Archive for the 'wine picks' Category

Commuter cuvee: vin de soif, American style

good cheap pinot

American wine under $15 is a difficult category. And domestic pinot can be downright dicey. And charity wines often sacrifice quality for the good of the cause.

So it was with skepticism that I tried the Grochau Cellars, “Commuter Cuvee” 2010 recently. Sold in Portland at $14.99 with a portion of the proceeds going to a bicycle safety non-profit. It’s actually a gulpable pinot noir with good acidity and the bing cherry note often found in Oregon pinots. It glides in at 12.5% alcohol; if there’s a better pinot noir available in the US under $15, I have yet to try it.

I spoke with John Grochau about how he could offer a 100% pinot noir for a reasonable price. Grochau has cycled at a high level for about 20 years (he even won a race last year) but into the front-of-house in the restaurant business, which led him to make his own wine label, sourcing fruit from various sites around the state and making the wines in Portland. In 2010 he found a vineyard site with 22-year-old vines whose owner was suddenly looking to sell 20 tons of fruit. It was a cooler vintage, which John prefers, but enough for good ripeness (the grapes were 22 Brix). He made this wine in actual barrels, which is decidedly rare for pinots at this price point. He also added some of the wines that he selected out of his higher-end pinots. It’s a low-margin wine, he admits, but he’s doing it again: The 2011, also from a cool vintage, will be released soon.

Thanks to site reader Gabe for pointing out this wine in the comments of a previous post. A perfect wine for National Bike Month!

Thirstday: vin de soif, Christian Ducroux, “Prologue”

Vin de soif. The term captures a wine style–thirst-quenching, gulpable–that delights in the pleasures of drinking wine, not worshipping it. It has to also be somewhat light in body and easy on the wallet to make it really thirst-quenching for me. When I tweeted the term yesterday, Howard Goldberg replied that he only drinks vin de soif on Thirstday.

So today’s Thirstday vin de soif: the Christian Ducroux, “Prologue.” Although it’s labeled as a mere vin de France, Ducroux works Biodynamic vineyards by horse in Beaujolais. This wine is a 2011, a Beaujolais nouveau of sorts; according to David Lillie of Chambers Street Wines, which imports the wine directly and where I bought a bottle for about $15, this is second bottling that has more structure than the first thanks to more contact with the lees. The wine has sediment in the bottle and is somewhat cloudy in the glass. Red berries and hint of funk permeate the aromas. Low in alcohol, this thirst-quencher has a vivacious intrigue that calls out for food.

Francesco Rinaldi, dolcetto d’Alba, Roussot, 2010

Dolcetto, which means either “sweet-ish” or “the one you drink while your Baroli are aging,” is rarely in better hands than it is with the traditional producer Francesco Rinaldi. Many dolcetti have coarse tannins but this “Roussot” 2010 has a seductive roundness to it, offsetting the notes of gentle bitterness and dark fruit.

I give it my highest rating: I’d buy a whole case of this wine. And, at only $15 a bottle, that’s actually within the realm of the possible.

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Domaine de Ferrand, La Ferrande, 2009

domaine ferrand ferrande

To poll at 90 percent is unheard of in a democracy. So it’s a good thing this wine isn’t running for office since all but three out of 30 or so in my NYU class liked it when I poured it this week.

We had a quick tour de France I was looking for an example of a Rhone that would fit within our budget. I opted for this 2009 Cotes du Rhone from Domaine de Ferrand, a small producer in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. “La Ferrande” is a tiny anomaly from the area known for blending since it is 100% syrah. The wine has some definite ripeness to it–indeed, a tad much for me–but the class participants welcomed the layered flavors of fruit, a hint of bitter notes such as coffee and warming alcohol at 14%. And with only 50 cases imported to the US, according to Chambers Street Wines, where I bought it, the class was surprised to learn that it was only $18 a bottle on a case purchase. If the scene were a cartoon, you would have heard tires squealing as they peeled off to score a bottle for themselves.

Moncuit, Roagna, Cascina della Rose, Arnot-Roberts – Polaner highlights

It’s the time of year when distributors and/or importers have annual (or semi-annual) portfolio tastings. These are opportunities for breadth, not depth, as hundreds of current release wines (and occasionally some older ones) are put out on tables, often with the winemaker pouring. Yesterday was the Polaner Selections tasting and I dropped by for a while in the second half. Below are a few impressions and photos.

moncuit champagne Read more…

Ten refreshing wines for after a ride – Bicycling.com

I love cycling. I live in the rolling country of Westchester County, NY and one of the perks of the freelance life is having the flexibility to rack up the miles on two wheels.

I also love a good craft beer. As do the editors of Bicycling magazine who write often about many delicious brews to pop after a ride. While beer is refreshing, it’s not the only drink in town: head over to Bicycling.com for my list of “10 refreshing post-ride wines.” It was a fun assignment, blending two of my passions. Given that we’ve had a mild winter here, the list focuses on lower-alcohol and higher acidity wines. I only included one full-bodied wine but it is still refreshing in its category.

Do you cycle? Do you ever pull a cork after a ride? Or after a ride and a recovery drink?

Energy in the wines at the Return to Terroir

Nicolas Joly’s talk wasn’t the only thing packed on Monday; the tasting itself at Return to Terroir, NYC edition, was really crowded in the latter half.

I didn’t get a chance to taste all the wines (I hear I really missed out by not hitting the German area), but I did taste some really good ones. Biodynamics comes in for some flack, perhaps rightfully as some of the statements are unfalsifiable, but two things are hard to dispute: the growers are very attentive to their vineyards and it’s often hard to argue with is the quality of many of the wines in the glass.

Since walk-around tastings offer only glimpses of a wine, not the progression over an evening, I offer you some literal snapshots here.


Nikolaihof: Terrific energy and acidity in these Gruners–even the 2010 Hefeabzug, which was from a more challenging vintage, has great snap.

Read more…

Erwan Faiveley at the helm

It’s no secret in Burgundy and beyond that Faiveley has been on a roll. And it’s no secret why: the arrival of the young Erwan Faiveley at the helm.

Erwan, 32, is the seventh generation in his family to run the company, which was founded in 1825 as a negociant, buying and selling wine. When his father was 25, Erwan’s grandfather literally turned over the keys to his dad. And in 2005 when Erwan was 25, his father continued the tradition and put Erwan in charge (Erwan himself has no children, so his position is likely safe for 25+ years). I sat down with Erwan in New York a few weeks ago to talk about how he has improved the house style, overcoming paternal resistance, vineyard acquisitions and biodynamic winemaking.

With the weight of generations on their shoulders, today’s heirs to the storied estates of Europe could be forgiven for having one primary goal: Read more…


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