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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…

 

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….

Weird Wine Conversation Has Legs!!

When the going gets weird the weird turn pro.
Hunter S. Thompson

Target wins top award for selling the most uninteresting wines at the most attractive prices.

Target selling wine is weird to tBoW. The “word” weird looks wierd to me. There is a new kind of weird convo taking place in wine. tBoW is serving notice: “weird wines” is a hot topic. National Wine Day – May 25 – has come and went. We guess this “holiday” celebration online piece officially kicks off the 10 month long holiday season. Dotore is eating his liver!

We have received solicitations to buy “weird wines” from vendors. Kermit Lynch features some weird wines in his current June newsletter. His staff presents articles on “The Bigfoot of Chateauneuf,” [a producer who favors the “M” in G-S-M]; the Vaucluse region of Provence [keeping it simple here] and the varietal Mourvedre from a Pic St Loup producer [tBoW KLWM hits a two bagger – region AND varietal – on the weird wines scorecard]. KLWM is also offering “20% Off “White Wines for the Curious Drinker.” KLWM is like Kaiser health. Where Kaiser goes the industry follows.

And while tBoW may not take credit for initiating this especially refreshing direction in discussing wine and wines, we reserve some credit for getting on this quickly so that our readers/viewers can get up to speed.

Talking about weird wines is good.

How many years have the tBoW writers suffered through formulaic wine writing [off blog] with these silly conventions: 100 point scores, market driven varietals, glamorous attachments to whatever kind of activity can be shopped through the pages of the Wine Speculator and other imitators.

Oh the glamour of the wine industry! I love wine! I could not live without wine!! It’s all so wholesome farm to bottle getting closer to nature working with the earth how do you like my overalls and my farm truck and my new custom crush winery labels?!

Break time. tBoW is getting dizzy.

Thank goodness tBoW contributors and wine freaks KrisB and Maus have non-conforming points of view and are willing to share them when it comes to wine. In last week’s post we featured their thoughts and comments. That was just the beginning. There is more to be shared! Great for us.

Maus – Finally read the rather fascinating article. As you know, I’ve been around the euro block, as KrisB obviously has. One place that was mentioned in that article blew me away. Gaillac. It’s in the Dordogne region. Years back we stayed there. I didn’t have memorable reds, but we were drinking white mainly, and they rocked. I remember a grape called Mauzac. However, the amazing offerings concerned dessert wines. I remember going into a damn grocery store and seeing about two dozen local choices. all for under $15! all very good. I had Negrette along the way, but wasn’t too impressed. Tannat is wonderful. quite tannic. Tannic Tannat. Grows near the Spanish border. And at this point of my life, that wine will outlive me.  Uruguay, of all places, grows it. [tBoW consumed an Uruguayan Tannat “years back”] – forgettable except for the varietal name and the state of origin – by the way Tablas Creek grows and produces Tannat. I picked up a dessert tannat (it’s red) once in Long Island on my way to a Glee concert, godhelpme. Wonderful! …cheers, having a Holloran Reisling tonight. Oregon.

KrisB – I have a weird Gaillac sweet white or two that I’ve been keeping with tBoW’s name on it (https://www.cellartracker.com/classic/wine.asp?iWine=1217606). Problem with these “weird” wines is that there doesn’t always seem to be an occasion to open them.

Maus – You’ll be in beerland before you get to Belgium…in the land of Kolschs! Although I prefer a good lager (Bitburg is also nearby for Bitburger)…man I love German beers. Are you just staying in the towns or will you make a trip to the Ahr?

[SCANDAL ALERT -NEXT COUPLE COMMENTS NSFWS]

KrisB – Love the peasant farmers, except when they make wines without sulfur and think they are all “BIO,” but really are just selling oxidized dreck. Ran into one of these a few weeks ago in Puglia who made wines that would be really beautiful, but they were undrinkable for us. And this guy is imported by Dressner!

The best story is when we visited a Beaujolais producer that we liked, Michel Guignier. He said he was all natural, no sulfur. He gave us a the first wine to try, a rose, and said this has been opened for 2-3 days, see how fresh it is!

Well, it was absolute shit, reminded me of canned dog food. Around the time we were trying not to gag on that first one, he mentioned that there is more than one Michel Guignier winemaker in the region and that’s when we knew we made a horrible mistake! We suffered through the rest of the tasting and got out as fast as we could. He did not have a nice atmospheric tasting room/cellar. I think we are going to a tasting of Slovenian wines this afternoon…

MAUS – Yeah, got a little sideways in Mosel 30 years ago. My best memory is Graach, where my wife who speaks fluent German interpreted a conversation with a typical small European winemaker, meaning he was a peasant farmer in overalls. [tBoW – I don’t care who you are that’s funny]

The Holloran reisling was delicious. Vibrant, pugnacious with a slash a pineapple! Sounds like you’ll be in a land [tBow – think he means Slovenia] where you can have the white wine that began this whole conversation [tBoW – the Himbrecht?]. It’s funny how those small time European wine operations can range from absolutely delightful to Frankenstein. I had bipolar experiences 2 years ago in Sud Tirol.  When the people are nice I always feel compelled to buy something, usually doesn’t cost more than $12  at any rate.

I was in Prague 10 years ago. I learned that Slovenia is Wine Country and Bohemia is beer land. I found a dessert Chardonnay that I accidentally froze and when it started to thaw out I had the most delicious snow cone ever. By the way my recent trip to Greece convinced me that the cradle of democracy has not enjoyed a wine Renaissance. Good lamb, though.

tBoW – Only way to top off this convo is with a video that provides a quick review of Hunter S. Thompson’s daily schedule as he ramped up for daily writing.

“Tour of Italy Tasting”…meanwhile somewhere in Puglia…

Wine Tasters Steel Themselves for 21 POURS

The Wine House in West LA sponsored an Alto Piemonte Tasting May 16 2018 presented as “A Tour of Italy” hosted by Vinity Imports. Somehow tBoW got it in his head this was going to feature Alto Piemonte wines. Not. The clever title avoided any representation of an exclusive Alto Piemonte offering while at the same time over-representing the narrow selections [ed: what a whiner].

Five wineries each poured four wines.

Simon di Brazzan poured whites from Friuli including Pinot Grigio, Friulano, Sauv Blanc and a traditional blend. Not impressed. Not our varietals. We came for the Neb blends. The Friuli geography IS interesting. In the Northeast corner of Italy, Friuli spans terrain from the Adriatic to the Austrian Alps. This winery is in the alpine foothills. Friuli in the southeast is very close to Slovenia. Looking at a map I never realized that the city of Trieste is the very end of Italy at the “back tip of the top boot.” [ed. check out the Old Vine Primitivo in Puglia…bella!]

Poderi San Lazzaro is located in the Marche on the Adriatic, maybe even farther from Alto Piemonte than Friuli. Their premium bottle is Grifola made from 100% Montepulciano grape. Not a fan of rich red wines with lots of body and alcohol. Alcohol above 14%. tBoW has in-laws named Lazzaro [ed. fonzy that].

Le Piane Winery holds all the possibilities and promises of Alto Piemonte wines made from 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina. Le Piane has a good story, a  a great location, and the right grapes…however Lu2 and tBoW were not fond of what was in the glass. Over extracted, thick, high alcohol. Collector wines. Be charmed by the STORY and LOCATION links above and vine picker over there.

Ar.Pe.Pe. is the headliner tonight. The wines are widely heralded as a star small producer of Nebbiolo blended with indigenous varietals. Just look at their premium Sassela vineyard. Izzat Dracula Castle? NEWS FLASH! This winery is located in Lombardy and not AltoPiemonte. Whatever. The wines show everything Lu2 likes in wines from the northwestern regions of Italy: balance, acid enuff to “hold that thought” and bright flavors. And Lu2 loves food and cooking. Just one problem: pricey at $40 (Valtellina Rosso), $60 (Grumello) and $75 (Inferno). tBoW has reviewed many other wines he prefers that are a third to half as much as Ar.Pe.Pe.

The final winery tasted was Giovi from Sicily. We love Sicily. Thank goodness these guys were showing. Located on Mt Etna at [undetermined number of feet – somebody please look this up and comment, grazi!!] on the 11,000 foot volcano. The sots poured a white – 2016 Etna Bianco $30, a Rosato $30, and 2 reds at $40 and $60. We both bought the white wine. Lu2 also bought the Etna Rosato. Both wines are delightful for summer sipping [ed. ha! more like chugging]. Both have the requisite balance of acid and fruit.

You should read more about the charm of Sicily here is a New York Times Travel piece published in January. Sicily and Puglia at the top of tBoW’s travel list. Right behind perennial Egypt which Mrs. tBoW is finally warming up to.

Meanwhile somewhere in Puglia…tBoW tasters the Krisses enjoy old vine vineyards and a view of where the Atlantic meets the Adriatic from the deck of their Air BnB $70 a day rental.

In case that view did not give you a thrill…check this video of Mt Etna erupting with giant smoke rings. Timely considering what is taking place this week on the Big Island.

Wine Travel Is So Easy!!

Argentina! Italy! Canada? Portugal and Spain?!

Knowing how to travel is simple. A great getaway is built on two pillars: castle and wine regions. If you want to save money yet still get the feeling of  what it is like to visit a wine region you can attend a well planned tasting. The local primo wine shop – Woodland Hills Wine Company – is really good at putting on tastings.

The November 15 2017 Las Joyas wine tasting featured seven winemakers from Spain and Portugal. Pause a moment. Imagine you are a winemaker from a little beach town in northern Portugal. You and your wife decide a national tour could be fun! You join a mini barnstorm tour and see the USA while chatting up strangers about the wine you make. Not a bad idea for a Fall activity. Like driving across country in a VW van with dogs and strangers.

Once WHWC decided it would become a tour stop they had to find a hosting restaurant. The Peasant Bistro is conveniently located two blocks from WHWC. The little food plates were ideal for the tintos and blancas…crab cakes, meatballs in red sauce, and other stuff I forgot already. All delicious without distracting from the wines. And the wines were good.

A Few Winemakers We Kept Pretty Good Notes About. Alberto Orte is the winemaker for La Antigua which produces ~2,200 cases annually. He is also a partner for Ole Imports which represents many of the wines at the tasting. In California production this small is almost a hobby. We bought the 2008 Clasico made from 40 to 80 year old vines. Head cut gnarly stumps. 60% Garnacha (tBoW’s favorite Spanish red grape. Tempranillo is fruity and fussy. Vines grown in limestone at 700 meters which is high for Rioja. Aged in neutral oak. No new oak and we could taste that. Organic and natural.

Leirana Finca Genoveva is in Galicia which is furthest west on the coast. Rodri and Ari are winemaking love birds. They showed three white wines: two albarinos, and one made from Meano Sanxenxo. One of the pleasures of wine travel and tasting is getting to try something unusual like wine made from the Meano Sanxenxo grape. Not sure I would learn anymore from being there than Albarino is not just that. Ari showed me fotos of the eight foot tall vines! The cordons start around seven feet. Their total production is…drum roll please…300 cases! Organic, natural wines aged in old oak – neutral. Thank goodness these two are sufficiently impoverished to not be able to afford new oak. We hate new oak.
There were more wines including those from the Azores [above foto of vines growing below volcanic Mt Pico]. All in all a lovely getaway from LA. Good job Daniel. Here’s an audio treat that goes with Alabarino from In Deep.

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