Archive for November, 2011

Hautes-Côtes de Bargain

November 22, 2011

I forget what guy said it, I forget if he remembered what restaurant he ate at, I forget if he remembered the girl he was with, but I do remember he drank Montrachet.  I have never drunk any Montrachet, I doubt I ever will, the little that is out there is really expensive.  Much like a lot of Burgundy, it is pricey, Burgundy is maddening and Burgundy happens to be one of the most fascinating wine regions in the whole wine world.

2000 years ago some monks along with some grape growers began playing around in some dirt and noticed subtle differences in how soil types and subtle climate conditions affected grape growing.  These differences varied from village to village, from vineyard to vineyard, even varied within vineyards themselves.  These mapped out areas lead to thousands of different sites, each one expressing a unique personality upon two noble Burgundian grape varieties that were planted there.  The immense mapping of vineyards  made it necessary for a complicated labeling system.  It is easy for a wine drinker to be confused when buying Burgundy, all the labels kind of look the same and you need a geography lesson to know what you’re getting.

Burgundy can be the most rewarding and disappointing wine you will ever come across.  You have to consider the place it was grown, who grew it, who bottled it, what vintage?  Some Burgundy takes years to mature before it becomes magical, some Burgundy is meant to be drunk young.   Most Burgundy is expensive and some of it is stupid, outrageously expensive!  One thing all Burgundies have in common is it fragile.  It does not like to travel.  It needs to be kept in constant cool storage to keep its delicate bouquet.

It is no wonder many Richmond restaurants stay away from the special, vast, yet complicated wines of Burgundy and tend to offer only the simplified, mass produced, easy to recognize brands.

Not all Burgundy wines are expensive.  There are many  honest, hand made examples to be found that are grown by people intent on carrying on tradition and expressing a true sense of place.  It can still be complicated though.

Domaine Billard based in la Rochepot produces wine from 12.5 hectares of vineyards located in Saint Aubin, Saint Romain, Auxey Duresses and Beaune.  Their biggest production comes from sites within the Hautes-Côtes, a hilly plateau above the Côte de Beaune.  ‘Haute’ means high.

The Green areas map out the Hautes-Côtes de Beaune.  Billard has a lot of prestigious area neighbors.  That red area parallel to Saint Aubin is the Montrachet vineyard.

Jérôme Billard is the fifth generation to run the Domaine. When he took over he began the conversion to organic farming and began estate bottling the entire production.  Before he inherited the place his father sold all the grapes to the local wine cooperative.

2009 Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Rouge.  Jérôme still uses his feet to lightly press this low yield Pinot Noir.  The wine is matured for ten months in barrel and is completely unpretentious and pure.  Great for everyday drinking alongside pigeon stew or a delicately seasoned poached chicken.  And it is only $17!

2009 Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Blanc “La Justice”.  Named after a 3 hectare vineyard made up of chalk heavy soils this barrel fermented Chardonnay matures on its lees (dead yeast cells) for 10 months before bottling giving it a rich and robust, creamy body.  Drink this elegant and ballsy wine with shellfish, truite au bleu or Reblochon and Epoisses cheeses.  And it is only $17.

I’m not suggesting this wine is a stand in for Montrachet or even a ghetto ass Puligny.  It is its own thing and a great representation of how diverse Burgundy is and hopefully it will make you curious to what all those different town names and vineyard sites can deliver.

imported by Wine Traditions.

Wines That Rock! Rock Out With Your Cork Out!

November 16, 2011

Another attempt at dumbing down wine to appeal to the non-wine drinker.

These are the official Wines of Rock ‘N Roll, a revolution years in the making, a unique and new challenge to blend some of the greatest rock bands of the world with some of the shitiest juice The Mendocino Wine Company has ever sourced.

Wines That Rock!

2009 Grateful Dead Red Blend

Feel free to experiment with this blend as you would experiment with finding some clique to identify and hang out with.

2008 Pink Floyd “The Dark Side of the Moon” Cabernet Sauvignon

What happens if you drink this deep, complex, chocolaty cab while watching “The Wizard of Oz”?

2009 Rolling Stones “Forty Licks” Merlot

The wine that won’t die.  Imagine Mick Jagger’s lips on your glass.

2010 Woodstock Chardonnay

Break away from the past with this ‘naked’ style Chardonnay, no oak, no make up, but plenty of acid.

2009 The Police “Synchronicity” Red Wine Blend

This wine promises to be playful, seductive, and haunting like the old Sting before he became all douchey and tantric sexy.

The holidays are coming up, keep these wines in mind for the man who has everything, including dumbed down taste.

A Salute to the Liter!

November 2, 2011

Did you know that there are a lot of big bottles of Riesling out there?  Big liter bottles! 1000 milliliters, that’s 250 more milliliters, meaning you get a whole extra serving of juice!  The best part, they cost about the same as a regular size 750 ml bottle!  Let’s hear it for quantity!

This isn’t jug wine, this is thoughtful and versatile wine from the most noble grape of them all, from one of the best wine producing areas in the world.

2010 Weingut Günther Steinmetz Riesling. $18.  Imported by Mosel Wine Merchants.

From the village of Brauneberg in the Middle Mosel (Mittemosel) Stefan Steinmetz grows and hand harvests this entry level Riesling from two steep vineyard sites, Mandelgraben and Sonnenlay.  The gray and blue slate rich soil produced a big and nervy wine from the  2010 growing season with more than usual high levels of acidity that stand against its powerful must weight.  Ripe and mineral, this exceptional delight will make any breaded and pan-fried meal all the much better.

2010 Weingut Klemens Weber Riesling Halbtrocken. $13. Imported by Potomac Selections.

The Pfalz region is the second largest wine region in Germany and one of the warmest.  The summers are long and hot with some vineyards reaching a near Mediterranean like climate.  The Haardt Mountains protect vines from frost in the winter.   Needless to say ripeness is not much of a problem here.  Though Riesling is the most planted grape you will also find a large amount of the easy to grow Müller-Thurgau.   Other varieties that thrive include Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) Scheurebe, Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Traminer.

Weingut Klemens Weber is located in the village of Burrweiler on the outskirts of the Palatinate Forest.  The combination of sunny weather and the well draining sand, stone and clay soil make the wines reliably fruity, fresh and harmonious. The nose is tropically herbal and a little grassy.  You might need more than a liter.  If you happen to be in the town of Burrweiler you can stay with the Weber family and rent one of their rooms for 50 € a night.  They might even give you some free wine.

2009 Weingut Darting Dürkheimer Nonnengarten Riesling Kabinett. $18. Imported by Michael Skurnik Wines.

Kurt Darting also located in the Pfalz, farms 17 hectares of vineyard area with some recently acquired Grand Cru sites. Though most known for his Rieslings he also produces Weissburgunder,  Rieslaner,  Scheurebe,  Portugieser, Muskateller ,Ortega, Spätburgunder
and even Chardonnay  (not all German wines are Riesling).  Total production is around 12,500 cases.  Low in alcohol, plump and piquant, this wine is meant for the long haul against salty and savory dishes.

These wines are meant for everyday drinking and are an easy way to introduce yourself to the wonderfully complicated world of German wines.  They are easily accessible, both in taste and on the wallet and they aren’t so weird and austere to scare you back to oaky Chardonnay.  What’s cooler than a liter of Riesling?