Hard cider and cheese tasting
Thursday, October 23 6–8 PM ($10)
Hard cider—the very oldest of ye olde American hooch—is largely forgotten today, but from the colonial era until the early 19th century cider graced nearly every New England table, and it was universally relished by kids and old folks alike. While I do not advocate offering your young children a cider flip, it’s gratifying to witness the modest revival in good, honestly made, non-industrial cider here on our shores (stay away from the soul-deadening industrial crap). Cider, perhaps more so than wine and beer, pairs powerfully well with cheese and with this in mind I’ve invited master cheese monger Amber Clark to select a few cheeses to pair with ciders.
Amber will be on hand to talk about cheese, and I’ll be on hand with Mark McTavish (importer and distributor of traditional ciders) to yammer on about ciders. We’ll taste four ciders and four cheeses:
- Cabot Cheddar from the caves at Jasper Hill (cow) + Domaine Bordatto “Txala Parta” (bottle conditioned French Basque cider, a little tannic, a little fruity)
- Hooks Creamery Little Boy Blue (sheep) + La Cidrerie du Vulcain “Trois Pepin” (dry Swiss cider, traditional blend of apple, quince, pear)
- Bellwether Farms San Andreas (sheep) + Troy 2013 (blend of known and unknown apples, plus guava quince sourced from a feral orchard in Sonoma)
- Alemar Cheese Bent River (bloomy rind cow milk) + Zangs “Hommage a Stephane Cossais” (Normandy cider, from a blend of traditional French cider apples; old trees!)
Pet nat tasting with the fabulous Cory Cartwright of Selection Massale
Sunday, October 26 2-5 PM ($10)
Cory Cartwright and Guillaume Gerard, a dynamic duo importing resolutely natural French wine, bring in a fine and ever-expanding selection of pétillant naturel sparkling wines. You need to know about these wines and drink them. Pet nat wines hearken back to a more rustic era of sparkling wine production that predates Champagne. These wines are naturally sparkling, as they’re native yeast fermented and bottled before primary fermentation completes—fermentation finishes in the bottle, rendering the wine lightly bubbly. Whereas Champagne is all about the complex flavors conferred yeast autolysis (yep, the delicious toasty flavors of Champagne are a result of letting the wine age for months on dead yeast cells), pet nats are about capturing the vibrancy of the fruit. Cory will be at the shop for a tasting this Sunday, October 26, from 2-5 PM to pour the following for us:
- Marie Thibault “La Roue Qui Tourne” (chenin)
- Frantz Saumon “Petite Gaule du Matin” 2013 (menu pineau)
- Les Capriades Pet-Sec 2013 (chenin & cab franc)
- Les Capriades “Piege a Filles” Rosé 2013 (gamay, grolleau, and alert: this wine contains pineau d’aunis, and is for mature audiences only)
- Les Capriades “Piege a Filles” blanc (menu pineau, chenin)
This week we’re hosting three wine tastings: two tastings with two different importers of traditionally made Italian wine and another tasting in celebration of Beaujolais (no nouveau!).
Tasting with Acid, Inc.’s David Weitzenhoffer: Wednesday, October 15 6-8 PM
Acid Inc. imports wines that are both lysergic and acidity-driven. Come confabulate with the brains behind Acid, David Weitzenhoffer, who will be at the shop on Wednesday pouring a selection of wines from his import portfolio. Rather than a scattershot, grab bag sampler of this and that, I asked David to focus on one grower, region, or grape type, and so we decided to highlight the mineral whites and reds of Paolo Pasini. Pasini, armed with the two main grapes of the region, gropello and turbiana, produces fresh, kinetic wines that change dramatically in your glass. Gropello is an old Lombardian variety that is uniquely suited to producing fragrant, mineral wines from the glacial soils of Lake Garda; turbiana, once misunderstood as Plain Jane trebbiano, turns out to be closely related to a much groovier grape, verdiccho.
Taste Beaujolais (no nouveau!): Thursday, October 16 6-8 PM
Of the ninety or so wine obsessions that I cultivate and harbor, my love for good Beaujolais is the most unrelenting: upon opening my cellar door, bottles of Morgon cry out, “drink me, drink me, come on and drink me!” Beaujolais nouveau is less a wine than a marketing stratagem, but what the hell, let’s use the impending release of the 2014 Beaujolais nouveau as an excuse to taste the real stuff, ranging from the crunchy and evanescent Beaujolais of Chermette, to the more serious Morgon of Chamonard, as well as a few stops in between.
Orange wine tasting with Critical Mass’s Ross Bingham and Ryan Ibsen: Sunday, October 19 2-5 PM
Critical Mass imports Italian natural wines, many of which are white wines made in the traditional modus operandi of their regions: i.e., skin-contact macerated orange wines. Ross Bingham, the shaman who directs Critical Mass, and his henchman, Ryan Ibsen, will be on hand to discuss and pour us a selection of the orange wines that he imports, including a mind-bending and blowing macerated verduzzo from Denis Montanar (Borc Dodon).
Orange wine tasting: Tuesday, October 7 (6-8 PM) $10
Most contemporary winemakers crush their white grapes and then quickly press the resulting juice off the grape skins, meeting consumer expectations that a correct white wine shall be, well, white. White grape skins contain pigments, tannins, flavors, and textures, all of which can make their way into a white wine if the skins mingle with the juice for some period. However, the earliest historical evidence of white winemaking indicates that ancient winemakers made white wines by fermenting wine with the skins of the grapes, yielding a white wine with distinctive orange tint. Today, a handful of winemakers have returned to making these historic “orange” wines, following the antique custom of letting the skins of the grapes remain in contact with the juice of the fermenting wine for varying lengths of time.
This Tuesday we’re tasting three skin contact white wines, two from Slovenia (where orange wine production has continued, mostly uninterrupted, from antiquity until today), and another from across the Italian border. We’re tasting the wines in order of increasing skin-contact time. I recommend decanting and serving orange wines cool, but not cold, and I will decant all wines before the tasting and will serve them at the appropriate temperature.
Castel Norna Nosiola Vigneti Delle Dolomiti, Italy ‘12
Nosiola is a white grape that was historically employed in making the sweet, dried grape vin santo wines that are traditional to the Trentino. Today, we are learning how apt nosiola can be as material for making very fine and mineral dry wines. This Biodynamic wine is fermented, aged, and bottled with zero sulfites. It sees about five days of skin contact. The result is a crisp, mineral driven, aromatic, and engaging white wine.
Štoka Vitovska Grganja Kras, Slovenia ‘12
Vitovska grganja is a high quality white grape that is unique to the hardscrabble Kras region of Slovenia. It’s a marginal grape with only about 50 acres still in production, but one sip of this delicate, stone-fruit scented wine will convince you that it is a grape well worth preserving. The Štoka family gives this wine eight days of skin contact and then ages it for 18 months in a combination of neutral tank and used Slavonian oak barrels.
Kabaj Rebula Goriška Brda, Slovenia ‘11
Rebula, AKA ribolla gialla, is a white grape that does its best work when winemakers employ it to make skin contact wines. Winemaker Jean Michel Morel knows this and ferments this wine on the skins for 30 days in colossal, 2400-liter neutral wood vats. The resulting wine exhibits exotic aromas of baking spices, and has a sexy, slightly waxy texture.
Vermouth cocktails with Louis Anderman of Miracle Mile Bitters: Thursday, October 8 (6-8 PM): $10
Spend a few minutes talking with me, and the subject of Vermouth will inevitably bubble to the surface. Local bitters artisan and cocktail scholar, Louis Anderman, is a kindred soul, and a session with Louis is typically wide-ranging, fast-talking, and wise cracking. On Thursday, Louis will prepare several sparkling wine, Vermouth, (and possibly cider)-based cocktails for our warm weather delectation, enlivened by one or more of his unique and very special bitters, including his Yuzu, Bergamot, Toasted Pecan, Forbidden, and Sour Cherry bitters.
Tuesday, September 30 6–8 PM: tasting with Italian wine importer Giammario Villa
Please join us this Tuesday to welcome our friend Giammario Villa to the shop. Giammario is a Los Angeles-based importer of Italian wine, and he has an uncanny flair for selecting wines of great typicité and value. Giammario is an engaging and jovial guy, and he’ll be on hand to pour a selection of the wine from his import portfolio, including an unusually elegant, Champagne-style dry Lambrusco, and a bracing, mineral, and floral white made from the old Savoyard variety, petite arvine. (Heat wave alert: the National Weather Service is forecasting a return of the cursed southern California heat wave later this week, so you may want to take a supply of these refreshing wines to slake your thirst).
Cantina della Volta Brut Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC Metodo Classico 2010
Zanotelli Manzoni Bianco IGT Dolomiti 2010
Ottin Petite Arvine DOC Valle d’Aoste 2011
Zanotelli Lagrein IGT Venezie 2011
Bocale Montefalco Rosso DOC 2010
Thursday, October 2 6 – 8 PM: Chenin blanc and noir tasting pt II
This week, as a follow up to last week’s chenin blanc and noir tasting, we’re hosting a second tasting of chenin blanc-based wines of France’s Loire Valley: same grape, but different wines. For this tasting, we’ll be highlighting wines from the two poles of Loire chenin: the chalky soil wines of the Touraine region, and the schistous soil wines of the Anjou region. Although the wines share much in common, e.g., they’re chenin blanc, grown organically, and fermented using native yeasts, their flavors are quite varied: a function of the varied terroirs in which the vines are grown. Moreover, as an added bonus, I’m pouring a lean and nervy chenin noir from Puzelat-Bonhomme—this is not a wine for everyone, but if you’re an Aunisian (and how do you know if you’ve never tried it), this is very much for you!
Alexandre Monmousseau Crémant de Loire “Ammonite” Extra Brut NV
Francois Pinon Vouvray “Silex Noir” 2011
JC Garnier Vin de France (Anjou) “La Roche Bezigon” 2011
Puzelat-Bonhomme Pineau d’Aunis “La Tesnière” 2013
John House of Ovum is currently producing some of the most precisely made, exciting, and delicate aromatic white wines in the States. He’s doing tremendous work with muscat, riesling, and gewürztraminer, sourced from cool climate vineyards in Oregon. The wines are full of energy, vibrant acidity, and minerality.
Here’s what he’s pouring on Thursday:
“Suspension” Eola Springs vineyard muscat ‘12
“Memorista” Lone Star Vineyard riesling ‘13
“Off the Grid” Cedar Ranch riesling ‘13
“The Oyster” Corral Creek vineyard riesling ‘13
“Do I Move You” Gerber vineyard gewürztraminer ‘13
The Italians produce oceans of white wine, but much of it is well made, thirst-quenching simple stuff that’s not really meant to be taken seriously. As a consequence Italy is primarily known for its great red wines, and the overall state of Italian white wine, in comparison to France, Germany, or Austria, is relatively underdeveloped. Here’s your opportunity to taste several white wines, two quite serious indeed, that put a lie to the notion that Italy cannot produce profound and serious white wines.
Walter Massa is a brilliant, funny, and visionary grower working in the hills north of the Piemontese town of Tortona. Some time ago he recognized the potential of timorasso, a white grape that had fallen on hard times following the phylloxera plague. At one time timorasso was a common sight in Piemonte, but by the 1980s it had mostly be supplanted by much more reliable but much less interesting varieties such as cortese. Mark Middlebrook—who imports the wines into the US and is something of an ambassador for Massa—will be at the shop pouring and yakking about the wonders of timorasso on Saturday, September 20 from 1-3 PM. We will sample Massa’s normale “Derthona,” and two of his rare, single vineyard timorassi: Sterpi (minerally, grown on stony soil), and Montecitorio (fleshy, grown on chalky soil). These exciting wines clearly demonstrate the terroir sensitivity and potential of this viticultural treasure. Oh, and we’ll also be pouring one of Massa’s lighter-bodied reds, too.