Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Blogging Year In Review: A Look Back at 2010 on MFWT

Taking my own cue from last year, it seems like today, especially given that we're on the eve of New Year's Eve, is an ideal time to take a look back at the year that's about to end.  If I'm feeling really inspired, I may pile on tomorrow with a top ten list of wines enjoyed throughout the year.  For now, here's a bloggy-blog style review of 2010, chez McDuff.
  • I started off the first month of 2010, to paraphrase one of my long time readers and fellow bloggers, by opening a big can of worms on the topic of brettanomyces.  Not to toot my own horn too loudly but I was also on fire in January when it came to cranking out what turned out to be some of my favorite white wine write-ups of the year, such as Movia Lunar, Montbourgeau Savagnin, Chidaine Les Choisilles, and Thierry Puzelat's Romorantin.

  • Movia "Lunar," snow and the full moon....
  • In February, I began to dig more deeply into the exploration of Spanish wines, something I still need to work on in greater earnest, with an in-depth profile of the Ribeira Sacra wines of Guimaro.  Likewise, beer began to occupy a more regular and prominent editorial place here at MFWT; my piece on Jolly Pumpkin's Oro de Calabaza was a personal fave (as is the beer itself).

  • March travels took me to California not once but twice. The first trip was to attend the wedding of my dear friends Steve and Stacy in Monterey (and of course to sneak up to San Fran for a return to Terroir).  The second was my first major trade junket of the year, a trip designed to explore the food and wine culture and agricultural traditions of Paso Robles, a highlight of which was a visit to an abalone farm.

  • There's much more than Syrah, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon being farmed in the Paso Robles countryside.
  • After January's piece on Brett, I returned to the exploration of wine science, or more accurately, pseudo-science, with my April piece on chaptalization.  Toward the end of the month, I had the pleasure of sharing one of the more memorable meals of the year with old friends, great wines, and Alexis Rousset-Rouard of Domaine de la Citadelle.

  • My blind tasting skills, not to mention the recuperative and regenerative powers of my palate, were put to the test my second big press junket of the year, Nebbiolo Prima, in May.  Like it or not, I've made culturally relevant obituaries something of an accidental specialty here at MFWT.  (Of course, just what is "culturally relevant" is entirely up to me.)  One of the more colorful of this year's examples of the RIP post was inspired by the May passing of actor Dennis Hopper.

  • June saw the continuation of my coverage of Nebbiolo Prima, with vintage overviews of 2007 in Barabresco and the Roero as well as 2006 in Barolo, along with a producer profile on Novello's Elvio Cogno.

  • One of my favorite posts of the year (and my contribution to "32 Days of Natural Wine" at Saignée), a profile of Cappellano in Serralunga d'Alba, got the ball rolling in July.  From there, it was all 2010 Tour de France, with daily coverage of the race, its routes and corresponding food and wine coverage provided by me and a multitude of wonderful guest bloggers.  I'm already looking forward to doing it again in the New Year....

  • Benoit Tarlant, pictured above showering the peloton with his "Brut Zéro" as they passed through Reims, was among the many guest bloggers who contributed to my coverage of the 2010 Tour de France.
  • After the hot action in July, August was a pretty mellow month 'round these parts, giving me the chance to check in with an old favorite—the Marcillac Vieilles Vignes from Domaine du Cros—and to head up to New York and stop in at Bar Boulud for a long overdue glass of Jacky Blot's sparkling Montlouis Triple Zéro.

  • Things kicked back in to gear in September, when the trips to New York continued and multiplied for the onset of the autumn trade tasting season.  One of the most purely enjoyable of those events was the Jenny & François portfolio tasting, which you can get a sense of via my two part highlight coverage (part one, part two).  A very nice bit of recognition, not to mention lifting of the spirits, came along that month as well, as MFWT was was listed among the Top 5 Favorite Websites as selected by 25 nationally recognized sommeliers in Food & Wine Magazine.

  • My NYC crusade continued into October, with meals at Ippudo and Otto representing just a couple of the stops among much other researching, feasting and frolicking.

  • At least a little of the action came back Philly way in November, including visits from Maria José Lopez de Heredia and a NY/Philly mashup in celebration of the wines of Friuli.  New York still got its due, though, including a vertical tasting of Peter Weimer's "Torbido!" and a blind tasting of wines made in the Chauvet/Néauport method.

  • That, folks, brings us right up to the end of the year.  My December posts might still be fresh in some of your minds.  Just in case, a few of the "highlights" included part two of my coverage of the carbonic vs. terroir tasting, the long overdue return of the B-side report (not to mention a whole lotta Beaujolais), and a quick post on one of my hands-down favorite wines of the year.
I'd say that's a wrap.  Thank you, one and all, for visiting, reading, commenting and generally following along with the action here on the "Trail."  Here's to a happy, healthy and fruitful New Year.  Cheers!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

I'd hoped to have an Xmas tale of wine and food, friends and fun to share with everyone this evening.  Instead, I've been focusing on the friends, family and fun parts, less on the chronicaling of said activities.  Wine and food are playing a role as always, music too, but sometimes more substantive writing and blogging have to take a back seat. 

I'm sure I'll be back in the saddle within the next few days so, until then, here's a little tuneage for your seasonal listening pleasure.  Happily, this time around it's in the spirit of the holidays rather than in remembrance of friends passed.  Thanks as always for visiting, reading, partaking, even listening.  Here's wishing a happy and peaceful holiday season to you all.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Joe Strummer, Eight Years On

Earlier this evening, a friend reminded me that today marks eight years since the untimely and unexpected passing of Joe Strummer on December 22, 2002. So, tonight I drank a little Régnié with my dinner, poured a glass for Joe, watched the below clip a time or five, and remembered the man. Please feel free to do the same.

Coenobium and Carbonara at Dell'Anima

A little padding in my schedule during a reasonably recent trip to New York afforded me the opportunity to head to the West Village for lunch at dell'anima. I'm not sure I would have ventured there if it weren't for having met the young sommelier and restaurateur phenom behind dell'anima, Joe Campanale, along with his mother Karen, when they trucked it down to Philly to co-host a Friuli wine dinner at Osteria, or if it weren't for having connected with both of them in the staccato realms of social media. As dellanimom, Karen snippets up a storm on Twitter on behalf of her son's establishments; it might sound kind of crazy-corny to some, I suspect, but she does a great job with it. We should all be so lucky as to have our moms out there canvassing for us—far more effective than the usual PR spin.

Anyway, back to dell'anima... I'm glad I made the journey. It's the kind of all too rare spot—I've written about a few others here in the past—that's worthy of destination dining but first and foremost provides a bastion of comfort and quality to its own neighborhood.  I was surprised at how cozy the dining room is: just a small bar, a dozen or so tables and an open kitchen.  Fittingly perhaps, I don't recall being awestruck or otherwise astounded by anything I ate that afternoon, just pleasantly sated by good quality food served in a very welcoming environment by a crew that pretty clearly cares about what they're doing.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Campanale has put together a pretty sharp, all Italian wine list with some strong selections by the glass and welcome depth in the back vintage department for those ready and willing to explore (1971 Movia Ribolla, anyone?).

That by-the-glass program provided me with the welcome opportunity to continue my exploration of the pleasures of pasta carbonara paired with the white Lazio wines of the Monastero Suoro Cisterci, where Paolo Bea's son, Giampiero Bea, has been a consulting winemaker ever since the Sisters' first vintage in 2005.  Last time, it was Coenobium "normale" paired up with the traditional spaghetti alla carbonara at Otto; this time around, it was the more skin contact intensive version of Coenobium, called "Rusticum," poured to accompany dell'anima's tajarin alla carbonara.

The combination of tajarin (an egg-rich pasta style traditional in the Langhe) in place of spaghetti,  speck (native to Alto-Adige and the Südtirol) instead of pancetta or guanciale, and a whole, runny-when-forked egg yolk put a decidedly northern Italian spin on the Roman classic.  The overall conception and impact being similar, though, the carbonara was still Roman at heart, and the local wine (Coenobium is produced about an hour's drive north of Rome) was a crack pairing, the full body, grippy structure and oxidative nuances of "Rusticum" working quite well with the richness and creaminess of the dish.

Now all that's needed is a reason to find myself in the West Village at lunchtime again.  Soon.


38 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10014
(212) 366-6633
Dell'Anima on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blogs of Note: One Oldish, One Newish, Both Vital

Taking a day off from writing yesterday enabled me to catch up on reading 'round the web, in the course of which I was reminded of two things I've been meaning to (re)share: the greatness of Wine Terroirs and the astounding launch of So You Want to be a Sommelier.

Bert Celce has been traveling the world, capturing his experiences with a camera and illuminating those travels and photgraphs with remarkable detail (and remarkably good English for a non-native speaker) at his blog, Wine Terroirs, since January 2004.  That makes him, undeniably, one of the senior statesmen of the wine blogging world, and he still does it with a level of enthusiasm—not to mention great content—that always keeps me coming back for more.  I've already given Bert a "Blogs of Note" shout-out here, way back in May 2008, but yesterday's visit—and his most recent post chronicling the disgorgement of the first sparkling wine produced by Touraine vigneronne Noëlla Morantin—reminded me of why I not only need to read his site more often but also really needed to re-share it with my own readers.  So here you go.... It's worth a look for the quality of the photos alone (that's one of Bert's shots above) but don't skip the every bit as worthy read.  Of course, it doesn't hurt that I also have a serious wine crush on Noëlla....
My own shot of Ms. Morantin in NYC, October 2009.

So You Want to be a Sommelier? is the recently launched brainchild of the ever erudite*, occasionally ascerbic of wit, and always all around good guy Levi Dalton.

The beverage director at Alto in New York City, Levi is indeed a sommelier, one of the city's best in my experience.  He's also a friend (that's my pic of him at right, snapped during a vertical tasting of Torbido! at Alto last month).  But this is no shill; it's an honest, forthright, and, yes, friendly endorsement of what I fully expect to be a damn good blog.

Levi has only been at it since the beginning of December but he's off to a running start.  An active patient participant in the discussion chambers at Wine Disorder (formerly Wine Therapy) for many a year, Levi's first several posts were "reprints" of detailed posts originally shared only at Disorder.  He's since made a quick transition into original posts.  Between the quality of his writing, a welcome thread of humor, and the sheer quantity of sick vino that passes his way (in terms of depth and diversity that is, not volume), it's a new blog that I very much look forward to reading as it grows.

(*Alice's word, not mine, but it was too apropos not to run with it.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday Suds: Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza

A relatively impromptu visit to Teresa's Next Door last night led first to a wonderfully thirst quenching glass of De Ranke "Père Noël" (on tap), which led next to a leisurely perusal of the menu and, in turn, to a quite fortunate flip by my dining partner to the rear of Teresa's book of beers.  To the holiday bottle page.  To this little gem.

Noel de Calabaza Special Ale, Jolly Pumpkin (Blend 3, 2009)
9% abv. 750 ml bottles.  Distributor: Shelton Brothers
"Noel de Calabaza" is a Belgian-style strong dark ale, brewed annually and released each winter holiday season by the wild fermenting, oak aging adventurers at Jolly Pumpkin.  While in name it's the Christmas companion to "Oro de Calabaza," the only obvious similarity comes via that characteristic Jolly Pumpkin sour streak—part wild yeast, part lactic acid, entirely delicious.  Otherwise, we're dealing with an entirely darker, maltier, spicier animal, albeit one that is eminently drinkable, just barely if at all hinting at its 9% alcohol level.

A year of bottle aging (notice the batch number, above) has rounded out the beer's mouthfeel and subdued its spiciness since this time last season, bringing the focus around to its dark fruited, wine-y nuance, yet plenty of vitality remains, suggesting that it will continue to develop through at least a couple more Noels.  While, for me, it doesn't quite deliver in that instantly magical, "God damn, this is some serious gourmet shit" way that "Oro" does, it's nonetheless a damn fine holiday beer.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don Van Vliet is Dead, Long Live Captain Beefheart

Don Van Vliet, better known—to those that knew of him at all—as Captain Beefheart, died yesterday of complications related to multiple sclerosis.  The Captain was 69.  There's no way I could improve upon the obituary that's already been written by Ben Ratliff for The New York Times, so read that.  And listen to this: the title track from the 1967 album Safe As Milk, as performed for French television in 1980.

Though I eventually came to be a big fan of Van Vliet's own music, I first came to know him through his work with Frank Zappa, who produced what was arguably Captain Beefheart's most influential album, Trout Mask Replica. Though it might be fair to think of Zappa and Van Vliet as peers or joint mentors, I tend to think of them more as co-conspirators.  So here's a peek into that side of things, too, via "Willie the Pimp" from Zappa's 1969 release, Hot Rats.

Rest in peace, Don (and Frank).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Question of the Day

Scenario: You're going to lunch with a certified Master Sommelier and you can take only one bottle of wine.  What would you choose, and why?  (Okay, so that's two questions.)

? courtesy of Steven Noble.
Hit the comments with your answer, then come back and click the question mark for mine. No cheating!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mindbendingly Delicious Barbera

Lasagna: I didn't realize I was craving it yesterday but, as soon as I heard the suggestion, I knew it was meant to be.  Funny thing is, it took even less time to think of what I wanted to drink with it: Barbera.  I knew just the one....

Barbera d'Alba, Giuseppe Rinaldi 2008
€9 ex-cellar. 13.5% alcohol.  Cork.  Not exported to the US.
One bottle—one criminally small bottle—of Beppe Rinaldi's Barbera d'Alba made it into the mixed case I cobbled together over the course of my adventures in Piedmont this May.

Tasting the 2009 version from botte at the estate with the lovely young Marta Rinaldi and learning that its production is too small to supply the US market (AND blown away by how delicious it already was), I just had to make space for a bottle of its brother from an earlier vintage in that mixed case.  Ten days, somewhere in the vicinity of twenty producer visits, and I was limiting myself to twelve bottles for the long journey home... insanity.  In retrospect, I wish I'd allowed for a second case, just of this.

Beautifully fresh and juicy, brimming with boisterous fruit, lively acidity and just enough tannin to keep you alert.  Blueberries, plums, red cherries....  It was absolutely delicious with our lasagna and altogether, seamlessly complete.  About as close as wine can come to being the most unimaginably delicious example of fruit juice while simultaneously being 100% vinous in character.  The kind of wine one could happily glug without a care or just as easily meditate upon for hours.  Something of a miracle of nature and one of the most memorable wines I've drunk all year.  Enough said.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Suds: Dogfish Head Saison du Buff

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head.
BUFF (Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor) was first conceptualized way back in 2003.  It took only seven years for the triumvirate—Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head, Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing Company, and Greg Koch at Stone Brewing Company—responsible for BUFF's genesis to put plans into action for their first collaborative brew.

Calagione and Covaleski got together with Greg Koch at Stone's San Diego headquarters early in 2010 to brew together.  What they came up with was "Saison du Buff," a Saison-style ale kicked up the "freedom of flavor" scale via the addition of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme in the brewing process.  The plan, as eventually executed, was for each brewery to make its own version using the same recipe and ingredients but of course utilizing its own equipment and brewers.

Stone was the first to release their version, in March 2010, with both Dogfish Head and Victory following suit late in the summer of 2010.  All were relatively limited-edition releases and, so far as I know, are not intended for repeat brewing and release in the future, although one never can tell.  Such brews sometime take on lives of their own.

Were I a more thorough beer geek (and a much more advance planning shopper), I'd have gone out of my way to procure all three versions in order to do a side-by-side tasting and comparison.  For now, though, I hope you can make do with my thoughts on just one of my local versions.

Image courtesy of yours truly.
"Saison du Buff," Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
6.8% abv.  12 oz. bottles.
The Dogfish Head iteration of Saison du Buff pours to a slightly hazy, burnished lemon yellow color in the glass.  Highly charged, it yields a more than generous, slightly chunky head, kept alive by quite active, steady carbonation.  Its lemony, intensely herbal aromas are dominated by the pininess of rosemary, then backed up by the faintly musky scent of sage. Rosemary and sage's other herbal brewing companions are less apparent on the nose but do come through on the palate, where the faint bitterness of parsley and subtly sweet woodsiness of thyme make themselves known.  Would I be saying all this if I didn't know the four herbs used in the brew?  Perhaps not, but knowing, it certainly makes sense in the tasting.  All of the above is wrapped up with a reasonably fruity mid-palate of grapefruit and pineapple, and a very crisp, refreshing drive.

Not surprisingly, given the fairly full throttle style of the overall beer programs at Victory and, especially, Stone and Dogfish Head, Saison du Buff is considerably hoppier than the a traditional European Saison.  To me, it actually drinks more like a Saison crossed with a fresh style of IPA.  While its alcohol level (6.8% abv) isn't much if at all higher than the classic Saison, it seems to pack more of a wallop than I usually associate with, say, Dupont Saison (at a quite similar 6.5%), pushing it out of session beer territory and toward the table.  Grilled, white fleshed fish or roast chicken would be nice pairings, methinks.

As appealing as all of the above may sound, it doesn't come without a caveat.  So highly perfumed as to border on scented soap territory, Dogfish Head's version of Saison du Buff beckons to my mind more than my gut—more intellectually compelling than downright delicious.  That said, you won't find me trying to pawn off what remains of my half-case.

I wonder if the Victory version is still kicking around somewhere nearby....

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Inscrutably Insolite

insolite adj unusual, strange

One hundred percent inscrutable it's not—even if last Sunday's edition of Name That Wine left everyone thinking so—but neither the charms nor the full (hi)story of Sophie and Thierry Chardon's "L'Insolite" are readily revealed.  More on the charms later; for now, let's step into the gray area between cold fact and cool conjecture and take a peek at the story.

"L'Insolite" was advertised for sale by, and in turn purchased by me from, a fairly well known wine e-tailer.  In one of said merchant's typical e-mail blasts, it was stated to be the produce of Domaine de l'Aumonier.  Sophie and Thierry Chardon, who are credited as the producers and estate-bottlers of "L'Insolite" on its label, are indeed the proprietors of Domaine de l'Aumonier.  Yet there's no mention of the Domaine on the bottle (other than on the cork), and likewise no mention of the wine on the Domaine's website.

Maybe I'm making too much of this—it's hardly without precedent—but, ever curious about labeling quirks and legalities, I couldn't help but wonder what gives.  Is it a semi-private label, produced exclusively for Free Run?  Perhaps it's the first vintage release of the wine and the Chardon's wanted to test the market before putting their full stamp on the label?  I'm sure there are other viable explanations, as well.  I hate to delve into the realm of guess work, but I've reached out to both the producers and their importer with no response from either.

Maybe... again with the maybes.... Maybe it doesn't matter.  If the wine is good, will anyone really care (aside from me, that is)?

Touraine "L'Insolite," Sophie et Thierry Chardon (Domaine de l'Aumonier) 2008
$14.  13% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Free Run, Seattle, WA.
Sophie and Thierry Chardon's Touraine "L'Insolite" is a varietal expression of Côt (aka, Malbec), grown in parcels of clay and silex dominated soil amidst the family's 47-hectare estate.  Currently in process of organic conversion, their property is located in the communes of Couffy and Mareuil sur Cher, roughly 75km ESE of Tours in the sprawling AOC area know as the Touraine.  Taking a leap of faith that it is handled along the same lines as the "official" reds from Domaine de l'Aumonier, the Côt is machine harvested, destemmed, crushed using a horizontal press, fermented in fiberglass tanks with about a ten-day maceration, then aged in underground tanks (presumably of lined cement).

The end result?  A vibrant, translucent violet color in the glass.  Immediate aromas of plum pudding and a horse-y, animale character, followed up by smoky scents of black pepper and clove.  With coaxing, a distinct blood orange aroma emerges, something I've noticed in several other '08 reds, both Côt and Gamay-based wines, produced in the Chardon's general vicinity of the Touraine.  There's a slightly saccharine high-note that I find off-putting but it's subtle enough that it doesn't rob the imbibing experience of pleasure.  In terms of feel, the medium weight of "L'Insolite" is driven largely by cool fruited sensations, quite delicate but gravelly tannins, and firm acidity.  While it held up reasonably well over the course of three days, I enjoyed it most on day one, when its aromatic character was in full bloom; days two and three brought a textural softening and fleshing out, along with somewhat muted, less expressive aromas and flavors.

Though it doesn't deliver on the same level of character, structure and complexity as the Côt-based cuvées from producers such as Clos Roche Blanche, Vincent Ricard or Thierry Puzelat, it's still fairly solid juice, especially given the sub$15 tariff.  I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to have it shipped clear across the country again but I wouldn't turn my back on it if I found it locally and at a comparable price point.

Now if only someone would answer my questions....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bad Brains "Pay to Cum"

In the wake of the breaking news that an original acetate of the Bad Brains single "Pay to Cum" just sold for $6,000 (almost makes me consider selling my (non-acetate) copy...), here's a little something for your viewing, listening and thrashing pleasure.  Even on the crummiest of days, spinning this track, with all its unadulterated energy, has always managed to help bring things around.

Addendum: Don't know why I didn't think to add this last night....  Given the all but undecipherable nature of much of HR's vocal attack, I'm taking the liberty of reprinting the lyrics for "Pay to Cum," per the insert included with its 1979 7" release.

I make decisions, with percisions [sic]
lost inside this manned collision
Just to see that what to be is perfectly
my fantasy.  I came to know with no dismay
that in this world we all must pay.
pay the right
" to pay
" "
" " cum fight
and all in time, with just our minds
we soon will find, what's left behind.
Not long ago when things were slow
we all got by with what they know
the end is near, hearts filled with fear,
don't want to listen to what they hear
and so its [sic] now we choose to fight to
stick up for our bloody right
the right to sing, the right to dance,
the right is ours, we'll take the chance
A piece together
" piece apart
" piece of wisdom
from our hearts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Northern Rhône, Next Week

Just a quick post tonight.  A bit of a teaser, really, as the class it relates to has been sold out for weeks.  I'm excited about it, though, and thought I'd share what I'll be pouring for those of you who might be attending (hello, Philly area readers), for those of you who love to shop on last minute notice in order to follow along, or for those who just like to read and ponder the wherefores.

So, a week from today, Wednesday, December 15, I'll be leading a seminar on the wines of the Northern Rhône Valley at Philly's Tria Fermentation School.  Here's what I'll be pouring—one at the door (bubbly) and six on the mat, as the local parlance goes:
  • Saint-Péray, Les Champs Libres (Dard & Souhaut) NV
  • Saint-Joseph "Les Oliviers" Blanc, Domaine Pierre Gonon 2009
  • Condrieu, Domaine Barou 2009
  • Vin de Table "La Souteronne," Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Hervé Souhaut) 2009
  • Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine Combier 2008
  • Côte-Rôtie, René Rostaing 2007
  • Cornas "Chaillot," Thierry Allemand 2005
"La Souteronne" is in there as a bit of an intentional oddball (and because I like it), as I hate to support the notion that Syrah is the *only* black grape of the Northern Rhône.  The rest?  Well, only Hermitage is missing, that is unless you count Château Grillet....  I have to say, I'm really looking forward to it.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Trestle on Tenth

After years of hearing little other than praise for Trestle on Tenth—from the food, to the wine program, to the vibe—I finally made it there on a recent trip to New York.  You know what?  I wasn't disappointed.

Tucked away on an unassuming Chelsea corner, way out west on 10th Avenue, one might be forgiven for thinking of it as a neighborhood-only kind of spot.  Given the quality of its food (based on one meal and lots of said praise), the wine program and the vibe, though, I'd happily put it on the destination list, especially for those who value substance over flash and are satisfied by comfort and solid yet unfussy service as much as if not more so than by the grand dining experience.

Add to its own allure the fact that Trestle on Tenth sits in a quiet yet charming district, close enough to shopping and galleries to be convenient yet far enough away to escape the scrum, and I'd say it's a pretty good recipe for dining and imbibing happiness.  Appellation Wine & Spirits is just a few blocks down 10th Ave., as is a very cool little independent book shop called 192 Books, and a stairway up to the High Line is located withing crawling distance of T on T's front door.  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon—and exactly how I started mine.

It was one of those days when I wasn't inclined to check out a little bit of everything on the menu. No, what was needed was one dish, something comforting, something satisfying, something that called to me via the few words used to evoke its merits via Trestle on Tenth's admirably succinct menu descriptions.

That dish was duck confit hash with poached eggs and sauce béarnaise.  It wasn't all that pretty to look at (my flash didn't help), but my stomach didn't care.  It was delicious.  Hearty and heady, with expertly executed poached eggs beneath a generous dollop of bérnaise, all atop an already ample stick-to-your-ribs plateful of shredded duck confit and roasted potatoes.  If you're of the one meal a day ilk, look no further; I of course did eat dinner later that evening but easily could have done without.  A perfect one dish wonder it's not—the hash was a dab on the greasy side and the overall dish could have benefited from a shot of acidity to cut and balance its intense richness—but I wasn't complaining.  It's not exactly what the doctor would order... but it's exactly what I was craving.

Besides, there's always wine to help out in the cut and balance department.  Domaine Arretxea's 2007 Irouléguy "Hegoxuri" Blanc, one of the many fairly priced gems on Trestle's smart list, had the requisite acidity, muscle and savor for the dish.

I hear tell they do fondue, too....

Trestle on Tenth
242 Tenth Avenue
(at 24th Street)
New York, NY 10001
(212) 645-5659
Trestle on Tenth on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Name That Wine

It's that time again.... It's cold out and I'm chilling out.  Recognize that cork?  The photo gives one obvious hint and I'll give another: it's not Beaujolais.  So, can you name what I'm drinking?

Sunday Suds: Sly Fox Oktoberfest Lager

Sometimes I feel as if I get carried away when writing tasting notes.  The most enthralling wines and beers can sometimes lead me to fill two or even three pages in my omnipresent moleskine notebook.  There are plenty of other great wines and beers, though, that don't make me think so much as they simply make me want to drink... and enjoy.

Sly Fox Oktoberfest Lager is a perfect example—just about all I could ask for in an American Oktoberfest.  My most recent case purchase, I may just have to head back for another before it's gone for the season (that is, assuming it's not already).  Honestly, I've been enjoying it with such ease that I'm now practically forcing myself to sit here and write something about it.  Hey, I wanted to share the goodness.

A slightly hazy copper/amber color in the glass, it leads off with an easy, draw-you-in, malt-driven roundness before leading on to a dry but gentle, mildly hopped, finish with nuances of mulling spices, whole wheat bread and orange zest.  That's all the tasting note you're getting.  (Well, okay, I'll add this, from the back of the can: OG 13.8° Plato, 25 IBUs, 5.8% alcohol by volume.)  Now get on out there and try some for yourself.

NB: Sly Fox is one of the leading practitioners of canning in the US craft brewing community.  Their cans may be a bitch to photograph without professional equipment, but they're attractive, lightweight, impermeable to light and air, easily recycled, have a smaller carbon footprint than bottled beer, and, thanks to a water based coating that lines the can's interior, don't impart any metallic flavors to their precious contents.  Do yourself a favor, though: pour the contents into your favorite beer glass for full and proper enjoyment.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Beaucoup du Beaujolais: Return of the B-Side

It's been way too long since I filed my last (and first) B-side report, something I originally intended to be a fairly regular installment here at MFWT.  So, when I recently gave the once over to the collection of dead soldiers that had accumulated on my kitchen table and realized that 80% of them were Beaujolais of one ilk or another, I figured it was due time for a return.

The hits—these could've/should've been A-sides (had I been studying in addition to enjoying):

Morgon, Marcel Lapierre 2008 and 2009
$25 and 22. 12 and 13% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, CA.
In the wake of Marcel Lapierre's recent death, I'm willing to hazard a guess that more of his wines have been consumed worldwide over the last two months than of any other artisan scale Beaujolais producer.  I'd bet the same applies to purchase rates, especially of the 2009, which piles vintage fervor on top of sentimentality. I'd love to buy some more of the '09 while the getting is still good but it's the 2008 that I'd really like to drink today.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the '09—full of bright, ripe fruit, juicy texture and a touch of earth—but it's still wearing a layer of baby fat, not yet ready to reveal its underlying stuffing.  The '08, on the other hand, is a perfect example of the old maxim that a great farmer and producer can make wonderful wines in so-called bad vintages.  2008 may have been difficult relative to 2009 but Lapierre's Morgon shows it only in its relative lightness and transparency when compared to the '09 (or good bottles of the '07); at heart, it's pure, elegant and lovely to drink.

Fleurie "Clos de la Roilette," Coudert Père et Fils 2009
$20.  13% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
As much as I've been enjoying the Lapierre and any number of other 2009 Beaujolais and Cru Beaujolais, I've yet to find one that represents a better value than Coudert's Fleurie "Clos de la Roilette."  It's already received A-side treatment here, albeit in brief, so please allow me to reiterate, even more briefly, that the '09 Roilette is simply delicious.  The last couple of bottles I've tried suggest that it may be tightening up a bit but it's still delivering great pleasure.  If you haven't tried it, do.

The indie out-takes—throwin' down some funk:

Beaujolais-Villages, Damien Coquelet 2009
$15.  13% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
A recent bottle was my first experience with Damien Coquelet's Beaujolais-Villages.  My immediate impressions put it right smack in the middle of the "does method trump terroir?" discussion that's been going on here recently.  There's an unmistakably natty, funky character to it that comes close to without entirely dominating the wine's sense of Beaujolais-ness.  For now, I can say that it is eminently drinkable, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Moulin-à-Vent, Domaine des Côtes de la Molière 2009 (Isabelle et Bruno Perraud) 2009
$22. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Jeffrey Alpert Selections, New York, NY.
This didn't do nearly as much for me (at least not at first) as did the theoretically simpler "Côtes de Poquelin" from the same estate.  In the first couple of days open, I found it to be much more an expression of natural wine making than of Moulin-à-Vent.  Mind you, I don't mind finding obvious natty signatures in a wine, just so long as they don't obscure the wine's terroir (sound familiar?).  Going back to the wine after at least seven days (my gut tells me it was closer to ten but I didn't keep exact track), though, it was showing a good deal better.  Still not the most profound example of Moulin-à-Vent, but a much clearer expression of cru Beaujolais than in its first days.  The "Poquelin," it should be noted, also performed really well over the course of several days, providing solid evidence, especially when combined with this experience, that sans soufre wines are not always as fragile as they're made out to be.

The misses—if I were still a music director, these might not have made the playlist:

Beaujolais-Villages, Gilles Gelin 2009
$16.  13% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Beaujolais-Villages "Tracot," Domaine DuBost (Jean-Paul Dubost) 2009
$16.  12.5% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Petit Pois, Moorestown, NJ.
Two more new wines from producers who are new to me.  If I'd tasted these blind, I think I'd have pegged them both as being from 2008 rather than 2009 as they showed attributes that suggested the not so great side of the '08 vintage: lean texture, tangy, confected fruit, and slightly green acidity.  The Gelin started out at that candied end of the spectrum but improved somewhat on day two.  DuBost's "Tracot," on the other hand, showed its best right out of the gates, all but falling apart by the next day.  DuBost has been getting decent traction of "natural-leaning" wine lists of late but this effort leaves me wondering why.  I wouldn't rule out revisiting other wines from these two estates but will not be inclined to plunk down $16 again on either of these particular bottlings.

The jury's still out—put them away for a while, bring them back later for another hearing :

Morgon Côte du Py "Vieilles Vignes," Jean-Marc Burgaud 2008 
$16.  13% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Free Run, Seattle, WA.
Here's a wine that shows the '08 vintage character in spades—lean, taut, somewhat unyielding—yet all the components are in place.  Jean-Marc Burgaud's Morgon "Côte du Py" is yet to show the elegance already displayed by Lapierre's Morgon but it's also not showing any of the unattractive characteristics of under-ripeness or chaptalization so common in the 2008 vintage in Beaujolais.  I've somewhat accidentally amassed a three-year vertical ('07-'09), so I'll give this a rest and give them all a revisit at a later date.

Côte de Brouilly "Cuvée Zaccharie," Château Thivin (Claude Geoffray) 2007
$39.  12.5% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Kermit Lynch, Berkeley, CA.
Côte de Brouilly "Cuvée les Ambassades," Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes 2009 
$19.  12.5% alcohol.  Cork.  Importer: Vintage '59, Washington, DC.
I may be comparing apples to oranges in the vintage department with this pairing but we're definitely talking oranges to oranges when it comes to the wines.  Both showed intense concentration and the kind of scale, in terms of body, color and texture, that one does not typically associate with Beaujolais.  Both also show a marked oak influence, especially Thivin's "Cuvée Zaccharie," which sees 10% new barrique and isn't shy about it.  These are unquestionably well made wines but their, I'll say it again, intense concentration is hard for me to get my arms around.  These are both wines that, if I had unlimited space (and budget, in the case of the Thivin), I'd like to put away not just for a little while but for a few years.  But I don't....

PS: In spite of the poor color rendering in my photos of the labels from Château Thivin and Domaine du Pavillon de Chavannes, it's hard not to notice that they look practically identical.  The intertwined history of the two estates is a typically French story of marriage, inheritance, birth, death and separation; it's not easy to follow but you'll find a good telling of the story on the Vintage '59 website.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More on the Carbonic vs. Terroir Tasting

Okay, okay. My arm has been duly twisted. By popular demand, in response to yesterday's post on Chauvet, Néauport and the question of terroir, here is a list of the seventeen wines my seven jolly friends and I blind-tasted on Sunday. This is not the order in which they were tasted; rather, I've simply alphabetized them based on region and plunked them in however I saw fit beyond that. I'll be happy to answer questions about any of them to the best of my ability (and memory) but there will be no notes.

Originally, I'd intended, if asked, to post these in the comments to yesterday's post but it took me so damn long to type up the list and to make sure I came as close as possible to accurate appellation information, cuvée names, spelling, etc., that a top-level spot seemed only right.  That said, I can't promise I didn't muff a detail or two; if anyone happens to notice anything awry with the details, please do let me know.

  • Morgon "Les Clos de Lys," Domaine Joseph Chamonard 2007
  • Fleurie, Yvon Métras 2009
  • Fleurie "L'Ultime," Yvon Métras 2009
  • Beaujolais Nouveau, Marcel Lapierre 2010

  • Saint Emilion, Château Meylet 1998

  • Arbois Ploussard "Dorabella," Domaine de l'Octavin 2008

  • Vin de Table Français "Fou du Roi," Le Temps des Cerises (Axel Prüfer) 2008
  • Vin de Table Français "Un Pas de Côte," Le Temps des Cerises (Axel Prüfer) 2008
  • Vin de Table Français "Pitchounet," Mouressipe (Alain Allier) 2009

  • Anjou Rouge "Taberneaux," Benoit Courault 2007
  • Vin de Table Français "Les Pierres Noires," Jean Maupertuis 2009
  • Vin de Table Français "La Guillaume," Jean Maupertuis 2009
  • Vin de Pays d'Urfé "Cuvée 100%," Domaine du Picatier 2008
  • Vin de Table Français "Auver Nat Noir," Domaine du Picatier 2008
  • Côtes d'Auvergne VDQS, Domaine Peyra 2004

  • Côtes du Rhône "Cuvée des Traverses," L'Anglore 2009
  • Vin de Pays de l'Ardèche "Cuvée Briand," Le Mazel 2007

It was quite a wild lineup of wines, surprisingly few of which I'd previously been familiar with to any great extent.  It could also be said that there were some benchmark examples of the method in question missing from the table.

More importantly, I think it bears reiteration — and clarification — that the spirit of our tasting was not so much to delve into the scientific aspects of carbonic and semi-carbonic maceration, or to set up Chauvet and/or Néauport for any kind of a fall.  It was really the big picture method we were looking at, and the way in which it affects terroir expression.  As I alluded yesterday, we also didn't spend much time pondering the fairness of calling the vinification techniques in question the Chauvet method vs. the Néauport method.  It's since been pointed out to me, and quite rightly I believe, that while it may have been Jules Chauvet who laid the seeds for the method and understood its particular viability for Gamay grown in acid-rich, granitic soils, it was largely Jacques Néauport who was responsible for spreading the seeds, along with a dose of dogmatism some might argue, on a wider basis.

Plenty of food for thought....  Now if only my French were better, or if only someone would translate Chauvet's and Néauport's texts from French to English so that I (and others) could more fully digest said food.
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