Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Trainwrecks, Shangri-La and Big Baby Jesus...

Like Weezer's "Trainwrecks" notes, I have severely neglected this blog. I'll make a pre-New Years resolution to be more prolific. Don't worry, I still love you...

The Italy Deathride commenced in August leading up to Labor Day and was exactly what it sounds like. My man, Enrico Battisti knows how to show you the Italian countryside...the ENTIRE Italian countryside in just 5 days. We whizzed around from Rome to Lazio to Marche (complete with 1am tour of the winery) to Tuscany to Liguria to Piedmont. It was an eye-opening experience with one particular spot truly grabbing my heart.

While I loved Montalcino and will always consider Piedmont my heart, I was absolutely smitten with Liguria and a trip to Poggio dei Gorlieri. Ok, so a three-hour stop for a little sun on the beach in Varigotti certainly helped recharge the weary batteries. But then we climb this amazing hill to find the 30 year old vines of Vermentino, Pigato and Ormeasco (clone of Dolcetto) carefully tended by Davide Merano. This place is like Shangri-La, a spit-shined clean small operation with an agritourismo (lovely Italian B-n-B attached to the winery) that overlooks the Ligurian Sea in the most majestic of fashions. I had such warm feelings being there that I am determined to visit again this summer on my own. Wanna join me?

Davide makes gorgeous Vermentino and a very fun, funky Ormeasco, but Pigato rules the roost here. The Poggio dei Gorlieri Cyncus is like drinking great 1er cru Chablis, all briny and mineral with citrus fruit cocktail, orange peel and sea salt. He made us Paella to enjoy with it, not because it is traditional in Liguria (although the loads of prawns in it are) but because it just works to perfection. This is magnificent wine (Tre Bicchieri winner if that stuff gets your juices flowing) and solid Cellar Defender stuff that just makes any seafood dish snap to life.

Finally, I just re-discovered ODB. Man, I miss this mad genius and can't seem to shake him out of my Ipod. Some think he was crazy, I just think he was tortured and extremely calculating. Gone too soon...give the album, "N****, Please", a listen if you want to wrap your mind around the rantings of a nutcase. It's fascinating and booty shaking stuff!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and All That,

JCB the 4th

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yo! Bum Rush the Show!

A routine Friday night and asked to deliver wine to a client after a long and busy day in the shop. Nothing really out of the ordinary here. Grab the 3 cases and jump into my car. The client (let's call him Jack X) lives about ten minutes from my apartment so its really no inconvenience at all...except for the fact that I was dog tired having run up and down the steps at 56 probably 56 times at minimum. 7pm shadow in full effect and adorned in a thermal shirt, jeans, black polar fleece and black skull cap, I certainly looked more 50 Cent than wine director. Pull in the driveway and grab one of the boxes from my trunk and spot a man having a cigarette in the back yard. As I approach, he gives me a look like I was carrying a gat as opposed to two magnums of Elio Grasso Barolo Runcot. I ask, "Is Jack here?" He motions to the sliding glass doors where I see six or seven men laughing in the kitchen. I enter and Jack X yells out, "Joe! Fantastic! You have to stay!" Now, I know two of the gentlemen there and the others both give me the same look as the one outside. File this under, "When you dress like a hood rat, don't be surprised when folks in beautiful homes give you odd stares when you waltz into their party"...

I tell J-X, "No, really, I have to go," knowing that I'm neither daisy fresh nor really in the mood to be charming or even social. He insists, "No, you have to stay! I had a cancellation and we're blind tasting a ton of wines!" Once again, I tell him that I really can't. "Nonsense! Here!" He whips out two Champagne flutes with the quickness of a gazelle. "In your left hand is 93 Dom Perignon and in your right hand is 96 Dom. Just a warm up and everything else served will be blind. We've got 23 wines open! We need help drinking all this!"

1993 and 1996 Dom? Really? Ok, I'm staying for a while.

I run off to the bathroom and try to clean up a bit. I meet everyone there. A lovely bunch of wine fiends who have a local blind tasting group. Each month or so, a different gentlman hosts and provides the wine and food. J-X did it to the max! We tasted the following blind flights with J-X's titles...

First Flight - Red Burgundy - Hard to Find Vintage Variations
1955 Charles Vienot Richebourg Grand Cru (no misprint, 1955!)
1995 Haegelen-Jayer Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru
2005 Armand Rousseau Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques 1er cru

Second Flight - Chateauneuf du Papes - The Single Varietal King
2000 Chateau Rayas
2006 Chateau Rayas

Third Flight - Chateauneuf du Papes - The King of Blended Chateauneuf du Papes
1985 Beaucastel
1989 Beaucastel
1994 Beaucastel

Dinner Break - Special Guest Tony Grande, Executive Chef and Owner of Il Capriccio
Cooking Demonstration - Taglierini with White Truffle followed by Pan Seared Lamb Chops with Dr. John's Rosemary. Paired with 2001 Cappellano Barolo Otin Fiorin from MAGNUM.

As for the blind tasting, I think I fared well. I guessed the first flight as Burgundy correctly, although the Rousseau had me thinking Oregon Pinot due to its youth and twiggy personality. The second flight I thought was Chateauneuf UNTIL Tony X said to me, "Joe, you've been to this place! You know these wines!" Having never been to the Rhone ever (don't know why he thought I had) I adjusted my guess to Burgundy, the only appellation I have visited. Stick with your instincts is the lesson here. The third was a "banker" as Chris Cree would say...clearly aged Chateauneuf and probably my favority flight, as I am a huge Beaucastel fan. At this point, satiated and saturated with great wines and glorious food, I profusely thanked everyone and took my leave. They on the other hand had other plans, as they were just hitting third gear. I missed a flight of Chilean Bordeaux Blends, aged California Cult Cabernets, dessert of Strawberries Sabayon and finally 1995 Chateau d'Yquem and 1959 Chateau Climens. Wow!

JCB the 4th

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Return of the Wine Gangster...

Thought I was gone for good, didn't cha?

No folks, I'm making a return to Le Monstre, motivated to shake up the wine world with passion, emotion, braggadocio and posturing. But with a smile on my face to let you know that I love you.
So much wine over the past three months since last we ran across one another...so much so that I couldn't begin to dig through my Crackberry and give you the laundry list. I made a five day super quick excursion to Italy, on which I will report about more in my next post. The latest wine that is stuck in my head is a dazzlingly fascinating 2008 Knoll Loibner Riesling Federspiel that was cracked open yesterday. I can't stop thinking about how it roared out of the glass and damn near pistol whipped me with tropical fruit, minerals and spice until I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry for my mommy. It was intense like Ice Cube was in Boyz in the Hood. But like the character he played, Doughboy, this wine has heart and soul. We get very little. You heard it hear first. I'm gettin' mine now. Enough said...

If I never hear the term "vintage of the century" again, I believe I will have a better, more rewarding and fuller life. Why would such a perturbing little term allow me to blossom as a human being? Because every time I hear it, I want to physically throw up. I'm not kidding. I want to run to the bathroom and vomit until nothing is left as it makes me nauseous. The idea that a great, all-time classic vintage can come once every three years for marketing purposes makes the blood boil, my hairs stand up on the back of my neck (I know--none left on my head--very funny) and most likely makes my cholesterol level rocket. I know I shouldn't let it bother me but honestly there is too much emphasis on wanting ONLY the best vintages and WAAAAYYY too many instances where the supposed "throw away" vintage makes you weep with its loveliness. That is why we taste...that is why we enjoy the wine for what it is...that is why we don't bother with numbers but rather with art form.
JCB the 4th

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Look Into the 56 Future to Find Whites

As I peer into my crystal ball...I see dead people!

Sorry, wrong movie--this is the crystal ball of 56 Degree Wine, so now I present a preview of next weeks' offerings; the summer's hottest selections of white wines from the hottest (coldest) shop in the entire world...

St. Aubin from Didier Larue - If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've got a serious Jones for Didier Larue's wines. In particular, his 2008's are clearly the best St. Aubin wines I've ever tasted. I thought so when I first got a glimpse of them in barrel during my 2009 visit to the winery and the extra year plus has only solidified my notions. The two jewels in his considerable crown must be En Remilly and Murgers des Dents de Chiens. These wines encompass everything I love about Burgundy. They have the definition of Angelina Jolie's silhouette coupled with the buxom layers of voluptuousness that make it sex in a glass. But this is no tart; these wines are all class, with a sense of the regal and an elegance that belies bombast. In short, I adore them...

Huet - While I know the name Huet is synonymous with greatness, saying that you love their Vouvray is not exactly breaking new ground. They have been the greatest of Loire estates for a very, very long time. But a recently shared bottle of their 2008 Vouvray Sec Clos du Bourg left me shaking my head. I could hardly contain myself with the burgeoning pattering in my chest that grew to a raucous thump. I fell in love with Chenin all over again, and I know that there is not another bone-dry expression of the grape that is better than this. And the best part is that it will set you back just $33 per bottle. Amazing that you can get the greatest example for such a small tariff, but indeed it is true.

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Puligny Montrachet at the Expense of Civilization

I'm back, mutha's!

And I've been drinking only the good stuff. I'll get more creative with my next post as I have some seriously wacko stuff running around my head that needs to get out lest I have a brain infarction. In the meantime, check out these tasty morsels, some of which can be had at your friendly neighborhood 56 Degree Wine...

2009 Ameztoi Txacoli de Getaria - super-limey, taut and mineral white made from partially red grapes from the back water Basque country in Spain. Poured from high with a special apparatus to froth it up in a tumbler, this is about as niche-y as it gets and MY summer white of choice this year and forever more...unless some decides to start selling Puligny Montrachet for $22...which would mean the end of the world is near...and I'd be drinking my sorrows away at our destruction...it's not worth it...I'll stick with Txacoli.

1997 Chateau d'Yquem from 375ml
2001 Giacosa Barbaresco Falletto White Label
2009 Txomin Etxaniz Txacoli de Getaria
1990 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Napa Valley
NV Jacques Selosse Champagne Blanc de Blanc Substance
2000 Jean Boillot Puligny Montrachet Les Perrieres 1er cru
2006 Bernard Morey Chassagne Montrachet Les Embrazees 1er cru
2001 Marc Colin Chassagne Montrachet Les Caillerets 1er cru
2005 Fichet Meursault Les Gruyaches
2005 Kistler Chardonnay Stone Flat Parmalee Hill

--Yes, I'm well aware that there are two California wines (Montelena was monumental with a 3 inch Porterhouse) in that list drank not under duress or at gunpoint and no, I'm not changing teams...gotta spread the love a little...now gimme back my Chorey les Beaune!--

NV Laurent Dauphin Champagne Brut Tradition - Not sure if this is economic downturn, euro-sliding, pricing error or just dumb luck, but I can't for the life of me figure out how this label says its from Champagne but it's only $28 per bottle. A dry, but mouthfilling and lively bubbly that drinks like a wine that costs WAY more, this is value Champers that defies the odds. Oh, how I love GREAT and CHEAP!

JCB the 4th

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Its the Wines You Love to Hate...

Feel free to comment on your concurring/disagreement with my notion that these are the worst grapes in the world...and pictured is the soon to be member of this countdown, my grapevine bonsai that will one day produce a thimble of wine which will chart on this list.

5 - Cabernet Sauvignon - Before you start the chant to have me stoned in the village, I'll preface this by saying that this falls more under the category of overrated in my mind, rather than just god-awful. Left Bank Bordeaux certainly need not apply, as well as our California brethren that get it right and don't let their wines taste like some candy-coated exaggeration of the grape. But since Cabernet Sauvignon is seemingly grown in every nook-n-cranny, it has a target. I taste these wines on the regular and there are so many examples of greenish or flabby or overoaked versions of this grape that it often bears no resemblance whatsoever to the originator. I mean, we're talking about a LOT of wine here.

4 - Furmint - This grape is really awful and oh so appropriately named. It really does taste like fur and mint. Mmm, doesn't that sound delicious?

3 - Carmenere - I'm still at a loss to understand why these wines from Chile hold so much favor with the wine public. I'll admit that this is really more an indictment of Chilean wines in general than so much on this grape but they go hand in hand. Usually stalky and funky, these wines are grown on the wet side of the Andes...a fact that is hard to deny and equally difficult to recover from no matter how much oak you apply.

2 - Savagnin - This is the grape of Jura that makes that super-oxidative, trunk-o-funk wine that is almost brown and tastes like a hairball. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

1 - Pinotage - So firmly entrenched as the most awful grape in the world, that there is really nothing else to look at. For I would rather grab a glass and put one ounce each of a Jura, Carmenere, Furmint and Cabernet Sauvignon, stir it and drink it down rather than suffer the pain of Pinotage. Seriously, what knucklehead thought it would be a good idea to cross Pinot Noir (the greatest grape on earth, unquestionably) with Cinsault. Just the idea is preposterous! This filthy, vile grape is like drinking faint berry toned sod with pepper, bitters and farmers armpit after a hot day amongst the vines. It's clearly the worst grape in the world.

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's All About the Jackson's!

I'm back, people!

And I'm ready to spit all the wildness that has been building in my head. Through tragedy ALWAYS comes triumph. Don't forget it...there's serenity in the notion.

Speaking of notions, when did the wine landscape become so cavernous that this jewel of juicy joy from Saumur had been kept away from so many for so long. It is none other than the 2008 Lydie et Thierry Chancelle Saumur Blanc and it is here to ravage you.

Chenin Blanc is the grape that polarizes many but in the hands of an artisan with great vineyards, I defy you to not recognize and behold the wonder in the glass. I could go on and on for days about the bounty of citrus, stones, lemon/limes (call it li-mon), minerals, white corn and saltiness superior, but I won't... Oops! Well, I guess I just did! No, this won't set you back like Bienvenue Batard or even village Meursault. This cup-runneth-over-with-love white will cost you just an old wrinkled photo of Andrew Jackson, nothing more. I know...you're welcome...twas my pleasure as always...
Next on the hit list--the varietals I love to hate.
JCB the 4th

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Poetry, Gibberish or Maniac Musings...You Decide

Hella (exponentially)
Quaffs &
Styling (is)
Venom (to)
Yearning (for)

JCB the 4th

Monday, May 10, 2010

In Memorium

Joseph Clinton Bembry III
November 23rd 1941 - April 25th 2010
The Greatest Man I've Ever Known
Le Monstre returns full force tomorrow.
JCB the 4th

Monday, April 19, 2010

Let Me Talk Oeschle To You, Baby!

I'm going to over-generalize here, as I've been known to do a couple hundred times. Riesling is the least appreciated grape on Wine Planet Earth and I am at a loss to completely understand it. Well maybe not a total loss. Leave it to the Germans to make the classification system as complicated, verbose and consonant-laden as possible. It's almost as if there is a secret language to the wines that has no root system, an utter and complete vinous mystery that is purposely being perpetrated upon us and they're laughing. Those bastards are laughing at our ignorance. Hawk-ptoo! We're being spat at!

But it's not as cumbersome as you'd think and there is more to Riesling than Germany, residual sugar and the Oeschle scale. Let's stick with Germany for now, it's QbA wines--your garden variety basic Riesling from any region--are picked first, tend to have very little sweetness and are easy on the wallet. After that, if you see Kabinett on the label, its picked next, a touch sweeter. Then the Spatlese (my "sweet spot" for age-worthy killer wines that aren't super-expensive) and finally Auslese. As you go up the classifications, you tend to go up the sweet-o-meter, also know as the Oeschle scale or must weight measurer. And herein lies the issue. Somewhere along the line, the public got the ill-advised word that residual sugar in a wine is gross, repugnant, flat-out tacky and passe. "Who me? I only drink dry wines. Might as well drink White Zinfandel, you ignoramus, and while your at it, comb your mullet and enjoy that homemade sleeveless flannel shirt of yours, heathen!" And it actually is gross without that four letter word that I love so dear. You know...acid! Oh yeah, these wines have so much acid that sometimes I think there is a hippy in the bottle. It keeps the wines so fresh and so clean like Outkast and allows them to age gracefully like Raquel Welch. And let's not forget food. If you're going for Thai, Indian, Chinese, Ethiopian or just about any other lovely 3rd World cuisine, you better have a tall skinny bottle in tow. Oh, did I mention that most of these wines age forever too. Riesling is perfection, people!

But Germany is just the tip of the iceberg. World class Rieslings can be had from Austria and Alsace and a plethora a brilliant wines come from Australia, Italy, California, Oregon, Washington, New Zealand and South Africa. Even Tasmania, as evidenced by our outstanding Wine of the Month selection for April, the 2006 Moorilla Riesling. It's just off dry, has a touch of bottle age and is a shockingly wonderful example of the grape in its unabashed nakedness. Want to try this wine and many more covering the entire range of all Riesling can be? Just sign up for our 3rd Annual "Unbearable Lightness of Riesling" Festival Vol. 3 on Sunday April 25th at 252 Restaurant in Bedminster, NJ. It will be an outstanding day and it just might be the Riesling epiphany that you've spent your whole life searching for.
JCB the 4th

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Frothing at the Mouth - Subtle Wine Diversion of April 2010

It's readily apparent. Le Monstre has been ornery as all get out lately. But it ain't all my fault. Pressure mounts and manifests itself in sometimes obvious but often ridiculous ways...

- If I have been testy of late, my grandmother is the queen of cantankerous. I had the pleasure of Easter Sunday dinner with her just recently. While she doesn't get around as well as she used to (70 years of smoking and 50 years of knocking back Wild Turkey will do that to you) she still has the gift of gab and knows exactly how to cut someone to their core. In the same breath that she fawned over my son, she barked out orders to the "kitchen staff"--i.e. my mother and I, that the food was not ready at the exact time we anticipated and she was done waiting. Once the food came out, a similar refrain was handed down when the strawberry shortcake had not been assembled 5 minutes after dinner was consumed. At least she had the decency to complement the wine I brought, the 2001 Lopez de Heredia Rioja Reserva Vina Bosconia, although she only had a taste. I adore the stuff and its the perfect elixir for grumpy grandmoms on a holiday.

- As has been documented but I try to conceal, lest my wine cred be completely tarnished, I am a singer in a band. Mainly we play in clubs for the complete joy and a couple bucks but we have been known to do a few wedding gigs in our time. This past weekends escapades were epic, as the wedding coordinator at the gestapo-like run country club we performed at were mind-boggling. Making corny announcements like, "Welcome to the legendary Blank-blank Country Club" were annoying but when the coordinator gave me the wrong order of the wedding party, barked five contrary orders of what/when we should play within a span of 2 minutes and re-arranged the timing of the entire event to the point of agony made my blood boil. The final coup de grace that sent me over the top was that the band was not to use the bathroom in the lobby where the guests were. OH HELL NO! That was it! I'm dressed in a suit like anyone else here! What is this...Jim Crow laws? I told the guys in the band that I'm taking a leak in the lobby and that if anyone says a word to me that the gig is over. Try explaining to the bride and groom (who were lovely, by the way) that the band got kicked out for using the wrong potty.

- Jim Nantz was irritating as hell today while watching the Masters coverage. All praise due to champion Mill Pickleson, but if I hear Nantz bring up one more time Tiger Woods "swearing" on the golf course during the 3rd round, I'm gonna puke. After hitting a poor shot on the 6th hole, Mr. Woods said, "Tiger, you suck! Goddamn it!" Nantz obviously wants to subtly pile on the Worlds #1 for his indiscretions. It's not like he mooned the crowd or dropped an F-bomb! And what golfer in the world hasn't said something like that before? I know I have and I'm certainly not out there playing for a major championship. I'm just trying to keep Laurent Chapuis from making me buy him a burger.

Now here's some good news... A few wines I've had lately that have made me swoon!

2006 Robert Sinskey Merlot Los Carneros - Finishing off the last of the Strike wines, this offering from the organic master has softened and beautifully integrated as of late. Delish!

2007 Paul Pernot Puligny Montrachet - Well made, fragrant White Burgundy that's even better when not poured into a musty stem.

NV Parigot & Richard Cremant de Bourgogne Rose - This is really one of the best deals in the store for Rose Champagne-like character at a wallet friendly price. So easy to drink and extremely versatile...

Thanks for letting me vent.

JCB the 4th

Friday, April 2, 2010

Bubbles, Bosconia & Bordeaux for Bembry!

Recent excursions show that I'm drinking very, very well right now. Just look at this smile I've got while my son snaps a photo of me at Raymond's while wearing his new shades and waiting for breakfast last Sunday. He had it up on Facebook in seconds yet I still have a smile. It can only mean one thing. With the Strike behind me and now free to sample all of the wine worlds delights, these were the latest and greatest...

1998 Le Brun Servenay Champagne Brut Vielles Vignes Avize - Rich and round and filled to the hilt with apples on steroids, this is hedonistic, luscious bubbles that was downed at breakneck speed. I've been called a Champagne whore in the past and I consider it a compliment...

NV Gatinois Brut Ay from 375ml - further evidence of previous statement.

1999 Hubert Lignier Morey St. Denis La Riotte 1er cru

2001 Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Bosconia - If there is a better $35 Rioja than this that is equally suited for the classic and new school palate alike, I'll eat live carpenter ants! So bold and flavorful, one can hardly contain the reckless abandon that this wine gives off. But this wine is no floozy! It's contemplative, coaxing, complex and compelling. Truly divine!

2005 Chateau Les Hauts d'Aglan Cahors - Argentine Malbec lovers need apply, this ratchets up the volume with the blackest fruit you can muster in a small package. If you don't mind a little tannin (or you consume it the way you should with a steak) you are in for a ridiculous value for just $17.

2006 Moorilla Riesling Tasmania - That's right, Tasmania! You can't believe it? Neither can I, but I guarantee that if you close your eyes and take a whiff, you might think Prum first and Aussie last. Absolutely love the little petrol development on the aromatics, this is just off-dry and just dying to be consumed with your Easter ham.

Finally, last night I went to the Essex Wine Society's 1989 Bordeaux Tasting. Now you know that me and Bordeaux have this love/whatever type relationship but a well stored and well aged claret is truly a thing to behold. The wines, in order tasted (blind), with my favorites highlighted...

1989 Beychevelle St. Julien
1989 St. Pierre St. Julien
1989 Poujeaux Moulis en Medoc

1989 Meyney St. Estephe
1989 Montrose St. Estephe
1989 Le Gay Pomerol

1989 Pichon Lalande Paulliac - Best of the night. Amazing!
1989 Pichon Baron Paulliac
1989 Lynch Bages Paulliac

OK, it's time for some Vin Gris. Gimme, gimme!

JCB the 4th

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hypocrite to Hero - The Stream 3.25.10

I'm sorry.

I just couldn't keep up with the Merlot strike. I'm no Ghandi, no John Lennon. I really tried to hold off for the full 14 days. I love Merlot, really I do. But it began with a little Champagne. Doesn't it always? And then a little Puligny--and then finally Pinot Noir. So since my hypocrisy knows no bounds, I need to do something seriously big things to redeem myself. Here goes the stream...

-On April 8th, Sylvain Bzikot is gracing us with his considerable light as we delve into the heights of Puligny Montrachet at the Pluckemin Inn. It will be an unbelievable night of food and wine. Make sure you are there.

-Read an ad in the Star Ledger today as I was perusing the classifieds offering "Excellent Asian Bodywork Massage, very discreet". The address listed below was a residence on my street. I'm speechless...

-I did a mini-offering on the Marcato Cabernet Franc, as we've got the 2008 in-stock. It is the best $12.50 (per bottle, by the case) that you will spend all year guaranteed. I love, love, love it!

-Tip for the Day - You should consider decanting high quality young Champagne a la Selosse, Rodez Grandes Vintages or Le Brun Servenay. What you lose in bubble, you'll be paid back in spades in flavor. And don't use a flute. Go for a white wine glass to snort up all those great aromas.

-Stevie Wonder Dripping with Funk! Circa 1973, this is just a stone cold jam!

Is that better?

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm on Strike!

Like all enlightened leaders of the world who realize that violence is not the best way to resolve conflict, I will now take a page from the book of those who came before me. Ghandi did it. The Tibetan Parliament did it. Now I'm doing it.

I will not resort to violence to get you to realize the greatness of Merlot. I will now go on a strike of 14 days where I will drink nothing but Merlot. You know me...you know that I'm a slave to Burgundy, to the Rhone, to Piemonte, to the Nahe. But I will give it all up for you; for your benefit, for your enlightenment, and the richness of your wine soul.

Join me people! Rise up and make a statement that Merlot is not to be taken lightly, laughed at or poked fun of. It is a grape of nobility and complexity, on par with the greatest wines the world has ever seen. I loved the movie, Sideways, but its ripple effects are so deep and so broad that it rocked the American wine consumer to flat out reject one of the best grapes on earth. Who knew that Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church could wield such power? Sandra Oh (sexy!), perhaps, but those two guys? In the 80's, Merlot was the shizzle...so fashionable and sleek that you just had to be the one ordering a glass of Merlot while you rolled up the sleeves of your white blazer with a turquoise tank underneath. Now, if you order it, you get "sideways" looks and people wonder whether you slipped through a time/space continuum or you're just ignorant. You're neither folks, you're my friend!

This quest began because we profiled a wine, 2007 Chad Merlot Napa Valley, that is so delicious and so cheap, an outrageous value. Yet I sat at my computer and watched a few orders shuffle in. If this said Cabernet Sauvignon on the bottle, it would have sold through the roof! If I told you that it was actually a $40 bottle of wine for $15, would that matter? What if I just lied and told you it was Cabernet? But alas the ATF and my conscience won't allow me to do that, so I'll resort to this strike.

While Tim looks on in amazement as I purchase all the wines I will personally drink over the next 14 days, here is the list...

Spread my message far and wide! Join me! Viva la Merlot!

JCB the 4th

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Genius of Brooklyn Fare

I've decided to make some recollections of what I consider to be the greatest meal I've ever had. I know, a monstre-ously large statement to make and one that I can completely justify in my mind. I have certainly had more special meals (memorable romantic evenings) and I've certainly had more supremely complete experiences. I'll never forget the concert-like rhythmic movements of the staff at Le Meurice in Paris, the famed Michelin 3-star. It was so precise and the attention to detail elevated the already superb meal to legendary status in my head. But the food delivered on February 16th left me in complete awe.

Brooklyn Fare Kitchen is an amazing concept and is the genius of Chef Cesar Ramirez, a former exec-chef for David Bouley. It is called a "class" on their website but really it is the experience of being served the most precise and flavorful food by a master artisan chef live and up close. Having dined at Brooklyn Fare once before and loving the experience, I was eager to repeat it with my co-workers, so I made a reservation for the whole table back in November for February 16th. That's how tough a reservation it is, but believe me, persistence and patience here are well worth the reward you will receive.

Chris Cree did a great job of documenting the extent of culinary wizardry we experienced. Check it out here. Cesar does not allow photos any more and discourages note taking, which is a shame and also completely understandable. In the blogosphere in which we live, the last thing a chef as creative as Ramirez needs is to see digital pictures of his intellectual property out there for other chefs to steal. But it certainly robs food geeks like me of remembering (especially after the 6 magnums we downed, more on that in a bit) everything presented. And I want to remember. I want to file it away in my memory banks, so when I have a moment to daydream, I can recollect, reminisce and draw inspiration from it.

6 courses and 12--no typo--canapes to start. One after another of magnificence on a plate, I have never muttered the word "Wow" so often in one evening. The warm beet soup with Hudson Valley yogurt with a shave of citrus zest was so inviting and welcoming. The Bluefin Toro with a hint of mustard and crisped leeks was luscious. The Kumamoto oyster with grapefruit creme fraiche and oyster juice gelee was breathtaking. The King Crab --stolen photo at right, sue me--with caviar, vanilla and pineapple was explosive. Hell, I even ate Duck testicles (no bullshit) and loved it; fried into a crispy little "ball" that he conveniently didn't tell us what it was until everyone had already eaten it! And how could anyone forget the Cod creme with a mountain of shaved black truffle, so much so that Cesar let us know that the cost of the shaved truffle is more than what we paid for the meal. It is probably the simplest, yet most complex and thoroughly satisfying things that has ever caressed my palate.

The wines were all mags and all tasty...

NV Eric Rodez Champagne Brut "Cuvee des Crayeres" Ambonnay
NV De Meric Champagne Brut "Catherine de Medici" Ay
2001 Domaine Bzikot Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres 1er cru
1999 Bouchard Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru
2006 Robert Sinskey Pinot Blanc Carneros
1999 Thomas Levet Cote Rotie Chavaroche
1986 Raymond Lafon Sauternes

I urge you to check this place out for yourself, as alas, the times are a changin' at Brooklyn Fare. This summer, they plan to expand, increase the price which is currently $95 per person and add a liquor license which will end the BYO practice. I volunteered to run the wine program for Cesar in exchange for food. Still waiting to hear back...

JCB the 4th

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Stream of Inebriationess from March 5th...

Probably more appropriate as a series of tweets but I wanted to get some short thoughts out...

- What in the world is up with restaurant markups on wine? Seriously, as someone who knows exactly how much these joints pay for this stuff, it's grotesque. I don't want to hear about glass breakage, insurance costs, license aquistitions or any other nonsense. Next time I see Ramey Larkmead Cabernet for $198 on a wine list (we just sold it retail for $55), I'm standing up, slapping the maitre'd in the face with the winelist and walking the *%#& out!

- While I'm on restaurants, why such laziness with selection? Please, for the sake of your customers, do a better job at having something of interest to wine lovers who frequent your establishment. A self-proclaimed winebar I recently visited had just one Riesling by the glass...from Kendall Jackson. Just what I envision when I thirst for Riesling, don't you?

- I was at a tasting last night. I love how polarizing wine can be, and I use the word "love" in the truest sense. Two wines poured next to each other drew visceral reactions from the crowd, some preferring the first and others the second. I guess that is why they make chocolate AND vanilla. When I was asked which I preferred, I simply responded, "Depends on what's for dinner..."

- Because I'm selfish, can suppliers please stop having portfolio tastings on Mondays? It's my one weekday off and tough to get to. I'd like you to all shift your events to Tuesdays, please. Thanks so much.

- I still eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches like I'm a six year old. They actually go well with Tawny Port. Don't tell anyone I do this...

- 2007 Chateauneuf hype is the biggest perpetration committed against the wine public in quite a while. I've now plowed through enough of them to render an informed opinion that 2006 is better by a wide margin. Ask any truthful CdP producer and they'll tell you that 2006 is a better vintage. I have and haven't found one yet who prefers 2007. I'll keep searching.

- You should recognize the greatness of 2007 Domaine de la Pepiere Muscadet Granite de Clisson. It might be the greatest white wine ever made that goes for less than $25. I also think you'll live a better life once you get some. I know I have...

Le Monstre, OUT!

JCB the 4th

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Only The Best Will Do...

It's been a while since I've dropped the top picks, so it's time for some good ol' fashioned shuckin' for sheckles, or as some may say, showing off the goods. This is the weeks' best tasted and approved selections at 56...

2008 Willowbrook Pinot Noir Sonoma County - I am continually amazed at just how many unheard of outfits there are in California these days making really good wine at very fair tariffs. Add this the list as it flavorful, lovely wine eschewing the steroid-size Pinot trend. Especially with Pinot, it's not about who's is bigger, but more about delivering pleasure. This wine has it down to perfection.

2008 Domaine du Bagnol Cassis Blanc (can't get the damn link workin', but call us!) - In a shameless attempt to corner the Bagnol Rose market, I happily agreed to hoard as much of this beautiful white wine as we could get our grubbies on. While the Rose is months away, this is a little ray of sunshine in a month where we could certainly use it. Fragrant melons, white peaches and honeydew...it's like a glass of hand-squeezed fruit goodness with laser acids. In short, a white of the highest order with the most reasonable of prices.

NV DeMeric Champagne Brut "Catherine de Medici" Cuvee Prestige Ay Grand Cru MAGNUM - Wanna be a baller, shotcaller, brawler? Of course you do, and nothing gives you pimp status like killer bubbles in a big sexy bottle. This amazing wine from DeMeric is a blend that is rarely made and is comprised of only the best vintages, in this case 1995 and 1996. So fine and pedigreed, this elegant wine sneaks up on you with bits of apple pie, caramel, pear, brioche and creme brulee. Seriously, if you care at all about Champagne, you have to have one of these; they are extremely limited as only 60 bottles made it in the US.

As an aside to the last wine, I was fortunate enough to enjoy the aforementioned magnum of Champagne on Tuesday night at Brooklyn Fare Kitchen , featuring the genius of Chef Cesar Ramirez. It's a very difficult reservation but if you have the opportunity (and schedule flexibility) you will be treated to something truly magical. I will talk more about this place in a subsequent post, but in short, it was the greatest meal I have ever had, period. No doubt and nothing even comes close.


JCB the 4th

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Off Day

While I've always waxed on and on about the blazing gut-busting pace of these trips, there usually is an "off" day of sorts. It is typically Sunday, as it is the one day where most producers could care less that you are available and care more about rest and family time. With the amount of work these artisans have to perform over the course of the year, you can't blame them.

But this Sunday marked a visit to Pouilly-Fuisse. We made the 90 minute drive to the Macon and, amazingly, I forgot to bring my Blackberry, which to me is akin to forgetting to breathe. That rarity aside, honestly, I didn't love the wines...and it's not because I had just been filled to the gills with Puligny Montrachet for the previous four days. To me, they were slightly heavy handed, lacking a bit of precision and personality. And you might have noticed by now that I haven't mentioned the producer. He's young and I think the wines have potential, so I'll choose to not rain on them and hope to try again in the future.

Upon exiting the Macon, we took the long route back to Puligny and toured a few sites along the way driving through St. Aubin, St. Romain (the worst terroir in ALL of Burgundy, seriously someone should just bulldoze it!) and Aloxe Corton finally ending up in Meursault. A trek to the Caveau de Chassagne yielded a couple nice finds that were later to be consumed on the trip. Finally, we ended up at the Caveau de Puligny, with proprietor Julien Wallerand opening some astounding wines, served blind of course, for us...

2007 Henri Boillot Pulingy Montrachet Clos de la Mouchere 1er cru
1999 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles 1er cru
2001 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru

Now that is what I call an aperitif!

Dinner at Hotel Le Montrachet with Rose & Pascal Maillard, Didier Larue and Julien Wallerand yielded the following beauties, all served blind...

NV Meilly Champagne Brut Magnum
2006 Domaine Larue Puligny Montrachet Le Trezin
2007 Marc Colin Chassagne Montrachet Le Caillerets 1er cru Magnum
2001 Domaine Leflaive Batard Montrachet Grand Cru
1992 Domaine Larue Blagny Rouge Sous le Puits 1er cru
2007 Domaine Maillard Pommard
1990 Domaine de Montille Volnay Taillepieds
1999 Meo Camuzet Vosne Romanee Les Chaumes

Lots of great discussion ensued about the wines...Was the bubbly a touch oxidized? Is this Vosne Romanee? Was the Montille in good (my camp) or great shape? But without question, the singular greatest memory of the nights wines will be the 1992 Blagny, an unheralded vintage and an unheralded appellation, this wine was one that would rock you to your core, leaving you feeling that you don't know as much as you thought about the potential of greatness of wine. The wine was lyrical, profound and devastating. Sigh...

Quite the Off Day.

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Midas Touch

I'm fed up...

Corks are becoming more and more of a problem from my perspective. It seems like every week I open a couple bottles that are infected with TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), a filthy little wine killer that renders the wines bereft of fruit, boxy, skunky and frickin' gross. It only takes a few parts per million of the bacteria to be present in a wine to be assessed by super-tasters (of which I'm not one) and just a bit more than that to be noticed by everyone. To those of you who think you've never experienced a corked bottle of wine, I can almost guarantee that you have. Have you ever bought a case of your favorite wine and loved the first bottle, second bottle, third bottle and then the fourth bottle just doesn't taste right? Bingo, you just had one!

It has gotten to the point that Tim (our store manager) has proclaimed me the Cork Monster, because of my proclivity for having a "Midas touch", just laying my hands upon a bottle and having it end up corked. Of course, this is not true, but I do seem to open up more of them than I should. Unlucky, I suppose. Apparently, estimates are that about 5-8% of all wines are infected. Seems a shade low to me...

So what can we do about it? Nothing really, but I am firmly in favor of bottling all wines meant for near-term consumption in either Stelvin closure (screwcaps) or my absolute favorite, the glass stopper. The glass stopper is super-sexy, air-tight, can be replaced with ease and doesn't have the negative "cheapo" connotation that Stelvins have. And don't get me started on fake corks, as they are just awful. Seriously, cork isn't going anywhere anytime soon. And honestly, I can't imagine opening up a classic, aged iconic wine and simply turning my wrist and hearing a crack. But if one is going to drink it now, why the hell not? Here are a few of my favorite extremely high quality wines that are under Stelvin or glass stopper...

2008 Robert Sinskey Abraxas White Blend - Rob Sinskey is my hero and this crispy white is the first American wine I've seen under glass stopper. Gotta love a guy who rips out all his Chardonnay (which he sold successfully) to plant Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris...and make an even better wine to boot!
2007 Alzinger Gruner Veltliner Muhlpoint Federspiel - The precision of Alzinger wines become clearly evident when the freshness is captured under Stelvin, as this beautiful 2007 is. It's so crispy you can almost crunch it in your mouth. A real beauty!

2006 Terra Burdigala Manoir du Gravoux Cotes de Castillon - Although the New World is leading the charge for alternative closures, the savvy Frenchman, Francois Thienpont realizes that this juicy Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend is made to drink young. So why not use the screwcap and avoid the issues with cork.

JCB the 4th

Friday, February 5, 2010

Speaking the Language of Gevrey

The following morning, it was time to take our leave of the Cotes de Beaune and head north. For a meeting with the wines of the great Phillipe Roty of Domaine Joseph Roty was to be our breakfast. Wouldn't you love to have Gevrey Chambertin as a mouthwash?

Pulling up to the gates, I could actually feel myself getting anxious, like when you're a kid about to ask a girl to dance for the first time. Lots of nerves firing, but in the best, most vital and life-affirming way. Phillipe greeted us with a wide smile and in an attempt to sound more French than American, I gave my best "Bon jour, Phillipe!" Of course, my obligatory next question is always, "Parlez-vous Anglais?" to which Phillipe gave a little smirk and replied no. Last year, Phillipe's brother, Pierre-Jean (pictured at the gates with yours truly), ran me through the wines with a good smattering of English and I had no problem piecing together every bit of info. Thankfully, the MW's French was far more acute than mine on this day as he did a great job of acting as a go-between.

I think I can speak for Chris here (mainly because we discussed it ad nauseum) in saying that we both are desperately in love with these wines. They are the absolute, undeniable truth to the question that is Gevrey Chambertin. As a set, it is the most successful collection of reds that I've tasted from the 2007 vintage and was absolutely my favorite stop on the trip. It rocked me when I put these wines into the context of vintage. The purity is astounding...

We shuffled into a garage filled with barrels and was lead through a sliding door to a tiny room filled cases of Roty on broken palates. Phillipe but a bucket on the floor and began opening 1/2 bottles of the following wines...

2007 Bourgogne Blanc
2007 Marsannay Blanc
2007 Marsannay Rose
2007 Bourgogne Rouge Cuvee de Pressonier
2007 Marsannay
2007 Phillipe Roty Marsannay Quartier
2007 Phillipe Roty Marsannay Champs St. Etienne
2007 Marsannay Ouzelois
2007 Phillipe Roty Cotes de Nuits Villages
2007 Gevrey Chambertin
2007 Gevrey Chambertin Champs Chenys
2007 Phillipe Roty Gevrey Chambertin Champs Chenys Vielles Vignes
2007 Gevrey Chambertin Les Fontenys 1er cru

At this point, I was nearly dizzy with the greatness that I was experiencing, but after slightly clearing my head, I noticed Phillipe was about to pour for us his magnificent Grand Cru's, Mazi-Chambertin and the crown jewel, Charmes Chambertin Tres Vielles Vignes. I asked Phillipe if it was possible to try the Gevrey Chambertin La Brunelle (its a favorite of our store manager, Tim) first before proceeding. Phillipe thought for a moment, gave a quick "Oui" and left the room. He soon returned and asked if we would also like to taste the Grand Cru Griottes Chambertin. Chris and I looked at each other, as if rehearsed, and said in concert, "NAH!" After the laughter subsided, we delved into...

2007 Gevrey Chambertin La Brunelle
2007 Gevrey Chambertin Clos Prieur
2007 Mazi-Chambertin Grand Cru
2007 Griottes-Chambertin Grand Cru
2007 Charmes Chambertin Tres Vielles Vignes Grand Cru

We are offering our selections (an extremely difficult task as the wines across the board were that superb) for these wines on Monday. Savvy 56 clients are advised to acquire these en masse. They are truly special, ageworthy and absolutely breathtaking wines of terroir, power, finesse, sex appeal and unadulterated beauty. What more could one ask for?

JCB the 4th

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Larue Like Me

The very next day was a watershed day for it was my first visit to a cooperage, thanks to the brilliant forethought of Didier Larue, who was to be our next wine encounter. Despite our language barrier, I identify with Didier on multiple levels. Didier is a short man, as am I. He's thoughtful and generous, as I hope to be. He is improving every year, which is something I strive to do. We're both balding (I'd have a George Jefferson if I let it go) and we have extreme passion for the grape. See...kindred spirits.

Our visit to barrel-maker-to-the-stars, Seguin Moreau, was truly enlightening. Located in Chaigny, a stones throw from Chassagne Montrachet, this outfit makes approximately 90,000 high quality barrels every year. The process of taking wood staves and turning them into weapons of winemaking destruction is really a pleasure to view. From the shaping to the toasting to the laser engraving, watching these barrels come to life gave me a deeper connection to the wines from which they come. Very, very cool...

After the tour, we jetted over to St. Aubin to tastes the wares of Domaine Larue. I documented as much last year after tasting the 2008's from barrel, but they are the finest collection I've tasted from Larue. As always, the St. Aubin en Remilly and St. Aubin Murgers Dents des Chien are the standouts. These are 1er cru wines with supreme clarity and could certainly fool even the most experienced taster into thinking they were drinking big time Puligny. The en Remilly cuts like a knife across the palate with white fruits, thyme, crystallized ginger and cleansing, refreshing acidity. If the en Remilly is a razor's edge, then the Dents des Chien is ninjas steel. It starts off very linear and just fans out saturating the palate with citrus, clover, pain grille and baking spice. Broader, weightier, voluptuous and alluring, it is about as good as St. Aubin gets. In addition, Didier crafted two fantastic Puligny's, the Sous le Puits and the La Garenne. What an impressive showing for Didier's wines. Look for them in the Spring, as they are knockout wines.

After tasting the wines, we had a magnificent lunch in Pommard at Aupres de Cloches. Not sure if this place has a Michelin star or not, but the 6-course tasting menu we experienced was expertly prepared and melded to perfection with the wines we drank. Yeah, we drank at lunch...enough with the spitting!

2006 Domaine Larue St. Aubin Murgers Dents de Chien - MAGNUM
2002 Domaine Larue St. Aubin Murgers Dents de Chien
2003 Domaine Larue St. Aubin Sentier du Clou Rouge
1999 Domaine Ganoux Pommard Grands Epenots

I was fat and happy!

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Women & The Rockstar

Directly following our visit at Domaine Leflaive, we walked a few blocks to taste with Francois Carillon of Domaine Louis Carillon. Well, at least that's the name of it at present. 2010 marks a split between Francois and his brother, Jacques and each will have holdings and wines bearing their own name. Apparently, from the hap-hazard bits I could decipher, it has something to do with a woman. Shocking!

The wines of Carillon are a direct opposite of those from Domaine Leflaive. They were richer, which to me manifested itself gorgeously with the Puligny village and not so gorgeously with regard to the various 1er cru wines. They felt a bit heavy-handed in 2008 just slightly lacking cut, but there is certainly a wealth of fruit. That being said, the 2008 Carillon Bienvenue Batard Montrachet, tasted out of a tiny stainless steel tank, was the kind of stuff dreams are made of. They only make 600, er 599 1/2 bottles of this massively endowed Grand Cru that tips the scales of weight, while still seeming weightless. Expansive, wide and exuberant mango, nectarine, brioche, stones, white flowers and ripping acid cleanliness culminate with great force. An outstanding wine that only need a decade of rest to display its greatness.

As an aside, this domaine has also been bold enough to do extensive tasting of their older wines and have proclaimed that all of their wines from the mid-90's completely suck due to premature oxidation problems. They blame bad corks as the culprit and also say that the same wines out of magnum have no issues and are superb. Let's get a big bottle and test the theory, eh?

Now that two monumental visits are in the books, its time for lunch. We saunter over to Hotel Montrachet for a little refreshments, food and beverages of the typicity of the place. Meal...superb...wines...damn fine. After playing our usual blind tasting reindeer games, we finish up with a sublime cup of coffee, a perfect segue to the rendez-vous with the Vinifrance rockstar of the portfolio, Sylvain Bzikot.

I've said it before. Sylvain Bzikot would be a complete wine idol of every Burg-geek in the world if you sat them down to blind taste his wares against the greats. He's that good. Aside from that, he has an aura as large and brilliant as the sun. Despite the fact that there is a distinct linguistic disconnect when we see each other (he speaks little to no English and I know just enough French to be wrong every time I attempt to converse) we are never at a loss of understanding. Sylvan unveiled an absolutely stunning set of 2008's for us to taste after sampling his 2009's from barrel. These wines are feverish and nervy, luscious and lively, lingering and long...in a singluar word, captivating. You really can't take your mind off them for long when engaged with them as all thoughts, even ones outside of wine, take you back to the beauty in the glass. Haunting beauty...

Every wine presented was spot on. But if pressed for two to look for in the near future, seek out his 2008 Puligny Montrachet La Rouselle and his 2007 Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres 1er cru, both arriving in a couple months. The La Rouselle marks a victorious three year battle importer/svengali, Olivier Daubresse, has had with Sylvain to bottle this special lieu-dit on its own. Formerly, blended into the village-level wine, the La Rouselle is dynamic, dreamy Puligny that could compete with any 1er cru. Crystalline mineral touches, medium bodied melon tones meld with hints of honeydew and show impeccable balance. It's amazing wine! All I have to say about Sylvain's Folatieres 1er cru is that I tasted the exact same vintage and site from Domaine Leflaive precisely 4 hours before so it was fresh in my mind. Sylvain made the better wine. Period.

JCB the 4th

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wine Diversion 2010 - The 6 Greatest Albums of All-Time

For your viewing pleasure (and because I know you can't live without this knowledge) I present to you the 6 Greatest Albums of All-Time. Well, at least these are my faves...

6 - Weezer - The Red Album - Ok, so before you think this list has no credibility, give this thing a listen. These pop songs with distorted guitars are so finely crafted, dripping with oxymorons, sarcasm and just life-affirming truth. It begins with a 2 chord stomp, "Troublemaker", that toyfully plays with rockgod/B-boy swagger. "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived" is a Bohemian Rhapsody inspired touch of genius. "Heart Songs" hits home deep to me as an ode to adolescent musical inspiration and I did a lot of the nutty things in "Everybody Get Dangerous" as a kid. In my mind, Rivers Cuomo is one of my generations most under-appreciated songwriters.

5 - Jay-Z - The Blueprint - Since I've never been one to totally dismiss someone for being popular, any true fan of hip-hop can't deny that Jay-Z deserves a spot on the "Mt. Rushmore" of the art form. While he has crafted many bumpin' singles over the years, The Blueprint is his most complete work with lyrical flows that match the tremendous musical production. From the brilliant use of a Doors sample in "The Takeover" to the swingin' Timbaland-produced "Hola Hovito" to the Bobby Blues Bland-groove of "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)" this is Jigga at not only his most lethal, but also perhaps his most poignant. Lot's of dudes can rap, but no one has the verbal skills of Jay-Z.

4 - Fishbone - Truth & Soul - This album's production may sound dated to some now, but this is the most important record that I've ever heard. It was released at a time when I wanted desparately to be in a touring band and when I saw a black kid with a bald head, a few dreadlocks aloft play a live set at City Gardens for $5 with the energy and destructive capabilities of a SCUD missle, my mind was forever changed. Once I got home and bought the CD (yes, kids, that's what we did back then) I was destroyed. Seering ska-soaked, punk-n-soul with attitude and real heart, made me listen so much I wore the CD out. The greatest band I've ever seen live, period, at their creative apex.

3 - Public Enemy - It Take A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back - From Chuck D's barking baritone delivery to the nonsense of Flavor Flav's antics, this is Panther Power punk. The Bomb Squad (whatever happened to these guys?) created a ground-breaking style of beats by making the track so dense that it almost sounded like cacophony incarnate but every sample has its place and is perfectly situated. Chuck's voice is so crucial in songs like "Rebel Without a Pause" "Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos" and "Night of the Living Baseheads", it's like a call to arms. I'm ready, Chuck!

2 - Sam Cooke - Live at Harlem Square (1964) - No one, and I do mean no one, has ever sang a song like Sam does. When he first came on the scene, he was a crooner in a tight suit and so clean cut. But the REAL Sam Cooke is on full display in this live performance in front of an all-Black crowd in Miami. Sam takes 'em to church with soulful, raspy renditions of his poppy singles. Listening to this you can feel the sweat in the room, you can hear the urgency in his voice and the passion of the real man. Rod Stewart has probably listened to this as much as I have as his vocal styling throughout his career is a dead-red replication of this album. Sometimes, I wish I was born back then (except for the racism and stuff) just so I could have been groovin' in the back of the room. I still, after 9 million listens, get the chills every time "Bring It On Home" breaks in. Whoa!

And in the Number One Spot!

1 - Stevie Wonder - Songs In the Key Of Life - Nothing will ever displace this album...ever. Forget for a moment that it was the soundtrack to my childhood, always playing at my home on Saturday morning when my mother was cleaning the house and still on when my father got back from the golf course. Song after song after song of greatness from the most important singular artist in my lifetime. He paints a picture more vivid that anyone despite having never seen many of the things he describes. "Village Ghetto Land", "I Wish", "Sir Duke", "Isn't She Lovely", "Knocks Me Off My Feet", "Saturn", "Ebony Eyes"...my God, there really isn't a collection of music that I've ever come across that is so completely organic, honest and filled with the reality of the human experience. To me, the greatest work of art of all-time.

I promise to get back to the Burgundy trip, pronto.

JCB the 4th

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Promise (slightly) Unfulfilled...

Well, I know that I told you I would be sending daily updates from the vineyards of the Cote d'Or, but alas, I never brought my computer. Why? I always have a tough time at our hotel (Le Montrachet) getting and maintaining an internet connection, so instead of lugging my burly laptop to Burgundy, I decided at the last minute to just focus on the sights, sounds and smells (oh yes, there are many) of Bourgogne and to detail as much as possible. Some of my travel companions look at me with a perplexed brow when I'm banging away on my Blackberry, but it really is an efficient tool to record every tasting, wine and dish that we enjoy. As for Tweeting, stupid T-Mobile wanted to charge me a king's ransom to tweet out the wines from France. Le Batards!

So if you read our 56 newsletter, you know that Lamy Pillot was an impressive visit that lasted from mid-afternoon to well into the evening culminating in a delcious dinner in Beaune at Le P'tite Paradis. Chris did a great job of describing the whole scene on his blog, Down to Earth Wine. The following morning, we were to see one of the most storied white wine estates of the world, the irrepressible, Domaine Leflaive...

We had a glorious tasting at Domaine Leflaive and Antoine Lepetit couldn't have been more gracious. He answered all of our questions about the processes with accuracy and thought, allowed us to sample their dynamic 2008's from tank as the are close to being bottled and even explained what "Sous le Dos d'Ane" means, their fantastic singular Meursault. "Donkey's back" is the answer as neither Chris nor I could find a good translation for the life of us before now. One surprising tidbit is that many 2008's were extremely slow to complete malo-lactic fermentation. Thus, we were unable to taste the Puligny Montrachet AC or the Puligny Montrachet Les Folatieres 1er cru. We did go Bourgogne Blanc to Grand Cru and it was really amazing!

Wines Tasted:

2008 Bourgogne Blanc
2008 Meursault Sous le Dos d'Ane 1er cru
2008 Puligny Montrachet Clavoillons 1er cru
2008 Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles 1er cru
2008 Batard Montrachet Grand Cru
2008 Chevalier Montrachet Grand Cru

2007 Puligny Montrachet AC
2007 Puligny Montrachet Les Folatiers 1er cru
2007 Bienvenue Batard Montrachet Grand Cru

Since the 2007's will be coming to our market very soon, it was great to get a chance to taste them from bottle. All three were stunning wines in their respective category, representing the pinnacle of the Chardonnay grape. The Puligny village is not to be missed as it is wide open and classic Puligny with tropical fruits, orange peel, nuts and mocha hints. The Folatiers is always a lush and forward drinking site and the 07 is gorgeous with expansive, voluminous citrus fruit, stones, chalk, white fruits and vanilla bean. Finally, the Bienvenue is like a statuesque beauty, all regal and dressed to the nines. It jumps from the glass with melons, spice, tangerine, smoke and white corn with real class and superior length. Truly a jaw dropping tasting and a true honor to be in the hallowed halls...

Next up...Carillon, Bzikot & crazy meals!

JCB the 4th

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Here We Here We Go!

Burgundy trip is a go, T-minus six days to liftoff. This year, the list of wineries confirmed to visit is as follows...

Domaine Bzikot, Puligny
Domaine Lamy-Pillot, Chassagne
Domaine Borgeot, Santenay
Domaine Larue, St. Aubin
Domaine Jean Michel Guillon, Gevrey
Domaine Maillard, Chorey
Domaine Albert Grivault, Meursault
Domaine Leflaive, Puligny
Domaine Joseph Roty, Gevrey

The plan at present is to document each day as best I can in the short spells of down time that we have. I also intend to bring you a little video as well (thanks Rich!) to paint the portait a touch more vividly.

To warm-up, last night I roasted various chicken parts, made a little rice pilaf and sauteed a bit of broccolini in olive oil and garlic and washed it down with the 2006 Domaine Leflaive Macon-Verze. To classify this as just Macon is akin to classifying Freddie Mercury as just a singer. It's so much greater than that (as is the late Mercury) and the only thing separating this from 1er cru is the dirt. All the tell-tale Domaine Leflaive creme brulee, citrus oil, creamy-yet-not-oaky-and-still-precise character is all there. Can't wait to see the whole operation...
JCB the 4th

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Guess Who's Back?!

I'm back, People!

The hiatus of Le Monstre was one part holiday hub-bub, as it is the busiest time of the year at 56. The other two parts were due to Blogspot shutting me down for a week or so, slapping this as a spamblog. What the hell? I put a few links to our business and all of sudden I'm a spammer? I am trying to make a living for cryin' out loud, but I'd like to think that there's a little more entertainment and artistry going on here than that moniker suggests. If there wasn't, you wouldn't read this more than once anyway. Believe me, no computer generated spam-bot can do it like I do. Well, maybe except for my IPod, which I referenced nearly a year ago when this blog began. My IPod is a freak. Seriously.

And she'll be put to the test in less than 10 days as I head back to Burgundy, the scene of the very first posts here. I'll do my best to give you a blow-by-blow as the tastings unfold. And as long as I don't have too much Chassagne with dinner, I'll wake up early and do just that. It's sure to be interesting this year as the focus will be the now bottled 2008's (unheralded vintage) and the in barrel (super heralded vintage) 2009's. I'm really excited to try both. Really? Excited to try 2008's? Yes, because experience has shown me that there are many jewels among vintages that the wine press officially labels as "just ok". One only need look as far back as 2006 and 2001. Both came alongside great years (2005 & 2002) and got lost in the process. 2001's are glorious wines right now and 2006 will mirror that with time. You heard it here first!

Since its been a while since we've seen each other and I've consumed too many tasty wines to give you the laundry list, here is my fave Pinot for drinking right now that I had just last night with leftovers. It's the (link provided, so sue me!) 2007 Domaine Maillard Bourgogne Rouge. This is flat-out delicious Pinot right now just drinking brilliantly. Kudus, Pascal! See you in a couple weeks!

Le Monstre's New Year's Eve Wines

1976 Josef Fries Noviander Honigberg Riesling Auslese
2002 Daniel Rion Vosne Romanee Les Beaux Monts 1er cru
2004 Vimart & Cie Champagne Brut Rose "Grand Cellier Rubis"

The l'enfant terrible is back for the 2010!

à bientôt

JCB the 4th