The BSFW blog offers a periodic airing of our staff's observations and musings about things we find in our market and, frankly, can't live without. This is not a dispensing of erudite information from high on the mount; this is us sharing with you the aspects of the fine wine, craft brew and gourmet worlds that pique our interest.
This congenial approach is something we take seriously - so please feel free to comment! Afterall,it's our customers that inspire us to do what we love to do - and do it even better than before at every opportunity.
Last week at The Tasting Station we had the privilige to entertain 5th generation winemaker, Senor Federico Benegas Lynch (er... well, he entertained us)! Tune in for a glimpse into one of the "perks" our wine buying team enjoys on occasion: the opportunity to meet a winemaking legend, taste his wares and learn a few new things along the way.
Whether Dan is making me do "penance" for being out sitting on a hard, wood jury bench rather than tasting, arguably, the world's greatest wines or not, I'm not sure. But here I am, for the first time on the Vinous Views blog, sharing my impressions of a more or less "normal" Tuesday behind the Tasting Station at BSFW. WhadduIgot? How about another version of the Pinot truth?
Exactly to Dan's point last week, evaluating exceptional Pinot Noir in a domestic market - when we know, in theory, that the truly great Pinot of the world thrives in Burgundy - is pretty dang challenging. Especially since these wines are ready to drink now and a helluvalot more affordable. Enter Siduri Pinot Noir.
These guys (aka Adam and Dianna Lee) make several - aka SEV-ER-AL - great Pinots from different properties in both California and Oregon. They choose to be a vineyard-free operation, in that they enjoy the relative luxury of selecting and buying fruit from about 25 different vineyard sites throughout California and Oregon to make their delicious line up of offerings. It is SICK the wines they make. 'Aint a bad one in the bunch! And they are all worth the slightly heafitier price tags they command. Of course, this is all relative. Because the one we chose for you, our eager customer, is a mere $31.99 on the shelf - an absoulte STEAL for the price. Burgundy (sadly) can't shake a stick at this number, in terms of drinkability and deliciousness, guaranteed, n-o-w.
What is this fine juice I speak of? The 2007 Siduri Sontera Pinot Noir offers an exceptionally delicious example of Pinot from the coastal California vineyards of Sonoma Coast. I asked Dianna what made the wine so distinct from it's counterparts in the Siduri lineup. Was it the terroir? Or was it the place? She believes it's the place, the coastal nuance, the influence of sun and fog (...and fog) that makes this particular wine expressive in its own particular way.
Here are my short notes: "Very coastal. Can taste fog influence and nearby ocean. Poo-ey delicicous nose. Flavor is vibrant and lifiting. Juxtaposed with happy earth tones and fruit."
Here are Dan's: "Sontera-Dark fruit with herbs and earth. Quite juicy and complex-ish."
Here are these notes translated: "This particular Siduri Pinot won the BSFW tasting "fav" designation for it's authenticity of place. This is a wine that displays well-integrated red and black fruits, but goes above and beyond a 'simple' Sonoma Coast Pinot offering. Herbs and earth tones are delivered in a surprisingly bright, juicy package that will leave sippers scratching their nogg'ns for the word that describes something familiar and delicious, yet that's somehow even more intriguing for it's beguiling elusivity."
What can we say? This wine is the offspring of a couple who really gets how important place is. How important it is to let growers do their 'thang in the vineyard (under their careful watch). How important delivering the art of fine wine is to consumers. At the right price.
In the words of Nike... Just Do It. It's worth skipping two bottles at $15 during the week in lieu of a great Saturday night. And besides, we just brought in a whole slew of wines under $10 that will help you take the edge off on Wednesday night while you wait 'til Saturday.
Total wines tasted: 49
Wines that made “the short list”: 4
One new addition you can look for: 08 Domaine Monte de Luz Tannat
Because Rebecca was off satisfying her civic obligation by reporting for jury duty, there was no regularly scheduled "Tuesday at the Tasting Station" last week. That does not mean there was no tasting, however. I made my way to the W Hotel for a trade-only tasting of the Martine's Wines Portfolio.
Before I hit the road I stopped at Victor's Deli next door to grab a slice of pizza (it's not a good idea to go to one of these events on an empty stomach!). Victor's wife, Rosa, and daughter, Nancy, were behind the counter and out of the blue they asked me, "what's your favorite wine?". The question caught me a little off guard. But before I gave it much thought, the three syllables "Bur-gun-dy" came out of my mouth. Then I mumbled something about it being expensive. Undaunted, they said they would stop by the shop sometime soon so I could show them this wonderful type of wine.
I spared them the five paragraph explanation of how Burgundy (red Burgundy specifically) was indeed my "favorite wine" when it expressed that wonderful Burgundian terroir, was perfectly mature and someone else was paying for it. There was no time to explain that the number of great Burgundy experiences I had could be measured on one hand - and that the number of times I had tried it was somewhere around a hundred. Anyone would have been perplexed by the notion that a red Burgundy from a good producer and vintage opened in what is thought to be its "window of drinkability" can still disappoint; sometimes they just don't feel like showing their stuff on a particular day!
But enough on the curse of the Burgundy lover. I was off to the tasting....
Martine's portfolio has many shinning stars such as Chateau Rayas from the southern Rhone and Niepoort Ports. But the main focus of the tasting was (you guessed it) Burgundy. I tasted 60 wines from the Burgundy region (including the Macon and Beaujolais). They ranged in suggested retail price from $14.99 (a Beaujolais-Villages) to $400 (a Chambertin Vielles Vignes). The average price was $77 per bottle. Of these, I gave six wines a little dash on the tasting sheet, meaning they were worth remembering as a favorite. Only one, the 2007 Corton Charlemagne (white) from Chevalier Pere et Fils ($169.99), received a plus sign. It was really delicious.
The tasting represented in micro the challenge of the Burgundy buyer: the reds (all from the Pinot Noir grape, except the Beaujolais) were from the 2006 and 2007 vintage - mere babies. At this stage they show fruit concentration, hints of complexity and plenty of acid. They won't start showing their real stuff for at least 3-5 years. Only then will the tight grip of their structure begin to loosen, and the earthy and floral complexities start to show. So, the taster has to use their imagination and experience and "see" the wine further along in it's evolution based on the sum of it's basic components.
I essentially tasted two categories of red Burgundy: the wines of "breed" from the famous villages (Gevrey-Chambertin, Chambolle-Musigny, etc.) that would need significant aging to be enjoyed and commanded a small fortune; or wines from lesser known villages (Ladoix, Marsannay, etc.) that were more accessible and somewhat more affordable, but lacked the depth and magical balance of "real" Burgundy.
This is where the frustration comes in. You wish you could expose Pinot Noir lovers to the greatest Pinots of them all and say "this is better than Oregon or California." But the wines in comparable price ranges to these more known/popular categories aren't as good - not in their youth anyway. You have to pay more and be patient with Burgundy. Not an easy sell. Because of these challenges, only one or two of the wines I tasted could be seriously considered for additions to the shop's portfolio.
Burgundy's hefty price tag is a result of a combination of factors. These include the fragile nature of the Pinot Noir grape, the tiny production of the most famous vineyards, and worldwide demand, especially from "emerging markets" like China and India. Those financial realities are here to stay.
I will continue to pursue the great Burgundy in the sky (I still haven't been able to replicate my first and most wonderful Burg experience - a 1985 Pommard-Pezerolles from Ballot-Millot) and when people ask what my favorite wine is you know what the answer will be! I'll just try to keep it to one word.
Have you ever had a great red Burgundy experience?
A fair to midland Tuesday at The Tasting Station for the Ball Square wine buying crew. The pace was easy to take with our vendors evenly spread and overall not a ton to taste. This was a good thing as I was feeling significantly under the weather (sorry Asa those sparkling sakes just didn't hit me right AT ALL!). Check out the score card below.
We did learn a few interesting factoids:
-Sebastiano de Corato of the Rivera winery in Puglia reminded us that the name of the Primitivo grape refers to its early ripening nature (thus first to be picked).
- A representative from the Graziano winery reported that the 2008 vintage in Mendocino County was a veritable disaster. Frost, Fire and Rain combined to make the crop virtually unusable. Much was left on the vines as "bird food". If you have a favorite Mendo wine stock up on the '07's!
We also encountered this rather sticky wicket:
Arik, our tall, dark and (humorously) sarcastic representative from Charles River Wine Company presented us with the new vintage (2007) of Kamiak red from Washington State. This had been eagerly anticipated as the 2006 was a huge hit at Ball Square Fine Wines. Kamiak is the second label of the Gordon Brothers winery and the '06 was a smooth and complex red that sold like hot cakes at $9.99 per bottle. The good news was that the '07 was the spitting image of its predecessor; cheery red fruits, light brushy earth and a hint of luxury that comes from aging in high quality oak barrels. The bad news was that the price would have to be $14.99, a full fiver over the '06. In reality it wasn't that the '07 had taken such a huge jump but that, for unknown reasons, the '06 had been priced unusually low by the winery....
The quandary for us is whether to put the new vintage of Kamiak (which also has a new, more minimal label and the name "Rock Lake" added) on the shelf and risk the perception that we jacked up the price, or choose not to stock it and deny our customers a perfectly good Washington state wine at a decent, if significantly higher, price.
Do you think we should go for it and stock the new Kamiak or hold out for another Washington wine to fill the $9.99 slot?
If a wine takes a price increase do you blame the store you bought it from or assume it was initiated further up the supply chain?