Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Farmers market bounty and Brun

On of the great things about moving back to NC is the abundance of great produce from the farmers market. It’s amazing how long arugula picked fresh that morning actually stays fresh in the fridge. You forget this when you are buying your veggies at the grocery store. When I pick from the dozens of different heirloom tomatoes, I pick in descending ripeness, so that I can have them every day if I want. The most killer thing is the fresh eggs. You can crack these eggs (hit em hard, the shells are strong) and throw them into the pan from 3 feet and the iridescent orange yolk won’t break.

You can almost become a vegetarian with bounty like this. Made a simple meal at home with some potatoes, arugula, tomatoes, and purple hulled peas (with country ham!). Fresh and delicious and they deserved the same in a wine.

2005 Brun Beaujolais Cuvée l'Ancien Vieilles Vignes
I had some issues with the 2002, which FlaJim has seemingly found a cure for. Well, I can happily report that the 2005 has none of these problems, and it is actually labeled Beaujolais! It is a little large for a Brun l’Ancien, but still has all that rocky/gravelly delineation. Deeper fruit than usual, but with more tannin to accompany it. Really delicious, especially at cellar temperature. Managed to bomb through almost the full bottle myself. My guess is that this will be at it’s best in 2 years, but it is no crime to drink now.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My dinner with André

At Lantern with Cindy and André (yes he of the great Spanish whites). Enjoyed my pork belly entrée and my black cod plat quite a bit. Second good run in this restaurant.

2006 Karlsmühle Kaseler Nies'chen Riesling Kabinett
More clumsy and sweet than a previous bottle. Not sure what the deal was.

2003 Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Les Perrières
Another very good bottle of this. A bigger, bolder, more intense wine than the 2002. The Perrières seems to do very well in these warm vintages and I’m very bullish on this wine. It didn’t show as spectacularly as it had previously, but nothing seemed to be showing at its best tonight. It happens. This wine should be excellent for 20 years or more, and drink well for most of it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another excellent 2002 Loire red

At a nice dinner at Watt’s Grocery, the hot new place in town. My food was OK, but my folks liked it a lot.

In case you haven’t noticed, Grandma and Grandpa monkey are making a lot of appearances these days. That’s because my brother and his wife juts had another baby, so my folks are back in NC for a couple of months. Maybe I’ll let one of them guest blog…

2002 Catherine et Pierre Breton Bourgueil Clos Sénéchal
This is showing spectacularly. High toned, floral, blue fruited, with that chalky minerality I love about this site. A few, more Earthy notes are sneaking in here and there. Under 12% ABV. This is starting to really come in to its own. Not sure if it has the structure for the long term, but it is certainly finely balanced, and sometimes that is more important and can result in wines that age more gracefully than expected. Another in a long line of excellent Sénéchal.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Tuesday at Rue Cler

Dinner with some friends at Rue Cler. Lovely, as always.

2006 George Descombes Régnié
Although I’m not as blown away by these wines the way others are, this was delicious. Sappy, bright, and light on its feet. Nice floral/herbal streak running through it. Pillow-y almost. Not a wine for aging, but who cares?

2005 Desvignes Morgon Côte-du-Py Javernières
This wine has shed most of its babyfat and is absolutely, devastatingly good. I think it may be the best wine of the 2005 vintage in Beaujolais. The strong soil-driven, mineral core is what really sets it apart. Ample fruit that comes in waves, firm tannin, and a whiplash on the finish. Delicious and complex, it drinks well now, but should age very, very well (in my experience, Desvignes are among the longest lived wines in the region). As good a Beaujolais as I’ve had. I think I’m going to pick up another case.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Frenemies and bad luck

My good friend/sworn mortal enemy Eric Stokes has jumped into it with both feet opening his own retail shop in Apex, NC. Some of you may know Eric from his time at the Carolina Wine Co. I think Eric really wanted the chance to sell wines he believes in, rather than what someone else has bought. It takes a set. He doesn’t have an online shopping cart, but does have a website that has contact information. He had a killer price on Pépière Clisson, maybe still has some.

A few of us gathered to help him celebrate his first week in business. These are the wines I noted, there were some other CA chardonnay and cabernet type things, about which I give less than a shit. My luck with Burgundy finally ran out as there were mostly disappointments.

1993 Barthod Chambolle 1er Charmes
This was a good bottle of this, although not seemingly a pristine bottle. It was nice to have a Barthod wine that was seeming to mature because my 1995s and 1996s haven’t really seemed to be budging, or doing so reluctantly. The Charmes fruit has dissipated into a nice earthy, leathery dried cherry thing. However, it is the inner mouth perfume (retro-nasal olfaction) and the mouthfeel that really make this a nice drop. If your bottles are in better condition, they might show younger, but I think you can start getting into these now.

1998 Bouchard Vosne 1er Reignots
Pretty non-descript. I’ve never had a Bouchard wine that did it for me and this wasn’t the start.

1999 Geantet-Pansiot Charmes
Viciously, horrendously corked. Like someone added chemicals to it. Crazy.

1996 Domaine René Engel Grands-Echezeaux
Elegant, nice Grands-Echezeaux, but not particularly inspiring. A sort of sandlewood spice to the sour cherry cranberry fruit. Lean and stretched and maybe a bit dilute, but it is 1996 after all, so I should just be happy that it was pleasant. Should continue to improve, if you have any, but won’t make old bones.

At dinner at J. Betski’s, the only reason I will drive to Raleigh. If you are in the area, you should try it out. They are doing some really excellent food and have a very cool wine list.

2002 Domaine de Bellivière Coteaux du Loir L'Effraie
Spectacular and shows what Eric Nicolas is capable of. I really don’t think that 2003, 2004, or 2005 really showed his wines at their best. They were just too warm to show what he and these sites are capable of. Shimmering, dancing, beautiful wine that divides and recombines across the palate. Has an edge of chenin wildness to it, but manages to keep its grace under pressure demeanor. This is why I fell in love with these wines to begin with. Please, let Eric Nicolas have a long, cool growing season sometime soon.

2002 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Spätlese Halbtrocken
Rockss and Douche is batshit crazy over these wines (well, he's batshit crazy in general, but that's another story). A recent bottle of Kabinett was excellent. This, being a halb-trocken, was a different beast. Whereas the straight Pradikät wines have an inherent balance, this seems to have to work a little more for it. It was a very good wine, full of creamy yellow fruits and good underlying structure, without that stripped feeling you can get from non-Pradikät wines.

1996 Bernard Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes
Started out promising with a kind of rhubarb thing that I get on Dugat-Py Gevrey sometimes. Dark color as you would expect from this producer. After a couple hours in the decanter though, it started to go south. Not bad really, but not really interesting. Another mediocre 1996. The 1995 version of this was a much better wine.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Real Wine social event of the season

An occasion of such magnitude that I was counting the days until August 9, 2008. The wine world’s very own Shawn Meade and John Mark stating their everlasting love, in a touching hilltop ceremony attended by family and friends.

Lest you think it was all roses and puppydogs, there were days of heavy drinking and lots of bleary eyes at the wedding and reception. I had a blast hanging out with Scott, Ken, Joe, Jeff, Julie, Paul, Wade, Dev, Suzanne, Kevin, and the one and only Michael Rhodes whose heroic attitude towards drinking make him the VLM Wine Personality of the Month. I can’t think of a group of people I enjoy drinking with more than these folks.

Also, I need to give a big shout out to those little pig-fuckers at Terroir. Gulluame, Luc, and Dagan have put together a cool little place, and are fighting the good fight. Even if they get carried away with some of the hipster vignerons (they’re hipsters themselves after all) they are in the trenches providing the drinking public with a space to drink REAL WINE, not a bar that just happens to serve wine, but a selection of wines, chosen with purpose, that reflect a belief in what is laudable and possible. We wrapped up every evening there and if you don’t stop by next time you’re in San Francisco, there is something wrong with you. Congratulations boys, not only are you in Wine and Spirits this month, you get a link on the VLM-TR.
The VLM feels a kindred spirit in those who have serious, deep-seeded issues with authority.

Thanks to John and Shawn for bringing us together, I wish for them all the happiness I hoped to hoard for myself. I think they’ll put it to better use.

Highlights included, from memory:

2003 Peyra “s.g.”

My favorite producer of orange wine. Killer, both before AND after decanting (yeah, that’s right Rosati).

2005 Zidarich Carso vitovska

Had not tried these before. Doesn’t have the intensity of a Gravner or Radikon, but has a feminine gentleness that I found alluring. Expensive, but worth trying, especially if you like what Radikon is doing, but the wines are a bit much for you.

2006 Királyudvar Tokaji (furmint) Demi-Sec

The Huët of Hungary is fucking great. You should follow these wines and definitely try them. What I’ve tried has been killer and this one was especially lacey. You can feel Pinguët’s tentacles all over these wines.

2002 Huët Vouvray Pétillant

Fucking A. The best Huët Pétillant since the godly 1996, IMO.

2004 Dupasquier Roussette de Savoie Marestel
Clean, fragrant, and bright as Spring. I could drink this by the bucketful. Vintage may have been 2005, can’t remember clearly.

2005 Allemand Cornas Chaillots
From magnum
. How psyched was I to find some Allemand in magnum. Decanted for four hours before dinner. Captivating and delicious. How these wines drink so well young is a mystery to me, but they do.

1985 Voge Cornas Vielles Vignes

A nice treat and catching a wine that is definitely at apogee or maybe a bit past. Lovely Cornas character from a producer who I find to make consistently commendable wines to little fanfare.

2005 Dashe Potter Valley Zinfandel McFadden Farms L’enfant Terrible
One of the most talked about wines in geek circles is Mike Dashe doing his best impersonation of Thierry Puzelat. There is no better way to describe this than to say, imagine if Thierry made zinfandel. Delicious and drinkable, bottles went fast. Not awe inspiring just yet, but certainly on the path and something everyone should seek out. I hope he keeps doing it, a welcome addition to the American scene.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Appreciating what you've got

A very nice dinner at Lantern in Chapel Hill with my parents and family friends from Philadelphia. I realize how much I took for granted the restaurants we have in the area, but living in the OC (and eating tons of high priced, uninspiring meals, even at restaurants with Michelin stars) cured me of that. These restaurants have access to such amazing ingredients grown and raised within 10 miles. A tremendous resource for them that many “big city” chefs would love to have. It makes a mockery of “slow food” in New York and San Francisco.

2006 Karlsmühle Riesling Kabinett Kaseler Nies'chen

Always a favorite little wine of mine, even in a year like 2006, when this couldn’t be a true Kabinett. This showed excellent cut and balance, not to mention delicacy. I was very pleasantly surprised by how it showed. Was a big hit with the Philly contingent.

1993 Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana

My last bottle of this and a wine I haven’t bought since the 1996 vintage. My parents still have fond memories of when they joined me on a visit to Clerico. He was a fantastic host, speaking to us at great length about everything and then taking us to dinner with a comparison of his Ginestra 1990 with the Grasso Casa Matte of the same year (which he humbly suggested was far superior to his own). As much as I admire the man, I found the wines were becoming a bit too extreme for my conception of Barolo. I have stated in the past that maybe the “modernist” methods are at their best in years like 1993 and 1995 as Clerico’s 1993s have always shown remarkably well. 1993 is a vintage that is drinking very well right now, so well, that I have almost none left.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mom loves Eric Texier

Dinner with my Mom and Dad. Mom loves Châteauneuf, but since I don’t have easy access to my few remaining bottles in the cellar (haven’t quite finished consolidation yet) so I grabbed some currently available in the market. Although it is the red Châteauneuf that holds my mother’s heart, the white really stole the show.

I have stated this before, but I want to be clear on how much I admire what Eric is doing right now. His wines are balanced, complex, and gentle without being at all sloppy. The opposite of where he was headed 8 or 9 years ago. It takes a lot of courage and mental dexterity to change directions like that and to do it well.

2005 Éric Texier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Vieilles Vignes
Wow, another great showing for this wine. Éric is on a mission to single-handedly make me recant my hatred for Châteauneuf Blanc. Electric and beautiful. Not sure what else to say. If you think you hate Châteauneuf Blanc, this wine will at least provide the exception that proves the rule.

2005 Éric Texier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge Vieilles Vignes
I found this a bit muddy and slurred. Not being a big fan of Châteauneuf and Grenache based wines to begin with, this was probably not going to hit my fancy. I’m sure there is nothing wrong with it, it’s just young, but it’s not something for me. I have very little use for it.

From dinner again the next night with my aunt arriving from Virginia.

2005 Domaine de Pergault (Éric Texier) Côtes du Rhône-Brézème Vielles Vignes 1.5L
This was surprisingly gentle, but not surprisingly complex. Just has a natural feel to it, if that makes sense, and I think that is what Eric is going for these days. It isn’t terribly dark or froooty, but sort of deeply pitched and brooding. Makes it incredibly easy to drink and was a lovely accompaniment to the grilled ribeyes and NY strips. It’ll be interesting to track this over the years as it was much more accessible than expected. Reminded my mom of the magnum of Cuvée Vieilles Fontaines that Alain Voge gave us as a cadeaux after a visit and it does share something in common with that wine. My aunt loved it, another testament to how well Eric si doing with this wine.