Introducing: Thirst from Radford Dale
What is a geek wine? Among wine drinkers I know, a geek wine does not hold a negative connotation – quite the opposite. A geek wine is something that could be rare or less known, certainly not mainstream, and is most likely appreciated by a confident wine drinker (meaning someone who knows what they like and drink it). Thirst Gamay from Radford Dale is such a wine.
Where to begin? First, it is Gamay. Gamay as in Beaujolais, but this one is from South Africa. South Africa has only 32 known acres of Gamay vines. That is 0.0128% of total planted vines in South Africa. Leave it to super sleuth Alex Dale to find a vineyard with any Gamay. The Gamay Radford Dale sources were planted in 1984, so they are fully mature vines with naturally producing low yields. The vines grow on a low-wire trellis system which allows the grapes to grow underneath the canopy, sheltering the berries from direct sunlight, allowing for good retention of acidity and freshness.
Alex Dale Modeling His Shirt @ TWH
In the cellar, the grapes were fermented whole berry and whole bunch. A portion of the wine went through carbonic maceration. After 3 months in tank, the wine spent a short time in old neutral barrel. The wine is neither fined nor filtered and a minimal amount of sulphur was used. The alcohol content clocks in at a whopping 11.5%! Approximately 500 cases of this unique red were produced which means TWH has 4% of the production.
Ok, so what does it taste like? I first tasted the 2015 Thirst Gamay back in May when our stock arrived in our warehouse coinciding with a visit from the owner and founder of Radford Dale, Alex Dale. A visit from Alex Dale is always inspiring, entertaining, informative and motivating. Alex has a lot to say and I like what I hear. The emphasis Alex places on being ecologically and socially conscientious in the pursuit of making wine is honorable, to say the least. It is not just lip service with him. I found the entire line-up of his newly arrived wines the best I’ve tasted yet, but it was the new line, Thirst, that had our staff captivated. The Thirst Gamay is light bodied. You could say it is like a dark rosé, but I think it is better to describe it as a very, very, light red wine. The varietal flavors of the Gamay are spot-on and recognizable: lots of red berry fruit, a dusty earthiness and a perfumed green note of tomato leaf. The finish has an exhilarating dryness to it just as fine cru Beaujolais does. The tannins are present, giving structure to the wine, at the same time the low alcohol makes for a light, refreshing drink. As Alex told our staff, “all our wines are built on an architecture of acidity”, so that is there too, giving lift and freshness.
The Line Up with Alex Dale
The Thirst Gamay is best served chilled. Yes, it is acceptable to chill red wine, especially this one. On a hot summer’s day or balmy evening, when you are craving red wine but can’t bear to open one because you know it will be too much, too heavy, the Thirst Gamay is a very good option. Certainly the Thirst Gamay is fine on its own to sip before dinner, or to bring along on a picnic, but it is also suited for main course meals. You’d think it was intentionally designed for salmon, as it goes so well with it. Thirst Gamay is not a frivolous wine given its light body and low-alcohol. As Alex likes to suggest it is meant for wine consumers who are looking for a naturally produced wine with little intervention. He also points out that a wine like Thirst is difficult to make both from the standpoint of production as well as the costs associated. I’m grateful Radford Dale makes the effort.
Alex Dale & David Netzer @ TWH
I was finally able to spend a few days up at the River like I’d been hoping to do for some time. What made this trip nourishing and special was the convergence of three families under the guise of a wedding shower. Surrounded by this tribe, as we like to call ourselves, is where I am happiest! We don’t see each other often enough, but when we do, it’s like we’d never left each other’s side. Oh, and I discovered that my brother isn’t the only family member who reads my newsletters – thanks TH for reading to the end!– Anya Balistreri
Passetoutgrain is a regional appellation in Burgundy. It covers a large area, nearly 2000 acres, and the wine must be at least 30% Pinot Noir and have a minimum of 15% Gamay. So, how come so few know about or drink Passetoutgrain? For the most part, Passetoutgrain has lost favor, particularly in villages that command high dollars. In these places most producers have replanted Gamay with Pinot Noir. This makes economic sense, but as a result some of the cultural history of Burgundy is lost. Passetoutgrain occupies a useful category as it provides an affordable option for locals to drink and it can be poured at domaines while their age-worthy wines are being cellared. You won’t find anyone mistaking Passetoutgrain for Grand Cru, but if you are looking to rub shoulders with Burgundy without mortgaging your home, Passetoutgrain is a viable way to go.
All this background is to emphasize my delight when I discovered bottles of Domaine Françoise Lamarche’s 2013 Bourgogne Passetoutgrain in our wood box stacks. I didn’t even know Lamarche made a Passetoutgrain, let alone that TWH was carrying it! Chock it up to working here part-time. At any rate, I couldn’t wait to taste it! It’s a delicious blend of 50/50 Pinot Noir and Gamay that spends some time in neutral barrel. The production is tiny and comes, according to The Queen of Burgundy, Jeanne Marie de Champs, from a vineyard “on the low part of Vosne Romanée”. It’s pretty polished for this type of wine with loads of cranberry, tart cherry and flavorful spice notes. Put in the context of Pinot Noir from anywhere, I’d say Lamarche’s Passetoutgrain will appeal to those who prefer old-world Pinot Noir. It is light and delicate but with enough fruit to keep one’s interest.
Burghound’s Allen Meadows wrote this about Lamarche’s 2013 Passetoutgrain:
“The exuberant nose of very fresh red berry fruit aromas displays notes of spice and pepper. There is a surprisingly silky mouth feel for a PTG and while there is a touch of rusticity on the finish the overall impression is unusually refined.”
The history of Domaine François Lamarche reads like a novel. The family has been making wine for several generations and can trace their roots in the village of Vosne-Romanée back to 1740. Their vineyard holdings are impressive and include the Grand Cru, La Grande Rue, which is sandwiched between La Tâche on one side and La Romanée and Romanée-Conti on the other. Today, Nicole Lamarche is making the wines, having taken over from her father in 2006. With Nicole at the helm, vineyard practices have changed to biodynamic cultivation, new barrel regiments have been employed using less new oak and the winery has been updated to modern standards. Drinking a glass of Lamarche’s Passetoutgrain gives me that chic hi-lo vibe, like wearing a designer gown under a leather motorcycle jacket. It’s not a Cru, but it is incredibly enjoyable nonetheless – I am drinking Burgundy and spent less than $25 – what a deal!
Basketball, basketball, basketball. From NCAA to the Warriors to the last game of my daughter’s CYO league, March has been mostly about Basketball…and Burgundy! My daughter has never played on an organized sports team before this season. It was entirely her choice to play basketball and though not a “sporty” girl, she loved the whole experience! Her team made it to the first round of play-offs. It was a tough battle. She played in the 2nd quarter, caught a rebound, turned to shoot and was fouled. Her first trip to the free throw line and she made it in! Her first score of the season! Her team lost the game, there were tears for a hard fought game, but my daughter….well she ran off the court with the biggest smile imaginable, shouting “Did you see it? Did you see it?” I sure did and it was great! – Anya Balistreri
All of us here at TWH were shocked to see and read the news of the tragic events that occurred in Paris on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and the French populace.
Not such a pleasant way to commence this week’s Sunday email. Somehow, the topic I’ve had in mind to write about is applicable. Seeing that this is my last Sunday email before Thanksgiving, I will continue the tradition of giving thanks. A good friend of mine summed his feelings up pretty well on his Facebook feed last night. “Very sad day indeed. Could have happened anywhere. Give your loved ones a hug and be grateful for what you have.” A sentiment that I share with many is that giving thanks is an every day activity, not something to be saved exclusively for the fourth Thursday of November.
I’ve written about my early perceptions of Thanksgiving before. Most of my life, it was a holiday that I didn’t really celebrate. If I wasn’t skiing, I was bored. I didn’t care for any of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes. It was always nice to get together with extended family and good friends, but that was it. Of course this all has changed now that I have lobster and Sauternes on Thanksgiving. I’m planning on doing this again, and the wine I’m choosing this year is the 2005 Château Clos Haut Peyraguey. Why? A pair of cosmic tumblers falling into place.
Tumbler #1 – The property was purchased by Bordeaux chateaux mogul Bernard Magrez in 2012. TWH was just paid a visit by a Magrez’s export director last Monday, and he commented on our having a couple of back vintages of Clos Haut Peyraguey in stock. We spoke about Barsac and Sauternes at length, and I’m pretty black and white about my feelings for the wines. I think he got my drift.
Tumbler #2: It’s a 2005, a fantastic vintage for the wines of Barsac and Sauternes. I can recall John’s excitement about the quality of Bordeaux’s sweet wines when he returned from the region in the spring of 2006. Ben went so far as to purchase some ’05 Clos Haut Peyraguey futures citing its geographical proximity to Yquem. Then there was the tasting of 2005 Sauternes that I attended in 2008, leaving me with quite the impression, especially for Château Coutet. I last had 2005 Coutet on my birthday back in September and it was showing brilliantly! 10 years has worked its magic on the wine which was revealing some bottle bouquet and secondary characteristics. It was still fresh and youthful, yet layered and intellectual. We are trying to get more. I’ll get back to you on that.
Back on Wednesday evening, I was invited to the home of a very good friend to celebrate the end of his six year quest for a particular certification. To celebrate he picked up a USDA Prime Tri-Tip, marinated it, and slow cooked it for hours. He finished it off in a pan and popped a 1993 Penfolds Grange. It was my very first taste of what is considered Australia’s finest wine. It was a great experience, and along with another good friend we discussed many of the finest food and wine pairings we’ve enjoyed over the years. He humbly dismissed the tri-tip/Grange pairing from being among the best (it belongs in the argument), and poured full praise for “The year you brought that magnum of Fleurie to Thanksgiving dinner.” There’s a lot to say in support for Cru Beaujolais at the Thanksgiving table. It’s light. It’s complex. It’s versatile. It smells like fall. As the holiday approaches, we have helped many customers with their “Beaujolais for Thanksgiving” orders.
As I stated above, giving thanks is something that should be done daily, and I have reason to be grateful for many people and things these days. 2015 has been a very challenging year for me personally, and I wouldn’t be in the state I’m in without the tremendous support that I have received from so very many. Giving thanks, BIG TIME! Happy Thanksgiving!!! – Peter Zavialoff
|One of the many great things about working for a company like TWH is that we get the opportunity to experience some unusual, off-the-beaten-path, wine-geek-wines every now and then. The Clairet de Bordeaux from last year comes to mind; then there’s the Beaujolais Blanc from a couple of years ago; or more recently, a handful of wines from central Europe and the Balkans. What makes a wine a “wine-geek” wine? There are no rules – but low production, lesser known grape varietals, or perhaps familiar varietals from unusual terroirs qualify. What we have here is the latter. What we have here is a red Mâcon. Wait. Aren’t Mâconnais wines made from Chardonnay? Sure, the white ones are, but red? A little research yields the fact that there are indeed red wines from Mâcon. What’s the grape? Gamay. Introducing the 2012 Mâcon-Burgy from Domaine Sainte Barbe.
Having worked here for several years, my instincts have become spot-on regarding certain facets of our business. I don’t have either the time or patience to list out (and link to our blog) the litany of tres cool wines that David has discovered during his trips to France each year. I do have many memories of our staff gathered around the tasting table after work trying something new to us. When we taste a new wine that could be described as “a winner”, we don’t hold back, the praise is heaped high as we enjoy what’s left in the bottle of the new kid on the block. David is a humble man. Sometimes he may give us a chuckle, but usually just a wry smile and an, “It’s good, right?” The other day, a regular customer friend of David’s came in looking for some Burgundy. I had a lot on my plate so I wasn’t paying close attention, but then I heard him say,
“Now here’s something I found on my last trip. It’s Red Macon. Made from really old-vine Gamay. He only makes a few barrels, and I managed to get one of them! It is amazing; seriously amazing wine (insert proud chuckle).” I’ve been working with David long enough to read that one right. I pride myself on being a man of great patience (though that seems out the window here), but waiting for the next time the entire staff is present in order to maybe taste this wine, I knew, was not going to fly. So I put one on my invoice and popped it in the coldbox for 25 minutes. I poured out a little taste for Anya, Tom, and myself, and it went down something like this.
“Is it worth 27 bucks?”
“Oh, man. It smells amazing.”
“Does it smell like Beaujolais?”
“No. I mean I can sense the Gamay, but there’s so much more.”
“How’s the palate?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been enjoying the nose for 5 minutes now.”
At this point, I gave Tom and Anya their tasting glasses.
“Wow. That smells amazing! Is that not Pinot Noir?”
“No, it’s Gamay.”
“That’s a whole different kind of Gamay than I’ve ever smelled.”
“No kidding. I can smell this all day, in fact I haven’t even tasted it yet, I’ve just been taking in the aromas.”
“That’s-that’s-that’s what I was just saying!!!”
We all went in for a taste.
“That’s lovely. Reminds me a lot of the Clos Marc, you know with those herbal aromas, and the not-so-fruity, dry finish?”
“Yup. I know what you mean. It doesn’t seem to have that carbonic thing that you get with a Beaujolais.”
“Right. It’s not a tutti-fruity straight-forward George DeBoeuf Beaujolais.”
“I like it. I like wines like this. That herbal thing makes it super cool for me.”
|Back to our work stations for a little research, and it was revealed that the vines this wine was sourced from were up to 80 years old! Contrary to my observation, as is custom in Mâcon, the wine underwent carbonic maceration. There is some complex, ripe cherry fruit in the aromatics, but it falls back in line with the structure of the wine on the palate resulting in a fresh, zippy, non-unctuous fruity finish. Hints of tobacco and forest floor hover in the distance. All in all, it’s another winner, courtesy of David’s most recent prospecting trip to Burgundy!
Did I mention there was a lot on my plate? Yes, there is. I’m done whining about it. We are all super excited about our new 2012 Mâcon-Burgy from Domaine Sainte Barbe. After having survived the recent heatwave, I thought it proper to make my selection of the week a red wine. A red wine that one could put a little chill on and enjoy on a warm day/evening. Did I mention it was only 12.5% alcohol? Yes, c’est vrai. You don’t see many Mâcon Rouges out there, fewer that are imported into California; embrace your inner wine-geek and give the Sainte Barbe Mâcon-Burgy a shot. – Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about Gamay, wine-geek wines, Bordeaux, what to do now that footy season is over, or the band’s new album’s release date: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Subtlety. Nuance. Delicate. All words that resonate with TWH customers and contemporary wine drinkers. It seems many of us have shied away from obvious, in-your-face jammy fruit driven, or international wine styles. I remember several years ago while visiting my (at the time) local pizza joint, I discovered that my go-to wine was sold out. I looked at the list and noticed a popular, highly rated red wine that I had never tried. I ordered a bottle, and when the pie came, I had a sip of this wine and it completely overwhelmed the flavors of the pizza. Since that shocking experience, I try to find wines lower in alcohol with less obvious fruit to pair with my meals. Which leads us to the topic of tonight’s writeup: Cru Beaujolais.
Here at TWH, we all love Cru Beaujolais. We’ve been known to write about it every now and then. And I’m happier and happier as I witness the Beaujolais section of my personal cellar grow, bottle by bottle. Yes, some Cru Beaujolais can develop complexity after a short slumber. A couple of years ago after a tasting trip to Burgundy, David came back with some great news. He found a new Beaujolais producer, Château Raousset. Knowing David’s palate, we all were happy at the news. It was when the wines arrived that we started doing backflips. Full of charm and nuance, the Raousset brand is one that I hope hangs around here for a long, long time. A recent air-freight shipment revealed a six pack of wine samples from a negociant in Burgundy. We tried all six. The overwhelming star of the bunch: 2011 Fleurie Grille-Midi from Château Raousset! It was the first 2011 Cru Beaujolais we have tried, and we hadn’t really heard much about vintage at the time, but its resemblance to its 2009 version was striking indeed. For it was the 2009 Raousset Fleurie that charmed us first. One swirl revealed bright red berries and cherries up front, which gave way to a savory, forest floor complexity with hints of anise and tobacco. One could admire the aromas for minutes on end. On the palate is that unmistakable Gamay Noir brightness and friendliness. No big extract. No mouth drying tannins. Just pure subtlety and charm. Coming in at 13% alcohol, one can imagine a wide array of lunches and dinners that can accompany the 2011 Fleurie Grille-Midi from Château Raousset with style. Things as simple as a spinach salad, chicken wings, or a burger will work well. You can get fancy too. Beef Stroganoff, veal chops, or chicken paillard will all sing the praises of this delectable Fleurie. I sure wish I knew about this wine when I ordered my pizza all those years ago!
|We’ve been noticing the days getting longer … there are daffodils growing next to my driveway these days. I have booked my flight to Bordeaux for En Primeurs and I see cherry blossoms all over the place. Yep, spring is in the air. No doubt. Champions’ League football is back, sadly without the defending champions, but hey, that’s sports for you. Without having a horse in the race, it’s still my favorite competition, and I’ve watched a couple of great matches already. Once spring gets here, windows and doors will open up our homes to the great outdoors once again. Whether you’re out on a picnic, or just enjoying the fresh air coming in through your windows, the Fleurie Grille-Midi from Château Raousset is just the ticket! –Peter Zavialoff
Please feel free to email me with any questions or comments about 2011 Cru Beaujolais, Subtlety in wine, or Champions’ League Football: email@example.com