Music Monday: A Diet of Blues and Pinot Noir

The Music

This weekend, I hosted a dinner party for a few close friends. The meal we’ll get to later. The music, however, was a mix of two blues-influenced bands, The Black Keys and Minus the Bear, and two jazz- and funk-influenced hip-hop artists, Ohmega Watts and Othello. I wanted something energetic that wouldn’t be annoying playing quietly in the background, and these bands fit the bill. The Black Keys features an incredibly talented blues-trained guitarist and vocalist in Dan Auerbach and an equally talented blues-trained drummer and producer in Patrick Carney. They are especially notable for their lo-fi recording style, using very basic equipment and minimal production. It gives their music a garage-rock kind of edge that really suits Dan’s guitar and voice.

2008 Hamilton-Stevens Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

2008 Hamilton Stevens Russian River Valley Pinot NoirThe wine was a bright, deep red with just a splash of purple in the mix. It threw off some pretty appetizing hues as it swirled in the decanter.

The nose was rich, juicy and very aromatic. I served it in a decanter, mostly for aesthetics, and every swirl released rich dark fruits, spice, and chocolate scents into the air. The flavor was exactly what you’d expect from a California Pinot Noir. It gave a light plum and strawberry fruit attack matched with a fairly intense acidity, a decent amount of earthiness and spice, and an aggressive cinnamon-spice finish. Great balance, with an alcohol level of 14.5% matched with a very full flavor.

It paired very well with stuffed pork chops, though there was just a bit of alcohol heat on the finish. If the pork had been prepared with similar spices (ground rosemary, thyme, dried garlic, sea salt, and just a pinch of celery seed) and without the added salt and savory seasoning of the stuffing, I think it would have been a fantastic pairing. The mushroom cream sauce that was baked over the whole thing worked with the wine very well.

We also paired it with a tray of chocolate bits for dessert. While the milk chocolate was an okay pairing, the dark chocolate really brought out the best of this wine. With the chocolate, an intense earthiness developed, giving off rich flavors of mushrooms and earth that came forward with the spices and fruits of the wine. It was so good that I opted for another glass of the Pinot for dessert rather than the port that I’d served with the chocolate.

This wine is a phenomenal value, certainly a higher quality than the $10 price tag would suggest. 8/10

For another take on this wine, check out the review from Jason’s Wine Blog.

The Wine: Pinot Noir

Producer: Hamilton-Stevens

Vintage: 2008

Region: Russian River Valley, California, US

Varieties: 100% Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price: $10

Belated Music Monday: An Oddly Delicate Cabernet Sauvignon

Every Monday, I’m bringing you what I sipped on over the weekend as well as what I listened to to enhance the experience.

The Music

Happiness by the Kilowatt by City and Colour. It’s good music, period, and arguably better than when Alexisonfire plays it as a full band. City and Colour is a side project for Dallas Green, guitarist and vocalist for Alexisonfire, but he really shines when you put a piano in front of him and strip away the hardcore trappings.

The name of the band, City and Colour, is just a sly way of describing Dallas Green’s name, and this cracks me up immensely.

2009 Gouguenheim Valle Escondido Cabernet Sauvignon

As for the wine, I popped the cork on an Argentinean Cabernet Sauvignon. Specifically, I opened the 2009 Gouguenheim Valle Escondido Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the high-altitude vineyards in the Mendoza region. All grapes are grown at least 1000 m.a.s.l.(meters above sea level), on flat, indistinguishable plateaus, offering a different sort of terroir from the rolling hills of France and Italy. The differences include an increase in both temperature swings (higher highs and lower lows) and direct UV ray contact, the effects of which are chronicled well here at Wine Anorak.

‘This is very important since this is an indicator of quality in relation to concentration. But most important is the type of tannins that we find in these grape skins, fewer monomeric tannins and proportionally higher concentration of polymeric tannins. This means that in our high altitude Malbecs we have high concentration and structure, with an incredible amount of total tannins but yet very soft and round wines. This is what makes Malbecs from high altitude vineyards so unique.’

This difference in tannins is one that I noticed in the Cabernet Sauvignon, as you’ll see below. I found it oddly appropriate: what’s better to pair with a toned-down, nuanced hardcore rocker than a softer Cabernet Sauvignon?

Onto the wine!

The wine has a bright garnet color with a deep black cherry hue at the center. It has a pure translucency and a full texture.

The nose consists primarily of red fruits with a light oak scent. Raspberry, cherry, cinnamon, and vanilla combine for a simple, appealing, dessert-like scent, like a baking pie. There is a very cool alcohol scent, noticeable but not detrimental to the nose.

The wine, however, does not live up to expectations of a big Cabernet. The wine offers a good balance, no alcohol heat, no bitter or sour taint from acidity. While the attack promises a full, chewy tannic experience, the tannins abruptly fade before they can fully develop in the mouth. The result is a soft, briefly intense mouthfeel. Flavors of red fruit and oak are pleasant but not full, with just a hint of spice, something slightly jarring like cumin, a touch of tobacco, and a medium finish of raspberry mocha.

The wine wasn’t quite up to the task of taking on a fully-seasoned steak, but a lighter beef dish would certainly suffice. Try something not too spicy. It also seems like it would be a fantastic pairing with a chocolate mousse.

It’s not a phenomenal wine, but it’s a value at $10. With its (comparatively) light body, simple, delicious flavors, and decent balance, it’ll please a crowd without breaking the bank. Make no mistake: this wine is ready to drink now and will not last more than a couple years on the shelf. If you need a wine right now, it’s a good option.  6/10

Wine: Valle Escondido Cabernet Sauvignon

Producer: Gouguenheim Winery

Region: Mendoza, Argentina

Varieties: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Alcohol: 13.5%

Price: $10 for 750ml

Beer Brewing, as Told by Mad Rocket Scientists

Back after a holiday hiatus, the blog is ready to jump right back into the wide world of alcohol, and what better way to do it than profiling a local brewery?

from right: Full Steam Founder Sean Lilly Wilson and Brewer "32" Chris Davis

Still very much a local brewing company, Full Steam offers their wares mostly within 50 miles of their Durham brewery. Their reputation is that of the mad scientists of the brewing world, experimenting with local ingredients to craft unique beers that take on the personality of the South. From their website:

Our mission is to craft a distinctly Southern beer style using local farmed goods, heirloom grains, and Southern botanicals. Like what, you wonder? We’re making beer with sweet potatoes, corn grits, summer basil, and malted barley house-smoked over hickory. Other successful “plow to pint” experiments to-date include beer brewed with scuppernong grapes, persimmon, paw paw, rhubarb and more.

Ultimately, our vision is to craft a year-round, sustainable, scalable, and distinctly Southern beer brewed 100% with local ingredients. That’s the quest. We’re a long ways from realizing this vision, but we hope you enjoy the adventure as much as we expect to.

I’d like to do a more in-depth profile of the brewery at a future point in time. For now, I want to share my first experience with this brewery, their Rocket Science IPA. Part of their Worker’s Compensation line meant for, in their words, “conversation, not introspection,” the IPA offers an easily enjoyable IPA experience for a variety of taste buds, not just the trained palate.

I picked up a half-gallon growler of their IPA for $10 at Weaver Street Market, our local organic co-op and the go-to market for local and organic craft beers. I wanted a beer to go with watching my Hokies play football, but we didn’t get to this one before the game was over.

That’s probably a good thing, as the bad loss would have diminished my enjoyment. Now that I’ve gotten to give it a try with a level head, I can safely say I’ll be purchasing many more of their beers in the near future.

Full Steam Rocket Science IPA

The beer has a fairly complex appearance, a base of light brown with golden-orange at the edge and a deep red hue in the middle of the glass. It forms a good, thick, long-lasting head that treats the aromas right without being something you have to chew through.

The nose consists of the usual IPA aromas: floral, orange, and light blueberry, all bolstered by a strong smoky, woody scent.

The beer is delightfully full-bodied, with a hefty, active mouthfeel. It has a fairly aggressive carbonation, but nothing too rough.

A bit of a departure from the standard IPA, the attack is smoky and woody with a generous flavor of minerals, overwhelming the bitterness of the hops from the outset. Once the smokiness fades away, the bitterness takes center stage with a brisk, tart orange flavor. There is a slight metallic tinge on the finish, which otherwise tastes of lavender and orange peel.

This is a great beer to pair with a heftier meal. I’d certainly put it up against red meat or a medium level of spice in wings, ribs, or barbecue. It’s not as intense as some IPAs, so keep the spicy to a reasonable level. It’s definitely built to tackle the best your tailgate has to offer. 7/10

Beer: Rocket Science IPA

Producer: Fullsteam Brewery

Region: North Carolina, USA

Hops: Centennial, Amarillo

Alcohol: 6.5%

Price: $8.99 for a half-gallon growler

Full Steam can be found on Twitter at @fullsteam, and you can learn more about the brewery and their events or contact them at their website.

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