Posts belonging to Category Cabernet Sauvignon



Wine Talk with the Ultimate Cognoscentus: Mr. David Russell

 

We have an exclusive interview with David Russell who is the Senior Wine Advisor at Woodland Hills Wine Company which is tBoW’s home store. A truncated set of questions and answers follow [ed. that means there are others on the shelf]. Suffice it to say David has wasted most of his life chasing a wine dream. Something with which tBoW and readers are familiar. There are worse things to pursue like going into politics. He has worked at prestigious wine shops along the Coastal Premium Wine Shop Trail which runs from Seattle thru Portland then the Bay Area to Santa Barbara, LA and Orange County. In case he looks familiar his personal tracks cover the Bay Area and Santa Barbara, and now Woodland Hills. There are maybe a dozen or so premium wine shops where one can count on great wine for a fair price sold by folks who know their shit. And away we go.

David wears glasses and is often fighting a chill.

1. tBoW: You are from SB and almost the right age. Did you riot in IV? DR: I’m definitely the right age, however I was in Hong Kong dodging the draft serving a Mormon mission (seriously!) when the really heavy shit went down in about 1970. Also I went to UC Berkeley, not UCSB (although most of my friends did go to UCSB and did participate in, uh, acts of civil disobedience.

2. tBoW: Spumante or prosecco? DR: I can tolerate a decent Prosecco. 

3. tBoW: what was the last wine you drank – not tasted – that was higher than 15%? DR: Though it doesn’t taste like it’s 15%, the 2014 Passopisciaro from Etna is labeled as such, and I definitely enjoyed it.

4. tBoW: Compare these wines for relative quality: Rochioli and Williams Selyem (Burt years). DR: I haven’t had nearly the experience with either that many have, but the W-S during the Burt years that I have tasted were not only frighteningly Burgundian, but I’d go even further and say that some were even Jayer-like.

5. tBoW: What Burg region would you recommend TODAY for value? What is your personal fave Burg region? Producers: choose Leroy/DRC vs, Armand Rousseau?

the wine that inspired this post was sold to us by David Russell!

DR: Probably the Côte Chalonnaise. Or Marsannay and/or Fixin. I likely have more favorite producers in the Côte de Nuits than in the Côte de Beaune, simply because the former is so much bigger and has so many more growers. I’d give DRC the nod over Leroy (though we’re splitting hairs here), as I’ve had more older bottles that truly delivered (’62 La Tâche being a case in point). Remember: Domaine Leroy has only been existence since 1988. As much as I adore Rousseau, it’s only their top three wines that really perform at the level they ought to; the Charmes-Chambertin, Mazy-Chambertin, and Clos de la Roche routinely under-deliver. There also other producers among the very elite: Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, Mugneret-Gibourg, Mugnier; Lafon, Raveneau, and Roulot in white.

7. tBoW: How long have you known Marsanne is not south of Beaune? DR: But Marsanne is south of Beaune, unless you mean Marsannay.

8. tBoW: We support the Price/Quality ratio and NOT the 100 point system which is only 13 points. Is Shanken a prick? DR: He strikes me more a buffoon than a prick.

9. tBoW: Port or Sauternes? DR: Sauternes.

10. tBoW: Is Santa Barbara suitable for Pinot Noir? Didn’t Richard Sanford have it right (how to make SB Pinot) from the start? DR: Yes, although I think Santa Maria is undervalued and Sta. Rita Hills overrated. Richard Sanford may indeed have had it right, to a degree at least, but the most compelling SB pinots for me have come from Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat).

11. tBoW: Can Calif produce great wines? Does it? Who are SOME of the GREAT producers? DR: Yes. It does, at least it did…pre-Parker. Ridge Monte Bello is still great. But none of the Big Bucks Cult Cabs are even worthy of mention in the same sentence with ’68-’70 Heitz Martha’s, ’68 or ’70 BV Private Reserve, ’74 Conn Creek, etc.

12. tBoW: What is it about Lodi that makes it the most dependable and best growing region in CA. DR: Who says Lodi is the best growing region in CA? Certainly not I.

13. tBoW: What can u say about Riesling in less than 10 words? DR: Rivals pinot in its ability to express terroir.

Many many thanks to David for sharing some time with tBoW readers. When in Woodland Hills drop into Woodland Hills Wine Company. As you can see, if you love wine then you always end up at some point with Burgundy. Maus will tell you to hunt down white Rhones and KrisB will expound on Riesling values. IGTY will ask is this all you got? tBoW Jr wants to know what we are drinking tonight. We value winemakers like Jim Moore and wine retailers like David Russell. Christ. I’m getting moist eyes.

Here. Try some Ron Burgundy with your wine Burgundy…

Once Upon A Time In La Jolla…


He may not be your cup ‘o tea. Maybe the violence and r-u-d-e language offends you. The brutality of Reservoir Dogs. He worked in a video shop for years. It boiled his brain. He gave Travolta and Sam Jackson careers. Guess I should say he “helped” give them careers. Not that tBoW will see JT at a Scienctology Center or SJ on the golf course.

Tarantino…extends the legacies of DePalma, Cronenberg, Scorcese, Coppola. Throw in Leone, Kurosawa (the Kill Bills), and Peckinpah (Reservoir Dogs). tBoW knows there are others. He watches Noir Alley. He knows. However, these are the ones who make movies he considers “must watch” whenever one of these films is encountered while aimlessly trolling thru the cable channels. Why not use a flix vendor? Too much F&B. Besides tBoW can watch this multitude of films from the select few directors who know how to make a great movie…over and over and over.

Tarantino’s new film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood will be in a move house July 26. Very strong chance tBoW will drag Mrs. tBoW along to see it in Cinemascope. She may decline. In fact, I predict she will decline. More corn for me.

We had a memorable 36 hours in La Jolla recently. Instead of Tarantino we had Brother Zev and Sister Katharine [soon-to-bees if ya get muh drift] directing the food consumables like masters. I learned the secret to cooking fish and meat and veggies. Make a bag of blended sauce and immerse food in the bag for hours. Also important to buy great stuff people like to consume over a fire pit or stove top. This includes funnel and esp king ‘shrooms. Hello Farmers Market.

While the meals were aww-sum the wines were outtasight [ed. “gonna hear that throwback often in Hollywood”? ya think?]!! Let’s get through this. Mr. and Mrs. tBoW brought a four pack of completely unrelated wines except that each was a W-I-N-N-E-R in its own genre. Does Tarantino have a genre? He may be a genre.


Y’Quem defines a genre: dessert wines from Bordeaux and everywhere else. The 1983 Y’Quem was one of the greatest from the tBoW cellar. It is the greatest of all Bordeaux dessert wines…throw in Hungarian multi putanyos.

Zev’s Stack O’ Spices

wine diamonds

Try this sometime. Drive two and half hours to a destination to stay with in-laws you really like. Open the wine of the year – a wine anyone who knows anything about wine knows this is the Tarantino masterpiece – anyway open that bottle within 10 minutes of arrival. That is how you get the party started. Did not slug it down. Coulda. Took a couple hours to finish it off. Had to break to recover from the “immensity” of being in the presence of the greatest [ed. I swear I would not be in awe of Tarantino if we were in the same space at the same time. Shit. I been in the same club with Nick Cage; twice in 30 years!].

That foto of the Y’Quem back shows the tartrate crystals the wine threw. Even this residue was delicate and perfectly balanced.

Here is what the cognos had to say: graham crackers, maple, charred honey. Medium light weight. You thought it might be thick and dense? Niuh. Leaner than the fat Rieussec with more weight than a slender Suidiraut.

Cognos on scene included Katharine and Zev, Broki and Marma. Don’t worry. We made sure there was enough to feed the many [ed. is that Biggie brah??].

Zev is a master chef. He L-O-V-E-S to prepare food. Apparently, Katharine only dates chefs. [ed. she owes me – as in all of US – a blog post]. Check out his travel stack o’ spices he brought from Brooklyn.

The plan was to pull the cork on the other wines before Zev and Katharine were ready to serve. Thinking the Big Cab might be tight we pulled that one next. Turns out Big Ed really is fond of Big Cabs from Napa. Once we pulled the cork Ed was short a hand. He could have used three. “I love a big napa cab.” Gotta say this one was pretty good. Ten years in the cellar. Of course tBoW didn’t buy it. Some of the spillover from wine blogging in Napa.

reliable dependable

After ten years in zee cooler the wine was tasty and mellowed. Still had power and flavor. Showing like Pacquiao at 40. Enough to win and put on a really good show. The wine never made it to the meal.

When the meal was ready to be served we turned to the most reliable wine we know; Uvaggio Radix. Of course, any of Jim Moore’s wines are beyond friendly. Uvaggio wines are always; like a pal you can always hang with or turn 18 holes with.

OK. Let’s get to the fun stuff. Which wines express the nature of which Tarantino films. The choices are Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill (1 or 2) and From Dusk til Dawn (he wrote and starred; tell me anyway stoopid).

1983 Y’Quem and Pulp Fiction. Will never get better than this. Fortunately we habba one more in da cellar so maybe Big Q has one in his, too. A spectacle with twists at every turn. Immensely entertaining. Unforgettable.

2009 Merus and Kill Bill 1. Surprising. Very nice. Tasting better than expected…of a genre (BigNapaCab) perfectly nailed. Can go back to it. For such a stylized copycat movie it just keeps getting better each time we sample.

2012 Uvaggio Radix and From Dusk Til Dawn. What’s not to like? So esay to watch. Sure we know every scene like we know Jim Moore will deliver easy to drink stylish wine with every label. tBoW can watch D2D anytime just to see Salma Hayak at her sexiest and Juliette Lewis at her unpredictably waif-iest.

Who else thinks of this shit? Hitchcock? Peckinpah?Tarantino.

 

‘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.

Est arrivé Fall mais oui poo poo? Vive le bezbol!!

boobly in zee zummer zo nize

boobly in zee zummer zo nize

October brings seasonal changes everywhere except California and Florida. The autumn leaves turn colors. The days dwindle down. September. November.

October doesn’t rhyme. Here in sunny SoCal days cool off with daily highs in the 80s. You have to take a jacket if dining in Culver City, the cultural capitol of West LA. The A-Frame is the hot spot. A little bit of Portland right here in LA.

Roy Choi takes over a custom built Der Wienerschnitzel in an A frame building. Food comes out in small plates rat-a-tat-tat just like with his food truck. And the wine list is good enough. We ordered the same rose reviewed reicheer last week! UCLAns and Westside millenials packed the bar. With each 30 minutes the looks got hookier. Youth. A-frameWEBThanks to Kevin Eats blog where we got the foto.

Most importantly, baseball playoffs c’est arrivé. tBoW loves championship baseball. The postseason really makes the regular season look more boring than we already know it is. Very much like wines rated on the 100 point scale and wines that simply taste great. The ocean of Parkerized wines hardly makes an impact. But the emergence of unique fetishes like “natural wines” or wines from Mt. Etna or the small towns north of Barolo and Barbaresco… this is championship wine imbibing.

Fine wines we have been tasting are listed below.

allegracore11WEB 2010 Romeo del Castello Etna Rosso Allegracore $23: Old World Cab wine from Mt Etna showed volcanic ash on the perimeter of the mouth, translucent robe, balanced, dignified composure. So Euro. Had this next to unnamed [ed. that would be mean] local Cabernet Sauvignon grown and made in the ‘Bu. The new World/Old World comps are obvious. The New World Cab was only five years old with plenty of fruit and sour overtones. Function of the inexperienced winemaker? Fruit is good enough to make decent wine. Needs a better winemaker. This Old World wine from Mt Etna contineus a string of wonderful wines from the Sicilian volcano. 14%

touraine13WEB2013 Clos Roche Blanche Touraine $20: Old vine Sauvignon Blanc from a vineyard under control of the same family since the late 19th century. Small quantities made with miniscule intervention [ed. dat wooden be natch’l now woodid?]. The winemakers are chemists come to wine. How scientists look at terroir: “Using herbicide forces the vines’ roots to the surface, in which they can effectively grow in the 8 to 10 centimeters of fertile soil that you find anywhere in the world. This isn’t terroir. To get to the terroir you need to go deeper.” Rare bottles nearly extinguished brought back to life with care and dedication… spotty leafed newt? Compromise-driven Republican lawmaker? Water responsible farmers in Central Valley? Turf lawns in Beverly Hills? Maybe not that rare. Grassy hints, yellow gold color as in not pale, firm body. Could play wide receiver for Trojans. 13%

montebro-crianza10WEB2010 Montebro Priorat Crianza $17: By the glass at Peddlers Wine Bistro, local wine bar and dining spot which always pours something unexpected. Like this juicy, light to middle weight Spanish red. U20 winner. 13%

More good news. Jen Carter has relocated to Topanga’s Canyon Bistro. The wine list already shows her fresh approach to value and curiously wonderful wine selections. The food and the setting have always been worth a trip. So goodbye Saddle Peak, hello Canyon B!

The Fall, Rise and Fall of Beaujolais

she ruled the 60s

she ruled the 60s

Beaujolais has been forgotten more often than whatshisname. Beauj wines were top shelf in the 14th century until the Burgundy farmers chased the Gamay Noir grape – crossed with the blessed Pinot Noir – and its wannabe producers south. Gamay lost its prestige in the wake of Marie Antoinette’s gehackt kopf.

Gamay grown south of Burgundy can produce a lovely light to medium weight red wine with floral qualities and the requisite acid to buck it all up. Until the 1960s. Yearning for fanfare the Beaujolais producers led by Georges Dubouef came up with Beaujolais Nouveau which became fashionable as Twiggy. And half as interesting. This pompy silly era was Fall #1 for Beaujolais in the Modern Era: Beaj Nouveau. Like the Beatles, still popular.

The Rise. In 2006 the earth around Beaujolais began to move. Suddenly, gratefully, amidst an avalanche of rocketing collector prices and the relentless quest to win a Parker 100 point score, Beaujolais winemakers began producing some very nice wines. The value quotient (VQ) was an island in a sea of [ed. better metaphor please] an outpost in a wilderness of [ed. not wilderness] an outpost in the back country of forgotten appellations. Gamay returned to wine snobs. The 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages were superb. The ten crus offered more variety than Bourdeaux along with far better pricing and far more availability. Superb Gamay cru wines were priced near $15. Beaujolais was on the RISE.

Fall #2. The 2008 economic crash took about 18 months for Parker and the Wine Speculator to concede the 100 point game was over. Tostado. This should have been the tipping point when Beaujolais secured its new position as leader in the quality and value game. But it did not. Instead, the producers raised prices. Dumb. Da Dumb. Dumb. The market was in their hands… and they let it slip away. The last vintages we bought were 2009 2010. We are tasting through them now with no plans to replenish.

Very good Beaujolais costs close to $30. At the same time we are buying outrageously great Chablis for the same price. And super Red Burg for the same price and up to $10 more… except we are buying wines Beaujolais will never become, except for Clos de la Roilette which we still buy. Welcome to the new top shelf.

Here are two more wines from the Not Ready For Prime Time Tasting.

Ridge-Montebello-00WEB2000 Ridge Montebello $120: A-L-M-O-S-T R-E-A-D-Y. At 14 years this wine can be enjoyed. Ridge Montebello is regarded as the Lafite of US wines. Justifiably so. This wine was gorgeous, not voluptious, not lean. Classically beautiful, something like Lauren Bacall. Perfect California mountain blend with just enough oak to give it the classic style. Last domestic Cabernet we had like this was the 1987 Dunn Howell in mag. Dunn is more rustic. Montebello more refined. Truly spectacular wine and not Bordeaux. Honestly. At $120 and being the benchmark for California GREATNESS in wine, this is a bargain. 13.5%

Tondonia-91WEB1991 Lopez de Herredia Tondonia $105 (sorry, it’s a secret for now): tBoW asked Goldun will this wine be ready in another 10 years? “Maybe 100” came the comeback. 23 years in the bottle and the color is not even golden. Yellow as a five year old Chablis. Flavors enchanting but the wine is n-o-t r-e-a-d-y. We must have another bottle taking into account predicted auto-longevity and the likelihood I will be around to enjoy with the Geezer Troop. 13%

Maybe this could also be “the discrete charm of the Beaujolais?” Cue the electric sitars please. It’s all… so beautiful.