Staff Picks 2010: Newbies

December 30, 2010 at 6:27 pm (Our Favorite Things, What we're drinking) (, , , )

Sunday Tasting – December 12, 2010

This SUNDAYs with LUSH tasting is all about the LUSH Staff.  The new kids to be exact.  Taste their learning process. Geek out! No easy task for a lush, picking just ONE bottle that forever represents this very year. All of  this very year in a bottle.Our staff favorite wines of the year are a moment captured by a sip, a sigh, a wisp of pure delight…these wines are what we crave, what excites us right now. In an ever evolving world of imbibing, this is the snapshot of the best hits of 2010.

All day, every day, the Lushes have been searching and exploring…challenging our palates to expand as we try new grapes, regions, producers, and styles. We have discovered what we adore, what we LOVE and what do not care for. And, we discovered that our tastes have evolved, twisted, turned, and ended up in new places, the same places, and places we never imagined we would go. As a staff, we have a very eclectic, bizarre, and sometimes frightening taste in all things fermented.

Set to task, dedicated to choosing our very most favoritest wines, we set a very strict set of criteria…we want outrageous quality for the cash, of course, but we also require craft winemaking, juice that speaks of where it comes from and that inexplicable, intangible, expression of something extraordinary.Our staff picks of the year are titillating, intellectual stimulating, and definitely remarkable…unforgettable, even. So, we are memorializing our favorites of the year in this year end rewind.

2008 Paul Blanck Pinot Gris, Alsace, France – Pinot Gris
“Damn, girl. This wine is killer. This is a far cry from the ubiquitous Real Housewives “cougar-juice” swill that gets a fancy label and big price tag.  This is lush. This is exciting. This is Alsace.   And, remarkably, this wine can take you from the first bite to the last in an epic wine pairing dinner extravaganza.” – Cara
Pinot Gris, a mutation of Burgundian Pinot Noir back in the day, is a tricky little fellow.  Do not be fooled by the silly bottlings of Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris floating about that are flabby and oh so boring.  This grape can do great things.  Thin skinned, yes.  Thus susceptible to botrytis or ‘noble rot’.  The ‘gris’ indicates that the grape is not quite white, but rather a grayish brownish pinky color.  When vinified on the skins, a Pinot Gris will be a coppery hue. Alsace is also a bit tricky.  They have ditched Tokay, just finished with the intermediate Tokay Pinot Gris, and have now settled into the straight up Pinot Gris.  However, you never do really know what that bottle will taste like until you stick a cork in it…there are no laws measuring levels of dryness or residual sugar, and some winemakers tend to do one above the other.  Tradition leans toward sweeter iterations of the grape. But, the very best thing about Pinot Gris in Alsace is that it can get super ripe and hang on to that essential acidity and maintain beautiful balance.  The aromatics are banging and the wine can be quite full, rich, and viscous, but still remain lithe and lively, too.


2009 Diel Kabinett, Nahe, Germany – Riesling
“I approached the Diel with the confidence of a rookie, red-only wine drinker, still holding onto a lingering idea that all sweet whites were cloyingly sweet and have a finish like buttered steel. I was younger then. With balanced notes of agave nectar, pear, and ripe fruit, the wine didn’t lose much in sweetness, but that sweetness was a curveball, giving the first sip an unexpected surprise. Most importantly, it passed the most crucial test – getting the devoted Red-only family to give it a whirl. When grandma leaned in close and whispered “I like this one better” over a perfectly decent red, I knew the Diel’s charms were strong enough for anyone to appreciate.” – Dan
Armin Diel is one of Germany’s most acclaimed Riesling producers and leading wine writers.   His family has owned the celebrated estate of Schlossgut Diel, in Burg Layen, near the Nahe River Valley since 1802.  Involved in the estate from the early years of his childhood, Armin assumed management of the winery, a 12th century medieval castle and its prestigious vineyards three of which have been classified with the highest possible ranking since 1901, giving them status comparable to a Burgundy Grand Cru.  Opulent on the nose, with gardenia, agave nectar, pear and lemon peel, plus fern-like freshness and a bit of stoic minerality to remind you of its origins.



2007 Stift Goettweig Rose, Austria – Pinot Noir

“So I like this rose because you can totally taste that it’s blessed. It’s harmonious and supple, but still crisp.  It doesn’t give you just straight strawberry and watermelon-  it’s complex! The Stift Goettweig is produced using indigenous yeasts to truly demonstrate the regional impact. It’s a near perfect rose; it’s great with food but can easily be a meal in itself (stand alone) if so inclined. Also, this bottle hails from my ancestral lands, so I’m a bit partial to wines from this region.” – Jessica
This wine is blessed! The Goettweiger Messwein, or Altar wine, has been an institution at this Benedictine monastery for centuries.  Messwein cannot be produced without the express permission of the bishop, and both the care of the grapes, and the wine making process must follow the strict rules laid down in the “Reinheitsgebot” or purity law as set out by the church, and cannot be altered in any way. But, besides all that seriousness, this wine is playful and delicious and pink!  Delightful aromatics of field strawberries, spice, and cherry blossoms lead into a palate of bright red fruit…pomegranate, red currant, and wild strawberry.  The texture is just lovely, peppery, tingly.  Poised, but not uptight, this wine is a beautiful aperitif or pairing with salads and light cheeses.


2008 Camino de Navaherreos, Madrid, Spain – Old Vine Garnacha

“I choo-choo-choose you Camino De Navaherreros! You always remember your first, and my first romp into wine beyond the $10 cart was with the juicy, slightly spicy, slightly coy, very dashing Camino.  Dazzled me like a Pinot, but 100% Garnacha. I was charmed right away. This cutey has a little more body than your average Pinot, a few more tannins too, but a gal likes a wine that challenges her taste buds.  Hails from Madrid so you know, cute Spanish accent.” – Ali

While this vintage officially falls under the ‘practicing biodynamic’ banner, the entire estate production will be 100% certified biodynamic as of the 2009 vintage. And only 3,300 cases of this wine are produced! We’re lucky this one made it past the city’s wine bars. The bear is the family’s modern-day symbol, originating from the land’s Celtic past, with its ancient bears carved from boulders marking forests dedicated to the hunt goddess. Madrid’s dry, hot climate produces a Garnacha that is tight, firm, grippy but still has ample fruit. Smells like red earth, iron, red fruits, and pork. On the palate, there is a sweetness that is very woodsy, herbal: tree sap, maple, wild strawberries and raspberries. The gaminess continues on the palate, and leads into a grippy, dry finish.


2006 Marco Martin ‘Lo Triolet’, Vallee D’Aoste, Italy – Gamay
“This wine makes up for its lack of body with complexity and versatility, showing that lighter wines can still be powerful. Along with dried cranberry and a unique earthy flavor, this Gamay, grown in the Alps of northwestern Italy features an acidity rarely found in red wines. You can enjoy it with everything from seafood dishes to grilled meats. This is by far one of the most interesting wines of the year.” – Andy
Marco Martin’s ‘Lo Triolet’ Gamay from the Vallee d’Aoste, in far northwestern Italy, pushes Gamay to new heights:. Literally. The vineyard is above 2500 feet! High elevation and short growing season, coupled with the long sun exposure create the conundrum which is this wine.  This Gamay is richer, more textured, and definitely very expressive.  On the nose, purple flowers and rose petals play off earth and mineral notes, with a bit of bouncy ripe strawberries.  On the palate, bright red berry fruit, cassis, lilacs, and herbal cedary notes intermingle on a fun, bold, and dramatic palate.  Lovely.


2006 Twisted Oak ‘*%#&@!’ Potty Mouth Red, Calaveras, California – Mouvedre, Syrah, Grenache
“The meaty and peppery characters and hints of Provençal herbs and spices might have you thinking this Rhône-style blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, and Grenache just fell out of a “California Cheese” commerical. Well, the name is the only cheesy thing about it! Those bright fruit flavors of blackberry and cherry sure ain’t no bull!” – Colyn
The 2006 vintage of this profanely named red Rhône-style blend was made from grapes sourced entirely from Calaveras County. The final blending decisions were based on the particular contributions that each grape could make to the blend. For bright fruit flavors up front, they started with Grenache. Mouvedre, which is used for the overall base for this wine, provides mid-palate fruit and elements of spice. Finally, Syrah was added for dark fruit flavors and powerful structure. All lots were fermented in
open top vessels over a period of 10 days. They were pressed off of the skins and allowed to settle for one week before being racked into the barrels for the ageing process. The wine spent 11 months in new and used barrels in order to add more spice elements as well as round out the tannin structure.


Brent’s Beer Pick:

Dupont Avec de les Bons Voeux, Belgium – Saison Ale
With best wishes! Brasserie Dupont sends such wishes with this very special saison ale brewed only for the holidays. Redolently aromatic, rich and velvety, this is an ale to toast the season and welcome in the New Year! Spicy lemon peel, a bit of grapefruit, and lovely warming baking spices.  Brewed and released only for this time of year…so enjoy while you can.



Doug’s Beer Pick:

Half Acre Thunder & Son, Chicago, IL – Imperial Brown Ale
The temperature dive is Mother Nature’s way of saying “go ahead, fellas, brew some big beers. ” Who are they to tempt Mother Nature? So Half Acre brewed the Tonka truck of brown beers, Thunder & Son Brown Ale. It is a beast with huge malt, huge rich, round, roasty toastiness. This is a brew for those steeped in geekery, or those that enjoy a big beer.  Ha. And, feel the thunder…this is a real chunker at 12+% abv. Taste those flavor crystals, son.

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