Sunday, May 31, 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bordeaux can be interesting. Really, it can.

There are many out there who still consider Bordeaux to be the king of wines. The most serious, the most age-worthy and elegant. I would say that most people who say these things, though, are over 50. They might also drive a large luxury sedan, play golf regularly, and, I don't know, think that rock music peaked in 1969. In my generation, we don't drink much Bordeaux. Usually the cheap stuff is boring, and the classed growths are too expensive. I won't even get into the cellar trickery and toasty oak elevage which often obscures terroir, is mistaken as terroir and wipes away any reminder that the wine is actually made from GRAPES.

That having been said, there is good, interesting, food friendly Bordeaux out there. It can be tricky to locate, but it does exist. Usually it costs $15-$25. It may be a second label of a Chateau whose style you like but can't afford on an everyday basis. Or it may be a well regarded, traditional Haut- Medoc. And occasionally, I do run into that rare Bordeaux for $12.99 or so that really overdelivers. Here are a few examples of Bordeaux that, if you've been turned off by the region lately, or prefer firmer, more traditional wines, you might actually like.

2005 Chateau Lanessan Haut-Medoc

Always like this guy. The '96 is also worth seeking out. This '05 shows the red fruit, slight herbaceous cab family aromas and flavors, and taut structure that, in my mind anywyay, young Bordeaux should show. This should age well for well over a decade.

2005 Chateau Laubarit 'Vieilles Vignes' Bordeaux

Biodynamic Bordeaux! We all know that biodynamic does not necessarily mean it tastes natural, but in this case the wine does. Sure, it's a bit ripe, but the wine does not get too fruity or heavy in the mouth. No problems aging this wine 5 years, during which time it will undoubtedly improve.

2004 Salle de Poujeaux Moulis-en-Medoc

Poujeaux is based in Moulis-en-Medoc, almost due west of Margaux, placing it southwest of the five famous communes of the Medoc. Competitor Chasse-Spleen is also located in Moulis. These are both Bordeaux 'insider' wines. Traditional and tightly structured, they do not get heavily pointed, gushing press from the 100pt scale crowd, but they are terrific wines for aging. So, it follows that Poujeaux's second label is also well made, and half the price of the grand vin. You won't be able to drink it in 30 years, but aging another 5 is not outside the realm of possibility. Darker fruits on this wine, with a core of minerality, some licorice rope, and a dense structure.

A famous colleague of mine signs off his Bordeaux columns 'Tous jours Bordeaux." While I won't go that far, let's try it this way:

De temps en temps, Bordeaux.

Concert Review: Animal Collective at The Fox in Oakland, 5/26/09

To catch an Animal Collective show these days is to see a band in transition. While the band slowly garnered a devoted following playing weird, challenging, noisy music, it was the duo of Feels and Sung Tongs in 2005 which really expanded the band's sonic palate, their critical appraisal and most dramatically, their fan base. With Strawberry Jam and this year's Merriweather Post Pavillion record, Animal Collective has fine tuned their pop sensibilities,without completely abandoning their knack for experimentation.

In that vein, the band's current tour is unlike any other of their previous ones. The set lists include a heavy dose of songs from their current album, with a few appearances from past records as well. This stands in stark contrast to the Animal Collective tradition of trying out almost exclusively new material on the road, offering a preview of how the next record will sound. On their current tour, the band is following the more conventional touring protocol of featuring songs from the current album for sale. Also, AC has sharpened up the live presentation: songs are tighter, vocals sung more tunefully and with greater conviction.

Perhaps appropriately coinciding with their greater success, broader reach and larger scale of the tour, the band played (and sold out, on a Tuesday night) the recently renovated, ornately styled Fox Theater. The band's performance of a few songs from MWP, especially the seriously catchy, sequencer and 80's synth driven 'Summer Clothes' (the Letterman clip from Tuesday night's youtube post was this tune), drew an enthusiastic crowd response. Not quite as enthusiastic as when they played the infectious lead single, 'My Girls,' and the Baltimore club music tribute, 'Brother Sport' as the last encore. Hearing the beautiful 'Fireworks' as well as a cool re-working of 'Leaf House' from Sung Tongs were also highlights much appreciated by the crowd. If I were to nitpick a bit, the only aspects of the show I was not too crazy about were the occasionally repetitive, drone like feel to a few of the songs, as well as a muddy aspect to the sound in the venue. It's a huge, cavernous theater not geared towards acoustics, especially performances which involve multiple loops as part of a dense soundscape. That having been said, the group seemed to balanced their more pop, melodic side with the avante weirdness which has endeared them to so many. Animal Collective has come a long way over the past decade or so. And as always with this group, I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Good ol' Tasting three words or less

Some more quality time spent at Terroir last night, with my Birminghamian (England) co-worker, her husband, one of her friends (also from Birmingham) visiting San Francisco, as well as everyone's favorite San Jose based wine/food/music blogger, Cory Cartwright, with his lovely wife Emily. Incidentally, Cory has some very interesting things planned on his blog to celebrate natural wines in June. It's a growing list of slated contributors, including myself, Dr. J, Natural Process Alliance's Kevin Kelley, and others. As Kurt Loder used to say on MTV news, 'Do try to catch it.'

Last night, I was also spinning some records, often times letting a few tunes run in a row as there is only one turntable set up in a tiny area towards the back of the bar. Assuming the powers that be enjoyed the change of pace, I might do this again, in which case I'll publicize beforehand next time. If you enjoy the more than occasional youtube clips I post here including (but not limited to) the likes of Mobb Deep, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Gangstarr, Kraftwerk, Mad Professor, etc, then you might enjoy checking it out.

And now, les vins...

'07 Marc Ollivier 'Clos de Briords' Muscadet- Crispy entree
NV ('95, not labeled as such) Renee Collard 'Cuvee Ultime' Champagne - lees, spice, broad
'07 Thierry Puzelat Le Brin de Chevre Touraine - Squeaky clean, focused
'08 Jean Foillard Gamay (forget exact name on label) - beaujo light
'07 Jean Foillard Morgon - now we talkin'
'06 COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria - cherriesburntbrownsugar
05 Eric Texier St Gervais - needed more decanting
'04 Domaine de Belliviers 'Hommage a Louis Derré' Coteaux du Loir- crack cocaine production

Friday, May 22, 2009

Earth Wind & Fire Review Postponed

Well, I'm sad to say that the review of EWF's Grattitude, the famous live recording, staple for silent storm format radio DJ's, hip-hop producers, and lovers of all things tuneful and funky, has been postponed until I locate the vinyl. You see, I found the cover, only to discover that there was no LP in there. I know that the record must be missing in action, placed in the wrong cover, or otherwise misplaced somewhere in my collection. It's too bad, since I really did want to review this one, and also was craving to listen to it (anything I review is listened to start to finish, track by track, all the way through). Preferably on vinyl, not CD or itunes.

For now, I will settle on listening to Open Our Eyes, a studio album which displays the deft combination of jazz chops, soulful hooks, gospel influence and free spirited, but tight, musical experimentation that EWF was known for back in their heyday.

I need more SAVAGNIN in my life.

2004 Emmanuel Houillon Arbois Pupillin

I don't recall if I am listing this wine properly, because as many of you already know, Houillon took over the estate from his mentor, Pierre Overnoy, and both names are mentioned on the bottle (sometimes). Houillon works completely SANS SOUFRE (sulphur free). Yes, it can be done people... Anyway, this is Savagnin at its piercing, achingly acidic, and, with some air, fleshy, nutty, intriguing best. Not as much sous voile influence as, say, the '05 Montborgeau L'Etoile, but definitely a little more nutty, savory character than the '04 Domaine de la Tournelles Savagnin, which is also very tasty Savagnin, by the way. If you appreciate clarity, precision, intensity and ACIDITY in white wines than Savagnin is basically the shit. I need to drink more of the stuff.

For some interesting discussion on the intriguing wines of Houillon, Overnoy, Houillon/Overnoy, or however you choose to refer to this Jura estate, see here.

Or here.

Of course, I'd be remiss to not point you over to G's direction.

Oh, and for those with French language skills and/or aspirations, and a taste for the dramatic, here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

EWF - Devotion!

Think that I might just take a break from the Punk, Rap and Reggae review format to review this soulful, funky, live staple from Earth Wind & Fire. For those of you familiar with this one, I'm sure you'll agree it's well worth the detour from my usual programming. For now, enjoy the video, full review of EWF's Grattitude live album to come later on....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Closeouts: Are they really a good deal?

I'm sure that many of you have seen quite the impressive number of price reductions, wholesaler and retailer based closeouts so far this year. Considering the weak economy and the steeply rising prices of many wines, it's only natural for there to be a large number of price corrections in the market, with many more ahead of us. If you closely scour a store's inventory, either by paying a visit to scan the shelves, or shopping online, you are likely to spot some terrific deals. Buyer beware, though. What seems like a good deal on paper may actually disappoint.

Though I'm in the business, I too am not immune to huge price reduction fever. I purchased a mixed case recently which I had thought would make me very happy in the months and years ahead. A few bottles '04 Chateau Brown Blanc at $12.99 (marked down from $29.99), six bottles of '06 Domaine Ostertag Riesling Fronzholz at $9.99 (marked down from $39.99) and a few '05 La Parde de Haut Bailly ($14.99, down from $29.99). All but the last wine, I think, were bad mistakes, even considering the huge savings. On the '04 Brown Pessac-Leognan, I remembered liking it quite a bit more, though it did follow a line-up of big, oaky, tannic '05 and '06 Bordeaux. What was relatively balanced, bright and tasty that day I have since discovered is just another oaked white wine I don't much care for, not even at $12.99. For the Ostertag, '06 was a far from stellar year in Alsace. Big ripe wines with more botrytis are the norm; even someone like Ostertag must have had a tough time producing wines which balance power, mineral and acidity. Granted for $10 a pop, it will be an interesting experiment to see where this wine is at in five years, though I'm not optimistic about the results. As for the '05 La Parde (Haut Bailly's second label), I'm cautiously optimistic as the wine is big, but also very mineral and Haut Bailly's stuff is a lot more honest and well made than many other Bdx out there.

So before you pull the trigger on any 'deals,' it may help to first remember what you actually like.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dennis Bovell, DUB MASTER

For all the late night lurkers, the midnight ravers, blog trollers, and dub seekers, listen....

Friday, May 15, 2009


The first larger harvest from our garden in a long while is these beautiful favas. Looking forward to sauteeing them up, and serving with some homemade quiche and a green salad. For wine, we'll probably go with an '04 Domaine Philipe Tessier Cour-Cheverny. OK, off to the kitchen to prep.

Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Eric Asimov likes Terroir Natural Wine Merchant and blogs about it

Big up to Cory Cartwright for bringing this one to my attention.

And a huge congratulations of course to Dagan Ministero, Guilhaume Gerard and Luc Ertoran, for conceiving of and building up the coolest damn wine shop/bar in the United States. What I have learned from these guys by spending time drinking in their wine bar over the past year and a half or so has been invaluable towards adding to my understanding, and appreciation, of all things wine.

Authentic, confident, fiercely opinionated. That's how I'd describe these folks and their wine bar and shop. It's clearly more than a business for them; it's a vocation and a life's pursuit. That cannot be overstated and I have nothing but respect for these three.

So guys, keep that in mind when I start grumbling about how there is not enough room to even stand and drink after you earn your first print mention in the New York Times.

Here's the link to New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov's praise for Terroir in The Pour.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Brand Nubian - 'Slow Down'

Obvious classic here, going way back to 1990. Brand Nubian in their prime, with the terrific, chopped up Edie Brickell sample providing an ideal backdrop for Sadat X, Lord Jamar and Grand Puba (in that order) to rip it. CLASSIC.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cider on Cinco de Mayo

On the left, Isastegi Sagarda Naturala, to the right, 2007 Henny's Still Cider - care to guess which one is filtered?

Leave all the margarita swilling, Corona sipping and Pacifico slugging to everyone else on this most amateur of amateur evenings. That's what I say, anyway. It's Tuesday night, the mood is right, and I decided upon a different course of action for el 5 de mayo, one that is near and dear to my heart: comparative tasting.

Recently I fell in love with Isastegi Sagardo Naturala, a natural Spanish Basque cider imported by that champion of all things Basque, Andre Tamers of De Maison Imports. The cider is essentially still, just slightly fizzy, and tastes of tart apples. It's sour, light, crisp, invigorating and most refreshing. Also unfiltered and very naturally made from apples indigenous to Pais Vasco. Only in really tiny harvests will the producer supplement with apples from Galicia and, if things are really rough, from France. While I doubted I'd find anything its equal for the price (usually $9-$11), I thought I'd give another highly reputed still cider a try, 2007 Henny's Cider from England. It's also imported by some passionate folks, the Shelton Brothers in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

The result? Henny's is definitely more appley, tasting more of the fruit and the juice that I recognize as an apple, and as a result also sweeter. Though sugar is added (as well as malic acid). The apple flavors are rounded out by darker, burnt brown sugar notes and a pleasantly bitter finish. All in all a very decent cider, but nowhere near as gulpable and impressionable as the Isastegi.

Pues, los vascos ganan. The Basques win (anyone care to offer a basque translation?) Regardless of the result, I'm just happy to have enjoyed a couple of tasty ciders and not have been stuck in an overcrowded dive taking shots of tequila with a back of Corona.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Chapeau Melon: Natural wines and Bistro in the 19th

[OK, thanks so much for bearing with the lack of activity on these pages of late. Collarbone recovery has been the focus of late. It takes me more time to do stuff - from work, to eating, to getting around, even sleeping - I seem to need an hour more sleep per night post collarbone fracture. Not to complain, just saying that I haven't updated as often as is typical and now you know why. Hopefully a change for the better this week.

My feedburner feed and widget seem to be back on track thanks to a little toying around (thank you Mateo). So if you'd like to subscribe, or have attempted to subscribe without any luck, or had subscribed way back in the day and then mysteriously lost the subscription, go ahead and enter your email to get your subscription to the world that is old and the school that is also old.]

And now, back to adventures in Paris....

The 19th arrondissement is to Paris what Queens is to New York: a diverse cross section of immigrants, the working class, and others who who make up a lively, colorful part of the city, that unfortunately goes under-appreciated by most tourists and even many city residents. What brought me here, besides taking a break from the touristy Paris, was actually Le Baratin, billed by none other than Terroir's Guillhaume Gerard as a 'must fucking go!' establishment for the quality of the food and the wine list. Since I tried to book a same day reservation for dinner, I was not surprisingly told that they were booked for the night.

I did happen to hear that another local spot, Chapeau Melon, was doing interesting things with natural wines. So I checked them out and confirmed this fact. They have a nice selection, with many of the usual French natural wine suspects, as well as Radikon and some other international representation, much more so than Le Verre Voleé. After purchasing a bottle of sous voile Arbois chardonnay as a thank you gift to one of my terrific hosts in Champagne, I discovered that this wine shop, as do many in Paris these days, doubles as a bistro at night.

I was able to make a reservation for two for that evening. While the 16 or so seats were full, the dinner did not quite deliver as much as I had expected. Salmon tartare with julienne granny smith apples in a soy sauce and olive oil dressing was a tasty start. After that, however, dishes were not as memorable: a plain chilled cream of asparagus soup; overdressed baby greens; overcooked pork. Given the enthusiastic reviews I've heard about this place, I might well have caught it on an off night. If you're around the neighborhood during the evening, I would encourage you to give Chapeau Melon a try for dinner, otherwise just check out their wines during the day and head elsewhere for dinner.

Chapeau Melon
92, r. Rébeval
75019 PARIS
T 01 42 02 68 60
m° Pyrénées / Belleville