Adventurous drinkers can sample Lebanese Arak as aperitif

January 16, 2012

Last Sunday, we put on a party for daughter Maggie’s hooding.  She chose White Clay Creek CC. They did a wonderful job from food, to service, to price. Upstate readers or those planning spring graduation parties should consider the venue. It’s an attractive room with walls of windows overlooking nice landscaping. In case you are curious, this comment is not a quid pro quo but by way of an acknowledgement. Everything was right from the menu. Manager Tim and Executive Chef Betsy did a fine personalized job for us.

Nicolas Morlet, winemaker at Peter Michael Winery in Cali, has some pretty good 2009 Chardonnay. La Carriere, 92 points; Mon Plaisir, 92 points; Ma Belle Fille 95 points; and Belle Cote, 93 points are very nice renditions.

Recently they were on the market, on sale under $80 each. These are valuable bottlings but, as you are aware, generally, I am not a fan of the method of single-vineyard designation to limit production, thereby raising prices. In the case of these selections, Morlet managed to extract enough difference in profiles to give Chardonnay aficionados the opportunity to evaluate the perceived value. I am withholding my evals allowing time to search out and sample the four side by side. I will revisit in February with my  appraisal.

For my Lebanese friends and others who may be adventurous, I sampled some Arak last Wednesday.  Arak is a unique liquor similar to Ouzo, Raki and Absinthe, with anise (licorice) nose and high-proof sweetness. Nice aperitif. All are not made equally. Look for the name Massaya; buy under $28; excellent digestif. Arak is distilled from the must of Obeidi grapes grown especially for its production. After two distillations, the alcohol is steeped in green aniseed until the desired liquor results.

Chappellet, an old line (relatively speaking) Cali Cab producer, showed 2009 Signature made from Pritchard Hill grapes. It is worth looking into. The barrenness of Pritchard Hill causes small, intense grapes in most years. 2009 provided a huge bouquet of cherry, plum, black currant and violets. Big, soft tannins support a mixed flavor pack of blackberry, cherry, cassis and spice flavors, and the oak barreling adds a soupcon of brown sugar or molasses. The finish is very long, lush yet clean, due to a properly balanced acid.

Buy under $50. Needs some time; will cellar through 2020 at least.

Snooth recently posted “Start your NY wine cellar.” Computer folks can go to
Although I take exception to a few ideas expressed in the article, it is a good start and full of valuable ideas. I really don’t advise most folks to maintain a cellar because it takes quite a bit of work.

Although the value is often wonderful, lack of attention or misreading how your tastes might change 20 years out can cause disappointment. It is a very rare person who continues to enjoy the same flavor profile over 20 years, and most of us change our diet also.

Therefore “food wines” that go with pizza and burgers may not support a menu of seafood or a healthier food selection.

Paumanok Chenin Blanc 2011, a 92-pointer from Long Island, New York, was recommended to be served with tajarin  and white truffles in a beurre blanc. Since most don’t know about tajarin, an egg yolk pasta normally served in a beurre blanc or a rich butter wine sauce from a tangerine, and the idea of buying  white truffle for a family dinner, when a recent Tuscany white truffle weighing 3.3 pounds sold for $330,000, may cause consternation to a few readers, I rejected the truffle and served the tajarin, beurre blanc and some porcini with the Chenin.

You can buy the Chenin under $270/case. It complemented the dinner beautifully. Pale-colored, it opened to grapefruit, pineapple, melon and apple.  It is bright, crisp and a great foil for the creamy components of the pasta and sauce.

Anyone interested in white truffles should read “Truffle kerfuffle” and related articles that can be found at

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