Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday at the Shop

I'll have notes from last night's Banfi South American tasting up by tomorrow; but I do want to note that we had a great turnout and a lot of good wines. My personal thought was that the more I taste these wines, the more I think of Argentina as place that produces wines that are similar to wines from California that exhibit that lush, fruit-driven style and Chile as a place where the wines mimic French Bordeaux. And the wines are serious wines; since the southern half of South America is relatively dry and isolated, it is rare that pests and diseases pose serious threats to vineyards and winemaking. The result is that no one who makes wines in Argentina or Chile has ever been faced with the incentive to use many chemicals and pesticides in the winemaking process, so it's relatively easy for a winery to make wine that is functionally organic or biodynamic.

It's Saturday night at the shop; Kristen is bartending tonight and the ping-pong table is open to challengers at 7pm. Come on by!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poetry Night with Rich Smith

Tonight we're hosting a poetry reading hosted by Rich Smith, a student here at the University and a friend. As you might guess, there are a bunch of poets here, drinking (because, as we all know, that's what poets are invariably best at doing) and reading their work. Along with Rich, the other poets reading tonight are Liz Langemak, Jessica Garratt, are Sarah Barber. This hopefully will be a semi-frequent thing, so check our webpage or sign up for our email address for updates.

I'll note that this space is so perfect for small gatherings like this. On occasion we have local musicians like Anna and the X's or Satin and Chenille perform, and despite the copious quantities of glassware and wine around, things invariably go smoothly. The acoustics are excellent; the 5,000 odd bottles of wine on the walls tend to break up sound waves and eliminate awkward feedback.

I'll have pictures from the various events and tastings we've had recently up in the near future.

Wednesday Night Wine Tasting Group

I've been meaning to post about one of the Wednesday night groups, which have been going fairly well. We have certainly had an interesting group of characters at each session, but more about that later. First, a list of the wines. Note that I have listed retail prices where available; some of these wines are from private collections and not available in Missouri.

We opened a 2006 Chateau Grand Destieu (Grand Cru, St. Emilion, Bordeaux, $47), a 2007 Agua Luca Chardonnay ($33) from Mendoza, Argentina, and a 2005 Verget Pouilly-Fuisse 'Terroirs de Vergeson' (a chardonnay from Burgundy, France, on sale for $18). We also had a chocolate flavored dessert wine, Desiree, from Rosenblum Cellars in California and the 2003 St. Cosme Cote-du-Rhone Blanc ($23).

Other people brought or opened the following:
2005 Amancaya Malbec/Cabernet from Mendoza, Argentina, $20
2005 Kaesler 'The Fave' Old Vine Grenache from Barossa, Australia, $45
2006 Casa Nuestre Tinto de St. Helena from Napa (9 grape blend)
1987 Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 Buehler Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, $25
2007 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma, $23. This wine was #10 on Wine Spectator's top 100 for 2008.
2006 Domaine Coteau Pinot Noir, Oregon, $25
2004 Carol Shelton Monga Zinfandel, California, $25

I typically don't note the names of the people who brought the wines, but I did want to make at least two. Corey Bomgaars, head winemaker at Les Bourgeois, brought a 2007 Touriga from White Hall Vineyards in Monticello, and Jim Logan, a marketing professor, brought a 2003 Chambourcin from Harpersfield Vineyards in Ohio, (Jim owns a portion of the winery).

I hope I didn't leave anything out, but it seems like the lineup was pretty good. I would like to see more people come to these events; hopefully letting people know what they can expect will be part of that.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two Interesting Blogs

I wanted to note two local foodie blogs that I've found that I thought were worth reading.

First, Scott Rowson of Show-Me Eats has been writing his foodie blog for quite a while. He reviews us here. He also has a column in the food section of the Tribune here, and is possibly the best source for restaurant/foodie reviews on the Columbia scene.

Second, some old college friends of mine have started a blog called Columbia Wingmen. Their noble goal is to review every variation of chicken wings served at restaurants in Columbia. They should be receiving some coverage in the Columbia Tribune within a couple of weeks, so look out for that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter

A friend of mine, Jason Rosenbaum, is on Twitter. I highly recommend following him; Jason was the former political writer for the Columbia Daily Tribune and now works for the Missouri Lawyers Weekly. The reason I'm noting this on the blog is because Jason often sends updates from live high profile events, including Governor Jay Nixon's State of the State speech tonight. I, along with many other Missourians, are anxious about how the FY2010 budget will look like. A change in funding for the University here could be potentially devastating for Columbia (and Top Ten Wines).

More details from the St. Louis Business Journal can be found here.

Edit 1/29/09: Jason has a new blog, Capital Calling. I highly recommend it as well.

Last Friday's Tasting and other interesting stuff

What I'm up to lately:

1. Our tasting on Friday was excellent. Here are the wines with some comments:
Regaleali "IGT Sicilia" Bianco 2007---Good entry level Sicilian white blend.
Principessa Gavia "DOCG" Gavi (Cortese) 2007 -- this is the 3rd vintage of this wine that I've had; I really do like the texture of this wine. Cortese di Gavi (the grape) isn't often seen but the wines make good apertifs.
Di Majo Norante "IGT Terre degli Osci" Sangiovese 2006 --- Another good Italian, this time from the red Sangiovese grape, which is the primary grape in Chianti.
Pio Cesare "DOC" Barbara d'Alba 2006 --- the grape Barbera produces simple, elegant wines that are excellent with light dishes and the meat-based cuisine of Piedmont. They are rarely expensive, and have substantially gained in quality over the last 20 years.
Masi "DOC" Bonacosta Valpolicella Classico 2007 $17 -- Masi is the first producer that I know of to pioneer the Amarone method of production. This wine, a typical Valpolicella blend of Corvina, Rondinello, and Molinara, had a dried cherry/dried fruit aspect with a nice hint of smoke and moderately forward fruit.
Castello di Corbara "DOC" Lago di Corbara 2003 $15 --- This wine is from Umbria, an agricultural province in Central Italy. I found this wine to be a solid value.
Villa Antinori "IGT" Toscana Red 2004 $22 -- From the famed Antinori winery in Tuscany, this Tuscan red has a nice loamy texture and bright acidity.
Tormaresca "IGT Salento" Neprica 2005 $15 --- Another southern Italian wine, this one a red and composed of the familiar cabernet and merlot with 40% Negroamaro. I note that I often find a barky, earthy quality in these wines, along with lots of dark fruit. I was quite impressed with this wine in 2008 when I first tasted it and thought it was a good value.
Layer Cake "IGT Puglia" Primitivo 2006 $15 --- Primitivo is the Italian version of Zinfandel (apparently they're clones, so they're genetically identical). This wine was very Zin-like--lots of blackberry fruit, rich and supple with hints of baking spice.
Montevina "Terra d'Oro-Amador" Zinfandel 2006 $16 --- I really was intrigued by this zinfandel, which was on the herbal, earthy side for zinfandel. I particularly noted a sage flavor/texture to this wine.

2. Some of the 2006 Bordeaux vintage reviewed by Alder Yarrow at Vinography.

3. We should be getting in some Rhone wines later this year; Parker rates the vintage in the Southern Rhone for 2007 a 98 point vintage. If you have any thoughts or are curious about what might be available, leave a comment or send an email. Some producers we have access to: Rayas, Feraud Brunel, Solitude, Clos Des Papes, P Usseglio, Bonneau, Fortia, Vatican, Mas de Boislauzon, Bosquet des Papes, Vieux Donjon, and many more. From the North, Chave, Burgaud, Gaillard, Jamet, Colombo.

4. I was recently introduced to Zack Luye of Bottles, Blends, and Brews; Zack is here in Columbia for MU's Journalism program. We look forward to seeing Zack around the shop at various tastings and I'll add that if you have questions about tea, Zack knows quite a bit. You might also recognize Zack from a couple episodes of WineLibraryTV with Gary Vaynerchuk.

5. We now have a Viddler account (TopTenWines) for creating and posting video. As soon as I get a webcam set up around the shop, we'll be able to add interactive video content to the blog and the website, so that's exciting.

6. Good article in the New York Times on the most excellent qualities of berries. I might write a short post later on wines made from non-grape fruit, though I've only had a few, including: Adam Puchta's Jazz Berry, the Olallieberry wine from Chaucer Cellars, and Chaucer's Raspberry Mead. None have struck me as exceptional, though they were all good.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hannah's Last Day and Other News

1. The Governator wants to raise the excise tax on Californian wine from 4 cents per gallon to 29 cents per bottle. If that happens, we're going to be buying a lot more Argentinian and Spanish wine! Link here.

2. We are receiving a case or two of the 2004 de Trafford Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch, South Africa. This wine lately received the top review from an New York Times tasting panel featuring Eric Asimov, one of the best wine writers in the country.

My experience with South African wines has been mixed. A lot of the wines have a burnt rubber or burnt bacon quality to them, especially wines made from the hybrid grape Pinotage (a cross between Cinsaut and Pinot Noir) that is the most distinctive red grape of the region. But there can be some stars; I've never been disappointed by the wines I've tried from de Trafford, and I've found some excellent cabernet franc from Wildekrans, and the wines from Ken Forrester remain excellent, particularly his chenin blanc.

3. Our twitter account seems to be getting more attention. We've lately been friended by Chateau Haut-Brion, the first growth Bordeaux estate, Cornerstone Cellars in Napa, and quite a few others.

4. Hannah's last night is tonight! Come by the shope; we'll be composing poems and drinking wine and sending her off to New York City in style!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Regional Economic News

Good news for Top Ten Wines and other local Columbia businesses: Jay Nixon agreed today to seek budget cuts that don't affect colleges and universities in Missouri. The stipulation for higher education is a concurrent tuition freeze with the aim of retaining or boosting current enrollment.

The University is the largest employer in Columbia and is the focal point for much of the economic development around the region. Substantial business development happens as a result of not only the University's scientific research facilities (their nanotech program to pharmaceutical development comes readily to mind) but also through the myriad programs, competitions, and resources that draw people to Columbia from all over the world. Significant budget cuts would certainly have made a massive dent in the local economy; a conservative guess of mine would be that Columbia would start looking a lot like Cape Girardeau.

From the Post-Dispatch, the Columbia Tribune, and the Columbia Missourian. Best of all, from Gary Forsee.

MU News Bureau staffwriter Kelsey Jackson was consulted for this post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We have a Flickr account! And Twitter! Etc

Not much here yet, but you can find us at TopTenWines on Flickr or on Twitter. Here is our facebook page.

2008 Maipe Malbec

Source Reviewer Rating Maturity Current (Release) Cost
Wine Advocate # 180
Dec 2008 Jay Miller 90 Drink: 2008 - 2012 $13 (13)
The 2008 Malbec is a glass-coating purple color with a striking perfume of violets, black cherry, and black raspberry. Exhibiting surprising complexity for its price category, the wine has gobs of fruit, savory flavors, and excellent depth and length. It is an outstanding value for drinking over the next 3-4 years.

Alberto Antonini (think Altos Las Hormigas) is a consultant at Maipe which in and of itself is an indicator that the winery is focused on quality.

Importer: Kysela Pere & Fils, Winchester, VA; tel. (877) 492-7917; fax (540) 722-9258;

Monday, January 19, 2009

Assorted Links and Readings

1. Richad Woodward on 'en primeur' (futures) and the 2008 Bordeaux vintage in Decanter. It seems sensible to me that if Bordeux produces a good 2008 vintage that some chateaus that currently offer their wines on futures will end the practice: people don't want to spend that kind of money on wine they haven't tasted yet.

2. Related to #1: Update on regulatory change and a report on the economics of the latest French vintage. Quick nod: Thomas Duroux of 3rd growth Bordeaux estate Chateau Palmer cited.

3. Michiko Katukani on Barack Obama's literary life in the NYT. All political considerations aside, I am ecstatic that the President-Elect is an intellectual with a profound understanding of the power of language. As a former high school and college policy debater I have long bemoaned the shortcomings in our education system and I hope Obama's example (like Lincoln before him) inspires many young people to become articulate and determined advocates. Perhaps we could rename Ted Turner debate...

4. The Brits are now the world's largest importers of wine by volume. I'm impressed, but wait for the Chinese market.

5. We just received 20 cases of Maipe Malbec 2008. Paul was there last year and took pictures which will be up on the Facebook page soon; Parker just gave the 2008 Malbec 90 points; we'll be retailing it for $13 a bottle. You really should see this wine sometime; it's incredibly inky and stains the glass a vibrant purple.

Monday, January 12, 2009

2005 Caymus Special Selection

This post is just to provide the Parker review for the 2005 Caymus Special Selection, since accessing the eRobertParker website requires a subscription.

Wine Advocate # 168
Dec 2006 Robert Parker (92-94) Drink: 2006 - 2021 $127-$370
A barrel sample of the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection offers terrific fruit intensity and purity, a more laid-back style, a meaty, chewy texture, and impressive opulence as well as length. It should evolve for 10-15 years.

Not yet released.

Mark Grundy at Perlow-Stevens Gallery

I attended a reception at the Perlow-Stevens Gallery on Broadway this past Saturday. New material was displayed by a number of notable regional artists; I would particularly point people towards the work of Joel Sager, who I've known for a couple of years. I find his work particularly moody and he does excellent portraits, among other things.

I also wanted to drop a note about another artist whose work was on display that night. Mark Grundy is a painter of some accomplishment and does good work with water-based paints. He also happens to represent Golden Barrel, a wine distributor, throughout Mid-Missouri, and we are proud to support many of the wines he brings to Columbia.

A final note: I don't claim to be very able to discuss art intelligently, so I hope I haven't misrepresented anyone's work; if I have, please leave me a comment.

Assorted Links and Readings

1. Alder Yarrow at Vinography rants about the travesty of wine as a status symbol and begs us to not be snobs.

2. PhD Economist Michael Veseth on water usage and wine production. It will be interesting to see how winemakers adapt to the realities of global water demandas it becomes a scarcer commodity.

3. Chateau Palmer on Twitter. Yes, the third growth Bordeaux estate does in fact have a twitter account. Kudos.

4. Not wine related, but interesting: "Gourmand syndrome": eating passion associated with right anterior lesions." Very interesting, though I'm far too ignorant on the subject to comment intelligently. Hat Tip: Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wednesday Night

I thought I'd posted earlier about the tasting group Wednesday night, but unfortunately that post seems to have been accidentally deleted.

Fortunately, I still remember most of what I'd wanted to write about. The night was a qualified success; had about 20 people show up, most of whom brought something. Everything on the table was interesting in some fashion, though I was hoping for a little more variety (which should happen with more people joining the group).

For reference, our purpose is to be able to taste some of the truly interesting wines around the world though we don't want people to think interesting has to be expensive (though it certainly can be).

In any case, the 1975 Mouton-Rothschild, while not corked, was over the hill, with rigidly aggressive tannins and little to no fruit. It certainly smelled great, but I had to agree that we'd missed the window of opportunity to drink that wine, which Parker says was probably about 9 years ago. But the rest of the wines were excellent: there was a 2004 Amon-Ra Shiraz from Barossa superstar winemaker Ben Glaetzer, a couple bottles from Domaine du Caillou, specifically their 2007 Cotes-du-Rhone and their 2005 les Quartz Chateauneuf-du-Pape bottling, which I thought was particularly interesting. I also liked a 2003 riesling auslese that was presented, though I forget the name of the producer.

I'm going to be trying this again this next Wednesday; hope you can make it. I might also have a winemaker or viticulturalist from the University attending, so that might be really cool.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Back at the Shop

Pruning grapevines isn't terribly difficult. I was at the Hermannhof vineyards pruning Norton, which basically involved removing all branches that were more than a year old and pruning new shoots to strategically manage leaf growth and control sunlight distribution during the growing season.

Like I said, the pruning is the easy part. None of the vines seemed to be over a couple of years old, so there wasn't anything too difficult to cut away. The awful part, as you might imagine, was the bitter cold in the morning.

But it was fun, and I'll be out there again Friday. The weather promises to cooperate, with temperatures around 55 fahrenheit.

The point of this post, I guess, is twofold. First, I'm getting a sense of how labor intensive it is to make even decent wine from decent grape varietals. Second, there are some exciting things happening in terms of viticulture and winemaking in the Midwest.

I can't honestly claim I've had a truly great or profound wine from the Midwest, but there are some good wines produced locally. I personally think it's a shame that more restaurateurs don't think to put locally produced wines in their venues; I think that everyone would gain if that began happening. This is Columbia, Missouri, after all, and it would be nice to see more aspects of the community and the region being represented in the food and drink we present to visitors.

Plans for the Day

Am heading out here shortly to prune Norton at Hermanhof with Eli Bergmeier, who is with the Institute of Continental Climate, Viticulture, and Enology (ICCVE) at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

It's somewhat exciting to me that we're going out here; previously my experience with wine has been mostly an experiential thing, ie, drinking it. My experiences with Eli and the ICCVE over the past few months have really been fun and extremely educational, though I will also note that vineyard work is hard (and at this time of the year, cold).

Will be posting later about the interesting parts of this trip. Back in Columbia at around 5 this evening for the first tasting group at Top Ten.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wine Tasting Group

We're starting a tasting group on Wednesdays. The idea is that there's a lot of wine around that is interesting, eclectic, and/or high end that most of us don't get to try; why not get a bunch of people together and share?

So we are asking people who want in to each session to contribute a bottle (either buy one at the shop or bring one from your collection) and we'll be opening something worth trying ourselves.

The first session is actually tonight! Sorry for the late notice on the blog, but maintaining this part of the site has slipped my mind in the bustle of getting the inventory loaded to our website.

We are opening a 1975 Mouton-Rothschild;. Some local distributors will be there as well: Mark Grundy from Golden Barrel, Jon Dickinson from A. Bommarito Wines, and Chuck Johnson from Glazer's Midwest. Bottles will be cracked at around 7pm. See you there!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Website is up!

Our website is up! It has a ping pong game scheduler, links to our blog, and some of our retail inventory (which should be fully up within the day. Please visit us at