To say that our rosé this week is legendary invites some explanation. The first part of the explanation involves wine importer Kermit Lynch, who began his wine career by traveling around France in the seventies. His book, Adventures on the Wine Route, tells a tale of a young man enthralled by the wine traditions of France. He explores the people who grow grapes and make the wines, telling their stories alongside the stories of the fruit and the wines. It’s something of an educational and entertaining ode to French wine. He returned to America to start his now well-established (if not quite “legendary”) import business (based in Berkeley), and his import label has earned a reputation for quality.
Of the many people he encountered on his first wine odyssey in France some thirty years ago, none stand out more prominently than the Peyraud family of Domaine Tempier in Bandol. (read more) . The domaine has been in the family since 1834, and in modern times has been instrumental in re-establishing mourvedre as premier grape of the Bandol region.
We spent the better part of an afternoon looking for the Domaine (i. e. being lost!), with only a vague notion of where it should be, and expecting (always a mistake!) it would be, you know, easy to find. Without an address. Without an internet connection. I.e., totally unprepared. As it turned out, we did stumble onto it quite by accident (there were vineyards!), and fortunately, Pat saw the sign— and suddenly we were–surprisingly–there!) Thus ensued a very pleasant and low-key tasting with Mme. Peyraud, who was charming and gracious, and the wines were delicious. Pretty low-key for, you know, Legendary, but one of the big draws about Old World wine is that at the end of the day wine is made by ordinary people with a passion. And sometimes, as with Domaine Tempier and many other small old-world producers, the passion has gone on for centuries.
The important take-away here is that we will be pouring their legendary rosé this weekend. It is more expensive than most rosés. On the other hand, it is probably the most famous rosé on the planet, and, let’s face it, that’s what legends are all about!
Among the highlights of our recent stay in the French countryside were the ever-present swifts, rocketing in long, incredibly fast arcs high against blue sky and cotton clouds. At first glance these well-named birds look a bit like swallows, but actually they are closer relatives of the hummingbird (who knew?). They are swift indeed, with some larger species clocked at over 100 mph. Their wing design allows them to change the shape and area of their wings, maximizing their efficiency and maneuverability. Their aerodynamic lines are reminiscent of skipjack or yellowfin tuna, which can reach underwater speeds of (I’m not making this up) 50 mph. The takeaway about swifts: uncommonly fast, beautifully evolved, and an absolute joy to watch!
Closer to home, rumor has it that here on Lummi we also are visited seasonally by swifts, though I don’t remember having seen any. Of course, there are lots of “local birds” that we don’t see very often, so it is always a pleasure to sight any of them. You might recognize this pair that wandered into the shop last weekend, a little off track from their usual migratory route. I suspect it has something to do with the camouflage provided to the male of the pair by Pat’s quilt behind him…? In any case, I understand they are frequently sighted all over the island, especially up around Wild Wabbit Woad (gonna have to explore it, I guess). Btw, at least one of them posts really fascinating photos almost every day on Facebook…check it out!
No, no, not those kinds of rocks! No, here is Janice last Friday with the beautiful basket of bread she brought in. (See last week’s post). She has been teetering on the edge of starting an island bread business for over a year now. In the off-chance the there were any lingering doubters, last weekend has the fans stamping their feet and wailing in the stands: Yes! Yes! Sign me up! Bring me bread! Every day! Every week! Please!
An abiding sense of Fair Play forbids us from giving you her email, but we know you are Enterprising, you love a good loaf of bread, and you know that sometimes you have to ask for what you want.
What do we Want?
When do we want it?
Now! Now! Now!
This week’s tasting
St Innocent pinot blanc ‘12 Oregon $18
Intriguing scents of honey, lemon custard, and minerals, with hints of tangerine and herbs. Light and easygoing, with delicately earthy notes mixing with the pear and citrus flavors.
Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé ’13 France $38
50% Mourvèdre, 28% Grenache, 20% Cinsault, 2% Carignan; Light, bright orange-pink; intense aromas of rose petal, orange rind, citrus blossom and distinct minerality; palate is rounded and full with notes of peach and pomegranate and good acid balance.
Le Rote Chianti Colli Senesi ’11 Italy $14
Rich, chewy, dark fruit, evolves into a smooth palate with notes of black cherry and sweet tobacco.
Garmendia Tempranillo ’10 Spain $12
Organically grown grapes ferment in carbonic maceration, yielding a balanced, round wine with sturdy tannins and notes of strawberry, raspberry, banana, and a note of fennel.
La Quercia montepulciano riserva ’10 Italy $18
100% organic montepulciano from low-yield vines; rich, port-like nose of candied cherries that carry through on the expressive, rich, earthy palate; nice balance of fruit and acidity.
Friday Bread Line
One reason we have such a loyal group of Friday regulars is because on most Fridays, Janice brings in freshly baked bread just as we open. This Friday she will bring a number of surplus loaves from an additional baking gig. They will be available at the wine shop, on a first-come, first-served basis, starting about 4:30! There will likely be only a few loaves each of:
- German Rye with pumpkin seeds and currants;
- Semolina with golden raisins and fennel seeds;
- Pave d’autrefois (a ciabatta-like mix of whole wheat, whole rye and whole buckwheat flours);
- Pain Meunier (whole wheat, cracked wheat and wheat germ); and
- Sunflower Seed bread (also has some whole rye).
Suggested donation $5 each. Don’t dally, they will disappear quickly!
Sauv Blanc time warp!
Periodically some of the distributors we buy from have close-out sales. They email out a list of wines they want to get rid of, and our job is to pore over this list of mostly wines you have never heard of and decide if the markdowns make any of them attractive. Most of the time, whatever you want has already been snapped up, but occasionally there are some interesting deals. A case in point is the Constantia Sauv Blanc from South Africa listed below (vineyard area at left). On the one hand as a 2004 it is pretty much past its predicted shelf life. On the other, older white wines often have intriguing characteristics. I happen to like this one, and bought the last two cases, as I often like sauv blanc from this area. However, we had a special event earlier this evening and not much is left. So the notes below also include the wine we will pour for you after the Constantia sells out–which may only take a few minutes (yep, snapped up by the same people who will buy all the bread before you get here…!) Not to worry, there are backups, including a little Italian sauv blanc from Tuscany (no, really, I am not making this up) and the Brancott (from NZ) listed below. Sunny days and sauv blanc are a match made in heaven, especially with shellfish, salt, fresh peppers, or maybe fresh radishes. Mmmmm! And sun…did I mention sun???
La Rocaliere revisited
This little winery in Lirac has become one of our favorites. We first visited about three years ago. We were immediately enthralled by the wines, the region, and the story. The winery was inherited and is run by two charming sisters, Severine (winemaker) and Melanie (business manager). Lirac itself is not the most scenic of French wine regions, but it IS just across the river from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and people have been making wine there for time-out-of-mind because the special constellation of soil and climate that drives human beings to grow grapes and make good wine in a place has made it so. The Bad News is that we are still waiting for our next shipment of their wonderful rosé…but the good news is that we will be pouring their red (and possibly their white) this weekend. The way things have been going lately, we may sell out quickly, but the Good News is that more is on the way, including their wonderful rosé. I took the accompanying photo during our visit last month when we were there again on Ryan’s Southern Rhone wine tour. See also
Lost River Rosé
The other compensation for not having any Rocaliere rosé at the moment is that we just received a shipment of one our favorite Washington rosés, that from Lost River Winery based in Mazama. All of their wines have been consistently appealing over the years, and their rosé is among our most popular of each summer season. We will also have some of their new pinot gris, as well as our regular stock of their red wines, including the Western Red blend, the delicious Nebbiolo, and their big and satisfying syrah.
Y’all come by now, heah??
This week’s tasting notes
Constantia Sauv Blanc ’04 South Africa $5
Yup, 10 years is old for most sauv blancs. This one shows some age, along with crisp notes of minerally lime, gooseberry and a bit of effercescence. (Not unlike a lot of us old-timers!) Only a few left at this amazing price!
Brancott sauv blanc ’12 New Zealand $14
Spicy quince and Asian pear flavors rest on a crisp, juicy body, with plenty of lime zest and grapefruit notes through the juicy finish.
Lost River Rose’13 Washington $15
A long-time favorite here…blended from merlot and cabernet franc, harvested early to preserve crisp acidity and bright notes of strawberry and cherry.
La Rocaliere Lirac Rouge ’10 Lirac $16
Equal parts grenache, mourvedre, and syrah. Clay hillsides and serene aging in cement tanks yield this
inky purple wine with deeply pitched aromas and flavors of cherry-cola, licorice and violets.
Lopez Cristobal Crianza ’07 Spain $27
Tempranillo/merlot blend from high, calcareous vineyards in Ribero del Duero; long, balanced, and full-bodied, with soft, ripe tannins and a luscious, elegant finish.
Wine club tote bags
Earlier this year we bought a bunch of new tote bags. The idea has never been to use them for general distribution. I mean, Hello, we are NOT Haggen’s or Costco! Rather, the idea has been to provide each wine club member with a bag to carry in the car at all times, like a cell phone or flares, only a lot more useful. In case any of you have not fully grokked this, we want to be there for all your Wine Emergencies, because let’s face it, we have all had them, and it is NOT pretty! Interestingly, even after many months, we still encounter members who have not yet picked up their wine bags, or, what’s worse…have forgotten to bring them! No matter, we can give you another— but ideally we would like to train you to keep your bag in your car at All Times. And if there are two of you, we are happy to provide TWO bags. They’re stylish, they’re practical, and they mark YOU as a member of Lummi Island’s Premier Wine Club! Which reminds me…have you renewed your membership for 2014?
Fresh Olive Oil
For several years we have carried olive oil from one of our favorite Italian wineries, Perazzeta. It was a new experience to see olive oil labels that tell when (to the month) the olives were picked and pressed. In Tuscany, they like their olive oil a little “green,” with a “bite” that you can feel in your throat. What is important now is that we just received our annual case of this lovely oil, picked and pressed this past winter. We also have a few bottles (500 ml) left from last year. On Friday night we will offer these oils for tasting– hopefully they will go well with Janice’s weekly loaf of fresh bread!
Glasses prove quite perishable in a wine shop. Sometimes they break while you are washing them. More often they get knocked off the bar by a misplaced gesture. In any case, it has taken a while to re-imagine wine glasses as consumables, not durables, as we generally think of them in the house.
For the first bunch of years we were open, our glasses of choice were from IKEA. They had an attractive shape that tapered inward at the top, a nice feature for collecting and reflecting aromas, and they were a mere $2 apiece. Definitely a good deal! Then a few years ago that particular glass was replaced by a rounder, fuller shape that doesn’t really work for general tasting (imho…). So a year or two ago we bought several cases of Riedel’s “working glass,” aimed at bars and restaurants….and wine shops! These glasses are attractive and relatively affordable; last week we were shipped four cases, all packed into one very large carton with about (I am not making this up) thirty feet of bubble wrap somewhat haphazardly thrown in among the cartons. A couple of the travelers didn’t make it, and the Riedel folks wanted a photo of the damage. As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “So it goes.”
A little over a month ago we visited the somewhat obscure (to most Americans) French wine region of Jura. An hour or two south is the equally obscure region of Savoie. Like Jura, it has long traditions based on unusual local grapes. A few years ago, the most famous regional producer of sparkling wine was saved from extinction by being taken over by local wine merchant Gérard Lambert, who now makes delicious Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling wines from the local Molette and Altesse grapes. The wines are aged on lees for six months, followed by two years sur latte*, giving the wine more complex, distinguished aromas and a fine perlage (bubbles). This week we are pouring his basic bubbly; next week we will move on to a somewhat higher rung. These wines have more flavor than many sparklers, a little leesy and a little yeasty, two qualities I happen to like a lot. Come see what you think! link
This week’s tasting notes
Seyssal Petit Royal Brut France $16
Traditionally made from Savoie white varietals Molette and Altesse, with extended time on lees and two years sur latte before rebottling, yielding a yeasty complexity and fine bubbles.
Chateau L’Ermitage Blanc ’13 France $10
An old favorite here, this vintage is even better– Light gold in color with aromas of peach, flowers, and honey; the Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and Roussanne, a heavenly blend!
Perazzeta Rosado di Montalcino ’11 Italy $14
It’s back! From the same grape as Brunello (sangiovese grosso), this beautiful rosado has it all: rich, bold, flinty, and summery.
Le Pigeoulet en Provence ’12 France $16
(grenache, syrah, cinsault,carignan): Fresh raspberry and candied lavender with a spicy lift. Juicy and seamless in texture, with lively fruit; very easy to like.
Meroi Nestri Merlot ’10 Italy $24
From Fruili between the Alps and the Adriatic, aged two years in once-used barrels; shows both power and poise partnering with savory dishes from steaks to aged cheeses.
One would think that after all these years someone would have figured out how to celebrate the 4th of July on a Monday, like all the other Holidays. But no, they let it be whatever day of the week it happens to fall upon, and that of course makes planning an annual challenge. This year the 4th is on a Friday, which makes it an official 3-day Holiday Weekend. Add to that the annual Rummage Sale and annual Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, and you’ve got yourself one crowded island. Hmm, note to self: let’s make sure we have plenty of Benadryl to help the dogs dope-cope with Everyone’s Brother’s All-night Fireworks…!
The essential take-away for all of you is that we will be CLOSED all day on Friday (the 4th) and we will be open our regular hours on Saturday, July 5: 2-6pm. We hope you can stop by!
The best beer in the Universe…?
Maybe it’s just a beer whose Time has come. I mean, although of course everyone’s daily conversation revolves around wine, no one (that I know!) ever talks about beer. So it is a point of some interest that after closing during Studio Tour a month ago our friend Tristan (who was pouring his imports) shared a post-wineshop bottle of a beer I had never heard of (actually there are quite possibly Tens of Thousands of beers I have never heard of!), called ‘Pliny the Elder,” made in Santa Rosa, California in the Russian River Valley where, by the way, a lot of excellent wine is also made. The first thing to know about this beer is that it is an IPA. The second thing is that in general I personally find IPA much too hoppy for my taste, definitely not a favorite. So it was doubly surprising to find that not only was this a good IPA, it was also quite possibly the best beer I had ever tasted, with lots of delicious flavor nuances and freshness.
Fast forward to last weekend when a young couple from the Bay Area dropped in, he wearing a Pliny the Younger T-shirt (photo left), and explaining that P the Y is Pliny’s on-tap brew. Little is made, and it is released once a year at the brewery to all-day lines of Faithful fans. This couple waited for (I’m not making this up…!) eight hours to get in for a relatively small taste of the mythic elixir. My understanding is that P the Y is in fact quite hoppy, a la your usual IPA, so I am not likely to line up anytime soon. However, if any of you run across any P the E in your travels, buy yourself some and also please pick up some for us, as apparently they have discontinued exporting it to our Fair State.
Recently my oldest friend in these parts downsized into smaller digs, and was forced to pare down the huge collection of my pottery that he had accumulated over many years. So it is that I now have on consignment three of my very early pots, probably dating back to about the mid-eighties. The blue ones are porcelain, and the covered jar is raku. They will be on display at the wine shop until they can find new homes, all proceeds to go to their current owner. For my part, it is always a curious feeling to come face to face with one of my old creations…like old photographs, they are soaked in the past, yet here they are fresh and shining in this present moment. And, like petroglyphs, they could survive me by many, many years…an interesting thought.
Wine Club update
We are now in the second year of our Wine Club, and we are grateful to all of you who have made it a success, certainly for us, and hopefully for all of you who took advantage of club benefits like discounts on tasting and wine purchases. This year we seem to have let the wine club slide a bit, with the result that we seem to have lost some old members and failed to renew memberships for last year’s members.
In part this is due to our unfortunate decision to enroll members for a year beginning whenever they sign up, with the result that members have renewal dates stretching throughout the calendar year. We will post in the wine shop a list of members along with membership expiration dates. Next time you are in the shop, please check the list to see if it is past time to renew your membership…!
By the way— membership benefits have changed a bit for this calendar year, hopefully in the direction of simplicity. Annual dues are still $35, which continue to entitle members to save $5 on each regular wine tasting. In addition, we have done away with the white, pink, and red cards (based on wine purchases) in favor of a simpler system, with two basic components:
1. Members do not pay sales tax on any purchase of four or more bottles (an 8.7% savings!).
2. Members enjoy a 15% discount on any full-case special orders
This week’s tasting
Trevisiol “Rosecco” Sparkling Rosé Italy $15
Where prosecco meets rosé; Light and effervescent wine that dances on the tongue with fresh berries, lively acidity and gentle bubbles.
Reuilly “les Pierres Plates” ’12 France $18
Like neighbors Sancerre and Quincy, beautiful sauvignon blanc; Sage, black currant, gooseberry, and lime dominate both the nose and palate, where a suffusion of salt and chalk adds to a palpable sense of extract and invigoration…bring on the shellfish!
Zerran ’11 Spain 92pts $13
Old vines Garnacha, Mazuelo and Syrah from 1500′ hillsides, where soils are lime-bearing over a granite and slate subsoil. Quite arid with annual rainfall of about 25 in. Shows abundant kirsch, lavender, black raspberry and dusty, loamy, earthy scents intermixed with notions of spring flowers and blackberries.
Perazzeta Sara Rosso Toscano ‘ Italy $11
90% Sangiovese, 10% Ciliegiolo; Notes of bright cherry, crisp acidity, and tantalizing earth tones make this very pretty wine hard to resist…so why try??
Cougar Crest Dedication 7 ’10 Washington $18
Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Velvety and round, with gently pulsing flavors of currant and plum, hinting at clove, pepper and roasted meat notes as the finish lingers enticingly.