Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tasting Note: Marqués de Tomares Rioja Gran Reserva 2001

Before I layed me down to sleep
I prayed my decanter my wine to keep
If it had died before I woke
I wouldn't have found it a funny joke!

Today, New Year's Eve 2011, I tasted at 12:30PM in a gorgeous Bottega del Vino glass from Verona, Marqués de Tomares 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva. It was in great shape *phew!*, and I wrote a tasting note following the Wine and Spirit Education Trust guidlines I was indoctrinated with while practicing for my 4 tries before passing the Unit 3 tasting exam (just one less try than the number of road tests for my NYS Driver's License)

Marqués de Tomares Rioja 2001 Gran Reserva is a limited production run of 10,423 numbered 750ml bottles (today I opened bottle number 1158) and 960 Magnums. It's 90% Temrpanillo and 10% Mazuelo, a less heralded but very important grape variety that is one of four red varieties legally allowed in Rioja wines. It's known as Carignan in France, and job is to contribute a little seasoning to a blend.

Gran Reserva is a term regulated by the Consejo Regulador, and can be applied to wines made in only in very execptional vintages from the top vineyards of the region. White Gran Reservas exist, but they are even more rare than red ones. The law requires they are aged for a minumum of two years in oak barrels and they are not allowed to leave the winery until six years after vintage, although in practice they are usually treated to much more aging - this particular Gran Reserva had nine cellared years at Marqués de Tomares winery before it arrived on US shores. It rested thirty months of that time in American Oak barrels (customarily the oak of choice in the region) and spent the rest of the time louging in bottles in the cellar. The 750 ml bottles arrived in handsome wooden cases (six to a box), while the magnums were packed in individual branded wooden coffins. Wine swag!

I first tasted this wine in the summer of 2010 while considering it for purchase for the shelves at my shop, the erstwhile wineLIFE Wine Shop in New York. I retasted it in November of that year and wrote a very simple tasting note:
Appearance - Garnet (in WSET terms, garnet is more of a reddish brown, normal for old world wines and wines from older vintages, while ruby would define a red leaning toward purple or blue, normal for young wines)
Nose - Earthy, Green Pepper, Black Olive
Palate - Complex, layers of cinnamon, coffee, spice, green tea... and I wrote acidity, which in wineLIFE speak indicates that the wine's acidity was surprisingly fresh for its age (this was a tasting note jotted quickly while standing in front of the wine's importer, James Turney of Parador Selections, in my store)
I gave the wine five stars. It was a freshly opened sample, not decanted.

The next time I drank it, we were having ribs, baked macaroni and cheese and other wonderful comfort foods on July 5, 2011 for the birthday of my long time friend Wil Otero - we drank magnum number 342. It was an epic summer celebration!

So last night around 11:00PM, I gently poured the wine into a Riedel Merlot 750ml decanter* (see end note). While doing so, I remembered an interesting piece of wine history, very old, simple technology that I could see last night still works. The bottle this wine was packaged in is the traditional Bordeaux shape, that is straight sides with shoulders. The original purpose for the design of that bottle was so that while you pour, the shoulders would catch any sediment so you wouldn't have to chew on polymerized tannins in your glass while drinking. I could see this happening as I poured - the shoulders were indeed holding back the sediment!

I let the decanted wine stand in my kitchen overnight, in a shady, relatively cool corner. For lunch I had it with a grilled cheese sandwich and took a thorough tasting note a little over 12 hours after decanting. As I write this post at 4:00PM I'm still sipping it and it is still giving up lots of delish goods. Now, withouth further ado, today's tasting note on this wine:

Appearance - Deep garnet, mahogany core fading to a brownish rim

Nose - Clean, deep and intense with a bouquet of leather, sage, dried raspberry, cherry and fig, caramel, cedar/ciagr box, cured black olives

Palate - Long length with beautifully balanced alcohol and acidity, silky fine graned tannins. It reminded me of a charred sirloin steak off the grill, cooked medium rare, or jerk seasoning minus the peppery kick, and that cedar/cigar box aroma played in my retronasal passage (accessed from inside the mouth while tasting). Hints of herbal flavors of rosemary, bayleaf and green olive laced the profile and there was an underlying flavor of black trumpet mushrooms (trompettes de la mort)

The wine still gets five stars - it is in amazing condition and decanting showed me the mature side of The Dreamgirl, with all her contures. Complex, this wine is a picture of power and soul. She could hold off the Klan with a shotgun to protect her children one day and cry while watching a love story the next.

A rare and wonderful experience to end this rare and wonderful year and usher in the promise of 2012. Cheers, Happy New Year, thanks for reading. Please share, tweet, post and comment to your heart's content!

*Riedel Merlot Decanter is a model name. While its probably true that Riedel made this specific decanter with Merlot's best interests at heart (they are known for specialist varietal glassware) it still worked just fine for the Gran Reserva. In fact, I have other decanters that are wider and would have spread the wine out more, but I chose this one because while I wanted to aerate the Rioja, I didn't want to assault it with too much oxygen. This decanter kept the wine in close quarters. By the 24 hour mark, it was starting to fall to pieces.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vino Bash at Pinot's

It’s the second-to-last Friday in December. The halls are decked, the candles are lit, and Riesling, The Cheerleader, is putting finishing touches on the holiday cookies for the Vino Bash at Pinot’s (Noir that is)! She has an apron on over her turquoise and black Diane Von Furstenberg Naomi dress. She wanted to make sure everyone would be happy, so she baked ginger snap Christmas trees, shortbread dreidels, and she couldn’t figure out what to do for Kwanzaa so she made Africa-shaped chocolate cookies. Ah, sweet Riesling!

Pinot Noir is not even home yet. She’s still at Saks trying on shoes. All day has been about hair, makeup, nails and frock, and she has not been satisfied with any of it so far. She’s just hoping Cabernet Sauvignon makes an effort not to show up in his stupid team jersey and talk about football all night! But more importantly, as host of this glam slam, she has got to outshine all the other girls – especially Miss Tempranillo, the so-called Dreamgirl. OMG its so hard to be The Princess!

She gave the job of writing the invitation to Merlot, The Poet. Judging from all the silky lyrics he has been throwing at her since they met, she knew he was perfect for the task of presenting her holiday party as the can’t-miss-event –of-the-entire-season. And that he did, for the RSVPs came back in a deluge. He’s so smooth!

Its already 8:30PM and the party starts at 10:00PM. Syrah, The CEO shows up early as always, ready to pitch in and help pull things together. Riesling is relieved he’s here. He grabs her checklist and proceeds to move around Pinot’s large upper east side apartment making sure all I’s are dotted. Chardonnay arrived right on his heels. She wasn’t sure what time she should come and she didn’t want to be late. Plus she wanted to find a comfy spot on the couch so she could fade into the background. She pops into the kitchen to say hello to Riesling.

“Do I look OK?” asks shyly, in sensible flat shoes, wide leg khakis and an off-white cable knit cardigan.

Riesling washes her hands. She takes Chardonnay’s hair down out of the ever-present single ponytail, removes her glasses and hands them to her. “You look great!” she says and turns back to arranging trays of snacks and cookies.

Guests start arriving around 10:30PM. Pinot Gris is the DJ for the evening. He is selecting a great mix from his own collection with a little help from Spotify. His mohawk is freshly cut and he’s in black leather from head to toe with super pointy embellished wing tips. The house is rocking by 11:00PM. But where’s Pinot Noir?

At around 11:15PM, the door flies open. It’s Moscato, The Life of the Party, with a bottle in each hand yelling “Pop Pop!!” The party erupts in cheers and two of his friends carrying a cooler full of bubbly follow him through the crowded room to the coffee table. He jumps up on to the table, opens the two bottles, shakes them and sprays the crowed with sparkling wine. Syrah is appalled. Viognier, The Supermodel, slender and aloof in her yellow satin vintage couture cocktail frock, red leather L.A.M.B. clutch and black Manolo Blahnik heels suddenly comes alive and dives behind the bar in fright to avoid ruining her dress. She just knows it isn’t vintage champagne in the air!

Around 11:30PM sexy Miss Tempranillo arrives on the arm of Cabernet Franc, the Exchange Student. Merlot cuts his eyes at them with a jealous look. “That damned Franc gets all the girls! I bet it’s the accent,” he thinks to himself. She is every picture the dreamgirl, voluptuous in knee high heeled leather boots and a well fitted black calf length cap sleeved knit dress with shimmering silver trim, conservative on her bust line but deeply cut in the back to show off her tattoo, hair immaculatelycoiffed. Franc is in a slim fit double cuff royal blue Thomas Pink shirt with a red Prada blazer and white skinny jeans evoking Lupin the Third. Viognier peeks over the bar to see if its all clear. She spots the two of them and casually eyes Franc. She plots to catch him alone later for a chat, maybe when Temp goes to the bathroom.

Merlot turns his attention to Zinfandel, The Soul Singer, who had arrived about 20 minutes earlier. It would be his first time meeting her in person, even though they have a number of mutual friends. He’s seen her in some of their Facebook photos, but the pics don’t do her justice. She is gorgeous in an off-white silk dress and matching headdress that provide a flattering contrast to her dark cocoa skin tone. He stares at her full lips thinking “baby you can sing my poetry,” as he casually make his way across the room to baby grand piano where she’s standing chatting with Viognier and Syrah.

At around 11:45 Sauvignon Blanc arrives with Verdejo. Sauvignon decides to surprise everyone and show up in modern-day Bing Crosby Christmas special swag, complete with reindeer snowflake sweater and Santa hat. But the Santa hat is black and white and the reindeer on the sweater are trampling grandma. Verdejo sashays into the room, looking for the crudite platter so he can find the snack with the least calories so as to keep his perfect physique on point. His ruby velvet jacket layered over a gray scoop neck $50 Armani Exchange t-shirt is carefully accessorized with a powder blue pashmina scarf. He’s wearing his pewter pinky ring on the hand he always holds a wine glass with – his right one.

Finally, at 11:50PM, the door opens again, an there’s Cabernet Sauvignon looking dapper in a magenta suit and perfectly matched shirt (Versace for H&M) accented cleverly with a canary yellow bowtie and handkerchief. He’s so cocky! On his arm is his lady Pinot Noir, looking as perfect as she had hoped. She settled on the Christian Louboutin black feathered Carnival d’Orsay shoes and that Stella McCartney gold sequined cocktail dress that had just arrived at Bergdorf’s earlier this month. She is accessorized with tasteful black opal drop earrings and lots of black and gold bangles on her wrists. She is smiling and making the entrance she had planned with all her guests looking on. She starts to circulate the room with all the graces of a perfect host, while silently surveying the food and bar set up. She is satisfied with it all. She knew she could count on Riesling and Syrah to make sure her fete was tight! “I have arrived,” she thinks to herself, “the party may begin now.”

In all her earlier kvetching, Pinot didn’t even consider glamour competition from Gewürztraminer, who did indeed show up unexpectedly at exactly midnight. That Diva upstaged Pinot with a spectacular, show stopping entrance into her own party in a pair of Irregular Choice Best of All peacock feather platforms. She let her white rabbit fur coat slide casually off her shoulders to reveal a fabulous sleeveless fuchsia sequined cowl neck ankle length jumpsuit and an obscenely blingy diamond and sapphire necklace with matching earrings, cocktail ring and bracelet that looked like something from a Cartier window display. All eyes turn to take in her shine. Pinot nearly popped her cork!

By 12:30AM, the party was in full swing, and everyone was blending in happy holiday spirit. Here’s to a happy and safe season. Sip responsibly and get home safely!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wine Community Pitches In for Haiti

This story of help sent to Haiti after the catastrophic January 2010 earthquake sets itself apart indeed. Design Diva Lavinia Campo, my High School bestie and the muse for my Meet Gewürztraminer – The Diva - September 7, 2011 blog post connected me to the I Am Haiti Art Scarves Project in late October.

At the behest of some concerned friends who implored him to reach into his network for donations to an orphanage in the town of Maranatha that was destroyed in the earthquake, documentarian Kevin O’Hanlon, founder of Films on Artists (follow @FilmsOnArtists on Twitter) took a unique approach to front line aid. In collaboration with Haitian born artist Richard Laurent, he brought paint, brushes and canvases to Haiti and encouraged the children of Maranatha School and Orphanage to paint the future they envisioned. Thus, in their very first artistic creations, they brought their innermost desires out front and took their lives into their own hands. Soon after, some of the works were sold at Kevin’s Rogue Space Gallery at the Chelsea Fine Arts Building in Manhattan to finance the reconstruction of the orphanage. That was just the beginning.

Kevin’s continued efforts have brought a great deal of attention to this project, including that of Frank and Caroline Fleischer, founders of the non-profit Franca Art and Fashion. Caroline, CEO of fashion industry consulting firm Talents For Fashion, envisioned a line of luxury scarves featuring the children’s artwork. Frank is the CEO of major textile manufacturers TMS Fashion, whose client list includes ESPRIT and Topshop. The scarves, which are digitally printed on the finest cashmere, will go on sale this Friday evening at the I Am Haiti Art Scarves reception in Chelsea (details below). They will sell for $100.00 apiece. Fifty percent of the proceeds – 100% of the profit – from the sale of the scarves will continue to sustain the Maranatha School and Orphanage.

Friday night’s event is sponsored in part by two generous wine providers so you can sip and shop in style:

South Pacific Wines LLC
For ten years, New York-based Kiwis Mei Fong and Michael Carr-Smith have brought a lovingly curated boutique selection of New Zealand wines into the United States from the regions of Hawkes Bay and Marlborough, with the recent addition of a Pinot Noir from the world’s most southerly wine region, my beloved Central Otago. The white wines, including a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a barrel fermented Hawkes Bay Chardonnay from the flagship Crossroads label and the Unoaked Chardonnay and Pinot Gris that form the Curious Cove line, will be featured at this Friday’s event. Expect clean, crisp wines that have ripe fruit character and beautiful balance – even the 2007 Unoaked Chardonnay drinks like fresh juice! The author is proud to be an independent sales representative in Brooklyn and Manhattan for this importer. Contact for retail and restaurant inquiries.

Available at Harlem Vintage in Manhattan and Zap Wines and Spirits on Court Street in Brooklyn.

Follow @CrossroadsWines on Twitter

Bouké Wines
Fellow WSET Diploma of Wine and Spirit graduate Lisa Donneson DWS founded Bouké in 2007 “to satisfy the tastes of an emerging generation of American wine drinkers who share her belief that wine should be an everyday pleasure for the senses” – a woman after my own heart! I had the pleasure of stocking her wines at my erstwhile Stapleton, Staten Island store, including her full bodied, beautifully balanced red blend and the slightly effervescent, super pretty Pérlant. She is providing a mixed case of her white and rosé wines for the evening. What a treat for all of our deserving I Am Haiti Art Scarves supporters!

Available at Harlem Vintage in Manhattan and Red White and Bubbly in Brooklyn. Find more stockists at

Follow @Boukewines on Twitter

I Am Haiti Art Scarves Introduction Reception
Franca Gallery
526 West 26th Street, #417
Chelsea, NYC
Friday December 9, 6-10pm
More Documentary Screenings and Events
Saturday December 10, noon - 8pm
Sunday December 11, noon - 8pm

For more information:

Press/Media Contact:

Marie Theodore 646.529.9349/

Follow @MarieDriven on Twitter
For General Entry: