Posts belonging to Category Value Value Value



the Trouble with Rioja Wines

tBoW goes on curmudgeonly jag! Two blogs in a row rip into popular international wines!! What’s next? Napa?

Lettie Teague is the wine writer for the Wall Street Journal. She covers a wide range of wines from pricey (Burgundies) to cheapos to odd regions and the ones wine snobs like to read about. I would link to her columns BUT without a subscription the columns are out of reach in 24 hours (or so).

Teague’s Jan 13 column covered Rioja wines: “Pour on the Oak: Rioja’s Reliably Aged Reds.” Immediately I recalled a Rioja tasted this New Year’s Eve party…2007 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904. Had the big reviews from Suckling and Parker PLUS the big scores in the high 90s [Lettie’s WSJ image adjacent…nice, no?]

A couple of prelim caveats: In the first, the 100 point range for scoring wines is (how can I say this without scrinching faces) frivolous. Find me a wine below 85 points and I will tell you where to buy the 2014 Cune Crianza which is a great bargain at $12. When scores less than 85 are not assigned then the scale is actually 15 points. In the second, avoid reviewers who are paid to sell wines and assign the scores. Better to find a local wine shop with staff that actually drink the stuff. Let him or her get to know what you like and your preferred price point so they can tell you what to buy. One more point…what is the difference between a 96 and 97 point wine? Better yet what could possibly be the difference.

The New Years lineup was brave with many fine bottles lining the bar. Unfortunately, only one bottle was up to the task of pleasing palates. Different wines fell short for different reasons. The 2009 Sweeney Canyon Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara was well made. Our palates have changed since. We (and I am speaking for the smarty pants tasters) no longer favor Central Coast syrupy (to us) beety flavored wines. The two recent vintage Bourgognes were soft and fruity without much stuffing. The winner was opened and placed before the lumpen before the cogoscenti arrived so its remains lay dying in the glasses of the “social tasters” [man, tBoW a real S-N-O-B].

2007 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904, $50: The Handle Man brought this with high hopes shared all round. Plenty fruit. Beautiful robe (taster talk for color, weight, luminosity). And big and tannic even after trying again and again for a couple of hours. TOO MUCH OAK. As Teague points out Gran Reserva signifies the wine spent FIVE YEARS in barrel. So this wine was bottled no sooner than 2012 and may have spent even longer in barrel [ed. upon reading about it turns out the wine was bottled after 4 years].

What to make of this? All were disappointed with how the wines we brought by the cognoscenti showed. After ten years we really expected the La Rioja Alta would be more accessible. What’s the deal? TOO MUCH OAK. tBoW favors natural wines made without oak. Or at least wines stored (“aged”) in neutral oak barrels which have been used more than five years and have lost all the oak flavors imparted by new barrels.

Let’s be clear. We hate oaked wines. We are not even sure why the “aged in new oak” style began or where it came from. Spain has institutionalized aging wines in oak to the extent of rewarding wines aged longest in oak with the “highest” rating of Gran Reserva which translates roughly to Grand Poobah of Wines. What is truly worth pondering is how a nation elected to value the use and abuse of oak in making (finishing) wine over factors that are more highly valued elsewhere; e.g., not using oak, steel fermentation, and using natural yeasts or even w-a-i-t-i-n-g for fermentation to spontaneously erupt.

Is there something to be said about the culture? tBoW speculates in his darkest mind that this system was spawned by the fascista values of Generalissimo Franco. Prove me wrong.

The CVNE 2014 Crianza – Crianza means aged no more than two years in barrel which is about 18 mos too long. This particular bottle is a go-to tBoW value perfect for Thanksgiving when the food multiplex is the most challenging to match. And at $14 – we have bought for $10 – it is probably the perfect one-size-fits-all wine for Turkey Day.

tBoW and fam visited La Guardia and Alta Rioja way back before he owned a digital camera. The hilltop village of LA Guardia was a highlight. The yougn ‘uns got a thrill when the “bulls” ran thru the streets. Does this happen every weekend? I was able to find a video of the running of the COWS which captures the thrill we all shared. The streets are narrow and the risks are meager. This ain’t no Pamplona. This was a disco. The only where gouging might take place would be lunch or diner with wine. Although that did not occur.

Thoughts and Prayers Going Forward at the End of the Day

Who is this dude? Izit Kim Young Gun? Or Shootin’ Roy NoMoore? Or the Big Cheeto gone dark, er? More whiffs there than a Cody Bellinger series. It is a handmade movie poster from the 70s when the movie showing moguls in Ghana had to fabricate their own posters out of gunny sacks. Made the entire story up their own. Why not?!? Starring Guy Jesus. Wonder where he is today.

Switch to cable news content, obviously. I mean literally…how many cliches can one viewer stand? It’s almost enough to make tBoW turn off Fox & Friends. I agree with N-O-T-H-I-N-G Bill O’Reilly ever had to say except when he once – and only once – made this point: “at the end of the day” is a phrase overused. Literately. We know what happened to Bill’O. He overused his welcome.

Makes me want to drink WINE. Have wine with food. With friends who like wine. It’s almost Turkey Day already. People gotta prepare. Tinkaboudid.

Here are a few wines that don’t cost so much and are very friendly to the hoi polloi.

On the left is the blancs 2016 M. Chapoutier  Belleruche Cotes du Rhone $15-ish. Picked this up on sale at a local primo market that needs no added press. Tasting notes: Grapes in the bottle include Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette and Bourboulenc. Golden color. Full bodied for a vin blanc from the Rhone. Perfectly suitable for turkey, beets and stuffing.

On the right is the 2016 Domaine Duffour Cotes de Gascogne white wine $10! In the bottle is a blend of “mostly Colombard, along with smaller amounts of Ugni Blanc and Gros Manseng.” This wine is preferred to its pairing partner. Tasting notes: (with interpretations) bright (acidic), flavorful (slightly sweet) and fresh (holds together well for the entire meal). Skurnick imports writes about the domaine (under the radar failsafe importer on par with no-risk importers Louis/Dressner and Kermit Lynch).

Today’s theme seems to be oddballs. How about a rare Piemontese grape that is almost rare as a prehistoric shark found recently off the coast of Portugal. You can read about the Pelaverga grape here. This is the kind of shaggy dog story that always merits oenophilic interest. I say Watson! Read the above link! Know this. The juice is tasty though neither enchanting, nor seductive. The price is justified by the curiosity factor.

2015 G.B. Burlotto Verduno Pelaverga $20-ish. Sharp flavors backed with raspberry/cranberry fruit. Lithe and charming. Has the stuffing to go with turkey stuffing. Is it me or do others wish turkey stuffing spent time in the turkey?

Here’s the shark. Looks scary however the actual fish is about 12 inches long.

Time for one more wine!! 2008 Antica Terra Pinot Noir $150 today; $40 on release. if you can find it. We pulled this out of the cellar for a dine out with pals. Bought on release, the third wine made by winemaker extraordinaire Maggie Harrison. tBoW featured her in this 2011 post. A nice story. Good luck if you look for it. Let us know where you found it…and what you paid! Here is a foto of Maggie. I believe she is reluctant about having her foto being taken. Tasting notes: Gentle but not soft. More plum than rhubarb. Exotic and simple. The hazers at the table sucked it up like vampires at a White House “tax reform” strategy meeting. I may have a few more.

Thank you for your service.

The President is a MO….!!!!

Did Mel Brooks script the current administration? Could that be Larry David on a horse? You may not approve of the President but you gotz to admit…he sure inspires the absurd.

The Thanksgiving Classic – you know the World Series – is over. I would tell you hearts are broken all over LA…but that would be a lie. Folks in SoCal fuggedaboudsheeat faster than a Hollywood mogul pops…CENSORED… [ooo..he did not write that].

Let’s review a wine.

Yohan Lardy 2015 Beaujolais-Villages Blanc Les Bruyeres $20. Yummmeee. Not exactly citric but with good acid. Flavors are chard-ish. Mostly the wine is fresh and a great sipper with food. Contributed by Le Large. This is the remarkable piece. This is chardonnay from the land south of southern-most Burgundy: Beaujolais. Where they grow Gamay. when did they start growing chardonnay [KrisB will know]? Beaujolais is about to release its Beaujolias Nouveau which is a marketing ploy cooked up 20 or 30 years ago to prop up a failing market. Think of Beauj Nouv as raw fermented grape juice. Even high falootin trade types (Kermit Lynch) say they love it. Try it and see. It comes round in next couple weeks then it will be gone. Wonder if Costco will carry some? Beaujolais has a sordid history. It wasn’t enough to push awful juice. Certain vignerons mixed in other less-than-fresh juice. tBoW described the decades old sordid history in an earlier entry. Since that epoch of fraud, vintage Beaujolais became serious wine. We always have something in the cellar such as Clos de la Roilette 2009.

WHAT IF BASEBALL FIELD REPORTERS COVERED A WINE TASTING?
tBoW: We are tasting in LA today at the World Serious Wine Event near the ballpark in Silverlake. Our field reporters are Buck Moose and Vine Skully.
Moose: What are your thoughts on this tasting? Do you want it to be the best tasting ever? Tell us what you’re thinking? Are you anxious the tasting may be able to score enough points to be ready for the next LA series?
Winemaker: Sure. We want the best…
Viney: This wine tasting is a lot like the great beer tasting when the Babe called his shot…of Porter. There used to be a wine named Porter that could be drunk with either hand. Much like the Babe was often… After the game of course. Is tonight’s game over yet?
Winemaker: wha…?
Moose: What are your thoughts on Viney? Do you want him to be the greatest announcer of all time? Or just the greatest of all time? Tell us your thoughts on Viney as the greatest announcer of all time?
Winemaker: Well, to tell the truth we just want to pour our best for all the great fans that came to Silverlake today.

Make the safe bet like the Large has learned. Buy the importer – e.g., Louis Dressner and Kermit Lynch; and the region: Alto Piemonte and Southern Burgundy. And count on Verlander.

2014 Gone. Keep Up with the Year in Front of You.

so nice

mi holiday getaway


The year in review is a journalistic tradition; even a must-do. What was memorable about 2014? Who do we remember? What made the strongest impression? Who is writing this slop?

stupaulWEBOur most memorable bricks and mortar wine merchant is Paul Smith at Woodland Hills Wine Co. Smith was definitely the underdog on the LA wine scene when we first encountered him about 30 years ago in his liquor store turned “wine find” off the 118. Who’d-a-thunk a former pro ballplayer (brushback pitcher) and USMC Nam vet would eventually become the go-to guy in LA then the nation for top shelf Burgs and other collectibles. I am still holding out Paul will let tBoW write his memoirs. He hangs a Marine Corp flag out front. Truly one of a kind.

Most memorable virtual wine merchant is Steve Goldun of Eno Fine Wine. He has delivered the best wines we have tasted throughout the year including the 2011 Sylvan Pataille Marsannay Clos du Roy featured below [ed. click two words back if you must learn more right now]. Consistently bringing in the wine we love to own at prices at or below the best market prices… Eno Fine Wine.

Most memorable wine travelers hands down are the bashful Krisses. They are a tag team from one of those generations that nobody from tBoW’s boomer clique can differentiate. Kris A is a budding winemaker, accomplished brewmaster and extreme triathlete. Kris B is the intrepid travel planner who can turn an introductory credit card deal into two round trip tickets to Germany or Spain or Austria. They hear music at decibels only accessed by corks and vines. Kris B frequents Garagiste and other obscure online merchants enabling the more placid tBoW to go in on a few unusual, exceptional deals. See Mont Blanc sparkler below.

soft flabby underbelly

soft flabby underbelly disappoints

What do we have to look forward to in 2015? The HausMaus visits town in June. A robust tasting of Rousanne and Marsanne seems likely. The dollar will continue to drive down prices on our favorite wines from Italy, France and Germany. The organic sustainable biodynamic movement will continue to expand and influence what you are drinking [ed. unless you are a mega collector of trophy wines in which case you are most likely oak addicted].

By the end of 2015 there will still be domestic wine touts claiming their favorite Pinot Noir is “Burgundian.” This is neither possible nor necessary. Domestic Pinot Noir will never share the qualities of Burgundy Pinot. If anything the difference will become more striking. We have staked out our position on domestic Pinot. We prefer Burgundy and of course we mean only the right Burgs [ed. is there a wine more haughty than Burgundy? Get your snob on!]. More Burgundy producers will lose our interest (Camille Giroud) as we simultaneously learn more about who makes the styles we prefer (Roty, Pataille, Clos du Moulin aux Moines). We have moved on from Barolo and Barbaresco and quite possibly any wine with 100% of any grape in the bottle. This leaves us in and around the Valtellina when it comes to Nebbiolo in Italy where the vignerons blend everything. Expect more wines form Sicily. And more champagnes. Should be a grand year, we hope.

extremeWEBOne more 2015 target. There is rumor of a new blog, the Wine Whisperer, where topics will concern the wine trade, interviews with wine folk such as aspiring somms, wine phenomena of any and every sort, and quite likely Bigfoot.

2011 Extreme Spumante Metodo Classico Brut DOC di Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle ~$23: Sparkling wine for extreme mountain climbers? This IS the Krisses in a bottle. That IS Mont Blanc on the label. Note pick axe and rope at label top. These must be highest vineyards in Europe! But probably not. Reminded tBoW of the sparkling Gewurtz made by Navarro (producer of lightweight domestic Pinot we also prefer!). We liked it. 12%

lassagneWEBNV Lassaigne les Vignes de Montgueux Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne $35: Purchased from Eno. Step aside Mont Blanc. Like the Warriors vs rest of the league [ed. talking NBA now], Champagne is King. And this bottle is special, Champions league, think Villareal futbol squad, La Liga Primera Division; not Real Madrid not Barcelona, but very competitive. Of course, please keep in mind a sparkling wine from Spain is not Champagne. Neither is a sparkling wine from Napa or anywhere other than Champagne. Does this mean there are sparkling wines as good as the best from Champagne? No. That would be unlikely. This remains useful info despite the end of the holiday.

pataille-marsannay-2011WEB2011 Sylvan Pataille Marsannay Clos du Roy $38 [TAFI]: the most memorable wine even though we opened it two weeks before the end of the year. Bought this at the Burgundy Hoe Down more than a year ago! Took a year to open just enough to get a glimpse of what was inside. So salacious! Unfortunately, finding more of this wine from this vintage will be a bitch. Wine of the year, as those things go.

halter-11WEB2013 Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso Blanc $20: Purchased by LeLg [ed. Le Large in short which the man is NOT] at Hi Time in Costa Mesa, the premium wine store in the OC. A lovely Paso white Rhone blend of mostly Grenache Blanc backed with Picpoul Blanc, Rousanne and Viognier; all estate grown. Read more about Paso the wine region including Halter the 900 acre ranch. This is a label to watch for. Don’t say we are too snobby for domestic wines. Especially not too snobby for Rhone style whites. Buy it. 13.5%

‘Tis the Season: Five Wine Truths

santa-sleighVINOWEBIn Vino Veritas must be the vanity plate on Santa’s sleigh. It is also a muy popular phrase among the cogniscenti du vin. Something about truth and wine. This blog is hardly averse when it comes to understanding more about our wine tastes and habits. Here is what the vines told us at a recent holiday party.

antica07WEB ayres10WEB Lesson #1: Palates change, or at least they should if you prefer truth to hype. The truth here is we are done with Oregon wines. We plan to drink thru what’s in the cellar. Not a knock on Oregon Pinot Noir. Just a move in a new direction.

2007 Antica Terra Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and 2010 Ayres Ribbon Ridge Pioneer Pinot Noir: Five years ago these Oregon Pinot Noir wines were at the top of our list. Had to have them. Nummy num nums. So delicious. So manipulated. Both wines are quite enjoyable. Antica still seems to the be the top PN in the New World per the party guests. We just see no further reason to purchase wines from the region.

latourmersault05WEB Lesson #2: Pierce the veil of personal bias. Consider all the data. As Inspector Clouseau might say “I suspect no one and I suspect everyone.” I suspect me. 2005 Louis Latour Mersault-Charmes Premier Cru: Forget the pedigree of the producer and especially the wine press. This bottle had everything going for it when purchased: big name producer, big name vineyard, should have checked the vintage, and deeply discounted. The most important red flag was the wine shop, now out of business. We had never bought a decent bottle from the site. The wine was flat. Over the hill. Some said premox. Some said too cold. When it warmed up it was chalk and dust with little fruit. Buy the wine you like, note wines you are supposed to like. More signals “The family-run company of Maison Louis Latour is one of the most highly-respected négociant-éléveurs in Burgundy. Renowned throughout the world for the quality of its red and white wines, the company has built a reputation for tradition and innovation. This Domaine has the largest Grand Cru property in the Cote d’Or with a total of 28,63 hectares (71,58 acres).” Large vineyards is not necessarily a detractor BUT a smaller vineyard is often associated with smaller producers who are more concerned with quality than quantity.

ranchero-vig-10WEB Lesson #3: Look at the small producer who is reasonably inspired. Amy Jean Butler is a case in point. From her website: “Founded by way of endless infatuation and intellectual curiosity, Ranchero Cellars is my just reward for years of making wine for others. I have lived and breathed winemaking on all levels – from the storied and venerated Napa institutions, to the intrepid Paso Robles startup – and have come to understand that this is where I belong. Over the past 16 years I have fallen in love with certain vineyards, particular varieties, specific styles and methods.” This is what inspiration reads like. And she signs off “XOXO Amy.” 2010 Ranchero Cellars Viognier: This 4 y.o. Viognier wine from Paso Robles is delicious. It has improved with a couple years. Proof that the New World/Old World distinction which we constantly cite has little meaning in the hands of a true winemaker.

santelenamag06WEBLesson #4: Cabernet is not Napa. 2006 Sant’ Elena Cabernet Sauvignon: An Italian red from the Friuli region in Northeastern Italy. Delightful. Served in mag so it has soft tannins 8 years later. Middle weight tasting just fine. There is another lesson here: if you know the wine and not the region, and the price is right ($40 for the mag), then give it a try.

stcosme12WEB Lesson #5: If spooked by too much information when considering a new prestigious brand, start at the intro level. St Cosme is a value label from the Cotes du Rhone. The label is intimidating with an ancient hut obviously hand illustrated. Old shit. Too much for us. We don’t know what to do… flight or fight! Recent release wines can purchased from $14 to $80. The site is ancient as in 15th century. Romans get a mention. 2011 St Cosme Cotes du Rhone: The entry level wine that is 100% Syrah. We worried it might be “hot” [ed. high alcohol], too big being from Gigondas a region we imagine is noted for “size” [ed. too rich]. What we got was a fairly exotic red wine that failed to meet any of our weenie-shaped fears. Great value too. Wine tasting can be so silly!

Please excuse this sentimental moment. Nat King Cole and Frank’s World are hard to resist.