Sunday, December 23, 2012

DGA Wine Club: The Rustler Chenin Blanc

Posted by Jamie

The Rustler (2011) is a Chenin Blanc from Western Cape, South Africa.  Chenin Blanc is a grape variety from Loire valley of France, but it is grown extensively in South Africa.  The grapes can produce a wide variety of wines from sparkling to dessert wines.  The Rustler is a carefully crafted example of a Chenin Blanc from the premium Overburg district in the Western Cape region.

Loire Valley, France
Overburg is on the southern tip of Africa, east of Cape Town, and the favorable growing conditions have lead it to be called the breadbasket of the Cape.  The farming in Overburg is mostly wheat, but fruit cultivation, including Chenin Blanc grapes, is also predominant.

Overburg, Western Cape
The name Overburg is derived from a Dutch phrase meaning 'over the mountain,' and refers to the Hottentots-Holland range which borders the Overburg district.  Being a coastal region bounded by a mountain range, Overburg benefits from favorable weather conditions with warm sun, cool breezes, and ample rainfall.  Michael Oliver, the award-winning winemaker responsible for The Rustler says that the region is "a brilliant place to grow grapes."

The Wine

The Rustler is a fresh, sweet white that is very citrus forward.  It has a light, crisp aroma that tingles the nostrils and a cool, fresh feel on the palate.  The Rustler has strong notes of lemon with hints of apple and honeycomb.  All in all it is a very refreshing white that is lovely to drink all on its own.

Food Pairing

The Rustler is a bit on the dry side and pairs quite well with shellfish.  It is strong enough to stand up to a bit of smoke and spice, but if you are pairing it with mussels you should stick to a white sauce.  The wine pairs equally well with a flaky, bitter cheese and a creamy smoked Gouda, though it pairs particularly well with the Gouda.  The top notes of lemon are overwhelmed by the Gouda, but the sweeter hints of fruit and honey are left intact and compliment the cheese quite well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

DGA Wine Club: Torre Ercilla Reserva 2006, Rioja DOC, Spain

Posted by Bill

Rioja is a well established wine region in Spain with an ancient history that can trace its origins as far back as the Phoenician settlers who likely cultivated grapes there in the 11th century BC.  The region was conquered by Romans in the 2nd century BC, and like many European wine regions, dedicated viticulture likely traces its roots back to these Roman settlements.   The first written record of viticulture in the region dates back to 873 CE, though it was not until the 1860s that the region’s wine style really emerged with the arrival of oak-aging, introduced by Bordeaux winemakers.

Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva are the terms used today to denote how long the wine has been aged in barrel or bottle. Torre Ercilla is rated “very good” by the Rioja Regulatory Council because it has been aged in barrel for 2 years followed by three years in its traditional gold-netted bottle.  Nevertheless, Rioja winemakers are well known for aging their vintages until they are just right.

When pouring, Torre Ercilla Reserva has mild ruby red hue and black cherry and raspberry aromas with a hint of tobacco. After admiring the look and smell it is time to taste the silky layers of ripe cherry, red currant, and of course savory oak from the oak-aging that is characteristic of the region.  The wine is complex on the palate with a smooth, mellow finish.

Pairing with food, it goes great with lamb and game. This Reserva is full of ripe red berry fruit which accents the flavors in roast lamb, wild boar, and if looking for a lighter meal, Spanish charcuterie and cheeses.

I truly enjoyed this bottle of wine and will be on the lookout for another.

Monday, December 10, 2012

SAVE THE DATE! Family and Friends Crawfish Boil!

Saturday, March 9th, 2013!

That's right!  The annual DGA Family and Friends Crawfish Boil is right around the corner!  Mark your calendars and start getting ready for the best time you will have all year!

Each year the DGA team hosts its Family and Friends Crawfish Boil on the second Saturday of March.  Since its inception, the event has steadily grown larger and more exciting every year.  As always, the upcoming boil will be bigger and more exciting than any we have done before! 

Two years ago we introduced live music by inviting renowned local blues and jazz band Tuba Skinny to play the boil.  Last year we welcomed Tuba Skinny back and added Davis Rogan of Treme acclaim to the mix.  This year we are pulling out all of the stops to bring you another round of special live performances!

We would love to see more out of town faces at the boil this year.  March is absolutely the best time to visit New Orleans.  The weather is perfect!  The festival season is in full swing!  All the best seafood is in season!  You just can't go wrong.

The Family and Friends Crawfish boil is the one event that each and every one of us looks forward to all year long.  This is a celebration that you don't want to miss!

Full invitations will be sent out after the first of the year, so keep an eye on your mailbox.  We will also be separately sending out the CD from last year's performances to whet your appetite for 2013!

We will post updates about the boil as things are finalized, so keep an eye on the blog.

We hope to see you in March!

Friday, December 7, 2012

DGA Wine Club: Vina Baccana Pinot Grigio 2011

Posted by Benson

Vina Baccana is a Pinot Grigio from the Friuli Grave region of Italy.  The name Friuli Grave derives from the alluvial, gravely soil of this region in the extreme northeast of Italy, which lies along the northern tip of the Adriatic sea, not far from Venice.  The region has a strong reputation for whites, particularly Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling, which the microclimate is particularly well suited to cultivating.

Vineyards in the region are located in the alluvial plain south of the eastern curve of the Alps.  The Alps protect the region from cold air currents to the north and the nearby sea moderates heat to create perfect conditions for crisp, zingy wines.

Winemaker Alessandro Gallici is a white wine specialist intent on diversifying Americans’ taste for whites.  Although Chardonnay has long been the number one favorite white in the US, Americans have lately been developing a greater appreciation for the full, snappy flavors of a well-crafted Pinot Grigio.  Gallici has certainly poured his passion into the Vina Baccana 2011, capturing a world of nuances in the peach-filled grape.

I am personally not a huge fan of white wines, especially Chardonnays, but having thoroughly enjoyed the Vina Baccana I will be giving more attention to Pinot Grigio.  The wine has an attractive vibrant yellow color and engaging fruit aromas with a subtle undercurrent of spice.  It has a deliciously crisp, yet round flavor with notes of pear accenting what I understand is the natural peachy flavor of the grapes.  I would have preferred a riper, more succulent flavor of pear, but the wine was nevertheless very enjoyable.  I have begun to notice that when it comes to whites, I am far more partial to a fuller, sweeter vintage.

I paired the Vina Baccana with simple grilled salmon and some sort of sauceless, vegan pasta dish that my wife got from her Moosewood cookbook.  Although the wine is said to pair well with seafood and pasta, I found this particular pairing to be somewhat lacking.  I think the wine would pair far better with a light somewhat spicy salad accented with a bit of creamy or smoky flavors from something like feta or roasted pine nuts.   The wine would likely stand up to and pair well with hummus and a mild, salty cheese, but the cumin and sesame I seasoned the salmon with was a little too much for it.  It would do well with a light touch on very fresh seafood such gulf shrimp with a little lemon and parsley.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Jimmy Graham Saves Saints Fan's Life!

Posted by Benson

Here's Jimmy breathing fire like a mythical dragon

I love Jimmy Graham.  That’s right, I love Jimmy Graham.  For those of you who don’t follow professional football, Jimmy Graham is the New Orleans Saints premier rookie tight end.  The saints picked up Jimmy in 2010 in a third round draft pick that was, I feel, a stroke of genius.  Jimmy is noted for being a ridiculously tall basketball player-turned best young NFL tight end in Saints history with a penchant for dunking footballs through the uprights after scoring one of his record-setting touchdown receptions.

It is your destiny Jimmy

Even if you don’t follow football closely enough to know who Jimmy Graham is, you probably heard about the demoralizing Saints at Falcons game last week in which Drew Brees threw an unprecedented five interceptions, all but demolishing any hopes of making it to the playoffs in the season that New Orleans will host the Super Bowl.

Two point conversion - Jimmy Style!

Matt, Jamie, and I were able to catch the infamous Thursday night game after a very long mock bench trial in New York.  We barely had time to ditch our business suits at the hotel and find a bar in the financial district willing to put the Saints game on TV and serve beer to a guy wearing a “Go to Hell Goodell” t-shirt.  But we got there, and I was absolutely convinced that Jimmy Graham was going to keep the Saints’ playoff chances alive.  So convinced, in fact, that I was cheering for Jimmy on every play in the hopes that he would finally make an appearance on the field, much to the embarrassment of Matt and Jamie.

It's excruciating for Jimmy too

Play after play, there was no Jimmy Graham.  No Jimmy, no Jimmy, no Jimmy.  All of my pleas had fallen on deaf ears.  Not surprisingly, New Orleans was having a hard slog in the first half.  The game was becoming excruciating, but there was hope!  We had possession in the final minutes of the second quarter, down by ten, and receiving in the second half.  All we needed was one touchdown pass and we were still in the game.  One touchdown pass and Jimmy Graham runs into the huddle!

Suck it Falcons!  Jimmy's in the game!

SNAP! Handoff to running back Darren Sproles and TOUCHDOWN!  Okay, it was Sproles, but he’s an okay guy and they were probably triple covering Jimmy anyway, so Jimmy saves the day!  And then there was a flag…It seems Mr. Graham was holding…But it must have been critical to making the play, so without Jimmy’s hold there was…nope, it was totally unnecessary…

My bad...

It was so demoralizing that all three of us agreed to finish our beers and head back to the hotel rather than sit in the bar drinking through half time, drinking through the third quarter, drinking through the fourth quarter, drinking to quench our hate for the dirty birds, drinking to drown the sorrow of our shattered dreams.  And thank God for Jimmy Graham!

In a much cooler penalty, Jimmy flying ninja kicks Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud

If it weren't for Jimmy Graham, I would have had way too much to drink that night!  And I had a full day of traveling in the morning.  It would have been Hell on Earth.  Missing the second half saved me from a hangover I would have regretted for years later, a hangover so severe I would tell of it to frighten my children.  Jimmy Graham didn’t blow the most important play of the game, demolishing any chance for the Saints to make the playoffs.  Jimmy Graham saved me from the worst hangover in history!

Jimmy Graham may have even saved my life that night.  Thank you Jimmy Graham.  You are my hero.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

DGA Wine Club: Hacienda San Martin

Posted by Benson

Hacienda San Martin (2011) is a mix of Bonarda (55%) and Malbec (45%) from Mendoza, Argentina.    The Italian and French grapes take on a distinct flavor and concentration in the high-altitude, desert-like conditions of Mendoza.

Mendoza is known both for the production of olive oil and for wine making.  Wine making is a particularly significant industry of the city, and in fact the region around Mendoza is the largest wine producing area in Latin America.  Argentina is the 5th largest producer of wine in the world, and the Mendoza region accounts for 68 percent of the country's wine production.  Mendoza and the surrounding area is therefore packed with hundreds of wineries which serve to fuel the output of many celebrated vintages as well as a bustling tourism industry.

Hacienda San Martin is produced by the multi-award-winning Andean Vineyards.  Andean Vineyards strives to practice its viticulture in harmony with the natural environment, cultivating each variety of grape at an altitude ideal for its cultivation.  The region, and the vineyard, are known for producing fruit and great concentration but with plenty of bright acidity.

The Wine

Hacienda San Martin is a deep, dark wine with a rich aroma of plum that has just a hint of oak and tobacco.  The wine has a deep flavor with strong notes of ripe black currant, plum, and oak.  It leans toward the full side, which Doug described as "plenty of stuffing."  The flavor tends to evolve on the palate starting with a rush a ripe fruit with a hint of spice and rolling into a long, sweet finish.

Food Pairing

Malbec is a classic wine for steak, and one can certainly enjoy Hacienda San Martin with a nice, dry aged ribeye, but the generous mix of the Italian Bonarda suffuses the wine with a succulence that pairs far better with lamb or pork.  The wine also favors hummus and pairs excellently with either a fresh mozzarella or pretty much any Dr. John recording.

Friday, August 24, 2012

K&A's New York: Painkiller

Posted by Benson

Kelly and Andrew are a couple of my friends from grad school back in good ol' Muncie Indiana (every time I say that I feel like Norville Barnes).  Well, Kelly is actually a friend from grad school.  Andrew is her husband.  He is also an excellent friend in spite of the fact that he is not a historian.

Muncie: "At least you don't live in Cleveland!"

Kelly and Andrew moved to New York City about a year or so ago, and I always try to stop in and see them when I am in the Big Apple.  Kelly and Andrew are some my best friends.  One of the many great things about Kelly and Andrew is that notwithstanding their friendship with me, they have excellent taste and a nose for superb restaurants and bars.  In fact, one of the things that they love about New York, especially compared to Muncie or Indianapolis, is that the city is packed with a bewildering array of dining establishments across the spectrum.

Kelly and Andrew wound up in Matt Green's photo Blog of New York.  Andrew is the one examining the manhole cover.

Consequently, a side benefit of visiting with Kelly and Andrew is that I get a chance to experience some of the best restaurants and bars in New York.  Last month Kelly and Andrew took me to a mind-blowing little underground tiki bar called Painkiller.

Painkiller is a trendy bar on the Lower East Side, apparently cool enough to announce its presence with little more than a graffitied wall that reads "Tiki Bar."  The underground bar is slim and bustling. Patrons are greeted by a long bar in a narrow hallway that leads to a slightly more expansive area with booths.  

The bar has a definite "dive" atmosphere, which I am told is par for the course in the LES.  The interior is dark, lit predominantly by rows of neon lighting, and is bedecked in a bamboo-filled Tiki style.  If you venture past the booths, a funky little back room awaits, lit by slowly pulsing multi-colored LEDs of the sort that slowly brighten and dim in a rotating array of colors.  The resulting ambiance is close without being cozy, lending itself to something akin to privacy given the fact that you often can't see the people at next table over.

Painkiller's interior in the harsh light of non-business hours

Painkiller is strictly about the drinks, serving no food of any kind, unless you are willing to subsist on your cocktail's elaborate garnishing.  The menu is vast, but the bartender-server is an expert, so ordering off is fine, and I would recommend allowing the attending mixologist some freedom to innovate.

That's more like it

If you are into tiki bars, Painkiller does not disappoint, with a menu full of staples of the genre that are executed very well.  Painkiller claims that Doug's Pina Colada is the best in the city, but enthusiasts will have to judge that for themselves.  As I understand it, Painkiller has some stiff competition.  

Overall, if you're looking for a secluded spot and an expertly crafted cocktail, Painkiller is hard to beat.  Whether or not you are a fan of the tiki theme, Painkiller's mixologists are experienced enough to leave you satisfied.  

DGA Wine Club: Finca Libertad Pinot Noir

Posted by Benson

Finca Libertad (2009) is a Pinot Noir from Castilla VDT in Spain.  

The windswept plains of Castilla provide plenty of sun, and many ancient vines may be found there, yielding small amounts of grapes with intense flavor.  Pinot loves a cool climate, but famed winemaker Javier Murua, along with his dad, set out to see what he could do with it in hot, sunny Castilla.

The resulting wine is both surprising and delightful.  

The Wine

Finca Libertad is a bit different than what you would expect from a Pinot Noir.  It is unusually soft with mild tannin and a lusty fruit flavor.  The wine has a very floral aroma and a luxuriously long finish.  It lingers on the tongue with a distinct taste of herbs.

Food Pairing

This is an unusual wine, and it has some unusual pairings as well.  It pairs particularly well with a meaty fish like salmon or tuna.  For cheese, we suggest a creamy brie or a sharp, aged cheddar.  The creaminess mellows the already mild tannins, and the strength of the cheddar brings the herbal notes of the wine into the forefront and highlights its floral aroma.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pinball Addiction

Posted by Benson

I have always enjoyed pinball.  Pinball machines were always the first thing that I gravitated to in the local arcades when I was growing up, and I rarely ever turn down an opportunity to play pinball nowadays.

I love the visceral nature of playing pinball.  Unlike the video games that are so predominant today, pinball is a very physical, hands-on experience.  A pinball machine is a work of precision craftsmanship full of clever mechanical contraptions.  It clicks, whirls, thuds, thumps, bumps, and shakes.  The ball zooms around the game guided not by intangible, invisible algorithms, but by the physics of the natural world.  The machines have a life and a personality accrued through thousands of plays.  In short, I really enjoy playing pinball.

In the past, pinball has been something that I appreciated when the opportunity arose, but nowadays I have started to seek out pinball machines both at home and when I travel.  Sadly, I have discovered that it is not so easy to locate a pinball machine these days.  This fact does not surprise me.  Pinball machines are expensive and require a great deal of specialized maintenance.  They are also likely not as popular or profitable as the newest video games.

As much as I understand the difficulty of finding a pinball machine, the reality is nonetheless vexing.  Ironically, the challenge of tracking down a pinball machine is proper working order has only increased my growing need to play pinball.  Hyperbole aside, I feel that I may be on the cusp of becoming seriously interested in pinball.

At the moment, I would certainly not call myself a pinball connoisseur.  I do not know very much about what makes a pinball machine work.  I do not know the history of the machines or the companies that make them.  I have not even played a terribly diverse variety of pinball machines.  I do not own my own pinball machine...yet.  But I may just start down that road.

I came to this realization a short while ago when I was visiting my sister in Austin.  Austin is a very cool city with a hip vibe and a great deal of fun things to do.  One of those things happens to be an arcade called Pinballz (with the "Z" and everything).  Pinballz is aptly named as it is the loving host of more than one hundred different pinball machines in addition to an assortment of other classic arcade games.  What I wouldn't give for a Pinballz in New Orleans.

I spent an entire night in Pinballz until the management kicked me out at closing time, and now I've gotten my first really good fix of pinball in a long time.  I want more.  Luckily, I am not the only person with a growing pinball addition.  There are many others out in the world who have kindly taken the time to track down and locate pinball machines in just about every significant metropolitan area.  Sometimes it takes work to locate them, but I will do my best to create opportunities to play pinball when I am on the road.  It may not be long until I'm rearranging the furniture in my office to fit in a brand-new-to-me pinball machine.