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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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“Oh, you mean a store pick?”

May 26, 2020 Leave a comment

Here’s the latest from Free Range Wine & Spirits (not sure why this didn’t post last week):

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Hey Free Rangers,

Let’s skip the apocalypse talk this week (we all know what’s going on- and/or not going on), and head straight for the rare Bourbon deal of the week, about which we are fairly excited. But first, let’s talk about (whiskey) bottle hunters. There’s a breed of whiskey bro who only want the rarest blue chip bottles of which they’re already aware (Stagg, Pappy, Weller 12), or the latest tiny production darling of some blog, and only at the lowest price in the country. They’ll ask price quotes on 10 or 20 rare bottles, then tell us how much less they paid at some warehouse liquor store in a flyover state (or central Jersey), and often they buy nothing. These same guys are completely uninterested in our exclusive single barrels. And it’s hard to take somebody seriously who claims to be motivated by scarcity and intrigue, but has no interest in a single barrel Elijah Craig 8yr for $36, and the 217 bottles stacked here are the only that will ever exist on Earth: a rare variation on a classic Bourbon (with an age statement) for 36 bucks. “Oh, you mean a store pick,” is the response. Neither of us are impressed. *It should be noted that web site prices on those big ticket items are often flexible for anyone in our system, who has purchased whiskey with us before. 

We’re quite excited about our new exclusive Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 8yr Bourbon, and we still have a bit of our previous, Elijah Craig Free Range Single Barrel 10yr. We’re offering a coupon code for 1 bottle of each 8yr and 10yr for $59 (normally $78). Click here: Elijah Craig Exclusives Deal! *
** This week only (limit 6 per customer) ***

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

Lots of great new (and old) bottles added to the web site this week, and we’re always happy to discuss anything you see and/or specifically don’t see there: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com
More fun with rare whiskey ahead.

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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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.

Foris Pinot Noir 2008, Beurre Rouge, and Wilco’s Unreleased LP, The Whole Love

August 27, 2011 1 comment

Tonight I’m making fish. The details are still coming together, but I have a couple of very nice snapper fillets and a bottle of Foris Pinot Noir 2008. Red wine can absolutely go with fish and I am a firm believer that there is a pinot noir to go with anything/everything. Tonight, that theory is being tested further as I’m swapping some of this pinot for the dry white wine in a beurre blanc sauce (beurre rouge?) to go with the lovely snapper which will likely be lightly seasoned and pan seared, possibly finishing in the oven.

With some trepidation and a healthy skepticism, I’m listening to an advance copy of Wilco’s upcoming LP, The Whole Love. While their last couple of studio releases have been far less interesting- lyrically and sonically- than just about everything that came before, this new album comes with a high recommendation from a reliable pro. The first track, “Art of Almost” catches my attention before it begins to play, clocking in at over 7 minutes. The opening is a strange layered drone over a cool beat that dissipates into a synthetic textural cacophony with just enough space for Jeff Tweedy’s vocals to creep in, unannounced. Before the first vocalization, I’m not necessarily convinced, but I’m most decidedly listening. Thirty second into this song, it might be mistaken for Radiohead, halfway through minute 6, it could just as easily be a Nine Inch Nails tune as re-imagined by Aphex Twin. But such momentary surface analogy is trite and there’s a lot more going on, here on this record, than anything since A Ghost Is Born, if not Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. More than one considered listen is clearly required here. Wilco is back.

The Foris Pinot Noir 2008 is from the Rogue Valley which is something of a remote outpost for Oregon Pinot Noir. This medium-bodied pinot is medium ruby in the glass and underneath the initial waft of alcohol, red fruit and forest floor begin to stir. There’s a classy crisp, but long and tapering, acidity that I have come to associate with Foris’ low alcohol, low cost pinot noir. After an hour of breathing, wild savory herbs and hints of sunberry and camphor mingle with the red cherry and predominant raspberry. Foris’ ’08 pinot is pretty and unassuming, nicely balanced, but far from flimsy, though full mature integration of alcohol and fruit will likely require another 6-8 months in the bottle. And much like the lighter-styled low alcohol pinots from The Eyrie Vineyards, you’ll be surprised how well and how long this wine will age. While highly enjoyable and food friendly today, the rest of this case of Foris Pinot Noir 2008 will get some well deserved down time in the cellar. Have a nice nap, my friends.

Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux 2007 and Patti Smith’s New York Minute

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Conflict(s) of interests run as rampant in the wine world as almost anywhere else, besides the intertwined upper echelon of government and industry. Many reviewers make it a point to make known their connections to wines reviewed and many more are slammed in the blogosphere for not disclosing such details. In reviewing another Gerard Bertand wine, I feel I should say that, when contacted, Bertand’s rep wasn’t interested in helping to locate and new releases of Le Viala and La Forge, Bertand’s flagship bottles. On top of this, to my request to pre-pay and have some ordered from the same distributor from which they acquire the more modest bottles, BQE Wine & Liquors, with whom I do a fair amount of business replied, “No special orders.” Everyone involved seems to have the same attitude as the Frenchmen who make the stuff: There isn’t very much of it, it’s very good, and it will all sell without much effort on our part. Unfortunately, all of these things are true, and, besides those aforementioned flagship bottles, Gerard Bertand makes a number of very nice wines per dollar spent. Most recently I tasted Bertrand’s white bubbly: Cremant de Limoux 2007.

I was just reading Patti Smith’s Just Kids, about her early days in New York and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorp. Smith’s best known record is of course, Horses (without which there may very well be no Ani DiFranco), which got me thinking about “Wild Horses”. Which lead my ears to find themselves listening to Beggar’s Banquet on shuffle. I’m not sure any other song has such particular visceral connection to a book as does “Sympathy for the Devil” with Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Records did a stunning old time radio show style reading of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s finest work, which predates and outclasses the film, that would eventually follow.

Back to Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux 2007. At just under $15 a bottle (from my friends at BQE Wine & Liquor), this delightful bubbly compares quite favorably on the world stage, versus Champagne, Cava, and Prosecco. In the glass, the Bertrand Cremant is very pale yellow, with the faintest green hue, tapering off to almost clear in the very point of the flute. The palate is sweet, lightly honeyed, and light on its feet, but with enough yeast, citrus, and lively acidity to maintain balance. As it breathes, white grape, Bartlet pair, and green apple build on the palate, unusual in its pleasant grapiness. The moderate finish is with the presence of yeast and a texture that’s near powdery. This is a highly enjoyable sparkling wine for its price point and makes nice summer cocktail.

Spanish Secrets Under the BQE and the Mountain Goats’ Hyperbolic Sadness

August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Today I’m tasting a bargain Spanish blend, Cataregia Gran Resereva 2001, picked up at my favorite local wine shop, here in my corner of Brooklyn, BQE Wine & Liquors. I don’t mind letting one of my neighborhood secrets out because they neither ship out of town nor deliver locally, so anybody that wants to take advantage of their excellent selections and prices will have to walk in, just like everybody else in the 11222. So much has been said (rightly so) of the 2001 vintage in most of Spain (especially Rioja and Ribera del Deuro) that finding a Gran Reserva for under ten bucks makes me cautiously optimistic.

I’m listening to the Mountain Goats’ (John Darnielle) “Autoclave” from their (his) Heretic Pride album. Mountain Goats is basically one guy, John Darnielle, who always plays as the Mountain Goats, regardless if he’s playing solo or with supporting players. While I know that so many of his long-time hardcores prefer his stripped down man-and-a-guitar stuff, and I can see the slick production rubbing some of these folks the wrong way, but the songwriting remains as remarkable as always. “Autocalve” has the awesome dichotomy of an upbeat, hooky tune and profoundly sad and deeply isolationist lyrics.

Cataregia Gran Resereva 2001 is 70% Tempranillo and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and initially it tastes like mature Tempranillo and immature Cabernet in the same glass, somehow not blended; integration does occur, over time. The nose immediately hits with raspberry, which becomes sweet and ripe with some air in it. There are also notes of tobacco, tar, and a dusting of powdered black pepper. The alcoholic bite which initially lingers in the olfactory, integrates after an hour of oxygen contact, revealing a touch of vanillin and wildflowers in the negative space of the glass. This is really quite a nice wine for the fee. In fact, it’s almost impossible to find a 10 year old wine from a marquee vintage for ten bucks. I’m going to go buy a few more bottles before I post this.
Happy hunting!
WineGeist

Pacific Northwest Daydreaming: Foris Port 2002 and Jimi Hendrix’ Stages

July 27, 2011 1 comment

And a pretty label too...

I’ve gone back into the mixed case of half-bottles and pulled to taste, Foris Port 2002. Foris is a high quality, low cost wine producer in Cave Junction, OR (Rogue Valley) whose first estate vines were planted in 1974. While it’s their unreasonably inexpensive per quality Rogue Valley Pinot Noir that has kept me coming back, I’ve also tasted and enjoyed several of their whites and stickies, and beyond Syrah and Cabernet Ports, they currently bottle a good number of different varietals (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, various Cab, etc.).

I’m listening to the Jimi Hendrix Stages Box Set which, in all my years of collecting live shows, both official releases and bootlegs, remains one of the greatest documents of American music of whose existence I am aware. Each of the 4 discs is a single set from ’67 (Stockholm), ’68 (Paris), ’69 (San Diego), and ’70 (Atlanta). Just a brief listen to these shows reminds one of just how good Jimi actually was and the recording quality here is about as high as it gets, given the era and circumstances. There is so much listening gold on these discs, but it’s hard not to give the nod to the ’67 disc as tops. Not only is it clear that Jimi’s sounds was already fully developed, but he was in the process of writing his best songs. On the Stockholm ’67 disc, when he shyly admits, before a glorious “Burning of the Midnight Lamp“, that he and the band had never before played that tune in front of people, one gets a tiny glimpse of the man’s sincerity and the joy he took in doing what he did.

The back tells several stories.

The 2002 Foris Port was made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and spent 19 months in barrel. It was bottled at 18% alcohol and 8.5% residual sugar. The resulting port-style wine is aging quite well and, by the time of these notes this one had the advantage of a couple of days sealed by the Vacu Vin, after having been opened. The wine is aging beautifully and what was once (pleasantly) grapey at last taste is now more raisin and chocolate, though fruit still persists in the form of wild blackberry jam. Foris Port 2002 drinks almost unreasonably nicely for the price point yet the residual sugar and current mouthfeel lead me to believe this wine will continue to age with grace for the better part of the decade. If you are unfamiliar, do yourself a favor and pick up just about anything bearing the Foris name and taste a secret slice or Oregon.

Back to Bourgogne Rouge and (John Hartford’s) Back in the Good Old Days

July 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Back into the mixed case of 2000-2005 Bourgogne Rouge and next up for tasting is Domaine Robert Chevillon Bourgogne 2000. While this Bourgogne Rouge is Chevillon’s générique Pinot Noir, they are known primarily for their (Grand Cru quality) Premier Cru Nuits St Georges and I have been impressed especially with (and continue to hoard a few of) their Les St Georges and Les Cailles releases of vintages past. Those of the late ’90s were drinking beautifully at last tasting.

I’m listening to John Hartford’s “Back in the Good Old Days” from his 1971 landmark Aereo-Plain album. In that same year, Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” appeared in Rolling Stone and John C. Lilly wrote Center of the Cyclone. Aereo-Plain marked the moment when the hippies met the hillbillies (none of whom cared to be drafted) and some pretty fantastic music ensued. Hartford’s band for Aereo-Plain included Vassar Clements, one of the most naturally gifted and accomplished bluegrass fiddle players that ever lived.

Back in the glass, the Robert Chevillon Bourgogne 2000 is deep ruby. There’s an earthy funk to the nose that’s heading toward animal, almost barnyard, but not heavy enough to obscure the soft red fruits, raspberry, and cherry. On the palate, those red fruits are joined by ripe black currant. There is an acidic structure to the finish that suggests that this wine will happily last another few years, properly cellared. These aged base line Burgundies continue to provide excellent drinking per dollar.

Gerard Bertrand, Where For Art Thou? and Tom Waits’ Wild Years

July 22, 2011 Leave a comment

This is how I came to review Gerard Bertrand Viognier 2010 today: Several years back, a friend returned from the south of France with one of the finest substances ever to pass my lips. The wine of power and poise in question was a Gerard Bertrand Le Viala 2001. I snapped up the few I could find back here in the states, but very little came into the country and I haven’t seen anything more recent that 2002 and can only assume they’re no longer exporting it. Other friends retrieved a 6-pack of the 2005 Le Viala (which had gotten expensive) directly from the winery a couple of years ago. I have since seen nothing available outside of France. Recently, at my local(est) wine shop, I saw and immediately purchased 4 red, 2 rose, and 1 white, all Gerard Bertrand, and all under $15.

Light, crisp, and inexpensive.

I’m listening to Tom WaitsThe Heart of Saturday Night (1974) and trying fathom just how many Marlboros were required to turned that voice into the one on Small Change (1976), which ground out “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” and “The Piano Has Been Drinking”. Granted, the grittiness of Waits’ vocal tone was often exaggerated for effect, but in his softest moments on “Drunk on the Moon” and “Heart of Saturday Night,” he’s more silk than sandpaper. Waits has been doing his own thing for a very long time at this point, and while a number of his more recent records have been largely noise projects, at the heart of it, he’s one of the greatest living storytellers, and he’s worn so many voices.

In the glass, the Gerard Bertrand Viognier 2010 is very pale gold and from first sip, the palate is soft and integrated, but its lively, palate cleansing, acidity gives it significant vitality. It’s ripe with pear, peach, apricot, melon, pineapple, and orange blossom. At its price point, this ’10 Gerard Bertrand Viognier is a top notch summer white that will pair well with most poultry, fish, pasta, and salads.

Whitcraft Syrah Stolpman Vineyard 2007 and Rana’s Greatest Hits

July 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I enjoy both Whitcraft as a winemaker and Stolpman Vineyards for their fine syrah. I am more familiar with Witcraft for their pinot noir and recently, a nearly decade old Whitcraft Pinot Noir sourced from Bien Nacido Vineyard showed quite favorably, at my table. So, when Whitcraft Syrah Stolpman Vineyard 2007 came up on the boutique flash discount site Lot18, at the lowest available price in the country, I grabbed enough to qualify for free shipping. Speaking of which, Whitcraft Pinot Noir Bien Nacido 2007 is up on Lot18.com right now, expires soon.

Nice wine and a great label font.

I’m listening to Rana’s “Carbombed Again” from their Here in the USA album. Members of Rana are involved in multiple other bands and projects now, though they do occasionally still play together here in the NYC. About a decade ago, they were actively writing effective songs, rocking hard every time out, and packing a small circuit of local clubs. During the stripped down rock resurgence of that time which birthed the White Stripes and the Strokes, Rana seemed poised to get as big as they desired/deserved. Their best stuff like “Carbombed” and “Backstage Pass” sounded undeniably anthemic in their moment(s) and, as of today’s listening, they stand the brutal test of time, like champions.

Having sampled an assortment of  Stolpman syrah as expressed by the winemakers at Ojai, Arcadian, and at Stolpman Vineyards, I know that they grow world class grapes. This Whitcraft Syrah Stolpman 2007 is yet another worthy expression of said lovely fruit. It’s deep, dark, almost opaque red, heading toward black. Is Vamp still a color? The experience opens with a nose of smoked meat and morning fog. The palate is predominantly dry black raspberry and the mouthfeel is lush; it’s dense and brambly, but not biting. This is big, high alcohol (14.9%) syrah, that manages to stop short of brooding. It’s surprisingly integrated for a wine of it’s youth and build, but much of the palate is yet to evolve and it will most certainly benefit from another few years in the cellar, and will likely drink quite well for another decade.