Friday, September 30, 2011

Sunday 23 October: meet the winemakers

Some people will only know me through this blog. But in real life I'm a wine importer in the first place. Bolomey Wijnimport is the Amsterdam-based company, and we import wines from France (only), from the classic regions Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Loire Valley. The focus: natural, typical wines with lots of of energy and freshness. The majority is from small-scale production.

This October will mark the start of a new tradition: once a year, in October, I invite the winemakers to Amsterdam. This year will be the second time, hence the start of a tradition. Te winemakers that I work with come from different regions, and make different wines. But they share the same spirit, they share certain ideas about viticulture (say, natural) and winemaking (that is: don't intervene too much).

I am excited to tell you the following six winemakers will be coming to Amsterdam in October:

- Damien DELECHENEAU (Amboise)
- Vincent CARÊME (Vouvray)
- Hubert MONTIGNY-PIEL (Orléans)
- David CLARK (Morey-St-Denis)
- David BUTTERFIELD (Meursault)
- Olivier COLLIN (Champagne)

To get an idea about the event, here's the summary of the 2010 tasting. It's a small-scale event, most of what is imported is open to be tasted, and foremost, it's lots of fun.

If you would be interested to be there, subscribe on the Bolomey Wijnimport website. There will be two tasting days: Sunday 23 October for the private customers, and Monday 24 October for sommeliers and press. Perhaps we meet there!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"We will sell no wine before its time"

Dwayne Perreault — If you are old enough and from North America, you may remember the wines of Paul Masson, and the TV commercials from the 1970s featuring Orson Welles. These were some of the first wines I remember drinking, but strangely the memory was half buried and the name was forgotten. I thought the wines were from Paul Mas, but as Brigitte Barreiro, Paul Mas’ marketing manager wrote to me, “Paul Mas wines were not yet available then, but you were already dreaming of them!”

No, it was Paul Masson, who moved from Burgundy to California in 1878 and released his first “champagne” in 1892. Masson eventually became known as “the Champagne king of California.” The commercials featuring Orson Welles are priceless. At this point in his life, Welles was eating and drinking far too much, and the results were sometimes comical. Here is an actual commercial from that time:

If you looked closely, you noticed that Welles was not actually talking but the audio was dubbed over the footage. This is because Welles was completely drunk on the day of the shooting. The following are some actual, unedited takes of the same commercial:

What was Welles drinking that day? We don’t know, but it wasn’t Paul Masson wine. Despite having a lucrative contract which included large amounts of free wine, Welles was fired in the early 1980s after admitting on a US talk show that he never drank a Paul Masson wine in his life. As for the commercial, it has become something of a cult classic by now. As Welles himself might have said, the following parody is eminently worth watching. My favourite part is when he gesticulates to the bottle with an entire chicken in his hand…

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Harvest 2011 at David Clark, a summary in pictures and 2 movies

Last weekend Jan van Roekel and I paid a flying visit to our beloved Burgundy to participate in the two-days harvest of David Clark. This posting is a summary, focusing more on image than text.

David Clark in his Vosne vineyard
Friday morning we started with David's most prestigious, and ripe, vineyard, the Vosne-Romanée. Harvesting is not just picking, so we got some explanations.

We picked with a small but very international team: the pickers had flown in from Canada, the US, Scotland, Holland (ourselves) and of course France. Besides picking we exercised in drinking great wines. The blast of the weekend was the Echezeaux 1966 from Domaine Leroy, a fascinating wine of unbelievable beauty. Thanks Gavin (an Australian living in Beaune) for sharing!

Picking grapes in Morey St Denis
The smallest vineyard of Domaine David Clark (based in Morey Saint Denis) is the Morey Saint Denis vineyard: just the three northern rows of Les Porroux, a villages vineyard close to Chambolle. The production: one barrel.

In this first video you see the sorting and then I walk outside. My friend Jan van Roekel was appointed Chef Container Cleaning (not for the whole time, don't worry). When I walk outside the domain you see the Morey vineyards in the background: part of the grand cru Clos de Tart.

In the second video you see the line-up of instruments. The grapes travel from the selection belt to the destemmer (about one third is not destemmed but processed (fermented) as "whole cluster". The grapes end up in the fermentation vat in this movie.

Weighing the Morey harvest: 339 kg
Or in kilograms: 339 kilograms, including the pallet and the plastic containers.

The Morey harvest
After weighing a lid is placed on top of the containers, the blackboard saying "Morey" and the amount of kg's. Sorting is next.

Jasper Morris checking the quality
During the sorting local god and BBR buyer Jasper Morris stops by to taste the grapes. He seems satisfied with the results. After 10 minutes he's off again.

Oops I cut myself
This picture I tweeted, but it was removed after a few minutes as it apparently violated the terms and conditions. Besides sex and nudity blood apparently isn't allowed. And that while I'm just warning that picking grapes can be dangerous.

David Clark in his Brochon vineyard
Here is a happy David Clark in front of his Côtes de Nuits Villages vineyard in Brochon. We're done picking. These were two great days. We drove home happily, but not after having stopped in Champagne to briefly visit Georges Laval and taste his breathtaking Brut Natures. More about that later, perhaps.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Elk Run Vineyards, Maryland

Dwayne Perreault — It’s a simple fact, most people here equate American wine with Californian wine. There’s California, and then there’s Oregon and Washington state. Some quality wines are also made in New York state, in the Finger Lakes region (where Château de St. Cosme recently entered in a partnership with Forge Cellars) and on Long Island, but these wines are mostly consumed locally and never make their way overseas.

Elk Run Vineyards
But the U.S.A. is a big country. Eastern U.S. wines are not limited to New York, as Virginia has over 120 wineries, and there are another 44 in Maryland. A recent trip there brought me to Elk Run Vineyards on Mount Airy, in Frederick County.

Fred Wilson (photo) began the first all vinifera winery in Maryland in 1980, after studying under Dr. Konstantine Frank in the Finger Lakes region for serveral seasons. Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris were planted, along with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Fred Wilson
Elk Run produces 5,000 cases of wine per year from 9.7 ha of vines from two different sites: Liberty Tavern Vineyard, planted in 1980 and Cold Friday Vineyard, planted in 1995. Soils are mainly shale and schistes on top of sand, with good drainage. Grapes are destemmed, with whole berry pressing for the Chardonnay. Reds are fermented in open top bins, getting a malo in the spring.

The winery itself is a very modest structure, though the site has historic significance, as Liberty Tavern, which is now the house where the Wilsons live, was a meeting place for the Sons of Liberty prior to the Revolution.

Upon seeing the vineyard, I remember thinking something like “I can’t see the forest from the trees,” as for my European eye, the vines looked wild and crowded together, almost forming bushes. At first, I wondered if the vines simply weren’t being overcropped, but Fred assured me that isn’t the case. Average yields are 300 gallons per acre, which is 33.6 hl/ha, which would be the norm for a quality vineyard in the Languedoc.

Elk Run Vines
Elk Run Vineyard’s own website has the following information: “Recent research has convinced Elk Run to more densely plant their vineyards. This permits a lower crop load per vine, which has shown to produce better quality and color in the wine.”
The proof of a wine is, of course, in its tasting. We started with a couple Chardonnays which receive French oak ageing. The Cold Friday Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 ($14.15) has a silky texture with smokey, nutty flavours. Straightforward and pleasing with medium low acidity, but still remains quite fresh. The Liberty Tavern Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 ($24.53) has much more oak, almost Burgundian in nature, very smooth and mellow with a solid finish. Barrel fermented and aged in Allier oak, this is very well done.

The Gypsy Rosé 2010 ($15.09), made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir has a light salmon pink colour and light cherry fruit with peppery tones. Nice!

Gewurtztraminer does well in Maryland and finishes in early-mid season. The Cold Friday Vineyard Gewurtztraminer 2010 ($24.53) had a pale gold colour with a sultry nose, thick in the mouth, more off dry than sweet with medium low acidity. Very Gewurtztraminer with spicey notes, but this one did not work with an Indian curry very well.

As for reds, the Cold Friday Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2009 ($28.30) has strawberry jam and chocolate in the nose, dark cherry fruit and medium tannins. Quite an honest expression of Cabernet Franc.

The Liberty Tavern Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($49.95) might be considered the flagship wine. Very dark fruit with some residual sweetness and cacao, soft in texture and not overy tannic. 13.5% alcohol.

Finally, the Vin de Jus Glacé 2008 ($27.36/half bottle), made from Riesling, is one of those examples of cryoextraction wines American vintners are fond of making. Randall Grahm introduced the vin de glaciere on the public with his Bonny Doone wines, but here not the grapes but the actual juice is frozen! I wish I had spent more time asking Fred how this actually works but it does smell like icewine, with a slight Riesling petrol. Not overly sweet, but lacks the acidity, sweetness and thickness of real icewine. There’s still nothing like the real thing, it would seem.

But overall, I’d have to say I was very impressed by my first tasting of wines from an area still unmentioned in most contemporary wine guides, and in Robert Parker’s backyard as it were.