Category Archives: Wine

GQ’s New Rules of Wine

Found a great article today in the October issue of GQ: The New Rules of Wine.  Some of my favorite lines:

*Of course grapes grown in different places taste different; that’s a banality no one disputes.

*…when you open a bottle of rosé champagne, people understand that you are spoiling them.

*Stop giving the wine list to the oldest, richest-looking dude at every table.

*And for the love of God, don’t sniff the cork.

Worth a full read!

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Wines of Brazil

I was invited to a seminar yesterday on Wines of Brazil, featuring 14 wines and Brazilian cuisine (i.e. meat fest), hosted by Evan Goldstein, MS.  I did not go into the tasting with high hopes, but I left impressed.  The presentation was thorough, well-organized, and more importantly, many of the wines were delicious.

We sampled 3 sparklers, 2 whites and 11 reds, including some varietals that were new to me.

Some fun/nerdy facts:


*Vines were first planted in Brazil by Portuguese immigrants in the 1500s.  The first Brazilian wine was produced in Tatuape, São Paulo, in 1551.

*The Italian immigrants started arriving in 1875, many of them settling in the Rio Grande do Sul, which now accounts for 60% of the country’s grape production.

*In the mid-1960s, the multinationals started to come in – Chandon, Pernod Ricard, Martini, Cinzano.

*In the mid-1970s, production expanded toward Uruguay.  The 1980s saw an increased focus on quality.  The kids started being sent abroad for enology courses.  In 1998, the Brazil Wine Institute was formed.


*In the southern hemisphere, Brazil ranks 5th in production.  1 – Argentina, 2 – Australia, 3 – South Africa, 4 – Chile.

*Labrusca vines account for 73% of the plantings.  They use these grapes for jams, juices, concentrates and domestic table wine.

*1/3 of the fine wine production is sparkling (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Glera <Prosecco>, Muscat).  Most sparklers are produced using the Traditional Method, though we did sample a Charmat.

*For still wines, the production breakdown is: 77% red, 22% white, 1% rosé.

*There’s a great diversity of grapes.  Traditional French ones, such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon; Tannat, like neighboring Uruguay; interesting crossings, which I’ll get to in a moment; Italian varietals like Glera, Moscato, Teroldego, Fresa.


*Globally, per capita, Brazil ranks 101st.  The U.S. comes in at 60th.

*Domestic consumption is low, primarily due to high taxes on wine.  Domestically produced table wines are taxed at 52% and sparkling wines are taxed at 63%, while imported wines from other South American countries are taxed at 33%.


*The finer wine regions are surprisingly moderate – averages of 53°F in winter and 71.6°F in summer.

*Soils vary region to region, ranging from granite and limestone in Campanha to Basaltic in the Serra Gaúcha.

*The best vineyard sites have decent elevation – 1500-2500 ft. is not uncommon.

Evan doing his thing. What you may not be able to see on screen is a photograph taken in Pernambuco, of vineyards in 4 different season "states". Through irrigation, forced dormant periods, and other methods, growers have been able to trick these vines into 2 harvests per year.

On to the wines:

My favorite sparkler was the 2008 Cave Geisse Terroir Nature.  62% Chardonnay, 38% Pinot Noir, 12.5% abv, traditional method, only 970 cases produced.  Jancis Robinson is showing this wine at an Expo in Hong Kong at the end of October, as an example of what can be done in Brazil.  No importer for U.S. yet.

My favorite white was the 2010 Lidio Carraro Dádivas Chardonnay.  Dádivas means present/gift.  13% abv.  No ML, no fining, no oak, 8 months lees aging.  Floral, melon and pear notes, great minerality.  Represented locally by Winebow.

Favorite reds:

2006 Lidio Carraro Grande Vindima Quorum.  40% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Franc.  14% abv.  Lots of red fruit, spice and floral notes.  Refreshingly, no oak.  Arrived in the U.S. 3 weeks ago.  Winebow.

2008 Casa Perini Tannat.  12.5% abv.  Electric purple in color.  Elegant, but still grippy, as you’d expect from Tannat.  These Tannat clones are Basque, as opposed to Madiran.  Peninsula Beverage (Miami).

2007 Pizzato Reserva Egiodola.  The grape is pronounced edge-a-dola and means “pure blood” in Basque.  It was a cross made in the 1950s, in France, between Fer Servadou (Marcillac) and Arbouriu (Lot).  130 acres of it are now planted in Brazil.  Wild berries, white pepper, black tea, with a bite.  13% abv.  Metropolis Wine Merchants.

2008 Cara Perini Marselan.  Marselan is a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.  Producers in southwest France came up with it in the 1960s, when they were looking for color and crop.  Only 30 acres or so planted in Brazil.  Soft tannins, wild red fruit, herbaceous, great food wine.  12.5% abv.  Peninsula Beverage.

2007 Don Guerino Gran Reserva Ancellotta.  Ancellotta is an Italian grape.  You can find it in Lambrusco blends in Emilia-Romagna.  You can also find it in the Veneto and in Ticino in Switzerland.  I wrote, “rustic, animal, lovely”.  12.8% abv.  Looking for an importer.

Other tips:

*Castas is the term Brazilians use for varietal/cepage/cultivar.  Uva refers to grapes for eating.

*Saffra refers to the vintage/harvest.

Churrascaria Tribeca doesn't mess around when it comes to meat. Servers circulated with pork sausage, beef ribs, chicken legs, bacon-wrapped turkey, sirloin, prime rib, all on menacing-looking meat swords.


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New Location for Vinyl Wine

The Mikes are moving.  Next door to Starbucks, steps from the 6 train, on Lexington between 96th and 97th streets.  We’ve been helping them get ready.  Soft opening tonight!

The thirsty rockers have come along.

If you’ve been to the old space, you’ll notice this one is quite a bit bigger.

In addition to greater shelf space, you'll also find a piano. Ask nicely, and maybe this guy will play for you.

Wait until you see some of these record covers that adorn the checkout.

Scrubbing the shelving last night. Donkey & Goat's The Stonecrusher made the job more fun.


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Summer wines in Women’s Health Magazine

Thanks to my friend Andrea, I got a blurb in July’s Women’s Health Magazine.

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Summer: before and after

Maryland blue crabs and some boxed love.

The 2010 Les Comptoirs de Magdala Rosé, a Vin de Pays from the Mont Caume region of Provence is my summer go-to wine.  A blend of Grenache and Cinsault, it’s light-bodied, fruity and crisp.  The producer is organic and biodynamic.  Best of all, you get 3L for around $30.   For those of you on the LES, September Wines & Spirits keeps a few of these cold.  Looking for some other boxed wine suggestions?  Eric Asimov just did a piece on them yesterday.  I’ve touched on the From the Tank wines and the Picpoul before.

The aftermath. The wine outlasted the crabs.

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Australia’s most famous soil

A wine trip to Australia wouldn’t be complete without snapping a few photos of the terra rossa soil found in Coonawarra, part of the Limestone Coast.

The thin band of terra rossa sits on limestone. The red color comes from iron impurities in the limestone, which have oxidized, and have turned reddish brown.

Most of Australia’s great Cabernet Sauvignons are produced in this region.  Overall production in the region is 90% red.  All of the early vineyards were planted on this famous red soil, but the region has since expanded a bit.

The soil is friable, well-drained, and imparts special characteristics to the reds planted in it. While Shiraz is king in most of Australia, there are 3 times more Cab vines planted here.

The guys from Majella took us to see the soil after our memorable breakfast.  Our other favorite producers from the region: Parker, Wynns, Leconfield and Penley Estates.

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Summer Chenin Madness

Chris got his hands on some early 90s Coulee de Serrant, and we were all happy to come together for the “vineyard of exception”.  Arguably the best expression of Chenin Blanc, Coulee de Serrant is a monopole (vineyard with a single owner) biodynamically farmed by Nicholas Joly.  Just over 14 acres, the vineyard boasts vines with more than 80 years of age.  Steep slopes, thin schist soil, grapes harvested by horse and by hand – all the makings of a special place in the Loire Valley (and beyond).

For our evening of Chenins, we ended up with 6 wines.  We saved the Joly for flight 2.

Getting down to business.

Wine 1 in flight 1 garnered these descriptions: baked caramel, toffee, crab apple, stony, smoky, higher-than-expected acidity, touch of matchstick on palate, spicy a la horseradish and white pepper.

Chamboureau Cuvee d'Avant Savennieres 2004. 14% abv.

Wine 2 from flight 1: funky peaches, wet wool, dried apricots, toasted marshmallow, textbook lanolin texture.

Huet Le Haut-Lieu. 2002. 12% abv.

Wine 3 from flight 1: clean mushrooms, lemon head candies, just picked apples, floral, beeswax, pineapple, smoky, cotton candy, bright and lively with a long finish.

Jacky Blot Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups "Les Dix Arpents" Montlouis Sur Loire. 2009. Forgot to write down abv. 12 something is my guess.

Time for round 2.  Chris had decanted the 91 and the 93 Coulee 24 hours in advance of our tasting.  I brought the current release, the ’07, and it was decanted for just a few hours prior to round 2.  I announced it during the tasting, and no one seemed impressed, but for the record, I guessed the vintages correctly during round 2.

From left to right, the '93, '91 and '07 Coulee de Serrant. Liquid gold.

A shot of the labels:

The aromas and flavors of these ranged from celery soda to baked apple, but there was a recognizable line throughout.

By this time we were getting hungry.

The first course was corn soup with bacon and chives. The sweetness of the corn played nicely with the fruitiness of the wines.

Chris adapted course 2 to the wines as well.

The plan was to grill polenta, along with other goodies. I suggested ring molds, to keep up appearances.

I was on summer truffle detail. Just the right amount of funk for the line-up of wines.

Plating the main course:

Chris had come across some pine honey. Sweet, with the perfect amount of herbaceousness.

Two of our guests had to leave before the main course was served.

Monster serving of seared scallops, grilled polenta and scallions, summer truffles and pine honey.

As I was finishing up this post, an email came through from Chris, with the subject “coulee redux”:

So I just got home from work.  Exactly one week has passed since I decanted the 91 and 93.  I squirreled a small amount from the tasting, for purely scientific purposes mind you, and have just tasted through the lot of them.  All three are dead as a doornail.  Without exception all three wines showed best at 24 to 48 hour.  The evolution went from closed up upon opening to the shapeshifting chameleon that we all met at the tasting.  Then on to a vegetal phase and finally to very a rich ripe golden fruit phase.  Sorry for any bullshitty language.  Interesting, they are still not quite oxidized.  And for the ringer, I can’t resist, the cuvee d`avant is still showing fantastically and with that I am going to go attend to the last of it.

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