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Posts Tagged ‘Burgundy’

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

Living the Dream

August 2, 2020 Leave a comment

Hey Free Rangers,

Another peach of a week, here on the Range, and out there in the world. I honestly don’t know where to begin. Yes I do. As I’ve mentioned a few times here, and constantly in person, besides a few trusted online sources for empirical data, I’ve curbed my news consumption mostly to The Majority Report and The Michael Brooks Show, though I do like to check in with reports by Katy Tur, and Krystal Ball, during the day. I was watching Majority Report live on the afternoon of the 20th, toward the end of the show, Sam Seder’s mouth drops open after looking down at a screen, and the ‘fun half’ of the show ends abruptly. Michael Brooks had died at 37 years old. He was the youngest person I can think of who I consider a hero, and I genuinely aspire to be more like him. I barely made it through the Majority Report tribute to Michael Brooks the next day, I don’t know how they held it together.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Michael Brooks to the progressive movement at large. I don’t throw around the word genius lightly, but the sheer amount of knowledge he amassed, and the number of world concerns he understood on a molecular level (and could explain to the rest of us without a hint of condescension) is humbling. MacArthur missed the boat on this one. That he was also a man of infinite empathy, and profound humor is what made him one of the finest communicators of the digital era, and why he was certain to change the world for the better, which seemed his only real goal. I’m a pretty cynical guy, and Michael Brooks gave me real hope. He and John Lewis were two of the sturdiest pillars in my personal Pantheon of necessary Agents of Good (Trouble), and the world lost that unfathomable gentleman last week as well.

Not to mention the unnamed federal agents in major US cities throwing private citizens into unmarked cars, which without probable cause, or declaration of offense, is kidnapping, in any democracy. And there’s the incalculable toll American law enforcement continues to perpetrate with absolute impunity on any peaceful citizen they damned well please, most especially people of color (#BLM), and anyone without enough money for proper legal representation.
Dark days, my friends.

In the micro: This was also the lowest point for our new credit card processor(s), and it seems a small handful of customers were double charged, and a smaller few were charged for phantom invoices. Derek has corrected the issue, and everyone involved has been refunded (we believe), with our sincere apologies. If anybody thinks they were overcharged for anything recently (7/2 – 7/20), please shoot us a note, and we’ll get to the bottom of it. I assure you, it wasn’t deliberate, and it is no longer occurring. Thanks, as always, for your patience and support.

The next day, a guy comes in, dumps a bunch of change on the sales counter and asks for quarters for the parking machine, which we give him, doesn’t buy anything. Comes back and hour later, asks a bunch of questions about rum, doesn’t buy anything. Comes back in another hour, doesn’t say anything to us, parks himself inside, blocking the front, and makes a phone call. I ask him to please take his conversation outside (a policy posted visibly- in words and pictures- on 2 walls, the fridge, and twice on the front door, since the outset of the pandemic), to which he replies, “fuck this place.” Derek’s Zen may have been the only thing that stopped me from potentially incurring an assault charge. This kind of stuff seems to be happening fairly frequently these days.

There were a few moments this week when I was tempted to lock the place early, head home, and turn off all devices for a few days. It’s been a tough stretch, even by current standards, but we are grateful as always to our encouraging regulars, who make what we do both possible and fun (most of the time). And I’m not sure what I would do without your four-legged friends, especially my spirit animal, Fred the terrier. If you don’t see much of me this week, I might be taking some mental health days. Please be kind to our team, every one of them is nicer than I am. If you want to talk about any old and rare bottles most of which they have not tasted, please feel free to shoot me a note directly: jack@freerangebrooklyn.com

Usual open hours, we’ve got a website, call with any questions (718.643.2250), blah, blah, blah: www.FreeRangeBrooklyn.com

Holy cr@p, you made it to the sale! Go team. Click here to access a coupon code for 15% off each of the following notable recent arrivals. A beautifully understated CA Syrah, one of my two favorite Pinot Blanc in existence (under $85), an Alsatian Pinot Noir that drinks like a red Burgundy 3 times the price, a wonderfully old school red Burgundy from the rarest of earth, and the last single vineyard Cab from one the most classic Napa estates that we can get on the shelf under $100 (in that order below):

retail:
Joyce Syrah Tondre Grapefield 2018           $34
Kelley Fox Pinot Blanc Freedom Hill 2019    $37
Bechtold Alsace Pinot Noir “S” 2017            $39
Domaine Forey Vosne-Romanée 2017         $79
Heitz Cab Trailside Vineyard 2013                $99

***This week only, as supplies last, no further discounts apply.***

Take care of each other.

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

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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Return of the Flash Sale Sites (part 3)

July 28, 2015 2 comments

It has been forever and a day since we began (and abruptly discontinued) our coverage of the wave of flash sale wine sites that have come into the national marketplace. In that time, there have been some interesting new players to the game, and a bunch of half-assed pretenders as well. But this is America, and any business concept that gains any media traction at all- even if few players are actually profiting- finds a slew of posers and thieves peddling close facsimiles of the most visible early-to-market examples. But the realities of the intersection of wine buying (and collecting) and the flash sale model caught up quickly, and it is no longer a growing landscape. Besides those with massive personal cellars or substantial off-site professional storage, most early flash sale wine enthusiasts learned to curb their impulse buying out of spatial necessity, and the race to replace them with new users is a costly one.Cinderella Wine 7-2015

At this point the growth of flash sale sites has been replaced by email lists which build slower but yield a more consistent audience. But in fairness, the email based offer was the original version of the medium, led by the much lauded Garagiste, with whom I have a long time bone to pick, but that’s a story for another time.

Of the flash sale sites I used to frequent before I had my own retail operation (and access to wholesale pricing) some have undergone unnecessary redesigns, largely for the worse, like the otherwise excellent WineAccess from which I still occasionally purchase west coast wines- for personal consumption- not available in the NY market. My only frustration there involves the ownership of WineAccess and one of our wholesale distributors- here in New York- being the same, but few else will suffer under this conflict of interests, so I’ll spare you my bitching. Before I go a bit more in depth on a couple of standouts in the market, here is a list flash sale sites with which I’ve  had multiple positive experiences (and no significantly negative ones):

WineAccess.com – I don’t entirely understand the recent redesign, or why after many years of successful digital service, the site seems to be in beta, but I have been purchasing excellent west coast wine at lowest available prices for many years. So, I have to give them credit where it is due. While I’ve rarely, if ever, purchased European wine through them, WineAccess continues to source some of the finest, best priced, old vine wines CA has ever had to offer. Over the years, they’ve introduced me to a few of my favorites, and one can get a fairly good free education on the history of American viticulutre, and the nature of the industry, from vineyard to consumer. It’s worth getting on their e-mail list, just for the regular info on CA’s oldest vines. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

Vitis.com – Vitis is the flash sale extension arm of a brick and mortar shop in New York (not The City). They’ve got a couple of fancy MWs making their selections and offer reviews, technical specs, aging potential, cheese pairings, and a suggested recipe for each and every bottle; with a slightly weighted specialty in the Italian direction. It’s a visually attractive site with solid info and little clutter. Every deal I’ve bothered to corroborate has been the best available price in the country. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

WTSO.com – WinesTillSoldOut is the original version of the Vitis model and they move more units, but their content is far less compelling, and visually, it’s as boxy and unappealing as an ’86 Volvo. While they seem have to long since settled into a groove, where long time users have noticed that they seem to run many of the same labels vintage after vintage, their marathon sales can yield some decent scores, if you have all day to continuously refresh and pull the trigger at just the right moment, avoiding the Whammies. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

CinderellawWine.com – CinerellaWine is an extension of WineLibrary in NJ, and whatever you buy from Cinderella gets dumped directly into a shopping cart of said long time margin squeezing retailer. Both operations were grown by the infuriatingly ra-ra Jets fan that is Gary Vaynerchuk, but he’s since run off to be some kind of a motivational speaker and half-assed author that really gets the juices flowing of state school communications majors in fly-over regions across the county. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

Look for the next installment(s), when we’ll go to the mat for the two most interesting players in the flash sale wine market today. Until then, keep on keepin’ on

WineAccess Three offer 12-14

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.

Another Tasting Night at Apiary – What day is this… man?

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m insanely behind on my posting; more so than I’ve been since I began doing such things. But helping a guy open a restaurant will do that, and I’m quite proud of what we put together, in a very short period of time. While I still have piles of CA content to get to, here are some tasting notes that should have been posted quite some time ago

A testament to OR fruit, traditional winemaking, and proper cellaring.

[It was] another Monday night at the bar at Apiary and the place is buzzing; not bad for August [yeah, that’s how far behind on tasting notes I am!]. By request, I’ve brought nothing but whites: one long shot, a probable, and a couple of sure things. First, the long shot: Van Duzer Oregon Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise 1991. I bought this wine for basically nothing at all, from an unverified source, assuming– like the seller- that this wine was likely well beyond its pleasurable drinking window. That being said, 1991 has proven to be one of the longest lived vintages ever for most OR wines that have been around that long, and Van Duzer bottles some high art, on their best days. * And I know I’ve said it 1,000 times before, but it bears repeating that Chef Scott Bryan of Apiary (formerly of Veritas) puts out- every night- some of the best, wine friendliest, food that has ever existed on this vile rock they call Manhattan.

.
The foil off, and the cork still has some pressure behind it, the CO2 persists, and the initial pour shows a respectable head for a 21 year old American bubbly. It’s pale gold, or brilliant straw, bubblier than expected, and it’s rather captivating immediately. The nose is deeply yeasty, but subtly, not pungent. The palate shows bright integrated Meyer lemon zest over a broadly bready body, with a slightly creamy texture in the mid-palate, and faint mingling notes of raw honey and honeysuckle…. Van Duzer Oregon Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise 1991 is unquestionably one of the most pleasant palate surprises of the year, to date. At the price that was offered, I should have grabbed the 2 cases that were available…

Can’t believe I didn’t make note of the appetizer in the foreground…

While unanimously declared a tough act to follow, the hesitating beauty to my right, Roy (Apiary’s Wine Guru), and I moved on to the Vincent Girardin Chassagne Montrachet Le Cailleret 1999. I can’t overstate how universally fantastic and underrated world wine is from 1999. It’s a solid- if not classic- vintage in many major wine regions from the Rogue Valley to Ribera del Duero, and represents many of the last “bargains” from overpriced earth, like that of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Not sure why this guy is staring at me…

In the glass the the Girardin Chassagne Montrachet Le Cailleret ’99 is as much caramel as gold, though the pictured softness is condensation on the glass, not the telltale cloud of oxidation. The nose is ripe with a damp earthy funk over a building tide of increasingly prevalent salt air. The palate is soft and integrated, with a citrus spike, punctuated by a flutter of honeybell rind, dancing about a tight mineral core. I would love to blind taste this one on a roomful of Burgundy snobs who scoff at such negociant wines.

It would be dishonest of me to give full tasting notes on this Guigal St Joseph Lieu Dit 2007 as I can’t locate my notes on the matter. But I do have a small list of bullets from Roy: “apple, papaya, lychee, white river stones, limestone, calcium- medium long finish, med+ weight.” The wine was quite beautiful and deserves a more considered review, but the above list represents the only primary resource I have from that evening.

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.

Unmasked and Anonymous: Castagnier Vougeot 1999 and Marry Me Jane

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Digging into the depths of the 144-bottle wine fridge in the corner of my kitchen, I discover a slightly tattered bottle of Castagnier Clos Vougeot 1999. As small as the total grape-growing real estate is in Burgundy, there are so many subdivided plots (mostly through lineage succession) that many tiny producers bottle very nice wine, almost completely unnoticed by the outside world. I’ll often take a chance on unknown Burgundy at an attractive price. In a nice vintage, such as 1999, not too many bad grapes were grown in Vougeot, in Echezeaux, in Bonne Mares. And with yields so tiny, very little fruit falls into inept hands.

I’m having a deep mid-90s (pop)rock chick moment as I am listening to the debut self-titled album by Marry Me Jane (1996). The opening forlorn electric guitar of “Twentyone” reminds me that this album was appropriated quite extensively- to great effect- in the little known (but great, for a RomCom) Eric Schaeffer film, If Lucy Fell. Elle MacPherson is surprisingly good (and unreasonably attractive), Sarah Jessica Parker is her old pre Jimmy Choo charming, and Ben Stiller’s small but unrelentingly absurd character roll is worth the price of admission. But back to Marry Me Jane which was a 2-record band, largely a vehicle for the songs of Amanda Kravat, who according to IMDB logged a fistful of composing, acting, and soundtrack credits between ’96 and ’01, before disappearing into the ether.

The Castagnier Clos Vougeot 1999 does not disappoint, at its price, and Vougeot has gotten disproportionately pricey, even amongst Burgundy. The color and palate are both bright, but deep (red) cherry. There’s an earthiness on nose and palate, but without any of that typical Burgundy funk. The ’99 Castagnier Vougeot is medium bodied, if a touch unchallenging, but sweet with cherry with wisps of fresh mint and a palate smackingly dry finish. The alcohol is a little more prevalent than was expected, but the acid and the fruit hold it all together. In a blind tasting, one might mistake this Vougeot for a Griotte Chambertin, twice its age.

Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin en Motrot 1997 and Jackson Browne’s “These Days”

August 15, 2011 2 comments

I had only recently stumbled upon and found significant fascination in the Burgundy of Denis Mortet when I heard the news that he had taken his own life, early in 2006. It was his ’96-’98 Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux St. Jacques which first struck my palate’s interest. I had ordered but not yet received a parcel of his Gevrey Chambertin from the mid ‘90s and upon the news, I snapped up what else I could. To experience the wine of a deceased master is a glorious indulgence, finite and fleeting. It’s both a celebration of life and an acknowledgement of loss and of mortality, and I afford great respect to bottles from winemakers like Denis Mortet, David Lett (The Eyrie Vineyards), and Alois Kracher.

All that Nico, John Cale, Lou Reed, and Velvets en masse, that has been injected into my now through the grace of David Byrne Radio, got me seeking out other semi-related cool tracks. After pulling up Nico’s cover of These Days,” which was so artfully appropriated by Wes Anderson for the soundtrack of The Royal Tenenbaums, I found other thoughtful renditions of the same. While I knew that tune was originally by Jackson Browne, I didn’t know that he wrote it when he was 16, until he told me. Then YouTube informed me that Elliott Smith (2nd Tenenbaums soundtrack connection) also covered that track live, which thankfully some nerd posted, and I also came across a pretty and breathy version by St. Vincent. But as YouTube giveth, YouTube also taketh away. Apparently, the Foo Fighters, Bon Jovi, Nate Dogg, Alien Ant Farm, and Rascal Flatts have all recorded “songs” with the same title as (but otherwise unrelated to) the Jackson Browne classic, each one more soul crushingly worthless than the last.

The Denis Mortet Gevrey Chambertin en Motrot 1997 is bright, though softening, translucent ruby in the glass, and there’s just a touch of sedimentary cloud to the color, but no signs of oxidation. The first waft is of an earthy, flirting with swampy, funk, though the latter begins to wane with air. The palate is of dry raspberry, subtle tart cherry, leather and ancient cigar tobacco. This is a refined medium-bodied pinot and there is a greater overall presence and depth here than has been found in other recent lithe ’97 Burgundies. As the swamp dries up, damp fall leaves remain, and an encompassing, but not overwhelming dryness approaches the palate. And the last glass is raised to the memory and fruits of a tormented master.