Monday, April 15, 2019

Wine Tasting Report 4/11/19

Interesting tasting here last Thursday evening.  We tasted Gabbiano Chianti Classico, Sonoma-Cutrer Rose of Pinot Noir, Seghesio Angela's Table Zinfandel, and Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Gabbiano was a no-brainer.  It was the best buy on the table at $10/bottle.  The other three pricier wines were competing for the best wine on the table...period.

Before we get into that though, what the three California wines share in their common history needs to be said.  They all started out in private hands only to end up in the hands of mass marketers.  This is reality in the California wine industry, circa 2019.  That said, each has its own story.  Let's take them one at a time.

Seghesio has the longest history of the three.  They go back to the 1800's and around the middle of the last century they were a legitimate powerhouse in this industry.  In fact for a while they owned most of the vineyard land in Sonoma County and most of the Zinfandel produced there.  In 2011 they were bought by Leucadia National, a Wall Street financial giant.  Leucadia owns the Napa-based Crimson Wine Group (Pine Ridge, Chamisol, Archery Summit) so they weren't just looking for return on investment.  The Zinfandel at our tasting was very tasty indeed.

Black Stallion has the shortest history of the three.  A couple Minnesotans bought the thirty-eight acre Napa estate at the turn of this century and sold it to DFV (Delicato Family Vineyards) ten years later.  The only tangible asset aside from the land, itself, was the hospitality center since the business had no vineyards or winery of its own.  DFV is also a family run business but they are a powerhouse.  They are a perennial Top 10 wine company worldwide.  This vintage of the Cabernet at our tasting was a little thin, which reflects the mass marketers' intention to not offend anyone.

Sonoma-Cutrer was established in 1973 with the intention of specializing in Chardonnay.  Their timing couldn't have been better.  Chardonnay was about to begin its reign as the king of white wines and Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnays were some of the best.  In 1999 the beverage giant Brown-Forman (Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort, Canadian Mist) bought the operation with the stated purpose of maintaining the estate as a separate entity from its existing wine portfolio (Fetzer, Bonterra, Jekel, Mariah.)  Two years later that pledge was abandoned and their labels now share facilities and winemakers with the other brands.

The Rose of Pinot Noir from Sonoma-Cutrer is a recent addition to their line and it is wonderful, It is very light and dry and charming and refreshing, all of the qualities everyone wants in rose.  So, since we have already written off the Black Stallion Cabernet, which was the winner between the Seghesio Zinfandel and the Rose?

That's up to you.

Please join us this Thursday at 5pm for a store tasting with Bob Reynolds who has a portfolio specializing in Spanish and Oregonian wines. 

Monday, April 8, 2019

Tomme Brebis St. George

This cheese was so good we just had to write about it.  One of our historic favorites here at the store is Ossau-Iraty, sheep cheese from the Basque region of France.  This tomme is comparable if a little softer and juicier than Ossau-Iraty.  It hails from the Midi-Pyranees region a little to the north of Basque.

What is a tomme, you ask.  Literally, a tomme is a wheel of cheese.  The word is generic and means nothing more.  Yet it does.  For knowing cheese lovers the word tomme on a label signifies a product of quality.  It's a specialty item made by a dedicated cheese maker as opposed to being one of a number of products made at a generic dairy.

Historically tommes were made using the left over milk after butter was made.  And this cheese is nothing if not historical.  Tomme-making in the Midi-Pyranees region goes back to ancient times.  That left over milk with its fats depleted after the butter making, was leaner and earthier tasting than the original.

Tomme cheeses are also a generic style.  That style is intrinsic to the French and Swiss Alps and each tomme label states the location of manufacturing immediately after the word, tomme.  In this case the the town of St. George is the locale near the larger city of Aude in the Midi-Pyranees.  This region is like a thumbprint on the map in the interior between the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts and south of Bordeaux.

The Tomme Brebis St. Charles is moist and creamy and nutty and rich.  It's like toasted bread at the beginning and sweet cream with leeks and chives at the finish.  This complex sumptuous cheese would pair with Pinot Noir or another similar light sophisticated red.

Please join us this Thursday after 5pm at the regular weekly tasting and on Saturday the 13th between 1 and 3pm when David Hobbs presents a tasting of Spanish wines here at the store.  We'll be sure to have Tomme Brebis St. George on the cheese table!

Monday, April 1, 2019

What Goes Wrong

Last week was filled with failed attempts to get the wines customers had ordered so I thought we might catalog some of the many ways things can go wrong.  At least four of the following happened here last week.

1.  Sometimes, frankly, it's the salesman.  He/she either doesn't care, or worse yet, doesn't know how to do their job.  For the larger suppliers whose bread and butter is the chain stores and large package stores, the smaller accounts really don't matter that much to the guy on the street.

2.  Sometimes the sales person is alright but the company isn't.  Maybe the product number that is supposed to match up with the wine you want doesn't do it.  Maybe in an effort to keep their inventory tight, the company runs out of what they sell.

3.  Sometimes it's the warehouse.  Businesses everywhere want to keep payroll low and inevitably you get what you pay for.  In the warehouse that sometimes means they can't find the product or worse yet, they can't read the label, or even worse than that, if the warehouse is like a Sam's Club, they don't want to climb to the third tier to get the stuff.

4.  Sometimes it's the truck driver.  Flat tires happen.  Nothing you can do there.  But sometimes the driver prioritizes the larger accounts at the expense of the small ones.  Sometimes they're on a short company leash and are told to skip the mom and pop store so the large store is ensured of getting its large order.

5.  Sometimes it's government.  If the wine is imported it's sometimes held up at the port of entry for reasons beyond my pay grade.  Local governments rightfully want their share of the tax money this industry generates.  If a supplier doesn't want to pay up then the wine isn't delivered.

6.  Sometimes it's the Beverage Journal, the trade paper that lists what wines are carried by which wholesaler.  The Beverage Journal, which is now online, has always been the butt of jokes for insiders in this business because of its deficiencies.  Some things never change.

7.  Sometimes it's inter-distribution manipulation, i.e., product trades. An item can be swapped between distributors without notification leaving the retailer/restaurateur without supply.  The one who jettisons the brand doesn't want to help the new vendor by telling the customer where it is and the Beverage Journal isn't up to date so the product is just lost for a while.  Worse yet, if one player gets mad at another, a product can be pulled from the market for up to five years by law!

Now comes the hard part:

8.  Sometimes it's the customer who asks the retailer for the product.  They get the name wrong and the retailer can't figure out what it is.

9.  Sometimes it's on me.  I screw up.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Pinot Grigio, Part 2

I don't know why but we're blogging about Pinot Grigio...again!  Actually I found an old Lettie Teague WSJ wine article on the subject and just like always, I became inspired.  In the article Teague is on a quest for "Pinot Grigio with personality."

Teague acknowledges that there will always be watery ten dollar pinot because there always has been.  It has its place.  Just like cheap beer.  In our previous post we said its way too easy to move up the price scale with Pinot Grigio since there isn't an extreme change in character between the cheap stuff and the twenty dollar bottles.  Let's call it a continuum of sorts in what pinot lovers have come to expect flavor-wise.  Teague cites current great pinot wine maker, Elena Walch - all you have to do is raise your expectations.

There are differing flavor profiles from the better pinots though.  The best pinot comes from northeastern corner of Italy and Alto Adige on the northern side of the corner may be the best.  Those are characterized by an aromatic minerality.  On the eastern side of the corner lies Friuli which offers rich complexity. Between them and to the south is Veneto which always over-performs with a fruity standard style, which unfortunately seems destined to always be overshadowed by the other two.

Then there's Alsace.  An entirely different animal.  And why is it that nationalities seem to dictate wine styles?  Italian wines always seem to taste Italian.  French wines always taste French.  And Alsatian wines always taste French/German.  Anyway, Alsatian pinot is fruity and minerally yet not as winy as the Italian.  Obviously, each is better suited to the cuisine of their respective places.

Please join us after 5pm on Thursday the 28th when Morgan Miller offers us a tasting from his fine California portfolio.  David Hobbs presents California wines on the 4th of April and then on the 11th Dominique Chambon offers us a tasting of French and Italian wines.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Italian Pinot Grigio

I haven't kept track but Pinot Grigio may be our most blogged about subject here, which is ironic considering for half of my long career in the business, I've had no use for the stuff.  That would be the first half of the career, of course.  Then the gradual adjustments and accommodations happen in life and one accepts that big red (and white) wines aren't really the be-all and end-all of all things vino.   Sometimes less is more.  Ergo, Pinot Grigio.

The marketplace will also change your wine values.  About ten years ago Pinot Grigio surpassed Chardonnay in sales here for the first time.  Chardonnay had always been our best selling white wine before that.  I remember telling an industry salesman about the transition only to hear in response, "Well, that's sad."

We're prompted to write about Pinot Grigio today for a couple reasons.  Last Thursday at the weekly tasting we featured the 2017 Tenuta Maccan from Friuli and it was wonderful.  One of the most common wine adjectives bandied about around here is "smooth" and I hate it.  What the heck does "smooth" mean anyway?  Well, in the case of Maccan, it is most applicable.  Whereas some wines have distinct stages from start to finish, this one just glides through the process with nothing impeding its flow.  It is smoothness.

Beyond the indelible impression Maccan made, the second reason for writing is the incontrovertible shift in consumer tastes within the Pinot Grigio category.  Back in the bad old days the pinot we got from Italy could have doubled as nail polish remover.  But it was cold and wet and cheapNow we have so many wonderful examples at every price point and the savvy pinot consumer has gotten the word.  So just like the smoothness shown in the Maccan tasting the gradual transition from ten dollar pinots to twenty dollar bottles has been similarly smooth.

The Maccan is a $16.99 retail, by the way, which represents the lower end of this higher end pinot category we're talking about.  Not too long ago there were branded elite wines that positioned themselves upwards from thirty dollars but have now comedown ten dollars or so.  They now represent the higher range of superior pinot pricing.  So if this schema is accurate you don't have to get reamed to enjoy your fine light dry white wine.

Please join us on Thursday the 21st of March at 5pm when Cherie Rubio presents a tasting of new Spanish wines to include a red, white and rose along with a truly great Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon.  Then on the 28th Morgan Miller returns with a tasting from his fine wine portfolio followed by Dominique Chambon with samples from his fine French and Italian book.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Cava, Part 2 & Clos Pissarra

First things first: The super premium Cava category created a year ago is called Cava Paraje Calificado (CPC).  CPC sparklers must be sourced from single vineyards that are at least ten year old with limited yields from those vineyards.  They must also be estate bottled and vintage dated with thirty-six months aging on the lees.  They also must be fermented dry, resulting in at least a brut classification, if not extra-brut or brut nature.

Last time we said only two percent of Cava produced was Gran Reserva quality.  CPCs should be a likewise miniscule percentage of that two percent.  Retails of a hundred dollars a bottle should be common.

CPC wine is blind tasted by a panel before its second fermentation and then blind tasted again after the bubbles are added.  The panel judges whether the wine conforms to the standard they set yet still shows the individuality of its terroir.  Last year, the first for this Cava category, only twelve wines qualified.  This year that number should double or triple.

Whether or not hundred dollar Cava is viable in the marketplace will be determined by discriminating Champagne connoisseurs with the pocketbooks to qualify.  Fine wine has its price; that is, unless the wine is the 2013 Clos Pissarra, the big fat Spanish red we've been selling here for the past month.  Unlike similar efforts out of California, the complexity of Pissarra is built into its structure and like all European wine, that structure is tied to its terroir.  For Pissarra the breeding emanates from the Priorat/Montsant region.  Like truly great Euro-wine, with decanting (or a lot of patience in the glass) this one delivers voluptuously.  Short of tasting it for yourself, go to for the Pissarra lowdown.

Next Thursday the 14th at 5pm Adam Bess joins us for a tasting of red wines from Opolo Vineyards of Paso Robles and a particularly nice Italian Soave.  Then on the 21st Cheri Rubio tastes us on new red, white and rose Spanish wines.  On the 28th Morgan Miller brings us a tasting of as-yet-to-be-determined wines from his fine portfolio.  Please join us for the tastings!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Cava Reserva

A couple years ago we came upon a perfectly lovely sparkling wine out of Spain which quickly disappeared after the holidays.  You see, it was priced at twenty-five dollars a bottle, roughly twice the going rate for Cava.  More recently I read a WSJ article by Lettie Teague on the subject and she opined that Cava Reservas really were something special compared to other similarly priced sparklers.  So maybe we ought to shift our focus from France to Spain for our bubbly.

Maybe we should also start at the beginning for this discussion.

Cava is Spanish sparkling wine.  Most of it comes from the Catalonia region in eastern Spain where the beverage was created in 1872 by the Raventos family of Codorniu fame.  The three main grapes of Cava are Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada, hardly household names.  Of the three, Xarel-lo is the most important.  Over time Malvasia, Garnacha Tinto, Monastrell and Trepat have been added and more recently the international varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were also allowed.  Some of the best Cavas, however, are still made solely with Xarel-lo grapes.

The name "Cava" has only been around since the 1950's and its legal appellation, its D.O. (Denominacione de Origen), was granted in 1986 with admission into the European Union.  The D.O. declares three quality levels of Cava: Basic Cava must be aged on the lees for nine months; Cava Reserva, fifteen months; and Gran Reserva, thirty months.  Eighty-eight percent of Cava produced is basic Cava; ten percent is Reserva, and two percent is Gran Reserva.  All Cavas must be made like Champagne using the secondary fermentation in the bottle.

Prior to the E. U., ninety percent of Cava was consumed in Spain.  Now two-thirds is exported, mostly to supermarkets around the world.  Eighty-five percent of all Cava sells for under twenty dollars.  A year ago in January of 2018, Spain introduced a new super premium category of Cava and that's what we'll talk about here next time.

Please join us here next Thursday after 5pm when Dustin Whiten presents a tasting of wines from Italy and Chile.  Then one week later on the 14th, Adam Bess joins us for a tasting of red wines from Opolo of Paso Robles along with an especially nice Italian white.  Please join us for the tastings.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Wine Prices, Part 2

Recently we posted about wine prices and how we expect to pay more for better wine.  On August 14, 2017, Science Daily reported on a University of Bonn study on the subject.  Thirty subjects, fifteen men and fifteen women, participated in the study by lying down for an MRI and tasting wines through tubes.  All of the wines tasted were purchased locally at the same average retail price.  The price of the wine shown to the subjects before tasting varied greatly either higher or lower than the actual retail price.  As might be expected, the "higher priced" wines were deemed to be better.

In medicine we are all familiar with the placebo effect and something similar is demonstrated here.  The marketing placebo effect shows that identical products can be perceived differently solely due to the price given to them.  The medial prefrontal cortex integrates price comparison and expectation while the ventral stratum of the brain integrates reward and motivation.  The MRI scanning showed both to be activated by the showing of the higher prices before tasting.  Then with that expectation in place the actual tasting of the wine skewed higher.

So if you expect something to taste better, your brain tricks you into enjoying the properties you ascribe to the "higher priced" subject.  If "quality has its price", well then, of course, we would enjoy the wine that cost more.

This Thursday after 5pm we will probably be tasting Italians here at the store.  I say "probably" because we don't actually have things set yet.  In any event, please join us for the event.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Crljenak Kastelanski

Let's just call it "CK."  Or maybe we should call it the heirloom Zinfandel of Croatia.  We'll go with CK cause it's easier to type.

Zinfandel has always been thought to have origins in Europe even when California was claiming it as their own.  It just had too many similarities to European vinifera grapes, in particular, the Primitivo grape of southern Italy.

Then with the advent of genetic testing in the late 1990's, Italians and American lovers-of-all-things-Italian could rejoice.  The grape was in fact determined to be one and the same.  Zinfandel was Primitivo.  Unfortunately the joy for Italianophiles was short-lived because Primitivo was then determined to be the Tripidrag grape of Croatia.

Tripidrag is a truly historic Croatian grape mentioned in fifteenth century literature.  It is also historically documented to have found favor in other Mediterranean nations including Italy.  In fact Tripidrag means "the first to ripen" while Primitivo means "early ripening" so, yeah, they're one and the same.

So where does CK come into this? And what the heck is Plavac Mali?

Plavac Mali (PM?) is the most popular grape of Croatia and as soon as the Zinfandel discussion moved to Croatia it was assumed it was Zinfandel.  It isn't.  Crljenak Kastelanski, which translates as the "black grape of Kastela," a community in the Dalmatia region, is genetically identical to Tripidrag and may even be closer to the clone of Zinfandel of California.  So CK is Zinfandel.

Over time names of things change so Tripidrag is now called Pribidrag in Croatia, just in case you thought you were beginning to understand this convoluted post.

All of the above is here to announce Ridge Vineyards of Sonoma Valley will soon be making a red blend consisting of 1/3 each of CK, PM, and our own California Zinfandel (CZ?).

Whew, I need to sit down and take a break.

Please join us this Thursday the 21st after 5pm when Morgan Miller joins us with a tasting of Sonoma Valley wines from Gehricke Vineyards.  We will taste their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.  Please join us!

Monday, February 4, 2019

When Wine is Too Cheap

"If it doesn't sell, mark it up!"  That's an old saying in the wine business.  If something sells too well at a given price, market forces dictate you really should go up on it.  But why would you mark it up if it's not selling?

I like to make the claim that I can sell a better bottle of wine at any price than anyone else in Gainesville.  I have no problem with making that claim.  Since this little boutique shop conjures up an image of being pricey, I like to emphasize the bargains at the lower end of the price spectrum.  You want better everyday wines?  Well, come right in!

The only problem is, it doesn't work that way.  People shop here because they expect to spend more for their better wines.  While I get it, I still like to sell the cheap stuff.  So my ten dollar bargains aren't going away any time soon.

Back on November 10th of last year, Lettie Teague wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal about Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon.  She said it was "too affordable" and suggested if they wanted to capture more of the Napa market, they should raise prices so the public will recognize their quality, which is kind of sad if you think about it.

We had a wine rack full of Chileans at the front to the store for a couple years.  Now we have a smaller selection at the back.  They just didn't sell.  Last month a customer who was familiar with the wines bought my last bottle of Lapostolle Cuvee Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon, a $25 bottle.  He had spent some time in Chile and had been to Lapostolle so he definitely knew what he was getting.

In the article referenced above, Teague likes Lapostolle and several others we need here in the store.  She also says Chilean Cabernet is more like Bordeaux with its character and structure than it is like California Cabernet but it has a slightly "green" component in its flavor profile that some people can't get past.  She also compares its salinity to the great Margaret River Cabernets of coastal of Australia.  Maybe we need to give both Chile and Margaret River a fresh start here.

This Thursday the 7th at 5pm Dominique Chambon gives us a tasting of three French Burgundies and an Italian Sangiovese Rose.  Then the following week there will be no Thursday tasting since it's Valentine's Day.  Instead we will have a Tuesday the 12th tasting with Rob Dye.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

House Wine

Most of us have a house wine.  Unless you are a restaurant with printed menus, yours is probably just your regular go-to when you're craving that certain taste.  There's a payoff in familiarity and it's probably your go-to because, bang for your buck, the stuff is pretty good!  At least you think it is.

Restaurant house wines get a bad rap.  They too rely on familiarity but too much so since the wines end up being, frankly, lousy.  They want the stuff to appeal to everyone so there's nothing there that's interesting or distinctive.  Just the same old crap.

Wait a minute.  That sounds a little too harsh.  Today's bulk wine is way better than similar wines were forty years ago when I was just getting my feet wet in the business.  What the mass marketers have done is actually impressive.  By rounding off a lot of sharp edges they've made it imminently consumable.  But that's the problem, right?  It's just not interesting.

A lot of times for just a few dollars more you can bypass the house wine to get something better which makes my old suspicious self wonder whether that's why the house wine is dull.  So you have the option of going for the better (and pricier) wine.  The only problem here is that the next wine, while better quality, is also predictable and boring in the same way the house wine was.  That's mass production for you.

Retailers are kind of like restaurants with respect to the wines they stock.  The chain stores stock all of the mass market wines because it goes to the heart of the deal between supplier and retailer - the shelves must be kept stocked.  No"out-of-stocks" allowed.  Keep the product coming.  So by default, they end up with mass produced wines.

It takes small independent restaurants and retailers to provide distinction and with a little bit of know-how, they can find it at any price.

This Thursday the 31st of January, Cheri Rubio leads us in a tasting of three from Pedroncelli of Sonoma Valley.  That evening between 5 and 7pm we will taste the Merlot, Pinot Noir and Mother Clone Zinfandel.  Our event will begin with a fine Alsatian white blend, Hugel's Gentil.

Then on February 7th Dominique Chambon offers us a tasting of French Burgundies and a particularly nice Italian Sangiovese Rose.  Please join us for the tastings.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Double Cream Gouda

Every time you think you've seen it all, something new pops up.  Double Cream Brie has been a staple around here for decades and Double Cream Gouda seems to have been created as a corollary to it.  Regular Gouda has 40-50% butter fat.  Double Cream or Room Kaas as it's called in Holland, has 60-70% butter fat.  So while it's not really double the fat it is noticeably creamier.  If the cheese is over 75% it can be labeled Triple Cream.

Cheeses are 50-70% water, by the way.  The rest is protein, fat and other dry solids.  The butter fat content percentage on the label doesn't take into account the water content, so a 60% butter fat cheese is actually probably 30% or so.  The extra cream in the creamier Gouda is of course added to the existing whole cow's milk at the beginning of the process.

Not only is Double Cream Gouda creamier, it is also sweeter, silkier, richer and nuttier than regular Gouda.  It slices well for sandwiches and melts well for cooking and on tortillas, casseroles, potatos, omelets, mac and cheese and apple pie.  It also accompanies both fresh and dried fruit.  Pinot Noir is the red wine that might pair best with this cheese.

Gouda is the best selling cheese worldwide.  There are dozens of types out there.  Just today I was offered Coffee Gouda!  Now we can add Double Cream to the stable.  We have a fresh wheel in the deli case so stop in for a taste!

We're closed on Mondays but will be here Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 to 6:30 and we're tasting here on Thursday after 5pm as usual.  This Thursday Dustin Whiten pours tastes of California Chardonnay, Italian Sangiovese and Argentine Malbec and Pinot Noir.  Maddie will be on the cheese table tasting out Double Cream Gouda.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Calling It What It Is - Bad Wine

My friend Donald (no relation) came through for me again with a treasure trove of Lettie Teague WSJ wine articles.  He knows I'm too cheap to subscribe and bails me out periodically with stacks of his discards.

This time it's the September 29-30, 2018 edition that caught my eye.  Teague is writing about the dilemma of describing bad wine.  Now that's thought-provoking Pulitzer material if I ever heard of it!  Only a true literary artist could go down this road!

Teague says it's easy to heap praise on examples of fine wine.  It might be: "bright, lively, balanced, structured, tightly-knit, vigorous..."  You get the idea.

She also says it's easy to identify cheap wine made from inferior fruit which may be described as such.  Easily identified wine making mistakes can also be pegged like too much oak or flabbiness.  Corkiness and age can also be easy to name.  Too much alcohol can be "hot on the finish."

But what if a wine is so bad you don't know where to start.  Back in the bad old days there were California wines that were all wrong.  Not only were they unbalanced but the fruit flavors that dominated just couldn't have been the ones intended.

Wine industry veterans around here talk knowingly about those "bad old days" of yore when wine was shipped into the Atlanta market unprotected from the heat and then loaded onto trucks Friday evenings for Monday delivery.  A whole lot of those wines had the same profile: stewed prunes!

Then there's the infamous "secondary fermentation" that resulted in a weird tasting fizziness that was impossible to get past.  How about the vague chemically taste that seemed to indicate adulteration of some kind?  Which brings us back to the present with the current generation of additives which have re-written the wine making textbook.

While criticizing wine that essentially tastes good may seem like nitpicking, there is still plenty of room to criticize a philosophy of wine making that allows for additives.  But that's another subject.  In reality, a whole lot of everyday wine is improved by what they're doing in California.  It's just that some transparency would be nice.  Like putting the ingredients on the back label.

But there is a wine tasting criticism to be laid out here: If your highly extracted, overblown big red wine tastes like an aberration of what it's supposed to be then what the heck is that all about anyway?

This question goes back to something fundamental that I have known for forty years: Wines can be good in themselves while at the same time being a bad example of that varietal.  Prime example: current examples of Pinot Noir that sure taste good, but they sure as heck don't taste like Pinot Noir.

David Klepinger represents several wines from Kermit Lynch of Berkeley, California.  Kermit Lynch is an impeccable importer of European wines.  Please join us this Thursday after 5pm as Dave sets out a tasting of these and some fine California examples.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Casas Del Bosque Gran Reserva Syrah

Casas Del Bosque Gran Reserva Syrah was the best wine-related experience we had here last year.  What I mean by that is we had no expectations for this wine before tasting it.  We had been told it was good but salesmen always talk them up before tasting them.  If you're not secure in your palate, you can be influenced that way.  This one just blew us away.  It may have been underpriced by half!

Bosque is a Chilean estate established in 1993 by the Italian Cuneo family.  The Cuneo's primary business is grocery stores so this venture was a sidelight.  Now with 235 hectares in vines located seventy kilometers from Santiago in the western Chilean Casablanca Valley they grow Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Syrah, and Riesling.  Eighty percent of their production is exported.  Casablanca is the appellation known for producing the finest Sauvignon Blanc in the country and that assertion holds true with Bosque whose Sauvignon Blanc is acclaimed by the Wall Street Journal.

They now have a star winemaker in Grant Phelps of New Zealand who consulted internationally before settling in Chile, first with Viu Manent before coming to Bosque.  He prides himself on his abilities with Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.  The former is still a work in progress.  The Sauvignon Blanc is firmly in the "Win" column.

Phelps' Syrah is 100% varietal and sourced from 10-15 year old hillside vineyards.  The soils are red clay over 110 million year old decomposed granite which retains a salinity from being under the ocean for most of its history.  Picking is done by hand using a double selection process.  The wine is fermented in small stainless steel tanks before seeing time in new and used French oak barrels.

The Syrah has a deep garnet color with purple hue.  The nose shows lavender and blueberries; the mouth, black cherry and cedar with the requisite peppery spice and dark berries of type.  The wine also has fresh acidity with firm crisp and savory tannins.  While this wine is more reflective of old world France than Australia, it is most definitely a new world product with its forward fruit, vanilliny oak, and soft creamy texture.  There is not any one thing from above that makes this wine special.  Rather, it's the sum of its parts that make this wine perfect.

Please join us this Thursday at 5pm when Morgan Miller presents a tasting of four from Bosque.  Then one week later David Klepinger offers us a tasting of Orin Swift California wines.