Archive for the 'reader mail' Category

Reader mailbag: finding Ace of Spades champagne

I’m getting married in 15 days and I want Ace Of Spades Champagne for my reception!
-via yahoo mail

Congratulations on your nuptials! Sadly if your wedding is in the US, the wine–formally known as Armand de Brignac–won’t be here in time for your big day. According to the American importer, Sovereign Brands, a December launch is planned. But even then the wine will be in limited supply. (search to buy Ace of Spades Champagne online)

Via email the manager at Crush, the hipster wine shop in midtown Manhattan, told me they are 99% likely to carry the wine but do not have all the details sorted out yet. The wine may even be available directly from the importer according to their website.

If you’re getting married in France you stand a chance of finding it. According to the WSJ, Michel Platini, French soccer legend, ordered 100 bottles of Cattier champagne for his son’s wedding this month.

More details on the brand development:
Jay-Z puts an Ace in play” [Dr. V]
My interactive map of NYC wine stores

UPDATE: An anonymous tipster has sent in this photo of Armand de Brignac as seen in New Jersey! It HAS hit our hallowed shores! I just guess you need some clout to get it.

Beyonce and Jay-Z at his 40/40 club in Atlantic City.

Reader mailbag: getting my wine picks on your table

Dear Dr. Vino,

Have you even considered taking your 10 for $10 list, or the most that you can find at a single store, and putting them in a case or half case that people can buy. I see that you have a “find this wine” link, but maybe people would be more inclined to buy MORE wine and sample the bunch if there is some way of YOU assembling the case online at a store and providing a link for us to purchase the box. Is this not possible? Thoughts?

yours truly, Alastair

* * * * * *


Great question. In fact, it is so great, I’d love to open it up to input from other readers.

I hear your frustration (and of course praise you for your fanatical dedication) and maybe it’s something I should consider. I’ve previously touched on the difficulties of making wine recommendations for the US market. I just don’t have the market clout for shops to be arranging their end-cap displays with my picks.

I source my wines from a lot of shops but I would recommend checking Sam’s Wine in Chicago or Astor Wine or Crush Wine in New York City since they ship to many states and I buy a lot of my wines from them. But that said, I could easily compile a case (or two or three!) of wines I like from each of these stores or others of my faves in NYC or Chicago or SF.

What do you think, dear reader? Would you like it if I arranged for some value wines that I recommend to be found at a vendor with more or less national shipping? Would you have liked a one-click “buy now” button for my summer wines list for example?

My only hesitation is that I only recommend wines because I like them not because I have any inventory to move or sales targets to meet. I think it’s an important distinction: I recommend wines, I do not sell them and I have no desire to cross that line.

If I arranged some of my picks with a retailer, it would indeed be easier for you. And I wouldn’t have any inventory. Or sales targets–if I couldn’t find wines that I liked from one vendor at any particular time, then I simply wouldn’t put together any cases or half-cases of my picks.

I look forward to your thoughts.

* * *

Win some wine — thru Sep 7

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Reader mailbag: chill out

Salil in Singapore: Was just wondering about whether it’s OK to keep a bottle of white wine in a freezer for a short period of time (e.g., 10-15 minutes). We’re quite fond of having a lot of our white wines very cold (particularly in the tropical summer heat in Singapore).

HG in Moscow: how long can/should you keep a white wine in the fridge?

* * *

Purists would probably say that wine should slowly be brought down to cellar temperature. Although they’re right, it’s not always practical.

Around the Dr. Vino world headquarters, when the summer heat is on and no bottle is sufficiently cold, we often use a gel sleeve from the freezer. But the tried and true method from the restaurant trade is a bucket of ice, water and a fistful of salt (don’t ask me why the salt). That will chill a bottle in 10 minutes. The freezer works but it’s just air surrounding the bottle and water actually wicks the heat out of the bottle’s core faster.

How long should that sauvignon blanc be rolling around on the bottom shelf of the fridge? Well, hopefully not too long. Ideally, try to stick it in the fridge 60-90 mins before serving. The trouble with leaving the bottle in there for days on end is that it is then served too cold. The average fridge is 38 degrees (3 deg C) but serving a white wine at those temperatures can really mute the aromas–those purists with their cellars really have the ideal temperature (55 F; 13 C). If it’s just been a day then you can uncork, pour, wait a few minutes and the wine will warm up sufficiently. But if it’s been in the fridge for a month, it might have lost something. Try the ice water and salt trick instead.

One last note on chilling wines is that it’s not for whites alone. I mentioned chilling a syrah recently and that made it a better summer red. Similarly, cru Beaujolais or other light reds can make for chilled summer refreshment.

Got a question? Send it in!

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Reader mailbag: traveling to Spain

tlc in Minneapolis writes:

For spring break I will probably go to Spain since one of my friends will be there next year on a Fulbright. Some mutual friends who like wine are seriously considering doing the trip with me. So let me ask you for recs on Spanish wine regions that would be nice to visit in March! My colleague will be based in Madrid but I’d have about 7-10 days so could get out and about a bit.

Shazza in London writes:

Any tips for travel in Rioja? I’ll be there in October.

* * * *

If I were vactioning in Spain, based in Madrid and interested in seeing Spanish wineries, I might be tempted to go to Ribera del Duero since it is a little closer and a very exciting region. In fact, the whole Duero/Duoro region is fascinating, but I’ll post more on that in October.

Visitng the grande dame La Rioja could also be good. At least one thing makes traveling there exciting now: a new museum/winery extravaganza designed by Frank Gehry. I saw a model of it at the MOMA exhibit earlier this year about New Spanish Architecture. But as of September 17 it will be open to visitors. I doubt it will do for tourism in La Rioja what Gehry’s Guggenheim did in Bilbao (the world has had a whole lot a Gehry since then) but it will certainly motivate some people to check out this wine region.

Decanter magazine recently described Gehry’s having “designed the roof of wave-shaped titanium sheets in homage to the flowing skirts of Flamenco dancers.” Um, I sincerely hope that is not the case since flamenco is from Andalucia, all the way on the other side of Spain. Maybe Gehry had already had a little too much tempranillo.

So where to visit? (town name in parentheses)

Marques de Riscal (Elciego): Leading producer in the modern style and with the Gehry museum/hotel/spa, why not schedule a tour and a vinotherapy treatment.

Muga (Haro): the classic “old school” producer was brought, the story goes, a bottle of Napa cab by its importer and told to replicate it. Hence Torre Muga, their high-end wine. Otherwise a traditional producer. Try the Prado Enea as well as one of the whites.

Lopez de Heredia (Haro): Founded in 1887, they still use traditional methods. Very cool. Definitely try a white.

Marques de Murrieta (Logrono): Old oak barrels and stainless steel can be seen here in this atmospheric castle; try the Castillo de Ygay, red and white.

CVNE (Haro): Old company that got a new winery in 1989 with gravity moving the wine from one stage to the next.

Granja de Nuestra Señora de Remelluri (Labastida): A newer producer that is a Parker fave; very pretty location.

Ysios (Laguardia): If you haven’t had your fill of wineries designed by world-class architects, then check out this futuristic wave-like winery, designed by Santiago Calatrava. Now part of Pernod-Ricard.

With all of these wineries, it’s best to plan ahead and reserve for a tour if necessary. And surf on over to Catavino and drop Ryan a line and see what he has to say.

What are some of your favorite spots in La Rioja?

Send in your questions.

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Reader mailbag: biggest wine store in the world

Icosta from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile writes:

Which is the biggest wine store in the world?
Thank you very much!!!!

Wow! Great question!

Of course Costco and Sam’s Club (Wal-Mart) are the largest retailers of wine in the US but their stores could hardly be considered wine stores even though they have some wine in them.

The biggest store that is devoted mostly to wine sales that I have been in has to be Sam’s Wine and Spirits in Chicago (privately owned by the Rosen family, not part of Wal-Mart despite the similarity in names). It’s like an airplane hangar filled with wine and spirits and beer. It’s got 9,500 wine SKUs in 25,000 sq ft and has to be one of the largest in the world if not the biggest. It grossed $60 million in 2004 and the Rosens opened a new location in 2005 and 2006, also in the big box format.

One of the NYC area stores may be as big in revenues but none competes in terms of square footage. Perhaps one in LA? Or a BevMo? Bottle Barn?

Perhaps there are bigger ones outside the US? What do you think? I’m sure whichever wine store it is would love to have bragging rights.

Send in your questions.

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