Tag Archives: pinot noir

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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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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Talking Vines and Drinking Wine with Stangeland Winery

2 May

I am a proud Californian.  My favorite author is John Steinbeck, my favorite flower is the California poppy, and I love Mexican food.  However, I can’t get behind everything Californian, especially when that thing is Pinot Noir.

There are great examples of California Pinot Noir–for instance, the illustrious Sea Smoke and the much more affordable Belle Glos “Meiomi”–but I have found that too many are high-alcohol, big-bodied wines that hurt my palate.  I mean, of all wines Pinot freakin’ Noir is supposed to be easy to drink, right?

Enter, stage north, Oregonian Pinot Noir to steal the show and save the day.

As a general rule, Oregon winemakers subscribe to Old World virtues such as restraint and elegance.  Their Pinot Gris is more Alsatian in character than Italian, and their Pinot Noir is positively Burgundian.

Part of this has to do with Oregon’s cooler, wetter climate, which lends itself to the more classical French style of winemaking.  But much of this also has to do with the winemakers’ philosophies on what wine should be.

I had the chance to taste some of this philosophy in action at a tasting of Stangeland Vineyards & Winery, held at Planet Wine.  Also at the tasting was Larry Miller, the president and winemaker at Stangeland.

Stangeland is a pioneer of Oregon wine, having planted a vineyard at the current Eola-Amity Hills AVA in 1978.  Eola-Amity Hills, which is contained entirely within the larger Willamette Valley AVA, is a very new AVA, having been designated in 2006.  Stangeland focuses on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.  I tried a number of the winery’s Pinot Noirs, in addition to one of their Chards and a Pinot Gris.

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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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Restaurant Review: Firefly DC

27 Mar

It’s tough being a student in DC sometimes.  Unlike LA or Berkeley or NY, DC seems to have a dearth of good, cheap food.  It’s sorely lacking in great street food (although there are a number of food trucks nowadays, like Wonky Dog and the Fojol Brothers) and has barely any serviceable $10-$20 dinner options.  It does, however, have some excellent high end restaurants like, oh I don’t know, Citronelle.

So it’s nice to find a solid restaurant with well-executed food and great service.  Firefly fits the bill perfectly.  In a nutshell, it’s a wonderful place to have happy hour drinks with a few friends or take a date: it’s cozy without seeming small, social without being loud, and as comforting as a warm woolen blanket.  It is a bit more expensive than it looks like it should be, but still worth the price.

Mary Kate and I went to Firefly for dinner this past weekend and it did not disappoint.  We started with a cocktail each: she had the grapefruit spritz and I had the tarragon fizz.  The grapefruit spritz was a glorified greyhound and a bit too sweet for my taste.  However, the tarragon fizz was right up my alley, with tarragon-infused vodka and St. Germaine, fresh lemon, and topped off by sparkling wine.  It was garnished with some sliced tarragon and was pleasantly herbal; it was a nice aperitif.

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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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In Defense of Drinking Alone

12 Aug

We’ve all done it.  There are those evenings after a bad day at work or school or whatever where the only thing that will get us through the evening is a drink.  Alone.

There is such a stigma attached to drinking alone, for a variety of reasons.  For one, drinking alone implies that you have no one else to drink with, i.e. you are a loser.  Or, drinking alone implies that you have a drinking problem, i.e. you are an alcoholic:

But drinking alone is not in of itself a bad thing.  It is a useful tool, one of the great friends of mankind.  There are times when you need to take the edge off of life, or times when you just want to forget about everything and just get to the next morning as quickly as possible.  Obviously, indulging in individual imbibment on a regular basis may be indicative of deeper problems, but then again, merely drinking with other people doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem, either.

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An Excellent Evening with Ansonia Wines & Friends

26 Mar

I’m a very happy person by disposition, though I’ve been known to have my emo moments.  However, one thing I have learned about myself is that I very rarely like the place I am until it’s time to leave.

For instance, I spent four and a half years in Berkeley, and it wasn’t until my last year that I truly started to enjoy it.  Suddenly, its wonders started presenting themselves to me like a blossom of gastronomic joy.  Where the hell was Gregoire all my life?  Why didn’t I go to Kermit Lynch before?

I am also a native of the Los Angeles region–Alhambra and South Pasadena, to be exact–but I can’t say I truly loved LA until I left for law school here in DC.  Now I love LA; every moment I spend there on break is a little blessing.

You might have heard me railing on DC.  I’ve always had the feeling that it’s trying to be like many different cities but failing.  I hate the crazy humidity of the summer, and I don’t like the absolute lack of tall buildings.  I hate how the Metro closes early–or at all–and how the bars close early.  I also don’t consider myself a very political person, which considering the town is not such a good thing.

However, DC has begun to grow on me.  There are little pockets of DC, a coffee shop here or a restaurant there, an alleyway here or a circle there, that I love.  Of course, one can choose to explain this cynically by pointing out that every city has its charms.  Still, I think I’ll be missing Amsterdam Falafelshop a lot once I leave DC.

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A Winter Adventure: Braised Lamb Shanks

9 Feb

Part One: Starting the Day

School was cancelled these past two days, which means I haven’t been in class since Wednesday evening.  I’m hoping that tomorrow will be cancelled as well, which would mean I would be out of class for TWELVE days (I don’t have classes on Thursdays and Fridays, and this Monday is Presidents Day).  This is basically longer than my Spring Break, which is coming up at the end of February.

As my blog has indicated, I’ve been cooking a lot, eating well, and drinking a lot of great wines.  For instance, yesterday morning started with my making a bachelor’s breakfast skillet consisting of a layer of leftover mashed potatoes, two eggs, shredded cheddar cheese, thyme, and a whole lotta Tabasco sauce:

I had purchased two small 5″ Lodge cast-iron skillets for this very purpose but seldom use them.  I should more often.

Although this was a good introduction to the day, I had bigger ambitions for the evening.  See, my roommate Alex was coming home from Europe yesterday, and I figured I should welcome him back to the US of A with a proper meal of lamb shanks and butternut squash.

But how do I cook lamb shanks?

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2007 St. Innocent “Shea Vineyard” Pinot Noir: A Great Breakfast Wine

24 Jan

Is it obsessive to, when you are taking a bottle of wine over to a friend’s place, also want to bring a decanter and proper stemware?

Come on, you wouldn’t put regular unleaded in a sports car, right?  Yes, yes, I know that that analogy is flawed, but you get the idea.

Such was the question that plagued me when I was bringing over a bottle of the 2007 St. Innocent “Shea Vineyard” Pinot Noir (from the Willamette Valley, Oregon) ($49.00 at Bell Liquor & Wine Shoppe) for a movie night with a friend.  I asked my roommate whether bringing the decanter and some Burgundy glasses would be too much.

“Um… yeah,” he replied, looking at me like I was crazy.  (Then again, this is the guy who recently ran a 50-mile marathon.)  So I decided not to bring the decanter and the wine glasses, even though the Pinot was almost criminally young.  It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I opened the bottle and poured some into wine glasses the hostess provided.

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