Life is better on the corner, the place where great wines meet reasonable prices!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beauty Comes with Age

"We want to make wines that age, and we want some of the tannins you get from the seed, as well as flavors from the skins. Not a lot, Just a touch. We don't make wines that are meant to be showy today and fall apart tomorrow. We want built-in structure." ~ Michael McNeill Hanzell Vineyards via Matt Kramer's "Age before Beauty" article in WS. 

Whether we are talking about Barolo in Piemonte or one of Sonoma's very best Chardonnay producers, aging potential in wine, is now a key component I look for in wine today. Typically for me, when evaluating its long term potential; I'm not considering aging a wine for more than 10 years, but at the very least, up to that point. I readily admit, when I first started tasting and drinking wine, the thought of aging a wine to its full potential, was not top of mind, when choosing a wine to bring home. But now that I've been collecting wine for over ten years, having a bit of hindsight, pulling some of the gems out of the cellar, they're simply stunning. Easily making the point, beauty does come with age; but beauty is not the only thing which comes with age, perspective is also a bonus.Perception is not reality, reality is reality. The wine you see above has that potential, in the short term it's more beautiful, than gorgeous.

It's not the uber hot-gurl in the bikini or stunningly short, shorts. No this wine is seducing in a far more subtle, seductive way, one which allures you with it sophisticated charms, bonus, it won't break the bank. Although it's not a cheap date, seeing the price of admission is $35-$40 and like Hanzell [of which I have two of their labels] is one of the curated wines which sit on the store shelves of my store. I've been fond of saying on this blog, I know how to pick winners, when it comes to wine. All of which sounds like bragging, but when it can be backed up by sales at the cash register, and the awesome feedback of satisfied customers who continue to come back for more suggestions, then you know you're onto something. 

But what do I know, I'm just a wine blogger, a curator [if you will] of wine, a wine-steward who works for a 'grocery-store' in La Jolla. When it comes to insanely obscure wine knowledge, you know, the type of information used to trip-up those aspiring to become a sommelier, that's not my forte. Picking and writing about amazing, soulful wines, that will rock your wine world to the core, is where I feel most comfortable. I'll leave the mindless, drivel about commodity wines to those who just can't seem to say 'no' to whatever pops out of the PR sample case. So no, not every wine I taste is a sample, because I see few these days, but I'm not trolling for them either. Why take this tone and tenor here, inside this review, I'm not sure, I guess I just wanted to vent a little via my soapbox.

It's time to talk about the wine, the 'real' star of the show. Hold the phone, amazing soul and substance from thee most amazing Piemonte vintage of recent note. This wine, which I just ordered for my store, is like a majestic equine, power under control. In the glass, a delicate cherry core, the rim hitting a light brick colored note. On the palate, this wine hits a very delicate, but powerful note. Cherry, strawberry, sage and sweet-tar play a gorgeous melody; this wine is firm, yet harmonious. This wine is dry, but the power is there, The tannins are a bit bracing, but time in the decanter will even them out, best yet, give this wine a year or two in the cellar and your patience will be richly rewarded.

Not an audacious bragger, not a cocktail for afternoon drinks. Oh no, selling for under $40, this wine will wow those who consider themselves in the 'know' and for those who don't, it will leave you scratching your head, wondering what all the 'fuss' is about. Love #Barolo like I do, but the price of admission is too steep? I feel ya, I'd grab this one for the cellar, you won't be disappointed. My score for this beauty is 93 points, it's highly recommended. Not a sample, it was paid for by cold hard cash, the old fashion way. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Oregon Uncorked: Patricia Green Cellars Revisited

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” -Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon

The quote above from Hemingway, is the same quote Mr. Anderson used to launch into his description [via the PGC Newsletter] of the vintage that was 2006. I had my first taste of Patricia Green way back at the beginning of my early fascination with wine. Mrs. Cuvee and I decided to take advantage of the proximity of our time-share which is ideally located on the amazingly gorgeous Oregon coast. We spent an unforgettable week taking day trips to different wineries. We made a few appointments ahead of time and PG was definitely one of those places we had read about and knew we had to visit. This is a place for folks who just can't enough of sniffing, swirling, sipping and getting to know this amazing varietal better.

"Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, right. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and ancient on the planet." ~ Miles [Sideways]
No matter what you thought of the movie [good, bad or indifferent] or some of its more painful inconsistencies, I believe this line [seen above] from the movie was spot on. There are, really, only a few, small tucked away, corners of the world where Pinot Noir can deliver its fullest, breath taking expressions and one of those places is called the Willamette Valley. When we arrived for our appointment, we were not even sure where to go, there were no real signs, as we drove up to the property we even wondered if we were at the right place, again no signs.  

We drove slow onto the property, on a very cold Oregon day, early in the year, February 2006 to what looked like a quaint farmhouse, with out lying buildings, nothing that really said, "you've arrived at a winery". I was finally brave enough to slide one of the doors open, peer in, and say hello. Finally a reply came back, and we were met by Mr. Anderson, a couple winery dogs and welcomed into their barrel room [aka. impromptu tasting room]. Mr. Anderson is big fan of the Red Sox, but definitely not a fan of Wine Spectator or too many other wine publications for that matter. Although, I've noticed of late, they've [PG Cellars] have taken quite a shine to Stephen Tanzer. And if you'd like to hear the story behind a bottle of wine they call "Notorious" please ask Mr. Anderson about it, he tells the tale in an amazing fashion.

That day in the barrel [tasting] room, it seemed so much colder than it needed to be, even with the thick coats and sweaters we had on, we were freezing, but not quite as cold as the other couple who shared our tasting appointment window with us. If you've ever seen newlyweds you know what I'm about to tell you, it should not be too surprising,  that other couple who we didn't know, but shared our tastes in wine were not quite prepared for how cold it would be in the barrel room, the guy wearing a short sleeve shirt, was just managing to stay warm, by enjoying the large pours and the old fashion body heat method, sticking his cold hands down the backside of his new wife, who says chivalry isn't dead. But they way these two were carrying on, it left my wife and I with one thought, we expressed to each other once we were back in our vehicle,  we looked at each other and we both said, "sheese, buddy get a room" and of Mr. Anderson we thought, okay so how bad were you 'really' tortured at Tori Mor? 

In the picture above are the wines we tasted that day, we did take a few bottles home with us and were glad we did. As you can see from the image, each bottle was from the 2004 vintage, which represented the majority of wines we tasted all over the valley at the time. Both Mrs. Cuvée and I were very impressed that vintage year and we still are, sadly we don't have even a drop of 2004 left in the cellar [tears]. Our visit occurred early in the year of 2006, far before this blog was in a glimmer in my eye, when the price of gas was still an inexpensive $2 bucks a gallon. 

Those were the days, when I thought spitting was silly, when I thought tasting meant drinking and taking notes about the wines I encountered was a waste of time. That couple we met at the PGC tasting that day, we saw them again later that day, after we departed for an appointment at Bergstrom, but that is not the end of that story, if you'd ever like to hear the ending, just let me know the next time I see you in person, trust me it's a tale worth re-telling a thousand times. 

But of the wines you see above, the one which really caught our attention that day, one of the real highlights was the 2004 Eason in a word,  my only note from at the time, was wow. Later, when we got home and most likely a year later we opened that bottle we had purchased for a mere $30, and again the only place I left a note about previous wines consumed was in a journal,

one I still have, the journal that got me started writing my notes in an electronic journal, and became what is now known as the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog. I just now blew the dust of years off that old journal, which is rarely crack opened, and found a bit more detailed note about my second experience with the PGC 2004 Eason Pinot Noir. The score I gave it back then 9.3 and I wrote, "a powerful, yet elegant Pinot Noir, wonderfully structured, abundant fruit and plumed nicely with just the right amount of acid, to give it a sweet balance, and the finish sailed on and on". As you can see I was quite taken with this wine, as I was when I popped the corked on the wine in today's review, the 2006 Goldshcmidt, Dundee Hills

Now to the reason why I chose that amazing bottle from the cellar in the first place, my son Jake was visiting from out of state, and I wanted to share with him, one of my first experiences I had with wine, from one of Oregon's best known and loved producers of Oregon Pinot Noir. After his first sip, I could see the lights go on, he looked at me and said, "I can't wait to take my own trip Oregon, some day" and I thought mission accomplished, another thirsty vinosapien is born, and who knows, perhaps the next author of the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog in the future, only time will tell. 

The story of how this wine came to be, is told wonderfully on the PGC back-label, the wine I shared with my son and of course the lovely and talented Mrs. Cuvée is produced from some of Oregon's oldest vines, the few which survived the onslaught, of the still present danger, phylloxera. The Goldscmidt vineyard was planted in 1974 and 1975 the following years after Nixon had resigned from office. The vineyard itself can be found on Worden Hill Rd, perched perfectly at a 500 foot elevation, atop a deep bowl, with southern exposure over looking the now famous Dundee Hills of Oregon, in the Willamette Valley.   

The day I opened this wine, was the very last evening of my Son's visit and I wanted him to depart with dreams of Oregon Wine Country bouncing about in his memories, as a sweet good-bye for now and a invitation to say, I hope to see you again soon Son. 
"Let’s just stipulate that in the hierarchy of pleasures, people come first. Now that we agree on that, good food and drink can help make any party better." -- Eric Asimov
And of course we've already made plans to do some wine exploration in one of my other favorite wine destinations Washington State, where we will check out the still unknown to me, the Lake Chelan AVA. The anticipation is already ratcheting higher and higher. I do love exploration, so glad I get to share this adventure with my son. 

Now regarding the stunning wine in today's review, a wine which was reviewed by more nineteen folks at Cellar Tracker, averaging a score of 91.5 points, I too concur with their thoughts and scoring, but I scored this wine 95 points, and it's my opinion that this bottle of wine is an ideal representation of what Oregon Pinot Noir is and should be. In the glass, a brilliant cranberry color, and a bit cloudy. On the nose, that signature 'funk' wet damp earth, freshly picked mushrooms, and wet earth still clinging to the stem, bright cherries and spice. 

Sipping and slurping my way through the first pour, more cranberries, baked cherries over silky, well integrated tannins and layers upon layers depth and complexity. The finish went on and on, a true master piece. Nicely done PGC, nicely done and if you somehow know a place I could score a few more bottles, please let me know. Until next time folks, remember life is short, please for gawd's sake don't settle for pedestrian commodity wines and never stop exploring, sip long and prosper cheers!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2011 Domaine Trotereau Quincy

"Come, come, good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used; exclaim no more against it." ~ William Shakespeare

Many of you may have at one time or the other have celebrated and/or promoted Sauvignon Blanc Day? Sure I had my invites to do so, but as I've said before, this is not one of those faddish wine blogs, with a big splash in the pan, only to fizzle out a few months or a year later, silently falling below the glittery limelight. That said, while my participation in the process has slowed a bit, my passion for extolling the virtues of drinking well has assuredly not. So if you fancy yourself a swirler of Sauvignon Blanc, then you'll be sure to want to give this gem in today's dusted off review of a wine that will knock your socks off, don't doubt me. 

I'm not sure when it happened, each and every varietal having its own 'day' but it's an irritating trend, driven no doubt by PR firms desperate to get their clients a bit of social media attention. Now that said, it's my hope that after reading this review, that this wine will become a new favorite. Especially so, when searching for a Sauvignon Blanc, that is as far off the [the everyday commodity] reservation as it could possibly get and the reason I'm so excited about this fantastic expression of Sauvignon Blanc. 

The wine in today's spotlight really had my attention from the first whiff to the last drop [which I spit out] and even though I wasn't drinking that day, I was only there to taste [In my opinion, an important distinction] this wine still "wowed" me. 

As I was sampling this wine for the first time, it really struck-me as the kind of wine I want to bring to your attention, something completely different [from my perspective] and off the beaten path, far away from the usual suspects on commodity wine row. 

It's with that idea in mind, that this unique wine comes from an area in France, one of which I was completely unfamiliar to me before sampling this wine. I will confess there's no way I couldn't have pointed it out on the map either. But what I do know is that this very inexpensive bottle of wine from the very small appellation of Quincy in the Loire Valley, a dry white wine will wow you at each turn and twist in the road. You won't be able to put it down, its exciting fresh and most likely as new to the average vino-sapien as it was to me on a warm Wednesday afternoon. 

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I'm not much of Sauvignon Blanc fan [excepting cooking] by any stretch of the imagination. This is precisely why you may find it quite ironic, that I'm jumping up and down with excitement about this fantastic expression of Sauvignon Blanc, oozing with a honeyed, full-bodied texture and a just a pinch of lemon-peel oil component.  

Oh you could just keep on drinking the garden-variety domestic Sauvignon Blanc or the same hackneyed kiwi Sauvignon Blanc or perhaps you could step outside the box just this once to experience something completely new? Consider this your invitation to do so. This wine selling most places for $16 to $17, a wine I've rated 93 points, it's a wine you need to try for yourself to see what all the fuss is about. 

While I was at work a gentlemen came in looking for the owner, I asked if I could be of service? Yes of course, he said and introduced himself as Mr. Malk [who no doubt many of you are very familiar with his wines] and asked if I could recommend some [other than his own of course] Sauvignon Blanc. I knew the wine I had in mind [the Quincy] was not what he was looking for, but I took the risk introducing him to the Quincy instead. He took one bottle that day, and then days later he came back to acquire more I'm told. 

I like to think of myself as charting a course of wine-diversity, I want to discover all that the wine world has to offer a thirsty vino-sapien and I want each one of you to join me on that path to discovery; I want you my readers to drink better as well. 

I'm told that the appellation of Quincy was the 2nd appellation in France to be recognized in 1936, second only to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where many of the vines are over a century old, while some have been more recently planted in the mid-eighties. 

One of the more compelling reasons for adoring this wine so much is because it really didn't have many of the usual suspects in the nose or on the palate. I was immediately surprised by the nose, aromas of white-flowers, honeysuckle, white peach, sweet-quince and whiff of bell pepper which quickly fades to the background. 

Then jumping into the wine itself, wow, again the mouth-feel is flamboyant, intense aromatics, honey, wet-stone, [the whisper of lemon oil] is followed by a full-bodied, exuberant, dry white wine that must be tasted to be believed. I suspect this offering has some aging potential, but why risk it when this wine is drinking ever so nicely right now. 

In fact I wondered silently if the wine I tasted was Sauvignon-Blanc at all, seeing it's so far afield from most other new-world Sauvignon I've come accustom to despising. How could a wine raised in stainless steel and enamel tanks and had its fermentation kicked off with indigenous yeast have this much body and substance to it and yet not have the typical lean flavors which will typically drives me away like a pack of ravenous hyenas. 

I just kept looking at the bottle, snapping the picture you see above and tasted it twice just to confirm my impressions and flummoxed with my own delight. But there it's, try it for yourself soon, I look forward to hearing thoughts and impressions. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rhone Zone Spotlight: 2010 Clos Saint Michel CDP

“If you only drink the same wines that everyone else is drinking, than you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ~ A wise Vino-Sapien

You're now traveling through another wine country destination, a destination not only of sight and sound but of the vine; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of export. That's the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Rhone Zone. —Rod Serling

Isn't that how Mr. Serling introduced the second season of the Twilight Zone??  For some a timeless show which [in many respects] was way ahead of its time. It was a show which made many take pause and perhaps even some thought about this mortal-coil that we all tread upon. Okay yes, I took some artistic-license with the opening monologue [so sue me] but I did so for a very good reason.

That reason, to transport you ever so briefly to another time and place. One you may have no doubt heard of before, but one you may not have had that much experience with on a regular basis. The boundaries of export, meaning as a serious wine shopping kinda guy, I don't see as much vino from the Rhone Zone as I would like to see in the US wine market place [with a few exceptions of course]. But when you have a chance explore, explore this vast and luscious wine landscape.

The Rhone Zone: This is one area of France which is fast becoming one of my all time favorite regions and not just for the red wines either. Because I find the white wines from this exciting region to be every bit as fantastic as the reds. It can be thought of as split up; with south and north, each has its own climate and interesting topography.

The North: It's hilly, is influenced by a turbulent, strong wind, called the Mistral and according to their strict wine laws, there a good number of the northern appellations that can ONLY be planted with Syrah. Within the borders of the North you have the Cote Rotie, where up to 20% of the Syrah can be juiced with Viognier [syrah-perfume]. They also have a super-star[think Jerry Maguire] within its borders, named the Hermitage home to some of the world's finest wines, where bacon fat and pepper aromas are coaxed from steep hillsides.

It's also home to some big red monsters who lie in wait in the Coronas appellation, dark, rich, brooding wines who bite at the heels of their neighbor in Crozes-Hermitage which produces a lighter more subtle style of vino, where rich raspberry, earthiness and silky tannins dominate the more value oriented red wines from the north.

The South: Is by contrast to the north, considered the "flat-lands". The weather there, tends to be much warmer and the vineyards rise out of landscape typically covered by some strange stones called "galets" which make a significant contribution to the "uniqueness" and great quality to Southern Rhone wines. 

The Southern Rhone is home to the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape [new castle of the pope]. These wines typically are GSM blends, but can be blended with up to 13 different grapes, but Grenache is the kingpin grape here. This is the place you will find bottles brandishing a lavish Coat of Arms just above the label, indicating that these wines are Estate grown. They also have a super-star in their midst, known as Chateau de Beaucastel.

The Murkey Middle Lands: This is the place where you have a blending of both regions, known to many as Cotes du Rhone encompassing the dual Rhone's largest production areas, producing a broad range and styles of wine. While the Villages designation on the bottle will typically mean, the wines lean toward a higher quality standard.

If you've never taken a visit to the Rhone-Zone, as I like to call it; than folks this is your ticket to ride. A wine that will come out, shake your hand and you'll become fast friends. It will leave you wondering why you had not met sooner. Even the garden variety wine-twirler will get this wines easy going and easy to get along with personality. It's a wine that's easy as a Sunday morning, and is easy to please even the fussiest wine snob.

You'll find in this wine, a style which makes food pairing choices so easy and wonderfully fun. I can't imagine too many things that would not pair well with this wonderfully well-made wine from a stellar vintage. In this blend you'll be greeted by forty percent Grenache, which blazes the trail like an elephant through the tall grass, followed by equal percentages of Mourvedre and Syrah expressing vibrant blueberries, blackberries, olives and a meatiness which are caressed by underbrush tones; this wine is both complete and delightfully complex at the same time.

This wine from Clos Saint Michel, CDP has everything the average vino-sapien is looking for via earthy, mineral-driven nuances, [you literally taste the vineyard dust] light engaging aromatics which draw you in for the first slurp. A food friendly wine with a gentle verve of dark and red fruits pulsing through its soul. After the first splash you're enthusiastically greeted by a generous nose; freshly picked blueberries, wild flowers and a hint of black olives. A dense ruby to simmering blackberry color core, expanding to a slightly paler rim. This wine is seamless, finely knit tannins, effortlessly woven into the fabric of this southern Rhone stunner and while it's not inexpensive, it's well worth the price of admission. Until next time folks here's to exploration, slurp long and prosper cheers! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Wine of the Week: 2010 Mario's Vineyard, Trinchero Napa Valley

Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are... ~ RW Emerson

As many of you may know or have heard; I've stepped from behind the keyboard and onto the playing field as it was. Not only do I make recommendations from the lofty ivory tower of my blog, twitter, vivino, delectable; [soapbox] but I also take those opinions to the sales floor, where I get to mingle with fellow vinosapiens and the purveyors of fermented juice much to the delight of both. I do love this journey I'm on, and I look forward to even more exciting adventures in the wine business. I have gotten my bearings and its full steam ahead.

Honestly, I have far less time to write, but there are days like today, where I have the luxury of extra time to string together a few words and share with you a truly remarkable wine I happened upon languishing on my stores shelves. It was purchased [current sale price $32] a couple weeks ago, and allowed to properly rest in the cellar before being uncorked and its beauty revealed. It's a wine which comes from a great family who've I've not met, and whose property I've only driven by in the past.

The reason I'm compelled to share this wine with you via my long overdue wine of the week column is simple; with so few 'Napa' wines hitting the mark so surely, this folks is a textbook example of how it's done right. I dropped this bad boy in the decanter, and spilled a few ounces into a proper stem as well. Tasting this wine is a pure pleasure, it reminds me of a left bank Bordeaux; lean where it should be, vivid acid taming abundant fruit, tannins finely honed over time, and the wonderfully stunning minerality is found in abundance.

The finish is long and lasting, and its memory is still in my thoughts. The structure of this wine could easily go another 10 years. Plums, cocoa dust, blackberries, cassis, cedar and dried underbrush. You can spend more, but you honestly won't get more, until next folks remember life is short, so sip long and prosper cheers!

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