Pure Wine with David Read

Evolucio Furmint ~ one of my favorite wines from the tasting

The next tasting for The Boarding House wine list was scheduled with David Read of Pure Wine Company. David and his lovely wife Sarah were amongst the first group of people I met when I moved to Chicago. I lost touch with them over the years so it was nice to spend time with David catching up and tasting through selections from his portfolio.


NV Domaine Collin Cremant de Limoux -- Limoux is a small town and appellation located north of Catalonia in Southern France. For centuries – well before Champagne came along – the region has been devoted to the production of wines that would sparkle naturally after a second fermentation kicked in during the spring (a process known as methode ancestrale). The traditional grape here is Mauzac used to make Blanquette de Limoux. In 1990, the Cremant de Limoux appellation was created and relies more heavily on Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc to favor a more international style. Philippe Collin is originally from the Champagne region of France and he makes a rather unique Cremant de Limoux more in style with his Champagne roots by using 30% Pinot Noir along with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay for the blend. Fresh and lively nose of green apples and honey. Palate features a soft mousse with tangy acidity. A nice option as a value sparkler.

NV Drappier Carte D'Or Brut  --  Mostly Pinot Noir based Champagne showing pleasant green apple notes with a slight toasty quality on the palate. Fresh, lively and perfectly charming.

NV Huber Hugo Sparkling Zweigelt Rose Austria --  Zweigelt (a crossing of Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent) was developed Dr. Zweigelt in 1922 and today represents Austria’s most popular red grape. Zweigelt produces easy-to-drink wines filled with notes of juicy tangy red berries, cherries and soft tannins. I’ve also had versions of Zweigelt with deep concentration and aging potential. Here we have a sparkling Zweigelt (along with a splash of Pinot Noir) with notes of strawberries, watermelons, raspberries and a finish showing a perceptible amount of residual sugar.  Could make for a fun BBQ wine if you wanted to get creative with pairings for ribs and such.


2011 Gateway Vinho Verde, Portugal -- I’ve gotten to know Vinho Verde quite well as a good portion of my early twenties was spent memorizing its subregions for my Master Sommelier exams. Vinho Verde means green wine, a reference to the youthful state in which the wine is sold. It can be white, red or rose – in fact the vast majority of Vinho Verde is red. No matter the color, Vinho Verde is not terribly complicated and should be consumed within a year of purchase. This wine fulfills the duties of what Vinho Verde should be – crisp, clean, fresh and lively with a slight bitterness along the lines of radicchio.  The blend here is Arinto, Loureiro, Trajadura and Azal.  

2010 Marchetti Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi -- This appellation is located a mere 20 miles from the Adriatic Sea and understandably the simple, lemon and citrus notes would pair nicely with seafood. I tend to prefer the neighboring Metalica wines as they’re bit fuller and more concentrated but as a simple sipper and perhaps as a Pinot Grigio alternative, the Jesi version gets the job done. 

2010 Monte Tondo Soave, Italy
-- I’ll admit that whenever I come across a bottle of Soave, the Rico Suave song immediately pops up in my head.  This Garganega based white is straightforward, simple and clean.

2011 Hermann Moser Gelber Muskateller Niederösterreich
 -- Muskateller is German for Muscat and Gelber Muskateller is the gold-skinned version. Muscat based wines always seem to remind me of geraniums and this wine is no exception with added notes of honeysuckle. On the palate, the wine is dry, fresh, crisp and clean. Because of the floral notes, dry Muscat can be tough to pair with food, which is why I like to present it as an aperitif wine.

2011 Hermann Moser Gruner Veltliner Per Due, Kremstal
 -- Weingut Hermann Moser is run by Martin and his wife Carmen Moser. The estate is 300 years old and is located in the village of Rohrendorf in the Kremstal wine-growing region in Lower Austria. Per Due comes from a single vineyard called Wolfsgraben, the "wolf's ditch'. I find Gruners often fall into two camps: tropical fruit driven with a fat texture or more crisp and lean with lemon-lime citrus notes.  The Due falls into the latter category with classic notes of white pepper, peaches, stone fruits, white flowers and green apples.

2011 Hermann Moser Gruner Veltliner Karmeliterberg, Kremstal -- This is a richer style Gruner with more weight and texture on the palate. Notes of white pepper, slight pithy bitterness, citrus oil, peach pit, honey and cilantro.

2011 Macherndl Gruner Veltiner Kollmutz Federspiel Wachau
-- Federspiel wines are second on the three-tier classification system (Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd) developed by the Vinea Wachau association for its dry wines. Federspiel designated wines require a minimum must-weight of 17° KMW and 1.5-12.5% abv.  The name refers back to the times of falconry, when this favorite form of noble hunting was practiced in the Wachau. Erich Jr took over in 1998 and has become a dynamic representative of the younger Wachauer generation. Kollmutz vineyard produces a style with more richness on the palate balanced with notes of peaches, green pears, fresh mint and just a slight hint of grapefruit skin.

2009 Macherndl Gruner Veltliner Steinwand Smaragd Wachau
-- The Smaragd designation indicates the ripest and most concentrated dry wines of Vinea Wachau-members. The alcohol content begins at 12.5% by volume. Smaragd refers to the emerald-colored Idex lizards often found on the terraced vineyards of the Wachau. Dry but with full-blown tropical notes of mango skin, pineapples and honey with classic white pepper flavors and a touch of bitterness on the finish.

2009 Lo Triolet Pinot Gris Valle d'Aosta
-- Lo Triolet is named after the lucky three-leafed clover known as Trifoglio in Italian.  Surrounded by the northern Alps along the border to France and Switzerland, the Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s smallest region (in terms of both production and size). The region also boasts some of the highest elevated vineyards in Europe.  The geographical crossroads results in a diverse array of grapes planted in the Vallee d’Aosta including Gamay, Pinot Noir, Dolcetto, Nebbiolo, Freisa, Fumin, Vien de Nus, Petit Rouge and Blanc de Morgex. This Pinot Gris came from vineyards planted at a staggering altitude of nearly 3,000 feet above sea level.  Features crisp green apple notes of cool climate Pinot Grigio from Italy but also the honeyed tropical fruit notes of an Alsace or Oregon Pinot Gris.

2011 Evolucio Tokaj Furmint Hungary
-- Furmint is used to produce dry wines as well as the famous Tokaji – the legendary sweet wine from the Tokaj-Hegyalja region in northeastern Hungary. The name Furmint is taken from the word ‘Froment’, for the wheat gold color of the wine it produces. The grape is susceptible to noble rot but also has the ability to maintain high levels of acidity. The Evolucio is dry Furmint at its best -- bright, tart green apple notes, cantaloupe, candied orange zest and a crisp lemon-lime finish. Falling somewhere between the style of a Sauvignon Blanc and a rich Pinot Gris, I’m absolutely obsessed with this wine!

2009 Dierberg Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley
-- The Dierberg Vineyard is located in the near-extreme Western part of the Santa Maria Valley AVA, one of the coolest vineyards in the appellation.  And like many other producers in California, the wines are inspired by Burgundy. Very well balanced style with menthol notes, roasted hazelnuts, caramel, golden delicious apples and lemon curd. Offers a nice balance between oak, fruit and acid. Primary fermentation takes place in larger 400 liter barrels for less oak influence and less than ten percent of the wine goes through malo to retain lively acidity.

2009 Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc South Africa -- I find most South African Chenin Blanc to be crisp, simple and somewhat reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc. The FMC is Ken Forrester’s pet project to demonstrate South Africa’s potential to produce marvelously rich and complex Chenin Blanc to rival those of the Loire Valley. Medium gold in color, rich, fat and creamy texture with off-dry with notes of honey, sweet baked apples, spices, peaches and apricots. There’s a fair amount of residual sugar here making this wine an easy pairing for stinky, creamy cheese or a lightly sweetened fruit dessert.


2011 Chateau Virgile Costieres de Nimes Rose -- This is a family-owned domaine by two brothers, Serge
 and Thierry Baret, who along with their father, cultivate 35
 hectares of vineyards located less than ten miles from 
the Mediterranean Sea. Costieres de Nimes is part of the Rhone as the climate soil and topography of the vineyards are so similar to those of the Southern Rhone located just over the river. Bottles of Costieres de Nimes bear the symbol of the Roman settlement at Nimes, a crocodile chained to a palm tree. Made from a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah, the grapes are hand-harvested at night to preserve their freshness, and then 100% de-stemmed before undergoing a short 12-hour maceration in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The result is a wine with a blush pink hue with flavors of red fruits, sour cherries, orange zest, and more savoriness on the palate as opposed to the sweet watermelon notes of more deeply colored roses.


2008 Montinore Estate Parson's Ridge Pinot Noir Willamette Valley -- This was my first wine from this producer. Parsons’ Ridge is a 25-year-old vineyard block certified biodynamic by Demeter. Light garnet color, nose shows more age progression with notes of dried cherries, dried herbs and baking spices with tea like tannins.

2006 Chehalem Pinot Noir Reserve Willamette Valley
-- I’ve always been a big fan of Chehalem and this was a fun opportunity to try a somewhat older vintage from them. Shows medium concentration, moderate acidity and notes of black cherries, red plums, clove and vanilla. 

2009 Three Saints Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley -- The second wine from Dierberg is named after the three “Saints” of the region: Maria, Rita and Ynez. Slight spritziness on palate with green herbaceous notes. Grippy tannins with a bright and tangy finish.

2010 Pali The Bluffs Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
-- Pali was founded by entrepreneurs Tim Perr & Scott Knight in 2005. They named the winery after their hometown of Pacific Palisades located on the coast of Southern California. Sourced from low-yielding fruit, this is a big juicy Pinot Noir with notes of sweet cherry liqueur, roasted beets, clove, cinnamon and warm vanilla. Alcohol clocks in at 15.3%

2009 Tantara Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County
-- Tantara was the name of a horse owned by Tantara founder Bill Cates some years ago. This is a big fruit bomb with loads of sweet ripe cherry fruit, clove, licorice and vanilla.

2008 Dierberg Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley
-- well made and technically precise Pinot Noir with black cherry fruit, baking spice notes and hints licorice and mocha. Just like Dierberg’s Chardonnay – it’s well balanced.

2010 Capiaux Pinot Noir Chimera Sonoma Coast
-- The Chimera is a blend of Pinot Noir from nine vineyards. Moderate plus concentration on the palate with, sweet ripe black cherry notes, cola spice, dark fruits and purple flowers. This is another big Pinot Noir.

2010 Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo Italy -- Huge change-up after tasting those fruit forward Pinot Noirs. The Langhe Nebbiolo is produced in the Basarin cru in Neive. The vines are still very young and therefore Sottimano, always in favor of quality over volume, declassified from Barbaresco DOCG to Langhe Nebbiolo DOC. Classic Nebbiolo here: garnet, slight orange color, aromas of smoke, melted tar, animal and leather. Palate shows sour cherries, bright acidity and firm tannic finish. Good value in lieu of a Barbaresco.

2007 Meroi Nestri Colli Orientali del Friuli Italy
-- made from 100% Merlot. Flavors of orange rinds, green bell pepper but not entirely herbaceous, slight leather component but gamey on the finish. Considering Paolo Meroi owns a little restaurant in northern Italy, Trattoria al Parco, I’m guessing this wine would pair quite nicely with food, grilled meat in particular. 

2009 Jemrose Foggy Knoll Grenache Bennett Valley Sonoma County
-- Satsuma oranges, raspberries, white pepper, poultry spice and firm tannins on the finish.

2007 Domaine de Trevallon Vin de Pays des Bouches du Rhone -- Declassified Les Beaux de Provence (due to a higher than permitted amount of Cabernet Sauvignon).  Whatever you want to call it, this 50/50 blend of Cab Sauv and Syrah is certainly impressive. Medium plus concentration with flavors of black fruit liqueur, cloves, cinnamon, spices, black plums and dry dusty tannins. Not inexpensive but a pleasurable wine worth seeking out.

2007 De Trafford Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch South Africa
-- For some reason, many South African reds taste smoky to me and this is no exception with additional notes of bell pepper, black olives and cassis.

2008 Shane The Unknown Syrah North Coast
-- With stints at Torbreck, Copain, Gaillard, Paul Hobbs and Kosta Brown – there’s no arguing Shane Finley’s resume is certainly quite impressive. Experience is the best teacher and it shows with his take on Syrah. Showing a style clearly influenced by the great wines of the northern Rhone with notes of black plums, violets, smoke, bacon fat, crushed minerals, black pepper and fleshy tannins. Only 500 cases produced.

2009 Areola Anjali Priorat Spain
-- Anjoli is the name of the adopted daughter of Rose Galceran, one of the partners of Celler Ardevol. Made from a blend of 40% Garnacha, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot. This is pretty juicy for Priorat with gobs of ripe raisinated fruit, figs, black plums and sweet tobacco spice. An easy-to-drink style and a good introduction to the Priorat. 

2009 Priest Ranch Napa Valley
-- Priest Ranch was originally settled by James Joshua Priest in 1847 and was known as Priest Ranch for over 100 years. Classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon of black cherries, mocha, vanilla and a soft supple

2008 Caravina Cabernet Sauvignon Seavey Vineyard, Napa Valley -- Seavey was on the wine list at a restaurant I worked at in 1995 and it was one of my favorite Cabs to recommend to customers. This is their second label now in it’s 10th vintage. Very well made with fleshy tannins and that signature blueberry fruit that I get from their flagship wine but at nearly half the price.


Tasting Vino with H2Vino

Words to live by

Eat.Sleep.Drink.Vino. Seems a rather appropriate way to describe my life lately as I start building The Boarding House wine list. I paid a visit to my friends Veronica Hastings and Todd Hess of H2Vino for an epic tasting of wines from their portfolio. We were also joined by Jaime Burda, my H2Vino sales associate who has a great passion for the wines she represents. She also has an impeccable palate.

H2Vino specializes in boutique producers from regions all over world including France, Spain, Italy, Australia and South America. Many of their wines are biodynamic, sustainable, organic or organically farmed. Their criteria for representing a brand is quite simple - the wines have to taste good and they have to enjoy doing business with the winery owners or importers. I can certainly get on board with that philosophy.

Here is the lineup of what we tasted and my accompanying notes.

Jean Berrerd et fils Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais-Village Rouge "Le Perreon" 2009 -- Property owned by two brothers, one of whom works on the single vineyard project for Dubeouf. Le Perreon has granitic vein running through it which is what makes it so special. This wine is custom built for charcuterie with notes of raspberry and strawberries, bright acidity, sasparilla spice, clove spiciness, firm tannins, tart. Tannins and acid are the perfect components for balancing the effects of fat and salt. Served with a slight chill, this would make a nice match for a picnic of cured meats, cheese, olives, pate and some good crunchy bread.

Les Tannes en Occitanie Pinot Noir Pays d'Oc, France 2011
- This is an H2Vino project. They wanted a Pinot Noir that was affordable and tasty to offer their customers as a by the glass pour. After searching around and coming up empty, they decided to work with one of their winery contacts to have one made specifically for them. The fruit comes from Provence and the resulting wine is elegant with tart cherries and spice. It's a simple, straightforward style that would be good with roast chicken. Many Pinot Noirs at this price point can be green but this is very pretty.

Berthelemot Hauts-Cotes-de-Beaune Rouge 2009 -- in 2006 Brigitte Berthelemot purchased this property from Jean Garaudet, the vineyard manager for Comtes Lafon. Several vineyards came along with the purchase but Brigitte purchased additional vineyards throughout Burgundy which is not an inexpensive or easy thing to do. Garaduet's nephew makes the wine. Firm tannins, red fruit, spice notes, real elegance with firm finish. Notes of violets, cardamom, Asian spices, galangal.

Churton Pinot Noir Marborough, New Zealand 2008
-- Churton is the name of the British town Sam Weaver grew up in. Sam worked in wine retail and then moved to NZ twenty years ago to become a winemaker. He consulted for many wineries and worked harvest in the northern hemisphere to gain experience working two harvests a year. His vineyards are biodynamically farmed. Notes of clove spice, raspberry liqueur, dry, fleshy finish. Interesting combo of intense fruitiness upfront but serious earthy finish. Concentrated fruit component would be a good match with duck and a sweet cherry sauce. Game in nose with licorice. Veronica likes to pair this with Asian style duck.

River's Edge Pinot Noir Umpqua Valley 2009 -- River's Edge began with the purchase of two vineyards, Black Oak Vineyard and Elkton Vineyard, by Mike and Vonnie Landt in 1996. The previous owners were Ken and Mary Thomason, who planted the vineyards in 1972. Wow -- very interesting nose with a coffee, skunky, almost cannabis like element. Doesn't taste like it smells with a juicy, savory, expansive palate. Definitely on the elegant side. I was told the nose is usually not this skunky and the bottle could just be going through a phase which happens.

Fort Ross Fort Ross-Seaview, Sonoma Coast Fort Ross Vineyard 2009
-- Fort Ross Seaview is one of the newest AVA's in California. At 27,500 acres, was carved out of the 480,000-acre Sonoma Coast AVA, which has been criticized as too big since its approval in 1987. Fort Ross-Seaview is unofficially part of the “true Sonoma Coast,” which lies above the beaches of the Pacific Ocean. This is a monolithic Pinot Noir: dark black cherry color, kirsch liqueur, rhubarb, concentrated fruits, concentrated core, very flashy, clove, spices, new oak, well integrated. For people who like their Pinot Noirs big, large and juicy.

Aubichon Cellars Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2010
-- Jim Sanders and Tom Mortimer founded Aubichon Cellars in 2007 so this is a fairly new winery. They source their fruit from the Dundee Hills and Chehalem AVA. Red garnet with magenta rim. Very distinct pink peppercorn nose hits you first followed by coriander, red fruits and cardamom. Juicy bright style with notes of green pepper spice and vanilla. Predominant sour cherry fruit notes.

Nebout St Pourcain Blanc "Tressallier des Gravieres" 2010
-- St. Pourcain is located right in the middle of France in the oak producing Allier departement. Less than 1300 acres of vineyards produce a range of wines that are typically light in body, dry and high in acidity. Tressalier is a traditional variety but white wines can also be made from Chardonnay or Sauvignon. Gamay is often used to make a rose or light-bodied red. The nose on this is downright interesting and reminds me of that slight gaminess that you get from mussels and not in a bad way. It is very high in acid with flavors of green apples and lemons with a minerally and salty finish. An excellent match for mussels prepared with a garlic and white wine lemon sauce. Could also be nice with oysters.

Acustic Blanc Monstsant, Spain 2010 -- Montsant is the region just surrounding Priorat on the north-eastern edge of Spain. Winemaker/proprietor Albert Jane makes wines that are not typical of what the region produces. The Acoustic Blanc blends indigenous white grapes from the region: Garnacha Blanc, Macabeo, Garnacha Gris and Pansal. This is the perfect summer wine with notes of honeysuckle, peaches, melons and just downright juicy. Would be excellent with jamon and melons. Like a bowl of fresh fruit, it's just summer in a glass and one of my favorite wines that I tasted for this session.

Vincent Dureuil Janthial Rully Blanc 2009
-- Jean-Francois Coche says, "If I see his name on a wine list, I don't give it a second thought and simply order his wine." The wines of Vincent Dureuil-Janthial have set new benchmarks for the Rully appellation in the Cotes Chalonnaise. This is the 'Estate' village white, coming only from domaine grown fruit. It derives from several different, organically managed plots with an average vine age of 40+ years. Medium gold in color, fresh mint in the nose with hints of roasted nuts, oatmeal, banana skin, great concentration on the palate with lemon preserves and crushed mineral notes. This Rully is really good!

Clos du Mont Olivet Cotes du Rhone "Font de Blanches" 2009
-- Making wine is a family affair at Clos du Mont Olivet and the three Sabon brothers Jean-Claude, Pierre and Bernard have run the domaine for the last 30 years with their children (David, Mylene, Celine & Thierry) now slowly taking over. The wines are composed predominantly of Grenache (usually around 80%), with Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault completing the blend. The vines of this estate average over 60 years old. Ripe raisinated fruit jumps at you right away, with tons of black pepper spice, raspberry, strawberry, leather, animal funk and violets. Fragrant white pepper, intense rusty iron on palate with grippy, dry tannins on the finish.  60%Grenache, 30%Syrah. Concentrated structure better suited to steak vs. burgers. I'm particularly excited to try their Chateauneuf-du-Pape, especially the Cuvet du Papet.

Domaine La Bouissiere Gigondas Rouge 2009
-- Thierry and Gilles Faravel have serious mountaineer credentials in Gigondas. This is mountain terroir, with cooler weather and demanding soils, a mix of limestone and clay. The family's Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre vines are mostly older (between 30 and 50 years) and are very low yielding. The Gigondas Rouge combines older-vine (40+ years) Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre and is aged in a combination of new and older barrels and tank. The style tends to be very concentrated with tremendous aging potential. Nose shows violets, licorice, dark plums and fresh turned earth. Palate structure is massive and extracted with firm tannins on the finish. Definitely a big style that would benefit from decanting.

Oratoire St Martin Cairanne Rouge "Hautes Coustias" 2006
-- Sitting northwest of Gigondas and neighboring Rasteau, l’Oratoire Saint-Martin in Cairanne has long been considered the best of the region. These 70-year-old vines thrive on the steepest, coolest and chalkiest part of the appellation, delivering low yields.  A blend of 60% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah and 20% Grenache, aged for two years in older demi-muid. Dark cherry in color with leather and animal in the nose. Soft, dusty, powdery, lavender tannins. Big and dry on the palate with flavors of roasted beets and meat. Six years and it still has a long way to go. I had the Cairanne Blanc at Todd and Veronica's house a while back and and it had made quite an impression on me as I still think about how well it paired with the spring pea risotto served that evening.

Gros-Tollot Minervois Rouge "Les Carretals" 2009
-- Minervois is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. Red and rose wines are made from Carignane, Lladoner Pelut, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. White Minervois is also produced in small quantities. This estate is owned by Anne Gros of Vosne-Romanee and her husband Jean-Paul Tollot. Their 14 hectares of vineyards in Cazelles, north of Carcassonne, sit at the foot of the “Montagne Noir,” at some 660 feet above sea level -- curiously enough, the same altitude as Vosne-Romanée.  The higher elevation helps achieve cooler evenings allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and evenly. Les Carretals is 100% Carignane wine from a 2-acre, chalky plot planted with century-old vines. Faint funkiness in the nose with dried herbs, ripe raisiny fruit profile with figs and extracted blueberry on the palate. Firm structure and dry tannins on the finish. I'm on a bit of a Carignane kick right now and if Anne Gros is down there making wine, it seems I'm not the only one.

Preys Touraine Blanc "Fie Gris", Loire Valley 2010
-- Touraine historically was the center of gunpowder production, and the surrounding hills are full of flint, a mineral-rich rock that endows grapes with a bracing freshness and flinty fire. If you've ever played with those toy cap guns as a child, you'll know the smell. Fie is an old Loire white grape variety and is thought to be an ancestor of Sauvignon Blanc. The variety has largely been abandoned because of its low yields but winemaker Jacky Preys continues to carry on the tradition and produces but a handful of fruit each vintage. This is the stuff that gets sommeliers excited simply because of the rarity and historical connection of the grape. Petrichor aromas (smell of rain hitting wet pavement)  with additional notes of hay, tart green apples, crushed rocks and honeysuckle. Crisp on the palate with lemon-lime acidity.

Sparkman Ruckus Syrah, Red Mountain, Washington State 2010
-- Chris Sparkman spent a couple of decades as a sommelier in restaurants such as Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Michael’s in LA, Todd English’s Olives in DC and Mackay Restaurants in Seattle. After the birth of their first daughter, Chris and his wife Kelly decided to focus on family and moved to Washington State to start Sparkman Cellars. The Ruckus is made from 89% Syrah and 11% Cab Sauv fruit sourced from Klipsun and Ciel du Cheval vineyards in the the Red Mountain appellation. This is a massive wine, jet black inky color with smoke, black fruits, vanilla, smoked meat and black pepper on the nose. The palate is concentrated with tons of blue plum fruit and a firm finish. American Cote-Rotie for sure. Only 223 cases made. H2Vino is technically sold out of this wine until next year but hopefully I can score some Ruby Leigh and Stella Mae (named after the Sparkmans' adorable daughters) for The Boarding House in the fall. 

Pascal Cotat Sancerre Blanc "La Grande Cote" Loire Valley 2010
-- No one can doubt that winemaking runs in the blood of the Cotat family. On the slopes of the Monts Damnés in Chavignol, the family has tended both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir since the end of the second World War. Today there are two Cotat domaines—one in Chavignol, headed by François, and one in Sancerre, run by Pascal. The Cotat family pioneered single-vineyard bottlings in Sancerre, and each terroir—whether “Les Monts Damnés” or “Grande Côte”—has its own unique personality. Soils share the same chalky heart as do those in Chablis. In general Pascal wines show a more luxurious, plush mouthfeel in combination with this balanced acidity. (François wines, in comparison, often show more flinty, Chablis-like notes.) Fresh and clean in the nose with hints of lime zest, minerals and honeysuckle. The palate shows a very distinct yellow curry flavor (think curry gravy on chips). Todd agreed with me and said he often uses that descriptor even though it tends to elicit strange looks from people. I'm with you Todd on this one!

Peique Bierzo Rosado Spain 2011
- Bierzo is a small region located in the north west of Spain in the small province of Leon. Light, pale and fragrant red wines are proudced from Mencia, a grape thought to be identical to Portugal's Jaen. Mencia can also be found in neighboring Valdeorras and Ribeira Sacras regions. 100% Mencia, dark pink almost cranberry in color with notes of pomegranates, watermelons and strawberries. Rose tends to be a "just drink-it, don't overthink-it" kind of wine but this is so juicy, you'll find yourself guzzling it and then wondering who emptied the bottle.

Sauvete Touraine Rouge "Antea" Loire Valley 2008
-- The Sauvete vineyards in Monthou-sur-Cher are found on a south-facing, stony plateau overlooking the river Cher, and are full of older vines. This is 100% Malbec which is a first for me from this region. Unfortunately, the fruit on this wine was shut-down but the palate showed a great deal of structure. The nose reminded me of removing the plastic from wash-rind cheese, specifically Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy. Veronica and Jaime indicated that the wine usually shows a lot more fruit and will pull another bottle for me. I'll be sure to update my notes when I've had the opportunity to try another bottle.

Celler Pardas Negre Franc Penedes 2006 -- Celler Pardas is run by Ramon Parera and Jordi Arnan, a husband and wife team (enologist and agronomist, respectively) who bought the dormant winery in 1996 when they discovered a distinct parcel in Alt Penedes. The vineyards are worked organically; Ramon and Jordi control all aspects of the boutique winery. The Negre Franc red is a blend of 60% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon plus 5% each of Sumoll and Merlot. This is an extremely interesting wine as it showed numerous personalities ranging from ripe and figgy to reminiscent of older Cabernet Sauvignon based wines from California or Bordeaux. Additional notes of iron, leather, raisins and dried herbs weaving in and out. This is the type of wine you want to get to know through the course of an evening along with a saddle of venison.

TATT Columbia Valley Red Blend NV -- a mostly Syrah blend from Columbia Valley. TATT stands for Tried and True Table Wine and it lives up to its name: pleasant, agreeable, juicy, well made and an all around good wine. Rather interesting label.

Alexandria Nicole "Quarry Butte" Horse Heaven Hills 2009
-- Alexandria Nicole Cellars produces small lots of hand-crafted wine from their Destiny Ridge Estate Vineyard. The 263-acre estate vineyard is located high above the bluffs on the Columbia River, near the town of Paterson, Washington in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA which borders the Yakima Valley AVA on the north and the Columbia River on the south. The Quarry Butte is made from a blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 17% Syrah. Black fruits on the palate with leather, tobacco, minerals and vanilla on the finish with tangy acidity.

Tres Sabores Porque No Napa Valley 2009
-- Tres Sabores which means “three flavors” in Spanish after the flavors that come from the trio of terroir, the vine and the artisan winemaker. The wine is a blend of more than half Zinfandel, and then Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and just a bit of Petit Verdot. Juicy, fresh, easy to drink style. Zin components definitely show through.

Trust Cellars Riesling Walla Walla 2010
-- Steve and Lori Brooks, in their former lives as a journalists for CNN in Atlanta, got to know a thing or two about wine because they traveled and they drank it--all over the world. Steve realized, nearly twenty years into his life as a journalist that he wasn't happy and decided being happy was worth the risk of leaving life as they knew it in Atlanta behind to give the winemaking business a try. Lori still works for CNN. Fresh, clean style with a touch of spritz on the palate. Off-dry with notes of honey and melons. Not terribly complex but quaffable. I look forward to giving their reds a try.

Tarrica Gewurztraminer, Central Coast 2010 -Tarrica Wine Cellars is a small, family owned winery started in 2000 in Paso Robles. An off-dry Gewurztraminer with the requisite notes of lychees and rose petals.


Scholium Project Tasting with Abe Schoener

Abe Schoener from Scholium Project Wines

Abe Schoener is a sommelier's winemaker and if he's coming to town, you do whatever it takes to get an audience with him. I met Abe for the first time yesterday morning when I had and opportunity to taste through his Scholium Project Selections at the Cream Wine Company headquarters.

Something rather unique struck me about Abe upon our initial greeting -- he had a warm handshake. Not a sweaty paw kind of handshake but rather one that emits waves of vibrant energy that conveys a sense of who he is as a person. If humans can embody a biodynamic force field, Abe certainly has one. I could see why so many of my colleagues have become enamored with him - he draws you in from the very start. 

We sat down for the tasting and Abe took me through the genesis and history of his winemaking career. He began in 1998 when he took a sabbatical from teaching ancient philosophy at St. John's college to follow his interest in the biology behind grape growing. He met John Kongsgaard during an internship at Stag's Leap Cellars and from there a desire to start his own winery eventually blossomed into the Scholium Project.

Abe's style of winemaking - one that endears his legion of fans in the sommelier community - is based on non-intervention and experimentation. He speaks of his wines as I imagine a Montessori school teacher would describe his/her students: each one on its own unique and individual path. His job is to foster, nurture and guide but basically let the wine find its ultimate destiny. According to Abe, "Once you learn that wine is self-regulating, you learn to stay out of the way." Non-orthodox winemaking is his philosophy and this could mean letting a batch of Chardonnay ferment for two years if that's what it needs or barrel aging a blend without So2, racking or even topping off. With conventional winemaking, these techniques may not necessarily give you successful results but in the limelight of Abe's magical energy, his wines thrive and eventually come into their own.

Will soon be available at The Boarding House

We began the tasting with the Clos Thalès wines from Maury in the Roussillon, midway between Priorat and the northern Rhone and forty miles inland from Collioure. The vineyards are planted in broken schist and decomposed granite. The conditions are so harsh that not much else grows in the vineyards; even weeds are scarce. Clos Thalès is a collaborative effort between nine friends including Abe, Master Sommelier Chris Blanchard and his partner Kimberly Jones. I was actually first introduced to Clos Thalès by Chris and Kimberly. They had generously shared a bottle of the Carignane Blanc with me back in April and it rocked my world as I had never even dreamed Carignane Blanc was possible. They said Abe and Cream were bringing it into Illinois and I was on a mission to secure an allocation for The Boarding House.

By law, Maury can be white, red (minimum 75% Grenache) and the most popular style - fortified and sweet. The Clos Thalès wines don't conform to the local appellation laws which is a good thing. The inspiration behind the project was to make wine from "crazy ancient vineyards" planted with Carignane, Carignane Blanc, Grenache, Grenache Gris and other white grapes.

2008 Clos Thalès Foun del Bosc Blanc -- made from a selection of Carignane Noir grapes that at some point mutated to white grapes. This was a very unique experience as I had never seen or even heard of Carignane Blanc until the Clos Thalès wines. Nose exudes mango skin, peach fuzz, peach pit, wet gravel, honeysuckle. Palate is savory and loaded with umami driven notes of almond skin. Alcohol clocks in at 14.9% but you don't feel it.

2007 Clos Thalès Clos d'en Coulon -- 100% Grenache. Tasting this wine reminded me of Jay McInerney's quote about Grenache from his book, Bacchus and Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar, "Theoretically, each brings something different to the party: Sturdy Mourvedre provides the house; peppery Counoise is the skinny joke teller; Syrah broods and leans against the wall, pretending to hold it up; and Grenache sashays in and promises great sex to everyone in the room." Sometimes the promise can empty but this is what Grenache is like when it's great. Nose jumps at you with ripe raspberries, strawberries, port, fig compote and raisins. Palate has great structure with dry and dusty tannins, excellent concentration. Flavor reminds me of the fig jam that comes on cheese boards and I can see this pairing quite nicely with aged sheep cheese or even strong game such as venison.

The Scholium Project lineup - each one unique, delicious and a must-have experience

Next we moved on the Scholium Project wines made from small vineyards throughout California. Abe purposely doesn't indicate the grape and favors the broad California appellation on his labels as to prevent any preconceived notions. Many of the wines are named in honor of ancient references - Abe studied ancient Greek philosophy.

09 Scholium Project Naucratis Verhelho, Los Slough Vineyard, Clarksburg -- Lost Slough Vineyard is located in the Sacramento Delta. Stainless steel fermented and aged. Tropical nose with peaches and green apples. Very fresh and bright style, perfect for summer sipping. Freshness gives way to umami savoriness and minerality. Crisp acidity makes me crave calamari and seafood with a lemon white wine sauce. Takes me to Galicia!

09 Riquewihr Los Slough Vineyards  (500 ml) -- Riquewihr is a village in Alsace and this is a fitting homage to an Alsace style Gewurztraminer. Mango, peaches, lychees, floral. Voluptuous, curvy and sexy but not the sloppy, spilling out kind. Think the late Anna Nicole Smith during her Guess Jeans days. Crisp texture, dry and slight nuttiness on the finish.

09 Midan Al-Tahrir -- Name inspired by the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt. Blend of three vineyards, four grapes (Verdelho, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc). Barrel fermented and aged for two years without racking, stirring or SO2. Considering this wine was basically left alone for two years, I would expect it to be oxidized and sherry-like but the nose is remarkably fresh with notes of jasmine, roses, lychees, tropical fruit and peaches. The barrels lost about 5 inches but the micro-activity and equilibrium in the winery somehow kept the wine fresh and in balance.

07 Choephoroi Los Olivos -- 100% Chardonnay. This shows the most oxidative notes of all the wines we tasted yesterday. Made in the same manner as the Al-Tahrir but far more nutty in the nose. Palate shows a bit more freshness with lemon curd that eventually gives way to a fino sherry-like quality. I imagine this would pair well with Spanish tapas such as marcona almods, oily fish and salty, fatty jamon.

08 Choephoroi Los Olivos -- 100% Chardonnay. Remarkably different than the 07. Mush fresher in the nose with notes of honey, lemons, lively and bright. This took two years to ferment yet shows a great deal of vibrant youthfulness.

05 Babylon Tenbrink Vineyards -- 100% Petite Sirah. Funkiness in the nose with leather, animal, blood, reminds me of rare lamb. Excellent core of concentration with dry and dusty tannins. This is not your usual jolly, golly Petite Sirah studded with blueberry pancake syrup flavors. More serious and reminiscent of Northern Rhone Syrah. Would pair oh so well with rich, fatty meats prepared Mediterranean style with rosemary and thyme.

07 Bricco Babelico Tenbrink Vineyards -- 100% Petite Sirah. The name evokes a Nebbiolo reference that makes complete sense once you experience the tannic finish. The fruit is luscious and friendly at first but then unexpectedly the finish leaves your mouth dry and puckered. Very interesting. This wine reminds of meeting someone really attractive and at first they are flirtatious and charming and you feel all fuzzy and giddy and then all of a sudden the object of your affection turns on you with a rude and vicious comment completely out of left field. Very interesting wine indeed and hard to believe the fruit is the same as the Babylon.


TRIO Animal Foundation Rockin' for Rescue 

My Pug, Haruki, and I will be hosting what will sure to be a rockin' good time for a rockin' good cause and we hope you can join us. Enjoy tasty bites from Hot Doug's and All on the Road Catering as you dance the night away with the musical stylings of Dr. Bombay and Purple Apple

The Trio Animal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that assists shelters, rescues and individuals by paying the medical bills of homeless pets. TAF also promotes adoption and responsible pet ownership, including spay and neuter.

Purchase tickets here.



Six Wines for Spring

Craig Perman from Perman Wine Selections

The Boarding House won’t open until later this summer but we paid a visit to Craig Perman from Perman Selections and selected 6 wines that we think pair well with the spirit of the season. We hope you enjoy this as a preview of the types of wines you can expect to enjoy once we're ready to start pouring. With an extreme dedication to customer service, Craig has been selling wine for 13 years. Visit him and we have no doubt that you'll leave with a bottle that you’re absolutely going to love.

100% Pinot Noir


April brings wedding, brunch and bridal showers. This is the bottle to bring to add a little sparkle to any occasion. Winemaker Bertrand Brigandat produces a small range of Champagne from a small parcel of vineyards in the Aube region. The N.V. Brut Tradition is made entirely of Pinot Noir and features notes of black cherries, red fruits, hints of citrus and a long vibrant finish.

Get to know Grolleau Gris 


The road less travelled is often the most rewarding. Get to know Grolleau Gris, a rather obscure white grape variety from the Loire Valley region of France. It is known for producing fairly neutral white wines that may form part of the blend of the region's Vin de Pays Jardin de la France appellation. When restricted to low yields as it has been here, Grolleau Gris can produce wines of refreshing finesse somewhat similar in style to a snappy Sauvignon Blanc. With notes of citrus rind, stone fruits and minerals, it’s an excellent white to enjoy as an aperitif or try pairing it with lighter salads, tart & tangy cheese and Asian fare.

Vineyards in Mantinia


Stop and smell the roses. With aromas of fresh cut flowers and tree blossoms, this is springtime in a glass. Moschofilero is a deep pink-skinned grape used to make strongly perfumed wines in Greece but the shining examples come from the high plateau of Mantinia in the Peleponnese. Conditions here are much cooler therefore the grapes retain a necessary amount of acidity to balance the aromatics and keep the wine from  becoming to flabby or cloying. We suggest pairing this wine with first of the season white or green asparagus.

Note the cherry color of this rosato


 In 1992, the year Adrianna Galasso embarked on her career to become a sommelier, her father gave her, as a gift, a vineyard that he planted himself in 1972. Thus began the era of Torre dei Beati (Tower of the Blessed). Cerasuolo means “cherry" in Italian and refers to the the pale red color of rose wines. In this case, the term has a specific meaning as Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo is a DOC reserved for rose wines made from the Montepulciano grape grown in Abruzzo. The Torre dei Beati is cherry pink color, dry on the palate with notes of pomegranates, cherries and a refreshing finish. It is ideal for patio picnics to be enjoyed with charcuterie and pleasant company.

The spectrum of wines from Edmunds St. John


Steve Edmunds and his wife, Cornelia St. John, started Edmunds St John in 1985. They were part of early pioneers who worked with Rhone varietals such as Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre and this is their version of another often overlooked grape - Gamay. Craig mentioned that he was getting this Gamay in stock soon and we both agree that Gamay often gets a bad rap. One can blame nouveau or just bad, grapey renditions but when handled properly, Gamay can rival Pinot Noir in terms of intensity, perfume and elegance. Steve sourced this Gamay from Barsotti Ranch, just to the North of Camino, at a bit over 3,000 feet elevation. The soils are composed, in large part, of decomposed granite, similar to what you'll find in the Beaujolais region in France. The color is a lovely ruby-red with notes of violets, raspberry, a little pepper and crushed minerals. Flavors are very focussed, penetrating, and persistent, with gorgeous texture, and fine length. Serve this slightly chilled and enjoy with a simple roast chicken dinner and if you happen to spot them – morel mushrooms.

Winemaker Cyriaque Rozier


Cyriaque Rozier, the highly acclaimed winemaker and vineyard manager at Château La Roque, makes his own wine under the label Château Fontanès in Pic St-Loup in the Languedoc. He first started his domaine in 2003, and undertook planting a vineyard according to biodynamic guidelines. The original cuttings for his vines were all selected from his favorite domaines in Côte-Rôtie, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Bandol. This Rhone style blend of mostly Syrah and Grenache is an excellent wine to stock up on for everyday enjoyment. It’s hearty enough to enjoy with the last of the colder days of the season yet robust enough to pair with any excuse to fire up the grill.

Perman Wine Selections

 802 W Washington Blvd
Chicago, IL 60607
312 666 4417

Tue-Fri 12-8, Sat 11-7