Friday, March 20, 2009

Need Further Proof? Please Meet Bert...

In the very first post of my blog, I documented the psychic abilities of my Ipod. For lack of a better name, let's call him Bert. I dunno why, it just seems to fit. Like a laser beam from a starship, his intuition to selecting musical accompaniment to wines is uncanny. Bert knows when to show restraint, when to pounce and when to surf the middle ground like a champion. So it was with great anticipation that I put Bert through the paces at an industry tasting this week. The excitement was fevered!

I entered Cru, a bastion of colossal wines with equally colossal prices as it was the site of the Liz Willette tasting. Liz is a wonderful lady and I'm told her company began when one of her best friends married Jean Louis Chave. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Regardless, her palate and stable of producers are very fine indeed. I walked up to my sales rep and personal wine god, Doug, to sample a bit of White Burgundy. While the wines didn't "wow" me at first, I did notice Bert shift into overdrive as I sipped the Vincent Mothe Chablis Bougros Grand Cru, diving into Queen's "Barcelona". Of course, it would be an obvious choice for something from Catalan... a Priorat perhaps, but the majesty of Freddie Mercury and the layers the musical tapestry create are perfection with Grand Cru Chablis. Yes, I sense this will be a good day.

Sliding over to Kellen Lignier, the now winemaker/proprietor of Lucie et Auguste Lignier, I delved into a few offerings of the domaine, and some with a bit of bottle age. Like clockwork, Bert changed the game with Jay-Z's "30 Something". Let's face it...thirty's the new 20 and 40 is definitely the new 30. This 40 yr old still feels vibrant, just like Kellen's 2002 Gevrey Chambertin. Smokin'!

One more pitstop at the Champagne table brought new jams. The NV Le Brun Servenay Brut Selection was mesmerizing and sassy, so I felt Bert's selection of Kelis' "Milkshake" an intriguing choice. An enticing bubbly for an enticing song...just makes you wanna go nuts. And I think that was his intention all along, that rascal!

JCB the 4th

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I'm Jazzed About...

These have all been tasted in the last few days and are wicked good, hella-tasty and stupid-fresh!

2004 Kientzler Riesling Gaisberg Grand Cru - We haven't seen hide nor hare of this wine in over a year and I'm yearning for the measly 3 cases to arrive next week. Riddiculously wonderful Alsatian Riesling that is textured, fine and precise.

2006 Yves Cuilleron Condrieu "Vertige" - Someone told me that Cuilleron's Condrieu Vertige is oaky. I beg to differ. This wine is lithe and mineral and really doesn't display a trace of oak. It's so long on the palate, it could block Kobe Bryant driving through the lane. A dynamic, soaring Viognier that is a great wine, period! I adored it.

2007 Vaona Valpolicella Classico - You pour this into a glass and think its light color is going to lead to a thin, flavorless wine. Nothing could be further from the truth. Opened and consumed over 3 days (I know, shameful...I'm sorry) this is Pinot Noir-ish in its ethereal-ness. Just gets better with more air. This can't be beat for just $17.

2004 Ada Nada Barbaresco "Elisa" - Can someone please not buy all of this so fast? I didn't even get a bottle of the 2001! Superb Nebbiolo in the most classic sense with all the rusticity I love and just enough ripe, forward fruit to satisfy those with a more New World palate. An absolute steal for $42! 56 followers, this offering is coming on Monday.

1998 Joseph Roty Gevrey Chambertin La Brunelle - If there is something more beautiful than ready to drink, perfectly aged Burgundy, I suppose I have not really lived up until this point. Soft fragrant, strawberry, spice, saddle leather, incense and love. Sorry, we sold out of this eons ago but the good news is the 2006's are coming in April (I tasted them all at Roty's cellars) and with a little patience, they'll be as divine as this 1998. Lovely wine and thanks for opening it, Nita!

Drink something good this weekend, people...

JCB the 4th

Friday, March 13, 2009

Pha-Pha-Phooey! The Problem with Wine Ratings...

Shout out to Howard, one of my heroes...

Ah, wine ratings, they make the whole wine world go round. Or do they?

There is no denying the power and influence of the wine press on the drinking habits of the populus. The Honorable Chris Cree tells us that there was once a time when wine merchants tasted and bought what they liked, and didn't have to purchase a palate of shlock to get a case of something highly regarded. Must have been before I was born. I recall a distributor telling me that unfortunately, in order to have the "privilige" of purchasing some fairly well regarded Burgundies, I would need to order 10 cases of a $100 per bottle California Cabernet that is quite honestly, pedestrian at best. I wonder if that hard working Burgundian farmer knows that is the way the game is played in NJ?

But back to the numbers. No doubt that if one lived in a non-cosmopolitan area where pickins are slim, a guide to what is good in wine can be helpful. I also can appreciate Robert Parker's palate. While very different from my own, his is consistently accurate in the sense that the wines he loves have a common thread and if you like the style, he's an excellent barometer. My problem lies with wine merchants who are either inexperienced, under-educated or just flat out too damn lazy to get out there and decide for themselves. When did wine shops just decide to hang a WS 94 on the shelf and sell based solely on that, having never tasted the wine at all? When and in what other business can you know nothing at all about the product you sell? How about that same wine that got 94 points in the previous example the following year gets 89? Let's see how easy it is to sell it now! Unless we're talking about Bordeaux en primeur, the price ain't going down. Why would the customer buy it for the same price or more when it's obviously an inferior product to the previous vintage? Or maybe it's not inferior but just different. Another rant on that subject at a later date...

Folks, wine is not a sport. It never has been and it never should be. We just don't keep score. Can you imagine an art conversation like, "Well, Sherman, the Mona Lisa is clearly a 99 pointer while Whistler's Mother is merely just a 93!" Crazy, right? Wine is truly an agricultural product that is an art form with no equal on earth. It is a beverage that rightfully so, is the compliment to a meal that offers the person enjoying it to fine tune and elevate the food and the wine through the symbiotic pairing. Wine can lift your spirits and it can transcend your mood. My favorite nights to open a great bottle are never holidays, birthdays or special occasions. I much prefer to decide to prepare something simple but flavorful on a Tuesday, open one singular great bottle, and let that and the food be the "Starlet Johanssen" of the evening. Sexy, right?

Please leave the point scoring to LeBron and leave the artistry to the artisans. Thanks.

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Gettin' High on Your Own Supply...

No, I ain't talkin' about a Cheech & Chong moment. Quite honestly, that practice has never done a thing for me. Like my man Slick Willie Clinton, I only did it once and I didn't inhale. And yes, it was because of a girl when I was a youngin'. Sadly, like Slick Willie, "Ah did not have sexual relations with that woman!" The best laid plans...

What this is about is "What I'm drinking Lately", a frequent topic of discussion on my favorite wine chat board, started many years ago by a good friend of mine. Essentially, folks list all the great, awful and so-so wines they have tasted of late. Many like to rate them with scores (my harsh views on that topic upcoming) but most list what they drank and if it was ready or not. I drink many wines that we sell at 56 Degree Wine and you can always tell my favorite wines, by what I list at VinoCellar. Actually, the wines that I choose to cellar myself in my modest (by-wineguy-terms) 300 bottle collection are most often my absolute favorites from tastings. A recent raid of my wine fridge the last few weeks yielded these great results...

2007 Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett

2005 Jean Garaudet Monthelie

2006 Joseph Voillot Volnay Champans 1er cru

Each one was fantastic!

I try to do my best to squirrel away a few bottles of stuff here and there when my budget will allow it. But it is hard to watch all these great bottles of wine come into your "house" and then watch them go to other happy homes. A good wine buddy of mine once remarked, "You're so lucky! You get to touch all bottles that come in the store." But the first rule is "Don't get high on your own supply". Or else you will be broke with a kickin' collection of wine.

I can think of worse things.

JCB the 4th