Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thank you Wine Importers!

Haven't had it yet, but I'm planning to pop the 2002 Agrapart "Mineral" Blanc de Blancs to celebrate New Years Eve. Agrapart is an estate that is close to my heart since I visited the place and the winemaker on my honeymoon only 2 years ago. In particular this bottle is special as it was given to me by the importer Michael Sullivan - so generous - the very person that set up the Agrapart visit for us when we visited Champagne. Thank you, thank you!

It is wonderful to drink a wine and think of where it came from and who made it, and to know that one has been there and shook the hand of the winemaker and drank the juice from which the wine is made.

There's just nothing better.

And scheduled to eat with it are king crab legs, which I plan to steam in some wine.

I received a special bottle for Christmas this year from Rudi Wiest, the importer for whom I work, a bottle of 1971 Karthauserhof Eitelsbacher Karthauserhofberg Riesling Beerenauslese. Pretty awesome! Thank you Rudi! 1971 is my birthyear, and that's the significance of the gift. Fortunate for me, 1971 was a very good vintage in Germany, and there are great wines floating around of that vintage.
Karthauserhof, an estate in the Ruwer valley, is also a place I have visited and it is very romantic, secluded, and cold, as I recall (even in September). I can't imagine how freezing cold it will be in February...

I won't be popping this wine tonight, but save it for maybe January or later...

I feel very fortunately to have received these gifts of wine. And fortunate to know these importers. For without them, we would not be able to drink these wines here, and we would not be able to relive these fond memories of these great vineyards and estates in Europe.

Thank you cool importers! :)

Happy New Year everyone, and may 2009 bring you health, happiness, prosperity, and the best wines in all the world.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What I learned at The Wine Country

My last day at The Wine Country, ie. my day working in the retail wine business (for now, not saying I won't do it again, there is charm in working in a specialty wine shop) was December 24, 2008. It was my 4th Christmas there, or my 3.5th since I was only part time this year. It concluded 3 years of service for the beloved shop.

Though I won't physically be there (except to visit and sell wine to them), it will remain a place close to my heart. And a place I will refer people to, in person and here on line.

I decided to make a list of 10 things I learned working there. Of course, I learned all I know about wine working there, so there are probably closer to 1,357 things, but I wanted to brew it down to 10 things, maybe with some quirkiness and humor if I can muster it.

1. The box cutter is a very useful and safe tool.

2. Wines sell faster in a case stack than they do on a rack.

3. Wines (and probably many other things) sell at different rates depending on where in the store you put them.

4. Nothing sells wine like personal passion, excitement, and love for particular wines. ie. All wines need love. :)

5. Many people like sweet wines. Of these people, only a small percentage actually want to know they are sweet wines. The majority (90%) do not want to be associated with drinking sweet wine (even though they like sweet wine). Got that?

6. Acidity in a wine is good. (Who knew? I didn't. I never liked a squeeze of lemon on my fish. And I thought a wine that made my face pucker up was not really good. Who knew acidity was good? I do now.)

7. There are a lot of great white wines, and they are not all Chardonnay-like. White wines are pleasure-giving, as much as red wines.

8. Nothing sells wines like personal relationships. Personal relationships with ones customers, and personal relationships with ones suppliers. Without this, the bottles are just units on a shelf with different scores and prices.

9. Writing about wine and the places wine comes from and the people that make the wine from real vines that grow from the earth can bring great pleasure.

10. A love of wine is about a love for the good life: good people, good conversation, good food, and the flow of all these things for the long haul.

Foiled Christmas Plans

"The best laid plans of mice and men...." I thought Hemmingway said that, but no, it was Robert Burns, way back in 1786, who actually wrote: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft a-gley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promised joy."

I think he meant - sometimes plans don't go as planned. Deep, huh? I like Robbie Burns. I do tend to confuse him with another poet Robert Frost, who wrote the famous lines: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." Great stuff huh? I like that one.

But I digress. What I'm meaning to say here is that I had plans to travel to Canada for Christmas, and they went awry, due to the worst weather Canada has experienced in 30 years.

30 years!

A white Christmas all across the nation, and believe or not, that is a rarity - no, Canada is not normally blanketed in snow in December in its entirety, especially not on the mild west coast from where I hail (pun not intended).

As a result, I missed Christmas with the family, meeting my sister's fiance's family at a dinner party, and my former teacher's memorial service. Not to mention seeing a couple fo friends and spending some quality time with nieces, siblings and parents. Sigh.

I was grounded in sunny Southern California for the holiday season, whether I liked it or not.

So I decided to make the best of it by hibernating. Yep, movies, food, that sort of thing.

Yes, some wine was opened. The most notable of which was the 2000 Camille Saves Brut, a deliciously rich Champagne full of Pinot Noir fruit (but not entirely Pinot Noir). This Champagne made The Wine Country's Champagne of the Year and the Wine of the Year as well if I recall correctly - a small grower Champagne from Bouzy that has such richness and complexity and character that one wishes one could drink it daily. This is a Champagne for drinking by itself or having with almost any kind of food one desires, be it Alaskan King Crab legs or massive sea scallops or fried calamari or a roasted leg of ham (the last one there is one of my favorite Champage foods).

Unfortunately, I have to confess that when we opened this wine, it was Christmas day, I was a little stuffed up and under the weather, and maybe just a tad sad that I didn't make it up to Canada, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I should have, but I did enjoy it nevertheless, but I think my husband got to enjoy it more and enjoy more of it - lucky him. Fortunately though, when I bought this wine, I splurged and bought 2 bottles, so there is another one lurking in my wine cupboard and when I get to opening that one, it will not be on a particularly special day so much as a day when I am fully healthy in body and in mind to be open enough to enjoy the wine in all its light golden glory.

Ah yes...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thai Food and Riesling Post-Retail Therapy

So my friend and manager Samantha from The Wine Country recently wrote on her blog about her form of Retail Therapy and that was drinking the finest grower Champagnes on the market in the month of December as a reward for working hard. Reading that of course made my mouth water and crave Champagne, but in actual practice, I am hoarding Champagne and saving it for a special occasion, a time when we can really enjoy it...... in the meantime I am enjoying Thai food with Spatlese!

The food: chicken curry in a coconut cream, laced with lemon grass and all sorts of fun aromatic herbs, over fragrant white rice. The wine: 2005 Bert Simon Serrig Wurtzgarten Riesling Spatlese. I wonder if Bert Simon knows how much his wines are enjoyed with food of the Asian persuasion!

Pure bliss!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2005 Bordeaux with Standing Rib Roast; 2005 Heger Pinot with Sunday dinner at Lucques

Just a quick post to say I enjoyed a couple of nice meals with nice wines last evening and the evening before.

Sunday was girls night out and one of the ladies suggested Sunday dinner at Lucques. So there we went. I saw my 2004 Kunstler Riesling by the glass there, as well as 2007 Pfeffingen Dry Riesling and 2005 Heger Pinot Noir. Fantastic! I was charged with ordering the wine so I went for the 2005 Heger Pinot Noir and everyone liked it! It went well for sipping before dinner and also went well with the 2 entree choices - lamb and a striped bass with a pomegranite sauce. Everyone was happy!

Monday night I made Sunday dinner with my husband and I - a small standing rib roast I bought from How's Market, a meat and grocery place that a coworker turned me on to - this was not a prime rib but a choice rib, but good enough! Seasoned it, popped it in the oven with an oven thermometer, and opened a $15 bottle of 2005 Chateau Semonlon Haut-Medoc that was at The Wine Country in Ronnie's section - he assured me it was a good wine - and it was! Everything that I'd want in a mid-week Bordeaux -good fruit, weight, acidity to cut the fat in the meat, not too big of a wine, and very light on the pocketbook! All great things for me.

I'm going to be stocking up on inexpensive 2005 Bordeaux. They are fun to drink, as fun as Cotes du Rhone, and offer something different on the palate. And great bang for the buck!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Partied Out

It's been a few days and 2 work parties, and work parties for me means wine parties with excellent food and wine people geeking out on great wines.

I am immensely lucky, treated super well, lavished with the best wines on the planet, and all that good stuff. It is fun to be in the wine business. The first party had tons of great Champagnes followed by French wines of the still variety. The second party had tons of great German wine including some half bottles of Goldkapsels and Beerenauslese that always seem to get my attention.

Having said that, I'm very tired!

I hope all of you out there are also enjoying some fun and festive holiday parties.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The beauty of Bert Simon

Now, Bert Simon is not a name I know well, though I have met the man. He is a winemaker up in the Saar region of Germany. Maybe I have a picture of him. Let me go check. Then I will insert it here and then continue my story about his beauty.

Okay, I have a picture of him loaded. Here he is. We are not at his estate, but at Zilliken, at the home of the famous Hanno Zilliken of Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken in the Saar.

Mr. Bert Simon did not make an impression on me when I visited Germany, because he was quiet, and reminded me of Bert Selbach of Dr. F. Weins-Prum. I tasted his wines, but there were so many wines that day tasted at Zilliken; first the Zilliken wines, then the Von Hovel wines (also from the Saar), then the Bert Simon wines, which we heard he was not making anymore, since he just sold the estate.

The reason he sold the estate was that he had no heirs to take over the winery. He actually did have children, but none of them could work in the winemaking business. Allergies or some such thing. I don't know the details, but all I heard was that Bert Simon was no longer making wine, but he had some back vintages to sell and here they were.

The other reason I am not familiar with the wines is that my mentor Randy Kemner of The Wine Country never really carried them, as far as I know.

So today, at a staff meeting down in the Carlsbad area, we had some wines to taste, and among them were these lovely Bert Simon wines. Fabulous older vintages including some Kabinetts, Spatleses, Ausleses and Goldkapsel Ausleses that just sang a beautiful tune. A relatively simple 2004 Bert Simon Serriger Herrenberg Riesling Kabinett that had some succulent light fruit and great backbone of acid, fantastic. An impressive 2005 Bert Simon Serriger Wurtzberg Riesling Spatlese that had richness, a mouthfeel that was unctuous and clean all at the same time. Then from the 10 years ago collection, a 1998 Bert Simon Serriger Wurtzberg Riesling Kabinett - a 10-year old Kabinett for God's sake! - delicious pleasant herbal qualities with balancing delicate fruit still there after all these years, and an amazing 1998 Bert Simon Serriger Wurtzberg Riesling GKA - this wine was all about clean eiswein. What does that mean? Rudi Wiest explained that 1998 was an eiswein vintage, and basically the top end stuff went into being bottle for Eiswein which sold at auction, while the second tiered eiswein got sold as regular eiswein, and the rest - put it in the GKA - pure razor-edged nectar without much botrytis at all. A contrast to a GKA from the same producer and vineyard I tasted which was a 1999 that was botrytized, darker in color and more honeyed in flavor.

Wine is so fun.

Thank goodness there is beauty like this in wine. Because it makes the driving in traffic and the begging and cajoling just a little more tolerable.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Aged German Riesling Steals Show, I mean... What I Did for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving dinner was fantastic. It was a gourmet feast with foodies that enjoyed their food and wine and their political talk, although it was all one-sided with much Obama love going around. In other words, a very pleasant evening indeed.

It all started around 2:30 pm when Johan and I arrived - a sunny afternoon it was, and the hosts and other guests were already out back on the patio, enjoying a glass of sparkling wine in the dappled sun. The sparkling wine was being poured out of a magnum - non-vintage Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, a refreshing and fruit-driven sparkler that hit the spot with the amuse-bouches being passed around - house-smoked salmon with a delicious home-made relish, along with some Fuju persimmons doused with lime.

At some point, I went to check on the 1993 Wegeler Kaseler Nieschen Riesling Auslese that I brought, which was in the magnum - I wanted to make sure the wine was sound. The reason - my back-up wine, which ended up not being the 2007 Mosel River Riesling as originally planned, but instead, a bottle of non-vintage Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs was being asked for by Johan, ie. "You want to open the Champagne now??" I wanted to open the Champagne, but not before I tested the Riesling, just in case it was bad, then I would have to serve the Champagne with the soup course...

Fortunately, the aged Riesling was perfect. I mean, really perfect! Aged, rich, full, lovely. I set it aside to breath, then popped open the Pierre Peters to share, as the Gloria Ferrer was drained.

The Pierre Peters was lovely, with bright zippy fruit and a fine, candied aspect and hint of yeastiness that was delicious. Everyone enjoyed it and it was gone in minutes.

Next, we convened inside at the dinner table, which was gorgeously set. The first course was a rich, creamy corn soup with chunks of bacon, corn, and other veggies. I poured the old Riesling for everyone out of that tall and statuesque magnum bottle and everyone loved it! It was a fun and geeky wine, and met all of my expectations. Actually it exceeded my expectations because it was so rich and complex. It was almost a bit rich for the soup! But that was okay, no one complained too much! Everyone seemed to geek out on the wine, and of course, I was happy about that!

The next course was a crab salad, which meant that it was full of king crab chunks, and dressed with an Asian dressing. The crab had been steamed in beer, which gave it a lot of flavor. The wine pairing here was a couple of bottles of 1999 Billiot Champagne Brut, another fantastic Champagne. Yum, yum, rich, but I think it was somewhat obscured by the Asian dressing on the crab salad. Sesame oil is powerful! Let's just say that I thought the crab salad was excellent and so was the Champagne but I might not have them together again, because it didn't do such justice to the Champagne. A crab salad with a blander mayonnaise-type dressing would have been less exciting, but better for the Champagne, me thinks! I have eaten in Champagne before and their food is rich but not spiced, fat and salt seem to be the main spices there! At any rate, everything still got consumed; it was not like anyone was going to turn down the Billiot or the crab, let's put it that way!

It is interesting - food pairings with wine. Sometimes, the wine can overpower the food (like my Riesling seemed almost to do) and sometimes the food can overpower the wine (like the Asian dressed crab did to the Billiot). The food and wines were still excellent, of course, and if I were offered them again, I wouldn't refuse them! Though I would probably pair a Riesling with the crab dressed with Asian seasonings, and just have the Billiot on its own before dinner!

There was another course slipped in here and it was dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in proscuitto. Boy it was rich and sweet! The pairing here was a full bottle of 2003 Chateau d'Arche Grand Cru Classe Sauternes which was surprisingly good, surprisingly since I don't usually like Sauternes, but this was a nice pairing, a sweet pairing but the richness of the wine matched the richness of the food, though it was a mouthful and very filling.

Finally, there was the main course - turkey, stuffing, jello moulds in the shape of fall leaves, gravy, yams. With the main course were 4 red wines. I managed to taste a couple of them - Pinot Noir from California and Cabernet Sauvignon - there was also a couple of Malbecs. I was really so-so about the wines, and found myself really questioning whether I liked red wines at all. I think all the white wines (Champagne, sparkling wine, and Riesling) really stole the show that night, and the reds didn't get to shine. Also, turkey doesn't lend itself to many reds, especially heavier ones like Cab and Malbec. Perhaps if we were having prime rib, then these reds would have tasted better.

We followed with something like 3 desserts - pecan pie, an ice cream cake shaped like a turkey, and pumpkin creme brulee. It was a lot! I don't think I even could touch the pecan pie.....

Coffee was the pairing here, which was perfect. After all this food and wine, we eventually rolled ourselves out the front door.

In other words, Thanksgiving was all that it should have been. Very thankful.