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.
18 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!
Yeah, I know – it’s been more than two weeks since Thanksgiving… Well, okay – let’s still talk about it.
I gave you some ideas about the Thanksgiving wines and food with my earlier post, so let me just start with the “prep” picture again:
All the birds you see in this picture were converted into a Turducken – chicken inside the duck inside the turkey, all fully deboned except the legs and wings of the turkey. The dish was conceived in the 1980s in the South, popularized around the country in the mid-1990s, and now freely available for order most everywhere (or at least this is my impression).
Deboning takes a bit of a skill, but nothing impossible. There are different schools of thoughts as to how to assemble the birds and what to put between the layers – I used two different types of sausages – you can see them in the picture above. Overall, I tried to follow the recipe on Serious Eats, which is one of the very best “turducken how to” instructions you can find – “tried” is the best way to put it, as I made a few essential mistakes (not cooking the chicken fully first), which led to slightly overcooked dish – nevertheless, it was very tasty, and I would gladly do it again, despite the need to put in the work. Here are my “step-by-step” pictures, from the deboned chicken to the final dish:
There was plenty of other dishes at the table, but turducken was a star.
Now, let’s talk wine. As you can imagine, Thanksgiving gathering is a not the right place to take detailed notes on the wines. Therefore, I’m sharing here my general impressions.
The day before Thanksgiving the Fall shipment arrived from Field Recordings, and the first bottle which caught my attention was a California Pét Nat:
Pét Nat is a short for Pétillant-naturel, a sparkling wine made with méthode ancestrale, when the wine is bottled before the first fermentatoin is finished – very different from traditional méthode champenoise, where the sparkling wine is made with secondary fermentation in the bottle, done with addition of yeast and sugar. Pét Nat are typically fresh, unfiltered and unpredictable, which makes them even more fun than traditional Champagne. This 2016 Field Recordings Pét Nat Arroyo Grande Valley (100% Chardonnay) was delicious – fresh, creamy, with aromas of toasty bread and fresh apples – an outstanding rendition of Chardonnay.
This wine was the only deviation from Lodi. Our next wine was 2015 LangeTwins Estate Grown Sangiovese Rosé Lodi (12% ABV). While cold, it was crisp and loaded with cranberries, perfectly delicate, without any excess of sugar. As it warmed up, the strawberries took over, mellowing the wine out and making it slightly bigger in the body – and delicious in a whole new way. In a word, a treat.
I can’t describe 2013 Borra Vineyards Heritage Field Blend Lodi (14.5% ABV, 70% Barbera, 10% Carignane, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Alicante Bouschet) with any other word but riot – tar, tobacco, roasted meat, herbs, dark, muscular, yet round – unique, different and irresistible – the bottle was gone in no time.
2013 Bokisch Vineyards Graciano Lodi (14.5% ABV) was yet another treat – bright, clean, with a good amount of red fruit, herbal underpinning and firm structure. I’m very particular to Spanish grape varietals, and this Graciano rendition was definitely a world class, reminiscent of the best classic versions of the same from Rioja.
NV Lucas Late Harvest Zinfandel Lodi (15.8% ABV) happened to be an enigma. When I tasted the wine at the winery, the wine was mind boggling – rich, concentrated, and perfectly balanced. This wine is quite unique as it is made using the appasimento process, with the grapes partially dried under the sun for a few weeks to concentrate the flavor, before pressing. The bottle which I brought home, was a poor relative of the one I had at the winery – it was not bad, but was completely lacking the opulence and depth of the one I had at the winery. Oh well – this is still one of the pleasures of the wine drinking – you never know what you will find in the bottle.
That essentially concludes the report from our main Thanksgiving celebration. Next day, however, we left to see our close friends in Boston, and at their house, we had two unique wine encounters. One was 1993 (!) Nissley Fantasy Sweet Rosé Wine Lancaster County Pennsylvania (made out of Concord grape). The expectation was that the wine already turned into a vinegar, but instead, we found a port-like wine, with lots of sweetness and also some acidity, so well drinkable overall.
The last surprise was 2006 Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz Australia (14% ABV), which was still well drinkable, with good concentrated dark fruit, touch of spices, good balance and full body. Well-drinkable 10-years old red wine shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone – but this was actively ridiculed by all the aficionados “creature label” wine, which is not expected to last that long. The bottom line – this wine still delivered lots of pleasure.
Now we are fully done here – this is the story of my Thanksgiving celebration. Did you have any memorable wines this last Thanksgiving? Any unique and interesting dishes? I would love to know. Cheers!
Sacrilege? Possible. Should I be ostracized by beer and wine aficionados alike, and this very blog been banned forever from their reading lists? I will leave it to aficionados to decide. I’m merely doing what I’ve always done in this blog – sharing my experiences, those which I deem worth sharing. That’s all there is to it.
When I got email from Andrew Jones, the winemaker behind one of my favorite labels, Field Recordings, advertising something called “Can Club”, the decision was quick – “yada, yada, yada – I have to do it” (the “yada” part is here to explain how much attention I was paying to the exact email content). Then I glanced over the following: “ Pure, free-run rose from a pair of our westside Paso Robles vineyard partners, mostly Grenache. 100% whole cone citra hops [sic] were added prior to canning. The results, a super refreshing elixir, combining your love of Provence with a touch of Belgian brew. I have a tough time explaining it because it isn’t like anything I have tried before. It’s impossible for me to properly analyze. I just want to drink it.“, and the next thought was “whatever. I have no idea what he is talking about, and I don’t care”. So yes, I signed up.
Few days ago, the door bell rung, and FedEx guy asked me to sign for something which rather resembled the set of engineering drawings – “hmmm, what is it” was my first thought. And then it downed on me (“this box contains alcohol” sign was a good cue) – aha, the can club?! I liked the unorthodox presentation so much that I even shared the puzzle on twitter, asking people to guess how the object in the picture can relate to the wine:
And then I opened the can. The liquid in the glass had an appeal of a perfect Rosé. Classic salmon pink color. On the nose, it was perfectly Provençal Rosé – touch of strawberries, hint of onion peel, refreshing minerality, touch of lemon. And the palate was, once again, perfectly Provençal – strawberries, touch of lemon, fresh, crispy. With the tiny beer bite on the finish. You know, the one which you get from the fruity, light Belgium beer. You don’t have to believe me, but I only read Andrew’s exact words when I sat down to write this post. “love of Provence with a touch of Belgian brew” – wow. It would be rare, very rare case that my take on the wine would match its description with such a precision . And then I have to fully agree with Andrew on one other thing – “ I just want to drink it“.
What can I tell you about this 2015 Field Recordings Citra Rosé Paso Robles (13.1% ABV, $14 retail/$10 club – 500ml can, 67% Grenache, 22% Picpoul Blanc, 8% Mourvédre, 3% Syrah)? It was delicious, perfectly combining the best of both beer and wine worlds – crisp, fresh, bright, thoughts provoking. Dangerous as well – as the wine comes in the can, you pretty much treat it as a single serving – while it actually contains more than 3 standard glasses of wine. But I think the taste is well worth that danger. And until you will get your hands on one of those cans, my words are all you got, so yes, take my word for it.
I want to raise my glass to never ending creativity and courage. Beer and wine lovers, rejoice! Cheers!
The time has come again to celebrate #CabernetDay. I’m really curious – when you hear the words Cabernet Day, what is the first wine (or grape) which comes to mind – is it Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc? I would bet that at least two third of the people (if not more) would associate Cabernet Day with Cabernet Sauvignon – and can you blame anyone? While the most celebrated grape in the world comes from Bordeaux, most of Bordeaux wines are blends, so it is really California wine industry which brought Cabernet Sauvignon to such a star status in the wine world, making it an object of crave and desire.
I looked through my past #CabernetDay posts – most of them talk about Cabernet Sauvignon. Meanwhile, Cabernet Franc, a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon, deserves its own praise. You see, the success of Cabernet Sauvignon, especially the California Cabernet Sauvignon, created certain image, certain collective expectations of any wines which happened to have the name Cabernet Sauvignon on the label – we expect power, we expect concentration, we expect big body and silky layers. When it comes to Cabernet Franc, we still accept the wide range of expression – from spicy and light Loire or US East Coast renditions to the powerful and concentrated Bordeaux (rare) and California wines.
Cabernet Franc is still allowed to be different, without demand to adhere to the “international standard” based on the name. You can find a lot of green bell peppers, earthiness and even tree brunches in the Loire (Bourgueil, Chinon, Saumur-Champigny) or US East Coast Cabernet Franc, of course often emanating that wonderful black currant, (a.k.a. “cassis”). On another end of the spectrum are California renditions of Cabernet Franc, which try to eliminate the green bell pepper and make the wine more similar to traditional Cabernet Sauvignon. Either way, Cabernet Franc provides a bigger variety compare to Cabernet Sauvignon – I never said it is better, though.
For today’s #CabernetDay celebration I’ve chosen a Cabernet Franc from California. Well, by accident, it happened to be Cabernet Franc for the second day in the row, and for both days it is a Cabernet Franc from one of my favorite producers – Field Recordings. 2013 Hinterland Vineyard Cabernet Franc Paso Robles (14.1% ABV, $18, 88% Cabernet Franc, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot), and 2013 Tommy Town Vineyard Cabernet Franc, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (14.3% ABV, $18, 100% Cabernet Franc) – two beautiful wines, celebrating a noble grape. The Hinterland Vineyard version was a bit more polished and round, and the Tommy Town Vineyard needed for the alcohol to blow off before it would show itself properly, but both wines had nice, long black currant-loaded finish, and I would gladly drink either one again (those were my only bottles…).
How did you celebrate the #CabernetDay? What was in your glass? Cheers!
The one I’m talking about is akin “chicken and egg” case, with a spin. Is the wine made in the vineyard or at the winery? Is it winemaker or the grape? Well, rest assured – I’m not trying to jump on this subject just for the sake of conversation. It just happened that the wine I opened yesterday made me ponder at that exact question.
What wine? 2012 Field Recordings Cabernet Sauvignon McMahon Vineyard Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, $29, 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Tempranillo, 16 month in 89% new French oak, 11% new American oak). What made me to think of the terroir versus winemaker? The aromatics. The wine had not a glimpse of Cabernet Sauvignon characteristic aromas – no cassis, no bell peppers, no eucalyptus. But on the nose there were plenty of spices. There was a hint of a forest floor, mushrooms, a touch of barnyard. There was also a smoke, and plenty of it. There was pepper. And there was tar and pencil shavings. So, what do you say – was that a winemaker talking, or the vineyard?
The palate, unfortunately, didn’t fully support the excitement. There was lots happening (still no cassis or anything else reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon), but there was lots of fruit, and vibrant acidity. At times, the wine was borderline jammy, only to be cleansed with the subsequent punch of acidity. I was looking for more balance, and it didn’t happen. Drinkability: 7
So in the end, I got no answers and more questions. Was that a bad wine? I don’t think so, as aromatics brought in lots of pleasure, and it was thought provoking on the palate. Did I open this wine too early? Yep, I’m quite convinced I did. Was that wine made in the vineyard or in the winery? I have no idea, so yes, the floor is yours… Cheers!
No, I didn’t lose it. The title of this post actually makes sense. To the date, I had the wine from the bottles of all forms and sizes. I had the wine directly from the stainless steel tanks and oak barrels. I had the wine dispersed by the machine. I had the wine from the keg. Yes, I had a boxed wine (and it was just fine). But – until yesterday, I never had wine from the can.
Yesterday I did. The Fall club shipment from one of my absolute favorite wineries, Field Recordings, included a can of wine. Not just any wine, but once again, one of my most favorite wines, Fiction (my personal wine of the year in 2011). When I saw a notice about the upcoming club shipment, which included a picture of the can, my first though was – hmmm, interesting. Really curious to try it.
Wine shipment arrived last week. After I opened the box, first thing I noticed was that the cans appeared a bit wrinkled. You know, when you hold the can of beer or any beverage, the surface is typically very smooth under your fingers – this was not the case, with the tiny, but noticeable ups and downs, the wrinkles (may be there is a better term to describe it, but I hope you got my point). Okay, it is the content what matters, right? It is obvious that the wine in the can is not intended to be stored or admired for the long time on the shelf – with its appearance it technically says “drink me now”.
Talking about cans, I had two other interesting observations. First, the can was 500 ml in size (somehow based on the picture I was expecting the full 750 size). And then instead of the short story which appears on the bottle of Fiction, the can’s “back label” contained the following tasting note: “Heady aromas of blueberry pie, luxurious suede couches, ham paninis and unlit menthol cigarettes. Firm tannins anchor flavors of grilled meats, cherry cola, sweet carob and black licorice chews, all cased up together conveniently in a cigar humidor. Drink tonight“. An interesting description, don’t you think? As I also got a bottle of Fiction, I was relieved to see the old a familiar story on its back label…
Okay, let’s get to “it” – let me tell you what I though about the wine. 2013 Field Recording Fiction Red Wine Paso Robles (14.9% ABV, $10 for 500 ml can, $18/bottle, 20% discount for catalog members; 31% Zinfandel, 26% Tempranillo, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 8% Touriga Nacional) – in a word, the wine was delicious. It took about 10 minutes for the wine to open up and round itself up in a glass (I didn’t dare drinking it straight from the can, I think it would eliminate half of the pleasure – but feel free, of course). I didn’t find grilled meat or suede coaches in the wine. But it had beautiful, ripe blueberries and sweet cherries, some vanilla dusting and may be a touch of mocha and sweet oak, all impeccably woven into a tight bundle of pleasure, sip after sip. This wine was on par with all the previous releases of Fiction, sans the aromatics. I couldn’t find the mind-blowing aromatics the 2010 Fiction was showing, but nevertheless, this was a silky smooth and delicious wine which I would gladly drink again. But I would honestly prefer to pour from the bottle. Drinkability: 8-
Did you have the wine in the can? What do you think about the wine you had and the concept as a whole? Cheers!
The process of selecting of the bottle to open sometimes can be very daunting – may be this? But I just had it few days ago. Than that? Well, today is not special enough day? Then what about that one? Nope, doesn’t feel right. In the end of the day (not literally), you just bite the bullet and say “this is it”. So the end result of my nerve wrecking selection process today was a bottle of … California Gamay from Field Recordings.
Now, class, who had the opportunity to taste California Gamay – raise your hands. Yep, I thought so. It is not that often that you hear about California Gamay. It is not even too often that you hear about Gamay been grown anywhere in US. Beaujolais? Of course, Gamay is one and only. Loire? Sure, also quite popular. Switzerland? Lesser known outside of Switzerland, but still – yes, it does quite well there. But California?
Well, so as they say, there is a first time for everything. Today was my first time to taste the California Gamay. 2013 Field Recordings Gamay Noir Rancho Real Vineyard Santa Maria Valley, California (13.9% ABV, 100% Gamay Noir, 6 month in Neutral Puncheons, 50% carbonic, 50% destemmed, 140 cases, Bottled: 04.19.2014) – very interesting. The nose was reminiscent of the Beaujolais Nouveau, but with the fruit being more mature and restrained, not as grapey. Very delicious and pronounced, similar to all other Field Recordings wines I had so far. And the palate… The palate was puzzling. It had a lot of fresh, ripe raspberries, good acidity and good balance, but there was something else which took me a while to figure out. And then it came down to me – the wine was still coming together. It was very similar to the Chenin Blanc which I had directly from the tank at the winery. Fermentation or not (I’m not a winemaker, so I can’t tell you exactly what it is, I can only describe to the best of my abilities), but this wine still needed time. This is why I highlighted above the date when the wine was bottled – so I was having the wine which was bottled only a bit more than a month ago – and it was noticeable. The wine was not bad by all means – but it would be very interesting to know, how would it taste when it would finally come together as a whole. Note to self – for the young wines, try to read the labels before, not after. Anyway, it was an interesting experience, and I will have to go with Drinkability of 7+, as the wine was still pleasant. Oh yes, of course it was my one and only bottle.
Have you had California Gamay before, or any US Gamay for that matter? What do you think? Also, have you had the wine which wwas not done yet? Comment away and cheers!