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December 19, 2010

08 Local Wine Company, California Sonoma County Alexander Valley "Sweet Spot" Cabernet Sauvignon

I've been asking you to write in. I need you to tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. Fine, I write some obscure tasting of a pinot noir you'll probably never try. I tell you there are ways to mercy and forgiveness that revolve solely around Champagne. But when it comes to cabernet, well, I guess I keep my mouth shut. I have to. I hate to say it, but you come here as much for my opinion on cabernet as I go to Robert Parker to check up on my notes for sauvignon blanc. My point is, it's your fault. Yeah, I said it. It's your fault for not catching me and saying, hey, Slovenian wine aside, you're really missing some of the pride and joy. You're missing the heart of the USA. "USA" as it says so proudly on this label. And proud it should be. Because the thing is, cabernet sauvignon as a grape is brilliant. When ripened correctly, it walks right up to the line of port without being sweet. It's thick; it's tannic; it's tremendous with food. And it never happens. It never does. For some reason, winemakers, or grad students in southern California, insist on covering up these wonderful tastes with oak, or strange fermentation methods, or a cost so prohibitive that who cares what it tastes like anyway. Which is why, when I do venture into the world of cabernet, I go straight to the northwest. Which brings me to this Californian wine. I was blinded on this wine today and I guessed that it was a young cab from Owen Roe, made by David O'Reilly. It's no coincidence, because as it turns out, the team at Local Wine Co. includes David on the wines under Tilda and Murphy's Law. 700 miles south, but nothing changes. If we have to drink American cabernet, this is what we must drink. It's decadent, sometimes too spicy and alcoholic, but balanced with a touch of acid, a hint of meatiness, and gorgeously dry tannins that stick to your gums and the middle of your tongue, cleaning up whatever the wine leaves behind. It's luscious with chef-like flavors of cassis and green fig brulee. I just had a starter at Graham Elliot that wasn't this good. Manjari chocolate and a finish of espresso. You won't guzzle it down. You'll have a glass or two with ribeye (oh, for godsake please make some ribeye to go with this wine). That's enough. You don't need more. And what's left, you'll leave on your coffee table and have tomorrow, when it'll start to taste like chocolate and shiitake mushrooms, truffles if you're lucky. You are lucky. You're lucky that cabernet is being crafted instead of just collected. You're lucky that winemakers in this country care so much, when they frankly don't have to. Cabernet, cute label, always sells. Makes no difference what it tastes like. Except it does. Except if we're going to put our name on this, it's going to be good. Except that the point's been all along not to keep my mouth shut, but as open as it can possibly be.

This wine was provided compliments of Local Wine Company, and if you think that biased my opinion, you're a complete idiot. We occasionally accept sponsors at 750 mL, though they have no influence on the wines we choose to review. French Wine at WineChateau.com - Buy 6 or more bottles and get 50% off shipping with promo code "750m69."

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December 10, 2010

750 mL Stumps the Chef

I thought I was sick for suggesting it, though I wouldn't have been the first. But then, Chef Giuseppe Tentori of Chicago's Michelin one-star Boka actually took me up on it. Not quite Iron Chef, but just imagine the chairman for a second, announcing "tonight's secret ingredient is...." He raises his arms, lifting the metal dome, now suspended in mid-air over a table full of...? Breast milk. Chef Tentori asked the Twitter masses to select a new ingredient to incorporate into his menu--something difficult to find. Today, he culled his list of entries on Twitter down to three, and somehow I made the cut. Now, the voting begins. And even if you don't live in Chicago, you've got to admit that seeing one of the country's best young chefs try to source breast milk is a cause we've all got to get behind. To vote, tweet "breast milk #stumpthechef" to @giuseppetentori. I just threw up a little in my mouth.

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Time to Mull it Over

When I first got into wine, I smelled terrible. You were never to shower beforehand: apparently your wine might taste too Zestfully clean. And you had to drink it out of special glasses. Reds were served at 56 degrees; whites at 48. You held it by the stem or the base—touching the bowl could destroy the thermodynamics, you know! Then I saw it. The light peering into my plain white tasting room. I heard it. The music and laughter outside; the silence of no tasting notes. I slowly dug my way out of the dungeon. Outside? Grown Spanish women gravity bonging the local wine. Raw teak tables covered in hot food and pitchers of sangria. Kegged Chablis. And, across the street, through the windows, more laughter, early Christmas trees and clear glass mugs full of steaming wine. Which got me thinking: Mulled wine. Read more and get my recipe at The Awl...

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December 06, 2010

08 Quattro Mani, [toh-kai] Goriska Brda D.O.C. Exto Gredic Vineyard

First off, the name. Quattro Mani. Four hands. Which, in spirit is right. But, let's be clear. There are no four people in the world who make wine like this. This wine, a project by wine importer Domaine Select to sort of benchmark four traditional types of Italian wine, is quite clearly from only one hand. In fact, I'd say it's his fingerprint--a wine that most of you will hate, or quite quickly ignore, and the sort of thing you'll just have to trust me, or your wine merchant, or your sommelier on. It's the handiwork of Slovenian wine savant Ales Kristancic from across the northeastern border of Italy in Slovenia--if Italy's the boot, I guess that makes this the butt cheek. A few nights ago, I tasted this wine out blind to five people with tapas and only my fiancee liked it. Which tells me one thing: I make good decisions. And if I seem like someone you might love (no pressure), then you too will like this wine. I suppose that's really the point. This is a wine more of character, sense, relationships than anything else. There's a whispering beauty to it. I want, desperately, to boast of the stewed apple and golden apple skin taste. How, as it sits in the glass, it slowly picks up the flavor of coconut and cinnamon. Flavors you normally get from wood, even though this wine sees no wood aging. You could drink it slow and taste nothing, or fast with your eyes squinting and taste the world. But the truth is, I'm not so sure that's what it tastes like. I've had six bottles in the past two weeks, and I don't know what it tastes like. It's like trying to count the carbon atoms in a diamond ring. Which is to say, this wine is elemental. Fair to say, this is tocai's DNA. Not that that matters. Not that that will make your meal better. Not that it will impress your friends. But it will make me happy. Happy to know that these fresh, pure, unvarnished flavors--whatever they are--are wine at its most basic. Before all the sappy slogans, the business consultants, the goddamn writers and all their scores. Before all that, there were grapes. And, a few months later, there were rotten grapes that someone bothered to drink. His name was Ales, an old Bohemian word meaning: Defender of Mankind.

6 Comments:

Blogger Chuck McElroy IV said...

I'm honestly not much for Italian wines, especially ones that taste truly "Italian." I think that Banfi's Brunello di Montalcino ruined it for me.... But otherwise I would like to try something along these lines if you suggest that it's worth mentioning here. any idea where i could easily find one in the southeast?

10:40 PM  
Blogger 750 mL said...

Full disclosure, he's a friend of mine, but he's also one of the only merchants I've seen really champion this wine. You should be able to snag a few bottles at storytellerwine.com. I've seen it on a few other sites as well. Just make sure it's a fresh, well stored bottle, as this is a wine that could very easily spoil in the heat. Alternatively, I'd encourage you to go to your local wine store and look for other bottles of tocai, and similar varietals such as arneis and cortese (gavi).

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Sandeep said...

Nice Post. On a related note, Quatro Mani's Fanciacorta Brut just dropped... and Mario Falcetti killed it especially for near 22 a bottle...

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Jean Tournier said...

Nice post, this is the kind of wine I like, and I'm definitely going to give it a try!

8:07 AM  
Blogger Niall said...

This is straight-up my favorite "cheap" wine, and he'll, I don't even know what the scare-quoted are for.

I don't know a lot about wine, but for a nascent sense of what I like. Chenin Blanc, in its many guises, is certainly one of them; whatever Frank Cornelissen uses for his Munjabel 4 Bianco is another, though perhaps that speaks more to method than material; Friulano/Sauvignonese/"Toh-Kai," or whatever you'll call it, gets on like gangbusters with me. I could, would, should drink this every night. His Movia stuff is pretty damned swell, too, but diminishing returns steer me right back to this gaudy green thing most of the time.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Niall said...

"he'll."

Man disappointed by smartphone.

10:11 PM  

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