Friday, May 30, 2008

Keeping Up With Old Friends Like Aussie Importer Robert Whale

Who says that you can't go back in time? Here I am going back to this story that I wrote about you Robert because I was thinking about you - have been thinking about you recently and wondering how you are doing in these difficult times for Australian wines? I hope you are well.

I sure would like it if you stopped by sometime soon to chat and taste me on your new releases. We need to exchange stories and " chew the fat " so-to-speak. How the hell are you anyway old mate?!?

I'd like to extend the offer to you to have " a good one " on me. I will pick up the tab for this " good one ". What do you say? Hell, I'd like for you to have " several good ones " on me mate : why should I restrict it to just one? Who the hell am I anyway to go and do that and possibly squelch all the fun you/ we could have?

I love this photo that I took of you Robert at Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits when you brought the Aussie winemaker Will of TAMAR RIDGE, Tasmania to do one of our in-store wine-tastings back three-four years ago? How long has it been since then?

Anyway, I think this is an excellent close-up of you. Do you agree?

These next pictures are from that same tasting with Will we did in Cleveland Park N.W. Washington D.C. ( 3423 Connecticut Avenue N.W. Washington D.C. 20008 Tel : 202-363-4265 ).

Randy and Sandy enjoyed talking with you and exchanging stories as they, too had spent some wonderful time in Australia. You are from Victoria, right? I suppose they stayed in Sydney? I will have to ask them next time I see them.

Here we are together I believe way back in 2005 ( ormaybe 2006 ? ) when I did a " Big Theme " tasting of Pinot Noirs from around the world. You poured the TAMAR RIDGE Pinot Noirs ( 2 ) and one from SIEFREID ( Nelso, New Zealand ) and one or two others I believe that night.

This was a fun picture of us together here. I am glad to have it and to include it now to share with others.

It's Tuesday evening ( actually now Wednesday early morning at 12:40 AM, September 2nd, 2009 ) here at home in northern Virginia as I type these last words and head on up to bed.

     just a few minutes ago Robert Whale stopped by unannounced with Garrick Harvison the export manager of YARRAMAN ESTATE wines. Garrick had two whites and two reds - all four current vintages. The whites were a slightly-oaked Chardonnay that tasted grand on my voice that with allergies and a cold seem to have abandoned me for more receptive situations! I'm whispering a lot now. Oh well, the Chardonnay was like ambrosia to my stressed throat. It always showed brightly and the small bit of oak never dried out the bright, freshness of the Chardonnay flavors. The next a Verdelho white blend was a bit more tightly knit, a bit crisper and more angular. I liked it better and would enjoy that with many a summer-fare meal. My throat preferred the Chardonnay. Of the two reds , one a Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend and one a Cabernet-Shiraz blend I liked both. The Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon blend was a bit more fruit-forward and lusher, brighter. It was just a the limit to the amount of fruit I would like in a medium-to-light-bodied red. I would have chilled it slightly and it would have shown better in my opinion. The Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon red blend was a bit tighter, drier and I ultimately liked it better. It interested me more. I liked that it was a bit more complex with a touch more spice and toasty berry flavors showing, challenging me just a touch more. We will buy all four and have them in three weeks or so. They will be a great addition to the store. They are balanced, cold-climate wines that complement a meal and never displace it. That is what Robert Whale is all about.
     Robert came by maybe two-three weeks ago and he and I walked across the street to Byblos restaurant where I like to sit outside and write poetry, watch life go by and see a younger school population that with time will become customers of ours when they are of a proper age. It's fun to listen to them talk school talk,gossip and tell stories. I enjoy their youthful exuberance: it's so fresh and forward and out-there.
     Robert and I chewed the fat. I told him about my trip to Australia and he asked me many questions. I went for two weeks in February and landed in Perth on Sunday late afternoon February 10th the day of Heath Ledger's funeral on the Cottlesloe beach. We drove by twice and stayed just down the street two minutes away at the Beach Hotel. Wow, stunning scenery and I loved my swim in the beach the following morning. I was able to visit a number of wineries in both western and south Australia and have a two-day, one-on-one experience with the wine maker or owner. That meant a whole lot to me. I was able to convey some of this to Robert. He seemed hungry for information about him home country as he spends so much time here in the U.S. traveling from state to state promoting cold-climate Aussie ( Coriole, Plantagenet( western ), Rafferty's Rules south Australia ), Peter Howland ( western ), Yarraman Estate and more ) and New Zealand wines ( Seifried, Nelson ).
     I've known Robert now for forever, since the early eighties and we have followed each other's paths. It was nice for us to sit outside of Byblos restaurant and talk inspiration, dreams both realized and working-on. Today I discovered more about the exciting developments with his son and his love of photography. I want to see some of his work.
     Just like they always say, 5% of the time if that is spent on business and the rest is spent on catching up, sharing news and observations, gossiping mostly nicely I hope and telling/sharing ribald male fantasies that I cannot share here. Yes, all said and done we're still just a couple of blokes with desires and dreams and things we still want to accomplish even though we've already come this far. Cheers to you Robert and your family. I look forward to receiving a fresh batch of wines from you shortly. They will be welcome and great additions to our selection.
     Keep looking and enjoying whatever candies your eyes stumble/trip/ collide into - even spy out of the corners making you stop, turn your direction, enjoy and marvel. Life is wonderful, rich and so frustratingly frustrating and stimulating all in one. Maybe we need to stop in a pub and over a glass of the Yarrraman Chardonnay have another " good one ". I'll pay this time, the next time's on you mate! We may have to have something steamin' off one of our  barbie's with our families soon Monsieur Ballein. Oh, it was nice to see you again Garrick. You are always welcome here anytime.   TONY

Friday, May 23, 2008

ZAP Zinfandel Tasting Here Thursday, May 22nd, 2008 in Wash. D.C. N.W.

     I went to the ZAP Zinfandel tasting yesterday afternoon and ran through quickly trying many wines and making some new connections and trying some wines that I had never heard of before. It was only thirty five or so producers and the room was large enough to have everyone comfortably positioned yet it was still the same situation of trying to get " your Tastes " and perhaps three minutes with each producer before feeling pressured to move along. It was as warm as it could be in a difficult position. The tasting was well-attended and I heard from owner Jake Beckett of the Peachy Canyon Winery in Paso Robles ( we love selling the Peachy Canyon wines here, especially the delicious $12 Incredible Red ) that it was a success for him. He said that it was much better attended than the Chicago tasting. There were only two this year : Washington D.C. and Chicago. Jake came here today to say " hi " and to chill before heading back to California. It was interesting to meet one of the owners of Starry Night Winery and to be able to tell him that we were running a special on his 2004  NVOC  Russian River Valley Zin, ON SALE at $17.99 in honor of this tasting. He seemed pleased. I hear that it might be the last ZAP Zin tasting? Is that truth or rumor ? I will let everyone know. Zins are alive and well and always stimulating, varied and glorious in so many different ways. Enjoy. More about this event as time permits. I will also include my ZAP poems soon. Cheers,    TONY

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Winemaker Stephen J. Storrs Here, of STORRS Santa Cruz Mnts, CA. Wed. May 21st,2008

     We just had a visit this morning from wine maker Stephen Storrs of the STORRS winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, CA. We have represented Stephen's wines in the past, especially his Lion Oaks Zinfandel and Central Coast Merlot. When I asked him how many grape varieties he works with he said : " about sixteen ". That caught me completely off-guard as I was expecting him to say eight or less! It was great to finally meet him and taste through his excellent series of stylish, balanced yet flavorful reds. 
     Mary Leigh of Kysela Imports brought Stephen this morning. It was a pretty nice way for me to start my wine morning. We tasted two Merlots ( both selling for between $18-$20 a bottle ). They were both quite flavorful, the 2002 Central Coast was really peppery, spicy, earthy - where the fruit becomes well-integrated with the wood. The 2002  " San Isidro " was softer, rounder, a bit richer and more harmonious. I liked the Central Coast for a meal ( something nice, steaming off the grill ) and the San Isidro if I were going to really just veg outside and lay back with no agenda but to absorb/be absorbed vise-verse by my setting. I will carry one here in the store but have not yet decided which.
     We also tried two Zinfandels : the " Rusty Ridge " 2005 and the " Lion Oaks " 2004. I liked both and will buy one of the two. The Rusty Ridge is less expensive : it has a touch less ripeness/richness/intensity and overall less obvious fruit. It's perhaps the better food wine. The Lion Oaks is the essence of beautiful pure balanced and satisfying bright fruit. It's so smooth, so satisfying , medium-bodied and a lovely expression of Zinfandel with charm and not simply alcohol and weight. This can be enjoyed most anytime. The Rusty Ridge , also medium-bodied has a bit more spice , earth and oak accents. I'd love to have some Italian sweet sausages just about now, piping hot with a glass outside on a fun, lively street corner, sitting there with my wife enjoying this restaurant's foods and watching life's many forms of live animation please, tease, seduce and amuse my seven senses individually and all culminating into one big bang of liquid/solid pleasures diffused ever so pleasurably.
     Thanks Stephen. I look forward to meeting your oenologist wife Pamela sometime. I understand that you work on the wines together. Keep up the good work on these " old-vines " red wines made in the Santa Cruz and the Santa Clara areas. We will have some of these wines here the first week of June. Good luck, too at the ZAP tasting tomorrow here in Washington D.C. I may see you there time-permitiing. Cheers,   TONY

Dinner Last Night With Wine-Maker Rodrigo Arizu of VINA ALICIA, Argentina

     Last night after work I drove over into North Arlington just outside Clarendon to Tallula restaurant to meet Rodrigo Arizu to try his family's excellent old-vines Argentinean Lujan de Cuyo reds. I had never been to Tallula and so it would be both pretty much a new experience for me with both the wines and the food. We have sold two of the fancier single-vineyard wines from Rodrigo in the past when we conducted our big monthly theme tasting of Malbecs. They were marvelous and the most expensive wines we offered. We sold them out and it's time to bring them back here to the store at Cleveland Park Wines and Spirits. We will have them here tomorrow and Rodrigo will be here himself to taste an assortment of his wines this Friday May 23rd from noon to 3 PM. We will taste both the PASO DE PIEDRA Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 and the 2005 Malbec BOTH ON SALE for $13.99. 
     At dinner I arrived late and my local rep Dan Terrasa of William Harrison Imports was nice enough to reserve a seat for me there next to Rodrigo. Across from Rodrigo and facing him was owner of William Harrison Imports Harrison Jones. It was quite the animated evening. I loved the special bottlings from Rodrigo. We tasted the 2003 VINA ALICIA Malbec, the 2004 VINA ALICIA Morena Cabernet, the VINA ALICIA 2005 " Brote Negro " ( ON SALE for $72.99 ; reg : $89.99 ), the VINA ALICIA 2004 Nebbiolo ( also ON SALE for $72.99 ) and VINA ALICIA Cuarzo ( 95% Petit Verdot, 5% Grenache Noir and Carignane , also ON SALE for $72.99 ). 
     Harrison Jones was asking Rodrigo all about his family, especially his mother and father. Harrison said emphatically that Rodrigo's wines were some of his all-time favorites and that when he entertained special guests he served them. I can see why. The two that impressed me the most were the 2005 " Brote Negro " and the 2004 Cuarzo. Both are made from ancient old vines. I loved the heartier, beefier, earthier and lovingly-in-your-face-toasty-creamed flair of the Cuarzo Petit Verdot. I really wanted to have that one. I also liked the 2004 Nebbiolo for all its lushness and velvet thickness and charm. It turns out that Rodrido, according to him is making the only Nebbiolo there in Argentina. His family is part Spanish and part Italian in background.
     The wine that impressed me the most was the one made in the smallest amount : only two barrels : only twelve six-packs available through William Harrison! I bought two. It's 100% Malbec that they started to make three vintages ago. They think it's a Malbec mutation, the skin is darker and the flavors are different. They have isolated these vines that are mixed in with the other old vines. They make these miniscule amounts and WOW the wine is close to perfection and all you have to pay for near perfection is $73! That's quite a deal I'd say. You can come and buy some of these wines now and get them signed, personalized to family, friends, yourself and either drink now are be wise and wait another 3-8 years to get all that you can from them.
     I loved the Meyer tenderloin, medium-rare that I ordered at Tallula. Executive chef Nathan Anda cooked it to perfection so that it just melted in my mouth and I savored every taste and bite and was transported into such a wonderful state of bliss and further enlightenment, too?!? Perhaps, I sure did feel great and relaxed and was broadly smiling. Thanks Nathan. 
     I wrote my Morning Poems about this dining experience. Here is one for you to enjoy now :

                                       Tal Dine All
                                       Lula Dinner Night
                                       Last Meet To
                                       Meat Rod/Drigo
                                       Owns Who Alicia
                                       Vina Argentina
                                       Drink Becs Those
                                       Mal Mal Albecs
                                       Syrah Nebs That
                                       Biolos Too With
                                       Meyer Beef Nathan's So
                                       Tender Juicy Melt
                                       Mouth In Loins
                                       Purr Purr Purr
                                       Sat I To Next
                                       Rodrigo Spoke We
                                       On Off I Pictures
                                       Snapped I Joy Over
                                       Swept Me Dat Loin
                                       Meyer Tender
                                       Long Brote Side
                                       Malbec Mute Negro
                                       Ta Ta Full Tation !
                                       Barrels Two Fun
                                       Too Two Few
                                       Milagro Este !

     Cheers Rodrigo, Harrison, Dan, Peter, and Nathan    -                  TONY

Owner Joe Nagan of TOAD HOLLOW VINEYARDS Here Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

     Our local rep John Peters brought us owner Joe Nagan ( one of the three ) of TOAD HOLLOW VINEYARDS, Healdsburg, CA. yesterday. We have worked consistently with Joe's Limoux sparkling wines from southwest France : the dry, flavorful Amplexus cremant and the Risque a sweeter, lusher, riper more decadent bottling. They both cost the customer around $20 and they sell consistently. I love to tell the story about the inventory that was taken ( and which is public record ) when Thomas Jefferson died. He had six or seven cases of Limoux in his possession. It was made before real champagne existed. It's flavorful, complex and highly extracted and fun all to boot! 
     With Joe we also sampled his new 2007 dry rose Pinot Noir  called the " Eye Of The Toad ". We will probably include it in a future wine-tasting here when John comes to taste from his excellent portfolio. We ended tasting with Joe ( , ) both the 2006 Zinfandel " Cacophany " from Paso Robles and the 2005 Merlot Russian River that came from Richard McDowell's vineyard. Both were really flavorful wines made to complement a meal, not so much as sipping wines. They had quite developed personalities with lots of nuances and I think that the flavors of the foods would fill the spaces in between the wine's various flavors. 
     I'm thinking about bringing in an assortment of Joe's wines for the first of June. The labels are really colorful and fun, of course there's a toad featured prominently in them. Too bad they were not pouring the wines at Zoofari last week. They would have been perfect and gone over really well. We've always enjoyed a lot of success when selling them. It was also great to finally meet one of the owners.
     A note of interest : Toad Hollow Vineyards was the brain-child from what I am told was Rodney Strong ( of the Rodney Strong winery ), Joe referred to him as the Robert Mondavi of Sonoma when we talked briefly about Robert Mondavi's passing away this last Friday, May 16th, 2008.
     Cheers Joe ! And cheers to both Robert Mondavi and Rodney Strong : both who are now only with us in spirit. Another note : we have received at Cleveland Park Wines our shipment of Robert Mondavi wines. Come check them out here at 3423 Conn. Ave. N.W. Washington D.C. ( 202 ) 363-4265. Ask for Mike or Tony.      TONY

Monday, May 19, 2008

Four Poems About Robert Mondavi

I wrote these Saturday morning the day after Robert Mondavi passed away. These are my four Morning Poems - perhaps Mourning is applicable, too in this case . Here they are in the order in which I wrote them. Enjoy. Oh, the first is mostly in French : the three others mostly in English.

A Mon Avi
Mon Amu Davi
N'Est Plus La
Mais Son Esprit
Est La Tous
Jours - La - La - La
La Musique
En Vin En Acc
Tous Bon Ccueil
Venus Bien Tous
Les Vivants Boirent
A Mondavi Mon
Notre Rob ( Quelle Belle Robe )
Rob Sieur Bob
Quel Hom Mon
Omme Sieur Sur
Qualite Qui
A Part Son Art
Son Conseil Avec
Artager - Pa - Pa - Part
Art Artie ...
#1 written Saturday morning at 9:36 AM.

Sorry Are Sad We
See Lose Mon
Yes Dav Davi
Bert's Rob
Bert's Ernie
Like Friend Close
Ours Gone Died
Day Yester Way
Passed On Us
Hand Anded Torch
Now Carry We
Flame Wine
Share Vey Vey Con
With Fid Id Dence
We Bear We
Wine Forth Share
Story Joy Gems
Those Liquids Ours
Grapes Grr Grrr
Up Up Drink You
Happy Apes Prime
Rimed Mates Gust
Ust Usto Us
With Glasses Chink
#2 written May 17th, 2008 Saturday morning - a bright, breezy sunny morn.

Rob Ob Ob Ert
Davi's Mon
Man Good
He's Gone
We're Hurt
Urting Sad
A Down Good
Man Lost Us To
Now 'Cept
Deeds Mem-
Emories Last
Of Shared World
Wine's Jewels In
Vary Arying
Licks Of Liquids
Robes Red
Garnered Garnets
Faded Rose's Shades
Sun's Golden Hues
Soil's Hidden Tastes
To Life Lips Ours
Brought Us By Sought
He Us Taught !
#3 written Saturday morning at 9:51 AM with a clear blue sky, sunny , breezy morn!

We'll You Miss
Mondavi Rob
Two Parts : Rob
And Bert One
Love Pass Assion
Ass Pass On To
Us Wine's Charms
Those Highs Soar
Oaring Lows
Ocean Glass Bottle
Root's Depths
Reached Screeched
Man Vin Grape
D'Accord Accorded
Breached Brought
Sublime Tastes
Shared Partaged
With Us By
Rob And Bert
Davi And Mon
Notre Ami Grand
Great First Rate
#4 written Saturday morning, May 17th, 2008 at 9:58 AM on a clear, beautiful, breezy bright morn. What else could anyone ask ? Here the promise of many good things still to come : we celebrate the many influences/ contributions of a fine man, Robert Mondavi. I thank you for my humble part. TONY

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Robert Mondavi Remembered May 18th, 2008

It's funny how memories just begin to occur as you focus on things. This thing now and center stage is Robert Mondavi. I prepared our dinner for my family tonight and at dinner I brought out the bottle I have of 1995 Napa Pinot Noir signed by Robert on the label itself, and a drawing done by Magrit on the back side by Magrit and signed by her. Funny, I thought that Magrit was the sharper one when I met them . By that I mean I think that the connection I had with her was stronger than the one I had with Robert. And yet on the label that Robert signed he got both my name Anthony and the year 1998 correctly. Magrit, on the other hand drew a dancing Bacchus with a glass of wine in it's left hand raised as was one of his feet. She drew it in gold ink. But when she signed and dated it she wrote 1997. So whom was really the sharper? Does it even matter ? No. Not at all because they were a team that functioned together well and filled in each other's blanks and spaces. Kudos to both Robert and Magrit. I wish that I had gotten the chance to know them better.
At our dinner table I told all my family about Robert and Magrit. I tried to instill in them some of the enthusiasm and excitement I feel when I think of them. I tried to make them and their immense contributions to the world as well as the wine world come alive for them ; to beat in their hearts as it does even now for me ten years after having met them both here in Washington D,C, at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel. They were listening to me and I think trying to become involved. It's a stretch for them but not for me.
Earlier I emailed the Robert Mondavi winery and told them about my two blogs and about the four poems that I am about to include on my blog called : I will try and do that later tonight. If not tonight I will get it done no later than this Tuesday when I go to work.
At our dinner table I was reminded of another Robert Mondavi moment for me. It took place in Timonium, Maryland years ago. I can't remember the dates or anything specific. Here is what I do remember : I was invited by a man named Mark who's last name I cannot recollect. It will come to me. It was when we both worked for Laurent Selections an import company of mostly great value French wines solf by president Laurent Vonderheyden. Mark was the spokesperson for a vertical Robert Mondavi tasting in Timonium, MD. This came through prior connections of his. He must have thought well enough of me to invite me.
This was a big event and it included some important people attending. I remeber that Bob Parker. Jr. was invited and I was looking forward to seeing Bob after so many years. I used to sell him wines way back when in 1984-5 when he would come to the Mayflower Wines and Spirits and fill his cart as he walked around the store and asked us each what wines to buy. I sold the American' California wines then and so he'd ask me what I recommended. Anyway, it had been quite awhile since I had last seen Bob.
At the tasting there were quite a number of people seated in a large room with the various glasses already poured and numbered of a vertical of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignons going back twenty yeras or so. There were many white sheets with circles for each glass and the years listed within the circle. I was impressed. Someone had really done their prep work. I remember working hard to taste through all the wines and to make my evaluations. Mark asked various people what they thought. I remember clearly that he had asked Bob what he thought. Bob was quite clear with his impressions and I remember not agreeing with him at all. We were tasting the same wines and our impressions were so different.
At some point Mark called out to me and asked me what I thought. I told him that I disagreed with Bob and I went on to say why and to explain. I didn't feel bad about this, perhaps a bit self-conscious and awkward for disagreeing with such a well-respected and famous taster. Oh well, I spoke my peace and that was that.
Somewhere I think I have my notes on all this and I am now encouraged to find them. If indeed I do I will add them to another blog. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be included in this tasting. Mark, thank you for including me. The wines showed quite well, some better than others. It was an invaluable eye-opener and I learned from this tasting. Kudos to everyone that did such a great job to make it the success that it was. And Mark I will remember your last name and include it shortly! Sorry !! TONY

Luncheon At Robert Mondavi Winery, Friday June 28th, 1996

Back when I worked for Forman Brothers distributing company our wine sales team won a trip to California to visit certain wineries. The Robert Mondavi winery was one of them and it was my first visit there. I had not visited it with my father earlier while he was still alive so I was really pleased to finally see it as well as the Opus One winery. As much as I did enjoy visiting Opus One this was my favorite of the two. It may have been because we enjoyed such a wonderful afternoon there after our tour looking out at the vineyards and the hills in the back where we were feted with our own meal and menu : Forman Brothers clearly spelled at the top. I took the liberty to get it signed by both our chef, Sarah Scott and our personal guide Gilles de Chambue. Memory fades and I would not have remembered either name unfortunately. I also have a picture of both after the meal speaking with John Pollis and Emily Maische while the rest of us listened and I busily arranged pictures of glasses and bottles, flowers( pink Gerberas and yellow wild flowers ) and menu. It was magnificent summer's day and everyone was relaxed and smiling.
I had my camera this time and am pleased that I got four ambiance pictures at our table outside. The back of the menu states : " Our Vineyard Room reflects Robert Mondavi families hospitality and their belief that all the arts - fine arts, gastronomy and wine - should be enjoyed together. " It goes on to say that executive chef Annie Roberts designed the menu especially for us using ingredients grown in their garden or chosen from local growers. The wines were chosen to complement each course and it was a program started back in 1968 as a wine and food education program. I do remember really enjoying my meal but also the beautiful day and hospitality.
Robert Mondavi, his wife, his two sons - none of them were at this luncheon. That's too bad. I would have enjoyed meeting them there on their home turf. We started our meal with a salad of Romaine hearts and goat cheese with a fume blanc vinaigrette. The 1994 Robert Mondavi Napa Fume Blanc was served with with this tasty, vibrant salad. What a perfect pairing for that moment. We then moved to a tenderloin of beef with a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce, garlic mashed potato strudel and grilled asparagus. The 1993 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon reserve accompanied this rosy pink tenderloin.
I have pictures of us enjoying the salad and Fume Blanc. A rose was also served as I can clearly see glasses in the pictures I took. Was it one of the La Familia wines or was it something else? I cannot remember. Gilles must have wanted us to try it.
We then finished with a warm summer fruit compote with peach ice cream and almond shortbread cookies. This was matched beautifully with the 1994 Robert Mondavi Napa Moscato d'Oro that is delicate and light and very reminiscent of Muscat Beaumes de Venise wines. I tried to take pictures of the vines beyond us further back but I got lots of shadows.
Gilles asked us where we would be dining that evening. We told him and he had sent over a whole set of the different La Familia wines for us to enjoy with our Italian-style meal. Talk about a true host, a smart business man, someone that goes way beyond what would normally be expected. Thank you Gilles, thank you Susan. You all showed us the Robert Mondavi hospitality that day and we are grateful still twelve years later.
I collect these my Robert Mondavi stories to share and bring to life to share them with everyone two days after Robert Mondavi passed away at his home in the Napa Valley. We will miss you Robert. We will not forget what you have done for the whole wine world. Thank you for being such a generous ambassador to the wine world and sharing so much with everyone.
When I was visiting the Catena winery in Mendoza, Argentina I remember talking with Pedro the assistant wine maker there at the time. Pedro was responsible for showing us Mendoza and the Catena winery on our visit. On one of our bus rides he and I spoke. He told me his story and how he had learned about wine. He could not say enough in praise of the time he had visited the Napa Valley and the Robert Mondavi winery. I think this all came up when Pedro and I were discussing the different kinds of tannins and how to better know and manage them. Pedro had these same discussions there in Napa. He talked about how open and willing to share ideas and listen they were. He spoke with gratitude and strong conviction as if he had been really moved by this experience.
Even after our lunch there on just a half-day spent there I can now see a bit more of what he described. Our tour was quite informative and complete. I have a strong feeling that Pedro is just one of the many people in the wine business all over the world that echoes these sentiments : sentiments that will ring even louder and clearer now. Too bad I don't have a bottle to enjoy now. I will have to go buy one or two and toast you Robert, your wide Magrit and your two sons Tim and Michael - not to mention all your family. Cheers, to wine, life, art, hospitality. honesty and nobility and humbleness/gratitude of all human souls to/for one another. Live and let live. TONY

Winemaker Robert Mondavi Passes Away

It was Monday night at Cleveland Park Wines where I manage the wine department when a customer asked me if I had heard that Robert Mondavi died today? I said I had not. It affected me quite a bit and I have been thinking of it ever since. That was Friday, May 16th, 2008 when I heard this news. It is now Sunday, May 18th, 2008 at 2:06 PM and I have been meaning to write a bog about this ever since. Ideas have come to me and I have composed ideas all the while. I would have gotten to this sooner but the weekend is a busy time with lots of wine sales that are obviously important to our livelihood.
Yesterday, Saturday morning I did get up early to walk our dog and I thought some more about Robert Mondavi and what he has meant to me over the years. I also wrote four poems before getting to work and I will include these here or in my poetry blog called chatpoetry. Anyway, my mind has been filled with Robert Mondavi.
I met Robert Mondavi only once and it was memorable. I worked for a wholesale company here in Washington D.C. called Forman Brothers. When I worked for them they were still a family-run business and I had met both founder Izzy Forman and his two sons. I had even been invited to a special dinner at one of the son's because my sales were so good at one point. Anyway, Forman Brothers had arranged a special lunch for Robert and his wife, Magrit and son Michael at the Willard Hotel. There were perhaps twenty-five or so people that mostly included staff and sales people of Forman Brothers. Izzy Forman himself was there for this luncheon. It was held in the Crystal Room.
I have the menu signed by Robert, Magrit, Michael ans Izzy. I only wish that I had brought my camera with me then to take some pictures. I did get a bottle signed, too : of the 1995 Napa Pinot Noir. Not only is it signed by Robert but also by Magrit that is the artist in the family. She drew on it a Bacchus for me. I have since drunk the bottle because I saw no reason not to. The wine was meant for drinking. I do still have the empty bottle and treasure it. Magrit drew a grape cluster on the menu for me ( 15 grapes, 3 leaves ).
I don't really remember much about the meal. It was good, don't get me wrong : but I was focused on Robert Mondavi the whole time. We ate Maryland lump crab meat with sauteed Shitake mushrooms and a baby Endive and Mache salad. To drink we were served the 1995 Tocai Friulano ( always one of my very favorite wines made by Mondavi, I loved the whole series ). This was followed by a broiled petit filet of beef , peppercorn sauce and some mixed wild rice and seasoned vegetables. With this pepit filet we enjoyed the 1994 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Fresh mixed berries and Sabayon followed with coffee. Sounds good even now ten years later.
There were speeches but the one that really made an impact on me was that of Robert. He spoke beautifully and with warmth and sincerity as he shared many observations and anecdotes with us. My favorite was when he said : " please always remember - common sense - it really is not common ". When I had a chance to meet him later at his table I asked him to write it down on the side of the menu with the two wines listed. He wrote : " To Anthony " ans signed it twice, the first time with his full signature and the second with hid initials RM circled and dated 1/30/98. Michael signed below on the same side. Magrit turned the menu over and drew her grape cluster under her signature , simply Magrit : " To Anthony Quinn ". That's nice in case there is any doubt later to which Anthony were they speaking.
I was ill-prepared for this meeting : I had neither camera of a bottle of wine to sign! So I looked around and saw that a couple of my colleagues had gotten bottles from the Willard staff upon asking. I went right up and asked, too. I was not going to miss this chance and I'm glad that I did. I offered to pay but they would not take my money. I'm sure that both Izzy and Robert were charged for these bottles. Thank you both, thank you four really.
I'll never forget how impressed I was after meeting Robert Mondavi. He impressed me so much, just as did his wife. Magrit sat there by his right side at the luncheon. I remember. I hunched down between the two of them when I met them. I could see a spark - a connection when I spoke to Magrit. We communicated a bit more than I did with Robert. She may have appreciated more my asking Robert to write down part of his speech. I only had a few minutes at most because there was a line of people wanting to meet Robert and Magrit and get bottles signed. I think I was the first to ask to have the menu signed. I think people copied my lead on this. Anyway, there I was so close and I gave it my best because I knew that this was a rare moment for me indeed.
I have another couple of stories to share, one at his winery and one in Argentina when I spoke then with Pedro the assistant wine maker ( it was back in 1995 ) at the Catena winery. I will relate these in the next Mondavi blog to follow shortly.
I will leave you with the part of Robert Mondavi that I carry with me always and share with everyone each and every time that I do a tasting with both white and red wines. I heard from someone that Robert always likes to taste the reds first followed by the whites. I tried it when I heard this and I loved the way both wines seemed to benefit from this order. Since I have almost always followed his advice and it always raises eyebrows and yet the results are always the same : people enjoy the wines immensely and are won-over. Thank you Robert. You have always been a true ambassador of all wines and for that I am in your debt and eternally both in awe and respect of your example overall. I'd like to think that I, too am an ambassador of all wines. Your example helps me still to sustain me and my own drive to share and open eyes to the diverse wonders of wines worldwide, known or not, matters not. Just let me pour us all some wine and thank you and Magrit for all that you have done and have to represent. TONY
P.S. On Thursday night at the National Zoo's annual ZOOFARI event to raise awareness and money for the plight of frogs worldwide two Robert Mondavi wines were being served. My daughter and I were tired from sampling so many foods at the moment I spotted Scott Peters over to my right. I had to go say " hello " and introduce him to my daughter. As we exchanged salutations I spied both a red and a white Mondavi wine that Scott was sampling. I had already had enough wine and so I did not ask to taste these two. Too bad, I wish I had now. I'll just have to buy some more Robert Mondavi wines to put into our store. We'll toast him and Magrit with some of his wines soon. That's a promise. I feel deep in my heart Robert that I owe you.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Alice Rion shows a customer the bourgogne rouge 2006 and the 2005 Nuits Saint George 2005

     Alice Rion shows one of our customers here at Cleveland Park Wines and Spirits two of the bottles she is pouring. She may also be making recommendations on which two to buy. She was nice enough to sign the bottles and personalize them as gifts for our customers, either to themselves or to family and colleagues, Thanks Alice. You all really worked hard here and we appreciate it. We know you've all just arrived from France and are jet-lagged.

Alice Rion, daughter of Armelle et Bernard Rion, burgundy

     Alice was here pouring her two red burgundies alongside all the others tonight with Laurent Givry, We love the Rion wines and have sold a boat-load of red burgundies across the board from Rion, recently snapping up all the remaining 2002 vintage and selling that to collectors and aficionados of fine red burgundy. The nice thing is that the Rion wines are still really well-priced.
 Alice poured the 2005 ( another great vintage ) " Les Lavieres " Vielles Vignes Nuits Saint Georges ( $64.99 ) and the bourgogne rouge 2006 " La Croix Blanche " Vieille Vigne, $24.49. The Nuits Saint Georges 2005 is a baby of a wine and should be cellared for another 2-6 years or longer. The 2006 bourgogne rouge is starting to come into it's own and will become even more focused and ready in another 6- 12 months. Buy some now and put away until next winter.
     It was great to have Alice here. She really knows her wines and sold other bottles and vintages this evening as well. She never flagged, was pouring and selling for almost three hours straight. This was Alice's second time here tasting with our customers : she came once while I was on vacation last August. Come check out some of our other bottlings of Rion. Classy, balanced and flavorful red burgundy for all you Pinot Noir lovers out there.
     Alice, on the left with two bottles in her hands is tasting two new customers of ours.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Owner/Winemaker Marc Pasquet of Chateau Mondesir Gazin/Chateau Gontey Bordeaux Here

     On Friday. April 25th, 2008 we had owner/winemaker Marc Pasquet here in the store along with other winemakers/owners from both France and Spain. We will include all as we have the chance. Marc has been here at Cleveland Park Wines before tasting his fine red Bordeaux wines with our customers. He specializes in wines from the right bank with Chateau Gontey Saint Emilion Grand Cru ( 2001 and 2003, both $42.99 )  and Chateau Mondesir-Gazin, Blaye, 2004 ( $28.99 ). Marc had just come from Franc for the big Elite imports portfolio tasting on Monday night. Even tired he was a dynamo of energy and concentration, intent on pouring and representing well his three wines to our customers here at Cleveland Park Wines. Most people seemed to prefer both the 2004 Chateau Mondesir- Gazin and the 2003 Chateau Gontey. The Mondesir -Gazin was heartier and beefier and more rustic and forward in it's flavors, harder-edged and from the gut. The 2003 Gontey was lusher, smoother, fuller, riper; less bite, less edge, less attitude or resistance. I liked the 2001 Gontey better because it had more developed flavors, more tar and leather and burnt, toasty, roasted flavors where the fruit was becoming wel--integrated into the oak and producing a sweeter oak flavor. The 2001 Gontey needs a meal. Both the 2003 and the 2001 are medium-bodied, balanced and focused wines. I'd sip the 2003 before the meal and dive into the depths of the 2001 when the food arrived. 
     In all honesty, all three did well at the tasting. We've sold all three well here over the years. Depending on price and budget they are all well-worth buying ; also depending on your meal. Marc, it was great to have you here again and to revisit all three of your wines ( they are also available in magnums which we have carried ).
     The tasting was from 5-8 PM and we had a steady of flow of customers used to our more ambitious tastings, thirsty both for knowledge that comes directly from first-hand tasting and not dependent on reviews, points and scores. As you each tasted here you made your own scores and evaluations. Cheers.

Owner/Winemaker Marc Pasquet of Chateau Mondesir Gazin/Chateau Gontey Bordeaux Here

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Christian Lauverjat and his wife, Friday, April 25th,2008

     We had owner of Elite Imports Laurent Givry bring seven of his winemakers/ owners here to our store to do a tasting of their French and Spanish wines with our customers. Featured here in the picture is owner/winemaker Christian Lauverjat of his winery in Sancerre. He was here tasting wines with his customers Friday, April 25th from 5-8 PM. They were all tired, they had just arrived from Europe to taste wines at Mio restaurant on Monday for other retailers and restauranteurs. They tasted their dry 100% Pinot Noir Sancerre rose 2007 ( $21.99 ) and their white Moulin des Vrilleres ( $21.99 ). It was quite the production, people everywhere and lots of great wines to taste, buy and enjoy.

Melanie, creator of Macchu PiscoLa Diablada Peruvian Pisco( on right ) At Cleveland Park

     In December of 2007  when Emilio Velez was tasting a selection of his wines Melanie came to the store with her sister Lizzie Asler visiting from up north to make pisco sours with her Macchu Pisco( $21.99 ) and taste people also on her more complex La Diablada. These are Peruvian piscos that Melanie has created and brought to our market and we've represented them from the start here at Cleveland Park Wines. Melanie ( on the right, Emilio and her Lizzie are in this picture ). 

Friday, May 9, 2008

Winemakers Carol Wilson( Moon Mountain,Sonoma,CA/Christophe Paubert( Canoe Ridge, Walla Wall, WA )

     It sure was a fun unwinding road that just got more exciting as we walked along together getting to know one another better. It was all so largely unplanned, unscripted. It took me by surprise several times and I am pleased to relate that it really was a pleasure finally meeting both wine makers Carol Wilson and Christophe Paubert
     We had scheduled a Wednesday night tasting on April 30th here with both wine makers. Christophe showed up first, prompt and early and immediately introduced himself. Listening to him I caught his accent and immediately asked him if he was French. He was. He comes from Bordeaux's famous Sauternes area and even worked at Chateau D'Qyuem. We got to talking as I showed him where he would be tasting wines with Carol around our round table at Cleveland Park Wines and Spirits. I told him I had to finish a couple of things and so he looked around the store to get his bearings.
     People started to come and so both Christophe and I got things rolling, Christophe opening bottles of his wine while I opened those of Carol's. Christophe just had two wines, 2004 Merlot and 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, both at $24.99. I was later to find out that they were both higher in alcohol than the two from Carol. That really surprised and caught me off guard. Carol had two whites : a 2006 Sonoma Sauvignon Blanc and a 2005 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, both at $14.49. She also had two Cabernets: a 2005 Sonoma bottling, $17.49 and an Estate Reserve 2004 at $32.99. I noticed as I was pouring Carol's wines that the Sonoma Cabernet was only 13.9 % alcohol by volume and that I really appreciated that there was no alcoholic taste at all : it reminded me the first time of an nice Italian red. It was spicy, earthy, forward and balanced and that's what I want - balance. The 2004 Estate Reserve has more stuffing, denser, thicker and lovely on first both bouquet and then taste. It however needs more time to really open and show all it's charms : no need to rush it.
     People were really coming and our local rep Eric was on the phone trying to figure out where Carol was. I finally asked if she was coming as I poured the crisp, refreshing 2006 Sauvignon Blanc and the 2005 Chardonnay that was just slightly-oaked and yet for me that oak flavor carried through from start to finish. I can't get past that but most of our customers like it and don't mind. That's what keeps it all so interesting : our responses are all so varied and fun. 
     Christophe's wines were really elegant and refined and more French / European in style and they were very well received, especially the more chewy, hearty Cabernet. I preferred the subtlety and finesse of the Merlot and think that it will be nicer as the warm weather comes crashing down on our collective heads any time now.
     Carol finally  arrived here , a bit puzzled and happy that she discovered our store's location by chance. She had to take the metro to get here. It was her first Washington D.C. metro ride and I think it pleased her overall. She was a touch frazzled, however from a very busy schedule and I think it took her an hour or so to really relax and get into the swing of things here. It was busy, people gathered all around as id their custom thirsting for knowledge, wine and contact with our wine makers / owners here. They are really used to and comfortable with meeting person to person these people responsible either or both at paying for and creating these wines we enjoy.
     I did not speak much to either Carol or Christophe. We were too busy. That is usually the way it goes here. I stop people and invite them to taste and direct them to the owner or wine maker. Not rocket science but it works. People then try and get to talk and know a bit about these - our rock stars as I like to refer to them as - wine makers and owners. They are our humble, silent, hard-working celebrities. So I just get snatches and bits here and there of conversations and info about the wines/wineries and philosophies. This sometimes really bothers me, I'd like to selfishly hog them all for myself but that's just not right. So I do the best I can.
     It's usually towards the end of the tastings that I can catch up and get my breath and talk with the wine makers / owners. This was this evening's scenario. I asked them to sign the bottles, to sign my poster and book and I continually snapped away as the tasting went on getting one picture after the other. These photos will soon appear on this blog page. They will illuminate even further the fun and dynamic aspect of these tastings . We have fun, we teach and make it fun, we make it a more personal relationship between wine maker / owner and buyer. What more can anyone really want or need ? They are after all drinking the wines in the bottles, no the scores and points and verbiage about the wines.
     Carol was speaking and she said a couple of things which I cannot remember now but which completely caught me off guard and showed me her more creative, playful side. When it was time sign the bottles opened for our tasting to put in our store-front window she signed them : To Tony The Tiger! Wow! That got me going back to the days as a child that I loved frosted flakes and ate bowl after bowl, handful after handful! She then a few seconds later sang " They're great! ". Fun. She removed the price stickers and put them on my left shoulder telling me that she was pricing me and not to forget this. I did. I was much too caught up in the Tony the tiger and all the fun now and then, combining, making me smile and just feel good.
     Christophe got swept up into this tasting as well. Both Carol and Christophe got to see how fluid our tastings are, no hassle, no attitude, just relaxed fun and a bit of experience and knowledge thrown in, too. We had one of our customers here : Karen. She helped us close down the tasting and we took more pictures, told more stories, smiled more and I brought out gifts of my wine label drawings and recent poems. Fun. Inspiring.
     It was not until I was driving home that I remembered the pricing on my left shoulder. I smiled. How much was I selling for ? Who would buy me? Would they pay $32.99 for just like for the bottle of Carol's Estate Reserve 2004 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon ? Would I deliver as much ? Fun musings and I smiled in the darkness of Rock Creek Parkway broadly! Cheers, and thanks to you Christophe and Carol. Oh, I did discover that Christophe went to Columbia Valley in 2005 and that he is still unmarried.      TONY

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Nick Stacey Of West Cape How Winery Draped In Aussie Flag

     We had Nick Stacey the export manager/creative force in marketing here after a whirlwind three-week mad-rush plane-hopping tour that exhausted and almost rendered him comatose if not for one thing : he's Nick and resilient and hard-working,professional and thoroughly dedicated and focused in his job. He and rep Jeremy came through on Saturday April 26th from 1-5 PM ( Nick had to catch a flight back to Australia soon after ) and you could tell that they had been burning the candles long and hard and late with little sleep : unshaved, tough,rough all energy sapped and still performing brilliantly both of them , professionals to the core trucking on empty! Thanks guys, we had a blast with you. Nick said he was lucky if he got three-four hours of sleep some nights.

     We tasted through the line : the dry Riesling, both the oaked and unoaked Chardonnays as well as the Shiraz and the Pinot Noir. The wines always show well : balanced, well-knit, firm and balanced. I like the whole line. I was really enjoying this time the dryness of the Riesling 2007 ( $18.99 ) and the mature, aromatic, gamey taste of the 2005 Shiraz ( $19.49 ). Both would have been really nice sitting outside close to a grill with different vegetables, mushrooms and fish n' meats hot off the barbie. As it was there was plenty to keep the senses fully amused/aroused with all the customers interacting with both Nick and Jeremy - and the wines to fill in the gaps and the spaces between dialogue when the body relaxes and one is transported into a really nice peaceful wine-assisted state of being. 
     At some point the Aussie flag came out of one of the briefcases. It soon found itself wrapped and draped and swung/twirled around Nick. He posed, he paused, he took on the lokk of Rodin's Balzac statue in bronze. He looked contemplative and impressive - of royalty, of power and distinction. I think that anyone that knows Nick will peel with laughter and have their guts split as they try to compose themselves after seeing these pictures. I just got them developed and will scan them onto this page very shortly.
     Anyway, it's always great to have Nick here and Jeremy, too. The wines speak for themselves. We can't keep them in stock. Our customers love them and they just seem to quietly, effortlessly disappear from our shelves until one of you asks us for them . We go to get a bottle and realize that we are out. That's easy, pick up the phone and order more. Fortunately our wholesaler is really invested in these wines and keeps a good supply for us to draw from. Cheers Nick and Jeremy. See you soon I hope.
     Nick's new Vinaceous wines ( four ) will soon be released : We'll be stocking soon - you be looking out for : 1) the Snake Charmer 2006 Shiraz , 2) the Red Right Hand 2006 Shiraz / Grenache / Tempranillo 3) the Raconteur 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 4 ) 2008 Divine Light white Verdelho. Always something good in the pipeline : these Vinaceous wines have great art work and will fly along with the West Cape Howe wines from Denmark, most southern tip of western Australia that we already know and love. Cheers,   TONY 

JEAN TRIMBACH Here A Week Ago, May 1st,2008

     It was great to have Jean back with us once again. He came for the first time last year with rep Emilio Velez. I was happy to meet such an important person in the Alsace wine scene that has been instrumental over the last thirty years in giving Alsace such an exalted place here in the United States. By that I mean with those people like myself in the wine business that know just how great the wines of Alsace can be. Unfortunately these wines are hard-sells here and most Americans I feel in my humble opinion have no clue about what wine gems are hidden in Alsace and await discovery. This is a real shame as they have also often offered outstanding values considering the money you pay for them and the amazing layers of flavors and tastes they offer compared to what you pay for other wines at the same price. They are more complex, more daring wines that take more time to understand and in some cases you have to learn to love them and it sometimes takes a meal to fully bring out the flavors deep within the cores of these gems.
     Saying all this it is nice to have Jean back here with us. I was unable to go to the lunch at Vidalia I think it was. I have to be here to serve all our wine-buying customers and so it was with a sense of sacrifice and knowing that I was missing a special event that I sadly passed this wine and culinary experience : and all for you our beloved customers. That's okay. Eric Platt brought Jean here after the lunch and we proceeded to taste slowly through the seven or so open bottles left over from lunch.
     It's always busy here with customers at Cleveland Park Wines and Spirits browsing and surfing the shelves for unique,sometimes dusty bottles of wines to try. I stop everything for the customer and always try and involve them when a wine maker or owner is here tasting his wines with Mike and me. That's what happened when Mike and Penny and other customers passed us. Jean tasted his wines and described them with pride and such passion. He sells the wines that his brother makes. They have a really long family tradition and you can see his strong sense of place and history in his actions and words. I was tasting along as I could between helping customers. I like to joke and come up with descriptive scenes and events, people and fantasy images at times to describe the wines and how they sit/fit/look and feel on me. I do this in French and in English and I can be both serious and humorous all in one.
     I was snapping pictures of Jean all the while he was waxing passionate and poetic and historical about his wines. He was gesticulating with his arms and his head was in constant movement as he acted through his scenes, different for each wine from dry Rieslings to more aromatic Pinot Gris, Thicker,denser,spicier Gewurztraminers and sweet, honeyed, nutty and mineral concoctions/magical spells and exotic flavorings. Sublime anyone? I captured Jean's mood and idiosyncrasies. He's tall and distinguished and always well-dressed. He's got a great smile and it rolls out a bit more when I make a comment in French. He's happy, too because I think he likes my sense of playfulness and not taking the wine too seriously. He says no one can understand us, conspirators us ( ? ), because we speak in French. Little does he know that a lot of our customers here both speak and understand French, Mike our customer does. He often talks to our wine personalities in French without batting an eyelash.
     I took a lot of the pictures looking through a large, broad and tall-brimmed Reidel wine glass. I like to do this : the wine's in the bottom of the glass and the top is clear and I can/the camera's eye can see through it and record what's on the other side. In this case it was Jean in all his actor's/performer's intent and concentration and fine performance. I'm going to go down to Moto Photo shortly and speak with owner Laurent and make copies of these pictures. I'll put them up in the store soon and also later download them to this page so that you can make of them what you will.
     Jean was pressed for time. Enough is enough. We tasted and we will buy his excellent wines. They are representative of some of the best of Alsace. I love the restraint and the elegance /finesse and true breed that these wines speak to. I am happy to have them here in the store and have ordered some for our next tasting here with Emilio which will be Saturday, June 14th from 2-6 PM. Join us. We will taste some of the same wines I tasted a week ago : something hopefully for everyone. Thank you Jean for such timeless liquid Alsace masterpieces. Sante et felicitacion a tpi et ton frere aussie .
     We do have one of Jean's better wines here : signed just now by him - the 1999 Reserve Personnelle Pinot Gris, $35.49 which impressed me so much on Jean's last visit that I bought heavily of it. It's so thick and viscous and richly-textured that it leaves little room for the wanting of much else. It will send the palate soaring up and crashing down and rumbling/rushing everywhere else in between until you settle comfortably into a blissful state of reverie and appreciation wherever good chance and fortune has it. Cheers.    TONY


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Victoria Benavides Visits Of ELIAS MORA, Toro, Spain

     It's marvelous when you gel with someone almost immediately as I did with Victoria Benavides. She came here earlier with local rep Lisa of Elite wines. She called before and asked if she could come by. That was considerate as we are frequently quite busy here at the store. I don't like people to have to wait around to see us here at the wine store. I especially don't like wine makers and owners to sit or stand around long.
     It's a beautiful day here at Cleveland Park Wines and Spirits and I had no idea how much I would enjoy this encounter with Victoria which just morphed and morphed - growing into a really nice shared tasting-wine experience. We tried Victoria's wines of course.
     Let me retract, we tried both Victoria's wines. That's to say that the two white Verdejos are made by her colleague also named Victoria. Confusing? It is but then that's life and the wine business. From another spin it's also intriguing. The two Victorias are not related, they just made wine together at one point; now they don't.
     I tried the two white Verdejos and said how much more I enjoyed the less expensive version that we have sold case after case of over the years. The more expensive is bigger and thicker, lusher, more serene, more like the still sparkling water and light of a night lagoon with the moon's reflection. I said it was more like you feel after sex : the less expensive one was more like you feel when you want sex. I mean no disrespect here. These are more reflective observations using descriptions and images to convey the styles of the two wines, both made with the lovely Verdejo grape. Both were a treat. But considering also the heat of the day I would much rather drink the less expensive bottle and use my mind to imagine the sex even if it stayed only in my head. I told Victoria this . She smiled. She immediately replied in French that the mind was an important place and so was the imagination. I then translated for Lisa so that she could be in on this bit of playful mischief of ours that I instigated!
     I tried Victoria's red Vinas Elias Toro, the more complex/evolved and earthier, pithier more tar leather and tobacco Crianza Toro and finished with the mighty Gran 2004 Toro. They are made from the Tinto de Toro which is one of the many clones of the Tempranillo. I liked them all but especially the last two.
     Lisa told Victoria that I could speak French and she was relieved because she can be more expressive in French. That was evident from the get-go. I translated some for Lisa. She begins her French classes in a week's time she tells us. That will be so helpful Lisa in understanding the complexities/subtleties of the language , what is being said and it's particular bent of the moment.
     I did not like the alcohol and extra warmth of the Vinas Elias. It was so pleasing and full and broad and actually quite BIG on the palate. It was a bit TOO much of all that for me and I was left with the strength of the alcohol in the back ranges of my taste buds. It will be a big hit I think for a lot of the American public. It's good , just not my personal style. Anyway, that's what makes life interesting.
     I liked the Crianza and the Gran. I immediately liked all the extra flavorings of the Crianza from start to finish. Lovely, stimulating, intriguing! I liked it repeatedly as I re-tasted it several times during all this animated conversation in French and English. After all, here I was surrounded on both sides by two lovely ladies. Not bad.
     The Gran I immediately felt the power and weight and intensity and said to Victoria that I thought it needed another 3-5 years of bottle age. I asked Victoria her opinion. She seemed to think it was quite drinkable now and said some people liked it now while others like myself preferred to wait. I then got from Victoria that the two were like horses , one domesticated, one wild. She was referring here to the Vinas Elias and the Crianza : the Vinas Elias was the wild horse and the Crainza was the domesticated one. I reversed the two and said that was how I saw the two, opposite to her definition. Anyway, then I heard her refer to these three wines as her sons : no daughters, all sons. I translated this for Lisa. I liked it. I don't quite see though why one of the three cannot be a daughter to her? I don't have an answer for that. Oh weel, on our next visit.
     We had a great , warm , special visit the three of us. I gave Lisa and Victoria some of today's writing - my poems - and Victoria some of my old black-and-white wine label drawings. I did them in 1985 as possible wine labels : some actually became labels. Anyway, Lisa asked before we left about the reds : which was the one before sex and which one the one after ? I didn't answer then. Thinking about it now I see the Vinas Elias as the one after sex and the Crianza the one before. Tempting. Cheers!   I mean all this in good fun and humor and respect. It was great to meet you Victoria. Merci pour la degustacion et a plus tard! Venez nous vous n'emporta quand.  TONY

Monday, May 5, 2008

Drinking FALESCO Vitiano Italian Dry Rose With My Wife

This was about the moment and sharing it with my wife. I think that many of this look forward to this particular moment in our daily lives. We even anticipate and plan it often. It's not always just by chance and sometimes can be quite elaborate. This particular moment last night was neither orchestrated or elaborate and yet it is one of the nicest times that I have shared with her. It ranks right up there where the few things involved were magnificent.
Let's see, there were the two of us. My wife was suffering a bit and not feeling her best. It may be that she is catching a cold ; the jury is still out on that one. There was our backyard starting to grow and multiply and bloom. Everywhere we looked there was baby green and softer-looking yellows. The sharpness and harshness of browns and dark holly greens were softened by all this abundant, lush growth and it was all amazingly appealing to the eye. And there was a bottle of Vitiano 2006 " Falesco " dry Umbrian rose from Italy. These were the key factors/players and it all spelled a wonderful two hours of peace and conversation/observation for both my wife and I. We grew closer together I am sure of that. I felt closer to her .
I was given the sample bottle of Vitiano to drink about a week ago by our rep Jody. She needed to place it again in our store. It was a priority of hers and I said that we would taste it in the store with customers when she came next to do a store tasting. Simple, not much else to discuss about that : problem solved. It's rose season as the weather warms us up and we have picnics and dine out on our terraces, decks, lawns - at tables, on blankets on the ground and we enjoy all those appetizers and cold cuts, salads and things fresh off our grills, sizzling and tasty and - watch out - hot!
I had been watering the things I had just transplanted and my wife had been reading our daughter's paper and offering suggestions. We united here out on our back deck and were ready to relax and put the world and all our duties and responsibilities off to the side for a little while. We have done this now for years and I think it brings a welcome relief and some sanity and good cheer back into our daily routines.
The minute I said I was going to bring us some wine my wife said " good " . We love wine, we love how we can relax and put things off for awhile. It relaxes us and this would be no exception tonight. I came back with the bottle of Falesco rose and probably mentioned quickly how much I liked meeting Riccardo Cotarella last year at Johny's On The Half Shell in Washington D.C. last year. I did. It was wonderful because he was passionate and inspired/fired by his wines and wine-making. It showed both in the wines themselves and in him. The food served that day also helped to really well showcase his various wines. I think that the rose may have been offered as an aperitif as people arrived and moved to the big table in the private dining room. We were all gathered around one large table and for the most past could see one another. I sat across the table from Riccardo. But I am getting off the story at hand. Let me now bring you back to my deck and my time shared with my wife.
I opened the bottle of wine and poured. I should have searched for some appetizers but was too tired : bad excuse. Oh well, I took the short-cut, the easy way out. Good thing that the wine was so fresh and good. It had to carry the whole libation show on it's shoulders as there was only it and nothing else to lend it support. It did not need it.
This Umbrian dry rose was a year old. The company needs to sell it and quick! The new 2007 vintage arrives any day now and there's no need for this older vintage anymore : a forgotten' lost soldier, a wine who's services are no longer needed or required. Heard that one before? Sad fate, it must be gotten rid of quickly! No time to waste.
I knew by it's darker color that it would be more flavorful and robust. I've always liked the wine in the past. I can't remember if it's made from Merlot or Sangiovese grapes, perhaps a blend? Anyway, often these one-year-old wines are a bit heartier, more robust and neither as fresh or as lively as those just-released. It might have had more of an edge, been more thick on th4e palate, it may also have had some sharpness and acidic edgyness. I was not sure what we would encounter. I did have a bottle of the Chateau Arromans white Entre-Deux-Mers downstairs in our refrigerator just in case. You don't want to spoil the moment ever if you can avoid it.
I needn't have worried : the wine was delicious and still bright and vibrant and very appealing. It had no roughness or sharpness, no heaviness. Rather it had an intriguing mix of dark and bright fruit flavors that teased and pleased the palate all in one. I was drawn into this taste, it captured my imagination especially with all the new lush vegetation. I could easily have seen myself imagining all the irises in various exotic colors blooming as I sipped this wine with my wife. That would have been fun, or to see the red bee-balm flower and mimmick the wine's small tongues' of flavors reaching out and touching us ; much like the red flowers that make me think of jester's loud vibrant hats that have tassels that fan out and catch the eye and the active imaginations like mine.
We both loved the wine and managed without any problem to enjoy it thoroughly and appreciatively. We were hungry and ready for the Perdue oven roaster chicken and awaiting the white pop-up. Our son checked it from time to time as he was quite hungry! We did finally enjoy dinner as we moved our small party of two inside and off our deck and into our dining room where we welcomed the company of our son.
We will soon be selling this 2006 Vitiano dry rosato umbria " Falesco " at $10 or under a bottle. Come get some while you can. I have a feeling that you will be as pleased as we both were. Cheers! Oh, we will follow up the 2006 with the 2007 and see how it sits on our palates in a completely different way. It may require food whereas the 2006 was a delight all by itself. Always something to look forward to and anticipate or not, depending on whether it's planned or serendipitous in nature. TONY