Monday, December 31, 2007

Top 10 Best Wine Moments and Best Moments of 2007

4. Running along the Ahr River in Germany. Albeit not a wine moment, wine is what got me to this very remote spot in a northern wine region. A fortunate Saturday off when importer Rudi Wiest had to attend a wedding made it possible for us to have the day; I decided to spend the earliest part of it enjoying a solitary run along a most beautiful river.

5. Running along the river that runs through Santa Rosa in Sonoma Country. There's a pattern here. Running along a river that runs through a wine region. This run I did with my husband; a fun run, an attempt to shed some of the fuel accumulated from the rich meals consumed in Healdsburg and Winsor. The run was as enjoyable as the rest of the wine exploration trip through Sonoma.

6. Tasting a line-up of Compte de Vogue Musigny's. Here is what happened. I discovered an Oregon winemaker named Greg Sanders. He owns White Rose Vineyards and Winery, and makes a super Pinot Noir called Quiotee's Lair. I voted the 2004 Quiotee's Lair as our Wine of the Year, and it actually wins. A great feat. This is a great wine, well deserved. The following week, he invites me and a coworker to a great Burgundy tasting. We convene at a restaurant in Orange County and taste through an amazing line-up of wines, blind. They turn out to be all Grand Cru wines from the Musigny vineyard, all from Vogue. Fantastic. An opportunity I would not have if it were not for my unique position.

7. A Vancouver wedding reception. We were officially married in 2006 in Los Angeles, but in February of 2007, we did a wedding reception for the family in Vancouver in Canada. This was a great occasion. We held this at a Chinese restaurant, had a banquet, showed a video of the wedding, served British Columbian wines and some Calvados from France and Brandy from Northern California. Everyone had a great time and we were all happy with the occasion. Wine didn't play a huge role but it was there.

8. When 6 German growers came with Rudi Wiest and Allie Mitchell to The Wine Country for a special tasting of German dry wines. This was probably the best tasting I put on for the year. As part of the German dry wine tour, we were included, so our humble little store hosted Max von Kunow from Hans Wirsching, Fritz Becker Jr. from F. Becker Estate, Hansjorg Rebholz from Okonomierat Rebholz, Felix Burklein from Franz Kunstler, Sebastian Furst from Rudolph Furst and Christophe Graf from Reichsrat von Buhl. What a night! 30 wines floored our audience (who are consumers, not trades folks). It was a great showing and solidified why we love Spatburgunder, dry Riesling, dry Scheurebe, and Silvaner.

9. The week before Christmas when husband and I had 3 Champagnes. We indulged in three good to great Champagnes prior to leaving town to spend time with family for Christmas and New Years. They were: 1996 Duval-Leroy Brut, 2000 Agrapart Mineral Blanc de Blancs, and 1999 Gosset Brut. We confirmed that (1) we love vintage Champagne, (2) we love Blanc de Blancs, and (3) we love 1996. So in order of which Champagnes of these three we enjoyed the most: (1) Agrapart, (2) Duval-Leroy, and (3) Gosset. Which surprised us because we had high expectations of the Gosset. Additionally, I confirmed that it is enjoyable to watch French movies in French while drinking Champagne. We enjoyed the Agrapart with La Vie en Rose.

10. Giving Riedel Vinum Bordeaux glasses to my parents as a gift. This was fun. I enjoyed it.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Christmas holiday thoughts

It's a holiday week for me this week, so not much time to post notes. I have, fortunately, been enjoying a lot of great wine this week, along with nice meals, so all is well.

I have been thinking about reviewing my top 10 wine moments of the year. When I think about them, they give me the feeling that I am very fortunate indeed.

Here's a start - ironically, the best wine moments of 2007 for me are practically synonymous with the best moments period. The wines usually accompany people, and good times all around. So for this, I am pretty grateful for my job at The Wine Country, the good people there, and my fine husband who allows me the joy of working at this retail job. Hee! Seriously though!

1. The entire Germany trip. It's hard not to put this at number 1, even though I didn't spend it with my husband, which would have made it an even better trip. A 10-day paid business trip to Germany's fine wine regions, visiting some of the best estates in Germany - can it be beat?? It makes all the negatives of my job worthwhile.

2. Trip to Belgium with hubby, inlaws, and niece. Great trip, saw lots of interesting historical sites, such as those in Ypres, the site of WWI masaquers. Also enjoyed a lot of lovely wines, including one great wine moment when I was able to purchase 3 French wines (2 Burgundies and 1 Vacqueras) from a wine store and share it with the inlaws, then seeing they liked the wines, and all was well...... :)

3. Trip to Sonoma with tour of Hanzell. This was a great tour. We were given this tour by the winemaker, who took us through the vineyards in the company Range Rover, followed by a tour of the cellars and the old winery which is a replica of one of the main buildings at Clos de Veougot. Finally, a private tasting for my husband and our friends, who were enamored with the winemaker (? his name escapes me - Michael?) and our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Dinner at Basilic on Balboa Island and a delicious older Bordeaux

The wine was not ancient, but it was almost 10 years old and delicious. 1998 Chateau la Dominique from Saint Emilion, made from mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc - a nose that jumped out of the glass immediately upon release from the bottle, giving up red fruits, pepper, pie spices; the palate, full of richness, rustique, a dash of barnyard, savory aspects, earth, pepper, baking spices, olive, cherry, and young as ever - not giving away its age at all - if this wine were from elsewhere, it would be like a 2005. It didn't taste a day over 2 years! No brickish color, nothing, totally purple/red. Great wine.

Oddly, on Winesearcher, it is $35 on WineBid and $79 at Wally's (retail store up in Westwood). We paid $95 for it. It's a rare place we dine (and love) that we don't bring our own wine to.

It's a restaurant where it's like stepping into Europe (except for all the Americans seated around us). Love it. It is possibly my favorite restaurant in Southern California. Hubby discovered it for us for my birthday 2 years ago. 24 seats only, cozy as ever, and the food is delightful. I especially enjoyed the seared foie gras and the foie gras & leek terrine last evening.

And who says Bordeaux doesn't go with duck and veal? It can - to me, it didn't overpower those meats at all.

A great meal, great wine, great company - I couldn't ask for more.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

French Wine

No wine with dinner tonight, but last evening, we enjoyed a great $10 bottle of Cotes du Rhone. It's called 2005 La Cabotte Cotes du Rhone. Lovely! Easy to drink. Perfect for getting off work at 9:30 pm after an intense day of holiday madness. Had it with some Piave cheese and some pretzels.

The wine has a fresh aroma, cherries, all that good stuff, and on the palate, it is not heavy or overextracted, but full of flavor - both savory and fruit. I love that about a wine. I'm starting to hate extracted wines as much as I hate oak. When I bring home a Malbec from Argentina or a Cab from Chile, I typically find too much extraction, and then I can't really have a second glass. This La Cabotte is a great go-to wine that I would definitely buy again.

I told the French wine buyer that French wines are awesome and deliver at every price point. She told me thank you for the support, but actually, there are many crappy French wines. Interesting. Since I have worked where I do (The Wine Country), I have basically had only good French wines, or at least, good French reds. Apparently, not all French wines are great - some are supposedly thin and wicked.

Well, fantastic, we have nice ones. And for good prices too.

Tomorrow evening after work (not the late shift this time), husband and I are going out for dinner to a restaurant I love - we both love - a French-Swiss place that as I recall has a great wine list. I will be resisting bringing my own wine in favor of perusing their wine list and hopefully I will not be disappointed. During our past 2 meals there, we have been happy with their wine, first a red Bordeaux and then the second visit, when it was "Raclette Night," we had a nice white Swiss wine. Neufchatel I think it was called.

I'm typically very fearful of ordering wine from a wine list as it usually doesn't do it for me. My least favorite is a very California wine-rich wine list, especially at a wine bar. My least favorite wines have been from these places.

I'll report on the wonderful meal and wine I have tomorrow evening!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I must live under a rock

I must live under a rock, because often times there are things that I have never heard of that pretty much everyone has heard of. The most recent of these revelations is this man called Anthony Bourdain.

Until a few days ago, I had never heard of him.

It must be because I don't watch TV? I dunno. Maybe I just live under a rock.

Now I have access to one of his books Kitchen Confidential. I'm only a couple chapters in, and I'm hooked!! I'm going to get his other books as well, so I can read them over the Christmas holidays (I'll be at the in-laws, without much computer access, so I think having 3 or 4 books to read for the week will be a great idea).

So far, I love his writing style. Love it! Gives me that live-vicariously feeling - I've always wanted to be a chef but never was one. Spent too much time in the health care business, doing legitimate 9-to-5 work. Now I'm not a 9-to-5er but I was. Anyway, my point is, the cheffing business is something I've always fantasized about but never got to do. So here I get to read about my fantasy without having to endure the rough reality that it is. Perfect.

I love books. They allow you to do that. Live vicariously. Love it.

Plus, this book gets my mind off of wine for a few minutes. Which is good around this time of year - allows me to keep some semblance of sanity.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Retail is Kicking my Ass though Champagne in Evening Helps

It should come as no surprise to me, but still, retail is kicking me in the butt during this holiday season. I'm having second thoughts about working 7 days a week. Perhaps that was not a good idea....

Fortunately, we have enjoyed some good Champagne in the evenings. Last night we had a bottle of the 2000 Agrapart Mineral Blanc de Blancs which I have written about previously, and it was fabulous with the DVD "La Vie en Rose" which was more like La Vie en Bleu as it was very sad! A great movie nonetheless, and made even greater by watching it in the dark sipping Champagne. Seriously!

The night before, we had some escargot baked in garlic butter, paired with 1996 Duval-Leroy Brut. Boy, this went down so easily, we were wondering where the rest of it was! Yeasty, apple-y, rich yet light-bodied, delicious. We had the 1996 Duval-Leroy Blanc de Blancs when we were in Champagne on our honeymoon, and we stayed in Vertus, where Duval-Leroy is located. We had it in a nice small hotel restaurant that we enjoyed so much, we had two dinners there in a row.
Both of these Champagnes are ones that I would drink again in an instant. We love vintage Champagnes. They are the best! And these two are so reasonably priced (compared to others) at less than $50 a pop.
I'm already thinking about the next one we will be having - a 1999 Gosset Brut from Ay, to be paired with some Paddlefish caviar on blinis. Yeah!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tasting Notes of Recently Tasted and Consumed Wines

I've tasted and had some good wines lately - they span the board:

2000 Agrapart "Mineral" Blanc de Blanc (Champagne, France)

This is a gorgeous Champagne from small grower and producer Agrapart et Fils in Avize in the Cotes des Blancs in Champagne. My husband and I had the good fortune to visit this producer during our honeymoon trip to Champagne in September 2006, right during the harvest, when they were super busy. Owner Pascal Agrapart took us on a tour of his vineyards which are plowed by his horse, Venus. Later, we toured the press room where 4 guys were using an old fashioned basket press and pressed the grapes by hand. Following that, we descended into the cellar which was small and such a contrast to the huge cellars we visited in Epernay and Reims which were owned by the big houses such as Moet and Piper Heidsick. Agrapart's tiny cellar was very neat and orderly and rustic and epitomizes his whole operation and demonstrates to me what is unique and perfect about their Champagnes. Each bottle of Champagne is hand-riddled to remove the yeast, and I know this not because Pascal said so, but because we didn't see any giant machine-thing that riddles 400 bottles at a time like we saw at those big houses!

Back to the 2000 Mineral - this is a "non-dosage" Champagne, which means that no sugar-syrup is added to top off the Champagne when the yeast gets popped out. That means the Champagne is on the dry side, with refreshing acidity that makes you wake up and take notice! Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes like most of Agrapart Champagnes are, the Mineral is crisp, clean, with buttered toast and apple notes on the nose, and a hint of caramel apples and of course some fine minerals on the palate. Great stuff, a go-to Champagne.

2006 Achaval Ferrer Mendoza Malbec (Argentina)

This is a deeply extracted Malbec that is extremely popular, has a rich nose of blackberries, and a palate with sweet but not too sweet fruit, fine tannins, good balance. It is a notch up from most basic entry level Malbecs, though it is the entry level Malbec from Achaval Ferrer. For those who like new world Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine would be a shoo-in. I like it. Though I like French reds better (which have that extra je-ne-sais-quoi which this wine doesn't have - I think subtle flavor compounds, or terroir, something).

2007 Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)

The first vintage of Dog Point SB that I tasted was the 2005, back when previous buyer Tim brought it into our store. I liked it then. This past year we have had the 2006, which I brought in and liked for its grapefruit notes and bracing acidity. The 2006 is gone and now we have the 2007 vintage. This vintage seems to have less bracing acidity, but great balance and freshness. It does have grapefruit and a touch of grass but not too much. I don't sense any cat pee from this wine and that is a good thing.

2006 Monchhof Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Kabinett (Mosel, Germany)

When I first opened this wine for a customer, it didn't impress as much as the wine it went against, which was a 2006 Muller-Catoir Riesling Kabinett from the Pfalz. Note to self - don't put a Pfalz Riesling before a Mosel one because the Pfalz one will be bigger and blow the Mosel out of the water. Also, since it was a just-opened screw-cap (Stelvin closure), it seemed to have funk in the nose.

The next day, I retasted the wine (and re-smelled) and it was much better. Note to self, allow these screw-cap wines to breath a tad. The wine now had a fruity and floral nose, and on the palate, not too sweet, a lot of extract, good acidity, and overall light to medium-light mouthfeel. A great, delicate wine just for sipping, or with some good spicy food.

The grapes for this wine come from the vineyard I'm standing on in my picture. Super rad!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our company Christmas party December 9, 2007

Our company Christmas party was this past weekend on Sunday evening. I worked during the day and then quickly changed and went to the party with my husband. It was held at the boss' home, and the theme was Normandy, as they had just returned from a trip to France which included extensive touring of Normandy.

I had never been to a dinner party where the theme was Normandy, so I was impressed at how fun it was. Champagne started off the evening, served with a number of appetizers including mini crab cakes, trout roe and creme fraiche on blinis, and asparagus shooters (cold soups served in shooter glasses). Dinner began with a salad served with 2006 Touraine from Francois Chidaine. The main dish was a terrific half-chicken made Normandy-style with a Calvados cream sauce that was divine. This was served with both a 2005 Francois Chidaine Montlouis sur Loire "Les Choisilles" (Loire white made from Chenin Blanc) and a red that was from the decanter which I thought was a Northern Rhone wine, but was in fact a 2003 Clos Rougeard Samur-Champigny (a Loire Cabernet Franc).

I'm a red wine lover (except when it it super-hot in the summer) and I love red French wines, and this was an awesome wine. I can't get my mind off of it. The white wines were loved by the white wine lovers in attendance, but the red was loved by an adequate number of people at the party. Great aromatic nose with a hint of barnyard but not overpowering, delicious palate that had stuffing but not heaviness, rich red and black fruits along with minerality and bright acidity that all integrated ever so perfectly. I love this wine!

I thought it would be a Cote Rotie near $100 but it is a wine that retails for less than $40. There are still some bottles on the shelf and I am eyeing them. I want to buy one and have it for dinner with my husband, but lately we are not having so many red meat dinners. But wait, we could have it with chicken.......

The dinner ended with a fantastic cheese platter which included 4 different French cheeses (which we sell), the nicest 2 of which are St. Agur (a creamy blue cheese) and Pont L'Eveque, which is a place in Normandy which the bosses visited on their recent trip.

After the fantastic dinner, we did the gift exchange whereby you can steal the gifts from each other (cut-throat gift exchange!) We ended up with a set of Pyrex and some Riedel Wine Line series white wine glasses.

Great party! Great people! Before I was in the wine business, I did not enjoy company parties so much. Now I love them. Wine people are great partiers.


Today is December 12, and tomorrow marks my 2-year anniversary of working in the wine business. This is the 3rd Christmas I will be working in wine retail for the company The Wine Country (, slugging cases of wine, tasting wine, buying wine, selling wine, pouring wine, and writing about wine.

To be honest, I love the job, so I've decided to write a blog to share some of my wine moments, and also just record them for my own enjoyment.

The most significant job-related thing I have done in the last 2 years of my employment at The Wine Country was to visit Germany's wine regions with importer Rudi Wiest. This was an amazing trip which opened my eyes to the beauty of the country and the impressive range of wines produced there.

I have written extensively about this trip already in our company's newsletter, so I may or may not recount parts of it here on this blog. I'll post some daily thoughts and references often.

So for now, welcome to this blog and hope you'll find some interesting reading, and I hope I'll produce some interesting writing about my thoughts and experiences in wine and life.