Archive for May, 2011

What’s Wrong With Bordeaux? part 39

May 27, 2011

We all know Bordeaux has a lot of stupid problems, thanks to the English it is France’s largest and most fruitful wine region cranking out  70 million cases a year.  Catering mostly to douchebags in silk suits and small cocks, Bordeaux tries to outdo itself every decade by declaring about every other vintage “the vintage of the century!” It happened in 2000, it REALLY happened in 2005, 2009 and now REALLY, REALLY 2010!   Every new batch of juice invites critics to come and taste en primeur (tasting out of the barrel) before anything has been blended and put into bottle.  Then after a bunch of back scratching and masturbation all the First Growths (and Second Growths) get to declare how great their wine is and then proceed to ask ridiculous prices for their bottles (at least you get a cool wood case with the purchase of 12!).  Does this practice really indicate what the finished wine will represent?  Can these critics really get a sense of how the wine will age?

Eric Asimov of the New York Times just featured a tale of two exhatled critics disagreeing on the 2010 en primeur tasting of the famous Château Pavie of St.-Émilion.  Basically Robert Parker blew his wad on it and said something like “It is hedonistic and monumental! Two Gazillion points!”  John Gilman said something akin to “It sucks and I would not rinse shit out of my mouth with it!”.  Which critic is right?  Whose taste palette do you trust most?  How will you know if you should spend $200 bucks on a bottle of Château Pavie?  I think all of this arm chair wine rallying can be nonsense.  Don’t let these crusty old historic estates ruin your perception of France’s most famous wine region.  There are better ways to spend your hard earned inheritance.  Bordeaux has plenty of little guys making honest and true wine that won’t rape your bank account.

Here we have a classic right bank Bordeaux with rich, dark fruit and fat, structured round tannin.  The 2005 Château Villars of Fronsac.  The town of Fronsac is made up of mostly hillside vineyards on top of well draining soil with large amounts of clay-limestone on top of large amounts of chalk.  The Merlot grape is rightfully at home here producing tough guy and full bodied wines.  Château Villars is a 7th generation family estate growing pristine fruit and vinifying clean, delicious Bordeaux.  I had it with some Camembert and Gruyère cheeses on a Flour Garden baguette purchased from Belmont Butchery … and some roasted turnips tossed in brown butter, garlic, sage and thyme.  Perfect for a Wednesday evening.  There are many other great examples of thoughtful, hand made, traditional Bordeaux available to you right here in Richmond.  Leave the Latours and the Lafite-Rothschilds to the trophy hunters.

2005 Château Villars-Fronsac.

Imported by Wine Traditions

$24 at J.Emerson Fine Wine

The Wine at Enoteca Sogno

May 22, 2011

“Compromises are for relationships, not wine.” — Sir Robert Scott Caywood.   If you haven’t heard yet there is this crazy Italian wine and food place that just reopened on the Northside of town.  Quite the upgrade from their old digs on Broad St.  The space is gorgeous, complete with a granite wrap around bar, dark wood tables, a warm tin ceiling and walls adorned with photos of Italy.  The owners Gary and Amy were on the floor tending to every patron’s comfort level, this restaurant is their baby and they are seeing to it’s proper development.  The nights have been pretty packed so far so reservations are encouraged.

The food offerings are wine friendly fare made up mostly of pasta dishes reflecting a tour of Italy’s regional food cultures.  A handful of simple appetizers and salads are meant to share.  The menu is supplemented by  daily specials.

The real reason to hit Enoteca Sogno is the wine list.  Nowhere else in Richmond will you find all Italian selections at ridiculously tiny markups.  The list grows each day as the restaurant gets its feet going.  Right now the reds outnumber the whites significantly but that is sure to change.  Verdicchio from Garofoli is solid, and at $20 you can order a second bottle.  Vietti  is famous for their Roero Arneis and Argiolas produces a zippy, herby Vermentino, perfect to wash down a whole Branzino.  The owners are big fans of the rich and dramatic white wines of Friuli and Alto-Adige so expect to see more bottles represented down the road.   The red wines contain mostly selections from Piedmont and Tuscany and a few from Campania.  Paitin’s “Ca Veja” is possibly the most mouth drying wine on the list and at $34 you can afford to punish yourself.  Azelia is a more modern producer of oak infused Barbera for immediate satisfaction.  Domenico Clerico’s “Trevigne” is sappy and sexy.  Felsina and Isole e Olena are two of my favorite estates in Chianti making structured and bright fruit beauties.

Paulo Bea for $48?  G.D. Vajra Freisa for $58?  04 Cepparello for $70?  This place must be crazy, these wines retail for almost the same amount!2001 G.D. Vajra “Bricco delle Viole” and 1999 Sori Paitin Barbaresco for $85 and 1995 Paitin for $90.  You can drink outstanding, life changing and mature wine for under 100 bucks.  Try finding any of these wines at a wine shop at comparable prices.  Brovia and Bruno Giacosa will make you cry into your glass.A few sparklers were highlighted by “Erbaluce di Caluso” from Orsolani.  Erbaluce is the grape that grows in one spot in Piedmont.  Orsolani is perhaps the only producer of it that you can find in the States.  This 2004 vintage bubbly wine is definitely its own thing, different from Champagne, different from Prosecco.  It is both steely and dewey with a fine creamy mousse.Also not listed was the 2010 Proprieta Sperino Rosa del Rosa rosato.  Made from Nebbiolo and tasting of roses, just in time for summer.

One other great thing about Enoteca Sogno’s new space is their upgrade in stemware.  All Riedel all the time.  The balance and grace of these glasses make wine so much more enjoyable.  They also offer Sori Paitin Barbaresco by the glass for $12.The new space at the end of the night after the rush.The Northside has a real neighborhood gem.  Do yourself a favor, get over to Enoteca Sogno now and drink something different.
Be sure to pet the street cats.

Enoteca Sogno
804.355.VINO (8466)
1223 Bellevue Avenue
Richmond, VA 23227

BYOB Coming Soon!

May 17, 2011

Attention wine lists of the city, soon you will have to be re-thinked!  There are so many good restaurants in our lovely city that serve thoughtful, refined cuisine.  Unfortunately, many of these restaurants offer frustrating, pitiful wine lists (Lemaire, Aziza’s, Mama Zu, you are being called out!).  Senate Bill 1292 takes effect July 1 and will allow any ABC-licensed restaurant to permit customers to bring a bottle of wine to dinner.  Restaurants will be able to charge a corkage fee up to $75 (bring out those old Burgs!).  Restaurants will not be required to participate if they do not wish, those who opt-out might do so for fear of losing money on the wines they carry.  If an eating establishment is worried about losing money to the Bring Your Own crowd then they should take a close look at the plonk on their lists: if they serve wines that are as thoughtful as their dishes, people might not need to bring bottles purchased elsewhere. Maybe we will see better options as a result of this bill.  My hope is that patrons will speak up about their desire for wine list change and bring about a wine renaissance in Richmond.

Sulfites Will Steal Your Children In the Middle of the Night-BE AFRAID!

May 10, 2011

Sulfites are not dangerous or scary, this is still a myth in the wine world.  Sulfites  (sulphur dioxide, SO2) are natures antioxidant and are naturally produced when yeasts ferment.  All bread has them, grapes have them, dried fruits have them, anytime you cut into an apple you find them, even your own stomach produces them when it breaks down food.  Anything that rots produces them.  Those little juice boxes that kids drink have them as well.  

The Romans and the Greeks used to burn sulphur candles inside their empty wine vessels to cleanse and sterilize them.  This helped to keep the newly vinted wines fresh and stable.  Winemakers these days, in addition to naturally occurring sulfite compounds, use sulphur dioxide usually in gas form to prevent microbial growth so the wine will last longer and not just turn to vinegar.  It can be applied to just picked grapes so they don’t prematurely rot.  During the crush faze it can be used to keep ambient yeasts from burning off before commercial yeasts are thrown in.  They can be added to stop the fermentation process or to avoid malolactic fermentation. It is also used during bottling to help preserve the juice. If a winery is spotless and germ free and the resulting wines are consumed young the extra addition of sulfites are not completely necessary.

Sulfites do not cause headaches.  If you are severely asthmatic and have a severe allergic reaction to a sulphur dose 100 times more than what you find in wine then you will develop respiratory distress.  This affects less than 1 percent of the population. Headaches are most likely caused by dirty equipment used in the manufacturing of mass-produced wines, or perhaps over consumption. Have food and water with wine, this will help with the headaches, plus you will enjoy it more.

So go ahead and ignore the Reagan era “contains sulfites” phrase that appears on your wine label.  You can’t avoid the sulfites, the sulfites will eventually get you.