Archive for August, 2011

The Stars of Champagne with Mary Burnham – August 30

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The stars aligned last night @ SFWC as we gathered with Mary Burnham, freelance food and wine writer and author of Food & Wine Magazine’s 2012 Guide to Wine. Mary taught us about the prized region of Champagne, France, and why the soil, grapes, and climate are so important in making Champagne. We learned about how Champagne is made, why the second fermentation is so important, and what effect the dead yeast cells, or lees, have on the taste of Champagne. During the tasting, we enjoyed a broad range of large house Champagnes and special grower Champagnes. Most of the large houses in Champagne buy grapes from different sources in the area and then blend for a consistent style every year. Grower Champagnes are made from producers who grow their own grapes and might sell some to the large houses and use some for their own production. The wines were really special, and everyone enjoyed the lineup. It was amazing to taste the different styles, compare vintage and non-vintage, and experience different vintages. Hats off to Brian for creating an exceptional tasting!

The wines:

1.            Pierre Peters Brut Cuvee Reserve Grand Cru *

2.            Laurent Perrier Brut 1996

3.            Hubert Paulet Brut Premier Cru 1999

4.            Chartogne-Taillet Brut VV 2002 *

5.            Gaston Chiquet Brut Cart d’Or 2002 *

6.            Vilmart Cuvee Grand Cellier d’Or 2005 *

7.            Ayala Rose Majeur

8.            Krug Brut Rose *

Wines with a star (*) are available in very limited quantities for purchase here at SFWC. Contact Brian if you are interested:

Thanks to Mary for a fantastic education in all things bubbly and to the students for attending!

Next week: Jason Alexander will take us through the red wines of Burgundy.

Until then, enjoy the holiday weekend and CHEERS!

Melanie Friedman

Passion for Pinot – August 9

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Passion was unleashed yesterday at SFWC, with Jordan Mackay, James Beard-award winning author, leading our Passion for Pinot tasting class. Jordan explained the beauty and challenges of Pinot Noir as a grape and a wine, from its thin skin and light tannin to its complex flavors of berries, cherries, earth and spice. We learned about the differences Pinot can show when made in different parts of the world and why Burgundy is so coveted. Because of the long winemaking tradition in France, Burgundy is the standard for Pinot Noir. The notion of terroir is very important in Burgundy, where small vineyard plots have cult status. In a region where the only red grape allowed is Pinot Noir, the wines are distinguished by the area in which they were grown, sometimes down to a row in a vineyard, based on the soil and growing conditions of each place. Burgundy is a cold region, so getting grapes ripe can be challenging and yields can sometimes suffer, making Burgundy expensive and sometimes difficult to procure.  Stylistically, a Pinot Noir from South Africa can taste similar to a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, because of the characteristics of the grape, but the differences will be profound based on the soil and other environmental factors. It was a fascinating tour of Pinot Noir from around the world. Unfortunately one of the wines was corked, a Grand Cru Burgundy from 1999, but this ended up being a helpful exercise since many students had not smelled a corked wine before. We replaced the bottle with another, which ended up being the favorite of the tasting. It was a Premier Cru Burgundy from 1990 at its peak, meaning it was a pleasure to drink but it probably wouldn’t get any better with additional aging.

The wines:

1.  Paul Cluver Elgin Estate Pinot Noir 2008 – South Africa

2.  Matua Central Otago Estate Pinot Noir 2008 – New Zealand

3.  Domaine Jean & Giles Lafourge Auxey-Duresses La Chapelle 1er Cru 2005

4.  Domaine Taupenot-Merme Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1999 (corked and replaced with Domaine Jacques Prieur Volnay-Santenots 1er Cru 1990)

5.  Penner-Ash Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2009 – Oregon

6.  Sokol Blosser Big Tree Block Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2008 – Oregon

7.  Walter Hansel South Slope Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2003

8.  Au Bon Climat Knox Alexander Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2008

Thanks to Jordan for a wonderful tour of Pinot Noir and to the students for attending. We saw some familiar faces and some new ones as well. Keep spreading the word!

Until next time… Cheers!

Melanie Friedman

Great Whites of Burgundy – August 2

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

As the fog rolled in yesterday evening we sat down for some white Burgundy with Jordan Mackay in Wine School. First, a flight of 2009’s from different areas of Burgundy whet our appetites for the more complex wines in the second half of the tasting. From razor sharp to lightly toasted, these wines were pretty classic in their representation. Chablis was mouthwatering and minerally, Poully Fuisse was citrusy with a bit more body, and Beaune was toasty yet still crisp. Then we moved on to a few wines with some age on them and a bit more weight and complexity. The Mersault was really interesting with a mix of anise and ash on the nose and palate. Unfortunately the 2002’s were showing a bit of “premox,” or premature oxidation, a problem in Burgundian whites from vintages between 1995 and 2005. The exact source of the problem hasn’t been pinpointed, but possibilities include lowered sulphur dioxide treatments, cork seal failure, shape of bottle neck, and other theories. The result is wines showing oxidation before their time. The grand finale of the tasting was the real treat – Domaine Faiveley Bienvenues Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009. It was creamy, crisp, complex, and long.

Jordan’s explanation of Burgundy’s regions, the differences in soil types and locations, and the classification system of the vineyards was really helpful.

The wines:

  1. Domaine William Fevre Chablis 2009
  2. Joseph Drouhin Saint-Veran 2009
  3. Vincent Giradin Pouilly-Fuisse VV 2009
  4. Domaine Bouchard Pere & Fils Beaune du Chateau 1er Cru 2009
  5. Chateau Laboure-Roi Meursault Clos des Bouches Cheres 1er Cru 2004
  6. Domaine de la Vougeraie Vougeot Clos de Prieure Monopole 2002
  7. Boyer-Martenot Puligny-Montrachet Le Cailleret 1er Cru 2002
  8. Domaine Faiveley Bienvenues Batard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009

Thanks for the education on Burgundian Chardonnay, Jordan, and thanks to the students for attending!

Until next time… cheers!

Melanie Friedman

SFWC featured on Viti Vini Vino Blog

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Chris Parks, author of the new blog Viti Vini Vino, featured us after attending Wines of Spain with Jordan Mackay on 7/19.

Check out the post:

Thanks for the rave review, Chris! Hope we see you at another class soon.

Melanie Friedman