Tag Archives: France

Life is Full of Second Chances: the 2007 Gérard Raphet Clos Vougeot Grand Cru

30 Dec

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Boom.

It’s not every day one gets to drink a grand cru Burgundy.  Then again, it’s not every day that one is in Berkeley.  I decided to take a short trip up to Berkeley for New Year’s, though I don’t know anyone here anymore (a fact driven home by the fact that I had a solitary–though excellent–meal at the fantastic Trattoria Corso on North Shattuck, which will be the subject of another post), to get out of LA and recharge my batteries for the full onslaught of 2013.

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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.

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A Friday Impulse Buy: the 2007 Christophe Buisson Bourgogne

8 Jun

I just registered to take the introductory sommelier course through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and after reading about Burgundy in my course manual late yesterday evening I couldn’t wait to drink some delicious Pinot.  Thus, after doing a bit of work at Black Brick Coffee today, I stopped by at Bottle Shoppe and picked up a bottle of the 2007 Christophe Buisson Bourgogne.

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A Kermit Lynch selection, I figured that this basic-level Burgundy would make for simple, decent drinking. I was going to drink it with dinner this weekend, but my roommate Amit had just received some great news–his company, Bitponics, had just reached its $20,000 funding goal–and I decided that wine was called for. The first sip confirmed this belief: a bit tight, with sour cherries and a vivacious acidity.  The finish was green stemmy, and I thought that some time in a decanter would improve it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

A Study of Opposites: 2007 Antoine Arena “Carco” Patrimonio and the 2006 Gourt de Mautens Rasteau

11 Oct

I have been drinking wine for a very long time now.  For the last seven of those years, I have approached wine not merely as something to drink, but something to think about, something that could elicit sheer joy or wonderment, calm or even fear.*  I come across as pedantic or stuffy sometimes, I guess, but for me it’s far more satisfying to really delve into what each and every wine has to offer.**

A few weeks ago I was invited to a dinner with Jillian and David at Chez Kate et Rahul.  As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s been hard for me to quench my thirst for interesting wines lately.  So, in addition to being pleased to be able to see my good friends Kate ‘n’ Rahul and Jillian ‘n’ David, I was pleased to have an excuse to bring a bottle of Chenin Blanc recommended to me by Phil over at MacArthur Beverages (at left):

  

The Saumur appellation is located in the Loire Valley of France.  The Loire Valley–especially the region of Vouvray and to a lesser extent Montlouis-sur-Loire–is known for its Chenin Blanc.  I think Chenin Blanc is one of the underrated great grapes of the world.***  The best examples of Chenin Blanc have great acidity and taste of honey, almonds, and flowers.  Like Riesling and Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc can be aged to great effect.  I’ve had Chenin Blanc from 1983 and 1989, and when aged these wines take on low, nutty, waxy notes that are just incredible.  Best of all, just like old Rioja blanco, aged Chenin Blanc can be relatively affordable.

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Getting Reacquainted with Home: or, California Versus France

13 Dec

You wake up one morning and you realize that two and a half years have passed. And yet, this time did not just fly by: it was full of wonderful (and not-so-wonderful) memories and experiences, and with friends and family.

Of course, this being a wine blog, the time was also filled with some excellent wine.

I type this from sunny California. It is literally sunny (yesterday was 77 degrees, today is going to be 80), with uncharacteristically perfect blue skies through which you can see the San Gabriel Mountains. I just flew in from DC on Saturday and have already had some great Chinese food–great Mexican food awaits.

Bookending my flight: Life by Keith Richards, which I highly recommend; two finals, courtesy of law school; clinic work, also courtesy of law school; drinking, courtesy of my nascent alcoholism; and a few bottles of wine had on either side of the continent.

The first bottle I want to write about is the young 2008 Roger Belland “La Fussière” Maranges 1er cru (Ansonia Wines, $22).  This is almost criminally young, but despite that (or because of that…?) it is tantalizingly good.  The nose on this is incredible, just exploding from the glass with strawberry and red fruits.  It has pronounced acidity and not too much tannin, and it is very lean and juicy.  It is a pretty expression of Burgundy, fruit, not funk; berries, not earth.  This is reminiscent of good Beaujolais cru.

Contrast that to this bottle right here:

The 2008 Meiomi “Belle Glos” Pinot Noir (Pearson’s Wine and Spirits, $20ish) is a blend of Pinots from California’s Sonoma, Monterey, and Santa Barbara counties.  I had had it before at Mission Wines in South Pasadena, but that was years ago.  All I remembered was that it was a quality wine but one I didn’t necessarily want to purchase again.  I tried it again at Pearson’s with Heather, and again it was not impressive–except that there was something about it, some Mickey Rourke-like spark that kept me from writing it off.  There was some funk hiding beneath the tired waves of old fruit that made me wonder if this had something else to offer.  I told this all to Larry, the pourer, who said that this bottle had been open since the day before and that he would open a fresh bottle (so nice of him, right?  I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND Pearson’s to anyone with access to Glover Park).  The new bottle: wow!  What a difference!  The tired waves of old fruit were rejuvenated and became supple cascades of ripe plum and jujubes, offset by baking spice and underlined by that funkiness I had tasted in the first bottle.  Substantial body and great tannins to balance the acidity.  Very fragrant nose.

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A Night of Eating and Drinking Well

22 Nov

What happens when you are part of a Wine Buyers Collective and a Wine Appreciation Society?  A lot of wine to drink with a lot of people.

Kate and Rahul, who are esteemed members of both organizations, thus found themselves with about two cases of wine.  They invited us over for dinner where they would provide the wine; Meredith, a trained chef, agreed to coordinate a dinner to go with the wine.

The menu, as put together by Meredith, was as follows:

  • Mushroom paté
  • Bitter greens salad with shallot-dijon vinaigrette
  • Coq au vin over potato puree
  • Quince tarte tatin

I was responsible for the mushroom paté, which recipe you can find here.  It’s one of the few dishes I’ve made that requires more than two kinds of mushrooms (three kinds of mushrooms?!?  A double boiler setup?!?  Chilling afterwards for six hours?!?  It was only the day of that I realized this dish was significantly more labor intensive than I had anticipated.)

But the mushroom paté turned out surprisingly well; actually, all the food turned out extremely well.  The coq au vin, made with love and care by Meredith, was supremely flavorful and tender, with some caramelized onion and carrot that hit me like sweet/umami bombs.  The greens were a fine balance between bitter and buttery, and the quince tarte tatin was like something out of heaven.



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