Showing posts with label Sancerre. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sancerre. Show all posts

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wine And Food: Los Angeles Indian Restaurant Gets It Right

We have all dined in at least one restaurant - many more, I'm sure - in which the wine list left much to be desired.  A flimsy little sheet of paper bearing the names of a few wines you passed up at Ralph's on your way to dinner is nothing for a wine lover to get excited about.  And isn't it a shame that so often, that's what a wine list is?

Owners can blame it on the distributor, blame it on the customers, blame it on the economy or blame it on the Stones.  The thing is, if you run a restaurant where adults are expected to dine - and you want to be taken seriously - you'd better bring something to the table besides the bill.

Given this blustery preamble, it may surprise you to learn that I will eventually get around to writing about a good experience here.  A Los Angeles Indian restaurant that Denise and I frequented - for its dependable food and convenient location - changed hands.  For several reasons, we thought this was probably a good thing.  

The wine list there was something I rarely bothered to scan.  It was completely unimaginative, appearing to be the result of the distributor's desire to push some cheap wine that was in large supply.  The restaurateur did not drink wine and had no feeling for wine or the way it complements food.

Under new ownership, as Cardamom, things are quite different.  British chef Manju Choudhury is responsible for the changes in the kitchen and the place has taken on the stylish look of a modern London restaurant.  The food has definitely stepped a notch or two, from "dependable" to inventive and delectable Indian-inspired cuisine.  The wine has made an even greater leap forward under the guidance of Stewart Prato of Southern Wine and Spirits.

What was, at the previous incarnation, a completely uninspired and misdirected wine list has been transformed in one that displays wines chosen specifically to compliment the spicy dishes.  Fresh, clean whites and reds that are not too heavy on oak are perfect choices for this type of food.  To nitpick, the  wine list is a little French-heavy.  Four of the five whites, the rosé and two of the three sparkling wines offered by-the-glass are from France.  (The lone non-Franco white is an Italian Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige.)  France accounts for four of the five reds, too, with Beaujolais making a welcome appearance alongside Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône.  There is also an Argentine Malbec by the glass.

Breaking one of the cardinal rules of restaurant dining, Denise and I decided to go there on the first night they were open under the new regime - for our anniversary.  Expected missteps did not materialize, so we felt that Cardamom had earned a spot on our short list of favorites.

An amazing chutney tray is served with the papadum openers and the naan is more like Indian pizza than bread.  I like that thick, doughy naan, but Denise prefers the lighter, easily-tearable style.  The tandoori prawns were some of the best-tasting shrimp either of us had ever had, while the chef's curry is delicious - and very spicy.  

I chose the 2012 Marc Bredif Loire Vouvray to go with these dishes.  It was perfect with the shrimp, but a little too acidic for the curry - acidity and heat do not mesh well for my palate.  According to their website, the winery was “established in 1893 under the original name of Château les Roches.  In 1919 Marc Bredif took over from his uncle and renamed the property to mark the change of ownership."

The wine has a greenish tint in the glass.  Unfortunately, as is the case in many restaurants, it was improperly chilled.  The wine was ice cold and, as such, the aromas were difficult to sniff out.  The nose eventually offered minerals and flowers.  Denise claimed to get an aroma of cheese, Edam or Jarlsberg.

The wine's great acidity makes it a wonderful food wine, but just sipping it isn't too bad either. Minerals and citrus notes make for a refreshing mouthfeel.  It's a little too acidic for the spice of the chef's special curry but is perfect with the tandoori prawns.  

We mentioned on our way out of the restaurant that it was our anniversary.  The manager insisted that we sit down again and have a glass of bubbly to celebrate.  It was Barton & Guestier sparkling wine.  The Vin Mousseux de Qualité is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes which undergo a second fermentation in vats and three months of aging in vats while resting on the lees - the spent yeast cells - for added complexity and weight.  The wine offers fine bubbles, a fruity nose and peach on the palate.  

Before a week had passed we were back at a Cardamom again, this time with an occasion no more special than Thursday night.  The Sancerre fit the crab cutlet and the Shahee Jhinga lobster in cream sauce to a tee.

The Michel Girault La Siliciese Sancerre 2012 features a fresh lime nose that refreshes, and aromas of flowers that add a pretty side.  The palate shows a round mouthfeel, while citrus and herbs have a mingle on top of some really great acidity.  The long, green finish brings those herbs back into play. 

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Make Mine Minerality

One day while toiling away among the tall buildings of downtown L.A., I received this text from my wife: "I am drinking Domaine Bois Saint Denis Sancerre. My namesake. $13 glass of Sancerre."  She followed up with a couple of notes, "soil is limestone with clay overlay.  You can taste it."  So cute, her sending me wine tasting notes.

Maybe another husband would have been upset with the wife for rubbing it in that she was lolling about with an old friend unseen for years, having a wine outdoors at the Farmers Market on a sunny day while the hubby worked.

Not me.  I really like that others can enjoy wine at times when I cannot.  It's a pleasure to read social media updates from around the world from people who obviously have a long head start on me, while I am still on my first cup of coffee for the day.  It's just as much a pleasure to know that my hard-working wife is having a richly deserved respite.  Besides, it's her namesake - although in the masculine form.

In ensuing updates, my wife promised to send me a picture - which she did, see left - and to take copious notes on her impressions of the wine.  Somehow, I figured that that those notes would fall by the wayside.  They did, and that's okay.  All the catching up required after a fifteen-year separation takes precedence over pecking away at an iPhone to record thoughts on the wine at hand.  At least that's what I am told.

The copious notes were boiled down to a single impression about the wine that stuck with her: minerality.  The sensation of minerals in wine comes across differently for different palates.  Some get wet rocks, some describe a flinty taste, some say it’s like earth, some call it savory.  Some of us like to think it’s there because of terroir, what’s in the earth where the grapes grow.  Scientists tell us we are wrong, that the mineral content of the earth is not present in the smell or taste of wine sufficiently to be discerned.

But my wife loved the “limestone-y flavor” of the Loire Valley wine she enjoyed so much at lunch.  We have both enjoyed the similar chalkiness in the wines of Edna Valley, and the ones from the oyster-shell dirt of Ancient Peak’s Santa Margarita Vineyard.  If we are not tasting the minerals in which the grapes grew, what are we tasting?

One wine writer thinks we may be talking about acidity when we talk about minerals, and that makes sense.  Acidity is what makes a wine pair well with food, and my wife’s Sancerre was just the ticket for pairing with her salad, she said.

So, if all you can remember about a wine you taste is one word, that is probably the one word you should remember.  It’s the one thing about the wine that made the biggest impression on you.  And if that word happens to be “minerality,” try wines that are higher in acidity.  You may find a whole new word to remember.

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Monday, August 1, 2011


Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre

Hippolyte Reverdy is a respected domaine in the eastern Loire Valley, in France's Sancerre region.  This white wine is made from Sauvignon Blanc and the label shows an alcohol level of "11-14%."  That's quite a range, and I suspect it comes in at the high end.  The wine cost $9 by the glass at Greenblatt's Deli.

The color is a rather pale yellow, and the nose shows fragrant apricot, tropical and pear notes.  Upon tasting, it's the razor blade acidity which captures my attention - even more than the clean, mineral laden palate.

The grassiness is minimal, while the flinty minerals hog the spotlight, upstaging even the fruit.  Apples and citrus notes are most noticeable with a zesty bit of lemon peel lasting on the long finish.

The acidity of the Reverdy cannot be undersold.  It creates a refreshing and mouthwatering sensation which would be just as welcome on the back porch as in an oyster bar.

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Thursday, December 30, 2010


Wine Pairing

Browsing through my iPhone's wine apps - of which I probably have far too many - I checked with one called Wine Steward, which is also available online, to find out what they advise as a pairing with tuna salad.

Grenache gets a 100% vote of confidence from Wine Steward and is branded as an "excellent pairing."  Grenache makes versatile, fruity wines.  Great rosés are made from Grenache grapes, and that would be my choice for the tuna salad.

Sauvignon Blanc gets 80%.  If you feel the need to pair a white wine with fish, this is a great choice.

Sancerre, at 79%, comes from France's Loire Valley.  A Sancerre would probably be a Sauvignon Blanc as well, as that is the grape predominantly used in Sancerre.

Chardonnay gets 71%.  A big California Chardonnay may have the mark of oak in it, while a less buttery flavor will come from France, like a white Burgundy or Chablis.

A host of other wines are mentioned by Wine Steward, in declining order:

Nero d'Avola, a big red wine from Southern Italy
Cabernet Sauvignon
Dry Gewürztraminer
Red Bordeaux
Sparkling Wine
Cabernet Franc
Beaujolais Cru
Pinot Gris
Off-Dry Gewürztraminer
Pinot Noir

Of this last bunch - mostly labeled as "adventurous" choices by the app - I'd go with a Roussanne, a full-bodied and food-friendly white wine with a nice high acidity.