Archive for the 'wine picks' Category

Wine picks from my NYU class

ridge three valleys
In my six-week NYU class ended recently. In the class, we taste six wines (blind) around a certain theme every week and I poll people on their visceral reaction to each wine before we discuss it. The wines that have weak polling numbers have to be put out to pasture or run for election in marginal shops where the mere act of getting a placement will be given polite golf claps. But the wines that poll well–generally 90+%–have the power to sweep, scoring huge wins at cash registers at wine shops across the land. I try to post the winners on my instagram feed after each class.

In the photo above, we had the highest percentage of unanimously liked wines in any class of the semester. Our theme that evening was the wines of America. We kicked off with the Roederer Estate Brut from Anderson Valley that was greeted with a roomful of thumbs up for bubbles and balance (and, perhaps, because it was the first wine after work). [Find Roederer Estate at retail] The next unanimously liked wine was the Copain, “Tous Ensemble,” Syrah 2011 for its elegant flavors and complexity. [Find Copain Syrah at retail] Finally, the Ridge, “Three Valleys,” 2011 got thunderous applause, perhaps because it was poured last but more accurately because it yet has good intensity and mouthfeel without the high octane rating that accompanies most California Zinfadel (the three Valleys is actually a Zinfandel-based blend, and the other grape varieties may also help the freshness of the wine). Oh, and they loved the price, rolling in in the low $20s. [Find Three Valleys at retail]

Wine around $20: Copain Syrah Tous Ensemble

copain syrah
The signature characteristic for syrah from the Northern Rhone is an alluring savory character with a note of black olives. This Copain Syrah, “Tous Ensemble,” 2011, comes from three vineyards in Mendocino County and sees nine months in neutral oak. It’s in the Northern Rhone vein, favoring restraint instead of anything over the top–no “gobs” of anything here. It’s not that California syrah has to ape France; it’s just that Wells Guthrie of Copain favors that style, as do I.

I poured this wine at an event recently and it was very well received; I bought it again for $24 and it was a superb transition to fall with richer foods and cooler weather. And at $21.60 on the case, it is one heckuva a good wine for the price.

Find this wine at retail

Wines under $20: Ott (Gruner edition)

ott gruner am berg There’s a hilarious story that runs every August: they’re running out of rosé in The Hamptons! Predictably, it ran again this week. There are tons of great rosés out there (both still AND sparkling, ahem, Hamptons-goers) but the good ones do tend to sell out early in the season. So stock them early for subsequent stashing in sea planes!

Rather than mention other rosés, I’m going to pivot and talk about Ott. Domaine Ott is the pink object of much desire in the Hamptons. But wine enthusiasts would be very will served to take an Austrian turn and try Bernhard Ott’s 2013 Gruner Veltliners. I poured the Am Berg at a private tasting on the Upper East Side the other day and this was the crowd favorite for its verve, minerality and crackle. The best thing too: it was the cheapest 750ml wine at the tasting, ringing up at $19.99, in part thanks hailing from the Wagram rather than the more tony Wachau. (Find Ott Gruner Am Berg at retail)

Oh, and if you want some bubbly, the 2012 Knauss Riesling Sekt Zero also turned heads with stylish packaging (below) as well as purity on the palate. (Find Knauss Sekt Zero at retail)

Actually, I take it all back: who needs these prices to run up? Read more…

G.D. Vajra in Barolo – “clean traditionalist”

giuseppe vajra Giuseppe Vaira was caught in a fight when he was in elementary school. It wasn’t the sort of meet-you-at-the-bike-racks kind of thing. No, it encapsulated what might happen only to the son of a winemaker, or even the son of a Barolo winemaker. He was classmates with two other kids who were also from wine families. One said proudly that he was the son of a modernist winemaker while the other said proudly that she was the daughter of a traditionalist. No doubt, both the kids harrumphed, crossed their arms, and turned their backs to each other.

Giuseppe was flummoxed. Which camp did his family winery fall into? Read more…

Burgundy gets hammered (by hail) — again

hail burgundy
A violent hailstorm sprayed large hailstones over some Burgundy vineyards leaving many incipient grapes destroyed. Anne Parent of Domaine Parent in Pommard, described the violent storm as a “like a machine-gun attack” of the vines, even though it lasted only three minutes.

While the damage has yet to be tallied across the region, some initial assessments are putting the loss at 40 – 90 percent of the crop with Volnay, Pommard, Meursault, and Beaune getting hit the hardest. “It’s a catastrophe,” said Jean-Louis Moissenet, the president of the Pommard winemakers’ association was quoted in The Telegraph as saying. “We were heading for a good year, but now that has fallen through.” Last year, the region was also hit by a devastating hailstorm.

The effects were localized. Jeremy Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Morey St Denis tweeted: “At this point, impacted berries that should dry out and fall off. Canopy seems mostly OK in CdN [Cotes de Nuits].”

Some growers have tried to use “hail cannons” (a rudimentary one pictured below; others here), which fire silver iodide into the atmosphere in an attempt to turn the hailstones into rain. The effectiveness of these machines is debated.

In other parts of the world, growers put hail nets in place to protect fruit, including grapes and other fruit trees. Even though they are less pleasing to the eye than simply rows of vines, AOC rules sometimes disallow nets. Further, some skeptics of nets say that they reduce the amount of light the plant receives. But should they be allowed?

The hailstorm is very sad news that will undoubtedly make some growers re-think pinning their financial hopes on the roulette of Mother Nature. And it will likely reduce the crop from some of my favorite appellations, which will compound the problem of rising Burgundy prices. Read more…

World wine consumption: USA up, France down

world wine consumption The OIV, an international wine organization based in Paris, released their annual report of the state of the wine world last week.

In it, they showed the US market becoming the largest in the world for the first time. Even though this got some play last week, we already broke out the foam fingers a couple of years ago when another organization declared the US the world’s biggest wine market. Of course, in per capita terms, we’re still a relative weakling.

Still, the trend in world wine consumption is clear: the US is one of the few big, growing markets in the world. France sagged a tremendous amount year-over-year (see chart), making one wonder if there was a methodological problem. Also of note in their report, China actually showed a decline.

Anyway, we’ll raise a glass to these statistics–all in the name of keeping the USA at the top of the list!

See the OIV report

Blind taste test: Stradivarius

stradivarius We all know about the record of wine experts at blind tastings: decidedly mixed.

What if professional violin players played a 300-year-old Stradivarius worth millions of dollars and a newer violin (worth tens of thousands) under double blind conditions? Would they fare better than professional wine tasters? SPOILER ALERT: It turns out, no, the professional players picked the older violins as superior only on par with the odds in chance.

Check out the story on the most recent Planet Money podcast from NPR. And here’s a link to the one of the studies in PNAS.

Mathieu Lapierre and 2013

lapierre morgon
Mathieu Lapierre said that the 2013 showed more “Burgundy influence.” At the Kermit Lynch portfolio tasting in New York yesterday, he elaborated briefly that given the location of Beaujolais, vintages can oscillate between “Rhone-influenced” (e.g. 2009) and “Burgundy-influenced.” He said 2013 for him ended without hail, the grapes were healthy and they harvested as late as October 28, a record.

The Raisin Gaullois 2013 is a vin glouglou from the estate’s youngest vines, bottled en screw. (Too bad that the 5L bag-in-box is not imported!)

The Morgon, always a reference point for the region, has a beautiful poise between come-hither fruit of the semi-carbonic macerationo and tannic structure from the granite soils in the 2013 wine. The “Cuvée MMIX” (2009) was a tad ripe for me (Rhone-ish, if you will), but the “Cuvée MMXI” (2011) more successfully combines the ripeness of the wine with intriguing structure. Thing for my “to do” list: taste this MMXI with the Foillard Pi Morgon wine for a fuller understanding of their differences and similarities.

Asked if he prefers to drink the Morgons now or with some age on them, Mathieu replied that with friends he prefers young wines but that for more serious occasions, he’s currently drinking the 2007s. He invoked the late Henri Jayer, saying “a good wine must be good young and old for different reasons.”

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