Friday, January 27, 2012

Hugh Hamilton Of His Own HUGH HAMILTON Winery In McLaren Vale Tastes The Viognier, The Chardonnay, The " Mongrel " Sangiovese Red & Jim-Jim Shiraz

It's always great to get Hugh Hamilton of his own Aussie winery in McLaren Vale HUGH HAMILTON wines back into our store Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits ( 3423 Connecticut Avenue N.W. Washington D.C. 20008 Tel: 202-363-4265,, also now on Facebook at : Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits and on Twitter at : cpwinespirits ) when he visits Washington D.C. each year. This , for us was an especially great visit with Hugh as he had business to conduct in Washington and was able to be in our store two nights in a row! What a great opportunity this was to share both Hugh and his wines with our customers. Many people already knew both Hugh and his wines as he does visit usually once a year and we do invite him to taste with our customers. All good fun and on this last visit late in 2011 Hugh came to dinner at our home after the second night's wine-tasting ( I cooked - grilled outside ) and we had a lovely visit with my wife and son and talked wine and about the PERRIN Reserve Cotes Du Rhone 1996 that we drank ( signed by Jacques Perrin the owner to me year years ago ) and the Saperavi grape from Georgia, the Kindle that he saw my wife has and wants to give to his, and college with our son. Fun all around.

This is but a small glimpse with Hugh as we follow the tasting with two of our female customers, one a regular customer and one that we were meeting for the very first time. That's always nice as we need to continually make new customers to stay healthy. They both liked Hugh's wines and I believe both purchased a bottle, too. We virtually sold out of Hugh's wines within two days with Hugh's help. Thanks Hugh!

The store was quiet here for a moment and so Hugh was able to spend a bit more time talking to these two lovely young ladies. That's really nice as often it's quite busy and it's difficult to taste and talk about the wines and where they are from. In this case from the McLaren Vale which is just outside the town of Adelaide and a beautiful part of Australia as well. I was able to get to the Barossa Valley and to the Adelaide Hills but simply did not have enough time to see Hugh. I will regret that for a very long time Hugh and the only way that I can make that better is to make a special trip at some point to see you at your winery. I may be able to do that when I finally get to visit New Zealand for the first time. I still have to work that out as well!

All the wines were showing well. That pleased me enormously as we pretty much had to pull this tasting " out of the Hat " so to speak. There I was on a Tuesday morning writing the store's weekly email and who should pop his head around the corner with a big smile and a " G'Day " but Hugh! Fortunately enough I was already receiving some wine from Arielle Monaco of the Country Vintners that included some of Hugh's wines. That made it easy for us to at least taste two or three that Tuesday evening from 5-8PM. What good luck as Hugh's wines always sell quite well as so many of our customers already know them.

I think that we may also have tasted some of the Merlot as well? My memory gets a bit hazy at times. I think that I wanted something besides the Sangiovese dry red blend and the Jim Jim Shiraz? I have always really loved the Merlot for it's forward and full and rich flavors. I like the Chardonnay for it's elegance and finesse and the Viognier for it's touch of more tropical fruit tones and the well-placed dollops of honeysuckle. There's a lovely sense of place and good-timing and balance with Hugh's wines that make the word " breed " come to my mind often enough.

Hugh is smart enough to get the names and the emails of all the customers that taste his wines so that he may put them on his email list and send them information. We do the same at our register. And both Hugh and I can often be seen passing out our business cards to our customers, new and old as you never know when their hearing from us might mean some more positive business where everyone benefits?

Hugh, you never stop! You always do these marathon trips of yours through the United States and we are always thrilled to have you come and be a part of our store. It has been many moons now since we first met you and your daughter Mary and you are a big part of what I like to call the " Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits " family. Happy New Year 2012 and it was nice to exchange emails with you last night and I hope to hear more soon from you. In the meantime best to everyone at home. Cheers, Anthony ( TONY ) Quinn

Thursday, January 19, 2012

2011-2012 Tasting GALLO Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2009 ( $32.99 ) By Gina Gallo Winemaker @ Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits In Washington D.C.

All the wines were good that I tasted on this afternoon at Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits. They should have been : they had the money of Ernest and Giulio Gallo behind the : or Gina and Matt Gallo now, the children that is. That's a whole lot of money and clout and influence and experience and pretty much everything else. Especially when you stop and realize that much of what GALLO has done is already with successful and good vineyards all around the world that already have a history, track-record of excellence and perhaps just a bit of money issues like so many businesses in the world today whether wine-related or not. These are tough times and everyone knows it.

As I have said many times to people that visit the store I am most interested in supporting GALLO with their California efforts ( as in helping LOUIS MARTINI and MIRASSOU Vineyards that had already made very fine wines and been in business for many years before GALLO took them under their financial wings ). To me that makes perfect sense to support GALLO in these efforts as both of those wineries really did contribute to the pageant which is now a colorful California tapestry of wine flavors, styles and soils and regions that have been a big part of the recent American wine experience.

At Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits where I manage the wine department - now for more than 12 years ( 3423 Connecticut Avenue N.W. Washington D.C. 20008 Tel : 202-363-4265 also now on Facebook at : Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits and on Twitter at : cpwinespirits ) we have had both Michael Martini and David Mirassou come and do in-store wine-tastings of their wines and that has made them in my mind part of the broad but very real Cleveland Park Wines' family that I readily embrace anytime over abstract points and scores and artificial hype to sell more boxes of wine.

We had all better watch out by so readily promoting points and scores as we will soon put ourselves out of business as our worth and value the wine equation/ experience become antiquated and no longer worth subsidizing?!? That would be a tragedy : people need people to come and see and be able to look square in the face and ask advice and help from. That's real : that's a connection that you can hold onto and that can lead to meaningful exchanges.

So, all the wines showed well that were shown to me of GALLO, LAS ROCAS, FREI BROTHERS and the Spanish white Albarino, too from MARTIN CODAX. They were all winners in their own right and styles and genres. I liked some more than others : I have sold them all at Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits over the years at one time or another. It just has depended on what was going on and if we had had a chance to taste them and what deals were being offered at the time. Selling GALLO itself is not a priority for me at Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits. I do a cross-section partly because of the values that they offer from the SHEFFIELD, LIVINGSTONE and TISDALE brands on up. Buying-power does have its advantages and in today's market people are often counting their pennies to make every one of those stretch as far as possible. That's smart business on the consumer's part as it is on ours of the retailer.

Pictured above is Matt and his boss that came to make a presentation of these wines to us a month or so ago. They brought wines with them to taste Ean and me on and that is what I ask and expect of them if they hope to get a product into our store and onto our shelves. Don't act simply as order-takers : earn your keep with us and help us to do a better job with our customers. They did their part and we tasted and evaluated these wines carefully and bought the GALLO Pinot Noir made by Gina Gallo herself immediately : especially when I heard the price that we could sell it for. I was very impressed with the elegance, finesse, polish and overall breed of this wine. I loved it's focus and it's balance and the price of $32.99 is very reasonable to me as it easily tastes more expensive than that. I also believe that it easily beats out many compeptitors that are a whole lot more expensive but not nearly as balanced and enjoyable to drink as this one is. Congratulations Gina, I have never met you before but I complement you on this bottle that we are selling now and happy to have on our shelves.

Bravo to Gina Gallo's GALLO Santa Lucia Highlands California Pinot Noir 2009 : I loved it immediately and went back to re-taste it at least two or three times more to be sure that my first impression was supported again and was not simply a fluke. It was not : it was the real thing, the real taste impression : where my taste buds and my sense of smell all rallied in praise and appreciation of the bouquet and the flavors offered up to me in my Reidel Austrian wine-tasting glass. I was a fan of this 2009 limited-production GALLO Special-bottling of Pinot Noir from California's Santa Lucia Highlands : a very solid offering indeed and one that can easily be enjoyed with or without food and which I do believe will still improve in the bottle with another 2-5 years of cellar age. No need to rush through this now. Buy some and put some away and perhaps drink a bottle every six months ot every year? That sounds about right to me. Buy a six-pack and enjoy over time.

Matt came in later to do the wine-tasting that he had signed up for while in the store tasting here with his boss. I think that it pretty much came up actually at the last minute as we had had a cancellation and Matt was free to step in and do a tasting with our customers. Thanks Matt : that helped to get the MARTIN CODAX dry Spanish white Albarino back on our shelves along with the 100% Garnacha dry red black-labeled LAS ROCAS dry Spanish red on our shelves as well. We already had the GALLO 2009 Pinot Noir that we had bought immediately. It turned out to be a good weekend in-store tasting and we sold some of each of the three wines that were sampled. We did not taste or buy for the store the FREI BROTHERS Chardonnay or their Sauvignon Blanc. WE may buy those at a later time when we taste them again or need them for the store as they fit the category and the price? We cannot afford to buy everything and I really want to bring back the LOUIS MARTINI and some of the MIRASSOU Vineyard wines that our prior rep Bill Cook used to sell us from Republic-National distributing.

We still need to get some of the regular everyday LAS ROCAS Garnacha Spanish red ( it's in the tall Bordeaux-bottle shape and not the squatter Burgundy bottle shape ) onto our shelves. We will order that and floor-stack it : perhaps five cases with four for the stack and one for the shelves? That sounds about right to me. I will talk to Matt about that the next time that I see him.

So all is well and we start fresh with Matt that clearly is doing all that he can to get some new business with his wines to our store now in 2012 and we thank him for that. On his end he is doing everything to make it as easy and smooth to work with his extensive portfolio and so Ean and I will taste and we will decide what we need and want for the store as we get into March 2012.

Hope you enjoy these pictures. Being an artist I am looking for ways to bring some new perspective to the wine-tasting experience. I want color and bottle and wine and action and composition all help you all to decide that you might want to taste and buy some of these wines pictured here.

It's all about temptation and making things look irresistible to you all. Have I succeeded? I hope so : that is my intention.

Visually things can play such an important roll in our wanting to buy a wine and taste and enjoy it with our meals. Everyone already knows the power of the wine label and how that can make the difference in whether or not to buy it or not?

Looking at the color of the wine, it's clarity and it's brilliance, too can make a big difference in whether or not we want to buy and taste it. I like to show some of that and I want to offer up images that " add to the equation " as I like to put it. Hopefully you see and witness and are made aware of something visually in a creative, appealing and stimulating manner? I certainly hope so. That is what I can bring to the table as an artist. So much has already been done with words and packaging. Now it is how do you present them to the buying/ tasting public? There are many ways and I hope that I have touched upon a few of them here. Let me know : I would love to hear your comments? Gina, what do you think? Please comment and let me know below. Thanks.

Anyway, come to the store and get some of these wines. We still have some of the GALLO and of the LAS ROCAS, as well as of the MARTIN CODAX. WE can buy more of the two Spanish wines. I believe that all of your wine Gina the 2009 Pinot Noir is now sold-out? I will check with Matt. We still have four or five bottles perhaps at $32.99?

Golden-tinted white on black, nice combination in the picture above. I like it, I like it a lot. I also like how I got reflected in the bottom of the Reidel wine glass that the bowl sits and rests on the lovely golden hues as well ... lovely extension - continuation ...

Look at the swirl, look at the motion of these white and dry FREI BROTHER'S California wines : brilliant, especially with the ceiling lights above bright and strong shining through them.

Thanks again Matt for everything and we will go over these and other GALLO wine selections when we meet again soon. Cheers and enjoy Valentine's Day tomorrow all of you. These would make some excellent Valentine's Day wines for tomorrow , especially the GALLO 2009 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir. You can call Ean at the store today ( as it is my day-off ) and ask him what we still have left of Gina's 2009 Pinot Noir? Call : 202-363-4265. Cheers to you all, Anthony ( TONY ) Quinn

Friday, January 6, 2012

Anthony Quinn's Impressions Of J. Freedom Du Lac's " Article : " Where Wine Meets Wealth "/ Saturday, 12/31/2011 In Wash Post

It was well-written this article of Freedom Du Lac's entitled : " Where Wine Meets Wealth ". Appearing on New Year's Eve DEcember 31st, 2011 in Satuday's Washington Post newspaper on the front page. I did not read it until Sunday as it was a really unseasonably beautiful and warm Saturday in the sixties I believe and I was appearing on NBC4 and being interviewed at 9AM about some of my favorite bubbly/champagne and sparkling wine selections ( as well as a sparkling wine cocktail of my selecting ) to celebrate New Year's Eve a bit later. It was all so much fun and after the interview I rushed off to work to show and taste our customers on some of the bubbly that I had selected and already shared on NBC4 earlier. There was not time : people would be rushing soon to the store to buy their last-minute needs to finish off 2011 and to ring in 2012!

I liked Freedom Du Lac's story once I got over my initial shock that and article had been written about Pepi Almadorov and the store Calvert Woodley ( up the street from ours : Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits on Connecticut Avenue N.W. ) and my first thought that the article had been largely procured by all the weekly advertising dollars that Calvert Woodley pays yearly? It did occur to me, really it did. However, once I actually got over this and actually read the article I liked how Freedom Du Lac approached it and wrote as much about Washington D.C. now and in the past and how things have changed and evolved. It became for me a human interest story, a history story, too. It spoke much more of simply Pepi and one store.

I also liked that the story had been written about an actual wine store : one that is in Washington D.C. where so much started first and which has paved the path for so many other wine stores and stores that simply include wines as one of the very many things they sell to get their start and their foot-hold in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. I liked this a lot. Like us at Cleveland Park and many of the other excellent wine stores in Washington D.C. ( MacArthur Beverages, Chevy Chase, Schneiders. Burka's Fine Wines, Bells, Wide World Of Wines, Cairo ) and more we started as beer, liquor and wine stores and we have continued as such. We are small family-run operations here in Washington D.C. like Calvert Woodley and we have been around for a very long time and we have survived so far all the larger retail operations that have simply added wines to their inventory to increase their profits, even like places like Wallgreen's pharmacy a block away from us that claims they want to simply answer their customers requests and be more for them ). I say and have said already to the lawyers of Wallgreen's : " Then why don't we start being more to our customers, too and start selling some drugs to make up for the revenue that you take from us by selling really inexpensive beer and wine? They did not know how to respond to this question of mine. So bravo to Freedom Du Lac for actually picking a true beer, liquor and wine store to write about. That pleased me enormously. It also pleased me to see that a fellow Washington D.C. retail wine expert like Pepi Almadovar was given some time and attention for a change. Too often if not always it is someone in a restaurant setting ( a chef or a sommelier, doesn't matter if the chef or the sommelier has paid their dues yet it seems )gets all the lime-light. Don't get me wrong : fair is fair : and they deserve some of this attention but certainly not all. Again in my humble opinion I believe firmly that it is the beer, liquor and wine stores where most people learn and get advice on how, when and what to serve depending on their events. So bravo to you Pepi : you deserve this article and I am thrilled for you. Happy New Year to you and to your family. Yes, it's true, I have known Pepi for years having sold to him for many of them when he worked at Schneider's Fine Wines on Capitol Hill.

I liked Freedom's keen observations like when he wrote : " With New Year's Eve approaching, most of the customers dodging one another in the family-owned store's aisles carted off champagne or tiny bubbled alternatives. One man picked up a bottle of $110 Barons de Rothschild Blanc de Blancs. Someone else asked for a 2004 Cristal For nearly $200 : 12 percent alcohol by volume for the 1 percent ". The " 1 percent " that can or choose to buy/ afford it as you can buy a case of our MONTELLIANA Extra Dry Prosecco from Veneto, Italy ( that's 12 bottles ) for $144 that includes tax and still have $56 left over to buy a bottle of the POMMERY N.V. brut champagne for $47 a bottle : 13 bottles for the price of one really expensive one!

Freedom Du Lac continues : " Most of Calvert Woodley's 52 employees take home less per week than the roughly #1,500 it would cost to buy a single bottle of 2005 Lafite. " Sad.

Freedom adds : " But the rage-against-the-wealth ethos represented by the Occupy movement is missing from the store. There's more awe than resentment about how the haves throw their money around here." Another sad statement in my humble opinion.

I also love how Freedom quoted other of the CW staff like Dillon William, 51 a Jamaican immigrant and Fogle. About Phillip Fogle, 43 Freedom writes : " He lives in Ward 8 , where the unemployment is around 2o percent, and he's surrounded by poverty. ... For New Year's Eve, after working the 9-7 shift, Fogle said, he's going home to listen to jazz and open a half-bottle of Ben Rye, a sweet wine that sells for $32. " These are really keen inclusions by Freedom. They help to paint a much bigger picture and it's interesting to read and to learn from it. I certailnly did,

I am sorely sorry that he did not include Tom McKnew that has been at Calvert Woodley for as long as I can remember and that has helped make it what it is.

Freedom continued to write : " Multiple bottles of Andre Cold Duck wound up in shopping cart Thursday ( the bargain sparkler sells for $5.99 ), people were loading up on $9.99 bottles of Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay and bagels were outselling caviar ( $69 an ounce ) by a wide margin . ... The store also is selling far more bottles of prosecco - the budget- friendly Italian sparkling wine - than Krug, Dom Perignon and the other high-end, $125-and-up champagnes in the lead-up to New Year's Eve ".

I love how Freedom ended the article : talking to Pepi and quoting him : " I think only of satisfying the customer". I feel the same, the customer is always first. Greet them politely, make them feel welcome and give them the respect they deserve, listen carefully to them and assist them as best as you possibly can. That's doing the job right.

To Freedom I say to you : good job and think now of visiting some of the " other " quality store I have mentioned above and giving us some equal opportunity, too. With Valentine's Day approaching on the 15th of February 2012 I believe? Anyway, this gives yo plenty of time now to contact some of us and come to our stores to see the excellent jobs that we, too do, We may not have 52 employees but we are equally determined to " satisfying the customer " / our valued customers as well as they new ones we have still to meet or are just meeting today for the very first time. Cheers, Anthony ( TONY ) Quinn