Posts Tagged ‘Syrah’

Not a Critter: Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz

In Drinking, Syrah on May 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Women purchase 80% of the wine sold in the United States.  And they purchase 75% of it in grocery stores. *   

Thus, link for wineries, cialis grocery stores are a battleground for shelf space; with electric pink price tags, critic’s points, funny label verbiage, and intricate box stacking patterns all being the ammo.  Wineries can buy an end cap – that large space at the end of two isles – or take a cue from beer producers and create lots of different packages for the same product to gain territory.  But, as it turns out, the best way to increase a wine’s market share is to put an animal on the label.   

That’s right, an animal. 

In the industry they’re called “critter” labels.  It doesn’t matter what kind of critter: kangaroos started it, but dogs, cats, birds, frogs, penguins, mythical creatures and now even the occasional cake all increase sales with that all important grocery store audience – and usually by at least 50%.  

It was Australians who first drew the lines between these dots, making intensely fruit driven wines showcasing an animal on the label.  And while these wines were once a run-away smash hit, now the one-trick-pony has ceased to be interesting, and Australia’s wine industry is suffering for it.

It’s not that animals are bad, or even picturing an animal on the label is bad.  If O’Reilly the dog helped make the wine, why not put him on the label?  If Morris the cat was present at the first crush and continues to sleep on the fax machine maybe he is a pertinent symbol of sales activity.

But as the gag of critter labels wears thin it exposes a raw truth about these wines: the wine itself, not just the label, was made in committee, by the marketing department.  And just like dogs and cats, committees and marketing departments aren’t fundamentally bad.  They just shouldn’t be making wine.

Generation X-ers and Millennials now make up the largest segment of US wine consumption and they don’t drink critter wine.  Unfortunately for Australians critter labels were so successful in previous generations of US drinkers that the identity is now stuck: Australia = critter = standardized wine.  And this does a disservice to Australia, a country whose wine production is as diverse as its geography.  

Australia is as large as the Continental United States and while we would never confuse New York State Riesling with Napa Cabernet, or Santa Barbara Pinot Noir with Washington State Merlot, or a 5 gallon cardboard box wine from the Central Valley with Screaming Eagle; Australia remains as blurry as a jumping kangaroo. 

But there is Australian wine crafted by families, farmed with love, and produced with the idea of demonstrating all that is great about Aussie terroir.  Kilikanoon is one such small producer. 

Based in Clare Valley, north of Barossa in the district of South Australia, Kilikanoon creates Shiraz that displays the best of Australia.  Rich in Aussie fruit character, Killerman’s Run Shiraz features flavors of blackberry and brambly fruits.  Barrel aged spice notes of caramelized sugar, cedar, cinnamon and cloves add in a layer of complexity.  The Shiraz is based on a core vineyard within the Watervale district of Clare Valley that is unique in its iron-rich, red loam soils.  Here the soil adds a ripe red fruit character to the nose which is backed up by Grenache.  On the palate these two give the wine a lively sense of structure, complimenting and supporting its primary fruit tastes.  Bold and rich on the first day, by the second it sheds some baby fat revealing a seductive, complex Shiraz with fruit still as its primary focus but sous bois, earthiness, and a sense of place elevating the wine.

Gracing the label is a wood block painting by famous Australian painter Murray Edwards.  At Kilikanoon it’s all about the wine, not the critter.    

2007 Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz

Suggested List Price:  $19.99

Special price via this email:  $9.99

Cannellini beans poached in olive oil with orange, rosemary and sausage

In Beans, Eating on November 9, 2010 at 1:50 am

It’s so easy, order yet so good.

Wine pairing

This dish can go with almost anything.  Top the beans with some roasted venison and it’s perfect with Syrah.  Add a roasted turkey (with pancetta and sage, click of course) and Brunello is the ultimate choice.  Add a seared piece of halibut and chardonnay does wonders.  Add more oranges, olives and dates and Viognier is the answer.  It’s handy and user friendly and takes about two minutes to make. 


The quantities here might be a bit low – my wife and I can usually go through one recipe in the course of a meal.  It scales easily though, just double all the quantities!

¼ lbs.                                       sweet Italian sausage, chopped

15 oz (1 can)                           cannellini beans, (yes I use canned beans – sorry!)  

3 tbs.                                        very fresh olive oil

1                                              orange, zested and juice squeezed out

2 branches                                rosemary, chopped

To taste                                    salt

To taste                                    black pepper 


1.  Cook the sausage in a pan.  Remove the sausage from the sauté pan and reserve.  Drain the fat out of the pan. 

2.  Over medium heat warm the olive oil.  I used to actually use twice this amount of olive oil (hence the title – poached) but nowadays I figure three tablespoons is enough.  Add the rosemary to the pan.

3.  Drain and rinse the beans under cold water.  I do use canned beans but feel free to use fresh or dried if you have the time – I would if I could!  Add the beans to the heated olive oil.  Warm the beans through.  Add back in the sausage 

4.  Just before serving squeeze the orange juice into the pan.  Heat all the way through.  Add the zest and serve (but don’t forget to salt and pepper!)

Roasted savory-spiced sweet potatoes

In Eating, Sweet Potatoes on November 7, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Bringing an enormous change in vegetables fall in Wisconsin can be both a blessing and a curse.  Finally coming into season is a whole new set of food-stuffs, rx and that delectable variation is a blessing to us gourmands.  But out going are all the beauties of summer – the jovially over ripe-to-bursting tomatoes, patient the sappy sunshine sweetness of local corn, the tender, final leaves of bitter greens – not to be seen again for almost a whole year. 

The most prominent of Wisconsin’s coming comestibles is our plethora of root vegetables.  And with these root vegetables out comes my food mill.  Yes, that’s right, I love to puree.

My love of puree may come from being trained at a French cooking school or it may be a fleeting memory of my days as a toddler.  Whatever the case may be I often can’t stop myself – potatoes, butternut squash, chestnuts, eggplant, fava beans – you name it and I am ready to turn it into mush. 

The problem with French-styled-mush (a.k.a. puree) is the calories.  To obtain the silky, savory yet succulent consistency I so desire requires butter and cream, and usually massive amounts of it. 

Like some chefs I could resort to all sorts of chicanery to cut the butter and cream thereby reducing calories.  But that makes me feel like a fake and who wants to eat mock puree from a calorie charlatan?

The answer is to change the method – yes, give up my beloved puree – in favor of chiseling down my pulchritudinous, beauteous and slightly robust figure!  And roasting those potatoes is just the trick! 

Wine pairing

Although at first taste chili powder may not imply a French wine I just couldn’t help myself.  The peppery pungency of the spices, the funky herb not of the sage, the touch of fruit acrid-ness from the olive oil – I reached for (and imbibed) the Les Egreves Syrah from Christine Pochon.  The black pepper of the syrah, the loam notes from the hint of Merlot blended in, and the quick, bright French-styled acid finish brought out the best in both food and wine!


Serves two people as a side course (the recipe is easily scaled to larger portions) and is approximately 200 calories per person.

10 oz (approximately 2)            sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¼” thick wheels

1 tbs.                                        chili powder

5 cloves                                    garlic, chopped fine

1 tbs.                                        olive oil

5 leaves                                    sage, julienned

to taste                                     salt

to taste                                     black pepper


1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2.  Place cut sweet potatoes in a bowl, toss with chili powder, then garlic.  Toss continuously while pouring on olive oil to ensure an even distribution.  Then finish with the sage, salt and black pepper. 

3.  Place sweet potato mixture on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are crispy on the outside and creamy in the middle.  Serve!

Flavor Building & Variations

1.  Render one slice of pancetta per sweet potato in the pre-heated 350 degree oven.  Drain off fat, chop fine.  Just before serving sprinkle pancetta onto sweet potatoes.  Adds about 200 calories per person but really brings out the meaty boldness of the Les Engreves Syrah. 

2.  To complete the meal roast a chicken and sauté some spinach with garlic in olive oil.  While the chicken is roasted complete the sweet potato recipe.  Plate all together and serve! 

3.  Remove the sage from the recipe and replace with the zest of one lime per sweet potato.  Continue with recipe as noted.  Just before serving squeeze the juice of a lime onto the sweet potatoes. 

With this zippy addition I would recommend switching to Grosset’s Polish Hill Riesling.  Bright and racy in its youth (it is a totally dry wine) it brings out the limey and spice notes of the dish.  If you happen to have an older vintage the textural weight pulls up some of the creamy consistency of the sweet potatoes.  While any dry Australian Riesling will do the trick, Grosset’s will send you over the top!

4.  This works especially well with variation three, but can be used for any of them. 

Sautee a 6 oz piece of Halibut in olive oil with each portion of the sweet potatoes.  When finished plate on top and serve!

Pureed Chestnuts with Black Truffles

In Chestnuts, Eating on November 7, 2010 at 6:48 pm

A splendid treat for Thanksgiving (or really any fall day), seek this magical dish, clinic despite its luxurious texture, ailment is actually not all that high in calories.  It’s not low, low cal but ain’t a gut buster either!  And it is delicious.  It fills you up easily without leaving you longing to eat more.    

I have a tendency to over salt this dish.  Chestnuts, especially in combination with butter, tend towards sweetness.  I enjoy savory and sour tastes more, so with this dish I tend to keep adding salt until it dominates the natural sweetness.  So, lesson learned – know your palate and be cautious with the salt on this one.

Wine pairing

I once made a grown man cry by paring this dish with Amarone.  Amarone gives you “rich on rich” sensation but here it really works.  The balsamic and fig notes of the Amarone seamlessly compliment the rich, truffly, sweet notes of the dish.  While my personal preference is to back off the scales a little bit and serve a Ripasso, most of my dinner companions are much more excited by the magnitude of the former.  I tend to pour Bussola (why not go HUGE if you are going to go big) but Mazzi is more to my personal taste.   

In the opposite direction, Brunello lights up this dish in a completely different way.  Brunello gives a contrasting spirit, a levity and liveliness to the combination.  In this case the more traditionally styled the Brunello the better – Constanti, Sesti and, if you have the means, Soldera Casse Basse are enlivening pairings.

Syrah works well too, but make it a domestic Syrah.  A little bit more fruit heft and weight is desirable.  Northern Rhones alongside this dish’s sweetness come across as tart and thin.


Serves four people as a side course at about 210 calories.  But much here depends upon the pre-packaged goods – chestnuts, stock and truffle puree.  For those of you hard core kitchen folk this recipe is far better by starting with whole chestnuts, homemade stock, and whole truffles but I just don’t have the patience, especially for Thanksgiving dinner!  But if you have got the time then go ahead!  Alter at will.

15 oz (1 large jar)                     whole roasted and peeled chestnuts

16 oz (half of a box)                 vegetable stock

2 oz                                          dry sherry

4 leaves                                    bay leaves

2 tbs.                                        butter

3.2 oz (1 jar)                            truffle puree

To taste                                    salt

To taste                                    black pepper


1.  Place chestnuts, stock, sherry and bay leaves in a stock pot.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes or until chestnuts are heated through and soft.

2.  Place the butter in a food mill.  Using a slotted spoon transfer the chestnuts (and chestnuts only – leave the bay leaves behind) to said food mill.  Reserve the liquid.  You can transfer them to a food processer and proceed with the rest of the directions but I prefer the texture a food mill provides.  Add the jar of truffle puree to the food mill.  Puree the chestnut / butter / truffle mixture through the food mill.      

3.  Once fully processed scrape the bottom of the food mill free of chestnuts.  Check the consistency of the puree.  Usually it is quite stiff.  Add salt and black pepper to taste. Begin adding the cooking liquid into the puree checking every ¼ cup of liquid.  I like a fairly thick puree, you may prefer yours looser.  There is no correct answer – just keep tasting and checking until you are satisfied.  Serve!

Quiet Understatement: Christine Pochon’s Les Egreves Northern Rhone Syrah

In Drinking, Special Offers on October 27, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Christine Pochon is getting shafted by the French government.  And she is not the kind of person who likes getting shafted. 

Christine grows Syrah in France. 

Most American’s fancy Syrah to be an exclusively Australian grape, generic meaning Shiraz, stuff Shiraz complete with 16% alcohol, check unctuous syrupy fruit in the wine, and dancing critters on the label.  Although Syrah and Shiraz share the same genetic makeup they are very, very different wines.  Think of two identical twins separated at birth – one child stayed in France, the other immigrated to Australia.   

Syrah’s birthplace is probably one of two hills – the Cote Rotie or Hermitage – within the area of France known as the Northern Rhone.  It is on these hills where Syrah is often said to take its highest expression, making wines of ethereal elegance, pronounced perfumes, yet at the same time dark and brooding. 

And Hermitage is exactly the kind of wine Christine Pochon makes, and because of the French government, far more cheaply than others.    

France maintains restrictions on how wines are labeled and grown.  Known as the AOC system the idea is to promote quality and protect historical, and sometimes nearly sacred, areas of significance, such as Hermitage.  While generally regarded as very successful it can also cause road blocks for fiery, driven producers like Christine.

If Christine had inherited some of her father’s land she might have been able to make “true” Hermitage.  If she had received her brother’s inheritance she would have been able to make Crozes-Hermitage (the area just to the north).  These areas are considered great wine producing regions and come with a hefty per-bottle price tag.  But she inherited Les Egreves “The Grove” of old Syrah vines that are just outside of the scared homeland of Hermitage, on a slightly higher elevation and the next slope over.  Her vines fit only within the lowest legal designation in France, Vin de Pays, or “country wine”.

But Christine doesn’t let any legal demotion stop her in the quest to make great wine. 

For those of you drinking and loving Australian Shiraz Christine’s Les Egreves Syrah will come as quite a shock.  Yes, it has blackberry and raspberry notes of Aussie Shiraz.  But those fruit aromas are just notes, they are the bare background to the grander statement that is Hermitage Syrah.  Here, the dominate smells are black pepper, cloves, balsamic, and peeled orange zest.  Harvested earlier than any Aussie Shiraz ever was Les Egreve is exotically perfumed – you could spend the day smelling the wine and get more and greater nuances from it. 

And the differences get stronger once you taste the wine.  This is no massively packed, jammy-fruit bomb of a wine.  It is a calm, quietly understated, elegant wine that has barely achieved 12% alcohol.  While Christine actually does blend in Merlot (yes, Merlot, get over it) to round out the palate I doubt you will notice.  It has so much acidity that your mouth will be left watering for a roasted chicken with sweet potato and truffle puree; or even black pepper crusted duck breast with grilled peaches and turnips in a balsamic reduction. 

Les Egreve is a beautiful refreshment for the fall season and it will add pleasure to any wine occasion without becoming the occasion itself.  And that quiet understatement is a testament to the greatness Christine Pouchon’s “little Hermitage” Syrah.   


2007 Christine Pochon “Les Egreves”  Vin de Pays Des Collines Rhodaniennes Syrah

Suggested List Price:  $12.99

Special price via this email:  $9.99

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

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