Posts belonging to Category Sparkling



Chinato: the Perfect Digestivo

gout is good!

gout is good!


After a leisurely evening sampling a lineup of Italian wines red and white while dining on a mouthwatering pork roast that followed pasta i funghi made fresh… you really need something to help with the digestion… something flavorful, a proven cure-all. Something from the Old World. Something made with quinine! More on this wonderful potion shortly.

First, let us examine the testimony of excess that necessitated relief.

casa-coste-pianeWEBNV Casa Coste Piane Frizzante Naturalmente Prosecco $15: One of the only Prosecco wines fermented in bottle just like champagne. Supposed favorite among Piemontese who know better. This is not the fruity giggly sparkler that charms everyone soon as you meet her KITTEN-WITH-A-WHIPWEB[ed. you are a sexist chauvinist comparing giggly bubbly effervescence to a female caricature]. This is not the fruity giggly sparkler that charms everyone soon as you have a chance to sip and swallow. This is Prosecco with spine. Sexy. Makes you want some more. Not easy to find out here on the Best Coast. 12%

I-MasieriWEB2011 Massieri Angiolino Moule $35: Another Garganega wine (!!!) like the one reviewed here a couple posts back recommended by the somm at the Santa Monica restaurant Tar and Roses. Call it Soave but this is not the BevMo/Costco staple Santa Margarita style. This white wine has acid, some body, and it is a nice precursor to the soldati heavies in the lineup. The grape is experiencing some kind of renaissance as are other lesser known indigenous varietals on the verge of extinction now resurrected thanks  to the dedication and moral sense of natural winemakers. Good story on the hillside vineyard and the relatively new family business. 11.5%

brangero09WEB2009 Brangero Nebbiolo D’Alba Briccobertone $25: A Langhe young vines non-tannic road runner from the Langhe. Lighter weight intro to Barolo and wines made from the Nebbiolo grape that is delicious and easy to drink. If we were in a museum this would be the dogent. Look for it.

There were other Italian red wines including the 2006 Ar Pe Pe Grumello which stole the show recently and once again. Check out the earlier tBoW review.

We were so excited about trying the Chinato we hardly regretted indulging the food and drink. The Chinato proved to be an amazing drink. We had it after but I am sure it would work just as nicely on its own. Like we enjoyed it over the next week. Read the review on the Eno Fine Wine site.

chinatoWEBNV Vergano Nebbiolo Chinato $43: [kee-not-toe] This wine comes in a 500 ML bottle. This does not taste like any drink with which we are familiar. The wine is “aromatized.” The wine is made from a quinine base and includes tinctures and extracts of Nebbiolo wine, cinnamon, ginseng, etc. The winemaker is the story much like the Almencistas who specialize in Sherry. This wine was not loved by all. But it was not roundly disliked either. Some were on the fence where they remain today. I love it and hate it. Like my marriage. Hey you! Get off that fence! [ed. Mike Myers moment]. For tBow this is a bog wow. Absolutely brought a feeling of digestive assistance. Flavors included licorice and Sen Sen! Bravo!! We prefer water con gas to flat anyway so the taste is familiar. One can smell and taste the quinine. The mixture of the other ingrediments is where the winemaker’s skill makes the difference. It is the perfect after dinner drink. 16%.

This fine Italian interpretation by John Renbourn is also good for settling down the demons.

The Best of New Mexico Wine!

stripers4WEBIzit Groo-et or Groo-ay?Regina the tasting room hostess gets this question all the time. Yet she remains warm, composed and friendly. The name is Gruet! But how are the wines?

The Grew-ae tasting room fronts the large winemaking and storage house right off the I25 north of ABQ. The Gruet family bought and planted 300 acres near Truth Or Consequences – TRC to locals – in 1988 which is 150 miles on a straight line south from I’ll Be Quirky.

ace host

ace host

Regina is in charge and knows everything tBoW needs to know about Gruet wines. All grapes on estate are hand harvested. Drip irrigation from nearby lake which is unusual since New Mexico is incredibly-pick-your-nose-til-it-bleeds dry. Bug killing chemicals, a natural wine no-no, not necessary at New Mexico elevations 3,000 feet and higher. TRC is 4300. Here is what we knew and did not know before we arrived. Wines reviewed in order of tasting.

What we knew: Gruet makes really nice sparkling wine.

What we learned: There is a French line as well under the Paul Laurent and Gruet et fils labels.

What we knew: The sparklers are priced very reasonably and deliver exceptional value.

What we learned: There are many more sparklers beyond the windely known labels along with still wines, some of which can be found in stores.

What we knew: You can find the Blanc de Noirs and Blancs de Blancs in BevMo and Total Yawn which gives snobs like ourselves a reason to visit.

What we learned: Gruet makes vintage sparklers and vintage still wines! These are made in small production and are “estate” juice. There is no such designation in New Mexico apparently or at least not at Gruet. Gruet_sparklersCROPWEBThe NV sparklers “potentially use juice from other states that “could include” California and Washington. The exact proportions are not released.

Let’s talk about tasting the Gruet lineup. Wine prices are winery recommended. As with every winery pricing at any winery is always higher and in-store pricing is heavily discounted; e.g., Bev Mo offers the the Brut Rosé for $16. Many of the wines reviewed are only available at the winery or through the Gruet Wine Club (another avenue to discounted pricing). All wines are NV unless noted. All wines are low alcohol. This is good.

Gruet Blanc de Blanc Sauvage $30: Their priciest wine, available only in restaurants and premium wine stores. 100% Chardonnay. Apples. Good acid. Lush.

Gruet Brut Rosé $25: 100% Pinot Noir. Delicious wine. If you served this at a wedding everyone would be very happy. Balanced with some power but mostly seductive.

Gruet 25th Anniversary Blanc de Blanc $25: Yeasty nose, richer than preceding wines. Very rich. Full flavors. Wish we knew how much juice was coming from West Coast.

2007 Gruet Grand Rosé $33: 90% Chardonnay, balance Pinot Noir. Estate juice. Nose and flavors impart immediately different character than other wines which is confirmed for each estate wine, as we learned. Our first impression is minty.

2010 Blanc de Blanc $17: Aged three years. 100% Chardonnay. Flavors like hard candy. Again, the terroir distinction of TRC grapes puts us in the popcorn machine

most patriotic city in US

most patriotic city in US

2005 Gilbert Gruet Gran Reserve $43: Whoa. Old World nose that is markedly different, a step up, from preceding wines. As tBoW struggles to capture this savor Mrs. tBoW pipes in with figs, prunes… Regina turns over all the cards and chimes in: “Champagne drinkers like this Old World nose and style. For me there is caramel, honeysuckle but mostly this is the smell of the desert after rain, dusty, like a sweet bleu cheese.” tBoW does not recall being in the desert after rain unless it was on a golf course in Palm Springs. He comes up with Maytag Blue, the softer domestic bleu cheese. He resists the urge to ask Regina how many Hillerman books she has read because her prose is right there with the iconic New Mexico writer and how he describes the wonder of the New Mexico high desert winds, smells and sights.

Following the 6 sparkler lineup we moved onto the four still wines which are all estate. We were most impressed with the Pinot Noirs. All the estate wines are small production; a few hundred cases available to Club Members.

2009 Gruet Pinot Noir $24: There it is; the distinctive Gruet estate nose. “That is wet desert sage.” We get rhubarb, sweet. We really like the airy weight of the wine and the balance. How do these age? Gruet_pinotsWEBThis one is 4.5 years old. It is soft, in harmony. Definitely New World without being jammy, a quality shown by many New World PNs.

2010 Gruet Pinot Noir $24: More ripe than the 2009 so we expect these will taste fine anytime within 6 years. Same character as 2009, just more ripe and showing more grip. We have tBoW tasting team members who search high and low for the ideal U20 Pinot Noir. Here it is… but you gotta come to ABQ.

Good job on the Pinot Noir wines! Gruet thinks the sparklers ARE the best price to quality ratio in any sparkler anywhere. Hard to argue.

“Rain hung over the northeast slopes of Black Mesa like a wall. The smell of it mixed with the smell of dust. It was heady perfume – the smell of good grazing, easy water, heavy crops of piñon nuts. The smell of good times, the smell of Sky Father blessing Mother Earth”. “Skinwalkers” by Tony Hillerman.

What’s it like to get caught in a rainstorm in the Four Corners? Look at the fury of the quick wash that made this road impassable. These folks are joking but their hearts are pounding.

Kicking It with Kokopelli

IndianCountryroadWEBKokepelli plays flute in the windy rock washes near the Four Corners. Mr. and Mrs. tBoW wonder if the powerful Navajo deity can make it rain wine, or will they wait another week before tasting the sacrament of their ancestors. On a road trip in the Navajo Nation where the state lines that separate Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico have no meaning; where the Navajo Nation is the largest among all other Indian nations; and the Navajo Nation is dry. Not that we would expect to find wines similar to those reviewed below; at least not until we hit Santa Fe, the outpost of cultures rooted in art, native traditions and Southwestern themed interior decorators.

Tony Hillerman’s Navajo crime fictions are a terrific contrivance for sinking one’s mind into the mysterious cultures of North America’s aboriginal peoples. There are 140,000 Navajos living on reservations in their home country northwest of Albuquerque, all throughout and within the high desert expanse known as the Four Corners. chassey_champWEBColossal landscapes dwarf everything human so it has to be magic. A drive through Monument Valley is medicine for eternity.

Wines reviewed somehow reminded us of the land and people of this region in which we have been auto-immersed.

NV Guy de Chassey Brut Carte Noire $50: Non-vintage blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay packs tight bubbles, high acid flavors without being astringent. The sparkler choice for greeting guests with bright eyes and a brisk airiness. We prefer Pinot-based champagne. Somewhat challenging like the first stretch of road that leads down into Monument Valley… but much friendlier! 12%

cowan_roseWEB2012 Cowan Cellars North Coast Rosé $18: Cowan makes natural wines sourced throughout the state. This wine is saignée from several premium Pinot Noir producers. Clever fella. For a higher alcohol wine this does not give off any alcohol burn.MerckButte-2WEB In fact, the wine also shows high acid and lean flavors, balanced and appealing. Pretty special like the Merrick Butte at sunset. U20 winner. 13.9%

garganelaWEB2012 Buglioni Il Disperato Bianco delle Venezie IGT $20: Italian natural wine made from a varietal – Garganega – that commonly goes into dessert style wines. From the Veneto, middle weight, recommended by

not any Neb

not any Neb

the somm at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica [ed. we would return] who sold it as a fleshier Vermentino. Worked! This is like seeing The Cube; each time you look, it is more distinctive [ed. it’s sitting on some kind of stand?]. A surprise pleasure. 12.5%

RPPgrumelloo-06WEB2006 Valtellina Superioire Grumello Riserva ‘Rocca de Piro,’ Ar.Pe.Pe. $45: I guess every Piemonte Nebbiolo needs at least 30 minutes to open. This beautiful ruby red wine with the raspberry nose was so muted when the cork was pulled we thought it was too delicate for the steak strips. Rare and unusual to see this wine. Much like it is rare and unusual and special to hear Kokopelli the Watersprinkler’s flute. This rare Grumello delivers Nebbiolo of the most luscious order. The definition of elegant. Very satisfying. If you love Old World Nebbiolo this is worth the dough; like Monument Valley is worth the 6 hour ride from Albuquerque. 13%

“His humpbacked figure supported by stick legs. Stick arms hold a straight line to his tiny round head, making him seem to be playing a clarinet. The flute might be pointed down or ahead. “A Thief of Time” by Tony Hillerman.

Tasting the Unknown Known & the Serious Unserious

in the Petaluma Wind Gap

in the Petaluma Wind Gap

Sometimes things look better from a distance; for example, “industry wine tastings.” We know wine biz doods who do these tastings all the time. Bloggers is different. We are wine industry detritus, effusion, effluence. We had to detail our credentials so we could attend this tasting held in the former Campanille now the newer Republiqué. No problem.

We have not been back to Campanile since we bumped into Liz Taylor and sat next to Hal Linden when this space was the über glam place to dine. liz-movei-starWEBOK, Linden was a popular and funny TV star but Liz… Hollywood royalty.

Return To Terroir bills themselves as “wine importer and wine educators” committed to natural wines and showcasing new young winemakers. But wine is a business and the unwritten goal is to entice brokers and dining room buyers to grab a case or more at deeply discounted wholesale prices. Hot trend plus cheap buys will motivate plenty of biz pros. That gave the tBoW tasting team plenty ’nuff to chew on. Here is what we found and liked.

Prices are suggested/estimated retail.

tBoW crony Jim Ruxin was finishing his early round. He quickly steered us to the international sparklers and white wines where we found some delightful tastes. When the afternoon’s sloshing and spitting and chatting was over, Ruxin was right. The whites showed best.

bullechampnvWEBNV Charles Dufour Bulle de Comptoir #2 Champagne Extra Brut $34: 55% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonay, 10% Pinot Blanc. This is the real stuff. No sulfur, native yeast only, organic cane sugar, 28 y.o. winemaker who looks like Jean Paul Belmondo and his wife is Brigitte Bardot’s granddaughter [ed. merde]. “Funky” say Kris B and Ruxin. Lean, bright acidity. As Sirene Virbila says “farmer fizz.” No. We did not see her although a couple non-survivors from the once star-studded LA Times food and wine critics pool were spotted. This wine was a great start that established the credibility of returntoterroir the wine business committed to sustainable, organic and biodynamic wines and the new wave of young natural winemakers.

riffaultquart09WEB2011 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blanc “Les Quarterons” $19: Yung Taster – “this wine has more energy.” tBoW “what is that?” Wine Pro – “a wine that has energy is a nervy wine.” And I cannot make it any more clear. Have you ever had a shiver run up your spine? Like reading these notes? 12%

riffaultakam09WEB2009 Sebastien Riffault Sancerre Blance “Akmenine” $24: YT says Alice Feiring describes the Riffault wines as becoming more like Sauvignon Blanc with age. He must have said something else as that does not make sense. The team liked both Sauvignon Blanc wines. Mr. Riffault is 26 y.o. He “refuses to sacrifice quality for principle.” [ed. the R2T notes actually wrote “principal” which tBoW readers will note in this case is not the correct form of the word . tBoW is available as final editor on tasting notes.] Yeh. I know. 12%

felinepicpoulWEB2012 Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet $unk: Ligurian white wines are usually harmless. This 100% Picpoul was acidic, fresh, bright. Served cold it showed all its charm. Price unknown but we will bet it goes well under $20. Ka-Ching. 12%

hauteselve12WEB2012 Chatueau Haut Selve Graves Blanc $17: Showing a light touch. White Bordeaux wines often get far less attention than the upper crust reds. Solid winemaking. Refreshing with some pedigree. 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Semillon and 10% Sauvignon Gris. Sauv Gris? The estate was wiped out by phylloxera in the 19th century, purchased and replanted in 1993. First new winery built in Graves in 20th century blah blah. We liked this wine and would probably buy it. 13%

ansonica12WEB2012 Ansonica Costa dell’Argentario $6: Steal of the tasting. This is beyond cheap. What a terrific wedding or graduation wine. 90% Ansonico and 10% Vermentino. We taste the Vermentino and like it. Top heavy. The flavors sit atop the fleshy body. High hat. More body than the Ligurian or a Verdejo. Appealing summer sipper [ed. more like slugger]

Tasting Interlude: YT (Yung Taster) and WP (Wine Pro) tried to force two Lambrusci on tBoW. Everyone has their own peccadillos. YT urged “This is seriously unserious wine.” [ed. doesn”t that make Lambrusco the Unknown Known of wine?]

One red impressed tBoW.

tire_pe_diemWEB2012 Chateau Tire Pe Diem $10: 100% Merlot certified 100% organic in 2011 after purchasing the run down winery in 1997. They are part of a winemaker group called “containssulfitesbutnottoomuch.” We would by this on the story alone BUT the wine is also lovely. Grown on limestone and clay with native yeasts in cement tanks. No oak. Yay. This wine has energy and is even nervy. U20 and easily my favorite red. Ka Ching. 13%

One new New World winery stood out for three reasons: limited selection, most interesting domestic white wine, and most unlikely wine site – Clear Lake (photo of Lakeville vineyard above).

weichi-semillon_frontWEB2012 Wei Chi Luchsinger Vineyard Semillon $21: I can explain the fuzzy label photo. Wei Chi refers to Before Completion in the I Ching. Winemaker Ross Hallett commented “no wine is ever completed, right?” This wine is made from 15 y.o. vines at 1300 foot elevation, near Clear Lake, California’s meth capitol. This will be his first release. It is strikingly fresh and impressive in that it is a 100% Semillon. Should have asked if he has tasted the Kalin oxidated version. I Ching? More like Ka Ching. 11.4%

A fun tasting that showed many very interesting wines which fulfilled the R2T advertising. Thank you Jean-B going to bat for a blogger.

Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Eva Marie Saint, Esalen, middle aged hippies… I’m alive!

Officially Summer: Playboy Jazz, Grub and Vin!!

jazz_beautiesWEBFather’s Day in LA means the Playboy Jazz Festival is kicking it at the Hollywood Bowl all weekend. What you get is a sun soaked day with food from Joan’s On Third and plenty of wine from both tBoW cellars [ed. including Dotorés “cabinet” once again bursting at the seams] and great live music, and LA’s most “diverse” collection of silly old folks testing the boundaries of self-control. Photos and wine reviews tell the tale. (more…)