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Cream Rises to the Top 

My cell phone instantly autocorrects Andy Pates to Andy Pâtés because even it knows how cool Andy and his team at Cream are. It senses we’re dealing with a bon vivant who champions all things delicious in life and demands a more honorable spelling.  

Andy and his partners founded Cream Wine in 2001 and over the last decade have grown the company into one of the nation’s leading artisan wine, spirits and sake distributors and marketers. The Boarding House will be working extensively with Cream simply because I really like their wines and they’re a fabulous group of people to do business with. Good people make good wine and nice people sell nice wine.  Sometimes, it’s really that simple.

I recently sat down with Portfolio Manager Shane Salois, On Premise Sales Manager Dan Fullick and Sales Associate Erin Drain (during her first week with Cream) for tasting of a few items from their portfolio. Here are my tasting notes with certainly more to come….

NV Barmès Buecher Cremant D'Alsace, France --  Julen Dopff (1875-1972) was the pioneer of quality sparkling wines in Alsace. Through his lifelong friendship with the Heidsieck family of Champagne, he became familiar with the production of sparkling wines and eventually decided to produce them in Alsace. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that sparkling wine became a viable commodity in the region. The domaine Barmès Buecher was founded in 1985 (biodynamic since 1998) and is run by Geneviève Barmès. This blend of Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay is bottled with zero dosage. The grapes are harvested at 13% potential alcohol but the fermentation is arrested at around 11.7% alcohol and 22 grams/liter residual sugar. Thereafter, the second fermentation (on bottle) is started using the natural fructose, leaving enough sugar to cover up for the dosage. Pale straw color. Fresh and lively mousse with aromas of green apples, orange zest and toasted brioch. Moderate+acid acidity on the palate with additional flavors of lemon peel and candied orange zest.

2011 Michel Delhommeau Muscadet St. Vincent, Loire Valley -- Michel & Nathalie Delhommeau farm 28 hectares of vines planted on almost pure rock in the village of Monnières. The rocky gabbro soils that dominate the region is essentially formed from molten lava. To identify the terroir of his vineyards, Michel vinifies only by soil type, separates tanks out by vine age, and keeps volumes quite low. Pale straw color with green hues. Aromas of green apples, crushed rocks and lemon rind. Fresh and juicy on the palate with moderate+ acidity and fruit components reminiscent of a vibrant Sauvignon Blanc.

2011 Domaine Pajot Les Quatre Cepages, Cotes de Gascogne
-- The Cotes de Gascogne designation is used for vin de pays wines produced in the Armagnac region located in the southwestern portion of France. The Barreau family has run Domaine de Pajot for three generations, and today, Damien Barreau is the present manager. Eighty acres of vineyards are farmed naturally with plantings of Colombard, Ugni-Blanc, Gros-Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc as well as Merlot and Cabernet red grapes. The quatre or four grapes for this blend are: Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc. Pale gold color. Most of the wines that I’ve had from this region are quaffable but forgettable but this actually shows some aroma and flavor. Aromas of tropical fruits, crushed minerals, green herbs and lemon verbena. Palate shows high acidity with flavors lime zest and fresh basil.

2011 Foucher-Lebrun Le Mont Sancerre, France -- A négociant, Fourcher-Lebrun was founded by Paulin Lebrun in the 1920's, selling non-bottled wines to cafés and restaurants. Son in law Raymond Foucher came aboard in the 50's. It wasn't until 2009 that a new partner, rare wine broker Jean Mounard, started sourcing from highly select plots in the Loire, that they started producing steely Sancerres like Le Mont. Pale straw color with green hues. Clean nose with hints of tropical fruits, limestone and citrus zest. Palate shows moderate+acidity, crushed minerals and a fresh and clean finish.

2010 Domaines de Pattes Loup Chablis, France --  Proprietor Thomas Pico owns five hectares of vineyards and purchases additional fruit from vineyards owned by his father but that Pico farms himself, all in Courgis and Chablis itself. He began a program of strict yield control and a conversion to biodynamic viticulture—a rarity in Chablis. His Chablis AC, from 55+-year-old vines, is fermented in about 30-40% in concrete egg-shaped fermenters with the balance in stainless steel. Pattes Loup means "wolf's paws".  Pale gold color. This is not your typical Chablis with more tropical driven fruit in the nose and juiciness on the palate. Aromas of lemon curd, oatmeal and slight chalky minerality. Fruit is very focused on the palate with flavors of orange zest, yellow apples and a slight nutty oxidative note on the finish. Moderate acid. Excited to try his Beauregard and Montmain. 

2011 Bieler Pere et Fils Sabine Coteaux d'Aix en Provence
-- In 1992 Philippe Bieler founded Chateau Routas in Coteaux Varois – a small appellation in the middle of Provence. In 2005, his children, Charles and Mira took over the winery and started Bieler Père et Fils with an emphasis on Rose. They felt that the Coteaux d'Aix en Provence appellation was even more suited to the type of rosé they wanted to make so they zeroed in there. The Bielers work closely with a group of seven growers with vineyards in the hills surrounding the city of Aix en Provence. The wines are made just outside of Aix en Provence in a custom crush winery. Charles is also the driving force behind Gotham Wine, a project that bottles and sells wine in kegs to restaurants. The Sabine is made from a blend of 50% syrah, 30% Grenache, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cinsault. Pale blush in color. Aromas of watermelons, raspberries, juicy strawberries and fruity bubblegum. Palate shows moderate acidity with additional flavors of Provencale herbs and tangy grapefruit.

NV Eric Bordelet Poire Authentique, Normandy
-- Formerly the sommelier at one of Paris' most famous Michelin 3-star restaurants (Arpege), Eric Bordelet was encouraged by his good friend Didier Dageneau to pursue his dream of making world-class cider in his native Normandy. There are some 100 varieties of apples on the farm and a small orchard of pear trees planted around 1700. 85% of the types of apples in the base cuvee come from heirloom or antique apple trees. The orchards are farmed organically and biodynamically, and Eric believes that this is the regimen, which produces the best fruit for ciders. Over 20 different varieties of pears are used for the Authentique. Pale gold color. Aromas of pears, quince and almond cake. Dry on the palate with pleasant fizziness, at 4% alcohol, finishes dry. Eric’s Granit bottling is made from Tiny pears from 300-year-old pear trees some 20 meters high which have never seen a drop of chemicals. The Sidre Doux is produced from up to 100 different varieties of apples.

2011 Seven Hills Pinot Gris, Oregon -- Casey McClellan cultivated his interest in wines while planting the first block of Seven Hills Vineyard in the early 1980's. In 1988, Casey returned to the Walla Walla Valley to join the vineyard's founding partners in establishing Seven Hills Winery. The Pinot Gris was sourced from the Melrose Vineyard in Umpqua Valley. Pale straw color. Aromas of peaches and melond. Fresh and lively on the palate with moderate+acid, peach pit, hint of smoke and dry on the finish. Would be nice with salmon with a butter sauce.

2010 Palmina Pinot Grigio, Santa Barbara -- In 1995, Steve met Greg Brewer and formed the partnership that has become Brewer-Clifton, a winery solely devoted to vineyard-designate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the Santa Rita Hills appellation. While tasting many wines, he realized the immense similarities between his favorite Barolos and Barbarescos and the red Burgundies. Palmina is a passion project devoted to producing exclusively Italian varietal wines. Straw gold color. Aromas of yellow apples, honey, quince and green pears. Moderate+acidity on the palate with fresh clean yellow apple flavors. More of a Friulian style with more texture and weight.

2010 Abeja Chardonnay, Washington State
-- John Abbott was the winemaker for Canoe Ridge for a decade but moved on to pursue winemaking on a more personal scale. Abbott's quest matched up nicely with Ken Harrison's own plans for a new winery (and B&B) just outside of Walla Walla. Ken and Ginger Harrison, John Abbott and Molly Galt formed their business partnership in 2002, dedicating themselves to producing largely estate-grown wines at the property now called Abeja, which is Spanish for “bee”. 2010 was an exceptionally cool year. Pale gold color. Aromas of buttered apples, lemon custard, slight nutty component. Moderate acidity on the palate, well-integrated spice notes from the oak, flavors of quince, yellow apples, cloves and nutmeg. Well-balanced. Look forward to trying their Cabernet Sauvignon.

2010 Verdad Albarino Sawyer Lindquist, Santa Ynez Valley
-- Verdad (a project by Bob Lindquist and Louisa Sawyer Lindquist of Qupe fame) is devoted to making Spanish grape varietal wines. There are two primary vineyards that Verdad sources from. The Ibarra-Young Vineyard in Santa Ynez Valley, which is organically farmed and the Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard in Edna Valley, which is Demeter Certified Biodynamic. Pale gold color. Fruit forward aromas of peaches, apricots, honey and tropical pineapples and mangos. Slight residual sugar on the palate, moderate acidity with juicy tropical fruit and tangerine flavors.

2010 Melville Estate Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills
-- In 1989, Melville Vineyards, a family owned and operated enterprise was founded in Sonoma County's Knights Valley. In 1996, Ron Melville’s desire to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay brought Melville Vineyards and his sons Chad and Brent, to Lompoc's Santa Rita Hills appellation, located in the western Santa Ynez Valley of Santa Barbara County, California. Since then, they have also developed an interest in Rhone varietals, particularly Northern Rhone Syrah and Viognier. Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton is their winemaker.  Black cherry color, pink rim. Aromas of sweet cherry pie filling, cola, cloves, sasparilla and floral notes. Moderate acidity, moderate tannins on the palate with flavors of red cherries, macerated raspberries and baking spice. Always a solid choice for Pinot Noir.

2010 Robert Talbott Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Monterey
-- Talbott Vineyards is another well-known wine name around town in Monterey. Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands has become legendary for its Chardonnays. The winery was founded by Robb Talbott in 1982 and the first release of Chardonnay was in 1983 from their Diamond T Estate vineyard in Carmel Valley. In 1994, the Talbotts acquired the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard and the property became the home to the winery’s current winery. Wine maker Dan Karlsen took over for Sam Balderas, who retired in March 2008. Dan began his career in 1980 at Dry Creek Vineyard and has worked at Dehlinger Winery, and later as the winemaker for Domaine Carneros. In 1998, Dan became the winemaker and general manager for Chalone Winery, where he worked until 2007. Black cherry color. Aromas of sweet cherries, red plums and ripe raspberries with notes of baking spices. Moderate acid, low tannins with ripe cherry fruit flavors and vanilla on the palate.

2008 Tamarack Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
-- Founded in 1998 by Ron and Jamie Coleman, Tamarack Cellars is dedicated to the production of small lot, hand-crafted wines from select vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley, Yakima Valley, Red Mountain and Columbia Valley appellations. The winery is located in a restored WW II fire station and barracks at the Walla Walla Airport Complex. Production began in 1998 and is currently up to 5800 cases of the 2001 vintage. Blueberry fruit, inky structure. Made from a blend of AVA’s in Columbia Valley. Black plum color, maroon edge. Aromas of blackberry fruits, cedar and spice. Concentrated on the palate with inky blueberry fruit flavors. Moderate+tannins, moderate acidity. Intense, fruit driven and rich – reminds me of a baby Quilceda Creek.

2009 Ransom Grenache Pheasant Hill, Rogue Valley, Oregon
-- Ransom Wines & Spirits, founded by Tad Seestedt in 1997, is an artisan winery and distillery located in McMinnville, Oregon. Tad sources fruit from organic, sustainable and biodynamic vineyards mostly in the Eola Hills AVA to produce small batches of site-specific wines. This is interesting considering you don’t see many Grenache based wines out of Oregon but the folks at Ransom believe the warm to hot summers in the Rogue Valley are ideally suited to this varietal and predict, Grenache will become a hallmark varietal of the southern part of the state. Red cherry golor, red to garnet rim. Aromas of eucalyptus, menthol, fresh mint and raspberries. Moderate acidity on the palate, moderate tannins with additional flavors of minted raspberries and strawberries.

2010 Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Terribles, Heart Arrow Vineyard, Zinfandel, Mendocino -- - Dashe Cellars is a family-run artisan winery founded in 1996 by the husband and wife winemaking team of Michael and Anne Dashe. They share their experience and insights gained from top wineries such as Chappellet, Seavey Vineyards, Ridge Vineyards, Far Niente, Schramsberg and RWS Brandy Distillery, plus Château La Dominique in Saint-Emilion. Les Enfants Terribles (the "Wild Children") series was named as such because of the way the grapes are grown, and the techniques used to make this wine—fermented with the native yeasts on the grapes; aged in older French oak barrels; unfined and unfiltered; and bottled with low SO2 levels. Red cherry color, pink rim. Bright raspberry and strawberry aromas with notes of clove spice. Juicy on the palate with moderate acidity and moderate tannins. Would be a fun wine to pair with Vietnamese food.

2008 Matin Calme Sans Temps, France -- Domaine Matin Calme was started by husband and wife team Véronique Souloy and Anthony Guix in 2006 when they bought an extraordinary vineyard of Carignan and Grenache Noir vines that are more than 100 years old around Belesta in Roussillon. The wine is never pumped and the fermentation is completed with only the natural yeasts. There is no SO2 used in the fermentation process of the wines and in some vintages, like the 2008, there is no SO2 used to stabilize them. The yield is very, very small at 20 hl/ha and there is no fining or filtration whatsoever. They are firm believers in the value of bottle age especially for natural wines, which is why their youngest style wine is released just now. 100% Carginane. Black plum color, orange garnet rim. Aromas of manure, leather, animal, black fruits, hoisin and five-spice powder. Moderate+acidity and moderate+tannins on the palate with additional flavors of animal, sweaty saddle, game and leather.

2010 K Vintners Milbrandt Syrah Wahluke Slope -- Located at the base of the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla Washington, K Vintners opened its doors to the public on December 3rd, 2001. The property where the winery sits was homesteaded in 1853 with the adjacent farmhouse built in 1872. In 1997 Butch and Jerry Milbrandt planted their first grapevines in Eastern Washington’s Columbia Valley AVA. Blue-black color. Aromas of black plums, smoke, blueberries and vanilla. Moderate acidity, moderate+tannins, concentrated flavors of blue fruits and smoke. Inky.

2010 Chateau de Saint Cosme Gigondas, France -- Chateau de Saint Cosme is the oldest estate in Gigondas with its Gallo-Roman fermentation vats perfectly preserved. The property has been in winemaker and owner Louis Barroul’s family since 1490. Bend of 60% Grenache / 20% Syrah / 18% Mourvèdre / 2% Cinsault. Red plum color with pink rim. Grenache heavy aromas of black pepper, raspberries, white pepper, and strawberries. Fleshy on the palate with flavors of red plums and white pepper. Moderate acidity, moderate tannins. Interested to try the Valbelle bottling made from 80-year old vines.

2007 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant, California -- Randall Grahm was born in Los Angeles in 1953 and attended the prestigious University of California at Santa Cruz where he majored in Liberal Arts major. With his family's assistance, Randall purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains in an area known as Bonny Doon with the original intention to make Pinot Noir. Randall soon began experimenting with Rhone varietals and confirmed that California's temperate climate is well suited to the sun-loving grapes of the Mediterranean. Inspired by the style of wine made in the French city of Chateauneuf-du-pape, California winery Bonny Doon, has decided to honor the town by naming their wine after an interesting chapter in the city’s past involving UFOs. Starting in late 1954 people throughout France began reporting UFO sightings. The sightings were popularized by heavy media attention, and became a concern for the citizens of France. The most common shape of the crafts reported were cigar shaped, called “Cigare Volant” in France, meaning flying cigar. Although there were no sighting reports from Chateauneuf-du-Pape in the press, the people of the town were so concerned by the sightings and the effects the UFOs may have on their wine, that the mayor banned the UFOs from landing in their vineyards. The town’s controversial decision made the news of several French papers of the time.Made from a blend of 60% Grenache / 32% Syrah / 4% Mourvèdre / 4% Cinsault. Red plum color, garnet rim. Aromas of wild raspberries, chamomile tea, lavender, Provencale herbs, tobacco, spice and macerated stewed strawberries. Juicy on the palate with notes of bright juicy red fruits and spice. Moderate + acid, moderate tannins with firm structure. The 08 Cigare Volant was made in demi-johns which I’m really excited to try.

2010 Villa Creek High Willow Creek Cuvee, Paso Robles –- Villa Creek Cellars was founded in 2001 by Cris and JoAnn Cherry. The Cherry's goal was to harness the extreme terroirs of the west side of Paso Robles. As owner and wine director of Villa Creek Restaurant, Cris created a diverse list featuring fine boutique producers from around the globe. This global influence has helped to shape wines he creates at. JoAnn designs the labels that characterize what goes into the bottle. 60% Grenache / 20% Syrah / 20% Mourvedre. This is crazy good! Black plum color. Ripe and raisinated fruit notes. Reminds me of a highly concentrated Zinfandel with a firm structure. It’s 15% alcohol but you don’t feel a burn. Would be perfect for braised dishes, pork buns or game with a fruit sauce. Really nice wine!