Friday, June 28, 2013

Jacques Puffeney's Cuvée Sacha: Savagnin-Chardonnay Classic Jura Style

Jacques Puffeney's extraordinary Jura white, Cuvée Sacha, blends Savagnin and Chardonnay together, aging them in foudre for 2-3 years without topping up, thus allowing the wine to develop exposed to air in his cave.

The result is classic Jura style, a powerful white that's pungent and complex as well as crisp and refreshing. Usually the Cuvée Sacha is from a particular vintage, but the current release is even more unique as the vintage for the Savagnin and Chardonnay are different. Puffeney rarely makes this kind of non-vintage version. It is packed with freshness and energy. As a friend remarked, "I am convinced that this wine will pair with ANYTHING." He's right.

I have fun testing this Jura's versatility by putting it next to dishes not easy to pair with wine. The other day I found myself at an Izakaya (Japanese pub) ordering a grilled tomato yakitori-style simply seasoned with sea salt. It was a stunning pairing. Another revelation in the Sacha's versatility and taste.

Arbois Blanc "Cuvée Sacha", Jacques Puffeney NV $30.00 (click to buy)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Thoughts and Prayers for François Chidaine

The heartbreaking news this week is the loss suffered by François Chidaine from violent hail storms that hit Vouvray, Montlouis, Chinon, and the Touraine area last Monday. It is reported that Chidaine lost all production this year in his Vouvray vineyards and 40% in Montlouis.

Chidaine's state of affairs has already been precarious even before this recent disaster. Last year's frost and cold and wet spring and summer resulted in a severely reduced harvest, particularly in Montlouis. The cumulative effect of these weather disasters is simply devastating for Chidaine.

Chidaine and his family are young, hardworking, and possess rare talent, not to mention they farm some of the greatest vineyards in the Loire. And so I'm positive that these setbacks are temporary and that they will be able to continue their wonderful work. Anyone who has enjoyed their wines I'm sure feels fortunate that Chidaine makes wines.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gamay of the Purest Quality

Henry Marionnet has long been regarded as the best producer of Gamay wines in the Loire. He firmly believes that Gamay grows best in the Touraine. He replanted the Gamay vines in his estate in 1967 using selection massale. Situated at the highest elevation in the Touraine, the vineyard, with its clay, flinty soils, has the perfect terroir and microclimate for Gamay.

Marionnet farms organically and allows grass to grow as cover crop to control the vigor of the vines. He always picks late and at maximum ripeness using small baskets to bring in the fruit. He always vinify with natural yeasts and does not chaptalize or apply sulphites or other additives in the winemaking. Only minimal sulphites are added during bottling. However, in the case of one wine, the Première Vendange, there is no addition of sulphites at all!

Henry Marionnet's 2011 Première Vendange is 100% Gamay from selection massale vines planted in 1967 and 1968. It is a tribute to the first wines made by Man and so is completely natural. No sulphites or any additives were added during vinification and bottling. The wine was vinified using only natural yeast and was not chaptalized. Only a light filtration was done before bottling.

Elegant and charmingly fruity. The purity and transparencey of flavors taste absolutely refreshing!

Touraine Rouge "Premiere Vendange", Henry Marionnnet (Domaine de la Charmoise) 2011 $20.00 (click to buy!)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

2010 White Burgundies of Château de Puligny-Montrachet

2010 white Burgundies of Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet are awesome. Since Etienne de Montille took over in 2001 and revamped everything,  I don't think the estate has performed better. The entire range is as magnificent as the 17th century chateau.

Clos du Chateau vineyard
 Starting with the humble Bourgogne Blanc from the Clos du Chateau vineyard, the magnificence is immediately obvious. Then tasting up the hierarchy, the quality is consistently excellent, culminating in the always stunning Puligny-Folatieres.

White Burgundy lovers should not miss one or more of these wines. These 2010s are greatness, and much more affordable than the competition.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rondo A La Turca

The plan was to rendezvous at Sai Jai for dinner in the Tenderloin district. All the excitement was deflated when we were informed that we can't open any wine because they have no alcohol license. Bummer. We were already seated so it was not easy to let--I had the famous grilled pork shoulder on the menu locked in my head--but we had to get up and move on. The thought of not having a drop of wine with dinner was an impossibility.

But where to go next?

My buddy, Henry, a true Boy Scout, suggested a Turkish place on the parallel block. He walked out to do a reconnaissance, then ten minutes later he called and got us a table, adding they have a TV with a futbol game on. Our brief hike traversing cannabis-infused Larkin made me even hungrier.

A La Turca is a relaxed, homey place, clean and expansive for the Tenderloin. The open kitchen consists of a commercial pizza oven, where they do the grilling and an electric gyro rotisserie behind the pastry and cold counter.

We ordered a variety of appetizers that disappeared quickly: baba ganouj, grilled carrots, fried egg rolls (sigara), grilled eggplant, etc. It seemed every plate was either slathered in or accompanied by a yogurt mint sauce. They were all delicious and had a cooling taste, which was good after a warm day.

My mains was a platter of the lamb shish (about $16). Tender and juicy chunks of grilled leg of lamb with rice pilaf and salad and, you guessed it, yogurt mint sauce.

All along I've been drinking the incredibly fresh and youthful 2007 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin. It is one of the greatest Vouvrays, equaled or surpassed only by Huet's Le Mont. A customer ordered our last 2 bottles, but before we could ship the order he called to cancel. He said a bottle he purchased in Georgia, imported by no less than Louis/Dressner, tasted dead to him when opened recently. He didn't want to risk it. Well, a customer's loss is my gain. This bottle that almost shipped to him was pristine, bone-dry, mineral, and perfect in every way. If anything, it was still infanticide to open it at this juncture. I'm going to keep the other bottle.

A La Turca Restaurant
869 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA

Note: There's no more 2007 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin, but there's a few more of the 2009 Francois Chidaine Vouvray Clos Baudoin. If people aren't fast enough I might usurp all or some of these bottles.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

En Cave

Basically, I want a case of everything!

My kind of wine shop. We sell many of these producers, too. Let's see. Jura: Gahier, Puffeney, Macle, Octavin. Alsace: Ostertag. Champagne: Larmandier-Bernier. Bourgogne: Tollot-Beaut, Roumier (sometimes), Jobard, Pavelot, Thevenet. Rhone: Jamet, Gonon, Richaud, Gramenon. Beaujolais: Metras.

Carne Guisada

Memorial weekend was harsh, outside a cold wind blew all day. Fortunately, inside a hearty pot of carne guisada and a bottle of 1999 Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Cubillo turned the day around.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Best Pho Joint

that I've been. And it's not in the Bauer 100.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Falanghina That Transcends Falanghina

I was having dinner with Dominic Nocerino, owner of Vinifera Imports last month. He's the pioneering Italian wine importer who helped put Angelo Gaja, Giuseppe Rinaldi, Valdicava, Fontodi, and Felsina on the map in the US. He has many of their wines in his own cellar, including numerous large formats, which he loves to collect. In fact we were drinking some of these wines over dinner. But his eyes lit up only when a bottle of 2010 Falanghina from I Pentri was opened. He said, "wow, what a treat! This wine is like a Montrachet!"

He was not exaggerating. I Pentri's "Flora" Falanghina is like no other Falanghina. It has the deep golden color, unctuous texture, and rich flavors of high class white Burgundy. To boot, the 2010 I Pentri "Flora" is the most highly praised Falanghina ever, with Wine Advocate's wine critic Antonio Galloni going overboard rating it 92 (whatever the heck that means). He says with words I can relate to better: "With the 2010, I Pentri elevates Falanghina to rare heights. Simply put, this is breathtaking juice."

Going back to our dinner, I was in rapture with Dominic drinking the I Pentri Falanghina with bites of Carciofi alla Romana. We started drinking the other bottles but that Falanghina was still in my mind.

Beneventano IGT Falanghina "Flora", Az. Agr. I Pentri 2010 $20.00

Larmandier-Bernier's Magnificent Extra Brut "Tradition" Champagne

A grower producer (RM), Larmandier-Bernier is one of the finest Champagne producers in the Cote des Blancs and, therefore, in all of Champagne. Operated by Pierre and Sophie Larmandier, the 15-hectare estate vineyards in Vertus, Cramant, Chouilly, Oger, and Avize are farmed biodynamically since 2004. They work on the soils meticulously by plowing the several times a year and leaving a cover crop of grass between rows to maintain microorganisms and to force vine roots to go down deeper. Vines are selection massale and average 35 years old.

All these work in the vineyards result in healthy vines that produce crops modest in yields and expressive of the site or terroir. The winemaking approach ensures that the fruit brought in translates into the wine. The overarching goal of Larmandier's work is maintain the quality of the wine in the finished Champagne. Thus, first and foremost, only natural or indigenous yeasts are used in the vinification. The fruit ferments spontaneously without the addition of commercial yeasts, unlike in 99% of Champagne produced.

The last release of the Extra Brut Tradition label (this has been renamed "Latitude") is simply magnificent! The base wine is 2008, with about one-third reserve wines, which are aged in Burgundy barrels. The blend is 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. Don't miss this extraordinary release. A superb value. One of the greatest buys in Champagne today!

Champagne Extra Brut Premier Cru "Tradition", Larmandier-Bernier NV $49.00