Posts belonging to Category Spain



The Fall, Rise and Fall of Beaujolais

she ruled the 60s

she ruled the 60s

Beaujolais has been forgotten more often than whatshisname. Beauj wines were top shelf in the 14th century until the Burgundy farmers chased the Gamay Noir grape – crossed with the blessed Pinot Noir – and its wannabe producers south. Gamay lost its prestige in the wake of Marie Antoinette’s gehackt kopf.

Gamay grown south of Burgundy can produce a lovely light to medium weight red wine with floral qualities and the requisite acid to buck it all up. Until the 1960s. Yearning for fanfare the Beaujolais producers led by Georges Dubouef came up with Beaujolais Nouveau which became fashionable as Twiggy. And half as interesting. This pompy silly era was Fall #1 for Beaujolais in the Modern Era: Beaj Nouveau. Like the Beatles, still popular.

The Rise. In 2006 the earth around Beaujolais began to move. Suddenly, gratefully, amidst an avalanche of rocketing collector prices and the relentless quest to win a Parker 100 point score, Beaujolais winemakers began producing some very nice wines. The value quotient (VQ) was an island in a sea of [ed. better metaphor please] an outpost in a wilderness of [ed. not wilderness] an outpost in the back country of forgotten appellations. Gamay returned to wine snobs. The 2006, 2007 and 2008 vintages were superb. The ten crus offered more variety than Bourdeaux along with far better pricing and far more availability. Superb Gamay cru wines were priced near $15. Beaujolais was on the RISE.

Fall #2. The 2008 economic crash took about 18 months for Parker and the Wine Speculator to concede the 100 point game was over. Tostado. This should have been the tipping point when Beaujolais secured its new position as leader in the quality and value game. But it did not. Instead, the producers raised prices. Dumb. Da Dumb. Dumb. The market was in their hands… and they let it slip away. The last vintages we bought were 2009 2010. We are tasting through them now with no plans to replenish.

Very good Beaujolais costs close to $30. At the same time we are buying outrageously great Chablis for the same price. And super Red Burg for the same price and up to $10 more… except we are buying wines Beaujolais will never become, except for Clos de la Roilette which we still buy. Welcome to the new top shelf.

Here are two more wines from the Not Ready For Prime Time Tasting.

Ridge-Montebello-00WEB2000 Ridge Montebello $120: A-L-M-O-S-T R-E-A-D-Y. At 14 years this wine can be enjoyed. Ridge Montebello is regarded as the Lafite of US wines. Justifiably so. This wine was gorgeous, not voluptious, not lean. Classically beautiful, something like Lauren Bacall. Perfect California mountain blend with just enough oak to give it the classic style. Last domestic Cabernet we had like this was the 1987 Dunn Howell in mag. Dunn is more rustic. Montebello more refined. Truly spectacular wine and not Bordeaux. Honestly. At $120 and being the benchmark for California GREATNESS in wine, this is a bargain. 13.5%

Tondonia-91WEB1991 Lopez de Herredia Tondonia $105 (sorry, it’s a secret for now): tBoW asked Goldun will this wine be ready in another 10 years? “Maybe 100” came the comeback. 23 years in the bottle and the color is not even golden. Yellow as a five year old Chablis. Flavors enchanting but the wine is n-o-t r-e-a-d-y. We must have another bottle taking into account predicted auto-longevity and the likelihood I will be around to enjoy with the Geezer Troop. 13%

Maybe this could also be “the discrete charm of the Beaujolais?” Cue the electric sitars please. It’s all… so beautiful.

Drinking Wines Before Their Time

properly aged

properly aged

A bracingly warm summer evening in SoCal and an assembly of tasting mavens. Heat driven visions for an epic evening celebrating accomplishments. All that was needed was a collection of wines to taste, discern
Orson Wine

Orson Wine

and discuss their mysteries. We had them… both. But where was the moon?

The wines that were opened showed kind of tight and NOT READY, excepting the Andre Robert champagne that was popped first. Champagne is always ready isn’t it? The wines most anticipated were just not there yet. What does it mean to be “not ready?” The wine needs more time to round out, integrate, come together, settle down, find its equilibrium, mature. Bartod-Chambolle-07WEBOr, if you are biodynamically literate the wine needs to be in harmony with the lunar cycle. Let’s face it. Astrology.

2007 Ghislaine Barthod Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru Aux Beaux Bruns $111: Don’t do it they said as he pulled the cork. Big and brooding. Like a Beethoven portrait. Pinot fruit so deep it could not be fathomed. Tight. Weight without mass. A sleeping warlock. Never opened up. Now we will never see it again. 13%

coldstream-06WEB2006 Mac Forbes Coldstream Yarra Valley Pinot Noir $70: By contrast this dusty, leanish drink was fascinating. Definitely tasted like Pinot Noir. Had the Burgundian style with light middle weight liquid and dark Pinot flavors. Not exactly forest floor and definitely not from the cherry/strawberry clan. Savory flavors. Yarra Valley wine country is low (100′) and high (1500′). It is a cool region so Pinot Noir grows well. This bottle pleased almost everyone. The winery is Mac Forbes and they have a young crew. The great about tasting this wine at $70 was to have it near the Chambolle at $111. Neither is quite ready. Which would you rather open tonight? A treat to have them both on the same evening. 13.5%

Malvar-2011WEB2011 Viñas Ambiz Malvar (Maceración Carbónica) $24: We have been waiting to try this bottle of orange wine. Made from a white grape indigenous to the Madrid region. The story is in the winemaking. Fabio Bartolomei reveals his “greatest secrets” at this website. The back label is almost as striking as the wine color. YOU MUST READ IT. He presents a list of what is in the bottle – “fermented grape juice”, what he did and did not do to the wine, and what he did and did not add. How was the wine? Fascinating. Tasting like pure juice, acidic, lean, high flying, without peer. Don’t look for fruit. We decided to decant it! As my mother-in-law might have said “these guys are having too much fun!” As the website says “Practicing environmentally respectful, sustainable and chemical-free viticulture.” The vineards are head cut. The Malvar vineyard so so old nobody knows. If this was Sonoma or Napa the owner would have a geneticist out to the site immediately! This region near Madrid is a must visit for wine tourists. 12%

Here is a seven minute slide show with music of Diane Arbus’ fotos.

Banality Gets an Upgrade: the Costco Illusion

the ancient mystical Rioja Alavesa

the ancient mystical Rioja Alavesa

Amazingly, there are respectable wine writers who insist the selection of wines at Costco are worthy of your attention. That would include tBoW. You may consider this strange since everyone knows Costco is the king of ordinary and middle-of-the-road in all things from sandwich bags to 60 inch TVs to fancy watches and diamond tennis bracelets… and First Growth Bordeaux; except the guy who owns the wine blog devoted to Costco wines. It is true the Costco wine buyer has steadily “raised her consciousness” [ed. as we used to say “back in the day”]. She has been profiled on CNBC as the most influential wine buyer in the business. But now… she and her staff of 20 are buying the kinds of wines that even tBoW and other discerning wine drinkers might be tempted to buy. We did. We were amazed… (more…)

Memorial Day Memories: Reds, Whites, the Blues, Paella!!

paella mandala

paella mandala

As summer’s unofficial coming out party, Memorial Day weekend has lots going for it: BBQs, wine dinners, paella spectaculars with pan fried sardines …and plenty of wine loving pals. A few pages ahead on the calendar is the Topanga Art Tour and the Playboy Jazz Fest. Officially, Memorial Day is all about the red white and blue and our fighting forces. For the tBoW tasting team it is mostly about reds and whites while listening to Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughn. With a salute to our veterans we report on the wines put forth by the brave tasters who fight for wines under $20 every day in the bargain bins and floor boxes of liquor and wine stores where the real gems can be found…on sale! As IGTY so aptly explains the struggle …

The IGTY Manifesto: I have to budget for 6 bottles of wine a week. At 4.3 weeks in a month that comes to ~25 bottles and at $20 per, that is a lot more than I am willing to pay. My monthly wine budget is $400 and that means hunting down wines that cost ~$16.

(more…)

Hidden Treasures in Hidden Treasure Chests

"Hunting Wines" talent

“Hunting Wines” field team

The Animal Planet show “Finding Bigfoot” is fun to watch except we never get to see the critter. Storage Wars, Antiques Roadshow, Bering Sea Gold would be nothing without the payoff. Show me the buried treasure. The same principle holds when hunting for worthy wines at even more worthy prices. Here is the premiere episode of Hunting Wines. (more…)