Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cab Corner

Once a year my friends and I get together and blow it out. Phil is always gracious enough to host the venue and supply tremendous appetizers, as well as great wine. It is typical that everyone who comes to the party should bring something; it could be a dish to share or a bottle of wine sure to impress. Actually, it has become somewhat of an unspoken challenge to bring a wine that no one has had before or better yet a bottle on someones bucket list.
My favorite foods of the evening were: homemade pasta sauce, castelvetrano olives, roasted pork tenderloin (Phil's specialty) and a Riesling cake. The wines were numerous and all quite good. However, there were a couple of block busters.

It seems the night was dedicated to the king, Cabernet Sauvignon. I brought a bottle of 2009 Vineyard 29 CRU Cabernet. The wine has Philippe Melka oozing out of it. I love his wines and even though the 29 CRU is reasonably priced at around $50 (Bryant Family sells for $300) the wine showed his style of deep fruit, fine tannins, and a multi-layered finish. Aromas and flavors of cassis, raspberry, cherry, pepper, cocoa, and toasted coffee were identifiable immediately. The wine only needed 15 minutes to open and show off its racy youth. I believe this wine will smooth out over the next five years and taste even better.

I think Frank brought my favorite wine of the evening. We were blessed to try a 2008 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet. The Caymus went through proper decanting and breathing procedures before we were allowed to meet its acquaintance. I was able to try this wine two times. The first time, it presented itself as a bit tight and uncomplicated, even though the fruit aromas were developing nicely. It smelled ripe with cassis, vanilla, spice, and plum. The tannins were fine and integrated but they were blocking the wines full potential.

Later in the evening, while everyone else was onto the next wine of the night, I found old man Caymus resting on the counter; I think they all forgot he has there. I dared to pour another taste. Raising my glass with nobody around, I felt like I was stealing something, I reintroduced the Cabernet to my palate. WOW! The wine had sat for an hour and turned into a silky goblet of fruit. The tannins had softened and allowed the full development of the fruit and accenting aromas to step forward. I read this morning that the 2008 was the first year Caymus blended Merlot into this wine. I think it showed great foresight and I believe the Merlot helped the wine achieve a silky, smooth, almost symphonic texture.

I love discovering these beauties.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Merry Christmas

The past four weeks have been chaos and work weeks with 70 hours of physical labor. We shipped 1500 gift baskets out in three weeks. Now it is time for a little relaxation.

 It is Christmas Eve and I am preparing dinner; roasted chicken breast with Penzey's Fox Point Seasoning, oven roasted potato wedges, roasted corn and green peas. The plates are going to look so festive. I definitely deserve a glass of wine tonight.

Down the steps I go. What is in the cellar that will go great with this simple but flavorful meal? I think a white wine, a Chardonnay even. What do I have from Cameron Hughes? I see a Santa Barbara lot 180, Arroyo Seco lot 273, I got it; this is the winner, Willamette Valley lot 215.

Cameron Hughes wines always come through for me; red or white it doesn't matter. His wines start with great fruit from great vineyards. Cameron seems to nail it every time when it comes to complete balance of his wines. He brings the best out of his juice, great fruit on the palate, balanced acidity, and character that is true to each AVA designation.

This Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley, Oregon is perfect. The nose is packed with gold delicious apple and danjou pear aromas. The flavors are a harmonious combination of apple, pear, lime and a minerality that finishes on the palate. I can taste the vanilla, from malolactic fermentation. Love, love, love this Chardonnay. The only thing is C.H. sells out of these lot numbers quickly, so I don't know if I'll be able to get more.

Christmas morning. It has been four weeks since I had an opportunity to sleep in and I wake up at 4:30 am. Oh well, we have 30 people coming over for brunch so I guess I will get started. I put up the tables, helped prep the food and most importantly I have the beverage department ready. O.J., milk, Martinelli's Sparkling juice for the kids, Asti for Mimosas, and I am trying something new this year; I call it my Holiday Spritzer.

This drink is so simple. Just mix 50% Martini & Rossi Rose with 50% Oceanspray White Cranberry-Peach. You can decorate the rim of the flute with a long pick spearing sugar coated cranberries and a mint leaf. This is definitely a girly drink, but the low alcohol and juice is inviting at 10:00 am.

Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year Everyone.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Experiment gone right

Last night I went over my buddy's house to have a glass of wine. I had made Paella the night before and brought the left-overs to share (it was awesome).  I also brought a bottle of wine I thought would go well with the meal, 2006 Numanthia.

Upon arrival at Phil's house we microwaved the Paella and Phil picked a bottle of his choice to share;
he came up from his cellar carrying a bottle of 2000 Giacosa Fratelli Barolo. We opened both wines and decanted them. We talked about cars and houses. We started discussing his trip to California and the wines Phil and his girlfriend picked out. We always get on the subject of what if? What if we dropped everything and started a bed & breakfast that had a vineyard.

We often talk about pooling our assets together and buying a fixer-upper. Phil is a great carpenter and I'm pretty good at almost everything. We started talking about wine blending and what wines we could make that were unique. Then he did it. Out of nowhere Phil grabbed the Barolo and poured it into his glass of Numanthia. Noooo....I thought you can't do that. It happened so suddenly it almost took place in slow motion.

What? Phil looked at me and said this is really good. So I committed the same sin and made the concoction. This time we made sure to mix about 50% of each wine together and swirled it vigorously. we let the wine sit for a few minutes before we tasted it the second time. To my amazement the two wines combined were better than either by themselves. Could this be a breakthrough?

To our knowledge no one has ever blended Nebbiolo and Tinta de Toro (Tempranilla) grapes together. I will say, the Spanish 2006 was a great year as well as the 2000 from Piedmont. We had to come up with a name for the wine. It had an earthiness, fine tannins and integrated acidity from the Barolo; plus it showed sun drenched dark fruits and spice from the Tempranilla. I thought we should call it Zeus. The god of earth and sky with his lightning bolt connecting the two.

Well, the experiment was a success and the wine was gone. We were able to share a wine that may never be duplicated again, because of the wines and the vintage years. But who knows maybe someday we will own a vineyard and it will contain Nebbiolo and Tempranilla vines. Maybe, we will even bottle a red blend and call it Zeus.

Maybe someday.


Have you ever had a divine intervention experience? I have and it inspired me to write about a certain wine. A wine salesperson came by the other day and we tried a wine called Black Stallion.  I thought the wine was great and it was on sale to boot.  I contemplated using the wine for my wine club.

I started researching information on the winery. I discovered that the visitor center used to be an equestrian center, hence the name of the winery “Black Stallion.”  As I read on, I discovered they have a high-end wine named Bucephalus. Bucephalus is the legendary horse that Alexander the Great tamed as a young boy and continued to ride in all his battles. Again, I thought this would make an interesting story. So what does this have to do with divine intervention? Keep reading…

Later that evening after I ate dinner and cleaned up a bit, I turned on the television to see if anything good was on. There were no good sporting events to watch and my favorite cooking shows were over. I turned the guide off and a movie had already started on the channel I selected earlier. As I watched, a story about a small boy that was stranded on an island somewhere started to develop. It seems that the boy and his father had captured a wild black stallion and they were transporting the horse via ship back home.

A fire broke out and destroyed the ship killing everyone aboard except the horse and the little boy, the stallion rescued. Turns out the only thing the boy had in his possession besides the clothes on his back was a small metal figure his father had given him as a keepsake. The figure was none other than Bucephalus.

The boy and the horse became friends and you guessed it, when the boy was rescued the horse went with him. Of course, the story goes on and a local horse trainer (Mickey Rooney) helped the boy get The Black Stallion ready for a race. As I sat there sipping my wine, which by the way just happened to be the last of the sample bottle the salesperson had left behind, I knew I was making the right choice for next month’s wine pick. That is either divine or extremely circumstantially coincidental.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dreams do come true

I am here to tell you, dreams come true if you put them into reality. You can dream about having your own home, being a superstar or getting your own Porshe. However, if your passion does not run deep enough to do something about it, your dreams will never come to fruition.

Since I was a young boy I dreamed of owning a Corvette. I am sure you are familiar with us "boys", we all wanted a Vette, or wanted to be a policeman or fireman when we grew up. Well, I collected Hotwheels and Matchbox miniatures, I built many Corvette models, and as I aged and grew out of the Hotwheels stage my passion for Vettes did not go away. I new if I wanted a real Vette some day I would have to have a plan and make goals for myself.

My major goal has been to be financially sound by time I turned 50 years old. Now I am 46; I have a retirement fund started, my house will be paid off in 2 years and my daughter will soon be graduating from the Ohio State University. With all my careful planning, a little good luck rolled my way.

A 1973 Corvette Stingray, orange even, came into my focus. The car is all original and in excellent condition, not to mention the price is right. After jumping through a few hoops I acquired the car and it now rests in my garage.

The feeling I had when I first saw it sitting in my drive can only be described as surreal. It has been four days and I still need to check and make sure it is actually still there. I finally did it, I purchased my Corvette. A timeless piece of functional art. A masterpiece that will supply me many years of joy. I am naming the car Zesty, because of its energy and edginess but also because of the color, orange zest! I have read, owning a Corvette is a lifestyle. Well bring it on, I am ready for a new lifestyle to bring my youth back as I turn 50.

So tonight, I am raising my glass and toasting to everyone who owns one of these fabulous machines and to all of you who want one. I hope you achieve your dreams. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


What were you doing that Sunday? Me?   I was cooking dinner for my nephew Frank, his girlfriend Cindy, my wife Laura and myself. I watched a cooking show the day before; the recipe was braised pork shoulder and mushroom dumplings and gravy. It looked awesome and I had to give it a whirl. Not to mention, my nephew is always a sucker for my experimental cooking.

As I started chopping my ingredients, I had inadvertently tuned my television to msnbc, which was replaying the entire live broadcast of 9-11-01. At first I thought it would be cruel to play such a thing on the 10th anniversary of the disaster. However, as I watched I was drawn to it. I had been working the day it happened and found it quite interesting hearing it as if it were live. I learned things I did not know before and I was reminded how precious our lives are.

I continued preparing the evening meal. Frank and Cindy arrived right on time and dinner was served. The pork was braised in a bath of celery, carrots, onion, garlic, fresh thyme, rosemary, paprika, peperoncino oil, sherry, chicken broth, beef broth, and tomato paste. The pork cooked for two and half hours before it was removed and the bath water strained. I made the dumplings with self-rising flour, butter, cream of mushroom soup, salt, and pepper. The dumplings cooked in the strained broth. Lastly, I made petite peas steamed with salt, pepper and French fried shallots.

As we ate dinner, a discussion broke out about the anniversary program I had watched earlier and memories started popping up. Everyone could remember where they were the moment the event occurred. It seemed as if it happened yesterday. Of course, we all understood the tremendous tragedy that handcuffed the entire country as the result of the fantastic event. Now I have an even greater appreciation for the heroes that perished that day.

As usual, I had chosen a wine to serve with dinner. Cindy informed me that she eagerly awaited my wine of choice. I decided on a bottle of Louis Jadot Vosne-Romanee 2005. I decanted the bottle a half hour before dinner. The color was gorgeous, a deep "burgundy" red. Aromas of crushed dark fruit and spice rose from the vessel. Flavors of raspberry, violets, and dark mineral caressed my palate. This wine has a silky texture and an elegant finish. I had never tasted a wine from this appellation until today. To my anticipated surprise the wine was a hit and paired perfectly with all aspects of the meal. I am glad that I have five more bottles in my cellar aging to perfection.

Once again great food, awesome wine, tremendous company and a reason to celebrate made today a day to remember.

You can try this recipe:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wine Bucket List

So, my friends and I are sitting around discussing the daily news. As I open the first bottle of wine for the evening I ask, "Has anyone ever thought about a bucket list, you know 10 wines you want to try before your put in the dark cellar?"
Everyone looks at me, swirling their glasses, sniffing the wine at hand, which was an Argentina red blend called Alta Vista Atemporal. Three of us looks at each other and Phil says, "What's your number one?" Jim looks at Phil, "I know what my top two would be. Bryan, tell us your number one."

Well, I could see it in their eyes, dozens of wines rolling around trying to get at the top of the list. "It would have to be Domaine De La Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti." We all agreed on the same number one.
Kathy asked ,"Are there any specific regions you guys are going with or is it anything goes?"
I say," Whatever floats your boat!"

After hours of debate and three bottles of wine I finalized my list. Some of these wines I have had the opportunity to taste already, the rest are yet to be conquered.

1. Domaine De La Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti
2. Gaja Barbaresco
3. Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon
4. A flight of 2001, 2004, 2007 Antinori Tignanello
5. Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape
6. Harlan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
7. Penfolds Grange
8. Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido
9. Chateau D'Yquem
10. Chateau Petrus

Of course we didn't agreed on the whole list. I could have made my list 20 deep. But these are wines that always seem to elude me or I have them in my possession and I just can't find the right moment or enough strength to open them.

What would your list look like? It doesn't have to be monetary based, nor does it have to be worldly. Comment if you would like to share.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Godfather

Ten years ago, my family and I visited my nephew in Boston. While walking around town we visited the Quincy Market, stopped by "The Cheers Bar", gazed at the old architecture and strolled around Little Italy.

While in Little Italy we stopped in a wine shop that was having a tasting. We entered the cozy little shop and admired the antique tables and two levels of shopping. We stopped at the tasting table where a young man asked us to try his wine from Sicily.

The wine was called "Furat"; a red blend of Nero d' Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. I remember the flavors being rich and bold, full of dark fruit with the so familiar taste you can only get from Italian wines. We bought a couple bottles for $14 each and left the shop excited to try another bottle when we got home.

Since that day, I could not find a distributor for "Furat" in Ohio, until now.

10 years later, it is my birthday and my wedding anniversary is in two days. I am going to be godfather to my nephew's daughter on Saturday and low and behold I found that "Furat," finally.

I had to bring a bottle to the Christening on Saturday and surprise my nephew.

After the Baptism I showed my nephew the surprise bottle. He shared my enthusiasm and said, "I think we should open this in private, there are many unappreciative palates here." I agreed.

Opening that bottle on that day just mesmerized me. I started thinking about foods that would pair well with my new find; braciola, meatballs, osso bucco, and veal Parmesan.

The color was dark, rich and glistening. Aromas of blackberry, currant, spice and tobacco started drifting around us like ghosts from wines of past. We toasted to his daughter and took a sip. The structure was bold, with soft tannins and a nice balanced acidity. The fruit flavors were dark and scrumpcious. The finish lasted forever! Fantastic, it was better than I remembered.

I give the new and improved 2006 Furat 90 points...this is a wine you cannot refuse to try.

Check out this link to find out where the name Furat came from.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Return to Chateauneuf

Well friends, I have to tell you I had the opportunity to taste two Chateauneuf du Pape last night. The first was the 2007 Clos de l' ORATOIRE DES PAPES.

I thought the fruit was spot on for a hot vintage, similar to the 2003 vintage. The color was a deep maroon red and the wine had intense dark fruit aromas with flavors of plum, raisin, herbs, and spice. I did enjoy the wine.

The second wine was a 1999 Guigal CDP, yes the wine of the year. This is my recommended wine.

The 2007 took no time to show its true colors. While the 1999 decanted for one hour and still needed a little time in the glass to show properly.

The fruit flavors seemed similar to the 2007 but the tannins and spicy notes put this wine over the top. The experience took me back to my 2006 trip to the area of CDP.

I'll give the Clos de l' ORATOIRE DES PAPES 2007, 90 points and the Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape 1999, 95 points.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The End

Dark clouds rain down on me,

Tears from years of misery.

This game called life has been so cruel,

Thinking back was I a fool?

This box I am in has no way out.

No doors or windows to hear me shout.

My only escape is through the light,

It shines within, but fear the flight.

If I sacrifice my soul,

I will never grow old.

But the pain left behind,

Will scald my mind.

Please save the lonely left in the dark.

Walking this earth with broken hearts.

Screams of hope that someone will hear,

Only silence comes before the last tear.

By Bryan Bennington

A Wine in Time

July 1, 2011 7:30 p.m.
It was time.

I waited eighteen years to taste the bottle of Gaja 1993 Sori San Lorenzo that had rested in my wine cellar, waiting, longing to make my acquaintance. Each year that passed brought me closer to this special moment.

I always wanted to share this wine with friends that would appreciate it, but not with too many if you know what I mean? And now, that day had finally arrived. Three of my closest friends had gathered with me in my basement. We were surrounded by stone walls, wine memorabilia, a riddling rack hanging from the ceiling, and bottles of wine on the bar, beckoning our indulgence.

Time was at a standstill.

The food was ready, chicken grilled to perfection, herbed potatoes crisped, and a variety of cheese anxiously called to our pallates. I popped the cork and decanted the wine, anticipating it will take an hour to open. The color was superb, bright brick red with more of a garnet depth. The initial aromas hinted of raspberry, cherry and herb. The wine transformed with each slight pour. The fruit flavors developed into a rich cherry and plum with fine tannins and a savory finish.

The wine was perfect! All four of us had experienced palates and knew at that moment, a Barbaresco could not get better than this. Notes were taken, we finished the wine and thanked each other for the opportunity to experience this wine together.

It is moments like this that have taught me to be patient and wait, because some things in life are worth waiting for.