Archive for January, 2011
I’m going through something of a Zinfandel reawakening here in Day-twah, and more than a little of it has to do with the good things we’ve tasted from Wine Guerrilla in the last month. Sure, we still love our Mr. Ridge and drink them pretty regularly, but other than those, there have been precious few Zins coming through the door here at Gang Central over the last few years. Had we known what Bruce Patch and David Caffaro were up to, we would have made a point of paying them a visit and getting the lowdown from them directly when we were out left last spring. The ironic part of all this is that we actually stopped in at Caffaro’s place on Dry Creek Road to pick up wine for our buddy Frank Joyce in late April.
There wouldn’t even have been any “oh wells” or “if onlys” had Patch not gotten wind of us and sent some wine for us to try, which we quite liked and reported accordingly. Then, as these things often happen, I ran into three bottles of Wine Guerrilla Zinfandel at retail last week here in the Detroit area and did not hesitate to pick them up and give them a try, and guess what? These are quite good too, and being from the ’07 and ’08 vintage, they’ve given us a good read on how the wines do with a year or two in bottle, which is to say, very well indeed. Here are our impressions of what we tried.
We continued our survey of late model Beaujolais by accepting a dinner invitation from our friends Ken and Jean Schramm. Besides having written THE book on home mead making, The Compleat Meadmaker, Ken is also a home brewer, fruit grower, bee keeper and, yes, wine lover. He had been looking for the chance to pull the corks from several bottles that he’d acquired lately, and finally found the window of opportunity last week. The first three or four selections made fine pairings for Jean’s delightful roast chicken dinner, and those that followed were equally fine on their own. Also in attendance were Ken and Jean’s daughter Sarah, Leo Carey and Tom Bloomer. We got things started with another offering from 20-year-old Damien Coquelet, whom we wrote about in our last entry.
This mid winter release is uninspiring to say the least. It showcases the wines of Chile, not that Chilean wines are not stimulating, but my notes are minimal as palate fatigue took its toll. Anyway, please read on because as always, there is a gem or two to be found.
Slowly, but surely, more and more people seem to be coming to the realization that the once much-maligned Gamay grape, when crafted by small batch, artisanal vignerons, is capable of producing heavenly wines. Some of these come from France’s Loire Valley, and our friend Steve Edmunds is producing some very tasty versions in California, but no region is better known for Gamay than Beaujolais. The best wines come from ten Crus, or appellations in the Beaujolais mountains, and of those, our favorite is Morgon, which turns out some of the deepest, darkest wines in the entire region. Our first choice among those has for several years now been Jean Foillard’s Morgon Côte du Py, but there are several other bottlings we’ve discovered that give it a run for its money. One of those comes from the amazing 20-year-old Damien Coquelet. From a recent email offering from Garagista Jon Rimmerman:
Long time readers might be surprised that we’re going into our fourth month of the current National Hockey League season and I’m only now posting my first Red Wings and Red Rhônes entry of the campaign. Truth to tell, I’m a little surprised myself. The lapse isn’t due to any lagging enthusiasm for either Detroit’s skaters or those big, hearty reds from southern France; au contraire, both are still near and dear to my heart. The simple fact of the matter is that a lot of other things have been laid on our plate and when you got ‘em, you gotta go with what’s timely. Still, we’ve been enjoying some really nice red Rhône selections so timely is as timely does. We’ve been getting to know a great little Côtes du Rhône QPR All Star really well over the last few weeks, and recently, I ran into an old friend still available at its original release price, a real rarity these days. We’re always happy to try new wines the Perrin family of Chateau Beaucastel fame, and we’ve also included notes on two white Rhônes, just for the halibut. Here submitted for your consideration is my first Rhône-down of the new year, and it most assuredly won’t be the last.
As far as I can tell, Stark-Condé isn’t any more a household name here in the US now than when I last reviewed six of their wines a little over four years ago. They were distributed here in the Detroit area back then; I actually sold them in a wine department I managed at that time, but I don’t see much of them in my travels these days. Stark-Condé Wines is a family-run winery, operated by graphic designer-become winemaker José Condé, with total production of less than 3000 cases yearly. Their intent is “to make carefully crafted wines that speak with personality of a particular place” (all grapes are sourced from their “Oude Nektar” farm vineyards in Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch), but for my tastes, they could come from a variety of regions around the world, so “internationally” styled are they.
I was pleased to see these three in a box of review samples that we recently received from our friends at Vineyard Brands, because I enjoyed those that we’d surveyed previously. Now, as then, they seem to show more in the way of “house style” than any “sense of place,” and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Happy New Year and welcome to Vintage’s “Smart Buys” issue, one that puts affordable wines on the shelf to help relieve the stress after buying all those high end wines from previous releases. Is quality a factor with these bargain basement prices? In many cases yes, but nonetheless, trust me; there are a few gems that will make the trip to your local store on Saturday morning worthwhile.
Wines from the “Smart Buys” release.
467951 ALAMOS MALBEC 2009 Mendoza, Argentina $13.95
Always a bargain, no complexity, but plenty of black fruit flavours, a touch of mineral and gentle tannins. Acidity is lively and the finish is clean. Find this wine
016071 MONTES LIMITED SELECTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON/CARMENÈRE 2008 Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley, Chile $14.95
Sweet aromas combine with Moroccan spice, black cherry, currant and dried herbs. Nice oomph on the palate, some tannin, but none to offensive and a balanced and juicy finish. Find this wine
We’ve been fans of Louis/Dressner-LDM wines for several years now. We admire their devotion to naturally made, small batch artisanal producers, and while I can’t say that we’ve never had a bad wine from them, those have been few and far between. So, when we ran across these three from Three Trees, we were intrigued; when the salesman, who has never steered us wrong before described them as “awesome,” we were sold. Unfortunately, the wines themselves didn’t quite live up to that lofty, if overused, descriptor. Read on to see why.
Last month, we were contacted by Bruce Patch, head honcho at a Sonoma County outfit called Wine Guerrilla, asking where he might send samples for review. Patch, who spent most of his career in the music industry, moved to Sonoma in 1997 and started up a wine brokerage firm; eventually, he decided to turn Wine Guerrilla into his own label, with the mission of “Finding the very best zinfandel grapes, and crafting wines worthy of the grape’s unique characteristics, and introducing those wines to the public.” This strikes longtime lovers of the variety such as us a noble endeavor, and being mentored by no less than David Coffaro is certainly a bonus for Patch’s operation.
We’ve never been much for wine clubs. The only one we’ve ever participated in was Ridge’s ATP program, and even as dearly as we love our Mr. Ridge, not every one of those selections rose to kind of uniformly high quality that justified the shipping and Chicago storage locker expense, and after a few years, we canceled our membership. We’ve felt that while wine clubs are certainly a good idea in principle, in practice, it’s often another matter. So, we were most intrigued when we heard that our friend, Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon, and her wine team at Matt Prentice Restaurant Group, had started the Mad Crush wine club. (Mad = Madeline, get it?)
The club offers a variety of monthly plans with cute names like Playful Duo, Playful Quartet and Splurge All-Red Duo, priced between $30-50. There are also one-time shots, such as the package of six well-priced Bordeaux for $79 that we decided to try. When Madeline says “Trust me, trust us,” we do, without qualification, so we ponied up the cash and tasted these over the course of a week and a half. All of them are imported by our friends at A.H.D. Vintners in Warren, Michigan, a testament not only to the good footwork they’ve done in Bordeaux, but also to the fact that there are still plenty of fine selections to be had for very reasonable prices.