Just a reminder to the group that we will be focusing on the Loire Valley of France for the next meeting, which is scheduled to take place on Thursday the 22nd. Please touch-base with me if you are unsure of your assignment of the wine(s) to bring along. We are dividing up the styles so we do not get a bunch of Montlouis and no Saumur, so to speak.
As I did last time, I am prepping the event with some notes and links to my educational material. The Loire Valley is a huge wine region and there is a lot of material, grape varieties, and styles to cover. Everything from sparkling to decadent dessert wines comes from this vast stretch of vineyards, long in history and layered with tradition
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.
Originally proposed in 2015, but held in limbo for final approval due to a moratorium on approvals by the Trump administration, the Petaluma Gap AVA was finally made official yesterday. This is a unique AVA as the major defining character of the regional extension is based on the wind and its constant speed of at least 8 miles per hour through the region. Another interesting aspect of the area is that it gives Marin County a more specific designation for labels than simply using the County designation.
This is an area generally focused on Pinot Noir, with smaller amounts of Chardonnay, and even smaller amounts of other varietals. For fans of Pinot Noir, the grapes from this area are defined by thicker skins but also a longer, and thus slower ripening, growing season - everything great Pinot Noir loves. The wines from here are flavor driven, with great core fruit and long lasting flavors.
Smaller and more defined than the Sonoma Coast AVA, which many feel is a regional designation made for larger producers rather than focused wines, the Petaluma Gap AVA has a limited number of growers with about 2000 acres in Marin, currently planted. There are a number of well established wineries that pull fruit from the broader region - much of it overlapping with Sonoma Coast AVA and even Carneros AVA. With the new designation approval though, it looks like there is plenty of room to possibly grow and help establish this region's identity.
For the complete application and regulations of the AVA - click on this link here.
You can also check out the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Association website here.
This coming Monday's group will focus on wine from Spain. Spain is obviously a very large region with a lot of territory to cover as well as any number of wines. As always lets try and focus on the classics rather than the outsiders, but anything is really ok.
I will have two whites and at least one red open, but have more reds depending on how many others are attending.
In preparation for this tasting I am posting some links below to help familiarize the regions, varieties and other information.
One thing that I am very big on is the podcasts from Levi Dalton, known as the "I'll Drink To That".
They make it very easy to isolate the podcasts you may be interested in through the use of focused playlists. To access the Spain playlist, click here. I would focus initially on episode #264 with Justin Berlin, as it has a bit more breadth for Spain as a region than some of the others.
I am also making the WSET Diploma PowerPoint presentations available on the following links:
Unit 5 Spain - has the entire spectrum for Spain.
For Cava - click here for the non-French/Old World Sparkling wines presentation
And for the presentation on Sherry - click here
I will be continuing with Monday tasting sessions. Anyone interested in joining is welcome and can partake, just need to know in advance.
Due to the nature of my personal studies, I need to frequently taste with purpose, and the Monday Group has been a very good jumping off point for routine and collaborative discussion in this endeavor. Going forward, each Monday evening, I will be opening wines to run through and purposefully taste - either on my own or with whom ever is interested to join.
This will either be at my corporate office in Hartford, CT, or at my home in West Hartford, depending on numbers and who is coming from where.
I will be posting the theme, time and place each week on CTSomm group page on FB, as well as emailed to my various tasting/study partner connections in CT, NY and beyond.
You can also check/save the calendar on my website with the Calendar link to the right in the sidebar.
Let me know if you are interested.
This week, and excellent article was published on GuildSomm by Kelli White, in which she details a ton of great information about the British Columbia wine regions. This is an area that is less well known to American wine drinkers, but is an area that comes up fairly regularly on test by WSET, CMS and MW.
This article runs through the history of the region, geo/climate aspects of the various regions involved as well as the current status of the Canadian and British Columbia wine industry. I always have note cards by my side when I read, and i pulled a few details from the article to add to my collection. I am adding these below and will post the answers up tomorrow. In the meantime you can read the article and get the full perspective on GuildSomm.com. If you are not a member and are int eh wine industry, you should consider joining - it has a ton of information, links and discussions - very well worth the small investment.
With regard to British Columbia, how may distinct wine making areas are there?
There are five GI's or Designated Viticultural Areas:
Gulf Island and Vancouver Island - Coastal
Similkameen and Okanagan Valley - Inland areas
Fraser Valley - this is an in between touristy area
With regard to the British Columbia VQA, detail the minimum percentage on the following for label use:
When was the first winery established in BC?
When were the first vines planted in BC and by whom?
1859 - French Catholic Missionaries, in the Okanagna Valley
I will add answers tomorrow and be including the cards in my Cram lists. In the meantime - enjoy this picture of the Okanagan Valley...
The above map is a great tool for looking at the region around Jerez.
I have also been able to acquire a full Sherry presentation (in Power Point) from the Consejo Regulador, called "The Sherry Spectrum".
Click here to access the file.
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
I have sent some ideas out to you already but I wanted to explain a couple of general concepts that continue to creep into my plan and training areas, as well as what is happening in the market in general with industry trends.
Who do we buy from?
So this is a question that keeps coming up, and traditionally we in the industry have been very loyal to a relatively narrow range of distributors that “support” us. Well, the world of the distributor (and the brands they sell) has been going through the blender the past few years. The fact of the matter is that of all the tastings I have done the past few months, the best products as a portfolio, came from a few of the smaller more focused players in our world. Just really good and really unique products that fall into the categories or ideas I have discussed in general on a regular basis.
This often means that our larger sales distribution companies are getting less and less share of our business, and that leads to a lot of whining. Please do not fall to these grumblings, as your job and my job is to select the best of the best for the businesses we work for, not what is best for the wholesalers. They may hug and kiss you every week, but they really could give a rats ass when it comes to what you buy as long as you buy it from them.
The guest experience and what it costs us to provide that experience is what is key to us. Do not be hindered by a perception of loyalty to any distributor – buy the best product that make the best drinks. We pay the bills.
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