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March 2011

Philippe Raimbault Sancerre Rose 2010

I would like to start this by saying that this rose is so obscenely perfect that if you see a bottle you should point in the oposite direction, yell "look over there!", grab the Sancerre rose, and run for your life. 

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This comes to us from Philippe Raimbault; a fifth generation winemaker in the village of Sury-en-Vaux, just north of the hilltop town of Sancerre.  You can see his website here: Philippe Raimbault  At this point Philippe owns vineyards at several locations in Sancerre, Pouilly Fume, and Coteaux de Giennois appellations.  This Apud Sariacum rose takes it's name from the ancient Roman name for the town of Sury-en-Vaux.  The grapes come exclusively form the steep Silex clay slopes surrounding the village.

100% Pinot Noir

The color is a beautiful pale salmon color.

Aroma: ripe peach, apricots, a hint of fresh raspberry.  There's a lot of floral tones that I can't quite pick apart; definitely some roses though.  The wine is very "together" and doesn't have specific components I can easily pull out.  It's utterly gorgeous smelling and I want to bath in it.  Really.  I might at least wash my face with it the next time I have a date.

Taste: Again the fresh, lush peach, but awesome minerality and vibrant acidity on the follow through.  It's a serious rose with a lot of flavor, but it's extremely smooth.  If you're used to the more common Provencal rose's, this is a whole new ball game.  It has none of the pepper and herbal tones.  This is my favorite rose I've ever had.  It's painful to say that cause I feel guilty to the other roses I've loved.  It's not cheap.  It's about $25.

Rosemont on Munjoy Hill and Aurora Provisions will have it this weekend.  Only about 50 cases are coming into the entire country.


Trattoria Athena Communal Dinner

I've been talking a lot about focusing on doing more special events and tastings to keep myself excited and to provide a better service to all my customers, but I by no means have a monopoly on excitement.  Plenty of restaurants and shops are already playing around presenting food and wine in different ways.  I decided I ought to go and see what some other restaurants are already doing before I leapt in.

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Although Trattoria Athena is a customer of mine and I've heard a lot of great feed back about them, I haven't had a chance to eat there, so when I heard they were doing communal suppers every Sunday I leapt at the chance.  The restaurant is a small, but beautiful space so they just push all the tables together into one long arrangement and write the menu up on a chalk board at the far end.  The only seating is at 4 and we were greeted with fresh bread, olives, and olive oil on the table.  My friend and I had time to look over the wine list and order a competitor's wine, Domaine Sigalas Santorini.  Just like excitement, I don't have a monopoly on good wine, and I would get bored if I exclusively drank my own.  The Sigalas was excellent; rich, full, dry, with good acidity and minerality. 

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The first dish was a soup of chicken stock, rice, and lemon juice.  It was delicious and totally new to me.  I never would have thought of this combination of flavors on my own; that alone made it a good experience for me by expanding my horizons.  The lemon was perfectly in balance with the rich chicken stock and it ended up being hearty and bright at the same time.

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Second course was roasted lamb and tomatoes served with orzo.  The lamb was great; I mean where can you go wrong with this preparation?  I guess if you were determined to screw it up you could over cook the lamb and dry it out.  They certainly didn't!  It was tender enough I barely used my knife.  The fresh gamey taste of the lamb was very springy and was counterbalanced nicely by the white Santorini.

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After the lamb, dishes of rainbow chard were brought out, followed by platters of pan roasted skate wing mixed with grilled sword and monkfish.  All were again well executed, perfectly cooked and paired with a nice tzatziki sauce as well as a sauce made of potatoes that I have forgotten the name of.  My Fail.  It was a tasty mix of potato, vinegar, and horseradish and an excellent pair to the fish.  The sword and monkfish had a nice touch of char that was a good balance to the refreshing sauces.

Dessert was a little syrup soaked polenta cake with scoops of delicate house made ice cream on top.  I was distracted at this point by a dessert wine from the isle of Samos and a French press of coffee, so I didn't pay as much attention to it as I should have. 

Overall it was a great meal.  Having it in a communal setting was great (although I was caught up talking business with my friend and didn't do much communing with the people around me).  I really enjoyed the straight forward purity of the food and it's cleanly expressed flavors.  Trattoria Athena is totally worth the drive.  Particularly considering the whole dinner was just $30 per person!  $30 for four courses of great food is quite a deal.  I honestly couldn't have prepared a similar meal as well at home for that cost.  If you're looking for tasty, satisfying, authentic Mediterranean food and want a change from Portland I strongly recommend them.


Domaine de la Chevalerie (the best producer in Bourgueil)

This kind of follows on the heels of my last post about changes in the wine market in ME and how I plan on doing more exciting events and bringing in limited quantities of exciting rare wines.  As such I'm getting a very limited amount of a 1996 70 year old vine single vineyard Bourgueil.  This is the favorite Bourgueil producer of my new French importer: Laurent Bonnois who was born and raised here.  Consider this a first instalment of exciting things to come:

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Pierre Caslot at the entrance to Chevalerie's caverns

Domaine de la Chevalerie is located in Bourgueil in the Loire valley.  It was founded by the Caslot family in 1640 and is now managed by the 13th and 14th generation: Pierre with his children Emmanuel and St├ęphanie.  The family has 81 acres spread about the appellation that they farm organically.  Some vineyards are sold off to negociants, but they have many older vine plantings near the house that they vinify themselves in their cellar: one of the largest in the Loire.  The cellar is in fact a cavern that was dug out in the 11th and 13th centuries to provide stone for the adjacent town. 

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The cellar


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I have their 2009 cuvee Cassiopee': an excellently young, vibrant, lush Cabernet Franc with dark fruit, black pepper, and good balance from it's acidity.  This is available at RSVP and Whole Foods for about $16.

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I was lucky enough to get 5 cases of a 2001 single vineyard wine from them called cuvee Chevalerie.  I planned on doing some promotion for it but it all sold out before I had the chance.  The Chevalerie cuvee was fantastic.  The sleek fruit, spice, tannin, and earthy components had all come together beautifully into this really polished, mature wine.  It was so sleek it reminded me more of a Bordeaux Pomerol than a Loire Cabernet Franc.  Unfortunately it sold out immediately. 

The good news is that the winery is going to send me a bit of 1996 cuvee Breteche!  This is a single vineyard old vine bottling that has been resting in the cavern beneath the Caslot residence for 15 years.  1996 was a fantastic vintage in Bourgueil.  I am confidant that this wine will be spectacular and totally unique.  My supply will be very limited, so if you would like to be sure of getting a bottle or two let me know and I will start making an allocation list.  Retail on this will be about 24-25.  Lucky your not in NY where it will be about $30.  Let me know what wine shop you would like to pick the wine up through and I will make arrangements.

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I've even found a clip of Pierre and some of his neighbors working in the vineyards from a French news program.  Check it out!

http://videos.tf1.fr/jt-13h/a-vos-beches-pour-la-journee-binette-4662322.html


Maine Wine Industry Update (We have it pretty good in Maine)

Sometimes I tell people that in Maine we're so far behind the curve that we end up ahead of it; like with local food and farmers markets.  In other states with big dense populations super markets totally replaced farmers markets and put a lot of family farms out of business.  In Maine we have such a low population density that in a lot of places the big super markets didn't move in, preserving the farm to table connections that were there.  Now we're reaping the benefits with delicious local pork, greens, squash, you name it.

Wine in Maine is in a similar situation.  Yes, sometimes our helpful state legislators make laws like David Webster of Freeport's protecting impressionable children from seeing adults responsibly tasting wine.  Doing shots at a restaurant bar was ok, tasting wine was a no no; it might turn them communist?  His excuse?  He thought it would be selectively enforced, which of couse makes it all fine.  Maine's, ehem, eccentric legal environment for alcohol has helped to keep large corporate behemoths out.  In recent years the rest of the country has seen a consolidation in the wine business.  Huge companies such as Southern Wine and Spirits have the deep pockets to pay off restaurant owners and give kick backs to control what gets sold.  Luckily, Maine is too small and weird a market for them to bother with us!

Maine is one of the only states that has bucked this trend and seen a lot of diversification and proliferation in small, grass roots wine distributors.  Wine distributors such as myself, SoPo, Crush, and Easterly have built businesses built on unique quality wines and passion.  Mark-ups in Maine are also lower than in places like NY, both on restaurant lists and retail.

I have a feeling that this movement to higher quality, exciting, hand made wines has hit a critical mass.  There are enough of us passionate wine professionals and excited open minded consumers like you that Maine is starting to attract national attention as a great market for exciting, unique wines.  Most of the top importers in the country; the ones that really generate excitement and are sought after, are working in Maine now and sending their national sales people here to promote their wines.

My reaction: it's about damn time!  When I first started 8 years ago people couldn't even get their heads around the fact that I was independant from the big beer distributors.  Dry French Rose was still a rarity.  The times have changed and I predict that change will continue to speed up. 

To that effect I am re-focusing on doing more exciting educational events.  I'm planning more wine dinners, wine classes, and getting my hands on crazy extremely limited wines.  A couple weeks ago I held a private vertical tasting of a Cru beaujolais vineyard.  I had 4 vintages of Christian Bernard Fleurie that we tasted side by side; the 2000, 2003, 2007, 2009.  All the vintages tasted totally different!  It was a revelation; and this from an appellation that most people would never think to age!  (the Rosemont Mothership, RSVP, and the Freeport Cheese and Wine shop each have a few bottles of the older vintages and they're under $20)

I am planning on teaching a wine class specifically on ageing wine.  I've actually been in this business long enough to have built up multi-vintage verticals of a bunch of exciting wines.  More info on this soon. 

Devenish Wines has also moved into a new larger warehouse space to make room for all the new French, Italian, and Oregon wines that are comning!

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The new, larger Devenish Wines warehouse!

So in conclusion we have an amazing selection of wines in Maine.  Yes, there are some high end cult wines that you can't get, but I have news for you, you generally can't get them anywhere.  My Domaine de Bel Air 2003 organic Bourgueil, though?  You can only get that in Manhattan and here in Maine!  Check it out for $15 at the Rosemonts, or the Cheese Iron, or Provisions.

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Perfectly mature loire Cabernet Franc, Organic, and only available in Maine and Manhattan.

You ain't seen nothin' yet!

 

 


La Palazetta Rosso di Montalcino 2009

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Vintage: 2009

Background: La Palazzetta is a small 10ha family domaine run by Flavio Fanti in the small town of Castelnouvo dell'Abate.  The appellation of Brunello di Montalcino is centered on the town of Montalcino which is at an elevation of 600 meters above sea level.  As you get farther away, out towards the edges the land gets lower and flatter.  Generally the more traditional wine making happens at high elevation where the temps are a bit cooler and the wines are more aromatic as a result.  On the lower plains it is easier to farm with tractors and the wines are lusher and more modern.  That's where the big industrial wineries like Frescobaldi and Banfi are.  Fanti in Castelnouvo is up at about 500 meters and farms pretty traditionally.  The one area he breaks from tradition is using some smaller oak barrels for this Rosso in order to make it more polished and drinkable younger.

Impressions:  Ripe cherries are predominant in the nose, followed by some earthy forrest aromas, a hint of tobacco, and a bit of smoke.  More smoke from a wood fire you're about to roast a rib eye steak on, not so much autumn leaves; it definitely smells ripe.  The taste follows through on the enticement of the aroma.  This is a classic, big, Tuscan Sangiovese!  The fruit is ripe and a bit lush even, but it has bright acid to balance it, some of the characteristic dry Tuscan earth on the mid-palate, along with some sweet baking spices.  The tannins on the finish are pleasingly smooth for this being a young wine from a great vintage.  Absolutely perfect for that rib eye I mentioned earlier, or a T-bone.  Or burgers for that matter!

This is about $25 and is available at RSVP and Whole Foods.