My thirst for wine knowledge is never completely quenched. And honestly I don’t attempt to quench it. I just allow my geekiness to bring me form one wine to the next with an open mind. And when you have an open mind you constantly think of stuff other than what you’re supposed to be thinking about at that moment which leads to more questions and more inquiries. This is the life of a wine blogger. We are the people that sit and think about wine and love it so much we can’t help but share it with the world. As wine bloggers we (at least I hope) are reading every other wine blog out there trying to find that common thread of interest and approach. My focus when searching out wine blogs to read- and I read about fifteen to twenty a day- is a lack of pretense. Wine is for everyone and its knowledge should be shared. We are here to give that person just getting into wine a one up before they enter the store. We are the ones giving that person advice on what to look for in a wine merchant. We are the vintage trackers, the taste testers. But we do all this with the intention of helping. Not telling. We are putting our passions out for display in the hopes that we can help a little bit more in this sometimes confusing and esoteric yet amazingly fun world.
Speaking of amazingly fun. I said that I read about fifteen to twenty blogs a day. Well after a good couple of hours of writing my posts and reading and communicating with fellow bloggers there is one place I can go to just sit back, relax, smile and watch a wine review. Enter Gary Vaynerchuk. This guy brings something to the table that has not been brought before. He takes the blog idea to the next level. Gary is the host of his own video blog at WineLibraryTV and man is it a great time. According to is “About WineLibraryTV” He had his first wine experience at the age of seventeen and it is clearly evident that it only fueled him form there. He does a post everyday and it’s not just some guy sitting at table sipping expensive wine and droning on about things that only he knows. No. This is a fun time. The minute you click the screen on he comes with usually three or four wines on the table in front of him, a Jets spit bucket, sometimes some toy action figures of some sort and a dry erasure board with something written on it form the Jets game score to a welcoming to first timers to the show. He bursts out with his salutation by stating his name in pronunciation form, “Hello everybody and welcome to Wine Library TV. I am your host Gary Vay-ner-chuck.” which catches you immediately and screams that this guy is excited about what he wants to get out there and that he loves what he does.
He then launches into his show, which is everything, wine…and sometimes Jets. He always likes to keep his shows surrounding a theme whether it is the best wines for thanksgiving or a line of granache from different parts of the world (one of my recent favorites). He gives an introduction to what he’s tasting and gets right to it, all the while having fun messing with his camera crew and throwing objects, usually corks at the camera. And then comes my favorite part the tasting notes. I love Gary’s brutal honesty. He rates the wines that he tastes on a point system remniscent of the “the Spectator “ but with his enthusiasm and his passion shining through the screen I would take his ratings more to heart. If it is a new world wine he lets us know so an old world lover won’t go out and waste his or her mullah on a fruit bomb and vice versa. And the aroma descriptions that he pulls out are truly his own and make complete sense. He says what he thinks but he also does it in a way that is non-threatening. He has a good sense of humor and I think that is what is important in the wine world today. We have sit back, relax and enjoy. We have to be able to laugh when experiencing the good juice and the bad juice knowing that it’s all part of discovering this natural phenomenon. And Gary Vaynerchuk helps us do that. His viewers who call them selves “Vaniacs” arehttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif twenty thousand strong and growing…make that twenty thousand and one. Count me in. The WineLibraryTV website is chock full of information on wine as well as a place to order wine online, a written blog and a huge forum that people can communicate about what they have tried form the show (or not from the show in which case Gary makes a good effort to try get the requests that he gets in emails and on the forum on the show). This wine geek makes it a daily priority to check out what the Vaynerchuk is into. Keep it up man. When I talked about searching for a common thread in the beginning of this post this blog is the example that came to mind. You’re doing great work for the wine world everyday. To get pumped up and really get into this new and refreshing approach to wine blogging when you go onto the site find episode #125 (or just click on this) and you will get a feel of what this guy is all about. I will end this post with a quote from Gary that he ends his show with everyday and that I think really hits home with the approach he is taking. Cheers!
“ You. With a little bit of me. We’re changing the wine world.”
- Gary Vaynerchuk
At work the other day a customer form Australia came in for a couple glasses of vino and I couldn’t help but start picking his brain about the wine from down under. We talked a lot about the Riesling grape and how it’s the wine he remembers his parents always drinking from his childhood. I mentioned some info I had come across that Riesling came to Australia via a large group of people fleeing prosecution in Germany and he said he wasn’t to sure about that but that it made sense because there is a large, concentrated German and Austrian population in Adelaide (Southern Australia). We talked about chardonnay and how it became popular in the vineyards of Australia a little over twenty-five years ago to which I mentioned that I also heard that there are some spots in the south western part of the continent that has cool ocean current climates which are great for Riesling. He concurred and gave me a couple of Riesling producers to look out for as well as an insider’s scoop on pinot noir from the Yarra Valley and how the cool climate is helping some producers to yield some nice juice from there.
We then turned to the subject of New Zealand and sauvignon Blanc. As far as he was concerned it is only thing good in wine that is happening in that country. He said that on his last visit there a friend of his gave him the skinny on New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Apparently when they are very young they show quite well with slick (good thing), ripe fruit and gooseberries. Then as they age a bit they start to fall apart and flatten out. But what was really interesting to me is that he said after the fifth or sixth year of aging (I didn’t even know this grape had such aging potential) it comes back to life. Well that one got me. A wine that wakes up when made then hibernates for a year or two only to wake up with a whole list of characteristics.
So the next day I stopped into this local wine shop on Second Avenue looking for a pinot noir form the Yarra Valley this guy had been telling me about. Unfortunately there was none there. But the guy running things had an enthusiasm about him that said wine geek. So we chatted about pinot as he showed me some of his favorites in the store from Oregon to Burgundy. After all was said and done I changed the subject to New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. He smiled and as we walked to the right section saying that he really liked the sauvignons coming out of that area of the world. For me that was a great indication that I should ask this cat which of the selection was his favorite. And so I did. With confidence he grabbed one and gave it to me. I looked it over briefly saw that it was only twelve bucks and just went for it. I didn’t need to look at the bottle intensely and figure out whether it was worth it or not. This guy was smiling with confidence and for the price it was fun just diving in.
When I got home I took the bottle out of the bag started to really look at it. After doing some research this is what I came up with. The wine is a 2006 Regional Collection sauvignon Blanc From the House of Nobilo in the wine region of Marlborough in the northeast of the south island of New Zealand. Marlborough is known to have been the birthplace of the modern wine culture of the country starting in the 1970’s. The House of Nobilo is a mass production subsidiary of the largest alcoholic beverage company in the US. But with that being said Nobilo has also been making wine for sixty years and is well respected throughout New Zealand. Pretty cool. A well priced wine from a producer that had mad props in its homeland. I couldn’t wait to try it.
BYOB. It just popped into my head and the next thing I know I was on an intensive search for a fairly close offering that paired well with my new ’06 sav, if you will. After about a half an hour or so through chowhond.com I found what might just be the ideal spot. It is a sushi place down in the Lower East Side called Cube 63. I had heard about the place and actually the people who told me about it said that it some of the best sushi in the city. Well whether it was the best or just damn good I though my wife and I would enjoy testing out this new bottle there.
When we arrived the place was almost full and it was only seven at night. That ‘s the LES for ya. It is really crammed into the island so the high concentration of foot traffic is intense at times. Cube 63 is on, go figure, 63 Clinton street between Stanton and Rivington. With the name it all just fits together. Not only does the number in the title correspond to the address but the word “cube” does as well. This place is small. It really is a bit cube-ish with less than twenty tables and has this really cool kind of green fluorescent lighting with a sushi bar in the back accompanied by what would normally be bar shelves that are empty save for a couple of glasses reminiscent of a former liquor license maybe? Unless they use the margarita glasses for some sort of presentation which would be awesome.
We got there just in time to grab the last two-top in the place. They popped our bottle for us and poured out a bit in each glass so we could do the rest. The wine glasses here by the way are pretty cool. Most of the time BYOB places have little “trattoria” glasses. I am not saying that they are bad or good. It’s just nice to sometimes see people go that extra inch and get larger glasses for us wine geeks to savor aromas, swirl uncontrollably, check out visual body structure, you know all that weird geeky stuff we get into that makes my wife just stare and smile and giggle.
The wine was at a good temperature. I had been carrying it around for a little bit so it had been out of the fridge for maybe a half hour or so but it was quite cold out so it didn’t warm up too much. It was at probably almost fifty degrees, which is not so bad for a white. I like white at this temperature because all the aromas are out to play. The initial nose was full of that cat pee we have all come to know and love in Sauvignon Blanc. I could just call it gooseberries but where is the fun in that. It was screaming its vintage all the way to the first sip with crazy citrus swimming underneath fresh peaches. The palate was quite comfortable and big with great acidity and juicy roundness. What was nice about it and what I was worried it wouldn’t have for the price was good balance. The wine wasn’t one to blow you away and run out to purchase a case but was one to run into a wine shop in a hurry and grab a good sav for twelve bucks.
We went a little nutty with the ordering. We had edema me and vegetable tempura for starters. These of course went seamlessly with the wine. The batter of the tempura and the saltiness of the soy sauce allowed us to really enjoy the thirst quenching properties of white wine. We actually got the edema me with out salt and it was a good idea because my wife noticed something refreshing about the wine when pairing the two. The lack of salt made the spiciness of the wine come out for a visit and mingle with the acidity and fruit. And on the palate the pairing was very balanced with nothing over powering each other. The mains were just downright great with the wine. We had the tuna sushi with a Cali roll, an avocado maki roll, a spicy tuna roll and one more that I actually cannot remember but, WOW. The quality of the fish here and the rice and the seaweed was just great. It was the best I had had yet in the city. I am fairly new to sushi places but my wife has been a sushi lover for years and she agreed that it was down right delicious. It was all so fresh with no hint of too much air exposure and brininess.
So if you’re in a pinch and need a BYOB bottle; especially if your headed for sushi or even curry this wine is a great choice. I am sure it is readily available because of the parent company that distributes it and the price is right. It washes down the rightly paired food beautifully with great acidity and fruit with a slick roundness that leaves a fresh, medium finish. I am on a mission now to find another place that can compete with Cube 63. But you know, even if I do find one that is as good or better and they are not BYOB then it will come down to what wines they have to offer. If that element is lacking then it will probably be tough to stay away from the cube. BYOB and sushi ah the possibilities! Cheers!
I popped into a wine shop the other day in sort of a hurry. I had multiple bags of ingredients in hand from an amazing new find called the Essex Street Market. This place is amazing. It is an indoor market from a bygone era (1930’s) when LaGuardia was mayor. There were so many vendor pushcarts on the streets of New York City that police and firefighters were having a hard time getting around. So the mayor created indoor markets so the vendors could permanently set up shop. This market as far as I know is the only one that has been brought back into existence. It has everything from butchers to fishmongers to local produce. There are a couple of serious cheese mongers in there as well as a kosher wine shop, a barber shop a tailor and a restaurant. This is where I will be going for my menus at home from now on. It is a bit of a walk but it is so worth it.
Ok, back to the point. I was in a bit of a hurry but as always with me as busy as I might be when I walk into a wine shop the world slows down a little and calm washes over me. A smile forms on my face and I begin to just stroll and stare and soak it all in. I had my mind set on a red but when I thought about it I realized it was Monday and my wife, around this time, was just ending one of the worst days of the week for public school teachers dealings with kids besides Fridays and she gravitates more towards the white wine. So white wine it was. Now, because of the time constraint I was in I knew that when I got home I would have to start cooking immediately to be done in time for when my wife got home. And when I am cooking I like to sip the wine that I will be having with dinner just to relax me and contemplate it while in the Zen-mode of food preparation. Therefore there was no time for buying white off the shelf and hoping that I could chill it before the food was ready. I needed it cold now.
Fortunately this particular wine shop has a pretty good size white wine cooler. Actually now that I think about it, it might be one of the largest I have seen. Also because of time I didn’t have the luxury of browsing the different regions on the shelves and going to the cooler to see if it was there and then back and forth again. So I just went up and down the rows of cold whites, which were separated generally by country and found myself in the region I have been in for a while now, France. I have only tried a couple of serious French whites and they were spectacular but I have been with people that really know their French whites and I am not even sure how much they cost. They were amazing but could have an astronomical price. I will look into that soon because one of them from Alsace was probably the sexiest white wine I have ever had and I want to write about it but if it costs an arm and a leg than there’s not really a place for it on this blog other than an honorable mention.
Anyway I set my sights on something I had never seen before. It was a white form the Languedoc called Picpoul de Pinet. And it was eleven dollars with tax. Well at this time my other worldly demeanor of leaving the world outside while in a wine shop was quickly being taken over by Father Time and it was time to go. So without knowing too much about this wine (this particular shop isn’t so good at being on top of their customers unless it’s time to be rung up) I paid my eleven and chugged on home to cook and sip and think and chill.
Before I talk about the wine I want to say that I did not choose the right meal for it. I went in to this whole thing thinking of hearty fall dinner with rustic red but I love my wife and the thought of her chillin’ with a refreshing glass of white just felt right. So I won’t be talking about the food. I will mention though that I will be making the same dish again and will do a rustic red and get really into it but for now let’s talk white. Languedoc has twelve or so appellations and I am not too familiar with them just yet but the appellation this wine comes from is the Coteaux de Languedoc. I did some research on this wine and what I found was pretty interesting. The producer of this 2005 white is Domaine Gaujal Saint Bon, a mother and daughter team who apparently run a pretty tight ship and are very focused on bringing their local varietal into greatness. The grape is called picpoul (apparently derived from two French words, one meaning “lip” and the other meaning “stinger”) and the area in which the Guajals live is actually a sub-appellation of Coteaux de Languedoc by the name of Picpoul de Pinet. They keep their yields low and rest the Picpoul on the lees for longer than most of the producers in the area and are aged in stainless steel. If this wine had any of the qualities of other French whites that I have had it was going to be a good day knowing I had another go to wine.
I popped the bottle and had at it. The color of this wine is a nice pale hay if that is such a term and when swirled it clung to the glass pretty well probably indicating the effect of the lengthy rest on the lees. The initial nose was what I have been loving about French white wine. It had a good dose of minerality and slight hint of fruit. But more than that it had balance. I mean it really had balance and that was indicated just on the nose. Nothing was overwhelming. Yes, I did say that there was a good dose of wet rock, minerality but it was so intertwined with the mild fruit it was almost seamless. The first sip confirmed this wines harmony. It was a great wine and the fact that this was only eleven bucks made me want to dance a jig (I didn’t of course because I was listening to some Stravinsky. Now, if I had had on some Jay-Z or Talib Kweli things would have been different). The mouth feel was very smooth and crisp with mild acidity that was present but muted in a good way. I think the Guajals were speaking to me through the wine. See, they were saying, that is why we rest the wine on the lees for a long time. They were trying to keep the acidity in check and it worked. I wonder what other Picpouls with a different approach might taste like. Maybe more steely? I‘ll have check it out. The minerality carried through from the nose to the palate and added to the unique roundness to this wine. And that roundness held as the wine came to room temperature. My wife was really into this nice little lip-stinger and saved the last drops of the glass letting the slight aromas of deep citrus to form, folding into the fruit and sitting underneath the minerals dancing around with out a care (well at least they danced a jig. Next time I will join in).
If I had to do it again I would have had this wine with some sort of fish dinner. I love halibut and skate and they would do wonders for this wine. Also lobster would be a good choice. I don’t think this is necessarily a cheese wine but then again the cheese I chose was a bit hearty and pungent. For all of you out there reading my rants please go and pick this wine up. Look it up on wineseacher.com or just head down to the East Village and pick it up at Discovery Wines. You just can’t beat a balanced French white wine for eleven bucks. Hurry though, I might be buying them up. Just kidding…maybe not. Cheers!