Bridge Lane Chardonnay 2012

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Wine is just amazing.  Yes, I love the effects of sight, smell, taste, and yes, alcohol, but it’s so much more. Wine is history, it’s adventure, it’s travel, it’s people; wine has provided me so much happiness in the last two–going on three–years than anything else I can think of.  Sometimes wine takes me to far off places, be it intellectually or physically.  However, this week’s wine kept me local.
 
This week’s Griffy on Wine features a selection hailing from Long Island, Bridge Land Chardonnay.  Long Island is anchored on its southwestern end to New York City. It’s shaped like a Lobster claw and thrusts out into the Atlantic at a northeastern angle roughly paralleling the Connecticut cost.  At the end it splits into the claw, the North folk and the South folk.  The North has been historically known for orchards, potato fields, and small farms.  The South is better known for sand dunes, beaches and whaling ports.  Today it’s known as the Hamptons, where the rich and famous people spend summer weekends.
 
Long Island is New York’s newest wine region.   The wine boom hit here in the 1970’s and they’ve been off to the races ever since.  The epicenter for this wine boom is the little hamlet of Cutchogue.
 
I use the term epicenter because the owners of Lieb Cellars were in California looking to buy a vineyard when an earthquake stuck.  After the dust settled, Kathy looked at Mark and said, “When’s the next flight out of here!?”  The rest is history.
 
Mark was an investment banker, and now owns a money-management firm.  Kathy was a vice president at Salomon Brothers, and now runs the tasting room and marketing operations.  The vineyard was purchased in 1993 and was originally planted by Steve Mudd, one of the premier growers on the East Coast.  The Wine was made at PWG (Premium Wine Group), a custom winery, or more specifically a crush house, that sells no wines of its own but makes the wines of many of Long Island’s Vineyards.
 
The wine was pale straw yellow.  On the nose you get wet stone with peach and hints of citrus, which for me was lemons.  The taste was simply yummy; crisp when served cold around 48 degrees, which 20 minutes in the fridge before serving should accomplish.  I got apple with lemon and lime, hints of mineral, and a very nice finish.  I paired my bottle of Bridge Land with spicy Chinese food.  Your drink by date is a surprising 2017.  No oak here, aged for 6 months in stainless steel.  The wine is a blend of: 94% Chardonnay, with a splash of 2% Pinot Blanc and 2% Merlot Blanc, and the Wine Maker is Russell Hearn.  My bottle is from the Wall Street Wine club, but you should be able to find Lieb Cellars in your local wine shop.
 
It’s is said the Long Island is New York’s answer to Bordeaux.  Cooled by the Atlantic, Long Island has a climate and soil type similar to Bordeaux.  Lieb’s signature wine is a Pinot Blanc.  They also make a notable Merlot Reserve, blending Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot.
 
Before I end I would like to give a heartfelt shout out to my Long Island family affectionately known as “Barbra’s Bunch.”  I consider your guys brothers and sisters, and look forward to seeing you all in July.

Dear Readers,
This is my 99th post. Next week will be my 100th. I hope you have enjoyed the adventure as much as I have. If you have, may I ask you to share next weeks post with anyone you can think of that would enjoy it. I’m shooting for 100 views and could use some help. My record high was 68, I average 30 views per release. Thanks.

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National Drink Wine Day

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I can’t believe I went to work today, this is my holiday!

February 18th is National Drink Wine day.  I know for most of us it’s everyday, but today is special, the propose is to encourage the love and espouse the health benefits of moderate wine consumption.  Wine has play significant roles in history, religion, and relationships.  Let’s join together and lift a glass and give a toast to wine, to new friends, reduced risk of heart disease and the enhancement of food and life.

May the wine of friendship never run dry.

Salute!

 

 

 

Adventures on the Wine Route

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I just finished reading  Kermit Lynch’s book, “Adventures on the Wine Route.”  For those who do not know Lynch, he is an American wine importer par excellence of French wine.  He splits his time between Berkley California and Bandol France.
 
For 10 years Lynch fought the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms that forced him to print labels warning against consuming alcohol without the ability to add information about the health benefits of moderate wine drinking.  Believe it or not, he won!
 
In France he fights EU regulations that are destroying French wine, suburban sprawl that is gobbling up some of France’s best vineyards with cookie cutter MacMannsions, and the ever increasing inaccurate and misleading labels on French wine. For his efforts he has been awarded the Chevalier de l’Order de la Merite Agricole and the insignia of Chavalier de la Legion d’Honor by the French government for his service to the wine industry.
 
I loved the book, especially the tour that Madame Lucie”Lulu” Peyraud of Domaine Tempier gave him of the city of Marseilles where she grew up.  This allowed me to re-live one of the high points of my vacation there last year, as they hit all the same spots.  They even talked about “les femmes avec less cuisses violets,” which, when literally translated, means “the women with the purple thighs,” because the prostitutes wear such short skirts in the winter their thighs turn purple!  Brings new meaning to “unfiltered” doesn’t it!
 
It also makes me think about my own wine route.  I regret getting on the road so late in life, considering how much joy it has brought me.  It also confirms for me how government intervention, no matter how well intended, is destructive and ultimately hurts the producers and the consumers alike.  In the end, only the Government wins.
 
It also makes me wonder if I am even drinking wine.  The stories in the book about how laws are changing how people make wine and how different the wines are today than they were 100–hell even 20–years ago.  Lynch talks about a place where they have been making wine for 500 years and if you drank a 54 or even a 61 vintage you would be drinking essentially the same wine you would have tasted in 1861 or 1761.  But, since 1993 the wine tastes like Welches.  Why? Government intervention is telling these wine masters how they HAVE to make wine.  That heritage is now lost.  What did we gain, and how can we ever get it back?
 
So, it’s very appropriate to review Domaine Andezon Cotes-Du-Rhone this week.  Cotes-du-Rhone in English means Slopes or Hill of the Rhone.  The Rhone River in France is one of the most famous wine regions in the country.  The Domanie Andezon is a blend of 90% Syrah and 10% Grenache; both varietals are widely grown in the Rhone river valley.  I think the thing I like best about this wine is it dosen’t taste French.  I find French wines on a whole light, yet with every sip of this wine I was tasting Australia.  Think Life Guard not Cyclist.  This wine comes from 40+-year-old Syrah vines and 60+-year-old Grenache vines, bottled unfined and unfiltered after being aged in both tank and concrete.  It has a dense purple color, with a stunning nose of blackberry.  This wine is full-bodied and has great blackberry taste and at just $20 a bottle this is one of the very best bargains in dry red wine that you guys are likely to find anywhere in the world.  This is a super wine and should continue to drink well for another 3-4 years.  Drink 2011-2015.
 
What have I learned from reading Adventures on the Wine Route?  It’s more confirmation than enlightenment; we as a people are homogenizing ourselves in what I call the Great Gray Borg Collective of Mediocrity.  We set out looking for perfection and in our quest for perfection we end up destroying everything by forced assimilation. We have an excel spreadsheet mentality, which is if you can’t put it into a cell it has no value.
 
Negociants use to go taste the wine, if it was good they’d buy it, if not they’d walk away.  Today, they go to the vineyard take a sample of the wine, have it chemically analyzed, if all the blocks on the excel spreadsheet are filled in with blue they buy it, any red they walk away.  What we the consumers get is a flat, dead, clean, clear, whatever-you-want-to-call-it drink, but it isn’t wine.
 
We rely too much on technology and not enough on people.  People give value and importance to things you can’t see, can’t measure.  The ancients may not have had the technology we have, but they were not dumb; they established traditions based on their experience of what worked best.  Those traditions have been replaced with a governmental check list.  Maybe quality is on average better, but it’s sterile.  At best it’s average because that’s what check lists yield: often acceptable, but rarely unbelievable, wine!
 
Pessimistic, yeah it’s me, but the wine route is an adventure after all.  If your happy with your cookie cutter wine, your adventure is complete, buy it and enjoy.  But there is so much more to wine.  The last sentence in Lynch’s book goes like this: “Unlike music, literature or visual art, wine doesn’t require a creative genius; a simple farmer working his piece of earth can produce something inspiring and profound.  There is so much contained in a glass of wine, it’s a gift of nature that tastes of man’s foibles, his sense of the beautiful, his idealism and virtuosity.”  Get out on the road, refuse to be assimilated, and enjoy the wine.

Okay, So I joined a wine club!

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Okay so I joined a wine club.  Really, it doesn’t make me a bad person!
 
Yeah, I joined the Wall Street Journal wine club, which is really the same as both the Zagat and Laithtwaites wine clubs.  WSJ has two levels: Discovery Club, which offers a range of wines from around the world selected by their wine buyers; and the Premier Club that specializes in world-class fine wines.  I’m in the Discovery club.
 
My primary motivation for joining was financial.  Quite simply, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  15 bottles of wine for $89, seriously how could I say no?
 
I could say NO MORE, if the wine wasn’t good.  Fortunately, that hasn’t been the case.  The Ascencion Malbec was a very good bottle, and I’ve also enjoyed a Touriga Nacional Giesta Dao from Portugal, a good Primitivo Tenuta di Somaro from Puglia Italy, and a Chianti Collezione di Paolo.  All were good wines.  I wouldn’t say any of them rocked my world, but in the same breath I wouldn’t mind having another bottle of any one of them.
 
Wine clubs come in many forms and price levels.  I’m an adventurous wine drinker so the idea of a surprise package showing up on my doorstep every three months is kind of cool to me.  I will tell you though, the best way to buy wine is getting to know some good wine retailers, shopping with them regularly, and letting them teach and recommend wines.
 
Most vineyards have wine clubs as well, and for those of you who find a single varietal you like and stick to it, that might be a way to get new releases without having to drive or call to get your allotment.  Additionally, it may save you from being closed out of your favorite wine if sales are too brisk before you can place your order.
 
The most appealing aspect to the wine club is it gives me access to small production wineries who can’t afford the shipping, licenses, or marketing that would enable them to even let me know they exist.  This is what Trader Joe’s does–buying up full productions of smaller vineyards to supply their stores–and wine clubs do the same thing.  Plus, they have knowledgeable wine buyers that help ensure you don’t get stuck with a bummer.  This lowers their overall cost per bottle, plus they save on the distributor’s cut.  All you have to add in shipping and you’re done.  Just remember to let you new arrivals sit and recover from bottle shock due to shipping.  Yes, wines suffer from jet lag too.
 
Wine of the Month is America’s oldest wine club.  Starting in 1976, it’s a great place for entry-level drinkers to get going.  Lot 18 is for folks on the other end of the spectrum.  This is a club for Premium wines, fit for a collector who is working on stocking his cellar.  Club W no politics folks, just wine, this club takes a profile of your palate and selects wine that fits your profile.  There are Cult wine clubs that package super-premium or celebrity wines.  Want a bottle of wine made by Boz Scaggs?  This club would be about your only hope.  I even found a club that specializes in aged Cabernet Sauvignon (California Wine Club).  Local Wine stores also have their wine clubs with shipments scheduled monthly, or quarterly.
 
The down side of the club is that you are not the wine picker, and some people just like driving the boat so much that they don’t want to turn the selection of the wine over to a third party.  I understand that.  Some also think they can find better values on their own.  And they sometimes do.  My feeling is that wine is getting more and more hyped, and where everything thing is marketing driven.  Even those reviews we love are marketing driven to support ad sales, so the club gives me some relief from the Madison Avenue bombardment.  It’s just another possible avenue that you should give some thought to.
 
Let me know if you have had any experience with a wine club, or buying wine from internet organizations. 

“Hip to be Square”

IMG_0715How many of you remember Huey Lewis and the News? Yeah, I’m older than dirt! For those of you who don’t know the band’s hit, “It’s Hip to be Square,” it is sung from the perspective of an individual who was once a free-spirited hippie, but now embraces the square life style.

I never subscribed to the hippie life style, and if anything my spirit is freer now than when I was in my teens, so to put it plainly I am not a hip guy. Decidedly not hip. Politically I am to the right of Attila the Hun. Technologically, Apple made me wait until two years after the death of Steve Jobs before they reluctantly agreed to sell me an IPhone, and I use it to maybe 10% of its capabilities. I’m not allowed to wear anything advertised in GQ, especially Abercrombie & Fitch. I have absolutely no idea what’s on network TV, and I’ve never listened to a Lady Gaga song.

However, there is one area where I’m on the cutting edge of societal evolution, wine. Yup, I’m a trend-setter, especially after reading this month’s edition of Wine Spectator’s feature story, “Off the Beaten Path.” Their wine editors pick 30 wine hot-spots, some I’ve been talking about for two years now, and even visited some of them last year.

etna-eruptionMy proudest pick is Sicilian reds from Etna. I’ve visited Sicily twice in the last two years and I claim the island as my spiritual home land. If I had to spend the rest of my life studying and drinking wine from just one place I think I’d pick Sicily. Etna is the home of Nerreollo Mascalese and Nerrello Cappucio grapes. Planted high on Etna’s lava flows, they are known locally as “contradas.” Since the soil and climate of each contradas are different, the windswept vineyards of Etna resembles the “cru” system of Barolo and Barbaresco with the climate of Burgundy at a price tag a fraction of the cost of any of the wines from those areas.

So in celebration of my hipness I held my own personal tasting of two Etna wines; Luce di Lava Cantine Russo 2008 and Tascante Ghiaia Nera 2010. What a joy; for a few hours I was back in Sicily.

In the glass both wines looked identical. “Rosso” is the best description but that technically is a wine term, not a color description. Rosso is a term used for a red wine that is also very dry and boy that description hits the nail on the head for both wines. You had to work to generate an aroma from the Tascante, frequent swilling was required. The Luce di Lava responded better with less work. When it came to the taste you had to weigh finesse vs. fruit bomb. I’m used to big fruit bombs, however with both wines you get the red berry flavor but not that rock’-em-sock’-em blockbuster effect we American’s love so much.

I enjoyed both but preferred the Luce. My resident Sicilian and those who joined the tasting via e-mail from Sicily favored the Tascante. By the way, it wasn’t until I was past my fourth glass I noted that Tascante is the vineyard owners name, Tasca, and Etna spelled backwards. What is the alcohol percentage of these wines?IMG_0717

Unless you’re nuts like me, you’ve never tasted wines like these and you should. They are light in the European tradition, but with berry and peppery flavors that will put a smile on your face. You’ll be thinking Burgundy and not Nero d’Avola, not that there is anything wrong with Nero d’Avola. Drink them blended or as single Varietals you will not be disappointed.

My next two big picks were the “pinks” of Provence and the reds of Banol. I visited here last fall and absolutely loved the wine and terroir of this section on France. Land of Light and Wine is how the area is best described.

Cru Beaujolais, I didn’t know what Beaujolais was two years ago when I fell in love with Beaujolais Nouveau, so consider Cru Beaujolais a wine for grownups. Look for wines from Fleurie, Morgon and Moulin-a-Vent, they’ll set you back about $30 but that’s about half the price the Bordeaux will set you back. I’ll bet you’d enjoy it just as much.

The article also talked about Greek wines. Want to guess where my travel plans already on the books are taking me next year? Better quality, no retsina, value packed reds and whites; yeah, Greece is the place. Some of the best are from the Island of Santorini.

IMG_0612If I ever took a vacation from Sicily I’d go drink Vermentino di Sardegna in Sardinia. I’d go to the Argiolas vineyard and enjoy this white wine with some cheese and local bread and just enjoy the sunshine. For those who would prefer a French flavor of this wine, sail a little further north to Corsica.

Other hip wine spots are Spain and Portugal. And I predict that we’ll be hearing more from South Africa, Brazil, and not too long down the road, we should get ready for China. Here in the United States wines from the Finger Lakes in New York are going to make a mark. Texas is already the 5th largest wine producing region in the United States, try some wine from there they are very good. Virginia is getting better and better.

In short, it’s a fantastic time to be a wine nut. It’s Hip to be Square!