Mackerel Souffle

The first cookbook I ever got, and to this day still my favorite, is Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times Cookbook.  Not long after getting the book, I was asked to bring dessert to a dinner party.  I made chocolate-covered cream puffs.  They were a huge hit, and people were amazed that I hadn’t purchased them.   Cooking out of this book over the years since, Craig taught me that it isn’t hard to cook and eat well, if you are interested in doing so.

Although not widely consumed in the US, mackerel is inexpensive and highly sustainable.  Since it is an oily fish, it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.  In Japan, mackerel is called saba, and is sold salted and vinegared in sushi bars.  If you enjoy sushi, I highly recommend that you try saba.

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Waypoint Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

I couldn’t find anything about this wine.  Their website is nonexistent, and there is even a totally different Waypoint line from Napa now on the market.  Too bad, because this wine was really good.  Pick up a few bottles if you stumble across them.

Waypoint Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

This Cabernet is the correct dark red color, with just a tinge of brick; it is seven years old, after all.  The nose opens with dark, rich fruit.  On the palate, there is a full mouthfeel, with flavors of blackberry, baked plum, dark cocoa, and tart red currant.  The well-structured tannins, oak backbone, and just-so acidity offer great balance, making for a really appealing glass of Cabernet.  ABV is a robust 15.4%.

Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal Cognac

Click here for tasting notes.

Rémy Martin is one of the world’s oldest and best known cognac brands, with selections that range, at my local liquor store at least, from the $13 St. Remy French brandy to the $9000 Rémy Martin Louis XIII Time Collection: City of Lights – 1900.  (I have tried one of these, but not both.)

Rémy Martin was founded in 1724  in the Cognac region of France by Paul-Emile Rémy Martin. He was born in 1695 near Rouillac in southwestern France, the son of a vine grower.  At 19, he married the daughter of a local notary, and 10 years later, in 1724, he established a cognac trading house. On his death in 1773, the business passed to his grandson, also named Rémy, who was also the local tax collector.  In time, his son inherited the business, which saw a four-fold increase in the region’s trade between 1810 and the early 1820s.  In 1841, Paul-Emile-Rémy Martin (the family gave just about every male heir the same name, apparently) assumed control and oversaw even greater growth. He introduced the innovation of selling in bottles as well as the traditional casks.  An early skilled marketer, he added a logo to the bottles and cases; a centaur after Sagittarius, Martin’s zodiac sign, and registered the firm’s first trademarks in 1874.  Following him, as so often happens in dynastic families, the fifth-generation proprietor nearly bankrupted the operation.
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Asbach 8 Year Old German Brandy

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Asbach (formerly Asbach Uralt), one of Germany’s oldest and best known brandies, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2017.

The picture-perfect town of Rüdesheim sits along the Rhein river, the old town seeming as though it has always existed. It was here, in 1892, that the ambitious, 24-year-old Hugo Asbach (1868–1935) founded his distillery. In 1908, he registered the brand name “Asbach & Co. Uralt” at the Trade Registry of the Imperial Patent Office.  Uralt is German for “ancient.” and has since been dropped.

Asbach, a native of Cologne, learned the distillery trade at a local firm named “Export-Company for German Cognac,” and further improved his knowledge in France. Like other brandy producers of his time (as well as ours), Cognac was the ideal he aspired to in his own brandy distilling. And “Rüdesheim Cognac” was what he called his product, which soon became popular. After World War I, however, the Treaty of Versailles decreed that the word Cognac could only be used for French products, specifically from that region. Asbach pivoted and coined the term “Weinbrand,” literally wine brandy, for German brandy, which in 1923 became an official classification according to German wine law.

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Chalk Hill Estate Red 2018

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One fine spring day in 1972, attorney, private pilot, and wine aficionado Fred Fruth was piloting his plane over the Russian River Valley area.  Down below, he hoped he saw what he had been searching for: a property that had the climate and soils to grow first-class wine grapes.  Furth and his second wife, Peggy, purchased the land, named the estate Chalk Hill, and started producing wine about a decade later.  They gradually planted more than 270 acres of vines.  Years later, Furth said, “I have always been interested in wine because my grandfather had vineyards. I’m actually more interested in the working-the-soil aspect, but I have many very talented people in the winery who know how to produce a world-class wine. When I bought this property, I was told it was too hilly to be a vineyard, but I simply planted the grapes in rows going uphill. People said you can’t do that, but I’d seen it done in Germany so I knew it would work.”  After a rich and varied life, Furth died in 2018 at the age of 84.

Bill Foley

 Lawyer Bill Foley acquired Chalk Hill in 2010.  Although Foley is titled as “vintner,” I doubt he sees the interior of the winery very often.  He is a vintner in the broader sense of “someone who sells wine.”  He also owns the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights,  is the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors for Fidelity National Financial Inc., is Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for Fidelity National Information Services, Inc., and owns fifteen other wineries.
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Kelt Tour du Monde Rare VSOP Cognac

Kelt Rare VSOP
For tasting notes, click here.

First, let’s talk about brandy vs. cognac. Brandy is a liquor distilled from wine and aged in wood. (Brandy can be made from fruits other than grapes as well, but that’s a story for another time.) Cognac is brandy that specifically comes from the town of Cognac and the delimited surrounding areas in western France. (The one which has the most favorable soil and geographical conditions is Grande Champagne.) So, all cognacs are brandy, but not all brandies are cognac. For more detail on cognac, click here.

Until the early 1900s cognac was shipped in barrels. The long sea voyages had a profound effect on the quality of the cognac. When cognac started to be shipped in bottles, many felt something had been was lost. Hoping to recapture that quality, Estonian-born Swedish entrepreneur Olev Keltes established the Kelt Cognac company in 1988. He began his career with the study of the distillation of cognacs as well as madeira, rum, and aquavit. It was this study that led him to rediscover the lost secret that quality improved in spirits that were aged in barrels on a long trip at sea . It is this maturation at sea that sets Kelt apart from other cognac houses.
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Clase Azul Reposado Tequila

As you can see, Clase Azul tequilas come in some of the most distinctive bottles out there, made in the mountainous Mexican town of Santa Maria Canchesda, population 1,750. There, the 180 or so employees, 80% of whom are women who grew up in poverty and with little, if any, formal schooling, decorate each bottle by hand.  The entire production process takes about two weeks. And the cap isn’t chrome-plated plastic.  Oh no.  It is metal, that drinkers will often strike to produce a little ring after the pour.  “You may have heard people talk about ‘ringing the bell’ on their Clase Azul bottle, which was actually discovered quite by accident” mentions Brand Experience Specialist Saskia Iha. “In order to use a more sustainable material, we redesigned the cap which happened to make a ringing sound when tapped just the right way. We now consider this sound the ‘unleashing’ of the magic inside the bottle.”  Okay.
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