Posts belonging to Category Alto Piemonte



The Storied Tasting

Picture this…a cooler than normal day in late May.

Wine, cheese and ready tasters.

Bacchus and Mr. Story smiled.

Image result for Bacchus blows clouds

Eight tasters around the table outside the kitchen: Lou, Shag Man, David Mac, Large, tBoW hisself, Mr Story, Dotore and Broki. Five cognoscenti – Cognos and three Ignorami – Ignos. At least ten corks were pulled. The day’s goal was to edjicate Mr. Story about wine. And to chew on cheese.

When one is trying to “get it” about wine, the first lesson is to comprehend the many traps that must be avoided. Such as the 100 point rating scale. Total bullshit. Marketing to sell wines and magazines. When the lowest rating EVER is 87 then the scale is actually 13 points; not 100. Ignore the score.

That was an easy sell. The U20, U15 and U10 ratings defined by Le Large is far more useful [ed. wines that cost “Under” the dollar amount]. Wine is all about the price/quality ratio [ed. see tBoW discussion from waaaay baaaack].

The mission was to provide the Ignos with enough experience to get along on their own in the silly pompous scores-driven world of wine. Where to buy wine? What to buy? How to tell if a wine is good or bad? tBoW’s goal was to keep the table breeze from blowing too hard if ya gets me drift. Here is how it went.

tBoW dug some older wines from his cellar that were beyond their shelf life by about a decade each. These wines were tired and out of synch. The only hints and notes they had were wrong (hints) and flat (notes). Great starters. Dispensed with 15 years of “flawed wine” disgruntlement in 45 minutes.

After the parade of flat , unbalanced and otherwise FLOD wines, the first “best wine” was opened. It was classic, seven year old burgundy from a highly reputed producer and a decent vintage.

2012 Regis Bouvier Clos du Roy, $35 at buy. Lou almost spit it out [ed. she likes wine with fruit]. The rest of the Cognos cooed. The Ignos did not know what to think. This wine opened for at least an hour. Burgs come in two flavors: beets or cherries. This was beety. A discussion about noble grapes erupted and the conceit of the New World to compete with the Old World noble varietals; Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauv, Nebbiolo and Riesling. Why are these grapes “noble?” Because they are! Now stop asking stupid questions. Lou came round in 40 minutes.

Other “star wines” included an Alto Piemonte (north Piedmont) and a Barolo (south Piedmont). Nebbiolo is the noble grape. Conversation focused on how Neb is a single grape wine near Alba (south of Torino) yet is still blended with local grapes in the Alto Piemonte. (north of Milano). The Cognos are fans of the Alto style: lean, low alcohol, lightweight, and simply delicious bending fruit with a distinctive local flavor, i.e., Gattinara, Bramaterra, Choochoo Wassy, etc.

As the second hour arrived it was time to open the guaranteed winner bottle; a single vineyard vintge Oporto. Port is a sweet wine that cannot be tasted until at least a decade passes. This had 25 years on it. It is a desert wine with a charming back story rooted in one of the extended wars between England and Spain. The producer is Martinez. Alcohol is 20% which is typical of port. Transcendent as aged ports can become.

1994 Quinta da Eira Velba by Martinez $35 on futures. The color was rusty brown. The nose showed toffee, coffee and rum. The flavors were true. We should all age so wonderfully. One bottle left in tBoW’s cellar!

But wait! said David Mac. I brought that Alysian Vermouth (17%). Pop goes the cork. The chilled wine was so exotic it challenged description. Oily. Bittersweet. Sorgum and spice. Camphor?  flavors are balanced. Orange peel. Must be therapeutic because I am reminded of my last rubdown. One of the Ignos – Shag Man – said “reminds me of an Old Fashioned.” The real amazing fact was the vermouth is made in Healdsburg! That’s right. Sonoma County. New World.

To summarize, here are some Quick and Dirty lessons for enjoying wine.

#1 Avoid grocery store wines. Unless the store is Gelsons in LA, Draegers in Palo Alto, Flatiron in San Francisco, or AJs in Scottsdale AZ. Forget Trader Joes and Whole Foods although if it came down to those 2? Better shot is Whole Foods.

#2 Identify and shop at a local Wine Store. Here in our neighborhood that is Woodland Hills Wine. The only others are Wine House in West LA, Hi Time in Costa Mesa and Wine Exchange in Santa Ana. Hi Time is best in So Cal. Honorable mention goes to Desert Wine Shop on 111 in Palm Desert [Katie of DWS below].

Katie Desert Wine Shop

#3 Shop online for best prices. This can be tricky. To do this well one must be armed with label, producer and vintage knowledge. The best deals are online. The Cognos cited Wines Til Sold Out (WTSO), Fass Selections and Garagiste. Most of these operations ship 2x/year so when the stash arrives after the summer it is in cases! Easy to lose track of how much you bought! KrisB is an exclusive online shopper. Many Cognos shop online.

#4 Buy the importer. Labels can be confusing. It takes years to read them. Wineries especially in the USA invent terms to impress the Ignos, such as Reserve, Special Select, Single Vineyard and Special Reserve. These mean n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Wait. I take that back. These phrases mean you pay a couple more bucks for n-o-t-h-i-n-g. You can always buy with confidence any wine imported by Kermit Lynch, Neal Rosenthal, Charles Neal or Louis/Dressner.

#5 Old World over New World. Europe and the Continent before Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Canada and Napa.

There were at lest two Dependable Quaffers. Cognos always have a handful of DQs nearby. Pull those U20 corks today. The Chave Mon Couer from the Rhone is always a U20, always balanced and easy to suck down on its own or with cashews. The 2015 Domaine Zafeirakis Limniona from Thessaly is a recent find with teasing exotica. At $17 it is a real deal. We found it at Desert Wine Shop and Hi Time.

Things get wild at Desert Wine Shop! Jump to the 1 minute mark and watch thru the 4 minute mark.

The Unburgs – Enjoy Great Wine For Less

HOW TO ENJOY BURGUNDY FOR HALF THE PRICE

Every wine snob has had this moment: discovering wines from Burgundy; finding out premium wines are not necessarily heavy cabs from Napa with the large corpulent fruit, prices and ratings. Wines that are made from Pinot Noir, a grape that is not friendly to Napa. F-R-E-N-C-H wines with complicated labels one can hardly tell what is in the bottle. Hold on. One CANNOT tell what is in the bottle.

Dotore and tBoW were initiated together, bitten by a Burg-hound werewolf [there wolf!] while groveling at a holiday tasting party with dozens of long forgotten wines filling every inch of a 12 by 5 table in a basement/cellar beneath a food market. The market is gone. The big cabs are gone, we wish Parker’s ratings were gone. 100 point scores made no sense if labels could not be easily understood.

One cannot put a score on a Burg. You might as well try and saddle up a butterfly. Hold starlight in your hand. Have a lunch date with Sasquatch. Our wine lives immediately changed. Forever.

That was then. Today the cognoscenti know that Burgundy is elusive especially when trying to pair quality with value [ed. readers may harrumph here]. One way to beat the hustle is to buy the importer . . . maybe. Burgs are expensive and $30 and $40 bargains are . . elusive.

What to do? Drink wines that have not been tainted by 100 point scoring fools. Drink wines that are not from Burgundy – UnBurgs! [ed. readers may stand up and shout here!] The UnBurgs include Schiava, Alto Piemonte, Sicily, the Canary Islands. Corsica. And that other island off the Italian coast. These are wines from a PLACE; not one lone grape. Blended wines. Local, ancient. Light weight, lower alcohol, balanced (much of the time), distinctive.

The UnBurgs. Here are three wines that share similar qualities as the best value Burgs. And are fairly priced.

2014 Patrick Javellier Savigny les Beaunes Premier Cru blahblahblah. $40 at Total Yawn (aka Total Wine – $35 in Chicago today). It is just as likely to find that the decent bottle of wine found online at Total Wine is no longer sold [ed. Beronia 2009]. However, IGTY found it, bought this Javellier Savigny and brought it to the dinner party. Excellent flavors. Tasted like Burg. Would not mistake for Rioja or Oregon Pinot. Sucked it down.

2010 Ayres Ribbon Ridge Pinot Noir $20 at “winery in 2012” [$25 for 2015/16 in USA]: This held up really well. Won’t mistake this for Burgundy. But I will have another glass please. More full, more earthy. The old forest floor – pprrraaaaappp! tBoW went on a four or five year Oregon Pinot jag which was followed by a Mendocino Pinot jag. Searching for New World Burgundy? Fuggadaboudid. Does not exist.

One cannot find New World Burgundy because the grapes would have to come from Canada to come close to the Beaune fruit profile (forget the Nuits). And then the Canadian soil would not be right. Weather is getting very similar now. Nuff said there.

2008 San Francesco Antoniolo Gattinara $40 for the 2008 in Illinois, or $30 for the 2012 in New York/Joizy: You know you are getting close to Burgundy wine when the label becomes more obtuse and practically indecipherable. If the wine is white then it is likely German. But this is Burg-like from AltoPiemonte which is where tBoWfinally found Burgundy with the proper value/quality ratio. Like memorable Burgs the wine can take a bissel age. Balanced like Olga Korbut on the balance beam. Richness like KrisB in the market. Brimming with charm like IGTY himself.

If you must search for decent Burgundy wine [ed. we always will] then stay around Beaune and south. Look for wines imported by Rosenthal, Louis/Dressner, Kermit Lynch and Charles Neal. Should you feel you must spend more than $60 then look for wines imported by Becky Wasserman. Or consult your local REAL wine shop.

Halloween warm up from a true cohort of wine conno-sewers…

 

It was the Glass Jar’s time to shine with the dough and the sauce!

Bounce back. Stay true to yourself. Follow your dreams.
Words spoken at his university commencement. Small solace when you lose your first job after college at a pizzeria.
The Glass Jar has always wanted to work at a pizza restaurant. Soon as he graduated university he signed up at his local pizzeria in LA. “I applied at several spots and heard nothing. I did find work at a private school and produced a feature film. I finally got the pizzeria job back home in New England. “

“The man who owned the pizzeria needed extra help in the kitchen. I was very candid. I had never worked in a kitchen but I had no doubt this was where I belonged. He took a chance. My first shift was the weekend. My job was putting pizzas in boxes, then cutting pizzas into slices, then organizing the boxes for customers.”[ed. MrStory: LeanSixSigma can compare waste created cutting pizza slices vs. crushing grapes].

“Things could get busy. I felt very comfortable. I would be making a little pocket money. Most importantly, I was giving back to the pizza community which had done so much for my personal growth. Dozens of families would be eating pizza sliced by the Glass Jar. If it were not for me, these families would be arguing over how to slice the pizza. I would drive home after a night in the kitchen knowing I could be driving by households positively affected by my pizza slices. After years of reading history books and following the news, one could only dream of the kind of impact the Glass Jar had with his pizza slicer.”

“My pizza dreams came to a quick conclusion after the weekend; crushed with one text. No job no more for me at the pizzeria.”
Review wines break.

2011 Travaglini Gattinara Tre Vigne $40ish: tBoW favorite wine region is north of Milan near the Alpine foothills. Elevation and coolness delivers medium light weight wines made from Nebbiolo and indigenous grapes. Travaglini is the most recognizable label and bottle shaped like a melting wax guitar. Travaglini is 100% Nebbiolo which tends to flatten the flavor profile. No harm done the wines are dependable, if not exciting, like Beaulieu Vineyard cabs. The entry level is Tre Vigne Gattinara at The Glass Jar is not one to fret very long. The Glass Jar is a bounce back fellow as young millenials are wont to be. There are much better altapiemonte wines to be had at this price.

2014 Nervi Gattinara $30 more or less: Check Eataly for availability with Giacomo. This is superb Alto Piemonte. Giacomo Conterno [one of the kings of Barolo to the south] purchased this winery, the oldest in Alto Piemonte. That is an endorsement from the highest source. We have tasted multiple vintages, most recently the 2008 out of mag. Balanced like a UCLA gymnast, “velvet glove” power which it is delicate at the same time having strength. Peerless. Much better investment of time and $$.

The Glass Jar is presently working in a new job somewhere in the Southeast. Instead of flipping pizzas he will be flipping House seats.

[ed. Mr Story shares some wisdom] It must have been tough to bounce back from this defeat. Jobs and opportunities may present themselves, even though you may not have the desired experience. One’s work ethic and character may be enough to get a job others would consider out of reach. Character, convictions, and reliability are forever minuscule when compared to “experience about the pizza.” The Glass Jar has experience “about the wine” because he generously contributes to The Best of Wines blog. It is the restaurant’s loss and our gain. We might have featured the place on this very blog.

Check out the Swingingest Pie Flippers Ever – Louis Prima and Keely Smith.

Today Is My Birthday – Take Me to Eataly!

True…all true. Today tBoW is old beyond belief. But so are many others. Some whom I know very well.
Such as IGTY and Dotoré. And Jim Moore.

It seems timely to share shit one knows on one’s 69th year in action. This does not include the saigneé method for making rosé wines.


We do know this…..

Pink wines are delicious wines. Summertime is the obvious season for enjoying rosé wines. We will not go further and insist they should be enjoyed in any season. In fact, they should not. Panks are built for summer, my birthday is at the start of summer so please indulge. Read how rosés are made!

A recent pair of wines purchased in the Eataly Wine shop run by Jack aka Giacomo are produced by La Kiuva. There is a red and a rosé. Both are fabulous.  Both are very nicely priced as is the case with so many Italian wines at Jack’s Eataly wine shop on the second floor in Century City. The Eataly is now tBoW’s go-to wine shop for Italian wines. Great selection and very fair prices.

The red La Kiuva is a Nebbiolo blend from Alto Piemonte; precisely just east in Valtellina. Red wines from this region, along with reds from Sicily and Sardinia, rule the roost [ed. fill the cellar?] in the tBoW household. When we saw there was a La Kiuva rosé as well naturally we had to purchase. Turns out that were good decisions. Both proved to be outstanding.

Both meet the preferred flavor profile for wines: high acid, not fleshy at all, lean, acidic [ed. you already said that], with enough fruit to balance with food…you could not get further from a heavy hitter 97 plus points Napa red.

One more thing tBoW is certain of in his 69th year…Jim Moore aka the “Original Giacomo” is very possibly the world’s greatest winemaker. Easily the best in Napa and easily the best working with Lodi juice which he practically pioneered. His wines have good acidic content; are friendly, lovely and balanced. His wines are f***ing interesting and delicious. The kind Mrs. tBoW does not want to share. I am not kidding.

So far we have guzzled Jim’s Cinsualt Rose, Vermentino (his most “popular”) and the 2015 Zinfandel radix vinea. We are also making a dent in the mixed case we picked up at Eataly.

I know. NO WAY tBoW drank – much less purchased – a zin. Look up radix vinea. On his website. The 2015 is sold out. I will be buying the 2016. Check out his label website, Buy his wines. I recently purchased a mixed case of everything.

Iggy Pop is tBoW’s favorite pop singer and performer. In fact, I told my kindt when they were young and would believe anything I said that they should listen to The Ig and watch his videos if they want to grasp the world’s greatest rock and roll performer; probably the o-n-l-y TRUE rock and roller…e-v-e-r.

See for yourself. I wonder what Jim thinks about the Ig.

“Tour of Italy Tasting”…meanwhile somewhere in Puglia…

Wine Tasters Steel Themselves for 21 POURS

The Wine House in West LA sponsored an Alto Piemonte Tasting May 16 2018 presented as “A Tour of Italy” hosted by Vinity Imports. Somehow tBoW got it in his head this was going to feature Alto Piemonte wines. Not. The clever title avoided any representation of an exclusive Alto Piemonte offering while at the same time over-representing the narrow selections [ed: what a whiner].

Five wineries each poured four wines.

Simon di Brazzan poured whites from Friuli including Pinot Grigio, Friulano, Sauv Blanc and a traditional blend. Not impressed. Not our varietals. We came for the Neb blends. The Friuli geography IS interesting. In the Northeast corner of Italy, Friuli spans terrain from the Adriatic to the Austrian Alps. This winery is in the alpine foothills. Friuli in the southeast is very close to Slovenia. Looking at a map I never realized that the city of Trieste is the very end of Italy at the “back tip of the top boot.” [ed. check out the Old Vine Primitivo in Puglia…bella!]

Poderi San Lazzaro is located in the Marche on the Adriatic, maybe even farther from Alto Piemonte than Friuli. Their premium bottle is Grifola made from 100% Montepulciano grape. Not a fan of rich red wines with lots of body and alcohol. Alcohol above 14%. tBoW has in-laws named Lazzaro [ed. fonzy that].

Le Piane Winery holds all the possibilities and promises of Alto Piemonte wines made from 85% Nebbiolo and 15% Vespolina. Le Piane has a good story, a  a great location, and the right grapes…however Lu2 and tBoW were not fond of what was in the glass. Over extracted, thick, high alcohol. Collector wines. Be charmed by the STORY and LOCATION links above and vine picker over there.

Ar.Pe.Pe. is the headliner tonight. The wines are widely heralded as a star small producer of Nebbiolo blended with indigenous varietals. Just look at their premium Sassela vineyard. Izzat Dracula Castle? NEWS FLASH! This winery is located in Lombardy and not AltoPiemonte. Whatever. The wines show everything Lu2 likes in wines from the northwestern regions of Italy: balance, acid enuff to “hold that thought” and bright flavors. And Lu2 loves food and cooking. Just one problem: pricey at $40 (Valtellina Rosso), $60 (Grumello) and $75 (Inferno). tBoW has reviewed many other wines he prefers that are a third to half as much as Ar.Pe.Pe.

The final winery tasted was Giovi from Sicily. We love Sicily. Thank goodness these guys were showing. Located on Mt Etna at [undetermined number of feet – somebody please look this up and comment, grazi!!] on the 11,000 foot volcano. The sots poured a white – 2016 Etna Bianco $30, a Rosato $30, and 2 reds at $40 and $60. We both bought the white wine. Lu2 also bought the Etna Rosato. Both wines are delightful for summer sipping [ed. ha! more like chugging]. Both have the requisite balance of acid and fruit.

You should read more about the charm of Sicily here is a New York Times Travel piece published in January. Sicily and Puglia at the top of tBoW’s travel list. Right behind perennial Egypt which Mrs. tBoW is finally warming up to.

Meanwhile somewhere in Puglia…tBoW tasters the Krisses enjoy old vine vineyards and a view of where the Atlantic meets the Adriatic from the deck of their Air BnB $70 a day rental.

In case that view did not give you a thrill…check this video of Mt Etna erupting with giant smoke rings. Timely considering what is taking place this week on the Big Island.