Tuesday, September 30, 2008

GREEN—for Lack of a Better Word—is Good


No one wants green in their wine, with the possible exception of this diesel/electric hybrid truck, the first of its kind.

Built by Peterbilt, the first two trucks off the assembly line were purchased by VinLux, a Napa wine delivery company co-owned by Kendall Jackson Wine Estates. The trucks started service last month and have been making regular stops at the store since then.

The truck switches to electric power automatically, according to the driver. A 110-pound lithium ion battery pack installed on the side of the truck powers the electric motor. Its sticker price is said to be 40% more than a regular diesel truck, but the savings come in its fuel efficiency.

I sure hope these hybrid trucks put a stop on the fuel surcharges being tacked on to our wine orders!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Get Yourself Some Good Old Howell Mountain Stuff!


The Howell Mountain Vintners & Growers Association put together a 28-bottle collection of members' flagship Howell Mountain wines for a cool $2,500 per collection. Only 100 sets are being made available.

If you love Howell Mountain wines it's actually a pretty good deal than purchasing all the wines individually. The money raised will go to the coffers of the non-profit association.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Didier Dagueneau

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Didier Dagueneau died this morning in a plane crash in Cognac, France. My guess is that he was just in his mid-50s.

I had met the man and tasted with him and I can tell you that he was as kind and generous as he was flamboyant. He put Pouilly-Fumé on the same map as the aristocratic wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy. He first made news as a young winegrower when he publicized his labor costs and bill of materials to prove that he was not cutting corners like his neighbors. And aside from his wine passion he was also a champion Iditarod racer.

BenjaminDidier.JPGThe one positive thing that comes to my mind at this time is that he was all over his son Benjamin to get him up to speed to run the estate. Benjamin was apprenticing with François Chidaine, another brilliant Loire winegrower, when I visited at Saint-Andelain a year ago. I remember feeling surprised by how Didier was already pushing his young son to take the lead. He had Benjamin preside over the tasting, while hovering in the background to assist him, and he asked me and my companions to speak to his son only in English so he can get used to speaking the language.

Didier's concern for Benjamin to take responsibility in running the estate proved to be prescient. But he seemed to be at peace that his son could handle the job as the photo I snapped of him below, while he quietly watched over his son do his job, appears to convey. I’m optimistic that Benjamin would be up to the challenge now.

But Didier Dagueneau will be missed dearly. He shone briefly but brightly like an Asteroide, the name of his ultra-rare and seldom seen wine. His rabid ambition, imagination, almost carefree risk-taking, and wild energy brought us some of the most singular wines on the face of the earth.


Monday, September 8, 2008

James Laube's Market Theory

I read a bizarre blog posted on 3rd September by the Wine Spectator’s California wine critic, James Laube. In it he makes the point that it is the consumers’ buying power that decides which style of wine dominates. He seems to be vague in elaborating which wine style happens to be popular right now, but then slips in his narrative something about “riper, fuller-bodied wines became en vogue in the 1990s”. And, if I may add, is still going strong. Thanks to him and his magazine for doling out big points to wines of this style.

So what I do find bizarre in the blog post is not the revelation that the popularity of a wine style may be consumer-driven, but that there was no accounting at all of the influential role he and his magazine play in the market. Like Pilate, it almost seems like he was washing his hands off the popularity of wines that are “superripe” or “overripe” or however this style of wine is referred to in the blog, explaining that this is completely the work of consumers. That consumers vote with their dollars, and that “as long as winemakers are selling out their wines and people are endorsing those styles with their dollars, there isn’t any incentive to change.”

Geez, I’ve been fooled all along then. I suppose if Laube scores Kosta Browne 80 points the Pinot would still sell out at ever-rising prices. And come time the Wine Spectator announces its Top 100 Wines of the Year it would just be plain coincidence that our phones would be ringing off the hook with consumers asking us about buying cases of wines in the list that they’ve never even tasted.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Toasting a Friend at Archipelago

I had dinner with friends recently to cheer up one of them who will be married very soon. We decided to check out Archipelago, a new restaurant near my neighborhood that features a deliciously eclectic menu of French, Asian, and American inspired dishes that has become a hot trend in restaurant cuisine these days. Check out places like Coi, Poleng Lounge, Unicorn, Ame, O Chame, Junnoon, Pres a Vi, and Va de Vi. It’s no surprise that these restaurants are favorite haunts of wine guys as their creative dishes lend themselves to exciting wine pairings.

2004 Ostertag Muscat.jpgWe started with a brilliant bottle of André Ostertag’s 2004 Alsace Muscat Fronholz. Very lovely. It smelled of sweet gardenia and tasted of lychees and ripe pears, yet, tasted dry and quite crisp. I love how all these exotic flavors blend harmoniously, and also how they made my mouth water for food.

The Cava Brut “Selección Millennium”, Ondarre NV purchased from Bar Basseri in Pamplona during a recent trip to northern Spain was even better than I remembered it. A big Cava, rich, mouthfilling creamy goodness with lime peel freshness, crisp minerality, and classy elegance.

Richter’s 1995 Mosel Riesling Auslese Graacher Domprobst tasted and smelled of minerally slate and juicy ripe red apples and pear with herbal notes. Medium sweetness for an Auslese and well-balanced by crisp acidity. Vibrant and lengthy in the finish.

All of these whites went perfectly with plates of fresh, briny oysters; fried, crispy-skinned rolls of Philippines lumpia; Philippines ceviché-style kinilaw of raw tuna; and seared foie gras with sweet, tangy cranberry chutney.93 Latricieres Remoissenet.jpg

For our first red, there was the perfectly drinking and still youthful 1996 Meursault Premier Cru Blagny Rouge “La Pièce sous le Bois”, Domaine Joseph Matrot. One of my favorite Burgundies. Fragrant earthy sous bois with red fruit scents. Elegant, soft black cherry, cinnamon flavors with notes of pepper and tea leaf. Juicy and fresh.

Next up was the 1993 Latricières-Chambertin, Maison Remoissenet Pere et Fils. Still a youthful wine, endowed with good concentration and rich tannins. Whiffs of asphalt and stones amidst the spicy red fruit scents. Earthy, black cherry flavors. Not profound, but sleek and powerful.

90 Cote-Rotie Gallet.jpg Burgundy lovers describe Côte-Rôtie as being somewhat Burgundian in character, so it was not a bad idea to follow up the Burgundies with the 1990 Côte-Rôtie, Domaine Gallet. The bouquet of this wine was intense and surreal, conjuring scents of lavender, tar, leather, roast beef, and crushed berries. Ripe, fleshy, and soft on the palate; not so profound but seductive, and definitely charming.

I enjoyed all these reds with a large plate of roasted rack of lamb that was fatty, juicy, and tender, done with an indeterminable sweet, spicy, earthy sauce that worked with the wines.

And to refresh the palate at the end we popped a bottle of 2000 Champagne Brut “Cuvée Angeline”, J. Lassalle that made me feel like starting dinner all over again. Toasty fresh-baked bread aromas. Creamy and mouthfilling, with well-focused, elegant fruity and minerally flavors that are as crisp as a thin sheet of ice.

I can’t think of any other Asian-themed restaurant with a full-time pastry chef, especially a brilliant one like Lourie Tatad who prepared for us a dazzling array of desserts and obliged us with a few special requests, including sugared churros accompanied by a dark liquid chocolate dip; slices of caramelized apples with a choice of sprinkles of marshmallows, spiced peanuts, and chocolate; and tiny nuggets of pure chocolate truffles.

During all the excitement we nearly forgot the bottle of 2000 Blanc Fumé de Pouilly “Silex”, Didier Dagueneau. Thank goodness, this was supposed to be the highlight bottle of the evening! Well, it didn’t disappoint, especially after an exciting array of wines. Rich, pungent flavors of stone fruits infused with fresh herbs, green vegetables, and minerals. The palate is persistent and crystalline, tasting of the rocks and minerals where the fruit came from.

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Burlingame, CA 94010