Last weekend I went to Montréal for the second time. The first time I flew; this time I drove in a silver Mustang convertible, a delightful though unasked for upgrade, up and up interstate 87 into Québec “je me souviens.” The drive to Québec from New York is about six or seven hours, and it takes the driver through the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, then through the Adirondacks, the Champlain Valley, and into Canada. The road opens up as you drive north to reveal the beautiful and unsullied Adirondack Mountains, and in the far reaches of upstate New York, Québecois stations become as frequent as American ones as you spin the radio dial, and “sortie” is printed below “exit” on the road signs.
My love affair with Montréal is about two years old and dates back to the day Martin Labelle walked into the wine store. Martin is a natural wine importer by night and an engineer by day. His company is called “Glou” (after the popular French expression for quaffable natural wines: “glou glou”), and he works with many producers that are familiar to us here in New York: Frank Cornelissen, Philippe Bornard, Angelino Maule, Eric Pfifferling, Thierry Allemand, Bruno Duchene, Jérôme Lenoir, to name just a few. Once I had met Martin, I quickly began to meet others: Cyril (also an importer) Jack (Martin’s partner and owner of Le Comptoir), Xavier (co-owner of Les Trois Petites Bouchons), their respective girlfriends and friends, all great tasters and excellent people. Continue reading
I think I may have mentioned in a previous post that there are certain invitations it behooves one always to accept. I was presented with one recently when a friend and fellow impassioned Champagne drinker invited me for a tasting of all the Bérèche wines including the very rare and delicious single vineyards: Beaux Régards, Rive Gauche, and Le Cran. We very nearly had every Bérèche wine represented, though the old version of Bérèche’s Extra Brut Rosé has long since sold out on the New York market. And now there are two “new” Bérèche wines that will shortly be available: Reflet D’Antan (made in a perpetual cuvee) and Campania Remensis, an earthy and funky Rosé Champagne largely based on Pinot Noir. (The name, by the way, was taken from the Romans and means “poor soil.”) I digress. This tasting was representative of everything that’s been seen so far in New York from Bérèche save for his Brut Rosé. Continue reading
A few weeks ago I had dinner with my North Carolina wine family at the excellent Durham restaurant: Rue Cler. We drank 2004 Clos Rougeard wines: Clos, Poyeux, and Bourg, as well as 2004 Baudry Croix Boissée. The Baudry wines are dear to my heart. 2004 is the Baudry vintage I cut my teeth on I distinctly remember the ’04 Croix Boisée in its youth; it was very vegetal, stern, and tannic. I recoiled at its unfriendly presentation; what a novice I was! At dinner a few weeks ago, the vegetal note was still there, but the palate had fleshed out, taken on a certain restrained lushness, and the wine was just gorgeous. “Paired” with 2004 Rougeard Poyeux, a wine that is stunningly beautiful and feminine with every delectable red fruit note and an incredibly silky palate, the Baudry more than held its own, showing more funk, more herbal rusticity than the Rougeard, but in a compelling way, the chalk of the vineyard clamping down deliciously on the finish.
A few friends and I recently drank a magnum of 2003 Baudry Grézeaux, also quite tasty, especially after several hours open when the wine took on a rose petal-y texture. The wine showed no “’03-itis” and was seamless and balanced, as we’d expect from this Domaine. Many people have written about Baudry and many more will; there is no need for this post, especially considering that Wine Disorder will yield superior notes on the recent wines out of barrel and bottle, courtesy of SFJoe, but I’m going to write it nonetheless as I can’t seem to help myself. Continue reading
My apologies in advance for the lack of pictures in this post. Many of these wines “don’t exist;” therefore no bottle images are available.
It’s very cool in Champagne these days to make a wine out of the old, “forgotten” (but apparently now remembered…) Champagne grape varieties: Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris. Often these grapes are coplanted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, and the winemaker chucks everything in the press together rather than fermenting each separately. This trend seems consistent with an overall nostalgia that is presently sweeping the brainscape of Champagne, a mild rebellion against technological winemaking. Manifestations of this trend include words such as “Autrefois” and “Antan” popping up on wine labels, vignerons choosing old barrels rather than stainless steel or enamel for fermentation, horse-plowing. Of course this is a gross oversimplification and I’m not suggesting that growers who plow with horses or use barrels are trying to be anachronistically cool. Horse-plowing promotes airy soil; barrels in the cellar give texture to the vins clairs, etc… In general I think this backward hearkening is just fine and I’m particularly curious about the use of ancient varieties. Vignerons like to play, and these Champenois “others” provide an opportunity to do so.
Even as I begin to write this I wonder why I’m writing it and I gently chide myself for such silliness, because this piece of prose can only mean less of these remarkable wines for me to drink. I guess there are some experiences that simply cry out to be documented in spite of one’s own best interests.
I began buying Marie-Noëlle Ledru’s wines from Bonhomie Wine Imports at least four years ago when I was working at Astor Wines in the east village – a resounding thanks to Charlie Woods for the introduction. At the time the wines were virtually unknown in New York. Charlie talked me into them, untasted, on the grounds of the story of a woman with very few hectares of vines and virtually no help in the winery or cellar, doing everything herself including riddling and disgorgement. Who could resist? I remember that the first bottle I drank was her Blanc de Noirs, Cuvée Goulté, but I don’t recall the vintage. I liked the wine, but I didn’t get it. I wasn’t quite ready. Let’s just say I’m ready now…Over the past few years – that is since my Astor days – the scarcity and the quality of Marie-Noëlle Ledru’s wines have become commensurate. Interestingly, the prices of her wines have remained extremely reasonable all things considered. In truth, I receive a fraction of the allocation I used to. It’s as though someone tipped off the world: “Hey! That lively little woman in Ambonnay is making insanely good Champagnes and they are a steal!” This may sound like a complaint, but it’s not, really… I cannot sufficiently reiterate that Marie-Noëlle Ledru’s wines deserve every ounce of attention and praise they garner. As her Domaine became much smaller in 2010, meaning that there’s less wine than ever before, I only wish there was more to go around. Continue reading
Every wine person I know goes through periods of waning enthusiasm for wine. It doesn’t detract from one’s ability to work and play in the business, nor does it lessen the charms of a great bottle. It merely means temporarily yielding to the rejuvenating properties of other alcoholic beverages. Not being much of a beer drinker, save for an occasional Budweiser by the old rustic swimming hole in North Carolina, I’m left with booze. Unfortunately I’m also not much of a booze drinker (save for the occasional ill-advised tequila shot and, really, I’m too old for shots.) Now what am I left with?I find that my drink proclivities are informed by alcohol percentage. Too little alcohol and I get bored; too much alcohol and I get drunk. I like my drinks to weigh in at the alcoholic strength of wine… and guess what what delivers in this regard? Vermouth! Vermouths: fortified wines flavored with botanicals such as roots, barks, herbs, flowers, spices, and seeds, are generally around 16% alcohol, then you add a little ice and you’ve got yourself a tasty beverage that delivers a welcome respite from wine. Over the past few weeks, beginning with my annual December chest cold, Vermouths (and related tipples) have become my post work drink of choice. I realize I’m way behind the times. Various friends of mine have been extolling the virtues of Vermouth for ages. Also my mom used to drink it, though she drank it dry and with a twist of lemon. Oh well. Better late to the party than never in attendance at all.
It is very hard to find time to write during the month of December. Easily the busiest time of the year for a wine retailer, we work long hours, six days a week; we subjugate our needs to the holiday needs of our customers. Everybody’s stressed out, burnt out, and often sick as well. After all, there are only so many germ-encrusted bills and credit cards one can (literally) handle, before a cold comes on. This is not actually a complaint; it’s a statement of fact, and an excuse for why my already spotty attendance at my own wine blog, is even spottier than usual. I’ll be back next year… in full form.
On a positive note, this month I’ve drunk a handful of amazing red wines and I want to tell you about them. I’ll skip the usual long-winded attempt at creating some sort of theme to connect these wines, also the discourse on how I drink so much more white wine than red, and just give you the bottle label and tell you why I liked the wine.A few weeks ago, my co-worker, JFR, and I cracked a 2010 Lafarge Passetoutgrains “L’Exception” at the end of an evening at the shop. It was an absolute stunner and I immediately went back for a bottle to drink at home. Now, my experiences with Lafarge’s wines have been almost universally bad, save for the Passetoutgrains. I understand that Michel Lafarge is a masterful vigneron, but virtually every bottle of Burgundy I’ve had from this Domaine has been clunky and charmless, or else potentially cooked from poor storage (not that this is the Domaine’s fault, of course.) Lafarge’s Passetoutgrains, on the other hand, resonates in my brain as being the ultimate paradigm for this style of Burgundy, a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay. Continue reading
Down the road, when I reflect on the great hurricane of 2012: hurricane Sandy, I’ll think first about my friends at Red Hook Winery, who lost vast quantities of wine as well as their facility. Then I’ll think about Dhrubo, the wine buyer at Fort Defiance, a natural wine destination in Red Hook. As though honoring the name, the guys at Fort Defiance kept their doors open until the very last minute, giving people a place to eat and drink Chinon during the storm. Dhrubo as well lost a sizable amount of inventory, the labels on his bottles of Pfifferling and Lapierre defaced, the contents compromised. These are sad stories, and many hearts go out to our wine friends down in Red Hook who bore the brunt of the storm (that is on the east side of the East River).
Then I’ll recall the five days of unplanned vacation that ensued for those of us who work in TriBeCa, where the power was out from Monday afternoon until early Saturday morning. Truth be told, many of us Chambers Street Wines employees would have come to work eagerly, riding our bikes, running, or walking across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges, but the electronic gate was down, sealing off the store for the duration of the power outage. We were stuck in our various Brooklyn homes, unaffected by the storm, yet essentially unable to commute as long as the subways were shut down. Continue reading
I’ve been meaning to write about Cédric Bouchard for over a year now, since my boss, JW, had me, our notable friend, Brooklynguy, our former Polaner sales rep, and a one co-worker over to drink all of the current releases of Cédric Bouchard’s wines. This took place last summer. 2008 Bouchard “Inflorescence” Blanc de Noirs was in stock even though 2009 had come in. We wanted to taste the two vintages next to each other; what a perfect excuse to open all the rest of the wines.JW made an amazing meal of poached swordfish with corn and peppers. This followed a summer vegetable risotto, which followed a chilled pea soup. It was a feast, and a feast done in a light, vegetable-rich style (my favorite kind of feast). What I remember best about the wines was that 2008 Inflorescence was better than 2009. I knew far less about Champagne at that point in time, but this contrast of the two vintages, the mineral and the fat, has come to mark my experiences with many Champagne producers’ wines. I also recall that the Rosé, a wine that essentially doesn’t exist (because it is incredibly rare and very expensive), was fantastic, though not an ideal match with fresh berries and crème anglais. Cédric Bouchard’s Rosé, which is only made in some vintages, comes from three rows of Pinot vines in a vineyard called “Creux d’Enfer.” The grapes are foot-stomped and left to macerate, yet the wine is feather weight for a macerated Rose. It’s exceptional… and its price is commensurate with its deliciousness and its rarity.What happened? Why didn’t I write about Cédric at that time? Because the wines sold themselves and did not need my long-winded prose to help them along. Or Brooklynguy did a better and more succinct job than I would have done… or other wines cried out for my attention and I wrote about those instead. Continue reading
My life largely consists of insisting that I don’t like things only to discover that I actually do… like them… This is a trend I first noticed when my clever friend, FH, tricked me into liking Phish (the band); we were fourteen and I was a confirmed Phish hater. At this point I have only a vague recollection of Phish and their oeuvres, but I believe she put on “A Picture of Nectare” or “Rift” in the background of a lengthy gossip session. After ten or fifteen minutes, she asked me if I liked the music… and low and behold I did!
What does this mean in terms of wine? For me it means learning that I sometimes like wines from hot, southern climates. Friends — even trivial acquaintances — know I’m a confirmed white, pink, and bubbly wine drinker, and the reds I drink are red wines for people who drink white wines: Poulsard, Burgundy, Beaujolais, etc… I waxed on about this at length in my post “14%,” so I’ll attempt brevity here. Tannins, Big Fruit, and high alcohol scare me and overwhelm the food I am generally eating. “Jamming,” senseless lyrics, and shapeless melodies offend my musical sensibilities, my need for tunefulness and order. I’m not closing in on a comparison between Marcel Richaud and Trey Anastasio, which would be ludicrous. I’ll leave it at this: there’s a time and a place for Phish, and there’s a time and a place for Cairanne. Continue reading