Friday, August 15, 2014

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: TUESDAY

The series generally starts to get a little sketchy at this point in the week. Yes, it’s only Tuesday, but beach brain sets in and the days … and the bottles… start to run together. So notes will be brief on this one – but don’t hold it against the wine!

Envinate Viña de Aldea “Lousas” 2012 (Ribera Sacra, Spain): From Alice's June selection. June was a fun month for the Feiring Line Wine Society and I brought in a few extra cases of two of the wines for the shop: the La Clarine Farm Rose 2013 and Bengoetxe Getariako Txakolina 2011, both of which I’ve been drinking as much as I can over the summer. But this one, the Envinate, we only got a few extra bottles which have been squirreled away until I had a chance to try one for myself, which I finally did on Tuesday evening. We paired it with a very nice, thinly sliced beef rib slathered in my friend Lori’s homemade New Rigel rib sauce. (New Rigel is a tiny town just outside my less tiny hometown of Tiffin. It's famous for it’s ribs, ribs, and ribs. And if you peaked at the menu - those prices are current and yes, decimals are all in the right places.)

Although the conversation was focused on the ribs, ribs, ribs, everyone liked the wine. The grape is Mencia and it’s grown on slate soil (Lousas is the local name for the slate soil in this part of Ribera Sacra.) It had more fruit than I was expecting – deep, dark, purple fruit, but it was balanced by an undercurrent of slate-y minerality.  And no.. that’s not just suggestive thinking – there was dark, grey earthiness that lurked beneath. I would be money that by day two, that earthiness would have broken through and become more overt. But I didn’t get to try it.. my mom turned it into sangria before I had a chance to stop her. (But it was very delicious sangria!)

Price: $28.99 

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: MONDAY: Bottle #2 (with TUESDAY leftovers)


And… the evening bottle.

Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery Mourvedre Especial 2013
(Santa Barbara, California)

Dirty & Rowdy & S'mores
This one wasn’t part of the Feiring Line Wine Society – not enough made to offer it up. We got 12 bottles for the store – and I snagged one for the trip… because I can.

The wine was a hit. My mom: “It tastes like wine’s supposed to taste… unlike that first one” (That first one, for those keeping track, was the Los Pilares petnat muscat. Which even if it wasn’t a Frank family favorite, was clearly memorable.) It’s a comment that makes me laugh a little because I don’t think this wineis at all like most people expect from a California red wine. It’s light in color – an almost pale red – vs. a deep, extracted purple. And it’s cloudy due to the (on-purpose) lack of filtration. It’s got plenty of fruit… but not deep, lush, overly ripe fruit. More like tart cranberries, pomegranates, just-shy-of-ripe raspberries, and if you look for it, a blood orange note. Citrus? In a red wine? And just 12.4% abv, which for a California red… it’s practically non-alcoholic!

Dirty & Rowdy is part of a growing group of “new wave” California producers. There are young guns (OK, a lot of them are my age, so they’re not all that young) who aren’t following the typical formula of big, ripe, oaked-up cabernets and chardonnays. They’re going for quirkier grapes (mourvedre, semillon, trousseau, valdiguie to name a few) which have the advantage of costing less and in many cases, coming from older (in some cases very old) vine stock. And they’re picking earlier, going for a lighter, more elegant style, toning down the oak use, working with natural yeast, whole clusters, carbonic fermentations, minimizing SO2 and acid additions. It all makes for wines that are unique, lighter in color and alcohol, but extremely flavorful.

Are these new wave wines wines typical?  Like wine is “supposed to taste?” Well, I think so. And apparently, so does my mom!

TUESDAY left overs

We made sure to leave a little Dirty & Rowdy for Tuesday lunch, since I know this is the kind of wine that shows really well over the course of days. My father asked “why do I like it even more today?”

The official answer: The flavors become more tightly knit when they have a chance to marinate. The tart blood orange edge softens up a bit, the tart fruit notes become a little less edgy, somehow a little riper, and earthy, herbal notes add a little more complexity. The real answer: Because it’s just better.  It just is.

If we had really been in a scientific mood, we would have left some wine for Wednesday, but this is a beach house… not a lab!

Price: $36.99 (and not much left so get it quick.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: MONDAY - Bottle #1

Our lunch time bottle:
I Vigneri Vinudilice Rose di Salvo Foti NV (2011).

It was pink, sparkling… and didn’t last long. It’s a Sicilian thing: a blend of alicante (known in other parts as grenache) and a mish mash of other local grapes. Normally, the grapes in this bottle would make a non-bubbly pink wine, but for whatever reason, they didn’t get ripe enough in 2011 so the vigneron decided to go the sparkling route. Unlike Saturday’s muscat bubbly, this one is not a petnat. It’s made using the same method as Champagne: make a still wine (a relatively low in alcohol one), stick it in bottle, then kick off a complete second fermentation – which actually raises the alcohol level a bit… and of course, makes for the bubbles because the CO2 isn’t allowed to escape this time around.

That’s a lot of technical info for a wine that didn’t stick around for more than half an hour.  Bubbly, with subtle fruit, a bit of a floral edge, and an undercurrent of firm, sneaky minerality (hello volcanic Mount Etna soil.) It was a fan favorite, which wasn’t a big surprise. Commentary was pretty straightforward – “I like this one.” “Can I have some more?” My mother’s note: “ I like it more than that first one we had.” Which would have been the muscat. Which I guess she didn’t like so much after all. Or at least not as much as she like this one. But she’s a sucker for pink bubbles. (Must run in the family.)

Price: $37.99 

(It will soon be available on the Frankly Wines web site. Meantime, send us an email if you’re interested in buying. We only have a handful of bottles available, left over from the July Feiring Line Wine Society.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: SUNDAY

Busy day with a few guests over and a major mission to swim, swim, swim. So wine wasn’t the day’s main focus (Such a thing happens often in the civilian world, I’m told.) But that didn’t prevent us from opening a bottle for a little lunch time sipping.  Today’s selection was another bottle from my parent’s Feiring Line Wine Society stash: Vincent Caille La Part Colibri Gros Plant 2013 (Nantais, Loire, France)

I was curious to see how this bottle went over. The grape is gros plant and it’s from the same general sub-region of the Loire as Muscadet. And if good Muscadet is considered the classic battery acid wine, then good gros plant is even more so – battery acid with a squeeze of lemon juice?

OK, “battery acid” may not sound like a turn on. But racy, crisp and refreshing? Those are words that can sell wine.  But selling it to someone and having them like it are not always the same thing. And while I love high acid, minerally whites, they aren’t always a hit if you’re used to something a fuller and fruitier.)

But today, they worked: the beach, the heat, non-wine-related conversation. It went down just fine.

Y thought it was a Riesling –  and it did have a lean, crisp mineral/citrus edge that recalls a troken riesling (which means he liked it, because remember, he likes Riesling!). My dad asked if it was Champagne. And if you’ve ever had a bottle of good blanc de blanc at the end of a long day being toted around in a sales reps bag, it has that rain-water-over-rocks thing going on that reads as Champagne without the bubbles. Our friends liked it. And my mom said she liked it more than the Los Pilares because it had “more going on.” Actually, it has less going on – no bubbles, no skin contact, no happy, floaty sediment. But then she said it really just tastes more like she expects a wine to taste – which makes sense because the Los Pilares is pretty crazy and defies easy categories.

This little gros plant is more simple. No skin contact. No funk.  No sediment. No bubbles. No funk. But it’s got everything you could want in a simple, easy wine. It’s not exactly fruity, but the citrus and mineral notes are concentrated enough to balance the super racy acid. It’s not full-bodied at all, but it has a certain texture to it – a weightless plumpness that keeps it from being inconsequential.  Grown up lemonade? Water with a kick? Liquid laser beams?

What more could you ask for $12.99? This one you can actually buy... just click here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

THE (THIRD ANNUAL) CIVILIAN SERIES: SATURDAY


Time for the annual Frank/Ohio-family pilgrimage to Sandbridge Beach, about thirty minutes south of Virginia Beach. There’s nothing much (make that nothing, period) to do here except go to the beach, make a few meals, and drink a few bottles of wine. (And of course, argue with Kids #1 through #3 about electronic time.)

This year, I’ve kept it simple: my parents are members of Alice Feiring’s Feiring Line Wine Society and are several months behind. So I just brought the bottles, along with a few other random selections. There are fewer of us along this year – but just as much wine. But I’m not one to let an unfinished bottle stop be from opening another bottle, so I am sure we’ll do just fine.

Sit back, relax, and if any of these bottles look intriguing… I might just know where you can buy them.

SATURDAY

Los Pilares LaDona 2013
(San Diego County, California)

A petnat from San Diego. Who knew? Apparently Alice knew because she managed to scoop up three of the 30 cases made of this wine – that’s about 10% of total production. Los Pilares is a tiny-scale wine project that tries to make wines as naturally as possible (I’m going to stop saying that with every post, because if the wine is from Alice’s line up, “naturally as possible” is a given.) For these guys (for all natural-minded guys/gals, really) it starts with the grapes. San Diego isn’t the natural home for grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvingnon, so you won’t find those stand-bys under the Los Pilares label. Instead, they’re looking to grapes that are natural, traditional matches to the region's warm,
dry climate (which happen to be the same grapes you would find in the warm, dry south of France: Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignan. And for this one, they’ve chosen Muscat, which is traditionally grown a lot in those parts where it’s traditionally used for sweet dessert wines.

But this wine is neither sweet, nor dessert. It’s a petnat – short for petillant naturel. It’s a specific sort of sparkling wine that’s all the rage among the natural set – partly because you can make it without much mucking around. And partly because it makes for a charming and delicious bottle of bubbles. How to: fermentation begins. Natural yeast and magic gnomes are involved. (Alright, there are no gnomes, but the yeast thing is pretty magic.)  Before it’s finished, the partially fermented wine is bottled and capped and with a little luck and a prayer, it finishes fermentation into the bottle, where it’s transformed into a foamy, sparkly, bottle of happiness. Sometimes the end result might be sweet, sometimes dry. Sometimes it might be a overly funky microbial mess. Sometimes it might be delicious but um, explosive. The mystery is part of the magic. It seems like a simple process, but it’s not the easiest thing to get right and there’s no magic formula. But that’s part of the fun.

This particular bottle wasn’t a full-on gusher, but a slow, sneaky bubbly overflow was involved. The wine sees a bit of skin contact so it’s a bit orange-y -  a golden peachy color. A touch of tannic structure. Totally unfiltered so it's nice and cloudy. Taste-wise, there's a little bit of funk with floral, ginger-y, honeyed notes. Sort of a cross between beer and cider and a clean, tasty orange wine – more foamy than full-on bubbly.

I liked it. My mother liked it. Y wasn’t crazy about it (but he pretty much likes Riesling and Barolo and that’s about it…. Excellent taste, but not terribly adventurous.) The big surprise… my father didn’t really like it – at least he didn’t like the first glass.  But clearly not liking it didn’t stop him from drinking it.  By the second glass, he’d stopped trying to make it taste like any wine he’s ever had before and just went with it… and began to enjoy it for what it was – a funky, foamy, orange-tinted bottle of fun.

Price: $27, but really, priceless. Because if you’re not already a member of the Feiring Line Wine Society, there’s no more to be had.


Friday, July 25, 2014

FEELING SENTIMENTAL



This Fourth of July, instead of dealing with the fireworks down the street, the husband and I ran away from our perfect-spot-to-view-the-fireworks neighborhood and went to a movie (especially easy given that Kids #1- #3 had been deposited in the Ohio homeland.) We wound up at the Angelika Theatre, (possibly the MOST expensive movie ticket in the city – which means the most expensive IN THE WORLD!) We were there to see Begin Again, a “love letter to New York” sort of movie musical from the director of the utterly charming (yes, the use of the word “utterly” is totally necessary in this context) musical/movie Once.

I definitely recommend it – but don’t go in expecting your life to be changed. Go in with low hopes, expecting something just slightly more entertaining than a neighborhood overrun by fireworks gawkers.  But be open to a sweet reminder of when you were young and free and willing to let a single song change your mood, your evening, and maybe…just maybe… your entire life.

Yes, that sounds a little bit sappy. And maybe it’s just me, but I remember those songs. I remember what they sound like – what they felt like.

And I remember what I was drinking when I heard them.

It was before I worked in a wine shop. Before my glamorous days in the “New York wine industry,” when I was still in college, the only one of my friends taking the wine tasting class at school. Because of my assumed “expertise”, I was the one handed the wine list at the restaurant whenever a parent was in town to take all the housemates out to eat. There was money to be spent. Multiple courses to be consumed. Free booze to be drunk in an oh-so grown-up way. Oh, the pressure! What to order that everyone would like? That wasn’t too expensive. That would make me look adult and sophisticated and in-the-know enough to justify the thick list in my hands. (OK, we were in Ithaca.. the lists weren’t that expensive, but still.)

The choice then wasn’t all that difficult: riesling and gamay. Grapes that would make a visiting parent’s wallets happy. That would charm the palates of a table full of friends just discovering the beauty of wine. That had the added benefit of also being what I actually wanted to drink (and still want to drink.)

This was long, long, long before Instagram and Facebook and the relentless pursuit of the latest, greatest, coolest of cool-kid wines. This was before wine was my job – it wasn’t something to stay on top of, a trend to stay ahead of. It was something to drink, to make the night a little better, the stars shine a little brighter. It was something that just made people happy. It hasn’t changed all that much. I still find myself craving riesling and gamay. Fresh wines. Happy wines. Wines that speak of some place and someone and the time they were grown and raised and bottled.
  
And like the songs in the movie reminded me, a certain bottle on a certain night, like just the right song, could make the soul sing. But it’s not really about the bottle, or the tune, or the lyrics. It’s about who’s at the table, holding the glass, making the music, making the toast. It was simple then. But really, it’s still simple now.


Keep it easy. Keep it simple. Drink something real tonight and keep the camera in your bag. You don’t need photographic proof. You’ll remember. If it’s worth it, you’ll remember.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

THE BEST WAY TO LEARN ABOUT WINE? DRINK IT

We have them!

At least we have two of them: the wines selected by Eric Asimov the first installment of his monthly New York Times column, Wine School. I think this is a brilliant idea… sort of like Oprah’s book club, but with booze. You can read the details yourself, but it’s very simple: each month, Eric will recommend a few specific wines, as well as the general category to consider if you can’t find the specific bottles. Then you drink them. He drinks them. We all drink them. And we all chatter about them online

The key thing here, is that we’re to drink them… not just taste them. But actually sit down with the bottle over a night or two, over a meal or two, and experience them. I’m as excited about this as anyone – because while I get to taste a lot of wine, but I don’t get to drink it as much as I like. So this will be a chance for me to stop and smell the roses… or, um… drink the grapes?

Another key thing –this exercise is not necessarily about liking the wine. It’s about experiencing the wine. (Yes, that may be a bit hard to stomach when we’re talking about $30+ bottles of wine… but this experience is still much less expensive, much less time consuming, and really, much more enjoyable than any “real” wine class you could take.) The idea is to get a sense of how to think about wine, how to talk about it, and how to understand what you like and don’t like.

So if you’re up for a little adventure, grab a bottle and play along!

Chateau Cantemerle Haut-Medoc 2009 (Bordeaux, France): This chateau was one of the first Bordeaux I ever bought for the shop. While so many estates seem to be moving in a more modern, big fruit-soft tannin direction, Cantemerle seems to remain classically Bordeaux in character: elegant, structured, with fruit balanced by minerality and savory complexity. Price: $52.99 



Chateau Bernadotte Haut- Medoc 2009 (Bordeaux, France): No, it’s not a classified growth. But it’s very near several that are, including Pichon Lalande (formally known as Chateau Pichon Longuefille Comtesse de Lalande.) Bring on the value and give this one a try. Price: $30.99

Buy them here (while they last)


 
 

Friday, November 8, 2013

AUSSIE RULES ON WINE: The Real Unicorn

You may think I went to Australia to check out the wine scene. But you would be wrong. That was all just a ruse.

The real reason anyone to go to Australia is to see kangaroos.

Wendouree Malbec? Really old Hunter Valley Semillon? Early vintage Grange? The actual Hill of Grace? That crazy little parcel of super old vine Marsanne tucked away in Victoria?

Nah.

Look! A Kangaroo!
(They have their own paparazzi.)


Those unicorn wines and places mean nothing compared to the possibility of spotting a big bouncing marsupial. On tour in the Clare Valley, we even forced our bus driver to stop when we saw one hop by so we could chase it into a field in an attempt to get a photo.  (Apparently some of my travel mates weren’t allowed to come home unless they had a picture of a kangaroo, so this was very serious business.)

Are they as cute in real life as they are on TV? Sure… except they can kill you with one well-placed kick.

Cute factor aside, they’re really like deer in the Midwest. They like to stay to themselves and avoid people and you’ll really only see them if they’re forced to search further for food than they would like. In which case they wind up on in the vineyards or near the roadways. You’ll see roo-crossing signs there just as you would see deer crossing signs here. And your Aussie car will often have a “roo-bars” to keep the front from crumpling when you inevitably hit a roo. On my first trip to Australia, we did indeed hit one. And just like when my brother hit one in Ohio, the officer at the scene asked if we wanted to take it home. We didn’t. In either case. Because seriously, how would I fit it my suitcase?

The money shot below. (And if it's really a wallaby, keep it to yourself.)

I swear there's a kangaroo in this picture.