A midweek newsletter for you packed with some great bargains and great treasures.
An important note to all wine, beer and liquor consumers out there in e-mail land. Effective September 1st, 2009 the State of Illinois has passed the largest increase in alcohol tax in the state’s history. No need to freak out, but all wine, beer and liquor will be raised in price come that date. The greatest impact this has is on two types of items, liquor and inexpensive wine. Expect most liquor to go up at least $1 or $2 a bottle and maybe a little more. When it comes to inexpensive wine, $10 bottles become $11, and that is a significant from a percentage aspect. What will happen to the “Six for $60?” I just plan to roll with it for a bit and see if it effects my buying options. So this month it may be worth it to stock up on a few items before they go up in price. It’s not doomsday, but worth noting.
Another important note regarding the time period of September 4th – September 13th.
I’m going on vacation!
Heck yeah, I haven’t had a week off since I opened my store two years ago. Nobody likes “Cranky Craig,” and to avoid this from happening its time I recharged my batteries. The store will be open limited hours on some of those dates I am gone, and manning the store will be guest “winos.” Some very knowledgeable people who happen to direct the wine programs at places like Spring and Spiaggia will be subbing in. In total these folks have 25+ years in the business, so you will be in good hands. Please make sure they don’t drink all my booze! Limited store hours will be announced in a week or so.
Hope you find some magical treasures below!
2005 PAUL LEHRNER ST. LAURENT
If you like Pinot Noir and haven’t discovered Austrian reds then you are certainly missing out. I’m not going to argue that some of the local Austrian varieties like St. Laurent, Blaufränkisch, and Zweigelt are exactly like your favorite Russian River Pinot or bottle of Chambolle-Musigny. Yet when it comes to wine, texture and acidity have more to do with how you enjoy wine than the varietal name on the label.
So Pinot fans, I am begging you to start hitting up some of the great Austrian reds. This St. Laurent is the perfect way to start. For one, Paul Lehrner happens to be one of the top producers in the Mittelburgenland region. Philosophically, he doesn’t want to make over-oaked or over extracted wines, he is all about finesse.
The other incentive to start is that I found three cases of this wine sitting at the distributor for long enough to make the bean counters nervous. So they got it off the books and sent it to me for a great price.
Your discovery into St. Laurent should note that some researchers felt that this could be the same grape as Pinot Noir, but that notion has been refuted since. What we do know about the grape is that it ripens a little earlier than Pinot Noir, it has thicker skin, and it tends to offer dark berry aromas, sometimes leading into a real plumy characteristic. It is an easy grape to over ripen, and that is where the skill of Lehrner comes through.
What’s best about this wine is that it has depth and richness, while at the same time good freshness and drink ability. It drinks great on its own, and is excellent with lots of food, although I have a hankering to try this with a chicken mole dish. For $16.99 instead of its normal $30 price point, here is a perfect opportunity to give this terrific St. Laurent a try!
$16.99 BTL. / ONLY 36 BOTTLES AVAILABLE
2007 CHÂTEAU DE LA LIQUIÈRE FAUGÈRES “LES AMANDIERS”
Excited about the Languedoc? Well so am I, as well as most of the wine press and wine geeks around France. The Languedoc is geographically large, and small producers having been laboring the last three decades creating thumbprints in their respective regions.
One of the most exciting regions within the Languedoc for me is Faugères, with its predominantly schist laden soils and warm climate. Much has been improved in this region and many, including myself would argue that the Vidal family is one of the guiding lights in this quality revolution. In the 1960’s the Vidal’s were the first to bottle their wines in the region. Today the new generation pushes further with organic viticulture, push to prevent over ripeness, and their push to make the whites of the region well known.
Château de la Liquière makes around ten different wines. “Les Amandiers” is a blend of 30% each Carignan and Syrah, and 20% each Grenache and Mourvèdre from younger vines grown on Schist soil. The wine is aged in vats for eight months.
Aromatics combine hints at tomato leaf and wild thyme, along with red berry fruit and spice. Fresh and fruit forward on the palate, with plenty of savory herbs adding to its complexity. As we head into the home stretch of grilling season, this would be great with some grilled hangar steak served along side a grilled vegetable and herb terrine.
$12.99 BTL. / $155.88 CASE
2008 TENUTA DELLE TERRE NERE ETNA ROSSO
It almost seems like I am going to have a Nerello Mascalese of the month club, with my inclusion of one in almost every other newsletter. What can I say, I think it is a grape worthy of inclusion in your wine consumption habits.
Growing the grape on the active volcano of Mt. Etna in Italy is not necessarily an inexpensive process. So it is rare to see good examples at everyday type of prices… that is until now.
When I first opened my store I sold the 2006 vintage of Terre Nere’s Etna Rosso for $15.50. Now, the agent and owner Marc De Grazia has left its importer, Vin Divino, and is working directly with a Chicago distributor. The prices are even better, and this makes it one of the best values for Italian reds that I have tasted in some time.
If you haven’t tried a wine from Mt. Etna, now you have no excuse. Combining a truly unique soil and climate, the Nerello Mascalese grape is often compared to Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, and even Syrah. I have a hard time with grape comparisons, and choose not to weigh in on the debate. Instead let me tell you about the wine.
The majority of grapes that go into this wine come from at least 40 year old vines. The altitude is fabulously high, making for warm days and very cool nights. The grapes are harvested in late October, making it one of the last areas in Italy to harvest. The Etna Rosso bottling is fermented and aged in oak, 25% of which is new French oak. Pour the ’08 into a big Burgundy glass and enjoy the explosive aromas of Morello cherries, lavender, and thyme. Silky upon entry on the palate with a mixture of dark and red berries, it then firms up with medium tannins and a long savory finish. There is no doubt that this is a ripe wine, but it carries itself with great balance. An incredible value!
$13.99 BTL. / $167.88 CASE
Hello Loire white wine fans, limited quantities of two exquisite wines from Florent Baumard of Domaine des Baumard are available in Chicago, and simply should not be missed.
2005 DOMAINE DES BAUMARD SAVENNIÈRES “CLOS DU PAPILLON”
If you love great dry Chenin Blanc then you would be remiss if you didn’t stock up on this great vintage of “Clos du Papillon” from Baumard. Savennières vies with Vouvray for producing the top dry Chenin Blanc of the Loire Valley of France. Vineyards like Clos du Papillon, Roche-aux-Moines, and Coulée de Serrant are known as the best in the A.O.C.
There may be some scoffs and arguments when I say this, but in my opinion Baumard’s “Clos du Papillon” is the best wine of the appellation year in and year out. Florent Baumard took over from his father Jean many years ago, and continued the theme of make pure, mineral and focused wines. I often describe his wines as having laser beam focused flavors, as these wines are so linear that you can really taste every component.
Baumard owns roughly half of the 14 hectares of the “Clos du Papillon” vineyard. Composed of slate and limestone, the soil gives way to a style of Chenin Blanc that has both precise citrus flavors, mineral and yet a richness that gains with years in the bottle. You can always drink a Baumard “Clos du Papillon” right from the get go, but its evolution will provide for fantastic surprises.
The ’05 vintage provided more warmth than ’04, and ultimately landed Baumard with two back to back exceptional vintages. Baumard suggests that the ’05 may have a little more in the tank in the end, but only time will truly tell.
Whatever the case, you will find notes of orange, pear, flowers and mineral on the beautiful nose. Medium weight in terms of richness on the palate with plenty of acidity and a very long finish. This is easy to drink now, but having had a few older vintages it makes sense to buy several to drink through 2020+. Oh, and if you are just getting started with putting this in the cellar, I still have some of the magnificent ’04 hiding in back at the same price!
$29.99 BTL. / $359.88 CASE
2005 DOMAINE DES BAUMARD QUART DE CHAUME
This is one of the world’s greatest dessert wines and one of the greatest of France. When all is said and done it also happens to be one of the greatest dessert wine values.
The appellation of Quart de Chaume sits within the Coteaux du Layon appellation. There is only about 40 hectares of land in total in the region, which means when there are vintages which produce botrytis, only a few thousand cases are made from the entire appellation! Yields are restricted to a paltry 22 hl/ha, but usually producers don’t even attain that level.
Yet amazingly a great Quarts de Chaume is never heavy. Yes, its honeyed with a citrus marmalade tone often taking over, but it always has great acidity. To me its way more enjoyable to drink than most Sauternes.
Baumard is a master at Quarts de Chaume, and has now made two superb vintages in a row with ’04 and ’05. It has been interesting to hear what others are saying about these two wines, some reviewers with bigger scores in ’04 and others with bigger in ’05. I’ve tasted them both, and they are both great in their own ways. The ’05 is much richer in texture, with notes of white peach, grapefruit, vanilla, and herbs on the nose and palate. It is incredibly long, with sneaky acidity. I have enjoyed some amazing older vintages of this wine, and will certainly be sneaking some of this into my own cellar!
$74.99 PER 750ML BOTTLE. / $899.88 CASE
ODDS & ENDS – BACK ROOM SPECIALS
Some people ask, “hey Craig what do you have hiding in back there.” A retailers back room often contains some treasures in limited quantities and I have a few myself. So below, a few great leftovers with some reviews…
2005 CHÂTEAU FONSALETTE CÔTES DU RHÔNE “CUVÉE SYRAH”
Never seen this before, that’s because it is in every back room of every retail store around the world…if you don’t drink it, I will…
“The 2006 seems jagged at this stage, and I would rather put my money on what certainly will be a great one, the 2005 Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone Syrah. Speaking of that wine, I think this is the best cuvee of Syrah that Emmanuel Reynaud has made at the estate. Dense purple in color, with a glorious nose of smoked duck, meat juices, truffle, animal fur, and copious quantities of blackberry and cassis, this wine is super-rich, dense, thick, and juicy, yet all of that fruit and glycerin nearly hides some substantial tannins. This wine should evolve effortlessly for 20-25 years and is a superb expression of Syrah in the southern Rhone. 94+ Points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate.”
$89.99 BTL. / 5 BOTTLES AVAILABLE
2004 SALICUTTI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO “PIAGGIONE”
Easily a top five Brunello producer in my book, so worth the effort for me to buy on pre-arrival. This is the only case in Chicago, at least that wasn’t grey marketed. A very special wine from a very special vintage.
“The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Piaggione possesses striking depth, transparency and weightlessness as it opens up in the glass. This deeply-scented, layered Brunello offers superb pedigree and class in its ripe red cherries, wild herbs, tobacco, spices and licorice, with a powerful blast of melted road tar that provides the final exclamation point. A firm, structured wine, the profound 2004 Piaggione desperately needs some bottle age, but readers will have a hard time finding a wine with this much sheer class and pedigree. The Piaggione spent two years in medium-size French oak barrels and was neither fined nor filtered prior to bottling. This is a wonderful effort. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2024. 95 Points, Antonio Galloni, The Wine Advocate.”
$84.99 BTL. / 12 BOTTLES AVAILABLE
2004 IL POGGIONE BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO
This came and sold out faster than lightening in Chicago. A great traditional producer.
“The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino is awesome. This finessed, regal Brunello flows onto the palate with seamless layers of perfumed fruit framed by silky, finessed tannins. The wine remains extremely primary at this stage, and its full range of aromas and flavors have yet to emerge, but the sheer pedigree of this Brunello is unmistakable. The elegant, refined finish lasts an eternity, and subtle notes of menthol, spices, licorice and leather add final notes of complexity. The estate’s 2004 Brunello is a wine to buy and bury in the deepest corner of the cellar. Brunello is never inexpensive, but this is the real deal, and in relative terms, it is one of the world’s great values in fine, cellar worthy wine. Incredibly, there are 18,000+ cases of the 2004 Brunello, so it should be fairly easy to source in various markets. The Brunello is made from four vineyards ranging from 250 to 400 meters in altitude, all in Sant’Angelo in Colle. The wines from the various vineyards were aged separately in French oak casks prior to being assembled and bottled. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2034. 95 Points, Antonio Galloni, The Wine Advocate.”
$69.99 BTL. / ONLY TWO BOTTLES AVAILABLE
2005 ALAIN GRAILLOT CROZES-HERMITAGE “LA GUIRAUDE”
Best barrels, only in special vintages, a great Northern Rhône Syrah.
“Fresh raspberry and smoked meat aromas are complicated by anise, pungent herbs and cola. Muscular dark berry flavors are firmed by youthful tannins, which add grip and seriousness. Quite different in style from the seductive regular Crozes: Graillot believes that this will age like his 1988 version and that it has the same “tension.” Displays impressive finishing depth and thrust. (Daniel Johnnes Wines; imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, Syosset, NY) 90(+?) points. Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar.”
$54.99 BTL. / 0NLY THREE BOTTLES AVAILABLE
2004 MARCEL DEISS “BURG”
Co-planted varietals including all 13 Alsace varietals. A truly amazingly rich white wine that can work with so many foods. I love this wine.
“Piquant aromas of grapefruit peel, mint and medicinal herbs. Densely packed but tightly coiled, with penetrating, sharply delineated flavors of pineapple, lemon, crushed stone, menthol and spices. Displays a distinctly cool character. Finishes long and dusty, with a repeating medicinal quality. This will need patience. From “austere” dark marne and clay soil deposited just before the last ice age, says Deiss, who considers this his longest-aging wine along with the Schoenenbourg. 91(+?) points. Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar”
$56.99 BTL. / 11 BOTTLES AVAILABLE BECAUSE I DRANK ONE
2006 DO FERREIRO ALBARIÑO “CEPAS VELLAS”
I know, I’m weird to have Albariño stashed away but this stuff is just amazing. 200+ plus year old pre-phyloxera vines from near the village of Sanxenxo in Galicia, Spain. As pleasing to me as almost any Grand Cru Chablis.
“Pale chartreuse-green color. Strikingly complex nose displays fresh lime, herb and white flowers, along with dusty minerals and a suave note of anise. Light in body but concentrated, with intensely spicy citrus and orchard fruit flavors and mounting richness. Leaves sweet melon and nervy lime notes behind on the long, chewy finish. A very impressive wine with admirable balance, clarity and persistence. I’d love to see this in five years. 93 points, Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar.”
$39.99 BTL. / ONLY THREE BOTTLES AVAILABLE
Perman Wine Selections
802 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607