Archive for the 'Wine Blogging Wednesday' Category

Wine Blogging Wednesday – Unoaked Chardonnay – Drouhin Chablis

Unoaked chardonnay is all the rage. When wine drinkers started dumping oaked California chardonnay and turning to unoaked, fruit-forward whites such as pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc, they threatened to throw the baby out with the oaky bathwater. But chardonnay has lived to see another day in its new, unoaked form.

But is it new in the Old World? In Chablis and various parts of Burgundy, the chardonnay grape often sees little oak. So when Lenn, the grandpappy of Wine Blogging Wednesday, assigned us unoaked chardonnay for this 36th, anniversary edition, my thoughts turned to Chablis. But which of them is made totally without oak as opposed to simply old, neutral oak?

I’m not sure about that, but I managed to find one that is fermented in stainless steel: Drouhin Chablis 2006, about $17 (find this wine). The resulting wine is lean and light, with good acidity, notes of lemon, lanolin and minerality with a retrograde 12.5% alcohol. It’s a very pleasant for summer wine.

Head on over to for a roundup of unoaked chardonnays from other participants in this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday.

Aging an under $10 wine – Castano, Hecula, monastrell, 2002

“Do Americans have a wine cellar?” runs an old industry saw. “Yes, it’s called the back seat of their car on the way home from the wine store.”

True enough. Virtually all wine bought in American gets uncorked (or uscrewed) within a very short time after purchase. And at no price point is that more true than under $10 wines. So for today’s Wine Blogging Wednesday assignment of finding a Spanish wine under $10, I thought I’d try the impossible: an under $10 wine with some age.

I dug around the Dr. Vino cave, and came across a bottle of the Castano, Hecula, 2002. Since I bought it for $7 about three years ago, I had low expectations that the wine would still even be good. But it was a Tuesday night, so what the hey.

Wow, was it good, perhaps the most rewarding under $10 wine I’ve had in a long time. Alluring notes of grilled meat drippings, leather and tobacco permeated the aroma and the wine actually had an attack, a midpalate, and a lingering finish. While five years of age is just warming up for most more expensive and age-worthy wines, this under $10 wine may have been particularly long lived because of the grape variety, monastrell, aka mourvedre in the south of France. In a tasting last fall of this big red grape, I found that I preferred the wines with some age on them to blow off some of the gamey, animale character.

The sad news about this wine is that it was my last bottle. A quick price check showed only a few vendors with it available, and now they want $14, double what I paid for it three years ago. A sign of the times, for popular Spanish wines.

Check out for the full WBW round-up of good value wines from Spain.

Related: “An open letter to Jorge Ordonez

Domaine Sorin, box, WBW 31

We’re fans of the box around here. No shame in that. In theory, it’s convenient, fresh and brings the per glass costs down to levels low enough to make you generous, even with your neighbors. I wrote an open letter to Jorge Ordonez and told him to hop on it. Sadly, no word from him and his importing empire.

Box wine theory does not often meet reality in America. The quality of many almost all box wines found on our hallowed shores is enough to give them a bad reputation. Oh wait…So for inspiration, let us turn to France. They get it after all.

Domaine Sorin: I had the Cotes de Provence 2005 rose last summer (find this wine). At 25 euros, it was double the price of another box we bought, which might make it seem expensive. But the 5L box meant that it was five euros ($6 give or take) per liter putting it in the realm of gulp-tastic pricing. Domaine Sorin is made without chemical fertilizers or pesticides in the vineyard. The blend comprises of four classic grape varieties from the region and is vinified and aged in vats. Sadly it is only available in France. Perhaps another letter is in order? Dear Domaine Sorin importer…

For some worthwhile and no doubt more attainable box wines, check out for the round-up from this Wine Blogging Wednesday.

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Biodynamics in Oregon, WBW 29

The People
“I didn’t look for biodynamics–it looked for me,” Josh Bergstrom said at a roundtable on biodynamics that I attended in Oregon last fall. His father was a chemist and he said that he is a skeptic by nature. But working in Burgundy, he came to learn that “there’s no better way to express what I wanted to express than through biodynamic farming.”

Doug Tunnell left CBS and his many international postings to return to his native Oregon. Since he started in 1990, his vineyard, Brick House, has been certified organic. He told the group assembled at his extremely tranquil and scenic vineyard that biodynamics “takes organic not just to the next step but many steps beyond,” weaving in a “very spiritual dimension.” He makes his own compost behind his barn.

Moe Mamtazi came from Iran in 1971 and wanted the best flavor from his vines (see pictures of his Maysara winery from a previous post).

Kevin and Carla Chambers own Resonance Vineyard. Their vineyard used to be called Reed & Reynolds and they have sold all their fruit to wineries such as Sineann. They will be making their own wine from the 2006 vintage under the name Resonance Vineyard. Why the name change? Kevein writes, “Resonance is a better name to communicate their efforts to work in harmony with nature and the cosmos.” Kevin practices what he calls “radionic” farming, which he describes as “an area of exploration into the world of subtle energies.” The Chambers broadcast homeopathic preparations over their vineyard and supplement them with a biodynamic broadcaster prayer. Kevin also farms vegetables biodynamically and I tried some of his terrific tomatoes.

The wines
This flight of four wines was a profound flight of pinot noirs. The Bergstrom, Bergstrom Vineyard, Willamette Valley, 2004 (find this wine) is big and powerful with a notable presence of oak though not to the extreme as many American pinot noir practitioners have pushed it. Dark cherries and hint of chocolatiness, it has a long finish with peppery tannins.

The Brick House Dijonnais, Willamette Valley, 2004 (find this wine) has a real sense of place. Dark cherries, some tea-like notes, this wine is less plush style than the Bergstrom.

The Maysara Winery, Willamette Valley, “Delara” 2003 (find this wine): Another big pinot, with concentrated plummy fruit. Quite solid and fulfilling.

The Sineann, Resonance Vineyard, Willamette Valley, 2005 (find this wine): beautiful balance between the notes of cherries, the acidity and the tannins. A lovely, rewarding pinot–the kind that goes down too easily and you look back and the bottle is empty.

The reason
This write-up was inspired by Jack of for Wine Blogging Wednesday 29. Check his site for the other biodynamic wines that bloggers around the world have tasted.

Winery links
Brick House Vineyards
Resonance Vineyard

Related: “First person: Rick Trumbull

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Larmandier-Bernier, grower champagne

Grower champagnes pose a problem: they lack the flash. What they don’t lack is cash. So, why spend the same on an unheard of producer when you could buy one of the grandes marques? In a word: taste. In two words: wine geekdom.

I tasted through a half-dozen grower champagnes recently and really liked the ones from Larmandier-Bernier. The Blanc de Blanc Brut 1er Cru NV (find this wine, about $38) is very lively with a straw color, a fine bead, pleasant acidity reminscent of green apples, and lovely balance.

The Terre de Vertus bottling is slightly more and has the rare distinction among champagnes to be bottled without a dosage, the topping up that is done to most champagnes before the cork is placed in and they are moved out the cellar door. It has excellent purity and is crisp, dry and food friendly. It’s slightly more expensive so I’d opt for the other bottling.

Thanks to Sam at Becks and Posh for suggesting this theme for WBW!

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La Muse Vin, Robinot, Jasnieres, WBW

When I was in Paris last week, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Bertrand. You may know Bertrand from his great pictures of the independent wine makers of France. That’s how I knew him.

We met up at La Muse Vin, one of a growing number of “natural” wine bars, in the 11th arrondissement roughly between Republique and Bastille. It is a wine bar/restaurant that, unknown to us, converted fully to a restaurant at 8:30 (20h30, if you will) slightly before we got there. So we each ordered a plate from the chalkboard since that was the requirement in the intimate space. I had chilled pea soup with a yowza amount of spearmint in it.

When it came to the wine, our thoughts turned to the Loire not only because I am a fan of the wines in general, but also because Bertrand had just gotten back from a shoot in the Loire of Jean Pierre Robinot. Although Robinot only started his winery in 2002, he has been around wine for a lot longer, previously owning a wine bar in Paris and founding the insider wine publication Le Rouge et Le Blanc (whose name would no doubt make Stendhal chuckle). You can read all the details on Robinot and see photos on Bertrand’s blog.

Coincidentally, several of Robinot’s wines were on the wine list at La Muse Vin. Or perhaps I should say in the cold storage since one of the onwers was “the list.” Example bottles with prices painted on them are on display around the periphery of the restaurant and he walked us through a few until we settled on the Robinot, Lumière de Silex 2002 from the Jasnieres appellation

As the chenin blanc was decanted and chilled at the table, I couldn’t help but marvel at the rich, golden color. With aromas of honeysuckle, on the palate it had a crispness yet also a slight note of sweetness. Overall, the wine was so intense that I could feel it in the back of my cheekbones. I was sorry we didn’t decant it several hours earlier to see what more appeared to be locked inside.

Enter Alder. Well, he didn’t really enter La Muse Vin. But he did assign a write up of a Loire white for today’s edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday. Another fortunate coincidence.

La Muse Vin, 101, r Charonne, 75011 Paris – 01 40 09 93 05

Flananghina, DeFalco, ABCSBR, WBW#20

While the ABC (“anything but Chardonnay”) theme is well known by now, for Wine Bloggging Wednesday’s current edition, Wine for newbies tacks on an exclusion on Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling as well. Hence ABCSBR WBW20–how’s that for alphabet soup?! And oh yeah, the assignment calls for the white wine has to be 100 percent of the variety so no blends are allowed.

While I am tempted to write up the best Torrontes I had while in Argentina last week, I will save that write-up for Friday’s value vino since it is under $10.

Falanghina is a great “indigenous” grape that grows on the flanks of Mt. Vesuvius outside of Naples. I like its refreshing crispness and fruit–it is the new Sauvignon Blanc for wine geeks. Greg, imports this 2004 Falanghina from DeFalco, says that it “rocks” when paired with fish (find this wine, about $14). I concur. Although Mrs. Vino liked this DeFalco, she preferred the Falanghina from another producer, Feudi (find this wine), which sees some oak. Gabriele DeFalco used to be the winemaker at Feudi but Greg said he left to pursue his own style of wine making that is more authentic and less international. Whichever style you choose, find a Falanghina near you!

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Wine shops that feel the love, WBW 18 roundup

Diversity reigns supreme in this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday. This February, I challenged bloggers to find a “wine shop that feels the love” and the 35 bloggers who participated from 3 continents showed that there’s plenty of love to go round.

One blogger traveled an hour to check out another city; someone else visited a cult shop actually in a private residence; another went to a new franchise of a growing national chain; and several people went to their corner shops. Thanks to all the bloggers who participated! If you don’t have a blog but feel passionately about a shop, feel free to add your thoughts to the comments section…I organized the tour geographically, starting in the Seattle, farthest from me in New York. If you want links or details on the shops themselves, click though to the page with the blogger’s review. Cheers,

Kate at Accidental Hedonist blogs from Seattle but says that she’s buying lots of wine on the web. Her favorite new shopping device is actually wine-searcher, which can sort internet vendors by price.

The new blog Jiggledy Snort blogs about Purple Smile Wines, a brick and mortar shop in Bellingham, WA where she found some wines of Jorge Ordonez at a free Saturday tasting. However, JS is also dissatisfied with the prices at the local shops and actually buys wines from the Bottle Barn in Sonoma since they are cheaper—including shipping.

Esquin Wine Merchants is the Culinary Fool’s favorite wine store in Seattle—but not by much. The wide variety of wines available there edges it just ahead of Pete’s, who has a more knowledgeable staff in her opinion. But they’re both worth checking out she writes.

Down the light rail line from Portland, Sound and Fury blog takes a trip to Renaissance Wine and Cigars in the planned community of Orenco Station. This is the shop that turned this blogger on to wine and specializes in the wines of Oregon.

Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa gets another vote, this time from Jack and Joanne at Fork & Bottle. Ben, the wine buyer/general manager, selected a 2004 Lutea Pinot Noir Russian River Valley for F&B to drink. It was good – and only 125 cases made. A bargain at $23.

Global warming is unlikely to send us into another Ice Age, but if Derrick were in charge, we would be entering the Age of Riesling. In fact, that is the name of the unusual and exceptional shop–run out of Bill Mayer’s home—-that Derrick visited in North Berkeley. The newsletters from the shop are “treasures.” Be sure to find out more about this connoisseur’s shop.

Sam of Becks and Posh visited K&L Wine Merchants in SF and picked up some value vino for her Slow Mediterranean Cooking class (mm sounds good): Segura Viudas Cava brut and 2003 D’Angelo Aglianico Sacravite

M. Lewinski (“no relation,” he says), a new blogger and first-time WBWer, also enjoys K&L, especially for the imports, variety and informative web site. He tried the 2000 “Santa Cruz Mountains” Pinot Noir for $15.

Catherine of Purple Liquid went to Burlingame, CA Weimax to see the charismatic owner Gerald, who sadly was absent. But she got Gerald’s tasting note for the wine she bought printed on her receipt! (the wine was a 2004 Morgon Vieilles Vignes Domaine Raymond Bouland)

A whole shop of wines around $10? Jathan of Wine Expression visits Odd Lots in Albany, CA and finds just that. Despite his apprehensions about inexpensive French wines, he tried a Viognier and a Kiwi Pinot Noir (2004 Lake Challace Pinot Noir Malborough, New Zealand) on the recommendation of the owner. He thought the Pinot was only work 84/100 points so we’ll have to stay tuned to his site to see if the Viognier fared better.

Pim of Chez Pim goes (moves?) to Santa Cruz to visit Soif Wine Bar and Merchant locally known as the Bonny Doon Alumni Association. Co-owners Patrice Boyle and Hugh Weiler, both formerly with Bonny Doon, now have about 350 “small production, terroir driven wines from producers who preserve the traditional and sustainable wine making techniques.”

Even though San Diego has an embarrassment of good wine shops according to Mike at Shiraz blog, he opts for Vintage Wines for their free tastings and friendly staff—and great Aussie wines of course!

Are you ever in Tucson, AZ? New blogger Joe at the FatManSpeaketh bypasses the local Trader Joe’s for this assignment in favor of two other shops. The witty 58 Degrees and Holding is a hybrid wine shop/wine bar/storage facility that has many fine wines—Joe tired a flight of three wines called the “fruit explosion” at the wine bar. He a also visited Plaza Liquors and liked the staff picks—as well as the beer selection.

Chas of Wine Tastings blogs from Austin Texas about Vino 100, a locally-owned shop that boasts 100 wines under $25—-as well as great classes and tastings.

Chad at the handsome new blog, BottleRoom, blogs about a new shop in Orlando. WineStyles is the latest in a growing national chain of wine franchises that keeps a small selection of wines, arranged by style. Chad liked the shop a lot – especially free tastings! He also purchased the 03 Lyeth Meritage and gave that a thumbs up too.

Jerry at Winewaves writes about the 10,000 sq ft Turkey Creek Wine and Spirits in Knoxville, TN. He posts lots of photos of the store, and likes their displays and prices—especially for TN, which has high taxes and doesn’t allow chains.

Jens, blogger and owner of the retail shop Cincinnati Wine Warehouse, hit the road for this assignment and met up with Mark of Uncorked! in Dayton, OH on a Friday night. What wild trip! They hit Arrow Wines and Spirits, Jay’s Kitchen Door, which sells wine on the weekends, and saw the owner of The Little Shop playing in a band. In vino friendship. Be sure to check out Jens’ road diary.

Sugeneris, a blogger from Minneapolis, visits Solo Vino. “Coming on the heels of our Paris vacation, I wanted a wine that would transport me back to Burgundy. Not only did he have just the thing, but he was able to identify the unique flavors that I had been grasping at when trying to describe the wines I enjoyed during our trip.”

Tim of Winecast also visited Solo Vino for a podcast and a posting–and snapped some nice pics!

Lynne, an energy economics blogger at Knowledge Problem, took time away from analyzing the latest developments of oil and wind power markets, to visit Howard’s Wine Cellar on Belmont in Chicago. She says that despite its small size, the shop has a great selection particuarly of Burgundies and older vintage wines–as well as wines for everyday drinking. “Great wine, great value, great service,” Lynne writes.

Kit at Mango and Ginger comes to WBW for the first time by exploring the shops of Baltimore. She rejects a couple of good ones to land at Wells Discount Liquors, her pick for this assignment.

Allan at the Cellarblog blogs about Leesburg Vintner, a corner shop open since 1988 in Leesburg Virginia. “Cozy, nothing fancy,” knowledgeable staff and lots of Virginia wines.

The WeekendWino points us to The Tasting Room with its 27 ft long copper tasting bar on Seneca Lake, NY. Sadly though, it’s seasonal and not open again until the spring.

The blogger at Cookin’ in the ‘Cuse loved the theme–but just wrote up her favorite shop in Syracuse in December. So she strikes out for Limestone Liquors in nearby Manlius, NY and loves it! She tried the 2003 Karl Erbes Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling-Kabinett.

Lenn was dissatisfied with his local options, so he hit the road. But unlike Jens who got in his car, Lenn dreamed about what it would be like to have a shop like Moore Brothers in Pennsauken, NJ closer to him since their “passion for wine oozes from their very pours” (haha), the whole shop is chilled to 55 degrees, and they have an excellent selection. Then he awoke from his reverie to the announcement that they are opening a shop in Manhattan! When he was last there, he tried the “spectacular” 2001 Wein & Sektgut Thielen Merlen Fettgarten Riesling Spatlese at their recommendation.

Serge the Concierge tries Amanti Vino in Montclair, NJ, which he writes has a striking design, including chandeliers made of wine bottles. He tried two wines at Sharon, the shop owner’s receommendation: Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc, Alsace (2004), and the Villa Carafa: Zine, Aglianaco (2002)

Jon of amuse-bouche is happy to have landed so well in his return to NYC—well meaning that he lives near Chambers Street Wines, home base for many of the city’s “winerati.” This is a shop that isn’t only competent—the owners are on a mission as their labor is also their love.

After having previously reviewed New York City’s excellent Crush Wine Co with their 73 foot undulating display wall and the great neighborhood shop Big Nose Full Body—as well as compiling an annotated map of NYC wine shops—I ventured out of the city to see what I could find. Fountainhead Wines in Bedford Hills, NY (and in Norwalk CT) is run by four wine enthusiasts and their passion shows in the shop with a good selection and no shelf talkers!

The rest of the world

With two supermarket chains dominating wine retailing Down Under, Cam at Appellation Australia visits the independent bottle shop, Annandale Cellars. Cam trusts the staff’s “outstanding service” in selecting from their small, handpicked selection of Australian boutique wines.

“Support diversity” in wine retailing Ed at Tomatom echoes about the Australian wine scene and he visits Cloudwine Cellars in Melbourne. “No factory made wines are sold in this place,” Ed writes and reaches for the $18AUD Dominique Portent Fontaine Rosé 2005 from the Yarra Valley

First time WBWers Per and Britt Karlsson blog from Paris about two of their favorite shops, Lavinia, a shop with 6000 different wines in stock, and Arômes et Cépages, a small shop specializing in organic and biodynamic wines. If you haven’t visited their blog/site before, they have excellent photos!

The UK market has many specialty shops both online and bricks and mortar and Andy at decided to visit the much lauded Philglass & Swiggott since he hadn’t ever been. The staff at the posh shop didn’t even snigger when he asked for a wine at a mere £10, and recommended the handsome Le Roc Des Anges Segna de Cor, 2004, Côtes du Roussillon Villages, France that he gave 94/100.

Before Ryan Opaz at Catavino moved to Madrid from the US a year ago he worked in a wine shop that felt the love—he connected with the customers and tried many great wines. So he was looking for that same experience in Madrid. After scouring the city, he writes about Reserva y Cata, a subterranean shop run by Margarita and Ezequiel. He liked the 2004 Bodegas Viña Vilano Ribera del Duero Joven that he tasted in the shop on the day he visited. I’ll be looking out for this shop the next time I’m in Madrid—and to say hi to Ryan!

Janelle at Saborestours likes La Vinia, a swanky shop in central Madrid, not only for the presentation but for the variety, which can be hard to find in Spain.

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