New Discovery – 2011 “Trim” Cabernet from Ray Signorello

A “Crowd Pleasing” Selection

Image - Trim Cabernet from Ray Signorello

76% Cabernet, 24% Merlot. Its deliciousness defies its price. Not surprising, once you learn it’s from a Napa producer better known for his $150 Cabernet. Close your eyes and be transported to the Right Bank of Bordeaux.

Tips for Enjoyment

  1. Pour this wine into a glass.
  2. Do that swirl, sniff, sip thing.
  3. Do it again.  Sip, sip, hooray.
  4. Count how many times you say “I can’t believe this is only $15.”

Click to buy

Why I Selected This Wine

I taste a lot of wines.  Every wine merchant does.  Easily thousands a year.  Instead of writing objective comments about each, the good and the bad, I put my precious cash on the barrel head, and invest in the few that represent an enjoyable discovery.  This wine stood out from the crowd, and that’s important to me in making a selection.  It’s not for everybody – some will find it too green and vegetal, others too “New World” – traits rarely found in the same bottle without sugary manipulations or creative blending.  But this wine has a surprising amount of soul, and that’s something one rarely sees at this price point.

Wine-Friendly Recipe: Sheperd’s Pie (Irish Pub Grub)

Sheperd's Pie, a very wine-friendly dish
San Francisco's Blarney Stone

I tend to prepare this traditional Irish Pub fare in the springtime.  Of course it’s a great Winter dish too, but Spring is when we usually have a surfeit of lamb in our house, and this recipe provides a great way to use every bit of your left-over protein, ensuring the lamb wasn’t sacrificed without good justification.  It does take a bit of time, but places little demand on the skills of a home chef.  In fact, this was a favorite during my bachelor days for its ability to provide several meals during the course of a week – a great return on my investment of an hour in the kitchen.

OK, and its economical too, which means you’ll have more money left for wine.  This dish compliments a wide variety of red wines, from Pinot Noir and Sangiovese to Merlot and even lighter Cabs, if you must.  I find its boldness to be too much even for full-bodied white wines, though it might be pleasant with a full Rosé (think Grenache/Mourvedre) chilled for no more than 20 minutes in your refrigerator.  Oh, it’s also nice with a Guinness. ;-)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs Ground lamb (beef can easily be substituted, though the classic Irish version features lamb)
  • 1 Small brown onion, diced
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 Cup beef broth
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp ketchup (or tomato paste and a touch of sugar)
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 Cups frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots and corn), thawed
  • 2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled (optional) and quartered
  • 2 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Cup milk
  • 1/4 Cup butter
  • 1 Cup cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

Add the potatoes and garlic to a large pot of salted and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for ~25 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a large pan up to temperature over medium heat, add a bit of oil and once hot, add the onion.  Sauté, stirring, until just beginning to brown, then remove to a plate and add the ground meat to the pan.  Break up the meat as it cooks to obtain a fine consistency, then stir in the flour for a minute or two.  Stir in the broth, and then the salt, pepper, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, onions and mixed vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, ~5 minutes before spreading evenly across the bottom of a 13 x 9 casserole dish and set aside.

Set your oven temperature to 375.  Then, drain the potatoes and then return them to the pot.  Add the milk and butter and mash (no chunks) or smash (some chunks) the potatoes.  At the end, stir in the cheddar cheese, if using. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Spread the potatoes evenly over the casserole and bake in your preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden (I sometimes cheat and cut the baking time short with a few minutes of broiler time – but if you choose this shortcut be sure to WATCH the entire time, as it goes from perfect to ruined in 30 seconds!). Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.  Keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Cabernet Sauvignon & Slow-Cooked Prime Rib

Standing Rib RoastA standing rib roast (AKA “Prime Rib”) is a classic dish for the Christmas Holiday, but I love it all winter long.  This recipe is a little time consuming (despite being quite easy to prepare) and it’s expensive, so if you’re like me, the risk of failure discourages this item from appearing on your home menu with regularity.

But Superwife and I have discovered a fool-proof method that perfectly renders your prime rib every time – nice and crusty on the outside, and moist and butter-tender on the inside.  The first thing to note is the most critical step occurs long before cooking actually begins – and this step is critical – you’ll need to dry your meat in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days, so plan ahead!

Ingredients (Serves 6 – 8)

1 Standing rib roast (~7 lbs).  Ask for the ‘First Cut’ or ‘Loin End’

1 Roll of Kitchen Twine (a food-grade string available in most good grocery stores)

Salt and pepper

A roasting pan and meat rack

Procedure

5 Days Before Serving – Buy your roast of choice.  Tie it with Kitchen Twine, looping the twine around the roast and in between each of the bones (see photo).  Dry the roast in your refrigerator for 3-5 days, if possible.  This adds flavor and makes the prime rib more tender.

7 ½ Hours Before Serving – Remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature for three hours.  Trim excess fat and any bits of meat that are fully de-hydrated.

4 Hours Before Serving – Position oven racks so your roast can sits in the vertical middle of your oven.  Heat oven to 200 degrees (yes, trust me, this works perfectly and is safe and you’ll be thrilled with the result).  Wash the roasting pan and heat for three minutes over two burners on Medium-High.  Coat pan with olive oil and brown meat on all sides.  Season with salt and pepper.

In the pan, set the rack under the roast and place in oven.  Cook for 30 minutes per pound or until internal temperature reaches 130 (for medium-rare) in its meatiest center.

30 Minutes before serving – Remove from oven and place roast on cutting board.  Allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.  This step is critical.  The extra ten minutes are allocated for carving and plating.

Time To Serve! – Cut the string and place the roast on a cutting board with the bones sticking straight up.  Use a carving fork to push the meat away from the bones while using a carving knife to separate the bones from the meat – save them to gnaw on after your guests go home.  Rotate the roast until it is cut-side down then slice across the grain to desired thickness.

Cheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
dave@sidewayswineclub.com
866-746-7293

Cabernet Sauvignon & Grilled (Grass-Fed) Ribeye Steak

In June, 2009, this recipe was paired with the Sojourn Cellars ’05 Sonoma Valley Cabernet sent to members of our Grand Cru Selections sampling program.


SOJ Cab Sauv 05B 1-14-08 AgainAs I wrote the tasting notes for the 2005 Sojourn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($48) I began craving grilled steak.  I could practically smell the hot grill and hear the sizzle.  And got hungry!

We’ve recently started buying grass-fed beef, ever since my wife investigated the environmental and health impacts corn-fed cattle brought to large feed-lots.  I listened attentively as she taught me all about the downside of corn-fed beef, with the antibiotics they require in the over-crowded feedlots where they’re fattened up  just prior to their last moo.  It’s the sort of “Hey listen to this” reading that romantic married couples do for a few minutes before the lights go out and we retreat into our individual dream cycles.

After learning the dangers of commercial beef, I was looking forward to tasting  the healthier, more sustainable, and more expensive alternative.  I just want it to be at least as good as corn-fed beef, perhaps even tastier.  But my first few experiences with it were less than stellar.

You see, grass-fed beef is so much lower in fat that it must be cooked at a lower temperature and for shorter periods of time than regular beef.  We had been told this, but it proved difficult to overcome a lifetime of experience that had taught us exactly how long to leave a steak on the grill.   As a result, we over-cooked our first few efforts with grass-fed beef.  When grilling or pan-searing beef (high heat, short cooking time), it is best to use a New York strip or rib eye, as it comes from a more tender part of the cattle, and benefits from both bone and a layer of fat.  And fat, my friends, is  flavor!

The fat of grass-fed beef is more yellow than that of corn-fed beef, as grass provides a richer source of Vitamin A.  Its flavor will be more mineral-driven than the more iron (blood)-driven flavor of regular beef.

We also found considerable flavor differences among sources of grass-fed beef.  Terry, our butcher at the Real Foods Market,  carries a brand from Argentina that we didn’t find as tasty as the Prather Ranch brand we prefer.  So we invited him over for a taste-off – he brought his brand and we provided the Prather Ranch and all were grilled in an identical manner.  Every taster could tell the difference in flavor without hesitation, but as for which was preferred, there was no concensus.  So you may need to try different ranches before you find a favorite!

Ingredients
1 Grass-Fed Rib Eye Steak per person.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
A good grill.  Mesquite or other hardwood chips add a nice layer of flavor, but I prefer my steak unadorned with extra filigree.  It’s up to you!

Procedure

Arrange your grill for high, indirect heat.  Grill your steak as you normally would, but muster every ounce of will power you can, and shorten the cooking time by a full minute per side.  Depending on the thickness of your steak, this might mean leaving it on the grill for only 2-3 minutes per side.

Serve with grilled corn on the cob and a side salad of fresh tomatoes with basil and balsamic and life won’t get much better.

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com

Today’s Quote
“Red meat is not bad for you.  Now blue-green meat… that’s bad for you!”
~Tommy Smothers (American Comedian and Winemaker.  1937 – )

Rating Cass Winery's 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine was selected for our June, 2007 shipment that was sent to subscribers of our "Maya’s Selections" wine sampling program.  Each member has been invited to share their opinions for the benefit of other members, prospective members and prospective buyers.

(A Note from Dave Chambers)  My apologies!  My first attempt at inserting these polls directly into this blog posting were a bust!  But I’ve worked with the folks at Vizu.com and come up with a way for past buyers to rate the wines (the default tab) and for non-buyers to see the results without rating it (Click the "Poll Results" tab).  PASSWORD = SIDEWAYS

CLICK HERE TO SEE REVIEWS ON THIS WINE!

Swclogogs3x3_10_2 Cheers!
Dave Chambers, Wine Merchant
Dave@SidewaysWineClub.com