Posts belonging to Category Nebbiolo



Buying Wine: Our Favorite LA Shops

stacks 'n racks

stacks ‘n racks in Tarzana

“Dimi. Why you do dees to me?” The sweet grandmother asked her son the priest with pain in her voice as Bill Friedkin looked in from behind the camera. The memorable scene from the Exorcist was almost as chilling as buying wine at one of your local haunts only to have it disappoint at the table. What makes a good wine store? What are the qualities in play? Can there be more than one good store? Can we think of another question and keep this party going? Holidays are coming. Heck. They’re here.

Places we like to shop for wine in our town and why we like them.

Tarzana Wine & Spirits looks like just another family owned liquor store that understands the word WINE on the sign could help boost sales. Inside the floor is stacked two to three cases high with what a wine fiend likes to see. Behind the floor stacks are the rows and rows of racks. Twenty years ago you had to go to a real wine store like Wally’s or Paul Smith’s WHWCo to find this level of wine shopping experience. Today the appearance is much more commonplace. As one tBoW reader pointed out, the difference is the staff. He likes a sales associate who knows what she is selling. With nice hair. The buyer makes the clever purchases. Can find good stuff here.

unsure what to buy?

unsure what to buy?

Liquid Wine is a local stop we must always hit when driving down Topanga from the 118 to the West end of the Valley. Never changes. Pete mans the register while watching baseball or hockey. His selection is quirky like New Mexico and just as intriguing. And Pete fulfills the knowledgeable sales clerk standard. He knows his poop. If you know yours then you will find something unusual. If you do not then ask him to recommend something around $15.

Once upon a time the Liquor Store on Ventura one block east of Topanga was a place a guy could stop in and pick up a couple of mixed cases of Old World wines the owner bought on close out.

perusal plan

Domaine perusal plan

He specialized in Italian and French closeouts shunned by the snob stores with price points in the high 20 to mid 30s. The hit rate was close to 70%. But the owner sold out and now it’s just another liquor store with a wine on the sign in big letters.

Domaine LA is always a good destination wine shop. Drive to West Hollywood with a couple hundies. Let the well-informed sales gal lead you around the shop layed out for a casual stroll. She points out the organic biodynamic sustainable wines of the moment: orange, Spanish, Clear Lake, cloudy, “let it sit a while” she advises. Our mind reels. We sit. Yes we would love a taste… from a glass. Leave with a mixed case for the coming holidays. Satisfied. This is not the rack populated traipse through the bottle forest. Domaine LA’s floor is spacious. Selections are selective. We are absolutely certain there is not a bad bottle in the store. We see quite a few of the same merchandise we get from our dealer and he sells to super models. It must be good.

Wines we recently tasted while dining at Panzanella in Sherman Oaks.

Scavino-03WEB2003 Scavino Barolo $35: Full and soft. “Better tomorrow” advises Dotoré. Tasting like a bull ready for the ring, with pedigree, tonight. Nebbiolo is sexy wine. Always elegant, regal. Seems at odds with the humble agro Piemonte region. This wine is the “pedestrian” bottle. Young. Came out of the cellar. 13.5%

la-mannella-07WEB2007 La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino $30: Sangio based Tuscan. Purchased at Tarzana W&S. Oaky, big, needs air even after being decanted. Needs to open. The “giftor” says the wine is outta whack while others find it full flavored and jummie. It is full and tannic. Worth buying once the price drops which it will. Sit on it at least a year. 13%

Bucci-verd12WEB2012 Bucci Verdicchio Classico dei Castelli di Jesi $20 ($48 on the list): Delicious white wine. The 250% markup on the wine list is normal. The wine shows light acid, not much spine with very friendly pleasing flavors, ripe fruit closer to orange than lime. Did not come in bottle shaped like a fish. 13%

Panzanella is a nice place to dine in the Valley. Part of the Drago dining empire that has overtaken LA. The family-style Valley needs a white table cloth family-style dining spot where middle aged adults can go with friends, sit boy-girl-boy-girl, and eat a well-prepared Italian meal. We were in the wine room which is the quieter area. Massimo makes sure everything goes smoothly. A “holidays” return is already in the works.

Chinato: the Perfect Digestivo

gout is good!

gout is good!


After a leisurely evening sampling a lineup of Italian wines red and white while dining on a mouthwatering pork roast that followed pasta i funghi made fresh… you really need something to help with the digestion… something flavorful, a proven cure-all. Something from the Old World. Something made with quinine! More on this wonderful potion shortly.

First, let us examine the testimony of excess that necessitated relief.

casa-coste-pianeWEBNV Casa Coste Piane Frizzante Naturalmente Prosecco $15: One of the only Prosecco wines fermented in bottle just like champagne. Supposed favorite among Piemontese who know better. This is not the fruity giggly sparkler that charms everyone soon as you meet her KITTEN-WITH-A-WHIPWEB[ed. you are a sexist chauvinist comparing giggly bubbly effervescence to a female caricature]. This is not the fruity giggly sparkler that charms everyone soon as you have a chance to sip and swallow. This is Prosecco with spine. Sexy. Makes you want some more. Not easy to find out here on the Best Coast. 12%

I-MasieriWEB2011 Massieri Angiolino Moule $35: Another Garganega wine (!!!) like the one reviewed here a couple posts back recommended by the somm at the Santa Monica restaurant Tar and Roses. Call it Soave but this is not the BevMo/Costco staple Santa Margarita style. This white wine has acid, some body, and it is a nice precursor to the soldati heavies in the lineup. The grape is experiencing some kind of renaissance as are other lesser known indigenous varietals on the verge of extinction now resurrected thanks  to the dedication and moral sense of natural winemakers. Good story on the hillside vineyard and the relatively new family business. 11.5%

brangero09WEB2009 Brangero Nebbiolo D’Alba Briccobertone $25: A Langhe young vines non-tannic road runner from the Langhe. Lighter weight intro to Barolo and wines made from the Nebbiolo grape that is delicious and easy to drink. If we were in a museum this would be the dogent. Look for it.

There were other Italian red wines including the 2006 Ar Pe Pe Grumello which stole the show recently and once again. Check out the earlier tBoW review.

We were so excited about trying the Chinato we hardly regretted indulging the food and drink. The Chinato proved to be an amazing drink. We had it after but I am sure it would work just as nicely on its own. Like we enjoyed it over the next week. Read the review on the Eno Fine Wine site.

chinatoWEBNV Vergano Nebbiolo Chinato $43: [kee-not-toe] This wine comes in a 500 ML bottle. This does not taste like any drink with which we are familiar. The wine is “aromatized.” The wine is made from a quinine base and includes tinctures and extracts of Nebbiolo wine, cinnamon, ginseng, etc. The winemaker is the story much like the Almencistas who specialize in Sherry. This wine was not loved by all. But it was not roundly disliked either. Some were on the fence where they remain today. I love it and hate it. Like my marriage. Hey you! Get off that fence! [ed. Mike Myers moment]. For tBow this is a bog wow. Absolutely brought a feeling of digestive assistance. Flavors included licorice and Sen Sen! Bravo!! We prefer water con gas to flat anyway so the taste is familiar. One can smell and taste the quinine. The mixture of the other ingrediments is where the winemaker’s skill makes the difference. It is the perfect after dinner drink. 16%.

This fine Italian interpretation by John Renbourn is also good for settling down the demons.

Kicking It with Kokopelli

IndianCountryroadWEBKokepelli plays flute in the windy rock washes near the Four Corners. Mr. and Mrs. tBoW wonder if the powerful Navajo deity can make it rain wine, or will they wait another week before tasting the sacrament of their ancestors. On a road trip in the Navajo Nation where the state lines that separate Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico have no meaning; where the Navajo Nation is the largest among all other Indian nations; and the Navajo Nation is dry. Not that we would expect to find wines similar to those reviewed below; at least not until we hit Santa Fe, the outpost of cultures rooted in art, native traditions and Southwestern themed interior decorators.

Tony Hillerman’s Navajo crime fictions are a terrific contrivance for sinking one’s mind into the mysterious cultures of North America’s aboriginal peoples. There are 140,000 Navajos living on reservations in their home country northwest of Albuquerque, all throughout and within the high desert expanse known as the Four Corners. chassey_champWEBColossal landscapes dwarf everything human so it has to be magic. A drive through Monument Valley is medicine for eternity.

Wines reviewed somehow reminded us of the land and people of this region in which we have been auto-immersed.

NV Guy de Chassey Brut Carte Noire $50: Non-vintage blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay packs tight bubbles, high acid flavors without being astringent. The sparkler choice for greeting guests with bright eyes and a brisk airiness. We prefer Pinot-based champagne. Somewhat challenging like the first stretch of road that leads down into Monument Valley… but much friendlier! 12%

cowan_roseWEB2012 Cowan Cellars North Coast Rosé $18: Cowan makes natural wines sourced throughout the state. This wine is saignée from several premium Pinot Noir producers. Clever fella. For a higher alcohol wine this does not give off any alcohol burn.MerckButte-2WEB In fact, the wine also shows high acid and lean flavors, balanced and appealing. Pretty special like the Merrick Butte at sunset. U20 winner. 13.9%

garganelaWEB2012 Buglioni Il Disperato Bianco delle Venezie IGT $20: Italian natural wine made from a varietal – Garganega – that commonly goes into dessert style wines. From the Veneto, middle weight, recommended by

not any Neb

not any Neb

the somm at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica [ed. we would return] who sold it as a fleshier Vermentino. Worked! This is like seeing The Cube; each time you look, it is more distinctive [ed. it’s sitting on some kind of stand?]. A surprise pleasure. 12.5%

RPPgrumelloo-06WEB2006 Valtellina Superioire Grumello Riserva ‘Rocca de Piro,’ Ar.Pe.Pe. $45: I guess every Piemonte Nebbiolo needs at least 30 minutes to open. This beautiful ruby red wine with the raspberry nose was so muted when the cork was pulled we thought it was too delicate for the steak strips. Rare and unusual to see this wine. Much like it is rare and unusual and special to hear Kokopelli the Watersprinkler’s flute. This rare Grumello delivers Nebbiolo of the most luscious order. The definition of elegant. Very satisfying. If you love Old World Nebbiolo this is worth the dough; like Monument Valley is worth the 6 hour ride from Albuquerque. 13%

“His humpbacked figure supported by stick legs. Stick arms hold a straight line to his tiny round head, making him seem to be playing a clarinet. The flute might be pointed down or ahead. “A Thief of Time” by Tony Hillerman.

Taking Back the “M” Word in 2014

wine futures

wine futures

Hissy fit! Minerality is such an overused term we banned it from the tBoW wine lexicon. Like “it is what it is.” Not on this blog. However, upon consulting with cooler heads and more clear minds the “m” word is back in the game with the caveat that we will only use it to describe wines with high acid and stony character including sulfuric aromatics. High acid and strong citric flavors will not suffice to invoke “minerality.” It’s a new day and we have wines to review.

The Stupid Bore is over. With it the holidays have officially completed. We have a clear pathway to summertime which means Roses and bright summer white wines. It is also means severe drought conditions in California. At least the East and Midwest regions will dry out. Maybe one last crippling character building snowstorm in April. Hope not.

DomaineLA is a somewhat new wine shop on Melrose Avenue in WeHo. They have “more wine and less attitude.” We can say they have wines we are looking for and a highly informed floor person – Courtney – naked-wineWEBwho was able to answer nearly every question we had… about wines. We found the impossible-to-find-on-the-West-Coast Close de la Roillete Vendange Tardive at the shop at a very fair price discounted 10% with overall case purchase. We also found a very decent selection of “natural” wines [ed. new obsession alert!], Burgs and wines from other regions we like including Beaujolais and the Loire. She also had a nice group of Italian wines but not the Sagrantino which Alice Feiring writes about that we were looking for. tBoW also checked at WHWineCo. They have had these unusual wines – specific producers, read the book – but not for several vintages.

The Alice Feiring book “Naked Wine” is exceptionally informative. She covers the original winemakers pushing the “natural” wine movement. She describes their methods and provides a very helpful running discussion of the underlying philosophy and vine to wine values. Feiring is a thorough reporter as well making sure to describe the squishiness of this “movement” and how hard and fast opinions on actions such as using sulfur are actually quite malleable. Still digging it. Here are some wine reviews; not one with minerality.

roty_mars_082008 Roty Marsannay Les Ouzeloy $35: With this bottle and the recent Pataille tasting that featured his Marsannay wines we believe we have a sense of this undervalued and, for us, under-investigated region in the northern Cote d’Or. This wine took 2.5 hours to open. Over that period we saw more action than was taking place on the “most watched TV program ever.” This wine opened masculine and finished that way going from rough and brutish to firm and manageable. This is manly Pinot Noir, sinewy and powerful like the Olympic ice racers [ed. not the “dancers”] we will be watching very soon. Impressive. Roty is a premium producer. Bought from Eno Fine Wine. 13%

deforvill_neb_10WEB2010 De Forville Langhe Nebbiolo $18: Young vine Barbaresco, Rosenthal selection. We had the 2008 version and just purchased the 2011 at DomaineLA. This is a great intro wine to premium Piemonte at a very good price U20 price. Rich and full, middleweight, will take some age to reveal the Piemonte Neb character. We sucked this down after the Marsannay ran out. That helped us through the 4th quarter. We have found older vintages at Liquid Wine. 13.5%

scavino_96WEB1996 Silvio Grasso Barolo Ciabot Manzoni $80: Special meal wine shared by Dotoré. Classic aromas of tar and roses. Meaty yet light on its feet. Boxers – lightweights, welterweights, middleweights – often crowd our consciousness when tasting aged Baroli. This is a Carlos Monzon [ed. Argentine 70s] bottle. Exotic, hitting power, elegance. The wine kept its power and finesse for the entire evening. 14%

nav_gewurtz_2001WEB2001 Navarro Gewurtztraminer Late Harvest Cluster Select $24: Picked off the shelf at Liquid. It is always somewhat of a risk when payng for a dessert wine in a split from a producer not known for such. Weighing in favor of the buy was that Navarro is a very consistent winery and Gewurtz is one of their staple white wines. But could it last 12 years? Poured out dark brown and clear. Looked like root beer without the fizz. The flavors were completely exotic: caramel, coffee and cola. All in harmony and so tasty. A perfect dessert wine for the fresh Meyer lemon possit pudding it accompanied. Spectacular. 10%

The image at top was taken in our local Target [ed. “tar-zjay”] store. The marketing genius displayed… Think about Colonel Kurtz explaining to Capt Willard how… never mind. Will the next generation of these Modern House Wines labels will include “minerality mania” and “natural wonder.” I kid you not: Oprah Favorite.

Recommended reply to the use of “it is what it is”: fuzzy wuzzy was a bear. Try it. Fun.

On the topic of boxers…here is the commentary from the end of the 12th round from the 1962 Emile Griffith vs Benny Paret fight which Griffith won by knockout. Paret never got up. Televised boxing was suspended for a decade. Supposedly Paret had called Griffith “maricon” at the weigh in.

If Bill Belichick Rated Wines…

chick-grapes2WEBIf you have any interest left in the NFL playoffs raise your hand. The one without the remote control. Sorry if we woke you. Yup. tBoW is NOT a fan of the NFL. He prefers Homeland reruns to another commercial festival. And college hoops. However, there is one clown prince of the NFL who can take the starch out of any reporter, whether on the sideline or at the postgame podium. That would be the reigning genius of pro football; Bill Belichick. (more…)