Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Best of Burgundy

So doing a little planning this morning for Veritas Imports who represents the wines of Etienne de Montille in Burgundy and ran across an nice little write-up by Bruce Sanderson of the Wine Spectator. Read up and watch the video here .

The Indefatigable Etienne de Montille

One of my last visits in Burgundy was with Etienne de Montille of Domaine de Montille, Deux Montille (the négociant business he runs with his sister Alix) and Domaine du Château de Puligny-Montrachet, where he is the estate manager.

De Montille has just finished reorganizing the domaine, where he and Alix are now the owners. He is in charge of vinifying the reds, she the whites for both the domaine and the négoce business.

None of the reds had been bottled. One group had been racked into tank in early November for bottling in March. Two cuvées were just racked two weeks prior to my visit for bottling in April. The third group was still in barrel and yet to be racked. They are scheduled for bottling in May or June.

De Montille’s insight into winemaking is fascinating to hear (see video). “I adapt every year,” he said. “With white wine, people are more careful, but with reds, people are more systematic each year. But I think it’s just as important to adapt the maturation for reds too,” he added.

For example, he will bottle the 2006s earlier than the ’05s, which saw 21 months in barrel, two months in tank and were bottled just before the 2007 harvest.

The Beaune Grèves, with 40 percent of the stems retained, was closed on the nose, but long, rich and fruity, offering cherry, mineral and spice notes (88–91). Also with 40 percent of the stems, the Pommard Pezerolles showed elegance for the appellation. It was dense and solid, with cherry and iron flavors. Perhaps a tad less complex than above today (88–91).

The Volnay Mitans revealed aromatic floral and red currant aromas and elegance. Its tannins were just a little coarse on the finish from the racking and filtering, but this was very Volnay (88-91). The Corton Clos du Roi, an approximate blend from barrel, was more stern, with wild garrigue scents, yet pure, mineral and racy with a long, cherry and spice aftertaste (90–93).

“There was a big gap between the Côte de Beaune and Côte de Nuits at the beginning, but the Côte de Beaune is catching up,” de Montille said. “They won’t have the structure, roundness and profundity of the Côte de Nuits, but they will have the complexity and character.”

From the Côte de Nuits, the Nuits-St.-Georges Aux St.-Juliens is a new wine for the domaine in 2006. It offered blackberry and black currant flavors in a fresh, elegant, charming way (87–90). Its premier cru big brother, the Nuits-St.-Georges Les Thoreys, from further up the slope, was still in barrel. It featured blackberry and black cherry notes in a classy, refined manner (89–92).

There are two Vosne-Romanée Malconsorts chez de Montille, as of the 2005 vintage. The “normale” dished up a huge nose of black pepper, cinnamon, rose and red currant, with elegance, depth and length (90–93). The Christiane, from older vines, was deeper, sappier and more silky, a backward red with more structure and mineral than the regular bottling (91–94).

Several 2006 whites stood out. From the Deux Montille range, there was a fresh Meursault Tessons, showing honey, citrus and mineral flavors (88–91) and a riper, peach-, lemon- and mineral-tinged St.-Aubin Les Murgers des Dents de Chien (88–91). Under the Domaine Montille label, the Puligny-Montrachet Caillerets was full of passion fruit and mineral notes. It’s a linear white, very long and complete (90–93). The Corton-Charlemagne, from the first commercial release after grafting from Pinot Noir, displayed great intensity and mineral character, along with lemon, floral and apple flavors. A tensile white and very long in the mouth (92–95).

We then drove over to Château de Puligny-Montrachet, where we tasted a range of 2006s from tank and a few 2007s from barrel. “This [2006] is the first vintage since I have been here that we are close to what we want to do in the vineyards and cellar,” said de Montille.

The ’06s are impressive. I particularly liked the Puligny-Montrachet, a lively, straight-laced, hazelnut- and mineral-infused white (88–91). The St.-Aubin En Remilly was richer, with floral, peach and pear notes and a chalky, mineral finish (88–91).

The Puligny-Montrachet Chalumeaux was round and honeyed, with floral and peach flavors and a hint of orange blossom on the fresh finish (89–92). The Folatières also had floral and orange blossom notes on an elegant, harmonious frame (89–92). The Meursault Perrières was cut from different cloth: Stone, apple and chalk elements were coiled tightly in the lean, tensile structure. It was very intense and long (91–94).

We tasted a Chevalier-Montrachet 2006, but it was in an awkward stage and compared with the Perrières, difficult to see where it was going. Judgment reserved.

I will post some current tasting notes very soon - Cheers - Ali (Etienne de Montille and Jasper Russo dining at Fearrings in Dallas together last fall).

Monday, July 28, 2008

eat drink and be merry

Ahhh, what a great way to kick-off my stay in Sonoma. Quick trips to purchase fresh produce, seafood, wine and of course cheese (from The Cheese Shop in Healdsburg).

The house is lovely, complete
with a chef's kitchen, comfy decor and a sparkling pool to cool off. Here are a few snaps from my FLIP camera, I'm working on "getting better" with the stay tuned.

Wine of the Trip so far: Selected from the wine list at Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa last Friday night.

Hirsch Vineyards
2006 BOHAN DILLON:Produced for the first time since 2003, this pinot noir expresses the complexity of the site. It is a blend of seventeen fermentation lots containing the fruit of thirty-four discreet farming blocks. All five of the pinot noir clones farmed here are fully represented. Ninety-seven percent of the fruit is estate; the balance is from the adjoining Hellenthal ranch. Thirty per cent is from the older fields; the balance from our newer plantings. It is important to note that this wine is made in exactly the same way as the Hirsch and from the same fruit. In other words, it is a true ‘village’ wine and represents exceptional value.

Tasting notes: Ruby-garnet colored. Exotic spice box aromas give way to Seville orange and bergamot. With air, subtle earth and leather notes emerge. On the palate, flavors of plum, tea, and tobacco vie for attention, braced by an inherent minerality that marks this as a typical expression of the site. A complete wine made with all the exacting care and site-specific attention to detail we bring to all our wines. - 2568 cases bottled 8/20/07; Cheers - Ali

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Just a few days away...

ahhh yeah! the weather for area code: 75401

Friday through Monday:
Clear. Highs in the 80s to lower 90s. Lows in the 50s.

While in California later this week, I'm holding camp in the middle of a Gravenstein Apple orchard surrounded by Olivet Lane Pinot Noir Vines. Here's a little on the Gravenstein Apple:

Among thousands of California apple varieties, the heirloom Gravenstein is widely regarded as one of the best eating and baking apples. A fine balance of sweet and tart, its full-bodied flavor intensifies when made into sauce, juice, cider or vinegar. The apples also hold their shape beautifully in pies and tarts.

Warm, dry days, cool nights and Northern California’s mellow loamy soil provide ideal growing conditions for Sonoma County’s historic Gravenstein apple trees. The twisted trunk of a mature Gravenstein supports a 30-foot canopy laden with perfumed blossoms in the springtime. Some trees produce a prolific 2,000 pounds of fruit each.

Aficionados flock to Sebastopol during the Spring Apple Blossom Festival and again at the Gravenstein Harvest Festival in August.

As it ripens, the standard Gravenstein undergoes a pronounced change in color; from yellow or lime green, an intermediate light orange with red stripes, and finally to a medium orange with dark red stripes. Other apples oxidize after slicing, quickly turning an unappealing brown. Cut into a Grav and an orange tinge almost immediately blushes over the ivory flesh.

The Gravenstein was introduced to South Jutland, Denmark, in 1669, which is where it gained its name. German migrants brought the apple to North America in 1790 and Russian fur traders planted the first West Coast Gravenstein orchards at their outpost in Fort Ross in 1820, where the trees survived despite inhospitable conditions such as intense winds and salt air. It is likely that cuttings from theses trees were used to start the orchards in Sebastopol.

By the early 1900s thousands of Gravenstein orchards were established and the apple had become the heart of a major industry in Sonoma County as dryers, canners, apple cider and apple brandy producers took advantage of its suitability for processing. During World War II American troops were provided with applesauce and dried apples from Sebastopol Gravensteins, and this made the apple into an icon for the town.

An Apple a Day! - Ali

Monday, July 21, 2008

off subject...

but look at this Kid! My nephew is showing off his new Cubs "Fukudome" shirt. Look at those cheeks. He just turned one, oh the bottles of wine my brother and sister in law went through during those first 12 months! Cheers - Ali

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wine of the Night!

2006 Handley Gewürztraminer "There's a hint of rose if you search for it, but this is not aggressively floral. Instead, it's fresh, chalky, crisp and clean, like biting into a fresh litchi. Firm acidity drives the wine, cutting right through the fruit to deliver its flavor into the meat of whatever is for dinner." 93pts Wine & Spirits Magazine.

A couple of friends from San Francisco are in town this weekend, so after a big night out on Friday with all the mapema wine and sake2me sponsored events, we settled in last night over some tremendous wine, food and new friends.

Whole Foods - the downtown Austin location just bought the last of the 2006 Handley Gewürztraminer so I put a few bottles in my cart while shopping for dinner yesterday. This gorgeous wine was the perfect complement to Red Snapper Vera Cruz and all the fixings. I'm going back to Whole Foods to grab a case before it's all gone - I suggest you do the same if you live in the Austin area and want a real treat to sip on this summer! Cheers -Ali

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Off Subject

Just returned from 2 days in Chicago ... Cubs, Views, Pizza and a little shopping - so fun! I posted all of the pics on

Yes, this one is for the foodies...Bacon infused Vodka found at Murphy's Irish Pub just outside of Wrigley. Yes, it was interesting, maybe better in a nice penne pasta sauce than straight down the hatch!

Cheers! Ali

on EPARKER today!

2006 Crios de Susana Balbo Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is deep crimson colored, it has an excellent bouquet of cedar, spice box, cassis, and black currants. This leads to a medium-bodied wine with a smooth texture, intense dark fruit flavors, and excellent depth. There is enough silky tannin to support 2-3 years of bottle age although it can be enjoyed now. Although Susana Balbos’s Crios offerings are the declassified lots from her more expensive “signature” wines, they need make no apologies. They rank among the best values from my Argentina wine tastings. All of the Crios wines are outstanding values. Importer: Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA; tel. (415) 332-VINO
Rating: 90 Estimated Cost: $12-$18

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Food & Wine Magazine / The Cause: Wildlife Protection

Medlock Ames

Green Initiative: Rather than building fences, Sonoma’s Medlock Ames created wildlife corridors to allow wild pigs, deer, bobcats and mountain lions to pass through its vineyards without damaging the vines or themselves.

Wine to Buy: 2006 Chardonnay ($30) Though full-bodied, this creamy Chardonnay is elegant and focused, with lemony flavors that end on a mineral note.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Product Placement

Nice props for "Star Filled Sky" Sake on this July 4th Holiday...these triplets are just too cute and send a big Happy Holiday out to all fans of TexaCali from Colorado this weekend - their Daddy is the biggest fan of Vine Connections Sake I know! Cheers - Ali

Thursday, July 03, 2008

July Cleaning?

SIGH. So I literally put the brakes on traveling over the past few weeks in order to dig out from months of packing and unpacking my bags and wine boxes. Knocked out my office yesterday - well, almost - everything that was placed on my desk needs to be filed and put away. No fun whatsoever. ARGH.

On a more positive note - I'll post a complete tasting recap soon about the wonderful dinner and wine experience I had last Saturday night...Fearings at the Ritz Carlton in Dallas. People - do whatever it takes to make a reservation in the 'Gallery Room", ask for Paul and Hunter to assist with your wine selection and MAKE SURE YOU ORDER A SLICE OF THE BANANA CREAM PIE! More on this evening incredible culinary treat.

In the meantime, do me a favor - select a few wines listed on today and go buy them from your favorite wine shop! Cheers and Happy 4th of July- Ali