So, it’s been a heck of a month over here at the blog–stepped out of one job, apparently am back at an old one, and most importantly . . . started an internship at Food & Wine!
That’s right! I am apparently now a finance-sector bro. Well, not entirely. I’m certainly not working finance, and the Food & Wine offices are not in One World Trade, but rather Two World Trade.
What I am doing is titled, quite simply, ‘Wine Intern’–a post I certainly can’t complain about. Among other things, I’m responsible for the Wine Room (below the fold; it’s kick-ass), assisting with and doing tastings, liaising between the magazine and producers, importers, etc. That’s hardly an exhaustive list, but I’m sure you get the idea! It is simply a superb gig.
It has been a superb introduction thus far; I started earlier this week. While the transition from boutique Brooklyn wine shops to corporate wine publishing has certainly been a transition, I can’t say as it’s not suiting me well. The retail grind was starting to become too much of a . . . grind. I’m not much one for soul-tarnishing experiences.
It is certainly A Moment, I feel. It’s new, and different, and definitely all-around exciting. I’m very much looking forward to seeing where it takes me.
That being said, is it going to change the content of this blog much? Likely not, but also it will likely not be making a direct appearance on the blog very often. I am not a lawyer, but I’m well aware of the litigious nature of corporate America; I’m not about to lose this internship revealing information that the magazine wants to keep close to the chest. I read the acceptable sharing guidelines; they were about ten pages long and a bit dry.
However, whatever I can share, I’ll do my best to bring by! Lord knows, even in just the past few days, I’ve drunk so much interesting wine–and that is not something that’s going to stop anytime soon!
‘Hey, wait, that’s two weeks!’, you say. Yes, well, I forgot my notebook at work last Tuesday so here I am. Fun stuff.
Anyhoo, some lovely wines (and a tasting!) in the past weeks, let’s dive right in.
Wednesday, January 17th.
All right, starting out with a fun one–a pinot noir the Casablanca Valley in Chile, of all places. Forgot to take a picture, so alas, none here, but some pertinent info? 100% Pinot, 13.5% ABV, full name: Villard, Expressión Reserve, 2016. Wish I could tell you the price, but this bottle had been dropped off by a rep earlier that day; roughly $10 would be my guess.
Color was almost cherry, a bit of pink around the edges. Light body (it’s a pinot, go figure).
The nose was possibly the most bizarre aspect of the bottle. Almost … manure-like? Barnyard, some savory flavor I couldn’t place. I had a customer describe it as ‘wet stuff on soil’, which seemed apt. Really strange, pretty off-putting smell.
The approach was fairly tight, with the earthiness seemingly concentrated. Though there were some spots of bright fruit.
Midpalette was fairly innocuous, thought the fruit was really starting to bloom.
By the time it got to the finish, all the fruit appeared! Tart cherries, some darker stuff, too–blackberries? They were lovely, really sat at the back of your throat. Not the longest finish I’ve ever expereinced, but not bad either.
Final thoughts could basically be summed with, ‘good, but unusual’. I have to be clear, I was really struggling with the front end. ‘manure-like’ is not the ideal adjective to describe a wine with. The finish was good, though, and it was likely the first pinot I’ve had from Chile!
Thursday, January 18th.
An Entre-Deux-Mers from Bordeaux (it’s a white).
My thoughts on that bottle (and the first Thrifty Thursday!) can be found here!
… Saturday, January 20th.
Sparkling wine this time around. This one is coming from the AOC Crémant de Loire, in the Loire Valley, shockingly. As you’ll remember from my bit about sparklers, a crémant is a French sparkling that’s not from Champagne, but still uses the champagne method. The Loire Valley crémants tend to be a touch less clean and brioche-y than champagne proper, but nevertheless possess their own distinct charm.
Full name: Cyrille Seuin, Crémant de Loire BrutNon Dose, Crémant de Loire, 2016. It’s 100% chardonnay (i.e., a blanc de blancs). 12.5% ABV. $25.
Very crisp on the nose. There are actually some of those classic toasty champagne notes, though it’s cut through with lemon. Cool.
Lovely fine bubbles on the approach, relatively subtle flavor.
The bubbles sit nicely on the mid-palette, neither overwhelming or too little.
It finishes a bit boozy, though still quite clean–and the lemon notes do continue to shine.
It’s a perfectly acceptable substitute for champagne on a budget, though I do wish the alcohol was slightly less pronounced on the finish.
Sunday, January 21st.
You can tell my normal pen ran out of ink (fountain pens, even refillable, run out of ink fast) because my script switches from thicker, unreadable strokes, to thinner, unreadable strokes.
This guy is a white Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, essentially across the river. Since that description is about as specific as ‘The Empty Bottle reviewed a wine’, some specifics:
Full name: Marc Deschamps, Les Porcheronnes, Pouilly-Fumé, 2014. 100% sauvignon blanc. $20.
Pale straw color, with a richness, at the bottom of the glass.
Clean, fresh, floral on the nose. Like honey over apples.
Smooth mineral flavors come through on the mid-palette. The ‘gunflint’ becoming more pronounced.
The finish is well-balanced acidity. Just a subtle hint of yellow fruitiness. Excellcent acidity. ‘Short but sweet’ finish.
‘A broader, more expressive Sancerre’ certainly seems apt. More nuance and breadth of flavor than a clear, straightforward Sancerre. That being said, it nevertheless remains a characteristically French sauvignon blanc.
I think I prefer aTouraine overall, but this is a lovely change of pace.
Monday, January 22nd.
Oh, man! This is cool! I managed to get to a tasting for an all-too-short hour that Monday. The importer was Domaine Select, who import wine and spirits from all over the place–and who I’ve a fair bit of exeprience with, given that both of my shops use them as an importer.
While I’m certainly more familar with their wine selection, I was able to wander over to their spirits side for a quick peek at a few. Alas, I didn’t have the time to take extensive notes on … anything, but here are some of the things I tasted, in no particular order:
– Cowbell Cellars, Pinot Noir, 2016 (?).
– Jax Cellars, from the Napa Valley. I tried their Single Vineyard Chardonnay, and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Both 2016, I believe.
– Basically the entire selection of Champagne Philippe Gonet. Delicious.
– And this was a cool one–Famille Dupont Pays D’Auge Cask Finish Islay Whiskey. It was a Calvados aged in Islay Whiskey barrels. Enchanting apples, with a hit of peatiness. So delicious.
I gotta say, tastings are wild. Even almost six months in, it’s still kind of surreal that I can just wander in to one, with all of a ‘yeah, I work at a few stores’–and I’m in! While I’m sure there are a few unscrupulous people who pretend to be workers, it’s neat that it essentially works on the honor system.
It was also, you know, good wine, too. I was there with an industry friend who reps for a rum that I sell, and we had a brilliant time working through the wines–and just those few touches of liquor!
Definitely need to make it out to more of those.
[I’m thinking I didn’t exactly make the effort to try new wines most of the past new week, so the next wine would be on the Frappato on the 25th.]
… Sunday, January 28th.
Fun grape, often used as an accompaniment to oysters: jacquere. Also a great mouth-feel kind-of name.
This one in particular is: Philippe Ravier, Les Abymes, Vin de Savoie, 2016. 100% Jacquere. 11.5% ABV. $15.
The grapes are grown in the Alps (so not as luxuriously soaked in sun and rain as, say, Bordeaux), but grown on South facing slopes. So what little sun there is to be had in Savoie, these grapes get.
Nose and color are both quite delicate, with a noticeably pale yellow, and perhaps the slightest hints of flowers and … pear?
Approach is delicate and subtle.
Mid-palette is well-balanced and smooth. Polite.
The finish is short, with just a tiny, tiny touch of sweetness (honey-like). Lovely acid.
Quiet, lovely wine. It’s not the most expressive wine I’ve ever drank, but it’s good in the glass, and makes you want to take another bite (that’ll be the acid at work). ‘Polite’ I think is the best descriptor.
… Tuesday, January 31st.
Largely because of one bottle of Etna Bianco I had months ago, I have this perception of white Italian wine as being particularly savory and salty. Turns out, that’s not universally the case (‘However …’), but with this one it definitely is.
Popolo di Indie, Bianco del Popolo, 2016. 100% Cortese. 12.5% ABV. $20.
Even-bodied, full yellow. Savory, fleshy fruit and a touch of sea salt on the nose.
The approach has a touch of subtle plushiness.
The mid-palette is very fleshy, muscular, and full. Saltiness and just a touch of piquancy.
The finish is salty. Savory, plush fruit.
It’s a muscular, characteristic white. Would be absolutely stellar with seafood dishes–a shrimp scampi springs to mind.
Wines that I probably drank but have no distinct memory of because I didn’t write them down.
Petit Canet, syrah/carignan/grenache blend. A bit more aggressive and punchy than that blend usually is, which is a classic Côtes-du-Rhône blend.
Several cans of Underwood–The Bubbles, which is a perfectly agreeable sparkling chardonnay coming out of Oregon. A bit ham-fisted with the ‘we’re better than other wine-makers because we put our wine in cans’, but otherwise mostly harmless.
I tried a Gamay (using carbonic maceration, no less!) from Touraine called Terres Blondes. I was … unimpressed. It was perfectly fine, but I wasn’t stunned by its quality. Very fruit forward (shocker!) and somewhat grapey. Fresh and fruit-foward. Who knows, maybe I just wasn’t feeling it that day.
There was bit of a rushed tone to my post last Thrifty Thursday, due to making a full meal for seven or so people. But I also ordered in (another) bottle of the Chenonceaux, as well as the Moillard chardonnay which I unfortunately failed to take a picture of. Lovely, crisp, mineral chardonnay from France. Great stuff. Also that night was a bottle of the Orenia, a viogner/grenache blanc/roussane blend, which is wonderfully full and round in the mouth.
The picture up at front has a bottle of what may very well be one of my favorite bottles overall in the two stores–Cru Haut Valoir. It’s the classic Rhône blend I mentioned above, but with the subtle addition of mourvèrdre. It adds an entirely new dimension–as does the extra decade in-bottle. A 2005 for $25? Yes, please! Ridicuously good, complex-but-approachable, dangerously drinkable, beautiful stunning label French red wine. Nothing I can complain about. One of the first wines I’ve seriously considered getting a full case of. For the main course, we had the Birichino old-vine cinsault out of California. In a similar vein to the Haut-Valoir, stunning clarity and expression of terroir out of Lodi. A lovely accopaniment to Chicken with Forty Cloves, which is one of my absolute favorite chicken preparations–couple hours of marinanting with garlic and herbs, toss in an earthenware casserole, at 300° for an hour and forty-five or so … jaw-droppingly tender chicken and garlic that spreads like butter. Mmm …
I think that about wraps it up for this week–keep your eyes up for Thrifty Thursday tomorrow, I’m excited to see what I can find.
Hey hey! Long time no see. Sorry about the hiatus–I had headed up to Vermont for a week or so, and was mostly collecting cuddles from cats and other fuzzy creatures.
But! Fortunately for us all, there is also wine in Vermont. Here’s a few of them!
This one was cool–the folks and I were at dinner with some old family friends, and they, being extremely experienced wine drinkers (and generous besides) brought out a bottle of this! As you can see, it’s definitely been sitting for a bit, and it was seriously delicious. The age had really given this Cahors (southwest France, known well for its malbecs (which I’m fairly sure this was?)) a nuance and depth to it that was really just incomparable. I didn’t take notes, unforunately, since I was several glasses of the previous few in, but nevertheless–just a joy to drink.
This last one is very cool. We had headed over to the old friend’s house early in the afternoon to begin food prep, and I had a bit of time to kill. They live just outside of Shelburne, Vermont, and Shelburne has (as I discovered) an exceptionally lovely wine shop called Village Wine and Coffee. Always a good combo.
I was lucky enough to make it while the owner, Kevin, was there, and we had a wonderful discussion about the industry, and the differences between NY and VT, and some of the wines he’s had in. This was one–full disclosure, Kevin gave it me because he specifically wanted me to try it! It’s a white blend, grenache blanc (60%) and roussane (40%), from a small AOC in the Rhône valley called Costières de Nîmes. While originally these wines had characteristics more akin to Languedocs (it used to be a part of that very region!), these have embraced the characteristics of the Rhône valley.
These wines are produced by a NYC/French-based winemaker and importer, Michele D’Aprix. They most certainly reflect her self-stated passion for both the wines outside of the norms of Bordeaux, and for making wine that reflects the care and effort put into it.
What I also particularly like is the writing on the back of the label, which I’ll quote a small bit here:
Caz translates to ‘crazy in a good way’, a sentiment I have come to embrace as I branch out from Bordeaux to bring wines from new terroirs …. It totally complimented [sic] the food and good, honest farmers grew the grapes. Maz Caz is fermented in steel and left unoaked. The grapes hail from the tippy-toes of the southwestern Rhône Valley where the attitude and exposistion are truly Mediterranean …. it’s the moment you taste it: with great friends, alongside great food, with no clock ticking. This project seeks to deliver the simple wine: fresh, young, uncorrupted and pure.
Lovely imagery. Hard to say I disagree, and I’m all for informative back labels. Some pertinent info:
Full name: Pentimento Wine, Maz Caz Blanc, Costières de Nîmes, 2016. Grape(s): Grenache blanc (60%), roussane (40%). ABV: 12.5% Price (to the nearest $5): $10.
– Clean, mineral. Tart yellow fruit. Some apples?
– Subtle, though I feel as if the tartness is becoming slightly more pronounced.
Mid-palette – Smooth, with the notes of the roussane becoming more pronounced. Very even.
– Clean. Dry, but not bone-dry. Good acid.
– It’s a steal at $10. Costières is a cool region. Great description on the back of the bottle–and cred for actually crediting the artist.
All in all, a really lovely trip. Both for wine, but also, y’know, to see all the lovely people in Vermont. I will forever love that state.
More importantly, a corkscrew has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a bourb (bourb: a non-wine-drinker) discovers a wine-drinker has his corkscrew with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a wine glass, a decanter, corks, hors d’œuvres, apertifs, viticultural guides, root clippers, champagne stoppers, tea towels, tasting notes, sommelier certification, etc. etc. Furthermore, the bourb will then happily lend the wine-drinker any of these or a dozen other items that the wine-drinker might accidentally have “lost”. What the bourb will think is that any man who can drink his way through the mags and casks of the world, rough it, slum it, occasionally open a corked bottle, win through, and still know where his corkscrew is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
– Double-glass Adams, Wine-Drinker’s Guide to the Graperies
In a revelation that may come as a shock to a few of you, I spend a lot of time thinking about wine. I work in the industry six out of seven days of the week, I’m constantly trying new wines, I need to be able to distinguish between several hundred wines at any given time–it is, in fact, my job.
And as anyone with a job can tell you, sometimes that job can get tiring. And sometimes, even if you love your job and are good at it, you’d like to stop thinking about it for just a bit. Not necessarily completely shutting that part of your brain off, but at least have it chilling on a burner several rows back (side note, kitchen ranges with 6+ burners rock).
Problem is, at least for me, it can be really difficult to stop thinking about wine in a professional way. Moreover, there can also be pressure to leave that part on, because people bring wine to parties, and, ‘oh, hey, you do wine! what do you think of this bottle?’ And don’t get me wrong (especially people who have brought me wine before, please keep doing it, I really do enjoy it and it’s very kind of you)–that’s fun to do with a wine you didn’t pick out yourself for once.
But there’s a certain category of wine that I buy for myself occasionally that is not necessarily … the best wine. It’s not wine that I’d bring to impress someone. It’s not bad, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not the most amazing wine I’ve ever had, either. Their primary characteristic, of course, is that they are Mostly Harmless.
What exactly do I mean by that? Here’s a (somewhat) succinct list of adjectives I associate with “Mostly Harmless”.
not terribly interesting
These are wines that, simply put, don’t offer enough interest for me to have to think about them. Pinot grigios often fall into this category, as well as rosés. They are wine that is meant to be gulped, at some point, not to have an exhaustive list of their tasting notes written down and transcribed. At the end of the day, these are wines that are created for pure enjoyment–and to help everyone drinking them get a little fuzzy around the edges.
And to be one-hundred-percent clear, I really don’t think that a wine like that is inherently worse than a ‘prestigious’ wine–they’re just trying to do very different things. Think of ‘enjoyable’ and ‘interesting/challenging’ as the x and y axes. There are wines that are both uninteresting and un-enjoyable ($8 mag of moscato from the gas station) and wines that are both interesting and enjoyable. Mostly harmless wines fall into the ‘uninteresting but enjoyable’ category, and that is a lovely space to occupy.
The reason I drink them is so that I don’t have to think so critically about a wine for once. Even with more complicated wines I know well–like sau blancs from the Loire Valley–I still have to think about them. I’m still comparing them to other examples of the same, to the jacquere I had earlier that week–with the Blanc Pescador, none of that really happens. Have you ever heard someone described as ‘nice’? It doesn’t really mean anything. Most people are ‘nice’ the first time you meet them. That’s what the Pescador embodies–it’s nice. Does it really get my gears cranking? No, but I’d drink it over some other bottles I’ve had–and I don’t hesitate in pulling it off the shelf. Pretty dry, good fruit, just a touch of bubbles. Reminds me of the sea and the old Spanish fishermen who drink barrels of this on their siestas. Lovely.
Hey all! Happy New Year! Hope you had a lovely (and warm–it was about 10º over here in Brooklyn!) New Year’s Eve.
Since the days immediately following New Year’s (and to a lesser extent, Christmas) are very very quiet, I figured I could spend some time this afternoon discussing everyone’s favorite wine to bash on: pinot grigio.
Why does everyone like to make fun of pinot grigio? In short, like malbec, it’s kind of the uninteresting background noise of wine. Every country does a little bit of it, and while some Italian vineyards are terribly proud of their pinot grigio, it’s not too much to guess that a pinot grigio will likely be some variant of, “crisp, slightly fruity, mineral and generally dry”. And while I’m broadly pretty down with consistency, the consistency of pinot grigio is like the consistency of a coffeeshop that rhymes with ‘jar’s stuck’: you don’t go there to get your socks blown off, you go there because you know exactly what you’re getting.
Pinot grigio’s strength is also its downfall.
As much as I want to write a trite post mercilessly making fun of the grape, I’ll actually pull the best bottle of pinot grigio I can find, and then we’ll go into the Great Grape Grimoire and see what we can’t find.
So, a couple of choice quotes from the entry (which is actually on pinot gris, which is the French name for the grape) and then I’ll do a bit of synopsizing:
“Full-bodied and aromatic at its best but much usually encountered enjoying international fame if not glory as anodyne [“not likely to offend or arouse tensions”] Pinot Grigio.”
“… in the mass-market arena, the name Pinot Grigio seems enough to guarantee sales of even a tart, neutral, almost colourless and flavourless white wine.”
“Italy’s Pinot Grigio has been the somewhat unfathomable success story of the early twenty-first century.”
Minor tangent: it was at this point I started questioning myself about the capitalization of grape varieties, and stumbled upon this terribly geeky (and funny!) article about that very subject.
It’s a relatively old French Grape (thus the gris as opposed to grigio in the entry), with debatable references appearing as early as 1238, and the first confirmed reference to the grape specifically being in 1711. Almost every wine-making region has some acreage of pinot gris; it’s one of those grapes that can grow in a huge number of agricultural regions, and tends towards a high degree of return-on-investment.
But, as the book makes clear, it’s not a terribly ‘prestigious’ grape. There’s not much glory to be found in a grape described as anodyne. And that, I think, is the root of pinot gris’ less-than-stellar reputation among snooty (well, and not snooty) wine people. There are so many examples of merely ‘okay’ pinot grises that sometimes it’s hard to remember that the wine can have a very distinct and lovely flavor profile. I would certainly argue against it in a risotto, or being drunk anytime between the months of October and April, but nevertheless, a well-executed pinot gris brings more to the table than grape-flavored alcohol.
Why the ice cubes, though?
Well, simply put, ice cubes dilute things, right? It makes it a bit colder, and a bit easier to sip–whiskey on the rocks is a thing, because many whiskeys struggle with being drunk neat.
However, if you take a wine best described as ‘innocuous’ and then add the dilution of ice, you’ve got a perfect storm of cold, alcoholic, totally-inoffensive liquid. The objection that most wine snobs make to this is that if you’re going to drink wine, it better well be actually interesting. And that one should never put ice cubes in wine. Essentially, it’s insulting to wine as a whole that you would a) drink a wine that’s uninteresting in the first place, and b) worsen that by putting ice cubes in it.
I would argue that it does have a place, however. It would definitely be an unusual choice for me, personally, to grab a pinot grigio off the shelf. Buuut, like perhaps a Grüner, it has a certain fruitiness-mixed-with-mineralness that can be quite charming. As for the ‘$9 bottle with ice cubes in a punch bowl’ variant … sometimes you just need something to cool off.
But yeah. If you’ve a wine friend who needs to take the snobbery down a bit, or just want to have a bit of fun at their expense, stop by their shop, browse a bit, and casually ask: ‘hey, do you have like, a cheap pinot grigio? And do you guys sell ice?’
And because I simply couldn’t show a wine without at least touching on it:
Yup, that is in fact a pinot grigio–brighter fruit and a touch of slateiness on the nose. Tart, bright fruit on the approach, mellowing out to yellow fruit in the mid-palette. Dry, mineral finish with good acidity. Not the most interesting wine I’ve had–and certainly not at this price point. But hey, that’s Pinot Grigio, right?
Robinson, Jancis, et al. Wine Grapes. HarperCollins, September 24th, 2014.
Right! So, I’m not going to hassle you all with a review of yet another French sau blanc, but! I wanted to mention this one in particular because I find this bottle totally neat (besides it being good wine–that’s my first glass up there).
The reason that the wine caught my eye (besides being a French sau blanc, I know, I have a type) is the ‘Chenonceaux’ on the label. My brain threw up a little flag there, and said, ‘hey, you recognize that!’
After some searching, I realized that I had actually been to Chenonceaux, the tiny little village in the Loire Valley in 2013. The reason, alas, was not for wine, but to see the spectacular Château de Chenonceau. The reason that got me excited was to compare one of the photos on the Wikipedia page:
And my own photo from the day I visited:
Honestly, this wine really kind of clarified for me why place is so important. I immediately felt a connection to this wine because I had (presumably) been near its vineyards, once. Can you imagine how important having the rum from the right island–the island you grew up on–is?
Hell, just this afternoon, I was looking for a certain gin from Vermont (I’m from Vermont)–I apologize if this seems like a really basic understanding, but, man, place is super important. Having alcohol stuff that’s from where you stuff is from makes a huge difference.
Now, I couldn’t possibly post a wine and say nothing about it–but very quickly:
La Renaudie really reminds me of the other Touraine I reviewed (with a touch more fruitiness reminscent of the Moulin des Dames), if a bit more well-executed. However, it’s a little different (which is really why I would draw a comparison to Moulin): really good fruit and honestly almost a touch of sweetness. Still though, that fruitiness is balanced out by some perfectly-pitched acid. Mouth feel is really lovely and silky smooth. But it’s got a touch of that grassiness that I’m beginning to think is characteristic of Touraines. And don’t let me get you wrong–still pretty aggressively dry. Remind me to write an article about the difference between dryness and fruitiness.
Regardless, very happy with this bottle.
If I don’t get around to it (lots of work this week), I do wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a spectacular New Year.
Thanks for reading–and may your glasses always be full!