"I KNOW OF NO ONE WHO CAN take THE STUFFINESS OUT OF A WINE BLOG AND TURN IT INTO A THEATRICAL, SATRICAL YET EXTREMELY INFORMATIVE PIECE OF WORK THAN DEB FROST". TERRY P
3/2/18 and the winner is......
With great balance between fruit and acidity, notes of citrus and green apple are featured in this crisp and mineral, easy-drinking white wine. Although terrific on its own, it will pair especially well with oysters, sushi, salads, asparagus, spicy foods and fried foods. In German, Lustig means “funny, merry, happy, jaunty.” With an easy-to-pop crown-cap closure and a full liter of wine in each bottle, this is a great wine to drink with friends or whomever as we agree or disagree with the Oscar winners!
2/23/18 dalmatian nectar
Croatia’s Dalmatian coast is literally just a hop, skip or sail, as the case may be, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. It would be surprising if wine was NOT made there. And it has been, from local grapes, since Greek settlers were established by the 5th century BC. The Romans continued suit, and celebrated the god Bacchus with a temple that remains on the northern coast of Istria. The Roman influence is also seen in the north where a hill named Mons Claudius honored the many vineyards planted for the Emperor. Christianity spread through Croatia, as throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, but when the Ottomans conquered, Muslim law made exemptions for sacramental wines. Should one doubt the seriousness of such rules, there is even a 1407 statue standing in Korcula that warns landholders who neglect their vineyards will be punished with not only loss of their profits, but their right hands! But by the late 19th century, the Phylloxera that devastated Europe destroyed what wine industry there was in Croatia. And Word War II, which created Yugoslavia, followed by the horrific ethnic politics that subsequently ripped it apart, determined that if any wine was indeed made, it was not going to travel far. Which is too bad, because judging from the excellent wines that have been appearing on the international market since the end of the most recent strife and Croatia’s 1991 declaration of independence, there is an incredible bounty of tremendous values, particularly made from hitherto unfamiliar indigenous grapes. One of these is Plavina, which has helped, along with the introduction of modern technology and EU- conforming style and quality regulations, to account for Croatia’s current rank of 30th among wine producing countries. White wines predominate in the North, but Plavina is considered Croatia’s most underrated coastal red grape, with unique characteristics that differentiate it from both local varietals and the more familiar Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Barbera and Syrah now cultivated to both blend and stand alone. This fresh, handpicked and barely filtered Plavina, grown in the warm climate and rocky soils facing the Adriatic, could almost be mistaken for an Italian country wine. It is pure juiciness, bursting red berries with lively acidity, solid tannins, a hint of chocolate and cigar, and natural earthy terroir. Try this versatile find in place of your usual Italian red pasta and pizza accompaniment or whatever makes you toss a coin between Malbec and Cabernet. It’s slightly lighter in alcohol and so easily quaffable, you may want to spring for two bottles off the bat— the first has a mysterious tendency to suddenly disappear!
2/15/18 ambrosial ribera!
Ansejo & Manso Joven
Ribera del Duero
With just one sip of this superbly balanced value-priced bottle, you realize that despite the unfamiliarity of this merely thirteen year old Bodega, the wine could not possibly be made by a neophyte or clever marketer who’s retired from a career minting money to indulge in a bucket list vineyard fantasy. It was only in 2004 that Jésus Asenjo was encouraged to estate bottle fruit his family has been growing for 110 years. His grandfather, Tiofilo, planted what are considered some of the finest vines in the region, and he has spent his life in the vineyards and continues to tend them himself year round. He is helped by a talented young woman, Natalia Calleja, a former lab technician he soon promoted to head winemaker. The production is organic, and everything about this bottle feels fresh and unfussy, musty or dark, as so many traditional and sometimes off-putting Spanish products can be. “Joven,” as many in this hood are well aware, means young in Spanish.This wine is produced in a small quantity from a combination of this tiny village estate’s best and youngest fruit from bush-trained vines planted in clay soil. Fermentation uses only natural yeast, and after stainless steel tank fermentation, it spends just three months (another reason for the “young” appellation)in a combination of French and American oak barrels. Ms. Calleja’s talent is obvious in a unique, lively, fruity cherry, plum juice that is particularly refreshing for fall. Drink this instead of over-hyped, mass-market Beaujolais— it is a fabulous accompaniment for food- especially anything with garlic! We drank it with an improvised crostini we threw together the other night, rubbing a clove and dribbling all over toasted whole wheat sourdough Bread Alone peasant bread from Frank's, topped with a little bubbling crispy mozzarella,. cherry tomato and fresh basil. Trust us, it was AMBROSIAL.This would work wonders with roast chicken, store bought pizza, burgers, pasta, you name it. Really a treat at an unbeatable price.
2/14/18 valntines day sparkling rose
Antech Cremant de Limoux Émotion 2014
If you are searching for a way to put some fizz- figurative and literal- into your Valentine’s Day, stop right now. As much as we adore both great champagne and great rosé (and have always been willing to splurge for either) we have cottoned to the mere idea of pink bubbly as much as well, cotton candy (now that we have to pay to fill our own cavities, among other things). So, truth be told, we were probably more skeptical than anyone else will ever have a right to be when this was first proffered as a decent libation, never mind a holiday toast. We are still laughing at ourselves. This would be a terrific bottle even without the bubbles— but it is really one of the best, as well as most unassuming, sparkling wines from any country we have ever had the pleasure to sip.
Wine historians, in fact, believe that the world’s first sparkling wine was produced here, in the Languedoc-Rousillon, in (some say 1531, others 1544),before Dom Perignon, by monks at Saint-Hilaire’s abbey, rather than in the Champagne region, which has, of course, usurped not only the “méthode champenois,” but the huge fortunes made as a result of convincing the French government to insist that nothing in world made beyond its specific, relatively small geographical limits can be labelled as such.
But perhaps being slightly out of “official” bounds has allowed six generations of this family- now headed by a formidable daughter, Françoise, to develop its own unusual blend that until now has remained a pretty well kept wine insiders’ secret. “Émotion,” just one of the family’s superb wines, marries the very different combination of hand-harvested Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Mauzac and Pinot Noir for AOC Cremant de Limoux in the traditional method to create a just beautifully beaded, pale pink, dry floral arrangement of delicate strawberry/cherry hints. Elegant, crisp- you will absolutely not believe that anything this excellent is available for even half the price of Champagne. There may be no going back for us- never mind Valentine’s, this is going right into the running for all future celebrations, up to and including New Year’s. A great choice for picnicking, too, it is an out-of-this- world aperitif and perfect pair for fresh spring/summer salads as well as sashimi, Chinese or Thai any time of year. This is better than chocolate! (Though it works well with that, too). Be your own valentine. Émotion will reward you- and/or those you love- with a most charming little kiss.
2/9/18 barbera d'asti
Barbera de Asti 2016
Have we previously noted that with one VERY rare exception (a funky bottle of a fairly odd orange wine), we have NEVER, over the course of decades, been disappointed with any bottle bearing the imprimatur of Neal Rosenthal? We were really pleased, as we may have mentioned, reading the NYT’s Eric Asimov’s lovely memoir recently, to discover that Rosenthal’s personal guidance and sensibilities regarding biodynamic, terroir-reflective cultivation and handcrafted traditions (as opposed to merchandising “brands”) were fundamental to Asimov’s formidable professional palate and ideas regarding the sheer enjoyment of wine as food. And despite Rosenthal’s career-making discoveries in the villages of Burgundy’s Cote d’Or, his import business actually began with two Piedmont growers. One of them was the Anfosso family, with whom he released his very first vintage in 1978. Descendants of DeForvilles who left their native Belgium in 1848, the fifth generation is represented by Valter and Paolo Anfosso. Unlike their early DeForville ancestors, who sold bulk wine directly to restaurants and retailers who bottled it, the entire production is now bottled, which occasionally includes purchases from neighboring communes, at the estate. Since the first go in 1940, the output has grown to about 100,000 bottles a year. The grapes are all hand harvested, and the reds vilified traditionally, fermented on the skins, and bottled 18-20 months from harvest, as regulations demand and the result tastes anything but mass-produced. It is a simply stunning deep purplish red, with an equally deep concentration of red plum and dark cherry flavor. It is vibrantly complex, smooth and delicious, especially if one does not jump the gun and allows it breathe generously before serving. Some pundits will insist it pairs best with game, but please, don’t rush to Fort Tryon to shoot the pigeons. It’s fantastic with practically any Italian dish, particularly red-sauced, you can dream of, as well as roast chicken, meatloaf, burgers, whatever tickles your fancy. It is simply too good, particularly at this reasonable price, to pass up.
2/2/18 the press
Super Bowl Spectacular!
H.A. Oswald Family
The Press Chardonnay
With all that is going on in our country today, it is understandable that one tragedy has become overlooked. Which is that far too many Americans have become brainwashed into believing that no matter what their feelings about football, it is their duty to serve and consume some of the worst combinations of junk food and pissy drink on Super Bowl Sunday. RESIST! And in order to lead the way, we suggest a Chardonnay that celebrates all that is great about this land, our land’s native terroir and pioneer spirit. Husch Vineyards, planted in 1968, was, with its initial releases in 1971, the first bonded winery in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, the northernmost part of California’s ever more impressive wine growing region. In 1979, grape growing neighbors, the H.A. Oswald family bought the winey from Tony and Gretchen Husch. Today the original 21 acre Husch Vineyard is planted to spectacularly well received Pinto Noir, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay, and warmer climate grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Muscat and some Chardonnay are grown on the Ukiah Valley’s Russian River in the La Ribera Vineyards. The family run operation is now in the hands of the third generation— which includes Zac Robinson, who sold his Silicon Valley start up, “Ask Jeeves” in order to devote himself to the organic, handcrafted wines his Grandpa Oz insisted be worthy of not only sharing with the world (as they were at some notable Reagan state dinners) but his neighbors. And this bottle, a limited pressing of Chardonnay from both vineyards, is a tart masterpiece of sophisticated bright flavor with just the right finishing dab of buttery oak. It is fabulous with all kinds of dishes, from cheese to chicken. But if you’re going just the nosh route this weekend, pair this with a fresh roasted eggplant dip. Just one toast will make everyone a winner.
1/29/18 biodynamic cotes du rhone
Domaine de Joncier L'O de Joncier 2016
Southern Rhone Valley, France
This scrumptious biodynamic Grenache (with 2% Cinsault) would be a great treat at a much higher price point— for under $17, it is simply impossible to refuse! The legendary importer Kermit Lynch has outdone himself with this fabulous find from an impressive female winemaker, Marine Roussel, who had a successful career as a graphic artist in Paris before taking over the domaine her agronomist father Pierre established in 1964. This fresh, spicy cherry-tinged ambrosia, which should be served slightly chilled to fully appreciate, just bursts with her unique verve and hand-harvested organic style. A wonderful pick-me-up that truly feels like spring in a bottle. No lover of happy surprises from France should pass this one by.