Friday, July 10, 2020

Frederick Wildman & Sons, LTD

Wildman is one of the better wine importers we have worked with through the years here at V&C.  We especially like their European whites.  In the paragraphs to follow you will probably recognize several familiar wine brands commonly in the store courtesy of this importer.

Oddly enough, Frederick Wildman got his start in the wine business courtesy of the U.S. Army.  He had come from a cultured affluent Connecticut family heavily invested in the insurance and banking industries.  His military service coincided with the latter part of World War I.  Knowing his background, the military brass tasked him with pairing wines and foods for VIPs during the last six months of the war.  So Wildman became the de facto wine steward/sommelier for the army in Europe.

At the end of the war Wildman returned to the family business but saw an opportunity to pursue his passion at the end of the Prohibition Era.  In 1933 he bought Bellows & Company, a food and wine importer, and personalized his commitment by stressing quality in his stock.  He traveled widely in Europe, often renewing relationships he had during the war, and gradually built his book.

In time Wildman sold his company to National Distillers but bought back the wine portfolio in 1952 and officially renamed the operation Fredrick Wildman & Sons, LTD.  From the very beginning in 1933 Wildman represented Chateau Fuisse, Olivier LeFlaive, Pol Roger and Christian Moreau.  They remain in the portfolio to this day.

In 1971 Wildman retired and sold the company to Hiram Walker Distillers.  In the 1980's Folonari, Hugel, Melini and Santi were added to the portfolio.

In 1993 Richard Cacciato, the company president, partnered with five of the historic wine companies represented in the portfolio to purchase the company from Hiram Walker.  Wildman now represents fifty wine companies.


If you would like to join us for a tasting this Saturday here at the store, call us to set an appointed time at 770-287-WINE(9463) or email us at wineguy@bellsouth.net.  Because of the virus we want to avoid any crowding.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Selbach-Oster

"Mosel Kabinetts should be like drinking cool spring water, thirst quenching and delicious." - Johannes Selbach

Hopefully by the time you read this we will have some Riesling Trockens from Selbach-Oster.  They should be some of the finest wines of their kind.  Currently we have two regional bottlings from Selbach and a dry Pinot Blanc from Selbach-Oster.

The Selbach family has been in the wine business in Mosel since the 1600s.  That means they have tended their vineyards for about four hundred years.  Oster was a barrel maker who married into the family on the paternal side centuries later.

The Mosel region is the oldest viticultural region of Germany.  It was originally planted 2,000 years ago by the Celts and Romans.  The Selbach family owns twenty-four hectares (59 acres) in what could be called the classico region of Mosel.  Those estate wines carry the Selbach-Oster label.  All other wines they market carry just the Selbach label.

Johannes Selbach compares his Rieslings to biting into various fruits.  Kabinett quality Riesling, which is basically dry, is like biting into an apple.  Spatlese, which is off-dry, he compares to getting into peaches or apricots.  Auslese, which is noticeably sweeter, is like ripe tropical fruit and Eiswein, according to Selbach, is honeyed smokiness.

We started this post with an allusion to Riesling Trockens which are the driest of German wines.  They are as dry as any white wine anywhere.  What makes them noteworthy?  The grape.  Riesling.  Riesling is the great white wine grape of the world.  Aside from complexity in flavors and aromas Riesling excels in structure, which is the spine and bones of a wine that supports the fruit flavors.  Riesling's unique character is the tension created between the acidity, fruit and minerality of the wine.  With Riesling Trockens that tension is visceral.


If you have read this article and would like to try a dry German Riesling stop in and say so.  We'll discount one down for you!








Sunday, May 31, 2020

Champagne Labruyere

A couple months ago we wrote about Champagne Palmer & Company.  We were excited to get Palmer because it was new to Georgia.  Champagne Labruyere is likewise new to us here at the store and it shares a pedigree with Palmer.  Both own Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards in the Montagne de Reims district of Champagne.  The difference for us is that we actually have the Labruyere Grand Cru Page Blanche in the store.  Our Palmer is a non-vintage brut which may indicate purchased fruit. 

There are 33,500 hectares (76,000 acres) in vines in the Champagne region and they are spread over 319 villages.  Only seventeen of those villages have Grand Cr vineyards.  For Labruyere their sixty-five year old vineyards lie in the village of Verzenay.  That highly esteemed fruit has been destined for Roederer Crystal and Dom Perignon in the past.

Edouard Labruyere owns 6 hectares (15 acres) in Verzenay which he named Chantravesen.  He also has holdings in the nearby village of Verzy.  Labruyere purchased his Champagne properties because of their similarity to his holdings in Burgundy.  Specifically he wanted vineyards that had Burgundian-style vine spacing, density and pruning for the traditional Burgundian vinification.

The Labruyere family hails from the Moulin a Vent region where they have owned Clos du Moulin a Vent since 1868.  They also own vineyards in the Cotes d'Or of Burgundy and Chateau Rouget which lies adjacent to Chateau Petrus in Pomerol, Bordeaux.

The taster's description for traditional French Champagne may include complex flavors of buttery brioche, baked apple toast, hazelnut, vanilla and yeast.  Two descriptions we found for our Labruyere included "fruity, powerful, smokey and feral" and "perfectly focused, rapier-like in intensity, exuberant and driven."  Apparently they have nailed it.


We are restarting our store wine tastings after a two month respite.  Because of the need for social distancing, we are asking for Saturday afternoon appointments.  If you want more information or want to schedule a time slot please call us at 770-287-WINE(9463) or email us at wineguy@bellsouth.net.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

DAOU

...reverence for the land - the idea that we are not "making" something from it, but rather mirroring all that is already there.   - from the DAOU Vineyards website.

Recently our supplier directed us away from a case purchase of Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon.  Pricing was the issue and he said we should consider DAOU as an alternative.  Now we have three reds from DAOU in the store including the Cabernet, which according to the salesman, is what several Atlanta wine accounts are doing.

So what do we know about DAOU?

Established in 2007 DAOU Vineyards began as a 600 acre purchase atop Hoffman Mountain in the Adelaida District on the northwestern side of the Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area).  Adelaida is one of eleven AVA's in Paso Robles but produces 25% of the wines of the region.  At 2,200' elevation, what is now known as DAOU Mountain, is the highest elevation in Paso Robles.  

Brothers Georges and Daniel Daou sold their Daou Systems hospital software company after going public in 2007.  The two had spent their early youth in Lebanon before moving to France.  Ultimately they were educated at UC San Diego as Systems Engineers but shared a dream of making world class wine.  The sale of their company provided their seed money for the winery.

What they purchased atop Hoffman Mountain was a derelict and dilapidated winery with 212 acres of fallow vineyards, the remnants of a once great estate.  Hoffman Mountain Ranch was one of the great wineries of forty years ago when I was getting my feet wet in this industry.  For me their Zinfandel in particular was memorable.  Stanley Hoffman was a Beverly Hills cardiologist who hired the great "Father of California Winemaking," Andre Tchelistcheff to design his vineyards.  That was back in 1964. 

Hoffman Mountain is now officially DAOU Mountain.  That was not the only change.  Systems Engineers apparently analyse everything.  Because the brothers aspired to produce world class wine, all grape types were replanted with varietal clones more suitable for their purposes.  Their yeasts are proprietary and sourced from the region.  The old Hoffman winery, itself, was purposely retained in honor of the patriarch.

DAOU now has 400 acres in vines.  47% of their production is varietal Cabernet Sauvignon; 23% is destined for a proprietary Zin/Syrah-type blend; 12%, a Bordeaux blend and 9% is Chardonnay.  The remaining 10%, one would assume, are blending grapes.  The typical DAOU varietal Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 75% Cabernet, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot,  The "Bodyguard" red blend is typically Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Tannat.

DAOU wines are marketed in three quality level: The Paso Robles Collection is all sourced from the region but not estate-grown.  The Reserve Collection is some combination of sourced and estate fruit.  The Estate Collection is just as it sounds.  


If you have read this article and have an interest in DAOU, stop in and lets talk.

Next Wednesday, May 27th, Albert Bichot, one of the great French Burgundy companies, will be conducting a virtual wine tasting for anyone interested.  This should be considered an educational event about the finest wine region in the world.  Call us at 770-287-WINE (9463) or email us at wineguy@bellsouth.net for details.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Marnie Old

Marnie Old is a sommelier, author and educator who has a weekly column in the Philadelphia Daily News.  She also hosts something called "Wine Simplified" on YouTube.  What she brings to the table is a crisp and engaging style that "uses the power of images to explain complex wine concepts."  That is a gift.

One consequence of getting older is we tend to get stuck in our routines and fail to remain open to new information and those who bring it.  With as much history in this industry as we have, Marnie Old was new to us until we recently saw her name in a Lettie Teague WSJ wine article.  To restate what we said above, what she does is she simplifies things to the point where even if you aren't paying 100% attention you can still get it.  Wine Folly is similarly good at this approach.  It's sort of a "wine for dummies" approach.

While we weren't familiar with Marnie Old by name, we have been using something she wrote years ago as a teaching tool here in the store.  It was published in an infinitely forgettable trade magazine and it was so good we tore it out and kept it on the counter.  It would become our text for conducting the wine and cheese "experiment."

The article was a mere three paragraphs long with the other half page being graphics, observations, and a four step technique for conducting the experiment.  The article was entitled "Salt is Wine's Best Friend" and we used it to show how dry red wine has a natural affinity with cheese (since cheese is salty). 

These are her exact words: "Salt blocks the taste buds that detect acidity and sensitizes those that detect sweetness.  So saltiness makes wine taste less acidic, fruitier and less sweet.  In summary, this effect is usually pleasant."  She then goes on to say why sugar doesn't work with dry red wine.  We always stopped our experiment at this point since we always thought sugar was a non-starter.

Marnie Old was a restaurant sommelier for her first five years in the industry before moving on to consultant work with restaurants, consumers and corporations.  She was formerly the director of Manhattan's French Culinary Institute.  She even educated the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (since that state runs the liquor industry).  Currently she is affiliated with the Boisset Collection of Napa-Sonoma wines.


Please join us this Thursday the 12th at 5pm when Bob Reynolds leads us in a tasting of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley Vineyards along with a couple reds from Argentina and Spain.  One week later on the 19th David Hobbs returns with a tasting from his fine wine portfolio.  Then on Saturday the 21st  from 1-3pm we will host a charity tasting to benefit the Gateway Domestic Violence Center.  Please join us for the tastings. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Champagne Palmer & Co.

We just got in a couple cases of Palmer & Co. Champagne.  Since I have never sold this one before, I thought some homework might help with my sales pitch, hence, this post.

Montagne de Reims is one of the five wine districts in the Champagne region.  It is located in Champagne's northwestern quadrant.  Seven grape growers in that region united to form Palmer in 1947.  While Montagne de Reims is known for its Pinot Noir, these growers owned Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chardonnay vineyards, which is wonderful in itself, if a little peculiar considering where they were.

Pinot Noir is recognized as the great grape of Champagne.  It is what gives Champagne its character.  Montagne de Reims Champagne is especially well known for its heady bouquet, structure and acidity.

The Champagne district is situated ninety miles northeast of Paris.  That latitude is the highest of vineyard holdings in the world except for Argentina.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the third grape of Champagne, are among the few types capable of producing quality fruit at that latitude.

In a way what the founders of Palmer accomplished in 1947 parallels what is happening today in Champagne - growers are making their own instead of selling their harvest to the maisons, the huge international companies.  Estate-bottled wines are always better than what the big guys can do and the Grower Champagne movement is a microcosm of that larger truth.

The reputation of a Champagne house, however, is built by its non-vintage bottlings where the house cuvee establishes the public's perception of the company.  Most Champagne lovers are introduced to a a new sparkler by trying the non-vintage version first if for no other reason than the price.  Palmer, being a seventy year old company, long ago outgrew its estate wine bonafides.  Those Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chardonnay Vineyards now supply higher tier Palmer labels while the non-vintage product is made largely from purchased juice.  The great brands of Champagne consistently purchase ninety percent of their non-vintage Champagne juice.

While almost all big Champagne houses reside in the cities of Reims or Epernay, one large company calls the town of Ay in Montagne de Reims home.  That would be Bollinger whose big, yeasty, masculine style is indelibly etched into every Champagne lover's memory.  Palmer, by contrast, self-describes as "a moment of celebration associated with elegance."  They claim they get minerality from the chalky soil and salinity from the ocean breezes.  Moreover their wine style displays citrus and tropical fruit, floral notes, nuttiness and a silky mousse.

The best Champagnes show some combination of freshness, richness and delicacy, breed and raciness, and a stimulating strength.  Let's hope Palmer displays all of that.  And more!


Please join us this Thursday at the weekly tasting.  We start at 5 and go till 7pm.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Pragal

Pragal is one of those unassuming generic-looking bottles that only gets its due when you dare to get into it.  It doesn't scream, "I'm here! Let me show my stuff!"  Instead it almost willfully holds back its promise by blending into the shelf with more formidable labels overshadowing it.

I first purchased a case of Pragal a year ago along with several Spanish wines and proceeded to stock them all in the Spanish rack.  I guess I thought they all looked Spanish.  It took an especially considerate customer's direction to get the wine where it was supposed to be - with the Italians.

Pragal is a sturdy red wine made by Bertani, one of the giants of Veneto.  Among their landholdings is a large expanse in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico region.  They have another large parcel  16km east of Verona.  Pragal sources Corvina from the Valpolicella region and Merlot and Syrah from their Val d'Illasi vineyard to the east.  The wine is then classified as "Veneto IGT."

All three Pragal grape types are sourced from low yielding, hand pruned vines.  After harvest some grapes are dried appassimento-style which accounts for the wine's richness.  A lengthy maceration and fermentation at low temperatures in large oak barrels is done before a malolactic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Then there is a six month fining in oak barrels before the final blending is done.  The wine is released only after being held for more aging in the bottle.

Along with having the heft of a big red wine, Pragal has the fruity spiciness and bright acidity one might expect of serious Italian wine.  The tannins are soft.  The finished product is a deep ruby color with garnet and violet tints.  Flavors include red fruit preserves, dried roses, black cherry, spices, tobacco and black pepper.  The rich intensity of this wine is persistent making it perfect as an accompaniment for all red meats including game.  A formidable pasta dish would also work with this wine.