Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Wine and Temperature

April 10, 2012

It is starting to get warm here in Richmond.  What temperature is the glass of wine you are being served?  White wines should be served chilled, not cold (45-50 degrees). Red wines should be served cool, not room temperature (60-65 degrees).   Unfortunately some eating and drinking establishments in our lovely city still think red wines should be served room temperature; room temperature being whatever the hell temperature it happens to be that day (ever try to drink a Loire Valley red that is 80 degrees?).  Fine, delicate wines lose all sense of balance when not poured at the proper temperature, they can taste harsh and out of wack doing a disservice to your taste and your wallet.

The obvious solution is storing all red and white wines in one of those temperature and humidity controlled refrigeration cabinets…

Not always practical in our historically quaint and tiny eateries.  Another option is the even more expensive and cumbersome Enomatic wine dispenser system.

The easiest and most cost effective way to enjoy a correctly cooled red wine is to request an ice bucket for your bottle.  Ten minutes in one of these and your bottle of Bourgueil will be properly balanced and refreshing.  

 

The best thing a restaurant could do is to dedicate one of their Lowboy refrigerators for red wines.  Just set it on a not-so-cold setting.  They already do that for the whites and roses, they can make room for reds.  

Wouldn’t you rather be served a red wine that is too cold knowing that it will warm up a bit on your table then to be subjected to a hot wine that has been mistreated and disrespected?

 

Gourgonnier Has Come To Destroy Us All!!!!

March 19, 2012

Gourgonnier, is the Provençal translation of ゴジラ (I assume, I don’t fact check much) and we all know that ゴジラ is the Japanese name for Godzilla: King of Monsters!

 

 

Gourgonnier has made his way up the James River to blow his electric fire breath upon us, there is no fleeing, there are no good monsters around for protection, we can’t reason with a lizard god, we are totally fucked!

To celebrate our impending doom I think that it might be a good idea to drink the wine that was named for him…

 

 

2009 Les Baux de Provence, Mas de Gourgonnier. $14. Imported by Dionysos Imports.

How could such a beautiful wine from a beautiful land carry such a terrible and destructive name?  Mas de Gourgonnier is small estate located within the Chaîne des Alpilles, the small range of mountains that runs through Provence in southern France.  The fruit grown here benefits from Mediterranean sun, the famous dry Mistral winds, and a higher elevation cool climate.  The Cartier family that runs the domaine has practiced organic farming for over three decades using only natural compost and poop to enrich the soils.  Along with the usual hot weather grape suspects of the area (Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Mourvèdre) they also grow and produce olive oil!  Olive oil based cuisine and Provençal wines are a perfect partner.  This robustly savage and spicy red fruited wine will win the battle against a bowl of Beef Daube Provençal or a plate of dry goat cheese.  Drink this end-of-time wine while you can and you just might be allowed to ascend up into ゴジラ’s dark kingdom.

 

 

“The baroque philosophical sensibility of the Provençal cook is captured in a well-known story concerning an imaginary dish called olives Provençal. A green olive is stuffed into a thrush. The thrush is stuffed into a chicken which is stuffed into a goat that in turn is stuffed into a pig which is stuffed into a pony which is stuffed into a cow. The stuffed cow is roasted on a spit for a long time, nearly a day. When it is done, you discard the cow, pony, pig, goat, chicken, and thrush, remove the olive, and eat it. This is not a story about prolificacy; it is a story about the proper way to eat an olive.” from Clifford A. Wright.

 

Great Growth! BJ’s Now In Richmond!

February 28, 2012

Grosses Gewächs, the great growth-grand cru wines of Bassermann-Jordan have popped up in our city.  Now is everyones chance to drink something that represents the top tier of all German wines.

Grosses Gewächs, GG, are classified terroir driven wines from single vineyard sites that have historically produced exceptional fruit.  These sites need to be approved by members of the Verband Deutscher Qualitäts- und Prädikatsweingüter (V D P).

“The Association of German Quality and Prädikat Wine Estates”

The wine growers associated with this group must practice organic and sustainable farming, only use grapes associated with the area, must farm low yields, cannot chaptalize, and can only use natural wine making techniques.  They are all about the preservation and acknowledgement of Germany’s finest vineyard sites.  To be a member of this association growers have to be voted in.  Right now there are only about 200 members that have the right to label their wines with the V D P insignia.

There are over 10,000 wine producers in Germany, this does not mean V D P wines are the be all end all.  Many fantastic growers choose not to fool around with this association (look at wines from the Mosel!).  Still wines with the Grosses Gewächs-GG label will most likely give you an ass kicker of a Riesling!

2009 Bassermann-Jordan Jesuitengarten Riesling Grosses Gewächs.  $65 (gulp).  Imported by Magellan Wine Imports.

The Jesuitengarten vineyard has been a source for wine since the 18th century.  Once owned by the church, the 7 hectare site is now divided between several different estates.  The soil is made up of sandy clay with lime, sandy loam with limestone shingle and basalt.  The wine is full bodied, highly complex and elegant.  This is Bassermann-Jordan’s most prestigious offering and will reward those with the will to age it for a few decades.  Fans of Grand Cru Burgundy take note.

2009 Bassermann-Jordan Trocken QBA Riesling.  $20 (much better).  Imported by Magellan Wine Imports.

This basic, high-level wine is sourced from 20 different vineyards along the Rhein river valley.  Trocken means dry.  Tongue piercing acidity is balanced by apple and pear fruit, it is lively and fresh and will pair with anything.  Try it with a hot dog.

The labels of Bassermann-Jordan have a lot in common with the Virginia State flag…

Here is Attorney General and Defender of Freedom Ken Cuccinelli’s redesigned Virginia friendly label…

You Bet I’ll Have the $11 Bottle of Merlot!

February 20, 2012

Why not?  It is one of the most planted grapes in the world because it freakin rules!

2009 Domaine de la Patience Merlot Vin de Pays des Coteaux du Pont du Gard. $11.  Imported by Jenny & Francois Selections.

Forget Château Petrus and the rest of Pomerol, the real action is down near Costières de Nîmes where the Languedoc and the Côtes du Rhône meet.  Among rolling hills and olive trees, lavender fields and the Mediterranean sun sits Domaine de la Patience, an estate that is a reborn baby.  Re-established, replanted and modernized in 1994 by Christophe Aguilar whose grandfather before farmed the land and sold the grapes to the local coop, it took Christophe six years to bottle his own wines under the  Domain’s new name.

This dark, plummy Merlot falls under France’s Vin de Pays category which is basically elevated table wine that has a geographical context, in this case the area is Coteaux du Pont du Gard, a smaller area within Vin de Pays d’Oc (which covers all of the Languedoc and Roussillon). Vin de Pays wines are allowed to use a wide variety of locally approved varietals and require minimum alcohol and acidity levels along with a cap on permitted yields.  Does this mean a Merlot from Coteaux du Pont du Gard is better than Merlot from Anywhere France?  Not really but an Estate bottled wine (where the same guy grew and bottled the fruit ) might be. This Merlot comes from young 10 year old vines and after fermentation it sits in concrete vats for 3 short months retaining its freshness and stiff power.  It is full and rich and great with all sorts of cuisine, try it next to you grill.

The Pont du Gard!  Where the Romans used to pee.

Also this wine happens to be imported by Jenny & Francois Selections which specializes in organic, naturally made, honest wines.  Look at the back label, and look for others like it.  A search on their website and you will find that Jenny & Francois Selections comes to Virginia through Downey Selections.  If you see their name on the back of a wine label it probably means that it too will be a thoughtful, honest wine..

Are You Not Glad I Didn’t Title This “Orange You Glad You Don’t Have To Drink Rombauer?”?

February 13, 2012

The time has come to add a new category to our city’s wine lists.  Orange wines!  No these wines are not made from citrus fruits nor are they really a brand new concept.  Orange wines have origins from 5000 BC and are being rediscovered by fascinating and forward thinking wine growers who are forgoing fancy technology and instead making wine the old fashion way.

What are Orange wines? Back in the old days, white wines were made in a similar fashion as reds.  Basically white grapes were gathered, crushed and left to ferment and mature with all the bits of skin and seeds still in contact.  More color was extracted along with more alcohol and tannin creating natural, protective anti-oxidants.  This was the normal way of doing things in the cradle of wine civilization that is know as Georgia.  The Georgians utilized giant amphora earthenware vessels (known as Kvevri) which were filled with juice, skins and all and buried in the earth where cool temperatures were regulated and a slow fermentation would commence.

In the past decade or so winemakers from Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region started utilizing these old techniques to give their white wines more power and texture.   Making wines in this fashion with long skin contact results in extra stability from tannin and mannoproteins meaning wine growers don’t have to resort to adding extra chemical preservatives or sulfur dioxide.  The wines get turned inside out and become indestructible and can age magnificently.  Orange wines are generally fuller in flavor, have exotic aromas, sometimes a chalky dryness and are a wonderful addition to the dinner table.

2009 Radikon “Slatnik”.  $45. Imported by Louis/Dressner Selections.

From the Slovenian side of the Collio which is located on the north-eastern most Italian border comes this blend of Chardonnay (yes, really) and Tocai.  The hand harvested grapes are fermented with their native yeasts for fourteen days in old oak barrels and matured for eighteen months before being bottled.  The wine is complex, full and tastes of salty, dried peaches.  It is perfect alongside a carpaccio or a rich polenta.

2005 La Stoppa “Ageno” IGT Emilia. $35. Imported by Williams Corner Wine.

La Stoppa is a hundred some year old estate that lies on the ancient slopes of Val Trebbiola in the northern part of Emilia-Romagna.  This bottling of Ageno is a blend of pesticide free Malvasia di Candia, Trebbiano and a little bit of the obscure Ortrugo.  After a month long maceration on the skins half of the juice goes into stainless steel tanks and the other half goes to old wood barrels to rest for 1 year.  Another 2 years in bottle then the unfiltered and un-fined wine is released. Ageno is big, lush and spicy with tea like aromatics, some rough edges keeps it real interesting.  A real treat with pork chops.

Léon Barral Vin de France Blanc. $55. Imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.  

A little harder to find but worth the hunt.  This is technically a VDT (Vin de Table) wine, the lowest category in France for wine.  It means you can’t list the region from where it comes from on the label, you can’t give any indication of what kind of grapes are inside and you can’t list the vintage date.  We do know that the producer is Domaine  Léon Barral and their bio-dynamic estate in the Faugères appellation of the Languedoc grows some of the best wine ever.  The grapes are probably typical grapes of the sun drenched Mediterranean (Roussane, Viognier, Terret). What is exactly in it you will have to ask the wine grower Didier Barral.  Grapes are just ingredients anyway, the climate and soil can be more important.  The wine is fully ripe and graceful.  Refreshing and very intriguing.

These orange wines come from small production and are made with great care and are not cheap, but compared to similarly priced mass produced wines (like Rombauer Chardonnay) you get ten times the wine.  They will deliver a rewarding and unforgettable drinking experience.

Finding The Pretty From Puglia

January 24, 2012

Puglia, subtle rolling hills, fertile plains with lots of sunshine, pretty.  Puglia, surounded by The Ionian and Adriatic Seas, very pretty indeed.  Puglia gave us the calzone, the pretty pasta shape of orecchiette and the pretty looking tarantula.

What’s not so pretty about Puglia is its mass production of wine.  Tied with Sicily for bulk output of grape juice, Puglia has long supplied the rest of Italy (and the rest of the world) with cheap, forgettable table swill.  Wine from Puglia is frequently used to thicken up wines from other regions and is also a base ingredient for many vermouths produced in the northern city of Turin.  Commercial wines from Puglia can taste roasted and oxidized, dirty and alcoholic.

Grower-producer wines can be pretty though.  There are people that make distinct and balanced wines from grapes that they grow themselves  from vineyards passed down through generations.  Wines that are a thoughtful celebration of Puglia’s hotter than Africa climate.

 

Azienda Agricola Pasquale Petrera di Orfino Rosa is a pretty wine estate that produces pretty wines.

Big, rich, spicy and fragrant you would never believe that the pretty Fatalone wines have a sinister alcohol content…

2007 Azienda Agricola Pasquale Petrera “Fatalone” Gioia del Colle Primitivo.  $17. Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  A slick, high octane, dark fruit attack that is perfectly balanced by a refreshing dose of minerality.  Aged for 18 months before release.  Drink it with roasted meats, spicy pasta dishes and aged cheeses.

2009 Azienda Agricola Pasquale Petrera “Fatalone” I.G.T. Terres Primitivo.  $15. Imported by Williams Corner Wine.  From free run juice that is fermented in contact with the grape skins for only 30 hours, this wine is light and lively.  Almost rose in color but structured and spicy.  This is a perfect pizza wine.  Serve it slightly chilled.

 

Steak and Chénas?

January 12, 2012

Perfect wine for steak, refreshes the palate after every swig.  Elevates a beautiful ribeye the same way worcestershire sauce elevates rancid meat.

Not quite.  Yes, Chénas is one of ten Cru villages in the northern most part of the Beaujolais wine region, it is a tough wine and you can enjoy it anytime of the year.  The ten Cru’s sit on rolling schist and granite hillsides that capture a lot of sunshine ensuring an earlier and riper harvest than the flatter, clay lands of the south.

Chénas is the smallest growing area that sits atop the more famous Moulin-à-Vent with some of the vineyards overlapping each other.  The permitted wine yields in Chénas are 48 hectoliters per hectare (1.7 tons to 2.47 acres) compared to the rest of Beaujolais’ 55 hectoliters per hectare meaning the fruit grown is more concentrated and full.  The wines are richer in structure, darker in color and mature gracefully.

The tiny vineyards of Domaine Pascal Aufranc hug steep mountainsides and are remote from other growers in the area.  The only neighbors being a pine forest to the west.    The average vine age is 65 years.  Old vines produce less grapes, the roots have to struggle to reach deep into the soil to find nourishment making the already low yielding Chénas fruit much stronger and long lived.  The pressed juice undergoes a 10 day fermentation in large foudres (the big barrels) then is settled in stainless steel tanks for 7 months before bottling.

No need for an aggressive, tannic blockbuster every time you prepare a big piece of meat.  Sometimes refreshing and racy will do just fine.

2009 Domaine Pascal Aufranc “Vieilles Vignes de 1939” Chénas.  $17.  Imported by Wine Traditions.

Holiday Wine Picks With The Langford Family

December 22, 2011

It is the Holiday Season, meaning it is time to suffer through my mother’s cooking while criticizing my family’s wine choices!  What do you have in store for us family?

We go through this about every Christmas Sister… Veuve Clicquot is owned by multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH which is Louis Vuitton, Hennessey, Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs and a bunch of other high priced crap.  Veuve Clicquot produces a million cases of boring sparkling plonk a year from pre-made sugar wine from all over Champagne and probably even Algeria.  It’s garbage.  People buy it because of commodity fetishism.

Instead I recommend this lovely sparkling wine from Moselle which is on the northern most French side of the France-Luxembourg border. Alérions of Château de Vaux is a Blanc de Blanc blend of Auxerrois and Pinot Gris.  This high elevation, cool climate wine is nutty and fresh, firm and fruity and will cut through any shape of processed cheese.

Sorry Mother, but just like Francis Ford Coppola, Ramona Singer is not a winemaker.

Instead I thought an old Muscadet from 1997 would be fun to whip out.  Comte de Saint Hubert is an age worthy wine from Château du Coing de Saint-Fiacre.  The juice comes from 100 year old vines and spends 3 years on its lees (dead yeast leftovers) before bottling AND it is their current release.  It is fresh and vibrant, savory and stony.  It could possibly be the perfect oyster wine…or green bean casserole wine.

Wrong again…dammit Dad!  The Cupcake Wines are bullshit, another mass-produced, mass-marketed brand from the makers of Franzia box wine.  They are buying grape juice from California, Argentina, Australia, Italy and New Zealand and are using super science to make the most dumb-downed swill ever.  Shitty stores like Target and Walmart sell it.

Instead I thought I would treat you to an all natural wine from Buzet.  Buzet, a region in South-West France used to give Bordeaux a run for its money before being screwed over by the outbreak of the vineyard killing phylloxera bug.  The 2006 Domaine du Pech “Le Pech Abusé” uses same grapes from similiar soils as in Bordeaux but is way cooler.  The farming is biodynamic, the vinification is started with only ambient yeasts and the finished wine is un-fined and un-filtered.  It is dark fruited and haunting, ballsy and grippy.

NV Château de Vaux Alérions Blanc de Blanc.  $16. Imported by Potomac Selections.

1997 Château du Coing de Saint-Fiacre Comte de Saint Hubert.  $22.  Imported by Williams Corner Wine.

2006  Domaine du Pech Le Pech Abusé.  $26.  Imported by Williams Corner Wine.

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.

A Salute to the Liter!

November 2, 2011
Literflaschen…

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?