A Turbiana and a Pinot Noir

When I am at Fine Wine Source for a tasting, I try to alternate between the Old World and the New World, just so that I have potentially new wines to discuss and so that I am not always talking about the same wines.  I also like the chance to try if possible new varietals and new regions.   Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t.

The first wine that I will mention is Otella “Molceo” Lugano Riserva 2015 from Azienda Agricola Otella.  Lugana is a white wine specific region that straddles Lombardy and Veneto, but is considered part of Lombardy.  There are a couple of different designations for Lugano, but it seems that the wine has to be ninety percent of a locally known varietal known as Turbiana.  I have seen this wine listed as being Verdicchio, and I have seen it listed as Trebbiano di Lugano.  I have also seen where some that study the grapes scientifically have crossed off the possibility of Verdicchio, so I will call it Turbiana.  This particular wine spent sixteen months aging in a combination of Stainless Steel and oak barrels.  I found the wine to be very crisp and refreshing.  There was a mineral (flint) that I noticed and the acidity was so balanced that I wanted more.

The next wine that I had was from the Burgundy region of France.  Domaine Collotte Les Boivin Marsannay 2015 is a Pinot Noir from the most northern sub-region of the Cote de Nuits, just before Dijon.  Domaine Collotte offers several different wines, and I was surprised to find that they do not have a website.   I always like to find out a little bit about the wine, but not this time.  I will tell you that I enjoyed the wine, that it had a great nose and a nice decent finish, two items that I think a good Pinot needs, and it is not the easiest thing to accomplish with such a finicky grape.  Hopefully the next wines won’t be as difficult to research.

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Two French Wines to Taste

For me, being the gopher to go pick up our monthly wine club selection at Fine Wine Source is a great job.  I go in, say hello, and everyone knows my name, I think there was a television show about that years ago.  The beauty of the shop is that there are no cut and dried times to come to a tasting, unless there is going to be a guest to discuss wines, like a winemaker, then the rules are different.  I can have a private tasting say on a Friday at 1:15 and if extra customers come in, the more the merrier.  The store uses the Coravin system so the wines are always fresh, and the whites are chilled and the reds are room temperature.  For the most part, it is perfect, and the staff can answer your questions about the wines, and most of the time, they will bring up some aspect, before you even bring it up.  Great customer relations, and they can even edit the selections, as they seem to know what I have tried and even what I have bought.

They were definitely in the Holiday spirit, because the first wine that was opened, and it was not by the Coravin system was Champagne G.H. Mumm Grand Cordon Brut NV, a famous Champagne house in Reims, France.  This is the wine that keeps the company afloat, most of the time, the wine is Non-Vintage, but they even declare a vintage year periodically for this wine as well.  This is their signature wine that they try to maintain a consistency year after year, decade after decade, and then at the top of the heap they also offer Cuvée R. Lalou.  The three varietals that are used to make this wine are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and it is grown on their estate and they also have long time contracts with growers to maintain the taste that they strive for.  They maintain three hundred base wines from a hundred different Cru vineyards to keep that consistency.  This signature wine that is non-vintage still requires twenty months in their cellar to age, before it can be released.  Over the years I have had some great Champagnes, but it is not the first wine that I go for, as I find that some Brut designations are just too dry for me, but this wine has enough of that “brioche” and yeast mix that I have come to expect from a good bottle of bubbles.

The other French white wine that I had for a tasting was from the Loire Valley and I have been appreciating these wines more and more.  The Domaine Huet “Le Haut-Lieu” Sec Vouvray 2017 was a delight.  It is one of the quirks of wine that the Chenin Blanc wines from Vouvray, when done properly are famed for their ability to age.  Domaine Huet is a thirty-five-hectare estate that has three vineyards and each one is distinct and has its own characteristics.  The “Le Haut-Lieu” is on heavy clay and limestone grounds and is considered the most approachable of the three vineyards.  The average age for the vines in this vineyard is twenty years and the fruit is harvested several times to allow full ripening and the grapes are pressed as plucked.  The wine is aged for six months, and it had a floral nose that was enticing, and it was a very refreshing wine to drink.  The tasting event was off to a great start.

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Club Wines for Thanksgiving

I received the email a day earlier that I could pick up the club wines from Fine Wine Source in Livonia.  I was in the middle of a project, just like I always am these days.  So, the next day I had the joy of going out on the traditional first day of snow in the fall, where the leaves still cover more of the lawn compared to the snowflakes.  I like to keep the monthly club selections a mystery until I get there, so I never read past the title of the email from them to come and pick up the wine.  I look at the email after I have picked up the wine, and there is a nice write up about each wine, but I am like a kid and I want to be surprised.  I did know that the wines were geared towards a Thanksgiving dinner.

The first wine that I received was Podere Ciona “Ciona Rosé” Toscana IGT 2016.  Franca and Franco Gatteschi were looking for a place in the countryside to retire to and found this one-hundred-acre estate with a house from the 18’th Century that had been abandoned for about forty years.  They purchased the property in 1990 and spent three years working on the main house.  They also started planning a winery and in 1997 they had their first official vintage.  They are located in the commune of Gaiole in Chianti Classico country.  They had been making a Rosé for a couple of years using Sangiovese, the grape of Chianti and Cabernet Franc, unfortunately one year the local wild boars decimated the Cabernet Franc vines, so this particular vintage is made from pure Sangiovese, and was aged for three months in Stainless Steel.  The entire production of this wine was a hundred cases of wine, and Fine Wine Source has an en exclusive for this wine for the United States, and the son Lorenzo, who is the winemaker will even be conducting tastings at the shop from November 28 to December 1.  I will have to make a point of attending the tasting.  The tasting notes furnished mentioned the Dark Salmon Pink color, with a nose of fruit and herbs, with tastes of strawberry, watermelon and red licorice.  It is being touted as a perfect wine for Turkey.

The second club selection for the month is Primary Wines Pinot Noir 2016 with a California AVA and made by Massanois.  According to the sheet supplied the majority of the fruit is from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, but it is also blended with Pinot Noir from other areas as well.  There were no technical notes for this wine, and I can find nothing about Massanois.  Fine Wine Source gives notes that the nose offers strawberry and baking spices, and the wine is listed as being rich and opulent with a long-lasting finish.  The shop wrote that they have made a big purchase of this wine for the holidays.  I think that I will try both of these wines soon, to see if I need to purchase more in a timely manner.

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Ms. Yoga is Nostalgic

One of my cast of characters Ms. Yoga will be paying another visit shortly and the Casa Raconteur will be ready with open arms.  The luggage rack will be at the foot of the bed, and we will try to clear some closet space, but that is a very dear commodity, almost akin to proper wine storage facilities.  Ms. Yoga and my Bride have been making their plans, and eventually I am either part of the plans or I will hear about it later.  All I know is that we are in the midst of preparations and whether the media will be consulted also will be announced on a need to know basis.

Ms. Yoga was out for business and during dinner she had ordered a bottle of wine, and sometimes she photographs the bottle to remind me that she is still around, and that she thinks she needs more ink as I scribe along.   I have to admit that she even got me a bit nostalgic on this photo of a wine from Duckhorn Wine Company.  Years ago, as we all went to Duckhorn for a tasting, as I had an entry through one of my customers who was a silent investor in the winery.  Don Duckhorn was the new kid on the block and when we arrived at the winery, which was during harvest, we had a private tour conducted by one of the sons, and it was very educational and totally exciting, as this was the first time to ever see this type of activity.  While we were there, also on the trip was her son and their au pair and he was given a Duckhorn duck horn, which she says is still at her house, and I think that is very cool.  While most of Napa Valley was into Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Duckhorn was resolute that Merlot was the grape, especially for his properties and he was so right.  Of course, on that trip Duckhorn Wine Company was all family owned and operated and all the brands were also from the valley, as well as their single estate wines.

She sent me a photo of the Migration Chardonnay 2015, and when we were there Migration was Napa, and now this wine is from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, but then Duckhorn is no longer a family operated winery either.  The Russian River Valley is in the heart of Sonoma County and it is known for its long cool ripening season that is perfect for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  This wine is pure Chardonnay and it is aged for ten months.  The aging is done in two ways, ninety percent is aged in French Oak, of which three percent is new and ten percent is aged in Stainless Steel, and then blended together.  She did not send me any tasting notes, but I am sure it was a delightful wine.  Who knows, she might even think of sending me a photo of the Duckhorn duck horn, and as a side note, I probably may have the largest cache of Duckhorn Vermouth, which they were making back then, and my customer was not fond of, so he would give me all of his Vermouth that he would receive, and he was also very generous and gave me a bottle of the Three Palm as well.   If Ms. Yoga can get nostalgic, well I guess than so can I.

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I Try to Have Fun

As I reflect on my past career, I had fun.  Through out the years I have encountered some people on both sides of the counter that if I could I would have avoided, but I guess that is true for most people.  My vocation is what fueled one of my avocations and they worked side by side.  While I was educating my customers about clothing, they were educating me about the world beyond Sixth Avenue.  While I may have started my learning of wine; talking to others that could “walk the walk and talk the talk,” led me down many avenues and by ways that I may have missed, like fine dining and resort areas.  I was a clothier, because my heart and soul enjoyed the business.

So here I was helping out at a Seventy-fifth Anniversary party and a Trunk Show.  A Trunk Show is an event where a vendor comes and helps educate the clients about the nuances of the product, some times with knowledge that the salesman and especially a clerk may not know.  The vendors all looked like clothiers, because they had an inner panache that defies the salesman who looks like he is going to work.  The salesmen were allowing the clothiers their moment in the sun and it was the customers that gained from the moment.  There was plenty of tumult going on, and one of the gimmicks that was planned and it would have been interesting, fell through and it probably was just as good, because the store was packed as it was.  Can you tell that my energy level was up several notches for the evening, especially between the discussions, noshing, selling and wine tasting?

We started the evening off with some Syrah, and the last bottle of wine that I tasted also had some Syrah.  All the wines that I enjoyed with the customers were from Spain and so was this one.  The Cellar Capcanes Mas Donis Barrica Old Vines 2013 was a fine wine to end the evening with.  The Cellar Capcanes is a wine cooperative that began in 1933 and originally grew the fruit in bulk and sold it to other winemakers.  They eventually shifted gears and began winemaking and they are even in the manufacturing of Kosher wines, which is a good niche market, and they even produce box wines.  The cooperative when they are producing special wines like Mas Donis Barrica are pleased to state that the fruit comes from Montsant DO in Catalonia, and the name Montsant is from the Montsant Massif which means “Holy Mountain” and the designation was approved in 2001.  This was a very interesting blend of Garnacha, Merlot and Syrah.  The juice was aged for nine months in a mix of French and American Oak, then the juice was blended and aged for another six months in a tank before being bottled.  I do hope that potentially in the future, some salesmen will acquire the knowledge and savior-faire to be a clothier and will be able to discuss with a customer more than a “slider.”

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Two Marquises

In the United States, peerage ranking is not really taught, so suffice it to say that a Marquis is a nobleman below a Duke, but above an Earl or a Count.  The most famous Marquis known in the United States is probably the 9th Marquess of Queensberry, whose name is applied to the famous code of boxing or pugilism.  Now that I have that out of the way, I will continue talking about the event where I was helping a store celebrate their Seventy-fifth Anniversary, which is quite an achievement, and when you realize that the store sells Men’s Clothing, that is monumental.  The majority of the work force, even among the white-collar occupations now dress as if they are blue collar, and I sometimes think that there must be contests among the divisions within a corporation of who can dress the slovenliest and still collect a paycheck.  As a retired clothier, I belong to another era, and I think I even revel in the concept that I still enjoying dressing for dinner with my Bride.

I digress, as I often do, but I was actually discussing a clothing store, one of those bastions of a former society.  When I was a kid, most neighborhoods had a clothing store, and one didn’t even have to go downtown.  The store that I was assisting has survived the perils of today’s attire, and where there were actually three men’s stores on the same block in this city, they are the only one left.  They were doing the party up, extremely well.  They had representatives from some of their vendors in attendance and a full assemblage of employees, except for one, who was on his honeymoon, and I think that is cause for dispensation.  There was plenty of food proffered by different restaurants in the city as well.  Yours truly, even noshed between assisting of customers during the evening, just like the old days of retailing.  From appetizers and hors-devours to plates of Sirloin-tips to even “Sushi,” and I did not sample the wares, one day I may actually try Sushi, but it will be in an honest to goodness Japanese restaurant and nothing less.

I must say that the beer and liquor choices were pouring quite generously and the customers were having a grand time.  I was watching the wine pour and giving little asides about the wines to any customer that wanted a bit more information.  The third wine that was opened for the customers was Marques de Caceres Crianza Rioja 2014, and just so that you know Marques is the Spanish spelling of Marquis, and yes, I do get crafty at times.  Rioja and Sherry are probably the two most famous wines of Spain and Rioja was the first region to receive DO status in 1933 and in 1991 the first to receive DOCa rating.  According to historians’ wine has been recorded in this are since about 200 BC, but slowed down immensely during the Moorish Occupation of the Iberian Peninsula, and it has slowly and gradually return and it is now a major industry in Spain.  Marques de Caceres was founded in 1970 by a family that had been in the wine industry for most of the century and the winery is still owned and operated by family members.  The wine begins with manual harvesting of the fruit and is aged for twelve months in sixty percent French Oak and the balance in American Oak; and the barrels are split equally between new and 2, 3 and 4-year-old (the maximum) barrels.  Since this wine is a Crianza it is required to have an additional one year in the bottle before it can be released for sale.  This wine is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnache Tinta and Graciano.  After this delightful wine was finished, lo and behold I see one of my favorite wines being opened and of course I had a generous pour.  The wine not only had to be uncorked, but the famed “chicken-wire” wrapping that was designed to halt counterfeiting also had to surmounted.  They were opening the legendary Herederos del Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2012, probably the one Rioja that I have had more of, than any other wine from Spain and it was even accessible back in the early ages when I first discovered wine.  This wine was founded in 1858 by a Spanish diplomat that had lived in Bordeaux and he brought back some concepts that were probably a bit heretical in the day.  The wine became so popular that the wire mesh was the way to insure the quality of the wine, and in fact part of the label was glued to the mesh, now the mesh is just a quaint tradition that is maintained, and I might add that this winery has a fantastic library of their wines going back to the very early days and the wines are still reported as glorious when opened.  The Marques de Riscal is the majority shareholder and winemaker of the company to this day.  This wine is a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo.  The wine is aged for twelve months in barrels and then is aged an additional three years in the bottle, before it is released, because it is a Reserva.  The wines added to the festivities of the evening and made a lot of customers very happy.

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Start With Syrah

One of the most popular questions that I receive is “what do you do?”  I respond that I am a retired clothier of some forty plus year at least, and in today’s lifestyle that word requires an explanation.  It was a time-honored profession, we had a President once that was a Haberdasher, but not a Clothier.  I have even heard the word bandied as a profession by those that have a whopping couple of years’ experiences; and all I can say is, if someone doesn’t know what the word is, they will believe you.  I now offer my assistance, experience and expertise if it is wanted, nowadays with egos running rampant, it is best to just help.  I am assisting a store and they were celebrating seventy-five years of business, which is quite an accomplishment.  I came in for a couple of days to make the store look perfect, I may not do store merchandising anymore, but I do know how to make merchandise sing.  I guess the best that I can say is that as a manager throughout the years, I led by example of working.  My philosophy was that people didn’t pay me enough to wear our mirrors or chairs.

The big day came and it was quite exciting.  I arrive an hour before the event was scheduled and it was already getting busy, which is a good sign.  There were some Manufacturer’s Representatives attending and some even go back to my early days.  It was fun and made me remember some of the glory days.  It was also interesting watching how space was utilized to the max, as purveyors of food from some of the local restaurants set up tables and chafing dishes for the guests and the employees to munch on.  I presume it was for the employees as well, as I did try some of the dishes, and as quirky as I am, I did find a few dishes to try, in between helping out customers, as I do have to maintain this mature figure of mine.  Not only was there food brought in, there was adult beverages from another merchant.  There were some craft beers which are all the rage, the merchant was also showing some single barrel bourbons that he had bottled, since he bought the barrel and all the contents, and some wines.

Of course, you knew that there would be wine at this event, otherwise it would not have been mentioned.  There were five wines that caught my attention, and I figure that was a pretty good set of choices.  Two of the wines that I will discuss were Syrah wines, one pure and the other a Syrah based wine.  The first wine was from the Juan Gil Family Estates and their Cellars Can Blau “Can Blau” 2016 from DO Montsant in the Catalonia District of Spain.  Montsant means Holy Mountain and the area is revered, but has only recently been discovered for their wines.  In fact, the Cellars Can Blau was founded in 2003.  The wine was a blend of forty percent Syrah, forty percent Carignan and the balance was Grenache and it was aged for twelve months in French Oak.  I was not expecting much from the wines, but was I wrong, as this wine was delicious and really made me smile with the lushness that came from such a young wine.   The other wine that I enjoyed right off the bat and made the evening that much better was Domaine Eric et Joel Durand Syrah 2016.  This wine came from the area that originally was known as Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes, and is basically all the area north of the Rhone Valley.  With the Common Market and the homogenization of wine terms this area is now called IGP Collines Rhodaniennes and is widely planted with Syrah.  I really could not find much about this wine, but I thought it was a winner for the evening and I could tout it, very easily to the customers.

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