29 August 2009


I've heard that there is some nice-drinking Beaujolais Nouveau to anticipate this year; and to be honest, I'm unconcerned with how good or bad Beaujolais Nouveau may be on one day of the year, and one day only---release date! Beaujolais Nouveau is simple wine to be consumed fresh and for fun. It is annually released the 3rd Thursday in November, this year being November 19th. It is traditionally a day of celebration in France to mark the end of harvest. In the 1980's and early 90's Beaujolais Nouveau flooded the U.S. market through negociant producers like Georges DuBoeuf who made a bad name for Beaujolais among those who care about wine and it's subtleties. When all is said and done, the story of the 3 AOCs of Beaujolais is interesting and complex. My personal interest in Beaujolais Nouveau begins and ends with the idea of conviviality, unpretentious drinking, and a chance for the French to be silly where wine is concerned. Although I will not be drinking the infamous flower labeled Beaujolais Nouveau, I am looking forward to tasting Jean Paul Brun's Nouveau this year. And, you see I have included images of my personal favorite part of Beaujolais Nouveau---the mixture of cheesy labels that look like posters in my childhood dentist's office, and quintessential rustic French signage.

28 August 2009


Bon Vivant is a local importer of super right on natural and mostly biodynamic French wines. Aaron and his wife Lynn run this small company, and at the moment it is just Aaron handling the day to day operations. They started about 5 years ago, and Aaron didn't know a lot about wine. He was a stone mason by trade, so the wine business is fairly new to him. He is an amazing person and really passionate about these wines; which more than speak for themselves---but on SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 5th AT 2PM we will have the pleasure of hearing him speak and taste through ALL of their wines that we sell as well as a few that may come onto the list.

Please take the time to learn about these fantastic French wines and learn more about a high-functioning very small local business!

24 August 2009


Claus Preisinger is part of the Pannobile crew; a group of 9 Austrian winemakers out of Gols, Austria who have formed a group that has been dedicated for over 10 years to making wine that honors indigenous varietals through making wines with integrity that speak specifically to the expression captured on the slopes of Wagram in Gols. Apart from the Pannobile wines, each producer is independent; but the wines labeled Pannobile undergo rigorous criticism from the small organization. In working cooperatively, these farmers/winemakers attempt to preserve and perpetuate the individuality of wines from their region and incite productivity and the spirit of friendly competition. To learn more about this project click here.
Although we are not working with the Pannobile right now, we are pouring Preisinger's BASIC. One of the raddest wines of my year so far! It starts with the label; pure low-tech simpicity reflecting the raw and sleek spirit of the wine.
A little earth, spice, and generously bright fruit. Light and soft, it is the best choice for those who would like a glass of red with either the trout or halibut. Structured enough for any pasta, chicken, quail, and even lamb.
(photo by Nialls Fallon)

21 August 2009


Although Elena Walch is a favorite producer of mine I refrained from keeping her wines on the list for a while. As if someone would recognize my affinity and call me out for being entirely too OBVIOUS. And for me that is just what her wines are, the indisputable right choice. Carefully crafted with precision that only an architect could execute, they are some of the finest representation of regional varitals in Alto Adige. They are correct, classic, old world wines that are somehow acutely touched with her independent, renaissance woman modernism.
Walch married into the winery, two vineyard sites located in Tramin; Trentino Alto Adige. She left her profession of architect to make wine, transforming the vineyards to high density plotted vines with lower yields. She works with single varietals and all wines are vineyard designated.
Located on the southern slope of the Alps; the wines have German sensibilities and aesthetic, and the pure, erratic soul of an Italian.
Fresh citrus and stone fruit on the nose. Rich and gripping on the palate with bright acid and a crisp finish. Well crafted and complex, but so easy to drink with just about anything this time of year.
$8/glass makes this wine again; the obvious choice.


19 August 2009

17 August 2009


Beaujolais is a mess. A royally beautiful bloody mess; like a punker in a rail car traveling through barren countryside, acquiring tattoos and enemies, friends and liquor bottles along the way--and unfortunately at times not long for this world. Unpredictable and subtly likable at it's best.
We begin with Beaujolais AOC and Beaujolais-Villages AOC, which for the purpose of this post I will disregard.

We're talking about Cru baby!!!! The 10 Cru are labeled only with their Cru status, which is how the AOC has chosen to express the higher quality of their wine from the sordid past of Beaujolais-Noveau. Traditionally (in Burgundy and Alsace) "Cru" refers to the vineyard sites that wines hail from; in Beaujolais it is a more general term encompassing both villages and vineyards. If you are drinking Beaujolais Rouge you are most certainly drinking of the Gamay grape; regarded as a less sophisticated sibling of Pinot Noir. Although Beaujolais is not highly regarded for aging purposes, the Cru wines are often prepared for cellaring. They are slightly more full bodied and serious; but also coy, youthful and delicious with a slight chill like the wines of Villages level.

10 CRUS (North to South)- and some very generalized characteristics of each cru...

1. Saint-Amour- spicy, peach aromatics

2. Juliénas- Village named after Julius Caesar; rich, spicy, floral

3. Chénas- smallest cru, wild roses on the nose

4. Moulin-à-Vent- long lasting, known for tannic structure and more oak

5. Fleurie- soft elegant fruit, floral component, ageability

6. Chiroubles- high altitude, often floral; specifically violet and dark berry fruit.

7. Morgon- Powerful, deep, earthy. Can develop apricot and peachy sweetness on the nose, Burgundian qualities with age

8. Régnié- Most recent addition to cru, red currant and raspberry, full body

9. Brouilly- Largest cru, blueberries and cherries on the nose. Along with Cote de Brouilly, the only crus to allow grapes other than gamay to be grown in the area (melon de bourgogne, chardonnay, aligote)

10. Côte de Brouilly-concentrated, less earthy than Brouilly, grown on volcanic slopes

Please welcome to the list....

2007 Domaine Cheysson Chiroubles
Plenty of earth, with a sweet candy nose. Tasty and bright without leaning too serious. Great with all things grilled. Steep vineyards on Chiroubles' south end graced with exposure to sunlight; making for ripe, round fruit; Jean-Pierre Large is regarded as one of Beaujolais' greatest within France and abroad.

16 August 2009


"Sparkling Muscatel. One of the finest wines of Idaho".
-Waiter (Steve Martin), The Muppet Movie; 1979

click here to watch the clip.

14 August 2009


In inspecting the lives of passionate and successful people there will often be a naysayer, a bully who pokes at the individual either from the sidelines; or head-on.
As I was reading about guitar legend Les Paul's passing yesterday and it was mentioned that at one point his piano teacher had told his mother that her son would never learn music, I lamented that no one had ever told me I couldn't do something. Probably because with most things I put my energy toward, informing me of my inability would be classified as something along the lines of rubbing salt in my wounds.
And then it came to me... someone had berated me! And it was pertaining to wine! Maybe there is hope for me yet!
The attack came amidst one of the innumerable tirades that the wine director I worked under at the time was known for. He told me that I would never understand wine because I didn't eat meat, so I should just quit trying.
Funny thing is, I now know/believe him to be correct; I eat some meat, and I understand.
But at the time, I was furious. And it might sound from the way I tell the story that this dude was old, wise, and learned. Well that's the worst part! He was a slightly effeminate 30 year old shlep, always listening to 90's emo music and wearing rumpled tight button up Theory shirts that his girlfriend bought him at sample sales and such.
Any wine on the list, any wine; if you asked him to describe it quickly on your way to a table he had one answer: "pretty" and it drove me bananas! And now I see clearly and truthfully, every wine on that list was pretty, his palate loves pretty wines.
And I respect him totally for what he taught me about wine; and for chiding me just enough to give me what every aspiring anybody needs from their critic... reason to keep drinking!

12 August 2009


This is the Gramona family coat of arms. Vine, wine, life, and a certain idea of Cava.
Gramona is my favorite favorite cava. I don't generally think of cava as an experience in wine. I would drink a glass if I were a damsel in distress meeting my homegirl to break down some serious shit talk, or to bring light to an awkward date.
But Gramona's line of terroir-driven cavas turned my world upside down.
They boast subtle differences, but I favor the integrity and price of the GRAN CUVEE.
They are a family owned and operated estate in the Penedes region of Spain (Eastern Spain, Catalunya). Known for beautifully aged wines made in the Champenois method; Gramona grows all the grapes that go into their product and maintains tradition and consistency.

A blend of Xarel.lo, Chardonnay, and Macabeo. Light an fragrant. Deep walnut and slight, elegant citrus and toffee. Airy pastries, bread dough and a bit of round fruit on the finish. Recommended as aperitif, great with organ meat, poultry, smoked fish; and suitable for dessert pairing as well.

10 August 2009


For those of you who attended the Antica Terrra tasting and may be curious about the boutique winery Maggie worked at in Ventura which she briefly spoke of; click below and...


09 August 2009


Bandol is an appellation within Provence; known for it's limestone soils and rich, brooding red wines. Although white wine is not the region's primary strength, this wine has a rare and delicate beauty.

It is a blend of the local Ugni Blanc and Clairette. The vineyard is located about 5 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea.

Winemaker Alain Pascal has been making wine for production about 12 vintages now, but his father was previously a grower who sold his fruit; and Alain has been making wine for his own consumption for years. his first profession was as a professional boxer!

When I saw the excerpt below in July's newsletter I decided to include it because Pascale Parodi of Gros 'Nore told this story as she presented the wine at a recent lunch at Alu.

Here we are—July—and it matters because this dry white has the sun and sea in

it. A vacation in a wine glass!

At Gros ’Noré, at first I thought the wine had an intense citronelle smell to

it. Then I realized it was the winemaker’s aftershave. In fact, he caught me sniff-

ing at him, so I asked him why he smelled so . . . strong. He giggled like a

schoolboy. “If you knew where I’m headed,” he said, “you’d be jealous.”

“Well, where?” I asked.

“She’s blonde,” he said, beaming and making weird shapes in the air with his

gnarly, wine-stained hands.

I brought the bottle home, far from the odor of horny vignerons. This white

smells as inviting as a slice of cold honeydew melon on a hot day, and there is

indeed a twist of lemon to it—but subtle, thank goodness—not at all like after-


Summertime, summertime. I will never have enough summertimes.

-Kermit Lynch


Lyle Railsback pouring 1998 Gros 'Nore Bandol Rouge; a back-vintage treat!

08 August 2009


Blogging and massive culinary interest all in one movie...

You gotta see it!


photo by Stephanie Del Toro

02 August 2009


At last Saturday's tasting, Maggie Harrison touched briefly on a subject and process that I had been meaning to write about; the 3 distinct methods in which rosé wine is produced.

The method she discussed using initially, which did not work for her here like it did in California is the most common and traditional method; Saignée, which literally translates to "bleeding".


The way it works is that rosé is produced as a by-product of red wine. Early in vinification of the desired red wine, some of the juice from the freshly crushed grapes is removed, further concentrating the juice used for the red wine, imparting greater tannin and depth; and leaving a lovely light rosey juice behind. Most winemakers like to vinify this pastel pink dream separately for a seasonal, and often limited release of rosé.

Skin Contact (or Direct Press):

This is the method Maggie has used for this year's rosé. Red skinned grapes are crushed whole and sit in contact with the juice for a few days. The grapes are pressed and skins are discarded before fermentation begins. The longer the contact, the more intensely colored the wine will be. Using direct press means that the rosé is the only wine that will be made from those grapes; which is why the cost of Antica Terra's rosé is significantly higher.


This is an uncommon and simple, sensicle method in which previously vinified red and white wines are mixed to make rosé. The only regulated wine region in the world that allows this method is Champagne, and even there saignée is more common. There was recently a tussle in France regarding a proposal made by the E.U. to loosen the very tight restrictions on rosé production throughout Europe. Please read more about the withdrawn proposal by clicking here.

As long as we're on the subject; please check out our new rosé by the glass...


A light and fresh saignée method rosé from the mountainous alpine region of Savoie. Jongieux is a tiny appelation nestled on a plateau between peaks near where Lake Bourget flows into the Rhone River. Eugene Carrel and his son Olivier, and son in law Sebastien manage the 14th century estate and make real, traditional Savoie wines.

The rosé is 65% Gamay and 35% Mondeuse (principal local varietal). Fresh and lively, dry spice and plummy fruit. Drink with pork rillettes, chicken wings, and quail!