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Friday, February 21, 2014

What Are You Waiting For?

Listening to French music and sipping on a Refosco, and I’ve got lots of things running though my mind - too many thoughts for an evening spent alone.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I like buying bottles that need to age a while and then holding them for ages in my wine racks.  This is a very good thing to do when bottles need aging.  And I suspect far too many people lack the patience required for aging bottles and appreciating the wines at their optimal time, rather than simply seeking immediate gratification and opening the bottle before it’s quite ready for consumption.

But sometimes I place too much emphasis on waiting.  Yes, I prefer drinking my best bottles when they’re at their peak, but not everything has to wait.  Not everything should wait.

A “wise” person has asked me (a number of times) when he wants to know how I liked a particular bottle and invariably I have to tell him that I haven’t opened it yet, he asks me, “what are you waiting for, are you waiting to die first?”  And oftentimes, he’s right.  I don’t always need to wait.

Some things have come up in the past few months.  Some good, some bad, and some that I don’t know yet which way it’ll go.  But some of these things have started teaching me that waiting isn’t always the answer.  Sometimes, it’s now or never, literally.  And I’ve always considered myself a good learner but rather a slow learner in some ways.  But this time I’m prepared to learn that waiting isn’t always the answer.

One of my favorite lines from It’s a Wonderful Life is, “Wait?  Wait for what?  Until their children grow up and leave them?  Until they’re so old and broken-down that they...”  George Bailey was right - wait for what?  Until it’s too late?

A few times, unfortunately, I’ve let a bottle sit too long in the wine racks, and opened it up, and it was too late for that bottle.  It’s happened a few times, and it’s happened because I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And then it was too late.

Please don’t let that happen to your wines.  Better just a bit too early than too late.

And while we’re at it, let’s not let that happen to other areas of our lives.  No, we shouldn’t just do everything that comes to us on a whim.  But don’t just wait, either.  If it’s something or someone that matters to you, don’t wait.  If there’s something you want to try, then try it.  If there’s somewhere you want to go, then go there.  If there’s something that you will regret not buying for the rest of your life, then buy it.  Whether it’s something you need or want so badly you can hardly go on without it, just buy it.

Have fun.  Live.  Love.  And if you do love, tell them so.  Yes, tell that person you love them.  You only live once.  What are you waiting for?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri NYC 2014

Well, as I’ve been doing lately, I’ll tell you what I’m drinking and what I’m listening to - one of my favorite good value California Cabernet - Sawbuck, and Antiques Roadshow is on in the background (I’m such a geek).

Due to my work, I’m generally working with French wines.  Since that’s the case on a daily basis, I generally drink mostly French wines.  But Italian wines always have been special to me in a very different way from my French favorites.  There’s something passionate and emotional about Italian wines, which I explained my feelings on it about 2 years ago in my previous Tre Bicchieri entry.

So, what’s Gambero Rosso and what’s Tre Bicchieri?  Gambero Rosso is a red shrimp.  Tre Bicchieri is three glasses.  Let’s just say that Italian wines get awarded a number of “glasses” from 1 to 3, 3 being highest, each year.  And the ones that win the award are represented at the tasting event.  This was my second time attending (and it was more fun this time, because I had my “plus one” with me - he was actually there last time I went but since we wouldn’t meet each other for another 2 months...anyway this time we attended together and it’s a lot more fun that way!) - I tasted somewhat different wines than last time, and it was lots of fun, and what I decided was that, based upon the wines I got to taste, my favorites were generally the whites this time, which came as a bit of a surprise to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved good Italian whites, especially the off-beat ones, but some of these were truly outstanding and remarkable to me, based on quality and uniqueness and expression of identity.

So I’ll list all of my favorites from the tasting, and I’ll tell you a bit about them, and why they were my favorites.

Braide Alte 2011 Livon (Friuli Venezia Giulia) - a gorgeous wine that we tasted early in the event, which was so lovely and brilliant and memorable - actually gorgeous says it best for me.

AA Valle Isarco Sylvaner Praepositus 2012 Abbazia di Novacella (Alto Adige) - I love Sylvaner, and this one was as good as any I’ve tasted recently, and what I noticed about this one were its near perfect balance and expressiveness of terroir.

Soave Classico La Rocca 2011 Pieropan (Veneto) - this was, by far, the best Soave I’ve ever tasted - it’s so satisfying and delicious and everything I could hope a good Soave to be - in other words, for me it was a textbook example of the grape and region.

Muller Thurgau Vigna delle Forche La Vis/Valle di Cembra 2012 (Trentino) - another German type wine that I love when it comes from Northern Italy - beautiful, floral, lots of fruit, and mineral - lovely.

Cartizze V La Rivetta Villa Sandi Prosecco (Veneto) - we were actually on a quest to find some fabulous Prosecco and we did in fact find a bunch, but this one was my favorite of the tasting - textures, delicious, flavorful, aromatic, and just all around excellent and far from simple.

Elena Walch AA Gewurztraminer Kastelaz 2012 (Alto Adige) - I’m keeping this in the same sort of paragraph as the next wine, because they’re from the same amazing producer.  The Gewurztraminer was for us a show stopper - admittedly, I have a special place in my heart (and my palate) for Gewurztraminer, but this one was, while different from examples from Alsace, absolutely incredible in both quality and uniqueness.  I absolutely loved this wine - we both did.
Elena Walch AA Merlot Kastelaz Riserva 2009 (Alto Adige) - and the Merlot was lovely, delicious, and satisfying.  We loved a lot of the whites, and it was nice to find a red right in my wheelhouse - balanced and all facets of it in check and yet shining simultaneously, this was an excellent wine in every way.

Lambrusco Reggiano Concerto Ermete Medici & Figli 2012 (Emilia Romagna) - I’ve never been a huge fan of Lambrusco - is it just me or are they generally kind of funky for a sparkling red?  Well, agree or not, I get a dirty locker room sort of scent from many of them (fo right ahead and laugh but that’s what comes to mind, and maybe some old socks) - anyway, this one was delicious, fresh, and fun, and on the elegant side, perfect for pairing with simple dishes including pizza and summer fare.  I’d be hard pressed to complain about a wine that attracts me when usually I don’t care much for its type.  Good wine for sure.

Barberani Orvieto Classico Superiore Muffa Nobile Calcaia 2010 (Umbria) - just beautiful and delicious, I’ve had a few good ones from Umbria in the past couple of years, and this one was no slouch.  Complex, wonderful, expressive, unique.

Tasca d’Almerita Contea di Sclafani Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Sicily) - I usually don’t go for the big wines on a regular basis.  I do, however, very much enjoy all of the wines I’ve tasted over the years from this producer, and regularly recommend them - but this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to try the Cabernet - big though it is, it’s velvety and incredibly satisfying and of all the bigger style wines we tasted that day, this was one of the favorites for me.

Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di S Niccolo 2009 (Tuscany) - I’ve been working on researching and tasting more Tuscan wines as a new year’s resolution this year - this is one that goes down with the favorites - delicious and while it wasn’t quite what I expected, a surprise of that kind (a very good, balanced, delicious wine) certainly can’t disappoint.

Ruggeri & C Valdobbiadene Extra Dry Giall’Oro (Veneto) - gorgeous sparkling wine, my favorite of all the wines on his table, just beautiful with fine texture, great structure, balance, and a very real identity - fruit, mineral, and just utterly graceful on the nose and palate.

And now 2 producers that I thought their entire lineups were amazing and exciting:

Diego Conterno - Barolo Le Coste 2009, Barbera d’Alba Ferrione 2012, and Nebbiolo d’Alba Baluma 2011 - the wines are expressive, approachable, and delicious, and I believe they’re excellent examples of what they are.

Draga (Friuli Venezia Giulia) - I thought these wines were incredible and very unique, I was amazed - Collio Malvasia Miklus 2010, Collio Pinot Grigio 2012, Collio Sauvignon Draga 2012 (also an 80% Merlot blend) - I was truly blown away by these wines, especially the almost pinkish color of the Pinot Grigio and the aroma of the Sauvignon and the flavor and texture of the Malvasia (the Merlot blend felt like a wonderful bonus to me) - I was in love with these wines and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face when I was tasting.  Just amazing, that’s for sure.

So there you have it - my favorites from this year’s Tre Bicchieri.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hungarian Wines for Super Bowl

I have 2 reasons for writing blog posts on consecutive days: one is that I had some catching up to, considering I’m attending another big tasting again this week (Gambero Rosso - Tre Bicchieri) and so I didn’t want to fall behind, and the other is that the wines I’m covering in this post were pretty awesome and I enjoyed them a lot.

But first I’ll tell you what I’m drinking right now - a German Silvaner.  Delicious, too.  It’s from Franken, so it comes in a cool bocksbeutel - a strange bottle that can be used in Franken, I’ve been told it looks like the Mateus bottle, it’s short and circular and almost flat - I’ve been seeing a bit more of them lately, and they’re fun.

Anyway we decided we’d have at least something with bubbles for the Super Bowl - the rest would just be fun.  So I thought a few Hungarian wines might be cool (channeling my inner Magyar).

The sparkling wine was the Torley Gala Sec, a dry style aromatic sparkling blanc made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and a Hungarian grape called Kiralyleanyka, and demonstrating characteristics of soft white citrus, barely ripened peach, and fresh white petals - it’s clean and lovely and the bubbles are small and delicate.

The red I chose was the Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch) by J&J Egar, also a delicious and unique wine, quite different from its Austrian Blaufrankisch counterpart - it’s very “red” in that it shows mostly red fruit, red berries, red plum skin, and most of all, a distinctive minerality, very stony and honest and expressive.  It’s medium bodied and satisfying and very clean and balanced.

I’d love to see more Hungarian wines become available on our shelves - they’re fascinating wines, I’ve never been dissatisfied with one yet.

Monday, February 3, 2014

UGC 2014

I had the pleasure of attending the tasting of the 2011 vintage of Bordeaux at the Union des Grands Crus event at the Waldorf-Astoria a couple of weeks ago.  I already knew in advance that it was a challenging vintage for the reds (and in my opinion most of the whites I tasted as well), but the Sauternes were in a league of their own - they were amazing.

I had few favorites but I will mention them and explain why I liked them - they were pleasing.  The others just weren’t all that pleasurable, considering how many wines I tasted through.  I started with mostly whites, and some were quite delicious with plenty of fruit and mineral, but others showed what felt like strange degrees of acidity and excessive mineral with not much fruit except for some very tart lemon.  Regarding the reds, the usual suspects didn’t disappoint, as they’re nicely put together and enjoyable with plenty of fruit and mineral, clean and full and lovely.

Favorite whites:
Chateau de Chantegrive (Graves)
Chateau Bouscaut

Favorite reds:
Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion (Pessac-Leognan)
Chateau Latour-Martillac (Pessac-Leognan)
Chateau Smith Haut Lafite (Pessac-Leognan)
Chateau Canon (Saint-Emilion)
Chateau-Figeac (Saint-Emilion) - this was a standout for me
Chateau Troplong Mondot (Saint-Emilion)
Chateau Chasse-Spleen (Moulis-en-Medoc)
Chateau Cantemerle (Haut-Medoc)
Chateau Brane-Cantenac (Margaux) - another standout, although it is one of my favorite chateaux
Chateau Cantenac Brown (Margaux) - I loved this one, particularly lovely and pleasurable
Chateau Prieure-Lichine (Margaux) - another excellent example, very satisfying
Chateau Rauzan-Segla (Margaux) - very full and dark, delicious (slightly modern?)
Chateau Beychevelle (Saint-Julien)
Chateau Branaire-Ducru (Saint-Julien) - also a wonderful wine, most satisfying to my palate
Chateau Gloria (Saint-Julien) - always dependable and did not disappoint
Chateau Gruaud Larose (Saint-Julien) - another favorite (and through the years as well)
Chateau Talbot (Saint-Julien)
Chateau Pichon-Longueville (Pauillac)

So as you can see, for me at least, the best wines at the tasting were the “usual suspects,” so to speak, and I expected them to be very good, even in a challenging vintage.  The others, for me, were somewhat hit or miss.

Sauternes, as I mentioned, was otherworldly and I loved finishing the tasting at the Sauternes/Barsac section of the room.  Golden nectar of the wine gods, it’s lovely, with tropical fruit, candied orange, and wonderful structure in that they are luscious yet clean at the finish and the texture is to die for.

My favorites:
Chateau Coutet (probably my favorite wine of the entire event)
Chateau Guiraud
Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey
Chateau Suduiraut