Savoured…”one-year” & “heavenly dog dance” Sake

A recent email from The Wandering Gourmand tickled me with a challenge to match wine or beer with Soft Shell Crab. Some of the best Soft Shell Crab I have had were either deep-fried and/or roll into a maki or steamed (usually with crabs that are moulting) with Chinese wine. Young fruity red wine has been known to compliment, and Champagne or Sparkling seems to fit in quite nicely as well. With a recent Japanese dinner event with a group of friends still fresh in my mind, a good Sake with deep-fried soft shell crab because that was exactly what we had.
One-Year Sake-001
A red wine will be a very tricky match, and not all white will work. My past experiences reminded me that a fishy aftertaste can linger rather disturbingly. I am not sure the reasons, but it could the element that makes soft shell crab so deliciously savoury but not agreeable with wine. On the other hand, the gentle firm character of Sake seems to stand up to crab brilliantly. It seems to enhance each other’s unique sweetness. The notable subtle fruit sweetness, and stylishly sleek dryness and clean structure lingers softly.
Heavenly Dog Dance Sake-001
It will stand up to the robustness of deep-fried and grilled flavours, and also lovingly gentle to raw seafood. おいしい (delicious)

Savoured…Corked vs Oxidised

It was not a case of insufficient wine for a dinner. With replacement and backup bottles in place and standing by just in case any of them decide to go rogue for good,  the sum worked out to the quantity of 1 bottle per person for a 7-course dinner. But still we, well actually JL (my very adventurous and curious wine buddy), could not help but wondered why 2 opened and corked-back bottles were sitting by themselves on a different table. As it turned out, these 2 bottles of Montrachet that were unsuitable to serve for dinner because one was slight corked and the other was slightly oxidised.
Corked vs Oxidized-001But JL was drinking faster than services could keep up decided that we should give one of them a try. The decision was to taste the corked wine over the oxidised. The logic was if the wine was just slightly corked, the constantly swirling and some patience might dissipate the corked aroma and the wine might come back to life. Personally, I have not encountered one that did. But I hope I have the experience to tasted beyond the corkiness. And I am still trying.
Here is a glimpse (with my handwriting) of the wines we had that evening. It seemed none of the good Olivier Leflaive Puligny Montrachet was available for dinner.  Our replacement was the Louis Jadot 1999 Mersault Goutte-D’or.

White Burg n New World PInot

Spotted…Top 10 Things I learnt from Bob Davids

Several weeks ago, I had the unique opportunity to spend time with Mr. Bob Davids, owner of Sea Smoke Cellars. We hosted a Trade and Sommeliers Tasting, as well as a private dinner.
With Bob Davids-001
Hence we have had lots of conversations about wine, wine business/business practise, leadership and entrepreneurship. I have never thought I know it all, but talking to someone with so much life and business experience, it was absolutely an eye-opening experience, a couple of “ah-ha” moments, lots of ideas were invigorated, and inspiration found and renewed. Here are the key 10 things I learnt:

1. Go to where they are ain’t
2. Take care of your own monkey. Make the decision that you are paid to do.
3. Don’t believe in your own bullshits.
4. If it is worth doing, it is worth over doing.
5. Never raise your voice
6. Never be afraid to make mistake, as long as you learnt from it.
7. Maintain the fun factor.
8. Always do what you should, and do the best that you can.
9. True leadership is not about keeping and accumulating power
10. It takes 4 years to remove a stink.

There were actually a lot more that he shared with me. But it was not easy for me to remember after being under the spell of Sea Smoke Pinot Noir and Grand Cru Burgundy (that was what we drank when we were not drinking Sea Smoke)

What a week it was!

Weekend Treat…My First Wine Auction

I have always known that this is one of the best opportunities to hunt down some really good deals. But I have always been intimidated by it because part of me know that it can be expensive. Since being elected to the post of Cellarmaster for IWFS of Singapore, I knew I have to take this step into a wine auction to find good wine at good price for the society. So a couple of Sundays ago, I attended one with a few excellent wine collecting friends. I was still feeling skittish. My good friend G was there and he put together a short list for me and himself to watch. I did some research on the pricing of the wines that we have narrowed down, but can’t compare to G and KS’s (another good friend) impressive memory of market trading price and vintage quality of wines. G did all the bidding while I tracked and did quick calculation of final total cost (to include commission and tax) of wines to ensure we are within our planned budget. My goal on next auction….research more and be brave.
Wine Auction 3-001
This auction was a long one. With more than 400 lots, it was still ongoing when I left after 5 hours. There were moments when a string of lots didn’t interest us, good friends shared with me about their auction strategies, how I can use it professionally,  and about bidding with like-minded friends so that we do not outbid each other.
Wine Auction 2-001
In the end, with lots of patience, intensive whispering of strategies, and some elbow and shoulder grease, we scored some really good labels at really good prices (can’t share as I share the purchase with a few individuals) such as

Mazis-Chambertin Grand Cru 1990 Frederic Esmonin Gevrey Chambertin – 6btls
Chateau Leoville Barton 1979 – 6btls
Chateau de Fieuzal 1990 – 12btls
Chateau La Lagune 1983 – 12 btls

Can’t wait to attend the next one soon.

Savoured…Villa Sorriso

I have laughed and cried (Monk & Mindy), have been mesmerised (Awakening) and touched (Dead Poet Society) by, and definitely have gotten drunk through Robin Williams.
I am very sad by his passing. Like many, I grew up watching him. When I was much younger, I love his comedy. When I got older, I admire his serious sensitivity without losing his unique sense of humour and creative wits. For many years, he battled with depression, an illness that cannot be underestimated. Despite of that, one of his many moments of brilliance and clarity, he purchased a vineyard in the Mayacamas Mountains area of Napa and Sonoma Valley in 2000.
Appropriately known as Villa of Smiles (Villa Sorriso), it is a 640-acre Napa ranch, of which 18.4 acres are planted with vine of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Although no wines were produced directly from the grapes of these vines, they have found their way to Robert Craig Cellars’ Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Affinity blend for 20 years. I have been working with Robert Craig Cellars’ wine for about 10 years, and it is comforting to know I have savoured some of his smiles and laughter that he has shared on this land, and been intoxicated by his spiritual presence of grace and gentleness.
The property was put up for sale again early this year. Maybe it was purely a business investment, maybe he found beauty in the land, maybe just maybe. But with all that he has been so well-known and well-loved, I will remember him through Villa Sorriso, maybe an opportunity to walk through the vineyard like he probably once did.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams, you are now in the front seat.

Savoured…The $30 Challenge

Where I live, prices of wine can be high. In fact prices of wine are even higher in some of the neighbouring countries with duty on tax as high as 500% on value, alcohol level and so on. The only exception is Hong Kong which has now become a haven for wine purchasing due to the exemption of duty and tax.

Our tax and duty on wine is about $9.50 to $11 per bottle, depending on the alcohol level. The higher the alcohol content, the higher the tax and duty. I think you get the idea how much we pay for a bottle of good whisky or vodka. *.*

So most of the time, we (most of my wine collector friends) do not really give any thoughts to purchase and taste $30 or less wine, well maybe a few sips at weddings or cocktail functions. So when I was invited to join a group of wine connoisseurs and collectors for a $30 challenge, I could not say no, In fact I was thrilled. When we (especially the different groups I am with) do not think twice to drop serious dollars for wines we love to drink, it is easy to forget to consider that there might be good wines, diamonds-in-the-rough types. Maybe not every wine, but most must have started at that price level, maybe not quite be $30, but humbly I am sure.

It was not simply to go to a supermarket and pick up the first $30 on the shelves. As we are a bunch of curious, critical and possible cruel group of people, we looked for wines that were made from unusual grape varietals, unexpected blend, or unexpected wine growing region for the usual grape varietals. All were served blind and we had to guess grape varietals, vintage, and wine producing regions over local zichar cuisine.
$30 challenge_white
This first pair of white was quite intriguing. The one that got us stumped was made from an unfamiliar grape: Jacquere. I thought it was oxidised and the colour was quite dense. We guessed every possible grape varietals we thought might be close, but just not Jacquere. I thought it was a Spanish white that might have been oxidised. It seemed that this wine needed to be drunk very young and vintage 2009 was considered over the hill. So now we are hunting down another bottle to taste again so that we can decide if it was indeed oxidised.
$30 Challenge_Red 1
The next pair was reds. I brought a NZ red of unusual blend from this part of the world. When I last visited NZ, I was amazed by how grape varietals such as Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon are tasting. It maybe due to global warming or the vines are maturing, but they have come around with more complexity and maturity in flavours instead of being green and stalky which I encountered more than a decade ago. So when I found a Malbec/Merlot blend, I felt that this would be a good blind. In terms of character, it was quite Grenache-like, soft, fruit forward, smoky and lip-smacking yumminess. And guess what, it was priced at $26.50.
The Valpolicella was a big wine, too big in my opinion. Although it was opened for quite a while it didn’t soften till we were almost done with dinner. The size and sweetness will definitely appeal to novice drinkers and a good intro to getting to know wine further.
$30 Challenge_Red 2
I was glad that there was a California wine in our selection. Entwine Merlot was made by the Wente Family and it really showed its country of origin. Soft, fruit forward sweetness and flavours smoky notes, and big in style without being too overwhelming.
The Australian Shiraz was the most un-shiraz-like for its nationality. We thought we can spot a young Australian Shiraz from a mile, but this little black bottle stumped us. It didn’t have the green pepper, black pepper, candied-like upfront sweetness, and in your face style that it is known for. I am not a fan of Australian Shiraz, but I must say, this was not a bad one.
The final bottle may be the only bottle I not sure about. It was rather one-dimensional, short to mid length and fell quite quickly. It had fruit such as plum and cherry, and the tannin was quite soft laced with characteristic of dried leaves, wood chips and dried flowers. It may have been too dry for me.

We agreed that we had the most fun sourcing for potential bottle to surprise each other. But I still believe that life is too short. I try to drink as well as I can.

Weekend Treat…Skinny Jeans

Not quite a treat because I do not need to wait for weekends to wear jeans.

Skinny Jeans
But I realised that i have not worn jeans this week, and will not be doing so this weekend either. It is turning out to be a 7-day work week for me, and I will share with you soon why it is so soon.  Don’t worry, it is a good thing.
Here in my part of the world, we are enjoying a long weekend with Monday being a public holiday. And I have planned to sleep in till the $30 wine challenge dinner in the evening. That will be the day I put my jeans back on.

At the meantime…HAPPY WEEKEND.