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January 31, 2010

NV Jean Vesselle, Champagne Brut Bouzy "Oeil de Perdrix" Rose

It's not often that I drink coffee while tasting a wine, even relatively mild, nutty, Mexican Chiapas. Like cigarettes, flavorful food, off-white tablecloths, and impressionist art, it's one of the things that the real tasters out there--the guys who get paid the big bucks to have all their wines comped--would never allow. Obviously, it destroys your palate. And while it's tough to argue with some of that (after all, they are the experts), I will occasionally taste wine in my underwear on a dumpster beside the Boulevard Montmarte eating foie gras cream puffs and smoking Marlboro reds, a dead pale-eyed partridge in the road. That's how we actually drink (well, maybe not exactly), not stuffed up in some sterile, lifeless tasting room. A wine like this demands it. To be had in as many different places and life situations as possible. And I did that with this 750 in particular, starting on its own, then with chicken livers and duck rillets at Sepia, a quick nip in the bathroom at Avec, and finally this morning with my coffee. Possibly Bouzy's most historic style, later popularized by the sweet-palated Swiss, the bold "oeil de perdrix" is just a more artistic, impressionist name for rose. But what it infers--French for the bloodshot eyes of a dying partridge--is the best clue into the taste of this wine. It's not just pink, it's a dying bird. And similarly, what we taste aren't just the remarkably forceful flavors of white raspberry, strawberry, and red currants. And what we smell isn't just the completely proud, ethereal essence of pinot noir (and brioche baking in some patisserie on the Rue de Seine). It's an awakening. When I drink wines like this, I think of course it's this good. It's supposed to be this good. Everything tastes like this. I expect to come home and have the water in my tap be a sweet salmon shade of pink. That's Vesselle's strength in this gorgeous, decadent Champagne--to capture not only the greatness of Bouzy, one of my favorite wine regions in the entire world, but to make us consider why we aren't there. How we've gone all this time in our condos and midtown lofts eating cheeseburgers and drinking Coke. It makes you see your surroundings anew, that maybe your own perspectives aren't the ones that matter, and--if you're lucky enough to have the chance--the world may only ever be this beautiful through someone else's eyes.


Blogger Khelsy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Khelsy said...

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3:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11:45 AM  

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January 29, 2010

08 Paco & Lola, Rias Baixas White Wine Albarino

When I was younger, my parents would feed me green mangoes and salted pears. So, there you have it. That's the wine. But, even if you read this blog all the time, don't expect me to get all deep on you. Because it's not deep. We ate that because it tasted right. Ripe mangoes were for summer. Pears? Well, immigrants don't really know what pears are. So we better put some salt on them. Like an unoaked chardonnay, an unadulterated anything, this is a simply tart, unaromatic, lemony, and downright briny Rias Baixas wine. It might as well be a bottle of the Atlantic Ocean this Galician DO faces. I don't know if I want to drink this or season my fries with it. Mix it with sand and crust some whole fish with it. But use it just as that. An ingredient. Something to temper the amuse bouche, or aperitivo the good stuff, or go with that big platter of head-on shrimp on the table. That's all. Because by now, there are several producers in and around Rias Baixas really challenging the albarino grape at this pricepoint. Comparing it to chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, and then taking it to new, distinctly Spanish heights. And, sadly, the cooperative of Paco & Lola is not one of them. What it does do, however, is show us how great this grape is. That really, it is the default white wine. It's the wine that will do for anything at any time. And even in this state, the lingering question is why not? There are no flavor wheels. No whitewashed tasting rooms. When a wine writer holds this wine it evaporates. Only food critics get to understand. Not me, but maybe Tony Bourdain. Maybe that guy from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Because as a wine writer, it's probably the one wine I can completely pan--which I guess, if you consider me a critic of any sort, I have to do here--yet drink an entire case of. I plan to. Just wait 'til the weather gets warmer. 'Til the early mangoes show on the markets at Devon street. The winter air turns dank and floral. Our neighbors bring their pears again. And the salt falls heavy from the dew.


Anonymous JC said...

That's funny-I can remember having Albarinos before that seemed to have a bit of a salty component, not most but a few maybe.

A wine that often, to me anyway, reminds of salt is Vernaccia for whatever reason (certainly no sea to blame it on.)

12:58 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

I always wonder about "blaming it on the sea." I used to do it with Islay scotches, too. But, truth is, these things are usually aged deep inside modern buildings. And were the the air truly that salty, then cardiologists would be making a killing in these terroirs. Nice point on the Vernaccia. I like the san gimignano whites for much the same reason as wines like this albarino.

12:19 PM  

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January 13, 2010

06 Belle Pente, Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Murto Vineyard

This is exactly what's wrong with today's glut of California pinot noir. Leave it to Oregon to tell us that too. Because while I wouldn't want to cover my body in, say, beef tallow, I wouldn't mind washing my lips every evening with a thin strip of Armandino Batali's lardo. Bear with me. What I'm trying to say is while this briary, sometimes sappy, full-flavored pinot noir doesn't have to hold anything back, it manages to find restraint. Like Miles on a Coltrane track. Some kind of purple. A bold pinot noir that finds the musicality in flavor. A melody to string along its power chords. And where some boisterous Cali pinots (don't get me wrong, there are many great ones in all styles from the gentle Au Bon Climat to the proudly powerful Sea Smoke Southing) seem to forget that pinot existed before them, that they don't need to reinvent the press with outlandish flavors and textures, Belle Pente's seductive Murto Vineyard wine adds to the grape's storied history--from its first century Burgundian, possibly Greek, origins to, well, Sideways. And where we land is, much like the winery's juicier, less spicy eponymous bottling, somewhere in the middle of Oregon, just north of Grand Cru Charmes-Chambertin. Unlike some of the more overworked, governating pinots of its neighbor, Belle Pente's supple texture, ripe buttered cherry, blueberry, and sweet rhubarb flavors, violet aroma, and spicy minerality feel inborn instead of inbred. Not added, really, by oak or winemaking wizardry, but husband to the grapes themselves. And, in that way, not at all unlike the rich north Burgundy wines--often forgotten when talking about the fallacious lightness and elegance of French pinot noir. It's a true testament to this side of Oregon wine. And proof positive, in my book at least, that not only does terroir exist, but that the terroir of Oregon is among the world's most important. That, had things started a little later than 2,000 years ago with pinot noir, we might have first discovered this wild rootstock not in France or Greece, but on a roadside off Oregon Route 47. And 2,000 years from now, nothing would be different.


Blogger Steve-n-Melissa said...

As I'm sure you know, '06 wasn't a stellar year for nuanced Oregon PN, and a lot of them are flabby and already just about shot. Further testament to BP's skill and restraint with their Murto grapes. Really, really good stuff.

1:35 PM  

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January 08, 2010

NV Gruet, Methode Champenoise Blanc de Noirs

I'm not one for causes. Confusing what I do here with tertiary things like politics or economics. I might care about biodynamic, organic, sulfite-free wine. I might not. Maybe immigrant vineyard workers should be paid more. Has anyone looked into who is really making the new wines from India? I don't know. That's not what drives 750 mL. But today, we officially adopt a cause. A mission, if we may be so bold, to buy Laurent and Nathalie Gruet, children of the Bethon, France-born Gilbert Gruet, some plot of land near Ay, Champagne. Because we're not going to start another argument about whether America makes real "Champagne"... Yes, this wine is from America. New Mexico. Albuquerque, actually. Right off the interstate. There's a Whataburger down the street from here. ...It doesn't. OK, glad that's over. Now, we can get to what's important. Which is that there is tremendous spirit to this wine, easily the boldest, most educated of all American sparkling wines. Let's first get past the flaws. For those of you who don't care what "methode Champenoise" means. Who think "Ay" is a typo. God bless you. Because you're not tortured by the horribly expensive pursuit of the perfect wine (all roads lead to some--though no one knows which--Champagne). And for you, this Gruet blanc de noirs is--by far--America's best sparkling wine. With the slight, powdered sugary sweetness of Moet's White Star, it's at once terribly complex and terribly pedestrian. It's either a good domestic wine or a bad prosecco. But we can quickly look past that. Because I actually think there's a lot more going on here than an odd level of sugar. It's not really sugar. What's happening to this Gruet is that it's found and preserved some remarkably precious, ripe pinot noir. There is no traditional sparkling wine in the world that tastes more purely of the pinot noir grape than non-vintage Gruet, Blanc de Noirs. It's completely filled--bubbling over--with a direct, linear flavor of wild raspberry and Meyer lemon peel, screaming for the sweet savory of sashimi salmon. The kind of flavor in a Champagn... sparkling wine that flat-out catches you offguard. It makes you forget what you were thinking. That's what Gruet does. Yes, there are better pinot-based sparklers in the world. More than a dozen, at least, as a matter of fact. But the way these complex flavors finish, from the fruit to a dense, eggy vanilla custard and frothy zabaglione, and hit you over the head--I just have to see what these folks can do outside this dessert climate, actually not unlike the high-elevation plots of southern France famous for its sparkling Mauzac. Let's do something that really matters. Let's get them there.


Anonymous Sandeep said...

Isnt he still working with G Gruet et Fils and Paul Laurent, and more so since his dad passed?

3:00 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

That's what I was trying to track down. Are you saying the us winemakers are working in champagne? How close is their involvement besides the business aspect?

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Sandeep said...

I'll ask the distributor/supplier as they may know better than I, but my understanding was that LG was very closely consulting on at least the Paul Laurent wines I know its held by his sister and her husband. though this may be a misunderstanding reinforced in my head by the fact that the D. St Vincent is distributed by the same people who distribute PL.

12:29 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Thanks, Deep. Let me know. I'll update the post if needed. Actually, would love to talk to Laurent and Nathalie if I can for 750 mL and a couple other pubs... Maybe Peter Liem's written about this?

11:13 AM  
Blogger Jinxica said...

I had this wine several years ago at a wine festival in NM...people thought I was crazy to like it. I bought several bottles, but have since consumed them. I can't seem to find it out here in Baltimore, but I'm glad you enjoyed it!

10:46 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Jin, I used to see Gruet mostly at boutique shops. But now it's everywhere, so you shouldn't have much trouble tracking it down. Ask your local independent retailer, but otherwise, just head over to a Whole Foods or chain liquor store. If they don't have Gruet, they can get it with little difficulty (though I realize some of the laws are weird in MD). It's the only wine I see regularly (specifically the chardonnay-based blanc de blancs, which I'll write about in the next few weeks) in big box stores and chic haute restaurants at the same time.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

Not to shill, but Bin 604 in Harbor East regularly carries Gruet Blanc de Noir.

You may have over-romanticized (or under, depending on your love of What-A-Burger) the grape growing location. A very small percentage of the Gruet Pinot is grown in Albuquerque. It's my understanding they have a very large vineyard in southern New Mexico, near the interestingly named town of Truth or Consequences (I'm not kidding about that).

And while I can't speak to Laurent and Nathalie's business involvement in Champagne, I do know they have family who are growers in Champagne. If I remember the story correctly, they may even be growers for Moet. So your comparisson doesn't surprise me.

Lastly, as a New Mexican expatriate now in Baltimore who is proud of what the Gruet's have built, I have to shill for another wonderful New Mexico wine. You should check out Milagro Winery, and specifically the 2007 Zinfandel.

4:45 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

All the more, Matthew, that such a clime would produce such well balanced sparkling wine, considering what thin-skinned pinot has a tendency to in heat.

4:57 PM  
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January 05, 2010

10 New York Wine Expo, Write for Me

The 3rd Annual New York Wine Expo is this February 26-27 in New York city. There's a broad lineup of tastings from 170 producers and seminars in store, appropriate for--it seems--just about anyone. I'm happy to announce that all 750 mL readers receive a discount. Register at this link before February 19 for $10 off your tickets with discount code 750MLBLOG.

...which reminds me. There are so many great events like this all year all over the world. One of the more notable ones I missed recently was Josh Greene's talk about 100-point wines in Brazil. It kills me. The focus of this website will always be tasting notes, but I've been to a lot of these huge tasting events. I know they provide a lot of value to attendees. Why lock them away to the privileged few who have press passes or time away from work to swill a couple hundred bottles while eating water crackers and cured meat?

I'm looking for a few more of me. Some live, water cracker-eating bloggers who want to post or crosspost on 750 mL during major wine tastings, seminars, vintage reports, and other industry events. E-mail me if you're interested at 750mL.blogspot@gmail.com.


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January 01, 2010

02 Louis Roederer, Cristal

Goodbye, 2009. Hello, 2002. The last decade probably won't be remembered for this--especially since it just came out--but it should be. It brings together some of my best memories of the past 10 years--the bracing tartness of my first Salon, the big frothy mouthfilling flavor of my first blanc de noirs, the sheer look of shock, awe, and horror at the metaphysical possession that was my first smell of Krug. The smile I had on my face every time I drank wine in the past ten years, whether I was a novice or expert, broke or starting to make it, no matter how hard the day had been. With my first white truffle (I thought it strange that chocolate would be served over handmade pasta), through an odd and surprisingly long stretch of vegetarianism, with duck, with tallegio, with Armandino Batali's salumi, with Chef Alyson West's cheesecake, with chorizo-stuffed dates, with Chef Kahan's tobacco ice cream for lunch. All the tables. All the broken glasses. The broken hot tub and sliced toe. But in the end, I'll remember all of that as the heady, phantomic breath--yes inhale and exhale--of the 2002 Cristal. The tart lemon curd and golden raspberry. The rhapsody. The glimmering pale yellow night and crystal. The bubble and squeak against the quickening rhythm of my heart, trickling across my tongue, clearing off my lips--remember what's come before, but give every moment its due. These nights will always be ours.


Blogger Meg said...

Hey, we had Cristal last night, too, but a '96. (Here are my notes, if you're interested: http://bit.ly/5dxqlS) Yours sounds headier, with more fruit; we had no citrus whatsoever. Happy New Year!

10:50 AM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

"like a struck bell ringing into quiet" Exactly, Meg. Thanks for posting your note. I'd love to take on the 96. Here's my note on the 97, which I thought was glorious--I can only imagine how much better the 96 was. By citrusy I just mean it's awfully young. This 02 is going to be epic in 7 years. But that's fine. What I love about Cristal is the aroma. It's probably the most hedonistic smell in all of wine. Some hate it. I live longer because of it.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

Wow, "The Toe Incident" made it in huh? I have a pic from the day after, ~$2,500 split among 24 empty wine bottles all lined up along the wall.

10:43 AM  

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