Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Fun Day on the Selling Floor

What makes a good day? From the business side it means a lot customers dropping a lot of change. But from the wine guy side, it means customers looking to buy good wine who are willing to take a chance. Selling wine is always easier if it's a tasting game. The wine sells itself. But that's usually not the case. Most of the time it's a talking game: find out what they want, what they like and how much they want to spend. Sometimes it's just a case of taking them to their favorite product. But when they ask for advice the fun begins. You can take them to something in their price range that will knock them out or it might be a wine from a different grape from a different country that way exceeds their expectations. Yesterday, that's who walked in the door and that's why it was a fun day selling wine.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Serious Cabernet: Snowden Vineyards

In 1955 the Snowden’s found a property up in the rolling hills east of the Silverado Trail in Napa. It was 40+ acres of woodlands and fruit trees in dusty perlite soils. In 1962 they had the foresight to plant wine grapes and the legendary Nathan Fay directed the first plantings with cuttings from his Stags Leap vineyards. 
The first grapes were sold to Fay and Stags Leap Wine Cellars. After subsequent plantings, grapes were sold to Phelps, Far Niente and Silver Oak. In the early 90’s the first Snowden wines were made under the direction of Ted Lemon. Sigels had the good fortune to represent Snowden in the Dallas market and the wines developed a following for their solid quality and remarkable aging potential. After some quality issues with the 02 and 03 vintages, the project was reborn under the leadership of Diane Snowden Seyesses (oenologist at the renowned Domaine Dujac in Burgundy) with David Ramey consulting, and was totally back on track with the 2005 vintage. We are very happy to say that with the even better 2006 Snowden is back home with Sigels.

We tasted the wines  Thursday morning with sales manager Jamie Adams. It’s always a challenge to face big Cabernet’s at 8:15 in the morning, but hey, we’re professionals!

Snowden Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Sourced from vineyards adjacent to Andy Beckstoffer’s house, the wine is a lean Loire Valley style with tight citrus flavors and clean acids that keep the wine tightly focused on the mineral finish. The wine is very nice without the floppy fruits found in so many California Sauvignons. 500 cases produced. (91-Wine Spectator, 90-Robert Parker)

Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon, The Ranch, 2006
Beautiful, rich, ready-to-go estate grown Cabernet. Aromas of cassis and chocolate lead to rich flavors of dark cassis and espresso with gripping integrated tannins on the finish. At $40 this is a tremendous value in the rarified prices of Napa Cabernet. (92-Wine Spectator, 92-Robert Parker)

Snowden Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, 2006
Made from both selected blocks of fruit and selected barrels from the cellar, the wine is definitely built to age. This morning, the floral black fruit aromas are a little sleepy, but the wine has just been opened. Brambly blackberries and cassis lead the palate to dark undergrowth and espresso and a long structured finish. The acids linger on the sides of the tongue. As much flavor as the wine shows now, it still seems muted. I imagine it will be singing this afternoon if it makes it past someone’s breakfast. (94-Wine Spectator, 95-Robert Parker)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Brunello di Montalcino 2004: Notes on a Blind Tasting

Blind Tasting of 10 Wines Selected for Regional Characteristics
VINO 2009, New York
January 2009
Led by Karen MacNeil
Notes by David Waddington

Montalcino is a hilltop village in Tuscany located about 40 km south of Siena and 40 km from the sea. Vineyards surround the town on the northern, eastern and southern slopes. The hill was formed in different geologic eras, yielding a variety of soil types. The only grape allowed are the localized clones of Sangiovese. The result is a wine producing region with slightly different clones growing in a myriad of terroirs. Thus Brunello di Montalcino is one wine with many different expressions. The tasting was organized by the governing organ of the region, the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, who chose the wines for their different expressions of the region.

Generally the wines showed black cherry fruit at their core surrounded by layers of tannin, acid and minerals. According to the Conzorzio, the average alcohol for the 2004 vintage was 14% which is unusually high, showing great ripeness. The powerful tannins and elegant acids are both strong preservatives and create the great aging potential of Brunello.


Wine #1
Aromas: Black cherry fruit, anise
Palate: Bitter black fruit, high acid, moderate tannin
Impressions: Quite delicious!

Wine #2
Aromas: Reticent black cherry, soy mineral
Palate: Soy, minerals, intense black fruit at the core
Impressions: Very lean, almost salty

Wine #3
Aromas: Dark raisins, soy
Palate: Deep dark flavors, black fruits, soy
Impressions: Big, full, brooding dark wine

Wine #4
Aromas: Dark black cherry, bitter chocolate
Palate: Complex dark fruits
Impressions: Surprisingly more open that the nose would suggest

Wine #5
Aromas: Tar, anise
Palate: Tar, anise, core of black fruit, tannic finish
Impressions: Definitely a wine for bottom feeders!

Wine #6
Aromas: Damp earth, soy
Palate: Soy, earth, umami
Impressions: All shadow and forest floor, not flawed, but no fruit today!

Wine #7
Aromas: Dark soy, red and black cherries
Palate: Broad black fruits laced with acid and tannin
Impressions: Nice

Wine #8
Aromas: Floral, reticent black fruit
Palate: Herbal elements, core of black fruit
Impressions: Finishes with good acid and tannin

Wine #9
Aromas: Black cherry, cassis, mineral
Palate: Dark fruits, tar and soil
Impressions: Powerful and concentrated

Wine #10
Aromas: Tart black fruit, spice
Palate: A fruit bomb with truffles and sweet integrated tannins
Impressions: Today was this wine's day to shine! A fun finish to an intense tasting.

So, there it is, Brunello 2004. As you can see, there is a definite pattern to the wines with the same flavors flowing in and out of the various wines. Depending on where the estates are located, they all taste different. The point is that overall, THEY ALL TASTE LIKE BRUNELLO!

Now THAT was a fun morning in the wine biz!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wither Italian...

A customer was in the store last night and he wasn't happy with our selection of Italian Dolcetto's. As we talked it became apparent that it wasn't just our selection, but the general selection of Italian wines in Dallas. I suggested our best selling Dolcetto's, Palmina and Pavi, both of which are domestic and quite delicious. Well, that was a less than successful suggestion. He comes from a city with more Italian influence. But all was not lost, he was happy with our Rose and Spanish selections and it's always fun to have a customer who is knowledgeable and has opinions. But selling fine Italian wines has always been difficult. They are veiled in mystery to many of our customers and pricing is high. In January I had the opportunity to attend VINO2009 in New York and do some intensive tastings of Brunello and Nebbiolo. I will discuss these tastings in future posts.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hats off to Central Market! Their first HatchFest take home dinner kit was Fettucine with Shrimp in a Hatch Chile Pesto Cream Sauce. First open a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. We had Doug Margerum's Sybarite, which has richness (gained from aging the wine on the lees) surrounding the laser beam of acid formed in the cold Santa Barbara valleys. Saute some shrimp in Hatch Compound Butter, add the Sauce, add the pre-cooked Fettucine and you've got a panful of deliciousness in about 7 minutes. Apparent genius was never so easy!

Gotta Start Somewhere!

Been thinking about this project for far too long. Better just have a shot of tequila and start pounding some keys. No, wait a minute, it's 7 in the morning, yesterday was the Texas Package Stores Association tasting session where every supplier of alcoholic beverages in the state sets up to pour samples. Really. The prospect and the reality staggers the imagination. Is it a great place to do serious tasting? Well, maybe not. But it is a great place to see anybody who you worked with, crossed paths with, or just really drove you nuts. Everybody's tasting, everybody's getting a buzz, everybody's happy. Three rules: Taste something new, Taste what you can't afford, Stay within the lines.

  • Mulderbosch Rose 2009
  • Gaillard Condrieu
  • Whichever bottle James MacFadyen just opened
  • BREWDOG Ales
  • The beasts of Ardbeg
  • Who would win: Hennessy Paradis or Pierre Ferrand?
  • DART rail, the safe way home!