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Wine Dinner with the Krisses

What? Sounds boring? Hardly. Neither was the Krisses Tasting boring. In fact, it was splendid. KrisA is preggers again so no wine for her and more for us. KrisB, tBoW and Sam-the-Rioja-Man [ed. SRM?] were on hand to help out with the h-e-a-v-y lifting…if ya git mah drrriiiiffftttt. PT8Y handled child care with the very active 4 y.o. Everett. Mrs. tBoW assisted with light sipping esp when the desert wine cork was pulled. She’s like that.

Count on KrisB to pull corks on cool, unusual and top quality bottles. No wonder we like him. The West Coast Maus. After a grueling 90 minute ride to go 20 miles – LA baby – we were greeted with a glass of chilled 2006 Gaillez Lemaire Champagne Cuvee Jadis. Mostly Petite Meunier which the Krisses prefer in their champagne. Bracing acidity buttressed by the cool temp. Comes thru Fass Selections [ed. ~$46] which KrisB has seriously engaged as a purveyor! Here is some typical Fass prose and praise: “Gorgeous nose. Biscuits. Mineral. Brioche. Palate is opulent and deep but so elegant and wonderfully vivid. What a stunning wine. Huge and elegant.” Sooooo, we found the wine to be crisp, bright, richly flavored and bracing. Opulent? Why not. Only if Grace Jones is opulent. Alcohol on the lable estimated at 11% to 14%. Hey. Beats a 100 point rating scale when it comes to precision.

2007 Pricum Prieto Picude 13.5% $25. The grape is prieto picudo. The reviewer from Wine Enthusiast called out “tomato, red currant, raspberry and herbs” which he said are snappy. Excuseme fro being droll bbuuutttt if tBoWcalls out herbs he usually names which ones… e.g., Herbert Hoover (US prez), Herb Adderley (Green Bay Packers safety) or Herbert Lom (Inspector Dreyfus who oversaw the investigations of the bumbling idiot Inspector Clouseau). This bottle mollified SRM and pleased Mrs tBoW.

Glasses in hand KrisB agreed to show us his wine cellar. He was in the midst of unpacking nine [ed. nicht nein, jah nine!] Fass shipping boxes so thw space was a tad unruly. KrisB shared his sorting scheme: ready to drink now, will be ready soon, and not ready for a while. We immediately felt a wave of relief as if the 100 point rating scheme had been hurled into the Santa Maia volcano never to be seen again. 

tBoW brought a bottle of $14 2017 Gelsons Mayfair. Bottled by Margerum in Santa Barbara with a 13.5% rating. Medium weight blend of 50% Marsanne, 25% Grenache Blanc and the last quarter Viognier. This is a very pleasant drink that will suffice for any season.

Following grilled Japanese yams, salmon and scallops the final cork was removed from the neck of a svelte bottle. Yesitwas the 2007 Domaine des Bories Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh. It was desert wine. KrisB did not disappoint with the perfectly chilled bottle. The wine comes from a region referred to as Madiran in Gascony in southwest France which is easier to “see” as northeast Spain. It is so off the beaten path in France that it is known more for surfing than for wine. I kid you not. Basque I tell you. This wine is also a Fass find and as it seems nearly every Fass wine…it is delicious and delightful. So are the Krisses.

As for the aforementioned bumbling idiot…I almost choked watching the following clip! Happy Thanksgiving all. Enjoy some wines especially bubbly and desert styles. Do not watch the following with food in your mouth…which the Inspector would surely pronounce “moooth.”

 

 

 

 

Minneapolis Hoedown: GREAT wines & a superb set of museums

Minneapolis Impresses like its Early Gehry Tin Can

A wedding obligation pulled Mr. and Mrs. tBoW to Minneapolis for the last days of summer/fall. Temps between 30 and 50. Balmy. The groom and betrothed selected a very fine restaurant for the first evening out: Alma Cafe [ed. click for winelist and food choices]. The wine and food set the standard for the remaining dozens of hours in town. Let’s get the other stuff out of the way.

Samurai headdress in Mia

Minneapolis is a very cool town. Easy to get around. Excellent public trans. A bevy of top flight museums that put “classic big ticket” LA museums to shame. Like the Brentwood Getty and LACMA. The Minneapolis Institute of Art [ed. Mia to the locals] has outstanding collections in modern, turn of the 20th cenury and international paintings and artifacts. The Weisman Art Museum covers modern artists and movements like a light scarf on a blustery downtown day.

What to do after the museums? Eat and drink of course. The wedding was also really fun…but how often does one go to Minnesota for a wedding?

Sonia the somm with her tBoW selection

The principal wine and dine highlights took place at Alma Cafe. Seven wedding goers sat and chatted. tBoW spent his evening in the capable hands of Michael the waiter and Sonia the somm. The daily cocktails featured a Sangria unlike any other we have seen or tasted: “Burgundy & Chablis, Miro Vermouth, XO Brandy, Elderflower, Pink Peppercorns, Cyelon CInammon.” Is it a drink or a travel guide? The blend was superb. Of course tBoW wants to re-create this. Must check the bottom shelf where he puts the never used bottles of whatever – mostly forgotten and forgettable Kahlua brands.

From there to the wine list; the most varied and thoughtful selection encountered in a very long time with a strong adherence to the PQR – Price Quality Ratio. For examples, the red wines offered fell under six sections: France, Chile/Argentina; North America; Italy/Central and Eastern Europe; Australia/South Africa; and Spain. Flip the single page for the White Wine list which is similar with exceptional additions; i.e., the Italy/Central Euro group adds Eastern Europe. Name a wine list in SoCal with this range.

Selections that required a mini study hall with Sonia:

2016 Grenache/Syrah Pic St Loup “La Closerie du Pic” from Puech-Haut – $16/glass

NV Sangiovese “plus” from Merkin “Shinola” from Cochise County Arizona $15/glass (winery started by Tool frontman)

Pinot Noir plus, Pearl Morrissette (Alana?) “Metis Rouge” Niagra Penninsual – $17/glass

The list included so many labels we never see in LA (and perhaps the West Coast) it was thrilling. Sonia poured a Croatian red for one of our group. Light to medium body with enough flavor to drink. Just like the wine [ed. nyuk nyuk].

When Sonia asked what tBoW might like with my veggie plate I asked her to choose. She returned with a Sardinian wine that was medium bodied and unique: Monica di Sardegna, Cardedu “Praja” $17/glass. [ed. U20 looks like it is available at Wine House]!

Why do we not see more of these wines in LA? Could be the importers of gem wines from the continent just do not get out here. If we do encounter a thoughtful even creatively considered wine list in our town the cost for food and drink is abhorrent. Could be the industry is undergoing a welcome overhaul post-Kermit-Rosenthal-Louis Dressner, as Lettie Teague recently noted. The closest destination next to the Pacific Ocean where food and wine and cost would align in harmony is probably Portland. Better choices and golf in Minneapolis? Must fly to either one.

If you’re flying to Minneapolis just becuz you can you must go in May after the winter thaw and before the Summer mosquitos.

Akira Kurosawa would eat and drink at Alma…check out his samurai fight from “Seven Samurai.”

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Cellar Sale: Raptors Re-Org Waryers! tBoW & Ikorb Re-Org Cellar

I was chatting with KrisB about wines from the Northern Rhone. He was trying to ‘splain me why I should be more open-minded about Rhone wines [ed. if this doesn’t raise a Field Maus eyebrow…]
“Over-extracted means medium for Fass and lightweight for Parker.” [ed. I don’t care who you are that’s funny]. Kris B directed me to the email notices for offerings by Mr. Fass who must be on the road about 13 months a year. The two or three cases I have already shelled out for arrive in the Fall. All the wines will be from the regions I favor which include Alto Piemonte [ed. Nebbiolo in the light style from above Milano] along with wines from Sardinia and Sicily. And of course, Burgundies.
KrisB directed tBoW to Garagiste years before. Fass is another madman itinerant wine voyager – altho’ the Krisses have done their share of wine touring – who sold me Burgs, Rieslings, Cabs from Languedoc and who knows what else. I posted that Rimmerman was the Rasputin of online wine vendors! Like Fass Selections, Rimmerman – aka Garagiste – is a super salesman who I believe L-O-V-E-S wine and loves offering deals. Ikorb – known tBoW follower – says Rimmerman offers top tier Bordeaux. If that is true it would be sad news as that suggests he has cultivated “trophy hunters” who go after the “big game” bottles. It’s a market with which I am not familiar. I know this. Lyle Fass has some very engaging video reviews on his Instagram.
Quite a few tBoW readers and affiliates are sophisticated purveyors of email vendors like Garagiste, WTSO and Fass. This is a game for the Cognos. We really enjoy there is little risk in supporting these wandering vendors. The payoff is enjoying great and unusual wines at great prices. Can’t wait for my German Pinots!
Not that a bottle hunter is unable to find great wines at great values in the right wine shops. We named a handful in the Story Tasting post with another chance to drive traffic to Kate in the Desert Wine Shop.
At the end of the day it comes down to Burgs. Ikorb helped tBoW re-organize the wine cellar recently…with astounding and unexpected results. Three cases of Burgs were scattered across nameless bins. Now they are divided into BURG READY and BURG WAIT. If you’re having a rough day, maybe you had a weak round of goff…you can always pull the cork on a wine recently recovered from shelves sensibly divided into Reds and Whites. To the reviews.
2009 Sylvaine Patais Marsannay Clos du Roy $45 [available supposedly in LA at secret tBoW shop] tBoW tasting notes:
feral without a growl…brick red color means it is ready…not ready to give up the booty…needs 30 minutes…perfect 
accompaniment to Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry…blending finesse and grace [boaf uv um] with the unstoppable power [Kawhi]. As the game [ed. 6th and final, Waryers vs. Raptors] chugged towards its end, the wine showed the fading power of Boogie Cousins. Delicious and working all the way to the last drop. Changeling and still energetic. Beets or cherries you ask? Neither nor a combo of both…a fox crossed with a bobcat? DeNiro on the hunt for a ten point stag…instead of shooting it he drinks it?
2012 La Croix Montjoie Irancy~$24 purchased from Fass maybe 3 years ago. This wine is so funky the vintage is not listed on the label! This is great farmer wine. I can see the gnarly creased fingers with deeply etched skin. Flavors are all beets and nose of hay after a light rain. A real deal. Puts you in a lost corner of Burgundy where the trophy hunters rarely enter.

KrisB knows his wines. I suppose I have no choice but to let him persuade me as to the pleasures and joys of Northern Rhone Syrah wines. See you in August!

Mike the Nam survivor (played by Robert DeNiro) can’t pull the trigger. Make one film this beautiful and have nothing left. Is there a Wine Lesson here?

The Storied Tasting

Picture this…a cooler than normal day in late May.

Wine, cheese and ready tasters.

Bacchus and Mr. Story smiled.

Image result for Bacchus blows clouds

Eight tasters around the table outside the kitchen: Lou, Shag Man, David Mac, Large, tBoW hisself, Mr Story, Dotore and Broki. Five cognoscenti – Cognos and three Ignorami – Ignos. At least ten corks were pulled. The day’s goal was to edjicate Mr. Story about wine. And to chew on cheese.

When one is trying to “get it” about wine, the first lesson is to comprehend the many traps that must be avoided. Such as the 100 point rating scale. Total bullshit. Marketing to sell wines and magazines. When the lowest rating EVER is 87 then the scale is actually 13 points; not 100. Ignore the score.

That was an easy sell. The U20, U15 and U10 ratings defined by Le Large is far more useful [ed. wines that cost “Under” the dollar amount]. Wine is all about the price/quality ratio [ed. see tBoW discussion from waaaay baaaack].

The mission was to provide the Ignos with enough experience to get along on their own in the silly pompous scores-driven world of wine. Where to buy wine? What to buy? How to tell if a wine is good or bad? tBoW’s goal was to keep the table breeze from blowing too hard if ya gets me drift. Here is how it went.

tBoW dug some older wines from his cellar that were beyond their shelf life by about a decade each. These wines were tired and out of synch. The only hints and notes they had were wrong (hints) and flat (notes). Great starters. Dispensed with 15 years of “flawed wine” disgruntlement in 45 minutes.

After the parade of flat , unbalanced and otherwise FLOD wines, the first “best wine” was opened. It was classic, seven year old burgundy from a highly reputed producer and a decent vintage.

2012 Regis Bouvier Clos du Roy, $35 at buy. Lou almost spit it out [ed. she likes wine with fruit]. The rest of the Cognos cooed. The Ignos did not know what to think. This wine opened for at least an hour. Burgs come in two flavors: beets or cherries. This was beety. A discussion about noble grapes erupted and the conceit of the New World to compete with the Old World noble varietals; Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauv, Nebbiolo and Riesling. Why are these grapes “noble?” Because they are! Now stop asking stupid questions. Lou came round in 40 minutes.

Other “star wines” included an Alto Piemonte (north Piedmont) and a Barolo (south Piedmont). Nebbiolo is the noble grape. Conversation focused on how Neb is a single grape wine near Alba (south of Torino) yet is still blended with local grapes in the Alto Piemonte. (north of Milano). The Cognos are fans of the Alto style: lean, low alcohol, lightweight, and simply delicious bending fruit with a distinctive local flavor, i.e., Gattinara, Bramaterra, Choochoo Wassy, etc.

As the second hour arrived it was time to open the guaranteed winner bottle; a single vineyard vintge Oporto. Port is a sweet wine that cannot be tasted until at least a decade passes. This had 25 years on it. It is a desert wine with a charming back story rooted in one of the extended wars between England and Spain. The producer is Martinez. Alcohol is 20% which is typical of port. Transcendent as aged ports can become.

1994 Quinta da Eira Velba by Martinez $35 on futures. The color was rusty brown. The nose showed toffee, coffee and rum. The flavors were true. We should all age so wonderfully. One bottle left in tBoW’s cellar!

But wait! said David Mac. I brought that Alysian Vermouth (17%). Pop goes the cork. The chilled wine was so exotic it challenged description. Oily. Bittersweet. Sorgum and spice. Camphor?  flavors are balanced. Orange peel. Must be therapeutic because I am reminded of my last rubdown. One of the Ignos – Shag Man – said “reminds me of an Old Fashioned.” The real amazing fact was the vermouth is made in Healdsburg! That’s right. Sonoma County. New World.

To summarize, here are some Quick and Dirty lessons for enjoying wine.

#1 Avoid grocery store wines. Unless the store is Gelsons in LA, Draegers in Palo Alto, Flatiron in San Francisco, or AJs in Scottsdale AZ. Forget Trader Joes and Whole Foods although if it came down to those 2? Better shot is Whole Foods.

#2 Identify and shop at a local Wine Store. Here in our neighborhood that is Woodland Hills Wine. The only others are Wine House in West LA, Hi Time in Costa Mesa and Wine Exchange in Santa Ana. Hi Time is best in So Cal. Honorable mention goes to Desert Wine Shop on 111 in Palm Desert [Katie of DWS below].

Katie Desert Wine Shop

#3 Shop online for best prices. This can be tricky. To do this well one must be armed with label, producer and vintage knowledge. The best deals are online. The Cognos cited Wines Til Sold Out (WTSO), Fass Selections and Garagiste. Most of these operations ship 2x/year so when the stash arrives after the summer it is in cases! Easy to lose track of how much you bought! KrisB is an exclusive online shopper. Many Cognos shop online.

#4 Buy the importer. Labels can be confusing. It takes years to read them. Wineries especially in the USA invent terms to impress the Ignos, such as Reserve, Special Select, Single Vineyard and Special Reserve. These mean n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Wait. I take that back. These phrases mean you pay a couple more bucks for n-o-t-h-i-n-g. You can always buy with confidence any wine imported by Kermit Lynch, Neal Rosenthal, Charles Neal or Louis/Dressner.

#5 Old World over New World. Europe and the Continent before Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Canada and Napa.

There were at lest two Dependable Quaffers. Cognos always have a handful of DQs nearby. Pull those U20 corks today. The Chave Mon Couer from the Rhone is always a U20, always balanced and easy to suck down on its own or with cashews. The 2015 Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona from Thessaly is a recent find with teasing exotica. At $17 it is a real deal. We found it at Desert Wine Shop and Hi Time.

Things get wild at Desert Wine Shop! Jump to the 1 minute mark and watch thru the 4 minute mark.

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…