Cheers for the Holidays

Family. Wines. Hoops. Big Dinners. Friends…and Fires.

Fires in Los Angeles are seasonal…just like the holidays. Fires come every few years. Hmmm. They were especially brutal this year especially in NoCal. The SoCal fires burned through the brush-filled canyons of northern LA. The foto above is looking northwest from Las Virgenes Road. Shows how the fire was left to burn out the empty canyons. Fires did burn right up to several housing compounds. Wealthy homes adjacent to these fuel centers particularly in Malibu went up in smoke.

Here is an excerpt from a 1998 NYT review of a book that received renewed attention post firestorm.

In “Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster,” Mike Davis has the temerity to argue not only that Southern California has always been a place where extremes of earth, wind and fire make notions like “average rainfall” a mere abstraction, but that the modern, man-made monstrosity of Los Angeles “has deliberately put itself in harm’s way.”

A suitable introduction to tBoW’s views about the end-of-year holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. For many folks the holidays are celebratory times. Here are the things we observe as the 60-some days envelope of time gently unfolds. Get your curmudgeon on.

#1 The arrival of the Wally’s catalog. Since the Marciano family bought out founder Steve Wallace the annual catalog has featured Dom Perignon on the cover. The first catalog was ostentatious and – to be frank – ostentatious to the point of laughable. The 2018 edition is restrained, even understated…until one turns the mag over and finds the Marciano Estate label on the back. The vintage is 2015, the fourth release for Marciano Estate. It is the synthesis of Napa in its current rendition; glitzy, out of reach, foolish. [ed. Mr. Story: I concur.]

men who mean well

#2 Thanksgiving meal is a family affair. It is not a wine tasting. There are essentials which make a great family dinner at Thanksgiving. [ed. Mr. Story: such as turkey marinated in wine, brussel sprouts baked in wine, whipped potatoes with a hint of buttery chardonnay, and of course a glass of wine that compliments each element of the meal, rightfully poured into a pumpkin-shaped wine wineglass.] A cadre of members must travel from “afar.” Eventful news should be “revealed” such as a wedding or pregnancy which causes a stir among the kindt. [ed. Mr. Story: Other forms of eventful news should include which wines each family member purchased that year, where they got them, how consuming the wines made them feel, what they thought about during the time of consumption, if the wines encouraged them to think about things in a different way, and so on and so forth.] [ed. tBoW: I concur!]

men who know better

The doomed attempt to “taste wines” should be abandoned in favor of an opportunity to toast and tilt with the cousins aka the “young ‘uns.” tBoW and the Larj work each year to bring an assortment of wines red and blanc that will complement the meal and entertain the troops. Let us end this pretense of a tasting and call it what is; a chance to clean our cellars just like the meal is an opportunity to clean our colons. Bottles are opened and poured like beer at a home football game. Let the wine flow! Nobody knows what they are tasting. This year’s amusement was provided by the young ‘uns who have acquired tasting lingo. “I get rhubarb, slate, charcoal, freshly layed asphalt…” Exactamemente monte mous! Makes me look forward to 2019 T-Day!

Despite all odds that any wine would distinguish itself there was a U20 winner. The Soave had some slate, strong acid and worked with every freakin’ bizarro plate put in front of the chattel. Bravo Mssr. Larj and Mdm. Patty of Hi Times Wines.

#3 Christmas and New Years end the seemingly endless season. Let’s save these thoughts and observations for another few weeks. Until then…flog on!

Jim Gaffigan reviews Halloween which actually kicks off the “holidays.”

The Unburgs – Enjoy Great Wine For Less

HOW TO ENJOY BURGUNDY FOR HALF THE PRICE

Every wine snob has had this moment: discovering wines from Burgundy; finding out premium wines are not necessarily heavy cabs from Napa with the large corpulent fruit, prices and ratings. Wines that are made from Pinot Noir, a grape that is not friendly to Napa. F-R-E-N-C-H wines with complicated labels one can hardly tell what is in the bottle. Hold on. One CANNOT tell what is in the bottle.

Dotore and tBoW were initiated together, bitten by a Burg-hound werewolf [there wolf!] while groveling at a holiday tasting party with dozens of long forgotten wines filling every inch of a 12 by 5 table in a basement/cellar beneath a food market. The market is gone. The big cabs are gone, we wish Parker’s ratings were gone. 100 point scores made no sense if labels could not be easily understood.

One cannot put a score on a Burg. You might as well try and saddle up a butterfly. Hold starlight in your hand. Have a lunch date with Sasquatch. Our wine lives immediately changed. Forever.

That was then. Today the cognoscenti know that Burgundy is elusive especially when trying to pair quality with value [ed. readers may harrumph here]. One way to beat the hustle is to buy the importer . . . maybe. Burgs are expensive and $30 and $40 bargains are . . elusive.

What to do? Drink wines that have not been tainted by 100 point scoring fools. Drink wines that are not from Burgundy – UnBurgs! [ed. readers may stand up and shout here!] The UnBurgs include Schiava, Alto Piemonte, Sicily, the Canary Islands. Corsica. And that other island off the Italian coast. These are wines from a PLACE; not one lone grape. Blended wines. Local, ancient. Light weight, lower alcohol, balanced (much of the time), distinctive.

The UnBurgs. Here are three wines that share similar qualities as the best value Burgs. And are fairly priced.

2014 Patrick Javellier Savigny les Beaunes Premier Cru blahblahblah. $40 at Total Yawn (aka Total Wine – $35 in Chicago today). It is just as likely to find that the decent bottle of wine found online at Total Wine is no longer sold [ed. Beronia 2009]. However, IGTY found it, bought this Javellier Savigny and brought it to the dinner party. Excellent flavors. Tasted like Burg. Would not mistake for Rioja or Oregon Pinot. Sucked it down.

2010 Ayres Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir $20 at “winery in 2012” [$25 for 2015/16 in USA]: This held up really well. Won’t mistake this for Burgundy. But I will have another glass please. More full, more earthy. The old forest floor – pprrraaaaappp! tBoW went on a four or five year Oregon Pinot jag which was followed by a Mendocino Pinot jag. Searching for New World Burgundy? Fuggadaboudid. Does not exist.

One cannot find New World Burgundy because the grapes would have to come from Canada to come close to the Beaune fruit profile (forget the Nuits). And then the Canadian soil would not be right. Weather is getting very similar now. Nuff said there.

2008 San Francesco Antoniolo Gattinara $40 for the 2008 in Illinois, or $30 for the 2012 in New York/Joizy: You know you are getting close to Burgundy wine when the label becomes more obtuse and practically indecipherable. If the wine is white then it is likely German. But this is Burg-like from AltoPiemonte which is where tBoWfinally found Burgundy with the proper value/quality ratio. Like memorable Burgs the wine can take a bissel age. Balanced like Olga Korbut on the balance beam. Richness like KrisB in the market. Brimming with charm like IGTY himself.

If you must search for decent Burgundy wine [ed. we always will] then stay around Beaune and south. Look for wines imported by Rosenthal, Louis/Dressner, Kermit Lynch and Charles Neal. Should you feel you must spend more than $60 then look for wines imported by Becky Wasserman. Or consult your local REAL wine shop.

Halloween warm up from a true cohort of wine conno-sewers…

 

Some Mice! Some Wine! and Thou…

When the Cat Is Away…

[ed. Mr. Story: We are proud and honored to share with you the post below from the expert creator of the award-winning and globally known Mouse Wine Rating Scale, MAUS! Let us all read attentively as the MAUS politely squeaks his knowledge to us…]

A quick reminder about ratings. One MOUSE means I’d proudly serve this wine to anyone; Two MICE, a special occasion wine; three MICE, life-changing. [ed. Mr. Story fantasizes for a moment about how life changing a three mice wine would be paired elegantly with a three mice rated cheese. Oh who needs marriage when you could have that pairing!]

Today we look at SIX wines that total EIGHT mice.

Bacchus seems bearish on California pinot these days. I understand? Kinda? Problem is, they’re not burgundies, and they will never be. Nothing will. But they’re darn tasty.

2012 Onward Hawkeye Ranch (Redwood Valley). OK, I had to look up Redwood Valley, and what I learned was no surprise – Mendocino. Best pinot locale in USA. This wine, purchased for $10+S&H on winebid, is the lightest domestic around. Almost rose-ay. Slightly reminiscent of Marsannay, except Marsannay blows. This shows rose petals, red currant and lemon curd. Problem: it’s gone in 20 minutes.

2012 Inman Family Wine OGV Estate Pinot Noir. $25 plus S&H ($65 at wine shed they sell from). Olivet Grange, their site says, layers both Russian River and Sonoma Coast. Like the previous offering, this is subtle and Chambolley. What am I thinking? Burgundy? Well, this just needs a little spice to pass for the real deal. Bacchus would like. I sent a bottle to my brother-in-law and he flipped. You will too if you try this. More body than the Onward, but subtle as heck. An usually good domestic.

2012 Furthermore Weir Vineyard York Creek Pinot Noir. Pure California pinot in a great way. Lush, medium body, raspberry souffle that makes you want to buy an Alfa Romeo [ed. Mr. Story must contact the wine maker’s legal department immediately because the lack of a warning re this side effect is definitely a risk management issue that should be added to the label]. Another expensive wine (for me) that sold for half price on winebid, $25. York Creek is apparently as north as they grow in ever-loving Mendocino. I’ve never had a better pinot west of Paris. Almost changed my life. [ed. tBoW – I had a heckuvva time finding this winery, never located the particular bottling. These guys are P-R-I-C-E-Y so at $25 on winebid this was a super deal missing an extra digit up front ifyagetmuhdrift…and you like Sonoma Coast Pinot!]

White Interlude……………………

2014 Pikes Riesling Clare Valley. $15.  Aussies, and Kiwis, do a fine job with riesling. This is no exception. 12%, off dry. Lime with notes of petrol. Third glass starts to sear a bit of enamel off the teeth. Drink alone.  Meaning, don’t share. GREAT value. ONE Mouse.

 

 

GREECE! In spring we happened to be in Metsovo, a breathtakingly beautiful mountain village near nowhere. I read about its wine history; it’s boring.

 

 

 

 

2013 Rossiu di Munte Cabernet Sauvignon. I think the actual winery is called something else, but it’s Greek. Purchased in village from small food shop with local gourmet selection. Proprietor was super friendly and begged me try this wine. Perhaps his brother-in-law makes it. Not cheap! 27 Euros. Popped it last month. Had all the characteristics of a Graves but lacked body and depth. Menthol city, however. Superfun, however; the kind of experience that makes traveling a blast. 1/2 Mouse.

2015 Domaine Costa Lazaridi Amethystos. 90 percent cab and merlot, 10% indigenous agiorgitiko. Purchased for 18 Euro at Athens airport. From the northeast tip of the country in a region called Drama. I mean, they invented theater, right? So good that I went online to see if the wine [ed. tBoW; we already have plenty of drama round these parts] available stateside. Yes, about 20 minutes away from me at TotalWine in Milford CT for the same price as airport. Best I can describe: you’re 22 years old and just starting to drink wine that costs more than a movie ticket. You find this, and your whole perspective changes. Wait, there’s more than one flavor? OK, this is rather international in style. But so is Helen Mirren. One Mouse. [ed. tBoW loves Helen Mirren,]

[ed. Mr. Story: All of this mouse talk has Mr. Story thinking about cheese; a hobby he shares with mice. Perhaps Maus could rate cheeses with mice and then provide a rating (in mice) for the wine and cheese pairing.]

[ed. tBoW] The Greek actress, the Greek film, the Greek dance moves that started it all!! If this doesn’t warm you up get in front of a mirror…you may be a ghost.

It was the Glass Jar’s time to shine with the dough and the sauce!

Bounce back. Stay true to yourself. Follow your dreams.
Words spoken at his university commencement. Small solace when you lose your first job after college at a pizzeria.
The Glass Jar has always wanted to work at a pizza restaurant. Soon as he graduated university he signed up at his local pizzeria in LA. “I applied at several spots and heard nothing. I did find work at a private school and produced a feature film. I finally got the pizzeria job back home in New England. “

“The man who owned the pizzeria needed extra help in the kitchen. I was very candid. I had never worked in a kitchen but I had no doubt this was where I belonged. He took a chance. My first shift was the weekend. My job was putting pizzas in boxes, then cutting pizzas into slices, then organizing the boxes for customers.”[ed. MrStory: LeanSixSigma can compare waste created cutting pizza slices vs. crushing grapes].

“Things could get busy. I felt very comfortable. I would be making a little pocket money. Most importantly, I was giving back to the pizza community which had done so much for my personal growth. Dozens of families would be eating pizza sliced by the Glass Jar. If it were not for me, these families would be arguing over how to slice the pizza. I would drive home after a night in the kitchen knowing I could be driving by households positively affected by my pizza slices. After years of reading history books and following the news, one could only dream of the kind of impact the Glass Jar had with his pizza slicer.”

“My pizza dreams came to a quick conclusion after the weekend; crushed with one text. No job no more for me at the pizzeria.”
Review wines break.

2011 Travaglini Gattinara Tre Vigne $40ish: tBoW favorite wine region is north of Milan near the Alpine foothills. Elevation and coolness delivers medium light weight wines made from Nebbiolo and indigenous grapes. Travaglini is the most recognizable label and bottle shaped like a melting wax guitar. Travaglini is 100% Nebbiolo which tends to flatten the flavor profile. No harm done the wines are dependable, if not exciting, like Beaulieu Vineyard cabs. The entry level is Tre Vigne Gattinara at The Glass Jar is not one to fret very long. The Glass Jar is a bounce back fellow as young millenials are wont to be. There are much better altapiemonte wines to be had at this price.

2014 Nervi Gattinara $30 more or less: Check Eataly for availability with Giacomo. This is superb Alto Piemonte. Giacomo Conterno [one of the kings of Barolo to the south] purchased this winery, the oldest in Alto Piemonte. That is an endorsement from the highest source. We have tasted multiple vintages, most recently the 2008 out of mag. Balanced like a UCLA gymnast, “velvet glove” power which it is delicate at the same time having strength. Peerless. Much better investment of time and $$.

The Glass Jar is presently working in a new job somewhere in the Southeast. Instead of flipping pizzas he will be flipping House seats.

[ed. Mr Story shares some wisdom] It must have been tough to bounce back from this defeat. Jobs and opportunities may present themselves, even though you may not have the desired experience. One’s work ethic and character may be enough to get a job others would consider out of reach. Character, convictions, and reliability are forever minuscule when compared to “experience about the pizza.” The Glass Jar has experience “about the wine” because he generously contributes to The Best of Wines blog. It is the restaurant’s loss and our gain. We might have featured the place on this very blog.

Check out the Swingingest Pie Flippers Ever – Louis Prima and Keely Smith.

Mr Story Applies Lean SIX∑ to Wine

There’s a new sheriff in tBoW town and his name Story.
Mister Story.

He lays down a few laws that should clear an often muddled path to enjoying wine. This is Part One.

I’m new on the blog. They call me Mr. Story. I reside in Playa Del Rey- where the only grapes can be found at a local grocery store or in a bottle. I don’t own a winery, produce wine, and I have never studied the subject.

Today I am here to enlighten you with the Healthcare Systems Engineer’s perspective on wine. The production of wine is inefficient. Advanced LEAN production techniques can be applied. Readers may recognize my wine selection habits, acquisition techniques, and consumption behaviors. You may be wondering why a man like me is writing a post on the world-famous The Best of Wines blog. I care. I care about you. I care about the planet. I care about good wine.

Charles Neal value importer

Statement of Principles: select wines that are low cost and high value CLICK!. A $25 bottle of wine in my budget includes the following: transportation to and from the store, taxes or fees, bags, chilling, preservation, and glass cleaning. In my experience Extremely Low Cost Bottles (ELCB) of wine can be quite sickening. This negatively impacts my productivity. This is extremely problematic. Outcomes of ELCB – extremely low cost bottles – include lightheadedness, dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. No one will be able to solve these major healthcare issues if they have had even a sip of ELCB.

One expense over which wine consumers have complete control is where to buy wines. For me, driving six hours and eighteen minutes to go to the Napa Valley to select wines is simply not a financially wise option. The cost of fuel plus the opportunity cost is quite large, meaning that even the state of Texas would start to feel intimidated. I go to the local Trader Joes [ed. TJ] which has decent wines and is four stoplights and two full plays of Rock Lobster away.

Kermit Lynch original value wine hunter

I suggest four TJ wines [ed. tBoW has inserted a few choices other than TJ]. If you don’t have a Trader Joes near you, then perhaps go into a nearby Italian restaurant, see if a man named Joe works there and if he is open to doing some trading. If he is you just might be in luck. If you don’t enjoy these wines as much as I do, then so what? They weren’t that expensive.

2017 Miraval Cotes De Provence Rosé $21.99. With climate change causing erratic weather patterns and an increase in the number of uncomfortably hot days during the year, having a delicious Rose at your disposal is strongly advised for survival. Miraval is one of my favorites. Not too sweet and quite sophisticated. Fruity, but not disgustingly so, with a careful and nicely balanced blend of strawberry fruitful flavors, caramel, and spice. I always have a bottle of this chilled in my refrigerator. The bottle has a unique shape which is the only pesky thing about this wine. Makes it difficult to fit on wine racks. I enjoy this rosé very much and think you will too. If you want to be a pro with this wine like me, make wine cubes with one bottle (pour the wine into ice cube trays and freeze it). [ed. now THAT IS berry berry shmahhhttt!] That way, you don’t ruin the wine by adding ice cubes to it and can enjoy it at an even more refreshingly cold temperature. It bothers me when people dilute their wine.

Jim Moore top “value to quality” winemaker in Napa

2016 Bonterra Chardonnay $9.99 [ed. dingdingding! U20 even U10!!!] Made with Organic Grapes from Mendocino County, this wine is fantastic if you just have cheese without the typical cheese platter essentials. Creamy buttery taste transitions to an appetizing collection of honey, lightly toasted, lemon, pear, pineapple, with a very slight hint of oak. Yum. While your mouth enjoys it, your bank account will as well.

2017 Erath Pinot Noir $12 [ed. another U20]. Versatile wine from Oregon. A sip of this wine will transport you into a mystical forest of black cherries, plumbs, raspberries, pomegranates, and hints of nutmeg on the outskirts. As the beverage departs your tongue, the fruity flavors will gently linger, increasing your drinking pleasure. While it is indeed a very versatile wine, I find it pairs nicely with meats.

2011 Poggio al Casone Toscana $9.99 [U10]. Consuming this Italian wine takes me through a coffee plantation. My palate is greeted by toasted oak and wood-driven spice. Subtle hints of dried fruit (predominately black cherries) and black pepper, hints of mint. A smooth blend of Sangiovese (80%) and Syrah (20%). Enjoy.

The most important part of wine is the cheese pairing. Appropriate cheese pairing is critical to a pleasurable wine experience. The cheese pairing is ultimately the foundation of my wine philosophy. In my next post, you’ll get to know wines in a different way. I will be exploring the inefficient production of wines and explaining advanced LEAN production techniques that can be used to improve the value of the wine (better quality at a lower cost) and production efficiency.

tBoW: Thanks Mr. Story for sharing. The “cheesy” finish is splendid. I will be searching out some selections today. Excuse my relentless links to former tBoW posts on themes you have cited! We are in synch. TJs is the go-to for many folks who enjoy wine. The most useful articles on tBoW try to address similar themes, such as most wines are awful! What TJs is missing is staff obsessed with wine. Find a local wine store – a premium wine store, one that specializes in wine – and make a friend among the staff who hate working normal jobs and are crazed about wine and esp wine travel. Tell your new pal you enjoy wines that are good value (<$20> and great quality. You abhor “big ticket trophy wines” and and you could care less what are the “points”. In fact, if your new pal mentions points ask for a new friend. Another short cut to buying great wines at great values is to buy the importer CLICK!; Kermit Lynch, Neal Rosenthal, Louis/Dressner, Charles Neal and others. These are a few who can ALWAYS be trusted.

Send Part Two asap. And many minny money thanks! Now for that new sheriff….