Easy Summer Sippers from Tariquet

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-31-2012

The hot humid days of August demand healthy pours of summer whites. At a recent dinner at sd26 in NYC, I had the opportunity to taste a few refreshing wines that fit the bill — at a refreshing price, too.

The dinner and tasting celebrated the 100th anniversary of Domaine du Tariquet, an estate in Gascony, Southwest France led by fifth generation and soft-spoken winemaker, Armin Grassa. Armin explained, Tariquet’s wines are all about “freshness and fruitness.” Tariquet makes all white and rosé wines (no reds), in addition to Armagnac. Three wines* stood out as affordable and quenching favorites I’d be happy to drink again.

The first was 2011 Domaine du Tariquet Sauvignon, which was a pure, bright expression of Sauvignon Blanc and had simple grapefruit, lemon, and mineral nuances. Easy and straightforward. (SRP: $10.99)

I also enjoyed the 2011 Domainue du Tariquet Chardonnay. The Chardonnay undergoes 1/3 of its maturation in oak barrels, which lends mellow buttery characteristics. The dominant flavor profile is spicy and tropical. Again, a simple summer back porch-sipping wine. (SRP: $11.99)

Finally, the 2011 Domaine du Tariquet Rosé de Pressee, a deep pink wine bursting with ripe strawberry on the nose and some white pepper spice on the palate. Juicy at first, then a short finish. (SRP: $10.99) As regular readers might remember, David White reviewed the Tariquet Rosé last month.

*Tariquet also makes some funkier/more innovative white wines, including a Chenin-Chardonnay and a Chardonnay-Sauvignon Blanc blend.

Daily Wine News: Scouting Report

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-31-2012

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné writes “a midseason scouting report of relatively new, compelling projects from up and down California.”

“Like an understudy who suddenly gets to take the stage, the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune and Hautes-Côtes de Nuits first showed themselves off in 2003.” In Newsweek, Alice Feiring writes about the new (and deserved) attention being paid to Burgundy’s Hautes-Côtes region.

According to Eric Asimov, “the time is right for anybody curious about Lambrusco.”

From Alder Yarrow, “The Life and Wines of Jacques Lardiere,” who has been the winemaker at Maison Louis Jadot for 42 years.

“The raw ingredients could hardly have more personality.” In Empordà, according to Jancis Robinson, the wine industry is getting it’s “act together.”

Consumers should embrace Negroamaro, a wine from Puglia, the sunny heel of the Italian ‘boot,’ because it fills a void.” So contends Michael Apstein in WineReviewOnline.

“As we were walking through the vineyard, Corison told me she likes to play with power and elegance in her wines.” In Colorado Wine Press, Kyle Schlachter writes about a visit with Cathy Corison.

“‘Building something from scratch is invaluable,’ says the young vintner. ‘My dream is to build small wineries in different parts of China each with its own identity, and import vines like Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Riesling.’” In the Wall Street Journal Asia, a profile of Judy Leissner, the 34-year-old president and CEO of China’s Grace Vineyard.

“Niche funds that invest in art, wine, musical instruments and even classic cars” are becoming more popular.

On Friday, Constellation Brands “delivered some record-breaking financial news to shareholders.”

The Pacalet Lottery

Posted by | Posted in Grape Adventures, Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-30-2012

Philippe Pacalet

A couple of years ago, a friend introduced me to one of Philippe Pacalet’s wines, bringing his 2006 Pommard to a large wine dinner — one of those events with a dozen people and numerous bottles moving rapidly around the table.

In between some outstanding Rieslings from Austria and Germany, and various Bordeaux and Rhones, Pacalet’s ’06 Pommard stood out as one of the most thrilling young Burgundies I’d encountered in some time. I was struck by its wonderfully complex and perfumed fragrance, and the combination of pure red fruit and various savory, non-fruited flavors, all conveyed with a lightness of touch that I always look for in Burgundy but don’t find often enough.

A few months later, I encountered another of Pacalet’s wines at a dinner; the same vintage, a different village (the details escape me now), and a very different wine altogether. This time it had a cloudy, murky appearance and lacked balance, coming across thin and sour with raspy, unpleasant acidity. The wine was barely drinkable; the fruit sour and finishing bitter and the acidity giving it an awkward spritzy sensation on the tongue.

Pacalet’s wines can be incredibly frustrating. Occasionally, they can be downright undrinkable. I’ve come across other bottles that showed the same shrillness and sourness, and heard of a few instances where the wine refermented in bottle or oxidized remarkably quickly. I’d attribute some of these issues to his “natural” winemaking approach, which is largely hands-off, involving minimal use of sulfur and that too, added only at bottling.

There’s a distinctive house style consistent across all the wines, yet there can be tremendous variance from one bottle to the next of a particular wine. It’s become something of a cliché to talk about how Burgundy can be a gamble to explore, but there are times when each wine from Pacalet can seem like a roll of the dice. The wines are usually light bodied, pale in color and often slightly cloudy from a lack of fining and filtering. They can be challenging and frustrating occasionally, but good bottles are incredibly fragrant with flavors that run more towards fresh red fruits and berries, occasionally showing some citrus-like elements with higher-toned herbal or floral accents.

And when the wines are “on,” they can be truly thrilling; constantly changing and developing with air, and conveying their flavors with a remarkable sense of purity and finesse. Below the fold are tasting notes from various bottles that I’ve encountered over the last few months.

Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Enough is Enough

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-30-2012

“Enough is enough. Stop being petty. It’s time, after two previous failures, to do the right thing and elect Robert Parker to the Vintners Hall of Fame.” So contends Jeff Siegel. I agree.

“According to British wine merchant Bibendum, which was tasked by the International Olympic Committee with creating a bespoke Olympic wine, the brief was to produce three wines that “complemented the Olympic ideals, offered consumers something new and interesting, while being low enough in alcohol to promote responsible drinking.” In the Wall Street Journal Europe, Will Lyons writes about the Olympic wines.

In the Wall Street Journal, Lettie Teague profiles Tim Finch of Manhattan’s K&D WinesElsewhere, Teague offers some advice on how to select wines for a host when staying as a houseguest.

“The language of wine is complicated — and it gets worse when a wine has an aroma that some people love and others detest.” In the Napa Valley Register, Dan Berger defends “The (often vague) language of wine.”

Alana Gentry (aka Girl With a Glass) explains why “Why Wine Barrels Matter.”

In the Los Angeles Times, S. Irene Virbila reviews “A Carafe of Red,” the recently released collection of essays by Gerald Asher.

On Decanter.com, Panos Kakaviatos reports that “Burgundy is heading for a small harvest due to the challenging summer weather.”

Howard Goldberg praises the release of Lenz Winery’s 2008 Gewürztraminer.

Atlantic writer Jen Doll has had it with “The Terrible Age of the Celebrity Pinot Grigio.”

Weekly Interview: Guillaume Michel

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 07-27-2012

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Guillaume Michel, the winemaker at Domaine Louis-Michel & Fils in Chablis.

The Michel family has been making wine in Chablis since 1850, but it wasn’t always clear that Guillaume would join the family business. After graduating from university with a degree in economics, Guillaume lived in Paris for seven years, working at an advertising agency.

He then realized, though, that his true passion was wine. So he began studying viticulture and oenology, and returned to Chablis in 2007. Today, Guillaume runs all aspects of the winery.

Enormous thanks to VinConnect — the new company that enables U.S. consumers to order wines directly from overseas producers like Domaine Louis Michel — for facilitating this interview. As regular readers know, we wrote a feature on VinConnect back in February.

Check out our interview with Guillaume below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Sheeps & Wine!

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-27-2012

At Shannon Ridge Winery, reports W. Blake Gray, farm workers have been replaced by sheep!

In France, an American couple that purchased some vineyards near Uzès has renovated “an old van to use for wine-tastings at local markets.” In Epicurious, Joanne Camas chats with the couple.

Jameson Fink immerses himself in Washington Merlot.

IntoWine catches up with Joe Roberts, aka 1WineDude. It’s a fantastic interview.

Meanwhile, in Joe’s latest Playboy.com article, he offers some tips on navigating a wine list (with an assist from Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer).

On the blog for JJ Buckley, Chuck Hayward previews the 2011 Napa Vintage with a glance back at the days when California wineries sold futures.

Richard Jennings writes his second post about his recent visit to Rioja.

On Wine Terroirs, Bertrand Celce explores what you end up with when you purchase cheap supermarket rosé in France. (H/T: Eric Asimov.)

In a nice change, Steve Heimoff writes about wine! In the post, he details his 5 top-scoring wines from three popular varieties over the past several months, and finds commonalities.

Lily-Elaine Hawk prepares for IPNC with visits to Sun Chase and Gap’s Crown Vineyards in California and The Eyrie Vineyards.

The drinks business puts together a list of “the top 10 cures for alcohol induced pains.”

Serving 4 million guests from around the globe? WineSpectator has the scoop on what’s being served at the London Olympics.

2007 Oregon Pinot: The Ugly Duckling?

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-26-2012

For just about 170 years, we have had Hans Christian Anderson’s Ugly Duckling. We’re all familiar with the tale: A tiny, unattractive duck is regularly mistreated by those around him — until he one day matures into a beautiful swan.

While the 2007 vintage for Oregon Pinot Noir isn’t quite a beautiful swan, it too suffered from ridicule in its youth — and was widely considered a disaster. When released, critics from almost every major publication panned the wines, as did many drinkers on message boards. Today, though, it’s obvious that the vintage has resulted in some exceptional wines, especially for those who prefer more feminine Pinots.

So in many ways, Oregon’s 2007 vintage parallels the story of the Ugly Duckling.

The vintage conditions were far from ideal. It started cool and dry. And while the weather never warmed, the rain came in buckets — ultimately, the vintage was affected by significant late-September and early-October rains. While rain in Oregon is a fact of life, especially later in the season, the rains made picking decisions especially challenging.

It also presented a quandary for many winemakers. Deciding whether to pick early — and risk green flavors — or wait out the rains and hope for ripeness was an impossible decision. Many producers who I’ve spoken with told me how difficult they found this decision. And from my tastings, I’ve concluded that the producers who have been around the longest performed the best.

The overall quality of the vintage has been discussed for quite some time. (This long-running, tongue-in-cheek thread on WineBerserkers is worth checking out.)

In tasting nearly 100 Oregon Pinots from the 2007 vintage (from about 60 producers), I have found that the wines are in a great spot. They certainly provide a different experience than most domestic Pinots, but if your palate favors more elegant, lighter wines, then it’s hard to go wrong.

Many offer tremendous values, as many retailers who still have 2007 Oregon Pinots on their shelves are dropping prices dramatically.

As for whether the wines will age, it’s impossible to say. In recent months, I’ve found that the wines continue to improve — but they’re certainly drinking well right now. History does suggest that these wines could surprise people with their aging — as they’re certainly surprising people now.

Below are tasting notes from 10 of my top rated 2007 Oregon Pinot Noirs. All my 2007 Oregon Pinot Noir tasting notes can be read here. Please note that my tasting opportunities have come through my own dollar, trade tastings, and one giant tasting at Patricia Green Cellars in early August of 2011 that included several Wine Berserkers. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Australia’s Pain

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-26-2012

Australia’s wine industry is suffering. As Caroline Henshaw reports in the Wall Street Journal, “Australia’s wine industry is turning sour as the strong local currency and a glut of grapes have driven export profits to a decade-low.”

For Dave McIntyre, “wine is exciting because of its diversity.” As he explains in the Washington Post, he “[feels] the anticipation of exploration with every pop of a cork or twist of a screw cap,” and that’s why he’s so excited about Italy, which has “the greatest varietal variety of any country.”

Is it possible to explore terroir in Sherry? The BrooklynGuy gives it a try by analyzing Macharnudo Alto.

In Garden & Gun, a great profile of Julian P. Van Winkle III, the third-generation whiskey man at Pappy Van Winkle.

“Wine is one of dining’s, and life’s, great pleasures. Yet it can seem anything but when an esoteric or pretentious list leaves you stumped over what to order.” So shouts New York Post food critic Steve Cuozzo in a rant about wine lists that leave him “stumped.” Tyler Colman solicits advice on how to help Cuozzo avoid confusion.

In New York Cork Report, Evan Dawson writes about Bloomer Creek Vineyard, “The Cult Winery of the Finger Lakes [that] Continues to Take Chances.”

“Winning a Bronze Medal for your high-end Zinfandel is like getting 98 points from Wine and Spirits — no one cares.” The HoseMaster writes about wine competitions.

According to Tim Fish, “Cline Cellars consistently offers good quality at a fair price.”

In the Contra Costa Times, Laurie Daniel writes about Stony Hill’s decision to make its first ever red wine.

In the drinks business, Patrick Schmitt writes about the “increasingly forceful and organized voice in opposition to booze.”

Ferrari: Racy, Stylish, Classic

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 07-25-2012

No, the title does not refer to a car.* It refers to the best sparkling wine you’ve probably never heard of.

Vintage posters courtesy of Weimax Wines & Spirits

Matteo Bruno Lunelli is on a mission. The charismatic Chairman of Ferrari Metodo Classico wants us to know that Italian sparkling wine is not limited to Prosecco, the ubiquitous dry sparkler that makes a mean mimosa, or Asti Spumante, the syrupy-sweet fizzy Moscato that you may have stolen from your parents’ cabinet in high school.

In fact, Italy makes some world-class sparkling wine, utilizing the same process and grapes as the Champenois.

Lunelli’s company has been producing such wine – with great success – for over 100 years. It is known as “the toast of Italy,” having been served at the President’s house, to celebrate the country’s anniversary, and its soccer World Cup victory, among many other celebrations.

So then why haven’t I had it before this week? (And why are there only 400 or so bottles currently logged in CellarTracker?)

That’s the question that brought me to Ristorante Tosca, the chic Italian dining spot in downtown Washington, D.C., on a hot July afternoon, to dine with Lunelli and several other wine journalists and professionals. Lunelli was in town to meet the new Italian Ambassador to the United States and for an event with the Congressional Wine Caucus. In between these higher-profile engagements, Lunelli is trying to teach Americans what Italians have long known: that an Alpine province that was part of Austria until the last century happens to be one the world’s best spots for growing Chardonnay for sparkling wine. Read the rest of this entry »

Daily Wine News: Praising Parker

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 07-25-2012

The Wine Blog Awards made an error in the “Best New Wine Blog,” so is asking everyone to re-vote in this category (only).

W. Blake Gray writes a fantastic piece praising Robert Parker.

“I want wine that excites me, that feels so good to drink that one sip urges on the next and the next after that. I want a wine that tells a story of a place and a people and a culture.” According to Eric Asimov, one can find countless bottles like that for right around $20.

From Wine Spectator, some great news for pregnant wine geeks: “Five comprehensive studies coordinated by Aarhus University in Denmark have found no evidence of adverse effects from low and moderate alcohol consumption by women during pregnancy.”

Mike Veseth praises the new format of Decanter’s Buying Guide – but has one more idea that’ll take wine criticism to a whole new level.

“In the quest to find a wine that no one will find objectionable, we end up with a wine that no one will find exceptional.” That’s why, according to Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines, “most wine is mediocre.”

On Decanter.com, Adam Lechmere reports: “By the end of this year, Champagne sales in the UK will have fallen by a third since the start of the recession, according to the latest figures.

Tyler Colman highlights the new effort by Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group to host wine auctions – on twitter – for bottles that must be enjoyed at db Bistro Moderne.

UC Davis is now home to the most cutting-edge research winery in the world.

At London’s Playboy Club, a clumsy customer recently shattered a $77,615 bottle of 224-year-old cognac.