Posts belonging to Category Los Angeles Culture



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.

Glass Jar Goes Home – Your Home – for the Holidays.

The Holidays are over. But for one tBoW reporter the Holidays are just eleven short months away.

Is eleven months sufficient time to find a new line of beeswax? What will the future bring for the Reluctant Millennial.

The Glass Jar did not have time to wish all tBoW readers a happy holiday. You see, after my slap in the face from the pizzeria, I had to find a new calling. It was time for something far from the pizza crowd to help stay the horrible memories. There was blue wave work in Clarksville, TN where a Yankee is welcome in any waffle house should he dare set foot. My days working for the Democrats were long and often grueling. However, working on a campaign in the south was worth it. The payoff was not our candidate’s victory. He got crushed. The 250+ phone calls personally made along with endless doors knocked on were worth it. I felt qualified for my next gig; putting packages on doorsteps [ed. Mr. Story: Some of the packages delivered by the Glass Jar must have been the gifts I recommended for wine lovers in my December post.]

I was ready to walk into UPS for a job interview to see if I was qualified. Like a field organizer trusted to organize Democrats in Trump country, the pressure was on. It was time to see if I was ready for the demands of “put the box by that front door.”

The interview was brief. I walked in. The test aimed to identify one qualification. Was I breathing. Anybody with a pulse got offered the job. My “boss” confirmed I was a living human capable of movement. Could I start tomorrow? The holidays are truly a magical time. [ed. Mr. Story: Indeed- a magical time- with lots of wine AND cheese!]

I waited for my driver with the other driver helpers in a commuter lot for about an hour. It was cold. I made my elementary health teachers proud. I was the only helper waiting for my driver without smoking a cigarette. I worked for three different drivers who expressed their thoughts in words that would not belong in a Christmas special. By the time the holidays ended, I had lasted in a job for which the demands where beyond daunting. Putting the correct packages on the correct doorsteps will go down as one of my signature achievements.

Contrary to what others may say, this is a wine blog. Wine is relevant to the life of a UPS driver helper. When we delivered wine to homes we had to collect a signature. If the residents were not there, we had to leave them a note without dropping off the package. This was not the way to spread holiday cheer. Nothing spoils the holidays more than a paper saying “I brought wine but you were not here so let’s wait 24 more hours.” I did the best I could to bring the wine boxes to the doorstep but if there was nobody there to sign, there was nothing I could do. The Glass Jar is now seeking $550,000 for 3% of his new company, Holiday Winesigners. We hire elves over the age of 21 to sign for your booze over the holidays. Interested? [ed. Mr. Story: I must review the financials while sipping on some wine before I make a commitment to this new endeavor of the Glass Jar.]

BONUS DIGRESSIVE WINE MOMENT: The Field Mouse (known to and knows the Glass Jar) offers wine wisdom from decades of research. “At age 60 I can lay out my list of wines. Riesling from anywhere except California. Rousanne. Dessert wine would be Chenin Blanc from the Loire. Pinot Noir from anywhere except the Loire.. Just about any Italian red.

The acorn does not fall far from the tree. Or should that be “the acorn falls near the tree.” Let’s unpack this then take a deep dive.

Holiday Winesigners. Any Italian red. Genius. Prevent your holiday blues by delivering your holiday booze. Happy New Year everyone!

HELL NO. NOT ON HIS WATCH!!

A Mr Story Christmas Story

‘twas the night before Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even, MAUS!

The barrels were hung
By the chimney with care
In hopes that the WINEMEISTER soon will be there!

The winers were all snuggled up in their beds
While visions of squashed grapes, danced in their heads

We think about Christmas in a different way here at the Best of Wines and today I will be sharing with you my analytical perspective on the holiday and it’s relevance in the wine industry, while suggesting Christmas gifts for your wine lover friends (or family or simply strangers who you must share oxygen with at a holiday party) that will pop their cork off with more excitement and spark than a bottle of champagne on New Year’s eve. So, let’s get to it.

The reality is that the holiday season is basically a large-scale wine exchange. It’s the Shanghai market of wine, if you will. This phenomenon is especially true in the United States where colleagues, friends, and family simply give a bottle of some mysterious wine that they received as a gift in the past. The regifting of wine is quite troubling to me, as I believe that the selection of a wine and then the act of gifting it is very serious and sacred.

The issue is that we as a species have become rather stubborn and set in our ways when it comes to gift giving during the holidays. We have become programmed and don’t think creatively. You see, there are far superior gifts that one can give to a wine lover during the holidays that aren’t wine and may also incorporate some of their other tastes. Here are a few that I ordered on Amazon for the folks on my Excel Spreadsheet Christmas list (Click on the images to buy on Amazon!):

For the Feline Fans:

Funny Gray Kitty Cat Wine Bottle Holder Sculpture for Unique Tabletop Wine Racks & Stands or Feline Statues and Animal Figurines As Holiday Gifts for Pet Owners 

ed tBoW: makes me wanna purrrrr

 

 

For the Classical Music Lovers:

 

Glass Violin Decanter, Mahogany Base – The Wine Savant 1000 ML Glass Decanter For Whiskey, Scotch, Spirits, Wine Or Vodka For Music Lovers.

ed tBoW: can I get this in a Ludwig van B head?

 

For the Intellectual Drinker

Fred WINESTEIN Double-Walled Stemware Mug 

ed tBoW: in my best Spiccoli “hey I know that dude”

 

 

For the Photographer

Neoprene Stemstrap Wine Glass Holder, Black 

ed tBoW: black is my color for 2019!

 

 

Before we close, I must address the elephant in the room and that is the white elephant gift exchanges. These games are quite fun and entertaining and I believe the gifts above would make fantastic white elephant gifts. Also, don’t bring red wine to a white elephant gift exchange. It doesn’t pair well. After all, it is a white elephant gift exchange, so white wine is the more appropriate selection, if you or your spouse insists on bringing wine. Secondly, wrap the gift oddly so that no one can predict that it is a bottle of wine and make it extremely challenging to unwrap. I once wrapped a pair of socks in $60 in pennies and 3 roles of duct tape for a white elephant gift exchange. It certainly provided a good 20 minutes of entertainment during the event for all of the guests to enjoy!

And from tBOW…find Bad Santa on teevee, watch it with a cocktail…and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!

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….

“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.