Arnaud Baur of Alsatian producer Domaine Charles Baur was in New York earlier this month to show off his family’s portfolio. Clean, varietally-correct wines with depth and complexity, the Baur wines reminded me just how much I like Alsace.
The Baur family has been involved in the wine trade since the end of the 18th century, but the current company only dates to 1945 when the two brothers decided to go their separate ways. Arnaud’s grandfather, Charles, was the first to bottle the family’s wine rather than selling off the grapes.
Although Charles has since passed away, Arnaud fondly recalls playing in vineyard with his grandfather as young as four years old. Since then, Arnaud has earned a master’s degree in viticulture and enology and joined the family firm four years ago.
Today, Domaine Charles Baur maintains 17 hectares near Colmar, with several different vineyards including two Grand Crus – Eichberg and Pfersigberg – in Eguisheim and one Grand Cru – Brand – in Turckheim. The soils of the former two are predominantly made up of clay and calcareous stone while there is more sand and granite in the latter.
Since 2009, Domaine Charles Baur has practiced organic viticultural methods, but won’t be officially certified as organic until 2014. However, natural winemaking practices date back even further. The winery has used indigenous yeast for the past 22 years. Careful attention is paid to the grapes with all vineyards handpicked and rigorously sorted.
Like many Alsatian producers, the firm’s diverse portfolio includes two Cremants d’Alsace (Traditional Method sparkling wine) as well as whites, red (Pinot Noir) and late-harvest, dessert wines. The Grand Cru wines encompass Riesling and Pinot Gris from both the Brand and Eichberg vineyards and Gewürztraminer from Pfersigberg and Eichberg.
While all of the wines tasted displayed both fresh fruit character and some complexity, not surprisingly, the Grand Cru wines stood out for their expressive minerality and depth. What was surprising was the relatively low price of these outstanding wines – at $28.00 these were wines that I would happily buy by the case and lay down in my cellar. Sadly, I do not have the room to do so, but I will certainly be seeking them out to enjoy from time to time.
Raimond Prüm, of well-deserved Riesling fame, shared his wealth of knowledge as well as some very special wines when he and his wife, Pirjo, were in New York in February. Although the Prüm family has produced wine commercially in the Mosel region for over 200 years, it wasn’t until 1911 that the S.A. Prüm winery was established. Founded by Raimond’s grandfather, Sebastian Alois (the S.A. in S.A. Prüm), Raimond’s first vintage with the company was in 1970 because his father was quite ill. That experience proved to be extremely important because, by 1971, he was on his own. Today, the company’s commitment to family remains strong as Raimond is joined by his daughter, Saskia Andrea.
While I was familiar with the Prüm name prior to the tasting, I was less familiar with the actual wines and even less familiar with the diverse range of wines produced by the Prüms. It turned out to be an absolute pleasure to taste the line-up that Raimond and Pirjo had selected for us.
Kicking off with a mini-vertical of Riesling from the Mosel’s Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard (Wehlener Sonnenuhr Erste Lage “Old Vines” Grosse Gewächs Dry Riesling) provided a lovely introduction to the driest style of Prüm’s portfolio at less than 9 g/l of residual sugar. The grapes for these wines are hand-harvested, which is not surprising given the incline of the vineyard (70o slope). The vines range in age from 80-120 years old, still on ungrafted rootstocks, and are planted on slate soils for which the Mosel is famous. The wines themselves are picked at Auslese-level ripeness, but without any botrytis and undergo long fermentations and lees aging in old, large oak casks. However, bâtonnage is avoided to maintain acidity levels. Interestingly, Raimond advised that it has become more challenging to produce dry wines with the increase in warmer weather, but these were clearly a wine style he enjoys making, despite the climatic change.
This first flight displayed vintage variation as well as differences as a result of the length of aging, but all were rich and intense. At nearly ten years of age, the 2004 was showing beautiful development. A pronounced nose of marzipan, spice, orange peel and minerality was repeated on the palate and culminated in long length. The younger 2006 was fresher with more citrus character and notes of apricot while the 2007 seemed to be the most floral with distinct lemon and honey aromas and flavors.
We next tasted the Graacher Dompropst Grosse Gewächs Riesling 2007, which was another dry-style wine. This one was slightly less dry at 11.2 g/l of residual sugar, with peach, floral and spice aromas and riper fruit flavors on the palate, but still quite elegant.
The second flight of the afternoon showcased wines from several different vineyards and from increasingly riper quality levels: Ürziger Würzgarten Kabinett Riesling 2009; Graacher Himmelreich Spätlese Riesling 2010; and Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling 2009. Compared to the previous flight, these wines had much higher acidity levels to counter balance the higher sweetness levels, but were nicely balanced, with lots of lemon, peach, spice and minerality.
The final flight was extremely interesting as we tasted an Eiswein, Beerenauslese and Tockenbeerenauslese side-by-side. These wines are all capable of long aging such as the Graacher Himmelreich Eiswein 2004, which Raimond suggested could age for 40-60 years.
My favorite was the Wehlener Sonnenuhr Beerenauslese 2001 for its amazing balance between its luscious sweetness (154 g/l of residual sugar), which quickly dissipates into a spicy and dry finish with long length. It was very complex with dried apricot, spice, blue cheese, and botrytis character on the nose and palate. The Graacher Himmelreich Eiswein 2004 was beautiful in its own right for its lighter sweetness, intense apricot and anise notes and lovely minerality. The Wehlener Sonnenuhr Trockenbeerenauslese 2005 was the sweetest of the three with intense fruit (namely bruised apple, apricot and orange marmalade), high acidity and was also the fullest in body.
All of these last three wines are very risky and difficult to produce and thus only tiny quantities are available. Accordingly, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to taste these very special and rare wines. Most importantly, the tasting showed that Riesling can shine in its many different guises and that the Prüm family really does know how to produce outstanding Riesling year in and year out. These are definitely wines worth seeking out.
For those of you not already “in the know”, Toronto’s Danforth is a hot neighborhood for food and wine with lots of great finds. And in this growing and energetic area one of the real treasures is Globe Bistro. Our television crew pops by Globe a lot and so we decided we should blog about it. You can always count on us to share great finds.
When you produce television around the globe (ahem, no pun intended), you have the pleasure of trying out a variety of restaurants internationally, from little holes-in-the wall with great secret recipes to outstanding five star experiences, and Globe Bistro is a favorite haunt of ours that definitely stands up globally (pun intended).
Globe is comfortable, elegant and friendly, and offers a lot more than dinner. This eatery looks small on the outside, yet is huge when you get inside, and has a pretty open style (somewhat casual to dressy). The menu and the ambiance will suit many, from the carnivore to the vegetarian, or date night to plans with a crowd! It’s also a great place to hang out at the bar and enjoy Toronto’s atmosphere.
Wine Portfolio’s team really likes the brunch. Our faves include the Swine & Dine which is an exercise in pork and eggs (pork done 6 ways, all house-made), Red Fife Dutch Pancake (the walnut butter is to-die-for), Beet Salad (probably off the menu soon, as beets are going out of season) and Smoked BC Albacore Tuna dish (served on cucumber Udon noodles), yum. Everything is fresh and local as the two main Chefs, Dave Sanders (Executive Chef) and Adam Fowler (Chef) clearly take a lot of pride in sourcing and preparing the menu. The new Spring Menu is coming soon, so stay tuned, we’ll keep you updated.
Globe will also soon be opening their beautiful seasonal rooftop patio, which is one of the best places to hang on a sunny Sunday in Toronto while enjoying half-priced bottles of wine (Sundays only!). When you’re wine people, half priced bottles are a beautiful thing. There are a lot of dining spots on the Danforth and some have been there forever, but the next time you’re thinking about say, Allen’s (nothing wrong with Allen’s, coughsnootystaff), we suggest you cross the street and pop into Globe, you won’t be disappointed!
It’s hard enough to remember all of the most well known denominations of Italy, but even harder to keep track of smaller, lesser-known wines from this prolific wine-producing country. Yet, this past Valentine’s Day brought me a little love from Italy in the form of a delicious food and wine event at New York’s Eataly and an introduction to a new wine denomination even for me: Carignano del Sulcis.
Carignano del Sulcis (not to be confused with the Carmignano DOCG of Tuscany) is produced from the Carignano grape, known elsewhere, especially France, as Carignan (and in Spain as Cariñena). Most frequently, this variety is used as a blending partner, but the Carmignano del Sulcis DOC, established in 1989, requires a minimum of 85% of the Cargnano grape, giving it greater prominence that it has elsewhere. Moreover, many wines are produced with 100% of the variety. When blended, the balance is made up of local varieties such as Bovaleddu.
Carignano del Sulcis hails from the island of Sardegna (Sardinia), which is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, situated to the west of the Italian mainland. Located in the southern-most part of Sardegna, Sulcis is the oldest area of the island in geological terms. Here, the Mediterranean climate nurtures the Carignano grape, grown in sandy soils that do not require the vines to be grafted as they are in most regions of the world.
While the average age of the local vineyards are 60-70 years old, some vines are as old as 150, providing low yields, but extremely concentrated fruit. Significant sunlight means the grapes become very ripe, but the high winds and proximity to the sea keep the wines fresh. These are generally intense wines with firm tannins, rich red fruit aromas and flavors and smoky, anise and slight herbal notes. Nicely structured, these wines can be aged for a few years, giving the tannins time to soften.
The wines tasted at a recent winemaker lunch primarily ranged from $20.00-$30.00. The most expensive of the lot was priced at $65.00 and was a more modern-styled wine with darker fruit character and longer aging potential, having spent (comparatively) considerable time in new French oak. The luncheon included a tasting of wines from five different producers: Cantina Mesa, Calasetta, 6Mura, Sardus Pater and Santadi.
Despite their intensity, these wines are at home on the dining table and paired well with a Sardinian-inspire menu of Roasting Winter Squash with Pecorino and a Carignano Reduction, Malloreddus with Sausage and Tomato Sauce and Grilled Lamb Chops with Roasted Fennel and Potatoes.
Starting a new job can be scary. There are the simple unknowns of finding the restroom, meeting new colleagues and navigating company culture to the more nerve-racking aspects of figuring out what you were actually hired to do. Yet, as with other new adventures, it can be exciting to start with a clean slate.
While my first day of work at a wine importer coincided with the release of Beaujolais Nouveau and an office-wide celebratory lunch, my introduction to a non-profit organization was much less welcoming. My assigned office was not yet ready and finding a desk or even a chair for me proved to be a difficult task.
But, my experiences pale in stark comparison to Frédérique de Lamothe’s first week as Director of the Alliance des Crus Bourgeois du Médoc. Prior to her arrival in Bordeaux, Frédérique had spent her career in the jewelry industry, serving in several high level marketing roles. Her thought was to parlay her marketing skills from rubies to ruby-colored wines, but within the first few days of taking office, one might say that all hell broke loose. After only five days in her new role, the Alliance’s Cru Bourgeois classification of 2003 was annulled, ending several centuries of history.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the “bourg” of Bordeaux became known as the bourgeois. As successful merchants and craftsman, the bourgeois were able to purchase land in the area, which were referred to as the “Crus Bourgeois,” eventually developing a reputation for their wines. By 1855, when Bordeaux’s top châteaux were classified as Grand Cru Classé, there were 248 Cru Bourgeois estates recognized by the industry. A formal list of 444 Cru Bourgeois was registered with the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce in 1932, but not submitted for ministerial approval. Such approval wasn’t sought until 2003, when the list of 247 châteaux (of 490 candidates) was published, but such approval was short-lived.
In 2007, the classification was completely cancelled, when several châteaux brought their grievances with the newly published list to the Administrative Court of Appeal of Bordeaux, which rules that the classification was indeed unfair since the previous decisions had not been made by impartial judges. Consequently, Frédérique and her colleagues were forced to start from the very beginning in creating a new system that would meet the needs of its members and solve the problems caused by the 2003 version. Instead of a master marketer, Frédérique became a master negotiator.
The period from 2007-2010 was filled with confusion and controversy, as protests from producers and their corresponding lawsuits kept the classification in limbo. Finally, after much hard work and negotiation, the Cru Bourgeois classification issues were resolved, with a new listing finalized for the 2008 vintage in September 2010.
In response to the controversy surrounding the 2003 selection process, the new Cru Bourgeois system became more of an annual quality assessment than a classification of châteaux or terroirs, governed by a rigorous set of guidelines. In this regard, a panel of paid wine professionals, exclusive of any château owners, selected ‘benchmark’ wines against which all 290 wines applying for Cru Bourgeois status were measured. This benchmark is adjusted annually, according to vintage quality. Tastings are conducted between March and July, while the wines are still in barrel, but a number of wines are re-tasted, randomly selected from various retail shelves in the market.
In the new system, the Cru Bourgeois status is only applicable to the château’s designated vineyards; no special cuvées are permitted. Moreover, there is no hierarchy within the classification – the previous designations of Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnnels or Superieurs were eliminated. This system appears to be working well, with 260 châteaux selected for the 2010 vintage. See the Cru Bourgeois’s website for the full and current list.
Meanwhile, on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, the St.-Emilion classification suffered similar setbacks, which still continue to plague its reputation. While the attacks on 2006 classification had appeared to be resolved with the publication of the 2012 classification in October, January’s newly filed lawsuits have called its validity into question yet again. Only time will tell whether these recent suits are legitimate gripes or just sour grapes, but it makes it challenging to keep track of the classification’s status. For now, the classification remains intact.
The changes to the Cru Bourgeois classification seem to have been met favorably by the organization’s members, if only as evidenced by the current lack of controversy. More importantly, these historic wines continue to hold a special place in today’s market for Bordeaux wines.
At an average bottle price of $25.50, these are wines that offer excellent value given their complexity and elegance. Additionally, while the wines of many of the highly vaunted châteaux require significant time in the bottle to reach their peak, the Cru Bourgeois wines have some aging potential, but are ready and enjoyable to drink upon release.
This point was reinforced at a series of recent tastings held in New York. The Union des Grand Crus tasting event showed off the 2010 vintage of its members. Tasting wines from Château Figeac (St. Emilion Grand Cru), Château Gazin (Pomerol), Château du Tertre (Margaux) and Château Pichon-Longueville (Pauillac), it was clear that 2010 is an excellent vintage. But, these wines were tannic and oaky, in need of some bottle age.
Conversely, at the following night’s Cru Bourgeois dinner, wines from the same vintage reinforced its quality, but were lighter in tannins and more pleasurable to drink with the meal. I especially enjoyed the wines from Château Fleur La Mothe, Château Caronne Ste Gemme, Château Branas Grand Poujeaux, Château Paveil de Luze, Château La Fleur Peyrabon and Château Lilian Ladoyus.
In addition to launching the new vintage, the Cru Bourgeois has also launched a new visual image that it is using in connection with the official list. Designed by artist Virginie Saint Jeannet, the new image ushers in a fresh chapter for the Alliance as it embraces the future and continues to keep Frédérique busy with marketing these great wines.
The holidays are filled with parties and dinners and hopefully for those in our community, lots of great wine and champagne. But Jody has a fun winter tradition for get togethers; Sangria. Sangria makes a nice warm and festive holiday drink. And with his secret recipe it’s easy.
For the spiced simple syrup:
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2-3 cinnamon sticks
- sliced orange peel (orange part only)
- 1 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
For the Sangria:
- 1 750ml bottle red wine (merlot or cabernet)
- 1/3 cup simple syrup
- juice from 1 orange
- 1/4 cup rum or brandy
- 1/4 cup orange flavored liquor (triple sec, Cointreu, Grand Marnier)
- sliced oranges, chopped apples (red and green), chopped pears
- frozen blackberries for serving
- In a saucepan, combine water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, ginger, cloves and peppercorns and bring to a boil. Continue to simmer while stirring and dissolving sugar. Boil until reduced a bit and slightly syrupy, about 15 minutes. Let simple syrup cool, strain and store in a glass jar in refrigerator. (You can use syrup for sangria or to sweeten tea, or sparkling water.)
- To make sangria: In a large pitcher combine all ingredients. Let refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight for best flavor.
So go ahead and try this recipe and then leave us a comment and let us know what you think.
Most storms developing out at sea in the Pacific Ocean eventually come ashore along the Chilean coast, but the towering Andes Mountains block these winds and rain from traveling further east. As a result, Argentina remains dry and sunny, nearly all of the time. And with 320 days of sun annually, I truly mean nearly all of the time!
Argentina has a long history of grapegrowing, dating to the Spanish conquistadors who brought grapes with them when they established colonies in the New World. From the 1500s through the 1800s, Argentine viticulture remained essentially unchanged. While a handful of today’s winemakers may still cling to the old ways (cow hide fermenters anyone?), most of Argentina’s wine industry has entered the 21st century, with temperature controlled fermentation, drastically improved sanitation and other modern conveniences.
Argentina is home to many European immigrants from Spain, Italy and France, so it is not surprising that many of these grapes landed on Argentina’s soil. Malbec, originally from Bordeaux, took incredibly well to the climate of its new home, especially once it was discovered that growing it at high elevation could significantly influence the outcome.
Though white wine plays a much smaller role in Argentine viticulture, the Torrontés grape has become its signature white. Torrontés handles the heat well and although it had been previously used exclusively for sweet, bulk wine, the variety has been repurposed to create a heady, aromatic wine that is now dry on the palate with floral and tropical fruit notes. Even within this taste profile, several styles have emerged from the restrained to the more flamboyant versions. Additionally, winemakers are experimenting with blends such as Amalaya’s Torrontés-Riesling.
Thankfully, there is more to Argentina than these two varieties and the range includes Barbera, Petit Verdot and the other usual Bordeaux suspects – Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – as well as Pinot Noir. The latter thrives in Argentina’s cooler, southern areas such as Patagonia as evidenced by Bodega Humberto’s Canale Estate Pinot Noir 2010, produced from 40 year old vines. Given that Argentines consume 8 oz. of meat per person per day, reds dominate the vineyards.
As a very large country, Argentina’s wine growing regions are vast and spread out from Salta in the north to Patagonia in the south, but most of the production is centered near and north of Mendoza, which lies west of Buenos Aires. Although certain regions within Argentina are becoming known for specific varieties – Salta’s Cafayate Valley for Torrontés, for example – Master Sommelier, Keith Goldston, suggests that the aspects of terroir are still being worked out and for now, come down to three things: distance from the Andes Mountains, elevation and vine age –some vineyards today are 100 years old. Of course, regardless of these three elements – we know it will be sunny.
There’s a great spot on King West for authentic Italian and European groceries, from that coveted French cheese you can’t find anywhere to the best imported olive oils, antipasto and quality meats. In a time when real food, quality ingredients and attention to detail is becoming more in demand, ALIMENTO FINE FOOD EMPORIUM is growing in popularity for great food finds, catering and full family meals. This market is a funky treasure trove filled with modern conveniences and an old-world vibe. What you may not realize is the King West location is so much more.
An open concept space divided into two, on the other side of Alimento sits BAR MOZZA, an exposed, modern yet cozy, Nouveau-Italian restaurant with an ambiance that slides from bistro lunch chic to a sexy evening groove with ease. A selection of unique seating, inclusive of a stunning marble communal table, comfortable back bar with bright red stools and elegant glass tables; the space artfully blends contemporary décor elements with traditional charm. It’s important to note that BAR MOZZA takes on a very lounge-vibe on weekends, becoming a cool place to pop in for a cocktail, a meal, a snack or just to hang out and soak in the ambiance while enjoying a great wine list.
The kitchen is overseen by the renowned and skilled Chef Joe Friday; French trained and raised in Japan, Joe brings a diverse and modern spin to traditional Italian fare. Rightly recognized for their hearty yet simple lunches, inclusive of rustic sandwiches, pasta and coffees; dinner at Bar Mozza adds a few unexpected elements to the traditional Italian offerings. House made pasta and pizzas are certainly a hit, with unique toppings such as spaghetti with crispy pork guanciale, Pecorino cheese and egg yolk; simply delicious. However, if you’re looking for a little variety, there is something for every palate here; the poached halibut served with shrimp and scallops on a bed of cauliflower puree is a real treat; vegetarians are in for a few savoury surprises with the breaded eggplants stuffed with cheeses, basil and tomato sauce, or something as simple as the superb Funghi Pizza, and from the filet mignon to the pork loin, the mains are a meat lovers paradise. Attention to detail and a very well thought out menu seem to be the anchors that should allow Bar Mozza to become a favored West-end Italian eatery for years to come.
Check them out on twitter @joefridaychef and @alimentofoods