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.


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