November 2005
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Month November 2005

Chave Hermitage 1994 and home-made pizza

I had a pretty good day today, and am getting close on my job hunt. By next week I’ll have something to talk about publicly. So I’m having a bottle of Hermitage to celebrate, and making home-made pizza again. Very little cheese, to keep the fat content low, and a good home-made pizza sauce made from simmered chopped tomatoes and garlic, very simple. Tonight’s fare is red onion, red bell pepper, kalamata olive, and oregano, with a mix of low-fat mozzarella and parmesan sprinkled very lightly, with pepperoni only on half.

The wine is Chave’s 1994 Hermitage, which I just opened and needs a bit of time to breathe. Even just after opening, though, it’s sweetly spicy (not sugar sweet but rather, in the form of sweet spices), on top of the black fruit and signature high-toned tart finish. After a bit of air time, it’s pretty clear that the 1994 is good but not profound. 1994 was a tough vintage in the northern Rhone, with rain in September that ruined harvest for many producers. Chave’s Hermitage is sweet on the palate with good body but at 11 years old, is fairly light and lacking in the depth that one sees in the better vintages. My guess is that early drinking is fine with this wine, although there’s nothing about the 1994 that suggests that it won’t age gracefully for awhile longer.

Vieux Telegraphe 1998 and other recent wines

The Vieux Telegraphe 1998 is nowhere near ready, but I’m moving from one cellar space to another, and during the tedious process of inventory I discovered I had an odd number of bottles, so naturally I decided that it was time to check on it. The wine is still brooding and dark, showing little depth the night we opened it but a lot of tannin and some dark juicy fruit. The next evening it was showing the dark leathery rubber core one expects from a “good” year VT as it begins to mature, but without any of the bright red high-toned fruit one also expects. Only on the second evening after opening did the “red” fruit notes come out in the nose, in the form of syrupy cherries from the Grenache, but still with plenty of dark closed potential that just plain needs more time. The wine is going to be phenomenal when more mature, and I’m very very glad I continue to buy and stock Vieux Telegraphe in my cellar, year in and year out. I’ve tried every vintage (except 1987) since 1978, and haven’t been disappointed. Even the “lighter” years like 1984 have been interesting, and although the 1982 and 1984 fade very quickly after opening these days, the 1988 is still giving a lot of pleasure compared to the dark, closed 1989.

I just tried a half bottle of 2001 Tempier “classique” (or “regular”), found while moving cellar spaces. The wine is deep purple-black, as expected, but mellowing a bit from the vibrant tart raciness that characterizes this wine just after bottling (the Tempier regulars in general, I mean). There are hints of tree bark earthiness starting to show, but not much in the way of leather or rubber yet. Still, the tannins are silky and not obtrusive, and it’s very pleasant to drink.

While moving, I discovered a cache of the 1995 Charbonniere Chateauneuf, a Kermit Lynch wine that was very reasonable (low 20’s) back in the 1997-time frame when I bought it. I never really considered it part of my “core” set of Chateauneufs to age, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of bottles. Opening one tonight as I simmer a pasta sauce, I find it reminds me of Les Cailloux: kirsch-like cherry fruit, with salty herbal aromas and a beef au-jus note on the palate. Surprisingly good, actually. Not quite mature, but I’m not sure what I think about aging it longer, since I have no experience with older examples of this wine (except for one, a long time ago, which was dried out and not at its best). But the other three bottles aren’t destined to last much longer anyhow, since this is tasty now!

More bread-making experiments

Over the course of the week I tried a "natural leavening" process to essentially make a starter, and myDsc00739 flour mixture definitely did leaven naturally from the yeasts in my kitchen, but I have to say I wasn’t impressed by the aromas — too dark and not sweetly tart enough.  So I scrapped that for this week. Perhaps I need to tweak my airborne yeasts a bit more…

Today, however, I made a large pain Pugilese-style loaf based on a sponge I made last night and allowed to pre-ferment in the refrigerator (i.e., slowing down the yeasts).  Here’s the loaf after it came out of the oven and before the tortuous 45-minute cool-down. 

Fresh bread and terrific pizza

OK.  Yes, I should be writing more, especially since I’m taking time off after Network Clarity.  But in addition to a really irritating case of writer’s block about my usual topics, I’ve been getting outdoors asDsc00733 much as possible and also cooking a lot more.  The latter is due to a combination of wanting to make healthier meals more "from scratch," at least while I’m less busy, and from watching too much Alton Brown.

Last week’s fun item was pizza dough.  I resurrected my pizza stone and peel from the basement, and made a couple of batches of dough, fairly successfully.  Last Friday my brother, and our friends Ian and Beth, came over and we made pizzas, with homemade sauce, a couple of batches of my dough, some fresh herbs, olives, and good pepperoni.  The crust was light but chewy, but not quite thin enough for my tastes, although the thickness did help it stand up to reheating the next day.

Today I made bread, mostly because I’d read some of "Brother Junipers Bread Book: Slow Rise As Method and Metaphor" while it was raining so hard yesterday, and partially because I still had the stone in the oven and the kitchen hadn’t been cleaned yet.  Oh, and I’d been given a baguette tray for a housewarming gift long ago…

I’m not sure how good the bread is yet, but the house sure smells amazing.  I need to let the loaves cool for a half hour to allow the gluten network to set up, so the bread structure doesn’t collapse when it’s sliced.  But they look pretty decent, if a bit lumpy, and I’m hoping they taste good too…