Reflections on Mouton Rothschild: Bordeaux’s Gloriously “Unclassifiable” Wine

I was fortunate enough to lead a tasting of 10 of the best vintages of Chateau Mouton Rothschild hosted by New York Vintners on a cool, wind-swept drizzly evening in mid-October. It may have been unpleasant outside, but inside, around the table of 17 eager wine collectors, tasters and wine aficionados, the atmosphere was heavy with anticipation and expectations for a memorable evening of vinous experiences. Did the 10 vintages of Mouton—ranging from the powerhouse 2000 back to the inimitable 1945—live up to those expectations? Beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Among the evenings’ many triumphs—large and small– was the remarkable fact that there was not one off bottle: no corked wine, no over-the-hill bottles, no strange aromas, no flaws attributable to questionable provenance. Each bottle presented the vintages in the best and most accurate possible light. Naturally there were differences of opinion and preference among the 17 participants. It would not be a wine tasting in New York if everyone agreed! More important than the differences was the fact that most of the wines displayed the special character of the singular vinous animal called Mouton Rothschild in its own way. Why do I say singular animal?  Because Mouton is unlike any other red wine made on the left bank of Bordeaux where Cabernet Sauvignon rules the varietal roost. Everyone who has had the opportunity to smell and taste Mouton in comparison with its peers knows exactly why I call it a singular animal. The history of Mouton’s status among the great wines of Bordeaux is as unique as it is revealing: When Napoleon III asked the merchants of Bordeaux to produce a classification of the regions’ best red wines, little did he know that his request would result in a qualitative ordering that would affect Bordeaux for hundreds of years. Any classification is bound to be somewhat controversial even if there is general agreement that there are some wines that are special and deserving of their own category. These “best of the best” were ranked as Premier Grand Cru—1st growths as we say in English. Only 4 wines, out of more than a thousand properties making wine on the left bank were privileged to achieve this exalted status: Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux and Chateau Haut Brion. It seems that the merchants given the task of creating the classification has a really hard time with one wine in particular: Mouton Rothschild. They would not include it among the 1st growths. Instead they placed it at the head of the 2nd grand crus. Where did Mouton truly belong and why was it not placed among the other 1st growths? There is no easy or definitive explanation for this curious problem. From the financial records we know that Mouton was fetching the same prices as the four Chateaux ranked 1st growth. The market had spoken so to speak. But something clearly made the merchants of Bordeaux—a closed circle if ever there was one—uncomfortable about Mouton and unwilling to add it to The Four. Could it have been that it had an absentee owner for many years prior to the classification of 1855? Or did it have something to do with resentment that a member of the English Rothschilds—Nathaniel in fact—had very recently (1853) purchased the estate and that it was the only potential 1st growth not in French hands at the time? Or was it something about the wine itself which these fine gentlemen found too wild, independent and different from the other potential 1st growths?  We can only speculate. Perhaps all these factors played a role in the decision. Shortly after the classification the labels of Mouton featured the following statement: “Premier ne puis, second ne daigne, Mouton suis”  “I am not a first growth. I do not deign to be a second. I am Mouton” Nothing cold better capture the singularity of Mouton and its refusal to accept an arbitrary status than this memorable sequence of 8 powerful French words. I would suggest that the merchants of Bordeaux in fact did Mouton the greatest favor by making this “error” in denying the Chateau official 1st growth status. This enabled Mouton to go its own way and prepared for the era of Philippe Rothschild, who at the ripe old age of 20, took over the reins at Mouton in 1922. Philippe’s single-minded mission was to right the “monstrous injustice” done to his beloved Mouton in 1855 and at the same time to magnify the wine’s singular position among the wines of Bordeaux. He accomplished this task in a number of ways: He was the first proprietor of a classified Bordeaux to insist that all the wines made each vintage be bottled at the estate—a rare practice when he took control of Mouton! After World War II, Philippe Rothschild instituted the policy of having a well-known artist create a label for each vintage. This fascinating succession of labels has no parallel anywhere else in the world of wine. I would suggest that the flamboyance of Philippe Rothschild’s personality exactly parallels the flamboyance of the wine and the man who succeeded in having Mouton raised to first growth status. This did not happen until 1973—some 52 years after he assumed command of Mouton. Another testament to Mouton’s inimitable position is that it is the only Chateaux, among the 61 originally classified in 1885 to have its official status changed.

Let me return to the question of what makes Mouton different from its peers. First there is the bouquet—a spicy, ripe, exotic, aroma which is both more extroverted and more intense than the aromas of the other 1st Growths. Do not get me wrong—each of the 1st growths has distinctive, compelling aromatics. But Mouton’s bouquet greets the taster with a vibrancy and assertiveness not to be found in any other wine from the left bank. To highlight this aromatic virtuosity, Mouton is aged in heavily toasted new oak barrels. The resulting aroma combines the smoky. Tobacco scents of the oak with the fabulous sweetness of the fruit of Mouton. No one will ever confuse this bouquet with that of any other Cabernet based wine! Mouton’s soil heavily favors Cabernet Sauvignon which makes up nearly 90% of the blend in most vintages. The power, majesty and high tannin content of Mouton’s Cabernet—softened with just a little Merlot—gives the wines a size, volume and density which again distinguish it from its subtler 1st growth associates. Mouton has large and lean vinous muscles! The paradoxical combination of brooding power and firmness with irresistible, sexy fragrance and sweetness define the special character of Mouton. In 1973 the “monstrous injustice” done to the Chateau in 1855 was righted by Governmental decree. Mouton was now classified a 1st Growth officially. This is the only change ever made in the classification of 1855—yet another indication of the unique status of Mouton. The label now says: “Premier Je suis, second Je fus, Mouton ne change”—“I am a first growth, I was a second. Mouton has not changed” Of no other wine made anywhere in Bordeaux could these words be said.

Below are selected tasting notes of the 10 Moutons we imbibed.  Firstly, some general observations seem in order: Mouton benefits greatly from ripe vintages. This is true of all Bordeaux but none as much as Mouton. Full ripeness allows Mouton to achieve that hypnotic fragrance for which it is justly famous. In less ripe vintages—1999, 1998 and 1995, Mouton does not seem to be fully itself. The new vineyard management and wine making team at Mouton since 2003, brilliantly headed by Philippe Dhalluine, have worked successfully in reducing the gap between the top and the lesser vintages that prevailed at Mouton. Among the technical changes that Dhalluine has instituted is a reduction in the amount of time the fermenting juice stays on its skins and a temperature control process which guarantees that the fermenting must never get over 30 degrees Celsius ( 86 Fahrenheit). These changes will help maintain the consistency of Mouton from vintage to vintage and impart a finesse to the wines of Mouton they have sometimes lacked.  A recent blind tasting of the 2007 Bordeaux—the weakest vintage since 2002, showed the Mouton aromatic intensity usually found only in riper vintages along with unusually suave, polished tannins.  This is good news indeed.  Of the wines we tasted, 5 were from ripe vintages—2000, 1986, 1982, 1959 and 1945. And these were indeed the star wines of the tasting. 3 of these—the 1986, the 1982 and the 1945 were as good as wine is ever going to get. All of us in attendance could only feel privileged to have experienced such extraordinary wines. I am certain that 20 years from now all of the participants will remember what they did on Wednesday evening Oct 12, 2011. The notes below are from Robert Millman and Dylan York. We have included tasting notes from Robert Parkers’ The Wine Advocate, always an invaluable reference. The wines are listed in the sequence in which they were tasted.


A note on methodology: The wines from 1982 through 2000 were opened 8-10 hours before the tasting began and double decanted. The older wines were opened 2 hours before the tasting and double decanted.


RM—Robert Millman, Co-Director of Executive Wine Seminars

DY—Dylan York, Director of Education at New York Vintners

RP—Robert Parker, Founder of The Wine Advocate  [Please bear in mind that the Parker notes for the wines of 1986 through 2000 are from tastings he did either at the Chateaux or shortly after the wines were bottled. For the older wines, the last date of tasting is indicated in parenthesis]

2000 Mouton Rothschild

RM—Sweet, sexy, spicy, toasty bouquet. Very Mouton. A big, powerful wine with a lush, ripe entry followed by massive amount of tannin reflective of both the vintage and the vineyards of Mouton. Needs a decade or more to achieve full development. Outstanding potential.

DY—”Deep ruby core and rim with aromas of sandalwood, green herbs, dusty stones and red liquorice. Flavors of ripe blackberry, cassis, leather and mineral with toasty vanilla undertones.  Concentrated and intense texture that will develop nicely over the next 15-20 years.”

RP—“A rich, tannic, earthy style, with loads of crème de cassis and floral notes, the final blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot is a full-bodied wine with plenty of coffee, earth, chocolaty notes, and still plenty of tannin to resolve.”

1999 Mouton Rothschild  

RM—Some Mouton sweetness on the nose—but much gentler and less pronounced than the 2000. Smooth and fluid on the palate. Lack the Mouton power and grip. A touch vegetal. A gentile Mouton. Could not be more different from the 2000.

DY—“Deep ruby core, pale rim. Aromas of baked fruits—fig with dark minerals background. Flavors of cherry cola and coffee grounds, some stemmy, vegetal nuances, Medium bodied, dry finish.”

RP—“.Exhibiting an admirable mid-palate, stuffing, and fatness, low acidity, and ripe, sweet tannin, this will be one of the more forward, seductive Moutons produced over the last two decades. As the wine sat in the glass, notes of new saddle leather, coconut, and smoke emerged. This should be an uncommonly precocious, delicious Mouton-Rothschild.”


1998 Mouton Rothschild

RM—Brilliant color. Brighter, more youthful than the 1999. Smoky, mineral bouquet. Misses the perfumed sweetness of the riper vintages. Intense, vigorous and fresh on the palate. Plenty of tannins. Elegant weight and balance. Quite a long dry finish.  Very good if not outstanding.

DY—“Clear, with a deep ruby core. Aromas with red fruits, cheese rind and mineral. Flavors of red currant and black cherry. Dry, medium to high acidity, well defined tannins.”                                                                                                                              

RP—“An extremely powerful, super-concentrated wine offering notes of roasted espresso, crème de cassis, smoke, new saddle leather, graphite, and licorice. “

1995 Mouton Rothschild

RM—Very dark color to the rim. Massive, aggressively tannic and dry with much more mineral and earth flavors than fruit. Quite drying as is typical of many 1995 Bordeaux. Not much charm but plenty of Mouton Power.

DY—“Deep ruby core and rim. Medium viscosity. Dry, apple skin like acidity. Dusty tannins. Little apparent fruit. Mostly structure.”

RP—“reveals an opaque purple color, and reluctant aromas of cassis, truffles, coffee, licorice, and spice. In the mouth, the wine is “great stuff,” with superb density, a full-bodied personality, rich mid-palate, and a layered, profound finish that lasts for 40+ seconds.”

1986 Mouton Rothschild

RM—Fabulously sweet, perfumed bouquet. Not as exotic as the 1982 but just as compelling. Overtones of expensive leather and Cuban tobacco. Amazingly fresh, alive and sassy on the palate with irresistible balance of sweet fruit and earthy flavors. Endless finish. Outstanding Mouton

DY—“Intense deep core of youthful redness. Iron aromas with cherry lozenges and an earthy, farm house note. Very balanced with perfectly toasted flavors. Ripe and concentrated.”

RP–In 1986, Mouton-Rothschild produced the most profound wine of a great northern Medoc vintage. The sensational opaque black/ruby color may be even denser than that of the 1982. It requires coaxing and extended airing to bring forth the subdued bouquet of minerals, celestial blackcurrants, smoky new oak, and spices. The wine possesses incredible concentration, full body, fabulous length, and is – well – perfect.

1982 Mouton Rothschild

RM—The best bottle of this justly famous wine I have ever tasted. Fabulous Mouton bouquet—sweet, exotic, almost erotic in its inviting focused intensity. Could a wine ever produce a more compelling scent? This core sweetness carries over to the palate. Both rich and elegant, the tannins having melted into the now smooth yet buoyant texture. Harmonious from start to finish. Extraordinary wine.

DY—“Youthful freshness with aromas of toasty vanilla, intense powdery floral notes with a well-defined farm house and mineral component. Concentrated and complex layers of black fruits, stony minerals and earth.”                                                                              

RP—[From a recent tasting] “The 1982 has thrown off the backward, youthful style that existed during its first 25 years of life, and over the last 4-5 years has developed such secondary nuances as cedar and spice box. The crème de cassis, underlying floral note, full-bodied power, extraordinary purity, multilayered texture, and finish of over a minute are a showcase for what this Chateau accomplished in 1982. The wine is still amazingly youthful, vibrant, and pure. This is a great, still youthful wine, and, on occasion, one does understand the hierarchy of Bordeaux chateaux when you see the complexity and brilliance of this first-growth.”

1970 Mouton Rothschild

RM—In the mold of the 1998. An elegant, refined, aging beauty with a touch of the caramel and sweetness which marked the 1970s in their youth. Not a blockbuster, but a pretty, now gentle Mouton. Difficult to taste after the awesome 1982.

DY—“Clear color showing some orange at the edge. Aromas of coffee ands pickling spices. Elegant and dry with flavors of cherry and hay. Overtones of caramel and saddle leather.”

RP [From a 1992 review—19 years make a big difference] “With coaxing, some of the minty, cassis, lead-pencil Mouton perfume emerged. The wine is full-bodied, with excellent richness and concentration, but it has a tight, austere, surprisingly tannic finish. Still firm and relatively unevolved, this wine could benefit from another 5-7 years of cellaring.”

1959 Mouton Rothschild

RM—Still garnet and totally clear. Looked younger than its 52 years. Very rich wine with a pronounced tobacco leaf and cedar bouquet. Rich and almost sweet but volatile and alcoholic in the after taste. 1959 was a very hot, big production vintage. Perhaps past its peak drinking years.

DY—“Deep garnet core and pale rim. Powerful aromas and flavors of ripe red fruits, sun dried raisins and figs. Hints of dark chocolate. Well integrated tannins.”

RP—[from a 1997 tasting] “Astonishingly young and unevolved, with a black/purple color, the wine exhibits a youthful nose of cassis, minerals, and new oak. It is exceptionally powerful and super-extracted, with the fruit supported by high levels of tannin and some lusty quantities of alcohol.”


1949 Mouton Rothschild

RM—Lovely color of mature Bordeaux. All cedar, leather, minerals and earth tones in both the bouquet and flavors. Dry and elegant in the manner of this vintage. The fruit has gone. What is still very much present is the pure taste of the Mouton terroir. I liked the wine more than most of the other tasters.

DY—“Pale garnet core and rim. Aromas of herbs and cherry with some youthful acidity. Balanced flavors of nuts, bell pepper, dried fruits and chocolate.”

RP—[from a tasting in 1994] “The 1949’s bouquet offers copious amounts of sweet, ripe cassis fruit, herbs, spicy oak, and a touch of coffee and cinnamon. Medium-bodied, with moderate tannin still noticeable, this compact, dark garnet, opaquely-colored wine possesses superb concentration and a remarkably long finish. It appears to be fully mature, yet the balance, length, and tannin level suggest this wine could last for another 20 years.”


1945 Mouton Rothschild


RM—This is the most famous wine that Mouton has ever produced. Many tasters regard it as the best Bordeaux made in the 20th century. It carried with it a lot of expectation. How did our bottle do? The wine of the night even in the face of 2 masterpieces that preceded it—the 1986 and 1982. An uncanny combination of immortal sweetness, spice, cedar and dark chocolate on the nose with a freshness, liveliness, even exuberance on the palate which defies comprehension in a wine which is 66 years old. This bottle still showed some wonderful supporting tannins, impeccable balance and an endless finish.

Non plus ultra. Beyond praise.

DY—“Pale garnet core. Aromas of vanilla bean and crème de caramel. Flavors of roasted game with a long, lingering sweet red fruits finish.”

RP—[from a tasting in 1997]  “A consistent 100-point wine (only because my point scale stops at that number), the 1945 Mouton-Rothschild is truly one of the immortal wines of the century. This wine is easily identifiable because of its remarkably exotic, over-ripe, sweet nose of black fruits, coffee, tobacco, mocha, and Asian spices. It is an extraordinarily dense, opulent, and rich wine, with layers of creamy fruit, behaving more like a 1947 Pomerol than a structured, powerful, and tannic 1945. The wine finishes with a 60+ second display of ripe fruit, extract, and sweet tannin. This remarkably youthful wine (only light amber at the edge) is mindboggling! Will it last another 50 years? Last tasted 8/97.”


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Blackbird Dinner: “excellence in California merlot”

Well folks, another smashed-out-of-the-park dinner took place at New York Vintners last week. Three scrumptious courses. Seven delectable Napa Valley wines. A girl could really get used to this.

The evening kicked off with New York Vintners salesperson and sommelier Daniel Orrison giving a thoughtful and glowing introduction to Blackbird Vineyards owner Michael Polenske. Describing Blackbird as really exemplifying “excellence in California merlot,” Daniel described how he met Michael at his tasting room, Ma(i)sonry, in Yountville, California and convinced him to come out to New York and do a winemaker dinner with all of us. Pretty much the rest is history.

Michael, a self-professed “recovering banker,” spent the beginning of his career in financial planning before he purchased Blackbird in 2003. Building the three brands within Blackbird – Blackbird Vineyards, Ma(i)sonry and an art gallery – has now become Michael’s full-time job, and not a bad one at that. Michael went on to explain some details about the welcome wine all of the forty plus (yes, it was a large crowd for this dinner!) guests had upon arrival. The Ma(i)sonry 2009 Sauvignon Blanc is lively and fragrant and it was made in a sancerre style, meaning there was no oak used, which gives the wine unique characteristics and good minerality. Since everything done under the Ma(i)sonry label is created in small lots, meaning about 300 cases, this stuff goes fast. This particular vintage is already down to only about 50 cases left.

The two next wines Michael described were to be paired with our first course, Smoked Trout with arugula, fennel, shaved red onion and horseradish vinaigrette, all whipped up by the fabulous Chef Ryan. The first wine was the Ma(i)sonry 2008 Marsanne, again produced on a small scale with only 288 cases. Michael pretty much said that Marsannes typically don’t appeal to the American palate, but I tried it with an open mind anyway. Turns out, I actually liked the unique flavor profile of cantaloupe, butterscotch and caramel (full disclosure: I took those from the night’s cheat sheet). Hearing some interesting hmmmms emanating from the tables around me, I could tell that perhaps I was in the minority, but wine should be about what you like right? The other wine paired with the first course was the 2010 Blackbird Vineyard Arriviste Rose. A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, this wine was produced on a larger lot (923 cases) after selling out quickly in the year prior, and, most memorably, had a striking coral or salmon coloring. I thought the Rose paired nicely with the fish in the salad and was a good link to the next flight in front of us.

As plates full of decadent meat (literally, full of meat) were served to all of us, Michael introduced the two reds to be paired with it. First the 2008 Blackbird Vineyards Arise and then the 2007 Blackbird Vineyards Paramour. The Arise had a fun little story behind it. As a tribute to The Beatles, the label shows nine birds perhaps on a wire. However, if those birds were music notes, they would represent the first nine notes of the song Blackbird. Also, the word “arise” was taken from the lyrics of the same song. At a lower price point than Blackbird Vineyards’ other wines, the Arise is considered to be more of an “entry level wine” – a bit easier with less tannic structure. As the blend changes year after year, it’s easier, and I can imagine less stressful, to make. The 2008 was 42% merlot, 38% cabernet sauvignon and 20% cabernet franc, leftover fruit from the blending of Blackbird’s collector’s series wines. I thought this was a pretty easy drinking wine that stood up nicely to our second course, a Cinnamon Braised Kurobata Pork Shank with BBQ cannellini beans and slab bacon. Can I just say that the meat practically melted off the bone and the outrageous BBQ flavor of the beans was heavenly? The Paramour also has a nice story behind the name. As it means “two lovers,” the wine is aimed to be a fifty/fifty mix of merlot and cabernet franc, the two grapes found on the right bank of Bordeaux. While it’s difficult to always achieve a perfect blend, the 2007 also included 5% cabernet sauvignon. This wine went perhaps even better with the pork shank as it has even more body and spice than the Arise.

While the cheese course was being prepared, Michael took a few minutes to answer questions and tell us about a fateful advertising campaign he was fortunate to be a part of last year. While not everyone knows of the wine critic Robert Parker at Wine Spectator magazine, pretty much the entire world knows of Oprah Winfrey. A big fan of Michael’s wine and branding strategies, Oprah featured Blackbird in the January 2011 issue of O Magazine and as a result of that, Blackbird received more than 1,000 orders in the two weeks before Christmas. “Between the 10th and the 25th, the entire team almost quit because we were so overrun with orders,” Michael said. As a result of that publication, InStyle Magazine will also feature Blackbird Vineyards in its March 2011 issue. What all these magazines love most about Blackbird is what they’ve called their Flock Box. Basically, it’s a cute little box filled with six 50 mL bottles of the entire portfolio of Blackbird Vineyards and Ma(i)sonry wines. At only $48, it’s a great way to sit down and taste through each of the wines produced from the vineyard at once. (However, I’d say going to this dinner was an even better way!).

The cheese was served and Michael went on to explain the last two wines; the 2006 Blackbird Vineyards Illustration and the 2007 Blackbird Vineyards Illustration. The name Illustration came after about 30 other proposed names. “As any of you know who’ve tried to name businesses, most of the great names are gone,” Michael said. “We chose Illustration because this wine and our portfolio best illustrates what we are at Blackbird Vineyard because, it will always have the most amount of Blackbird fruit in it.” He went on to tell us that some consider 2007 to be the vintage of the decade in Napa Valley and hence the 2007 Illustration contains brighter, bolder and more lush fruit flavors. I was a big fan of the 2006 Illustration, perhaps because the extra age on it gave it a bit more depth, but the 2007 was amazing as well. Michael explained that both wines would hold up very well to aging, but the 2007 will always have bigger fruit because of the vintage.

One thing I loved about Michael and his winery is that he was very personable and eager to share the story behind his wines. It’s one thing to drink a wine and say that it tastes good, but it’s another thing to be able to appreciate the narrative behind the farming, the naming and the producing of the wines. Another thing I loved is that he invited all of us for a special visit to the Ma(i)sonry tasting room. Now I just have to book that plane fare…

-Yael Maxwell
New York Vintners Correspondent

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Pax-Donelan Dinner: Wines Paired with Some “Serious Dishes”

On the evening of a particularly brutal and blustery snowstorm, I was eager to be warmed up by a four course meal prepared by Chef Ryan to be paired with Pax/Donelan wines at New York Vintners. This was the perfect Thursday night activity.

I was happy to find that Snowpocalypse or Tsnownami or whatever they’re calling it didn’t keep any vino lovers away from this highly anticipated event. The tables were set with classy pink and purple flowers and the aroma of bacon lingered in the air. Mmmmmmmmm…bacon. As guests began to stash their Eskimo coats and replace rain boots with something more fashionable, everyone seemed happy milling about sipping glasses of sparkling wine and snacking on what have come to be my favorite smoked Italian olives. Dylan York, General Manager of New York Vintners, kicked off the night by introducing the shop by saying, “our mission here is to showcase fine wines.” He then brought up the featured guests for the evening, winery owner Tripp Donelan and winemaker Tyler Thomas.

Of course Tyler had to remind us that when he left California the day before it was a lovely 72 degrees and sunny, but he made up for that with an excellent presentation on Sonoma County and his winemaking process. Explaining the topography of Sonoma County, Tyler made it easy to see why it’s such an exciting place to grow grapes, especially Rhone varietals like grenache, syrah, roussillon and viognier. The vineyards he sources from are all just next to or in the mountains, where the temperatures can fluctuate greatly over the course of a day. He explained that by planting the same varietal in different places, he is able to make many different wines out of the same varietal. This results in a nice collection of different syrahs. He also pointed out the soil differences (as an environmental science major, I found this fascinating). Basically, Rhone varietals are like weeds and can grow anywhere, but the loose, rocky soil in Sonoma County stresses the vines by not holding in much water and, he thinks this characteristic produces a richer, more complex wine.

Not that I wasn’t loving Tyler’s detailed descriptions of his vineyards and thought process behind winemaking, but I was happy when he started describing the wines in front of us because that meant I would get to taste them soon. To be paired with the first course was the 2009 Donelan Venus. Only bottled a month ago, I was excited to find out that we were among the first people outside the winery to taste it.  Named after Venus, the goddess of both love and fragrance, this wine had a lot of great floral flavors and paired excellently with the stuffed quail with brioche, date and blue cheese stuffing that found its way to my place setting. I must admit that although I’m not a picky eater by any means, there were many ingredients on the menu that scared me a little. Blue cheese was one of them. However, it was amazing! Whatever Chef Ryan did, the cheese ended up making an already scrumptious dish extra rich and creamy. I also likened the brioche to savory French toast. Yum!

Although I was sad for the first course to end, I was excited about an adventurous second course. Braised octopus with sweet and sour potato noodles, lotus root, Asian pear puree and blueberry dust. So many not-red-but-perhaps-pink flags went off when I saw this one on the menu, but I’m open to anything. I’d never liked octopus because it’s so tough, but the way this dish was cooked the texture was more like chicken and I actually got to enjoy the true flavor. I was shocked but amused to find out that Chef Ryan’s inspiration for the noodles was drinking a Dr. Pepper with lime, and hence that what he ended up cooking them in. Brilliant! And then, of course I was wondering what in the world blueberry dust was. Well, it’s exactly what you think it is – dust that makes whatever it’s on taste like blueberry. It seemed almost like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Such a creative dish deserved to be paired with creative wines, and it was. We were able to try both the 2007 and 2008 Cuvee Moriahs.

Tyler explained that the two vintages would be different for a number of reasons, but he mainly stressed that Donelan takes great pains to ensure the quality of their cuvees, or blended wines. With the common connotation that single vineyard wines are usually “better,” Tyler said that he’s proud to produce cuvees that are “equal or on par in overall quality as our single vineyard wines.” Another thing that he said, which I loved, was that in explaining why it can take between three to six months to make a cuvee, the reason is because “sometimes you’re going to wake up and you’re going in to taste wine and you’re in a bad mood that day, it doesn’t taste good as it did before.” He really illustrated how wine connects a person’s mood and vice versa, and that everything is intertwined.


For the third course, we were served Deconstructed Osso Bucco with black garlic gnocchi, chestnut gremolata and warm marrow bone. This is what Daniel Orrison, a salespeople and sommelier at New York Vintners, called “a serious dish.” I completely concur. Having never tried marrow, I was very excited to find it already scooped out and succulently served on brioche for me to enjoy. The osso bucco was braised in cinnamon and really proved to be a winter warmer of a dish. Paired with the 2007 and 2008 Cuvee Christines, the third course was a favorite of my table’s.

At this point, I honestly wasn’t sure how much more my stomach could hold. But there’s always room for dessert, isn’t there? This dessert, a chocolate bacon crunch bar with maple crème anglaise, didn’t take up much space, but packed a whole lot of flavor. Chocolate and bacon is a truly mind-blowing combination.  It was paired with the 2007 Pax Kobler Vineyard and the 2008 Donelan Walker Hill, both single vineyard wines. From both syrahs, the vineyards these wines come from are very similar except for the orientation of the rows. Determined to find out what made these wines taste so different, Tyler went on a mission. After a couple years of experimenting, he’s found dramatic differences between grapes grown within a few feet of each other because of temperature variation. Now, he does his best to treat different rows with alternate viticulture techniques to produce the most excellent wine he can. “Winemaking is a very humbling thing,” he said. “We only get one shot every year.”

I left New York Vintners, once again, with a full stomach and a warm heart. I continue to meet the nicest and most interesting people who come to partake in great food, interesting wine and wonderful conversation. I hope to see you at a winemaker dinner soon!

–Yael Maxwell

New York Vintners Correspondent

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“Transportive” Copain Dinner

Going into my first winemaker dinner, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Wine and scrumptious food were sure to make an appearance, I knew that much. However, what I experienced was a transportive evening filled with whimsical conversation, unique taste sensations and an increased appreciation for what someone can make with a grape.

“TGIF,” I thought as another Friday evening presented itself. Even the mucky weather and my oh-so-attractive rain boots weren’t going to keep me from visiting New York Vintners to see and hear winemaker Wells Guthrie talk about his Copain wines and taste Chef Ryan’s food creations I’d seen tantalizing me on Facebook. The night began when I was handed a glass of the 2008 Viognier Tous Ensemble. Sipping the wine and snacking on some amazing smoked Italian olives, I was a happy camper. Because all of the displays in the interior of the store are on movable track, everything was slid forward and an awesome event space materialized in the back of the venue. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were, but the magnificent smells emanating from the open kitchen were making my mouth water. Mingling with the guests, I met a wide diversity of people – some from the finance world, some frequent customers who lived around the corner and some wine newbies eager to learn and have a great time.

Jesse Warner-Levine, the Director of Sales, introduced the evening saying, “this is New York Vintners and this is kind of what we love to do.” I thought that was a great way to start off the dinner because it made me feel like the people behind the event were passionate and genuinely excited about giving me a great experience. Describing the space, he said it “allows us to present wine in its proper manner, which is with food.” And with that, a beautiful plate of food made its way to my place setting.

The first course was Sashimi Napoleon comprised of tuna, scallop and rockfish with baby mache ver jus, pickled watermelon radish and broken soy vinaigrette. The combination of the three seafoods was magical, and when combined with the texture of the salad made for a wonderful dish. While fish is traditionally paired with white wines, tonight I was surprised to find this course paired with two reds – 2007 Tous Ensemble Pinot Noir and 2009 Tous Ensemble Syrah. Wells Guthrie stood to speak at one point and he commented on this unusual but excellent circumstance. “It’s a hard thing usually to have pinot noir and fish, but [Chef Ryan] made this dish savory enough that it works really well,” he said. I agreed.

Everyone at my table felt like old friends at this point – discussing the wines, raving about the food and sharing stories about a recent wedding and honeymoon trip to Burgundy. The second course arrived and I think we all let out a collective “ooooooooooooooooh.” We all had Brandt Farms Flat Iron Steak with mini goat cheese ravioli and chanterelle sauce. Chef Ryan made sure to let us all know that Brandt Farms treats their animals fairly and prides themselves on humane practices, so that made me happy. I don’t usually eat meat cooked rare, but this was delicious. I cleaned my plate! The raviolis were a crowd favorite and the mushrooms in them disappeared within seconds, they were that good. The wines paired with this course were a 2009 Les Voisins Pinot Noir and a 2009 Les Voisins Syrah.

Wells got up again to speak more about these second two wines. He described how he sourced grapes from vineyards of different bedrock compositions. In the Anderson Valley, the ground is mostly made of sandstone. For the Les Voisins wines, with voisins meaning village, he took advantage of grapes grown on schist or decomposed granite to create a richer wine that allows it to easily cut through the fat of the meat and pair nicely. I felt like I learned a nice piece of trivia with that one.

The last course brought to us was an Artisanal Cheese Plate, and among the six people at my table, I think we all had different favorites. Honestly, I don’t know that I could pick a favorite because each of the three cheeses was so different, yet delicious. Paired with a 2007 Monument Tree Pinot Noir and a 2007 Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah, this course made for the bow on the present for this meal.

Wells wrapped the night up nicely saying, “Food and wine have this great synergy. Sometimes you just don’t even know it’s happening, but you’re eating and drinking and it’s great.” Well, let me tell you. I was eating and I was drinking. And it was great.

–Yael Maxwell

New York Vintners Correspondent

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Stunning Thanksgiving White Wine

Vibrant green-golden hue. Lush, rich, deeply flavored with a wonderful aroma of sun drenched peaches and apples balanced by notes of grapefruit and nutmeg concluding with a persistent finish marked by stony minerals and supportive acidity. So what was this masterpiece? As it turned out, and perhaps not a surprise to some of us, this was a top white wine from Austria. Specifically, it was a Gruner Veltliner, Austria’s famous indigenous varietal, from one of the country’s best growers/wine makers, Johannes Hirsch. Not just a handsome face -Hirsch is one of the best looking male wine makers in Austria -he is as serious about his vineyards as any vigneron on planet earth.

Hirsch is part of the young glob trotting circle of wine makers who have enriched their understanding and craft by working in such diverse wine areas as California, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This diversity of vinous experience has enabled Hirsch to bring the new world focus on depth and ripeness of fruit flavor to the traditional old world emphasis on acidity and minerality. His Gruners and Rieslings, all from the grand cru quality vineyards his family owns in the important village of Kamptal, often exhibit the yin of luxuriously expressive fruit flavor to the yang of ripe citrus permeated minerality. His wines are both delicious and complex. They have found favor with new drinkers and connoisseurs alike. The Hirsch estate dates back to the 1870s and is comprised of some 70 acres divided among three exceptional vineyards.

The Lamm vineyard – the source of the fabulous wine we tasted–is south facing and composed of loamy soil which is ideal for Gruner Veltliner. Hirsch uses a strictly organic approach to his vineyards. In 2003 Hirsch decided to bottle all his wine in the Stevin screw top fashion in reaction to the number of his wines ruined by bad corks. He is hardly the only maker of high quality white wine. Studies in Austria, New Zealand and Australia have confirmed the benefits of screw top for preserving freshness and liveliness in white wines. The title indicates that we all regarded this as a nearly ideal Thanksgiving wine. Indeed we could hardly imagine another white wine which could handle and compliment the many trimmings that typically accompany a Thanksgiving meal. With its layers of ripe fruit, round acidity and gentle spiciness, the Hirsch Gruner is a treat for the senses.

Bob Millman New York Vintners

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Exceptional South African Red Wine

The most interesting red wine at our weekly blind tasting was a deeply colored, smoky, powerful, licorice, tobacco and cinnamon scented red with concentrated dark fruits which combined the kind of cassis/plumy fruit associated with Cabernet Sauvignon and the bracing acidity and herbal overtones most often found in Cabernet Franc based wines. In fact the wine turned out to be a blend of roughly equal parts of the two Cabernets with a little Merlot added for the silky texture the grape contributes. The wine offered new world exuberant fruit with old world restraint and clarity of structure at the same time — altogether a winning combination.

The wine is called Rosalind and it is the top wine produced by one of South Africa’s 10 best wineries called Mooiplaas which means beautiful farm in Afrikaner. Dirk Roos, the owner of the winery, came to visit NY Vintners a year ago. Shane Benson and the staff were so impressed with the wines that they decided to bring them to New York and offer them to the customers of the store.

Dirk has been making wine under the Mooiplass label since 1995. The estate and its vineyard holdings date back to 1963. Roos, who is one of the nicest and smartest fellows in the wine business I have met in a long time joined our blind tasting panel a month ago and proved himself to be an adept taster as well as excellent wine maker. His passions are Chenin Blanc, the great white wine grape of the central Loire Valley and the two Cabernets which are blended into the Rosalind we liked so much. Mouth watering and beautifully balanced, this bold yet restrained wine is perfect from grilled meats, roast duck and slow simmering stews. At five years young the Rosalind is pleasurable now and will hold its fruit and character for at least another five years. Buy some to drink this winter and some to age. At $36 it is a gem.

Bob Millman New York Vintners

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Phenomenal White Beaujolais

A small amount of Chardonnay is planted within the commune of Beaujolais which can be bottled either as Beaujolais Blanc or as Macon Blanc. Only 1 percent of the vast vineyard region of Beaujolais is planted to Chardonnay, all of it in the extreme northern part of Beaujolais in soils abutting St. Veran in the Macon. While rarely seen in the United States, well made Beaujolais Blanc, like its red counterpart is quintessentially delicious, fruit-driven and friendly, charming wine. Occasionally a top grower will make a white Beaujolais which transcends the qualities typically found in the wines from this appellation. On a Tuesday afternoon blind tasting at New York Vintners we encountered such a wine much to the delight and surprise of the 8 tasters.

Everything about the wines was appealing: The deep yet vibrant golden hue indicated a wine which has captured plenty of sunshine. The bouquet exuded honeyed melon, fig, and citrus with an appealing suggestion of crushed white pepper corns. On the palate the wine was rich and juicy with a dense texture and plenty of enlivening acidity. Although redolent of ripe fruit this was no mere fruit bomb. The grower had succeeded admirably in capturing the soil in which the vines had ripened. You can serve this wine with equal success to someone relatively new to wine and to a sophisticated palate. The producer of the sumptuous Chardonnay is a man with a legendary reputation in Beaujolais: Jean-Paul Brun. The smiling, balding, intelligent Brun has become a cult figure among sommeliers for the remarkable purity, integrity, depth and age worthiness of his Beaujolais wines. His wines are about as natural and unmanipulated as wine can be. He favors low yields, natural yeasts, no addition of sugar and the minimum amount of sulfur to ensure the stability of his wines. They sell for small bucks but deliver big dollar flavor and texture. The way his wines combine the charm of Beaujolais with the nobility of Burgundy never ceases to amaze. It is hard to believe that Brun’s Beaujolais Blanc sells for less than $20. Your mouth, like ours will say $35.

Bob Millman New York Vintners

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Masterful, Affordable Riesling

Our blind tasting panel—which included a gifted wine maker and taster from South Africa, found 2 wonderful white wines from the 7 we tasted. One tuned out to be a fruit drenched, just off-dry Riesling from the hottest young grower in Germany: Tim Schafer-Frohlich who owns vineyards in the small but important village of the Nahe which is sandwiched between the Rhinegau and Mosel. We have offered the superb Rieslings from the Nahe’s other great grower, Helmut Donnhoff in previous postings. (Think of Coche-Dury and Comte Lafon in Meursault as a frame of reference for just how good the wines from these 2 guys in the Nahe are.)  It was not difficult for the panel to “guess” the grape. This was pure Riesling with a fabulous bouquet of ripe pears, apple and salty minerals. The ability of Riesling grown in the right places and handled by real experts to produce exciting yin/yang contrasts such as sweet and tart, ripe and salty, rich and delicate is nothing short of extraordinary. I can think of no other white wine grape which can match Riesling in its ability to produce such an array of harmoniously contrasting sensory qualities. As good as the wine was on the nose it was even better on the palate. Lush yet restrained fruit was the focal point of the wine supported but terrific bright, dancing acidity and a chewy, mineral suffused texture which gave the wine depth and length. Everyone agreed that the harmony of these flavor and textural aspects of the wine gave a special place in our affections. Foods for such a delicious wine? Salty cheeses, Asian cuisines of all stripes, caramelized scallops, butter poached lobster, even duck confit. And when you see the price of the wine you will quickly realize that you can afford the most expensive day-boat scallops for your weekend feast.

Bob Millman, New York Vintners

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A Home Run Hit from the Burbs of Bordeaux

The last wine of our late September blind tasting was a stunner. The fabulous deep purple color was followed by an amazing bouquet of ultra-ripe blackberries, cassis, exotic spices, new leather and that ineffable scent of expensive car tires, which is associated with one of Bordeaux’s greatest wines, Château La Mission Haut-Brion. On the palate the wine was dense, concentrated and permeated with dark fruits, with the fresh acidity and ripe, balancing tannins keeping everything in harmony. A chewy finish added a most attractive earthy note to the wine. Thoughts of high quality porterhouse steak, grilled lamb and roast duck flashed before our imagination. We surmised that a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot defined the basic profile of, as one of the tasters so rightly commented, this “sexy and sophisticated” wine. There was simply nothing here to criticize—only to praise and enjoy. Once revealed, the wine was indeed a Bordeaux blend from a modest property in the region of Bergerac, some fifty miles due east of Bordeaux. The sub-region is named Pécharmant, which is earning a favorable reputation for its gutsy, flavorful red wines. The château in question, Les Farcies du Pech’, is new to the American market and has made a brilliant debut here with their 2007 vintage. Our price estimates for the wine ran from thirty-five to fifty dollars, but as you can see the wine is priced well below our “professional” valuation. The 2007 Château Les Farcies du Pech’ Pécharmant is an amazing wine at an eye popping price, meant to be bought by the case and consumed frequently!

Bob Millman, New York Vintners

2007 Château Les Farcies du Pech’ $29.00

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A Mendocino Masterpiece

2008 Lioco Indica

2008 Lioco Indica

The next to last wine at our weekly blind tasting elicited smiles and enthusiastic praise from the tasters. A beautiful dark yet luminous purple/dark red color was followed by an exciting bouquet of smoke, leather, and ripe red fruits, all intermingling in a most satisfying manner. In the mouth the wine exhibited Old World minerality, an abundance, but not excess of, red berry flavors, and a finish with rich, round, chewy tannins. An excellent wine from start to finish. A certain elegance and harmony of texture and flavor lead most of us to think it to be of European origin—possibly Northeastern Italy or Southwest France. Estimates of the wine’s retail value ran from $34 to $40 a bottle. What a delightful surprise that the wine is made from grapes grown not in Northern Italy but Northern California—specifically the Mendocino County. The name of the winery is Lioco and the wine, named Indica, is a blend of two ancient Southern French grapes—Carignan and Mourvedre—and California’s own Petite Syrah. The principal grape is Carignan which constitutes two-thirds of the blend. It turns out that some outrageously old and outstanding Carignan is farmed organically in the cool Redwood Valley within Mendocino. All the Carignan comes from one grower—Alvin Tollini—who is as passionate about Carignan as the Chaves are about Syrah in the Northern Rhone. The care with which the grapes were sourced and the wine made is evident in every sip. The Indica is a fabulous food wine which will work superbly from rare grilled steak smothered in crushed peppercorns to sautéed Portobello to duck salad. Several tasters commented that they would be quite happy to drink a glass by itself. And rightly so. The Indica is a muti-tasker and will satisfy both someone relatively new to wine and a sophisticated drinker. Last and surely not least, the price of the wine turned out to be well below are professional estimate of its worth, a mere $22.99. At that price a case is well warranted.

-Bob Millman,  NY Vintners

2008 Lioco Indica   $22.99

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American Excellence

2008 Copain Viognier and 2006 Peay Syrah "La Bruma"

Results from a recent blind tasting among the New York Vintners staff highlighted what is becoming ever more apparent to open-minded, experienced wine tasters: that America is producing a remarkable range of truly outstanding wines which match and at times surpass their Old World counterparts in quality. We all have a lot to be proud of when it comes to what the best American growers and winemakers have and will accomplish. The two wines in question were (1) a Viognier from one of California’s finest wine makers, Wells Guthrie, and (2) a Syrah from a sexy winery in the cool Sonoma Coast region in northern California. Watch out France!

A Sumptuous Viognier
The 2nd of 2 whites we tasted blind was judged far superior in overall quality to the first white. It turned out to retail for half the price to add surprise to pleasure. We confronted a wonderfully fragrant, juicy aroma with notes of apricot pits, crushed white peppercorns and honey. On the palate the wine balanced lush ripeness with really lovely refreshing acidity and a firm impression of underlying minerality. The wine successfully captured both fruit and vineyard source. All of us felt that the wine would be a brilliant match for salty foods, pork, ham, Cantonese cuisine and dry cheeses. So what was this beauty? A Viognier from one of our favorite California winemakers, Wells Guthrie. We have written about the quiet, intense Guthrie before. He has brought his Gallic sensibility to northern California wines with stunning and consistent success. His Syrahs, Pinots and Viogniers have few equals and easily bear comparison to their finest French “competitors”. The average estimate of the retail value of the wine was $35. When we saw that it in facts sells for $20, we were all flabbergasted. At $35 it is worth very penny. At $20 it is priced well below its intrinsic worth.

2008 Copain Viognier “Tous Ensemble”  Mendocino County  $19.99

A World Class Syrah
Among the 5 red wines we tasted—and all good to very good I might add, one seemed especially interesting. Very dark and dense with powerful yet restrained density of fruit, a smokey, blackberry spicy bouquet with hints of expensive saddle leather, superb tannins and a chewy, mouth coating texture this was a true fall/winter red. The element of lushness and roundness in the finish lead most of us to think new world Syrah. And for once we were right! The wine turned out to be a single vineyard Syrah—the great grape of the northern Rhone—from one of the finest wineries on the Sonoma Coast, Peay. The winery was established in 2001 by Nick Peay and his brilliant wine maker wife Vanessa Wong. Ms. Wong had been the winemaker at Peter Michael, producer of some of California’s greatest Chardonnays and at Chateau Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux, Domaine Jean Gros in Burgundy and at NY Vintners favorite Hirsch Vineyards also on the Sonoma Coast. It was from this latter experience that Nick and Vanessa developed their understanding and passion for the uniquely beautiful, difficult, long cool growing cycle of this region in Northern California. Their 53 acres are devoted principally to Pinot Noir and Syrah with a little Chardonnay, and Rhone white varietals to add spice to the mixture. Vanessa and Nick have hit a lot of doubles, triples and home runs with their individualistic, focused and complex wines from the first releases. The top wine writers love them as does anyone with a real affection for wines of depth and character. They are not cheap but they are not really expensive either. The Peay wines are meant to drink at a serious meal with good friends. We all really liked this marvelous Syrah. We are quite sure that you will as well.

2006 Peay Syrah La Bruma Vineyard  Sonoma Coast  $57

-Bob Millman, NY Vintners

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Blind Barbera Bargains, New World and Old World

2008 Palmina Barbera and 2007 De Forville Barbera d'Asti

This offering is going to be a bit unusual: it features two wines, each made from the same Italian varietal: Barbera. A brief explanation may be in order. Two adjacent red wines at our weekly blind tasting were received with critical acclaim by the nine tasters present. The wines were different enough to be admired for diverse reasons. Frankly not one of us thought that they were made from the same grape. There was a mixture of surprise and pleasure when we realized the truth. And the fact that one of them is made in Southern California and the other in Northwestern Italy goes a long way to explain the differences of bouquet, flavor and texture between them. What they had in common is at least as important as what distinguished them—real quality at what turned out to be prices well below what we thought they were worth. The first of the two featured a magnificently rich, deep dark garnet hue, an equally compelling bouquet of leather, preserved dark fruits and a gamey, exotic note which lead more than one of us to think that this might be a Syrah from the Northern Rhone. On the palate the wine was powerful, serious, dense and saturated with ripe tannins. The expansive finish and excellent harmony of flavor and texture completed a wine which was fine in every respect. Perhaps a touch of warmth in the mouth and the ripeness of the tannins might have suggested New World. When the bag was opened we were all stunned and delighted to see that this was a Barbera made from grapes grown in Santa Barbara—quite a long distance from the Rhone and from Northern Italy! The label under which this marvelous wine is sold is Palmina. This is a brand that was created by one of Santa Barbara’s finest wine makers, Steve Clifton whose Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noirs, Syrahs and Chardonnays are among the most individualistic, powerful and complex wines made in America. But Clifton is not so secret about his passion for the food and wine of Italy. Under the Palmina label he produces Italian varietal wines which are both an homage to the country he loves best and his savvy understanding of the market: Not everyone want to purchase $50-75 wines made from French varietals which require aging and special attention.  The Palmina wines are made with the same skill and devotion as the monumental Brewer-Clifton wines but which retail in the $20-25 range. Truth be told we all thought the wine we tasted merited a $30-35 price tag. At $22 it is as much a delight to the wallet as it is to the palate. This is a food friendly wine which will marry well with tomato based sauces, barbecue and any roasted meat.

The second Barbera did indeed come from Italy and was perhaps easier to identify. The lovely bright, clear garnet indicated from the outset a wine with good acidity. In contrast to the ripe, dark fruits character of the Palmina, the nose of this Old World wine was redolent of tart red fruits, pepper and minerals. This carried through to the palate with its vibrant cherry-like flavors, tangy tannins and refreshing acidity. Less dramatic and rich than the first wine, it offered a classic linearity and minerality which said Old World. Indeed this turned out to be a Barbera from the grapes’ birthplace, Piemonte. The winery responsible for this engaging wine is De Forville which operates in a truly traditional manner. No new oak, no cold soaks before fermentation, no international consultants. The winery was established in Piemonte in 1860 and has been family run ever since. Famous for its elegant, nuanced, long lived Barbarescos, De Forville makes a charming Dolcetto, a crisp Chardonnay and this delightful Barbera. Food is always in the mind of traditional Piemontese growers. The wonderful, bracing acidity of their Barbara makes it an ideal wine for osso buco, lemon roasted Chicken, veal scallopini preparations, risotto and even salmon. We suggest that you buy a mixed case of both wines. When you are in the mood for a rich, deep, intense red reach for the Palmina. When a lighter, more elegant and refreshing red seems to suit your mood and food go for the De Forville.

Both are excellent wines priced well below their intrinsic worth.

Bob Millman, New York Vintners

2008 Palmina Barbera  Santa Barbara   $22.00

2007 De Forville Barbera D’Asti  Piemonte  $22.99

Grab a two bottle pack, one of each wine for only $39.99. Save over 10%!

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The Finest Red Bottle Under $20 We Have Ever Tasted

2009 Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec, $16.99

One of the most compelling red wines we tasted at a recent NYV blind tasting session turned out to be this Argentinean Malbec. Another Malbec you say? Aren’t there quite enough in the market already? One of the best things about blind tastings is that you have to check your assumptions and beliefs at the door. It is the wine which counts, not the name on the label. So here was a dark, luminous red with a captivating bouquet of blueberry, cassis, licorice, smoky tobacco and mushrooms. On the palate the favorable impression made by the wine’s appearance and aroma was amply confirmed. A rich yet restrained sexy smoothness of texture with a wealth of dark fruits and subtle oak flavors all supported by abundant yet gentle tannins. The wine was both immediately appealing and sophisticated—not a combo that is often found in a young red wine. Guesses as to origin and grape type included Grenache from the southern Rhone, Tempranillo from a warm part of Rioja to an Australian mixture of Grenache and Syrah from a cooler Aussie region. To our surprise the wine turned out to be a Malbec from Argentina. But not “just another Malbec,” this is a wine from Argentina’s first and foremost female oenologist, Susana Balbo. Ms. Balbo has been making wine since the early 1980s and earned a reputation for making some of the most elegant, harmonious and fairly priced wines in South America. Many of her male colleagues tend to make louder, heavier wines. Ms. Balbo understands as well as anyone in the new world that the true measure of a wine is whether the taster wants to come back for more or is fatigued after a glass. I have never tasted a Susana Balbo that I did not want to have again. Seductive and friendly wines which delight rather than overwhelm the palate. Ms. Balbo understands wine and she understands the human palate. This particular offering she has named Crios which means offspring. The wine is made from 14 year old vines which will, when they are older, become part of her more expensive bottlings. The fermented juice is aged for nine moths in a mixture of older French and American barrels—just enough to give the wine structure but not so much as to overwhelm the fruit. We all thought the quality justified a price tag of $25-30. When we learned the true price of $16.99 we all gasped. This is simply one of the finest under $20 reds we have tasted in a while. One of the tasters suggested that the wine would work brilliantly with truffled risotto. At its price point, the truffle becomes affordable!

Bob Millman, New York Vintners

2009 Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec $16.99

Argentina  •  Mendoza  •  Malbec

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A Dessert Cognac?

At the conclusion of our roundtable blind tasting, we were served a most intriguing white wine with an amber hue and a bouquet reminiscent of a young Cognac, Scents of smoke, toasty oak and caramelized pear greeted the nose. There was a lovely spicy, fresh citrus tinged grapiness which made us all want to sniff and and sniff. On the palate the wine was powerful, aromatic, spicy and sweet with a strong suggestion of the juice from grapes. The taste of almond was a most attractive component.  This was a high octane wine to be sure with plenty of alcohol, acidity and a rather pleasant bitterness on the finish which balanced the sugar. It turned out to be the dessert wine from the Cognac district in southwestern France: Pineau des Charentes. This distinctive dessert wine is made by combining year old Cognac with the unfermented—hence sweet—juice of the grape from which Cognac is made, Ugni Blanc. In France it is an aperitif wine. It is about 18% in alcohol, the same level as Vermouth. Frankly it can also be served with chesses and cake. This particular gem is the work of Jean-Luc Pasquet whose family has owned the 18 acre estate in Cognac since 1730. since 1995 all farming is organic at the estate. Pasquet’s Cognacs are highly regarded and for good reasons.  An opened bottle of Pineau des Charantes can be nursed successfully over several weeks. That makes it a good buy at $35. Your first encounter with a good Pineau des Charantes is an adventure you will be glad you undertook.

Bob Millman  New York Vintners

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A Royal Rosé for Spring and Summer

2009 Copain Rose

2009 Copain Rose, $17.99

We tasted a nice and varied group of rosés followed by several red wines at a NY Vintners Thursday blind tasting session. All wines are tasted blind to reduce “name-bias” in judging the wines. Rosés are typically used for casual warm weather drinking. The captivating color, pleasant fruitiness and gentle pricing are all part of the appeal of well made rosé wines. But every once and a while a rosé comes along which offers more to the consumer than uncomplicated ease of the average rosé. And we found one during the tasting. It is a rosé made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in the cool Anderson valley in Northern California, bottled under the name Copain. Copain means companion, trusted, sympathetic friend in French. It was the name selected by wine maker Wells Guthrie for the winery he started in 2000.  Guthrie is a quiet, reserved fellow with intense eyes who prefers to let his wines rather than his mouth do the speaking. After running the tasting panel for the Wine Spectator in San Francisco, Guthrie moved to the Rhone Valley where he worked with two of France’s greatest vignerons: Michel Chapoutier and Jean-Louis Chave. That’s sort of like working in the kitchens of The French Laundry and Alinea. Why no go to the best? It was clear from his first wines that Guthrie knew what he wanted and knew how to do it—to make elegant, precise, complex yet gentle wine from outstanding cool climate sites in California. He has focused on Syrah and Pinot Noir. All his Pinots come from vineyards in the under-the-radar Anderson Valley which is 100 miles north of Sonoma. His Syrahs are sourced from vineyard sites in various regions of California—from  Santa Barbara in the south, Mendocino county in the North and even to Walla Walla in central Washington State.  The criterion Gutherie employs is to find sites which allow for full expression of the soil structure and climatic conditions under which the grapes are grown. His wines have received and deserve glowing reviews from the wines press, independent tasters and restaurateurs. His sensibility is the future of California wines. You can be sure that you will be hearing more about his wines from us.

The 2009 Copain Rosé offers a gleaming bright hue of strawberry and pink salmon. The bouquet is a wonderful synthesis of raspberry, vanilla and white flowers. You can smell the Pinot in its incipient stages. On the palate the wine is vibrant, fresh, juicy yet dry with the persistence of a wine selling for much more. The wine quality surpasses that of most rosés by far. Quite attractive on its own, the Copain Rosé can successfully accompany a wide range of grilled, sautéed and steamed foods. You are not likely to taste a better rosé this year. By the way, the Copain labels are lovely.

Bob Millman, New York Vintners

2009 Copain Rosé “Tous Ensemble” $17.99

California  •  Anderson Valley  •  Pinot Noir

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A Surprising and Delightful Australian Red

2007 Betts & Scholl OG Grenache   $27.99

Red wine number 2, out of 4, was the one which provoked much discussion and guessing. Light in color. Very fragrant and engaging bouquet. A combination of ripe sweet fruits balanced by tobacco and smoke. This quite carried over to the palate. It is always wonderful to find a wine in which the aroma and taste are in harmony. This was a lively, layered, elegant wine which convinced by seduction not by power. We all agreed that it was very good and worthy of recommendation and re-order. Definitely not a Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah, Nebiollo or Sangiovese Possibly a Pinot Noir from a warm region? What other grape would deliver finesse, elegance, sprightly acidity and seductive fruit?
That left Tempranillo or Garncha if Spanish, Carignan or Grenache if French. Well as the title tells you, the wine was from Australia and is indeed 100% Grenache—very old vines Grenache averaging around 100 years. The source of the wine is not a grower/producer but 2 guys—one a well known Sommelier, the other an art dealer with an unquenchable palate for distinctive wines—whose names appear on the label—Betts (the Sommelier and Scholl (the art guy). They source the fruit and have the wines they choose and label made in the fashion they believe will make for a compelling experience. They have chosen to concentrate on Barossa reds from Australia, Northern Rhone reds and whites and California Syrahs.  They then commission artists whose work they respect to create labels for their wines. Here are a few words from them about this Grenache—which they call OG or original Grenache from vines that were never attacked by the Phylloxera louse which nearly destroyed the vineyards in France in the late 19th century and more recently in California—from Richard Betts and Dennis Scholl: “Grenache is our fancy. This is really so because we see it as the warm climate analogy of Pinot Noir. It is like Pinot but just a little more generous. These 100 year old Grenache vines from the Barossa Valley sing a sweet song of things like strawberries, raspberries, flowers, earth and spice.” This is not hype—you will find these qualities in the wine, just as we did. This is a very versatile wine indeed. Except perhaps for very heavy food, it will go handsomely with most cuisines. A lovely red wine at a reasonable price.
-Bob Millman

2007 Betts & Scholl OG Grenache   $27.99

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Hard to Pronounce, Delightful to Drink!

Kiralyudvar Tokaji

Kiralyudvar Tokaji, $20.99

One never knows what sorts of wines will show up at one of our blind tasting sessions. The prize among the 4 white whites we tasted in a late  session proved to be a superbly rich, aromatic mouth coating wine from Hungary. A dry wine made from Hungary’s native white wine grape called Fermint. Fermint is as important to Hungary as Gruner Veltliner is to Austria, Semillon to Sauternes and Chenin Blanc to the center of the Loire Valley. Many people associate Hungary with its great sweet wines which are from the district of Tokaji. But the truth is that this very district can produce altogether successful dry whites—just as Riesling can in Germany and Chenin Blanc in Vouvray. Fermint is indeed one of only 4 grapes that work beautifully as a source of both dry and sweet wines. The first striking feature of the wine was the delightful aroma of peaches just entering the stage of full ripeness. This was balanced by citrus overtones which clued us into the fact that this would be a wine of rich fruit but finish dry. The lushness and fruit concentration were immediately apparent on the palate. So was the range and size of the wine which occupied all the corners of the mouth but without being heavy. The label reads 12.5% alcohol which is delightfully moderate in this era of 14+% white and red wines. The acidity was sufficiently high to keep all that luxurious fruit anchored and centered. This is the sort of wine which can be drunk all by itself: Its sensory qualities do not demand food. But should you be so inclined, this luscious dry white will work handsomely with a wide range of non-Japanese Asian cuisines, with roasted Pork, herbed chicken and salty cheeses. For those of you who are interested, the estate is owned by the Domaine Huet, perhaps the greatest white wine estate in Vouvray. The affinity betweenTokaji and Vouvray was apparent in every sip of this singular wine. The price? Almost absurdly inexpensive given the quality of the wine.

Bob Millman, New York Vintners

2006 Királyudvar Tokaji Sec, $20.99

Hungary •  Tokaj  •  Furmint, Hárslevelü

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A Real Bordeaux at a Realistic Price

Our tasting panel evaluated 5 red wines—blind as per usual. It turned out that Cabernet Sauvignon was the answer to the mystery question “So what are we tasting?”  There were two very attractive wines—one turned about to be a relatively inexpensive California Cabernet called Wyatt. The other, upon revelation, was an old-fashioned Bordeaux called Fourcas Hosten from village of Listrac, situated about half way between the 2 famous communes of Margaux and St. Julien. There are nearly 90 properties in Listrac of which the top ten have been ranked Cru Bourgeois by the French Government. The best Chateau of course were rated Grand Cru Classe back in 1855. A mere 61 made it into Grand Cru from well over 1000 Chateaux considered. The next 200 best Châteaux were ranked Cru Bourgeois—pretty good indeed. The difference is essentially one of finesse and complexity not power and flavor. The best Cru Bourgeois are among the best values in French wines: You get a lot of wine for a modest number of dollars. Fourcas Hosten is a venerable property with a clear history back to 1810. It is a large estate of over 100 acres making about 20,000 cases per vintage. The blend of grapes is divided roughly between Cabernet and Merlot. In Bordeaux these 2 grapes compliment each other in a particularly harmonious manner. The wine we tasted was from the great 2005 vintage arguably the finest since 1982. The striking features of the wine were the rich, smoky, ripe dark fruits aroma, the admirable balance of fruit and tannin on the palate and a classically long dry Bordeaux finish. Jancis Robinson, the gifted British wines writer described the wine as “very competently oaked. Nothing over done. A complete Bordeaux.” It is wonderful to taste a serious, adult red wine to which one happily returns sip after sip. The 2005 is certainly drinkable now. For those of you who want a moderately priced wine capable of aging 5+ years you have found it. This is a lamb and beef wine par excellence.

Bob Millman

2005 Chateau Fourcas Hostein  29.95

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A Luscious Red Wine from the Veneto

The 3rd wine in our blind tasting of 4 red wines at NY Vintners was particularly attractive and liked by all 7 participants. First there was the deep, dark purple hue. It is difficult to resist beauty! Then there was the aroma—smoke, new leather, and preserved plums. One of those seductive bouquets that suggest good things will happen when you taste the wine. I am happy to report that the wine delivered as much on the palate as it offered to the eyes and the nose.

Superbly concentrated fruit, mouth coating richness, balanced by just the right amount of fresh acidity and a really long finish. This was not one of those soft fruit bombs that taste great for the first 3 sips then get cloying. The lovely acidity suggested Italy. Indeed the wine turned out to be a Valpolicella, the famous red wine region about 50-60 miles west of Venice. For many years the typical red wine from the Veneto was pleasant, inexpensive and forgettable. But in the last decade, several wineries have kicked up the quality notch 3 or 4 levels. One of the ways they have done this is by adopting the technique used to make the regions’ most famous wine: Amarone. The grapes from which Amarone is made are dried on mats until they begin to become raisined. This concentrates the juice and raises the sugar levels. By employing this technique judiciously with a modest proportion of the normal grapes, the best producers can make a Valpolicella with more concentration than the regular version but without the residual sugar and very high alcohol levels of Amarone itself—and at a much lower price I might add.

The outstanding example of this modern approach that we tasted is from a winery called Campo Prognai. Italians like to give subtitles to their wines. In this case it is called Latium. Latium is the Latin name for the vineyard region which was originally conquered and planted by the Romans and now owned by the Morini family, producers of the range of Campo Prognai wines. Back to the wines’ roots so to speak! Of course the story would not be interesting if the wine were not so good. But it is delicious and affordable—indeed it tastes quite a bit better than its retail price. Who does not love a real value? This is a big wine which cries out for roasted meats and game birds. It will also go well with full flavored cow’s milk cheese. Highly recommended.

Bob Millman

Latium 2006 Valpolicella Superiore Campo   $28.99

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An Un-Californian California Red

2006 Montgomery Place   25.99

At the NY Vintners blind tasting on April 1st—no fooling—the group tasted 4 reds after having concluded its analysis of the 3 white wines under consideration. As was the case with the whites, one wine stood out from the rest in every respect. It was 2nd wine in the sequence. An arresting aroma of dark fruits, rich earthy minerals and a tangy, very pleasant note of peppers and spice lead to an intense plate with sharp delineation of fruit and acidity and a vibrancy which one usually associates with old world wines. Here is a red wine that is athletic, expressive, individualistic, and full of life and personality. It was clearly not a Pinot Noir or a Syrah or Grenache. There was something Cabernet like about the wine but with more grace and electricity than found is most new world Cabs. Yet it did not quite taste like a Bordeaux. Whatever it was, we were all impressed. Everyone felt that on the basis of the wines’ bouquet taste and texture it had to retail in the $40-50 range. But what was this attention grabbing wine? It turned out to be a Cabernet Franc from California which is marketed under the name Montgomery Place. There is a most interesting story behind the wine which is worth telling.

The wine is called Montgomery Place and it is the brain child a remarkable fellow named Andre Mack who left a promising career in banking to pursue a career in what had become his passion: wine. Within a relatively short time he was awarded the title of The Best Young Sommelier in America and became head sommelier at Thomas Keller’s Per Se. In 2004 he incorporated his business under the fetching name Mouton Noir—Black Sheep in French. (A charming drawing an almost all black sheep can in fact be found on the back label of the wine.) Understanding that great wine can only be made from first rate fruit, Mack enlisted the assistance of some of California’s best wine makers to track down small quantities of old vines in superbly situated vineyard sites in Napa. Intelligently, he sought out a varietal which has begun to come into its own in Napa but is under represented in the market place: Cabernet Franc, the fickle cousin to the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab Franc plays a crucially important role in St. Emilion where it is almost always blended with equal amounts of Merlot. The higher elevation sites in the Napa allow the grape to achieve a ripeness which allows it to stand alone. The higher acidity and minerality of Cab Franc at its best yields a wine which is less rich and lush than King Cabernet Sauvignon but more delineated and nuanced.

Mack made the wise decision to age the juice in neutral barrels so that all the individuality and character of the developing wine would be retained. And just how much is this wonderful wine? Not the$ 40-50 we all believed it was worth but a wonderfully affordable $25.99. Andre Mack not only knows quality—he understands value. The question of food came up. Several of us thought the wine almost too interesting to classified a food wine. Still, most people buying a wine will drink it with a meal. We suggest that you pour 3 ounces into each glass you are serving and spend some time savoring this stunning piece of vinous craftsmanship. A nice rack of lamb, grilled rib eye or roast duck will “accompany” Montgomery Place Red beautifully.

2006 Montgomery Place   25.99

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A Ryoyal Rose for Spring and Summer

We tasted a nice and varied group of Roses followed by several red wines at the last NY Vintners Thursday blind tasting session. All wines are tasted blind to reduce “name-bias” in judging the wines. Roses are typically used for casual warm weather drinking. The captivating color, pleasant fruitiness and gentle pricing are all part of the appeal of well made Rose wines. But every once and a while a Rose comes along which offers more to the consumer than uncomplicated ease of the average Rose. And we found one during the tasting…

It is a Rose made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in the cool Anderson valley in northern California, bottled under the name Copain. Copain means companion, trusted, sympathetic friend in French. It was the name selected by wine maker Wells Guthrie for the winery he started in 2000.  Guthrie is a quiet, reserved fellow with intense eyes who prefers to let his wines rather than his mouth do the speaking. After running the tasting panel for the Wine Spectator in San Francisco, Guthrie moved to the Rhone Valley where he worked with 2 of France’s greatest vignerons: Michel Chapoutier and Jean-Louis Chave. That’s sort of like working in the kitchens of The French Laundry and Alinea. Why no go to the best? It was clear from his first wines that Guthrie knew what he wanted and knew how to do it—to make elegant, precise, complex yet gentle wine from outstanding cool climate sites in  California. He has focused on Syrah and Pinot Noir. All his Pinots come from vineyards in the under-the-radar Anderson Valley which is 100 miles north of Sonoma. His Syrahs are sourced from vineyard sites in various regions of California—from  Santa Barbara in the south, Mendocino county in the North and even to Walla Walla in central Washington State.  The criterion Gutherie employs is to find sites which allow for full expression of the soil structure and climatic conditions under which the grapes are grown. His wines have received and deserve glowing reviews from the wines press, independent tasters and restaurateurs. His sensibility is the future of California wines. You can be sure that you will be hearing more about his wines from us.

The  2009 Rose offers a gleaming bright hue of strawberry and pink salmon. The bouquet is a wonderful synthesis of raspberry, vanilla and white flowers. You can smell the Pinot in its incipient stages. On the palate the wine is vibrant, fresh, juicy yet dry with the persistence of a wine selling for much more. The wine quality surpasses that of most Roses by far. Quite attractive on its own, the Copain Rose can successfully accompany a wide range of grilled, sautéed and steamed foods. You are not likely to taste a better Rose this year. By the way, the Copain labels are lovely.

Bob Millman

2009 Copain Rose Tous Ensemble                19.95

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A Brilliant Dry Chenin Blanc

2006 Huet Vouvray Sec Le Mont

At its weekly tasting, the staff of NY Vintners sniffed, tasted and discussed 3 white and 4 red wines looking for the few we could recommend enthusiastically. We found 1 white and 1 red that produced smiles of pleasure and approval. As always the wines were tasted blind so that no one could be influenced by information on the label. It is all about what in the bottle—not what is on the bottle.

The white wine that stood out—number 3– turned out to be a well known wine from a justly famous estate in the Loire Valley: Domaine Huet located in Vouvray. The wines from this lovely region are made from Chenin Blanc which is one of the most fascinating of all the world’s best varietals. Like Riesling, and to a lesser extent Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc lends itself to being made anywhere from bone dry to luxuriously rich and luscious. It depends on the weather in September and October and to some extent the decisions of the vignerons. The two best known and most highly regarded estates in Vouvray are Huet and Clos Naudin. Both have produced marvelous wines for many years. But in terms of consistency, longevity and sheer vinous brilliance, Huet most be accorded the number 1 position. The 90 acre Domaine was established in 1928 and by the late 1940s the wines were being sought out by connoisseurs. There are 3 separate vineyard sites at Huet each bringing out different aromas, flavors and texture from the flexible Chenin Blanc grape. The estate has been working Bio-dynamically since 2000 which has made the wines even more precise, elegant and healthy. The best dry wines (called Sec in French) are made from a vineyard named Le Mont  (“The  Hill”) whose soil  is pebbly and consists mainly of green-coloured clay and silica.

The wines produced at this site are elegant yet intense. The 2006 offered to the palate an intriguing synthesis of chewy density and pristine, persistent citrus acidity. One of us thought it could be a 1er Cru Chablis to which the wine bore a decided resemblance. Yet the bouquet was pure Chenin—White pepper, tree bark, pear and lime and quince. Smoky and woodsy (but not oaky!) came to mind. All really fine wines have long finishes. And this beauty delivered the proverbial $100 finish. Above all it was the way the wine dug into one’s palate and lingered that made it stand out from the other 2 whites we tasted. This is a superb dry white which is interesting enough to be enjoyed on its own but will enhance just about any fish/shell fish preparation. You will want to buy 6 bottles or more. This is not a wine to be drunk but once!

2006 Huet Vouvray Sec Le Mont   $37.00

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Profound Riesling from Helmut Donnhoff

If you ask aficionados about the best producers of Riesling in Germany, 4 names will invariably comes up: Egon Muller in Scharzhofberg, JJ Prum in the Mosel, RobertWeil in the Rheingau and Helmut Donnhoff in the Nahe.  Donnhoff’s reputation has gone from legendary to mythic in the last 10 years. He is the total master of the complex vineyard sites he farms in the relatively obscure region of the Nahe. This smallish region, named for its central river, is located right in the middle between the Mosel on its west and the Rheinhessen on its east. Its flavors and scents are quite distinctive from its larger and better know neighbors. Indeed a stony, pronounced minerality marks the best wines of the Nahe giving them sensory properties which are akin to high mineral regions in France like Chablis and Chassagne Montrachet. And no producer captures this salty minerality better than Donnhoff.

His family has owned vineyard lands since the middle of the 18th century. Helmut’s first vintage, serendipitously, was 1971, one of the greatest vintages in the history of German wines. He has added to his family’s estate and now owns 50 acres of vineyard land spread among no fewer than 10 vineyards. Donnhoff makes Rieslings which range from completely dry to totally botrytised and everything in between. His favorite level of ripeness is what the Germans label as Spatlese (late picked). It is at this level that the balance of fruit, acidity, sugar and minerality can be in ideal. A unique feature of the German viticultural approach is that it allows Rieslings to be picked for between 8 and 10 levels of ripeness and balance. In no other region of the world can the vignerons fashion so many differently balanced wines from the same grape and vineyard site. Donnhoff is not a flash guy ands his wines, like the man, are the epitome of elegance, intelligence and quiet intensity. Once you get to know them, they are likely to become a permanent part of your wine drinking future.

The wine we are recommending has a very long name which you will forgive once you smell and taste this dense and mouth coating Spatlese from the demanding 2006 vintage, Donnhoff’s favorite since 1971. The Felsenberg vineyard is full of quartz and is farmed organically. One of the most intriguing qualities of the wine is the way is the way the salty minerality balances the lush peachy, pit fruits texture of the wine. The bouquet is inviting yet restrained. The sweetness is in the background not the foreground, just the way Donnhoff likes his Rieslings. Quite apart from being a delight to imbibe on its own, the wine will enhance most spicy preparations and will work well with many vegetable dishes and most cheeses. About 10% in alcohol, the wine is as easy on the body as it is satisfying to drink. By the way, Donnhoff’s wine age beautifully and are often at their best with 6-10 years of bottle age. So buy a few for now and some for future pleasure. When you return to the wine you will be very glad you had the wisdom to let it age.

By:Bob Millman

2006 Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spatlese   $44/bottle

2006 Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spatlese

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At the weekly New York Vintners company tasting 6 of us tasted through 3 white and 4 red wines—all blind. Among the reds, number 3 aroused a lively conversation. Most of us felt it to be Cabernet Sauvignon based with a Napa Valley structure and fullness in the mouth. Here was a rich, smoky, tobacco-scented wine with an attractive chewy yet smooth palate, plenty of ripe dark Cherry fruit and a persistent finish. A true steak house red! We all liked the wine. It was clearly new world in style. We discussed price with the majority thinking this to be a $35-40 wine. As to its identity, most guessed Napa with Argentina or possibly Chile as an outside possibility. When the bag covering the bottle was ripped off it turned out to be a Cabernet from Argentina. We were mostly surprised but all pleased–Especially when we leaned that it retailed for about half of what we expected. The wine in question is from the Luigi Bosca winery in Lujan sub district of Mendoza. The estate dates back to 1890. The winery makes about 30,000 cases annually from 6 different vineyard sites. Malbec and Cabernet are the main focus. The vineyards are farmed organically. The Cabernet based wines are aged in French oak and are bottle unfiltered—to retain all the flavors that develop in the barrels. For those of you who care, the Bosca wines have been very well reviewed by the better wine critics. But for us it is always what is in the bottle that counts. And that is why we always taste blind.  With the money you will save by purchasing this delicious and engaging Cabernet you can finance the purchase of a fine Porterhouse or Rib Eye steak from your favorite butcher.

By:  Bob Millman

2007 Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon Riserva   21.99

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Head Over Heels in Brunelli

Have you ever been in love? I mean head over heels, stomach turning, butterflies-type love? I’m not sure if I have, but this week I can promise you I’m one step closer to knowing what it feels like. Her name was Brunello and she came from the small, charming town, of Montalcino in Tuscany. She walked with a farmer’s daughter-type innocence and spoke quietly as to not attract too much attention. But I wish you could have seen her dance—dressed in black and ready for the world. My heart melted when she walked in and only dug its hole deeper as she told the story of her past.   Unfortunately, as quickly as she entered my life, she left in the same dramatic fashion, leaving only a memory.  The woes of young love, I suppose, but an experience and an evening I’ll never soon forget. Yet away from the tragic romantic I seem to be becoming and into something a bit more serious…

This Saturday, at the dinner New York Vintners event An Evening of Canalicchio di Sopra, I got to taste my first serious Brunello. And not only one, mind you, rather 12 different vintages of Canalicchio di Sopra dating from 1995 to the most recent 2005 release. And in that regard, the introduction is very much true. Canalicchio Di Sopra, for those not familiar, is a small family operated winery whose history dates back to the sixties. Founded by Primo Pacenti, (an unquestionable dreamer and influential figure when it comes to the quality of Italian wine over the past 50 years) the family has been producing exceptional terroir driven wine for decades. The winemaking responsibilities have now been handed over to Primo’s grandson, Francesco Ripaccioli, who traveled over 4,500 miles from his home in Italy to join us for the evening. He was slightly soft-spoken, however, as his introduction reminded, wished the wine to do a majority of his talking. And that my friends, I can promise, was most certainly the case.

Starting young, we tasted a vertical flight from 2000 – 2004 in slow progression as Francesco led us through the intricacies of each vintage. Getting across in very few words how important the 2000 vintage was to him and his family, due in part to the difficult growing season that year–only 350 cases were produced! Which, coming from the production side of the industry, is absolutely amazing. Can you imagine the dedication?!?  An entire YEAR of work for such little return—truly remarkable. As he told the story I honestly got chills, and for that reason I’ll never forget the vintage. From here, we moved on to a side-by-side, blind tasting of the 99 and 99 Riserva. The wines were paired with a spicy, tomato based pasta, prepared by Vintners’ Executive Chef Christopher Meeker. Who, for the quality of the Authentic Tuscan dish did our Italian Guest, instantly complement. The atmosphere was truly special and wonderful conversation was found at every table—from dream trips across the Italian Countryside and nights drinking wine in Tuscany to loud discussion on the best pasta dish ever tasted. Music played and the wine became more special with every sip, as she began to breathe and show the true complexity of her aging beauty (sorry for the romantic spin, but felt it necessary… we’re talking Tuscany!).

The wines to follow were the 98 and 96 bottling. This time paired with chicken thighs so tender and well marinated, they themselves stand worthy of an entire post! Chris’s philosophy behind the evening’s fare was to compliment the wine with a subtle, tradition-based menu. Served on top of broccoli rabe, the plate offered the perfect marriage of protein and produce, style and grace. The room continued to grow increasingly vibrant, Francisco’s Italian stories started to feel closer to home, and our friend Miss Brunello officially stole the show… as I said before, if you could have only seen her dance.

The night, amazingly, was far from dead and, for our grand finale, Francisco poured his 95 and 95 Riserva. I won’t even attempt to put these two wines in words… for I fear I would do their quality little justice. Truly special. Remarkably vibrant. Undoubtedly pure.

His final words were those of thanks and blessings. He has promised to return… and swore to put in a good word with the lady.

Another tale from the table.



New events coming soon!  Be on the look out.

Call us at 212.812.3999 for more information on any of the above wines.

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First Week at Vintners / Biodynamic Wine Week

New York Vintners Store

New York Vintners Store

In order to skip the pain and awkward aspects of a boring Introduction, I’ll attempt to get right to the point… my name is Daniel and I’m the “New Guy” around New York Vintners.  My path to this position through the wine world has been quite interesting. My love for wine, food, travel, culture and tradition has taken me around the globe before sitting at this desk. From tasting in the south of France, sipping in South America, touring in Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece to working the 2009 harvest for Chateau Montelena in Napa California, wine has been at the center of my life for as long as I can remember. Its path has now led me to New York Vintners, where I have started to help with aspects of Internet marketing and creative direction for the brand… a dream job to say the least.

The purpose of this post, however, is not to talk about me (as I hope you will get to know me a little better over the next few weeks), but rather to discuss the amazing events taking place at NYV.   This past week, in a charitable effort to raise money for Slow Food USA, Vintners hosted three events centered on the evolving field of Biodynamic and Organic Wines. Biodynamic wines, for those unfamiliar (as I was before this week), are wines made using the principles of biodynamic agriculture – Biodynamic referring to the handling and processing of the fruit post-harvest and the agricultural methods used in the vineyard during the growing season. It is a labor-intensive style of farming and winemaking that is growing in popularity as the environmental issues facing our Nation and World become greater each day.

The specific events held were Biodynamic and Organic Wines and Food, Biodynamic and Organic Winemaking and Farming, and A Vertical Tasting of Mooiplaas Winery (a Biodynamic South African Winery). The first night we were led by Certified Holistic Nutrition Counselor, Andrea Davis, and New York Vintners’ wine consultant and organic gardener, Gerard Quirk, through the principles behind the organic production of food and wine around the world. We tasted seven different organic/biodynamic wines that were paired with several fresh and organic based recipes (prepared by our dashing young owner and incredible chef friend Shane Benson—his guacamole is arguably the best in the world, or so does he boldly claim!). It was incredible to see and hear Andrea’s presentation on the importance of organic farming and a healthy lifestyle.  Her slides were as interactive as our gardener friend Gerard’s British accent was charming—a very tough thing to do I must inform).

Mooiplaas Wine

Mooiplaas Wine

On the second and third nights, Dirk Roos, owner of South Africa’s Mooiplaas Winery, joined us. We tasted a beautiful selection of his South African wines, highlighted by a 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon, one of only 36 bottles left in the World! The wines were exquisite, expressing the philosophy of Dirk’s winemaking and the terrior of South Africa’s tricky growing environment.  He showed slides of his family, introduced us to a way of life that your typical New Yorker might not necessarily imagine, and chatted with a group of younger, passionate and enthusiastic guests. The experience he created was authentic, taking each of us in attendance on a trip to the beautiful and misunderstood landscape of South Africa.   It was amazing to see his passion. It reminded me of why I love and care for wine so deeply, of how the language of wine speaks universally, and, that regardless of what bottle you open, or where a wine is from, the core concepts of its production are rooted in love, family, tradition, hard work and enjoyment. It was an amazing night and one I soon won’t forget on my journey through the world of wine.  We are hoping to carry some of his wines soon!

Dirk Roos at New York Vintners

Dirk Roos at New York Vintners

What I hope to have expressed in this post is how interactive and engaging the events NYV puts on are. In only my first week I’ve realized that every evening is original and each presenter offers a new educational experience for anyone interested in developing his or her love for wine.   All of the proceeds from this week’s event went to the Slow Food USA, and the awareness raised for a very interesting style of farming and agriculture is continuing to grow as the responses we’ve received since have been amazing.

Make sure you keep up to date with the new events taking place at New York Vintners over the next several months. They fill up quick so make sure and get your seats now!  Below you will also find some picture from this week.  Let us know what you think. We love to hear from you!


Daniel … aka “the new guy”

Check out our Biodynamic and Organic Wines

Featured Recipes from Event:

Shane’s Guacamole:

  • 4 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, skinned, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup diced (1/4 inch) red onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced garlic
  • 3 teaspoons finely minced jalapeño
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all of above ingredients together.
Gerard’s Locro de Zapallo:


  • ¼ cup vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 Pounds acorn squash
  • 1 Cup peas or fava beans
  • 1 ½ cups corn (white if possible)
  • 3 potatoes
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 100 grs queso fresco crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon Peruvian yellow chili paste (aji amarillo)
  • Salt and pepper

How to prepare:

  1. Put oil in pot, add onion and garlic and fry over medium heat, add chili paste, oregano salt and pepper……. about 5 minutes.
  2. Add diced squash, peas and corn (if using fresh) and the potatoes.
  3. Add chicken stock cover and cook over low heat for about 30 min. or until the squash begins to crumble. If necessary add more stock.  (If using frozen peas and corn add after 20 minutes ).
  4. When all the ingredients are cooked add the cheese.
  5. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro and cubed fresh cheese for decoration.

ALTERNATIVE : While the dish is simmering you can sauté 3 dozen fresh prawns in oil or butter until they are pink and add them along with the cheese. Hold back three or four prawns for decoration.

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Corks are Popping and Bubbles are Surging at NY Vintners by Robert Millman

Champagnes can be usefully divided into two categories: Those made from the medium and large Champagne Houses (Moet, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier Jouet, etc) and those made by small growers from their own vineyard holdings. The goals of these ways of making Champagne are fundamentally different: the Major Champagne Houses seek to produce a consistent, reliable, easily recognizable style by blending together fruit grown in many of the sub-regions within Champagne. On the other hand, the small independent growers aim to capture the scents and flavors specific to the vineyard sites from which they make their Champagnes—very much like their counterparts in Burgundy!  Both approaches have their advantages. With the large Champagne Houses, you know pretty much what you are going to experience year and year out. These are essentially branded beverages. The small Grower Champagnes vary with the vintage and the vineyards from which they are made. So it takes a lot more work to discover which small estates are producing first rate Champagne and which are not. And this is where we come in: we have made it our business to taste many of the Large House and Small Grower Champagnes in our quest to offer you the best. Below are 5 selections from our focused inventory of excellent Champagnes.  Two are from Big Houses for which we have great respect, 2 are from wonderful small growers who have achieved considerable repute among aficionados of the bubble and one is sufficiently unique as to defy easy classification.


Henriot Brut Souverain NV

The formidable Joseph Henriot, who purchased and completely revivified Bouchard Pere et Fils in Burgundy, is responsible for transforming Henriot from an also-ran to one of the best Houses in Champagnes. With its high percentage of Chardonnay, the affordable Souverain offers a brilliant synthesis of lemony zestiness and buttery, yeasty richness. Josh Raynolds of the International Wine Cellar recently said of the Souverain that “On the basis of aroma, texture and depth, I could easily have confused this wine with the current release of Dom Perignon.” You can serve the Souverain as an aperitif and with any seafood dish you can imagine.

Laurent Perrier NV Brut

Among the biggest producers in Champagne, Laurent Perrier has if anything been making better wines in the last decade. The rich, smoky mouth-filling style of LP is based
on the blending from over 200 base wines from more than 50 sites—exemplifying the essence of the Big House approach. Josh Raynolds notes that In my tastings in recent years, this has consistently been among the best non-vintage brut bottlings from the major Champagne houses.”


Pierre Gimonnet Brut Gastronome 2005

Run by brothers Olivier and Didier Gimonnet this excellent estate focuses on Chardonnay grown on its vineyards in Chouilly, one of the best “neighborhoods” in Champagne. The Gimonnets favor freshness, moderate bubbles and very little dosage-so you find a truly dry finish on the Gastronome. Robert Parker’s reviewer, the precise Antonio Galloni described the 2005 Brut Cuvee Gastronome as “an impeccably balanced wine that caresses the palate with generous layers of fragrant, perfumed fruit. Apples, pears, flowers and white peaches come together in this refreshing, creamy Champagne.” 91 Points

Egly-Ouriet NV Brut Tradition Grand Cru

Now that is a mouthful! But no recommendation of the best Grower Champagnes would be complete without one of the fantastic Egly-Ouriet Champagnes. Here the emphasis is on Pinot Noir and the style stresses power, depth, weight, intensity and that marvelous old-fashioned baked bread aroma which was the norm for Champagne in the first half of the 20th century. Production is very small here. This is food Champagne par excellence and is a perfect foil to Gimonnet’s butterfly style. If you want to experience Grand Cru Champagne at a reasonable price, this is the one!

Technically a multi-vintage, Krug’s Grand Cuvee is for many wine lovers The Champagne by which all others—Large House and Grower—must be measured. What distinguishes Krug is the emphasis on the wine quality itself. A blend from many Grand Cru sites, the Grand Cuvee is produced from wines which are fermented and aged in small Burgundy barrels and then put in bottle with a minimum of dosage for years before being released. Robert Parker’s latest addition to The Wine Advocate’s group of reviewers, the British Master of Wine Lisa Perrotti-Brown has written an eloquent and accurate description of the Grande Cuvee: “The nose alone is worth savouring with its mouth-wateringly fresh baked apple pie and marzipan scents. The palate is rich, full-flavoured and very crisp with a wonderful combination of brioche, stone fruit and mineral flavours providing layers of complexity.” 94 Points

Bubbles Mentioned Above…we are offering free shipping on the below wines through COB 12/28/09 to make sure you get yours in time for the New Year:






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