The Liquid Diet

This week it is all about the juice – grape juice that is – that has been fermented so it has booze in it!

Thursday November 3, 2011 at 6:14 PM MST:

I was invited to compete in the Taste of Elegance wine competition, which I did not win.  I just wanted to get that out of the way.  It was all about French style wine and French style food.  We had two wines with which to to pair dishes.  The first was a 2009 First Press Chardonnay from Napa Valley, and the second was 2007 Redemption Zin by Alexander Valley Vineyards from Dry Creek Valley.  The First Press we paired with Butter Poached Escargot with whole grain mustard, grilled wild mushrooms, fennel fronds and a smoked red pepper cream.  This wine led with some really bright acidity and finished with subtle American oak.  Not oaky butter bomb like way too many Napa chards.  The acidity tackled the umami funk of the escargot like Ray Lewis laying the pipe to some rookie quarterback! That is, they went really nice together.

I wanted to accentuate the softness of the oak flavor, so we grilled then roasted then smoked red bell peppers. We then reduced them in cream and made smooth baby foodesque sauce out of them.  Silky and smelling of smoked gouda, the sauce made that wood pop!  Sorry, inappropriate play on words.  The Zin was a big boy with a ton of dark fruit, tannins and black pepper, so it was going to need a ton of fat and some sweetness to bring the pairing together.  I went with Duck Leg Confit with bacon braised kale, fresh pomegranate seeds, shaved grana padano, and a dark chocolate balsamic syrup.  This dish was rich enough to stand up to the dominating nature of the Zin while bringing some sense of refinement with the sweet bitter balance of the dark chocolate and the acidity of the pomegranate seeds.  It was definitely a sexy and fatty combination which a lot of people were really into, and not just when people weren’t looking.

Sunday November 6, 2011 at 6:27 PM MST:

Tonight I put Colorado wine up against the rest of the world in a blind tasting to the death!  The #DenverWineCru, consisting of some serious Oenophiles such as Jacob Harkins (Local Winos), Kendra Anderson (Westword), and Sarah Gore (STANCE), was set out to determine if Colorado wines could stack up to other domestic and imports in the same style/varietal.  They threw down in Sauvignon Blanc, off-dry Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, and there were a few big surprises for sure.  We powered through almost 30 wines, so I won’t make you endure all the boring jargon and fancy wine terms we were throwing around with reckless abandon.  I will tell you that Colorado really held its own against the competition and even won a couple categories (Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) and only lost by a narrow margin in the Riesling category.

The winery that really impressed me was Boulder Creek Vineyards out of Boulder, CO.  Their Cabernet Franc and Riesling were clear favorites for me, and as I mentioned, the Cabernet Franc won and the Riesling was a close second.  The Thompson family is really killing it with their approach, which is a seesaw between high tech modern and old world technique. Whatever the hell they are doing they made me put my foot in my mouth again about Colorado wine.  All that mentioned, the worst wines of the evening were a handful of Colorado wines as well.  So, find a winery or a few wines such as Boulder Creek to support, and the rest need to get their shit together before I will touch their stuff.

A couple other Colorado wine makers to check out are Creekside Cellars, Alfred Eames and Denver’s own Infinite Monkey Theorem.  Colorado has only been seriously in the wine biz for about 15 years.  If you have seen the movie ‘Bottleshock’, Cali didn’t compete with the French until they had been making wine for nearly 40 years.  If we support, by doing what we do best and over consuming alcohol, we can help get Colorado wine where it should be.  Here is where I would usually make some awkward pun or rip in something or someone, but I got nothing.  Drink more wine, especially if it’s good and from Colorado then why not?!


Don’t get it twisted, I still like beer! I will always be indebted to wine for being my first glimpse into what was possible when passionate and talented people want to put a great adult beverage out there for all of us to enjoy.  No matter what you drink always seek out the best and be inspired by the people who pour their souls into every sip!


Quite a week in the life of THE LIQUID DIET…what will this week hold in store…stay tuned!

About Jensen Cummings

Jensen Cummings (@JensenDCummings) is the Executive Chef at Row 14 in downtown Denver. He calls his food "Pangean Cuisine" and his teaching style "Fortune Cookie Philosophy" so you know he's a little off his rocker! His side passion project is to collaborate with brewers on chef/food inspired beers meant to be paired with high end cuisine. Jensen is an avid beer collector, student of spirits, soon to be Certified Cicerone and a sommelier in training. Basically, he is just really into adult beverages and super geeky!