Saturday, January 31, 2009

~ just found a damn good poem whilst writing wine-catalog copy...

changeons en notre miel leurs plus antiques fleurs;

pour peindre notre idée, impruntons leurs couleurs;
allumons nos flambeaux à leurs feux poétiques;
sur ses pensers nouveaux faisons des vers antiques

André Chénier ~

Friday, January 30, 2009

~ Austr(al)ia 2001 ~ Strange Breadfellows ~

Singerriedel Smaragd
The Factor

Riesling and Shiraz,
the ends of the earth...

Ms Sexton and myself titillating our tongues and topping-up our tummies at Trestle on Tenth ~

indulging in Ralf Kuettel's Metzgete menu, where he serves up one little bit at a time the complete pig (or the whole hog, if you'd rather) from just this side the tip of the tusk to a point equally distant from the tassel on the tail—excepting only the oink...

we started off with a bottle of 99er Spätburgunder Sekt from Reichsrat von Buhl in Deidesheim (Pfalz) promptly sent back as corked—replaced by a splendid example of this German sparkler; I think perhaps as close to 0° Brut as it could likely get, and like any living creature subject to a bit of bottle variation. I'd been in for lunch a couple weeks previously with sommelier Eric Larkee from Wallsé, when we'd had a bottle that was not quite as nice as the one Cynthia and I ended up drinking, but not a candidate for rejection. Lovely vibrant acidity and cherries-in-cream aromas, just barely a hint of colour...

von Buhl makes excellent sekt, and the idiom in itself deserves better attention than it gets from the American consumer... And like this Spätburgunder, there are many engaging manifestations of pinot noir coming from Germany these days.

Anyway, I'd brought two bottles, thinking that we'd start with the Wachauer before moving on down to Barossa—but Ralf emerged from the scullery and greeted us, saying that he'd saved his friends the last two portions of the special—so the Riesling was promoted to main-course—promising a greater affinity with the Swiss butcher's bash to come—while the Shiraz got saved for the cheesery which concluded the un-distilled events of the evening.

I've been known to admit how I tend to prefer German Riesling to the Austrian incarnation, but I will allow that this bottle was truly exceptional. It had been given to me by Madame Irmgard herself, on one of my visits to that teeming metropolis called Spitz an der Donau. At seven years old, it didn't show the fusel aromas that an older German will, and there was little riesling-specific patina, but the way that the minerality of this great site had integrated with the very eloquent and elegant fruit profile made for quite a memorable experience. Every layer of the sumptuous texture was informed by the paragneis and glimmerschiefer in which the vines root themselves.

In fact, one of my favourite tricks is to feed an Austrian wine grower German riesling. One of the last good sports to fall victim to this was Dr. Bertold Salomon—himself an excellent example of Austr(al)ia—and it was just a coincidence that I'd had him and his wife Gertrud sitting at the same table where I sat with Cynthia, when I made them drink a brilliant bottle of 13-year old Karthäuserhof Riesling Halbtrocken some eighteen months ago...

This Singerriedel 2001 showed enough elegance to make me rethink my prejudices, even as several years ago their 1998 Hochrain Smaragd had shown very well in the august company of a Koehler-Ruprecht Auslese Trocken and a Domaine Weinbach Schlossberg l'Inedit...

and the trip from Mitteleuropa to Down-Under was totally disorienting. Disoccidenting as well—it wasn't until the Factor had some tête de moin to grab onto that it began to make the kind of sense one would want. Not a typical hulking Barossa Shiraz, but rather a wine that's always had an elegant expression about it, this one was celebrating the sweet and sour, the resinous aromatics and tongue-tinging display of viscous fruit and soft tannin that makes so many of Dave Powell's wines special—the Factor had "aged" (is seven years really aging?) nicely, softened without yet showing secondary aromas, sort of articulated itself in waves as it developed in the glass, a little bit of hide-n-seek, but mostly seek. Especially in the proximity of cheese...

and as we were reaching the Ardbeg/Glenfarclas portion of the programme, we happened to notice that on the upper tier of the dining room there was a crowd of riesling fanatics chewing their way through quite a number of bottles—including the Crush Crew plus Charlie Woods—and they gave us a little glass of the utterly sublime 2007 Auslese S Trocken from the Karthäuserof, which helped to pull the place into perspective...

and no sooner do I look online this morning at the Vienna newsrag Die Presse, when I see an article about Kremstal vintner Bert Salomon, his second, Australian winery and its syrah—and so, so— so small is yes the world...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Brunello di Montalcino in NYC

~ so off on the train into town to the Benvenuto Brunello Show at the Hilton this evening, in the stimulating and engaging company of Ellisa Cooper—in the course of which
playing with her theory about the potential relationship between aesthetic standards as evinced by the beauty of a grower's label and the quality of what he's put in the bottle...

and these Italian wine-events are always such boy-fashion-shows that I was planning to wear something really splendid, and shine up my best shoes, but the weather was so godawful bad that I opted instead for anti-fashion.

I wore a cheap Ralph Lauren sportjacket (in fact, the one in my mugshot which Aaron Sing Fox took in Alsace) that I like so well that I took the $1000 Loro Piana I bought just after it back to Brooks Brothers because the two looked too much alike. Underneath this sportjacket I wore an Einstürzende Neubauten t-shirt, image above.

Two fellows at the tasting recognised the image and commented that I was wearing an Einstürzende Neubauten t-shirt (they're an industrial noise band from Berlin), and one of them could even pronounce Einstürzende Neubauten correctly. The German word for surprise is Überraschung... 

The Brunellos performed mostly as advertised—rather tidily-fashioned for the most part—I think we tasted ten wines before we finally struck feet...

the best Rosso di Montalcino was the 07 Uccelliera—gorgeous depth, length and character of flavours. Their 04 Brunello di Montalcino was one of my two favourites, along with that of Poggio Antico—whose 03 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva was perhaps the finest thing I tasted all evening long. Both 04 Brunello and 07 Rosso from Villa I Cipressi were also quite toothsome and stylish.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A great glass at Gramercy... into the bar at Gramercy Tavern on a Saturday afternoon, drinkingtons with Ellisa Cooper:

we fell-to fizz first, as befit the occasion—

me: Domaine Carneros Brut 2005
she: Montlouis Brut from Chidaine

we then united on the Touraine Grolleau/Côt Rosé from François Pinon, a handsome faceful of peppered strawberries, CS and CF doing nice things together.

and as our nibbles arrived we both ordered glasses of something exceptionally delicious, which was:

06er Tagelsteiner Rotgipfler from Stadlmann in the Thermenregion, Austria: fresh spicy nose, followed by ohmygoodness what an extraordinarily generous flavour profile—combinations of apple and pear, canteloupe and mango put cleverly together on a skeleton of citrus... nicely sculpted minerality in a beautifully ripe and rich wine. Just totally delicious.

comes from a wine-district south of Vienna called Thermenregion, the place where the warm springs are... once was famous for a wine called Gumpoldskirchner. Gumpoldskirchen was united with Bad Vöslau in 1985 to form this Anbaugebiet.

Rotgipfler is a spontaneous crossing of Traminer with Roter Veltliner, and its name refers to the occasional red-bronze tipping on the leaves.

I had the pleasure of meeting Johann Stadlmann a couple years ago at Prowein in Düsseldorf; quality driven, certainly mindful of his chance to put this place and its oddball varieties on the world wine-map...

by the way, in a city of outstanding by-the-glass lists, Juliette Pope's selection at Gramercy is a highlight.