Posts belonging to Category Marsanay



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…

Cellar Sale: Raptors Re-Org Waryers! tBoW & Ikorb Re-Org Cellar

I was chatting with KrisB about wines from the Northern Rhone. He was trying to ‘splain me why I should be more open-minded about Rhone wines [ed. if this doesn’t raise a Field Maus eyebrow…]
“Over-extracted means medium for Fass and lightweight for Parker.” [ed. I don’t care who you are that’s funny]. Kris B directed me to the email notices for offerings by Mr. Fass who must be on the road about 13 months a year. The two or three cases I have already shelled out for arrive in the Fall. All the wines will be from the regions I favor which include Alto Piemonte [ed. Nebbiolo in the light style from above Milano] along with wines from Sardinia and Sicily. And of course, Burgundies.
KrisB directed tBoW to Garagiste years before. Fass is another madman itinerant wine voyager – altho’ the Krisses have done their share of wine touring – who sold me Burgs, Rieslings, Cabs from Languedoc and who knows what else. I posted that Rimmerman was the Rasputin of online wine vendors! Like Fass Selections, Rimmerman – aka Garagiste – is a super salesman who I believe L-O-V-E-S wine and loves offering deals. Ikorb – known tBoW follower – says Rimmerman offers top tier Bordeaux. If that is true it would be sad news as that suggests he has cultivated “trophy hunters” who go after the “big game” bottles. It’s a market with which I am not familiar. I know this. Lyle Fass has some very engaging video reviews on his Instagram.
Quite a few tBoW readers and affiliates are sophisticated purveyors of email vendors like Garagiste, WTSO and Fass. This is a game for the Cognos. We really enjoy there is little risk in supporting these wandering vendors. The payoff is enjoying great and unusual wines at great prices. Can’t wait for my German Pinots!
Not that a bottle hunter is unable to find great wines at great values in the right wine shops. We named a handful in the Story Tasting post with another chance to drive traffic to Kate in the Desert Wine Shop.
At the end of the day it comes down to Burgs. Ikorb helped tBoW re-organize the wine cellar recently…with astounding and unexpected results. Three cases of Burgs were scattered across nameless bins. Now they are divided into BURG READY and BURG WAIT. If you’re having a rough day, maybe you had a weak round of goff…you can always pull the cork on a wine recently recovered from shelves sensibly divided into Reds and Whites. To the reviews.
2009 Sylvaine Patais Marsannay Clos du Roy $45 [available supposedly in LA at secret tBoW shop] tBoW tasting notes:
feral without a growl…brick red color means it is ready…not ready to give up the booty…needs 30 minutes…perfect 
accompaniment to Kawhi Leonard and Steph Curry…blending finesse and grace [boaf uv um] with the unstoppable power [Kawhi]. As the game [ed. 6th and final, Waryers vs. Raptors] chugged towards its end, the wine showed the fading power of Boogie Cousins. Delicious and working all the way to the last drop. Changeling and still energetic. Beets or cherries you ask? Neither nor a combo of both…a fox crossed with a bobcat? DeNiro on the hunt for a ten point stag…instead of shooting it he drinks it?
2012 La Croix Montjoie Irancy~$24 purchased from Fass maybe 3 years ago. This wine is so funky the vintage is not listed on the label! This is great farmer wine. I can see the gnarly creased fingers with deeply etched skin. Flavors are all beets and nose of hay after a light rain. A real deal. Puts you in a lost corner of Burgundy where the trophy hunters rarely enter.

KrisB knows his wines. I suppose I have no choice but to let him persuade me as to the pleasures and joys of Northern Rhone Syrah wines. See you in August!

Mike the Nam survivor (played by Robert DeNiro) can’t pull the trigger. Make one film this beautiful and have nothing left. Is there a Wine Lesson here?

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.

2014 Gone. Keep Up with the Year in Front of You.

so nice

mi holiday getaway


The year in review is a journalistic tradition; even a must-do. What was memorable about 2014? Who do we remember? What made the strongest impression? Who is writing this slop?

stupaulWEBOur most memorable bricks and mortar wine merchant is Paul Smith at Woodland Hills Wine Co. Smith was definitely the underdog on the LA wine scene when we first encountered him about 30 years ago in his liquor store turned “wine find” off the 118. Who’d-a-thunk a former pro ballplayer (brushback pitcher) and USMC Nam vet would eventually become the go-to guy in LA then the nation for top shelf Burgs and other collectibles. I am still holding out Paul will let tBoW write his memoirs. He hangs a Marine Corp flag out front. Truly one of a kind.

Most memorable virtual wine merchant is Steve Goldun of Eno Fine Wine. He has delivered the best wines we have tasted throughout the year including the 2011 Sylvan Pataille Marsannay Clos du Roy featured below [ed. click two words back if you must learn more right now]. Consistently bringing in the wine we love to own at prices at or below the best market prices… Eno Fine Wine.

Most memorable wine travelers hands down are the bashful Krisses. They are a tag team from one of those generations that nobody from tBoW’s boomer clique can differentiate. Kris A is a budding winemaker, accomplished brewmaster and extreme triathlete. Kris B is the intrepid travel planner who can turn an introductory credit card deal into two round trip tickets to Germany or Spain or Austria. They hear music at decibels only accessed by corks and vines. Kris B frequents Garagiste and other obscure online merchants enabling the more placid tBoW to go in on a few unusual, exceptional deals. See Mont Blanc sparkler below.

soft flabby underbelly

soft flabby underbelly disappoints

What do we have to look forward to in 2015? The HausMaus visits town in June. A robust tasting of Rousanne and Marsanne seems likely. The dollar will continue to drive down prices on our favorite wines from Italy, France and Germany. The organic sustainable biodynamic movement will continue to expand and influence what you are drinking [ed. unless you are a mega collector of trophy wines in which case you are most likely oak addicted].

By the end of 2015 there will still be domestic wine touts claiming their favorite Pinot Noir is “Burgundian.” This is neither possible nor necessary. Domestic Pinot Noir will never share the qualities of Burgundy Pinot. If anything the difference will become more striking. We have staked out our position on domestic Pinot. We prefer Burgundy and of course we mean only the right Burgs [ed. is there a wine more haughty than Burgundy? Get your snob on!]. More Burgundy producers will lose our interest (Camille Giroud) as we simultaneously learn more about who makes the styles we prefer (Roty, Pataille, Clos du Moulin aux Moines). We have moved on from Barolo and Barbaresco and quite possibly any wine with 100% of any grape in the bottle. This leaves us in and around the Valtellina when it comes to Nebbiolo in Italy where the vignerons blend everything. Expect more wines form Sicily. And more champagnes. Should be a grand year, we hope.

extremeWEBOne more 2015 target. There is rumor of a new blog, the Wine Whisperer, where topics will concern the wine trade, interviews with wine folk such as aspiring somms, wine phenomena of any and every sort, and quite likely Bigfoot.

2011 Extreme Spumante Metodo Classico Brut DOC di Cave du Vin Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle ~$23: Sparkling wine for extreme mountain climbers? This IS the Krisses in a bottle. That IS Mont Blanc on the label. Note pick axe and rope at label top. These must be highest vineyards in Europe! But probably not. Reminded tBoW of the sparkling Gewurtz made by Navarro (producer of lightweight domestic Pinot we also prefer!). We liked it. 12%

lassagneWEBNV Lassaigne les Vignes de Montgueux Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne $35: Purchased from Eno. Step aside Mont Blanc. Like the Warriors vs rest of the league [ed. talking NBA now], Champagne is King. And this bottle is special, Champions league, think Villareal futbol squad, La Liga Primera Division; not Real Madrid not Barcelona, but very competitive. Of course, please keep in mind a sparkling wine from Spain is not Champagne. Neither is a sparkling wine from Napa or anywhere other than Champagne. Does this mean there are sparkling wines as good as the best from Champagne? No. That would be unlikely. This remains useful info despite the end of the holiday.

pataille-marsannay-2011WEB2011 Sylvan Pataille Marsannay Clos du Roy $38 [TAFI]: the most memorable wine even though we opened it two weeks before the end of the year. Bought this at the Burgundy Hoe Down more than a year ago! Took a year to open just enough to get a glimpse of what was inside. So salacious! Unfortunately, finding more of this wine from this vintage will be a bitch. Wine of the year, as those things go.

halter-11WEB2013 Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso Blanc $20: Purchased by LeLg [ed. Le Large in short which the man is NOT] at Hi Time in Costa Mesa, the premium wine store in the OC. A lovely Paso white Rhone blend of mostly Grenache Blanc backed with Picpoul Blanc, Rousanne and Viognier; all estate grown. Read more about Paso the wine region including Halter the 900 acre ranch. This is a label to watch for. Don’t say we are too snobby for domestic wines. Especially not too snobby for Rhone style whites. Buy it. 13.5%

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.