Archive for November, 2014

Burgundy: Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuits-Saint-Georges – November 19

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Gevrey-Chambertin and Nuits-Saint-Georges are two of the most famous and well-regarded communes in Burgundy for Pinot Noir. As part of the Cote de Nuits wine region in the Northern part of the Cote d’Or, limestone and clay soils create the perfect environment for complex Pinot Noir. Of course, Burgundy is known for its varied and coveted terroir within each sub-region’s individual vineyards, so full-bodied Gevrey-Chambertin wines are often designated Grand Cru, while many wines from Nuits-Saint-Georges receive Premier Cru distinction. During this class, James Beard award-winning author and resident Pinot Noir expert, Jordan Mackay, took us through a flight of beautiful red Burgundy from these two regions.

The first four wines came from Nuits-Saint-Georges; three of these were Premier Cru. I particularly enjoyed the 1995 Robert Chevillon, with its floral but rustic perfumed nose that smelled like autumn in a glass. Super smooth on the palate, the velvety body was balanced by a nice acid profile.  The 2001 Dominique Laurent smelled like pickles at first, which I didn’t mind, but as it opened up I enjoyed the violets and roses on the nose and the lingering finish.

The next four wines from Gevrey-Chambertin were a bit more complex and earthy. My favorite, the 1998 Domaine des Chezeaux Grand Cru, had a funky, earthy nose with spice, fruit and flower on the elegant palate; this wine had great texture.

Many of the wines kept changing in the glasses as we tasted them, reminding us that wine is a living thing that constantly evolves in its various environments.

Jordan had some suggestions for wine touring in Burgundy, which is a great way to learn about the terroir. From CDG in Paris it’s about a 3-hour train ride into Beaune, the town he recommended staying in; from there you can drive around the region or bike around the vineyards. That is a trip I would love to make.

Wine List:

  1. Emmanuel Rouget Nuits-St-Georges 2009 – $110
  2. Robert Chevillon Nuits-St-Georges Les Pruliers 1er Cru 1995 – $225
  3. Perrot-Minot Nuits-St-Georges “La Richemone” ULTRA VV 1er Cru 2007 – $220
  4. Dominique Laurent Nuits-St-Georges Les Vaucrains 1er  Cru 2001 – $65
  5. Denis Mortet Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes 2006 – $100
  6. Dujac Gevrey-Chambertin Aux Combottes 1er Cru 2011 – $175
  7. Frederic Esmonin Mazy Chambertin Grand Cru 1996 – $200
  8. Domaine des Chezeaux Griottes-Chambertin Grand Cru 1998 – $200

As we approach the holidays, all this Pinot Noir that we’ve been enjoying in the last couple wine classes has primed our palates for turkey and all the fixings. If you need some wines for your holidays, let us know. Happy Thanksgiving from San Francisco Wine Center!

-Melanie Solomon

Pinot Noir Around the World with Gillian Ballance – November 11

Monday, November 17th, 2014

The world of Pinot Noir stretches way beyond Burgundy – though each new world version is compared to the French mother lode. Known the world over as a finicky grape, Pinot Noir is difficult to maintain since it ripens so early and is prone to rot due to its thin skin. Genetically unstable, many different clones exist and can have marked differences. In this wine class, Gillian Ballance, Master Sommelier and former wine director of Plumpjack Hotel & Restaurant Group, describes Pinot Noir as “charming – exhibiting grace as well as power.” She took us through a varied flight of Pinot Noir from places like Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, in addition to Burgundy, Oregon and California.

We started the evening off right with a well-aged Pinot from Central Coast: Calera Mt Harlan Jensen Vineyard 1999, grown on one of the few limestone vineyards in California, which was planted in 1974. It was very much alive, with balsamic, stewed fruit and good tannin.

Further north in Willamette Valley, Oregon, J.K. Carriere held tonight’s crowd favorite with the 2005 Shea Vineyard – a little funky on the nose but very Burgundian, with nice spice and good acidity.

Over on the other side of the world, South African Pinot showed its funky side with some rubber, pine and earthiness that was quite interesting and unique.

Finally, we went down under to Australia’s Yarra Yarra valley, in the Victoria district, a cooler area on the southern coast of the country. This wine was beautiful with pomegranate, cranberry and great acidity. It brought me back to a trip I took to this area in 2009, when I sampled my first Aussie Pinot and took a $25 bottle back home with me, halfway around the world to New York, where I lived at the time. This 2004 is a steal at $20! Then, from neighboring New Zealand, a Marlborough version also showed really well, with pretty fruit, leather, good acidity and a long finish. While I’m partial to Burgundy, I found these two wines to be the most exciting of the night (and the most affordable).

But speaking of which, the Burgundy of the evening, a 2008 Premier Cru from Cote de Nuits, showed refined fruit, floral and herbal qualities with elegant structure and a long finish. I can’t help it – this was my favorite.

Most of these wines are available for purchase at the San Francisco Wine Center – contact us if you are interested!

Wine List:

1. Calera Mt Harlan Jensen Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999 – Central Coast ($140)

2. Labyrinth Yarra Valley Viggers Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004 – Australia ($20)

3. JK Carriere Shea Vineyard 2005 – Willamette Valley, Oregon ($60)

4. Patrice Rion Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 1er Cru 2008– Cote de Nuits, Burg, FR ($99)

5. Cobb Joy Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2009 – Sonoma ($65)

6. Seresin Marlborough Pinot Noir “Leah” 2009 – New Zealand ($40)

7. Copain Anderson Valley Monument Tree Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2012 – Mendocino ($70)

8. En Route Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Les Pommiers 2010 – Sonoma ($65)

9. Paul Hobbs Hyde Vineyards 2012 – Napa, Carneros ($69)

10. Hamilton Russell Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Pinot Noir 2012 – South Africa ($39)

Bonus Wines!

  1. Alois Lageder Tenutae Lageder “Krafuss” Pinot Noir 2007 – Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy ($45)
  2. Foxtrot Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir 2009 – British Columbia, CAN ($56)
  3. Domaine Michel Gros Chambolle-Musigny 2012 – Cote du Nuits, Burgundy, FR($72)

– Melanie Solomon

Indigenous Italy with Mauro Cirilli – November 4

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Italy is one of the most varied wine countries in the world, particularly because they have so many indigenous varietals – over 6000! There are no generalizations to be made, especially in a country whose climates and soil are so varied from one section to another. Italian wine labeling doesn’t necessarily makes thing any clearer, since sometimes the name of the grape is used and sometimes it isn’t. Personally, I’m always trying to learn more about Italian wines, since there are so many different wines to try and some can be very good values. Mauro Cirilli, native of Venice, former Wine Director of Perbacco and Barbacco, current Wine Director at Press Club and Director of the North American Chapter of the Italian Sommelier Association, helped us break it down in Wine School. We started with Prosecco, the refreshing bubbly wine of the Veneto region in northern Italy. Formerly named for both the grape and the region, things got confusing when Prosecco achieved DOCG status, the highest quality designation for Italian wine, so they since went back to using the name Glera for the grape. Prosecco is not “Italian Champagne” – it’s a completely different style of bubbly wine that is meant to be light, fruity and refreshing.

In the Mt Etna wine region of Sicily, vineyards grown on volcanic soil surround the tallest active volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. Mt Etna white wines are made from the grapes Carricante and Catarratto; the version we tried was dry, austere and a little bit funky.

Vermentino, a white wine usually varietally labeled, is an expressive grape that grows in Liguria, Tuscany and Sardinia; we tried a Sardinian version grown on minerally soil, with a rich creamy palate of chamomile. Cannonau is a red Sardinian varietal that we sampled, which is their local name for Grenache or Garnacha. I love Sardinian Cannonau for its earthy and funky qualities; this one didn’t disappoint me with its barnyard, herbs, mushrooms and long finish.

Back in the Veneto, Valpolicella is a red wine typically made from 3 grapes – Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara – each contributing important characteristics to the wine including color, tannin, spice and body. The one we tried was earthy and spicy with dried fruit character.  Refosco, a wine made from grapes with red stems, also comes from the north, in Fruili-Venezia. This wine had bright fruit and flowers with a good texture.

Finally, on the sweeter side of things, we sampled Lambrusco, the slightly “frizzante” red wine from Emilia-Romagna, and Moscato, the floral dessert wine from Piedmont.

A wide variety of wines, quite representative of Italy – thanks for a great education, Mauro!

Wine List:

  1. 2011 Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Cuvée del Fondatore, Rive di Col San Martino, Merotto
  2. 2013 Etna Bianco, Murgo
  3. 2012 Capichera Vermentino di Gallura
  4. 2012 Paladin Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso
  5. 2010 Cannonau di Sardegna, Neopente di Oliena, Gostolai
  6. 2010 Valpolicella Ripasso Capitel dellla Crosara Montresor
  7. 2004 DeConcilis Naima Aglianico 2004
  8. 2005 Masi Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron Amarone Classico
  9. 2010 Medici Ermete Le Tenute Bocciolo Lambrusco Dolce Grasparossa
  10. 2010 Moncalvina Moscato

– Melanie Solomon