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Warwick Valley Cider

Going off the beaten path here because I never know what I’ll get to taste on any given day. This morning a young man walked into the store bold as brass and asked if I wanted to taste some cider. I had no idea who he was but cider? At 11.00am? Why not? He showed me a little put together brochure and I instantly recognized the label – I’d seen his cider bottles in the store – always empty and I knew that Bruno was chugging this stuff on a Friday evening because I cleaned up the bottles Saturday morning.

It’s Warwick Valley Distillery – based in Warwick, NY just west of the Hudson River. You’ve probably seen the labels because this stuff is taking over from that apple cider crap they sell at the grocery stores. This is real, absolutely real and as good a cider as I have ever had both here or Somerset, England! I love this whole micro-distillery thing going on – we were one of the first to sell the Hudson Baby Bourbons before he sold out to William Grant and now distributes through one of our boycotted importers. We have Vodka from the Catskills, gin from the Berkshires, and potato vodka from Pennsylvania and now I’m getting cases of cider – both apple and a fantastic Bartlett Pear cider, as well as the most delicious fruit grappa and liqueurs. This is real home-grown, homemade stuff. None of it tasted artificial, the liqueurs could have been made in multi-million dollar facilities in France you couldn’t tell the difference, other than the fact they might be better. The cider is dry, but not bone-sucking style. There’s still a touch of soft sweetness but what struck me most was the absolute purity of the fruit. I tried apple, pear and raspberry and the fruit in each case was so isolated and perfect nothing else interfered. The liqueurs had similar properties – the Blackcurrant Cordial was breathtaking! These are fun, local and brilliantly tasty. Dare to be different – try them.

  • Producer: Warwick Valley Distillery
  • Vintage: NV
  • Varietal: Apple/Pear/Cherry/Blackcurrant
  • Country: USA
  • Region: New York
  • Production: Reasonable
  • Availability: Yes. Prices vary.

Order: Ordering is simple. Click on the e-mail link below and tell me how many bottles you think you may want. We’ll figure out the rest from there and reply to your e-mail within 1 day.

wineatfive@verizon.net

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in daily post

 

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Puydeval 2010

Every now and again you get a wine that just works. Maybe it just works with your mood, with dinner, with the Rolling Stones who knows, but when you taste it you do. I grilled up a Moroccan lamb shoulder last night with a huge side of aromatic couscous. I wanted something that would work with the flavors, with the 70f weather, with my happy mood (I had just spent the day riding the BMW through the countryside around Hartford). I found an orphan bottle of Puydeval and knew instinctively that it would work. The ’10 is a blend of cabernet franc, syrah and merlot – heavier on the cab and syrah, 14% merlot. It’s from the Languedoc region of southern France – where gorse bushes grow by the side of the motorway and baked, inhospitable soil makes vines work to survive. This is a survivor. Jeff Carrel, itinerant ex-Parisian decided that an education in law at the Sorbonne was not nearly as interesting as an education in oenology at Montpelier. I used to play (rugby) against Montpelier when I was with USAP back in the day when this sort of wine was bottled in plastic with a little plastic flip-top lid and you used to go down to the local Hyper-Marché and refill the bottle. Languedoc has come a long way since then and probably more than any other region in France it has seen the greatest increase in quality in wine – helped by Monsieur Carrel.

The wine was perfect for the meal – it’s got a lush body wrapped around blueberry and blackcurrant with a touch of tar and chewing tobacco. Shame those guys on the diamond can’t chew this – maybe then they wouldn’t spit every few seconds. Back to the wine – luscious and simple; marvelous balance between dark fruit, sweet balsamic, alcohol and savagery! This is a tamed wild animal that is ridiculous value when parked next to some CNPs or Californian stuff that pretends to be Rhone. I think it’s the way the cab franc blends into the rest of the wine – it’s like a perfect soufflé. The label might suck but try the wine – I defy you not to love it.

  • Producer: Puydeval
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Varietal: Cabernet Franc/Syrah/Merlot
  • Country: France
  • Region: Languedoc
  • Production: Reasonable
  • Availability: Yes. $18.00pb – $15.30pb on 12

Order: Ordering is simple. Click on the e-mail link below and tell me how many bottles you think you may want. We’ll figure out the rest from there and reply to your e-mail within 1 day.

wineatfive@verizon.net

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in daily post

 

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AA Badenhorst Secateurs 2010

Back in the day of Apartheid when I was working at Lehman Brothers my mentor at the time offered me the opportunity to join him in importing a container of South African wine. Even then I figured I should probably taste the stuff first. I remember trying them one evening – it was all a bit cloak and dagger since this was basically ‘sanction busting’. But fear not – the wines were disgusting and I wanted nothing to do with them. I can’t even remember what the ‘doc’ did but it was years before I drank another South African wine. Jancis Robinson, the erudite critic over at UK based Decanter Magazine once wrote that Pinotage smelled and tasted like burnt rubber. She got a lot of press for her comment, but she was right. The wines were never on my shopping list. Jump forward 30 years and I find myself liking some of them. This Secateurs from Badenhost is a good example. Adi Badenhost was the wine maker over at Rustenberg before creating this winery in 2008/9. At Rustenberg he had already cemented a name for himself by making eclectic collectible wines. At his new shop he’s taken a mixture of shiraz, cinsault, cabernet sauvignon, Grenache, carignan and mourvedre, shaken them up, barreled it in French oak and poured it into a few bottles. By his own acknowledgement that’s pretty much what he did – his winery is a functioning workhorse built in the 1800s and last used to make wine in the 1930’s. He’s not into all that new-fangled stuff. Wine is wine. And he’s making wine that begs to be drunk again and again. Like this red blend. It’s a brooding red, lots of meaty juice, earth, berries, and spices. And I know if you have read previous daily tasting notes that by now you must realized that I love balance in a wine more than anything else – this wine, with as many different elements as it has, is balanced. Gone are the days, thank God, of apartheid, and gone are the days of burnt rubber. Get yourself into a wine store that sells this and buy some – it will be fantastic when you light up the BBQ.

  • Producer: AA Badenhorst
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Varietal: Shiraz/cinsault/cabernet sauvignon/Grenache/carignan/mourvedre
  • Alcohol: 14%
  • Country: South Africa
  • Region: Paardeberg
  • Production: Reasonable
  • Availability: Yes. $18pb. $15.30pb on 12

Order: Ordering is simple. Click on the e-mail link below and tell me how many bottles you think you may want. We’ll figure out the rest from there and reply to your e-mail within 1 day.

wineatfive@verizon.net

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in daily post

 

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Taft Street Russian River Chardonnay – Garagiste 2007

Yesterday’s tasting note opened my eyes to Taft Street cellars after many years of thinking they were just trying to get a Parker rating. After meeting Mike Tierney and tasting through his entire portfolio of wines I realize that wines and wineries do evolve and I will be the first to admit – I like these wines now. I like what the winery is doing, I like what it’s about – make great wine, make it at a decent price and have a shit load of fun doing it. My kind of motto.

Taft Street began as a true Garagiste winery back in the 70’s so it made sense to taste Mike’s modern day garagiste wines. The Russian River Chardonnay Garagiste 2007 was the first vintage for this ultra-special line of reserve style wines. It pays homage to the days back in the 70’s when the winery began. The surprising thing here is the wine is 100% oak barrel fermented (French oak) and 22% underwent malolactic fermentation. Those two ‘mechanics’ usually just turn me right off. But it’s back to balance here – the wine doesn’t taste oaky nor does it smother you in Kerrigold butter. I wouldn’t say it’s delicate but it’s not your over-ripe, over cooked diabetic nightmare of a chardonnay. There’s loads of fragrance in it – a brilliant posy of strange yellow flowers (maybe harking back to the 70s?), just a little brioche and marmalade, touch of structure coming from the oak but it’s a ‘reserve’ style white wine that I want to drink more of – damn. That’s unusual for me. I have to say, this was really good Californian chardonnay.

  • Producer: Taft Street Winery
  • Vintage: 2007 (2008 is in the pipe-line)
  • Varietal: Chardonnay
  • Country: USA
  • Region: California/Russian River
  • Production: Less than 300 – only 7 cases left in NY
  • Availability: Yes. $32.00pb $27.25pb on 12

Order: Ordering is simple. Click on the e-mail link below and tell me how many bottles you think you may want. We’ll figure out the rest from there and reply to your e-mail within 1 day.

wineatfive@verizon.net

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in daily post

 

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Taft Street Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Strange how wines change over the years. I’m not talking about a specific wine in a bottle but the evolution of an actual winery and their entire production. A number of years ago I was asked to try the wines from Taft Street Cellars. I tried them and then tried to forget them. To me they were just one more Californian wine trying to get rated. I didn’t like them then and didn’t buy them – ever. Yesterday I met the man behind the ‘Garage Door’ Mike Tierney and we set up table at 9:30am and went through pretty much every current vintage of his entire portfolio. Along the way I learnt that John Tierney and his friend Mike Martini set up shop in his garage and started making home brew in the 70’s. Being the 70’s in California I can only imagine what they put into it – brings a whole new dimension to dunking your cookie in a wine jar. High on the fun of making home brew (no implication intended) they started making real wine in 1982 in the Russian River Valley.

Fast forward to now and I will be the first to admit that drinking Taft Street at 9:30 was not something high on my list of todos. But it’s my job so I gritted my teeth and did it. And was very glad I did! Their present day wine-maker is Evelyn White. She’s ex Lyeth Winery and Clos du Bois and she really is making some very good juice at Taft. Rather than bore you with a detailed recant of all the wines I’ll highlight one here and one tomorrow.

Today’s wine: Taft Street Sauvignon Blanc. Lovely pale primrose color, gray/yellow/white liek the earlyt morning color on a fall day. Lovely aroma – flowers, yellow more pronounced like daffodils, more primrose, touch of orange blossom. On the palate very delicate. No nasty wood, no hint of oak. Subtle hint of gooseberry and fresh grass, nothing astringent nothing out of place. That was the key – here is a Californian Sauvignon with absoute perfect balance – let’s call her the Olga Korbut of Cali Sauvignon. This was a perfect 10 on all forms of apparatus – God I hope you remeber Olga Korbut and the ’72 Olympics – Munich. This Sauvignon was really good – has a lemony, slatey taste more like marble and very thirst quenching. I was impressed.

  • Producer: Taft Street Cellars
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
  • Country: USA
  • Region: California/Russian River
  • Production: 1420 cases
  • Availability: Yes. $18.00pb $15.30pb on 12

Order: Ordering is simple. Click on the e-mail link below and tell me how many bottles you think you may want. We’ll figure out the rest from there and reply to your e-mail within 1 day.

wineatfive@verizon.net

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in daily post

 

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Cultivar Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

We all want to find the next Chateau Petrus or Screaming Eagle. We all want to hold the winning lottery ticket. We all want double 00 to win when we have everything on it. Trouble is, as an old client of mine used to say back in the trading days, you can’t win if you don’t bet, you can’t bet if you don’t play. At some point you have to buy the ticket and just hope. I’m going to buy some Cultivar but I’m not looking to win the jackpot, I’m not looking to discover the next Screaming Eagle. Just by buying it I’ve won. This is the brainchild of Dan O’Brien and Jody Harris. He’s the wine director at Cavallo Point (5 star Cali restaurant), she’s the wine maker at famed Caspar Estate and Harris Ranch. Over a glass of wine one day they were bemoaning the fact that too many Bordeaux style Californian wines had reached super-stardom status and were now out of the reach of most buyers -both individual and restaurant. Wouldn’t it be fun if we pooled our collective Rolodex’s and sourced great grapes from outstanding properties and then combined our talents to make great wine that was affordable. What a concept. So they did. And I had the pleasure of meeting Dan O’Brien at Wine at Five and tasting through some of his wines – a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, an outstanding Cabernet Franc (not yet released) and a truly great, affordable cabernet.

The 2010 Cab is all Rutherford vineyards. It’s fermented in Stainless (nice) and aged in 40/60% new/old French oak barrels (very tidy). Because it hasn’t been saturated it’s fresh, bright, lucid – a cornucopia of black cherry, berry and currant. There is a little chocolate (it wouldn’t be Californian if there wasn’t some), hints of plums and roasted figs and it’s all blended in a magi-mix to produce a really silky, smooth, velvet textured finish. It’s also a steal at $29.00. There’s enough residual tannin for the wine to last at least 5 years so it’s worth having a case or two just lying around since this is good enough wine to pour at your very best dinner parties. And the like of Thomas Keller would agree – he pours it at Ad Hoc by the glass. So even though Dan made just over 2,000 cases, the vintages don’t stay around for long.

  • Producer: Cultivar Wine
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Country: USA
  • Region: California/Rutherford
  • Production: 2,460 cases
  • Availability: Soon. $29.00pb. $24.75 pb on 12

Order: Ordering is simple. Click on the e-mail link below and tell me how many bottles you think you may want. We’ll figure out the rest from there and reply to your e-mail within 1 day.

wineatfive@verizon.net

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in daily post

 

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Chene Bleu Abelard 2006

Xavier Rolet, owner and chief bee-keeper at Chene Bleu is also a hugely successful financier – having worked at establishments such as Goldman Sachs, Kleinwort, Credit Suisse and my old Alma Mata, Lehman Brothers. He also became CEO of the London Stock Exchange. All that brings in quite a bit of moola and he used some of it to purchase this winery in the Rhone Valley just below Mont Ventoux (which I cycled up a few years ago – stupid me). No expense spared because money wasn’t a problem – lucky him. He still has big financial interests that keep him travelling most of the year but his wife manages and runs the winery. I met her last year in NY and we talked about old friends and older wines. I tasted her wines again this year with the new Ambassador for her wines (another wife of a financier) and I really tried to like them. But I have issues with them. The reds – Abelard and Heloise are variations of blends. Abelard is 80/20 Grenache/Syrah; Helooise is 65% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 5% viognier. They are both massively rich wines. Both come in at 15% alcohol and both of them have relatively high residual sugar levels – 2.8 and 2.6 respectively. It’s all too much for me. When told during tasting that the Rolets are trying to create a Super Rhone I turned off. Super Tuscan wine is one thing – it’s making a wine outside of the regulatory box. Making a wine with the regulated varietals and regulated blends is not ‘Super’. What they have made is a super, over the top, over rich over extracted Rhone wine that is so completely different to every other Rhone wine that you may think it’s ‘super’. It’s not. It’s just another huge wine for steak-house expense accounts. Retail price is a super $80+ per bottle

  • Producer: Chene Bleu Winery
  • Vintage: 2006
  • Varietal: Grenache/Syrah
  • Country: France
  • Region: Rhone Valley
  • Production: Decent but not huge
  • Availability: No. Not my cup of tea.

Order: Ordering is simple. Click on the e-mail link below and tell me how many bottles you think you may want. We’ll figure out the rest from there and reply to your e-mail within 1 day.

wineatfive@verizon.net

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in daily post

 

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