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It’s Champagne Season, Part 1

It’s Champagne Season, Part 1

Posted on Nov, 27. 2013 by

Categories: Wine

Well, Thanksgiving is literally right around the corner. Christmas and New Years will then follow. It all happens so fast, and as cliche as it may be it is truly my favorite time of year.

This is the time for feasting and wine. This is the time for Champagne!!!

Of course many of us try to make the argument that any time is the time for Champagne. It’s true, Champagne should not be saved for only special occasions, it is fun, it is delicious, it is refreshing and it can turn around a crappy day in a heart beat.

Every year I try to find a handful of affordable Champagnes to offer out to the group for those who believe this and like to have a couple good ones in their artillery to complete a scene or make an ordinary evening special.

I have been working hard and have found a few small grower Champagnes with tons of individuality and style, unarguably forward and distinct flavor and rich finesse. Also, and importantly, at a price point for opening with some regularity.

Today I want to talk about the Andre Clouet, Brut a Bouzy. Grand Reserve MV (multi vintage). This Champagne is made from 100% Pinot Noir in one of my favorite Grand Cru villages Bouzy. This is a return to the full biscuity-style Champagnes that always make me think of the Belle Epoch. They are glorious wines, Baroque in both flavor and mouthfeel.

The Clouet vineyards are handled organically. Much of the production is sold off to Big House Champagnes but Andre Clouet saves the best fruit for his own bottling. The wine spends 6 years on the lees giving it that full rich mouth feel and weighty presence.

This is an unbelievable Champagne that will stand up to any meal. It would make for a tremendous start to Thanksgiving, and what you hide from your family you can enjoy through the feast by yourself.

I highly recommend this Champagne. Even non Champagne drinkers will stand in awe of its utter deliciousness and what has become my favorite virtue in wine and food,craveability!

Andre Clouet ‘Brut a Bouzy’ Grand Reserve Champagne MV
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $36.66 • Premier Cru: $38.33[/private_member]
Retail Price: ~$50.00
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Scrumptious Champagne

Scrumptious Champagne

Posted on Dec, 14. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

There are so many French words in the wine world for which there are “no good English equivalents.” Terroir, well there is no good way to explain it in English. Ullage, there is no English word for it but it is the air bubble space in a wine bottle. Cuvasion, the time when wine is fermenting with solid matter maceration etc… Most often these words occur becasue the French like to name things that we just don’t find worthy of a name.

I often desire to describe wines with English words for which there are no French equivalents. Not really knowing how to speak French, this is often a shot in the dark for me. There are a few words that I have to believe have no good French expression: Spaz, wedgie, nuggie, chillaxing, metrosexual etc…

Furthermore there are a few things in the wine world for which there are not yet a name. For instance, that cross over point in a wine where you can just tell it is in the higher class of quality. I have always wanted a name for that so I can say things like, “This wine is clearly beyond the Wilrich level.” Just an idea, Parker can use it if he wants.

Speaking of wines that are way above the Wilrich level, I have another Champagne that has blown my mind. Pierre-Cheval Gatinois produces in the Grand Cru Village of Ay. Looking over his reviews now I see that he sells much of his fruit to Bollinger for their Grande Anee bottling. This fact makes me feel better about my own note on the wine, “Bollinger at a reasonable price.” This is a classic of the Grand Noir style with 90% Pinot fruit going into the bottling.

I compare the wine to Bollinger but there is a much more individual small house style here with the Gatinois, Grand Cru. Brut NV. Like a metrosexual of manly charm and grace the wine is serious, brooding almost but with fine polish. The tiny bubbles spaz in the glass giving a creamy weight as the wine chillaxes on the palate. My notes read, “delicate but forceful” like an over the head wedgie from your older sister with just as long of a finish. A nuggie of intense refinement digging into your senses through a veritable head lock on your tongue.

Let’s see that put into French.

The Wine Advocate and the Spectator both give this wine 91 points:

“The NV Brut Grand Cru Tradition offers lovely inner perfume with a silky minerality that is all about elegance and understatement. The essence and warmth of Pinot from Ay comes through in spades. The NV Brut Grand Cru Tradition is 90% Pinot Noir (mostly Petit Pinot d’Ay) and 10% Chardonnay, mostly 2004 vintage, with a dash of 2005 and 2003. The wine was aged in steel and dosage was 6 grams per liter. NV Brut Grand Cru Tradition is as great a value (in relative terms) as readers will find in Champagne. Disgorged: 3-4 months prior to release, but no specific date indicated. Anticipated maturity: 2009-2012.” Grower Champagne – 91 Points Antonio Galloni – The Wine Advocate

Folks are just beginning to come back for the delicious Agrapart Champagne that I sent out a few weeks back. This Champagne is totally different. Gatinois eschews oak use, his dosage is always small, just what is needed. This man is a purest and his style is the elegant style one imagines Kings and Queens would have toasted with in ages past. This is truly an education in the refinement Champagne can approach and I give it my highest recommendations possible.

Scrumpitous Champagne, far above the Wilrich mark.

Gatinois, Grand Cru. Brut NV.
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $33.00 • Premier Cru: $34.50 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $45.00
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The Sure Thing

The Sure Thing

Posted on Dec, 12. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

My “Best of the Year” sure thing pick for a please every palate wine is the 2009 Bodegas Exeo, Cifras, Rioja. ‘Garnacha’. I have selected this wine because I think it stands for everything I am personally looking for in a gift wine this year. It is in the middle price point, so a little something nicer. It delivers well above its expectation and it has an immediacy that any wine lover, New World or Old World palate is going to crave.

This Rioja is 100% Garnacha. That’s Grenache for the French minded. This is a very unusual thing to do with a Rioja. The handling is perfect and there is a real focus on nuance and complexity in the wine,

The wine is juicy on the palate with a little touch of vanilla from the oak. Great freshness thanks to the good acidity that makes the wine long and precise. Cifras is well structured without sacrificing the quality of the tannins. This is a different way of understanding Garnacha in Rioja where it is usually blended with Tempranillo.

Only 10% of the juice sees any oak. The real focus here is on the purity of fruit. This gives the wine a quality that is instantly harmonious with those who enjoy top California red wines. I believe it is wholly intentional for the winemaker to draw us in with this initial burst of pure deliciousness. But once you get over the fact that this wine is just damn yummy you can not help but notice that there is a lot going on in the bright acidity and unmistakable mineral notes. A true New World expression of terroir in a package of ultimate delivery.

You may recall That Kevin Sidders has offered out the white wine from this estate in the last two vintages . That is because the white has consistently offered an exceptional level of quality for its relative price point. Whereas we have always loved the red, the leap of quality in this vintage makes it a complete do not pass up wine itself.

This is a wine for any occasion, great with all kinds of food but really just dang enjoyable to drink. For me it is also the perfect price point for a truly heart felt gift wine for this time of year. Ambassador wine, your key to graciousness in when entering any door. I highly recommend this one to all palate types.

2009 Bodegas Exeo, Cifras, Rioja. ‘Garnacha’
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $19.80 • Premier Cru: $20.70 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $27.00
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The Perfect Gift for the Traveling Francophile

The Perfect Gift for the Traveling Francophile

Posted on Dec, 06. 2011 by

Categories: Food, Wine

If you’re looking for a Holiday gift idea, stocking stuffer, or just want to give yourself something special this time of year, the Wine Guild has a great offer from our friends at La Belle France. This is a niche travel newsletter for the francophiles out there. They’ve been reviewing the French dining, hotel, and country retreat scene for 25 years, and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate says,

“Remarkably accurate… advice and tips are to be taken seriously. If you visit France at least once a year, a good investment is a subscription to La Belle France.”

Whether you are planning your first trip to Paris or perhaps this is your 30th trip to France and what you really want is to get off the beaten path, subscribers to the newsletter La Belle France have found it to be required reading. It is the longest running publication solely dedicated to traveling France. Due to its unique subscriber-supported business model, the publication has never had advertising or sponsorships of any kind, allowing its original reviews of hotels and restaurants to be entirely anonymous, unbiased, and honest.

Exclusive to the Wine Guild is a one-time only 50% off the subscription price for La Belle France. A one-year subscription to the newsletter and full-access to hundreds of restaurant and hotel reviews online typically costs $119. Wine Guild members get this for only $59.50. You will receive 12 issues of La Belle France and complete password-protected access to unlimited content online at www.labellefrance.com.

Pick up a subscription form at the Wine Guild or email my friend Jeremy Goldstein at jeremy@labellefrance.com and see why Travel + Leisure magazine calls La Belle France, “The pick of the travel newsletters – a bright insider publication providing travelers with indispensable information.”

Fantastic Italian Red

Fantastic Italian Red

Posted on Dec, 05. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

This is what you might call an Italian Table Wine, meaning, it’s under $10 and good for many meals and situations. What sets this particular wine apart from that rather general category of lower priced wines is that this wine is unbelievably fantastic.

Absolutely no hyperbole, I would have been happy paying $16-$18 for this Dolcetto.

I first tasted the wine over a month ago with the sales rep. You may remember as I offered the Barberesco from the same estate. I wanted to offer the Dolcetto then but the 200 cases they had in stock were immediately purchased by another retailer in the Northern Virginia area. I have been waiting for its return to offer out and it is finally back.

This wine marks maybe one of three for the year in the category of drinking quality that at double its price point would still have you thinking it was a steal. The flavor reminded me of a quality of Dolcetto I had not had in some time, deep and brooding tart berry flavors, ruby velvet in both color and feel with a good tannic grip to let you know you have something of worth to bight on to.

This is a tremendously solid red that is priced for everyday drinking. It is my #1 holiday red wine pick as it will please almost all of your guests whilst having the unique ability of also being delightful to you as well.

My highest recommendations for this quality and price point

2009 Franco Serra. Dolcetto
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $8.06 • Premier Cru: $8.42 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $10.99
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Beaujolias and Thanksgiving

Beaujolias and Thanksgiving

Posted on Nov, 21. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

I spent the entire day yesterday slaughtering Turkeys for Thanksgiving. It was so beautiful out, overcast, warm and still. We did the work out by my fire pit under a 200 year old oak tree. The smoke from a slow burning fire occasionally blew over us as we plucked the wild sprays of feathers from the beautiful birds. I had set out Oysters and homemade hard cider, cold and bone dry, we snacked as we worked but when the birds were cleaned and put into refrigeration and my friends had left I straightened up the site, made myself a ham sandwich and popped the cork on a 2009 Cru Beaujolias. Surrounded by the orange-brown horizon of fallen oak leaves, the silver and gray stripes of bare tree trunks and the thin whisping bead of an open hard wood fire I gulped the wine down in huge mouthfuls and felt like an old woodsman from a German story book.

This is the wine of Autumn feasting.

Many folks feel like drinking Beaujolias with Thanksgiving dinner is a must. I am one of these people. This is a good thing as it seems like the quality of Beaujolais just keeps getting better every year.

No joke. If you have not tasted a Cru Beaujolias in the last 7 years you are missing one of the more delightful trends in the wine world.

The 2009 Domaine de la Voute des Crozes, Cote de Brouilly from Kermit Lynch imports is by far my top pick for this years T-day celebration. We will be able to get this in Wednesday before Thanksgiving for all of the die-hards who realize that having a good Beaujolais is as necessary as having Gravy for your mashed potatoes.

This Cote de Brouilly almost drinks like a Burgundy. In that I mean it has none of those qualities that would make someone qualify a wine as Gamay-y. The wine is deep and dark with brooding tannic fruits that are also somehow lively, refreshing and delightful.

I believe this to be the perfect wine for all your Thanksgiving needs with my highest reccomendations.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

You may also note that we are getting a significantly better price for our member pricing due to the power of the Guilds bulk buying ability. Hurray for group buying power. Yeah Guild!

Last of all I will leave you with my favorite November poem by Robert Frost:

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted gray
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

2009 Domaine de la Voute des Crozes, Cote de Brouilly
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $15.76 • Premier Cru: $16.48 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $24.99
Buy Now!

First Burgundy of the Season

First Burgundy of the Season

Posted on Oct, 17. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

There is tradition that says when God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden he gave them a young vine, the last and only item they were able to take from Eden. The Burgundians trace their very clone of Pinot Noir back through an ancient migration that would have originated exactly where we believe Eden to have been.

I just made made that up, but it is basically how I feel about Burgundy.

If you are new to the Guild you may not have heard that Burgundy is my favorite wine. I love the stuff, I revel in it, Burgundy is proof to me that God loves us, it is a glimpse into heaven, a taste from the realm where all things originate, it is perfection.

I am such a geek for Burgundy that I will only drink it in the Fall and Winter when I believe it tastes its absolutely best. I wont write the essay on why I think that here, just trust me on this one.

The Burgundy I have today is a Guild favorite. We have been strong supporters of this Domaine since our origin. In fact the lessor brother to todays wine was once a Defcon wine for us in a much more average vintage. That was the ‘Grands Pretans,’ today I have the 2009 Domaine Xavier Besson. Givry 1er Cru. ‘Petit Pretan.’

This wine is from a much smaller Pretan. No, sorry, again I am joking. I have not looked up the wine makers notes on this wine or checked on a map to see where the different vineyards sit. I only know what I have tasted and I can say without a doubt that this is the finest vintage I have ever tasted of this wine.

Besson’s style has been a favorite for me since the late 90’s. His wines are approachable, huge with flavor, deeply Burgundian and all about ready ripe fruit. I have always used this wine to turn California/Oregon Pinot drinkers on to Burgundy. As much as finding good drinking Burgundy can be a crap shoot, Besson’s wines are on and drinking stunningly almost every time.

If Besson’s wine is a sharply dressed gentleman, the 2009 Petite Pretans is Bond in a tuxedo. There is more of everything here. The Petite Pretan is already a deeper wine than the Grands Pretan, more brooding and dark as the Cote Nuits is to the Beaune. Both wines transcend their Givry home in the Cote Chalonnais, though possessing a brightness of fruit one associates with that area.

There is just so much more here, stones and black cherry, chasm like depth, roundness, length, it is a blustery day of fallen leaves, forest floor, “stone rock, stone, steal, stone, oak leaves horses heels.”

I am often baffled by explanation when I love a wine so perfectly.

My highest recommendations for all palate types and in all cases.

2009 Domaine Xavier Besson. Givry 1er Cru. ‘Petit Pretan.’
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $22.36 • Premier Cru: $23.38 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $30.50
Buy Now!

Autumn’s Rose

Autumn’s Rose

Posted on Oct, 13. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

Last evening, with the help of some good neighbors, I loaded a rather wild pig onto my trailer for delivery to the abattoir this morning. It was pouring down rain and I was calf deep in mud, I did take one ride landing horizontal in what I like to think was just mud but know deep down wasn’t. Monday I slaughtered my first Turkey for the season along with some Roosters who were unnecessary for our uses. I will eat that Turkey on Friday, I like to give fowl at least five days aging before I roast them.

I love Autumn with all its chores and blessings and I could eat roast Turkey from September to March. It is one of my favorite foods. And along with the foods of Autumn and Winter I begin to think of my favorite wines. This is the great culinary time of the year when foods and wine taste best and for me it is a time to open my best and oldest bottles but also it is a time to revel in the perfect pairing of wine to food at every level.

Like eating soup, I drink Rose all year long. Sure it is crisp and satisfying in the Summer time and many types of Rose even signify Summer to me. But there are many styles of Rose and I’d be a damn fool not to open up the correct ones with the right food no matter what temperature it is outside.

For Thanksgiving and even Christmas time this year I am thrilled to be recommending a Virginia Rose. From newest label in town, the 2010 Knights Gambit, Rose is utterly delicious. With a light natural effervescence and medium crisp body this wine is enjoyable, palate cleansing and thoroughly gulpable. The Rose is 100% Merlot with 3-4 cold macerations followed by pressing then neutral barrel fermentation, crafted by local wine hero Michael Shaps and owner Paul Summers this is an excellent effort to be enjoyed by all.

There was not a lot made but the wine has just been released so there should be plenty to load up on to delight guests with a delicious example of what we do here in Virginia all season long. I recommend this wine to all palate types, it is a stunning dry rose distinctly in the old world style, it will be perfect for almost any meal and an no brainer cocktail wine.

2010 Knights Gambit, Rose
Member Price: [private_member] Grand Cru: $11.46 • Premier Cru: $11.98 [/private_member]
Retail Price: $15.63
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A Return To Qupe Chardonnay

A Return To Qupe Chardonnay

Posted on Oct, 11. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

I finally made it out to The Commonwealth Restaurant and Sky Bar a couple weeks back to meet some friends for drinks. I am not the first to say it but this restaurant is an instant C-ville classic. The decor and the service are impeccable, the Sky bar is a great environment to relax and have a few drinks. This will certainly be the first stop we all take our out of town guests when they visit and want to see something that is specifically and interestingly C-ville. I wasn’t able to work my way around the food much on this visit but did enjoy the BBQ Croquettes. This may be my new favorite place to sip through a bottle of wine. Continue reading…

“Stupid Good” Table Wine

“Stupid Good” Table Wine

Posted on Sep, 29. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

Well I tried to go to the new Commonwealth restaurant last night but it was packed. The place looks awesome though and I can not wait to go eat there. I did make it to Tempo though, the new restaurant in the old Ventana space. I had been for lunch already with Michael Davis and we were wowed by excellent food and reasonable prices. Dinner was good, I think they have a very exciting chef who will bring some incredible dishes to our foodie town. I highly recommend dropping into Tempo for a bite and am hopeful that the service will quickly elevate to the level of the cuisine. The decor is growing on me, we’ll see. Continue reading…

Premier Cru Chablis

Premier Cru Chablis

Posted on Sep, 26. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

Chablis, at its finest is the greatest expression achieved by the Chardonnay grape. It is also damn fine at the middle level.

This is from one of our favorite producers. We have offered out his wines many times as we (The autonomous collective of board members) find this to be one of the best and most consistent values for really good Chablis wine. Continue reading…

Months with an ‘R’ in them

Months with an ‘R’ in them

Posted on Sep, 22. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

Autumn through early Spring is the best time of year in my book. You have to wonder if Jefferson planned it that way when he first named the months of the year. However it happened, September through April is one stunning and exciting time, not just because of the natural beauty during the Fall, Winter and Spring and the break from the heat but because eating and drinking wine is at its best during the ‘R’ month seasons.

The phrase itself comes from the rule of thumb about eating oysters. Only do it when there is an ‘R’ in the month or else it is too warm and the chances of getting a bad one that much more risky. Personally I love oysters. Heck I love any food that acquiring the taste for begins with a dare. Let’s face it no one pops back one of those little slimy, salty, cold, mushy creatures and says, “oh my gosh where has this incredible flavor and texture combination been hiding my whole life” You have to want it at first, but once you get it there is something to them, delicate, subtle, refreshing and invigorating. Continue reading…

DEFCON 5: Bordeaux

DEFCON 5: Bordeaux

Posted on Sep, 12. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

Have you ever struggled with turning someone on to Bordeaux? You look through your collection and realize your tastes have drawn you on to particulars. Should I open this one? No they won’t get the subtle elegance of well aged Bordeaux and will lose the charm in want of fruit. How about this one? No they may balk at the youthful tannins and break my heart by telling me it’s a bit dry.

I will not draw out the fine details of the wine as I hate the laborious adjectives of the trade. The agreement that this was a DEFCON 5 wine was instantly decided on between Evan, Rives and I. The style is immediate, delicious Cabernet fruit, pure but with an underlying classic Bordeaux feel. Continue reading…

Sicily

Sicily

Posted on Sep, 01. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

The Wine Advocate gave this one 92 points. Let’s just get that out of the way first. This is a Biodynamicaly produced wine by Valle Dell’Acate and is every bit of what the new geek wine movement would refer to as a “real wine.” A funny thing because the Advocate and the new geek wine movement rarely agree. Continue reading…

Falanghina

Falanghina

Posted on Aug, 26. 2011 by

Categories: Wine

This is one of those Italian white wines that none of us gets the opportunity to drink enough of. Falanghina is a grape from the Southern part of Italy, inland from Naples in the Irpinia DOC. Admittedly, this is not a region I see a lot of wine from. It is a part of Italy where one can still find hidden gems that represent great value. Continue reading…