Friday, February 27, 2009

1969 Dom Pérignon

Sure, Dom Pérignon is a massive marketing success, sure it's nothing but a brand from Moët et Chandon, but let's be fair: it tastes pretty damned good. It has been consistently well-made for generations, and even though I prefer to support the small farmer-growers in Champagne, when an older Dom shows up, I can't resist it.

Dom Pérignon is a vintage Champagne, which means it's only made in what are considered "good" years. It's mainly a blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, though this assemblage might vary from year to year depending on the quality of those grapes. It was first made in 1921, and since then has been a fantastic marketing and qualitative success. As someone who represents small wineries, it pains me to admit it, but this stuff is pretty damned good, considering it's from a huge comglomerate. Best of all, it ages beautifully.

And as someone who appreciates a good bottle of older Champagne, I can really appreciate the beauty of older Doms. The other night a friend popped a 1969 Dom Pérignon, and once again I was reminded of one of the side-benefits to being a wine lover: the generosity of spirit that prevails among our kind.

This wine was absolutely beguiling. When it was first popped, it was a bit cold, but as it warmed up it began to unfold, offering stunning aromas of light coffee, brioche, white chocolate, soft lemons and gorgeous minerality. The finish went on and on and on, and I was hard-pressed not to empty the glass in one fell swoop. My patience was well rewarded, and I enjoyed this for a long time. I tried not to think that I was drinking a bit of history, drinking a wine that was made before I was born, and I think I succeeded. In any case, I really liked this bottle.

Can you tell?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shameless Demotion: Tasting Cancelled (a good thing!)

I suppose as problems go, this is a good one: the Wine Library has actually run out of my wines, they sold out so fast. So, there's nothing left to pour on Saturday the 21st. But fear not, I am hard at work prepping the next shipment of wines, I wouldn't want you to go thirsty. But to be honest, I didn't expect them to move this fast. Again, a good problem to have.

I must admit I am a bit disappointed, I had been looking forward to this tasting. I really do love meeting people and chatting about my wines. It's not everyday that someone takes a sip, turns to you, and says, "Your wines taste more expensive than they actually are." Things like that make me smile and make all my work definitely feel worthwhile.

So if you'd planned on coming, I thank you, and if you've tasted the wines (and hopefully liked them), I thank you too. And if you just read this blog and wonder what the heck I'm talking about, well, I thank you too!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion: Mini-Portfolio Tasting on 2/21 at Wine Library

Dear Readers,

Come to the Wine Library in Springfield, NJ, on Saturday, February 21st, from noon to 4pm.

I will be pouring three of my wines, L'Agary (a red from the Languedoc), the delicious La Bouscade (a 100% Syrah from the Minervois) and the fantastic Domaine Didier et Catherine Tripoz Macon Charnay le Clos des Tournons (oak-less Chardonnay from 45-year old vines in a walled-in plot).

Best of all, none of these retails for more than $15!

Have fun, taste some great wines, and meet some fellow wine-lovers!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Madame Picpoul Arrives

Well, I am thrilled to announce that Felines Jourdan's winemaker, Claude Jourdan, will be doing the rounds of New York City on Friday the 13th of February. It's always a thrill when one of my winemakers comes to town. It's also a thrill to say "my winemaker" or "my winery", even though technically they're not "mine"; all I do is represent and sell them to wholesalers. Still, after almost a year of doing this, I get a cheap little shiver of excitement every time I say it. Makes me smile, knowing I'm finally doing something I love.

As for the wines, Felines Jourdan's Picpoul de Pinet can be found all over the city, in lots of restaurants and stores. They usually retail for about $11-14 depending on the place. To say it's a good seller is an understatement.

We'll be walking around the city, so if you see some geeky guy (me), a cute lady (Claude) and some other person (our Gabriella Wines salesperson) walking around with long, thin, green bottles, feel free to say hello. You might also get a taste of some great white wine!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Big News: A New Addition to the Portfolio!

OK, OK, I know, this isn't huge news, but this doesn't happen very often. I am infinitely picky and annoyingly slow at adding wineries to my portfolio, but then again that's how I work, so deal with it. However, I am happy to announce that I have decided to add this winery, Clos Bagatelle, to my line-up.

This domaine has been run by the same family since 1623, when their ancestors bought plots of land in and around the town of Saint-Chinian. Today, they farm 60 hectares (approx. 148.31 acres) of vineyards, whose soils are a combination of shist, limestone and clay, at an average altitude of 120 meters (396 feet).

The brother-sister team of Christine and Luc manages the estate these days. Their wines are really special and well-made, never too ripe or over the top but well-balanced by their fruit and their acidity. What results are wines that are not just traditional, but offer a certain sense of place and time that is defined by the term terroir. And if their basic bottling, le Clos Bagatelle Tradition, retails for more than $13, you're in the wrong store. I'm just saying.

The landscape, as you can see, is rough, stoney, and dry, perfect for really abusing the vines and making them work for a living. Only through suffering (of the vines) can greatness be achieved!

They treat their vines with the utmost care, using sustainable agriculture methods, and harvest everything manually. Their oldest vines can be found on the hilltops, where 50+ year-old Grenache and Cinsault thrive despite their age and the drought-like conditions.

Finally, older wooden barrels are used to soften the wines and add a certain "roundness" to them without imparting oak flavors. The results speak for themselves.

Their basic bottling, the Clos Bagatelle Cuvée Tradition, is a blend of Grenache (40%), Syrah (20%), Carignan (20%), Cinsault (10%) and Mourvèdre (10%). The nose offers dark fruits and berries with hints of guarrigue, which follow through on the palate on a lovely frame that is well-structured and refreshing.

The Clos Bagatelle Donnadieu Cuvée Camille et Juliette is an assemblage of Grenache (40%), Carignan (30%), and Syrah (30%) and comes from hilltop-planted, old-vine Grenache and Cinsault (50+ years old). Much more Rhône-like than its sibling, this offers dark berries with game, meat and olive notes.

The Clos Bagatelle Donnadieu Cuvée Mathieu et Marie also comes from old-vine Grenache (20%) but has more Syrah (50%), with Mourvèdre (15%) and Carignan (15%) rounding out the blend. Another wine that is reminiscent of the Rhône, this wine has darker fruits than the Cuvée Camille et Juliette, with some guarrigue and an almost bacon-like note that appears with some air.

So if you're a distributor looking to add something interesting and unique, feel free to contact me. I'll be showing these wines around in the next few weeks, so wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Comfort Wines

When a death in the family hits you hard, you immediately look for things and people to comfort you. Friends and family come to the rescue, reminding us of how rich we are in real terms, not monetary or material ones. And we turn to those things which inspire and impassion us to help us through the difficult times.

Seeking to celebrate the memory of my deceased aunt, who enjoyed life to the fullest (hmmm... must run in the family), I turned to what I would term "comfort wines". For me, of course, this would be Burgundy and Champagne. However, the stores in this part of the US are sorely lacking in interesting bubbly, leaving me no choice but to open a few of my Burgundies and the occasional Rhône.

My go-to red Burg down in FL is one I stocked up on a few years ago and which has never led me astray: the 2005 de Villaine Côte Chalonnaise la Digoine. Its white counter-part is the 2004 Carillon Puligny Montrachet. Both of these offer huge bangs of pleasure for the buck.

The Digoine was beautiful from the get-go, and as a vehicle for pleasure delivery, this lived up to its promise. It got better as it breathed, with lovely earthy cherries wrapped in a silken, minerally structure that ended with a long finish. Absolutely yummy, and look at that, I've got some more left!

The Carillon was absolutely crispy at first, with an almost quartz-like mineral structure wrapped in lemon zest. As it warmed up, almond skins and green apples rounded it out, giving it a soft wrapping of a steely skeleton with a medium finish. And as it breathed more, and seemed to gather more and more strength on itself, becoming an absolutely swoonaliciously good wine. Damn, that was my last bottle!

Then I found something interesting, something I'd heard about for a long time but had never had. Not that I was really looking that hard, but I had always wanted to taste de Villaine's famed Aligote. This grape usually doesn't make awe-inspiring wines, but, as with all things, something good can come of it in the right hands. Aligote from good producers can be quite nice. And despite the insinuations of those around me, I actually do have an open palate (and mind!).

At first sniff, the 2005 de Villaine Bouzeron Aligote, a somewhat deep golden-colored wine offers hints of wax and white flowers, wrapped in Granny Smith apples, but ripe ones. On the palate, it's got an interestingly waxy mouthfeel, reminding me of Chenin, but with more lemon and ripe apple taste than the Loire's grape. As it breathes, more lemons and some almonds show up to drift in the air above the wine, and similar aspects appear on the palate. The acidity was a bit shrill, but the riper notes kept it in check, and the finish was somewhat long. Not bad, an interesting experiment.

Then, being in FL and right by the ocean, I picked up some fantastic-looking (and eventually tasting) scallops. I also happened upon a bottle of 2004 de Villaine Rully Les Saint Jacques. OK, so it's a cheap tongue-in-cheek play on words. Apparently de Villaine seems to have flooded FL with his wines, and I have had the good fortune to find them all. Anyway, all you French-speakers are nodding, all you others are asking yourselves WTF is he talking about. Well, scallops in French is Saint Jacques, so I had scallops with a wine named after scallops. Sadly, that's about as clever as I get, folks. Shows over.

So, on to the wine. On the nose, beautiful notes of ripe scallops (do those exist? Would I want to taste or smell them if they did? Whatever, it smelled like that), with lemon zest and some red apples, and a slight herbal note. The palate was lean but well-rounded, with sparkling acidity (it felt like little stars going off in my mouth, really neat and definitely interesting). Very Chablis-like, but at the same time not. Very cool.

As this past week has wound down, I've taken to opening anything except for my last Digoine, so now came the Rhône varieties. First up was a bottle of 2004 Domaine Gauby Le Soula Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes. Interesting, to say the least. Ripe but not-too-ripe pineapple, bananas, lemons and some spicy hints on the nose. Some fat almonds showed up later as it breathed, adding some dimension and depth. The palate was not as fat as expected, surprisingly so considering where it's from (near the border with Spain on the Mediterranean side). That pineapple carried through, as did the other aspects, but they were all presented on a mineral platter that helped balance the fruitier side of the wine. Very pleasant, though I would have liked a bit more acidity (then again, I am an acid freak).

Next came the 2004 Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes. Ooooh... This is a bruiser right from the get-go, but in that pleasant way that Chateauneuf can be in the right hands. Kirsch liqueur, brambles, cassis, some meaty notes and tons of dark cherries fill your nose, with just a hint of heat. It's a medium-bodied wine despite this, with those aspects carried through onto the tongue in a slightly sweet/ripe envelope and ending with a coffee-esque finish that lasted a while. Again, there was a light hint of heat at the back, which was a bit disconcerting, but still, this was nice. As it sat in the glass, more of the meaty notes came out, as did a harissa, Middle-Eastern spice note, reminiscent of a lamb tagine's smell right from the oven. Yum!

Overall, despite this being a pretty crappy 10 days, I have managed to reconnect with family from far afield, done some business, and tasted some pretty darn good wines. We toasted my aunt, who lived a wonderful life and was the epitome of elegance, both inner and outer. I smile as I write these words, knowing that she was always happy when surrounded by her family and friends. We are here now, surrounding her in memory.