Friday, January 28, 2011
OMG! A wonderful restaurant in town (on NW 21st, which narrows it down some for you) sells this very good wine for $54.
I sell it for just $17, only 31% of their ridiculous price!
They have a corkage fee of $15. So find some similar wine and take it in, and pay $15 for them to open it (realize that at $15 for about :30 seconds of uncorking work, you just paid your restaurant at a rate of $1800 an hour for the corkage service--not bad work if you can get it ;).
Why do I say "find a similar wine?"
Some restaurants don't let you bring in a wine if it's on their wine list. This leads us to a tip of major importance: Always take in two different bottles, and make sure at least one of them is an older bottle. This is because most restaurants cycle through their wines so quickly that a bottle never has a chance to get old enough to be properly drinkable, before it's all ordered by patrons and gone. 96% of all restaurants serve only wines that are babies. Unless you like committing infanticide, that is an excellent additional reason to take in your own older bottles.
Why not have a wine with dinner that is actually ready to drink?
And save a fortune, too.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
I sold a few older odds and ends recently, and the buyer didn't want this one. It hit the tail end of its plateau in 2005, though the downward slope of a Bordeaux's tail end on its maturity curve is quite flat (assuming good storage conditions), so I wasn't too concerned about that. But, "You should drink it," said the buyer, so I did. This cost all of $19 in 1989, and is worth maybe $98 today.
The "Leoville Trio" are Second Growths in St. Julien, in the Haut Medoc, in Bordeaux. All share a common history, having been broken apart only in the past few centuries. Leoville Las Cases is one of the "Super Seconds," for its sustained very-high quality. Probably Leoville Barton is generally considered next best, on average. That leaves poor Leoville Poyferre as the last of the three.
Spectator scored this 88 (and Parker 92) at one point, but the last Spectator review gave it an 86, calling it "lean and firm, with ample tannins for aging and complex cedar, currant and spicy flavors. Lacking the depth and concentration needed for greatness."
Sadly, every step of the process got a little worse. The cork was the best, and the palate the worst. Yet, it is a pretty good wine and was just fine with beef.
The cork: Awesome; seriously the best part of this wine. Rich tobacco notes, with a toastiness and plum hints. Delightful!
Bouquet: Vibrant bright red fruit. Some spices. But the nose was fleeting, perhaps due to the age. The wine did NOT open up in the glass--in fact, it departed, which is a strong indication that it's time to drink it. Still, that fruit was very young; it's great to know that at 26 years a barely-above-average Bordeaux can still seem so young and alive.
Color: A very good reddish-purple. Not the slightest edge-browning.
Palate: Good, not great. Not as rich as I'd like; bordering on whispers of rumors of being too thin. Fresh red fruits, but one-dimensional. Short finish. Really needs some more jamminess. Smooth.
Please convince me if I'm wrong, but I continue to believe that properly-aged Bordeaux is among the best wine in the world. Any young person who will grow up to appreciate it should be buying it as practicable and should be properly storing it, for some future date. If you guess right, you could resell some at a profit; if not, at least you can drink it with friends.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Yesterday we had 30 friends/customers over to sample the following lineup of fine old wines:
2001 J. Strub Riesling Kabinett (great year; glorious at 10 years)
2000 Ken Wright Wahl Vineyard (really impressive)
2003 Beaux Freres Pinot noir (first-rate)
2009 homemade Marechal Foch (happy to say it is the best Foch I have ever tasted)
1996 Chateau Meyney (awfully good for a less-expensive Bordeaux)
1996 St. Francis Zin (way past its prime; a good data point for life of zins)
1999 Silver Oak Alexander Valley (super, but oddly short finish)
1995 Lokoya Diamond Mountain (one of the crowd faves-incredible richness of perfume)
1992 Chateau Montelena (good, but often the Monties seem to slightly underperform)
1992 Dominus (another favorite; complex, lush, harmonious)
1995 Opus One (my first ever! very good but not worth the $200 PV)
1986 Chateau Cos d'Estournel (should've been the grand finish but disappointed severely; OK in the mouth--not grand--but the nose was way off)
And two stickies:
1989 Chateau Rieussec (ah! fields of honeyed flowers; stupendous)
1983 D'Oliveira Boal Harvest Madeira (not my cup of tea, but interesting)
The winelist was probably worth about $1500 (present value). It's great to bring together a group like this, where our collective purchasing power enabled this tasting for $30 per person. I was just trying to not lose too much on the event: I came close to covering my initial purchase cost on the wines, and six of the above bottles were very kindly brought by others, and we had a fabulous spread of food: organic (no preservative) Canadian bacon, and Harvarti cheese and red pepper tapenade on toasted baguette slices; mango-chicken sausage; blue cheese alongside dates; four kinds of chocolate (which goes great with dry red wine; try it!); relish platter; organic French bread, cut up; pate and cornichons; jam bars with apricot preserves; and yes even those peanut butter-filled pretzels.
A good time was had by all.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Many Bordeaux wines do not contain all of these grapes, but most of them are blends of at least some of these (and a very few may be limited to just one of these varieties):
Cabernet sauvignon ("cab-air-nay so-veen-yawn"): Has a profile of black currants, black cherry, plums, spices, vanilla. A purple wine. An ideal variety for aging. But it needs blends, for softness and complexity. I have learned to be leery of many 100% cabs. Medium-to-full bodied. Late-ripening; it needs pretty extreme heat units. The palates of the people of the world have decreed that this is the King of Grapes. I actually do not agree. But you cannot dispute its importance.
Cabernet franc (pictured): A parent (along with Sauvignon blanc) of Cabernet sauvignon. Profile: pepper, tobacco, plum, and sometimes violets on the nose, and plum, raspberry, currant on the palate. Lighter body; fruitier and more herbal than Cab sauv. It makes a bright red wine. Cheval Blanc, a famous St. Emilion chateau, is primarily Cab franc.
Merlot: Named for the Old French word for "blackbird" (for the grape's black color and the love those birds have for this grape). Medium-bodied; softer. A great "entry grape" for those learning about red wine. Profile: Berry, plum, currant, black cherry. A sibling of Cab sauv. Chateau Petrus (the worlds most expensive wine, after DRC?) is 90% Merlot. Don't believe what you see in movies; this is a GREAT grape.
Petit verdot ("puh-tee vair-doh"): Ripens very late; is no longer very successful in Bordeaux. Adds tannin, color, and leather notes. Bouquet is dark fruits, violets, and leather. Palate has vanilla, smoke, spice, cedar, molasses, and dense, dark fruits. It is obscure, having as parents Tressot and Duras. Is growing well in Washington.
Malbec: Inky dark. Strong tannins. Medium-to-full body. Plums, blackberry, violets and tobacco. Very jammy, due to its rich fruit and unctuousness. Interesting: Try it with Mexican, Cajun, Indian, Italian, and barbecue! Not much grown in Bordeaux, but has become the signature grape of Argentina and is enjoying a rapid (well-deserved) rise in popularity.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Kramer had a strong local following. He was at times overly supportive of European wines, particularly French ones, for which he drew some heat. But he also supported many good local wines. He will be missed.
In the "where's the justice" category: Why does a guy like Kramer lose his job, whereas that know-nothing at Salon keeps his wine critic gig?