Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Carafe of joy

Every now and then I have a quiet dinner at my brother’s restaurant, Rue Cler, which allows me to relax and enjoy it as a simple pleasure. Dining with an old friend we were able to drink two fantastic wines by the carafe to accompany a perfect three course meal. Each was $17 for 500 ml. The whole meal was $94 before tax and tip. When my brother and his partner opened this place about 5 years ago, everyone doubted them, but look at what has happened since. There are 5 more restaurants downtown and more scheduled to open soon. Every now and then I get to sit back and be proud.

2009 Domaine de la Pépière La Pépiè Rosé
Of course Marc Ollivier has made a beautiful little rosé from cabernet franc. Maybe a bit more strawberry-ish than one would expect from this master of minerals, but a focused and delightful drop and perfect to accompany our first course. Does Marc ever make a misstep? I can’t remember one.

2009 Damien Coquelet Beaujolais-Villages
Holding a bit of CO2 which blows off after 10 minutes or so. This has a natural feel to it, but with a pretty wave of fruit with bones underneath. Delightfully unassuming with the meal which let us enjoy the food and conversation without intruding.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Assorted excellence

1999 Nikolaihof Riesling Steiner Hund
This was a couple of different wines during the evening. When it was first opened it was all rocks and seemed to lack density and had no fruit. I insisted to Michael that there was real density there, it just might take a little bit. It started to emerge about an hour or so later starting as floral notes and then becoming deeply pitched with fruit and hints of honeysuckle, all the while keeping it’s frame and mineral spine. A great wine.

1971 Huët Vouvray Moelleux 1ère Trie Clos du Bourg
This also did some neat tricks over the course of the evening. At first it tasted quite dry, which can happen with older Moelleux in my experience, and then started to sweeten up and take on more baked fruit and spices. It never got sweet, sweet, but certainly became richer and more interesting. A very fine wine.

1998 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays
I dropped this by the restaurant and had it opened 2 hours before dinner. That first nose upon opening was fantastic. Spice and earth around fruits in a heady perfume. Over the course of the evening it became diffuse and then hardened. Not really sure what to make of that development. I’m not sure that the future will make it better, but now is not a good time so I’d sit on it rather than open now.

1995 Gouges Nuits St. Georges 1er Les Saint Georges
This was a surprise bottle for me from Michael and was an incredibly generous gift on his part. If there is an argument for Les St. Georges to be classified as grand cru, then the wines from Gouges and Chevillon make the best case for that. Where one really gets the class of Les St. Georges is in the structure and mouthfeel. There is such a pristine quality to the tannins, they are fine and almost velvety but also completely frame the wine with a lattice structure. It’s a nice trick.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fantastic Mâcon

2007 Domaine de Roally Viré-Clessé Tradition
I could have included this in the Beach Week Highlights, as it was one of those two, but I had another bottle with recent Durhamites Noel and Marie the other night over dinner. These wines continue to amaze me with their joyfulness and sheer charm. I think Macon chardonnay may be one of the most underrated beverages in the world. I can’t remember the last time I had a Roally or other Thévenet or Guillemot wine that I did not love. The 2007 version has beautiful sun kissed floral fruit with some weight on the palate cleared elegantly by the back end structure. I’ve had this with several different kinds of foods and unless beat over the head with spice, it has never failed to shine. I have an embarrassing admission to make: I haven’t been cellaring these wines. I buy them and drink them and then the vintage is gone and I have forgotten to put any away. That stops this year. I’ve had older vintages that have aged beautifully (although not as many as I would like) and will be putting a case of this up. You should do the same and enjoy it over a decade or more.

Bordeaux second wines

Are for douche-bags.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Beach Week Highlights

Every year my family gathers from the far corners of the US to converge on the beach for a week, there is a lot of drinking involved. Some of the wine highlights.

2009 Clos Roche Blanche gamay
The first bottle was tight, more tannic and mineral but the second bottle was stunning. Stop you in your tracks gorgeous with layers of fruit buttressed by the structure and that whispy nose I get from CRB gamay that screams naturalness to me. This is a great wine.

2009 Damien Coquelet Beaujolais-Villages
Fresh, vibrant, and a great coif without any of the three bottles being particularly memorable.

2009 J-P Brun Beaujolais l’Ancien
The one bottle of this I tried was fairly tightly wound, much like the first bottle of CRB gamay. Given my experience with the synthetic closure I would drink this sooner rather than later and won’t be loading up.

2009 Pepière Muscadet & 2009 Clos Roche Blanche pineau d’aunis rosé
Yes & yes. Emphatically. Duh.

2009 Three Trees (Tom Lubbe) Côte Catalanes Blanc
This is a blend of rolle and macabeu, IIRC. I am a huge fan of this wine and I’m generally not a fan of white Rhônes and below. In fact, I’m pretty much a fan of all of Tom’s wines even if the labels make them look Australian.

2006 Sanguineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano
A very interesting wine. Clearly sees a decent amount of time in casks of some kind as the color is a translucent ruby. Fragrant and elegant and almost willfully Victorian. A racous dinner with grilled steaks was probably not the best setting for such a wine, but I was so intrigued that I snagged the remaining bottle to take home and assess at a more leisurely pace.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A note on Sherry and freshness

My good friend André Tamers of De Maison Selections has been adamant about the issue of freshness and Sherry. He loves the joys of the beverage and is worried that many people are turned off to the joys of it because they get bottles that are simply too long in the tooth. He believes in this so strongly that he has had his producers of Manzanilla and Fino put the bottling date on their back label.

Manzanilla and Fino a wonderful accompaniment to all sorts of tapas and especially things like grilled sardines. It's dangerous for em to just drink it as a refresher because I'm likely to drink tons and get totally smashed.

Take some to the beach with you to have with shrimp. You'll thank me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Terrible (with a Sherry exception)


One of those nights where nothing tastes good. Well, nothing but sherry that is. Must have been a root out of your ass night on the Bio calendar.

2008 A Coroa Godello Valdeorras
I liked the nose. Seemed driving, yellow, and mineral. Palate was too flabby for me.

La Cigarrera Manzanilla
El Maestro Sierra Fino
Gutierrez Colosia Fino Elcano

These three were the highlight for me. The Cigarrera Manzanilla was its normal, briney, delicious self and was gone almost as fast as it appears. The Maestro Sierra is the more complicated and complex wine. There is a real vinous drive here. The Colosia Fino Elcano gets lost a bit in the middle of these two, but it is still a fine Fino. Sherry is delicious, especially with fresh NC shrimp.

2003 Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Pignan
Disgusting. No redeeming qualities whatsoever.

1998 Eric & Joel Durand Cornas
Hollowed out and done. Poor.

2007 Isole e Olena Chianti Classico
This was fine, I guess. But I expected more from this producer. The merlot was really showing which took away from the enjoyment.

2005 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe
I had been really keen on trying this bargain Barolo and I have loved other Vajra wines in the past. Tonight it seemed blocky, and not in a Barolo way. Sort of all mushy whereas blocky Barolo will be stern and unyielding. Given how I feel about the producer, I’ll probably give this another try.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Excellent Fontalloro

1995 Fattoria di Fèlsina Berardenga Fontalloro

This showed really well. Coming together with nice secondary notes of leather, earth and a hint of underbrush. The fruit is desiccating but not completely gone. The tannins move from the front of the palate to the back and are very suave and almost unnoticeable with air. Went very well with barbeque. While this is ready to go now, it should hold and maybe improve in the medium term. I’m not sure that I’ve conveyed how much I liked this, if you have any you should try it soon. The interesting thing about this wine is how often I prefer it to the Rancia, not always, but quite often. Trying the 2006s side by side, the Fontalloro was head and shoulders above. I guess wood doesn’t really bother me.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

LA Drinking

Dinner with old friends at a Cantonese place in Monterey Park. Huge spread of whole fish, lobster, prawns, suckling pig, duck, etc. etc. Amazing meal, great time.

2002 Domäne Wachau Riesling Smaragd Singerriedel 1.5L
Taking on a slightly golden color, it still maintains a sense of freshness even while taking on some weightier, more herbal notes. It still a sting of those yellow and green fruits, but a sort of softer mineral underpinning and notes of flowers and honey. It still has some structure, but only enough to hold it together, not so much as to hold anything back. I do not see anything to be gained by further aging, unless you just like old wine flavors, as it seems to be in a very pretty and balanced state for current drinking. My favorite wine on this occasion and I probably drained at least half the magnum.

2008 Melville Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir Carrie's
My friends had brought this back from a visit to Melville (which is a very pretty property with a nice tasting room and gracious folks). It is a bit high octane for me, but it wasn’t so far out of whack that I couldn’t enjoy it. There is a woodsy quality to the wine that makes me suspect whole-cluster fermentation, at least in part. The fruit was savory and not jammy, despite the high alcohol, but the texture was a bit thick for me. I’m happy to try these wines, but this would be tiring to drink and I’m not a buyer.

2005 Giuseppe Quintarelli Veneto IGT Primofiore 1.5L
While this was very good, it was a bit blockier than I would have liked. This had a real savory quality to the red and blue fruits. In fact, I think the fruits played second fiddle here. Maybe this will age into something a bit different because it seemed to close down towards the end of the night.

2008 Venica & Venica Collio Malvasia Bianca
I’ve missed the reliable presence of this producer in my market. I’ve always been a fan of the range, but have a soft spot for the seductive malvasia. Floral, spicy and almost raunchy it is a perfect fit for LA drinking. Seductive and a nice compliment to the food. I would drink this more often if I could.