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No means yes… in wine shopping.

September 16, 2020 Leave a comment

 

Hey Free Rangers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

[imagine seamless segue about here]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

50 Cent + 49 pennies…

September 13, 2020 Leave a comment

 

99¢. It’s the original deception in American marketing. Retail’s original sin. It’s the little white lie at the slipperiest pinnacle of the main slope of modern commerce. Perhaps deception is too deliberate a word, maybe it’s more accurate to call it low level trickery, but that doesn’t roll of the tongue as readily. That a majority of all retail products in this country end in .99 has always bothered me. It’s true that there is stalwart psychological principle behind it, and anecdotally, the first six months our little shop was open, I didn’t think that anyone would every spend over $19 on a bottle of wine. But one of the first things I decided we would do differently than most other shops is to have all of our products priced in whole dollars. I’d rather charge 99¢ less for every product (or occasionally round up), rather than insulting and lying to every customer for a buck (literally). It’s far from a revolutionary idea, it just seems more honest this way. If I’m going to be selling legal poison (beautiful as they may be), I feel like we should be straight about every aspect of it. So much of our daily discourse rests on a foundation of fundamental deception, and I’d rather not throw barrel proof bourbon on that particular dumpster fire. It’s a waste of good bourbon. Trust a $1 Store. The 99¢ Store has something to hide.

Everybody seems to be churning out their fall themed marketing already. How many e-mails can I be expected to read about the end of summer, while it remains 85 degrees outside, and our cooling bill is still approaching 4 figures this month? And now, the weather report: you’ve got a window? Open it.

As most of you know, the way we are often able to offer our deeper discounts is by taking advantage of high quantity pricing. Sometimes we get such a good value that even what we consider full mark-up puts our retail price below what the producer considers minimum public pricing for the bottle in question, and many smaller producers (and their distributors) actively police this (which we respect). Last week, we were asked to raise our online price for Rivetto Barolo Serralunga 2016, one of the best deals in Barolo (where the nebbiolo is wonderful, but can get quite expensive), from a superior vintage. Not only are Rivetto’s wines dry and delicious, and quite a bit less expensive than comparable labels, but they are certified biodynamic, in a region not always synonymous with clean practices. $59.99 is the lowest retail price allowed, but we don’t do 99¢, so we raised our online retail price from $55 to $59, making our (slightly higher) price still the very best advertised price on this vintage of this wine in the country. But since a private e-mail blast isn’t a publicly published offer, we can do pretty much whatever we want, so who wants a lovely bottle of $59(.99) Barolo for $49 per bottle?! If you’d like to go for a very reduced price mixed 6-pack of 3 bottles each Rivetto Barolo ’16 and Rivetto Langhe Nebbiolo ’17, I’ll throw in a FREE bonus bottle from my personal collection (which could be literally anything)!

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

Rivetto Barolo Serralunga ’16
sale: $49            retail: $59

Mixed 6-pack: (3 x Rivetto Barolo ‘16, 3 x Rivetto Langhe Nebbiolo ’17) + FREE BOTTLE from my personal collection (+ free wine tote)!
sale: $199                        retail: $246

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

Cheers,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

When I fight authority… well, you know.

August 5, 2020 Leave a comment

 

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

More of the same, Free Rangers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep on keepin’ on,

Jack
Proprietor
Free Range Wine & Spirits

Re-Opening Chaos and an OR Pinot Sale…

June 30, 2020 Leave a comment

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

 

View this email in your browser
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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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

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

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

March 15, 2013 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 11, 2013 Leave a comment

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

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

Here’s one:

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

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

Cheers!

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.

Happy New Year!

January 1, 2013 2 comments
Happy New Year! Enjoying Andrew Will Sorella '98 and Quliceda Creek Merlot '93 during the fireworks in PB, FL!

Happy New Year! Enjoying Andrew Will Sorella ’98 and Quliceda Creek Merlot ’93 during the fireworks in PB, FL!