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SOMETIMES THE WORLD IS JUST A LITTLE SMALLER THAN I’D LIKE: TRAVELLING AROUND IN TINY CIRCLES IN THIS BUSINESS, PLUS A QUINTET OF CALIFORNIA WINES FROM CAMELOT

2014-04-10 14.32.57

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I was walking around in the grocery the other day, whizzing about trying to pick up things for dinner, trying to get in and out and get home to the Mrs. as quick as possible when I ran into someone from ol’ Mordor.

Not quite two years ago I bid farewell to an amazing group of people whom I still miss and still think of as friends.  Yet running into her, as it is with most anyone from there I run into anymore, reminds me of a bittersweet moment in my professional and personal life, one I care not to repeat.  Those feelings are not reflective upon her, she is an awesome person who has seemingly become quite valuable to the Orc royalty over there; dare I say indispensable.

I hope she, and all my former colleagues are being respected and appreciated for what they contribute; I never truly felt I got either of those while I was there.  I was fortunate to land on my feet, in town, with the most awesome store down the street, and count my blessings that the Divine Miss M found a spot for me on her team.

Yet talking to my dear old friend from the land of Sauron, those wounds began to reemerge, if only for a split second.  It’s odd to speak of a job as if it were an old lover who had suddenly spurned you, yet in some ways, what I felt was every bit akin to my first divorce.  I felt a failure, beaten, dejected.  It’s stupid to give a job such power, yet much to my own detriment, I take my job personally.

We spoke of how each other’s job was going, she explaining how things fit together in the family makeup, and I showing off my newfound sense of peace having found a place of work not so volatile and nepotistic.  I know in this industry, we’ll see each other a million or so times again, yet walking away and saying goodbye felt final in a way.  Perhaps I was saying goodbye to the feeling, in that moment, of failure, of weakness.  Maybe in that moment, the past was finally dead and buried.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Kymber Tymber dropped in with a state relaunch for Camelot wines:

Camelot Pinot Grigio California NV.  Grade=Good.  Decent stone fruit and a squeeze of lemon.  Blaise on the finish though.

Camelot Chardonnay California NV.  Grade=Very Good.  Loads of tropical fruit, vanilla cream and butterscotch candy.

Camelot Pinot Noir California NV.  Grade=Very Good.  Varietally correct, with dried cherries, plums and hints of black pepper.

Camelot Merlot California NV. Grade=Good.  Juicy red, with hints of blue fruits, but falls short at the finish.

Camelot Cabernet Sauvignon California NV.  Grade=Very Good.  A big, ol’ juice bomb, with cherry pie, blackberry smoke and baking spices.

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AN AFTERNOON IN PARIS (KENTUCKY THAT IS): ONE HOUR SOUTH ON A SNOWY DAY, IT’S DTK’S SPRING TRADE SHOW

2014-03-25 14.21.20 2014-03-25 15.02.49

2014-03-25 14.12.25 2014-03-25 14.13.17

Getting settled into some semblance of a groove, I have been feeling really good about the future.  I am looking forward to a bit of road trippin’ this summer, the store keeps rockin’, and I feel pretty confident in my place here at TPS.  To say it’s been a long time in the making would be an understatement.  Yet I’ve had to come to terms with a couple of things to get here.

First off, I’ve had to see things more positively, not be so paranoid as to think I am going to get a pink slip at the drop of a hat.  This is a business, and no matter how personal you can take things sometimes, it’s simply a matter of professionalism that needs to be maintained.

Secondly, what is past is past.  Whatever b.s. my former employers may have done to me, or put me through, whatever the case, it’s over.  And I am much better for it.

Forgive me.  This exercise in E.S.T. is a bit redundant and some deja-vu thrown in (we’ve been here a few times before my friends), yet I feel like the monkey has been shaken off my back, and sent packing back to whatever wildlife reserve from which he may have come.

I have some awesome bosses in the Mighty Jon Stiles and the Divine Miss M (CEO Jon Stiles and Wine Director Mary Dorr respectively) and cohorts here at TPS that are second-to-none.

In the meantime, I recently took a trip to Paris, KY with M and Antonio Le Tigre, to the DTK (De Wet’s Toast of Kentucky) Annual Trade Show.  There were some pretty cool wines down there, including the always awesome Massanois Imports, plus new arrivals from Sans Liege, a few old faves reintroduced by Cat Wine USA, and a few incredible finds from Argentina:

Pertimali di Livio Sassetti Prosecco Brut NV.  Grade=Outstanding.

Pertimali di Livio Sassetti Rosso di Montalcino 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Pertimali di Livio Sassetti Brunello di Monalcino 2008.  Grade=Amazing.

La Querciolina Montecucco Sangiovese 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.

La Querciolina Istriciaia Maremma IGT 2009.  Grade=Outstanding.

Jean-Max Roger Sancerre “Les Caillottes” 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Jean-Max Roger Pouilly-Fume “Chante-Alouettes” 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Jean-Max Roger Sancerre Rouge 2009.  Grade=Outstanding.

Pierre Henri Morel Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc 2012.  Grade=Very Good.

Pierre Henri Morel Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Pierre Henri Morel Vacqueryas 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

Etim Blanc 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.

Etim Negre 2010.  Grade=Outstanding.

Almodi Petit Negre 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

Autor Crianza 2010.   Grade=Very Good.

Autor Reserva 2004.  Grade=Very Good.

Mil Pedras Viognier Mendoza 2013.  Grade=Outstanding.

Benevenuto de la Serna Reserva Malbec 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.

CORE MGS Blend 2009.  Grade=Very Good.

CORE Elevation Sensation 2008.  Grade=Outstanding.

CORE Alta Mesa Mourvedre 2008.  Grade=Very Good.

CORE Mister Mourved 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.

Peirano The Unknown Red Blend Lodi 2010.  Grade=Very Good.

Sans Liege En Gedi Grenache Santa Barbara County 2010.   Grade=Outstanding.

Sans Liege Transcendalist Santa Barbara County 2010.  1.5 liter.  Grade=Amazing.

The Neds Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2013.  Grade=Outstanding.

The Neds Pinot Gris Marlborough 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

The Neds Pinot Noir Marlborough 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

Anne Amie Cuvee A Amrita Blend Oregon 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.

Mangria White NV.  Grade=Blah.

Mangria Red NV.  Grade=Blah.

I should note that the Mangria wines were a really big shock (I wasn’t aware that these wines were at 19% alcohol for the White and 25% for the red).  They drank more like liqueurs than wines, and definitely needed something like soda or juice to tame them down.  And at $20, they really turned me off.  A shame, but sangria is not something I want to be potent, I want it to be refreshing.  The Neds wines were really cool, and the standout for me was the Mil Pedras Viognier – a real sleeper hit.

There were other wines there as well, and the food they had in conjunction with the wines was genius (local food suppliers showing off some of their wares, like Berkwood Farms showed off their pork ribs, and there was some dessert company out of Louisville that had desserts to die for – seriously.

Thanks to Nic, Barry and Crystal, and everyone at DTK for a great day.

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R.I.P. HEDLEY LAMARR: MORE SIGNS OF MY EMINENT OLD AGE, PLUS A FEW ODDS-AND-ENDS IN MY GLASS

2014-03-24 14.41.53

It’s funny the things you take notice of as you get older.  Hearing eighties hair metal bands on classic rock radio, getting bummed out because you missed a Mork ‘n’ Mindy reunion of sorts on Robin Williams’ new TV show, and the passing of Harvey Korman, aka Hedley Lamarr (the bad guy in Blazing Saddles).

Blazing Saddles is one of my all-time favorite movies.  I’ve seen it so much I know all the dialogue, and all of the songs (and I even know when the TV version kicks in, and all the alternative dialogue).  It’s ridiculous I know, yet it has a very dear spot in my heart.

Believe it or not, my grandmother took me to see the movie when I was nine.

Seriously.

Poor Grandma Keith had absolutely no idea what she was getting into, and neither did I.  Yet it showed at the Kettering Fox Theatre off of Dorothy Lane in Dayton, OH.  It was 1975, the year after Blazing Saddles came out, the Fox was a cheapie theatre, you went there for $2 matinees on Saturdays.  After the movie was over, you can only imagine my Grandma’s reaction:

“Now we can’t go see those kinds of movies again… Grandma gets embarrassed too easily… and let’s not tell your mother about this one, we would both be in trouble…”

Most folks these days don’t remember Harvey Korman.  He was priceless on the Carol Burnett Show.  Him and Tim Conway, comedy gold.  And he appeared in other Mel Brooks’ movies, like High Anxiety and Silent Movie.

Hedley Lamarr, you will be missed.

A few things that have been in my glass lately…

Merino Syrah Limari Valley 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  Dark cherries, dried herbs and minerals abound in this medium-bodied red wine.  A stunning red for around $20.

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast 2011.  Grade=Amazing.  Had this one recently with my wife, a couple of steaks and a great Spring night.  Big, rich, full-bodied, all you could ask for in a California Cab and then some.  Hands down one of my favorite Cabs.

Ridge Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains 2005.  Grade=Amazing.  Gorgeous, showing off golden honey, baked apple pie, pineapple and creamy vanilla.  Holding up exceptionally well.

Montes Alpha Pinot Noir Colchagua Valley 2007.  Grade=Outstanding.  A beautifully done Chilean Pinot Noir, light and dry with soft cherry fruit, cranberry, truffle and black pepper.

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir Colchagua Valley 2009.  Grade=Very Good.  Holding up nicely, this Chilean Pinot Noir has bright cherry and mulberry notes, dried herbs, light spices and black pepper.

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SETTING MY MUSES LOOSE: THE INFINITE STORYTELLER, PLUS A FOURSOME FROM SOUTH AFRICA

2014-03-21 21.32.18

Ever since I was ten, I have been carrying around in my head all these different story ideas.  I’ve always wanted to stop whatever it was I was doing, and try to commit a few of them to paper.  I tried to describe what it was like to someone the other day, having all these story ideas rolling around in my noggin.  I stated it thusly:  It is like walking into a major league baseball stadium, filled to capacity.  And every single person in the ball park is a story, screaming it out at the top of their lungs at me, all at once.  I walk around all day like that, all these stories yelling at me, trying to get my attention, wanting me to listen to it and document it.

My brain is a din of confusion, an unholy racket, and I rarely can hear myself think.  (And my wife wonders why I am always tuning out.)

This year the hope is that I can carve out enough time to work on a few of them, yet writing novels requires serious discipline.  Stephen King says you need to write about 10 pages a day every day to get a novel finished in a timely manner.  I think I may need to open my own Starbucks at home to keep me going at night anymore because once I get home from work, all I can seem to do is meld with the couch and become functionally oblivious.

Meanwhile, at one of the last Hit or Sh@& tastings at the store, I wheeled out some new South African wines:

Flagstone “Noon Gun” South Africa 2012.  Grade=Good.  A blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and something called Nouvelle (a cross between Semillon and Ugni Blanc).  A bit odd with hints of stemmy green fruits and course mineral.  Maybe a bad bottle?  Maybe needs to be fresher?

Flagstone “The Rumour Mill” Viognier South Africa 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  White peaches, apricots, white currants, mineral and a hint of petrol.  Very nice, light-bodied and fragrant.

Flagstone “Longitude” Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec South Africa 2011.  Grade=Very Good.  Chewy, medium-bodied red showing off tobacco, leather, black fruits and mineral.

Flagstone “Dragon Tree” Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz-Pinotage South Africa 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  Bold, chewy, full-bodied red with blackberry, mulberry, dried herbs, bacon fat and black pepper.

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MY TWO CENTS WON’T MATTER (BUT I’M THROWING THEM AT YOU ANYWAY): THE LIGHT AND THE DARK OF THE PARKER/ANTI-PARKER BROUHAHA, PLUS A QUICK CAPSULE REVIEW OF VINTNER SELECT’S SUPERRHONE-A-RIFIC 2012 SHOW

2014-03-19 15.01.05

I have tried to avoid chiming in on any recent debate amongst the wine writing elite, as my pithy opinions pale in comparison.  Though I am an industry insider, and I do have about 20 years of experience in the wine biz in one regard or another (retail, restaurant, etc.), I am still one of those ne’er-do-wells who sit upon the sidelines, always dreaming of getting into the big game, but alas, never getting the coach’s call.

There has been an infinite number of posts recently concerning a tasting in Napa Valley conducted by San Francisco Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonne and New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov, who led a panel of writers and wine geeks in a flight of Napa Valley wines which had nothing in common with the norm – more Bordeaux-like Cabs, unique white blends, and many others, with wines produced from the likes of Corison, Chappellet, Turley, Matthiasson, and others.

Robert Parker, the wine world’s equivalent to Rand Paul, was apparently dismissive of these wines, interjecting that they came off as “largely emaciated, excessively acidic, hollow wines.”  Of course, he wasn’t there – his lieutenants Jeb Dunnuck and Lisa Perrotti-Brown M.W. were in attendance.  This in turn has set off a firestorm of backlash against Wine Advocate, who have over the past two decades, have seemingly championed big, massive, highly-alcoholic fruit-bombs in lieu of everything else.  As polarizing as they may or may not have been in the business, it could be safely argued that the vast contingent of anti-Parker writers and bloggers have begun championing the exact opposite end of the wine flavor spectrum.

I think it is safe to say that trying to argue whether one taste profile is “better” than another would be as difficult as arguing what is the better color – blue, red, green, magenta, periwinkle – or perhaps an even more ridiculous and polarizing argument would be, what god is better – God, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, Shiva?  Talk about things ending up in bloodshed.

I get why Parker and his crew advocate the bigger wines – they are typically crowdpleasers, these big ass wines.  And I get why the uber-geeks and anti-Parker contingent go for the more acidic wines, with a presence so sharp you could cut somebody’s head off with them.  Acid freaks.  I count myself one of them.

Yet I am a retailer.  And in my experience, there has to be something for everybody.  And there is.  The world of wine is phenomenally diverse, extraordinarily so.

I’ve had customers who buy wines solely off points, thinking it is a matter of quality, and to some extent it is.  Yet the pretty wines, the acidic wines shouldn’t get big scores because the scores are designed to rank the amount of body a wine possesses.  A light-bodied wine, you should expect a lower score than a big ol’ Napa Cab.

Six years ago, I began this wine blog, in part to respond to, and in some ways retaliate against Parker and the like, myopically viewing the wine writing world as the old ones vs. the new ones (Parker et al were the old).  Over the past six years, I have turned my misplaced ire away from other writers and reviewers, reflecting inward, and focusing onward, abdicating the judging of my peers for the sake of a more diplomatic exploration of the grape and its impact on my customers and the microworld that is metro Cincinnati.  I have realized I cannot judge what happens in other parts of the country or world because I am not there, and I am not knowledgeable enough to pass judgment on anyone, nor would I want to do so.

I am by no means a journalist.  Writing a paltry little local wine blog does not a journalist make.  I am not in this for money.  I am in this for the love of wine and the wine business.  It is my job, and the job of my colleagues to help each and every customer find the right bottle of wine, for whatever occasion it may be – dinner, a celebration, a wedding, a gift – and whether it be a big ass fruit bomb, or something for the acid freak, or most likely something in-between, nothing is better than matching up the right wine with the right customer.  Points or no points, New World or Old, it’s all about the customer.

So, does that confuse you enough already?  Find out more about the fracas over at the great Terroirist blog site.

And speaking of the Wine Advocate, at least in a roundabout way.  My mentor, and original Party Source Wine Buyer David Schildknecht’s last gig before becoming a full-time writer at Wine Advocate, Vintner Select was hosting their annual Rhone tasting and Chateauneuf-du-Pape seminar.

Vintner Select always rocks a trade event.  Recently, I went up to the VS warehouse in Mason, Ohio with The Divine Miss M and Antonio Le Tigre for their 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape seminar and subsequent tasting.  In their kitchen, local chef David Cook was turning out ridiculous finger food like cups of mushroom risotto, lamb finger sandwiches and more, and at five tables, VS and Wines of France were demo’ing amazing reds, whites and pinks from the Rhone.

There was a lot of great wine (but I will hit the “amazing” highlights):

Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Chante Le Merle” 2012.  Grade=Amazing.  Timid, yet revealing some pretty complex notes of black and red currants, crushed stones, licorice, duck fat and dried herbs.

Domaine de la Charbonniere Vacqueryas Rouge 2012.  Grade=Amazing.  This may very well be my favorite Vacqueryas, a standout for the price.  Bold, zesty and full of body, showing off loads of mineral, black fruits, blueberries and crushed violets.

Domaine de la Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape Hautes Brusquieres 2012.  Grade=Amazing.  Black licorice, espresso, cigar box and leather notes emerge in this sweet-fruited, full-bodied wonder.  Just out-of-this-world right out-of-the-gate.  A decade will give this time to get even better.

Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012.  Grade=Amazing+.  What more can you say about this producer than they have become one of the best Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer, bar none.  Full-bodied, rich, seriously complex, this decadent monster lays on thick the bold fruits, dark spices, tobacco and mineral, yet still maintaining the grace and elegance of its pedigree.

Domaine Lafond Lirac Blanc 2013.  Grade=Amazing.  Primarily Grenache Blanc, this pretty much brought my palate back from the dead with its pretty backbone of acidity, lively notes of lemons and peaches, and supple mineral characters.

Domaine Lafond Tavel Rosé 2013.  Grade=Amazing.  The quintessential rosé from the Rhone, this is yet again, a stunning effort.  Bright acidity tethered by fresh and lively notes of strawberries, raspberries and mineral.

Domaine Olivier Hillaire Chateauneuf-du-Pape Petits Pieds d’Armand 2012.  Grade=Amazing+.  May have been my favorite of the day.  Big, bold and full-bodied, yet still demonstrating its shyness.  Gorgeous notes of crushed violets, licorice, blackberries and dried herbs.

Domaine Moulin-Tacussel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012.  Grade=Amazing.  A bit new to the Wines of France portfolio, and a remarkable new edition, this phenomenal red is predominantly Grenache, exhibiting classic CDP styles of dark red fruits, dried herbs and saddle leather, with a freshness and a verve unequaled.  Bold and robust, finishing gorgeously.

Some other standouts were the Chateau Sixtine CDPs, the Domaine de a Cote de l’Ange CDP Tradtion 2012, and the very cool Cros de Romet Cairanne Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages Rouge 2012.  With over 50 wines total, there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.  Clearly Vintner Select continues batting a thousand.

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DAYS OF PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE TENSE: WELL-WISHES FOR AN INDUSTRY FRIEND, PLUS VINTNER SELECT’S 2012 CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE SEMINAR WITH WINES OF FRANCE

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The wine business ebbs and flows with the ferocity of a hurricane at times, and good people transition from job to job, and from one quintessential moment in their lives to the next.  Still, I was more than a bit surprised to see on the WineBusiness.com website, Cinnabar’s Suzanne Frontz was retiring.

I have always been a huge fan of Cinnabar, a terrific California winery hailing from the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, and of course, with a name like Cinnabar, the closet geologist in me gets pretty excited.

I met Suzanne twice in my career, yet hadn’t seen her in a few years.  Both times I was at Mordor, in 2010 and 2011.  Suzanne was always passionate about her wares, the Cinnabar wines I mean.  And it was a pleasure to host her in our humble little wine store back then.  I hope she drops in on me her next visit out to this part of the country, in whatever capacity and whatever aspect of the wine industry she may be in.  Wishing you well on your newest endeavor, Suzanne!

And in keeping with a similar subject, Cinnabar’s distributor here in the Tri-State, Vintner Select, recently hosted their 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape seminar, with Wines of France’s John Junguenet.  On deck were some of the latest releases from some of the Rhone’s best producers:

Chateau Fortia Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvee du Baron” Rouge 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  Lighter than I expected, soft and clean red fruits, earthy spices and hints of dried herbs and roasted game.  45% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre.

Clos des Brusquières Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding+.  80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvedre, 4% Cinsault and 1% 9 other grapes, this is full-bodied, spicy and intriguing with dark fruits, black and pink peppercorns, baking spices, bacon fat, roasted game and provençal herbs.  In the running for my favorite of the day.

Bosquet des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Tradition” Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding+.  75% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 1.5% Cinsault and 1.5% Counoise.  Loads of red fruits, baking spices, dried herbs, cloves, crushed violets, and roasted venison.  Incredible.

Domaine Tour Saint Michel Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Cuvee du Lion” Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre.  Has a really big black grape skin nose, with softer dark plum and black cherry notes, light spices.  It’s clean, fresh-fruited and really subdued.  Needs some time.

Chateau Sixtine Chateauneuf-du-Pape Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  40% Grenache, 35% Mourvedre, and 25% Syrah.  Black cherries, dark plums, bacon fat, leather, tobacco, earthen spices, mineral and black and pink peppercorns.  Youthful, showing loads of promise.

Mas de Boislauzon Chateauneuf-du-Pape “Tradition” Rouge 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  75% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah – Black cherries, mountain berries, cocoa, cloves, pork fat, white pepper, this is a medium-to-full-bodied marvel, young yet demonstrating complexity already.  Should be amazing once bottled and settled.

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THE UNIVERSE IS BOTH BIG AND SMALL, ALL AT ONCE: A MOMENTARY SERENDIPITY, AND BROTHER LOU HITS THE BAR WITH JOHN KRAUSHAAR FROM MERRYVALE

2014-03-20 14.23.39

Last year, I wrote about the passing of a friend, Ed Langdon, and how despite having known him only a few days, he made me feel as if I had known him my whole life.  I met him on one of my trips to Washington State, brother-in-law to Brother Lou, and his passing was a real shock.  Recently, his wife Barbara – Brother Lou’s sister – was in town, and Brother Lou invited me over to his house to have a glass of wine with him and his sister.

It had been a long time since I last saw Barb.  She seemed in great spirits, and it was great to reminisce a bit, and hear how she was doing.

I haven’t been feeling all that great about myself lately.  It’s funny when the darkness sometimes overtakes the light, but it happens, particularly to folks like me.  So it was an incredibly meaningful thing when Barb told me just how my little post about Ed had touched so many people in their family.  My little tribute to her late husband, a man a barely knew, had an impact I had not expected, and it meant so much to hear it meant something to them, the words I used to describe such an amazing individual as Ed Langdon.

In a world where so much hatred and disrespect is spewed forth, whether in social media, on TV, or just anywhere in public you may go, it’s good to know saying a few kind words can make a difference to others.

If we could only view each other as Ed did, maybe we may find something closer to peace.

Meanwhile, Brother Lou recently paid a visit to the Wine Bar with John Kraushaar from Merryvale Vineyards & Starmont Winery.

Starmont Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  Light, crisp and delicious.  Shows off a bit of creaminess toward the finish.  Meyer lemon, jalapeno skin, guava and white grapefruit.

Starmont Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley 2013.  Grade=Outstanding.  Leaner with more acidity.  Lemon curd, melon, lime, pineapple and quince.

Starmont Chardonnay Napa Valley 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  Slightly buttery with vanilla cream, apple pie and pineapple notes.

Starmont Pinot Noir Carneros 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  Loads of cherry and mulberry fruit aromas and flavors, hints of black pepper, truffle, mushroom and dried herbs.

Starmont Merlot Carneros 2012.  Grade=Outstanding.  Blue-fruited, full-bodied with great balance of acidity.

Starmont Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009.  Grade=Outstanding.  Full-bodied, rich, loaded with chocolate, blackberries and tobacco notes.

Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009.  Grade=Outstanding+.  Big, rich, unctuous Cab, full-bodied, velvety tannins, dense notes of black currants, blackberries, dark plums, pepper and leather.

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GAINING SOME GROUND AND LOSING MORE SANITY: KYMBER TYMBER GOES AUSTRIAN ON THE WHINO, PLUS A HEADS-UP ON THINGS TO COME

2014-03-20 14.02.11

Interviewing someone is a weird affair.  I am not talking about interviewing someone for a job, that’s an entirely different animal all together.  No, I am talking about a serious journalistic endeavor.  Interviewing some luminary in the wine business.  I’ve done two interviews during the course of my six years of doing this blog – Alice Feiring, natural wine activist, and Kristin Belair, winemaker for Honig Winery.

To say that I am on par with great interviewers like Charlie Rose or that dude from Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton, would be like declaring Justin Bieber the next Mother Teresa.  Yet you learn from your mistakes.  And the key I think is more to listen to what the interviewee has to say.

I got to interview winemaker Carol Shelton in the store recently.  And while that post is yet to come, I learned something very valuable.  If you shut up, turn off your own ego, and listen, you just might learn something.

Meanwhile, from the my-ass-is-so-far-behind files, Kymber dropped in with some Austrian wines from Hopler:

Hopler Pinot Blanc Burgenland 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  Fairly clean and crisp, with bright minerality, green apple and hints of lime.

Hopler Gruner Veltliner Burgenland 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  Savory characters of daikon and chayote mix it up with crisp, tart stone fruit and mineral notes.

Hopler Gruner Veltliner Guttenberg 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  Seeing some wood aging, this is pretty brilliant with hints of golden delicious apples, Bartlett pears and lemon cream.

Hopler Pinot Noir Burgenland 2009.  Grade=Good.  Very earthy, very minerally, with sour cherry, dried leaves and forest floor.

Hopler Blaufrankisch Burgenland 2008.  Grade=Very Good.  Juicier and friendlier than the Pinot Noir, with bright cherry and red plum skin, a touch of baking spice, truffle and light-roasted coffee beans.

Look for my interview with Carol Shelton, plus notes from my recent 2012 Chateauneuf-du-Pape tasting at Vintner Select, the DTK Trade Show, wines from Merryvale, Bella Sela, Flagstone, and much more.

wine reviews

UNDER MOUNTAINS AND MOLEHILLS: CATCHING UP TO THE PACK WITH A TRIO OF ITALIANS VIA KYMBER TYMBER AND MY BROTHER FROM ANOTHER MOTHER, SIGNORE RUDY BASILE

2014-03-20 14.33.03

A lot has been going on here at TPS.  It has been absolutely crazy.  Or maybe I am just in the middle of my midlife crisis.  Yet I have been super bogged down recently and have gotten a bit behind in my blogging (a term which will forever sound to me like masturbating).

The most recent Tuesday onslaught of sales reps, Kymber Tymber dropped in with three great wines from my brother, Rudy Basile of Vias Imports:

Del Cerro Rosso di Montepulciano 2011.  Grade=Outstanding+.  A dense, full-bodied Sangiovese, loaded with black cherry, rosemary, mineral and earthen spices.  Needs a hearty meal to accompany it.

Produtorri del Barbaresco Nebbiolo Langhe 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  Gorgeous, young Nebbiolo, with all its tannic charm, sowing black currant, licorice, espresso and leather.

Produtorri del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2007.  Grade=Amazing.  Arguably one of the best producers of Barbaresco, this is super sexy, chewy black and red fruits, smoky leather and black pepper.

commentary personal wine reviews

SHE WAS A GOOD DOG: REQUIEM FOR MAGGIE, REMEMBRANCES OF MY SECOND HOME, AND IRISH T SWINGS A THREESOME

2014-03-20 14.28.33 2014-03-20 14.35.46

I have really gotten behind in all my blogging duties as of late.  Looking through my tasting notes, I have two trade events and nearly a dozen vendor visits to get to – I am a derelict.  Last week was a bit rough.  My mom had come to the sad realization her dog, Maggie, was too sick to go on, so she had to put her to sleep.  My mom has been a very loving mother to Maggie, a terrier mix she adopted from a local shelter.  Maggie was one of the sweetest dogs on earth, not a hateful bone in her body.

It’s hard to say goodbye to your pet when they have been such an integral part of your life for so long.  They are your children.  Knowing how hard it would be for Mom, and that I wanted to say goodbye to Maggie as well, I drove up to Dayton to be with them, and help Mom lay Maggie to rest.

Maggie’s final resting place would be my Uncle Tim’s place outside of Xenia, Ohio, a place that was like a second home to me growing up.  I am ashamed to say I haven’t seen my Uncle since my cousin Mark (his second son) was getting married twenty+ years ago.  My Uncle Tim was a second dad to me as I grew up with his sons Tim Jr., Mark (only three days younger than me) and Brian.  Backyard football and softball, bike riding, something we did as kids called Alaskan Voyage, and eventually forming a rock band.

Cousin Tim became an engineer, Mark a mechanic and Brian a firefighter and EMT (and now a lawyer), and their baby sister, Kelly, who I helped babysit (and terrorize) is now a nurse.  Uncle Tim and my Aunt Elaine have been together almost 50 years, and their kids have begat 14 grandkids.  A big family I unfortunately missed most of, and regret terribly.

Seeing Uncle Tim again brought back a lot of memories, mostly good, some sad, some ridiculous.  Playing music in the old barn in the dead of winter, set up around the tiniest space heater – we’d play a bit, huddle around the heater, play a bit more, huddle some more, and so on – a barn now gone, replaced by Uncle Tim’s woodworking shop, was home to many games of basketball, games I was totally schooled by Tim and Mark, and most of the neighbors.

The place was almost unrecognizable, as Uncle Tim had planted pine trees years ago, now towering high into the sky, majestically protecting their home.  It would be beneath one of those colossal pines Maggie would come to rest, silently keeping watch over the Brennaman family, finally at peace.

It was an incredible thing Uncle Tim did for my mom, his sister.  Maggie has been such an important part of her life, and all our lives.  She will be missed, terribly missed.

Finding my thoughts back at the store, the last two week’s at the Bar have been a whirlwind, with two Tuesdays ago a veritable wine rep blitzkrieg, beginning with Irish T and a red wine threesome from Perrin Family and Freeman:

Freeman Pinot Noir Akiko’s Cuvee 2009.  Grade=Amazing.  Soft and supple presence on the palate, bright cherries, dark plum, earth spices, mushroom and black tea leaves.

Perrin Family Cotes-du-Rhone Reserve 2010.  Grade=Very Good.  Juicy red blend of Grenache and Syrah, medium-bodied with hints of black pepper, strawberry, red currant and leather.

Perrin Family Crozes-Hermitage 2010. Grade=Amazing.  Bold, full-bodied Syrah, dark cherry, hints of black olive, white pepper, mineral and roasted meats.

 

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