Category Archives: France

Hey, I’m More Than Just a Cute, Fuzzy Face

After 12 years I have picked up a lot of wine knowledge from my humans.  All day I listen to Howie, John and Nick discuss wines with customers and amongst themselves.  You could say I have picked up a thing or two and I want to start sharing that with all of you.

Recently, I have been joining Corinne in the office as she writes because she likes the company and I get lots of attention.  Watching her work,  I got to thinking about my take on this store and my contributions.  I’m more than night-time security with a cute face and my voice needs to be heard.   I made it clear to Corinne

Sitting with Corinne waiting for a pat

that it was time for me to start my own recommendations.  As the king in this place, she immediately obeyed.  I always get what I want. I hope it will work on you too.  Let me send out the Jedi mind trick now:  mmmmmm…..tuna.  You want to give me tuna.  Delicious tuna….NOW.

But I digress…

You can ask Howie or John about their personal favorites and they will tell you all about them. Want my opinion?  Look around the store and you will start to find little grey cat stickers on my favorites.  I figured that was the easiest way to make recommendations since I am sleeping all day before my nighttime security shift in the store.

My wines right now are the NV Perrier-Jouet Champagne, 2010 Frisk Prickly Riesling, 2004 Trimbach Pinot Gris (hey…that’s named after me!) Reserve Personelle, and 2009 G.D. Vajra Langhe Ross.  Come check them out and make sure you buy one before they are gone!

Cheers!

Gris 

A Rose by Any Other Name…

As the worst heat wave Boston has seen in a long time finally subsides, I can’t help but wonder-what were people drinking?  Other than water, did Bostonians still imbibe?  As the thermometer crept up, I craved rosés.  Every bottle that was pink screamed out…DRINK ME!  I’m refreshing!!!  As someone who has never turned her back on Bacchus, I listened, opened and enjoyed every sip.

Rosés are probably the most misunderstood wine in America.  Men and women alike seem to think pink automatically means sweet.  Thanks to the White Zinfandel craze of the 70s and 80s, we have been tainted.  Men, of course, think a wine that is pink is an assault on their masculinity…so not true fellas!  A dry, crisp pink rosé can be your best friend on a hot day.

Of course, not all rosés are made alike.  Like any wine, they reflect the terroir that they are grown on.   There are three different countries as of late that I have tasted the rosé and smiled with delight: France, Spain and the United States.

Embrace the “joie de vivre” and pick yourself up a bottled of sun-blushed rosés from Provence.  Made from the red grapes Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and occasionally a little Cabernet Sauvignon, Provencal rosés are pale in color, fun to drink and refreshing.  They are soft and delicate with crisp ripe fruit flavors and in particular the strawberry notes we have come to expect from rose.  I can highly recommend the mas de la dame we have here at Bauer.  At a great price, this wine is a true summer pleaser for all.

Aside from Provence, the Rhone valley produces arguable some of the best rosés in the world.  Mainly produced in the Tavel region, where rosé is exclusively made, these wines are serious, ambitious and vibrant in color.  Made from a Rhone red blend, they are full-bodied, bone dry with a bright acidity that makes them especially food friendly.  A wine that says they are from the sub-region Bandol are worth every penny.

Although not your typical rosé region, I do need to make special mention of my favorite rosé from the Loire Valley.  From the sub-region, Chinon, comes a delicious rosé made from Cabernet Franc.  It’s fuller bodied, fruit-forward and spectacular with grilled spicy shrimp kabobs.

Aside from France, you can find fuller wines from Spain that are especially food friendly.  Normally a blend of Garnacha, Monastrell and a smidge of Syrah that gives your palate something to cheer about with being ever-so slightly sweet, lower alcohol and bright acidity.  Meant to be drunk young, you will have aromas of strawberry with fresh cherry and currant flavors.  A perfect example is Senoiro de Sarria 2010 Rosado from Navarra.  And at $9.99 a bottle….you can’t pass up the opportunity to enjoy this gem.

Sometimes referred to as blush wine, please don’t call my next category the dreaded White Zinfandel.  Washington State is producing rosés that cannot be compared to the sticky, sweet pink wines the US produced in the 70s and 80s.  Nowadays, rosé from the West Coast leans towards  bright tropical fruits, citrus and Mexican orange blossom on the palate with great acidity and lively finish.  Winderlea Vineyards in the Willamette Valley in Oregon is producing wines from the oldest and most highly regarded sites in Oregon.  Made from Pinot Noir this is a fun summer wine with some serious pedigree.

So now that we are sliding quickly into August…Think Pink for the rest of the summer and Enjoy!

Summer of Riesling and Dynamite Shrimp Kabobs

It’s the summer of Riesling according to Matt Reiser, the sommelier and beverage director at Upstairs on the Square, and I couldn’t be happier about it!  In celebration of this spectacular idea, we had a tasting on Thursday of international Rieslings with City Table in the Lenox Hotel.  It was the inaugural Chef’s Series event in Bauer and we were ready to eat great food and drink our way through the wines.  For those of you who haven’t heard of the Chef’s Series yet, Bauer is inviting Back Bay chefs into our store for special tasting events.  The chef brings in their specialty and we pair our wines for a tasting event that won’t soon be forgotten.

Sous Chef Sean MacAlpine prepared his Dynamite Shrimp Kabobs with pineapple BBQ sauce and salsa verde.    Just picture it… Jumbo shrimp on cane skewers brushed with Sean’s homemade BBQ sauce and grilled.  On the side, corn bread with hints of chili with a pineapple tomatillo salsa verde.  Are you drooling yet?  Sean’s dish was utterly delicious. The slight spiciness of the shrimp kabobs was offset by the the Rieslings perfectly.  Definitely a match made in heaven.

For our end we offered our faithful followers who trudged through the rain to attend, four Rieslings from around the world:  2010 Frisk Naturally Prickly Riesling from Victoria, Australia, 2010 Weingut Karl Erbes Riesling out of Mosel, Germany, 2008 Ravines Dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes in New York and lastly a 2009 Hugel Riesling from Alsace, France.

A great big thank you goes out to City Table’s General Manager Robert George and Sous Chef Sean MacAlpine for a wonderful event! They were both great to work with and they certainly charmed all who walked through the door.  We hope to be able to work with them in the near future again!

Check out some of our attendees!  Thank you to everyone who came out on a Thursday for helping us make this a successful and fun night.

Demystifying Bordeaux

Let’s play a word association game. I say the word Bordeaux and what do you immediately say back to me.  My friends fired back with “expensive” and “wine snob.” It got me thinking about the world of wine and how certain areas are perceived. Bordeaux has been given the distinction of having some of the best terroir in the world and therefore produce the best wines at a very expensive price. This myth, however, is only partially true. Bordeaux still has the distinction of having the best terroir and the best wines, but they don’t have to be out of the average person’s league in price.
Although the elites are still around and still expensive, many have second label wines that are made with newer vines on the same terroir as their premier crus. These second label wines, unlike their expensive, older sisters, don’t have to be cellared for 10-30 years. They are meant to be enjoyed now. Of course, they are less polished, less structured and less complex but these second labels are no less drinkable.
So how do we know one of these second labels when we see them? Most often, the chateau’s name will not be on the label but the name will probably be close enough to reveal the winery. For example, I would love to buy a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild from the Pauillac region of Bordeaux. But seriously, $750-$1,250 for a single bottle of wine is a little out of my price range. Instead I brought home with me Baron de Rothschild Reserve Speciale Bordeaux. With its delicate tannins, this Bordeaux is easy drinking and delicious at the affordable price of $12.99 a bottle. Ripe red fruit, especially cherry, with just a hint of vanilla from the oak made me feel like I was drinking an expensive bottle nonetheless. This 2009 Bordeaux has 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is soft, well-rounded with just enough acidity to go well with food. Roasted lamb would be my first choice but I know there are many out there that say no to lamb. So as a back-up choice I would suggest entre cote bordelaise, or in English, a steak that is topped with carmelized shallots.

Other second label wines to look out for are Bahans Haut-Brion from Chateau Haut-Brion, Les Forts de Latour from Chateau Latour, and Pavillon Rouge du Chateau Margaux from Chateau Margaux.  When I see these wines on the shelf I just grab them.  You get the name of a big Bordeaux without the price tag that goes with it.  These wines certainly take the expense and snobbery out of Bordeaux.

A great meal and a very happy birthday

Courtesy of unknown photographer on boston.com

There are moments in life where food, wine and circumstances blend so perfectly you end up with tornado warnings and an impressive storm.  Last night I took my fiancée to dinner at Aquitaine in the South End for his big birthday, had an amazing dinner and ended up with a spectacular light show outside the window.

Aquitaine has always been a solid restaurant for dinner, but last night I was able to see just how special they are.  I had made my reservation using Open Table and simply asked for nice spot because I was celebrating a birthday.  We arrived and were received warmly by the host.  For me, having been in the restaurant business for 15 years, that was a big deal.  I have been in places where the host is unpleasant and all I want to do is turn around and leave.  Thankfully, Acquitaine recognizes that a welcoming host is the best first impression a restaurant can make.  She sat us down in the back by the big window and put a birthday card down next to Matt’s menu. What a nice personal touch!

Our server, Chris, was phenomenal.  He wished Matt a happy birthday right off the bat, introduced himself and gave us a few minutes to decide on wine.  He knew his menu, knew his wine and exuded a quiet charm and confidence.

I, being obsessed with big Bordeauxs recently, chose the 2004 Chateau Compassant.  From rising Bordeaux Star Jean-Luc Thunevin, the Chateau Compassant is a right bank blend of 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Jean-Luc first came to fame with his “garage” Chateau Valandraud project, focusing on micro cuvees, and work on their vineyard to lower the yields and produce the ripest fruits possible. While Jean-Luc might be the new bad boy of Bordeaux, this right bank offering from just east of St. Emilion is very traditional with some earthy funk, luscious fruit, and firm tannins.   This Bordeaux needed some air and by the time our dinners arrived it was opening up beautifully.  An hour of decanting would have made this wine perfect from the start, but we didn’t have that kind of time.   I let my glass breathe during our appetizer salads and when my steak frittes arrived all I could say was-delicious!

As Matt and I slid into the dessert course, I asked Chris for a recommendation for the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse.  The menu suggested the Graham’s Six Grape Ruby Reserve, which I have had and wanted something new.  I asked about a cognac and he was quick to point out that the cognac would overpower the delicate flavors of my dessert.  Chris said “Banyuls…that’s what you want.”  Perfect.  I am always happy when a server has a better suggestion.  Matt quickly ordered his Crème Brulee and the Muscat de Baumes de Venise to go with it.

What can I say?  Our meal was heavenly, from top to bottom.  The light show from the sky started during dessert and was the perfect ending.  An awe-inspiring meal and an awe-inspiring act of nature.  Happy Birthday Matt!

The search for that elusive, perfect Chardonnay.

I know that there are many out there who will think that I am crazy when I say this…but I am not a big fan of Chardonnay. In my defense, most of my experience with this varietal is the overly oaked, rich Chardonnay that California made so popular.   Too heavy and too buttery for my tastes but I know plenty of people who will drink nothing else.  Believe me,  I have tried different regions, different countries but to no avail.  This regal grape  that is so beloved confounds me.   The un-oaked Chards from France tickled my taste buds but I have rarely had one that made me stand up and WOW!   Australian Chardonnay has good structure with peach and nectarine nuances,  but still nothing that stood out.  South African, Italy-I’ve tried them all in an effort to find a white  grape that I love as much as Sauvignon Blanc.  I know that certain foods would pair better with Chardonnay and therefore my quest continues.

So it makes me beg the question, is there a good in-between for someone like me?

In my research, I have found a real world solution to my Chardonnay dilemma and a dreamer’s solution. One I have tasted and the other…well, few can get their hands on it.
In reality, there are a ton of great Chardonnays on the market but I found one that a finicky palate like mine can enjoy. Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill Chardonnay has sophistication with a hint of butter cream and vanilla from oak but yet is crisply acidic. This wine is well balanced with tropical fruit, pear and mineral elegance. The best part is that you get all the flavor of a 90-point rated wine on Wine Enthusiast for only $20 a bottle.

Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill Chardonnay’s easy availability is another reason this wine is so great. But there is something about a wine that no one can get.  A wine that is so exclusive that even when accepted to their mailing list, you still may have to wait 3 or more years before being invited to buy a bottle. No, these aren’t $200 bottles of wine, but a mere $65-70 a bottle. Aubert Wines in California is not about mass production. They average around 4000 cases a year and the Aubert label is not available in wine shops and very rarely in restaurants (one in California and one in NYC that I found). Although after some research I did manage to find an online wine store that sold their Chardonnay but at an inflated price of $150 and must have been obtained through questionable means.  Although Aubert Wines produces four different Chardonnays: Ritchie, Lauren, Rueling and Quarry, the Ritchie is the one that intrigues me to no end.  Tasting notes from both the winemaker and those lucky enough to have had it say that it is full-bodied but not excessive.  Ritchie’s complex flavors range from lush fruit to a steel minerality.  That sounds like it could be just what I have been looking for.

After all my research, I put myself on the mailing list and can only hope that in 3 years time I will be invited to buy a bottle or two.  Until then, I will gladly drink my Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay with a smile.

Dinner in Rhone

Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. I love writing about beer, wine and spirits for a local wine shop but let’s face it, at the end of the day all I want is a glass of wine and a good meal. In fact, after staring at the racks all day, I crave it. So this weekend I brought home a 2008 Eric Texier Cotes du Rhones Brezeme and got right into the kitchen to craft a perfect meal to eat with this beautiful wine.

Syrah at its best is not a bruising alcoholic wine and this particular bottle from Eric Texier has a bouquet of spicy fruit with just a bit of earthiness and soft tannins. After letting it breathe for an hour, the ripe fruit came out and had a lovely weight and purity.

A wine like this needs a great meal to being out the flavors and a great meal needs a wine like this to enhance it. I took a look around the grocery store and said “Aha! Ribeyes.” I made my purchase and brought them home to prepare. It may seem like a lot of prep but in reality this simple meal takes very little time to prepare.

Marinade:
½ cup of barbeque sauce. I heartily recommend Dinosaur BBQ sauce if you can find it.
3 Tbsp of olive oil
3 Tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp of steak sauce
1 Tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp of soy sauce
2 tsp of steak seasoning
1 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 garlic clove, minced

This marinade is enough for four 8 oz pieces of ribeye steaks. Combine all these ingredients in a large zip-lock bag and add the steaks. Move the steaks around in the bag so the marinade coats them. Refrigerate for 4 hours (or overnight) to let the flavor really soak in. Once the four hours is up drain and discard the marinade and grill the steaks according to desired temperature.

With the steaks I served garlic-roasted potatoes and a mix of roasted parsnips, carrots and brussel sprouts that only had olive oil, a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Every bite of this dinner was well worth the wait because the taste of Eric Texier Cotes du Rhones Brezeme and the ribeyes married together on my tastebuds in a way that can only be described as pure ecstasy.