Champagne – The Celebration Drink

Champagne

Can only be called champagne when it comes from the champagne region of France, and when that special occasion arises it is still the choice of drink. Many champagne drinkers are happy with the champagnes they know from the larger producers and can be reluctant to spend large amounts of money on a wine they don`t know. However there are numerous smaller producers that match the quality of the well known brands, that are arriving here and finding their way onto wine lists and into wine shops.

In champagne the blend is the key – grapes, regions, vintages are all blended together to come up with the ultimate taste sensations. Great champagne as a drink is light and dry yet has complexity of flavour and richness with the ability to linger on your taste buds for some time after swallowing known as “persistence”. There needs to be a great balance between fruit ripeness while maintaining high natural acidity giving freshness. This balance is the key element in making great wine with distinctive style. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier have the attributes to make great champagnes. The latter two maintain some of the flavour richness of dark grapes.

Non vintage or multi vintage champagne forms the vast majority of production for all the champagne houses. Base wines are usually selected for delicacy, fruit character and acidity, blended together because it is unusual to find one wine with all the necessary characters. The blending can be quite extensive with may base wines being used and this creates the style of each champagne house and requires exceptional skill and in theory should be identical from year to year but there are often subtle differences. Some wines may have been aged in oak or had malolactic fermentation. Batches from previous vintages – reserve wines are used. Blending can be the hallmark of exceptional quality. Numerous regulations have to be complied with.

A stunning vintage year needs both combined high sugar and acidity levels. Vintage champagnes must spend at least three years on lees. Rose champagne has seen an increase in popularity as drinkers have learned to appreciate it as a beautiful elegant wine usually with some berry notes and not just a pink fizz.

TIP – Take champagne out of fridge and put in freezer for ten minutes before serving. Often drunk without food the freshness and acidity are enhanced by the cold. Remove cork and pour into beautiful flutes and see those lovely beads in action.

Champagne does respond well with a variety of food situations, cuisines and flavours. Firm favourites are oysters, sashimi, prawns, fruit salads and soft ripe cheeses, which offer the right texture and flavours.

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Keeping Those Memories Precious

CorkeeperSo, you’ve just had the meal of your life, spent with good friends, and a great bottle of wine. You want to preserve that memory, so you grab the cork from that bottle. More often than not, that cork will just end up in a drawer somewhere or in the trash. That is why I think Corkeeper is such an awesome product. Corkeeper is a frame specially designed with a space for a cork and a small photo. The manufacturer suggests that the people involved in whatever event sign the cork and insert a photo. Voila! You have a nice souvenir to preserve the memories. It is simple, but a great idea. It would make a great addition to every winery tasting room which would seem to be a natural fit. Many people who pass through tasting rooms have fond memories after they leave. Give them an opportunity to walk away with something to remember the experience and it’s a no brainer. If I worked in a tasting room, I could sell a ton of these.

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Praxis Viognier Russian River Valley, 2010

Praxis Viognier Russian River Valley

Praxis Viognier Russian River Valley

Price

Suggested Retail is $18.00

From The Winery

13.7% alcohol, 500 cases produced

Impressions/Notes

The Russian River Valley is best known for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, but it’s always interesting to try some of the “other” grapes grown in the area. The nose on this Viognier greets you with lovely aromas of nectarine, mineral, and some distinct floral notes. In the mouth, salivating acidity waits pounces as soon as the nectarine and tart citrus flavors come to light, while the solid body of this wine does not go unnoticed. This is a wine I would definitely buy again.

Rating

Recommended (86-89), 3.5/5 Value

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Cuvaison Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Cuvaison Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Cuvaison Mount Veeder Cabernet SauvignonPrice

Suggested Retail is $45.00 (Purchased for $30.00)

From The Winery

14.5% alcohol. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. Mount Veeder AVA.

Notes/Impressions

Cuvaison sources their Cabernet Sauvignon from their Estate vineyard on Mount Veeder, located at an elevation of 1200 feet. Their 2010 Cab presents with a deep purple color, thinning to garnet on the rim. It’s a solid and sturdy wine with an equal ratio fruit to earth aromas and flavors. Red cherry, blackberry, and black currant blend with potting soil and a really nice rocky minerality. In the mouth, the wine approaches full-bodied, with gripping, mouth-coating tannins. It’s approachable now, but has a structure that lends well to aging.

Rating

Highly Recommended (90), 3/5 Value

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The Song Remains The Same: Lady Diane Bids Adieu + 2 Wines from Kimmel Vineyards

2 Wines from Kimmel Vineyards

I’ve been in this business for quite a while now, longer than many give me credit for, and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go.  I’ve had the good fortune to work with some pretty incredible individuals over my time in this industry, and for good or bad (or sometimes both), I count myself blessed.  As an industry vet, I talk a lot about the big wholesalers, big suppliers, and big wineries, yet often it’s the “little guys” that move me the most.

Case in point, Martin & Company is a growing wholesaler that operates in both Ohio and Kentucky, and our sales rep, Diane Knueven, is moving on to new opportunities.  She dropped in last week one last time with a couple of wines from Kimmel Vineyards:

Kimmel Chardonnay Mendocino County
Kimmel Chardonnay Mendocino County
Kimmel Redessence Mendocino County
Kimmel Redessence Mendocino County

Kimmel Chardonnay Mendocino County 2010.  Grade=Good.  Opened the day before, it’s waned a bit, yet still shows some nice stone fruit, oak spice and a touch of crème brulee.

Kimmel Redessence Mendocino County 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  Predominantly Merlot, with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec and 2% Petite Verdot, this Meritage-inspired red from Mendocino County shows off nice black fruits, dark spices, sage and leather.  One of the more reasonably priced from Kimmel.

Lady Diane, as she’s come to be known here at UTGT, will truly be missed.  She was easy to work with, possessed a quite attack to her job, and was a realist at heart.  She’s headed to run the tasting room at the new Cooper’s Hawk Restaurant and Winery location opening soon in Cincinnati, and we at TPS wish her well.

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An Atheist, a Zombie and Ted Cruz Walk Into a Bar: The Upcoming Top 100 Lists from Wine Spectator and Yours Truly, Plus Lady Linda and Henriot Usa

Wine Bottles

In a few short weeks, the Wine Spectator will once again regale us with their compendium of top rated wines for the year, a greatest hits if you will, of the top rated wines.  It is this list that makes retailers crazy, in that the majority of these wines have come and gone from the market, and are no longer available – most of the producers have moved into the next vintage, if not the vintage after that. And in true “if-you-can’t-beat-‘em-join-‘em” fashion, I’ve morphed my little top 40 list into a top 100 (going on three years now), which comes out annually on November 9th – the date of my birth (and the wrecking of my mother’s uterus forever).

Comparing my list to Wine Spectator’s is a bit like comparing a picture of a naked Eric Idle to a real-life naked Sarah Palin.  Where I am going with that analogy I no longer know.  It’s essentially an apples-to-oranges scenario, but you get the idea (and a free trip to therapy).  My list is nothing more than a loose-attempt at ranking experiences, a foolish endeavor to be sure, whereas Spectator’s list is really a greatest-hits compilation, a series of reruns airing during Sweeps week.

I once had an email argument with Thomas Matthews, who wondered why, as a retailer, would I be bitching about the added sales the list would give us, and I tried in vain, to get him to understand that the issue was that 90% of the list was already gone, and telling customers “no we don’t have it” did nothing to boost our bottom line.  The point went over like a lead banana.

I guess the same could be said for my list, which this year features a lot of wines not even available in this market (SW Ohio, N Kentucky, SE Indiana).  Yet I make no allusions to there being any sort of definitive greatness; these are simply my humble opinions, that’s it.  I am more fan boy than critic.  I review wines sure, but I do it more as an enthusiast than an evaluator.  I love wine, even the bad ones.  They are like the Ed Wood’s of the wine business – except maybe for that If You See Kay Cab, that wine still sucks.

In the meantime, Lady Linda dropped in with a few from Henriot USA:

Champagne Henriot Brut NV.  Grade=Outstanding.  Gorgeous apple mousse, hints of vanilla bean, mineral and sourdough.  A very sexy Champagne.

Val de Vid Condesa Eylo Reuda 2011.  Grade=Very Good.  Tart, lemon custard notes with hints of kiwi, wet stones and white pepper.

William Fevre Chablis AOC 2012.  Grade=Very Good.  I like this wine, but there is a flabbiness at the finish that is disappointing.  Would like a lot more acid with this one.

Bouchard Pere et Fils Bourgogne Blanc 2010.  Grade=Very Good.  Soft apple and pear notes with hints of lime, wet stone, allspice and sea salt.

Bouchard Pere et Fils Bourgogne Rouge 2011.  Grade=Very Good.  Sour cherries, mulberry jam and hints of violets and red tea leaves.

Villa Ponciago Fleurie 2011.  Grade=Outstanding.  Lots of dark cherry and plum notes, this has some bright tannins amongst loads of red fruit characters.  I love this Gamay, even though it comes from Italy (ha-ha).

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Chateau Fonguillon 2005 ~ Montagne Saint Emilion

Chateau Fonguillon 2005 ~ Montagne Saint Emilion

Chateau Fonguillon 2005 ~ Montagne Saint EmilionA Jean-Noël Boidron crafted wine from Chateau Fonguillon. This Grand vin de Bordeaux hits all the right notes. Deep ruby in colour with ripe rich notes of plums, damsons, and with a mellow earthy liquorice finish to round it off. A well balanced young wine and is cheap but delivers a lot of value for money.

About Montagne Saint Emilion

The village of Montagne lies opposite the Saint-Emilion Appellation and shares its major characteristics. Less well known, its wines are wonderfully surprising. They are elegant, full-bodied and distinguished.

Montagne winegrowers have taken advantage of Saint-Emilion’s proximity to improve their vines and the quality of their wines. This Appellation has become a rising star in the region.

Its weather is almost identical to its neighbour’s Saint-Emilion, separated from Montagne by only a small stream, the Barbanne.

The terroir consists of limestone and clay limestone soils on a thick and compact layer of porous asteriated limestone, which, by providing water to the vines during the summer dry period, plays an essential nutritional role. The more gravel and sandy soils produce results that are lighter, more delicate and less tannic than the areas with limestone.

The Appellation’s blend generally consists of Merlot (60% of vines planted) and Cabernet Franc (30%).

Cabernet Sauvignon, which is more difficult to cultivate due to its late ripening, is reserved for the “warmest” and best-exposed fields.

Montagne-Saint-Emilion wines are elegant, full-bodied and always distinguished. They are generally robust with wonderful Merlot and Cabernet Franc tannins contributing to their structure.

Intense aromas of red berries, undergrowth and cherry are joined by, blackberries and liquorice to balance the power of these wines.

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Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2007

Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2007

Montepulciano D’AbruzzoA cheapo bargain wine from the Lidl supermarket chain. For a table wine retailing at only 1.69€ a bottle it is not bad. The fact that it is cheaper then a bottle of cola is just amazing. There is not much of a nose on this wine but once on the palate there is some good juices offset with a mild tannin note. There is almost a smokey Scotch (Whisky)  finish note to this wine which I found very nice, especially because the middle is rather flat with only a slight young yellow plum sneaking in.

Bottled by V.E.B., Loc. Colombara, 5 – 37011 Bardolino – 1 – Italy

About Montepulciano D’Abruzzo

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo was designated as a DOC in 1968. It covers most of Abruzzo ranging from Molise in the south, the Marche in the north and inland against the Apennines Mountains. The wines are at least 85% Montepulciano with Sangiovese permitted, but not required, at up to 15%. The Riservas need to be aged a minimum of two years before release, with at least 6 months of that in wood.

The Montepulciano grape is quite prolific. The Montepulciano grape grows easily in Abruzzo. It is plump with high amounts of juice. In an area this poor, this has been a boon to farmers wishing to take advantage of high yields. Unlike most other varietals, this grape makes nice wine even when produced in large quantities. The grape has a deep purple and ruby color to its juice. It has lower acidity (especially for an Italian varietal) and mild sweeter tannins. The resulting wines tend to be softer and more accessible than Chianti or Nebbiolo for example. Accordingly, the young wines are nice pleasurable reds that go as well with food as without it.

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