Pfister: Alsace, wound up

May 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve been so excited by so many wines lately that I’ve fallen a bit behind in committing them to 0s and 1s, pixels and screens. That’s a slippery way of excusing myself for failing to post to this-here blog in as timely a fashion as I’d like.

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Super long finish, oily and full-bodied in classic style, but also quivering and agile. Amazing wine!

A couple of weeks ago now, in the Portland Press Herald, I wrote about a winemaker in Alsace who has exploded my notions of Alsace. That’s because Mélanie Pfister is carrying on her family’s wine tradition in the Bas-Rhin, the more northerly outpost of vineyards in this most distinct of France’s wine regions. As Mélanie herself explained to me, the Bas-Rhin compared to the Haut-Rhin is akin to Côte de Nuits as compared to Côte de Beaune, or Cornas as compared to Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe. More mineral, more precision, more finesse and focus. Haut-Rhin has the better known wineries, and I love ’em, those rich, ripe Weinbachs and Zind-Humbrechts. But try Pfister’s wines from the Bas-Rhin if every once in a while you like your wine a little bit more scalpel-like.

Dry Creek Vineyard, the Tom Hanks of Sonoma County?

May 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

Dependable. Kind. Interesting, with a subtle edgy streak mostly kept under wraps. I usually want adventuresome wines that set me off kilter. Sometimes I don’t. That’s what Dry Creek Vineyard wines are for: when you want something very good but very consistent.

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The ever elegant DCV Sauvignon Blanc

Ruffle feathers tomorrow. Today, settle in and settle down. Here’s my take on a benchmark-y, stable, classic line-up of wines from California that will break few-to-no balls, bones, habits,  relationships or banks.

Sagrantino, the better Cabernet from Napa

April 24, 2013 § 1 Comment

That’s a pretty snotty headline. But there’s something to it, as I hope my most recent column in the Portland Press Herald makes clear: the testy dance of tannin, mineral and plump fruit; the not-entirely-settled question of whether brains or brawn or beauty is to emerge triumphant. Sagrantino, the indigenous grape of Umbria in central Italy, offers so much hard-n-old along with amazingly yummy fruit.

Any good Sagrantino di Montefalco is rare, expensive, and requires many years in bottle before its two sides come together. But Montefalco Rosso is the (cheaper) first step: Umbria’s famous grape, blended with Sangiovese and some other stuff. Easier to love, but still emotionally intoxicating. Read all about it…

Dry Muscat, the sexy two-night stand you’ve been waiting for

April 13, 2013 § 1 Comment

Latest Portland Press Herald entreaty is to enter the strange, sometimes wacked but usually fascinating and often elegant world of dry Muscat. Make that worlds, not world, since there’s so much variety. And the wines are made all over the world, rarely if ever oaked and therefore-ish exceptional windows into terroir. In the article I mention Alois Lageder’s beauty from Alto Adige, plus a surprising Malaga Muscat, Botani, from Spain. And Bonny Doon’s Ca’ Del Solo Muscat is Adige-esque but does its own thang.

Fruit, flowers, and spices galore: there’s no better way to welcome spring

I do pull out a “two-night stand” metaphor because for me Muscat drinks like sex, lusty and sweaty with someone new, but you wake up in the morning and still want to hang. Yeah!

You are forbidden from drinking this wine.

April 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Luxury-hounds and bean-counters, alert: Wine is not rich Corinthian leather. Damn, right? No, it’s not a lifestyle gimmick. Wine is truth and therefore beauty (thanks, John Keats), and we ought to have unfettered access to beauty and truth.

We don’t fetter said access (much, at least, anymore) when it comes to non-alcohol arts (literature, film, music) and crafts (hello, Etsy), but with wine and spirits you gotta do what the man says.

In a “control” state such as Maine, with four tiers of legal administration necessary to get a wine to market, you are restricted in what you can drink. A combination of Puritanism (all drinking is bad) and consumerism (one wine is as good as another; it’s all “product”) conspire.

Read on, here, for more. And then, let’s all commit to a little good ol’ pressure-on-our-legislature to democratize the market.

Natural Wine Foot Soldier, ready to die in battle!

March 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Jean Pierre Robinot’s “Fêtembulles”, one of a growing number of spectacular “natural” wines available in Maine.

I’m undergoing a touch of the ol’ identity crisis, friends. Comes from wearing a hat or two too many. I work in retail, helping to sell wine in a group of stores that focus on local produce, meat, dairy and other products. We work on a small scale, nurturing relationships with many local producers.

In a store in New England, you can’t really do that for wine, but you can try to sell wine whose producers reflect similar values: small-scale, relationship-based, earth-respecting. The thing is,  I also write about wine, hoping to discover more fascinating and true wines, explore what they say about the real world, and try to share these experiences in a spirit of ardent love.

Anyway, the crisis: In retail, any good merchant is out to help the customer, and to do that well you need to be catholic in your tastes, empathic, selfless, non-judgmental. Some wine writers might try to do this as well, but I think it’s a con. I’d rather clearly state my biases up front: less Willy Loman, more the opinionated Jack Black character from “High Fidelity”.

I’ve recently gotten consciously turned on to “natural wines”, and I can’t turn off, or back. I don’t right now know the way to go on selling (or writing about) conventionally made wines, even if they “taste good”, because I’m a foot soldier in some sort of revolution, and I’ve crossed the Rubicon.

(Whether something “tastes good” is actually a lot more complicated than whether it tastes good, if you get me…)

The debates continue about what even constitutes a “natural wine”, but my most recent column in the Portland Press Herald is a continuation of my attempt to discuss it. Call it Part Un of my interview with prominent natural-wine importer Zev Rovine. No matter where you draw your lines, we’re talking about wines that are grown organically (and usually biodynamically), ferment exclusively with their own indigenous (or “wild”) yeasts, and receive either no sulfur at all or a very small amount just before the wine is put in the bottle.

Part Deux is coming soon. As to what the hell I write about after that, since the number of natural wines available in Maine, where most of my readership resides, is on the slim side, I have no idea.

Oh, “natur-el”. Wine debate heats up.

March 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

My most recent column in the Portland Press Herald tries to untangle some of what’s at stake in the ongoing debates over…I hesitate even to use the phrase…”natural wine”. I really don’t think this is tempest-in-a-decanter stuff, despite the rolled eyes of many wine pros, sighing “here we go again” as if conversations about oak chips, sulfur, tartaric acid, and biodynamics aren’t actually what they (we) live for.

Anyway, there are all kinds of call-outs in the recent press, especially at Gambero Rosso and Intravino. Regardless of where you stand, I think it’s an exciting set of discussions, and most importantly, many wines that are in one way or another allied with the “natural wine movement” are undeniably delicious. They can be strange (or not), they can get funky or play it straight. They are usually exciting. If you care about wine, and if you care about culture and where we’re all heading at this moment in world time, you owe it to yourself to participate in the conversation.

Which, by the way, I’ll pick up again soon in future posts and articles…talk to you then…

Actual wine! From an actual place! Slovenian hill whites

February 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

Back in November I mentioned an article I’d had published in the Art of Eating, which focused on the skin-macerated Kabaj Rebula. Well, Kabaj wines are finally available in the great state of Maine, and my column in today’s Portland Press Herald celebrates that news.

In addition to the Rebula, there’s also Ravan (made from Tocai Friulano, or as the Slovenians sometimes call it, Zeleni Sauvignon), and the Wine of Wines, Amfora (made in traditional 3,500-liter qveri, Georgian clay amphorae).

This is singular wine, for real. There is nothing like it anywhere else, because there’s no land like the land of Collio/Brda — it’s the only winemaking region where the climate and soil of the Alps meets the climate and soil of the Mediterranean — and there’s no one like Jean-Michel Morel, the Bordelaise ex-French-Foreign-Legionnaire, who makes Kabaj wines.

Please enjoy these wines, made by and for true adventurers. Thanks to Blue Danube Wine Co., and Devenish Wines in Maine, for making it possible for us to do so.

Pink Bubbles. Get over yourself, St. Valentine, it’s the best wine there is.

February 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

I mean, really. The potential from conscientiously made sparkling rosé is endless. On Earth as in heaven…the ethereal reaching into the corporeal. Spirit made flesh. All that and it might get you laid. Interested? Read on.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, wine of SURPRISE.

February 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

If I ever thought I knew anything, it was what Sauvignon Blanc tastes like, especially when it’s from New Zealand: guava, grapefruit, gooseberry, good bye. Two NZ Sauvignon Blancs I’ve drunk recently yank my ego, twist it into a tidy pretzel and toss it to the dogs.

Big lesson: You never know as much as you think you know. These are complex, enticing wines at totally doable prices. They give. And they take. They stay open. And invite — nay, force — you to do the same. Here’s the story.

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