Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Great Lines in Wine, Terry Thiese Edition

The idiosyncratic and garrulous Terry Thiese is one of my favorite wine writers. His latest publication details his trip to Germany in 2008, the wines he tasted, and the characters that made them. This gem appears on page 93, in a side bar on Helmut Donnhoff's vineyards:

In essence the Brucke is a minerally wine; it shows a more masculine profile, it's more fibrous and nutty than many other Nahe wines, but just at the moment you think you're tasting everything in it, it comes at you with even more nuances, yet another facet of flavor. If new world-oaky-creamslut wines are like basic addition and subtraction, these wines are like integral calculus--except that any ragamuffin palate (even mine!) can grok them.

I like this quote for three reasons:
1. I love the phrase 'new world-oaky-creamslut wines.
2. He draws a parallel between mathematics and wine.
3. He uses the word 'grok', coined by the American science fiction author Robert Heinlein.

Summer Bartending

Pete Wells in the New York Times writes a quick guide to summer bartending, with an emphasis on quality ingredients and how they're used to make truly refreshing drinks. As someone who rarely drinks mixed drinks (mostly because I dislike the bastardized versions that have become prevalent thanks in great part to syrupy high-frutose corn syrup additives in cola and tonic) I'm excited to try some of these at home, particularly the Pimm's Saigon.

As I noted previously, I rarely drink mixed drinks; when I do, it's usually at places like Cherry Street Wine Cellar & Bistro, Sycamore Restaurant, or Teller's. Where do you go for properly made drinks?

On a slightly tangential note, I'll be attending a blind beer tasting at Sycamore Restaurant this Sunday at 3pm (June 28th); the theme is stouts. More information on the tasting, hosted by Columbia Beer Enthusiasts, can be found here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reflections: Columbia Second Chance Fundraiser with Kysela

Our fundraiser for Columbia Second Chance Animal Shelter last Friday, co-hosted by Perlow-Stevens Gallery, Sycamore Restaurant, and the importer Kysela, went really well. 45 wines were presented, and though I don't know yet how much money was raised for the shelter, my early instinct was that it was very successful. Mark Grundy, who distributes Kysela in Missouri though Golden Barrel, intends to make this a yearly event for Second Chance. Much thanks to Guillaume Portalet of Kysela, who flew out from Washington DC to represent Kysela's portfolio.

A quick note about the wines. I didn't taste everything at the tasting (some of the wines I'd tasted before), but there were some wines that stuck out as particularly fantastic. Specifically:

2007 Guillemot-Michel Macon Villages ($31): For a village-level wine from Macon, this was fantastic and easily my favorite wine of the tasting. The wine is produced biodynamically and a wonderful example of a Macon: texturally sound, with vibrant undercurrents of fruit and mineral instead of explosive flavor. For people who've been disappointed with their initial experiences with white Burgundy, this chardonnay is a stellar introduction, and the price ($31) is very reasonable for wine of this quality. (buy the wine here).

2006 Alain Jaume, Clos de Sixte, Lirac Rouge ($25 ): The Clos de Sixte property in Lirac is roughly 22 miles from the Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation; the wine itself is a typical GSM blend (grenache, syrah, mouvedre). There were other good red wines on the French table, including a good Lirac from Chateau de Segries, but this effort stood out. It was yummy, fruit forward without being brash, and seamlessly integrated with soft, yet dense tannin. (Buy the wine here).

NonVintage Rubuli Prosecco ($22)
: This Italian bubbly was very good, with frothy mousse and vibrant fruit and hints of spice; this bottling was a crowd pleaser. I personally keep a bottle or two of prosecco at my house for guests; it is a versatile companion to foods or people of almost all genres. (Buy this wine here).

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wine Notes: 2007 Rhones

The wines from the 2007 southern Rhone vintage are in the process of arriving in the United States. For both noteworthy values and dynamite quality this vintage is without peer in this wine market. The vintage was given a 98 point rating by the prominent wine critic Robert Parker, indicating a consensus that the 2007 growing season was as close to perfect as it gets, with a long, warm growing season without hail or frosts; the harsh mistral winds coming from the north were not too harsh and came just in time to prevent rot and mildew from attacking the vineyards. The harvest was long and leisurely during the warm yet dry weather that persisted during September to mid-October, producing perfectly right fruit that resulted in ripe, intensely flavored wines with soft tannins, brisk acidity, and higher than normal alcohol levels.

Given that the Rhone Valley is still primarily an agricultural region, labor costs and land costs remain low. I spoke to Bill Kniep, president of Pinnacle Imports, who reported that an entirely different ethos pervades winemaking in the region with producers who don't expect to receive hugely inflated prices for their wines; entry-level Cotes du Rhone can often be had for under $20 retail in America. One can expect that white wines often are composed of the aromatic viognier, along with the minerality and acidity of roussane and marsanne; red wines are often blends of syrah, mouvedre, and grenache.

We've to date sampled many of these wines and find an enormous range of stylistic differences as fruit from around the region managed to attain particularly focused expressions of the soils they came from. This is a vintage to enjoy immediately though rewarding for the individual with the ability (and the patience!) to lay them down for a couple of years or more.