Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bike Repair and Co-op Champagne

I have just begun cleaning up and restoring an early 60's Bianchi Gran Sport (similar to the one above) with some help from the good folks at the Bike Kitchen. I know next to nothing about bikes, but look forward to learning a bit via the restoration process. This one is a classic! Emerald green frame, all original Campagnolo components, original Bianchi leather seat (looks like a Brooks), and other assorted things that bike geeks who have seen this have pointed out: chrome on headset, Bianchi badge on front, dual wing nut tire releases. So if the bike doesn't ride well and I need to sell it, I at least have some components that collectors will more than willingly take off my hands.

Step one is rust removal - there is some serious accumulated rust on the wheels, pedals and other spots. This bici (velo for the franco-frenchies) has not seen any road in over 40 years! As scrubbing off rust with a brillo pad is tough work, my friend Josh, who helps to run the Bike Kitchen and also buys wine for Bi-Rite market, offered me a blind taste of something with bubbles in a tiny dixie cup. I guessed big house champagne with a good bit of PN in it. It was fine - definitely champagne and of ok quality but not at all exciting. And I was right - 1997 Palmes d'or from Feuillate. Apparently, vintage co-op champagne tastes like non-vintage NM bubbly from an ok house. Regardless, it felt good to take an occasional break from the brillo pad and sip some champanskoyo.

Step 2 is an overhaul of the bike, which I am told could mean a lot of things depending on what we find. What I am excited about is that, after replacing the tires, I should be able to ride the bike as is. And then slowly tackling the overhaul.

Yep - moving to SF is gradually turning me into a bike geek.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Old school Funk - TOP 10 songs in the rotation at work

Muzak is better than no music, but it seems that we have a need for some more varied programming on the ever popular old school funk channel at work. Here is a sampling of some of the songs I hear every week, sometimes a few times in the same day:

"Bustin' Loose" - the classic Chuck Brown funk song (pre go-go Chuck)
"Strawberry Letter 23" - the Brothers Johnson version, which was, if I recall correctly, used a few years back in a Special K cereal commerical. Too bad we don't have the Shuggie Otis original, which is far superior.
"Lips like Candy" - Man this song is annoying. I hope I don't hear it for a while.
"You Dropped a Bomb on Me"- Frankie Beverly and Maze at their early electro best.
"Superstition" - A little Stevie will never get old, even if it's as heavily in the rotation as this track.
"The Big Payback" - James Brown, godfather of soul. This jam has obviously been sampled quite a bit as well.
"Love Roller Coaster" - Ohio Players. Just slightly less often played would be "Skin Tight"
"The Revolution will not be Televised" - Gil Scott Heron. I often want to go through the shop preaching that the revolution will not be Parkerized, will not be Parkerized, will not be parkerized.
"Hollywood Swingin'" - Kool & The Gang. James Brown's favorite funk band. This used to be very heavily in the mix, not quite as much recently, but holding steady with 1 play every week
"Genius of Love" - Tom Tom Club dancefloor filler, 100% pure, unadulterated fun, natural fun!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

And once again, Les Cretes

As much as I liked their Torrette, I was looking forward to trying their Chardonnay. My expectation was that it would not lack for acidity, be very mineral and maybe even be built for some mid-term (5-7 years) cellaring. Sadly, it does not appear to be so.

The 2006 Les Cretes Chardonnay, from Val d'Aoste, is perfectly sound, decently made, fruity, boring Chardonnay. I give it credit for not being a Planeta international oak bomb chard, but the flavors in this wine are nonetheless rounded, pear and apple flavors - very similar to many Chards I've had from the Languedoc. I tried a second bottle which had been opened earlier, and it did come across as being a bit more mineral, with perhaps a little more acidity and nerve. Still, not quite what I expected.

Oh well. There is always Chablis and Chardonnay from the Jura....

Friday, October 26, 2007

My exploration into the '70s continues

This time the wine is a 1974 Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon. It was one of the big four Cab producers in those days (Beaulieu, Charles Krug and Inglenook are the other three). The first thing I noticed with this bottle was the mid-shoulder fill, which might have otherwise deterred me from purchasing it had the cost not been as low as it was. The second observation was that there was no foil capsule; instead, covering the cork there was a plastic closure with a place for you to tear it off, sort of like a plastic bottle of juice. Interesting...apparently low to mid-end wines used this type of closure back then.

So I poured a taste of this 33 year old Cab into my glass and noticed that the color looked surprisingly healthy, a mature, opaque brick color, with no noticeable browning at the edges. On the nose, there was lots of iron and beef blood at first. The palate showed very mature, but simple red fruit flavors, without a ton of complexity or length. As the wine opened up after 20 or so minutes, aromas became more complex, showing roasted coffee, green peppercorn, and some darker fruits. Similarly, the palate showed a greater depth of flavor, with dark fruits beginning to emerge and more complexity, greater weight and more concentration. By 40 minutes the wine was fading to what it was at first, and I imagine that had I drunk more another 20 minutes later the wine would have been going, going, gone.

Nevertheless, the '74 Louis Martini was no deadbeat cab, it proved to have just a little life in it yet.

Drink old wine. It's fun, and always an education.

Black Moon-Who Got The Propz

I'll tell you who got da propz. Why naturally, it's 5 F-T, Evil Dee and Buckshot! OK, the lyrics are so-so, flow is aiight, but this will always be a classic. Enjoy the video, and happy weekend.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Not only am I jumpstarting the weekend with an early youtube video, but it's a recent release! A rarity on this site. So much energy in this video, and the song is ridiculous - no, in fact it is RIDONCULOUS. The video reminds me of early De la Soul, with all the neon and pastels, images and messages scrawled onto the screen, and sense of movement. A bit more frenetic in this video, though. Filmed on site in Kingston JA.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My first wine from Val d'aoste

Les Cretes Torrette 2005. Located in the Italian portion of the alps, north (and west) of the Piemonte, east of France and south of Switzerland, the val d'aoste does not produce a lot of wine - it is the smallest region of wine production in Italy - and I can't recall ever seeing a Val d'Aoste wine, at least in a retail shop. Val d'Aosta lies to the east of France. As it borders the French alps, I wouldn't be surprised if the region's wines are reminiscent of Swiss wines and some of the wines of the Jura. This particular red val d'aosta wine, made from petit rouge, mayolet, tintorier, and coralin, is light in color, though not quite so light as a Poulsard. It had some very snappy mixed berry fruit, with an intense licorice note, about as intense a licorice as I've tasted in wine - it was literally like biting into a piece of black licorice. Distinctive, though it is not revealing a whole lot right now. With its moderately high acidity and apparent tightness, it might be interesting to lay a few bottles down for 3-5 years and see what happens. Cool stuff if you can find it.

Alpine wine - that's what's up.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

QUINOA - it's what's for dinner

Quinoa is indigenous to the Andean regions of South America. It thrives in low nutrient, high pH soil, in conditions where no other fruits or vegetables will grow. Yep, it's similar to the vine.

Here is a lazy, last minute, no produce available, somewhat nutritious dinner recipe. It's vegan, throw it together, cuisine brut type cooking:

2c Quinoa
3.5c water
3 large cloves garlic, sliced into thin rounds
1/4 c olive oil
One half of one lemon
3 tbsp chopped walnuts
1/4c italian parsley, chopped
2 tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2c white wine
salt and pepper to taste
extra olive oil to drizzle on top

Mix water and quinoa together in a pasta pot. Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium heat
Heat olive oil on medium in a large pan, and then add garlic. Cook for 40 seconds.
Add walnuts, sundried tomatoes, red pepper, white wine, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes. When finished, add most of parsley and stir into sauce.
When the quinoa has soaked up all of the water and is fluffy, add the sauce and stir well. Serve in a bowl and add a bit more olive oil on top. Garnish with parsley. Add freshly grated piave or pecorino if desired.

This dish would probably also be pretty good with a few tbsp butter in the sauce, and/or 2 sardines sauteed initially in the olive oil and garlic.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Single Blind Arneis Tasting

This past Thursday night my tasting group met at the usual spot, Chez Mark in Oakland, for a single blind tasting dedicated to the little rascal, the proverbial Pacherenc to the Piemonte's Nebbiolo, Arneis. Before going any further, I'd like to thank Mark Middlebrook for once again hosting the group, and for organizing what might have been the most educational of our tastings to date. Mark, who has been to Piemonte on numerous occasions, is a passionate advocate of the wines, food and people of the Piedmont. In particular Mark loves the Roero, which came through in Mark's stories about some of the winemakers with whom he has visited, helped with harvest and spent much quality time in the past 7 or so years. To go with the wines, there was some basic Mortadella, a meatier Fra Mani Mortadella (I preferred this one), Fra Mani salametto, Piave (delicious cow's milk cheese from the Veneto, not the Piemonte), a Piedmontese goat cheese (Bra tenero, I think), good bread and Piedmontese styled sardines with parsley, olive oil, lemon and garlic. Perfect for Arneis. Mmmm - it does go well with the sardines. Delicious again, Mark.

Here are the wines, seven in all, listed in order of service. We tasted everything single blind (i.e. we knew that each wine would be an arneis, but did not know the producer or vintage):

Fillipo Gallino Roero Arneis 2006 - A very impressive start. Clean, crystalline and vivid, with good length and purity in its appley fruit. This was my #2 wine and was in most people's top 3. At about $11 it's a killer value.

Cascina Val de Prete Roero Arneis 2004 - This one was richer, with golden delicious apples and lemon curd on the nose. Mario Roagna apparently ages 1/3 of the wine in new oak (not sure for how long) and there is extended skin contact prior to fermentation. No wonder given the wine's richness. Somehow I found this to be OK, in the middle of the pack. Not so with other folks, as it was ranked last.

Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2006
- Relative to the other wines, this one struck me as being richer, with a fatter, more rounded mid palate. Also more spice and a slightly sweeter pear/apple fruit profile. After re-visiting the wine on its own (after the line-up), accompanied by the sardines, it definitely was tastier and not as ponderous. We ranked this one 6th.

Giovanni Almondo Roero Arneis 'Vigna Sparse' 2006 - Ar-NIIICE! (delivered in the Borat style). A ton of mineral opens to very discreet citrus and lemongrass on the nose, which then leads to one hell of a nervy, racy, squeaky clean wine. With tremendous minerality and focus, this one really reminded me of a young Nigl Gruner Veltliner. Others mentioned Chablis and Muscadet. This was clearly the WOTN for me, though it was ranked second by the group. Mark was explaining that Domenico Almondo, who now makes the wine here, is mentioned by everyone in the Roero as making the most serious Arneis in the region. This wine is clearly not dumbed down with any Chardonnay like some of the other wines in this line-up. Get it if you can find it. Good luck finding it.

Ceretto Roero Arneis 2006 - Nose a bit funky, and very distinct from the others. Starfruit and gentle citrus fruits on the palate. I am embarrassed to say that it somehow squeaked into my #3 spot, as this is a fairly softened style of Arneis, and further as it is an LVMH product, Oh well. On behalf of my palate, I'm pleading temporary insanity. Though it's not an archetypal Arneis, I must admit that the wine is soundly made and agreeable. Someone mentioned that the wine reminded them of Vermention; someone else thought the wine to be leesy.

Vietti Roero Arneis 2006 - A bit closed on the nose, at first this arneis seemed a bit clumsy. After opening up a bit there was more freshness and classic Arneis appley fruit and snappy, biting finish. Upon further review, this would have been my #3 wine. I typically really enjoy Vietti's Arneis for its typicity and overall deliciousness, and look forward to it each summer when the new vintage arrives in the States.

Cascina Val de Prete Roero Arneis 2006

This one was darker in color than their '04. In fact I thought that this wine was an '04 or '05. Given the advanced color and very mature aromas, as well as the flabbiness of this wine, I showed little mercy in calling it 'over the hill,' and reminiscent of two-year old Godello that should have been drunk already. Easily my least favorite wine, though others ranked it 4th. Viva la diference. Though the wine recently arrived from Italy and might have been bottle shocked, this was just part of the problem. There is a lack of life, acidity and varietal character that is disturbing for an '06 white wine. Maybe it was cooked en route?

After all these whites, Mark brought out a Roero red, a 2004 Mateo Corregia Val dei Preti Nebbiolo d'Alba made by Mateo Corregio. Apparently everyone in Roero congregated around Mateo, who was only in his early 40's when he died of a tractor accident in the vineyards. He was serious about his craft and other vintners sought him out for his opinion (often times brutally honest) on their wines and what they should do to improve their quality. The wine, composed of 100% nebbiolo, is modern, tamed slightly by some new oak, but not over the top, with pretty, pure dark fruit. Not quite as firm, nuanced, or haunting as young Barbaresco, Barolo, or even really good Langhe Nebbiolo, but very tasty all the same.

Thanks again to Mark for organizing this great tasting and doing such a good job with it. It made me want to visit the Piedmont.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Hondarribi Beltza

That's the grape used in red txacoli, and the grape used to make the 2005 Talai Berri Txacolina Beltza which I enjoyed last night. It's a cool little wine. Definitely its own thing, though if one had to compare it tastes very much of the Cabernet family with a strong green peppercorn note on the nose and curranty fruit. The floral aspects of the wine on the palate, as well as the acidity, remind me more of Loire valley Cab Franc than anything else, certainly more than any Mencia I've had, which is the Spanish grape most widely compared to Cab Franc. Just like most white Txacoli, this vinito had a slight pettilance to it, which I enjoy in red wines (as long as it is a subtle aspect and the flavors taste as they should, it indicates that a touch of CO2 was left in the bottle from the fermentation, which often times means that a minimum of sulphur was used prior to bottling. A good thing).

My brother and I had this with one of my favorite French cheeses - Ossau-Iraty, the Basque country sheep's cheese. It was good and dry, crumbly, pleasantly earthy, dusty and sheepy. We also had it with a chipotle rubbed steak salad, with sauteed mushrooms and a simple olive oil, lemon and shallot dressing. With lots of parsley. One of the things I love about Basque cooking (not that this was at all a traditional Basque dish) is the parsley. I'll have to make some parsleyed potatoes and maybe a nice piece of fish tonight to go with the remaining txacolina in my fridge.

Friday, October 19, 2007



Stereolab - Fluorescences

I am an unabashed Stereolab junkie. Well, at least up until the Dots and Loops album.

A terrific Stereolab song, the ever present commodore computer, multi-colored neon lights, Michel Gondry direction - what's there not to like? Fluorescenses captures a mood and state of mind to which I can relate. It's a beautiful song.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Yesterday was the single busiest day we have had at the shop year to date. The ever powerful closeout email insured an afternoon of trying to stay on top of the order qeue, pick and process order after order, cart after cart. Usually not my j-o, but as it's a team effort, I was hangin' with the operations crew, processing orders for the better part of the afternoon yesterday. They're good guys, slightly more friendly than the ops team at Dundar-Mifflin.

I had planned to go to the trade portion of the good old Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting, but ended up catching the last hour of the consumer portion of the event since I didn't get out of the shop until later than I had hoped. It's just as well. Trade tastings, at least as used for tasting, enjoying and remembering wine, are not ideal events. They are crowded, noisy, and full of distractions. As a way to meet other people in the business (crotchety old retailers, chipper young distributor reps, cute servers, etc) trade tastings sometimes are fun. Yesterday, however, I was in the midst of an all-out consumer cocktail party, sponsored by Wine & Spirits. With about an hour to fit it all in, I definitely missed a bunch of stuff. It didn't help that I was not entirely focused, talking to some winemakers or importers for too long, allowing a drunk restaurant owner to chat my ear off for what seemed like forever. You need to attack an event like this in the way you would a museum. Example: OK, I'll start with Champagne at the Gimmonet table, try the Cliquot stuff so I have something to hate on for my blog, skip the Gobelsburg because I know the wines really well already, hit the Royal Tokaji table for some 6 puttonyo deliciousness before it gets too crowded at the end of the night when everyone wants dessert wine, then have some food and taste wines from Toro and Ribera del Duero so I have more things to hate on, and so on.

So this time around I only tasted champagnes and whites, which is fine as there was not a whole lot of winners from the looks of the red wine line-up. A very condensed listing of some highlights and lowlights:


Pierre Gimmonet Blanc de Blancs 1999 - Very precise and crisp, with great minerality and fruit intensity. Their special club, very recently disgorged, was a bit tightly wound up and very mineral. Needs some time.

Hidalgo 'La Gitana' Manzanilla and 'Napoleon' Amontillado - These are always good, better than the comparable Lustau sherries. I was talking to the importer rep, a nice girl who grew up on Russia's Pacific coast, who is now selling wines along the United States' Pacific coast.

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Sur Loire 'Les Choisilles' 2004 - Tasty, dry chenin, tasting of green things: green figs, green tea, just under-ripe Anjou pears.

Francois Chidaine Montlouis Sur Loire Clos Habert 2005 - Off dry and the most funky of his whites that I have had. There is a similar funk in his sparkling wine. This chenin tastes like a peach pit, is slightly honeyed, and has a real chewy Loire chenin texture.

Francois Chidaine Vouvray Le Bouchet 2005 - This is between demi-sec and moelleux. Sweeter, but the acidity seems brighter and stands out more than the Clos Habert, which by comparison is heavier and, once again, fonky. On this particular evening, Le Bouchet was my clear favorite.

Domaine Huet Vouvray 'Clos du Bourg' 2005 - Very famous vineyard site and producer and it was very tasty. I do not remember specifics, just that it was really good Chenin that has a long, long life ahead of it.

Domaine Weinbach Cuvee Ste-Catherine L'Inedit Riesling 2006 - My memory is failing me here. I remember just the slightest bit of RS, ripe mandarin fruit, and lots of energy on the palate, with very good depth, intensity and length. The gewurz, the 2004 Cuvee Lawrence, had a really gorgeous nose, with an amazingly vivid, red grapefruit character, and then was all gewurz on the palate - spicy, bitter, alcoholic and lacking in acidity. If I don't like this then I guess I'm officially an Alsace gewurz hater.

JJ Prum Spatlese Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese 2004 - Really cool wine. Super funky doryann fruit characterize the nose of this riesling. Very slatey /petrolly and already an interesting wine, though it is still a young pup.

C. Von Schubert - This is what I get for not taking notes. These were good wines and I don't recall which was my favorite, the Maximin Grunhauser Abstberg Riesling Spatlese or the Maximin Grunhauser Herrenberg Riesling Spatlese. Were they both '05, or was one '05 and one '06? Maybe one was a kabinett as well. I don't know, outta sight outta mind. All I remember is that these are very solid Rieslings, with talc like minerality and very clean, lemon-lime soda flavors.


Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame 1998 - What a waste of money! This is so boring. A real snooze fest. I'd go as far as saying that I would rather drink even a few mediocre grand marque NV champagnes than this stuff. For $130 I would just get four bottles of good grower champagne. Or Bollinger. BOYCOTT Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy. products. They're overpriced, branded, strictly profit-driven wines that are guaranteed to disappoint.

Schiopetto Mario Schiopetto Bianco 2004 - Anonymous, boring, friulian wine.

That was the tasting - as you can tell, a rushed, not so expertly recorded event. For dinner I decided to dine solo (something I enjoy doing and haven't done in a while; if you haven't already done so you should try it) and went to Two (which is in the former Hawthorne Lane space). I ate an amazing lamb pastrami sandwich with russian dressing, sauerkraut and melted gruyere served on toasted black bread. The pastrami was spicy but not overly salty, and much more tender and less dry than the usual rendition. At first I had ordered a bottle of 1990 Poniatowski Vouvray Moelleux (only $42 on the list) which, sadly, was corked. I then got a bottle of 1995 Crouchet Vouvray Demi-Sec. Nothing like a high acid, slightly sweet white wine to go with some hearty, spicy meat and kraut. The sommelier noticed that I still had a good amount of wine left, so I was comped a cheese plate (thanks, Jeff). Great food and way reasonable prices, so I will definitely have to make a return visit to Two sometime soon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Malbec from Walla Walla - It's good (trust me).

Mmm, mmm, mmm. This is a really tasty wine that I will happily drink again, and again. It smells like Malbec, with some mixed berry fruit and subtle floral notes. The texture is very soft and supple, with mulberry and some raspberry fruits, and the inner mouth floral notes that I love to perceive in wines and seldom do in more inexpensive offerings. Tannins are light and very well integrated. Nowhere is the overoaked, cloying, manipulated quality found in many Argentine Malbecs. Seven Hills Malbec is refreshing, food friendly, and should please many a Euro-centric, jaded, geeky palate. At least it certainly did with folks I was tasting with.

Why don't more folks in the US make wine like this?? If they did maybe more younger wine drinkers would support their wine instead of buying imports.

Monday, October 15, 2007

1996 Champagnes are the greatest

No newsflash here. I really do love these wines though - true wines for acid heads. I had some 1996 Pierre Moncuit Blanc de Blancs a few days ago which reminded me yet again of the greatness of these champagnes. It had what some may find to be jarring acidity, but with plenty of richness, length and nutty tones on the finish. Some other '96's I've enjoyed recently: Fleury 1996, Bruno Michel 1996 (interesting blend of 80% chard and 20% meunier, all original massale selections, with fascinating flavors and nearly endless length) and Bollinger 1996 RD (WOW).

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rhone, Rhone Wine

Here are some notes, mostly on '05 Rhone reds. Southern Rhone wines are not my favorite wines. Never have been. Nevertheless, it really seems like many folks in the region, in CdP in particular, are going down the path of over-ripe, simple, fruity, hot (high alcohol) wines that I wouldn't want to drink on their own, and certainly not with food. For an interesting post on the same topic, click here (make sure to read the comments as well). Anyway, it is a mixed bag here - some winners and some duds.

2005 Domaine la Garrigue Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Romaine - This is importer Eric Solomon's very profitable custom cuvee for the States. It's supposedly declassified Vacqueyras from very old vines (Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah). In the past I have enjoyed this wine. It has always been a Cotes du Rhone with good meaty savor, that tasted honest and, for $12 or so you could do a lot worse. Well this year, there are some unresolved tannins and a really sharp astringency on the finish. In the midst of this imbalance, some dark cherry fruit and cough syrup flavors sneak in there. A truly unpleasant wine, this.

2004 Gigondas Raspail-Ay Reserve - Bright red fruits on the nose. After opening up for a few hours, the wine revealed a bit more: plums and some rose petals. On the palate the wine is all crunchy cherries, with excellent purity, texture and energy. No surprise that I find this to be a better balanced, more interesting wine than any other in this line-up, given the cooler '04 vintage and the fact that winemakers in Gigondas seem not be as easily given to the temptation of making over-extracted wines for the export market. I'd give this wine another 5 years, though 7 would probably be more ideal.

2005 Alain Corcia Chateauneuf du Pape 'Patricia' - A pretty, perfume of mixed dark fruits leads to more of the same on the palate. An enjoyable lighter style of CdP for this ripe vintage.

2005 Ollivier Hillaire Chateauneuf du Pape - Here is a CdP that is rich and just fruity enough for the fruit sluts, but elegant, balanced and lively enough for people who want a balanced Grenache based wine to go with food. This is CdP of the blackberry and licorice stylee, with a slightly soft, creamy vanilla aspect towards the finish. May be too much for some - for me, it works. 8 years would be ideal for this one to come around.

2005 Ollivier Hillaire 'Le Petits Pieds D'Armand' - Blackberry jam. Hot. Brutish. For $30 less I'd go for the basic CdP above, but some other folks who tried it really enjoyed this 100% Grenache wine. They of the non-hyper critical wine geek, happy to be there tasting mold.

2005 Vieilles Julienne CdP - This one could be even worse. Yep, this could be the nadir of the line-up. I'm sorry, this wine is way too smooth, creamy, dumbed down and hot to be remotely interesting. There is very little spice, no floral aspects, no licorice, no gamey savor. And I don't see these notes ever emerging from this wine.

2005 Vincent Paris Cornas 'Granit 30' - OK, things are now getting better. The northern Rhone is an area where I have limited tasting experience, but plan to rectify the situation by tasting a lot more of the wines. They are generally more my style: lower in alcohol, greater in aromatic nuance, more subtle in their fruit flavors. Blueberry and plums, charred embers, white flowers, white pepper and mixed Indian spices come together on this beautfiul nose. On the palate, there is a bright, huckleberry quality, and though it is still tightly wound and a bit over-laden with sulphur, it should shape up really nicely and be a charmer in another 3 or so years.

2005 Bernard Burgaud Cote Rotie - This wine was just nearly impossible to taste. So tight. Nevertheless, there was great acidity and a gorgeous, velvety texture. Apparently the wine is aged 15-18 months in barrique, mostly new. Hmm...nonetheless, I think this Cote Rotie might become pretty interesting with a decade or so of bottle age. But then again, my experience with Cote Rotie is so limited. Someone please chime in and give me some insight here on the northern Rhone tip. I'd appreciate it.

Sunday Jazz Brunch - Richard Groove Holmes

I'm off to work. You enjoy the jazz.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Pharcyde - Drop

OK, all of you with the Spike Jonze comp will know this incredibly dope video. Anyway, I agree with folks who say that Labcabin was a very underrated, slept on album. There was a real dark feel to this record, sort of like the way De La Soul's Stakes is High was dark. Hip-hop was in the process of changing, becoming less fun for many and gearing up for a new era of Bad Boy, flossin, and dumbed down material.

Real wine: the future is upon us!

If you have not read the post below, please do so now...
...ok now that you have seen the dark side, I would like for you to witness the fitness, if you will. Get into the now. Follow these instructions:

Google 'real wine'
Click on the first link listed
Learn about real wine from pioneering importer Joe Dressner.

Congratulations to Louis Dressner for having their site come up first when typing 'real wine!' That right there is some skillful search spider coaxing, and well worth it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Google-ing 'Wine'

Try it. You will notice that the first thing to come up is a web retailer known as Just to give you an idea of their business plan, here is an excerpt from their website:

"It starts with our wine list. Our sommeliers scour the globe to be able to present you with thousands of the highest quality wines representing all varietals and regions. A list we're particularly proud of is our 90+ point rated wines for under $20. This brings you the highest rated wines (according to independent wine critics such as Wine Spectator and Robert Parker's Wine Advocate) at affordable prices. Our sales figures tell us our customers appreciate this feature, which can be sorted by popularity based on our sales over the last 30 days, or by price, region or varietal. And for the real connoisseurs out there, we�ve got our list of 94+ point rated wines which can make impressive gifts or additions to your cellar."

You may notice the immediate importance placed on points, especially as it relates to the perceived value of the products wants to sell. Let me preface my next point by saying that I am opposed to describing wines via any point scale. Nonetheless, I truly think that this way of categorizing and selling wines will come to a gradual end within the next 10-15 years. As wine consumption grows internationally and more of a wine culture develops, peoples' tastes will become increasingly independent and less reliant on professional criticism. Sure, marketing will continue to play a role, as will a growing range of wine criticism. But the amount of influence a select few publications currently hold in the sales of wine is so incredibly disproportionate to other consumable goods. As the wine industry matures, points will become less important, which as far as I'm concerned is a very good thing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Random Thoughts

on food - I ate some incredibly tasty sage cheddar from Bravo farms recently. The sage really added a whole new depth of flavor to what would have been a pretty darn good sharp cheddar. Remember not to overlook herb and spice enhanced cheeses!

on recorded music - 'Chores,' 'For Reverend Green,' and 'Fireworks,' or songs 3, 4 and 5 on Animal Collective's latest album Strawberry Jam, are my favorites on the record and maybe in their entire output as of yet. They really bring to mind the type of indie music the band must have been listening to in their high school years. Though these are very accessible pop songs, there is just enough AC weirdness (screams, unpredictable structural changes) intricate vocal harmony and strong sense of dynamics to mark them as AC tunes. Check it out.

on music videos at the gym
- Please, please, Gold's club network programmers, stop playing those god awful hi-energy remixes of Message in a Bottle, Bam Bam (really you producers need to leave this track alone already, there's no improving on Sister Nancy and Tenor Saw's versions), and any other one-time hit song re-mixed in clubland. This whole corny club re-mix thing is like the very worst of disco; here's to a very sudden death to hi energy' music or whatever you want to call it.

on 'If I was a rich man' re-mixes
- How does a song from the early 1900's Russia, yiddish inspired Fiddler on the Roof musical become a dancehall hit by Lady Saw, and later covered by Eve and Gwen Stefani? I'll tell you how - it's got a great little hook! If you want to earn lots of cash, then write some hooks and get yourself linked with some hip-hop and R&B artists. We need a fresh crop of hook writers out there - Kanye, Neptunes, Nate Dogg, etc. have all delivered in the past, but I think their proverbial hook well may be running dry. Once you have succeeded and are charging $1M per hook, just don't turn out like this guy. I'm deeply embarrassed for him.

on people I know in the military - I just saw one of my best friends from growing up, who recently finished basic training for officers. His rank is captain and he is an army psychologist. As such he is known as the 'head shrinker.' Definitely one of the few people I know who is serving in the military, in what I would say is a very personal, humanistic and noble type of service as army psychologist. You're parents aren't the only ones who are proud of you Breity! See you soon in Tacoma, or SF.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I love Tartine.

Some of the tastiest food I have yet eaten in San Francisco has been at this bakery in la Mission, at 18th and Guerrero to be precise. Though I have yet to thoroughly explore the sweets, the few that I have tried have been very tasty, particularly the delicate, slightly moist, melt-in-your mouth cocoa nib studded merengue.

As good as the pastry is, to me Tartine's greatest strength is its bread. It is the best bread I have ever eaten. Delicious, with a slightly chewy and crisp crust, very moist, large crumb interior, and excellent staying power for the next day (even when kept in a paper bag on the counter, there is no bread drawer in this house....)

On Tartine's killer bread, they fashion some of the best cheese sandwiches I have ever eaten. Idiazabal and membrillo; pecorino, almond and arugula with lemon and sage; and a three cheese sandwich featuring cheddar, idiazabal and Carmody. There are also ham sandwiches. Which reminds me, their croque Monsieur, and basically anything else they do with ham and gruyere on it, is a must try.

I can't wait to eat some more Tartine bread tomorrow!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Three from Chateau Musar

Here are 3 rather brief snapshots of three vintages of Musar. Given that these were tasted a few days after opening it's far from ideal to critique these wines formally. But I'm a pretty informal guy. And besides, I maintain that one can get a pretty good sense of most wines by tasting them on day 2, 3 or even day 4 as in my most recent tasting of Chateau Musar).

Chateau Musar 1999 - Mainly primary, bordering on sweet cherry flavors. It's balanced, slightly spicy, and the most brisk and fruit forward of this line-up. Well balanced, tasty Rhone-like Lebanese red that is more interesting and tastier (not too mention easier to drink at 13.5% alc) than many a CdP out there.

Chateau Musar 1998 - This one is showing a lot more secondary characteristics and appears to be aging quickly. At least that is what this particular bottle was showing me. Still delightful, though. More cinnamon, cocoa and pipe tobacco on the nose, as well as more advancement on the palate.

Chateau Musar 1995 - My favorite. This seems to have more weight and structure than the others with a darker fruit quality and all of the classic Musar cinnamon and exotic spice notes.

Interesting...though geographically the temptation is to equate this with Israeli wine, that of the intensely sunny, very warm, New World style, Chateau Musar really comes across stylistically as firmly in the old world. Or at least that is what the overall balance of nuanced aromas and flavors would suggest. Maybe it's the altitude (1000m), or the limestone based soil? Quite possibly both, combined with Serge Hochar's philosophy, as exemplified by his quote on the Chateau Musar website:

"I once produced a wine that was technically perfect but it lacked the charms of imperfection".

Friday, October 5, 2007

Souls of Mischief - '93 til infinity [good quality]

OK, time to rep for the Bay Area. This is a classic record. Enjoy!

Phil Collins Friday

OK, I've generally railed against '80s pop music. Phil Collins would be a happy exception. Everything about this video is just so mid 1980's. Check the drum fill-in leading into the 2nd verse!

And now some ROCK! Phil and Philip

I never realized this was Philip Bailey! Now, in addition to the version of 'Reasons' off of the live EWF album Gratitude, I can think of this rocker as well as part of the catalogue of one of the greatest Falsettos of our time - Philip Bailey. Yes!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

These Burgundies ARE good. Why? Because I say so, dangit!

I do not have tasting notes in front of me, but I think I should remember these wines well enough to properly paint a picture for you all. I'm only describing red burgs today. These are all good values for their respective prices, in some cases really good values.

2005 Domaine Vincent Sauvestre Bourgogne Rouge - Cheap ($13) red burg for gamay fans! That is, there is a certain pleasing earthiness to this wine that reminds me of good 'ol, real Beaujolais grown in granitic soil. Rustic but a good table wine, which is probably why I like this more than many anonymous tasting $20 Bourgogne Rouge wines out there.

2005 Domaine Bart Marsannay 'Les Longuieres' - Man, this is tasty Pinot! A real textural pleasure, this. There is an abundance of fleshy, dark cherry fruit, delivered in a wine whose mouthfeel is so incredibly velvety, and at the same time slightly thick - even for this ideal, ripe vintage. Tannins are very smooth, and the wine finishes with just a hint of allspice on the finish. Terrific stuff from someone making serious wines in an unfortunately less than seriously regarded village. For about $21 this is a deal.

2005 Domaine Patrick Size Mercurey 1er cru 'Clos de Montagne' - This is another wine with a darker cherry fruit profile and a similar mouthfeel to the above. It is still tight, though it does not come across as being tannic in any way. This wine has a really interesting, spiciness that does not seem to be derived from new oak as much as it is the soil where it grows. Sort of reminds me of village Meursault if it were a red wine. Should improve for at least 7 years. At $29 it's a winner.

2005 Bachey Legros Bourgogne Rouge - The one generic Bourgogne Rouge on this list is really quite good. There is all the density and depth of flavor that any winemaker could deliver in Burgundy's '05 vintage, but an added weight and structure on the palate that makes this wine stand out. $20.

2005 Domaine Paul Miset (Varoilles) Chambolle-Musigny - Definitely an up-and-coming estate, methinks. This wine smells of strawberries, real root beer (not A&W) and clove. On the palate there is a similar spicy red fruit character that is delicious and distinctive, with good length and well-integrated tannins. $42 and worth it.

2005 Domaine des Varoilles Gevrey Chambertin 1er cru 'Clos des Varoilles' - I do not remember the cost of this wine and do not think that any more is available in this country. Man, it was good though! Very lively blackberry flavors, incredibly focused and pure, pure pure. Very intensely flavored and super long on the finish.

Here were three wines which disappointed:

2004 DRC Echezeaux Grand Cru - Of course it was infanticide to crack this one open, but I was not there when the guilty party committed the act, and then left behind the bottle for me and my co-workers to taste. As a general rule, if there happens to be a bottle of DRC laying around, open, you kind of have to taste it. It's your duty as as a wine drinker. I am not the least bit experienced in DRC (this was my first encounter), though the wine struck me as being super tight, which is not surprising. Beneath all the tannin and structure, it was difficult for me to ascertain much beyond a bit of exotic spice (cumin, cloves) and dark fruit.

1999 Domaine Marechal Savigny Les Beaune Vielles Vigne
- Another infanticide. This was definitely pretty, intense, pure PN. No doubt. But maybe I was just expecting a little further development, some more secondary flavors presenting themselves. This was super refined for a Savigny, which I guess is no surprise given this excellent domaine's rep. If you have this in your cellar, I'd sit on it for another few years.

2000 Domaine Pierre Morey Pommard 1er cru 'Grands Epenot'
- Many '00 burgs are apparently drinking very well right now. Well this had very fleshy, cherry fruit and that Pommard sense of density and weight on the palate. But again, that was it. Very primary, and just a little boring. Good fruit intensity is a good thing, but I'd like some more in the way of floral and mineral notes in my wine.

A near revelation:

2004 De Montille Volnay 1er cru "Taillepieds" - This was as close to a 'WOW' experience as I've had in tasting red burgundy. Apparently I really like this vineyard; I remember tasting an '02 Bouchard from the same vineyard that was also good. But not this good. Very floral, with an amazing layered array of roses, raspberries, cherries, and mineral. Very lithe and supple on the palate. I could drink this every night and not tire of it. Unfortunately it's $80. But a splurge that is worth every penny.

I must say the good thing about tasting a number of wines from the same region is that you (or your friendly wine merchant) can make some general observations about what you like and dislike, as far as vineyard sites, vintages, producer's style, etc. Closing in on the end of 2007, a year which constituted a very good primer on Burgundy for me, I have discovered that I prefer softer, more feminine styled red burgs. And if they're from traditional producers and more classic vintages, so much the better.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Burgundy - worth the price of admission?

Not Ron Burgundy of Anchorman fame (to which I would respond with a resounding 'yes') but Burgundy as in the famed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay based wines of France. I must admit, though I've been tasting more and more of these wines, most of them current or recent release, some of them older, I am consistently underwhelmed. Well, maybe 'underwhelmed' is a little harsh. What is on my mind when I taste Burgundy, though, is the following: Why have I had so few wines that I find to be truly interesting, that are distinctive and that I can easily remember how it tastes, its texture on the palate, what make it unique from other Burgundies, etc? OK, once again a stretch. I know Meursault when I taste it, I know Puligny Montrachet when I taste it. Gevrey Chambertin vs Chambolle-Musigny, or Volnay? No problem. I'm speaking about generic Bourgogne Rouge and Blanc, and a good many village wines as well. Maybe it's just that I don't appreciate these grape varietals. I can say with certainty that I don't much care for Chardonnay, unless it is from Chablis or Champagne.

Even wines I've tasted from the amazing '05 vintage, while they are very well-made, have often times struck me as being tasty, well-made, nice wines. Nothing more. Here is a list of wines I'd rather spend money on then 99% of Bourgogne Rouge or Blanc:


Good nebbiolo
Traditional Rioja (La Rioja Alta, LdH)
Cru Beaujolais
Loire Vally Cab Franc
Cerasuolo di Vittoria


German and Austrian Riesling
Gruner Veltliner

...and plenty others. Why have I yet to have a revelation, a Burgundy that makes me say "Yeah!!! That's what it's about it, now I get it." Maybe I need to have my palate checked, could it be fatally flawed? Perhaps I'm just a hater, a Francophile hater. Maybe I need to hang out with more wine geeks. Wine geeks with deeper cellars. Wine geeks with deeper pockets than me.

I can appreciate peoples obsession's with Burgundy, without a doubt. But I just don't find them to be particularly exciting wines, at least without spending a good chunk of change. And I'd rather have an excellent producer's benchmark wine from a less fashionable region than some mid-end village Burg at twice the price. That's just me. Now let the hate mail and nasty Burghead posts begin....

Next post, I'll review some red burgundies whose taste I actually remember and write up one near revelatory Burgundian Pinot Noir experience I had several months ago.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad.

My dad has been truly interested in learning more about wine ever since I started working in the industry. He's definitely come a long way from the occasional CA trophy wines and magnums of Concha y Toro that I remember from my youth. Now, my dad enjoys Gruner Veltliner, Spanish reds, and nearly any other well-made, interesting wines you throw his way. Except for Greek whites and the ever challenging, oxidative whites of the Jura.

So dad, thank you for your continuing love and support. Enjoy your birthday - and drink well tonight! Love, Joe.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Spotlight, Loire Valley: COT vs COT!

Here is the premise for this vinous COT clash, first conceived towards the tail end of last Sunday at the shop (one of the advantages of working on Sundays is that the inevitable down time allows for some inspired moments of genius): Malbec, that increasingly rarely found Bdx blending grape, exclusive component of the formerly distinctive, once impenetrable 'black wines' of Cahors in southern France, and fruity component of many a wine from Mendoza, Argentina, might make some truly interesting wines in the Loire Valley, where it is known as 'Cot.' Why not taste a couple side-by -side, cipha' style, and see what each wine has to say?

Our two competitors are Clos Roche Blanche, probably best known for their delicous sauvignon blanc, and La Grange Tiphaine, a smaller winery whose Loire Valley star status is quickly rising under the incredibly talented Damien Delecheneau. The wines are the 2004 Clos Roche Blanche Cot and 2005 La Grange Tiphaine Cot Vielles Vignes, both produced in the Touraine AOC. Well, the results proved to be very interesting indeed.

Though these are two versions of Cot, from the same appellation, with the only apparent difference being the vintage and producer, the contrast between the two wines is dramatic. Whereas the Clos Roche Blanche is an opaque, dense purple color, the Grange Tiphaine is more violet and translucent, with bright purplish tints along the rim. Clos Roche Blanche smells of cassis at first, but then takes on an aromatic spiciness not unlike a Rhone wine. Meanwhile the Grange Tiphaine is all primary fruit on the nose, leading to a very sappy, '05 styled palate. It is reminiscent of Cab Franc. The Clos Roche Blanche, on the other hand, is darker, with more of a plum skin and dark cherry quality, as well as a persistent spice character. Some mouthfuls are floral, redolent of violets.

While I enjoyed both of these wines, I'd have liked to have had them with some more appropriate food, maybe some duck terrine or at the least some sauteed chicken sausage and fennel pasta, or sumthin'. What I ended up doing was slicing some Acme bread, a bit of Monte Enebro (tasty aged Spanish goat cheese from Avila, just north of Madrid), roasting a few red peppers and making a salad. Oh well, where there is good bread, tasty cheese and distinctive wine, at least there is a nutritious, satisfying light meal, if not the most ambitious or perfectly food-wine matched.

Though I'd have judged this freestyle battle a draw, my roommate Natalie gave the edge to La Grange Tiphaine. All results aside, I'd be interested in learning some more of the differences between these wines in terms of soil and, possibly more importantly, vinification. Yes, '05 and '04 are a world apart but there seems to be more going on here than mere vintage differences.

Sunday night Dinner at Bix

Last night I went to Bix, a jazz themed restaurant tucked away in an alley in North Beach. Posters of Josephine Baker, chalkboard sketches of Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday (that require a flash photograph to reveal their images, gimmicky but also pretty cool), and a bunch of artwork by a guy who did lots of his work in 1940's America (Heinrich something?) Apparently he is a huge influence on many folks, including Marilyn Manson. Bix is a comfortable, cozy yet expansive restaurant, with a handsome bar, baby grand piano, a dozen or so 4-tops on the first level, and another eight or so tables upstairs on a mezzanine level, which was where we sat. We were told by one of the waiters that Sharon Stone is a regular, amongst some other famous San Franciscans. The food was for the most part solid, especially considering the fact that this seemed to be more of a late night and less a fine-dining destination. The fried Bix chicken hash, which the four of us split as an ap, was delicious, as was the tender, flavorful American kobe beef. Maine lobster spaghetti was not as tasty, it was in a simple, overly sweet cream based sauce that wasn't doing it for me. Otherwise, like I said earlier, surprisingly tasty food.

Our (my brother and I) hosts, Harry and Joanie, are ideal dining companions. From hearing tales of hanging out with their son and requesting 'the best stuff they got' in Amsterdam coffee shops, to learning about the advantages of having a regular driver in New York City, to getting a sense of Billy Crystal's routine at Harry's recent ADA conference, there were many great stories told. Harry (aka Harry Lee, aka Henri) and Joanie are without a doubt some of my parents' most hip and fun loving friends - thanks again for a great evening you guys!

As far as wine, I really enjoyed the glass of 2005 Storybook Mountain Zinfandel I ordered at the Four Seasons hotel bar. Dark, brambly, spicy fruit with real grip and length on the palate. Very muscular and well-structured, this is always one of the best CA zins out there. Back to Bix, I started off with a glass of Nino Franco Prosecco, which was was tasty, nothing special, but perfectly pleasant. Theirs strikes me as being one of the more austere Proseccos around, with a pleasant bitter snap to the finish. Dinner presented a challenge as my brother and I were doing the surf and turf thing, Harry ordered lamb chops and Joanie the arctic char. So we got some Bollinger which did the trick. A little disappointing that Bix has not jumped on the grower champagne band wagon, but Bollinger did not disappoint. Great firmness and PN fruit, also austere. Not terribly complex, but consistently one of my favorite medium-large houses for good 'ol NV brut.

Stay tuned for a very exciting Loire Valley show-down in my next post!