Thursday, January 29, 2009

27-29 January - Tasting Notes

This was an exceptional week of wine tasting. From Monday through Wednesday I tasted roughly 75 wines, including the twenty-some beauties noted below. It wasn't the quantity, it was the quality, and the number of truly surprising bottles - it's not every day I taste wines from three varietals I've never heard of before (Amigne, Cornalin, Humagne Rouge, all from Switzerland). The following notes cover just the wines I will most likely purchase for the store...

In the store on Tuesday, 27 January:

Albarino Tra de Vinas 2005 - Rias Baixas, Spain. 3 years on the lees in stainless steel; creamy texture, but pure mineral/intense fruit/lees smells and flavors...extraordinary. Biodynamic.

Venus La Universal Dido 2005 - Montsant, Spain.
Garnacha (primarily)/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend by Sara Perez; ripe berry/floral/mineral smells, incredibly juicy, silky-textured, luscious - delicious. Tender, especially for this region.

Nomade Torrontes 2007 - Cafayate, Argentina.
A different level for Torrontes - lees/intense floral/mineral fruit, great feel, balance. Great value. biodynamic.

Nomade Malbec 2005 - Mendoza, Argentina
Like the previous two vintages, plump, juicy, great texture, yummy - both Nomades have special nuance.

Catena Tahuan Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 - Mendoza, Argentina
Classic Cabernet Sauvignon smells - herbs/cassis/mineral - with ripe, deep flavors. Much better than the '03, which seemed raw. This is plenty assertive, but better balanced. Great buy.

Casa Marin Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Cipresses - San Antonio Valley, Chile
Assertive Sauvignon Blanc smells - herbs/apricot/mineral/even a little cat piss; ripe but sizzling flavors that won't quit. Distinctive - this won't be for everyone, but SB lovers will probably flip. San Antonio Valley is on the west side of Chile's coastal range, just a few kilometers from the Pacific Ocean.

Casa Marin Pinot Noir 2006 Litoral: - San Antonio Valley, Chile
Toast/smoky/black-bing cherry/cinamon smells and extravagant, but balanced, persistent flavors. Reminds me of high quality Cote de Nuits (Vosne-Romanee/Clos Vougeot perhaps). Lots of oak, but it works. Stunning.

The following wines were tasting in NYC at Trellis on Tenth (10th ave and 24th street), during a tasting/lunch with the proprietors and their importer, Neal Rosenthal. Vetroz is a small village in the Valais - the valley formed by the Rhone River just east of its origin from Lac Leman (Lake Geneva).
Roh Fendant (Chasselas) 2007 Les Ruinettes - Vetroz, Switzerland
Pear/blossom/mineral smells; silky texture over substantial acidity; long, fragrant, lovely.

Papilloud Petite Arvine 2007 Cave du Vieux Moulin - Vetroz, Switzerland
V. ripe fresh peach/mineral smells; vibrant, intense, rich, sizzling flavors - gorgeous.

Papilloud Amigne Grand Cru 2007 Cave de Vieux Moulin - Vetroz, Switzerland
Amigne is indigenous to the Valais, and 90% of its total of 26 hectares of vineyards are located in Vetroz. Yikes - intensely floral/fresh greens/honey/mineral smells and sizzling, crackling, penetrating flavors - fabulous. Amigne is classified by sweetness with a simple symbol - one to three bees, somewhere on the label. One bee = 1-9g/l sugar; two bees = 9-14g/l; three bees = 24+g/l. This example has one bee - virtually dry.

Cottagnoud Amigne Grand Cru Fletrie 2005 Cave de Tilleuls - Vetroz, Switzerland
Forget trying to describe this - coconut essence? psychedelic, electric, vivid, absurdly concentrated (200g residual sugar, 30% botrytis), unique. Fletrie = dessert wine.

Cottagnaud Pinot Noir 2007 Cave des Tilleuls - Vetroz, Switzerland
Mountain Pinot Noir (like Valle d'Aoste, over the Mont Blanc, in Italy) - intensely floral/cherry/cinamon/mineral (schist) smells and firm, focused, persistent flavors. yum.

Then off to Neal Rosenthal's store on the upper east side.
Foreau (Clos Naudin) 2005 Demi-Sec - Vouvray, France
Honey/lees/mineral/floral/dried pit fruit smells and slightly sweet, penetrating, sizzling flavors. Wow. A great Vouvray.

Cheveau 2007 En Rontey - Saint Amour (Beaujolais Cru), France
Wildly fragrant floral/cherry/white pepper smells and fresh, juicy, snappy flavors. No carbonic maceration.

Puffeney Poulsard 2005 - Arbois (Jura), France
Fascinating, after tasting Gamay and Pinot Noir, to taste a Poulsard - candied/dried fruit/spice smells and intensely ripe, beautifully balanced flavors. Delicious.

Chateau Saint Jean de Lavaud Rouge 2006 - Lalande de Pomerol, France
80% Merlot/Cabernet Franc - smoky/herb/cigar box/toasty/cherry smells and full, voluptuously textured, but still classic, flavors.

Cuilleron Rouge 2006 L'Amarybelle - Saint Joseph (Rhone), France
Roasted black fruit/floral/spice smells and ripe, succulent, sassy flavors. Delicious.

Back in the store (Thursday, 29 January), with the proprietor.
Canalicchio di Sopra, Montalcino (Toscana), Italy. Fifteen hectares in the Canalicchio zone - 100% Sangiovese Grosso (Brunello).
Rosso 2006 - so classic - firm, persistent, pure dark sour cherries. The Rosso is a barrel selection, made after one year of age.
Brunello di Montalcino 2001 - chocolate/mushroom/sour cherries - balanced, savory - wow.
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1999 - plush (for Canalicchio), rich, ripe dark cherries/chocolate - scrumptious, though still young.
Brunello di Montalcino 1998 - seamless - mature, but not old - creamy, long, substantial and delicious...this was a bad vintage?
Brunello di Montalcino 1996 - Simply beautiful, though less concentrated than the '98 - ready to drink, but it should be fine for years more. Another remarkable wine from what was a less than remarkable vintage.

Monday, January 05, 2009

5 January 2009 - 2008: The Year in Wine (at CWC)

CWC turned ten in 2008. The basic concept remains the same - find delicious stuff - wine mostly, but also other alcoholic beverages, cheese, salami, smoked salmon, chocolates, peanuts, even bloody mary mix; and sell it with a smile. We want you to feel welcome and comfortable, while offering goodies that might be a little ahead of the curve for Baltimore (or in some cases, New York). When we opened in 1998, Prosecco and Gruner Veltliner were a bit ahead of the curve, and not even the finest restaurants were offering as many as five sparkling wines by the glass. Estate-bottled Champagne? When we started up only a handful were available and nobody but Terry Theise was talking about them. Malbec? We had a few long before the first person walked in and asked us where our Malbec section was.

In 2008 a couple of trends blossomed. Yellow + Blue brought together organic viticulture and environmental consciousness with its remarkable pair of boxed wines from Argentina. Black Ankle Vineyards released its first wines, and from the first taste it was clear that our concept of Maryland wine would never be the same. It is indeed possible to produce world-class wine from grapes grown in our own backyard.

What follows is a short list of wines that surprised and delighted me this year:

Taltarni Brut Tache - Victoria, Australia. First, the wine is simply delicious, and pretty to look at. Second, it comes from a winery that I never thought was capable of making something so yummy.

House Wine
La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2007 - Cotes de Ventoux, France. The quality of the wine isn't at all surprising - this has been our favorite house red forever - but the fact that they put it in a 3-liter bag-in-the-box is a boon for all of those people out there that want one, maybe two glasses of good and fresh and cheap red wine a night without opening a new bottle every time.

Rotllan Torra '02 - Priorat, Spain. Patience pays. When this wine was first released it was pretty much undrinkable. A couple of years later, it's delicious.

Tenuta di Valgiano '03 - Colline Lucchesi, Italy. From the northwestern corner of Tuscany, near the coast, Syrah and Merlot have been planted along with Sangiovese since the mid-19th century. This version (60% Sangiovese/20% each Syrah and Merlot) comes from a 50 year old biodynamically farmed vineyard. It was great - alas, it's sold out. The '04 is available, but like the wine mentioned above, it will require some patience.

2006 Red Rhones
Vieux Telegraphe - Chateauneuf du Pape. A great VT, it might be the equal of their 1978. Beaucastel was terrific as well in 2006, but not quite as surprising. For pure drinking pleasure, the just-arrived Catherine le Goeuil Cairanne cuvee Lea Felsch.

White Wine
Lackner-Tinnacher Sauvignon Blanc '07 Welles - Sudsteiermark, Austria. Who knew? This southernmost region of Austria, on the Slovenian border, is evidently a great place to grow Sauvignon Blanc. This could be the surprise wine of the year.

Dessert Wine
Yves Cuilleron Rousselliere MMVI - France
Supposedly made from a grape called Roussillon (not the region - this wine comes from the northern Rhone), left to raisin on the vine, perhaps pick up a little botrytis along the way, aged in barrel. 4,000 500ml bottles produced. Indescribable.