Archive for June, 2017

Doon Moon Yay

Pinot Meunier is hardly a household name among casual wine drinkers, but wine “geeks” and those in the biz know it to be a red grape in the Pinot family that is one of the three main varieties employed in the making of Champagne. While rarely used by itself to make wines of any kind, there is a small group of grower-producers in Champagne who are bucking that trend, as Eric Asimov reported in late 2012. There are also the very occasional still wines, in both red and rosé hues. We had a nice red version from WillaKenzie back in the late 90s, and another from Flowers around that same time that was good, but sadly never made it into these pages.

I was quite excited to find out recently that our friends at Bonny Doon Vineyard had a Pinot Meunier in their book, and even more excited when our friends at Western Market in Ferndale started stocking it on their shelves. Needless to say, we were the first kids on our block to try this one, and we liked it so well, we had to go back for more.

2015 Bonny Doon Vineyard Pinot Meunier Yountville, 13% alc., $25.99: Smoky ruby garnet color; throws a very pretty nose that’s like a blend of cranberry and cherry, with hints of rhubarb lurking here and there and a subtle perfume a little reminiscent of Foillard and Breton Morgons tasted a while back. There’s plenty more of the same on the smooth, rich, almost creamy palate; luscious in the mouth, this gives immediate, and for me, immense pleasure. Still, it’s deceptively well-structured, on a medium-to-medium-full bodied frame to develop over at least the next five years. The wine offers excellent value for the Western Market price, especially considering that Bonny Doon sells it for $30. Most definitely a turkey/duck kind o’ wine, and I’m betting that it’ll work pretty well with smoked grilled chicken as well. Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,

Bastardo

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A Splendid Terry Theise Tasting

These days, I don’t do as many big tastings as I used to. I’m not engaged in wine retail on a daily basis, so I don’t have to be as up-to-the-minute on all the latest releases as I once was, and, frankly, I just don’t like spitting. From the very beginning, Gang of Pour’s motto has been “Nunquam Spuemus,” faux-Latin for “never spit,” and while I fully understand the importance of expectoration at these events, it just doesn’t spit…, I mean sit well with me.

Furthermore, when I do attend one of these events, after a certain point, something like “palate fatigue” sets in. It’s not that my buds stop working, exactly, it’s more a case of simply getting tired of tasting multiple selections on the fly over a period of a few hours, so more often than not, I simply say “No thanks,” stay home and play music.

Every once in a while, however, something comes along that’s just too good to miss, kind of like when one of my very favorite bands, Elephant Revival, blew in to play Otus Supply in Ferndale a few months ago. If these folks come anywhere near where we live, I’m there to hear them, because they’re just so good.

Such was the case last week, when the Terry Theise Estate Selections 2017 Fall Offering was held at, how about that, Otus Supply in Ferndale! Theise is a wine author and a leading importer of high quality wines from Germany, Austria and Champagne. In previous years, one had to travel to Chicago for this event, so a lot of his local fans and followers were really pleased to have this opportunity to try the latest offerings much closer to home. I heard about this tasting from my friends Kimberly Hartnett Bricker of Imperial Beverage and Western Market’s Jarred Gild, and after giving it just a little consideration, I decided this was one that was not to be missed. I’ve had just enough experience with wines from the Theise portfolio to have a good idea of what was going to be poured, and the venue offered a great setting for this walk-around.

(As a brief aside, I should mention that Otus Supply has become our new favorite restaurant in the greater Day-twah area. We’ve been there four times for dinner in the past few months, and the food is always top-notch. The wine list is small, but focused, the excellent craft beer selection is rather larger, rotating on a regular basis, and while I don’t do cocktails, I have it on good authority that they have that area covered really well too. They also have the very cool ongoing music series that brought in the aforementioned Elephant Revival, so these folks are doing a lot of things right.)

My intention was to not even try and taste through everything being poured, but rather, to try some very specific selections from certain producers and look for a few surprises as well. As it turned out, that was the perfect plan for my two-hour investment, and yes, I spit everything I tasted. Pretty much…

All prices given are based on presale listings, with standard markup from my retail days. Your mileage may vary. I’ve also taken the liberty of using Theise’s own comments about producers and individual wines to flesh out this report. (I love his use of musical analogies to describe some of the wines.) I decided to start with a German sparkler, then move on to some Austrian wines. My notes and impressions are necessarily brief, because of time limitations and the number of selections tasted.

2013 Eugen Müller Sekt, Forster Pechstein Riesling Brut, $28.99: Crisp, rich and lively; nice depth and good underlying mineral. I could drink this on a regular basis. Find this wine

TT: Müller is an old-school German estate selling mostly to a base of private customers, and to local taverns and restaurants. They aren’t “trendy.” But the current proprietor Stefan Müller’s father, Kurt, was also cellar master at a venerable Forst estate, long out of business (but whose wines I sold in my early days) called Wilhelm Spindler, and when the old gentleman died his widow leased the best vineyards to Kurt as a reward for his service and loyalty.

It helps to have truly exceptional land. And when you find a grower like this, you can score terroir-saturated wines of impeccable aristocracy, yet the prices are most gentle and the folks are super down to earth.

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New From Left Foot Charley

It’s always a treat to get the first taste of new releases from our favorite producers, be they bold Zins from California, brawny blends from the Rhone Valley and, yes, crisp whites from Michigan. We’ve followed Bryan Ulbrich’s Left Foot Charley up in Traverse City from their inception, and they have consistently remained at the top of our short list of preferred producers from “the mitten.” We got our first taste of these two noted here at the recent Michigan Wine Showcase in Day-twah, and while we liked what we tasted, we didn’t get the opportunity to spend a little time with them to get to know them better. I’m happy to announce that they are now available at Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room in Auburn Hills and Holiday Market in Royal Oak, where I picked up the bottles reviewed here.

LFC’s Island View Vineyard Pinot Blanc has been one of our two or three favorite Michigan wines since we first tasted the ‘06 from tank back in 2007, and we bought every vintage in quantities until 2015. That was when Ulbrich was unable to bottle from this site exclusively, because of seriously lower yields, due to the brutal winter of 2013-14. His solution was to combine what could be harvested from Island View with two adjacent Pinot Blanc plots and come up with a very good 2014 “Island View Corner” bottling that would seem to have given him the idea that there might be enough good fruit to be had from other vineyards to create a second LFC Pinot Blanc, once the original plot had recovered to once again make the single vineyard bottling. That time has come, and here’s what he came up with.

2016 Left Foot Charley Pinot Blanc Old Mission Peninsula, 13% alc., $17.99: Clean, medium color, with a pleasantly inviting nose of green apple and citrus; flavors echo, being a little tart on the tongue, with some underlying mineral and a very subtle herbaceous quality. Medium body, with great acids and good length, this is the kind of dry white that I like to drink, and really has me itching to try the soon-to-be-released 2016 LFC Island View Pinot Blanc.
LFC: “This Pinot Blanc is a blend of three excellent young vineyard sites on Old Mission Peninsula. We fermented each lot independently to get a feel for their respective terroir contributions. Each was fermented in stainless steel. The three work very well to bring a complement of fresh apple and pear qualities with a firm but well layered palate. We expect this Pinot Blanc to develop more complexity in the bottle over the next two years.” Find this wine

Bryan Ulbrich LOVES Riesling, and it shows in each and every bottling his urban winery has produced since its inception. My personal favorite is the Seventh Hill Farm.

2013 Left Foot Charley Seventh Hill Farm Riesling Old Mission Peninsula, 11.3% alc., $19.99: Pale in color, with no floaties of any kind; the pleasant, if not overly effusive nose offers not-quite-equal parts citrus mineral and petrol. Things pick up nicely on the palate with rich medium-dry Riesling character, and the slightly oily texture makes this seem a little more than medium bodied, with racy acids and good length on the finish. I was wondering how this might compare with the brilliant 2012 Seventh Hill Farm Riesling, but that one set a mighty high bar, so this one will have to settle for being “merely” really tasty, and cellar time is likely to allow it to evolve into something even better.
LFC: “We took a very relaxed approach with this Riesling in 2013 and it has been aging in our cellar for two years in the bottle. The vintage delivered an edge that needed to be softened. We let this part of the vineyard ride a very slow fermentation throughout the stillness of winter and spring. The long aging with the yeast gave the wine a rounded counterpart to the fruity acid. It’s different than any Riesling we have made from this site. Rather like nectarine jam over a soft English muffin – no butter of course.”
Find this wine

I’ll be going back for more of these little lovelies, both of which are very food friendly, and a delight to serve as both aperitifs and back deck sippers.

Reporting from Day-twah,

Bastardo

Mr. Ridge Goes Back To Mudgies

Our soul sister Christina Donley made her annual visit to Day-twah to promote the wines of Ridge Vineyards a few weeks ago, and when we caught wind that she would be presiding over a tasting at Mudgies Deli & Wine Shop, we made a point of clearing the time on our schedules so that we would be in attendance. I reported on another way cool Ridge tasting at Mudgies last year, and it’s clear that owner Greg Mudge is as much a fan as we are, so this was bound to be a fun event.

We arrived to find Greg holding court behind the bar, which was lined with bottles of the selections we’d be tasting. Christina was interacting with guests in the room, with more-than-able assistance from Great Lakes Wines and Spirits super-reps Monica Wilde and Rebecca Poling. We were greeted with glasses of Chardonnay and I pulled out my trusty pen and note pad and started tasting and scribbling.

2015 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay Monte Bello Vineyard, 14.5% alc., $54: This exudes a ripe apple-pear and sweet oak bouquet that’s a bit toasty, and I like that. Rich, fairly ripe flavors echo and expand on the promise of the nose so nicely; the wine is full bodied, with great depth, balance and acidity and very good length. Christina says that the oak, mostly neutral American, with some French, has been toned down some over the past few years, and it shows. This is as fine a Ridge Estate Chardonnay as I can remember tasting, and a delight to sip on as the event gets started. Find this wine

Monica pulled the following selection from her “wine closet” and brought it along to contrast and compare with the 2015.

2007 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay Monte Bello Vineyard, 14.7% alc.: The clean, medium color gives no telltale signs of its age, and while the nose is not nearly as exuberant as that on the ’15, it does give just a hint of something like caramel. Surprisingly fresh on the palate, super silky, and showing no secondary characteristics, it’s all lovely apple-pear laced with a little mineral. Full bodied; the acids are still racy and there’s nice length on the finish. Find this wine

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