Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Value Priced Burgundy - an Update

Trying to identify my favorite under $25 Pinots has been an interesting exercise for me. Not because I've tried so many new Pinots from all over the world, and certainly not because I've discovered that there are loads of wonderful under $25 Pinots out there. Interesting because it has helped me to step back and examine things a bit, to clarify for me the way I want to spend my money when I buy wine.

I've been on a serious Burgundy kick for almost 6 months now, since before BrooklynLady and visited the region. According to my records in Cellar Tracker, Burgundy accounts for upwards of 25% of my wine consumption in 2007 (I'm not getting into actual numbers, because I don't want you to think that I'm some sort of booze-soaked sot, or something). I read more about Burgundy and Pinot Noir than about anything else that is wine-related.

So why, when I decided to research and report on Pinots that cost less than $25, did I all of the sudden take a little break from Pinot, and re-discover my passion for the reds (and whites) of the Loire Valley? I've been pondering this question for about a week now, and here is what I think:

43% of my cellar is Pinot Noir - 14% Burgundy and 29% Oregon. And of all of those bottles, only one wine retails for $25 and under. So I would have to purchase a lot of wine in order to do this project, and I think I realized that it is wine I might not really want. Why not? I have tried my share of Pinot at this pricepoint and I'm just not so impressed. I get less pleasure from them than I do from a $15 Loire red, for example. There are exceptions of course, and I hope to identify them here for us to share.

My point is, I try to get the biggest bang for my buck whenever I buy wine, and if I'm going to spend $25 on a bottle of red wine, I can get a top of the line beautiful Loire red, a ridiculous Beaujolais, or a bevy of Rhone or Languedoc Roussillon wines that I have yet to explore. Or I could buy Pinot Noir, but there are only a few examples I know of $25 Pinot that provide sufficient bang.

But here they are, the wines that we should be able to find right now on retail shelves (and I will indicate where I bought mine), my absolute favorite under $25 Pinots:

2005 Paul Pernot Beaune Clos du Dessus des Marconnets, $22 (Garnet, Chambers Street says they will carry it soon). This is simply a wonderful village wine, perfect for drinking now, and it will develop some complexity with maturity. It has the depth of aroma and flavor, the elegance, the richness, and the power of Burgundy wines that command far higher prices. I liked it enough to buy a whole case, and I very rarely do that.

2004 Domaine Joseph Voillot Bourgogne Vieilee Vignes, $21 (Chambers Street, but they're sold out now, but Burgundy Wine Company and Crush both have stock, but at a higher price). A flat-out delicious regional wine with bright red and dark fruit, good balancing acidity, and some complex earthy flavors with time in the glass. This wine is yummy, but to my tastes, it is not of the same quality as the Pernot wine.

These wines are not new to you if you read this blog, as I have written about both of them before. "So that's it?" You ask, "only those two wines? I read 7 paragraphs for two wines recommendations, that he already wrote about?!?" Well, there are others, but you can't buy them now - they are older vintages, and sold out. Like the wonderful $14 2002 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir. I snapped up six bottles of that lovely little wine, but it's long gone now.

You can buy wine on the secondary market, and like Deetrane, you'll get some good deals that way. I'm only talking about retail here. In order for this to be worthwhile, you would have to be able to buy the wine also, right?

So here is what I propose to do: I will use a new label in posting called "Value Priced Pinot" any time I find a $25 and under Pinot that is worth seeking out. I can safely say that I prefer Burgundy to Oregon in the $25 and under range, for what it's worth. I expect the 2005 vintage in Burgundy to offer some amazing regional and village wines.
I will also try to mention those wines that I've tasted and not been impressed by, in an effort to round out the picture. As a rule I write about only the wines that I like, so this will be a departure, but let's see how it goes... And in that vein, here are two under $25 Pinots that did not impress enough to recommend:

2004 Domaine Jacky Truchot Bourgogne, $24 (Chambers Street).
Light rose petal color, with nice high toned smells of red fruit, a bit of leather. The palate does not measure up to the nose, and the wine did not develop well in the glass over a few hours. Overnight - washout. Almost undrinkable the next day.

2004 Domaine Ghislaine Barthod Bourgogne Les Bons Batons, $26 (Chambers Street - okay, it's a buck more than I'm what). One of the strangest experiences with wine I have had in recent times - this wine pulled a Jeckyll and Hyde act...twice! Dark ruby, initially smelled of cedar, tasted primarily of unripe tannins. But 15 minutes later, red fruit, some barnyard, and earthy smells came through - nice. Smooth texture, nice balance of fruit and earth. But wait, there's more - another half hour, dinner's ready, and the wine is again a big bag of cedar chips. We left half the bottle in the fridge, so I'll check later and see what's up.

Monday, February 26, 2007

2004 St Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard

Completely rocks!

You may already be familiar with St Innocent, wine maker Mark Vlossak's wonderful winery in Salem, Oregon - the Willamette Valley. If you haven't tried his wines, and if you like wine, I suggest you do try them. Mark makes several Pinots each year, beginning with a young drinking, under $20, grapes-from-several-vineyards wine called Villages Cuvee, to single vineyard wines from some of the finest sites in Oregon. His Seven Springs and Shea wines are extra special in my book, although White Rose is certainly amazing too. They are all good, in fact, there is nothing I like better coming out of Oregon. And most of the single vineyard wines clock in at around $35, which is a good value for the quality of the wine.

It's not easy to find St Innocent wines sitting on the shelves of your local wine shoppe. I have ordered direct from the winery and that's probably easiest, but doesn't make sense unless you order at least 6 bottles because of shipping costs. There are a few area stores that sometimes have bottles, like Burgundy Wine Company on west 26th street in Manhattan. I saw both the 04 Shea and the 04 Seven Springs there this year. Prices are a bit excessive at that store, but whaddaya gonna do...and Prospect Wine Shop in Brooklyn usually gets a smallish allocation of Shea and White Rose, and the markup is not as bad. Why don't they get the Seven Springs too, sniff?

Anyway, why would I open one of the only bottles I have of the highly touted 2004 St Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard, at this early date in its life? Why cut short such a glorious flavor and aroma career, gulping it down before it can even reach adolescence, never mind maturity?

Because sometimes you just have to check out your wine.

2004 St Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard, $35.
Dark but completely transparent purple. Really intense nose of dark blue fruit, earth, and flowers. Such a lovely nose, I sat and smelled for a while and was happy. Then I realized I hadn't even tasted yet...sweet sappy dark fruit followed by a bit of pine and earth. With a bit of time, some floral notes too, even some cocoa? This wine is elegant and perfumed, balanced and bright, but so well structured and potent. Seems like it will do really well with some time to mature. It will be a serious challenge to leave my remaining bottles alone for a few years, never mind the 8 or so that it will take for everything to integrate seamlessly, and for the secondary aromas and flavors to come out and play. I need to remind myself to just buy more of this stuff when it's released.

Here are the wine maker's notes, if you're interested to read what Mark has to say about the wine.

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Tasting of Young Loire Reds

BrooklynLady and BrooklynBaby, a few good friends, a little something tasty to eat, 6 bottles of wine, young red wine from the Loire cannot really do much better than that on a Thursday night, or any night, I daresay.

There are many appellations in the Loire Valley and several grapes are used to make red wine. My beloved Pinot Noir is the one in little known Menetou-Salon, which has generated more attention for its whites made from Sauvignon Blanc than it has for reds. They use Malbec, Gamay, and even Cabernet Sauvignon in Muscadet, Anjou, and Saumur. But the dominant red grape in the Loire Valley, the grape that is used to craft the finest of its red wines is Cabernet Franc, known there as Breton.

With age these wines can be quite complex, offering tobacco, flora and earthy flavors, dark fruits, and herbal qualities, and a strong mineral presence - think graphite. The top cuvees crafted by the stronger producers can compete favorably with wines from the right bank of Bordeaux, those that rely heavily on Cabernet Franc. And at a fraction of the price.

When young the wines are all about green hills, flowing rivers, and picnic lunches - pure pleasure. They are rich and juicy with lighter raspberry and darker plummy flavors. But they are more complex too - they can be funky with barnyard and leather, and positively herbal and vegetal, but in a good way. Usually kind of grippy with astringent tannins. These wines can be slightly chilled and paired with most any food to great effect. That's probably why every cafe and bistro in Paris lists one or more of them on the menu.

Last night our crew tasted five young wines and one moderately mature impostor from Chinon, Bourgueil, and Saumur-Champigny, the strongest red wine appellations in the Loire Valley. We tasted only four of these wines blind (with kids, you sometimes get there later than you mean to, and your wine isn't bagged in time). We were all pretty impressed with the overall quality of the wine, and the scoring at the end reflected the fact that each was well received - three of the four wines tasted blind received first place votes. Several of us were struck by the intense vegetal character of some of the wines - so odd and different from anything else out there. And yet, so enjoyable.

The one thing we all agreed on was that Deetrane's impostor simply walked away with the tasting. But that's because Deetrane cheated. He brought a wine from the 2000 vintage,a bit more mature than the others, and a top cuvee at that, unlike the "entry level" wines from the other producers in our tasting.

For our purposes, a 1st place vote is worth five points, a 2nd place vote is worth three points, and a third place vote is worth one point. Two of our tasters did not participate in the voting, as they had to devote some attention to squalling babies. Here are the wines tasted blind, and some notes:

2003 Domaine du Colombier Chinon Vieille Vignes, $17.
Ruby colored with pink rims. Lovely nose of strawberry and raspberry with complex floral and vegetal notes. A lighter nose than the others, more elegant. Palate is not as strong as the nose, a little bit disjointed, but delicious with red fruit and grippy tannins, some flowers. Adam, who brought this wine, the winning wine, wrote "spicy green pepper nose with some alcohol -- excellent!" in his notes. This wine got two 1st place votes (one of which was mine), a 2nd and a 3rd, for a total of 14 points. Interesting too, because 2003 was a very tough year, much hotter than usual, and many producers made baked and jammy wine. Not this one though...

2005 Chateau de Hureau Saumur-Champigny, $13.
Dark Garnet color with clear rims. A reserved nose, not giving much at all, even after an hour open. But a smooth textured palate of cherries and cocoa, silky spices, and plums. Very nice indeed. Other notes included "well rounded, light, leather, cooked fruit, and bitter finish." This wine got one 1st place vote, two 2nd place votes, and one 3rd place vote for a total of 12 points. This wine is clearly a $15 beauty.

2005 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges, $15. One of my favorite Loire producers, ever since we visited the Domaine a few years ago. Check out the Wine Doctor's profile of Baudry here. This is Baudry's entry level wine. I was really looking forward to this wine, as '05 was a great year in the Loire and Baudry is such a great producer, but as Amy, the manager of Prospect Wine Shop warned me beforehand, the wine is not yet really ready to drink. Green pepper nose, vegetal. Grippy tannins, some leather, reserved bright red fruits. Has potential because the individual flavors are quite nice, but they are all out of whack right now. Other notes include "weedy, excellent blackberry taste, chalky, and balanced acidity."I will taste this again in a few months. This scored a 1st place vote, two 2nd places, and a 3rd place vote for a total of 12 points.

2005 Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Bourgueil, $13.
This wine was clearly the least preferred of the wines tasted blind. My notes say Dark garnet color, herbal nose with alcohol, not much fruit. Smooth texture, plums and spices, herbal finish. Other notes include "Not that wine (when BrooklynLady was asked for her favorite), raisins and prunes, short ribs (!), and mild berries." This wine scored but one 3rd place vote for a whopping total of 1 point.

We also tasted the 2004 Domaine de Pallus Chinon, $19. This is a new producer in the Loire Valley, I believe, and the wine was certainly different. Downright odd aromas of vegetables and some smoky wood. I found the nose to be off-putting. But the palate was quite nice, with bright and sweet red fruits and fine, grippy tannins. Not my favorite style, but I might have to give it another shot, although for $19, there seem to be better values in this class of wine. Amy at Prospect Wine Shop believes in this wine though, and she knows her Loire reds, so maybe she'll throw in a comment that can add to our understanding...

Deetrane's impostor was the 2000 Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny La Marginale, $36 (but he paid $12 on the secondary market, as he is known to do). I wrote about this wine before, and I am a big believer in Roches Neuves. Thierry German, the vigneron, makes three cuvees, Marginale is the top. I loved his 2005 Saumur-Champigny ($15), and the 2004 Terres Chaud ($20) was great too. I strongly recommend these wines if you're interested in dipping your toe into the Loire red pond.

The 2000 Marginale showed much better this time than before. It had a wonderful nose of sweet and brambly black fruit, and a little bit of tobacco. Well balanced and smooth, with sweet fruit and earthy undertones, stong minerality too. Still quite grippy on the finish, it seems as if the wine, contrary to my previous assessment, might continue to improve with some cellar time.

So that's it, our partially blind tasting of young Loire reds. C'mon in folks - the water is warm! The Loire is waiting for you...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Adventures in Wine Buying

This is the first guestpost by the honorable Deetrane, wine lover and pal extraordinaire:

I am honored to be a guest blogger here on the Brooklynguy blog. I will do my best to be a worthy Ed McMahon to Neil’s Johnny Carson.

Today I’m going to talk about how I buy wine. In my view, the less you pay for the wine, the better it tastes! Especially if it’s really high-end stuff. So what I try to do, ideally, is this:

- Buy pretty much only at auction (e.g.

- Spend no more than $25 a bottle

- Stick to the better vintages

- Stick to regions and varietals that I know I like, even if I don’t know the producer

When buying at auction, the key is not to get into a bidding war. There will always be another lot, so put in your maximum bid, and then go do something else. I also go after stuff that others seem to be avoiding, and I will sometimes buy in bulk.

There is certainly a down side to this strategy (like when you find out you just bought a case of wine that really sucks). But if you have decent knowledge of the better vintages in different regions, and you do a little research (I depend a lot on CellarTracker and WineZap), you can avoid winding up with a case of really terrible wine.

This obsession with finding steals (no pun intended – read on) can lead to some very interesting experiences, including brushes with criminals and law enforcement. Like last summer, when it occurred to me to look for wine on Craig’s List. Sure enough, a simple search for a few common appellations turned up the following post:

!!!2000-2001 Brunello, Barolo, Super Tuscan - $20-$20!!!

Hmmm. Whoever posted that had me right in their crosshairs. Right regions, right price, and two of the best recent vintages. I inquired, and a guy named Konstantin sent back a laundry list of ultra exclusive top Italian bottlings, such as 2001 Argiolas Turriga Isola Dei Nuraghi, 2001 Braida Barbera D’ asti 2001 Ai Suma, 2001 Colpetrone Montefalco Sagrantino, and countless Barolo’s, Barbaresco’s and Brunellos. I’d never tasted any of these wines, but some quick research on WineZap showed the average retail price for any of these bottles was about $60. I told him I’d take 3 bottles of the 2000 Marziano Abbona Barolo Pressenda, for $65.

The next day I met a tall, charming Russian guy named Konstantin on a street corner. The wine was in impeccable condition, still cool from being in a cellar. So the day after that, I called him up and bought all his Barbera’s! A few days later, Konstantin e-mailed to tell me about the other insane deals he could offer. Over the next 4 weeks, I continued to receive one or two e-mails a week from this guy, and met him 3 or 4 more times, each time purchasing 3-5 bottles for $20-$30 each. These meetings were very jovial, and we would chat amicably as he removed the wine bottles from his duffel bag. At one point he told me that he worked as a “wine rep”.

About five weeks after my first rendezvous with Konstantin, my buddy Kevin invited me to a restaurant called Esca in Manhattan, where he knew the sommelier. Esca is one of the exalted NYC restaurants co-owned by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, which include Babbo, Lupa, del Posto and the best (albeit way to $$$ for me) Italian wine store on the planet, Italian Wine Merchants. I’d been to Babbo once, and let’s just say that I spent the next six months obsessing over the Babbo cookbook and re-creating his melt-in-your mouth tripe alla parmigiana (until I noticed I was the only one eating it). I had also recently read the New Yorker’s in-depth profile of Dave Pasternak, Esca’s Bay Ridge-born chef and co-owner with Batali and Bastianich.

The second I entered the restaurant I was drawn to the ginormous wall of Italian wine along the back wall. I started taking stock of all of the wines Esca had that I myself had recently purchased for a song, courtesy of Konstantin and Craig’s List. I congratulated myself on my impeccable good taste!

Kevin’s friend the sommelier, who we’ll call “Frank” to protect the innocent, seated us, set down the wine list, and poured us a stunning glass of Soave (which until then had always associated with the supermarket jug variety). I disappeared into the wine list. I quickly noticed that not one or two, but ALL of the wines I had either purchased from Konstantin or been offered by him were right there on Esca’s list! They also happened to be the most expensive ones. Even I knew this couldn’t be a coincidence. I asked Frank if he purchased all of Esca’s wine from one wine rep.

“No way,” he replied. “I source it all myself. I don’t get more than one or two wines from the same importer. It’s taken me three years to develop this list.”

I suspected as much. This wine list is a form of Esca’s DNA. Try finding any another one like it anywhere. I felt a bead of sweat forming on my forehead.

“Kevin,” I whispered. “I’ve been buying Italian wine from a guy on Craig’s list.”


“Every single bottle is on this wine list!”

“So what?”

“Frank just said that he put this list together from scratch, and gets it from all over the place. Plus, I’ve been making the wine buys on a corner one block away from here! Something is definitely wrong. The wine has to be coming from this restaurant!”

“Should we tell Frank?” Kevin asked.

We really should, I thought. Although he was leaving the restaurant in a week, it was the right thing to do. He’s the wine buyer, and at the very least he’d be curious. When Frank returned to the table with a quartino of Friuli (another revelation), I started to explain that I had purchased many of the same wines on his list at very low prices directly from a wine rep whom I’d met on Craig’s List. When I told Frank how much I was paying, he was dismissive.

“Those bottles are hot, they’re stolen. My cost is at least double that.”

Aw, crap. At that moment I realized that my good fortune was about to end. It was over.

The wines had to be coming from Esca, and we had to tell Frank. The wines were simply too unique and diverse – there was no way that Esca’s wine list could have all of the same wines on them, not to mention that they were all among the most expensive. I couldn’t NOT say something. Frank was Kevin’s friend, and he would be the one to get in trouble. Plus, the spectre of Mario Batali loomed large – he was my hero!

Kevin called Frank back over and I pointed out each wine that I had bought, and for how much. Frank asked me to describe the person I was buying from. I described him as a tall Russian with a shaved head. Howard’s eyes narrowed and he looked straight at me. Speaking in an eerie staccato, as if he knew what was coming, he asked in a rising voice,

“What. Was. His. NAME?”

When I said “Konstantin”, Frank’s face went white with shock and I thought he was going to explode.

“HOLY @*&%! He’s the other manager here!”

Frank did an awkward, spasmodic little wiggle as he digested this information, then quickly regained his poise. It just so turned out that this was Konstantin’s night off. Can you imagine if it had been any other night? What are the odds?!!! Frank then called one of Esca’s co-owners, Simon Dean, back to the restaurant. Simon and I went to a computer in the cramped office downstairs, where I was easily able to call up Konstantin’s numerous advertisements on Craig’s List.

Soon, the place was abuzz. Pasternak quickly surmised something was up and kept coming out of the kitchen, looking askance at me in my cargo shorts, and at Kevin, who really wasn’t dressed much better. Frank kept the quartini coming and told me not to worry. Simon patted me on the back and said how much he appreciated what I did and that they never would have known had I not come in. I offered to give them the wine back (what was I thinking?!!!). Simon politely demurred. Phew.

TO BE CONTINUED…featuring the NYPD, a sting operation, and the answer to the most important question: did Deetrane get to walk away with his hot wine???

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Getting Myself in Shape for Loire Reds

We continue our foray into blind tasting Thursday night, and the theme is young Loire red wine. I love these wines, juicy and fresh, fruity and funky, full of complex mineral smells and flavors. And really cheap too. Many an excellent bottle can be had for around $15. Yeah, I'm compiling my value Burgundy list, but there is nothing there that can compare, in my opinion, with the the pleasure you can find in a $15 bottle of one of these young wines.

I've been so focused on Burgundy lately that I haven't had a Loire red in a little while. So over the past few days BrooklynLady and I exercised our palate a bit, went to the red Loire gym, if you will. We decided to open these particular wines before our blind tasting because:

1) The Raffault wine is from the 2002 vintage, and is not as young as the other wines in the tasting.
2) The Filliatreau is no longer available, as far as I know, so if it were to show well in the tasting it would just annoy you who read this and then try to buy the wines. I'm trying to make you happy pal, not annoy you.
3) We found that we couldn't just sit around with all of this young Loire red without opening some, so we opened some. We had them with braised lamb shoulder, and with thyme crusted pork chops. YUM.

It's good to remind the senses of the joys of a young Loire red. Such honest wine. Not trying to be the David to Bordeaux's Goliath, just interesting food friendly wine. Very trendy in Parisian cafes and bistros too. Many producers make several cuvees from grapes grown in gravel or clay soils, or from vines of different ages. There certainly are Loire reds that age beautifully, and I love those too. But there is something so boisterous and plucky about the young ones, especially in the doldrums of winter, that I find myself buzzing with excitement over the blind tasting.

Here are some notes from our "exercise" over the past few nights:

2002 Olga Raffault Chinon Les Picasses, $16
Raffault is a venerable estate in the Loire valley. Here are the importer's notes on the estate. Dark translucent garnet color, like a Burgundy wine. Smells of funky barnyard and sweet fruit. Juicy on the palate, with a nice balance of fruit and earthy flavors, some graphite, some cedar, some leather, some berry jam. I was surprised at how much I liked this wine, as I was not a big fan of the 1990 version, which to me tasted like one big lead pencil. This mature wine must have been re-released, because its in all the stores now, and at wine bars too. For $16, the 2002 is a great value in wine to drink now and to love.

2005 Filliatreau La Grande Vignolle Saumur-Champigny, $17
This is a huge estate in Saumur-Champigny, producing many different wines each year. The Wine Doctor offers a nice profile of this producer - take a peek. Dark garnet color, great extraction. Dark fruit, leather, some alcohol heat and road tar, hints of flowers and herbs. Palate is fresh and pure, with astringent dusty tannins and graphite, dark juicy fruits, some blood and a little cocoa powder. Complex and wonderful stuff, this wine is completely outta sight for the $16. And it kept changing in the glass over a few hours. Question is...where is this wine available now? Chambers street is now sold out. I'll tell you this - I will be looking.

Okay, now that I've worked up a good schvitz, I should be in shape for tomorrow night's event.

Nuits-Saint-Georges: Some Questions

Speaking of the search for value in red Burgundy wines...

If you take the train from Paris to Dijon and drive south to Burgundy, you go through Marsannay (an up-and-coming appellation), then Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot, Flagey-Echezeaux, and Vosne-Romanee, the powerhouses of red wine production in Burgundy. Some of the most famous and expensive, some of the most sought after red wines in the world come from the Grand Cru vineyards of these appellations. A single bottle of wine from the Grand Cru vineyard of Musigny, or Bonnes Mares, or Clos de Tart, or Clos Vougeot, never mind Richebourg, can set you back hundreds of dollars. Many hundreds in better vintages (good luck saving up for the 2005's).

Keep driving south and you hit Nuits-Saint-Georges, the southernmost major appellation of the Cotes de Nuits. Nuits-Saint-Georges is alone among the powerhouses of the Cotes de Nuits, in that it has no Grand Cru vineyards to call its own. And because of its close proximity to the Cotes de Beaune with its glorious whites from Montrachet and Mersault, but less stellar, more uneven reds, the wines of Nuits-Saint-Georges can be overlooked when thinking about great reds of Burgundy. Maybe, just maybe, these wines can offer some of the best values in top notch red Burgundy.

But Nuits-Saint-George is really big - where do you start? There are many vineyards to the north and also to the south of town, village and 1er Cru vineyards. Shouldn't those vineyards to the north of town, those that border on or near the hallowed grounds of Vosne-Romanee produce wines of great quality? You would think so, and they probably do in fact, but I've been looking around and I've noticed that the southernmost 1er Cru vineyards seem to command higher prices. Click here to see a map of the vineyards of Nuits-Saint-George - kind of hard to read, but worth looking.

Just today, for example, I was looking at the 2004 crop from Domaine Robert Chevillon, a noted producer from Nuits-Saint-George. His 1er Crus from south of town, Les Saint-Georges, Les Cailles (the most expensive at about $85), Les Vaucrains, Les Chenes Carteaux, Les Perrieres, and Les Pruliers, to name many of them, were all pretty pricey, the cheapest at around $65.

1er Crus from the northern part of the appellation, the part that borders on Vosne-Romanee, were actually less expensive in every case except for one - Les Chaignots (which was still less than either Les Cailles or Les Saint-Georges). Wines from Les Vigne Rondes and Les Damodes, were comparably reasonably priced.

Why is this? Shouldn't it be the other way around? This just doesn't make sense to me. Maybe Les Saint-Georges is exceptional terroir, but how could all of those southern vineyards produce better grapes than the vineyards adjacent to Vosne-Romanee? Is this a marketing thing? I know that 50 meters can make a huge difference in the character and quality of wine in Burgundy, but this is just so strange. If anyone knows something about this, please chime in now!

If I had lots more cash I would blind taste wines from the same vintage, same producer, wines from both the north and south of Nuits-Saint-Georges, and see what's up. But I don't have the cash to do that big and bad of a blind tasting (blind tasting of young Loire reds coming soon though). So instead I will taste whatever I can get my hands on. Here are two wines tasted recently, and one actually doesn't fits into either category. But it's a start...

2000 Dominique Laurent Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Pruliers (price unknown).
Tasted at Deetrane's place the other night, with his chewy butterscotch oatmeal cookies. This is a large negociant house with no fewer than 50 Cotes de Nuits wines produced each year. Dark translucent purple color, with a rich, musky nose, full of dark fruit and barnyard elements. Intense perfume, actually. Dark fruit, some pine and herbs, and earth on the palate. Very nice indeed, a "brooding" wine that commanded our attention, and called out for roast game, chicken with truffles, or some other such fare (although the cookies Deetrane made were delish).

2001 Domaine Confuron-Contetidot Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru, $62
I bought this bottle at Burgundy Wine Company, and I mention this because I have since learned that although the store has a great selection, they routinely charge at least 10% more than other local shops for their wines. So think of this bottle as a $55 wine. Anyway...the label "1er Cru," with no specific vineyard mentioned means that the grapes come from various 1er cru parcels, as opposed ot only one. To me this is a step down from a single vineyard 1er Cru, but I could be wrong about that. We enjoyed it with Porcini mushroom ravioli in brown butter. Some signs of bricking near the rims, oddly enough - the wine is only 6 years old. Sweet cooked cherry smells, some light and high toned herbs and spices too. Bright raspberry and strawberry palate with somewhat astringent tannins, and a kind of hollow mid-palate. Sweet cooked cherries on the finish. We opened this at least an hour before eating, and at the end of dinner, opened for at least two hours, the wine was not improved. Not an exciting bottle? So-so vintage, so save the good grapes for better bottlings? Whatever the case, disappointing for the money.

More Nuits-Saint-Georges to come. I can't seek out value in the $25 and under group, and only in that group now, can I?

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Classic Burgundian Pairing

First of all, it's good to be back, after four agonizing days without internet service at home. Imagine that folks, you just had a beautiful baby girl and you're at home for a couple'a weeks with your new family, working as hard as you can to eat, sleep, and take proper care of the new little one. You only real escape is at the computer, reading wine blogs and updating your own, and then...poof! At the blink of an eye (or disruption of a modem router, or something), you are isolated from that world. I actually read the print version of the NY Times Dining and Wine section this Wednesday! And I was surprised to find that The Pour is not included, until I remembered sadly that it is a blog, short for "Web-log."

Okay, you can stop feeling sorry for me now, and check out this neat bit of cooking we did the other night, paired well with a regional wine from Burgundy. And I should tell you that Marcus at Doktor Weingolb sort of challenged me, if you will, to list my favorite Pinots at the $25 and under price point. This pairing was also my first directed bit of research in this area. It would probably be more fun to wait until I have compiled my list and do one post, which is exactly what I will do, but I can't resist sharing some notes about this wine because of the food pairing and the story behind it.

I have always had a thing for chestnuts. As a little kid, near the end of the year holidays, I would walk past street vendors selling roast chestnuts. They looked kind of gross, their dark brown skin cracked a little to reveal glimpses of this tan/pink brain-like interior. They didn't smell so good either, roasting in all of that rock salt. I never wanted to eat them, but I was fascinated by them, and it wasn't lost on me that I never, ever saw anyone buy them and eat them.

Maybe NYC's street vendors never really figured out how to do good chestnuts, because roast chestnuts are delicious. Chestnuts are delicious, period, pureed in savory dishes, in desserts, as garnish on sweet potato puree, you name it. In Burgundy, I was so glad to see chestnuts pop up so often on menus and in grocery stores. I promised myself I would experiment with chestnuts in my own cooking, and here is my second attempt - roast chicken with chestnut stuffing.

I didn't use a recipe, instead imagined the flavors I wanted: simple earthy and sweet chestnuts, some strong herbs like sage or rosemary, something acidic, like lemon zest, and that's it - keep it simple. So I bought pre-cooked peeled and vacuum sealed chestnuts, finely minced them, and mixed them with an equal part of chopped up day-old baguette. One small onion finely minced, and about a tablespoon of fresh minced thyme (rosemary was too strong - that was part of what went wrong with attempt #1). One finely sliced celery stick for texture, and half a stick of melted butter to bind the mixture. No garlic, no lemon zest, a milder herb - those other things got in the way of the simplicity of the earthy chestnut flavor. Uncooked chestnut stuffing, upper right.

I stuffed the entire cavity of the bird, trussed it up tight (all trussed up bird, left), and rubbed a little of the extra stuffing under the skin on the breasts and thighs. I was so proud of all of this trussing, so happy about our impending dinner, that I didn't think about the fact that all of that stuffing might add to the overall cooking time of the bird. So this chicken had a great many thermometer holes in it's little thighs before it reached 165 degrees F. It added an extra 20 minutes.

But when it was finished roasting, let me tell you that our apartment smelled so great. And since we don't open any windows in an attempt to create a heat spa-like atmosphere for our tiny daughter, it still kind of smells like my chestnut stuffing in here (my wife might not agree as to the provenance of the smell to which I refer). We decided to eat this rich chicken dish with only the stuffing as a side dish, and a green salad with bitter cucumbers and a bright vinegary dressing, something to cut through the richness of the rest of the meal.

So what wine to serve here? Although there are many possibilities, we were definitely opening a Burgundy wine, in honor of the inspiration for this bit of cooking. But white, as seemed proper, or red? I came close to opening a young Chablis (I'm looking for any excuse since I had my mind blown by that incredible Chablis at the Sotheby's tasting), but in the end, decided to go with what I hoped would be a bright and lively red.

2002 Domaine Joseph Roty Bourgogne Cuvee Presonnier, $28 at Crush.
Domaine Roty, located in Marsannay, is known for serious wines from the Gevrey-Chambertin appellation, including several 1er Cru and Grand Cru wines. This is not, strictly speaking, their entry level wine. That would be simply the Bourgogne, whereas this wine is Cuvee Presonnier, a higher grade made with grapes from plots near 1er cru vineyards in Gevrey.

Clear dark ruby color, with smells of flowers upon opening, simple sweet red fruit flavors. I left this open for two and a half hours, banking on the excellent quality of the 2002 vintage to provide the necessary structure for the wine to improve in the glass. When we sat down to eat, the wine had indeed become far more complex, offering herbal and pine smells, and something I have never before identified: creamy smells. Bill Nanson at Burgundy Report uses this descriptor quite often and I always wonder if we are using different words to describe a certain aroma, or if he, as is more likely, simply has the ability to identify a far broader set of aromas. Anyway, this wine definitely smells creamy after a few hours open. The palate had broadened too, to include cola, lots of spice, and some foresty-underbrush flavors. There is nice balancing acidity, and the texture is smooth also - just lovely. There is, however, a noticeably hollow midpalate, which is fine and understandable, as this is (merely) a regional wine.

So at $28, I know this doesn't exactly fit Marcus' challenge, but I suspect that Crush might sell this at a higher price than you will find it out of NYC (or even at certain stores in NYC). One nice thing is that Crush offers several vintages of this wine, 1999, 2001, 2002, and 2004, for starters, all except the 2004 (stronger Euro) at lower prices. I imagine that the 1999 (another great vintage) is a huge value at $20, and that will be my next foray into the wines of Roty. This is not the top wine on my list of $25 and under Pinots, but it is certainly a good wine and worth buying. So it's on my list, in other words. And by the way, the chicken with chestnut stuffing was rich, but delicious. Sage instead next time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dinner with the In-Laws

That phrase alone is enough to send shivers down the spine of many of us. It's never easy to completely relax but if you and the husband/wife are in a good place together, it can be done. BrooklynLady and I are in such a place, luckily, because her folks flew in last Thursday from California and we had several dinners together, all in our living/dining room.

For the last dinner of this visit I decided to whip up something special, a little bit festive. But with tiny daughter needing attention, the occasion called for a meal that would be simple to prepare. I went with roast rack of lamb - rub it with mustard, garlic, herbs, throw it in the oven, let is rest, presto. Also some simple roast potatoes with white truffle oil, and some braised kale. Everything worked out well, I am happy to say, and the in-laws were appreciative and in YUM-land.

I wanted to serve something interesting as an aperitif, I didn't feel like defaulting to Champagne. Not that there's anything wrong with Champs, but we did that on Thursday night. How about something elegant and festive in a white wine? I opened a bottle of Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer, an Alsace producer I have been meaning to try for a while now. Both Fork and Bottle (if you read the WBW 29 Biodynamic Roundup, you already know this) and The Wine Doctor have nice profiles of this biodynamic producer, so take a peek.

2004 Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Wintzenheim, $28.
Not vieille vignes, not a grand cru vineyard, this is more of an "entry level" Gewurz from the Zind. I LOVED it, and will definitely investigate Zind Humbrecht further. Deep golden color, very inviting. Expansive floral aromas, also some classic lychee, some citrus, and a touch of honey. And that's just the nose, people! First impression of the palate is purity lean and clean wine, surprisingly so for a wine with innate sweetness. The wine zings with the tension that comes from a perfect mixture of sweet yellow fruit and acidity. The label indicates that this wine is a "2" out of 5 on the sweetness index, and this honeyed and floral residual sugar carried through on the long and elegant finish. I wanted more and more of this wine. I want some now...

Father-in-law stunned us by bringing to this dinner a bottle of mature Burgundy wine, a 1993 Volnay 1er Cru by Robert Ampeau, a producer I had never encountered. It gets mostly excellent reviews from the community on Cellar Tracker, and one of the reviews said that it needs time to open up. Good thing I read that note...

1993 Domaine Robert Ampeau et Fils Volnay Santenots 1er Cru
Smells of seaweed and rotting vegetables when first opened. Reminded me of the older regional wine I opened with cheese at our holiday wine dinner. Not good. But almost 3 hours later (thank you Cellar Tracker reviewers), by the time we sat down to our dinner, the nasty smells had completely blown off. Lovely tranparent ruby, no visible signs of aging. Enticing smells of sweet cooked cherries, some spices, and some musty earth undertones. Amazing, how much changed in the nose over a few hours. Silky texture, flavors of cooked red fruit and clay earth with some dried leaf character - an interesting and delicious mature Burgundy. Made fast and close friends with the food too. This wine is available at Crush in Manhattan for $70, and although I really enjoyed it, I am not sure if that represents a great value. I guess if you're in the market specifically for a mature red Burgundy, it is a good value, but if you have $70 to spend on any bottle of red Burgundy...not so sure.

I opened a half bottle of dessert wine as a final flourish, a 2002 Grgich Hills Violetta, $30 (on secondary market). I have enjoyed, but not loved this wine in the past, and this was the best showing thus far. This is a late harvest blend of mostly Chardonnay (65-70% I think), Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc. Deep yellow with some light orange tint. Orange blossom and honey smells, some citrus peel. Fat and intense on the palate, with confectioners sugar and orange liquor at first, then some floral and honey flavors. A somewhat flabby and unfocused finish prevents this wine from soaring, in my opinion, but it is certainly a treat.

So the in-laws had a great time at dinner, and we did too - a successful evening to be sure. BrooklynBabyGirl slept through almost the whole thing too. And how lovely was that gesture, bringing that lovely old Burgundy? Good luck with your dinners with the in-laws.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sotheby's Pre Sale Tasting Report; Part 2

And what of the white wines? The lineup of white Burgundies certainly was impressive on paper, with notable wines at various stages of maturity. I was not so impressed, though, overall. None of them really hit me where it counts. Some were out of balance, others just plain strange. The exception was a younger wine, a Chablis - my favorite of the flight.

1991 Remoissenet Pere et Fils Batard Montrachet Grand Cru - Smells of wood and banana, some barnyard elements. Not altogether pleasing nose, but interesting. Lovely palate of rich yellow fruit, honey, some vanilla, a bit of spice. My favorite wine, other than the Chablis.

1997 Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet, Les Caillerets 1er Cru - incredible (as in odd, not as in amazing) nose of marzipan, cake, and toast. Almondy marzipan palate. I have never encountered anything like this before - tasted as if someone doctored this one with almond extract. Not to my liking at all.

1998 Domaine Etienne Sauzet Montrachet - Icy petrol aroma, some vanilla. Flabby palate, unfocused.

1998 Louis Jadot Criots Batard Montrachet Grand Cru - Smells of bananas and vanilla, same on the palate with some spices too. Pleasant.

2000 Domaine Tollot Beaut Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru - Oaky vanilla aromas. Full bodied, heavy palate of banana and rich dark yellow fruit - almost over-ripe.

2002 William Fevre Chablis Les Clos Grand Cru - Aromas of white flowers, wet stones, and lime. Lovely light zippy palate, light-medium body, white fruits, citrus, and minerals. Beautiful! My favorite of the white wines by a long shot. Others must have agreed, because Sotheby's estimated the lot price at between $550-750 for 9 bottles of this juice, but the final price was over $950. So now I have to look into trying some more Chablis. Maybe Marcus in Montreal, who seems to love the stuff, can help...

Now, back to the reds. The California flight in this tasting surprised me, in that I found myself enjoying the wines more than I enjoyed their counterparts from Bordeaux.

1992 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon - Cedar on the nose, medicinal, herbal quality too. Interesting paalte of Cassis and herbs, with significant grip to it. Still young, this wine was medium bodied but powerful and complex.

1992 Dominus - Dark fruit on the nose, balckberries and mint on the palate. Fine, but I just don't understand all the hype...

1994 Caymus Vineyards Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon - Complex nose of menthol and dark fruits. Soft and silky palate of plums and herbs, some leathery earth. Tannic on the finish. My favorite of the flight.

1995 Stags Leap Merlot, Napa Valley - Opulent nose of plums and spices. Rich plums and choclate, some earth on the palate. This is a decadent wine, a very classy merlot. I thought it was delicious, and I found myself thinking "I bet this will go cheap - who is buying Merlot anyway?" And I was right. The lot of 24 bottles sold for $540 including buyers premium. We're talking about $23 bucks a bottle for mature and delicious wine, wine that would be great with food. I should have bid...

1997 Peter Michael Les Pavots - Reserved nose, some cedar, some flowers. Palate of bright red fruit, some pine. Very nice.

Next time I go to a Sotheby's pre-auction tasting I plan on focusing my attention on one, maybe two flights, and tasting the wines more thoughtfully. I think something is lost in trying to taste everything. This is really fun stuff though - if you're in the area you should come. Too much good wine to miss out.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sotheby's Pre Sale Tasting Report; Part 1

BrooklynLady graciously gave me clearance to attend the Sotheby's tasting last night, so I donned my best fleece jacket and outer shell (it's freezing here in the city now - winter finally) and went to meet Deetrane at the famous auction house on 71st Street and York Avenue.

The event was a bit more subdued this time, maybe the weather kept all but the most serious wine lovers and tradespeople away. I was the only person in this crowd (including Deetrane) who had never before tasted a Cheval Blanc, for example. No one was rushing to taste wines. People instead were focusing on the regions or wines that they were interested in, and lingering.

I, on the other hand, made sure to taste everything, and then to go back for seconds on wines that intrigued me. It was not possible to keep thoughtful notes on all of the wines, but I scribbled down some impressions, and I also picked favorites in each flight which I will share. I'll begin with the red Burgundies, because the white table was jammed when I walked in so these were the first wines I tasted. I was impressed by two of these wines, and not so moved by the other two. Here are the wines, with the few notes I wrote during the tasting:

1999 Bouchard Pere et Fils Clos Vougeot Grand Cru - Bright red color, oaky, tangy sour cherries.

1999 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Volnay Santenots-du-Milieu 1er Cru - Deep purple, reserved nose of blackberries and underbrush, indistinct palate.

1994 Bouchard Pere et Fils La Romanee Grand Cru - Rose red with orange rust. Highly perfumed, lots of flowers. Very deep and fresh flavors, surprisingly, since the color is light and the wine looks old. Orange peel, spices, pure sappy blackfruit, and pine on the palate. Well balanced, great acidity. Unquestionably my favorite wine of this flight.

1990 Billard-Gonnet Pommard 1er Cru - Light red color, some rust. Pine and earthy smells, youthful flowers also. Reserved palate, somewhat indistinct.

Now the Bordeaux wines. I was more impressed by these wines than I was by the lineup of Bordeaux at the previous Sotheby's tasting, but I still have to say that I just don't get it with expensive and fine Bordeaux wines. So rarely do they excite me, make me feel passionate about their aromas and flavors. That said, most of the wines in this flight are adored by the community on Cellar Tracker, so you really shouldn't listen to me if you're a Bordeaux fan. I mean after all, with the exception of Gruaud Larose and Grand Puy Lacoste, I had never before tasted these producers. I'm a Bordeaux neophyte. These are my impressions:

1983 Chateau Cheval Blanc - Transparent rusty brick color. Interesting nose of orange peel, medicine, and pine. I have never encountered this aroma profile before, and it was perplexing to be honest. I didn't like the palate at first, but when I came back later I enjoyed it more. Velvety texture, brambles, perfumed wood (is this what people smell when they say sandalwood?), and raisins on the palate. This wine was more intellectually appealing to me than it was delicious.

1986 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron - Spicy pine nose, velvet texture, lovely red fruit, some tar, dark cassis flavors. Impressive. My 2nd favorite wine of the flight.

1986 Chateau Gruaud Larose - Cedar on the nose, and oddly, spring water. Chewy texture, simple plummy palate.

1990 Chateau Latour a Pomerol - Dark color, dark fruit nose. Nice balance, but somewhat simple palate of dark fruits.

1990 Chateau Haut Bages Liberal - Eucalyptus and some tar on the nose, lots of cassis and cedar on the palate, with good acidity and balance, spicy. If I had to plunk down my money for one of these Bordeaux wines, at a projected auction price of about $50 a bottle, this would be the one.

1995 Chateau Grand Puy Lacoste - Blue fruit nose, Welch's grape juice smell. Tannic, young, and simple right now. Just doesn't excite me.

1995 Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou - Cassis and black fruit nose, sweet plums and dark fruits on the palate. Not exciting.

There was only one Rhone wine poured at this event, but it was a fascinating wine. I have never tasting anything like it:

1990 Guigal Hermitage - Nose of road tar - lots of road tar! After plenty of swirling, some rosemary too. Gamy palate, meaty, some minerality. Not special to me at first, but when I returned to the wine later and spent some time with it, I discovered orange peel and rose petals underneath the gamy flavors, and found myself longing to eat a meal with this wine.

Just goes to show that tasting this many wines this quickly is not going to reveal any kind of "truth" about them. I need to be more selective at these Southeby's tastings. Hard though, when there are so many famous wines that I wouldn't otherwise get to taste. Part 2 tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Down Under in Brooklyn

Wine Blogging Wednesday is again upon us, a bit earlier this month because of a few holiday Wednesdays later in the month. WBW is Lenn's baby - he got it all started over two years ago now. Lenn has a brand new baby, by the way, and this may or may not impede his ability to participate in WBW this month. We'll see...

Tim at Winecast is hosting this month, and new world Syrah is his theme of choice. I have little experience with Syrah, and I don't drink much new world wine, other than Oregon Pinot Noir. When I start to explore wine made from a grape that is unfamiliar to me, I usually begin with the classics, the old world versions. I began to explore a bit with a couple of bottles from Cornas, the famous Northern Rhone appellation, but really I have no context in which to frame my tastings. The theme this month offers a great learning opportunity for me.

So it was with an intrepid spirit and good cheer that I set out to taste a new world Syrah for WBW #30. I decided to make a night of it - go Down Under in Brooklyn. Why not crack open a bottle of that Two Hands Shiraz that everyone raves about in their Cellar Tracker notes, and how about a roast leg of Aussie grass fed lamb to go with it?

First, the lamb. I really went for it, buying and roasting the whole leg. No one came for dinner, and BrooklynLady was 9 months pregnant and could eat only small amounts at a time. Leftover lamb happens to be a favorite of mine though. Something about the cool to room temperature herbal, salty, and gamy slices...I can pick them out of the fridge and start munching, any time of day.

I figured that the wine would be big and fruity, maybe with some sweetness to it, so I decided to marinate the lamb with something salty and savory to create a bit of contrast. I used a mortar and pestle to pound three anchovy fillets, about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary needles, and a large garlic clove into a paste. Transferred that to a bowl and whisked in some good extra virgin olive oil. Rubbed this all over the lamb, massaging it in like you would your pregnant wife's feet, and let it sit for about two hours.

Side dishes: a mix of sweet and savory again. Sweet: butternut squash, pan roasted at low enough heat so as not to brown, with some butter and brown sugar, then pureed with a little whole milk and salt. Savory - a green salad made with Romaine lettuce hearts and Persian cucumbers - the un-waxed skinny and long ones with a high meat to water ratio - they're bitter and crisp. Dressed with a simple vinaigrette that began with anchovies, again pounded with garlic, some Dijon mustard, and then the vinegar and good olive oil.

You say it's geeky of me to echo the anchovy thing in the salad dressing? So what? There are only so many things in life I care to obsess about, and the war in Iraq is not one of them. Neither is global warming, nor is my current "job," the crap I do to get a paycheck. So can't you just let me have my matching marinade and salad dressing anchovy geek out, please?

The lamb came out lookin' good and I let her rest under tin foil for about 20 minutes. Served with the squash and salad YUM. I cannot say that I have ever worked with better quality lamb. Good fat layer, but no big fatty deposits inside the leg, beautiful gamy rich flavor, and a minerally freshness - it's grass-fed.

About 2 hours prior I opened and decanted a bottle of 2004 Two Hands Shiraz Lily's Garden, $42. Two Hands, located in the Barossa Valley of South Australia, produces many different wines, but I believe is known for their McLaren Vale Shiraz. As I said before, I have no context for tasting this wine - no experience with Aussie Shiraz (other than a few bottles of inexpensive stuff that I thought was just too sweet and alcohol driven), and little experience with Syrah, period. So take my notes with a grain of salt.

2004 Two Hands Shiraz Lily's Garden
Inky purple. Nice aromas of dark fruit, rosemary, and an iron, blood like smell. These aromas, while lovely, were somewhat fleeting, as there was also a prominent alcohol heat that pushed them aside. Hard not to, I guess, at 14.5%. Two hours later, by the way, the herbal and metal aromas were more reserved, and the fruit and heat more prominent. Very interesting palate of juicy red and black fruit, black licorice, and raisins, with pretty good acidity. A big and powerful wine, even on the finish.

It did pair well with the lamb, and yes, the palate was interesting. But only in an intellectual way, not for me in the emotional way that I usually react to a wine that I love. in other words, I recognize that this is quality juice, and that it might even stand out among wines of this style. It's not a style that I favor, because it is so overwhelming, such a bully on the table. I can't imagine sitting around chatting and sipping this wine - too big and too much alcohol. But even gamy roast lamb with anchovy paste was having a hard time competing. And by the way, the critics all loved this wine, rating it between 91 and 94, and the folks on Cellar Tracker rave about it - tasting notes praise the lavish fruit and texture, the community average rating is 92. So what do I know...

I am certainly open to suggestions from you Aussies about other pairings (I still have one more bottle), or about similar wines so I can learn more about the style. And big thanks to Tim at Winecast for hosting this month's WBW.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Catching up a Little Bit

Life is really beautiful, I have to tell you. I know it's corny, but having my little daughter has put me in this all-forgiving, in love with the world frame of mind. I'm polite and helpful towards everyone now, even those folks you deal with in the city who are not always so friendly themselves. Why? Because they were small like BrooklynBabyGirl once, and maybe they even have a child of their own. We are all miracles.

Okay, wipe your mouth, because you still have a bit of vomit on your lower lip - I know, that was disgustingly sentimental. But real for me. So now, some catching up with other things...

If you are superstitious, you might want to take note of what we were drinking, eating, and listening to as we went into labor, because they all clearly brought us great luck. We ate leftover roast lamb for dinner with butternut squash puree, and I opened a bottle of 2002 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Yamhill Cuvee. 2002 was a great year for Willamette Valley Pinots, and Domaine Serene is considered to be a top Oregon producer. I tasted this particular wine, their "entry level" wine, a little over a year ago and found it to be too aggressive, too spicy, to herky-jerky for my taste. What a difference a year makes!

2002 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Yamhill Cuvee, $35.
Pretty ruby color, even prettier aromas of rich red fruit, flowers, and clay earth. Very Burgundian nose. The palate doesn't quite live up to the nose, but it is delicious nonetheless. Well balanced with red cherries, herbal notes, and some earthiness, with good underlying acidity. I must say, I wish I had more of this wine in the cellar.

We enjoyed this wine (and yes - BrooklynLady had a few sips - you're allowed) with our lamb, and we were listening to the blind musicians from Mali, Miriam and Amadou, the album "Dimanche en Bamako" (Sunday in Bamako). This is definitely a good luck album people, and worth the investment.

Other recent wines worth mentioning include the NV Perrier-Jouet Champagne Grand Brut that we enjoyed when we returned from the hospital. Sure, it's not a vintage Champagne from a trendy small producer or anything, but it's classic for a reason - it's just good. Nice floral aromas with some orange blossom, and a pleasant chalkiness on the finish. And this is the Champs that BrooklynLady and I drank on our 1st anniversary vacation in Miami last June, right before we learned that she was pregnant.

Last night I made dinner for the first time sine Pia arrived (made, as in cooked, not plated from Tupperware). We had roast rack of lamb rubbed with coarse mustard and Herbs de Provence, sweet potato puree, and salad. Rack of lamb is a great dish for people who want something yummy but have little time to spend in the kitchen. I took 10 minutes to make and rub the marinade, and then 25 minutes to roast the lamb at 450.

We opened a special bottle of wine with our dinner last night, not because it was so expensive or rare, but because it was one of three bottles we brought back from our trip to Burgundy in November. And I cannot believe that it took until last night to notice the name of the vineyard, "Les Belles Filles," meaning "The Beautiful Daughters." Appropriate, I would say.

2003 Pierre Maray et Fils Pernand-Vergelesses "Les Belles Filles."
Light ruby color, high toned nose of cranberries, some herbs, some underbrush. Light bodied wine, with pronounced cranberry flavors, and some of what I have been calling "yogurt," but recently read described as "aspartame." I think that reflects a particular soil composition, but I am not sure. After about a half hour open, the wine revealed very lovely rose petal aromas, and the palate deepened to include some juicy cherry flavors.

We loved this wine, the Beautiful Daughters (notre Belle Fille, a gauche), with our dinner, and I cannot really overstate how happy BrooklynLady is to be able to drink a glass of wine at dinner (yeah, yeah, yeah, she does so only after a feeding, and with 3 hours before the next feeding, so just relax).

Enjoy those who are special in your life - it's too easy to forget sometimes how important they are, how miraculous even. Cheers from Brooklyn!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

One More Picture of Tiny Daughter

And then back to business, I promise - plenty of interesting things food and wine to write about. But just look at this sweet little girl!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's a Girl!

I am overjoyed to announce the birth of BrooklynBabyGirl, otherwise known as Pia. Pia was born on Thursday February 1st at 5:58 am, and she is a precious 5 pounds, 2 ounces. BrooklynLady is an utter champion of labor and is resting comfortably. Pia is already enjoying the 2007 Brooklyn Breast Milk, BrooklynLady Vineyard, $ Priceless.

This is really incredible people, I can't really describe it. I will probably be gone for a little while. And to Lenn and Nena, huge congratulations, and I wish you a beautiful next few weeks!