Posts belonging to Category Sparkling



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…

Chilled Bubbly is Perfect for Summer…Let’s Drink Some Real Soon!!

THE DARK LORD FINDS HIMSELF IN A LIME-LIKE POOL; DUNHILL IN A TOOTHY DEATH GRIP

When Did the Rules Change For Sparkling Wines?!? Is this some New Wine Gonzo?

Normally a post touting summer chilled sparkling wine would feature Prosecco; that frothy sweet little wine with low alcohol [ed. under 10%], tastes like peaches and mixes with anything. Guzzle an ice-chilled bottle, height of summer seated at a restaurant courtyard in Sevilla getting ready to tour the cathedral with its impoverished tesoro room. Today? Champagne style cava. Pink sparklers from Bordeaux. And a U20 sweepstakes runner from Mendocino? Man…that’s the way you do it. Money for nothin’…bubbles for free.

Things seem to have changed. We tasted three sparkling wines recently that suggest a sparkler trend with which we are not familiar. We are hardly the first to say this BBBUUUTTT Cava sparklers have come a long way! In fact the old rules that governed the commission of sparkling wines have been upended; notice we MUST NOT say champagne as that it is a total winespeak faux pas. Try any of the following without fear.

Sharffenberger Brut Rose Excellence “Suggested retail $26” but can be found for half that at World Market. Non-vintage approximately half and half Chard and Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley. Muscular. Top heavy. Very pleasing. Could suck this down all day at…maybe…a wedding? Great news! Buy it at World Market at half price!

Calvet Cremant de Bordeaux Brut Rose 2015 U20 at $17 or less, almost 100% Cab Franc. Come on. That’s impressive. I guess the old rules are officially thrown out. Balanced, Seductive. On the red side of pink. Tougher to find than a collusion conviction.

Raventos i Blanc Blanc de Blancs U20 at ~$20: YUMMY JUMMY NUMMY NUM NUMS! Cava sparkler perfectly balanced, good weight golden apples sez Mrs tBoW. We could say poor mans Krug but that would be quite a stretch. Or would it? Great backstory here worth reading how this Penedes winery stepped it up champagne style in 2012. Sold to tBoW by Katie of Desert Wine Shop [ed. now there’s a surprise.]

Hunter S. Thompson is an iconic symbol of the Baby Boomers. He blew his brains out.  People do that when facing mortality. Just sayin’ [ed. so did Anthony Bourdain]. Thompson (and Bourdain) was not old enough to do that. He did practice excessive habits which certainly contributed to his impulse control. And he loved guns. We have two videos about the Dark Lord. He merits that. Look at this embedded video about his unimaginable daily intake of substances. Then open the vid below in which “kindred” authors and film people reference Thompson’s works. Ask yourself this. Was this any way to live?

Murder, Spies, the News Cycle and Tasting Wines

We understand many people drink wine to avoid the news cycle. Not tBoW. We find tasting wine complements the disorder of politics.

We share our definitive guide to recent White House literature so our readers can decide which of these worthy books will go best with their choice of wines. [ed. tBoW uses “news cycle” but he means the President. We would prefer to avoid being cyber-bombed by the Russians.] Each book will be turned into a movie so you could also wait a bissel.

The White House reality show is not really funny [ed. Mr. Story: Oh no.] For now. In fact it is chilling…like a nice bottle of sparkling wine on a summer evening [ed. Mr. Story: A copper cube in a cryostat at zero kelvin is more scientifically accurate.] Things will definitely get very ugly shortly. The US and our allies continue to be undermined from across the Volga. Democratic European countries are under assault by right wing fascist nationalists – Marine Lepin – and eastern bloc neo-Nazis in Bulgaria.

tBoW has read a handful of books about the “hybrid war” that helped elect the Big Cheeto. This “hybrid war” continues to undermine democratic nations who have long been friends and allies. Russian money, loyalists and hackers lead the charge under Putin and his Oligarchs.

The Plot to Destroy Democracy by Malcolm Nance, published June 2018 is a freaking espionage dissertation. The message is Putin has deployed cyberwarfare and limited on-the-ground warfare to disrupt NATO, the EU and US elections. This blended attack – arms, tanks and Facebook – caught most Western political groups with their pants down. tBoW recommends an extra dry martini made with Sardinian Wild Vodka [ed. tBoW says shake 75 times] in order to properly process Nance who worked as a code breaker for the US Navy. Message? We are losing. Putin is winning. Trump and crew are Russian assets[ed. Mr. Story: We must consider diversifying our assets and launch a new blog for this growing market- The Best of Vodkas.]

Fear by Robert Woodward, early 2018. Superbly documented and sourced (although very few sources are named) to reveal how chaotic is the White House and it’s main occupant. We learned what is a “deep source.” Of course when the only two people in the room are Trump and Bannon it is pretty easy to guess who told Bob what went on. Message? Trump is a liar. That’s a repeated quote from Woodward and his “deep sources.” Read Woodward with a crisp Rosaro Negroamero Rosé from Puglia.

Putin’s Labyrinth by Steve Levine, published 2008. Absolutely chilling. The murder of former KG/FSBB officer Litvinenko who turned against Vlad P. He was poisoned in London – Litvinenko was – with some radioactive drops by a former FSB colleague. Painful death. Russian spies prefer using radioactive poison. Use your imagination why. Message? Putin and the FSB are ruthless killers. Try a mojito with Club Havana 3 y.o. “ron”.

Red Notice by Bill Broward, published 2009. Obviously written by a “helping pro” in the “thriller” style. Bottom line: Broward figured he could make billions in Russia when the Soviet Union fell apart in the early 90s. Broward bought “citizens’ shares” of industries that were no longer publicly owned. The Putin-led oligarchs ran Broward out of town. Broward’s Russian lawyer Magnitsky stayed, was tortured and murdered. Broward lobbied for the Magnitsky Act which impounded billions of oligarch money stashed in Western banks. The White House is working tirelessly to dismantle the Magnitsky Act and free billions of locked down Oligarch cash. Message: Capitalism cuts many ways. A zesty briny Albariño from Rías Baixas will give you strength. Finish the bottle.

The Apprentice by Greg Miller, published 2018. If Woodward is all about Bannon, Tillerson and “the 2017 Oval Office gang” then Miller is all about Flynn, Carter Page, Papadopoulis, Manafort, Assange and Roger Stone. Miller is the WaPo beat writer on cyber warfare. He details how the Russian hackgroup, the Internet Research Agency, worked Facebook, Yahoo, Google and hundreds of online “news houses” to whip the alt-right and radical left into a frenzy. Trump won with fewer votes than Romney who lost. Message: Cyber warfare rules, these guys are all “assets.” Woodland Hills Wine Company has a $16 Prosecco Loredan Gasparini Asolo Superiore that will keep you turning pages and shaking your head.

Malcolm Nance explains how hybrid warfare works.

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%

Xmas::NY Interweek & Xmas Tasting

do not judge them

do not judge them

DO NOT ADJUST YOUR CONTROLS. The foto is not in focus. The foreground grips control the horizontal and the vertical. Please ring the bell for service.

Main Street icon

Main Street icon

How was your holiday party? Ours was fab. Grab-bag wines, gag gifts and the popular and expanding re-gifting center charmed our guests. A Christmas party should be an open house with guests arriving at will. Lots off eats offset the preponderance of holiday cheer. We focused on wines and champagnes. There were no duds. Here is what we managed to keep track of.

Three Italian wines set the mark for winners bing bing bang. The first wine opened was the one in the center 2008 Cortones Brunello di Montalcino $45. It was quickly followed by the other two in sequence 2010 Tabarrini Montefalco Rosso $30, blending Sangiovese, Barbera and Sagrantino. 15 minutes later I was pulling the cork on the 2009 Viticoltori Migliozzi Casale Carinola Rampaniuci Falerno Massico $unk. While the sequence was accidental it was also perfect. The first two wines showed deep cherry flavors which encouraged the revelers to taste more wine! The third wine had the 3-winnersWEBmost body and the the most acid. It was the most serious and age worthy, forcing the madness to slow to a gentler pace. All three were just perfect for the holiday occasion where people who enjoy wine are involved. Each one was enjoyed by the throng in thongs. These wines proved the point that Italian wines are the most diverse with the greatest potential for giving gustatory satisfaction. Not one was over-ripe. Each was reasonably balanced, generally masculine. All three ably complemented the tamales, ham and lasagna.

BTF-zwickerWEB2013 Big Table Farm Wirtz Garden Edelzwicker $28 (winery only): Rare and unusual white wine blending “riesling, pinot gris, gewurztraminer and more;” all grown organically on the Big Table Farm estate. This wine shows what can be done in the New World with decidedly Old World sensibilities. Medium weight, oily with figgy quince flavors. Delightful. Serve chilled and let it warm in the glass. Big Table Farm is a label to keep tracking.

trouillard-champ-nvWEBNV Trouillard Extra Selection Brut $35 (Wine Expo): Plump strumpet champagne begging to hug your palate. Once this was tasted by a few it was quickly guzzled by the ambulatory throng in thongs. No wonder once you read about the careful handling in production, the first press juice only, and two years on the lees before bottling. Christ! This was too good for the guests!

As a wise man once said….keep the party hat on!! Happy New Year!!

This will help set the mood, no? It appears they’re having fun.