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Archive for the ‘Drinking’ Category

2012 Schiopetto Sauvignon Blanc

In Sauvignon Blanc on October 29, 2014 at 1:04 pm

schiopetto

So extraordinary is the expression of Schiopetto’s Sauvignon Blanc that he (like most vintners in Friuli) drops the color designation and simply refers to it as “Sauvignon.”  You should, too, because this wine is going to rock your world:

 A single glass will fill the room with aromas of lemon blossom, lime peel, kaffir, flowering white peaches and freshly rained-on granite pebbles.  These elements blend seamlessly to create a wine of extravagant depth and also refined elegance.  The palate is full, with hedonistic levels of fruit contained by a brilliantly cool minerality, which wraps the entire wine down into its 60-second finish. 

Schiopetto’s Sauvignon can be drunk now. But it will also last a decade or more in your cellar, becoming more pleasurable with each passing year.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2008 Chateau Gazin l’Hospitalet de Gazin Pomerol

In Bordeaux, Bordeaux on October 21, 2014 at 11:19 am

gazinThe Hospitalet opens with a wonderful ripe purity of black currants, the sweet smoky smell of caramels, a cedary touch of camphor and pencil lead, and a high-toned note of fresh raspberries.  All those flavors are extraordinary, but to me the palate is what is absolutely killer – only in Pomerol can wines achieve the stunning integration of tannins, rich and mineral fruit, and densely textured but intricately fine tannins.  It’s fresh, it’s delicious, it drinks now, and it will drink better and better for at least the next 15 years.

So don’t wait, but don’t hurry.  Power on through your first couple of bottles (cases?), yet also lay some down for the future – they’ll always be right in the pocket.

And one more thing.  While I love Pomerol, I don’t often get a chance to drink it.  Why?  Gazin’s next door neighbor, Petrus, starts at $13,000 a bottle in bad vintages.  l’Evangile isn’t far behind.  Chateau Gazin is usually around $200 a bottle.  This wine, while maybe not Tuesday night drinking, presents a stunning value.  And they only made 2,000 cases for the world.  Let’s all drink some Pomerol!

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

 

2012 Schiopetto Pinot Grigio

In Pinot Grigio on October 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm

schiopettoHailing from Colli Orientali del Friuli, Schiopetto will destroy any preconception you may have about Italian Pinot Grigio.  Because this wine isn’t just world-class, it’s legendary:

The 2012 opens with aromas of white flowers, honeysuckle, orange blossoms, peaches and juicy, fully ripe apricots.  These aromas are so intense that even the most casual of drinkers will nearly have their heads explode with imbibing excitement.  But the aromas aren’t over-blown like some cheap tarted-up New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  They are refined, tightly woven together and within each other, like a finely executed Verdi love duet.

The front palate is texturally dense, with a seamless core of fruit flavors that last all the way to the back of the palate and right on through to a minutes-long finish.  Along the way, a vast expression of flavors will leave you wondering where Pinot Grigio has been all your life. Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2008 Kunin Westside Paso Robles Zinfandel

In Zinfandel on October 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm

kunOne vintner I’ve come to admire over the years is Seth Kunin. While he is a great guy (and a good friend at this point), it’s his Zinfandel that I really love. This stuff is TASTY.

The 2008 is full of brambly fruit, baking spices, raspberry jam, and kirsch. It is openly expressive of the California sun, offering up a Zinfandel of lush, silky smooth depth and richness that speaks of cuddling up on a cool fall night (like tonight!). Unlike many Zinfandels presently sold, this one has some age in the bottle, truly bringing out all its fruit character. If you’ve never had the chance to have a Zinfandel at its absolute peak, now is the time. It’s harmonious, supply and perfect as a cocktail right now, yet has the power to last well through 2019.

This is utterly delicious wine and we’re offering it at a fabulous discount. Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2012 Rocky Gully Shiraz

In Syrah on October 8, 2014 at 12:14 pm

rgWith its wind-swept vines, temperature fluctuations and marginal soils, Isolation Ridge could be likened to the Northern Rhone of France.  Except that in France, little villages dot the hillsides.  Frankland River, on the Isolation Ridge, is way out in the Australian Outback – towns, let alone farmsteads, are few and far between.

Here is a Shiraz of such pristine elegance, pure fruit intensity, and mineral backbone and longevity that it is absolutely  a treat to drink.  Frankland River is cooled by strong pressure changes from the Indian Ocean, resulting in a Shiraz of explosively pronounced aromas: Violets, red currants, blackberries and baking spices all intermingle on the nose in a complex, harmonious dance.  The palate is driven by fruit, yet there is also a tremendous cut and drive of minerality.

There is no topsoil on the Isolation Ridge—hence this wine’s name, Rocky Gully— and you will detect that in the finish, which combines the beautiful spice character of a French Hermitage with the rose petal and cassis flavors of cool-climate Aussie Shiraz.

In a word, this wine is beautiful. Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2010 Rutherford Hill Barrel Select

In Cabernet on September 30, 2014 at 12:56 pm

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Crafted with the Bordeaux varieties, the wine opens with an explosion of blackberry, kirsch, over-ripe Rainier cherries, mocha and dark chocolate.  It is a luxurious Cabernet with a structure that is fully integrated, soft and incredibly supple.  2010 was a great vintage in Napa, with all the sunshine a grape could ever want to ripen to its full and maximum potential, creating wines of intense concentration and enormous flavors.

The winery has been aging Barrel Select for us for four years – and now it’s ready to jump into your glass and party.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2013 Honoro Vera Organic Monastrell

In Monastrell, Monastrell on September 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm

hvMade with 100% organically grown Monastrell, Honoro Vera echoes some of the top cuvees in Chateauneuf du Pape.  Opening with aromas of creme de cassis, kirsch, and blackberries, it seamlessly melds into an incredibly layered palate of blueberries, wet stones and spice box.  Like all powerful Mourvedres, it is muscular—with enough brawn to support its powerful fruit character.  It drinks well now (especially with a solid decanting), or will wait up to a decade in your cellar.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2011 Felsina Chianti Classico

In Chianti Classico on September 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm

felsinaAromas of blackberries, black cherries and Tuscan spices combine on the palate with an utterly sexy, Brunello-like, melted-white-chocolate sensuality.  The Chianti Classico tannins are firm yet lusciously integrated.  Again, the best comparison would be Brunello – layers upon layers of fruit build to a huge, explosively powerful finish.  The wine gives incredible drinking right now, but I have tasted  vintages back to 24 years old –and I can tell you there is no rush with this beautiful wine.  (So be sure to tuck some extra  bottles into your cellar!)

I have to tell you, I love selling this wine.

I was at Berardenga earlier this year, eating at a small café and drinking with several local vintners.  Chianti is an extremely competitive wine region, yet the one wine which all of the vintners could agree on admiring was Felsina.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2007 Sineann Lazare Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet

In Cabernet on September 9, 2014 at 12:31 pm

sineannBeautiful, stunning Napa Cabernet that drinks PERFECTLY and DELICIOUSLY right now.  Yeah, that’s right, crack this baby open NOW.  The good people at Sineann have been aging it for you.  Rarely do many of us get the chance to taste perfectly aged Cabernet: one that is right in the pocket of its most expressive, hedonistic and powerfully fruit-driven evolution.  Here is your chance.

The 2007 Lazare Vineyard opens with a bold expression of pure Napa: Aromas  of crème de cassis, blackberry, wood smoke, vanilla bean  and crushed rocks erupt from the glass.  The broad and expansive mouthfeel gives this well-endowed Cabernet its compelling, yet approachable, power, culminating in a lingering finish of raspberries and ripe Bing cherries with voluptuous texture.  It’s delightfully drinkable now, but cellar-worthy for 10 more years.  There were only 150 cases produced – don’t miss yours!

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2012 Yali Cabernet Carmenere

In Cabernet on September 3, 2014 at 12:17 pm

yaliOpening with blackcurrants, plum and wild carnation, Yali’s Cabernet Carmenere gives the hallmark and classic sense of Bordeaux: freshness of fruit; touches of cedar, pencil lead and stony minerality. A fascinating hint of eucalyptus daintily wafts out of the glass, adding an exciting note of complexity. The finish is delectably full-bodied and robust, with integrated tannins and a smooth, supple red raspberry note.  It’s elegant, abundant and tasty – just like a classy Bordeaux.

Yet for all its similarities to Bordeaux, there is one major difference – the price.  Everything is in our favor with Chilean wines – like trade and pecuniary matters— to say nothing of the wines’ quality and taste.  This fall is a great time to be drinking Yali’s Cabernet Carmenere.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2011 Ampeleia Kepos Super Tuscan

In Grenache, Mourvedre on August 27, 2014 at 3:59 pm

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Winemaker Elizabetta Foradori (of Granato  fame) creates a biodynamically grown wine deeply expressive of the region: long Italian sunsets drinking red wine on the lanai, the charred yet tender complexity of a beefsteak Florentina, the quiet calm of dining alfresco, with the Mediterranean air sweeping through the vineyards.  Can a glass of wine capture  all those sensations?   I believe so.  Elizabetta might argue for biodynamics, I’ll just argue for a great glass of red wine.

And that is Kepos – the winery’s blend of Mediterranean varietals from their vineyards closest to the coast.  It opens with a profusion of ripe black cherries, kirsch, touches of camphor and black tea, with a fetching high note of rose petal and cinnamon.  The palate is succulent, redolent in its Italian-ness but with a pure raspberry and blackcurrant fruit-driven energy.  The wine’s finish reminds me of its origins – near the sea, with a hint of sea spray, a tang of minerality, and the refreshment of a quick dip in the Mediterranean.  This is darn delicious wine to drink right now, and I say dive right on in.  But it will also keep for another decade.

The tradition of great Super Tuscan wines from specific vineyard sites continues to this day – with Ampelleia’s Kepos.  It was an amazing find for me, and is an even more stunning value for you – as Antonio Galloni, former review for Robert Parker notes: “Readers who can find any of these wines should not hesitate.”

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2010 Revello Barolo

In Barolo on August 19, 2014 at 11:55 am

revThe 2010 Revello Barolo opens with a nearly mind-blowing explosion of black cherries, plums, raspberries and rose petals that fills the room with its stunning aromas. Barolo is known for its tannin structure, and the tannins here are so seamlessly integrated that they create layers of superb detail—a fine delineation cut with clarity and precision. It’s almost if the Revello brothers have managed to capture the essence of cherries, raspberries and roses – a liqueur from each – and transmute it into the body of this exquisite wine.

In other words, drinking this Barolo is an otherworldly experience. And you don’t have to wait for that experience. This bad boy is ready to go now.

True, the wine has 30 more years of pleasure to give. But let me say it again – 2010 was a great vintage. It’s time to start your drinking. The Ravellos’ 2010 Barolo is ready to rock.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Gorgeous Auvigue White Burgundies

In Burgundy, Chardonnay on August 6, 2014 at 8:49 am

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2011 Auvigue Pouilly-Fuisse &

2011 Saint-Veran White Burgundy

The Auvigues’ 2011 Pouilly-Fuisse is elegant and full of charm, colored a pale gold with flecks of Granny Smith apple green. A complex bouquet greets the nose from many directions: notes of lemon, grapefruit and peaches, accentuated by almonds, hazelnut and flint. This is a structurally dense white Burgundy, with its opulence firmed by the wine’s naturally rich flavor. It drinks with clarity and precision now, yet as it ages will grow more intense and deep, revealing the powerful character of Pouilly-Fuisse.

Their Saint-Veran is a pale and brilliant gold and crystal clear. The nose has subtle and gracious fruit aromas of Anjou pears, white peaches, acacia and honeysuckle. The palate is fresh, round and crisp, lively from its first attack of apple and mineral flavors all the way through to the last lingering notes of orange peel and brioche. Saint-Veran is the lower elevation surrounding Pouilly-Fuisse and while it does not have the power and structural density of its bigger brother, this is an absolutely charming wine.

Don’t miss these two delightful wines. Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

The Heart of Tuscan Wine

In Sangiovese on July 31, 2014 at 11:57 am

palazzinoA dazzling display of black cherry fruit with hints of wood-fired cedar, blackberries, ripe plums, camphor and warm leather all leap from the glass.  The shale-rich soil is said to give these wines a great depth of minerality, and here it is on full display: the body is deep and muscular, with a richness of minerality and fruit purity.  It is deeply expressive of its origins and is a tribute to this great region.

Sometimes Chianti is thought to be simple, and maybe the price below fools you into thinking this one fits that category.  But don’t.  Here is a family about to make its 35th vintage with one grape in arguably the world’s best terroir for that grape.  Great wine need not be expensive to be spectacular.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

“The Birth of a Grand Cru”

In Cabernet, Rose on July 23, 2014 at 8:17 pm

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2013 Moulin de Gassac Rose &
2011 Daumas Gassac Rouge
It was an improbable beginning for what famed oenologist Emile Peynaud, winemaker for four of Bordeaux’s five First Growths, would term “the Birth of a Grand Cru.” Yet Charlemagne, the penultimate lover of wine, all those centuries before, knew what he was doing. Gassac’s steeply sloped, ice age scree-covered hillsides rival the best soils in Burgundy’s Cote d’Or. As Peynaud commented after just one trip around the property, “It is quite possible to make Grand Cru wine here.”Improbable, and impossible, but through heroic perseverance, the Guibert family has succeeded in bringing their wines to the attention of the world. We have two on offer, meeting the needs of all your summer drinking activities – from a picnic by the sea with rose, to a formal meal of roasted lamb with the rouge. Both are scrumptious.

The rose’s beautifully woven texture rests on a backbone of ripe fruit and mineral-driven flavors. It is a DRY rose, made from Grenache. Aromas of freshly picked strawberries, white peaches, hints of tarragon and rosemary spring from the glass. Its full-bodied texture is compellingly dry, leaving mineral hints of the French countryside after a light rain. The finish is crisp and dry, refreshing, urging you to drink the next glass – a perfect bottle for sharing in the afternoon sun.

 

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The pedigree of the Daumas Gassac Rouge hints at the power and longevity of the wine itself: born of the Languedoc’s greatest Cru translated by own-rooted First Growth Cabernet vines, this is very serious wine. Vivid and swirling aromas of black cherries, cassis, cedar, wood smoke, and graphite invite the drinker into the ultimate drinking experience. The wild countryside plays a part: touches of olives, roasted game, and garrigue add layers of complexity. The palate is succulent with integrated tannins, giving proof to the longevity of stacked and packed wine.

Indeed, just two weeks ago in London, the Guiberts hosted a tasting of all the Daumas Gassac Rouge wines they have ever made, back to 1978. All were in top form.

Don’t miss these two stunning wines. Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2010 Cune Rioja Crianza

In Rioja on July 17, 2014 at 11:43 am

Cune
Founded in 1879, CVNE (Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana) is one of the most renowned wineries in all of Spain.  Producing the wine Cune (the “u” was a misprint on the original label but the name stuck), the brothers Real de Asua started a legacy that continues with their descendants to this day.

To me, their 2010 Cune Rioja Crianza is the ultimate expression of harmony between modern and traditional styles of Rioja.  With the first smell comes the gorgeous expression of black raspberries, freshly hulled strawberries, and Chambord.  These are complimented with notes of exotic spices, balsamic reduction, violets and dried rose petals.  On the palate, its charming elegance is enrapturing: a lively minerality is balanced with Rioja’s classic silky elegance.

This wine is exquisite to drink now – it’s already four years old – but I also want to share with you a little secret.  Riojas like this one age extremely well.  I have had examples back to the 1960s that were some of the best wine-drinking experiences of my life.  Maybe you have a special occasion to celebrate from 2010, a birth, a marriage, a graduation; or maybe you are just interested in starting a cellar to understand the glories of old wine.  Whatever the occasion, don’t miss this wine.  Double, triple, quadruple your input and drink it now, tomorrow, next year, or decades from now.

For superb quality and value, Rioja is one of the best possible places to be drinking right now.  Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2012 Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone

In Cote du Rhone, Uncategorized on July 8, 2014 at 11:48 am

scRarely does it get this good.

This is Saint Cosme Cotes du Rhone.  Saint Cosme is justifiably famous – they are a bit of a Robert Parker darling with some of their wines soaring up into the high 97+ region.  But beyond the points, this “basic” Cotes du Rhone is just outstanding: full of fruit character you would expect of the Rhone (and a Parker darling): red and black fruits, richness, concentration; but also more: garrigue, touches of barnyard, complexity and depth of character, and a structured, long-lasting finish.  I believe this “little” wine could go for a decade or more and just get better and better.

But as you know, what really turns me on is value, and this hits it in every sense of the word.  I used it in a blind wine-guessing game recently where the final question was, “Is it $60, or $10?”  And everyone guessed $60.  And THAT was a group of wine professionals.

I love selling this kind of wine – it allows almost everyone to reach into the vast wine world and pull out something dramatic, completely made with respect to its terrior, and from a great, charming, individualistic vigneron.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2012 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Clasico

In Malbec on July 1, 2014 at 11:55 am

altosIs there a more ultimate wine for the grill than Argentinian Malbec?  I think not.  Argentina’s massive inland plain is perfect for cattle raising, which means it’s beef country.  And grilled beef needs a big, beefy red – Malbec.

But there’s a lot of Argentinian Malbec to choose from, and your Fourth of July party shouldn’t be with just any old Malbec, it should be with something special: Altos Las Hormigas Clasico. At Altos, they have specifically focused on raising their Malbec only in limestone soil.  This creates a wine of amazing intensity with complexity of flavors.

The 2012 Altos Las Hormigas Clasico opens with a profound aromatic expression of violets, plums, blackberries, graphite and minerality.  While the palate is tightly woven and refined, there is a lovely expression of sous bois character that adds a layer of complexity that rounds out the wine.  The lengthy finish maintains the wine’s attractive and multifaceted character.

This summer, load up on their Malbec and get your grill on!

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2012 Nine Walks New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

In Sauvignon Blanc on June 30, 2014 at 7:06 pm

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Is there anything more suitable for the patio and grill than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc?  Its ultra-fresh flavors of pineapple, passion fruit and honeydew melon deliver a zesty, fun-filled drink that is perfect for pounding alone or enjoying with seafood fresh off the grill.

For your July Fourth delectation, we here at Waterford offer you Nine Walks New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc!

Wild and exciting aromas of grapefruit, cox’s orange pippin, lychee, kaffir lime leaf and passion fruit practically explode out of the glass, while this wine’s crisp and refreshing acidity makes it perfect on a hot summer day.  The palate is smooth and rich, with notes of melon, lemon curd and citron.  It’s a delightful little treat, and it comes in at a delightful little price.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Temptation: 2011 Royal Chenin Blanc

In Chenin Blanc on June 24, 2014 at 12:31 pm

royalIf you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you will like South African Steen.

Let me explain: I don’t want to chill the world’s amour of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; I am merely reinforcing what Squeeze suggested years ago – that a fling with another fruit might be kinda fun.

To tempt you:  Royal’s Steen leaps from the glass with the fragrance of pineapple, Cara Cara oranges, pomelos and citronella blossoms.  On the palate it’s tangy and soft, as easy-drinking as it is fun.  It glides into your tummy, leaving a whispered kiss of honey flavor on the palate, rubbing you like a smiling Buddha for a job well done.

Steen is the Afrikaans name for Chenin Blanc.  Chenin Blanc used to be a big deal in America, as well as in France and South Africa.  It used to be as ubiquitous as Chardonnay, or (dare I say it) as common as a Sauvignon Blanc patio pounder.

As you drink the bottle, aromas of peach, nectarine, papaya and gooseberry tantalize the tongue.  The kiss of honey broadens the wine to a lush sensibility, a pleasure in wholesome curvaceousness.  It is the taste of charm – the dimple on a smiling cheek, a simple sense of happiness that enlivens the world: this is Royal Old Vine Steen.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Like Bordeaux, from Sonoma: 2011 Calluna Vineyards Cuvee

In Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot on June 17, 2014 at 11:21 am

cvc Chalk Hill is a transitional climate with the cool Russian River appellation just to the south and the hottest areas of Sonoma just to the north. The soil is stony and poor, with higher elevations limiting the temperature.

This terroir provides for some great Cabernet. And Calluna, a newcomer to the area as well as Wisconsin, is harnessing this great potential. The result is wines that have the intensity, balance and longevity of Bordeaux with the added richness and roundness of the best Napa. But even better still, Calluna’s wines achieve phenolic ripeness without the alcoholic jamminess that infects so much of Napa.

The 2011 Calluna Vineyards Cuvee is a perfect example of this: as elegant as it is powerful, this wine reveals notes of roses, ripe strawberries, acacia blossom, sandalwood and young blueberries on the nose. It is totally expressive of the terroir without trying too hard like so many sweet, alcoholic potations. The body revolves around a graphite, blackberry expression while remaining lifted as well as rich – a combination that makes it oh so easy to drink. It’s impeccable now, but will last a decade or more in your cellar.

The owner and winemaker at Calluna, David Jeffrey, apprenticed in Bordeaux with the esteemed Dr. Alain Raynaud of Chateau Lascombes and Chateau La Fleur.

Taking his cue from Bordeaux, David believes that blending creates a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. The Calluna Vineyards Cuvee (C.V.C), which includes all five red Bordeaux grapes, has all the strength and staying power of Bordeaux and the grace and suppleness of Sonoma. Don’t miss it.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

American Grand Cru: 2012 Kunin Sauvignon Blanc

In Sauvignon Blanc on June 9, 2014 at 8:22 pm

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If America had a grand cru for Sauvignon Blanc, it would be Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County. Meaning: Happy Canyon makes America’s best Sauvignon Blancs – by far.

That isn’t what the locals will tell you. They are far more interested in selling you Pinot Noir (Sideways was filmed here) because it commands a higher price. Yet Santa Barbara Pinot Noir is like Lindsey Lohan – it can take on too much alcohol, turning it into a hot, sticky mess. But Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t have this problem.

Grand cru might be too strong a word for southern Californians to handle, but it makes sense. The French, through history and tradition, have matched specific grapes with specific sites to produce high quality wine; hence, grands crus.

In Santa Barbara, there is the ideal combination of coastal influence and shallow soils. The Santa Ynez Valley in Santa Barbara boasts a rare east-west orientation facing out to the ocean, creating a cool coastal influence that extends a vine’s growing period to develop flavor and character. The shallow soil’s clay and serpentine rock mixture means the vines possess exceptionally low vigor, resulting in naturally low yields of intense fruit. Seth Kunin is a superstar producer (he was just featured in Food and Wine magazine) who crafts magnificent Sauvignon Blanc in Santa Barbara:

Straw-hued, this lovely Sauvignon Blanc beckons with airy scents of lemongrass, orange blossoms and neroli. The wine strikes impeccable balance on the palate upon the first sip with a silky, lush mouthfeel countered by brisk acidity and flavors of Meyer lemon peel, green almonds, cherry blossoms and light notes of honey. It is this mouthfeel that I associate with Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc: rich, yes, but also with an almost cream-like viscosity, yet it stays refreshing all the while. The finish is bright,fresh and lingering with a pleasing essence of lemon curd and wet stones.

For those of you whole love Sauvignon Blanc, or just love drinking wine, don’t miss this one.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Spring Fever: 2012 Markus Huber Gruner Veltliner Terrasen

In Gruner Veltliner on June 9, 2014 at 8:16 pm

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Is there a wine more eager to leave the bottle than Gruner Veltliner?

Like a Wisconsin spring that has been delayed far too long, Veltliner’s adolescent vernal instincts burst from the bottle, leap into the glass and slide gratefully down the parched palate.

Our spring fever for the flavor of Gruner Veltliner led us once again to Markus Huber and his Hugo Gruner Veltliner.

Located in the Traisental, that small area of lower Austria south of the Danube near the city of Krems, Huber’s winery isn’t exactly on the beaten path of wine-tourism. But this is to our advantage. Most of the area’s “vineyards” are actually just family gardens, tended with lots of love but too small to be of much commercial use – except to Markus Huber. Ten generations of Hubers have made wine in the Traisental and Markus, calling in some neighborly favors, makes a fun and fresh springtime tipple from these tiny vineyards, his Hugo Gruner Veltliner.

And like a morel hunter in a forest of elm trees, Markus Huber vinified a beautiful harbinger of the year to come: Gruner Veltliner Terrassen.

Terrassen is actually a specific, legal name, meaning that the vineyards are all terraced. Austria is a very hilly place and the idea (which I totally believe) is that steep vineyards create more powerful wines. However, they can often be too steep to farm. Thus, to make the vineyards workable, farmer build terraces, getting the best effects of the slope but also being able to farm the grapes.

The Huber Gruner Veltliner Terrassen bounds from the glass with all the eager enthusiasm of a child receiving unexpected May Day candy. Delicate pear and persimmon fruits intermix with an almost Chablis-like minerality that draws across the breadth of the palate. It is a precious little papoose of a Veltliner, pure energy and dimpled baby-faced smiles. It drinks quickly and easily, brushing away any concern over springtime showers. The finish has Veltliner’s classic spicy romaine note – a lingering touch of the wild.

It’s time to celebrate spring with Markus Huber’s fleshy, juicy, verdant, good-timing Veltliner! Cheers.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

White Cornas: 2012 Vincent Paris Granit Blanc

In Roussanne, Viognier on June 9, 2014 at 8:11 pm

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Robert Michel is taciturn, calculating, precise. This farmer is consideredone of the great Lions of Cornas, whom none have equaled. Through the graces of who-knows-what patriarchal god, he granted his nephew, Vincent Paris, a chance to learn the family business.

Vincent learned at the foot of this hard-worn farmer, and he learned well. Many—including myself—believe that this young man is already surpassing his benefactor, making wines of such intense beauty and complexity that they border on the unbelievable.

And beyond all of that, he isn’t resting on his laurels (or his inheritance):

Cornas is all red wine, all Syrah, by law. Yet there are vineyards in Cornas that face due north, and Vincent is such a meticulous farmer that he believes those vineyards are not suitable for red wine. The exposure, the sun, and the aspect all point towards white.

And so – and in complete violation of French law (and commercial responsibility) – he planted Viognier as you might in Condrieu. And Roussanne, as you might in Chateauneuf du Pape.

To a French grape farmer the reasoning is simple. Viognier is proven to work on northern slopes with severe drainage and not much sunlight. Roussanne likes stony, dense granite soil that’s high in nitrates. The north-facing slopes of Cornas alternate between these two terrain types.

Thus, Vincent Paris has given us the first Cornas Blanc. Completely illegal, yet superbly luscious and explosively intriguing:

A staggering and complex array of aromas leap from the glass – mango, nectarine, peach marmalade and roasted pineapple all interplay with rose petals, quince, pear and a crushed granite minerality. As bountiful as the best from Condrieu, yet as precise as a Chateauneuf du Pape blanc, its layered depth is fascinating to explore and will leave you pondering just where the entire bottle went. Let its power unfold in your glass, you will be greatly rewarded.

This is Vincent Paris’s Granit Blanc, and it is exceptional wine.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2012 Le Potazzine Rosso di Montalcino

In Brunello on June 3, 2014 at 11:03 am

potazzine

Le Potazzine’s 2012 “Rosso di Montalcino” opens with the textbook powerful and unforgiving regalness of Brunello – the sweet smell of Tuscan herbs intermixed with layers of Bing cherry fruit, poached Sicilian blood oranges, touches of cedar and warmth, rounded out with blackberry notes.   It has Brunello’s powerful statement of structure with a core of muscular tannins and integrated acidity.

This is a youthful wine, from what I believe will be a great vintage, and while you certainly can drink it now, I love my Potazzine Rosso with about three additional years in the cellar, after which they blossom into gorgeous, Tuscan, fresh-off-the-runway beauties.

Fans of Brunello take note – as Montalcino’s laws that require producers to declassify some of the Brunello to Rosso status now stand, we are at a great advantage.  Now is the time to buy.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2013 Chasing Venus Sauvignon Blanc

In Sauvignon Blanc on May 28, 2014 at 8:33 am

CV1

Dr. Richard Smart’s experiments in the vineyard are credited with making New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc what it is today. He raised the vine trellis system, exposing the grapes to sunlight.  He clipped off most of the canopy, causing the vine to focus on grape maturation instead of photosynthesis. These new methods  revolutionized the New Zealand wine industry. Gone were the wines that smelled of asparagus. In their place is the alluringly tropical Sauvignon Blanc that we have come to know and love.

And Chasing Venus is a perfect example:

Named after Captain Cook’s historic journey to track Venus across the sun that ended up in the discovery of New Zealand, this Sauvignon Blanc bursts with life and vibrancy.  Loads of passion fruit, key lime, ripe grapefruit and honeydew melon spring from the glass.  The palate finishes with white peach and papaya with a crisp, racy finish.

This is classic delicious-drinking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Cheers!

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2012 Stift Goettweig Rosé Messwein

In Pinot Noir, Rose, Uncategorized on May 20, 2014 at 3:41 pm

mess2

If every communion wine were this good, we would all be Catholic.

I’m not joking – this is amazing Messwein.

Saint Altmann, the bishop of Passau, found the monastery Stift Goettweig in 1083 just across the Danube from the town of Krems. The monastery was to be based on excellence in two occupations – vineyards and forestry. As the current Stift Goettweig monks put it, “Since that time, wine-growing has been the basis of the local economy, under continuous development.”

Monks are supposed to be humble, so I’ll put the quotation another way – these local boys have had nearly 1,000 years to perfect their winemaking craft. Think about it – this Messwein is not going to suck.

This frisky charmer hops out of your glass with aromas of morello cherries, ripe raspberries dipped in Grand Marnier, and subtle hints of just a dusting of cloves, nutmeg and vanilla pod in the background. And I do mean frisky – it’s bottled with just a touch of C02 under screw cap on purpose. This allows for no sulfur and leads to wines full of joy and verve. Hip monks, I tell you.

It’s made of 100% Pinot Noir, so while being beautifully vigorous and vinous, it’s also got Pinot’s charmingly soft sensuousness across the palate. Because it’s Pinot, and because it’s in screw cap, the monks prefer to release this just one year after vintage. They drink enough Burgundy to know that just a little extra time in the bottle coaxes out a sense of harmony and charity in the fruit character.

This is DRY rosé. The finish has all the minerality and freshness you need – the monks harvest early (around 11.5% ABV) to get a wine of elegance, purity and grace.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Champagne – the Greatest Food Pairing Wine EVER

In Champagne on May 15, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Date: Wednesday, May 28
Time: 6 pm to 7:30
Location: AP Restaurant
Cost: $80 per person, price includes nine Champagnes and all food.
Format: Seminar and Wine Dinner, RSVP required

For years I have been claiming that Champagne is the greatest food pairing wine – bar none. It is the perfect counterbalance to crunchy, fried, fatty foods. It foils citrusy, highly acidic foods to perfection. It shines with toasty, roasted foods. It harmonizes with fruity Latin, Caribbean, or Hawaiian dishes with ease. Yes, Champagne is the greatest food pairing wine. Ever.

But some of you reading this don’t believe me.

So, I’ve teamed up with AP Restaurant to present a night of Champagnes – a flight of three crisp, linear and intense brut zero Champagnes; a second flight of oxidative, massive, textural monster Champagnes; and finally, the prettiest of the pretty – a trio of pure Rosé Champagnes.

Can anything be better than Champagne paired with food? Come see for yourself!

Price includes all food and wine but not gratuity. RSVP to Waterford Wine Company.

La Ferme Du Mont Cotes du Rhone and CdP

In Grenache, Uncategorized on May 13, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Sometimes Robert Parker and I agree, and this is one of those times. La Ferme Du Mont has hit it out of the park. We have two of their wines on offer this week – at the lowest national prices. I’ll turn it over to Bob for the descriptions:

cdr

“More seriously endowed and loaded, the 2011 Cotes du Rhone-Villages Le Ponnant offers copious aromas of melted licorice, creme de cassis, blueberries and acacia flowers. This Grenache-dominated sleeper of the vintage is locked and loaded. Enjoy it over the next 2-3 years. 90 points.

 

cdp

“The prodigious 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cotes Capelan boasts abundant notes of acacia flowers interwoven with blackberries, black raspberries, licorice, incense and a touch of graphite. The wine hits the palate with tremendous authority, impressive purity, a skyscraper-like texture and a full-bodied, layered finish that lasts for nearly 50 seconds. This remarkable Chateauneuf-du-Pape has a natural yet seductive feel. Drink it over the next two decades. 98 points.” – Robert Parker.

We have Wisconsin’s entire allocation of these wines so get them now, before they’re gone. Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

France’s Value Gems

In Champagne on May 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Date: Wednesday, May 14
Time: 6 pm to 7:30
Location: Waterford Wine Company
Cost: $30 per person, credited towards a six bottle purchase
Format: Seminar, RSVP required

France makes some of the greatest wines in the world. It also makes some of the most expensive. So how to stretch one’s wine-buying dollar?

Seek out great buys, of course – and taste them beforehand. That’s exactly what we’ll do at this tasting. Search down some of the great buys of France, while taking a tour of this country’s fabulous wine regions at the same time.

Barolo and Barbaresco Festival

In Barbaresco, Barolo on May 1, 2014 at 12:16 pm

The wine of Kings and the King of wines: Barolo.

We are going to taste forty of them.  Does more need to be said?

Date: Saturday, May 3

Time: Noon to 4 pm

Location: Waterford Wine Company

Cost: $30 per person, credited towards a six bottle purchase

Format: Open House, RSVP recommended

This event will showcase some of the greatest producers in Barolo, Barbaresco and all of Piemonte.   It allows you to explore (at a friendly $30 tasting price) the complex issues of wine production, environment and climate that go into making some of Italy’s greatest wines.

But we won’t stop there.  We will also sample other varietals from these regions: Dolcetto, Barbera, Arneis, Gavi, blends, etc.  For the novice Italian drinker, this tasting offers an exceptional entree to Italy’s grandest wines.  For the connoisseur, this is an unprecedented opportunity to pick your favorites.

Mark your calendars – this is a tasting not to miss.

Wines to be tasted are listed here. It’s going to be spectacular.

Up-and-Coming Superstar: Vincent Paris’s 2012 Saint-Joseph “Les Cotes”

In Syrah on April 29, 2014 at 12:13 pm

paris

A single glass can fill the room with an explosion of red flowers, black cherries, and the elemental soul of earth, all richly choreographed together.  The palate has the strength that you would expect from a young Cornas –all the tannins and musculature for 20+ years in the cellar.  But these tannins are so silky smooth, so integrated, that I can’t help drinking the wine now, and with joyful pleasure.  On the palate a layered mixture of wet granite, blackberries, fermented tobacco, smoked black pepper and grilled venison.  This wine utterly speaks of the place it’s from: It is the essence of Syrah.

I am not the only one who thinks Vincent Paris is onto something.  Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate gave all three of Paris’s 2012 Cornas wines 95 to 97 points, concluding the review with, “These wines are some of the top wines in the appellation and readers need to get on this young vigneron’s bandwagon!”

High praise indeed.

Yet this wine – Paris’s Saint-Joseph “Les Cotes” is not yet rated – and that is to our distinct advantage.  When I emailed Parker’s Rhone editor about why he had skipped Paris’s Les Cotes among all his other reviews, he replied that Paris had not yet blended this wine from his barrels of Cornas.  Therefore, they both agreed that he would wait until next year to review Les Cotes.

Given this information, my argument to you is twofold.  First, a wine blended from three 95 to 97 individual parts is not  going to suck.  Second, look at the price.  Cornas generally starts at $50 and heads on up.  Essentially this offer is for one of the top wines in the region at pre-review, super-discounted pricing.

Special prices also available this week on Paris’s three single-vineyard Cornas. Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Like Cotes du Rhone, But Different: Tres Ojos Garnacha

In Grenache on April 22, 2014 at 2:39 pm

To

Since at least 1492, the makings for heady, delicious wine have been present in Calatayud, right down the river from Ribera del Duero in central Spain.  Think Cotes du Rhone, with a different name. 

 The plantings are Grenache, with a warm continental climate moderated by cool cierzo winds, a limestone-rich soil with a gentle slope down to the Duero River, and most importantly, old vines.  In the case of Tres Ojos, 40-year-old vines. 

 Yet this region is relatively unknown, thereby offering us a sensational value.   

 Tres Ojos opens with the fruit-forward knockout combination of Grenache’s ultra-ripe cherry fruit and lush blackberry character.  On the palate, an oh-so-easy drinking, fruit-forward combination of strawberries, cinnamon spice, and warm, toasty oak notes takes over, giving this wine a lush and round character.  The finish is full-bodied and powerful, with a core of supple, well integrated tannins.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

King of Cab? Jason-Stephens 2010 Estate Cabernet

In Cabernet, Drinking on April 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm

JS

Napa Valley is the undisputed King of American Cabernets.

But it wasn’t always, and in fact, historically, there have been many other valleys – Sonoma, Livermore, Santa Clara – that could’ve laid claim to being the King of Cabernet. And it’s worth exploring because Napa’s full-bodied powerhouse style of Cabernet is possible to achieve, at less than half the price.

Let me introduce you to Santa Clara Valley and the dynamic winemaking team of Jason Goelz and Stephen Dorcich. With their Jason-Stephens 2010 Estate Cabernet, the depth of their skills and the power of Santa Clara Valley show:

This is a sumptuous, fine-knit and fabulously concentrated Cabernet that hits all of the Napa Valley sweet spots on the palate: a gorgeous bouquet of blackberry, kirsch, creme de cassis, minerals and toast come soaring out of the glass. These soaring aromatics are matched with a palate that is exquisite and pure, boasting flavors of raspberries, blueberries, minerals and fresh toast. The 2010 is an utterly compelling effort that I believe will put Santa Clara Valley back on the map and break Napa’s patriarchy over California Cabernet.

For every Cabernet lover out there, all that you need is right in this bottle – except the price. With Napa’s great Cabernets now routinely starting at $50 (and quickly climbing far above $100) Jason-Stephens’ Cabernet has always been a great bargain. Now, it’s an exceptional one. Don’t miss it.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

 

Front and Center: 2012 Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc, Uncategorized on April 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm

CH

While some may claim that the clay soils of Sancerre or the gravelly earth of Graves creates the world’s most striking Sauvignon Blanc, I would argue that they have never tasted the outstanding white wines from Chalk Hill Winery’s estate.

With Chalk Hill’s Sauvignon Blanc you get the compelling Old World depth of taste and California propensity for extravagant fruit. Smells of fresh peaches, pineapple and pear surge from the bottle. The palate is extremely ripe – they believe in stirring the lees to enhance its already toothsome, luscious mouth feel – and carries the wine through its substrates of honeydew melon, lychee and mango flavors. It finishes with a lively, refreshing acidity and mineral purity. This is front and center California Sauvignon Blanc.

Curiously, one market that once considered Chalk Hill’s style of Sauvignon hackneyed, unsophisticated, and just un-elegant, has adopted it wholeheartedly – Bordeaux, France. Chalk Hill regularly plays host to aspiring French vintners, and the wine I always feel to be a kindred spirit is Chateau Margaux’s Blanc. To me the main difference is not in terms of style (Margaux’s Blanc clocks in at 15.5% alcohol with 33% new oak [more than Chalk Hill]), but rather price. Go ahead – I dare you to compare!

Enjoy this scrumptious wine as a cocktail on the patio, with a delightful salad of crab, avocado and grapefruit; or carry it on through a meal of roasted chicken with morels and ramps. Don’t worry, it’s bold enough to accomplish it all.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:
414-289-9463
sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Planet Pinot: Planet Oregon Pinot Noir

In Drinking, Pinot Noir on April 1, 2014 at 4:30 pm

planetpinot

Tony Soter is making one of the most exciting wines in Willamette Valley – Planet Oregon Pinot Noir.

Not only is Planet Oregon Pinot Noir burs­­ting with strawberry and raspberry fruit aromas, but it’s also got layers of sweet spice complexity, sous bois, and truffle aromas rounded out with a deep, rich black cherry fruit taste on the finish. It’s delicious and drinks with joyful, juicy fun right now.

But that’s not all. Tony’s got a story to tell about that name, and I’ll try and live up to it in my retelling:

First, Tony didn’t start as a winemaker in Oregon. He started as a wine consultant in Napa Valley. But not just any winemaking consultant. He was the Big Man in Napa for a while, working for Shafer, Araujo, Spottswoode, Viader, Dalla Valle – all Napa luminaries.

Then Tony returned home to the Willamette Valley to raise a family – and to bring something back to the countryside he grew up in. First he founded Soter Vineyards, which produces dramatic (and highly allocated) Pinot Noirs.

Yet he wanted to do something more.

You see, vineyards can do a lot of damage to Mother Nature – they can be chemically intensive, water intensive, cause deforestation, cause habitat destruction, and more. The usual way to “combat” this significant land usage is through government regulation.

But Tony didn’t want that. Having seen lawsuits unfold in Napa (14 years of legal battles and still no Calistoga AVA) Tony, along with other Oregon pioneers, has worked to set up a voluntary organization that emphasizes sustainable agriculture. From my visits to Oregon, I am sure these pioneers would want me to point out that it’s sustainability for Everyone – farmers, winemakers, and all the other land-users of the Willamette Valley (even the salmon). Hence Planet Oregon Pinot.

So in short: All the vineyards are certified sustainable as well as the winery. Tony keeps the price in line so that it works for Everyone. And you, the most important person of all, get a delicious Pinot Noir that is silky, fresh, and bounds with fresh cherry and berry aromas.

As Tony puts it: “Our purpose is to produce persuasively good Oregon Pinot for people uninterested in pomp, pretense or posturing.”

This is delicious stuff.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:
414-289-9463
sommelier@waterfordwine.com

A Land of Opportunity, Henriques H, A Cotes du R…

In Cote du Rhone, Drinking on March 17, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Henriques

The comparisons could abound:

A Côtes du Rhone-like seamless integration of Grenache’s bold-drinking red cherry fruit character, matched with a charming clove and vanilla spice note; Syrah’s plum, wild carnation, and black currant fruit; and finally, Carignan’s mineral clarity and lengthy finish. Yes, it’s one of those French vins de plaisir wines – delicious as a cocktail, and a match for foods ranging from spicy grilled fatty fish, roasted leg of lamb, or braised short ribs. “A wine for pleasure” indeed.

But comparisons rarely abound, because Henriques “H” is not from the Côtes du Rhone. It’s from the Côtes du Roussillon.

The Roussillon is on the Mediterranean crescent side of France, tucked in at border with Spain. Some would say the Roussillon is the armpit of France’s wine production; others would simply call it a backwater. But I call it a land of opportunity.

Why?

Because in the Côtes du Roussillon all the rules, all the wine laws, all the weird French restrictions on how wine can or cannot be made, who picks it and when where and why, aren’t there. In other words, to my palate, this is the “Super Tuscan” part of France, where the quest is for the best possible wine, regardless of the government.

And in Henriques “H” it shows:

A blast of Côtes du Rhone-like cassis and raspberry fruit is followed by hints of coconut milk, allspice, anise and black pepper. The aromas pull you in, encouraging you to drink. They offer a hedonistic interpretation of the Mediterranean’s coastal climate.

The wine doesn’t stop there. It is still true to French wine: a small eruption of minerality, just a hint of Granddad’s cows, the smooth richness of old-cask maturity. In a word, this wine is complex: layered, with a rich expression of fruit and a strong sense of terroir.

Henriques, with its grape blend and expression of flavor, could be compared to a Côtes du Rhone (or a Châteauneuf-du-Pape, at that!) But no matter. This wine is an outlaw, and it’s all the better for it.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:
414-289-9463
sommelier@waterfordwine.com

You Have Shoveled, Now Get Plowed!

In Cabernet, Drinking on December 14, 2013 at 4:06 pm

The Cabernet Festival is on – come snow or shine.

 

The Cabernet Festival: Napa, Bordeaux, and Beyond

Date: Saturday, December 14

Time: Noon until 4 pm

Location: Waterford Wine Company

Cost: $30 per person, credited towards a six bottle purchase

Format: Open House, RSVP recommended

Wines to be tasted:

2006 Cos d’Esournel, Saint Estephe $249.99

2006 Château Pichon Longueville Baron, Paulliac $189.99

2006 Rauzan Segla “Segla” Margaux $54.99

2009 Chateau de Fieuzal Rouge, Pessac Leognan $69.99

2009 Gazin Le Hospitalet d’ Gazin Pomerol $79.99

2010 Chateau Moulin de Tricot Margaux  $49.99

2008 Domaine Jaugaret “St. Julien” $89.99

2009 Chateau Haut-Segottes St. Emilion Grand Cru $44.99

2009 Chateau La Peyre St. Estephe  $44.99

2010 Joguet Chinon Cuvee de Terroir $26.99

2010 Bernard Baudry Chinon “Clos Guillot” $31.99

2011 Far Niente Estate Cabernet Napa Valley $129.99

2009 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet $149.99

2010 Darioush “Signature” Napa Valley $89.99

2008 Viader Napa Valley $99.99

2010 Corison Napa Valley $84.99

2010 Groth Napa Valley $59.99

2011 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California $54.99

2010 Coho Cabernet Sauvignon, Summit Vine Ranch-Diamond Mountain $59.99

2011 Laurel Glen Counterpoint, Sonoma Mountain $31.99

2010 Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Santa Cruz Mountains $49.99

2011 Honig Napa Valley $44.99

2011 Eberle Vineyard Select Paso Robles $19.99

2009 Chimney Rock Napa Valley $74.99

2009 Cade Cuvee Howell Mountain $64.99

2010 Artesa Elements Cabernet Napa Valley $19.99

2003 Scherrer Cabernet Sauvignon, Scherrer Estate, Alexander Valley $69.99

2010 Gramercy Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, Washington $54.99

2010 Hedges Red Mountain Cuvee, Red Mountain, Washington $29.99

2010 Owen Roe Cabernet Franc, “Rosa Mystica”, Washington $44.99

2009 Vina Cobos Bramare Lujan de Cuyo Vineyard Mendoza, Argentina $39.99

2010 Rustenberg John X Merriman, Stellenbosch, South Africa $31.99

2010 Marcato “La Giareta” Cabernet Franc, Colli Berici DOC, Veneto $16.99

2009 Montevetrano Colli di Salerno IGT $94.99

2009 Poggio Al Tesoro Sondraia Super Tuscan $54.99

2009 Maculan Brentino Super Tuscan $21.99

2011 Montesecondo “Rosso del Rospo”, Bolgheri Sassicaia, Italy $29.99

2010 Chateau Lafite Rothschild’s Los Vascos Le Dix Chile, Maipo Valley $64.99

2010 Clos Ouvert “Primavera”, Maipo Valley, Chile $34.99

2007 Leeuwin Art Series Cabernet, Margaret River, Australia $64.99

 

 

 

 

A Rare Exception: Silverado Vineyards Estate Grown Cabernet

In Cabernet, Drinking on December 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Silverado

 

Silverado is one of those rare exceptions in Napa Valley: a three generation family owned winery crafting only estate grown wines and charging a fair price for them.  I can’t think of anyone else in Napa who can string those three clauses together truthfully.

Planted in the 1970s by Ron and Diane Miller, the Silverado Vineyard takes its name from the abandoned mining town at the southern end of Napa Valley (the vineyard is also the start of the famous Silverado Trail, with the same namesake).

In 1978 the Milers were one of the first of three families to plant Cabernet in the Stag’s Leap District of Napa.  By the middle of the next decade that Cabernet was winning international wine competitions, and in the middle of the 90s Silverado Cabernet tops the Wine Spectator top 100 list as well becoming one of three designated “heritage” clones of Cabernet at UC Davis.

That same Cabernet vineyard and that same family creates the Cabernet of today:

The 2009 vintage opens with an effusive and beautiful bouquet of blackberries, baking spices, rich mocha and cedar, followed by graphite and pencil lead.  In addition to its friendly price (see below)Silverado vineyards have held this back in their cellar – it’s the 2009 vintage, and it drinks amazing now: the palate is supple and silky, with its voluptuously smooth tannins fully integrated bringing a black cherry and kirsch flavor to the finish.  I started drinking it as a cocktail, assuming I was going to share it at Thanksgiving dinner.  Instead, I finished the bottle all by myself, in the kitchen – it’s just that good.

In Napa Cabernet, it’s the new that’s news, and a big splash is almost always concomitant with a big price.  But there is no reason for this.  Think about Bordeaux, or Italian Super Tuscans, or anywhere else in the world growing great Cabernet (or California Zinfandel for that matter) – it’s the venerable, old-vine vineyards that are considered great, not the newest juice from the press mill.

Silverado a rare exception: some of the oldest Cabernet vines in Napa, one of the longest and most successful wine-making families in Napa, who, in their words “try and offer our best wine at a fair price.”  Now that’s the holiday spirit.  Cheers!

2009 Silverado Vineyards

Estate Grown Napa Cabernet

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability.

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Romain Papilloud Cave du Vieux Moulin Cornalin de Vetroz

In Cornalin, Drinking on December 14, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Corna

 

Here is one from the far ends of the earth…

Vetroz is a four square mile township, two mountain passes beyond Mont Blanc, in the middle of the Swiss Alps.  It contains the Grand Cru of the red grape Cornalin.  Romain Papilloud, at his winery Cave du Vieux Moulin, is considered its greatest practitioner.

Yes, this wine is from an unknown region at the far end of the earth.  So, I am writing because I think this wine is something important, no matter how small the area, no matter how unknown the wine.

Keep in mind, every great wine region was once unknown.  Napa in the 70s?  Chateauneuf du Pape before Robert Parker?  Even further back, Brits once refused to drink Bordeaux when they could have Madarin and Cahors.

I have drunk Papilloud’s Cornalin three times, and each time been entranced.  Here are my thoughts:

The wine is of two parts.

The first is the smell, which is pronounced and nuanced, yet also very fruit driven, and excitingly so.  There are aromas of black cherries, very ripe strawberries, fennel and anise, touches of pine trees, air blown off a glacier (hey, it’s made on a Mountain, why not?), and minerals.  The nose is a gracious [graceful?] ballet dancer, making me think the wine is all play and ease, that this will be a gulpable experience.

The second part is the palate, which is opulent but very firm, and very precise.  Not “grippy”, certainly not chewy. In fact, I don’t even really feel like it’s all that tannic.  Its precision and firmness is in its minerality and finish, both of which I find to be extraordinary and incredibly enjoyable.

In my somewhat limited experience in the wine world I have encountered this type of palate before – in wines that are destined for the long haul and, quite frankly, destined for greatness.  The two parts, with time in the cellar, will become a harmonious whole.

The first glass told me I wanted to enjoy this wine more, the second told me I wanted it in my cellar, the third told me I needed to share it with trusted friends who would understand and appreciate it, the fourth and final told me I would share it with you on its birthday 10, 20, maybe even 30 years on.

Tiny production and tight allocation means that the scant share that came to the U.S. was split between high-end Swiss restaurants, the darling somms of New York City, and me (hey, who said Milwaukee isn’t trendy).  If you can tuck away a bottle or two, it may take a while, but you will be richly rewarded.

2010 Romain Papilloud “Cave du Vieux Moulin” Cornalin de Vetroz

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability.

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Brandborg Benchlands

In Drinking, Pinot Noir on November 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Brandborg Benchlands

Nothing is better than drinking wine with good friends.  One step further is drinking a friend’s great wine.  So it is with the Brandborg’s Pinot Noir.

We’ve been supporting Terry and Sue Brandborg’s since the 2002 vintage.  They’re good friends, and I couldn’t be happier recommending their delicious, fresh, and smooth Benchlands Oregon Pinot Noir for your Thanksgiving table:

Aromas of pomegranate, orange zest, red and black cherries pop from the glass with a joyful, vibrant and delicious expression of hedonism.  The palate is rich enough in red Pinot Noir fruit to cocktail, yet not so weighty that it interferes with the turkey dinner yet to come.  It’s the 2009 vintage from Oregon, a forward drinking vintage and ready to go now, but, if you wanted to, it will cellar for ten more years.

Nothing is better than Thanksgiving Turkey, wine, and good friends.  You may not yet know Terry and Sue Brandborg, but you can, through their Pinot.  Their Benchlands Oregon Pinot is the perfect match for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Cheers!

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

414-289-9463

2011 Domaine Barmes Buecher Rosenberg Gewurztraminer

In Drinking, Gewurztraminer on November 22, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Barmes Gewurtz 3

 

Gewürztraminer.

You might be able to pronounce it, but you need it.  Call it Grandma’s wine, call it sweet wine, call it what you will, you know Grandma, or smelly uncle Joe, is going to demand it.

Sure, the lowest common denominator will do.  Yet, how ‘bout this Thanksgiving, surprise everyone, including yourself – bring something of quality, something that you can enjoy but is still priced for them.

Gewürztraminer: a white wine, from Italy, with a German name, yet most prominent in Alsace France.  Talk about a confused identity.

But despite its confusing umlauts and heritage, Domaine Barmes Buecher’s Gewürztraminer produces a wine of extraordinary complexity, depth and richness, that is perfect for the Thanksgiving table:

Light gold colored a floral nose reveals aromas of lychee, cherry, mango, and layers upon layers of exotic fruit.  On the palate a flavored richness of spiced pears, wet stones and candied fruits vie for the drinker’s attention. Full bodied and silky textured, this sultry rich white wine comes across with such hedonistic voluptuousness that everyone will love it.

But more importantly, Grandma’s gonna love you for bringing it.  Home run.

 

Please contact us regarding pricing availability:

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

414-289-9463

 

2007 Woodenhead Martinelli Road Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel

In Drinking, Zinfandel on November 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Woodenhead Zinfandel 2

 

Your Turkey may need to be spanked off the table, and I have got the wine to do it – Woodenhead’s Martinelli Vineyard Zinfandel.

In all seriousness, think of the Turkey dinner: cranberry sauce, apple and sausage stuffing, bacon dripping reduction sauce, pancetta and foie gras stuffed turkey – there is allot of flavors on that plate.

And the more flavors, the bolder you can make the wine.  Hence, Zinfandel, and none other than the great Martinelli Vineyard Zinfandel made by Woodenhead:

The Martinelli Vineyard’s 133 year old vines produce a spectacular Zinfandel with pronounced aromas of vine ripened raspberries, poached cherries, and chocolate – almost reminiscent of black forest cake!  This is the same vineyard that makes Martinelli’s own 96 to 97 point garnering Zinfandel, with just a different family member securing its produce.

The palate is robust, supple and velvety-textured, show casing all of its full throttle flavors.  None other than Robert Parker makes the comment that he likes his Zinfandels at six years of age for mximum intensity of fruit and complexity.  This bottle is right at that perfect point – matured and utterly delicious as soon as the cork is pulled.  It’s amazing as a cocktail, but don’t be surprised when it pairs perfectly with the Turkey dinner.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

414-289-9463

Terroir: Domaine Louis Magnin Roussette de Savoie

In Drinking on November 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Neal Rosenthal, the iconic American wine importer, once looked me in the eye and said:

“Roussette is the great white grape of the Savoie. And this is its grand cru and greatest producer.”

He continued: “Wines like this drive my passion and conviction for great wine — you cannot make this anywhere else and nothing else can taste like this.”

He spoke the truth. And it’s in the glass:

Roussette is the historical name for the Altesse grape, which produces dry, still, white wines with a nose of violets, peach leaves, and mountain herbs finishing on the palate with flavors of minerals, bergamot, honey and hazelnut.

Magnin’s Roussette comes from the village of Jongieux, on the steepest south facing vineyard of Marestel, from vines that have never seen phylloxera.  The result is a concentrated and rich dry white wine that “deserves at least five to seven years of cellaring to show its full potential” (to go back to Neal) – all at 12.5% alcohol.

The result, to me, is a wine of intense engagement and passion, such a delicious and clear sense of terroir that I just had to drink it, and cellar it.

Terroir, and only terroir, has inspired Neal for forty years.  I hope it is what inspires me, I believe it inspires you.

Good wine is where you find it.  The proof is waiting for your glass.

“A Standout… richness and sophistication beautifully melded together”

In Champagne, Drinking on November 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Moutard

 

Nobody ever regrets drinking, giving, receiving, or bathing in a bottle of Champagne (at least not Marylyn Monroe or NASCAR drivers).  Yet Americans drink Champagne only once a year, at New Years.

Let’s change this.  Let’s drink Champagne all the time.  And here’s how:

The Côte des Bar is a special section of Champagne that is both warmer and sits on limestone (like Burgundy’s Côte d’Or).  Down in the Côte des Bar lives the lovely Moutard Diligent family.  While they have lived in Champagne since the 17th century, the Côte des Bar is so far removed from the commercial center of Champagne that the family, and the region’s wines, have gone relatively unnoticed.  And this is much to our advantage – their prices don’t carry the “downtown” price tag.

So let’s start drinking!

Their Rosé de Cuvaison opens with wild and intense aromas of fresh raspberries, guava, and croissants hot from the oven, stuffed with praline cream.  The mid-palate reveals the terroir of the Cote des Bar, merging the richness of its Pinot Noir flavors of black cherries, Framboise and a hint of sous bois adding depth and breadth to the palate.

Although perfect any time, this Champagne seems custom made for Autumn. Indeed, this Rosé Champagne fits perfectly in November’s cool weather, offering up a sumptuous cocktail full of body and verve or pairing smartly with a dinner of roasted salmon.

Champagne is one of those exciting regions of the world where if you are willing to explore just a little beyond the standard offerings, a wealth of exciting (and frankly, value-driven), spectacular wines awaits.

Let’s drink Champagne whenever we can!  Cheers!

Moutard Champagne Rosé de Cuvaison

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463.

 

Curiously Naughty Brunello: Caparzo Sangiovese Rosso

In Drinking, Sangiovese on November 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Caparzo

The laws of Brunello are a curious thing.

Yes Brunello – one of the most intense, long-lasting, and historically important wines in Italy.

Yet Brunello is, technically speaking, several different things.  First, Brunello is a grape — “the little dark one”.  Brunello is also a region, surrounding the hillsides of the town of Montalcino, as its full name Brunello di Montalcino, suggests.  And finally, Brunello is a set of laws, in Italy known as DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).  And this is where things get interesting.

Like all DOCGs, Brunello’s mandates grape type, vineyard area, oak treatment and aging.  But Brunello’s goes further – stipulating the maximum vineyard yield (4.7 tons / acre) as well as the maximum production of Brunello from a winery as a percentage of total output (68%).

So get this: even if everything else matches – grapes, location, aging, vineyard – as a Brunello producer you can only label 68% of what you make as “Brunello”.

Imagine you have 100 barrels of wine.  The government will only let you label 68 of them as Brunello, even though the other 32 are exactly the same wine.  So what do you do with the 32 barrels?

You “declassify”.

Meaning you change the legal name, that’s all.

I recently spoke to Elisabetta Gnudi, owner of Carpazo, and she told every year she ends up declassifying.  In essence, she takes her remaining 32 barrels of Brunello and labels them as Sangiovese Rosso.

There’s a catch.

As a wine, Brunello is well endowed with forceful tannins and strong acidity that initially overrides its fruit.  Aging a Brunello for decades brings these components into a glorious harmony.  Some of us may have cellars that are provisioned with gloriously harmonious ’81 Brunello but most of us need something to drink tonight.  So when Elisabetta is selecting her Rosso, she thinks of us, and chooses Brunello with more fruit, less acid and less tannin – and that is how she chooses the 32 barrels to “declassify” and label Sangiovese Rosso.

The upside to this catch is that you can drink it now.

Caparzo’s Sangiovese Rosso is a pure, bright and elegantly delicious drinking experience.  Vivid red and black cherry fruits emerge from the glass mixing with violets, cedar and hints of cypress.  On the palate its bright acidity gives true meaning to the phrase “pizza wine”, being utterly drinkable and fresh.  The finish reveals its Brunello ancestry with a lingering finish of mocha and chocolate.  Beautiful to drink now, it will age gracefully for five more years.

Cheers!

 

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability.

414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

“One of the Stars of the Vintage”, Royer Chateauneuf du Pape

In Chateauneuf du Pape, Drinking, Grenache on October 30, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Royer

It’s rare that the American wine critic Robert Parker and I agree on a wine but with Jean Royer’s Chateauneuf du Pape, we do.

Here is complexity of aromas so layered and dense that you could spend the entire evening just smelling one glass.  Lavish aromas of Kotata blackberries intermingle with black truffles, roasted spices, kaolin, hints of wet shale but also black raspberries and framboise.

But I don’t just smell wine, I drink it.  And that is where I think the real pleasure begins: all those layers of flavors harmonize on the palate creating a succulent, rich and deeply satisfying drinking experience.

Unlike many CdPs, this one gives you a sense of terroir. The Royer’s own a tiny, five hectare vineyard in the southern end of Chateaneuf at Bois de la Ville.  Its sandy soils create a wine of wonderful suppleness, a sense of elegance, grace and effortlessness across the palate.  The entire drinking experience is one of intensely rich, but oh so drinkable, flavors.

I have to admit, I agree with Bob – the Chateauneuf is “one of the stars of the vintage”.  We here at Waterford were lucky enough to get Wisconsin’s entire allocation of the 2010 vintage, and this year we managed to pull off the same feat with the 2011, and at the lowest national price.

The 2011 is one of the most transparent, seamless, hand crafted Chateauneufs I have had the pleasure of drinking.  And I think you will too.

 

2011 Domaine Jean Royer Chateauneuf du Pape

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463

Terroir: Valdesil Pezas da Portela

In Drinking, Godello, Special Offers, Terroir on October 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Valdesil

 

This one’s pretty cool.

Locked within this bottle is the mother vine of Godello.  Meaning, Carole Meredith of UC Davis and Luis Gutierrez of University of Madrid have traced the genetic origins of Godello back to this single “Pezas” (plot) of Godello in Valdeorras, Spain.

That Pezas sits in the Valdesil family’s vineyard, which is now 100 years old, planted via massale selection.  Massale is a selection whereby the mother vine’s canes are planted in the ground in order to start a new vine.  Once the new vine grows roots, the cane is severed.  Tracing these vines, canes, and cuttings back, Meredith and Gutierrez have found the mother of Godello.

Imagine finding “THE” clone of Cabernet.  It would be a reference point for all future drinking – Cabernet and beyond.

Of course, this is Godello, an obscure Spanish white wine variety.  And yet, this is Godello: compelling, regal, supreme, and delicious.  And therefore, even beyond its heritage, deserves our attention.  Here is my tasting note:

The nose is an intricate mixture of wet limestone , cranberry , salt water, roasted chicken.  It strongly, on the nose, reminds me of Le Clos Chablis, yet the palate has so much texture that it has the breadth of a decade old Chablis.  And the back palate is tense with structure.  In this fashion Godello, or at least very-old-vine-mother-clone Godello, drinks like a red wine, with years of enjoyment for the cellar.

It made me want to eat, so I ate.  I grilled shrimp with lemon and garlic, it was gorgeous.  I grilled chicken with smoked paprika, cured sweet peppers and sausage, it was magnificent.  I ate salad with salt cured lemons and jumbo lump crab, and it was smashing.  I finished with Manchego and quince and Godello.  And then I opened another bottle and started writing this email.

I offer it now, right when Wisconsin is heading towards winter, because this is a winter white wine.  Don’t chill it, don’t serve it with “light fish and cream sauces”.  This is noble, massive, texturally dense wine, pure and straight from the source.  If it was called Chablis it would be five times this price.

But no matter what you do, try a bottle or two.  There isn’t allot in Wisconsin, its exclusive to Waterford, and you’ll love it.

Cheers.

 

2010 Valdesil Pezas da Portela Godello

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463

Special Club

In Champagne, Drinking on October 24, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Special Club

 

41 years ago, five Champagne farmers sat down around a table.

They each brought one bottle of their own Champagne. One bottle that “went a step higher.” A Champagne “that took a good wine in a good region and made something much more difficult – an excellent wine”.
Maybe small words, but their words… with vast potential.

They named their group the “Special Club” (I am told this sounds more sophisticated in French) and they banded together to create the first “special club champagne”. This Special Club Champagne, picked by the group, is not only a cut above all the others, but was utterly exceptional and singular, never to be repeated.

Take a step back and think about this in terms of your own profession. Who is your hardest critic? Yourself. Who is your second hardest critic? A jury of your peers. The Special Club Champagnes are the absolute best of the best in small-farmer Champagne.

The special club is now forty Champagne farmers strong. They get together yearly, evaluate peer to peer (by style and region), and choose only that which is excellent.

I have three Special Clubs for sale today. All are from the American importer Terry Theise, and I will quote him for the tasting notes:

2008 Marc Hébrart “Special Club” Brut

“The single best young wine I tasted in Champagne this year, and as good as it gets.

“Disgorged November 2012, the blend is the same as the above `07-vintage, but this is of another order, and shows 2008 at its most sublime. Lunar, mystic aromas, it’s why the vintage is so exquisite and potentially great. And no mistake— this is great wine that has everything, plus the dancing animation of all its hundred elements; Champagne at its most bewitching, all leading to a truly astonishing and endless finish that defines complexity and beauty.”

2008 Moussé Fils “Spécial Club”

“Several years ago Didier Gimonnet told me there would be a new member of the Club Tresors (of which he was then president) who would provide the very first Spécial Club bottling entirely from Meunier. He added that the guy was still below-the-radar but definitely an up and comer, a super-nice man, young and ambitious.

“So I made a beeline. And all of it was true. I had long been aware of the Meunier-Rennaissance taking place way up-valley in the Marne, in all the terra incognita near Château Thierry, an ad-hoc group of growers who’d rediscovered their old vineyards and wanted to give Meunier the respect it almost never got.

“When I whimpered pitiably, I mean dude I made a total poodle of myself, begging for table scraps, he [Cederic Mousse] relented and let me have some. A little. This is his 110 year old Meunier wine, never to be done again; disgorged January 2013, the palate is just wonderful, charming, fine-grained, cool and silky. He says it’s rare to get such ripe Meunier in Cuisles. The wine is piquant, elegant, fine-boned and delicious.”

2008 A. Margaine “Special Club”

“This is completely stunning Champagne.

“From three parcels: Brocot, Montmedy and Champs d’Enfer. 25% was done in wood, and 100% went through malo. Disgorged Jan. 2013. The reputation of `08 will be made with the first sniff of a Champagne like this. An extraordinarily feminine fine-grained wine, cool but not aloof, intense but contained, embedded chalkiness like the dust from a rockslide in the finish; ginger and Asian pear, and a texture like meringue, in a hauntingly pretty form, lyric and lingering.”

The Special Club: the best producers in Champagne choosing only the best amongst themselves. I have spent years tracking down these Special Club Champagnes. Please don’t miss them.

Contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

To the Farthest Reach: Drew Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch Vineyard

In Drinking, Pinot Noir on October 24, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Drew Pinot

 

 

Way out, past Napa, over the Mayacamas Mountains, through the Russian River Valley, up into the Occidental foothills, and over yet three more ranges, do you finally reach the True Sonoma Coast.

There is a pioneering spirit in these wilds, and over the last two decades that spirit has become entranced by Pinot Noir. This is the most extreme place to farm Pinot Noir in the Northern Hemisphere, the farthest reach in a wild country where there is no electricity, no plumbing, and in many cases, no roads.

Yet many famous wine makers are drawn to these hills, and for good reason: the mornings and nights are foggy and cool, the high altitudes and steeply sloped hills of limestone are perfect country for Pinot Noir.

Jim McDougall is one of those earlier pioneers, and years ago he was one of the first to plant Pinot Noir on the Sonoma Coast. When he met Jason and Molly Drew, the three of them knew a great partnership was at hand – wonderful Pinot fruit from Jim, exceptional winemaking talent from Jason and Molly. And in their 2008 Sonoma Coast Pinot, it shows:

The 2008 opens with aromas of crushed Rainier cherries, layers of blueberries and blackberries, smoked sage, touches of anise, tangerine peel and sous bois. The McDougall Ranch is within the Golden Triangle of the True Sonoma Coast (the triangle points being Flowers, Hirsch, and Peay vineyards) and this terroir leads to a deeply expressive palate of dried red fruits, hints of game, an almost savory smoky quality and new leather. At 1,300 feet and only two miles from the Pacific Ocean the finish picks up a sea-shore like minerality, lingering with a soft and velvety finish.

As you might guess, vineyards on the Sonoma Coast are small, including Jim McDougall’s. Only 270 cases of Pinot Noir were produced, and we have Wisconsin’s entire allocation. Please enjoy.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Terroir: Occhipinti Il Frappato

In Drinking, Frappato on October 8, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Arianna

 

This is fantastic wine.

It’s the kind of wine makes you turn to your buddy and say “what did you just pour me?”

About three months ago I was outside, on my porch, having a little lunch and decided to crack open a tester bottle.  It was stunning, or jaw dropping, or mind-blowing, depending on which wine-critic you read about regarding Occhipinti and her Frappato.

Comparisons to Burgundy are overdone in the wine trade so I will try and avoid making one.  Upon the first pour the nose was high-toned strawberry and bright cherry fruit, lavender and sea brine, undercut with violets and truffles.  I once learned in a sommelier class that great wines will have layers of flavors, almost like a meal, and not just have a dominant core flavor as most wines do.  This wine is not like most wines.

So I was asked – “What did you just pour me?”

“Frappato.  Arianna Occhipinti’s Frappato.”

This wine has quite a buzz around it – Rajat Par, Eric Asimov, Jancis Robinson – you name it, they are hot on it.  The buzz is interesting but more interesting is the wine’s soul.  I will try and summarize:

Arianna caught the wine-making bug when she was 16 at her uncle’s winery.  Her dad, trying to do the “Right Thing” and keep her out of uncle’s cellar, promised to let her manage a vineyard if she graduated from Architectural school.  She did, and demanded the vineyard.  What she got was one acre of fifty year old, diseased Frappato vines outside their back door in Vittoria, Sicily.

She calls what follows a privilege – a privilege to be working with vines that taught her so much: how to nurse them to health, how to train them to produce, how to learn from a plant that is nearly three times your age.  I would call it a crazy slice of h*ll.  It almost goes without saying that the vineyard and winery are biodynamic and she farms everything by hand, by herself.

Three hours later (I like a long lunch) the next question was asked: “What are we drinking?!?!?”

Il Frappato, which was stunning before, had blossomed.

I grew up in Iowa and have this memory of standing in a strawberry field where the strawberries were so utterly ripe they were practically pulling away from the stems with the weight of their sugars.  All around the field was prairie – tall sweet green grass, lavender, wild thyme, sunflowers full of rich nutty meat and in the far olfactory distance a freshly started cherry wood fire and the barest hint of pork fatback starting to char.  I swear, the Frappato now had all of these flavors plus the ones I found on the first pour.

And then there was the palate: iron and silk.  Iron being the resonance that I love in light bodied Italian reds that is the flavorful tension between vinous tannins and juicy acidity.  Silk being the elegance of a graceful fruit character that lightly sits on top of those tannins and acids, like fine cloth draped over the nape of your neck.

Since most people don’t drink Frappato every day the easiest comparison is Burgundy, and to me, Chambolle Musigny in particular. But the comparison is unfair to Arianna and Frappato.  This is seminal wine that I believe will one day be held alongside the ranks of Conterno, Soldera, Quintarelli and Valentini – masterful and utterly compelling Italian wine.

Dude, you need some.

 

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability.

414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Knowledge is Power

In Burgundy, Chardonnay, Drinking on October 3, 2013 at 2:52 pm
 

Knowledge is power – especially when purchasing Burgundy.

 

Le Montrachet is the hillside vineyard producing the greatest White Burgundy and it is priced accordingly.

 

Yet, right behind Le Montrachet is the commune of Saint Aubin.  True, some of Saint Aubin’s Premier Cru vineyards behind Le Montrachet do not share its same aspect.  But, if you continue up the comb of La Rochepot that forms the hillside of Le Montrachet you reach a section of Saint Aubin’s Premier Cru vineyards that do.

 

This section, this beautiful slice of ground named Les Castets, is a White Burgundy Lover’s dream come true.

 

Henri Prudhon’s Saint Aubin Les Castets opens with the color of harvest sunshine, golden highlights with shades of bright green, crystal blue and reflections of the sky.  On the nose, aromas of white flowers, succulent melon and stone fruit, flint, green almond, and orange flower reach out to enchant the taster.  Unlike many American Chardonnays this palate is firm and flattering, with flesh and a rich succulence just to the point of satiation.  Derived from the same soil type and aspect as Le Montrachet, Les Castets is, as the French would say, a wine with breed.

 

This is, you will note, a 2007, and that makes it even more glorious.  Classic White Burgundy ages incredibly well and 2007 produced scintillating wines that are singingly beautiful and just coming to life right now.  There is nothing quite as soul satisfying as a White Burgundy in prime form and Prudhon’s 2007 Saint Aubin Premier Cru Castets is it.

 

Knowledge, when applied to Burgundy, is exceptionally rewarding.

 

2007 Henri Prudhon

Saint Aubin Premier Cru

Les Castets

 

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463, or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Aging Finely: Fifty Years of Conde Valdemar Rioja

In Drinking, Tempranillo on September 20, 2013 at 6:06 pm

“Aged like a fine red wine…”

That is a beautiful statement but one that rarely is practiced.

The reason is twofold.  First, almost all wine purchased in the US is consumed within three days.  Second, most wineries don’t make age-worthy wines anymore.

But some do — and Conde de Valdemar is one of them.

Based in Rioja, Conde de Valdemar helped pioneer the now traditional aging process of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.  These titles are legal designations of how long the wines have been aged, in this case up to 43 years (see below).

Stop for a second.  Think of what is waiting for you: a living, delightful, wonderfully tasty piece of history secreted away in a glass bottle.  Another human being four decades ago labored to give you this gift (or, upon finishing your last bottle fifty years from now, re-read this little epistle).  In our current age of constant electronic contact it’s worth stopping, pondering, and drinking one of wine’s greatest pleasures: the ability to age finely.

In order to make wines that can last over four decades you need two things.  First, exceptional fruit that creates intensely alive and realized wine.  Second, continuous reinvestment in the winery.  In this day and age it would be considered business suicide to create a product that won’t return an investment for a single quarter of the fiscal year, let alone 10, 20, 30 or 40 years.  Yet this is what Martinez Bujanda family, owners of Conde de Valdemar, have done and continue to do.  For over a century they have farmed their own vineyards, continuously innovated in the winery, and aged their wines.

The results go beyond “great” wine.  They are legendary.

We start with the Crianza.  Some people, because this wine is “too cheap”, will pass right over this beauty.  And that’s fine — it just leaves more for the rest of us.

The 2009 opens with the boisterous expression of young and pure Rioja: sweet red cherries, hints of sweet tobacco and mocha, hints of vanilla, sous bois, and tertiary aromas around its soft and silky edges.  It has already been aged for 16 months in cask making it ripe with a powerful, meaty palate, fruit-driven finish, and smooth texture that is ready to drink now.

It’s powerful enough to enjoy as a cocktail, supple enough to pair with everything from fish to steak, and age-worthy enough to last your lifetime (see my comments below this offer).  Buy a case so you can consume it within three days, three months, three years, or up to thirty years from now.  You won’t regret it.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability.

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Three Great Cabernets Up to 70% off

In Cabernet, Drinking on September 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm

 

Making a compellingly authoritative argument that Bordeaux doesn’t have the monopoly on elegant, pure, and age-worthy wine is Leeuwin’s 2007 Art Series Cabernet.

Drinking like a young Chateau Lascombes of Lynch Bages from the 2005 vintage this stylish cabernet opens with a pure fruit expression centering on the flavors of field-ripened strawberries.  But that isn’t all.  Just like a Bordeaux there is depth in the glass: layers upon layers of minerality, graphite, crushed rocks, cedar, and vanilla enrich and broaden the character.  The palate is supple, vibrant and seamless leaving its fruit character to resolve for minutes on the finish.  At six years old this wine drinkable now but is a serious contender for outliving the Bordeaux’s in your cellar.

Three Great Cabernets Up to 70% off

In Cabernet, Drinking on September 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm

SoH

 

With its backbone being formed from Red Mountain, Sleight of Hand’s “Illusionist” is a stacked and power-packed Cabernet.

It’s nearly over-ripe raspberry fruit character is backed by up by loaded and fully integrated tannins that layer in notes of coca, mocha, and sweet cherry tobacco.  There is a touch of Lewis vineyard Syrah in the blend, making the sum greater than the parts by adding in notes of blackberries, savory spices, and game.

Planted on its own roots, Washingtonians believe that no Cabernets in the world can match theirs for purity and power.  The Illusionist is a striking example of that hypotheses.

Contact us regarding pricing and availability.

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

 

Three Great Cabernets Up to 70%

In Cabernet, Drinking on September 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Sineann 2

 

 

A bold expression of pure Napa Valley erupts from the glass with aromas of crème de cassis, blackberry, wood smoke, vanilla bean pod, and crushed rocks.

The broad and expansive mouth feel gives this well-endowed Cabernet its approachable and compelling power, culminating in lingering finish of raspberries, ripe Bing cherries, voluptuous texture and glycerin.  It’s delightfully drinkable now and will age well in your cellar for at least 10 more years.

There were only 150 cases produced – don’t miss yours!

Please contact us regarding pricing availability.

In Cabernet, Drinking on August 6, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Vineyard_3

There are special spots in this world that make great Cabernet – Paulliac, Howell Mountain, the Rutherford Bench.

Another is Sonoma Mountain.

That is where Laurel Glen grows their outstanding Counterpoint Cabernet.  Nowhere else in California – maybe even the world – do you get Laurel Glen’s mixture of old Cabernet vines, unique climatic conditions, and wine making talent focused on Cabernet.

If you love Cabernet, you need to taste this wine.

I am not the first person to notice the greatness of Sonoma Mountain Cabernet.  As far back as 1880 German immigrants planted this mountain with vines.  These old vines are unique, so much so that UC Davis designated them with their own genotype. Compare this to Napa, where Cabernet vines are never old because of production schedules.  Or compare this to Bordeaux, where average vine age for First Growth wine is a mere 25 years.  Only at Laurel Glen do you get the depth of character that old Cabernet vines give.

But that isn’t all.  Rising high above the valley floor, Sonoma Mountain creates a unique micro-climate that is perfect for Cabernet.  It’s warmer than the rest of the valley because of thermal updrafts and being situated above the fog line.  This results in more concentrated Cabernet with a powerful backbone and musculature.  But it’s also planted purely facing east, where only the morning sun strikes the fruit, avoiding the burning afternoon sun.  The result is a cool-berry fruit character, with blue and black fruits showing on the palate.

And now, a new team led by rock-star winemaker David Ramey is showcasing all that Laurel Glen can be with the 2010 vintage of Counterpoint:

It is a sumptuous, richly-textured, fully concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon that hits all the sweet spots on the palate and puts the olfactory senses into overdrive.  Black and blueberries infused with chocolate and espresso; cassis, kirsch, vanilla and dried fig all explode from the glass.  Ramey is famous for bringing a seamless texture to his Cabernets and that is on display here: flawlessly full bodied, with massive yet elegant tannins where nothing is out of balance in this compelling, irresistible Cabernet.

None other than Robert Parker once stated that Laurel Glen “is proven to be one of the finest sources for Cabernet in California.”  This, the 2010 Counterpoint, is a historic effort that showcases the greatness of this vineyard.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability.

2011 Vincent Paris “Granit Blanc”

In Drinking, Roussanne, Viognier on July 30, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Paris

Robert Michel is a pigsney of a farmer: taciturn, calculating, precise, wrapped in the thunder blanket of his own world so tightly that nothing else can matter.

Robert Michel is a farmer in Cornas.  He is thought of as one of the great Lions of Cornas, whom none have equaled.  Through the graces of who knows what patriarchal god granted his nephew, Vincent Paris, a chance to learn the family business.

Vincent learned at the foot of this hard worn farmer, and he learned well.  Although not yet 30 years old many believe, including myself, that this young man is already surpassing his benefactor, making wines of such intense beauty and complexity that they border on being unbelievable.

And beyond all of that, he is also not resting on his laurels (or inheritance):

Cornas is all red wine, all Syrah, by law.  Yet there are vineyards in Cornas that face due north, and Vincent is such a meticulous farmer that he believes those vineyards are not suitable for red wine.  The exposure, the sun, and the aspect all point towards white.

And so – and in complete violation of French law (and commercial responisblity) – he planted Viognier as you might in Condrieu.  But he didn’t stop there.  He also planted Roussanne, as you might in Chateauneuf du Pape.

To a French grape farmer the reasoning is simple.  Viognier is proven to work on Northern slopes with much sunlight and severe drainage.  Roussanne likes stony dense granite soil high in nitrates.  The north facing slopes of Cornas alternate between these two terrain type.

Thus, Vincent Paris has given us the first Cornas Blanc.  Completely illegal, yet superbly luscious and explosively intriguing:

A staggering and complex array of aromas leap from the glass – mango, nectarine, peach marmalade and roasted pineapple all underplayed with rose petals, quince, white peach and pear and a crushed granite like minerality.  As bountiful as the best from Condrieu, yet as precise as a Chateauneuf du Pape blanc, its layered depth is fascinated to explore and will leave you pondering just where the entire bottle went.  Let its power unfold in your glass, you will be greatly rewarded.

This is Vincent Paris’ Granit Blanc, and it is exceptional wine.

 

2011 Vincent Paris Granit Blanc

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

2011 Domaine Cheveau Macon Solutre Pouilly “Sur Le Mont”

In Chardonnay, Drinking on July 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm

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Pouilly Fuisse, like all the southern White Burgundy districts, has seen many a rise and fall over the last fifty years.

A rise and fall in quality, price and reputation.

But through these last fifty years a few producers have never changed.  Domaine Cheveau is one such producer and they deserve our attention.

The Domaine was founded in 1950 by Michel Cheveau.  Michel saw the rise of Pouilly Fuisse from a small backwater village to being deservedly famous for producing Chardonnays of rich and full proportions.

But his son, and now grandsons, have seen the backside.  With fame came a rise in prices, and with a rise in prices came commercial negociants who were only interested in profiting off the name – not producing quality.  Raising yields through chemicals and machine harvesting while concomitantly raising prices as far as the market will bear, these negociants now make lots of money off of woefully inferior Pouilly Fuisse.

But Domaine Cheveau did not follow this path.  Michel instilled within his family a love of the land through reasoned agriculture, a connection between the quality of the fruit and the quality of the finished wine, and the worthiness of doing the small things well: hand crafting stunning wine from the lands your family loves – even if it won’t make you famous or wealthy like the big boys.

This is Domaine Cheveau’s Macon Soultre-Pouilly Fuisse Sur Le Mont.  And it is intensely excellent:

Aromas of ambrosia and casaba melons, vanilla and chestnut with exotic spices fill the glass. The palate is full, rounded and rich, yet with also with drive and energy, broadcasting flavors to the front, middle and back of the palate, resounding with a citron-esque liquid minerality that lasts for minutes.  Don’t chill it – let the richness resound fully and expressively at almost red wine temperatures.  You will be greatly rewarded.

The other thing Michel passed down was the belief in creating friendships instead of senseless profiteering.  The family’s prices have always been reasonable. Now, quite frankly, this wine is a steal.

 

2011 Domaine Cheveau Macon Solutre Pouilly “Sure Le Mont”

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463.

2011 Leeuwin Art Series Riesling

In Drinking, Riesling on July 22, 2013 at 6:06 pm

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In a country the size of the Continental United States, 90% of the population lives within ten miles of the coast.  What does this mean?

The surf’s up, the barbie is hot, and the Riesling is cool and dry.

Yes, it is true.  Australia is a nation of barbequing surfers that pounds dry Riesling.

Why?  Because Riesling, DRY Riesling, is the perfect match for so many foods – grilled shrimp, lobster, fish of any kind of course but also pork, chicken, beef, kangaroo, walabi  (ok, not really on those last two) marinated with whatever you want – satay, tandoori, teriyaki, American KC BBQ, smoky and sweet sauce, honey mustard, or even béarnaise.  Australian Riesling does it all.

To be clear: any food you are grilling, Australian Riesling is a perfect pairing.

But here is the big, BIG, hurdle for Americans to get over.  Australian Riesling is dry.  DRY.  Meaning not sweet.  No sugar.  We tend to think all Riesling is German, and all German wine is sweet.  Both assumptions are incorrect.  Riesling is just a grape like Chardonnay or Cabernet.  And just like those grapes the resulting wine can be sweet or dry.

And if you have never had dry Riesling, it’s time to come and get some:

The Leeuwin Art Series Riesling practically bursts from the glass with a fragrant and bright bouquet of citrus and tropical fruits.  Orange blossom, lemon zest, kaffir lime leaf, and pineapple intermingle with underlying suggestions of frangipani, passion fruit and lively minerality.  Its complexity is frankly stunning.

Once again, and I can’t say it enough, on the palate the wine is dry.  Think of yourself as a patriotic Aussie – you could drink that Kiwi trash of dry Sauvignon Blanc but why when your own DRY Rieslings are so much better?

And the Leeuwin shows this superbly on the palate: its taut and energetic focus reveals the intensity and drive of a great wine.  There is nothing that is more refreshingly crisp yet delightfully full of flavor as a dry Riesling.  And this crisp energy is what makes it a perfect pairing with nearly all foods, yet also perfect as a cocktail.  It leaves the palate willing you to drink more.

The Leeuwin family has been making wine in Margaret River Australia for over forty years.  There, their wines are famous and prized.  Yet the family also realizes dry Australian Riesling might be a new experience for most Americans.  Hence, a reduced price for their new American friends.  It’s time to show them what we can do – let’s drink all we can.

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463.

2011 Paul Cherrier Sancerre

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc on July 22, 2013 at 6:00 pm

 

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Is Sancerre the ultimate Sauvignon Blanc?

I think so.

It is here, in the hands of the young Paul Cherrier, that the shimmering sense of citrus, floral, mineral and herb interaction as well as the combination of fruitiness, brineiness and umami that makes up this wine’s deep savor will leave you shaking your head in wonder while licking your lips in grateful anticipation of the next sip.  Paul Cherrier’s Sancerre is the ultimate Sauvignon Blanc.

What’s going on with this wine?

The complex interaction of terroir – of matching grape with soil, place with person is magical.

Sancerre sits on the Kimmeridgian plate, a soil type that extends all the way the to Champagne and back, France an back to the town of Kimmer, in the United Kingdom.  The out cropping of this limestone calcareous soil that occurs in Sancerre is ideal with thin topsoil and subsoil layers.  These soils are strong enough to support grape vines yet offer good drainage from water, leaving the vine with powerful minerals without diluting the ultimate fruit.  Further, the thin topsoil exposes the mother rock, increasing its heat retention which ripeness the grapes to an extraordinary level.  Finally, the calcium, soil pH, and nitrogen levels are perfect for the growing of Sauvignon Blanc – and very little else.

It is amazing, yet true, to think that all these factors find their confluence only in Sancerre.  But the soil and grape would be meaningless without the person.  And Paul Cherrier is an expert at managing these factors to the point that he used to sell his fruit to all the famous wine-makers in Sancerre:   Dagueneau, Cotat, Vatan, and Riffault.  But no longer.  He has taken his precious fruit and made fantastic wine:

Aromas of white peach, apricot, clementines and passion fruit practically erupt from the glass.  The palate is concentrated and rich, yet with superb delineation and precision.  Paul is a master at both Sauvignon’s gorgeous fruit expression while under laying it with the complex flint, wet granite, red currants and stony minerality that are the hallmarks of Sancerre.  If you were ever in doubt about a white wine’s ability to be zesty fresh while also having a deep savoriness doubt no more – it is right here, in this power-packed Sancerre.

The French believe in terroir – and after tasting this, I think you will too.

 

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-4963.

Friulano Anyone?

In Basil, Crab, Drinking, Eating, Friulano on July 18, 2013 at 11:39 am

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More notes from “what to do with all that basil”: basil, peaches, crab, radishes.  Delightful with a crisp Friulano or your handy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc!

Lab (as in Labrador) – A Wine Spectator “Best Value”

In Cabernet, Drinking on July 17, 2013 at 11:57 am

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I’ll admit it – it’s the dog that got me.

The dog matters: José Luís Santos Lima Oliveira da Silva, the owner and winemaker of this, his eponymous winery, loves dogs.  Specifically Labradors.  He personally shares his life and vineyards with 16 of them.  But not only that, proceeds from this bottle of wine go to homeless dog shelters to try and save the animals he personally cannot take in.

So the dog got me.

But the dog wouldn’t matter if the wine sucked.  But this wine is far from suckage:

“Lab” red wine bursts from the glass with aromas of black cherries, spice box, blueberry jam and hints of white chocolate.  Yet for all that fruit character it’s also muscular and able to stand up to the heartiest of grilled steaks, cheddar and bacon loaded potatoes, or a simple duck confit and arugula salad.  This is powerful wine – when I tasted it “blind” I assumed it was a $40 Napa Cabernet.

I was wrong.

This tastes like Cabernet but is actually a Castelão – a noble red grape from Portugal.  José Luís may love Labradors to an usual degree but he is nobody’s fool.  The last twenty years of his life has been spent proving to biased Europeans that Portugal makes great table wine.  And this bottle is going to prove it to you.

Yep, the dog got me to open the bottle.  But the wine made me stay and drink it.  It’s just a Lab looking for a good home.  Enjoy.

 

2011 “LAB” (as in Labrador) Red Wine Blend

Please contact us for availability and pricing.  Sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463.

An amazing lunch…

In Drinking, Eating, Veal, Vin Jaune on July 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

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An amazing lunch.  Veal Blanquette with summer vegetables

and Puffeney’s Vin Jaune.  To die for.

Champagne, All the Time

In Champagne, Drinking on July 11, 2013 at 11:14 am

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Can you drink Champagne all the time? 

Of course you can.

So what’s stopping you?

The price.  Yes, that bottle of Veuve Cliquot is delicious, but at $40 a pop, well, maybe it’s not your Tuesday night wine.  All we need is a little exploration.

The champaignoise believe they have a monopoly on great bubbly.  They don’t.  What they have is a monopoly on the image of great bubbly.  But a short hop, skip and jump across France reveals just how tasty “other sparklers” can be.  Allow me to introduce you to Domaine Barmes Buecher Cremant d’Alsace.

That’s a big name so let me unpack it a little:

Alsace is the furthest eastern wine region in France, tucked up close to Germany (it’s been German with the occasional war).  Cremant is the French term for sparkling wine made in the Champagne method, but not from Champagne.  Domaine Barmes Buecher is a husband and wife team, striving to create the most expressive wines Mother Nature will allow.  To this end they are completely biodynamic, an incredibly time consuming process that produces riper, healthier fruit with more vitality and richness.

But my main point is I got a fever for this flavor:

Their Brut opens with notes of green apples and fresh baked croissants. Champaignoise will claim that no “mere” sparkler can attain the toasty richness of Champagne yet here it is.  Underneath these aromas are the aromatic scents of quince and jasmine, huckleberry and a touch of saline.  Complexity, depth and vibrancy – all from this mere “sparkler”.  The mousse is supple, lending touches of honeysuckle and raspberries to fresh, lively finish.  In Alsace they would serve it with sausage (that German heritage coming through), but it also goes perfectly with crab cakes, fish, cheeses, or just pound it as a cocktail.

You can have great Champagne, all the time.

 

2010 Domaine Barmes Buecher Cremant d’Alsace

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

The Little Wine That Could: Muscadet

In Drinking, Muscadet, Special Offers on July 10, 2013 at 10:22 am

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Muscadet – a wine that makes radishes taste like creamed butter, turns oysters into a Grand Symphony of the Atlantic Ocean’s bounty, and cranks the knob to 11 on any perch fried in Wisconsin on any given Friday, in any given bar, kitchen or back yard.  Yes Muscadet, this little wine that could, is the ultimate food pairing wine.

Muscadet – a wine that is almost completely forgotten, to the point of bordering on extinction, even in its native region of Nantes, France.

How could this be?

The two are related.  Muscadet is pure, mineral, bright, dry, linear, mouthwatering, savory, lemony, briny and sapid, all at once.  I love it as a cocktail but most Americans find it just too darn dry.

Yet, with food (and this is so true of many French wines) Muscadet is insanely good.  Think of this analogy: we salt our McDonald’s French Fries – or any other food, really – not because we want to taste the salt but because the salt makes everything taste MORE.

Muscadet is the same.  Almost every food, and I mean that literally, almost every food you can cook, take out, or sit down and order, will taste better with Muscadet.  And Hubert Rousseau, owner of Domaine des Trois Toits, makes an outstanding example:

Notes of browned butter, sea shore, brine, lemon, lime, and juicy umami leap from the glass of this hedonistic beauty.  Pure and driving across the palate it will make you pop oysters, grill clams, roast calamari or dig up a radish and eat it.  You think I am crazy so I will write it again.  Eat a radish, drink Rousseau’s Muscadet.  The two combined taste like butter and are about 10 calories.  And the combo will get you hammered.  Think about that next time you order fries.  But don’t let the exploration stop.  Muscadet goes down like a can of mineral water.  It’s refreshingly delicious and the palate opens up into a symphony of flavors.  Drink it now, or, take a walk on the wild side, hold onto it for a couple of years… you won’t regret it.

Let me put it this way: think of the greatest wines from Bordeaux (or Napa).  How much they do they cost?  Now, take a look below.  This is one of the greatest of Muscadets.

If you are willing to explore, one the greatest tasting experiences of your life awaits.

 

2010 Hubert Rousseau’s Domaine Des Trois Toits Muscadet Sevre et Maine sur Lie

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Now this is just pure heaven… but you have to look at the fine print.

In Chanterelle, Chianti Classico, Drinking, Eating, Mushrooms, Sangiovese on July 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm

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A hearty vegan meal – fresh chanterelles roasted in Selvapiana’s fresh olive oil with parsley; and then  red wine vinegar reduction of shallots and garlic poured on top.  But the real stunner was the Selvapiana 1978 Chianti Rufina.  Check the fine print!

A Pioneer in California: Cold Heaven Viognier

In Drinking, Special Offers, Viognier on July 6, 2013 at 3:22 pm

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Viognier (vee-own-yay!):

A grape so beautiful, and yet so scarce, most people haven’t even heard of it.

Viognier gives you pure fruit characteristics – ripe peaches, apricots, pear, and kiwi– but it doesn’t stop there.  It carries a cool splash of minerality on the back of the palate, delivering the best vibrancy and easy-drinking of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but with the creamy texture and richness of Chardonnay (but without oak!).  Viognier is the ultimate summer white wine.

Of course, not all Viogniers are the same.  It takes a skillful hand to draw out Viognier’s inherent fruitiness without ripening the wine to heady proportions, and Morgan Clendenen is a master of Viognier.

Morgan is a pioneer in California – she and her ex-husband founded Au Bon Climat and starting making Pinot Noir long before the Sideways boom.  But she didn’t stop there.  She grew fascinated with Santa Ynez’s geological orientation, it having the only east /west running valley in California. There she founded her own winery, Cold Heaven.

Cold Heaven is an apt name.  The Santa Ynez Valley creates a cool, crisp climate in what is otherwise a hot area of California.  But it also gets lots and lots of sunshine.  These two things combined, along with Morgan’s skill as a winegrower, produce the ultimate Viognier:

White peaches, honeysuckle, pineapples and caramelized oranges and lychee fruit aromas all explode from the glass.  These flavors are backed by a full-bodied, multidimensional mouth feel of dulce de leche, honey roasted pecans, and cool soda water with a splash of blood orange.  All of this rich layering of flavors is achieved without oak and maintains a vibrancy and freshness that will keep you coming back for more.

Viognier (especially this one) is the ultimate summer white – a perfect match for anything from the grill, like grilled corn with lime salt and queso fresco. It’s also ideal with pulled pork in a Kansas City BBQ style or smoked provolone tortellini.  This July Fourth do yourself a favor and party hard with it!

Cheers.

 

2010 Cold Heaven Viognier

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: sommelier@waterfordwine.com, 414-289-9463

In Beans, Belgain Endive, Drinking, Eating, Friulano on July 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm

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Another sure sign of summer:

Local long beans blanched with fresh olive oil, served with grilled belgain endive marinated in herbs and spices.  Bright, fresh and a perfect pairing for Friulano, especially that very bright Zamo’.

What to do with all that basil?

In Basil, Drinking, Eating, Sauvignon Blanc on June 28, 2013 at 12:11 pm

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What do you do when your CSA (community sponsored agriculture) farm delivers five pounds of basil?  Make a basil salad served and serve it with Cullen’s Sauvignon Blanc, of course!

Here — basil, seared lightly curred chicken, roasted baby corn, creamy garlic vinaigrette and fresh baby radish.  Absolutely delightful with the Cullen!

Terroir: 2010 Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo

In Drinking, Tempranillo, Terroir on June 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Gramercy Tempranillo

 

I don’t very much appreciate “international” wines anymore – wines without reference to place, often made to appeal to those with a strong preference for fruit flavors.

Yet I also don’t want to conflate “international wine” with experimentation, adoption of long standing references, and dynamic wine making.  That is why I am pleased to offer you Gramercy Cellars Washington State Tempranillo.

Gramercy is a nonage winery born out of a love of wine through being top notch New York City sommelier.  In Washington State land is still cheap enough that farmsteading still works.  And for Greg and Pam Harrington (owners and wine-makers at Gramercy) it works indeed:

Their Tempranillo is rather outstanding.  Outstanding in that alta expression Rioja kinda way.  Meaning not Ribera, not overdone, but well done.  Savory, deep black fruits mix with notes of lead pencil, grilled bread, roasted chanterelles and chestnuts poached in amontillado and cream.  Autumnal flavors, the sweet cedary spice, the porcini and truffle undertones, the high and lively acidity on the back end rounds out this undeniably delicious wine: experimental, yes; referencing a tradition, yes; and certainly dynamic.

Greg and Pam must know the great Rioja wines from their sommelier experiences because this wine approaches that brilliance in flavor, specifically it reminds me of Muga’s Selección Especial – a wine I have had the privilege of tasting back to 1981 (and some of you just recently shared the 2005 with me at a Friday tasting).

And this comparison, terroir-wise, makes sense.  I just flew out to Washington (I am writing this on the airplane back), and I return moved by how the climate of Eastern Washington interprets Tempranillo.  The cool and gravelly soils of Walla Walla develop not only the dark black fruit sensation but also natural concentration and fruit tannin.  The wine is robust in a structurally dense manner.  Walla Walla daily temperature swings also create a Rioja-like vibrancy, a nervous coil of energy and lift on the palate, now or after years of life in the cellar.  This is why I fell in love with Rioja years ago and yet here it is again.

This isn’t an example of wanting my cake while drinking it too.  Rather it’s an example of a conscious choice made by conscientious wine makers referencing both local terroir and a long standing wine-making tradition.  I revel in expanding my palate through this kind of wine – and I think you do too.  Please try just a bottle or two.

 

2010 Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo

 

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Crazy good

In Drinking, Eating, Ramps, Scallops on June 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm

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Scallop crudo with shaved ramp leafs in lemon oil and smoked paprika.  Paired with, yes, you guessed it, Brovia’s Frezia and Valentini’s Trebbiano.  Beautiful.

Can you improve on a wine that “has it all?”

In Drinking, Special Offers, Syrah on June 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm

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Can you improve on a wine that “has it all?”

Apparently so – with its big brother (or sister).

This email is about Colombier’s Hermitage, the Big Brother to the Viale family’s holdings in Croze-Hermitage.  This is the wine the aforementioned industry cognoscenti insiders clamor for, and with good reason.

Hermitage is the location.  A small, single sloping hillside of granite on a bend in the northern Rhone River.  In my tastings, Hermitage is always the most immense, structural and massive of the “power trio” in the Northern Rhone (Cotie Rotie being more elegant and refined, Cornas being more flowery and feral).  In the hands of an expert wine maker, I find as much drama and serenity in Hermitage as in Romanee Conti, yet coupled to the enduring strength and gutsiness of a youthful Latour.

Florent Viale, owner and wine maker of Domaine Colombier is one such expert, and his 2010 Hermitage shows it.

But before he was a wine maker, Florent was a farmer.  His family first planted vines on Hermitage in 1929, and they now own over 13 hectares (out of about 200 in Hermitage total).  These holdings cover all three sub-divisions of Hermitage – Mercurol, Tain and Beaumes – with the Beaumes plot being the largest and from the original vines planted almost a century ago.

I could probably praise this wine for the entire time it would take you to drink a bottle.  But better than my praise is what Florent’s peers think of his wines.  Before Domaine Colombier, negociants used to have a bidding competition for Florent’s fruit.  Guigal almost always won because – how’s this for praise — they having a standing offer of “double the next highest bidder”.  Guigal used Florent’s fruit for its $500 Ex-Voto Hermitage.  The Colombier on offer today essentially is that wine, but at a tenth of the price (and without seeing 32 months of new French oak).

Simply put, this is stunning and magnificent Hermitage.

Colombier’s 2010 Hermitage opens with prodigious aromas of black fruit, crème de cassis, and kirshwasser.  It’s dense, it’s concentrated, it’s huge.

But it’s still French, and it’s still Hermitage: all of that “bigness” is joined with complexity, breed, and layers of flavors.  Secondary aromas of forest floor, truffles, toasted bread, butter cream, campfire and wet granite all emerge along-side the fruit.

It’s also incredibly young.  My “tester” bottles were best after  two, three or even four days  being open.  I actually think I never really saw it totally open up and express itself.  It’s not that its undrinkable now. In fact, it’s incredibly integrated and delicious.  However, every time – everyday – that I came back to it, it was better, and better, and better still.  If you can lay it down for three to four years I believe you will be immensely rewarded.  If you can lay it down for 25 (and I think most of you know that we will still be together drinking these email specials two and a half decades from now) our reward will immeasurable, one of those great wine drinking “highs” that simply cannot be equaled.

Enjoy.

And, well, hey – most of you know I can’t resist a deal.  This wine was released at $80, some retailers are now (post press) selling it for $110.  At $55.99, from what I can see, this is the lowest price in nation, and is a steal.

Enjoy!

 

2010 Colombier Hermitage

Please contact us regarding pricing: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

“Colombier’s Crozes-Hermitage are stunning.” – Robert Parker, Wine Advocate

In Drinking, Special Offers, Syrah on June 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm

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Some wines have it all:

Blackberries, cassis, kirsch, wood smoke, leather chaps, musk, bacon fat, pain grille, and more… power with a fruit driven core; rich, concentrated spicy structure and purity; the power of a line-backer yet with the energy of an iron man triathlete.

And this is one of them: Colombier’s 2011 Croze-Hermitage.

Croze-Hermitage is the place.  Shunned by wine-cognoscenti as “not Hermitage”, “Croze” is the long hillside slope behind the hill of Hermitage, France, in the Northern Rhone.  Think of it as Beverly Hills 9-0-2-1-1.

Yet this slice of real-estate is beautiful for us – those of us who drink for pleasure.  It can, in the hands of the best producers, in the best vintage, offer one of the world’s most amazing Syrahs (Shiraz if you’re of Aussie persuasion), that has it all.

Colombier is the producer.  Humble, pungently French, and unabashedly friendly, Florent Viale is the great-grandson of the Domaine’s founder.  He, like his father and grandfather and great-grand father is a farmer.  In years past all the fruit went to Guigal for their wines (it’s worth noting that Guigal sold the resulting wines for $50 to $500 a bottle).

Florent changed that.  He started making his own wine.  And what wine it is:

Hermitage, in my tasting experience, is about structural power.  And Croze, the best Croze, Colombier’s 2011 Croze, plays the suit.  Black and red fruits dominate the flavor but with a rich and deep core: raspberries, violets, spice box, roasted cedar and toasted bread providing layers and depth.  You will feel the youth of the wine, and relish its enthusiastic muscularity.  Hermitage is a 20 year wine, Croze works now.  But don’t cheat yourself.  If you have the means, buy at least four bottles.  Try one now, maybe one in three, one in five, on in nine years (or months) from now.  The achievement is in the depth of flavor, the emotive sense of place that defines the power of the wine within.

In a given vintage just a few wines I taste have it all.  This is one of them.  Go for it.

 

2011 Domaine Colombier Croze Hermitage

Please contact us regarding pricing and availability: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

 

Granato… how I love thee so…

In Drinking, Eating on June 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm

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Grilled Belgain endive with fresh olive oil, melted Fontina, chives and oregano.  A perfect partner for a very youthful Granato.

Beautiful Rioja

In Drinking, Eating, Nuts, Salmon, Tempranillo, Tomato on June 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm

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E’splette gilled salmon with roasted tomato and Marcona almond sauce, olive oil poached yellow pepper and chippolini onion, smoked olives.  An absolute treat with Heredia’s Grand Riserva Riojas.

The Last Morels of the Season?

In Chardonnay, Chicken, Drinking, Eating on June 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm

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A beautiful sight — morels in a cream poached chicken sauce, shallots and a touch of white wine.  And of course, perfect with Jermann Where Dreams.  But alas…  are they the last morels of the season?

Always Right: Kunin Pape Star Chateauneuf du Pape Blend

In Cote du Rhone, Drinking, Grenache, Special Offers, Syrah on June 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm

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When I started my career cooking in restaurants I knew nothing of wine. But Julia Child bulldozed one simple rule into my head:  Cote du Rhone works with everything.

And if Cote du Rhone was always right then Chateauneuf du Pape, Cote du Rhone’s “big brother”, was just perfect.

I like to think that I have come a long way since this one simple rule (in which direction remains to be determined) but this Saturday, when drinking with Seth Kunin, I was reminded of just how perfect Rhone blends can be.

Seth started in restaurants about a decade before me, caught the wine bug like me, and switched his vocation to his avocation and has been making wine in Santa Barbara ever since.  Some of you may have met Seth (and his lovely wife and daughter) this Saturday at our Rose Festival.  He is incredibly knowledgeable yet unassuming, thoroughly precise yet never boring.  Perhaps his personality should not matter but I believe it informs this wine.

Seth’s Chateauneuf du Pape-style  Rhone Blend, Pape Star (pronounced pop star), is a beauty of a wine, reflecting Seth’s personality:

In the glass the nose is greeted with Bing cherries, kirsch, blueberries, blackberries, black pepper, and truffles.  But these aromas aren’t thrust out, smacking you in the face, seeking attention.  Rather they develop, unfold, and mature as you continue to drink.  It’s the ultimate engagement when a wine invites you in as opposed to tricking itself out.  The palate follows suit: immediately engaging with great fruit, spice and savory notes.  It’s full bodied and big.  But not just one monotone “fruit” note.  There is a finely crafted balance of acidity and tannin.

Kunin’s Pape Star combines the twin pinnacles of wine drinking pleasure.  First, intellectual engagement.  Meaning complex and layered levels of flavors.  But second, and more importantly, hedonism.  Glass after glass, bottle through bottle, this is killer wine.  It’s great with food but if you love drinking wine like I do, it’s also an amazing cocktail.

I know the French will hate me (or sue me) for stealing their slogan for an American wine but I think Julia beat them to the punch: Cote du Rhone blends, in this case Kunin’s Pape Star, is always right.  And compared to most Chateauneuf du Papes this is a ridiculously low price.  Don’t miss it.

 

Kunin Wines Pape Star

(Santa Barbara Rhone Blend)

Please contact us regarding pricing: 414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

America Calling: Sleight of Hand Archimage Right Bank Blend

In Drinking, Merlot on May 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Archimage

 During a recent interview Chuck Wagner, the owner and winemaker of Caymus, made this proclamation: “The problem with Merlot is that during the boom years it was planted in all the wrong areas which resulted in terrible wine.  But Merlot planted in the correct vineyard sites still makes incredible wine.”

Even though the movie Sideways killed Merlot you know Mr. Wagner’s words to be true – French Merlot, i.e. Right Bank Bordeaux – Cheval Blanc, Petrus, Angelus – still sell for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

I’d like to invite you back.  Call it wine patriotism; call it just pure hedonism, but it’s time we start drinking Merlot again.  American Merlot.

It stands to perfectly good reason that if France can make good Merlot, so can we.  And I think I know the best, “correct” in Mr. Wagner’s terms, place for domestic Merlot: Washington State.

Washington’s got the perfect terroir for Merlot: a short growing season with long days, a diurnal temperature swing of nearly 40 degrees, and sandy soils that allow their vines to be own-rooted.

Ever tasted Cheval Blanc, Petrus or Angelus?  Well now is your chance, because in 2009 Sleight of Hand Cellars from Walla Walla Washington hit an absolute home run with their Right Bank Blend “The Archimage”.

It boasts a gorgeous perfume of blueberry liqueur, spring flowers, graphite, and vanilla spiciness.  On the palate, notes of incense, Bing cherries and cassis emerge from this velvety-textured, full-bodied, intensely concentrated 2009.  As a Cheval Blanc-like bonus, everything that Merlot likes about Washington State Cabernet Franc likes as well.  And just like its French counterparts, Sleight of Hand Cellarrs blends Cabernet Franc in here, creating a wine of silky, sweet, integrated tannins matched with spectacular purity, texture and depth.  It is already approachable but should improve in your cellar for 20+ years.  Wines like this speak for themselves.

Come back. Merlot (and Washington State) is calling.

 

2009 Sleight of Hand Cellars “The Archimage”

Right Bank Blend

Contact us regarding pricing: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463

Perfect for the Grill: Juan Gil Silver Label

In Drinking, Mourvedre on May 21, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Juan Gil

 

Brothers Paco and Juan González had a dream.  A dream of building their grandfather’s family winery into a great estate, producing world class wine from their hometown variety of Monastrell.

On the surface, it’s a pretty crazy dream: great wine from an unknown grape (Monastrell), in an unknown region (Jumilla, Spain), from a tiny family winery.

Yet the brothers González aren’t dumb.  Mourvedre (the French spelling of Monastrell) is absolutely prized in Chateauneuf du Pape and Bandol.  If Monastrell is considered great in those places, why not in Jumilla?  The raw material is here: 100 year old Monastrell vines planted in a gallet stone soil, producing the kind of fruit the brothers had seen grown Frenchmen brawl over just for a chance to purchase.  They took the leap, upgraded the winery, and made wine.

And what a wine it is – their father, and grandfather, would be very proud.

Gorgeous aromas of black cherries, bramble fruits combine with the powerful scents of kirsch, integrated vanilla oak, and a richness of sous bois.  To me it is a stunning mixture of power, richness but also drinkability – that dynamic combination that makes big red wine great.  And frankly, I am not the only one who thinks so.  As Robert Parker has noted (from a previous vintage, when he personally was reviewing Spain) “I tasted it next to some top-notch Bordeaux selling for five times the price, and it was by no means outclassed … it is amazing that a wine of this quality can be found at this price.”  The brothers González named this wine to honor the fathers who came before them, and that shows in the bottle.

Previous vintages come into the store and shoot out like a rocket – those who know it, love it.  Get this vintage, before the ratings come out (Parker gave the last vintage 92 points) and it doubles in price and is gone.

 

2011 Bodegas Juan Gil “Juan Gil”

(the silver label)

Contact us regarding pricing: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463

Putting it Together: Con Class Sauvignon Blanc Blend

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc on May 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Con Clas

Think of the best New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc you have ever had: explosive guava, passion fruit, grapefruit and mango aromas; clean with a cheerful brightness on the palate, as refreshing as chilled mineral water.

Now, take those tastes and add some white peachy richness to the palate followed with a lingering, full finish that tones down Sauvignon Blanc’s acidity.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  It’s a wine from Rueda, Spain.  Specifically Sitios de Bodega’s white wine blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo and Vura named “Con Class”.

You probably haven’t heard of it before.  Why not, you ask?

Rancio.

Rancio: the once deeply cherished style of making white wine in Spain whereby it was purposefully oxidized, giving it a sherry-like “rancio” richness.  To translate directly: rancid. Lovely, right?

Don’t stop reading just because I wrote rancid – Con Class is not rancio wine (let alone rancid!). But Rueda’s particular history of wine making explains why this wine is so cheap, especially relative to what is in the bottle.

Shockingly, once Spain joined the European Union and wine exports picked up it didn’t take Spaniards very long to figure out that rancio wines are an acquired taste.  But, the raw ingredients for great white wine are all in Rueda, Spain: very old vines (King Alfonso was a fan in the 11th century); chalky alluvial soils; great drainage to the Duero River; and enough warmth via its continental climate.

Although  they are sixth generation Ruedians, Ricardo Sanz, along with his brother and sister at Sitios de Bodega, put two and two together – their great vineyards plus modern, non-rancio wine-making skills – in order to make great wine.  And it is everything your favorite Sauvignon Blanc does and more.

This is an incredible blend: Sauvignon Blanc contributes those powerfully expressive aromas of over ripe passion fruit, pineapple and freshly cut star fruit.  The Verdejo amplifies these flavors, making them rounder, weightier and smoother.  It’s amazing that more New Zealand producers don’t try to copy this effect.  Finally, the Vura brings a freshness and liveliness to the wine, a light touch that makes you want to drink more (and more and more!).

Some people don’t drink wine “this cheap”.  Yet the past history, current innovation, and frankly just plain deliciousness of Sitios de Bodega’s Con Class proves them wrong.  This is tasty wine.

 

2011 Sitios de Bodega “Con Class”

Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo & Vura white wine blend

 

Please contact us for pricing:

414-289-9463 or sommelier@waterfordwine.com

 

Unintended Consequences: 2008 Fuligni S / J “Super-Brunello”

In Brunello, Drinking, Sangiovese on May 10, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Drafting the DOCG laws, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, put in an interesting twist: if a winery was making Brunello, only half of its production could be bottled and sold as Brunello.

The idea was “only the best of the best”.  Sounds like a smart plan right?  Yet that law has some unintended consequences.

Here’s why: the Fuligni family has been making Brunello since 1923.  They only have land within the DOCG of Brunello.  They are considered to be one of the best “traditional” producers in the zone (no score below 95 points and up from Parker on the Brunello).  In other words, everything they make is great Brunello.

But 50% of what they make legally “can’t be” Brunello.

What to do?

Some producers just make it all Brunello – illegally.

Some declassify their wine into “lower” levels.  But that hurts, as Fuligni is small (3,700 cases) and losing 50% of your yearly income sucks.

Fuligini is pioneering a new path, and it’s one I find most interesting: a Super-Tuscan.  Or more specifically, a “Super-Brunello”.

It works: there is a legal designation (IGT), it’s the very same Brunello wine that would go into the DOCG bottles, yet it has a touch (around 15%) of Merlot.  Hence, this wine: Fuligni S / J (the S / J used to be San Jacopo, but now it’s just S / J.  Same wine, I have no idea why the change in nomenclature).

But more importantly, it’s darn tasty.

The 2008 S / J opens with classic Brunello aromas of dried black cherries, cocoa, chocolate, black truffles and wood smoke.  It’s pronounced and gorgeous, ready to drink today but certainly not going anywhere fast.

And then the palate kicks in.

Now I have to take a step back.  I have had some pretty bad Super Tuscans (and Super Brunellos) in my time.  In my humble opinion, it is way too easy to overwhelm the grace and elegant structure side of Sangiovese Grosso with sloppy use of fruity-French varietals or new oak.

That is NOT what is going on here.

This Tuscan Merlot is great, in that Pomerol, densely woven and finely knit black fruit, muscular with minerality kind of way.  And that is what Fuligni uses it for here – adding weight and structure to the palate. But it doesn’t obscure the drive and energy of the Sangiovese.  I have used this wine at comparative Brunello tastings and it is almost always the house favorite.  It’s powerful and complete wine, utterly delicious and true to its Tuscan character.  Don’t miss it.

2008 Fuligni S / J “Super Brunello”

Please contact us regarding pricing:

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

And speaking of unintended consequences this, from what I can tell, is the lowest price in the nation (by far).  It was already cheap for Brunello.  Now, it’s a steal.

On Corton: Stoller’s Willamette Valley JV Pinot Noir

In Drinking, Pinot Noir on May 7, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Stoller

Willamette Valley, Oregon, is a marginal climate.

Marginal meaning a climate where there is not quite enough sun, just a little too much rain, the soil is poor and low in nutrient content, and there isn’t quite enough heat.  In other words, it’s a real bitch to grow Pinot Noir.

But the early pioneers in Willamette Valley – two Dicks and two Daves (Dick Erath, Dick Ponzi, David Adelshiem, David Lett) – knew this, and that is precisely why they planted Pinot.

These climatic conditions aren’t just hard on farmers, they’re hard on vines.  And this is good for us as wine drinkers: the more the vines struggle the fewer grapes they produce but the more flavorful that fruit is.  This is why Oregon Pinot is so darn good.

Yet to make Pinot in these conditions is tricky, and location – here more than almost anywhere – matters.  A southeast facing slope catches heat, ripens the grapes, and sheds rain, making Pinot a viable grape in Oregon.  The comparison is inevitable – these are the exact same conditions in Burgundy and if you go to either place what you’ll find is southeast facing vineyards planted on hillsides.

In the Willamette Valley these early pioneers planted in the Dundee Hills for this reason.  Yet just behind these hills and before the onset of the Ribbon Ridge is a single hill sitting all alone.  Jokingly, in wine making circles, this hill became known as Corton, a reference to the Grand Cru Burgundy vineyard that is also situated alone, away from all the other great vineyards of Burgundy, but still making Grand Cru wine.

And Corton, in Oregon, gently sloped to the southeast, catching maximum early sunlight on its broad fan, shedding Oregon’s high rainfall, is the exclusive source for Stoller’s Pinot Noir.  And it shows:

Montmorency cherry aromas explode from the glass, mingling with layers of pomegranate, orange zest, black currant, green tea and Pinot Noir’s baking spicearomas.  Corton’s hillside has worked to concentrate these flavors, bringing them to the absolute forefront of the wine.  This is not to say that the wine is “fruity” or “out-of-balance”.  Rather, the classic Oregonian elegance is on full display: power and drive across the palate finishes with tension and energy on the back.  This wine is young now, but the fruit, tannin and acid balance is impeccable.

Oregonians will make the comparison (as I have done here) that their wine is “Burgundian”.  In this case I believe that is a bit of a disservice.  This is dramatic Oregon Pinot Noir at its best – absolutely irresistible.

 

Please contact us regarding pricing.

414-289-9463

sommelier@waterfordwine.com

Bring on Spring! 2012 Bieler Provence Rosé

In Drinking, Rose on May 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Bieler Rose

It’s been a long time coming, but finally it’s that time of year – time to drink Rosé!

Yes Rosé – that pink wine from France that the uninitiated fear will be sweet but in fact is dry, rosy colored, and delicious.

We drink a lot of Rosés here are Waterford but this is one of our favorites.  Why?  Because it’s everything you could want in a Provence rosé: wild strawberries, watermelon and hints of orange peel underlying goût de terroir of garrigue, savory spices and herbs de Provence.  The palate drinks like a red wine with a broad mid-palate  but then a crisp, zippy finish.  It’s as easy going as a picnic in the park, as delightful spring’s sunshine, and as tasty as Domaine Tempier (one of the world’s best and most expensive Roses).  Drink it with the wild abandonment of a joyous spring!

Enough said.  Cheers!

 

2012 Beiler Pere et Fils Provence Rosé

- contact us for pricing: sommelier@waterfordwine.com or 414-289-9463

 

And, if you want to know more…

Charles Bieler and his sister Mira got their start making rosé in the 1990s with their Dad.  At that time they spent most of their trips to the US explaining that pink wine doesn’t necessarily mean sweet wine.

While many regions in France (and now the US as well) make rosé, it is Provence that can rightfully claim to be the homeland of this style of wine.  There, dry rosé is prized, and rightfully so.  Here is how it works:

When black grapes are brought into the winery they are crushed, creating white grape juice and a mass of black skins.  To get a wine deep and dark, like a robust Napa Cabernet, the skins are recombined with the juice, bleeding in color, usually for days, sometimes even longer.  This process is called “maceration”.

But for rosés the maceration time is much shorter, sometimes as short as two hours.  The result is a wine made with red wine grapes that tastes like red wine, but of a salmon, coppery hue and slightly lighter body.  And this, of course, makes rosés perfect for the spring and summer – they drink like a red wine but are as refreshing as a white.  And Charles Bieler’s Provence rosé is no exception!

Some commentators (not just me!) have called this wine one of the best values in France.  And I whole heartedly agree.

A Pasta dish for Gulfi’s single Cru Nero d’Avolas

In Drinking, Eating, Nero d'Avola, Pasta, Uncategorized on September 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Again, excuse the writing but I just had to jot the amazing pairing down:

 

The “red” pasta dish was as follows (this is a much longer process).

 

Buy beef short ribs.  Salt and pepper heavily.  In a large braising pot well coated with oil sear the beef short ribs until well caramelized on each side.  This may take some time.  I used to have very fancy Viking stove in my old condo.  With the power of that stove (and a big brazier set on top) I could do about 20 short ribs at a time.  With my current stove and cook ware I can only handle about three.  So this is a slow process.  But the caramelization makes the dish very tasty.

 

Once all short ribs are caramelized add them all into the pot, preferably the one you seared them in.  You need a big pot.  Top with water.  Add carrots, onions and celery until you are at the top of the pot in a ratio of 4:2:1.  Add a bay leaf and parsley stems if you want to be extra fancy.  Cover with cheap but not sweet red wine.

 

Bring to a simmer.  Not a boil.  A simmer.  If you boil the dish the meat will be tough and the grease will be forced into the sauce which makes the sauce tasty slimy instead of silky.

 

Simmer for three to five hours or until beef is tender.

 

Remove all vegetables.  Throw them away or puree them into a very rustic (yet very tasty) tapenade for bread (and add salt to).  Remove the beef.  It should shred apart.  After shredding the beef put the beef bones back in the pot.  There should still be a significant amount of liquid still in the pot.  Reserve the beef and refrigerate.

 

Simmer the liquid until reduced by a factor of ten, skimming the pot of all grease.  This may take an additional 10 more hours or so (my batch this time took overnight).

 

When liquid is reduced gather two more components.  First freshly peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes in an amount equal in volume to the remaining beef liquid.  Italians typically used canned so you can save quite a bit of labor using canned tomatoes.  I did not do this.  Second, get a volume of heavy cream equal to the amount of beef liquid.

 

Combine the beef stock, tomatoes and cream.  This will become your sauce.

 

Reduce the sauce until desired consistency is reach.  Add salt to taste.  Add pepper to taste.

 

Add the beef back to the sauce.  Adjust seasonings.  Keep warm.

 

Make and cook pasta.

 

Toss with warmed sauce and beef.  Top with Parmesan (the parmesan is really important, it harmonizes and pulls the dish together).

 

Serve.

 

A Pasta For Gulfi’s Carjcanti

In Chardonnay, Drinking, Eating, Nuts, Pasta on September 29, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Excuse my poor writing but this pasta dish is just an amazing paring with Gulfi’s Carjcanti.  I jotted it down as fast as I could.

 

The “white” pasta dish was as follows:

Puree marcona almonds in a blender with water until smooth, like a sauce.  Add salt to taste.

In a sauce pot cover “no-sulfured” apricots (they will be brown but more tasty than the bright orange ones) with white wine, mixing in small quantities of garlic, ginger, sweet curry, clove, bay, shallot.  Turn on heat and reduce slowly until wine is gone.  Remove apricots, chop.  Add salt to taste.  Chop some more marcona almonds, mix into chop apricots.

Make pasta and cook until el dente.  Toss with sauce, top with apricot mixture.  Top with nice (meaning expensive or fancy) Pecorino cheese.

That is the vegetarian version.  If you wish for a non-vegetarian version take a scant amount of speck (or another smoked prosciutto, but do not use prosciutto, only smoked prosciutto – and I do mean a scant amount, just a little hint of meaty complexity is all you need, any strong and the dish tastes odd) and toss with the apricot mixture.

Serve!

 

Pierre Boniface Les Rocailles Sparkling Brut Vin de Savoie

In Champagne, Drinking, Special Offers on September 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Can you drink Champagne all the time?

Of course you can.

So what’s stopping you?

The price.  Yes, that bottle of Veuve Cliquot is delicious, but at $40 a pop, well, maybe it’s not your Tuesday night wine.

Yet exploring the great wide wine world yields great rewards and Champagne is no different.  The champaignoise believe they have a monopoly on great bubbly.  They don’t.  What they have is a monopoly on the image of great bubbly.  But a short hop, skip and jump across France reveals just how tasty “other sparklers” can be.  Allow me to introduce you to Pierre Boniface’s Brut de Savoie “Les Rocailles”.

That’s a big name so let me unpack it a little bit while telling you why this “Champagne” (OK, sparkling wine) is awesome.

The Savoie is in the French Alps.  Les Rocailles is a town within the Savoie and Pierre Boniface is the wine maker.  In the earthly paradise that is Les Rocailles the Boniface family has been making sparkling wine for centuries.  After all, what could be better than a brisk ski down the mountain, Champagne and oeufs cocotte a la emmenthaler waiting on the deck overlooking Switzerland?

But my main point is the flavor of this wine and its price.

Boniface Les Rocailles Sparkling wine opens with notes of green apples and fresh baked croissants. Champaignoise will claim that no “mere” sparkler can attain the toasty richness of Champagne yet here it is!  Smelling of freshly toasted pain de companion spread with sweet butter and honey the Boniface is sure to please any Champagne lover.  The mousse is supple, lending touches of honeysuckle and jasmine to fresh, lively finish.  It’s delightful in every way.

Including the price: $17.99

Yes, you can drink sparkling wine every day.

 

Pierre Boniface Brut de Savoie

Regular Price: $24.99

Sale Price: $17.99

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

The Cheap Facts About Pinotage: Riebeek Cellars

In Drinking, Pinotage, Special Offers on September 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm

First, a few simple dates…

  • ·         In 1661 Peter Cruytoff crested the Kasteelberg (Castel Mountain) discovering Swartland.  He founded the town of Riebeek, named in honor of Jan van Riebeek, the founder of South Africa.
  • ·         In 1688, bringing their traditions of viticulture and viniculture to Swartland, Huguenots established what would become, many years later, the wine route of South Africa. 
  • ·         In 1925 Professor Abraham Izak Perold of Stellenbosch University crossed the two French grapes Pinot Noir and Cinsault, creating a new grape, “Pinotage”.   
  • ·         Finally, in 1941, Riebeek Cellars was established. 

Fascinating history lesson, isn’t it?

But what really matters is the taste of Riebeek Cellars’ 2010 Pinotage, and its price.  This wine is cheap.  So cheap some of you will be scared to buy it.  Too bad.  You’re missing out on delicious wine.  Seriously.  

Riebeek Cellars Pinotage is opens with bramble fruit notes, the kind most people associate with Zinfandel: blackberries, raspberries, combined with just a touch of cranberry jaminess.  The palate returns to its roots: with an almost Pinot Noir likeness, it’s velvety soft, alluring, with a kiss of fruit on the back.  The finish has a touch of structure (this little Pinotage has some guts) that makes it perfect for cocktailing or grilled foods.  Crack open the bottle and enjoy.    

So why is it so cheap? 

History!  Pinotage works in Swartland and works well.  The vineyards are very old, paid for, and produce exceptionally yields.  Similarly, the winery is long established, paid for, and knows its production well.  The result: high quality, inexpensive, abundant Pinotage. 

Could Riebeek cellars prices this wine higher?  Sure, $19.99 is in the bottle.  But why?  As I was told by their representative “we like what we do but even more we like doing what we do.”  And that is not only the greatest summation for selling wine that I have heard, but also the greatest reason to drink wine I have ever heard.  Enjoy!

 

2010 Riebeek Cellars Pinotage

Release Price:  $12.99

Sale Price:  $7.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with a few others) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Pure Joy: Domaine Calot Morgon Cuvee Tradition (90-91 Points, 25% off)

In Beaujolais, Drinking on September 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Drinking Domaine Calot’s Morgon is pure joy.

I say Morgon to obfuscate and delay your recognition of this beautiful red wine.  Let me explain: Morgon is a place in France, disposed of highly granitic soil, situated just to the south of Burgundies mid-point.  It is said that the combination of the soil, the climate, and the grape make Morgon the beautiful, joyful wine that it is.

But for years, Morgon’s reputation has been absquatulated by its nasty, high-volume-wine-production brother just to the south: Beaujolais.  And this is the association that I, and most of the wine makers in Morgon, wish to break.  Our particular attention today is directed at Domaine Calot.

Calot is one of those small, immediately loveable French wineries.  Run by two bumptious brothers they quickly pour all four Cuvees of their Morgon just to get the morning started.  Back vintages pulled from the deep dark cellar follow, eventually ending up with ham and cheese sandwiches in the vineyard around noon.

Their Cuvee Tradition (our current offer) is a vivid expression of Morgon: Bing cherry aromas burst from the glass, mixing together with notes of citrus oil, brown sugar and nutmeg spices, leaving the palate with grace notes of strawberries, lavender and black pepper.  It’s a red wine but for your picnic chill it ever-so-slightly.  The result is a revelation of freshness that only a Morgon can provide.

I would encourage you to enjoy their wine in this way: with friends, humble yet great food, and large volumes rapidly.  You won’t regret it.

 

2010 Domaine Calot Morgon Cuvee Tradition

Release Price:  $19.99

Sale Price:  $14.99

 

The Wine Advocate Review:

90-91 pts Parker

From tank, Jean Calot’s 2010 Morgon Tradition is one of those Beaujolais Gamays of its vintage that calls to mind white wine, in this case a red raspberry-dominated; honeysuckle- and lily-of-the-valley-garlanded; brown spice- and citrus oil-infused Nahe Riesling. Notes of almond and peach kernel lend a piquant glow to the wine’s polished palate; and bell-clear fruit interacts with flowers, spice, and mineral salts in a refreshing, mouthwatering finish. No doubt an animal dimension will emerge in time, and I would expect this to be well worth pursuing from bottle for 3-4 years.

We will be tasting this wine (along a few other favorites) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Wild, Wild West: Domaine Depeyre Cotes du Roussillon Villages (91 pts. 25% off)

In Grenache, Syrah on August 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

If you’re ready to ride off into the Wild West then I have some darn good wine waiting.

The Wild West: Roussillon, the Mediterranean western backside of France where wine laws change so frequently and so chaotically that most producers simply ignore them.  Yet in spite of wildness (or maybe because of it) there is delicious wine to be had – at Domaine Depeyre.

Brigitte and Serge Depeyre spent seven years piecing together 31 different parcels of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Carignan to form their tiny eponymous Domaine.  It is a labor of love, but what amazing love it is:

Their Roussillon Villages red wine could be an incredible Cote du Rhone– it has stunningly pronounced raspberry / Grenache like character on the nose, like a box of fresh farm raspberries pressed to make jam.  But it also could be a Cote Rotie with its pronounced floral Syrah characters of violets, kirsch, and black pepper lifting the wine and adding intrigue.  Or maybe it’s more like a Viellies Vignes Cuvee from Chateauneuf du Pape – after all the Depeyre’s Mourvedre is from Chateau Beaucastel, adding a maraschino cherry like richness to the palate, rounding the wine with supple tannins and a lifted finish.

But these “could bes” are silly.  What we’ve got here is not imitation Cote Rotie or Cote du Rhone, but absolutely delicious Roussillon.  Brigitte and Serge have done us wine lovers an awesome turn – making something as wonderful as what we already know, yet also unique.  If you’re ready for an adventure, this is tasty stuff.

Sure, much like the rest of Roussillon, Brigitte and Serge’s Domaine Depeyre is a young dream, but as David Schildnick of the Wine Advocate notes, in ten years -time this wine will be a mind blowing experience.  Let’s catch it now, and enjoy.

2010 Domaine Depeyre Cotes du Roussillon Villages

Release Price:  $19.99

Sale Price:  $14.99

 

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Review:

91 points

Vinified and elevated in humble fiberglass tank from (majority) Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, and this year a smidgeon of Mourvedre, the Depeyre 2010 Cotes du Roussillon Villages had only just been bottled when I tasted it in April, but was showing no ill-effects. This cuvee strikingly illustrates the synergy between the selections of Syrah that the Depeyres have chosen and their sites. A superb, high-toned nose projects kirsch, maraschino, fresh red raspberry, rowan, and violet, its purity of fruit and abundant floral perfume both testifying to the nobility of Syrah such as we celebrate from the Northern Rhone. In the mouth, this projects refined tannins and a fine sense of energy and primary red and black fruit juiciness, while cherry pit and hints of red meat add further intrigue to an exuberant finish. The longer this was open, the more fetching its floral dimension became. Imagining this cuvee – or one much like it – ten or a dozen vintages hence, when its Syrah and Mourvedre vines will approach maturity, is an exciting prospect. Even so, you won’t be disappointed with the present instance, which (based on the price of its 2009 counterpart) is almost certain to represent exceptional value and be worth savoring for at least 3-4 years.

Classified Growth Bordeaux Need Not Be Expensive: 2009 Boyd Cantenac Jacques Boyd

In Cabernet, Drinking, Special Offers on August 21, 2012 at 11:32 am

Call it what you will – globalization, internationalization, Parkerization, or maybe just simple greed –Bordeaux’s wines are expensive.  I won’t complain if Chateau Margaux at $1,200 a bottle is your Tuesday night tipple (please purchase it from Waterford Wine Company!) but for us old schoolers who like to lay down a couple of bottles without worrying about our children’s college fund, Bordeaux has gotten a little out of hand.   

Bordeaux doesn’t need to be that expensive to be good.  That is why I would like to introduce you to Chateau Boyd Cantenac’s Jacques Boyd.  It’s $39.99, it’s from the great vintage of 2009, it will age at least 20 more years in your cellar, and it drinks with the same quality of its neighbors – Chateau Palmer ($289.99) and the above mentioned Chateau Margaux. 

You may think I am joking or fooling or offering some kind of bargain-basement schlocky Bordeaux.  I am not.  Here is why:

Boyd Cantenac is a third growth owned by Lucien Guillemet.  To my understanding Lucien turns the middle finger up at the whole Bordeaux price circus.  Is this market suicide?  Not in his case – he looks for drinkers, a.k.a. people who want to enjoy Cabernet, versus looking for a portfolio investment.  And by and large he has found them – in Continental Europe, which is why you hardly ever see his wine in the US.      

Jacques Boyd, the specific wine in question, is the Second Wine of Boyd Cantenac.  In Bordeaux terms this means the wine that drinks young.  In other words, instead of waiting until 2017 through 2047 (Robert Parker’s suggestion for the Boyd Cantenac), you could potentially drink it now.  With this wine Lucien picks the barrels which are fuller and rounder, drinkable now, and then bottles them. 

And the wine is superb:  the 2009 Jacques Boyd exhibits classic Margaux aromas of chocolate, mocha and coffee combined with blueberry liqueur and cassis.  All the hallmarks of a great Bordeaux Claret wine are here – graphite, wood smoke, earth and also the underlying fruit concentration from a great vintage.  For all of its exuberance (and my postulating) I would suggest you lay this one down.  If not for 2013 then 2014.  If waiting is not an option than Tuesday Night’s Steak Diane is about to get saucy – the only question is your house or mine. 

Sure, Boyd Cantenac isn’t famous like its neighbors, it’s not going to “win face” with Chinese patrons, it’s not an investment.  But who cares?  It’s exactly what it is – simply darn good Bordeaux, priced the way it should be.

 

2009 Boyd Cantenac Jacques Boyd

Release Price:  $59.99

Sale Price:  $39.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with five others) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

American Grand Cru: Straight Line Sauvignon Blanc

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc, Special Offers on August 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm

If America had a Grand Cru for Sauvignon Blanc it would be in Santa Barbara County.  Meaning: Santa Barbara County makes Americas best Sauvignon Blancs – by far.

That isn’t what the locals will tell you.  They are far more interested in selling you Pinot Noir (Sideways was filmed here) because it commands a higher price.  Yet Santa Barbara Pinot Noir is like Lindsey Lohan – it takes on too much alcohol turning it into a hot, sticky mess.  But Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t have this problem.

Grand Cru might be too strong of a word for Southern Californians to handle, yet it makes sense.  The French, through history and tradition, have matched specific grapes with specific sites that produce higher quality wine, hence, Grand Cru.

In Santa Barbara there is the ideal combination of coastal influence and shallow soils.  Santa Barbara boasts a rare east-west orientation facing out to the ocean, creating a cool coastal influence that extends a vine’s growing period to develop flavor and character.  The shallow soil’s clay and serpentine rock mixture means the vines possess exceptionally low vigor, resulting in naturally low yields of intense fruit.

Jon Grant in one such producer who crafts magnificent Sauvignon Blanc in Santa Barbara.  Jon is the cellar master over at Turley Wine Cellars (no shabby job in itself) but he likes to explore the world of wine – hence the stunning wines he makes under his own label: Straight Line.

Straw hued, this lovely Sauvignon Blanc beckons with airy scents of lemongrass, orange blossoms and neroli. The wine strikes impeccable balance on the palate upon the first sip with a silky, lush mouth-feel countered by brisk acidity and flavors of Meyer lemon peel, green almonds, cherry blossoms and light notes of honey.  It is this mouth-feel that I associate with Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc: rich, yes, but also with an almost cream-like viscosity but all the while still it stays refreshing.   The finish is bright and fresh and lingers with a pleasing essence of lemon curd and wet stones.

For those of you whole love Sauvignon Blanc, or just love drinking wine, don’t miss this one.

 

2010 Straight Line Sauvignon Blanc

Release Price:  $21.99

Sale Price:  $14.99

Forward from Dagueneau: Pabiot Pouilly Fumé

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc, Special Offers on August 15, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Pouilly Fumé is a region in France famous for Sauvignon Blanc.  Its hallmark is a pierre à fusil character, developing from the silex soils and producing a concentrated, long lived Sauvignon.  But the region’s most ambitious producer – Didier Dagueneau – died suddenly in 2008 leaving the region forcibly changed yet also ungrounded.

Dagueneau was the L’Enfant terrible of the Loire Valley, an ex-motor cross, ex-dog sled racer who could toss off epigrams condemning the entire valley for making “fruit cocktails” instead of wine.  In Pouilly Fumé he planted his vineyards to extremely high densities, dropped his yields to record lows, fermented his wines in oak with days of skin contact, and the released them onto an unsuspecting market at record high prices.  With Dagueneau’s death, the next generation of Pouilly Fumé wine-makers have been left to sort out his extremes.

And frankly, never has Pouilly Fumé been more exciting than now.  Especially in the hands of Jonathan Pabiot.

Coming home from lycee Jonathan’s dad gave him a “pet project” – two hectares of wines to farm.  But within two vintages dad had to admit (with equal parts pride and embarrassment) that his pet-project’s wine was surpassing his own.

Jonathan Pabiot’s Sauvignon Blanc is the prefect melding of two fascinating styles of Pouilly Fumé.  Leaning towards Dagueneau are its open aromas of apricot, mangoes and cassis.  Here the pierre à fusil develops more as a ripe fig note, underpinning the wine while revealing its terroir.  Its fresh with Pouilly Fumé’s classical backbone.  It’s this backbone that gives the wine its ability to age – I would put this in your cellar for next year – and watch as it unfolds into a sensual creamy texture.  Unlike lesser Sauvignons this one rewards patience and introspection.

Could Pabiot be the next Dagueneau?  Or could Pouilly Fumé be beginning a new chapter in its greatness?  Tradition and passion, youth and excitement – drinking in Pouilly Fumé has never been better with Jonathan Pabiot’s Sauvignon Blanc.

 

2011 Jonathan Pabiot Pouilly Fumé

Release Price:  $21.99

Sale Price:  $17.99

Magnificent: Conterno Barbera (93 points Wine Advocate, 32 percent off)

In Barbera, Drinking, Special Offers on August 13, 2012 at 1:52 pm

“If I was given the choice of one bottle of wine before I die I would choose Giacomo Conterno’s Monfortino.  And if the grim reaper will consent to turn a blind eye to me for another twenty years or so, please make that a 1990…” Nicholas Belfrage, Barolo to Valpolicella.

Such is the power Conterno wine.  Grown men and women – in fact, some of the most important wine commentators in the world – request them as a death bed tipple.

Conterno is a family, founded by the eponymous Giacomo (wine maker vintages 1914 – 1934), continued by his son Giovanni (vintages 1934 – 2004), and now in the hands of Grandson Roberto (vintages 1988 [with dad Giovanni] to present).

But more importantly, this family’s wines represent all that is magnificent about Italian red wine: a coarse, gutsy manliness that announces meaty depths, whose flavors and density, it’s very massiveness will leave your palate wondering why American wines are so fruity and French wines are so soft.  They are magnificent.  So magnificent a note of caution may be in order – as you explore these depths you too may pine for the grim reaper – if only to hasten the drinking of Conterno’s masterpieces.

From their vineyard Cascina Francia in Serralunga de Alba, Langhe, the family makes three wines, two Barolos and a tiny amount of the world’s most sought after Barbera – the wine we are featuring today.

An easy and perhaps too casual a way to explain this wine is to reflect back on the founding father’s insistence that “only the premium grapes can bring prestige to the Langhe” – his home.  Few producers use the best land in Barolo to make Barbera because they don’t deem it worth their while.  But Conterno does.  And using the best land to make the best grapes to create the best wine is a fine, logical answer to why this wine is so good.

A more difficult explanation, maybe even unfathomable, is that making wine is deeply spiritual in the Conterno household.  An experience whose praxis manifests in the character of the wines.  A visit to this winery yields no magic formula, or computer lab, or optic grape sorting machine let alone a new oak barrel.  The visit reveals a temple of botti where the wines are resting.  Resting sometimes two years, five years, eight years or even more, quietly raised into one of Italy’s “Great Growths”.  The “secret” being the infinitesimally small interactions between wine, Conterno and time.

This exercise in spirituality I believe makes Conterno’s wines what they are – and you can taste it.  The 2009 Barbera opens with aromas of white truffle oil, tilled black earth, roasted black cherries covered in chocolate; and tanned leather, and smoky aromas of a long night making-out by the bon fire.  The palate is gutsy, near meaty, and massive.  A “steak house red” cabernet will seem insignificant after Conterno’s Barbera, like the waiter secretly watered it down just to spite you.  Like a sought after lover it fights back and won’t let your attention wander.  Indeed, you may wish to put down the bottle for a breather.

But it is not undrinkable.  And this is a facet of the Conterno’s genius: for how monumental the Barbera is – “massive” “meaty”, what have you – it is graceful, like a stone monolith honoring some long ago forgotten Italian King.  The King is dead but the Barbera still honors him.  There is a seriousness in this liquid.

Hold this bottle open for days, I encourage you.  Romance it.  Don’t go fast.  Oxygen kills most wines but breathes life into Conterno’s Barbera.  It only gets better and better.

This is a masterpiece.  Do not miss it.

 

2009 Giacomo Conterno Barbera

Release Price:  $49.99

Sale Price:  $34.99

A Summer of Wine and Roses: Brazilier Rose

In Drinking, Rose on August 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm

If Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc got together and had a love-child it would be Pineau d’Anuis.

Pineau d’Anuis (pronounced, with the typical French flair for ignoring the actual letters making up the word, as Pee an’ wee!) has the citrus, orange zest and peachiness of Sauvignon Blanc.  But it’s also got the pomegranate, strawberry and honey spice of Pinot Noir.  At home in the Loir, a tributary of the Loire (more wonderful French spelling), most vintners make it into a crazy zesty red wine that tastes like a Rum Toddy swirled with cinnamon Red Hots.  I love the idea of Hot Red Toddies but that isn’t why I am writing today.    

I’m writing because a couple of producers are charting another course for Pineau d’Anuis – rosé.  Meaning dry French Rosé.   And Pineau d’Anuis makes brilliant rosé. 

Imagine it: orange, mandarin, and peach combined with pomegranate, a bare hint of brown sugar spice, and strawberries.  These are the smells and flavors of Domaine Brazilier’s Pineau d’Anuis rosé.  But these flavors get even better across the palate – they are packaged into a crisp, refreshing dry wine that will soon replace water in your daily diet – it’s that delicious.  I’m not saying opening a bottle of Brazilier’s rosé will cause true love, world peace or bread to be sliced.  But in its own way it’s the ultimate rosé – like Pinot Noir it pairs with almost any food, yet like Sauvignon Blanc it can be cocktailed at any moment.  But you don’t have to imagine it – it’s available right now at Waterford. 

Summer is not over yet!  Let’s drink through the rest of it. 

 

2011 Domaine Brazilier Rosé

Release Price:  $12.99

Sale Price:  $7.99

The Apogee of Burgundy, the Pinnacle of Pinot Noir: Gevrey Chambertin

In Drinking, Pinot Noir on July 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Title: The Apogee of Burgundy, the Pinnacle of Pinot Noir: Gevrey Chambertin
Location: Wednesday, August 29, 7:00, $50 per guest
Description: To quote Clive Coates, “Gevrey Chambertin vies for the most important title of them all: the apogee Burgundy, the pinnacle of Pinot Noir.”

Not only is this commune huge, it is the largest in the Cote de Nuits. It boasts the greatest number of Grand Crus of any village in Burgundy and has an enormous wealth of producers. Some of these producers are legendary, long-established Domaines. Others are upstarts, part of the new breed of wine makers questing after the Holy Grail of Pinot Noir.

This tasting aims to explore as much of Gevrey Chambertin as we can – its great Crus, its noble producers, its exciting diversity. For the Pinot Noir lover this is a tasting not to miss.

Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2012-08-29
End Time: 21:00

Chateauneuf du Pape: A Session in Blending

In Chateauneuf du Pape, Drinking, Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah on July 26, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Title: Chateauneuf du Pape: A Session in Blending
Location: Wednesday, August 22, 7 pm, $30 per guest
Description: The most prestigious, and most variable, appellation in the Southern Rhone: Chateauneuf du Pape. At its most exciting it is the exemplar of warm climate viticulture. Yet it can also be impossibly tannic, hedonistically jammy, stinky beyond the point of barnyard, or smooth as silk. What accounts for these differences?

One explanation for these differences might be Chateauneuf’s unique blending practices. Thirteen different grape varieties are allowed within a single bottle of Chateaunuef and every producer can choose their own blend or style.

This tasting explores Chateauneuf (and the Cote du Rhone) through a session in blending its three main grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.

Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2012-08-22
End Time: 21:00

An Embarrassment of Summer Riches: Italian Whites

In Drinking, Pinot Grigio, Soave, Verdicchio on July 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

Title: An Embarrassment of Summer Riches: Italian Whites
Location: Wednesday, August 15, 7 pm, $20 per guest
Description: It’s hot outside and what better way to counter the heat than white wines from a warm climate? And what better country to explore than Italy! Italy offers nearly an embarrassment of summer white wine (and red wine) riches. Come and taste through a delightful sampling of Italian wines.
Start Time: 19:00
Date: 2012-08-15
End Time: 21:00

Burgundy: The Wines Bichot

In Chardonnay, Drinking, Pinot Noir on July 26, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Title: Burgundy: The Wines Bichot
Location: Friday, August 3, 3 pm to 7 pm, FREE, Open House Format
Description: Join Waterford Wine as we welcome Alexandre Leclercq from Albert Bichot in Burgundy. Albert Bichot comprises four great estates under one name with the goal of making wines of terroir showcasing the Cote d’Or while also providing exceptional value. This is a one of a kind opportunity to explore Burgundy for free!
Start Time: 15:00
Date: 2012-08-03
End Time: 19:00

French Kisses: Puech Auriol Coteaux d’Enserune Chardonnay

In Chablis, Chardonnay, Drinking, Special Offers on July 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm

When combining work with pleasure, as in the case of Stephane and Cecile Yerle, delicious wine always follows. 

Unlike most consulting oenologists, Stephane and Cecile regard wine not just as a job, but a passion.  Their own “garden”, named Puech Auriol, must be the most lovingly tended three hectares of grapes in Mediterranean France.  And this shows in their wine:    

Their Puech Auriol Chardonnay is sexy like an expansive Grand Cru white Burgundy – starting with an apricot scented French kiss, it slowly caresses the palate with honeydew melon flavors resolving into just a tickle of Mirabelle.  It reluctantly leaves your embrace with a flirty squeeze of bitter neroli minerality, clinging to the deliciousness of that first kiss.   If you are willing to give this wine an inch of intellectual exploration it’s going to show you a mile of hedonistic pleasure.

This wine’s complexity soars far beyond its humble origins.  True, the Coteaux d’Enserune may not seem like the best place to plant Chardonnay.  Yet Puech Auriol is at such high elevation and its soil is so full of limestone fossils (pictured on the label) that it more closely resembles Chablis than Meursault.  I have had my bottle open for five days and it keeps getting better, slowly undressing and opening up in that way that all great French Chardonnays do.       

Although they make very little of this wine, like most winemakers I know who love wine Stephane and Cecile significantly underprice their own products.  Such is the case here.  It’s not that they just want you to buy it, rather, they want it to find a happy home, drunk lovingly, just like the way it was made.   

 

2011 Puech Auriol Chardonnay

Release Price:  $19.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with five others) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

 

Purely Refreshing: La Viarte Pinot Grigio

In Drinking, Pinot Grigio, Special Offers on July 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm

To Haut-Master-Sommeliers Pinot Grigio is a joke. 

They assume that women who order Pinot Grigio really want water and have no understanding of wine.  Therefore the more insipid the Pinot Grigio, the better.  And thus Pinot Grigio is condemned to that lowliest position on restaurant wine lists – the “house white” – forever regarded by “serious” wine drinkers as inferior and not worth of attention. 

These assumptions are completely incorrect. 

Pinot Grigio can be one of the world’s most compellingly structural, intensely mineral, long-lived, zesty fruit-driven, and yet still incredibly refreshing wines.  No other wine in the world can combine these characteristics in quite the same way – and this exactly describes La Viarte Pinot Grigio.

La Viarte, meaning “the opening of Spring”, is the long-quested dream of Giuseppe and Carla Ceschin.  Moving to Friuli in the 1960s they worked as share-cropping farmers for 13 years before being able to purchase their own estate – La Viarte.

Friuli is a set of rolling hillsides that stretch from the northeast corner of Italy into what is now Slovenia.  Forming a vineyard, the Ceschin family carved terraces into one of these rolling slopes leaving the uplands forested.  The labor required was backbreaking – it was nine years before they produced their first vintage – yet it is a style that harkens back to Friuli’s first vineyards planted by the Romans.  The combination of classic, traditional vineyard management and modern wine-making is dramatic, as you can taste in their Pinot Grigio.

La Viarte’s Pinot Grigio opens with an intensely phenolic nose of honey, dried apricots, and rose petals surrounded by the tang of wet stones splashed with salt water.  The palate is pure refreshment – lemon peel and orange blossom combine on the palate with a crisp, crunch of acidity and lingering La Croix mineral-water like finish.  It is a stunning summer tipple now yet will continue to develop a wildflower-honey panna cotta richness as it ages for up to ten more years.

As Giulio, Carla and Giuseppe’s son, once wrote, his family wants to make wine that is frank and sincere, mirroring his parents’ spirit when they first planted the vineyard – tenacious, precise, lively,  essential and without frills.  In a word: pure.

And this is what all those haughty Master Sommeliers are missing – a great wine that is purely, refreshingly Pinot Grigio. 

 

2010 La Viarte Pinot Grigio

Release Price:  $21.99

Sale Price:  $12.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with five others) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Fruits of Labor: Clos du Calvaire Chateauneuf du Pape (90-93 pts. Parker, 35% off)

In Chateauneuf du Pape, Drinking, Grenache, Special Offers on July 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Françoise, Béatrice, and Didier Mayard are very lucky people – they own 43 hectares of prime vineyard in Chateauneuf du Pape, one of France’s greatest wine regions.   

The story is this: their great grandfather, Gratien Mayard, owned land in Chateauneuf as far back as the late 19th century – right at the onset of phylloxera.  This vine louse tore through his vineyards, eventually infecting every vine and killing them all.  He was torn – stay and rebuild, or immigrate to a better life in America like many of his contemporaries?

Keep in mind that despite its fancy name Chateauneuf du Pape was not a high-powered wine growing region a century ago.  In fact, much of its production was illegally sold off in bulk to be bottled as Bordeaux and Burgundy.  It was not until the AOC system was instituted in the 1930s that Chateauneuf as its own region was even recognizable as a bottled wine.  In the 1890s the wines were cheap, labor was non-existent, and the entire region was diseased and dying.  Not a pretty sight.  

But Gratien decided to stay.  Not only stay, but rebuild and replant.  Beginning this arduous task on the La Crau plateau he hand-planted every single vine on the estate, digging through Chateauneuf du Pape’s galet stone laden topsoil into the mother rock.  Personally, I can’t imagine ever doing this.  Granted, I don’t like farming, let alone being outside; yet this guy put every single vine in the ground by himself. 

To say that Françoise, Béatrice, and Didier Mayard – as beneficiaries years later of Gratien’s hard work – are very lucky people is an understatement.  But even more than that, WE are even luckier because as wine drinkers we get to enjoy the fruit of all their labors.  The results are clear to taste in Vignobles Mayard Clos du Calvaire Chateauneuf du Pape:

Aromas of ripe red cherries intermingle with notes of garrigue, kirsch, black pepper and black currants all coming together in one opulent and voluptuously textured palate.  The Mayard family makes this cuvee of their Chateauneufs up-front and ready to drink now although it will age for 10 years or more in the cellar.  The finish is lingering with truffles, cedar and hints of sous bois rounding out a complex and deliciously drinkable wine. 

I personally consider Chateauneuf du Papes the ultimate grill wine: roasted leg of lamb with aioli, smoked chicken stuffed with sausage and red peppers, grilled steak Diane, even a swordfish steak with black olive paste are all perfect matches for Chateauneuf du Pape.  And at this price (see below), it’s time to drink up and eat well.

 

2009 Mayard Clos du Calvaire Chateauneuf du Pape

Release Price:  $39.99

Sale Price:  $26.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with five others – see below) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Wine and Economics: 2007 Baileyana Pinot Noir Firepeak Cuvee

In Drinking, Pinot Noir on July 3, 2012 at 1:27 pm

There is a coming crisis in the California wine industry that is going to sort out the men from the boys.  Or, at least, it’s going to sort out the Domaines from the Negociants. 

I use the French terms for explicitness – a Domaine grows, vinifies and bottles its own wine.  A Negociant purchases fruit, juice, or even finished wine and labels it as their own.  In France, Domaine-made wine is prized over negociant wine, which often is relegated to the bulk market.  In California, with the advent of custom crush facilities, the role of the farmer in wine production has been lost [lost or marginalized???].  This is most common in Napa, where fly-by-night labeling facilities churn out generic juice, slap a pretty label on it, and charge you $75.   

It’s not that all Domaine wine is good, nor is it that all negociant wine is bad.  But the crisis is this: 2009, 2010 and 2011 are all very low yielding years for wine grapes.  And demand is sky high, particularly for Pinot Noir.  California’s Domaines will take the best grapes and make great wine.  However, California’s negociants are going to have to pay significantly more for grapes and still end up with the worst of the crop.  And this process is already starting as these vintages roll into grocery stores and supermarkets near you. 

That brings us to the Baileyana family.  The Baileyana’s are land owners in Edna Valley, California and sell almost all their grapes to negociants.  For all of my bitching about Domaines and Negociants the whole idea is really ephemeral to the Baileyanas.  They certainly don’t mind selling their grapes – they just keep the best to themselves – that is, their Domaine.

With the rise in grape prices the Baileyana’s saw a strategic possibility.  First, they were making good money farming.  Second, given the higher cost of even the worst grapes, Negociants had to charge more for their plonk. Third, rising prices of Negociant wine left a vacuum in the lower priced wine category.  Fourth, the Baileyana’s farming profits enablemd them to lower the price on their own Pinot Noir, thus filling the vacuum.

Is this all strategic wrangling by grape farmers?  Yes.  But I was happy to sell the Grand Firepeak Cuvee Pinot Noir back when it cost $30.  At $20, it’s a steal.  And to be explicit: it’s now even more of a steal as every other Negociant’s wines are getting more expensive using worse grapes.

As a testament to their long-standing roots in Edna Valley, the Grand Firepeak Cuvee honors Catherine Niven, the matriarch of the Baileyana family.  She first planted Pinot Noir on a small 3.5 acre plot, directly in front of their house.  Out of her meticulous vineyard work forty years ago grows the Firepeak Cuvee of today.

The wine opens with notes of strawberry and raspberry, highlighting the warmth of California’s sunshine.  But Edna Valley is also one of the coolest places in California to grow Pinot and this is revealed in the complexity of the palate – lively notes of spice box, malt, almond flower honey and earthiness line the body of the wine.  It is a thoroughbred with tightly woven, yet supple, tannins and robust power.  Notice it is from the 2007 vintage – a spectacular one across California – and with its time in the bottle this wine has developed into an open, expressive and lavish character.  Drink it now and continue drinking it for the next five years. 

With the coming vintages out of California look for wines like Baileyana – wines made by the farmer – and you will be deeply rewarded.

 

2007 Baileyana Grand Firepeak Cuvee Pinot Noir

Release Price:  $28.99

Sale Price:  $19.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with five others – see below) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

And as always…

 

Friday’s FREE Wine Tasting

This Friday 3-7:00 pm, $FREE – Open House Format

 

This Friday, and every Friday, Waterford Wine offers up a casual, open house wine tastings.  Come in after work, stop by with friends, and enjoy the taste of some great wines!

“Readers should do whatever they can to taste these fabulous wines”: Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Marie Courtin Resonance Champagne (93 points, 35% off)

In Champagne, Drinking on June 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Is there a more refreshing beverage than Champagne?  I think not. 

 

Just picture it – this weekend, or tonight for that matter, you and another lover of Champagne (say Marilyn Monroe or George Clooney – take your pick) sharing the backyard kiddy pool with a chilled bottle of Champagne resting in the ice bucket between you – refreshment, titillation, and deliciousness all wrapped into one delightfully small cella natatoria.

 

But wait!  Before this fantasy carries us away – not all Champagnes are the same.  And You, Marilyn and George, know the difference.  That is why I bring you Dominique Moreau’s Marie Courtin Résonance Champagne.

 

Dominique is one of the growing trend of farmer-wine makers in the region of Champagne.  Meaning the grapes she grows she personally makes into wine and thus into Champagne.  Her “farmer-fizz” bucks the trend of the Champagne region, which has traditionally maintained a separation between grower and wine-maker.  But her resilience is to our benefit: she makes killer Champagne.

 

Named after her Grandmother, Marie Courtin, Dominique’s vineyard is down south, in an area called Polisot in Champagne.  Polisot is a hidden gem in Champagne producing Pinot Noir with power and cut, brilliance and driving minerality.  Large house Champagne, meaning the big boys, not the farmers making a little fizz, knows how serious this stuff is – Polisot’s Pinot provides backbone and fruity richness to many famous Champagnes.  But now it’s time for you to taste the Power of Polisot Pinot, all on its own. 

 

So get out that fictional kiddy pool and sit down.  This stuff is going to blow you away.  

 

At this point, you may be thinking that I have been drinking too much Marie-Courtin Champagne, that I have been swept off my feet and landed in soggy-bottom-sardoodledom with a buzz on.  So I offer you another perspective about Dominique’s achievement, from none-other than Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:   

 

“This is a breathtaking set of wines from proprietor Dominique Moreau. Biodynamic farming and non-interventionalist winemaking are the rule.  I can’t say enough good things about these hand-made, artisan Champagnes. If Moreau keeps making wines like these she will soon be one of the superstars of Champagne.  Readers should do whatever they can to taste these fabulous wines.”

 

And the wine itself:

 

“The Resonance is 100% Pinot Noir from a parcel in Polisot. It is a brilliant, energetic wine endowed with gorgeous richness and depth. Succulent apricots, peaches, flowers and crushed rocks are some of the many nuances that take shape in the glass. Chalky notes linger on the precise, beautifully articulated, eternal finish.  It is a fabulous wine in every way. I loved it. 93 points” – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that.  This is great Champagne, don’t miss it.

 

 

 

Marie Courtin Cuvee Resonance Champagne

 

Release Price:  $59.99

 

Sale Price:  $39.99

 

 

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with five others [and the Merlot special] – see below) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.  

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

 

And as always…

 

 

 

Friday’s FREE Wine Tasting

 

This Friday 3-7:00 pm, $FREE – Open House Format

 

 

 

This Friday, and every Friday, Waterford Wine offers up a casual, open house wine tastings.  Come in after work, stop by with friends, and enjoy the taste of some great wines!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Back to America: Independent Producers Bacchus Vineyard Merlot

In Drinking, Merlot on June 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Aromas of freshly picked, ripe raspberries that nearly fall apart in your hand with their richness; the flavors of silky, black cherry fruit, smooth as velvet; and then a finish wrapped into its core with cocoa tannins, holding and restraining the richness of the palate, providing support for long term aging. 

This description could be of Cabernet – after all, Cabernet has all of these attributes.  But instead, it describes the Independent Producers Bacchus Vineyard Merlot.

Merlot: one sentence from the movie Sideways killed this grape’s reputation along with its American sales.  The sentence was meant to be ironic, but Merlot – at least American Merlot – remains dead.  Which is unfair to the grape, but even more unfair to the drinking public.

The real irony is that, just like in Sideways, the reputation of French Merlot couldn’t be stronger.  With the release of Bordeaux’s 2009 vintage wines such as Cheval Blanc, Ausone, and Petrus (all Merlot dominate wines) command four digit prices tags – per bottle! – and there still isn’t enough to go around.  And demand is enormous across all of the Right Bank of Bordeaux.  So why the hate on domestic Merlot?   

True, several years ago it could be argued that American Merlot needed to die.  Merlot’s tastiness – its richness – was being exploited by some wineries to produce wines like alcoholic jam.  Yet some producers, indeed, I would argue one entire state of America, continues making great Merlot, structured yet full bodied, with backbone and still silky fruit flavors.  That state is Washington.

I have compared Bordeaux France and Washington State before so I will be short with my analysis of why Washington makes amazing Merlot.  First, Washington’s growing season is shorter, more Bordeaux-esque, than Napa Valley’s.  This controls the richness of the palate.  Second, Washington State, unlike Napa, has never experienced the vine louse phylloxera.  The Merlot vines are on their own roots, producing wines of great purity.  Third, Washington State diurnal temperature change allows for perfect development of fruit flavors yet also the complexity of Bordeaux.    

All of this is amply demonstrated in the Independent Producers Bacchus Vineyard Merlot.  The wine opens with aromas of black raspberries, currants, chocolate, and dried baking spices.  The palate revolves around pure notes of cassis, white flowers, mingling with a Bordeaux-like graphite.  The finish reveals its terroir – a great depth of silky structure and tannins, balancing the wine while still revealing its Merlot richness.  This is Merlot in all its glory – big, leveling the playing field against Cabernet, and yet still incredibly drinkable.    

If this wine was produced in France they would charge ten times the price of it and still laugh at you in an outrageous accent.  But that attitude is simply not worth enduring.  This July Fourth end the irony and bring your Merlot drinking back home.         

 

2010 Independent Producers Bacchus Vineyard Merlot

Release Price:  $14.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with five others – see below) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm, unless we sell out of it.  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

And as always…

 

Friday’s FREE Wine Tasting

This Friday 3-7:00 pm, $FREE – Open House Format

 

This Friday, and every Friday, Waterford Wine offers up a casual, open house wine tastings.  Come in after work, stop by with friends, and enjoy the taste of some great wines!

 

 

Fresh, Delicious Richness: Pesquie Viognier

In Drinking, Special Offers, Uncategorized on June 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Viognier has a thick skin.  Literally, not metaphorically. 

The grape Viognier (Vee-unh-yea!) has a very thick skin.  And while most of us don’t spend our time pondering the pellicule of vitis vinifera it’s the skin that gives Viognier is strikingly pronounced aromas of white peaches, pineapple and grapefruit while still having a dry, yet full bodied taste. 

For farmers, however, Viognier’s thick skin has one serious complication.  It turns out that the qualities that make Viognier such an exciting wine also make it very difficult to grow.

The skin is the last part of a wine grape to ripen.  And unfortunately the skin carries most of the flavor compounds, the flavonoids, that make wine tasty.  Viognier’s genetic programming for a very thick skin means a long “hang time” – time on the vine after veraison – to fully ripen.  The longer the hang time, the more sunlight combined with photosynthesis that ripens Viognier’s berries into the sublime apricot, peachy, and pineapple flavors we expect. 

Now here comes the complication.  As Viognier hangs on the vine, gaining those flavors, it also gains sugar and loses acidity.  Initially this sounds quite tasty: nobody wants to suck on a lemon and lemonade tastes better with more sugar.  But once inside the winery all that sugar in Viognier (or most) gets fermented into alcohol.  The result tastes like hot, alcoholic Kool-Aid; or Lemonade Port.  And while these drinks may have been exciting at frat-parties of yore, they tend to lack the refreshment of a fun-drinking, back-yard patio wine.   

But planting Viognier in the right location gets around these faults.  “Right” meaning plenty of sun but relatively cool temps and nitrogen poor soils.  The combination is important.  The sun exposure ripens up the skin, the coolness preserves acidity while keeping sugar low, and nitrogen poor soils slow down photosynthesis.  The result is a balanced, fresh, but most of all utterly delicious wine.

And this is exactly what Chateau Pesquie has done.  Pesquie is in the Cote du Ventoux (CdV), which is east of Chateauneuf du Pape and inland from the Mediterranean.  While CdV may not be as famous as its neighbors, wine has been made here for over 2,000 years.  And Chateau Pesquie is considered its greatest practitioner.     

And with their 2010 Viognier, this shows: a bouquet of apricots, lychees and spring flowers soars from the glass – this is perfectly ripened Viognier.  But unlike so many other Viognier’s this one is fresh and balanced on the palate.  Fruit notes of pineapple, caramelized oranges and grapefruit ride through the finish, trailing off with a refreshing sense of minerality.  While Viognier is always full bodied with fruit character, Pesquie’s Viognier gives all of this delicious richness while still remaining at 12.5% alcohol. 

A perfect wine for the backyard BBQ, or just cocktailing on a summer day, Pesquie’s Viognier is not to be missed!

 

2010 Pesquie Viognier

Release Price:  $19.99

Sale Price:  $12.99

 

We will probably sell out of this selection.  If we don’t will be tasting this wine (along with five others – see below) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm.  AGAIN, there is a good chance we will sell of it.  But please come and enjoy our other wines!  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

And as always…

 

Friday’s FREE Wine Tasting

This Friday 3-7:00 pm, $FREE – Open House Format

 

This Friday, and every Friday, Waterford Wine offers up a casual, open house wine tastings.  Come in after work, stop by with friends, and enjoy the taste of some great wines!

 

Father’s Day: You, Steak, and Cabernet. Isole e Olena Collezione De Marchi Cabernet (62% off, 93 points WA)

In Cabernet, Drinking, Special Offers on June 12, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Paolo de Marchi is one of Tuscany’s most soft spoken, hard-working, and humble men.  He has been named, by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate no less, the “Haut Brion of Tuscany”.  No small praise for a tiny estate that clung to life over the decades in order to produce two critically-acclaimed wines.  Yet his story, as well as his wines, is a tale of nuance that revolves around the complex relationship between Chianti and Cabernet in Tuscany.

In the late 1960s Paolo bought the estate that was to become Isole e Olena from his father’s side of the family.  The estate, like all of Tuscany, was a mess.  As Paolo said to me, Chianti in the 1960s went from a medieval, share-cropping economy to an international one in 15 years.  During this time many producers abandoned the native grape of Sangiovese in favor of making Super Tuscans – Sangiovese blended with Cabernet or other international grape varieties.  Paolo did not do this and his pure Sangiovese wine “Cepparello” is considered one of the most dramatic expressions of Chianti to this day.

But he also planted some Cabernet, almost as an afterthought, but also as a hedge against his big bet on Sangiovese.  This, to me, has always seemed like a contradiction.  The man who stood up for Sangiovese also makes a Cabernet?  When I had the chance I asked him why he had done it.

Paolo said “in the early 1980s, in Chianti, it was a time of chaos and nobody knew what was going to happen.  When we look back, yes, the winery survived and we survived.  But now is thirty years of history later.  Then there were no guarantees.  So we planted a small amount of Bordeaux varieties.  I could not have imagined it would become our estate’s most successful wine.  I was thinking about survival for me and my family.” 

Yet Paolo’s Cabernet goes beyond the mere success Paolo humbly describes – it is simply world class Cabernet.  And not only that, it is fully mature Cabernet at the peak of its life.  Paolo holds his Cabernet for years longer than almost any other producer and the results are amazing:

Collezione de Marchi Cabernet’s has mellowed into a sublime, smoothly structural wine with a density that implies untapped wells of strength but with a maturity that feels no need to overwhelm.  Its fruit character has evolved into black cherries, savory spices with hints of cigar box.  It displays a depth of flavor that young wines simply do not possess.  Finally, the length: a flavor of pure “red-wineiness” that last long after the lightest sip leaves your palate, evoking a sapid, toothsome richness that I associate with its Tuscan homeland. 

After drinking this I can understand the Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate’s comparison to Haut Brion.  Like Paolo de Marchi, Haut Brion’s wines are nuanced, elegant, graceful and long lived.  Yet unlike Haut Brion, his wines aren’t $900 a bottle.  This wine compares to other, far more expensive wines.  And it is in a beautiful, fully mature state right now.  Take advantage. 

And frankly, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Father’s Day than this wine paired with a nice big Bistecca Toscana.

Cheers!

 

2001 Isole e Olena Collezione De Marchi Cabernet

Release Price:  $79.99

Sale Price:  $29.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (along with five others – see below) on Friday from 3 to 7 pm.  UNLESS we sell out of it.  And there is a good chance we will sell of it (62% off a 93 point Cabernet with pedigree).  

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

And as always…

 

Friday’s FREE Wine Tasting

This Friday 3-7:00 pm, $FREE – Open House Format

 

This Friday, and every Friday, Waterford Wine offers up a casual, open house wine tastings.  Come in after work, stop by with friends, and enjoy the taste of some great wines!

 

The Most Undervalued Wine In the World: Morin Chablis Chitry Olympe (45 percent off!)

In Chablis, Chardonnay, Drinking on June 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I don’t suffer fools lightly yet I have a very special place in my heart for the people of Chitry.

Chitry is in Chablis, France.  Chablis makes the most undervalued wine in the world – Chablis.  Chablis is often mistaken as that bag-in-a-box wine rotting in Grandma’s basement.  Or, it is damningly associated with sweet, cloyingly oaked Chardonnay from California.  It is neither of these things.  Again, Chablis is the greatest, most undervalued wine in the world.  And I am going to explain this platitude to you.  And you will love Chablis.  But before that…

This email is really all about me, my heart, and the drunken fools of Chitry.

Chitry – (I have heard this pronounced one of two ways: the first, sounds like you own a very stylish tree; the second, like the tree is a location for the flaming paper bag prank) – is one mile west of the premier cru vineyard Courgis in Chablis.

Here is the catch: Chitry is in France so we can’t call Chitry Chablis nor call Chitry Premier Cru Courgis Chablis.  Instead, we have to call Chitry “Bourgogne Chitry”.  Why?  Because in the 1930s when France was drawing up its wine laws the citizens of Chitry didn’t apply for the name Chablis.

Doh!

I don’t suffer fools lightly, yet drunken fools, hammered (or hung over) on great Chablis I hold in a very special place somewhere between Valhalla and the Birdhouse in My Soul.  Keep in mind I was late for my own college graduation.  I have to admire an entire community that has been committed to making great wine for 250 years yet doesn’t get the permit allowing them to label it as great wine.

I submit to you that in all but name Chitry is Chablis.  And further, Chablis makes great wine.  Wine whose sweet, saline savor that brings together a magical combination of textural richness and delicate refreshment that no other wine in the world can match.  And Chablis is CHEAP.  Go 30 minutes south and pay ten to 100 times as much for White Burgundy.  Go to Napa and buy a wine-maker’s ego for five times as much.  Or stay in Chitry and drink so much you forget where you are.  The choice is yours to make but I think it’s a pretty clear one.

Frankly, the greatest Chitry (and I have to take a lot of Chitry in my job) I have ever had is Morin’s Chitry Olympe.  I can see doubts forming in the furrow of your brow so here is another opinion from David Schildknecht, Robert Parker’s reviewer of Chablis in the Wine Advocate:

“Pear, white peach, lemon lily-of-the-valley, and narcissus in the nose migrate to an infectiously juicy palate seemingly infused with chalk dust and sea salt. This conveys the effusiveness; refreshment; and at the same time transparency to floral and mineral nuances, that characterize the vintage at its best.   Even if the terroir or history of Chitry doesn’t in itself interest you, Morin’s distinctively delicious wines represent excellent value!  91 points.”

That was the 2008 vintage.  This is 2009, a vintage most commentators agree was superior.  David (nor his replacement Mr. Galloni) have managed yet to make it to Morin’s estate.  But this is to our advantage.  I have had the 2008 and 2009 Morin Chitry Olympe and find the ’09 fleshier, richer, and even more engaging than the 2008.  Our price is a pre-review price and I encourage you to take full advantage.  No other wine in the world is as great a value as Morin’s Chitry.

 

2009 Morin Chitry Olympe

Release Price:  $22.99

Sale Price:  $12.99

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Vibrancy in New Zealand: Mohua Sauvignon Blanc

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc on May 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, how come you taste so good?

Bounding into the international wine scene with brands like CloudyBay and Kim Crawford, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc made the world fall in love with that little kiwi of a country and its stunning wines.  Their Sauvignons’ pronounced character of passionfruit, guava, papaya and pineapple all mixed within a zippy crisp alcoholic beverage are just too easy to drink! 

But New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wasn’t always this way, and New Zealand wasn’t always famous for making Sauvignon Blanc.  Less than 15 years ago New Zealand Sauvignon’s tasted quite different – they ranged from an intrusively rank smell of canned asparagus to what wine critical Michael Broadbent noted as “a cat urinating on a gooseberry bush.”  Not exactly extravagant praise. 

Why the flavor change from tomcats to puppy love and papaya?  The culprit here lies with a set of compounds known as methoxyprazinies and our sleuth is one Dr. Smart (yes, seriously), of the University of Adelaide.  Dr. Smart discovered that methoxyprazinies are directly related to Sauvignon’s herbaceous qualities.

Sounds complicated?  It’s not.  You can actually repeat Dr. Smart’s famous experiments at home if you are growing tomatoes.  Here’s how it works:

Chlorophyll, the green compound in leaves, converts sunlight into carbohydrates and sugars.  In Sauvignon Blanc (as well as tomatoes) this development also concomitantly builds up the level of methoxyprazinies in the grapes – bringing out the green “herbaceous” flavors.  To counter these flavors Dr. Smart proposed two gardening solutions: first, leaf pulling and second, exposing the grapes to direct sunlight. 

Leaf pulling forces the grape vine to put more energy into its reproductive cycle, i.e. the grapes, instead of its vine vigor, the leaves.  More energy into the grapes means a higher level of sugar inside the grapes thereby concentrating the flavors.  Exposing the grapes to sunlight ripens those now concentrated grape flavors away from asparagus and towards the lovely peach, pineapple and passionfruit that we all know and love.

And Mohua Sauvignon Blanc takes Dr. Smart’s research to the next level.  Pronounced aromatics of guava, pineapple, jackfruit and kaffir leap from the glass.  The body is crisp and brilliant, with a perfect marriage between the tropical fruit flavors and a playful sense of minerality.  It finishes clean and refreshing with the barest hint of rose petals.   Mohua is named after a native yellow headed bird and is a delightful example of why New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc tastes so good.

2010 Mohua Sauvignon Blanc

Suggested List Price:  $17.99

Special price via this email:  $11.99

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

If you feel more comfortable placing your order in person please call 414-289-9463 or stop into the store Monday – Saturday, 11:00 am to 8:00 pm or Sunday, noon to 5:00.

An Italian Twist: Maculan Sauvignon Blanc / Rose Festival!

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc on May 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm

In 1797 Napoleon smashed the remnants of the Austrian army in Friuli and by forced treaty ended the Republic of Venice, creating for himself an Italian playground known as The Kingdom of Italy.

Kingdoms require armies and armies require provisions and if those armies are French then wine is a fundamental provision.  But bottled wine is heavy and ammunition is more important, particularly if you are about to invade Russia.  So Napoleon came prepared with vines – small shoots wrapped in wet gauze – by the thousands.  And considering he just enlarged his territory by a third he had the land to plant them in.

So he did.  The vast plains that stretch from Lombardi to Slovenia are covered in Napoleon’s (or his general’s) vineyards.  It’s not that Napoleon invented Italian wine: he didn’t.  Rather, it’s that his legacy survives in grapes.

So it is that the Maculan family cultivates Sauvignon Blanc in Ferrata, outside of Venice, near the Italian Alps.  When people ask why they make Sauvignon Blanc the explanation is easy: first, history.  Sauvignon Blanc’s roots in Ferrata are longer than California’s, Chile’s and even New Zealand’s.  Second, Napoleon wasn’t dumb.  He may have been short, feisty, and the kind of guy who’ll eat your share of the Ziggy Pig ice cream bowl, but he did know wine.  In Ferrata, Sauvignon Blanc works, and delightfully so.

Most American’s now know Sauvignon Blanc best from its New Zealand (NZ) connection.  Maculan’s will resemble a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, yet reveal subtle but important differences.  Instead of NZ’s almost overwhelming herbaceous green aromas the Ferrata region reveals a smoother, lusher quality to Sauvignon: aromas of white peaches, stone fruits and orange blossom greet the nose upon the first glass.  Many don’t realize it but NZ’s wines are extremely acidic, almost forcefully so.  But with the Maculan the acidity is toned down a notch, lifting up the silky textures of bosc pear, honeydew mellow and hints of exotic spices.

With these richer textures and broader flavors Maculan’s Sauvignon Blanc makes the perfect match to almost any Italian food, all the way from roasted cherry tomatoes shaved with aged Asiago to grilled shrimp with fava beans and fresh olive oil.

For generations the Maculan family has been striving to put Ferrata onto the international wine map.  Come taste what all the fuss is about!

 

2009 Maculan Sauvignon Blanc

Release Price:  $19.99

Sale Price:  $14.99

 

And… come join us at:

 

A Celebration in Pink: The Rosé (and Loire) Festival!

Saturday, May 19, Noon – 4 pm, Open House Format

$20 per guest – credited against purchase of six bottles or more

 

You have been waiting for it all year long!  The Rosé Festival!

This year we thought we would “spice” up the tasting a little bit.  In addition to sampling all of our rosés, we will also be taking a tour of the Loire Valley.  The Loire is home to many of France’s most profound rosés but its contribution to the modern wine vernacular doesn’t stop there – Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and many other wines call the Loire Valley home.

In a fun-spirited, open house format, this tasting explores all the rosé wines that we have on offer this year as well as delicious selections from the Loire.

For more information (and the list of wines): http://www.waterfordwine.com/tasting/

 

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

A Rarity in Bordeaux: 2009 Chateau Virecourt Pillebourse

In Cabernet, Drinking on May 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Down the road from the great limestone and clay slope that is Pomerol is a T-intersection in no-man’s land, a place you dare not linger.  The hapless wayfarer will pause to consider which way to Fronsac, Pomerol or Saint Emilion.  And thus, they will fall right into the vagabond’s trap.  “Your money or your life!” the retinue of clochards will demand, sending the traveler to join hundreds of others who have made this same mistake. 

This story is three centuries old (and of course, this being France probably completely untrue) yet the name of the intersection harkens back: Pillebourse, or pilfer your purse.  To the modern wine drinker, however, there is something more significant about the Pillebourse intersection.

The vineyard that now surrounds the intersection is in no-man’s land.  No, thieves and pirates don’t actually inhabit the vineyard.  Rather, the vineyard sits, much like the intersection it’s named after, right between Pomerol, Saint Emilion and Fronsac. 

Why does this matter to you?  Because this wine is one of those now rare Bordeaux finds: cheap yet good. 

My explanation:  the French believe that Pomerol and Saint Emilion make some of the greatest red wine in the world because of the combination of soil, climate, and geography; i.e. terroir.  While the Pillebourse may not be right next to Petrus, it would be hard (even for a French person) to argue with its terroir:  the soil is the same as Saint Emilion’s clay and limestone mixture, the climate bears the same continental influences as Fronsac, and geographically it’s on the roadside across from Pomerol.  Overall, it’s a recipe for great wine.  But legally it’s like not having a passport – internationally nobody will recognize your existence. 

So every year Xavier Chassagnoux, owner of Chateau Virecourt, makes two bottles of wine.  One, Chateau Virecourt, is acclaimed (and rightfully so) because it fits into the appropriate legal structure.  The other, Chateau Virecourt Pillebourse, derives from the section of his vineyard that doesn’t fit into the legal structure.  And because of this, Pillebourse is one of those now rare finds in Bordeaux: as I said, cheap and good. 

The Chateau Virecourt Pillebourse opens with fresh and juicy aromas of dark cherries, raspberries and black currant fruit.  Like a “true” Saint Emilion this wine is velvety, elegant yet powerful.  The palate is laced with sweet spice notes, cassis and a touch of well-oiled leather.  As the French would say, it has broad shoulders – meaning it is structured to last.  From the great 2009 vintage I believe it will age at least ten more years in your cellar, gaining depth and complexity all along the way. 

At the same time I feel compelled to ask that you not tuck all of it away into your cellar.  This is great drinking “bistro” wine, a perfect Bordeaux for any table no matter if the meal is roasted chicken with morels and fava beans, grilled hamburgers, or a simple Cassoulet. 

But best of all, unlike the location it is named after (and most of the wine coming out of Bordeaux these days) Chateau Virecourt Pillebourse will not pilfer your purse! 

 

2009 Chateau Virecourt Pillebourse Bordeaux

Release Price:  $19.99

Sale Price:  $14.99

 

 

Friday’s Wine Tasting: Old World and New World Compared!

Friday, May 11, 3-7:00 pm, $FREE – Open House Format

 

This Friday, and every Friday, Waterford Wine offers up a casual, open house wine tastings.  Come in after work, stop by with friends, and enjoy the taste of some great wines!

 

 

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Elegant and Tender: Champalou Vouvray Cuvee des Fondraux

In Chenin Blanc, Drinking, Vouvray on May 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Once upon a time it was cool to be tender. 

Tendre that is, the French term for a wine that finishes with a kiss of sweetness; like grandmother shushing a well-tucked in child with a peck on the forehead. 

The vernacular term might be considered “off-dry”.  Yet off-dry does us a disservice because it lumps syrupy sweet wine like many White Zinfandels together with elegant wines such as Vouvray.  Indeed, off-dry doesn’t quite sum up the complexity, richness of flavor, age ability, and agreeability with food that tendre wines possess.  And Vouvray is THE wine that possesses all of these characteristics.

Vouvray is a wine region in the middle of France’s Loire Valley.  The wine is made from the Chenin Blanc grape but is named geographically – hence Vouvray on your wine label.  This makes sense because ultimately Vouvrays show their birthplace more than many other wines.  In cool dry years the wines are fragrant, austere and sec (dry); in warm years the wines are fruity, elegant and tendre; and in special years when conditions are right for botrytis the wines become exotic and moelleux (sweet). 

Nowadays, modern wine makers have the tools to standardize a wine year in and year out.  But in Vouvray most producers hold onto the “old” styles, each year offering what Mother Nature gave them.  Domaine Champalou is one such producer. 

This particular wine is Champalou’s Cuvee des Fondraux, a tendre wine that is raised in older, double-sized barrels (fondraux) for twelve months before release.  The nose opens with aromas of Versailles: Calla, Jasmine, Lilly of the Valley, and Camellias greet the nose as if you have just strolled onto a magnificent French Parterre.  Underneath come the hints of geography: ivory, travertine and warm hazelnuts rubbed in orange oil.  The wine is, of course, tendre, yet to most people it will not be “sweet”.  Rather, it will taste fruity, with all the charms of early autumn’s bounty: bosc pears, over-ripe honey crisp apples, and the tang of fresh water caught in the early morning by Kentucky-blue grass. 

This is the perfect cocktail wine – fresh, fruity and balanced – but please don’t stop there.  One of the greatest secrets to food pairing is that tendre wines match nearly everything.  From double and triple cream cheeses to fruits, nuts, or potato chips; all the way to grilled fish, roasted chicken, or apricot glazed ham.  If this isn’t enough inducement to drink Champalou’s Cuvee Fondraux you could also do what the French do – tuck it away for ten years or more until its flavors evolve into a blissful amaretto nougatine luxury.

These days it is daring to be tendre – many drinkers will outright refuse Vouvray thinking it sweet.  But like grandma’s gentle kiss goodnight, Champalou’s Cuvee des Fondraux fills the heart with tenderness. 

 

2008 Champalou Vouvray La Cuvee des Fondraux

Release Price:  $24.99

Sale Price:  $16.99

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Café Mocha: Barista Coffee Pinotage

In Drinking, Pinotage on April 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Love it or hate it, Pinotage is divisive.  In a word, Pinotage SMELLS. 

Those who love it find the smell a perfect pairing for the Braai – Afrikaans for Barbeque – with aromas like smoke, toast, grilled meats, sweet tomatoes, and black cherry pie wafting from their glass.  Those who hate it believe it smells like burnt rubber. 

Hybridized from Pinot Noir (the front syllable) and Cinsault (the back syllable [and mistakenly thought the grape of Hermitage]) South Africans have spent years discussing, explaining, isolating and manipulating Pinotage’s aroma trying to make it an international success.  Frustratingly, despite these efforts, Pinotage’s smell remains a mystery, and the wine a mere curiosity.  

However, a new style of Pinotage is emerging.  Instead of fighting Pinotage’s distinct smell, a few forward thinking producers decided to do something complementary with it: they oaked it.  That’s right – taking a new oak barrel, charring the inside as if it was going to be used for Bourbon, and letting the Pinotage absorb all that warm oaky richness.  The new style’s nickname says it all: “Coffee Pinotage” and it is astonishingly tasty. 

Barista, the wine (and yes, the name is a purposeful nod to the style), is one of the first pioneers of Coffee Pinotage.  Here, instead of funk and BBQ, intense aromas of coffee and chocolate flow from the glass like a rich and tasty café mocha.  Seriously – for whatever chemical reason – Pinotage mates to new oak perfectly, creating a sensational wine.  On the palate plums and maraschino cherries join the chocolate aromas in a deep and expressive harmony.  The finish demonstrates that this is a serious wine, not just some wine-making fad, with a tug of tannins and weighty finish.

If you love Pinotage don’t miss this.  It is an exciting, new style of wine.  And if you hate Pinotage you have to try this – it’s going to convince you that South Africa can make fabulously tasty wine.  

 

2010 Barista “Coffee Pinotage”

Release Price:  $15.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

For Those Who Won’t Drink White Wine: Charles Buisson Meursault (90 Burg.H., 45% off!)

In Chardonnay, Drinking on April 19, 2012 at 2:34 am

“In unenlightened periods of warfare, before the age of half-track carriers and helicopters, when infantrymen had to march 20 miles a day with sixty pounds of equipment on their backs, I remember learning to suck pebbles on the trek in hot weather.  Meursault has an underlying touch of that taste.”  — H.W.  Yoxall.

This quote exactly describes a profound wine, Meursault, and it is a wine that you should enjoy.

To be more specific, there are two types of drinkers who MUST try it: those who only drink red wines and those refuse to drink Chardonnay.

Why Meursault?  Because Meursault is a white wine made from Chardonnay.  But it is unlike any Chardonnay, or white wine, you have ever had.  Meursault drinks like the place it is from rather than a grape or a winemaking process.  It doesn’t taste like “Chardonnay”, it tastes like Meursault.  It doesn’t taste like oak or vanilla or butter, it tastes like Meursault.

So what does Meursault taste like?  Let’s explore Charles Buisson’s Meursault Vieilles Vignes as an example.

Geographically, Meursault is a slope of limestone covered with two inches of topsoil.  In these infertile soils Buisson’s Chardonnay vines must dig deep to retrieve the water necessary for life.  The deeper they go, the more mineral, stony, elemental flavors they are thought to bring up with the water.  Buisson rightfully describes his wine as Vieilles Vignes, “Old Vines”, because some of his vines have now reached their century.  The wine made from these vines takes on aromas of toasted hazelnuts, iron enriched water, a sensation of autolysis, and Yoxall’s lingering tug of wet stones sucked on a long march.

Meursault has a relatively cool, continental climate which forces winemakers to exploit the sun to the fullest extent possible.  Vines are planted and trained towards the south-east, maximizing what warmth and solar power there is to be had.  This combination results in a tension in the wine between the possibilities of ripe and rounded fruit aromas and the stinging acidity of a cool climate.  In Buisson’s Meursault this tension is resolved into a silky, succulent sense of power.  Power because the vines’ tendency to ripe fruit has been constrained, forcing it to build mass and depth rather than the flab of buttery fruit.  Indeed, this wine’s power slowly uncoils on day one, two and three as you explore it from the bottle.  If mass can be defined as a force directed towards the center then this is the character of fruit of Buisson’s Meursault – a coiling inward of strength.

These factors – soil, slope, climate, and vine – all combine to make Meursault what it is: a unique wine that is beyond Chardonnay, beyond the categories of red and white.  Indeed, Charles Buisson could have named his wine “Chardonnay from France.”  And for many people that would make it easier to understand.  But that understanding would be false – Meursault is a wine like no other, and further, it is a wine that everyone should try.

 

2009 Domaine Charles Buisson

Meursault Vieilles Vignes

Release Price:  $59.99

Sale Price:  $33.99

 

 

Friday’s Wine Tasting: Tapas Wines!

Friday, April 20, 3-7:00 pm, $FREE – Open House Format

 

This Friday, and every Friday, Waterford Wine offers up a casual, open house wine tastings.  Come in after work, stop by with friends, and enjoy the taste of some great wines!

 

This Friday, in addition to pouring our weekly special(s), we will be tasting a collection of wines to drink with Tapas.  Tapas are a Spanish style of feasting via a series of small plates.  Friday night we will pour a diverse collection of Spanish wines that pair well with everything from grilled sausage to calamari!

 

Wines to be tasted:

2008 Pontecilla Tempranillo $9.99

2010 Tridente Mencia $14.99

2009 Juan Gil Monstrell $14.99

Germain Gilabert Cava $15.99

& the weekly specials!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Groovy Hunting: Hopler Grüner Veltliner

In Drinking, Gruner Veltliner, Uncategorized on April 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm

It’s time to get your Grüvee on!

Don’t mind the umlauts – this is Grüner Veltliner, the perfect wine for spring!  Veltliner (for short) is one of Austria’s native white grape varieties where it is highly prized.  If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry.  Very little of it makes it out of Austria, and what does gets sucked up by the Germans, Italians and Swiss.

Why the fever for the flavor that results in this Hapsburg Hoover?  Because if you haven’t had it before, Veltliner has a kind of magic – it takes the aromatic vibrancy of Sauvignon Blanc and mates it with the sensual palate weight of White Burgundy.

No, Veltliner isn’t exactly either of these two things.  But, if you drink Sauvignon Blanc or White Burgundy and want to try something, Veltliner isn’t going to disappoint!

Unfortunately, the last couple of vintages in Austria have been short.  Meaning Mother Nature had her way with Austria: inclement weather (frost at flowering and hail just before harvest) dramatically lower crop yields, greatly reducing the quantity of wine available.  So this year, the hunt was on for great GruVee (another nickname – this grape is so charming it needs at least three nicknames to contain itself).

But (as if you can’t tell), I love Veltliner and I want to spread the joy around.  This led me to the Burgenland, a wine growing region about 65 miles south of Vienna and surrounding the shallow lake Neusidel.  Here, the young Christof Höpler makes Veltliner that is different from our known favorites and all the tastier for it.

To tell the truth: I have known Christof and his wines since 2007 (ok, so I didn’t exactly break a sweat in my “hunt” for Great GruVee) and early on was not blown away.  The back-handed compliment from industry insiders was that his wines “solid at their price”.  But I have also always known that Christof isn’t dumb, and watching him refine his Veltliners through the years has been exciting.  With the 2010 vintage he has hit a home run.

The harlequin green-yellow color of Hopler’s 2010 Gruner Veltliner simply laughs with the joy of spring.  Just looking at a bottle makes the weather seem warmer, the afternoon longer, and the taste buds salivate.  So there is no reason to wait.  Crack open a bottle and on the palate its juicy Bartlett and Starkrimson pear flavors will dance with kaffir, tropical fruits and a subtle touch of basil.  There is a bit of lasciviousness in it, like it wants to tell you dirty jokes to make you smile.  The finish is creamy and fleshy and leaves you with an exotic touch of arugula.  For anyone who loves Sauvignon Blanc, or is tired of oaky-Chardonnay, this Veltliner is everything you need to enjoy spring.

In a word – it’s delicious.

 

2010 Hopler Gruner Veltliner

Release Price:  $14.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Rosé! Bieler Pere et Fils Provence Rosé

In Drinking, Rose, Syrah on April 10, 2012 at 2:08 pm

It’s that time of year – time to drink Rosé!

Yes Rosé – that pink wine from France that the uninitiated fear will be sweet but in fact is dry, rosy colored, and delicious.

While many regions in France (and now the US as well) make rosé, it is Provence that can rightfully claim to be the homeland of this style of wine.  There, dry rosé is prized, and rightfully so.  Here is how it works:

When black grapes are brought into the winery they are crushed, creating white grape juice and a mass of black skins.  To get a wine deep and dark, like a robust Napa Cabernet, the skins are recombined with the juice, bleeding in color, usually for days, sometimes even longer.  This process is called “maceration”.

But for rosés the maceration time is much shorter, sometimes as short as two hours.  The result is a wine made with red wine grapes that tastes like red wine, but of a salmon, coppery hue and slightly lighter body.  And this, of course, makes rosés perfect for the spring and summer – they drink like a red wine but are as refreshing as a white.  And Charles Bieler’s Provence rosé is no exception!

Charles and his sister Mira got their start making rosé in the 1990s with their Dad.  At that time they spent most of their trips to the US explaining that pink wine doesn’t necessarily mean sweet wine.  But during all that time they also persevered in the winery, ultimately making what some commentators (not just me!) have called one of the best values in France.

This vintage of Bieler rose opens with aromas of wild strawberries, watermelon and hints of orange peel.  Serve it just a touch chilled (or not, you choice!) and the underlying goût de terroir of garrigue, savory spices and herbs de Provence will shine through.  On the palate Bieler’s rose is essentially a red wine – broader than you would expect with a crisp, zippy finish.  Drink it with the wild abandonment of a joyous spring!  Cheers!

 

2011 Bieler Pere et Fils Provence Rose

Release Price:  $12.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

 

Chateauneuf du Pape for Less: Honoro Vera Mourvedre

In Drinking, Mourvedre on April 3, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Chateauneuf du Pape is a blend of up to thirteen different grape varieties.  One of those varieties, Mourvedre, is relatively unknown but provides the indomitable, masculine presence that allows Chateauneufs to live for years, reaching dark powerful depths that were unimaginable in their fruity youth.

For this, in France, Mourvedre is prized.  So prized that many producers create “Super Cuvees” of CdP that cost hundreds of dollars and are bestowed perfect 100 point scores by the critics (think of Beaucastel’s Hommage  Jacques Perrin and you have it).

But Mourvedre’s origins are much more humble than $500 a bottle Super Cuvees.  Originally, it hails from Jumilla, at the crossroads of La Mancha, Murcia, and Valencia, in Spain.

The French would quickly point out that Jumilla is not Chateauneuf du Pape.  Yet it stands to reason that a vineyard planted to the same grape, with a similar climate and soil can produce as good a wine as its neighbors.  In fact, I would submit to you that the French may be engaged in a bit of price-protectionism.  Not only can Jumilla Mourvedre be as compelling as Chateauneuf du Pape, it is far less expensive.

Honoro Vera is one such Monastrell, the Spanish name for Mourvedre.  Made with 100% organically grown Monastrell it echoes some of the top cuvees in Chateauneuf.  Opening with aromas of crème de cassis, kirsch, and blackberries, it seamlessly melds into an incredibly layered palate of blueberries, wet stones and spice box.  Like all powerful Mourvedres it is muscular having enough brawn to support its powerful fruit character.  It drinks well now (especially with a solid decanting) or will wait up to a decade in your cellar.

No, Honoro Vera is not a Super Cuvee of Chateauneuf du Pape – it’s lacking a $500 price tag. But if you don’t mind paying less, it’s a rather delicious wine.

 

2010 Honoro Vera Monastrell (Mourvedre)

Release Price:  $10.99

Sale Price:  $6.99

 

Friday’s Wine Tasting: Wines for Easter

Friday, April 6, 3-7:00 pm, $FREE – Open House Format

This Friday, and every Friday, Waterford Wine offers up a casual, open house wine tastings.  Come in after work, stop by with friends, and enjoy the taste of some great wines!

This Friday’s we are presenting wines for Easter.  Yes, with Easter being just around the corner you know you are going to need some wine for the family.  We offer up a couple of wonderful selections (and some discounted selections) that pair perfectly with the Easter meal.  Come on in and taste!

Wines to be tasted:

Hono Vera Monastrell

d’Arenberg “The Hermit Crab”

Loosen Edner Treppechen Riesling Spatlese

Arnot Roberts Rose

& more!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

 

 

Aged Fine Wine: Spelletich Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet

In Cabernet, Drinking on March 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

There is a running joke that people, like fine wine, get better with age.  And perhaps no wine ages better than Cabernet, specifically Napa Cabernet.  Yet the irony of this joke is that almost all wine purchased in the US is consumed within three days.  Indeed, most of us don’t have the time, space, or inclination (self-restraint?) to hold a wine for the years it takes to achieve the mellowed harmonious complexity that our grandfather is using as the punch-line of the joke. 

Wineries are the same way – they don’t have the time, space or inclination to mature their own product.  It’s not that they are bad or evil or money-grubbing corksuckers; it’s a problem of economics. 

Imagine this: I have a wonderful new business venture I want you to invest in – a winery!  Show me your money!  Here’s how our little fantasy is going to work:

From day one it will take me eight years to plant a vineyard, mature the vines, and finally have workable fruit.  After those eight years it’s going to take me another year to make the wine.  That’s nine years without a return on investment.  But hey, we are good friends – can you wait five more years for the wine to mature in bottle?  Pretty please?  Since you are a wonderful and extraordinary person I want the wine to be just like you – perfect!  (and uh, hey… I gotta make next year’s wine too… can you spare some more cash?)

If you are ready to invest I also have a bridge that I would like to show you – it’s for sale too!

Which brings us to today’s curiosity – Spelletich Cellars 2006 Cabernet from Napa Valley.  That’s right, this Cabernet is six years old.  Time changes wine and this Cabernet shows exactly why fine wine gets better with age:

First, older wine’s aromas are more complex.  The Spelletich Cabernet amply demonstrates what Napa is famous for: ripe, pronounced aromas of blackberries, blueberries and dark cherry fruit.  But time has tucked these flavors away into grandfather’s humidor set on the stone fireplace mantel, lovingly remember if not used; stained by the hand-oil of grandchildren hiding pencils and mom’s absquatulated scrap of a grocery list.  The results to the wine are manifold: joining the blue and black fruit are notes of cedar, a rich patina of vanilla, rain soaked stones, sweet tobacco and pencil shavings – in a word, complexity.

The palate changes as well.  Time polymerizes tannin, the compound that dries out your mouth.  As tannins polymerize they become heavy and precipitate out of the wine, drifting downwards and forming sediment in the bottle.  The solution (the wine) they leave has been altered.  It is “silkier”, whispering like a dress gliding across the floor during an allemande minuet.  But it is more harmonious, too.  The remaining molecules coalesce back together leaving a richer, more mouth coating, if lighter and more lithe palate and an extremely long finish.*  It is what fanatic collectors of Bordeaux’s Cabernets are always looking for (yet rarely finding).

The wine I am describing is not some artifact found at an auction for millionaires.  It’s Spelletich Cellars “Bodog Red”.  Named for her husband’s grandfather (Bodog, pronounced Baa-daog, the Hungarian rendering of Felix), Barb Spelletich holds this wine for five years at the winery until she believes it’s ready.  No, she isn’t a millionaire either.  Her previous career was importing Bordeaux’s wines, which taught her the value of older Cabernet.  When she struck out on her own she built in the cost for aging, delivering the wine at its best.  We are her beneficiaries. 

I encourage you to drink this fine aged wine heartily – and thereby mature happily.

 

2006 Spelletich Cellars Cabernet

“Bodog Red” Napa Valley

Release Price:  $30.99

Sale Price:  $23.99

 

We will be tasting this wine on Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

 

*I am going out on a limb here – what I am describing as “harmonious” is not necessarily provable with modern chemistry.  But it sounds good!

A White Wine Not to be Missed: Jermann’s Capo Martino

In Chardonnay, Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc, Special Offers on March 22, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Uvaggio da uve autoctone Capo Martino in rotârs…

Perhaps no man, and no place, knits Italian history, tradition, and wine together more spectacularly than Silvio Jermann at the vineyard of Capo Martino in Rotârs, Venezia.

From Capo Martino Silvio blends Tocai Friulano, Picolit, Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia Istriana to make his wine.  The result is a white wine of massive structure and density, unlike anything else produced in Italy, or the rest of the world for that matter.  It defies simply made Italian Pinot Grigio and demands the attention like a war-horse Brunello.  Most wine drinkers assume white wines cannot be as toweringly complex or texturally rich as red wine.  Jermann’s Capo Martino proves them wrong.  

Capo Martino’s grapes, Tocai, Picolit, Ribolla, and Malvasia, were once, like many indigenous Italian grapes, bruised and forced into the position of mass production.  Historically, this is true of almost every Italian grape no matter the region: Chianti, Sicily or even neighboring Lambrusco all have a history where quantity dominated over quality.

But Jermann, like the great first pioneers of Super Tuscans in Chianti, broke with the traditional ways of bulk production.  But then he went further, and broke away from the path of Super Tuscans as well.  Returning home after apprenticeships in Europe and the United States he came up with a simple, yet profound idea:  Italian grapes can make great white wine.

This idea, and Jermann’s resulting wines, resonate to this day.  Capo Martino is a striking example.

Capo Martino is a blend from a single vineyard.  Friulano provides the structure and density to the wine, it is the grape that makes Capo Martino drink like a red wine, with dramatic texture and depth.  The closest example produced in the US is full bodied Chardonnay.  Yet most Chardonnays gain weight via the calories of oak.  Yet Friulano’s depth is all its own with aromas of quince, chamomile, lovage, ginger and sweet malt revealing its exceptional character.  Picolt is wild at heart, and it gives Capo Martino its striking yellow peach, lychee candy note.  Ribolla gives the drive and singularity, the penetrating focus that pushes the flavors to monumental heights.  Malvasia is all texture, its rich sensuousness as easy to put on as a cardigan sweater, as sweetly discreet as a walk on the sunny side of the street.     

This wine is perplexing, but perplexing in the way of grand statements of artistry – they defy everything you have learned and leave no basis of comparison.  Jermann’s Capo Martino is not Chardonnay, it is not White Burgundy, it’s not New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.   It isn’t even watery Pinot Grigio.  It is a knitting, a quilt pattern of history, tradition, and wine woven into one bottle.  It is unique, of itself, and without example.  It is a blend of indigenous grapes from Capo Martino in the village of Rotars… 

But most of all, it is not to be missed.

 

2006 Jermann Capo Martino

Winery Release Price:  $129.99

Sale Price:  $49.99

 

Capo Martino is, and has always been, complex wine.  And like all complex things it needs time.  You may suppose six year old white wine to be tired, dusty, and beyond its prime.  You would be wrong.  Yet this Capo Martino is just beginning to soar.  It drinks well now and will continue to be amazing for the next ten years, if not longer.

 

 

We will be tasting this wine (as long as we don’t sell out – and there isn’t much of it!) on Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Tempting Sauvignon Blanc: Royal Chenin Blanc

In Chenin Blanc, Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc, Special Offers on March 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

If you like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you will like South African Steen.

Let me explain: I don’t want to chill the world’s amour of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; I am merely reinforcing what Squeeze suggested years ago – that a fling with another fruit might be kinda fun.

To tempt you:  Royal’s Steen leaps from the glass with the fragrance of pineapple, Cara Cara oranges, pomelos and citronella blossoms.  On the palate it’s tangy and soft, as easy drinking as it is fun.  It glides into your tummy, leaving a whispered kiss of honey flavor on the palate, rubbing you like a smiling Buddha for a job well done.     

Again, if you like Sauvignon Blanc, Steen’s gonna love you just as much!

What is Steen?  Steen is the Afrikaan’s name for Chenin Blanc.  Chenin Blanc used to be a big deal in America, as well as France and South Africa.  It used to be as ubiquitous as Chardonnay, or (dare I say it) as common as a Sauvignon Blanc patio pounder.   

But that is all old history.  Really old history – about 150 years old.  Nowadays not many people drink Steen / Chenin Blanc. 

So why does this matter? 

In wine-making just because popularity sways to another grape or another part of the world doesn’t mean that the vineyard goes away.  And South Africa is tremendously rich with old vine Steen.  REALLY old vine Steen.

Zinfandel is famous for coming from old vines.  The thought is that these old vines work to deliver richer, tastier, more magnificent wines.  The same is true for Steen.  These 100 year old South African vineyards contribute complexity, a lush fruity richness on the palate, and that lingering finish mentioned above.     

But there is another reason this all matters: the wine is cheap.  REALLY cheap.  Cheap no matter how you want to phrase it: inexpensive, a value, great quality-to-price-ratio (QPR).  It’s cheap because vineyards are not like vending machines spitting out a bottle of Coke.  Vineyards will produce grapes every year.  Farmers either do something with them or take a loss.  In the case of Royal, and most of South Africa in general, the vineyards are massively large, very old and long since paid for.  In other words, make it or loose it.  Finally, supply is abundant and demand is low.  This equation adds up to really cheap wine – yet really amazing wine as well.

I described Royal’s Old Vine Steen above, so here is my close: as you drink the bottle (as I am now), aromas of peach, nectarine, papaya and gooseberry tantalize the tongue.  The kiss of honey broadens the wine to a lush sensibility, a pleasure in being wholesome and curvaceous.  It is the taste of charm – the dimple on a smiling cheek, a simple sense of happiness that enlivens the world: this is Royal Old Vine Steen.

I know, the price “scary-low” – but trust me (after all, this is why I get paid the big bucks) – finding hidden pleasures is my job, even if it’s from the fruit of another!  

 

2009 Royal Old Vine Steen

Release Price:  $12.99

Sale Price:  $6.99

 

The Squeeze reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrgiQlUeutg&feature=related

 

We will be tasting this wine (as long as we don’t sell out – and there isn’t much of it!) on Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

The Cruelty of French Nature: Magnien Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru Lavaut Saint Jacques

In Drinking, Pinot Noir, Special Offers on March 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Nature, when interpreted by French law, can be cruel. 

Nature, in this case, is the interaction of climate, soil, and vine.  French law is the appellation controlee ratings.  The place is Gevrey Chambertin.  For the cruelty, read on.

The village of Gevrey-Chambertin dominates Burgundy – nine of Burgundy’s thirty-three Grand Crus are to be found within its borders.  It is here that Pinot Noir supposedly finds its apogee.  First among equals is Chambertin, the Grand Cru vineyard , which Gevrey annexed to its name.  As the Oxford Companion notes in its pessimistic, British fashion: “if not quite as sumptuous as Musigny or Richebourg, or as divinely elegant as La Tâche or Romanée-St-Vivant, Chambertin is matched only by Romanée-Conti for its completeness and its intensity.”

But there is more to Gevrey than just Chambertin, as the vineyard of Lavaux Saint Jacques amply demonstrates.

Don’t get me wrong – far be it for me to disagree with the Oxford Companion – Chambertin is great.  And if your Tuesday night wine is $400 a bottle, I have plenty of Chambertin to sell.  But right across the combe from Chambertin, is Saint Jacques, a trio of vineyards (Clos, Lavaux and Estournelles) that were excluded from the 1930 Grand Cru designation, simply because as vineyards they don’t touch Chambertin.  And that’s cruel.

Let me put it another way. 

Ruchottes and Mazoyeres (along with five others) are Grand Crus from the correct side of the tracks.  These vineyards pinky-touch Chambertin, and while everyone agrees they don’t live up to Chambertin, they get to be cool via proximity.  And you pay a lot for the street cred of “Grand” that is in front of their names.

Saint Jacques is from the wrong side of the tracks.  Its climate, soil, and exposure many would argue –   including Clive Cotes and all five vintners who work in these vineyards – deserve the status of, if not Chambertin, at least Grand Cru.  This is more than mere puffery – all five of these vintners including the famous Rousseau, make Chambertin as well.  Meaning they’re putting their money where their mouths are, because Saint Jacques sells for far less.  Why tell the world your St. Jacques should be rated as highly as your Chambertin unless you’re a true believer?

This may all seem like WAY insider baseball.  But in Burgundy, all baseball is played inside.  It’s the French way.  And knowing the details is not only important, it gets you great wine.   

And with that, I heartily recommend Frederic Magnien’s Gevrey Chambertin Lavaut Saint Jacques.  The Lavaut is the western end of Saint Jacques, cut deeper into the combe.  If Chambertin’s wines are “firm and rich, concentrated and masculine” than the Lavaut changes this sinewy power into a softer silk – a classy, inspiring richness of structure that other Pinot Noir producers world around can only yearn for.  Magnien’s rendition is a wine of plush raspberry fruit, ample Burgundian richness, and a core of resolute and deep structure.  Being from 2008 it drinks well now, but will last twenty more years in the cellar. 

You can, and I will happily sell you, Chambertins that are “greater” than this bottle.  But if you give me, this vineyard, and this producer a chance, I believe you will find the immaculate structure, completeness and intensity of great red Burgundy, neatly tucked into the bottle of a Premier Cru vineyard.  

 

2008 Magnien Gevrey Chambertin Premier Cru Lavaut Saint Jacques

Release Price:  $109.99

Sale Price:  $59.99

 

We will be tasting this wine (as long as we don’t sell out – and there isn’t much of it!) on Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Pennies on the Dollar: Yali Cabernet

In Cabernet, Drinking, Special Offers, Uncategorized on March 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Chile is a unique position in the wine world – straddling the categories of “Old World” and “New World”.

Chilean wine fits into the Old World, a category that usually includes just European wines, because of its outstanding three hundred history of producing Bordeaux and Burgundy varietals.  Some of these varietals, like Carmenere, harken back to traditional French wine-making that is almost non-existent in its home country today. 

On the other hand Chile’s wines have such a fun-loving freshness of fruit and purity of flavors that they are undeniably New World.  The climate of Chile’s Central Valley is relatively different from Bordeaux.  Bordeaux is rainy, wet, and cool.  The Central Valley is dry, sunny and cool.  And this changes the wines.  Think of California Cabernet (sun, dryness) with just a touch of restraint and a hint of Old World sous bois and pastis adding complexity (cool). 

The two traditions of Old World and New World are tied together in Chile by centuries old family wineries operating on a model that closely resembles modern Bordeaux.  Like their current Bordealise cousins these estates have the skill, tradition, and capitol to make great wine.  Our example is Yali Cabernet made by the Ventisquero family.   

Yali Cabernet bursts from the glass with bright, fresh raspberry aromas and hints of cherries macerated in Merlot with mint and star anise.  Unlike Bordeaux’s Cabernets, Yali Cabernet’s palate is soft and supple without drying tannins.  A touch of Carmenere is blended in, creating complexity and lengthening the finish with flavors of blueberry, lavender and ripe blackberries.     

But best of all, unlike Bordeaux or California, Chile’s Cabernets are pennies on the dollar, a value far beyond their price.

2010 Yali Cabernet

Winery Release Price:  $9.99

Sale Price:  $6.99

We will be tasting this wine on Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

 

No Apologies: Francois Cotat’s Sancerres (40% off!)

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc, Special Offers on February 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm

There is Sauvignon Blanc, and then there is Francois Cotat’s Sancerres. 

Most of us associate Sauvignon Blanc with summer “patio-pounders”, quick drinking, fresh and light tropically flavored wines.  But there is a whole other world of Sauvignon Blanc, and as Napa Cabernet is not to be confused with Chilean Cabernet, Sancerre is not to be confused with a simple Sauvignon Blanc. 

Sancerre is a region on the far inland side of the Loire Valley, up from Nantes, past Vouvray and Saumur and nearly into the heart of France.  And it is this place – a set of steep slopes of Kimmeridgean Marl soils that produce a wine like no other.  Our example is the producer Francois Cotat and his two vineyards located in the village of Chavignol, Sancerre. 

I make no apologies for the taste of these wines.  Some of you may not like them.  But that isn’t the point. 

The point is that this is what nature created.  The chalky stones that are the soil of two vineyards – Caillottes and Le Monts Damnés– along with the continental climate conditions of Sancerre, create this goût de terroir, a wine of the earth.  These wines are of Sancerre, and nothing else.

The first is the vineyard of Caillottes, and this wine will shock you.  Gone are the sophomoric, baby-food sweet sensations of mango and papaya embedded in most New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Instead aromas of fresh ginger and cracked white pepper with lactic hints of kefir and raita are layered across the nose.  But it is the minerality – an almost freshly washed fossil like sensation – that spreads across the palate with a mouth-coating, textural, silky richness that pulls the drinker deep into the depths of this wine.  It doesn’t need to be chilled to near freezing and then pounded in order to be consumed.  It completes you, intrigues you and satisfies you like a long, contumacious conversation at sunset.   

Our journey is not over.  Just a short bike ride away is Le Monts Damnés.  This, literally the Damned Mountain Vineyard, is so steeply sloped that to harvest it workers strap themselves onto a sled and are slowly lowered down the cliff, slipping under the vines, picking the fruit and dropping it into a bucket below the sled.

Here the soil is completely Kimmeridgean Marl, a fossilized sea life chalk that imparts a grandly stated aromatic complexity of green poivre, wildflower aromas of Asperge-des-bois, bluebells and Moutarde-noire.  Texture rules this palate, a chiseled, finely etched chalk, drying out your mouth with citrus inspired aromas yet mingling in candied lemons, poached white fruits, and a lingering lift of pepper.  Some wines are best consumed like Muzak – as mere background.  But not Monts Damnés – there is spell-binding drama in the glass that may change your palate irrevocably.    

You may think these wines are wild and crazy, beyond the pale of what you can drink.  You’re wrong, and I have two suggestions for you. 

Eat while you drink.  A simple piece of goat cheese on a baguette (Chavignol is also home to Crottin) will bring you a reward beyond its weight in gold.  Next, don’t serve these wine too cold.  You need to pay attention to their texture, and texture is obliterated by acidity, and acidity is emphasized by low temperatures.          

And now, one more ounce to the extreme – age these wines.  In a few years their texture evolves into a custard like, near bisque richness that defies everything Sauvignon Blanc is expected to be.  Yet this is a truth in the world – the Great are nothing like the basic, and these are not basic.  There is Sauvignon Blanc, and then there is Francois Cotat’s Sancerres.

 

2010 Francois Cotat Caillottes Sancerre

Winery Release Price:  $44.99

Sale Price:  $26.99

 

2010 Francois Cotat Les Monts Damnes Sancerre

Winery Release Price:  $54.99

Sale Price:  $33.99

Exploring Super: Castellare Chianti Classico (90 & 94+ pts 20% off!)

In Drinking, Sangiovese on February 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm

For years the highest expression of Tuscany’s wines, and its most expensive wines, have been Super Tuscans.  Rising to market prominence in the 1990s Super Tuscans have cast a long and cold shadow over their homeland Chianti and its native grape varieties.  But now many producers are reconsidering exactly what it means to be “super” in Tuscany and their revelations are worth exploring.

At the birth of Tignanello and Sassicaia,Tuscany’s inveterate Super Tuscans, Sangiovese was thought to be too weak a grape for making noble wine.  Using French varieties like Cabernet and Merlot Super Tuscan’s thus “strengthened” Sangiovese (or left it out of the blend entirely) in order to make the best wine possible.  And from my tastings that is exactly what Tignanello and Sassicaia (and others) accomplished: great Tuscan wine.      

But you see, there is a bit of a “trick” going on here – that Tuscan wine “needs” French grape varieties to be great.  This statement is not to discredit the long standing legacy of Super Tuscans.  Rather, it is to chart the progress of Tuscany’s vintners themselves.  By the late 1980s many of them were exploring the idea of a world class Tuscan wine based wholly Italian varieties – i.e., Sangiovese and its Chianti brethren of Malvasia Nera and Canaiolo. 

Taking almost four decades of research, clonal selection, vineyard management and winemaking the time has come for Chianti Classico to stand alongside Super Tuscans as the highest expression of Tuscan wine.  And two wines from Castellare amply demonstrate this fact.

Castellare’s Chianti Classico is a serious wine – this is no candle in the Fiasco bottle Chianti.  The nose opens with aromas of sweet red cherries, cypress, bleeding-heart tomatoes, chocolate, and roasted walnuts.  By “serious” I do not mean “powerful” – a word I associate with wines of density like Merlot or Shiraz.  Here, on the palate, is a display of muscle and balance – a ballerino in perfect form, taut with energy and liveliness, commanding a space much larger than its form through beautiful grace.  Many (most?) Chianti’s lack flesh, a sustenance that gives length to the finish, but not here.  Fruit carries through, backing the arenaceous tannins to completion.  It is a young wine and can be drunk now or hold for another decade in your cellar.

Castellare’s I Sodi Di San Niccolo reveals one of those magical spots in the world where climate, soil and grapes combine to give us a wine like no other.  Specifically this wine comes from a natural south west facing amphitheater that darkens its fruit character down into a black cherry, black truffles, anice, and roasted chestnuts.  To drink this is to find a wine of immense depth, yet also transparent – there is massive concentration here, but that is really not the issue.  The issue is flavor – lingering, lively, harmonious and unique.  There isn’t another spot in the world that could create this wine, and this is exactly what great Tuscan wine is all about.  You can drink this now yet many anticipate it will live for twenty more years in your cellar. 

These two wines from Castellare offer a brave new definition of what it means to be super in Tuscany.  I encourage you to drink with passion.

 

2009 Castellare Chianti Classico

Winery Release Price:  $24.99

Sale Price:  $19.99 (20% off!)

 

2007 Castellare I Sodi di San Niccolo

Winery Release Price:  $74.99

Sale Price:  $59.99 (20% off!)

 

We are not the only ones to find these wines exciting.  Here are the Robert Parker reviews cited in the top line:

2009 Castellare Chianti Classico – 90 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

“The 2009 Chianti Classico opens with sweet, refined aromatics that lead to succulent red cherries, flowers, spices, mint and hard candy, all of which come together beautifully in this radiant, seductive wine. The 2009 is a touch silkier and more polished than the 2008 tasted alongside it, but both are beautiful. A long, creamy finish adds to an impression of amplitude on the palate. The 2009 should drink well for another decade, perhaps more. A small percentage of Canaiolo (5%) is added to the Sangiovese. The wine is fermented in steel and aged in neutral French oak barrels. Anticipated maturity: 2012-2021.”

2007 Castellare I Sodi di San Niccolo – 94+ points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

“The 2007 I Sodi di San Niccolo is a massive yet seamless wine loaded with dark fruit. It possesses striking energy and textural richness, but those qualities will require some time to emerge. At times the 2007 shows signs of opening, but the underlying tannic material is quite substantial and dominant right now. A final blast of dark red fruit teases on the finish. The 2007 I Sodi is 85% Sangioveto and 15% Malvasia Nera aged in French oak barrels. It remains arguably the most under-the-radar of Tuscany’s truly great wines. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2027.”

We will be tasting these wines (as long as we don’t sell out) on Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

 

Romance and Champagne: Egly Ouriet

In Champagne, Drinking, Special Offers on February 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Is there anything more romantic than Champagne?

Marilyn Monroe bathed in it, Maynard Keynes said he could never get enough, Madame De Pompadou romanced Louis the XV with it and Winston Churchill needed it through victory and defeat.  Yet for all this history, drama and romance Champagne has a dark underside.  But also a silver lining.

Champagne comes from Champagne – meaning it comes from grapes grown within the geographic region of Champagne, France.  And that region is made up of dirt.  Champagne’s dirt is worth talking about.

All French vineyards ( i.e., the dirt) are classified according to the quality of grapes that they produce.  Grand Cru is the best, Premier Cru is second, then Village, then regional vineyards.  For years, in Champagne, this system of classification has been obscured in favor of brand recognition.  Meaning it’s fun to know Lilly Bollinger drinks Champagne all the time, but its far more specific to know where her firm is buying all its fruit.

Further, Champagne’s vineyards in recent years have been a dumping ground.  Literally.  For years the French government maintained a policy of dumping Parisian garbage on Champagne’s vineyards.  But that isn’t all.  To establish a new vineyard, or replant an old one, managers “sterilize” the soil, meaning treat it with such harsh chemicals that nothing will grow for three years, and then stick vines in the ground.  Of course these vines will not grow, so a new round of chemicals is needed to stimulate growth and ward off pests.  You think I exaggerate but I don’t.  In 2010 the Producers Association held a press conference to cover the exciting news that earth worms could finally live in Champagne’s soils once again.

Obviously something is wrong here. 

To put a fine point on it – Champagne vines grow in dirt.  If that dirt is full of pesticides, herbicides, and industrial garbage the grapes will develop flavors based on these characteristics.  Garbage in, garbage out.  And our exception is the proof: Egly Ouriet’s Brut Tradition. 

Francois Egly Ouriet is the second generation of a farmer Champagne grower.  Meaning he grows the fruit that makes up his Champagnes.  In the rest of the world this concept is not radical, but in Champagne – like so much else Egly Ouriet does – it is.  Typically small farmers sell their fruit to be added anonymously to the vats of the large houses.

Francois’ father began like so many other farmers in Champagne – with chemicals and garbage.  But then his life took a different turn.  He saw his Grand Cru vineyards , the only vineyards he owns, begin to deteriorate, as if melting under an intense, chemical, radioactive heat.  He quickly switched away from the proscribed mainstream practices and turned towards the vineyard, shunning chemicals and all other additives.  His vineyards are our silver lining, and it shows.        

Egly-Ouriet Brut Tradition opens with aromas of black cherries and golden sultanas greeting the drinker as they rise from the glass.  Egly’s fruit is like no other, being from the Pinot Noir grand crus of Ambonnay and Bouzy.  Most of us have never truly experienced a Champagne’s aromas, and this one may be shocking.  But along with the fruit character there is more – Francis believes in extremely long elevage, or aging.  This Champagne sees four years in bottle, bringing a toasty, freshly baked croissant aromas to the nose.  The palate eases into its rich creaminess, yet the wine is intense and focused.  It is as pure as a great white Burgundy yet as balanced and fresh as only Champagne can be.      

But my greatest advice to you on this most romantic day comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald – too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.  This Valentine’s Day enjoy a Champagne like no other – Egly Ouriet’s Brut Tradition Grand Cru.  

 

Egly Ouriet Brut Tradition Grand Cru

Suggested List Price:  $74.99

Sale Price:  $49.99

 

Egly Ouriet makes a very small amount of Champagne.  If we do not sell out of it we will be pouring it on Friday night!

But also, on Friday we will be pouring a comparison of New World and Old World Burgundy Varietals.  Stop in and join us!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

 

Bottled tag: Lively and pure, don’t hold back.  Great, of course, on its own, perfect with gastronomie – fish, chicken, rich cream sauces, even the odd steak or two.  Drink now, or hold indefinitely.  Disgorgement date is on the back.    

 

 

Clos du Mont-Olivet Cotes du Rhone

In Drinking, Grenache, Special Offers on February 7, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Founded in 1547, the historic estate of Mont Olivet in Chateauneuf du Pape has seen hundreds of changes fall around it – a papal schism, five French republics, and even the founding of Chateauneuf du Pape itself.

But through all these changes around it the estate has stayed the same.  While others have pursued styles of wine that range from jammy, alcoholic richness to blockbuster, wood-slivers-in-the-mouth high oak monsters, Mont Olivet has maintained tradition.  And tradition, here, means great wine.

Although Mont Olivet is most famous for their Chateauneuf du Pape they also make a Cote du Rhone, which comes from two separate vineyards in Montueil and Levade.  Their Cote du Rhone is based on 60 year old Grenache vines fermented and matured traditionally – in concrete and old oak barrels.  This gives the wine a rich base of cherry fruit and underlying cassis.  The traditional wine making brings out further flavors of Provencal herbs, truffles and licorice.  But that is not all.

There is a good dollop of old vine Carignan in this Cote du Rhone as well.  Many producers are setting aside their Carignan as a “not-fruity-enough” grape variety.  But here it provides structure and lift, making the cherry and blackberry notes of the nose pop and leaving the palate fresh.  A final touch of Syrah adds a note of sous bois and black pepper, a twist of complexity that lingers on the palate for minutes.

While still “only” a Cote du Rhone this wine drinks better than many Chateauneuf du Papes, but it is decidedly less expensive.  For its intense aromatics, concentrated fruit character and balanced finesse Mont-Olivet’s Vieilles Vignes Cotes du Rhone can’t be beat!  Cheers.

 

2009 Mont Olivet Vieilles Vignes Cote du Rhone Montueil-Levade

Winery Release Price:  $19.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

 

Bottled tag: Fresh and fruit Cote du Rhone.  Will pair with almost anything – roast chicken, pork, heavier fish, fuller vegetarian dishes.  A great user friendly wine, a little bit on the fruitier side of the Cote du Rhone.  Drink now until 2015.

P.S. I Love You: Pennywise Petite Sirah

In Drinking, Petite Sirah, Special Offers on January 24, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Syrah, Shiraz, Durif and Petite Sirah.

All related grapes.  Two cousins, one parent and one off-spring to be exact.  This tricky grape variety family tree tells a fascinating story of an underappreciated, yet spectacular wine: Petite Sirah.

Our story begins at the end of the First Crusade.  Out of the misty depths of the Moorish East, a war-weary solider returns to his family vineyard in France.  Here, at a chapel on top of the hill named Hermitage, our nameless Hero plants a singular, modest vine – Syrah.  The vine is successful, and Hermitage becomes the birthplace of Syrah.*

The vintages roll on and by the 19th century we find Syrah on two separate world-wide journeys.  First, James Busby imports Syrah, then known as Scyras, into Sydney, Australia.  Spreading across New South Wales its name is simplified to the Aussie pronunciation of “Shure-as”, or Shiraz.  Second, Dr. Durif, a practicing viticulturist in France, attempts to develop a grape resistant to the ravages of Downey Mildew.  He crosses Syrah with the obscure grape Peloursin and names the child after himself: Durif the grape.

Durif (the grape, not the man) makes big, inky, dark wine.  Deciding that Durif is just too darn macho the French authorities ultimately ban it.  However, by this point, Durif has immigrated to the land of opportunity – America, and into the hands of Italian immigrants, quick to turn its virile characteristics into bold drinking wine.

Maybe the early Italian immigrant farmers just didn’t know how to pronounce its name, or maybe they  thought it too coarse for something that makes such beautiful wine, but by the time Durif makes it to California its name has changed to Petite Sirah.  And Petite Sirah is ideally matched to California sunshine, as Pennywise Petite fully shows.

Just by looking at a glass you can tell this is truly a robust wine – its color is as dark and inky black as a starless night sky.  Petite Sirah has one advantage over every other grape in California; it soaks up the California sunshine and turns it into powerful wine that tastes of fresh baked blueberry cobbler, figs, blackberries and raspberry jam without losing its power and structure.  In Pennywise supple, fine grain tannins support its richness adding a lingering note of cinnamon latte and caramel to its soft, lingering finish.

But best of all, Pennywise is exactly as its name describes – deliciously affordable!

 

2009 Pennywise Petite Sirah

Suggested List Price:  $12.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

 

We will be tasting this wine Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

 

Bottled tag: dark, dense and robust Petite Sirah.  Serve with boldly flavored braised, grilled or roasted red meats.  Drink now until 2014.

 

*Actually, this part of the story is complete French malarkey.  The most recent research indicates Syrah is probably a spontaneous crossing Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche.  But this version is far more romantic.

The Record of a Great Coach: 2009 Soter Pinot Noirs

In Drinking, Pinot Noir on January 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Tony Soter is making one of the most exciting Pinot Noirs in Willamette Valley Oregon.  But his career didn’t start as a wine maker in Oregon.  He started as a wine-consultant in Napa Valley. 

Due to the Satan-esque “micro-oxygenation” proclamations made by Michelle Rolland, wine consultants now have a bad name.  They are thought to swoop in on a winery, offer up a series of techno-gadgetry to “fix” wines, and then leave a seven figure bill in the dust as their limo speeds away.

But Tony’s not that kind of guy and his work in Napa proves it – specifically his work with Shafer on their Hillside Select Cabernet.  Very few wines can claim the track record of Shafer Hillside Select.  Its modern pantheon of successive 98 point or higher (via Robert Parker) vintages is matched by very few wines in the world.  But despite its current glory, Hillside was not always dominant.  In the late 1980s the wine-making team could not seem to take Hillside up to its full potential.  They turned to Tony. 

Like a great coach Tony taught the Shafer wine-making team to trust themselves and the vineyard.  His inaugural wine at Shafer set the modern blue-print for Hillside Select, and scored 99 points from Parker.  When his one year contract was up the Shafers were desperate to keep him.  But Tony told them “You don’t need me, you can do this.  And hey, if you get in to trouble, give me a call.”

Tony’s down to earth coaching now covers Napa Valley – not only did he work at Shafer but also Araujo, Spottswoode, Viader, Dalle Valle and his own winery, Etude – all Napa luminaries. 

And so it was a difficult decision to stop his consulting work.  But Tony returned home to the Willamette Valley to raise a family – and use his talents to create his own wine.  Finding an ideal location at Mineral Springs Vineyard he now crafts two exceptional Pinot Noirs: North Valley and the Mineral Springs vineyard itself.

North Valley Pinot Noir shows off Tony’s exceptional talents as a wine-maker.  It opens with bramble aromas of red cherries, kirsch and sultana raisins.  It is sourced from vineyards within a ten mile radius of Mineral Springs, which contributes to its silken mouth feel and well integrated tannin with very little new oak. 

The Mineral Springs Pinot Noir shows one of Oregon’s great vineyards for Pinot Noir.  Facing due south, Mineral Springs is a gentle sloping, high elevation vineyard of well-drained sedimentary rock.  These characteristics create Pinot Noirs of blackberry, black cherry and floral aromas that recall violets or roses.  Every vintage shows an exotic spice character that seamlessly integrates with the solid core of pure and supple fruit.  The wine is as resolved as it is balanced, and it drinks generously now but will hold in your cellar for a decade or more.        

We are lucky to represent Tony’s exceptional Pinot Noirs at these great prices.  Cheers! 

 

2009 Soter North Valley Pinot Noir

2009 Soter Mineral Springs Pinot Noir

Please call 414-289-9463 for pricing on these two outstanding wines.

 

We are not the only ones to find Tony Soter’s new Pinot Noirs exciting.  Here are the Robert Parker reviews cited in the top line:

2009 Soter North Valley Pinot Noir – 91 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

“In the 2009 vintage, Soter Vineyards handled the conditions as well as anyone. The entry-level bottling, the dark ruby-colored 2009 North Valley Pinot Noir was aged in only 10-20% new oak. Potpourri, incense, and bright red fruits inform the nose of a savory, round, nicely balanced wine that will deliver considerable pleasure over the next 6+ years.”

2009 Soter Mineral Springs Pinot Noir – 93 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate:

“The 2009 Pinot Noir Mineral Springs is a 300 case bottling sourced from the tenderloin of the vineyard. More expressive and elegant than the Mineral Springs Ranch, it shows off the best aspects of the vintage. Beautifully proportioned and impeccably balanced, it is one of the stars of the vintage.”

 

We will be tasting this wine Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

 

Bottle tag North Valley:  bramble aromas of red cherries, kirsch and sultana raisins.  Serve with robust fish, lighter meats, or roasted hearty winter vegetables.  Drink now through 2016.

 

Bottle tag Mineral Springs: blackberry, black cherry and floral notes.  Palate is pure and supple.  Serve with robust fish, lighter meats, or roasted hearty winter vegetables.  Drink now through 2024.

Uncle Sam Wants You! TintoNegro Malbec

In Burgers, Drinking, Eating, Malbec, Special Offers on January 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Ladies and Gentlemen we are about to be the greatest nation on earth.

2012 is America’s year.  With your all-out effort, we are about to create a global power-shift, tilting the decanter towards us and letting the nectar of the gods flow.  You see, we are set to become the greatest wine consuming nation on earth… by volume. 

So come on, it’s January 10 – time to break that New Year’s resolution and debauch yourself.  Let’s all jump off the wagon, get Hammurabi-ed, and make bad decisions together.  As your coach and cheer leader I am willing to help, and I don’t come empty handed.

I bring you Malbec. 

Yes Malbec, that grape of Argentina that is perfect for this unusually warm winter we are having.  Made by Jeff Mausbach this Malbec, TintoNegro, showcases the best of what Malbec can be.

You don’t know Jeff and that’s ok.  Working for two decades at Catena Zapata, Argentina’s most renowned winery, he’s got unparalleled experience making great Malbec.  Recently striking out on his own TintoNegro is a combination of great Malbec fruit from long term friends and Catena’s storied wine-making techniques. 

Grown in Argentina’s premier districts of Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley, TintoNegro opens with a wide template of expressive flavors.  Lujan de Cuyo brings dark fruit aromas to the wine – black cherry, over-ripe blackberry and a savory lingering note of freshly roasted coffee.  Uco Valley is higher, with a greater daytime temperature swing, and this preserves the freshness of the wine, giving a gentle aromatic lift to all of Cuyo’s dark fruit aromas, drawing in strawberry like overtones.

Jeff then uses a slow, cool fermentation combined with gentle pump-overs of the juice to eliminate bitter harsh tannins and leaving an opulent, soft texture.  The result is a wine whose finish lingers with flavors of chocolate, caramel and hints of graphite.  While it drinks beautifully now, it will age at least five more years in your cellar.

But I don’t want you to wait five years to drink this.  Like Army posters of yore, America Wants You to pound as much of this as you can, and straight away.  This is no time for excuses.  There’s no “I” in team and you’re not a punter: get out your glass, get off the wagon, and figure out what is under the table.

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country – let’s make 2012 a great year for America – with Tinto Negro Malbec! 

2010 TintoNegro Malbec

Suggested List Price:  $12.99

Sale Price:  $7.99

And what Malbec is made better by an awesome burger?

Buffalo, Blue Cheese, Walnut, and Pear Burgers

We will be tasting this wine Friday along with a selection of five other wines.  Stop in and join us!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it.

Bottled tag: dark, robustly fruited Malbec.  Serve with boldly flavored red meat.  Drink now until 2017.

Notes From the Cellar:  In 2009 Waterford wine took you “back into the black” with Maipe Malbec and allusions to AC/DC.  We’re still fans of AC/DC as well as Maipe.  If you still have any of the 2007 Maipe Malbec you are in for a treat: on the nose aromas of raisin, fig, mocha, bittersweet chocolate mix with a touch of black pepper.  Nicely evolved, smelling harmonious, nothing out of place, nothing coarse. What a prize to find in the cellar!  Palate is much brighter fruit than expected, much more cherry than fig. Lively finish, a touch of lingering tannins.  What a delight!

Magnums! Vive et me Ama: Delamotte & Salon Champagnes

In Champagne, Drinking on December 28, 2011 at 3:02 pm

They’re back!  Magnums!

I’m not talking guns, old TV shows featuring hairy dudes driving Ferraris, Case tractors or prophylactics.  I’m talking about Champagne bottles.  It’s true, size really does matter; especially in Champagne. 

Magnums: the name of a Champagne bottle that holds 1.5 liters of liquid, double the size of the regular bottle.  Stop wondering about what your girlfriend already understands: bigger is better. 

Unlike other wines, Champagne is made in the bottle.  That very same bottle you’re going to purchase at the Waterford Wine Company was responsible for the taste of the liquid inside.  Champagne starts where every other wine in the world finishes off – by being put into its bottle.  But once inside it undergoes the complex process of secondary fermentation.  This process gives rise to Champagne’s cherished autolytic (brioche) and lactic (cream) tastes and aromas.  Without the bottle all these sensations are lost.

This holiday season don’t be caught with some girly, 750 ml sized bottle.  Go big and go Waterford.  Get yourself a magnum of Delamotte Champagne.     

Magnums!

Delamotte Champagne is not like other Champagnes and here is a little story about why.  Get that magnum open and read on:

There once was a crazy Frenchman with a wild hair and a dream of creating the perfect Champagne.  Aimé Salon was poor at first but eventually, through the fortunes of becoming a fur trader, succeeded in purchasing a vineyard in the village of Le Mesnil, Champagne.  Being an absolute perfectionist, Salon produced his champagne from this vineyard only in great years (for those who are counting: 37 times over the last century) and only for friends.  Today, Salon is known as one of the world’s greatest and most sought after Champagnes.      

As a life-style, working every third year is really choice.  As a business, it’s a bit hard to sustain.  So eventually Salon’s neighbors, the Delamotte’s, started buying his grapes and champagne when he wasn’t making it.  The story is more complicated than I am letting on but suffice it to say that Delamotte is a “brother” Champagne to Salon, built from the same material, but at a tenth the price.   

And you will notice this right from the pop of the cork.  Aromas of roses and violets intermingle with freshly baked croissants and sugar cookies.  Pour this into a glass and let the aromas envelop you.  Le Mesnil is a sweet spot for making Blanc de Blanc and it shows across the palate – rich, mouth-coating, and full of tastes of freshly baked croissants with creamed butter on top.  The mousse is delicate, round and soft like laying your head on a down pillow.  It’s extraordinarily delicious, and even better from magnums. 

Magnums!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not the motion of the ocean but the bow of the ship that makes waves of joy crash against the shore.  You need a magnum of Delamotte Champagne.  Don’t let another New Year’s Eve celebration go by without it.   

Or, as Champagne Delamotte’s says: live and love.  Magnums.

 

Delamotte Champagne

Magnum (1.5 liters large)

Suggested List Price:  $124.99

Sale Price:  $89.99

 

For those of you who just don’t believe me…

Delamotte Champagne

750 ml (regular bottle size)

Suggested List Price:  $56.99

Sale Price:  $39.99

 

And, if you really want to rock out this New Years…

 

1999 Salon Champagne

750 ml (regular bottle size)

Suggested List Price:  $359.99

Sale Price:  $299.99

 

Yes, your math is correct.  Magnums are more expensive than two regular sized bottles.  For those in the know they are worth it, and subsequently more highly prized.

We will attempt to do a side by side comparison (for free) or Friday the 31st.  However, this selection will probably sell out quickly.  Please call us on Friday for exact details!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

 

All that is Old is Young Again: Heredia’s Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva Riojas

In Drinking, Tempranillo on December 20, 2011 at 3:02 pm

Most of us rarely get to taste fully mature red wine, wines that are not based on their fruity intensity but instead are harmoniously integrated with the finesse of complex secondary characteristics.  Great Bordeaux and Burgundy are said to achieve these characteristics in time.  But there is a place in the world that specifically releases its wines fully matured.  That place is Rioja, in Spain.  But Rioja’s unique style of wine is dying out, as their age old traditions are forgotten.     

Rioja’s traditions span back to the 1860s.  Phylloxera, the vine-eating louse, was devastating vineyards in Bordeaux, France.  Seeking another area to make Bordeaux-like wines, French wine-makers fled to Rioja.  There, they developed a classification system for their wines based on the quality of the vintage and the ability to age.Spanish law requires that the best wines  – those designated Gran Reserva – age for at least two years in cask and four in bottle. For Heredia’s wines that’s just the warm up.

Don Rafael Lopez de Heredia y Landeta (Heredia for short) came to Rioja in 1877 and set up his winery and vineyards with these Bordelaise lineaments.  His three vineyards, Tondonia for Bordeaux-esque wines, Bosconia for Burgundy-like wines, and Cubillo for “table” wines are still made in the traditional Gran Reserva style, with extensive oak aging of Tempranillo based wines. 

In recent years, this system of aging grew to be seen as backward, old-school, and not to modern tastes.  Wineries in the 1990s dropped the traditional style in favor of alta expression wines – wines of rich fruit character, powerful extraction, and shorter aging in new barrels.  At first these new wines were deemed radical, then sensational, and now have all but entirely replaced Gran Reservas. 

But Heredia never changed.  Their Crianza Cubillo could be a Gran Reserva – it sees three years in cask and three in bottle before release.  The Reservas, from either vineyard, spend six years in cask and the Gran Reservas nine.  Most modern producers are releasing wines from the 2009 vintage.  Heredia’s youngest is from 2005, its oldest 1991.  They are now the last producer of traditional Spanish Rioja. 

There is no need to compare which Rioja is better –modern or traditional.  But from its near eclipse, Gran Reservas are experiencing a recrudescence.  The youngest of Spain’s winemakers are harkening back to the old ways, finding the methods that their grandfathers’ used to make unique and exceptional wine.  Spanish wine-making has now come full circle and the old house of Heredia is leading this youthful charge. 

Heredia’s Vina Cubillo 2005 Crianza maintains a vespertine hue of old and profound claret.  Opening with aromas of wild strawberries hinting at candy, it sets the stage for classic Rioja, both being intensely dry on the palate as well as light and luxurious.  The palate maintains a dark sense of completeness with fig and toasted walnut interplaying between a sophomoric maturity of fruit and cleansing grip of austerity.  The finish lingers – like great Burgundy the palate maintains a haunting vestigial sweetness, a vibrant core of being that speaks of the wine’s graceful aging. 

Heredia’s Vina Tondonia 2001 Reserva delivers a smoky intensity, intermixing sauvage and charcuterie into its powerful Paulliac like musculature, lingering on a dark note of currants and graphite.  For all of its age it is astoundingly fresh, being firm and brilliant far beyond what most decade-old wines could ever hope to achieve.  It is serious, intense, with a touch of savory wildness.  Like all Heredia wines its finish is pure, intense and lingering.     

 

Heredia’s Vina Bosconia 1994 Grand Reserva is a Spanish Grand Master.  The nose conjures distant memories of aimlessly kicking leaves after school, revealing in an unconsidered youth, laughing for the freedom from school and responsibility.  Although the crepuscular color reveals age the palate is warm and fresh, like chestnuts roasted fireside.  Tastes of fig, balsamic, white pepper and vanillin all mix in a cerebral tasting experience.  This wine, despite nearing its second decade, it just peeking into youth – Rioja such as this is meant to be tucked away to enjoy with grandchildren nearing their own maturity.    

Please call 414-289-9463 for pricing on these special wines.

 

We will be tasting all the Heredia wines this Friday and Saturday
as long as they don’t sell out.

 

Half case and full case discounts apply to this offer.

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and
phone number.  All orders will be
available at the time of purchase.

 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled
conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

 

 

 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited
it.

 

This article makes references to:

 

“Beauty Before Age” by Jesus Barquin published in the World
of Fine Wine, Issue 32, 2011.

 

“Rooted in Rioja, Traditions Gain New Respect” by Eric
Asimov published in the New York Times The Pour section, published August 11,
2009.

 

On Red Mountain: Hedges Bordeaux Blend

In Cabernet, Drinking, Merlot, Special Offers on December 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm

To my taste there is no other wine region in the United States that comes closer to the drama of Bordeaux’s greatest wines then Red Mountain in Washington State.  To make a direct comparison, Hedges “Red Mountain” Bordeaux Blend is a New World replica of Pape-Clement. 

As in Bordeaux, Hedges “Red Mountain” is a blend based around the two noble varieties of Cabernet and Merlot.  Cabernet provides the backbone and intense wild blackberry aromas to the wine.  Unlike Napa Merlot, which can be sweet and syrupy, Red Mountain Merlot hangs onto its gutsy, deep rooted sense of power.  Here it can be tasted in the complexity added to the wine – flavors of chocolate, demitasse and sweet cherry tobacco dance and harmonize across the palate.  Trace amounts of Syrah and Cabernet Franc add a multilayered texture harmonizing with aromas of gingerbread, panne-grill and sous bois.  All these sensations linger in the glass as well as in the bottle – the family still has bottles left of their inaugural vintage which at almost 30 years of age are maturing gracefully. 

For this email I researched the history of Red Mountain – it’s founding via a misguided sub-division attempt, a stint at growing Lemberger via an alcohol infused bankruptcy, the Swedish government buying up an entire year’s supply, and a nuclear reservation sited just down-wind.  But ultimately, that’s not why “wine insiders” focus on and discuss Hedges.  Hedges is discussed, admired even, because of its stance on Points and Price. 

One of the strangest features of the wine industry is that we – retailers – have grown accustomed to citing a few sources – Robert Parker and Wine Spectator – for validation of personal and professional taste.  These sources use points, literally a number between 0 and 100, to define wine. 

The Hedges family strongly believes that points are a grave injustice.  An injustice not to them, but rather to you.  They believe that using an arithmetic scale to analyze a subjective experience is absurd.  It insinuates that you do not have the imagination or intelligence to make your own decisions about what you drink.  Further, they believe the points system is especially silly given how well Robert Parker or one of the many Wine Spectator writers can describe wine.

Years ago Hedges committed what many believed to be business suicide by not allowing their wines to be assigned a Point score.  They believe you can decide for yourself how much you enjoy their wine.  It was a brave decision and one that deserves to be recognized as such.    

 

But Hedges went further.  They are one of those very few American wineries that believes in place over brand.  While I make grand comparisons about them – Bordeaux and Red Mountain, Hedge’s Bordeaux Blend and Pape Clement – they are more humble.  They believe that Red Mountain is one of those unique places in the world that has the potential to make great wine from the Bordeaux varieties.  Their purpose, as a family, as wine-makers, and ultimately as friends to those who enjoy wine, is to let the greatness of Red Mountain shine through.  And they refuse to charge astronomical prices for it.   

This level of honesty and integrity is increasingly hard to find in the wine world.  It is one that I would invite you to share. 

 

2008 Hedges “Red Mountain” Bordeaux Blend

Winery Suggested Retail Price:  $25.99

Sale Price:  $19.99

 

 

A Crazy Tuscan Gal: Tua Rita’s Super Tuscan Perlato del Bosco

In Cabernet, Drinking, Sangiovese, Special Offers on December 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Super-Tuscan: a nickname for a wine that supersedes the quality of Chianti’s laws.

In the 1960s, the Italian government made the sad mistake of coding into law Chianti as a wine based on Sangiovese but with up to 40% white grapes allowed into the blend.  Now picturesquely enshrined by the straw covered fiasco bottle sitting atop a red checkered table cloth in an old-school Italian restaurant, the resulting wines were a disaster.  Those 40% white grapes “stretched” Chianti, increasing production right into a slightly alcohol, sour, dry and vapid imitation of Tuscan rain water. 

Resulting in economic catastrophe, prices plunged and production could not keep up.  The feudal residue of Tuscan sharecropping collapsed under the strain with most of the population fleeing to Rome or Florence for factory work. 

Out of this mess came a few courageous and brilliant producers.  Sassicaia and Tignanello were the first, and many followed in their trailblazing ways.  They brought with them a new style of Tuscan wine.  A wine grown in Tuscany but blended with Bordeaux varietals: typically Cabernet.  These were the first Super-Tuscans.    

During all of this turmoil, Tua Rita winery was just a tiny little place.  Set up by Rita Tua (yes, the winery’s name is her name reversed) as a place to retire and watch the ocean, it was never meant to be famous or even a winery.  A lover of gardening, Rita initially farmed her seven acres herself, spending each day out in the vineyards, quietly selling off her grapes to her friends just down the road at Sassicaia. 

Maybe it was her friends at Sassicaia encouraging her, or maybe it was just a wild hair from a crazy Tuscan gal, but one day, ten years into retirement, she decided to keep a small portion of her own grapes and make wine.  And from those first five barrels a great Super Tuscan was born. 

Now, with the 2008 vintage, Tua Rita’s son-in-law Stefano has taken over the helm, and it’s his Perlato del Bosco wine that grabs the attention.  The Perlato is a true Super Tuscan, being a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 50% Cabernet.  The Cabernet provides the concentration and power, centered on flavors of blackcurrants, violets and chocolates.  The soils at Tua Rita are extremely mineral, and the Cabernet draws out that minerality with a lingering sense of place.  Sangiovese provides length and lift to the wine.  Its sweet red cherry fruit sings a Tuscan high note throughout the wine while its arenaceous tannins perfectly compliment the Cabernet, fulfilling the promise of power and depth first sensed on the nose.  

Other commentators have compared Super Tuscans with Bordeaux.  Here, with Tua Rita’s Perlato, the match is Mouton Rothschild.  For lovers of Bordeaux or Tuscany this is a wine not to be missed.    

 

Tua Rita Perlato del Bosco

Winery Suggested Retail Price:  $45.99

Sale Price:  $19.99

 

And…

Holiday Wine Gift Sets from Waterford!

Yes, our Holiday Gift Packages are back!

Whether you are in need of a gift for friends or clients, a connoisseur or casual drinker, this year send them an elegant and thoughtful package from the Waterford Wine Company.  We are offering three wine gift sets for your gift-giving satisfaction: Exploring Tuscany, Discovering France, and Revealing Hidden California. 

Designing each set to be a fun and exploratory tasting of a theme, your friends or clients will find them a delightful way to host a tasting party or just enjoy exploring each wine solo.  With enough exciting background information for the connoisseur yet easy enough for the budding wine drinker to understand the text engages the receiver and leaves them with a fun, educational experience.  Each set is more than just another bottle of wine – they are an adventurous and exciting experience!    

 

Holiday Gift Set: Exploring Tuscany $49.99

Holiday Gift Set: Discovering France $49.99

Holiday Gift Set: Revealing Hidden California $49.99

 

Call use to purchase these gift sets today!  Each gift set is a collection of three wines, an introductory letter explaining the set, a tasting sheet customized to match the set, and a detailed “Waterford Wine”-style presentation about the wines.  The wines are pre-packaged and boxed in a handsome logoed case.  The cost for each set is $49.99 and includes all of the above material.    

 

 

 

We will be tasting Tua Rita’s Perlato del Bosco this on Friday and Saturday.

Half case and full case discounts apply to this offer.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Ben Christiansen wrote this article and Tim Hansen edited it. 

This article makes reference to:  

Sharecropping and Productivity: ‘Feudal Residues’ in Italian Agriculture, 1911

Jon S. Cohen and Francesco L. Galassi

The Economic History Review
New Series, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Nov., 1990), pp. 646-656

 

Those “other commentators” are Robert Parker, who called another of Tua Rita’s wines Mouton Rothschild-esque.  It some from him that I draw the comparison.

  

 

Peeking Around the Corner: Pali Huntington Pinot Noir for Thanksgiving

In Drinking, Pinot Noir, Special Offers on November 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and you need a drink!

Sure, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey but it would be a mistake not to consider the other elements on the table – the cranberry sauce, the sweet potatoes, buttered onions, the mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, roasted acorn squash, sausage stuffing, wild mushroom duxelle, kugel, lefse, did I mention gravy? black-truffle-chestnut puree, and why not? mince meat, cherry, and pumpkin pie just to top the whole thing off!  Whew, what a meal. 

What will wash this all down?  And further, what will harmonize with all these different tastes and flavor sensations?  And finally, what has enough alcohol to provide just enough sedative to make the in-laws seem like better people than they actually are? 

To sum up: what wine is good enough for you but cheap enough for them?

We have the answer: Pali Pinot Noir.

But not just any Pali Pinot Noir – Pali Huntington Pinot Noir.  The “Huntington” comes from Santa Barbara, and it’s the quality and style of Santa Barbara’s Pinot fruit that is going to make the Thanksgiving dinner pairing perfect. 

As soon as it’s opened Pali Huntington Pinot Noir jumps from the glass with aromas of wild raspberry pie.  Like California sunshine in a bottle, no Pinot is as deliciously sacchariferous as a Santa Barbara Pinot.  With the Thanksgiving meal, this Pinot perfectly complements the disparate elements of the meal, from the stuffing to the cranberry sauce, without overwhelming the Turkey.  Pali lightly oaks this Pinot, bringing out a lingering vanilla and nutmeg note on the finish.  A delightful match for Thanksgiving, it and be drunk anytime and bring pleasure!      

 

2009 Pali Huntington Pinot Noir

Retail Price:  $21.99

Sale Price:  $16.99

 

And our other specials are available too!

2007 Sant Antonio Amarone

Retail Price:  $59.99

Sale Price:  $39.99

Sant Antonio’s Amarone opens with smells of blackberry jam spread on warm buttered toast.  It feels so silky, so supple going down that it warms you like a late night snack from Grandma sneaked to bed and munched under the covers.  Amarone is never a simple wine, and Sant Antonio’s revels in its complexity.  Waves of aromas like bittersweet chocolate, violets, musk, vanilla and espresso a combine into a fascinating, heady drinking experience.  It truly is a vino da meditazione, a wine to meditate with, as it draws you down into its deep dark depths.  Once there, it will snuggle you like a fur coat worn on the beach of a freezing opal sea.  Experience this Amarone slowly, and cherish every drop. 

(Click here to read the entire offer)

 

2010 Lapierre Morgon, Cru Beaujolais

Retail Price:  $26.99

Sale Price:  $21.99

2010 is a great vintage for Beaujolais, especially Morgon, and we would like to think that this wine reflects Marcel’s character: his extraordinary gifts as a winemaker, his brilliant quick wit, his radiant good humor, and his enviable love of life.  His wines are of the same personality, full of youthful excitement, snappy jocose acidity, and joie de vivre. 

(Click here to read the entire offer)

 

And yes, it’s back, the Waterford Old Fashioned!

The Waterford Old Fashioned

Suggested List Price of Package:  $89.99

Special price via this email:  $59.99

“This is a True Old Fashioned – a cocktail that announces itself and leaves the Cosmo crowd crying for soda pop.  It’s boozy and bold, making you wondering why you would drink anything else.  Welcome back to a true cocktail.”

Click here for complete details.   

 

 

We will be tasting all of these wines on Friday and Saturday (as long as we don’t sell out of them!)

Half case and full case discounts apply to this offer.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

This piece was edited by Tim Hansen.

Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé … but why drink toilet water? Drink Amarone instead!

In Amarone, Beaujolais, Drinking, Special Offers, Uncategorized on November 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!

That’s right; it’s that time of year again!  The third Thursday in November when the audacious French traits of being xenophobic and snooty towards Americans combine in the swinish hoax known as Beaujolais Nouveau! 

Sure, this year we could again drink toilet water from the armpit of Burgundy – Beaujolais Nouveau – while some effete, stubble crusted Frenchman chortles.  We could also tax ourselves right into another Marshall Plan to bail the EU out of its debt crisis too!  Actually, come to think of it, Beaujolais Nouveau is essentially a great bit of tomfoolery designed to bail out what can only be thought of as run-off from France’s huge nuclear power industry.  They ship toxic waste into Algeria; why not put it in wine bottles, affix eye-catching labels, and send it to those silly Americans too! 

No!  And let’s say it together – never again shall we drink Beaujolais Nouveau.  But let’s not get carried away.  This Thursday, and in fact, this Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday lets drink the good stuff.  Let’s drink Amarone. 

Yes, Amarone.

Amarone, the very antithesis of Beaujolais Nouveau.  Where Nouveau is a thin, vapid French wine made via the new-fangled machinations of carbonic maceration, Amarone is Italy’s heavy weight champion, inspiring awe in the imbiber via its dramatic depths completed through the age old process of Appassimento.  A vino da meditazione, Amarone’s rich power is guaranteed to knock your socks off as well as spank the Thanksgiving turkey across the table.  It is a wine not to be trifled with or to be missed. 

Amarone hails from Valpolicella, the inland hills up from Venice, Italy.  It is primarily made from the grapes Corvina and Corvinone.  But unlike many Italian wines where the region or grape plays a key role in flavor, Amarone’s distinction comes from a process.  This process is the Appassimento, or drying of the grapes. 

Here is what happens: the grapes are picked normally, like every other place in the world.  They are then spread out on perforated straw mats.  These mats are placed in an open air warehouse where fans constantly blow air across them.  This combination dries the grapes out, in essence, creating raisins. 

All of us know the flavor difference between run-of-the-mill concord grapes and Sun-Maid raisins.  You can imagine a similar difference when a wine is made via appassimento.  But you don’t have to imagine what Amarone is like because we’ve got one on special, right here – Sant Antonio’s!

Sant Antonio’s Amarone opens with smells of blackberry jam spread on warm buttered toast.  It feels so silky, so supple going down that it warms you like a late night snack from Grandma sneaked to bed and munched under the covers.  Amarone is never a simple wine, and Sant Antonio’s revels in its complexity.  Waves of aromas like bittersweet chocolate, violets, musk, vanilla and espresso a combine into a fascinating, heady drinking experience.  It truly is a vino da meditazione, a wine to meditate with, as it draws you down into its deep dark depths.  Once there, it will snuggle you like a fur coat worn on the beach of a freezing opal sea.  Experience this Amarone slowly, and cherish every drop. 

As you can imagine, Amarone is never cheap.  It is extremely difficult to make and the very act of creating it, the appassimento, lowers the yield, typically by half.  What would have been a $30 wine automatically costs $60.  The brothers Castagnedi however, want to spread their love of Amarone far and wide.  Take advantage of this charitable offer on their Amarone because, as any Italian will tell you, Amarone is not a wine for every day occasions, but it is a wine to have as often as you can. 

 

2007 Sant Antonio Amarone

Retail Price:  $59.99

Sale Price:  $39.99

 

And, just to show you we aren’t mean to the fine vintners of Cru Beaujolais, here is another offer!

 

2010 Lapierre Morgon, Cru Beaujolais

Retail Price:  $26.99

Sale Price:  $21.99

 

Here at Waterford, Lapierre’s Morgon is one of our favorite wines.  Yes, it comes from Beaujolais, but from one of the “crus” of Beaujolais – Morgon.  It is decidedly not nouveau. 

We love and prize this wine for its delightful lightness of being, its bright cherry fruits that seem to bound forth with the excitement of a child that just learned how to ride a bicycle, and its charming way of smiling at you like a freshly burped baby.  If Amarone is for contemplation, Lapierre’s Morgon is for dancing.      

The 2010 vintage gives us the bittersweet reminder that Lapierre’s Morgon has been handed down to the next generation.  Marcel Lapierre lost his battle with cancer just before completing the 2010 harvest, and his talented son Mathieu is now at the reigns. 

2010 is a great vintage for Beaujolais, especially Morgon, and we would like to think that this wine reflects Marcel’s character: his extraordinary gifts as a winemaker, his brilliant quick wit, his radiant good humor, and his enviable love of life.  His wines are of the same personality, full of youthful excitement, snappy jocose acidity, and joie de vivre. 

When Marcel started making his Beaujolais the region was known only for Nouveau, which gave rise to Beaujolais’ unjustified reputation as the arm-pit of France producing toilet water wine.  That reputation is rightly reserved to Nouveau.  Despite these misperceptions and through his belief in natural, non-interventionist wine-making, Marcel started a revolution in Beaujolais.  And that revolution has gone on to change the entire world of wine.    

Vive le Gamay!  Vive le Lapierre!  Vive le Cru Beaujolais!

 

 

 

We will be tasting these wines on Friday and Saturday (as long as we don’t sell out of them!)

Half case and full case discounts apply to this offer.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

 

This piece was edited by Tim Hansen who notes that sneaked is the correct usage, not snuck.

 

Some of the ideas of this piece, “wine of meditation”, “inspire awe”, among others are derived from Nicholas Belfrage’s book Barolo to Valpolicella published by Faber Books.  If you are at all interested in Italian wine this book is indispensable.

Parts of the Lapierre section, specifically “Marcel’s character” are from a personal communication with Bruce Neyers at the Kermit Lynch National Sales Office.  Thank you Bruce for your heartfelt email regarding Marcel Lapierre.

 

Amarone bottle tag: richly styled gorgeously fruit driven wine.  Drink as a cocktail or serve with boldly flavored foods.  Drink now until 2022. 

 

Lapierre bottle tag: bright, cheerful, crisp light wine.  Drink as a cocktail or serve with light foods including poultry and seafood.  Drink now until 2013. 

A Classic Napa Cabernet: Smith-Madrone

In Cabernet, Drinking, Special Offers on November 8, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Smith-Madrone makes one of the greatest Cabernets in Napa Valley. 

Once, in Napa Valley, Smith-Madrone was joined by a host of other famous wineries who crafted their Cabernets in a classic style – Heitz Martha’s Vineyard, BV George de Latour, Mayacamas, and even some early Robert Mondavi Reserve.  These wines were based on the venerable vineyards they were grown in. 

But then something changed.  Call it Parkerization, wine maker choice, or global warming; Napa’s Cabernets are now riper and more alcoholic.  Using oak to balance their gooey sweetness these “modern” Cabernets raise their prices concomitant to their owner’s egos, rather than the quality of the wine.  

But on Spring Mountain, in Napa Valley, the two brothers Smith dry farm their old vine Cabernet from the encroaching Madrone forest.  Not many people talk about dry farming or old vine Cabernet in Napa because very few have the courage or ability to do either.  But the Smith brothers do both and this sets their Cabernet far above the curve of Napa Valley. 

Most wineries purposefully do not let their Cabernet vines get old.  They rip them out of the ground at the youthful age of twenty.  Old vines produce less fruit, and the older they get the lower the yield.  A lowered yield automatically lowers the quantity of wine that can be produced, ultimately cutting into a winery’s paycheck.  And very few wineries are willing to make that sacrifice.   

But old vines also produce more dramatic wine.  Age lowers a vine’s vigor, naturally producing a smaller crop.  This naturally lowered crop forces the vine to put more energy into fewer berries.  The result is far more concentrated, richer flavors.  And the Smith Brothers, with Cabernet vines nearly reaching the half-century mark, have some of the oldest in the valley.  

Dry farming (which is exactly what it sounds like – farming without irrigation of any kind) is very difficult to practice.  So much so that most wineries don’t bother – they irrigate with abandon.  Again, it is a question of yield.  If vines do not receive water, they struggle and produce fewer berries.  Well-watered vines produce bigger and more abundant berries.  Not only does this lead to a bigger crop and more money but also watered down wines. 

Smith-Madrone’s dry farmed vines have to work harder than most, digging their roots deep into the bedrock of Spring Mountain.  Most irrigated vines will have a root system that is two feet deep.  Dry farmed vines will typical dig down twenty feet.  The idea is that a deep root system pulls up minerals and flavors into the wine, creating more complexity as well as a sense of place in the Cabernet. 

The results are profound in Smith-Madrone’s Cabernet.  The wine opens with aromas of blackberry, black cherry, dried herbs and cassis.  It is classically built Napa Cabernet and the palate demonstrates this.  The tannins are supple, cedary and full.  The wine resonates like great old-growth Bordeaux; Smith-Madrone’s Cabernet is meant to age.  In time, as the tannins soften, the wine’s aroma will become even more dramatic, opening up with roses, sweet smoking spices, and a framboise liqueur like finish.  This is a classic Napa Cabernet, revealing fruit full of California sunshine and the structure to back it up.          

The Smith brothers have never changed the style of their Cabernet for a critic, preferring to let nature show how great Napa Cabernet can be.  And while they take great pride in every vintage, their prices have always been more than fair for the quality of what is in their bottles.  Now, even more so. 

Come and taste one of Napa’s greatest Cabernets.

 

2005 Smith-Madrone Cabernet

Retail Price at Winery:  $45.99

Sale Price:  $29.99

 

We will be tasting this wine on Friday and Saturday (as long as we don’t sell out of it!)

Half case and full case discounts apply to this offer.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

This piece was edited by Tim Hansen.

 

Bottle tag: well structured, full bodied Cabernet.  Serve with rich foods, particularly protein rich foods.  Drink now until 2030. 

 

And to read more about other classic Napa Cabernets:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/20/dining/20pour.html?pagewanted=1&ref=cabernetsauvignonus

 

Braised Lamb Soup with Hearty Greens and Cannellini Beans

In Barolo, Drinking, Eating, Lamb on November 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Is there anything more relaxing than a slow Sunday?  Made even slower by the ease of Saturday night’s dinner party fare being transformed into a simple, yet extravagantly tasty noon meal?  And made yet slower and easier by a bottle of wine to pair with it?  Ahh well, here it is – a slow Sunday lunch – delicious, tasty and easy.  

Wine pairing

The original dinner party that inspired this slow Sunday transformation was actually focused on Bordeaux.  However, given that the wine stayed with the host but the leftovers came home with me, I opted for something slightly different – Barolo.  

And once Barolo was decided upon the rest of the ingredients fell into place – a touch of Italian ingredients that I could find in the pantry as well as whatever local greens were still in season.  Hence, collard greens and cannellini beans, parmesan and fresh olive oil.

If I would have had any remainder of the bottles of the Bordeaux I probably would have cast the soup in a slightly different manner.  Maybe lentils, bacon, collard greens and garlic croutons with mayonnaise.  But you get the point – simple is best with this soup.

Ingredients

For the soup:

2 shanks                      lamb leftovers previously braised (or lamb stew meat braised until tender)

2 cups                          leftover braising liquid or chicken stock

2 cups                          Chicken stock – in addition to above

2 tbs.                           olive oil

1                                  onion, chopped fine

5 cloves                       garlic, chopped fine

1 head                         collard greens, kale, or other hearty fall leafy green

1 -15 oz can                 cannellini beans, or other canned bean

2 oz.                            Parmesan, shaved

1 tbs. per person          olive oil, very fresh, in addition to above

 

Method

1.  Add the 2 tbs. of olive oil to a sauce pot.  Heat over high until warm.  Add the onions and garlic and sauté until soft. 

2.  Chop the stems from the hearty greens.  Sauté with the onions and garlic until soft.  Chop the leaves, reserve. 

3.  Add the stock or braising liquid / stock combination to the pot.  Heat through.

4.  Add the braised lamb and cannellini beans to the pot. Heat through. 

5.  Ladle a portion of the soup into a bowl and top with shaved parmesan and olive oil.  Serve.

 

 

Curiously Naughty Brunello: Caparzo Sangiovese Rosso

In Drinking, Sangiovese on November 1, 2011 at 1:42 pm

The laws of Brunello are a curious thing. 

Yes Brunello – the Big B of the Italian wine world is one of the most intense, long-lasting, and historically important wines in Italy. 

Yet Brunello is technically, several different things.  First, Brunello is a grape, “the little dark one”.  Mutating from Sangiovese in 1888 Brunello produces much smaller berries yielding far more powerful wine than regular-old-Chianti.  But Brunello is also a region, surrounding the hillsides around the town of Montalcino, as its full name Brunello di Montalcino, suggests.  And finally,Brunello is a set of laws, in Italy known as DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), that guarantee quality, grape, geographic location, legal structure – all of these make Brunello, Brunello.    But it’s the DOCG that is a very curious thing. 

Like all DOCGs, Brunello’s mandates grape type, vineyard area, oak treatment and aging.  But Brunello’s goes further – stipulating the maximum vineyard yield (4.7 tons / acre) as well as the maximum production of Brunello from a winery as a percentage of total output (68%). 

So get this: even if everything else matches – grapes, location, aging, vineyard – as a Brunello producer you can only label 68% of what you make Brunello.  So imagine you have 100 barrels of wine.  The government will only let you label 68 of them as Brunello, even though the other 32 are exactly the same wine.  So what do you do with the 32 barrels?

Some naughty Italian winemakers (profiled here) go ahead and make “extra-legal” amounts of Brunello anyway (hey, it’s Italy).  But that’s not what Elisabetta Gnudi does.  As an owner of Carpazo Brunello every year she ends up “declassifying”.  In essence, she takes her remaining 32 barrels of Brunello and labels them as Sangiovese Rosso.  And for savvy wine consumers like us, this presents an opportunity.

As a wine, Brunello is well endowed with forceful tannins and strong acidity that overrides its fruit.  Aging a Brunello for decades brings these components into a glorious harmony.  Some of us may have cellars that are provisioned with gloriously harmonious ’81 Brunello but most of us need something to drink tonight.  So when Elisabetta is selecting her Rosso, she thinks of us, and chooses Brunello with more fruit, less acid and less tannin – and then labels it Sangiovese Rosso.

Caparzo’s Sanigovese Rosso is a pure, bright and elegantly delicious drinking experience.  Vivid red and black cherry fruits emerge from the glass mixing with violets, cedar and hints of cypress.  On the palate its bright acidity gives true meaning to the phrase “pizza wine”, being utterly drinkable and fresh.  The finish reveals its Brunello ancestry with a lingering finish of mocha and chocolate.  Beautiful to drink now it will age gracefully for five more years. 

 

2008 Caparzo Sangiovese Rosso

Suggested List Price:  $15.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

 

And something for the cellar:

 

2006 Caparzo Brunello

Suggested List Price:  $49.99

Sale Price:  $29.99

 

Unlike the Sangiovese Rosso, this Brunello spends its early life entirely in wood.  Aged for 36 months in oak cask, the Caparzo Brunello is a classic – dried roses, citrus and autumn smells rise out of the glass to be joined with acacia, cedar and chestnut.  Caparzo’s Brunello is not a black, inky wine (which Brunello shouldn’t be anyway); it is light and high-toned, graceful yet full of svelte power.  Although young, this vintage is drinkable now.  However, my advice is to buy several bottles to stash away.  A rich reward will await you in five, ten or even twenty years’ time!       

 

And we will be tasting these two wines Friday and Saturday (as long as we don’t sell out of it!)

Half case and full case discounts apply to this offer.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

This piece was edited by Tim Hansen.

This piece also uses various other sources for its material.  Here they are:

http://www.consorziobrunellodimontalcino.it/en/the-wines/brunello-di-montalcino.html

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/20080808.html

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/forum/showthread.php?t=2887&highlight=brunello+scandal

Made in the Vineyard: Robert Young Chardonnay

In Chardonnay, Drinking, Special Offers on October 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm

There is a popular saying in the California wine industry that “the wine is made in the vineyard”.  While it’s a pretty saying, it is by and large false.  Most of California’s wines are in fact “brands” that have no vineyard, and sometimes not even a winery, behind them. 

Consider this – Napa Valley only has about 400 bonded wineries but produces over 1,200 different brands.  Up and down California the same situation prevails.  These brands aren’t necessarily bad wine; they just can’t offer something truly unique.  And when drinking wine one of the greatest pleasures is the unique taste each place can give – if the wine is indeed made in the vineyard. 

In stark contrast to most of the California wine industry is the estate of Robert Young.  And I do mean estate: Robert Young bought the current property in 1858 and the family has produced wine there for five generations.  But at the estate it’s not the family, or wine maker, that matters most.  It’s the vineyard.

First planted in 1968 Robert Young’s Chardonnay is now famous for the unique character and flavors it produces.  These flavors are a combination of the vineyard’s site combined with the thoughtful work of the family’s vineyard practices.  The vineyard sight is tucked up to the rolling hills of Alexander Valley.  This creates a warm patch in a cool valley, creating a Chardonnay with full of rich fruit flavors but balanced acidity. 

To further the wine’s concentration, the family uses a specific trellising system known as Scott Henry.  A trellis is the cage, or set of wires, that guide grape vines, much like the cages that surround your garden’s tomato plant.  Grape vines are vigorous woodland climbers that in California’s fertile soils would grow into a tangled, gnarly mess without a trellis system controlling them.  The Scott Henry goes further than just control.  It separates the shoots of the vine vertically, creating a top and bottom “curtain”.  Not only does this curtain prevent rot and control diseases pressure on the vine, but it also builds in concentrated flavors.  And in Robert Young’s estate-bottled Chardonnay, these flavors shine.

Robert Young’s Chardonnay begins with ripe tropical flavors of white peaches, pineapple and papaya.  This Chardonnay is richer in fruit character then most because of the care and attention in the vineyard.  The palate’s warmth is ever-expanding, with flavors of nutmeg, toffee and vanilla melding with the tropical flavors.  The finish lengthens out into jasmine and orange blossom lingering like a sanguine sunset on a cool harvest day. 

In California wine-making circles Robert Young’s Chardonnay is famous.  This vineyard’s fruit is so extraordinary that vineyard managers and winemakers from rival wineries stop by not just to taste this family’s Chardonnay, but also to buy their fruit to turn into their own wine.  Taste this unique vineyard’s fruit via the people who lovingly produce it: Robert Young Estate Chardonnay.

2006 Robert Young Chardonnay

Suggested List Price:  $39.99

Sale Price:  $19.99

 

And we will be tasting this wine Friday and Saturday (as long as we don’t sell out of it!)

Half case and full case discounts apply to this offer.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

This piece was edited by Tim Hansen.

Going Wild: Fontanes Les Traverses Cabernet

In Cabernet, Drinking, Special Offers on October 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

The Cabernet wines of Bordeaux are polished, modern and expensive. 

They weren’t always this way, with many pre-‘82 Cabernets being rustic, almost “country cousins” versions of their current selves.  But as Bordeaux matured into the modern age the three attributes created a feedback loop.  Chateau A, in order to command the prestige of neighboring Chateau B, started using more new oak to smooth and polish the wine. 

Chateau B responded by letting their grapes attain more ripeness and richness, a more modern style.  And finally, in order to compete, Chateau C raised their prices so they could buy new oak barrels and lower their harvest yields to attain the same style as Chateaux A and B. 

The wines are spectacular, some of the best on earth – if you are lucky enough to own a bottle or two (but nowadays they always taste better if someone else is buying).  But something has been lost among all that polish, ripeness and oak.  Call it the wildness of creation: a living dynamic and powerfully individualistic Cabernet that isn’t like the others. 

Think of it this way, would you rather listen to a technically perfect rendition of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 1043; or one where the violinists get it on and really tear the piece apart?  Wouldn’t Hendrix’s Voodoo Chile be less expressive if the loud guitar feedback resulting in the comment “turn that off!” were removed from the song?  There are risks to be taken in every act of creation and in most of Bordeaux’s Cabernets those risks are polished out. 

The Traverses de Fontanes made by Cyriaque Rozier is one French Cabernet that is powerfully individualistic.  And risky as well.

First, it’s not made in Bordeaux.  Bordeaux may appear to have the monopoly on French Cabernet, but it doesn’t.  Cyriaque’s 40 year old Cabernet vines – well older than the average in Bordeaux – are planted in Pic St. Loup.  These vines create a Cabernet of deep raspberry fruit and concentrated structure.  The palate cleansing tannins are mature and ripe, giving the wine a lengthy and refreshing finish as well as the power to last a decade in your cellar.

But Cyriaque’s Cabernet is not just about the fruit, it’s also about his willingness to take risks.  Call it rustic, or natural wine-making, but the idea is complexity: controlling fermentation just enough create an enormous range of aromatics.  In Bordeaux, raw terroir, spicy garrigue and Cabernet’s gutsiness would be smothered under a blanket of soothing oak.  But not here.  Lavender, thyme, perilla and black cherry notes join the smell of Cabernet’s deep raspberry.  Few vintners can do this, few vintners try – following the pecuniary herd is so much easier.  But drinking with the herd isn’t really living, and it’s always better to be wild. 

Go wild and drink Traverses de Fontanes Cabernet. 

 

2010 Traverses De Fontanes Cabernet

Suggested List Price:  $17.99

Sale Price:  $12.99

 

Friday Nights at Waterford

In Boozing, Drinking on October 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Title: Friday Nights at Waterford
Location: Free Wine Tasting, 3- 7 pm
Description: What better way to kick off the weekend than stopping by Waterford for to taste some wine and socialize with friends? Join us each and every Friday between 3 and 7 pm for a free sampling of some of our new arrivals, current specials, and staff favorites!

See you Friday!
Start Time: 3:00
Date: 2011-10-14
End Time: 7:00

Less is More: Fontenay “Sine Nomine” Cote Roannaise

In Beaujolais, Drinking, Special Offers on October 11, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Chaptalization.  Illegal in the United States yet widely practiced in France it is the simple process of adding sugar into a fermenting batch of grape juice. 

The goal is not to make the wine sweeter.  Rather, the added sugar continues fermentation into alcohol.  Alcohol adds more “punch” to the wine, making the drinking experience headier, and also tends to increase the viscosity.  The tawdry wine trick of swirling a glass and pointing out the “legs” is merely referencing a wine’s alcohol via viscosity.

But is more alcohol a good thing?

For certain styles of wine – Australian Shiraz, Napa Cabernet – ripe, rich, and full bodied fruit flavors may naturally come with higher alcohol levels and be desirable.  But chaptalization isn’t natural and doesn’t accompany ripe fruit flavors.  A typical chaptalized French wine’s flavors still taste green and organic but make the morning’s hangover that much stronger.

This situation is at its height in the Cote Roannaise, a vast region in France much like California’s Central Valley.  Most of the wine produced here is sold off in bulk, some internally but most for export.  Chasing the inexpensive Shiraz and Cabernet markets, producers in the Cote Roannaise chaptalize, believing it makes their wine more sellable. 

It’s a very curious situation – French wine producers fighting against nature attempting to produce wines that taste Australian.  As you can imagine the results are awful. 

Simon Hawkins, a Brit hooked on French wine, noticed this one year while traveling in the area.  Other places in France, Simon reasoned, are returning to more natural, traditional, styles of wine making.  As a result those wines are packed with deliciously French flavor.  These thoughts stuck with him and, upon retirement, Simon and his wife bought a small property named Fontenay, and set about making wine in the Cote Roannaise.

Simon likes to make the funny joke that it took a Brit to remind the French of their own traditional wine making methods.  And he is proud of it: the label boldly proclaims Vin Non Chaptalisé.  Bursting with crushed red berry characteristics his “Sine Nomine” wine shows the glory of naturally low alcohol wine – less is more.  The lightness of the palate allows all of the fruit character to shine through.  Further, alcohol doesn’t have flavor, and this wine, being 100% Gamay Noir, is better without it.  Notes of lavender, black pepper and spearmint all showcase the flavors of the fruit itself. 

Sine Nomine, as Simon notes, is made for drinkers, not tasters.  And at its strength, you can afford to be a drinker – it’s not going to hurt you in the morning.      

 

2010 Domaine Fontenay “Sine Nomine”

Suggested List Price:  $13.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

Chilled Tomato Soup with Blue Crab

In Barbera, Beaujolais, Crab, Dolcetto, Drinking, Eating, Tomato on October 6, 2011 at 2:28 pm

This recipe is the beautiful combination of fresh Wisconsin late summer tomatoes and what I swear is one of the ultimate picnic red wines: Dolcetto.  Its quick, easy and with the Dolcetto is one of those ultimate food pairings where the sum tastes ten times greater than the parts. 

That being said, let it be a special summer treat – don’t bother making when you can’t get fresh, super ripe tomatoes.  And don’t skimp on the crab.  Get the best jumbo lump that money can buy.  And although tomatoes are the focus all the rest of the ingredients should be in season right at the same time. 

Wine pairing

Dolcetto.  Especially Marchesi di Gresi Dolcetto.  Di Gresi Dolcetto is one of those chill-able red wines.  Light, tart and tangy perfectly off-sets the tomatoes’ acidity and the crab’s creaminess. 

Some producers, both Italian and American, are now making “super-Dolcettos”, dark, earthy, rich in fruit.  Don’t choose one of these.

Otherwise, another favorite, a Cru Beaujolais would be a great fit.  Or a drier, spicy style Zinfandel.   

Ingredients

For the soup:

4                                  tomatoes, peeled and seeded

1                                  onion, small, blanched and roughly chopped

1                                  garlic clove, blanched

To taste                       salt

For the garnish:

1 can or jar                  jumbo lump blue crab

1                                  red onion, small, small diced

1                                  green pepper, small diced

1                                  cucumber, small, seeded and small dice

1                                  small tomato, peel and seeded, small dice

1                                  lemon

2 tbs.                           cream

To taste                       salt

 

Method

For the soup:

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Season with salt.  Taste and correct seasoning if necessary.   

For the garnish:

1.  Combine all the ingredients gently so as to not break up the lump crab meat.  Season with salt. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary

To complete:

1.  Pour soup into bowls.  Pile garnish in the middle gently, showing off the cream.  Serve!

 

A Rewarding Variety: Shannon Ridge Roussanne

In Drinking, Roussanne, Special Offers on October 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Not many people drink “seasonally”, preferring to stick with “their” drink come blizzards, burning sun or crisp and cool autumn days.  Yet variety is the spice of life and when practiced liberally an ecumenical approach to sardoodledom is rewarding.  Hence, Roussanne is the perfect wine for October in Wisconsin.    

Roussanne: yes, that is a white wine grape.  From Hermitage, France, Roussanne (roo-san) is so named because it looks like a little rouge potato, the kind cherished by every French chef.  No it doesn’t taste like a well-loved imported potato; it just happens to have a blush skin.  It’s ok that you have never heard of it – nobody else has either.  In France the variety nearly went extinct at the turn of the century, with only 200 acres harvested. 

Roussanne doesn’t love life like some grape vines do.  It’s prone to rot and powdery mildew.  It pullulates erratically.  Yields are always low and it wants a long growing season, risking frost.  But a few believers produce its wines, haunted by Roussanne’s aroma and taste.  Among them are Chateau Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Pape and Jaboulet at Hermitage.  These two producers now make pure Roussanne wines that are considered some of the best white wines in the world, selling for over $200 a bottle. 

Here in this country, Roussanne doesn’t have quite the pecuniary draw (which is all the better for us) and its history is a little tricky.

The hearsay of the matter is this: Randall Graham, owner of Bonny Doon vineyards, during his “exploratory period” (circa 1985) went to Chateauneuf and pulled some Roussanne vines out of the ground.  He then packed them in a suitcase, brought them through US customs, and planted them in California.  All of this is highly illegal, so wink-wink, hush-hush. 

But the plot thickens:  Mr. Bonny Doon then sold his California Roussanne to Chuck Wagner, owner of Caymus.  Chuck planted it at his MerSoleil vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands.  John Alban, a friend of Chuck’s, noticed the new plantings and said they looked like Viognier, not Roussanne.  When genetic testing was done, Mr. Alban was proven correct.  All of the early planted so-called California Roussanne was indeed Viognier.

By now it’s 1998.  And lucky for us, the aforementioned Chateau Beaucastel enters the California scene.  They, along with their American importer, founded a nursery in Paso Robles, California, bringing with them true Roussanne.  These are the vine cuttings propagated at Morine Ranch in High Valley on California’s North Coast.  And they are the grapes that make up Shannon Ridge’s pure Roussanne. 

But back to the point.  Why drink Roussanne?  Because it fits Wisconsin’s October so well. 

Shannon Ridge’s Morine Ranch Roussanne bursts from the glass with notes of passion fruit, lychees, apricot and an underlying character of sencha tea (herbal green tea).  In Hermitage, the tea note is what beguiles the French and makes them love Roussanne at $200 a bottle.  It’s here at Shannon Ridge too, but reinforced by fruit tones across the palate.  Shannon Ridge’s Roussanne has a spark of acidity, which comes across as a mixture of minerality and citrus tones.  It’s full bodied like a Chardonnay, yet all of its lusciousness derives from fruit, not oak.  All of this makes it a pure delight in October – full bodied, rich white wine with a full mouth feel and long lingering finish.  Try it while the season is perfect.  Cheers!

 

2009 Shannon Ridge Morine Ranch Roussanne

Suggested List Price:  $19.99

Sale Price:  $14.99

For Joy and Mirth: Aubry Champagne

In Champagne, Drinking, Special Offers on September 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Veuve Cliquot is not the best Champagne.  And flutes – the long, tall, thin “Champagne” glasses – are the worst glasses for drinking it.  To explicate:  Champagne is a French wine and it should be treated like all other French wines. 

Ever heard or thought “I can’t tell the difference between Champagnes”?  Try switching the glassware.  Flutes restrict the aromatics of Champagne, reducing them to nearly flavorless yet alcoholic fizzy water.  Champagne can be a blend of grapes – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier – and those grapes should influence the glassware we use to drink from.  Large Pinot glasses for Pinot- or Meunier based Champagnes (Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot, Krug), or wide-rimmed Chardonnay glasses for Chardonnay-based Champagnes (Moet & Chandon, Salon).  The difference will be striking. 

But further: Champagne should be drunk like any other wine.  Meaning we need to drink more of it.  Think of this – are you ever disappointed when opening or receiving a bottle of Champagne?  Not only does Champagne make the ultimate cocktail, spreading joy and mirth whenever a bottle is open, but it is also one of the most gastronomic of all wines, particularly during Wisconsin’s early fall season.  Tomatoes and flageolet beans braised with ham – perfect with Champagne.  Butternut squash finished with sage and garlic butter – made lively and richer with Champagne.  Buttermilk fried chicken and fresh haricot verts with a grilled lemon vinaigrette – all perfect with Champagne.  To summarize: let’s get those corks flying. 

But don’t drink just any Champagne.  You can pay allot for these wines: $40 for the Agent Orange, $100 for Dom Perignon, even more for Krug (not to mention all the new Bling Champagnes).  And if you like this sort of thing, good for you.  But you are being ripped off.

Again, treat Champagne like any other French wine: location matters.  Wines bearing the appellation “Champagne” can come from anywhere in that region.  Unfortunately, Champagne is one of the largest geographic regions in France (and the government just expanded it).  This can lead to many of the wines becoming almost generic.  If we were buying Burgundy, right next door geographically, the generic wines are the cheapest and for good reason.  And if we are smart French wine buyers (as I know you are) it’s time to stop buying generic, bulk, brand-driven Champagne.  Instead, welcome the Aubry brothers into your home. 

The brothers Aubry are two gentlemen bachelor farmers who tend their grandfather’s land in the small hamlet of Jouy-les-Reims, Champagne.  Grab a glass and smell what farmer fizz is like: bold aromas of chamomile, vanilla bean and blackberries.  Yes, a Champagne where you can actually smell fruit instead of reductive sulfur, go figure.  All of their vines are Premier Cru – just try and find that on a bottle of Grande Marque Champagne!  Just like everywhere else in France Premier Cru vineyards are better, producing dramatic wines: the Aubry’s wine lingers with deep aromas of mocha, malted rye and salted milk chocolate.  The palate is precise and elegant, as refreshing as a lemon La Croix but with the gentle boost of alcohol.  It goes down easy and leaves a smile.

Don’t wait for New Year’s Eve – start drinking the Aubry’s Champagne now.      

 

Aubry Champagne

Suggested List Price:  $44.99

Sale Price:  $29.99

 

And…

Aubry’s Champagne tastes best from Riedel’s Vinum series Oregon Pinot Noir glasses!  Yes, seriously.  This style of glass is now the official glass of Dom Perignon.  Not only will your DP taste better, but so will Aubry’s Champagne!

 

Riedel Vinum XL Oregon Pinot Noir Glasses (set of Two)

Suggested List Price:  $59.99

Sale Price:  $39.99

 

There’s more!

The Friday Slide at Waterford

3-7 pm, a free wine tasting

Join us this Friday at Waterford Wine as we taste our most recent wine specials as well as some new arrivals to the store.  And, of course, join us in a taste of Aubry Champagne!  Come on in and have a good time!  Cheers!  

 

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen edited this article. 

Harvesting in the Cote du Rhone: Domaine Damase

In Cote du Rhone, Drinking, Grenache, Special Offers on September 27, 2011 at 2:10 pm

“Domaine de la Damase is run by Sebastien Latour (my good friend) and his parents. They are really humble people who work the land and everything it has on it. When I’m there, we are always harvesting something; hunting for something like animals or truffles, or thinking about food in some way.  But the food is simple and Provençal,” notes Kenny of Folk Machine wines. 

Kenny is a peripatetic wine-maker.  His own small winery is based in Healdsburg California but he travels as much as he can (with two small children in tow).  Through these travels Kenny met Sebastien and I met Domaine de la Damase’s wines.

Kenny continues: “I think the winery has been around about 8 generations or in their family for 8 generations – I forget which one.  Old by California standards in any case.  They farm about 80 hectares or more, but most of the wine is sold off to negociants early on.  Their own bottlings are small.” 

The bottle reads “Grenache” on the label instead of Cote du Rhone.  “I’ve tried to have some influence for the wines that they are exporting here, but it’s not always that easy with Serge (the dad),” Kenny notes.  Labeling a wine by its grape type makes it more sellable to markets outside of France.  But via a quirk in French law Cote du Rhone wines, which are Grenache, cannot say Grenache on the label.  So this wine is technically a “Vin de Pays de Vaucluse” because the label says Grenache.  

In France, it is possible to drink really good wines cheap – wines from the land like Damase.  Their bottle of Grenache offers up the classic Cote du Rhone aromas of dark cherries, ripe raspberries and touches of fig.  The palate is generous and rich, yielding into an expression of the land: lavender, garrigue, with accents of rosemary and thyme linger on the finish.  Like harvesting food from a farm in Provence this wine is humble, fresh, and always drinkable – a wine that fits the food and the life of the people who create it.  Utterly delicious.

 

2009 Domaine de la Damase Grenache

Suggested List Price:  $12.99

Sale Price:  $9.99

But wait!  There’s more!

Friday at Waterford!

3-7 pm, a free wine tasting!

Join us this Friday at Waterford Wine as we taste our most recent wine specials as well as some new arrivals to the store.  Domaine de la Damase will be included in the tasting as well as five other wines.  Stop and in and join us for a good time.  Cheers!  

 

 

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen edited this article. 

Ben would like to thank Kenny for the inspiration and words regarding this wine.

I am sure Kenny would like it noted that he has no interest in this wine other than friendship.

 

A Flirtatious Peck on the Cheek: Banyan Gewurztraminer

In Drinking, Gewurztraminer, Special Offers on September 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Gewurztraminer always gets the shaft.

Two factors relegate Gewurztraminer to the backwaters of syrupy sweet plonk suited for one-toothed Grandmas and the odd hoary bridge club gathering:

First is the name. With the umlauts staring you down from the top of the “u” it’s impossible to pronounce. And if you do manage to hack through all the consonants the resulting word sounds like an ungodly cross between sub-species of Bavarian cows and a ’59 Volkswagen carburetor.

Second is the smell. Humans naturally associate its powerful aromas of warm exotic essences with sweetness.

The vast majority of Gewurtztraminer is not sweet at all. We humans have no problem with discerning this in vanilla, which is not sweet in and of itself but complements sweets wonderfully. But for some reason we associate Gewurztraminer with Karo, a maple syrup replacement that was once thought to remedy constipation.

In short, nobody thinks Gewurztraminer can taste good. But I would submit to you that the above factors are mere myths, nebbish sardoodledom stopping you from drinking one of the most delicious of all wines on earth – Banyan’s Gewurztraminer.

Let’s step back and dispel all the myths.

Gewurztraminer – guh-vurts-tra-meaner – is not all that hard to say. And it’s kinda fun to say fast. Especially a couple bottles in. In a pinch, say guh-vertz.

It’s not German, and the derivation makes this easy to remember. Split the name into two parts. “Tramin” is a town in the Alto Adige region of Italy where the grape probably originated. The Alto Adige is also known as the Sudtirol and in recent history earned the unfortunate distinction of being on the wrong side three times during World War Two. Which means the Italians conquered them in ’39, the Germans in ’43, and the Italians again in ‘45. Hence the German ancestral name from an Italian town.

Gewurzt means “spice” or “perfume”. Put the two together and you get the “perfumed wine from Tramin” or Gewurztraminer. Gewurztraminer does not mean sweet. Nor does a tall hock bottle, where most Gewurztraminer finds a home, mean sweet. Understand? A great smelling, highly aromatic, “perfumed” wine in a hock bottle does not have to be sweet.

Ok, ok, ok, I understand though. Gewurztraminer can come across as sweet. Its flamboyant bouquet of lychees makes the smell seem like the palate is going to be sweet (and yes, I used to live in Taiwan, where lychees are native, so I actually know what lychees taste like). When Gewurztraminer is made in a restrained style the bouquet becomes even more pronounced– white peaches, roses, passion fruit, nutmeg and vanilla. What is not to love about these aromas?

The Gewurtraminer grape is a naturally low-acid, high-sugar variety. Even fermented dry the acidity is so low that most tasters perceive its fruit character as sugar. So here is the best piece of wine advice that I will ever be able to give you – a flirtatious peck on the cheek of sweetness can be lots of fun. Stop intellectualizing your pleasure and enjoy.

From the California sweet spot for Gewurztraminer, the Arroyo Seco, Banyan’s Gewurztraminer is a bowl full of lychees and more. Arroyo Seco’s soils are all sand, and this “stresses” the vine, restraining its sugar content and drawing out the exotic oils of lime, papaya, cantaloupe and coconut. This is not a tawdry Gewurztraminer, suitable only for pancakes or waffles. It caresses the palate with its richness but isn’t whorish. The bold bouquet of aromas resolves into a smooth, easily drinkable wine. Take this spicy one from Tramin home and let it kiss you!

 

2010 Banyan Gewurztraminer

Suggested List Price: $11.99

Sale Price: $7.99

We will taste these wines on Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number. All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged. The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge. Offer is good while supplies last.

Tim Hansen edited this article.

 

Purely American Burgundy: Saint Innocent Pinot Noir

In Drinking, Pinot Noir, Special Offers on September 7, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Burgundy.

The birthplace of untouchably elegant and everlasting Pinot Noir.  Yet for all its grand history, aren’t Burgundy’s wines a mere accumulation of climate, geography and location?  And if nature decided to duplicate those factors in another location, wouldn’t the results be the same?  Or at least close? 

Horrifying!

This thought is horrifying (to the French at least) because there is another wine growing region that is similar to Burgundy: the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  And the similarities are worth exploring.

Both regions – Burgundy, France and Willamette Valley, Oregon are cool climate regions.  “Cool Climate” gets tossed around as a buzz phrase in the wine industry but the facts are clear via raw data.  Winkler, a scientist at UC Davis, developed a “heat summation scale” that approximates what grape varieties can grow in what region via a measurement of “heat degree days”.  Grocery store grapes are perfect in California’s Central Valley at 4,000 heat degree days, Pinot Noir not so much.     

On average, Burgundy and Willamette Valley achieve the same heat summation – around 2,400 degree days per vintage.  And although everyone perceives flavors differently, at 2,400 Pinot Noir’s flavors run a spectrum from cranberry, to strawberry and finally raspberry.  Or, to put it another way, Burgundy and Willamette Valley share a similar taste because of similar heat accumulation. 

But not only are Burgundy and Willamette Valley similar in terms of heat but also in how that heat strikes their vineyards.  Both regions start January averaging below 40 degrees and it isn’t until July that temperatures climb to 70.  From there the growing season quickly cools off, with average temperatures dropping to below 55 by September. 

Burgundians will tell you that these conditions allow for the full and complex “layering” of flavors within the grape berry.  The cool-down from August to November halts the rise of sugar within the berry but allows for full development of its aromas and textures.  In the best vintages the wines peak at 13% ABV but have fully developed layers of fruit flavors, spice characteristics, sous bois aromas, and silky tannins.  This layering process is why Burgundy is the bench mark for Pinot Noir.  

One vintner who believes in Burgundy’s greatness is Mark Vlossak of Saint Innocent winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Mark has now been making wine at St. Innocent for 25 years and can taste exactly what his climate delivers – a layered sense of complexity.  His 2009 “Villages Cuvee” is exactly what Burgundy Pinot Noir aims to be, yet is purely American. 

Bright raspberry aromas leap from a glass of St. Innocent’s Villages Cuvee.  These aromas, coupled with Pinot Noir’s sweet spice note that hovers somewhere around freshly grated nutmeg with touches orange zest and brown sugar bring to the wine that extraordinary sense of aliveness that only Pinot Noir can achieve.  Willamette Valley’s 2009 harvesting season was long and very cool – this wine’s fruit character is deeply layered with notes of truffles, evergreen, and strawberries.   If the wine was made in Burgundy it would be hailed as a “great vintage”. 

If we believe this comparison or not, as Burgundy lovers let’s face it – at this price there isn’t a wine being made in Burgundy that can compare to St. Innocent’s Villages Cuvee!

 

2009 St. Innocent “Villages Cuvee” Pinot Noir

Suggested List Price:  $26.99

Sale Price:  $19.99

 

And…

Willamette Valley Pinot Noir tastes best from Riedel’s Vinum series Oregon Pinot Noir glasses!

 

Riedel Vinum XL Oregon Pinot Noir Glasses (set of Two)

Suggested List Price:  $59.99

Sale Price:  $39.99

Cheers!

 

We will taste this wine on Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen edited this article.

Nebbiolo’s Northern Song: 2001 Terroir del Nord Gattinara

In Barbaresco, Barolo, Drinking, Sangiovese, Special Offers on August 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm

The Nebbiolo grape produces one of the world’s most powerful wines: Barolo. 

But Barolo is not the only Italian region that produces Nebbiolo.  North, among the fingers of hills that rise into the Italian Alps is the region of Gattinara.  Generations ago, the wines of Gattinara weremore prominent than those from Barolo.  But now most of the ancient vineyard land is returning to forest.  But within Gattinara’s forested hills lies the Proprieta Sperino, the family vineyard of Paolo di Marchi. 

Paolo is a famous wine maker.  Decades ago, when he was a young man, he saw no opportunities in the withering hills of Gattinara.  He left his family to found a new estate in Tuscany named Isole e Olena.  Creating “Cepparello” a wine composed entirely of Sangiovese, Paolo did something no other vintner dared to do (for more information on Cepparello see below).   

Thirty years of making and then fighting for Cepparello made Paolo reconsider Proprieta Sperino.  If the world was wrong about Sangiovese, then perhaps it was also wrong about Gattinara.  He decided to return to Sperino in 2000, in order to revitalize his family’s ancient estate and vineyards. 

Terroir del Nord Gattinara from the 2001 vintage is Paolo’s first dramatic release from Sperino.  Named as something of a little joke, the “Winery of the North” Gattinara is exceptional Nebbiolo. 

Rarely do we get to taste a Barolo, or any Nebbiolo-based wine, that is a decade old.  With Terroir del Nord’s Gattinara all of the powerful tannins are developing just as they should be.  As time runs on, tannins meld into the body of the wine.  They create a full sense of suppleness not related to the weightiness of ripe fruit, but rather the beautiful viscosity that comes in mature wine.  Only in well-made mature wine is this sensation possible.

The aroma of aged Nebbiolo is like no other.  Like walking in a rose garden, the smell of this wine envelopes you.  Adding to the rose character is a hint of the organic – fallen leaves, cedar, wood bark, black truffles and musk.  A final layer of complexity is added by Nebbiolo’s classic note of tar. 

In summary, Terroir del Nord’s Gattinara is classic, well-aged Nebbiolo.  For those who love great Barolo, or merely enjoy Italian wine, it is exceptionally pleasurable to drink. 

2001 Terroir Del Nord Gattinara (Nebbiolo)

Suggested List Price:  $41.99

Sale Price:  $24.99

 

And more on Isole e Olena Cepparello:

Cepparello is Isole e Olena’s “Super Tuscan”.  Yet it is not a Super Tuscan like any other.  When first made in 1979, Tuscany, and all of Paolo di Marche’s neighbors, were in thrall with the idea of French varieties being the key to their success.  Meaning they were making wines from Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah instead of Sangiovese. 

Paolo crossed the “Super Tuscan” line with Cepparello by excluding such French varieties.  His radical argument was that indigenous Tuscan varieties, i.e. Sangiovese, could stand alone as great wine.  The result, in 1979, was the barrique aged 100% Sangiovese – Cepparello.  Now considered a classic, back then it was heresy.  

The 2006 Cepparello opens with aromas of candied red cherries, hints of sous bois and Italian herbs.  The wine is a not in a block-buster Merlot driven Masetto style.  Rather, it contains a purity and balance within a refined medium weight body.  The finish is lengthy with a classic sense of Sangiovese’s structure.  It is a classic from the vintage.  Drinkable now, it will age gracefully for two decades.

2006 Isole e Olena Cepparello

Suggested List Price:  $64.99

Sale Price:  $44.99

 

We will taste these wines on Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen edited this article.

 

Bottle tag for Gattinara: Powerful aromas of roses and truffles.  Drink with Italian inspired cuisine – pasta, roast chicken, full bodied fish.  Drink now until 2015. 

 

 

End the Hate: Smith Madrone Chardonnay

In Chardonnay, Drinking, Special Offers on August 23, 2011 at 2:43 pm

 

There are Haters in this world.

Call it what you will – “Anything But Chardonnay”, ABCs, or the no-oak wine crowd – there are Haters of Chardonnay.  And they are wrong. 

Like all Haters their tastes are being driven by two prejudices.  First, that all Chardonnay tastes the same; and second, that all Chardonnay is dominated by oak.   

Chardonnay has spread everywhere and is made by everyone.  Haters assume the ubiquity of the grape implies mass production and poor quality.  This reasoning is tautological, yet it points to one of the great glories of Chardonnay: the vineyard location matters.  In other words, the place changes the taste.  Chablis remains the most famous example, its chalky soils are said to impart a goût de pierre à fusil, or gunflint taste to the wine.  And while gunflint wine may not be desirable to everyone it highlights the point – not all Chardonnays are the same.  Today, the case in point is Smith-Madrone.

In 1971, Stuart and Charles Smith reclaimed a Napa Valley ghost vineyard planted in the 1880s from the encroaching Madrone forest.  Hence the name, Smith-Madrone.  High above the fog line they sit atop Spring Mountain, a pile of red volcanic rock that neighboring winery Stony Hill nicknamed eponymously Le Montrachet. 

Unlike many Napa Chardonnays, Smith-Madrone’s is 100% dry-farmed estate grown fruit from a tiny 13 acre plot of thirty-seven year old, own-rooted vines.  And like Chablis, the location matters.  The high-altitude develops a Meyer lemon citrusy note to the wine.  The dry-farming, something very few others in Napa have the skill to accomplish, develops power into the wine driven by fruit textures.  During their 37 years of life these vines have reached deep into the soil and you can taste this on the finish – a lingering note of tropical fruits balanced with minerality and brine that leave the palate clean, ready for the next glass. 

Smith Madrone’s Chardonnay sees oak, but isn’t dominated by it.  Many drinkers are now prejudiced against oaked Chardonnays.  This prejudice is driven by ignorance.  Some Chardonnays need oak, some do not.  Oak is ultimately like salt in the kitchen.  It is used to bring out other flavors, not to provide a flavor in and of itself.  While there are many examples of over-oaked Chardonnays in this world, that is not what the Smith brothers produce.

Using oak barrels, Smith-Madrone’s Chardonnay develops a creamy, layered mid-palate.  Like in Cabernet, oak barrels allow for the subtle transfer of oxygen into the wine.  This develops the acid character, adding to the Meyer lemon tastes with hints of croissant, brioche and roasted cashews.  The flavors of oak do not dominate this Chardonnay yet give it a backbone and strength of character that supports the fruit.  This Chardonnay is classic mountain grown California wine: rich and powerful, while also balanced, fresh and elegant.    

It’s easy to hate Chardonnay, except when you taste Smith Madrone’s.

2008 Smith Madrone Chardonnay

Suggested List Price:  $25.99

Sale Price:  $19.99

 

We will taste the wine on Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen edited this article.

 

Bottle tag: Gorgeous Chardonnay.  Lemon and creamy, easy as a cocktail and great with food.  Pair with rich but not oily fish (sea bass, lobster), roasted light meats, and, in my humble opinion, will also pair with steak.  Drink now until 2015.

Bordeaux Blend in South Africa: Capaia’s Blue Grove Hill

In Cabernet, Drinking, Merlot, Special Offers on August 17, 2011 at 11:38 am

South Africa, with its Bordeaux like climate, is attracting many new prodigious wine partnerships.

One of the most fascinating and international is Capaia. 

 

Capaia means “great Cape” giving resonance to how close the winery is to the Atlantic Ocean.  Located in Philadelphia (that’s Philadelphia, Tygerberg, South Africa; not Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) Capaia holds the distinction of being very similar in climate and soil structure to Pomerol, on the Right Bank of Bordeaux.  And the possibility of making wine like great Pomerol was too exciting for Ingrid and Alexander Von Essen to miss.  In 1997, they founded Capaia.

Alex is not a wine-maker, he is a wine-seller.  He owns a German import business.  Equipped with his jovial humor and a vast bag of “samples” from his own private wine cellar he set out to charm / beguile / hoodwink the best wine-makers he could find for Capaia.  First stop was famed super-Tuscan Ornellaia.  Here he picked up oenologist Tibor Gál to frame the lineaments of the Capaia’s wines.  Next stop was La Mondotte in Saint Emilion.  There, the famous wine maker Stephan Von Neipperg agreed to join the team.  And finally, Tertius Naudé, a local South African wine specialist, was charmed into rounding out the adventure.    

The results are Capaia’s Blue Grove Hill Bordeaux-styled blend.  Bordeaux-blend (or, if you want to be more exact, Cape-blend), because it blends Merlot, Cabernet and Cabernet Franc.  The Merlot brings gorgeous layers of blackberries and black cherry fruit to the front of the wine and its mid-palate.  Cabernet provides the structural elements of the wine, with touches of mocha and nut oil rounding out the tannins.  South Africa’s typical oregano-herb note (some say BBQ flavor) comes across on the nose and palate of the wine.  It finishes with a lingering flavor of hand-rubbed English leather.  You know you want it.  A great match for grilled foods, Capaia’s Blue Grove Hill is delicious to enjoy now or lay down in your cellar for several years.

Sadly, the winds of change are upon Capaia once again.  While the wines are great, their American importer has recently decided not to continue the relationship.  The remaining Blue Grove Hill bottles are now in need of a happy home.  Perhaps it can be yours! 

 

2006 Capaia Blue Grove Hill

Suggested List Price:  $17.99

Sale Price:  $6.99

 

We will be tasting the wine on Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen and Les Huisman edited this article.

 

Bottle tag: powerful aromas of Cabernet and Merlot.  SA’s typical smells of grilled herbs / oregano.  Serve with strongly flavored foods, especially BBQ.  Drink now until 2013.

 

Exotic and Essential: Pieropan Soave

In Drinking, Soave, Special Offers on July 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Soave, pronounced like Rico is at the helm, is a vast Italian vine growing region responsible for almost all that is bad in Italian white wine. 

Soave’s geographic area is one of Italy’s many Denominazione di Origine Controllata or DOC.  DOCs are supposed to be a guarantee to the consumer of high quality wine.  But in the case of Soave, they do exactly the opposite. 

Established in 1968 Soave’s DOC allows exceptionally high yields as well an enormous geographic range expanded into the ill-used flatland plains.  Combined, these two growing conditions created a situation where large bulk producers dominated not only the market, but also the politics of the region.  At the time, the DOC seemed like a good idea as exports were running high.  Now, looking back, it’s the decision that turned Itay’s white wine heartland into a toxic dump. 

But not all producers followed in this path of generic, government-regulated, bulk production.  Pieropan is one such producer.  

Pre-dating the government DOC by over half a century, Pieropan has been making Soave since 1890.  And they make it right: using only old vines planted on hillsides of tuffaceous soil, their Soave is an exemplar of all that Soave can be. 

The wine opens with a delicate nose of cherry blossoms, lilies of the valley and lemon verbena.  Joining these flavors on the palate is a sweet marzipan note with refined and lingering notes of Asian pear.  This Soave is an example of all that is great about Italian white wine.  It is exotic wine, outside of the everyday hum drum of Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc; like neither but pleasing to those who enjoy either.  It is Soave at its most expressive, which for five generations of Pieropans has been most essential to their life and livelihood.

 

2009 Pieropan “Soave Pieropan”*

Suggested List Price:  $17.99

Sale Price:  $12.99

 

*In 2008 the Pieropans were dealt another blow via Soave’s DOC.  In that vintage they decided to bottle this wine under screw-cap in order to maintain freshness as well as reduce sulfur additives.  Bottling under screw-cap forced them to “declassify” the wine – remove it from the Soave Classico Superiore DOC(G) and place it under its current classification.  It is the same wine, made from the same vineyards, just bottled under screw-cap with less sulfur. 

We will be tasting the wine on Friday and Saturday!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen edited this article.  

Bottle tag: Flower aromas fading to sweet nuttiness on the palate.  Pair with eggs, summer pasta dishes of cheese or green vegetables.  Light game cooked in any fashion.  Drink now until 2014 (although I have had 10 year old Pieropan’s that were amazing). 

Heart & Soul: Fritz Dry Creek Zinfandel

In Drinking, Special Offers, Zinfandel on July 6, 2011 at 11:25 am

Dry Creek Valley is the heart and Zinfandel is the soul of California’s wine country.

Some may say Napa and Cabernet, but Dry Creek has made wine longer. Spanish Missionaries made some of California’s first vintages in Dry Creek and California’s first commercial vineyard started there: General Mariano Vallejo’s Lytton Springs. And those first grapes were Zinfandel.

Dry Creek and Zinfandel have had their ups and downs over the years: the Valley is almost always overshadowed by its three close neighbors – Napa, Russian River and the Sonoma Coast – while Zinfandel has never quite commanded the prices of Cabernet.

But a few early pioneering wineries knew that Dry Creek and Zinfandel make one of those divine matches of grape with geology. In the late 1970’s Rosenblum, Ravenswood and Ridge reclaimed the Valley’s past glory by producing some of California’s most voluptuous and tantalizing wines. While these three “Big R” producers revitalized Zinfandel in Dry Creek, their reputations also overshadow other, smaller scale producers who toiled alongside them making outstanding Zinfandels. One such producer is Fritz.

Jay Arthur Fritz’s winery remains a touch obscure. Literally – he built his three story gravity flow winery underground. But while he doesn’t get many tourists he does deserve his place in history, as well as in our wine cellars.

First produced nearly forty years ago, Fritz’s Zinfandel is that heart and soul expression of California Zinfandel: pronounced aromatics of wild raspberries fully ripened on the vine to a luscious and succulent richness. The saturated fruit character is seamlessly melded with a dark chocolate note, mixing in exotic spices of cardamom, cloves and brown sugar. The finish resolves in pure kirsch liqueur smoothness.

This summer, don’t miss out – backyard barbequing just isn’t the same without Zinfandel. And that Zinfandel should be Fritz’s Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.

2006 Fritz Zinfandel

Suggested List Price: $24.99*

Sale Price: $12.99

And…

There is still room at tonight’s tasting!

Powerful Reds: Provence’s Mourvedre

Wednesday, July 6, 7 pm, $20 per guest

Summer in Provence – rich powerful red wines that taste great in the summer. Based on the native grape Mourvedre these powerfully packed wines are not quite Cote-du Rhones and not quite Cabernet, but still incredible red wines for the summer!

Wines to be tasted:

2009 Only Girls VdP $14.99

2007 Gold and Black VdP $29.99

2006 Tempier La Migoua $49.99

2007 Gros Nore $37.99

2008 Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre $17.99

& more!

*price as suggested by the winery.

We will be tasting the wine on Friday and Saturday! (as long as we don’t sell out of it first!)

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number. All orders will be available at the time of purchase.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged. The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge. Offer is good while supplies last.

Tim Hansen edited this article. He has also visited Fritz and can tell you with no economic interest that this is a steal.

Bottle tag: flavors of chocolate with bramble fruits. Pair with boldly flavored foods: BBQ, rich sauces, etc. Drink now – 2013.

Anger in a Great Vintage: 2009 La Croix Blanche Saint Emilion Bordeaux

In Cabernet Franc, Drinking, Merlot, Special Offers on July 6, 2011 at 11:02 am

Besides screwing your way to the top, one of easiest ways to get ahead in business is to strangle your competition. And then afterwards lie about what you have done and monopolize the narrative. This is the story of Bordeaux.Within the region of Bordeaux, France, there are over 14,000 operating wineries. Yet 65 of them account for 90% of all wine sold by dollar. In other words – them who have, gets. And everyone else is a loser – and in Bordeaux, we are the biggest losers.

Those top 65 Chateaux will tell you that they are inherently better than the rest. To prove their greatness they will trot out a document known as the 1855 Classification System. Still in effect today, this document was drawn up for Napoleon III at the Paris Exhibition. Here is the catch – it was drawn up by Bordeaux’s wine merchants and was entirely based on the per bottle price commanded in 1855.

Let me explicate this B.S. a bit more: the people in charge of selling the wine were also in charge of grading the quality of the wine which, in turn, set the price of the wine. And the higher the price, the greater the presumed quality. A bit tautological?

But there’s more: the merchants grading the wines also controlled access to the market. In 1855 all of the wines were shipped via waterways, and no wine, not a single barrel, was allowed onto a ship without passing through a middleman’s hands. Areas of southwestern France that traditionally were of renown value – Cahors, Madiran, and Jurancon, among others – were simply turned back. Sent back not because these wines were bad, but because they were competitors. In other words, it’s a racket. And this racket is still in effect today.

With the great 2009 vintage, Bordeaux has achieved an all-time low in sleaziness via an all-time high in prices: Chateau Latour $1,300 a bottle, Lafite-Rothschild $1,700 a bottle, Cos d’Estournel $500 a bottle, L’Englise Clinet $800 a bottle. Are they really worth it? Especially when their neighbors sell for pennies on their dollars?

The final argument these mountebanks will make is that the wines are unique. This is the typical French argument of terrior – that a vine’s location determines the wine’s taste and each location is unique and cannot be replicated. In Burgundy, that argument might make sense. But in Bordeaux it holds no water.

Remember, the 1855 Classification graded quality on the price of bottled wine – not the potential of terrior. In fact, in the 1855 Classification, there is no such thing as terrior. If you lucky enough to own a First Growth, any land you choose to buy makes First Growth wine. Lafite, as a property, is three times larger now than it was in 1855 – and at $1,700 a bottle on 120,000 cases a year, that’s big bucks. And if you own Lafite, those big bucks are worth protecting.

It’s not that any of Bordeaux’s wines are bad. In fact, 2009 in Bordeaux produced some of the greatest wines we will ever taste. It’s just that I don’t like getting screwed on price. And Chateau La Coix Blanche is the exception that proves the rule – here is great Bordeaux wine at a fair price, something that Bordeaux’s “Grand Vins” would never admit is possible.

La Coix Blanche is a “Petite Chateau” from one of the long-blocked sub-appellations of Bordeaux – the Montagne Saint-Emilion. It’s not in the 1855 Classification, it’s not one of the Premiers Grands Cru Classés A of Saint Emilion. And it doesn’t need to be. The wine stands on its own merits, not on an outdated classification system or monopolistic market prices.

La Coix Blanche exhibits a seamless bouquet of blackberries, blueberries, and liqueur of kirsch from its Merlot component. Then, a dash of Cabernet Franc adds an exotic, compelling smell of incense and Asian spices. The palate showcases this property’s fifty year old vines via the wine’s compelling density and full bodied richness. Its structure is perfectly matched to its density, with supple tannins easing around the body, providing a support for its beautiful palate. Accessible now it will age in the cellar for a decade to come.

Bordeaux produced another “vintage of the century” in 2009 and the wines show it. Don’t miss the vintage because of monopolistic classification systems falsely driving up the price. Explore Bordeaux widely, and reap the rewards – 2009 La Croix Blanche from Montagne Saint-Emilion!

2009 Chateau La Croix Blanche

Suggested List Price: $17.99

Special price via this email: $12.99


We will be tasting this wine on Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number. All orders will be available at the time of purchase. Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged. The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge. Offer is good while supplies last.

Tim Hansen edited this article.

The Brave Italian: Bucci Verdicchio

In Drinking, Special Offers, Verdicchio on July 3, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Originating from France, these grape varieties have come to dominate the global wine landscape. Spreading throughout the world these grapes have pushed out “foreign” grapes and forced lesser winemakers to conform to their flavors.

But there are a few brave souls who haven’t bent to the international waves of France. Bucci of the Castelli di Jesi in the Marche of Italy is one of them.

Brave for a reason.

In 1981 Ampelio Bucci returned to his home in the Castelli di Jesi in order to take control of his family’s estate. At that time Italy was in the thralls of Super-Tuscans (French grapes blended into Italian wines, to create an international style). But he took a different path.

Looking back at history, Bucci understood it was the Romans who brought the vine to France, not the other way around. If Italy had made great wine in the past why should French wines dominate?

To Bucci, the path was clear. He would reinvigorate the Marche’s twenty five century wine making tradition with Italian grapes on Italian soil made by Italians.

The Castelli di Jesi 2,500 year history of wine is mostly with one grape varietal – the humble Verdicchio. Verdicchio isn’t French, it doesn’t smell like Sauvignon Blanc or taste like Chardonnay. It’s Italian, and its uniqueness is part of its glory.

Bucci’s Verdicchio is tempered and rounded, not pungent like Sauvignon Blanc or fat like Chardonnay. Verdicchio’s first aromas are of almonds, brown butter, rosemary and saline. But it is the palate that makes Bucci’s Verdicchio world class. The wine is broad across the palate with a strong sense of texture. The finish is lengthy resolving to that prized aged White Burgundy roasted hazelnut aroma.

Although Verdicchio is a white wine it often times finds its favorite drinkers among red wine aficionados. Those drinkers who want a mouth-filling, robust wine without blatant tropical fruit or butter aromas to mar the experience. Delicious to drink now, this white wine will age for ten more years in your cellar.

Thirty years ago Ampelio Bucci was brave enough to once again make Verdicchio. Then, as now, the world does not need another copy-cat Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. It needs unique wines, like Bucci’s Verdicchio –truly Italian and like nothing else.

2009 Bucci Verdicchio
(Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore)

Suggested List Price: $25.99

Sale Price: $16.99

For the Love of King and Queen

In Barbaresco, Barolo, Drinking, Special Offers on June 21, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Barolo is the King of Italian wine, with Barbaresco its Queen.

These wines are some of the longest lived, profoundly perfumed, and powerfully flavored made. Yet sadly, most people do not taste or buy these wines because of their exclusivity, their unique flavors, and their hard to understand labels.

And it’s time to change that. Silvio Giamello and Guido Porro are two “under the radar producers”, both imported by wine merchant Kermit Lynch, whose value doesn’t compromise their tradition of excellent wine making.

Barolo and Barbaresco are both regions within Piedmont, northern Italy. Both regions grow many different grapes – Arneis, Barbera among others – but it is the grape Nebbiolo which is considered the most noble. Nebbiolo is indigenous to Piedmont and when grown and made into wine within Barolo or Barbaresco the resulting wine takes the name of its origin. The idea is that location matters, and that the combination of Nebbiolo and Barolo (or Barbaresco) are inseparable to making great wine.

The wines’ labels reflect this tradition. Both of these wines are labeled via their locations, Barbaresco and Barolo respectively, and not their grape variety – even though we understand they must be comprised of 100% Nebbiolo. But these two wines go further. They both specify a vineyard, or cru. Not all Barolo is from a specific cru, and the idea is that a specific site has a specific underlying detectable flavor.

Silvio Giamello’s Barbaresco is from the cru Vincenziana. Vincenziana was once a Roman outpost and the wines from this site are known to possess a black fruited character under laid with aroma of fermented tobacco leaf and rolled tea leaves. Likewise, Guido Porro’s Barolo is from the single cru Lazzairasco. The Lazzairasco is a division of the famous vineyard Lazzarito. Lazzairasco and its surrounding cru are known to produce wines of immense structure and muscle, possessing the tannins and backbone to last a lifetime.

But the location is not the only thing which gives Barolo and Barbaresco their unique flavor. Another important factor is the grape Nebbiolo, a grape like no other. Nebbiolo produces a tiny berry, about the size of a small marble that flowers early and ripens very late. The long and cool growing season produces Nebbiolo’s characteristic rose petal and smoked anise smell and retains the berries’ potent vibrancy.

The berry’s physical size also accounts for much of the wines’ flavor. When crushed for its juice there is a high amount of berry skin to liquid. The berry’s skin carries a high proportion of anthocyanins, the flavor compounds that contain tannins and colonoids (coloring agents).

Finally the winemaker enters the picture. Giamello and Porro are both traditionalist winemakers, whose family’s date back five and three generations respectively. They use extended aging in large oak barrels to “raise-up” the wine. The barrel aging helps the tannins polymerize into long molecular chains. Once heavy enough, these chains drop out of the solution, carrying much of the tannins and colonoids with them. The idea is to draw forth the secondary characteristics of the wine, its floral rose petal expression, as well as notes of autumn leaves, wood smoke, white truffles, and pleasantly surprising to some, tar. In this process the wine’s color lightens and its fruit character fades into a secondary grace note – not altogether removed, but playing the part of harmony.

Giamello’s Barbaresco and Porro’s Barolo embody these traditional flavors. Giamello’s Barbaresco is the darker flavored of the two wines, show casing more blackberry, truffles and cigar smoke. It is extremely young now, and decanted over a nine hour period (open the bottle at breakfast) it begins to show its true form – a svelt body of muscular density. Porro’s Barolo opens with pure and intense aromas of wild pink roses and ripe cranberries. As it unfolds in the decanter citrus notes of orange zest and chamomile emerge. The palate is that of traditional Barolo, lithe and tight, needing time in the cellar or robust cuisine to counter balance its massive power.

Barolo and Barbaresco – their tastes, textures and aromas are unique in the world of wine. Their uniqueness will drive many tasters away from their beautiful power. But for those precious few willing to understand, a love affair awaits.

2006 Giamello Barbaresco Vincenziana

Suggested List Price: $44.99

Special price via this email: $29.99

2006 Porro Barolo Lazzairasco

Suggested List Price: $49.99

Special price via this email: $34.99

We will be tasting these wines on Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number. All orders will be available at the time of purchase. Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged. The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge. Offer is good while supplies last.

Tim Hansen edited this email.

Partying in the Sun: Castoro Cellars Fume Blanc

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc, Special Offers on June 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Niels “Beaver” Udsen did not read the standard playbook on California Sauvignon Blanc. While everyone else was pursuing fortunes in Napa Valley making sharply acidic, ultra crisp, lemon zest like Sauvignon Blanc he headed down to Paso Robles.

Paso is one of the most relaxed wine regions in California, and it suited Niels just fine. Sure, back in ’83 when Niels and Berit “Bimmer”, his wife, founded Castoro Cellars, there wasn’t much besides the rolling hills. They started making wine for friends, but soon developed too many friends. It was time quit their day jobs and follow their dreams.

Naming their winery after Niels’ childhood moniker (Castoro means beaver in Italian) they aren’t the kind of people who get caught up in wine snobbery. Even though they are one of the earliest pioneers in Paso, Wine Spectator isn’t going to profile them and Robert Parker has never expressed any interest in their wines. But that doesn’t bother Beaver and Bimmer – friends come back asking for more and to them that is the surest sign of quality.

They call their Sauvignon Blanc “Fumé Blanc” to differentiate it from other, sharp styles. Castoro Cellars Fumé Blanc has gorgeous aromas of stone fruits: white peaches and apricots, mingling with honey dew melon and cantaloupe. The palate is creamy yet fresh, lingering over the typical Paso-like character of Sauvignon – hay, touches of steeped herbs, and a mineral “fumé” like finish. It’s not for tasting, it’s for drinking.

Years ago Niels and Berit missed the memo that explained how to make a fortune making wine in Napa Valley. They were just too busy partying out in the Paso sun – as you should be too, with their dam fine wine!

2009 Castoro Cellars Fume Blanc

Suggested List Price: $12.95*

Special price via this email: $6.99

* retail price as listed by the winery’s website.

We will be tasting this wine on Friday as well as Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number. All orders will be available at the time of purchase. Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged. The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge. Offer is good while supplies last.

Not to Be Dismissed: a Red Table Wine from Lodi

In Drinking, Special Offers, Tempranillo on June 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Unrelenting sunshine, burning hot temperatures well into the 90s for six months out of the year; fertile, rich soils – the three main climate factors that make up California’s Central Valley.

These factors are great for growing cabbages, or cauliflower; but terrible for growing Cabernet. The Central Valley produces alcoholic, raisiny, limp, and lifeless Cabernet, made with such aggressive defiance to nature that not even the budgets of the five largest alcohol-companies in the world can sustain the chemists needed to resuscitate them (think of Boone’s Farm, Night Train, or Thunderbird – all Central Valley creations). And California’s secret, its dirty little secret, is that most of its Cabernet is grown in the Central Valley.

When something doesn’t grow in a garden we don’t blame the plant. Nor do we argue with dirt. Cabernet is not the problem, nor is the Central Valley. It’s the pairing that’s uncomplimentary.

Taking this cue the Lee Family, in Lodi, within the Central Valley of California, studied their land before planting yet more Cabernet. To them the results were striking. The Central Valley’s climate closely resembles that of the Douro Valley, in Portugal.

Yes Portugal.

To many Americans, Portugal makes weird wines from bizarre grapes like Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Alvarelhao. But just because they are foreign doesn’t mean they’re poor quality – all that heat, all that sun; the desert like climate of the Central Valley is transformed by these grapes into fresh, elegant wine.

Dismissing this wine, as I did when I first had it, is all too easy – it’s not Cabernet and it’s from weird grapes nobody can pronounce. But then, on the second glass, I realized my mistake.

Made in a classic, dry-table wine style, Lee Family Farm’s “Rio Tinto” is a blend of four Portuguese varieties. Roriz, the main variety, brings notes of blackcurrant, mocha, and freshly roasted coffee to the wine. Touriga Nacional is a small, thick-skinned berry which produces wines of intense power. Alvarelho adds notes of tellicherry and raspberries. Finally, Francesa adds an element of cedary spice, richness, and lift. It’s a bit like drinking a Cote-du-Rhone, but with more mass and higher aromatics. Interpreting the heat of Central Valley California, Rio Tinto showcases density and drinkability – and all at 13.4% alcohol. It is a wine of finesse and pleasure, and tasty far beyond any local Cabernet.

Life is too short. There is no reason to drink bad California Cabernet. What the Lee Family has farmed is beyond the curve yet it fits their location. And even more important the results are delicious.

2009 Lee Family Rio Tinto

Silvaspoons Vineyard, Lodi

Suggested List Price: $17.99

Special price via this email: $12.99

 

We will be tasting this wine on Friday. On Saturday we will be hosting the Spring on Brady Tasting (see below)

 

 

Who’s Your Daddy? Clones and Pinot Noir: Morgan Pinot Noir

In Drinking, Pinot Noir, Special Offers on May 24, 2011 at 2:33 pm

You might assume that the French, being hand-maidens to Pinot Noir for nearly twenty centuries, might have a deep understanding of the grape. Unfortunately this is not true.

Confusingly, Pinot Noir, the celebrated wine, is not just from one grape type. It is, in fact, many different grape types. Pinot loves to mutate and propagate, producing all kinds of children. Known as “clones” Pinot Noir’s lineage is vast, with not only Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Menuier as sons and daughters but also Gouais, Aligote, Auxerrois, Melon, Gamay and even Chardonnay rounding out the entire Pinot clonal clan – along with 55 others!

Pre-World War II, Burgundy was a vast mixed up field blend of all these different grapes. Post 1945 the French government sponsored such a vast program of agro-chemical usage it nearly wiped out all the vineyards in the Cote d’Or. It wasn’t until the then heretical work of Henri Jayer in the vineyards of Meo-Camuzet that Pinot Noir’s vast genetic wealth was recognized.

But now, it is in California where clonal work with Pinot Noir is at its most exciting. True, Burgundy has centuries of wine making history that cannot be replicated in California. It is also true that you will pay dearly for it. Thankfully, California’s spirit of experimentation is yielding an equally outstanding level of excitement to Pinot Noir’s delicious collage – through clones. And Morgan winery, in the Santa Lucia Highlands, is one of the standouts.

Located in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Morgon’s local climate is challenging. The entire region is a Winkler I on the heat scale – very cool. It is directly comparable to Burgundy France in mean temperature throughout the season. However, the region receives a massive amount of sunlight, being at roughly the same longitude as Jerez, Spain (sherry country). This cool temperature / high sun climate is unique in the world, and under the right wine-maker, with the right clones of Pinot Noir, the grapes develop into spectacular and unique wine.

Morgan uses 12 different clones of Pinot Noir to adapt to the conditions of the Santa Lucia Highlands. Dijon clones 667 and 777, originally descended from Domaine Ponsot in Morey St. Denis Burgundy, make up the back bone of Morgan’s Pinot Noir nick-named 12 clones. Here they display notes of black cherry, earth tones, and touches of black tea sweetened with honey. Pommard clones add a flowery smell to the nose as well as smoothing the back of the palate, making the finish soft and rich. The old American clones of Swan and Wadenswill provide structure and density. In very cool climates Pinot can take on an exotic wildness and here a Swiss clone adds a note of espresso. The unique combination of cool climate and high sun make this wine boldly expressive of its California fruit yet balanced and perfectly poised in a Burgundian way.

Burgundy’s rich tradition of site-specific wines is unmatched in the world. And the prices reflect it. California’s exploration of Pinot’s clones is unparalleled, with prices nowhere near that of even basic Burgundy. The French would undoubtedly claim that Burgundy’s vineyards trump California’s clones, but then again the French had a 200-year head start. For those of us who love great wine there has never been a better time to be revel in both.

2008 Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir

Suggested List Price: $28.99

Special price via this email: $21.99

We will be tasting this wine on Friday as well as Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number. All orders will be available at the time of purchase. Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged. The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge. Offer is good while supplies last.

Tim Hansen edited this article.

The Small Stones: Joguet Chinon Les Petites Roches

In Cabernet Franc, Drinking on May 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm

In the land of past Kings there is a place where nature has carved out a slope of rock, burnishing the hillside over time, weathering the gravel down into small little pebbles like a child might throw into the river, skipping them in three bounces across the water to the other side.  This is Les Petites Roches – the vineyard of the small rocks – and it is in Chinon of the Loire Valley in France.

Les Petites Roches is truly a French wine of refreshment.  Many commentators feel that the great growths of Saint Emilion achieve Cabernet Franc’s highest distinction but Charles Joguet might argue that instead it is in Chinon.  In 1957, when he returned to Chinon, Charles was a young sculptor whose family Domaine needed a scion.  He married his strengths to those of his homeland and its domestic vines, creating red wines whose flavors were not based on oak driven power or monster sized fruitiness, but on the powers of refocillation.  These gravelly pebbles raise up red wines of violet and cinnamon aromas, with tangy refreshing acidity, and green spring-like tannins that charm as well as seduce with a tender tug across the palate. 

Refreshment is not a word much discussed with regard to red wines.  The expectation is that this function is fulfilled by white wines: Sauvignon Blanc, maybe Oregon Pinot Gris, or a crisp, un-oaked Chardonnay.  These wines are less “serious”, maybe more playful, and can be drunk with the abandonment of a backyard patio Memorial Day party.   

But what about those of us who drink primarily red wine?  And drink our patio wines with robust foods – sandwiches of bacon and truffle mayonnaise, asparagus and artichokes roasted on the grill and slathered in garlic butter, or maybe a salad of grilled duck breast tossed with arugula?  No white wine would ever do and yet the modern idea of red wine – rich in fruit extract, robust and beautifully smoothed into vanilla perfection by lavish oak garrulous, exotic and sweet tannins fulfilling the palate’s every need – are just too much.  These “powerful”, “monolithic”, “hedonistic” red wines will never do because they do not refresh.  This is not to their disadvantage, it is a simply an element of their functionality. 

Charles Joguet’s Les Petites Roches is not like these modern cabernets.  Based purely on Cabernet Franc, many people won’t like it – it will be too different: acidic, tannic, and pronounced in its portager of aromas.  It is not the cocktail, La-z-Boy style of California Two Buck Chuck, a wine whose charm lasts just slightly longer than a party bore with chronic verbal diarrhea.

Les Petites Roches is for those of us who drink red wine all spring and summer long.  Like a friend’s crooked smile, the exact qualities of which make it so different it becomes beautiful.  On the nose aromas of violets, spring greens and sour cherries interact to form a complex and inviting perfume.  Here is a red wine that perfectly matches anything present at a picnic, from salads all the way to charcuterie.  The palate revels in its 100% pure Cabernet Franc glory, rich aromas of sous bois and loam bring depth to its taste.  The vineyard, those little rocks, are famous for adding an element of minerality, a slight twang like hard water from a worn-through-love farm faucet to the finish of the wine.  Finally, a sense of structure completes it: the tug of tannins, quickness of acidity giving the wine a pleasurable hardness that leads to the next glass.

Charles Joguet retired from his family Domaine several years ago to continue on his life path as an artist.  But before he left not only did he shift the world’s impression of Cabernet Franc, but also help three of his friends learn and understand the vineyards.  It is their work, through the purity of its vineyards like Petites Roches, that Domaine Joguet is now recognized as one of the premier wineries in the region.     

2007 Joguet Les Petites Roches Cabernet Franc

Suggested List Price:  $26.99

Special price via this email:  $16.99

And for extra imbibing pleasure:

2007 Joguet Chêne Vert Cabernet Franc

Suggested List Price:  $47.99

Special price via this email:  $39.99

First planted by Bourgueil monks this legendary Cabernet Franc vineyard is one of the oldest plantings in Chinon.  Named for its monumental 800 year old green oak tree (the Chêne Vert), the resulting wines are extremely age-worthy, taking years to show their sophisticated depths!

Not a Critter: Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz

In Drinking, Syrah on May 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Women purchase 80% of the wine sold in the United States.  And they purchase 75% of it in grocery stores. *   

Thus, for wineries, grocery stores are a battleground for shelf space; with electric pink price tags, critic’s points, funny label verbiage, and intricate box stacking patterns all being the ammo.  Wineries can buy an end cap – that large space at the end of two isles – or take a cue from beer producers and create lots of different packages for the same product to gain territory.  But, as it turns out, the best way to increase a wine’s market share is to put an animal on the label.   

That’s right, an animal. 

In the industry they’re called “critter” labels.  It doesn’t matter what kind of critter: kangaroos started it, but dogs, cats, birds, frogs, penguins, mythical creatures and now even the occasional cake all increase sales with that all important grocery store audience – and usually by at least 50%.  

It was Australians who first drew the lines between these dots, making intensely fruit driven wines showcasing an animal on the label.  And while these wines were once a run-away smash hit, now the one-trick-pony has ceased to be interesting, and Australia’s wine industry is suffering for it.

It’s not that animals are bad, or even picturing an animal on the label is bad.  If O’Reilly the dog helped make the wine, why not put him on the label?  If Morris the cat was present at the first crush and continues to sleep on the fax machine maybe he is a pertinent symbol of sales activity.

But as the gag of critter labels wears thin it exposes a raw truth about these wines: the wine itself, not just the label, was made in committee, by the marketing department.  And just like dogs and cats, committees and marketing departments aren’t fundamentally bad.  They just shouldn’t be making wine.

Generation X-ers and Millennials now make up the largest segment of US wine consumption and they don’t drink critter wine.  Unfortunately for Australians critter labels were so successful in previous generations of US drinkers that the identity is now stuck: Australia = critter = standardized wine.  And this does a disservice to Australia, a country whose wine production is as diverse as its geography.  

Australia is as large as the Continental United States and while we would never confuse New York State Riesling with Napa Cabernet, or Santa Barbara Pinot Noir with Washington State Merlot, or a 5 gallon cardboard box wine from the Central Valley with Screaming Eagle; Australia remains as blurry as a jumping kangaroo. 

But there is Australian wine crafted by families, farmed with love, and produced with the idea of demonstrating all that is great about Aussie terroir.  Kilikanoon is one such small producer. 

Based in Clare Valley, north of Barossa in the district of South Australia, Kilikanoon creates Shiraz that displays the best of Australia.  Rich in Aussie fruit character, Killerman’s Run Shiraz features flavors of blackberry and brambly fruits.  Barrel aged spice notes of caramelized sugar, cedar, cinnamon and cloves add in a layer of complexity.  The Shiraz is based on a core vineyard within the Watervale district of Clare Valley that is unique in its iron-rich, red loam soils.  Here the soil adds a ripe red fruit character to the nose which is backed up by Grenache.  On the palate these two give the wine a lively sense of structure, complimenting and supporting its primary fruit tastes.  Bold and rich on the first day, by the second it sheds some baby fat revealing a seductive, complex Shiraz with fruit still as its primary focus but sous bois, earthiness, and a sense of place elevating the wine.

Gracing the label is a wood block painting by famous Australian painter Murray Edwards.  At Kilikanoon it’s all about the wine, not the critter.    

2007 Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz

Suggested List Price:  $19.99

Special price via this email:  $9.99

In the Spice Garden of Urzig: Loosen Riesling

In Drinking, Riesling on May 3, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Long ago, in a country far, far away; called Germany, great wines were produced. 

And then the Huns thought they could one-up nature and pissed all the greatness away; swaddling the wines under the diaper of Pradikat levels, drowning them in cough syrup like sweetness, and debasing them with false advertising on their labels. 

The Germans did it to themselves.  Destroying one of the richest wine growing traditions on the planet, they did it all for money.   

Back in the 1970s the world, especially the United States, drank mostly sweet white wines.  Exploiting this, industrial sized bulk German wine producers pushed for and got a complicated set of legal reforms.  Stripped from prominence were traditional, Einzellagen, or vineyards, and put in their place were “Pradikat” levels.

Pradikat is a measurement of liquid weight, specifically of a wine’s liquid weight.  The more extracts in the solution, including sugar, the higher the weight.  Passing a set of codified Pradikat levels the German wine lobby hoped to capitalize on the then worldly impression of the sweeter the better.  But you can already see their petard: sugar doesn’t equal good. 

The Germans didn’t stop there though. 

Known for producing great wine for nearly 2,000 years, the last forty years have seen the Einzellagen cheapened to near extinction.  Taking advantage of these famous vineyards, German’s invented a set of ulterior names, called Grosslagen, or “counties”, strictly for marketing purposes.  Thus, Piesporter Michelsberg is an inferior Grosslagen knock-off, riding the coat-tails of the great Piesporter Goldtropfchen vineyard, a site whose wine’s greatness is first documented by Pliny the elder in 20 AD.

Just like in Burgundy, or Napa Valley, or Barolo, or any other famous wine growing region of the world, the vineyard site makes the wine.  And in Germany, even if the Germans choose to ignore it, this is an even stronger truth because of Riesling.   

Riesling creates the purest of all wines because it always shows where it is grown.  Think of the drama if the simple garden tomato did the same thing!  If you and I each planted tomatoes, watered them, fertilized them and grew them the same.  But my tomatoes tasted of oregano, green peppers and mint whereas your tomatoes were sweet like cherries.  Seeing nature transformed by a grape vine is one of humankind’s great accomplishments.  And this is why Germany’s Einzellagen Rieslings are so very important, particularly the Wurzgarten.  

Dr. Loosen’s Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese bares the adulterated label because by law it has too.  Urziger is the county name, Spatlese is the Pradikat condition, and Wurzgarten is the famous Einzellagen. 

Wurzgarten (pronounced VERTS-garten) means “spice garden” and the name directly relates to the wine.  In Dr. Loosen’s Wurzgarten the aromas burst from the glass with exotic, tropical spice aromas of kiwi, passion fruit, strawberries, tamarind and coconut.  It is one of the steepest vineyards in all the Mosel, creating wines of punctuating depth and power.  Wurzgarten is also home to some of the oldest vines in Germany, now reaching almost to a century and a half, creating wines whose finish can be tasted minutes after the last glass is tasted. 

Loosen’s Wurzgarten is “fruity” in the sense that almost all wine, including red wine, purchased in grocery stores is fruity – the primary taste of the wine is its enjoyable fruit flavors.  These flavors are balanced by the freshness of acidity.  Balance is always the key to enjoying fruity wines and no wine-maker does it better than Ernie Loosen.   

A perfect pairing for Easter Ham (if you aren’t joining those of us in Italy eating lamb) Dr. Loosen’s Wurzgarten Riesling harkens back to a time when German wines were truly great. 

2009 Dr. Loosen Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese

Suggested List Price:  $31.99

Special price via this email:  $24.99

Join us, on this Friday and Saturday, when we will be pouring this wine, making Manhattans, and celebrating Easter in Italy, all at the same time! 

Cheers!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Marchesi Barbera, Barbaresco & Moscato: An Italian Easter Feast!

In Barbaresco, Barbera, Drinking, Moscato, Special Offers on April 22, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Dottore Alberto “The Silver Fox” Marchesi di Gresy is a man who knows how to take lunch.  And he takes lunch seriously, especially for Easter. 

Not only does Easter have supreme religious significance for one of the most stalwart Catholic segments of Italy, but it also typically falls at flowering.  Flowering is the exceptional moment when a vineyard bursts into life, displaying successful pollination by the formation of tiny wedding-bell-white flowers pushing out from the vines.  Without flowering there is no wine.  And without wine, there can be no lunch.  And without wine and lunch, can there really be Easter?

In Piedmont, this would be una tragedia significativo, nearly a sin, and to be avoided at all costs.  You see, where Marchesi is from, life moves a little differently: Italians work in order to live, and there is no better living than an expeditious, four to six hour meal in the middle of the day.  This year celebrate Easter the way Italians do, with a feast of momentous proportions.        

You will, of course, need wine.  And lots of it.  For not only does wine symbolize life in Piedmont but also makes the extended time of forced-family-fun we Americans call Easter brunch so much better.      

But first – just after you have put on your derbies, cravat and fob, but before you go to Church – mix yourself up a Waterford Manhattan: http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/04/15/taking-manhattan-the-waterford-manhattan-cocktail/.  Not only will you find your powers of concentration and endurance highly elevated but also your capacity for ecumenical charity and commonweal.  Your generosity is as beautiful as the flowering in Piedmont; let it flow like an April snow showers in Wisconsin.  And go ahead and make yourself another Manhattan.  The Silver Fox would approve. 

Back to the wine: 

Teaching that there is an order and structure to a properly done six hour lunch, the good Dottore starts with Barbera: “this is my father’s wine.  He made five, sometimes ten barrels to drink in the vineyards.  In Barbaresco, the crus [vineyards] are steep and work is all done by hand.  Once out in the vineyard papa wouldn’t want to return, so every day he would take a loaf of my mother’s focaccia, a slice of salami, and two bottles of Barbera into the hills.”

“This is fresh wine and we drink it in his spirit: it is made to be shared, it is made to make us happy.  Sometimes wine should be a great accompaniment to the occasion, sustaining the conversation without interrupting it; a quiet harmony to the grand melody of a good lunch.”

Marchesi’s Barbera is indeed fresh, with aromas of strawberries, orange zest and touches of rosemary and mint.  The palate is all Piedmont, dominated by flavors of Bing cherries.  Its vibrant acidity pleases the palate, refreshingly elegant and stimulating.  Consume it in great quantities, for it pairs with any Italian food and tastes even better on the third bottle. 

While the Barbera may be a wine for sharing, The Silver Fox’s Barbaresco Martinenga Camp Gros is not.  This is a wine to hide in the kitchen, away from other guests, and share with just the chosen few.  Camp Gros is single cru within Martinenga vineyard.  Made entirely of Nebbiolo, it portrays the essence of roses, seduces with aromas of black truffles, gracefully dances across the palate with arenaceous taninns yet also stops you dead in your tracks in order to admire its beauty.  This wine’s harmony, elegance and finesse showcase why Barbaresco is known as one of Italy’s greatest wines.  Drink just one bottle this Easter, and for every Easter thereafter for the next three decades.   

And finally, a Moscato.    Frizzante and just a kiss dolce, Alberto notes, “it makes you feel ten pounds lighter, which is why all Barolo and Barbaresco producers make a Moscato.”  As charming and full of life as a vineyard in bloom, no Italian feast is complete without Moscato’s sweetly caressing grazie.

Dottore Alberto Marchesi di Gresy takes his lunch seriously, and this Easter, so should you.

2007 Marchesi di Gresy Barbera               

Suggested List Price:  $19.99

Special price via this email:  $14.99

2004 Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Martinenga Camp Gros      

Suggested List Price:  $96.99

Special price via this email:  $59.99

94 points Robert Parker, 39% below national retail average, available exclusively at Waterford Wine Company.*

2010 Marchesi di Gresy Moscato La Serra    

Suggested List Price:  $15.99

Special price via this email:  $13.99

Now, for your delectation, the feast!

Leek Gratin with Black Truffles

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/04/19/leek-gratin-with-black-truffles/

Shaved Asparagus and Parmesan in a Balsamic Vinaigrette

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/04/19/shaved-asparagus-and-parmesan-in-balsamic-vinaigrette/

Spring Vegetable Lasagna with Artichokes

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/04/19/spring-vegetable-lasagna-with-artichokes/

Mache and Golden Beet Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/04/19/mache-and-golden-beet-salad-with-citrus-vinaigrette/

Duo of Lamb: Loin and Shank with Cannellini and Porcini in a Reduction Sauce with Mint Pesto

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/04/19/duo-of-lamb-loin-and-shank-with-cannellini-beans-and-porcini-mushrooms-in-a-reduction-sauce-with-mint-pesto/

We will taste these wines Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

* National retail average is a composite of two numbers.  First, the average price of all listed wines on Wine Searcher.com.  Second, the average price of community holdings present for this vintage on CellarTracker.com.

Tim Hansen (among others) edited the body of this piece.  Eva Christiansen (among others) edited the recipes.

The Way It Should Be: Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

In Drinking, Sauvignon Blanc on April 14, 2011 at 1:58 pm

James Healy and Ivan Sutherland know good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  But nobody really cares.    

Didier Dagueneau’s challenging Pouilly Fuisse Silex, or Haut Brion’s Bordeaux Blanc, or maybe even Merry Edward’s 96 Point Green Valley Sauvignon – these, these wines are great Sauvignon Blanc; surpassing the boundaries of a “simple” Sauvignon to become some much more, like a Picasso framing a child in multiple dimensions on the same canvas: a great work accomplished via simple means.    

New Zealand’s Sauvignon efforts are no longer mentioned alongside these luminaries because of the now-vast quantities of swinish, dubious knock-off Sauvignon.  As a consequence, truly expressive New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is pushed out and forgotten, tossed into the river of ubiquitous industrial beverages produced to fill the vast slop-barrel of foreign thirst. 

This isn’t the way it should be.  Well-made, site-specific New Zealand Sauvignon is one of the tastiest wines in the world, equal in measure to anything from the Loire, Bordeaux, Friuli, or Russian River.  And Healy and Sutherland know this because they have made, and continue to make, archetypical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  And you should care.

In the late 1980’s, the cool-climate region of Marlborough on the southern island of New Zealand produced Sauvignon smelling of cat piss and ammonia.  Nowadays, every winery from Bordeaux to the BFE claims to “make wine in the vineyard” from “the best grapes” planted in “the greatest vineyards” and probably in “the best of all possible worlds”.  But back in the 80s, NZ wasn’t the best of all possible worlds. 

Turning back the clock to 1985; at a winery called Cloudy Bay in Marlborough, Healy and Sutherland put into practice Dr. Richard Smart’s pioneering research into methoxypyrazines and canopy management.  Using Dr. Smart’s research, their brains, and raw sweat, Healy and Sutherland cropped their vines low and raised their trellises high to expose the fruit to the sun, pushing the grapes into ripe, tropical flavors of pineapple, mango and papaya.  And we know these flavors well – they are the flavors of New Zealand Sauvignon. 

And suddenly, from a country whose pervious agricultural export of note was the kiwi fruit, the world could not have enough of their Sauvignon Blanc.  Demand ran high so every swindler with a spade or a hoe started banging out a Sauvignon Blanc.  And if everyone is making one then anyone’s the same as the next one so why not choose the cheapest? 

Why not indeed.  

I did mention cat urine earlier, didn’t I? 

The imitators – that unrelenting sea of swill sailing under the title of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc are not the real thing.  Dog Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc is the real thing.

Dog Point Vineyard (note Dog, not Cat) may sound like a funny name but it references a specific site, as well as harkens back to the early careers of Healy and Sutherland.  The vineyards of Dog Point are the oldest in Marlborough and named after a spot where sheep-dogs congregated (Marlborough was once sheep country).  By drawing on their early vineyard experience, Healy and Sutherland have now created a Sauvignon Blanc of such vibrant fruit and textural elegance that you deserve to taste it.

Dog Point Vineyard’s Sauvignon Blanc announces its vibrant fruit from the moment the bottle is opened.  The classic Marlborough scents of pink grapefruit, tangerine, and passion fruit come bursting out of the glass.  But unlike other New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs the wine doesn’t stop there.  Layer upon layer of aromas follow, ranging from candied ginger to papaya.  The palate is citrusy, vigorous and refreshing.  The wine’s luscious fruit character drives the front of the palate but the finish leaves a Loire-like kiss of such evocative minerality and poise that its’ sensual, lees, sweet croissant flavors last almost a minute after the wine first touches your lips.   

Not all New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is the same.  Some are better than others, and Dog Point Vineyard is world class.  

2008 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc     

Suggested List Price:  $22.99

Special price via this email:  $16.99

We will taste this wine Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

This piece was edited by our “Sir Winston Churchill” of the editing desk, Tim Hansen.

Discovering Greatness: La Puerta Malbec

In Drinking, Malbec on April 5, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Michel Rolland, the famous winemaker whose resume includes stints at Harlan, Ausone, and Ornellaia, once noted that “over 90% of the world’s great wines remain to be discovered.” 

Perhaps self-serving as a comment – Mr. Rolland now makes wine on six continents and in over 12 countries – he also revealed something magical about the modern wine world.  New regions around the globe are constantly being explored and planted, often with stunning results.  And a willingness to explore beyond the common Merlot is now greatly rewarded – both in terms of flavor and dollars spent. 

A perfect example of this is Argentinian Malbec.

Malbec hails from Cahors, France.  In Cahors, Malbec is a wine of pungent aromatic intensity, smelling like a sun-drenched, sweaty horse and known as “the black wine”.  But in Argentina, Malbec undergoes a magical change.  And you can taste the magic in La Puerta Malbec.  

Developing fruit character is the key to farming Malbec, and to this end La Puerta winery looked not to Mendoza, the typical – and more expensive – area for growing Argentinian Malbec, but to Famatina, further north.  There, planting on rows parallel to the rising sun, the grapes are drenched in warmth.  And you can taste it: La Puerta Malbec offers layer upon layer of fruit flavors starting with ripe black cherries but then developing into kirsch, black currants and sultana raisins.  The finish lingers with these flavors, adding a hint of chocolate from the winery’s deft use of older oak barrels.   

Refining their Malbec further, La Puerta planted at the highest elevations they could, nearly 4,000 feet.  This develops a freshness to their Malbec, bringing an intensity unmatched in the region.  The aroma of the wine is lifted up, expounding the welcoming smell of freshly baked blueberry cobbler.  The palate is vibrant, encouraging all to drink deeply and share in its refreshment.

Yes, the Famatina Valley and La Puerta Malbec are relatively unknown.  But, if we listen to Mr. Rolland’s esteemed advice, we may be discovering one fraction of the 90% of new, great wines.    

2010 La Puerta Malbec                       

Suggested List Price:  $10.99

Special price via this email:  $7.99

And no Argentinian Malbec is complete without steak!

Dry Cured Flank Steak with Chimmichurri:

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/04/05/it%e2%80%99s-never-too-early-to-grill-in-wisconsin-or-dry-cured-flank-steak-with-chimmichurri/

We will taste this wine Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen and Les Huisman shared the editing desk across this prodigious piece!

Like No Other: Verget Terres de Pierres Chablis

In Chablis, Chardonnay, Drinking, Special Offers on March 31, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Terres de Pierres.  The land of stone.  Chablis.

The phrase is a compliment, meant to convey the idea that only in Chablis, in the single hillside slope across from the eponymous French town does the Kimmeridgean soil so strikingly mark the Chardonnay grape that it creates unique wines of snap and precision, steely minerality and citrusy fruit notes. 

But most of us grew up with the association of Chablis as a “brand” of wine, usually purchased in five gallon cardboard containers.  This branding was the hard work of California’s large central valley wineries, using vast swathes of fertile, irrigated land planted to the high-yielding Concord grape.  The wines were sweet, innocuous, and could be produced by the tanker-load.  They bore no resemblance to the real thing. 

Unsurprisingly, “Chablis” got a bad reputation as foul sewage.  For California wineries, this was no problem.  They simply took the grape of Chablis, Chardonnay, and moved onto a new style – that of buttery rich wines with massive amounts of new oak. 

But unfortunately for Chablis, by the time this ocean of butter wine finally passed through the system, its reputation was in tatters.  And then came Jean-Marie Guffens.

In 1990 Guffens founded a negociant house – a winemaking team – named Verget.  The idea was simple: the best wines come from the best grapes, and he was going to find them.  Since then Verget has exploded into Chablis creating wines of brilliant high-toned fruit character married with minerality and freshness.  Nothing like California Chardonnay, Guffen’s Verget is matchless at this price.  And the Terres de Pierres Chablis is a striking example.       

Verget’s 2009 Terres de Pierres Chablis smells like classic Chablis – mineral, like crushed granite or wet limestone.  While some may find drinking “minerals” unappealing, think of mineral water – e.g., Perrier or La Croix.  Terres de Pierres is the wine version of mineral water. 

But it doesn’t stop there.  On the palate the wine presents a white peach purity, a fruit sensation that only Guffen’s is able to obtain.  The wine sees no oak whatsoever, retaining its lengthy lemon and lime finish with hints of saline popping across the palate.  It is a bit of a jazzy, sassy Chablis, lively and pure; delivering to all drinkers the reason Chablis is famous: it is great wine like no other.

2009 Verget Terres de Pierres Chablis

Suggested List Price:  $24.99

Special price via this email:  $19.99

We will taste this wine Friday and Saturday, as long as we don’t sell out of it.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen edited this article.

Not Far From Latour: Seven Hills Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet

In Cabernet, Drinking, Special Offers on March 22, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Reading a letter from America, May-Eilane de Lencquesaing glanced out her window at the proud lion statue of Chateau Latour, permanently frozen in its sandstone roar guarding what many consider to be one of the world’s greatest vineyards.  Someone was playing a trick on her.  

Sitting at her desk in the second floor study of Chateau Pichon Comtesse de Lalande she considered the 100 meter stretch of vineyard that separated her from Latour’s Tower: its terroir, the combination of Cabernet, gravel soils and long cool autumns.  How many times had this vineyard changed hands over the years but still produced the world’s greatest wine?  It is terroir, non? 

Clutching the letter in her hand she read it for a third time.  In a very presumptuous American way it directly compared her land – the Medoc, Paulliac, Comtesse, right next to Latour for God’s sake! – with an American vineyard in Washington State, in the Red Mountain district, called Klipsun.

Like Latour, Klipsun vineyard has very shallow soils made up of gravel.  These soils are marginal, stressing the fruit of the vine, concentrating its flavors while draining away excessive water.  Like Latour, Klipsun sits in a moderate climate, one that sees the same sunlight hours as Bordeaux (they are at the same latitude) and tends to be cool and crisp at night, especially as summer yields to autumn.  Like Latour, the sunlight at Klipsun ripens grapes phenolically, increasing their aromatic complexity.  And finally, like Latour, the diurnal temperature change creates fully ripe wines without excessive alcohol levels.

Crumpling up the letter May-Eilane said “Il est tous des merdes”, continuing “they are playing a joke on me”; and threw away one of the greatest opportunities in the new world.

But there are some people who didn’t think it was a joke.  And Casey McClellan of Seven Hills winery is one of them.

Casey is a third generation farmer who knows a good vineyard when he sees one.  Making wine from Klipsun vineyard for 20 years has taught him a lesson or two and strengthened his resolve against winemaking fads.  And his Klipsun Cabernet shows this.

At its core, Casey’s Seven Hills Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet drinks like a wine from Bordeaux.  Which makes sense – if the terroir is the same as world famous Chateau Latour, why try and recreate Napa Valley? 

He doesn’t.  Instead, he makes outstanding Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet. 

The smell of this wine is gorgeously pronounced; just opening the bottle will fill the room with aromas of black currants, cassis, bing cherries, and candied orange zest.  Opening a bottle is like spraying Cabernet air-freshener into an antiseptic office cubicle – everyone who wanders by will smile and compliment you, stopping to chat instead of continuing on to the bubbler.  This is the result of the powerful combination of cool nights and sunny days: bold phenolic ripeness. 

The palate is keen like good claret.  The tannins are refreshing and pleasant, neither buried under lashings of oak nor hidden by jammy fruit.  They are palate cleansing and promise of this wine’s ability to age.  The acidity is mature and balanced, refreshing; leaving the mouth excited for the next drink.  The palate is light and lithe with long, lingering flavors resolving into a note of cherry pie. 

Decades ago May-Eilane received a letter inviting her to make wine from the Klipsun vineyard.  And she passed.  Don’t make her mistake.  If you believe in the greatness of terroir, Seven Hills Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet is not that far from Latour.

2006 Seven Hills Klipsun Vineyard Cabernet

Suggested List Price:  $34.99

Special price via this email:  $24.99

We will taste this wine Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last. 

Tim Hansen edited this article.

This article uses research from several sources:

Harvey Steiman’s article “Washington: An Open Secret” published in Wine Spectator on December 15, 2010.  This wine received 92 points.

The Washington State Wine Commission, found online at: http://www.washingtonwine.org/.

“Grape Expectations: Klipsun Vineyards Allows Land to Shape Flavor of Fruit” by Christina Kelly.

Pizza Wine: Elisabetta Geppetti’s Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano

In Drinking, Sangiovese, Special Offers on March 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Pizza wine.

Simple, delicious, yet sometimes forgotten.  At its best nobody notices it but everyone appreciates it.  It’s something Italians know very well – every meal is better with wine, and even pizza makes a great time when shared with friends, family and wine.

Within the wine industry wines like these are dismissed, discussed as “food wines”, meaning wines that aren’t tasty enough on their own.  Or, worse yet, the “civilians” can’t “get” them, won’t understand them, the wines are not “impressive” enough.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy impressive wines.  And the Le Pupille Estate has a 96 point Parker Super Tuscan (called Saffredi) to offer.  But like most Italian estates the Big Point Wine is for tasting.  The Morellino wine is for drinking, and drinking in full to enjoy life, rather than living just to taste life.

Elisabetta Geppetti’s Le Pupille Morellino is a touch more than just a “table wine”.  It is Morellino, the local name for the grape Sangiovese, from the hills surrounding the medieval village of Scansano.  Because of Morellino’s di Scansano’s hotter climate the wines are riper and more savory than its Chianti brethren.  Elisabetta Geppetti has been farming the Le Pupille estate for almost 30 years, raising wines of stature and complexity, with the hallmark tastes of the Tuscan countryside.  

Aromas of dried cherries, finocchio, and black currant syrup pronounce this wine as Sangiovese from Morellino.  On the palate Alicante, another native grape, adds notes of Parmigiano-Reggiano, olives, rosemary and fresh porcinis.  Malvasia Nera is the final compliment in the blend, softening Sangiovese’s arenaceous tannins and darkening the fruit, leaving a lingering sweet note of lugano and ponentine olives.  Remember, this is Italian wine, and Italian wine need not taste like California fruit.  Let’s get that pizza ordered! 

So tonight, before you do anything else, open up a bottle of Elisabetta’s wine and drink off a glass.  Change out of your work-clothes and put on your smoking jacket and ascot.  By the time the delivery driver arrives, this wine will be ready and expressive – creating a relaxing, mellowing finish to a long day.  Could anything be better?

Or, if you need a more high-brow excuse to drink a bottle of Italian wine a night, drink like Michelangelo: “I feast on wine and bread, and feasts they are.”

2007 Elisabetta Geppetti’s Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano   

Suggested List Price:  $19.99

Special price via this email:  $9.99

We will taste this wine Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Field Blend: Raymond Cabernet

In Cabernet, Drinking, Special Offers on March 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Driving up Highway 29 in Napa Valley you pass some of the most famous wineries in the world.  And most of them are just that – wineries, not vineyards.

In Napa there is a trend of buying grapes instead of growing them.  And while there is nothing wrong with this it does hide the people who are doing much of the viticultural work and obscure some of their great wines.  In Napa, these viticultural workers are known as contract farmers.  And for five generations the Raymonds have been one such farming family.     

Most people haven’t heard of the Raymonds, and that is understandable.  Raising great fruit they sell it off, usually under the sticky subject of non-disclosure contracts.  Meaning if the Raymonds charge $15 a bottle and the Sowerberries charge $50 for the same wine, the Raymonds can’t tell you that they grew both.   

And so, when the Raymonds hit a good year, they make “field blends”.  Literally blending the best grapes across many different vineyards.  For most wineries this would be too complex and expensive.  For the Raymonds it’s easy – they’re farming the fruit anyway, why not make good wine too?

The 2009 vintage is their current field blend.  Based on Cabernet it shows the hallmarks of Napa fruit offering up a complex set of aromas with raspberries, black currant and kirsch on the nose.  Full bodied in taste, revealing the Petite Sirah and Merlot as blending partners.  The palate is supple and brimming with tastes of blueberries, espresso and white chocolate lingering on the finish.        

Let’s not be mistaken – these Raymond boys are good old country farmers.  There’s dirt under their nails and stains on their jeans, but that doesn’t mean that the wine isn’t good.  In fact, you probably have already enjoyed what the Raymond’s make – and paid more for it!  Come share in this farming family’s wine! 

 

2009 Raymond Cabernet Field Blend

Suggested List Price:  $12.99

Special price via this email:  $8.99

Like Son, Like Father: Marcato Cabernet Franc

In Cabernet Franc, Drinking, Special Offers on March 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Being upstaged by your son is a bitter pill for some men to swallow.  And not just being upstaged, but permanently forced into the shadows, like a brummagem supporting role in a forgotten 1980’s sitcom, adds insult to the injury. 

This is the history of Cabernet Franc.

Most of us don’t know the taste of Cabernet Franc because almost everywhere it is planted and grown, Cabernet Sauvignon completely overshadows it.  And the two grapes have a relationship – Cabernet Franc is Cabernet Sauvignon’s parent.

Like many plants and animals on this earth, grape vines like to have sex, some more than others.  Cabernet Franc falls in the former category, being, shall we say, overqualified in some departments.  Engaging the willing partner of Sauvignon Blanc in the late 1800s, it produced the namesake crossing Cabernet Sauvignon.

While investigative tipplers may have a hard time imagining it, DNA evidence proves it’s true: Cabernet Sauvignon took the best flavors and tastes from both its parents, resulting in amazing wine.  But this well-endowed child didn’t stop there.  It went straight on to conquer the world of wine, heaving its parents out of their ancestral homes, not only in Bordeaux, but in all of France, Italy and Spain, chasing them like so many pitiful pieces on a fragmented Risk game-board, across the ocean to the New World, dominating there as well.

But there were some hold-outs; areas where the dominating Cabernet Sauvignon just couldn’t grow, and in these areas Cabernet Franc is experiencing a recrudescence.  The Veneto, the vineyard area surrounding Venice, is one such area.  Probably first brought to Venice by Napoleon’s victorious land-grant generals, Cabernet Franc from the Veneto is beginning to shine.  And the Marcato Estate at La Giareta is a new and very successful example.

Marcato’s Cabernet Franc shares some of the characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon – the red currant and strawberry fruit aromas, the delicious sense of balance between fruit and supple tannins on the palate, and then a juicy, fresh finish.  But this Cabernet Franc gives more complexity than its typical offspring.  Here there are hints of clove, ginger and sweet spices accompanied by blackcurrant leaf and violets.  It doesn’t over presume on your attentions, smacking your palate around with immature squeals of overripe fruit.  Nor is the palate boxed in and made four-square with so much oak like many a Cabernet.  It is a light, refreshing wine, calling for another lunchtime glass. 

Like any confident father, Marcato’s Cabernet Franc doesn’t try to upstage its acclaimed off-spring.  It merely displays the self-assuredness of a well-made, if overshadowed wine: graceful, charming and delicious, it is a joy to drink again and again.  

2008 Marcato Cabernet Franc

Suggested List Price:  $13.99

Special price via this email:  $10.99

Where the Wild Pinot Grows: Cristom Marjorie Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

In Drinking, Pinot Noir, Special Offers on February 24, 2011 at 12:11 am

Planting Marjorie’s vineyard in 1982, the Pellier family was pursuing a dream of making great Oregon Pinot Noir.  And they didn’t make it – toil extracts a toll, and the price proved to be final.

Grape vines for wine production, despite many claims to the contrary, are not “natural”, and never have been.  Grapes, along with barley, were two of the first cultivars systematically altered by humankind, most likely for purposes of producing alcohol.  But, as any good vineyard manager can tell you, vines are wild in the heart-wood; containing mischievous, youthful energies that quickly rumpus a vineyard into a portager within a year without pruning.

And for ten long years, like a jungle in the night, Marjorie’s Vineyard was where the wild Pinot Noir grew.

Wild beyond most vintners’ imaginations: Marjorie’s Vineyard is “own-rooted”; meaning the fruit of the vine comes from the same roots.  An explanation: most grape vines are sawed off in the middle of their trunk.  Their bottom half is from an American species of vine, say a grocery store variety like Concord.  But their top half is vitis vinifera, or the grape species we associate with wine, like Pinot Noir.  The two are grafter together to form a single plant, the fruit being Pinot, the roots developing as normal.  This unusual arrangement is common in the wine world because it is the only protection against phylloxera, a vine louse that since 1860 has destroyed most of the world’s own rooted vitis vinifera vines.    

And it is said, by those who drink pre-phylloxera wines, i.e. Burgundy pre-1880 and Bordeaux pre-1860; that they are more intense, more pure, and more distinct and yet more wildly of their own flavors then those vines which have substitute roots.  And while pre-1880 Burgundy or pre-1860 Bordeaux remain out of reach to most of us, Marjorie’s Vineyard does not.

Purchasing Marjorie’s Vineyard in 1992, Cristom winery knows the value of own rooted, old vine Pinot Noir.  Having trained at Domaine Dujac and Calera, Steve Dorner, the wine maker at Cristom winery, has been raising fantastic Pinot from Marjorie’s ever since.   

Being own-rooted, the aromatics of Marjorie’s Vineyard Pinot Noir are pronounced and affirming, bursting with Pinot’s characteristic brown sugar and Asian spices, all underlaid with a hint of nougatine, cocoa and mint.  The vineyard is located in the Eola Amity Hills, a sub-division of Willamette Valley, which turns the palate from bright strawberry fruit to a darker, black cherry with hints of sauvage.  Although the Eola Amity Hills is often associated with harder, heavier tannins, 2007 gave Marjorie a silky, down-pillow like softness to the finish – it lingers in a beautiful, discreet way.  If you believe in the intense purity of own rooted Pinot Noir, Cristom’s Marjorie Vineyard displays it.      

But intensity, the wildness of being own rooted, extracts a toll.  And twenty-five years after being planted, the price is final.  Like all of Burgundy, Cristom’s Marjorie’s Vineyard is succumbing to phylloxera and dying.  While replanting has begun, 2007 catches the dramatic possibilities of wild, pure Pinot Noir.   

2007 Cristom Marjorie’s Vineyard 

Suggested List Price:  $49.99

Special price via this email:  $26.99

We will be tasting this wine Friday and Saturday – as long as we don’t run out!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Simple Actions, Tasty Pleasures: Pontecilla Tempranillo

In Drinking, Tempranillo on February 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Watering vines, ordering a book on viticulture, calling a client in another country, filling a tractor with gasoline, turning on the lights – all simple actions, simple yet vital to all wineries.

And all but impossible in Franco’s Spain.

Franco, dead near forty years, is now just a distant memory to most Spaniards.  But one glance at a Spanish vineyard provides a dramatic testament to his fascist regime.  The vineyard of San Gregorio in Calatayud, Spain, is evidence of his brutal past.

San Gregorio is sparse, desert like; its vines spread far apart from one another in order to maximize water absorption.  The vines are exiguous, throwing very little foliage, using most of their resources underground, searching out water and minerals with their roots.  They create a vast and desolate landscape that tells a story of bare survival in primitive conditions. 

Planted over half a century ago, during the height of Franco’s repressive policies, San Gregorio’s vines have never seen electricity or running water.  Modern training and trellising methods were never implemented here – the vines cannot be farmed mechanically.  No water and no electricity is a hardship but, worst of all for those who farm these vines, there was no access to customers. 

Now that is all changing.  Opening Spain to the European Union began the slow process of change through contact with the rest of Europe but especially, America.  Americans, probably from experiences with old vine Zinfandel, have great respect for long planted vineyards like San Gregorio.  Greeting Americans as heroes for their willingness to work with farmers in remote areas like Calatyud, we are the ultimate beneficiaries of their hard work in the form of dramatically tasty wine such as Pontecilla!

Pontecilla is pure old vine Tempranillo.  Offering a pronounced bouquet of wild black currants, clove, incense and Asian peppercorns on the nose the palate is bold, with saturated black cherry flavors intermingling with a piquant touch of tannins on the back of the palate.  Low yielding Tempranillo made in this modern style takes on a cream like, demitasse and crème de cassis finish.  It is an example of the unexplored beauty to be found in back country Spain.    

Fresh, vibrant and robustly powerful, Pontecilla exemplifies the new partnerships reinvigorating the beautiful old vine vineyards of Spain.  Cheers!

2008 Pontecilla Tempranillo

Suggested List Price:  $10.99

Special price via this email:  $6.99

Every good Spanish wine needs a Spanish Feast!  Here are some tasty menu ideas to stimulate your drinking!

Julia’s Nuts!

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/02/08/julia%e2%80%99s-nuts/

Sometimes Potatoes Get Angry

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/02/08/sometimes-potatoes-get-angry/

Underwater Cockroaches!

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/02/08/underwater-cockroaches/

Red, Hot & Blue Burgers

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/02/08/red-hot-and-blue-burgers/

We will be tasting this wine Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Tomorrow’s Petrus: Helix Stillwater Vineyard

In Merlot on February 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Petrus is France’s, if not the world’s, most expensive wine. 

Opulent, glamorous, intense, monumental, unique, and legendary are some of the adjectives routinely attached to its pennant.  So what makes this wine so good? 

Many argue Petrus maintains its dominance due to great wine making.  Under the tutelage of Christian Moueix, owner of Petrus, the wines are raised with the utmost care and attention.  Some argue that the wine is made in the vineyard, with the careful discipline of Oenologist Jean-Claude Berrouet who has managed the vines since 1964.  But Moueix and Berrouet also manage or own all the wineries directly surrounding Petrus – Trotanoy, La Fleur-Petrus, Hosanna and La Grave (among others).  None of the other Moueix properties achieve the same level of flavor, or price, as Petrus.   

The distinguishing feature of Petrus, many French argue, is its soil.  Sitting within the tiny commune of Pomerol, a drab village given over completely to the monoculture landscape of vineyards, Petrus looks no different than its neighbors.  But below ground it is completely different.  While vineyards in Pomerol sit on clay soils tending towards sand near Saint Emilion, Petrus sits right on top of an extremely iron rich substratum nicknamed crasse de fer.  It is the only property in the area to have such a soil type.      

Sounds insignificant, doesn’t it? 

Yet most experts agree that this slice of crasse de fer is what allows the vines at Petrus to harvest their depths of flavor.  And hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of Petrus are bought, sold, commented upon, resold as an investment and sometimes even pleasurably drunk simply based on this pride of place. 

So if the great Petrus comes down to a slice of iron in the soil why can’t it be duplicated? 

An exact copy of Petrus may not be possible, but certainly French Pomerol doesn’t have a monopoly on great terroir.  In fact, in Washington State exists a vineyard worth examining – the Stillwater Vineyard within the Wahluke slope.     

Note the similarities: Wahluke is a beautiful stretch of plateau running alongside the Columbia River; much like La Barbanne River bounds the plateau of Pomerol.  The Stillwater Vineyard is one of the highest in its appellation, just like Petrus.  The vineyard is a clay basalt mixture with the same type of extremely rich iron substratum as Petrus.  I submit that the conditions are perfect for making extraordinary wine.  And one winemaking team, Helix, is making just such a wine from the Stillwater Vineyard.  And just like Petrus, Helix’s Stillwater is made from 100% Merlot.

And here is the stumbling block – this wine is Merlot. 

In the US there is an irrational fear of Merlot, unless it is French.  For some reason, and I suspect it’s due to the marketing behind fancy French labels, French Merlot still gets a fashion pass back to a pre-Sideways world.  And that is unfortunate because a lot of amazing American Merlot, which most tasters cannot distinguish from Cabernet, is getting flushed down the toilet in favor of exceptionally expensive French wine from unpronounceable places. 

So let’s fall in love all over again and drink one of the world’s greatest wines – Helix Stillwater Merlot.

Great Merlot, from Washington or from France, has a power to convey ripeness and density to a profound level beyond any other grape.  Here black cherry, currant liqueur and espresso notes seamlessly meld with floral notes and a cassis lift.  The palate is pure and intense, broad casting the mineral intensity of the Stillwater vineyard’s iron backbone.  This is not sloppy, syrupy Merlot of the hating kind.  It’s strong-willed with cocoa tannins and a finish as dramatic as any Cabernet.  Its finish layers into the purity of dense minerality that Merlot can so dramatically convey.    

No, Helix Stillwater Merlot isn’t Petrus.  But as Christian Mouiex recently noted, “Petrus was little known 50 years ago”.  Every great wine starts somewhere, sometimes on iron fissure topped by clay, sometimes in America by a couple of adventurous winemakers.  Helix Stillwater Merlot is unknown now, but it could be tomorrow’s Petrus.  You’ll never know unless you try it!

2005 Helix Stillwater Vineyard Merlot

Suggested List Price:  $25.99

Special price via this email:  $14.99

We will be tasting this wine Friday and Saturday.

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Napa By Storm: Felino Cabernet

In Cabernet, Drinking, Special Offers on January 18, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Paul Hobbs is one of the most talented wine makers to emerge from Napa’s unremittingly competitive environment.  And he has the resume to prove it – crafting Cabernets from Opus One, Simi, Peter Michael and Lewis he developed some of Napa’s first single vineyard, unfined and unfiltered, naturally fermented Cabernets.  Recognized now for creating Cabernets of distinctly Napa extraction yet with old world techniques, he is not one to rest on past achievements– currently his own winery’s single vineyard Napa Cabernets scored no less than 98 points from the illustrious Robert Parker.   

But along the way to his present triumphs he took a risky, and unusual detour to Mendoza, Argentina. 

Before Argentinean Malbec took the wine world by storm, one man had a bold vision for Argentina – Nicholas Catena.   Living in the US in the ‘80s, before being called back to his family’s vineyards on the death of his father, Nicholas had tasted great Napa Cabernet.  Back home, he knew Argentina had the potential for great wine but didn’t have the wine makers to harness that greatness.  Nicholas needed a winemaker and he wanted the best he could get from California.  He wanted Paul Hobbs.

I have no idea how Nicholas convinced Paul to come to Argentina.  The offer must have been grand, because in 1989 Argentinean Cabernet was about as exciting and relevant as Uruguayan Tannat is today.  But however he cajoled, seduced or hoodwinked Paul into coming to Argentina, the benefit is ours – for together, they have made trail blazingly world class Cabernet. 

If you love the taste of Napa Cabernet but are tired of paying for its premium, you need to Paul’s Vina Cobos Felino – it is one not to miss.  We believe outperforms most $50 Napa Cabernets.  And we aren’t the only ones excited by Paul’s Felino; upon its first release in 1999 it scored the highest points for any Argentinean wine, ever. 

Napa or Argentina, you can tell a Paul Hobbs Cabernet as soon as the bottle is opened: densely woven aromas of cassis, mocha and blackberries burst from the bottle.  The palate is full of Cabernet’s classic graphite, black currant and subtle minerality.  It is immense drinking Cabernet – use it to fool your wine snob friends into thinking its $75 Napa Cabernet.  Even at its low price Felino sees new oak, resulting in supple tannins and a full bodied, lengthy finish.  It is exceptional wine. 

Pioneering, talented, exceptional – these are some of the words the world’s wine critics use to describe Paul Hobbs and his wines.  With Felino Cabernet we at Waterford would like to add one more – value. 

2008 Felino Cabernet

Suggested List Price:  $18.99

Special price via this email:  $14.99

We will be tasting this wine on Friday and Saturday.  Stop in and give it a try!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase.  Half case (5%) and full case discounts (10%) do apply to this special offer.

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Bountiful Sicily! 2008 Lamura Rosso di Sicilia

In Drinking, Nero d'Avola, Special Offers on January 10, 2011 at 7:43 pm

The French like to uphold the standard that “a wine should taste like the place it’s from” as one of the ultimate descriptors of quality.  But with the French varieties of Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc now so ubiquitous perhaps it is time that that they take a look south, to the Mezzogiorno of Southern Italy, to truly understand their own ideals.

There are 2,000 indigenous grape varieties in Italy, each one making its own unique and tasty wine.  And each of these grapes has been matched to a specific place and soil, imbued with the local history.  Terrior indeed, beyond what even the French could imagine. 

But for many, Italian wines remain a mystery – the complexity of the peninsula not being worth the effort.  And that is a shame, because here are wines of unique deliciousness, and not without their own tasty quirks.  

Nero d’Avola is one such grape, arguably producing a noble wine perfectly matched with its Sicilian roots yet languishing in obscurity.  And Lamura’s Rosso di Sicilia, made exclusively with Nero d’Avola, is a vital wine, one that tastes like the place it is from.

Lamura is cheap co-operative wine.  But cheapness shouldn’t be confused with low-quality.  Sicily just hasn’t quite come into age of mass industrial wine production.  Small groups of farmers making communal wines are how things are done. 

Lamura’s Rosso reflects Sicily’s warm Mediterranean climate and volcanic soils.  Deeply colored with pronounced notes of chocolate and wild plum it will transplant you to Sicily and warm your body up a couple of degrees.  No, it isn’t heady and alcoholic, but it is big.  Like a stubborn, yet charming Sicilian immigrant that won’t let go of the home-country, Lamura’s got gutsy Italian fruit character.  It’s completely organic fruit, the tastes centered around dark coco, sun dried raisins, and a charming high note of orange zest.   This wine isn’t afraid to show it’s Sicilian roots.

Lamura’s Rosso di Sicilia is great Italian table wine – uncomplicated and heartfelt, from a place and a culture, and all the more delicious for it.  

2008 Lamura Rosso di Sicilia (Nero d’Avola)

Suggested List Price:  $10.99

Sale Price:  $6.99

A Sicilian feast in three easy courses to chase away the mid-Wisconsin winter blues!

Turnips and Carrots with Apricots:

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/01/10/roasted-turnips-and-carrots-with-apricots/

Sicilian Hen with Orange, Raisins & Oil Cured Olives

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/01/10/sicilian-hen-with-orange-raisins-and-olives/

“Salad” of Squash and Farro, with Dandelion Greens

http://www.waterfordwine.com/2011/01/10/%e2%80%9csalad%e2%80%9d-of-spaghetti-squash-farro-and-dandelion-greens/

We will be tasting this wine on Friday and Saturday!

All orders must be secured with a name, credit card number, and phone number.  All orders will be available at the time of purchase. 

When the wine is ordered your credit card will be charged.  The wine will be held in climate controlled conditions until you are ready to pick it up, free of charge.  Offer is good while supplies last.

Magnums!

In Champagne, Drinking, Special Offers on December 28, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Magnums!

Women admire me, men envy me, and I am the life of all your New Year’s Eve parties.  Rolling in your front door I’m bringing a double sized portion of dirty love that can’t be contained within its cage. 

I’m irresistibly large, ready to explode, and have got twice the staying power of the next guy.  I’m here to shake you all night long.  I’ll do everything your last boyfriend couldn’t.  I’m bringing the thunder, I’m bringing a Magnum.   

Magnums! 

I’m not talking guns, old TV shows featuring hairy dudes driving Ferraris, Case tractors or prophylactics.  I’m talking about Champagne bottles.  It’s true, size really does matter; especially in Champagne. 

Magnums: the name of a Champagne bottle that holds 1.5 liters of liquid, double the size of the regular bottle.  Stop wondering: size really does matter.  Bigger is better, especially in Champagne. 

Unlike other wines, Champagne is made in the bottle.  That very same bottle you’re going to purchase at the Waterford Wine Company was responsible for the taste of the liquid inside.  Champagne starts where every other wine in the world finishes off – by being put into its bottle.  But once inside it undergoes the complex process of secondary fermentation.  This process gives rise to Champagne’s cheris