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Email Newsletter: French Wine Tasting Tonight!

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

Hello everyone,

Hope you're having a great week so far. Anyone notice that the water in the neiborhood smells like chlorine this week? That probably is a pour excuse for me to substitute with wine. Starting to catch up to me. 

I really hope you can make it to the tasting tonight. The lineup is solid. We'll have 11 wines open with some cheese so the cost is $10 per person tonight. Stop by between 6:00 and 8:00. More on tasting below.

New beer arrivals

Funky Buddha Strawberry Shortcake has arrived, it's a wheat ale with strawberries and vanilla added. Also new from the mighty FB is the return of Nib Smuggler which is their cocaine themed chocolate milk porter. We're also supposed to have some barrel aged goodness from Anderson Valley Brewing and Weyerbacher arriving either later today or Friday, not sure. Boy are we making a killing selling our pulp wine shipper boxes to what appears to be hardcore beer nerds for whatever reason. Have no idea what you guys are doing with them but we have them. A fresh shipment of the following bottle sizes will be arriving tomorrow: 1, 2, 3, 6 and 12. Hope you all have permits for sending yeast samples around the country or whatever it is you're doing.

Back to the tasting

We're starting off with two Muscadets (I know you now know that these are anything but sweet) both single vineyards one from 2015 and the other from 2012. It's interesting to see how the acidity has softened on the 2012 compared to the sharp acid of the 2015. I can see the 12 aging great for another five years (it's $12.99!) and the 2015 for over a decade. Branger 'Terroir Les Gras Moutons' 2012Landron 'Clos la Cariziere' 2015

One of the most slept on wines in the store is Gros Noré Bandol Blanc 2014. You can't buy Bandol Blanc like this anywhere for fifteen dollars except at Craft & Curd. Bandol is a region within Provence that's mostly known for their rosés but also reds and whites which can be exceptional. This is made up mostly of the grape Ugni Blanc which goes by Trebbiano in Italy. It's also used as one of the main grapes in Cognac production.

The last white is a Chardonnay that I think most people can appreciate: Domaine Cordier Saint Veran 'En Faux' 2013. It comes from the more southern part of Burgundy called the Mâconnais where other value wines like Macon Village come from. A wine from the village Saint Veran will typically be better than your average Macon Village because it's a more specific place. Remember in Burgundy it's all about narrowing down the place as much as possible.

We're starting off the reds with a beautiful cru Beaujolais from the appellation of Fleurie. This one from Clos de la Roilette is not as floral as some other wines from the appellation, it's actually pretty big and dark fruited for a Beaujolais. It's from one of my favorite importers Louis Dressner. Heading up to Burgundy proper we're pouring the great steal of 2016 from Domaine Lecheneaut. Their Morey-Saint-Denis (that's the village where it comes from) for just $35!

So Wine Spectator magazine puts out their top 100 wines of the year list around this time every year. Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone 2015 made the list at #43 with a 91 point rating. It's a really solid Cotes-du-Rhone for $13.99. It's not a really complex wine (maybe more so with time) it's all about the structure - the tannins, acidity and sleek mouthfeel are all well balanced. I highly recommend picking some up.

Warning: three out of four of the remaining reds may have some herbaceous / green pepper notes. Some people find this appealing, others may tolerate and some will despise it. We've come to rely on our reds always being ripe and devoid of these flavors. They exist. The first being a Cabernet Franc from Chinon which is a region in the Loire Valley known for this grape. This is what a typical Chinon will taste like, appreciate it for that if nothing else. Then we're pouring the first of two Corsican wines. The 2011 has some of those green notes while the 2012 is riper. This is vintage variation, it's natural. A wine like Meiomi Pinot Noir doesn't vary much from vintage to vintage because it's an industrial product. It has no soul and will chip away at yours. [Yes, we do carry Meiomi at the amazingly low price of $16.99]

The Antoine Arena 'Carco' Patrimonio 2012 which is a bit riper probably due to a slightly warmer, dryer year is also really savory and a bit earthy. It's made with native Corsican grapes that I proudly have no idea how to pronounce.

We're finishing up with a Bordeaux from the right-bank appellation of Fronsac. The Kermit Lynch website says it's all Merlot but it seems like it also has some Cabernet Franc in it which is typical of wines from this area. Drinking great with six years age on it now. Château Haut-Lariveau Fronsac 2010

Thanks for reading especially today. I struggled to write this email - not feeling my best. Hope to see you tonight after my third caffeinated beverage of the day.
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New Burgundy Arrivals

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

We've just gotten in some excellent Burgundies at unheard of prices.

Robert Kacher has built a reputation for being one of the top importers of French wine over the past several decades. Last year he sold his company to Domaine Select who will continue to maintain the portfolio under his name (minus a few estates) but within their umbrella. Typically when there's a major shift like this, the individual distributors in some markets will offer discounts in order to clear out the inventory that they'll no longer be representing. That was the case here. 

It's not common nowadays to be able to get a village level Vosne-Romanée or Nuit-Saint-Georges from a good producer and good year for just thirty-five dollars. That's more like bad producer and bad year money.

If you live in Tampa, most of these wine will be available to taste at the store on 10/26/16 (link to Facebook event). 

Cordier Bourgogne Blanc 'Vieilles Vignes' 2014 $12.99
Domaine Cordier Saint Veran 'En Faux' 2013 $16.99
Domaine Cordier Pouilly Fuissé 2013 $16.99
Domaine Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Caillerets 2013 $49.99
Domaine Lecheneaut Nuits-St-Georges 2013 $34.99
Chauvenet-Chopin Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru 'Les Murgers' 2013 $39.99
Domaine Lecheneaut Vosne-Romanee 2013 $34.99

Five Wines You Need In Your Fridge For Takeout

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

Put down that bottle of Cabernet and let me give you some tips that will enhance your eating pleasure. You can't cook every night so you need to be ready when you end up coming home with something from your favorite spot.

Bubbles

Most Champagne is overpriced and most cheap stuff is undrinkably nasty. What many don't realize is that you can get some serious bubbly, if you know where to look, for between fifteen and twenty-five dollars. Bubbles will compliment nearly any food you throw up against it. Seriously. Not that I encourage eating at McDonald's but I haven't found any other type of wine that actually goes with it. Eating something with spice, the bubbles and acid will sooth and nurture it. Nothing is more versatile. RecommendedJo Landron Atmospheres Method Traditionnelle NV  & Raventos i Blanc l'Hereu 2013.

Muscadet 

No not Muscat, Moscato or anything like that. Muscadet is an area in France's Loire Valley that produces dry, crisp, strikingly mineral white wines. Consumer confusion of what it actually is has helped keep prices low. You can find some of the best examples of the region for under fifteen. These are seriously good wines and many of them are organic. The traditional pairing is oysters but feel free to gulp some with sushi. Do yourself a favor and pop a bottle of Muscadet with anything from Big Ray's Fish Camp. You're welcome. Recommended: eagerly awaiting arrival of Domaine de la Pépière next week.

Rosé

White Zinfandel is not rosé. It's a disaster. Find yourself a nice dry bottle of rosé preferably from the South of France but many other places make good stuff. You know what rosé goes really good with? Florida. Yet still, NYC drinks more rosé in the month of August than we drink all year (probably true if you exclude Miami). Rosé is the runner-up to bubbles for food pairing versatility - plus it has a better shot at pairing with steak. If you haven't indulged in some fish tacos with rosé recently well what the hell are you doing with your life? Recommended: Triennes Rosé 2015 & VieVité Rosé Côtes de Provence 2015.

Beaujolais 

Again I'll bash what gives it a bad rap: Beaujolais Nouveau. If you like the taste of sulphur and bananas in your wine, have at it. If you want something that smells like delicate perfume mixed with fresh berries and gentle spice, seek out a real bottle of Beaujolais. If you find a good producer (ask your trusted small wine shop if you don't know) then one labeled as Beaujolais Villages (or simply Beaujolais in some cases) can do. Even better, seek out what is called Cru Beaujolais, you'll know it by the additional name of the village on the label such as Morgon, Fleurie our Moulin-a-Vent. Yes, this is red that you can keep in your fridge. Take it out like 20 minutes beforehand to bring up the temperature a bit. Eat it with everything. Bathe in it. RecommendedJean-Paul Brun l'Ancien Beaujolais 2013. More Beaujolais options coming soon.

Riesling

I shouldn't have to keep saying this but not all Riesling is sweet. Even if it is sweet, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the best wines in the world are Rieslings with a bit or a lot of sweetness. I want Thai food with Riesling, I want curry. I want anything with a little or lot of spice. Then I want more. Get started with some crispy duck. A good alternative (although quite different) is Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Recommended: Von Winning Riesling 'Winnings' Pfalz 2014. I'm a Riesling slacker, we can do a better job at getting more great ones in...

Now go out into the world and explore. 

One Year Anniversary - Our Story

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

One year ago we opened the doors to Craft & Curd. Building a business from zero is both frightening and exhilarating at the same time. Every single day was - and continues to be - a fight for our right to exist. And I love every second of it. I've never felt more in control in my entire life and this is certainly one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. I owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to all of you for your support, your attention, your telling friends about us, you bringing food & drink to us, everything. Thank you. I'm forever in debt to my future wife Jessica for everything she does for the shop. She is the most important weapon in my arsenal for success. I also need to thank my friend and business partner and his fiancée for believing in me. And my parents for their optimism and continued financial support - hope to end that trend before my forties ;-) I'd like to share a bit about how I got into wine and how that relates to Craft & Curd. 

How I got into wine

The aha moment. I'm barely 21 and just enjoyed a nice meal in an Italian restaurant. The waiter presents a list of after dinner drinks and I notice there are three ports. All are from the same producer, Fonseca, but one is ten years old, another twenty and the last thirty. I found it fascinating that you can order basically the same wine but to various degrees of age. After that day I wanted to taste every wine I could get my hands on. I would purchase all types of wines from everywhere, most not very expensive and rarely did I buy the same wine twice. My number one asset that got me into wine was not an extraordinary nose - far from it - it was my intense curiosity and desire to learn more.

The education

After beginning to taste all these wines from all over the world, the next step was to learn more about them. I subscribed to Wine Spectator magazine and started buying books from mostly British wine writers like Jancis Robinson. On my days off, I would literally lay in the bathtub for hours reading random entries in wine encyclopedias, sound exciting? After finishing my business degree and while working as a pharmacy technician I was trying to figure out what to do career-wise. Maybe I could work in the wine industry but I had no idea how. I signed up for a course at what was then the French Culinary Institute in NYC. Going to those classes was one of the happiest times in my life. I received lectures from top wine professionals and then got to taste different wines of the world paired with food. It was magic to me at the time. After that course was over I wanted more. I started studying with the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and went on to earn their Advanced certificate. I wanted out of New York and decided to pack up in head to St. Pete. Not having any clue what to do but knowing I loved wine I asked the wine shop that I frequented for a job and got it. That shop was the now defunct Cork & Olive. I had been to Bern's Steakhouse a few times before and a friend mentioned to me that they were hiring in their wine shop. I applied and got the job based on my wine geek status. The wine director Kevin asked me some soft ball questions about grape varieties of a particular region and I continued with little known varieties that are also grown there. Done deal. I spent two years there tasting incredible wines every single day. Kevin was a great mentor and I learned a lot of little things from him.

The streets

Like many in the wine business you eventually end up selling wine for a distributor, that's mostly where the money is. Certainly a departure from spitting fine wine at Bern's all day. I was out fighting over Yellow Tail prices with shady characters on the mean streets of Brandon. The best thing that came out of those two years was meeting my current business partner. I went on to work for the same company's fine wine division for three years, living in fear everyday of someone named Luciano. I got to observe the strengths and weaknesses of dozens of wine shops across Tampa Bay and beyond. This of course was a tremendous asset for opening Craft & Curd. Not to mention learning how distributors work to use that towards our advantage. During that time, I passed my Certified Sommelier exam, step two towards becoming what is called a Master Sommelier - aka a wine waiter that knows enough about wine to literally bore a normal human to death. I also achieved the Certified Specialist of Wine credential and probably some other ones that I've forgotten about.

Back to NY

Working in distribution can drain your passion in wine over the years. I was getting bored with the job and with Tampa overall. At the time I was listening to a great wine podcast called I'll Drink to That. I was getting inspired about all the incredible wines available to taste in NY. I moved back up and ended up working for one of the world's (yes, world's) biggest fine wine retailers, Sherry-Lehmann. Fighting with sharp-elbowed upper east siders five days a week was one of the most miserable things I've ever done. I put my head down, fought on and got to taste many amazing wines. Luckily I had ended up with a job so bad that I missed Tampa and started plotting my return. I got back in contact with my now business partner and started planning for the future. I met a girl through Match.com that will soon be my wife. I took a trip down to Tampa, secured the girl, secured a job with a small distributor and hit the ground running within two weeks. In less than one year Craft & Curd was open. It's been a very fortunate few years for me and I'm grateful to be doing what I love, in the city I love with people I love. Gratitude.

Craft & Curd

Still with me? God bless you. Licensing was the hardest part of opening the shop. We wanted to open being able to sell wine both retail and for consumption here but found that the consumption license would take many months to get. We had no intentions to open as a cheese shop as well but learnt that doing so would speed up our process. OK then, we're a cheese shop. Hence the name Craft & Curd was born. Truthfully, I still don't love the name but it was something we could all agree upon.

I wanted a major of focus of Craft & Curd to be wines that we could sell for under $15. Many of those wines do in fact cost more elsewhere but we get restaurant pricing which is often better than what other retailers pay and we also make sure to take advantage of great deals. Our ideal customer is one that likes to try different wines and is not just locked into one brand. I always try to find new wines that people love and move out the slow movers to make room for more potential hits. Since a lot of the wines that we carry are lesser known we offer many opportunities to taste.

I'm obsessed with improving the business every single day. This is my dream and I will stop at nothing to make it work. One of the handicaps that we have is a location that is not highly visible and not good for foot traffic. Six months in we were considering changing the location after X amount of time if traffic didn't improve. We're still not fully where we need to be but we're certainly getting closer. I'm wedded to this location now and have come to love the fight against our weakness. We have no plans for a new or second location, the only plan is to keep improving this one continuously.

Upcoming Tastings & Hahn SLH Pinot Noir on Cover of Wine Spectator

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

Hello everyone,

We're gearing up for our California v. Europe tasting this Friday (6:00 to 8:00, $10 per person). I don't think we're going to have the same wall-busting turnout we had two weeks ago because I've been a little less aggressive in the marketing and there's no beer component to this one.

Next Wednesday we're going to do a free tasting featuring some wines from the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. You've heard me talk about the excellent restaurant on Manhattan Ave. called Trattoria Pasquale. Well they're featuring the rich cuisine of said region in their special February BYOB dinners. Learn more about that at the bottom of this email but first I'd like to give you a sneak preview of Friday's tasting.

Hahn is winery based in an area within Monterey County known as Santa Lucia Highlands. It was Hahn that lead the push to establish SLH as an appellation or American Viticultural Area (the term we use for designated wine growing areas). This is a region for high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the two grapes of probably the world's most interesting and complex wine region Burgundy, France. America's most influential glossy wine magazine the Wine Spectator just glorified Hahn's SLH Pinot by showcasing it on their cover and rating it an outstanding 92 points. Here's the review:

92 points Wine Spectator, SMART BUY
"Impressive, showing density, concentration, depth and persistence, with layers of blackberry, mocha, cedar, spice and berry pie. Finishes with a strong presence. Drink now through 2021." James Laube

Hahn lists this Pinot on their website for $30 but we are able to sell it for only $19.99 until the distributor get's slick and tries to raise the price because of the good press.

This is easily my favorite Pinot Noir in the store under $25. I highly recommend picking some up even if you can't make it to the tasting on Friday. (by the way, my favorite Pinot under $15 is Sola which I've mentioned in a previous email recently)

Also on Friday we're going to taste Hahn's SLH Chardonnay - which is barrel fermented and can compete with pricier names like Rombauer and with more finesse. Smith & Hook is their Cabernet that we'll be pouring as well as their Merlot - forget about how you "don't like Merlot" and give it a shot. It's a solid bottle of wine. We'll also be pouring a non-Hahn Cabernet on Friday called Lodi Estates that I think may overtake the Smith & Hook Cabernet in popularity. We'll just have to see...There will be other California wines besides Hahn and I'll be pouring some dynamite stuff from Europe which I'll talk about in the email Friday. Going to be a fun night.

Back to Trattoria Pasquale. In order to get invited to their 'Big Night' dinners you first need to sign up for their mailing list here. If you want to reserve for next month, email Luigi right away at bolzano64@hotmail.com as the dates get booked quickly. Please tell them that Craft & Curd sent you - Luigi was kind enough to mention us to his email list. It's yet to be seen if he takes my suggestion to start doubling the corkage fee for all non-Italian wines brought to his restaurant. I saw some appalling bottles being drunk at the Umbria 'Big Night' and my mission is to change that.

Here are the dates for February:

Sunday February 21
Monday February 22
Sunday February 28
Monday February 29


Dinner starts at 7:30. I believe the cost is around $40 for 7 courses and their corkage fee for the bottles you bring is very modest. Please confirm with them and tip the servers extra as is customary when you bring your own wine.

The inspiration for these dinners is a film from 1996 with the same name Big Night. Stanley Tucci (with hair, yuk!) plays the maître d in a restaurant that he came to America with his brother (the Chef) to found. The struggle that they discovered speaks to me and I'm sure it speaks to Luigi all to well. Their customers saw Italian food as consisting of just spaghetti and meatballs - whereas the diversity of the regional cuisines of Italy is vast. People didn't get and we're not open to the food they served which put them in jeopardy of going out of business even though their food was remarkable.

Tucci's character has the pragmatic desire to give the people what they want while the Chef would rather expel guests than to give them a side of pasta with their seafood risotto.

I feel the pull of both of these dynamics every single day and luckily I'm a little more Tucci than the chef. Many people just want the spaghetti and meatballs - I'll let you imagine what grape I'm using that as a metaphor for, no naming names - but there is a whole world of beautiful, life enriching options out there. Don't forget your sense of curiosity.  

Hopefully as the business continues to grow, I can keep increasing the amount of Chef in me and continue to decrease (not eliminate) my inner Tucci. I promise to not kick anyone out for only drinking Cabernet (OK I said it). 

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go taste some California Cabernets to consider purchasing for the store. Ciao.