Tag Archives: Chardonnay

Charles Smith Wines: Eve, Boom Boom!, and The Velvet Devil to Tempt Your Tongue!

16 Jun

Charles Smith. If you’re like me, hearing that name is enough to scroll down to the reviews. If not, please continue:

Few names in recent years have acquired such rock star gravitas in the wine industry. Wait, You don’t know him? Taste his wines. Don’t have one available? Ok, so in 2016, Constellation Wines bought five of his brands for $120 million. Are you impressed yet? You should be. And I say this, being a superman of the CS Cabernet Sauvignon, because that wine has been one of the top, under-$20 Cabernet Sauvignon wines you can find in the USA, PERIOD.

So when offered a chance to taste a few, I jumped. YES, I want to taste them. I tasted two of these wines for five days. and the other… well, it lasted an hour before it was gone. (Not sorry.) The labels look like a tattoo chosen by a millennial based on their favorite song. So? It’s not about the label, it’s about the juice.

The motto reads loud and clear on the back of the bottle: “Land to hand, vineyard to bottle.” Charles Smith is irreverent and fanciful, yet an incredibly serious winemaker: these wines are seeing at least some portion whole cluster pressed, with fermenting on the lees. Straightforward, the best fruit he can give you from sustainable farming, ideal fermentation, a carefully controlled pH and moderate ABV. So? Ok, fine: TASTING NOTES!

 

Eve Chardonnay 2014 by Charles Smith Wines, Mattawa, Washington. 13.5% ABV, MSRP $13/Bottle.

Color is pale gold, while the nose offers tangerine peel, wildflower cutting, and gravel. On the palate, pure green apple- no wonder the name. It is like taking a bite of a chardonnay apple from the Garden of Eden. Straightforward, fruit forward, less acidity than I expected with a hint of marzipan. On the finish, notes of silt, clay and yeast. At this price point, what chardonnay lover would say no? An easy purchase, at double the price! At street prices, I’d easily put three bottles in my cart. You should do the same.

 

 

 

Boom Boom Syrah 2015 by Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington. 13.%5ABV, MSRP $18/bottle.

Color is a gorgeous, opaque dark orchid/byzantium. The nose shows blueberry, black plum, and crushed  violet while the palate offers up blackberries, plum jam, cassis and black cherry. Secondary notes of pepper, potting soil, wet slate, sandy loam and old wood. I love a good syrah but shy away from the fruit bombs- Boom Boom does a tremendous job of maintaining balance in the wine from opening until day five of tasting, never being overly fruity and only showing a hint of bitterness on day 5. With this gorgeous color, balance of flavor, and gentle alcohol content, how is this still on the shelves? When word gets out, you’ll have a hard time finding this for under $20.

 

 

Are you ready to be severely tempted? You better be…

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2014 by Charles Smith Wines. Columbia Valley, Washington.  ABV 13.6%, MSRP $13/bottle.

Color is a garnet center with purple edging. The nose offers boysenberry, cherry pie and a hint of tobacco leaf.  On the palate, bright, acidic flavor of dark cherries, maturing blackberries, and blueberry. Secondary notes remind me of damp Northwest: wet earth, and young, freshly hewn wood. On the medium-long finish: plum wine, crushed leaves, sand, and the distinct mineral flavors of volcanic rock. And pour me another taste… (just watch, you will do the same.)

OK: I was hoping for the velvety mouthfeel I get from Chateau Margaux, but let’s be honest: should I expect the same mouthfeel from a $13 wine that I do from a $600-$900 bottle? No, but for the cost of this wine, the mouthfeel IS quite velvety. Why? Because Smith is giving us 94% Merlot and adding a few tremendous blending grape (cab sauvignon, malbec, and our beloved friend cabernet franc) and aging in new French Oak to take this wine from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Put this wine in front of ten people, and (incorrectly) they will probably not call it Merlot. It just has a totally different vibe! But they will call it delicious, and they will ask for a second glass, then a third. So will you- and the bottle will be dry, as mine is from tasting pour after pour. Trust me, this Velvet Devil is going to stick a pitchfork in your plans and you will love it.

 

Boom.

 

Now go rock your weekend with a Charles Smith Wine, you can thank me later by sending me a bottle.

For more information on these wines, check out: www.charlessmithwines.com/

 

à votre santé!

 

Tasting the Terroir of Domaine Auvigue

10 Jun

Domaine Auvigue “Solutre” Pouilly-Fuisse 2014; Burgundy, France. 13%ABV, MSRP $29/bottle.

 

 

Spend a few minutes with Jean-Pierre Auvigue, and he will endear himself to you, without ever trying. He is both direct and charming, and to my delight, he can discuss winemaking and the terroir of Burgundy to the point of exhaustion.

Jean-Pierre is quick to point out that each year, they simply try to make the best wine they can within the realm of the weather. Since they have tremendous terroir and history already, the goals are to represent the growing season with the finest chardonnay they can make. Techniques are largely traditional; all work in the vineyard is done by hand. Very little new oak is used to keep the focus on the fruit; but to me, the balance is what shines.

 

Jean-Pierre Auvigue with his 2005 Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse

 

Tasting a mini-vertical of the three most recent vintages (’12-’14) and the 2005 Auvigue Solutre Pouilly-Fuisse , I was thrilled to taste the subtle similarities and differences and hear how many varying preferences people had to their own personal favorite from these areas that boast vines that rage in age from 50-85 years of age. Most importantly, they are all delightful and offer tremendous value in white Burgundy wines.

2014/Current Release: Color is a clear, medium straw. The nose offers a delicate citrus scent with a hint of sodium. On the palate, a very linear first impression, a smooth  balance of lemon-lime fruit, acidity and minerality: limestone, clay and flint belie the famed AOC.  As it crosses the mid-palate, the flavors expand to include savory sensations without losing the initial character. Flint and quartz notes cross the back palate with the medium finish, which is as satisfying was the first sip. A wine that starts with drive and delivers complexity, terroir, and a tremendous definition of the Chardonnay grape.

 

 

 

Not to be ignored, another AOC was represented:

Domaine Auvigue Le Moulin du Pont Saint-Véran 2014; Burgundy, France. 13% ABV, MSR $20/bottle.

Color is pale straw with green tinge. The nose offers lime zest and a hint of cut grass and vegetation. On the palate young white pear, starfruit, and orange peel dominate while the top and back palate reveals notes of cedar, gravel, schist and clay, before the medium-long finish leaves your mouth refreshed. Saint-Veran being a newer AOC, this is a tremendous introduction to white Burgundy and a great every day/any day wine at this price point.

 

 

With either one, you can’t go wrong, whether to add to your cellar to hold, or to drink and chill tonight. 

 

à votre santé!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Apology to Chablis

17 Apr

I’ve been a jerk, and I owe Chablis an apology.

 

My readers and followers all know I’m a massive fan of white burgundy. But I doubt they have any idea I’ve been a lifelong fan of Chablis, because I hardly mention you in recent years.

 

Chablis, I’ve always loved you. It’s true. But I haven’t shown you the respect that I have for you, and for that, I apologize. You were a major influence early in my understanding of wine, and you deserve to take massive credit for helping me both find my palate and understand the beauty of chardonnay from your unmistakable region. I met you early in life, respected you for your delicate color and nose, your gorgeous citrus flavors and seaside perfume, your reserved fruit, your singular focus, your gorgeous linearity, your finish of limestone, oyster shell, and chalk. Chablis, without a doubt, you are the one region where the terroir is so incredibly evident in your wine. And I assumed that everyone, like me, just KNEW about Chablis.

 

And so… I realize now, that I ignored you. I took you for granted. I’m so sorry.

 

In time, I met many other wines, from all over the world. Nothing else was like you, but I began to follow other regions of Burgundy, and started to pay more attention to them. In turn, that allowed me to appreciate the beauty in chardonnay across the world- Australia, Argentina, the oaked USA. Chablis, you have always remained a baseline for me, but as I began to collect beautiful chardonnay from around the world,  I kept treasuring Burgundy, but skipped over you time and time again in my search for top quality white wines of distinction…because I already knew how amazing Chablis was. I was so lost in translation- I entirely lacked the significance, the true understanding of what I was doing at the time.

 

I apologize. I hope you’ll understand, and forgive me.

 

You’ve been there for me. You’ve been waiting all this time, in good years, and bad. Waiting for a mutual friend to pour me a glass and offer you up, to watch as my palate, my nose, and my tongue recall that first kiss. What beauty and intensity!  In a sip I can recall the sea that covered your AVA millions of years ago, left tiny crustaceans, shells and exoskeletons mired in the limestone rock that is now the basis of the terroir we recognize as yours and yours alone. Pure, perfect, Chablis. or… #PureChablis.

 

There are even a few, -more than a handful- of your tremendous offerings in my cellar.

With special tags, of course.

Because… nothing else is Chablis!

 

Just a few of your fabulous offerings include:

 

Domaine Jolly & Fils, L’homme Mort, Premiere Cru 2014; around $27/bottle. 
Tasting note: “Very Pale in Color, nose of lemon peel and orange. Gentler but savory up front, bright across the top palate. Such a pleasure to drink, like imbibing a glass full of perfect afternoon sunshine.”

Domaine Gilbert Picq & Fils, 2015, around $20/bottle. 
“Color of pale sunshine. Nose is faint, issuing grapefruit and limestone. Acid up front in the mouth, followed by lemon-lime citrus. Opening into a savory palate. Pairs beautifully with either beet, goat cheese, and gruyere puff pastry.”

Chablis William Fevre Champs Royaux, 2015 around $18/bottle. 
The easiest Chablis to find in the states, Fevre is a huge producer. “Classic lineage, so familiar. Pale straw with a green tinge, linear acidity and fruit with a soft style in the front- and mid-palates, yet a tightly focused finish. Such great memories, brought back cleanly.”

La Chablisienne Petite Chablis 2015; around $17/bottle.
“Pale straw in color, Honey-lemon nose. Steely, driven flavors of citrus, lemon-lime, oyster shell, hints of clay. Pairs best with the raw crudo.”

Domaine Louis Moreau 1er Cru Fourneaux 2013, around $30/bottle. 
“HUGE nose on this wine. It shifts in personality to me: on the palate: first savory with oyster brine, meaty and thick with citrus and chalk, then a more gentle, flint and steel approach. A lovely finish, with high acidity. I could drink this forever.” – My personal favorite of the night.

Patrick Piuze 1er Cru Forêts, 2014, around $45/bottle.
“What gorgeous citrus and salinity on the nose. Huge acidity, big citrus; a meter-lemon wine. This is an  oenophile’s wine, a wine nerd’s dream! Singular, focused, & driven. It simply screams of the Chablis terroir. You could identify this in a blind tasting without any thought. Perfect pairings both with the foie gras and scallop dishes.”

Louis Michel & Fils, Chablis Grand Cru Grenouille 2014; around $80/bottle.
“Pale in color, complex nose with citrus, mineralogy, & sodium. A full-bodied wine with bright acidity and a long finish. A beautiful expression of chablis, no more expensive than a good California Chardonnay or a good buy in white burgundy. Amazing with the risotto balls and the braised tenderloin. Stunning to be such a good pairing for such rich selections.”

 

And just in case you are still thinking about Chablis… here’s where she lives. Her Grand Cru, her Premiere Cru, her Petite Chablis… all of her beauty and delights.

 

My thanks for a tremendous tasting to Françoise Roure from Bourgognes, Marguerite de Chaumont Guitry from Sopexa, and Sommelier John Kearns from Ai Fiori Restaurant, whose service and presentation were top notch, and whose hand cradles the bottle in most of my photographs! Deepest appreciation for the tremendous pairing menu & service from Ai Fiori’s Michael White, David Schneider, Scott Schneider, Mari Gaube and their teams.

 

And of course… my apologies to Chablis. Will you ever forgive me? Maybe I can come and see you over the summertime, if Provence and Bordeaux won’t get too jealous.

 

#MWWC32

à votre santé!

 

Adler Fels 2015 Chardonnay

22 Mar

Adler Fels 2015 Chardonnay, Sonoma CA. 14% ABV; MSRP $20/bottle

 

The 2015 Adler Fels (German for “Eagle Rock”) is a blend of two chardonnays, equal parts from vineyards in Russian River Valley and Monterey County by winemaker Linda Trotta.

Color is medium straw. The nose offers pineapple and wildflowers. Gentle but fresh and lively in the mouth, presenting a balance of delicate fruit and taut acidity. Moderate body for the mouthfeel; nicely tart across the mid-palate with notes of chalk, clay, and cedar plank to accompany the medium finish.

This is a subtle wine, capable many things. It can be a demure, delicate delight on its own, an accompaniment to a meal, or act as a supporting player to a dish without taking the spotlight. It took me three separate tastings to really understand that this wine is a modern, classically refined New World chardonnay from the European tradition. Instead of screaming for attention, this unpretentious wine is strong and silent, with measured structure and exquisite balance. I would equate it to Chanel perfume or the Jaguar XJ6 automobile, whose motor purrs so gently, you hardly feel the speed at which you rocket down the road. This is a wine you easily could drink all afternoon without realizing you have loved it for two or three bottles, and that it is time to call a car (leaving your own behind) and go home now before you order another. And another.

 

 

 

à votre santé!

 

Sbragia Family Vineyards- Wines that Sing in the Glass

22 Aug

Sbragia Family Vineyards is a Sonoma winemaking family I did not know before..

And now it is one I will never forget.

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2012 Gino’s Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA.  15.1%ABV. MSRP $44/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

Color is garnet with violet edging. The nose shows red and black fruit, eucalyptus, anise and green pepper. In the mouth, plenty of black and red berries meet spice, black pepper, chewy tannin and nice acidity. Big in flavor, hot on the back palate when the alcohol crosses the threshold. Tasty by itself and with food, this matched up beautifully with pizza, chili, and by itself in the afternoon sunshine on the back porch. Refrigerated after opening the bottle, it lasted nicely for over a week while maintaining freshness and proper balance. Some great value found in the street prices of this wine. #HeyNow!

Sbrag ZIN

 

 

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA.  14.5%ABV. MSRP $30/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

Color is deep straw verging on golden sunlight. On the nose, baked apple pie, pineapple, a hint of baked bread  while toasted cashews tantalize the senses with a strong sense of alcohol. On the palate, white stone fruit, kiwi, lemon zest, marzipan, and vanilla, with granite on the long finish that leaves a zesty heat across the top palate. #SoNice!

Sbrag Chard

 

 

 

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Valley District. Sonoma County, CA.  14.8%ABV. MSRP $65/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

What a gorgeous & classic California cab: deep ruby in color. Eucalyptus, menthol, earth, wet leaves and green pepper with cedar on the nose.  Massive cassis and blackberry fruit up front. Some mid-palate spice, some heat, forest floor, saddle leather, and a soil-rich minerality on the finish with lasting heat, lovely oak and a lingering body. Lovely to drink now but what perfection might this be in 5-10 years with the alcohol muted and the fruit sliding back? This wine drank beautifully for a week of evenings when stored in the fridge… rationing a half-glass of heaven each night. This drinks so well right now but I can’t wait to see what it is like in 2022. #BOOM!

 

Cab 2

 

Ed Sbragia of Sbragia Family Vineyards provides a classic California edge with a long-term family history and pedigree you can taste in the glass. Get a few bottles, pop them with friends, and listen got everyone tell you how good they are. They are just that crowd pleasing.

 

à votre santé!

 

Finding the Chardonnay Trifecta!

22 May

May 21st was National Chardonnay Day! It’s not like we need an excuse to drink chardonnay. Recently, however, my calendar has been full of fun tastings and events (on top of my normally insane life working in entertainment) so my chardonnay intake has been quite low.

And by low I mean simply nonexistent.
Here’s a question for you, dear readers, and I’d like your responses!
Q: Does wanting to drink GOOD chardonnay make me a snob?  

There is so much mediocre chardonnay on the market. I have no problem buying a low-cost wine, mind you- I just want a great tasting chardonnay. In honor of #ChardonnayDay I went to the cellar and picked two wines I have hoarded for a special occasion, one from Sonoma, one from Burgundy. I opened them, and had a small pour from each. 

I sat and looked at the wines. I was trepidatious. These bottles of wine are my special, adored treasures. Once opened, they could no longer be kept. And that could be good or bad- I’ve been experiencing premature oxidation with many white burgundies, enough to cause my heart to race when looking through my cellar at racks I have been patiently waiting for the perfect age to enjoy.

Tangent: When you open a special, pricey bottle that has been either corked or prematurely oxidized, it’s heartbreaking. And it’s happened more often that I’d like to admit. I thought I was the only one, until I saw social media posts about it and then bluntly asked my trusted wine aficionado, blogger The Drunken Cyclist about his mention. It’s kind of like getting athlete’s foot from the gym shower and having your doctor patiently explain WHY other people are wearing those ugly shower shoes.

Apologies for the tangent, we’re not here to talk about athlete’s foot or shower shoes today. Here, these are funny wine flip flops, since I don’t have a cute cat video to share:

retro_wine_bottles_and_glasses_flip_flops-rf23dd62dbf4146aa91a059bc28c6d286_z9cuv_324

 

If you really require a higher level of amusement, watch this (not cat) video demonstrating how to open a wine bottle using a flip flop. This is a method I’d suggest only if you would like to drink your wine only after running it through a blender, which has a similar effect:

Enough of this tangent?

Getting back to the point.

#ChardonnayDay. Looking at two glasses, each one holding a small amount of wine from two of my treasured, cellared bottles for “a special occasion”, much like #OTBN. Well, “No Day But Today”, with apologies to Jonathan Larson.

 

One final whiff of the nose, and finally, to the mouth. Sip. Swirl, sucking in air. Swish, hold. Add air, swish, hold. Swallow. Consider.

 

Heaven. When chardonnay is great, there is no mistaking it. When I was nosing these wines, I wondered what food I should find to pair them with. To be certain, after a sip from each, I no longer cared about any food. Both of these wines were so blissfully stunning, I was blind to anything but the joy represented in the glasses.  Have you ever found yourself holding a glass of wine that shows this trifecta: a perfect specimen of the grape varietal, a growing region’s well-suited terroir, paired with love, care, and obsession in delicate winemaking? I have. Both of these fit the bill.

Meursault Heroine

 

I have to say, I was nervous. Our wine treasures are ever-changing chemical blends. I’ve had both brilliant and horrid experiences with bottles I’ve cellared and treasured. It could be, to quote Eddie Izzard,  “Cake or Death?”

 

Unknown

 

Except with chardonnay.

I know. You’re sophisticated.  You get the point. “Chardonnay or Death.”

 

First world problems.

 

So. Both of these wines… made me feel ecstatic and entirely focused, like a teenager madly in love: for a moment, nothing else mattered: no term papers, no cares about school, my parents, my after-school job. No matter if I had a pimple, high school was frustrating, or I’d come to terms with the sad fact that the lead singer of a band I really liked was in reality a total jerk (truth). Nothing else mattered. THIS. WAS. STUNNING. Just fast-forward thirty (ok, maybe forty?) -plus years to Middle-Age aka Blatant Adulthood. This… this is serious wine. Yeah. Oh, that’s good.

There will be no notes today of these wine, no mention of the pale straw color of the meursault or the green hue of Iconic’s Heroine. I won’t talk about how beautiful the mouthfeel, how like Sonoma the Heroine drinks, or how complex the meursault was. I found the trifecta again! Because like those glasses of wine, it was all in the moment, which was beautiful and fleeting, and now is simply a memory.

Happy #ChardonnayDay!

 

à votre santé!

Dubois Grand Réserve Chardonnay 2013

14 May

Joséph Dubois Grande Réserve Chardonnay Bourgogne 2013. $12/bottle, 12.5% ABV.

Medium straw in color; a delicately floral nose shows hints of bosc pear and white peach. In the mouth, gentle citrus and more savory, fleshy pear are well matched with bright, lasting acidity. As the wine warms, the focus of the finish shifts from the tongue and mid-palate to top and rear palate, adding notes of citrus, limestone, and toast to the finish. 

This bottle shows off some small level of pedigree, lauding both terroir and winemaking while appealing to most white wine drinkers in being a value-driven introduction to white burgundy, and a decent choice for those who strive for the low-cost bottles. This wine is pleasant to drink alone and purrs when paired well with food. In warm weather, it’s important to remember to remove from fridge 20 minutes before serving to allow the wine to warm and show some flavor expansion. When served too cold it is subtle and gentle while enjoyable, yet lacking the depth and finesse that shows with proper serving temperature.

Dubois Chardonnay

à votre santé!

Spring Is In My Wallet

26 Mar

As we wind down this winter that refuses to end, I realize I’m suffering from my own version of cabin fever. I keep desiring lighter, fruitier, more delicate flavors from my wines and food. I’ve no desire for savory, and hunger for salads, fish, and fruit – and the lighter wines that pair with them.

Reviewing recent cellar additions, I also notice the wines I’m purchasing for my own personal enjoyment (in opposition to the ones that are sent to me or chosen for review) are matching the anxiousness of my palate being ready for the forthcoming seasons of spring and summer!

Spring is definitely in my wallet this year. Long before there was a warming change in the winter air, I started buying whites and rosés, riesling, grüner veltliner, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and yes, my beloved white burgundy. At restaurants I’ve made similar choices – eating and drinking for the season before it arrived – and having zero regrets about it.

I met a Somm named Ida (pronounced: “Ee-da”) and her manner immediately put me at ease. I asked her which wines on her list were off the beaten track, unusual, or ‘hidden gems’. She introduced me to Jacques Puffeneny’s Cuvée Sacba “Arbois”, a 2012 wine from the Jura region that was made with intentional oxidation and featured a real sense of sherry and age to it! I so enjoyed my meal that I didn’t think to take tasting notes, but it was a satisfying pairing with a serving of raw fish and, in short, I experienced the Puffery “Arbois” as a gentle, dry wine with a dull, off-pink color, a perfumed and sherry nose, and subtle fruit with matching acidity that delighted me to no end.

Puffeney

I wanted to share this unusual wine and my experience with you- asking you to continue to challenge your palate, your preferences, and to take risks with trying new, maybe unusual wines. For everything you find you might not like, you might find something you love! And dear readers, tell me if spring is in YOUR wallet, too? I’m fascinated.

à votre santé!

Flor De Campo Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County

26 Oct

Flor De Campo Chardonnay 2010, Sanford Winery, Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, CA. Purchased at Wine & Spirit Company Austin Street NYC $28. Found online for $12-20/bottle. ABV 13.8%.

I found this bottle today when scouring the racks at a small local store. They have higher prices than larger stores, but the owner prides himself on providing quality wines. Since I’d managed to visit the winery this summer before and during #WBC14, the Wine Blogger’s Conference, I was immediately intrigued, and picked up the bottle.

The color shows pale sunshine with subtle green tinge. The nose offers wildflowers, iris, passion fruit, and apricot. In the mouth, this chardonnay shows a  delightful fruit blend, both tropical and citrus, yet creamy and nicely balanced with zesty acidity. New oak, gravel and schist show on the finish. A delight to drink by itself, it also paired wonderfully with both chicken and fish as a delicate, subtle foil. Utilizing screwcap closure, Flor de Campo was as perfect on day three after opening as on day one of tasting, and I enjoyed it both at cold temperatures which features the fruit and acidity, as well as closer to room temperature which enhanced the aromatics and creaminess of the wine.

FlordeCampo

A value at the internet prices I saw, I was happy to know I could find a local (albeit expensive) provider for immediate supply if needed/desired.

Having tasted the 2013 harvest at the vineyard while they were bottling, I was very happy to try the 2010 and confirm that the vintages have great consistency. Another positive mark for Sanford, where the passion they have for the product really shows.

Below are a few additional pictures from my trip to Sanford  this summer, documented on my post about Sanford Wine here : http://bit.ly/JvBSanford. I truly enjoyed discussing the vineyard and winemaking process with winemaker/GM Steve Fennel and hie entire team, which might be evident by the array of photos I took while there.

 

sign v2

Grapes for this wine are near the entry to the vineyard.  

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Chardonnay grapes on the vine. 

 

Chardonnay Grape Vine

Lovely vines, great fruit!

hoppers

Ready for crush?

Stainless

The next step in the process, then on to…

Barrels

 …storage in OAK!

Cold Filtration

Cold filtration, final step before bottling. 

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Auggie (left) a winemaker on the team at Sanford for over twenty years. The author on the right.

 

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 Part of the automated bottling of the 2013 Flor De Campo at Sanford Winery. 

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 The label goes on, and into the box they go, ready for distribution!

 

 

à votre santé!

‘Drinking Local’ at Total Wine: A Big ‘ol Wine Store in Atlanta

8 Oct

On a recent trip to Atlanta I had the fortune to mix business with pleasure. The pleasure was seeing friends from high school at a get-together that was essentially BYOB. For me, that meant wine shopping. I had to hunt locally in Atlanta, but I’m no longer a local. I  haven’t lived there since the 1980’s, and had no clue where to go. So I opened my phone, tapped, found, & then shopped in the closest wine store that popped up on Google Maps: a store called Total Wine (Atlanta), near Perimeter Mall.

It’s a huge store by NYC standards. For the rest of the country, it’s about the size of a small CostCo, Kmart, or Home Depot. They have a LOT of wine here. There’s copious beer, too, though the sign says “Total Wine” it doesn’t say “Totally Wine”.

I wandered the aisles briefly. Towards the front of the store was a cooler than caught my eye, with lots of tasty delights to tempt the oenophile. First growths, some big name firsts and seconds, the range in the first minute was from $50-$1500/bottle. Color me initially impressed, and I saw a magnum of Far Niente that might be a great party favor.

While I was peering at options, I got the challenge. “Can I help you with something, Sir?” from my six. It was all I could do to say “I’m a sucker for a first growth, load me up and charge it”  but I managed to keep my NY attitude in check, smile, and ask for a suggestion for a white burgundy and a dry riesling, a little test for both the seller and the store. Show me your hand, buddy. Let’s see what you have.

The kid (ok, the employee…I’m showing my age. HEY! YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!)   was passable, he could walk the walk, and knew enough to be dangerous AND help my New York attitude. Ten minutes later I accepted his third suggestion, after two chablis I passed up. Domaine Patrick Javillier’s  “Les Tillets” Meursault  2012, @$50, 12.5%ABV with delightful subtlety, restraint, snobbery and balance. Oh yes, this will suit my needs, and my friends will reap the benefits!

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I then chose  his second riesling suggestion, Dr.Heidemanns-Bergweiler 2013 Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett. @$17, 8.5% ABV (That’s a mouthful, let me tell you!) Semi-dry with apricot and orange peel, it’s a delightful if dense wine and the perfect opener for a party or closer for the “I don’t really drink” crowd.

Heidemanns

I strolled through the aisles of chardonnay and spotted a weakness of mine- DuMOL Chardonnay Need I say more? It shot into my arms. My friends are luckier than they think, this is a wine I can’t even find locally in NYC! Walking through the aisle of pinot, I was sad to see none of the wines I’d fallen in love with over the recent year. No Santa Barbara Pinot? No New Zealand Central Otago Aromatic whites OR pinot noirs? Sad clown face. What I did see was a ton of major producers whose names I knew well. If it was a big winery with wines scoring 85-95 points they had it. If they didn’t sell 10,000 cases it wasn’t in this store.

IMG_0057

Before I left another seller closer to my age saw the bottles tucked in my arms and said “I like your taste in wine”, then offered me a taste of something they had on sale: Courtney Benham Napa Valley Cab 2012. I think it listed for $20, but was on sale for $10. Tasting the dark fruit and wood, it’s a good red party wine I immediately knew would be gone through quickly. I picked up a bottle and headed to the party, where the BYOB became “drink JvB’s” from the serious wine folks. The red wine drinkers, as expected, finished the Benham in record time, while the chardonnay drinkers were able to argue whether they like the old world Les Tillets meursault or the new world (with classic old world approach) DuMOL. Yes, I spoiled them with really good & great wines, and told everyone where I got them- here, at the local wine store.

 

Benham

 

So I had a pretty good experience at Total Wine, and feel that anyone could find something they’d really enjoy in the store.  I was sad that I wasn’t seeing any of the highest quality, small-volume producers that I was specifically seeking from Napa, Alto Adige, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Northern Cali, The Finger Lakes, Washington State, and New Zealand. These are wines that you find when you’re visiting an area, they can blow your mind with their small production, huge quality, made-with-love-for-the-wines-sake bottles. This is what you learn when you drink locally in wine country. And this is why you become a fanatic, a regular wine club member, a champion of the small producer.

But, (and it’s a BIG but)  Atlanta is NOT wine country. So how do you drink “local” in the ATL? “Local wine” in Atlanta means something totally different: not bad, just Different!  I DID find a ton of options, so many of the high-volume wines you see listed in Wine Spectator, it was awesome on that level. I saw more names I recognized from print & region studies than I did from personal tasting experience. And what is in stock is delivered at a fair price, so it’s win-win… or maybe wine-win.

Did I mention that I kept the kabinett, to enjoy privately? Oops. Maybe I didn’t share everything. Hey, they can find it on the shelf  at Total Wine, where “drink local” means something totally different, but might be equally as satisfying.

 

à votre santé!

#MWWC12 

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #12
wine-stain1-3

 

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