs
One thing you can’t do at the Chicago high rise

Moving Out

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The Victory Bottle

VictoryBottleTasting

There are not very many wines on my wine bucket list. In fact, there has really only ever been one. It was the 1945 Chateau Mouton Rothschild “Victory Bottle.”

The victory bottle is famous for a couple of reasons.

First is that 1945 was a miracle vintage. After a string of awful vintages throughout World War II, 1945 produced the greatest wines of the century, and perhaps ever.

Second, Baron Rothschild commemorated the recovery of his winery with a unique label featuring a “V” for victory. This was the start of Chateau Mouton’s tradition of making each year’s label unique, and led to the long string of famous artist’s paintings that have graced the label since then.

Because of its fame, the Victory Bottle is perhaps the most faked bottle in all of the wine world, so it must be pursued with great caution. After many years, I was able to locate a bottle through a Hart Davis auction that carried an indisputable provenance, and I purchased it last fall. Since then I have been working to assemble a tasting of Mouton’s other greatest vintages to accompany it. Our group, The Wine Syndicate, met to sample them last night.

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Often when experiencing anything that has been subject to so much hype and anticipation, the results are disappointing. I am happy to report this was not the case here. Not only did the great bottles exceed their reputations, the Victory Bottle was, indeed, the greatest of them all.

There was strong consensus among the group that the two top wines were the 1945 and 1959, and that the final five wines ( 1959, 1961, 1982, 1986 and 1945) were stellar masterpieces. The first two wines (1890 and 1937) were also astonishingly fresh for their age, and remained appealing for four hours in the glass.

It was a remarkable tasting, and one for which I will cherish the memory, now that my wine bucket list is empty!

My notes on the individual wines, and information about the provenance and history of the Victory Bottle follow:

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1890 & 1937

With very old wines you never know what to expect. These were both magical. The cork for the 1890, a shipper’s wine, was extremely short, but did its job. The ’37 was true to other ’37 first growths I’ve had, an unheralded year.

1890 still lively, candle wax, iron, rose petals, 92 pts

1937 youthful, aromatic, bandaid, cinnamon, mint, candle wax, soy, spices, great acid, five spice, curry, 94 pts

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1962, 1964 & 1966

Except for 1961, the 60’s and 70’s were a difficult time for Bordeaux

1962 candle wax, soap, lanolin to the max, off balance, injection molded plastic, flawed bottle

1964 simple, classic mouton, good fruit, little structure, 88 pts

1966 coffee, smoke, simple, 90 pts

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1970 & 1975

These are the only very good vintages of the 70’s

1970 coffee, black fruits, 90 pts

1975 soft, red fruits, 89 pts

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1959 & 1961

These are considered the greatest vintages of Mouton, after the ’45

1959 huge ripe fruit, young, dark, perfect tannin balance, mint, vanilla, Girl Scout cookies, mint chocolate chip ice cream, 99 pts

1961 barbecue, soy, fully resolved tannins, iron, 96 pts

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1982 & 1986

Both are Robert Parker 100 point wines.

1982 poor cork, slight wet cardboard, mint, soft fruit, 93 pts

1986 tannic, road tar, great legs, very young, black cherry, stunningly better than the 1982, mint, wood, 98 pts

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The Victory Bottle

1945 wow! almost overwhelming chocolate mint, dust, great tannic structure, cherry cola, eucalyptus bark, vanilla, unchanged in the glass for two hours, this wine will likely live another hundred years. 100 pts

Historic Information about Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1945

(Réserve du Château. Provenance: Purchased from Hart Davis 11/2014, Ex-Zachys 10/30/2004 lot 1205 from the cellar of Armin Diel, recently released from Mähler-Besse)

“Mouton 45” is a legend in the wine world  – there is nothing quite like it. Its renown is likely due to both its extraordinary nose  – famously redolent of eucalyptus –  and the symbolism of its date and label, the ‘V’ representing the hard-won triumph of good over the forces of darkness. To commemorate the Allied victory, Baron Philippe had the idea of embellishing the Mouton-Rothschild 1945 label with an artwork, on this occasion, a symbolic design intended to celebrate the return of peace. He commissioned this work from a  young unknown artist, Philippe Julian. M. Julian submitted several drafts for the label, and the final one is based on the ‘V for Victory’ made famous by Winston Churchill throughout the war. This marked the beginning of a series of specially designed labels for each vintage. For each year a different artist was commissioned, and the payment was always in wine.

Michael Broadbent, the renowned British expert, writes in his book “Vintage Wine”:

The first thing to notice is its extraordinary colour. I have on more than one occasion recognized the wine by this alone. And its bouquet is equally distinctive, in fact one of the most astonishing smells ever to emerge from grapes grown out of doors. The power and spiciness surges out of the glass like a sudden eruption of Mount Etna: cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger. Impossible to describe but inimitable, incomparable, and, because of this and its appearance, several times ‘guessed’ blind. There is simply no other wine like it. Its taste is a component of smell, its fragrance is reflected on the palate. Still lovely, still vivacious. Seemingly tireless – indeed another half-century anticipated.

The doyenne of British wine journalists, Jancis Robinson, describes it as follows:

Very, very dark in colour. Extraordinary concentration in this famous wine. The aromas are just slightly porty in their ripeness and concentration but then the wine (still) has so much vitality that it rises above it all to be wonderfully vital. Truly a miraculous wine that I had the pleasure of encountering at the great celebration of the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war at the British embassy in Paris. So rich and wonderfully persistent. What a treat!

And Robert Parker says:

A consistent 100-point wine (only because my point scale stops at that number), the 1945 Mouton-Rothschild is truly one of the immortal wines of the century. This wine is easily identifiable because of its remarkably exotic, over-ripe, sweet nose of black fruits, coffee, tobacco, mocha, and Asian spices. It is an extraordinarily dense, opulent, and rich wine, with layers of creamy fruit, behaving more like a 1947 Pomerol than a structured, powerful, and tannic 1945. The wine finishes with a 60+ second display of ripe fruit, extract, and sweet tannin. This remarkably youthful wine (only light amber at the edge) is mind boggling! Will it last another 50 years?

The fact that this was the first post-war harvest ought to have been enough to immortalize the vintage, but the freak weather conditions made it even more memorable. In the first few days of May, there was a sudden, heavy, and very late frost, which blackened four-fifths of the vineyard. The Merlot vines, which flowered earlier than the Cabernets, were the worst affected. Subsequent hot, dry weather soon restored the situation, but the eventual harvest was extremely small. The yield per hectare was the lowest it had been in 60 years (around 10h per ha). Not only were there few grapes to a bunch, but the berries were extremely small. The juice was greatly concentrated and the ratio between skin area and volume was extremely favorable for maximum extraction. So ripe were the grapes, that the musts sometimes attained 15% alcohol.

In 2006, K&L Wines sold a case of 1945 Mouton, including a trip to the Mähler-Besse cellar to pick out the bottles, for $150,000.

 

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Road Trip: Orlando to Chicago

After purchasing the new condo in downtown Chicago we wanted to transport some big, heavy stuff like art work and dishes, so Dani and I decided to road trip via Atlanta, Nashville and Louisville. This would have the added advantage of a car in Chicago for the summer, which would ease the move from Evanston.

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The route

IMG_6852Only 1268 miles to go.

IMG_6862 Atlanta

IMG_6868 Atlanta. Dani tries out my new Apple watch.

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Opryland hotel. Impressive but probably wouldn’t stay here again. Checking in is like queuing at a theme park. In fact, it is a theme park, and I did work on an AV installation here many years ago.

IMG_6902Louisville slugger. I really like the 21c Museum Hotel next door. We’ve stayed there twice. Not much other reason to come to Louisville, though!

IMG_7114Home! (Well, actually we had to store the stuff in Evanston–or the trunk–for a couple of weeks until after the closing.) Some of the heavy stuff we transported.

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Burgundy and Bordeaux at Capa

Capa

Our friends Ron and Bev are the only couple we know where no matter what old wine I pull from my cellar, they can match it. So when they invited us to try Capa at the new Four Seasons Hotel at Disney World, we jumped at the chance, and pulled some fantastic old wines to take along. Having met Capa’s sommelier, Jill Davis, a few weeks ago at a private party on Hilstone’s dock, we knew we were in for a treat, and we weren’t disappointed.

Oddly, this is the most austere Four Seasons I’ve been to, all hard surfaces and glaring lights. It’s the sort of place where the artwork is mostly square canvasses of one solid color.

Unfortunately, this austerity continues into the restaurants, including the flagship Capa on the 17th floor. What could be a real gem of a restaurant is defeated by an environment that sacrifices warmth for trendiness.

Certainly Capa has a lot to offer in the way of food. During a marathon evening of wine tasting we tried more than half the menu, and liked most of what we had.

The Hamachi Crudo, served with Clementines and a crunchy Horseradish topping was everyone’s favorite, and we had two orders and wanted more.

The Charcuterie Board was the best I’ve had. It includes Jamon Serrano, Cantimpalo, Lomo and we added some Iberico. The Lomo was particularly good.

The olive asortment included Arbequina, Gordal and Empeltre on the night we were there. Some were pitted, some not, and being served slightly warmed really increased their flavor profile.
The Shrimp coated with Chili were very pungent, a bit overwhelming with ours wines.

Patatas Bravas Potatoes looked like tater tots, but were amazingly fluffy, with a delicious Paprika and Black Garlic coating—some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had, and small enough to not feel guilty.

I’m not a big Pork Belly fan, but this version had been seared extra crispy, and I ate all of the generous portion.

The Octopus was chewy and lacked the crisp char needed to make it interesting.

Veal Cheeks had a gamey aroma that was quite unappealing.

The roasted Cauliflower was delicious, and served with a sunny side up egg for dipping.

For entrees we tried the 8 ounce Filet and the 12 ounce New York Strip. Both were prime. The filet, having been marinated, had an exotic succulence. The strip boasted a great smokey flavor from the grill and dry aging. Both were pretty pricey, but worth it.

The Bernaise Sauce was unusually thin (and a scanty portion) but proved to be a delicious dipping sauce for the strip, and its thinness actually made it a better accompaniment. It had lots of traditional Bernaise flavor.

The best side dish was the diced Carrot and Celery Root served with Pesto. The Swiss Chard and the Wild Mushrooms were both unremarkable. Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with Brown Butter were good, but not as good as they sound.

We also had an assorted dessert platter with ice creams, cakes, and some really good churros.

Service was up to the Four Seasons standard, with everyone extremely helpful and friendly.

It’s worth the hunt for an unlocked door so you can view the Disney fireworks from the terrace outside, which is a welcome escape from the boxy dining room and open kitchen.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return to Capa for the great food and wine service, but it’s not a place I’d pick for a cozy or romantic evening. With different seating, surfaces and lighting I’d be there every week.

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Notes on the Wines

Capa is lucky to have Jill Davis as Sommelier. She is perhaps Central Florida’s most knowledgable sommelier. The wine list is superb, and excellently priced. On this evening we brought our own wines, and Jill provided superb wine service and insightful comments on all of them.

Jacques Selosse Initial (Ron)
Very crisp, only slight oxidation, lemon pith, brioche, green , 96

2002 Meursault Les Meix Chavaux Domaine Roulot
Closed nose, ashes, caramel, chalk, lanolin, dull, jelly bellies, 88 pts

1961 Chambertin Pierre Damoy (Ron)
Good fruit although thin, light color, slightly cloudy, cork fell in, coffee, 89 pts

1961 J. Thorin Chambertin-Clos de Bèze Grand Cru (Steve)
Fuel oil, acidic, iron, 86 pts

1961 Château Ausone (Ron)
Pleasant perfume, spice box, 91 pts

1961 Château Angélus (Steve)
Mineral nose, nice body, good fruit, 90 pts

1959 Echezeaux Pierre Ponnelle (Ron)
Deep color, great fruit, drinking 20 years younger, caramel, rosewood, caramel, raisins, cherry, baking spices, 97 pts

1959 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Dames Hospitalieres Maison Leroy (Steve)
Elegant, traditional, dried rose nose, soy, espresso creme brûlée, great acid, earth, iron, youthful, 97 pts

1966 Château Latour Grand Vin (Ron)
Classic Bordeaux, not a lot of fruit left, 93 pts

1971 Château Latour Grand Vin (Steve)
Deep dark color, peppers, tannic fruit, dust, amazing complexity, very fruity, 94 pts

1966 Ch La Mission Haut Brion (Ron)
Bordeaux character, smoke, straw, ripe fruit, tobacco, a good bottle of this, although I’ve had even better, 94 pts

 

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Dock Party at Hillstone’s

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Every year Ron hosts a dock party at Hillstone’s. It’s a great venue if the weather cooperates. Last year we froze our tushes off, but this year it was perfect: mid 80s with a constant breeze off the lake.

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In attendance were Ron, Bev, Keith, Parlo, Linda, Andres, Paula, Carsten and Jill, the sommelier from the new Four Seasons resort.

Sea plane landing for lunch at Hilstone's

Sea plane landing for lunch at Hilstone’s

Hillstone’s has gone to a bizarre policy of only serving appetizers on the dock, even to private parties, even though they are serving the full menu to people 50 feet away from the dock. Fortunately the manager who came up with this asinine idea was fired yesterday, so maybe next year’s event will be a bit more flexible.

As always, the smoked salmon was a highlight. I’d never had the grilled artichoke before, which was also good. And at the end of the evening we talked them out of some steaks. I loved the Hawaiian Rib Eye. The accompanying Kale salad was the best I’ve had anywhere, with a subtle vinaigrette mixed in, and a few bits of peanut.

31 Wine line up

31 Wine line up

Everyone brought some great wines. My wine of the night was Ron’s 1959 Clos Vougeot, as evidenced by the number and breadth of my notes.

 

Champagne sabre-ing aftermath

Champagne sabre-ing aftermath

Most of the wines were served blind, and Ron identified my 1993 CDP right down to the producer. Impressive!

My notes:

Wines1

Jacques Selosse la cote Faron – Ron
Toast honey citrus light oxidation 94

Billecarte Salmon Sous Bois – Andres
Citrus 90

2002 Dom Perignon – Keith
Lemon vanilla 90

2005 Roulot Meursault Les Meix Cheval – Ron
Mineral slate butter lemon smoke 97

2003 Clos du Pappilon Baumard – Andres
Minerality outboard motor exhaust 93

Wines2

1988 Ch Haut Brion 375ml – Steve
Slate, drinking older 93

1988 Ch la Grange – Steve
Herbaceous, chewy, red fruit, youthful, coffee, chocolate 95

2006 Araujo Eisele – Keith
Vanilla, big fruit, baking spices, 99

1959 Clos Vougeot Etroius – Ron
Metal, spice, lichen, brine, dirty martini, cigar, dark cherry, tannins, olive, caramel, bacon 99

1961 Corton Hospices de Beaune – Steve
Brown sugar, leather, bit o honey candy 95

1964 Clos Vougeot Gros Freres & Souer- Steve
Spicy, barbecue pork, 94

Wines3

1985 Phelps insignia – Ron
Pepper, Burgundian, 94

1985 Caymus special selection – Ron
Caramel, pine needles 92

1985 Heitz Martha’s – Ron
Good fruit, mint, Girl Scout cookies 93

2007 Pagliaro – Keith
Big tannins, 90

81 Heitz Martha’s – Keith
Odd, green 90

2007 Pipparello – Keith
Young vanilla 93

08 Pontet Canert – Andres
Green, raspberries, 91

08 Ducru Beaucaillou – Andres
Vanilla, 92

Wines4

08 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon – Andres
Tight tannic, dehydrated strawberries, 90

96 Montrose – Gary
Tight, green, very young, 93

96 Cos d’Estornel – Gary
Slightly corked, green vegetal, tight, 91

93 CDP Henri Bonneau – Steve
Recommended by Ron, complex, layered, mint, meat, 97

2003 Soldera – Keith
Cherry, vanilla, stewed tomato 92

2004 Madonna Piana – Keith
Fruit, vanilla 90

2004 Poggio al Vento – Keith
Vanilla, 90

Wines5

1998 Valandraud – Ron
Smoke, Cabernet 96

1998 Pavie – Ron
Tight, Bordeaux-like, Cherry, vanilla, I guessed 2003 Pavie, 92

1998 Ch. L’Evangile – Ron
Classic Bordeaux 94

Champagne Larnandier-Bernier -Andres
Toast, balanced, butter, yeast 93

1992 DRC Romanee Saint Vivant – Ron
Floral, feminine, strawberry 96

 

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Smoked Salmon Flatbreads

SmokedSalmonFlatbread

Ingredients

  • Flatbread or flour tortillas
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Crumbled Chèvre
  • Sour Cream
  • Lemon
  • Diced onion
  • Chopped chives
  • Minced bacon
  • Capers
  • Black Pepper

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 400F.
  • Combine most of the Chèvre wit the sour cream and lemon juice.
  • Bake flatbread or tortilla for 4 minutes or until crisp.
  • Spread cheese mixture on flatbreads.
  • Add toppings, sprinkle with remaining Chèvre.
  • Bake 4 more minutes.

SmokedSalmonFlatbreadIngredients

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Universal

For Christmas I gave Dani a VIP tour of Universal Orlando. She was sick after Christmas, so she flew back to town President’s Day weekend to do it.

These tours are limited to twelve people. A guide takes you around both parks, including through some backstage areas, and lets you skip the line at ten attractions. We actually got in fifteen attractions, and then stayed a bit longer to return to the Harry Potter area so we could ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions.

The attractions we visited were:

  • Despicable Me
  • Rip Ride and Rockit
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Spiderman
  • Hulk
  • Olivander’s
  • Hippogriff
  • Forbidden Journey
  • Dragon Challenge
  • Hogwarts Express
  • Grigotts
  • Men In Black
  • Simpsons
  • Horror Makeup
  • Mummy

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Ron’s Birthday Extravaganza

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Ron puts together a fantastic collection of wines to celebrate his birthday, and this year was no exception.

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We met in the private room at Eddie V’s. In attendance were:

  • Ron and Bev
  • Linda and Steve
  • Keith and Parlo
  • Andres and Paula
  • Dlynn Proctor, Grange
  • Andy McNamara, Master Somm

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We began with two stellar Champagnes that could not have been more different, with the crisp acidity and oxidative notes of the Selosse contrasting the ripe peach skin and burnt orange sherbet of the Bollinger. This Bollinger VV Francaises is very rare. It comes from one of the last remaining parcels of pre-phylloxera wines, which is apparently also endangered.

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The contrast between the three whites was just as apparent. Some attendees weren’t wild about the Haut Brion blanc, which seemed to lack varietal (or fruit) character, but six hours in the glass produced a continually evolving array of other complex notes.

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Unfortunately, the 1959 Richebourg was a flawed bottle.

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The Bordeaux flight was fun. My three wines were served blind, and 1959 Gruaud Larose was so complex that it was immediately assumed to be the 1961 Haut Brion. The Haut Brion should have been better, but it did improve over several hours. The Latour was surpassingly unyielding, and although it was some taster’s favorite, the Inglenook was slightly cork tainted as a result of the moldy cork falling into the bottle when opened. I did not think the Inglenook was a outclassed as Ron did.

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1986 Mouton was again disappointing, and I’m going to sell the rest of mine, but the 2000 Pavie demonstrated why it is the greatest wine ever made at Pavie, despite the hype of the 2003 and 2005.

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I did not care for either of the CDPs, which both seemed to have obvious production flaws. I can’t imagine that was the case with the 2007 Rayas, which should have been stellar, but I returned to it over several hours and never found anything about it to like.

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I’ve only had Harlan once or twice, but poured blind it was clearly a California cult. I didn’t see the similarity to Pomerol guessed by some of the tasters. A stellar wine, worth the hype.

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The Burgundies provided and elegant intermezzo. I’m unaccustomed to drinking Burgundies this young, and it’s still hard for me to see how they could ever turn into the magical old ones I’ve had, but they were very pleasant (and very expensive).

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Hermitage was easy to identify blind, and if the 1989 is this good I’m looking forward to trying my 1990 some day.

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The final three wines were all block busters, and although palate fatigue was starting to set in, they each had their own appeal. The Grange was surprisingly accessible for a brand new release (but I can’t imagine paying $900 for it).

By the time Linda and I slipped out it was after midnight, and there were still at least five bottles not yet opened. The group has stamina!

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My tasting notes follow. Wines provided by Ron except where noted:

Jacques Selosse (Keith)
Very crisp, oxidative, 95 pts

Bollinger 1998
Pre phylloxera
Peach skin, orange pulp, burnt orange dreamcicle, oak ,95 pts

Chevalier Montrachet 2000
Classic vanilla lemon oak
Butter coconut balanced, 96 pts

1990 Haut Brion Blanc
Amber
Smoke, gun oil, no varietal aromas
Really balanced, fading fruit, white taffy candy, shoe polish, peat, clean caramel finish, nutty, 98 pts

1990 Chablis Raveneau Montee de Tonnerre premier Cru
Amber
Flowers, heavy, briny, seashell, salt water taffy, green apple, high acid, 95 pts

1959 Richebourg
Nail polish, oxidized, caramel (flawed bottle)

1959 Gruaud Larose (Steve)
Fresh fruit, curry, almost sweet, herbal, green 97pts

1959 Inglenook cask F-6 (Steve)
Very slightly corked, great color, slightly restrained fruit mint 93 pts

1961 Haut Brion (Steve)
Dusty gravel, very smokey, after a hour unbelievably strong charred wood 95pts

1959 Latour
Walnut, spices, fruit dies in the finish, 94pts

1986 Mouton (Keith)
Tight, short, Bret, 90pts

2000 Pavie (Keith)
Big sweet fruit, shell, peppery, very young, mints, 97pts

2007 Rayas CDP (Andres)
Geranium sorbate (flawed bottle?)

2005 Quartz CDP (Andres)
Sewage (flawed bottle?)

1994 Harlan
Vanilla, baking spices, cinnamon, anise, mint, 100 pts

2003 La Tache
Green, earthy, bright fruit, mint, floral, vanilla, balanced, structured, leather, light bodied, very fresh, elegant, totally ready 97 pts

1999 Rousseau Chambertin
Elegant nose, restrained, intense cherry, slightly tannic, seashells, elegant, 96 pts

1989 Hermitage Chave (Keith)
Meat, cooked vegetables, 95 pts

1989 Ch Gruaud Larose (Andrew)
Slightly corked, quite chewy, young, mint 91 pts

1975 La Mission Haut Brion
Parker 100, Chewy, balanced, very tannic, good structure and length, sawdust, mint, 96 pts

1970 Unico
Very young, high acid, long, dill, vanilla 96 pts

2010 Grange
$950
Huge fruit, immense sawdust, syrup, huge tannins and length 98 pts

 

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San Francisco and Central Coast 2014

Prior to spending Thanksgiving in Los Angeles, we met Dani in San Francisco for a few days of sightseeing, and then drove down the coast.

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Our flight in gave us a spectacular view of the coast, the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay and the city.

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Things were running late, so it was a rush to make our dinner reservation at Kei on Nob Hill, which was good but not amazing.

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The next day we walked down from our hotel atop Nob Hill through Chinatown.

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We probably should have tried the sautéed goose intestines, as what we had wasn’t that great.

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A line up of cable cars. We planned to take this line back up to the top of Nob Hill later, but the cable broke, so we had a steep climb and ended up walking eight miles!

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Fisherman’s Wharf, with Alcatraz in the background.

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Trying an In-N-Out burger for the first time. Life not changed.

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The famous Buena Vista Cafe, semi-inventors of the Irish coffee.

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At the top of the hill is the cable car museum, and also the machinery that moves all the cables. We watched them splicing the broken one, a complicated process.

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Stopping at the venerable and tacky Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel for a Tiki drink. Dinner was at Jardinere, a cozy restaurant that was our favorite of the trip.

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The next day we headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods.

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Muir Woods.

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Big Redwood.

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Bear and friend.

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Linda checks her wingspan.

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Dinner at Gary Danko was excellent.

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The next day we headed down the coast and had time for a few Paso Robles winery visits.

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We stayed one night at the beautiful Dolphin Bay Resort in Pismo Beach, where we had the best room ever.

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I definitely want to go back to this place. It’s an easy drive from Santa Ynez wineries.

It was a great trip, much too short for all we wanted to do. The next day we made a brief stop in Solvang and then headed to Los Angeles.

 

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Home on the Grange

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We gathered for a most interesting tasting at Eddie V’s. The event was organized by Ron. Because of the cost of the wines and the desire to limit the event to ten tasters, the group was comprised of somewhat different people than usual. Attending were Ron, Bev, Keith, Parlo, Andres, Paula (not tasting due to pregnancy), Linda, me, and several other wine professionals and enthusiasts new to our group.

Our special guest was DLynn Proctor, Wine Ambassador for Penfolds, the makers of Grange. From PR Newswire:

Proctor was named “Best New Sommelier in America” by Wine & Spirits Magazine in 2008.

Proctor is also one of the four featured subjects in the wine documentary ‘SOMM’, covering the three year journey through six countries of filming to becoming a coveted Master Sommelier.

Penfolds is one of the oldest, continuously operating wineries in Australia, founded in 1844, and Max Schubert’s creation of Penfolds Grange Shiraz in 1951 forever changed the face of the Australian wine industry.

DLynn was an encyclopedia of knowledge about ever aspect of Penfolds, Grange, and the wines, knowing off the top of his head weather, alcohol, acid, winemaker and anything else we could think to ask about every vintage.

I’ve had a few vintages of Grange in the past, but it was very interesting to taste 14, spanning 5 decades, side by side.

Prior to the event my perceptions that Grange takes many decades to mature, as I’d only once or twice had one I felt was ready to drink. But the tasting changed my view somewhat. I now feel that Grange, like the wineries in California and France (and I suppose most of the rest of the world) made some stylist changes in the 1980s that have affected how the wines taste and how they age. This is the reason my cellar is comprised mostly of wines from before 1980, and I will now go so far as to extend the same policy to Grange.

For me (and Linda) the Wine Of The Night was the 1968, which exhibited the characteristics we love in the (coincidentally) same vintage of BV Georges de la Tour Private Reserve. The groups Wine Of The Night was the 1976, which was more refined and Bordeaux like, and certainly another good choice.

While all of the wines (except one flawed bottle) were impressive, there was nothing about the more recent vintages that would incline me to pony up the $600+ cost of a bottle.

One other note of interest is that throughout the pre-tasting wines, the formal tasting and the dinner, there was not a single wine I scored below 90 points, which I don’t think has ever happened before.

Thanks very much to Ron for putting this together, as it was one of the most educational events we’ve done!

My Notes:

Grange Tasting at Eddie V’s 11/7/14

99 Pommery magnum (Keith) great toast and balance 96 pts

90 Krug (Ron) green apple, citrus zest 96 pts

GrangeFlight1

Flight 1: 1980, 1982, 1986, 1989

1980 green vegetables, vanilla, mint, balanced, cream, 12.9%, cold vintage 93 pts

1982 mint, stemmy, plum, warm vintage, 6% Cabernet, very balanced and smooth finish, 96 pts

1986 overripe, plummy, American oak dill, old world mouth feel, bay leaf, 97 pts

1989 ripe, plum, high alcohol, Australian Shiraz, 9% Cabernet, savory beef broth, blueberry pie finish, 94 pts

GrangeFlight2

Flight 2: 2001, 2004, 2006

2001 hot vintage, big fruit, big production, 14% alcohol, big black fruit finish, 97 pts

2004 simple, accessible, balanced, 93 pts

2010 Mollydooker Velvet Glove (Steve, served blind as a ringer), vanilla, velvety fruit, long vanilla finish, lots of black fruits, 98 pts

2006 simple, mint, American oak dill, creme brûlée, sweet fruit, 98 pts

GrangeFlight3

Flight 3: 1990, 1994, 1998

1990 iron, blood, 93 pts

1994 dusty, vanilla, cab franc, chocolate dust 95 pts

1998 smokey, mint, big black fruits, 98 pts

GrangeFlight4

Flight 4: 1968, 1971, 1976, 1978

1968 earthy, mushroom, coffee, green herbs, iron, red berries, leather, mint, soy, balsamic, 100 pts

1971 very ripe, fruity, sweet, grandmother’s attic, flawed bottle

1976 tropical, very sweet palate, 95 pts

1978 coffee, figs newtons, chocolate covered caramels, sawdust, 96 pts

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Wines Served with Dinner

2008 Ch. Talbot Calliou Blanc (Steve), vitamin C, spices, wax, 96 pts

1990 Raveneau Chablis Premiere Cru Montee de Tonnerre (Ron) wax, honey, violets, 96 pts

1964 Clos Vougeot Musigni Gros Frere & Fils (Steve) baking spices, pie crust, morels, chocolate covered currants, butter an cinnamon filled pastry dough, 96 pts

1988 DRC Richebourg (Ron) bacon fat, forest floor, mint, 94 pts

2005 Harland Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Keith) vanilla, Rutherford Cabernet nose, huge, chewy, tannin for the ages, 98 pts

2011 Abbatucci (Andres) refined, dried flowers, butter, spices, 90 pts

2008 La Mission Haut Brion (Andres) very tight, closed, tannic, 90 pts

2000 Ch. La Tour Haut Brion (Alex) classic Bordeaux, pencil lead, 92 pts

2007 Masseto (Keith) big black fruits, tannic, mint, long, very young, 97 pts

1966 La Mission Haut Brion (Ron) really complex, cigar, road tar, black fruit 98 pts

2010 Hermitage La Pierelle Kermit Lynch (Andres) smoked meat, black fruit, really seems like the Grange, 97 pts

KeithWithHarland

 

 

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New York

Following our cruise we spent a busy four days in New York.

Upon arrival we checked our bags at the Waldorf Astoria Towers and headed south to the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial is very well done, just a somber pair of holes in the ground, with water flowing endlessly down into them. The new building is very beautiful.

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There were long lines for the museum, and we didn’t have time before meeting our friends for lunch, so we wandered around Battery Park and the Irish Hunger Memorial, which was an impressive sloped garden featuring indigenous plants and recreating some of the conditions that forced so many to immigrate.

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If you enlarge this view from Battery Park you can see the Statue of Liberty that greeted those immigrants.

Bouley

We met our friends Ron, Bev, Keith and Parlo at Bouley for a four hour lunch. The four of them are in New York for a Champagne extravaganza, but we’re on a different mission. (Most of the links in this post take you to my food blog for more information about the restaurants.)

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We attended a late dinner and show at 54 Below, a nice cabaret. The performer was Sarah Boggess, who played Ariel in the Little Mermaid and Christine in Phantom on Broadway.

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For lunch Saturday we went to one of Linda’s favorites, Benoit, for their fabulous chicken.

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We attended a matinee of If/Then, a new Broadway show starring Idina Menzell. The cast was fantastic, and made some fairly flawed material quite enjoyable.

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Dinner took us back downtown to Gotham Bar and Grill. Despite its name, the food was far from bar and grill stuff, and we really liked it, although it was very noisy.

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Sunday at noon found us up by Central Park, for lunch at our favorite, Jean Georges.

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This is such a wonderful restaurant! The service is friendly, the room is spacious and quiet, there are great wines available by the half glass so you can assemble your own pairing, and at lunch the prices are amazing.

After lunch we saw a matinee of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the Tony this year. While it might not be up to the level of some past Tony winners, it was very funny and entertaining. Jefferson Mays plays nine different roles, and was really quite amazing.

The weather dropped into the 30s for one night and we decided not to make the trek to Chez Josephine, and on the spur of the moment walked a couple blocks to a small storefront and had a lovely pan-Asian meal at Wild Ginger.

Monday was our last day in New York, and we made it count, at two spectacular restaurants.

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Most notable was Caviar Russe, which is about far more than caviar. We’ll definitely be returning here. IMG_5320

And for dinner we went down to Chelsea to experience Morimoto.

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It was interesting in that the omakase was much more about cooked food than sushi.

IMG_5324Tuesday morning we turned back into pumpkins and headed to the airport for the flight to Orlando. It will be a shock after almost a month of traveling, but it will also be nice to be home.

 

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Boston

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Linda got to celebrate her birthday in Boston, our last stop before New York City. We were last here (on separate trips) when Dani was looking at colleges, so it had been a while. For lunch, we decided to check out one of the city’s nicest restaurants, l’Espalier. We had a delightful multi-course chef’s tasting menu and matching wine pairings.

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It’s butter.

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Afterwards we walked down Boylston Street, and recognized the building used for exterior shots in Boston Legal.

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At boston common we fed some squirrels, then continued on to Faneuil Hall and the Quincy Market, but didn’t stay long, and called an Uber (our first experience with this, and a good one) to take us back to the ship.

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