Daily Wine News: Winding Down

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-31-2010

Unfiltered, the Wine Spectator blog, details its most popular items of the year. Over at 1WineDude, Joe Roberts lists the ten posts that generated the most comments.

Slate’s wine critic, Mike Steinberger, makes a compelling case for treating Champagne just like any other wine. I agree -Champagne should be enjoyed all year long, and not just when celebrating. On a related note, Steinberger needs to write more regularly!

The Wine Spectator has some exciting news for all those folks who want to prove that cheap Pinot Noir is about 24% Syrah. As the Spectator explains, “When a wine label reads ‘Merlot,’ most consumers believe that’s what’s inside, but while scientists can genetically identify grapes, there hasn’t been a way to ID grape varieties in a finished wine. But now an ongoing medical study at the University of Texas may have found a solution that could give the wine industry a new tool in authentication. Scientists at the university, with help from colleagues at the University of California at Davis, have developed a sensor that can identify grape varieties in wine by measuring and identifying the tannins.”

A reminder: don’t serve booze to your pets. Would anyone actually think this is a good idea?

Boston toasts the end of taxes on alcohol.

Jay McInerney visits Veritas, the New York City restaurant with more than 75,000 bottles (and more than 3,000 selections) in its cellar.

New Year’s in Wine Country

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist | Posted on 12-30-2010

Uploaded to flickr by John-Morgan.

This morning, Terroirist Ainsley Adams and I head up to California wine country for two days of food and wine.

Today, we’ll start in Napa at Del Dotto, where we’ll explore the 350-foot wine cave built by Chinese laborers in 1885. After a brief stop for lunch, we’ll then head over to Alpha Omega to taste some wine with the winemaker, Jean Hoefliger. We’ll then finish our day up on Spring Mountain at Pride. And we’ll eat at
Café La Haye in Sonoma.

Tomorrow, we’ll head over to Sonoma for a visit to Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines. After a quick lunch stop, we’ll then visit Merry Edwards Winery in Sebastopol before an afternoon visit to Joseph Swan. Dinner will once again be in Sonoma Square, at the girl and the fig.

Should be quite a time. We’ll be sure to blog all about it and take plenty of photos!

Daily Wine News: Wine Freedom in 2011

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-30-2010

Uploaded to flickr by Tony the Misfit.

Tom Wark chimes in on the Maryland Comptroller’s much-anticipated report on wine shipping with a great op-ed in today’s Baltimore Sun. As Tom detailed last week, the Comptroller strangely decided to endorse direct shipping from out-of-state wineries but not from out-of-state retailers. This is anti-choice and anti-consumer.

In the Buffalo News, New York winery owner Susan Hayes urges state lawmakers to lift the prohibition on supermarket wine sales. A great piece.

The Wine Spectator details its most popular articles, tasting reports, blog postings, and videos of 2010.

At Wine Enthusiast, Alexis Korman visits Virginia wine country. On that note, I’m getting pretty psyched for the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville!

An Enjoyable Relic

Posted by | Posted in Wine History | Posted on 12-29-2010

There are a lot of cute sayings that lead one to believe time is kind to many a material item. While wine with some age on it can be an eye-opening experience, it can also be an extreme letdown. In order to broaden my palate and hopefully discover some bottles that fit in to the former category, this past summer I resolved to try some aged Bordeaux.

The first stone I overturned was the aged Bordeaux list on the website of my favorite Washington, DC retailer, Schneider’s. Among the three figure and up offerings of various first and second growths, I stumbled across a name I recognized and a price I couldn’t believe. It was a half-bottle of 1952 Chateau Gruaud Larose for $40!

I quickly got in touch with David White as he knows far more about Bordeaux than me. David confirmed that this was a very intriguing offering, and at the very least a gamble worth taking. Gruaud Larose is an estate situated in the southern-most part of the left-bank St. Julien appellation, which is sandwiched between Pauillac to the north and Margaux to the south. While St. Julien estates were shut out of the first-growth classification of 1855, the region boasts an impressive five second growths, including Gruaud Larose.

After a quick call to Schneider’s to check on the condition of the bottles (they had four, I believe), we arranged to purchase the bottle that was in the best shape. We picked up the bottle and let it “relax” for a couple days before pulling the cork on a Saturday afternoon at David’s.

The cork came out relatively easy. The color was a gorgeous light brown, and the wine offered initial hints of fruit that faded to a wonderful aroma of prunes and sweet toffee. We both remarked that, once the fruit faded, the nose could be mistaken for that of a tawny port. In the mouth, the wine was filled with smokiness and toast. Incredibly, there were tannins still present, as well as wonderfully complementary acidity. The finish was at least a minute long, giving up hints of the caramel and toffee present in the nose.

This was one of the most enjoyable glasses of wine I’ve ever had. It wasn’t the best wine, it wasn’t the best setting, and it certainly wasn’t the best company (kidding, David), but it was probably my most memorable experience drinking wine. I was entranced by the idea that this wine was in a bottle longer than my parents have been alive. This wine was a relic, as evidenced by what we read as we perused the label. We noticed that the wine was actually bottled in London as opposed to at the estate, which David informed me was a common practice at that time. While we didn’t purchase the remaining bottles at Schneider’s as we both had our limited budgets allocated to other finds, I will certainly seek out similar bargains in the future in the hopes that I have an experience that comes close to the ’52 Gruaud Larose.

I’d love to hear about your most memorable wine-drinking experience in the comments section!

Daily Wine News: Top Wine Stories

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-29-2010

The tower at Chateau Latour. Uploaded to flickr by BillBl.

Wine Enthusiast editor and publisher Adam Strum selects the top 10 wine stories of 2010. In response, Steve Heimoff asks his readers (over Facebook) to chime in with the the biggest California wine stories of the year.

Eric Renaud, the senior sommelier at Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, recently discovered a double magnum of 1947 Chateau Latour. The restaurant plans on putting it on the winelist for $30,000. Anyone looking for a dinner guest?

Next year, the Oklahoma legislature is expected to consider whether grocery stores should be allowed to sell wine and full-strength beer. Let’s hope they consider it — and let’s hope consumers win.

Americans consumed more wine than ever before in 2010 — and this was driven mostly by the nation’s largest wine brands.

Holiday Wine Musings

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-28-2010

1996 Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne
It’s cold on the east coast. Thankfully, I’ve now departed for a week and a half in warmer weather. To get me through my last night in New York I turned to a Hermitage. This time, one from Chapoutier that I paired with a pizza. This wine was totally different than the ’89 Jaboulet La Chapelle I drank recently, which is also from Hermitage. Unsurprisingly (and unfortunately), the La Sizeranne wasn’t in the same class as the La Chapelle. The La Chapelle coats your mouth with lush, full bodied syrah nectar, while the La Sizeranne is more ethereal, almost thin and monotone. The tannins in Chapoutier’s 1996 effort have now faded completely. There is not a ton of fruit remaining and the wine did not surprise with many secondary flavors or aromas. The nose in general was not particularly enchanting- this was in start contrast to Jaboulet’s ’89 wine. It was fine wine, just not truly special wine. I say drink it now if you have some in your cellar.

2009 Marcel Lapierre Morgon
This was awesome and one of the best values I’ve had in a long time. Morgon is in the Beaujolais  Lapierre is an incredible, small artisan producer who makes terroir driven wines from Gamay grapes.  And 2009 is the most heralded vintage in Beaujolais in years – buy these by the caseload, cellar them and enjoy Grand Cru Burgundy style wine in 10-20 years that you picked up for ~ $20 a bottle! I drank the ’09 Morgon out of a half bottle (you can get these for less than $15). Lapierre has bottled these in 375ml olive oil bottles – kind of cool. The wine is well balanced with great acidity. It’s light bodied but packs loads of intense fruit. It’s just delicious and downright quaffable. If we didn’t have to get home I would have ordered another bottle on the spot. As it turns out, I ordered 12 of the 375ml bottles on the Internet when I got home. Don’t wait – go out and buy yours now before they are gone.

2007 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel
Fruit forward, full bodied and pretty powerful is how I would describe Ridge’s 2007 Lytton Springs. A bit young for me and I think it will improve with age. In fact, the wine maker says to let it cellar for 10 years before drinking it so we were something like 8-10 years early in popping the cork on this one. But what is one to do when stuck at a restaurant where the oldest bottle on the list is from 2003? Shockingly, this was at Thomas Keller’s LA outpost – Bouchon. But the LA Bouchon feels like Thomas Keller trying to make money and not Thomas Keller trying to deliver mind-blowing food in a small setting. The restaurant is big, noisy and a bit sterile in my opinion. The French Bistro food is executed perfectly but at the end of the day it’s bistro grub. I don’t need to pay $15 for a frisee salad and $32 for roast chicken, and I certainly don’t want to eat them in a commercial, “be-seen” setting. These are simple dishes – even I’ve managed to make delicious versions in my little kitchen in New York. But I digress…anyways, save your Ridge Zins for some years. Quality wine, quality winery, just a little early to be drinking.

2003 Chateau Pradeaux Bandol
Wow. Run, don’t walk, to your iPad and buy this wine for your cellar. This was awesome. It’s nearly 100% Mouvedre from Bandol – the AOC that Tempier put on the map. It’s rugged and rustic. It’s backward, full bodied and coats your mouth with a delicious array of dark fruits. And the finish is long and beautiful; it’s still a bit tannic but that will fade as the wine ages. This is a wine to drink in the winter with hearty meals – think braised meets or stews. I drank it with roasted chicken (at Bouchon in LA) and it was still tasty. This wine will age for years and we certainly drank it too soon.  Still it was an awesome experience and it’s fine to pop a few of your bottles now as long as you decant them. I’ve got a bunch of the 2004 in my cellar and am going to stock up on some 2003′s now as well. At $30-$35 this is a steal.

Daily Wine News: Winemaker of the Year!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-28-2010

Uploaded to flickr by Andrew.

Jon Bonné announces the San Francisco Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year. The honor goes to Ted Lemon of Littorai wines, “for crafting what  are among the purest, most long-lasting expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the New World.”

At the Atlantic, Clay Risen looks at microdistillers — and praises companies like Jim Bean. His conclusion? “For now, we should appreciate [microdistillers] the way we would a rock band just emerging from its bassist’s garage: full of promise and passion, but with a long way to go before they make a hit.

Steve Heimoff reminds us that it’s silly to stress about food and wine pairings. Just enjoy the wine!

China cracks down on counterfeit wine — and some of it is dangerous. Think any has made it to the States?

Daily Wine News: Live Longer

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-27-2010

Uploaded to flickr by vxla.

More evidence suggests that women who drink regularly live longer. Sweet!

Could San Mateo County be the next great wine-growing region? The San Francisco Examiner investigates.

Tilar Mazzeo, an English professor at Colby College and a well-known wine lover/critic, has a new book out on the history of Chanel No. 5. An interesting interview in the Wall Street Journal.

New Year’s is just around the corner. Jon Bonné suggests ten more great champagnes. Speaking of Champagne, wine blogger BrooklynGuy offers his favorite Champagnes for less than $50.

Christmas Open Thread

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist | Posted on 12-25-2010

Uploaded to flickr by TenSafeFrogs.

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

To me, Christmas has always seemed a bit less confusing than other holidays for the at-home sommelier. Unlike Thanksgiving, where you sit down to ten courses and 10,000 calories all at once, it’s a great day to spread the drinking around — Champagne in the early afternoon, maybe a nice white wine or light red after that, and then a couple of big reds with dinner (especially if, like me, you’re sitting down to a standing rib roast).

So what’s on your holiday menu this year? An aged Bordeaux? A 2008 Napa Cab? Maybe something from Israel’s “Grapes of Galilee” winery?

Let us know in the comments!

Recent Uncorkings: Ditka!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 12-24-2010

Uploaded to flickr by Wallula JunctionNow that we’ve settled in a bit here at Terroirist, I figured I’d share some of my recent tasting notes. Hopefully this starts a trend among the Terroirists and you can read about what each of us is drinking on a regular basis.

And no, I’m not using the 100-point scale, although my notes should make it clear whether I enjoyed the wine.

2006 Domaine de la Janasse Cotes du Rhone Villages Terre d’Argile – Dark purple color, nose of dark fruits and spices. Dark berry fruits on the palate with that spiciness you look for in CdRs. Great balance of fruit on the front palate with leather and spice at the finish. Great QPR for under $20.

2003 Pax Syrah Walker Vine Hill – Deep magenta color, nose of dark berries and some chocolate. Dark fruit on the front palate, but lacking some secondary characteristics. There’s lots of acid present, and that’s a good thing as it keeps this from being a fruit bomb. Extremely smooth, if not terribly long, finish. Fully resolved tannins so I don’t see this getting any better, although it should be fine for a few more years. Very solid effort.

2007 Callemattoni Rosso di Montalcino – Very terroir-driven nose, with hints of berries and plenty of funk. The wine is light in the mouth with somewhat muted red fruits and plenty of acid and tannins, although it’s not unbalanced. The finish is rather short. Enjoyable. Shout-out to my mom for bringing this back from Italy (not sure of its availability in the States).

2004 Mike Ditka Cabernet Sauvignon – Nose of sweet red fruits and nice hints of vanilla. Perfectly integrated dark red fruits with a fantastic, creamy, very smooth finish. In a perfect place to drink now. Medium length finish. More of a classic Napa cab than it is a bruiser (ironic since it comes from Iron Mike), this wine delivers great value for under $20.

It’s a pity I didn’t drink the Ditka cab with fellow Terroirist, and my equal when it comes to being a raging Chicago Bears fan, Robby Schrum. I bought and have been holding this wine more as a novelty than anything else. I cracked it during a recent Bears game and was shocked at how nice it was.

What have you enjoyed lately?