Thursday, September 18, 2008

Boutique Wine Collection Portfolio Tasting, Part One

Boutique Wine Collection held their annual trade portfolio tasting in a sunny atrium at Philadelphia’s Moore College of Art on Monday. Thanks to an invite from Boutique’s Wholesale Sales Manager, John Toler, I had the pleasure of attending. Boutique’s own import book focuses in Spain and South Africa, augmented by small presences in Austria, France, Germany and New Zealand.

Like many other importers in the mid-Atlantic region, they’re also distributors, not only brokering their own portfolio but also clearing wines for other importers. In Pennsylvania, their book includes the entire Michael Skurnik Wines portfolio as well as the wines of The Country Vintner. In Delaware, they manage all of Skurnik’s range with the exception of the Terry Theise Selections (which are brought into DE by Bacchus). Convoluted enough for you? That’s the wine biz.

To keep things readable – and to keep my time manageable – I’ll be breaking my report on the overall event into two or three posts, each one focusing on a particular piece of the puzzle. There were a lot of wines to taste, so I’ll be touching mainly on the highlights along with a few lowlights. Notes will be much breezier than usual, so hang on.

Highlights from the Terry Theise Selections lineup:

Skurnik reps were manning the first two tables in the room, an enviable position that captured much of the early (and my) attention. Table 1 featured a strong lineup of grower Champagnes, as well as some odds and ends from Theise’s German and Austrian portfolio. Not a bad way to get things rolling.

Kevin Pike, Director of National Sales & Marketing for Michael Skurnik Wines, seems to be the go-to guy where Theise's Champagne portfolio is concerned. This is his second appearance at MFWT and bubbly brought him here both times.

  • Aubry Brut NV: In spite of sitting in leadoff position, where just about anything is likely to be sipped then overlooked, this came through with plenty of character. Creamy, with fresh red fruit, breadiness and a little floral funkiness. 60% Pinot Meunier and 20% each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

  • Marc Hebrart Brut “Cuvée de Réserve” NV: Bottle one was a bit mute and tasted more evolved than its disgorgement date would suggest. Bottle two was better, showing generously textured, ripe red fruits on a very effusive frame of bubbles. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay.

  • Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs NV: An unusual wine in that it’s the only Blanc de Blancs from Aÿ imported into the US, not to mention one of the very few BdBs made there at all. Broader, darker and less racy than the usual entry from the Côte des Blancs but still quite delicious. Lemon oil and almonds. Very expressive.

  • Gaston Chiquet Brut Tradition NV: A blend of 45% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. Apple-y, firm and chalky on the finish.

  • Vilmart & Cie “Grand Cellier d’Or” 2001: This was the showstopper among the Champagnes, even though Skurnik’s Kevin Pike later suggested that he thought it might not be a perfect bottle. It showed its ten grams of dosage with a sweeter flavor profile than the preceding Champs but handled the extra richness with grace. Pineapple, exotic fruits and baking spices on the nose. Striking on the palate. Great phenolic structure. One of the very few vintage Champagnes declared in the difficult 2001 vintage.

  • Geoffroy “Rosé de Saignée” NV: A blend of 60% Chardonnay, rounded out with a rosé of Pinot Noir bled off its skins and just a touch of Meunier. Lots of peach pit and strawberry fruit with a savory edge of bitterness on the finish. Solid if not entirely elegant.

  • Schloss Gobelsburg Caruntum Grüner Veltliner “Steinsetz” 2007: Totally wound-up aromatically but finely balanced and solidly built on the palate. Very persistent.

  • Gysler Rheinhessen Silvaner halbtrocken 2007 (liter bottle): A bit pricey in PA but I liked it enough for it to make the “good” list. Soft, with very typical pear fruit and direct floral aromas. At the sweeter end of the halbtrocken scale.

  • Leitz Rheingau Riesling “Dragonstone” 2007: The purist in me wanted not to like this, as I’m not too crazy about the trend for labeling wines for the export market. Frankly, though, this is pretty decent stuff. Good nerve, fruit and balance. Declassified Spätlese from Rudesheimer Drachenstein (thus, Dragonstone).

  • Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2007: Excellent wine. Really pretty acid balance with a fine vein of apricot driven fruit.

  • Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese 2007: Another delicious ’07. Classic Spätlese. Much showier in the fruit department, with lots of spiced apple character. Crystalline acidity.

And a few (only a few in this grouping) I wasn’t too crazy about:
  • A. Margaine Demi-Sec NV: 92% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Noir with 32 grams dosage. Banana driven (yeast?) fruit and confected character point to solid pastry pairing possibilities. But not my cup of tea.

  • Berger Kremstal Grüner Veltliner 2007 (liter bottle): In states where this is still $12ish, this isn’t a bad choice as a house wine to keep in the fridge and serve ice cold and with aplomb. But in PA, in the high teens, it’s not a value. Soft, slightly clumsy but very easy drinking.

  • Glatzer Carnuntum Grüner Veltliner 2007: There’s more going on here than in the Berger, some of the peach, melon and white pepper typical of the variety. But it’s coarsely textured and a bit short.

I’d planned to write about some of the other Skurnik selections in this edition but I think that's more than enough for now. More to come from Skurnik, along with some Italians from The Country Vintner, in round two.


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