Keep Sancerre Sincere

I was recently catching up with an old acquaintance, a financial advisor from the DC area whom I’ve known since I interned for his team as a teenager in high school. We were catching up on old times, and the conversation started to veer down the path of our travels.  He was telling the story of France, and how he, as an almost natural instinct, began to speak in a french accent due to the lack of proficiency in the native tongue. While taking a short day trip to Versailles, he ran into a gentleman who asked him to take a photograph for him, in English, and he too, had a French accent. After a few pleasantries were exchanged, the conversation revealed something quite interesting – “you’re from Boston? I’m from the east coast!”. And all bets were off.

While it is of the utmost importance to live the experience, live as you are, and break up the solid line every now and again, when it comes to Sancerre, let’s keep in sincere.

Sancerre is a French wine appellation in the Loire valley, which produces excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. I am a huge fan of the Sauv Blanc, as it has characteristics that are distinctively Sancerre – minerals, stone, clay, gravel…but with gooseberry and peaches.

Malolactic fermentation has begun to surface itself in the production of Sancerre Blanc. Claims are that it helps in rounding out the flavors and softening the naturally high acidity of the grape. Some wine makers, like those in New Zealand and Sancerre, prefer stainless steel fermentation tanks to maintain its integrity; why mess with a good thing? Keep it sincere. Keep it Sancerre.

If you’re looking for a great bottle, I’d recommend 2010 Christian Lauverjat Sancerre Moulin des Vrillères | France | Loire Valley, Upper Loire, Sancerre

Get Risky with Wine Futures: Buying En Primeur

For those of my readers who dabble in the markets, or at the very least have taken finance 101, you’ve probably heard of futures. This is the high risk – high reward practice of purchasing an asset at a particular price today, for future delivery.  While the risk averse may cringe at the thought of the price falling dramatically, resulting in a loss, trading in the futures markets provide you with the opportunity to hedge your investment when there is a dramatic market upswing.

Purchasing wine futures is similar in that you are able to invest in a particular wine vintage while it is still in the barrel, for delivery at a future date.  Typically the future is purchased 12 to 18 months prior to bottling.   The possible advantage of buying wines en primeur is that the wine may be less expensive than it will be once bottled and released and you’re able to secure the hard to come by wines of some of the most established wineries.

The Economics: Wine prices don’t fall, so why buy the wine?    There is no guarantee that the wine won’t lose value, however, this has more to do with the actual wine producer than the overall economic conditions.  If the wine happens to be a Premier Grand Grand Cru Classé “A”, as produced by Château Cheval Blanc, you are much more likely to receive an amazing wine, and given the low fluctuation in wine prices and steady sales – even during a recession – the wine will most likely increase in value.  That said, purchasing wine futures gives you the opportunity to 1) purchase an amazing vintage from a prestigious vineyard 2) at a lower cost, while 3) mitigating sell out risk.

Risk averse? Here’s what to do… Taste the wine.  if you are able to visit the winery, you may be able to taste the wine directly from the barrel before it’s bottled.  While a red wine may seem tight and shallow,  it will evolve in the barrel and should gain complexity and depth, so keep an open mind.

Do your research.  If it’s a Premier Cru or a prestigious winery which produces lesser quantities, search for articles which describe the vintage.  Depending on the winery, the grapes are selected and harvested months if not years prior to bottling and delivery.  Based on researching the results of a growing season, the consistency of the winemaker and quality of the wine, you will be able to make an educated decision when purchasing wine futures.

Why aren’t more people buying buying futures? In order to play in the wine futures market, you need the monetary and logistical resources to make it happen.  As in the stock and commodities market, a broker who’s able to find, evaluate and facilitate the trade can sometimes be a necessity. See these articles:

Billionaires’ Wine Thirst Quelled by Record Futures

Liv-ex: The European Fine Wine Exchange

There can also be much speculation about whether you really should buy the bottle or not.  Cheval Blanc is an extreme edge case, as it’s ranked among the highest prestige and not all wines live up to the hype.  Should You Buy Wine Futures?

What next?  I’d suggest starting small, like I did.  Go to a winery which offers futures and taste the wine.  If you like it, buy it.  You can purchase as little as a bottle.   As you start to understand the wines and vintages you can begin to grow as futures traders.

Have you purchased En Primeur? Share your experience.  Here’s a 2009 Estate Petite Sirah I just received from Zichichi Family Vineyards, which has completely sold out!

Wine Future purchased in Spring 2011

Châteauneuf-du-Pape

Lot18 provides access to high-quality, hard-to-find wines at attractive prices. Essentially, the Gilt of wine.  Today’s featured wine, a 2006 Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservée Châteauneuf, is a blend from France’s Rhône valley. Châteauneuf-du-Pape became popularized by Robert Parker, the renowned critic and author, and has been the subject of tasters, critics, and wine drinkers all over the world.

K&L wine merchants carries this wine, and at $10 more than the advertised $59.99, you can purchase locally, the same bottle and vintage. However, is this really the bottle you want?

Let’s think abou Gilt for a second. The goods that are being promoted are easy to evaluate, as there is immediate esthetic value created by looking at a beautifully shot blouse, rug, or even packaged pâté. Through being able to visualize clothing and foods, you can make an informed decision on what you purchase. With wine, however, there is always the cognitive inclination to chose the bottle with the pretty labels, and as we all know so well, that mistake often leaves you in dissatisfying dismay.

So, how do you select a wine? It takes hours of research to make one selection. For instance – what is the terroir like where the grapes are grown, which can differ from where the winery is located. What vintage is the wine and how did the grapes fare that year in that particular region? The more you read, the more questions you uncover, making the experience challenging and exhausting for most.

In addition to patience, it takes a genuine passion for the art of winemaking, and the love of wine to get down to the most granular level of a wine. Even then, there’s still much left up to chance. And after all of that, there is a chance that the wine may just not be to your liking.

So, back to this wine. There are a few points that lead me to my decision on whether this is a good buy. After a bit of research, coupled with my experiences drinking Châteauneuf, I would purchase this bottle. The winery is distinguished and the reviews are quite good. While many think this can build complexity over the next several years, it is drinking quite well.

Oh, no. I accidentally drank that bottle of wine!

As I’m conversing with a friend on Facebook, he casually switches gears from my website design, to his “oh, no.”  moment.  “Hey speaking of wine, I accidentally drank someone’s wine.  Whats a good red to replace it with?”  Let’s assess the situation:

1. What did you take?  “I don’t know , he said it was a gift, from far away. Probably something blended with icelandic tears and polar bear blood”

2. What did it taste like?  “It tasted like a gift. Smooth, medium.”

3. Who did you take it from? “He owns a gaming company and he pops his collar all the time. He was probably just letting it breath.”

4. What is your price range for a replacement? “Around $40 bucks.”

After collecting a few more details to support the loose, somewhat sarcastic ones, he actually did well for not knowing what he drank, I provided my instructions:

“I got one better.  Go to PlumpJack Wines (in Noe Valley) and buy the Clos Saron Syrah blend. I called and they have it. It’s 34.99.”

The wine had all the attributes he was describing, smooth, elegant, full, but was drinkable to the non-wine expert as well.  Given the stature of the person for whom he’d replace the wine, as an added, yet absolutely superficial, bonus, is this extremely small production bottle immediately reeks prestige.   From the handwritten number on the label, to indicate it’s succession in the batch, to the simplistic, yet elegant label, Clos Saron would be sure to please.

If you’re fortunate to be one of the few who’s never had an embarrassing  “Oh, no.” wine moment, kudos to you.  For the other 99.9% of us who have experienced this slightly embarrassing, immensely awkward situation, let this be a learning experience.

Wine Tasting, Anyone? Fiddlehead is coming to RN74

Fiddlehead is a small production winery specializing in Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc out of Santa Barbara County, CA and North Willamette Valley, OR.  Kathy Joseph established her winery in the “Lompoc Wine Ghetto” (also home to Nicolaysen Family Vineyards) in 1989 and I had the to pleasure visit the winery and taste a few of her amazing Pinots and Sauv Blancs.

Why am I posting this?  Because Fiddlehead is coming to San Francisco!

The theme is Sta. Rita Hills, where some of Kathy’s Pinot Noir is grown, and will take place on Monday April 2, 4:30 – 7:30 pm at RN74 (301 Mission Street, San Francisco).

I’m not promoting this, but at $25 per person, you’ll be able to try some amazing wines from several wineries, including Alma Rosa, which were featured in one of my favorite movies, Sideways. If you’re into a bit of movie trivia, Fiddlehead Sauvignon Blanc was featured in the movie, and was pointedly named as having a female wine maker. Girl Power!

Here’s the link to  Santa Rita Hills Events and Fiddlehead Cellars.  Cheers!

(par’ – a – dime) An example that serves as a pattern or model. A pattern for perfection.

Manhattan. Friends. Perfection.  I dined with 9 amazing friends, some of which I’ve known since childhood and others just met that evening, and boy did we go big.  Among the bone marrow, steak tartare and bone-in ribeye we ordered 2006 Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon three bottles that evening.  The first was just that single bottle, as we wanted to try it before committing, but by the end of that bottle we had no other choice but to order two more.

This wine fills your mouth with a silky blanket of robust, yet still smooth, flavor. And with the food pairing, perfection.  I’ve since garnered the respect of my friends, and now wear the title of  “the one who orders the wine”.

Paradigm is a small production winery located in Oakville (in the Valley) and the winemaker, Heidi Barrett, is responsible for some of California’s most notable cult wines, including Screaming Eagle.  As such, there is an extensive waiting list, the winery does not accept visits to the winery and it’s difficult to even find a bottle to procure.   Paradigm Cab is the bottle you want.

Hooray for Prestige!

So there’s a stigma around Opus One that it’s overrated, not worth the premium price, et cetera, et cetera.  Well, I put that theory to the test and ordered a bottle.  Now keep in mind that the Opus One suggests that this wine ages two times as long, but I thought it was phenomenal.  The 2003 Opus One Napa Valley harvest began on September 17th and concluded on November 2nd, the day before the start of heavy autumn rain.  I enjoyed it with a petit filet and lobster tail.  It’s clean  and robust and  doesn’t have the weight and exaggerated tanins with which many napa valley wines tend to slap you in your face. I would love to taste it again in 10 years.

Cabernet Sauvignon 91%, Cabernet Franc 3%, Petit Verdot 3%,
Merlot 2% and Malbec 1%

It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want to…tears of joy, of course.

I met Bob Nicolaysen when I ventured down to Santa Barbara wine country a few years ago. He’s an amazing guy who makes great wines.  Four years and four moves, I’ve been waiting for this moment.  I didn’t expect that this would be the bottle I’d enjoy on my 30th birthday, but as a perused my racks of wine, attempting to select the perfect wine to bring to the beautiful house we rented out for a weekend up in Russian River valley, something brought me to this 2003 Nicolaysen Syrah.  I humbly tip my hat.  The fruit was still present and it had an earthiness quality that I love about many Rhone wines.  It was extremely smooth and balanced. I will be back for more!

Brit’s WineBook

I know, I know – the name may seem like facebook rip-off or whatever.  But, Brit’s WineBook is my wine consulting company, and it’s book, as in book me to create an amazing wine experience!  I selected the wine for the first Meetup for Dailymuses.com.  This was a pretty big milestone for me as most of my consulting has been free, or I’ve hosted the party myself.  This was an awesome meetup and I suspect everyone loved the wines.  Here’s what I got:

Pepiere Moutons 2010
Sunier Morgon 2009
Sky Zinfandel 2007
Chateau Tricot Medoc Bordeaux 2007
Terrebrune Rose 2010
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

If you get a chance to try any of these, please share your thoughts! My favorites on the list are the 2009 Julien Sunier Morgon and the 2007 Château Moulin de Tricot Haut-Médoc. These are at a great price point and are good for sipping.  The Morgon (center) is one of my best kept secrets!

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Adventures in Wine

[slideshow]while time will be spent explaining why certain wines warrant “what were they thinking? putting this (insert offensive noun here) on the wine list!” i’d say my main goal is to whine with purpose.  however, it’s not always the wine’s fault! there are other factors involved in manipulating your wine experience.  what did you eat? what is your flavor profile?

A new year, new wine.  I am here to blog about how you can use what you know about wine to make educated decisions on what to drink next.  from california to italy, it’s finally sinking in that i’m at a point where I can intelligently order off of wine list.  wine experts, I’d love to hear from you too…so bring on the fun!

A critical component to the wine tasting experience is the social aspect of it all, so i will be sharing photos of my “wine-capades” to help put things into context (i promise, the corny wine-ism will be sparse).  This will be a truly interactive experience!

Share your thoughts, what was your best wine experience?