Greg Brewer – a quick take

Greg Brewer, the winemaker of Melville and Brewer-Clifton, is far more philosophical than most people know.  I had the pleasure of meeting him in early January 2010, and I must say I haven’t met many winemakers as on the edge of wine making style, combined with a magical outlook on this wine process that we love, than Greg Brewer.  Incredible wines to say the least, and this video gives you a wee peek into his mind. Click the link below

Dave McIntyre’s WineLine – Greg Brewer

Annette’s Southern France adventure, Part Two

Import director Annette Peters filed this final report from her Languedoc whirlwind.  She arrives back in the states tomorrow.

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MORE NOTES FROM FRANCE

MONDAY  in Saint Chinian

After a good night’s sleep  I am off to taste Saint Chinian.

We drive north of Beziers to the town of Saint Chinian,  There are three soils here: Schist to the north, clay and calcaire, and pockets of sandstone that make up 3% or so of the terroir.  The tasting is set up in the abbey at St Chinian, 20 producers are waiting to show their wines.  Depending on what you may be looking for, there are many different styles from this appellation.    Those coming from Schist are usually darker, more brooding and have higher levels of acidity.

One of our new producers ... details later!

One of our new producers ... details later!

The first producer I go to is the Bio-dynamic Canet Valette.    The wines are fresh, spicy, balanced and have the restrained style of producers that practice bio-dynamie   The prices make me hesitate as I wonder if customers will more for the natural aspect of these wines.   I spent the next 2.5 hours tasting mostly red wines, the occasional white usually made from Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon , Chardonnay and the more recently allowed Roussanne.  Finally I arrive at a familiar name Laurent Michel who makes very good Chardonnay/Viognier and even more  lovely  St Chinian called Cazal Viel which was luscious and suave.    Also tasted wines from a one man show who left his legal job working with Beaujolais producers to start his own estate, a tiny property of 5 Ha, with very low yields.  A serious man of few words, he is intense but still proud.  The wines are more raw and are from the last reaches of the appellation before Minervois at the northernmost end of St Chinian.   Clearly his goal is to make very concentrated wines and his yields are very low.  Another young vigneron is getting started with his wife as well.  It seems that the key here is making dark wines that are rich enough to command a little more money for the smaller amount they are able to make.

Our very capable bus driver, who maneuvers this huge bus through roads I would not even attempt on my bicycle, takes us to another estate located up in the schist hills of St Chinian for lunch.  Everyone in the group is critical as they think the wines are uninteresting. They are not bad, they are just very commercially correct.  Straight forward, juicy fruity, they are good but not great wines.

They are fairly priced.  I think that sometimes what people accept from a HIGHLY commercial winery in California, they will not accept in France.  The wines may not be compelling but they still reflect terroir and are, well, correct.  I will not buy them, but I will not damn them either.  Everyone clamors for the Bio guy and the wines do show great material, however the tank wine has reduction, nobody seems to mind but I fear it is unresolvable.   The wooded wines  here are better and yet are now out of the price range for the dollar that has just sunk another 10% lower!  Four more producers and then a piping hot dinner.  Clafoutis of olives,  Sanglier Daube ( a roast of  wild boar in red wine and southern herbs), cheeses and finally figs and pears soaked in red wine.

WEDNESDAY  – FAUGERES

Tasting St. ChinianFaugeres never had an excess of production and when the wine was available it was a tannic wine that was often too overripe and so rugged it was not favored by importers.  With more wine available Faugeres now has  a problem, it is unknown especially by  Americans.     We arrive  at Domaine Liquiere for a tasting of 5 producers.  One producer been passed over by the others as the they think the wines are a little pricey.    However after I get the first wine in my glass I can see that this wine as far, far away from the pack.  Every wine gets better and better from this tiny Domaine of 5 hectare.   He is Organic and becoming Bio.  Wines made from Syrah, Grenache Carignan and Mourvedre bear a striking resemblance to wines I have had before,but from where?  Not France.  Ah yes, Spain.  We talk some more and I found out he got many of root stocks from Priorat and in fact has adopted the Priorat technique AND is very good friends of Rene Barbier.  This is the best wine I have tasted on this trip.  This name shall remain a secret until this order is confirmed!

Pintade lunchLunch is Pintade with Broccoli  tart and more Faugeres; one from the Faugeres cooperative and the other a new producer with less than a few acres.  The coop wines are good, and cheap and cheery- I like them a lot.  The new producer is passionate but the wines are not cheap, but I love her north facing vineyard, “keep the freshness plan”.
Dinner is at a Beziers wine bar.  The wine list is incredible!  Never, never let a group of wine geeks loose on a wine list like this without someone in charge!  It is pandemonium!     We had enough wine on the table that certain people stared to panic.  I thought “Are you crazy?”  The whole bill for all of us is maybe $100!   So many choices under $20 it was  like being at a penny candy store when I was a kid!

Off to bed everyone its after midnight!!!

Tour de Farm at the Walker

Tour de Farm visited the Walker Art Center, and the wine and dinner was fantastic.  Living in Minnesota encourages appreciation of the bounty when it arrives, and this even amplified the emotions.

The wines from the evening, with notes by Annette Peters:

Baumann Cotes de Gascogne Blanc from Gascony France– this refreshing summer quaffer is a blend of Columbard, Gros Manseng, and in this vintage a little Ugni Blanc.

It’s from the French Southwest;land of Fois gras, The 3 musketeers, and some of France’s richest heartiest cuisine.  The perky acidity and bountiful fruit give a sweet yet tart impression that makes this a great aperitif wine, perfect for oysters and shelffish.

Served with Trout course

Dal Maso Tai Rosso  from the Veneto, Italy- many of you may have been astonished when this fruity little red arrived in your glass PERFECTLY CHILLED!  Yes, there are red wines that are appropriate for chilling.  This is a juicy and fruity red from near Venice Italy, where it is frequently consumed chilled with fish.   Its made form Grenache planted in the Colli Berici,  and made by one of our favorite rising star winemakers Nicola Dal Maso.  A real fruit bomb, this wine!

Served with  Pork Confit

Pirineos Mesache Tinto from Somantano Spain– this is from one of the coolest areas in Spain at the foot of the Pyrenees.  In addition to the Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot there is a little Basque grape called Peraleta in the cuvee.  Dense, massive yet perfectly ripe and soft.

Served with the beef course

Falesco Rosso 2007- this may be one of the best vintages of this Umbrian icon we’ve ever tasted.  Juicy and spicy, this is made from Merlot , Sangiovese and Cabernet that consistently delivers the character of perfectly ripened fruit .  Ideal with the beef, rich enough and also bright enough to stay refreshing.

Served with Dessert

Moscato  D’Asti, Batasiolo  2008 – “striking” were the words I heard one guest say.  The aromatic Muscat, refreshing bubbles and slight sweetness played well off the berries and the beet combination created by pastry  wonder  Michele Gayer.  This is a perfect summer “uplift” for desserts when other wines would be just too heavy and sweet.

Hanging out with Shane Finley, Shane Wines

We have met the new king of cool, and his name is Shane Finley.

He’s in a position in life where he could easily swagger in with attitude.   As the associate winemaker at Kosta Browne, one of the hottest wines of the last five years, we would understand at least a little bit of pretention.  He’s earned the right to brag.  He’s earned the right to talk himself up.

But we experienced none, and let me rephrase that, NONE of that.  He’s as humble as they come, wearing jeans and joking around.  He could just as easily be a pro surfer or coffee shop owner.  People in positions like his are usually not like this.

On the side, at the Kosta Browne facility, he makes a truly tiny, wee, itsy bitsy bit of his own wines.  With his background in Syrah, especially after helping out Gaillard in the Northern Rhone (!!!), he has a taste for how great that grape can be.  The two Syrahs we currently have at World Class Wines, The Villian and The Unknown, are simply the most Alain Graillot-like American Syrahs we have ever tasted.  (“Thank you!” Shane said when we told him that.)  Additionally we got a short little pile of the most serious Rose’ we’ve come across in years.

All this from a kid from West Bloomington that until nine years ago never set foot in a vineyard!  Read Bill Ward’s article for more information on Shane’s backstory, including climbing around the Highland Hills Ski Area with a backpack full of books to get ready for the hills of Cote Rotie.  World Class Wines is proud to represent the wines of Shane Finley to the state of Minnesota.

RIP, the wild man of the Loire

The Wild Man of the Loire, Dagueneau.

The Wild Man of the Loire, Dagueneau.

This has been a tough year … first Robert Mondavi, then Sergio Zenato, and now Didier Dagueneau.

Mr. Dagueneau was killed in a plane crash yesterday in southwestern France.  This was a man who put his personal style first and foremost, and invited the critics to crush him if they wish.  They returned his offer with massive scores and press for his dynamic and unforgettable wines.  He was quirky, opinionated, a risk taker, and simply one of the more fascinating characters in the world of wine.  They are the kind of people that make the wine world interesting.

We express our sympathy to those close to him.  We’ve lost another one of the greats.  Pop a bottle of Silex, if you have it, and raise a glass.

More here.

Fresh Taste Festival this Sunday!

The Twin Cities Fresh Taste Festival is happening this Sunday on Nicollet Island.  A great celebration of organic, sustainable, and biodynamic wines with special guests from around the world.

Taste the ultimate in local fare, at the peak of the summer harvest season.  Guest chefs will be discussing local ingredients, farms, co-ops, and farmers markets.

World Class Wines will have a booth at the show (along with many of our favorite wineries), so please stop by and say hi!

For more information go to www.freshtaste.com, or click on the FRESH TASTE FESTIVAL tab at the top of this page.

Hope to see you Sunday!

New arrival: Eric Louis Sancerre

Photo by Flickr user Avlxyz

Photo by Flickr user Avlxyz

Paris brasseries and bistros pour thousands of glasses of Sancerre each year along with their “plateau de fruits de mers”. After all, what could be better with briny fresh oysters, cockles, crab claws, snails and shrimps? No doubt, this is why for the millions of tourists who have endured the brisk service of a La Coupole waiter, there really is no better choice for seafood than a nicely chilled bottle of SANCERRE. Its also easy to pronounce for linguistically challenged Americans. No wonder it’s most likely the most known of all Loire wines.

There are now 2,800ha (hectares) of vines planted here, meaning Sancerre accounts for more than half the central Loire region’s total of 5,000 ha. While the vast majority is Sauvignon Blanc, about 25% is Pinot Noir. In fact before phylloxera devastated these vineyards at the end of the 19th century, red varieties dominated – principally Pinot Noir and Gamay, and until appellation contrôlée was introduced, some of these grapes went north to be used for making Champagne. It was only after phylloxera that Sauvignon Blanc took over.

The Louis Family has been making Sancerre for over 200 years. The name of the estate is Celliers de Pauline after Eric’s grandmother. The estate operates as a “lutte-raisonée” producer, or reasonable methods, meaning they use as little non-organic intervention as possible. Fertilizers and insecticides are not used. Leaving the vineyards natural, or “grassing over” is practiced.

Mainly planted on chalky stony soils, Sancerre is 100% Sauvignon, dry, fruity, with juniper–like notes, concentrated, full-bodied in mouth. To optimize fruit flavors, yields are reduced then after the  harvest, the wine is matured on its lees until February. Several successive tastings determine the best time for the bottling. There is no oak used to make this wine.

Located near Thauvenay, one of the 15 of Sancerre AOC. This is one of the greater plateaus in Sancerre. The soils here are almost exclusively silex. Wines are friendlier here, more fruity and mineral here. More powerful, austere wines come from the Western side of Sancarre where most of the white chalky soils are.

This Sancerre is classical in its high toned gooseberry-juniper fruit aromas, mineral sea-salt tanginess, and plump palate roundness. A less austere style, more gin-cocktail style of Sancerre. Perfect for shellfish, delicate fish, like the river pike of the region, and of course, the famous goat cheese of the region “Crotin de Chavignol” or horse turd of Chavignol” name for its small round shape. If you are in the area and having a goat cheese emergency, no worries! There is a Crotin vending machine in the center of Chavignol offering 4 different ages of the cheese!