Tag Archives: grenache

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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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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A Day in Santa Barbara County, Part One: Stolpman Vineyards

30 Dec

The Amtrak is not so bad.  Actually, it’s very nice except when it’s delayed, which is a matter for Part Three.  At the time, however, I knew nothing about flooded tracks and two-hour delays; I only knew how nice it was to be riding a train up the coast as the rain fell around me.

My destination was Santa Barbara, where my former roommate (and current Princeton grad student) Alex would pick me up.  That first day and evening, including a wonderful dinner at Bouchon, will be the subject of Part Two of this series.

I’d like to talk about Stolpman Vineyards, a winery located in the Ballard Canyon area of the Santa Ynez Valley.  If you might recall, my friend Billy had brought a bottle of Stolpman, the excellent 2007 L’Avion, to a tasting at Mission Wines we attended two weeks ago.  Alex had planned a late morning of tasting, so we went to Los Olivos to look around.  You might recall, if you were in Southern California, that the weekend of December 18 was rainy as heck.  This made driving a bit precarious but also had the unexpected benefit of clearing Los Olivos of nearly every other tourist and taster.  Alex and I basically had the town to ourselves.

We started with a light repast at Corner House Coffee, where freshly-brewed Peet’s awaited us and we could play a few rounds of Hive while we dried off.



We walked around Los Olivos, which was absolutely beautiful:



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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 Joyful Wine: 2007 Côtes du Rhône “Cuvée Sélectionée par Kermit Lynch”

4 Feb

My joy is complete.

I just found a bus line–the D6–that takes me from 20th and L Street to MacArthur and V Street.  What’s at MacArthur and V Street?  Only one of the finest wine shops in the DC Metro area: Addy Bassin’s MacArthur Beverages.

You might recall an earlier post where I purchased the bottles for a Spanish wine tasting from MacArthur.  My mission today was to pick up a bottle of the 2001 Penfolds “RWT” Barossa Valley Shiraz for a fancy Australian Shiraz tasting I’m having next week.  However, I ended up, as per usual, lingering for a bit, talking with Phil (an excellent wine steward who remembered that the last time I came in–last semester–I was wearing a suit and had picked up a bottle of the 1999 R. Lopez de Heredia “Viña Gravonia” blanco), and picking up a whole lot more than I came in for.

I was in the mood to pick up nice, simple table wines–nothing too pricey but still offering good quality to price.  Something like the 2008 Vin de Pays du Vaucluse from Domaine de Durban, an $8.99 table red made mostly of Grenache from Kermit Lynch that was just so fun and delicious to drink.

Bingo.

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Tears of Morro, Tears of Joy

13 Jun

I’ve been back here in LA for a few weeks now and it’s great. We’ve been having a long spell of overcast, mild weather–perfect light sweater weather. That’s fine with me, especially since I escaped the heat and humidity of the East Coast so recently (as well as the steaming crucible of law school).

Thus, I’ve been able to go to Mission Wines, my favorite local wine spot here in little South Pasadena. I rounded up a crew of the usuals–William, his friend Sam, Chris M. and his gf, Sasha and his gf, and Jack M. from days yore–and we hit up the wine tasting this past Saturday. Manning the bar were the always dependable Dave and Matthew; Kirk from the Rose Bowl committee was there along with a spate of regulars.

The tasting started off with a 2008 Pierre-Marie Chermette “Les Griottes” Beaujolais rosé, made from gamay.  A Beaujolais rosé?  I mean, much Beaujolais is darn close to rosé, anyway.  Nonetheless, this was a nice wine with a vibrant pink color and an austere, slightly coppery taste.  It wasn’t sweet and not overtly fruity.  It was my first Beaujolais rosé, so I was delighted to have it be a positive experience.  

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Ruminations on Home

6 Mar

Home.  For the longest time I called a small gray house on Westminster Avenue in Alhambra, California home.  My family lived there since a few years before I was born: my parents had graduated three children from Fremont Elementary and Alhambra High.  This house remained home until early in my college career, when we sold it and moved to an apartment in South Pasadena.

It was strange coming back to a place I did not know, strange sleeping on a couch when I used to be able to sleep on a bed.  I didn’t know the new area very well, passing through South Pasadena only to get from Alhambra to Old Town Pasadena.  And my father had recently been diagnosed with kidney disease, meaning his health was always uncertain.  That apartment on Huntington Drive, new and without the comfort that came from years of familiarity, certainly didn’t feel like home.

Some years have passed.  I graduated from Berkeley, worked for two years at LegalZoom.com, and am in the middle of my second semester at law school in Washington, DC.  Although I started to really like South Pasadena during my two years as a working stiff, it wasn’t until I left California for the far-off Eastern Coast that I truly started to consider South Pasadena home.  We are still living in that small apartment on Huntington; it sounds a bit strange for someone coming from the historical hubbub that was the site of the Inauguration, but I can’t think of anything better than returning to South Pas for good after graduation.

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From the East Coast to the West: the “Tres Picos” Garnacha from Borsao

4 Mar

I am at home, taking a much-needed break from law school.  First semester was a breeze compared to the marathon of mock trial, briefs, classes, and journal competition!

Having lived in DC now since August, I feel like I have a sense of the city.  True, I haven’t really explored too much, but enough to realize a few things.  First, DC is a nice city–to visit.  Second, there are nice restaurants–in the $$$ range.  Third, there are some good cafes–if you’re willing to take the Metro and walk a while.  Fourth, there ARE some good wine shops, though the District of Columbia isn’t exactly the Bay Area.  I am pretty certain that I will be returning to California after law school.

I really do like certain aspects of DC.  I do like the cold weather, for instance, and the snow (although it can be a real pain when you’re trying to walk in slush and frozen ice).  I do like that you can generally get around using public transportation (traffic today in LA brought back some bad memories).  But, after all of this, and despite LA’s problems, LA is still home to me.

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2003 Domaine La Roquète: Finally, A Worthy Successor (or, Look Out for Specials from Trader Joe’s)

5 Nov

There are a few great things about law school.  Sure, it’s a lot of work; sure, there are always things one can be doing; and sure, there’s stress, etc., etc., etc.; but many times it beats having a job.

For instance, my last class got out 20 minutes early today.  After coming home from school, I lounged about for a brief and wonderful spell in bed, reading parts of Master and Commander and listening to Van Morrison.  This was at around 2 pm–which would be just past my old lunch hour at LegalZoom.  I got out of bed, studied a bit, tidied up the apartment a bit, and decided to go to Trader Joe’s to restock on some essentials.

There was a very light rain–a sprinkling, actually–and just enough light to cast shadows on the leaves of the trees lining L Street.  I got to Trader Joe’s, selected my items (more polenta-in-a-tube, by the way), and was heading to the checkstand when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, cases of this wine:

la-roqueteIt was on sale for $13.99.  Big deal.  That’s actually kind of expensive for Trader Joe’s, I thought.  But there was a sign–oh, those darned signs!–that said this was a special selection, that there were only a few cases (420 bottles total) at this store, that the normal retail was at least $26.00, and that it was 70% grenache, 20% syrah, and 10% mourvedre.  I happen to like combinations of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre–I immediately think cold weather red, which is a good thing in my book.

But I was torn.  It was a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and man, those Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines are usually like… $50+.  How good could a Chateauneuf that’s on sale at Trader Joe’s in Washington, DC for $13.99 be?

I picked up a bottle and looked at the label more closely.  Cool label, heavy bottle, with a deep punt (indentation at the bottom).  I saw the names “Frédéric & Daniel Brunier” on the lower edge of the label.  For some reason that didn’t come to me till later, the name “Brunier” rang a bell.

I decided: why not?  I hadn’t bought a bottle for a while, and it was only $13.99.

I’m glad I did.

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A Cold Weather Red: 2005 La Grange de Piaugier

25 May

After days of 95+ degree weather, there’s been a cold spell punctuated by clouds and rain. The temperature ranges from the 50s to 60s, and it’s nice to throw on a sweater before going out.

I have not had too much wine as of late because of the heat–I focused on Anchor Steam beer, as these were sophisticated, delicious, and refreshing. I couldn’t bring myself to open a bottle of wine–even nice, thirst-quenching varieties like vinho verde and sauvignon blanc. Reds, of course, were out of the question.

Thus I was pleased when the thermostat was turned down a few degrees, especially for my longer than usual Memorial Day weekend (I took this Friday off and get Monday off as well!). On Friday I headed to Mission Wines for a spell to pick up a good cold weather red.

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