Tag Archives: #MWWC

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!

 

Pop A Cork and Share, Because You Make Me Smile! #MWWC28

24 Oct

Better late than never, I’m submitting this post as my entry for #MWWC28 for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. Thanks go out to Beth aka Traveling Wine Chick for the fun theme and Jeff aka  The Drunken Cyclist for the MWWC that provides wine writers a warm, friendly, mildly competitive community to enjoy each other’s work!

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The theme for this month is SMILE. I love this theme. When someone smiles at me, I can’t help but smile back. And when I smile at them, they usually smile back. It’s like sharing an amazing wine with friends.

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One of the things I adore about wine is finding a wine I like and sharing it. When I pour a taste of a wine for someone for the first time and watch them enjoy it, that in turn gives me great joy. This is one of the reasons why I hold wine tastings for friends and neighbors.

It’s also why I bring a few special bottles to wine conferences. We don’t really need more wine at a tasting. There is usually plenty! Sometimes it is simply a great deal of wine. But I like to bring wines I like, so that others can enjoy them as well. I had such fun sharing bottles at WBC. “Here, have a taste!” with wines from areas these people know well, just sometimes haven’t ever tried before. SO. MUCH. FUN! Tons of smiles!  It’s even more fun because adept tasters like Anatoli (Talk-A-Vino) have such passionate, emotional, declarative responses to wine, much like art, and you get to hear them wax poetic in person, without deliberate editing into a blog post. It’s so HUMAN. It’s brilliantly fun!

Most importantly, it just makes people smile.

Look at the smile on these faces. Real people, mostly real smiles. Some people look slightly pained in posing for a picture, but all of these folks were having a good time. We’re people who are passionate about wine- enjoying it, making it, selling it, sharing it. We get together and taste it, and make each other smile, then we laugh!

Together, we make the world a better place. I’m excited to read your blog posts, to see your photographs, to hear your tasting notes. And when I see you in person, I’m so excited to hear what you have to say, because being your friend makes my life richer.

We make each other smile. And that is a beautiful gift.

 

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Hey! Give me  your glass- I want you taste this. Just a taste.

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à votre santé!

 

“Now, I Am Alone.” Puffeney Arbois Vin Jaune ’08

19 Jul

Writers create in a bubble (no, not bubbly. Sorry Jeff!) Sure, those bubbles may differ. Some work in quiet, others with blasting music in their ears, but all require some level of solitude.

So I found it funny, in a sort of ‘funny wistful’, and not ‘funny ha-ha’ fashion, that this month’s #MWWC26 theme is Solitude, as it shifts from many of the common themes The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge has had to point towards a very real truth. We have a great deal of solitude. We are born alone, we die alone. We may drink together, but we taste only what we taste, and then we can discuss that with others around a table. Or we can type those notes into a tablet, phone, or other I-thingy and share them with a greater audience. I think The Traveling Wine Chick Beth’s subconscious realizes exactly how lonely the road can be on her many myriad travels, hence her choice of themes.

As someone who also travels alone regularly for work,  I can sympathize.

 

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Writers need an audience, even if it is only themselves again at a later date. Let us be practical for a moment, and consider the following:  For whom did you really think people who journal are journalling for?

Let that one sink in for a moment.

Conversely, those of us who write about wine are NOT doing it for ourselves. Some do it for money, some might do it for the occasional free wine. Personally, I do it for the untold teeming masses- sure I have some friends and family who read my blog, but it is largely for the people I don’t know who subscribe to my blog and for the people who stumble upon it by accident. As I have begun to enjoy the benefits of blogging, I attend tastings more often to educate myself on wines rather than to attempt to write reviews- which is a difficult challenge if one tries to review every wine served in a large tasting. Often a tasting leads me to several wines I want to try again, and make it part of my repertoire and knowledge base to share with others.

We all spend much of our time in solitude.

When alone (In Solitude), we often speak our thoughts aloud. When acted out, these are referred to as monologues or soliloquies.

Some of the most famous words we know are soliloquies, monologues from plays like Hamlet, MacBeth, Romeo and Juliet. Or from films like The Godfather, On the Waterfront, Caddyshack and Taxi Driver.  And recently, Frank Underwood from House of Cards.

When I was young I enjoyed acting. An actor spends a great deal of time learning lines, developing a character, and then joining other actors to create a performance for an audience. As an actor, I learned to take a moment as the stage cleared and to begin a monologue by saying in my mind, only to myself, these words: “Now, I am alone.” At this point, a character can then address themselves, no one, or the entire world. In this way, one actor alone controls the audience, holding them rapt and on edge, or boring them to look away and check their watches or phones.

It is much the same with a wine, or a wine review. I bring home a wine, I study it, contemplate it, and then share it with the world… for better, or for worse. It is like performing a monologue.

By solitude and contemplation, I am able to share wines beyond my immediate table and with the entire world. Here is one that has been haunting me lately:

Jacques Puffeney’s Arbois Vin Jaune 2008, Appelation Arbois, Jura, France. 14%ABV, Street price approx $80/bottle.

From 100% Savagnin grapes, aged in barrels for 6 years, 3 months before bottling. Color is deep gold, while the nose offers heavily oxidized sherry, almond, and a hint of butterscotch. With a neutral palate, bracing acidity will be the initial flavor profile should you taste this incorrectly. Instead, have a piece of Comté cheese, let it gently coat your mouth, and then have a sip. At this point, the palate registers mature lemon, then a hint of almond paste, followed by a mouth-watering tartness and a savory top palate that wafts a delightful sherry aroma back up through your nasal cavity. The last of the Puffeney Vin Jaune. Sold in a 620 ml Clavelin, the shape of the bottle is only one indication that this is not your father’s French white wine.

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I have served this wine to friends, asking them to taste it alone to negative, shocked palates, and then again immediately after food. The response is night and day- from an “ugh” to an “Ahhh!” In pairing with food, the power is readily apparent.

With the announcement of his retirement and sale of his vineyards in 2015, Puffeney’s legacy has left behind a throng of dedicated fans. For those who manage to find a bottle, the tough choice is to savor it alone, or share it with close friends. I have and will continue to do both with Vin Jaune, as a rare and unusual wine should be shared and appreciated.

Solitude with this wine allows us to contemplate the dedication of farming, the mystery and brilliance in the winemaking, and the joy of sharing it with others which allows us to celebrate the same.

Even amongst friends, to taste this wine is to know it is the pinnacle of a man’s sole, lifelong goal and crowning achievement; the zenith of his years of solitude as a farmer and winemaker, for the joy of the masses. His soliloquiy, expertly performed, performed for an audience of wine lovers in the gallery.

This, my friends, is the essence great wine, and a strong wine community.

 

à votre santé!

 

Wineist: Drink Something New!

8 Mar

I’m no stranger to the wine mini-bottle approach, having written about The Tasting Room “A New Model for Tasting: The Mini Bottle” so when Wineist asked me if I’d like to try their model, of course I was interested.

The Wineist concept is that a consumer buys (or is gifted ) monthly (either single, six or 12 month) subscriptions which arrive as a box containing six different mini bottles of wine. The package is compact, cheerful and straightforward, designed for simplicity and cost-effectiveness while providing both an attractive and safe-to-ship packaging. I noticed immediately the use of cute subheadings: “Small in size, big in wines.” Upon opening the box, just below the wines is printed: “Start your wine journey”. As an oenophile, already I found this experience fun, exploratory, and exciting. Were I a neophyte to the wine world, it would be even more so. 

 

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The samples are airline-sized 50ml bottles that pour a 1.75 ounce taste into a wine glass. Accompanying the six samples is a small brochure that offers initial lessons in how to taste and classify your wines, followed by individual details on each sample and winery or winemaker, with a brief description and pairing suggestions.

 

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The goal of this packaging is to engage the consumer while developing their tasting profile over monthly subscriptions from which you can then order full-sized bottles. A different monthly theme is created, obviously designed to expose the consumer to a complete view of the wine world instead of finding their immediate comfort zone.

The package I received had one wine from Germany, two from South Africa, two from Spain, and one from Italy. They are focused on providing new wine tasting experiences to people who most likely have never seen them before- four of these wineries I had never heard of, only one of these I knew well. So yes, a new way to taste wines that are new to you!

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An interesting aspect is that the bottles are labeled with roman numerals; the taster is encouraged to take notes in the space provided on the newsprint. The consumer won’t be tempted to ignore the details as it becomes key to knowing what wine one is drinking if they want to have more.

 

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Being able to come home from work late a night and find a sample box with six wines surely makes finding new wines easy! Pop a few screw tops, taste a few wines, order a bottle of what you enjoy, and know it will be in your mail in a few days. It offers the customer ease and reduces time constraints with little pressure. On the other hand, unless you share your samples with a friend, the social aspect of tasting is lost, but if that gets the consumer to try several wines from regions that are far outside their comfort range, then why not?

 

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Wineist is a start-up company based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The business model is reported to function as a way for wineries to get greater exposure to buyers (and increase product demand), while simultaneously allowing consumers the opportunity to taste a wide array of wines with minimal liability and expense, thereby removing the wine-store worries a consumer might have that they will have to buy a 750ml bottle of something they won’t like.

What remains to be seen is how Wineist determines the likes and dislikes of the consumer. In their advertising, they advertise a unique feature of Wineist as “profiling our subscribers” to “analyze their taste in wine based on their feedback and over time create a unique wine DNA” for better, more personal recommendations, similar to having a personal sommelier.

 

The looming business question for customer retention and continued growth is how the wine DNA will be determined for each consumer? Obviously any time that a customer orders a full sized bottle from Wineist will qualify that wine as a “like”, but what about their dislikes? How do they calculate if the consumer prefers warm or cold climate wines, if they prefer South African or Australian Shiraz, or Italian reds from Piedmont instead of Tuscany? If a consumer has a very narrow range of preferences, will Wineist be able to retain them with an appropriate selection, or keep them interested with a worldly view?

If a customer subscribes to a full 12 month set of tastings, one might expect that emailed questionnaires become a key part to finding out that the consumer like samples number 2 and 5 from January and samples 4 and 6 from February, but there is no indication of such a program as of yet.

Regardless, I found the Wineist experience both fun and exciting. If I enjoyed it, many other people will as well, and I would suspect that this business venture has a future.

Wineist provides another exciting way to try wines from around the world with a unique angle. In a Harpers UK article,  Peter Bruner from Wineist was said to have reported that 70% of their then-current consumer base was in the USA, with 15% in the UK. Currently their website has prices listed in Euros, but with more consumers from the West coming aboard, that is likely to change, or become a selectable option if they have a savvy webmaster.

Is this the right tasting model for you? How do you feel about mini bottles of wine as a way to try new wines, wine regions, and winemakers? Please share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

 

à votre santé!

 

#MWWC23

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Why Wines Deserve a Second Chance: #MWWC22

19 Jan

 

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Yesterday was a day I planned for months and worried about for weeks in advance. It was a wine tasting of a group of wines outside my normal scope of expertise. Traditionally when I host a tasting, I do ONE thing specifically: I serve wines I know personally, whose vines and trellises I have paced aside, whose barrels I have touched, whose flavors and colors I know intimately.

This was not one of those times.

Sure, on my ten wine list I hand-picked a few bottles that had been waiting in the cellar for just such a day. But by in large, I researched and shopped regions I didn’t know as well, and looked more closely at wines that often get a bad rap. For examples, the wines we scoot past quickly in a restaurant list when we see them. Such as: Italian white wines, and chianti.

“Why?” you cry out, outraged and distressed, “What have Chianti and Italian white wines done to you?”

Nothing.

That’s exactly it, they did nothing for me, and nothing TO me.

And it’s my own fault.

Because we first taste these wines in a family-style Italian restaurant where cheap wines are served by the gallon. We learn, early in age, to be dismissive of cheap pinot grigio and cheap chianti. As a result, later on in our lives,  we don’t even bother look for quality versions of these same things. It’s as silly as hating cars as an adult, just because your first teenage car was a cheap junker that smoked from the exhaust, had bald tires, and barely got you where you needed to go. It’s not the fault of the vehicle, to be honest.

It’s time to give these wines a second chance.

For white wines, I turned to Friuli-Venizia Guilia.

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I served these four white wines, in order:

Venica 2013 Malvasia from Collio,

Borgio Del Tiglio 2011 white blend from Collio,

I Clivi 2014 Verduzzo from Collio Orientali del Friuli DOC, and

I Clivi 2001 Galea from Collio Orientali del Friuli DOC.

These four wines changed all our preconceived notions of Italian white wines. Crafted with obvious expertise, love and care, these wines displayed depth, complexity, minerality, and body. They told stories. They enticed our palates, and they left us wanting more.

The 2001 Galea showed its age, grace, and deep color beautifully, on par with some of my revered and aged Bordeaux or Burgundian wines. The color alone was stunning; photos just don’t do it justice.

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I found it funny: one of my guests (almost as a rule) dismisses white wines. He was not as quiet as I expected during these first four bottles, and eventually, I learned he was impressed and enjoying himself! And he made a point to speak up and admit both of these points to the group.

And we moved on to the red wines, and we laughed, and we loosened up. And at the 9th bottle, I poured a chianti.

But not just any chianti.

Thought a relatively young wine, I served a Chianti Classico Gran Reserva Selezione, a DOCG wine with the tell-tale black rooster on the bottle. I said little about the wine, and I said nothing about the Rooster.

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My guests said it all for me. They told me this wine was stunning, eye-opening, not what they expected from a chianti. They shared pairing notes, talked about the color, the nuances they found.

Even after I served the 2000 Brunello Di Montalcino, we ooh’d and ahh’d about it and thoroughly enjoyed it… but eventually we went back to discussing the chianti.

And I thought that maybe it was really us who needed the second chance.

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à votre santé!

Submitted to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #22

 

New and No Longer Too New! Pairing Wines #MWWC21

7 Dec

Though ineligible to win, I feel I owe it to my fellow wine bloggers to participate in what might be a challenging wine blogging topic that I chose for this month’s theme of #MWWC21: Pairing.

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Perhaps you have read my 2015 annual Thanksgiving Wine post and the post-mortem in which I gave myself, and not the wine, letter grades based on popular reaction at the table to the wine choices. Such is the challenge and fun in wine, in trying to please people’s palates. Try as we might, to quote John Lydgate, “you can’t please all the people all the time. ” But I love to spend time figuring out what wines will pair well with which dishes or meal, as the combination of food and wine  provides an opportunity to elevate the experience together to a higher level of enjoyment than one could experience by only food or wine alone. Sometimes, the pairings are good, on rare occasion that can ascend to be exquisite or sublime. Most of the time, the goal is to find a wine that will complement the food beautifully, that the diner will enjoy. Simple, right? Maybe…maybe not! Ready?

Sébastien Dampf Chablis 2014 Grand Vin de Bourgogne. Chablis, Burgundy, France. 12.5% ABV, $23/bottle.

Pale gold in color with a nose of honeysuckle, violet, lemon zest and walnut. In the mouth, the wine is beautifully vibrant showing racing acidity and bright, mouth-watering citrus. Tart lemon-lime is lengthy on the upper and back palate. An obvious absence of wood is apparent, while the finish features an expansive  model of fruit together with the salinity found both in sea air and limestone. Over several meals, I paired this young wine perfectly with both baked chicken and turkey breast. It has plenty of salinity to handle seafood and shellfish, and the bright acidity leaves the palate clean and refreshed after I enjoyed some milder, creamy cheeses like gouda, edam, chèvre, brie and camembert. Compares well to wines at double the price, I will be on the lookout for more wines from this producer and am sorry I didn’t buy more.

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Barton & Guestier Saint-Emilion “Gold Label” 2010 Bordeaux Blend, Bordeaux, France. 13.5%ABV, $20/bottle. 

Pale maroon in color with a nose of sour cherries, wet grass and vegetation. On the palate, dark plum and red raspberry are featured with lesser notes of bell pepper and tobacco. Medium in body with complementing tannins; notes of cedar, young oak, forest floor, and chalky clay on the medium long finish. I first opened a bottle of this wine in spring of 2013 and the only note I took was “chewy & green: too young”, but recently I came across this vintage again and decided that now, at the end of 2015 I might try another bottle. Luckily, I  found better results: maturity! Some chewiness still remains, but this wine is very approachable now, pairing nicely with rich, savory dark meat fowl such as duck and goose, grilled lamb and beef, and full-bodied cheeses. A blend of 75% Merlot with remaining in Cabernet Franc that sustained well over several days of tasting, improving with air slowly. The most fun I had with this wine was when trying a spicy recipe for Buffalo-Sauce laced Brussel Sprouts and Buffalo Chicken, a dish with a ton of flavor and spice that demanded something equally powerful. This bottle was open, and it was able to meet the task, in spite of the fact that I probably would have chosen a pure cabernet sauvignon as a foil to the dish. One of the joys of wine tasting is having a bunch of open bottles, so you can taste several wines with a dish and see how well they fare… or don’t!

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à votre santé!

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