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MFWT Voted Favorite Site in Food & Wine Magazine

Date: Thu, Sep 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

Over the years that I've been writing here at MFWT, I've always taken great pleasure in spreading the word about other blogs and sites that I truly enjoy. One need only check out my Blogs of Note category to get a sense of what I'm talking about. It's rare that I feel quite so comfortable about dabbling in self-promotion. Once in a while, though, it's necessary for everyone to reach around and give him or herself a good old pat on the back. This, if you haven't sussed it out already, would be one of those occasions.

In the October 2010 issue of Food & Wine, their annual wine issue, McDuff's Food & Wine Trail was listed among the Top 5 Favorite Websites by 25 nationally recognized sommeliers participating in the magazine's "What Sommeliers Know Best" section. It's a quick mention, but more than enough to make me feel just a little proud. Hey, it's not every day that I get such a nice shout-out from some of the country's hardest working somms in a nationally distributed and internationally recognized magazine.

As happy as I was when I learned of the news, I was equally happy to find myself in such good company, right alongside the other four faves:

  • Burg-guru Allen Meadows of the subscription-only site Burghound

  • Iberian wine enthusiasts and social media entrepreneurs Ryan Anerson Opaz and Gabriella Reynes Opaz of Catavino

  • Winechap, a site dedicated to reviewing restaurant wine lists in New York City, Hong Kong and the UK

  • And Wine Opinions, a portal devoted exclusively to consumer and trade related research in the field of wine.
My appreciation goes out to those 25 participating sommelier(e)s, just as it does to each and every person reading this. Thanks as always for your support!
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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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Cookin' with Brooklynguy

Date: Wed, Sep 15, 2010 Wine Tasting

Contrary to what the title of today's post might lead one to construe, I was not recently cooking with, nor have I ever actually cooked with, my pal Brooklynguy. Rather, today's missive is named for an occasional series, thus named, that the BG runs on his own site. There's a fairly ambitious edition running there as we speak — something to do with swirling and tongues.

I did at least have the pleasure of seeing the Guy from Brooklyn not long ago though, when he, I and a half-dozen or so other amicable souls got together to drink an absurd number of bottles of flor-affected Sherry at a fantastic little spot called Prune in New York's lower East Village.

Our dinner came along fairly hot on the heels of an earlier post from Brooklynguy, one from another of his ongoing series that he calls "You be the Sommelier." The challenge: heirloom tomatoes. The recipe was challenging, at that. Slicing, plating and sprinkling of salt were all involved. I'm no stranger to techniques such as these — my local farmers market is a veritable heirloom mother lode during the growing season — though my rendition often features the added twist of pepper, maybe even a drizzle of olive oil if I'm feeling crazy.

I've found over the years that there are a lot of wines that can pair quite nicely with such a dish. Loire Sauvignon works surprisingly well, as do many crisp, mineral and moderately fruit driven whites. My first thought, though, almost always goes to rosés from Provence. Bandol rosé from producers such as Tempier or Terrebrune work splendidly, as do less highfalutin Provençal pinkies like the Coteaux d'Aix en Provence rosé from Château Calissanne, a wine with which I go way back. That was more or less my answer when he threw down the pairing gauntlet last month; however, I was pretty damn sure what he was actually thinking, and it proved correct. Sherry. So, when I was lucky enough to walk out of Prune that night with the generous remains of a rather well respected bottle of Sherry tucked away safely in my bag, I figured I'd put his spin on the challenge to the test.

The results, I must say, were transcendent. The wine I "rescued," La Bota de Fino No. 15 "Macharnudo Alto" from Equipo Navazos, was not my favorite of the night at the Prune marathon. A few days later, though, after it had time to rest, resolve and take in a little air, the Fino was simply singing. Uncommonly rich and lengthy, beautifully aromatic, all at once tangy, briny and delicately, freshly nutty. Paired with those tomatoes you can see in the picture above (no, the green one is not a kiwi) — with their natural acidity, firm, cool flesh, sweet fruitiness, a generous sprinkling of decent salt and just a touch of black pepper, no olive oil on this night — the wine took on another dimension. The tomatoes, too. Sparks flew. I could have been happy with that and nothing else for dinner that night. And come to think of it, that may be exactly what I did.

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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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Sancerre "Caillottes," François Cotat 2007

Date: Tue, Sep 14, 2010 Wine Tasting

Today's object of vinspection is a wine I’d never before encountered until getting together with friends for dinner and a little tasting this weekend. As much as I like to share wisdom here regarding wines I’ve tasted year in and year out, sometimes it’s just as edifying and even more educational (for me at least) to record first impressions, maybe even open the door to dialogue with other readers and wine lovers.

Sancerre "Caillottes," François Cotat 2007
$36. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Dionysos Imports, Manassas, VA.
François Cotat has been producing this cuvée since the 2005 vintage. Its fruit hails from Cotat's young vines grown in the flattish lands between Sancerre and Chavignol, where the soil is dominated by "caillottes," a rocky, chalk and limestone rich terroir with little in the way of what one would usually think of as topsoil.

2007 was a ripe vintage in the Sancerrois district and Cotat’s “Caillottes” shows it in its round, opulent mouthfeel and somewhat aggressive alcohol attack. While that roundness coats the entire palate, leaving a big impression, it also leaves a void right in the center, as if the wine grew up so fast that it never quite developed the strong core needed for good balance. Still, there’s a lot to like here: an intense impression of limestone-rich minerality, bolstered by flavors and aromas of key lime zest and a firm, mouthwatering clamp of acidity on the finish.

While this is not among the most finessed of Cotat’s wines, it’s still well-knit enough to present attractive possibilities on the table. I’d love to pair it with a well-aged puck of Crottin de Chavignol, or with a richly flavored fish with a beurre blanc sauce. Though I don’t think this vintage will ever find a perfect balance, were I holding any bottles I’d sit on them for another two or three years in hopes that it may develop greater harmony and integration.

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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: Sly Fox Route 113 India Pale Ale

Date: Sun, Sep 12, 2010 Wine Tasting

With the occasional exception made for limited edition pours or situational necessity, most of my beer exploration and consumption this summer has centered on the broad category know as session beer. Beer writer Lew Bryson and the rest of the crew over at The Session Beer Project™ loosely define the genre to include any beer, in any style, clocking at 4.5% alcohol or lower. I tend to be even more generous, sliding my own scale up to 5%, not because I feel it gets me better beer, just because it offers more in the way of off-premise options while still keeping things on the drinkable — by which I mean more than one can/bottle/pint — end of the spectrum.

That means that all summer long I've been enjoying kolsch, pilsner, sour ale and pale ale, categories that by and large still often make the session beer cut. With the weather turning abruptly autumnal in the last week, though, my hankerings have wandered to the more assertive realm of India Pale Ale, or IPA for short, a stronger, hoppier breed of pale ale originally developed as a means to help beer survive the arduous sea voyage from England to India, where ale was considered a necessity of life by the British colonialists of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

In more modern times, and particularly in the last decade or so, it's IPA that has most widely captured the imagination and experimental spirit of craft brewers in the US, leading to a veritable explosion of heavily hopped ales. It's a style that's particularly popular on the left and right coasts, and one that's been very successful for many of the Philadelphia area's local breweries. Here's one of my current favorites:

Sly Fox Brewing Company "Route 113" India Pale Ale
16.4 OG, 113 IBUs, 7% ABV.
Orange-hued amber, bordering on opaque, with a rich, creamy though modestly proportioned head. For those that care about such things, it laces up the glass quite nicely, too.

Pretty classic IPA aromas, albeit bordering toward the rich end of the spectrum: peach preserves, goldenrod, moist ganja bud, and spiced orange peel. The beer's creamy appearance is echoed in its texture — clean, dense and bready.

Though it's hardly shy, it pulls off its 7% ABV in fine style, with balance, drinkability and depth of flavor. It gets there without relying on the overt sweetness that's often used to counter the natural bitterness coming from high hop levels and without falling into the soapy/weedy trap that the IPA category can present. The fact that head brewer Brian O'Reilly and the rest of the team at Sly Fox are now offering "113" in 12 oz. cans rather than just in 22 oz. bottles is an added bonus. Session beer it's not, but at least one can manage two without being pushed over the top.

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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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Ride Fresh Ride Local

Date: Sat, Sep 11, 2010 Wine Tasting

Just a quick post today to give my fellow Philly-area pedalers the heads-up on a couple of upcoming farm, food, and cycling related events. Beer figures into both, too, so despair not my thirsty brethren.

Next Sunday, September 19, 2010, the folks from Fair Food Philadelphia and Weaver's Way Co-Op will be leading their annual Urban Farm Bike Tour. (Thanks to PhillyFoodie for reminding me of this one.) The ride starts in the Kensington section of town and stops at, you guessed it, urban farms throughout Philadelphia before eventually winding its way to the finish at Weaver's Way Farm in East Mount Airy (Philadelphia), where there will be a grillin' and chillin' party for the hungry and thirsty participants. This year's event sees the addition of a longer 28-mile option, on top of the usual 14-mile loop. For more information and to register for one of the rides, head on over to the Weaver's Way pages.

The following Sunday, September 26, 2010, the Southeastern branch of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) will be hosting the 3rd annual edition of Bike Fresh Bike Local. The event's name plays on PASA's ongoing Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign. Less a stop-and-go farm tour than it is a more traditional fund raising-style ride, Bike Fresh Bike Local nonetheless heads through the heart of SE PA farm country. All routes — there are 25, 50 and 75 mile options — will run through the 300-acre Springton Manor Farm, where farm tours will be available. All routes start and finish at the headquarters of event sponsor Victory Brewing Company, in Downingtown, PA. Register early and you'll score a Buy Fresh Buy Local t-shirt; all entrants will be fed a local lunch and a free post-ride brewski at Victory.

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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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Cracked Actor

Date: Fri, Sep 10, 2010 Wine Tasting

It's been three-and-a-half years and I can't believe it myself: nary a peep here from David Bowie, one of my all time favorite rock and roll chameleons. From the beginning all the way through to the early 80s hits from "Modern Dance," I've always loved his stuff. Tonight, in fits and starts, I've been watching the film of Bowie's 1973 "retirement" gig, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, shot at the Hammersmith Odeon. Not the greatest film quality but a great period in Bowie's career and a fantastic show from the looks of it. I'd totally forgotten he dabbled with the harmonica, but I've never forgotten what a seminal role Bowie's guitarist/producer, Mick Ronson, played in the Spiders. Here's "Cracked Actor" for your listening and viewing pleasure. There will be more here from Bowie at some point; of that I'm sure.

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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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Rocking 2009s from C. von Schubert

Date: Thu, Sep 9, 2010 Wine Tasting

While in New York for a couple of days last week, I lucked upon the chance to taste a whole slew of Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Rieslings, mostly from 2009 but with a few back vintage wines thrown into the mix as well. The real standouts, though, were saved for last — a stunning lineup of 2009s from the C. von Schubert estate, aka Maximin Grünhaus. From their basic QbA right up through the Eisweine, they offer tremendous focus, clarity and consistency.

Were I a bigger fan of photo editing, I would have picked this apart into individual shots for your perusing pleasure. Instead, here's a much larger than usual shot (click to enlarge). The wines run from right to left in terms of our tasting order.

Slay me if you must, but here are a few choice words about each. Call 'em tasting notes if you must but, really, they're just my immediate, gut reactions.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg QbA "Superior," C. von Schubert 2009
    Simple, but in a good way. Very stony and quite pleasing, redolent of grapefruit oil. Not sure of the going price, but if it's still under $20 it's a solid value.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Kabinett, C. von Schubert 2009
    The same dark minerality as displayted in the QbA — blue slate came to mind, although Herrenberg's terroir is based more on red slate — but with greater filigree and defined grace.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg Kabinett, C. von Schubert 2009
    Lighter yet simultaneously funkier and deeper than the Herrenberg Kabinett.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Spätlese, C. von Schubert 2009
    Highly focused and excruciatingly young. In other words, very promising.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg Spätlese, C. von Schubert 2009
    Open and more outwardly delicious than the MGHS. Very good already.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Auslese, C. von Schubert 2009
    It was becoming clear at this point that the steps between Pradikat levels at this estate are really well defined. Not at all drastic but well expressed and measurable, one could even say classic in '09. Darkly mineral again, with a mouthful of apricot flesh and great acid structure.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg Auslese, C. von Schubert 2009
    Rounder and softer than its counterpart from Herrenberg. Very pretty.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Abtsberg Auslese "149," C. von Schubert 2009
    Beautifully high-toned aromatics at play here; richer in RS than the "normal" Abtsberg Auslese but totally balanced. Big, pure acid profile.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Brudergerg "Jungfernwein" Auslese, C. von Schubert 2009
    This started off with a super dense, mineral-laden nose, leading to a broadly muscular palate. Excellent length. If this is what's coming from the first vintage produced from new vines in Brudergerb ("Jungfernwein" translates literally to "virgin wine," or the first vintage produced from newly planted vines) then watch out in the years to come.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Eiswein, C. von Schubert 2009
    Oh my.... Spice attack. Orange confit. Mint. Racy. Stellar eiswein, really finely balanced at 7%. A wine for the ages.

  • Maximin Grünhauser Herrenberg Eiswein "82," C. von Schubert 2009
    For those who like it opulent. Much more intense, even syrupy, relative to the previous Eiswein. Darker color and lower alcohol (6%) to match. Marmalade, menthol, honey-lemon drops.

For serious fans of German Riesling — and you really all should be — these are very much worth seeking out and socking away.
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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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In Memory of The Professor

Date: Wed, Sep 8, 2010 Wine Tasting

Like most kids in the mid-70s suburban community I called home, I grew up with a bike between my legs. Back and forth to school, after school, especially in the summers off... we built makeshift ramps, rode through the yet to be developed corn/soy/tobacco fields, raced up and down the street and, piloting bikes not designed for any of it, crashed and burned with screaming, scabby regularity.

Like most kids of my generation, high school got in the way. Music, hanging out with a wider circle of friends and all entailed by that, drinking beer, and girls (or at least the idea of girls) all got in the way. The childhood bike, more than put through its paces, went out to pasture, rusting idly in the garage.

When I went off to college in '83, I came back to the bike. Living off-campus — even though I had a car through most of my undergrad years — the ten-speed clunker I picked up gave me a way to get back and forth to class without dealing with parking hassles or forking out for gas (a particular issue during my years in possession of a '70 Plymouth Fury). I'd like to think the idea of exercise figured in there but, honestly, I'm not sure it did. It was a utilitarian pursuit at heart. But once in a while I'd go hands-free, or dig in a little on an ascent, and I'd feel a flicker of the old joy.

It wasn't until the start of my senior year that cycling came back, and came on, with a vengeance. I'd spent the majority of the preceding summer EuroRailing it with a good friend who just happened to have dabbled for a year or two as a bike messenger. I needed a way to earn some dough rather than continuing to sponge off my folks and my pal convinced me that courier work was the way. By that time, largely through the local music community (read harDCore) , I'd become friends with a few other messengers who all seconded the motion.

I didn't take much convincing. I spent the rest of the summer getting my bearings as a rookie bicycle messenger in DC, picked it up pretty quickly as I remember it, and then worked one or two days a week, class schedule permitting, through my senior year. That old clunker didn't last long, rattled and rolled to death on the pothole ridden streets of our nation's capital. An upgrade was due and my first serious bike was forthcoming — a mid-80s Cannondale touring bike. It still sits in my garage, long since converted to a fixed gear commuter. Back then, though, it was a serious workhorse. Continuing on to grad school, I also continued on with the courier gig. Bear in mind, this was prior to the public advent of the Internet. Fax machines were still a novelty. The work was hard but the pay, for what it was, was pretty solid — enough, in fact, to pay my way through graduate school without taking out so much as a dollar in student loans.

Graduate course work completed in '89, I left DC for North Jersey. Why is not part of today's story. Suffice it to say that I left behind the messenger grind, and the daily commute in and out of the city or back and forth to campus. And I missed it. I missed the bike. So much so that I quickly got to know the guys at my new local bike shop, invited myself along on their group rides. I was loving it. One of the guys was a local Cat 2 racer. Another had just started as a Cat 4. It didn't take them long to convince me to give it a try. And the rest is history, albeit a story for another day.

* * *


Laurent Fignon won his first Tour de France in 1983. It was his second year as a pro, his first riding Le Tour, and he won it. He went on to repeat as victor in 1984. Those, it would turn out, would be his only Tour victories, eclipsed by the mighty Badger, Bernard Hinault, the most dominant Tour rider of the decade, and a fellow Frenchman to Fignon.

I graduated high school in 1983, not long before the start of that year's Tour. In turn, I finished my Freshmen year in college not long before the '84 Tour. I hadn't a clue what was going on in the Tour in either of those years. If you'd asked me at the time, I might have known what the Tour was in a vague sense but I had no idea what was happening, who the players were, what it all meant. That wouldn't come until a few years later... '87, '88 and especially '89.

1989. In spite of Fignon's two Tour de France victories, it will always be his glorious defeat in the 1989 Tour for which he'll be most remembered. It's also the first year in which I can remember actually watching any meaningful amount of the Tour rather than just catching the daily placings in the stats section of the paper. While I can hardly say I don't remember watching that ignominious finish of Fignon's on the Champs-Élysées, losing the stage by 58 seconds and the entire Tour by eight to overall victor Greg LeMond, the entire race leading up to that point was just as exciting. I can still remember Fignon fighting it out with LeMond, day in and day out, in the mountains, with one gaining the upper hand on one stage, the other taking it right back on the next.

That's how I expect Fignon would like that year's race to be remembered, not via the unfortunate image of him squirming on his back in the streets of Paris after realizing his defeat. It was one of the most exciting Tours I can ever remember watching, and it was Laurent Fignon, The Professor, wispy ponytail, wire-rimmed glasses and all, who helped make it so memorable. The video clip above should give you a sense of that, even though it focuses only slightly on Fignon. It's long but worth the watch for fans of the era.

Laurent Fignon died last week, on August 31, 2010, to be exact, losing his year-long battle with cancer. I never had the chance to see any of the coverage he did of the Tour as a commentator for French television. Something tells me, though, that it would have been much like his riding style — far more opinionated and punchy than the "old" American coverage you can watch above, though no doubt with his own signature twist of melodrama.

This post goes out to the memory of Monsieur Fignon, and as way of thanks for helping to make my first real taste of Le Tour such a meaningful experience.
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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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Bon Weekend

Date: Sat, Sep 4, 2010 Wine Tasting


Here's hoping you all had as relaxing and enjoyable a start to the holiday weekend as did I, and that the rest of your Labor Day weekend is spent among friends, family and in good cheer. Enjoy!

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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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Two in a Row at Tria: Roaming the Rhône

Date: Fri, Sep 3, 2010 Wine Tasting

Back in action I'll be tonight, once again, at Philadelphia's Tria Fermentation School. In three years of teaching classes there, I do believe this is the first time I'll have led sessions on back-to-back days — definitely a good way to stay in the groove.

Tonight's class will provide a broad overview of the wines and viticultural practices of France's Rhône Valley. As with yesterday's class, seats for today's gig have long been sold out, so the following list of what I'll be pouring is presented here for those that take a distant interest or academic curiosity in such things. If you'd like to drink along with one or two (or all seven) of the wines, all the better; if so, please come back and share your thoughts.

Even though class will be presented in such a way as to provide a general informational understanding of both the Northern and Southern Rhône, a quick perusal of the list will clue many of you in to the fact that only one of the seven wines I'll be pouring actually hails from the Northern Rhône. This is hardly a suggestion of preference on my part — I'm a big fan of Northern Rhône wines and would much rather show a 2:5 or even 3:4 ratio. Rather, it's a simple reflection of what's available and, just as importantly, good on the Philadelphia-area market right now.

The links in the list below point to pieces I've written in the past on previous and/or current vintages of some of the wines. So, here's what I'll be pouring, in order of presentation and without further ado:

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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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Italian Sparkling Wines and Cheese at Tria Fermentation School Tonight

Date: Thu, Sep 2, 2010 Wine Tasting

Here's a sneak peak at what I'll be pouring at the Tria Fermentation School tonight. I'll be schooling the class on some of the finer points of the sparkling wines of Italy, and teaching in harmony with Erin McLean, Tria's resident Manager and cheese maven, who's paired what looks to be a great lineup of formaggio with each of the wines. The session has been sold out for weeks, so this is a little bit of a teaser but only in the best sense, for those who'd like to follow along in part, in whole or in spirit. Gotta say, I'm looking forward to revisiting all of these vini myself.

  • Prosecco Montello e Colli Asolani Extra Dry, Bele Casel NV
    Or is it now Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG? I can't remember which label version I packed... but it matters not as the DOCG is simply a rechristening/theoretical upgrade of the same wine. Always a joyous way to start.

  • Malvasia dell'Emilia IGT "Il Mio," Camillo Donati NV (2008)
    The dry version of Donati's frizzante Malvasia Candia, lot number 01/08.

  • Alta Langa Brut, Ettore Germano 2006
    A traditional method blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, grown in Sergio Germano's vineyards in the Alto Langa, south of and at a higher altitude than his main property in Serralunga d'Alba.

  • Franciacorta "Cuvée Brut," Bellavista NV
    The flagship of Bellavista's broad portfolio of Lombardian bubblies.

  • Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro "Rive dei Ciliegi," Francesco Vezzelli 2009
    An excellent expression of dry, frizzante Lambrusco. I've poured this at a number of events and it inevitably turns out to be a polarizing wine, with some tasters falling immediately in love while others are left scratching their heads.

  • Moscato d'Asti, G.D. Vajra 2009
    Moscato doesn't get much better than this. As classic and easy with cheese as it is on the breakfast table!

  • Brachetto "Fosso della Rosa," Giovanni Almondo 2008
    We couldn't get by with just one sparkling red now, could we? And yes, it makes for three of seven from Piemonte, but if you've been reading here for long that should come as little surprise. Deliciously fruity and sweet, immensely gulpable and a pleasingly low alcohol way to close out with class.
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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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Triple Zero at Last

Date: Tue, Aug 31, 2010 Wine Tasting

Ever since first reading about Jacky Blot's "Triple Zéro" via Jim's Loire about two years back, I've been wanting to try it — well, really, to drink it. As I kept reading over the ensuing months (then years), it started to dawn on me that the reason I'd never had that chance is that Jim was keeping it all to himself. More recently it became clear that a little bit of "Triple Zero" did indeed escape the grasp of Mr. Budd, at least enough for some to make its way across the pond. I began to hear of sightings here and there around the vinoblogosphere. Yet still, nary a glance had I of a bottle, much less of a glass, full in hand.

Finally, I figured it out. It's all being slurped up by the staff and regulars at Bar Boulud. I stopped in yesterday afternoon, looking for a cool respite from the city heat with a little time to kill before meeting a friend. Frankly, I had a glass of water, a sit down and maybe an icy cold beer in mind. But as soon as I spotted a lineup of Triple Zero bottles behind the communal bar/table, my mind was changed. "Are you pouring that by the glass?" "Yep," came the response. Said glass was in hand before I ever got around to perusing the rest of the by-the-glass offerings (a quite well rounded list, I might add). It turns out that Triple Zero not only headlines the glass pour list at Bar Boulud, it also serves as the base for one of the bar's signature cocktails. No wonder it's evaded me all this time....

Montlouis-sur-Loire Pétillant "Triple Zéro," Domaine de la Taille aux Loups (Jacky Blot) NV
12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: VOS Selections, New York, NY.
It's been said enough times before but it still bears repeating: "Triple Zéro" takes its name from the fact that its method of production involves neither chaptalization, tirage nor dosage. Instead, Jacky Blot simply harvests only ripe, healthy and pristine Chenin Blanc from his vineyards in Montlouis when the fruit on the vine has reached a potential alcohol of 12-12.5% alcohol. After about three months of barrel fermentation, Blot then bottles the wine with about 14-15 grams of remaining residual sugar. Fermentation then completes in the bottle.

The result, after disgorgement, cork finishing and a little more age, is a wine that displays its pétillance much more clearly to the mouth than to the eye. Triple Zéro has a richness that belies its non-sugared nature, a testament to the quality of Blot's fruit and the skill exercised in his production method. Those facets are re-emphasized by the wine's vinosity and its very Chenin-ness, which both come through in spades. There's an enticing dash of funk on the nose, sitting quite comfortably alongside prettier aromas of lavender, peach blossom and quince. And as rich as it feels up front, the wine finishes bone dry, laden with minerality and palate cleansing acidity. Just the refresher that was needed after a long, hot day traversing New York sidewalks and subways.

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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: Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale

Date: Sun, Aug 29, 2010 Wine Tasting

It's been about a year since first I landed on Ballast Point, not as a member of the Navy, mind you, but as a willing explorer of the finer things in brew. I'd stopped in for a visit at one of my favorite Philly-area beer distributors, The Beeryard, in search of a certain IPA I'd tasted during a Philly Beer Week event. Though they had not what I was seeking, the man behind the counter, along with the help of another guy who seemed to be just hanging out, were only too happy to guide me to the IPA from San Diego's Ballast Point Brewing Company as a viable stand-in. Rather than dive head first into a full case, I picked up a Ballast Point sampler case. And while I fully enjoyed their "Big Eye IPA," it turned out to be their lighter, fresher Pale Ale that really set my taste buds alight.

Fast forward a year and there I was back at The Beeryard, this time in search of something light, fresh and quaffable for summertime refreshment. I'd gone in hoping for a case of Gaffel Kolsch but, again, my primary goal was not satisfied. No worries, as in my perusal up and down the high-piled aisles I stumbled upon an old friend, that very same Pale Ale from Ballast Point I'd first tried a year earlier.

Ballast Point's "Yellowtaile Pale Ale," you see, was actually a perfectly apropos replacement, as it actually is a Kolsch (Kolsch is a stylistic subset of the Pale Ale family), brewed in very much the same style as traditional German Kolsch such as that from Gaffel. It could be argued that it's just a touch more assertive in both the alcohol and hoppiness department than most of its German counterparts, but I do mean just a touch. It's still first and foremost about cool, immaculately clean, crisp and refreshing mouthfeel. And at 5%, it's still very much in my session beer comfort zone. This time I jumped in case first, and came up happy.

Nota bene: A quick look at Ballast Point's website suggests that they have dropped the "Yellowtail" moniker, now calling this brew simply "Pale Ale," though the label still sports an image of its former namesake fish.

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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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Bandol par Pieracci

Date: Tue, Aug 24, 2010 Wine Tasting

For those of you — and I know that there are at least two of you — who have been waiting patiently for the answer to last Friday's installment of Name That Wine, it's demi-revelation time. For the full answer to the dual puzzle, you'll need to visit the comments stemming from that most recent quiz. For now, I'm prepared to tell you that one of the corks — the lower, the longer, the red stained (again, you'll have to revisit Friday's post) — was drawn from the very bottle of 2007 Bandol from Domaine Pieracci that's pictured at right.

Today's post, though, is really about a pair from Pieracci: their 2007 rouge and 2008 rosé. I'd never even heard of the estate until last year, when I picked up a couple of each of the above on a hope and a lark. I chose to open them each quite recently, inspired by a discussion with a friend about how much we both enjoy good Bandol but how deplorably infrequently I actually find occasion to drink said Bandols. So, situation remedied, at least in part....

Bandol Rosé, Domaine Pieracci (Jean-Pierre Pieracci) 2008
$27. 13.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: A Thomas Calder/Garagiste Selection, Free Run, Seattle, WA.
Though lacking the fine bones and indefinable subtlety of the benchmark Bandol rosé of Domaine Tempier, I nonetheless found plenty to enjoy in Pieracci's expression. Vigorous and masculine, with an assertively herbaceous nose and front palate rounded out by red summer berry fruits. Full flavored and not shy in the body department, yet food friendly and well balanced in its display of Mediterranean sunshine. The year-plus it's spent in bottle has done it no harm, presumably allowing its fruit richness to subside enough that those Mediterranean coast-driven aromatic traits — rosemary, red earth, sun-dried tomatoes — could display their full breadth. It held up well over the course of an entire week of varying stages of "openness," losing some of its aromatic complexity along the way but maintaining its freshness and appeal.

Bandol Rouge, Domaine Pieracci (Jean-Pierre Pieracci) 2007
$29. 14% alcohol. Cork. Importer: A Thomas Calder/Garagiste Selection, Free Run, Seattle, WA.
This, on the other hand, turned me off much more than on. Though not overtly modern in the sense of being doped up with toasty oak or sexy winemaking signatures, it was still not what I look and hope for in Bandol rouge. Nonexistent was that sense of sauvage, of animality, of fierce tannins and latent herbaceousness bridled, in the best cases, by earthy depth and ever-so-perilously maintained balance. Instead I found plump, super-ripe fruit. Tannin was there, but not with enough of a frame to carry its fat. Though labeled at 14%, I'd peg this at much closer to 15%, showing every bit the effect of the ripe '07 vintage character of so prevalent across Provence and the Southern Rhône. I'm certainly willing to reserve judgment until I have the chance to try Pieracci's red from a more restrained vintage, but this was definitely more in-your-face full-figured than I want or expect from Bandol. Ever optimistic, though, I'll hold my remaining bottle for a few years and hope for transformation.

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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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