Monthly Archives: January 2014

Chapoutier Hermitage Blanc Chante Alouette

hermitage-blancFrance, $76

Michel Chapoutier has become one of the giants of the wine world and his early and large-scale adoption of biodynamics in winemaking is like Nixon in China big for the wine industry. What’s amazing about Chapoutier is that they’ve been able to bring such artisanal quality control to an enourmous wine operation. You’ll be reading a lot about him in the coming month—he’s what amount to the keynote speaker at be this year’s Vancouver International Wine Festival—but unlike other titans, there’s a Chapoutier wine whether you’re spending $15 or $750. Try asking for a $15 wine from Angelo Gaja and see how far you get.

Choosing a wine to highlight here is a trick—there’s just so many worthy candidates. For me it comes down to the question: what do you look for in a wine? It’s a simple question that elicits answers that anything but. Usually it’s some combination of taste, value, prestige, but when it comes right down to it, there an x-factor that I’m looking for, that frisson of excitement as to what is to come when the cork (or cap) comes off. This week’s wine has that spark in spades. Hermitage is one of the benchmark wines of the Rhone, but Hermitage Blanc (its pale-complexioned brethren, hardly gets any notice). Not a lot of it is made and the stuff that is is relatively expensive. But what you get in this bottle is something you don’t get elsewhere—an amazing amalgam of a waxy texture cut with citrus notes, and more than any wine I can recall, a pure expression of quince. It works well in winter—this is the antithesis of a patio wine in the very best sense.

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TNT Chardonnay 2012

TNT-Chardonnay

BC, $22.90

The last few years have seen a welcome backlash against the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay), which is good. Excluding an entire grape because you don’t like some of its expression is just plain crazy, but…I confess my heart falls a bit when I open the door to dinner guests and see a bottle ofChardonnay in their hands. It’s not that I don’t like the grape, it’s just that I often have trouble getting excited about it. As with any rules there are dozens of exceptions, but for me the greatest of all of them is my love of Chablis. I sometimes think that I love Chablis more than I love White Burgundy from the Cote de Beaune, which is sort of like saying you like Porsche Boxters more than Porsche 911s. But for me the steely, gravely expression of Chardonnay that Chablis has mastered is a revelation every time. And while lots of new world producers shoot for this style with their unoaked Chardonnays precious few get near. That’s why this bottle grabs me. It’s crafted by Sommelier Terry Threlfall (late of Hawksworth) in partnership with Okanagan Crush Pad and it’s the closest wine to a true Chablis that the Okanagan has produced in a while. It’s zippy and alive but has that underlying body and subtle creaminess that tells you you’re not drinking Sauvignon Blanc. And know it’s not named after either the AC/DC song (which would be sort of awesome) or the Swedish explosive compound—”TNT” are Terry’s initials. Only 150 cases were made—they may have it at you local wine store or you can buy it from OKC okanagancrushpad.com

 

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2008 Produttori Del Barbaresco

produttori-del-barbarescoItaly, $43

I was in Trader Joe’s in Southern California just before Christmas and I saw a bottle of Barbaresco for $9.99. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Barbaresco for less than $20 and even though I had never heard of the producer and the foil on the cap looked super cheap I bought it. It was both the worst Barbaresco I’ve had and still a pretty awesome deal—I’d totally buy it again because the confluence of the Nebbiolo grape and the soil of Piedmont is one of the great duo in all of wineopolis. If you want a good laugh roll into your local liquor store and state your looking for a Barbaresco for under $10 and look at their reaction. But just because we don’t get the bottom of the barrel doesn’t mean we don’t have some relatively good deals. Over the holidays I had two bottles from the rock solid producer Produttori del Barbaresco, which is actually a large winegrowers co-operative that cranks out about half a million bottles a year. That’s nothing compared to Yellowtail but that’s massive by Piedmont standards and that level helps keep the price low. For $43 you get some really classic Nebbiolo— an earthy wine with some tar and black cherries and what can only be called a seductive, sexy nose. It’s too young by a solid measure— I decanted for 3-4 hours before consuming and the wine opened up nicely

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Pierre Paillard Grand Cru Brut Millesime 2002

pierre-paillandFrance, $79

I appreciate that the first newsletter of 2014 should probably start on a more affordable, approachable note—but let’s save that for next week. This week I want to brag about great bottles enjoyed over the holidays. Like vintage Italian sports cars, aged Champagne is one of those things that’s equally enchanting and generally unattainable. And while there’s no denying the charm of a bottle of the recent release from one of the prestige houses, it’s also true that Cremant from France or Cava from Spain offer a pretty excellent facsimile of the experience at a fraction of the cost. There’s no replicating the taste of aged champagne—the yeasty, toasty, soul warming yellow-hued glow that replace the zip and freshness after a few years simply doesn’t exist anywhere outside of Champagne. The downside: You can imagine the costs of buying a bottle of Dom Perignon—which hovers around $200+ on release— that’s been aged. Crazy. Expensive. But for New Year’s my brother-in-law Clarke showed up with the above bottle. Small producer, great pedigree, 12 years of bottle age. It was amazing with a gorgeous deep golden hue and a long rich finish. I wasn’t familiar with the bottle, so I had the good grace to wait until Clarke left to look up the price, which at $79 isn’t cheap, but it’s a bargain for all these elements coming together in one bottle.

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