Tag Archives: syrah

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 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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South Pasadena, je t’aime!

11 May

After an unconscionably long hiatus (I blame finals and other end-of-the-year miseries) I am back!  “Back” applies in two ways: first, I am back to posting this blog, where I intend to write posts weekly over these 14 weeks of summer, and second, I am back in California.

I will be in California for five more weeks, after which I will be headed back to DC for a few days, and then eight weeks in beautiful Wilmington, Delaware, known in legal circles as one of the locations of the Court of Chancery (where I’ll be interning) and known in pop culture circles as the nameless setting of Fight Club.  Hopefully during this time there will be wine, wine, and more wine.  If this past week has been any indication, there will be plenty of that this summer!

I have to write a few posts, one of Deep Sea Wines (which was gracious enough to send me two bottles to review), another for a great product known as the Wine Diaper (it’s probably not what you think it is), and yet another for a book by Matthew Frank entitled Barolo.  And, I’ll have to write about a very wonderful evening at Founding Farmers in DC at which a bottle of Riesling figured prominently–that’ll be coming soon.  All of these will take place in good time, but before I do I wanted to “clear the palate,” so to speak, by writing about a few of the wines I’ve had at home.

One of my habits while at home is to buy a few bottles with which to tide over my mom until my next visit.  I had purchased a few bottles during Spring Break, and to my surprise (and pleasure) I found that one of the bottles had not yet been opened.

This bottle was the Candidus from Malm Cellars.  Malm Cellars is a one-person show, helmed by Brendan Malm.  He doesn’t have a winery or vineyard, but he sources fruit from select growers to make his wines.  One such wine, his 2007 Sonoma County Pinot Noir, garnered a great review from the LA Times.  The Candidus, which is made from a bunch of undisclosed white Rhône varietals (but also apparently includes Chardonnay concentrate according to Dave from Mission Wines), is about $16.  It’s intensely aromatic–I’m thinking Viognier or Muscat (though I’m not sure if Muscat is a Rhône varietal)–with an assertive nose of quince and honey.  It’s pear-colored and appears on the viscous side.  Excellent: full of dried apricot and citrus, full bodied yet light, good acidity, very pleasant.

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Swine Make Good BBQ (but Bad Wine): Travels with James and Nick in Search of America’s Finest BBQ

27 Oct

There is something therapeutic about seeing trees and towns and wide blue sky passing by you at 80 miles per hour as you sit in a car, listening to good music, on your way to somewhere.  It is an added bonus when those trees are at that moment when they are still lush but where the leaves are no longer green but various hues of yellow, red, brown, and orange.

Such were the trees on the road on the way to Lexington, North Carolina, whose Barbecue Festival my friend James (of The Eaten Path fame), our friend Nick (of the US Patent and Trademark Office) and I attended this past weekend.

bbq26_hmpg

(Thank you to the Lexington BBQ Festival for this poster!)

For those of you who do not know of James by this point, he is one of my good friends from Berkeley who has for the last year called Brooklyn, New York home.  While his more regular contributions to the blogosphere can be seen on The Eaten Path, he also is a huge aficionado of all things barbecued, once spending a few weeks traveling through the Smoky Crescent and eating and observing the best the South had to offer.  It is one of his goals to publish a comprehensive and awesome book on barbecue–a noble goal, indeed.

Thus, when he said there was a barbecue festival in North Carolina I asked if I could go.  I figured I wouldn’t have very many more chances to have a purpose to go to North Carolina, and besides, any reason to get out of DC is reason enough.

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Beautiful Berkeley

19 May

What a beautiful place, Berkeley.  I didn’t really enjoy the place until late in my college career–perhaps starting my fourth year, definitely my fifth year.  I have been back up numerous times, but through a number of reasons was unable to do so for nearly the past year and a half–far too long in my book.  Thus, I planned to visit the Bay Area for a spell of a few days after my exciting and rainy adventure in New York the previous week.

The concrete reason for my trip was to visit two of my former residents (and current friends), Semra and Kana, and their awesome apartment up in the hills on North Side.  There was a sentimental reason, too–namely, that all of my residents and thus the vast majority of the people I knew in Berkeley would be graduating and leaving for the big vast world after college.  

There was a oenological reason, too: I wanted to drink a lot of great wine!

Again, as in my New York post, I’m going to just write down phrases that will hopefully serve to jog my memory when I’m looking back after a few decades.  =)

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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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