French Wine Orders Have Arrived!
Most of you don’t know that it was over a year ago that Ryan hatched a plan to reconnect with some of his favorite French wineries (ah, mais oui, ALL his favorite wineries are French…shrug..), and became their agent for US import. We and many of our members have visited several of these wineries on one of the French wine tours Ryan has organized. So it seemed logical to look for a way to bring them right here to our shop so we all could enjoy them without leaving Lummi Island. Good plan, huh?!
In April we held a gala tasting of 10 of these wines at Mark and Lis Marshall’s beautiful home (and #1 Lummi Island B&B!). Many of you attended and ordered some of the wines. I will not go into the complications involved in making all this happen, except to say that all the rules have been in an uproar since Washington State voters approved the Costco-funded initiative a few years ago to close the State Liquor Stores and allow anyone to sell hard liquor. Wine got caught up in the Flood, and as nearly as I can tell, the new rules serve No One except Big Retail. But of course, that’s Another Story.
All you need to know is that the French wines ordered in April have arrived and are available for pickup beginning this weekend!!! We will be sending individual emails with details to all of you who made pre-orders.
Faugères and St. Chinian
Languedoc (“language of Oc”) is the largest French wine region, stretching along the Mediterranean coast from the Spanish border to the Southern Rhone…Nimes is in Languedoc, but Avignon is in Rhone. Languedoc is divided into many wine subregions, most dating back centuries (maybe even to the prehistoric cave dwellers who made their mark here fifty thousand years ago!). If you consult a good map , you can see that Faugères and St. Chinian are next door to each other. Among our new wine arrivals are two from Domaine Moulinier in St. Chinian, and one from Chateau la Liquiere in nearby Faugères.
By the way, we have encountered these rather heavy metal chairs (photo, left) at several wineries in the Languedoc, and I have to admit I rather covet them. Apparently they were made as part of a regional wine promotion some years ago, and many Languedoc wineries have a few in their tasting rooms. I just haven’t figured out how to get them into my carry-ons in the unlikely situation that some Languedoc winery would even sell one. So they fall into a large class of objets d’art that we can enjoy where we find them but which are impractical to being home. Still, they are Very Cool, eh?…and isn’t there something especially nice about the somewhat austere stencil cutout of the region’s name…?
Tom’s “Vine Route”blog
On our first trip to French wine country in 2011, I happened onto an interesting blog written by Tom Fiorino, an American wine enthusiast living and studying wine in Toulouse. At the time we were there, he was doing an apprenticeship of sorts near Faugères, where we tracked him down and spent some time talking about wine. Since then we have had a link to his blog on our site. I just found his 2009 post about one of the wineries ( La Liquiere), many of us have visited on Ryan’s recommendation or on his tour. You can read his detailed and informative post here, All his posts are loaded with detailed information about a particular winery or region (he has been writing a lot about Corsica lately…!).
This week’s tasting
Vilarnau Cava Brut Sparkling Rosé Spain $12
Shy, mineral-driven aromas of citrus and orchard fruits, with subtle strawberry. Juicy red berry and orange flavors are expansive and lively, with dusty minerality.
Domaine la Renaudie blanc ’12 France $15
Benchmark Loire Sauvignon Blanc with a great balance between nervous, lean acidities and restrained grassy, elderflower character.
Domaine Moulinier Rouge ’10 France $13
70% Syrah, 25% Grenache, and 5% Mourvèdre; Nice spice and garrigue on the nose, with a broad palate of ripe red fruit, with a bit of orange note on the finish. Smooth and soothing; .
Chat. Rayssac L’Essentiel ’09 France $16
Merlot, grenache, syrah, cab franc, cinsault; Cabardes combines the red fruit, finesse and liveliness of Bordeaux varietals with the rich sumptuousness of Mediterranean varieties to yield a complex and spicy wine with balanced tannins.
Chat. La Liquiere Les Amandiers ’12 France $17
From young vines with aromas of fresh red fruits, redcurrant, strawberry, and cassis. A wine of soft pleasure and aromatic freshness.
A quiet day This year saw the return of the Lummi Island Reefnet Festival, an ode to Lummi Island’s unique Historic Fishery, started time out of mind ago by the Coast Salish who have inhabited these parts for eight thousand years or so. You can read more about modern reefnetting here. It is an Island tradition, carried on nowadays by a mix of stalwart old-timers and young hopefuls. As it turned out, the fishery didn’t open until the next day, and even then, as sometimes happens– sorry, no fish– very disappointing to those who spent a very hot day waiting on the water in anticipation. However, the Festival seems to have been a success, to the point that we, your tiny wine shop at the Edge of the Salish Sea, enjoyed a quiet afternoon of wine and pleasant conversation, very ordinary, very wonderful; a little reminiscent of the way it was our first few years. You know, before we became Famous.
For those who haven’t yet caught on, Fridays have become something of a “locals” party, highlighted by the Sharing of The Bread That Janice Makes, as well as, it almost goes without saying, fabulous wines. As noted in recent posts, she is now bringing a big box of fresh bread each week, and All Hands will join me in a hearty “Arrrrrr, it’s Mighty Good!” Mates, just like Them Radicals we hear about, we got our own deeply held ideas about the Good Life to which we all aspire. The Europeans figured all this out centuries ago, and we are convinced it is a necessary Evolutionary Step for our entire Species: every healthy community must have: Fresh bread every morning, and at least ten well-made local cheeses!
And so it was that last Friday there we all were, in the usual Friday configuration, when Monty, whom we first met years ago as a youngster down the street, and who is now a wine rep for one of our distributors, dropped by with Samples of….could it be true?...All the current Bubbly releases from star sparkling wine producer from (no, I am not making this up) New Mexico, aka Gruet. Let’s just say it was quite a show, and all hands were smiling even more than usual. The wines were all good (oh yeah, this is my favorite…hmm, well, no, I guess that is my favorite…!) Whether you were there or not, please know that THIS Friday we are expecting a delivery of the crowd favorites from Gruet, and it is very likely that YOU will not want to miss them!
A new Friday Tradition?
We have been opening on Friday afternoons from 4-6 for a couple of years now, generally with our good friend Ryan (see above) acting as host/sommelier, giving us the freedom to be elsewhere and do otherthing. Curiously. though we have the night “off,” we often choose to spend it right here at our favorite wine bar, on the customer side schmoozing with our Friday Regulars. And of course…Janice’s bread! Good friends and good conversation– the essence of Being Human, eh…? Anyway, the Lightness and Fun of last weekend’s spontaneous Bubbly Surprise was so enjoyable that we now wonder about the feasibility of “bubbly and rose” as a guiding principle of Summer Fridays here at the wine shop. Below is the list of wines we will be pouring on Saturday. But Friday’s tasting might be much more oriented toward rose and bubbly, in contrast to the list below. Or not! Only one way to find out!
This week’s tasting
Chateau Virgile Rose ’13 France $12 (grenache-syrah); Musky aromas of red berries and cherry pit; Dry and nervy with a floral nuance that gains power with air; tightly wound and vivacious enough to work with a wide range of foods.
Cloudlift Cellars Updraft ’11 Washington $17 Tom Stangeland’s beautiful interpretation of a classic White Bordeaux (sauvignon blanc and semillon) with the added weight and ripeness that Washington’s climate usually delivers; bursting with ripe yellow fruits, apricot and papaya.
La Rocaliere Lirac Blanc ’11 France $16 Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Subtle, elegant floral aromas of jasmine, honeysuckle, and verbena. Rich and round on the palate, with wonderful notes of fresh citrus.
Riojanas Rioja Canchales ’11 Spain $11 Pungent redcurrant and cherry on the nose, with a peppery lift and focus. Firm bitter cherry and rose pastille flavors, with juicy acidity; aeration brings up deeper blackberry and licorice notes that linger on the taut, youthfully tannic finish.
Crios de Susana Balbo Malbec ’13 Argentina 89pts $14 Aromatic and fresh, with notes of violets, ripe plums and a touch of brown sugar, quite showy, with the profile of a cool vintage, the sweet tannins of the Malbec, some sweet spicy flavors, and good length.
Sometime in the last couple of weeks I was working on a project in front of the garage/ wine shop when I heard a commotion in the bushes nearby along with a peculiar sort of shrieking. Curious but cautious, I tiptoed around the apparent source and found these three little rascals clinging to the base of an alder tree. It looked as though they couldn’t climb the tree (or maybe had instructions from Mom to stay put!), because they stayed right there for some while, pretty exposed to danger, or maybe just posing for photos. I have noted before that though I know lots of people don’t like raccoons (okay, so they are vandals of a sort), I find them beautiful and fascinating. These three are each the size of a small house cat, obviously very young, and completely endearing.
click images to enlarge
A zillion years ago (1950′s) when people my age were kids, there were a bunch of daily comic strips that lots of people followed. Many of them had started before WWII, and many had heroic main characters. One such strip was called “ Smilin Jack.” An aviation comic strip, it first appeared in October 1933 and ran until April, 1973. Jack was a suave yet rough-and tumble hero, always skirting some kind of jam, and all of his adventures involved glamorous gals and of course lots of airplanes. So obviously it is a very short step, or even shorter flight with Smilin’ Jack, to Lummi Island’s own legendary…
I have been reminiscing about Smilin’ Jack because the past year has seen the final demise of the Happy Jack, the iconic rusting hulk of a steel-hulled fishing boat that has been occupying a prominent portion of the beach below Lovers’ Bluff for decades. Despite that romantic location, Happy Jack had the air of a retired old guy (I can totally identify with that!) who on completion of his years of service was dragged up on a beach and left to rot. We are moved to ask, “Who was Happy Jack? How did he come to such an ignominious end on an obscure island in the Pacific Northwest? Was he an unwitting pawn in some nefarious Land Grab? A hopeful idea that went Terribly Wrong? Probably we will never know. Now Jack has been reduced to a shipping container sized cube (left), leaving us with little to say except …so long, Jack…so long!
Unfortunately, in all those years I never took a photo of Jack…I mean, who ever imagined he would get cut up and hauled away for scrap? Instead, all we have is this very distant shot from last winter, a vague shape on the beach in the snow…a ghost, a wisp, someone’s dream, someone’s folly, someone’s burden, someone’s project…“so it goes,” as Kurt Vonnegut was fond of saying,
Devils You May or May Not Know
Various people have been telling us for some time that we should check out Gorman winery in Woodinville, and a few months ago we did, and found the wines very appealing. The style is definitely New World…the wines are well-crafted, big, fruit-forward, and extracted, perhaps more California style than most Washington wines. Maybe that’s not surprising, given the changing global climate– Washington may be the New California, huh…?
Anyway a few days ago I got an announcement from their distributor that these two wines have been recently released, so we decided to bring them in for a comparison tasting. As I understand it, “the Devil you Know” is a blend of cab sauv, syrah, and mourvedre, made in the usual Gorman style, and combining elements of Bordeaux grapes with Southern Rhone grapes, a sin that various Devils have been committing in many countries in recent decades. Maybe that’s the “Devil” part. The “Devil you Don’t Know” is more of an experiment, with a different blend, and different vineyards. Since we have tasted neither, we have no idea what to expect. But it is an interesting opportunity to compare and contrast one winemaker’s variations on a theme. Come by and check it out!
This week’s tasting
Albaro Castro Dão Branco ’12 Portugal $15
A lovely combination of fragrant crisp fruit and intense mineral notes. A blend of lemony and fragrant Encruzado, crisp and apricot-y Bical, and smoky-edge Cercial.
Borsao Rosado ’12 Spain $9
(100% Grenache) Spicy strawberry and orange zest on the nose, with a light floral quality. Dry, focused and refreshingly brisk, offering tangy redcurrant and strawberry flavors and a suggestion of tangerine.
Palama Negroamaro ’12 Italy $10
Elegantly expansive, rich and robust, with silky mouthfeel, layered aromas of steeped spices, and palate of blackberry jam with accents of cinnamon, leather, tobacco and smoke.
Gorman “The Devil You Know” ’12 Washington $28
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah, 8% Mourvedre; strong red pepper and rare beef flavors playing against ripe cherry and blueberry fruit, with crisp tannins and a sharp edge of acidity.
Gorman “The Devil You Don’t Know” ’12 Washington $28
Syrah, Mourvèdre and Petite Sirah; Supple and expressive with ripe fruit aromatics that veer toward savory, smoky grilled vegetable notes before returning to the dark berry and spice at the core. Focused finish.
This week’s tasting
This week’s tasting
This week’s tasting
We have mentioned frequently our fondness for La Rocaliere, a little winery in the Lirac region of France, a bit west of Avignon. Like many wineries in Lirac (there aren’t that many), La Rocaliere also makes wine from the neighboring region of Tavel, where rosé is the only wine permitted. “Tavel is reputed to have been a favourite wine of kings Philippe le Bel and Louis XIV, the Popes of Avignon, and aficionados like Ernest Hemingway.” Tavel rosé spends more time on the skins than in Provence, and thus is not only darker in color, but also has more structure, tannins, and aging potential. Oh, and in case I didn’t mention it, it is absolutely Declicious!
Drone Spotted Over Legoe Bay!
Most days around noon we leash up the dogs for a walk down to Village Point. Occasionally I take the camera along. Which brings up the curious contradiction: if you have your camera with you, you don’t see that many good shots. But if you left it home, oh yes, that’s when the kingfishers, the orcas, the ducks, the shadows and the light are all out in full glory. You know, Irony. So today going out the door I grabbed the camera as an afterthought,” just in case.” What caught my eye were some little thickets of Queen Anne’s Lace (believe it or not, the ancestor of the Carrot!) amid the driftwood between the road and the beach, with the reefnetters in the background. So I took a couple of photos, hoping there would be some way to crop them for an interesting composition.
So, honestly, I didn’t even notice it, the odd flying shape in the frame, until I downloaded the photo and was looking for an interesting way to crop it. Then, as I was zooming in, there it was, this strange shape with wings like a huge dragonfly, legs and long neck like a Great Blue, but neither of those. Something Else. Something Strange. Go ahead, click on the photo for the large format, and take a look. I’m thinking either Drone or…maybe even worse…OMD…Space Alien!?
Speaking of strange sights on the beach this week: there we were, the dogs and I walking along the beach, as we all do, with an occasional scan for agates, maybe a little hopeful, but also knowing the beach has been scrubbed clean by at least a century of like-minded Islanders. Even so, we have all had the experience, as we walk along the beach, of an image that sticks, and even though your feet have kept moving, you think “Huh? Did I just see a tiny Eight-Ball??” So, yeah, it is a little startling, but you stop in your tracks, and back up a few yards for another look. What did I just see?
In this case, the image in my mind was an “8″, which neither I nor my Unconscious was expecting. So I backed up and rebooted, and there it was, a perfect Number Eight. At first I thought, okay, so Ancient Undersea Dwellers actually invented pool (you know, pool, get it…??) millions of years ago. Underwater it didn’t matter so much if the balls were all that Round, and it was probably in 3-D, too, and Who Knows what the cue ball or sticks looked like? If you click on the photo, you can see in the larger version that the number 8 is the residue of crustaceans, probably relatives of the barnacle that still clings.
The obvious conclusion is that although crustaceans (duh!) did not invent numbers, our earliest ancestors DID see this pattern, and invented a game from it involving other rocks with other symbols. Much, much later, when numbers were actually invented, it was only logical to use the symbols everyone was already familiar with to mean stuff people were just starting to think about. All I’m saying is the shapes were already there, and we just put Names on them! Wow! Is that Awesome or What???
For the past several years, like migratory birds, Tom and Joannie Stangeland come to Lummi Island (and of course to the Wine Shop) in early August for their Anniversary. It turns out that Tom has been a highly skilled furniture maker for a long time. But his more recent passion has been making wine. So a few years ago he started Cloudlift Cellars in downtown Seattle…in the same building where he makes furniture, of course, given the obvious fact that: if (Time = Space), and (Time = Money), then of course, (Space = Money)!
This week’s tasting notes
Altarocca Arcosesto Orvieto ’13 Italy $14
A crisp, clean, fragrant white wine (grechetto, procanico, malvasia), bright and sunny with minerally notes of flowers, citrus, and dried fruits that pair well with savory dishes.
la Rocaliere Tavel Rose ’13 France $13
Scents of dark berries, cherry and licorice, with a floral accent. Firm and structured, displaying bitter cherry and floral pastille flavors and a hint of bitter herbs, finishing with good power and length.
Montfaucon Cotes du Rhone ’11 France $13
50% Grenache co-fermented on skins with syrah, cinsault, carignan from 40 yr old vines; matured in concrete tanks. Good ripeness and lots of minerality along with fleshy plum, blackberry and licorice notes. A floral hint adds charm on the finish. (read more)
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.
Cloudlift Panorama ’ Washington $23
Enticing aromas of raspberry, cherry, plum and cassis, with scents of roses, mulberry and sultry oriental incense, and balanced flavors of red currant and Rainier cherry.