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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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Free Range Wine & Spirits
329 Alantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY  11201
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A Night of Old and Rare at French Louie

August 31, 2015 Leave a comment
There are worse ways to end an evening.

There are worse ways to end an evening.

Been so buried under the retail business, that I’ve been quite neglectful of these pages this month. But I was sitting at French Louie, after a long day/week/month, enjoying some lovely rare bottles that have been in my Coravin stash. I have had nothing but fun and success with my Coravin, since realizing how important it is to keep the cork wet (from the inside) at all times, when not actively extracting. I did, however, make a couple of cases worth of extremely fine vinegar figuring this out. Overall, the Coravin is unquestionably the best money I’ve spent on my greater wine enjoyment since buying my first VacuVin many many moons ago.

But back to French Louie; it’s late, and I’m sipping on a couple of pinot(s) and one of the finest Bordeaux style blends to pass my lips in recent memory. The Panther Creek Pinot Noir Shea Vineyard 1998 still has surprising weight, fruit, and acidity. It shows a lightly funky/earthy nose and then long dry berry fruit, and almost piercing acidity that extends through a long finish, though it wanes mercifully toward the end. This wine is barely starting to show any age visually, though the weight of the palate feels mature, and the acid leads me to believe that my last bottle of this one has another decade to live, at least.

Some corks say more than others.

Some corks say more than others.

The Nicolas Potel Volnay Taille Pieds 1999 is damned close to a masterpiece, though this one’s peak drinking window has years left in it. Deep, but subdued dark berry fruit gives way to dry forest floor, into a pool of ancient woodland herbs; somehow both lush and dry. For the darker/bigger side of Burgundy, it doesn’t get much better.

The star of the show, besides the unbelievably pillowy chicken liver paté, was the Andrew Will Sorella 1996. Tasting this blind, I might have mistaken it for a world class Napa Cab, twice its age; like the finest of blends of best-in-class ’86 and ’87 Napa Cab/Merlot/Franc. Blood of the Earth in the glass, deep purple tinged opaque garnet (admittedly, I’m a little colorblind), showing some clouding, but zero oxidation. Tart dry cherries, shot through with dried herbs, black tea, subtle earthen minerality, distant woodsmoke all tumbling into a tapering rabbit-hole finish for days. It’s still juicy, but dry and fully mature; though there may be secondary and tertiary flavors still in its future. This is a very serious wine, in the midst- perhaps the autumn- of its peak drinking years.

There was no impetus, no occasion of note, sometimes you’ve just got to treat yourself to some of the rarest bottles within your reach.

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

self Pisoni close

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 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.