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.


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Poem of the Day #23- 9/19/17


I don’t trust Vodka
It’s basically hairspray and I’ve had too many bad hair days
Gin I like though
On summer days
With lime and tonic
Something to steel me for the long boat to Mumbia and
Where there might be Tigers

I like white wine,
It doesn’t expect much of me
And I don’t expect much of it:
We have this special bond of modest expectations
With Red Wine, it’s not so easy.
She makes demands
She will not submit
She will aspire and she will fail
Or else inspire and seduce and leave me too disarmed
We burn up to the end and start again and
Isn’t that almost what love is?

Whisk(e)y I also love,
And why not?
It is, after all, the water of life and
We should all drink of that draught.
It saved Tim Finnegan too, you might recall,
And, for me, I expect it will do the same someday.
Mostly though it’s been nothing but trouble, but
Life can be that way.


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What We Are Drinking: Chateau Cornut 2016 Rose


I do not truck with those who would disparage men for drinking pink wine. Look, we aren’t talking about strawberry frozen margaritas here or some drink inspired by a character from Sex and the City. This is wine, and wine is good. Color be damned.

If you are one of the timid men out there, dodging roses for fear of its supposed emasculating effects, searching for your courage, or just someone with a taste for something not quite white and not quite red, I would suggest Chateau Cornut’s 2016 Rose from the Costieres De Nimes region of France’s Rhone Valley. This wine is made from eighty percent Grenache and twenty percent Syrah and over-delivers at around $16 a bottle.

On the nose, I got aromas of strawberries, cranberries, roses and a bit chalkiness or limestone. The tart fruits come through strong on first sip with a bit of nectarine joining the more astringent berries. There is also a salinity to the wine and strong backbone of acidity that make for a complex wine that defies simplistic explanations.

That complexity also may make this a tough wine to pair with food. We had a typical cheese spread accompanying one tasting of this wine and nothing quite worked with it. Fattier fishes such as salmon or  cod would would seem to be a match but not every preparation is going work with the tart cranberry and subtle musk in this rose. It did a nice job cutting the sweetness of some strawberry-blueberry jam we had in the mix but it would be a strange choice with dessert. I preferred this just on its own as a refreshing and still interesting summer wine.

55/80, a solid role player with too many limitations to be an impact player with most meals.


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What We Are Drinking- Zorzal Eggo 2015 Tinto De Tiza


I am not the biggest Malbec fan but on a recent run to the wine shop, I was intrigued by this Argentinian red which boasted a 94-point rating from Robert Parker’s wine advocate and the very reasonable price tag of $25. At that price, it is hard to say that this wine failed to deliver in any way. Yet, the high rating probably raised my expectations a bit above what this red could deliver on. Along with the Malbec one expects from Mendoza, this wine has ten percent Cab Franc and five percent Cab Sauvignon. 

On the nose, I got some tobacco and leather tones mixed with blackberry and plum, That is an intriguing mix, but the aromas didn’t captivate as much as that description might suggest they would. The tart fruit tones dominated upfront with a hint of cedar adding some balance. This wines strength for me was in the silky tannins and brisk, slightly acidic finish. It is easy to image this wine standing out paired with a fatty cut of pork or a thick ribeye and just crushing it along side some nice smoky barbeque. 

Overall, on the 80/20 scale, I would put this wine in a 60-65 range, well above average, but a bit short of mind-blowing. It is a wine that needs a soulmate with some smoky and earth and can probably reach up into the 70 range in the right context. Well worth the money, but probably not something you need to track down this minute.


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What We are Drinking: Rubus 2013 Shiraz, a reason to love Shiraz again


Back when I was first getting interested in wine, Australian Shiraz was just starting to develop some serious hype. It was easy to understand why. In the years around the turn of the 21st Century, Shiraz from Downunder was regularly a great value buy. It had a long history of success in the country, but it had fallen out of favor in the 1970’s and 1980’s before making a comeback in the 1990’s. Plenty of customers at the restaurant I worked during this time were unfamiliar with the grape and suspicious of Australia as a quality producer. Those are the kinds of factors that can lead to a varietal getting undervalued and overdelivering for the price. That was Shiraz 15-20 years ago, at least as I remember it.

It is not the case anymore. Wide-release brands like Yellowtail are out there now, giving everyone a sense, or better or worse, of Austrialia’s place in the winemaking world. At the other extreme, Penfold’s “Grange’s” perfect rating for its 2008 varietal put all the big spenders on alert. Shiraz now has to compete with the Old World Syrah’s that proceeded it and New World regions in California and Oregon that have embraced the grape as well. Now it is also far less likely to be undervalued and all too likely to underwhelm. Personally, my tastes have veered toward the Old World more and more as I have gotten older and more experienced with wine. Together, my taste and the downturn for Shiraz has moved me away from buying it regularly.

But the tasting notes from Wine Enthusiast for the 2013 Rubus Shiraz from the Barossa Valley region caught my eye, as did the 92-rating, which is high for a $14 bottle of anything, let alone Shiraz from one of the warmest regions. The WA tasting notes caught cedar and mocha notes, but I caught more tobacco and something almost caramel-like on the nose. There is a good amount of alcohol on the nose as well, which told me that a little time between pouring and drinking was for the best.

Rubus Shiraz

The real revelation here, however, comes on the first taste. I was hit with salt. Right out of the gate, that’s what I got and it was both surprising and welcome. The effect was along the lines of an Islay scotch, a touch of brine to kick things off. After that, I got a good deal of earthy tones, tobacco, ash, very dark chocolate and a hint of blackberry, all dressed in casual tannins and leading to a long, dry, and slightly tart finish. I am not sure this will send me back to the store to dig for other Shiraz bargains, but I would buy this wine again in a heartbeat.

Scouting report: Nose: 55, Mouth-feel 65, Taste 65, finish, overall 65, value 70