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Mother’s Day Escapades – 2022 Edition

May 16, 2022 Leave a comment

Sometimes, the best plan is to have no plans.

When it comes to holidays, I usually start sweating it long in advance. What wine is worthy of a celebration? What should I open to match up the holiday? What will everyone enjoy? This chain of thought usually is followed by a long process of opening wine cabinet doors and pulling shelves back and forth. Yes, I might have a loose idea of what should be available, but I still don’t remember where which wine is, so I have to really search for it. It’s a process, and more often than not I even manage to annoy myself with the “wine selection paralysis” of my own making.

Mother’s Day last Sunday was nothing like the usual. There were only 5 of us. My wife drinks very little wine as of late (or any alcohol for that matter), my mother-in-law prefers tequila, and my kids don’t like wine, so I didn’t have much to worry about in terms of the wine program. Also as spring is settling in here in Connecticut, there were lots to do outside – cleaning, building new raised beds, preparing for the soil and mulch delivery which were taking place the next day.

Coming back into the house after a few hours of work outside I realized that I’m craving a glass of white wine. The first bottle which grabbed my attention was unpretentious 2020 Domaine René Malleron La Vauvelle Sancerre. Sancerre is a rare guest in the house, as it is usually a more expensive version of Sauvignon Blanc than the others, and for my personal preferences, I find that I like a generic Loire Sauvignon more than a typical Sancerre. I’m not even sure how I got this bottle, I’m assuming it was something I found through a WTSO offer.

Never mind this “not liking of Sancerre” – this bottle was superb. Fresh, floral, and a touch grassy on the nose, it delivered exactly the same profile on the palate – bright, elegant, round, crisp, clean, thirst-quenching, and delicious.

I was thinking about opening the bottle of Syrah for dinner. While looking for a particular bottle to open, I came across this 2004 Vaucher Père et Fils Gevrey-Chambertin. Of course, this is Burgundy and not a Syrah, but there is nothing wrong with celebrating with Burgundian Pinot Noir instead of Californian or Washington Syrah, especially considering that I was looking at this bottle for a while.

This happened to be another successful choice for a few reasons – it was at its peak, probably about to start the journey down. While it tasted good at the moment, it was also a timely decision as I’m not sure it would be still enjoyable a few years down the road. The wine had smoked plums and cherries on the nose, and more of the same darker fruit profile on the palate, introducing the notes of dried fruit, but still having enough freshness to be enjoyed. The wine also well complemented the burgers, which were our main dish. Those were good burgers – Peter Luger burgers from our local Darien Butcher Shop (DBS for short), and good burgers are well worthy of a good glass of wine.

As a surprise, my daughter requested a Mimosa while dinner was in the making. I don’t have a lot of bubbles in the house, so at the moment I didn’t have any Prosecco or a Cava which would be my preferred choice for this purpose. I opened a bottle of one of my favorite everyday Champagne – NV André Chemin Brut Tradition Champagne, which is made with 100% Pinot Noir. While the girls enjoyed their Mimosas, I was happy to have a few glasses of this delicious wine – a perfect combination of freshly toasted bread and yeasty notes, crisp, refreshing, and satisfying.

Here it is, a full account of a celebration in the wine terms. It was definitely unusual for this household to drink only French wines, and also classic French wines – Burgundy, Champagne, and Sancerre – in one sitting. Interestingly enough I believe all three wines were procured through WTSO, which is simply a fun fact I would like to mention.

Father’s Day is coming in about a month – it might be the time to start worrying about my wine choices…

Daily Glass: Ah, Pinot!

December 12, 2016 11 comments

Nothing is simple around wine for us, oenophiles, right? We need to meticulously arrange proper experiences – perfectly match wine with food, with the company, with the mood, with the moment. If we don’t, we question ourselves to eternity – what would’ve happened if I would’ve open that other bottle I had in mind; should’ve I just plan it all differently?

But every once in a while, we let our guards down, and let things just happen. When we think about it right after, we realize – wow, totally random, and totally delightful. Yay!

That “random and delightful” was my experience yesterday. My plan was to open a bottle of wine from 1998, and I have a very small selection of those, so the one I picked happened to be a Burgundy. So that one was a special bottle, waiting for the evening and the decanter.

I can’t cook without the wine, so of course, the bottle had to be opened. The “before Thanksgiving” shipment from Field Recordings contained more than one interesting bottle – the one I told you about already was Pét Nat from California. Another bottle I never saw before had a bold Nouveau word printed across shiny, golden label:

I’m an avid fan of the “Beaujolais Nouveau” phenomenon. But I have to admit that a few years back, I tasted few of the attempts by California wineries to join the Nouveau movement, and those were widely unsuccessful.

So how would Field Recordings’ Nouveau rendition fare? Actually, spectacularly. As the label says, the grapes for this wine were hand-harvested only 74 days prior to the bottling. And nevertheless, the wine had all the finesse you expect from the perfectly balanced California Pinot Noir. This 2016 Field Recordings Nouveau California (12.1% ABV, 100% Pinot Noir) had lean, uplifting nose of fresh fruit, but less fruity than typical Nouveau, nothing grapey. On the palate, unmistakably Californian, touch of smoke with fresh plums and a bit of mint. Good acidity, more round than a typical French Nouveau version, perfectly drinkable. 8+. Outstanding, in a word. Would happily drink it again any day.

Remember I told you this was one of the days when things are just happening? I have a good number of bottles in the cellar, but absolute majority of the bottles are in the single amounts – just one bottle of particular wine from particular vintage, and that’s it. Thus sometimes, I spend good 20 minutes trying to select a bottle (in the fear of missing on what it can evolve into) and end up pouring myself a splash of Scotch instead. But yesterday, I had enough courage to grab a bottle of the wine which might be the only bottle in the US – unless someone also has good friends in Switzerland.

This wine was made by the family producer in Vaud region in Switzerland, Henri Cruchon, who I had pleasure meeting about 6 years ago. What makes it special is that this wine, called Nihilo, is not filtered, made from organic grapes, and doesn’t have any added sulfites. To preserve the wine better, the cork is covered in wax. And to be entirely correct, the wine goes beyond organic, as the back label sports Demeter logo, which means that the winery is certified biodynamic.

It is great to know that the wine is non-filtered and organic – but the ultimate verdict is in the glass. This 2015 Henri Cruchon Nihilo La Côte AOC Switzerland (13.5% ABV, blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Gamaret) had a spectacular nose, very complex – iodine, anise, crunchy cherries, mint. The palate was equally spectacular with sweet cherries, pepper, roasted notes, peppermint, crispy, fresh blackberries – once you start, you can’t stop. 8+/9-, outstanding wine.

And then there was 1998 Patrick Lesec Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes (13% ABV) – an 18 years old Burgundy wine, as Pinot Noir as it can be.

Patrick Lesec Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes18 years shouldn’t be an age for Burgundy, but I still was a bit concerned. Decided to decant the wine, to avoid sediment and let it breathe a bit, for about an hour. I’m clearly abusing the word “spectacular” in this post, but this is what this wine was. Touch of barnyard on the nose, on the palate – gunflint, smokey cherries, roasted meat, lots of herbs – oregano, mint, sage – every sip was a “wow” experience. By the end of the evening, the wine mellowed out and started showing more of the sweet cherries, still perfectly balanced with acidity. A pure treat for sure. Drinkability: 9.

There you have it, my friends. An accidental and hugely enjoyable Pinot Noir deep immersion – from California to Switzerland to France – very different wines holding one common trait – delivering lots and lots of pleasure. Cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #66: Grape Trivia – Chardonnay

July 20, 2013 16 comments
Chardonnay grapes after harvest, as presented in Wikipedia

Chardonnay grapes after harvest, as presented in Wikipedia

Welcome to the weekend!

Here we are, continuing our wine quizzes now with the (dare I say it) most famous white grape – Chardonnay!

Seriously, is there another grape which receives equal amount of attention? Not as a fad, but as a constant center of attention all the time, with new winemakers offering their own personal take on the grape, coming from all over the world, competing for supremacy with producers who boast hundreds and hundreds years of “prior experience”? Is there a winemaking country in the world *not* making wine out of Chardonnay – I doubt so…

Origins of Chardonnay go all the way back to the 12th century, starting (of course, where else) in France in Burgundy region. Today, Chardonnay is one of the most planted grapes in the world with 400,000 acres planted worldwide (and about quarter of that in California alone). Part of such a wide success of the Chardonnay can be attributed to the fact that Chardonnay is very adaptable, and can be successfully grown in various conditions, including climate  and soils. Additionally, Chardonnay is very “malleable” in the hands of the winemaker and can be used in variety of styles both with and without oak, and successfully ranging in the expression from sparkling to light and acidic white wines, going all the way to the heavy, big and monumental wines and then continuing on to the dessert wines (Australian “sticky”s come to mind). As you can imagine, such a popularity with the wine makers leads to the overproduction of boring and indiscreet wines, which generates periodic consumer backlash and creation of the self-proclaimed ABC clubs (Anything But Chardonnay). Nevertheless, anyone who had ever experienced great Chardonnay – coming from France, California, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Hungary and many other places, will always come back for more.

Now, to the quiz!

Q1: Name the producer of the most expensive Chardonnay wine in the world. As an added bonus, please also provide the name of the wine.

Q2: Chablis used to be the bustling Chardonnay producer in France, supplying most of the wine in Paris and beyond, until it came to the severe decline during the beginning to the middle of the 20th century. Do you know what was one of the biggest factors which led to that decline?

Q3: Name 3 main flavor descriptors of the *big* California Chardonnay

Q4: Judgement of Paris of 1976 was instrumental in bringing California Chardonnay onto the world-class wine map. Do you know which California winery we need to thank for that?

Q5: As with many other grapes, various clones had being developed for Chardonnay, to adapt better for the particular region and/or resulting wine style – for example, there is a number of so called Dijon clones of Chardonnay, which can be used by anyone wishing to produce a classic Burgundy style wine. One of the clones was developed in California in the middle of 20th century, and it is still a very popular choice among many California Chardonnay producers to the date. Can you name that clone?

Good luck, have fun, enjoy your weekend and cheers!

Weekly Wine Quiz #43: Which One Doesn’t Belong?

January 13, 2013 8 comments
Domaine Romanee-Conti La Tashe 2008

Domaine Romanee-Conti La Tashe 2008

Time to play our weekly wine game!

I still don’t have a good idea for the series of quizzes, so we will continue jumping around for a while. As you can guess from the picture, today we will be talking about Burgundy.

When it comes to the grapes, Burgundy is probably the easiest to remember appellation in the world – they only use two grapes – all the reds are made out of Pinot Noir, and all the whites are made out of Chardonnay – easy, right? When you see a bottle of Burgundy, you don’t need to read the back label or search on internet to find out what grapes this wine is made out of,  you immediately know it.

However, as everything in this world has two sides, so does Burgundy. The payback for the “grape simplicity” is probably the most complex in the world system of naming the wines, with Grand Crus, Primier Crus, Domaines, Clos and so on (no, we are not going into the Burgundy crash course here, this is just a prelude to the question).

Playing on this complexity (see, I’m honest), below is the list of Burgundy wineries, but one of them doesn’t belong – you will need to figure out which one and why:

  1. Clos de Lambrays
  2. Clos du Tart
  3. La Grand Rue
  4. La Romanée
  5. La Romanée Conti
  6. La Tache

Have fun and good luck! Cheers!

Yes! (a short and happy post)

October 27, 2012 17 comments

If anyone of you read my profile on twitter, you probably saw a mention of the martial arts. I’m practicing Taekwondo, and today I had my so called “tip test”. Yes, I passed the test, and got a green tip:

Now I “only” need to get five more tips (purple, blue, brown, red and black), and then I will be able to attempt the next big test. I guess if I would be 20 or 25, that probably would be “okay, great, whatever” kind of feeling (or not), but as I’m a bit older, and this stuff doesn’t come easy (I have a problem, people – my knees seriously hate me), so it feels great. Anyway, that’s done, and I’m happy.

While it is technically very early Saturday on the East coats, it is still Friday in may places in US – and this Friday, October 26th was 3rd annual Champagne Day (#ChampagneDay in Twitter terms). The way to celebrate #ChampagneDay is to open a bottle of Champagne and talk about it. Problem is, I generally don’t stock up on Champagne, so I didn’t have a bottle to open (and was publicly ostracized by thedrunkedcyclist, who really is in love with Champagne). As I wanted to honor the noble wine at least in some way, I decided to go for deconstructed Champagne:

Yes, this is the bottle of Burgundy and not Champagne, but this means that the wine is made from the grape which is a part of many Champagne wines – Pinot Noir, hence it is qualified for the “deconstructed Champagne” play.

This 2004 Domaine Dennis Carre Savigny-les-Beaune was exactly the type of Pinot Noir I love – light, smokey and earthy, with the light cherries profile, perfectly balanced with fruit , tannins and acidity, the wine with finesse and elegance. Drinkability: 8+

That’s all I wanted to share with you. Happy Friday (or may be already Saturday) to you. Cheers!

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