Wine Club Newsletter - September 2015
7 Habits of Annoying Wine People
Here’s a fun column I wanted to share with you. It is written by one of my favorite wine writers, Lettie Teague of The Wall Street Journal. Enjoy! (GP)
TWO MONTHS AGO I wrote a column detailing the actions and habits of wine drinkers that I found most annoying or over-the-top. The list clearly resonated with readers, who wrote in not only to express agreement but to name a few of their own gripes as well. The following are the seven reader wine peeves I thought deserved wider discussion in a column of their own.
1. Bait-and-switch bottles
How many times have you picked up a bottle that, according to the store’s card, critics have rated 95 out of 100 points only to find that it’s not the actual wine they were rating? I’ve encountered this disconnect in more wine shops than I care to count (or to name), and this was one of the most common complaints I received from readers.
When this discrepancy occurs, the high score and praise on the “shelf talker” frequently belong to a wine’s previous vintage. While the difference might be “just” a year or two, that little gap can have fairly great consequences. All it takes is some bad weather (heat, hail, or frost) to turn a promising vintage into a dud.
It may be the fault of a store clerk who didn’t take care to display an up-to-date review, or a purposeful deception on the part of a store manager who knows that the new vintage isn’t quite as good as the old. And when a retailer regularly attaches the wrong reviews to wines, I wonder if he or she might be deceptive in other ways, too.
2. Sexist servers
There are quite a few female sommeliers working today—so I was surprised how frequently readers complained that the wine list is often automatically handed to a man. Instead of asking who would like to order the wines, or simply placing the list on the table, the sommelier (or, more frequently, the server) automatically hands it to the closest male.
I rarely say anything when this happens, although I might ask for a copy as well. Reader Liz Goodgold asks for a second list, too, or she might exclaim, “I’m the ‘wineaux’ of the family!” so they know who’s in charge.
When I do order the wine, I’m sometimes confronted by a related peeve. Service etiquette dictates that the person who ordered the wine should have the first taste. Often the server returns with the bottle, however, and offers it to my husband. Adding insult to injury: When this happens, my husband sometimes happily ignores protocol and serves as first taster—but that’s an altogether different peeve of mine.
3. Good wine in a bad vessel
A good glass can’t make a bad wine taste better, but the opposite holds true: Pour a good wine into a bad glass and witness the transformative effect a thick-rimmed, thick-stemmed, cheap piece of stemware can have. Try swirling your wine and you’ll see what I mean. A fat stem is hard to hold and a stubby bowl means wine will likely slop over the top of the glass. Reader Jerry Nissenbaum regularly hosts wine events and will actually bypass one restaurant in favor of another if the glasses are bad. This makes sense to me. I’d venture to suggest that the quality of a restaurant’s wine glasses is a fairly good indication of the quality of its wine list. I don’t think I’ve ever had a memorable bottle in a place with bad glasses; the aesthetics are too closely linked.
On the other hand, it’s likely that a restaurant with particularly nice glasses will not only offer good wines but inspire one to improve one’s glasses at home. Charlie Bird restaurant, in New York, has some really terrific bottles, and it has such great glasses that I bought the same stemware (Zalto Universal) for myself. They were thin and elegant—light to the touch but not insubstantial. They were also “precise,” as oenophiles say: The wine’s aromas seemed clearer, the taste more pronounced, in these glasses.
4. Cheap, commercial wines offered by the glass
With thousands of well-made, well-priced wines from all over the world, there is no excuse for a restaurant to offer mass-produced, grocery-store-quality wines by the glass. Readers were not only offended by this—particularly when the wines are heavily marked up—they were bored. Who wants to drink the same wine in a restaurant that you have in the refrigerator at home?
I’m not sure if this is better or worse than the scenario described by reader Steve Glass, who was frustrated by wine lists where all the options—both bottles and by-the-glass selections—are high-end wines such as Barolos, Barbarescos and Super Tuscans. His solution? He’ll order a wine by the glass. Although it may be overpriced, “at least the overall bill is reduced,” he wrote.
5. Crazy corkage fees
A fair number of readers registered outrage at outsize restaurant corkage fees, a plight I can partially identify with since I dine sometimes in New Jersey and sometimes in New York. As many as 80% of the restaurants in New Jersey don’t have liquor licenses, due to the state’s antiquated liquor laws. Most observe a bring-your-own-bottle policy, and legally, they aren’t allowed to charge a corkage fee.
But I also dine in Manhattan, so I know large corkage fees. Most restaurants I patronize charge fees that range from $35 to $50, although some top restaurants, including Per Se, charge a lofty $150 for the privilege. (Some restaurants, such as Le Bernardin, don’t allow corkage at all.) The message in this case is clear: We really, really don’t want you to BYOB. Of course, if you like your wine better than any of the wines on their list, it’s worth the fee.
6. Hosts who hold on to the good wine
I don’t know if this peeve is as much about wine as it is the presumed social compact between guest and host. As a guest, if you bring along a nice bottle, shouldn’t you expect to be served something as good in return?
Over the years, I’ve brought some very nice bottles as gifts that have been whisked away by the host or hostess never to be seen again. The wine that they’ve served instead has at times been all but undrinkable. Some might argue that a guest should not expect to drink the bottle he or she brings, with which I agree in principle, although this doesn’t make it any less painful to trade a lovely Grand Cru Chablis for a bottle of $10 Concha y Toro Chardonnay.
A friend of mine once brought a chilled bottle of Champagne in an ice bucket to a friend’s house, thinking this would make it clear he wanted to drink it. The host just took the wine out of the bucket and put it away. And no, you can’t ask the host or hostess to open the bottle. That’s considered very poor form.
7. Perfumed tasting-room staff
I was surprised by this particular reader peeve, as most of the winery tasting rooms I’ve visited are fairly rigorous about keeping a “scent-free” staff. After all, a strong perfume can easily overpower the delicate aromas of a wine. Reader Kay Duffy wrote she has had to carry her glass outside the tasting room for an unadulterated whiff of a wine’s aromas.
Scent-wise, I’ve found tasting-room visitors the greater problem. I’ve stood downwind of quite a few tasters who were clearly great fans of very strong, drugstore-quality eau de parfum.
I’ve even traveled with an oenophile friend who was deeply knowledgeable about wine but had a curious predilection for strong aftershave. He smelled like the scent strip of an Old Spice ad. I never said anything to him during all of our years of travel, however, because he had every other virtue as a tasting companion: He knew a great deal about wine, collected old Burgundy and spoke French with élan. And besides, the Old Spice wore off by midday.
Lettie Teague, The Wall Street Journal
2012 ILARIA Cabernet Sauvignon
Growing Region: Napa Valley, California
Varietal: 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot
Fermentation: 100% French Oak, 68% New
Alcohol Content: 14.8%
Suggested Retail: $65.00
WineSellar Club Price: $49.49
Here’s a great story from owner/winemaker Anna Monticelli: “My inspiration for the name Ilaria, Italian for happy and cheerful, arrived on my wedding day when I was introduced to my husband’s cousin, Ilaria, who traveled from Italy to celebrate with us. I fell in love with the name. As fate would have it, as the idea of the Ilaria label grew, so did my family, my daughter Ilaria arriving just as we released our first vintage of her namesake wine in the fall of 2009. So, it’s not a stretch to suggest that Ilaria has become the tie that binds my past to my present while serving as a beacon to the future. Even the font that graces our label reflects this ideal, its own heritage dating to the Italian Renaissance in Tuscany, where my husband Mario still has family.”
Easy-to-read label and as Anna stated the Ilaria name is in ancient Italian font, but it is easy to read and clear what you’re getting. The wine is black at the core, and has a bright dark red coloring on the edge.
The fragrance is totally enveloping. Black cherry fruit and black fruits dominate early on. Roasted nuts (peanuts this time!), also hazelnuts, a whiff of violet and a root beer/cola thing that is enticing.
Rich and SEAMLESS. Silken, elegant, compelling, dry finish. It’s almost hard to describe the texture because the wine is so well balanced and feels so great on the palate.
Fresh black plum, black cherry, vanilla oak (and mahogany) roasted nuts, caramel, onion marmalade, strawberry, banana, kiwi, and root beer. Lovely!
You can tell Anna has old world sensibilities (interned at Chateau Cheval Blanc) and new world techniques and knowledge (Bryant Family four years assistant winemaker). This fantastic wine will go for many years, and deserves to be in our cellars! Brava, Anna!
2012 Andrew Lane Cabernet Sauvignon
Growing Region: Napa Valley, California
Varietal: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Fermentation: French Oak
Alcohol Content: 14.6%
Suggested Retail: $35.00
WineSellar Club Price: $31.49
Producing wine for nearly 40 years, this family owned winery is now spearheaded by two brothers, Andrew and Lane Dickson. Their parents before them had established a good number of vineyard connections though the years, and the blessing of those relationships have steered Andrew and Lane into a very successful, popular winery. It’s a good story, and an excellent wine. Enjoy!
Gotta love the label illustrating the two young brothers working an old barrel crusher. I’m actually touched by it, really. Sniffling aside, the font and letters stand out very well, and you immediately know what you’re getting when you see it on the shelf. The wine is beautiful dark purple, with oil like legs that drip slowly down the inside of the glass.
It seems like the aromatics are constantly evolving. Starts off with black fruits, vanilla oak and raspberry. Then comes coconut, rain forest and wet wood, then concentrated yet focused green herbs
The Andrew Lane Cabernet Sauvignon has a gorgeous and delicious feel in the mouth. Solid fruits, perfect fruit to acid balance, SO harmonious, Medium full in body with a slightly drying finish. Texture is a WOW!
The flavors are a WOW also! Black berry and blueberry fruits, with notes of lavender, cinnamon, nutmeg, Asian spices, vanilla coconut milk, very ripe plum, and of course the rain forest and fresh herb (nuances).
What a lovely wine. I am not sure how aging will affect a beauty like this. I am certain it will add to the complexities of the wine over time, but it is drinking so fantastic right now you almost hate to leave it around. So I say buy 6-12 bottles, and drink from today to twenty years from now.
2013 Chateau Villa Bel-Air, Graves
Growing Region: Graves Region, Bordeaux
Varietal: 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 35% Semillon
Fermentation:& Stainless Steel
Alcohol Content: 13%
Suggested Retail: $25.00
WineSellar Club Price: $21.59
Some of you may know I have always been a big fan of well-made white Bordeaux wines. Well, here we have one! The owner of this Chateau is Jean-Michel Cazes, one of the most prominent and respected names in France, as he is the owner of a startling number of very fine Chateaux. You’ll see his name on the label, for it is well known any winery he has his hands on, is recognized as having solid, if not exceptional quality within the bottle.
Typical white Bordeaux bottle, brown tinted glass and an etching of the Chateau depicted in the background on the label. I like the woman at harvest image. Nice descriptors on the back label. The wine has a light yellow tinge that has an attractive metallic-like glisten.
Good, solid nose if not delicate revealing gravel (from the soli there), mineral, chalk, white flowers, ginger flower, lemon-citrus, toasted nut (pumpkin seed specifically), smoke, char, vanilla and caramel.
The wine is medium to slightly less so in body, with a Meyer lemon tone of crisp acidity. The crisp texture on the entry trends towards creaminess and a more round feel in the palate as it warms up after about thirty minutes of air.
The Sauvignon Blanc provides some citrus and sharp edginess. The Semillon provides a good roundness to the wine, and body to the middle and finish. Ripe orange and mango, with ginger, some fine herbs, with a hint of menthol, anise and then a very rewarding note of caramel on the finish.
The wine has another year or two to go on it, but it is drinking delightfully now. It excels with foods of all types.
2011 Bottaccia, Torre Quarto
Growing Region: Puglia, Italy
Varietal: 100% Uva di Troia
Fermentation: 5 Months Stainless Steel, 12 Months Barrel
Alcohol Content: 13.5%
Suggested Retail: $16.00
WineSellar Club Price: $13.49
Uva di Troia is an ancient purple-skinned grape varietal found in the Puglia region of Italy (the heel of the boot). The grape was named after the Puglia town of Troia. The varietal is also known as Nero de Troia. I must confess to never having a wine made singly from Uva di Troia, but in my defense, they are and have been very rarely bottled up until recent times. Twenty years ago, you may have found two or three wines labeled Uva di Troia, but currently there are about eight of them.
FYI: Bottaccia = The name of the wine. Torre Quarto = The Winery/Producer
Great-looking embossed bottle, looking all black with shiny silver font and dark red accents. But, if you don’t know what it all the words mean, it would find itself sitting on the shelf for a long time. (See above descriptions.) The wine is nearly black at the core, edging to a bright crimson on the edge.
Nutty with dark fruit aromatics. Roasted nuts, pine nuts, wood, leaf branch, raspberry and cherry fruit. Overall it is very solid and assertive.
The wine is medium to medium-full in body. Almost “chunky”. The fruit has its most prominent appearance in the palate entry, and then slightly dissipates, leaving a charming finish full of crisp, drying acidity. This baby wants and needs food for that.
Kind of an old world, rustic flavor profile, with some modern touches. Raspberry, cherry (syrup), and black fruits are engaging. I noticed notes of peppermint, chocolate, maple syrup, wood, anise and herbs.
This is a lot of wine for $13.49. It will also fool ANY of your wine knowledgeable friends if you’re sinister enough to pour it to them blind. This is classic with pizza, sausages, cheeses, olives, pasta dishes, grilled meats and vegetables.
Carne alla Pizzailoa
On a recent summer evening, we enjoyed dinner with Gary & Chris Phillips at the home of Jack and Daniella Florio. Daniella manned the kitchen, and produced this wonderful dish seemingly effortlessly. The meat came out very tender and flavorful, and it was delicious!
She gladly accepted my suggestion that I share it with our wine club members.
This recipe will serve 4 people.
- 4 steaks, ½ to ¾ inch thick
- extra virgin olive oil as needed
- 3 cloves peeled garlic
- 1 pound of ripe tomatoes. Can be cherry, Roma, whatever, but must be ripe and flavorful.(Tomatoes and the steaks are the most important ingredients)
- 1 cup freshly chopped oregano
- sea salt as needed
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan and add garlic
- Cook until tender and remove from the pan
- Rub a generous amount of oregano into both sides of the steaks
- Sear the steaks on both sides and remove them from the pan
- Add the tomatoes to the pan and more oregano and salt to taste
- Cook tomatoes 10 to 15 minutes, breaking the them up with a fork as they soften
- Add the steaks to the sauce and cook them on low until they are very tender (cooking time will depend on the cut of meat)
- Remove the steaks to a serving dish and top them with the sauce