Monday, June 29, 2009

A Quick Foray into LA

As much as I love my adopted city of San Francisco, I do enjoy the occasional jaunt to our southerly neighbors in LA. Well, now that I think of it, I have only been to LA twice since moving here two and a half years ago. Anyway, LA does have a lot to offer: fake boobs, killer poolside scenes like that of the Viceroy in Santa Monica and a much more vibrant club scene with better VIP services than we have here up north. all seriousness LA is a city with a flavor all its own. It's a bit warmer, the radio is much, much better, many people seem genuinely happy, even the hipsters are friendlier. Here's a quick re-hashing of my day in LA:

I checked in to the Hotel Miyako, saw Liza Minelli and Quincy Jones chatting with Larry King about you know who (not live, on the tv), and then headed off to the Hungry Cat to meet fellow K&Ler and blogger Leah G for cocktails and soft shell crab. After that it was off to Lou, where I had a decent if somewhat lower acid, less intense than I remember glass of '07 Viñedos de Ithaca PX (that's dry pedro ximenez, from Priorat). Also enjoyed an '04 Viña Ijalba Graciano (plumper and fleshier, but also better balanced than when I last tasted 8-10 months ago). Ijalba makes good wine in Rioja, they are also reasonably priced so you should check them out. It went really nicely with the savory, tangy Basque style grilled sausage and black lentils. Certainly better than the '07 Foillard Morgon Cotes du Py, which perhaps was showing softer, rounder and friendlier than I would have liked. Should probably note that I would not fully trust my palate after drinking a cocktail, and I had in fact consumed two coktails. I think that was it for wine. I was distracted a bit by the small talk with proprietor Lou (very cool guy) and Frank from the Bronx, a regular, who as you may imagine about a guy named Frank who hails from the Bronx, has got some stories to tell.

The next morning I got a taste of Valencia St mission gone south in Silver Lake. I went to Intelligentsia for some decent fancy coffee with fancy cheese n sausage muffin. Oh yeah, there is a Saturday farmer's market in Silver Lake if you're in the area and want to procure some fresh produce, floppy fishing hats, fedoras, or homemade soap, all while listening to the smooth reggae guitar stylings of Ernest Ranglin from one of the booths. Yes, this is very much an LA farmer's market.

From Silver Lake it was off to Santa Monica for the LA which many people know and love best. I did in fact hang out poolside at the Viceroy (yeah, I did it) primarily to catch up with an old friend who was in town for a bachelor party. Managed to hang out and have a pretty good time, though in a rather douche-y environment.

And that, fellow blog readers, was the trip. I'd be remiss if I did not mention the very good tacos served to the primarily gringo populace of Santa Barbara at La Super Rica (thanks, Leah for the tip!) They have more vegetarian options then any other taqueria I have been to, while still providing some authentic ingredients and flavor combinations (chayote, roasted pasillo peppers, cheese). Not the ubiquitous NorCal Michoacan style here. The seasoning of the pork, with terrific savory- sweet interplay and prominent cinnamon, suggested regions further south. Jamaica (hibiscus tea, slightly sweetened) was rich, tangy and terrific. If someone opted for this instead of a beer, I would not give them a tough time for doing so.

La Super Rica was enough to tide me over until I arrived at the Monterey In n' Out Burger to walk off my restless leg syndrome and provide a bit more sustenance for the home stretch.

I do not, by the way, recommend driving from San Francisco to LA for merely a one day visit. Try to catch a flight, at least until the high speed train is ready in another 10-25 years.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


The news about Michael didn't really sink in until the ride home from work on Thursday afternoon. I was listening to the local hip-hop station's inevitable afternoon drive time tribute, and to be perfectly honest tears were welling up in my eyes during the set. When they played 'Human Nature,' a beautiful ballad on the best selling album of all time, Thriller, I damn near lost it.

Why did Michael Jackson's death affect me in a way that no other celebrity death has? Maybe it's the tragic human element to his story, a tremendous, once in a generation talent that happens to belong to a very sick person, who had to grapple with an ugly three headed monster of celebrity, severe depression and HUGE debt. Or maybe it's just that it's, as my friend Matt put it, the worst celebrity death of our generation. Either way, I realized that whether or not I knew it, I am - like millions of others around the word - a huge Michael Jackson fan. I should qualify that, since we are strictly old school here. A huge fan of Michael Jackson pre-1984.

If you're of a similar mind, then I would definitely check out J. Period's 'Man or the Music' (great title) Michael Jackson tribute mix. I heard it on the freeway yesterday while en route to Santa Monica. Great stuff, focusing primarily on Michael Jackson's earlier career, with some fun mixes and demo versions.

Long live the music.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vinho Verde's RED WINE

Best known for slightly fizzy, lime inflected, simple, thirst quenching, warm weather white wine quaffers, northern Portugal's Vinho Verde DOC actually produces a sizable amount of red wine as well (at one point the figure stood at nearly 50% of the region's total production). Hardly any of it reaches the US, primarily due to the high demand for this style of wine in the region, as well as the unusual, raspingly tart flavor profile.

Upon tasting my first red ('tinto' as its called there) vinho verde, I knew that I had a new unusual summer red to enjoy, and additionally that I had to stock it in the store. According to one of our Portuguese wine suppliers, world reknowned food and wine guru Darrell Corti is the only other retailer to stock the wine in northern California, so I guess that puts me in pretty good company.

The wine in question here is the Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Tinto, produced by the large Quinta de Aveleda winery. They sell boat loads of their reliably tasty, dry quinta label vinho verde, but I'm curious as to how many cases of the tinto get exported. I can't imagine it being much more than 500 cases, which for a winery whose production is well into the hundreds of thousands, is a tiny amount. Produced primarily from Vinhão grapes, as well as from some Azal Tinto, this wine is an odd bird. The color is shockingly deep and dark purple for what one might expect out of a wine with 10% alcohol. Barnyard like aromas on the nose combine with some savory cherry fruit, all leading to a slightly petillant, edgy palate of red berries, cherries and a bit of brett, finishing with appealingly dry, rustic tannins. Unlike 99.9% of red wine out there, this one probably did not go through malolactic fermentation. Serving this wine at cellar temperature (i.e. pop it in the fridge for 30 or so minutes) helps to highlight the high tones of the wine and reign in the funk. Though it may be described as funky, tart, cheap, or worse, I would maintain that you could do a lot worse out there. In fact, for under $10 I'd take this as a summer red over most examples of the following: anything from the new world (duh...), cotes du rhone, bordeaux, spanish garnacha, monastrell, zweigelt, sangiovese, and any other would be contenders. Granted, it's a limited field these days for interesting reds under $10.

Drink this with some hearty, flavorful food from your favorite purveyor of Michoacan style tacos. or burritos.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Best under $10 bottle of the year thus far

A photo of Phillipe Tessier's Cour-Cheverny. Please note, the bottle pictured is 2006 vintage; the post is about the 2004.

Let's start the week off right with a genuine, bona fide post about honest, tasty, affordable wine. A wine blogging back to basics post if you will. Tonight I opened my second to last bottle of 2004 Phillipe Tessier Cour-Cheverny to go with a quick, light, thrown together at the last minute vegetarian dinner of perciatelli a la trapanese (i.e. pureed, uncooked roma tomatoes with garlic, salt, olive oil and almonds) accompanied by sides of swiss chard sauteed with bacon, and baked zucchini. While the food was fresh, tasty, and competently prepaired, and the pairing worked fairly well, I must admit that the highlight was the 100% Romorantin wine I had opened.

Tessier makes wines that typically have minimal fat and little immediate appeal. They are usually a bit taut and mineral, in fact there is this tough to describe pungency to his wines (both red and white) which may be off-putting to some. For this particular bottle, on this evening, however, the pungency took a back seat to incredibly pure, focused, well-delineated flavors. Citrus oil, pink grapefruit, a hint of grapefruit pith. Not NZ sauvignon blanc grapefruit here. As an aside, what an unfortunate thing that some people associate grapefruit like flavors with obnoxious, manufactured New Zealand sauvignon blanc. That's like confusing a perfect, in season grapefruit for Minute Maid grapefruit juice from concentrate. Away from grapefruit and back to Tessier, his '04 Cour-Cheverny is pure, perfectly balanced and quite persistent. I paid a mere $6 per bottle on this wine (solid closeout purchase) and I wish that I had at least another case.

May everyone out there drink at least one bottle this tasty over the next week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

'Mr. Dodd': The Father of Reggae on Father's Day

One of the fathers, at any rate. Clement Seymour 'Sir Coxsone' Dodd, RIP.

Enjoy the Sunday Studio One special:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Read this gentleman's blog for the Next 30 Days

In the absence of any current inspiration to put fingers to keyboard and blog, I figured that I would urge you, if you are not doing so already, to follow Cory Cartwright's 31 Days of Natural Wine series on his blog, Saignée. He has assembled a terrific list of contributors, as well as some acceptable B listers such as myself - I'll be posting about tradition, modernism, and whether there is any momentum in the Spanish natural wine community. For which I need to prepare and interview a few folks, so it's back to work for me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Color, Quality, and Ageability of White Burgundy

Someone, please straighten me out. Though I am in the retail wine trade, I have had precious little experience with older (15 or more years after vintage, by my definition) white Burgundy. The reason I mention this today is that a customer had purchased an assortment of 25 bottles of '89 and '90 Francois Jobard Meursault (some Genevrieres, Blagny, Poruzots) and had someone pick it up for them. Upon observing the slightly deeper yellow color of the bottles of 1990 Meursault Blagny 1er Cru, the person responsible for the pick-up became concerned about the quality of the wine. He requested that I open one bottle and we taste. Fair enough, I thought. While he found the wine to show oxidative, sherry qualities, I just found it to have really harsh, bitingly disjointed acidity and not a whole lot more complexity. Of course, at this point the guy was concerned that he'd get an earful for picking up a few mixed cases of oxidized white Burgundy (even though it was Jobard, for a killer price, from an ideal cellar we recently had acquired). He proceeded to observe the color of the remaining bottles and convince himself that instead of merely the five bottles of 1990 Meursault Blagny, most if not all of the others showed too deep and advanced a color.

So the question that begs to be asked: How indicative is a slightly darker yellow (as opposed to light golden straw) color in 20 year old white Burgundy of a sub-par bottle? Are there particular probabilities at play here? Or is the issue of color really overrated? I mean, correct me if I'm wrong but 20 year old white wine will take on a deeper, more golden hue (or, if you will, 'alligator piss color' in the words of my customer today).

Incidentally, I came back to the 1990 Francois Jobard Meursault Blagny later in the day, and it showed considerably better. The acidity had mellowed, there was more richness, texture, intensity and balance on the mid-palate, and I was beginning to wonder why I hadn't purchased at least a bottle or two for myself.

Experienced Burgundy nuts and assorted wine geeks, if you could sound off here I would much appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Minimal slacking on the wine drinking recently

On assignment for the podcast, I bellied up to the bar at Terroir recently and, in between interviewing a few patrons as well as the owners, I drank some wine. Here are the highlights, or at least what I remember well enough to briefly describe.

Domaine Vigneau-Chevreau Vouvray Petillant NV

Decent, fresh, chenin sparkler, if a little lacking in excitement. Obviously this does not show the depth of flavor of the best ('02 or even '01 Huet). But, to me it also doesn't have the fruit purity and immediate appeal of the Pinon ('06 is so good, and the '04 out of magnum is stellar as well). May be more interesting with another year in bottle, employing the British style of cellaring a bubbly a year before drinking?

2006 Francois Mikulski Bourgogne Blanc

Based in Meursault, Mikulski has made one of those rare chardonnays not from the Jura or Champagne which I find to be both interesting and pleasant to drink. Fresh pear flavors, some subtle white flowers, and ripe warm vintage palate weight balanced by fresh acids and lovely lifted elegance.

2006 Occhipinti Il Frappato

Pretty, tiny red berry fruit on a relatively tight and light frame, but still somehow ripe, exuberant and Italian all the same. Does that make sense? And if yes, other than Cos (a bit controversial as some of you surely disagree here) and Gulfi do others make this style of wine in Sicilia? Let's not get into Etna reds, as they can be impressive but also a lot more mineral and intense as well. I'm just looking for the pretty berries, acid and drinkability, here.

2005 Quintarelli Primofiore

Corvina, Molinara, Rondinella, and a splash of Cab Franc (?) Very much the opposite of the wine above. Big, foresty, dark fruited and exotic as well. This wasn't so overblown and lacking interest as to be a struggle to drink the glass, though I definitely would not order a full bottle even to split 3-4 ways. Guess that for Quintarelli, one ought to go all in and splurge for the valpo or amarone experience.

2005 Jo Pithon 'Les Pepenieres' Anjou Blanc

Thanks to Michael for buying this one and suggesting the mini vert which followed. Big, ripe Chenin from this popular producer of generally rich, weighty, oaked chenin. While I thought the wine would be too much for my easily bullied white wine palate, I actually found the wine to be rich, flavorful, palate coating and still easy to drink.

2004 Jo Pithon 'Les Pepenieres Anjou Blanc

A more mineral and nervous version of the above. While I expected to enjoy it more, if anything it seemed a bit more closed. Though, as far as these mini verticals go, a big, powerful vintage that manages to retain its balance will often times outshine the more classic vintage, so I'd be curious to try each of these again on their own. Unfortunately, I suspect that the bottles of '04 are in very short supply.

The aforementioned Michael also brought these two wines from his cellar - very generous, thanks again, Michael.

2001 Vincent Dauvissat Chablis 'Les Preuses' Grand Cru

Really classic, creamy Chablis minerals here. Decomposed marine organism minerality (yes, I have had many decomposed marine organisms in my time) dominated the flavors of this wine. Not sure if I'd want to drink in another few years, but it tastes pretty good right now.

2001 Henri Gouges Nuit St Georges 'Le Vaucrain' 1er Cru

Seemed very firm, tight, and unwielding for an '01 burg around this level, but hey, it's burgundy so what do I know? And for that matter, it's red Burgundy so what does anyone really know about these wines?

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Not to imply that l will have a completed episode ready for listening by the end of the week, or even the following week, but I did want to share that I have taken first steps towards providing content for a new podcast. The loose format involves a one hour long, interview based show, taking an in-depth look at three subjects representing the worlds of music, wine and food. Sometimes there will be some intermingling of content, sometimes not.

I'm looking forward to hopefully providing a different perspective in this quickly expanding world of wine multimedia. One that will attract the most devout of online wine geeks, as well as people who might just want an alternative (or supplement, if they have sufficient time) to listening to Ira Glass while they're chopping greens for their Sunday brunch. Not that there is anything whatsoever wrong with Ira Glass and his 'This American Life' show. In fact, if this podcast ends up being even 2% as informative, engaging, and creative as 'This American Life' I will consider it a huge success. Stay tuned, and feel free to throw some suggestions and requests my way.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Putting whites through the deep (refrigerator) sleep

Amongst the wine geek cognoscenti, it is common knowledge that white wine, once opened and refrigerated, will often times improve after 2, 3, 5, 10+ days in the fridge. I was reminded of this fact when another wine blogger commented on her facebook page that she had a terrific bottle of - yikes! - '04 Smith Haut Lafite Blanc. Upon inquiring how she could bear such oaky, manipulated wine, she replied that the bottle had been opened and refrigerated for 10 days. SHL is known for using some (ok, lots of) new oak in their white and red wines, though they are also known for having some of the best terroir in Pessac-Leognan. Two possible lessons here: 1.) it takes a whole lot of intervention to fuck up great terroir and 2.) If you don't like a white wine initially, and have a tough time drinking it, why not forget about it for at least 5 days or more in the fridge?

Recently, I have had two wines which I opened nearly two weeks ago show marked improvement in the fridge. The first was a bottle of '04 Chateau Brown Pessac-Leognan. In fact, this is what drew my attention to that SHL facebook post. Initially oaky, superficial and a bit hot on the finish, this wine improved into a somewhat balanced, fruity, but more subdued starfruit-y type wine with oak nicely in the background. Not a favorite, but certainly drinkable, unlike its opening state. Bottle number two was a 2006 Domaine Ostertag Riesling Fronzholz which I had unenthusiastically reference a few weeks ago. More dramatic changes here. Though the aromas still remained clumsy, the wine showed a whole lot more nuance and complexity. Creamy lemon, white flowers, that ancient marine fossil minerality which you can only get in French whites, as well as a slighty bitter, botrytised, chestnut honey flavor to the finish. Huge improvement over the last tasting, to be sure.

Next wine up for the deep sleep would be an '07 Schafer-Frolich Schlossbockelheimer Riesling Trocken, which just hasn't been doing it for me over the last few days I've been tasting it. Surely a producer this highly regarded should be producing something in the terrific '07 German vintage which makes me take notice?

Well, I guess we'll find out when I unearth this bottle from the refrigerator in another week.