What We Drank (November 26, 2013)

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Posted November 26, 2013 by Lenn Thompson in Features

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I thought about letting Michael Gorton have this WWD all to himself — you may be able to guess why from the picture and certainly will be able to below — but ultimately decided to just give him a lot more words than WWD is supposed to be. Again, you’ll see why in a moment.

As always, this is a sampling of what our editors and contributors are drinking:

Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor: Blue Bee Charred Ordinary Cider
I recently had the opportunity to taste a handful of Virginia-made ciders. All were well made and tasty, but one stood out as more-than-just-refreshing-and-appley — that’s this one. Earthy — think mushrooms and wet forest floor — and tart, it was not only unique, but mouth-wateringly delicious. After the tasting was over, I went back to it and quickly drained the 500ml bottle.

I often describe cider as “okay” “fine” or “tasty” — it rarely grabs my attention and forces me to pay attention. This one did. Now to find it in New York.

Evan Dawson, Managing Editor: Charles Joguet 2009 Chinon Cuvee de la Cure
Joguet is a fascinating study in variable winemaking. It can be among the finest cabernet franc in the world, or it can be, as our good friend Josh Hermsmeyer has put it, shit de merde. As in, choked with Brett beyond the point of recognition as wine.

This was a clean, pure, aromatically aggressive bottle that could make a cab franc fan out of a teetotaler. Any regular NYCR reader knows that Loire cab franc is a great value with the potential for magic. Joguet is a land mine, but in 2009, it’s clean, and it’s beautiful.

Jim Silver, Business Editor: Chateau Thiven 2011 Brouilly
A half bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier was a nice way to start a light dinner at Restaurant Pigalle in Manhattan, but the big surprise (besides unusually great food and service in the Theatre District) was this Beaujolais Cru Brouilly from the Chateau Thivin. I know the house has a good reputation and track record, but wow-wee, this 2011 was a stunner.

Impossibly pure and well defined flavors were in perfect balance with fine acid and subtle grippy-ness. Minerals, griotte-cherry, sweet sappiness, and richly floral aromas showed a text-book perfect gamay. It isn’t often that a wine makes you move suddenly very slowly – stopping to eyeball the glass and make fully sure you are not dreaming. This wine did that. And remarkably it got better and better with every sip. Imported by Kermit Lynch it shouldn’t be too hard to find, especially if you know your wine merchant well enough. Go now!

Michael Gorton, Long Island Correspondent: Chateau Montelena 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon
1973.  40 years ago.  Long Island Wine Country was born.  And so was I.  And apparently without them even knowing it at the time, so was Chateau Montelena.

For the better part of two years I searched around the Internet and among friends and industry folk. When I start my search for a birth-year wine, it was to Bordeaux, but after reading and discussing this with folks who know, they advised me to stay away as it was a lesser year. I then thought Burgundy, and yet again I was told to stay away. So then where was I to look?  California, Rioja, Mosel or elsewhere?

I quickly settled on California when it hit me like a ton of bricks, Judgment of Paris.  A 1973 chardonnay won and a 1974 cabernet sauvignon won, both from California. I signed up for a few auction websites and checked inventories of some of the good NYC wine shops. When my birthday was approaching in June of this year and I had not secured a wine yet, after a few failed bids that went above my budget, I quickly gave up on the California cabernet sauvignon purchase.  I quickly turned my attention to Rioja.

I was in the city for New York Drinks NY in and I recall seeing a 1973 Grand Reserva Rioja.  That was going to be my wine.  Three attempts to drive in and grab the bottle in June failed as something always seemed to get in the way. My birthday came and went and no birth wine was opened. That did not end the search. I still got email’s from the auction houses, but they were few and far in between. There were some lesser known vineyards that came across my in-box, but nothing that wet my whistle.

Then it appeared one day about two months ago. This bottle from 1973. Sonoma. Chateau Montelena. Cabernet Sauvignon. Price $165.  After consulting with my colleagues here on the Cork Report, I placed my bid. One week later I had won. Only one person bid. It was me. After Shipping and security, it totaled about $185.  I thought that was more than a fair price.

When we opened and decanted this wine on a recent Saturday, I was like a kid at Christmas. To hang out with other wine geeks and open something from history is impressive and man were we geeking out. Pouring gently into the decanter, light shining on to the neck of the bottle to make sure no sediment went in the decanter (not that that was a problem because there was hardly any and the sediment was quite tasty). The aromas were strong as I poured and when I stuck my nose in the glass, what I smelled was something that made me weak at the knees and a smile came across my face that went from ear to ear. Absolutely perfect. Not a flaw in the glass. It was pristine.

Virtually no browning on the edges in the glass. Cherry, cedar, leather, dried flowers and tobacco with a flint like minerality were showing on the nose. The palate brought more of the cherry notes along with some intermingling of leather, cedar, tobacco, pencil shavings, caramel and vanilla. The tannins were so integrated it glided along the tongue. The acidity was muted but prevalent keeping us reaching for another sip. A well-made wine that has held up for 40 years and still had time to go. The finish was perfectly balanced and carried for time. A touch of soy and caramel was left when the bottle was empty.

To think this was the very first Cabernet Sauvignon produced under James Barrett with fruit sourced from Sonoma Valley.  3000 cases were produced in 1973. While their 1973 Chardonnay may have won the Judgment of Paris, this cabernet sauvignon won the evening.  Checking in at under 13% abv it shows what good fruit in a good year in good hands in a good cellar can do.

Todd Trzaskos, North Country Correspondent: Fontbernard 2005 Montagne Saint Emillon
My cellar is still a mess due to reorganization and I’m pulling out bottles that I think need to be consumed before they’ve gone beyond interesting and have become salad dressing. I pulled this bottle to share while we were doing some bottling ourselves.

I’m no aficionado of Bordeaux. I wish I could afford to be one, but feel I’d need another mortgage to do so. However, when 2005 was hailed as another vintage of the century for the region, and it was expected that just about everyone could make good wine, I socked away a bunch of bottles from producers, via reliable importers, that were inexpensive but showed promise for evolution.

You don’t expect a wine to get stellar with age, only that it will change, and that there is something to be learned in observing the delta.

Those 2005 bets have generally paid off, and when I served this up blind, the crew thought it was a thumbs up. When I said it was a 2005 Bordeaux, they said “ooh, la, la”. That was the end of it, it was happily consumed and I’m left with these brief notes. Aromatics had a nice complexity with condensed plum and red fruit with licorice, some tar, and a savory soy sauce angle. Christmas spices, too. Not a super wine, but a good one. I did smack my lips. Starts quite light, almost like spring water, but then a red haze spreads and hangs mid palate. Wood and age show a little, but only enough to add character. It’s prime right now, based on previous tastings and may start passing.  I’m glad I invested the $11 (on sale). Another score for the budget basement, cellar saver project.

David Flaherty, Cider Correspondent: Shiner Bock
I gotta admit, despite most of my immediate family members now calling Houston home, I’ve yet to find some truly attention-grabbing breweries in Texas. But I gotta say, I’ve always dug drinking Shiner Bock when I’m there. And now, in the last year, Shiner has made it on to New York State shelves. And trying it separate from the muggy weather and the salty, charred BBQ, was a chance to see if the beer holds up on its own merits. It does. It’s just the right tone of malty pound-ability.

A bock combines the crisp, clean nature of a lager with a hefty helping of toasty, roasty malts.  Why the hell I decided to pour it in a Champagne glass, I have no idea. But it’s damn sexy. And we all deserve a little more sexy in our beer drinking.

Kevin Welch, Finger Lakes Correspondent: 2008 Coffee Pot Cellars Meritage
One of the great things I like about wine clubs that focus on an entire region or style rather than a single winery is the exposure to new wines one might normally not come across.  The Empire State Cellars Wine Club, curated by our very own Lenn Thompson, is a perfect example of this.

One of the very first shipments I received contained the 2008 Coffee Pot Cellars Meritage, a name at the time I had not even heard of.  The private label of Osprey’s Dominion winemaker Adam Suprenant, 2008 was the inaugural vintage.  Merlot dominance makes this a very approachable red blend while cabernet sauvignon adds some backbone and both cabernet franc and petit verdot balance out this wine.  This wine seemed as if it wanted to be open now with sweeping aromas and defined blueberries and blackberries but it also retained enough strength to survive a few more years.

Michael Chelus, Niagara/Lake Erie Corresopndent: Chateau Darmagnac 2009 Bordeaux Supérieur
I constantly search for great red Bordeaux wines at great prices. While it’s easy to find great French wines if price doesn’t matter, I’ve got a wife and four children, so price always matters. I certainly don’t mind paying for a good bottle of wine, but I need everyday values so that I can enjoy great wine more than just when I can afford to buy that great bottle of Château Lafite Rothschild.

I find that some of the best values in terms of price for red wines can be found in Bordeaux. While Bordeaux, like most other wine making regions, has its share of duds, I’ve found some great reds from Bordeaux at $15/bottle or less.

This wine certainly fits in this category. It showed a nice dark ruby color in the glass and had very good structure for a value priced wine ($8.99). There were abundant blackberry, leather and oak notes on the nose. Mossy earth and blackberry dominated on the palate with soft tannins. Even though the wine was less tannic than expected, it would still go nicely with a juicy steak or braised beef or lamb.

Tracy Weiss, Roving Correspondent: Burrow Hill Bottle Fermented Sparkling Dry Cider (Kingston Black)
Shocking. Tracy is drinking cider. Again? But this time it was in ENGLAND where Farmhouse Ciders aren’t a trend, they’re a way of life.

Burrow Hill is a famous place in Somerset where they have been pressing cider for the last 150 years. In the last twenty or so, they’ve been building on that tradition for a Cider Brandy, which didn’t exist much in the UK before then. We stayed old school and ordered a single varietal sparkling from the list at The Hinds Head in Bray. Never having a cider made solely from Kingston Black, I was unsure what to expect though I was confident it would be a better choice than our table neighbors who inexplicably ordered a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with their steaks. To each their own, but…yuck.

The cider was incredibly dry with heavy tannins (like sand paper on the tongue which wasn’t entirely a bad thing). A bitter sharpness you’d expect from the Kingston Black apple but there wasn’t much in the way of fruit. Not on the nose. Not in the mouth. Nowhere. I deemed it ‘the opposite of exciting’ until paired with Oxtail and Kidney Pie and then it came alive. The dish was the richest thing and so offal-tastic suddenly it was like Munckinland was in color and Burrow Hill’s Sparkling was farmhouse funky and had some sweetness and by apple, it’s apple!

We (I) finished the bottle fast.

Lindsay Prichard, Finger Lakes Correspondent: Shaw Vineyard 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
Although I knew Steve Shaw by his reputation as a winemaker, for one reason or another, I had never visited his winery on Seneca Lake. So last weekend, I decided it was time to take a drive to Seneca Lake and check it out.

The winery and tasting room are simple and plain and save for a flag at the entrance, void of fanfare. The inside of the tasting room isrustic and a clearly a working part of the winery (the tasting room associate was busy labeling bottles when I came in). I felt like I had just stepped back in time to the days when virtually all tasting rooms in the Finger Lakes were extensions of the winery and not the grand showcases that many are today. Don’t get me wrong – I like both experiences. But experiences like you get at Shaw are becoming rarer.

I tasted through a selection four white wines and four red wines (the tasting room associate told me upfront that “we only make dry wines”). All were very good, but the reds were exceptional. I noticed that they also produce a sauvignon blanc, but it was not included in the tasting since there were only a few bottles left. Since it’s one of my favorite whites, I decided to buy a bottle to take home.

The wine is a light straw color in the glass and has a herbaceous nose with along some citrus aromas. Lemon, fresh citrus and grass are the dominant flavors (my perfect Sauvignon Blanc has some minerality and “cat pee”, but I didn’t notice either in this wine). There is some good acid and balance, and the finish is long and surprisingly intense. Although it didn’t have all of the things that I like in a Sauvignon Blanc, it was an enjoyable wine and one that I will likely have again.


One Comment


  1.  

    Shiner FTW! heading to tejas as we speak to fill my belly with enchiladas, brisket and shiner all at the same. damn. time. (with a bit of lone star to give my taste buds some free time, of course). burps ahoy!





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