The World is waking up to German Pinot Noir!

I’ve been wondering how long it would take for this to happen.  German Pinots offer some of the most affordable and pleasurable discoveries any Pinot lover could wish for.  So it was no surprise to see this headline in today’s issue of “The Drinks Business” publication out of the UK.

According to chef Martin Lam, interviewed for this article, it has helped tremendously that German producers are switching their labeling from the traditional German word “Spätburgunder” (SPATE bur gunder) to the more internationally recognized “Pinot Noir” (same grape, different name).  But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I particularly liked Lam’s quote “…the top drops from Baden should be treated with the same respect as a top Burgundy“.  And while this quote dips its toe into hyperbole, the truth is that the grape’s German name is a direct nod to the vines that gave birth to their vineyards, and the style is similar in its lightness.

German States with major Cities - worldatlasbook.com
German States with major Cities.  Baden is Southwest, just above Switzerland.  Image from worldatlasbook.com

The Baden area (Southwest Germany, see map) is East and a bit North of Burgundy, and this area is home to some of Germany’s best Pinots.  I encourage you to ask for these from your favorite wine merchant, and to keep a watchful eye for some of them to appear in the Pinot section my own curated inventory at DaveTheWineMerchant.

Read the full article here – Lam: World is waking up to German Pinot.

Cheers!

www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com 

P.S. For a regular source of new Pinot Noir discoveries, please consider my Pinot-Only wine club – click here for more info!

Film Review – “A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE”

Year in ChampagneWhat a charming way to spend 82 minutes.  Read the rest of my review if you like, but I won’t be offended were you to opt instead for a quick download, a bottle of your favorite bubbly, your favorite movie companion and a quick call to your boss apologizing for some sudden 24-hour  malady.

Download this movie from iTunes here.

What?  You’re still here? Guess I’d better get on with the full review.

This film’s award-winning director, David Kennard (Cosmos, A Year in Burgundy) is based in Mill Valley, CA.  This factoid has nothing to do with the quality of the film and everything to do with my desire to tip my hat to the talent pool in the Bay Area.

In this, his second of three “A Year In _____” films, Kennard has replicated his success with “A Year in Burgundy”, also a joint project with the esteemed wine importer Martine Saunier.  

Martine has a fine palate – I lust after some of the wines in her portfolio – and she represents some of France’s finest producers.  The fact that the wineries in Kennard’s film are limited to producers she represents takes nothing away from the film itself. Though it likely makes other importers greatly jealous, she likely took more flack from other producers SHE represents who didn’t appear in the film.

I intended to watch this movie on my own, but our 12 year-old daughter wandered into the room as I was starting the DVD, and she was sufficiently moved to watch the film to its satisfying end, enjoying the process of making champagne as told in each of the film’s four seasonal sections.  She even asked intelligent questions, and for the first time understood how the secondary fermentation process creates bubbles in each individual bottle.  I also think the riddling rack might have its next young Riddler in the wings, at least, until she tries the repetitive job for about ten minutes.

Kennard’s film is poetic, a paean to the featured wine region, without being cloying. The music and the photography alone make it worthy of your limited free time.  But his film also provides intelligent insights into the essence of the region, into its wines, of course, but also the history, people and foods that are the foundation of these wines.

champagne pop 2

This is not a film for learning ABOUT wine.  You can get the more raw information in far less time from any basic introductory text.  This is a film that lends a better UNDERSTANDING of wine, and what makes them fascinating and uniquely different, one from the other.  

Trust me, “A Year in Champagne” will leave any wine buff smiling.  Especially if you follow my suggestion to watch it with a bottle of your favorite bubbly well chilled and close at hand.

Happy Merchant

Cheers!
Dave

www.DaveTheWineMerchant.com 

 

Duck Breast With Mustard Greens, Turnips, And Radishes

Duck Breast with Mustard Greens, Turnips, and Radishes Recipe

This Bon Apetit recipe is easily adapted – don’t care for turnips?  Try small red potatoes (sauteed or roasted in the duck fat!)  Not big on Mustard Greens?  Substitute Frisee, or a mild rocket/arugula, or if you strive for “painfully hip”, chopped kale in the sweet Asian dressing you’ll find in my recipe (search this blog for “pork belly kale”.  But whatever you do, try this recipe for the duck breast.

Ingredients
SERVINGS: 8
3 pounds boneless duck breasts (3–4)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons English mustard powder
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 radishes, thinly sliced
4 small turnips, scrubbed, thinly sliced, plus 2 cups torn turnip greens or kale
6 cups torn mustard greens; plus any mustard flowers (optional)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Flaky sea salt

Preparation

ACTIVE: 1 Hour  TOTAL: 1 Hour
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Score the fat side of each duck breast ⅛” deep in a crosshatch pattern; season both sides with kosher salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large ovenproof skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium. Cook 2 duck breasts, skin side down, until fat is rendered and surface is deeply browned and crisp, 10–15 minutes; transfer to a plate. [Note, I ALWAYS save the rendered fat before proceeding!  DC]  Wipe out skillet and repeat with remaining duck and 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil.
  • Arrange all duck breasts in the skillet, fat side up, and roast in oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of breasts registers 135° (~5–8 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  • In a small bowl whisk Dijon mustard, mustard powder, lemon juice, and (while whisking) gradually add 3 Tbsp. olive oil; season mustard sauce with kosher salt and pepper.
  • Toss radishes, turnips, greens, flowers (if using), vinegar, and remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large bowl; season with kosher salt and pepper.
  • Thinly slice duck. Scatter greens over a platter (or two) and top with duck. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve with mustard sauce alongside.

Recipe by Alison Roman

Photograph by Christopher Testani

Cheers!  Dave

Recipe – Perfect Homemade Meatballs

meatballs_bowlMeatballs are delicious when perfectly made.  Otherwise, they’re better relegated to your slingshot than your table.  The key to the perfect meatball is minimal handling – don’t touch your meatballs too much and they won’t end up being too dense.  And as you likely know, dense, gummy balls will end up as over-cooked chunks of gravel.  Probably not what you had in mind.

That said, here’s a great meatball recipe of only moderate complexity.  Have your butcher grind the three types of meat, and if he/she complains just find a new butcher. This is simply part of their craft.  Or should be.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground pork butt
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • ½ pound ground bottom round (beef)
  • ½ cup frozen spinach thawed and drained thoroughly
  • ½  cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher or sea)
  • ½  cup bread crumbs, ¼ for mixture, ¼ for rolling.
  • Herbs and spices to taste (probably about a tablespoon of any or all of the following: basil, parsley, red pepper flakes, pepper, garlic powder (not salt))

Lightly mix everything with the exception of ¼ cup breadcrumbs, emphasis on lightly, try not to squish or squeeze.  Cover and place in the fridge for an hour or up to overnight to let the flavors mingle. 

Preheat oven to 400’.  By hand, form the meatballs into the size of golf balls. (keep it gentle!)  Roll the balls in the bread crumbs, and don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly coated.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in a mini muffin pan.  If the balls will be cooked a second time, say as part of a pasta sauce, err on the lower side of the time range.  If eaten as is, go for the higher end.  But because ovens vary, be sure to test one before you declare them done.

Wine Pairings

If your meatballs are to be served as a stand-alone appetizer, they will pair well with any number of red wines or even Rosé or sparkling wine.  But if served over pasta with the traditional red sauce, the tomato sauce drives the choice – it’s acidity requires wine of equal measure, such as Chianti, domestic Sangiovese, or other varieties from Northern Italy (Nebiolo, Barbera, etc.)

Happy MerchantCheers!
Dave the Wine Merchant

Recipe courtesy of Paul “Rad” Radcliffe!

Winemaker Cathy Corison Earns Raves From NYT

Corison 2011 NV CS - LabelWine collectors on my special calling list know of my ongoing love affair with the wines of Cathy Corison.  A lucky few were able to acquire a limited amount from my measly, preciously small allocation.

I’d discovered the sublime joy of Corison Cabernet almost two decades ago when I was lucky enough to attend a vertical tasting featuring five different Corison vintages.  I remember each wine being delightful in its own right, with a recognizable style that bound the very different wines together – like siblings that have a strong family resemblance but entirely unique personalities.

Well, as part of her anniversary celebration, Corison flew to New York for a vertical tasting of ALL TWENTY FIVE of her vintages – 1987-2011 (her current release).  Wine writer Eric Asimov tells you all about it here in the full article.

Cheers!

Everything in moderation (including moderation?)

Today’s NPR news feed includes a story I’d call “news-ish”.  That’s my term for what the news/entertainment industry calls “human interest stories”.  Such stories get more viewers/listeners/social media likes, and therefore they’re replacing solid news.  But who am I to complain?  I sell wine for a living, and what could be more “Human Interest” than that?  Despite the wine industry’s unique internecine squabbles, we rarely make headlines outside the “human interest” category.

This particular article reported on how women (not men?) who actually COOK the recipes they see demonstrated on TV’s cooking shows tend to be 11 pounds heavier than the women who simply WATCH the shows.  For the record, correlations have also been found between the number of people who drowned in a swimming pool in a given year and the number of films Nicholas Cage appeared in during that year.  That’s the thing about statistics – it can be tricky stuff.

The trim Giada de’Laurentiis

The writer thought this finding called into question the wisdom of cooking at home to obtain healthier food, and even called into question the writings of food proponents such as Michael Pollan.  But in the end, the story concludes on a note of common sense.

When asked how she can cook such high-fat dishes on her show and still maintain her trim figure, celebrity chef Giada di’Laurentiis replied “I eat a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything.  Everything in moderation.”

And that’s just sound advice whether putting food on your plate or wine in your glass.

Happy Merchant Cropped for webCheers,

Dave the Wine Merchant

If my Lottery Picks were as prescient as my wine picks!

If my Lottery Picks were as prescient as my wine picks I’d be writing this from one of my homes overlooking a pristine beach.

What started my wistful thinking was the news in my inbox with the results of an interesting data analysis.  A Pinot producer that was one of my early “bets” turned out to be the top-rated Pinot Producer on CellarTracker, the world’s most extensive database of wine tasting notes and ratings from wine collectors around the globe.

Go ahead, guess who it was in the top spot… Kosta Browne?  Sea Smoke?  Kistler??  Peter Michael???  Au Bon Climat???  All good guesses.  But all would be wrong.

The top spot went to “Sojourn Cellars”.  

When I first discovered their wine, six years ago, I knew they had something special going on.  Owner Craig Haserot stood in my kitchen and poured six of their wines for me, and I selected their 2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot for my “Pinot Selections” Wine Club.  Despite their relaxation-inspired logo, they had just burst onto the wine scene with great gusto, and if you’ve ever met Craig you know that’s the only way he approaches everything in life. If you squint a little bit and employ just a modicum of imagination, his size and demeanor might remind you of another Sonoma pioneer whose surname started with “H” – one A. Harazthy.

A. Harazthy, early CA Wine PioneerCraig Haserot, contemporary CA wine pioneer!

According to the data analysis of Cellar Tracker, Sojourn Cellars out-ranked all of the prestigious producers listed above.  And their favorable reviews are not limited to the online pinotphile, they’ve caught the attention of professional critics as well, rarely scoring less than 90 points from the likes of Wine Spectator, Pinot Report, Wine Advocate, et al.  

I’m proud to have supported them in their early days, and to have introduced them to you, my friends.  Congratulations to Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley.

(Note: I currently have a very small quantity of one Sojourn Cellars Pinot in stock.  I recommend it highly. The 2012 Russian River pinot from Wohler Vineyard ($48)

Why is this man smiling?  Good times are about to happen...
Why is this man smiling? Good times are close at hand…

Cheers!

Dave

866-746-7293

“Honey, what was that wine we liked??”

That question is an increasingly common one among wine fans over 40.  I like to tell them they’re experiencing memory difficulties because they have a lifetime of memories stored inside their heads, like a hard drive that’s getting full, and it takes longer to scan through everything and access a specific piece of information when it’s needed.  (There’s actually some brain research that supports my theory, which is surprising as I thought I’d made it up)

But here’s a useful article that provides helpful clues on how to cement something into your memory regardless of its vintage.  If you’re taking the SWE/WSET/MS/Etc. certification exam, this is required reading.  If you’re just interested in a better memory then yeah, you too!

2/27/15 Food & Wine Article by Charles Antin “How To Improve Your Wine Memory

A Tasting Experience at the Intersection of Wine & Art

Creativity Explored - where art changes livesWhat are you doing here?!  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate you reading my blog, it’s just that I’m going to ask you to do something more.  

Because reading about wine is all well and good, it is a fascinating topic and all, but it’s sort of like reading about sex – eventually, it’s best to set aside the academic study and experience the subject live and in person.  Which is what we’re doing every time we separate the cork from its bottle, and especially so at an organized tasting where wine becomes the center of focus, where it’s elevated beyond a pleasant background accompaniment to good company, good food or the (sadly) the T.V.

And on Thursday,  January 29th, we’re turning the usual tasting format on its head with wine inspired by art. It’s a whole different approach to tasting!

It’s not uncommon for an artist to be inspired by wine, of course.  That’s been common for centuries.  But wine inspired by art?  Come experience it with us – you’ll taste wine, and view the art that inspired it, with fresh and enlivened senses. We’ve paired artisanal wines with six different works of art by some of the developmentally handicapped artists working through the venerable Creativity Explored in San Francisco’s hip Mission District.  This worthy organization provides studio space and gallery/marketing support for dozens of such artists, some of which are able to support themselves from their proceeds.  Tickets are just $20 (available here).  Here’s a sneak peak at two of our pairings:

Biggy Cats... by Christina Marie Fong
Biggy Cats… by Christina Marie Fong inspired a pairing with Bonny Doon Vineyard’s Le Cigare Blanc. Come learn more about this fascinating match!
"Big Tree" by Jason Monzon
“Big Tree”, by Jason Monzon, inspired a pairing with the wines of Mendocino producer Seebass. Come learn how the art inspired our choice!

I hope you can join us. Because as much fun as it is to read about wine, it is far more enjoyable to taste it!  So stop reading and hie thee to the shopping cart – Tickets are a very reasonable $20 per person ($38 for two)Click to Buy Tickets

 

Happy MerchantCheers!

Dave the Wine Merchant

“Wings Get Stuck In Your Teeth!” & Other Perils of Pairing Wine & Bugs

I didn’t intend to read it.  I had lots to do when I saw the article come across my news feed.  But there’s something about the idea of eating bugs that makes it difficult to look away.  Even more so when you combine them with wine.

Which is what the UK reporter Adam Lechmere did, with the help of the buyer for UK’s large wine retailer Laithwaites, Beth Willard.  Beth helped Adam pair wines with Cricket Pad Thai, Mealworm Tacos, Grasshoppers on Toast and Frangipane of Pear, Cinnamon and Queen Weaver Ants.

Fair warning – the images are a bit off-putting.  Despite their drought resistance, near zero CO2 footprint (relative to our preferred protein sources) and overall abundance, the little critters are so unappealing that I fear the food marketers, powerful as they are, may have many years of hard rock mining ahead before they can convince Western populations to include bugs in our diets.  With the possible exception of the painfully hip, of course, who will outrace each other to be at the tip of the next foodie trend.  They can take my baton and head to the front of the pack, with my blessing.

For more information on Adam’s investigative journalism, read the full story here or copy paste this – http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2015/01/matching-wine-with-bugs-yes-bugs. 

And, as we’re short of Laithwaites around these parts, I’m always pleased to help with your next wine selection, whether your tastes run toward the adventuresome or the more traditional.  Peruse and plunder my portfolio here.

Dave Chambers

Dave@DaveTheWineMerchant.com