No wines less than outstanding and plenty under $20! Dammit.
This topic is a little different. We know this blog is about wines under $20 (dubbed U20 by The Large, recently photoed with John McGlaughlin) that are outstanding or at least not offensive and at least interesting, and worth buying AND drinking. Unfortunately, there are actually so many of these wines we cannot remember even a tiny little sample of them. Like Atlas we carry the weight of heavenly wines on our shoulders, forever searching for relief, testing our beleaguered and weakened memories. (Friendly note ‚Äì having a wine friend with a strong memory like Dotor√© is infinitely helpful).
So here is a shortcut. If we learn who are the most reliable importers for our U20 wines then we can be very confident when we see a wine we might like to buy and try. Simply flip to the back label and read the importer‚Äôs name. If it is one of those listed below proceed with complete confidence!
My favorite importers all possess the following characteristics: adventuresome (they search out and bring in wines from regions that are off the Trophy Wine Map); great taste – their wines are uniformly delicious, I cannot recall one bad wine from any – of course, I already mentioned the shortcomings of my memory; generally good value wines although some offer big ticket wines but they are not First Growth Bordeaux; and they can be readily found, that is they have decent distribution networks so it is likely you will find their wine selections in a REAL wine shop like North Berkeley, Wally‚Äôs, Wine House or WHMC. Insert your local premium wine retailer here.
I have listed the name, location, phone, email and URL for each so you can chase them down yourself.
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley CA, 510-524-1524, no email (!!!), www.kermitlynch.com: Kermit is the Trailblazer. You have to admire and love him. He wrote an outstanding book, ‚ÄúAdventures on the Wine Route‚Äù, that conveys his joy and thrill discovering the great wine regions of France as the young wine buyer on the hunt. He has been importing wines from fashionable and unfashionable regions of France forever. And he really does not care for technology. You cannot buy his wines online from his store. He offers no email contact. And his website is little more than an online brochure. He loves to write about his favorite wine regions which he does with the most casual and friendly style in his newsletters. He always has the coolest B&W photos of winemakers and anything else that captures his eye (food, vines) in the letter. He represents a select group of winemakers from hot shit to lesser regions. What I notice is that he shows the same level of excitement and respect to all. No Wine Speculator ‚Äòtude here. His wines are fairly priced and always worth the investment. So check out what he has to offer by downloading his pdf newsletters. And give him a call. He covers Barolo, Burgundy, Rhone, Languedoc, Beaujolais and Provence. He has a home in Provence which he writes about and I will soon be invited there. If nothing else…sign up to receive his newsletter in the mail (yes, the US Mail).
The Age of Riesling, Berkeley CA, 510-549-2444, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.theageofreisling.com: If you have not ventured into German and Austrian wines‚Ä¶well, one day you will unless you are a total fool in which case I am ordering you off my blog. NOW. Excuse my passion but folks who love riesling are just about that nutty and with good reason. Isn’t the Age of Riesling curiously close in name to the Age of Reason? Is there a message here? I love German rieslings…for good reason.
Especially from the Mosel. Now this is like a theme park freak saying s/he loves Disneyland. Of course you do (I hate theme parks). The Mosel has always been the honey pot of wine growing regions in Germany. It cannot be compared to any other region or any other region compared to it. It is not the Burgundy of Germany. I‚Äôm getting worked up. This is what happens when one gets to thinking about great Riesling wines. Which is why we have Bill Mayer of AoR. He presents so many options beyond Mosel that I can only thank the day I found him. First of all, he is the Konig of Austrian wines. If you think German Rieslings sound creepy wait till you hear about Austrian gruner veltliner wines.
I will say they are racy, a bit foxy, highly acidic and absolutely intriguing. If we were spies these Austrian wines would be Marlene Dietrich ‚Äì we cannot really be sure which side she is on or which side she is doing. Prepare to be feel unbalanced (even though the wines are generally well balanced). I have to wrap this up. I could go on forever. I was introduced to German Rieslings very early in my wine tasting experience. I was able to buy plenty of 1983 Kabinetts, Spatleses, and Ausleses. 1983 was a legendary vintage. I started trying and buying 1976ers along with more 1983ers (German vintage reference). I was lucky to save a bunch of the 83s so that when my father-in-law turned 80 in 2000 I busted out the last half case and we drank them up in a big family dinner in a fancy pants restaurant in Santa Barbara. All Mosels and many of the great ones. The most memorable tasted like cotton candy. I know. Hard to believe but that is what I tasted. And I hate cotton candy unless I find it in a glass of 18 year old Mosel. Bill Mayer is selling fantastic wines from Austria and Germany and if you buy them now and hold onto them for 10 years you will be thrilled. I have also purchased red wines ‚Äì pinot noir aka blauburgunder along with blaufrankisch and zweigelt ‚Äì from Bill. I still prefer pinot noirs from Sonoma and Burgundy but I did not feel I had been misled. The newsletter is functional. The website too. Try these wines.
Weygandt-Metzler Importing, Unionville PA, no phone, email@example.com, www.weygandtmetzler.com/: Do you like under the radar? Meet the insider’s insider. Say hello to Peter Weygandt. A business attorney by training and a dedicated wine guy by devoted compulsion. He has a quote from Parker on his website that is to the point. Peter has stayed at my home on two occasions. He was the perfect guest who made his bed in the morning right after he showered. He does not crave the spotlight but he deserves it. He is the ‚Äúpoor man‚Äôs Kermit Lynch‚Äù. He may not approve of that characterization but it applies because Peter also plumbs France‚Äôs unfashionable and fashionable regions. He covers Alsace, Burgundy, Beaujolais and Champagne; Australia and New Zealand; Rhone and Languedoc; Loire Valley; Piedmont and Tuscany; and unfashionable regions in Spain (Basque, Navarra, Aragon). His palate is a map of great unknown and known wine regions. The breadth of selections is wider than Kermit Lynch. You can find his wines in fine wine shops in all the nation‚Äôs big cities. If you read Weygandt-Metzler on the back label it is a winner. Even the importer label is non-descript!
Becky Wasserman Selection aka Le Serbet, Beaune France, international phone on website, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.leserbet.com: She lives in France (hails, as we like to say, from New Yawk). Her son Paul used to work at Woodland Hills Wine Company where he often steered me to many fine wines. Paul has worked many places in wine, is full of info, and is a wine writer worth reading. And his mother is Becky Wasserman who like Kermit and Peter is a legendary importer. When Paul was at WHWC he brought in a slew of vintage Burgundies repped by his mom from Camille Giroud. I never heard of C-G but I was willing to try some of the older wines, 20 and 30 years, on Paul’s word. Read about the circumstances that allowed schlubs like me to purchase these incredible wines. Now, Burgundies are not U20 wines. However, BW also covers Rhone, Provence, Launguedoc and Beaujolais which can yield some U20s. Here is why I have included the big ticket queen of Burgundy with the U20 kings. You have to go to a real wine shop to find her stuff. So if you find yourself in a REAL wine shop and you are searching for a big ticket wine for your wine loving boss/future pop-in-law, or your loving hard working wine loving husband or wife, and you are going to spend top dollar, then you will be well advised to step up to the local clerk and demand the Becky Wasserman selections. Visit the website, dig the mega techno talk and the neat, authoritative writing about the wines. This is good wine geek stuff. If you want to try a great burgundy with some years on it then get yourself an older vintage burg imported by Becky Wasserman from 1996 for the holidays. It is possible to spend more than $20 of your wine budget on something smart.
No wines less than outstanding and plenty under $20! Dammit.