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March 2, 2017 / WineinTamiTime

2015 Chaumeau Balland Sancerre with Mike of Wine Weirdos

February 19, 2017 / WineinTamiTime

Hanging Out with Mike of Wine Weirdos

 

January 13, 2017 / WineinTamiTime

A New Day for Zinfandel

Zinfandel is tricky for me. No one else in the world does it like California so I want to love it. I embraced it when I attended Sonoma Summit in 2013, when I tasted a wide variety of them, including one from Rockpile, made by Ulises Valdez, standing on top of the Rockpile Vineyard. I swear that I am going to buy some to enjoy at home, but then I leave the wine shop with gruner or rosé. I naturally shy away from full bodied, high alcohol red wines, even when my head tells me to branch out of my blush colored rut.

There are tasty examples of Primitivo in Southern Italy, but no other growing region has embraced it and made it the rich, fruity punch in the face that Cali has. Its DNA was traced back to the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia where it has been referred to as Tribidrag as far back as 1518. Crljenak Kaštelanski is the difficult-for-Americans-to-pronounce name.

Styles vary from the claret style, which is lighter in color and body and lower alcohol, to inky, 16+% alcohol monsters. Predictably, I gravitate to the former. I encountered today’s wine, the 2015 Day from Sonoma County at the California Grapevine. I tasted it blind with four other 2015 zinfandels, as is the practice at Grapevine tastings. We taste the flights blind and then rank our top three and vote to determine which wines win. This one was my clear #1, as it was the most balanced and elegant of the group. I was not at all surprised and completely delighted to find out that this is Ehren Jordan’s new zin project. He made his name making Turley’s zins and went on to found his own label, Failla. This is one of my favorite California producers of elegant, beautiful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

If you happen to find these wines, I highly recommend them.

As a side note, if you can get your hands on a bottle of Lagier Meredith Tribidrag, do not think twice. This is super cool wine made by an icon.

For more information about Day Zinfandel: Day Zinfandel

For more information about California Grapevine: California Grapevine

Also check out: Lagier Meredith

 

January 6, 2017 / WineinTamiTime

We greet 2017 with zee Riesling

Like any somm worth her salt, I love sparkling wine. Whether it is grower Champagne, cava, pet-nat or sekt, opening a bottle makes a normal day a little more special. While we tend to reserve bubbles for special occasions here in the States, Germans open it daily. I am convinced that is why they make so many great, affordable bottlings. It helps that the cool grape growing climate in Germany produces high acid whites that are so delicious when crafted into bubbly.

Sekt is the German word for sparkling wine. There are a few ways to make sparkling wine, but the most labor intensive, expensive way is traditional method, also referred to as méthode Champenoise. The base blend of still wine is bottled with yeast and sugar, then crown capped so the yeast and sugar can do its magic and make those lovely bubbles. The bottles are turned, or riddled, formerly by hand, but in most larger production, with a machine called a gyropalette so all the spent yeast cells move down into the cap. Then the cap is removed, this is called dégorgement, the yeast is released, the wine is topped off and corked. This is the shortest possible explanation for the process. I share this with you so you can understand why Champagne from Champagne is expensive and why it is so awesome when we can score traditional method sparkling wine under $25.

The Barth (pronounced Bart) family has been farming in the Rheingau since 1948 and has been dedicated to wine grapes, mostly Riesling and Pinot Noir, since 1973. They were certified organic in 2013 and practice sustainable winemaking. They are founding members of the Charta association which advances the idea of site specific classification of dry Rieslings. They are also one of the most respected traditional producers of sekt.

On to the wine! I have enjoyed Barth’s sekt made from Pinot Blanc many times. It is sparkly, yellow apple deliciousness. Damon from Truly Fine Wines sent me home with this Brut Riesling this time and I am still dreaming of it. I opened it on New Year’s Eve for our toast. The nose, oh the nose… apple, lime and stones jumping into my face, like Riesling on steroids. On the palate, the body was full and round with fresh crisp acidity and the longest, mineral driven finish. And it is indeed a dry wine!

For more information on this wine and to experience it for yourself, click here:

Barth Riesling Sekt – Get Some!!

March 3, 2013 / WineinTamiTime

My Reward for Heeding My Budget, and a Short Rant

  I visited the Albertson’s by my mom’s house in Carlsbad tonight. As usual, I checked out their wine selection, just to see what they had and more importantly, how much was charged. I have been accused of being snobbish about grocery store wine, but I know it serves a purpose. These are the every day wines that are accessible. I know that the last thing I want at the end of my day is to make multiple stops for dinner and wine. I get it. I just believe that as the Wine Director of a restaurant, it’s my job to provide wine that makes a visit an experience. Many of us don’t get to go out every day, and when we do, we want something special, something better than we can make at home. Special, small production, hand made wines will never reach the economy of scale necessary to be featured in a grocery store. Wine that is outside the every day, that runs out at the end of the vintage and whose price fluctuates based on the whims of Mother Nature. Wine that takes lucky wine directors and sommeliers many of our waking hours, months, years to unearth. So forgive me. And drink what I offer.

Enough of the soapbox! On to the business, I mean bottle at hand.

The point is that I did not purchase a bottle at said Albertson’s because I didn’t want to spend the money when I could open something I had at home. Three months of unemployment took a toll on the cellar. I’m getting to a critical level, where I need to stock up with some everyday wine so I can back away from the nice stuff. Today I opened the bottle I most fear. I purchased it at the wine shop at The Orleans in Las Vegas, must have been 3 years ago. I intended to spring it on my blind tasting group, but since it isn’t on the Fair Game list, I thought better of it. I haven’t come across the right time to open it. I hoped it would not taste good so I wouldn’t be tempted to polish it off.

The Grid:

Sight; bright, clear, no gas or particles, ruby core out to a clear rim, color is of medium concentration, medium viscosity, no tear staining

Nose: clean initially, hints of nail polish remover late, medium intensity, youthful-ish, strawberry, raspberry, overripe vegetables in a plastic bag, cinnamon, clove, tar, hot on the nose, grape flavored crayon

Palate: off dry, very few of the elements on the nose make it to the palate; medium minus body, high acidity, low complexity and finish, unbalanced, of low quality.

Knowing that this is a non-vintage Pahrump Valley Winery American appellated Burgundy, I could not hazard a guess as to its varietal, origin or vintage. The label told me everything, the grid told me nothing! 

And no, I can’t finish the glass. I will buy some Sprite tomorrow and make spritzers!

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January 15, 2013 / WineinTamiTime

2010 Pinot Noir, I take it all back(Kinda) or, Gary Farrell(Or Whoever actually makes this wine) I love you

I arrive after most, ten minutes before seven and walk into a flight of 2010 Pinot Noirs, just like I had panned in my prior post for being purple opaque monsters. Not varietally correct. This time they were all ruby, medium concentration, no tear staining, medium to medium plus viscosity. The acidity hit just the right spot for me. In short, they looked, smelled, and tasted like pinot noir. This was a lovely flight. You win this time, Cali Pinot!!

  • Gary Farrell Rochioli Vineyard Russian River Valley – while only medium intensity on the nose, there was plenty happening; raspberry, cranberry and unripe cherry with rose petals, star anise, damp pine forest floor and root beer! On the palate the fruits and spices seemed darker, with quinine and a cherry syrup viscosity.
  • Gary Farrell Hallberg Vineyard Russian River Valley – the aromatics were more intense on the nose. Riper cherry and raspberry, still with star anise and root beer, but the flowers were of a more dried quality and the earth was more clay.
  • Gary Farrell “Russian River Selection” Russian River Valley – This one was all over the place in a good way. Blackberry, cranberry, raspberry, orange peel, beet, tarragon, violets, wet stones, baking spices. Definitely some new oak.  It didn’t end up my #1 because everything was in the nose, not all these notes made their way to my palate.

I tasted these wines on January 8th, 2013. For the rest of the flight  http://www.calgrapevine.com

January 2, 2013 / WineinTamiTime

My deal with Pinot

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I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not the biggest fan of Pinot Noir. The Sideways fever never infected me. What I did take from the movie, from the scene where Miles and Maya discussed the beauty of pinot on the porch, was that it is a hard grape to grow and get in a bottle. Since then, I’ve felt like pinot should be expensive. Add to that a propensity for syrah and Spanish wine, which are generally more accessible on a server’s budget and it comes out to me never developing an appreciation for it’s charms. Which is weird considering that I’ve always loved Beaujolais, but that’s another story altogether. When it comes to Burgundy, it’s been hit or miss for me, but my studies tell me that that is the nature of Burgundy. If I don’t know what I’m doing in terms of vintage or producer, it’s most likely just going to be okay. As a buyer and a student, I have had the chance to taste and gain some familiarity, but I have only scratched the surface. I do have an expectation of a ruby red wine of medium concentration, typically with red fruit character and the earth up front, at least holding hands with the fruit.

Fast forward to June 2012 when I get to attend Oregon Pinot Camp. NOW I get it! It’s pretty, floral, expressive, and sometimes dirty in a barnyard, earthy, funky kind of deliciousness. Minerality is present. It can pair with almost anything. The tannins don’t rip my face off. It doesn’t weigh down my palate. I Love Pinot Noir! Now I’m paying attention. I’m even bringing it home for dinner.

I started tasting with the Grapevine in August. I get to taste all kinds of pinot, but they’re all from California, nearly all 2010 so far. Sonoma, Anderson Valley, Santa Barbara, you name it. I am taken aback with the purple, opaque, tear staining, black fruit, no earth booziness. Mind you, I am making a generalization. I’m not saying this is all Cali pinot, but it’s common and it makes me mad.  And I know why it’s common. It’s because that is what the customer wants, they want a big bold pinot. It tastes like syrah, which really makes me mad because it’s hard to sell the most lovely of syrahs.

Accept the things you cannot change, right? After the last flight of these big goopy pinots, I came to the realization that maybe that is just what California Pinot Noir is. That is how they distinguish themselves from the rest of the world. I need to just roll with it, find the ones I think display the best balance and complexity and make the people happy. Because there is still plenty of Burgundy and Oregon Pinot out there for me.