Friday, October 30, 2009


Hip-Hop Friday takes its occasional reggae diversion today, with a classic jam from the keyboard king of Studio One, Jackie Mittoo. So much soul. In my mind Mittoo is right up there with Jimmy Smith, as far as the unforgettable melodies and tones he'd coax out of that Hammond B3. Not nearly as mind blowingly technically proficient, but still a nasty player, stylist and master arranger/ session organizer.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New York Here I come, and an apology

New York City

Off on the red eye to New York tomorrow night. Art, food, wine and wedding. Anyone who wants to link up, we (i.e. a list that is probably getting way too numerous to spell out here) will be at Ten Bells on Friday night.


My last entry, I provided a tasting note for a 2007 Eric Texier Brezeme. Clearly I was not too enthused about the wine. However, on day 3 it has really woken up. Bright, yet boisterous, dark plum and blueberry aromas, a bit towards the confiture side, are leading to fresh fruit flavors with a really pleasing roundness in texture yet bracingly fresh acidic drive. The wine has not previously tasted nearly as good and complete as it does tonight, on its third day open. Looks like this bottle needs at least a few years to come around, as any experienced imbiber more hip than I probably knew already. Apologies to Mr. Eric Texier and anyone who was mislead by my rash judgement.

Alright, hope to see a few of you in New York.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Three Red Wines from the Big Three (France, Spain, Italy)

Southern Rhone Valley, France

2007 Eric Texier Brezeme

100% Syrah from the one of the northernmost points of the Cotes du Rhone. This was tense, bordering on strict, out the gates. I decanted and followed intently for a couple of hours. Yes, there were the woodsy, peppery northern Rhone (though this is still in the south) Syrah aromas, and darkish blue fruit, with a touch of savory frying bacon, on the palate. The fruit on the mid palate fleshed and rounded out with some air, but I wouldn't say the wine gained too much in complexity, freshness, or deliciousness. The slowly expansive core of fruit did lend some balance to the wine, but not enough to change my opinion: this wine does not taste ripe enough. If I'm saying 'not ripe enough' as opposed to the opposite description for a red wine, then perhaps this really is not quite ripe enough? Maybe I'm being too picky or judgemental, but that's my impression. I re-tasted the wine today (should probably note that the wine did spend 4 hours in a decanter before I re-bottled it) and it is a mere shell of it's former decent if not exciting self. Fainter fruit, oxidative tartness beginning to surface.

Ribera del Duero, Spain

2002 Dominio de Basconillos Viña Magna Crianza

Several months ago, I read a reliably thorough and thoroughly reliable entry from Manuel Camblor, containing a tasting note from one of New York based importer Alex Ellman's (Marble Hill Cellars) Spanish selections. A few weeks of email correspondence and some samples later, I purchased some wine from Ms. Ellman for the shop, and this is probably my favorite of the wines I bought. Without a doubt the best, most complete and satisfying Ribera del Duero I've had in a year, probably since the 1998 Valduero Reserva I drank a year ago. Not like there is much competition out there, though. Ribera del Duero generally is annoyingly grapey, overly oaked, flabby, over-extracted juice and one of the regions that I would suggest you avoid like the plague if you do not already do so. That having been said, I would seek this wine out for an example of Ribera del Duero that has aged into a delicious wine: rich and dark fruited yet balanced with enough acidity, some oak clearly contributing to the structure but not causing it to topple over, and enough development to contribute a subtle, savory braised meat character that does not rob the immediacy of the ripe fruit. In fact there is still plenty to like in the bottle I'm drinking now which I opened four days ago! It's worth noting that 2002 was generally derided and panned as a weak, damp vintage in Rioja and Ribera del Duero. I'd counter that it helped provide this wine with the balance and acidity to be drinking perfectly now and for another five years at least. I'd more than willingly put this wine up against any new wave hot shot from the hyped 2005 vintage (Pingus included) in five years and be confident that it would take the crown.

Toscana, Italy

2007 Poggiarellino Rosso di Montalcino

I have tasted this wine a few times over the past two months, and shared a bottle with none other than McDuff the wine dog when he came over for dinner last month. Poggiarellino makes honest, imperfect, Sangiovese based wine that shows off its Montalcino terroir and wears on its sleave its rustic qualities (some may say 'flaws'). What does that mean? Big barnyard like nose, with noticeable brett, and rich cherry aromas that draw you closer to take a sip. All of the previous descriptors apply to the palate, writ large. Big cherry fruit, tell-tale brett, tannins that are assertive (don't think they care too much about 'tannin management' here) and acidity that vears towards slightly volatile. Sound exciting? It is, and more importantly, it's honest and engaging. I've no idea how the wine might age, but it sure is an exciting drink right now. Especially with a New York strip steak as I last enjoyed it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Hey man, those Five dollar bills are like, cruising through the ether and shit

How do you feel about retailer (and e-tailer, for that matter) wine emails? Do you find them to be of any interest to you? Do you learn something? Are they annoying? Too bombastic? Over-selling? Too frequent? Lacking creativity? Perhaps a little too precious and self-indulgent?

If you're not already familiar with a producer's wine, what is it about an email that appeals to you, that makes you either think about pulling the trigger and purchasing wine or actually buying wine? Or would you never think of buying wine merely off of a well-written sales pitch?

This is not market research, nor a gathering of opinions to help me with crafting my own sales emails (I think I'm pretty good, but fact is much of the stuff I'm selling in email blasts you all would not for a moment consider buying - high acid, natural and Spain/Portugal/Chile/Argentina do not go together so much). I just would love to hear some personal opinions from anyone, in the trade or not.

Today, for instance, I received the same email from two SoCal based retailers selling '93 Oenotheque for $199.99 - the currently ubiquitous "was $__, now $__" closeout email. In another offer, I was told of a glorious Cahors, whose final quantites were heroically whisked away from the Asian market and brought back to deserving, discriminating American palates. There was a classy grenache offer from New York City. Fortified wines from another successful New York store. Twenty percent off all wine from a medium sized neighborhood shop in Washington, DC. You get the point, many different variations on the single theme of "Buy my shit."

Please comment early and comment often, I want to hear your thoughts on this. Oh, and I'm sorry to get a little bit too industry or Warksian on you. I promise to do either a tasting note(s) or some irreverent some such next post.

Friday, October 16, 2009

ULTRA MAGNETIC MC'S: Give the Drummer Some

Before Dr. Octagon, Dr. Doom, Black Elvis et al, Kool Keith was of course the frontman of Ultramagnetic MC's.

As for one of the most well respected, behind-the-scene figures in hip-hop...RIP Paul C. Those who were there know of this dude's incredible production and engineering skills. I had read this 360 Hip-Hop article about him by Dave Tompkins some years back and contemplated his lasting influence ever since. Consider this a long overdue Friday hip-hop tribute.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

18 year old California Merlot

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Proprietor/Winemaker Jeff Emery fills a barrel

Several days ago, I polished off the remains of a 1991 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Merlot. Lots of acid, lots of presence, lots of sediment. Not a lot of wood, not a lot of alcohol (12.5%), not a whole lot of depth. Overall, though, the winning traits of the wine carried the bottle to the "like it" side of my memory. Intense red and dark plum, cherry, and just the barest hint of a sweet herbal, almost eucalypt like element were harmonizing nicely together. This particular bottling actually contained 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc from Bates Ranch, which is more familiar to me than the source of the Merlot here, Jankris Vineyard. According to the notes on their website, this is likely the best Merlot the winery ever made.

As I've stated many times before, the better wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains age as well as (if not better than) wines from from anywhere else in California. Of course Montebello is one of the wine world's greats, but you don't need to pay Montebello prices for Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard wines. I'd love to experiment with some other older Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard bottlings. Anyone in the Bay Area game for a tasting?

My Mind has been blown on a Wednesday Night!

This song is KILLER. It's Death, in fact. There is plenty of legend and lore out there about this mid 70's Detroit power trio. In fact, Mos Def is planning to produce a documentary about them. Anyway, though this song runs a bit long on the outro, it is sick. Period. The terrific intro, the bass, reminiscent of Afrobeat, the furious and steady drums, the guitar stabs, perfect, the hardcore breakdown, followed by the the early Funkadelic meets Black Sabbath rocking out...what an amazing tune! I'm trying to imagine going to a local party in a black neighborhood in mid 70's Detroit, everyone expecting to hear some Earth Wind & Fire or Philly Sound type stuff, and instead getting a dose of Death.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Typicité in Cour-Cheverny; another Tessier CC experience

How would you describe Romorantin? The ancient grape variety which composes the Cour-Cheverny appellation, Romorantin is definitely a varietal near and dear to the heart of the Loire valley wine lover.

Somehow I've yet to experience a bottle made by the master of Romorantin, Francois Cazin, though I do have a few bottles of '02 Cuvee Renaissance (a demi-sec which includes some botrytised grapes) currently en route from New York City. The only romo I know-know would be that of Philippe Tessier. I am drinking another bottle of his 2004, and I would describe it as intensely pithy and citric. Bitter oranges and lots of pith. But also distinctly mineral and showing this weird root vegetable aspect towards the finish that his Cheverny Rouge also shows.

I know it sounds like I'm luke-warm towards the wine, but I do rather enjoy it. It makes me think about what I'm drinking, and I've probably drunk this wine half a dozen times in the past year.


My girlfriend just asked me if any of my co-workers would ever describe a wine as 'fun.' I said that yes, I occasionally have used such a vague, promissory, lame descriptor as 'fun.' Seeking something more inventive and descriptive to redeem myself, I offered that the wine I was currently drinking (i.e. the 04 Tessier Cour-Cheverny) was a real mind fuck of a wine. To which she replied, "No, it's a skull fucking wine!"

That'll work for me. You should try it sometime - the Cour-Cheverny, that is.

Monday, October 12, 2009

And the 90's Indie Revival Continues: Polvo jams at Slim's on Friday 10/9

Polvo was one of those bands I really enjoyed listening to some years ago while I was exploring indie rock for the first time in my mid-late teens. But I never had an opportunity to see them live. A product of the thriving early-mid 90's Chapel Hill, NC scene, Polvo always had a unique sound: sprawling, psychedelic and laid-back, but with more than a hint of indie slacker aesthetic, experimental guitar interplay and pop sensibility thrown in for good measure.

At long last I righted the wrong of not having seen this very solid quartet. After a nearly ten year absence, Polvo first reunited to perform in 2008 at All Tomorrow's Parties, and like so many other bands have leveraged the reunion to begin recording and touring together anew. Given the competence of their performance, both of new material and re-worked older songs, I definitely would encourage both those who are familiar with the band and the uninitiated to check them out when they head your way next.

Friday night at Slim's, for a focused hour and a half or so, Polvo primarily combined older songs from their Merge Records output with material from their Touch and Go years, with which I'm honestly not as familiar, in their inimitable style. Yes, it is a bit "Sonic Youth-y" as I overheard one concert goer explain to his friend, but there is also a real 70's classic rock element at work here as well, not to mention an Eastern influence which flavors the guitar based compositions and improvisation. While I enjoyed both guitarists' contributions, leader Ash Bowie's songs and riffage really stood out. As did drummer Brian Quast's efforts, especially on some particularly complex and jazz inspired fill-ins. Sparse vocals, usually buried fairly low in the mix, along with some seriously extended jamming, highlight the fact that Polvo is at their most comfortable when they are rocking out, exploring the balance of consonance, dissonance, distortion, bent notes and vibrato at their own leisurely, mid-tempo pace.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Row, Fisherman row

How I haven't posted this in two years of blogging and youtube re-posting, I am not sure. At any rate, this is obviously the beautiful vocal stylings of the Congos, the production genius of Lee "Scratch" Perry, and, in short, this is reggae.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Testing out the restorative powers of sherry, Equipos Navazos Manzanilla Pasada in particular

What a busy week! Hopefully the overall level of activity and sales at work is a good sign of economic recovery, because if that is indeed the case then it might be a strong holiday retail season after all, and maybe 2010 will see lower unemployment and even some modest economic growth. Then again, we count amongst our customer base some of the wealthiest zip codes in the country, so I will take with a grain of salt the fairly strong September and early sprint out the gates of October.

Today, in particular, we were so busy that I needed a good 10 minutes of lie on the couch time just now as I returned home from work. In my glass, to hopefully revive the senses and ready the appetite, is some Equipo Navazos La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada #10. Manzanilla, because it is fino style sherry from the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, in this case from a top quality solera at La Guita. Pasada, because this is no typical, young Manzanilla solera; rather it is from wine averaging 12-14 years in age, whose barrels were topped off sporadically to prevent the manzanilla from becoming an amontillado.

I've been working through the bottle over the past several days, and it is quite the killer wine. For $30 retail, I think it is the best buy in dry sherry out there, and arguably one of the best wine buys, assuming you dig sherry, of course. Not a simple, salty, straw colored Manzanilla, the #10 shows a color more akin to 18K gold. Aromatically intense, you can catch marcona almonds, sea salt, lemons, butterscotch, and even some yellow triaminic cold syrup (that is not necessarily a good thing in my book, as pungent as that stuff was as a kid), but focusing on the former aromas I forget about barely palatable childhood cold remedies. On the palate, there is a similar depth, complexity and shifting quality to the flavors that this wine shares with some of the wine world's greatest. It brings to mind really good sous voile Jura wine, without quite the crackle of acidity or liveliness. There is a salty, broth-like savory element as well, not unlike that of a good dry amontillado or palo cortado. Very nutty and savory on the finish.

As you can see, I struggled with that note, but at any rate I do feel revived and ready to go on with my evening. If ever you're feeling tired, lacking in appetite, or otherwise feeling not up to doing much, I would suggest drinking a small amount of good sherry. And if it's one of the best, such as the Manzanilla pasada from Equipo Navazos, so much the better.

For very good quality, production oriented information on this particular sherry, see Peter Liem's excellent post on the topic. You can also explore his blog for posts about other Equipo Navazos bottlings.