Showing posts with label Bernard Baudry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bernard Baudry. Show all posts

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Some Recent Wines, VLM Style

The Vulgar Little Monkey, or VLM as many like to call him, is back writing on the internet. I like his writing because it's completely honest, because he is clear about his particular point of view, and because he makes me laugh. I recently read through his blog posts since he picked it up again in October and it's satisfying stuff. Most of the posts list wines he's had, along with tasting notes. This sort of thing can be uninspiring at best, but the VLM makes it rewarding, in my opinion.

I've stayed away from this sort of writing, the list of wines and tasting notes, for quite some time because I don't feel that it would be of much value. And maybe it won't be when I try it now. But I'm doing it anyway. Here are some wines I drank in the last few months that might be of interest:

2009 Bernard Baudry Chinon Franc de Pied, $26. This is Baudry's ungrafted vines cuvée from the sandy base of the Clos Guillot vineyard. I've heard that ungrafted vines make wines that should be consumed young, and I've heard the opposite too. This wine showed very well, but showed young. Not all wound up and tight, but young - all fruit still. The dark fruit was lovely and the mineral complexity was there, although just barely articulating itself. This wine is clearly of very high quality and is very well balanced, especially in the context of the warm 2009 vintage. Enjoyable now but I think worth leaving in the cellar too.

2009 Domaine Ganevat Côtes de Jura Cuvée de L'Enfent Terrible, $34.This is Ganevat's Poulsard. Ganevat red wines are almost always reduced and terrifically funky when first opened, and need a good decant to show well. To my taste, this is the finest Poulsard after Houillon/Overnoy. This was a great showing. I decanted it 5 hours before drinking and it needed every moment. When we drank it, it was clear as a bell, completely pure and harmonious and not at all overripe, although the ripeness of the vintage shows. Great complexity and balance. But the thing that makes it special is the purity of the focused red fruit - the crystalline nature of the wine is like that of a white wine. Very lovely, but now the price is closer to $50. If you love Poulsard, probably this is one to buy.

Cédric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne Champagne Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs (2008), $55. No surprise here - this wine is all 2008 fruit, a great vintage in Champagne, and Bouchard makes great wines. This was simply excellent - the purity of fruit rather startling. Saline and chalky, and the texture is all silk. It was still growing and improving when we finished it. Beautiful now, but certainly one to leave in the cellar too.

2007 Muhr-van der Niepoort Blaufränkisch Carnuntum, $18.I loved this wine a year ago and saved one bottle, hoping to leave it alone for a few years. I made it through one year, so I was partially successful. The wine was gorgeous on day one with broad and vibrant aromatics - flowers, various fruit, clean and very lovely. The palate wasn't as expressive, although there was an intriguing mineral floor and this was the main impression on the finish. On day two the wine lost some of its explosiveness on the nose, but was more complete on the palate, with clean, cooling, mineral-infused fruit. Worth the wait, and I should have bought more.

2007 Hirsch Riesling Gaisberg, $34. Hirsch is one of the better regarded producers in Austria's Kamptal region. Heiligenstein is considered to be the vineyard with the best potential, but I like the Gaisberg wines very much also. This wine showed beautifully. I decanted it at 4:00 and we drank it at 7:00, and it needed the time. Some found a bit of petrol on the nose, but I wasn't one of them. For me it is still about perfectly ripe yellow fruits and rock. There is lovely balance and harmony at 12% alcohol and it feels savory on the very long finish. Just excellent wine.

2007 Prager Riesling Smaragd Achleiten, $50. Also took many hours to open up, which I guess shouldn't be surprising. I love the 2007 vintage in Austria - it's my favorite of the recent vintages, but the wines are definitely in a closed phase. I decanted this for a few hours before pouring it back in the bottle and taking it to dinner, and it was still shut down for hours. That said, it opened eventually and the wine is excellent. Balanced, richly fruited, mineral, complex, and with a strong presence on the palate. A real beauty.

2006 Domaine de l'Anglore Côtes du Rhône Comeyre (magnum), $64. I loved this wine at a trade tasting maybe 5 years ago and I bought a magnum, thinking I would bring it to Thanksgiving dinner in a few years. It wasn't Thanksgiving, but I brought it to some dinner party, and wow, have my tastes changed. It is high quality wine, aromatic and tasty, but it smells more like !--Natural Wine--! than it does like old vines Carignan, and there is no sense of place whatsoever. Not a style of wine that interests or truly satisfies me.

2005 François Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Les Choisilles, $28. I bought a few of these several years ago and first drank one only recently. This is one of Chidaine's dry wines and in the warm 2005 vintage it is 14% alcohol but seems lower because the wine is so well balanced, and the acidity keeps it bright and refreshing. Nose is just lovely, albeit a bit shy on day 1, and the aromas are perfectly delicate. Wool, beeswax, winter herbs like rosemary, yellow fruit, and all wispy and always moving. There is a lush feel to the palate but it is focused and essentially dry. Such lovely wine.

2005 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet Clos des Briords, $13. I drank almost a case of this wine in 07 and 08, but saved a few bottles. Decided to check in on the wine, and time has clarified the aromas and flavors here. Especially on day two, there are lovely seashell aromas and citrus oils - grapefruit. The palate is balanced and has a bit of grain in the texture. A bit broad perhaps, not as focused I imagine as some other recent vintages will be as they age, but this is lovely wine.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What I've Been Doing

Haven't written anything here in a little while. Partly because I've been very busy. I've been working a lot, and some of that involves travel.

I found this place in New Orleans called Bacchanal, where you can buy a bottle of wine from the shelf and then drink it out back amidst the large shade trees, eat something tasty, and listen to shockingly good music.

In that garden, I very much enjoyed the 1996 López de Heredia Tondonia Reserva.

With a simple and lovely seafood salad.

I've visited family and walked in the woods some.

The nights are starting to get chilly and I've cooked some heavier food.

These potatoes with butter and dill were supposed to be like the ones you can eat on the Brighton Beach boardwalk. Not quite, but I almost got there. I continue to be surprised and inspired by how hard it is to prepare seemingly simple dishes.

I've eaten at old and familiar restaurants, like Aliseo.

I've eaten beautifully prepared Aji (horse mackerel), at my favorite Japanese restaurant.

Gorgeous with Champagne, by the way.

I've drunk the new vintage of some familiar wines that I love. Bernard Baudry's 2010 Cuvée Domaine and Grézeaux are both very, very good. Also, some older vintages of familiar wines that I love. 2002 Huet...whoa!

I've had some grand wines that are new to me. I'd tasted Raveneau before, but never sat with a bottle over dinner.

Same with Bartolo Mascarello. This wine was quite moving, I thought. And still very young, I kid you not.

It's been a great fall so far. And now, we in NYC are lucky to be in the midst of Sherryfest, the greatest week of Sherry events that the US has ever seen. More on that soon.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Good Things to Eat While Traveling

I like to travel within New York City, to explore the far away neighborhoods, and the not so faraway. There are so many ridiculously good things to eat here, we really are very lucky.

Just look at this bowl of Bun Rieu, the Vietnamese crab paste soup with vermicelli noodles that I recently ate in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. At Thanh Da, this soup is served with fried tofu, chunks of pork rib, tomatoes, and lots of mint. Pure savory satisfaction.

Not too long ago a good friend and I went on walkabout to explore the Forest Hills Gardens section of Queens. This is a neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmstead's son, and its streets are privately owned. They have their own garbage collection and security services, if I'm not mistaken. Anyway, I couldn't help but point out to my pal that Rego Park was within walking distance, and its incredible Bukharian restaurants.

We ate a memorable and very large meal at Restaurant Salute (108th street and 63rd Road). This is a kosher restaurant owned by Uzbek Jews. We began with a gorgeous plate of expertly made pickles, and two kinds of dumplings.

These are Uzbek dumplings called manti, filled with ground meat (lamb?) and spices. I love them at Salute. If they remind you of certain Chinese dumplings, that's because there was a lot of mixing of food and technique as people traveled along the silk road a long time ago.

On the Salute menu these are called "Juicy Crimean Dumplings," and I think the real name for them is Cheburek. They were delicately spiced with cumin, and were indeed very juicy and delicious.

We ate pilaf, rich with chunks of lamb, carrots, and cooked onions. Not a powerfully flavored dish, but savory and very comforting.

And we ate kabobs, of course, a skewer of lamb ribs and another of ground lamb and beef spiced with cumin. Both were expertly grilled and a with a little bit of the "sauce for meat," made of plums, dill, onions, chilis...wow, that's just good stuff.

I love to have a pot of green tea at Salute. Beautiful colors, delicious tea, and another reminder of how complicated the mingling of food and culture is all over the world.

Get ready for this last bit because if you live in New York, you're going to freak out a little. I was in Chicago recently and a colleague who lives there took me to a place for dinner in his neighborhood, called Humboldt Park. He had no idea that I'm into wine, he just likes this place called Rootstock. Whoa - what a find! This place simply couldn't exist in New York. There would be twice as many tables squeezed into the same space, and everything would need to be at least twice as expensive.

The food was delicious. A salad topped with pickled squash and sunflower seeds ($8) was refreshing and bright. I guess Portland and NYC are not the only places where anything can be pickled.

Chicken liver mousse with pickled cranberries and pink peppercorns ($6.50 !) was truly excellent, although served with rather uninspiring bread. But the mousse was so good that it almost doesn't matter. And that bottle you see there...it is the 2009 Alzinger Riesling Steinertal, and it cost all of $60 on the wine list!! This is a wine that typically costs more than that at a retail shoppe in NYC, if you can find it. The wine list was excellent, really really great. There were so many things that I wanted to drink, and the prices were great, from my NYC viewpoint. This is a place that serves Bernard Baudry Chinon Blanc by the glass. There are loads of interesting beers to try, the shelves were stocked with great spirits, and to top it off this place serves Sherry by the glass too - Gutierrez Colosía's lovely Oloroso called Sangre y Trabajadero, and El Maestro Sierra's Amontillado. I mean really, folks, this place is a gem and I would go back 10 times.

And by the way, the Steelhead Trout with lentils and grilled scallions ($13 !!)...not bad with Steinertal, not bad at all. Yes, it's probably 15 years too soon to get the most out of this wine, but a good decant and two hours in, this was singing a lovely tune.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More Mid-term Cellaring Results

In the past few weeks I had the chance to enjoy a few wines from the cellar, things that are not by any means at peak maturity, but maybe approaching middle age. These are wines that I know and love, and the results were all good. A few notes:

1997 López de Heredia Rioja Rosado Viña Tondonia Gran Riserva, $25, Polaner Imports. A good buddy brought this over not too long ago and it was a great reminder of why it's smart to save a bottle or two of this amazing rosé. It's always so delicious when released that it's hard, I know, but you will be well rewarded. The idea, as I've heard it, is that the winery releases this wine when they feel it's ready to drink. The current vintage is 2000, for example (and so far it is my favorite since 1995). But the wine does improve with further cellaring. This bottle was more delicate than I remember the wine a few years ago, the aromas more precise and elegant, the mid-palate that much more detailed. Seems to have shed some weight, but there is even more intensity. Now please give me strength regarding the wonderful 2000's.

2006 Bernard Baudry Chinon Cuvée Domaine, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections. Is Cuv
ée Domaine the best little red wine on the planet? Maybe so, maybe so. In this vintage Baudry did not make Les Grezeaux, one of his top cuvées, and some of that juice went into this wine. This was my last bottle, sadly, and it was superb. The aromas could not possibly be more clear and detailed, with tobacco leaf, gravelly earth, and cooling dark fruit. The palate too - so fresh and clean, such great balance, so classy. This wine is always good and I think this particular vintage is great. My friend took the remaining half bottle with him and he said it continued to be delicious for days.

2007 Foillard Morgon Côte de Py, $29, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. In such a great place. There is still a lot of fruit, but some of it has taken on a secondary stewed nature, and there is an intensity to the midpalate, a certain kind of grip, that comes with a little bit of maturity. Perfectly balanced, beautifully textured, strikingly harmonious - beautiful wine. Yes, there is lots of room for further development, but if you have multiple bottles you could do worse than to drink one of these soon.

2007 Gilbert Picq Chablis Vieilles Vignes, $23, Polaner Imports. I've loved this wine from the beginning and it just keeps getting better. To me, Picq's Vieilles Vignes is one of the very best villages Chablis out there, and when you consider price, it might be the best. This wine is ripe in 2007 but it is also very much expressive of place, with with distinct iodine and seashell aromas encircling the bright green fruit. It actually might be closing down now, as this (my last) bottle didn't show very well on day 1. It was awkward and inexpressive, disappointing. But the next day it was fantastic, the intensity and purity of the flavors really shining. There is a gentle, slightly mature, old vines grip on the midpalate that makes the wine texturally satisfying too.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

December Wines - a Laundry List

December tends to be a good month for wine drinking. Everyone reaches into the cellar for the good bottles to help celebrate the passing of another year. Here are the wines I drank in December that have not, even in passing, appeared recently on this blog. Usually I put them into groups - excellent, very good, and so on, but I had so many great wines in December that I will simply list my favorites without any qualification.

1993 Chateau Laville Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan Blanc, price unknown, Chateau & Estate Wines. My generous friend Adam shared this treasure with me over his tasty braised veal shanks. First of all, I've had maybe two or three white Bordeaux wines in my life before this one, and none of them were terribly exciting. This one, however, was thrilling. The Wine Doctor profiles the estate here, so you can read up on the details if you like. In short, Laville Haut-Brion is owned by the same people who own Haut-Brion, but the Laville vineyards and wines are distinct. They are made from old vines, mostly Semillon and the balance Sauvignon Blanc. Pungent and still very graceful aromas of orange peel, wax, menthol, and honey. A mesmerizing nose, and one that grew in detail and breadth over the hour or so in which we drank it. Youthful acidity on the palate and perfectly balanced at only 12% alcohol (!), with a dazzling combination of richness and delicacy to the flavors. Memorable wine, and I suspect that it is a wine that might not exist in this style these days.

(2000) Tarlant Champagne La Vigne d'Antan Extra Brut Non-Grefée Chardonnay, $65, was imported by Jon-David Headrick Selections, not sure who imports it now. As described by Peter Liem on ChampagneGuide.net, this wine comes from un-grafted French rootstock in the sandy phylloxera-resistant soils of a vineyard called Les Sables. This is just the second release of this wine (Benoit Tarlant began making it in 1999) and already it is one of my favorite Champagnes. It expresses with incredible clarity the sandy brown tones of the soil. The fruit is piercingly clear, although the fruit plays a secondary role. The fruit and the soil work together so harmoniously, and the wine is both fascinating to think about while drinking, and also just plain delicious.Well worth seeking out.

2002 Domaine Huet Vouvray Demi-Sec Clos du Bourg, $33, Imported by Robert Chadderdon Selections. Such an incredibly beautiful wine, and so accessibly priced. Crystalline purity, elegance and energy, rocks, herbs, honey, and stone fruit are all in perfect balance. The wine is delicious now although it is probably showing only a little of itself. It started to show a spearmint kind of herbal complexity on the finish only after an hour open, and the texture became more energetic and almost grippy after that hour. I'm sure this will last forever but it will be delicious at any point between now and forever.

1981 López de Heredia Rioja Gran Reserva Viña Bosconia, price unknown (but you'd have to pay over $100 in NYC to buy this now), imported by Polaner Selections. A very generous host at a holiday party opened this and also the 1985 and 1991 Gran Reserva Viña Tondonia. They were all great wines and it was interesting to drink them next to one another. The 1991 was just too young, I thought. The 1985 was utterly lovely, but the star of the show was this wine, and it was all class and grace, with deeply complex aromas and flavors, an incredibly elegant mouth feel, and a finish that just didn't quit. Awesome wine, and it's the same price as a newly released 1er cru red Burgundy from a good terroir. One of the best ways to spend $100 on wine, in my opinion.

2004 Henri Prudhon Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Chenevottes, $47, Imported by Neal Rosenthal Wine Merchant. White Burgundy is tough to buy, I think. I want to buy good bottles, but there have been oxidation problems so it's a dicey proposition to cellar them. But the really good bottles take time to fully express themselves. Prudhon's wines are a safe bet, I would say. The range includes some very good terroirs and the wines are made in a classic understated style. Perhaps not the very finest that Burgundy has to offer in white wine, but delicious and expressive of place, and accessibly priced. This bottle was very good when we opened it, but it was day two when it really shined. Slightly smokey and marine inflected aromas that mostly feature stones and rocks. The palate is all elegance and finesse, with good intensity and a grippy finish that smacks of the ripe raw material. And the thing is, this wine is completely light in texture and weight, almost sheer - you have to pay attention to get it. Very impressive.

2007 Bernard Baudry Chinon Cuvée Domaine, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections. This is one of baudry's two "entry level" wines, and it can be simply fantastic. I love it in 2007, and it's drinking better than ever. Showing a mineral pungency and lovely floral tones that weren't there earlier in its life, a bit musky too on the nose. The fruit is a bit less pronounced and the dry leathery earth components are more prominent. Well balanced and great wine and year in, year out, one of the finest red wines that can be purchased for under $20. Yup, I said that.

2002 Louis Boillot et Fils Pommard 1er Cru Les Fremiers, $52, Imported by Neal Rosenthal Wine Merchant. Louis Boillot is Ghislaine Barthod's husband and they will star together in a new MTV reality based mini-series on wine making spouses, their trials and tribulations. Keep an eye out for it. This wine is still young, but certainly showing good detail in aroma and flavor and the minerality is prominent. The fruit aromas are dark and brambly and with air, completely infused with wood smoke. Plenty of extraction here, but the palate is still balanced and lively and with air the minerality takes on a pungency that for me, defines the wine. Very lovely.

NV Jacques Lassaigne Champagne Cuvée Le Cotet Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, $70, Jenny & François Selections. 45 year old vines planted in 10 centimeters of topsoil over chalk in an east-facing vineyard in Montgueux. This is a laser beam of chalky Chardonnay, and because it is farmed so well and grown in such a ripe climate, you'd never guess that it is dosed at merely 2 grams and is technically an extra brut wine. So good, and with an hour of air, terrific.

NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, $75, T. Edward Wines. So silky and refined, such finesse. This wine has earned its reputation as one of the finest NV rosés in Champagne.

1997 Chateau Pibarnon Bandol, about $25 on release, but $54 a few years ago, Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines. Absolutely classic Bandol, with lots of animale inflected tobacco and earth. Offers a lot of pleasure, and it is perhaps just approaching middle age. Very well balanced and the acidity is strong. The tannins are dusty and pretty fine, and the whole package is very attractive and typical of the place. Very strong wine.

2009 Immich-Batterieberg Riesling Kabinett, $23, Mosel Wine Merchant. I'm just beginning to start attempting to engage in trying to begin learning about Riesling. This is one of my favorites so far. I love how it is almost extreme in its focus, but its also so pretty and generous in its flavors. At first it's all orchard fruit but with air time the earthy notes emerge. There are fleeting sponti whiffs, the palate is very mineral, and the wine is well balanced and expressive. Hard to argue with that.

Thanks for indulging me in this very long laundry list post. December was a good month and I wanted to share...

Monday, September 20, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

Cellar space is at a premium in NYC. I can't save all of the different wines I would like to age. There are many different wines in my "cellar" (read: wine fridge), things that most anyone would agree should be left alone for years before drinking. It's the little wines that I never seem to make room for, and we drink them up when they're young.

There's nothing at all wrong with that - if a wine is expressive and delicious young, why not drink it? Some humble little wines, though, can improve dramatically with even short-term cellaring, and I wish that I had more space/self control to give them that extra year or two in the bottle.

A couple examples. I never manage to hold any Coudert Fleurie. The old vines Cuvée Tardive I'm good about, but the regular wine...as much as I'd like to sock a few bottles away, the wine is always delicious young, and so we drink it. Another example - all Bandol rosés. As committed as I am to holding a bottle or two, I seem to find excuses to open them.

This is all too common with me. There are so many wines that I'd love to put away, but don't. Such is life - there are choices to make and one cannot cellar every interesting bottle of wine. I drank a few things recently that reminded me of the rewards of storing the humble wines even for just a year or two.

2006 Bernard Baudry Chinon Cuvée Domaine, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections. I've always enjoyed this wine but I never managed to store any until the 2006 vintage. It's just so good, even right out of the gates. Some folk, like the Vulgar Little Monkey, figured out long ago that there are several Baudry wines worth cellaring, the humble Cuvée Domaine included. It's not Baudry's top wine and it will never be earth shattering, but Cuvée Domaine is a great wine that in most vintages is even better with a few years in the cellar. The tannins have rounded a bit in the 2006 and the wine flows freely across the palate. The fruit is rich and the body lean and muscular, the sensibilities of gravel and flower coexisting harmoniously. You will be proud of me when I tell you that I still have another bottle of this. And a few of the 2007's too. I need an underground cave.

2006 Jacques Puffeney Arbois Trousseau Cuvée les Bérangères, $30, Imported by Neal Rosenthal Wine Merchant. Again, this was always an attractive wine. But I managed to hold this last bottle for merely one year and the payoff was huge. The slight astringency that I was always happy to work with is gone now, and so is whatever else that is not essential to the purest of cool red currant and leafy raspberry, the gamy undercurrent, and the stony finish. So agile and energetic, such a compelling example of cool climate mountain wine from the Jura. I hereby renew my commitment to the 2007's.

2007 Domaine de Terrebrune Bandol Rosé, $25, Kermit Lynch Imports. I won't lie to you - I didn't cellar this wine. I drank all mine last summer and loved all of it. But Chambers Street came across a small bit recently and I bought a bottle from them. Wow - the wine is even better. It takes a while to open up, but when it does it really sings. Peach juice, spices, metal, and stone, pure as can be and perfectly balanced. The gamy streak that was there in its youth was not here a year later, but I loved how there is a new dimension to the texture. There are layers on the palate now, and there is a tactile sense to each flavor. I bet that this is just the beginning for this wine, actually. Bert Celce of Wine Terroirs has written about the aging potential of Bandol rosé, Terrebrune's in particular.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

A Couple More New Vintages

Just a couple more notes on new vintages of wines that I drink every year.

This one comes courtesy of Keith Levenberg who seems to have abandoned his blog The Picky Eater (the guy has a new baby, give him a break). I enjoyed his Cellar Tracker note on the 2009 Coudert Clos de la Roilette Fleurie Cuvée Tardive, $26, Louis/Dressner Selections, and received his permission to re-print it here:

This is my first taste of 2009 Beaujolais so I don't know if some other examples are bearing out people's speculation that the vintage may be marked by fat, overdone fruit. That is emphatically not the case here. Steve Martin had a memorable line in his novella Shopgirl: "When you work in the glove department at Neiman's, you are selling things that nobody buys anymore. These gloves aren't like the hard-working ones sold by L.L. Bean; these are so fine that a lady wearing them can still pick up a straight pin." The 2009 Clos de la Roilette Cuvee Tardive is made out of the same material as those gloves. This is the old-vine cuvée from Coudert and indeed what makes this special is that unique ability of very old vines to deliver intense flavor out of physical material that is so sheer and fine it's practically not even there. This is practically waifish with a refinement that is already very pinot noir-like in the fashion of Burgundies with an Audrey Hepburn figure, but the flavors show gamay's tart wild-berry side seasoned with something I find myself calling "mealy" for lack of a better term, kind of reminiscent of cereal and multigrain, already past the primary.

If you've ever wondered what wines available for the taking today have the potential to turn into tomorrow's sought-after collectibles that you'll kick yourself for not picking up when you had the chance, this is a pretty damn good candidate. It's an iconic Beaujolais, costs a whopping $5 more than the basic bottling, and has a production level somewhere around the quantities of Roumier Musigny. Only one of two things can happen. The first possibility is that it remains an insider's wine and the only way to experience a mature bottle will be to cellar it yourself, because the people who have them won't be selling. The other possibility is that collectors of top Burgundy realize they ought to have some top Beaujolais in their cellars, with the usual price consequences. Either way I'm glad to have stocked up.
I recently drank two newly released wines by Bernard Baudry. I love Baudry's wines in general, although I am learning that I prefer the wines from the more difficult vintages to the "great" ones. But I might be in the minority here, so please take the following with a healthy dose of "I need to drink those for myself." Just my opinion, that's all...

2009 Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges, $17, Louis/Dressner Selections. This is Baudry's "entry level" Chinon from gravel soils. The 2009 is not a successful wine, to my taste. It borders on fruit bomb. The fruit is attractive and clean, but the wine doesn't speak to me of the gravel soils where it is grown (the way '08, '07. and '06 did, for example), and it simply is not a very interesting wine. I thought that perhaps I was catching the loud and fruity opening phase, so I left it alone for about 12 hours and very little happened to improve the wine. It's drinkable and the ripe dark fruit is very tasty. But I didn't find balance, acidity, or much beyond the fruit.

2008 Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Grézeaux, $24, Louis/Dressner Selections. From hillside vineyards of clay and gravel right next to the Baudry's house. This wine rests in cement and sometimes in neutral oak, and I'm not sure what the regimen was in 2008. This wine along with the Cuvée Domaine are, to me, the value selections in the Baudry portfolio. They are consistently excellent wines and they're ridiculously inexpensive for what you get. The Cuvée Domaine is about $18 for goodness sake, and it's a great wine (inexplicably the fantastic 2007 is still available and if you haven't had it, you really should). The 2008 Grézeaux is hard to figure out right now. Upon opening it was aromatically lovely with pungent dried flowers and earthy fresh fruit. The palate shows good balance and texture - this wine is lighter than the 09 Les Granges, but there also might be a bit of a hole in the midpalate. I'm just not sure, because it drank better the next day, although the aromas had receded a bit too. Check back in perhaps 5 years and we'll see where this one goes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Favorite Rosé of the Summer?

I think I might have decided on my favorite rosé of the summer, so far. I'm not considering things like Tempier, Pradeaux, or the other Bandols. I think of those more as Bandol wines than as rosé anyway. But among the summer flood of generally inexpensive rosés - I think I've found a favorite.

I've always enjoyed white wines from Schloss Gobelsburg, but I'd never had the rosé until this summer. I'm not sure, but I think that 'Gobelsburger' is the second wine of Schloss Gobelsburg. This wine's name recalls the monks who managed the winery until 1995, and it is made from Zweigelt and St. Laurent grapes. It should cost about $15 and honestly it's great rosé, case-worthy, in my opinion.

2009 Gobelsburger Rosé Cistercien, $14, Terry Theise Selections / Michael Skurnik Imports. This is not a fruity rosé, so let's just get that out of the way first. There is fruit in this wine, but it shows up on the finish in a controlled little burst of red. The main body of the wine is more about the steely and sleek tone, the acidity and focus, and the aromas and flavors are more mineral than fruit. This wine reminds me very much of the 2008 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rosé in that it drinks more like a white wine than like a rosé. It is bottled under screw cap and a bit reductive at first, so open it 15 minutes before you want to drink it or just give it a vigorous swirl in the glass.

I love how versatile this wine is with food. Unlike rosés that are on the fruitier side (which I also love), this wine can elevate foods that are complex and to me anyway, not always easy to pair. For example, I never know what to drink with pesto.

Although in some ways they are polar opposites, the wine was great with this classic dish. Intensely herbal anise-tinged notes from the basil, umami from Parmesan cheese, savory walnuts...would that work with rosé? Yes, when it is a steely high acid and very pure wine. I'm telling you, when you deal with your summer basil, think of this wine.

On another evening, I knew that I wanted to drink this wine before deciding what to eat. Drinking this rosé, I can detect traces of that sour cream, white pepper thing that I often get from the Gruner Veltliners, and so I decided to try to eat something that would go well with Gruner.

I thinly sliced a smoked duck breast and roasted some small white turnips and pink radishes. There is nothing Austrian about Fregola, the Sardinian pasta balls made from coarse semolina that are toasted after being dried. But I like the way the nutty tasting Fregola absorb simple flavors like butter and white pepper, and so that was it. This pairing was more about synergy - the flavors of the wine seemed to recognize the smoked duck and the radishes, to understand that white pepper is friendly.

I hate the idea that $15 wines, particularly rosés, are not serious wines. This is a serious wine, and unless you clean the racks I will be drinking a lot of it this summer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Laundry List of Recent Wines

I try not to do laundry list posts that sound like "here's what I drank recently." But I've had some interesting wines lately, some of them great, others a bit lackluster. So this will, in fact, be a laundry list post. Feel free to change channels now if you refuse to participate.

Here's what I drank recently:

2008 Marcel Lapierre Morgon, $20, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. Sigh of relief. This wine was great. And I was starting to lose a little faith, as my 06's haven't shown so well and I had two bad bottles of the 07 for every okay one. But this, this is why I love Lapierre's wines. Graceful and with crystal clear purity, perfectly balanced, just gorgeous wine. The next two bottles could be bad - who knows? But if this is representative of his 08's, then I'm back on the wagon. Mine is from an "S" lot, which I understand to mean that it had a bit of sulfur at bottling. I've read comments on the interweb about variation again in 2008, but specifically with the "N" lots - no sulfur as I understand it. Chime in with your 08 Lapierre thoughts, please.

2008 Jean Foillard Morgon Cuvée Corcelette, $34, Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant. I love this wine in general, and this bottle was good, but it didn't show nearly as well as a bottle I drank a few months ago. The nose is full of fresh fruit and leafy herbs, but the palate is in a tight place right now. It felt constrained and rigid, with a lot of iron and mineral and lots of grip. I'm sure it will loosen up again in a few years.

2007 George Descombes Morgon, $20, Louis/Dressner Selections. I keep hearing about how great this wine is drinking right now, but I wasn't terribly impressed. I like it, but I wanted to love it, the way I love the 2007 Régnié. I prefer the Régnié in the end. The Morgon is very pure and there are minerals and soil, there is iron on the palate, and herbs too. What there isn't a lot of is fruit. There is some, but not a whole lot, and I'm fine with that actually. But the nose is a bit muddy - the overall effect is not as fresh as I would hope for and that kind of killed it for me. That said, I did drink this on a root day...

2009 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rosé, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections. A different animal entirely compared to the 2008. Whereas the 08 was a lean and super acidic kind of beautiful, the 2009 is much more fruit forward. This is a fun wine - there are strawberries here. Still a serious wine with great texture and balance and lots of acidity, but it is a more openly joyous wine this year, with more exuberant fruit. On a hedonistic note I'll take this wine. If I were showing Baudry's Rosé to other people who had never had it, or if I were cellaring some for the future, I'd take the 2008.

2009 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis, $21, De Maison Selections. Those of you who aren't familiar with this culty Basque wine might be thinking "Watch your language, fella." This is a well regarded producer working with approximately 85 year old vines of an indigenous grape called Hondarrabi Zuri. The white wines are fantastic - saline and brisk, slightly effervescent, full of character. I had one recently at my pal Bruce's house and it really sang. This wine, however, left me wanting more. I understand its appeal - the nose grows but never gets loud, and it shows this unusual and appealing mix of watermelon and savory herbs, like rosemary and thyme. And texturally it is a marvel, slightly effervescent and silky. The alcohol is under 11%, the wine is dry and full of minerals and it is definitely interesting. But in the end I just wasn't really captivated by it - it wasn't all that delicious.

2007 Domaine de Roally Viré-Clessé Tradition, $24, Louuis/Dressner Selections. This was a shimmering beauty, full of fresh and baked yellow apples. Fresh, energetic, a rich wine that is also very pure and just lovely. Good acidity and balance too - wears its residual sugar well. The remaining third of the bottle was not as good on day two though, which I found confusing. Shouldn't this wine age well? I drank a 1994 last year that was fantastic.

NV Valdespino Sherry Fino "Inocente," $20 (375 ml), Imported by Quality Wines of Spain. Now THAT is some Fino. I know the price sounds high, but I could find only one store that carries the wine, so they can charge what they like. So light and brisk, yet there is a pungent undercurrent of smokey nuts and saltiness, something almost like good coffee - it builds slowly and steadily and this one is better to sip slowly because there's a lot going on. But that's hard to do because it offers so much visceral pleasure. It was at its best on the third day out of the fridge, and it could have kept going, but I finished the bottle. This is in the very top level of Fino that I've tasted, right there with La Bota #15. And I guess that shouldn't be a surprise, because if I'm not mistaken, Equipo Vavazos selected from among the Valdespino butts to make #15. I could very easily be mistaken...

2002 Chartogne-Taillet Champagne Cuvee Fiacre, $70, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. I bought this wine because I like the producer's wines in general, and because when I tasted it as part of a blind tasting a few years back, I thought it was superb. Haven't had it since. I was warned that it is too young to drink, don't touch it for ten years. I don't know...I opened one recently at the end of a great night of wine with friends, and I thought the bottle was fantastic. Not closed at all, very approachable. Beautiful ripe fruit that showed the dark berries of Pinot and also the apples of Chardonnay, compelling richness and depth, a stout frame and firm structure. And still this wine showed grace and poise, harmony. I loved the way the minerals mingled with the fruit on the finish, very long. This is very serious stuff, worth every penny.

Okay folks, that's it. Thanks for coming out tonight. I'm here two or three times a week.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Low Yields and Surprising Wines

Changes in climate bring high yields in some years, low yields in others. Most producers keep their yields low enough to give rich and intense wines, but yields that are too low means less wine, and from a financial perspective, that can't be good. The wines are higher priced in that vintage, or the producer makes less money, neither of which are desirable outcomes.

But sometimes a low yield vintage can bring nice surprises for us wine drinkers. For example, there wasn't enough juice in 2006 for Bernard Baudry to make both Les Grézeaux, his top cuvée from gravelly hillside soils, and the cuvée Domaine, his delicious and younger-drinking wine from similar soils. So he combined them - in 2006 there was no Les Grézeaux, the juice went into cuvée Domaine. That wine is always delicious and always an excellent value, but in 2006 it is particularly good, offering some of the greater depth that is typically found in Les Grézeaux. I still have a couple bottles of 2006 cuvée Domaine and it will be interesting to see how this wine evolves.

The other night we were having my latest attempt at Bouillabaisse (pretty good indeed) and I opened a bottle of the 2007 Alice and Olivier de Moor Bourgogne Aligoté, $19, Louis/Dressner Selections. The wine was fantastic, really striking. Made in a very different style from the Aligotés by de Villaine or Roulot, both of which are also excellent. But whereas those wines are tightly wound, lean, and firm with acidity and minerality, the de Moor Aligoté was broad and oxidative and was more about lush and intense fruit. The nose had an airy, appley character, and after about a half hour the wine showed great depth and intensity of fruit on the palate. This is Aligoté - there was still plenty of acidity and the finish was definitely of a chalky mineral character. But this wine surprised me in the depth and richness of its fruit.

So I read about de Moor on the Dressner website. There are several Aligoté wines, including a "regular" wine and an old vines wine made from grapes that come from vines that are over 100 years old! Well, the wine I had must have been the Vieille Vignes, it showed such richness and intensity of fruit. No mention of it anywhere on the bottle though. Could the young vines version of this wine really be that good?

A phone call with the helpful folks at Chambers Street Wines taught me that there wasn't enough juice in 2007 for the de Moors to make the Vieille Vignes wine - there was only one Aligoté made in 2007, and it contains a blend of juice from the 100 year old vines and juice from younger vines. And this wine costs less than $20 - I wonder if the de Moors took in less revenue because of this in '07, or if this price is higher than in other vintages. Whatever the case, this is great wine, showing way above its price point. And in 2007, we have low yields to thank/blame.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Tales from the Dressner Portfolio Tasting

It was more like a festival - think Cannes, Burning Man, or Fashion Week, perhaps the G8 Summit. People came from all over the world to participate. Deals were struck, friends and enemies gained, and the powerful giant that is Louis/Dressner Selections showed the world that there is no such thing as a recession when it comes to the world of fine wine. At least two heads of state showed up - President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada enjoyed light conversation while tasting through the Clos Roche Blanche wines. P-Diddy made an appearance, as did Martha Stewart. Wine bloggers, writers, and wine bulletin-board junkies from as far away as San Francisco, North Carolina, and Wall Street made the pilgrimage to this, the Mecca of industry tastings.

Dressner did cut a few corners this year, for example by refusing to hire staff for the tables and thereby forcing wine makers from small villages scattered throughout the Loire Valley to travel all the way to NYC to pour the wines themselves. Speaking of the insatiable drive to maximize profits, I heard all sorts of juicy rumors, including this blockbuster, which I have not yet confirmed but is good enough to share anyway: Louis/Dressner, in what can only be described as a corporate attack, is attempting to buy controlling shares in Savio Soares Selections and Jenny & François Selections, thereby consolidating his control over the natural wine selecting industry. As a consumer, I hope this rumor proves false, as although I admire and respect Joe Dressner, even he cannot be trusted to wield such power generously.

I had a great time seeing everyone and being part of the spectacle. I tasted a load of wine, including new vintages from familiar producers and a few things that were brand new to me. I won't bore you with notes on everything I tasted, but here are some of the things that stood out for me:

I love the Saumur-Champignys from Domaine Filliatreau. The entry-level cuvée (I've seen it called Saumur-Champigny Cuvée Printemps, Chateau Fouquet, and simply, Fouquet) is an excellent wine that delivers the same quality as Bernard Baudry's entry level wine Les Granges, but in a different style. Filliatreau's is a lighter wine that emphasizes juicy freshness and fruit. The nose on the 2007 Fouquet, about $17, is very floral and the palate has an appetizing meatiness - it is delicious wine. If forced to choose, I would buy the 2008 Chateau Fouquet, with its bright nose of red fruit and a clean, energetic, and ripe palate. This is not complicated wine, nor does it seem to be a good candidate for the cellar, but it is perfect in its simplicity. And at about $17, it's money well spent. A few bucks more buys the 2008 La Grande Vignolle, price unknown but probably about $20, a wine made from old vines in the huge Grande Vignolle vineyard. This wine drinks well young but also does well with some bottle age. I loved the 2005, not as much the 2006, never saw the 2007, and now we have the 2008. I thought it was great, with a mineral imbued darkly fruited nose, very clean, and a deeply fruited palate with grainy texture and firm tannins that will support more than a few years in the cellar.

In other Saumur-Champigny news, the 2005 Clos Rougeard wines were very impressive. I was worried that they would be inky black and impenetrable, but they weren't. The 2005 Le Clos was wide open and ready to go, crystal clear and with beautiful fruit. I loved the dried roses I was getting on the back of the nose, and the wine had such good depth and length. I would have a hard time keeping my hands off of this, if I owned any. But that's the problem - these wines get tougher and tougher to own every year. This wine is now about $65 here on the east coast. I'm not saying that it isn't worth the money, but it has definitely crossed into a different zone, price-wise. The 2005 Les Poyeux was more dense, darker, very rich, much earthier, and clearly needs lots of time. But it was also very beautiful, and at about $85, is probably worth the extra $20 if you are forced to pick one. Le Bourg was not shown. How I wish I was buying these wines 8 years ago when they cost something like $30 a piece!

I've had the 2007's from Bernard Baudry before, and I still think they're fantastic. The 2007 Cuvée Domaine is maybe the finest red wine that I know of at $18. 2007 Clos Guillot at about $30 is so graceful and elegant, but with such deep fruit. The vines are young but the wine feels wise and centered, and it has the tannins and intensity to age well. This was my first time tasting the 2007 Croix Boissée, about $35, and I liked it very much. It is deeply perfumed, and the palate is rich and complex. It confused me, though, how much I noticed the oxidative style of the wine - it hasn't been so clear to me in the past. Perhaps the 2007 shows it more pronouncedly, or perhaps I am getting better at noticing it. But the wood influence shows itself here, not in an oaky aroma or flavor, but in the way the oxidization that happens in barrels makes the wine stands apart from the others in the lineup. It is excellent wine, but I think I need to open a bottle at home and see what's what. I might be some one who now prefers Les Grézeaux, we'll have to see.

Okay, this post is too long already, so more Tales from the Dressner Portfolio Tasting will come soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wine of the Week - Bernard Baudry's Rosé

Bay Area wine blogger Cory Cartwright is celebrating the 1st anniversary of his blog Saignée by hosting an event that he calls "31 Days of Natural Wine." Cory writes passionately about the wines he loves, and about his life in the Bay Area and beyond. His blog is always interesting to read and his writing style is off-beat and truly hilarious. I am honored and happy that Cory asked me to participate, and this post also appears on Saignée as the Day 8 post in "31 Days of Natural Wine."

I'll never forget our visit to Domaine Bernard Baudry in Cravant les Coteaux, right outside of the town of Chinon. It was November of 2005, BrooklynLady and I went to France together for the first time. A day or two in Paris, but most of our time was spent exploring Vouvray, Montlouis, Tours, Saumur, Savennières, and Chinon. Our visit to Baudry began with a bit of an adventure. I drove our tiny jittery rental car from the hotel in Chinon to the estate, but via the bumpiest of unpaved back roads surrounded by forest, passing no one and nothing, unsure of the proper route. We eventually arrived a half hour later, but only after some treacherous driving and several stops to ask directions. Upon arriving we were warmly welcomed by Bernard's son Matthieu who told us that Baudry's house and estate can easily be reached via one of the main roads out of Chinon, perhaps a 10 minute drive. My wife looked at me with what has become a familiar facial expression, a crooked smile that says "You sometimes amuse me in your ineptitude and dorkiness, dear husband."

Matthieu showed us cement vats full of fermenting juice - we saw and smelled the glorious 2005's as they bubbled away, turning sugar into alcohol. I climbed a tall wooden ladder and stuck my head in one of the vats. Pungent, and also not easy to breathe - not a lot of oxygen. Everything was immaculate, even the antique tools hanging from the wall. We saw the vineyards surrounding the house, and then joined Matthieu in the house's tasting room where we sampled everything from the most recent Croix Boisée Blanc to the new lineup of reds to a 1996 Les Grezeaux, a gorgeous wine.

Matthieu Baudry is in his mid thirties, married with two kids, properly schooled and internationally experienced in wine making, and now working with his father at the family estate. He is an absolutely lovely person, so warm and friendly, and genuinely interested in sharing his wines. I've had the pleasure of meeting him several times since that visit, at tastings in New York, and he continues to embody the good things about being a wine maker.

The Baudry wines are in my opinion, the very finest in Chinon. They are transparent in the truest sense of the word - the fruit is exceptionally pure and clean, the sense of soil is prominent, and changes in character with each cuvée, reflecting the specific terroir. You can smell and taste the gravelly soil in Les Granges, the richness of the clay in Les Grezeaux. But the Baudry wines also offer beautiful concentration and richness - these are not light wines. The marriage of transparency and concentration is what makes these such special wines, for me.

Baudry's wines feature a striking absence of anything that might impede the delivery of soil via fruit. Herbicides are never used, and all chemical treatments are widely avoided. Everything is done by hand, from yield-control debudding to harvest, and all wines ferment via naturally occurring yeasts.

As much as I adore the Baudry red wines, the rose has a special place in my heart too. The 2008 Bernard Baudry Chinon Rosé, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections, is 100% Cabernet Franc from two different parcels, one with flinty clay soils, and the other sandy gravel. The grapes are macerated in the press for a short time, technically making this a Rose de Pressurage (Pressed Rosé or Pressed-out Rosé). The wine then ferments in vat for as long as it takes to fully digest the sugars, a few weeks, sometimes months. "The vinification is quite similar to that of a white wine, as we want the wine to be dry (less than 3 grams of sugar/liter). That way, we can bottle the wine with just a very light filtration and very small doses of sulfites," Matthieu Baudry wrote in an email. This wine was bottled in mid-April 2009, and is more widely available this year then I remember in years past. Which is a good thing.

This is a very special rosé with an entirely different aroma and flavor profile from what you're used to if you drink Provence and similarly styled rosés. Drinking it blind I defy you to guess it a rosé - it smells kind of rosé, but drinks like a white wine. The nose offers vibrant and pure strawberry fruit and summer melon, spicy white peppercorns, and with a little bit of air, roses. It is a gorgeous nose, robust and delicate at the same time. The wine is superbly balanced on the palate with fresh orchard fruit, a primary white grapiness, perky but gentle acidity, and a fragrant finish that really lingers. This is a rosé of great presence and distinction. It compliments anything that you would normally eat with a crisp white wine, and also typical rosé summer BBQ and picnic foods. I haven't tried this pairing yet, but something tells me that this wine will be beautiful with fresh goat cheese.

Thanks again Cory for including me in your celebration of natural wine.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Some Tidbits in Lieu of a Coherent Post

--BrooklynLady and I celebrated our anniversary last week, thrilled to be here and basically intact after the first five months of our second daughter. The President and his wife aren't the only ones who travel for date night. BrooklynLady and I went to Tokyo for dinner, or the closest thing to it in Manhattan, anyway. But before we went out, when she arrived home from work, BrooklynLady brought with her as a surprise an utterly beautiful bottle of Champagne, the Cédric Bouchard Inflourescence Brut Blanc de Noirs. Bouchard is the new superstar of the Aube who makes wine as if he were in the Côte de Nuits - all single vintage, single vineyard wines, with no dosage. The bottle BrooklynLady so wonderfully donated to our anniversary imbibement programme was all 2006, and it was more wine than Champagne, the bubbles merely incidental. Elegant and intense with drippy red fruit encased in a sheer layer of delicate chalk. Just gorgeous wine, worth seeking out and cellaring.

--And speaking of our second daughter, whereas the first one barely eats, this one is already a foodie. She eats sweet potato and now mushed avocado with élan. She gets upset if I take even a moment between spoonfuls. I think I'm going to skip squash and move directly to duck confit.

--Lyle Fass suggested that I try the Bernard Baudry 2008 Chinon Rosé in a comment on my recent rosé post. Not that I need a whole lot of prodding to drink Baudry's wines. We drank this wine the other night and it was outstanding, the spicy and floral essence of Cabernet Franc, and with super prickly acidity. A bowl of fresh berries on a worn wooden table sitting outside of a barn. An entirely different animal from the Provence rosés I've been drinking, but delicious nonetheless.

--I love finding a great blog that becomes part of my daily scan. This one might may not be new to you, but as of about a month ago it was to me. Alfonso Cevola is smart, experienced, soulful, and very down-to-earth, and his blog is really great. Just check out this post in which he discusses the utter frivolity of obsessing over organic peaches, when forcing them into a "perverse ménage à trois with blood oranges and jalapeño chutney."

--I've heard about how wine prices should be coming down amidst the global recession. But I have to tell you, I have't really seen it. Yes, there have been "moving of inventory" sales, but I still see the wines at $18 that cost $14 or $15 just a few years ago. And $27 is the new $22. Perhaps the downward pricing will hit more expensive wine, like 2004 and 2006 Burgundy that's still on shelves, or 2007 Bordeaux? Am I missing something, or have prices on wines in the $15-$30 range not really budged?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Wine of the Week - 2007 Bernard Baudry Chinon

2007 Domaine Bernard Baudry Chinon Cuvée Domaine, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway: Bernard Baudry and his son Matthieu are making the best wines in Chinon. All of Baudry's wines are delicious and offer great value, but I have a soft spot for Cuvée Domaine, probably because the 2003 was the first Baudry wine that I ever drank. Cuvée Domaine is a blend of grapes from gravel and clay soils, the ratio is about 70-30 in most years. The vines are at least 30 years old and are right near the family's house in Cravant Les Coteaux.

I love Cuvée Domaine in general because although it is most definitely a serious wine that benefits from short to mid term aging, it drinks beautifully when young. To me it represents what every entry-level Chinon should aspire to - perfectly ripe fruit, very mineral, and great acidity for balance - this is a truly food friendly wine. The 2006 was remarkable in that the grapes for Les Grézeaux, one of Baudry's higher level wines, went into Cuvée Domaine. In that year the wine was deeper and more structured than usual, and although delicious, seemed to need overnight air before showing its best, or perhaps a bit of time in the cellar. 2007 is the current vintage and it was not an easy year - lots of rain and associated rot meant low yields. But from what I've tasted, the wines are stunning, right up my alley. They are graceful and pure with fantastic transparency, vibrant and energetic.

The 2007 Cuvée Domaine is just a wonderful wine. There are clean and pure red fruits on the nose, but they serve as a vehicle for classic Chinon graphite and earthy aromas, and there is even a touch of chili pepper. The palate is fresh and juicy with very strong acidity and it confidently contrasts delicacy of fruit and earth with extraction and intensity. It leaves a pungent earthy perfume in the mouth after swallowing. It is utterly delicious to drink right now, but I imagine that it will only improve over the next 3-5 years. And it costs all of $18. This is a wine that is well worth having shipped to you if you can't find it in your area - it really is that good, and the price is right. And Joe Dressner didn't pay me to say that.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bernard Baudry in 06 and 07

At the Polaner tasting last week I spent some time at the Domaine Bernard Baudry table, tasting wine and hanging out with Bernard's son Matthieu. As Lyle Fass has already said, the wines were just fantastic across the board. So far I really like the 2007's in the Loire. They remind me of 2007 in Burgundy - the opposite of a blockbuster vintage. From the right hands the wines are crystal clear, totally unadorned.

It was fascinating to taste Bernard Baudry's 2006 and 2007 Clos Guillot next to one another. Clos Guillot, by the way, is from young vines - about 15 years and younger. But it is a great site with clay and limestone soil and the wines are already excellent. As the vines become older, watch out! Maybe this is why Baudry vinifies this wine in much the same way that he vinifies his top wine, La Croix Boissée - fermentation in wood and aging in oak.

The 2006 was a bit darker at the core and smelled of wild animals, musk, and leather. Fruit too, but deep dark and brambly. This is a wine that really needs food - something gamy. Or maybe cheese. The 2007 is a completely different wine. Bright and fresh with a core of vividly pure fruit, wrapped in lacy thin layers of spicy earth and minerals. I suppose I might eat something with this wine, but it would have to be something simple with subtle flavors, so as not to overpower the elegance and delicacy of the wine. I would happily drink it on its own.

How can these wines be so absolutely different from one another? Were they vinified differently? Matthieu shrugs and says that they were made in essentially the same way. He says that 2007 was very difficult and yields were down at 32 hl/ha. That there were intense rains and mildew and September saved the vintage. 2006, he said was more generous. Yields were 45 hl/ha and the wines are bigger in structure and more deeply fruited. One might normally assume that lower yields means more concentrated fruit - better raw materials. But not if the lower yields are caused by rot and under-ripeness, as was the case in 2007.

A reminder of the most important factor in wine making - climate. A reminder too of the old maxim: great wine makers make good wine in bad vintages.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Brooklynguy's $20 and Under Case

Call me crazy, but I don't see us climbing out of this recession any time soon. I think we have another two years of hard times ahead, maybe more. I'm trying to be prudent with the household finances, so I want to spend less money on wine. But I want to continue to drink fantastic wine. Sounds like I want my cake and to eat it too, but no - I think there are a lot of excellent wines in NYC retail shops that sell for $20 and under. Used to be $15 and under, but those are far fewer now than they were 5 years ago.

But here's the thing - when I say excellent wine, I really mean it. I mean wines that are compelling, that offer complexity and interest. Wines that I would confidently open for fellow wine lovers over for dinner. Excellent wines, wines that I feel great about buying now because they represent some of the best juice on the market at this price point.

Here is my "Best $20 and Under" case of wine, each wine available in NYC right now (hopefully elsewhere too). Not all of these can be found at the same store, I'm sorry to say, but I'm going for quality here, not convenience. These are all almost French wines because that's what I know, but there must be similarly excellent wines from Italy, Germany, Austria, and elsewhere. Please feel free to chime in with your suggestions.

Sparkling
Domaine de Montbourgeau Crémant du Jura, $20, Rosenthal Imports. Delicious and earthy Blanc de Blancs. Give it some air and watch it expand.

Whites
2007 Domaine de la Pépière Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Clos des Briords, $16, Louis/Dressner Selections. Sharp and vibrant old vines Muscadet from one of the top producers, and this vintage seems like it will be one of the better ones in recent years. I've heard several people who know an awful lot about wine say that this is the finest value in the entire world of wine.

2007 Gilbert Picq Chablis, $20, Polaner Imports. 2007 is a return to Chablis in Chablis - the wines will speak of the sea shells and iodine, brine and minerals. This wine has ripe fruit too, and is quite the elegant little package. I will say this, though: for an extra $4 you can buy the 2007 Picq Chablis Vieille Vignes, which is a tremendous step up, and I bet will improve for a decade minimum, should you be the patient type.

NV Audrey & Christian Binner Saveurs Printanières, $17, Jenny & François Selections. This is a bone dry blend of white Alsace grapes, and it is ripe, herbal, and completely delicious. For about $22 you can buy the 2004 Binner Reisling Katzenthal, which is a big step up for your 5 bucks. That wine is drinking beautifully right now too.

2007 Domaine de la Sauveuse Cuvée Carolle, $18, Imported by Vintage Trading, Inc. A beautiful wine from the Côte de Provence, a blend of 85% Rolle (that's Vermentino to you Italo-philes) and 15% Ugni-Blanc (that's Trebbiano to you Italo-philes). Made in an oxidative style, this wine is full of orange fruit, and feels fresh and minty. Great acidity balances the rich flavors. If this wine were from someplace famous like Burgundy it would cost $50.

2007 François Pinon Vouvray Tradition, $20, Louis/Dressner Selections. This is a blend from several parcels on mostly clay soils and the wine is round and rich, with a bit of residual sugar. I prefer the 2007 to any recent vintage, as it has great acidity and balance, and the flavors are absolutely fresh and clean. I'm going to wait a few months before opening mine, although you could wait 8 years if you like. You could also spend $24 and get Pinon's 2007 Vouvray Silex Noir, a drier and more elegant wine. One is not better than the other - different styles.

Reds
2007 Michel Tête Juliénas, $20, Louis/Dressner Selections. It's been a while since I've liked this wine as much as some of the others in the impressive Dressner Beaujolais stable, but the 2007 is a truly lovely wine. Fresh, ripe, snappy, just a great Beaujolais.

2006 Weinhof Scheu Spätburgunder, $18, Savio Soares Selections. In my book, this is the truest and best Pinot Noir on the market right now for $20 or less. Fresh and pure, and on the lighter side of the Pinot spectrum, this wine will surprise you with its grace and hold your interest with its deliciousness.

2007 Bernard Baudry Chinon Les Granges, $18, Louis/Dressner Selections. Baudry is the reference point for Chinon. This is the "entry level" wine, which is a joke because it is a complete wine, ripe, complex, cellar-worthy. Versatile too - this works just as well with hearty vegetable soup as it does with roast beef. I don't even want to discuss the other Baudry 2007's here, because I don't want to get you all worked up.

2005 Domaine Rimbert Mas au Schiste, $20, Jenny & François Selections. A blend of old vines Carignan (is there a more under-rated grape?), Syrah, and Grenache. This wine floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. I love this wine, plain and simple. Great definition and clarity for a full bodied wine from the Roussillan, with a lovely perfume of ripe fruit and lots of interesting mineral and soil tones. This wine ages well too. For $14 you can get the 2007 Domaine Rimbert Travers de Marceau, a less intense and complex, but also very delicious wine that omits the Grenache and includes Cinsault and a little bit of Mourvedre.

2006 Mas des Chimeres Coteaux du Languedoc, $20, Louis/Dressner Selections. 75% Syrah, some Grenache, Cinsault, and Mourvedre make up the balance. Classic peppery and meaty Syrah, with good energy and balance. A wine for Boudin Noir, ribeye steak, grilled portobello mushrooms, and things like that.

You may have noticed that there are only 11 wines in this case. It's recession - 11 is the new 12.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Back on Planet Earth

I've been up on a Burgundy high horse for a while. It's been almost 2 months since I've written about anything other than the Burgundy trip, except for Friday Night Bubbles posts. After almost 2 months of nothing but Burgundy and Champagne, anything I do now may seem like a letdown.

But watch this - I'm coming back to planet earth, and I'm coming with value and style. I've had some wine in the past two months, you know. I haven't just been sitting here writing about my trip. And as an inaugural (Hooray Obama!) "back to normal at Brooklynguy" post, I want to highlight a daily drinker of a wine that performs way above its $18 price point. A wine that you can feel responsible while drinking, as it is farmed and vinified organically and with minimal interventions of any kind. And best of all, in my opinion, it is a wine that offers an open window to its underlying terroir.

Bernard Baudry is probably at the head of the class in Chinon right now. His wines are pure and clean and well balanced, and they are unmistakably Chinon. And they are affordable, even at the top of the range. Terrible dollar notwithstanding, the barrel-aged Croix Boisée is $32, the very old vines Les Grézeaux is a silly $25. And the wine I want to talk about, the 2006 Cuvée Domaine, is merely $18. That's $16.20 with the mixed case discount, for you non-mathematicians out there. But please do not be fooled by the price. This is a serious wine, an old vines cuvée (35 years average) that offers great pleasure in young drinking, but will also improve with several years in the cellar.

The 2006 Bernard Baudry Cuvée Domaine, $18, Louis Dressner Selections, is so transparent that it really should be embarrassed. On the nose it shows gravelly earth and beautifully ripe and intense dark fruit, absolutely clean and pure. This wine is quite concentrated and it shows better after an hour open, when the aromas get to know each other a bit and settle into friendly conversation. On the palate, this wine tastes like Baudry's back yard - there is earth with lots of gravel and clay, there is plentiful fruit, there are flowers and trees, there is a river nearby, and in the evenings there is smoke in the air from the fireplaces. This is a delicious wine with great character and depth of fruit, and it's even better on the second day. I imagine that it will be at its peak in about 4 years, although it may be difficult to keep your hands off until then. That's why it's probably a good idea to buy several bottles. If you live in New York City, this wine (for some reason) is available only at Chambers Street Wines. Wherever you live, if you like wine, this is one worth seeking out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dressner Portfolio Tasting Notes

So after the hard and wonderful work of the Terry Theise Portfolio tasting, we rushed over to the east side for Louis/Dressner tasting. There was simply no way to taste everything, even if this were the only tasting of the day. There were 250 wines, and I don't know about you, but I can't thoughtfully taste more than about 50 wines in one session.

I had to narrow the field, and so very sadly, I decided to taste mostly the new vintages of old and familiar wines. The Italian wines - I didn't taste 'em. Wines of the Savoie - didn't taste 'em. Burgundy, Jura, and Muscadet...nope.

Did I taste anything, you might be wondering, or did I just mingle with the wine stars? Oh, I tasted, buddy, and some great wine at that. I went for the Bubbles, the Beaujolais, the Cab Franc, and the Chenin Blanc. I had an hour - that's all I had time for.

First, I have to tell you about the 20 year table. In honor of their 20th anniversary, the Dressner folk dug into the cellar and set out a load of wines from their inaugural vintage. How thoughtful is that? And what a great opportunity for those of us (like me) who haven't tasted many of these wines with bottle age. I missed some of these wines, much to my dismay. Breton's Bourgueil Perrières, Chateau d'Oupia Cuvée les Barons, Pepière Clos des Briords...gone. And the Clos Rougeard Le Bourg - corked (but even so the fruit was young and lovely). The 1988 Closel Savennières Clos du Papillon was complex and beautiful, and the Chidaine Montlouis Clos Habert and the Pinon Vouvray Moelleux were great too. And as far as I know, 1988 wasn't a particularly great vintage - just a normal working class year in the Loire Valley. I'm more determined than ever to let my bottles sleep in peace...

Bubbles first, and what bubbles! Larmandier-Bernier wines are so different from the wide open style of much of the Theise portfolio. These wines are not generous, they are cautious and they'll hold back on you. There is nothing similar in style in the Theise portfolio except maybe Gimonnet, and those wines, if I may say so, do not have comparable depth or focus. These are piercing wines of great definition, and they can seem like turtles, just their head visible underneath all of that shell.

The Blanc de Blancs was opened as I was standing there and needed time to come together. But this bottle of Terre de Vertus showed better than any other I've tasted - richly fragrant with broad mineral flavors and ripe fruit. A memorable wine, and well worth the price (about $75). The 2004 Vieille Vignes de Cramant was focused and lovely with floral notes, although quite closed. There was no Rosé de Saignée left, which is tragic, as I have never tasted this legend of a wine.

Right near the Bubbly table sat two unattended bottles of Dard et Ribo white wine, both from 2006, a Crozes-Hermitage Blanc and a Saint-Joseph Blanc. I've never tasted a Dard et Ribo wine but I'd heard very good things, and these were better than very good. Fresh and pure with beautiful fruit and floral aromas, and great texture - voluptuous without that viscosity that find distracting in white Rhone wines.

Next was Beaujolais. This is such an impressive aspect of the Dressner portfolio. We're talking about many of the finest producers - Desvignes, Descombes, Brun, Tête, and Roilette, all at the same table. The wines that I liked the most on this day were the 2007 Clos de la Roilette Fleurie for its grace and purity of fruit, and the 2006 Desvignes Morgon Côte du Py for its depth and brambly intensity. There were many other excellent wines, but these are the two that I wanted to take those home with me.

The 2006's from Chidaine are quite good, although if you're used to the 2005's they will seem light. The 2006's are probably typical and the 2005's are probably extra rich and intense. My favorite was the 2006 Clos Habert, a demi-sec wine that I also love in 2005. The 2007 Pinon Vouvray Cuvee Silex Noir is just a great wine too, and a very good value at about $25. It was the temperamental 2006 Anjou Blanc from Agnès et René Mosse that I liked best of the current Chenin Blancs, with rich fruit on top of a pool of minerals, and a great underlying streak of acidity. At about $23, this is another excellent value. Rich enough to drink with a hangar steak, relaxed enough to enjoy with a bowl of vegetable soup.

I took a brief Burgundy excursion at this point and tasted through the Philippe Pacalet wines. Pacalet has a cellar in Beaune proper and buys grapes from various growers, often tending the plots himself. His wines are made in the classic style, focusing on purity, grace, and expression of terroir (read - not overly extracted and dark). Although these are not among my favorite red Burgundies, tasting Pacalet's 2006's was as fine a lesson in terroir of the Côte de Nuits as I've ever had. The Nuits-St-Georges was earthy and had wild game on the nose. The Pommard was muscular and dense, almost a bit clunky. The Gevrey-Chambertin was also muscular but with higher toned fruit. The Chambolle-Musigny was silky and more elegant. The Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Perrieres (about $125) was in my opinion the finest of the lineup with great depth and intensity to compliment the ripe fruit and the firm structure. The Chambolle-Musigny was, as advertised, silky and more elegant.

And last for me were the great Loire reds, and what a way to end the day. I'm talking about Breton, Baudry, Raffault, Filliatreau, Clos Roches Blanches, and Clos Rougeard. I think the 2007 Baudry Les Granges is the best Les Granges since 2004. My first time tasting the 2006 Croix Boisée and I'm not sure where I stand. It had nice fruit, but it was so tannic and muddled that I couldn't decide whether or not I would buy it for myself. I need to taste this again. I was super impressed with how well the Raffault wines showed - all of them. The 2005 Chinon Les Picasses was ripe and expressive, but restrained and elegant too, and complex with herbal and earthy flavors. And under $25. The 2002 was a bit more awkward at this stage, but also shows elegance and balance to go along with the silky fruit. The 1990 was gone, but the 1989 was smooth and well balanced, and seemed quite youthful, nothing secondary about it.

All three Clos Rougeard wines were excellent - 2004 was an under appreciated year for red wine in the Loire, I think. Le Clos, the "entry level" wine, was ripe and delicious, and all elbows and knees right now. And by the way, this wine now costs about $60. Les Poyeux used to cost $50. These wines have become too expensive for most of us, sadly, as they represent some of the finest red Cabernet Franc wine from anywhere. Les Poyeux was delicious and oddly more accessible than Le Clos, and Le Bourg was your high school friend's huge but gentle older brother, more into math than football.

An amazing tasting that showcased the work that Louis/Dressner has done over the past 20 years to bring natural wines to the US. Next year if I am invited, I don't care if Barack Obama's white house tasting is the same day, I'm spending the day with Dressner.