Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Champagne De Meric Grand Réserve Sous Bois, $37. De Meric is quite an interesting Champagne house. On their homepage they say that they make wine in the traditional way. They vinify and age half of the base wines in wood, they use traditional pressing techniques, and they turn all of the bottles (remuage) by hand. Here is a little quote from their home page - "There are numerous modern techniques used in Champagne today, and we ignore them all." Sounds intriguing right?

There are a few things, though, that I could not find anywhere on their website, things that I think are important when trying to understand a particular Champagne producer's philosophy. De Meric does not seem to grow their own grapes. I say "seem" because there is no definite answer on their website. It is clear that they purchase plenty of grapes, but do they also farm their own vineyards? Located in Pinot country in the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, De Meric purchases grapes from producers in many villages, some also known for Pinot Noir, and others in the Côte des Blancs, where Chardonnay is king. Although their wines are mostly Pinot Noir, the exact blends are not given.

And what of the wine making? Forgive me if I sound skeptical, but when a producer trumpets their strict adherence to tradition, I expect them to unveil the techniques used to make the wine. Natural or industrial yeasts, or both, for example? Time on the lees? Disgorgement dates? These are things that I want to know as I drink more and understand more about Champagne.

"Okay," you're thinking, "but how is the wine?" It was quite good, although in the end, I thought it was a bit unbalanced. I found this wine to be lively and energetic with an airy nose of biscuits and a rounded honeyed edge. A little air brings out a nice salty mineral quality to the nose. The palate shows green apples and lots more salty chalk. It's incredibly focused and highly acidic, to the point where I felt that a few grams more of dosage might help balance the wine. It is interesting how little obvious fruit there is in this wine, especially considering that it is probably at least 75% Pinot Noir. The wood was not at all prominent, and the wine's energy was not at all compromised by it.

If I sound down on this wine, I don't mean to - I liked it and I would enjoy trying De Meric's other wines (although they are impossible to find here in NYC). I'm developing a better sense, though, of what to expect from Champagne at certain price points. At $37 this is not the high end of grower NV Bruts these days, but this bottle was not as impressive to me as other similarly priced red grape-heavy blends, such as those by Geoffroy, Fleury, Lallement, or Moutard.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dinner with Peter Liem and Friends

Brooklynlady and I left the little daughter with her grandparents in San Diego and went to Portland for two days and one night. It was a real treat to spend adult time together visiting such an interesting city. And by coincidence or supernatural power (you decide), Peter Liem happened to be in Portland for his friend's wedding. Our visits overlapped, and so along with a few of his friends, we met for dinner at the excellent restaurant called Three Doors Down.

Peter's friends are also serious wine folk, so there were several amazing wines on the table. Three Doors Down has a great wine list, but they are friendly with Peter and his group and allow them to bring in their own wine.

When you dine with Peter Liem you can expect to drink good Champagne. We began with the 2002 Champagne Raymond Boulard Extra Brut Les Rachais. Peter brought this over from France, as it is not available yet in the US. This is Boulard's first wine made from biodynamically farmed grapes, and although it's a mere child, it is obviously an incredible wine. The nose is so very delicate with lovely floral and mineral aromas, and beyond that a tightly coiled core of energy that demands many a quiet year in the cellar before it will reveal its true nature. I hope I have the opportunity to revisit this wine one day, it is a sheer and elegant thing of beauty.

We then opened the 2002 Benoît Lahaye Champagne Millésime (another bottle checked in his suitcase). I won't try to summarize Lahaye as a grower and wine maker, as Peter did this so well a few months ago. After the Boulard wine, this one was powerful and intense, but in a good way. The aromas and flavors really spread out and fill the nostrils. This is red fruited juicy deliciousness with a great acidic and mineral spine, and I bet it would be beautiful with something like duck breast and confit. I left this one standing in the glass for a little while and it opened up quite nicely - another one to lay down for some years.

BrooklynLady and I brought along a bottle of 1998 Vilmart & Cie Cuvée Création. We opened this bottle just before our appetizers arrived and much to my dismay, the wine was a bit of a mess. It was positively funky - cheesy, really. Yes, this wine smelled like ripe cheese. We waited a few minutes and aerated, but still pretty funky. Is this normal? Apparently not. The wine was showing "far more evolved than previous bottles I've tasted," according to Peter. That's probably polite for "this is usually very good wine, but this bottle kind of sucks." It was only at the conclusion of our meal when people were chit-chatting over a shared Tiramisu (honestly - the finest that I have ever tasted) that the wine began to show well. Pete (not Peter) poured himself some and said it was terrific. And he was right. The nose was now a generous and clean basket of roasted hazlenuts, maybe some marzipan too. And it crept gently across the palate, elegant and noble. Delicious, and yet very confusing on the whole. Here is Peter's profile of Vilmart, by the way.

And now, red wine. We started with an old wine from northern Piedmont, the 1961 Vallana Spanna Podere Tre Torre di Traversagna. Not a typo - that's 1961. This wine was born 47 years ago. I have no idea how to decipher Italian wine names, so I'll share what I learned about this wine: Vallana is the producer, Spanna is another name for Nebbiolo, and Traversagna is one of the crus in which this producer grows grapes. Thinking about it afterwards, I realized that this might be the oldest wine that I've ever tasted. But in the glass it felt vibrant and young. It had such a lovely perfume, so clean and well defined. Elegant chamomile aromas mingled with well-worn road tar, and beyond that there was something on the nose that the next wine also shared, something that for lack of a better word I will call poignancy. By this I mean that the essence of the wine burst forth from the glass as if it had something incredibly important to say, and it must have your attention. It was just delicious and thought provoking, and I remember what it smells like right now as I type this.

We ended our meal with a Grand Cru Burgundy from my birth year, the 1971 Prince de Merode Corton Clos de Roi. I got lost in this wine - I forgot to eat. BrooklynLady too. She tasted and spat all night like a cautious pregnant lady, but with this wine she drank. And how could she not? It had that same sense of poignancy to the aromas with penetrating animal, caramel, spice, and surprisingly fresh and youthful fruit. So graceful on the palate, such a textural joy. An entire story in the mouth with a strong plot, good character development, and a gentle and profound denouement. This is the whole point of cellaring good red wine from Burgundy, I suppose. A reminder not to touch my 2005's for a long time.

It got late in a hurry and we all had important appointments in the morning, so we agreed to shelve the 1985 Diebolt-Vallois that had been patiently waiting for its cue. We thanked each other for the company and the wine, and careened off to our beds with cherries and earth still tickling our nostrils.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I Drank on my Summer Vacation

Do you realize that in New York City in just over a week from now, about 400,000 kids, literally, are going to write short essays with almost the exact same title as this post? Another summer comes to an end.

I love summer in New York City. Yeah, it's hot and humid and the streets can get a bit smelly, but it's beautiful in the evening, especially from our deck, with the light coming through the leaves. On the weekends it can get eerily quiet though, as people flee for the country. We were lucky enough to get out of town twice in August - a long weekend in Vermont and more recently, a week in San Diego and Portland.

Here are some of the wines we drank in Vermont with my pal Deetrane and his family:

2007 Domaine de 2 Anes Vin de Table Rosé, $14. This is my favorite rosé of the season at the under $15 price point. It's a deliciously fruity wine that retains interest and drinkability because it's also lively with acidity. This is a Grenache blend, a natural wine from the Jenny & François Selections portfolio. 2 Anes (2 Donkeys) is in Corbières in the Languedoc, although for some reason this wine doesn't have AOC status.

2004 Château Pontet-Canet, $41. Decanted for about 90 minutes and served with a beautiful porterhouse steak. People salivate over this stuff in their CellarTracker notes. I just don't get it. It's perfectly pleasant dark, rich and ripe wine, with nothing particularly interesting about it, no distinctive character. You're going to tell me that it needs 20 years in the cellar, that I drank it too young. Maybe it will improve with age, but it wasn't a knot of tannic structure or anything when we drank it. It was open and showing its primary fruit. And that's all there was.

1997 Chapoutier Côte-Rôtie, price unknown. Deetrane says that '97 was an off year in the northern Rhone. I really liked this wine - it was light in color and in texture, a highly perfumed jumble of floral and earth aromas. So much better with the porterhouse than the Pontet-Canet, in my opinion.

2005 A. et P. de Villaine Bouzeron, price unknown. This was a lovely gift from Joe when he visited a little while ago. I drank the 2006 and wasn't crazy about it, but this was delicious. Incredibly full bodied and loaded with sweet lemon fruit, and cut with good acidity. Very nice indeed, although it bares little resemblance to any Aligoté I've had - this is much fuller in body and in flavor. Yes, this is the DRC wine maker.

2000 Voirin-Jumel Champagne Millésimé, $37. This is a crazy price for this wine, or for any vintage grower Champagne, really. Gotta love Astor Wines. This is a rich Blanc de Blancs with mature notes, but it hasn't lost its youthful fruit yet. With a little bit of airtime there are broad aromas of roast nuts and biscuits and the palate is deeply mineral with good acidity, nicely focused. Astor still has a few bottles too...

On one of our nights in San Diego, BrooklynLady and I drove out to Bird Rock, just south of La Jolla to have dinner with Jeremy Parzen, the professor of Italian wine, and a few of his pals. What a night! I'm telling you, if you have the opportunity to meet up with a fellow blogger, to share a meal and some wine - do it. Some think it odd to meet in person with people you only know from the internet. There are times when it is weird, but this isn't one of them. You already know each other, in a way. And Jeremy and I slipped naturally into conversation as if we'd been hanging out together for years. A gentleman and a scholar, and his friends are nice too. We enjoyed some very tasty seafood at taqueria Bahia Don Bravo, along with a smattering of interesting wines. Here are notes on some of them:

2007 Robert Sinskey Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, price unknown. Each year this is without question my favorite American ros
é. It's well balanced with delicious stone fruit and good acidity. Great with shrimp ceviche tostadas.

Guy Charlemagne Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut Réserve, $40. Salty minerals all the way, great focus and acidity, fresh and light, almost sheer. Just delicious.

2000 Dessilani Ghemme Riserva, price unknown. Dr. J calls this "an outer-borough Barolo." I guess he means that Ghemme is close to Barolo the way the Bronx is close to Manhattan. And that you can eat good Italian food on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx for half what you'd pay in Manhattan. This wine was soft cherry earth deliciousness, so nicely balanced and food friendly. I enjoyed the complexity of aromas - smoky, fruity, earthy...excellent wine, and completely new to me.

1996 Fleury Champagne Brut Millésimé, $56. This is a crazy price for a wine of this caliber. I found it on the shelves at a place called Meritage in a mall near Encinitas. I doubt that they raised the price over the years that they stocked this wine. Live in or near San Diego? Like Champagne? This one is worth the drive, especially at $56. Beautiful mature nose of roast nuts, honey, and bitter minerals. Let this one air out a bit and it becomes truly beguiling. So elegant and poised on the palate, soft and creamy, but still very focused with powerful acidity. Just delicious wine.

Then there's the amazing dinner in Portland with Peter Liem and his friends. This post is long enough already though, so tomorrow you'll hear about the ridiculous wines we drank that night.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Be Back Soon

Sorry for the silence. We visited relatives out west. Be back soon with stories about good wines and great times meeting fellow wine bloggers/new friends.

Would it surprise you to hear that I drank a lot of great Champagne?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Fleury Champagne Carte Rouge Brut, $40, Winebow Imports. Jean-Pierre Fleury is a pioneer of sorts. He is credited as the first grower in Champagne to convert his entire estate to biodynamics. This is back in the early '90s when crack was wack and it was extra wide laces for your Jordans. Deciding to go biodynamic is fashionable now. It couldn't have been easy back then.

The Fleury estate is located in the village of Courteron in the Côte des Bar, a region of Champagne where Pinot Noir is particularly successful. And indeed Pinot makes up about 90% of what Fleury's grows, the rest is Chardonnay. In addition to the basic brut, the lineup includes a vintage wine, a rosé that is supposed to be wonderful, and that I have never tasted, and the tête de cuvée, the Cuvée Robert Fleury.

These wines are produced in small quantities and can be difficult to find here in the States. I've never even seen a bottle of Cuvée Robert Fleury, for example. And I haven't seen the rosé either in at least a year. I haven't seen a bottle of the vintage wine since I came across a 1996 on the shelves in San Diego last December. And come to think of it, I had to go to one specific store in an out of the way neighborhood in Manhattan (for me) to find even this, the basic brut.

With distribution blanketing New York like that, it's easy to understand why Perrier-Jouet sued Fleury a few years back over the similarity of the two houses'
rosé labels. The previous sentence contains 90% sarcasm and 10% snarkiness.

It really is a shame, though, that Fleury's wines are hard to find, because what I've tasted is truly delicious and unique. The NV Brut (no disgorgement data provided) opens with an elegant nose of red fruit and lots of chalk, very restrained, but pulsing with energy. And with a little air, interesting notes of malted milk powder emerge, even some cocoa powder. Although quite savory, the red fruit and chalky minerals are bright and overall the nose is very lively. This is a surprising aromatic profile that I've not before experienced in a Champagne.

The palate is absolutely fresh and pure, with richness, depth, and finesse. There are nicely focused flavors of red fruits and yeasty bread with a deeply chalky mineral finish. My favorite thing about this wine is that it feels incredibly transparent. The clarity and purity are so striking that real or imagined, I sensed the earth of Courteron in my mouth. This is a wonderful Champagne that I urge you to drink, if you come across it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to Your Roots - WBW #48

47 editions of Wine Blogging Wednesday have come and gone. I speak of the monthly online community wine tasting and sharing event created by Lenn, the New York wine guy at Lenndevours.

Four years. That's ancient in the world of wine blogs. Just goes to show you - our community of bloggers and readers enjoys getting together every now and then, stepping off of our individual soapboxes and being but one of many voices.

Wine Blogging Wednesday is part of what inspired me to start a blog. I participated religiously for quite some time, but I've missed a bunch now. In some cases I just forgot, in others, I couldn't get excited by the theme. But this month I'm excited because Lenn, a gentleman who in my view is one of the OG's (that's Original Gangsta, for those of you who are not bangin') of wine blogging, is celebrating an anniversary. And he's asking us to join him, to go back to our wine drinking roots.

Here is the story of my very first wine epiphany:

The year is 1990. I was home from college for the summer, a four month break from school. I got a job at a strange restaurant on the upper east side of Manhattan called The Lion's Rock. Even then I could tell that the food was unimaginative at best - every night's special, no matter what it was, featured a caper buerre blanc sauce. But they were famous for having a real waterfall - a trickle of water that flowed over a real rock (the lion's rock?) in the back next to their garden seating. Food=bad, rock=business. Anyway, I was making at least $100 a night in tips, which was a fortune.

I have no idea whether or not the wine list was any good. No one there taught me about selling wine, never mind about drinking wine. There was one other interesting thing at this restaurant, aside from the waterfall and the rock. Behind the bar, hanging on the wall, there was an inverted bottle of wine with a contraption attached to the neck that allowed you to turn a spigot and pour an ounce at a time. The Lion's Rock offered a one-ounce taste of this wine for $15 (or something like that), a ridiculous sum of money. I thought it was a gimmick, like the waterfall. And it probably was.

But one night after work when we were all sitting at the bar sipping our complimentary post-shift drink, I asked the bartender about it. Tell me how any wine can be worth that kind of money for just a sip, I asked. Is it really that much better than some other wine?

The bartender, a nice guy named Michael, a guy in his mid-forties who was really a musician struggling to make it in New York, decided to teach me something. And it turned out to be one of those moments that is way more important than you can possibly imagine when it happens. He told me to close my eyes, and he poured me an ounce of whatever Bordeaux was in the inverted bottle. He also poured an ounce of the house red. He presented me with both glasses and I tasted them blind.

I took a sip of one, and then of the other. One of the wines tasted like what I understood wine to taste like. But the other one, well this was a different story. It had depth and character, and it held my interest. I wished that there were more than just one ounce in the glass. I wanted to keep drinking it, and that was the first time I felt that way about a wine.

I almost never drink Bordeaux now, but I will always remember that experience. For the rest of that summer I tried to taste everything on the wine list at The Lion's Rock. Whenever customers didn't finish their bottle, I would sneak a taste. I visited my local wine store and stared blankly at the bottles on the shelves, not knowing anything about what I was looking at. I caught the wine bug, and it was a one ounce pour at a now defunct restaurant called The Lion's Rock that got me started. A one ounce pour of a Bordeaux that will forever remain nameless to me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Overheard in the Wine Storage Warehouse

I finally got my act together and found a place to store my wine. It had been sleeping in a friend's basement cellar, but he sold his house. Based on my own research and on a reader's recommendation, I chose Acker Merrall & Condit. We drove out there the other day with a load of wine and everything was very smooth, excellent service so far, except for a few minor and easily corrected mistakes with inventory. Advice: keep careful inventory yourself before putting wine into storage.

The warehouse is the size of an airplane hangar. In the receiving area there are stacks of wine boxes and many tables with individual bottles standing like flags waving in the breeze. I saw about 12 wooden crates of Screaming Eagle, and what looked like half a shipping container's worth of Krug boxes.

A double magnum of 1990 DRC Romanée St.Vivant caught my eye. "That's going up for auction," said our guide. A bottle of 1947 Musigny, a 1962 Latour, all sorts of of big-name wines just lounging around on these tables waiting for service.

"What's new in business?" I asked.
"The Chinese are huge buyers right now," he said. "They won't touch anything except for first growth Bordeaux, but they're buying loads of it. LOADS. They don't go for anything else, not even the great Burgundies."

Interesting, right? What do you make of that? If this is true everywhere, and not just in the world of Acker Merrall, does this mean that newly wealthy Chinese folks are buying wines as trophies? Or, are they starting to learn about wine and opting to begin with what's supposed to be the very best? Is this about saving face, and buying whatever their wealthy friends and colleagues also buy? Is it simply a lack of creativity? It made me sad to think about this.

But only for a moment. Then I realized...

Thank goodness it's first growth Bordeaux that they're after. If it were Loire wine, grower Champagne, or Beaujolais, it would really wreck my life. And I couldn't just sit around and watch it happen.

I would have to secretly enlist a few folks like McDuff, Lyle, and Alice, spend time in intense training on a unknown island, and then embark on stealth mission to China, our own sort of Enter the Dragon thing. We would visit their compounds under the cover of night and do whatever is necessary. This, of course, would jeopardize US/Chinese relations and cause all sorts of problems, maybe even war. So we should all be grateful that they're buying first growth Bordeaux. Yes, wealthy Chinese business people - be warned. Hands off Clos Rougeard, Geoffroy, and Foillard. There will be very serious consequences.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Corked Wine Update: I Can Do It!

Finally, I did it! We were drinking a wine that I thought might be corked, I happened to have another bottle, we opened it to compare, and yes - it was corked. Please feel free to send congratulatory notes and medals/trophies.

Why would I celebrate such a thing, you ask? Very recently I told you that I'm not so good at picking out corked wine. I've probably drunk many of them in the past few years without realizing that they were corked, thinking instead that I just didn't like the wine. People wrote interesting and encouraging comments, and I decided that the next time I am uncertain, I would be bold and simply open another bottle for comparison. Such a shame that this occurred with what should have been a spectacular wine, and not cheap either at $42 when I bought it in March of 2007.

This weekend the fish people at our farmer's market had bonito for the first time this summer. Bonito is wonderful in sushi where is is usually lightly cured in vinegar, as is other mackerel sushi. Like other mackerel, it is also wonderful when broiled, maybe with a simple soy/mirin/sesame glaze. The cooked flesh tastes and feels something like a cross between tuna and Spanish mackerel.

We broiled our lovely bonito, plunged a few ear of corn into boiling water, and lightly dressed our heirloom tomatoes and salad greens. BrooklynLady requested a Sancerre with this dinner and it happens that we had only one in the cellar, the 2005 Domaine Pascal Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés, $42, imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Widely thought of as one of the top producers in Sancerre, Pascal Cotat (his cousin François is also a top producer) harvests later than most growers and he makes rich and concentrated wines that can age for the long term. And that was my plan - drink one of these young, enjoy the wonderfully ripe 2005 fruit, and hold one for about 10 years. Alas, it was not to be.

We opened the bottle while the fish broiled and even after about 10 minutes, the wine had no fruit on the nose whatsoever. Smelling blind there would have been no way to tell that this was Sauvignon Blanc. By the time our food was on plates and ready to go, my glass smelled like something heavy, but not fruit. Something musty. "Could this be corked," I asked the wife. She wasn't sure, and was more interested in her fish anyway. I swirled vigorously and kept sniffing. Still something unpleasant, no fruit.

I opened the second bottle figuring that if I was right, I would return the corked bottle to the merchant. Sure, no more 2005 is available, but the 2006 is on the shelves. And if I was wrong and it wasn't corked, well so be it. A $42 lesson in smelling wine. And it would save me from cellaring a bottle of wine that I didn't like.

It was absolutely clear as soon as I opened the second bottle that the first was terribly corked. The second bottle immediately showed classic Sauvignon Blanc grassy notes, and with an hour open it developed into something really beautiful and complex. An elegant and light but also intense nose of citrus and spices, very pure and clean, very mineral. Rich and broad in the mouth, this wine really spread out and stained the palate. It was so well balanced, it didn't have any of the heaviness that you might expect from such a rich wine. It perfectly cut through the oily bonito and was absolutely delicious, a joy to drink. By the last glass the nose was just shimmering and the wine reminded me, oddly, of a Riesling.

I wish I still had another bottle. But it was an important lesson for my nose and palate, and it was equally important that I had the cohones to crack open the second bottle. I feel so much more confident about picking out TCA now.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

Hey y'all, it's good to be back. We spent a great long weekend in Vermont with Deetrane and his beautiful family. Small children pet horses, calves, and goats, adults ate soft-serve swirl, and a great time was had by all. We drank some great wine too, but that's for another post. It's Friday, and time for some bubbles.

Deetrane said something interesting to me when I asked him for his thoughts on the blog. He said that it seems as if I like every bottle of bubbles that I open, that I always come upon something great. How could that be, he wondered. Is Brooklynguy a "loves everything he tastes" kind of guy?

No, not at all. I am actually very discerning, I like to think. I come across loads of wine that I don't like, it's just that you're not reading about many of them. Although I am vocal with my criticisms in person among friends, I am hesitant to write negative things about wine on this blog. I do it, but not too often.

I think it takes some serious confidence in one's expertise as a taster to make negative comments in a highly public arena. I don't always feel that confident and even when I do, the wine that I drank and didn't like is someone's life's work (or year's work anyway). Maybe it was an off bottle. Maybe I was in the wrong mood for it, and you'll like it when you drink it. Maybe it is bad wine, but why clog the wires with negativity?

But Deetrane has a good point, and I've felt this before too. If you never tell me what you don't like, it's hard for me to relate to you when you tell me what you do like.

So, in that spirit, I will attempt to respectfully tell you about a few sparkling wines that I drank in July that I did not like. And you'll just have to take it for what it is - my opinions. Add $2 and you get a ride on the subway.

2006 François Pinon Vouvray Brut Non Dosé, $23, Louis/Dressner Imports. A zero dosage wine by Pinon - who knew? Pinon, Chidaine, and these other Loire producers make all kinds of wines that don't cross the ocean to the States. I was excited to drink this, as I am a big fan of Pinon's wines. I wanted very much to like it, but alas, I did not. It wasn't bad wine, just not entirely successful. I thought it was unbalanced, with sharp acidity and funk dominating. My notes from that night: strong barnyard upon opening, never entirely blew off. Flowers and briny minerals on the nose, changes constantly. Seems very Vouvray on the nose, and then 5 minutes later is a murky mess. And then back again. Incredibly strong acidity, not balanced, tastes like what I imagine vin clair tastes like, strips the enamel off my teeth.

NV Henri Billiot Champagne Brut Réserve, $36, Terry Theise Selections. I bought this a year ago and it now costs about $45. I've had it several times and I like this, the 5/07 disgorgement, less than the others I've had. Not a knock on Billiot - I love the other wines I've had, including the consistently gorgeous Brut Rose (seen at left next to this wine) and the brilliant Cuvée Laetitia, both solera wines. This wine is mostly Pinot Noir and there's no mistaking it - it's dripping with red fruit. Starts out great, there is a rich and broad feeling in the mouth, ample acidity, and a very fresh and clean feeling. But I found that the wine drops off quickly. It loses focus, complexity, and fruit, and is so much less appealing then when first opened that we had a tough time with it, actually.

NV Henriot Champagne Souverain Brut, gift from a good pal, but retails for about $32. This is the first bottle of big house Champs that I've had at home in a long time, and it was not an impressive experience, I must say. The problem was sulfur - it was so strong on the nose after a few minutes open that I could barely sense anything else about the wine. Before the sulfur blanket came down I thought the nose was pleasant, with airy nice green apple and citrus notes. But even before the sulfur attack I found nothing distinctive or interesting on the palate - pretty tame. I understand that I need to taste more from the big houses, the good ones like Gosset, Drappier, and Bollinger. But this wine was disappointing enough to leave me in the "I'll drink those wines when someone pours them for me, I won't buy them myself" camp.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Gone Fishing...

See you on Friday.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Friday Night Bubbles

NV Champagne Voirin-Jumel Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, $32 (but that is a "last bottle" price - it should be about $45). Imported by Selected Estates of Europe. Voirin-Jumel is an esteemed grower/producer in Cramant, in the Côte des Blancs. I don't know much else about this producer, actually. I've enjoyed some of this importer's Champagnes in the past, and the price certainly seemed quite low for Grand Cru grower Champagne. I took a shot, and wow, did it pay off. What a wine this was - just fantastic, one of the finest blanc de blancs I've had.

The nose is airy and fresh, very elegant. There are clear aromas of roast nuts and biscuits, their richness balanced by ginger and jasmine perfume. Chalky minerals run underneath everything. This is a gorgeous nose, truly compelling. The wine is lacy and sheer in the mouth, but full of punch. There are sweet flavors of jasmine and tart green apples, very focused but not incisive, mellow. The finish is quite mineral, although there are lovely floral mouth aromas. This is a silky wine with great balance that really caresses the tongue.

The label says nothing about dosage or disgorgement date, so I'm going to make some guesses here. The label says "L003" in small writing on the lower right hand side - you can sort of see this in the photo, above "750ml." I take that to mean that this wine is based on the 2003 vintage. The biscuits and the mellow feeling make me think that the wine was disgorged a while ago, maybe sometime in 2006. It seems as if it has some bottle age.

As for dosage - tough to guess. But if I'm right about the vintage as 2003, the wine might not have needed a lot of sugar to achieve balance - 2003 was a ripe year that produced grapes that were naturally high in sugar.

This wine was good enough to make me want to try any Voirin-Jumel wine that I come across. Maybe not the Cuvée 555, the one they ferment in oak. I'm not yet sure whether or not I like that style of Champagne.