Sunday, December 30, 2007

My favorite wines of 2007, or the year I started to truly enjoy wine.

(these wines are not on my list, but I think it's a funny little photo)

As a relative newcomer to wine, I will always remember 2007 as the year that I gained a bit more first-hand knowledge, through tasting, of wines in their various states of maturity. As a former buyer of one of my retail accounts in Baltimore once told me, back when I worked for a distributor, "If you want to learn about wine, if you want to taste a lot of wine, get on the retail side of the business." Well, that is what I did in 2007. My palate, wine knowledge and overall enthusiasm for wine are much stronger now than ever before. Thank you, Peter.

This is a tough list to synthesize, but I'm going to scratch some wines out on paper, rank them, and then put 'em up here with varyingly brief, telling, or perhaps not at all descriptive, TN's, often supplemented by the circumstances in which I was enjoying a bottle. I ought to note that this is a contextualized list. Context is very difficult to separate from the wine itself, so I choose not to do so. Y ahorita, los vinos:

10. 1995 Lopez de Heredia Rosado

This was one of the highlights of a rose tasting this past summer. Someone once described this wine to me, before I had ever tried it, as port like. I think of it more as the perfect embodiment of traditional Rioja flavors, in the prettiest, most ethereal way imaginable.

9. 1978 Poujeaux Moulis-en-Medoc

Delicious, bright, lively claret. It tastes much younger than its 30 years.

8. 1989 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Blanco Reserva - Read about it here.

7. 1995 Luneau Papin Muscadet L d'or

I tasted this alongside the 1989. It was my first exposure to first rate Muscadet with bottle age (I was a little behind, I know, chalk it up to youthful ignorance, and to living in the DC area for 9 years).

6. 1985 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese

Sorry, no AP number...anyway, you know it was a good drinking year if this amazing wine did not quite crack the top five (and if you read this blog you know I love Riesling).

5. 1989 Chasse-Spleen

What can I say, I love Moulis. It showed a pretty, wonderfully perfumed nose with black cherry and licorice notes. Amazingly fresh and young on the palate. Tannins were still not fully resolved, but there is abundant, and abundantly pure, fruit there as well.

4. 1971 Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanee

My first '70's Burgundy experience, and a good one. '71 was when my parents married, August 25, 1971 to be exact. So my parents, brother and I enjoyed this bottle in August, in a Calistoga cabin, alongside roasted fingerling potatoes and grilled lamb chops. After some initial stage fright, this 36 year old opened up and showed admirably, with tangy sour cherry fruit. I do enjoy drinking wine that is older than I am, especially when the year is significant to others who are near and dear to me.

3. 1988 Krug

One of my good friends in the business, and straight up one of the best human beings I know in Washington, DC, Burnie Williams, gifted me this bottle. I decided that we would drink it over lunch at CP Steak. The wine was textbook Krug: rich, full flavored, and a finish that would not quit. To borrow Matt Kramer's description of Meursault, this was truly like drinking 'liquid gold.'

2. 1981 Cronin Pinot Noir 'Ventana Vineyard'

'WTF???' you may be asking yourself. 26 year old CA pinot from a now defunct winery that many people outside of Woodside, California do not know, this bottle was pure magic, and I wish I had bought more. Read more about Cronin.

And the #1 wine is...

1976 Domaine des Varoilles Charmes Chambertin

One of those vintages that at first concerned Burg drinkers due to the heat, many '76s, I am told, have aged incredibly well. This was my Burgundy Epiphany Bottle - I began to understand why people obsess and bankrupt their shit over this shit.

So that's it, those are just some of the wines I loved in 2007. You know, I was thinking of doing a similar list for current releases, but there are just too many enjoyable wines I have drunk this year to whittle it down into list form. To be honest it's too much work and I'm not up for that sort of work at this point in the year, you know? Maybe next year....

Friday, December 28, 2007

Palo Cortado, otra vez.

Hidalgo is perhaps best known for their Manzanilla 'La Gitana,' as well as their single vineyard Pastrana Manzanilla pasada. Well, they also make Palo Cortado, and I finally got around to trying some tonight. Compared to the earlier reviewed Barbadillo Palo Cortado 'Obispo Gascon,' the Hidalgo PC is a totally different animal. In short, if Barbadillo's style is Palo Cortado bordering on oloroso, then Hidalgo's is more towards the Amontillado side of Palo Cortado. In the glass, the sherry is a duller shade of amber, with less of the brilliant orange glints. Dried black currants and fruit cake aromas on the nose are somehow a bit less intense and spirit like than the Barbadillo PC. No surprise here, as the Hidalgo weighs in at 17.5% abv whereas the Barbadillo is closer to 21.5%. Similarly, the palate is less viscous and powerful, both in terms of alchohol and intensity of flavors, but there is plenty of dried fruit character, acidity, salty tang and nuttiness to make this yet another excellent value fine wine from sherry country. Hidalgo's PC also gets huge bonus points for transmitting that tough to pinpoint sherry glow and energy (no, I did not finish the bottle, not even close) that I have not experienced since visiting Jerez in 1999 while living in Sevilla.

Next up in my Palo Cortado exploration: the Hidalgo Palo Cortado Viejo, which, if I understand correctly, comes from a solera dating back to colonial times!

Grignolino - Mmm, mmm mmm.

The 2005 La Casaccia Grignolino del Monferrato is such a mouth-wateringly tasty imbibement, I thought that it merits its own, brief, post. Produced from 100% Grignolino, the Piedmontese specialty, this wine is pure wild strawberries, with fine sandpaper tannins, the kind that leave your tongue feeling like a cat's tongue when it licks you. There is the barest hint of marzipan on the finish. Oliver McCrum continues to amaze me with his terrific portfolio of Italian wines; this particular example is available in the Bay Area for less than $15. Drink it up.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Champagnes for the poorly served or last minute shopper

You might be visiting a friend who lives far away from a decent wine shop, or live in an area without shops which stock smaller, higher quality houses and grower champagnes. If that is the case, try one of these 3 champanskoyas:

Bollinger Brut Reserve NV - Depending on where you live and how liberally the local bottle shop marks up champagne, this will probably run $38 - $52. As always, it is big, rather austere and with a good base of tangy red berry fruits from the Pinot Noir. I am always happy to drink Bolli.

Pol Roger NV - $30-$45. This is not particularly exciting in my book, but always tastes clean and has the perfect amount of toastiness to add a bit of richness and texture, which balances the bright appley and lemony tones.

Laurent Perrier NV - This is a very distant 3rd pick, just because it will be available, probably cheap ($28-$40) and won't offend anyone.

Once again, this list is based on a shitty neighborhood shop selection (though I really do enjoy the Bolli). If possible, you should find Champagne elsewhere and get the really good stuff.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best of 2007 - German Riesling edition

Greetings from Tacoma, Washington! On the list below, you may notice a dominance of Kabinetts, and lots of 10 or so year old wines. These are generally my preference. Also am noticing a predominance of Mosel wines on this list - no surprises there as these are the most commonly available Rieslings. Next year I hope to taste a lot more German Riesling and thereby diversify the list a bit more! So, without further adieu...Here are my Top 10 German Rieslings of the year:

10. Verinigte Hospitien Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2004 - Delicious Kabinett that I bought at a ridiculously low price, this beauty had a satin like mouthfeel, with gentle white nectarine fruit and more than a hint of red currants. Hospitien may not be the fanciest or most acclaimed of Saar producers, but they are reliable rieslings for the money. I'm trying to lay off my 6 remaining bottles for another few years.

9. Jakoby Mathy Kinheimer Rosenberg Riesling Kabinett 2006 - Beautiful, juicy, mouthwatering Mosel Riesling. It has that orchard fresh fruit thing going on. Just tasty, uncomplicated, Mosel Riesling.

8. Schmitt Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Spatlese 2005 - More texture and richness on this guy; the 80+ year old ungrafted vines deliver some real density in texture. Somehow these wines always come across as drier than the norm for the pradikat level and the vintage. Which in addition to the aforementioned texture and creaminess makes them true originals. Tasty fruit as well, but to me this wine is more about texture.

7. Hauth Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 1996 - A stunner! Mature Kabinett with intense lime and slate flavors. With the '96 acidity this might be the driest tasting pradikat wine I have had. Terrific, powerful, gutsy Kabinett.

6. Hauth Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 1994 - Even better than the above. The nose had a bit more sweetness, almost a sweet quinine aspect to it. Very similar to the '96 Kabinett on the palate, with more length and a minerality not as thoroughly integrated as on the Kabinett. Delicious now and probably a lot more so in 5 years

5. Carl Scmitt Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett 1992 - So young, this wine tastes so young! Even the color, which has deepened to a slightly darker and more intense light yellow, still suggests a younger wine. All the texture and cream of his '05 Spatlese from the same vineyard, with the added dimension of greater fruit intensity and balance from the bottle age. I'd be curious to see this wine in another decade, and would not be surprised if it still tasted young.

4. Diehl Dorsheimer Burgberg Riesling Kabinett 1997 - A textbook lesson in balance between fruit, residual sugar and acidity in mature Kabinett. Lovely Nahe riesling from one of its masters.

3. Max Ferdinand Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Kabinettt 1997 - Another impeccably balanced Kabinett. I love this site, which always seems to produce vivid citrus flavors, often times taking on a similarity to perfectliy ripe, juicy, Florida pink grapefruit. As Dirk Richter once told me, "In Germany we have a saying: 'the girl should be young, and the Riesling should be old!' "

2. JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 1996 - Such a firecracker of a Riesling, what with all of that beautifully clean acidity. This wine was my second pick in a Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr auslese vertical in which I participated a few months ago, only because the next wine was so spectacular.

1. JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese 1985 - Beautiful, 18K golden color. This mature Auslese showed a strong vanilla extract and cookie dough note. After a bit of time ripe pear and honey showed as well - definitely a botrytis wine. Acidity is present on the palate, but very mellow, and the fruit is similarly subtle and tough to pinpoint - the fruit is there and it is delicious.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Best of 2007 - Holiday wine shopping edition

Here's the first of what will probably be a few list of superlatives posts. Enjoy!

Most misguided proposed food pairing proposed by a customer-
2005 Quinta do Crasto Douro Reserva and Veal scallopini

Most inspired proposed customer kitchen sabotage -
a lady who wanted to cook rib roast, but instead was told she needs to cook a turkey, plans on making sides that will not go well with the turkey, but that would have complemented the beef perfectly.

Best breakroom snack (nutritious) -
the never ending supply of dried apricots, peaches, currants and plums

Best breakroom snack (not nutritious) -
the tray of chocolate truffles

Most timely breakroom food run - Burritos mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve. You're the man, Jorge!

Best customer t-shirt - Putting the 'g' in 'gangsta,' pink typeface on a bright green tee.

Most encouraging feedback from a customer - "Thanks for your persistence" (after spending nearly 10 minutes tracking down the riedel single malt glasses). Temporary location? Underneath the wine accessories behind the counter.

Best POS made by a home winemaker -
Olema Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2005 - "Totally vinified to drink right now!" That's why they call you 'the master,' Jim Barr!

Best bottle of Champagne enjoyed toward the end of the day -
Tarlant Cuvee Louis magnum.

Go-to gift bottle of Italian red -
La Fortuna Brunello Riserva 2001

Go-to gift bottle of Bordeaux -
Pontet Canet 1996

Category with the best, deepest selection for the holidays -
German wines (congrats, Jefe.)

Friday, December 21, 2007


That's how I feel right now - outstanding. Glands, swollen. Nose, stuffy. But I'm looking forward to the last push of holiday insanity.

This jam is for everyone working hard in the service and retail business this holiday season. Crank it up and get down!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

sick tastebuds

During this most recent bout with the cold, I've noticed that sweet still tastes sweet, sour tastes sour, salty tastes weird and bitter tastes SUPER BITTER. Umami tastes good in tomato soup but not in soy sauce (must be the saltiness). I tried a little bit of Rittenhouse rye tonight, which I typically enjoy once in a while but it was not too tasty at all tonight. Then I tried a sip of Francis Tannahill 'Jack' that has been opened for at least 5 days. It tasted even worse than the whiskey. I could only taste alcohol and bitterness.

Right now, the few things that are tasting good to me are campbell's tomato soup, jell-o, and tea. My favorite at home sick meal growing up was Kraft macaroni and cheese, tomato soup and jello. I abstain from the mac n' cheese now, as dairy is no good for the cold. But I miss it. That, a TV tray, and some Pinwheel. Yeah.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The last wine glass of wine before the Cold hit.

It's amazing how suddenly a cold will set in, and, in the case of a few nights ago, I felt it suddenly manifest in my body as a scratchy throat. After a glass of Do Ferreiro Albarino 2006, I noticed that I definitely would be contending with a cold, so instead of wine for the next few days it would be water, rose hip tea with ginger and honey, and more water.

A very good glass of wine, though! A benchmark albarino producer, Do Ferreiro makes gutsy wine with more smokey granite minerality than any other albarino I have tasted. Its minerality truly does bring to mind the riesling to which it is supposedly related. There is also lots of cool, crisp fruit with a tinge of lemongrass and just the slightest hint of lychee. This is serious albarino. I look forward to trying more '06 albarinos, especially Lusco - which has always been a favorite in years past. If the quality of the Do Ferreiro is any indication, though, it could be facing some stiff competition.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Things I learned recently about Brettanomyces and Kraftwerk

The bacteria Brettanomyces, aka bret, is used in the process of making geuze - a sour belgian beer which forms the basis for lambics (beer made with fruit). My first exposure to a true geuze was a few months ago and I loved it; there was a super tangy aspect, as well as a satisfying, meaty savor. It brought to mind some flavors that Burgundy sometimes shows. Brett, by the way, can be thought of as the fish sauce of winemaking. Nasty to think of it on its own, but in the right amount (it is a naturally occurring bacteria in many wineries) it adds a certain degree of umami to wine. Though I am not sure that brett is something which can be easily adjusted. I don't encounter brett too often in New World wines, though, on occasion I certainly have. Maybe as the 'American palate' evolves more people will demand different flavors, more akin to European wines, and it will be common practice to allow bret to flourish in vats and barrels? Not that this would necessarily be a good thing....

And about Kraftwerk, I learned that a few of their songs were featured in Master of the Flying Guillotine. The film also has a song from Neu! and Tangerine Dream. That right there is pretty cool.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Robert Kelly at the Oakland Coliseum

Now usually I don't do this but...let's hit you off with a little concert review.

I'll keep this one short as I don't wish to devote too much web ink to someone as fucked up as Mr. Kelly. I will say, though, that seeing an R. Kelly concert at the Oakland Coliseum is truly a great opportunity to observe one of the more overrated pop performers of our times amongst his legions of fans. Can anyone out there defend this man's recent musical efforts? Yes, 'That's that,' 'Ignition,' 'Fiesta,' and others are catchy singles, and the man has a knack for producing hit songs. However you can't help but sense that R. Kelly is a singer and musician of some ability, who has chosen the surefire route to success, via nasty lyrics, simple melodies, and frivolous hooks. As for R. Kelly's live performance, there was way too much reliance on shout-outs from colleagues, a montage of the singer's old music videos, and multiple set changes.

I feel bad for anyone who payed face value for these tickets. Which reminds me, thanks to Mateo and Scott for hooking up this ticket for free. I had fun checking out part of opener Keisha Cole's terrific set (great backing band, too) and, at times anyway, enjoyed the on-stage antics of Robert Sylvester Kelly.

Two from the 70's: 1970 Beychevelle and 1976 Friedrich Baumann Niersteiner Pettenthal Riesling-Silvaner Auslese

Tasting these wines were my tasting highlights at work last week. Then again, as we are in the season these were basically the only wines we tasted at work. The
'70 beych - good acidity and fairly lively red fruit, with a decidedly foresty note. Not compelling, but honest Bdx in a pretty good spot for drinking. If you got it, drink it up, I say. The 1976 Friedrich Baumann Niersteiner Pettenthal Riesling-Silvaner Auslese was an odd bird. Old Rheinhessen, burnt sugar and banana flavors, with an almost peaty smokiness to it. Somewhere between peat smoke and pinotage band-aid flavors. Sounds good, huh? Returning to this wine after a few days, the smoke had dissipated and the fruit was a bit fresher, more enticing, more intense and lively. Not bad.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

One of my favorite scenes ever.

I've posted a 'Rockers' scene before, but this is really the scene that does it for me. It's a great inside look at Harry J's studio, with Jack Ruby producing a Kiddus I session. Players like Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Ranchie McLean (guitar) and others are shown doing their thing. Then it cuts to protagonist Leroy 'horsemouth' Wallace convincing Jack Ruby to let him sell his records in area shops. After that you see a factory pressing and stamping 45's. Classic, classic, scene. I can't thank my friend Jon (and by extension the assorted UMASS hippies who were into this movie) enough for introducing me to Rockers.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Terroir - natural wine bar

Last night a co-worker and friend who is also in the retail wine business went with me to a terrific new wine bar named Terroir. The place looks great - worn poured concrete floors, single bottle facings displayed on wooden shelves, several well-spaced wooden tables, and a small temperature controlled cellar adjacent to the bar where the vast majority of bottles are stored. There are a dozen wines served by the glass or 1/2 carafe, and about 150 bottles in the store that you can purchase and open with a $12 corkage fee.

The selection is small in terms of number of bottles, but offers many interesting choices, all of which are either organically or biodynamically cultivated. Not surprisingly, the selection currently focuses on French regions such as the Loire, Rhone, Languedoc-Roussillon and Burgundy. Guillaume, who buys the wine for Terroir, was saying that he will be bringing in lots of Beaujolais soon as well. Italy is a distant second in terms of representation, with producers like Roagna, Gulfi, Radikon (for which they are currently featuring several wines from different vintages) and Paolo Bea on the shelves. Not much in the way of Spanish, German, Austrian and domestic wines for now. But given the breadth of terrific selections from France, there is no lack of choices. We ended up starting with one of the few German or Austrian wines on the shelf, an '05 George Breuer Riesling Charme. It was tasty as always, with delicious, ripe '05 fruit and the typical Breuer creaminess on the mid palate. Good, basic riesling trocken from this producer, though it will be much better in 3-5 years. Our next wine was the 2006 Tue-Bouef Cheverny Rouge, which I was told consists of Gamay, Grolleau and Pineau d'aunis (though I am not convinced, I am now reading elsewhere that the wine is Pinot Noir and Gamay?) This wine was a blast. Some gamay earth on the nose, and bright, red berry fruit on the palate. Anyone who wants to taste what all the excitement is about with regards to French country wines should just try the Tue-Bouef Cheverny Rouge. If you don't get it after that, then I don't know what to tell you.

I really want Terroir to succeed. Their selection shows a commitment to quality wine, and to educating customers on the merits of naturally made wines. If you live in the SF area, or plan on visiting, check out Terroir. It's on Folsom between 8th and 9th streets.

wild style.

DJing, breaking, graffiti.

Whoever can name at least 3 of the folks in this scene, as well as who sampled the lead-in and lead-out songs, gets much props.

Holiday season is upon us

Man it has been busy, busy, busy. I'm just coming off of 7 consecutive days of holiday retail work, so I apologize in advance if this post comes across as disjointed, boring, poorly articulated or any combination thereof. I'm mentally tired, physically a bit less so.

Unfortunately, this week I missed out on my newly minted cool shop wednesday edition. Which, by the way, is gaining the attention of at least one of the profiled stores. Thanks again for posting, Rick. I was all ready to give a big blog-hug to the ladies of Avedano's. They have supplied this household with a Thanksgiving bird, delicious nocciola gelato, green onion gnocchi, chipotle, cinnamon, roasted pumpkin seed and grey salt chocolate, Sicilian honey, and other delicious foodstuffs. Read about Avedano's.

I have managed to get through this 7 days stretch with the help and support of (in no particular order) my co-workers, roommates, Barbadillo Don Obispo Gascon Palo Cortado, Naked juices and aged riesling. Thank you all.

Tonight I went to a terrific, newly opened natural wine bar and shop called Terroir. Look for the write-up tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Got $30-$40 to waste? Buy some Oregon Pinot.

OK, sometimes subtlelty is not my greatest strength. Allow me to enlarge on the headline above.

My tasting group met last week to taste six brown bagged wines. Only one of us, Jeffrey Porter of Drink Eat Love fame, knew what the wines were as he organized the tasting. Though I knew these were all wines made from Pinot Noir, I did not posit a successful guess as to what region they were from. With two exceptions, they tasted very alcoholic, overoaked, and sweet. So I came to the conclusion that we were tasting CA Pinot Noir. To be more precise I posited that they were all from Santa Barbara county. The tasting was very educational, or rather, an affirmation of what I suspected of most Oregon PN: they are over-priced, increasingly unbalanced, undrinkable wines. Nonetheless, there were a few winners, and I am glad that Jeff picked Oregon PN as a theme since I have not been as up on current releases as I should be.


Brandborg Pinot Noir Umpqua Valley 2005

Maybe this was an '06? I don't remember. Mixed small berry red fruits and dark fruits on the nose lead to a fresh, fruity palate that is plenty forward and refreshing. As this was the first wine we tasted, and did not know the theme, I was thinking '05 Bourgogne Rouge or Marsannay. It was a clear favorite for me, and a re-affirmation because my favorite Oregon PN I drank last year was a bottle of Shady Grove Pinot Noir (vintage '02?), also from Umpqua Valley. At roughly $20 a pop for both of these wines, I'll have to seek out more wines from Umpqua. They're doing it right.

Stoller Pinot Noir 'Dundee Hills' 2004

While obviously heavier and a bit clumsier than the wine above, there was still some semblance of balance. Plum, spice and very new world PN on the nose, leading to a slightly woody, spicy dark fruited palate. This was the wine that made me think of guessing Santa Barbara PN. Not bad.

Chehalem Pinot Noir 'Ridgecrest' 2005
Charred embers and muddled dark fruit on the nose. Equally unfocused initially on the palate, the wine opened up a bit and became more drinkable, if in an 'I'll finish my glass if this is what I'm being served' kind of way.


The other four wines were just not doing it for me. Too oaky, alcoholic, jammy, sweet, etc, etc. I wouldn't pay $10 for them, let alone $30-$40. Here are the other wines Sineann Pinot Noir 'Shindler Vineyard 2006', Methuen Pinot Noir 2005, Raptor Ridge Pinot Noir Williamette Valley 2006.

Thankfully the evening was bookended by some refreshing Greek whites, the best of which was an '06 Santorini that I had never seen before which was terrific. I did not jot down the name and, even for a Greek wine, its amount of letters and syllables posed a formidable challenge to the memory. There was a crisp, earthy cava from i Raventos and a delicious Cremant de Jura from Berthet-Bondet.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Scmitt-Wagner Longuicher Maximiner Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett 1992er

Yes, this a wine of many 'ers.

I'm excited that Terry Theise seems to be selling more library releases these days. Schmitt-Wagner's wines are distinctive. They of the creamy flavors, satin texture and otherwise ungrafted vine goodness. This wine is aging extremely well. Petrolly on the nose at first, with some orange blossom and chamomile notes showing after some air, this '92 Kabinett seems to be aging very, very slowly. How so much flavor, intensity and length is packed into a Kabinett with a mere 7,5% alcohol is beyond me. It's magic - German riesling magic. This is simply terrific, far from mature, super tasty 15 year old Mosel Kabinett.

A Tribe Called Quest - Verses From The Abstract

See below for the OWOS re–mix of the chorus. ATCQ was one of the most natural, infectious and perfect pop musical collaborations of all times.

Verses from the Wine Blogger

[Set to the 'Verses from the Abstract' beat (see above)]

If you're looking for real wine in Californa, then ummmm...

Steve Edmunds is in the house
Patrick Campbell is in the house
My man Jeff Emery, he's in the house
Lazy Creek they in the house
Clos Saron is in the house
Joseph Swann is in the house
Wells Guthrie is in the house
And can't forget that Palmina is in the house

Might hit you with another chorus at some point. These are all folks who make good, honest wine.

The new hardcore

On my post about mags of French country wine at a recent holiday party I attended, I had thought that the white in question was a Chenin from Anjou, when it was in fact a sauvignon gris from Touraine, produced by Xavier Frissant. Thanks for the correction, ombudsman.

In other news, I have have missed the past couple days in blogolandia due to the onset of holiday parties and, last night, checking out some amazing live music courtesy of Melt-Banana. They played one of the most awesome series of 6 uninterrupted songs I have ever heard. Each song averaged about 6.2 seconds. Opening act XBXRX was a tight, highly rockin' outfit as well, even without their bass player. Stage presence a bit spastic, but the high polish of their music and moves made up for it. If you check out either of these links, keep in mind that for both bands it's all about the live performance. Maybe some people can listen to stuff like this, Lightning Bolt etc on their ipods, home hi-fi or whatever, but I'm not one of those people.

More on wine tomorrow.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Our pizza's sort of the boss.

I'm withholding all modesty here and would like to declare the pizza that my roommate Nattles and I made as top-notch. With a few more efforts I think it will be safe to say that our pizza will be tops in the Bay Area - imnsho it's already top 3.

Whereas our first efforts last week were respectable, the crust was not as consistent, lacking a bit in flavor, and the appearance of the pizza was not the greatest. This week the difference was initially proofing the dough for 6+ hours in the fridge, as opposed to an hour at room temp. Both weeks we punched down the dough and then proofed again for another 30 minutes. Here are last night's pies:

Fresh mozz, chopped garlic, watercress
Olive oil, parmeggiano reggiano, cremini mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic and fennel, crispy potato, dried chopped thai pepper, capers, parsley
parmiggiano reggiano, feta, creminis, chopped thai peppers, parsley (super thin crust)
Mozz, mushroom, sun-dried tomatoes
parmeggiano reggiano, sun-dried tomato, a few leftover scraps of creminis

The wine accompaniment was a delicious bottle of 1998 Cronin Zin/Mourvedre. Bright spicy, tangy central coastal California wine which will probably go strong for at least another 3 years. It is easily the most enjoyable $10 red I have ever drunk.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

That's a cool shop Wednesdsay pt.II - Lucca Ravioli Company

Real authentic Italian food in San Francisco, be it a deli, pizzeria, or restaurant, is sometimes tough to find. Fortunately, Lucca is around to transport even the most critical Italian food loving New Yorker back to the City. The selection of imported canned and jarred goods is quite good, as is the selection of basic Italian cheeses — sweet and spicy gorgonzola, fresh mozzarella, parmeggiano-reggiano, ricotta, and others. The real star here, though, is the selection of cured meats such as coppa, salumetti and prosciutto di san daniele. Though I hear the fresh made pastas and sauces are supposed to be very tasty as well.

What I love about Lucca Ravioli Company almost as much as the quality of their basic Italian staples is the old school feel of the place. You go in, take a number from the ticket dispenser, and wait for a gentleman donning a white paper hat to help you out. When you are ready to settle up, you hand over your credit card or cash and someone will go to the behoemoth sized, gilded, early 1920's (?) era cash register to complete the sale. The whole experience is old school to the bone marrow. Lucca is conveniently located at the corner of 22nd and Valencia in la Mission. It has played a pivotal role in providing ingredients for another newly minted Wednesday tradition: Pizza wednesdays. Yep - we are cooking up some pretty killer Neapolitan style pies here at home. More on that tomorrow.

Buona notte.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

muscadet and mac n cheese

Ate some pretty decent takeout from my neighborhood falafel, rotisserie chicken, kebab and zatar pita joint - Gook Frikin' Chicken. Its logo has a cartoon rooster on it, sort of like a mug shot of Bugs Bunny rooster Foghorn Leghorn. Anywyay the food is decent, and I was looking forward to pairing it with a magnum of 1996 Jo Landron Domaine de la Louvetrie 'Fief du Breil' Muscadet that the household is currently working through, as well as a magnum of 1985 Couly Dutheil Clos l'echo Chinon and a puny little 750ml of 2004 Tour Grise Saumur '253' Rouge. While the food and wines were delicious on their own, the only really tasty pairing was the not so cheesy, plain mac n cheese and the Muscadet. On its own, this '96 Fief du Breil has become quincy like Jones, just very quince with lots of intensity of fruit. The acidity is more mellow and integrated than I would expect at this point in the wine's development. Together with the mac n cheese the flavors became more complete, slightly creamy, leesy and nutty. I had some chicken kebabs which were tasty, and worked ok with the wines, though they seemed to take away from the fading, muddled fruit of the '85 Clos l'echo. Oh, by the way, thanks to whichever customer it was who returned this bottle on Monday! The wine was certainly mature, with a very leafy, forest floor quality and strong notes of beef tenderloin. But certainly, to my judgement, not corked or flawed in any way. Though the wine was fading (and I don't know when the customer had opened it) there was at first a real vibrancy and freshness to the fruit and acidity. The texture, of course, was silky and gorgeous. What a contrast to the young '04 Tour Grise Saumur Rouge, produced from old Cab Franc vines in an area of Saumur for which producers Philipe and Francois Gourdon are proposing a new appellation. This is an incredibly fruity Cab Franc, but with excellent purity and liveliness as well. Fruit, fruit and more fruit here, mostly red. It has cab franc's delicious mouth-watering fruit without the more earthy and herbal tones. Maybe even a lover of Napa cab might enjoy this?

Monday, December 3, 2007

two good wines from the 'bad' 1997 vintage

Yet again, more proof that talented, consistent producers, who make consistently good, balanced wines, will do the same in more challenging vintages. Here we look at a Bdx and a Mosel Riesling from the oft maligned 1997 vintage. In the case of Bdx, it really was a tough year, with rains during harvest and many diluted, overly vegetal wines. Many '97s are not fun to drink. For the Mosel, I think that '97 was more overshadowed by the amazing '96 vintage, and was not by any means a dud.

Langoa Barton St. Julien 1997
- If St. Julien represents Bordeaux at its most elegant, with a most consistent spread of typicity, elegance and value (which, based on my experience up to this point, it does), then Langoa Barton is a perfect representative for the commune. Just like the '04 which I had a few months ago, this '97 is a balance of meaty savor, pure understated fruit, and soft texture. Of course this is a good bit more advanced, especially considering the fact that the vintage is not one for long cellaring. But really delicious, a much more complete and balanced wine than any other '97 Bdx I have yet tasted. '97 Malescot is pretty good now that I think about it, and may last a bit longer, but Langoa is the more interesting wine right now.

Max Ferdinand Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Kabinett 1997
- I had to return a badly corked bottle to get to the good stuff. Which reminds me: at between 20-25% corked bottles (and I have cracked open many of Dirk's rieslings as I used to sell them for a distributor), this winery has BY FAR the worst corked wine to good wine ratio I have ever encountered. Dirk - you make very good Riesling but either find a better supply of cork or switch to stelvin!!! Anyway, VE is a monopoly vineyard for Richter, who is based in Mulheim in the middle Mosel. The flavors are very bright, pure, focused and citric, almost like Wehlener Sonnenuhr but lighter, more simple and with a more delicate minerality. Soil here is gray slate and quartz, not the famed blue Devonian slate as in Wehlener Sonnenuhr. With a light straw color, a bit of petrol and citrus on the nose, and a very juicy, snappy palate tasting of clementines, this wine can probably still evolve for another several years. The wine is starting to get the nice, silky, mature Riesling texture, but isn't all the way there yet. And it seems as though there is some sweetness that could further resolve itself in another few years. Richter's Veldenzer Elisenberg. wines, though, and this is no exception, are a real delight to drink young, middle aged, and I imagine old, though I have yet to experience a 20 yr old Richter wine from VE.

Tomorrow, probably back to the Loire valley (again....)

Good night.

Evolution of a reggae band - pt I

Aswad, from WAY back in the day.

Evolution of a reggae Band - pt II

Check out how much more polished Aswad is here. Not sure when this is from, but judging by how the band looks and the way they sound, I'd say somewhere between '89-'92.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

French country wines outta Mags

Thanks to Nadia for hosting a fun holiday get-together in her beautiful Specific Whites (oops, I meant to say 'Pacific Heights') apt. Here were my chosen imbibements:

Domaine Rimbert 'Le mas au Schistes' St Chinian 2004 (1.5l) - Good, fresh dark berry fruits which were powerful and a bit chewy for my taste, without any hearty meat dish to accompany the wine.

Domaine Rimbert 'Le mas au Schistes St Chinian 2003 (1.5l) - Rather mature and baked fruit, lacking freshness and the nice minerality of the '04

There was a nice little Chenin from Anjou, also outta mag, that was crisp, braeburn apple deliciousness. I don't recall the producer.

It was good fun kicking off the upcoming Christmas/Hanukah party season. Next weekend will be a latke throwdown, which of course as a fried potato loving Jew I am anxiously anticipating. Mmm...latkes.