Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Filmed at Quinta do Bomfim, Dominic Stymington on Douro wine

Sunday, August 22, 2010

For MK Mag

From l’Evangile’s anomalous vineyards of clay and gravel in Pomerol, this Right Bank wine outshines even the best from Pauillac in the 1982 vintage. Merlot and Cabernet Franc locked in a gorgeous embrace of blue flowers, tobacco, truffles and dark fruit. A muscular beauty, even after twenty-eight years.

Chateau l’Evangile
Approximately 2,000 cases produced (an unknown quantity remain)
About $400-$600 on the open market

As close to Grand Cru Gevrey-Chambertain as the North American continent is ever likely to get. The Bryce vineyard is a mere four acres in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, and is farmed to an excruciatingly low yield that requires two vines to make a single bottle of wine. Bryce Pinot Noir combines depth, complexity and balance. A wine a penetrating dark fruit, loam and spice.

The passing of Marshal Bryce makes this the last vintage of Bryce Pinot Noir that will ever be produced.

Bryce Vineyard Pinot Noir
375 cases produced
About $70

This wine is the antidote for those who are tired of Super-Tuscans and Parkerized Brunellos. Villa Le Prata is a foursquare example of Tuscany’s heritage and quality. The nose and palate are quintessential Montalcino, with notes of old earth, old wood and old men.

A wine of profound expression and sense of place. You are not likely to confuse this with Bolgheri Cabernet. This is Sangiovese Grosso, this is and could only be Brunello de Montalcino.

Villa le Prata Brunello
400 cases produced
About $60

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Deep Science

E-mail forwarded from of friend of mine.

"Nice to see you the other night and thanks for the taste of the Gaja. I thought it was a nice wine, if not memorable. The main issue that I had with it were the rather green and astringent tannins for its overall weight. Some food for thought in guiding your future purchases follows.

With late ripening varieties like Nebbiolo and Cabernet, warm vintages (like 2000 in Piemonte) are problematic. On release they show well. You expect some tannin, they are after all young, and the high glycerin that comes along with high alcohol seems sweet. Sweet enough that the nature of the tannins are not very apparent at that point.

I think that most wine drinkers equate warm years with high levels of ripening, yet often the reverse is true. Ripeness was typically measured in terms of sugar in the grapes, which warm years provide lots of. But a more modern and accurate view looks at the ripening of the phenolics (tannins) which only occurs through lots of photosynthesis from a long "hang time".

Photosynthesis also produces sugar, but high sugar concentrations also occur from the dessication of grapes through evaporation in warm years. So in a warm year in a region that grows a late ripening variety, sugars rise rapidly due more to dessication and the resultant small tight berries (little water in them) more than actual production of sugars through photosynthesis.

The high sugar concentration occurs before the hang time is long enough to create the ripened phenolics, and the grower is in a bind. Pick now or wait? If they pick when the sugar is high enough to achieve 13-14% in the wine, the flavors will be less developed and the tannins on the green side (those kind rarely resolve and integrate into the wine). If they wait until the phenolics show ripeness, the sugar will now be at a level to produce a wine at 18-20%. Also in warm years the high temps create low acid grapes, so the PH will be high and the sugars, off the charts.

You can't make good wine from musts like this. You would then (whether legal in your area or not) have to water back the must to get a 14-15% wine and then add lots of acid that you buy from a chemical lab. Also, by the way, not a formula for great wines, but this "formula" is VERY common in CA.

I have tasted many 1997's from Tuscany, another hot vintage that was highly lauded on release, ( I am thinking about a bottle of 1997 Solaia that *** offered me a taste of recently) that are now, absolutely shot. Most 2000's from Piemonte may go this way very soon too."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tokaji with Sebastain Bausinger

Jim Morrison-
What's the oldest Tokaji you've ever tasted, how old, what winery, and how was it?

Sebastain Bausinger-
Nice to see you back from the dead and alive&kickin´once again
Well, just between you and me, the Tokaji I tried was from 1811, the year of the great comet.

It was Essencia, winery is unknown (unfortunately, but probably not existent anymore). My description is a short one: heavenly. Fresh, alive, full of a most elegant fruit, some nuts, a bit of honey...just like a dream come true.

I can add that I was somewhat disappointed in one aspect: it did not show its age at all. It could have been 40 years old or 60 or even 20...it was so fresh, nearly crisp...not the slightest hint of becoming tired or old. It was not overburdened with aroma, rather a very complex yet elegantly medium-bodied wine looking like liquid gold.
All I can say is that it was a nearly religious experience for me, very interesting, very gratifying. My notes from that tasting;

"color of caramel, very expressive bouquet, completely alive, clear&clean, tiny particles of deposit, somewhat oily, fresh/fruity/nearly buttery nose.
Impression of hotness and sweetness, extremely long, intensly complex nose, heavenly, delicate scent, unfathomable depth of flavours which keeps on relieving/revolving around each other, a tiny bit like a perfect Riesling TBA, unbelieveable freshness, does not show its age at all, might as well be 10,20,30 years old instead of its 198years. Perfect happiness! Speechless..."

How about you so far?

Jim Morrison-
The oldest wine I have ever had was a 1937 Colhieta from Warres. It also showed no age. It could have been 20 years old or 10, I would never have guessed 70 years. I drank it with Dominic Symington at Warres overlooking Nova de Gaia. Then I took the train up the Douro and stayed at Quinta do Bonfim in Pinhao. Not a bad day. The food was a little... British if you know what I mean, but the view was to die for.

Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery once told me he drank and Imperial Stout from 1824. Beer like that often resembles Port more than Lager. So I believed him, and I believe you too.

You should post the age of that Essencia on the Tokaji page. Tokaji doesn't get the respect it deserves.

Sebastian Bausinger-
On a sidenote, I read your blog and I agree so much with what you say there. Wine needs to be unique, to show its birthplace and its heritage, not just how well the winemaker operated the spinning-cone-column.

Your day at Nova de Gaia with Symington sounds fantastic, like a perfect combination of wine, place and conversation!
I wonder what that Stout tasted like and how he managed to obtain a bottle. Oh, and thank you for your trust in me. It´s a bit hard to explain generaly how something so old can still be consumable, not to mention with as much joy as I had.

Partly because of what my father taught me. I have a mild obsession with aged wines, including some older Riesling wines from 1948 onwards (so far). 1956, 1971 and 1976 are still very great if you manage to find some (they are rather inexpensive because everyone believes their livespan would be something like 10 years. For some strange reason here in Germany hardly anyone expects a white wine to last longer than that.). 1945 is on my list to bother my brother about, he still got some bottles of that year in his cellar.

Tokaji is indeed horribly underrated and I am hoping Hugh Johnson will change that at least a bit in the years to come. Same with Sherry, dry Marsala, Constantia from South Africa, Madeira - what a drama!- and Commandaria from Cyprus...looks like Port is the only sweet wine left with some esteem. German TBAs and such things are cheap as dirt compared to what Yquem charges for their stuff and their are/can be as least just as good, sometimes even way better.
Oh man, sorry to drown you in my words, wine is one of my biggest loves and so I find it hard to stop when I find a fellow spirit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


La Cosecha Fino Sherry, Imported by MHW Ltd out of Manhasset, NY

La Cosecha is the only Sherry I buy, as it is the best in the world and not expensive. I have waxed poetic about their Palo Cortado on these very pages, now that the weather has shifted, so have I to Fino.

The man I buy La Cosecha from, the man who "selected" it, is a man named Fred Seggerman. He is quite old and quite mad, nonetheless genius and a legend in the wine business.

He went on for hours that this was "fresh Fino" and I should try a few "goddamn cases".

It is the finest Fino I have ever had, light, dry with just a hint of marcona almond. No perceptible oxidation, just a clean and clear expression of the Palomino grape.

I served it chilled with Lamb Saag and Chana Marsala

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Grillet & Tomatoes, E-mail to Dr. Hank Mann

Ch Grillet is the smallest appellation in all of France, the entire A.O.C. is a monopole. They Grow Viognier and nothing but Viognier. But this is not the exuberant, lusty Viognier of Condrieu, oh no Mon Frere! This is from the granite schist of Grillet. Underneath the fleshy aromas of white flowers and woodspices, seethes the musculature of a dancer. A sexy precision and intellect, like large breasts on a nobel prize-winning underwear model.
I have tossed and turned, night after night trying to determine which of your 32 varieties of heritage tomatoes will best pair with this most rare of wines. I drew no conclusions except these; we should pull the cork and eat, for I do my best thinking with my tongue.

xoxo- James

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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wine List For John

All of the Champagnes that we carry at Thames River Wine & Spirits are grower-producer Champagnes. In other words, produced by the growers themselves from their best fruit, in the artisanal tradition.

Marc Hebrart Cuvee de Reserve $50
80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, from soil of chalk and limestone, 5800 cases produced from the entire estate.
Marc's wines are powerful, masculine and dramatic. Sweeping tones of blue fruit are balanced and supported by focused acidity and magnificent expressions of minerality. Reminiscent of Corton Charlemagne in structure and concentration of fruit, the wine will improve as it warms and is exposed to air. I recommend serving it chilled but not cold in wide Bordeaux glasses to maximize aromatics.

Vilmart Grand Cellier $75
66% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir, from soil of clay and limestone, 8750 cases produced from the entire estate, all free run juice.
Laurent Champs, owner and the wine maker at Vilmart, is widely considered one of the finest producers of grower Champagne. His use of oak in aging the base wine is as deft and poised as any grand marque in Champagne or Burgundy, and draws constant comparisons with Krug. His wines are beautiful, and exotic. Whereas Hebrart Champagnes are masculine, Vilmart wines are creamy, voluptuous and feminine, as well as informed by and insightful of their terroir.

I would serve both to each guest in two consecutive rounds, Hebrart first followed by Vilmart.

White wine

Nessa Albarino $15
From Rias Baixas (ree-ahs buy-shuss) in northern Spain made from 100% Albarino that is whole cluster pressed and does not go through malolatic fermentation, but is aged for one month on fine lees. All of that means that they are pressing their grapes softly to get the best juice, leaving the acidity in, while they create weight and texture. The result is a wine that has the body to satisfy your typical American Chardonnay drinker, but has much better acidity for food and is all together more interesting.

Luigi Baudana Chardonnay $18
From Piedmonte Italy. This is one of my all time favorite producers. Their Barolo is one of the best in the world, just ask the Gambero Rosso. The Baudana estate is a whopping 4.5 hectare and the Chardonnay is produced from a .5 hectare plot! The entire estate production is 2100 cases. The wine is stainless steel fermented and unadulterated in any way. As with all Baudana wines the emphasis is on viticulture, authenticity and varietal typicity.

Red Wine

Domaine La Manarine Cotes du Rhone $15
There are two astounding facts about this wine. The first is that this level of quality can be attained in a wine humbly labeled Cotes du Rhone. The second is that a wine of such dark complexity can be achieved with 100% Granache. I will address these in turn.
The wine maker, Gilles Gasq, learned his trade as assistant to Paul Jeune of Domaine Montpertuis, whose Chateaunuef-du-Pape is truly epic. In fact despite it's classification as simple Cotes du Rhone, the wine has quite a bit in in common with Cahtneuf-du-Pape. The vineyards are on a plateau just north of Orange known as the Plan de Dieu. The soil there consists of an impressive layer of Galets, the large quartzite stones that define the wine of Chateau-neuf-du-Pape.
Each time I drink this wine I am stunned by it's complexity, its ability to achieve layer upon layer of dark brooding flavors with one varietal. This is not a Granache of high toned fruit, of cherry and pepper. This is a wine of anise, fennel, currents and hard stone minerality.

Fratelli Alessandria Barbera $27
As with the Luigi Baudana, I came to this wine through the estate's much more famous Barolo. Alessandria Barolo is a perfect counterpoint to the brutish Baudana Barolo, it is fine and precise, intricate and involved. And like Baudana Chardonnay, the Alessandria Barbera is almost completely overlooked in favor of the very famous Barolo.
But good habits are hard to break, and in each case, a great winemaker will make great wine regardless of the varietal. Barbera is the narrow end of the wedge for California wine drinkers. Barbera has all the weight, structure and muscle that Napa drinkers have come to expect from wine, yet infinitely nuanced and full of what I call small flavors.
What was true for Mies Van der Rohe, is true in wine, god is in the details. The big sweeping statements provide the scope of the wine, but the small flavors that occupy the corners of your mouth, the fleeting, ephemeral wisps of terroir from an ancient vineyard, this is it's greatness.

I hope you enjoy them. You can reach me at Newlondonbrickhouse@gmail.com if you have questions about these or any other wines.

Jim Morrison

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