warning: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is no longer supported, use preg_replace_callback instead in /usr/www/users/tbuckles/includes/unicode.inc on line 345.

Matt Christen's blog

Heritage Vines, Trendy Times and the New World

Now that our comfort zone of Chardonnay, Cabernet et al has been shattered with great introductions of other grapes, it seems that I spend more time discussing with guests the most niche or small plot varietals.  Actually, it is refreshing and I'm happy to use descriptions that 5 years ago were limited to a few guests and our classes.  Although the fascination, the journey, the "puzzling" our way through the world is a large portion of recent changes in consumption, there are a few other concerns that have propelled these wines & areas to the spotlight.

The reactive nature of the public to heavily oaked or alcohol soaked fruit bombs, previously aligned with both Australia and/or California's warmer regions, has sent TWH scrambling to provide Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Lemberger... any port in a storm, but in these cases not PORT!  Many sommeliers agree that woood use can detract so much from the table when done clumsily; it is without question that alcohol kills all flavors eventually, so why push it to the limit in each glass?  I have had a long run of explaining Maloactic gone awry - Movie popcorn only tastes good in a... no, actually it doesn't taste good there either!  Without a doubt the Loire Valley whites are on a comeback here - 2011 & 2012 have been times of Vouvray, Muscadet and Sancerre. The versatility of cooler climate wines, with their more interesting subtle flavors & less alcohol, is the topic of this year - and I have attached two great articles below for your enjoyment. With compliments, New York has really placed themselves well in this New World Market - look to the top producers for great examples. (Shinn Cabernet Franc, Ravines Meritage, LaMoreaux Landing Gewurztraminer, Heart & Hands Pinot Noir, Etc., Etc. - and Rieslings from these or many others).

Don't worry that I still propose a great Falanghina or Greco from warmer Italian regions - that's part of the "Heritage Vines" mentioned in the first paragraph.  Likewise, Spain is in our heart, regardless of temperature/alcohol they always seem to keep the balance aand make us beam! It's simply that I have always loved the concept of "food wines", a term that distributors/sales/import are just now beginning to use in their marketing. Ciao M



The Newest of our Pre-Sales!!

Several items on the horizon - so worth a blurb here, as many of these wines sell out through the store grapevine!  Limited quantities of beautiful wines - prices are effective for pre-purchases - the reviews below are all Parker.  Ciao 

96 points The 2009 Tinto (Quinta Vale D. Maria) is a Douro field blend. This year, it has a sexiness to it that is captivating. Yet, that is certainly not all it has. The structure is impressive as is the balance, although it may need a few years to get where it’s going. The tannins are obvious, sometimes hard edged, but they are ultimately going to integrate. In its youth, the oak is also a touch obvious, but it is equally clear that will integrate, too. This seemed easy to categorize early on as sexy, ripe and tasty. There is tremendous potential here, mostly submerged at the moment. For every 15 minute interval it was open, it changed and got better. Put this in the cellar and come back in 5-6 years. Let it show you what it has. It will be a contender for one of the best Vale D. Marias. It will be a contender for wine of the vintage. It is tremendous. Drink 2014-2030. This is the best lineup overall I’ve seen from the Van Zeller stable.  $55 (for 96 pts!!)

92 points The 2009 Po de Poeira is a Douro blend of old vines (50%) with younger vines of Sousao, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional, aged for 12 months in used oak. This is the best “second” wine made at the winery and one of the best second wines I’ve seen in Douro. It is a year in which it compares well to the flagship “first” wine. This is just one heck of a mouthful this year and it comes in at a terrific price point, too. Full bodied, mouth coating and earthy, speaking of the soil, pure and clean, this is a refined and complex wine with moderate tannins, a complex flavor medley and approachable demeanor. It is not an obvious wine and it does not always show a lot of concentration, but it always shows complex flavors and significant grip on the finish. I finally – with extended aeration – saw the fruit blossom, too. This is just lovely. There were a mere 250 cases imported of 3,000 produced. Grab it if you see it. Drink now-2019. ($25 for 92 pts!!)

Perhaps the finest example of this cuvee Guigal has yet made, the 2010 (E. Guigal) Condrieu La Doriane flirts with perfection. Profoundly intense with abundant notes reminiscent of caramelized oranges, lychee nuts, apricots, spring flowers and a liqueur of wet rocks, this superb, full-bodied, rich Condrieu possesses slightly higher acids than the 2009. It should keep for 5-10 years. (98 points for $125) - one of the biggest & best whites in the world!

The fascinating 2009 (E. Guigal) Gigondas Le Lieu-Dit, which comes from a 5 acre parcel planted with 95% Grenache and 5% Syrah, is aged in older small barrels. This superb wine is a candidate for Gigondas of the vintage. Its dense ruby/purple hue is accompanied by cascading, fragrant notes of blueberries, blackberries and black cherry liqueur. Voluptuously textured, full-bodied, complex and hedonistic, this terrific, full-throttle Gigondas can be enjoyed over the next 10-15 years. Don’t miss it! (93 points for $70) - why chase/drink Chat d Pape?

The 2006 Fossacolle Brunello di Montalcino bursts onto the palate with waves of dark red fruit and a soft, voluptuous texture that is truly beautiful. This is a decidedly forward, juicy wine built on a solid core of fruit, but all of the elements work together beautifully. This is one of the better choices among the (relatively) early-drinking wines for the vintage. As good as this is now, the fruit holds more than enough vibrancy to suggest the wine has a bright future ahead of it. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024. (93 points for $70)

The 2006 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino is a gorgeous wine laced with red cherries, tobacco, cedar and underbrush, all supported by a firm tannic spine. Argiano’s 2006 Brunello shows beautiful inner perfume and the structure to develop positively for a number of years. Floral notes appear on the vibrant, polished finish. The estate’s Brunello spent 12 months in French oak (which is mostly felt in the wine’s textural richness) and completed its aging in cask. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024 (93 points for $65)

The 2005 Terredora Taurasi Pago dei Fusi is a huge, explosive wine. It possesses superb delineation of aromas and flavors to match its dark, brooding personality. Sweet balsamic notes develop in the glass, adding further complexity as the wine gradually builds towards a powerful close. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2025. Terredora Di Paolo is one of the leading estates in Campania. This is a superb set of releases, with many excellent choices at all price ranges. (94 points for $50) - for those of you who enjoy this winery's Taurasi on our high end tasting, this will not be a surprise.  Listed here is the big brother, we still have the regular (91 points for $35)

Still remarkably ruddy, albeit amber at the rim, Gerard Bertrand's 1945 Banyuls Legend Vintage - which he reports originated in mixed plantings of all three variants of Grenache - smells delightfully of mocha, cocoa, cherry jam, and hibiscus. Creamy and decidedly sweet, at the same time it retains an unexpected and welcome suggestion of sheer fresh fruit juiciness, and its finishing notes of subtly smoky, dark tobacco, toasted walnut, and bitter chocolate serve for satisfying counterpoint and assist in balancing the sucrosity. This should be lovely to return to over the next several decades, assuming a satisfactory performance by the cork. The victory vintage! (inquiries only - most likely $250 to $300)

 Quite orange-tinged amber, the Gerard Bertrand 1951 Rivesaltes Legend Vintage - said to have come from Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris, and Macabeu - is scented with candied orange rind, nutmeg, aromatic tropical woods, and high-toned hints of varnish. Still quite sweet, it preserves plenty of sap on the palate and in a finish that harbors bitter hints of orange rind, fruit pit, and chew of dried fruit skin. I imagine this will remain stable in bottle for many years. (inquiries only - most likely $225 to $250)

A deep amber Gerard Bertrand 1929 Maury Legend Vintage smells of molasses, spice cake, vanilla, sultana, and dried cherry. With modest remaining sweetness it permits one to access some additional nuances of smoky black tea, cocoa powder, and alkaline, stony mineral notes. Finishing faintly rough and warm it nonetheless presents a sappy, spicy persistence that belies its age. And it will probably change only very slowly in bottle over the decades, provided the cork functions optimally. (inquiries requested - the 1929 will be $425; a 1939 vintage is $225)




Summer Semester on Schedule!

After the usual full fun in our spring classes, I'm soon on to the break weeks and setting up the next round! Our summer classes will be held Tuesday (101, Around the world from vine to bottle) @ 6:30 pm and on Thursday (201, Activities with Wine) also @ 6:30 pm.  Both are free as always, which explains why the 201 always sells out! I will keep an open mind to adding an extra section if necessary!  The start date for both is week of 5/22 & 5/24 - after Mom's Day & Graduation!

Additionally, we have teamed up with Cazenovia College in their Extended Learning curriculum to provide single night courses this summer and fall!  I understand their brochure went to print, so keep an eye out or stop through the store for more info!  (available online @ cazenovia.edu)  Italy, Spain, Bread & Cheese (with an olive oil tasting), and the Pacific Northwest all seem to be on the docket as well as more!  Another fun addition to our continued in house classes!

See you on Wednesdays til then!  Ciao Matt

Scotch Rocks Again!

A quick note for all the enthusiasts!  A new line of Scotches will be unveiled on 2/8/12 - a Wednesday night - @ 6:30pm.  As always, the seats go quickly so grab the chance if you are one of our Scotch devotees!  Also, I found a couple poteen Irish whiskies that will be added to the tasting!  Different presentor, so a chance also to hear some new information.  How great to head from our 250th into a Malt tasting?!  Ciao  Matt

Wow What a Pace!

On February 1st, we will celebrate our 250th Wednesday presentation!  Over the years we have covered topics like Women in Wine, The State of the States, Friends in Low Places, Cab Fair, Club Med & Blend me Your Ear.  Fun nights also as in Gameshows, Blind tastings, and Aroma Diploma series.  And three of our faithful were given "Diplomas" for attending more than 200 nights!

What should I do for the big Celebration? Comments here and on Facebook shall bring us to something awesome - and of course, it will include Great Wines!  Thanks to all for a run through these five plus years!  Ciao M

Additions to the PreSale Area!!!

Those of you who peruse the Presale page to the left know we constantly change with the seasons.  Many of these end on the New Arrivals page also!!  A couple of newer items on the horizon were interesting enough to paste into this spot - for anyone who may not have checked in recently!

PRESale in Progress: Mollydooker on several levels, orders by 12/8 for presale pricing.  Two left feet shiraz/cab/merlot (92 points), The Boxer shiraz (91 pts), The Scooter Merlot (90 pts), Gigglepot Cab (93 pts), Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz (92 pts), Enchanted Path Shiraz/Cab (93 pts) & the Carnival of Love Shiraz (93 pts)!!!  Velvet Glove (98 pts) by conversation only.  How fun to see these out there!

Bodegas El Nido "Clio" 2009:  Again the team of Juan Gil and Chris Ringland produce another 94 pointer!  70% Monastrell, 30% Cabernet - the "Baby" sister to the huge El Nido.  In stock now yet only the few cases available.  Crushed rocks, blueberries, subtle campfire, briar, insane length and beauty - although Miller said what "light feet" it had for such a big wine.  We can drink it now!

Max Ferdinand Richter Estate Rieslings from the Mosel, 2010 Vintage, arrived!!:   Braunberger Juffer Kabinett, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese, Braunberger Sonnenuhr-Juffer Auslese, and Mulheimer Helenkloster Eiswein Cask 73!!!  Requests by 9/1 ensured the import pricing - we will have some left in store at regular pricing this holiday season. By his own claim when he came to the store, the highest vintage acidity since 1980!  Dirk Richter is known for fermentation in neutral oak (10 years of water soak first!) and a modest skin contact regimen to balance the acidity.   Lively barely describes the reality of these wines!  I chose the WS Spatlese, Tim the BJS Auslese.... and what a treat the Eiswein!! This Estate is proud to have contributed the needed innoculation of proper molds into the rebuilt winery portion of Schloss Schonborn!!  What a compliment to the Doctor - who doubles as the Mosel Valley historian!!

Dal Forno Romano (can you believe this?) Valpolicella 2005!  Serious inquiries only please.  These wines are 95 to 98 pts each year, this the most coveted firm in the area, and we can get forward pricing for those who wish - the Valpo for about $90!!!  Blueberries, crushed rocks, minerals, violets, leather.... oh the heaven - Galloni admitted it was a wine he didn't spit when he reviewed! These two are only babies, to be opened 2012 to 2020, although a few hours on the counter and why not now too?

Scotch Rides Again! & Again!

Yes it is true the rumors - Ed Kohl, the Scotch guru, is coming to our house for another great presentation!  The lineup is always down to the last minute - as Ed can bring his ownership skills to the table - but never has it been short! Remeber, he actually choses the barrels himself prior to bottling! This event is on Wednesday, 10/5, at 6:30pm and FREE as always - so seats go immediately - stop in or call/write soon.

Additionally, many of you remember that I have been working on another small batch bottler to bring his presentation to us - and he has said yes - though the date will be finalized.  We will be doing this fun within the Oct/Nov first range - So it's TWO SCOTCH tastings with speakers to remember!!  Stay tuned here, in house or on Facebook for the exact Bat time.  Gordon & McPhail brings alot to the table in our market, so Tim & I are pleased to hand over the reins!!  Ciao

Another Great Tasting is on the Way!

Oh Boy is it hot this last week! Whites from all over have flown into the chiller as we all enjoy summer.  New Zealand is no stranger to great Sauvignon Blanc - so wines from down under have sold well!  It seemed like a great time to ask one of the more known wineries in NZ to bring on a tasting event!  On August 24th (Wed) @ 6:30pm, Chris Alton will bring in a line from Craggy Range!

Although we usually let Wednesday nights go free form - this tasting is by reservation only due to seating availability - yet it is still FREE!  Try the Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling & 90-92 pt "Kidnapper's" Chardonnay!  There's going to be a great 91 pt Pinot Noir from their Te Muna Road vineyard - and wait for it.... Chris is willing to share the Le Sol Syrah 95 pts & the Sophia Bordeaux Blend 94 pts!!  Sure we normally open wines of easier stature and price (these will be about $20 to $55) but why not perk up the late summer days?


There's an excellent way to do a little research and get thirsty!  Then Chris can tell us all about it!  Ciao M

Two Special Tastings to Remember!

Sure we list our tastings by dates - but many want to know more such as the actual wines!!  While Wednesdays & Saturdays continue, two guest speakers this month should be called to light.

On June 8th, Wednesday @ 6:30pm, a vendor sponsored event featuring Roland Marandino, Wine Ambassador, from Banfi/Cecchi/Sartori properties in Italy.  Roland and I enjoyed our conversation when we met - and it was inevitable that we finally schedule a drink!  Thanks to Gina for the referal - look forward to seeing her here too!  We'll open wines such as the "Ferdi" white (partially dried gargenega, like a white amarone, $15.99); Morellino di Scansano Riserva from Val delle Rose in Maremma ($22.99); Sartori's "Regolo" IGT from the Veneto (Ripasso, $21.99); and definitely Tenuta Alzatura Sagrantino di Montefalco from Umbria ($44.99). I'm sure Roland will present more that night - and the information from an Ambassador will be tre bicchieri!!

AND!! On June 24th, Sunday @ 4pm - another wonderful visit from Maurizio Clemente, our Itallian connection extraordinaire.  Not that we don't admire his ability to bring us A Lisa or NQN Malbecs... it's just this time the wines are over the top!  This is limited in seating/scope so signup is REQUIRED in advance.  Riedl crystal, bottled waters, light cheese & crackers will be available as always on the Sunday tastings.  This is not a New Jersey Italian man - Maurizio hails from the properties he speaks to!  Break the ice with Broglia in Gavi's Sparkling creation (lush peach flavors); Go upscale with Vie di Romans Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay (both 91-93pts); Fossacolle Brunello 2006 (93pts); Produttori di Barbaresco, Barbaresco 2006 (91 pts); Argiano "Solengo" IGT blend 2006 (93 pts); Terra Dora Taurasi 2005 (92 pts); and Le Salette "pergola Vece" Amarone (92 pts)!!!

Our apologies - seating for Maurizio has closed out. Please stay tuned for future events!!

Tuesday "Short" Courses to Begin

In response to many requests for "less time committed" courses, TWH now offers the beta version of our Single Night, intense one topic classes!  Styled after our 200/300 level classes, these are seminars led by Tim & Matt yet are based upon the open discussion and questions of the members themselves.  Each presentation begins with an overview of the topic at hand and then proceeds down a road only the night can know!  This round will run five Tuesdays from 5/17 to 6/14 - however there is no continuity week to week, or the need to sign up for all - you only need to reserve seats for the topics which interest you and fit your schedule!  6:30 to 9pm and free of charge: limited seating so sign up soon!

5/17 Spain - with nearly 80 areas of production now, the country is exploding with good wines & great bargains.  From the Catalan northeast to the Gaelic regions, we will travel down four rivers, across the Meseta Central, and even visit the rocky cliffs of Malaga - discussing food, culture & fun!

5/24 Grapes/Blind Techniques - a wonderful expose on "grouping" categories of grapes, their characteristics & styles, by weight and color!  This course rounds out with a step by step of solid blind tasting techniques, challenging many of us out of our preconceived notions!  Lighthearted and simply explained, a true eye opener!

5/31 Food! Cooking & Pairings - Malbec in the White bean Cassoulet?  Cabernet in the Chocolate ice cream? And what does one serve with a PB & J?  From Fusion to Fine, we explore cuisine of all lines! Traditional boundaries may blur - in fact we might even mention a good scotch!  Also to discuss - does over thinking detract from the enjoyment? Which restaurant is doing the best job?

6/7 Collector's Corner - what really is the difference between Cellaring & Ageing?  What pitfalls wait for us as we stow bottles over the years?  What and Why do I need to "build' a collection?  Are there areas of our world that have excelled/fallen over the years in storage?  Who's coming for dinner; What should I give out at Christmas?  And no doubt we can look into the most famous collections worldwide! A serious look at what is happening inside the bottle.

6/14 Italy - If your view of Italian wine is thru the lens of Tuscany, or centers near the sea of Pinot Grigio available - come take a tour with us!  Former Austrian vineyards & Swiss Alps cascade down into so many other regions.  Economic and cultural differences between the North & South will be addressed, as will the Last decade vs. a millennia of experience!  The olive oil/butter line always brings us to food - hey this is Italy - Mangia!

Syndicate content