Friday, September 5, 2008

George Breuer, Lil' Wayne and much, much more at Terroir

If the title alone did not entice you to read more, all I've got to say is - wow...tonight (or more precisely, last night) was supposed to be a mellow evening to share a bottle and meet with a fellow SF wine blogger and Wine & Spirits magazine correspondent, Wolfgang Weber, at the nation's #1 wine bar, Terroir in San Francisco. As has happened on several other occasions at Terroir, the evening went by lightning fast. We drank a few bottles of Breuer rieslings (dry and delicious) and listened several times to the popular Lil' Wayne banger and '08 single of the year candidate, 'A Milli' as well as lots of reggae. Several bottles were cracked open, a few tastes were poured from bottles previously opened for other customers, and before I realized what had happened it was 1:45am and I was closing up the establishment with Guillaume and his friend Pierre. Where does the time go at cool wine bars?

It was an enlightening evening. My first wine blogger meet-up, tonight was interesting in that I met someone who both blogs about wine and writes about it professionally. I encourage you to check both Wolfgang Weber's personal and professional writing as he writes well and knows his stuff. His recent SF Chronicle article on sulphur in the winemaking process was particularly insightful and potentially of interest to readers of this blog. On a more personal note, we had the opportunity to discuss with one of Terroir's owners, Luc, the matter of taste, honesty and passion as it relates to the wines selected for his bar's list. We spoke about how French and sulphur-free does not necessarily equal good wine; ditto for biodynamic and low carbon footprint. No surprises here, but I feel that this bears repeating in what can be an absolutist, dogmatic hobby/obsession. You know what I mean...check yourself the next time you make a sweeping generalization, positive or critical, of any single wine growing country or region, vintage or producer. Wine suprises. It will underwhelm, surprise, impress, and satisfy. Repeatedly.

To that end, there were several wines we had tonight, none of which disappointed, one of which fully delivered on my high expectations, and one southern Rhone wine which surprised me for its sheer likeability and liveliness, especially given my general dislike for wines from this particular part of France.

2006 Kiralyudvar Tokaji Furmint Demi-Sec

The first vintage to be exported to the States, this winery has the benefit of some consultation from Huet's Noel Pinguet. A nose of dripping ripe melon, cantaloupe in particular, leads to a palate of intensely pure, melon like flavors, with a bit of the typical furmint orange blossom qualities as well. Pure, intense, gorgeously soft and textured. What more could you want from Hungary (or anywhere, for that matter?)

1996 Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate Le Coste

A youngin'. Shamefully, I did not give these 1.5 ounces their proper due. What I tasted was a dark fruited, traditional Barolo, young, and just beginning to offer up some secondary, meaty flavors. Rinaldi is about as natural as they come in Barolo: fermented with indigenous yeasts and minimal sulphur throughout the winemaking process, aging in old oak. I was reading on Italian Wine Merchant's site that Rinaldi's barolos are fermented Ripasso style, over Barbera skins, which used to be more usual practice in the Piedmont.

2007 Gramenon Cotes du Rhone

A (new?) Kermit Lynch Cotes du Rhone, this is grenache-based, surprisingly lively and appealing. As I mentioned earlier, be careful when you generalize. I had told Guillaume earlier this summer that I generally dislike grenache, except for a few Gigondas and the very occasional Chateauneuf du Pape. A few visits ago he poured me a grenache I couldn't stand, and this time he got me. Apparently these wines are all the rage in Paris right now.

2004 George Breuer Riesling Berg Schlossberg

13% alcohol, duly noted. Young, compact, not too expressive, and a bit heavy. Not bad, but compared to the first Breuer we drank, a merely pretty good effort (sorry, Luc)

2002 George Breuer Riesling Nonnenburg

Produced from a terrific German Riesling vintage (better for many in the Rheingau than '01), from Bruer's highest sloped vineyards, this wine is a KILLER. Complex on the nose, with quince, apricots, and what I imagine as peach marmelade fermented dry (of course this does not exist, it just brings to mind the intensity of the aromas). After some air, the intense minerality reveals itself on the nose as well. The flavors on the palate are tense and intense. Vibrant, chiseled stone fruit with a real saltiness on the mid-palate and finish of the wine. Very persistent as well. Yes! My WOTN, no question, no contest.

There was a Tavel Rose which was surprisingly natural, nuanced and non-Tavel like. Forget the producer name. Also an '07 Saumur-Champigny from Germain which was tasty and well-made.

On many levels, this was a most enjoyable, educational and rewarding visit to Terroir. Just what the doctor ordered.


Mike Drapkin said...

Stop writing about terroir--I am jealous.Just kidding. Keep it coming.

I agree with Terroir's owner regarding low sulfite,wild yeast, low carbon foot print wine. Just because the natural process employed by a vigneron may be agreable to the philosophy I subscribe to in wine, it doesn't mean I will always like outcome or taste of that wine. But, I would take that hypothetical "true" wine which doesn't please my palate over a tastier manipulated, denatured wine which is devoid of life or origin. Would you agree with the following quote from Joly? I do.

"Before being good, a wine must be true"-

Guess this all depends in what you value most in your wine experience. Different for all folks.

guilhaume said...

true love!

David McDuff said...

Sounds like a great time, Joe. I hope you and Wolfgang will both be up for doing it again when I can finally drag my ass out to San Fran.

Gramenon's wines have been around for a while. It's been ages since I've had any but the faint memories are good ones.


PS: there's an errant "e" in your post's title.

Joe Manekin said...

Mike -

Sorry,'ll have to check it out, maybe you could even plan a west coast trip around it. Thanks for your thoughtful comments regarding what Joly refers to as 'true' wine. I hear what you are saying. Most important to me, and what I think Luc was getting at as well, is that, bottom line, the wine needs to taste good, or at the very least have some interesting and redeeming qualities. A question: on a hot day would you drink Courtois' funky, unstable Pinot Meunier 'Originel' because it is more 'true,' or a $10 Verdejo fermented with lab yeasts, perhaps acidified, with a modern cool fermentation in stainless steal? I'll take the latter. Anyone else want to chime in here - this has the makings of an interesting comments thread....

Guilhaume - yes, true love! Rastafari live. Ites, mi bredren.

McD - Where's the errant 'e?' I definitely could benefit from an editor here, you game? Gramenon's '07 is really tasty, try it if you come across it.

Joe Manekin said...

McDuff - I caught the 'e.' What's up with the Germans foregoing the silent 'e' for the name 'Georg?'

Steve L. said...

Tavel = Eric Pfifferling's 2007 L'Anglore. I hear it's going fast--perhaps that's because it's been 90 degrees around here this week.

Mike Drapkin said...

On a hot day, when thinking hurts and your palate is dry, you or one(me included) wants a beverage to consume without much contemplation or difficulty. So, if your two choices were offered in that context, then I would guzzle down the verdejo like I would a cold Miller High Life--without thought or intellectual stimulation. But for me(not everyone of course) that verdejo you mentioned, which is a denatured wine(acidified), and not an accurate example of its essence or where it was born, is merely a grape based industrial beverage--not wine. In my book, industrial grape based beverages will never stimulate me or incite as much passion,pleasure or emotion as a real wine made by self-effacing,honest winemakers whose primary goals are to respect the tradition, truth, history, place, and nature from the little peace of earth where their grapes are grown. So for me, I derive pleasure from wine not just through its taste or yummyness factor, but also from the human story that it tells. This is a great conversation and let's keep this going......I like thinking.

guilhaume said...

true love julien courtois!

Joe Manekin said...

Steve - thanks for the Tavel info. Yeah, it has been rather warm in the Bay Area, 70 and sunny at 8am in Bernal Heights for the past several days. A bit cooler today, though.

Mike - Well said. Of course I love the human story that a wine tells - the essence of a region's culture, of a family, even of an individual's personality that is captured in bottle. This is why, as real wine people, we tend to go for Hugh Johnson and not Robert Parker, Touraine and not Marlborough, Jasnieres and not Jadot.

I would say, however, that you can indeed drink thought provoking, authentic wine, with good typicity, even if it is produced from machine harvested grapes, that possibly were sprayed a few times for mildew, that perhaps have a little more sulphur than you might like, and so on.

David McDuff said...

I caught the 'e.' What's up with the Germans foregoing the silent 'e' for the name 'Georg?'

I don't have a proper linguistic explanation for it, Joe. It is a different language, after all, and in German it's pronounced something like "gay-org" as opposed to the usual Amer-English pronunciation.