Thursday, February 28, 2008
Last evening, though, I got together with some local Parker Board people for an "offline" event at a local Lebanese restaurant called Sunnin. It's in Belmont Shore on Second Street, the "strip" of Long Beach. The event was organized by a nice fellow named Kriss, who is a customer of our store and a regular Parker Board member - he organizes fun dinners and I have been to a couple before. The theme was wines from the Mediterranean. This opened the door for any French, Spanish or Italian wines that came from a Mediterranean location, but we actually had so many different countries represented that I was really impressed! I had never before tasted wines from Turkey and Slovenia, for instance. That was exciting. I think some attendants actually worked in those places and brought those wines by hand. There was also some Chateau Musar, a famous Lebanese wine, both a 1995 and 1998 that I got to try, which was fun - these wines are like Bordeaux-style blends with Cabernet dominant, and they had a real barnyard/bretty taste to them but in whole, pretty nice and French-styled.
That was the other thing, there were so many wines last evening that were vintage 1998 and older. So nice to see! They were really old world sorts of wines, so they were released aged and they age very well. None of this 2005 or 2006 vintage reds. Well, there were some 2005s there but not many.
I brought 2005 Domaine Gerovasilou Malagousia, a white wine from Greece that tasted really good - fresh, fine, a slight bit of spritz and residual sugar, but not much - a wine that reminded me of a Riesling (dry), and reminded some other people present of a Gruner Veltliner blended with a Sauvignon Blanc - which was not a bad description since it did have some of that fresh grass taste to the wine. I will have to look up this wine on Google to see if there is any description of the varieties that go into this wine. But it was nice, a winner.
The red I brought was a Corsican red called 2005 Antoine Arena Grotte di Sole Patrimonio Red Wine - that was a nice wine, kind of like a Cabernet Franc if I recall, just a good quality made red wine, not stunning or anything, but definitely good. I also don't know what was in this wine, but I liked it.
We enjoyed a variety of foods with these wines including cabbage rolls, lamb shank, lamb kabobs - this restaurant does lamb fantastically.
The only thing odd about the restaurant was that the proprietor, in a moment of severe openness, decided to tell the table a racist joke that we didn't really get and thought was in a bit of poor taste. Oh well! She could cook lamb great and hosted a nice night so we didn't hold it too much over her.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
We brought three wines, but I'll just comment on the German Riesling I brought, which was the only German wine there (French seemed to be ruling the day, followed by Italian): 2003 Dr. F. Weins-Prum Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spatlese. This showed noticeable petrol on the nose, followed by stone fruits and lime; on the palate, the wine was not excessively sweet, but was light and refreshing. I got refills on this wine. Very nice. Fruit definitely dropped off and noticeably less than a 2005 or 2006 drinking today.
Now onto White Burgundy. It is only in the last few days that I have heard of premature oxidation in white Burgundy. Strange. I have never heard of this. I work in the business. Okay, only for the last 2.5 years, but still. Never mentioned to me before! If I didn't read the e-Parker boards, I may never have heard of it. Incidentally, a couple of weeks ago, before I had heard of this phenomenon and this problem, Johan and I had purchased a 2000 Burgundy from The Wine House up in L.A. It is a 2000 Meursault Les Narvaux by Morey-Blanc. Hopefully it is fine. Hopefully it is good. We picked it up because it was there and Johan likes Meursault. But it sounds like 2000 was one of those vintages with a lot of premature oxidation. And this bottle was particulary inexpensive: $34.98. So it is possible it is not the best.
At any rate, my temptation is to open it tonight and find out what it is like. I'm serving chicken with dijon mustard, some broccoli and asparagus. If we do open it tonight, I'll write notes here on it tomorrow.
Hope it is good!
Friday, February 22, 2008
My husband Johan and I both took the day off so we could have a bit of a gastronomic-wine day out in Orange County. It turned out to be great fun!
Well, first off, we were good - we did engage in a 5-mile run even though the weather was cloudy and a slight bit drizzly (very common for my birthday in February), but at least we got a bit of exercise in before the big indulgence. :)
My goal was to visit 2 wine stores which I had never before visited: The Wine Club in Tustin, and Wine Pavillion in Lake Forest. We ended up going to a bonus third wine store which we have visited in the past: Hi Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa.
I think it is super-geeky to visit wine stores on my day off working at a wine store, but I think it atests to the fact that I love my job. :) I know that geeky doctors (some of them anyway) visit hospitals when they are on vacation in different countries and cities.
Anyway, we started off in Tustin at The Wine Club, where I knew one of the guys who works there, a gentleman called Jeffrey. He's a nice and funny guy who gave us the grand tour of the store, introduced us to a bunch of nice folks there. I like The Wine Club. They have a fun selection of wine that is totally different from ours (well, not totally, but different enough).
We ended up buying one of Jeffrey's selections (after drooling over the San Guido Sassicaia): 2005 Le Serre Nuove Dell Ornellaia. This is a Super Tuscan that is a baby Ornellaia. We got this because originally we were interested in getting the baby San guido Sassicia, but we ended up going with Jeffrey's recommendation as he thought the baby Ornellaia was even better. It was fun getting his personal recommendation for this wine and I thought to myself, you know, personality and personalized service really do count in the retail wine business - without that personal touch, all the bottles do kind of start to look the same, especially in a region one doesn't know that much about.
So we left this store and we left with a good impression and hopefully a good bottle of Tuscan wine. Jumped on the freeway heading due south toward the newer Wine Pavillion.
The Wine Pavillion appeared to be in a nicer, newer neighborhood, in a strip mall, with a bigger store-front and bigger interior. Interestingly, it is adjacent to a Christian store. The notable thing about this store is that it was super quiet. Quiet as in no customers were there. There is a beautiful wine bar but it was empty. There were about three employees working there but we might have been the only customers. The parking lot was also pretty empty so nearby stores were also quiet. This was a contrast to the last store, which had a bustling aspect to it, even though it was not really busy (on a weekday afternoon). I decided that quietness is the kiss of death for a retail store. I could understand better why our store does so many tastings - getting people in the door brings life to a retail business. Wine Pavillion had a wide selection (sort of, I guess) but no customers. Their German selection was ho-hum, much like the one at The Wine Club. A lot of JJ Christoffel and Robert Weil and Fritz Haag at low prices - the back labels again showed importers and distributors that I don't deal with, at least not often!
So we left this store without buying anything. It was now 5pm, and we had dinner reservations close by at 8pm. The thought crossed my mind to have a glass of wine at the wine bar we were just at in the Wine Pavillion, but it was just too quiet. Surely we could find a busier, more bustling place.
We did. We ended up at a third wine store in Costa Mesa, Hi Time Cellars. The parking lot of full. We went in and looked at their vast inventory. The cellar is totally fun to poke around in. We saw a Champagne that might be the one that we really enjoyed on our honeymoon a year and a half ago: 1998 Duval-Leroy Blanc de Chardonnay. We have been looking for the Blanc de Blancs, and we are hoping that this "Blanc de Chardonnay" business is just their made for America label. Also, I think it is possible that we had the 1996 when we were in Champagne. At any rate, it sounds like a Blanc de Blancs, so we ended up deciding to buy this on our way out. But first, we wanted to have a beverage at their wine bar.
When we got to the wine bar, it was full of people. Apparently a wine tasting was going on, and it was lively and bustling and exciting. We found out it was a $50 tasting of 2005 Burgundies. The wines looked intriguing, all 12 of them, but since we were headed for dinner, we decided to pass on the big ticket tasting. We opted instead for wine by the glass. I had a glass of 2005 Schloss Wallhausen Roxheimer Berg Riesling Spatlese. I had never heard of this estate, but I had been wanting a glass of Riesling on my birthday all day, so I was happy they had this on the list as a by-the-glass. I turned out to be perfectly delicious and refreshing and hit the spot. I asked the server if this Riesling was from the Rheingau (as my guess was that it was not from the Mosel - too full) and she said she wasn't sure, and grabbed the bottle for me to look at. It was from the Nahe. That made sense! It tasted somewhat between a Mosel and Rheingau Riesling in terms of its weight and fruit. A little further research showed that this is imported by Valkenburg, and it is an estate owned by the Prinz Michael Salm (or Michael Prinz zu Salm-Salm) who is the president of the VDP. It is also a very, very old estate, something like the oldest family-owned wine estate in Germany. Also, apparently, the estate is certified organic.
Johan had a Bordeaux from Margaux that I chose for him but the name escapes me and he so-so liked it; didn't find it overly impressive. It had some green pepper/eucalyptus on the nose followed by a simple one-dimension on the palate.
We left Hi Time pretty happy and with a bottle of the 1998 Duval-Leroy that we identified at the beginning.
Finally, it was time to head to Balboa Island for dinner at our favorite little Swiss French dining room, Basilic. It was raining pretty good now, and dark, which always adds to the European ambiance of our dining in this place. We were greeted by our French waiter who had served us just about 2 months ago, tucked into our table for two, and proceeded to read the menu and wine list. For dinner, we chose the seared foie gras and veal cheeks for me, and the fish soup and veal Zurich-style for Johan. For the wine, we chose a Burgundy, a 2002 Gevrey-Chambertin from Domaine Marc Roy which we quite enjoyed - it had a nose full of sauteed mushrooms, which is fantastic to a mushroom lover like me! On the palate, there is animal/barnyard, but not too much, otherwise, mushrooms and a touch of smokey bacon. Fruit is there but not dominant and not too little. I enjoyed the wine greatly, though it was slightly overpowered by my appetizer, the seared foie gras which came with a berry and red wine sauce that seemed kind of big even for foie gras - a sauce perhaps more suitable for some game. So that course was not my favorite, but my next course was wonderful - succulent veal cheeks cooked tenderly in a brown sauce that did not overpower the meat, served with velvetty mashed potatoes and a few mini-vegetables. Oftentimes I do not enjoy my entree course because it is just another heavy meat, but this course was most enjoyable, and went very well with the wine. I didn't taste Johan's fish soup as I'm allergic to shrimp, but I did taste his veal done Zurich style with thin sliced fingerling potatoes all in a cream sauce, but it was very nice.
We ended the meal not with dessert but a little cheese plate with the bit of remaining wine we had in our glasses.
What a great day! I would do that again in a heart-beat, even if I had to go into a wine store the very next day (which I do - today!)
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The wine went great with the beef, perfect, in fact. The Aglianico had a big, rich aroma, while on the palate, the wine had strength but not too much heaviness; a lot of flavor without excessive weight. Reminded me of a Chateauneuf du Pape that way; however, my husband found it not to. Indeed, it tasted nothing like a French wine, definitely Italian in that special Italian sort of way, maybe a bit more tannin than a Rhone wine, for instance.
This was a great bottle of wine, we both agreed, and would jump on the chance to have it again.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
This is Theo Haart and me, posing with his 1971 Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Auslese. This is a wine of which I guessed the vintage! Truthfully, Rudi Wiest tipped me off on this one, since I was about fried tasting (long day in a long week) and he said to me, "Well, this one should wake you up." Well, with that kind of warning, I assumed it had to do with my birth year, and so it did. Others guessed this wine to be from the 80s. 1971 was Theo Haart's first vintage that he made (in 1972) and he has been the king of Piesport (when it comes to wine) since!
Okay this is not in Germany, but this is when the German winemakers came to LA for their annual vintage release trade tasting. That's Hanno Zilliken, very nice man, famous Saar winemaker. I later visited his estate.
And also at this same tasting, the famous Robert Eymael of Monchhof Estate, the funniest winemaker I know. What a great sense of humor. Everyone loves him, most of all, our customers, who are still asking "When is Robert Eymael coming back?" He did a tasting for us last year, and who knows? Maybe he will come again. We even had some customers who took him up on his offer to stay at his estate - they went to visit him and of course had a super blast in the Mosel, the most beautiful place on earth!
And last but definitely not least, the man who makes it possible, German wine importer extraordinaire, Mr. Rudi Wiest.
Friday, February 8, 2008
The best part was seeing people from around Long Beach and Signal Hill that I knew in the business, and meeting more people in the business. For example, I saw Dave and Louise from Delius Restaurant (where just 2 weeks ago I hosted a wine dinner along with Argentine importer Mendoza Wines), Gregg from Southern Hemisphere (an online retailer of exclusively southern hemisphere wines), Chris and Stacey from Trinchero Wines (the importer/distributor of Angoves, who invited us to the dinner), Mosha from Estates Group/Youngs (our rep), and Mary from Casa Vino (the owner of Casa Vino wine bar.) After saying hi to these people I know, I met the chef Randy and manager/wine buyer Ryan for new Long Beach restaurant Tracht's, two very nice folks, as well as the Angove's winery representative Matt, who hails from Adelaide.
That already was worth the price of admission, seeing and being seen by the who's who of the Long Beach wine scene! (at least in my mind!)
The wines showed well. There were four. For the reception, they poured 2006 Angove's Nine Vines Viognier, and later, they paired this same wine with a three-cheese fondue served with mini-skewers of mini potatoes, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and bread cubes. This was a cute course. The second course was scallop topped with blood orange slices and a bit of sauce, paired with 2005 Angove's Limestone Coast Vineyard Select Chardonnay. This Chardonnay was excellent, and I don't even like 95% of Chardonnay. At a retail price of $15.99, this is an appealing wine and would be great for Chardonnay lovers and also people who are ambivalent about this variety. I think it would have gone exceedly well with scallops sauteed just in butter and without all the fruit sauce and topping - my pet peeve is fruit on savory food especially when having it with the wine. Leave off the fruit - the wine is already fruit!
The main course was a choice between a filet mignon wrapped in a boar bacon or rack of lamb. I chose rack of lamb, and to be honest this rack did not measure up to my rack of lamb which I make at home! A bit of modesty there for you! Not! The wine with this was 2005 Angove's McLaren Vale Vineyard Select Shiraz, which was very, very nice, elegant for a wine from Australia, not overdone at all, which is consistent with my previous experience with this wine.
There was also 2005 Angove's Coonawarra Vineyard Select Cabernet Sauvignon being poured after the Shiraz, but for some reason, I didn't get any, as I was probably at that point introducing myself to guests around the room, telling them about our fine store and all our fun tastings, and seeing if they wanted to order any of these wines off my order sheet.
Upon reflection, it was a nice event, great to see people, but food-wise, it was okay, not as nice as the Delius dinner from a couple of weeks back, and the wines showed well, but at the end of the day, I supposed I would have rather enjoyed a German Riesling dinner much better...
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
There was a 2007 Sauvignon Blanc with fresh stone fruit and grapefruit and guava aromas and flavors. Then there was a Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon and red blend called Primus, all wines to be retail priced under $20 that were quite good. Good balance of fruit and smokiness on the Pinot Noir, and the Cab was all about easy-drinking fruit, not a tannin in sight. The Primus, with its blend of Merlot, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon, had a bit more complexity and stuff going on, which I liked. A few layers there, not to mention a very smart label, which is a always a good selling point.
We'll probably bring these in during the month of April, feature them somehow in a tasting, and see how they go.
Friday, February 1, 2008
His desire is to contribute the wine while we contribute the space, some ripe cheeses and nice pate and sausage. He'll bring some guests interested in these older fine and noble Rieslings, while we can sell the rest of the seats.
Pretty cool! I can't wait. I have never attended such a tasting, but there's a first time for everything.
Glad I'm here to have firsts. Firsts like this anyway.
Will have to report on this tasting.