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No means yes… in wine shopping.

September 16, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Hey Free Rangers,

First, for those who have asked (and thank you for that), while it’s not a complete archive, there is a MailChimp page that displays our 20 most recent e-mails (all previous sales have expired). I do also have a (somewhat neglected) blog, on which I have *tried* to log these messages. There are many other entries from years of its original incarnation as a mishmash of wine, restaurant, and music reviews: www.WineGeist.net. [Obviously, you know about the blog. You’re reading it. Thanks!] Unfortunately, I’m old enough that the vast majority of my published work appeared in physical magazines, before all content was a multi-media simulcast, remaining in clickable suspended animation indefinitely. And for those of you who specifically did not ask, thanks for bearing with an indulgent moment. We now return to your regular program, already in progress…

Why do so many people want to tell you ‘no’ in response to a simple question, when their intent is quite clearly, directly ‘yes’? All obvious innuendo aside.
Example:

Me: Hey, how are you? Is there anything I can help you find?
Customer: No… Just looking for a dry rosé.

So, would this individual like assistance in finding a dry rosé or would they prefer to be left alone, but really want me to know what they’re looking for, so I can seethe with frustration, as I watch them stroll right by the location in our shop where the item(s) in question live? Often the response to my face value query is even less vague, going directly from ‘no’ into what can only be construed as a question:

Me: Any questions about any of this stuff?
Customer: No. What sorts of Bourbon do you have?
Me: You know that’s a question, right?

As I’m writing this, Derek asks a guy if he has any questions, to which he replies, “No, I’m just looking for a gin,” and then asks a direct question about our gins. When ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cease to have constant meaning in the same mode of communication, we’re well beyond Bill Clinton territory, and are deep into Newspeak. It’s a horrifying thing, the destruction of words. Basic verbal communication has become a laborious endeavor, deeply fraught with inherent conflict. It’s double-plus un-good. On tougher days, I like to turn and walk away upon the ‘no’ and am often out of the room by the time they turn around to look at me, in the middle of the question that follows. I’d feel bad about how hard I’m giggling in back, except that I had just been lied to, for no reason at all, which makes it okay. Under Bush the Elder, Robert Anton Wilson referred to the art of saying that which is not, as “Old High Bullshit”, not be confused with “Middle Low Horseshit”, which seeks to use language to say nothing at all. But that level of deception by the orator is deliberate, and insidious. Somehow, when there is no ill intent at its core, the removal of all traditional linguistic bulwark seems even more dangerous. (Literally.) The basic structures of what’s left of American English, along with the structures of civilized society, are exponentially (and existentially) beyond the looking-glass. Fake News! Jabberwocky/Bandersnatch 2020!

[imagine seamless segue about here]

Ridge Vineyards is one the most classic, most iconic American wine labels, and that stylish label text has looked the same since the early ‘60s. Ridge is most famous for their old school Bordeaux style blend from their Monte Bello Estate which ages as gracefully as any wine in the world, and has become quite expensive, and rather difficult to acquire. But as old vine zinfandel is one of the most quintessential of CA red, it has always been in Ridge’s zin based blends that I have found the greatest intrigue and value (though they too have been getting pricier). I genuinely don’t believe you can a have a decent wine shop without at least one Ridge label on the shelf; we have lots. Their juice is unquestionably delicious, and historically significant, but I’d also argue that Ridge labels are as visually timeless and distinct as Domaine Romanée-Conti, the granddaddy of all Burgundy.

Lytton Springs Estate is Ridge’s primary Sonoma property, which is home to 100+ year old zinfandel vines, interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignan, and small amounts of Mataro (Mourvedre) and Grenache. You can’t fake 100 year old vines, and they consistently produce deep, dark wines of complexity and character. Normally long sold out from the distributor before the next vintage arrives, this year of the zombie apocalypse has found them with an ample supply of the 2017 vintage, as the 2018 is about to be released in our market. We took full advantage of the 10 case discount and while full retail price on this lovely beast is officially over $50, we can do quite a bit better for you. How does $39 per bottle sound? Perhaps you’d prefer a 6-pack at under $35/btl w/ a FREE wine tote, and a FREE bonus bottle from my personal collection (which could be literally anything)!

(!) CLICK HERE to access the hidden sale page (!)

Ridge Lytton Springs 2017
sale: $39                        retail: $49

6-pack Ridge Lytton Springs 2017 + FREE BOTTLE from my personal collection (+ free wine tote)!
sale: $209 ($34.83/btl)            retail: $294

*** This week only, as supplies last! ***
* No other discounts apply.

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

When I fight authority… well, you know.

August 5, 2020 Leave a comment

 

“Then I ran across a monster who was sleeping by a tree,
and I looked and frowned and the monster was me.”
– David Bowie (from Width of a Circle)

More of the same, Free Rangers.

People ignoring signs, ignoring words, strolling around with no intent to purchase anything. That same jackass whiskey bro came back again, still hasn’t bought anything, this time holding a rag over his face in lieu of an actual mask, and carrying a bag full of bottles from other shops. I’m sure he darkened all of those shopkeepers’ days too. That’s the Cliff’s Notes version. I’m tired of hearing myself bitch, and a lot of you have already gotten the full stories in person. Thanks for asking, and caring about how we’re doing. A little sincerity goes a long way toward counteracting the effects of those who care less, or not at all. But just to be clear about this one thing: if you pull a bottle out of the fridge (which has a sign on it asking you not to do that) to ask me how it is, I’ll say whatever is necessary to get you to not put it back. If you’d like to have an honest and complete conversation, let’s do that in front of the shelves. And I don’t get how some don’t understand that it’s deeply insulting to ask a question whose answer you can’t hear because you’re wearing headphones. I took three whole days off this week, and a couple of half days, which hasn’t seemed to take the edge off.

Remember when these e-mails were mostly about our in-store tastings for the week? Good times, great oldies. I really miss those tastings days. As I’m sure you noticed, when we invite(d, in the before times) someone to pour here, they were generally on the production team of the bottles they were showing, and/or were something of an expert in their field. I miss the learning on my end as much as I do the sharing (of tasting notes and bottles), and introducing you fine folks to wine and spirits you might have otherwise never tasted. There is no substitute for palate experience. The vast majority of my own knowledge stems from public tastings in my 20s. So much of life seems a holding pattern these days, and it’s getting older than I am.

I know how lucky we are to be in a business where numbers-wise, things haven’t really changed, though the work per dollar has increased by several times. In parts of the country, unemployment is nearing 30%, while Jeff Bezos’ wealth has increased by $15 billion since March, a profound failure of equity for the richest country on Earth. We’ve been able to maintain a full staff here, and keep everybody paid, and until fairly recently, supply chains in our industry were relatively intact. But with the number of distributors cutting staff, and/or failing completely, the greater infrastructure we rely on to do our daily business is crumbling. And things that used to require a simple e-mail, can now take 4 or 5 e-mails, with a couple of phones calls, and return of the wrong product (or the right products, severely damaged) in between. Sure, we still have a profitable business, but every little thing is so much more time consuming, and less enjoyable, than it was for the previous 7 years.

It’s hard to take a considered look around (our industry and the country as a whole) and not think that this may very well be the end of the ill-fated experiment known as capitalist democracy. Anybody who still doesn’t get that Bernie Sanders was our once in a generation (lifetime?) chance to change all that had better buckle up for what comes next. Speaking of which, does anybody want to buy a wine shop? Got seven years left on a very favorable lease. I’d really rather be out of the country by the first week in November, if I can swing it. I’ll be in New Zealand, if you need me… maybe the Netherlands… or Berlin. I suppose it depends upon which countries are still allowing entry to citizens from the land of the free, and the home of the virulent thugs.

Usual (pandemic) open hours this week (though we rarely shut the door at posted closing time), the website is humming along, and please feel free to call with any questions (718.643.2250): www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

We received very little response to our last sale, and a record number of unsubscribes- though not a concerning amount, given the weight of my last missive. I believe that last discount list contained some of our best offers on rarest wine to date. So rather than shoot in the dark again, and miss, I’ll pose a question, and base the next sale on your responses. On what sorts of items (or combination thereof) would you like to see a deal? In the meantime, here are some more complete thoughts on those same bottles, which again are 15% off this week, click here to view the sale page, then add this coupon code in your cart: august15.

Joyce Syrah 2018 is a tiny production old-world style wine from an immaculately farmed plot in the Santa Lucia Highlands of CA; medium bodied, dry fruit, lovely florals, and just a hint of spice (white pepper?). Some fancy guy at some fancy magazine just rated it 90-something points, so we can’t get any more. Normally $34/btl, $28.90 w/ coupon code: august15

Kelley Fox Pinot Blanc 2019, by its endlessly magical namesake, is totally natural, but super clean (no sediment or clouding), bright and crisp, showing light dry stone fruit, and a laser focus to the acidity. You would be hard pressed to come up with a meal this wine would not enhance. Normally $37/btl, $31.45 w/ coupon code: august15

Bechtold Pinot Noir “S” 2017 is a remarkable Pinot at its price. Very high pedigree grapes from Alsace, from 50 year old vines, certified biodynamic, with zero suphur added, this is deliciously pure Pinot finished in old 500 liter barrels. Tasting blind, I would expect to pay at least double the retail price. Normally $39/btl, $33.15 coupon code: august15

Domaine Forey is an old school Burgundy (Pinot Noir) producer whose wine I have been collecting for 20 years. This house uses oak barrels, but huge ones that have been used many times before (neutral), so they don’t impart any oak flavor to the finished wine. Their 2017 Vosne-Romanée is just about the purity of fruit from one of the most lauded pieces of earth in the wine world. Normally $79/btl, $67.15 w/ coupon code: august15

Heitz has been around since the ‘60s, and their unreasonably expensive (and rare) Martha’s Vineyard bottling is one of the gold standards of old guard Napa, and it ages effortlessly for decades. Their Trailside Vineyard Cab produces slightly less concentrated classic CA cab that is far from a pushover, but it does drink better in its youth than its big brother, at 1/3rd of the price. 2013 was a banner vintage, and this will likely be the last one we can get on the shelf at under $100. Normally $99/btl, $84.15 w/ coupon code: august15

***Through Sunday only, as supplies last, no further discounts apply.***

Keep on keepin’ on,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Down and Out on Atlantic Avenue

July 20, 2020 Leave a comment

Hey Free Rangers,

The (whiskey) bottle hunters are back, and I’m not handling it well. Also had a non-masker be fairly aggressive with us (and a couple of customers), who later came back with a mask, seemingly attempted fraud, and then removed said mask to make a phone call at the counter, as a line began to form. Contrary to what some may believe, I take no joy in telling someone to get out and never come back (particularly in front of other customers), but that’s how this one ended, after some fairly predictable expletives were exchanged. It was a bit of a crazy moment, so I can’t be certain, but it seems as though this was also the source of the knife that was abandoned on our sales counter. Eight years into our 15 year lease on Atlantic Ave, and things have never been weirder. May we live in interesting times, indeed.

But back to the bottle hunters: If you’ve ever gone into a shop, spent 20 minutes telling the shopkeepers stories about bottles you’ve bought elsewhere, only to walk out without spending a penny, you’re probably not as decent a person as you think you are. If you’ve done this during a global pandemic, you’re very likely what my bluntest uncle used to refer to as BAM (basic asshole material). We have a genuinely sweet, conscientious landlord (which is rare in this town), but even she won’t accept a story about the $800 you spent on 2 bottles of Willett XCF– in another state- in lieu of rent. This kind of guy will never understand why he doesn’t have access to our rarest stuff, or favorable (negotiable) pricing. Spending ten bucks vs. zero really is the difference between being invited to receive our unpublished e-mail sales, and not.

The same week, a customer came in looking for a few serious bottles of the brown stuff for a wedding-related event. He was friendly and inquisitive, we had a nice conversation, I pulled quotes on all sorts of rare items that aren’t on the web site, and we talked about the differences, and scarcities. In the end he selected 4 rare American whiskeys, for which we took $250 off his bill. I’m a collector turned retailer and really just want our rarest bottles to go to good homes. We’re like a dog rescue, but for whiskey.

To run with the metaphor, would you let a guy adopt a dog who tells loud stories about other dogs he’s known without ever looking at the animal you’re fostering? To sit, shake, lie down, and rollover with that metaphor… well, you get the picture. In honor of all those bottle hunters who are not on this e-mail list, check out the bottom of this note for some serious discounts on rare bottles.

This week’s Open Hours remain the same:

Mon – Thurs:             1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                      1 – 8pm
Sunday:                       1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

NOTE: THIS SALE IS OVER, to receive e-mail sales directly from Free Range Wine & Spirits, please enter your e-mail address at the bottom of the front page on our site: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

This week only!                                               sale:     retail:
Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 8yr       $29       $36
Writers Tears gift set                                        $37        $44
EH Taylor Small Batch Bourbon                       $49        $56
The Clover 10yr Tennessee Straight Bourbon $69     $85
Henry McKenna Bourbon 10yr**                      $69     $89
Blood Oath Bourbon Pact No. 6**                   $109     $129
Yamazaki Single Malt 12yr                                $115     $135
St George Single Malt The Baller**                  $89     $149
Hakushu Single Malt 12yr                                  $149     $185
Dalmore Single Malt 18yr**                               $195     $249
Hakushu Single Malt 18yr                                 $425     $525

** limit 2 bottles per customer

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Death, Taxes, and Dad Whiskey

June 17, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the latest from Free Range Wine & Spirits:

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Hello Free Rangers,

So much for the waning pandemic. By the end of the week, a number of states had certified a record rate of new cases, and as much as the Orange Orangutan in the Oval insisted that the virus would ‘disappear like a miracle’, the warmer weather has not cooked it away. At this point, it’s abundantly clear that the national policy on the matter is to continue to do nothing, besides ensuring that none of us will ever know where the bulk of the stimulus funds have gone. Regardless, we’re still hanging in, doing what we do here. Hanging in is the new kicking ass.

Besides tracking empirical data through trusted online sources, I’ve recently limited my non-print news intake to Chris HayesMajority Report, and The Michael Brooks Show. There’s a fine line between staying up to date, and infringing on one’s own well-being. As with most other things, moderation seems to be the key. With the constant bombardment by unchecked sources of information, it’s also important to watch videos online, taken in real time at street level. And what cops continue to do, even when they know they’re being recorded, is a daily reminder of the profoundly untenable level of impunity under which they currently operate. Remain calm, know your rights, and record everything. If you have the means, it also can’t hurt to support the ACLU.

Regardless of all of this, I can confirm that the whiskey still works. Scroll to the bottom for a list of sale-priced brown spirits on our site, now through Fathers’ Day, as supplies last.

Speaking of the website, Derek has noticed a very high percentage of people creating new passwords directly before ordering. Have any of you had problems logging back in after an initial site visit, or are you just logging in from a different device (where your password isn’t saved), and have to create a new one to gain access? Please let us know, as we’re constantly striving to make online checkout as seamless as possible. Most of this week’s new items are on the older and rarest ends, but our new lowest priced dry rosé was also just added, so there’s something for everyone: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

We are slowly returning to a more normal schedule, but still wearing facemasks, practicing social distancing, and requesting (ie. insisting) that our customers do as well. I’m embarrassed to admit how much I enjoyed asking the couple to leave today, who removed their masks to make a phone call (in front of the no cell phone sign), while others were waiting to get into the shop. Not my finest trait. Know thyself.

This week’s Open Hours look like this:

Mon – Thurs:            1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:                  1 – 8pm
Sunday:                    1 – 7pm

Always worth a call, if you think it’s getting late: 718.643.2250

And now, for making it this far, here’s our deal of the week:
*** Through Fathers’ Day, web only, as supplies last! ***

Top whisk(e)y picks for Fathers’ Day:

Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 8yr  $29     $36
Writers Tears gift set                                   $37     $44
Classic Malts Gift Set 3 x 200ml                $49     $59
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon (B519)   $66     $75
Booker’s Bourbon ‘Beaten Biscuits’           $79     $89
Tullamore Dew 18yr                                     $99     $115
Yamazaki 12yr                                              $115    $139
Hakushu 12yr                                                $149    $185
Dalmore 18yr                                                $195    $249
Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon (2015)  $229    $299
Hakushu 18yr                                               $425    $525
Talisker 25yr                                                 $499    $599
Redbreast Port Cask 27yr                           $499    $599

Happy hunting,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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Theory Kitchen, Sad Cowboy Music, and Giving a Shit

April 24, 2016 Leave a comment

Duck 2 ways Theory Kitchen 4-2016If necessity is the mother of invention, then the mother of inspiration is a deadline… for something else. I’m on the precipice of a comprehensive inventory and professional off-site storage project that will see 200 cases go out the door of my shop- via the cavernous basement, which is far from the front door- and all I can think about is how many blog posts behind I am.

It’s late and I’ve just been to a Theory Kitchen event, and I am again reminded that giving a shit (and attention to detail) goes a long way. The kid who runs the show is the same age now I was when getting obscenely high and paying my rent interviewing (and photographing) musicians, writers, and artists for print magazines back before Seattle died. The ‘90s were a magical time for getting away with it in America (RIP HST!).

K Vintners Morrison Lane '01 4-2016I’m drinking, amongst other things, a K Vintners Syrah Morison Lane 2001. Full disclosure, I love the wines of Charles Smith. I haven’t particularly enjoyed the company of the man himself (though I’d certainly give it another shot- over the right Chateauneuf du Pape), but his wines are very good, on the low end, and expansive and otherworldly, at their very best. But it’s clearly on the back end of its plateau. Those dusty tannins and that distinct apply dryness in the back will, over the next few years, head toward the predominant front note, on its way to becoming deep, slightly cloudy, brick-toned water, if stored properly, and eventually a sullen dry vinegar. On the off chance you have any in your cellar, drink it sooner than later.

I’ve been in a prolonged phase of sad cowboy music, the like of which I haven’t seen since first discovering Townes Van Zandt, however many years ago that was. And these days I can’t stop listening to The Dave Rawlings Machine’s Nashville Obsolete. Just now, writing that down, I almost dropped a tear. It’s a good goddamn record, in an era that’s goddamn short on good goddamn records. I’ll admit to having erased “Candy” from the album on my iphone, and it really does feel kind of silly and extraneous amongst the incisive story telling, verse, and chord progression of “The Weekend”, “Shorthaired Women”, “The Trip“, and “Pilgrim”.

Pig Crispy Theory Kitchen 4-2016Three hours after first opening, this wine- K Vintners Syrah Morison Lane 2001- really smells, in the glass, like a Hermitage twice its age, and the palate really isn’t that far off, minus the nod toward animalia. Deep blackberry fruit, earth, tar, basalt, ancient woodland herbs; an encompassing, pensive mouthful. A pleasantly dark way to end an evening. Thanks for that, Chuck.

A Suitcase of Lightning

June 30, 2015 1 comment
Taos Lightning Rye Single Barrel, 5yr, and 15yr.

Taos Lightning Rye Single Barrel, 5yr, and 15yr.

While in New Mexico, I became aware of Taos Lightning Rye. Both the craft whiskey thing and the sourced whiskey thing (aka I’m not telling you where the juice is from or how long it was barreled) are getting out of hand. A lot of new whiskey is super-hot brown firewater and there will be a serious reckoning and culling of the population in the coming years.

Taos Lightning, it turns out, is a product of KGB Spirits in Santa Fe, NM. I purchased a number of different bottles from Total Wine and from Jubilation in Albuqurque, the latter of which was offering 2 different exclusive single barrel bottles, at very reasonable prices. If you’re in town, don’t let the odd location and prison-barred windows fool you, Jubilation is an excellent shop for spirits (I honestly didn’t check out their wine selection, but they did acquire a bunch of Merkin Vineyards wine for my neighbors’ wedding- of which I highly approve).

Taos Lightning Rye 5yr.

Taos Lightning Rye 5yr.

Now, the juice: Taos Lightning Rye 5yr is visually attractive, a medium reddish deep golden brown. A fairly sweet round nose gives way to a sweetly vanilla palate, a touch of bright cherry fruit to the mid-palate, and a nice spicy, medium-hot finish. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Willett’s excellent 4yr Rye– which is amongst the highest praise one can give a younger rye. According to co-founder, John Bernasconi, “All current whiskey was sourced from Lawrenceberg and the 15 year had the Jos. Seagram’s stamp on barrel. We are about to switch to house made with San Luis, CO grain. The aging in NM along the Rio Grande is what gives these products their uniqueness. We have a high elevation, low humidity climate and the river brings constant air flow exchange.” With so many shady stories in the current US whiskey market, we very much appreciate the candor, and anxiously await tasting what comes next from the fine folks at KGB Spirits.

And now, the case…

I was sufficiently smitten with the Taos Lightning 5yr that I was on the hunt for a styrofoam 12-pack shipper, common in the wine shipping world. However, the incoherent and arbitrary nature of state liquor law has left Albuquerque stryo-shipper-free. It’s illegal to ship wine or spirits within the state of New Mexico, let alone to the outside world. Albuquerque is a scorched barren wasteland, where the food sucks, people drive ridiculous cars, and a law abiding citizen can’t get a styro 12-pack. If the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce would like to sponsor this blog, they know where to find me.

Next, at the absurd yet demure, banal megaporium of intoxication that is Total Wine in Albuquerque- I love this town- I ask if they have anything suitable to safely transport at least a dozen bottles through the meathook paws of JFK baggage handlers. There is something they tell me, it’s a rolling travel suitcase fitted with styro insert, cut for .750ml wine bottles, 12 of them. The only one left in stock is the floor model, they’d be happy to take 10% off the sticker price for the pre-scuffed exterior shell and slightly stained interior fabric. Five minutes later, I was in a parking lot, cramming copious piles of fine New Mexican and Californian rarities into my new VinGarde Valise.

The suitcase of Lightning: Title Achieved!

The suitcase of Lightning: Title Achieved!

First, the idea is great: it’s a rolling suitcase containing 6 inserts, each cut to hold and protect 2 bottles each, such that one can remove as many or as few as necessary to adjust to any clothing and toiletries needed for the journey. But I was already out on the road and had my regular suitcase in hand, and used my new VinGarde Valise to full bottle capacity. Unfortunately, the follow-through is not nearly so inspired as the concept. The materials are fairly flimsy, the foam inserts made to separate the two halves aren’t even cut to the same size (one doesn’t fit at all such that the case will not close), and the bottle slots are cut to a fairly impractical stencil, unless they intend one only to carry obscure sherry. It’s one thing if the owner is going to be extremely careful with the cheap zippers, but on its maiden voyage, mine was tossed by the TSA, and returned to me in less than new condition (and containing the requisite slip letting me know my privacy had been violated). The guts of the bag are poorly constructed of insubstantial materials, and while not space efficient, I’d still recommend a much less expensive styro 12-pack shipper over this unit. Simply put, VinGarde Valise have a long way to go to make the quality of the case fit its $200+ price tag.

Breaking Old and the Perspective of Distance

June 8, 2015 2 comments

Bless me blogosphere for I have sinned.

It has been… a long, long time since my last confession.

I’m in the 3rd airport in six days, after not leaving Brooklyn for more than 24 hours in two years, and not taking a full day off since January 2nd. It has been glorious to get away, but best that Brooklyn is imminent.

Classic old guy gear.

Classic old guy gear.

Albuquerque is depressing. Luckily the speed limits are about as high as they get in this country, so one can get the hell out post haste. I’ve just returned from a couple of nights in Taos, where I enjoyed a wedding stocked with Merkin Vineyards Shinola Bianca and Chupacabra Red, some great chile relleno(s), and copious amounts of Taos Lightning Rye. The last for which I purchased a bottle-protective rolling bag, so I might transport some local spirits back to Brooklyn- more on that later. I fell hard for the long tall wedding photographer who shot 8000 digital images, while I shot a few rolls of good old fashioned analog- it felt great. Almost as much so, as the shockingly beautiful 23 year old brunette who guessed my age as 33. I asked her to marry me on the spot. It only occurs to me now that she said yes.

The first couple of days away from the shop the umbilical just wouldn’t snap, even though I was in idyllic Lake

South Lake Tahoe, NV.

South Lake Tahoe, NV.

Tahoe, drinking wonderful wine with people I love. 2 weddings without a single reading from Corinthians and thousands of air and road miles later, I don’t know that I’m recharged in any substantive way, but real distance from the insular world I’ve created on Atlantic Ave has given me fresh will to plow forth, hopefully with at least a soupcon of new insight.

With most of today to kill and only a couple hours of highway time to come down the mountain to the scorched strip mall hell of Albuquerque, I took a long detour through the tiny sublime Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, where strangers smile at you and say hello on the street. I clearly worried at least one security guard for my facial proximity to some of the works, but I was really just looking for the evolution of brush strokes over time, the density of pigment, and the amount of naked canvas showing through. I’m sure I was grinning like a moron, as I tend to when engulfed in sincerely rendered art, as I did over Sean Thackrey’s 2000 Orion a few days prior.

Post-wedding wine at its best.

Post-wedding wine at its best.

O'Keefe skull 6-2015

Quintessential O’Keeffe.

Before I wander too deeply into the self-indulgent geist, forsaking most things wine, I’ll sign off for now, but we’ll talk again soon.

Free Range Wine and Yo La… wait, what now?

July 18, 2013 1 comment
Behold the fampersat!

Behold the fampersat!

Wow, it’s amazing how opening up a wine shop in Brooklyn can disappear six months of ones life. So, for those of you who don’t already know, I am now the proprietor of Free Range Wine & Spirits at 355 Atlantic Ave, here in Brooklyn, NY. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop in and say hello.

Also, for those of you who don’t already know, Maxwell’s– Hoboken’s greatest (only relevant) rock club- is closing its doors forever. Recently, the Pastels were slated to play there, with the Condo Fucks (Yo La Tengo’s alter-ego, playing mostly garage covers) opening. While it was sad that the Pastels couldn’t make it stateside for the show due to visa issues, it was glorious kismet that it ended up being an acoustic Yo La Tengo set opening for the Condo Fucks. The show was beautiful and profound and heartbreaking, and was far better assessed by Yo La Historian, Jesse Jarnow, in his review for Spin which you should read. I shot a fair amount of video footage of both sets, much of which is posted on my Vimeo page HERE. Apparently my footage of the very last song will appear tonight on Fuse News, Fuse TV’s 8pET music news show. Once that segment is posted online, I’ll link it.

More soon!

Cheers,

Jack

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Friday News Dump: California Classics at Apiary – Ridge and Dunn

March 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Statistics show that nobody reads blogs on Friday, but wine has been tasted and notes have been scratched in purple ink. A couple of nights back, over steak and duck at Apiary, after some 1990 Cote de Beaune and before a couple of stickies, we cracked a trio of American classics; two from Ridge and a Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet from 1981.

Apiary 3-13-2013Upon first opening, the Dunn showed surprisingly thin, for a typically long lived wine, but it’s always a journey with these mountain beasts. One of the bottles that first did it for me, one of the first tastes to awaken a real interest, was Dunn’s ‘86 Napa Cab. At the time, my soft palate didn’t know what to make of the monstrous ’86 Howell Mountain Cab, but the harmony of the fruit and the earth I found in that ’86 Napa Cab seemed to me to be all that a big CA red should.

But back to the wine currently staining the linens on the tasting table behind my eyeballs: After about 35 minutes of air, the Dunn Cabernet Howell Mountain 1981 proves to be a slumbering giant, full of burly brambly mountain fruit. The palate is expansive, deeply gripping, and the finish’s long path is peppered with a patchwork of wild woodland herbs. The alcohol pulls in at a clockwork 13%, thought the wine- long integrated as it may be- is many shades heavier.

The Ridge Zinfandel York Creek 1994 also begins a little closed and while the body does build with ample air, this wine is not as lush as previous tastings, though the fruit hasn’t receded entirely. Both color and clarity are still crisp and the wine shows only the slightest hint of its age. The red fruit is still slightly out front of its earth component, but it is no longer penetrating. Forest floor and ancient spice box persist through the subtle, but undulating finish.

The Ridge Geyserville 1992, at this point in its career, is a dead ringer for a fruit forward Napa Cab five or six years its senior. Slip one of these into a blind tasting of  late ’80s CA Cabernet and blow some minds/palates. Geyserville is a classic of the Napa establishment, and in my experience, this wine always shows well, though the true aging potential varies from vintage to vintage. I’ve also found that recent vintages seem to drink better younger, making them all the more difficult to squirrel away for further maturity, full integration, and secondary flavor development. For a true classic and always a palate expanding, Ridge Geysereville (and most of Ridge wines besides the Monte Bello) can still be acquired for around (a wholly fair) thirty bucks.

Bottle Variation, Southern Harmony and Andrew Will Merlot Klipsun Vineyard 1999

March 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I have so much backed up material and so many unpublished tasting notes, that I didn’t take down a single word last night at St. Anselm, though we opened and enjoyed: Foris Pinot Noir 2009, Antiqv2s (Antiqus) Syrah Garys’ Vineyard 2004, and Livingston Moffet Cabernet Rockpile Vineyard 1994; all interesting and noteworthy each in their own right.self Pisoni close
Re: St. Anselm, I’m not sure there is a better compliment one can give a chef or his team, but I didn’t notice until after we ate that iron-willed head chef and grill-master Yvon was not in the building. Though the pacing seemed a little off (not much of a crime on a sold out Friday night), the various steaks and chops arrived in the glorious state to which St. Anselm patrons have grown accustomed.

Well, I kinda skipped out on that whole new years thing, so my March resolution is to get more material onto/into this blog, starting right now, from piles of backed up notes.

Here’s one:

A Will Klisun 1 '99 3-10-2013
A note on bottle variation. At a certain level of quality, bottle variation can be a welcome surprise. Case in point, I’ve opened a number of bottles of Andrew Will Klipsun Merlot ’99 in recent months and the last two, had they been poured blind and side by side, I don’t think I would have pinned them as from the same continent or time, let alone the same bottling. The one I opened last night was a surprisingly Bordeaux-like beast showing mainly dark earthy and relatively fruitless characteristics- all damp leaves, pine tar, and forest floor. As a whole this ’99 Klipsun Merlot is drinking more like what I would expect from this label’s Sorella, which is Chris Camarda’s deliberately Bordeaux-style blend. It’s certainly possible that these last two bottles’ contents were identical and that this last couple of weeks aging was a definable turning point, but it’s neither a great chance (given the aging arc of Merlot) nor a verifiable one.

A. Will Klipsun Merlot '99
Those deep red and black fruits that were so lush and forward in previous examples of this wine are present here, but more in the capacity of great background harmonies, like Barbara & Joy (aka The Choir) on the Black Crowes’ Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Speaking of the Black Crowes, I was just listening to Amorica and not many records have a better closing track: a beautifully forlorn road ballad that would be far less without the color fills and purposefully meandering solos of keyboardist Eddie Harsch (Hawrysch). God bless old weird Ed, his rock & roll name, and his important work.

Cheers!