Last week in New York, I had the good fortune to attend a tasting of some seriously good French wines. The range of the wines included some absolutely fabulous wines from Burgundy, and specifically from the 2015 and 2016 vintages. A few standouts came up again this week as i needed to fill a few slots on one of my wine lists and i chose to go with these wines. The thing i liked - aside from the apparent quality in the bottle - was the fabulous price and respective values these wine gave me. Now these are not cheap wines, but for 1er Cru and Grand Cru - I was able to add to my lists at slightly lower prices than the items they were replacing, and certainly less than similar items (Chardonnay) from other regions and of similar quality.
Here are my tasting notes on the two standouts...
Domaine Boudin Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume, 2016
just to clarify, this wines come from France / Burgundy / Chablis / and is Chardonnay from high level quality vineyards designated with the premier cru status (essentially it is pretty darn good chardonnay).
What defines this particular vineyard and why it is prized? To begin with, the Fourchaume "vineyard" is actually not one vineyard, but a collection of climats that are allowed to share the umbrella designation of the famous village or hamlet, nearby. Fourchaume is one of the more well known and recognized of the 17 1er crus groupings as a number fo top producers makes wine from this area. Fourchaume actually includes these vineyards or climats - Vaupulent, Vau Pulan, Les Vaupulans, La Fourchaume, Côte de Fontenay, Dine-Chien, L’Homme Mort, La Grande Côte, Bois Seguin, L’Ardillier, Vaulorent, Les Quatre Chemins, La Ferme Couverte, Les Couvertes.
The other major defining characteristic of this group of vineyards is that they are all stretched along a curving hillside, that is not all that far from the Grand Cru Chablis climates, and shares the same chalky, limestone-rich Kimmeridgian subsoil that defines the Grand Crus. This soil is fairly dry and is actually quite prefect for the Chablis/Chardonnay grapes in this area. The vines are stressed and the soil keeps them from over-producing (limiting vigor), and thus increases the concentration of the wines. The best come from these soils in Chablis.
I found the Domaine Boudin 2016, to be quite extraordinary, and very concentrated in it fruit expression and stone like flavors. This wine is young and has a green, golden hue at the moment. I found mellow yellow apple, and a smooth integrated range of acidity and fruit. Very ripe pear / quince flavors, a touch of phenolic bitterness, but great stone and extracted flavors through out. This comes from older vines and there is no oak used in the wine-making. These guys are making wines form their estate and not buying in fruit. This is artisinal and old-school and freaking delicious.
The second wine I decided to work with this week from Chablis is the Domaine Pinson Grand Cru Les Clos, 2015. Similar to the wine above, the soils in the Grand Cru vineyard are defined by the Kimmeridgian / limestone that is essentially ancient sea-beds containing millions of years of fossilized shells. The Grand Cru vineyard is also broken into seven climats, which are often labeled for specification. The Les Clos climat is definitely the biggest and probably most well-known sections - the reputation is justified by the way - and wines like this one really help to show why.
The Pinson fmaily date back to 1640 (yup, almost 400 years!) in Chablis, and today are led by Charlène Pinson and her father Laurent, who farm some of the most desired parcels in the area. Pinsons were some of the first to estate and vineyard designate their bottlings, and have always been know for superior quality from the top sites. Everything is grown sustainably, as well.
The 2015 Les Clos, is out of sight! Big and rich with vanillin and pear skin on the nose with lovely sweet golden apple flavors riding just underneath. I found this interesting concentration of flavors i called apple candy through the middle of the palate, but the wine is not sweet, just great concentration. Touch of chalk and wet stone, with a little mild oakiness that is very well integrated and stands out a bit through the finish to balance the soft gentle fruit. I gave this wine 4 checks (out of an almost unheard of 5). This is a serious wine.
For the moment these wines are available, but as with all good Chablis from great vintages, they will go quickly. Find 'em, and buy 'em.
Here is a link to a NYTs article on Chablis if you are looking for a bit more information.
Specific Brand Recommendations and Changes
So the following brands are mentioned as a cultivated collection of bar items that should be staple to your offerings. In some case you may have these items, but most likely they will be new. These are approved items and specific recipes are mentioned and/or listed in the third section. I will have many of these items in my bag as I come around to assess your spring proposals (sorry David Roy – we will get to you as we can), and you can taste them for yourself.
Clement Coconut Rum
(funny place to start, right?) not after you taste this stuff.
How about something daring like a coconut mezcal margarita??
Just get rid of any coconut rum you may have on the bar, and use this please. It is far better than anything mass-produced.
Plantation Original Dark, but do not forget about the Plantation Pineapple
This is dark from double wood aging, not added caramel color. Lovely earthy rich flavors. I likey a lot.
Novo Fogo Cachaca Silver
One of the best products of the day; especially the Silver. I have never had a cachaça that was so smooth and tasty – way better than Leblon. Chameleon is aged. A classic Caipirinha (and it is a classic drink) can be had when the warm weather hits, and with the subtle rich smooth texture here – it’s a no brainer.
TEQUILA / MEZCAL
My plan as it is designed, does not call for a silver tequila in the “well”; we use El Jimador as the base level tequila. There is of course a need for a lower priced silver tequila and many just defer to a call brand. No need any longer. I see this as the go-to silver tequila for fresh and refreshing spring/summer drinks. It’s so good and it’s been a long wait to get in CT. Adds a lovely deep peppery note, especially with orange or pomegranate in the drink.
Peloton De La Muerte Mezcal
I have been a proponent of the Fidencio, but I am feeling as though this should become the go-to for Mezcal. High quality all the way through, but a little less expensive and readily available. Plus, I like the name and the authentic bottle is really cool. This should definitely replace any largely distributed brands like Sombra or ILegal. This is good and mellow, but carries the flavor well.
Averell Damson Gin Liqueur
This is a uniquely flavored product that I think is delicious. Many of my guys got onto the mulberry band-wagon recently. Well, be prepared to go the extra mile into deliciousness with this item. I cannot wait to see what we get with this.
Gin Lane 1751 Victoria’ Pink Gin
So a Pink Gin Cocktail is kind of fun, but a little old timey (maybe someone should bring it back?), but this is a great tasting pre-fab “Pink Gin” that is infused with herbs and spices to give it some color and extra flavor. Can use in a specialty drink really well.
Breckenridge Pear Vodka
I've mentioned this earlier, but this should be your standard selection for a pear vodka. Cost savings and a vastly superior product than Goose or Smirnoff.
Elation Pear Liqueur
As an alternative, some of you have been using the St George Liqueur, which is great. I only mention this as an alternative.
Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Rye
If you know how to adjust for the higher proof, this can be a great addition to your cocktail program as the higher proof will carry more flavor to your guests palate. It’s becoming more readily available (after years of catching up production with demand), so go for it if you can make it work.
Cognac was the original cocktail spirits, and I think there is some total validity to bringing back a cocktail or two to your program that has cognac. The fruit flavors and aromatics in this spirit far exceed what whiskey can bring. Use in any cocktail designed for whiskey.
Remy Martin VSOP or Pierre Ferrand 1856
My Remy-Cointreau rep (Estelle Ngo) made a great pitch with cocktail recipes and of course Remy Martin is the classic cognac, plus manyof you carry on bar. It's a little pricier, but so good. Try in a Remy Mojito.
Bertina Elderflower Liqueur
Ok, so I know a lot of you are very loyal and like to use (excessively sometimes) St Germain (Bacardi owned big brand), but here is a case where you increase the quality factor while decreasing the cost factor. This stuff is great and should replace St Germain on your bars as a staple. It also comes in a re-usable flip-top bottle, good fro juices and other items to use on the bar.
Fratello Hazlenut Liqueur
I’m not sure why you still have Frangelico…?
Sibona Camomilla Liquore – very tasty and very versatile from a flavor point of view. May be some creative genius can interpret this to a cocktail.
Marolo Grappa And Camomile Milla
Wow. You all need to get into these products; and Italian locations especially need to pay attention here and enhance your back bar offerings. Very interesting cocktail applications as well.
There are a number of grappi manufacturers out there, but these guys have a wide range of very interesting and cool flavors to work with. Working on a dinner that pairs the grappa wine sources with the wine producers that grow the base juice might be a cool idea.
LIQUEUR: Don Ciccio Linocello, Mandarinetto, Ibisco (Hibiscus)
I had tasted these products a number of years ago and was not enamored. Today, I think they have improved tremendously, and there are creative ideas abound with them. The Limoncello is very good and pays homage to the Amalfi Coast very well. The Mandarinetto is a superb flavor if treated correctly. And the star is the Ibiscus; mix it with some mescal and you can have a stunning mule or some other creation.
Del Professore Vermouth Dry
Ok, so here was the winner of the day for me.
The Traditional Italian (white vermouth, but you need to forget what you think about vermouth) is stunning. Made by a Bartender from Rome, these are about as perfect a drinking vermouth as I have come across. I want to see a drink called “Del Professore” with 2 parts Gin, 1 part vermouth and a few dashes of orange bitters (yes, I know it’s a martini, but it is so good and if you call it a gin martini then nobody will buy it – just tell them it’s a really cool cocktail and it will sell.)
Do you need it? The white – yes. If for nothing else to drink on your own. Also great for low-alc cocktails (another trend that is happening very much, right now).
We do not dive too deeply here at my locations, but it is popping up with much more frequesncy. The Sochu category is actually the largest selling spirit category in the world (there are a lot of people across Asia that drink it). I was presented with several this go around in multiple states. My pick so far is the Mizu Sochu.
I have seen a lot of cool and interesting bitters brands recently – here are a couple that should be on your radar:
Hella Bitters – Smoked Chili and Ginger Lemon are sort of unique, but with standards like Citrus, Aromatic, Orange, it’s a good set.
Bittercube – really great selection of interesting bitters. Look to use Jamaican, Cherry bark vanilla, Enlightened Old Fashioned, Black Strap or Coffee/Cocoa/Hot Pepper
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.
Spent a little time today speaking with Tony Rynders of Tony Rynders Consulting, Tendril Wine Cellars /Child’s Play Wines, Tour de Force Wine Co. Some may also recognize Tony as the former winemaker for Domaine Serene, back in the early 2000s when they were basically the most highly decorated Oregon winery. Pretty serious, upper end wine maker, working in an area of production that I generally prefer to personally and professionally drink. He also spent time at Argyle, Hogue, and various wineries around the world.
The focus of our conversation was about some wines that Tony had produced and had an opportunity to sell as a private label; something we will work with from time to time, but not too often. He had some samples sent out to me and we tasted over the phone.
I have never met Tony face to face, but he was very approachable over the phone and we discussed the market situation on the East Coast and the ins-and-outs of the wholesale network as well as the retail landscape, a bit. The wines are great, unfortunately he had already sold the one that seemed to be most viable for me from a pricing point of view, but we are working to see what opportunities are available down the road for me and my group.
Along with the "opportunity" wines, Tony had forwarded out a bottle of the 2012 Tendril and 2014 Child's Play Pinot Noirs - these notes are below. The main label he produces right now is Tendril, and Child's Play is a slightly lower price-point item geared to the on- and off-premise markets. Tony's wines are great, but generally not cheap. The Child's Play Pinot Noir would be a retail item in the $30+ range, and Tendril Pinot Noir is more in the mid-$50s. Again, Tony is generally a premium wine-maker, and his wines range up the $100 retail level.
Unfortunately, at least for the time being the wines are not available in any of my markets (CT, MA, FL), but Tony is looking to possibly expand. Issue being though is all the wines are relatively small in production, so not a lot of juice to go around. Tendril does have a limited wine club, which for East Coast buyers would probably be the easiest route in obtaining these wines, and if the 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (which I am enjoying right now) is any indication of the other wines, then I think any serious Pinot Noir enthusiast should take a hard look at getting on this list.
Here are the tasting notes for the Tendril and Child's Play Pinot Noirs...
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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