Monday, February 9, 2015
"A great environment for an evening of wine discovery that was fun and informative. Will definitely be signing up for the next one!" Diana
"Dan was great! As anyone would expect, he is extremely knowledgeable. He provided a lot of information in a very accessible way. He broke everything down to a level that non-wine experts could easily grasp. There was not one bit of snobbery or condescension in his presentation. I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Somm’s Pick events." Yvonne
"We have been to many tastings at wine shops and restaurants over the years, and by far Dan's descriptions/mini-lessons combined with the Sommelier tasting sheet for the red blind were fabulous. We learned a great deal." Brian
"The quality of the wines were perfect - not too expensive, addressed the value, yet complex and interesting." Joan
"My knowledge of wine is incredibly limited, but with the Somm's pick, in one night I learned enough about wine to get seriously hooked. It was so enjoyable learning in a laid-back atmosphere. I can't wait for the next one." Vey
"I have been reading about, studying, taking e-courses, etc. on wine, thinking about trying to break into the business, and one of the most intimidating aspects is the sommelier exam. Dan made it seem possible, if still rigorous. I feel excited and more eager than ever to take my passion for wine to the next level. Thank you so much for staring this program." Mazie
Monday, January 26, 2015
|Frattoria Alois, Caserta, Campania|
Located in the Caiatini Mountains of Campania, the beautiful property of Fattoria Alois is literally situated between 3 volcanoes. With Roccamorfina to the North, Monte Nuovo to the west and the infamous Monte Vesuvio just south east, the town of Caserta sits amongst multiple extinct and active volcanoes. It is here that for centuries the Alois family has been associated with the fine textile industry, their famous silks adorning the walls of the Louvre and the White House. But more recently Michele Alois and his son Massimo have been taking advantage of their location and the volcanic soils that surround them by applying their talent and passion for quality products into Vini Alois.
|The Audelino vineyards surrounding the property|
Thanks to our friend Matt Lirette of Lirette Selections, Kerry and I had the good fortune of staying with Massimo and his family at their estate in Caserta a few summers ago. He spent the day with us, taking us to their different vineyard sites and cooked a fabulous dinner that we shared with his wife and children, of course accompanied by his amazing wines and great conversation.
|In the Morrone della Monica vineyards with Massimo and his son Gianfranco|
|Oenologist Carmine Valentino and Michele Alois|
|Tank tasting with Carmine & Michele|
We are excite to have Massimo visit us next week and you can join him at Swirl on Wednesday February 4th for a seated tasting of his wines accompanied by the cheeses of southern Italy. Reservations are required and you can do so here: Vini Alois
Sunday, January 18, 2015
The Somm’s Pick Buyers Club
Intriguing selections chosen by New Orleans’ sommeliers brought to you
by Swirl Wine Bar & Market
Swirl’s tasting and education series, The Somm’s Pick, puts you in direct contact with some of New Orleans' finest sommeliers. During their monthly presentations you'll have the opportunity to taste with them and discover wines they have chosen as some of the most intriguing in the market. Plus as a member of our Somm’s Pick Buyers Club you'll be able to purchase the wines at a discount and receive a special advanced notice for all tastings and events associated with the program.
- Access to wines chosen by New Orleans’ Sommeliers as some of the most interesting wines in the market
- Advanced invitation plus half priced admission to the Somm’s Pick Tasting held on the first Tuesday of every month
- 10% discount on the featured selections available to you throughout the month
- Exclusive offers and discounts on other special events associated with the program
How it Works
- Download the form here: The Somm's Pick Buyer's Club Application
- Fill out the application with billing information and send via email to email@example.com
- On the first of each month you will be billed for the featured somm’s selections of wines with a 10% discount. The cost for the 2 wines can range in price from $40 - $80 depending up the wines chosen. The wines will continue to be available to club members at the discounted price through the month or while supplies last should you wish to purchase more
- Wines will be available for pickup at Swirl after the first Monday of the month
- You will receive a special eventbrite invitation via email for advanced reservation to attend our Somm’s Pick tasting for half price ($5) The invitation will arrive 24 hours before the event is publically releaseYour membership commits you to 3 consecutive months of the program, after which you can cancel anytime via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Email us at the email@example.com or call Swirl @ 504.304.0635
Monday, January 12, 2015
|Tasting wine @ Ken Wright's Tasting Room in Oregon|
While there are many excellent wine education programs out there, there is no doubt that the title of "sommelier" is the most recognized by the American public. In terms of certification organizations it is the Court of Master Sommeliers that tends draw the most attention with its multi tiered system where different levels of certification are obtained through rigorous study, exams and blind tasting evaluations. To earn the title of sommelier students must first pass an introductory level exam to then be eligible to take the Certified Sommelier exam which entails written theory, demonstration of service as defined by the Court and blind tastings. This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are then 2 more levels in the Advanced and the coveted title of Master Sommelier.
|Blind tasting is an important component of all CMS certifications|
At Swirl we have always tried to make it fun to learn about wine and I think our new program, The Somm's Pick, will be one of our best yet. Through our new tasting and education series at Swirl, we will put you in direct contact with some of New Orleans' finest sommeliers. During their monthly presentations you'll have the opportunity to taste with them and discover wines they have chosen as some of the most intriguing in the market. Plus you'll be able to purchase the wines at a discount should you decided to participate in our Somm's Pick Buyers Club.
Our guest sommeliers will include Dan Davis of Commander's Palace, Liz Dowty of Square Root, Michelle Gueydan from Vino Solutions/Neat Wines, John Mitchell of the Windsor Court, our own Kimi Kivirana and more. We'll meet at the shop once a month to taste their selections and pick their brains on the who, what, when and whys of the bottles they've chosen. And if you have an interest in becoming a sommelier this will be the perfect time to learn what is involved with obtaining the title from professionals who have made it through different levels of the program.
So here's how it works. The first Monday of the month my weekly newsletter will introduce a featured sommelier and their picks of the month. The next evening, the first Tuesday of the month, is The Somm's Pick Tasting. Our featured sommelier will be in the house from 6-8pm pouring their 2 wines which can be sparkling, red, white, rose' - sometimes it may be 2 reds, sometimes mixed, who knows? It's their call! The wines will be priced somewhere between $19.99 and $39.99. Plus we'll have a third selection from the shop that we'll pour blind to give you a little insight into how to evaluate an unidentified wine. It is $10 to attend the event, that will include tasting the 3 wines plus a free Reidel crytstal wine glass that is yours to keep. The wines will be available for sale starting that evening and will be featured in the store through the month.
Then there's the Somm's Pick Buyers Club. If you decide to join, each month you will be billed for the 2 wines with a 10% discount for being part of the club. You can attend the tasting for half price and receive your free wine glass. If you choose to purchase more of the wines anytime throughout the month you will continue to receive the 10% discount. You'll also receive exclusive offers and discounts for any other events associated with the program. The best part is, there's no long term commitment or obligation - after the first 3 months you can cancel at any time!
|Dan Davis, Commanders Palace - Photo by Sara Essex Bradley|
Monday, December 29, 2014
It is a well known fact that we have an affinity for bubbles. A light, zippy style sparkling with fresh local oysters, a rich full bodied Champagne with a big juicy steak, a tasty cremant added to a cocktail, a celebratory toast - bubbles are one of the few wines we enjoy with or without food. And our selection reflects our passion - with 45+bottles to choose from ranging in price from $10 to $200, we truly have something for everyone!
Cava, Prosecco, Cremant, Franciacorta, Champagne -how do you choose? Here's my quick primer on what to buy depending on your purpose and your budget! We have great bottles representing all of these and more...
Champagne - The big dog of the sparkling wine world, you can only call it Champagne if it comes from this
unique region of France located 100 miles east of Paris. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunire are the classic Champagne grapes with vintage, non vintage, blanc de blanc (white wine from white grapes), blanc de noir (white wine from red grapes) and rose' produced. The production method requires that the secondary fermentation, the one that gives it the bubbles, takes place within the bottle over very defined periods of time. It is these regulations and requirements that make Champagne expensive and delicious! The wines can range from bright and zippy to rich and toasty depending on the house style. Big house Champagnes like Roederer, Moet, Bollinger and Veuve Cliquot use mainly purchased grapes from small growers to create a house style that is consistent with each bottle you open. Estate grown and produced wines are called Grower Champagnes and are much smaller volume wines, often with more individuality, made by the growers themselves. How can you tell what's what? It is easy to spot the source of a Champagne from its label. Virtually all of them carry a numerical code prefixed by two letters - NM stands for négociant-manipulant, one of the big houses. RM stands for récoltant-manipulant, a grower. Prices for true Champagne starts around $40 and really should not be used for mimosas or cocktails. The addition of bitters, fruit juice, other spirits mask the unique qualities of Champagne and make it one very expensive mixer! Staff Fav's - De Sousa, 2005 Taittinger Comte de Champagne, Doquet Blanc de Blanc
Cremant - Basically French sparkling wine that is not from the Champagne region but from other designated areas. The best known are from Alsace, Loire, Limoux and Burgundy and use the same classic method of secondary fermentation in the bottle with their local grapes but still with strict regulations on how they are made. This is where you find some of the best values in French sparkling wine! Starting at around $18 per bottle these are tasty, less expensive alternatives to Champagne. Staff Fav's - Dopf & Irion Rose', Langlois, Gerard Bertrand Rose'
Franciacorta - Italy's best kept secret has been my current obsession! From Lombardia in north central Italy, Franciacorta can rival some of the best Champagnes of France. Using the same grapes, with the exception of a little added Pinot Bianco, and same classic method of production, this tiny region in Lombardy (north east of Milan) is where the highest quality Italian sparkling comes from. Franciacorta is also similar to Champagne in that it produces vintage, non vintage, blanc de blanc (called Saten) and rose' with like aging requirements and styles based on amounts of residual sugar. However production here is very limited so exports are scarce with only the larger producers making their way into the US market. Prices range from $24 to $75+ and offer a high quality alternative to Champagne for Italian wine lovers! Staff fav's: Monterossa Rose', Ferghettina 2009 Saten, Contadi Castaldi Brut
Cava -Cava is Spain's beloved sparkling. While made in the same method of Champagne, Cava is produced with some of Spain's most important grapes. Macabeo adds a floraly, citrus note with a slight bitterness while Xarello is richer with more melon and pear and Paralleda gives Cava its zesty acidity. It is usually fruity, but not sweet and doesn't have the yeasty, leesy notes of Champagne. It is also made as a rose' with Pinot Noir and while most is produced to drink young and fresh, aged and vintage Cava are also made but not something we see much of in the US. It is usually priced between $10-$25 per bottle and offers good quality for the money. Staff fav's: Mont Charell, Florinda
Prosecco - Italy's most well known bubbly comes from a specific area of the Veneto and Friuli regions in the northeast part of the country. The main grape used is called Glera and it is produced using the "charmat" method where the secondary fermentation takes place in a tank instead of the bottle. This type of fermentation usually results in a softer style wine with a fruity taste that is meant to be drunk young and fresh. The highest quality or DOCG Prosecco comes specifically from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone. While the styles of Prosecco range from Brut, Extra Dry and Dry (depending on levels of residual sugar), there is a perception that all Prosecco is sweet. Not so! Brut Prosecco has from 0-12grams of sugar the same level as Brut Champagne. Prosecco is my bubbly of choice for a good Mimosa! Usually priced between $13 - $27 per bottle depending on DOC or DOCG designations. Staff fav's: Furlan, Terriero,
These are not your only options as California, South America and many other regions produce great sparkling wines. Once you get into bubbles there is a whole new world out there to explore! Have fun, experiment with different styles and different foods like a Lambrusco or Gragnano with Pizza, a Brachetto d'Acqui with a fruit tart, a Bugey Cerdon as an aperitif, a sparkling dry Shiraz with lamb - endless possibilities!
Cheers and Happy New Year!
Monday, December 15, 2014
Need a little help figuring out what to buy for your friends, family and favorite wine drinkers? Stop by and check out the local art on the walls, wine related gifts, chocolates, cheeses, and the ultimate gift, a wonderful bottle or two or three of their favorite beverage, beautifully presented in our elegant gift boxes!
But we are not a grab and go store where hundreds of pre-shrink wrapped gift baskets are lined up filled with processed cheeses that don't need refrigeration and generic bottles of wine all dressed in pre-tied red and green bows. At Swirl, we're about thoughtful gift giving, nice wine and local products that we ourselves like to eat and drink. So give us just a few minutes of your time, we will help you pick the perfect gift and wrap it in something unique; we're here to make you look good! Here are some thoughtful gift ideas to consider and feel free to call us up - we'll figure out what you need, wrap it up and have ready when you arrive!
|Original Prints by Shaun Aleman|
2. Gifts that Tell a Story - While we can make any bottle of wine look good in our black and gold carriers and boxes, we love putting together wines and items that have a theme and tell a story. One of my favorites is the "Passionate Sicilian" package that I created on Friday: highly acclaimed red & white wine from Tenuta Della Terre Nere plus a bottle of their delicious, small production extra virgin olive oil. Or maybe my "Drink Local" pack with wines by our two favorite local producers, James Moises and Vending Machine wines paired with a New Orleans Drink Deck containing discounts at 50 of the city's best bars and hangouts. My latest is the "Ratings Junkie" a 94 rated Washington State Red with a 95 rated Oregon Pinot, boxed and pretty for under $120... just tell us your budget and let us build you a beautiful gift!
|4 pack of Truffles - Photo by imanolagirl|
4. A Day in the Life of Faubourg St. John - Pick up gift certificates at our favorite neighborhood spots and combine them for a truly unique experience! Start their day with tickets to an exhibit in the New Orleans Museum of Art or maybe a morning of kayaking on the bayou with Bayou Kayaks, then coffee and pastries at Pagoda Cafe or Fair Grinds. Next hop over to Lux Salon for a spa day of massage, mani, pedi or even a new 'do! Then to Swirl for a few glasses of wine and a cheese plate before dinner at one of our wonderful restaurants like 1000 Figs, Cafe Degas, Santa Fe, Lola's, The Half Shell and more. It's a great way to treat someone to all of the wonderful things our neighborhood has to offer!
5. It's the Little Things that Count - Sometimes you just need something special and small for a colleague or friend or maybe a little stocking stuffer for a family member. Our beautiful wood corkscrews, flour sack bar towels, vacuum pumps, wood cheese boards, Drink Decks and specialty olive oils are the perfect answer for $20 and under gifts!
Monday, November 24, 2014
Those of you who shop with us know that we just love food and wine pairing so helping to make your selections for holiday meals is a real treat. What should you drink with all of those sides and mounds of turkey? There are so many answers to that question that sometimes the best choice would be to open a bubbly, white, red and rose, put them on the table and let people chose for themselves because it’s all about personal preference!
Every year I give a few pairing tips and recommendations from our staff. We've chosen traditional and some more adventurous options at different price points so there is something for palate and every wallet. Each of the wines will have a tag with our silly turkey photo above to let you know who picked it and if you purchase any 4 of these wines for your celebration, we’ll give you a 10% discount. Here's a sampling of our picks, but you'll find lots more when you come in to shop...
1. For the wide array of flavors on the Thanksgiving table, sparkling wines are a no-brainer. Bright acidity, fruit and yeasty undertones make bubbly extremely food-friendly. Especially good are Brut Rosé and Blanc de Noir, which can take you from the lox or chevre hors d'oeuvre to the vinaigrette salad right through the turkey and potatoes and onto the pie. The Pinot Noir in these wines provide body, some tannin for texture, red-fruit character, complexity and acid balance. And in general, the bubbles and the wine's acidity can help cleanse your palate and get you ready for the next course!
Our Picks: Budget Conscious (under $12) Matt: Florinda Cava
Solid Values ($12-$29) Kimi: Jean Paul Brunn FRV; Casey: Gerard Bertrand Rose' Cremant
Indulgent ($30 and up) Beth: J. Lasalle Rose Brut Champagne, Adam: Monte Rossa Franciacorta; Tarani: De Sousa Brut Champagne
White wines with lively fruit and acidity and little to no oak are also versatile. With its aromas and flavors of citrus, apple and pear and zippy acidity plus herbal notes, Sauvignon Blanc pairs with everything from butternut-squash soup to green salad to turkey with a dressing made of briny oysters and herbs. Even notoriously tough-to-pair Brussels sprouts will sing with Sauvignon Blanc. Alsatian and German whites like Rieslings, Gewurtztraminer, Pinot Gris with their tropical fruit, citrus, green-apple, pear and mineral notes combined with thirst quenching acidity, work with almost any Thanksgiving dish except the cranberry sauce.
Our Pick: Budget Conscious (under $12) Adam: 2013 Nobilissima Pinot Grigio; Beth: 2013 Marcato I Prandi Soave
Solid Values ($12-$29) Tarani: 2012 Domaine Flaugergues Blanc; Kerry: 2013 Alessandro Bianco del Borgo Viognier, Erin: 2013 Groiss Gruner Veltliner
Indulgent ($30 and up) Kimi: 2009 Deux Montille Rully; Kerry: 2011 Alice & Olivier de Moor Chablis
Fruity reds and dry rosés are a favorite "go-to" pick for Thanksgiving. They bring soft, easy drinking affordability to the table that's perfect for the variety of flavors and large group setting that Thanksgiving brings. With their bright fruit flavors, they can perk up the milder dishes and enough have structure to hold their own with the more robust courses made with sausage and herbs. As an alternative, a good Dolcetto or lighter style Barbera and a young Etna Rosso can offer similar characteristics and are real crowd pleasers.
Our Pick: Budget Conscious (under $12) Kimi: 2012 Honoro Vera Monastrell; Matt: 2012 Castello Monjardin Garnacha
Solid Values ($12-$29) Casey: 2011 Kyklos Agiorgitiko; Kerry: 2012 Vino Lauria Frappato; Erin: 2011 L'Argentier Cinsault
Indulgent ($30 and up) Beth: 2012 Caciorgna Etna Rosso
Bigger reds with spicy, dark fruit and berries like Syrah and Zinfandel can bring out the best in cranberry sauces as long as the wine has soft tannins and ripe, forward fruit and the sauce is balanced -- moderately tart and not too sweet.
Our Picks: Budget Conscious (under$12) Casey; 2012 Delas Frere Ventoux
Solid Values ($12-$29) Adam: 2011 Complicated Red; Kimi: 2011 Vina Robles Petit Syrah; Erin: 2012 Bastide Miraflors
Indulgent ($30 and up) Tarani: 2010 Mont Redon Chateaneuf du Pape; Beth: 2007 Dominio IV Syrah
The most popular single wine to choose for Thanksgiving is Pinot Noir. This versatile varietal has tangy red fruit of strawberry and cherry, with nice acidity to balance and low levels of tannin. With elegance and a touch of earthiness, Pinot Noir will subtly support most things on the Thanksgiving table without overpowering them. Cranberry sauce and dessert are exceptions again, with the sauce too tart and the dessert too sweet.
Our Pick: Budget Conscious (under $12) All Staff: 2012 Sea Glass Central Coast Pinot Noir
Solid Values ($12-$29) Matt: 2012 Dominio IV; Adam: 2010 Daniel Rion Cote de Nuit; Tarani: 2012 Sean Minor 4 Bears; Kerry: 2010 Brella Willamette Valley
Indulgent ($30 and up) Beth: 2008 Carlton Hill Yamhill Pinot Noir; Casey: 2009 Domaine du Meix-Foulot Mercurey 1er Cru; Erin: 2010 Moises Yamhill Carlton
So there you have it! But remember the most important thing is to drink wines that make you happy with people that make you smile, because that is what it's all about!
Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving to All of You!!
Saturday, November 8, 2014
|Kiona Vineyard, Red Mountain AVA|
When Scott Howett of Mystic Vines came to me about doing a Washington State wine tasting I was intrigued. While the area has never been a focus of mine, I've always liked the wines, finding the reds without the sledgehammer jamminess that many new world wines can have. Big, bold but with nice structure awarded by the very unique micro climate of western Washington.
I asked Scott to send me his portfolio so I could begin doing my research and narrowing down our selections to 12 wines. I was familiar with many of the wineries, having done events in the past with Scott (our partners in crime for our popular rose and charcuterie yearly event and many other great tastings) . But as I dug deeper into the wines and the people behind them, I have to admit I was blown away by the absolute gems of artisan wineries Mystic Vine has curated. And I realized how lucky we are to be able to introduce you to some of the most creative, highly regarded winemakers in Washington through our relationship with Scott and Mystic Vine.
|Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain AVA|
Don't even care to read through them and just want to sign up? But be aware these wines are not for the faint of heart - we're featuring 2 whites, a rose' and 10 big reds. The walkabout style tasting is $25 and you can reserve your spots here: Jaw Dropping Washington Wines
|Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain AVA|
All attendees of the event will be give special pricing on the wines purchased that evening only.
*Wines with limited availability!
Mark Ryan Winery
A Wine & Spirits top 100 winery in the world 3 years in a row is a pretty impressive accomplishment for Mark Ryan McNeilly who began making wine in 1999 in a friends garage. Now considered one of the "godfathers" of cult wine making in Washington, the innovative McNeilly has a reputation for small production, highly rated reds. With grapes sourced from some of the finest vineyards in the state such as Ciel du Cheval, Grand Reve, Kiona, and Klipsun, his wines are considered classic, structured and age-worthy, yet trust me, they don't skimp on fruit or texture!
|Mark Ryan McNeilly|
*2012 Mark Ryan Winery Dead Horse Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, WA 94-96pts.
Much more rich and voluptuous, the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Dead Horse Ciel du Cheval Vineyard boasts knockout aromas and flavors of blueberries, blackberries, licorice, spring flowers and toast to go with a full-bodied, rich and structured profile on the palate. Despite all of the richness here, this puppy stays nicely focused, has superb purity of fruit and notable tannin that frame the finish. It-s another effort that will benefit from 4 to 5 years of cellaring and have over two decades of longevity.
*2012 Mark Ryan Winery Mourvedre Crazy Mary, WA 92-94pts.
The Mourvedre- dominated 2012 Crazy Mary incorporates a splash of Syrah and comes both from the Ciel du Cheval and Force Majeure vineyards. Possessing serious minerality in its black cherry, black raspberry, pepper and floral-driven aromatics, this medium to full-bodied effort is still firm and tight on the palate, with savory tannin showing on the finish. It will need short-term cellaring and evolve gracefully for 10 to 15 years.
Board Track Racer - a second label of value driven wines by Mark Ryan
2012 Board Track Racer The Chief, WS 92pts.
This ripe and generous red is open-textured and appealing, with broad cherry, currant and exotic spice flavors, remaining airy and refreshing as the powerful finish extends. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2018. 3,000 cases made
Sleight of Hand Cellars
To say that co-owner and winemaker Trey Busch is a fan of Pearl Jam is an understatement. Pearl Jam holds cult status in Trey’s mind and is the inspiration for the winery's branding. "Sleight of Hand", for those less familiar with the band, is a song about a dreamer who feels a compulsion to break free from the norm - almost as if by a magical force. Launched in 2007, Sleight of Hand Cellars has but one focus, and that is to craft exceptional wines from exceptional vineyards here in the state of Washington. The winery has only been in operation for a short time, but in that time, Sleight of Hand Cellars has been named as one of the "The Next Generation" of up and coming wineries in Washington State by Seattle Magazine, as well as one of "The Next Cult Wineries".
|Trey Busch, Sleight of Hand Wines|
2013 Sleight Of Hand Riesling The Magician, WA 90pts.
Made from 100% Riesling that wasn’t harvested until October, the 2013 Riesling Magician is an impressive, outstanding effort that gives up plenty of juicy citrus, lime and hints of lychee, and subtle minerality in its medium-bodied, lively and refreshing personality. Showing just a hint of sweetness on the finish, it will be versatile on the dinner table and drink nicely for 2-3 years.
*2012 Sleight Of Hand Syrah Levitation, WA 94pts.
Kicking off the 2012s and my favorite vintage to date, the 2012 Syrah Levitation is a blockbuster-styled effort that possesses fantastic creme de cassis, blackberry, licorice, graphite and crushed flower-like aromas and flavors. Full bodied, balanced and awesomely textured on the palate, with integrated acidity and building, sweet tannin on the finish, this is the real deal and will dish out loads of pleasure over the coming 7-8 years, possibly longer.
Underground Wine Project
Our two above mentioned, dynamic and successful young winemakers, Trey Busch and Mark McNeilly have collaborated over the years on a few very limited release wines under the name of The Underground Wine Project. A joint collaboration, the winery produced just a 100 cases of its first wine in 2007. The wine flew out of the winery, and they were eager to team up again. Only 700 cases of the 2012 vintage were produced, and they expect them to sell just as quickly. Aptly named, since this wine is a best kept secret of sorts, with no website or info available anywhere and very few cases leave the state!
*2012 Underground Wine Project Idle Hands Syrah, NYR
A luscious combination of 92% Syrah and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon coming from the Red Heaven Vineyard on Red Mountain, this thing is loaded with lots of in your face aromas of fresh vanilla, blueberry jam, and hints of anise. The palate is rich and supple, with full body and gripping tannins which will no doubt soften over time, showing blackberries and smoky oak, with hints of black pepper up front. There are combined hints of coconut and medium-dark chocolate which make me think german chocolate cake, and it finishes with ripe black raspberry preserve and perfumed roses.
While our first two wineries featured young, energetic winemakers, “living legend” is accurate to describe founder, owner, and winemaker Mike Januik. When Mike Januik left Chateau Ste Michelle Winery in 1999 to form his own venture, he was regarded as possibly the most powerful and successful winemaker in the Northwest. He’s had over a dozen wines in the Wine Spectator Top 100, and even Robert Parker can be counted as a superfan saying, “Nobody in Washington State delivers more outstanding quality for the dollar than Januik winery.” His reputation gets him access to some of the best fruit Washington has to offer and his small production winery offers wines of incredible finesse and balance.
(Fruit from Weinbau, Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval; contains bits of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc): Good deep red. Plum, redcurrant and spices on the expressive nose. Suave and spicy on the palate, with red berry and spice flavors complemented by a sexy cocoa powder note that may be from the Taransaud barrels. The mellow, persistent finish features smooth tannins and late notes of spices and milk chocolate. Another excellent value.
2010 Januik Petit Verdot Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, WA 92pts.
The 2010 Petit Verdot Ciel du Cheval Vineyard is remarkably civilized for the variety. A blend of 96% Petit Verdot and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, it delivers lots of spice-coated red and blackberry fruit, cedar cabinet and dried flower-like qualities to go with a medium to full-bodied, supple and beautifully textured palate. While up-front and very drinkable, it has enough back-end tannin and concentration to evolve gracefully for upwards of a decade (or more). Drink now-2020+.
A second label for Mike Januik, Novelty Hill winery grew out of a dinner-party conversation between Tom Alberg and Januik four years ago. Alberg and his family had long suspected that their 300 acres of Columbia Valley land would make an excellent vineyard but they had let it remain fallow for more than 30 years. Januik offered to tour the site, found it suitable for grape growing and started planting vines in 2000. The two, along with Alberg's wife, Judi Beck, founded Novelty Hill that year and started making wine using grapes from some of Washington's best growing sites with a goal of making wine with grapes only from his family vineyard, Stillwater Creek. Through Mike's stewardship, the winery and has grown and now shares both the facility and reputation of Januik wines.
2012 Novelty Hill Sauvignon Blanc Stillwater Creek Vineyard, WE 90pts.
Done in a bracing, sappy style, this is a concentrated wine with lush flavors of lemon drop, orange candy and Key lime. It’s ripe and juicy, with a suggestion of bees wax in the mouth. Washington wine critic Paul Gregutt recently named Stillwater Creek one of Washington’s Top 20 vineyards, in part because of the site’s outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. With the goal of growing world-class wine grapes through careful vineyard management and innovative clonal selection, this steep, south-facing estate vineyard on the Royal Slope of the Frenchman Hills is gaining a growing following.
2011 Novelty Hill Cabernet , WS 91pts.
Supple, spicy and appealing, offering a harmonious balance of dark berry and savory beef tartare flavors, lingering with a sense of elegance. Best from 2015 through 2021
A successful career in technology sales helped fuel winemaker/owner John Bigelow’s path from wine enthusiast to vintner. He began by studying winemaking in the mid-1990s at U.C. Davis and by the fall of 1998, he and his wife Peggy had converted the basement of their Seattle home into a winery where they fermented and aged 100 cases of wine for their own enjoyment. Encouraged by the success of their first vintage, John made 350 cases of Tre Fanciulli in 1999. JM Cellars was officially launched. John moved to Walla Walla for the 2000 and established a permanent home for JM Cellars in Woodinville – a seven acre property known as Bramble Bump.
The 2010 Red Blend Tre checks in as a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 10% Syrah that spent 22 months in 75% new French oak. A rich, structured effort that will need bottle age to fully come together, it offers up deep, layered aromas and flavors of dusty spice, mineral, saddle leather and both red and black fruits as well as a full-bodied, mouth-filling and concentrated profile in the mouth. Give bottles 3-5 years in the cellar and plan on drinking bottle over the following decade or longer. Drink 2017-2030.
2013 JM Cellars Mourvedre Rose, NYR
Crafted to honor rosé found in the southern regions of France, JM’s 2013 Mourvèdre Rosé shows crisp and refreshing fruit flavors. A grape originally planted in the Rhone Valley of France, Mourvèdre , offers distinctive aromas and flavors to create a memorable rosé.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Packing the punch of extraction and purity of fruit that equal some of the best the New World has to offer, the wines of Valpolicella, and especially those made in the Recioto and Amarone styles, are the perfect "gateway" wines. Yet at the same time these wines from Northeast Italy's Veneto region are still unmistakably Italian, or more accurately, unmistakably Veronese. The fan-shaped collection of communes and vineyards spreading out west, north and east from the ancient city of Verona to the shores of Lake Garda, produce wines that offer an intriguing combination of concentration (alcohol levels routinely approach 16 percent); fruit - in all its possibilities: dried, cooked, macerated and freshly picked; minerality; and deliciously velvety texture.
It all starts with Valpolicella, an area within the Veneto region of Northeast Italy around Lake Garda. Like “Chianti”, Valpolicella is a region, not a grape and the red wines produced there are blends dominated by Corvina, with Corvinone and Rondinella usually lending support. Molinara, Negrara, Rossignola, Dindarella and a few other local varieties are also allowed, although have diminished in importance. But it is Corvina that forms the backbone of the blend with its silky tannins and delicious fruity, smoky red cherry flavors and aromas with the deeply colored Rondinella grape adding red currant and citrus components plus color-intensity to the blend.
What can be difficult to understand about Valpolicella is that there is a hierarchy of styles. The lighter fruitier styles of Valpolicella Classico wines are what most people associate with the zone, but these are actually more recent creations. They were preceded in history by the sweet Recioto della Valpolicella and it’s dry counterpart, Amarone.
|Grapes drying on straw mats|
Recioto, by most accounts came into fashion during Roman times when wines were made sweet and high in alcohol to preserve them during long travel. The Romans are also said to have developed the process of “appassimento”, in which the grapes were dried in farmhouses on straw mats which transforms them into shriveled, sweet, tiny concentrated berries. To make Recioto, they press these tiny dried berries, but stop fermentation early to retain the high sugar level.
Amarone is said to have come about possibly as a mistake, someone left a barrel of Recioto unattended too long, the yeasts in the barrel continued to work and the wine fermented to dryness. Now aged a minimum of 25 months in oak, they are densely concentrated and deeply colored with luscious ripe fruit balanced with a savory robe of alcohol, acidity and tannins. Think leather, coffee, chocolate, stewed blackberry fruit all wrapped up in a rich, viscous and heavenly concoction that just so happens to come out of a wine bottle.
Straight Valpolicella Classico (no oak aging required) are the perfect easy drinking wines to have with pizza or pasta or sitting on the porch on warm summer evening. They are vinified in the traditional manner using fresh grapes and usually have little or no oak and present a fresh, fruit forward style with light tannins and tart acidity. The Classico Superior wines can definitely take on a more serious note with 14 months of oak aging required. You have more structure and complexity present which makes them a better match with game and roasted meats, although they are usually wonderfully pleasant on their own as well.
Valpolicella Ripassa is a different animal yet. The term Ripassa means “re-passed” and was made famous by Agricola Masi in the 1960’s. The straight Valpolicella, produced earlier in the usual red wine fashion, is passed "back over" the lees of the Amarone or Recioto after their fermentation is complete. The lees or pomace includes yeast, grape seeds, pulp, stems and skin and traces of alcohol. All of this leads to a second fermentation and the creation of Ripassa Valpolicella whose color, depth and flavors are greater than those of the original Valpolicella. Sometimes referred to as baby Amarone, it is also ready to drink much sooner than the Amarone and usually comes in at a third of the price.
One of the great things about Valpolicella is that you can experience the different aging and vinification processes across a spectrum of price points and styles. Basic Valpolicella is usually priced in the teens, Valpolicella Classico and Superior are priced in the high teens to low 20's, Ripassa style usually starts in the 20's to mid 30's, while most Amarone and Recioto (Recioto is sold usually in 375 ml bottles) wines begin in the $50 range and go from there.
Currently we are carrying a few different styles of Valpolicella, each chosen for their unique expression of the region, vinification process and quality. But as with every thing else in our store, my selection changes frequently although you will always find at least one Valpolicella on our shelves.