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'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