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Happy Holidays

Date: Fri, Dec 24, 2010 Wine Tasting

I'd hoped to have an Xmas tale of wine and food, friends and fun to share with everyone this evening. Instead, I've been focusing on thefriends, family and fun parts, less on the chronicaling of said activities. Wine andfood are playing a role as always, music too, but sometimesmore substantive writing and blogging have to take a back seat.

I'm sure I'll be back in the saddle within the next few days so, until then, here's a little tuneage for your seasonal listening pleasure. Happily, this time around it's in the spirit of the holidays rather than in remembrance of friends passed. Thanks as always for visiting, reading, partaking, even listening. Here's wishing a happy and peaceful holiday season to you all. Cheers!


Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Joe Strummer, Eight Years On

Date: Wed, Dec 22, 2010 Wine Tasting

Earlier this evening, a friend reminded me that today marks eight years since the untimely and unexpected passing of Joe Strummer on December 22, 2002. So, tonight I drank a little Régnié with my dinner, poured a glass for Joe, watched the below clip a time or five, and remembered the man. Please feel free to do the same.


Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Coenobium and Carbonara at Dell'Anima

Date: Wed, Dec 22, 2010 Wine Tasting

A little padding in my schedule during a reasonably recent trip to New York afforded me the opportunity to head to the West Village for lunch at dell'anima. I'm not sure I would have ventured there if it weren't for having met the young sommelier and restaurateur phenom behind dell'anima, Joe Campanale, along with his mother Karen, when they trucked it down to Philly to co-host a Friuli wine dinner at Osteria, or if it weren't for having connected with both of them in the staccato realms of social media. As dellanimom, Karen snippets up a storm on Twitter on behalf of her son's establishments; it might sound kind of crazy-corny to some, I suspect, but she does a great job with it. We should all be so lucky as to have our moms out there canvassing for us—far more effective than the usual PR spin.

Anyway, back to dell'anima... I'm glad I made the journey. It's the kind of all too rare spot—I've written about a few others here in the past—that's worthy of destination dining but first and foremost provides a bastion of comfort and quality to its own neighborhood. I was surprised at how cozy the dining room is: just a small bar, a dozen or so tables and an open kitchen. Fittingly perhaps, I don't recall being awestruck or otherwise astounded by anything I ate that afternoon, just pleasantly sated by good quality food served in a very welcoming environment by a crew that pretty clearly cares about what they're doing.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Campanale has put together a pretty sharp, all Italian wine list with some strong selections by the glass and welcome depth in the back vintage department for those ready and willing to explore (1971 Movia Ribolla, anyone?).

That by-the-glass program provided me with the welcome opportunity to continue my exploration of the pleasures of pasta carbonara paired with the white Lazio wines of the Monastero Suoro Cisterci, where Paolo Bea's son, Giampiero Bea, has been a consulting winemaker ever since the Sisters' first vintage in 2005. Last time, it was Coenobium "normale" paired up with the traditional spaghetti alla carbonara at Otto; this time around, it was the more skin contact intensive version of Coenobium, called "Rusticum," poured to accompany dell'anima's tajarin alla carbonara.

The combination of tajarin (an egg-rich pasta style traditional in the Langhe) in place of spaghetti, speck (native to Alto-Adige and the Südtirol) instead of pancetta or guanciale, and a whole, runny-when-forked egg yolk put a decidedly northern Italian spin on the Roman classic. The overall conception and impact being similar, though, the carbonara was still Roman at heart, and the local wine (Coenobium is produced about an hour's drive north of Rome) was a crack pairing, the full body, grippy structure and oxidative nuances of "Rusticum" working quite well with the richness and creaminess of the dish.

Now all that's needed is a reason to find myself in the West Village at lunchtime again. Soon.

38 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10014
(212) 366-6633
Dell'Anima on Urbanspoon

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Blogs of Note: One Oldish, One Newish, Both Vital

Date: Tue, Dec 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

Taking a day off from writing yesterday enabled me to catch up on reading 'round the web, in the course of which I was reminded of two things I've been meaning to (re)share: the greatness of Wine Terroirs and the astounding launch of So You Want to be a Sommelier.

Bert Celce has been traveling the world, capturing his experiences with a camera and illuminating those travels and photgraphs with remarkable detail (and remarkably good English for a non-native speaker) at his blog, Wine Terroirs, since January 2004. That makes him, undeniably, one of the senior statesmen of the wine blogging world, and he still does it with a level of enthusiasm—not to mention great content—that always keeps me coming back for more. I've already given Bert a "Blogs of Note" shout-out here, way back in May 2008, but yesterday's visit—and his most recent post chronicling the disgorgement of the first sparkling wine produced by Touraine vigneronne Noëlla Morantin—reminded me of why I not only need to read his site more often but also really needed to re-share it with my own readers. So here you go.... It's worth a look for the quality of the photos alone (that's one of Bert's shots above) but don't skip the every bit as worthy read. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I also have a serious wine crush on Noëlla....
My own shot of Ms. Morantin in NYC, October 2009.

So You Want to be a Sommelier? is the recently launched brainchild of the ever erudite*, occasionally ascerbic of wit, and always all around good guy Levi Dalton.

The beverage director at Alto in New York City, Levi is indeed a sommelier, one of the city's best in my experience. He's also a friend (that's my pic of him at right, snapped during a vertical tasting of Torbido! at Alto last month). But this is no shill; it's an honest, forthright, and, yes, friendly endorsement of what I fully expect to be a damn good blog.

Levi has only been at it since the beginning of December but he's off to a running start. An active patient participant in the discussion chambers at Wine Disorder (formerly Wine Therapy) for many a year, Levi's first several posts were "reprints" of detailed posts originally shared only at Disorder. He's since made a quick transition into original posts. Between the quality of his writing, a welcome thread of humor, and the sheer quantity of sick vino that passes his way (in terms of depth and diversity that is, not volume), it's a new blog that I very much look forward to reading as it grows.

(*Alice's word, not mine, but it was too apropos not to run with it.)

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Sunday Suds: Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza

Date: Sun, Dec 19, 2010 Wine Tasting

A relatively impromptu visit to Teresa's Next Door last night led first to a wonderfully thirst quenching glass of De Ranke "Père Noël" (on tap), which led next to a leisurely perusal of the menu and, in turn, to a quite fortunate flip by my dining partner to the rear of Teresa's book of beers. To the holiday bottle page. To this little gem.

Noel de Calabaza Special Ale, Jolly Pumpkin (Blend 3, 2009)
9% abv. 750 ml bottles. Distributor: Shelton Brothers
"Noel de Calabaza" is a Belgian-style strong dark ale, brewed annually and released each winter holiday season by the wild fermenting, oak aging adventurers at Jolly Pumpkin. While in name it's the Christmas companion to "Oro de Calabaza," the only obvious similarity comes via that characteristic Jolly Pumpkin sour streak—part wild yeast, part lactic acid, entirely delicious. Otherwise, we're dealing with an entirely darker, maltier, spicier animal, albeit one that is eminently drinkable, just barely if at all hinting at its 9% alcohol level.

A year of bottle aging (notice the batch number, above) has rounded out the beer's mouthfeel and subdued its spiciness since this time last season, bringing the focus around to its dark fruited, wine-y nuance, yet plenty of vitality remains, suggesting that it will continue to develop through at least a couple more Noels. While, for me, it doesn't quite deliver in that instantly magical, "God damn, this is some serious gourmet shit" way that "Oro" does, it's nonetheless a damn fine holiday beer.

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Don Van Vliet is Dead, Long Live Captain Beefheart

Date: Sat, Dec 18, 2010 Wine Tasting

Don Van Vliet, better known—to those that knew of him at all—as Captain Beefheart, died yesterday of complications related to multiple sclerosis. The Captain was 69. There's no way I could improve upon the obituary that's already been written by Ben Ratliff for The New York Times, so read that. And listen to this: the title track from the 1967 album Safe As Milk, as performed for French television in 1980.

Though I eventually came to be a big fan of Van Vliet's own music, I first came to know him through his work with Frank Zappa, who produced what was arguably Captain Beefheart's most influential album, Trout Mask Replica. Though it might be fair to think of Zappa and Van Vliet as peers or joint mentors, I tend to think of them more as co-conspirators. So here's a peek into that side of things, too, via "Willie the Pimp" from Zappa's 1969 release, Hot Rats.

Rest in peace, Don (and Frank).


Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Question of the Day

Date: Fri, Dec 17, 2010 Wine Tasting

Scenario: You're going to lunch with a certified Master Sommelier and you can take only one bottle of wine. What would you choose, and why? (Okay, so that's two questions.)

? courtesy of Steven Noble.
Hit the comments with your answer, then come back and click the question mark for mine. No cheating!

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Mindbendingly Delicious Barbera

Date: Mon, Dec 13, 2010 Wine Tasting

Lasagna: I didn't realize I was craving it yesterday but, as soon as I heard the suggestion, I knew it was meant to be. Funny thing is, it took even less time to think of what I wanted to drink with it: Barbera. I knew just the one....

Barbera d'Alba, Giuseppe Rinaldi 2008
€9 ex-cellar. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Not exported to the US.
One bottle—one criminally small bottle—of Beppe Rinaldi's Barbera d'Alba made it into the mixed case I cobbled together over the course of my adventures in Piedmont this May.

Tasting the 2009 version from botte at the estate with the lovely young Marta Rinaldi and learning that its production is too small to supply the US market (AND blown away by how delicious it already was), I just had to make space for a bottle of its brother from an earlier vintage in that mixed case. Ten days, somewhere in the vicinity of twenty producer visits, and I was limiting myself to twelve bottles for the long journey home... insanity. In retrospect, I wish I'd allowed for a second case, just of this.

Beautifully fresh and juicy, brimming with boisterous fruit, lively acidity and just enough tannin to keep you alert. Blueberries, plums, red cherries.... It was absolutely delicious with our lasagna and altogether, seamlessly complete. About as close as wine can come to being the most unimaginably delicious example of fruit juice while simultaneously being 100% vinous in character. The kind of wine one could happily glug without a care or just as easily meditate upon for hours. Something of a miracle of nature and one of the most memorable wines I've drunk all year. Enough said.

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Sunday Suds: Dogfish Head Saison du Buff

Date: Sun, Dec 12, 2010 Wine Tasting

Image courtesy of Dogfish Head.
BUFF (Brewers United for Freedom of Flavor) was first conceptualized way back in 2003. It took only seven years for the triumvirate—Sam Calagione at Dogfish Head, Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing Company, and Greg Koch at Stone Brewing Company—responsible for BUFF's genesis to put plans into action for their first collaborative brew.

Calagione and Covaleski got together with Greg Koch at Stone's San Diego headquarters early in 2010 to brew together. What they came up with was "Saison du Buff," a Saison-style ale kicked up the "freedom of flavor" scale via the addition of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme in the brewing process. The plan, as eventually executed, was for each brewery to make its own version using the same recipe and ingredients but of course utilizing its own equipment and brewers.

Stone was the first to release their version, in March 2010, with both Dogfish Head and Victory following suit late in the summer of 2010. All were relatively limited-edition releases and, so far as I know, are not intended for repeat brewing and release in the future, although one never can tell. Such brews sometime take on lives of their own.

Were I a more thorough beer geek (and a much more advance planning shopper), I'd have gone out of my way to procure all three versions in order to do a side-by-side tasting and comparison. For now, though, I hope you can make do with my thoughts on just one of my local versions.

Image courtesy of yours truly.
"Saison du Buff," Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
6.8% abv. 12 oz. bottles.
The Dogfish Head iteration of Saison du Buff pours to a slightly hazy, burnished lemon yellow color in the glass. Highly charged, it yields a more than generous, slightly chunky head, kept alive by quite active, steady carbonation. Its lemony, intensely herbal aromas are dominated by the pininess of rosemary, then backed up by the faintly musky scent of sage. Rosemary and sage's other herbal brewing companions are less apparent on the nose but do come through on the palate, where the faint bitterness of parsley and subtly sweet woodsiness of thyme make themselves known. Would I be saying all this if I didn't know the four herbs used in the brew? Perhaps not, but knowing, it certainly makes sense in the tasting. All of the above is wrapped up with a reasonably fruity mid-palate of grapefruit and pineapple, and a very crisp, refreshing drive.

Not surprisingly, given the fairly full throttle style of the overall beer programs at Victory and, especially, Stone and Dogfish Head, Saison du Buff is considerably hoppier than the a traditional European Saison. To me, it actually drinks more like a Saison crossed with a fresh style of IPA. While its alcohol level (6.8% abv) isn't much if at all higher than the classic Saison, it seems to pack more of a wallop than I usually associate with, say, Dupont Saison (at a quite similar 6.5%), pushing it out of session beer territory and toward the table. Grilled, white fleshed fish or roast chicken would be nice pairings, methinks.

As appealing as all of the above may sound, it doesn't come without a caveat. So highly perfumed as to border on scented soap territory, Dogfish Head's version of Saison du Buff beckons to my mind more than my gut—more intellectually compelling than downright delicious. That said, you won't find me trying to pawn off what remains of my half-case.

I wonder if the Victory version is still kicking around somewhere nearby....

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Inscrutably Insolite

Date: Sat, Dec 11, 2010 Wine Tasting

insolite adj unusual, strange

One hundred percent inscrutable it's not—even if last Sunday's edition of Name That Wine left everyone thinking so—but neither the charms nor the full (hi)story of Sophie and Thierry Chardon's "L'Insolite" are readily revealed. More on the charms later; for now, let's step into the gray area between cold fact and cool conjecture and take a peek at the story.

"L'Insolite" was advertised for sale by, and in turn purchased by me from, a fairly well known wine e-tailer. In one of said merchant's typical e-mail blasts, it was stated to be the produce of Domaine de l'Aumonier. Sophie and Thierry Chardon, who are credited as the producers and estate-bottlers of "L'Insolite" on its label, are indeed the proprietors of Domaine de l'Aumonier. Yet there's no mention of the Domaine on the bottle (other than on the cork), and likewise no mention of the wine on the Domaine's website.

Maybe I'm making too much of this—it's hardly without precedent—but, ever curious about labeling quirks and legalities, I couldn't help but wonder what gives. Is it a semi-private label, produced exclusively for Free Run? Perhaps it's the first vintage release of the wine and the Chardon's wanted to test the market before putting their full stamp on the label? I'm sure there are other viable explanations, as well. I hate to delve into the realm of guess work, but I've reached out to both the producers and their importer with no response from either.

Maybe... again with the maybes.... Maybe it doesn't matter. If the wine is good, will anyone really care (aside from me, that is)?

Touraine "L'Insolite," Sophie et Thierry Chardon (Domaine de l'Aumonier) 2008
$14. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Free Run, Seattle, WA.
Sophie and Thierry Chardon's Touraine "L'Insolite" is a varietal expression of Côt (aka, Malbec), grown in parcels of clay and silex dominated soil amidst the family's 47-hectare estate. Currently in process of organic conversion, their property is located in the communes of Couffy and Mareuil sur Cher, roughly 75km ESE of Tours in the sprawling AOC area know as the Touraine. Taking a leap of faith that it is handled along the same lines as the "official" reds from Domaine de l'Aumonier, the Côt is machine harvested, destemmed, crushed using a horizontal press, fermented in fiberglass tanks with about a ten-day maceration, then aged in underground tanks (presumably of lined cement).

The end result? A vibrant, translucent violet color in the glass. Immediate aromas of plum pudding and a horse-y, animale character, followed up by smoky scents of black pepper and clove. With coaxing, a distinct blood orange aroma emerges, something I've noticed in several other '08 reds, both Côt and Gamay-based wines, produced in the Chardon's general vicinity of the Touraine. There's a slightly saccharine high-note that I find off-putting but it's subtle enough that it doesn't rob the imbibing experience of pleasure. In terms of feel, the medium weight of "L'Insolite" is driven largely by cool fruited sensations, quite delicate but gravelly tannins, and firm acidity. While it held up reasonably well over the course of three days, I enjoyed it most on day one, when its aromatic character was in full bloom; days two and three brought a textural softening and fleshing out, along with somewhat muted, less expressive aromas and flavors.

Though it doesn't deliver on the same level of character, structure and complexity as the Côt-based cuvées from producers such as Clos Roche Blanche, Vincent Ricard or Thierry Puzelat, it's still fairly solid juice, especially given the sub$15 tariff. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to have it shipped clear across the country again but I wouldn't turn my back on it if I found it locally and at a comparable price point.

Now if only someone would answer my questions....

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Bad Brains "Pay to Cum"

Date: Thu, Dec 9, 2010 Wine Tasting

In the wake of the breaking news that an original acetate of the Bad Brains single "Pay to Cum" just sold for $6,000 (almost makes me consider selling my (non-acetate) copy...), here's a little something for your viewing, listening and thrashing pleasure. Even on the crummiest of days, spinning this track, with all its unadulterated energy, has always managed to help bring things around.

Addendum: Don't know why I didn't think to add this last night.... Given the all but undecipherable nature of much of HR's vocal attack, I'm taking the liberty of reprinting the lyrics for "Pay to Cum," per the insert included with its 1979 7" release.

I make decisions, with percisions [sic]
lost inside this manned collision
Just to see that what to be is perfectly
my fantasy. I came to know with no dismay
that in this world we all must pay.
pay the right
" to pay
" "
" " cum fight
and all in time, with just our minds
we soon will find, what's left behind.
Not long ago when things were slow
we all got by with what they know
the end is near, hearts filled with fear,
don't want to listen to what they hear
and so its [sic] now we choose to fight to
stick up for our bloody right
the right to sing, the right to dance,
the right is ours, we'll take the chance
A piece together
" piece apart
" piece of wisdom
from our hearts.


Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Fleurie "Clos de la Roilette," Coudert 2009

Date: Tue, Sep 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

As if I don't have enough of a backlog already, ranging from producer visits in Piedmont all the way back in May through to yet to be covered trade tastings in New York last week, I'm headed back into the fray today. Back to New York, for the last handful of the September onslaught of portfolio presentations. (If it's quiet here for a couple of days, you'll know why.) Something tells me the following wine is likely to make an appearance; if not, it'll be missed.

Fleurie “Clos de la Roilette,” Coudert Père et Fils 2009
$20. 13% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Louis/Dressner, New York, NY.
Enjoyed with grilled sausages and salad on Sunday, again with pizza — the "omnivore" from my local parlor — last night. Coudert's 2009 "Clos de la Roilette" is drinking beautifully on point. Fresh, bright and finely detailed red fruits — like forest strawberries, firm little raspberries and ever so slightly tart red cherries — combine with lively acidity and gentle but balancing tannins to deliver a truly fine expression of Fleurie from this estate and this vintage. Quite the trifecta. This should develop gracefully over the next several years but it's drinking so well right now that I may not manage to save any.


Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Highlights from the Jenny and François Portfolio Tasting, Fall 2010: Take Two

Date: Sun, Sep 19, 2010 Wine Tasting

My previous post, which covered roughly half of the wines that left me most impressed at the fall Jenny & François Selections portfolio tasting, wound down with my promise to keep the Loire reportage to a minimum. I should have known — hell, even you should have known — I wouldn't be able to keep it to just one producer. There's only a little more Loire, though, before we move further afield. So, let's launch back into action, right about where I left things in part one....

Strangest Taste Sensation:
Under usual circumstances, tops in this category may have gone to the 2009 Touraine Amboise "Ad Libitum" from Domaine la Grange Tiphaine, in which the primary flavor signature was a dead ringer for cherry Sucrets®. (Had to check to see if they even make those any more. They do.) But then I tasted the 2006 Coteaux du Loir "Gravot" from La Grapperie, a blend of Pineau d'Aunis, Côt and Gamay. Sticking my nose in the glass immediately evoked one of those scent memories that was totally singular yet that I couldn't quite nail down.... Was it the aroma of freshly broken open milkweed? Maybe poke? (Both things I remember, albeit cloudily, from my childhood.) Mentioned it to the young lady from Uva Wines who was working the Grapperie table and she said it reminded her of horseradish. Damned if that wasn't it! Horseradish, on the nose and on the palate. Only the watering eyes and head rush were missing. Crazy or not, "Gravot" is now on my shopping list.

A Few Gems from the Rhône:
I managed to sidle up to the main Rhône table just in time to score one of the last pours from a magnum of Eric Pfifferling's 2006 Domaine de L'Anglore Vin de Table "Comeyre," a Carignan dominated red with a dash each of Grenache (presumably Noir) and Clairette. A really lovely example of Carignan-driven wine — barky, dark berry fruit with chocolate and spice accents. Rustic but simultaneously classy.

My real faves from the Rhône, though, were the reds from Hervé Souhaut at Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet. Actually, Souhaut's 2008 Vin de Pays Syrah did nothing for me, but the rest of his line-up more than made up for that. His 2009 "La Souteronne," a varietal expression of Gamay stemming from 60-80 year-old vines, was dense, taut and darkly mineral; couldn't help but get a kick out of it being labeled as 12.34% alcohol, either. Souhaut's 2009 Saint-Joseph was a little on the lean and mean side but nonetheless a really fine example of St. Joe, firmly tannic and bristling with black olive and violet aromatics. The '09 Saint-Joseph "Saint Epine," from 100 year-old Syrah vines, was the real star, bringing the extra meat that its little brother was lacking, not just in terms of body but also in the aromatic sense. This had that dark, brooding, meaty aromatic character I love in the Northern Rhône, almost like bresaola in this case, along with an assertive streak of cracked pepper and spice. Really solid wine that I'd love to have around for the cooler weather and a nice roast leg of lamb.

Ass Has Never Tasted So Good:
If there's an area where the Jenny & François portfolio reaches greater breadth than in the Loire, it's unquestionably the big melting pot of the south of France. There are a surprising number of artisan Bordeaux estates and a handful of little gems in the greater Southwest — such as Clos Siguier, whose 2007 Cahors was showing quite nicely — but the real strength, at least numerically, is in the Languedoc-Roussillon. As with Sablonnettes in the Loire, though, there was one estate whose wines really stood out for me: Domaine des 2 Ânes.

You'll forgive me the almost unforgivably bad inter-language pun of this section's heading (I hope). Hey, I expect it got your attention. If it made you cringe, too, so be it. An Âne, you see, is a donkey (aka, an ass), two of which (more now, as you'll see below) are used as beasts of burden at the wine farm of Magali and Dominique Terrier. I'm sure there's a wink and a nod in there somewhere, some awareness of double-entendre, but there's certainly no relationship to a rather unfortunate American expression sometimes used to describe things that, well, don't taste good.

And then there were three.
As you may already have figured out from the borrowed photos in Friday's post, I couldn't bring myself to break out my camera at the tasting.... But I also can't bring myself to post this reasonably lengthy second chapter without throwing in at least an image or two. So, here's a shot of Magali Terrier of
Domaine des 2 Ânes with the farm's, ahem, 3 ânes.
(Photo courtesy of Jenny & François.)

Magali and Dominique's entry level 2008 Corbières "Premiers Pas" ("first steps") was delicious — juicy, fresh, dark-fruited but light on its feet, and very pleasantly spicy. Their 2008 Corbières "Fontanilles," the next step up, was earthier and more tannic, coupled with much more profound aromatics and greater structure, yet still utterly enjoyable. I'd love to pair it, right now in fact, with grilled lamb chops. As so often seems the case with line-ups from this part of the world, I liked their top wine, the 2007 Corbières "L'Enclos," less; it was just as well made as the others but beginning to step a little too far into the realm of the big, boisterous and intentionally impressive to suit my current preferences. All three wines represent seriously good value.

It Wasn't an All French Affair:
It should be glaringly obvious by now that the J&F portfolio focuses overwhelmingly on the wines of France. In the last couple of years, though, they've begun to branch out more and more into other European countries. They've even made a small inroad into distribution of American wine. The single American producer with whom they're currently working, California's Tony Coturri, just happened to be the only producer on hand at the tasting, where he quite convivially poured his big, bold, honest wines — a style that matches the man — for the relatively euro-centric crowd. I won't go into any greater detail than that for now, but you'll find a nice write-up on a few of the entries from Tony's line-up over at Karen Ulrich's blog, Imbibe New York.

I've been hearing/reading a good bit about the wines from the Tuscany estate Colombaia but had not gotten around to trying them until this tasting. I particularly enjoyed Colombaia's 2008 Toscano IGT Bianco, a 50/50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia, for its charming aromas of sweet cereal grains, and flavors of blanched hazelnuts and delicate minerality (11.5% alcohol didn't hurt, either). From a simple quaffability perspective, I liked their Sangiovese-dominated 2007 Toscano IGT Rosso as well, though I found that its very forward expression of natural wine making practices somewhat obscured the wine's sense of place.

It was one of the last wines I tasted on the day that really stopped me in my tracks — a Spanish red called Els Jelipins. It was the 2005 vintage and the only wine, so far as I know, produced each year by Glòria Garriga and Oriol Illa, with a little help from their daughter Berta, at their winery that is also known as Els Jelipins, located about 75k to the west of Barcelona. Another first experience for me, so, rather than me trying to tell you about its background, I'd suggest you check out the piece that Linda Milagros Violago wrote for 31 Days of Natural Wine back in '09. Let's just say the wine was warm, plush and sexy (not a word I use often or lightly), beautifully balanced and startlingly, delicately nuanced for a wine of such hot climate richness. Drinking it made me feel good. A bottle will set you back a pretty penny but, if you can lay hands on one from their tiny annual production, methinks you'll find it worth the splurge.

I couldn't help but like the artwork on the rather minimalistic Els Jelipins website — bike, hearts and all.

And Finally, The Wine I'd Most Like to Have Cases of for Daily Enjoyment:
Certainly I'm not the only person who gets asked on a regular basis, "So, what's your favorite wine?" For me, it's an unanswerable question. There are just too many great wines and too many variables that go into the experience of each and every one. On this occasion there were some show stoppers, like the Saint-Joseph "Saint Epines" from Hervé Souhaut, like Jacques Lassaigne's rosé Champagne, and like the '05 from Els Jelipins that I've just finished waxing rapturous over. Of all the wines in the room though, the one I'd most like to have a stack of in the cellar is one of a much easier nature: the 2009 Arbois "L'Uva Arbosiana," produced by Evelyne and Pascal Clairet at Domaine de la Tournelle.

Actually, I really liked Tournelle's lineup across the board. The 2007 Arbois Trousseau des Corvées was in a tough spot — two of the three bottles I tasted from were quite reductive — but I expect it will come around with time; the other bottle was quite fine. The 2006 Arbois Ploussard de Monteiller hasn't yet found the elegance and grace of the 2004 but it's already very pretty, both delicate and racy. Their 2002 Vin Jaune and 2004 Vin de Paille were both crazy delicious; that Vin de Paille had one of the most incredibly savory noses of the day, erupting with scents of chicken broth, golden raisins, yellow curry, pears and hazelnut cream.

Yet it was what could safely be described as Domaine de la Tournelle's simplest wine, "L'Uva Arbosiana," Ploussard fermented via carbonic maceration then aged for just a few months in old casks prior to bottling, that I could most easily envision myself drinking — and immensely enjoying — day in and day out. Fun and freakin' delicious. C'est tout!

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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Highlights from the Jenny and Francois Portfolio Tasting, Fall 2010: Take One

Date: Fri, Sep 17, 2010 Wine Tasting

It's the heart of the fall trade tasting season right now. Problem is, I live in Philly and 98% of the portfolio tastings are staged in New York. To make them all, I'd need to rent a place in the city for at least a couple of weeks if not an entire month. Add that to the fact that I'd also have to arrange for mid-term palate replacement surgery and it becomes a complicated prospect. I at least try to make it up for a few, though, particularly those held by importers whose portfolios I really dig, and/or for those where the importer may have gone out of his or her way to extend a personal invitation. Can't do 'em all but I do what I can.

First among those that I was able to attend during this week's voyage north was the Jenny & François Selections fall portfolio tasting, held downstairs at The Smith in the East Village. J&F co-proprietor Jenny Lefcourt, like me, leads classes occasionally at Philly's Tria Fermentation School. Nonetheless, it remains tough at best to find wines from her portfolio on the PA market, making the trip to NYC a necessity in order to experience the full breadth of wines that she and her business partner François Ecot are bringing into the US.

In relatively random order and without further ado, here are some of the highlights from Monday's tasting.

Most compelling bubbly:
The Champagnes of Jacques Lassaigne were delicious across the board but it was his Rosé de Montgueux, a rosé d'assemblage of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, that really stood out. Not for any greater complexity than the two Blanc de Blancs — quite the opposite if anything — but for the fact that it was just in a great place, bursting with bright red forest fruits and drinking really nicely.

Burgundy, red and white all over:
The first white Burgs I tasted, two Chablis from Jean-Claude and Christiane Oudin, weren't to be surpassed. Their 2006 Chablis "Les Serres" was intensely smoky and iodine, full of the pungent minerality that makes Chablis so, well, Chablis. Oudin's 2007 Chablis 1er Cru Vaugiraut, produced from 70-year-old vines, took a significant step up from there, just as lovely to drink but displaying much greater breed and focus.

Oudin bottle shot courtesy of Brooklynguy.

On the red side, there was one clear standout among a healthy handful of interesting wines: the 2007 Mercurey "La Plante Chassey" of Catherine and Dominique Derain. When last I tasted this (at Terroir SF) it was enjoyable enough, even showed some promise, but six months later it's simply singing. Fantastic acid/fruit balance, with sappy, smoky red fruits leading to a ripe red cherry mid-palate and a finish full of minerals and sous-bois character. Very good wine indeed.

La La La Loire:
Okay, you all know by now how much I love Loire wine. Keeping this concise is tough, as Jenny & François are lucky to work with a very fine range of Loire producers. One stood out for me, though: Domaine des Sablonnettes. I liked their wines across the board, from the 2008 Anjou "P'tit Blanc," which showed structured, intense fruit with waves of minerality, to their 2009 Vin de Table "Les Copines Aussi," a juicy, fresh and easy drinking example of Loire Gamay. The 2008 Vin de Table "Les Copains d'Abord," made purely from the indigenous variety Grolleau, was tougher to love — herbal and intensely wound-up — but in a way that made me want to try. "Buy this for further investigation," read my notes.

Image courtesy of Putnam Weekley, via Saignée.

There's plenty more on deck but this is getting long and I'm getting tired. Stay tuned for J&F Part Deux, coming soon to a blog near you.

Original content published at McDuff's Food & Wine Trail. All work copyright David McDuff and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NC-ND Works 3.0 Unported License.

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