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How to Throw a Summer Wine Party with Lobster!

Boiled lobster from the coast of Maine with Sancerre!

Boiled lobster from the coast of Maine with Sancerre!

I grew up in New England spending a week or two of my summer vacation on the Atlantic coast each year. Whether we traveled to Maine or to Cape Cod, each summer there were multiple occasions when a load of fresh lobsters were boiled with sweet corn-on-the-cob and heartily enjoyed by family and friends. I pride myself on getting every morsel of sweet-salty meat out of those glorious crustaceans, a skill that was well honed in childhood.

Summer isn’t summer without at least one big lobster feast. And now that I’m all grown up, I’ve learned the art of pairing wine with my lobster! What could be better than a summer wine party starring lobster as the main course! If you know someone who lives near the coast in Maine, perhaps you can bribe them to procure a sufficient quantity of these delicious creatures for you…then, you need only supply some summer corn-on-the-cob, and of course, the wine.

Now that I live in New York City, lobster isn’t quite as easy to come by and not nearly as inexpensive as it is on the coast in Northern New England, but lucky for me, I happen to have two Maine residents in my family. Both my aunt and my brother-in-law live in Maine and have helped to quell my cravings for fresh lobster in recent years. My brother-in-law has even been known to drive all the way down to my in-laws’ in New Jersey surprising the whole family with a cooler packed to the gills with 50 or more live lobsters!  If you don’t have a personal connection to bring lobster to you, you can have live lobsters sent to your door. The Graffam Brothers Seafood Market, based in Rockport Maine, will ship live 1.25 lb lobsters to your door via overnight shipping for about $13 each (not including shipping). You can view their online market here.

Before your lobsters arrive, you’ll want to have a plan for boiling a large quantity. My family has devised a driveway set up with large boiling pots and small propane tanks for fuel. Having an outdoor dining table set up will help to keep the mess out of your home once the lobsters are done cooking and you are ready to eat. Keep the side dishes simple: corn-on-the-cob, potato salad and a green salad are perfect accompaniments. For dessert, strawberry shortcake or fresh berries with whipped cream finishes the experience on a lovely note.

To make this event a real summer wine party, choose four summer wines that will pair beautifully with lobster. First and foremost, well-chilled, refreshing rosé wine is a must. One of my favorite rosés of the moment is Chateau Miraval from Provence.  The Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie & Perrin Family endeavor is well worth the $20 price point. Impressive not only for its movie star owners but also for the winemaking Perrin family, from one of the Southern Rhone’s most prestigious estates…Chateau de Beaucastel of Chateauneauf du Pape fame!  Chateau Miraval has more than celebrity cache; it is a delicious, high quality wine that has the weight to stand up to meaty lobster.

Over the July 4th holiday, we tried the 2013 Foucher-Lebrun Sancerre Le Mont with our lobster and found that the wine’s freshness, salinity and minerality provided a nice compliment for the lobster’s sweet-salt flavor.

Chardonnay is the classic pairing for lobster and for good reason. Both old world and new world styles offer more richness and body than other white wines; the creamy flavors and sweet fruit of a good Chardonnay are delicious with lobster meat.  If you select a Chardonnay from California, choose one with some restraint so that it doesn’t overpower the flavor of the shellfish.

Finally, you can’t go wrong with some bubbly. You can serve this toward the end of the meal and it will refresh your guest’s palates and pair with everything on their plates. Champagne is incredibly food friendly and works well with just about everything you can think of, so why not lobster?

Keeping your wines at optimum serving temperature can be a challenge in the summer. Make sure that you put your Champagne, rosé, and white wines in the refrigerator to chill the night before. White and rosé wines are best served at around 52 degrees F, keeping reds at about 65 degrees F. Champagne and other bubbly wines deliver their optimum sparkle at 45 degrees F.

Ensure there will be enough wine on hand by calculating the number of bottles ahead of time, depending on your crowd, you’ll want at least a half bottle per person. If you will have under-age or teetotaling guests in attendance, consider a carafe of equal parts club soda and lemonade, as a refreshing non-alcoholic alternative.

Now you are ready to throw a summer wine party with lobster!

Live lobsters from Maine.

Live lobsters from Maine.

Freshly boiled and ready to enjoy

Freshly boiled and ready to enjoy

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Wine Shop Happenings: A Visit with Luca Martini di Cigala

Posted By: | In: Dated: June 12, 2014 | No Comments »

Luca Martini di Cigala - Bottle Signing at The Wine Cellarage

Luca Martini di Cigala – Bottle Signing at The Wine Cellarage

Here at our wine shop, we were lucky enough to enjoy a visit and tasting with Luca Martini di Cigala of the prestigious San Giusto a Rentennano, a family owned wine estate that lies in the southern most area of the Chianti Classico region. San Giusto a Rentennano is a certified organic wine producer and practices careful hand harvesting. The estate has been in the Martini di Cigala family since 1914, passed to Enrico Martini di Cigala in 1957 and then inherited by Enrico’s nine children in 1992. Today, six of the nine children are partners in the estate, including Luca.

Luca Martini di Cigala was a wonderful guest and brought us the estate’s 2010 vintage ‘Percarlo’ to taste! Among Tuscany’s most prominent red wines, Percarlo sits within the top tier and has consistently surpassed expectations since its inaugural release in 1983. Pure, 100% Sangiovese has perhaps never tasted so good. Percarlo is crafted from the estate’s very best Sangiovese grapes, which are hand selected bunch by bunch from the best areas of the family’s vineyards.

The precious grapes that make Percarlo are chosen from low-yielding vines, then pressed and macerated for a lengthy 18 days before an additional 20 months in barrique plus 6 months in bottle. The resulting nectar is bottled unfiltered for a truly pure expression. In the best years, only 1,600 cases of Percarlo are produced…The 2010 vintage for Italy is considered one of the best vintages ever.

My tasting note for 2010 Percarlo: A beautiful bouquet of rich red fruits, roses, exotic spices and herbal notes. On the palate, the texture is velvety with fine grained tannins. There is a mineral presence in the wine that gives great depth and energy. Approachable now, the classic structure makes this one for the ages!

Not only did we taste with Luca Martini di Cigala, he was kind enough to sign some of the large format bottles that we have for sale in our New York based wine store. In addition to signing our bottles, he also signed the original wood cases for our magnum bottles. These photo taken here in our temperature-controlled wine warehouse, where our entire retail wine shop inventory is stored in perfect conditions. More photos from the signing below…

Percarlo Signing

Percarlo Signing

Luca Martini di Cigala signing large format bottles of Percarlo

Luca Martini di Cigala signing large format bottles of Percarlo

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Harbingers of Spring: White Wines of Burgundy

Posted By: | In: Tags: , , , , , | Dated: April 22, 2014 | No Comments »

A crisp, refreshing glass of white wine from Burgundy.

After a long, cold winter in the Northeast, I know that I am not alone in my thirst for a change from the go-to red wines that I’ve been drinking for months now. My taste buds and palate are ready for wines of a lighter hue (specifically in the range of brilliant yellows flecked with golden highlights, or those with sublime chartreuse-inflections). I’m ready for bright, racy acidity and minerality that you can smell and taste. Springtime is a harbinger of the fine white wines that we will enjoy throughout the warm season, all the way until the late autumn when our tastes will change with the season once again. Some of the very best choices for our warm weather palate preference are those hailing from eastern France, specifically from the Burgundy region.

There is a popular misconception that white wines offer less complexity than reds. That establishes a palate without the privilege of sampling the fascinating vintages of east central France. White Burgundy wine, also known as French Chardonnay, is recognized by its strong, yet intricate profile, universally acclaimed to be the best expression of Chardonnay grapes in the world. The styles of White Burgundy range from those that are rich and creamy, exuding a honeyed nuttiness, to more restrained expressions that exhibit dazzling, flinty minerality. White Burgundies benefit greatly from an additional 10 to 15 years of proper cellaring and regularly outshine their peers, even without the added time in the bottle.

There are five growing regions in Burgundy: Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise, Côte de Nuits, Mâconnais, and Chablis. The vineyards throughout Burgundy began preparing for their noble commission 200 million years ago, when a vast tropical sea deposited limestone-rich soils throughout the region. Today’s soils are laden with pieces of limestone, marl, and sea creature fossils, elements which, paired with harsh winters and hot summers, come together to deliver pure, crisp white wines with incredible depth.

Classification of whites with Burgundian pedigree measure production as 1 percent Grand Cru, 10 percent Premier Cru, 37 percent village wines, and 52 percent regional wines. All have a most respectable profile, with increasing complexity as one climbs the ladder of classifications to the 1 percent Grand Cru, but even many of the village and regional wines produced in Burgundy are superior, high value wines. Each of the individual growing regions, however, pay their own complements to cuisine as the seasons move from hearty winter fare to the fresh, new vegetables and lighter dishes of spring.

The northernmost region of Chablis delivers wines known for crisp, pure qualities imparted from the cold winters, hot summers, and chalky Kimmeridgian soils. All wines from Chablis are white wines produced from Chardonnay grapes. Chablis has its own ranking system, from the light citrus of a young Petit Chablis, to the distinctive Grand Cru Chablis wines like the zesty Côte de Léchet and the fruity Fourchaume.

The Côte de Beaune region produces richer styled Chardonnays earning complex profiles that are excellent wines. The vineyards of Beaune represent some of the world’s most intriguing, sought after and long-lived Chardonnays. Village and Premier Cru wines from Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault and Beaune will be money well spent, especially for those vintages produced under the winemaking expertise of Louis Jadot and Bouchard Père et Fils. The wines of Domaine Joseph Drouhin, whose white wines command a higher price than even their red Burgundies, also produce distinctive, high quality Chardonnays.

Mâconnais, Burgundy’s most southerly growing area, harvests about two weeks earlier than Chablis, producing fresh wines with solid structure, and perfectly balanced acidity from their limestone and granite soils. The bowl of Mâconnais vineyards, with villages peppering the bottom, is guarded by the rock plateaus of Solutré and Vergisson. Here the climate and landscape both become more Mediterranean. Out of favor during the depression and the following resurgence, this area has made a comeback with a style that is highly valued by contemporary palates, imparting ripe stone fruit, citrus, honeysuckle, and pineapple flavors. Pouilly-Fuissé is one of our favorites from Mâcon, bestowing the consumer with a satisfying and complex sip that is a great accompaniment for salads, shellfish, and light meats. Overall, the wines of the Mâconnais offer some of the best values in the wine world.

Many white Burgundy wines are eminently drinkable now, but true connoisseurs will know to buy enough to taste through a range of years for a most satisfying view of the aging profiles. Vertical tastings are lovely, but for many, tasting a single vintage as it ages proves equally fascinating.  Search our online wine shop’s wide assortment of White Burgundy to find your perfect springtime wines, or call our wine retail store at (718) 991-5700(718) 991-5700 to speak with one of our fine wine experts.

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The Future in Your Hands: 2012 Bordeaux En Primeur

Barrels of Bordeaux wine resting in the cellar.

A challenging growing season to say the least, the 2012 vintage for Bordeaux will be a story of survival of the fittest.  A cold and wet spring poured a deluge twice the norm on the budding vines, affecting flowering and setting. July brought moody rains, encouraging disease and causing spotty ripening. Two weeks into July, the sun came out with no relief until August had almost passed by, at which time nature again turned a cold shoulder to the vines, weeping on the struggling fruit during a late, chilly harvest.

A difficult year? Absolutely. Pass on En Primeur? That depends. While market trends have shifted some buyers away from Bordeaux, and is still showing definitive weakness, there are some highlights worth considering. Good terroir can produce good wine, even in bad years, if handled properly and tended intelligently. This year, then, will be one in which expertise will be rewarded, and those resting on laurels, or simply hoping for the best, will fall and fail.

Nature smiled on certain grape varietals in the 2012 vintage, including Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Thus, dry whites basically did well in 2012, and Merlots seem to be performing favorably, especially Pomerol and St.-Emilion wines. Rather difficult challenges were set up for some of the reds, especially those predominantly composed of Cabernet Sauvignon. Sauternes was especially hard-hit in 2012, and larger, renowned Châteaux, including d’Yquem, announced that they would not produce any grand vin from the tenuous vintage. This news did not bode well for the other Châteaux in the region. There are always exceptional cases, so we must ask, did 2012 bring anything really special to the table?

The 2012 Château Margaux found the highest percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon ever in the mix at 87 percent. With moderate term potential, the popular dense structure, dark fruit, and high tannins may end up building a lovely glass.

The 2012 Château Palmer Margaux is put together nicely, with another densely structured sip built of 48 percent Merlot, 46 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 6 percent Petit Verdot. This wine is looking to be a true gem of the vintage and worthy of investment for the right reasons.

Nowhere is the possibility of a good wine from a bad year more likely than from Château Mouton-Rothschild, where the legendary terroir yielded a rich, extravagant wine boasting big fruit and sweet tannins at this stage. The 2012 Mouton appears poised to deliver an extraordinary result that is built for the long haul. Château Lafite-Rothschild produced a more elegant, classic style in 2012 with a precious 38% of the harvest making it into the blend. While production of the 2012 Lafite is much lower, the wine is being offered at an attainable price for the first time in years. Wines from St. Julien, such as the 2012 Château Saint Pierre, and the Château Talbot, have shown rounded, lushly endowed wines with promise.

Why risk the money in such a difficult year? As with any investment, being both smart and lucky are in the mix, but the obvious answer is to apply known factors to access wines produced in limited quantities that may emerge as stellar sips. The added impetus comes from purchasing such wines at the best price, two years before bottling.

As the wines continue to build character in the barrel, and each additional tranch firms up the price, they await the final test. No matter what the experts, negociants, retailers, and journalists say, the real deal comes from the smiles on the faces of investors tasting the results of a good decision.

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Wine Mitzvah: Kosher Yayin Comes of Age

Posted By: | In: Tags: | Dated: February 10, 2014 | No Comments »

Making great wine requires land, expertise, and patience in abundance. Making great Kosher wine requires all that and more. Kosher wines must be produced by hands that understand and practice the Jewish faith, abiding by the regulations set forth in the Kashrut, or Jewish dietary law.

Traditionally, Kosher wine has a reputation as heavy, sweet, and generally a different drink entirely from the fine wine produced by the best vintners in France, Spain, Italy, and the United States. It doesn’t have to be that way.

As an increasing number of Jewish palates learn that Kosher wines can rival the best vintages from Champagne, Burgundy, and Napa Valley, Kosher winemaking is trending toward fabulous. For many, the sweet, syrupy sip of the past century has become tradition. For a growing number of Jewish households, however, the option to choose a fine wine built with the characteristics sought by more modern palates, while keeping Kosher, is a welcome change.

Kosher wine with challah bread.

In addition to being processed and produced by observant Jews, Kosher wine must be made using Kosher equipment, with continual supervision by a Kosher agency, organization, or authoritative rabbi, in order to receive the hechsher, the Kosher seal of approval. When sealed, Kosher wine can be handled by anyone. Once opened, however, things change. Kosher wine must also be opened, as well as poured, by an observant Jew. Otherwise, it loses its Kosher status.

That can pose a challenge to fine restaurants employing non-Jewish waitstaff, but there is a fix for that. Any wine having undergone the flash-pasteurization process known as mevushal can be served by non-Jewish staff, retaining Kosher status regardless of who opens and pours the wine. While securing the Kosher designation, there are issues with bringing the wine to the boiling point. Would you willingly heat up a cherished vintage wine like a 1957 Lafite Rothschild? Debate has failed to resolve the question swirling around mevushal and its possible effects on a sumptuous sip.

Additional requirements of Kosher wine dictate that fining agents, those ingredients added to wine to assist in removal of suspended solids, observe the Kashrut. Some winemakers use dairy products such as casein, or non-kosher animal products such as gelatin made from swine, as fining agents, which would prohibit those wines from bearing the hechsher seal. The bottom line? At no time in the processing and production can a Kosher wine come in contact with a non-Kosher animal or ingredient.

Some excellent Kosher wine houses have gained notoriety in the last 10 to 20 years, especially those located in Israel’s Judean Hills and Samson regions. The soils and climates are conducive to growing a variety of quality wine grapes such as Carignon, Grenache, Muscat, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Additionally, Napa Valley, Clarksburg, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, and the Russian River Valley AVAs have begun producing some very good to excellent Kosher wines.

Even Champagne houses have begun to produce dry Kosher bubbly that is light, refreshing, and vibrant. From Kosher producers of Champagne in France, Prosecco in Italy, and Cava in Spain, to sparkling wine producers in Napa Valley, CA, the expansion of choice for keeping a celebration Kosher is a most welcome one. By all means, continue the sweet syrup tradition if you must, but know that some fine Kosher wines await your discovery…to browse The Wine Cellarage’s Kosher selections, click here. L’chaim!

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Holiday Wine Pairings: Celebrating the Seasons

Holiday Wine Pairings: Celebrating the Seasons

Gathering family and friends together for a holiday often demands food and wine to enhance the celebration. Such a memorable repast, prepared with carefully selected courses, deserves the company of carefully selected wines. Ensure each culinary milepost is met with a glass that brings out the best in both cuisine and company by engaging a wine merchant’s enologic expertise. Even if you have extensive wine knowledge, you will likely be pleasantly surprised at the wealth of possibilities stocked here at The Wine Cellarage, your local New York City wine store.

First courses often find shellfish, cheeses, and crisps of various types plated for service. To complement this range of appetizers, pour a Sparkling Wine or a crisp, minerally Chablis to enhance the first bites while refreshing the palate. A Pinot Gris made in the slightly richer style of the Alsace region of France pairs nicely with additions of salmon and Pâté to the plate.

Second courses are intended to prime the palate with savory soups. To complement the course, a Meursault with high-altitude, medium body Chardonnay, hinting of yellow fruit, cloves, and earth, maximizes the spice and character of clear soups. A good Riesling will gather together the flavors of a cream soup for an elegant second course.

Third course salads, whether hot or cold, are refreshed with a medium bodied white that will begin to set the stage for the main course. A good Sauvignon Blanc from Napa, or a Chardonnay, will crisp and cleanse the palate throughout the course, smoothly leading to fourth course entrée.

Fourth courses provide for greatest variation, from light seafood and vegetarian fare, to substantial prime rib and game, allowing for broad interpretation by the hosts in wine selection. Here is where your own personality will shine as you select your favorite vintages for the main event. It is also a fine time to break open the bubbly, further highlighting the most important course of the meal, and supplying the effervescence to lighten the plates. The importance of the choice focuses on matching the weight and flavors of the dish with the wine so that neither is overpowered, and the aromas entwine to compliment and engage each other, elevating the course to more than the sum of its parts.

If you have yet to discover your favored Champagne or substantial Burgundy, as your local New York Wine merchant, we are here help!

Port wines deliver just the right spark to dessert courses, especially where chocolate is involved. The sweetness of the wine should match that of the course. Heavy tannins here would work against pleasing the palate in this closing course, so avoid Champagne and edgy reds in favor of sweeter, younger reds, jammy ports, with perhaps a demi sec Champagne for light, fruit-based desserts.

Most important of all is to serve what you love. Introducing friends to your own personal favorites is a joy and a pleasure that will be the stuff of memories for generations to come, creating new traditions with each celebration. For special birthdays and anniversaries, you might opt to purchase a few extra bottles of wines served to store and present at a later date in memory of the occasion. The recipients will be both surprised and grateful.

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Chasing Winter’s Chill: Charming Winter Wines

Toasting winter by an open fire!

Cold weather cuisine simply loves going toe to toe with full-bodied wines flaunting festive personalities. With winter’s heartier fare, full of flavor and spice, reds often win starring roles but there are many big-boned whites that provide the perfect warm up for a winter feast.

White burgundies from Meursault or Puligny-Montrachet, sometimes unoaked, make exquisite companions for roast chicken, scallops, and fish dishes, delivering a creamy, savory palate that warms and satisfies hungry winter appetites. Some California labels, with nutty, oak-focused notes, enhance shellfish menus featuring cream sauces or gravies, frequently making additional appearances as ingredients in entrees.

Pinot Grigio wines from the Alsace region present strong profiles with a defined nose, making perfect cold weather companions for fois gras, roasted pork or white meat winter stews. The Trentino-Alto Adige region produces a number of Pinot Grigio labels with strong personalities that up the ante for every other region.

By its very nature, Champagne strikes a celebratory note, especially during the winter holiday season. Round, rich blanc de blancs make strong stand-alone toasts. Champagnes with pure, flinty energy, and a creamy mousse, are a welcome warm up for winter guests, providing an instant, elegant thaw. Pours of any of the Special Club Champagnes give up more than the sum of their parts, enchanting from label to last drop with high quality grower vintage wines.

White may be the color of the season, with snow, ice, and purity of spirit, but reds still find favor during the winter months. Serious beef and game dishes, replete with seasonal spice, welcome a robust, deeply detailed Cabernet Sauvignon to the table. Strong, smooth tannins, particularly those earned by grapes from one of the Beckstoffer Vineyards, or from France’s Beaune region, groom the wines for the most elegant tables, while building a structure that supports the most complicated menus of the season.

Pinot Noir wines bring together dark fruit, exciting spice, and enticing aroma, creating warmth and well-being in every glass. The gorgeous rim and body dance with color, anticipating the complex, concentrated sip of an Anderson Valley or Russian River Valley Californian, or a Loire Valley or Burgundy Francophile. Excellent with winter menus of roast goose, baked ham, light game, or winter vegetable soups, these wines are also good for planning ahead, as in the next five to ten winters, since many are excellent for cellaring.

Barolo wines simply taunt the cold with their bold flavors and exquisite palates. Deeply structured to show a new facet with each maturing sip, these wines open up and change from moment to moment, meal to meal, and year to year, with numerous pleasant surprises. Excellent choices from Italy’s Piedmont region show sumptuous color, flavor, and nose, embracing beef, wild game, aged cheeses, or truffled pasta as delicious dinner partners.

Winter’s chill may bring the party indoors, but these winter wines offer warmth and solace to help weather the season. Discuss the possibilities with one of New York City’s fine wine experts here at The Wine Cellarage to stock your cellar with all the right wines for all the right reasons.

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Trails Through Burgundy, Part VI: Domaine Sainte Barbe & Domaine Georges Vernay

Posted By: | In: Tags: , , | Dated: August 3, 2013 | No Comments »

Vineyard in Viré-Clessé, Macon

Day six was our last day in Beaune as we headed south to Macon to visit Domaine Sainte Barbe. Sainte Barbe is not well-known here in the United States and it is a shame that it is not. Jean-Marie Chaland makes exquisite wine. The Domaine is farmed bio dynamically and sells grapes to the more famous Brett Brothers.

It is also sad that the wines of Macon do not get their just reward. They are considered inferior to the white wines of the Cotes de Beaune and although they do not deliver the depth that some of the Premier Crus and Grand Crus do from the Cotes de Beaune, they certainly achieve the purity of fruit, freshness, deliver wonderful terroir and overall length. I conclusively know that the wines of Sainte Barbe do.

Domaine Sainte Barbe was founded in 2000 and its name comes from a cross erected on top of the hill overlooking the vineyard. It comprises 8.2 hectares of Chardonnay in the villages of Vire and Montbellet divided into two appellations – Vire Clessé (5.7 ha) and Macon-Villages (2.5 ha). The Domaine consists of more than 20 separate micro-parcels, and produces roughly 3,000 cases a year. There’s a lot to like here: a high proportion of old vines – 3/4 of his estate is over 50 years old, and his prized Thurissey parcel is over 90. He always uses natural yeasts, and there is no chaptalization, nor acidification. His single vineyard bottlings are bottled unfined and unfiltered. The family has farmed organically since those early days, and Jean-Marie’s estate became certified organic in 2006 – the first grower in Viré-Clessé to obtain that certification.

After our visit with Jean-Marie we were off to the northern Rhone to visit the ‘King of Viognier’ Domaine Georges Vernay. Christine Vernay, Georges’ daughter took over the winemaking duties in 1996 and has brought the Domaine to even greater heights. She was named Personality of the Year for 2012 by the world-renowned wine experts, Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve. The Domaine also joined the 30 most prestigious French Wine Estates including Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau D’Yquem, Champagne Krug, etc.

Domaine Georges Vernay lies among steep slopes of the northern Rhone Valley. The property has become a major emblem of French winegrowing, from the time when Georges Vernay saved the Condrieu appellation. Since 1997, Christine Vernay, Francis’ granddaughter, has continued the family commitment, anchoring its savoir-faire and imprinting her father Georges’ style on the reds and whites. She created the two Côte-Rôtie “Maison Rouge” and “Blonde du Seigneur”. The vision remains the same: create fine, elegant, harmonious wines that clearly express the character of the exceptional terroir.

Georges Vernay created the family business with 1.5 hectares of AOC Condrieu “Coteau du Vernon” vineyards. Towards the end of the 40′s, Georges Vernay became one of the most ardent defenders and saviors of the Appellation, then about to disappear.

Today, the vinification is assured by his children Luc and Christine Vernay and the estate extends over 16 hectares – 7 hectares in the appellation Condrieu, of which 3 hectares are old vines producing 2 prestigious vintages matured in barrels: the “Coteau de Vernon” and “Les Chaillées de l’Enfer”. Both vintages represent the quintessence of Condrieu’s Viognier vine. These exquisite incomparable white wines with their golden color are of great nobleness, full-bodied, unctuous and persistent. 3 hectares of Côte Rotie, 1.5 hectares of St.-Joseph and 5 hectares of local wine Syrah and Viognier. Whatever the classification, the wines are always delicious and of the highest quality.

We tasted through all of the wines of both estates across many vintages. Listed below are the hightlights of our tastings.

Domaine Sainte Barbe

Mâcon ‘Les Tilles’ 2011
Our Price:  $21.00

This is from a parcel of 40-50 year old vines, located on a plateau of clay/limestone soil in the village of Montbellet. It is aged in stainless steel tanks, on its lees and then bottled. This wonderfully expressive, floral, citrusy Mâcon is super fresh, super mineral, and utterly delicious. The wine has apple fruit with a nose of white flowers. There is a touch of terroir with superb length. This is by far the best value in white Burgundy that we offer.

Viré Clessé ‘Vieilles Vignes’ 2011
Our Price:  $25.00

Viré Clessé is an AOC of the Mâconnais region (similar to Pouilly Fuissé or St. Veran), created just over 10 years ago. It’s a relatively small AOC, producing less than half the quantity of Pouilly Fuissé or St. Veran. This Vieilles Vignes cuvée is produced from three parcels of 50+ year old vines, with gravelly soils. Deep fruit on the nose the wine is complex and concentrated. There is a wonderful mid-palate that leads to a very long finish. The wine is extremely aromatic of again white flowers and citric apples. The wine is very fleshy with great minerality. Jean-Marie says he likes this best at 3-5 years of age, but it sure tastes good right now.

Viré-Clessé ‘Thurissey’ 2011
Our Price:  $35.00

Viré-Clessé ‘Thurissey’ is an exceptional little (1/2 hectare) south-facing parcel is on the northern end of the appellation, away from his other parcels. The vines here are up to 95 years old, and he produces only about 200 cases. Again, no new oak; he uses a regimen of barrels between two and five years old. The wine is kept in barrel for a year on its fine lees, then bottled, without fining or filtration. Thurissey is a wonderful expression of its terroir. The wine is rich, complex and concentrated with great balance. It is a wine that is mineral driven and although it is at this time understated this wine has the most potential for aging (10 years is not out of the question). To say that the wine challengers village level Cotes de Beaune is not a stretch and I would put it up to some Premier Crus as well. This is the real deal in Chardonnay and certainly a wine to buy.

Domaine Georges Vernay

Viognier ‘Pieds de Samson’ 2011
Our Price:  $34.00

One of the peculiarities of Condrieu is that despite its big reputation, it is tiny; fewer than 150 hectares of vineyards. The vineyards in Condrieu must not lie above a certain altitude, 300 meters, to be called Condrieu otherwise the wines are classified only as ‘vin de pays’.  What is interesting is it was Georges Vernay that pushed for this to be enacted. The Pieds de Samson, which could be someone elses Condrieu is ‘just vin de pays’. This 100% Viognier comes from the climats of La Caille and Mirebaudy, located at 300 metres above the town of Condrieu. Thus, Le Pied De Samson is the Estate’s ‘baby Condrieu’.

The yields for this wine are very low and the wine is fermented in stainless steel and bottled in the spring to keep its freshness. The result is a highly aromatic Viognier with lots of floral and stone fruit character and a lovely supple, layered texture with a mineral freshness. 2011 is a great fit for this wine, which displays the typical Vernay dance between exuberant generosity and mouth-watering freshness. It’s juicy, floral and sleekly stone-fruited but also dry, racy and saline. A very chic Northern Rhône Viognier that showcases the pretty fruit and balance of the vintage.

Condrieu ‘Terrasses L’Empire’ 2010
Our Price:  $74.00

A mineral, saline wine with floral richness and great power. The acidity keeps this fresh and balanced and this will likely age well for up to a decade. This wine is clean, focused, with heaps of minerality and stone fruits. A great example of Condrieu. Excellent.

Condrieu ‘Les Chaillees de L’Enfer’ 2010
Our Price:  $110.00

The wine complex, concentrated again with stone fruits and minerals. Wonderful length that keeps on going. The wine has butterscotch and rich but not over the top pineapple and other tropical fruits. Aged in 25% new oak. Again excellent.

Condrieu ‘Coteau de Vernon’ 2011
Our Price:  $130.00

This is the oldest vineyard in Condrieu. Therer are 7,000 bottles produced.This wine is insane. Everything about its aromatics is exquisite, though still tight and precise. Rich but bright, intensely mineral and unlike any other Condrieu I’ve ever tasted. This is amongst the best white wines made in France and can age up to 20 years. This is excellence personified.

Cote Rotie ‘Maison Rouge’ 2010
Our Price:  $130.00

You would think that this wine would hit you over the head with heaps of fruit i.e. California Cabernets , but the first think that hits you is the wine’s elegance. Yes there is big, bold fruit of blueberries and blackberries that sing across your palate, but it was the harmony and finesse that struck me. Rich and complex, concentrated and very long. This wine proves why Maison Rouge is a highly sought after wine for French oenophiles, even while generally unknown in North America. This is 100% Syrah. This is a brilliant wine.

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Trails Through Burgundy, Part V: Clos Salomon, Moreau & Lamy

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Oops...in Givry.

Our sixth day in France brought us farther south within the Côte d’Or, to Givry in the southern end of the Côte Chalonnaise.  There we visited Clos Salomon, a Premier Cru vineyard tracing its history back to the 1300s, and in our opinion, the preeminent domaine in the Côte Chalonnaise.  From Givry, we traveled to the Santenay appellation in the Côte de Beaune and tasted the wines of Domaine David Moreau.  We were hosted by young and talented winemaker David Moreau himself.  In between appointments, we stopped for lunch in Givry.  We encountered several driving obstacles on our sixth day in France, one such incident can be viewed in the photo to the left.

The last visit of the day brought us to the often undervalued appellation of Saint Aubin, west of Chassagne-Montrachet, where we had a wonderful visit at Domaine Hubert Lamy.  Day six was an exploration and discovery of some of Burgundy’s true hidden treasures! We feel very strongly about each of the wines below and hope that you find them as valuable as we do.

Domaine Clos Salomon

Bottles of Givry Premier Cru at Clos Salomon

Clos Salomon is a beautiful Premier Cru monopole vineyard tucked into the pastoral landscape of the southern Côte Chalonnaise. The vineyard has over 700 years of history reaching back to the 1300s.  We were hosted by Ludovic du Gardin and Fabrice Perrotto, the Domaine’s young proprietors-cum-winemakers.  Ludovic and Fabrice are the epitome of down to earth and their wines couldn’t be more true to the limestone and clay soils from which they come. Each wine that we tasted there had resounding purity and polish.  The 2009 Givry is the current release.

Givry 1er Cru Monopole 2009, $36 – Generous aromas of sweet blackberry and raspberry fruit leap from the glass.  The wine is lush with palate-coating fruit, velvety tannins and harmonious structure.  The flavor of sweet kirsch is embedded at the core which expands into savory minerality and a finish that goes on for miles.

Domaine David Moreau

One of Burgundy’s rising star winemakers, David Moreau oversees 5 hectares of Village and Premier Cru appellations that comprise this family-owned domaine.  Moreau practices environmentally conscientious growing and winemaking techniques, taking great care in both the vineyard and the cellar to produce wines of excellent quality that loyally reflect each terroir in his portfolio. We believe that Moreau’s Côtes de Beaune Villages is one of the best values to be had from all of Burgundy.

Côtes de Beaune Villages 2010, $25 – Aromas of bright, pure cherry fruit and exotic spice delight the nose.  The wine is lush and ample on the palate, with a refined, firm structure.  Sweet red fruit gives way to velvety textured tannins.  Deep stony minerality drives the lengthy finish. Tremendous value!

Domaine Hubert & Olivier Lamy

Situated in the hills between Chassagne and Puligny Montrachet, the appellation of Saint Aubin is considered by many white Burgundy lovers to be one of the region’s hidden gems and greatest values.  At Domaine Hubert & Olivier Lamy, we tasted with Olivier Lamy in his cellar after taking a jaunt up to his aptly named Derrière Chez Edouard vineyard, which is located behind the house of Edouard.  This is also the location for Olivier’s high density planting experiment, where he has 30,000 vines planted per hectare.  Higher density means more competition amongst the vines and smaller sized grapes that have great concentration and complexity of flavor.  The young high density vines were planted in 2000 and the first vintage that he produced was 2006.  This wine is extremely limited production – Olivier makes only one barrel of the wine per year. Consider yourself very lucky if you manage to get your hands on some!

Olivier Lamy took over the Domaine’s winemaking in 1992, when the position was passed down from his father, Hubert.  Since that time, the winery has gone from success to another.  Olivier began experimenting with larger 600-liter tonneaux casks, rather than small 225-litre barriques, a change that preserves the pure fruit character of the wine. Currently, the majority of his wine production is raised in these larger casks.  The resultant wines are both refined and racy, showing off St. Aubin’s mineral-rich style.

We feel that the wines of Domaine Lamy are a benchmark of quality and precision in white Burgundy, and some of the most sensational white wines that we have ever tasted, period.

Lamy's Derriere Chez Edouard Vineyard

Bourgogne Blanc ‘Les Chataigners’ 2011, $32 – On the palate, the wine is lush with sweet, ripe citrus, tropical fruit and subtle spice flavors.  The wine has racy minerality through its core.  There is complexity and depth with a long lasting finish.

Saint Aubin Paradis Rouge 2011, $39 – Ever so elegant with bright cranberry and citrus notes, along with subtle spicy character.  The wine is pure, fresh and well-structured with great energy and minerality.

Saint Aubin ‘Derriere Chez Edouard’ 1er Cru 2011, $52 – The nose is dominated by stony mineral aromas and complimented by elegant floral notes.  The wine is precise and deep with a core of sweet citrus fruit.  There is extraordinary mineral density and length to this wine. Brilliant!

Saint Aubin ‘En Remilly’ 1er Cru 2011, $65 – High octave aromatics of orchard fruit, florals, minerals and fennel seed.  On the palate, there is luscious mouth-coating fruit with a silken texture.  The wine is intense with immense personality, power and complexity. Albeit rich and concentrated, there is notable purity and reverberating minerality.

Puligny-Montrachet ‘Les Tremblots’ 2011, $69 – Charming aromas of pineapple, floral notes and citrus zest.  Bright, pure and vivacious on the palate with dense, intense stony minerality that carries the finish for miles.

Also Available –

Chassagne-Montrachet ‘La Goujonne’ Rouge 2011, $45

Saint Aubin ‘Murgers Des Dents De Chien’ 1er Cru 2011, $69

Criots-Batard Montrachet Grand Cru 2011, $460

Olivier Lamy - Derriere Chez Edouard Vineyard

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White Wines for Hot Summer Days

A refreshing glass of white wine!

A nice cold glass of white wine is perfect for these hot summer days. There are so many different white wines out there and so many different styles that it can get a little overwhelming and confusing. We hope that this will serve as your summer white wine guide and will help you to choose a varietal and style that perfectly suits your taste.

Sauvignon Blanc

In each region where Sauvignon Blanc is grown, the grape and resulting wine expresses a unique set of flavors and styles.  Sauvignon Blanc thrives throughout France, and especially within Bordeaux, where it is the prominent grape varietal in Bordeaux Blanc blends and the coveted dessert wines of Sauternes . The climate of Bordeaux allows the Sauvignon Blanc grapes to ripen more slowly than in other areas, giving a wonderful balance between acidity and fruit. The climate is also an important factor in the development of the wine’s aromas.  The flavors in these wines are fruitier than those from other regions in France. These wines can also age a bit more than the Sauvignon Blancs that are produced elsewhere.

The Loire Valley is the home of Sancerre, producing some of the most celebrated Sauvignon Blancs in the world. Sancerre is considered an elegant wine that is vibrant and crisp. Sancerre has good fruit and minerals, which combine to make a deep and complex Sauvignon Blanc. The fruit flavors that are typically present in Sancerre are from the citrus family, including lemon, lime and grapefruit. However, when the grapes are really ripe you can taste pear, quince, and apple.  The wines that are produced in Sancerre have a good acidity, making them among the most refreshing wines out there.

Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

California Sauvignon Blanc is made in a variety of styles, some of which were inspired by the regions of France.  Fume-Blanc is a “French look a-like” that came into being when Robert Mondavi  began using oak aging to remove some of the grassy flavors that were showing up in his California Sauvignon Blanc.

The flavors that are present in Sauvignon Blanc/Fume-Blanc, grown in California, tend to be minerally, grassy, and tropical. The wines that show more tropical fruits tend to be mixed with Semillon, which helps add ripe and aromatic fruit flavors. In addition, there are wines produced in California that offer citrus fruit aromas, showing notes of passion fruit, grapefruit, and lemon.  On the other hand, the Fume-Blanc style shows melon flavors, as well as some other tropical fruits.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very tropical and refreshing when the weather is really hot. There is also something about New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that I really enjoy in general, but especially in the summer. Just like all Sauvignon Blancs that I have covered here, they are bright, refreshing, and crisp. Marlborough is the most well-known area in New Zealand where this grape variety is grown and produced.

A typical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very aromatic with tropical notes of pineapple, passion fruit, grapefruit, melon, gooseberry, and other citrus flavors. Some of these wines can have grassy and floral notes too. The cool climate that the grapes are grown in allows for these flavors to be quite intense, but also gives a good balance between sugars and acidity. Moderate to high acidity is typical for these wines.

View all Sauvignon Blanc available on our website.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay Grapes

Chardonnay is the chameleon of the white wine grapes, having a variety of expressions depending on the region and the winemaker’s influence.   Chardonnay is one of the most popular and widely planted white wine grapes in the world.  Chardonnay is a native grape varietal to France’s Burgundy region.  Consumers always get confused when it comes to Burgundy – red or white. It seems confusing with the different appellations within a village, the many different growers within the same vineyard, and then of course you sprinkle in the negociant.  When it comes to White Burgundy, the first thing you need to know is that 95% percent of the time, the white wines produced there are made from Chardonnay! And Burgundy produces some of the finest and most age worthy Chardonnays in the world.  Depending on the area of Burgundy, the flavors that can arise range from citrus fruit to licorice and spice notes, and can be rich and creamy in style or very racy and brisk.   Chablis is perhaps the most distinctive expression of Chardonnay within Burgundy.  View all White Burgundy available on our website.

Chablis will always be 100% Chardonnay, no blending of any kind. Because of the cool climate that the grapes are grown in, Chablis is always refreshing and very crisp, but don’t let that fool you, Chablis can be aged.  Expressing a deep mineral character in its youth, the wine tends to softens with age and develop floral and honeyed notes.  Another typical characteristic of young Chablis is a green apple-like acidity, as well as a flinty-mineral flavor.

California is another popular Chardonnay producing region.  California Chardonnay tends to be fuller-bodied in style, filling the palate with rich flavors and textures.  Chardonnay is wonderfully versatile, which is why it works so well for all seasons!

View all Chardonnay available on our website.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Gris/Grigio Grapes

Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio is a mutant form of the Pinot Noir grape.  The grapes can actually have a purplish hue, although the wine produced is light in color. This is a wonderful warm weather wine and is sure to cool you off on a hot summer afternoon.  It tends to be light to medium-bodied in style and is usually very pale in color. It is extremely bright, crisp, and refreshing.  Pinot Gris thrives in Alsace, California and Oregon, while Italy is known for Pinot Grigio.  View all Pinot Grigio available on our website.

Italian Pinot Grigio is very bright and clean. It is very light in color and in body. Sometimes there is an effervescent feel to an Italian Pinot Grigio. This makes the wine elegant and delicate, which means you want to drink it in its youth.

Pinot Gris is a major grape varietal in Alsace, and is very different from the Pinot Gris/Grigio that is found everywhere else. These wines have very intense flavors, because of the long autumn season, which allows for the grapes to ripen very slowly. The Alsatian Pinot Gris is medium-bodied and can be aged for longer than those of Italy and the United States.  Alsatian Pinot Gris can have a nice spice flavor to it, which is unique to this variety.  In general, Pinot Grigio makes a great cooler for the hot weather!

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