Zoltan Szabo's Blog

< Back


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Globetrotter's diary

I am back! And very happy about it! Not like I did not enjoy my travels...Shanghai was a great experience, but I parted ways with Osteria and I have decided not to ever work in a partnership again. However, I do still believe in collaborating, but with the right people...only. Anyway, I have recently attended the X.th edition of Pannonhalmi Bormustra in Hungary. All went so well, but on the last day of it I found out about serious family matters and instead of heading over to Austria's Wine Summit I needed to attend the situation. I much regret not being able to attend the 2009 Wine Summit despite the generous Austrians paying for my travels and such. I am a huge fan of Austrian wines and I oblige myself to go next year, tour, taste and write, even if on my own expense. Family is important, they will for sure understand that.

Here we go...The 2008 vintage was a pretty difficult one, and uneven, in Hungary. Many of the whites (some lighter reds and sparklers) entered in this year's competition were from this challenging year. It was really hot in the south of the country resulting quick ripening of the grapes, lots of sugar therefor alcohol, but disjointed structure, immature flavour development, adjusted acids and some seriously bitter, extracted tannins in the reds.Excess (phenolic) bitterness could be tasted in the whites too, especially those made from aromatic varieties, and due to generous oaking in other cases. Rained in September, in the north and northwest, less in the northeast, at Eger for example.

Despite all these not-so-happy conditions some good to very good (white) wines were made by those doing accurate vineyard management, expertly choosing harvest dates and dealing with the situation with more care.

Whites and reds from the very good 2007 vintage showed well.

I was much impressed by many of the reds from the 2006 vintage! Lush fruit, great depth of flavour, balanced acid - tannn composition characterized the best ones. There were some debates among colleague judges about the lack of terroir, sense of place and origin in few of them, although I did not question mark that aspect.


The reds from Szekszard seem to be improving every year, the Bikaver category was also much superior in quality compared to last year's competition, some of the Tokaji Aszu were superb as always (especially those from 2000), and a lot more, and surprisingly good, sparkling wines were entered this year as well.

Overall, the Xth edition of Hungary's finest wine competition turned out to be a winner from all points of view: quality of wines in general and most importantly, glorious facility for the judging itself in the 1,000 years old abbey, organization and all logistical aspects, meals (especially the one prepared by Kalman Kalla and his son, Richard at Lesence) and entertaining and such...And for all these circumstances my score for this year's Pannonhalmi Bormustra is clearly 100 points! So, Parker will attend next year, I hear....

Below are listed my top scoring wines throughout the competition. Remember, all wines (total of about 400 split in half) were tasted blind with their vintage date as the only indication. I am really curious to see how many of my favourites will actually make it into the official top 20... Although, there were two panels of judges, tasting different wines, with our panel's members consistently scoring 15% lower.... However, I stand by the wines I've liked...I would drink them at any time, buy them, write about them and would highly recommendem them to anyone. I bet nobody would regret once trying them neither....


White::

2007 Tokaji Kabar, Chateau Dereszla

2007 Vorcsok Furmint Reserve, Kerkaborum

2007 Sargamuskotaly, Soptei

2008 Badacsonyi Muscat Ottonel, Szeremley

2000 Tokaji Szaraz Szmorodni, Tokaji Kereskedohaz

2007 Furmint, Szentkereszt, Andrassy

2006 Tokaji Harslevelu, Gundel

2007 Metha Thema Kesoiszuret Szaraz, Bolyki

Rose:

2008 Rose, Varsanyi

Red:

2007 Villanyi Terra Tartaro Cuvee, Heumann

2007 Szekszardi Domaine Grof Zichy, Baron von Twickel

2006 Zweigelt, Wunderlich

2006 Fekete Hegy Selection Cabernet Franc, Bock

2006 Carriopela Cabernet Sauvignon, Wunderlich

2006 Villanyi Audens Cuvee, Gere Tamas

2006 Mandolas, Vylyan

2006 Elixir Cuvee, Polgar

Sparkling:

2006 Szigeti Cuvee TJ

2005 Chateau Vincent Evolution Rose, Garamvari

Bikaver:

2007 Mesterunk Szekszardi Cuvee, Eszterbauer

2007 Egri Bikaver, Paptag Dulo, St. Andrea

Sweet:

2003 Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos, Nyulaszo, Royal Tokaji

2000 Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos, Szt. Tamas, Uri Borok Pinceszete

2002 Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos, Disznoko

2000 Tokaji Muscat Lunel Aszu, Paulecki-Vin

2007 Toppedt Sargamuskotaly, Soptei



After the morning tasting of reds at the X. Pannonhalmi Bormustra I was driven to Budapest to attend a tasting organized by the Madi Kor, an organization of a body of producers aiming to differentiate, promote, market and showcase the unique terroir characteristics of Mad and its wines. Acclaimed Hunarian winemaker, Istan Szepsy was in attendance and who's among the founders of this group. Something like the Tokaji Renaissance, but with more "sense of place" and "place of origine" approach. "Trademarking terroir". Smaller producers as well. So, I've tasted mostly dry Furmint and dry Harslevelu (and some dry Sargamuskotaly). I truly believe that these two grapes could be the next "big hip" in the world of wine. Superb wines are produced from these grapes, with delightful aromatics, slightly oily texture and mouthfeeling fruity flavours, refreshing acidic spine and unmistakable minerality. Just delicious! And so great with food!

They were a dozen or so producers at a packed affair held just by the Danube's Buda side at a beautiful event facility very nearby the Lanc Hid. I could not find one wine that I did not like really. Arvay, Szepsy, Mad-Hill, Karoly Barta, Gabor Orosz, Vince Gergely, Budahazy, Demetervin,...they've all impressed me much. OK, I admit tasting the 2007 Oreg Kiraly Dulo Furmint by Barta three times... Seared branzino for dinner after in a cellar-like gallery of the same venue...that has a "showpiece" and functional, antique coffee machine...for the acquisition price of 60 million Hungarian Forint...approx. $200,000...you go figure...! Would I ever hire that F & B director who got that if I'd own the place...?! I am so funny...!

After the closing ceremonies of the X. Pannonhalmi Bormustra I was diven to Somlo-Hegy, an 800 + ha. wine region (and 3,000 producers!) centered around an extinct volcano, consisting in a raised platform of rock, basalt, planted with steep, terraced vineyards as high as 800 meters above sea level, with mineral-rich, sandy, gravely top soils, and well drained structure. The lower parts of the mountain are covered by forrest. Almost etirely a white wine region, home of Juhfark, there are also plantings of Szurkebarat (P. Gris), Olaszrizling (Riesling Italico), Furmint, Harslevelu and some Tramini. The only red I've tasted was Kreinbacher's 2008 (in barrel) and 2007 Syrah, see below.

Kreinbacher Birtok: boutique property with very good wines, showing a somewhat modern approach, and winemaking expertise, clean, precise wines are made here by a young winemaker, Csaszar Atiila. I liked all the wines I've tasted from barrel and from among the ones from the 06 and 07 vintage Very neat Syrah...lighter style, spicy - floral with great acids, soft tannins and polished oaking...for its novelty-sake I'd score the 2007 ...90... (1,000 bottles made) and wait, the 2008, still in barrel right now, might turn out to be even better. White cuvees (blend of Riesling, Furmint, Harslevelu, some from single vineyard and made in best years only) really good here, perhaps just a tiny bit one-dimensional...winemaker must be fan of "assemblage", and he is good at it indeed. Liked the varietal wines as well, tasted the 2008's from barrel. Acacia barrel aged 2007 Tramini under screwcap is unique (now discontinued to be produced)...for me anyway as I've never tasted one aged in such type of wood before.

Tornai: 54 ha. since 1946, a larger winery. The best Juhfarks I've tasted...! Big, bold, intense and expressive...ripe, almost candied fruit, floral - honey notes with almost salty minerality, bursting acids...not even showing 15% alcohol...! Liked best the 2007 Grofi Juhfark Top Selection and 2006 Juhfark Top Selection. Most wines I've tasted here were good to very good, Olaszrizling, Szurkebarat, aged and some partially fermented in large Hungaian oak barrels, new and neutral ones. Considering the size and total production of the winery, and that is used to be a commercial operation, the quality aspect of the wines here is strikingly high.

Hollovar: Proprietor-winemaker Lajos Takacs bought 4 ha. worth of land here since 1992 from about 35 land owners...! He is a character, seemingly excentric (fashion-wise too!0 with a healthy "I do not give a damn" attitude. His wines reflect that attitude for sure...and they are not for everyone's taste. He harvests based on sugar-ripeness and some of the wines are on the lees for 3-4 months. They are more bodied, alcoholic, minerally, leesy...funky, just like Takacs. Uncertified organic, and he is very proud of that. I liked the 2008 Harslevelu best, the 2007 Furmint good too, with 15% alcohol, and the 2006 Furmint Aszu certainly interesting...and Lajos shared the last bottle of it with me. 4,000 bottles/year average production here. "Garagist"...and or you like them or you don't! "Ennyi"!

After Somlo-Hegy I headed over to Lake Balaton's northwest shore, more precisely to Balatonfelvidek region.

Lesence: one of the larger Hungarian wineries owned by Kalman Kazsmer, a 75 year old former Swiss financial entrepreneur, a risk taker with a somewhat cynic ideology, dry, but realistic overview of life and sense of humour. And listen to this...he does not even like wine! The winery produces an average of 1.5 million bottles of wine per year, off 75 ha. of own vineyards + grapes sourced from elsewhere. Mr. Kazsmer sells in bulk to my friends at Pelee Island Winery in Ontario, Canasda, although the last shipment was refused due to reasons triggered by the current economic turmoil. A whole range of wines are made here in different style and quality designation. Mostly commercial stuff, including some wines made from odd varieties such as Trilla (for sparkling, a grape apparently developed at one of the oenology and viticulture institutes of the country,and cultivated only by Lesence, and I have not even heard about it before...), Turan ("Lambrusco"...?!)...others from unexpected grapes such as Barbera. Others are labeled as Muscat Sylvaner (Sauv. Bl.) Pignola (P. Noir), Franconia etc. They do experiments with canopy, trellis and other vineyard management techniques ala Scott Henry, and I saw steel coated wood, temperature controlled, computer guided fermenters with unique (own design) settings for pumping over, micro-ox etc., etc. Zoltan Csonka is the winemaker. I liked the "Prime" and "Yellow Chapel" (Sarga Kapolna) label designated, premium brand and respectively single vineyard wines the most. Also liked the Barbera. Lovely dinner followed the tasting, a fine fair prepared by
Master Chef Kalman Kalla (former Gundel and Washington Hungarian Embassy) and his son, Richard. A meal that made my colleague from Argentina cry.... carpaccio of smoked breast of goose, Balaton pike-perch so perfectly cooked, breast of chicken seasoned with paprika, duck liver of perfection and "vargabeles", sweet sponge cake with vanilla and raisins.... God, I love my job! Dishes were also paired with wines, of course... I liked the 2007 Fume Blanc with the chicken, 2007 P. Gris with pike-perch and the Sauv. Bl./ P. Gris Late Harvest with the dessert.


Other wines that I've tasted in Hungary recently, outside the X. Pannonhalmi Bormustra at dinner functions and gatherings that I was "moved" by...and would have scored them 89 - 90...and above...! See below.

1999 Villanyi Cabernet Sauvignon, Molnar - still youtful, soft black fruit, marachino, mint, cardamom, pencil shavings and flavoured tobacco, soft-sweet tannins, tiny dry heat on finish.

2002 Sessio, Konyari, Loliense - very elegant, fresh fieldberry aromatics mixed with fersh herbal and spicy notes.Loliense is the old name of Balatonlelle.

1999 Somloi Harslevelu, Gyorgykovacs - lemon preserve, leesy, mineral...almost salty, long sour quince finish.

2007 Kekfrankos, Eniko Luka, Sopron - ripe fruit, cherry-berry, spicy, fair amount of oak, but polished, well balanced acid - tannin. Stylish. Feininine...?

2007 Kekfrankos, Sauska, Villany - Very modern, but just outstanding. So pure fruit! Atypical maybe...?! Who cares!

2002 Szaraz Szamorodni, Hetszolo Dezsofi Kasately, Dessewtfy, Tokaj-Hegyalja - dry, marcipan, nutty, coconut with fruit pitt, yeasty - orange notes on its finish.

2000 Edes Szamorodni, Oremus, Tokaj-Hegyalja - just like a very good 5 Puttonyos!

Also tasted the 2002 Riesling Trocken Hochgewachs, Gobel-Schleyer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer - wow! Stunning Riesling! And you know that I love Riesling! Sour lemon, bee's wax, white blossoms, wet slate - mineral, crisp and persistent.  

And my first ever Fruhburgunder, a 2002 from Ahr - do not recall the name of producer...


These last two wines are obviously not Hungarian, but as they were seved to me by my gracious host and Bormustra's organizer, Zsolt Kalman, well, I was "forced" to drink them... Just like the great David Copp would say: "I really try to drink less nowadays!"...However, sometimes we just can't resist the temptation(s)! Amen!

 

So, here are the official top wines of X. Pannonhalmi Bormustra, highlighting the category winners. The way it woirks at Bormustra: the top 25 wines from each category (or less in accordance with number of entries) are awarded "Bormustra Top Wine" sticker that you can look for on the bottles when buying. One overall winner is selected as the champion wine of the competition. One important rule of entering wines for this competition is that all wines must be commercially available and at least 5,000 bottles produced. As for the champion wine I've chosen Sauska's as well, from the three (white, red and sweet) that were brought back on the last day of the competition to establish the overall Creme del a Creme. None of the three were wines tasted by my panel, and as it seems many of the other top wines were also selected, picked and therefore pushed up into the bests by the other panel of judges...judges that scored a little higher...meaning that they've pretty much decided the whole outcome...



TOP WHITES:

Béres Tokaji Furmint Lőcse 2007
Bolyki Metha Thema késői száraz 2007
Borpalota Mátrai Hárslevelű 2008
Bussay Rajnai Rizling 2008
Bussay Tramini 2007
Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Kabar 2007
Dörgicsei Chardonnay 2008
Figula Csopaki Nász 2007
Figula Muscat Lunel 2008
Gál Tibor Tramini 2003
Gundel Tokaji Furmint 2007
Kerkaborum Vörcsöki Hárslevelű 2007
Kovács Nimród Winery Chardonnay Battonage 2007
Nyakas Budai Chardonnay 2008
Nyakas Budai Chardonnay sel. Barrique 2007
Nyakas Budai Pinot Grigio 2008
Patricius Tokaji Sárga Muskotály 2008
Royal Tokaji Furmint 2007
Söptei Sárgamuskotály 2007
Tornai Top Selection Apátsági Furmint 2007
Tornai Top Selection Grófi Hárslevelű 2007
Tornai Top Selection Grófi Juhfark 2007
Tornai Top Selection Olaszrizling 2007
Varga P. Aranymetszés Badacsonyi Kéknyelű 2006
Wekler Pécsi Chardonnay 2007

TOP REDS:

Baron von Twickel Domaine Gróf Zichy Szekszárdi Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Bock Cabernet Franc Fekete-hegy Selection 2006
Bock Cabernet Sauvignom Selection 2006
Bolyki Bikavér 2006
Bujdosó Ibituba 2006
Cezar Merlot Extraordinarii 2006
Ebner 3-as hordó Cuvée 2006
Esterhazy Tesoro 2006
Eszterbauer Mesterünk Szekszárdi Cuvée 2007
Feind Prémium Cabernet Franc 2006
Gere Attila Cabernet Franc Selection 2006
Gere Attila Cabernet Sauvignon barrique 2007
Günzer Zoltán Villányi Ördögárok 2007
Heumann Villányi Cabernet Franc 2007
Heumann Villányi Terra tarbaro cuvée 2007
Jackfall Pillangó 2006
Konyári Páva 2006
Maul Taurus cuvée 2006
Molnár Syrah 2007
Rád-Ikon Ikon Cabernet Franc Evangelista 2007
Sauska Villányi Cuvée 7 Siklós 2006
Sauska Villányi Cuvée 7 Villány 2006
St Andrea Egri Bikavér Paptag dűlő 2007
Takler Szekszárdi Bartina Cuvée 2006
Takler Szekszárdi Cabernet Sauvignon reserve 2006
Takler Szekszárdi Regnum Cuvée 2006
Vincze Cabernet Franc Arcanum 2005
Vincze Kékfrankos Arcanum 2006
Vylyan Pillangó 2006
Vylyan Villányi Montenuovo cuvée 2007

TOP SWEET:

Bujdosó Aranyhíd 2007
Degenfeld Andante 2007
Disznókő Tokaji Aszú 5 puttonyos 2002
Dobogó Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2004
Királyudvar Tokaji Cuvée Ilona 2007
Oremus Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2002
Pannon-Tokaj Muskotályos Aszúeszencia 2005
Pauleczki-vin Tokaji Jégbor 2007
Royal Betsek Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2003
Royal Nyúlászó Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2003
Tokaj Kereskedőház Tokaji Aszú 5 puttonyos 1993
Tokajicum Borház Reneszánsz cuvée 2004
Úri Borok Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos Szt Tamás 2000
Úri Borok Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos Szt Tamás 2003

SPARKLING:

Szigeti Muscat Ottonel 2005
Törley Nyerspezsgő 2006
Garamvári Ch. Vincent Evolution Rose 2005

BIKAVER (BULL'S BLOOD):

Eszterbauer Tüke Szekszárdi Bikavér 2007
Fritz Szekszárdi Bikavér 2007
Gróf Buttler Egri bikavér Nagy Eged 2005
Gróf Buttler Egri bikavér Nagy Eged 2006
St Andrea Merengő Egri Bikavér superior 2006

CHAMPION (BEST OVERALL): Sauska Villányi Cuvée 7 Villány 2006

---

My travels are done. I will be settling down, looking for a good job...found a new place to live at St. Clair & Aveanue Rd....and awaiting my wife to arrive.
 
I am really ready and much looking forward to part-take in "Thrill of the Grill" weekend event on July 3 - 5 featuring Rob Rainford from The Food Network, and other chef's and a number of  beverage suppliers up at Deerhurst in Muskoka. It's promising to be a great affair, so come and spend the weekend with me. For more info and attendance fee (something more than fair) please contact the resort directly.

And I have a new website...www.zoltanszabo.org

Or follow me! http://twitter.com/zoltanszabo


Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 8:23 AM  0 Comment(s)


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Villa Westfalia, sausages galore and mititei ala Dracula

I had dinner the other day at Villa Westfalia located at the outskirt of Kezdivasarhely, a picturesque little town in the heart of Szekelyland, Transylvania, 30 min. drive-away from Sepsiszentgyorgy, the city I was born in (Kovaszna district of Romania).

We arrived in a sunny late-afternoon and sat around in comfortable wood and straw-made caoches, had local “Ciuc” beer and tasted a few pretty good Romanian wines, dry and nicely aromatic Muscat Ottonel* & Feteasca Alba** blend from Jidvei DOC and a soft and tasty, just a bit off-dry Cabernet Sauvignon from the Deaulul Mare DOC. Liked the fact that these wines were served at accurate temperature and in decent stems.

As we started salivating by the intriguing smells of the BBQ, we were invited and seated inside at a large table with art-deco candleholders. The room was mid-size and cozy with dim lights.

Never looked at the menu, just the way I like it!

So, there was great conversation going and some more wine arrived.
We were also promted by Csaba and tasted his home-made "szilvapalinka", a traditional, local (from a nearby village, Ozsdola) and dangerous, prune-made, double-distilled spirit. He said "just to have the appetite goin'"... Remind you, that this fine elixir is also at least 50% alcohol per volume, but hey, so tasty!

A nice and fresh mixed garden salad arrived, just like that, on its own with no dressing.

Then Arpad, the owner and one of the chefs served us BBQ ribs and thick, grilled pork loin chops.

The ribs were really nicely done, the whole rack grilled at once then sliced in single ribs, but nice and meaty, smokey, and served with a garlic-herb-based sauce aside. The pork loin was perfectly grilled, just medium well, stuffed with lots of fresh garlic cloves... Garlic always does the trick of lowering my blood pressure, so I kept drinking red vino, just to counter-balance the effect...smart, eh...?!

Then, forgetting about the food and wine pairing aspect of gastronomy, there was some more "szilvapalinka" consumed... you go figure...and by then our little crowd got courages & loud, jokes were tossed around, and Mr. Lukacs in his usual high form had entertained us all...Mr. Nagyolah, a fine young man, whos father is the "potato king" of the country, was elaborating about the sad aftermath of much "szilvapalinka" drinking and the effects of hung-over... Both these aforementioned young gentlemen bear the distinguished first name of "Zoltan"...so, when our wives were trying to address to any of us, all three were turning heads...you imagine...but, after a while nothing was a matter anyway!

And, there was some more wine flowing, and some more "szilvapalinka" for dessert...I mean for digestife...ha ha, I am such a gourmand...

Some of the the ladies also had "palacsinta", kind of crepes’ Hungarian version, well drizzled with liquid chocolate and powdered sugar.

A very fun night had by all, for sure, Szekelyland-style! You eat and drink so well in this mysterious area (think of Dracula…) and meet wonderful people with a unique sense of humor and life-ideology.

Big thank you to Arpad and his wife, Ester (who’s from Germany’s Westfalia province… Nordrhein-Westfalen in German) for their hospitality! Same sentiment goes to Csaba for his outstanding generousity!

I’d highly recommend this fine spot to anyone from the Americas should they happen to be around here. They should indeed visit! Villa Westfalia is a gem with sophisticated clientele…I’ve seen more impressive BMW parked in front than at any Ritz-Carlton…!

They also have stylish rooms for rent for over-night stay. Service is friendly, the staff very accommodating, showing you genuine “szekely” hospitality.
Check out http://www.villawestfalia.ro/ for directions and contact.

*Muscat Ottonel or Muskat-Ottonel (in Germany) is a white wine grape that is a member of the Muscat family of Vitis vinifera. It is most notable for its use in dessert wines from Austria and Croatia as well as dry wines from Alsace and Hungary. In Alsace, the varietal designation "Muscat" is allowed for the varieties Muscat Ottonel, Muscat blanc à petit grains and Muscat blanc à petit grains in any combination (but not for other members of the Muscat family), and blends between these are common. First cultivated in Alsace by the Loire grower Moreau-Robert in 1852, the grape's parentage is believed to be the Muscat de Saumur and Chasselas. Also widely planted in Romania and dry to sweet wines made from it.

**Fetească albă is a Moldovan white grape variety, mainly cultivated in Moldova and Romania. In Moldova, it uses the biggest area planted among local varieties - 900 hectares. This grape is used a lot for sparkling wine production, but also for varietal Fetească wine. Also called Leanyka in Hungary.

---

I've attended the "Haromszeki Kolbaszfesztival 2009" held in Sepsiszentgyorgy, an amateur sausage fest, although few of the local chefs were in attendance as well, offering the most delicious home-made sausages for sampling, along beer, wine and local spirits. I have no clue who emerged as the winner, but that's of no importance anyway...the "spirit" of community is and of appreciating gastronomy, and life...a succesfully completed affair. People were dancing on tunes of "csardas" played by a live duo.

Off to Tusnadfurdo after, to have a fabulous lunch on the patio by (artificial) Lake Ciucas, ("Stânca-Soimilor" Restaurant), situated in a "crater" of gorgeous (volcanic by origin) mountains covered by pine trees, with pristine air and calming ambience. Had bean soup with ham and sweet red onion, grilled chicken and veal tenderloin, "mititei"* with mustard...beer and bulk red wine from Mehedinti district that tasted so awesome...!  Most likely a Cabernet, but who knows...

*"Mititei or mici (Romanian for little, small or very little, very small - plural) is a traditional Romanian dish, grilled minced-meat rolls made from beef (usually mixed with mutton and pork), which contain garlic, black pepper, thyme, coriander, anise, savory and sometimes a touch of paprika. Sodium bicarbonate (and sometimes broth or water) is also added to the mixture. It is best served accompanied by mustard and beer. Ideally the mustard should not contain too much vinegar, because the sour taste does not fit with the Mititei. The mititei are very popular in Romania, together with the Shkembe or (burta) chorba - a cow or pork stomach soup".


Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 5:42 AM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, May 08, 2009

Ravine

Ravine Vineyard is the newest Peter Gamble project. Gamble, a former winemaker at Hillebrand and lead consultant in the creation of Stratus Vineyards, is one of the most respected Canadian winemaking personalities. Truly an icon, he was the founding director of Canada's Vintners Quality Alliance and also the person behind Nova Scotia's Benjamin Bridge Winery and their highly anticipated sparkling and aromatic white wines.

Ravine Vineyard is located in the St. David's Bench sub-appellation of Niagara and encompasses about 20 acres of vineyard. With diverse soil types including heavier and well drained sandy gravel and clay, it is the warmest and best ventilated climate in the Peninsula. There were aboriginal artifacts found on the property dating to nomadic settlements in post-glacial times. Lab analysis of the unique soil structure found across the vineyard reflect the long-time geological existence of the path of the rushing Niagara River crossing the property 10,000 years ago, where it met ancient Lake Iroquois.

There are plantings of the three main red Bordeaux varieties as well as Chardonnay and a small plot of Riesling. The wines come in gorgeous packaging; sexy and voluptuous Bordeaux-meets-Burgundy, or rather Rubenesque Loire-style bottles, with an old world feel to the label depicting the picturesque property.

The principals of Ravine Vineyard are the local Harber family, owners of an air purification system manufacturer, who had the brilliant idea of hiring the visionary Peter Gamble. Winemaking is not a "gamble"! Winemaking is art and passion! Mastered by few, certainly by Gamble!

The property also gives space to a bistro-style restaurant and bakery, where my friend, pastry queen Anna Olson's products are showcased and where she will also be conducting cooking classes.

With a “let the fruit shine” approach to oak, very stylish, elegant and well-balanced reds are created here. Fermented in 500 litre new, one-, two- and three-year-old French oak, the wines have an excellent textural component and reasonably low alcohol levels. Please see my notes below.

2007 Cabernet Franc Rosé, Ravine, Niagara Peninsula
Made from Bench fruit coming from the Wismer Vineyard. Bright, cherry candy mixed with dried garden herb aromas. Medium bodied with lots of ripe and implicitly sweet cherry-berry fruit flavours, good acidic spine and medium intensity, well managed oaking and tannins. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

2007 Redcoat, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
"Red Coat or Redcoat is a term often used to refer to a soldier of the historical British Army, because of the colour of the military uniforms formerly worn by the majority of regiments. The uniform of most British soldiers from the late 17th century to the 19th century, (other than artillery, rifles and some cavalry), included a madder red coat or coatee." The small village of St. Davids, where Ravine Vineyards is located was an area of fierce retaliatory fighting at the time of the War of 1812, so that's where the label reference comes from. Bouquet of currants, plum, spice and herbal notes. Medium bodied and juicy with soft tannins, adding complexity. Good value and great choice for restos for a by-the-glass pour.
3 1/2 stars out of 5.

2006 Cabernet Franc, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Elegant and delicate. Red and black fruit and floral aromatics, obvious oak notes and an uncompromising tannic skeleton, but both these elements will integrate soon. Could be really good with 6 months or so of bottle ageing! 4 stars out of 5.

2007 Cabernet Franc, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Much sweeter and riper nose here, fatter palate compared to the 2006 vintage. It is also more complex and tight right now with natural and oak tannins poking out a bit Won't be released for another year + and by then it will round out nicely. I am excited to see and re-taste it again next year. The potential is already here to make superb Cabernet Franc! Not yet released, potential score: 4 + stars out of 5.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Black currant, deep spice, herbs and polished oak notes on its nose. Medium + bodied with muscular tannic composition. It's far from being released. Looking serious already. Not yet released, potential score: 4 + stars out of 5.

2006 Merlot, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
It has a great black fruit, spice and herbal definition on both the nose and the palate. Medium + bodied and with approachable tannins. An elegant Merlot - very good...my kind of juice...! 4 stars out of 5.

2007 Merlot, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
300 cases produced only! A sexy beast in the making here! All elements in place, needing time to bond and amalgamate. Hard to judge at this stage, but I'd bet my red Porsche that this will be among the finest Niagara Merlots! Not yet released, potential score: 4 + stars out of 5.

2007 Merlot Reserve, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
130 cases of this red made. Ooh la la! What a grand texture here! The Petrus of Niagara...!? We'll see... Not yet released, potential score: 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

2007 Reserve Red, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Bordeaux blend. Not too heavy, with perfect weight, tannic and muscle-packed right now, but what a length...! I would call it "Gamble Reserve"...or rather "Do Not Gamble, But Reserve" some of this wine right now...! Take my word! Not yet released, potential score: 4 + stars out of 5.

2007 Chardonnay, Ravine, Niagara Peninsula
Made from Four Mile Creek fruit, it has the area's signature "tropicality". Medium + bodied with a lovely, creamy texture and plenty of sweet, ripe tropical and white summer fruit flavours and neat mineral notes on its finish. It went trough partial batonage in 1,2 and 3 year old Burgundian oak barrels. A great Chardonnay!
4 stars out of 5.

2007 Chardonnay Reserve, Ravine, Niagara Peninsula
800 bottles made! A lot more depth here compared to the generic 2007 Chardonnay. Very long, persistent finish. Well done! ...And I love it!
4 + stars out of 5.

2006 Riesling, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Fairly aromatic with accents of apples, white blossoms and ginger, fresh herbs, verbena (?). Tasty, sweet (25 gr./liter sugar here) and juicy with pleasantly tart acidity. 10% alcohol only. A little botrytis adding some weight and a great mouthfeel. An interesting Riesling for the novice wine drinker and the connoisseur alike. 4 stars out of 5.

2007 Riesling, Ravine, St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Similar aromas and flavours as the 2006, but with intriguing tea, honey and slate-mineral notes in addition. There's just enough acidity here and 7.3 % alcohol only. It's the botrytis effect kickin' up things a notch here and making this Riesling somewhat unique. 4 + stars out of 5.



Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 3:41 AM  0 Comment(s)


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Greetings from Transylvania


A traditional Transylvanian outdoor oven.

What a great affair I've attended the other day, this past Sunday in fact!

It was Ms. Agi Nemeth's b-day party held at a rustic, eco-ranch in a remote, very small, but pictoresque village, stone-thrown away from Sepsiszentgyorgy, where I'm originally from! The owner of the ranch is Agi's dear friend, an environmentalist, Zoltan Para, (why is every second dude's name around here "Zoltan"...?!), who is also planning the addition of a fish pond/swimming pool just by the already existing wooden farmhouse...that will be fed by the near by stream...all eco-friendly concept with "preserving nature" ideology and desire...! There will be a (wine) cellar, or a mini-distillery (?) digged right into the ground! Ooh la la!

Agi is a childhood friend of my wife, and we've been invited to attend her 21st b-day party...(21st...well, read it as a compliment! She's more, but ladies like the age minus when talking about their ages...).

Along us there were aspiring actors and engineers, architects and businessmen, (female) basketball players, members of the city's very well ranking, A division team and such...a happy gathering, boys and babes from the younger, intellectual generation, the "in crowd" of my birth town, all having just a fine time!

We arrived in Zalan (the aforementioned small, little village by the foothills of the Bodoki "Havasok") on a crisp, snowy day at around noon, and were immediately greeted by some elite "alma palinka"...a double distilled spirit from apples. It was warming and smooth, just what we needed on a cold day! ...And with at least 40 percent alcohol per volume!...And I clearly noticed that after the 7th shot!

And there was food! Plenty, and local, traditional! I can't really define Transylvanian cuisine! (However, I will try in an upcoming article!). It is the cuisine of my mother, and I grew up on it....Rural, home cooking at its best...perhaps...!? I read it somewhere while travelling across Asia not too long ago that it compares to Chinese cuisine...! You go figure!

Anyway, there was bread baked in old fashioned brick oven...and what a magnificent bread! Made from heavy dough, using boiled potato as well, baked in that wood burning oven for about 2 hours! It came out with almost burnt, crispy crust which was then removed by "beating" the bread with all sorts of wooden tools! Sliced in huge pieces, peasant style, and "treated" with inch thick amounts of "vinete"...a spread made from roasted eggplant whipped to a creamy consistency...just divinely delicious, and favourite of my "cukifalat" wife!

It appears to have survived from the age of the Romans...baking this kind of bread in this manner that is...tummy-filling kind of bread most of you have never eaten..., so try if there is a friendly Transylvanian baker in your neighborhood!

We also had goat's milk cheese from local shepherds!

And hunting stew made with rabbit done over open fire in a fairly large size "ust", a traditional metal pan, deep and oval.

And wine! Mostly homemade, but other commercial juice too, the highlight for me being Bock's 2000 Cuvee from Villany, a more than decent Bordeaux blend! Although served cold, at outside temperature, and in funky plastic cup, it still showed well, especially after warming the cup in my hands. There was still some primary fruit aromas and flavours left with underlying herbaceous accents, softened tannins and plummy, spicy, savoury finish.  (I re-call meeting Mr. Bock at Pannonhalma sometime ago, but I could not remember his given name at this b-day function...! Or was it the "alma palinka"...?).

But, never mind! At that point it was the best! And so was everything else! Tell me, why do I think that the wines I drink when I'm home in "Erdely" are so great?! I guess the place, and its people, some of whom are childhood friends, loved ones and family, come into the picture here and make everything so magical! Food and wine, and palinka, just simply taste marvelous! And better than anywhere else in the whole wide world!

OMG! I was just about to forget the "kurtoskalacs"! A Transylvanian, and most indigineous delicacy! "Kürtőskalács or Kürtős Kalács is a Hungarian pastry also known as chimney cake or stove cake or Hungarian wedding cake, is a pastry, cooked on a tapered spit over an open fire. Originally from Transylvania, it is famous as Hungary's oldest pastry. Kürtőskalács is sold in bakeries, pastry shops and even street vendors are selling them on street corners, carnivals and fairs.

Kürtőskalács consists of a thin yeast pastry ribbon wired around a wooden cylinder, heavily sprinkled with sugar, thus becoming a helix shaped cylindrical pastry or a pastry roll that sometimes tapers very slightly towards the end. The pastry is baked on a hand-turned, tapered, wooden spit, rolled slowly on the wooden cylinder above an open fire. The dough is yeast-raised, flavored with sweet spices, the most common being cinnamon, topped with walnuts or almonds, and sugar. The sugar is caramelized on the Kürtöskalács surface, creating a sweet, crispy caramel crust. Kürtöskalács originates from Transylvania, which was a part of Hungary for centuries, and the name originates from the Hungarian word kürt that may refer to chimney (kürtő) or to horn (instrument) (originally made of animal horn). Legend has it that the German baumkuchen is directly related to the Kürtőskalács and is said to be derived from Kürtőskalács via Hungarian wedding cake. Kürtőskalács may also be known as chimney or horn cake". For more info see http://www.kurcsi.hu/. This site is in Hungarian and German at the moment, but I will be able, most likely, to persuade its owners into adding an English "button" too, very soon, so please check back!

Slow Food should indeed create a Transylvanian convivium, chapter!

It seems to me that the the young and scholars of my generation know about healthy eating habits, and lifestyle, without even thinking and/or recognizing the benefits! After all, the way they eat, and drink, and dance, etc., it's all normal and of "second nature" to them, and their children, and children's children will be thankful!

(Gastro-)Culture and traditions must be kept alive! Throughout, AND WHILE, preserving them the identity of a nation will live on! Forever!

So, forget McDonald's and junk food! Come to Transylvania and eat well and healthy, breath the air, walk around nature's most glorious and pristine places...! Go hunting for Carpathian brown bear! Or do something else...! Anything!
And ya know what...?! Forget about Dracula too! Nobody gives a damn about him around here anyway! Creating that "image" around him, although a great ruler of his times...oh well, was it just another contribution of the western society...and directors of Hollywood fame?! You tell me! "Szekelyfold", home, sweet home!

---

I am really excited about touring the vineyards of Romania, very soon!
***
Heading off to Italy at the end of March to taste the wines of Romanian soccer superstar and women's idol, ACF Fiorentina striker, Adrian Mutu, "Il 10 di Mutu", made by a Tuscan "fattoria" nearby Siena.
***
Hungary after, to judge at Bormustra in Pannonhalma.
***
2009 Wine Summit in Austria, world's one of finest wine fair, which I am also invited to in June.
***
Stayed tuned! Lots of news, wine reviews and MORE to come!



Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 7:57 AM  0 Comment(s)


Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Day at Osteria

Wednesday, so I get to the resto at around 1:00 PM.

There's a local magazine waiting for me, atop of the bar, opened to this page, below link...I look at it...and smile...!

http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shanghai/articles/mag-sh/in-the-kitchen/in-the-kitchen-zoltan-szabo-sommelier-osteria/

At 1:30 PM a wine agent comes to see me, Queenie, to taste the Chain of Ponds wines, from Adelaide Hills, and to also discuss and set up a winemakers' dinner with them in late February, after I get back from Canada.

At 2:30 PM another wine agent showes up, Peter, one of my favourites, with no other reason than to have lunch and hang out with me.

A journalist comes to meet me and ask me a few questions, he also follows up with an email:

Zoltan, good to chat with you just now at Osteria.

As I mentioned, I am doing a (very) little piece on sweet wines for City Weekend (the small “bottle column” that appears just above your photo in the current edition!).  Could you give me the basic info on the Tokaji you carry at Osteria, the price (bottle/glass), and a sentence on the characteristics that make it a good lovers’ wine?  I also need a straight bottle photo – I’m happy to liaise with your supplier if that’s easiest.
Oh, and needless to say, I am on a tight deadline!

Thanks and best regards,

Patrick

As my laptop is in front of me while having lunch I answer: Great to meet you as well, Patrick!

I am attaching my whole wine list, the Tokaji is listed among the sweets, and the supplier is ASC.
It is a sweet and luscious "nectar", so flavoursome! Think of orange marmalade, honey, dried apricots...spiked by nuances of camomile flower and minerals...Its weight, flavours and sweetness uplifted by a superb acidic vibe...finishes almost dry actually...! Fairly low in alcohol as well...! Having this wine with a piece of rich, chocolate based dessert on Valentine's Day...well, the effect will be "panty removing"...gastro-orgasmic, for sure! You can also have it with "liba maj"...foie gras that is...! Lust & desire...! Ooh la la...!
Finest regards,
Zoltan Szabo

At 4:00 PM the representatives of a Hong Kong-based wine merchandizing agency pop by...and we taste about 20 wines.

At 5:30 PM two young fellows insist that I taste their wines...

At 6:30 PM I start service, people start coming in, I pour plenty of wines, encouraging having them by flights of 3 or more, instead by-the-bottle.

Another wine agent brings his friends, among them a winemaker from California, and have dinner, so I taste his Gerard Bertrand wines...and others...

Cigalus Blanc 2007...what a superb wine! So intense! Chardonnay with a bit of Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc...minutes long finish...! Clearly, the best white I've tasted in recent weeks! Sweet, ripet fruit and delicious oaking, viscous, and so flavoursome...!

Le Viala, Minervois La Liviniere, 2003...simply marvelous!

I have mushroom Gnocchi for dinner, sitting at the bar, so I can watch the door. I taste a Catalan red, Monastrell and Petit Verdot blend from Torres, 2006, pretty good, plummy, soft and juicy. Also taste Vina Alicia's Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso de Piedra, from Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza...both from the 2006 vintage...well made wines, but for some reason I've expected more...

A Sommelier colleague comes for a "night cap"...I show him the wines I've tasted today...He says..."Zoltan, you taste more, and better wines a day than the rest of us in a whole month!"...

I smile...

The dinig room fills up, I am walking around, instructing the servers, pouring wines and having fun with my customers.

Things slow down at around 11:00 PM and I finalize Osteria's award application to be sent to the Wine Spectator by UPS tomorrow.

I get in a cab at around midnight and go home...

After getting home I turn my computer on and follow up with all these agents, send them my notes and comments...Oh well, just another day...

---

Lovely wines yesterday, Victoria, thanks for coming by!
My favourites, top to bottom, considering value to quality ratio.
Perhaps Eduardo to consider these wines...?!
 
The Borsao wines...each and every one of them...! Perfect for by-the-glass pour....Very well made wines, modern, but maintaining "old school" flair. The "Tres Picos" is stunning, but not cheap, good for "reserve" lists...!
 
The Selbach Riesling...lots of sugar, but balanced by laser-sharp acids and plenty of juicy, stone fruit flavours.
 
Wild Rock's "Cupid's Arrow" Pinot Noir is a perfect Valentine's Day Pinot...! It has some (sex)appeal, and structure....My kind of Pinot...with the "umf" effect galore! The Sauvignon Blanc is also good, let's say 3 + stars out of 5...
 
Charles Melton's rose, "Rose of Virginia" Cabernet, Shiraz and Pinot Meunier blend...ripe, juicy, tutti-frutti, with touch of sweetness, and delicious! Highly food-friendly!
 
Domaine de Servans...tight right now, but makes sense with food...roasts, steaks, shanks and such. Decanting will help its cause...!
 
Craggy Range and Mr. Riggs wines...simply outstanding, although the Mr. Riggs Viognier does not justify the price...!
Graggy Range's Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Syrah Block 14 has an unique style...cassis, spicy-floral, white pepper and oak-smoke...bold and pretty goddamn serious...!
 
Charles Melton's "Nine Popes"...focused, not a blockbuster...a wine that is growing on you after every sip...!

---

2008 Viognier, Viniterra, Mendoza, Argentina
Varietally precise, slightly oily texture, and not shy in alcohol. Ripe and with plenty of sweet fruit flavours, and a touch of heat on its finish
 
2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Altosur, Tupungato - Mendoza, Argentina
Clean and typical. Lime, minerals, fresh basil notes. Zesty and with a long finish.
 
2007 Malbec Rose, Melipal, Mendoza, Argentina
Little signs of oxidation. Fuller style. However, drink now!
 
2006 Pinot Noir Select, Saurus, Schroeder, Patagonia, Argentina
Blue fruit, raspberries, earth, musk notes. Light and fresh, gentle tannins, cherry-berry finish. Serve slightly chilled.
 
2006 Tempranillo, Tempus, Mendoza, Argentina
Medium to full, rustic, but with balanced elements. Can age short to med term, decant for drinking now....Also needs a big chunk of protein...!
 
2005 Merlot, Saurus, Schroeder, Patagonia, Argentina
A pleasant Merlot, juicy and soft, medium bodied with black fruit, herbal notes mixed with chocolate, caramel and well toasted oak-wood nuances.
 
2006 Bonarda, Vista Flores, Familia Mayol, Mendoza, Argentina
Aromatic and plush, easy-to-be-enjoyed wine, lots of savoury fruit aromas and flavours here, fair alcohol, very likeable.
 
2006 Carmenere Select, Viniterra, Lujan de Cuyo - Mendoza, Argentina
It would rival many of its Chilean counterparts, for sure...!
 
2006 Malbec, Familia Mayol, Lujan de Cujo - Mendoza, Argentina
Rich, spicey, gamey, medium to full with an obvious, but non-obtrusive tannic grip.
 
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Paso de Piedra, Vina Alicia, Lujan de Cuyo - Mendoza, Argentina ... sadly, it was a corked bottle!

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Altosur, Sophenia, Tupungato - Mendoza, Argentina
Medium to full, fruit-forward with spicy floral aromas atop. Lots of juicy fruit flavours and pleasant, chewy tannins. Great, fruity, herbal finish.

---

2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Black Thursday, Chain of Ponds, Adelaide Hills, Australia
Aromas of gooseberries, kiwi, passion fruit, honeydew melon, and with underlying grass and fresh herbs nuances. Light and zesty with almost effervescent acidity and a long lime pulp, mineral finish. Perfect with oysters.
4 stars out of 5.
 
2007 Semillon, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pilot Block, Chain of Ponds, South Australia
Apple puree, pear and white blossoms accents on its bouquet. Light and juicy, great in its simplicity and fun to drink. Try with seared scallops with apple chutney and lemon-balsamic drizzle. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
 
2005 Sangiovese, Barbera, Grenache, Pilot Block, Chain of Ponds, South Australia
The nose comes with scents of plums, raspberries and blueberries, nescaffe and oak tar, floral-fresh and dried petals. Light to medium bodied with plenty of ripe, juicy fruit flavours and sweet oak notes. The finish is herbal, spicy with an interesting musky, gamey taint. Pretty appealing wine! To go with duck breast with cherry, red wine reduction. 4 stars out of 5..
 
2006 Shiraz, Grave's Gate, Chain of Ponds, Adelaide, Australia
Interesting label with contrast between the proprietary name = "Grave's Gate" and the image of a butterfly...! you go figure...!
Big, into-your-face notes of cassis, herbal, eucalyptus and fresh mint here. Not too heavy, juicy, very expressive with fresh acids, integrated tannins and a persistent savoury finish. Lovely with rosemary crusted rack of lamb.
4 stars out of 5.
 
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Florence Vineyard, Chain of Ponds, Kangaroo Island, Australia
A complex, but not a blockbuster, well structured and focused red, with well managed oaking. Aromas and flavours of red plums, currants, herbal, deep spice, earth and pencil shavings. Great pairing with hard and semi-hard cheeses, parmigiano reggiano, smoked gouda and such. 4 stars out of 5.

---

2004 Le Cupole, Rosso di Toscana, Tenuta di Trinoro, Tuscany
Made by exentric, but incredibly talented winemaker, Andrea Franchetti. The label is bright, striking red depicting a swan...that looks like an angel...or something like that anyway...suggesting graceness and elegance, harmony and smoothness, and rightly so...! The bouquet of this fine red comes with aromas of raspberry, pomegranate, plums, herbal notes, dried cranberries and cherries and dried flower petals. Light to medium bodied with silky-soft texture and a long-lingering finish. A suave and elegant, "feminine" vino! Drinking so well right now, so don't waste your time holding it any longer! Try with rare-seared Muscovy duck breast with cherry-natural jus reduction, clarified butter-sauteed morel mushrooms and pureed salsify on the side. 4 1/2 stars out of 5. (92 out of 100). Zoltan Szabo, Jan., 2009

---

2005 Chardonnay, Maple Ridge, California, USA
Fully mature, drink now! 2 1/2 stars out of 5.
 
2006 Pinot Noir, Balletto, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, California, USA
Bright nose of red currants, raspberry, five spice, oak-smoke-vanilla. Light plus bodied and sweet fruit-packed with silky-soft tannins and a pleasant, cranberry, cinnamon, pomegranate-flavoured finish. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
 
2006 Pinot Noir, Old Schoolhouse Vineyard, Bird, Marlborough, NZ
Floral, spicy, raspberry, herbal, earth-musk-Marlborough-terroir aroma and flavour nuances here. Juicy and soft, and delicate. Long finish.
4 stars out of 5.
 
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Barrel Select, Buffalo Grove, California, USA
In its secondary "stage", "old world"-style, plummy, spicy, earthy with a dry, softly tannic finish. Drink now! 3 + stars out of 5.

---

2001 Rioja Riserva, Beronia, Rioja, Spain
Sweet and sour nose of driend cranberries and herbs, oak, coconut. Medium bodied with tannins still very much alive, and with a dry, candied orange, spicy, herbaceous finish. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.

2005 Politi Riserva, Il Borro, Tuscany, Italy
Second label of the Ferragamo Il Borro estate. I remember meeting Salvatore years ago at Il Mulino, a very nice guy. This red is Sangiovese with 20% of Cab. Sauv. "Old school", dry and tannicy, good, but will improve with some time.
4 stars out of 5. 

2007 Frascati Superiore, Fontella, Lazio, Italy
Great in its simplicity, with apples aromas and flavours, fresh and with a pleasantly tart finish. Great with seafood. 3 + stars out of 5.

---

My wine list at Osteria recieved a bold comment the other day in one of the most popular Shanghainese magazines..."Arguably the best wine list in Shanghai!".


Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 10:51 PM  0 Comment(s)


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Wine From China

Greetings from Shanghai!

I was given a bottle of wine last night to taste blind by Alberto from Torres China.

It had a medium deep ruby-purple colour. Aromas of blueberries, field berries, pepper spice, floral, herbs, "royal" med-toast French oak and a mixture of campfire ash, earth, sweet game-musk and just a little and very "shy" nuance of grilled asparagus, dried tomato leaf. It was fairly light, medium minus bodied, medium alcohol, juicy with fresh acids and soft tannins. The finish was lingering. A balanced wine with all its elements in place and well integrated. Of course, I could not guess what and where it's from...! I said that "new world meets old world" about its style and that it could be anything from Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir to Cabernet Franc (I stated Chinon, in fact) and Lacrima di Morro d'Alba...! Well, it was the 2007 "The Summit" (proprietary name), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Gernischt*, made by a brand new winery called Silver Heights located by the Hellan Mountain East Valley in the autonomous (muslim?) province of Ningxia of The People's Republic of China...a fairly hot and dry area when it comes to grape growing. Its maker, a young lady, Emma Gao, who worked as a training manager at Torres China in the past, one of China's very few Oenology Institute of Bordeaux University graduate, doing her stage at Lynch Bages.  Also found out that her boyfriend is the cellarmaster at Calon Segur.... No wonder she's using the same barrels!
So, this wine was made from 8 years old vines and aged in oak (new and neutral I would assume) for 10 months, and certainly is one of the better Chinese wines I've tasted so far! This red shows a lot of expertize and precision in making. So finely made (in within Chinese winemaking circumstances), gently pressed and macerated... just to extract a lovely colour and silky tannins without any harsh and off flavours...oaking handled well too...bravo!

It will be released in March, and allocated, there's 1,500 bottles of it made only! Comes in a Burgundy shaped, heavy, smoked glass bottle.
I will pour it at Osteria by-the-glass! Cheers!

*Cabernet Gernischt is a red wine grape variety used in China believed to be of European origin, and similar if not identical to Cabernet Franc. The name is believed to be a misspelling of the Cabernet Gemischt once used in Europe but now extinct. Supposedly exported to China from Europe, it was first used to make red wine there in 1892, and is still in production at present".

Cheers,

Zoltan

 








Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 11:20 PM  0 Comment(s)


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Bahamian Rhapsody - The Bruderschaft of The Chef and The Sommelier

Historic Graycliff Hotel, Restaurant & Cigar Factory in Nassau, The Bahamas is boasting a rustic, basement cellar of 300,000 bottles of wine in stock, insured at $12 million, oldest vintage being an early 1700's Riesling from the Rheinghau; with the traveling humidor of Napoleon Bonaparte and JFK laying around in dusty corners, along horse saddle and other "artifacts", and no one even cares; the best Cognac, Armagnac and single malts collection I have ever seen...! The "who's who" client list is long like the 401...! I could not understand how the hell is possible for one person to oversee the whole inventory and manage the list...!? Graycliff's wine program is WS Grand Award winner since the 70's...! ...And there's thousands of boxes of cigars! Rare and unique puffers, some vintage dated and favourites of  Nicholas Cage...! An overwhelming experience to walk through the cellar!  Chef is Josh Campbell, who prepared us a fabulous lunch.
 
---
 
If you visit The Bahamas try some conch chowder! Decent beers are made on the island, and there are some really bad drivers!
So, pop by Shogun Revolver! Chef Michael Pataran and his better half, the lovely Helen, will make sure to provide you with an unforgettable dining experience.

At a recent Canadian winemakers' dinner that I've hosted at Shogun, Michael cooked up a menu that probably was one of the finest I have ever eaten through!

Among the courses there was local, Bahamian, mutton “rogan josh” terrine with roasted red pepper, eggplant and naan... lime cured wahoo with charred corn, cilantro and crispy shallots bahamian lobster springrolls with avocado, mango and yuzu aïoli  duck leg and peanut satay with red thai peanut curry and toasted coconut marinated octopus in momijioroshi chile, tsuyu soy, cilantro and sesame and kivalliq arctic caribou rack from nunavut, Canada, with sichuan black bean reduction, maple roasted brussel sprouts and imo potato – smoked bacon tart! The Foie Gras Torchon made with goose liver from Palmex in Marieville, Quebec was simply to die for..! See my previous blog entry!
 
For the record, Michael and I are best friends (know each other from way back since our days at Zoom, nowadays Beerbistro, and Rain) and collaborated in many unique affairs throughout the years! A handful of Niagara Peninsula wineries participated in the "showdown" and for the first time ever there will be Niagara wines available on The Bahamas, imported by the folks at Bristol Cellars!
Michael and I even matched Icewine to a full 7 or 8 course meal up in Muskoka at Taboo Resorts Culinary Theatre while Mr. Pataran worked there! And what a superb matches! Menu below. Mrs. Bosc of Chateau des Charmes guest spoke along yours truly, and we just had a fine time, and smoked cigars after!
 
seared crisp escolar with blue potato violet mustard spring onion cake garden pea and mango blossom honey foam
2000 Late Harvest Riesling, Estate Bottled, VQA, Chateau des Charmes, Niagara Peninsula
 
palmex foie gras, oven-dried calimyrna and mission roasted fig stuffed breast of squab with truffled potato gnocchi, leek fondue
2001 Riesling TBA, Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard, VQA, Chateau des Charmes, Niagara Peninsula
 
tarragon butter roasted lobster tail with port glazed pear and parsnip puree white chocolate cherry brioche pudding
2000 Vidal Icewine, Estate Bottled, VQA, Chateau des Charmes, Niagara Peninsula
 
fieldgate farms organic pork loin with sichuan black bean reduction, east coast “dry” scallop and maple glazed brussel sprouts
2000 Vidal Icewine, VQA, Chateau des Charmes, Niagara Peninsula
 
chilled spring bank bison tenderloin salad with star anise – cinnamon ~ palm sugar dressing with mint oil and plum brûlé
2003 Riesling Icewine, Estate Bottled, VQA, Chateau des Charmes, Niagara Peninsula
 
wild blueberry soufflé with lemon wafer and thyme honey ~ apricot sorbet
2000 Riesling Icewine, Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard, VQA, Chateau des Charmes, Niagara Peninsula
 
 
---
 
Just imagine...Michael and I used to live in the same building in TO on the corner of Eglinton West and Old Forest Hill Road...One night, bored and hungry, he had invited Janos Szabo and I, along others, and cooked a "little" dinner for us... and called the theme “glutamic inspiration”...here's the menu from a "casual" Saturday evening...What a neighbor to have ehh...?!

sweet corn chawan mushi with dried shiitake, smoked bacon, chanterelle, oven-dried tomato, daikon consommé gelée and truffle essence
 
scallop “crystal” dumpling with sichuan carrot reduction, cured duck sausage, smoked tofu, choy sum and fried lotus
 
roast black cod with braised pork belly, steamed sato-imo yam and fermented black bean ~ xiaoxing reduction 
 
slow cooked beef tongue with red thai peanut curry, coconut sticky purple rice, ginger frites and coriander paste
 
chocolate 3-ways
dark chocolate, coconut truffle with 5 spice and korean pepper, amareña cherry
milk chocolate hazelnut bread pudding with mango syrup and crème anglaise
white chocolate wafer with lavender labne, asian pear ~ galangal sorbet and fried sage
 
---
 
The other event took place years ago while I was at Toronto's best little Italian resto, Il Mulino. I have invited Chef Pataran to cook along with the great Allan Hilaro, presenting two creations served side by side on the same plate, and Johnny Szabo and I paired wines, both of us choosing one per plate with two different style food preparations sitting on, in a manner that each of our wines had to match with both chefs' masterpieces! ...And what a "battle of the senses" that turned out to be! We had a packed house, and people almost cried of happiness and gastro-satisfaction at the end! Menu is below, and sadly I don't remember the vini...! They were, must have been, great, we were assured by attendees, I recall that! For sure you will recognize Michael's modern Asian, multi-layered and textured creations, along the more humble and traditional Allan Hilario's.
 
DUCK & MUSHROOM
1. truffle tartlet with wild mushroom & smoked duck
2. sweet corn ~ braised duck chawan mushi with housemade wild turkey bacon and smoked shimeji mushrooms
 
NOODLES
1. grana padano & ricotta gnocchi in a fresh cherry tomato, basil broth
2. hand-cut chilled green tea soba noodles with shiso – soy dashi
 
 
SABLEFISH
1. sable fish with anchovies, chanterelle mushroom, lemon & Lacryma Cristi
2. japanese “gindara” black cod with maple ~ miso marinade and rice masago crusted asparagus
 
 
FRUIT
1. intermezzo of grapefruit granita
2. wild strawberry espuma with lychee and mangosteen “ sashimi”
 
 
VEAL
1. veal tartar with crispy shallots
2. veal tenderloin in green thai curry with coconut sticky rice
 
 
VENISON
1. venison striploin with foie gras & huckleberry, port jus
2. braised venison shank ~ foie gras “crystal” dumpling with sichuan black bean reduction and red onion fennel kim chee 
 
 
BERRIES
1. ricotta brule with macerated raspberries in a citrus, basil cup
2. dark valhrona chocolate, wild blueberry bavarois with LHZ ~ amereña cherry reduction
 
---

Talking about great wines, what about the line up with presented at our "Cutting Edge Wines from Around the World" seminar, which BTW was the fastest "sold out" session of this year's Gourmet Food & Wine Show in Toronto! "The other Szabo" did an incredible job with the selections! Check it out! Cutting edge, indeed...! And most available from the LCBO! So, stock your cellars for the holidays!
 
1. Itsas Mendi 2007 Txakolina Bizkaiko, Pays Vasco, Spain
2. Pierre Gaillard 2007 Tremadoc Collioure Blanc, Roussillon, France
3. Vigneti Massa 2006 Derthona Timorasso Colli Tortonesi, Piedmont, Italy
4. Long Dog Winery 2007 Tumbling Stones, Prince Edward County, Ontario
5. Galil Pinot Noir, 2006 Golan Heights, Israel
6. Weinert 2004 Malbec, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza. Argentina
7. Petalos, Decendientes de J. Palacios 2006 Bierzo, Spain
8. Casa Silva 2005 Los Lingues Gran Reserva Carmenère, Colchagua Valley, Chile
 
---
 
 
And never mind the wines at the Gourmet Food & Wine Show! I have tasted some really kinky Cuban wines the other day! One of them, a 10 years old Tempranillo, was not even bad! Will be soon available at my resto, Osteria in Shanghai!
 
1998 Tempranillo Riserva Tinto, San Custobal, Pinar del Rio, Cuba
I kind of like the label...! Provocative, to say the least, depicting a well tanned, front, below breasts and above the knees naked female body with the pubic area covered with a grape bunch and leaf...! The rest...oh well...! Just like a tawny Port on the nose...! Sweet on the palate at first, but the finish is dry and strongly herbaceous with tobacco nuances...! Goes well with a Cuban cigar...! Also makes a decent reduction...! Other than that, it was still interesting for me to taste my first Cuban wine, ever...! I bet peeps would still buy it because of its label...! But, at least Savanna Samson's "Sogno Uno" is a stunning wine...! Hey, give it a try anyway! 2 stars out of 5.
 
1998 Gran Reserva Tinto, Castillo del Morro, Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Not bad! Plums, dark chocolate, forest floor, tobacco leaf and sweet molasses aroma and flavour notes here. A bit thinned out, still holding on, dry with dried cranberry, leafy, leathery, old world aspect. Interesting, for sure! Castro likes it...! 3 + stars out of 5.



Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 10:53 PM  0 Comment(s)


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Top 20 Ingredients of Lust and Desire

We have come up with this list back in last summer on a Sunday afternoon while chef Michael Pataran was preparing a huge pan of his famous paella (see recipe below) at Johnny Szabo's house in the backyard over open fire.

These are foods and ingredients that life without would not be the same, we thought.
We have debated each and every one of them as the list could have gone on and on, but we settled with these.

We argued whether Tasmanian Ocean Trout and oysters should make it to the list...among many other worthy items...

Throughout my career I have had the privilege of sampling all these magnificent food choices and I truly believe that all of them reflect gastronomic divinity and provide an unforgettable dining memory.

...And without any further due, here's the list. Your comments and/or suggestions are, of course, welcome, as always!
 
1.      Jamon Iberico de Bellota, Estera Madura, Spain

2.      Mozzarella Di Bufala, Campagnia, Italy*

3.      Bafun Uni, Aomori Prefecture, Japan

4.      White summer Truffles from Alba (Molise), Italy

5.      Liba maj (Goose Liver), Hungary**

6.      Yukisio of Miyakojima Okinawan Snow Salt, Japan

7.      25-year old Balsamico Tradizionale, Modena, Italy

8.      Pachino Tomatoes, Sicilia, Italy

9.      Chachak Beauty Zjilvo Plums, Serbia

10.     Birch Syrup, Forbes, Saskatchewan, Canada

11.     Copper River Salmon, Alaska, USA

12.     Kobe Beef, Tajima-ushi breed, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan

13.     Beluga/Osetra Caviar, Caspian Sea, Russia/Iran Border**

14.     Oaxacan Chocolate, Calle Mina, Mexico

15.     Anchovies, Collioure, Mediteranean, France

16.     Spanish Saffron, Valencia, Spain

17.     Manuka Honey, New Zealand

18.     Tahitian Vanilla, Raiatea Island, Tahiti

19.     Wasabi Root, Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan

20.     Bottarga di Muggine(pressed mullet roe), Sardinia, Italia

---
PAELLA a la PATARANSKY

Add XVOO cook chicken and reserve. Do the same with each of lobster, prawns and squid. Add oil and sauté onion and garlic. Add sausage and red pepper and cook 7 min. Turn up heat and add rice stirring clockwise. Deglaze with Albariño wine. Add enough stock, ½ saffron, thyme, basil, tarragon and all the other spices and cook until stock is reduced.

Add more stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, vanilla bean, chiles and a small portion of salt. When stock reduces add more and continue doing this method until rice is 80% cooked. When you add the last batch of stock also add the rest of the herbs, saffron, clams and salt. Cook 2 minutes more stirring and then add the Idiazabal and all the reserved meat and seafood with their juices and cook 7 minutes more stirring while burying all the meat and fish. Add the parsley and a little stock for moisture and then pack it all down with a spatula. Cook on low for 7-10 minutes covered with foil to build a bottom crust. Remove from fire and place entire pan in broiler and cook until a dark brown crust appears (turning the pan when necessary to ensure even browning. Remove, sprinkle with more parsley, cracked pepper, scallions, squeeze of lemon and serve in paella pan.

·        Chicken thighs, cubed, (3 pc.)

·        Chorizo sausage, 1” pieces (4)

·        Prawns (21-25) cleaned (12)

·        Lobster, blanched (1 wh)

·        Clams, littlenecks (1 lb)

·        Squid, cleaned, sliced (2)

·        Spanish onion, small dice (1 x-lg)

·        Garlic, minced (7 cloves)

·        Red peppers, julienne (2)

·        Albariño white wine (1 cup)

·        Tomatoes, diced (10)

·        Tomato paste (1/2 cup)

·        Thyme (4 tbsp)

·        Basil (15 leaves)

·        Tarragon (3 tbsp)

·        Saffron (1 tbsp)

·        Smoked paprika (2 tbsp)

·        Cardamom (1 tsp)

·        Fennel seed (2 tbsp)

·        Bay leaf (4)

·        Lobster stock (AN)

·        Vanilla bean (1)

·        Jalapeno, brunoise (1)

·        Dry mulato chile (1 sm.)

·        Dry ancho chile (1 sm.)

·        Salt TT

·        Cracked pepper, TT

·        Scallions, on bias (2)

·        Parsley, chopped (1/4 cup)

·        Smoked Idiazabal or Manchego cheese (1 cup)

·        Lemon (1/2)


Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 6:20 PM  0 Comment(s)


Friday, November 28, 2008

World's Best Foie Gras Torchon

I just had the world's best Foie Gras Torchon, and it was served to me by Chef Michael Pataran the other day at his resto, Shogun Revolver, on Paradise Island of The Bahamas. It was served as the first course of a Canadian wine promo affair that I helped hosting and "setting up".

We paired it with the 2006 Riesling, Charles Baker, Picone Vineyard, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, and it turned out to be a match made in heaven! The Torchon tasted like melted white chocolate...! Even better with the Riesling and its natural sweetness, crisp acids elevating the taste sensation...! It was orgasmic! And took a lot of time for Pataran to make the Torchon...! 6 days...! It took him almost a week to make a bite of heaven! Worth indeed...! The olfactive sensation still lingers on my palate and mind!

If any of you will visit Paradise Island and want to hear the chore of angels sing, well, just pop by Shogun and say "Hi" to Michael...He will do the rest...!

See below!

Palmex Foie Gras, Marieville, Quebec -  Moromi Miso Coated Palmex Foie Gras Torchon

NOTE: For this recipe use the freshest (never frozen) Grade “A” foie gras (goose or duck liver) you can find weighing about 500-700 grams

DAY 1:

  1. Take the foie gras and scrape off the membrane with the back of a kitchen knife (this is basically the out, very thin skin) as best as possible.
  2. Separate the 2 lobes (hemispheres) and clean out all the sinew and/or small veins you can visible see.
  3. Take the knife and cut (butterfly) each lobe; following the veins to remove. Cut away any globular fat seen in this process as well, discard all.
  4. Take the cleaned lobes and place in a deep non-reactive stainless steel container and cover with an even mixture of water and milk. Place about 4 cups of ice in the container and place in the fridge overnight.

Make your moromi miso cure

moromi miso (*)       1 cup
hon mirin                ¾ cup
junmai sake            ½ cup
white sugar            ½ cup
salt                       TT

Place all the ingredients in a large stainless steel bowl and place over a large pot of boiling water, making sure the bottom of the bowl is just above the water itself.

Cook for 50-60 minutes until the sides of the mixture start to caramelize and the mixture thickens (almost like a loose peanut butter).

When the desired consistency is reached; transfer to a stainless steel container and place in the fridge until chilled.

* - moromi miso is a vegetable based miso made from pickled vegetable and barley. I refer to it as “chocolate” miso as when it is used in certain preparations with the right foods, it takes on a chocolate-like flavour. It is available at specialty Japanese markets

DAY 2:

Remove the foie gras from the water/milk mixture and drain on paper towels and pat dry. Butterfly any remaining foie gras pieces so they are all about the same height when laid out flat.

Generously sprinkle with the sugar/salt curing mixture (see below). Using two large flat plates or non-reactive baking dishes/pans place the foie gras pieces close together in the bottom of the one pan/plate.

Place the other pan/plate on top and press. Put a weight (carton of milk or large can of tomatoes) on top of the pressing plate and place in the fridge overnight.

* curing mix:

2 tbsp white sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp Japanese sansho pepper (available in Japanese markets)

DAY 3:

Bring 2 litres of chicken stock to a med-high simmer.

Take the foie gras from the fridge and carefully separate the plates (the foie gras might stick a bit so be careful). For this next step you will need 2 sheets of parchment paper, 4 large sheets of cheesecloth or 4 cotton serviettes/napkins as well as 2 litres of chicken stock.

Lay the parchment paper flat out on a kitchen table and place half the amount of the foie gras on the lower end (closest to you) in the direct centre.

Roll up the parchment tight to form a log/sausage shape with the foie gras and squeeze both ends tight.

Now take a sheet of cheesecloth/serviette and lay out flat on the table. Place the foie gras on the lower end (closest to you) in the direct centre. Roll up the cheesecloth tight to form a log/sausage shape with the foie gras and squeeze both ends tight and tie with kitchen twine

Repeat the same process as above with the second half of the foie gras so you have two logs wrapped in cheesecloth.

Poach both logs of foie in the stock to 90-120 seconds and remove immediately and place in an ice water bath for 7-10 minutes.

Now take a sheet of cheesecloth/serviette and lay out flat on the table. Take the moromi miso mixture from the fridge and using an off-set spatula spread it on the bottom end (direct centre) of the cheesecloth about 6” wide by 4” high.

Remove the foie gras rolled in the cheesecloth from the ice water bath and cut of the strings, handling very carefully and unroll it from the wet cheesecloth.

Place in the direct centre of the 6” by 4”moromi miso on the cheesecloth.

Roll up the foie gras in the cheesecloth (very tightly) to form a salami shape. A little trick here is to place a weight on the far end of the cheesecloth to give some resistance when rolling. You will see the miso mixture “bleed through”, it will get messy!

Tie one end of the “sausage” shape very tightly with twine. Twist and squeeze the other end the same and tie of (It is great if you have someone to help you on this step; they tie as you twist – the tighter the better!)

Repeat the exact same process with second log. Once both are tied take 10 - 8” piece of twine and tie the log snuggly at 1” -2” intervals so it resembles tied salami.

Now tie a 10” – piece of twine to the end of the cheesecloth and hang the torchon in the fridge.

DAYS 4 and 5:

Allow the torchon to hang untouched!

DAY 6:

Cut down the torchon and carefully cut away all the twine and unwrap carefully from the cheesecloth; if not needed right away wrap in plastic wrap and keep chilled until needed. (Never leave the foie gras torchon out until needed as it will get soft which is undesirable – the colder the better!))

Alternatively, slice the foie gras torchon to form ¾-inch coins and serve (a great accompaniment here is fruit/spice chutneys, baked apples and tropical fruit jams/salsas and crisp toast points)

The torchon will last 1 week. You may freeze and serve at a later date.

(Serves 8-12 as an hors d’oeuvre)


Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 8:50 PM  1 Comment(s)


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hi From Zoltan!

Well, well, well…Gremolata bloggers, fans, readers and anyone in between! It's been a while...! How's everyone?

I have been traveling the world, eating, drinking and meeting interesting people! And I have been loving each and every second of it...!

Since I have last posted here, back in June about the Pannonhalmi Bormustra, Hungary's most respected wine competition, where I judged, lots happened to me on both, professional and personal level...!

I've met the woman of my dreams, got engaged and married! This info may be irrelevant to the world of food and wine, but wait a second...! My wifey's name is Boroka Johanna...! "Bor" means "wine"...! How can I not love her...?! "Wine" is in her name...!

Butterfield & Robinson's Black Sea gastro-yacht-adventure in August was great, we all ate, drank and walked our ways through a fantastic "route" and discovered many interesting wines, especially in Turkey; popped the cork of a few bottles of 1964 Massandra Portwine at Livadia Palace...1964 is the founding year of Butterfield & Robinson; had Romanian fish soup deep inside the Danube Delta...where it was hot, lots of sand dunes and trees...How do trees grow in a semi-desert area just God knows...! Gorgeous...! The Danube Delta that is! A biosphere reserve, those small canals with crystal clear waters, birds and fauna nowhere else found in the world...! ...And there was "rachiu"...! A distillate made from fruits, plums, grapes, pears and apples, most likely...! We should have skipped the second or third jar of it considering the steamy conditions..., but hey, we just jumped into the Danube after lunch to cool down...!

We had spit roasted lamb in Bulgaria and drank Mavrud; Yalta onions are the best and there's plenty of sparkling wine to be made in that area; after much caviar eating in Odessa we went to a night club, drank Vodka and danced...! Lots of fun! You should all take one of these trips meticulously organized by Butterfield & Robinson! I know I would do it again, and again, in a heart beat!

After this trip, I spent some time in Transylvania with my mother, sister, bro-in-law and their children, the 1 1/2 year old Anasztazia and 8 year old Richard.

Drank plenty of home made "cseresznye palinka" (cherries well sugared soaked in alcohol) for breakfast...! Realized that my mother's cooking is still up there...top notch, for sure! My dear friend, Zoltan Kovecsi is a hobby-winemaker for the last almost 20 years, and he became really good at it! Makes dry whites from Rhein Riesling, Italian Riesling, some Sauvignon Blanc, Leanyka and Kiralyleanyka, once pressed, lightly sulphured, aged in 50 liter glass jars; also "produces" a second press Aligote with some added sugar for partying...! They are delicious, especially considering the place where he makes and keeps these fine wines...the basement of his condo building, building apparently built back in the communistic era and the bunker-like underground should resist the devastating effects of an atomic bomb...! Would that make or qualify Zoltan Kovecsi a "garagist" winemaker?! You go figure! And what about this = He also makes a cognac...double distilling Aligote and ageing it in glass with oak wood pieces deeped in it! And it is not bad at all! He says it needs to age for about 5 years to show its full potential....Tones of innovative things in Transylvania, to say the least! "Froccs" is in vogue...Kovecsi's whites go with mineral water from the near by springs of Tusnadfurdo! And yes, him and I could drink gallons! Also a good cook, Mr. Kovecsi many times prepared food for me as well...most of the times open fire-roasted pork loin...succulent and delicious...by the foothills of Sugasfurdo, a picturesque, wooded area, with so clean air, stone-thrown away from Sepsiszentgyorgy, where I am from! And there was some dancing on the top of the picnic table, but only Dracula remembers the rest!

So, stayed tuned, more to come! My adventures in Shanghai, The People's Republic of China; Canadian wines on Paradise Island of The Bahamas: Chef Michael Pataran's Palmex Foie Gras torchon and paella, both to die for and best in world; Shogun Revolver; the top 20 ultimate ingredients of lust and desire as per Johnny Szabo, Pataran and yours truly...; best and worst of 2008...; Szabo & Szabo at the Gourmet Food & Wine Show; and Osteria, an Italian restaurant in Shanghai...and much MORE!  


Posted by Zoltan Szabo at 7:05 PM  1 Comment(s)