Sunday Tasting – December 12, 2010
You HAVE to make this tasting. The most epic of all!
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.STAFF PICKS! Vol. 2 : Veterans!
NV Weingut Wimmer Czerny Blanc de Noirs, Austria, Pinot Noir
As in life and love, we winos go through phases of infatuation and attraction. Some regions bore us after an extended visit [hello, Paso Robles] and some varietals remain too stoic, too unlikely to play hard and merry for my taste– Nebbiolo has never been game for the sort of romp through the vineyard that I enjoy, for example.
And then sometimes one needs a little nudge in the right direction. Mine came with an autumn dinner at newly-opened Henri, a formal French salon masquerading as a chic restaurant on Michigan Avenue. The food was a delight, and very classic French, with sole meuniere and rabbit rillettes and all that. However, it was the company, namely winemaker Hans Czerny and his wines, that captivated me all evening. President of Austria’s Demeter Group, the organization that assigns biodynamic status to wineries, among other agricultural producers, Hans could very well be stuffy and dogmatic. However, what I found in him was a true passion for his region, his family, and the process of making great wines that reflect the character of their terroir and, subsequently, their true selves. He’s clearly most proud of his single-vineyard Gruner Veltliners, the national grape that Austrians hold like a banner above other white varietals, but I was wholly taken all evening with his Champagne-method blanc de noirs. A subtle, complex wine that shows lots of red berries on the nose, and whose depth of minerality reflects the deep, sandy soils wherein the vines are grown, I fell in love instantly.
Now, Champagne is one of my Very Favorite Things, in all its iterations. But I am most susceptible to getting little palpitations from those Dark Side cousins, the sparkling wines made from only red grapes. From their deeper gold color to their mysterious, earthy, floral, shifting aromas and flavors, I love them unabashedly. And, while it’s high tribute to a sparkling wine to say that one “wouldn’t even know it wasn’t from Champagne,” I wouldn’t dream of insulting Hans by saying that this wine is anything but distinctly Austrian. So sip it, dear lush, and dream of wildflowers growing among the vines, and the Czerny family’s Mangalitsa pigs roaming the property. One last thought: if winemakers are the new rockstars, Hans Czerny is a stalwart folk singer. From his farmhouse bowl haircut to his big, farmer’s hands with dirt under the fingernails still, everything about him reflects an earnest sincerity that translates in his enthusiastic speech and broken English; more important, one tastes it in his wines.
2005 Domaine Huet Petillant, Vouvray, France- Chenin Blanc
To be honest, I don’t remember exactly why I loved this wine so much. I just remember loving it. And for that reason alone I picked it. To try it again. To fall in love again. I hope you do to. So yes, it is just wine. But it is so much more than that. It is not taking the easy way out. It is years of painstaking trial and errors attempting to produce wine with both respect to our earth and to the wine itself. Domaine Huet is one of Vouvray’s leading producers, has been for decades. With the belief that the use of chemical weed killers, insecticides and pesticides completely destroys the balance of the soil and the environment, wine maker Noel Pinguet strictly adheres to biodynamic viticulture, arguing that these techniques allow terroir to come through more expressively in the finished wines. (These techniques mean seriously hard labor.) The result? Right of the bat, the nose burst with notes of the Loire’s chalky, mineral and volcanic soils. It tastes of flowers and again minerals with such an elegant bubbles and expressive finish. Oh, I’m hooked.
2007 Odysseus PX, Priorat, Spain- Pedro Ximinez
PX is generally associated with sherry, so I know you are looking at this table wine thinking it must be sweet. Well guess again. This wine does have some fruit but is dry. It saw its fermentation split between stainless steel and oak. So it has some nice body but is not oaky. I love this wine with fish! It is also a great way to start a meal. Don’t worry this white can stand up to winter but is great all year long. yum!!
2006 Marion Ebner Melusine Lyra Austria–Gruner Veltliner
I mean, really, this is gruner? Heck yeah!
Let’s being with the story of the winemaker Marion Ebner. She grew up in Vienna and knew early on that she was interested in winemaking. She enrolled in school just for that – which I should mention is not that common. Most winemakers in Austria are born in in to the wine business…and most are guys. When she was 16, she landed an internship with a great winery in Austria and worked under winemaker Fritz Wieninger (whose wines are also delicious, may I add). She went on to work in a wine shop (awesome) and the the marketing side of wine while gathering some resources. She made a deal to cultivate some grapes in the Kamptal region and began producing the first small amount of the wonderful Melusine. The Melusine is not like other Gruner Veltliners – it’s a lot fuller bodied and has so much complexity, you’ll probably be thinking about it still 45 minutes after you taste it. The press quickly caught on to this small production wine, and with each vintage she gained more and more respect.
The ‘06 which is just utterly fantastic. As I mentioned before, it’s a fuller bodied gruner that sees some oak (French). I could just smell this wine all day long. If Melusine was made in to a perfume, that would be my scent. The nose is full of pineapple, citrus and white stone fruit (sweet apples anyone?). The palate is lush and complex with fresh fruit and a creaminess that is balanced by a beautiful acidity.
Only 222 bottles were brought in to the US and if I had the funds, I’d be buying a lot of this. However, lucky for you, we still have a little left!
2009 Zepaltas Rose, Sonoma, California-
Love it any time all the time. This dark and lovely rose of pinot noir smells like strawberries and earth and happiness. I’ve enjoyed it in many seasons with many dishes. I’ve had it at Easter with a dinner of glazed ham; I’ve served it up in the summer alongside a homemade mushroom and asiago cheese-topped pizza. I’ve also just enjoyed it on its own many times. Dry, but with plenty of fruit and a satisfying earthiness–Zepaltas exemplifies why I love rose in general: pretty, versatile, delicious, easy to pair, easy to drink. Yes, yes, yes.
2006 Domaine Berthet-Bondet ‘Rubis’, Jura, France, Trousseau/Poulsard/Pinot Noir-
Jane says: In 1985 (the year of my birth, coincidentally), Chantal and Jean Berthet-Bondet took over a domain that had not been producing wine for 50 years and brought it back to life. The domain spreads on 10 hectares, 5 in Chateau-Chalon and 5 in Cotes-de-Jura appellation. Chateau-Chalon possesses the noblest terroir in the Jura region. A composition of limestone and red and gray marne, which consists mostly of calcium-rich clay and has fertilizing properties, confers both power and great finesse to these wines. The winemaker practices low yields and “lutte raisonée” in the vineyards; that is, minimal use of insecticide and anti-fungal treatments, and a total abstention from defoliants; grass grows freely between the vine rows here. This red, both elegant and muscular, is made with 45% Trousseau, 45% Poulsard and 10% Pinot Noir. Odd grapes, the first two: not seen much outside of Jura (except for Trousseau, when called Bastardo, is used in Port production). This wine is characterized by its lightness and the complex bouquet of red fruits and earthy character — almost having a savory quality to it. It’s everything you could want in a wine: complex, fascinating, food-friendly, drinkable, and affordable. Cheers! $26.75)
2007 Pingus PSI, Ribera del Duero, Spain– Pingus
I heart Pingus. Amazing juice. Crazy, prohibitively expensive. But, the little PSI is a freaking steal. Adore the packaging. And the wine is out and out amazing. Deep, rich, layered and complex, but also just damn pleasing to sip. My most favorite wines taste like dirt. For serious. Dirt. The land they are entwined with. Intricately intimate with. Slurping the minerals and soil specifics through the vines and into the grapes. This wine speaks of place. Of the grape. Earthiness and minerals, tar and leather, with a good dose of black plum, black cherry and crushed rose petals. Old, twisted wood and dusty leaves caught beneath. A wisp of violet and a the green of a freshly broken twig. Blackberry liqueur, make that wild blackberry. And, lest you get all wrapped up with the earth and fruit, and secondary nuances of exotic spice, the super bright acidity and velvety tannins snap smartly on the finish.
This offers really tangible taste of place and dirt, but also, delectable, vibrant fruit, intense and appetizing with a clear, driven directionality and intriguing personality. Enough with the dramatic overtures and the waxing poetic, eh. A bit of history, you ask. Pingus is a hugely successful winery in Ribera del Duero, run by a young, Danish born renowned winemaker, Peter Sisseck. Part of an elite club of top Spanish wine producers, the winery has produced astonishing results (and prices) in a very short period of time. Yields are incredibly low, the wines are extremely concentrated, allocation is miniscule. Sisseck is said to be a genius in the vineyard, where pruning has become an art form. Rich plum in color, with a fuchsia rim, this is immediately attractive. And delicious. Yum. Alright, hush, put it in your mouth.
Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene Grand Cru, Vlezenbeek, Belgium-– Gueze Lambic Beer
I know you’ve been naughty this year- my friend Rene is here to slap you around a bit. Wild yeasts tart sour barnyard funk malty sour apple cider. Day-um! The spontaneous fermentation of this lambic style beer is created by exposure to the wild yeasts and bacteria present in the air. Drink now! Don’t hesitate! Invigorates a bored palate! Brings a twinkle to the eye! Makes hair shinier! Cures the common cold!