Archive for the 'wine picks' Category

Alain Verset, Cornas, 2005

verset_cornasI was in Flatiron Wines last week and the staffer offered to sell me two bottles of Verset they were brokering from a collector. Verset? But didn’t he die a while ago? “Not Noël. They’re from his nephew Ira,” he joked.

He didn’t know that much about the producer (whose name is actually Alain but really is Noël’s nephew) and neither did I. Nonetheless, I bought the 2005 and said a quick prayer to Bacchus that it would actually be worth $49.95. Seemed like a reasonable bet given the quality of the appellation, the family name, and the store where I was buying it.

When I got home, I turned to The Wines of the Northern Rhone by John Livingstone-Learmonth. He writes that Alain has about one hectare (2.5 acres) of vines sprinkled over some to sites in Cornas–Reynards, Mazards, and Les Côtes, which is not enough to support his family of five children. Thus he works at a factory making garbage cans. Livingston-Learmonth writes that Alain Verset’s vinification is traditional–“whole bunches fermented for 10 – 15 days in concrete vats under the family home, and some pumping-overs.” Only indigenous yeasts power the fermentation and the wine is aged for up to two years in four- and five-year-old casks. Production is on the order of 900 bottles a year.

Curious and impatient, we uncorked the 2005 over the weekend. It was, indeed, a traditional Cornas, with little in the way of fruit notes, just stony minerals and a stiff backbone of tannin. Over a couple of hours it opened up but on the next day it had softened further. Savory and delicious syrah, the bottle was well worth the tariff. As M. Verset approaches retirement age from his factory job, perhaps he will make a few more bottles a year.

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Finger Lakes Riesling: what’s all the fuss?

ravines_rieslingFinger Lakes wines, particularly Rieslings, have gotten a lot of recent attention. So I thought I would check in with them for a piece currently on

One wine that came up repeatedly was the Ravines Dry Riesling (as well as their Argentsinger Vineyard one). I picked up two bottles of the 2012 for $14.99 each and poured them for discerning audiences. First, my wife, who is not generally a huge Riesling fan but she gave this one a thumbs up. I rated it a leading patio pounder for Summer of Riesling 2013. Then I opened the second bottle for my NYU class and poured it blind. Before revealing what it was, I asked them how many of them liked it. All hands went up. When the bag came off the bottle, they were all surprised and doubly impressed.

It seems to be a common reaction with the best Finger Lakes wines, as Thomas Pastuszak from NoMad shares in the piece.

Which are your favorite Finger Lakes wines? Do you think the region is overrated or underrated?

Benjamin Leroux, Auxey-Duresses, 2010

leroux_auxeyIn honor of La Paulée de NYC happening this week, the wine pick this week is from, well, Burgundy. No, this isn’t a Bonnes Mares or a Chambertin, images of which have have been overtaking twitter feeds the past few days. In the language of a panel from La Paulée a few days ago, this is “outer borough” Burgundy, the 2010 Auxey-Duresses from Benjamin Leroux. By day, he’s the winemaker at Le Domaine des Epeneaux (Comte Armand) in Pommard. By night (or something like that), he has his own micro-négoce, meaning he sources grapes and vinifies them in to elixirs such as this.

The 2010 produced some amazing whites and reds in Burgundy and this wines comes from sites that border Meursault, so my expectations were high as I was twisting off the Stelvin closure. I wasn’t disappointed: the fresh acidity and stoniness give the wine a lean core with just a light top-dressing of Golden Delicious apple and a kiss of oak, that will likely become more integrated with some time in the cellar. It’s serious wine at a somewhat reasonable price (especially by Burgundy standards).

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Y not? Ygrec and Yquem 2011

Y_ygrec_yquemPierre Lurton’s iPhone rang while he was talking to a bunch of journalists yesterday in New York City. He stopped and looked at it, and dismissed it saying, “It’s not important. But I had to make sure it wasn’t Bernard Arnault!”

It’s not every winemaker who checks to see if it is France’s richest person on the line. But so it is with Lurton, who Arnault (head of LVMH) tapped in 1991 to manage Chateau Cheval Blanc and again in 2004 to take the reins at Chateau d’Yquem. That estate, maker of the famous nobly rotten Sauternes, was what Lurton was in town to discuss.

Chateau d’Yquem is not a one-trick pony. Read more…

Tasting Chateau Margaux 16 ways


Paul Pontallier is a curious, open, and humble guy. All the more so since he is he managing director and winemaker at Chateau Margaux, where he has been for 30 years, crafting the sublime yet supremely expensive wines.

Pontallier was in New York City last week and he brought suitcase full of treats Read more…

Vieilles vignes from Middle Earth

Here’s a wine that I enjoyed over the holidaze: Rippon, “mature vines,” pinot noir, 2008 from Central Otago(find this wine). It’s worth mentioning first and foremost because it is a tasty, succulent pinot, surprisingly, not an in-your-face fruity pinot. Instead, it’s got an alluring earthiness and minerality, a snap of acidity, all infused with gentle red fruits and a bit of savory spice. With a moderate alcohol (13% on the label), it’s a winner from Middle Earth.

The other thing worth flagging about the wine is the term “mature vines.” The vines, planted in 1986 – 1994 on the shores of Lake Wanaka, are among the oldest remaining on the estate. While “old vines” sometimes appears on labels, it is completely unregulated and seems both arbitrary and pretentious as well as occasionally misleading (one person’s “old” may be someone else’s young.) While “mature vines” is still somewhat arbitrary, it’s at least accurate and, imho, not pretentious.

A rarity for New Zealand–it’s closed with a cork, granted a “taint-free cork” (aka Diam).

Scotland to women: wine makes you look old and fat

Health officials in Scotland have come up with a new weapon in their campaign against excessive drinking: an app that makes you look fat. And old.

The app, called The Drinking Mirror, shows a projection of what the user may look like if they keep drinking at current (elevated) levels. The results are not pretty. But, seriously, who would use such an app other than people who had been drinking?!

Oddly, the app targets mostly women even though they have a lower incidence of excessive drinking. And the app translates alcohol units only as wine, not other alcoholic drinks. WWTJT? What would Thomas Jefferson think? He preached the virtues of wine as a drink of moderation compared to, say, whiskey. Of note: scotch doesn’t figure in the campaign from Scotland. Read more…

Merry, merry Moncuit

Best wishes to everyone for the holidays!

We uncorked a Pierre Moncuit, “Hugues de Coulmet” brut NV to kick things off. It’s always a terrific champagne that happens to be a great value. This importer’s page reveals that the blanc de blanc sees no time in wood but also has no reserve wine in the cuvée, each of which is a single (alas, unknown via the label) vintage. The house is located in Mesnil but the fruit for this wine comes from just outside of Mesnil in Sézanne. It’s really bright and fresh, with good fruit as well as yeasty complexity. I suppose it would be great with sushi, but we had it as an aperitif and it fit the bill perfectly. I bought it on sale for $32–should have loaded up on more to share with Santa and the reindeer (find this wine at retail).


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