Posts belonging to Category Wine Grapes



‘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.

Dip that Bird. Shorten the Holidays. 10 Days is Plenty.

IGTYWEBIGTY says turkey is not his favorite dish. Unless it is dipped in boiling oil for 15 minutes. The dressing, the gravy, the meat. Too much. Wegottatellya. He has a point. And fuddamore…

He is not alone when it comes to blaspheming the national sales event. “I am convinced that this horrible wine meal is best approached with Riesling, dry or Kabinett – Haus Maus.” We are convinced 25% of the year is too long for any holiday.

TV holiday cheer started hitting prime time about one week after Labor Day.

young 'un & older 'un

young ‘un & older ‘un

Black Friday began a week early and is still going right through Cyber Monday into shoot-me-now Wednesday. And god forbid one is compelled to attend holiday services. Looks nice, community reigns, be sure to agree with the monsignor that his sermon was inspiring. Should he press you at the post-worship coffee klatch here is how you can get rid of him. When father Ryan approaches and asks for your opinion, just tell him he must be happy with the number of clientele who showed up and tossed cash in the basket. He should be thankful he has such a great business, right? [ed. true story!]

pleasant surprise

pleasant surprise

Just to prove we ain’t no curmudgeon we look forward to spending time with the young ‘uns now old enough to share a glass or bowl with their uncles and aunts. Here are some wines tasted and untasted with the young ‘uns on Thanksgiving.

2013 Domaine Galevan Cotes du Rhone Libre Expression Blanc $17 High Time Cellars: Le Large pulled one out of his hat with this fine white Rhone< Note the grape allocation: 80% Claire, 10% Rousanne and 10% Marsanne. Flavors are chalky with smoke and light citrus. But WTF is Clairette? U20 bargain! 13% Blair-Riesling-2012WEB2012 Blair Riesling $14 winery direct: Petrol, Chinese pear. Getting more juicy with air. Brambles on the back palate. U20 bargain. Should really taste this against Grant Tatomer’s Santa Barbara Rieslings.

Blair-PN-2010WEB2010 Blair Pinot Noir $18 at the winery: Finally pulled the cork on this turkey… I mean on Turkey Day. Dirty flavors, going for the singularity high profile palate lashing. Forced to face a bargain basement Burg. 13%

Givry12WEB2011 Domaine du Masse Givry 1er Cru “En Veau” $25 Eno: Great shit. Love it. This is what Blair is trying to get with his Pinot Noir: up front flavors balanced and pleasing. The only Pinot Noir we can drink anymore. Uniform flash with consistent profile. Wine talk! 13%

All great meals should finish with a tasty dessert wine. We did not miss a beat.

moscatel07WEB2007 Moscatel du Setubal $17 (Hi Time Wine Cellars): From Portugal. Rich delicious sweet caramel. Dark caramel color. Need extra insulin for this baby. We borrowed the following comments from a vendor website: “This Aperitif/digestive wine is amber in colour with some golden highlights, clear and crystal with intense flavours typical of the Muscat grape. It is perfect served chilled as an aperitif or with a dessert. This wine comes in a gift box. It is well balanced, fresh wine with good persistence.” You can tell it is British because of how they spell coloUr! U20 steal!! 17%

Before the endless holiday ends we promise a review of the endless loop of Christmas shows watched by Mrs. tBoW.

In memorian, Mike Nichols died a couple weeks ago. His comedy partner was Elaine May. Nichols made made many successful movies. She made one movie with some funny bits that captured desperate male vanity at any cost. Here is the opening sequence to A New Leaf. “Never drive more than 3,000 RPM in a forward gear.”

Five Rousannes. Some Tasted. All Captured.

Harpooning the Great White Grape

Chasing the Great White Grape


Reaching across the continent, from the Best to the Least Coast we have “found notes” of wines tasted and pondered [ed. i.e., profiled.] Our Connecticut taster with the Rousanne Jones took a break from grading papers and reading decades-old class notes to weigh in on some of his recent encounters with the Great White Grape. That’s right mateys. Captain Mouse is in the House, barnacles and all.

doyenne-rousanneWEB2010 Delille Cellars Doyenne Roussanne Red Mountain Vineyard Washington. Purchased for $8.64 a bottle, plus reasonable shipping, from InternetWines.com after enough research to confirm that the wine should still be decent. Well, after the first bottle, I ordered more. You should, too. It needed, as good aged Roussanne does, an hour of air time. Then the magic happened. Gooseberries, goose feathers, goose foie gras and who goosed the moose. I mean, the buy of the year? Tanzer gave it a high score, and RP loves these wines. 2miceWEBThe wine stores sell them for $36. For the $14 they cost me, I’m shudder-brundered. [ed. available online] As the label says, it should last for years. Roussanne does have the requisite acids when vinified properly. This is proper wine. Deux Mice, conservatively.

navaheros09WEB2011 Bodega Bernabeleva Navaherreros Blanco Vinos de Madrid. I only bought this because it’s 50 percent Roussanne and came with a nice ST number. Roussanne from Spain? From some little known bodega on the outskirts of Madrid? I forget the obscure white native grapes blended with this because my beloved Roussanne screams for attention. This is a heavier offering than Delille, and while it’s perhaps not quite as scrumptious, 2miceWEBit too merited a reorder from LastCallWines. $15 including shipping. BTW, finding good Roussanne for under $25 can be quite challenging, and now my musty Connecticut cellar is bulging. Gulp this down with veal chops or fried oysters – but not those tasteless West Coast varieties. Really good. Dos ratons, tambien.

2012 St. Cosme Cotes du Rhone Blanc $18. Pity me, as I believed the b-21 in Tarpon Springs, FL website, which hawked it as “Roussanne”. [ed. bastards!] Now I come to learn it’s a blend with merely 20 percent [ed. of the precious grape he hunts like Ahab hunted Moby Dick] along with the usual cast of Rhone whites. Well, St. Cosme is a superb Gigondas outfit, and they make some of the best Cote Rotie I’ve had. Never had their whites, so while I’m curious, I’m not vibrating with anticipation. It might be floral and richly lemon, or tropical with lychee aromas. Or it be neutral unleaded, like most Cotes du Rhone Blanc. [ed. Bravo Mssr. Mouse for the much anticipated profiling review of wines yet untasted here and following!]

CdB-old-vinesWEB2010 Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf de Pape Blanc Vielles Vignes. b-21 must have accidentally put this in my order, for this is something I cannot justify. How nice of them! There is no white wine in the world I’d rather try. The undisputed king of Roussanne, from an outstanding vintage. Perhaps I’ll take some to the local Clam Castle and pull a Miles [ed. a “Miles?”]. A very publicized bottle from a very famous concern. Trembling in Guilford. Hoping it’s equal to the hype. Drooling.

farjon-saint_joseph_blancWE2012 Domaine Farjon St Joseph Blanc. 80-20 Roussanne/Marsanne blend; the only two grapes permitted, adjacent Condrieu grows only Viognier. Sampled and bought in July from the winery in Malleval, a village in the heart of St. Joseph. Great wine, 12 euros from Madame Farjon. Check out Malleval!

Ed. C’est fantastique! Rousanne around the world. Enough to make one visit Malleval… below.
malleval-duoWEB

Wine Profiling. Hands In The Air. Don’t Pull That Cork.

waiting is half the fun!

waiting is half the fun!

Do you really know what’s in the bottle you’re holding? Sure you do. You know a lot about it. You bought it because you know it’s from a region you like. Or, for the incognoscenti, the label is pretty. It speaks to you. Perhaps you have insider information. A source of outstanding obscure wine knowledge, a de Gama like explorer of vinous worlds, has told you what to expect from bottles like these. Grab it right now. Buy it. Put it in your cellar.

What do we really need to know about wine to enjoy it? An older person once said youth is wasted on the young. The new axiom adhered to by underground weisenheimers is simple. Drink wine now. Buy enough to enjoy over the next 18 months.

Profile your wines.

tBoW has wines he wants to open and taste. But when? With whom? Planning is so hard Papa. Must we open to enjoy? No. We can enjoy wine without pulling the cork. Amend that statement. We always enjoy wine without pulling the cork.

tBoW introduces the newest form of wine tasting. Enjoying wine without pulling the cork. Think of it as pre-season. The joy of anticipation. You know, Elvis loved to cuddle. He rarely pulled the cork.

Here are a few wines we look forward to tasting. We are already enjoying them.

BlairReisling12WEB2012 Blair Vineyards Riesling $14: The first of two Blair Vineyards wines we are covering [ed. do not confuse with the Santa Lucia Highlands winery named Blair]. This wine was sent to tBoW by the HouseMouse. The wine is from Blair Vineyards in Pennsylvania. Mr. HM swears this is fine wine. We love the label. We love the story how +HM discovered this wine doing pre-college touring with his oldest child. Mostly we love HM’s enthusiasm for what is taking place in Blair Vineyard. Go Big Ben! Riesling must have high acid to make it palatable. Did the 2011 Blair make it happen? Are the Pennsylvania highlands the new Okanagan Valley only 3500 miles south and east and not at the northern tip of the Sonoran desert? We are excited to try. We have clearance to pull this cork on Turkey Day. This ain’t our first go-round with Blair.

duvelWEBDuvel Golden Belgian Ale $8 (Trader Joes): TJs is back. It has been at least 20 years by our clock since TJs had decent stuff on its shelves. This is a premium if MOR product for beer drinkers. Golden color as advertised on the label. Nice gluey flavor with a frothy head. At $8 it is 40% below what Whole Wallet gets. Where ya been Trader Giotto?

sangiotwinsWEB2011 Bibi Graetz Casamatta Toscana $12 and 2008 La Manella Rosso di Montalcino $15: We can’t wait to try these wines. Consider the pedigree. The Bibi Graetz is the entry level from one our favorite Sangiovese wines, the Testamatta, which goes for $30 when you can find it. The La Manella Rosso is the half-as-costly entry wine for the La Manella Brunello. Bibi Graetz Testamatta needs years to come around then it is beautiful. So you have to be it already aged. Like the 2006. We actually tasted the 2007 upper end La Manella a couple weeks ago and it was not near ready. See our point? This 2008 will be made from younger vines and should be ready to go today. At half the cost. How great is that? Just knowing we have these wines in hand is enough to sleep softly my love.

Here is a wine we have not tasted but we can still enjoy because a trusted wine snob – Mr HouseMouse – opened it. Here is what he would like to share.

sandhi_SRH_pinotnoirWEB2011 Sandhi SRH Pinot Noir $32 (Lincoln Wine 8/13): This offering lives solely off reputation, as it’s crafted by the acclaimed Sashi Moorman, who rose to fame via Stolpman Vineyards. Maybe he’s better suited to sangiovese and syrah [ed. not in combo we hope?!?]. This is a rare SRH Pinot Noir that won’t pummel your tastebuds with overextracted fruit. Too bad. It was lean and peppery, like a red Gruner Veltliner. [ed. hahaha, a red Gruner. Well played HM. Well played.]. Perhaps they were going for a cotes de nuits style. It didn’t work. 2011 wasn’t California’s best, and this is no exception. Save your cheese. No mice.

Major Kong pulls the cork on his government issue (GI) survival kit.

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.