Archive | tasting notes RSS feed for this section

Getting Lucky at Lucky Devils: Hollywood, California

23 Dec

The wine tap revolution is underway.  The wine drinker is now able to find establishments that serve wine on tap from New York (the excellent Brooklyn Winery) to Los Angeles (Father’s Office) and everywhere in between.  Now, Angelenos have another great option in Hollywood at Lucky Devils, a restaurant and bar that just underwent some extensive renovations, part of which entailed having brand-new wine taps installed.

I was invited to check out Lucky Devils and was very happy to do so; I remember having some beers there years ago, but I am much more a fan of wine than beer, and am a huge proponent of wines served on tap (which is economical, much better for the environment, and helps ensure very fresh wine).

The space is great: in keeping with its name, the color palette is red.  There’s a very long bar, tables, and booths.  There are a large number of beers on tap, a full assortment of hard liquor, and 16 wines on tap (which is double the number at Father’s Office).  In terms of ambience, it would be a good place for both dates and office happy hours.

Image

I sat down to quite a reception from the proprietor of Lucky Devils, who, not coincidentally, is named Lucky.  Lucky has had an interesting life to say the least: he was an Army Ranger, model/actor, and now a restaurant owner.

Continue reading

Advertisements

What We Have and What We Have Not: the 2007 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

1 Oct

Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we want it to, or plan it to.  Sometimes it gets away from us.  One of the compelling things about wine is that it is not only about the bottle, or the grape: wine means something.  Without wine, at least for me, I would lose one way to look at and appreciate life.

Continue reading

Enough is Enough: the 2005 Trimbach “Cuvée Frédéric Emile” Riesling

1 Sep

I went sort of crazy yesterday at MacArthur Beverages in DC.  I’ll be leaving the East Coast for a while and headed to California to do some contract legal work, so I figured that to celebrate the occasion I should buy some fancy wines:

From left to right: 2005 Trimbach “Cuvée Frédéric Emile” Riesling, 2010 Broc Cellars “Cuvee 12.5”, 2006 Paolo Bea “Rosso de Véo” Sagrantino, 1996 Christian L. Remoissenet Clos Vougeot Grand Cru, 2007 Mount Eden Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet, and 2006 Ridge “Monte Bello” Cabernet.  I didn’t buy the Broc or Paolo Bea at MacArthur; I also bought during my trip to MacArthur, however, a bottle each of Gruet Blanc de Noirs and Brut sparking wines and a bottle of Broadbent Vinho Verde.

Continue reading

Learning to Get Past My Fear of Italian Wine: or, the 2010 Produttori del Barberesco Langhe Nebbiolo

19 Jul

Italian wine scares me.

I should qualify that statement.  I love Italian wine, and I believe Italian wine is exciting, versatile, and absolutely divine, but I know very little about Italian wine in general.  There’s the Piedmont with its Nebbiolo-based wines, then Tuscany with its Sangiovese-based wines, but come on!  Aren’t clones for sci-fi movies or Star Wars?  And can’t Italy just have a reasonable number of varietal–say, one hundred–instead of like… thirteen hundred (or up to 3,500)?  It also doesn’t help that many of Italy’s greatest wines–Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, for instance–are expensive and, in the case of Nebbiolo-based wines, tannic monsters when young.

It is for all these reasons that, when it comes to that game of blind tasting, I am absolutely useless when I try to identify Italian wines.  I can get Sangiovese, with its cherry and dried oregano notes, but I am just not as familiar with Italian wines as I am with French or Californian wines… not that I’m all that familiar with those, either!

Continue reading

Little Golden Drops of Wine: or, Bargain Shopping in Boston

11 Jul

There’s something great about coming into a new, unexplored city, a sense of adventure and possibility.  Though I’m not well-traveled by any means, I have been privileged to see a lot of the ole’ U S of A.  Most places–even Wilmington, DE!–have their own set of charms and attractions.  Lexington, NC was full of pork barbecue and sweet tea, and Hamden, CT is home to the illustrious Three Brothers Diner.  Last week I added yet another city to my list, and Boston for me will be forever linked with wine.

While the centerpiece of my trip to Boston was taking the Court of Master Sommeliers’ introductory course, I did also have a little bit of time to explore the neighborhood in which I was staying.  South End is a very nice, very settled area with stately townhouses, ample greenery, and hip little cafes and restaurants.  I really enjoyed Render Coffee’s dyslexic but delicious BTL and cold-brewed coffee, and had way too much grease from Laz Cafe, and sipped some delightful fino and amontillado Sherry at Toro.  I also had some good kidneys and a pint of dark wheat Pretty Things Brewery beer at the South End location of Le Petit Robert, a local Boston chain of French bistros.

Continue reading

Last Wine in DC: 2006 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” Châteauneuf-du-Pape

10 May

Hello from Bittersweet in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.  That’s an apt name given the subject of this post.  After nearly four years in DC and Virginia, I have decided to move to New York to try and pursue professional and creative opportunities.  Some of those opportunities are in the legal industry; others are in the wine industry.

I’ve been in New York for about nine days now.  I’m already writing a wine column for a local Brooklyn neighborhood blog, and I’ve surveyed the local cafes, bars, and restaurants.  There is so much hustle and bustle here.  I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Virginia with its clean streets, quiet neighborhoods, and familiar haunts.  But there is an energy here that I love, something in the atmosphere that not only inspires people, but makes people receptive to new ideas no matter how crazy.

I had a wonderful wine dinner with friends at Founding Farmers the Friday before I left DC.  We had a number of good bottles, including the 2009 Stangeland Pinot Gris2008 Stangeland “Miller’s Vineyard” Pinot Noir2008 Margerum “ÜBER” Syrah, and the 2008 Domaine de la Fontainerie “Coteau la Fontainerie” Vouvray Doux.  The Stangeland Pinot Gris was fruity and tasted sweet, prompting one of the guests to say that this was not a “Joon wine” (I like sweet/fruity wines!).  The Pinot Noir was my favorite of the evening, with nice red fruits and a savory aspect.  I had tasted this wine previously, and it showed even better during the dinner.  The Syrah was good but did not show as well as it had previously, and the Vouvray was super sweet but had great elegance, structure, and weight.

For my last bottle of wine, however, I wanted something special.  Mary Kate and I were having Thai delivery for dinner, and I would never recommend this pairing to anyone, but I had one more nice bottle squirreled away that needed to be drunk: the 2006 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Continue reading

Rewarding Patience: the 1997 Louis Jadot Nuits-St. George “Les Damodes” 1er Cru

16 Apr

I know, I know: it’s been nearly six months since my last post.  Forgive me, those few of you who read this blog.  It’s been a helluva year, but despite that I have been extremely lucky.  I have wonderful friends and have been able to drink some really great wines.  These next few months will see me posting more regularly–or at least until the next huge life event derails my publishing schedule!

To fill you in a bit about what’s been going on, I’ve been living in the tiny Alexandria, VA neighborhood of Del Ray, which with its small Craftsman-style homes and tree-lined streets reminds me a great deal of my native South Pasadena.  It has everything one might want for good living, including a great barbecue restaurant and bar, independent coffee shop, and a kick-ass wine shop.

The name of this kick-ass wine shop is Planet Wine, and I’ve whiled away many an afternoon there browsing its very carefully curated selection of bottles.  I’m salivating over a bottle of 2003 Loire Valley Chenin Blanc I’ve laid down in my basement, and I’ve tried a fair percentage of the shop’s inventory.  As I’ve told the manager, Tim, this is exactly the type of shop I would open if I had my druthers.

On a recent occasion I had opportunity to purchase and open a Burgundy from 1997, the 1997 Louis Jadot Nuits-St. Georges “Les Damodes” 1er cru ($45, on markdown first from $65 and then from$ 52 at Planet Wine).  The vineyard is named after a triad of Druid goddesses who were believed to control harvests, and is a limestone-rich mix of clay and silt.

Continue reading

A Very Refined Evening

13 Nov

It’s nice to be back on an actual college campus.

I am typing this from Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street in Princeton Township, NJ, where I am visiting my former roommate Alex who is now making a name for himself at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School.  All around me are people who are younger than me and much older than me: young students with nary a care in the world and gray-haired professor types.  They’re nursing coffees and perhaps hangovers caused from Princeton football’s drubbing at the hands of the Yale Bulldogs yesterday.  As I’m a Cal alumnus, this is a feeling I know all too well, but unlike the people keeping me company I at least am not suffering from a hangover despite sharing two excellent bottles of wine with Alex.

Those few of you who have kept up with my blog know I love Ridge Vineyards to an absurd degree.  To me Ridge represents the best of California winemaking, and its wines are never disappointing.  I might disagree with a few of them, but much more often I love them.

Ridge is well-known for its Zinfandel, but it made its mark on the wine world by making the legendary “Monte Bello” Cabernet.  Monte Bello was selected as one of the California Cabs to go head-to-head with Bordeaux in the now-legendary Judgment of Paris of 1976.  Their 1971 Monte Bello came in fifth and was the second-highest rated California Cabernet in the tasting, not bad for a wine made only nine years after the start of the winery.  More tellingly, however, a re-enactment of the tasting was conducted in 2006, and the 1971 Monte Bello came in first, beating out all other California and French wines!

Continue reading

Champagne Day at Weygandt Wines (and a Whole Lot More)

7 Nov

I had the opportunity to go to a media night at Weygandt Wines last Friday, on the occasion of International Champagne Day.  This was Weygandt’s first effort to reach out specifically to DC food and wine bloggers, and from what I can tell it was a great success.

Weygandt Wines, located in Cleveland Park, reminds me a lot of Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.  That venerable Berkeley institution is one of my can’t miss shops whenever I visit my alma mater, and for good reason: the wines I buy from the store are perhaps the freshest, most vibrant wines I’ve ever found.  KLWM is sort of like a farmers’ market for wine.  If that is the case, then Weygandt Wines is sort of like the Eastern Market of wines.

The namesake of the shop, Peter Weygandt, and his wife Maria (née Metzler) have been importing boutique French wines since 1987.  He has recently expanded his portfolio to include wines from Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, and Spain.  He imports some killer Beaujolais and Burgundy, and has an excellent Rhône selection.  In all, they import around 70,000 cases of wine from over 100 producers.

The Weygandts were not at the media event, but the event was run by the store’s general manager, Tim O’Rourke.  Tim has an interesting history, having started out as a chef.  He graduated from L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland in 2000, did tours at Café Atlántico, Ristorante Tosca, and Citronelle, and has cooked with such celebrity chefs as Daniel Boulud and Michel Richard.  Being the general manager of a wine store probably has its own set of stresses, but I can imagine that it might also be very relaxed in comparison to working in some high-profile kitchens!

I had been to Weygandt only once before, and recently: I picked up a bottle of Cabernet France for an ongoing dinner with friends at Dino (which is right across the street).  The store was technically closed but I sneaked in and asked who I found out later to be Tim whether he could recommend a good Cab Franc, which he did.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember which bottle he selected, but it was good, and I appreciated being able to pick up a bottle after closing time (and at a substantial discount to boot!).

The event started out with a flight of six sparkling wines–one Crémant de Bourgogne and five Champagnes.

Continue reading

A Judgment of Paris: How the Sparkling Wines of Schramsberg Stacked Up Against Champagne

26 Oct

Considering sparkling wine is like considering heaven and hell.  On the one hand, you have sparklers that barely qualify as wine–Andre and Cook’s come to mind–while on the other hand you have Champagnes that will take you to the sky (related to price).  I haven’t had too much sparkling wine in my life, which is a shame because they are fun, well-made, and, as many are coming to realize, are absolutely terrific with food.

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to a trade tasting of the sparkling wines of Schramsberg Vineyards, a venerable California sparkling wine institution located in Napa Valley, at Marcel’s in DC.  I had had their wines once or twice before, but was never in a condition to remember too much about them.  With this tasting I was in luck, however, because not only would I try a number of Schramsberg’s wines but would also participate in a blind tasting of Schramsberg wines and the finest French têtes de cuvée (prestige cuvée) wines.

Yikes!  A blind tasting at a trade event?  I felt outclassed, but I decided I would drink more than I spoke. I rolled up (on foot) to the tasting in my black suit (featured in my previous post) and heavy black backpack (at least it matched my suit!) and was greeted with a glass of Schramsberg’s Brut Rosé, which had pretty strawberry and peach aromas that were mirrored on the palate.

We were then led to long tables, where I sat next to David (the proprietor of the excellent Pearson’s Wine & Spirits in Glover Park) and the wine director of the Ritz-Carlton.  The phalanx of glasses reproduced above awaited us, as well as scoring sheets:

Hugh Davies, son of the founders of Schramsberg Vineyards, gave excellent commentary and production notes throughout the whole tasting.

For the first flight, which was the blind tasting of the Schramsberg sparkling wines and the Champagnes, the idea was that we were supposed to rank the wines from first to seventh and determine if we could which were blanc de blancs and which contained Pinot Noir, and which were the Californian wines. These are my transcribed notes from A to G:

  • A | aromas reminiscent of white Burgundy–hazelnut and lanolin.  A long finish but a noticeable burn.  | MY RANK: 6
  • B | thin bodied and high acid, with notes of green apple.  | MY RANK: 7
  • C | wow!   Clover honey and bread, tart but rich.  Really freaking good.  I thought this could be the oldest wine in the lineup, and could contain Pinot.  | MY RANK: 2
  • D | some aroma I couldn’t place… more of the Burgundy, maybe… really evocative and old-smelling.  Well-balanced, with tangerine notes.  | MY RANK: 1
  • E | gentle floral aroma, with lemon curd.  | MY RANK: 5
  • F | a rich color which made me wonder if this was an older vintage.  Burgundian aromas, with a round, full taste evocative of papaya and tropical fruits.  I thought this might contain Pinot.  | MY RANK: 3
  • G | pineapple on the nose, less fruit-driven and more hazelnut on the palate.  | MY RANK: 4
So how did I do on the blind tasting?