Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dem Boyz from BMORE Represent

'Brother Sport,' the last track on Animal Collective's recently released Merriweather Post Pavillion LP, is undoubtedly an homage to Baltimore club(essentially sped up house music). I'm guessing that the band listened to their share of hip-hop station 92Q growing up.

Would be awesome if some of the city's club DJ's were actually spinning this track, somewhere between whatever Lil Wayne and T.I. remixes are currently floating around out there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Protecting the brand, Champagne Style

What do you think of the above full page ad that the Vignerons et Maisons de Champagne are currently running in the New Yorker (and elsewhere?) A few initial reactions:

Which US sparkling wine producers persist in labelling their product as Champagne (other than maybe Korbel, J Roger, or other cheap fizz makers)?

The rather significant, recent price increases in champagne might also be legal, but are they fair?

Advertising in a high brow publication such as the New Yorker, wouldn't the US office of Champagne realize that they are sort of preaching to the choir, or at least to a readership that, if they care enough to buy a bottle of bubbly that in fact is real champagne, would know the difference?

Seems like a waste of money here. But then again, when you're wasting money on all manner of fertilizers, herbicides and other products to grow your grapes, as well as wasting money on perceived 'luxury' packaging, what's a little extra wasted money on a poorly targeted advertising and PR campaign?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Noir City 7

Opening night for the wildly successful, 7th annual Noir City Film festival recently took place at the Castro Theater this past Saturday night. It's a must for any film noir aficionado. Or in my case, for anyone who merely wants to play (and dress) the part, while enjoying the communal cinema experience in the unbeatable Castro Theater ambience. This year, the festival focuses on the media, with an opening night double bill that featured Deadline USA (starring Humphrey Bogart) and Scandal Sheet. I enjoyed the former for the sharp, punchy writing and typically witty, no nonsense performance by Mr. Bogart, while the latter also had terrific writing and prescient commentary on the dumbing down of the daily newspaper.

Noir City 7 runs at the Castro Theater, with two films screened nightly (7:30pm and 9:30pm) through this Sunday February 1st.

Local wine blogger, keepin' it noir

Friday, January 23, 2009


Well, Animal Collective's latest album, named after the Frank Gehry designed concert venue Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD, has been out for a few weeks now. I look forward to finally downloading a copy, and also to seeing the band perform in May at the newly renovated Fox Theater in Oakland.

Chances are that some of you are into this band and have already seen this video for the song 'My Girls.' But for everyone else, check out the cosmic, sample based, beautifully harmonized sounds of Animal Collective, set to a pretty cool video.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

SPANISH WINE, gateway to the old world, bridge to elsewhere (anywhere else) in Europe?

Pop Quiz 1 - After you first got into wine, after you learned your cab from your pinot noir and chardonnay from your sauvignon blanc, which country's wine's did you check out next?

Pop Quiz 2 - You are a wine geek. You love nearly anything 'naturally' made, especially if it is French. A.) Explain your Francophile tendencies. B.) Extra credit. You enjoy good sherry and Rioja from Lopez de Heredia. What do you know about Spain's other wines? And how does your preference for honest, low alcohol, high acid French wines inform your exploration into other types of wine, mainly those from Spain?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

HIGH ALCOHOL - Not always a bad thing

I tasted a few wines in the past day which, at over 14.5% abv, could be considered 'high alcohol' for red table wines. In fact, I tasted many such wines, as I tasted a large number of domestic reds yesterday. Most of them were of no interest to me. Overly fruity, oaky, burnt from heavily toasted French oak, lifeless from lack of acidity, you name it. A range of what many picky palates would call out as flaws in modern winemaking.

However, two wines stood out for their relative sense of balance. One was Spanish, the other from the Suison Valley (southeast of Napa Valley). Both had 15.5% alcohol, something you'd no doubt note after drinking a few glasses, but tasting the wine, perhaps is somewhat less noticeable.

The 2005 Val Llach Val Llach is classic, modern Priorat. With its bold aromas of cassis, blackberry jam and sweet mocha it probably will not win over those who generally do not enjoy big, brawny, intensely fruity Priorat. Typically, I'm the first to hate on Priorat (for that matter, throw in Ribera del Duero as well). Overly ripe fruit and way too much new oak seem to rule the day. However, this particular Priorat, produced by the president of the Priorat D.O., just worked for me. Yes, it's big and not shy about utilizing some new oak, but that llicorella (slate) minerality is there, as well as nicely balanced acidity. Gonna go out on a limb here and guess that this is one of the few Priorats I like due to a.)CARIGNAN makes up the majority of the wine, and as we all know carignan is just delicious and/or b.) the vineyard site really is top notch, with an incredibly steep slope composed largely of black slate.

Abe Schoener, best known for his Scholium Project wines, also makes slightly more accessible, lower priced wines under the Ten Brick label. The 2007 Tenbrick Pinot Noir Suison Valley shows intensely flavored, red fruit, of a candied quality, that I often associate with Russian River pinot noir. Like the very few decent Russian River pinots out there, this wine has real acidity to balance the intensely ripe fruit flavors. It also shows lively, with a natural, tense structure that shows its stuff mainly mid-palate and towards the end taste. That's the way I like it. As one might expect in the location, near Fairfield and heading towards on the Amtrak line towards Sacramento, the grapes have no problem with ripeness - alcohol is 15.5%.

While both of those earned my respect, they probably would not earn my dollar. For the price of the Val Llach (about $75) I'd go with an '07 JJ Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese, using the extra $15 or so for a bottle of good muscadet. And for the price of the Ten Brick Pinot Noir, I'd go with a bottle of '06 Louis Claude Desvignes Morgon Javernieres.

Further proof that, though I respect good winemaking in new world and trendy, stylistically new world leaning regions, more often than not I'll continue spending my money on the classic, and often times less fashionable, wines out there.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bay Area Gardening

There are people who are much, much better and more experienced gardeners than I (in fact, that would probably be most people who garden). So I will not begin to consider posting an instructional gardening bit here. Nevertheless, I realized that it had been a while since posting on the results of our Bernal 'foothill' plot. Last summer, there were bountiful greens, especially mustards, romaine and mixed lettuces. Cherry tomatoes did decently well. Potatoes worked out also. We actually grew stuff that grew and had food to eat for several months. After the summer bounty, the garden came into tougher times. We did not plant the right things at the right time, we went for days without watering (partiallly due to neglect, as well as an occasionally non functioning water water supply).

Today, we planted some garlic, kale, rapini, spinach and romaine, and transferred a few collards which had been in a planter outside our apartment. Things should be on the up and up in our little slice of terraced community garden land.


Close-up, Mustard green leaf

Flat leaf Parsley - got to ALWAYS have parsley around the house

Watering is important

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can you smell Onenasty, power of the Onenasty

Allow me to provide a little background on this homemade curiosity, the creative progeny of two dudes from Athens, Georgia. Apparently Sean Rawls (of SF based Still Flyin'fame) and his fantasy football teammate 'Ice' (don't know his real name) produced this song and video to celebrate a victory over some of their friends in the fantasy football season. I've never participated in fantasy football and hardly follow the NFL, but can definitely get down with this goofy, but well-produced song and video.

This is a modern day classic in DIY straight to youtube music video production.

Oh yeah...despite what I just said earlier about not caring much about the NFL, I can't help but be excited for Sunday's showdown between the Steelers and Ravens.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

1965 BV Georges de Latour Napa Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Last week I tasted a 1965 BV Georges de Latour Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. By a narrow margin, this is the oldest Napa wine I have tasted. Excited to try my first Andre Tchelistcheff produced (produced, not consulted) wine, I must say this did not disappoint. I did not take notes, but recall that it was red fruited, subtly flavored, elegantly textured, slightly mineral, still alive and well. A really elegant wine, especially for Napa Cab. Even Luc Ertoran would drink a glass. Hey Luc, Africa may be the future, but, as it relates to wine, sometimes I do believe that Napa is the future, so long as it hails from the distant past!

Alright, no more California wine notes for a while, I am well aware of the name of this URL....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Celebrating 30 years of me at the wine bar

I spent yet another great evening at Terroir (from here on out I'll refer to it as 'the wine bar,' since I really don't go out drinking wine anywhere else). This time I was lucky to share the good times and natty vin with friends, family (i.e., my brother Michael - yes, wassup Michael!) former and past co-workers, a few tasting group members, and even a few readers of this blog. Yep, two of you actually came out and celebrated with some random blogger. So a special thanks to frequent commenter Steve L (great to finally meet, thanks for your continued feedback and contributions on this site) as well as fellow blogger Cory Cartwright of Saignee. Given Cory's enthusiasm, knowledge and facility with writing literate, down to earth wine prose, I had thought that he was in the wine business. If you ever were to need a break from your current gig, Cory, I suspect you'd be able to find a wine job in no time. It was wonderful to meet Cory and his wife, who also happened to stop into K&L yesterday on their way back to San Jose. Hope you two enjoy the Hauth Kerpen.

And les vins? To start, my co-worker and K&L Champagne buyer Gary Westby bought a bottle of Larmandier Bernier Terre de Vertus Blanc de Blancs. No dosage, native yeast, biodynamic, 100% chardonnay based champagne here from two vineyards in the 1er cru rated village of Vertus. It was bright and classy, though a lot more ripe, soft and playful than I remember it. Very little of the austere cote des blancs acidity and chalkiness, just a delicate, but full flavored, blanc de blancs from this southernmost 1er cru village in the CdB. Maybe this is based primarily on '05 juice? (just checked the Polaner website, and it is in fact all '05)

I really enjoyed some La Cigarrera Manzanilla. This is a producer previously unknown to me, but making some serious manzanilla. A bit fleshier than the La Gitana (my,and most sherry drinker's benchmark for everyday manzanilla), but still with terrific saline tang and satisfactorily savory walnut flavors on the finish. As usual, not many people were drinking sherry which left much of the 500ml bottle for me. No me quejo - no complaints!

Kiralyudvar's '06 demi-sec Tokaji was its usual stunning, vivid, fruity, precise self. 11.8% alcohol, 19.1 g/l rs, 7.6 g/l acidity - I like these numbers. In a pretty strong line-up of wines this was probably my favorite. Think of something akin to cantaloupe and lime juice, with the sort of purity and sugar/acid balance that only a drink made from top quality white wine grapes fermented into wine can deliver, and then drop that thought and just buy a bottle to experience yourself.

2006 Alice & Oliver de Moor Chablis Bel Air was pure and kinda tasty, if a little bit unexciting, overly soft, lacking in acidity and missing something. Oh yes, it's made from chardonnay grapes. Oh chardonnay, yet again you show your deceit.

At some point mid-late evening, Cory generously poured me some Antoine Arena Vermentino. Very dry, very textural, very mineral on the palate.

Now a pair from 1979. Heitz's Napa Cabernet Sauvignon (no vineyard designate, just a Napa bottling) was fading. Ripe napa style cherry fruit with some green vegetal hints, a bit of green peppercorn, and a fairly hollow mid-palate. Not much of a finish to speak of. As promised, I opened one of my most memorable from '08, a magnum of 1979 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. According to their website, this one is a drinker indeed. The site recommends that you 'create a special dinner around this one.' Maybe one day I will, provided that the French portion of the ownership at one natural wine bar in the city by the bay are not present. Cabernet from a particularly ripe vintage in sunny California would be two strikes against this wine for these two particularly discerning palates. I enjoyed drinking this. It tasted just how I remembered, of sweet, ripe dark fruit. And hoisin sauce. And cola. Now what decent, God fearing, red blooded American doesn't like the occasional cola? Though a few folks enjoyed various aspects of this wine, I did not enjoy it as much as when I first tasted it six months ago. Definitely not a repeat purchase, though SCMV's library pinot noirs could well be worth further exploration.

There you have it. Five hours of steady drinking at the wine bar. Now the various birthday celebrations are officially over, and there is much work to be done. Will keep up things on this here site and hopefully even add a few new wrinkles in the coming week, probably including more original photos and maybe even some audio/video.

Peace and out.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Chave Hermitage - 0 for 2 (?)

Last night N. and I had a lovely, impromptu dinner at the cafe at Chez Panisse. Greens in a vinaigrette (a bit too heavily dressed and vinegary for my taste) with a wonderful herbed andante farms goat cheese, Persian-spiced duck breast with winter squash, snap peas, and pomegranate juice and an apple-quince crisp. We had an '06 Francois Cotat Sancerre La Grand Cote to start - it showed that lemon oil, flint and creamy lees combination that young 'serious' Loire SB tends to display. The fruit showed a hint of sweetness later in the mid-palate, though, not as strict a wine as I had anticipated. With dessert, a glass of '04 Clos Lapeyre Jurancon showed terrific tang, and enough sweet richness to pair with a fruit based dessert.

But on to the Chave. The last (and first) time I tasted Chave Hermitage was in January 2007. It was a bottle of '99 Chave Hermitage Rouge and it was completely shut down. The fact that I was hanging out with a few nice folks and lots of Napa boobs in Yountville, drinking Napa wine, could not have helped. Anyway, last night I saw a half bottle of 1997 Chave Hermitage and decided to jump. It was not inexpensive, but certainly less than Chave would normally cost due to the challenging vintage. I'm a fan of challenging vintages. Often times it's a great way to taste an icon at a relatively reasonable price. So this bottle of what many would consider to be the best Syrah in the world, tasted good. In fact, it was pretty damn tasty. A touch exotic on the nose, and immediately accessible (after all, it is a 375ml from a lighter vintage, and it was decanted for 30 minutes) with loads of freshness, some mineral, and decent flavor intensity. Thing is, I still would be a bit disappointed paying more than $50 for a 750 ml of this wine in a shop (retail is probably about $150). One interesting observation - there was more than a passing similarity between this wine and the best cru beaujolais I have tasted. Similar fruit, acidity and palate weight. I do not mean that as a slight to the Chave or to top Beaujolais producers. It's just that tasting Chave, just like tasting Raveneau, Haut Brion, Vega Sicilia or any other of the world's great wines, carries with it a certain sense of expectation. In some respect, I suppose that occasionally it's tough not to be disappointed.

Not that I won't drink Chave any more when the occasion avails itself. Last night, the occasion availed itself due to a generous birthday gift certificate to Chez Panisse from my parents. Thanks, mom and dad, I love you both!

UPDATE - 1/12/09

I checked out an order for someone who had ordered a bottle of '96 Chave Hermitage Rouge for $99.99! Not inexpensive, but as many of you know that is significantly less than wholesale cost for Chave these days. Someone got himself a deal.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Bottles of Red, bottles of white, perhaps a champagne instead tonight?

I was curious about my consumption last year. I do know that I consumed a healthy share of wine, but was curious as to the breakdown. So I decided to go through my purchases and find out. Now I have not broken wines down by country or region, but rather by type: red, white, rosé or champagne/sparkling/sherry (I grouped these two together). I also did not account for what gets consumed immediately versus what I am cellaring.

Anyhow, here are the numbers:

WHITE- 104 bottles (41%)
RED - 91 bottles (36%)
CHAMP/SP/SHERRY - 42 (17%)
ROSE - 17 (7%)

That would make for a total of 254 botles, or about 21 cases. An average of 1 case, 9 bottles per month. Now that's for a household of three (though I do tend to take the lead in quantities drunk per month)and does not account for what went in the cellar (maybe about 15% of all bottles purchased?)

I was surprised by the healthy showing for champagne, sparkling wine and sherry. Also by the fact that white and red wine finished relatively close.

Might break things down a bit further in an update on this post.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Older wines drunk in the past week, with an emphasis on '79

Alright, enough with the birthday and New Year stuff, it's time to catch up on some good old-fashioned tasting notes. Some wines I drank over the past week:

2000 Tarlant La Vigne d'Antan Chardonnay non-graffe

As you might surmise from the title, this comes from a single vineyard of ungrafted chardonnay. There is the trademark Tarlant austere chalkiness, with the extra intensity and focus of a blanc des blancs. I have a sneaking suspicion that this bottle was slightly corked. Not enough for me to detect on the nose, but the wine was not nearly as expressive as I had anticipated. The finish also seemed a bit clipped. Something of a let-down, but I am all the more curious to try another bottle. Does blanc de blancs from ungrafted chardonnay really show an entirely different set of flavors then just a good quality, grower blanc de blancs?

1988 Domaine Mussy Beaune 'Montremenots' 1er Cru

Due to the provenance of this bottle, which from what I had heard was particularly pristine, as well as the fact that the back label said the wine was selected by American Burgundy legend Becky Wasserman, I figured that this would be a well calculated Burgundy risk. Well, unfortunately, the wine only struck one note, a flat middle C on an untuned, neglected upright piano. The development was very poor: minimal bouquet, no interesting secondary/tertiary flavors, just some slightly warm red fruit. Not maderized, but possibly heat damaged? Who knows, I have no experience with the producer, nor wines from the Cotes de Beaune in the '88 vintage. I find it fitting that this and the Tarlant were drunk on New Year's Eve, a holiday known to disappoint those who do not set their expectations a bit lower.

1979 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains

Could it be...another disappointment? '79 was a warm vintage in California, and you really note it here. The acidity is lower than usual for SCM pinot noir. Very woody nose and palate. Redwood (redwood barrels were commonplace in California winemaking until they eventually fell out of favor) type woody. The foresty dark fruit was hanging on for dear life, really drying out. Though the wine did improve slightly in the glass, it was not enough to entice me to try a second bottle should I come across one. Drunk with a similarly lackluster meal at one of my neighborhood's more popular eateries, The Liberty Cafe.

1979 Charles Krug Hearty Burgundy Napa Valley

Peter Mondavi's (the feuding brother you hear about when you tour the Robert Mondavi Winery) Charles Krug label actually made some decent wine in the '70s. And I had a sneaking suspicion that this would be holding up fairly well. After all, the wine is hearty! I have no idea of the varietal breakdown here, but I would guess cab, zin, gamay, merlot, and others. My hopes were confirmed, this wine tasted terrific. We enjoyed it last night with some split pea soup, salad, bread and garrotxa cheese. It tastes incredibly fresh, with very pure, darker berry and black cherry fruits. Excellent balance of fruit and acidity, with tannins that are completely resolved. It reminded me of a simpler, slightly plumper good quality cru beaujolais. Not bad for $5 in the closeout bin.

1979 Niepoort Colheita

I'm not a big port person. It's got to be really special to grab my attention, and unfortunately this was not a really special bottle. I do like a good colheita, especially a white colheita (rare, but you might occasionally see one from Krohn). Colheita ports, or port from lesser vintages which are aged in barrel as opposed to bottle (as are vintage ports), can be a rare treat, combining the bright fruit of vintage ports and the oxidative, dried fruit and nut notes of tawny ports. This Niepoort showed more of the former, but in a fairly simple, straightforward manner. Another advantage of colheitas, though, is that they can be opened and enjoyed over a period of several months, so I have plenty of time to see if this wine eventually wins me over.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Year One of my Fourth Decade

I turned 30 yesterday. The big 3-0.

Thanks for all the voicemail and facebook birthday wishes.

Gonna keep this short, as I'm really enjoying the Billy Joel playlist I just created in seeqpod, particularly the live stuff from '76! Billy Joel sure was hungry.

After I get my fill of Sunday Billy Joel, it's off to work hooking up the Mbox 2 Pro and Command 8. 2009 is the year of home recording!

Friday, January 2, 2009

'08 Re-cap, courtesy of Madd Skillz

Well, I had written a very personal summary of my 2008 (a particularly good year for me), scheduled to post it this morning and for some inexplicable reason it disappeared. So rather than re-construct it, I will simply say that I feel fortunate to have had even a decent year in 2008, let alone a really good one. I'm looking forward to what should be a challenging, important, exciting year indeed for all of us in 20009. Personally, the time might well be ripe to unveil at least one new project outside of this blog. Stay tuned.

I hope that everyone reading this has a happy, healthy, successful New Year. 2009 should be a challenging year, but here's to finding some opportunities and learning (re-learning?) what is really important in the midst of some tough times ahead.

Here's the traditional yearly recap of events, with a decidely hip-hop segment of the music industry perspective, courtesy of one of the best freestyle rappers of all time, Madd Skillz.