Fabio Alessandria of G.B. Burlotto visited the Salon for a tasting of his Barolo wines, including a vertical of his Barolo Cannubi. One our favorite tasters captured his talk on video. Check it out here.
At Barrel with Daniel Boulle of Domaine les Aphillanthes
Rising southern Rhône producer Daniel Boulle considers himself a vigneron before a winemaker. Having tended vines and sold off his grapes for years, he, in 1999, began crafting his own Côtes du Rhône wines. Robert Parker wrote that they “may be the richest Côtes du Rhône I have tasted” and we appreciate the ripe character about them. USQ welcomes Boulle to the Barrel for a Tuesday evening of Domaine les Aphillanthes tasting.
Boulle’s domaine is located in the small town of Travaillan, just northwest of Gigondas, and he produces several cuvées of Côtes du Rhône, with his wife, Helene. He employs a series of biodynamic practices in the vineyard and believes in minimal intervention. He ferments in concrete vats and bottles without filtration. What results are powerful and expressions of Rhône blends, such as his 100 percent Syrah, the Cuvée du Cros, and Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre cuvées, Cuvée des Galents and Cuvée des Trois Cepages. Swing by for sips and stories on the Domaine les Aphillanthes current releases.
Admission to this tasting is free, and reservations are not required.
After our Cognac & Blues event on Wednesday, we’ve had a hankering for more Cognac brandy. Which brings us to the choice cocktail of the weekend: Sidecar. The Sidecar is thought to have been invented in Paris for a patron of the bar who typically arrived by motorcycle sidecar. The first mention of the drink can be found in Robert Vermiere’s Cocktails: How to Mix Them. His concoction calls for equal parts Cognac brandy, Cointreau and lemon juice. But we follow the more popular recipe, found in The Savoy Cocktail Book:
1/2 Cognac brandy 1/4 Cointreau 1/4 lemon juice
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.
It’s popular to add a sugar rim, as Schiller’s Liquors (photo above) does in Manhattan. For that, coat the rim with a fresh lemon and dip into sugar.
“What we saw on the sorting table was beautiful, some of the best Pinot Noir you can dream of.”
This is how Aubert de Villaine, self-described “steward of the domaine,” referred to the 2009 harvest at yesterday’s trade tasting in the The Library at The Palace Hotel. One of the highlights of the year for each that I’ve been in the business comes with tasting the new vintage from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, an event comprised of wine writers, sommeliers, and buyers like me. As the wines are well beyond my means, it is a privilege to taste them, and listening to de Villaine’s synopsis of each vintage is more informative and enlightening than any wine course in which I’ve sat. His dissemination of the vintage from winter through harvest and élevage is not dissimilar from the way in which Ishmael tells his tale of the white whale, slowly and surely, building gravitas with inclement weather and pulling victories from sunny afternoons. Yesterday, he stumbled quietly in French for the first few words before explaining that his English was out of practice and apologized for the volume of his words: “My voice as I get old gets less and less." Naturally, when he finishes with the tale of the vintage it’s impossible not to have a deeper reverence for the wine in the glasses before you.
New to the lineup this year was the Corton, a bottling crafted with fruit from Clos du Roi, Renardes, and Bressandes. De Villaine described these parcels as among the original part of Corton, vineyards that existed before the appellation grew to its current size. When paired alongside the other wines there was a marked difference in both the aroma and flavor of this Beaune-based beauty which de Villaine summarized as only a master Burgundy Jedi could: “The wine of Corton looks towards the ground, and the wines of Vosne look towards the sky.”
As the tasting continued de Villaine made constant reference to the “airiness” of Vosne, a description that made perfect sense given the aromas that permeated the room. In past years (‘07, ‘04) the wines haven’t shown at their best at this tasting, but yesterday’s exposition left smiles on just about every face in the room. Comparing the ’09s to the ‘59 vintage, de Villaine remarked, “I don’t think I’ll ever see them at their peak. You may.”
You may if you’re flush and lucky enough to find some. Each year the retail allocations shrink as demand grows. I find it amazing to think that given the current economy it is possible to sell as many bottles from this estate as one can get their hands on. The good news is that magnum lovers will be rewarded with more magnums in 2009. More magnums at the expense of larger formats, of which there will be none. Aubert explained that “95% of big bottles ended up at auction,” which elicited chortles from a grinning John Kapon seated at the table behind me. Once the subject of auctions and the parallel market came up, de Villaine discussed a number of new anti-fraud features they were planning to incorporate into the labels in coming vintages, “things that only we at the Domaine are aware of.”
The tasting ended with a few sips of Le Montrachet. The 2009 seemed less melodramatic than in previous vintages, “more mineral,” as de Villaine described it, and completely devoid of botrytis. Sitting there among my colleagues I enjoyed the Montrachet from sip to swallow, savoring it as I read through my notes and quotes from de Villaine. I’ll spare you my impression of the wines (it’s obvious I enjoyed them), but a note scribbled between some nouns and adjectives reminded me that as we’d settled into the degustation Aubert ended his vintage report and encouraged us to taste in silence and avoid using words “for something that doesn’t need words.” His voice might be getting “less and less,” but to me his words have never been more resonant. -Jesse Salazar
French-trained oenologist Morten Hallgren has long been convinced of the wine potential in New York’s Finger Lakes. He and his wife, Lisa, a chef, settled among the shale-stoned soil of the region in 2000, founding Ravines Wine, and never looked back. Today, he produces dry Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Meritage on 17 acres near Keuka Lake. The New York Times described his 2009 dry Riesling as “elegant, with complex aromas of citrus, pear and lillies, distinctive minerality, and vibrant acidity.” Prior to Hallgren pouring his Riesling at our Winter Riesling Tasting, we talked winemaking, dinner parties and beer.
What sets New York State Riesling apart from other Riesling-producing areas, such as Washington state, Germany and Austria? “Austrian Riesling would probably be the closest to dry Finger Lakes Riesling — the combination of a firm acidic backbone, a moderate but more substantial alcohol level, and the deliberate absence of botrytis. I think our Rieslings have more structure than most German Rieslings, which make them easier to pair with food. We have a firmer acidity than most Washington Rieslings, resulting in more focused, intense aromas.”
What sets your wine apart from other New York Riesling producers? “We have a commitment to all hand picking and whole clustering pressing. Aging on the lees allows us to ferment dry and still preserve textural elements.”
What was it like building a winery from the ground up? ‘It allowed Lisa and I to focus exclusively on dry wines and food pairings without commercial compromises. It was also a lot of work!”
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? “The most rewarding aspect is being part of a group of winemakers with a chance to mold and shape wines from a little known region with immense potential.”
Where do you see the New York State wine industry in five years? “I think, and hope, we will see a greater emphasis on dry wines with even higher quality standards. I think there is already a shift toward drier Riesling, even if we struggle with defining what ‘dry’ is.”
What is your favorite food pairing with one of your wines? “I love local, fresh goat cheese with my dry Riesling.”
What is your go-to bottle for a dinner party? “Currently, I take my 2005 Meritage or my 2008 dry Riesling. Finger Lakes wines have inherent balance.”
What is your most treasured bottle, personally? “I’m saving some 1990 Champagnes, Taittinger, Pol Roger. 1990 is my anniversary year.”
If you’re not drinking wine, you’re drinking…? “Beer! As a kid in Copenhagen, I lived close to the Carlsberg Brewery.
Any particular style or brand? “I drink everything.”
RiesLin-sanity Takes Over USQ: Riesling in Winter Tasting
Everyone is going crazy for Lin-sanity and New York right now, not least of which is USQ! Which brings us to tomorrow’s tasting in the Salon: Riesling in Winter, including New York Riesling (local pride!), as well as exquisite pours from Germany, Austria, and Alsace, from 2pm to 5pm.
By now, most wine enthusiasts recognize the amazing potential of Riesling in New York’s Finger Lakes region, just as basketball fans revel over breakout Knick’s star, Jeremy Lin. On hand to share their offerings will be Ravines Wine Cellars’ winemaker Morten Hallgren and Red Newt Cellars’ winemaker Brandon Seager. Taste and talk with these major players to get the skinny on the state of Riesling in the Finger Lakes. Also featured from Finger Lakes will be bottlings from Dr. Konstantin Frank.
Featured European estates include Austria’s Alzinger, Hirsch, and Bründlmayer; Germany’s A.J. Adam, Reuscher-Haart, Josef Leitz, Günther Steinmetz, Clemens-Busch, and Weiser Kunstler; and, Alsace’s Domaine Albert Mann, Domaine Bott-Geyl, and Willm. We promise there are no airballs here and expect a few slam dunks among these 24 wines.
Admission to the tasting is free, and no reservations, or basketball abilities, are required. Find out more information here.
If Fabio Alessandria can’t have wine with dinner, he drinks water. The winemaker at the famed G.B. Burlotto estate in Piedmont, Alessandria is the great-great grandson of Giovan Battista Burlotto, a distinguished producer who was among the first to bottle Barolo and brand it under the family name. Alessandria has brought renewed acclaim to his family’s holdings in and around the village of Verduno, home to the limestone-rich Monvigliero vineyard which is considered among the great Barolo crus. USQ held a tasting of 12 Burlotto wines, including his aperitif favorite, Pelaverga, the 2007 Barolo Monvigliero, and a vertical of his Barolo Cannubi. We also sat down to get to know the young, northern Italian native.
What sets your wines apart from other Barolo producers? “It’s difficult to find a bad Barolo, but I prefer the more elegant, traditional style of Barolo. For us, the Verduno village is well known for the elegance and finesse of the wine, especially from Monvigliero, which is considered the most feminine vineyard in the Barolo area. We, in the family, think that while power is important, we don’t want to to lose the finesse, the drinkability of the wine. We want to maintain the aromaticity of the Cannubi, for example. Wines in the more modern style are more concentrated, more extracted, have more oak. I want to feel the profile of the grape.”
What is the most reward and the most challenging aspects of your job? “I enjoy that it’s a family business. Our cellar is small, so I’m involved in the winemaking, the vineyard, and the marketing. I like that I can see the different aspects, but of course, the winemaking I love, to taste the wine. I try every day to do the best to show our soil and what our grapes can offer. But this is the most challenging part of the job: to understand the grape and what we want in the grape. The last vintages, from 2004 to 2008, are all really good vintages, but really different. We have to take what is good in each grape to produce really great wine.”
What do you drink at home? “Barolo. I like to pull out a 10- or 12 -year Barolo after dinner or lunch. It’s so much more complex; I like to concentrate on the wine [without food].”
What is your favorite food pairing with one of your wines? “I drink the Pelaverga with sausage and prosciutto. I love the freshness and acidity of a younger Barolo with a stack of red meat like steak fiorentina.”
You’re going to a dinner party. If you can’t take your wine, what would you take? “Of course, Barolo is my favorite wine, but I love Burgundy. I love the Rhone Valley, from Cote-Rotie and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Just today at lunch, I had a Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape.”
If you can’t drink wine, you drink what? “With food, I love wine. If I don’t drink wine, I drink water. But I like a light beer in the middle of the day in the summer, to relax a bit when it’s hot.”
What is your most treasured bottle, personally? “We have some bottles of Barolo going back to 1889, 1890. Those are special.”
At the Martini Bowl 2012 last Saturday, Bulldog Gin served up one “Dirty Dog” of a martini. While the London-based spirit didn’t take home the top prize (that went to Poland’s Zubrowka bison grass vodka), it did win in our minds for the herbed feta-stuffed olives. Make one yourself with the recipe below.
3 oz. Bulldog Gin ½ oz. olive juice speared olives for garnish
Shake well. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with olives.