Saturday, October 19, 2019

Cahors Malbecs and American Wagyu Beef Asian BBQ #Winophiles

The #Winophiles bloggers are invited by Nicole of Somm's Table to explore the birthplace of Malbec, Cahors in France. Some of us are lucky to receive samples from the Union Interprofessionnelle des Vins de Cahors (UIVC) via the coordination from Jill of L'occasion. A big shout-out to everyone who contributes to the process! Malbec is a beef lover’s mate. Let’s take a look at how my American Wagyu beef BBQ plays out with the three Malbec samples I got: 2016 Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière Cahors, 2018 Château du Cèdre Extra Libre Malbec, and 2018 Château de Gaudou Le Sang de Ma Terre Malbec. First, let’s learn about the region.
CAHORS AOC – 70% Malbec + 30% Merlot/Tannat
Cahors is a deep red wine (known locally as Côt, Auxerrois and “Vin noir de Cahors”), made from grapes grown in or around the town of Cahors, in the Southwest part of France. Cahors is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) (Controlled designation of origin) in the French Southwest wine region, with the dominant grape variety of Malbec (a minimum of 70% of the wine) and a supplement of Merlot and Tannat (up to 30%). 
Photo Credit:
GEO & TERROIR – Southwest of France + 2 Terroir Areas
Along the river, from Cahors and the surrounding area to the village of Soturac, the vineyard follows the river from east to west for some 60 km. Although the eastern part of the vineyard is 75 minutes north of Toulouse, the western part lies on the borders of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, just over 2 hours’ drive east of Bordeaux.
Photo Credit: UIVC
The Cahors vineyard consists of two major terroir areas, Causse and Valley, with very different landscapes. “Causse” is perched higher up, at an altitude of 250 to 350 meters. This is the hillsides and limestone plateau terroir, which is less fertile than the terraces and less influenced by the river. Temperature contrasts between day and night result in the grapes ripening later, with less flesh but undeniable finesse.
The other area is in the “Valley”. This is a “terrace” terroir created by the Lot river.
·       The “first terrace” terroir is located closest to the river. It consists of young and fertile alluvium, with sandy loam soils that yield light, fruity wines.
·       The “second terrace” is five meters higher. This is a limestone terroir where runoff has extracted the finest and most fertile soil elements, with the presence of rounded pebbles. The more clayey soil, when compared to the first terrace, retains water, providing the vineyard with stable hydration and giving the wine body and depth.
·       The “third terrace” consists of two types of soils: a more gravelly limestone soil nearer the plateau, giving the wines great finesse; and a clayey-limestone soil giving the wines fruitiness and strength.
WINES –  Lamartine Cuvée Particulière / Extra Libre / Le Sang de Ma Terre Malbec
The 2016 Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière Cahors consists of 90% Malbec, 10% Tannat and is produced from old vines from the 2nd and 3rd terrace of the Lot Valley.  In addition to its intensity and complexity, the Cuvée Particulière Cahors exhibits a hint of licorice with the layering of smokiness, dark chocolate, and spices. The 10% Tannat undoubtedly plays a role in the added tannin that makes this wine uniquely complementary to grassy and fatty beef such as Wagyu beef.

The 2018 Château du Cèdre Extra Libre Malbec has 90% Malbec and 10% Merlot, and has no added sulfites. It’s produced from grapes coming from two different types of soil: the first terroir, composed of stony clay and limestone, produces straightforward wines with fine tannins, whereas more powerful and dense wines derive from soils composed of clay, sand and rich in pebbles. The Extra Libre reveals an intense aroma of red and dark fruit. It’s soft on the palate, well-rounded and fresh that will accompany well with non-saucy beef dishes.
2018 Château de Gaudou Le Sang de Ma Terre Malbec is a 100% Malbec, produced mainly on the third terraces but also on the limestone plateau in the Causse of the AOC Cahors by the Durou family. This wine is young, packed with black fruits and dominated by tannins. A dense expression of Malbec from old vines, it has a spicy character. A great wine to go with beef BBQ!
Standing Waygu Beef BBQ at Yakiniku Jiromau in Tokyo
A recent trip to Japan introduced me to the world of Wagyu (i.e., Japanese cows) beef, which is a heavenly experience for beef lovers. Due to the intense fat-marbling of these Japanese cows, the beef, especially the cut of the cow belly, literally melts in your mouth and has an exquisite taste and texture. It’s worth it even though we are talking about around US$5 for a piece of the size of a bandage.
Korean Indoor BBQ at home
To pair these Cahors Malbecs, I can’t think of a better alternative than this fat-marbling beef and found the American version of it via Crowdchow, which is an affordable way to enjoy Wagyu beef sourced in the US.
Yamamoto 100% Black Waygu Cow - Photo Credit:
The Wagyu beef strips I purchased are from the Yamamoto Ranch located in Palestine, Texas. With the help of modern breeding techniques, Yamamoto’s 100% Black Wagyu herd are completely traceable to Japan. The herd, all born and raised on the ranch, is comprised of the Takeda genetics the ranch purchased directly from this highly recognized Wagyu legend from Japan. The herd at Yamamoto are fed corn in addition to grazing on nearly 1,000-acres of Coastal Bermuda in addition to hay and a grain mixture. Yamamoto Wagyu are finished on all-natural, non-GMO hay and grain, resulting in a taste and texture only found in Wagyu — luscious marbling, supreme tenderness and mellow, beefy flavor.

To truly showcase the taste of this American Wagyu beef, I opted to do a Korean BBQ – an indoor grill that sits on a portable gas burner.  As inspired by dipping sauces used in the Japanese Wagyu beef BBQ joint in Tokyo, I have prepared four types of savory condiments as the dipping sauces for the Wagyu beef stripes: regular soya sauce, sugary soya sauce (reduced to syrupy consistency in the sauce pan), Ponzu citrus seasoned soya sauce and rock salt. I personally loved the rock salt with the beef as the true grassy and beefy flavors were unmasked, while my family preferred the syrupy sugary soya sauce. The technique to cook these thinly sliced beef strips is to put them on the hot grill quickly like 1 minute on each side. Dip them in the sauces of your choice and enjoy it with a bowl of brown rice as well as side vegetable dishes (e.g., Asian cucumber salad, sautéed mushrooms, stir-fried cabbage and scallion).
Although there are various degrees of intensity and complexity of these Cahors Malbecs, overall, these wines do a perfect tango with the fatty and grassy beef. When Malbec is a beef lover’s mate, these Cahors Malbecs are soulmates to this Wagyu beef!

Disclaimer: wines are samples. Opinions are mine.

Check out our blogger friends’ Cahors Malbec exploration and see what dishes they pair with these wines:

Jane from Always Ravenous explores the "Flavors of Fall Paired with Cahors Malbec"
Cathie of Side Hustle Wino looks at "Cahors  - The Birthplace of Malbec"
Jill from L’Occasion shares "Cahors, a French Classic"
Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be posting "Château du Cèdre Extra Libre 2018 Malbec + Cider-Braised Chicken Thighs"  
Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm samples "A Trio of Cahors Wine and the Pairings Served"  
Jeff of FoodWineClick! gives us "The Malbec You Never Knew: Cahors"
Linda of My Full Wine Glass shares "Newbies to Old-World Malbec Discover Cahors"
Cindy of Grape Experiences explores "The Old-World Style of Malbec from Cahors"
Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen give us "French Malbecs Meet Chinese Duck" 

Gwen from Wine Predator shares From Cahors: Biodynamic Chateau du Cedre Malbec with French Charcuterie

Pinny of Chinese Food & Wine Pairings matches Cahor Malbecs and Waygu Beef

Cynthia and Pierre of Traveling Wine Profs give us "Cahors, Hainan Chicken Rice, and the Stories Wine Books Tell"

Susannah of Avvinare will be Shedding Light on Old World Malbec from Cahors

Payal of Keep the Peas discusses Cahors: What Put Malbec on the Map

Rupal of Syrah Queen will posting Cahors - Tasting “Black Wines” With The Original Malbec

David of Cooking Chat pairs Mushroom Truffle Risotto with Cahors Malbec
Nicole will be "Bringing Home Cahors with Clos D’Audhuy" here on Somm's Table.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

A Roadmap to Explore the Granite Belt Wine Country in 48 hours

The Granite Belt Wine Country
The Granite Belt wine region is located in Queensland, Australia, and is famous for producing cool climate wines and emerging grape varieties, “Strange Birds”. This region is the highest wine region (ranging from 800 to 1200 meters above sea level) in Australia. With its unique terroir, longer growing season and deep granitic gravels, this region consistently produces wines of elegance and complexity. The region also has absolute freedom to grow any grapes that make sense to the owners, their customers, and their land. I have visited this amazing wine region two days ago with the #WBC19 crew and wanted to share my great experience right away. Here comes the "roadmap" that you can use to book and arrange everything you need for a memorable 48-hour wine excursion. Be ready for fantastic wines, great food, and proud wine people!

The Granite Belt wine region is approximately 2 ½ hours drive from the Brisbane Airport (BNE). If you have a designated driver or share driving among friends and family, renting a car is an option. The safest bet is to hire a wine tour specialist such as Filippos Tours, which knows Stanthorpe (the heart of Granite Belt) inside out. Burt, our driver and tour guide, has deep local knowledge of the wineries and can help plan how many wineries you can visit, given the time you have.

While there are quite a few motel options in the area, staying at the Granite Belt Motel, which is located in Stanthorpe, would be a great idea. Most of the rooms are recently renovated and have nice décor. Delicious breakfast can be prepared by the motel owner Lou. Some of the wineries also offer accommodation right at their location if you prefer to be more cozy with a particular winery.

Theresa from Heritage Estate walks us through her wines
Heritage Estate Wine, a 5-star 2020 Halliday* Wine Companion, has produced award-winning wines since 2004. Try their 2019 Fiano, which is a lusciously fruity and textured white wine. In addition to the impressive wines, pre-book with Theresa and Robert to sit around the 160 years old leather-topped rosewood table and have a grand dining experience. 
* James Halliday is a well-known Australian wine writer and critic, winemaker, and senior wine competition judge. Think Robert Parker in the US.
Brad from Savina Lane is pouring Graciano for tasting
Savina Lane is known for producing premium hand-crafted wines from single vineyard hand-picked fruit. Contact the owner Brad or Cheryl, to see if their Cellar Door is open. They are running out of current wine releases for walk-in customers. If you have the opportunity, try their 2015 Graciano, which has red cherry aromas and hints of dark chocolate and white pepper.
Michael from Jester Hill talks about his beautiful Rose
Jester Hill Wines is a French Provincial style vineyard, cellar door, and cafe in the Granite Belt. It has a long list of top-notched wines, ranging from the unique Sparkling Rousanne (methode traditionale) to tannic Petit Verdot. Michael, the owner of the winery, is known as the man who does everything in the vineyard and winery by himself. Ann, another owner, serves to-die-for hors d'oeuvre and platters to accompany your wine tasting experience in their out-/indoor cafe.
Ballandean Estate Wines, the oldest winery in Granite Belt, has been producing fine wines since 1932. Having the bloodline of an Italian family, Leeanne truly embraces the Italian tradition while optimizing the freedom given by Granite Belt to produce emerging varieties. Try 2016 ‘Messing About’ Saperavi, a variety that’s originated in Georgia. It’s a full-bodied, ink-purple red wine that would go well with beef steaks or lamb chops. Try also the home-made pasta in tomato sauce with a glass of Chardonnay or Shiraz in their Barrel Café.
Raymond from Golen Grove starts with the Whites
Golden Grove Estate has been awarded by the Australian Society of Viticulture & Oenology (ASVO) as the 2019 Winery of the year, including Winemaker and viticulturalist of the year. Raymond, the winemaker, has produced a full spectrum of wines that suit every taste. Out of the sparklers, whites, and reds, the 2018 Durif is a true stand-out. It’s tannic but elegant, a perfect red wine for game meats.
Twisted Gum Wines believes in sustainability and no irrigation
Twisted Gum Wines produces single-vineyard non-irrigated wines. Its owner Michelle is fully aware of the impacts (e.g., global warming) from the climate changes and aligns their vinicultural strategy to deal with them. Since the region is currently experiencing drought and unusual heat for the season, Michelle believes the vines that are trained to grow with a water source in the deeper soil will survive these climate impacts. Try 2019 Chardonnay that’s fresh and un-oaked, allowing wine lovers to taste the fruit.
Hidden Creek Wines are seeking a niche

Hidden Creek serves some alternative varieties such as Tempranillo Verdelho and Viognier, which are “Strangebirds” for the region. Andy, the owner, believes in making wines with a ‘niche’ that consumers will remember it uniquely from a producer. Try their 2018 Viognier, which is stone-fruit, textured, and has a hint of ginger. Leanne, another owner, also brews great expresso in winery's café.

Carefully done pairing between food and wines at QCWT
Queensland College of Wine Tourism is a joint venture between the University of Southern Queensland and the Department of Education, Training and Employment. The College grows its own grapes and produces wines under its brand, Banca Ridge. The wines are made from fruit largely grown in the surrounding Stanthorpe State High School and QCWT vineyards, and many of our wines are locally produced alternative varieties. Try their 2017 Methode Traditionelle Sparkling with a charcuterie board before a sit-down dinner at their Varia Restaurant. The 4-course dinner we had was carefully paired with wines to showcase the food.

Sirromet, O'Reilly's and Ocean View Wines are served at the #WBC19 lunch
Sirromet Wines, which is located at Mt Cotton Brisbane, is the largest cellar dollar that showcases wines from the Granite Belt wine region. Mike Hayes, the Director of Viticulture and Chief Winemaker, has 39 years of wine-making experience and is the ASVO’s winemaker of the year of 2017. A wine geek detail that was shared by Mike was the Paulsen 1103, which is a grape that can fight extreme drought and heat, may have a great future in the Granite Belt area. Try Sirromet's Sparkling Shiraz, which goes perfectly well with a buffet that features salmon, mussel, and cured meats. O'Reilly and Ocean View wines were also served at the #wbc19 lunch at Sirromet.

For keen outdoorsy, climb up to the Pyramid in the Girraween National Park for a breath-taking view if you can. On your path to the top or even on the less challenging paths in the park, you’ll see massive granite outcrops, large angular tors, and precariously balanced boulders.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Hong Kong “Add Oil”– Eat Local Flair & Drink Wines!

I learned to process the new Hong Kong after it has been through three months of anti-government protests since June in my recent visit. Being born and raised in Hong Kong, never in a day I felt sad and hopelessness about this global city I love until recently. I don’t have an answer in terms of how Hong Kong can break through the current perpetual cycle of political turmoil and civil unrest. I do believe Hong Kong will overcome these adversaries with strengths and the never-give-up attitude one day. 
Posters to urge political reform posted near Fortress Hill Subway Station
As I was wandering around the seemingly emptier streets of the old neighborhood on  Saturday evening, I walked passed a couple of the neighborhood restaurants which serve affordable local delicacy for many years – true good eats that can only be found in Hong Kong. I feel that the only way to resume hope is to continue doing what one does best and to focus on the positivity of life that matters to you. In my case, let’s eat some local delicacy and drink some wines!
The legendary and Michelin-awarded Sister Wah Chinese Noodle Restaurant has been serving noodle soups for many years. To make the signature beef brisket in clear soup, they use fresh local beef braised in stock with over 10 different herbs. Most items on the menu are at around US$6-7 each.
I ordered the beef brisket soup with vegetable rice to go. To pair this meal, I have found a 187 ml-bottle of Australian Hardy’s Nottage Hill Cabernet Shiraz in the local grocery store. This Nottage Hill Cabernet Shiraz is a great table wine, which has the ripe red berry notes that’s lively and easy-going. It’s off-dry and goes well with the beef brisket which is lean yet wrapped with a layer of fat.
Hand-shredded poached chicken is another local flair that’s perfect as a side dish. Using the chicken legs, they are poached, hand-shredded, tossed in salt and white pepper and served at room temperature. What’s so unique about this dish is that the chicken is sourced locally in Hong Kong – translating into freshness and the rich taste of a chicken.
Another cold side dish that is perfect for summer is the pork stomach slices. The pork stomach is washed carefully to remove any mucus inside the stomach lining prior to poaching. It is poached with Sichuan peppercorn, ginger, and scallion, and is then tossed in salt, white pepper, and a little bit MSG. The Nottage Hill Cabernet Shiraz is a causal daily red wine that doesn’t overpower these types of cold summer dishes.
These two cold side dishes are the signature dishes from Hau Hing Yu Kee, which is a chain store specializing in these affordable cold side dishes.

What a satisfying meal that’s uniquely Hong Kong! 

#TreasureHongKong #hongkongaddoil