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Re-Opening Chaos and an OR Pinot Sale…

June 30, 2020 Leave a comment

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

 

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Wow Free Rangers,
Yesterday was a trying one;
the last three days, really. 

Wow cr@p, this week got away from me. I had gotten used to actually taking one day off per week- it only took a global pandemic to get me there- and now we’re back at it very near full time. We’re still re-acclimating as we head into the sweltering Dog Days.The semi-re-opening going on out there has the greater populous in a bewildered state, such that we’re being forced to beg certain patrons to enter the shop, who then expect us to apologize for everything we’re doing here, at the same time.
Example:

INT: DAY. – FREE RANGE WINE 
It’s the first day of New York’s Phase 1 reopening, the global pandemic still rages. A woman opens the front door, enters halfway, and holds the door open as she speaks, in a hurried, concerned tone. Two shopkeepers are inside, wearing face masks.

Costumer: Are you open?
Me: Yes.
Customer: I can come in?
Me: Yes, please.
Customer: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, we are open for business, you’re welcome to come in. We’re wearing masks, and maintaining social distance. Is there anything I can help you find?
Customer: (Still standing in the open doorway, holding the door open.) Aren’t you supposed to have the door open?!
Me: It’s actually illegal in New York City to keep the door open with the air conditioning running (and we have to keep it cool in here because of the wine).
Customer: No, it’s not.
Me: Yes, it really is. (Exits stage right.)

Nothing good ever happens at the corner of ignorance and certainty, so I fled to rock some inventory in the cellar and left the endlessly patient Derek to continue the conversation at surface level. I genuinely don’t know if she ever made it all the way into the shop, or if she purchased anything.

And I understand that quarantine hasn’t been fun for anybody, and that lots of folks are stir crazy, but going into a retail store to be entertained, or because you’re bored, and have no intention of buying anything- during a global pandemic– needs to stop. Two guys came in yesterday, asked for a specific, somewhat obscure product, which we have, and we said so. They discussed gleefully how our price was better than the last one they were able to find. They then asked more questions, about an even more esoteric product (that is no longer being produced!) which we also still have, because I’m a hoarder of such things. They then told us what a great shop we have, and left with nothing. I just don’t get it. Encouraging words are nice, but I am unaware of any landlord in the western world who accepts them in lieu of rent.

We’ve been avoiding it, but 3 days into the semi-re-opening of NY, and it seems we have little choice but to post fairly strict bold face rules on the front door. To the vast majority of you who make our daily lives more pleasant, and to the 99.9% of you who wear face masks, I apologize in advance, but the obliviousness and entitlement we’ve seen in the last few days is raising the collective blood pressure in here to an untenable level.

We’re back to fairly normal hours, which look like this (until further notice):

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

The website is running well, and each week contains more items, new and old: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

Thanks for tolerating the rant, we’re a little frayed in here. Just for that, we’ll bring back the Brittan Pinot Noir 2015 sale, one of our most popular ever. I am of the belief that this exquisite wine is in the 99th percentile of quality per dollar world Pinot at its full retail price, and it’s one I collect personally. It’s live on the website right now, no coupon code necessary!
** Through next Monday, as supplies last! **
sale:          retail:
Brittan Pinot Noir Basalt 2015                      $29            $39

Deep breaths,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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Dystopian Jambalaya

June 2, 2020 Leave a comment

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

Hello Free Rangers,

The New Normal? Chaos Snowball? Perpetual Entropy? Clusterf@ckNado?

Well, we’ve got global protests during a global pandemic, and our home is one of the epicenters of both. And all that anybody is asking is that those who enforce the laws of the land abide by those same laws. We saw a lot of protesters roll down Atlantic Ave yesterday, and every one of them was entirely peaceful. Angry, and justifiably profane, but non-violent. And we’re still here, doing what we do, and continue to be grateful for it. Thanks, Brooklyn. There’s a link for a rare whiskey tasting opportunity below, and the lowest price in the world on a very rare Burgundy further below.

Thanks for the great response to our Elijah Craig 8yr 10yr combo offer, but if you’re one of the few who tried to check out of the website when the discount code wasn’t working properly, please shoot us a note and we’ll honor the deal for you (though we’re almost out of the 10yr!).

Speaking of Elijah Craig, over the last four years, we’ve selected 4 barrels, two of which are long sold out (minus the little stash in my personal archives), which happen to be 8 Year, 9 Year, 10 Year, and 11 Year old barrels. Our buddy Mike, at Travel Bar on Court St., has a set which he’s offering as a 4 x 1oz tasting flight for takeout at aforementioned Travel Bar. The 9 Year and 11 Year bottles are not currently available anywhere else in the world. Click here for ordering info: Elijah Craig Free Range Vertical Tasting Set! There you’ll also find tasting flights of rare Four Roses, Henry Mckenna 10yr, and George T. Stagg. Contact Mike for more info!

Once again we’re closed Monday this week.
The rest of the week’s Open Hours are status quo:

Tuesday:            Pick-up only! 1 – 7pm
Wednesday:       Pick-up only! 1 – 7pm
Thursday:           Open 1 – 7pm
Fri – Sat:            Open 1 – 7pm
Sunday:             Open 1 – 7pm

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

All sorts of crazy new items added to the web site this week, and continued thanks to you all for pointing out which items we’ve forgotten to add! It’s going quite well, but still a work in progress. And we’re always happy to discuss anything you see and/or specifically don’t see there: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

And now, for making it this far, here’s our deal of the week:
We grabbed another crazy closeout deal on an exceedingly rare, delicious, high-pedigree Pinot Noir from Burgundy: Taupenot-Merme Morey St Denis 1er Cru La Riotte 2016. At $89/btl, this is the lowest price in the world for any vintage of this wine, but there’s not a lot to go around. ** This week only, as supplies last! **

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

P.S. Our delivery minimum has been reduced to $100, still (roughly) 5 block radius.

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329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
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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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Knuckleballs, Lost Love, and St. Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2001

January 15, 2013 1 comment
A cracked spring training bat signed by then pitching coach Phil Niekro.

A cracked spring training bat signed by then pitching coach Phil Niekro.

Two weeks into the new year and I’m already 12 days (and five years) behind on my resolution(s). Back to life… back to reality. Well, if reality were a pile of rare wine and 46oz axe handle ribeyes. I’m so scattered that I’m quoting Soul II Soul, but I digress… from my digression. Red meat & red wine is just one of those (combination of) things, right up there with the all-time greats. And while a number of interesting and beautiful reds (and one white- Wind Gap Trousseau Gris 2011) were sipped over succulent charred animal flesh at St. Anselm, it is the St Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2001 that most warrants documentation.

St. Innocent is one of those great American owner/winemaker situations, where proprietor Mark Vlossak makes some of Oregon’s most compelling (single vineyard) bottled produce. The hardiest examples from the stronger vintages defy the absurd common wisdom that American Pinot Noir doesn’t age well. And the finest expressions of Shea vineyard grapes age as well as any American Pinot Noir; far greater longevity than a francophile will ever admit. And this one is fairly interesting, over a decade after crush.

What was that about American Pinot not aging well again?

What was that about American Pinot not aging well again?

So, I finally watched Knuckleball, which reminded me acutely that baseball was my first love, well before wine, or even women. If you have ever loved anything about any sport that wasn’t based in some re-wired tribalism, Knuckleball will warm the cockles of your heart. Didn’t know that R.A. Dickey was a born again Christian, but one of many reasons I stopped following organized sports was that I didn’t want to support the livelihood of thugs and felons. So, like saddling up to an Irish bar, let’s leave the religion and politics at the door (for today). But if I find out that Charlie Hough, The Niekro brothers, and Tim Wakefield are all born again, and that only by taking the New Tastament version of Jesus Christ Superstar into one’s heart, can you truly take the spin off of that demoniacle changeup, I’ll be very upset. Regardless, if I do follow baseball this season, it’ll likely be the Blue Jays that interest me. May the force be with you, R.A.

Back to the wine: St. Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2001 is showing slightly less fruit than previous tastings, but no less expansive baseline of furry dry raspberry, brambly, but thornless, and a lesser presence of red cherry. There’s a broad mid-palate of dusty crushed granite, dry earth, pine tar, ancient cedar chips, and just a touch of gaminess. With further breath the mid-palate opens to palate-suckingly dry, before a deceptively long, undulating finish. It’s beautiful stuff, but have a large glass of clear cool water handy. Always remember: Hydration is your friend. It makes tomorrow possible. From the weight and breadth of the St. Innocent Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2001, it’s difficult to discern how much life this wine has left in it, but it’s well worth pairing with a well-marbled world-class steak today.

Flash Sale Sites Part Deux (Vitis.com) and Jack White’s Blunderbuss

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

One of the quietly classier flash sale wine sites around is Vitis.com. Vitis offers one wine at a time and organizes professional reviews, background and bottle information, and a pairing recipe, in a visually appealing way. Selections can be hit or miss, and as I click over right now, I see yet another Oriel selection. Oriel has been placed widely and repeatedly throughout the flash sale market. I’ve always respected Oriel’s business model, but I’ve never been terribly impressed with their wine per price, and they make much more sense to me at flash sale prices.

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But if you don’t like the deal, just wait for the next e-mail. And when Vitis is on, you can claim some reasonably rare stuff, properly aged, at rock bottom prices, such as the ’01 Alenza Ribera del Duero and the ’95 Felsina Chianti Classico Rancia Riserva, I’ve picked up in recent months, well below market rate.

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Vitis has also had a few of my favored tasty cheapys recently (at lowest national prices): Byron Chardonnay, Marques de Carceres Reserva, and Marti Fabra Masia Carreras, each of which represent excellent with-food drinking per dollar.

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So, I’m listening to Jack White’s new record, Blunderbuss. Jack White is so fucking cool that it kind of pisses me off, though I have begrudging respect for just about everything he does. And as far as people who get to do whatever/wherever/whenever they want, in that Kid Rock on a bender kind of way, he seems to deserve it. And unlike Kid Schlock, Jack White can really play (and write) and he has at least as deep a respect for all that which came before, as all that which lies ahead. He’s constantly working on music in a creative and deliberate way, such that even when I’m not that interested in the resulting recording, his prolific drive is inspiring.

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While I am big fan of the first 3 White Stripes records, most especially De Stijl (unquestionably one of the finest rock records of our time), I haven’t been enthralled with much of White’s recorded work since. I was going to mention what I thought of the new record, but White reminded me, at Stephen Colbert’s expense, that talking about music is bullshit:

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“You want to talk about music? That’s ridiculous. It’s like dancing about architecture or singing about paintings.” – Jack White

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Jack, I’m sure there are a dozen modern dance companies in this town that would be happy to interpret the work of Gaudi, they kind of do that already just by existing. And I’m fairly certain that Dan Bern (who is just one man) has written a dozen songs about paintings and sculptures and plays, though I suppose all of those songs are really about women. And yes, Jack, I take your fairly obvious point, well illustrated, about the singularity of art.

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But I digress. I’m really just waiting around to find out that Jack White doesn’t actually exist and what we believe to be Jack White is really just an intricate Johnny Depp character. Maybe he’s really that good.

Flash Sale Sites and Boutique Rarities: Part 1 (Lot 18)

April 25, 2012 Leave a comment

I have closely followed the rise of the flash sale site in and out of the wine world. While flash sale sites- even good ones- are not places to blindly purchase what comes up when you’re thirsty, if you know what you’re interested in, and don’t mind the occasional tidal wave of e-mail offers, one can make a fairly good score.

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Lot 18 has quickly become the best funded and fasted growing of the flash sale wine sites (they have also expanded into food, products, and experiences), but more importantly, they more than occasionally end up with the best available price in the country on reasonably rare wine of excellent pedigree. Which is why Lot 18 is one of the sale sites I most use and most recommend.

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Case in point, I just purchased some Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard from 2007, an excellent vintage. With the free shipping for 4 bottles, it ended up being just over $30 per bottle, to my door. For those of you who are local New Yorkers, compare that fare to Morrell’s price of nearly $40 (before tax and shipping!) or Zachy’s next level tariff at over $50 for the exact same bottle of Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard 2007!

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For those of you who have not yet joined Lot 18, here’s a link that will earn you $10 credit toward your first order: https://www.lot18.com/i/WineList

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For those of you keeping Sideways score, in the film, when Miles saddles up to the bar at the Hitching Post, he is offered and consumes their recently bottled single vineyard Bien Nacido pinot noir. A number of winemakers are lucky enough to have access to this southern CA fruit, and I have tasted many a worthy expression of Bien Nacido syrah as well as pinot.

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Speaking of Sideways, I have long planned to address the palate swooning glory of a great merlot, which I assure you, I will get to some time before they release the sequel. But for now, if you’d like to get a head start on that discussion, stop by Apiary in Manhattan and order a bottle of ’97 Behrens & Hitchcock Napa Merlot with your strip steak. A nice merlot ages like (and makes up a sizeable percentage of) a good Bordeaux. But more on that another time. I’m going to have a little glass of this Sean Thackrey Lyra Viognier ’10 and call it a night.
Sweet dreams.
WineGeist

Sean Thackrey @ St. Anselm: Wednesday, April 4th

March 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Post-tasting carnage.

While I still have a pile of tasting notes to relay (’07 Volnay Premier Crus, Brewer Clifton Pinot and Chard ’02-‘09, Damilano Barolos, Ribera del Duero ’93-’96…), but it’s not every day that I get to host an event with one of my favorite winemakers in the world, at one of my favorite restaurants in New York.

On Wednesday April 4th, Sean Thackrey will be joining us as at St. Anselm, here in Brooklyn, for a tasting and dinner event, featuring the widest selection of Sean Thackrey wines ever assembled. While we are down to a waiting list for the 8:30pm seating, there are still tables available for the 5:45pm seating. Please e-mail me (WineGeist@gmail.com) or call St. Anselm directly (718.384.5054 – ask for Krystal) to claim remaining seats.

Four (non)vintages of Pleiades.

But first, I’ll gush a little: Sean Thackrey is an American original. He was an unconventional high level hobbyist, sourcing techniques he translated himself from ancient texts. It’s no wonder he discontinued his career as an art dealer to go pro (back in the ‘80s), as one of this country’s most unusual winemakers, who makes some of the most interesting (and tasty!) American wine. While his exceedingly rare Orion starts at around $100 these days, and will live (and improve) for decades, Thackrey’s non-vintage Pleiades blend starts at around $25 at retail and is a substantial tasting experience. Somewhere in between lie his Aquila Sangiovese, Andromeda Pinot Noir, and Sirius Petite Sirah, each worthy of serious (sirius?) consideration.

The Orion label goes back to '86, but '92 was the first vintage sourced from the Rossi Vineyard, planted in 1905.

While I’m neither a car guy nor a TV guy, I recently came across Oz & James’ Big Wine Adventure (thanks BBC!). And while it can be difficult to watch James May stain upon brilliant winemakers and slug down rare syrah like it’s a hip flask of Old Overholt at a ball game, the dynamic between his deliberate drunkard’s brutishness and Oz Clarke’s world-class wine poncery is bloody brilliant (if you want to be all British about it). Anyway, have a click and take a look at what happens to James’ face upon tasting Thackrey’s Orion. And no, it’s not the wrong clip, Thackrey just doesn’t appear until the next segment, beginning at 5min 21sec. Enjoy!

If anyone is seeking a musical (poncery) interlude, here’s the best live music thing I’ve attended in quite some time, even if it was 2pm on a Friday afternoon (and I may have told some people that “I was in a meeting”). The full hour show is available free (godbless NPR!):

http://www.thegreenespace.org/events/thegreenespace/2012/mar/30/soundcheck-live-andrew-bird/

Here are the full event details:

Wine Tasting and Dinner w/ Sean Thackrey
@ St. Anselm, 355 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Date: Wednesday, April 4th
Time: 2 seatings at 5:45pm and 8:30pm
Price: $52 (prepaid) for the basic tasting
**supplemental plates, glasses, and bottles a la carte

For $52 (pre-paid) per person: meet the winemaker, Sean Thackrey, who will lead a tasting of his Lyra Viognier 2010, Aquila Sangiovese 2002, Pleiades XXI, Sirius Petite Sirah 2009, and Orion California Native 2009. This will be accompanied by a vegetarian small plate and salad.

Available at an additional charge: 2 supplemental small plates (elk medallions and shellfish of the day), an abbreviated dinner menu, and an extensive selection of Sean Thackrey wine, including numerous vintages of Pleiades, Sirius, Andromeda Pinot Noir, and at least 10 vintages of Thackrey’s flagship, Orion, sourced from the Rossi vineyard, planted in 1905. Thackrey will remain on hand during the dinner to discuss any and all of his wines that guests choose to order.

Those who wish to experience the basic tasting, order another glass and a modest entree, can escape for about $100. Those guests less concerned with price can build a truly unique tasting experience, from what is unquestionably the largest selection of Sean Thackrey’s wine ever offered publicly, at one time.

Price: $52 (prepaid) per seat
– Includes: vegetarian small plate, salad, and tasting glasses of Lyra Viognier ’10, Pleiades XXI, Aquila Sangiovese ’02, Sirius Petite ’09, Orion California Native ’09.
– 2 supplemental small plates, abbreviated dinner menu, and an extensive list of Thackrey wine will be available, at additional cost.
Contact: Jack Chester
WineGeist@gmail.com

Sean Thackrey:
http://wine-maker.net/

St. Anselm:
http://www.stanselm.net/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/St-Anselm/140900289276127

WineGeist:
http://winegeist.net
https://twitter.com/#!/WineGeist
http://www.facebook.com/WineGeist

Softly Crushing: Calera Pinot Noir 2009 and An Open Love Letter to Jill Sobule

March 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Calera had, reasonably quietly, been making one of the finest inexpensive Pinots in CA, until this vintage, when some Italian dude stamped it with 92 points and told one of the largest wine buying audiences in the world that Calera Pinot Noir Central Coast 2009 “may very well be the single finest value in American Pinot Noir.” And it’s definitely up there. I know Calera’s single vineyard Pinots are renowned wines of fine character and notable longevity (I am cellaring a number of them), but at $65+ for Jensen and Selleck Vineyard bottles, the opportunity cost is substantial. If you’re planning to drop $70 on a bottle of wine, the options for greatness are many, unless you only drink Burgundy, and then I kinda feel sorry for your limited options and your dainty palate (and your wallet). But Calera’s introductory level offering is unparalleled, at the $19.99/btl I recently paid at retail. And while I can’t speak to the longevity of the pretty glass ‘cork’, I can say that a 1997 vintage of the same wine (enclosed with traditional cork) showed beautifully not 2 years ago.

Searching the YouTube for a specific Jill Sobule show, I find a number of earnest young girls covering her delightfully crushing “Mexican Wrestler,” which warms my black little heart. But who the hell is Emma Roberts and why do these little chicks think she wrote Jill’s awesome song?! Apparently, that’s Nickelodeon’s fault. Roberts’ (or her producer’s) lyrical changes unforgivably replace fleeting subtleties with sophomoric hyperbole, for the intended target market. Though I get why it would lack rational continuity if a teenager reminisced fondly being 21. I hope Jill at least got a decent royalty check out of the deal. And no lyrical rearrangement could be as disappointing as finding out that Katy Perry’s single “I Kissed A Girl”, about which I had heard upon release, was not a cover of Jill’s 1995 hit single at all. After that and Perry’s “California Gurls” (no relation to the Beach Boys tune), it quickly became clear what borrowed name recognition and a little t&a could do for one’s profile. But in the end Katy Perry is just tabloid trash and Jill Sobule is a lifelong storyteller, high up in the storied pantheon of New York’s singer/songwriters (and higher up in my personal pantheon). True she’s done some time in LA, but Jill Sobule and New York belong to each other. By the way, this is the performance I had been looking for: La Java, Paris 3/16/2010. Enjoy.

But back to Calera Pinot Noir 2009, and it’s unusual glass cap: The seal is good, and the capsule tight enough and difficult enough to remove so as to appear structurally sound enough to age, under proper climate control. That being said, I have now had a number of bottles of this wonderfully under-priced pinot, and I have found greater bottle variation than I would expect. I haven’t come across any vinegar or identifiable oxidation, but some bottles have shown more predominant red fruit than others where an earthy wet funk (just shy of swampy) persists, so much so that I’m hesitant to give specific tasting notes on this one. This is all the more curious for the amount that I enjoyed each bottle, regardless of variations. It’s a good reminder though how much bottle variation does exist and that all tasting notes are just one persons opinion of one bottle’s opinion of any wine, in a given moment. The most common thread between each tasting of Calera Pinot Noir Central Coast 2009 is bright, but substantial and gripping, red cherry, which was immediately reminiscent of a recently tasted bottle of Laetitia Pinot Noir. No surprise, said vineyard was the source of over 30% of the fruit for this regional blend. So, I’ve drunk through the bottles that I’ve allowed myself (really not much beats this one at $20), but I did manage to squirrel some away. I’ll be checking back in on the progress of the wine and the medium-term stability of its all glass seal.

Stay Tuned.

Belles Soeurs (Beaux Freres) Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000 and Late Night with Bob Dylan

September 6, 2011 Leave a comment

After the reasonably exquisite Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2003 (tasting notes in previous post), a Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000 was poured. In general, across most vintages, I find their wines mades from outsourced grapes from Shea Vineyard to be more complete ventures than Beaux Freres’ Estate-specific cuvées (Beaux Freres Vineyard, Upper Terrace), though I have yet to encounter an uninteresting wine that bears the name. I have read about, but have yet to taste their tiny production Upper Terrace Grenache, and I would be more than happy to accept tasting samples, to be discussed here on WineGeist, judiciously and impartially.

I’m listening to “Mr. Tambourine Man” as performed by its composer, Bob Dylan, at the Hollywood Bowl, September 2, 1965. I know Dylan gets a lot of air time here, but that was the track that came up on the full library shuffle, just then, as I started the sentence; it’s still playing now. It’s true that I’ve been staring at the incomplete line, “I’m listening to…” for a couple of dozen songs, but that’s neither here nor there and Dylan is inspiring. And that song in particular, “Mr. Tambourine Man” is a big one in an unparalleled body of work, not to mention being the second part of the Good Doctor‘s dedication preceding Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas: “-and to Bob Dylan, for Mister Tambourine Man“. Dylan wrote that one in ’65 and in the same year it was recorded by The Byrds and released as their first single for Columbia Records, which reached #1 on US and UK charts. Unrelated, I was told, not that long ago, “It takes a lot of Dylan to make a nice Syrah.” But today, we’re discussing Oregon Pinot.

The Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000 wafts immediately of cedar and raw meat, and is dark in the glass, knocking on the door of deep purple. Visually, it’s almost unreasonably concentrated for the varietal and most definitely for the vintage. The vast majority of 2000 OR Pinot Noir, even the very good ones are a little thin in the middle, as if too much water was interjected at a major stage of growth, and the grapes partied like it was 1999, resulting in flimsier fruit. Ironically enough, the grapes of 1999 were far more studious and the wines released from that vintage continue to age well. Even the normally highly concentrated Beaux Freres wines are a little soft, a little light on character, in 2000, including this one whose palate is not so brooding as the color. The only recently tasted examples to the contrary for 2000 OR Pinot are Ken Wright Pinot Noir, Shea and McCrone Vineyard bottles. But back to the ’00 Belles Soeurs Shea: the palate displays cool damp earth, ash, as well as some vegetal characterists and green pepper. There’s a nice mid-palate dryness, but the body seems to drop off there, making for a shorter experience. That being said, there exist notes of espresso bean, anise, and prune as well as overripe raspberry and a dusty, silty finish. The Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000 is a highly palatable wine, but it’s a little thin for its pedigree, and is likely at the back end of its drinking plateau. Remaining bottles will be enjoyed in the near future, rather than returned to the cellar.

Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2003 and The Black Crowes’ Former Glory

September 4, 2011 1 comment

Back at St Anselm for the butcher’s steak, again braving the $25 corkage fee and bringing some properly aged Pinot: Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evanstad Reserve 2003 and Belles Soeurs Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 2000. I had originally planned to taste the ’03 Evanstad along side a 2004 Jayer Gilles Echezeaux du Dessus, as both have exhibited similar traits in the past. However the wrong bottle was packed that evening and the rare Echezeaux in question ended up preceding a youthfully clumsy Domain Serene Pinot Noir Willamette 2004 (a vintage that should prove to be long lived).

I’m listening to “Seeing Things” from the Black Crowes’ debut 1990 LP, Shake Your Money Maker. Early in high school, it was something of a revelation that a bunch of young guys could deliberately make new music that fit in with much of the classic rock hits of ‘60s and ‘70s. And it was no surprise that it was through Classic Rock radio, not pop, that the Crowes were first heard by so many. This was also when I first became aware of a thing called critics and that they largely did not like the Black Crowes, nor did pop radio, which wanted nothing to do with them, until their cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” became a hit too big to be ignored. Sure, they were just another bunch of pretty(ish) white kids playing the blues, a time honored formula since Elvis, but at that time I didn’t know the history, and the Crowes were really good at it. Because of that, and an impressive body of work, up to and including the Amorica LP, for a certain segment of Gen Pop, the Black Crowes will always embody Rock & Roll.

The Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2003 has a component of damp leaves, but displays little if any of that mossy, wet earth, swampiness, on the palate, that is so typical of much of the ’03 vintage for OR Pinot Noir (as well as of scattered varietals and sub-regions of northern CA, of the same year). Instead there’s an unexpected sweet roundness to this reserve Pinot, led by dry raspberry and black cherry, with subtler notes of cocoa powder and chalkdust. After 40+ minutes of breathing the ’03 Evenstad shows deep cherry sweetness and a long vein of vanillin, sprinkled with baking spices and white pepper. This is a wine of excellent concentration without sacrificing the purity of the fruit; it maintains a broad mouthfeel and seamless integration. Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Evenstad Reserve 2003 seems right at its peak drinking window now and should drink nicely for at least another 5 years.