Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brunch in B-town

After a nice languid morning of waking up late and strolling around the Baltimore farmers market with Spike, we met up with Amy and the kids as well as some friends at Petit Louis for lunch. The wine list was loaded more Châteauneuf than you could shake a stick at and plenty of Bordeaux, with the Burgundy and Beaujolais sections mostly loaded with third tier mediocrities. Not to mention an almost non-existent Loire section, but I managed to find a very good Vissoux and they had several vintages of Gamot and Cayrou from Cahors.

2007 Vissoux Fleurie Poncié
This was bright, juicy, floral, and deliciously easy to drink. One of those wines that glides by giving a sense of ease and enjoyment without seeming frivolous. The bottle was gone in a flash, leaving only smiles behind.

2000 Clos de Gamot Cahors
Decanted and drinking quite well for such a muscle-bound wine. Make no mistake, this wasn’t near maturity, but it certainly had a nice balance to it with some deep fruit to compliment to rugged leathery mineral components and the full-ish tannin. I had a good dose of fat on my plate, so this did OK. This is probably a wine to seek out and put in the cellar if you like Cahors, which I do.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dinner at Woodberry Kitchen

After an excellent meal and evening in DC, we headed up to Baltimore, my old home town. We took a visit to Boordy Vineyards where I worked as an assistant winemaker after college as well as driving through my childhood neighborhood of Roland Park. My dining companion was kind enough to allow me to partake in a bit of nostalgia for days gone by.

We had reservations at my old friends Spike and Amy Gjerde’s new restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen. By a great stroke of fortune, it also happened to be Spike’s birthday. Spike and I have been friends for 15 years or so. We first met when he had opened Spike and Charlie’s and I was a young turk in the Baltimore wine business and he was an emerging and energetic young chef. We immediately bonded and organized countless wine dinners together and dined together (and partied afterwards) with regularity. We’ve even managed to stay in contact while I’ve moved a couple of times, went to graduate school while he got married, had kids built an empire and watched it crumble, only to emerge again with Woodberry Kitchen. I love the new space and I love where Spike has headed. He’s still the same guy, full of boundless energy end enthusiasm.

We had a broad array of dishes and ordered way m ore than we could eat because there were so many interesting things to try. Among the standouts were a fresh mushroom flatbread, a halibut dish prepared, and a roast chicken with perfect end-of-summer veggies all prepared in the wood oven.

2001 Radikon Ribolla Gialla Venezia Giulia
Ahhh, orange wine. Again, my dining companion seemed to be quite taken with the skin contact white. Not as vibrant as the Massa Vecchia the night before, but maybe more deeply pitched. It has aged out of some of its structure and is a mellower wine than it was a couple of years ago. Was excellent with food, which is a great strength of these wines and Radikon in general. A mistaken assumption about these wines, and Radikon in particular, is that they lack fruit. I’ve never found this to be the case, in fact, I think that the structure and other nuances provide a great frame for the fruit. I’m not sure there is any reason for aging this, but I don’t think anyone yet understands their trajectory. Given the expense, I wouldn’t bury more than one as a science experiement.

1996 Mugneret Chambolle 1er Feusselottes
This was very good to start and, of course, absolutely bloody beautiful for the last glass. I contemplated opening it earlier, but I wasn’t sure exactly what to do. In retrospect, I should have opened it when we sat down. At least I got to enjoy the velvet-like, seemless texture that makes this wine such a treat. I love the linear, angular Chambolle of Barthod and Mugnier, but there is something about the sexier version from Mugneret that sparks some deep mid-brain reactions in me. This is one 1996 that isn’t a victim of the vintage. I only have a few more bottles and will probably wait another 2-3 years before popping another. If you give it proper time to breath, I think this is starting to get to a good place though.

2002 Valentini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo
After all the skin contact wine, this was so much more yellow. Decanted to let that wooly funk out of the wine, although this particular bottle didn’t have quite as much of that. Lots of good fruit and some nice structure, but not a particularly severe version of this. Decent structure and just all around enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dinner at Obelisk

Looks like Rockss and Douche was also in DC over the weekend. As usual, the VLM-TR is the winner. He went to a bunch of lame places in order to avoid the smackdown.

Had a great time at 2 Amy’s with a group of folks from Wine Disorder. Pizza’s weren’t up to the usually amazing standards, but the anti-pasta and the company were excellent.

My lady friend joined me the next evening for dinner at Obelisk. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been eating at Obelisk for about 15 years now. For most of that time, it has been my favorite restaurant in America. It doesn’t have the most exciting or trendy food or even a particularly sophisticated décor. What it does have are perfect and honest foods, expertly prepared and ringing with clarity. I feel like I’m eating at a restaurant in the Piedmont. It has always has had an interesting wine list, most of the time ahead of the curve (well ahead compared to DC restaurants).

2005 Massa Vecchia Maremma Bianco
It’s been a good long while since I’ve had a Massa Vecchia Bianco. This was a golden color you’d expect, though not quite the orange of a Radikon. My dining companion didn’t have much experience with these wines, but she was immediately taken with this, which I think says something about the myth that these are an acquired taste. I think the wines are delicious and if they were cheaper, would be enjoyed en masse. I love it when vermentino has that saline quality and I think the skin contact may actually enhance how it shapes the wine in this case.

1990 Giovanni Manzone Barolo Riserva Gramolere "de Grazia Cuvée"
Still has a fairly deep robe and not a lot of bricking of the color. I really should have opened it in the afternoon to give it some more time to come around, but you never know. Had a nose with a very prominent soy component, something I’ve seen on a number of 1990s. While this was in no way woody, I’m pretty sure, given the color, that it saw some wood and maybe a shorter, hotter fermentation than is normal in classically made Barolo. It would seem to open in fits and starts, but never really unfolded totally. Interestingly, there were about 2 inches of wine in the bottle due to sediment. I went back to that wine and it was much fresher in tone with more cherry and floral notes as opposed to the deeper soy and dried fruit notes from the decanter. All in all, it was a disappointment. In retrospect, I bought more 1990s than 1989s back in the day, would that it was reversed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


N.V. Domaine Peyra Côtes d'Auvergne VDQS Mauvais Herbes (2004)
My friends all know of my love for the orange wines from the Auvergne. These wines are definitely an acquired taste, but they remind me of the freakish, moonscape looking vista’s from where they come from. Utterly unique wines that everyone should try at least once, just to see. I wish I had a picture to show you what it looked like. While this isn’t at the level of the Cor en Continu, it is certainly delicious and more accessible. Gunpowder, herbes, strawberry, and minerals on the nose and palate. I like it served on the cooler side and find it does really well with food. These 2003s and 2004s weren’t as strong as earlier vintages, but they are the end of the road for Peyra, a domain no longer in existence. One of the former partners, Jean Maupertuis, is making wine in the Auvergne. Not quite Peyra, but worth a look in.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mini Txoko with the gang

Sometimes, you just need a little Txoko in your life.

2007 Ameztoi Txakolina Upelean Hartzitua
A more relaxed version of Txakoli from Ameztoi. This one sees time in large wooden casks, and I think the breathing lets them uncoil a bit. Doesn’t have the carbon spritz, but still has that Txakoli profile. Actually, this bottle reminds me a lot of Muscadet, which the tank one doesn’t (BTW, this one has a brown label). Lots of shells on the palate, and a bit more length and doesn’t have the same spine tingling acidity, but makes up for it with a more mature presence.

2007 F.X. Pichler Riesling Federspiel Von den Terrassen
I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Pichler. I thought this wine was fine, others thought it too big and a bit sweet. I like ti really cold and didn’t drink too much.

1996 Louis Carillon Puligny-Montrachet 1er Les Perrières
Brilliant. No premature oxidation issues in this bottle. It seemed to have uncoiled into a middle aged gentleness, but actually put on weight as the night went on. It started out whispy and very, very clean, as is the norm for this wine. Carillon Perrières is almost always among my favorite white Burgundies of any vintage (not that I buy too many these days) which is not to say it is as good as top Grand Cru Burgundy, but I’m more of a Premier Cru guy anyway. As it opened up, the Perrières minerality really started to drive the wine, which had some nice fruit and floral notes to compliment the stones. The best white Burgundy I’ve had in a long time, I wish I had more but it’s my last bottle. If you have some, it may be able to keep longer, but for me, I like my Perrières to have some of that aggressive minerailty left, it is what identifies the wine to me, so I say drink now-ish.

1989 Foreau Vouvray Moelleux Réserve
This bottle was not pristine, but it was the first time I’ve been able to drink a wine that showed any sort of TCA. That gives you an idea of the true power underlying this wine. If you have good bottles, you are in for a real treat.

1999 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli
Pretty average. I just find it hard to get interested in Brunello these days.

2003 Edmond Vatan Sancerre Rouge Clos la Néore
This was a very controversial wine. Some of us liked it very much, like myself, while others did not. An argument raged over whether it was “clipped” or whether it was lacking in the mid-palate. I found it a little empty in the mid-palate, but that isn’t all that surprising, it’s red Chavignol. I loved the crunchiness of the wine and the firm, chalky finish that felt like getting smacked in the face with a limestone brick. This needs to be served on the cooler side to be really enjoyed. I’m not sure what this would turn into with age, so I would drink mine in the next 3-5 years.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

OK, really, I'm back.

A long week, so Damon and I decided to unwind with some good wine at Vin Rouge. I had a hankering for steak frites, or rather onglet frites. We started off with some awesome calfs brains, really decadent, prepared in a brown butter caper sauce. I had a glass of 2007 Gilbert Picq Chablis, which was an excellent accompaniment. Picq is a producer I like very much and used to buy, but don’t tend to cellar. Probably a mistake.

1995 Thierry Allemand Cornas Reynard
Still has a nice deep black-ish red color. Fantastic nose of a meaty leather, but not the full on smoky bacon that is probably a yeast strain, but a kind of wild animal quality with good dark fruits underneath. The tannins build sneakily as the wine opens. It is in a very good window now, the tannins never get big, but they are enough for balance. What is amazing about Allemand wines is how they manage to impart the wild, coarse qualities of Cornas without being wild and coarse, but being really sophisticated and assured. It is quite the balancing act.

1998 Roagna Barbaresco Crichet Pajé
This showed initial promise, but never really went anywhere. I found the fruit got a bit on the roasted side and the tannins became unyielding. Given my past experience, and the pedigree of this wine, I suspect that it will be fine in 10-15 years. I expected a 1998 to be opening up now, I really was wrong about this one.