Tag Archives: boston wine stores

Crisp, Bubbly American Summer

Boston may be a port city but in the everyday hustle and bustle…when do we get to enjoy the water?  Do we Bostonians ever get out on the water?  Most of us can answer that with a disappointed no.

When the days get longer and the temperature starts to to rose I begin to daydream of blue waters and crisp white sails.  I may not be able to hop on a sailboat and dead out to sea, but I certainly can continue the fantasy when I open up a bottle of Domaine Chandon Brut Classic’s Limited Edition of American Summer.

The look of the bottle IS the picture of summer: A trio of red, white and blue give the feel of looking at the mainsail of a sloop in Boston Harbor.  This refreshing sparkler that is crisp, lively and made in the Methode Traditionelle (Classic Champagne Method) that allows a second fermentation in the bottle.  In doing so, the wine gives aromas of green apple, cinnamon, lime and vanilla that lead to flavors of tropical fruit, pears and a hint on toast.

Chandon is comprised of the three classic Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.  Grown in some of California’s finest appellations: Yountville, Carneros and Mount Veeder, Chandon’s sparkling wines are Pinot Noir heavy due to the structure and body the grape gives to the wine.  Chardonnay adds delicacy with the tropical fruit and pear notes and the Pinot Meunier offers nutty and earthy flavors.

Pinot Noir

Chardonnay

Pinot Meunier

Most people save their bubbly for special occasions, but with Domaine Chandon’s competitive price…there is no need.  Drink this one whenever the mood strikes!  Ceasar Salad, Fried Calamari, oyster, or sushi are the perfect compliments to Chandon’s Brut Classic.  But really any salty, creamy or nutty foods will go great with this summer quaffer.

Bauer Celebrates Local Distilleries!

Featuring Beloved Local Distilleries

I am sure you all know by now that Bauer LOVES local products.  Ever since distilleries began popping up in recent years, the Bauer team has encouraged, critiqued and sold local spirits.  Better yet, the people responsible for creating small batch, hand-crafted spirits in the Boston area are getting some great recognition for all of their hard work these days in competitions and write ups in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other publications.
To celebrate local success, Bauer has decided to highlight a couple of the summertime favorites in our new window display.   You will find Bully Boy, Privateer Rum and Ryan & Wood gracing the window and framing a sleeping Sofia these days.

Bully Boy, owned and operated by Will & Dave Willis, hand produces small batch premium spirits and is made right in the city of Boston.  Their White Rum is made from black strap molasses and is wonderfully light bodied with vanilla notes.  It is a white rum with depth and complexity that is not seen in the mass-produced rums of the world.  Along with the rum, we have Bully Boy’s White Whiskey.  A spirit that was hugely popular during Prohibition, Bully Boy has brought the tradition back with a certified organic, unaged whiskey that is clean, bold with smooth notes of coconut, vanilla, banana and salt water taffy.  A peppery spice finishes long.

Andrew Cabot and Nelse Clark of Privateer Rum have also continued Boston’s legacy of producing rum.  The original Andrew Cabot, a merchant and privateer who lived 1750 to 1791, rolled barrels of molasses off sailing ships down the pier to his Beverly rum distillery.  Six generations later his descendant, also Andrew Cabot, is distilling in Ispwich, MA.  Made with pure cane sugar rather than molasses, Cabot and Clark are making a Silver Reserve rum that is lightly floral, with notes of sweet basil, anise and just a hint of butterscotch.  This is a rum that needs nothing added to it to enjoy.  Privateer’s Amber Rum is what mass-produced spiced rums dream of being!  Instead of syrupy sweet, their Amber rum has flavors of orange citrus, sandalwood, leather, cinnamon and a silky finish.

Gloucester may have a long history of fisherman,  but Ryan & Wood distilleries is showing that Gloucester can produce world-class spirits as well.  Family-owned and operated, Ryan & Wood is the first North Shore distillery in existence since Prohibition.  Their Beauport Vodka is grain based and distilled with local, filtered water to keep the local character intact.  It certainly has made a difference.  The Beauport is clean, fresh and has an interesting grassy aroma.  A standout in a shelf of vodkas with no character.  Their Knockabout Gin is one of the most flavorful gins we have come across in a long time.  Juniper berries, corriander seed, angelica root, orris root, orange peel, licorice root, cinnamon, nutmeg, cassia and lemon peel all go into making this gin taste like you are drinking summer.  It is complex with layers and layers of flavor that really pop in a well-made Gin and Tonic (we suggest Fever Tree Tonic).  Lastly, Ryan & Wood’s Rye Whiskey is in the new window.  A smooth whiskey with cinnamon, clove and a little sweet corn flavors followed by hints of blueberry, pear and toast.  It’s lingering finish is like a honey drop with a rye snap.   It was featured in the Wall Street Journal back in December 2011…not bad considering it had only been available for about 8 months.

So there they are….our wonderful local distilleries in the window.  Sofia loves the new set up and can be found most of the day snoozing in between Privateer and Bully Boy!

Move Over Bland Ciders. There’s a New Kid in Town-Bantam Cider Wunderkind.

Two years ago two enterprising women in Boston had an idea. They wanted to pursue a dream that blended a love of the culinary arts and local agriculture with a business opportunity. Dana Masterpolo and Michelle da Silva noticed that there were many fine wines and craft beers out there but very few fine ciders, especially locally made. Mass produced, unmemorable ciders that were on the sweet side gave inspiration to Dana and Michelle to “create a nicely crafted product, packaged in a more sophisticated way.” Two years later, Bantam Modern American Cider Wunderkind hit Bauer’s shelves and has become a favorite of the staff. Of course, at Bauer, we love local companies! We love being part of the homegrown movement that has been sweeping the Boston area, especially when we are introduced to a product like Bantam Cider.

But a lot had to happen in those two years between inspiration and realization. Good thing it’s in the blood. Michelle grew up making wine with her grandparents, so she knew the perseverance that was needed to make this endeavor a successful reality. To prepare themselves, Dana and Michelle took an intensive course at Cornell University (taught by a top UK cider maker) and dove into the technical aspects of production, such as bio-chemistry.
These two ladies are not afraid to experiment either. It’s through trial and error and endless experimentation with local apples that Wunderkind came to be. Thankfully, New England is one of the largest growing regions in the US for apples, so Dana and Michelle have access to the freshest products and inarguably, some of the country’s best fruit.

Continually inspired by other cider makers, orchard owners and apple enthusiasts, Dana and Michelle have been encouraged by the brewing business. Let’s face it…there are a lot of men in the brewing business so it is refreshing to see a couple of enterprising women making their way. Having the support of great people like Andris Veidis at Blue Hills Brewery, Bill Russell and Harry Smith at Just Beer/Buzzards Bay can go a long way. Not to mention what great write ups in publications like Bevnet, Brewhound and DrinkCraftBeer can do for your sales.

Bantam’s flagship cider, Wunderkind, is named for one of America’s greatest adventurers, Amelia Earhart. Dana and Michelle channel Earhart’s courage and sense of adventure and never allow themselves to settle for something less than extraordinary. This is why we are enjoying Bantam’s Wunderkind today. The cider is crisp and clean and on the first sip you get a nice aroma and flavor of honey. Not overpowering but just a hint of honey that is followed by crisp apple flavor. This is one you can enjoy on a hot summer day (and we know we have a lot of those coming in the next few months).

Drink Bantam by itself or because of its versatility, you can enjoy Wunderkind with an array of different foods at any point of the day. Think brunch with eggs, pancakes or crepes. Have it with your favorite cheese platter, Dana suggests a rich, creamy one such as Brie. It also goes great with salads, fish, oysters, pork and all spicy foods. Dana and Michelle love Indian or Thai with their Wunderkind!

You can find Bantam Cider Wunderkind on the shelves now at Bauer in 22 oz bottles! Pick up a few for your Memorial Day BBQ today!

Bantam Cider will also be at Bauer On Friday, June 18th from 6-8 pm handing out samples of Wunderkind.

Happy Valentine’s Day from Bauer and Cow & Crumb

This past Saturday Bauer was lucky enough to host Hilary Koloski from Cow & Crumb again for a tasting of her Valentine’s Day themed cookies and some of Bauer’s best dessert wines!

The savory snacks offered up to Bauer’s faithful were delicious.  Hilary’s three Valentine’s themed cookies: Sexual Chocolate (dark chocolate and dried cherries), My Honey is Nuts (honey & cream glaze, chock full of home made honey roasted peanuts baked into a honey cookie dough) , and Roses for your Date (Oats are ground with flour to give this date-filled cookie a delicious nutty undertone and chewy texture, rolled in sugar sifted with edible rose petals) were moist and mouthwatering good.  Hilary also brought with her a Cow & Crumb staple, C&C L’Orange (Cranberry, coconut, orange zest and white chocolate) which is a crowd favorite.

Hilary's Spread of yummies

For Bauer’s half of this decadent tasting, we supplied the dessert wines to pair with Hilary’s cookies.  We started you off with the Hugel Cuvee Les Amour Pinot Blanc that picked up the orange zest and white chocolate in the C&C L’Orange. Then we offered our La Spinetta Moscato D’Asti that seemed like it was made just for the My Honey is Nuts.  The honey and floral characteristics of the Moscato picked up the honey and roasted nuts in the cookie so perfectly.  With Hilary’s Roses for my Date, we paired up the Marenco Brachetto.  The nose of fresh strawberries and rose petals picked up the rose in the cookie.  Who knew that roses in a cookie could be so delicious?!?   Last, but not least, Hilary’s Sexual Chocolate was offered with a taste of the Domaine La Fage Ambre.  The rich, port like nose and flavors of La Fage’s 100% Grenache dessert wine was perfect with the rich dark chocolate.  So much so, that tasters and Bauer staff alike kept going back for more!

The wines.

Cow & Crumb is an online store (for now) that ships all over the country and offers an array of different choices.  Check them out at www.cowandcrumb.com for a full list of Hilary’s treats!  Great to give as gifts to both your loved ones and as a gift to yourself! If you haven’t had the chance to try the Gran-ooh-la-la than you need to do yourself a favor and order some.  Bar none, it is THE best granola I have ever tasted.  Howie and I have obsessed about it since we tried it back in December!

Gran-ooh-la-la!

Preemptive Minimalism with Donelan Family Wines

Preemptive minimalism:  to understand the process of wine making so deeply, you remove yourself from it.

-Tyler Thomas ~Winemaker Donelan Family Wines

Despite the blustering winds, I made my way down to the Boston Harbor Hotel on Wednesday, January 18 for an evening of great wines and incredible food.  For this being my first year going to the Boston Wine Festival,  I am one lucky gal that I have been able to go to two events.   Escaping the elements,  I walked into the hotel bar and there they were-Sue, Becky and Kathleen-all with a glass of wine in front of them.  Jealous of their head start, I sat down, ordered a glass for myself and joined in the conversation.

Kathleen, Sue and Becky

After a few minutes of lively chatter, it was time to head upstairs.  Greeted at the entrance of the room, a gentleman offered up a glass of Donelan Family Wine’s  2009 Venus Blanc-a light, bright blend of 90% Roussanne and 10% Viognier.   Although the French rarely blend their Viognier because it overpowers other varietals, the cool climate and slow ripening of the Roussanne benefits from the richer Viognier grape when grown in California.  This delicate wine danced on my palate with a complexity that is rarely seen in such such a soft, floral (freesia and lilies)  wine.  Venus Blanc was the perfect aperitif for the dinner we were about to be served.

Specializing in quality, Donelan Family Wines produces small batches from each vineyard in Sonoma County.  So if you haven’t had the pleasure of tasting any of their wines, you are not alone because the most any of their vineyards produce is under 700 cases.  Although this boutique winery has had some unbridled praise, they aren’t about to expand just yet.  Quality first and foremost, Winemaker Tyler Thomas and Owner Joe Donelan have something on their hands that is making seasoned wine drinkers sit up and pay attention.  100 points Parker rated 2007 Richard’s Vineyards Syrah certainly made the wine critics take notice.

Joe Donelan and the ladies of Table 4

Joe got up to speak and we learned that not only is he talented in the wine field but utterly charming as well.  Joe spent 25 years in the paper business (yes..think Dunder Mifflin) but found his life’s passion in wine.  His love of Rhone and Burgundy varietals began with Pax Wine Cellars and the journey has taken him to his own boutique winery with a portfolio of outstanding wines that I can’t wait to have again.

After joking that he was proud that his winemaker shaved and got a haircut, Joe brought Tyler up to the podium where Tyler described each of the wines as we were served the courses.  There was a sense of pride that showed in this young talented winemaker as he ushered what is essentially a chemical process into a total wine experience for all of us.  And after tasting the wines, he should be proud of what he has accomplished.

Joe Donelan

So let’s get down to dinner.  Chef Daniel Bruce of Meritage once again hit a home run.  If you haven’t been to one of his wine dinners you are truly missing out on a gastronomical experience.  Chef tastes each wine that will be showcased and plans a menu that will highlight each wine at it’s best.  He doesn’t just say….”White wine.  We must have fish.”  He tastes the wines, thinks it through and crafts a dinner that puts your tastes buds in a state of ecstasy.

Chef describing his choices in courses

For the first course, we had pan seared Diver Scallops with celery root mash and Chardonnay Orange Butter.  Paired with Donelan’s 2009 “Nancie” Chardonnay, a Burgundian-style Chardonnay that was grippy and rich but still acidic.  The grapes struggled to ripen on the vine so they retained their acidity and the result was a Chardonnay that has melon, citrus and a solid core of minerality.  Bright fresh citrus is followed by hints of chamomile on the nose.  The Nancie is elegant, fresh and will be wonderful with any dish of lighter fare.

Diver Scallops

For the next course we were treated to a barrel sample of the  “Two Brothers” Pinot Noir and the 2009 Cuvee Moriah.  On our plates was a shredded duck, fennel and leek filled cannelloni that had a fresh herb sauce.  While Becky and I loved the smooth and silky young Pinot Noir, Kathleen and Sue leaned towards the Cuvee Moriah (75% Grenache 25% Syrah) because it was robust and similar to a great Chateauneuf du Pape.  Both wines pick up the richness of the duck and the spices of the fennel and leeks.  Silky or spicy this course was just plain delicious.

Shredded Duck Cannelloni

Next on deck we had 2008 Cuvee Christine Syrah  and the 2009 Walker Vine Hill Syrah  with a Syrah and Parmesan cheese risotto that was topped with wild mushrooms (handpicked by Chef) and shaved Bresaola.  Both wines were terrific with the Risotto.  The 2008 Cuvee Christine is 100% Syrah from four different vineyards and could be called a true expression of the varietal: spicy, chewy and meaty.  The Christine also had savory elements such as cherry licorice, dark berries, anise and clove that made it rich with layers of flavor.  Next to the Cuvee Christine, we were treated to the Walk Vine Hill Syrah.  An intense wine that explodes with blueberry immediately and follows with cherry and herbs.  There was a lot of depth to the Walk Vine Hill that gave tension to the palate and enhanced the risotto.

Syrah and Parmesan Cheese Risotto

By this point, the other ladies at the table and I had “relaxed” enough to have some lively wine conversations.  As we discussed the Donelan’s wines, the char roasted Colorado lamb sirloin was placed in front of us and the 2007 “Richard’s Vineyard” Syrah was poured.  Awarded 100 points by Robert Parker, I knew it was going to be incredible.  The lamb melted in your mouth and the Richard’s Vineyard had lavender characteristics that highlighted blueberries, blackberries and a hint of chocolate.  Full-bodied, rich and wonderful. Tasting this wine was an eye-opening experience.

Lamb Sirloin with Richards's Vineyard Syrah

Although no wines were served with dessert (probably a good thing), Chef’s Espresso Pot au Creme with toasted Almond Biscotti was decadent.  Of course, he waited until we finished it off before telling us that the tiny little pot of dessert had about 800 calories to it….and that wasn’t counting the almond biscotti.  Thanks Chef.

Dessert

If a night like mine sounds like a good idea to you, Chef Bruce’s Wine Festival will be continuing on until the end of March and there are plenty of great dinners left.  Do yourself a favor and buy some tickets for one.  You won’t regret it.  www.bostonwinefestival.net is the easiest place to search what’s coming up and the place to buy your tickets.

Wine, Hangovers & Work…Thanks Boston Wine Festival!

With head in hand, I take my sip of coffee and swallow down the enormous portion of Advil I need to start my recovery.  It seemed like such a great idea yesterday and today I can only say…ouch. But we had a great night at the Boston Harbor Hotel for the Opening Reception of the 23rd annual Boston Wine Festival.  So the pain is worth it.

About 5:45 last night, Howie, John and I started shaking off the dust of an otherwise normal workday.  We put on our nice duds and set off for the Boston Harbor Hotel in great anticipation of delicious wines and Chef Bruce’s ridiculously good food.

For once, the traffic gods were on our side and we got to the BHH early.  In our world, that means a quick stop at the bar before heading to the reception.  Howie, John and I cozied up to the bar and ordered some spirits to “cleanse our palates.”  Yeah.  Right.  Like we really needed an excuse for a pre-game cocktail.  Naturally, we weren’t the first ones there.  Our friend Donna was one Manhattan in already and she was feeling festive!

After our pre-reception cocktails, we approached the Wharf Room right on the water and I knew we were in for a special treat.  In fact, I was so in awe of the beautiful setting that I totally forgot to take a picture.  So here is a stock picture I pulled off the internet to give you an idea of what it looked like inside.As we walked in we were greeted by both Chef Daniel Bruce and a lovely young women holding a tray of Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Brut.  Chef enthusiastically welcomed his friends from Bauer Wines and told us to get inside to taste his delicious food.

Chef Daniel Bruce & Howie

Stepping inside, we were wowed by the surroundings but it didn’t take us long to get on task.  Heading right over to Tom Vincent’s table we indulged in the 2008 Mica Cabernet from Napa Valley.  Silky with rich black fruits, Mica lingered perfectly.  We also tried Sean Thackery’s Pleiades Old Vines.  A blend of several varietals, it was earthy with rich, mouth filling flavors of bold cherries, raspberry liqueur and a hint of oaky vanilla.

Next we took a quick stop to see our good friend Jacob Jata to see what his table was offering.  There we were poured Ramey Chardonnay and Donelan Family Winery’s Venus, a delicate offering of 90% Rousanne and 10% Viognier.  If the Venus is any indication of the rest of the Donelan Family’s portfolio, I am guaranteed to have a great dinner with them on January 18 at the BHH (tickets still available!).

Jacob talking wine.

From there on out, it was a blur of good food, great wine and fun conversation.  Yes, John and I took a time out to enjoy some of Chef ‘s food.  We would have never made it if we hadn’t.  Not to mention, who would want to miss out of Chef’s creations?  That’s just crazy (Yes Howie…I am talking to you).

Seared Tuna, Calamari, Lobster, Hake Cake and Pork Tenderloin.

The highlights for myself were the Mica Cabernet and both of the Trimbach Wines: 2004 Reserve Personelle Pinot Gris and the 2005 Frederic Emile Riesling.  Howie loved the Elio Grasso 2006 Barolo, the Forman Vineyard’s Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Sean Thackery’s Pleiades Old Vine.  John agreed with our choices but added in the La Jota 2007 Cabernet Franc and the 2009 Justin Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.  We may have had our different favorites, but we all agreed that there were some stellar wines being poured for us.  I can’t lie…working in the wine business does help one get a bigger pour than the average person.  Perhaps that is why I felt so awful this morning.  Yup.  That’s exactly why John and I are walking a little slower, head hanging, and intolerant of any noise today.

More pictures of our night for you but first, I must warn you.  My camera’s battery died and I was forced to take pictures with my iPhone.  So, by no means, are these high quality pictures:

John & Chris

John taking a time-out from tasting

John posing with his wine

Donna, Howie and John

Reflections on a Great Year of Drinking…

As 2011 comes to a close in just a few short hours, I can’t help but sit back, sip some bubbly and reflect on what an incredible year it has been.  From the ups and downs of a rocky economy, seeing freedom become a reality through the Arab Spring, watching an already toxic political environment grow worse in the US, witnessing natural disasters around the world to a royal wedding and the end of the Iraq war, we have seen our fair share awe inspiring and anger inciting events.  But we made it through and that is cause for celebration.

For Bauer we have had some wonderful events that included top winemakers and incredible chefs coming into our store to pour wine and cook for us.  Being part of events like the Taste of the Back Bay and the Newbury Street Gala were hardly work and more like fun!

Some highlights that stick out in my mind:

Randall Grahm joining us for a tasting and signing of his book “Been Doon So Long”

Howie and Randall

Cathy and Julia from Red, White Boston with Howie

A visit from award winning wine maker Nik Weiss from St. Urbans Hof in Mosel, Germany

Gris listening to Nik

Chef’s Series Tasting took off with a bang!

Rob and Sean from City Table at our first Chef's Series Tasting

Vibrant Rioja, Tapeo and Bauer working together for a huge Rioja and Tapas Tasting

Partnering up with some other important people also helped make 2011 memorable.  Kathy from The Fish & Bone gave me an eye opening experience when she had a dog food and beer tasting in her store.

Working with Andrew Cabot and Nelse Clark for launching Privateer Rum in Boston made me see that rum is not just for making fruity cocktails.  If it is made right, you only need a glass.  Now they have launched their Amber Rum and started their barrel program with us as well.  I can only hope that 2012 is just as prosperous and exciting for them as 2011.

2011 had some low lights as well for us.  But thankfully, those low lights were turned into highlights.

Bauer Alum, Nick Demjen, left us in the beginning of the summer for a great sales position at Origin Beverage.  Good news for us…Bauer is in his sales area so we still get to see him once a week!

Nick's "private" going away party in the back of Bauer. Cake and Champagne courtesy of Sue!

Nick's public going away party where he received the gift of a lifetime. Look closely and you will see that jersey is signed by the Stanley Cup winning team!

As much as we miss Nick, our new Beer Manager, Tom, has been up to the task and bringing in great brews for everyone!  He has been a great addition to the Bauer staff.

We can’t close 2011 without mentioning Gris.  Our little grey man lived in Bauer for 12 great years protecting the store and giving joy to all that came into contact with him.  Our hearts broke when he died in August and it did make walking into work a little tough with no one at the door to greet us.

Checking out what wines he likes

Our sweet boy sleeping with a toy

But something good came out losing Gris.  A little homeless kitten named Sofia came to live at Bauer and she has taken to the store life very well.  She loves all and is loved by all.  Well, except maybe the dogs that is.  For something so small, she sure knows how to intimidate even the toughest of canines.

Passed out under the tree in the French wines.

Christmas morning at Tom's house with her presents

From all of us to all of you, we wish you a very Happy New Year!  May it be filled with joy and may only good things come out of the sorrows.

Now that we’ve all sufficiently recovered from our Thanksgiving holiday, its time to start focusing our attention on the festivities during the next few weeks. I’m sure there will be many Frank Costanza “SERENITY NOW!” moments along the way, but I look at it as a time to celebrate the holidays with friends and partially-dysfunctional family. And that’s what we’re here for, to supply the right ingredients to help you make it to the finish line.

Laurent-Perrier always helps

First of all, if you’re planning a small, or not-so-small, gathering at your house or office, we can come up with the right type, and quantity, of libation, and deliver it for you, at no charge. Its fun to have a variety of wines, fun seasonal beers, and perhaps a signature cocktail to ensure that your attendees will be holding their heads the next day thanking/cursing your good taste! We have many people on staff who can assist with the setup.

Secondly, gift-giving can quite frankly be a pain-in-the-ass (ask my wife), but once you walk through the door of Bauer Wines, that endless list can shrink very easily. Just do a little research and find out what your recipient likes to drink, because it’s the personal touch that hits the mark. We have all categories of all things spirits, artesenal beers, and wines at every price point. If you have a brain freeze and can’t come up with the right bottle, go for the increasingly-popular gift card. Let them decide what to choose.

Ask us about the "One for you. One for ME!" Gift card promotion

Thirdly (is that even a word?), we have some killer tastings coming up in the month of December, as we bring in some of our favorite purveyors to pour their wares. Here’s a list of whats coming up during the next few weeks. You can always sign up on our Facebook  page or follow us on Twitter to see whats happening in our hedonistic corner of the world.

And since it wouldn’t be a Bauer blog without the ramblings of young Sofia Bauer, here’s some photos to show you how she’s getting into the holiday spirit!

All I want for Christmas is a cute kitten...Oh...I got one!

Sofia loves hiding under the tree in the French wine.

She still loves her Clicquot

Lastly, and certainly not leastly, we’d like to thank all of you who support what we do, and how we do it. Its very gratifying to work with people that share the same passion about this business that we do. Have a great start to the holiday season, and try not to leave everything to the last minute.

 

Cheers,

Howie

One Incredible Lady from South Africa…Wendy Appelbaum

On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to meet the dynamic Wendy Appelbaum of De Morgenzon Estate in South Africa during Legal Sea Foods wine dinner featuring her.  A woman who is serious about winemaking, Appelbaum had a dry sense of humor with hints of feistiness that entranced me immediately.  Her voice had the deep guttural sound that reflected years of cigarette smoking (something she admitted to after a few coughs), and what she had to say that to her audience about winemaking in South Africa was smart, concise and fascinating.   Her outward appearance was as meticulous as her speech.   This woman exuded intelligence, stateliness and a frankness that was refreshing to listen to.  Thankfully, she patiently waited to talk about her vineyards while Sue and I frantically took our seats.

I admit it.  We were late.  Sue and I missed the hor d’oeuvres because we were also at the First Republic Bank’s Grand and Premier Cru Burgundies tasting.  We sipped on outstanding white and rouge Burgundies from Christie’s auction house in preview of the auction that benefits Hospices de Beaune.  Despite knowing that we had a wonderful dinner in front of us it was indeed hard to tear ourselves Corton-Charlemagne, Mersault and Mazis-Chembertin.  Thankfully though, we were not the last to arrive.  A couple of people walked in directly after us.  Whew…

I was happy to learn that De Morgenzon farms organically and bio-dynamically.  Considering that Bauer has a growing Organic Section and an ever growing clientele looking for Organic wines, I was pleased that I could add these wines to the list.  They dedicate themselves to the philosophy that a bio-diverse and an ecological sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes.   Applebaum said with a smile, “If you get a headache tonight, it won’t be from my wines.”  Sure enough, she was right.  No headache for me later that night.

Part of their organic philosophy was to plant wildflowers in between their vines so they can rely on natural pollination and yeasts.    They describe their vineyard 91 hectare garden with 55 hectares of carefully tended vines and flower beds surround the entire farm.  In the background there are purple mountains and a blue sky overhead, the kind of picturesque scene a city dweller like me only dreams about.   Could it be that natural aspect that makes Appelbaum’s wines so delicious?  Well, that and the fact they pump Baroque music throughout the vineyard to make both the vines and farm workers happier.  Yes, Baroque music is best and Rock is the worst for vine happiness.  Twenty-four hours and day, seven days a week you will hear the likes of Bach, Mozart, Handel, Richter and others played through strategically placed speakers around the vineyards.  The Appelbaums believe that sound energy from the Baroque music has a positive effect on plant growth and the soothing sounds encourage the vines to grow faster and healthier.

Music, the surrounding gardens, happy farm workers, the majestic scenery, and loving owners like the Appelbaums, it is all working to make wonderful wines out of South Africa.

Pictures of the dinner:

Pistachio & Caper crusted Salmon

Short Ribs with Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and local apples

Summer in a Glass: Celebrating the FLX Riesling 2010 Release

Last week I had the pleasure of joining in on a nationwide tasting of 2010 Finger Lakes Rieslings.  Wine bloggers, wine tradespeople and other media outlets alike receive 6 samples from the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance last week and were asked to participate in the tasting via Twitter and Facebook.  Easy enough…I could taste the wines in the evening at my leisure and tweet what I thought of them.

Without the pressure of having a representative of the winery standing in front of me, I was allowed to truly evaluate these wines without any outside influence.  I liked that.  Sometimes when you attend tastings, the wine rep and overhearing other people’s thoughts taint your palate without you even knowing it.

The only information about the wines I wanted to know ahead of time  was the growing conditions during the season and thankfully it was easy to find:

“The 2010 Finger Lakes harvest was the warmest growing season in nearly 40 years and the wettest since 1973.  Combined with an early bud break in April and adequate rainfall throughout the summer and fall, the wines from the vintage are varied in style but with a general slant toward lower acid, intense fruit and wonderful ripeness.” -Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

Overall, my impressions of all the wines were good and you will see my ratings of the wine in the order that I liked them.  Some were more pleasing to my palate than others but still…they were all tasty.

2010 Red Oak Vineyard Riesling:  A medium-dry offering from Lamoreaux Landing.  This wine had it all: a floral nose with bright notes, a creamy mouthfeel that made the wine taste round and balanced.  The taste had citrus  and exotic fruits with a long finish.  Overall, this was a great Riesling and the fact that Lamoreaux Landing’s grapes are farmed sustainably sent them to the head of the class.

2010 Atwater Estate Vineyards Dry Riesling:  Like biting into a Granny Smith apple.  Just enough minerality to round out the high acidity, Atwater’s offering reflected the slate soil and ripe grapes with just a touch of sweetness.  Vibrant with citrus notes proved this Riesling to be perfectly balanced.

2010 Billsboro Winery Dry Riesling:  Honestly, this one is a tie with the Atwater so I listed it alphabetically.  Billsboro’s wine had rich stone fruit with just a hint of a floral nose.  The taste had honeydew, pears and peaches with a good amount of slate and minerals.

2010 Thirsty Owl Wine Company Dry Riesling:  This wine was complex with high acidity that begged for food.  With green apples, pineapple and citrus fruits in the mouth, I enjoyed this wine with a sliver of Gruyere cheese.

2010 Seneca Shore Dry Riesling:  Wow.  The minerality in this wine made it stand out in the crowd.  Accompanied by lime and grapefruit flavors, Seneca Shore hit a home-run.  Well-structured and powerful: this was a great wine to sip.

Last but certainly not least, 2010 Standing Stone Vineyards Riesling:  This might be the only wine out of the six that I wasn’t completely psyched about.  Although it was still a decent wine, I felt it fell a little flat on the flavor.  I am willing to bet a little bottle aging would cure that.  There were hints of kiwi and citrus in the wine, but had a shorty and flinty finish.  Not disappointing but not to my particular liking I’m afraid.

Three Cheers to all the wonderful wines I was allowed to taste last week!  Thank you to all the Finger Lakes Wineries who participated and to the wonderful people over at the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance for letting me in on this special event!