Saturday, March 7, 2009

A truly divine wine!

“David Grega is a certified sommelier and wine consultant living in the Napa valley. In addition to consulting and wine writing David made wine for his own label “Bellum Cellars” in 2008. E-mail for more information."

Winery: Domain du Pegau, Cuvee da Capo

Vintage: 2003

Appellation: Chateauneuf du Pape, Cuvee da Capo

Varietal: Grenache, Syrah predominate

Average Price: $600 (may be considerably more at auction)

Tasting Notes: A powerful yet precisely balanced wine, dense layers of ripe cherry Asian plumb and black raspberry are nearly overshadowed by copious amounts of herbs de Provence, sweet basil and roasted meats. The palate has everything I could ever ask for in a wine. Amazing structure, absolutely complex flavors of black cherry, rhubarb and ripe strawberry mixed with a classic hint of pepper. The long finish caps off one of the greatest wines I have tasted this year. If you ever have the chance to taste this masterpiece, savor the moment!

Rating: (on a 1-5 scale) 4.5

Friday, March 6, 2009

Le Tour De France Des Vins

“Wilfried Sentex is born in Bordeaux, France and for sure his passion for wine comes from his home country. At present he is working in New York, at Bar Boulud, Daniel Boulud Wine bar. For more information you can reach him at"

Here we are back again in the Bordeaux area. Last time we talked about the “Left bank”, let's talk today about the “Right bank”. Also call the "Libournais", beacause Libourne is the major city situated in the middle of the right bank. The soils are composed of limestone, clay and sand. One of the particularities of this area is the landscape, which is very diversified, you will find some plateau and terraces, slopes and valleys, and can have the effect on the quality of the wine. The climate, like in the left bank has the influence from the ocean, with good hours of sunshine and a good humidity that helps to regulate the temperature.

The grapes in this area are quite similar to the “Left bank”, but Merlot is the most used one, with the help of the Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (the latter is used in small quantities). Merlot will make a round wine, complex, fruity and voluptuous. As the palate, you will discover a large variety of red fruits (strawberry, raspberry) and black fruits. The wine could be jammy too depending on the vintage. Also some spices, flowers (violet, rose) and some prune and leather could appear during the ageing. Blending with Cabernet Franc is important for the ageing and to bring some fine tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon will balance the wine and make it round and calm down the tannin power of the young wines.

The “Right bank” is composed of 3 majors families of appellations: Saint Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac, including 10 AOC (Appellation D'origine Controlee): Saint Emilion, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, Lussac Saint Emilion, Montagne Saint Emilion, Puisseguin Saint Emilion, Saint Georges Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Lalandes de Pomerol, Fronsac and Canon Fronsac. This area represents only 10% of the Bordeaux .

Those 3 families of appellations are not included in the classification of 1855, which included only the Grave and the Medoc. In 1954 the "Syndicat Viticole" decided to do a classification of the Saint Emilion, that was supposed to be updated every 10 years, but in fact it was updated only in 1969, 1985, 1996 and 2006. The 2006 St-Emilion classification has been suspended, because of the complaints of several Chateaus who have been demoted. In the end it was devided and to go back with the 1996's one. So now, in Saint Emilion there are 3 categories of classifications, Premier Grand Cru Classe A (Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc) Premier Grand Cru Classe B (11 of them) and the Grand Cru Classe (55 of them). But for the moment there is no classification for the Fronsac or the Pomerol wines.

The next step of this Tour de France des Vins will be the white wines of Bordeaux. Huumm can't wait for it...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A tough Harvest down under

After several years selling wine in England and Wales, Alex Bazeley decided to learn more about wine from the ground up, touring every major wine producing country in the Southern hemisphere. Visiting fairtrade projects in South Africa, learning about Biodynamics in Australia, and learning Spanish in Argentinian wine mecca, Mendoza. All this and both 2008 harvests, working in New Zealand in the first half of the year and helping out with the crush in Napa later in the year.
Alex recently
arrived back in London after 18 months on the road, read more about his epic journey at

The bush fires still raging through the south of Australia are the worst in the country's history, and some of the fiercest have been in the state of Victoria where winemakers are in the middle of their busiest season.

The Yarra valley is one of Australia’s finest wine regions, especially well known for it’s sparkling wines and Pinot Noir. I was there at the start of last summer before things had dried out too much, a good time to meet up with winemakers before things got too busy, and my heart goes out to those guys during these troubled times. Australia has been in a state of drought for several years now, so there is a constant risk of fires running out of control during the Summer months. So with the summer drawing to a close down under, and the grapes becoming ready for harvest, the surrounding bush is as dry as it gets year round.

There have been over 200 fatalities, making this the second worst natural disaster in Australia's history and more than 2,000 homes have been lost in the Victorian fires since the start of February. So as well as the loss of grapes, some winemakers have been under extra pressure during their most hectic period, fearing for the safety of their friends, family and homes.

The fires have damaged and destroyed vineyards and wineries in the region, with even the historic
Yering Station, Yarra's oldest winery, coming close to disaster. Narrowly escaping destruction, surrounded on all sides by fire, and the water tank empty the staff resorted to using buckets of water to keep the flames at bay. By the next morning it resembled an "Oasis in the middle of a charred landscape."

Another winery I visited last year was the relatively new ‘
Giant Steps
’ who source grapes from several vineyard sites around the valley
"Our single vineyards sustained some minor damage, but that did not stop us from picking some great fruit at Murrummong. Although we will have smaller crops, we are working quickly to bring in some terrific fruit. Sadly, some of our more northerly growers suffered severe damage and will not be picking. Their families are ok and our heartfelt support goes out to them."
Steve Flamsteed, Winemaker.

While only a handful of vineyards themselves have been scorched by the fires, the smoke blown over the ripe fruit clings to the grapes, making them, in some instances, so tainted with smoke that they were unsuitable for turning into wine.

The heatwave this summer will make it a difficult year for winemakers right across Southern Australia, so expect the 2009 vintage to produce some big bold wines which reflect the early ripening of the grapes. Until then though, I encourage you to go out and support the winemakers of Yarra by seeking out their wines in your local 'bottle-o' (that's wine store to you) and I have a couple of recommendations to encourage you further...

'Innocent Bystander' Pinot Noir 2007
(made at the Giant Steps Winery)

This is a lighter style, with a freshness making it very appealing, light berry fruit, raspberries and cranberries, finishing with a mineral earthiness. It also offers great value (around US$20) A nice unfussy Pinot that would be well suited to a picnic.

Yarrabank Cuvée 2003
(made at Yering Station)

A real classic fresh Champenoise style with dry toast and a zing of lemon citrus, perhaps a little rounder on the finish than most champagnes, but if I tasted it again blind, I doubt I’d be able to tell it wasn’t from Champagne.

and I just nearly fell off my chair when I saw what it goes for - around US$20 - a bargain!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rhone is What I Got

Tom Gannon is the playwright in residence at Rothmann's Steakhouse in New York City. He is also the sommelier and serves as America's Host.

Last week I had a table of six collectors come in for dinner with some Rhone wines to burn. I have a deal with them (and some other groups) that I think is very advantageous for all. Waive the corkage fee, I decant and serve all the wines and taste as well. Usually difficult in the middle of service to taste, oversee the wine service in the rest of the dining room and still take some notes but it was only six wines, so I had time to go back to my glasses resting on top of the notebook near the kitchen as needed. This was the group that brought a vertical of Screaming Eagle one night a couple of years ago and a Dal Forno dinner last year so when I get the phone call for a reservation my curiosity is piqued, knowing the theme will change every time.

So to begin, Chateau de Beaucastel Blanc Vielles Vignes 2003. From 75 year old vines they made 500 cases of this 100% Roussanne. Honey, sweet almond, marzipan, candied walnut, candied orange peel, acacia flowers and star anise on nose. On the palate it is rich and luscious, surprisingly balanced- the finish was a bit shorter than I expected, but I think that may be chalked up to the 2003 vintage being so screamingly hot. I love aged white Chateauneuf-du-Pape but I don't think this one is in for the long haul. Open a bottle for me in five years and prove me wrong.

Next up Vidal-Fleury Cote-Rotie 1978. From a legendary vintage in the northern Rhone, This wine had smoke, meat, earthy black and white pepper and fig on the nose. It was soft on the palate with a dried herbal edge. Not a long finish but showed very well. I would like to know how much Viognier was in the blend...

Then another northern Rhone star, Jean-Louis Chave Hermitage 1989. Anyone who read my homage to the 1998 may have an idea I might got a few things to say about this wine. Blackberry, sage, smoked meat, blueberry reduction, bacon fat, black pepper, absolutely stunning on the nose. Still tannic on the tongue, long mineral finish with tingling herbs, smoke and meat. Would love at some point soon to taste the legendary trio of '88, '89, '90 side by side by side.

And now back down south to CNP. I had decanted the magnum of Chateau de Beaucastel 1995 as soon as the table sat down. Beaucastel uses a higher percentage of Mouvedre than is typically found in other CNP houses. They also use all thirteen CNP varietals in the final blend- a nod to tradition also utilized by Chateau La Nerthe (they also use a higher percentage of Mouvedre than the norm). It was served an hour after decanting. Based on how it showed if you do have this laying around in magnum, I would have patience for 6-10 years. Not to say we didn't enjoy it...Gunpowder earthiness, black pepper, herbs de Provence, spearmint on the nose and added rich sen sen, black cherry liqueur, melted licorice, lavender, minerality and surprisingly soft tannins on the finish. Still, I would wait just a few more years even in 750ml format.

But we had the good fortune of having the Chateau de Beaucastel 1986 as well for reference. This apparently is a bit of a controversial wine that many feel is past it's peak- some feel it never was a great vintage for Beaucastel. This bottle showed very well with dried cherry, tar, white pepper and a soft dried herbal edge. Gamey sweet leather, strawberry, funky wet tobacco and clove and a long soft earthy finish. Over all 1995 is the greater vintage and a better expression of Beaucastel's style but I was glad to see the 86 stand up for itself. Some at the table felt it was the wine of the night. I would disagree, but good form 86 good form sir.

So to finish up with a little sweet sweet. It ain't the stickiest of the icky and considering the label looked like it had been hit by a blowtorch and an illegible cork crumbling as I opened it I had my doubts...still the Chateau Filhot Sauternes 1975 had orange marmalade, cinnamon toast, bruised pear, honey butter, mango chutney and an India rubber edge. Pineapple and honey fruit in mouth, lighter than I would have thought, not as long of a finish as you would hope, but given the condition of the bottle the fact that it had structure at all was a nice surprise. Wouldn't spend time tracking it down.

Blind tasting group tomorrow in the AM. Taste early taste often. Duty calls.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Other Half

“David Grega is a certified sommelier and wine consultant living in the Napa valley. In addition to consulting and wine writing David made wine for his own label “Bellum Cellars” in 2008. E-mail for more information."

Searching the archives of my life is a process riddled with highs and lows, epiphanys and moments of pure confusion. I often spend time reflecting on the path I've chosen to walk. Recently I found myself pondering my past experiences with wine. Quickly I began to see a connection between events, a tie that binds nearly all memorable moments of wine enjoyment in my life. The people who surround the enjoyment of wine are inherently equal in value to the physical process of drinking wine. The times I recall as most memorable all included people, and to be more specific, people I particularly cared about. A beautiful sunset is much more special if someone is there to share the experience with you. One is not more important than the other but none are more fulfilling on their own. Wine shares this very same effect. Binding people and place together, wine is a sort of social glue. Evident even thousands of years ago, the true soul of wine is found in the family model. Taste all you want, bury your nose deep into the finest reidel crystal, no matter how hard you may try, there is no enchanting aroma or flavor that can not be improved by the presence of people you hold dear to your heart. Therefore, the true key to the greatest enjoyment of wine is found in those special moments we share with each other. It has taken me years to admit this to myself, but I have to say that I would rather consume a table wine with someone special than the finest cuvee by myself. Take some time to re-evaluate your consumption of wine. Ask yourself "How can I involve more people in my enjoyment of wine?" Making a conscious effort to do so will be one of the most powerful choices you can make as a wine lover. Sadly there are still those who have convinced themselves that the full experience of a wine is found in the swirl, sniff, and sip. The other half is a gift we can all give to those who have yet to discover the true value in a single glass shared with others. "The Pursuit" is a phrase I use often to describe the process of seeking out joy and happiness in our lives. Wine and food are a crucial part of the "Pursuit of happiness" it is people that form the backbone of that pursuit. Without the other half our search is in vein, with it, we are already half way there!

Zagreb Wine Gourmet Festival 2009- a taste of Croatia

On February 27th and 28th entaste was a guest at Zagreb Wine Gourmet Festival 2009, appropriately held at the Museum of Arts and Crafts (MUO) in Zagreb. The event has gathered 140 top-class wine makers from Croatia, and surrounding region. There were about 500 great wines to taste plus carefully chosen complementary gourmet foods such as fine olive oils, Istrian truffles, honey, oysters, cured hams and other delicacies.
Although Croatia is a country that can easily inspire overindulgences with all the local delicacies and some of the finest wines produced from both international and indigenous grapes, this kind of events are still quite rare for Zagreb. I sometimes feel that the locals don’t fully appreciate the quality of their surroundings, perhaps grown accustomed to all the richness offered so freely. Croatia is a place where people have been taking their time over drinks for centuries and all the important business meetings were held over a hefty meal and a bottle of homemade liquor, leaving wine somehow neglected. There are few wine bars, and outdoor cafes tend to serve a weak selection of wines. Perhaps because of this the festival, even though well frequented, did not attract the crowds it surely deserved.
In any case, it was a must visit for any foodie and wine lover, epicurean Shangri La... I got lost already the first day, seeing all the famous Croatian wine producers, as well as some important Italian and Austrian names, but also all the new young winemakers whose wines I hastily wanted to taste. Even though I had two days, it was hardly enough to try all the wines I wanted, so I decided to focus on Croatian wines (with some exceptions such as Masi Riserva di Costasera that I simply could not resist…). Although I am Croatian, I have been living abroad for certain number of years, and have not had a chance to familiarise myself that much with the local wine industry. This event helped to satisfy my curiosity on where the Croatian wine industry stands at the moment.
The fact that I am not a professional wine taster and do not have a trained palate can hinder giving very detailed overview, however although not trained, my palate is very refined and inconsiderately follows Wilde’s advice to be satisfied only with the best. That is probably one of the reasons why I am every restaurant’s ‘favorite’ client but also why it is hard to win me over with food and even more wine. And some Croatian wines certainly managed to do that… As well as certain Croatian winemakers with their passion, dedication to winemaking and some very innovative techniques, even organic/biodynamic production, which is so popular these days.
I have tasted some divine Istrian Malvasia (one of the most popular white grape varietals, semi-aromatic with a large flower-fruit aroma potential) that was already one of my local favorite grapes. On the other hand, Grasevina (known as "Welschriesling" in Austria and Germany and one of the most planted grapes in Croatia), which in my mind before had quite bad connotations, suddenly turned to a very pleasant surprise. When it comes to red wines, Plavac Mali is probably the only varietal most people associate with Croatia, and don’t get me wrong, the wines can be amazing (and there were a few of them on the festival), but are very susceptible to flaw. Besides, they were familiar, and I wanted something new. I discovered some outstanding Teran (indigenous Istrian red grape), but as well interesting Pinot Noir (not very frequent in Croatia) and Shiraz. I think it would not be fair to mention specific names, as there were simply too many good ones, each of who deserves a special story.
So I left Zagreb Wine Gourmet Festival with my palate satisfied and still buzzing from all the different aromas, in a deep state of content having discovered all those wonderful new Croatian wines to treasure for the future delights but also recommend to all of my foreign friends coming to visit. When it comes to Croatian wines, bear in mind that the best place to sample them is Croatia itself. They are as wonderful and as diverse as the scenery in Croatia and I can assure you that the sights will follow you whenever you taste the wine again, as every mouthful evokes the territory where it has been made.
Congratulations to the organizers for great job and in a hope for many more of similar events and a more international audience.

Organic wine & food matching: Pierre Morey Meursault & coq au vin blanc

Randy Caparoso is an award winning wine professional and journalist, living in Denver, Colorado. For a free subscription to Randy's Organic Wine Match of the Day, visit the Denver Wine Examiner.

For Pierre Morey – the former (and legendary) winemaker of Domaine Leflaive, and proprietor of his own Domaine Pierre Morey in Burgundy, France – farming biodynamically (his vineyards Biodyvin certified since 1997) is a matter of stewardship: turning over vineyards from one generation to another at the peak of health and productivity.

Morey is particularly known for his white wines, with family holdings in Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet in Burgundy’s Côte de Beaune, the original home, and center of the universe, as far as any producer of Chardonnay is concerned. But if you are drawing the conclusion that these white wines espouse enormous body, power and concentration of Chardonnay character, let me gently say: it is in the expression of the terroir, rather than grape, that the wines of Domaine Morey excel. As eloquently portrayed in this film, entitled Generations In Harmony:

Domaine Pierre Morey: Generations in Harmony from Wilson Daniels on Vimeo.

You may pay, for instance, about $94 (suggested retail) for a bottle of 2006 Pierre Morey Meursault, but what you get is not a wham-bam wine stuffed with “gobs” of sweet Chardonnay sensations, but rather a wine of uncommonly delicate, refined balance and texture; everything according to a moderately weighted scale to express fresh, honeyed apples, notes of mineral, slivers of toasted nuts, and a transparent, silken backdrop of mildly charred oak draped over a foundation of polished, stony dryness.

In other words, a taste of Meursault, not Chardonnay.

Coq au Vin Blanc

Which also happens to whet my appetite for this twist of the classic Burgundian dish – usually made with a red wine, but which we make with a white – that we call coq au vin blanc:

8 pieces chicken thighs (mostly) and legs (or one 5 lb. chicken, cut in serving pieces)
24-30 pearl onions
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 oz. bacon strips or slab, squared or cubed
8 oz. button mushrooms, quartered
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 bottle (750 ml.) white wine (inexpensive Chardonnay will do)
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
2 medium carrots, quartered
3 cloves garlic, crushed
6-8 springs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock or broth

Cut off root end of each pearl onion and make an “x” with knife in its place. Bring 2-3 cups water to boil and drop in the onions for 1 minute. Remove onions from pot, allow to cool, and peel (onions should slide right out of skin). Set aside.

Blanch bacon briefly in boiling water; drain, and dice or cube. Fry to render fat; remove meat and set aside, and save fat for frying.

Sprinkle chicken pieces on all sides with salt and ground pepper. Place chicken pieces, a few at a time, into a large (1-2 gallon) sealable plastic bag along with flour; shake to coat chicken completely. Remove chicken from bag, and fry in bacon fat, just until crust is crisp. Set chicken pieces aside.

In same pan, add pearl onions to fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, sautéing until lightly brown (approximately 8-10 minutes). Remove onions from pan and set aside. Transfer chicken into a 7-8 quart enameled cast (like Le Creuset) or cast iron Dutch oven.

Add mushrooms to the same 12 inch sauté pan, adding 1 tbsp. butter if needed, and sauté until liquid is released (approximately 5 minutes). Store onions, mushrooms and bacon in airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pour off remaining fat and deglaze pan with approximately 1 cup of wine. Pour this into Dutch oven along with chicken stock, quartered onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaf. Add all of the remaining wine. Preheat oven to 325° F.

Place chicken in oven and cook for 2 to 2½ hours, or until chicken is tender. Maintain a very gentle simmer and stir occasionally.

Once chicken is done, remove it to a heatproof container, cover, and place in oven to keep warm. Strain the sauce in a sieve and degrease (discard carrots, celery, thyme, garlic and bay leaf). Return the sauce to a pot, place over medium heat, and reduce by 1/3 (depending on how much liquid you began with, this should take 20-45 minutes).

When sauce has thickened, add pearl onions, mushrooms and bacon, and cook another 15 minutes or until heated through. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary; remove from heat, add the chicken and serve. Serve from Dutch oven with either long grained white rice or lightly buttered egg noodles; and of course, with a classic white Burgundy such as Meursault.
Note: if sauce is not thick enough at the end of reducing, you may add a mixture of equal parts butter and flour kneaded together, starting with 1 tbsp. each. Whisk this in the sauce for 4-5 minutes, and repeat if necessary.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Chateau Cantemerle 2006

Winery: Chateau Cantemerle

Vintage: 2006

Appellation: Haut-Medoc

Varietal: 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc

Oak: 18 months new and old French oak

Average Price: $20.00

Tasting notes: This is a pretty dark Haut-Medoc. The nose shows hints of menthol and dark berries. Cantemerle did not used to be my favorite claret, but with this 2006 vintage the Chateau is becoming quite strong. Good length on the palate, good fruity structure, velvety tannins and excellent depth. Drink this wine now and over the next 12-15 years. This is a wine to party with!

Food Pairing Suggestions: I had a good experience with this combination: Culottes of veal with haricoverts, pearl onions, fried potatoes and sherry sauce. I wouldn't cry either for a course with Breast of duck, pommes anna, mushrooms, brussels sprouts and a good strong red wine sauce. Yummy!

Winery Notes: Cantemerle has improved quite a lot over the last few years. The Chateau has never been in the expensive end of clarets, but I think with the 2006 vintage they nailed an excellent value claret! An instant favorite of mine. Avoid the 2005 vintage from Cantemerle, it is a bit too expensive, the 2004 is also excellent, but with the price tag at $20 for 2006, why bother?