Spaceman's Pancakes

Subscribing to the Cosmic Snowball Theory: A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won't matter if I write this blog


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What We Are Drinking: Raphael Estate Merlot 2015


I am a devotee of Long Island wine. It is a region that has a great deal of personal significance for me and one that I have a far more direct connection than the more heralded regions that are- sadly- far, far away. It is also a region that has substantial issues right now. Wine production on the North Fork began in the late 1970’s when the area was just farmland and fishing posts and the area gained what little traction it has in the wine world in the mid-2000’s, just about the same time I began venturing out there. More than a decade later, as the value of the land just North of the Hamptons is swinging up and up, the prices for North Fork wines have started to outpace their quality. The winemakers have improved, to be sure, but when your quirky Cab Francs are now twice the price of those coming out of Chinon, there is a problem.

One of the producers that has managed to make good wines consistently without getting too pricey for their own good is Raphael. Their Cab Franc, Estate Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc all retail for under $20 in most places and are typically a good value. I picked up the 2015 Estate Merlot for $15 this week and found it to be a good example of what the grape can do in the North Fork for the novice Strong Island hooch.

The 2015 Estate Merlot is deep ruby in color and the nose is bright with notes of cassis, blackberry and cedar with a hit of alcohol that signals the youthful bit to come. The fruit up front is tart. Blackberries and sour cherry run ahead of sharp tannins that could do with some mellowing over time. The finish is arid with a hint of black pepper a key flavor in many of the Long Island reds.

This wine is drinkable now, but there is some projection needed to see it get to its ceiling as it feels a little green overall. At the price, I like the value, but mostly I would recommend this wine as an introduction to the North Fork. The best reds from Long Island share some of the details in common with the Raphael Estate Merlot and bring different tones along for the ride. This isn’t basic exactly, but it no enigma either

50/80- could mellow to an above average pro at it’s peak.


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What We Are Drinking: Chateau Marjosse 2014 Bordeaux


The Bordeaux region of France produces some of the most desirable and collectible wines on earth, wines that are breathtaking in both taste and price. For the vast majority of us, those wines are out of the picture. It just isn’t happening. But, the region is vast and so are its offerings. I have found that it a place to go for reliable quality in reds running from $17-$30 a bottle, where there is a high floor for these wines and still the chance at hitting on something really great. The 2014 Chateau Marjosse didn’t blow me away as a rare gem for the price but it definitely came through enough to be a good value and a safe bet for a meal that needs a quality red wine beside it.

This Bordeaux blend features 80-percent Merlot and 20-percent Cabernet Franc and it is deep ruby color, almost black in the glass. The nose brings some black cherry, allspice, and suede notes. There is a nice medium to full-bodied feel on the mouth with a good deal of black fruits up front, soft chewy tannins and hints of tobacco and bitter cocoa on the finish. Basically, this is a great introduction to what Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends are like. There is a lot to like and there is some room for projection here as well, since this is currently a bit harsher than it should be in the future.

While this particular wine is far from the best value-buy I have found from Red Bordeaux blends, with a price tag between $15-$18 dollars, it definitely over-delivers.

60/80 solid starter Bordeaux with some room to age into itself


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What We Are Drinking: Wimmer 2016 Gruner Veltliner


White wine can be a tough thing to get right. There is an ocean of uninteresting, inexpensive white that is boring to drink, adds little to a meal and can only be positively described as unobjectionable. There is also a good deal of white at the low end that is just plain bad. So, I get excited when I find an inexpensive white that goes when with a wide range of foods and has enough complexity to stand on its own. Right now, those qualities have made the Wimmer 2016 Gruner Veltliner basically our house white for the winter.

This Austrian Gruner has a light yellow hue and a subtle nose that hints at flavors of lemon, orange, and pear with just hint of herbs. It is crisp and refreshing with good minerality, a hint of candied lemon and tropical fruits on the palate that is much more subtle than what you typically get from New World-style Sauvignon Blancs. The finish is bright and clean,  leaving only a pleasant lingering of acidity behind.

We had this one with Scallops and artichoke and chickpea tagine one night and with Greek-style roast chicken breast and veggies with yogurt sauce and it complimented the buttery seafood and the herbed chicken equally well. It runs under $15 for a 1000 ml bottle, so it a perfect wine to toss in the fridge for whenever you need a solid white.

55/80- A utility player that can hold its place in the lineup and bring a little pop.