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Jan 23, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Drink This Weekend Edition: 2013 Hugl Grüner Veltliner

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

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As the weather gets cooler, many wine drinkers opt for richer, redder wines than they’ve imbibed in the last months of summer. Yet some days – and drinkers – still call for white. On unseasonably warm autumn afternoons, we reach for Grüner Veltliner.

Grüner is a white grape variety native to Austria. It can produce wines that range from light and flirty to rounder and more serious. It’s an ideal white for cool-weather drinking, as it pairs well with the heartier fare consumed during chilly months.

Although there are many fantastic producers out there, the Hugl family makes one of the best values available. Husband-and-wife team Martin and Sylvia Hugl practice green harvesting, the act of harvesting immature grapes before the official harvest to encourage the vines to develop the higher-quality grapes still on the vine. They also use cold fermentation, usually fermenting the wine around 50 to 60 degrees, which preserves the aromatics of the wines more effectively. The result is a complex, intense white that’s infinitely food friendly.

On the nose, the Grüner Veltliner holds lime curd, white pepper and notes of tart pear. On the palate, it is silky with refined acid. Yellow plum, lemon zest, melon and intense mineral make this wine a no-brainer for rich or spicy dishes.

The 2013 Hugl Grüner Veltliner is available at The Wine & Cheese Place in Clayton and Creve Coeur.

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Susucaru 6

Friday, September 5th, 2014

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Like avoiding white attire, the notion of abandoning rosé after Labor Day is antiquated, to put it politely. If you must be convinced, we present a very different rosé: Susucaru 6 is floral, herbal, fruit-forward, toothsome, full-bodied, and as dry as they come.

Frank Cornilessen began making wine in Sicily in 2001, and he is leading the charge in natural winemaking; avoiding “all possible intervention to the lands we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be,” according to his website.

He doesn’t irrigate his vineyards, nor does he add compost, herbicide or anything else, save for a cover crop of buckwheat and wildflowers. He ferments with only indigenous yeast. Perhaps most radically, no sulfur is added to the wines. He sterilizes his facility with ozone and uses sterilized synthetic corks on most bottlings.

Although he focuses on growing Nerello Mascalese grapes, he produces a limited bottling of rosé he calls Susucaru, which roughly translates to “They swallowed it,” or “They stole it,” which, as the story goes is what vineyard workers cried out when they saw all the grapes were stolen on the morning of the first harvest.

Although the grapes come from a single year’s harvest, they are not vintage-dated, but instead are numbered by production. The wine is made from a blend of red and white grapes including chardonnay, Cattaratto, Nerello Mascalese and more, and the result is otherworldly. Susucaru is for the adventurous; because it’s bottled without sulfur, you can expect to drink a different wine each time you pop a bottle. Sometimes there may be sediment; at other times, you may experience a touch of fizz. It’s evolution in a glass and terroir at its most intriguing.

On the nose, there are notes of rose petal, sour cherry and cinnamon. The wine is full-bodied on the palate with rose, cherry, charcoal and rhubarb, along with notes of coriander and occasional hints of juicy strawberry and savory orange zest. It has a broad, majestic tannin and an earthy, herbal, spicy finish with medium to medium-plus acid.

Susucaru 6 pairs well with dishes like smoked paprika-dusted trout, heirloom tomato salad and hard Alpine cheeses. Buy a bottle at The Wine Merchant in Clayton or try it at Bar Italia, The Crossing, Acero, Olio and Five Bistro.

 

-photo courtesy of Wines; Tasted!

Drink This Weekend Edition: Jaffurs 2013 Viognier

Friday, August 1st, 2014

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The viognier grape can be quite troublesome. In fact, it was nearly extinct in 1965; only 8 to 30 acres were planted in the Rhone during that time. It has a notoriously low yield. It’s risky to plant at all; it’s more susceptible to powdery mildew than many other grape varietals. If harvested before the fruit is at its ripest, the grape produces low-acid wines with no character. But wait too long and winemakers have a hot, flabby, oily, off-kilter mess on their hands. So why would anyone gamble on viognier?

One whiff of the storied viognier from Château-Grillet should be enough to answer that question. It is the epitome of every viognier tasting note: not just white flower, but also lush gardenia and dewy honeysuckle. Not just orchard fruit, but also ripe peaches picked after a summer storm. It’s full-bodied but has lively acid, and the long finish lingers until the sun goes down. However, not everyone has the $100-plus that bottle can run. Thankfully, there are plenty of good viognier alternatives from the Rhone, Australia and the U.S.

We particularly like the wine coming from Jaffrus Wine Cellars in California’s Santa Maria Valley. Owner Craig Jaffurs makes just 850 cases of viognier, grown in his 159-year-old Bien Nacido Vineyard, and his winemaking style includes fermenting and aging the wine in a combination of stainless-steel and neutral French oak barrels.

The nose on this wine has bright, white peach character with subtle underlying tones of honeysuckle and lilac. The front palate is silky soft with hints of spicy herb and white pepper. This wine is incredibly balanced with flavors of apricot, honeydew melon and gardenia mingling with earth and garrigue. Although it’s fairly full bodied and lush, there’s ample acid on the incredibly long finish. Pair this one with hearty seafood dishes or spicier fare with an Asian flourish. Available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton.

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Syrah and albariño from Bonny Doon

Friday, July 4th, 2014

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Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm is a man of terroir. When he speaks about the land in central California where his grapes grow, it’s as if he’s possessed by it. There’s reverence and reserve in his voice. He chuckles when he recalls starting out in the early 1980s, naively thinking he would produce pinot noir (or, as he refers to it, “the heartbreak grape” for its notably fickle nature) before deciding to run with Rhone varieties instead. It’s these wines that made Bonny Doon into the producer it is today and that earned him the nickname “Rhone Deranger.”

Grahm focuses on the earth, the difficult climate and what the grapes and terroir are trying to express. His grapes speak loud and clear, conduits for the sun and soil where they thrived before becoming wine. Here, our two picks from Bonny Doon to drink this weekend:

Bonny Doon Le Pousseur 2012 Syrah
This medium- to full-bodied syrah possesses a smoky bouquet of mint, herb and dark black cherry. On the palate, you’ll find notes of fig and black plum, more mint and sandalwood. Le Pousseur has more vibrancy that often seen in New World syrahs, with a nice balance of fruit and earth. Enjoy with grilled game or braised pork. Available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Rock Hill.

Bonny Doon 2013 Albariño
This wine begins with lemon and sage on the nose and continues on the palate with lime, melon, herbs and lots of salinity. It’s a very dry white with precise acid. Drink this with light shellfish dishes or grilled chicken and summer vegetables. Available at Parker’s Table.

 

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Fox Run Riesling

Friday, June 6th, 2014

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{Fox Run Vineyards in New York’s Finger Lakes region}

 

As more people come around to the wonder that is riesling, their gazes fall not just on Germany and Austria for drinking options, but also on the U.S. And though upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region might not first strike one as America’s Middle Mosel, both riesling neophytes and grizzled Pfalz fanatics do themselves a disservice if they ignore this region. Simply put, nowhere else in the U.S. produces better riesling than the Finger Lakes.

Scott and Ruth Osborne, owners of Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes, recently paid a visit to St. Louis. After working at several winemaking facilities in California, including Byron in Santa Barbara, Scott Osborne found that his oenological dispositions skewed toward cool-climate wines, and he made the move east.

Fox Run produces six rieslings, two chardonnays, a cabernet Franc and a lemberger, all grapes that benefit from cool climate conditions at the Finger Lakes. Of all the wines we tasted, the Lake Dana Vineyard “12” 2010 Riesling (available at Vom Fass) stole the show. It displayed exceptional balance and proportion with notes of spiced pear and hard apple, as well as a whiff of vanilla custard. The finish was long, crisp and citrusy. For those familiar with German riesling, the “12” displayed the sweetness of a Kabinett, and the acidity kept it clean and fresh. We know some people run screaming from the notion of sweetness in wine; however, many big name California chardonnays have substantially more sweetness than this riesling.

While “12” was our favorite, each wine we tasted displayed balance and precision, as well as purity of fruit and minerality, particularly in the whites. All had moderate levels of alcohol. We recommend Fox Run wines across the board, but keep your eyes peeled for “12” and these two other rieslings, as well:

Fox Run 2013 Dry Riesling
Spicy white fruit on the nose plus some white flowers, peach and nectarine pit on the palate, and finishes with an impression of sappy extract. Available at Parker’s Table

Fox Run 2012 Semi-dry Riesling
Tart green apple and wet stone on the nose, firm but not overpowering acidity on the core-fruit and tangerine-driven palate, and finishes with more crushed stone tones and citrus hints. Available at Extra Virgin, an Olive Ovation

Drink This Weekend Edition: Two prime (and slick-looking) pinot noirs

Friday, May 9th, 2014

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{Mouton Noir owner André Hueston Mack}

Slick packaging has never been something we look for first in a wine, and we’ve certainly never taken it to be an indication of quality. Indeed, we often worry the opposite will hold true – the cooler a label’s appearance, the more skeptical we are about what’s inside the bottle. We always suspect that someone is trying to cover something up.

Of course, this is a pessimistic, maybe even slightly paranoid way of thinking, and not one that we feel comfortable always endorsing. Especially when we are proved so wrong, as was the case recently, when André Hueston Mack visited St. Louis with his stellar Mouton Noir wines.

Mack is a well-known personality in the wine world; he was head sommelier at Per Se during its ascension into the restaurant pantheon. On the heels of that success, he started Mouton Noir, a garage winemaking operation in Oregon that also bills itself as a “two-fold lifestyle project” (the second fold being a T-shirt operation that channels wine zeitgeist into fashion). It might sound like a bit much, but man, does it work. Since we aren’t fashion critics, we’ll stick to talking about his wines, particularly his O.P.P pinot noir and his Oregogne pinot noir.

Mouton Noir O.P.P. 2010 pinot noir

The 2010 O.P.P. (In this case, the acronym stands for Other People’s Pinot, as opposed to Naughty by Nature’s original Other People’s not-for-publication acronym.) is benchmark pinot from Willamette Valley, Oregon. On the nose, it displays lovely red and black cherry fruit backlit by hints of earth and pine. The wine is medium-bodied on the palate with excellent balance, control and integration, as well as a minerally cherry component. It finishes with a more minerality and hints of cherry pit and spice. Available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Creve Coeur.

Mouton Noir Oregogne 2011 pinot noir

The 2011 Oregogne is a step up in silkiness and sappiness. It is most definitely from Willamette Valley, too, but with a distinct nod towards Burgundy (both on the label and in the bottle); the fruit here comes from two single vineyards in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. On the nose, bright red fruit draws your attention first, and red cherry is underpinned by damp earth and mushroom. On the palate, the wine is very silky and extremely graceful, displaying blue fruit notes and more forest floor, all the while channeling firm yet flexible minerality. It finishes long with blueberry and mineral echos. Available at The Vino Gallery in St. Louis.

-photo courtesy of Mouton Noir’s Facebook page

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: The manifold misunderstandings of muscadet

Friday, April 4th, 2014

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Perhaps it’s our longing for warmer weather, our yen for coastal flavors or maybe we’ve just been drinking too many stout beers, but lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about muscadet.

First, a few clarifications: Muscadet is not muscat, Moscato, moscatel or muscadelle. In fact, it is nothing like wines made from those grapes. Moreover, muscadet is not a grape, but it does come from just one grape – melon de Bourgogne. And no, it is not from Burgundy. Muscadet is from the western Loire Valley, from a region called Pays de la Loire. And to make things a little more confusing, muscadet wine comes from any one of four appellations, the largest of which is – you guessed it –muscadet!

Perhaps the most unfortunate feature of muscadet is that it sounds like muscat, a grape that is generally vinified sweet with a relatively low acidity. Muscadet, on the other hand, is very dry with a refreshing acidity. It tends to be aged on the dead yeast cells (called lees) used for fermentation. This adds a creamy, nutty richness that rounds out what can be a rather linear, aromatic, gustatory profile when not handled correctly.

If your eyes have glazed over and you are thinking, These jerks really revel in pure pedantry. I’m gonna go get a glass of Cali chard and suck down a dozen freshly shucked Duxburys, please wait. You see, muscadet might just be the world’s best oyster wine. The wine’s vigorous acidity provides a counterbalance to the sweet melon flavors of west coast oysters, and the nutty, briny notes of Muscadet harmonize with the brine of east coast oysters, while the citrus notes provide a piquant counterpoint.

That said, muscadet pairs with a great number of foods, though we think seafood, particularly shellfish and crustaceans, are ideal matches. Of course, we also enjoy it on its own, and with a maximum allowed alcohol level of 12 percent alcohol leve and a light-to-medium body, muscadet is a perfect spring and summer wine. Drink this every day above 79 degrees (or any day you desire affordable pleasure).

Our pick: Pierre Luneau-Papin (Domaine Pierre de La Grange), 2012 Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, Val de Loire, France

On the nose: peanut skin due to nine months spent on the lees, plus briny lemon and ocean air

On the palate: crushed seashell, honeydew melon rind, Anjou pear, and pleasantly prickly acidity

Vintage is important here; be sure to seek out the 2012, which is available by the glass at De Mun Oyster Bar and will soon be on shelves at Parker’s Table, Lukas Liquor, The Wine and Cheese Place and The Wine Merchant.

Drink This Weekend Edition: 3 wines at the supermarket to rescue your evening

Friday, March 7th, 2014

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{There’s no need to fear the supermarket wine aisle.}

It’s 9:30 p.m. You just finished dinner, and everyone is having a blast. You go to the pantry for another bottle of wine, only to confront an echoing chasm where the bottles used to be. You break out in a cold sweat. Dizziness… Somebody, please, catch you.

But no, you can solve this problem. Breathe in the nose, out the mouth… And then the answer slams to the front of your mind. No wine shop is open at this hour. You’ve got to go to the supermarket.

We’ve all been there. That’s why, this month we’d like to present three wines found at the local supermarkets that serve as exceptionally satisfying spokes in the ever-turning wheel of your evening. We are well aware that the term “supermarket wine” has a pejorative connotation; however, we’ve done our due diligence so you aren’t duly disappointed. Moreover, we’ve kept budget in mind, so you can make sure you don’t run out!

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1. Gundlach-Bundschu Mountain Cuvée 2011 merlot blend

This wine has notes of ripe black plum and dried fig. Baking spice and cigar box mid-palate are tempered with food-friendly acid. Touches of salinity dot the tongue through to the exceptionally long, black tea-inflected finish. This bottle’s price point belies its sagacity. Available at Dierbergs

2. DeLoach Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir

Got a pinot noir snob in the house?  Blind him with this. Is he going to call it Volnay? Probably not. But he will flip out when he sees how drinkable it is. This California wine has bright, ripe strawberry and cranberry notes with a structural complexity not usually associated with the price point. This is for slamming with burnt ends or honestly, any food at all. Available at Schnucks

3. Pine Ridge 2013 Chenin Blanc + Viognier

On the nose, it’s as if someone has juiced a peppered pear. The California chenin rears its head with subtle, welcome wool notes. Firm yet silky on the tongue, this wine finishes apple crisp. It’s a wine to drink while picking at leftovers. Buy it by the case. Available at select Dierbergs and Schnucks

Brettanomyces: Bring on the Funk

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

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Several years ago, we noticed a practice that, to two wine professionals, smacked of oddity: A growing number of progressive breweries were intentionally using Brettanomyces (pronounced brett-TAN-oh-MY-sees), a wild yeast commonly known as Brett, in their beers. We found this perplexing because the wine world has a long and difficult history with Brett. As internationally regarded wine importer Peter Wasserman, of France-based Becky Wasserman Selection, told us, “Basically, a super-light touch of Brett can add some interest to a wine. But anything other than a super-light touch becomes a flaw. A lot of professionals confuse that for terroir. It’s not. It’s a classic, well-documented and quantifiable flaw.” Simply put, at very low levels, Brett can add some appeal to a wine. However, at higher levels, the yeast tends to deaden the fruit, while simultaneously adding some combination of these aromas: Band-Aid, smoke, barnyard and the ridiculous yet accurate descriptor, hot horse saddle.

While confused as to why anything described as adding a hot horse aroma would be added to a beer, we were also curious. So we bought a few bottles of Brett beers and were thrilled by the balanced, complementary and occasionally very subtle attributes that this yeast was contributing. That got us thinking: What was it about the use of Brett that worked so well in these cases, and how long has this been happening?

“Brett was in almost all original beers, as they were spontaneously fermented,” said Cory King, head brewer at Perennial Artisan Ales and founder of Side Project Brewing. “The initial pH of the wort was higher than that of wine, allowing Brett a better environment to get going.” In the U.S., the trend of intentionally adding Brett to beer – be it during secondary or primary fermentation – has been around for around a decade, but it has accelerated in the last few years, King explained.

Jeremy Danner, ambassador brewer for Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing Co., further explained the allure of Brett. “We’ve all come to know our regular house yeasts quite well, but introducing Brettanomyces really lets the beer take on a life of its own,” he said.

Vinnie Cilurzo, co-owner and brewmaster of Russian River Brewing Co., in Santa Rosa, Calif., is one of America’s first brewers to play with Brett. “Brett can work well with certain varieties of hops,” Cilurzo said. “Take one of my favorite beers, Orval. This is a beer where the Brett is used only in the bottle conditioning, yet the Brett works so harmoniously with the beer overall, specifically the hops.” Cilurzo also emphasized that sour and barrel-aged beers are a particularly good mesh with Brett. “There is a great synergy between the funky Brett character and the sour, tart quality the bacteria brings in these beers,” he said.

Whether in beer or wine, too much of this wild yeast leaves the drinker with a mouthful of horse sweat and Band-Aids. Yet, what we consider too much Brett in wine is often not the case in beer since Brett doesn’t deaden the primary aromatic compounds in beer. In short, added complexity is Brett’s greatest attribute, but proportionality is the key to make it manifest.

Three Brett Beers to Try

1. Perennial Artisan Ales’ Aria is a Belgian-style ale fermented with Brett.
Tasting notes: aromas of peach and yellow plum; on the palate, Rainier cherry, plum and notes of barnyard and soil

2. Anchorage Brewing Co.’s Galaxy White IPA is conditioned with Brett.
Tasting notes: aromas of eucalyptus and hops; brined-orange palate; a sauvignon blanc-drinker’s beer

3. Green Flash Brewing Co.’s Rayon Vert is a Belgian-style pale ale conditioned with Brett. Tasting notes: lacy head; raspberry aroma; a leather and iodine palate with hints of tart plum

-photo by Elizabeth Jochum

Drink This Weekend Edition: Valentine wine for any situation

Friday, February 7th, 2014

 

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Just the other day we saw an obese infant shoot an arrow at a disembodied heart; after we called the police, we realized Valentine’s Day was upon us. With that in mind, we have some Valentine wine suggestions with an eye toward rectifying disparate dispositions and choosing the right wine at the right time.

Because you drink craft beer and I drink fine wine: Gaston Chiquet Cuvèe Tradition Premier Cru
Fancy farmer fizz is the way to go here. Known as “grower Champagne” (The people who bottle the wine also grow the grapes.), the wine has typically been in production by the same family for many generations. One we like is Gaston Chiquet Cuvèe Tradition Premier Cru, which has a high concentration of the pinot meunier grape, lending it an earthy element that appeals to the beer drinker. Available at Grapevine Wines & Cheese.

Because you drink fine wine and I drink Cosmos: Chateau Pradeaux Rosé
OK, this one might be slanted towards the wine drinker, but good luck finding someone who doesn’t enjoy the pink perfection of Chateaux Pradeaux Rosé. Reserving rosé for warm weather is a thing of the past; many Provençal rosés are genuinely complex and structured, so there’s no need to abandon them after August. Nowhere is this truer than wines with the Bandol appellation. The color of this rosé makes a Cosmo drinker feel safe; the palate (spicy lavender, strawberry, nectarine, clementine, high acid and dry as a bone) could change your life. Available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton.

Because the first bottle shouldn’t be the last bottle: Leitz Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spätlese 2010 and Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg “Schmitt” 2012
Riesling to the rescue! In the U.S., German rieslings tend to hover around 7 to 10 percent ABV. If you are staying in and cooking, start out with a bottle of Leitz Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreutz Spätlese 2010 (8.5 percent ABV) to quaff while you prep and chat. With dinner, pour the Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg “Schmitt” 2012 (8.5 percent ABV), a stunning wine made from a single vineyard plot in the Mosel region of Germany. Since riesling pairs well with pretty much everything, you don’t have to worry whether it will work with your meal. Available at The Wine Merchant.

Because you’re in the mood: François Pinon Silex Noir 2011
This is a sexy, guaranteed-to-please wine. This 100 percent chenin blanc from Vouvray in the French Loire Valley offers just a kiss of residual sugar. Pinon’s Silex Noir is a tingling, oh-so-silky glass of excitement with juicy white pit and berry fruit notes combined with firm, refreshing acidity. Available at Parker’s Table.

 

 

 

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