Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Asheville wine notes (update!)

I finally got down to Table Wine on Saturday, for a long overdue visit with Josh Spurling. His store is done up in quiet colors and nice natural-wood library shelves; upscale without making a big deal out of it. He's got some nice stuff on the shelves, including a number of Louis/Dressner selections, and a healthy offering of Bordeaux, which I will have to go back and examine more closely. Josh is the same guy I knew back in the Asheville Wine Market days: Warm, enthusiastic, and very, very knowledgeable. Showing great restraint, I left with only five bottles, including a Jose Michel 2002 Special Club that just had to go home with me. I'd seen the "Special Club" designation before, but didn't really know what it meant, so Josh explained that in a very good vintage, recoltant-manipulant (grower/maker) producers will band together and create a cuvée from their very best wines. Read more about it here.

Later on, I stopped in at the old stomping grounds to find that Eb is installing a pair of automatic wine dispensers in the back of the store. You buy a card, stick it in the machine, and it gives you a sample pour. One machine for red, one for white, and one slot dedicated to "expensive." I think they're supposed to be operational as of today. And, after 18 years, he's done the wild thing and bought shopping carts. They are small and very easy to steer, and they are obviously an encouragement to stock up. (Which I did, of course.)

Finally, it's not quite here yet, but Vinsite is coming soon: Les Doss and Kathy Taylor's excellent adventure in wine retailing. Followers of this blog will recall the "Hangin' At The Usual Suspects" series from a couple years ago. I can't say for sure, but I'm betting that all those crazy, exciting wines that Les tried out on us then will be available at the new place, plus lots, lots more. What there won't be, as I understand it, are the clichés of wine retailing: You will not be able to duck in for a cheap bottle of pinot grigio. You will be able to go seriously adventuring in the world of wine. I'll take that tradeoff any day.

Update (3/25/11): Vinsite will have not one but two pinot grigios on the shelf. So there. According to a Vinsite representative who would not speak for attribution because of the confidential nature of the information, there is a very good chance that the store will open its doors for business sometime during the week of March 28.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coteaux du Tricastin: Does It Glow?

No one will ever believe this post is coincidental to the news from Fukushima, but here goes anyway:

One of the great bargains of the last 12 months has been the 2007 Domaine des Rozets Coteaux du Tricastin, a nifty little Rhone blend (65% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 5% Cinsault) that went for $9.99. Dominique Bernard is the winemaker; her property is in Donzere, a village about 20 miles north of Chateauneuf du Pape. She vinifies using stainless steel only.

The appellation is situated on eastern bank of the Rhône, between Montélimar and Saint Paul Trois Châteaux. It's the northernmost part of the southern Rhone. In general, the vineyards are at slightly higher elevations than elsewhere in the Rhone, resulting in wines of somewhat lighter character. Although not well-known in the U.S., it's big, with 6,500 acres planted. Only 9% is exported, mostly to Belgium. In France, most of the wine is sold through supermarkets. The U.S. importer is Seattle-based Chloè.

The connection to current events is that beginning with the 2010 vintage, Coteaux du Tricastin will be offered under a new appellation name, Grignan-Les Adhemar. The reason for the switch: an accident at the Tricastin nuclear power plant. In July 2008, 4,755 gallons of Uranium solution containing natural uranium were accidentally released. You can read the details at wikipedia. Needless to say, this did not help sales. I have not seen any bottles from the 2008 or later vintages, but my understanding is they do not glow in the dark. The '09s, like '09s from elsewhere in the Rhone, are highly regarded. Here's a Jancis Robinson review, complete with nuke plant photo.

On the nose, lots of red and black berry character, with notes of brown spice, licorice, and vanilla. On the palate, pleasantly rich cherry/berry fruit and a little herbal character. These are meant to be drunk young: I bought a case of the '07 last September, and while the wine is still lively upon opening, a half-bottle with the cork re-inserted was already flattening out after 24 hours. I don't use Vacu-Vin or gas; either might be a good idea.