WINES IN A CAN

WINES IN A CAN

The great wine writer Mike Veseth said in the early 1990’s that bottles were “traditional, accepted, inefficient and doomed”. Pretty rough stuff. He was referring to the then emerging phenomenon of the bag in the box. Canned wines were not yet over the horizon. Today they are the future- right now.

BLUE LOBSTER WINE COMPANY

LOCAL URBAN WINERY:

I sat down with Chris Gamble in his local Portland, no frills, just barrels, tanks and canning equipment, (with a couple of tables and chairs) urban winery on Anderson Street to taste and ask. Why cans? What about that tinny taste we expect? We both got eyeball to eyeball peering into the innards of a fresh out of the carton, ready to be filled can. This was not what I expected. There was a lining inside that was very different in look and feel from the aluminum casing outside. Ah, glorious technology. It is a liner with a nitrogen seal. The goal here is freshness and pure taste, without the tininess we associate in our minds with cans.

Chris is the ideal urban winery guy. A jack of all trades, he worked at a winery and saw what was happening in places like San Francisco and Oakland, California. Urban wineries lack the Liberace Candelabra ambiance but choose to provide an unpretentious tasting environment as fresh as the wines themselves.  The concept is simple: source the best wines, taste and continually think about what you are making and where your audience may be headed. And offer value.  The present lineup of cans is 375 ml (half a bottle), priced at $5.99 each, the equivalent of a $12.00 bottle of wine.

Chardonnay (Yakima sourced), This is the definition of light, fresh, crisp, dry, green apple inspired chardonnay in a can. He had no interest in going the oak aged route. “You want Kendall Jackson- head on out and buy some K.J. (in a bottle)”.

Rose (Paso Robles sourced), 100% Grenache. A dry, tasty, fruity rose at 13.4% alcohol. Many roses have some sweetness, his do not. This is ideal picnic with cheese and salami wine. Chilled, sure.

Bayside Blend, (Lodi) a new release of zinfandel, merlot and, the always compatible white, viognier. 14.2% alcohol. A sit on the deck red with freshness of flavor. Or, throw them into a bag and tow them behind your kayak.

Zinfandel (Lodi) Old vine zin in a can! Fire up the grill for this serious 15.5% alcohol, intense, full bodied zin. Not for the faint of heart.

“For the millennials cans are a no brainer. Some of the boomers who come in are a bit taken aback with the idea. Once they taste them, they come around”. These are wines that are jocular in look and pure of taste.

THE NATIONAL BRANDS:

COPPOLA:

Sofia Blanc de Blancs mini, 187 ml with its own straw. $4.79 This was the debut adorable sparkler from the famed Coppola family that hit the U.S. market with a frenzy of refreshing pinkness in an equally adorable can and box. More to come from Francis Ford Coppola in the form of his Diamond Collection Monterey County Pinot Noir at $5.99 a 250ml can.

DARK HORSE:

Rose and Pinot Grigio, $3.49 a can, 375 ml. You know it will be a serious battle when Ernest and Julio Gallo, the world’s largest winery located in Modesto, Calif., enters the ring. Aside from their legendary distribution and merchandizing muscle “put highly advertised bottles at eye level”, from their 300 page in house manual, the bible for their reps selling wine, their real talent is trend spotting and their creation of personas. Enter Beth Liston, “renegade wine maker” with “game changing innovation” and introducing “kickass flavor” (what a great website!).  Or, in other words, Beth is a very attractive blond, heavily tattooed, Instagram photo perfect AND a millennial. She joins that long list of Gallo character ad personalities dating back to Madria Madria Sangria, folksy Carlo Rossi, even folksier Bartles and Jaymes and beyond. Where there is a hot, new trend emerging, you will see it from them in a store-of course at eye level. Her winemaking technical prowess is a perfect match for their marketing prowess.

GETTIN’ JIGGY WIT IT: Local Baroque in a can:

MAINE MEAD WORKS

Mead, the honey-based wine of the gods predates history. Picture some old dude in 7,000 B.C. sitting wrapped in a caftan sucking on a 3foot long reed sticking in a piece of primitive pottery- he is drinking mead. Fast forward about 5,000 years to a group of Vikings hanging in their “Mead Hall” listening to their “skald”, or official poet and story teller relating sea faring, raids, gods and goddesses, women chieftains, etc. Long winters fueled with lots of mead. They did add one major new touch- the Viking drinking horn. Just google up this miraculous drinking vessel. It exists in all sizes and prices, and for a bit extra you can purchase an adjustable belt holster. Norse sagas not included.

Maine Mead Works on Washington Ave., the makers of HoneyMaker mead have brought back this ancient beverage and crafted it in eye popping new forms. They are in an industrial themed space that is a far cry from a “Mead Hall”. The modern drinking horn, of course, is the can. In their case two creative meads are available in cans with, hopefully more coming from Ben Alexander, founder and expert in all things mead.

Iced Tea Mead, 12 oz. $16.00 a 4 pack . “Black tea, fresh squeezed lemons, mint and honey”. It is a far cry from traditional mead. The 6.9% alcohol is just right as a balance to the tea and mint flavors.

Lavender Lemonade Mead , 12 oz. $16.00 a 4 pack , 6.9% alc. In a distinctly psychedelically inspired can. Mead, lemon juice, lavender and mint, this is one of my all-time favorite hot afternoon beverages. The Vikings claimed that mead was the origin of poetry, this is the modern equivalent.

This is a mere sliver of what you will be seeing in the not too distant future in the can world. It is NOW a world.

(EDITORS NOTE: Layne is a professional in the wine business with over 30 years of experience. He can be reached at lvwitherell@gmail.com for talks and consulting. Website https://winemaniacs.wordpress.com/blog.).

Advertisements

BYOB’S My neighbors are from away. Your neighbors are too. Portland is not only a tourist destination, it is a new living destination. Many of the places the new people to Maine come from allow them to gleefully trot their favorite bottle of wine into a restaurant with no questions asked. Portland, Maine is not one of those places, except if your local restaurant does not have a license to sell alcohol. We will look at several of these places and pair their dishes up with thoughts on the ideal bottle that you can bring in with you. Additionally, there will be thoughts about several places whose minimal wine lists have been eclipsed by their food. If there were a local BYOB Hall of Fame it would feature the long-departed FOOD FACTORY MIYAKE at 129 Spring St., the tiny one man band beginning restaurant of Masa Miyake, the emperor of sushi greatness in Portland. Fishermen rolled in within moments off the boat with catches that you toasted with your best wines. CLASSIC PORTLAND BYOB’s Most will provide glasses and will open your bottle. Make sure you leave a good tip. SAENG THAI HOUSE 921 Congress St. Crispy duck hot basil stir fried with mushrooms in a basil and garlic sauce. You have both basil and duck, two great combos. Bring on a bottle of Cline Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, Calif. ($10.00 retail) or the Ancient Vine Zinfandel, Contra Costa County for more finesse. ($13.00 retail). Crispy garlic soft shell crab. There is a rich sauce here that screams out for a flavorful pinot noir. MacMurray Pinot Noir, Central Coast ($14.00 retail) will both dance with the crab and catch up to the flavors of the sauce. Or, you could blow it out of the water with a bottle of Flowers Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, Calif. ($60.00 retail). This is as ethereal as pinot noir gets for under $200.00 a bottle! SCHULTE AND HERR 349 Cumberland Ave. All German, all the time, all homemade. Make a reservation here as they are small and good. Their Spaetzle with caramelized onions as well as their fish gulasche soup with tomato, paprika and onions are both fantastic dishes. Dr. Loosen QBA Riesling, Mosel,( $12.99 retail). His wines are elegant and revered. Can you ask for more? Our hostess and co-owner advised us where to purchase your “adult beverage” nearby. “There is a bodega across the street where you may shop for a Natty Daddy “, she chuckled in perfectly German accented English. We chose to bring an Allagash Triple. A great ale for terrific German food. TU CASA 70 Washington Ave. Down home Salvadoran cooking meets hipster Washington Ave. As you would expect, lotsa rice, lotsa beans. Their Carne Asada steak dish features “a huge portion of rice and beans”. Didn’t I just say that? Cacique Maravilla Pipeno Vino Tinto Pais, Valle Bio Bio, Chile, 1 liter ($17.00 retail). Quick! Pull up this wineries website. The place and the people look like they live in this funky, authentic restaurant. TWO LIGHTS Cape Elizabeth Lobsters and more lobsters, and the billion-dollar view. We brought a bottle of Sonoma- Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, ($20-25 retail). You can bring a $10.00 bottle of chardonnay, but it won’t do this experience justice. Bring glasses, good glasses. I visited Sonoma-Cutrer in 1981, the year they opened, to see and taste what all the fuss was about. “Fanatical” was the word that came to mind. They are still a benchmark for elegant refined chardonnay. This is summer – enjoy it while you can. SUSAN’S FISH -n- CHIPS 1135 Forest Ave. Here is where you get your fry on. Clams, calamari, shrimp, scallops, and even fried lobster tail on a stick. It is also a wonderland of lobster gear, memorabilia, photos, and lobstering artifacts covering floor to ceiling. THIS is as old school as Portland can get. Reasonable dinners featuring all of God’s little oceanic creatures with some good pasta and slaw sides. If they ever go out of business the Maine Historical Society needs to use this place as a diorama of a lobster fishing village. For BYOB head to the grocery store and get a cheap “California” Champagne (Andre is super old school) together with a quart of orange juice (they don’t have any) and do not forget the 32ounce Hurricane cups as theirs are small and don’t do your mimosa justice. DO NOT bring Prosecco. If I were them, I would throw you out, for Prosecco is a way too fashionably modern touch. Enjoy. THEY SHOULD BE BYOB: When the food jets past the wines it is either food take out time or “give up the license time”. HUONGS 267 St. John St. They have eggroll. They have pho. But their masterpiece is their whole lobster in ginger and garlic sauce. I would crawl across smarmy St. Johns Street for this dish. The problem is that their cheesy $6.00 glass of house wine sucks. Try having this dish next to Firesteed Willamette Valley, Oregon Pinot Gris ($10.00-$12.00 retail). The Pinot Gris grape is aromatic with the light peach and pear flavors that are perfection with this cacophony of complex flavors. The Shop 123 Washington Ave. I keep a picture of this never changing little chalk board list on my phone. The oysters and razor clams are first rate but the monotonous “Piu Fizz” Prosecco and Gruner by the glass are both total yawners. They might bring in that wonderful Ch. Moriniere Muscadet ($12.00-$13.00 retail) to create some excitement. The brine of the oysters cancels out the high acidity of this wine creating an unbeatable creamy texture. The beauty of each of these restaurants is that they are each authentic in their own way. Don’t forget to leave a good tip.

Natural Wine

NATURAL WINE

LAYNE’S WINE TIME: NATURAL WINE

To say that the subject of natural wine is provocative is an understatement . While there isn’t an official definition we do know the following about them. They use no commercial yeast, preservatives, chemical additives or Sulphur dioxide, the hallmarks of modern technological winemaking. They are, in a word natural. The grapes are organic or biodynamic with little or no scientific intervention. If that was it, we could stop right there. There have been spirited debates since the Romans on wine quality, vintages, ,etc., but this is different. It is an us vs. them, we are right and you- you commercial wine drinking bozos are wrong in both argument and philosophy.

They are some of the most thrilling and exciting wines made today, or, they can be some of the most amateurishly Godawful swill ever bottled. I have had both and today we will look at some natural wine examples and the forces that drive them. Having run a winery, been a distributor, Importer, and a retailer, I understand the dynamics of the market place . The proponents of natural wine have established a near religious ability to bond winery, Importer, distributor and store/restaurant into the same choir turning a miniscule 2% market share into a virtual symphony of praiseworthiness. We see them in New York, Paris, Rome, Quebec City, Montreal, Boston and even in Portland, Maine. It takes a lot of work to start a new religion.

The biggest problem is that nature if left to her own devices wants to make vinegar, not wine. Modern technology with a bevy of sophisticated equipment has produced an ocean of commercial affordable wines that are very drinkable, reasonable in price and similar in style and taste. You must seek out the gems. Fast forward to now – natural wine is a blow back against all of that. As in any revolution there can be excesses, or in the words of the great French wine writer Michael Bettane they can be a “fantasy of marginal producers”.

The two things we know: they can be pricey and are unpredictable. I have chosen reasonably priced wines for this piece.

L’Enclos des Braves Les Gourmands blanc Sauvignon Blanc, (and a little local Loin de l’Oeil grape believed to be wild vines of the forest), Gaillac region Southwest France. ($18.00 retail bottle). We had this by the glass in a restaurant and the “Enclosure of the brave wines” blew me away. It is not a powerful, alcoholic white but an edgy expression of natural wine growing. The ancient Romans who settled in Bordeaux drank Gaillac wine. The marketing muscle of Bordeaux shoved this region aside and made it a cultural backwater. This is ancient winegrowing in France with a touch of oxidation in the glass to add to the thrill. Life beyond the varietal, a wine to contemplate. I had to order a second glass to confirm that this was real. Worth seeking out.

It’s not all roses out there. We ordered this to accompany a lamb dish at the suggestion of our waitperson in a (recently deceased) local restaurant that had a wine list of natural wines. One of the problems with establishing a new religion is bringing the esoteric knowledge to the ordinary people (ie., the waitstaff).   “L’Echapee Belle”, Le Bout du Monde “The end of the world” is in the tiny village of La Tour de France, not the race.  ($18.00 retail). In the words of their importer it is “a wine of startling finesse and terroir”. The operative word here is “startling”. A red blend of Syrah and Carignan, it moves in two totally different wine tasting directions- the softness of the style of winemaking (carbonic whole grape fermentation) with the minimum amount of sulfur adding a biological kick. This can be a great intro to what I call the “kim chee style of natural wine”. There it is. Real wine: perhaps a bit too real if you have been used to the tame fruity blackberry flavors of the conventional American stuff. It could be a new direction in food as well. Our poor lamb dish was destroyed by the prickly bacterial character of the wine. Let’s bring on some grilled veggies and a splash of balsamic to catch up with this startling new world. The new farm to table culture can, with some practice, catch up with brave new flavors of these wines.

The things to keep an eye out for as the religion moves forward are:

Wine lists that contain not one identifiable wine that you have ever heard of. A great source of pride to the natural wine choir.

Grapes that are so new or ancient, popping up on labels, that only the initiated have the slightest clue of what they are. The latest book (as of last week) is Jason Wilson’s “God Forsaken Grapes: A Slightly Tipsy Journey Through the World of Strange, Obscure and Unappreciated Wine”. Stand back pinot grigio and chardonnay- it’s going to be a rough ride.

Regions that are undergoing a wine cultural makeover. Montilla-Moriles in Southern Spain has produced for centuries a cheap alternative to Sherry. Sherry tanked. The bodega Marenas Cerro Encinas produces a full bodied dry natural red wine from the Monastrell grape ($20.00 bottle retail) that is fantastic, like an old style French Burgundy with the flavors of game, meat and mushrooms at its core.

In a word, your quest for natural wine is similar to a tightrope walk over Niagara Falls without a net. Making it to the other side to much applause or crashing on the rocks, you can still shell out some serious money for the experience.

Enjoy.

(EDITORS NOTE: Layne is a professional in the wine business with over 30 years of experience. He can be reached at lvwitherell@gmail.com for talks and consulting. Website https://winemaniacs.wordpress.com/blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LAYNE’S WINE TIME: Wine myths vs. Reality

For Up Portland:

I am a professional in the wine biz and have been for over 30 years. Retailer (both large and small), wholesaler, importer, winery CEO, wine journalist, teacher and author of the book Wine Maniacs Life in the Wine Biz; I have seen it all and lived to tell the tale. My wife Judy and I have lived in Portland for 13 years.

Wine today has reached unheard of levels of popularity, together with scarcely believable levels of myths vs. reality. In this monthly column I will probe and examine both…and have some fun while doing it. We will delve into your Tues. night wines, your special occasion wines and the wines you might need to pass on to your kiddies.

Josh Cellars Chardonnay, 2016, California, $10.00-$12.00. Josh is the creation of a variety of people in the biz: The Joseph Carr Winery, with label and marketing design by a famous designer named Tom Larson. Very elegant, subdued work.  Get out your phone and do the Vivino app. label picture: WOW, adjectives abound. Wine adjectives add to the mystique. My favorite on this wine is “white fleshy stone fruits” reminding me of Mainers trotting out their freshly hibernated skins to the beach. This is a peck on the cheek oaked Chardonnay for fish and guacamole.

But there is more. When you google up Josh Cellars you get into the why you saw this wine part. The Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits are called a company of “brand building prowess”.  They are the people who brought you Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau and Yellow Tail Shiraz. Josh has become “a new growth engine in the California category” selling well over a million cases yearly. Deutsch now owns Josh Cellars with “ongoing opportunities for further expansion”. The wines continue to be good…stay tuned.

The other side of wine is exemplified by the American importer Kermit Lynch. He is a self-proclaimed hippie who traveled to France in the early 70’s and met an amazing set of characters. His book Adventures on the Wine Route is a modern classic. That is a story that has been told often. The other story is about his guru Richard Olney (1927-1999). Olney was a legendary food and wine writer in France, an American ex-pat who knew French food and wines as well as they themselves. “Something can be created by matching food with wine that surpasses either of them standing alone”. This was his lesson. There is nothing like a guru. Kermit wrote me a letter following an article I wrote years ago mentioning his guru “I miss him a lot. I used to catch myself buying for him, in my head, you know. I’d stumble upon something wonderful and say to myself, here’s one to show Richard”.

Kermit’s sales manager recently retired and sent out an e-mail describing his hiring interview held in a Denny’s: “on the back of a bar napkin he sketched out a general diagram (of the position and compensation package)”. Some things don’t change.

Kermit Lynch Selections Cotes du Rhone, 2016, $13.99. The importers name is usually buried on the back label. His are not, they are front and center. With his wines, you are buying his brand for a few more bucks, but you are also buying his extraordinary palate honed over decades. The wine is mostly grenache grapes, juicy and gulp able with a burger and fries and ketchup.

If you are a fan of Cabernet Franc, that illusive grape that usually vanishes in a blend, Charles Jouget Chinon, 2015, $20.00 is a classic of the grape with the flavors of red currants and herbs mingled with bell pepper aromas coming out of your glass. Lynch says it best. “One has the impression that Charles is out there on the edge, willing to take risks and willing to accept losses to make magic”. It is a perfect wine with eggplant dishes, and full-flavored cheese (think goat). Seek it out as it is worth laying down in the recesses of your basement.

There are lots of ways to be led to wine: the big marketing people, the importer who has spent a life traveling the back roads to get their wine into stores and onto wine lists, or just plain stumbling onto something. We adore the stumbling onto something part. On a restaurant list recently- there it was: Sean Thackery’s Pleades XXV Old Vines Table Wine, California, ($50.00 restaurant, $25.00 retail). If Josh is dressed down farmer corporate, and Kermit Lynch is hippie made good, then Sean Thackery is total California Outsider Artist extraordinaire. He happens also to delve into astrology.

What a resume! Reed College, Portland, Oregon dropout (see James Beard and Steve Jobs, both quasi-alums ), art gallery owner and voyager after old vine vineyards that produce seriously interesting grapes.  Pleades XXV is just that. It is a field blend of Sangiovese, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Mourvedre. He hunts among old vineyards and blends what he chooses to be the finest grapes. “It’s like a chef’s special. You trust the chef, so you are prepared to order the dish of the day”. We paired it up with smoked salmon and I wrote on the bar napkin “drinks like a $100.00 Pinot Noir”. They can lead you, you can lead you, or you can just stumble on something extraordinary- it is a great ride.

( EDITOR’S NOTE:  Layne can be reached at lvwitherell@gmail.com for talks and consulting. His blogs are at http:// winemaniacs.wordpress.com/blog.

Next month we will explore the mysterious world of “Natural Wine”. It is a subject that provokes passion on both sides of the wine aisle: from the leading proponents like Alice Fairing “ chemical agriculture is wrong” to its detractors like the wine critic Robert Parker “it is one of the major scams being foisted on the wine consumer”. Or to paraphrase the great wine writer Jancis Robinson: Natural wines are hunting dogs, commercially made wines are lap dogs. Stay tuned.

 

NEW ORLEANS Part 2

NEW ORLEANS Part 2

Palm Court Jazz Café- featuring both a great gumbo as well as traditional jazz in an authentic setting. The Second Line Arts and Antiques is across the street for that authentic funky, local gift.

Bayou Wine Garden- we caught a crawfish boil (you have to have lucky timing) together with a delicious Muscadet on tap. Sitting across from a woman peeling and eating 100 crawfish to my four or so was what is referred to in the sports world as “a clinic”.

Wayward Owl Brewing Co. It is hysterical how EVERYONE takes credit for the creation of intensely hoppy ales. Theirs is just that. Well made, hoppy and local. A place located in an old movie theatre complete with the popcorn vibe and lots of beer pub games.

Café Degas- A Gourmet Magazine rated classic for brunch. Quiche anyone? With an excellent wine list featuring Chanson red Burgundy by the glass. Pure class in a garden setting.

Checkpoint Charlie- On Frenchtown Road. You can rent a party bus, flat car, sidecar, or any motor device to party it up and down this Frat House dream street. Checkpoint Charlie (if you are old enough to know the Viet Nam war reference) is a perfect listening post bar for all the mayhem.

St. Louis Cemetery #1 is a book a reservation tour of New Orleans that you must take. The history, romance, voodoo, a psychedelic scene from the movie Easy Rider, and last, but not least, the monumental pyramid eventual last resting place of the actor Nicolas Cage (complete with female fans lipstick kisses).

Old Absinthe House- a pit stop for your carry in the street absinthe beverage of choice. Don’t smack your head on one of the ancient ceiling hanger football helmets.

Mahoney’s Po Boy- the food is just average, the drinks are good and the beer is cold. The comment that appears on all of the mindless social media sites praises the service. It is great. No, better than great.  I asked if she had a card, of course she does. It reads Normeka Ageous “actress” normekaa@gmail.com. She captivates the tip right out of your wallet with charm and outrageous wit. This place is worth a stop for her alone.

Déjà vu- another little wonderful dive bar in the French Quarter. This is where you go for the strong cup of coffee, a greasy taco and a Bloody Mary. They aim to please.

Napoleon House- First stop, last stop. Authentic muffuletta sandwiches and the original Pimms Cup #1 in an ancient setting that feels like Napoleon just left the building.

Mardi Gras Indians- the highlight of our entire year was the accidental encounter with all of the Mardi Gras Indians in their neighborhood parading for their fans. The official date got rained out and the chief chose another. See my facebook page for the pictures. This is as spectacular as local is allowed to get.

If you don’t luck out and have Eric Green as a guide the Frommer’s New Orleans 2018 is good. Immediately upon our return, I interlibrary loaned a book that I am roaring through: Kingdom of Congo to Congo Square by Jeroen Dewulf, a brilliant study on the African origins of the traditions of the Wardi Gras Indians. Can’t wait to go back.

 

 

NEW ORLEANS

NEW ORLEANS

How do you go for the first time to the joie de vivre colossus that is “The Big Easy”? We lucked out. Our friend, and swampiest blues musician ever, Eric Green, offered us a weeklong tour and look through his eyes at his favorite haunts. You can’t say no to that. He took us on the tour we couldn’t have done ourselves, visiting places that were both funky, fun and totally local haunts.

Little Gem Saloon: Where Jazz began. The home to early Louis Armstrong, morphing in the 1950’s into the Blue Heaven lounge (the name says it all), and today a great restoration for authentic music and good food (not to forget the bottomless mimosa for $12.00). Little Freddie King, snappiest blues musician ever in his red suit and red Gibson guitar tore it up with some John Lee Hooker. Billed as “ His Royal Highness”, Little Freddie is the real deal.

Port of Call: A small restaurant on Esplanade that serves up a remarkable burger or steak. The wait is an hour outside. The reason I mention this is that it is the easiest wait ever. They offer a $12.00 32 ounce plastic cup “Hurricane” with 151 proof rum. By the time you walk inside, you are all chill.

Jacque-Imo’s: No, we didn’t forget to eat some Cajun. Classic Creole cuisine with lots of alligator- an archetype, the alligator sausage cheesecake. Before we break into the typical tourist whine “sorry we can’t get that here refrain” just go to Hot Suppa on Congress St. in Portland for the real thing and shut up. Moses does his food homework. The book to carry on the plane is Gumbo Tales by Sarah Roahen.

Maple Leaf Bar: Next door to Jacque-Imo’s and as unassuming as it gets. The place is a hangout for great local musicians, a bar where music rules. They greeted Eric like the return of the Ninja.

WWOZ:  Eric, together with Matt Hodge, played a live show on the famed station for Blues and Jazz. It is at http://www.wwoz.org/listen/archive/show.php?date=2018-04-07&time=12AM

Thanks to Jennifer Brady for letting me sit in!

Ms Maes: Want to see a dive bar complete with “Goodfellows” on the tv and a bottle of Korova Milk Bar Peanut Butter Milk Stout in front of you? In case you have forgotten, that is THE Korova Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange. Talk about social media, even they have a web site!

Antoines: Let’s get uptown. This is 1840’s New Orleans the moment you step into the door. The setting, ambiance, and food are pure 1840. Do cancel your YELP subscription (is there one?) in that you must take this place as it is. There is no Bali street food aesthetic, no nod to modernity. Our 3 course lunch of char broiled oysters, fried drum (or seafood and grits) and pecan bread pudding washed down with little lemonade martini for 25 cents for $20.18 per person (with several extra glasses of wine, a great Emmolo Merlot and William Fevre Chablis at $15.00 a glass ) was about the tariff of a usual Sunday brunch. It is a privilege to have places like this on the planet, much less a stone’s throw from the 24/7 lunacy of Bourbon Street. Take your choice.

Brand Art Gallery: Contemporary and local. Great spot for art.

Pascale Manale Restaurant: Local oysters as big as your fist and old school Italian in menu and décor, complete with paper bibs for the bar b que shrimp- the world’s sloppiest shrimp.

Peche: A famed James Beard winner seafood restaurant that was recommended by Jennifer from WWOZ. You just ask the wait person what they would have (local fish, hello!) and stand back for greatness. What struck me during a deep look into the wine list and questions with the wine person about their philosophy was that It wasn’t the tourist trophy hunter list, heavy with expensive Caymus, Stag’s Leap and the Wine Spectator flavor of the month wines, nor was it the hipster’s biodynamic dude- making wines in a giant concrete cave from obscure grapes. This was a connoisseurs list. The more you looked and knew the better it got both in quality and price. Prices averaged from $45.00-$100.00 a bottle with a few absolute ringers thrown in. Sadly, it isn’t on line, so here are some faves.

Chardonnay, Macon-Fuisse “old vines” Vincent Girardin, 2015 $11.00 glass or $55.00 bottle. Excellent house wine pick.

Grenache Blanc Blend, Chateauneuf du Pape, Clos St. Jean, 2015, $90.00. You don’t see these often.

Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Alexana 2015 $9.00 glass $45.00 bottle. A great restaurant deal.

Trousseau, Russian River Valley, Wind Gap $50.00. French grape made in Calif.

Chardonnay, Saint-Romaine, Alain Gras, 2014 $105.00. An off the beaten path Burgundy.

If price were no object, there are two wines on the list that are masterpieces: The bucket list wines.

Chardonnay, Meursault 1st Cru “Clos des Boucheres Monopole ” Dom. Roulot, 2013 $580.00 bottle.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo Valentini 2012, Abruzzo $290.00

We saw 22 spots in 5 days; this is a 24/7 city. Next week part 2 of New Orleans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BORDEAUX, WOO,WOO

BORDEAUX, WOO, WOO

The nattily attired businessman in London and New York had the same feeling in the 1980’s about the great vintages of the wines of Bordeaux that the Aztec emperor Ahuitzotl felt while drinking sacred cocoa in 1487 while standing atop the Great Temple Pyramid of Tenochtitlan. Pure elation. Nothing for the bespoke business moguls quite beats pouring and genuflecting over bottles of famed chateaus like La Mission Haut Brion ( 1982 at $1,259 or the 1955 at $2,495 per bottle), while the crowd below bursts into applause.

By the year 2000 the New York somms had pretty much replaced Bordeaux (nick named Bore-dough) with sexy newly discovered, barely pronounceable, new grapes like treixudura , nero mascalese and trousseau, to name but a few. Somewhere in the middle of this tale lies the true reality.

Bordeaux in South West France is comprised of over 200,000 acres of vineyard, mostly cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc grapes. Their claim to fame are red wines from over 7,000 chateau- some grand, many not so much. Eighty percent of Bordeaux ranges from $10.00-$35.00 per bottle. Vintages are a reality based on climate at harvest and the juggling of three grapes at different ripening times. And…Bordeaux is, and always has been, even back to 1487, a commercial place that sells wine. The words “vintage of the century” spill from the mouths of the locals as you empty your wallet.

“The cycle goes something like this. A reasonable harvest follows a poor year in Bordeaux. One or two not disinterested parties tell a few gullible journalists that it is the vintage of the decade. Excitement mounts. The next year becomes the vintage of the century and demand goes mad. Prices double.” Simon Loftus. Always be wary if you are prepared to spend the big bucks and decide to become a collector. Hint: the 2010 and 2015 vintages are the view from the temple.

Then there is food:  Burgers and fries, tacos with some fresh made chips and high quality ground beef, don’t forget the salsa . Or, if you are a vegetarian, you can grill up some veggies like kale or zucchini and the wine will be just fine. The basic Bordeaux is a great place to start. Beginners Bordeaux: Chateau de Seguin, Bordeaux Superieur, 2015, $12.00-$15.00. Wines with higher tannin in the grape skins (think tea) equals pondering and aging. In this case there is that famous hint of cedar. Open it, pour it, enjoy it. A bit less fruity than a California red, but that is what Bordeaux is. It should taste like a place.

Ch. Roudier, Montagne St. Emilion, 2012, $15.00. We move to Bordeaux merlot land with this wine. It is delicious. Merlot based wines are perfect with Asian dishes and sauces. These wines always need a little air to open up. No pretension here, just pour it into a pitcher and serve at cool room temperature. No  special glasses needed. Buy two bottles.

There are 23,000 acres of these delicious wines from this part of Bordeaux, many are priced at below $20.00.

Chateau Tayac, Margaux, 2015 $25.00. We are moving up a zip code in quality. Like buying a house Bordeaux is location, location, location and you get to pay for it. This is bold and tannic. Buy a decanter, or aerator if you are going to get into these wines. Also, a cellar. Go out and buy a cellar right now. No, wait, there are these wine fridges that do all of that for you. You will see with the Chateau Tayac why people do all of these crazy wine gyrations, and you are only out $25.00 bucks. This is bold rib eye material, as well as lamb, pheasant and duck. Open for an hour.

Just down the street is this awesome house that has a better view, address, bedrooms and more square feet. This is Chateau Brane Cantenac, Margaux, 2014, $50.00. Want to see why things are priced the way they are- put them side by side. No, wait. This one needs to be opened for from 2 to 3 hours to strut it’s stuff. This is why you spent the extra money on the new house. For all that cedar and graphite covering the walls (of your mouth). The new house simply has more elegance and character. The more flavor that you buy in the glass, the better quality of the food. Quality food, quality wine. You can rest this one for from 10-15 years.

Take the plunge, Bordeaux is experiencing an exciting time of its life on all levels. Global competition is peeking into their window, looking at how they do things, their tech. and plantings. They are getting better. This is not your grandmother’s wine- it is getting closer to that view from the top of the Great Temple Pyramid of Tenochtitlan- woo woo.