2017-03-01 - Good Day to Work in the Drinks Industry: Jon-David Headrick Selections Tasting, Plus Some Trillium, Barrington Coffee Roasters, Good Company and Lobster for Lunch
Today was pretty good day in the drinks industry, as I had the opportunity to get out of the office and mingle with some industry associates, hit a high profile tasting, and visit a couple of my favorite locals in Boston for lunch - and a resupply of beer.
The tasting trip was through Winebow, CT, with myself, my local rep and sales manager, plus a local retailer whom I work with on events. The tasting was the annual Jon-David Headrick Selections tasting at Island Creek Oyster Bar on Commonwealth Ave. Been here many times, of course, but it is always a great venue as they just keep pumping out the freshest shucked oysters and the biggest shrimp to munch on, so kudos the ICOB.
Jon-David Headrick Selections is a portfolio of wines within the Eric Solomon / European Cellars import catalog, and the on-premise community (if you are not familiar) should take notice, here. I think many of the "in" folks in big city wine communities are veryt well aware of this portfolio, as there were at least a few Master Somms as well as other high profile buyers in the crowd.
Why is the JDH portfolio significant to the CTSomm Community? Well, in part it may not be when you consider the average wine drinker at the average suburban restaurant just wants a load of fruit in their wine, and is really not concerned with purity, elegant intensity of minerality, and focused, terroir specific expressions. It is significant for buyers/drinkers that want to explore unique flavors in balanced, hand-made wines from producers who know their soils, hillsides and vines like the back of their hands.
From my quick assessment of the wines, there are a lot of wines in this portfolio that are very interesting to taste, but I might find to be a challenge to actually drink through a full bottle, at least if not accompanied by food. On the flip side, there were some beautiful expressions that could compliment any wine program if directed by the right person(s). These are truly wines that reflect their place of origin, sometimes right down to the barn where the tractor is kept (but in a good way).
Here are a couple highlights that I see as being worthy to seek out, no matter what the consumer base you might be working with...
Louis de Grenelle Crémant de Loire "Platine", nv - delicious sparkler.
I also liked the "Louis" organic , and the 3/7.7.4 - but I still do not get the label or even how to say the name of the wine - and the Saumur Sparkling "Corail".
Champagne Francoise Bedel Brut "Entre Ciel et Terre", nv, and the Brut "L'Ame de la Terre", 2005 - both just beautiful expressions of grower style Champagne. Earthy and rich, with the 2005 showing a controlled but balanced edge of oxidation, that adds fullness and length to the wine.
For the non-sparklers, I particularly enjoyed several of the 2016 releases. I think this is a reflection of the vintage, which saw much improved weather toward the end of the growing season and the harvest essentially being under very good conditions for the most part (click here to see vintage notes). This is contrary to what has been the case for the better part of five years in the Loire, so growers were happy and the wines are showing much bigger and better balanced fruit profiles than the previous vintages.
Some 2016s to take note of are:
Domaine de la Fruitiere Folle Blanche, 2016 - lovely smooth fruit on the palate with a round full palate feel. Also look for the 2016 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine "Gneiss du Bel Abord" - fat puppy.
Jean–François Mérieau Sauvignon de Touraine "Les Arpents des Vaudons", 2016 - from older vines, and it shows in the depth and concentration.
Michel Delhommeau Muscadet de Sevre et Maine "Saint Vincent", 2016 - yes, there are other expressions in the line-up from Delhommeau, but the least expensive is the one I come back to over and over again for its rich fruit and juicy acids.
Claude Riffault Sancerre Blanc "Les Desmalets", 2016 - one of the many single vineyards expressions from this producer, who has a huge reputation. I found this to be expressive and elegant, with a rich and full palate that I think will develop well over the next few years. This wine is a rock star.
Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Blanc "La Grande Ours", 2016 - clean and just plain good.
For slightly older wines, I was particularly taken with the following:
Damien Laureau Savenniers - shown was two 2014s - "Les Genêts" and "Bel Ouvrage"
All I can really say is "Wow". These wines are something else. Each reflecting the different soil types they are grown on. I was particularly impressed with the slight touch of oak, especially on the Bel Ouvrage.
Sweet wine - Clos de L'Elu Coteaux du Layon Chaume 1er Cru, 2014 - not one of the most perfect dessert styles I have had, but for the money this is a delicious, nearly decadent wine that will satisfy discerning wine drinkers and novices, alike.
And then there was the older vintage releases from Domaine du Viking. 2003, 2002, 1995 and 1989 for Vouvray Sec Tendre and Cuvee Auriele. It was great to see the evolution of these wines and how the Chenin ages. I have tasted older expressions in the past, and these wines held steady with what I have experienced with other producers. One wine stood out for me, though - the 1995, "Cuvee Auriele", really was very well balanced, showed lovely fruit balanced by juicy acids.
There were a couple tables of reds on offer, and all were very good to taste as they have become a bit of a hit with the darling crowd. But, I just am not finding too much here that will work in more mainstream locations. Don't get me wrong, these are expressive and balanced, but many show too much of the earth and barn that they may have originated in for more mainstream drinkers.
I liked the Jean–François Mérieau Touraine Cot "Cent Visages", 2014 and the Touraine "Alliance des Generations", 2011, but I think that I will have to wait to see what the 2016 vintages of these wines offers. The other stand out red for me is the Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon Rouge "Le Temps des Cerises", 2016. This showed really smooth fruit on the palate, wrapped around juicy tannins, and all for a very reasonable price.
Community - this portfolio from Jon-David Headrick, and the Eric Solomon/European Cellars portfolio at large, is a treasure of site-specific, extremely localized wines that read like a geophysical map more than a wine list. Each is a true expression of the place and the persons responsible for their existence. These producers are (for the most part) not looking for the limelight. They are looking to put forth true reflections of the land they work and are not following trends - maybe setting them, but definitely not following. Get to know these wines when possible and spread the word.
Oh yeah, we lunched at Row 34, bought cans of beer at Trillium, and caffeinated at Barrington Coffee Roasters - all on Congress Street in the Fort Point area of Boston. Good times and easy back on the Pike.
Richard Luftig came by the office today. Who is Richard Luftig, you might ask?
He is the owner/winemaker of Pied à Terre wines, now producing out of Sonoma. In short, Richard is restaurant buyer from New York who decided to make some wine due to the fact that he was having trouble finding the quality he was looking for on the general market - basically without over paying (in his opinion). This is a sentiment that I share and often (as I work in a similar position) I cannot find the right wine or the style I need - but at the RIGHT PRICE!
So Richard wet to Napa and began making with with Steve Matthiasson. Two things happened: Napa got really expensive and Steve Matthiasson started getting really famous. So Richard went to Sonoma, where he was able to secure quality wine and a location to make his wines, but with the overall goal achieved of keeping prices in line with his philosophy. This shows in his wines.
Today I tasted two offerings: the Pied à Terre Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County, 2013, and the Pied à Terre Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County, 2014.
First The Cab...
The first thing that hits you is the nose. It is rich and full with dark, ripe fruit - leaning to an inky edge with briary and jammed dark berries. Texture is good with this wine and this is where the difference in style is achieved. There is a lot of extracted tannin in this wine giving a great supple-tannin-filled palate. This feeling lingers and is balanced with the acidity that is present through the finish. Any steak lover will appreciate this wine, and the retail price in in the $30 range.
With this wine we had a much longer discussion, as I did not feel as though if I came across it in a blind line-up I would have a very hard time picking this wine as Sauvignon Blanc. I started to runt through the various possibilities of white varietals, and I was really at a loss to nail it down as a single varietal style. The flavors are not dominant in citrus, or hay or pepper or any of the standard markers for California or elsewhere SB's. I guess if pressed, I would say that is mirrored a central/northern Italian varietal. The simple answer is that this is a Cali-style white wine, first, then SB, second. I am not sure that a guest looking for the experience of SB on a wine list would really find this wine satisfying that itch. Don't get me wrong - the wine is delicious, just do not expect passion fruit, minerals, or grapefruit skins. Perfect pairing as a winter white for the holiday table (I am thinking Thanksgiving...).
In conclusion, Richard Luftig, who still works the floor as a Somm four nights a week in NYC, and visits California to make wine on his weekends, is really a great find in the wine ocean. Truly unique and interesting wines for any wine list looking to stay clear of the branded default wines.
Industry Community - check out the Pied à Terre website for full insights to what they are doing...click here
You can also see his wine lists at Tenth Avenue Cookshop
Click here to listen to Steve Matthiasson on the I'll Drink to That podcast with Levy Dalton, a podcast CTSOmm highly recommends to get to know.
A 25 year drinks industry expert, Brian has worked on just about every side of the beverage business, specializing in wine & spirits education, staff training, creative consulting, and of course service. He lives and works in Connecticut, where the number of working Somm's is limited, but he hopes through the effort of this site and its related events, that will change.
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