So, You Want To Be A Meth Sommelier?

“I see somebody lawyering up.’

(The following is a true story with names and voices altered to protect the witnesses.  Except for my dingbat retard date, whose name is Cecilia Morgan.)

You know who doesn’t believe in coincidences?

Homicide detectives, that’s who.  Oh, and Stephen Hawking and evangelical Christians and guys in the Mafia and gypsy fortune tellers.

You know who does believe in coincidences?

Me.

That’s why, when I received an email from someone considering getting their ‘beer sommelier’ certificate, I was all like, ‘Day-um.  Ain’t that a coinkydink!?’

Chef Adolphus of Chez Cher-Recherché

Because as it happened, the evening before I was dining at a well-known clip-joint—in one of those library-quiet dining rooms where, when you get up to tinkle, everybody turns and looks—where the appointments in the bathroom alone are worth more than every stitch of furniture you’ve ever owned.  You know the place I mean:  Obligatory valet where you hand some smelly, pimply, geeky teenager ten bucks to pull into a nearby parking spot when you’d prefer to give him a tenner to keep fifty feet away from your car; inside, there are alpha-male leather banquettes lined with the city’s power menagerie whose steady patronage assures that the place hasn’t changed anything but a light bulb since the Cuban Missile Crisis; there’s a chef whose age and accent indicate that he could have cooked for Heinrich Himmler and an immutable Mad Men menu presented with suave, supercilious service that, the more flawless it becomes, the more self-conscious you get, and a check, in the end, which is the equivalent of Aruba’s GNP.

Anyway, that place.

And Now That The Stage Is Set, Here’s What Happened:

“I’ll have whatever the Captain is having.”

People are surprised when I tell them that I never order wine in a restaurant. ‘You’re a wine writer for Christ sake,’ they say, and I am forced to get all patronizing and superior and remind them that that’s exactly why I don’t order wine in restaurants.  In the first place, I never pay for wine at all—I have so many samples waiting for my high-demand, acutely clever reviews that were I to try and get through them this quarter I’d remain permanently in the state that Captain Hazelwood was the night he cold-cocked the Exxon Valdez.  Not only that, but I do know retail pricing, and can therefore accurately gauge extortionist mark-ups.  I am loathe to further line the restaurateur’s pockets with no-value-add profit when I can just as easily snort from my hip flask of Old Crow whenever I get up to use the bathroom, which is every five minutes, which may actually be why everyone keeps turning and looking at me.

That said, I don’t want to look cheap in front of my spoiled-brat date, and since there has been some talk lately about ‘beer sommeliers’, last night at Chez Cher-Recherché (or whatever it was called) I asked to consult with one.

And Lo and Behold, From the Mists of the Grill Room, The Beer Sommelier Appeared…

Beer sommelier in typical formal wear

I will admit to being pleasantly impressed by this new breed of certified serf.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but this fellow was an archetype of industry professionalism.  Crisply attired in a wing-tipped, bow-tied shirt, diamond cuff links and a hunter green tuxedo with matching cummerbund, he’d been blessed with Tom Selleck good looks and wore an expensive-looking sterling silver tastebier around his neck.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the Bully NASCAR Dale Earnhardt Jr. cap perched backward on his head, I might not have  been able to identify him as a beer sommelier at all.

As it happened, he was affable, engaging and extremely knowledgeable in his chosen discipline—at least, he was versed in brands you find at gas station Quickie Marts.  For example, with the beef carpaccio over baby mustard greens and Périgord winter black truffles, he recommended Schlitz, grandly and correctly noting that it was ‘the beer that made Milwaukee famous’.  With the soup, a bisque of Sercial Madeira and roasted horseradish, his pick was Rolling Rock, because there’s a picture of a horse on the label.  With the salad, I initially thought he might be heading a bit off track when he suggested a forty ouncer of Olde English ‘800’, which, despite the Elizabethan spelling, is not quite as classy as it sounds.  Hesitantly, because I was clearly willing to defer to his expertise, I wondered if the restaurant stocked any Trappist Achel Brune Extra.  He mulled the question and replied, “Oh, that faggy Belgian shit?”

Meanwhile my airhead date went with a glass of ’09 Domaine Rossignol Chambertin for which I had to shell out such an obscene amount of money that I had to briefly breath into a paper bag to keep the phony smile on my face.

My main course was black bass in lobster-fennel broth, and although the beer sommelier thought I should rein it in a bit with a Keystone Light, I teased him and ordered a ‘Black and Tan’, which was a really brilliant bon mot on my part, don’t you think?  Black bass? Guinness Stout mixed with Bass AleHa ha ha ha—hooray for me!  Unfortunately, the look that crossed the beer sommelier’s face was one of utter befuddlement and near desperation—in fact, the only other time I’d seen that expression was once when I asked a sushi waiter to pronounce the letter ‘L’.

Guinness seemed to be his sticking point, so finally I said, ‘You know, that black beer?’

“Ohhhh…” he replied with a confident sigh.  “Colt 45.”

In all, the experience would have been stellar, except that when it came time for my dessert beer, the beer sommelier was nowhere to be found.  Now, I can forgive a lot in a waiter—total drunkenness, blatant thievery, regular petitions that I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, language that would make even a thug’s eardrums curdle—but being AWOL when I am going through alcoholic withdrawal is not a forgivable transgression.

Ultimately, I located him perched on a benchwood stool at the end of the bar watching Sons of Anarchy with Kharouf the bartender, who comes from a country so obscure that even the Foreign Secretary hasn’t heard of it.  On the screen, someone was getting a tattoo removed with a blowtorch.  I approached with the intention of tearing him a new one, but the whole scenario suddenly broke as so mind-bogglingly absurd that I drew up in my tracks to consider the implications of this strange new breed of dining room drudge, the beer sommelier.  And then, I had a thought was so far in left field as to be in the middle of Brush and Montcalm, but I tapped him on the shoulder anyway and said, “By any chance, do you have a spliff sommelier as well?”

“For sure,”  he nodded grandly, and a moment later, back at the table, from the smoky depths of the storage room, the resident pot pro approached.

As stylish as his fellow sommeliers, the dining room’s sinsemilla steward was dressed in a sharp, tie-dyed Bottega Venta cashmere blazer with a matching, solid silk necktie by Cardi.  Balding, but with a neat ponytail that reached the middle of his back, this gentlemen was obviously a veteran of countless concerts, outdoor festivals and microbus convoys, and indeed, before getting to the Dope List, we had a fascinating discussion about Bob Marley’s empowering influence on the freedom fighters of Zimbabwe.  Ultimately, with the dessert course, I went with his recommended ‘89 vintage Big Buddha Kush—winner of that year’s Cannabis Cup.  And although the dessert menu looked scrumptious, the sativa server was accommodating enough to shoot out to Taco Bell and pick up three bags of 5-Layer Burritos as an accompaniment.  I’d scarcely started on my eighth burrito when I had an odd notion.  “Do you happen to have a methamphetamine sommelier, too?”

“Totally, dude; hella gnarly one,” he responded with the high-rise Valspeak terminal that is characteristic of the breed.  And from the aromatic, ether/acetone-scented lab annexed to the pâtissier’s work station,  the meth sommelier emerged.

At this point, my date—a bitchy blue-blooded bimbette from Grosse Pointe Woods—indicated she’d had enough, so I gave her fifty bucks for a cab and told her to get lost.  I was on a roll.

Meth sommelier.

Predictably, the tweak twinkie was impeccably groomed, wearing a second-hand but immaculate two-button Savoy tuxedo with satin lapels, a microfiber formal shirt and a maroon and crimson Windsor tie which color-matched the acne craters that made his face look like a map of the Sea of Tranquility.  He was a rapper, no doubt, and a nail-biter and a scab-picker and an eyeball-scratcher and a bicuspid-grinder, but so was I after smoking a bowl of his latest release: Strawberry Quick crystal crank (which also matched his tie) flavored with a reduction of wild Fraises des Bois berries and Red Bull, vintage twenty minutes previously.

Snooty,  pretentious, hoity-toity and la-di-da as the place may have been, it certainly met every criterion required for a five-star ‘destination restaurant’ experience.

Of course, after getting totally gurped on gackle, I needed a level-set before staggering off to find the valet, and with remarkable attention to each nuance of service minutia, I was introduced in quick succession to the Benzodiazepine sommelier, the Haloperidol sommelier, the Methaqualone sommelier, and ultimately, when all else failed, the heroin sommelier.  There was a cold turkey sommelier on staff as well (the joint was detail, detail, detail), but his hours were necessarily erratic: 3 AM to 6 AM, Sunday night, after the restaurant closed.

In all, the place exceeded my expectations.  I’d finish this review and text it to Yelp, but some aggressive dickhead is pounding on my door, shouting gibberish about being from the 9th Precinct police department.

And, my droogs, after the night I had, that is another pretty bodacious coinkydink, don’t ya think?

*

For further information: http://www.guildofbeersommeliers.com/

or:  Chris Kassel #19776599, Wayne County Correctional Facility, 37601 St. Aubin St., Detroit, MI 48212

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Velvety ‘Veleta': A Big Cheese In Tiny Contraviesa-Alpujarra

Q.: What does Veleta have in common with Velveeta?

A.: Neither are made out of cheese.

*

Okay, now that the inevitable and idiotic processed cheese-food reference has been laid to rest, I turn my focus toward a series of very cool, very delicious and very affordable wines being hauled stateside from a boutique winery in the south of Spain owned by the dynamic dyad Juan and Nola Palomar.

La Alpujarra

In the eighties, this energetic, wine-loving couple headed to some family acreage in La Alpujarra (a rocky region on the south slopes of the Spanish Sierra Nevada mountains), proceeded to clear it, plant root stock from native grapes, then hand-carry 14,000 vinifera cuttings from Napa and graft them onto ripárias roots.  All in a day’s work for a couple of old school enólogos trying to scratch out a living in rural Andalusian wine country, right?

Except that at the time, Juan Palomar was a surgeon from Dayton, Ohio.

La Palomars

“Dominio Buenavista was our dream,’ effuses Nola. “Juan is originally from a small southern village called Ugíjar, and first, after he fell in love with the wines of Napa, he noted how similar the climate and geography was to the area where he grew up, and was convinced that a wide variety of noble grapes could be grown on the Palomar family farm in Granada.”

The decision to move back to Ugíjar to make wine (and continue the family business of olive oil) was not merely a chance to chase the vine; both Juan and Nola saw a much deeper significance to it.

Says Juan: “In rural areas of the country, particularly in Andalusia, a reverse selection is occurring: People with means or higher education are leaving the villages and settling in the cities. It is a demographic movement opposite to the one happening in the past, where the less economically favored left the land for the major urban centers.

“In this way, today, the villages are losing their human potential. The ingenuity, the quest for improvement and the motor of prosperity are disappearing.

“An effective way to reverse the trend would be for the ones who migrated to return back to the villages and bring with them their fortune, knowledge and illusion to motivate growth and restore the pride and well-being of their native area.”

Juan Palomar

And So They Did… 

And in style:  Since the last vine was grafted in 1998, the Veleta brand from Bodega Dominio Buenavista has been a consistent prizewinner, with the latest round coming at the 2012 Cincinnati International Wine Festival earlier this month, where the ’08 Cabernet and 2011 Tempranillo Rosé were recognized with bronze.

Bronze Medals From The Bronze Age

Of course, making delectable wines in the Contraviesa of Alpujarra County is a long-standing trend—in fact, Granada is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in Europe.  The earliest inhabitants are credited with domesticating wild vines into something resembling vinifera nearly 4500 years ago, placing the timeline of eno innovations squarely in the Bronze Age. As a point of reference, in 2500 B.C.E., the Egyptians were brainstorming shapes that might work for really, really big buildings and Jesus wasn’t even as much a gleam in the Old Man’s eye.

Throughout the bulk of the area’s history, wine (locally called ‘costa’) was a blend of red and white grapes, and was, as might be expected, closer in color and texture to rosé than either one. It also tended to be ‘rustic’, which is an aristocratic way of saying ‘just this side of drinkable’.  It was, in fact, the Palomars and their perfectly-legal mule op with the cabernet cuttings that introduced Bordeaux varietals to the south slopes of the Sierra Nevada range.

And yet, whereas La Alpujarra may get a financial shot in the arm from these popular grapes, what about the rest of the world?  Do we really need another cabernet sauvignon?  More merlot?  Frankly—perhaps as a nod to those gumptious, phrenetic Phoenicians—of the selections I tried from the Veleta lineup, the one I found the most fascinating was made from the native mountain grape vijiriega, which if you Google, invariably comes up with ‘Veleta’ attached—that’s how unusual it is to release a commercial bottle of this strange, succulent varietal in the United States.  Similar in weight and profile to the equally singular Greek grape moscofilero (resulting in multi-layers of exotic tropical fruits and potently floral aromatics) with an undeniable alliance to the almond-like flavors of pinot grigio, it wouldn’t surprise me if geneticists ultimately determined that the three were kissing cousins.  In Spanish tradition, the wine is barrel-fermented and picks up subtle notes of oak; personally, I’d love to try a version that saw no wood at all.

Tempranillo, of course, is Spain’s elegant workhorse, and Veleta’s two-tiered approach to the grape as a monovarietal (crianza and ‘Sierra Sol’) are beautiful prototypes for introductory-priced versions; crianza,meaning that by law, it must have spent a year in an oak cask, is $13 and the lighter, more playful Sierra Sol is $10.  But perhaps the star of

La Velveeta

the portfolio is winemaker Julia del Castillo’s flower and mineral driven blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon.  Called ‘Noladós’,  I’m guessing that the name might be a contraction of Nola (Mrs. Palomar) and dos, meaning ‘two’.  If it isn’t, it should be.

All three are versatile with food, as any self-respecting Spanish red must be.  And yes, they all should pair well with locally-produced grazalema cheese—and double yes, the Palomars and I are still looking for something to drink with Velveeta.

Tasting Notes:

Buenavista-Veleta Vijiriega, Granada, 2010, about $10: Enticing aromas of honeysuckle, green apple, sweet lemonade and jasmine melt into a tropical core filled with melon, papaya and lime.  A touch of vanilla at the end, likely from the barreling.  There’s a 10% infusion of chardonnay, which (whereas I am in no position to second guess Dr. Del Castillo, who has a Ph.D. In Chemistry), I like to try without.  Diluting the native flavors of ‘viji’ with Burgundy’s erudite white strikes me as akin to putting a top hat on a campesino so you can take him to the salón de baile.

Buenavista-Veleta Tempranillo Rosé, Granada, 2010, around $10: Why rosé instead of the traditional Iberian term ‘rosado’ is a question for the Palomars; I’ll aim my concentration on the juicy, strawberry-scented refresher; crisp and dry, nearly as full-bodied as a cool-weather red.  Fairly potent at 13.5% ABV, the wine is an excellent teammate to tapas and shows remarkable cleanliness and clarity.

Buenavista-Veleta ‘Sierra Sol’ Tempranillo, Contraviesa Alpujarra, NV, about $10:  Well-structured for the price point; purple-hued and medium bodied, the wine wears no vintage, nor the term ‘crianza’ although it has in fact fulfilled the one year barrel-age requirement.  Lovely nose of spicy black fruit with a reasonable palate length filled with plum and licorice.

Buenavista-Veleta Tempranillo Crianza, Contraviesa Alpujarra, 2007, about $13:  You can, if you look, find some remarkable Spanish varietals for far less than you’d spend on an average-quality Napanese or Sonomastani red.  Here’s a poster child: Super fragrant with an array of aromas, simultaneously bright and dark.  Very expressive of the breed, with black cherry, damp earth, black currants and tempranillo’s signature savor—licorice.  A velvety, tannin-tinged finish.

Buenavista-Veleta Cabernet Sauvignon, Contraviesa Alpujarra, 2008, about $16:  Enologist Julia del Castillo received her degree at the University of Bordeaux, so as ‘un-native’ as the varietal may be to La Alpujarra, it’s required by formal politesse to see what she can do with cabernet sauvignon.  Interestingly, she remains true to the red roots of the region, offering a dense, mocha and spice aligned wine wrapped in sweet berries, leather and the distinct taste of black tea.

Buenavista-Veleta ‘Noladós’, Contraviesa Alpujarra, 2008, around $16:  My pick for the cock-of-the-walk—40% cabernet sauvignon, 40% cabernet franc, 10% tempranillo.  Beautifully balanced, showing the best face of all three varietals.  Rich, unctuous and eager to please, the wine shows toasted hints, coffee, caramel and cocoa while retaining bright red currant and pepper in the foreground.  These many layers join at the finish line, resulting in long, clean closure.

Posted in SPAIN, Tempraillo, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

You Side With The Angels—Me, I’ve Got Lincoln Henderson’s Back

The following review contains words like ‘penis’ and may not be suitable for adults.

“For in the Resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in Heaven.”  - Matthew 22:30

As the above Biblical reference makes clear, angels–sort of like Justin Bieber–are gender neutral.  They are neither men nor women, and neither will you be when the Second Coming happens, during which Jesus will say, “Criminiddly, people—where’d all this styrofoam come from?”

Angels are, therefore, immune to Freud.  In other words, no penis envy, no womb envy, no chest hair envy and no actually liking When Harry Met Sally envy.  What’s an incorporeal semi-divine theophanic messenger to do?

Drink bourbon, that’s what.

Heaven Scent

Distillers and winemakers are often sloppy sentimentalists to begin with, and with a tot or two of the fruits of the day’s labor under their belts, they start using maudlin terms like ‘angel’s share’ to describe evaporated booze.

After alcohol is made, it often undergoes a prolonged nap inside wooden barrels, imparting it with various chemical properties and flavors.  Way back in the day, casks were used primarily as vessels for storing and transporting the product—the auxiliary benefits were secondary, and often unintended. A classic example is Retsina, Greece’s strange, turpentine-flavored wine.  Two millennia ago, the Roman writer Columella recommended sealing barrels with pine resin, and the Greeks played copy-cat by using sap from their Aleppo forests to coat amphorae.  Retsina is an acquired taste, no doubt, but the Greeks certainly acquired it—the weird stuff is popular to this day.

Mike’s sword is a penis substitute

Barrels are porous, which is why they work: The slow permeation of air through the wood allows a multitude of subtle, positive changes to occur within the wine or spirit and, for the most part, at exactly the right speed.  At the same time, a naturally-metered level of evaporation occurs, so that at the end of the aging process—whether it’s  six months or six years—slightly less drink comes out than went in.

In humid conditions, the evaporation is primarily ethanol; in drier climates, it’s water.  Either way, the ‘missing’ portion of liquid is known, colloquially, as ‘The Angel’s Share’.

Lincoln’s Thinkin’ Drinkin’

Lincoln Henderson

All of that is a rather convoluted way of explaining why Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson’s latest release—an exquisitely smooth and flavor-crazed bourbon that spends up to six years in charred white oak (3-4 ‘alligator’ char, whatever that means) and another six months in used port barrels—is called ‘Angel’s Envy’.

As public relations nonsense legend has it, Henderson—who spent forty years with Brown-Foreman before breaking rank and founding  Louisville Distilling Company in 2005—sat down with a bunch of angels and offered them a bit more than their fair share provided that they improve what they left behind.  There’s more, but I won’t bother because it’s sort of copywriter idiotic.

The liquor, however, is not.  Bourbon, a peculiarly American breed of spirit, is made primarily from corn (51% by law) and aged in charred, new oak barrels, giving it an extremely appealing smoky sweetness unlike any other whiskey in the world.  It’s a myth that bourbon must by law come from Kentucky—any state can produce it.  But worldwide, most trade agreements allow that anything called ‘bourbon’ must be born in the U.S.A.

Bourbon is not to your taste?

Bite me—that’s like saying, ‘I really don’t think red goes with white and blue.’

Lincoln’s Continental

YES Turbo will get a bigger rise out of you than the yeast.

In order to produce Angel’s Envy—which Henderson refers to without abash as his ‘masterpiece’—he and his team have pulled out all the corks, opting for the Cadillac of corn (non-GMO), the YES Roadster of yeasts (an exclusive strain, evidently developed by Henderson himself) and the Bentley of barrels (air-dried Bluegrass Cooperage for the initial 4-6 year run and 60 gallon vintage port barrels for the finish).  To step even further away from Jim Crow (seriously—Jim Crow invented the sour mash process prior to inventing drinking fountain signs), Henderson ‘batches’ Angel’s Envy 12 barrels at a time, unlike his competition, which may sniff ‘n’ swirl up to a hundred barrels during the end game.   Obviously, this allows Henderson a much more contemplative opportunity wherein he can bottle only that bourbon which he feels meets or exceeds whatever Sts. Gabriel or Rafael might expect.

Other OCD-sounding eccentricities that Henderson employs during the production of Angel’s Envy include filtering through ‘activated carbon’ rather than via the cheaper ‘chill filtration’ process; also, aging the barrels on the top floor of the warehouse to ensure that the evaporated portion is more water than booze.

Of course, if I’m an angel—arch or otherwise—and I wind up with Adam’s Ale instead of Henderson’s Hooch, I’m going to develop one holy mother of a shoulder chip—which may be where the term ‘Hell’s Angels’ originated.

Anyway, at around $45 per fifth, Angel’s Envy is a burly, brawny paradigm, containing every nuance that bourbon buffs crave—maple, orange, vanilla and pepper—but it extends the running track far beyond the Churchill Downs grandstand.  Present in varying degrees of obviousness are cloves, heathery honey, cinnamon, malt, mint and a host of warm late-summer smells, like caramelized apple and ripe peaches.  The finish lasts long on the palate—longer, in fact, than it takes to run the Kentucky Derby—and is toned with succulent vanilla and pie spice.

This is a sipping spirit, meant to be savored with nothing more than a cube of ice and, perhaps, the classic bourbon mixer, ‘branch’—the pure water that distilleries use to bring their product down from a whopping 130 proof to a more manageable two-digit potency.  In Angel’s Envy, this is 86.6 proof.

That said, the question goes begging: Why in the world does the Angel’s Envy literature offer a series of truly obnoxious cocktail recipes?   A ‘Chicago Sour’, for example, contains egg white and red wine; ‘Stand and Deliver’ requires an odious-sounding Balsamic reduction along with pink grapefruit juice.

Help me out here.  Would you spend $45 dollars on a Master Distiller’s masterpiece, then add grapefruit juice, let alone vinegar?

And the worst is yet to come: The ‘Angel’s Tongue’, made with Yellow Chartreuse, Maraschino Liqueur and Sweet Vermouth.

Maraschino Liqueur?  Chartreuse??  This, my brothers and sisters, is a bizarre, anti-American, anti-logic, anti-bourbon attitude.

And it is somewhere that angels not only fear to tread, they refuse to—although granted, these days most of the cherubim are relying upon designated treaders.

Posted in Bourbon, LIQUOR | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Stryker Sonoma Petit Verdot: The Golden Ticket

Unpalatable even poured over Cocoa Puffs

My buddy Roger Bonga makes a sinfully serious chocolate wine out in Grand Rapids; Oregon’s Shallon Winery makes ‘a rich chocolate and orange whey* wine’; and of course, there’s that inexplicably weird and awful Dutch mess called Chocovine, a blend of cabernet and chocolate.  Now, whereas I do not deny that dark chocolate and red wine share an otherworldly affinity, so do pinot noir and salmon.  This does not mean that if they tossed a Chinook filet and some Pommard in a blender and strained it into a wine bottle, I’d queue up for one.

*If you want to know what ‘orange whey’ is, I’m clueless—go ask Little Miss Muffet.  

Chris Kassel

In any case, my somewhat vacuous point is that the above wine folks are sort of cheating when it comes to chocolate wine, because in order to make it, they use chocolate.  Purist winemakers like Tim Hardin of Stryker Sonoma do not employ such cheap tricks when they make their version of chocolate wine.

And wine writers like me who are also purists—(in fact, I am so goddamn lily-white pure that I am virtually supernatural)—appreciate it.

Ehhh, What’s Up, Médoc?

Of the allowable Bordeaux grape varietals, the one that generally gets the least press—and frequently the least respect—is petit verdot.  The French (with the noted exception of  Châteaux Palmer and Lagrange) have pretty much run out of patience with this high-maintenance, late-ripening problem child, and in fact the name (‘little green’) is actually a referential dis toward the grape’s irritating requirement for Club Med weather.  It fairs a bit better in the New World, and in California, it is the most expensive grape you can buy, commanding upwards of six thousand dollars per ton.  By contrast, you can pick up a ton of chardonnay for around half of that, and zinfandel is even less.

The reason, of course, is Adam Smith’s Third Natural Law of Economics: Supply and demand.  Used primarily as a blending grape, individual vintners don’t use much petit verdot, and so, not much is grown.  In fact, in terms of planted acreage, petit verdot ranks about the same as alicante bouschet, and by volume varietal crush in California, it doesn’t even make the top ten.  Only very rarely will a winery release a stand-alone petit verdot, since it’s hard to recoup the overhead: There is only so much someone is willing to spend on an unfamiliar grape type.

That’s why, when you can find one, you snap it up, if only to find out what this bad-tempered Bordelaise bugger is all about.

Timmy and the Petit Verdot Factory

No rats in this cellar. Wow.

Stryker Sonoma, a Geyserville-based, self-styled ‘life embracing’ winery with a ‘slightly irreverent attitude with respect to the traditional methods of producing and marketing wine’ is justly proud of their two acres of ninety-year-old zinfandel vines, but consistent focus remains on the cabernet family of varietals.  Stryker’s  annual output is around seven thousand cases, with plenty of smaller lots coming it at between two hundred and three hundred cases, allowing for a lot of experimentation.  In all, they draw from four vineyards, including Rod and Cathy Park’s famed Rockpile Vineyards and their own 32-acre ‘Estate’—the source for the petit verdot I sampled:  Stryker Sonoma Estate Petit Verdot, Alexander Valley/Sonoma County, 2009, about $35.

Tim Hardin

Which brings us to all the chocolatey innuendos: This wine has cocoa contours and a mocha mindset quite unlike anything I’ve previously tasted.  It so dominates the profile that one begins to look for specific cacao notes instead of grapey ones.  Personally, I found this to be a fascinating step away from the clichéd ‘fruit bombs’ the Californios often foist upon an eager public, and although I’m fairly sure that winemaker Hardin would prefer I made animated allusions to juicy blackberry and peppery plum, to my palate, not much foreground fruit is obvious.

Bradys left, Count Chocula right.

Again, I don’t list this as a fault: Here, you’re not dealing with a wine you’d call ‘delightful’, but not all wine needs to be Brady Bunch backyard beguiling, right?  Some, like this one, can be Dark Shadows brooding.

Mayan God keeps slaves away from petit verdot.

I joke about old Charlie Bucket, but in reality, if I was going with a movie motif, an old school Western—Tim Hardin starring in ‘Stryker’ rolls easier off the tongue.  The winemaker, who began his career as a cellar rat for my homeboys over at Zmoore, espouses a philosophy that, while not particularly unique, is nonetheless appropriate:

Tim Hardin from a different angle.

“Let the terroir speak for itself, focus on the varietals and style that lend themselves to the soil and climate of the location of the vineyard”.

Hardin, with his lone-wolf bottlings of  cab franc, malbec, tannat et. al, along with various blends thereof, is becoming Sonoma’s foremost authority on such an approach to the Bordeaux biggies.

*

For more:  http://winestore.strykersonoma.com/2009-petit-verdot–estate-vineyard-alexander-valley-p133.aspx

Posted in Petit Verdot, Sonoma | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Black Lotus Brewery Just Keeps On Blooming

Within the well-worn wiles of wordplay, plenty of entities have found fame in combining hardcore words with gentle words—Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, Steel Magnolias, Hitler Youth—so ‘Black Lotus’ is among impressive, if imposing company.

Michael Allan, Lord of Wednesday afternoon.

No problem for Mark Harper, Michael Allan and Jodi Allan, who launched their suburban brewery/restaurant in 2006, fed up with ‘massive corporations serving up inferior products’.  I, for one, am in the camp of those who appreciate it when the protesting  99% choose not to set up tents in Wall Street, but instead to brew beer in Clawson.

Ah, Clawson.  You know how every metropolitan area has outlying cities that just roll off the tongue as ‘un-hip’?  Places that sort of flutter upon the hinterland of the conscience as being loaded with dying storefronts, white-hot roads and non-hot white broads, tool and die shops with QS 9000 banners and convenience stores stocked with cheese-flavored carbohydrates, power drinks and Newports along with all the rest of life’s staples?

Dear Clawson, you’re right up there with Westland.

This isn’t an issue for Mark and Mike and Jodi, either—they understand that a community’s spiritual journey from not-cool to ironically cool to genuinely cool often begins with a single investment.  Look at Hamtramck and Ferndale—even Royal Oak before it became yuppie dysfunctional.  The very vanguard of Clawson cool (unless you count the ghost of Thomas Video) is the throne upon which Black Lotus Brewing Company currently sits.

‘Think Global, Drink Local’

Black Lotus

Black Lotus Mission Statement:  As above.

‘Of the Trio, By the Trio and For the Rest of Us’: The Black Lotus war cry, emblazoned on Black Lotus’ t-shirts of the unabashedly white-hot servers, is ‘Think Global, Drink Local’.

Wu Tang Clan's Black Lotus

It’s a grand one, too.  Over the years, I have taken great consolation crashing inside caliginous cantinas, contemplating cosmic concerns while consuming whatever the hell they had on tap, and although Black Lotus is not—thanks to wrap-around picture windows—particularly dark, it is the sort of think-centric bar (with a conversation pit, wall artwork and overall bargain-basement pricing) that encourages a worldwide conceptualization process.  ‘I Drink, Therefore I Think’, especially once you stop staring at the servers in t-shirts.

'Femizons's' Black Lotus

Think Global, Drink Local also appears on chalkboard menus swinging above the t-shirt and g-force intellects, amid (the day I visited) a lovely loop of Mexican love songs; signs that list an ever-changing brochure of beers.  Handmade by Mark, a former school psychologist, these boutique brews are a love labor that delve into breeds of beer that your day-to-day MLIA Detroiter has probably never even heard of.

Here’s a quick rundown of the ones I sampled:

Funkin’ A Apricot Wheat: Pours a pale lemon-color and deliciously cloudy—this is unfiltered Hefeweizen, which means that the yeasts have not been filtered out.  The apricot puree comes to the forefront immediately; the nose is filled with summery jam notes along with the characteristic banana and clove overtones, and the ale is rich without losing its lightness; there’s moderate carbonation and a buttery, dry finish.  Funkin’ potent at 6% ABV.

Red Tao Amber:  A stellar example of an American amber beer: Deep brick in color, strong espresso and orange peel on the nose and a palate that focuses on the malt while still giving the herbally hops their props. A nice bitter kick to the kisser, with an assertive, resinous finish.

Detroit Hip Hops: Cute name.  Do Detroiters do cute?  No matter, the ale does the culture proud—bright, grassy and large at 6%, the hops—dried or fresh, depending on availability, are the stars of the show.  Aroma hops lend nice pine/lemon zest notes to the brew, which otherwise shows toffee and caramel.

The Gift (Belgian Strong Ale):  The biggest boy on the block: At 12.2% ABV, it packs a wine wallop.  A seasonal ale to commemorate the solstice, The Gift is an artfully balanced brew that combines complex, dark fruit/pie spice aromas with a mid-palate loaded with brown sugar, yeasty bread dough and honey, everything leading to a concentrated, malty conclusion.

Raspberry Blonde Ale: Cloying candy notes in the nose—like those ‘dots’ you used to peel off paper and wound up eating more paper than dot.  But otherwise, a delicate and appealing ale that pours with tight foam and follows with nice lacing in the glass.  Flavors are true to the name, with tart raspberry carrying though the grainy malts and nearly sour finish.

Firecrotch Blonde Ale: This non-existent paean to Lindsay Loan will likely never find its proper spot among brewmaster Mark’s portfolio of Black Locust beers, but I will review it nonetheless:  Sweet and bubbly at the start, with strawberry-tinted lacing and a pretty, freckled profile.  However, it quickly devolves into a skanky, alcoholic mess.

True to their shibboleth, Black Lotus also offers several wine selections from Michigan vineyards, but for some reason, the wine list doesn’t indicate, by name, what they are.  If I’m going to drink local, I want to think local, and that requires Black Lotus to ink local:  What are these wines and where are they from?

And There’s Food?

To sop up the suds, Black Lotus offers a menu that is not only ideal for the venue, but so inexpensive it’s silly.  For five dollars, you’ll wind up with a BLT on marbled rye that will take care of you for the rest of the day; the priciest item you can pick is a sensational slab of salmon wrapped in lawash and wasabi mayo.  Middle menu items ($6 – $8) are predictable but delectable—burgers, chili, nachos and grilled cheese—but there’s a neat batter-fried dill pickle appetizer than will have you settled into a NOLA-style afternoon.

However, the beer’s thing thing wherein you’ll catch the conscience of the king, and the crown, as worn by the King of Klawson, is over on 14 Mile and Main.

*

Black Lotus Brewing Company

1 East 14 Mile Rd, Clawson, MI 48017

248.577.1878

www.blacklotusbeer.com

Open: Sun. 12 PM – 10 PM; Mon. 12 PM – 1 AM; Tue. 12 PM – 1 AM; Wed. 12 PM – 1 AM; Thurs. 12 PM – 1 AM; Fri. 12 PM – 2 AM; Sat. 12 PM – 2 AM

Posted in BEER, Michigan, MIDWEST | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Hestan Vineyards: Picture Perfect Picks From The Sultan of Saucepans

When a well-heeled businessman decides to open a winery—and plenty do—we can but hope that they possess at least one of the Big Three: A sense of taste, a love of the land or winemaking savvy.

If somebody around the place can also play the harp?  So much the better.*

*It is not required that all four skills are contained in the same body.

So, within Napa’s Hestan Vineyards, you’ve got pretty much what hockey fans call a hat-trick, orchestrated to the strains of Bach’s Sonata For Harp in G-Major.

Stan and Helen Cheng

Helen and Stanley Cheng—whose first names combine to make the word ‘Hestan’—entered vinotopia via a line of upscale cookware with names that sound like Futurama robots—Anolon, Circulon—and a private brand for Paula Deen, whose favorite Futurama character, of course, is Fry.  Cheng’s profession took him to numerous restaurant kitchens (French Laundry, etc.)  and from that, the Hong Kong native developed a deep appreciation for the subtle differences in  Napa terroirs.  When, in 1996, he translated some of his hard-won casserole cash into a 127-acre ranch on at the base of Napa Valley’s Okell Hill, his intention was to build a steady, stellar reputation as a grape grower supplying fruit to top tier Napa wineries.  And did.   But by 2005, the yen to release his own line grew too much, and in 2005, with advice from Helen Cheng’s reputed world-class palate and the consultation of medical student-turned-winemaker Mark Herold, Stanley released 2002 Hestan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and a second label, 2002 Meyer Cabernet Sauvignon to phenomenal notices.  Parker Jr. garnished the former with 95 points, and the Meyer picked up 90 points from Wine Spectator.

An auspicious start in anyone’s book of prototypes.

Meanwhile, The Chengs continued to add blocks of vines one at a time, finding multiple exposures with nuanced affability to Bordeaux rock stars like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, malbec and cab franc.  In all, 52 Hestan acres are planted to grapes, and, with yields kept low, intervening vintages have been roundly applauded as dense, opulent examples of what limited production Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon—Herold’s specialty—can offer.

And The Harp? 

Hark as you might, it has nothing to do with what’s played by any of Herold’s angels… On the contrary, in the 2008 vintage, the Chengs enlisted separate-but-equal wine consultant Jeff Gaffner (of celebrated 1996 St. Jean Cinq Cépages, Wine Spectator’s1999 Wine of the Year’) to develop a third label named after their harp-playing daughter, Stephanie.

Both Herold and Gaffner love dramatic, concentrated reds, and although both adhere to a similar regimen of detail and discipline in the vineyard and in the cellar, their styles are strikingly different—a fact upon which Stanley Cheng is happy to harp: “We feel very excited and privileged to have winemakers of such accomplishment interpret our vineyards’ terroir in such wonderfully different and expressive styles of wine.”

Herold’s reds see less oak time than Gaffner’s, and the wines manifest potent, liqueur-like berry flavors in the foreground—Chambord especially.  The massive amount of time spent inside new oak (28 months) that underscores Gaffner’s ‘Stephanie’ might have been something with which a taster needed to wrestle, but there’s a overriding malolactic creaminess in each which make them rich and ripe and appealing.  Gaffner is, as it happens, a strong proponent of vinifying grape lots separately to retain individual block and varietal characteristics, and a few more years of aging should do ‘Stephanie’ wonders.

As for a bit more aging, Stephanie herself, at twenty-two, is  just beginning to appreciate the delicacies along with the dynamisms in her eponymous bottlings—rumor has it that she didn’t fully sign up to the original flavor program.

Patronizing Note to Stephanie: No doubt, listening to your first year of harp practice weighed a little heavily on mom and pop too, so, consider that their patience in waiting for your skill sets to fully develop may also be a word to the wise when it comes to your wine.

*

Herold, Gaffner, Rivers Brown

In 2009, a third winemaker joined the Hestan team, Thomas Rivers Brown—a guy who has a naturalist’s name if ever anyone did.  The resumé of this native South Carolinian is equally impressive (I’d say ‘electrifying’ if I dared use that word in the same sentence as ‘Old Sparky’):  A couple of years ago, Brown found himself on the business end of double 100 point scores from the Wine Advocate for his 2006 Schrader ‘Old Sparky’ and CCS Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as double 99 points from James Laube of Wine Spectator for ‘Old Sparky’ and T6 Cabernet Sauvignon, representing the highest blind tasting scores ever awarded an American winery by that publication.

Rivers Brown has taken over production of Hestan Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the chardonnay—the only varietal that the winery produces from grapes outside Napa acerage–these from the very new appellation of San Francisco Bay and a vineyard Stanley has planted on land near his cookware company.

Such a triumvirate of talent supervising the winemaking at a 6000-cases-per-year winery almost seems like overkill, doesn’t it?

Still, what do I know?  I wouldn’t have guessed that Paula Deen needed her own brand of stockpot, either.

Tasting Notes:

Hestan Vineyard, Chardonnay, San Francisco Bay, 2008, about $50: Lush and round on the palate to the point of being nearly syrupy—the wine is filled with an opulent spread of poached pear, mango, honey and nutmeg along with a gripping butterscotch finish.  Should grow even richer and more layered with cellaring.

Hestan Vineyard, Chardonnay, San Francisco Bay, 2009, around $50:  The first wine produced by Brown Rivers, the wine shows a crisper profile driven by greener fruit: apples and citrus predominately.  Like its sister from 2008, the chardonnay is bottled without fining or filtration, but shows clear in the glass—there’s a pure, almost crystalline substructure of minerality to the wine that I missed in the ’08.

Hestan Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2007, around $75:  Massif-massive; jammed with jam and fleshy with blackberry, black cherry and pipe tobacco.  Darkly textured and slightly astringent with bitter chocolate notes, the tannins are currently in-your-face aggressive, chewy and somewhat ferocious, but should settle in for the long haul, making this a wine to allow to mature with finesse.

Hestan Vineyard, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2008, around $100:  Despite a jittery onset, the ’08 growing season got a grip on itself after one of the coldest spring frosts on record.  The resulting vintage is considered a classic, and indeed, this wine holds it to such an obligation.  Supple, stupendous and sweet, the ’08 cab is more floral on the nose that the ’07, displaying the same wealth of warm briary blackberries, but this time bolstered by a package in which the tannins seem a bit more integrated, even at this early date.  A long, leisurely finish shows black licorice, vanilla and oddly, a slight but appealing overtone of grapefruit.

Hestan Vineyard, Cabernet, Meyer Vineyard, Napa Valley, 2007, about $45:   Lovely aromatics of currant and chocolate spill over into a bold, drink-now gush of spicy, cedary summer fruit with a strata of limousin complexity adding smoke, creosote and tobacco.

Hestan Vineyard, ‘Stephanie’ Proprietary Red, Napa Valley, 2007, around $60:  Two years of French oak has left a stamp on this wine—one that we presume is not indelible.  Intermixed with the chewy tannins are wonderful splashes of plum, black raspberry, cherry and creamy espresso, and at this point in its evolution, the wine works best with food—especially a nice marbled hunk of steer—but not to worry: The harp logo on the bottle forewarns that this may indeed be a selection that comes with a few strings attached.

Posted in Cab/Merlot, CALIFORNIA, Chardonnay, Napa | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s So Great About France, Vintage 2009?

In the first place, ‘vintage year’ is whatever the opposite of oxymoronic is, since technically, every year is a vintage year.

In Oporto, however, certain vintages may be ‘declared’—meaning that, in the spring of the second year following the harvest, Port houses determine whether or not their then-barreled wine has the potential to be ranked among the 2% of ports outstanding enough to wear the coveted ‘Vintage’ label.  In general, this happens about three times per decade, and although such declarations are the decision of each individual shipper (and the Port/Douro Wine Institute), it’s a ‘see-and-be-seen’ party with most top houses following a collective lead.

Equally, in popular parlance, if you see an ad for ‘vintage’ French wines, chances are you’ll find selections from 1970, ’71, ’81, ’95 or 2000—and you probably won’t see much Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 2002.

In both cases, the word ‘vintage’ has usurped itself, narrowed its own definition to indicate a given year of exceptionally high quality.

Rheinland vineyards

Usually, however, the importance of the bull’s-eye on a label tends to exist in proportion to how lousy the weather is in that locale: Generally—but hardly exclusively—vintage is more indicative of quality (or lack thereof) in appellations farther north.  Technology has managed to pick up some of the slack, and in Germany—so far from an optimum wine growing climate that vineyards are often planted on terraced slopes to pick up reflected sunlight from the Rhein River, vintage is as important as—and often indicative of—sweetness (or ripeness) levels.  In the late 20th century, a land reform policy called Flurbereinigung sought to replant and reshape these hardscrabble vineyards, and new roads were built to help with the difficult task of harvesting grapes growing at a forty-five degree angle.  Advanced irrigation and drainage techniques have also been a shot in the arm for such wines, and as a result, vintage may matter somewhat less today than it did 1975.

Still, when it rains from May to August, all bets are off.

Global warming hasn’t hurt things either (yet), allowing—or forcing—earlier harvests (up to 20 days in Alsace and Australia) and permitting places like England and British Columbia to become rational players on the world’s wine stage.

Even so, when all’s said, when everything has been homogenized, commoditized, controlled, steam-rolled and computer-cajoled, when it comes to vintages, there’s good old reliably unreliable France.

But Is The Hype Worth The Hoopla?

Re-inventing the Weil.

Roman Weil, co-chairman of the Oenonomy Society of the US and Professor at the University of Chicago, performed an interesting, if ultimately meaningless experiment using experienced wine drinkers tasting a vertical line-up of wine from four to 17 years beyond their vintage, and discovered that even the best could not distinguish wines from so-called good or bad vintages.

Except for those from Bordeaux.

Guigal Hermitage from Northern Rhône ran a tight second, but Burgundy, for some reason, was not part of the experiment—although it is traditionally supposed that whereas Bordeaux displays the largest variance among vintages, Burgundy has the largest variance within a specific vintage.

This all may seem a rather round about way of getting to Vintage 2009, which Pichon-Lalande’s winemaker Thomas Dô-Chi-Nam called, “My best harvest ever,” and Christian Moueix (Établissements Jean-Pierre Moueix; Decanter’s 2008 ‘Man of the Year’) said, ‘I have never seen anything like it in my career…”—but we’re not there, even yet.

That’s because there has been a lot of recent speculation—some of it spurred on by the Weil study—that the best thing a vintage-chart-carrying wino could do to lighten up the wallet is tear it to shreds—and possibly lightening things up further by spending money on wines from some of Robert Parker Jr.’s ‘black’ vintages, which are almost always less expensive.

Because another discovery of Weil’s tasting was that, although a greater percentage of tasters were able to identify the differences in ‘excellent’ and ‘appalling’ Bordeaux vintages, nearly half of those preferred the wine from the lesser year.

But I Digress…

Vintage, of course, can be thought of as a snapshot of an entire growing season, not just conditions at the time of harvest.  Early disasters, like frost at bud break, may wind up being to a vintage’s ultimate advantage if the resulting, smaller crop is more concentrated.  In general, even former New York Time’s wine columnist Frank J. Prial—one of the earliest critics to write an obituary for the vintage chart—said (using a vintage simile), ‘…Bordeaux weather is as risky as a dot-com stock.’

Spot Quiz # 1: Which one is Frank J. Prial?

2009:  French Wine’s Most Elusive Quality—Consistency

Let’s tiptoe through the tulips of Loire and Rhône—although both experienced a good vintage with occasionally stunning examples to be found, the 2009 season did not raise the bar in these regions as it did in Burgundy, and especially, in Bordeaux.

Loire

A deep-serious winter, where temperatures dipped below 10°F, lay a fit foundation for the growing season, although hail in the early summer pretty much ruined it for large areas in Menetou-Salon and Coteaux du Giennois.  Areas that were untroubled by these storms enjoyed a long, hot summer, and the the Sèvre et Maine produced a few truly mouthwatering Muscadets—Michel Delhommeau ‘Harmonie’ and Sauvion Sèvre et Maine are examples, though most are now sold out.  Sancerre and Pouilly enjoyed warm weather through October, although some of marginal producers made wines that were shy of acid, the better growers offered wonderfully rich wines.  The best fruit, arguably, was the chenin blanc, where a fair autumn in Vouvray, Montlouis and Anjou resulted in dry wines of great concentration and depth, along with some outstanding  demi-secs.

Rhône Valley

Southern Rhône: Persistent midsummer heat led to some heavily-extracted, high alcohol wines, and for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, overall  precipitation was said to be the second lowest since de Gaulle was in office.  Although there was some light, relieving rain in September, most winemakers chose to pick early to avoid a chance of mildew. Gigondas and Vacqueyras, with moisture-retaining soils, did very well, as did the villages at higher elevations.

Jean-Louis Chave

Northern Rhône: An interminably wet winter left plenty of reserve moisture in the vines to counteract a steamy, but nearly rain-free August; this was followed by some serendipitous late-month sprinkles that allowed the ripening fruit to retain its natural acidity.   The resulting wines are focused and textured with super structures, but such poetry pales in comparison to Hermitage heavy Jean-Louis Chave, who remarks, ‘The sun is within these wines…’

Burgundy

Spot Quiz # 2: Which one is Pierre Vincent?

Ten years after Domaine de la Vougeraie was formed, winemaker Pierre Vincent believes that in 2009, he’s found his dream vintage.  ‘You can taste the characteristics of each terroir,’ is his Yogi Bera assessment, considering that terroir is something you’re supposed to taste, even in off years.  Nonetheless, the local superstition (much like our own President-elected-in-a-‘zero’-year-dies-in-office myth) suggests that vintages ending in ‘9’ are often destined for greatness: 1899, 1929, 1949, 1959, 2009…  The weather was certainly Burgundian supreme, at least from mid-May onward.  Early hail affected Morey-Saint-Denis and the southern end of Gevrey-Chambertin especially, and there was some worry that the prolonged flowering cycle in Côte d’Or might equate to uneven ripening, although this, apparently, did not happen.  August, which local vignerons believe to be the most important month for creating must weight, was ideal—dry and warm, but not sweltering, with a steady north wind to remove any threat of mildew from a couple of July showers.  Harvest began in the first week of September, and continued through to the end of the month, when the later-picked grapes of the Côte de Nuits were nearly all in.  By all accounts, the wines were beautifully balanced, with unaggressive tannins, early malo to mellow the acid, and number a few dazzlers from top estates: Domaine du Comte Armand Auxey-Duresses, Domaine Georges Mugneret-Gibourg Vosne Romanee, Domaine de la Vougeraie Gevrey-Chambertin Les Evocelles.  As in Bordeaux, however, the true strength of 2009 is seen in the more humble appellations, which have turned out some remarkable product.

Bordeaux

A hot spot for vintage Bordeaux

Robert Parker Jr. has famously declared 2009, ‘…unquestionably, the greatest Bordeaux vintage I have ever tasted…’,  and he festooned an unprecedented 18 wines with his maximum bequeathal: 100 points.   None of the big boys scored less than 98.  Not only that, but the consistency of the appellation’s offerings trickles down through the classified growths all the way to the petits vins and the sort of generic Bordeaux you can pick up along with your Lunchables at Pay Less Food.  This remarkable scenario came after a spring where rain and hail caused some craws to curdle.  But the weather settled down and the Bordeaux summer was long and hot—but not too hot—and was able to draw from the high water table to counteract the dry August.  As in Burgundy, September rain made sure everything remained suitably hydrated prior to harvest, which happened around the third week of that month.  Of equal importance, the dry weather during vendange allowed a serenity of labor, permitting pressure-free pickers parcel-by-parcel prerogatives so that each plot was brought in at optimum ripeness.  In all, it is a vintage that lends itself to every superlative that the region can produce: Seamless, opulent, rich and decadent.

France, Vintage 2030: The Stuff of Which Dreams Are Made

That is, if you don’t mind nightmares.

Bordeaux, before and after.

The 2008 International Conference on Climate and Wine made it clear that, if current trends continue, traditional French varietals/appellations will cease to exist within thirty to forty years.  Rhône may take the path that Castilla-La Mancha seems to be on, ending up a desert; Burgundy will be too warm for pinot noir, and should consider laying in some cabernet sauvignon;  Bordeaux will have a climate that resembles Valencia, and may have a future in grenache and syrah.

The only bright spot on that horizon?  Harvesting will be cheaper.  2030 roughly parallels the date of the first Zombie Apocalypse, and by then, Frank J. Prial should be ready to return to the world of wine in an auxiliary, hands-on capacity.

…If we can get him to convince the rest of the Walking Dead to chip in, we should be golden.

Posted in Bordeaux, Burgundy, FRANCE, GENERAL, Loire, Rhône | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment