WINES OF THE WEEK! TWO GORGEOUS WINES AT A DISCOUNT.

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Two gems from wine regions where blending is mandated.

Two gems from wine regions where blending is mandated.

Domaine de Veilloux Blanc, 2009 – Was $19. Now $14.25
Domaine Olivier Pithon, Cuvee Lais, 2009 – Was $28. Now $21

This week – two wines – from regions where blending is mandated. From Cheverny in Loire, Domaine de Veilloux Blanc 2009. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, this wine is made for the long haul. The Domaine is managed according to natural principles (certified organic in France) and it’s history reaches back to the 1700s. Smack dab in the middle of Loire, the white wines of Cheverny are distinctive from other wines from Loire in that they don’t possess that sometimes searing minerality and acdity of Muscadet, Sancerre and Quincy. Instead, these wines are richer and weightier. Complex nose of grass, green apple are followed by honeycomb, lemon curd, hard candy and melon. This comes from both the differences in geology, but also from the fact that these wines are often aged in bottle for some time before release. Perfect with game, veal, dishes with mushrooms, herbs and cream.

From Domaine Olivier Pithon in Cotes de Roussillon comes his Cuvee Lais, 2009 – the youngest of Olivier’s red wines. Here, it is mandated that wines possess a minimum of three grapes. This wine is composed of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Brother of Jo Pithon, Olivier founded his Domaine in 2001 using biodynamic principles for all of his wines. The terrain in Roussillon is rugged, but the wines reflect some of that. The Cuvee Lais, named after the family cow, is dark, brooding and rich. Dense and aromatic. Very dark to the eye – this wine shows blackberry and italian plum on the nose, and dried cherry, bacon, tar and eucalyptus on the palate. Very extracted and a mirror of the local terrain. A big, big wine deserving of a nice roast full of herbs and char. A real brut! Both of these wines are unique and delicious.

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HOLIDAY TIME MEANS SPARKLING WINE TIME!

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As New Year’s and the winter holidays approach, I find myself with an increased desire to drink things bubbly. However, champagne and other sparkling wines should be considered for year round consumption. If the country makes wine, they probably make sparkling wine as well so you have many choices.

But first – how do the bubbles get in there? Simply – many sparkling wines (and all from Champagne) goes through two sets of fermentation. The first one creates the wine and the alcohol. The second creates the
bubbles. Sugar and additional yeast are added to still wine. The yeast eats the sugar and creates CO2 (each house has it’s own secret sugar/yeast recipe). The bottle is capped – and the CO2 dissolves into the wine – only to appear again when the bottle is opened. Viola! (There are some sparkling wines where the CO2 is injected into the wine – these are to be avoided)

GROWER CHAMPAGNE – When looking for Champagne, try “grower champagne.” These wines are broadening the choices we have here in the US. In Champagne there are 19,000 growers, but only 5000 make wine. Of those, only about 130 make it to our shores. (Look for the initials RM on the label – this means Recolant-Manipulant). These wines are more distinctive vs the big Champagne house brands like Moet, Mumm and
Taittinger. Of the 300 million bottles of Champagne made annually – only 9 million are grower. Grower or otherwise, quality champagne will cost at minimum $45 and the sky is the limit from there – but the cost
is usually worth it. Never use champagne in a bellini or mimosa.

PROSECCO – From Italy, Prosecco is king, and like Champagne, the name is protected and can only be used on sparkling wines made in Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia. Made from the Glera grape most Prosecco are made where the second fermentation occurs in a steel tank vs in the bottle. The quality can be far ranging – so we recommend spending a little more on Prosecco and you will find superb examples of wine making. Here, $20 or $30 can get you a top bottle. If you want to spend a little more, and stay Italian, look for Franciacorta –
probably the closest thing to Champagne in Italy.

DOMESTIC BUBBLES – Though the United States does not have the wine lineage of either France or Italy, some excellent bubbles do come from California, Oregon, Long Island and yes, New Mexico. Like grower champagne makers – you will expect to find a wide range of styles using a wide range of grapes – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier are popular, but expect to find to find sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion and even Cabernet Sauvignon.

As for glassware, the flute is the recommended choice, but I prefer using a glass with a larger bowl. With the bubble rising out of the wine, I sometime feel the CO2 getting in the way of enjoying the wine. Give it a swirl and dissipate some of that gas. But no matter what country you chose – or what glass you drink it in – your celebrations will be more complete if you start with a glass or two of sparkling wine. Avoid the big brands, and enjoy something different.

Sparkling wine can be made from any grape anywhere in the world.

Sparkling wine can be made from any grape anywhere in the world.

Wines to Consider:

• Jean Pernet, Grand Cru, Mesnil Sur Oger, NV – 100% Chardonnay, these grapes come from the family’s Grand Cru holdings. Rich, bready, brooding – this Champagne is practically food! ($48)

• Cantina Colli Euganei – This Prosecco actually uses Chardonnay as well as Glera giving it a richer quality. It is also “extra dry” which means it has a the faintest touch of sweetness. Perfect for dessert course. ($14)

• Yorkville Cellars, Cuvee Brut, 2011 – 100% organic, this bottling from one of our favorite wine makers uses Cabernet Sauvignon in their blend to make this very Champagne like wine. ($35)

A TALE OF TWO CABERNET (FRANC THAT IS)

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The Loire Valley is one of our favorite wine regions in all the world. Not only does the region have a long history of producing great wines from virtually every grape used in France, but the wines provide excellent value too. Long the wine pipeline for Paris’s bistro and brassiere, the Loire Valley makes some of the best wines in France for the money. Each AOC in Loire has it’s own story and sometimes it’s own grape. For red, no other grape represents Loire better than Cabernet Franc. It may be grown in Bergerac and Bordeaux, but Loire is where it is truly the star. Here are two wines from neighboring AOC – Anjou and Saumur. Laying south of the Loire River these two wines, each made from 100% Cab Franc are polar opposites. Granted – the soil composition in each region differs (Schist in Anjou, Limeston in Saumur) and we’re dealing with different bottle age – but the differences! The “Tete de Lard” from Manoir de la Tete is a rough and extrated wine showing strong notes of leather, tabacco and cassis. Black to the eye – this wine demands food. On the other end of the spectrum is the almost dainty Le Roc from Domaine Delesvaux – a pretty little thing, unfiltered but showing light bell pepper and raspberry wityh subtle hints of violet on the nose. No two wines could be more different but both delicious in their own right. This is one of the fun things about wine – when you can taste and compare two bottlings of the same grape, from the same region and compare. Proving that one should not pigeon hole wines and keep your mind open to new things. You never know what you might come across. Cheers and VIVE LA DIFFERENCE!!!

Though the same grape, these two wines from neighboring AOC in Loire are totally different

Though the same grape, these two wines from neighboring AOC in Loire are totally different

NOT YOUR USUAL WINE SUSPECTS FOR THANKSGIVING. (And on sale too!)

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Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where wine writers around the country trudge out the same set of wines as they make their recommendations for your Thanksgiving meal. A quick survey of articles written last year 9 out of 10 times pointed to the three same wines – Riesling, Chardonnay and Zinfandel. No doubt, these wines can make for great pairings with the most American holiday of them all, but why not use this as an opportunity to try some new wines and new grapes that will enhance your meal and make it that much more memorable.

Thematically – We do appreciate the notion of an American meal and pair American wines exclusively but every person in our country honors this day no matter where they are from. So let’s embrace the melting pot
that is America and look at wines from around the world that are as diverse as our great nation itself. What ties these wines together however is that they are all light bodied, energetic and lively. Thanksgiving is a big, often heavy and lengthy meal – so you want to choose wines that won’t weigh you and your guests down.

Wines for Thanksgiving should be lighter and more energetic - higher acidity and lower in alcohol.

Wines for Thanksgiving should be lighter and more energetic – higher acidity and lower in alcohol.

To start – Greet your guests with sparkling wine. To help get ready for a big meal, liven the palate with a nice, bright sparkling wine. Sparkling wines on their own are festive and are often lower in alcohol and are a great counter to whatever sort of hors d’oeuvre you may serve. Cheese, charcuterie, olives, pickled and cured finger food – Sparkling wine can cut through stronger flavors. Sparkling wines don’t have to be expensive either – Cava, US sparklers, Cremant all are far less expensive than champagne. You don’t have to break the bank to offer sparkling wine. As an alternative, think about rosé. Change people’s perception of this wine and find a nice, dry example. In fact – find several and use this as an opportunity to try a bunch and discuss the differences.

Great whites – There is no question that both Riesling and Chardonnay can be made into great wines that your guests will enjoy. But both can be heavy – especially Chardonnay and Riesling may be perceived as being too sweet, so look towards wines and grapes which are lower in alcohol and offer bright flavors and higher levels of acidity. One of my favorites is Chenin Blanc. Chenin is best known from the Loire Valley, but great bottlings can be found from all over. A highly versatile grape, like Reisling, Chenin can be perceived as sweet – look for bottlings marked “sec” or dry. Another crowd pleaser is Vermentino, or Rolle as it is known in France. The wines offer clean, minerally nose and feature flavors of green apples and lime zest with nice, fresh acidity.

Reds for Food – Zinfandel is the most often recommended red for this holiday, but I think these wines are too heavy and often high in alcohol. Here again – We look for wines that are brighter and lighter. As much as we like Pinot Noir, they are often too delicate for this meal. Instead, look to one of two wines which should please the crowd. Gamay is the “baby brother” of Pinot Noir, and when it is in the right hands can be made into wonderfully rich and aromatic wines (Steer clear of Beaujolais Nouveau). Instead look for a “Cru” bottling from
Morgon, Brouilly or Chiroubles. You will get much more for your “burgundy” dollar here and get all of the pinot pleasure you crave. An alternative are the red wines from Austria, specifically Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St. Laurent. The quality of red wines coming out of Austria are extraordinary and the wines are full of life and complexity. These wines will provide a nice balance to the richness of your roast turkey and all the sides without weighing you down and allow you enough room and energy for a second helping.

So, no matter what you choose for your dinner – the pairing will be fine. Drink what you like but why follow the pack – talk to your wine purveyor and have them make some exciting alternative picks for your holiday feast and make it one that you and your guests will remember.

How important is Beaujolais Nouveau?

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VERY IMPORTANT WE THINK! Beaujolais Nouveau is of course the first wine made available from France after the harvest. It was long a wine that was only available locally, and the celebration of the new vintage was pretty much only honored in and around Beaujolais and of course in Paris where wine makers would race like the dickens to get their bottles to Paris bistro tables first. In the mid 80s I believe, a fellow by the name of Georges Dubouef made the celebration into a global phenomenon and as the sun rose as the globe spun, bottle of Nouveau would be popper to honor the completed harvest. What was wonderful and important about this “phenomenon” is that it got people to try wine – perhaps for the first time. And to try french wine specifically. The wines are by no means serious – more frivolous and simply meant to glug down with plates of charcuterie and simple preparations. Dubouef would adorn his labels with various playful colors and designs to make them stand out on the shelf. This year’s bottling is no different. But as time went on, small wine makers wanted to get into on the action and started bottling their own Nouveau. We have Jean-Paul Brun’s ($19) BoJo as they call it and we tasted it side by side with the new juice from Dubouef ($12 – but we don’t sell it). The differences are startling – but maybe not so startling. The Dubouef shows it’s classic ripe banana, green banana profile – super easy to drink – and we’re surprised it doesn’t come with a screw cap. The Brun comes from old vines and is much more serious. Soft tannins with notes of raspberries, currants and is just tart with fresh acidity. Very different. I suspect the Brun could age successfully for several years and develop into something special – whereas the GD Bojo probably will fall apart by Christmas. But I ask – should a silly wine become serious? I am not sure. But here is to the new vintage – Vive la Nouveau!

Should Beaujolais Nouveau be a silly wine, or can it be serious?

Should Beaujolais Nouveau be a silly wine, or can it be serious?

Sometimes the back of the bottle is as important as the front – aka – You CAN judge a bottle by it’s back label.

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Millions and millions of dollars are spent annually on packaging, promotions and advertising. Pick the right name, the right font, the right color ink, foil stamps and the right bottle shape – and you could impact the sales of your wine. But I find myself turning the bottle around, to see who selected the wine, and who imported it. These can often be stamps of approval which will allow you to know the quality of the juice within. One such importer is David Bowler – who is known for importing and distributing very fine wine from around the world. We just got in three examples. A somewhat rare bottling of Chardonnay from Pfalz, Germany. Clean and bright, this wine touches zero oak. Bright, zest with balanced minerality – this wine will please the anti-oak crowd. Another unusual suspect is a white wine blend from Priorat, Spain. People know Albarino, and maybe Verdejo and Godello – but what we have here is Macabeo and Pedro Ximenez with Garnacha Blanco and Viognier. The wine is slightly viscous, but not cloying or sweet. Mouth filling and generous, the wine shows pit fruit and melon and provides a long finish with just enough acidity. The last wine is also Chardonnay from Mount Eden Vineyards – 2011, Wolff Vineyard bottling in San Luis Obispo’s Edna Valley. Wolff is one of the oldest vineyards in the region. This is everything Chardonnay should be – aromatic, weighty, fresh saline. Expect notes of aromatic nuts, pear, melon and just a hint of anise. Superb. This wine will satisfy both the California Chardonnay lover as well as those who prefer, good

Look on the back of the bottle after reading the front - you can learn a lot.

Look on the back of the bottle after reading the front – you can learn a lot.

White Burgundy. All three are crowd pleasers – so march on in and grab one, two or all three. And don’t forget to turn that bottle around the next time.

TICK, TICK, TICK – Wine is like time in a bottle.

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We get asked all the time – “When is the best time to drink my wine?” Or, “How long can I keep this wine?” Unfortunately – there is no singular answer to this question because there simply are too many variables.

First – the wine itself. The vast majority of wines made in the world are for immediate consumption while certain wines are intended to be drunk almost as soon as they are bottled. Vinho Verde from Portugal with it’s light effervescence, or newly bottled Beaujolais Nouveau or rosé from Provence – all intended and probably best enjoyed at their youngest. But what about the rest of them? The beautiful thing about wine is that it does change – sometimes slowly and gracefully. Other times the wines can seemingly develop and die over night. Storage has a lot to do with the livelihood of any wine – but even in the best conditions, the best cellar does not guarantee that your wine will make it to it’s peak. (I know personally having lost precious bottles of the perfect 2000 Lafite Rothschild that were stored in a brand new cellar – 8 year later – each and every one – corked). But just because a wine is old – does not make it either good or bad – but more often then not – it’s good. When wine ages many things can happen to it – from oxidation, to maderization, to getting cooked, to corked – and sometimes – it is just too old. Fruit gives way to more organic flavors of mushro

A rare opportunity to taste three of the same wines from different vintages.

A rare opportunity to taste three of the same wines from different vintages.

oms, soil, moss, manure. Acidity drops and tannins dissipate to reveal what lies behind it’s curtain. But age can do wonderful things to a wine. I recently had the chance to taste three bottles of Sancerre from 2013, 2011 and 2009 – Same producer, same storage conditions and I was amazed to taste the difference. The 2013 was sharp and bright with hints of citrus and herbs. The 2011 was a little muted, but still lively and nobody would bat an eye at this bottle. But the 2009 was the surprise – honeyed dried pineapple enveloped in even acidity. Not over powering – but simply delicious. Sancerre can age with the best of them – much older – I would be skeptical – but you just never know. I was lucky to be able to taste this vertical. So next time you shop for wine – ask your shop keeper, show me something with age – and see what you get. You might be surprised (ps: We have all three vintages of this Sancerre – so hurry in)

The Other Cabernet….

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There are so many red wine grapes being used out there – sometimes it is tough to keep track of them all. We all have our favorites – and our “go to grapes.” There are also those grapes that become fashionable – Merlot, Pinot Noir and now Malbec seems to be on everyone’s mind. Around the world – there are grapes called “noble” varietals. These are well regarded grapes that are turned into some of the best wines in the world. Included are the grapes above – but also Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese – even Pinotage and Mouvedre get mentions. But not this star of the Loire Valley – where is is made into a striking array for wine styles – Cabernet Franc is the name – and it should be mentioned along side these “greater” grapes we think. The Loire Valley offers up this darling from the towns of Bourgueil, Touraine, Montlouis, Saumur, Anjou and of course, Chinon – where it is truly king of the hill. The grape is being embraced around the world as well and should be tried wherever it hails from. Lo

Cabernet Franc can be found used in wine across the Loire in many different styles.

Cabernet Franc can be found used in wine across the Loire in many different styles.

ng Island, NY, Italy, Hungary, across the US, in Spain, Slovenia as well as South America, Australia and South Africa. It may reach it’s pinnacle in Bordeaux, where it is principally used as a blending grape but also in the famous Cheval Blanc. But we recommend you start your Cab Franc journey in Loire – where it is honored and has been used for generations. Cab Franc – the other Cabernet.

NOT SO SCARY HALLOWEEN WINE!

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Is there a Halloween Wine? Is it a wine that comes from a scary place, like Transylvania? Is it a wine with a scary label? Or is it just scary tasting? Certainly there are plenty of wines that could be called TRICKS vs TREATS – but the one style of wine I think of at Halloween is “Orange Wine”. Orange wine is nothing new – in fact it is relatively ancient using 1000 year old wine making techniques. Open tank fermentation, natural yeasts and long skin contact. Orange wine is made from white wine varietals – and like red wine, with the long skin contact comes tannins – typically considered undesirable able in white wines. Consumed blind – one might think these wines were red. These two examples represent different styles of Orange Wine. The Amber Folly from Yorkville Cellars is youthful, tannic and rigid – but maintains decent levels of acidity. 100% semillion the wine experiences 10 days of skin contact and six months in seasoned French oak. The Klinec is rather old school. Made from Ribolla Gialla – is like a grey day. Cloudy to the eye, this wine is rustic. The tannins have given way to notes of over-ripe apple, moss and wet grass. This is caveman wine from Slovenia and one can imagine enjoying this with simple, roast meats and root vegetables. Either way – Orange wines are not THAT scary – and worth a try – even if once a year.

Orange wines are one of the oldest styles of wine in the world.

Orange wines are one of the oldest styles of wine in the world.

A WINE IN WOLF’S CLOTHING – Domaine du Jas d’Esclans

We think not. Though the Cotes de Provence is primarily known for making rosé, a considerable amount of both red and white is also made. We are particularly fond of the wine from Domaine du Jas D’Esclans. Provence, like Bordeaux, is the only wine region in France where estates are classified (Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace vineyard sites are ranked). Domaine du Jas D’Esclans is one of only fourteen estates in the region to have been given “Cru Classé” status. The Domaine is 100% organic and has been run as a vineyard and winery since the 1200s. (Wine making in the region goes back almost 2600 years in fact). The rosé is quiet powerful and one need not warm weather to enjoy. But the red really impresses. Equal amounts of Cinsault, Syrah and Grenache, the Jas Rouge is an elegant and intense wine. Rich, deep and dark – almost teeth staining – the wine is balanced with fine tannins and compares favorably with a more expensive wine from St. Emilion in Bordeaux for a fraction of the price. Drink the rosé with your first course tonight and finish dinner with the rouge. Absolutely delicious stuff!(mention this blog in the shop and receive a 15% discount on this wine today!)image