Posts belonging to Category Alto Piemonte



It’s Safe to Come Out Munchkins! The Next – I mean New – Year has Begun!

The holiday season can be taxing. But now that its O-V-E-R we can only say don’t let the door

hit you on the way OUT DUDE!

Image result for Santa wrecks sled

The celebration gauntlet was especially long in the tBoW household oin 2019 with endless events to attend and host. There were highlights marked by memories [ed. all good] and in some cases there were memorable wines.

The BIG EVENT was the Friday the 13th Holiday Wine Tasting at RiTA House hosted by “Stacie’s Wine Cellar.” Stacie’s collection is legendary. The lineup created a locust-like buzz (ed. cue Exorcist II locusts clip) given it was an all star, all desirable lineup of labels and vintages. The RiTA House venue is excellent – a 100 year old 3 story “townhouse” in mid Wilshire with no parking. Stacie hosts the “Share A Glass” wine tastings at RiTA House which are open to members.

The lineup included top labels from Burgundy, Chianti (early 90s Biondi Santi) and Bordeaux (1988 Pichon Lalande): “Classic Vintages and Magnums of Champagne, Barolo, Barbaresco, Burgundy, Bord

eaux, Tuscan, Napa, Paso Robles.” The evening became a lesson in the perils of holding on too long to our most precious bottles. Too many wines were tired and simply over the hill. tBoW covered this phenomenon from his own supply mid-year with his “How To Tell When a Wine is Bad” tasting. Of course that tasting included judgment errors! Stacie did hit the gong with several outstanding wines. Dotore – who attended – captured the holiday message succinctly. Be careful to not hold onto your favorite wines too long. Suivez vos conseils mon ami!

2000 Billecart Salmon Amreuil-sur-Ay. $?? Priceless. The R-A-R-E single vineyard triple mag was served chilled. Came off like a kiwi lemon fruit bowl on ice. With ~20 plus guests the bottle was finished…but it took a few hours! If we had to pick one wine for a second round it would clearly be the Billecart! tBoW probably stuck his glass in front Gianfranco the distracted somm at least 6 times. Speaking of sparkling wines…we ope

ned several between Christmas and New Years. Here is one we really loved that can be found and bought for a fair price.

Laghibellina Gavi Metodo Classico $28: “on the lees 24 months” with 13% alcohol. This was the sparkler of the holidays (excepting the Billecart of course). Easy quaffer. Full flavored fruity and tart. Th grape is Cortese di Gavi which tBoW would usually avoid. Not in this case!  Imported by Oliver McCrumm Wines [ed. who’s he? say Broon fans] which is also worth remembering. We will probably have a post coming that reviews the new importers – succeeding Kermit and Rosenthal and more who are reshaping the wine import industry with direct to seller – themselves.

The early 90s Biondi Santi [ed. apologies; failed to note vintage] had survived almost 3 decades with great panache. Pulled this cork just in time.

Finally, the 1994 Quinta de Eira Velha Noval Single Quinta [ed. quinta means single vineyard] Port was served last after many tasters were fatigado. Flavors of maple and chocolate. This was the last of a case tBoW acquired on futures way back when on release. F-U-T-U-R-E-S was a commercial scam dricen by the 1980s and 90s wine fever that excited middle-aged men who just had to have that vintage from that producer. Martinez and port wines generally are an interesting story for anyone who likes wine. A single vineyard is unusual and certainly an attempt to get with the hot sales tip that continues to thrive today.

Come Out! Come Out! Wherever you are!!

 

Cellar Purge: Wait Too Long & Suffer Like Postseason Doyers

SIGN OF GREAT WINE? BE REAL.

Would you pull the cork on one of these dusty moldy bottles with excitement or trepidation? The task is not any easier for much larger concerns. Consider the Dodgers. Their pitching staff is somewhat like the photo. They got rid of one very bad bottle but held onto a couple showing serious signs of age.

Los Doyers had the chance to get another relief pitcher before the deadline and failed to do what was obvious. Now comes the lesson. When one fails to do the obvious now one often pays the price later on.

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PAST HIS PRIME

So it is also true with wine “collecting.” As the reader should understand we no longer “collect” wine. Although we have in the past. “Collecting” involves buying “trophy bottles” [ed. see Wine Speculator and 100 point scores] with heavily hyped name winemakers or labels. This rarely works out when it comes to actually pulling a cork. Another “collecting” mistake is buying a wine because it “means something” like a favorite travel destination. Or winning a World Series.

The final collecting mistake is actually good advice. Somebody gives you a bottle of plonk over the upcoming horrible holidays? Get rid of it. Re-gift it. Just do not let the Riesling from Yakima WA occupy any space on the bar or god forbid in the cellar. We learned these lessons once again when recently re-doing the cellar. Think about how the Dodgers dumped Yasiel Puig. He had to go. Stuck around way too long.

tBoW and Ikorb went thru our shared cellar last week. Every bottle was under consideration. The new cellar features a new cooler (Whisperkool 5000 on Craigslist $600 cash) and half as much space which means half as many bins. Many many bottles were purged. The new org scheme features the most precious wines, e.g., Ital Nebs and French Pinots. It had to be. [ed. he has a handful of domestic Pinot Noir which has-to-go] Ten cases of bought-and-paid-for wines will be arriving in 60 days from Fass Selections, Kermit Lynch and even Garagiste [ed. Fass and Rimmerman in dead heat for most entertaining online retailers]. tBoW Sr. has decided to devote his wine selections to David Russell of WHWC [ed. just picked up two Corsican DR picks].

HE HAD TO GO

Wines that did not make the cellar cut: Rangeland 2009 Cabernet and 2009 Zinfandel. tBoW felt strong ties to the young winemaker when visiting on 2010. When tBoW writes the following about a winemaker you know a purchase of wine will follow. “Shannon is Audrey Hepburn in a hoodie, Astrud Gilberto punching down the cap.” Bought too many bottles. Most opened within a couple years. Waiting 10 years for the last couple three makes the point.

Do not wait too long – like more than four years -on 95% of California wines. Unless the wines are from Tablas Creek. We expect those to be ready in another five years [ed. which would be a total of 15 to 20 years]! And they will be finally ready. Will they be worth the wait? Who can say. We are no longer fond of red Rhone style wines no matter the vintage! [ed. note to readers white Rhones not included]. At ten years the Rangeland – which was not intended to go this long – was completely out of sorts.

POWERHOUSE CONSISTENCY

The other wine we held far too long was the 2009 Chateau Cambon. This illustrates another “collector” mistake – buying the winemaker [ed. see above Rangeland] and not the wine. This was the last wine made by Marcel Lapierre the “legendary winemaker” of Beaujolais, in particular Morgon [ed. Beaujolais has more than 5 but less than ten villages – look it up!]. Beauj is 100% Gamay juice. Every wine drinker needs to make up her mind about Gamay juice. Part of the argument aside from palate preference, was that Beaujolais and Gamay were the poor man’s Burgundy choice. Not really. It is always about the Price-Quality ratio aannnndddd what your palate prefers. Gamay just does not do it for tBoW.

We still have Beaujolais in the cellar. None from 2009 any more. However there are several from 2013. These can form the first flight to a late summer tasting.

After three “flawed” wines we settled on Burgundy [ed. duh]. We had a 2010 and a 2011 Roty Marsannay. Right. We opened both. 

The 2010 was delishus. The 2011 was delishus. These Roty wines from Marsannay were a tad more rustic than the Fournier Marsannay slugged down recently. Small point. Both bottles were exhausted enthusiastically. Ikorb noted that the nose on the 2011 “stinks of truffles.” His sniffer is legendary.

One needs a guide to identifying quality Burgs. If you like truffles – or cherries or beets – you will love Burgundy wines however selection is everything. I believe the same can be said of German Rieslings. And Maus will tell us we may apply these same considerations to his special spots [ed. Rhone plus other off the trail regions in France] where he knows exactly what to buy.

Wait! One more lesson learned. Start with the highest quality when filing your cellar; not from the bottom. Andrew Friedman chose not to replace his GM who left for the Giants [ed. nice job there]. Instead he split the job of one technocrat among three others. Expect to see postseason analysis of that failure–to–fulfill. Astros in 6…again. However I actually hope the Dodgers prevail so there will never be another World Series trophy wine like this one below.

The Storied Tasting

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

Wine, cheese and ready tasters.

Bacchus and Mr. Story smiled.

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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.