Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tilted Shed "Old Orchard" Sonoma Dry Cider

For over a decade, the only ciders we've carried in the store are the ones produced by Eric Bordelet in the Normandy region. He's widely considered the pioneer in reviving production of artisanal ciders.

Lately, interest in making cider the traditional and natural way has spread beyond France and to the US, especially in West Sonoma, the heart of apple country in California. This is where Tilted Shed Ciderworks is based, surrounded by old orchards planted with heirloom apple varieties. They make cider based on Old World methods of manual harvesting, handwashing, pressing, and long, slow fermentations. Tilted Shed ciders take about a year to make.

Tilted Shed's fall release "Lost Orchard" Dry Cider is a small batch dry cider made from various heirloom apples grown in old orchards scattered around Sonoma. Varieties include, Nehou, Muscat de Bernay, Porter's Perfection, Tremlett's Bitter, and Kingston Black. 8% alcohol. Only 100 gallons were made. This has bone-dry, juicy, and refreshing flavors. I love drinking this with Asian food, especially sushi.

Tilted Shed Ciderworks Sonoma Dry Cider "Lost Orchard" NV 375ml $12.00 (order here)

Monday, November 24, 2014

5 Best Wines for Turkey

Turkey can be a bit tricky to pair with wines. So I've short-listed 5 wines that would enhance your turkey meal. Their flavors are intense, but not heavy, with a brightness of fruit and some earthy spice that would make the turkey taste delicious with every bite. Check them out!

San Diego County Red "Grenache Carignane", Los Pilares 2013 $24.00 (order here)

A terrific vintage for this singular blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Carignane from San Diego County. The fruit comes from meticulously farmed vines planted in 1981 in McCormick Ranch Vineyard. The vineyard is farmed sustainably in a cool micro-climate situated at an elevation of nearly 1,000 feet in the backcountry of San Diego County just east of Escondido. This area of San Diego County is ideal for growing these Rhone varieties. Its scrubland terrain and Mediterranean climate allow these grapes to produce intense, flavorful wines. 12.3% alcohol. Just 180 cases produced

Santa Ynez Valley Red "Grande Marque Rouge", Storm Wines 2012 $33.00 (order here)

Winemaker Ernst Storm produced this red blend from Rhone varietals that is balanced, food friendly and uncomplicated. Think of an oak fire, good friends, family, music and laughter! The 2012 Grande Marque Rouge is a luscious blend of 43% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 14% Cinsault, and 14% Syrah from three prime cool vineyard sites in Santa Ynez Valley--Curtis Vineyard, Demetria Estate, and Kingsley Vineyard. Bottled without fining and filtration. 13.5% alcohol. Just 165 cases produced.

Cienaga Valley Trousseau "Siletto Vineyard", Harrington Wines 2012 $33.00 (order here)

Two things that Trousseau love, a warm, sunny exposure and rocky, gravelly soils. Fortunately, the Siletto Vineyard in San Benito's Gavilan Mountains has both, thus Trousseau ripens well here. Bryan Harrington ensures that all that goodness in the vineyard remains intact in the winemaking. He vinifies with native yeasts without temperature control and other manipulations. Addition of sulfites is minimal (20 ppm) and the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. Bryan's natural winemaking approach results into a wine of fresh aromas and deep flavors. It is a rich expression of Trousseau with good tannins and balanced structure. 14.1% alcohol. Only 53 cases made. If you love Trousseau or if you've never had it before, don't miss this.

Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge "CSG", Autour de l'Anne 2012 $28.00 (order here)

Grapes were grown in France's Languedoc region, but the wine was aged and bottled in a cave up north in the Loire. A blend of Cinsault, Grenache, and Syrah from vines averaging 40 to 60 years-old planted in limestone and red clay soils with miniscule yields. Vinified separately before blending in tank for a year in the winery's cellar in the Loire. Gorgeous, velvety, rich red fruit flavors, bitter spice and very smooth tannins. 12.5% alcohol. No added sulfites. A different kind of Languedoc, more delicate and elegant in character.

Beaujolais-Villages "Tracot", Domaine Jean-Paul Dubost 2013 $19.00 (order here)

The Tracot vineyard in the Beaujolais-Villages area is one of the most notable vineyards in all Beaujolais. Over the past century the Dubost family have replanted the Gamay vines, and today they average 45 years-old, with some vines over 50 years-old. It is farmed biodynamically. The wine is vinified in tank and cement traditionally using whole clusters and fermenting with native yeasts. There is a light filtration and a minimal dose of sulphites at bottling. Production was down in 2013 but the quality is amazing. Rich with fruit with zesty acidity and good structure. 12.5% alcohol.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

3 Effective Cab Franc Remedies for the Rougeardless

Around this time of the year a frenzy happens in wine geek nation. A feverish search for elusive bottles of that wine unicorn: Clos Rougeard. I'm at a loss on what spurred this phenomenon. But then again a similar rush used to occur several years ago with Wine Spectator's pronouncement of its Top 100.

If, alas, you happen to come up empty, there's no need to sulk. You are not alone, in fact, nearly all would end up with a Rougeardless search. And so I'd like to step in and offer 3 Rougeard remedies. Though they taste differently from Clos Rougeard, they work for me because they share Rougeard's pure and expressive flavors and natural winemaking approach.

I think these 3 wines should keep things interesting until you get lucky enough to land a bottle of Rougeard. And you might just feel content enough and forget about searching for the unicorn.

Sylvain Dittiere is the new, young rising star of Saumur. He worked closely with Thierry Germain, Anthony Foucault (son of Charly Foucault of Clos Rougeard) and even Marc Tempe of Alsace. He's a micro-negoce, producing small quantity of wines from vineyards that are organically farmed and planted with 30 to 40 year-old Cabernet Franc vines. He applies a non-interventionist approach to his winemaking, vinifying with natural yeasts and applying minimal sulfites. This superb release has a gorgeous concentration. Fleshy and dense, with wild, rustic, flavors of dark berries, earthy, game, mineral, and spice. It is as intense, complex, and expressive as a great Syrah from Cote-Rotie.

Saumur-Champigny, La Porte Saint Jean (Sylvain Dittiere) 2011 $29.00 (order here)

Sebastien Bobinet became the eight vigneron in his family when he took over his grandfather's 2-hectare vineyard, predominantly planted to Cabernet Franc, in Saumur-Champigny back in 2002. Young and wet behind the ears, he befriended Nady Foucault of Clos Rougeard and trained with Olivier Cousin to learn the ropes. He learned fast. Today, 12 years later, he's a rising star and his small production is eagerly snapped up by customers in the few places his wines are sold.

Bobinet's wines are healthy and pure. He farms organically and vinifies with natural yeasts, avoiding additives and the addition of sulphites. He aims to express precisely the excellent
terroir of his wines. The 2013 Saumur-Champigny "Ruben" is 100% Cabernet Franc from a 1.25-acre parcel of the vineyard planted with 25-40 year-old vines. It is aged in larger barrels of 330 liters in the domaine's natural limestone cave. This is a wonderful Saumur-Champigny, floral-scented, juicy, and textured. Very youthful, yet luscious. A few more years and it will even be more irresistible.

Saumur-Champigny "Ruben", Sebastien Bobinet 2013 $23.00 (order here)

Imported by Beaune Imports, the same West Coast agent of Clos Rougeard. This, of course, is 100% Cabernet Franc from organically farmed vineyards in Bourgueil, very close to Saumur. It was the late Didier Dagueneau himself who recommended Pierre et Rodolphe Gauthier to Beaune Imports when they were searching for a Bourgueil producer. Juicy, with intense Cabernet Franc fruit and supple tannins. Well balanced and expertly crafted by Pierre Gauthier, a true master of Loire Cabernet Franc.

Bourgueil Cabernet Franc "Joir de Soif", Pierre et Rodolphe Gauthier 2012 $16.00 (order here)

Friday, November 14, 2014

A 2011 Red Chassagne to Embarrass Them All

I've always heaped praise on the 2011 vintage in Burgundy. If there's a vintage I know well enough in Burgundy it's 2011. I was there helping out during harvest. I walked the vines of Richebourg, Romanee-St.-Vivant, La Tache, Musigny, Chambertin, and Morey-St.-Denis, chewing their berries as I passed by just before they were harvested. The fruit was juicy and ripe, and mostly healthy, with desirable millerandage. I returned to Burgundy the following year, getting a chance to taste and smell the wines from barrel for the first time. Last year I was in Burgundy again, just when the wines were getting ready to be bottled. Finally, since the start of this year and through last week, I've been tasting countless 2011 Burgundies from bottle.

2011 red and white Burgundies are gorgeous. It's an easy vintage to like because there's good energy and balance in the wines. I love tasting them, especially if the producer got it right. Despite the intensity of flavors and the structure, the wines have a delicacy that can easily be marred by heavy extraction and too much oak. The ones I like best allow the purity to express itself. If the wine has too much extraction and too much oak, there's a good chance the producer is covering up for a mistake.

One of my favorite reds from 2011 is Michel Niellon's red Chassagne-Montrachet from the premier cru vineyard of Clos St. Jean. In fact, I love Chassagne reds and whites in this vintage. Michel Niellon, of course, makes one of the most wonderful Chevalier-Montrachets. But if you've never had a great Chassagne red, well, you have to try his. I tasted Niellon's red along with 2011s from Roumier, Grivot, and Courcel and it still stood out. I love the combination of fruit and structure, there is a depth to this.

Chassagne is not supposed to produce red Burgundies of this quality. So the price for this Niellon is much lower than equivalent premiers crus from the typical red wine vineyards of the Cote. But I can tell you, this would embarrass most of them.

Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru Clos Saint-Jean Rouge, Domaine Michel Niellon 2011 $58.00 (order here)