Posts belonging to Category Northern Italy



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%

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.

World Series, Halloween and Fall Tastings

SF-pandasWEBMajor League baseball can provide drama on the field like no other professional sports league. None of them. Not one. This year’s events have been nothing short of fabuloso. If you are a Doyers fan you have to be dumbstruck with the dumb luck the Giants are able to manufacture to advance their season into the September, October, uh… November Classic.

El Dean de Los Doyers

El Dean de Los Doyers

How can you not love the PANDAs down the third base line? They are watching the game through the mouths of giant Panda heads. This is fandom in the new millenium. The final round starts this week. You may be sick if it all by now… but we are not… and we will be tuning in.

Long as we are here [ed. hey, everybody here here?] let’s infuse some baseball with wines we have tried. Our guest taster tonight is Vin Scully. Read his revviews out loud while you hold your nose to capture the complete Vinny experience.

gambiaWEB2010 Andrea Faccio Azenda Agricola Villa Giada Gamba di Pernice $19: Piemonte wine that is not Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto or those other blending grapes used in communities we long to visit north of Barolo. This is Leg Partridge a robust and ancient grape rescued from extinction by the young dude who overhauled the family winery 20 years ago. Ruby red with spice. What does Vinny think?

“Andrea Faccio at the plate. The young Piemontese is a newcomer to fans having toiled for the Gaja farm team in Asti for years. Foul ball up the first ball line out of reach. Asti, of course, is where quite a few notable vingeron found their games. High fly to right field. Puig sets up and makes the catch. Faccio makes a nice spicy red that tastes nothing like Nebbiolo. This grape, we are told, is as goofy as the Dodger right fielder. Wow. Yasiel is refusing to throw the ball back to the infield. We hope to see him again in the Spring.” 13.5%

torrontes07WEB2007 Finca de Domingo Torrontes $11: At seven years this bottle was really pushing it. The color was too golden. Thick and near-oxidative. The announcer who will never retire shared the following.

“Latin American wines can always be counted on to do a creditable job. The white Argentines like Torrontes are somewhat of a special breed. They give their best effort when still youthful. Every now and then you get one from the high elevation Cafayate region – in the dirt but Posey is able to corral it – that manages to stay on the roster beyond its due date. Finca Domingo must have gotten lost in the cellar only to emerge when there was nobody left to pitch the 15th inning. Can’t go with the delicate workhorse Kershaw or the injured Reeyou. You say Roo? Either would be willing – low and away ball four he walked him – but the GM says no. We hope to see Colletti next Spring.” 11%

sousa-champWEB Champagne de Sousa Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Reserve $60: 50% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 10% Pinot Meunier. Light yellow almost clear color. Wonderful hand harvested champagne following natural wine dicta inadvertently, one supposes since they been around too long. Sharp fruity flavors. Loved it! What did Vinny think?

“Coming to the mound is Eric de Sousa and he is not happy with.. with… he’s signaling to Puig to join him on the mound. This is unusual. Of course, this would not be first time a right fielder was asked to throw in releife. dia-de-los-gigantesWEBWhen the Dodgers were the Knickbockers back in the 30s when I was in my late 20s they had a player named Poog who used to amuse the crowd with his long throws to home. Even when the runner was standing on second. Second base here in Chavez Ravine sparkles around sunset. I am in my sunset years. Puig has the ball. De Sousa will probably get another feature piece in Vigneron magazine. I hope to be reading next Spring.” 11.5%

We thank the great Dodger announcer with the memory of an ankylosaurus, the voice of a blue jay falling out of a tree, and the most incredibly blond hair. Long live Vinny! See you next Spring.

Go Jints!

Great Vinny impressions by another broadcaster. Stay with this to hear the Japanese and Venezuelan Vinnies!

Fada Day, Birthday, Playboy Jazz, July 4th!! Must be SUMMER.

who_yo_fadaWEBSummer just gets started and THEN… it just bombs forward with special days and celebrations. So many corks get pulled it takes concentration to keep up with the luxuriously warm evenings. No wonder Dotoré loses his mind. The water in SoCal is a delicious 70 degrees. Someone said it’s the precursor to an El Niño Winter. Yellow Tail running off Newport Beach and Great Whites are biting… poles and people. So we drink wine and hang with our homies. Here is what we been tasting.

vergano-vermouth-frontCROPWVergano Vermouth Bianco NV 500ML $43: LA Times wine tout SIrene V. wrote a blurb on Vermouths. As usual she’s a day late and a dollar short! The venerable critic covered domestic vermouths. For data more substantive try Goldun’s own prose: “Vermouth is the only fortified and aromatized wine with a precise historical origin. It was first concocted 1786 in Turin by Benedetto Carpano. Since then the Vermouth has become one of the most famous drinks in the world both as aperitif or as an ingredient in cocktails. Its name derives from the German word “Vermuth” which means Absinthe, one of its main components.” Absinthe? If you must have more info try here. A pot store opened behind tBoW’s favorite Mexican food palace. Back to SIrene V. We would bet dinner at Faith & Flower the real Vermouth wiener is this Piemonte effort. Who knew vermouth was an aperitif and not something to avoid in your ultra dry Martini. This Vergano drink brought to us by Eno Fine Wine is just perfect anytime anywhere. Some anise. Some Tonic. What balance. Over cubes. Dangerously delicious. 16%

Rami-09WEBAzienda Agrocola COS Rami 12.5%: Orange wine from Sicily. This is really terrific wine. Southern Italy kicks booty one more time. This would work in Fall as well as Summer. Lovely orange color [ed. Goldun tells why, no? Si.] with delicate spicy flavor, acidic, ripe fruit but NOT citric. More like kiwi-lite. Even better next evening. We panned the COS red last week as too zin-like for tBoW’s palate. This shit is so good we want more. 12%

TC-CT-2011WEB2011 Tablas Creek Cote de Tablas Blanc $24 (Fine Wine House): You MUST decant the reds if you MUST drink them. You should wait! Not one is at full potential even at 10 years. They need 15 or more. However, DO NOT FORGET THE WHITES from this top Paso estate. Creamy and lean at the same time. Light oak (we think). Almost one quarter each Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Rousanne and Marsanne. The contribution from each varietal is distinct and harmonious. The secret is out. Sit on the reds and drink the whites without hesitation or shame. A bravo for the 13.1% alcohol level.

As a great man once said “Keep the party hat on!” That would be Mungo Jerry’s lil’ bra’… the ole BeeDee.

Southern Italy in Southern Utah

mario-balotelli_headerCROPW Getting a decent martini in Utah is almost as tough as Mexico winning in the World Cup round of 16. Neither is gonna happen. While the World watched soccer, tBoW played five consecutive rounds of golf in St George Utah. Each course was more frightening than the previous. Each course was a thrill. The state of Utah is kind of unique too. Thrilling in its own poly-amoric way.

Forget about buying wine in Mormonia. We purchased a few bottles in Mesquite Nevada which is 40 minutes south of red canyon country. I guess you need to get outside a major metro center to find the really rare stuff. Sitting on the racks at Lees Discount Liquor were two special Tuscan wines, reviewed below. It is against Utah law to pull a cork in a Utah restaurant on a wine not purchased in Utah. Thankfully, the waiter asked us without winking to assure him that “these wines were purchased in Utah correct?”

Southern Utah has beautiful terrain. St George is very near Zion and two hours from Bryce Canyon. St George has its own red rock spectacle Snow Canyon. This is terrific place to visit if you like hiking or golfing. Or you just like to turn in by 10:00 PM. Here are the wines.

tenutadelterre12WEB2012 Tenuta Delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso $19: Dark and powerful like Mario Balotelli [ed. see above]. Plenty of life left in this brooder. Here is what Steve Goldun says on his Eno Fine Wine website: “Etna’s magic is all about embracing the local terroir and indigenous varieties planted here thousands of years ago by the islands Greek conquerors. Terre Nere’s founders and present owners, Marco De Grazia and his brother Iano, first came to Etna 30 years ago and are credited as being the first to discover the potential of these vineyards and producing the first commercial release of Terre Nere (Italian for black earth) in 2002. Farming is organic and yields are kept at around 35 hectolitres per hectare.” Etna has attracted notable winemakers like Frank Cornelissen whose wine has been reviewed on this site. There is plenty to read about on Etna wines.Falanghina-2010WEB Here is another report from Food and Wine. This is an exciting region that is a likely travel destination for Mr. and Mrs. tBoW. U20. 14%

2010 Beneventano IGT Falanghina “Flora” I Pentri $20: Fleshy exotic white wine from Campania near Napoli, made organistically sans oak. Marzipan flavors. Unusual, old vine wine. Big enough to complement plenty of foods. Yummy. Very good value. 14%

COS-2011WEB2009 COS Terasuolo $24: Another Eno pick. Another tremendous Southern Italy value. This makes the Etna wine seem like a Rosé. This Sicilian hot blooded drink is a bit too zin-like for tBoW but others love it. The O in COS refers to Occhipinti and you know how we feel about her. 14%

2004 Lamborghini Campoleone Rosso $25: This is one of the bottles purchased in Mesquite. Fortunately, we were able to locate it in Los Angeles at our local hang Woodland Hills Wine Co. Half Sangiovese and half Merlot from Umbria (not in the south). The wine is earthy with cherry flavors. A tres bicchieri rating from Gambero Rosso which is the Italian premium rating source. Wine Spectator could learn a lot from these guys. 14%

Whether you like futbol or not… this Ronaldo tribute is worth a view [ed. the Brit announcer prefers ray-naaal-doe].