Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Learn About Wine- Riesling Rules Book (free!)

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, but I wanted to take this opportunity to mention that the Pacific Rim winery in CA has just put out a free book called "Riesling Rules". Now, if you've met me or read this blog or just been even remotely close to me, you know my first love and passion is and will always be Burgundy (ergo Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and Champagne. However, I do enjoy wines from other regions and grapes, such as Riesling. This variety is originally from Germany and the Alsace region of France, but also finds a home in Italy, CA, OR, WA, New Zealand and Australia, to name a few. Did I mention you can also get some pretty good Riesling in the backyard of our very own state of New York?

In any case, this book is an exploration and an explanation of all things Riesling, with very little PR for Pacific Rim. I ordered a copy as the blurbs I saw online looked quite promising and so far so good. Now, I usually get a little wary of wineries and their marketing machines, but in this case it seems like they are looking to educate the consumer about the wonders of this grape as opposed to only about their wines.

In other words, this is a wonderful educational tool more than a marketing move. Riesling is such a versatile wine that I really encourage folks to order it, plus, let's face it, it's free. And that's always a good thing.

You can order it online here: http://rieslingrules.com/the_book/

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Into the 21st Century...

Well, after much puttering around, I finally managed to put up a page on Facebook, the annoyingly fun social networking site. So any of you reading this can now also become a "friend" of Vinotas Selections by going here:


And what does this mean exactly?

For starters, you can see pictures of my wineries and the winemakers, chat amongst yourselves, or just bitch and moan about how expensive other wines are. I am, of course, joking. Still, feel free to become a "fan", and of course it's always nice to get feedback.

And yes, I know I promised I wouldn't keep shilling my wines, but I'm not really doing that here, am I? More of a Public Service Announcement, and heck I am putting myself out there for your criticisms...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

La Paulée (in Colorado)- Day Two

Hey, look at that, I geeked out somewhat in my previous post! What a shock (not)!

OK, sorry, but I was really swept up in the excitement of the memory of having tasted some real vinous delights. Most of these are extremely hard to get and shockingly expensive, so having them all at one sitting was a real treat. Especially to this old Burghead.

So I promise I won't go overboard with Day Two... Well, I'll try not to.

Day Two of our little Paulée was a two parter: a lunch tasting of the 2005 Burgundies, and a dinner Burgapalooza of rare old wines. If you aren't aware of it, the 2005 vintage in Burgundy was one for the records. The weather was perfect, the grapes ripened on time, everything was in balance, and as many winemakers have told me, all they needed to do was get out of Nature's way. If you've ever wanted to try Burgundy, look for 2005 Village-level wines: not only will they be abundant and relatively cheap (for Burgundy, approx. $25-50), but they will offer fantastic experiences.

Of course, this will mean you are well on your way to the Dark Side that is Burgundy...

The 2005 Grand Tasting was organized according to the rules of the real Paulée in France: we each brought one Village, one Premier Cru and one Grand Cru of a well-regarded producer. That made for a lot of wine, but we were there to taste, not drink. If I wanted to get drunk, I'd chug some vodka.

This was one of the best 2005 tastings that I've been to in a while due to the level of organization and the generosity of the folks coming. These wines showed beautifully, and the weather gods were smiling on us.

The wines in general were remarkably open and ready to go, except for the Grand Crus. All the wines had an amazing power and lift to them, and, except for the ones that had been clobbered with oak, a gorgeous purity of fruit. Most of that fruit was elegant and well-sown-together, nothing seemed out of whack, I mean even the tannins were fruity if sometimes overwhelming (again, the Grand Crus). This is a vintage to own as much as you can, I hate to say. I bought more after tasting these myself, there is so much upside potential it makes my head spin.

Instead of listing the wines with my impressions, I'll post the names of the producers. Why? Because unlike most wine regions of the world, when choosing which Burgundy to buy, it's all about the producer. Let me repeat that: it's all about the producer.

So, here we go:
-Nicholas Potel= very good wines, true to their place of origin and quite transparent.
-Michel Magnien= not bad, a bit heavy-handed with the oak, but good for folks who like CA Pinot.
-Rene LeClerc= always a reliable if relatively unknown producer, his wines were delightful and quite terroir-specific (something I look for in Burgundy).
-L&A Lignier= descended from the vaunted Lignier domaine after the father Romain's death a few years ago, these wines were killer in all the flights, so good that I went out and bought more at my wife's urging.
-de Vogue= not to my liking in general, these sometimes were a bit clumsily oaked, though when it was good it was very much so.
-Trapet= extremely refined and elegant, lovely.
-Dujac= though I've always liked this domaine, it's more for the hedonistic value than the pure expression of the wines' identity. Dujac has a definite signature in its wines, one that I like. The hedonist in me loves them but the purist in me sometimes shakes his head in frustration.
-Roumier= what can I say? It's Roumier. One of my favorite producers, his wines were elegant, true to their terroir, yet carried themselves with power and elegance all rolled in one. To say the least, Christophe has scored a home-run in 2005 with every single wine we tasted. Amazing.

After the Grand Tasting, I quickly hit the gym (this business is ruinous to waistlines, as you can imagine), then showered and changed for the Grand Finale.

I didn't know what I was in for, this was a true orgy of Burgundian delights. Flight after flight of amazingly rare and old wines whizzed by my inquiring palate, making me swoon in delight so many times it should have been illegal. The food was great too, and the company awesome, but the wines, my God, the wines!

At several points I had to stop and sniff and sit there, realizing I held in my hands vinous proof of God's existence. Starting with old Champagne in magnums is always nice: 1982 Bollinger RD Extra Brut and 1985 Krug, wines I could have enjoyed on their own for a long time. Then the other wines appeared, and all semblance of restraint fell to the wayside. I can resist all things but temptation, after all.

How can one refuse a 1955 Charles Vienot Chambertin Clos de Bèze that is still lively and full of vigor? Or a flight full of Domaine de la Romanée Conti Romanée Saint Vivants alongside a 1988 DRC La Tâche? The La Tâche was itself proof of God's existence, an ethereal beauty full of Asian spices, light red fruits and this mouthfeel that made me sit back and sigh.

Then, the flight that made me a believer: 1991 Emmanuel Rouget Cros Parantoux, 1988 Joseph Drouhin Grands-Echezeaux, 1988 Maison Albert Bichot Grands-Echezeaux Domaine du Clos Frantin, 1991 Emmanuel Rouget Echezeaux. The book-ending Rougets were so hauntingly beautiful that all I could do was sit and go back and forth, smelling each one, my head dizzy with the complex aromas they were offering. Such power, such lift, such grace and elegance, oh my God I think I can still taste them... Sigh...

When Burgundy is like that, it's a scary yet exciting and soul-stirring experience. Yes, there were many more wines, but these were the ones that stayed in my memory. Heck, they've gotten their dark little tentacles wrapped around my soul and are making me smile even as I write these words.

While the wines were fantastic, it was the people who really made this worth the cross-country flight. We would never have all met if it weren't for this passion of ours, and for that I am thankful. The generosity shown this weekend left me speechless, as most of these wines are stratospherically expensive and incredibly rare. Thank you to everyone for sharing!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

La Paulée (in Colorado)- Day One

La what???

La Paulée (pronounced Paul-ay) is the festival in Burgundy that marks the end of the harvest. For three days, winemakers party their exhausted butts off. This being France, there is an inordinate amount of wine drinking, cigarette smoking, and other assorted depravities.

This festival now also takes place in New York and San Francisco, where it is an excuse for collectors to bring out their best wines. The ensuing Bacchanalia would make even the most ardent hedonist blush. In any case, this past year, due to a skiing accident, a good friend in Colorado had to skip La Paulée de SF. Instead, he decided to hold a mid-summer Paulée at his home outside Denver.

So about 15 invitees swooped in from all over the country to taste through a boatload of Burgundies. We really were in God's country, the views were stunning, the air crisp and dry as opposed to the oppressive and heavy heat in NYC.

The first night we tasted through a selection of wines from the vaunted Chevalier-Montrachet vineyard. This very small Grand Cru vineyard has only about 18 acres under vine and is located in the town of Puligny-Montrachet. It makes gorgeous Chardonnays in the right winemaker's hands. However, there are only about 20 producers currently making Chevalier Montrachets, so it's tough to find sometimes. A well-made Chevalier will have a distinct spiciness, more than likely due to the stoniness of the vineyard. You find more finesse than power here, an elegance that is difficult to find anywhere else. These aren't your average Chards, that's for sure.

Here is what we tasted, with my impressions alongside:

Flight 1

* 2004 Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet-
Wow, gorgeous purity.

* 2002 Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet-
Delicious, rounder, more accessible, softer than the 2004.

* 2002 Henri Boillot Chevalier-Montrachet-
Beautiful, enormous power and concentration balanced by acidity and finesse.

* 2001 Domaine Ramonet Chevalier-Montrachet-
Somewhat oxydized, but Ramonet's signature spearmint aromas managed to break through (I have no idea why, but his wines have a slight hint of spearmint to their aromas).

Flight 2

* 1999 Etienne Sauzet Chevalier-Montrachet-
Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable, this kept getting better and more nuanced as it breathed over the course of the evening.

* 1995 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles-

* 1995 Georges Deleger Chevalier-Montrachet-
Horribly oxydized.

Flight 3

* 1993 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet-
Very good.

* 1993 Domaine d'Auvenay (Lalou Bize-Leroy) Chevalier-Montrachet-
Unfreakingbelievable. Seriously. This proves God exists. You could chew this wine (that's a good thing, trust me).

* 1992 Verget Chevalier-Montrachet-
Delicious, but hard to taste after the 1993 D'Auvenay.

Flight 4

* 1985 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet-
Quite good.

* 1978 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet-
After an inital funk blew off in the decanter, this was quite good and honeyed.

* 1982 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles-

Now we moved onto the other wines for the post-tasting dinner.

Flight 5

* 1985 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon-
AWESOME, just absolutely awesome, a wine to let sit and breathe. This was, sadly, my last bottle, but we enjoyed it a lot. It was a fantastic match for a mushroom bisque, I might add.

* 1990 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame-
Another delicious wine, this wasn't nearly as complex as the DP.

* 1996 Saint-Chamant Christian Coquillette Champagne Brut-
Fun to try, more yeasty and toasty than anything else, but not bad. Not great though, and definitely not in the league of the others.

Flight 6

* 2005 Louis Jadot Bonnes Mares-
Very extracted, almost CA Pinot-like. Not to my tastes.

Flight 7

* 1999 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg
Wow. Absolutely wow. I get it now. I let this wine breathe for a while and it kept unfolding and opening up, a real wine for the ages and yet more proof that God exists. Wow.

* 1993 Domaine A.-F. Gros Richebourg-
Excellent also.

* 1971 Charles Vienot Richebourg-
Delicious too, it belied its age with a surprising youthful energy.

Flight 8

* 1990 Frederic Esmonin Ruchottes-Chambertin
Nice and ripe.

* 1990 Domaine Robert Chevillon Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Les Vaucrains
Fun to drink.

* 1993 Dominique Laurent Mazis-Chambertin
Surprisingly good, as I usually don't like Dominique Laurent's wines, he tends to go overboard with the oak.

Flight 9

* 1993 Domaine Méo-Camuzet Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Brulees-

* 1993 Louis Jadot Bonnes Mares-
So so, not great, not bad, but should have been better.

* 1993 Domaine Jacques-Frederic Mugnier Musigny-
Not bad, but not nearly as good as it should have been. Freddy's one of my favorite producers. Sigh.

Flight 10

* 1972 Hospices de Beaune Beaune 1er Cru Cuvée Nicolas Rolin Bouchard Père et Fils-
Served from mag, this also belied its age with a youthful vigor. Delicious if a bit simple.

* 1972 Maison Leroy Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Champeaux-
Really good. Fruit was interesting and strong. Expressive in a unique way.

* 1964 Gros Frere et Sœur Clos Vougeot "Musigni"-
Ooooh, delicious, still very much alive and proof that old Burgundy rocks.

* 1969 Jaffelin Chambertin-
Blah, not much going on.

We ended the evening around midnight with some stinky cheeses and a 1970 Grahams that was quite good too. But after all that Burgundy, it was tough going to Portugal. What a day it had been, and we were looking forward to Day Two and its Grand Tasting...