WINESLACKER..the lazy drinker's guide. Another 'slacker yammering on about drinking.

November 22, 2012

Thanks Giving.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 12:14 am

 

Driving up Vineyard to Tablas Creek

The Wineslacker is grateful for many things this year. The triumph of reason (if not compassion; maybe next time), the great job he has, reasonable health, food and drink a plenty, a healthy and happy relationship, terrific grand kids, good, interesting friends; many of long standing, his friend and brother. He knows the world is troubled; he sees the human and non-human tragedy, but, he does what he can while passing through. And, there is good wine to accompany and to comfort. Cheers.

September 18, 2011

Naked Wine(s)….continued

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 5:55 pm

La Republique Francaise

On with the show. Late in August, the Wineslacker and Sophisticated Companion attended the tasting party at Domain LA in Hollywood, California, for Alice Feiring and her new book, Naked Wine, letting grapes do what comes naturally. OK, old news. But his patient readers were promised an accounting of the wines tasted, all being mentioned in the aforementioned book.  And as mentioned earlier…ok I’ll stop. Anyway, all the wines were organically grown and made. Now, as the intelligent reader is aware, these terms, “organic”, “natural”, and such, are not as straight forward as they seem and much of the book discusses these terms and just what they have to do with grapes, wine and wine making.

If one is not familiar with wines organic, natural, or biodynamic; the Wineslacker directs you to the writings of Ms. Feiring and others, but you can basically assume that “organic”  and “natural”  as related to the wines tasted on this occasion were made with the least amount of human intervention, especially chemical intervention, possible. Some of these winemakers adhere to the teachings of Rudolph Steiner, a philosopher of the late 19th, early 20th century who advocated a number of farming techniques, let us say, unfamiliar to modern farmers and perhaps even, ah, on the meta-physical side. Some are simply convinced that the best wines are those allowed to ferment with as little intervention as possible. Two of the represented winemakers, Vignerons, such as Theirry Puzelat of Touraine and Olivier Cousin, of the Loire Valley, are well known as characters in the movement and characters in their own right. Olivier Cousin is known for plowing his vineyards with a plow drawn by a horse, for cryin’ out loud. But in the era of wines fussed with, cuddled, fertilized, groomed, massaged, thinned,  then de-stemmed, crushed, yeasted, sulphered, bubbled, centrifuged, reverse-osmosized, flavored, watered, oak chipped, generally pumped up, and god knows what else…one does wonder, what does un-adjusted wine taste like? What did it taste like back in the Belle Epoch, when wine really came into it’s own and in the ancient days those monks at the abbey were getting their feet purple; like when your great, great grandad was making wine in the cellar for the San Frabrizzio festival?

We started off with the 2009 Theirry Puzelat Tesniere Blanc, a bio-dynamic wine from Touraine and Cheverny (France).  This is a white Pineau d’Aunis, slightly almond flavored with a long, minerally finish. This is a wine most Americans will have to take some time with, a wine you know immediately as French, being very dry with the taste of wet stone or gravel in the finish. This is a wine that will, as it was meant to, go with sea food; oysters, mussels, white fish, monk fish; light fish with delicate flavors. This wine will compliment, not overwhelm them. It runs about $23.

Second came a 2006 Phillippe Bornard Chassagnes Savagnin (not to be confused with Sauvignon Blanc). From a lesser known region in France, the Côtes de Jura, this is a wine closer to the American palate,  a white with a nutty slightly floral fruit, much less mineral in the finish, light and flavorful. The Savagnin is made with “native yeast”, that is, no artificially added yeast, only the naturally occurring yeast that is brought in from the field. The wine is slightly oxidized (but naturally) for the light, slightly caramel toast in the wine. Delicious, and the most expensive wine the ‘slacker tasted that day, at about $38.

Third, we had a California wine, from Glenn Ellen, near Sonoma, from Coturri Winery, a 2009 Rose of Merlot. This is a slightly clouded wine (its OK that its clouded, really) with a lot of fruit in the nose and just a hint of vegetable. It’s very light, dry with the taste of dried strawberries. Very much a Merlot for the warm evenings of California summers. About $22.

The fourth wine of the afternoon was a Gamay, from the Morgon region of Beaujolais, known as a Cru-Beaujolais, the best quality gamay wines of the region. Morgon is typically a lighter red wine with a lot of fruit, in this case, berries. It has a clear garnet color and a somewhat short finish. This was a lovely young wine, with a bit of asparagus on the nose. The Wineslacker would decant this for an hour before passing it out to the guests. 2009 Chamonard Morgon, about $32.

Fifth came the surprise of the evening, at least for the Wineslacker. 2010 Les Vins Contes Lemasson Poivre et Sel Pineau d’Aunis. This pleasant and striking little wine from the Loire Valley came on with a strongly herbal nose (that may come from the traveling it must have recently done, but decant first), but in the mouth, the name came suddenly alive. This wine tastes just like pepper and salt (poivre et sel). OK, it tastes like red wine with pepper and a little salt. While some might think…”ew!” it’s really very charming and would be a great conversation starter for your next wine party. Imagine you, seen as an original thinker!  The Wineslacker recommends it to you if you can find it, and you really should try Domaine LA first. About $20; a steal.

Number six was the well-known (among vignerons) Olivier Cousin’s 2010 Grolleau, from the Loire Valley. Grolleau is a grape usually used in blends, frequently used to make rosé and rather dismissively treated by Monsieur Parker as worthy only of digging up to make way for more profitable grapes. Still this is a lovely red wine with medium fruit and some spiciness. It’s berry flavors and medium structure is quite likeable and, after all is the personal product of a true individualist, who still plows with a horse. Monsieur Cousin’s Grolleau is only about $22, all the way from France.

 An important part of the ideals of these individualistic wine makers is the preservation of ancient and less well known grapes. The ‘slacker has read that soon, some of these varietals won’t be allowed to be included in the French AOC system; they’ll be forced to use the designation, “Vin de Table” or simply table wine. This will preclude them from dating the vintage as well. 

La Clarine Farm’s Home Vineyard blend is from a team of hard core winemakers from California. Hank Beckmeyer and Caroline Hoel in the Sierra Foothills. Their vines are not irrigated, un-weeded, except by their squad of goats and otherwise un-tampered with. Hank writes that they have even discarded Rudolph Steiner’s methods as too interventionist and become adherents of a Japanese farmer by the name of Masanobu Fukuoka.  Their output is minimal, but if you buy early, they will happily share their unusual and really handcrafted wines. 2009’s Vineyard Blend is a red with sharp fruit at the front, the flavor of rubarb and dark berrys and a lot of structure; almost never seen in a California wine anymore.  Chances are you’ll only get this wine by mail, so the ‘slacker suggests you let it sit for 10 days or so before opening. The Wineslacker has had their Voignier “Orange” from 2009 and can say that it is a memorable white wine, with a rich taste built from the wine, not the addition of oak. The Vineyard Blend is one of two that the Wineslacker brought home with him from his afternoon at Domaine LA.

Last, but far from least, Eric Texier’s 2009 St Julien-en-St Alban Cotes du Rhone opens with a rich, slightly bacony nose and is full of dried fruit and spice. It’s a red, and a tannic wine by California standards, with a medium long finish.  Texier apparently came across this smallish vineyard on the West bank of the Rhone planted with Vielle Serine Syrah sometime around the end of World War Two.  “Serine” indicates an un-cloned Syrah, characterized by loose bunches and often olive shaped fruit.  Texier himself recommends some time yet in the bottle for this unusual, possibly unique, wine (about $35).

If you have an interest in purist wines and haven’t read Ms. Feiring before, the Wineslacker highly recommends to his loyal readers this passionate, honest book about her personal journey into a relatively unsung corner of the world of wine making. It’s a world where the ancient art is practiced and honored, where hard work is the coin of the realm and is not always rewarded.

 All of the above wines were available at Jill Bernheimer’s Domaine LA, 6801 Melrose Avenue, L.A (Hollywood), California, 90038, at the time this was written.

 

 

February 2, 2011

Quaffing Peaceful Forgetfulness…Nepenthe

Filed under: California,pinot noir,Restaurants,Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 12:08 am

The story goes that Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles found the cabin in 1943, during a drive through Big Sur on the recently completed two lane road, Highway 1. So charmed were they by the cabin, the views and the wild romantic coastline that they bought it on the spot, basically with the cash they had in their pockets, a little over 165 dollars, as a down payment. Apparently, they never spent an entire night in the cabin. Considering the rest of their lives, they could have used a little more time at the cabin and less time in Hollyweird.

View From Nepenthe

In 1947, what had been a love nest for Rita and Orson and originally a stop over for the Trail Club of Jolon, became the home of Lolly and Bill Fassett and their five children. The Fassetts had the idea to use the land and it’s unique, spectacular views for a restaurant, bar and rest stop for the tourists drawn to Big Sur for its beauty and drama. Access to the previously remote Big Sur was facilitated by the new Highway 1, the first road built all the way through the rough, cliff strewn, mountainous coastal area. The Fassetts say it took over two years to get the deed signed over by Welles and Hayworth, because both of their signatures were needed and by 1947 they were separated and far from each other.

The designer of the restaurant, working with Lolly and Bill Fassett, was Rowan Maiden, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Maiden, son of a wealthy real estate businessman, trained at Taliesin, the home and architecture school of Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1939. While at Taliesen, in Spring Green, Wisconsin, Maiden met Germaine Schneider, who was the daughter of Wrights’ gardener and the companion of Wright’s daughter, Lovanna. Apparently, it was a past-time of Wright’s wife at the time (and last wife, Olgavanna) to play at cupid, making matches among Wrights’ students at Taliesin. In the nineteen forties, Maiden and Germaine, by then married, were living in Monterey, California. Maiden, who was killed in an accident in 1957, never became as famous as his creation at Big Sur, however he did go on to design many beautiful single family houses, particularly in the Bay area, often featured in magazines and highly prized by their owners.

DSC00568

One can see, by the enduring quality, simple and yet effective design of Nepenthe, Maiden’s great talent. The materials were culled from the local area, including redwood beams, glass,  and adobe bricks, hand made by Lolly Fassett, and probably her young children. The body of the restaurant is effectively hidden, while the views of the magnificent hillsides and drops to the wild ocean below, the stands of fir and coastal redwood, the emerald pastures and constantly soaring raptors and occasional Condor, are laid before the diners in the interior and casual visitors to the decks. There’s a large patio at the entrance of the restaurant, the center piece of which is a large, welcoming fire pit.  One can see a reproduced Nepenthe interior, filmed on a sound stage  in the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton vehicle, The Sandpiper, from 1965. The film also features real-life scenes of the area.

Nepenthe takes pride and full advantage of their place in the side pocket of one of the World’s great wine growing and vinting areas. The restaurant has an amazing number and selection of fine local wines by the glass, 1/2 bottles, standard 750 ml bottles and larger bottles, and the great, curved redwood bar. The Elegant Companion and her ‘slacker ordered up a 1/2 bottle of Navarro’s lovely cool climate Pinot, Methode Anciene, and relaxed into the best seats at the ocean side counter. They ate and drank and pointed out birds, watched for whale spouts and quietly remembered nights, friends and lovers, misty mornings and  music, in that may we say, magical, quiet and fragrant place.

The place was completed in 1948, the year the ‘slacker was born, and he has been there many times, beginning when he was just a child and continuing, although not often enough, into late middle age. Nepenthe, still open and welcoming to the famous, the creative, the curious, the casual visitor; the sojourner, the pilgrim, the hungry and thirsty, is still owned and operated by the Fassett family. Still quietly serving Ambrosia Burgers with a side of Nepenthe.

Originally published by the Wineslacker, in similar form, on Open Salon.

May 24, 2010

Spring is bustin’ out!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 1:17 am

Almost the end of May and the Wineslacker is tardy with updates again.  Alas, disappointing, he knows. As men everywhere and always; late and heavy with excuses.  Still, some new and pleasant sipping has been accomplished.  A happy chance purchase a year ago was “Claudia” Grenache, California grown on the hills of Camarillo. Grown by the Alonso Family Vineyards in 2007, and bottled by Rolling Hills Vineyards. $12 yet bursting with rich berry flavors, not over-extracted, light in color and texture, just a happy, happy wine.  Also, an old favorite, Louis M. Martini, Sonoma County Cabernet, 2007, about $16 and a really fine cab for what now is very little money.  We opened an inexpensive Bordeaux that had been sitting shyly in the back of the rack for several years, 2003 Chateau Les Grands Maréchaux, Premières Côtes De Blaye, a survivor from one of the great vintages in France, just as it was about to begin it’s inevitable slide into ruin…delicious still, rich and layered and long in the finishing.  Finally, during a visit from his younger sibling and spouse, he opened a real delight from the Santa Ynez Valley, Qupé’s 2004 Los Olivos Cuvée, a masterful blend by Bob Lindquist, one of the first of the “Rhone Rangers” of Central California, a steal in 2007 when it was $22.  Of the four, only the the “Claudia” Grenache is likely to be hard to find because it was so small a production.  The Bordeaux was a recommendation from the very experienced folks at Hi Time Wine Cellars, Costa Mesa, California, hitimewine.net.  If you’re in the Costa Mesa area, drop by Hi Time.  They’re the real deal.

Summer is coming.

March 18, 2010

Food and Wine Along the Way.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 6:29 pm

Continuing our cruise of the byways of the Golden State (gold plate, these days, and getting thin) mid-February, the Intrepid Girlfriend and the Wineslacker pushed away from the tasting table at the rustic and historic Ridge Winery at Monte Bello, saturated ourselves with the spectacular views of Silicon Valley and the Santa Cruz Mountains and pushed on up Highway 101 from San Jose, along what’s been rightly called, “the most beautiful freeway in California”.  We filled the old Merc with premium and inched our way through San Francisco, steadfastly resisting the powerful urge to find a cheap hotel and spend the rest of our holiday just riding the BART around maybe the most beautiful city in the U.S.

Rolling across the one and only Golden Gate bridge, we soon left the city behind and melted back into the countryside, seeking out the living memorial to the Great Conservationist, John Muir, the Muir Woods.

Yes, ferns growing on an oak tree..

Walking through Muir Woods, especially after the dampness of this particular, one might say, peculiar, year, fills up your pores, soothes your ears, makes the old and grumpy young again, and reminds you that silence still exists somewhere, just not in your building.

Wall o' Sequoia...

We had reservations to spend the night in Tiburon, the tiny and exclusive little harbor town sheltered right behind Angel Island, in a beautiful little hotel called the Waters Edge, because, well, it sits right on the edge of the water.  Out on the deck, your friend the Wineslacker and his Sophisticated Dinner Companion cuddled, warmly wrapped, in the sharp breeze, watching the lights gradually spring up in the City by the Bay, and were glad. Glad we had a fireplace in the room we could retreat to.

February 20, 2010

Coming Soon…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 1:41 pm

Ridge vineyards at Monte Bello, high above Silicon Valley, in Cupertino, California

Reports, and pics,  will be coming up soon on the Wineslacker’s February trek to the North Country.  Incredible visits to two very off-the-beaten track wineries that speak about the less advertised but truly important wine craft in California.  See it here!

December 4, 2009

Now available on Kindle!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 8:36 pm

Attention you high-tech readers! Your favorite wine blog is now available on your Kindle (after December 7th)!

wine garden

wine garden

November 2, 2009

Update on Guenoc at BevMo

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 12:56 am
Kaths Grapes 3 06

Katharine's Grapes

Fellow ‘slackers; forget about that great price on Guenoc Victorian Claret from BevMo. Turns out to be for the Grand Opening only. Your’s Truly forgot to ask HOW LONG would that price be good… now it’s $19.95. Should have followed the sage advice of the last beautiful woman I had dinner with; “Take a wine opener with you, open the bottle in the parking lot, and if it’s good, go back in and buy a case.” That’s from a smart shopper (unlike the Wineslacker). Now, it’s still an interesting wine; just much less interesting at $19.95.

October 27, 2009

More Great Cheap Wine…

Filed under: Buy o' the Month,Cheep wine,Uncategorized — Dex Wineslacker @ 12:50 am
Katharines Grapes 2 06

Katharine's Summer Grapes

Quickly now, two great, cheap wines…

1.  5Mile Bridge Serpent’s Path, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, available at Whole Foods.  $11.  Wow. Beautiful, medium body, warm climate Pinot.  Black cherry, hint of cedar, tiny bitta mushroomy, long finish.  We went on about the other 5Mile Bridge wines, this one’s maybe the best. 2006.

2.  Guenoc, Victorian Claret, North Coast, 2006.  Can’t, can’t, can’t go wrong with these little Guenoc wines.  This is slightly dramatic, dry, not over-fruited blend.  It doesn’t say, but I’d bet Cab, Cabernet Franc, petite verdot… guessing!!! This is a loss leader at BevMo.   $7 (yah, $7)

August 5, 2009

Under $10 Bargains, But First of All, Good Wine.

Ten dollars seems to be some kind of speed bump for a lot of people.  We think this might be people of a certain age….who remember when two bucks was not a particularly cheap bottle of wine.  “Yeeessss (we recall aging relatives to say), “five bucks for a bottle of wine could get ya a loooong way in 1968!”.  Well, yeeeahhhh.   Get over it!  It’s 2009 and despite a record busting recession, we ain’t going back there.  Still, nostalgia waxes large among the winesoaked.  OK,  what can you get for a ten-spot these days?

Aaron Logan, attribution

Napa Valley, Photo by Aaron Logan

Actually, you can do pretty darned well.  Running around town the last couple of weeks has reinforced the Wineslacker’s intuitive sense that, indeed, there is a glut of gluggable wine out there in the yet to wither wine producer world. (What do you think of that sentence, Kennedy??)

Here is a sample of what the Wineslacker has purchased and sucked through his teeth in the last month, for under ten smackaroos (although, in most cases, not much under).

Salento, Italian seacoast

Salento, Italian seacoast

1. Despite what he felt was the doldrums for old faithful, Trader Joes, seems they have snapped out of it and have pushed out some real winners for the late summer barbecue season.  First off, they have a real winner in the Italian table wine Trentatre Rosso, 2007, Salento.  $5.99, we believe it’s only at T.J.’s.  The label says 1/3 Cabernet, 1/3 Merlot, and 1/3 Montepulciano (Trentatre seems to be Italian for 33).  Whatever, it is a beautiful buy at that price.  It’s been on the shelf for a while; we saw a review from San Francisco from April, this year, so waste no time in grabbing some of this very pleasant BBQ red at a recession-busting price.

2. As we have related before, the Trader likes to have his own label on stuff he sells.  He may have over-stepped the bounds of good sense in the next selection.  The label says VINTJS.  Supposed to be something like “Vintahs”, we think.  Hunhhh? BUT, it also says it’s Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, and it’s only $8.99.  So, why not try it?  So, we did and guess what?  Well, we wouldn’t be writing about it here if it stank, so, yeah, its very, very GOOD!  We got a case, and the Wineslacker ain’t got that much room, what with two wine coolers stashed in the living room.  Very much the fruity, smooth, light mouth feel and color of the cooler region Pinots, and very fine with salmon, salads, seared Ahi, pork tenderloin, grilled chicken, etc, etc… And

3. They’ve got a matching white, a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, for a really cheap $5.99, that is a fruity (grapefruit, limey, like that), lovely hot weather cooler-offer. VINTJS 2007 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.

4. Now, the ‘slacker knows there are other places that sell wine around here.  One of his favorite stops for cheese and fresh roasted coffee and recycled toilet tissue (made from recycled paper, you high school minded dolts) is Whole Foods.  And, while Whole Foods is not known as a discount grocer, the usual haunt of  true ‘slackers, they do have a rather refined wine department.  They almost always have boxes of reasonably priced table wine sitting in the aisles, so you’ll notice them.  This season they’ve got a big bunch of wine from 5 Mile Bridge. Their reds are a Zin, a Syrah and a Pinot.  Now the Pinot falls just outside of our arbitrary limit of $10, but we got to say, the Zin and the Syrah, from the Paso Robles area are a great buy at a very reasonable $8.95.  These are 2005 vintages from the Margarita vineyard.  So, go for it!  And stop by the cheese bar for some Italian Pepato.

5. Another winner from Trader J’s that skims right under the $10 wire is Hunter Ashby Napa Valley Cabernet, 2005, from 2Sons Vineyards.  It’s a lighter Cab, with a slightly uncharacteristic black cherryness, which is nevertheless, very, very drinkable.  For some, even preferable; with a nice acidity.  A nice, pleasant party wine, good with cheeses, appetizers and BBQ goodies. Sorry, we have no link for 2sons wines.

6. Not to pass over the World Market (Cost Plus) where we have picked up many a cart full of pleasant juice, and where we found an old favorite, Las Rocas de San Alejandro, 2005 Garnacha  from Calatayud, Espana for a skinflinty $8.99.  AND, World Market is also the only place, outside of Costco and the Internet, where you can find the Cameron Hughes label (although it’s a limited selection).

7. The last mentionable in this little blurb is something we picked up while dashing through our closest Costco, (did we mention, largest wine retailer in the whole damned country) a whole MAGNUM of French Cotes du Ventoux rouge, under the label of La Vieille Ferme (2007) for $9.99!  Now, this stuff is NOT vin du table, but actual Appellation Controlee, Produit de France! Produced by one of the outstanding families in French wine production, the Perrins of Chateau de Beaucastel.  And while we have not broken the seal on this 1.5 liter bag-buster, we have to at least let our faithful know about what appears to be QUITE a bargain.  The ‘slacker’s got to have a party so he won’t feel bad about opening such a large bottle…

Later, whites and sparklers.

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