Friday, September 28, 2007

Nas - Halftime

THE CLASSIC mid 90's hip-hop Friday drive time mix banger!

Blogging - it's so 2006

My friend Matt is responsible for that gem. I laughed when he offered that as an explanation for an extended absence from his blog. Since I have not found anything that really caught my interest today while trolling around the usual wine sites, and since I'm not up for digging up some tasting notes or otherwise thinking of something vinous to write up, I turn my attention to that long forgotten fad of last year - other people's blogs.

There are some great wine blogs out there, both from the likes of professional journalists such as Eric Asimov, people in the wine business like the author of this blog, and many others. These days, I am getting a lot more information on what's cool and exciting in the world of wine from blogs. I encourage all of you out there to visit the updated links section at the bottom of the page, and to re-visit it from time to time as I'm sure I'll be adding sites every so often.

Bon weekend.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Support Great Music - Buy this album.

Just bought this on itunes and it is a KILLER. Victor Axelrod, aka Ticklah, plays keyboards, as well as drums, bass and guitar on this album. There are some guest appearances by the likes of Dub is a Weapon (the horn section, I believe), Mikey General, Rob Symeon and Vinia Mojica. Definitely a must for any dub reggae fan, Ticklah vs. Axelrod is right up there with the best of Dennis Bovell, Mad Prof and Wackie's dubs in terms of some of the best examples of the art produced outside of Jamaica. In fact, given Ticklah's uncanny ability to channel the sounds of the '70's, in terms of the proper instruments, effects and mixing techniques, one at times might wonder the vintage of this album. Listen to the incredibly retro-futuristic 'Deception,' as well as the two re-imagined Eddie Palmieri tunes, and you will know that this is none other than a most current album, the product of an amazing musician and producer based in dub reggae's creative headquarters, Brooklyn, New York.

Folks who have been following Axelrod's career will probably know that he is keyboardist for Afrobeat band Antibalas as well as soulsters the Dap Kings. He also produced and played on the immensely popular Dub Side of the Moon album. What may have gone unnoticed is Axelrod's recent work for Amy Winehouse and bedroom recording sensation Lilly Allen. So the secret is out, Axelrod is one of the most talented producers and keyboardists around.

Ticklah vs. Axelrod is an immediate classic. I expect to listen to it many, many times, and then listen to it some more.

¡¡¡un monton de rioja!!! (pt.2 of 2)

Los 'everyday drinkers'

Ramon Bilbao 'Black Label' Rioja Crianza 2004 - In terms of the softness and supple nature of this wine, and to a lesser extent the flavor profile (which consists of simple, upfront blackberries) this is fairly representative of a joven style Rioja. Definitely an anonymous character to it (i.e. I would possibly call it out as a Rioja if tasted blind, but maybe not). Then again for a product that is produced in the millions of bottles you could do worse, a lot worse. I would definitely suggest this for Spanish themed parties where the guests enjoy drinking wine but aren't necessarily too picky about what they drink. In other words this is good stuff for folks who aren't regularly seeking out and taking note of new tasting experiences in the world of wine.

Martin Codax Ergo Tempranillo 2005 - There is a bit more acidity and more of a traditional aspect to this wine. One can taste the American oak. Martin Codax is not the name of a producer, but rather a brand developed by a cooperative based in Galicia. You may recognize them from such widely distributed Albariños as Martin Codax and Burgans. This is decent stuff, cherries, spice and a touch of a sweet balsamic, brown sugar aspect to the finish.

Viña Izadi Rioja Crianza 2003 - 90% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha, 5% Mazuelo from Rioja Alavesa. The most serious Rioja of this line-up, Izadi shows more structure and is a definite step up in quality from the former two. Red cherry fruit with a broader range of American oak spice nuances including coconut and nutmeg. I like this wine a lot for the money.

Los vinos de 'alta expresion'

First a primer on 'alta expresion.' This movement is generally defended by its proponents (and by the media who have dutifully conveyed their message) as a way of making wine of the finest quality, through such principles as having small yields, producing wine from single vineyard sites, employing a green harvest, using new French oak for a shorter aging period instead of the more traditional American oak for a longer one, etc. All of this is apparently a reaction to the traditional style of Rioja which is lighter in color, lower in alcohol, and, for lack of a better way of putting it, less heavy on the palate. So whether in Bordeaux or Barolo, you've seen this play out in other wine regions as well.

Without a doubt, there are surely 'alta expresion' producers in Rioja who are passionately pursuing the production of better wine. The cynic, however, might note the very high prices of many of these wines, and the fact that many of them do not taste remotely Spanish. He or she might also note that in the '90s and into the '00s Spanish wine exports to the US were increasing by leaps and bounds, aided by what some in the trade call high QPR (quality to price ratio). This is often times code for a high point rating (say 90 pts) accompanied by a low price. At the time there was a void in higher-end, higher pointed Spanish wine. All of a sudden, everyone was rushing to fill the demand of exactly these types of wines. That's my understanding of how it went down, though I'd certainly welcome any other opinions and even more so facts from folks who remember how things were at that time.

Abel Mendoza Selection Privada Rioja 2004 - The roast coffee on the nose is a positive indication of new French oak. There are also some dark fruits there as well. On the palate there is a tight core of dark cherry fruit, with good acidity. Again, the word is tight. This one did not strike me as being over the top, and it would be interesting to track its development over a decade.

Bodegas Sierra Cantabria Coleccion Privada 2003 - More dark fruits and wood on the nose. There is a very fat, rounded palate impression with flavors of plum, iron and a hint of beef blood. It's like a heavily extracted, modern right bank Bordeaux. This is the type of wine that I'm referring to when I say 'remotely Spanish.'

Artadi Vinas de Gain Crianza 2004 - Definitely one of the more popular of the vinos de alta expresion, surely due to its high 'QPR' (93 pts, about $24 retail). Located in Rioja Alavesa, Artadi's other Riojas include the highly coveted 'El Pison,' or what winemaker Juan Carlos Lopez refers to as the 'Musigny of Rioja.' I must admit that, though this wine reveals little more than oak at first, it does open up after an hour or so of decanting. There is, once again, the tight core of black cherry, with some roasted coffee and clove notes. More intriguing is the sense of minerality that this wine conveys, despite all the apparent new oak. Maybe I've been influenced by all the press on Artadi. Though I don't have any experience with the Pagos Viejos or El Pison, Vinas de Gain strikes me as an interesting, albeit muy moderno wine. Is Artadi the Dal Forno, or perhaps Luciano Sandrone, of Rioja?

And back to the old school, 1968 Vina Valoria Rioja Reserva

This is the oldest Rioja I have had the pleasure of tasting. I suspect that sooner or later I will get around to '64 LdH Tondonia though. Still hanging in there, though not for too much longer, this wine was still a nice brick color, with dusty, slightly muted cherry aromas. Delicate on the palate, with subtle dark cherry fruit and a touch of cocoa powder. At least one person with whom I was tasting the wine thought it to be 'washed out' while others thought it was great. I think that, to my palate anyway, the truth lies somewhere in between for this traditional Rioja.

I definitely look forward to posting more about Rioja in the future. It's a classic example of the traditional vs modernist approaches. And I must admit that, though not as compelling, distinctive, or exciting as the best of the traditional wines, 'alta expresion' done right, and priced fairly, is not nearly as bad as many new school Bordeaux, or super Tuscans, out there. The jury is still out, however, on how these wines age. Check out this article written by Spanish wine guru (and Spain resident) Gerry Dawes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

¡¡¡un monton de rioja!!! (pt.1 of 2)

I've been drinking/tasting a lot of Rioja lately. Lots of getting up to speed on some current releases from classic producers, as well as enjoying discovering a few new ones. Also some yawners, some highly oaked 'vinos de alta expresion,' some mass produced cheapies, and one really old wine. Something for everybody. Given the length of this post and the tedium of typing (me) and reading (you) tasting notes I'll probably divide this into a couple parts.

Before I go any further I'd like to fess up to drinking a Burgundy while typing about these vinos finos de España. It's a 2000 Pierre Morey Pommard Grands Epenots. Was going to wait to enjoy with a nice meal and friends but fuggit I'm trying to ward off a possible cold and I'm doing it with Burgundy.

Now back to Riojas.

Los nuevos, the new ones (for me at least):

2005 Vina Valoria Joven - 70% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano, 10% Mazuelo. This was apparently a favorite with some co-workers. It was fine. Cherry on the nose, leaning a bit towards Robitussin but in a good way. The palate had nice restraint and minerality given that this is an under $15 Rioja.

2003 Marques de Vargas Rioja Reserva - The nose is a bit vegetal and reminiscent of what I imagine some 70's and 80's Napa cabs might have been like a few years after release. On the palate, more green pepper, but with cherry and cocoa notes dominating a bit more. Very interesting. Given the smoothness of the tannins and developed nuances in this wine, it tastes a bit more mature than it is, but I still find it appealing. There's a real Bdx/old school Napa by way of Rioja style to this wine. Interestingly the winery uses a combo of French, Russian and American Oak. Bot eto da!

2001 Bodegas Primicia Rioja Reserva - I found this to be modern, anonymous Rioja with some modern, anonymous dark berry fruit.

2004 Vina Ijalba Rioja Graciano - Organic wine produced from 100% Graciano grapes. A real labor of love here as Graciano is difficult to grow. It is often times a 3-5% component of Rioja blends, but here it shines as a mono-varietal. The wine is very floral with some roast coffee notes from what I'm guessing is a bit of new French oak. Pure mulberry fruit on the palate.

2003 Vina Ijalba 'Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba' Maturana Tinta Rioja - 100% Maturana Tinta, which is further proof that this dude loves bottling obscure monovarietals. It is also organic like the Graciano. This wine comes in at a very reasonable 12.5% in the scorcher that was the summer of '03, yet the wine tastes ripe and balanced. Classy and rich, but with balanced acidity. A must try.

Heavy hitters: Lopez de Heredia (Lopez), La Rioja Alta (LRA), Muga

1996 Lopez Vina Gravonia - Single vineyard Viura, 100%. This is as tightly wound and structured as '96 champagnes. And really good. Yep, this wine is tight and racy. Stone fruit with some of that classic, slightly oxidative Lopez hazelnut thing on the finish. It's a wrap: my favorite Rioja from this post (white or red) is the '96 Gravonia (I encourage you to keep on reading, though).

1989 Lopez Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco - This was not as memorable a bottle as the one I had last week (see post from 9/19). Just not as developed aromatically. On the palate the wine is similar, with some green fig fruit, hints of toffee and hazelnuts. The finish is long; in fact, the length has length.

1997 Lopez Vina Tondonia Rosado - Technically a crianza, this is the current release for their rosé! I must admit that on a previous post about rosés I think I mistakenly posted this vintage of Lopez when it might have been the '95? I'm researching it. Nonetheless, this bottle struck me as very different from the bottle I enjoyed so much a few months ago. This bottle did not distinctly suggest Rioja. The coconut nuances were not there on the palate. Just some very faint strawberry fruit and a bit of a tomato character. If anyone has had similar experiences with fairly recently released Lopez rosado I'd love to hear about them.

2001 Lopez Vino Cubillo Crianza - 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano. Alright, alright, the Lopez slight disappointments end here. In fact, this might be my second favorite Rioja of the post. A nose of tart cherry and some meat leads to a palate that has similarly fresh, and savory, flavors. Awesome texture as well. This is much, much better than an '00 Cubillo I had six months ago at a local restaurant. That wine was closed tight, with very tart berry fruit flavors that just were too simple, one-dimensional and unyielding. Not so this wine. '01 Lopez Cubillo, in '90's parlance (though you could still get away with it today) is dope.

1999 Lopez Vina Bosconia Reserva - 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 3% Garnacha, 2% Mazuelo. Deeper, darker fruit flavors here. More intense and richer, with black cherries dominating.

2000 LRA Viña Alberdi - 95% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha. There is a really pleasant subtlety and transparency to this wine. Though it does pack some high-toned, red berry fruit flavor though. As well as Chambolle type spice and mouthfeel. Great wine for a great price.

1999 LRA Vina Ardanza - 75% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha. Not as bright and nervy as the above, but still Burgundian in style. A bit richer and more intense than the above, with a longer life ahead of it. I have most recently enjoyed this out of a 375ml last week, and prior to that out of a 750 in Yountsville in January, with a bunch of well-meaning, (mostly) friendly, albeit Napa-centric folks. It was in my opinion the wine of the night, easily better than the Napa stuff (no surprises there) but also showing more of its stuff than '99 Chave Hermitage (CLOSED) and some '99 CDP 'Cuvee Barbarini' from Dm de la Solitude.

1995 LRA Gran Reserva 904 - Pure velvet on the palate. Dark cherry fruit, with some very subtle tobacco and wet earth notes sneaking in there. This wine is very approachable, even without decanting, but still wanting at least another 3 years to gain some more nuances in flavor. It should age well for much longer though.

1998 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva - '96, as many of you may know, was really a magical year for this wine. Here's to it not being the last for the good folks at Muga. When I tried the '98 last December it was way tight, and slightly woody as well. I must admit, however, that I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted the Prado a few weeks ago. There was very succulent, spicy, sour cherry fruit, with good intensity and length. Things seemed to be well-balanced. I didn't detect too much overt modernization in this most traditional of the increasingly less traditional Bodegas Muga. But maybe I need someone with a longer tasting history and better perspective to chime in?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bad Brains, Banned in DC @ CBGB's 1982

Some sonic espresso!!! If you look close you might see Mike D. in the audience....

Steel Pulse

Another early 80's gem! Steel Pulse - the best live reggae band ever?

Monday, September 24, 2007

S. Tyrol Confections and Friulian Wine Tasting Notes

Strap on your seatbelts, readers, because Loacker Quadratini bite size chocolate wafers are prodigious! Crisp textured and full of cocoa goodness, not only are they a tour de force in confectionery, but they belong in any wafer fan's collection. Buy them by the case!

Alright, enough of the WA inspired madness (though I have quite enjoyed these wafers today). Some quick tasting notes on a few recently tasted Friulian wines:

2005 Marco Felluga Molamatta - This is a blend of tocai friulano, ribolla, and pinot bianco. Rich, fleshy, appley scents lead to a surprisingly pretty and floral palate, that is also unsurprisingly rich and viscous. So it's a balancing act, well executed.

2003 Foradori Teroldego Rotaliano - Another balanced wine. Classic pomegranate and cranberry fruit, decent tannin structure and surprising freshness.

2002 Foradori Granato - Surprise of all surprises: the barrique aged 'bigger brother' is not as fun and tasty. In all fairness though, this bottle did seem kind of closed. I had this wine about a year and nine months ago at a trade tasting and it was a lot more expressive. Sorta big, intensely fruited and Priorat-ish, but expressive and not without interest.

In other barrique aged disappointments of late, the 2005 Vietti Barbera 'Scarrone' is just too much for me, much too much. Am I crazy here? Other folks who tasted the wine alongside me seemed to love it. Much better: 2003 Aldo Conterno Barbera d'Alba Conca Tre Pile. Brighter, more focused fruit and building inner mouth florality add up to tastier wine, IMHO.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Goodbye East Coast, Hello again San Francisco

Vacation's over and back to work it is. Hopefully an afternoon plus this evening will be enough time to shake the dreaded ragweed pollen from my system. Man that stuff is potent.

Might get to see these guys tomorrow night at Slim's, if I can find a ticket. That would be terrific. We'll see....

Last night I re-visited an '02 Riesling which I haven't drunk in quite some time. The 2002 Dr. MF Richter Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett was pretty good. Very spicy, smokey, hearty apple flavors. And 8.5% alcohol. Not my favorite vineyard site in the Mosel, but still a tasty enough bottle from a decent producer. I've got one more bottle left which I'll probably drink in another year as I don't think the wine is improving much more.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Leavin' New York City Blues

Whenever I go to New York, usually about 3 times a year, I inevitably find it depressing to leave. There is no other city that even approaches New York's (and New Yorkers') energy, style, and pure urban sense of joie de vivre. Also, when I go to New York it is to visit people who I care lot about, and whom I do not see nearly often enough. A few nights of catching up is never enough.

So I boarded the Amtrak Northeast Regional heading towards Baltimore, ate my last New York Bagel and tried to ignore the moisture welling up in my eyes. I read a copy of Paste Magazine and thought that I would listen to The Arcade Fire to cheer myself up....

Once in Baltimore, with a few hours to spare before dinner and Yom Kippur services, I drove to pick up a few things from the pharmacy and listened to a bit of the new Animal Collective album Strawberry Jam on the way there. A fitting choice as the band shares my suburban Baltimore upbringing. The first jam, Peacebone, with its arppegiating, repetitive melody, was bouncy, and just a little grating. Track 2 was better. By the third song, which starts out all rock and then steadies itself into a more mellow house music type of groove, I was really enjoying the record. AC's latest effort is not striking me as an immediate favorite like 'Feels,' but it does not come across as a tough listen in the way that 'Here Comes the Indian' was.

An easy fast to all the fasters out there.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Home cooked food and Geek wines in NYC

I had some good food and fun wines with some folks last night at Chez Desor in the east village. Before dinner there was some epoisse and a tasty French blue cow's milk cheese (I forget which one). Didn't have any wine with the blue cheese (always a tricky thing unless you're drinking Auslese. Here were some of the wines (listed from favorite to least favorite):

2002 Mason Pierre Overnoy Poulsard - This wine was bottled by someone else, Emmanuel Houillon, which was noted prominently on the wine label - never seen that before. It was really cool wine though. Very light ruby color, with lots of animal and spicy notes on the nose and palate. It was delicious with Epoisse and then with a pork tenderloin. It opened up and revealed some more berry fruit over the course of a couple hours, though still retained a Mourvedre/Grenache type savor on the finish, which I found interesting. Very fun wine. Thank you, Chambers Street Wines, for the enthusiastic rec here.

1989 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco - I was very, very excited to taste this. It was a pretty, limpid yellow-golden color. Very tight at first, though it was open enough on the nose, with some soft citrus and nutty scents. Aromas became more intense and quince-like with some air. On the palate, the wine was very subtle, and soft, with some whispering citrus and classic american oak spice. With the epoisse the finish became very nutty, a keen observation from my buddy Chris. Delicious wine, but I'd really like to drink it in another five years.

1999 Guelbenzu Lautus - Guelbenzu is a winery in Navarra who makes some ok wine. They have never been my favorites. This wine is a Spanish style Bdx blend (Tempranillo, Cab, Merlot and a bit of Garnacha). It had some pleasant leafy and green notes from the Cab and Merlot components. Nothing spectacular here, but if you're into Bordeaux and if you see this wine for $40 or less (more than that would be pricey, methinks) then it might be worth a try.

2006 Fuente del Conde Rosado - Tempranillo Rose from Cigales. They did a good job of it this year. Bigger, richer, fruitier style of rose for you tavel fans. But it was still crisp and fresh enough to be a rose that I enjoyed drinking, even if the style lends it a bit of an anonymous character.

1998 Flora Springs Trilogy - Not to hate on CA meritage, but this Napa juice, even with bottle age, was just ok. It's not my thing, but it was well enough made to be tasty to fans of Napa Cab, I think.

2004 Dominio de Tares Bembibre - A real oak bomb. New French oak. It was very tough to taste the Mencia goodness through all this oak. The wine did not improve over the course of an hour and a half or so. I'd be curious to re-visit this wine in three years.

Afterwards I had a bit of single malt. Not a good way to fnish the evening, at least in terms of how I felt for part of the day today. Whether or not you are a single malt person, I would advise against drinking it after an evening of wine drinking.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The best Pizzeria in America?

Tonight I had yet another great meal at Two Amy's in Washington, DC. What makes this place one of the best casual Italian eateries in the country, and arguably the best pizzeria? I'm not quite sure. All I know is that the ingredients are all incredibly fresh, the space is simply and handsomely designed and has this incredibly authentic feel about it. Not surprisingly, 2 Amy's is always packed with a diverse group of diners who can't get enough. Tonight, over some delicious smoked mozzarella, sun-dried tomato, fried eggplant and toasted pine-nut pizza with my friend Emily, I realized that not only is 2 Amy's pizza on a much higher level than any other purveyor of thin crust, wood fire oven baked pizza, but they make other purported Neapolitan pizza specialists look foolish. In addition to the pizza, there is a wide variety of crostini, cured meats and pork (some of it, such as lardo, made in-house) sandwiches on delicious bread baked at the restaurant, and cheeses. The wine list only has wines from points south of Rome. It is chock-full of interesting varietal wines (it is Italy after all) by-the-glass including uva de Troia, pecorino, asprinio, four different Aglianico's . And none of these cost more than $9 for a generous glass; many are $7 and under. For any San Franciscans reading this, think A16, with better prices for wine and pizza that is much, much better. I encourage anyone who is in our nation's capital for a long enough time to eat a meal to go to 2 Amy's. It won't disappoint.

So now that I am properly nourished, I'm going to watch a little more of this Tupac thing on TV, read for a bit and get some sleep. Did anyone out there happen to see Kanye West on Jimmy Kimmel?? If you want to wear a t-shirt with a scarf, that's fine, but you ought to also have some really loud colored leg warmers, and be locking your fixed gear bike on your way into the coffee shop as well. And what's up with the four piece brass section and string quartet? Kanye has to be the single most over-rated performer and recording artist in hip-hop history. Tons of respect for dude as a producer, executive producer, and a seriously talented beatmaker - one of the most savvy and skillful in hip-hop's history. He may be self conscious and not afraid to admit it, but the self-confidence has simultaneously gone way overboard. Someone cut this guy off. I hope that his new record stops selling. Now.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

50 years of 'catering to the prosperous carriage trade'

This press release is full of tasty nuggets about one of New York's (and America's) most famous wine merchants. Let's hope that the new location for this ever so innovative retailer does continues to be successful and does not 'gently head southward.' From the press release: "Patrons can take home a Methuselah of 1995 Dom Pérignon Champagne prominently displayed at US$14,950, but nearby, under an 'Our Picks' sign, they can also find a Cristalino nonvintage brut cava from Spain for US$7. 95." It appears as though New York's most famous merchant continues to head in the right direction....

Maybe I shouldn't hate too much, though. Recently I purchased a bottle of 1971 Jean Grivot VR (just village wine) that was part of a private collection and tagged with this merchant's label, and it was still showing well. Not life changing, but still a good amount of vibrancy and interest to it.

I look forward to exploring the bustling New York retail wine scene this coming week.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I am currently on the first stop of my Fall 2007 East Coast tour: Baltimore, MD. Between services at synagogue, catching up with family, eating large amounts of food and grazing on leftovers, it is the usual feast for the senses. Here are some highlights, arranged by setting:
Shul (yiddish for synagogue or what my reform sistren and brethren refer to as 'temple') was awesome. Someone who sounded exactly like Frankie Pantengeli was seated one row behind us, though instead of warning Michael about Hyman Roth, he was cracking (in a voice about 5 notches above a whisper) hilarious one-liners throughout the service. On the sermon ("It was a litte long.") Commenting on a passerby ("She definitely has a nose job!") One other highlight was the "Hee-nay-nee" prayer, which was delivered in a soulful, take 'em to, um, church, re-mix style. I don't think it went over particularly well in the conservative (both religiously and aesthetically) Chizuk Amuno congregation. Needless to say, Phillip Bailey would have been proud of the falsetto notes that my man Manny Perlman was hitting. There was also some improv talking/shouting in the classic R&B style "I KNOW you hear me hashem!" that made people sit up in their seats and take notice. Sadly, based on the feedback I heard, I don't think that the re-mix approach will be repeated next year. Too bad, I really enjoyed it for a change.
Parent's House
Mimosa's, even though they were made with Tropicana OJ, were crisp and tasty. Having a good quality cava (Mont Marcal Brut Reserva) certainly helps. Though I was never a liver fan growing up, I must say that Foie gras was the gateway, and now I am enjoying traditional Jewish chopped liver. What we had yesterday, from the legendary Edmart's, was delicious. Mom did it up with her sweet noodle kugel. Grilled chicken, string bean and tomato salad was savory and very flavorful. Corned beef, poached salmon (say it like a Baltimorean, 'poooched saaamen') and a mixed greens salad rounded out the buffet. Delicious chocolate chip cookies and chocolate chip cake were served for dessert, with some fresh fruit for nutritional balance. Mmm, chocolate chips....
The Wine Source
It was a disappointing trip to what I imagine is still Baltimore's best overall wine shop. The space is large, airy and bright, with a decent enough selection of wines, as well as a great little cheese and charcuterie section. However, the displays are not as attractive as I remember them. More importantly, it seems as though the selection has been dumbed down quite a bit. Maybe a necessary business decision, given that it seems very difficult to find help on the floor when you need it. You definitely could do a whole lot worse, and I don't want to be too tough on them as it is still a solid store (for Baltimore, VERY solid). Just a bit disappointed is all. I was mixing a case for my parents (half red, half white, $12/btl) and it wasn't as easy or fun a process as I imagined it to be; I had to work to find some interesting, well-priced bottles).
OK, off to another smaller shop to mix another case. Good yuntuv!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

My early front-runners for Top Rose's of 2007

OK, I must admit that I am a sucker for reading best of lists. I have never attempted to draw one up myself though. Here is a list that is not by any means comprehensive, rather an indication of some highlights in my rose degustement over the past several months. I hope that you will find this list fresh and tasty.

10. Domaine Begude Rose 2006 - This one sneaked onto the list, and to be honest there might have been some other roses that are equally worthy of this spot. Anyway, this is a tasty, very light pink colored Pinot Noir rose from Limoux, a cool (for the Languedoc) area known for its sparkling wine and Chardonnay. Gulpable and non-offensive, this shows the crisp, white wine side of rose. (click here for purchasing info.)

9. Kir Yianni Akakies 2006 - Now we're getting into the list...Greece's only AOC rose, Akakies is produced from Xinomavro grapes in Amyndeon (an AOC of Macedonia in Northern Greece). Intense, electric pink color, with upfront flavors of pomegranate and raspberries. Maybe because it is still a youngin', but I usually find this rose to be a bit lighter on its feet and more piquant. Still a winner though, and always one of my favorites. Click here for purchasing info.

8. Edmunds St. John 'Bone Jolly' Rose 2006 - Finally, California rose with guts! Produced from Gamay in El Dorado, this wine is full of red berry fruit flavors and a hint of earthiness. It also has a bit of a sharp finish (not VA, just otherwise funky) but it still is very drinkable. Steve Edmunds makes excellent wines which are worth tracking down and supporting. Click here for purchasing info.

7. Copain 'Le Printemps' Rose 2006 - Two domestic wines in a rose top 10 list? Shocking. But this is another stellar rose, made up in Mendo. 50-50 Pinot Noir and Syrah. Salmon colored, with just a real sense of overall balance and subtlelty. Winemaker Wells Guthrie (no relation to Arlow, I don't think) is the real deal. Click here for purchasing info.

6. Grange Tiphaine Touraine Rose 2005 (tasted '05, current vintage is '06) - Damien Delecheneau makes serious wines in Touraine, in the Loire Valley - home to the best wine values in the world. This rose is a blend of Grolleau, Gamay and Cot, and is produced from grapes specifically grown and harvested to make rose wine. Simultaneously pungent and earthy, crisp and refreshing. Mmm....Click here for purchasing info.

5. JP Brun Beaujolais 'Rose d'Folie' 2006 - In addition to his tightly structured, powerful, 15+ year Morgons, this Beaujolais benchmark producer makes a fun sparkling wine and a gamay rose. This is the everyday drinker and wine geek crossover rose of the year. Click here for purchasing info

4. Joseph Roty Marsannay Rose 2004 - Bruno who? What I love about this rose is that it is made from Pinot Noir specifically grown for rose wine. And Roty releases it late so that it can gain complexity in the bottle and begin tasting like a rose expression of serious Pinot Noir, as opposed to bright and fruity Pinot Noir Light. There are some delicious meaty and earthy notes in this wine, making it ideal for cheese and charcuterie. Click here for purchasing info.

3. Clos Saron Rose 2006 - A real shocker. The 3rd California rose to make this list is the most impressive. It is the first of Gideon Beinstock's wines I have tasted (the second, the Carte Blanche, was equally impressive). The wine was in a blind tasting line-up and I thought it was a really good Nebbiolo based rose. Some bret on the nose, intense, darker cherry and berry flavors, very good acidity, a bit of bittersweet cocoa powder and dusty tannins on the finish. Fascinating stuff from the tiny AVA of North Yuba.

2. Chateau Musar Rose 2004 - Another example of Rose getting better after a few years in bottle. 100% Cinsault from Lebanon. This dark brick colored rose drinks almost like a southern Rhone red. It is all spicy cherry fruit, with hints of cinnamon to be found as well. Click here for purchasing info

1. Lopez de Heredia Rosado Crianza 1995 -One night I'm going to have a tasting of 15+ year old wines for things that are 'supposed' to be drunk young, like Rose, Muscadet, Sancerre, Verdejo...and Lopez will certainly be the piece de resistance. As the bearer of one of the coolest styles of wines around (Gran Reserva Rioja Rosado), Lopez is of course no stranger to wine geeks of many stripes and preferences. Their current release (I think), the '97 Rosado has a beautiful copper color, and an impossible to forget bouquet and flavor that is Rioja through and through. Delicate strawberry and cherry fruit, dried coconut, nutmeg, and many other flavors are really singing in this wine. It seems like it could go another 10 years. Un triunfo! (Oh yeah - it has an amazing 60+ second finish and is a 'tour de force in winemaking....') Click here for purchasing info.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

CA wines that AGE (not including Cab) pt. II: Look for the Bobcat

Rarely will you find a CA winery whose wines consistently show the sense of style, restraint, elegance and balance of the wines of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard winery. As far as I'm concerned, Jeff Emery is fashioning some of the most interesting wines in all of the Golden State. Some of these include Durif (Petite Syrah), Tempranillo, Cabernet and Pinot Noir. There is also acreage devoted to a few different Portuguese grape varieties. One thing that all of these wines share is an incredibly reasonable alcohol content - 12.5%. Another common trait is the ageability of these wines: there are library offerings dating back to the '70's, and I have heard that many of these bottlings are absolutely 25+ year wines. Decide for yourself, though. Try a bottle (might I suggest the Durif or Estate PN), and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 10, 2007

CA wines that AGE (not including Cab) pt. I

We all know that California Cabernet Sauvignon, from good producers, ages incredibly well. At least it used to, when it was made properly. What I did not know (at least from tasting) until recently is that California used to produce some incredibly age-worthy wines, most notably from Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and very occasionally Chardonnay. Then of course there is always Charbono....

The 1981 Cronin Pinot Noir was something of a revelation. 26 year-old Pinot Noir, from humble Monterey County, and it was SERIOUSLY TASTY. Like in the way a good Gran Reserva Rioja is tasty. Or an aged Burgundy...let me say it again so all of you can understand: I drank a 26 year old CA Pinot Noir and loved every sip. My brief tasting notes:

Light ruby color, with a slight amber tinge. Delicate strawberry fruit on the palate, with hints of spice reminiscent of Gran Reserva Rioja.

A separate Cronin post will follow with a bio of the man and some tasting notes of his wines.

Good night.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Doobie Brothers - What a fool believes

1978 - a year of great Doobies and Moulis

'What a Fool Believes,' is such an amazing, funky song. Though I have been familiar with it for a while, having heard it here and there over the years, the first time I truly appreciated just how soulful the song is was a few years ago - listening to WPGC 95.5 in Washington, DC. An amazing mix show DJ (imo one of hip-hop's best ever on-air DJ's) named DJ Ceelo (aka Funk regulator Ceelo) spun this tune in the middle of a great, eclectic set. Very few DJ's have such a depth of pop music knowledge coupled with the incredible turntable skills of Funk Regulator DJ Ceelo.

Anyway, 1978 was the year in which the Doobies released 'What a Fool Believes.' I'm not sure when this concert footage was taken, but I think it sounds terrific. Cornelius Bumpus, the dude on synth, is also a great sax player who toured with Steely Dan as well. He also played shows with my co-worker and drummer extraordinaire Jimmy C (there's your shout-out Shanty...)

Another piece of 1978 I'd like to share with you is the 1978 Poujeaux (Moulis-en-medoc) I recently enjoyed at a Bordeaux tasting. It was still super fresh, almost racy with bright red fruits leading the way, and a really soft texture. I thought the wine was 10 years younger than it is. If you like most St. Estephe (not including Cos or Calon Segur) and lighter, more old school styled Bordeaux, this is the wine for you.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Bienvenidos a ...OLD WORLD, OLD SCHOOL!

Welcome to my nightmare, um...I mean welcome to my blog (sorry, I had a Fresh Air interview with Alice Cooper in my head). Welcome. It's great of you to be here checking out this here blog - my first such effort on the interweb. It is late Friday night, and as anyone who braves the retail world might be able to relate, I am staying in, gaining strength for a busy Saturday at the wine shop. My new Friday night routine: Gym, dinner, modest consumption of wine, perhaps a movie, and wine blogging (yes, ladies, I am single....)

So 'old world, old school' represents my aesthetic preferences as it relates to two of my big passions in life: wine and music. As have many palates before me, I believe, my tastes have gravitated increasingly towards the wines of Europe (old world) in my four or so years of critical wine drinking. Though I still love 'old school' wines from good 'ol California, and properly matured, balanced wines from any New World region, I'm more inclined to drink old world, for reasons to be thoroughly explored in future posts. The 'old school' in this blog also refers to my love of classic, old school music. Music that lives and breathes, that sounds warm, resonant and natural. Real drums (with some exceptions, in particular for hip-hop, especially early-mid '90's productions!). Analogue synths. Hammond B3 organs. Philly sound string arrangements. Vintage effects. Studio innovation a la Phil Spector and Lee Perry.

So I am a music and wine geek, guilty as charged on both accounts (as if there weren't enough of us already). This blog will focus more on wine than music, to be sure. But there will be some fun videos and musical memories I look forward to sharing as well. After all, what is life without memories? And what transports more than a particular bottle of wine, or a classic recording from a favorite artist?

Enjoy the blog.