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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

On Italy

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

My wife Jessica and I just had a wonderful honeymoon that ended up spanning a lot of Italy - from Sicily all the way up to Venice. Italy has twenty distinct regions and we got to stop in seven of them.

Here's the breakdown including where we went in those regions if you're curious:

Sicily: Palermo, Cefalu, Marsala, Trapani 

Lazio: Rome

Tuscany: Florence, San Gimignano, various parts of Chianti

Abruzzo: Pescara, Popoli

Umbria: Orvieto (lovely village with good wine scene, enjoyed more than San Gimignano)

Emilia Romagna: Bologna

Veneto: Venice

We were fortunate to eat and drink incredibly well and are longing to return sooner than later. Would anyone be interested in signing up for a Craft & Curd trip to Italy? Jessica is a great driver. Reach out and let us know. Maybe it's something we'll offer next year. 

Some observations

Italian wine is a good deal cheaper over there, as you would think. [Wish we had the consolation of having access to fair priced California wine]. Restaurants don't charge exorbitant markups, in fact prices in restaurants are very close to what you would pay retail. I don't know much about restaurant dynamics but why is it ok for our restaurants to take their bottle cost, triple it (or more) and serve it to us with a smile. Eating out daily is the way of life over there it seems. For many of us it's hard to afford even eating out occasionally here. I know it's a complicated issue but I'm sure we can do better.

The American obsession of keeping wine at cool temperatures may be mostly unnecessary. We encountered numerous shops and wine bars with little to no AC and didn't encounter one bottle that was bad or tired. Looking to age your wine ten+ years? Ok, you're going to want wines that were kept cool that whole time. If that's not your objective don't worry. You most likely do not need a wine cooler/cellar in your home.

Wines must be kept laying down. This is how we're told wine needs to be stored to keep the corks moist or whatever. Nearly every single bottle we encountered in fine to decent wine shops were standing up. How long do you think it takes for a cork to dry out. And again, how long are you aging your wine for. To the serious fine wine collectors on this list, please forgive me. It's just not how most of us purchase and consume wine: quickly. 

American Italian Food is mostly fiction. We overheard some woman ask for marinara sauce with her calamari. There is no marinara sauce in Italy. We made it up (any food historians out there want to correct me?). You squeeze lemon on your calamari. Basta. Spaghetti and meatballs? No way on the same plate. Sure there are familiar dishes there like lasagna and such but it's not everywhere. The majority of Italian restaurants here will likely struggle to stay in business if they don't serve our so-called classics. While we're on the topic of authenticity, I find it amusing that the stereotypical New York Italian bears no resemblance whatsoever to his European counterpart.  

Italians are said to love organized chaos and that is evidenced on their roads. Excuse my language, but they drive freakin' nuts. I kept expecting to see more accidents on the side of the road. Jessica is a saint (a saint that wasn't let into the Florence cathedral for dressing like a temptress. Ha) for doing all the driving and keeping us safe (I barely have the temperament to drive here). Sorry for the brief turn to a dark topic but I've had a burning question since we've gotten back. What does Italy's road fatality rate look like compared to other countries? I just looked and driving in Italy (by that measure) is much safer than driving in most countries. About 40% safer than driving in the US (measured as road fatalities per 100k inhabitants per year). That paradox is so typically Italian.

So I mentioned above the travesty of their wines being cheaper back there. I just checked the price on one of our favorite wines that we were drinking there: a Trebbiano d'Abruzzo from a great winery. Jessica and I were throwing it back at our favorite restaurant of the trip (Roscioli, in Rome) for 36 euros a bottle. Just asked my distributor here the cost. $56 our cost! Now that's an extreme example but thankfully there is a great way to drink Italian wine here for cheaper than there and I have it all figured out, my friends. I buy when the distributors want to sell, not when I want to buy. Distributors subsidize wine all the time and sell it at or below their cost because they need to get it out of their warehouse. Oftentimes they are the exact wines that I know to be hidden gems through my experience. I love what I do.

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. 

The 5 Minute Guide to French Wine Part Un

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

As we prepare for our California vs. France tasting this Friday, I think it's a good time to put out the first part of this quick guide to French wine that I've had in my head.  

See these books?



They are each on just one particular region of French wine. The one on Burgundy I've read much of (forgotten 99%), the one on Alsace I've only read passages out loud to my fiancée in a snooty voice for drunken laughs. That doesn't mean I can't enjoy the hell out of a great bottle of Alsatian wine with Thai food. In fact I'll probably enjoy the bottle more than someone who has clouded up their mind by reading this absurdly long book.

You only need to go as deep as you want to go. You don't need to have great knowledge of French wine in order to enjoy it. It doesn't matter if you can't pronounce the names to people who work in wine shops or servers in restaurants. Point, grunt, grab, whatever. Who cares. Don't let anything stop you from trying something different and expanding your horizons.

Burgundy

Burgundy or Bourgogne is a region in eastern France having nothing to do with that imitation stuff that came in a huge bottle from the likes of Gallo. It is easily the most complex wine region in the world. Yet at the same time simple. If it's white Burgundy, you're drinking Chardonnay. Red Burgundy, you're drinking Pinot Noir. The reason Burgundy is so complex is that there are literally hundreds of classified vineyards that basically have their own appellation (designated area that's regulated). In theory the best vineyards are designated 'grand cru' (manage a hedge fund, do you?), the next level is 'premier cru'. Oftentimes different producers (i.e. wineries) will own or lease different parcels within a particular vineyard so you'll see multiple bottlings of most vineyards. Next in Burgundy you have the village level of wines. These are names you might have seen before such as Gevrey-Chambertin or Chassagne-Montrachet (note that many centuries ago someone had the idea to link the name of the village with the best vineyard in that village. Ask for a bottle of Montrachet and that could set you back $800. A bottle of Chassagne-Montrachet could be $40). Many interesting wines can be found at the village level if you choose the right producer. If you spend $50 on a generic bottle of Meursault at the supermarket, you're getting a mediocre wine and probably would have been better off spending the money in California.

The area we've been considering so far is Burgundy's Cote d'Or (say it 'coat door') or the heartland. Further south you have the Maconnaise where you'll see whites like Pouilly-Fuisse (often over-priced) and Macon Villages (many great values to be found). Next we come to an area called the Cote Chalonnaise which makes many excellent reds (and whites too). We'll be tasting a 'premier cru' wine from here Friday: David Moreau Santenay 1er Cru 'Clos des Mouches' 2012[It's going to be hard to beat the Pinot it's facing off against from Red Car which is subsidized by a distributor deal]


Further south and still technically part of Burgundy is Beaujolais. Drink it! Forget about that 'nouveau' stuff, it's nasty. The only good (for consumers, not producers) it's done in the world is drive prices down for the region overall due to consumer confusion. The grape is Gamay. Seek out the 'cru' wines from villages such as Morgon or Fleurie. We'll be getting more in over the coming months...

Bordeaux

In recent times, China developed a love affair with Bordeaux that played a part in grossly pushing up prices. The love has began to wane and prices have been dropping (and will likely continue to even further). Bordeaux is the name of the region situated on the atlantic coast towards the southern part of the country. The area is known for their reds which are usually blends. If the wine comes from what is referred to as the 'left bank' (of the river that runs through the region) it will be mostly Cabernet Sauvignon dominated (blended with a combination of some or all of these: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec). The left bank wines carry names such as Haut-Medoc or of the communes within that overall area such as Pauillac, Margaux or St. Julien. The wineries basically all have Chateau in front of their name which essentially means a French country house (usually inhabited by a man with a fondness for Hermes scarfs and manicures). A classification was drawn up in the 19th century ranking the wines into five groups (known as growths). Forget about the first growths, the prices are insane for wines like Chateau Haut-Brion and Lafite-Rothschild (and are not worth it unless money is literally meaningless to you). There are however many great wines to be found in the other groupings. On the right bank, the wines are Merlot dominated and often feature a good proportion of Cabernet Franc. You'll know you're in the right bank when you see names such as Pomerol or St. Emilion. Here you can often find some better values versus the left bank like this wine we'll be tasting Friday: Chateau de Sales Pomerol 2012.

White Bordeaux is going to be made with mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and can be very worthwhile. They'll often have more balance than New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (which can be like having a tomato leaf rubbed piece of grapefruit shoved up your nose). I shamefully don't have any in store right now but am looking for some...

Rhone Valley 

Back to the eastern side of France we're south of Burgundy now. The region known as the Rhone is delegated into two parts: the Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone. In the south, the wine you'll most often encounter is Cote-du-Rhone which covers a broad geographic area and is usually made up of Grenache with Syrah and other grapes. A more specific area is Chateauneuf-du-Pape (or Pope's castle, from when the pontiffs had beef and needed to lay low). The reds from here are big, bold, and spicy. Normally you have to spend at least thirty bucks.

Reds from the Northern Rhone are pretty much all Syrah and sometimes can have some whites blended into them such as Viognier in Cote-Rotie. The appellations of Hermitage and Cote-Rotie make some of the greatest wines in all of France. A lot of people think they don't like Syrah because of some nasty Australian Shiraz they've had in the past but don't sleep on this grape. Croze-Hermitage is a larger region that surrounds Hermitage and is known for producing more affordable wines. One of the best wines we have in the store right now dollar for dollar is this: Cameron Hughes 'Lot 354' Crozes-Hermitage 2010.

It gets way deeper than this I'm afraid. Let this suffice for now and hopefully I've wetted your appetite to explore a little more. The best way to do it is by tasting. See you Friday.

On Biodynamic Wine

Posted by Tom Kisthart on

This is from our email newsletter on July 3rd, 2016. If you're not a subscriber, signup here.

Hello everyone,

This is one of the most exciting lineups of wines that we've put together so far - at least as far as I'm concerned. Join us in tasting over a dozen 'hippy' wines between 6:00 and 8:00 tonight for just $10. There will be plenty of cheese as always. While none of the cheeses are certified organic all are from producers who know that working with healthy & happy animals means better quality cheese. Our guest pourer is the bubbly William Lucious with Augustan Imports. Ask him if he has any Cabernet to taste and you might see his head explode. Not that there's anything wrong with Cabernet ;-) 

Defining terms

I'll start by defining the two terms that may not be clear. What is this so-called 'natural wine' you speak of Tom? It's a basically a meaningless term. Natural wines can be defined as wines made with as little human intervention as possible. They may or may not be certified organic. For example I wouldn't consider a winery to be a maker of natural wines just because they throw a bunch of info on their website about how green they are. Everyone does that, greenwashing is especially rampant in the wine industry. I always consider the reputation of a wineries' importer first and then the reputation that the winery has before accepting any such claims.

What is this Biodynamic stuff?

BS? Probably. But it works. Biodynamics is a framework that goes beyond organic. It involves such things as burying a dung stuffed cow horn in the ground at a certain time of year, digging it back up and spraying the vines with a solution made from it. Another solution (or preparation as they're referred to) must be stirred clockwise and then counter clockwise for an exact amount of times in order to "dynamise" the potion. Various activities in the vineyard must be done in accordance with phases of the moon. And the list goes on. Yes, I'm as skeptical as my tone suggests.

But why are so many of the world's best wines made this way? Hundreds of wineries have ran experiments to see whether it was worth it to farm like this and many determined that their biodynamic wines taste better (and age better in some cases). 

Now is that the result of implementing the strange practices described above or is something else at play? Here's an analogy that hopefully I don't garble. Say you read about a study that reports greater rates of disease in meat eaters versus vegans. Well it turns out that everyone from that vegan group only shopped at health food stores and the meat eaters shopped in general supermarkets. Are the disease rates lower because people who shop in health food stores are the type of people who make better lifestyle decisions or does the absence of meat in their diet actually have something to do with it. Maybe if I finished grad school I'd know the name for that type of bias. Anyways, the attention to detail required to implement such practices may be the driving force behind the improved quality. It's a really complex topic and I'm done talking about it for 2016.

I talked in the previous email about Spain's best sparkling wine producer that we'll be pouring 3 wines from: Raventos i Blanc. If you'd like to see the land where these wines come from I suggest you watch this beautiful silent video from the winery. It's refreshing to see vineyards treated as the ecosystem they should be. Here's something to contrast that with. Satellite images of the tanks where much Gallo wine is made:



Onto the wines

Lucious will be pouring the following (links to more info on website where available):

Raventos i Blanc l'Hereu 2013 
Raventos i Blanc Silencis 2014
Raventos de la Finca 2013
Radikon Jakot 2007 500ML
Roagna Dolcetto d'Alba 2013
Felsina Berardenga Chianti Classico 2013
Ampeleia Kepos 2013 

I'll be pouring:

Borgoluce 'Lampo' Prosecco Brut NV
Berger Gruner Veltliner 2015 Liter 
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc Estate 2014 (yes New Zealand SB can be worth $20+ this winery is awesome)
Kelley Fox Wines 'Mirabai' Pinot Noir 2013
Montinore Estate Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2014
Poggio Foco Cecco Cabernet Sauvignon, Tuscany 2010
Triennes St. Auguste Red 2013 (organic, same winery that makes that awesome rosé we almost sold out of Wednesday. More arriving today)

Come and taste everything for yourselves. Try some new stuff. If you're in a rut, get out of it. 

Beer people, still reading? Man, thank you. Here's something for you.


Darwin 'Big Deal' Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Stout &
'Ayawasca' Psychedelic Belgian Dubbel Aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels
(What!? Think Darwin spent too much time ingesting plants in the Andes) 


The brewery Darwin did something to irk me recently (don't want to get into it, trying to stay positive today). So somehow these rare bottles made it into the shop. This Saturday you have a chance to win one of them. Spend at least $20 on beer and you get a role of the dice. Land on six and you get to pick one to take home. One chance per person, per couple, or whatever. You beer people (oh no he didn't) are tricky so no funny stuff. Only way to get two chances is if you spend at least $40 on beer AND wine (one transaction). The first person to win gets to pick which one they get. Must mention contest, open only to newsletter subscribers and FB followers. Thanks for your attention. 

Namaste.