Posts belonging to Category Under$20



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.

Wine Buckets and Bucket Hats

Warning: this post is written by Beexlee [tBoW name] who gets paid $$ to cover fashion style. Clarity of vision, sharp phraseology and general wordsmithing may cause disorientation for some readers.

Bodega Tres Mujeres: Humility & Charm

When GQ came out with the article “25 Bucket Hats Built for Summer That You Can Buy Right Now” last year, I gasped. Why were they encouraging them? Young men, who already have a hard time understanding that flip flops are not shoes to be worn anywhere but the beach, are now being told that hats made originally for toddlers are FASHION. I had to put the magazine down and walk away.

But slowly (very slowly) I have come around to the idea of bucket hats. It started with an old picture of me in a denim one. It was, objectively, cute. But was it just because I was 6 years old? Or could it be…fashion? Then there was a whole thing during Men’s Fashion Week in Paris that made me rethink the trend. And then there was another situation in GQ I couldn’t ignore: Timothée Chalamet in a Burberry-print bucket hat. Could it be that I had been wrong? Here’s the thing about fashion: it’s all about experimenting. Whether it’s jean on jean, crop tops, flared pants, or turtlenecks, the best part of fashion is that you get to decide what looks good (and what makes you feel good).

After a weekend in Guadalupe Valley in Baja, Mexico, I came to realize that the same is true of wines. The winemakers of Baja are taking what we know about wine—what works, what tastes good, what people like and buy—and experimenting with these building blocks to create a new culture of Mexican wines. Camilo from Casa Magoni blends different grapes from all over the world (he’s originally from Italy). Mogor Bodan’s Natalia took knowledge from her family’s background in Switzerland, plus actual grapes from Europe, and grew them in Baja. Vena Cava vinter Phil gets many of his grapes from other growers and explores with natural wines and sparkling wines.

And thus, when my uncle emerged on our first day of vacation wearing a white bucket hat, instead of the shivers I used to feel when I saw one, I thought to myself, “Cool! He’s experimenting.”

[ed. tBoW sez Natalia’s quincey fig winw wine made from Swiss chasselet was lushooosh]

I can easily say that the glass of the Chasselet 2016 Natalia gave me was the best white wine I’ve ever tasted. To be fair, I don’t really like white wine, so it was a low bar, but still, I could tell. Bodega Mogor Bodan:This was GOOD. I may have been swayed by the cat on the label, but the floral crisp wine has convinced me that perhaps I should be more open-minded when it comes to trying new whites. The rose was also excellent, crisp and smelling of brown-sugar. I will be saving it to drink on a warm summer evening on my rooftop in San Francisco. Be sure to stop by Deckman’s, the restaurant next door, for delicious seafood and veggies made in an outdoor kitchen. I can officially check “eat lunch in a cave” off my list.

Bodega El Pinar de 3 Mujeres: Yvette was very knowledgeable about all of her wines, which we tasted in a small cave filled with ceramics and handmade jewelry (yes I bought a pair of earrings, which are always in style). Despite having a french name (she’s from a french-speaking region of Mexico), she knew more about wine making in Mexico than anyone I had talked to. She has lived in Baja for 37 years, and says she has seen winemakers come and go; because of the water shortage, because of the climate change, because of life.

Bodegas Vena Cava: Phil gave the most comprehensive explanation of how wine is made that I’ve ever heard. His winery, located on the same property as his hotel, Ville del Valle, was one of the most architecturally exciting building that I visited in Baja. Designed by architects Alejandro D’Acosta and Claudia Turrent, the structure is made out of old boats, and houses Phil’s reds, whites, and roses, plus his experimental sparkling wines and natural wines. Originally from England, Phil and his wife sold their house in Southern California to move to Guadalupe Valley and run their hotel. Phil’s wine making journey originally began as a few classes here and there at the local wine school, but quickly evolved to become part of his livelihood in Baja.

Bucket Hat in vivo

The wines that stood out were his natural orange wine and his rosé, and there was something extra special about tasting the wines in a building that brought the ideas of sustainability and creativity together in such a beautiful way.

Wear what you want. Drink what you want. Experimentation is key.

tBoW comments: “experimentation is key” says Beexlee. I would add a quote from a long gone pal “I’ll try anything twice. I might not like it the first time.” Well tBoW could not have captured the 3 day trip to Baja Wine Country any better [we have covered the ruta del vino before when there was 20 instead of 120 bodegas]. Aren’t you – the reader – impressed to know that a college education can lead to something so charming and entertaining?

Take a trip to the Tres Mujeres Bodega in Guadalupe Valley!

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.