Survival Tips for the Holiday Impaired

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three wise men waiting on a par three

The season’s halfway point is here. One more week of hemorraghing $$ followed by a nice downhill coast to the New Year. If you are facing holiday headwinds and doubting your stamina these easy tips may help you finish the last leg.
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don’t be a big shot!


Say you get invited to a holiday party where you are expected to bring decent wine. Your self respect prevents you from bringing plonk anyway. But the lumpen do not deserve your fine wine. What to do? Hide your wines. Place the bottle strategically in the cognoscenti wine room b-e-h-i-n-d the other bottles. Make sure the other bottles are suitably distracting. Check every 15 minutes that your bottle – the really good one you have no intention of opening with this group – has not been moved which would indicate someone touched and examined that bottle.

When not ruminating pointlessly, try these other suggestions. Go to the track. Smoke a stogie, or your choice of natural leaf. Hug your loved ones. Listen to corny Xmas music. Drive carefully or avoid it as much as you can. Hang out with your pals, drink their wines and act silly. Eat something.MatrotMersBlagny10WEB wine grapes

Wines tasted through the first half of the insufferably extended holiday known tactically as “the build up”…

Domaine Matrot Meursault-Blagny Premier Cru Cote de Beauney $35 (but a CT site named grapeswine.com has it for $24!?!?): Goldun wine. Burgundian chardonnay at is finest. At this O20 price it is still a very good deal because you get to taste the difference. Built like a Norman castle. Napoleon may have been stranded in Elba with this wine. Let it open. Piuze PetitChab11WEB wine grapes Superb.

2011 Patrick Piuze Petit Chablis $22: Another Goldun wine. Steve specializes in stony non-oaked Chablis. Yums. Every time we taste this wine we cannot wait to purchase more. The 2012 is available throughout the northeast at $20. U20 sensational steal.

arina12WEB wine grapes 2012 ‘a Rina Etna Rosso by Girolamo Russo $18: Rockettes get in line! Straight from the hottest vineyard in Italy, on Mt Etna where the lava still flows, the newest production by Girolamo! If Rousanne and white Rhones are the King of 2014 then Mt Etna is the dauphine. How many have we tasted this year that were simply impressive, intriguing and delightful? This wine was the toast of that holiday party. At this price, one can have at it without regret. Light to mid weight with spicy cranberry flavors. Loved it.

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all I want for Xmas is…

The Barolo to your right was seen at Wally’s in early September. If you need to impress someone who knows more about wine than 100 Parker points and collectible Napa Cabs, you might consider.

Turning to a darker subject… There are undrinkable wines. They are so awful, so miscast – usually as “100 points” or Wine Speculator Top 100 – that they cannot possibly live up to the hype. The killer is that the winemaker tries to justify the tag or the rep or the commercial lust for his or her label. So they pick fruit too ripe, let the juice sit in oak way too long, manipulate the hell out of what is left and then price it at a suitably high level to make sure the consumer is getting something really really really really… pricey.

Coming soon. Undrinkable wines. From the Wine Whisperer.

Have a warm, relaxing Christmas Day full of happiness. Taking next week off.

‘Tis the Season: Five Wine Truths

santa sleighVINOWEB wine grapes willamette valley viognier value value value u20 syrah ribbon ridge rhone pinot noir paso robles oregon la culture gigondas friuli cotes de beaune chardonnay cabernet sauvignon burgundy In Vino Veritas must be the vanity plate on Santa’s sleigh. It is also a muy popular phrase among the cogniscenti du vin. Something about truth and wine. This blog is hardly averse when it comes to understanding more about our wine tastes and habits. Here is what the vines told us at a recent holiday party.

antica07WEB wine grapes willamette valley viognier value value value u20 syrah ribbon ridge rhone pinot noir paso robles oregon la culture gigondas friuli cotes de beaune chardonnay cabernet sauvignon burgundy ayres10WEB wine grapes willamette valley viognier value value value u20 syrah ribbon ridge rhone pinot noir paso robles oregon la culture gigondas friuli cotes de beaune chardonnay cabernet sauvignon burgundy Lesson #1: Palates change, or at least they should if you prefer truth to hype. The truth here is we are done with Oregon wines. We plan to drink thru what’s in the cellar. Not a knock on Oregon Pinot Noir. Just a move in a new direction.

2007 Antica Terra Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and 2010 Ayres Ribbon Ridge Pioneer Pinot Noir: Five years ago these Oregon Pinot Noir wines were at the top of our list. Had to have them. Nummy num nums. So delicious. So manipulated. Both wines are quite enjoyable. Antica still seems to the be the top PN in the New World per the party guests. We just see no further reason to purchase wines from the region.

latourmersault05WEB wine grapes willamette valley viognier value value value u20 syrah ribbon ridge rhone pinot noir paso robles oregon la culture gigondas friuli cotes de beaune chardonnay cabernet sauvignon burgundy Lesson #2: Pierce the veil of personal bias. Consider all the data. As Inspector Clouseau might say “I suspect no one and I suspect everyone.” I suspect me. 2005 Louis Latour Mersault-Charmes Premier Cru: Forget the pedigree of the producer and especially the wine press. This bottle had everything going for it when purchased: big name producer, big name vineyard, should have checked the vintage, and deeply discounted. The most important red flag was the wine shop, now out of business. We had never bought a decent bottle from the site. The wine was flat. Over the hill. Some said premox. Some said too cold. When it warmed up it was chalk and dust with little fruit. Buy the wine you like, note wines you are supposed to like. More signals “The family-run company of Maison Louis Latour is one of the most highly-respected négociant-éléveurs in Burgundy. Renowned throughout the world for the quality of its red and white wines, the company has built a reputation for tradition and innovation. This Domaine has the largest Grand Cru property in the Cote d’Or with a total of 28,63 hectares (71,58 acres).” Large vineyards is not necessarily a detractor BUT a smaller vineyard is often associated with smaller producers who are more concerned with quality than quantity.

ranchero vig 10WEB wine grapes willamette valley viognier value value value u20 syrah ribbon ridge rhone pinot noir paso robles oregon la culture gigondas friuli cotes de beaune chardonnay cabernet sauvignon burgundy Lesson #3: Look at the small producer who is reasonably inspired. Amy Jean Butler is a case in point. From her website: “Founded by way of endless infatuation and intellectual curiosity, Ranchero Cellars is my just reward for years of making wine for others. I have lived and breathed winemaking on all levels – from the storied and venerated Napa institutions, to the intrepid Paso Robles startup – and have come to understand that this is where I belong. Over the past 16 years I have fallen in love with certain vineyards, particular varieties, specific styles and methods.” This is what inspiration reads like. And she signs off “XOXO Amy.” 2010 Ranchero Cellars Viognier: This 4 y.o. Viognier wine from Paso Robles is delicious. It has improved with a couple years. Proof that the New World/Old World distinction which we constantly cite has little meaning in the hands of a true winemaker.

santelenamag06WEB wine grapes willamette valley viognier value value value u20 syrah ribbon ridge rhone pinot noir paso robles oregon la culture gigondas friuli cotes de beaune chardonnay cabernet sauvignon burgundy Lesson #4: Cabernet is not Napa. 2006 Sant’ Elena Cabernet Sauvignon: An Italian red from the Friuli region in Northeastern Italy. Delightful. Served in mag so it has soft tannins 8 years later. Middle weight tasting just fine. There is another lesson here: if you know the wine and not the region, and the price is right ($40 for the mag), then give it a try.

stcosme12WEB wine grapes willamette valley viognier value value value u20 syrah ribbon ridge rhone pinot noir paso robles oregon la culture gigondas friuli cotes de beaune chardonnay cabernet sauvignon burgundy Lesson #5: If spooked by too much information when considering a new prestigious brand, start at the intro level. St Cosme is a value label from the Cotes du Rhone. The label is intimidating with an ancient hut obviously hand illustrated. Old shit. Too much for us. We don’t know what to do… flight or fight! Recent release wines can purchased from $14 to $80. The site is ancient as in 15th century. Romans get a mention. 2011 St Cosme Cotes du Rhone: The entry level wine that is 100% Syrah. We worried it might be “hot” [ed. high alcohol], too big being from Gigondas a region we imagine is noted for “size” [ed. too rich]. What we got was a fairly exotic red wine that failed to meet any of our weenie-shaped fears. Great value too. Wine tasting can be so silly!

Please excuse this sentimental moment. Nat King Cole and Frank’s World are hard to resist.

Dip that Bird. Shorten the Holidays. 10 Days is Plenty.

IGTYWEB wine grapes value value value u20 IGTY says turkey is not his favorite dish. Unless it is dipped in boiling oil for 15 minutes. The dressing, the gravy, the meat. Too much. Wegottatellya. He has a point. And fuddamore…

He is not alone when it comes to blaspheming the national sales event. “I am convinced that this horrible wine meal is best approached with Riesling, dry or Kabinett – Haus Maus.” We are convinced 25% of the year is too long for any holiday.

TV holiday cheer started hitting prime time about one week after Labor Day.

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young ‘un & older ‘un

Black Friday began a week early and is still going right through Cyber Monday into shoot-me-now Wednesday. And god forbid one is compelled to attend holiday services. Looks nice, community reigns, be sure to agree with the monsignor that his sermon was inspiring. Should he press you at the post-worship coffee klatch here is how you can get rid of him. When father Ryan approaches and asks for your opinion, just tell him he must be happy with the number of clientele who showed up and tossed cash in the basket. He should be thankful he has such a great business, right? [ed. true story!]

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pleasant surprise

Just to prove we ain’t no curmudgeon we look forward to spending time with the young ‘uns now old enough to share a glass or bowl with their uncles and aunts. Here are some wines tasted and untasted with the young ‘uns on Thanksgiving.

2013 Domaine Galevan Cotes du Rhone Libre Expression Blanc $17 High Time Cellars: Le Large pulled one out of his hat with this fine white Rhone< Note the grape allocation: 80% Claire, 10% Rousanne and 10% Marsanne. Flavors are chalky with smoke and light citrus. But WTF is Clairette? U20 bargain! 13%

Blair Riesling 2012WEB wine grapes value value value u20 2012 Blair Riesling $14 winery direct: Petrol, Chinese pear. Getting more juicy with air. Brambles on the back palate. U20 bargain. Should really taste this against Grant Tatomer’s Santa Barbara Rieslings.

Blair PN 2010WEB wine grapes value value value u20 2010 Blair Pinot Noir $18 at the winery: Finally pulled the cork on this turkey… I mean on Turkey Day. Dirty flavors, going for the singularity high profile palate lashing. Forced to face a bargain basement Burg. 13%

Givry12WEB wine grapes value value value u20 2011 Domaine du Masse Givry 1er Cru “En Veau” $25 Eno: Great shit. Love it. This is what Blair is trying to get with his Pinot Noir: up front flavors balanced and pleasing. The only Pinot Noir we can drink anymore. Uniform flash with consistent profile. Wine talk! 13%

All great meals should finish with a tasty dessert wine. We did not miss a beat.

moscatel07WEB wine grapes value value value u20 2007 Moscatel du Setubal $17 (Hi Time Wine Cellars): From Portugal. Rich delicious sweet caramel. Dark caramel color. Need extra insulin for this baby. We borrowed the following comments from a vendor website: “This Aperitif/digestive wine is amber in colour with some golden highlights, clear and crystal with intense flavours typical of the Muscat grape. It is perfect served chilled as an aperitif or with a dessert. This wine comes in a gift box. It is well balanced, fresh wine with good persistence.” You can tell it is British because of how they spell coloUr! U20 steal!! 17%

Before the endless holiday ends we promise a review of the endless loop of Christmas shows watched by Mrs. tBoW.

In memorian, Mike Nichols died a couple weeks ago. His comedy partner was Elaine May. Nichols made made many successful movies. She made one movie with some funny bits that captured desperate male vanity at any cost. Here is the opening sequence to A New Leaf. “Never drive more than 3,000 RPM in a forward gear.”

Five Rousannes. Some Tasted. All Captured.

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Chasing the Great White Grape


Reaching across the continent, from the Best to the Least Coast we have “found notes” of wines tasted and pondered [ed. i.e., profiled.] Our Connecticut taster with the Rousanne Jones took a break from grading papers and reading decades-old class notes to weigh in on some of his recent encounters with the Great White Grape. That’s right mateys. Captain Mouse is in the House, barnacles and all.

doyenne rousanneWEB wine grapes 2010 Delille Cellars Doyenne Roussanne Red Mountain Vineyard Washington. Purchased for $8.64 a bottle, plus reasonable shipping, from InternetWines.com after enough research to confirm that the wine should still be decent. Well, after the first bottle, I ordered more. You should, too. It needed, as good aged Roussanne does, an hour of air time. Then the magic happened. Gooseberries, goose feathers, goose foie gras and who goosed the moose. I mean, the buy of the year? Tanzer gave it a high score, and RP loves these wines. 2miceWEB4 wine grapes The wine stores sell them for $36. For the $14 they cost me, I’m shudder-brundered. [ed. available online] As the label says, it should last for years. Roussanne does have the requisite acids when vinified properly. This is proper wine. Deux Mice, conservatively.

navaheros09WEB wine grapes 2011 Bodega Bernabeleva Navaherreros Blanco Vinos de Madrid. I only bought this because it’s 50 percent Roussanne and came with a nice ST number. Roussanne from Spain? From some little known bodega on the outskirts of Madrid? I forget the obscure white native grapes blended with this because my beloved Roussanne screams for attention. This is a heavier offering than Delille, and while it’s perhaps not quite as scrumptious, 2miceWEB4 wine grapes it too merited a reorder from LastCallWines. $15 including shipping. BTW, finding good Roussanne for under $25 can be quite challenging, and now my musty Connecticut cellar is bulging. Gulp this down with veal chops or fried oysters – but not those tasteless West Coast varieties. Really good. Dos ratons, tambien.

2012 St. Cosme Cotes du Rhone Blanc $18. Pity me, as I believed the b-21 in Tarpon Springs, FL website, which hawked it as “Roussanne”. [ed. bastards!] Now I come to learn it’s a blend with merely 20 percent [ed. of the precious grape he hunts like Ahab hunted Moby Dick] along with the usual cast of Rhone whites. Well, St. Cosme is a superb Gigondas outfit, and they make some of the best Cote Rotie I’ve had. Never had their whites, so while I’m curious, I’m not vibrating with anticipation. It might be floral and richly lemon, or tropical with lychee aromas. Or it be neutral unleaded, like most Cotes du Rhone Blanc. [ed. Bravo Mssr. Mouse for the much anticipated profiling review of wines yet untasted here and following!]

CdB old vinesWEB wine grapes 2010 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf de Pape Blanc Vielles Vignes. b-21 must have accidentally put this in my order, for this is something I cannot justify. How nice of them! There is no white wine in the world I’d rather try. The undisputed king of Roussanne, from an outstanding vintage. Perhaps I’ll take some to the local Clam Castle and pull a Miles [ed. a “Miles?”]. A very publicized bottle from a very famous concern. Trembling in Guilford. Hoping it’s equal to the hype. Drooling.

farjon saint joseph blancWE wine grapes 2012 Domaine Farjon St Joseph Blanc. 80-20 Roussanne/Marsanne blend; the only two grapes permitted, adjacent Condrieu grows only Viognier. Sampled and bought in July from the winery in Malleval, a village in the heart of St. Joseph. Great wine, 12 euros from Madame Farjon. Check out Malleval!

Ed. C’est fantastique! Rousanne around the world. Enough to make one visit Malleval… below.
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Wine Profiling. Hands In The Air. Don’t Pull That Cork.

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waiting is half the fun!

Do you really know what’s in the bottle you’re holding? Sure you do. You know a lot about it. You bought it because you know it’s from a region you like. Or, for the incognoscenti, the label is pretty. It speaks to you. Perhaps you have insider information. A source of outstanding obscure wine knowledge, a de Gama like explorer of vinous worlds, has told you what to expect from bottles like these. Grab it right now. Buy it. Put it in your cellar.

What do we really need to know about wine to enjoy it? An older person once said youth is wasted on the young. The new axiom adhered to by underground weisenheimers is simple. Drink wine now. Buy enough to enjoy over the next 18 months.

Profile your wines.

tBoW has wines he wants to open and taste. But when? With whom? Planning is so hard Papa. Must we open to enjoy? No. We can enjoy wine without pulling the cork. Amend that statement. We always enjoy wine without pulling the cork.

tBoW introduces the newest form of wine tasting. Enjoying wine without pulling the cork. Think of it as pre-season. The joy of anticipation. You know, Elvis loved to cuddle. He rarely pulled the cork.

Here are a few wines we look forward to tasting. We are already enjoying them.

BlairReisling12WEB1 wine grapes value value value u20 tuscany santa rita hills santa barbara county sangiovese riesling pinot noir i m h o 2012 Blair Vineyards Riesling $14: The first of two Blair Vineyards wines we are covering [ed. do not confuse with the Santa Lucia Highlands winery named Blair]. This wine was sent to tBoW by the HouseMouse. The wine is from Blair Vineyards in Pennsylvania. Mr. HM swears this is fine wine. We love the label. We love the story how +HM discovered this wine doing pre-college touring with his oldest child. Mostly we love HM’s enthusiasm for what is taking place in Blair Vineyard. Go Big Ben! Riesling must have high acid to make it palatable. Did the 2011 Blair make it happen? Are the Pennsylvania highlands the new Okanagan Valley only 3500 miles south and east and not at the northern tip of the Sonoran desert? We are excited to try. We have clearance to pull this cork on Turkey Day. This ain’t our first go-round with Blair.

duvelWEB1 wine grapes value value value u20 tuscany santa rita hills santa barbara county sangiovese riesling pinot noir i m h o Duvel Golden Belgian Ale $8 (Trader Joes): TJs is back. It has been at least 20 years by our clock since TJs had decent stuff on its shelves. This is a premium if MOR product for beer drinkers. Golden color as advertised on the label. Nice gluey flavor with a frothy head. At $8 it is 40% below what Whole Wallet gets. Where ya been Trader Giotto?

sangiotwinsWEB1 wine grapes value value value u20 tuscany santa rita hills santa barbara county sangiovese riesling pinot noir i m h o 2011 Bibi Graetz Casamatta Toscana $12 and 2008 La Manella Rosso di Montalcino $15: We can’t wait to try these wines. Consider the pedigree. The Bibi Graetz is the entry level from one our favorite Sangiovese wines, the Testamatta, which goes for $30 when you can find it. The La Manella Rosso is the half-as-costly entry wine for the La Manella Brunello. Bibi Graetz Testamatta needs years to come around then it is beautiful. So you have to be it already aged. Like the 2006. We actually tasted the 2007 upper end La Manella a couple weeks ago and it was not near ready. See our point? This 2008 will be made from younger vines and should be ready to go today. At half the cost. How great is that? Just knowing we have these wines in hand is enough to sleep softly my love.

Here is a wine we have not tasted but we can still enjoy because a trusted wine snob – Mr HouseMouse – opened it. Here is what he would like to share.

sandhi SRH pinotnoirWEB wine grapes value value value u20 tuscany santa rita hills santa barbara county sangiovese riesling pinot noir i m h o 2011 Sandhi SRH Pinot Noir $32 (Lincoln Wine 8/13): This offering lives solely off reputation, as it’s crafted by the acclaimed Sashi Moorman, who rose to fame via Stolpman Vineyards. Maybe he’s better suited to sangiovese and syrah [ed. not in combo we hope?!?]. This is a rare SRH Pinot Noir that won’t pummel your tastebuds with overextracted fruit. Too bad. It was lean and peppery, like a red Gruner Veltliner. [ed. hahaha, a red Gruner. Well played HM. Well played.]. Perhaps they were going for a cotes de nuits style. It didn’t work. 2011 wasn’t California’s best, and this is no exception. Save your cheese. No mice.

Major Kong pulls the cork on his government issue (GI) survival kit.