Monday, May 7, 2012

A Day of Tasting: Loire Valley to Peavy Road

Hi, my name is Dave. I sell alcohol. All types. In order to do this I consume and taste alcoholic beverages. All types.

Even on my day off.

I spent last Monday in an all-day Tequila seminar conducted by the CRT (the governmental agency which controls Tequila production) which culminated in a tasting featuring the Casa Dragones. See other postings about this fabulous tequila.

Today I put on a clean shirt and headed downtown to the Mansion on Turtle Creek for a seminar and tasting of wines from the Loire Valley. Let me start by saying that warm late spring days are perfect for Loire Valley wines. As a whole, they are clean, crisp and driven by minerally acids. Nuanced flavors differ by appellation. The wines can best be described by what food they go best with and that would be shellfish and goat cheese.

The tasting was a little disappointing in breadth. It was sponsored by the Loire Valley Wine Bureau and promised to feature wines that were locally available. Too often, these trade association tastings feature a vast selection of wines that will never be available through local wholesalers. So today we saw the limited variety of what is available in the wholesale market. Their literature lists 46 Loire Valley appellations. The tasting had wines from 7 appellationsfrom 7 different suppliers, most of whom showed a Sancerre, a Vouvray, and a Muscadet. We have wines from 10 appellations in our store.

Sancerre was represented by 7 producers, Pouilly-Fume by 3 producers. All selections were lean, a couple were flat and grassy. My favorite was the  Pouilly-Fume Selection Silex by Domaine Vincent Vatan. Brilliant flashes of citrus were embedded in the flinty aromatics of the silex.

Muscadet was represented by 5 producers. All were sur-lies (aged on the yeast cells) which gives the always surprising hints of richness to these clean citurs, mineral driven wines. A few are great, almost all are serviceable, they should never be expensive.

Vouvray is always a mystery. Is it sweet or is it dry? Sometimes demi-sec bottlings are labeled, but not always. Ask your salesman or waiter before you order. Both versions can be delicious. Domaine Pichot is not labelled demi-sec, maybe it should be labeled demi-demi-sec. A hint of sweetness barely cuts the dry edge of the wine. The demi-sec Chateau de Montfort provides a richness that would be fabulous with spicy Asian dishes.

There was just one lone red wine, Chinon Marie de Beauregard from Saget et perriere was textbook Loire Valley Cabernet Franc, bright red cherries with a hint of darkness and tobacco leaf. But light and clean with no overwhelming oakiness.

And that was it: no Cremant, no Savenierres, no dessert wines, no lines of Sauvignons from Touraine lined up like infantry. But it was a great reminder of how delicous these wines are and how valuable they can be in the months ahead. They are wines best drunk cold when the weather is hot.

And then I went to Goodfriend on Peavy Road in way East Dallas for a burger and a couple of beers. The amber Avery Karma was perfect with the meaty burger and best waffle fries ever. The Karma was rich and precise beyond everything our local favor amber bock ever dreamed it could be. Stone Imperial Russian Stout was its infinitely deep dark self that just got deeper and darker as the day ground to a halt.

Then home for the daily meds, maybe a small glass of Amaro and that's it 'til the next one.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

BT #8: A Gathering of Eagles

Well, this tasting was so long in the scheduling, it needed an impressive title.

Five of us gathered a week ago in a back room at Urbano's to enjoy an evening of blind tasting. And enjoy we did. 

Bradley went to the cooler at Jimmy's deli next door for a bottle of Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp and cold, grassy with a kiss of citrus, it was the perfect beginning. 

d1:  We decided to order some appetizers to start with and get the evening underway.  I brought a white wine, so I pulled the cork and we poured away and were met by a wall of citrus aromas, smokey notes of rich tropical fruit and a creamy wall of acid and mineral. "Wow, full malolactic, but young." "It's really not a question of what it is but what appellation." I assumed that everyone else assumed it was white burgundy of a significant order. Puligny? Chassagne? No, Meursault. Domaine Guy Fichet, Tesson, 2008. Fichet is a young vigneron. Instead of blending less than premier cru into a 'village' wine, he makes wine from single parcels that have blinding precision.

The wine was terrific with our appetizers: Mussels in a tomato sauce, Caprese Smores, Risotto balls. 

sepi1:  Roses, cherries and hints of tar and acid wafted from the glass. Everyone wanted to go Italian and I thought it had to be Nebbiolo until I tasted the wine and was floored by the lack of tannins. That left Burgundy and that's what it was. The wild cherries and berries took my memory back to Gevrey Chambertin and that's what it was. Harmand-Geoffroy Gevrey Chambergin Vielles Vignes 2003. Pure, focused and delicious. "Gee, I thought I knew Burgundy..." lamented Scott. (BT's are a humbling thang!)

As Bradley pulled out the next wine, he announced that he had shown serious restraint and had only brought one wine. 

"What, you brought another wine?" he said when I announced that I had brought another bottle. 

"White wines don't count," I said.

b1:  Bradley's wine exploded from the glass with cherries, fresh tobacco and blackberries, cut with cedar and vanilla. Then John launched into a rhapsody about 'boozeberries.' A Thanksgiving treat made by soaking cranberries in sugar and cognac and then popping them in a microwave. As we sat in awe of the wine in our glasses, we entreated Bradley just to unveil the damned thing. "I don't want to think about it," I said. "I just want to drink it. Kapcsandy 2006 Estate Cuvee. State Lane Vineyard. Napa. 

As our first entrees of the Beef Tenderloin and a special request of a Mushroom Risotto were being delivered, I explained my problem. I was concerned about the viability of the wine I had opened. It had been totally brown and devoid of any notion of red fruit. It did not taste flawed, but just very dried out, thin and oxidized. I didn't expect much, but wanted their input before opening another bottle. 

d2:  As I poured and everyone examined the wine, it was evident that my fears were unfounded. The silky rich flavors danced between dried fruit and fresh fruit and the tannins and structure were firmly in place creating space for the aromas and perfumes. Not unlike stained glass in a cathedral. The wine did not provide much challenge for blind tasters. Old Bordeaux? No doubt. 1990 Pape-Clement. 

41:  John's bottle announces itself: it's a hefty piece of glass. And a magnificent wine, intense black fruits with a kiss of smoke that just goes on forever. There has to be a mountain of tannin somewhere in this wine to keep it going, but it never makes itself evident. The group is confused trying to place the wine. New world? Old World? Certainly not California or Australia. Too ripe for Italy or France and where in Spain would this wine come from? NCZ, I ventured quietly. John nodded. Parker said it was like Lafite in a good year. 2004 Catena Zapata, the flagship Malbec/Cabernet blend from Nicolas Catena. 

Our second round of entrees arrive (we were passing them family style) another order of Tenderloin (duh!) another mushroom risotto and a seared duck breast. Oh. And more wine.

Sepi2: (I wasn't the only one to bring two) Another big glass bottle, another big massive wine. Distinctive notes of tomato leaves and tomato jam float over the dense mass of black fruit, big oak and truffle. Oh my. It's Napa all the way. 2005 Bucella Merlot. "Vinyl rocks and poly-phenols, it's just singing!" Sepi says with a big smile. Hmm. Might be starting to get a little late thinks I.

But wait, Scott has a bottle too! And it's not Pinot!

Scott1:  "Cali Cab, 06 or 07" announces Brad, on the basis of second hand aromas revealed when Scott pulls the cork. The wine in our glasses correllates his astute evaluation. Wow, what extraction. Wow, what integration. It's too dark in the restaurant for photography, but it's not too dark to see the the rich colors dancing on our white napkins. It's even better to taste: screaming blackberry cream with dark bing cherries in the background eventually culminating in a mouthful of tannins. #4 declares emphatically, "I'm a sucker for oak and fruit. I will stand and salute you!!!" And he did. And we did. Araujo 2006 Eisele.

And did we have something chocolate for dessert? Seems like. We did pull out cell-phones and everyone committed to a date for the next event. Like in a month or two instead of a year or two.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Petite Sirahs Back to Back

Two Thursday meetings with Petite Sirah to close each meeting. For wine guys, it's a high water morning when the waves of fruit are followed by tannic saturation at 8:45 in the morning. (For professionals only. Do NOT try at home.)

First up was Carver-Sutro, tiny production from the ancient Palisades vineyard in the northeast corner of Napa Valley. The first vines were planted by the Dominico Barberis family who settled here in 1902 after moving from Italy. He and his family farmed the vineyards for 90 years, Denis Sutro and Anne Carver are the current custodians.

The Petite Sirah is textbook. Rich and dark, with blue-black fruits leading to a massively meaty mouthful of wine. The flavors brood dark on the palate. As the fruits begin to fade the substantial tannins keep them alive through the long finish. Exciting wine, and very limited. Available in New York, California and Sigel's. We received just 4 cases of the 2007 vintage.

Then we met with Jesse Inman who now makes the wine at August Briggs. In years past the Briggs Petite Sirah was sourced from the Black Rock Vineyard in Lake County where the fruit was ripened by the heat from the black obsidian in the volcanic soil. The next release will be from the Frediani vineyard, also found the the northern corner of Napa Valley. The Frediani family holds some of the Calistoga areas great treasures: old-vine Zinfandel, Charbono that used to go the old Inglenook Charbono's of yesteryear and the Petite Sirah that goes to August Briggs. The old vines still speak through the elegant, polished style of the Briggs wines, simultaneously silky smooth and gnarly tannic with rich layers of dark fruits and berries.
Previously available only through the Briggs tasting room or the wine club. We just have a few cases to sell.