The perfect storm, vino version

Like a merciful bit of payback for the awful heatwave(s!) we’ve been experiencing in New York this month, I was rewarded this week with the wine world version of the perfect storm – one of those nights when everything just comes together.  The venue: Apiary, a cool little restaurant in the East Village that has a brilliant little tradition – no corkage Mondays.  Which means that on Monday nights, the place turns into a bit of a crossroads where wine industry veterans cross paths with tasting groups, cork dorks and other variations of the wine-obsessed, all vying for seats in a place that is packed to the gills.

On this night, I am dining with a group that, excluding me, could be described as Young Turks and Turkettes of the wine trade – a gang of bright young folks spanning the wine retail, distribution and wine bar channels of NYC.  Future captains of the industry to be sure, but in this crowd, we are among the less laden with disposable income – but we have enthusiasm and some smartly chosen bottles on our side.

As we settle into our table, the first winds of the stormy wine adventure start blowing.  For lo and behold, sitting at the next table is my friend Suzanne from the wine bulletin board community Wine Berserkers and a blind tasting group I’m in. We greet each other, exchange pleasantries, I ask what they’re drinking.  Next thing I know, I’m being asked for my glass, and it comes back filled with burgundy.  Not just any burgundy – Grand Cru burgundy.  My oh my, my favorite region, and suffice it to say, drinking at the grand cru level is a rare treat for me.

Our generous neighbors have poured me a beautiful wine, a 1995 Dujac Charmes Chambertin.  I smell, I swoon, I pass the glass around the table.  We are off to a fantastic start.

We hand our bottles over to our server to have the corks pulled.  It’s a nice lineup: Movia Lunar and ’99 Chateau Musar for the whites, and the reds include a Chamonard Morgon, ’07 Vincent Girardin Clos Renardes (more Burgundy!), a Cotes de Provence wine I’m not familiar with called Nowat, and my bottle, which I have covered for everyone’s blind tasting pleasure.

As we’re perusing our menus trying to make decisions, our neighbors have a wonderful surprise for us – they’re leaving us the wines they haven’t finished.  One of the best things about having wine as a passion is the terrific generosity of wine enthusiasts – and tonight, my friends from the next table are flooring me:  we get tastes of the Dujac, a 1990 Fougeray Bonnes Mares, and a healthy amount of 1991 Camille Giroud Echezeaux.  Our impromptu wine dinner has gained some serious heavyweight firepower.  The wines are wonderful.

As we our appetizers arrive, I’m enjoying the Movia Lunar – a true wine geek wine.  It’s from a producer in Slovenia (just across the Italian border), made with noninterventionist techniques, it’s unfiltered and cloudy, and it’s made from a grape I can’t pronounce or spell without help. (It’s not that bad really – ribolla gialla) It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Gravner I had from my March 10 Tasting for the Ages– a little bit golden-orange colored, in an artisanal and unusual style, and it’s genius Continue reading

Wines to help beat the heat: muscadet

As New York has been struggling through a heatwave these last few weeks, I’ve found myself reaching for refreshing white wines, and one of my favorite choices in that regard is Muscadet wines, which hail from the Loire Valley of France.  Muscadets are made from the melon de bourgogne grape, and in my experience they are quite dry, with light lemony flavors as its central profile, and often a briny minerality.  These characteristics make these wines a great match for seafood and other light fare; they also make muscadets a great choice for fans of Chablis wines, which have a similar profile.  Another thing that makes muscadet one of the staples of my wine diet is affordability, with very solid examples in abundance in the $10-13 range, and the high end examples often found for under $20.  Some of the best known names in the region include Domaine Luneau-Papin and Domaine de la Pépière; below are notes on a few muscadets I’ve enjoyed recently. Check them out and stay cool! -Alan

  • 2008 Guy Saget Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie Les Clissages d’Or – France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine (7/16/2010)
    On the nose, slight funk and notions of seashell. On the palate, this has the citrusy foundation and slight briny taste common to many muscadets, but it has a nice sweetness to it that combines with the juicy acid here to present a long, inviting finish. Quite well done and a good accessible example for those new to muscadet. 89-90+ (90 pts.)

Look also for the excellent Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie bottling from this producer, which runs a few dollars cheaper than the Clos des Briords but is often just as good.

  • 2008 Pinardière, Domaine de la Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie – France, Loire Valley, Pays Nantais, Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine (7/16/2010)
    The nose has fresh fruits – green apple, stone fruits. Palate is a bit briny, citrus-like acidity. Full-flavored for a muscadet, with a bit of richness to it that’s quite pleasing. 88-90 points. (89 pts.)

The Clissages d’Or was tasted from a complimentary review bottle; the Clos des Briords and Pinardiere were tasted free of a charge at a public retailer tasting.