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Come to me, la Comme!

From a lovely little winery I visited in Beaune, March 2013 (see this post for details about the visit).

I had the fortune to impress upon a (now defunct) distributor to bring into the Maryland market a selection of these wines from a (now defunct) importer. Another fortune bestowed upon me was the opportunity to bring a six-bottle cross-section of these home for personal consumption. Down to my last two, I was faced with two premier cru Pinot Noir bottlings: a Pommard (which, by my estimation, likely has several years more life in bottle—for another, special day) and this, a Santenay (which by some accounts is in the latter third of its drinking window).

 

Appearance: deep, black-cored ruby—like The Dark Crystal

Nose: bright red cherry, cinnamon, licorice 

Palate: high-toned red cherry, lemon, blood orange, pomegranate, delicate cinnamon/clove, licorice

Mouthfeel: lean and acidically gripping—like sucking a fresh lemon

Finish: fine, chalky tannins; long-lingering citrus acidity and delicate, high-toned pomegranate spice

 

Tasty, but the acidity demands food. Lean and not readily approachable solely due to the bracing acid as all other elements are really quite pleasant. Still young yet—well within its drinking window (I’d say, another decade lies in this bottle) despite the gentle tannins given the assertive acid. The fruit may never come into balance with the acid here, however. 

I like this, but another several years may not be enough to make it accessible to the masses.

 

 

2015 Los Dos Rosado


Well, that went quickly.

 

After a week of menu planning, I knew I wanted a Spanish (or Argentine) rosé to go with my gazpacho and avocado grilled cheese sandwiches. Linda went to the local shop with a short list and the store employee suggested this. I was indifferent toward it after a few “meh” vintages. This turned out to be the best value choice in the store.

 

2015 Los Dos Rosado (85% Garnacha/15% Cabernet Sauvignon) Campo de Borja 13.5%

A: shimmery peach skin pink with slight blue cast

N: straight-up ripe strawberry juice

T: soft, creamy strawberry and raspberry with gorgeous tangerine and strawberry acidity 

F: bright, refreshing acidity and faint anise-tinged tannins 

 

This is the absolute best choice for our dinner. Easily the best Los Dos (red or rosé) I have ever had. Juicy, but thirt-quenching. Enough fruit to work against the acidity of gazpacho as well as more than enough crisp acidity to blast off of the creamy avocado grilled cheese on brioche. Just right, baby bear!


 

2012 Fattorie Melini Terrarosa Chianti Classico

It’s not exactly big Chianti season, but it’s what I was in the mood for, so there you have it.

Sangiovese and Merlot from vineyards in the Sienese region of Chianti Classio.

2012 Fattorie Melini Terrarossa Chianti Classico DOCG 13.5%

A: Medium black-cored ruby no signs of oxidation

N: rich, plummy/black cherry, slight vanilla, dried violets

T: full and soft, plum and cherry front- to mid-palate

F: fairly soft tannins, licorice, mint, subtle dried violets

 

It’s Chianti, all right, but nothing special. 

Super-easy-drinking but there is little here to excite to sustain interest. What makes the best mid-priced Chianti exciting is overt secondary characteristics. Those are here—suppressed and obscured by a new-world ripe, plummy fruit—but not present enough to keep me interested. Don’t get me wrong, this is plenty tasty. For $20 I want more depth and engaging character.

 


Isn’t she lovely?

 

Perennially one of my favorite rosé producers of recent years, Château Gaillard is a wonderful small biodynamic wine producer from Touraine focusing entirely on Sauvignon Blanc and Gamay Noir. This “gris” is actually made exclusively of Gamay Noir.

Appearance: copper-cored salmon

Aroma: fairly closed watermelon, fresh-cut grass, tarragon

Palate: watermelon rind, strawberry, delicate nondescript floral herbaceousness

Mouthfeel: creamy/silky with cut of acid throughout 

Finish: a bit of heat showing through a surprising touch of chalky tannins on the long, generously fruity finish

I’d normally prefer something a bit more crisp and refreshing on a hot summer day, but this is quite nice. It lacks the intensity of prior vintages but the complexity makes up for the softness.

 


Infinito? Sadly, finito.

 

My wife, Linda, made sure to stop off for two rosés on the way home after closing her shop this evening. We always crave rosé in the summertime and try to sate that craving every chance we get. With a dinner of locally farmed veggies in a slightly spicy Moroccan Ras el Hanout/coconut milk sauce, crisp but fruitful rosés fit the bill.

After a nearly two case binge on 2014 Zeni Bardolino Chiaretto last summer (last-year’s favorite), I thought that her purchase of this Santi Infinito, also a Bardolino Chiaretto, was a conscious decision, but it was simply a happy accident. This presents an opportunity to compare producers and vintages. 

Similar color and visually evident body-weight indicate, perhaps, a similar handling. Those attributes, sadly, are where the similarities end.

Wow! This is a different beast, entirely. The brightness and vibrancy of last-year’s Zeni is nowhere to be found here. Nor is the amazing tangy fruit length. Admittedly, last-year’s Zeni was an incredible outlier of the region’s production, so any comparison is unfair. It has been years since I have tasted the Santi rosé, so I have little basis beyond tasting prior vintages for understanding whether this is a function of vintage, yield, or winemaking choice—though, my suspicion is a combination of all with a heavy lean toward the latter. 

  • Appearance: pale, shimmery beet juice/peach skin pink
  • Aroma: subtle mineral-tinged strawberry 
  • Palate: big shot of up-front acidity that masks shallow peach and strawberry fruit which all drops off the palate almost instantaneously 
  • Mouthfeel: creamy richness that supresses the acidity and gives the impression that rich fruit is to follow…but it just isn’t there
  • Finish: non-existent 
Oh, well. Not a bad wine, but a wine wherein the most interesting thing is the front label’s curious use of an accent grave in (an also curious use of the quasi-French) “rosè”.

Lots of words on the label. One word in the bottle: “savor”.

 

As one who tastes tons of stuff it is somewhat rare that a product screams to me at first taste. This one has called me to action twice. Once to order a case into a shop I consult for regularly and again, several months later to buy for myself.

The sales representative for the local distributor that handles this product brought this by the shop for me to taste back in November and, despite my initial ambivalence (it is “only” Irish whiskey, after all), I immediately exclaimed, “This is one of the finest whiskies I have ever put to lip!”. Through the holidays (and months after) I hand-sold (read: proselytized) customers and friends to this stuff as a can’t-lose proposition. 

But time has a way of seeding doubt—founded or otherwise. I just was no longer sure that I read this right the first time. So, I finally broke down and bought a bottle for, um, further empirical study from the comfort of my recliner. 

Current analysis: this is one of the finest whiskies I have ever put to lip!

Lord Lieutenant Kinahan’s 10-Year Aged Single Malt Irish Whiskey is phenomenal. Sure, it lacks the hedonistic richness of top Bourbons, or the complexity of secondary characters of the best of Scotch, but this is not a whisky concerned with subterfuge. This is all about the purity of the malt expression in tandem with the simple, enriching expression of the Bourbon barrel oak. 

 

46% abv, 100% malted barley, 10 years in 100% used Bourbon barrels. 

Appearance: medium golden-honey yellow with greenish edges

Aroma: red cherry, orange peel, and red apple skins in baking spices

Taste: pretty much a reflection of the aromas but with a lighter fruit expression and pronounced sweetness; a pleasant dusty, feedbag maltiness; and a long honey, green oak, and cinnamon fade

Mouthfeel: a slick, creamy entry and a long, pleasantly hot finish even with a small, melted cube of ice 

 

Overall, I adore the purity of malt expression with the oak components rising through on the back-palate. This is an Irish whiskey that straddles the line between Bourbon and an unpeated Highland single malt. Suffice it to say that I really enjoy this.

 


Black Falcon (Falco subniger)

One resolute bird.

Earlier this week, the Atlanta Falcons made a curious and rare decision to listen and respond to its fan-base (press release). Upon the opening of its new stadium, the NFL franchise will charge far more fair and reasonable prices for its concessions.

Long irksome for sports fans, the cost of concessions has reached a point wherein it can cost more for a beer than a seat on a given night. Increasingly, only those named Walton, Hearst, and DuPont are able to enjoy a family outing to the ballpark complete with sustenance through the often four-hour events. To be fair, concessions are luxuries—not truly necessary to the enjoyment of the game—but they are, and should be, part of the experience (and can be the key to maintaining a positive experience/sanity for those with children). But, at what point is it reasonable for a team or venue to dictate the terms of bankruptcy for a family to enjoy the ostentatious luxury of some dogs and sodas?

Atlanta Falcons CEO, Rich McKay, no longer believes those terms are reasonable at all. Why? Because research consistently showed that concession prices, quality, and wait times ranked as the worst of all fan experiences. This is across all leagues, teams, and venues.  The Falcons, who just completed a new stadium, had the opportunity to right that wrong and lead the charge on new paradigm.

What does any of this have to do with the wine/beer/spirits industry? Well…in short, everything. Recognizing and reacting to broken practices is key to any business’s health, particularly when relating directly to customers. The lessons from the Falcon’s decision are powerful. What McKay and his team realized is that doing things the old way just because that is “how it has always been done” is not a sufficient excuse for poor customer relations. Sure, there’s lots of money to be made on jacked-up soft pretzel prices, but is it worth the cost of a positive overall fan experience?

Alcohol beverage retailer—are you buying a 10-case QD deal on National Brand × Red Blend and still selling it at full markup? That’s fine, but you must give your customers enough credit that they likely know what the competitive price should be. Trust me, your customers may be loyal as a matter of convenience but they shop around.

The Falcons identified this need to treat their customers as knowledgeable consumers and not simply as cash machines. They realized that there was a long-term cost associated with overcharging their customers in the concession lines and that is that they would likely eat and drink at tailgates before the game and hold off on the second beer or soft pretzel inside the stadium opting instead to save the money and get a proper meal after the game. In the short-term, under the old model, they may make better margin but they will have significantly lower volume.

The difference for you is that you do not have the captive audience that a sports franchise has. If a ticket-holder wants a drink or food during the game, they have to pay the whatever the concessionaire charges. If a customer walks into your store and doesn’t like the prices they see on the products they like to buy, they can walk out and go somewhere else. The Falcons still made the decision to cut their concession prices even though they have a captive audience because the trade-off of lower volume over time coupled with constantly disgruntled fans was not worth the extra margin on the short-term. You need to think the same way.

Respect your customers. Listen to them. Find ways to appease them—be willing to cut prices on what should be high-turn products, trial run customer requests at less than standard mark-up to be competitive with the market at-large, etc., and be fair and reasonable in finding alternatives to your customers when it simply doesn’t make good business sense to do exactly what they want. You are in this business for the long-haul anyway—the short-term margin losses will be made up over time with greater volume and happy customers.

Remember: there are always ways to make up the difference in margin. You can never make up the difference in lost customers.


ommgot3erSpring is coming.
Winter is a technicality. It hit the mid-6o’s here in Baltimore today and I figured I better get the last of the winter in now. Thus, I cracked open this dark saison from Ommegang. Coincidentally, this particular bottle was packaged on February 22, 2015—a year and six days ago. Ommegang first released these beers to coincide with seasons of the Game of Thrones TV series, but this one comes to me late. To be fair, it was colder this time last year and it is always a bit colder up in Cooperstown where this is brewed, so this would be a pretty good late-winter beer as a matter of style.Now, I know this beer pretty well.

Always a fan of Ommegang, I brought this in on draft for our growler program in the store I worked in when it was first released in the winter of late-2014/early-2015. I remember liking it a lot more then. Perhaps it was simply the newness of it back then. Perhaps it was colder (the beer this time, not the weather) as, today, I am pouring this five-ten degrees warmer than I should be per bottle instructions. Perhaps it was the wonder of draft presentation. Whatever the case, it is solid and inoffensive, if not particularly engaging.

Poured from a cork & cage finished 750mL bottle.
Lots of billowy tan head with a deep walnut color. The nose is decidedly high-toned—almost orange zest—with fresh rye bread and toned-down cinnamon/nutmeg aromas. These character are reflected on the palate along with licorice, pecan, and finishing with slightly astringent dark-roasted coffee. Acid is high (as expected from a saison) but tinged in a acidic coffee kind of way. Perhaps due to its temperature, it is showing a hard metallic edge, too. None of these perceived negatives undo the beer, though. It is just fine and there is nothing particularly off-putting. It is simply solid and that’s about the best I can say about it.

I have noticed my tastes changing toward lighter, crisper styles of late and I am drinking this by itself when it begs for food. But on a cold winter day with a plate of barbecued ribs or a hearty root vegetable stew, this would hit the spot. I just might be more inclined to share this one than others.

A Bold Return to the New


Hello, long-lost friends and new contacts!

The drinktuition blog took a hiatus as life and rapid-fire changes in plan got in the way. Today marks a rebirth of my blog now aligned with the exciting foundation of my consulting business of the same name.

Here’s a snapshot of what my business is really about:
dlogosm

The drinks industry can be a daunting web of regulations, purchasing decisions, inventory management, staff training, marketing, and whatever else is thrown at you. drinktuition aims to demystify, simplify, and fun-ify the business you thought you were getting into.

As a consultancy, drinktuition will provide services that make simply doing business more efficient, better-targeted, and just plain easier to on-and off-premise accounts across Maryland—even Montgomery County! A unique perspective and strong contacts and friendships across all angles of this industry make drinktuition‘s services far-reaching and unlike anything anyone else an offer.

One of the main premises of drinktuition is to get small-to-medium retailers to lose the insular, proprietary mindset borne of, at best, uncertainty and, at worst, outright fear that is ultimately serving to make them compete against themselves. Many came into their business with no prior knowledge of the industry or insufficient understanding of all the angles. Many of them are so wary of what everyone else is doing that they chose to compete on things—product and mind-share—that they simply don’t need to. There is so much wonderful, viable product available and so many different ways of approaching your business that, for example, everyone can have their own identity without worrying about underselling the next little shop down the street by pennies on national brands while the big players and chains eat them alive on that model. Your business is in your control and the only thing you can control. Don’t just own it—OWN IT!  drinktuition will help you find the best way to reach the customers you want while alleviating the compulsion to care about what your “competitors” are doing.

drinktuition.com will serve as a community for independent thinkers from all aspects of the industry—retail, restaurant, bar, distributor, supplier, and producer—to share ideas and experiences that will help make your business easier to manage, stronger, more profitable, and(most importantly) fun!

Eventually, this blog will be an integral part of my website which will also serve as a community hub for wine/beer/spirit licensees in Maryland.

But, not to worry—the primary thrust of the blog will be the same, acting as a soap-box for all my quibbles with industry at-large as well as my ongoing drink experiences. Only now, more people will be actively involved in the discussion.

Thanks for sticking with me!
Armin


20140121-194402.jpg

Origin: Era Valley, Chianti Superiore, Tuscany, Italy

Composition: 80% Sangiovese, 20% Canaiolo

Appearance: deep black-cored violet

Nose: closed dried lavender and rich licorice

Palate: black cherry reduction sauce, delicate baking spice, back-palate acidity followed by a long sweet anisette/lavender finish

Mouthfeel: pretty full-bodied for a Chianti, sleek front-end with velvety tannins

Matteo Cantoni visited my old wine shop a few years ago and gifted me with this signed bottle. No sense in not giving it the treatment it deserves: sharing with my wife on a snowy day off at home over a dinner of mixed left-overs and scrounged possibilities (pumpkin soup, grilled cheddar cheese sandwiches, chili, and thick-cut potato “chips”–all homemade, of course).

This is just lovely. The dark richness is a testament to the Cantoni family’s commitment to the Canaiolo grape and attention to detail in the vineyard and winery. Showing about as spot-on as it could right now. The balance of rich, dark fruit, back-palate acidity and velvety tannins shows what an incredible value this was at about $17 upon its release. You could probably get away with a few more years of cellaring with this, but it is drinking so well now, why wait?

Day 2: flintiness comes on strong. Nice to see some of that rusticity show itself, but the fruit is still super-ripe and lush. Better day on two, I’d say.

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