Friday, October 28, 2011

The Flood Gates Open Further

The Palmaz Family
The flood gates remained open this week with a bevy of exquisite and handsome wines. Not a single wine this year has left an impression on me like the Palmaz Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 ($128). The 01 was produced by Randy Dunn. It is a blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and spent 26th month’s in 50% new French Oak. It certainly has Mr. Dunn’s stamp on it. This wine has aged beautifully. But while the aromas swarm from the glass and are clear cut, the palate is still tight and not revealing its fruit. It suggests the wine still has a few more years before peaking. It’s my understanding that this is a 10 year anniversary release but the mere fact this wine is available in the market is astonishing. I’m not sure what the right recommendation is here…seek,destroy and be greedy.

Of course all this pomp and circumstance over the 2001 may diminish the need for the Palmaz Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($115) and that is criminal. The wines are now produced by Tina Mitchell and Mia Klein (yes, that Mia Klein). Composed of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot the wine spent 22 months in 80% new French oak. While Ms. Mitchell has the reigns, Ms. Klein’s  touch is clearly felt in the wine’s lush and forward presence that is round and polished with fruit and silky tannins.  A brilliantly long finish shows a touch of wood and smoke. If you are a fan of Spottswoode, Quintessa, Bressler, you can count on this wine. Not as slutty as Bressler, more refined than Quintessa. I haven’t had enough experience with Spotteswood to comment. It certainly deserves a strong buy.

Palmaz Vineyards and Winery also receives my vote for one of the coolest wineries. Check out the link and watch the video. Palmaz Winery Video Their production facility is nothing short of astonishing.  You’d expect nothing less from the man who gave the world the Palmaz Stent and owns the famous Porsche 917-023, the car that earned Porsche its first victory at Le Mans in 1970.

Cleaning up the drool, shaking off the excess and moving on to something a bit more “affordable”, the pleasantly surprising “Domaine Daniel Pollier Saint Veran 2010 ($15) is simply delicious. Daniel and his family have been working the Domain’s 25 acres since 1984. It’s a clean style of Chardonnay (as I usually expect from Saint Veran) with fresh fruit and a little weight. Very pretty. Worth it.  The Domaine Thevenot Le Brun & Fils Bourgogne Hautes-Nuits Clos du Vignon 2008 ($22) was ultimately very impressive. Rich aromas of baked pear braised in butter and cinnamon. The palate is voluptuous and soft with seductive fruit and a long finish. Modern Burgundy style. Strong buy. My palate is really enjoying the softer side of Rhone these days. Anne Pichon Viognier 2010 ($20) was released this week. The fruit is still a little shy and its showing a more floral characteristic than the 2009 vintage. But the wine will come around to show the beauty and accessibility the 2009 has. It should end up a better vintage once its had a little more bottle age. Worth it (subject to change). It’s red counterpart Anne Pichon “Peripherique” 2008 ($22) was very good. A blend of 60% Syrah, 35% old vine Grenache and 5% old vine Carignan. The grapes are fermented separately and 25% of the final blend spends 6 months in new oak barrels. A beautiful style of Cotes de Ventoux with dark berry fruit, warm earth and spice notes. A long finish with hints of Asian spice makes this wine complete. Winemaker Marc Pichon purchased Domaine le Murmurium in the Cote de Ventoux village of Mormoiron in early 2008. He currently owns 52 acres of which is cultivated using 100% organic practices. Coincidentally, if you visit the Domaine, do not bring Marc a bottle of wine from the Yves Cuilleron estate. It’s uncomfortable.

Jamsine Hirsch
A visit from Jasmine Hirsch late Thursday afternoon was a rare treat. In fact, this may be the first time she’s been to the Connecticut market. If you’re not following this woman on Twitter (@jasminehirsch), you’re missing out. I live vicariously through her as I follow her escapades across the US and drool with every dinner description and Champagne picture. Okay fine, my life isn’t all that bad either. But when you’re the hardworking daughter of the god-father of CA Pinot Noir, life is pretty good. When you get to schlep around Bohan Dillon Pinot Noir 2009 ($34) and Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir 2009 ($60), the doors are always open. And if they have any class, are opened for you. The Bohan Dillon is a terrific expression of CA Pinot Noir that’s not punchy or overly extracted. Instead, it is elegant and graceful with just the right amount of weight and attitude. Given the price, the source of the fruit and overall package, it’s definitely a Strong Buy. Be careful though. There’s not much left.  As for the San Andreas, two words – the bomb. Winemaker Ross Cobb has produced a simply exceptional wine from the 2009 harvest. I believe the word Ms. Hirsch used was “slut”. And she’s right. At first, the San Andreas is a bit forward and aggressive but with a little time in the glass it develops layers and depth. The tannins start to flesh out and you get gorgeous, elegant Pinot Noir. The acidity level in the 2009 is near perfect hinting that while this wine is enjoyable in its youth, patience will be rewarded. It’s a Hollywood story Pinot Noir. Like the voice of James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman, calming, deep and timeless. Worth Every Penny. Ms. Hirsch also made a comment regarding the high price of label registration in Connecticut. It’s an entry barrier that causes many of the small production wines sought after by Connecticut’s greatest stores and collectors to ignore the market. It’s another harmful piece of legislation that needs to be cleaned up by the administration.
Hirsch Vineyards

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gotta Have The Funk - Loire Valley

There is, perhaps, no region in the world that offers so much diversity in wine styles as the Loire Valley. From the lean and austere wines of Muscadet to the funky and fresh red wines of Anjou, its multifariousness cannot be denied. With the exception of white Sancerre (yes, Sancerre needs a qualifier) and the occasional request for Muscadet, the wines are often ignored by a large portion of the wine consumers. It’s not hard to understand why. Unless the merchant you shop with has tasted the wine and can direct you to the style that bets suits your palate, odds are you may not be happy with what you purchased. There is, generally speaking, no way to tell what’s in the bottle from the label. Okay fine, you can make basic generalization based on the village represented on the label. Bourgueil, for instance, will tend to provide wines of medium body, lively wines with soft fruit and low funk character. Sancerre will provide Sauvignon Blancs that are highly aromatic and bone dry with palate cracking acidity. But what about Menetou-Salon, Chinon, Touraine, Vouvray? It can be a very big mystery. Of course, this is a great source of enjoyment for those who love a mysterious bottle. Too be honest, I’m still not sure if I fall into that group, though I’m leaning toward no. I like knowing what I am getting into and what to expect from a bottle. So it makes shopping for Loire valley wines a little more difficult. Lucky for me I love all the various styles from Loire and I get to taste everything before I buy it. A great selection of wines hit my palate this week that really showed the diversity of wines available from this awesome wine region.

The 2010 Alain Assadet Menetou Salon Blanc is an authoritative style of Sauvignon Blanc from the Menetou Salon region. Fierce aromatics of litchi/passion fruit, round texture with soft acidity and a bright finish. It gets a worth it.  Alain’s red is produced from 100% Pinot Noir. The 2008 Alain Assadet Menetou Salon Rouge is the opposite of funk. Very pretty ruby color with berry aromas and the faintest hint of smoke. It’s round and polished with a little fatty weight on the palate that gives it structure to hold up the berry fruit. Pinot lovers will love the under $25 price of this wine which dedicates a worth it. Think Savigny Les Beaune without the Burgundy price tag. Alain owns 27 acres in Menetou Salon and Paray which dates back to his grandfather.

The 2007 Domaine Les Grandes Vignes Le Temps des Vignes Anjou Village “Les Cocainelles” receives to award for the longest and most annoying label EVER. It’s a good thing the wine is so damn good. At least to someone who loves funk because this is almost as funky as Cabernet Franc from Anjou gets. The producer Jean Francois Vaillant uses third pass oak for the wine allowing it to develop awesome texture and beautiful aromas. Spice, tomato compote, plum, prune and wet earth are dominant. The palate is medium to full bodied with outstanding polish and a long finish. Had me signing “We want the funk, gotta have that funk!” all day. The review in my previous post states it’s a cautious buy, but since this is a post about Loire Valley and I love the funk it gets a strong buy here. I’d happily pay $25 for this bottle but you can find it for less than that. The Valliant family has owned the estate since the 17th century and currently manages 136 acres. Wow that’s a lot of land!

For the record, this is just a picayune sampling of the diversity of the Loire Valley. I highly recommend that any person interested in wine explore the many styles and faces of the Loire Valley. Step out of the comfort zone of Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhone. You’ll be surprised that you haven’t even scratched the surface of all the beautiful wines made in France. Loire has so much to offer.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Loire Valley, is a great resource to get you started.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No, I'm Not Drunk

It’s like the flood gates open today. For the last three weeks I’ve tasted a depressing amount of uninspiring wines. But things started turning around today. Most surprising of all was the 2007 Masciarelli Marina Cvetic Merlot D’Abruzzo ($49 per bottle). That’s right, I said Masciarelli. And no, I’m not drunk. Its aromas are California in style rich, opulent, sexy, forward and maybe a bit rude. But the palate is rustic and savory with notes of black fruit and stony minerality. Sleek, stylish, round and polished. Its balance of fruit/acid suggest this wine is built for the long haul. It certainly gets a strong buy.

It was fortunate that the Masciarelli was later in the day as it would have overpowered the 2003 Chateau Chapelle Segur Montagne Saint Emilion ($26 per bottle). That would have been a shame. The Chapelle Segur performed well and is something I could see owning a case of and watching it disappear quickly during the holidays as I look for a Wednesday bottle of vino to enjoy with a cheese board. Or maybe a Tuesday night “it’s been a long day” bottle. It offers terrific Bordeaux savory notes with a touch of sweet fruit on the palate. There’s plenty of structure and body. It’s a not a bottle built for the next 10 years but something that will certainly still be enjoyable in 2012. Its price alone dictates a stockpile recommendation. But one could say the same thing about the 2010 Petit Chapeau Cote du Rhone ($11 per bottle). That’s right, this gem of a Rhone produce by Daniel Johannes is back but limited. There are only 145 cases for the New York Metro area. Consider that same area moves 55K cases of Clicquot a year, 145 cases is a drop in the bucket so snatch this while you can. It has the same profile as the 2009 with maybe a touch less spiciness on the finish and a little more fruit. It will sell out. Tracey (my wife) is currently working to get it on the website. For those that like a little funk, the 2010 Domaine Les Grands Vignes Anjou Vieille Vignes Les Cocainelles ($23 per bottle) provides a George Clinton amount of funk from the Loire Valley with earthy, cherry compote aromas with notes of leather and smoke. I loved this wine so much that we’ve changed this week’s Friday Night Wine Down tasting series to Loire valley and will be pouring it in the store. The wine receives a cautious buy. The caution is because not everyone loves the funk.  2007 Masciarelli Marina Cvetic Chardonnay ($65 per bottle) and 2009 Hartford Court Four Hearts Chardonnay ($42 per bottle) are worlds apart. The Masciarelli (I still can’t believe I’m typing this) is refined, round, supple and balanced with baked pineapple fruit and plenty of oak to balance it. Again, it’s built for the long haul. The natural acidity tells me this succulent Chardonnay will last another 10 years in the bottle. But without a track record for this Chardonnay it’s tough to give it a sell the kids so instead it will get a strong buy. The Hartford court is the other direction, those looking for new world Chardonnay that provides butter, popcorn, sweet apple, toasty oak and lengthy finish that’s drinking now with no ageing possibility, the Hartford is a strong buy. 

Well I guess I’d be remiss (and maybe a little selfish) if I failed to mention the newest addition to our inventory. I managed to find some 1991 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja ($90 per bottle). I bought a case for the store but you won’t find it on the shelf. You’ll have to ask for it. Lopez de Heredia is one of the most respected producers in Spain and the wines are only just now entering CT. A wine director friend of mine told me what was going on, I started doing a little investigating and presto, we have yet another supplier.  I highly recommend you do some research on this estate. It’s quite impressive and I’m rather excited to have the wine in the store. This gets a serious sell the kids.
In Good Taste,

P.S. If you haven’t noticed, I monkeyed around with the format of the notes a little bit. Thoughts?