Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What I'll be Drinking Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is the big turkey day, and after working a 5-hour shift, I'll be cruising down the 405 freeway with Johan to our friends' Thanksgiving day celebration. I have been charged with bringing the wine to pair with the soup - the first course - "The Wort Hotel’s Famous Corn Chowder, which has a smoky bacon base and notes of dill and thyme," I am told.

Now, I have never heard of the Wort Hotel, but it sounds fancy, and intriguing, so much so that I might go google it later...

So here's what I think I will pair with it - I know you will be shocked - I think I'll bring German Riesling. I know, I never suggest German Riesling, do I???? One track minded much?

Seriously though, a Riesling would work here, I think.

So would a Champagne, maybe, but I think someone is bringing a Champagne to go with one of the other courses: a rich, crab-infused salad. And I think Champagne would go better with a crab salad than with a sweet-ish corn and bacon soup.

So the Riesling I am thinking of bringing is the following: a magnum of 1993 Wegeler Kaseler Nieschen Riesling Auslese. Pretty bizarre, huh? First off, I don't know the vineyard, though I found out it is in the Mosel. Second, it is one of two bottles that have been stashed at The Wine Country for a while, awaiting its owner to pick it up - he didn't.

So here are these two orphan magnums of 15-year old German Riesling, and they haven't moved for months, and I've been wanting to try one.

It's a risky move, but I'm going to do it. And my plan is to buy two bottles of back-up inexpensive Riesling, the Wine of the Month, in fact, the 2007 Mosel River Riesling which is the Rudi Wiest negotiant bottling from the Mosel, made at Robert Eymael's Monchhof winery. I'll chill those also, and bring them to the dinner JUST IN CASE the wine or the cork or whatever is faulty. One never knows what has happened in the last 15 years!

For example, in my life, the last 15 years have been:

1993 - graduated from university

1994 - moved to Edmonton to do dietetics internship

1995 - moved back to Vancouver

1996 - visited China and Hong Kong

1997 - moved to Los Angeles - got job as a dietitian

2005 - got into the wine biz

2006 - got married

2007 - went to Germany

2008 - went to Austria

2008 - got deeper into the wine biz

Well, that was more than you needed to know, but suffice it to say, 15 years is a long time, and that's how long ago those grapes were harvested for that wine I will (hopefully) enjoy tomorrow with hubby and friends. So wish me luck. I'll let you know what happens and hopefully have some half-decent tasting notes. Also, on the other wines consumed. And whether we needed to break into those two Mosel River Rieslings. But if the Mosel River Riesling stelvin closures don't have to be breached, I'll just leave them for the hosts to enjoy another time.

Monday, November 24, 2008

T'was the Sunday before Thanksgiving, when all through the house......

Had an awesome Sunday and I just had to report!

Worked an 8-hour shift at the wine shop along with coworker Megan and bosses Randy & Dale. Incredible vibe, all the customers super nice, regular customers with their smiles and their "Hi Nancy!" and new customers, mostly finding us for the first time online. Pretty cool.

Sold tons of German Rieslings to go with turkey, and also some Alsacian Pinot Gris and Vouvray Beaujolais and all sorts of great stuff. Just a great energy all around.

Then I was scheduled to go to a twin birthday party - friend (whom I met at The Wine Country) has twin brothers turning 40 years old so she threw a nice party - I got them each a bottle of Chimay Belgian Trappist Beer - always good drinking, and for the BYO part of the program, a bottle of consistently good sparkler J. Laurens Brut (NV) from Limoux, France, a cremant blanc de blancs that is dry and refreshing, though of course not as fine as Champagne, but hey, perfect for your cocktail party situation. And at $12.99, no one is going to balk at the price.

I also brought a bottle of next month's wine of the month, an Italian red with a hard-to-remember name: 2003 Cantele Riserva Salice Salento from Puglia and that got sucked down so fast I didn't get a taste even, but Johan did and liked it a lot - I have a feeling I could have brought 6 bottles to this very crowded and happening party and there wouldn't have been any leftovers! I feel happy because I had a vote in choosing it for Wine of the Month next month (as did almost all of my coworkers!)

After leaving the party, Johan and I headed to our favorite sushi joint in town, Yen in Belmont Shore, where we indulged in some fantastic sushi, our favorite of the night being the sea urchin - oh my God! Now I know something like sea urchin sushi may not be not a thing for many people, but for us last night it was heavenly. Gentle, tender folds of soft tissue, rich in the taste of creamy sea-scented cashew butter or some such thing. Here I am with tasting notes of the sushi. Enough said! I'm sure others have better descriptors for this most unusual of meats, but suffice it to say it was the star of the show last evening for me. Followed closely by some yellowtail and yellowtail belly. All very delish!

So there you have it - it is possible to have a great day even when you are working on Sunday! Especially during the very exciting holiday season. At least I seem to be having my bells on today. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Impromptu Fire Pit Party

Well, it was impromptu for us, anyway. I had just finished a short day but a long week of being on the road in the field, and Johan had just finished a day of working from home, being on phone meetings, and we had trekked over to the Yard House for some happy hour treats. When we returned home, we started to take out some wine that were the day's spoils (not spoiled spoils, but wines left over from sampling over the week that wouldn't last the weekend) and pondered a light dinner, when suddenly, Johan returned from getting the mail and said, "They're having a fire pit inauguration party upstairs by the pool!"

Now, we live in a condo overlooking the ocean, with a bunch of neighbors we don't really know. We had noticed an incoming firepit a few days ago, but I guess last night was the night they decided to fire it up for the first time. According to Johan, a group had convened with drinks and appetizers around the roaring fire. Should we join them? Sure! I was a bit tempted.

So we put in our hands a couple of wine glasses (Riedel vinum Bordeaux) and a just opened, barely sampled 2006 Becker Estate Pinot Noir and an opened-for-two-days 2007 Becker Limestone Pinot Blanc. And we headed up to the party.

Indeed a group had formed, and introductions were made all around, and I found myself amongst a group of true party animals. Bottles of wine, martini shakers, cheese platters, sausages, and even grilled white and green asparagus, and a pretty fire in the middle of a marble/granite fire pit. Right on the ocean. Why even leave the building?

I tasted my favorite little German Pinot Noir, and immediately I felt - this tastes bland. I wondered why. It was not the tasty little Pinot Noir I remembered from Becker, the one I hand sold a number of. It wasn't off or horrible, just terribly lackluster. I think it was either an off bottle or an off-batch - maybe this batch was made with lackluster fruit? Or maybe it was just that it got cooked a little in my car? It wasn't in the icebox the whole time with all the white wines - perhaps the Pinot Noir's delicate nature was startled by car heat? I hope that was what the problem was.

Then I tasted the Limestone Pinot Noir. A world of difference. A gorgeous, rich white wine without a stitch of oak, just citrus, white peach, white flowers on the nose, followed by an oppulent palate of stone fruit and limestone. Loved it!!! I wanted more.

The Becker Pinot Noir's underperformance still nagged at me, but I was impressed by the Pinot Blanc, and it is not usual for me to be impressed with Pinot Blanc. That was a bit of a wine epiphany for me right there.

Aside from the wine, I really enjoyed myself conversing with various folks I hadn't really met before. I found out that one of The Wine Country's neighbors, a friend of Randy's, lives in my building; also a prominent medical administrator, a woman who is a pilot and now works for a leer jet company that is located just down the street from The Wine Country, and a really nice man whose family came from Tuscany. Oh yes, there was also a lot of wine talk.

All in all, not a bad night. I decided, wine and fire pits bring people together.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Old Germans

"You have amongst the most German wine knowledgeable clientele of any store I know and at the tasting I attended there seemed to be serious interest in older wines."

This is what one of our very great customers said about us, The Wine Country, and so, entrusted us with selling some of his cellared Riesling gems, including some awesome 1990s from Kerpen in the Mosel, and some Fritz Haag, Willi Schaefer, Von Buhl, and Robert Weil.

How cool is that?

Not only that, I got to valuate these wines, ie. figure out what their market values are, and market them to our customers!

Now that was fun!

Yesterday I got the privilege of visiting a real sourpuss that I used to work with, who, when greeting me, and not buying my wines, said, when I said that I work in the niche market "Well you shoulda known that going in." Um yeah, I did know that going in, thankyouverymuch you miserable grumpy old man (he is the same age as me).

I knew what I was getting into, and that was full on head on German wines all the way!!! Yes, it is true that it is not for everyone, but hey, the road less travelled by and all that. It is not easy only selling German wine, but who said I was looking for the easy way? I love to geek out and obsess about German wines only, and working on this superb collection of older vintage German wines was really like that. Awesome!

And here they are in all their glory:

1997 Robert Weil Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Spätlese $61.99 - 6 bottles

1990 Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese $39.99 - 3 bottles

2001 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett $29.99 - 6 bottles

1996 Donnhoff Oberhäuser Brucke Riesling Spätlese $49.99 - 6 bottles

1997 Fritz Haag Brauneberg Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett $39.99 - 10 bottles

1996 Von Buhl Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Auslese $89.99 - 12 bottles

1990 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese*** $99.99 - 3 bottles

1990 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese $99.99 - 2 half-bottles (375 ml)

1990 Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Eiswein $119.99 - 2 half-bottles (375 ml)

Want some? If you do, click the link above for German wines and it will take you to our site....... then click on Older Vintage German Wines. You'll find it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wines I love to take out and show and taste people on

So by now, dear reader, you probably know that I work for Rudi Wiest Selections, an exclusively German wine importer. My day consists of calling up restaurants and occasionally stores and making appointments with them to bring them things to taste. Many restaurants say "no thank you" or try not to talk to me, but the occasional good ones say "Okay, why don't you come in Wednesday at 3pm?" Those places I like!

Anyway, I do get into a number of good doors. Perseverence really does pay off, like founder Rudi Wiest says. He is a big fan of perseverence and I get where he is coming from in this regard. Show you are committed and in it for the long haul, and people will come around and get to trusting you. Someday.

So when I finally get that all-important tasting meeting, what is that like? Well, it is great. I get to show wines that I really like, and this reminds me of my experience in the wine store The Wine Country, where I get to see people's faces light up when they taste a great German Riesling for the first time. And they get hooked. And they buy that wine forever and ever. Awesome.

This is similar to what happens with a buyer, especially a buyer who has tasted a few wines in his or her day. Generally, the more experienced the buyer, the more likely he or she has an appreciation for German Riesling and other German wines.

Now, back to the premise of this post: wine I like to take out. These are the wines I personally love and I personally like to show to my customers:

2006 Becker Pinot Noir This wine used to be called 2006 Becker Spatburgunder, but a quick change to the English language (or rather, the French language that the American public can get with) on the label has changed this to Becker Pinot Noir. But same great fox on the label, love that. This wine is food friendly AND appeals to the American taste and desire for fruit, so for me this is a winner. There's actually some subtle earth and dirt in this wine which makes it appealing also for me. And not a stitch of oak.

2007 Von Hovel Balduin Estate Riesling I think this is a perfect Estate Riesling. Less residual sugar and more acid than the other favorite Estate Riesling from Monchhof. The wine is just perfect for the fruity style without being too sweet. I think every restaurant should have this for their wine by the glass Riesling. Just my opinion.

2007 Monchhof Anything Anything from Monchhof Estate sells for me, be it the basic Estate Riesling, or the Urziger Wurzgarten Kabinett or Spatlese, or the Monchhof Mosel Slate. This estate has great marketing with their awesome pictures of their estate and hillside vineyards. And the wines are so easy to drink, even if they do have a bit more residual sugar in them then others in their class. Great minerality is what we're talking about here.

2007 Von Buhl Armand Riesling Kabinett Sweet and full, this is a perfect Riesling for those who are not afraid of residual sugar, especially when it is well-balanced. This is a great wine for Asian styled meals.

2007 Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Kabinett This is a fabulous wine. Medium-dry if anything, but round and full and delicious. I had this in Vegas at Lotus of Siam and enjoyed it fully with my dinner companions. This is a great food wine and is a must-have at any restaurant!

That's it. From this list you can tell I like to take out Kabinetts more than any other Pradikat level of Riesling. I also like to take out a Pinot Noir so I don't hear from people "Does Germany only make white wine?" Ideally I should take out more than just Riesling, like Pinot Blanc, for instance, but for me, Riesling from Germany is it. Pinot Blanc is interesting, but usually more expensive, and Riesling is just where it is at.

I'd like to sell more dry Riesling, and I will, but for now, the above list are my winners. Not too obscure, and not too edgy, but hey, most of my customers.... aren't. And in this economy, they really shouldn't be. We need to be as mainstream as we can get!

Hanzell Chardonnay and a nice dinner at Catalina Restaurant

So, I was thinking tonight, I shouldn't be such a bah-humbug about not writing about wine. After all, I am still drinking it, still thinking it, still working in the wine biz, just haven't been that inspired, I guess, to write in the ol' blog. But now, here I am.

Truth be told, I am still inspired by wine. Many things the last 2 months have gotten in the way of that, of course, not the least of which is the ECONOMY, the big news of the year; and before that, there was the election (very exciting), and then my whole job change thing. But today, I feel upbeat enough to share with you all about the fact that I still like/love wine.

Two nights ago, and this was a Sunday, my husband and I got together with our equally restaurant-loving friends for a nice meal out. This was the first time we got together with them since they had their baby only 7 weeks earlier. Prior to the baby, we had enjoyed fine meals together at a number of restaurants, including the Wilshire, Zazou, Cafe Pierre, and a few places up in Sonoma, where we spent a weekend together. They are fans of Chowhounds and consult there for good places to eat around the world.

Anyway, we convened at Catalina Restaurant in Redondo Beach, a small, family owned restaurant in Redondo Beach. I just recently opened this account last week! Nice, nice owners I was dealing with. Anyway, a relatively new restaurant, opened less than a year. When I had the owner, Reuben, taste my wines, he called out his chef, Art to taste along. Very cool! And when I saw the menu at that time, I decided that we had to come eat here.

So that day came on Sunday evening, and since our friends live in the south bay, it was the perfect meeting place. When we arrived there at 6pm, the place was quiet. Yes, six was early, but this was more a sign of the economy. So sad. Anyway, we got a nice table, and I took out the wine that I brought: 2005 Hanzell Chardonnay. I brought this specifically because the friends liked this wine - we went to this winery together about 2 years ago when we visited Sonoma. We had a great tour of the vineyards, the caves, and the tasting room, where the winemaker, Michael, opened for us a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir to enjoy. We were hooked.

The Chardonnay on Sunday night was as good as we remembered it (though a different vintage): the style, like a white Burgundy - definitely oak on the nose and palate, but not overdone, more like a French oak spice, but no butter on the palate, just clean Chardonnay fruit and pie spice. An enjoyable wine, not overly alcoholic, and as elegant as a Chardonnay outside of Champagne can get.

The wine was a nice treat and got everyone in the mood for a nice dinner.

As for the food, we were presented with a fun amuse-bouche: mini-grilled cheese sandwiches which were actually tiny blini-like pancakes with truffle butter and cheese - very savory and delicious. Then we ordered appetizers: for Johan, the frog legs, which were sauteed and served with a pesto; for me, the rabbit pot pie - interesting, and tasted like chicken; for our friends, the flatbread with a balsamic dressing.

For the entrees, the others all got fish dishes, which looked really good, while I enjoyed lamb done two ways - a little mini-rack and lamb cheeks. I have to say that I enjoyed my lamb cheeks even more than the rack! I just like cheeks (veal cheeks, pork cheeks, lamb cheeks, even fish cheeks if they are big enough fish!)

At this point, we did order a red from the list, a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir under screwcap, which I found drinkable but not much more than that. I should have gotten a glass of 2007 Monchhof Estate Riesling which is now prominantly featured on their list! Monchhof rules, but honestly, I drink too much of it (dregs from my samples kit).

Finally, for dessert, each coupled shared something - I was way too full but did enjoy a few bits of beignets (Ben-YAYS!).

A great evening of stimulating conversation, jokes, and foodie fun was had by all. Catalina Restaurant is on my list of good places to eat in the South Bay, and I will definitely be back. And kudos to them for knowing a good Riesling when they taste it!!! Thank you Reuben!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wine of the Year judging at The Wine Country

I'm a little writer-blocked, but I still wanted to say a few words about last evening's judging for Wine of the Year at The Wine Country. This is an annual event to honor what we feel are the best wines of the year.

**** was the White Wine of the Year, a rich, complex ****, the **** he ever made.

**** made Red Wine of the Year, though my personal favorite was the **** Barolo, which I found more elegant.

The Champagne of the Year was a **** which was rich with Pinot Noir and absolutely divine. The runner up was the almost equally amazing but so different ****. These two wines would make an amazing Champagne dinner, one after the other (the **** first).

Finally, there was a Rose of the year, the **** made from Pinot Noir. Simply delicious.

The Wine of the Year, chosen from the above, was the ****. **** won!

Edited - I didn't know I was supposed to keep this under wraps until it gets officially published. I leaked it! So you two readers that saw - don't tell!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sucking the romance out of wine

Okay, so I realized my last post had nothing to do with wine.

Then next, I realized, I wrote it because it was what I felt, something real, and it has been so long since I felt anything real about wine.

I, along with the prevailing economic situation, have sucked all romance out of wine.

What is there left in wine if there is no romance?

Not much. Just another commodity item, one whose price tag is $10 vs the harder to sell one that is $50, and then the really hard to sell one that is close to $100. Great.

What is it, when restaurants tell you they are hanging on by a thread, worried, anxious, not seeing any changes, hoping things will get better? It is something, but it is not about wine.

There was a time that the mere mention of Agrapart Non-vintage 7 cru would bring tears to my eyes because I've actually been to the estate and saw how this delicious beverage was made, tasted the grape juice that it came from, saw the men around the hand-press actually press down with their muscles and their backs until all the juice ran down... tasted the base wine, saw the vineyards, the horse that plows ("Venus"), tasted the bubbles and the vintage stuff that the proprietor only opens for special guests.

Wow, that time is today.

Fall has finally fallen

For the first time, I'm waking up in the morning NOT to find blasting yellow hot sunshine streaming in through the windows. What a relief.

It has been non-stop sunny here in sunny California, a condition that many people love but I have come to loathe. Hot, dry heat, months and months without precipitation - all this has turned into a curse for me.

Today, at last, darkness and gloominess outside. A hint of wetness on the sidewalk. Ah.

A good sleep with tons of dreams. A dream where I owned two properties, little cute places, old, not big, places I decided to buy with the little money I had. One place on a hill somewhere. Another, I'm not sure where.

Then there was another dream where I had a little boy, who was riding with me in the car. He was good. He enjoyed riding along with me.

The third dream had to do with riding up a hillside again, and then later discussing this with my dad, and he knew that hill, where on one side was a beautiful golf course, and on the other side, some gorgeous homes.

I am daydreaming about being in Vancouver and walking around Granville Island on a misty, almost wet morning. Cup of coffee in hand. Warm sweater plus light coat. Then afterwards going to see my nieces and their grandparents (my parents). Then afterward retiring to our condo back near Granville Island again.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A new respect for Dolcetto

I went out this evening with a friend to a new wine bar in town called La Vineria Italiana. Cool place, very modern, very European, with a great Italian wine list. I had a glass of Dolcetto, and I don't know the producer, but I really liked it! I believe it was an 07 vintage too. Real delicious and practically the best glass of red wine I have had in a restaurant recently.

I haven't had that much Dolcetto, but now I think I should! A not-too-expensive old world red that I can enjoy. Now that's something to be happy about!