Thursday, January 19, 2012

Some Great Wine Shopping and the End of an Era

Yesterday afternoon/evening was historic for many reasons.  First of all, my basketball team put a serious hurting on the Applewild School in a 24-6 victory.  The game was especially fun to coach because it gave me the opportunity to make sure that my beginning players got shots.  I made it the mission of my more experienced players to put the ball in the hands of the beginners in places they could succeed.  There's nothing better as a coach than seeing a kid who thinks they suck at basketball nail a 12 foot jumper and break out in an enormous smile.  It was almost worth the 2 hour round trip to Fitchburg.

On my way home to Somerville, I decided to stop in at one of my favorite wine stores in the area (and my favorite in Somerville) Ball Square Fine Wines.  Some of you may remember a post from a month or so back entitled "Drinking, Off the Beaten Path" in which I extol the virtues of drinking obscure wines and mention my desire to try a wine from the Canary Islands.  I figured I'd have to wait until I made it down to NYC and Chambers St. Wines, so I kinda shelved the idea in my brain and forgot about it.  Then the New York Times "wines of the times" column yesterday was about, wait for it, wines of the Canary Islands.  Immediately the idea became un-shelved and I spent the majority of my morning stealthily figuring out ways I could locate one.  I checked the Ball sq. website because they, unlike many sites, actually list their full inventory online, and lo and behold, they had a wine from the Canary Island of Tenerife.  Moreover, it was the wine that placed #2 in the NYT tasting.  And best of all, it wasn't hugely expensive.  So--long story short--I decided to do some shopping last night.

This brings me to part one of this post: the excellent shopping I have done in the past week.  Using three of my favorite local retailers: Ball Sq. Fine Wines, Winestone, and Brookline Liquor Mart, I've scored about a case of obscure and excellently priced beauties.  So let's look at the 6 most interesting.

Everybody Smile!
 These are 6 wines that because of geography, scarcity in the local market, or geek factor, were really interesting finds for me.  A note on pricing: I am usually uncomfortable paying more than $15 for a basic wine, I tend to up that to about $25 if it's something I'm really seeking out, or an obscure variety/region.  I'll break them down now 2 by 2:

2010 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso: Let's just start with the coolness factor: this wine comes from vineyards cultivated on the slopes of an ACTIVE VOLCANO.  Seriously, this thing erupts.  Grown on Mt. Etna in Sicily, the volcanic soils provide a solid mineral structure.  The grape variety here is Nerello Mascalese, which is not terribly common, as you can discern from the linked Wikipedia article.  Wines from Mt. Etna have been rapidly improving, and I have been increasingly seeking them out, but have been unwilling to pay the $35 tariff.  Finding this beauty for $20 at Winestone made me a very happy camper.

2006 Buronfosse Cotes du Jura "Les Ammonites": since I can't read French terribly well, I can basically discern that this wine is made from 100% chardonnay and has excellent mineral quality.  This will be my 2nd wine from the Jura, and I have been on the lookout for more ever since I had my first wine from the Jura just before Christmas.  I don't know if this will have the same oxidative qualities that the last one had, but I'm excited to find out.  Now I just need to find some Comte cheese to have on hand.  Jura wines are easy to find in NYC but have proven incredibly difficult for me to source here in Boston.  So, while picking up my Canary wine last night, I grabbed this for a cool $22 from Ball Sq. 

2004 Puzelat/Bonhomme Touraine "In Cot We Trust": Cot is the grape variety here, and is the Loire name for malbec.  Malbec has surged in popularity in recent years due to thousands of incredibly drinkable and affordable examples from Argentina.  However, Malbec has its roots in France.  It is one of the 6 grapes allowed in Red Bordeaux (the others being Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere), but its presence in Bordeaux has plummeted.  It is also found as the primary grape in the Southwest France AOC of Cahors.  I find Malbec to be most interesting, however when It's grown in the Loire Valley.  The cool climate doesn't produce the type of fruit that producers feel the need to smother in oak.  Instead it is vinified as a lighter bodied, savory wine with plum notes.  I'm very excited to try this example as it has 8 years of age on it.  It could be completely shot, or it could be wonderful.  Half the intrigue is in the not knowing.  Even better, it was on double discount at BLM for $6.

2009 Domaine des Terres Dorees Morgon: The winemaker here is Jean-Paul Brun, one of the masters of Beaujolais.  Morgon is one of the "Crus" of Beaujolais, meaning it makes a wine of distinctive terroir that grants it the ability to put its name on the bottle rather than simply putting "Beaujolais" or "Beaujolais-Villages."  Beaujolais (or Bojo) gets a bad rap due to the sickening influx of Beaujolais Nouveau that arrives every November.  Cru Beaujolais is so not that stuff.  It's made from Gamay and is a light bodied, low alcohol wine with bright fruit and herbal characteristics.  This is definitely going to be delicious. A steal at $19.

2008 Monje Tacoronte-Acentejo Tradicional Tinto: From the island of Tenerife, this was my holy grail find yesterday.  I can't explain why I'm so interested in this wine other than to say this-- While the Canaries are part of Spain in a legal sense, in a geographic and geologic sense, they are part of Africa.  How can I not be fascinated to taste wine made on islands off the western coast of Morocco?!?  I have no idea what this is going to taste like, but you can be sure there will be a post on it!

2007 Rene Favre & Fils Dole: This is a Pinot Noir and Gamay blend from the Valais region of Switzerland.  Switzerland produces a ton of wine but very little of it gets exported.  Most of what gets exported is white wine made from the Chasselas (aka Fendant) grape.  While I enjoy those wines, they do little for me at the price point.  I have never seen a red wine from Switzerland until yesterday when I spied this at Ball Sq.  Much like the wine above, I have zero idea what to expect here, hence my excitement!

All in all a great week of wine shopping.  I seem to be streaky when it comes to buying wine, often going through spells where I'm uninspired and can't seem to find anything interesting, followed by weeks like this one where there seem to be surprises at every turn.

I'd be remiss if I didn't close this column out by acknowledging the fact that after 13 years and 252 matches without a loss, Trinity College squash was defeated 5-4 by Yale last night.  Yep, you read that right, 13 years.  While this is a historic streak in many ways, I'm going to put it into the context of what it means in my life.  I started playing squash in November of 1997.  Trinity's last loss came on February 22, 1998.  Essentially, for my entire squash career, Trinity hasn't lost.  We used to play against them while I was at Bates and it was incredible how good they were.  As a fellow NESCAC school we looked up to them and rooted for them for breaking up the stranglehold that the Ivy Leagues have historically had on squash.  While we only ever got as high as #9 in the country, they inspired us.  Congrats to Yale, but also congrats to Trinity and Coach Assaiante on an amazing accomplishment.

Until next time...

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