2009 Les Maître Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de SAINT-TROPEZ Rose’ Cotes de Provence Cuvee Premier (50% Grenache/50%Cinsault) (via Cepage Noir)

And here’s another that I hope will become a regular stock item now that I’ve found a new professional home.

GREAT stuff!

2009 Les Maître Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de SAINT-TROPEZ Rose’ Cotes de Provence Cuvee Premier (50% Grenache/50%Cinsault) I suppose the one aspect of being a wine shop owner I miss most, aside from all the fabulous new wine discoveries, would have to be the trips I made to France so often. Being the die-hard French wine fan that I am, my first trip to France would not be to focus on the trappings of Paris but to trudge around the damp recesses of Burgundy and the Cote … Read More

via Cepage Noir

TODAY’S REBELS OFFERING A DIFFERENT APPROACH (via Cepage Noir)

Here’s hoping that my new-found digs (as a Central Market Wine Manager) will lead to an eventual placement of these “Natural” wines here in Texas!

TODAY’S REBELS OFFERING A DIFFERENT APPROACH Back in 1994, I joined a small, dedicated French-wine import company that would later change its name from International Gourmet Corp – as we moved away from including olive oils and vinegars in our offers – to European Wine Group. Our focus was bringing to America what we discovered in the artisanal, family-owned and operated estates of Fra … Read More

via Cepage Noir

2009 Domaine Lavigne ~ Saumur Champigny

Contact:     Robert Hurley    617-965-4251   robert@cynthiahurley.com

This Week’s Feature

FOB  New Jersey

Dom. Lavigne
Saumur Champigny 2009

 $111

All prices are for 12-bottle cases.

 

2009 Saumur Champigny
from Domaine Lavigne
The Paris Bistro Favorite 

The new vintage of one of our favorite Loire reds  has just arrived! And, what a wine a n d a vintage it is.

There is something you should know about the 2009 vintage in the Loire. Some people are saying it’s historic, and everybody is saying it is exceptional.

 Here is how the growers are describing their harvest: “the freshness of 2005, combined with the richness of 2003”, “some truly great wines (no exaggeration)”, “lovely fruit, wonderful concentration and balance – on a par with 1989 and 1997”.

Wine Spectator chimes in with “…best and most consistent harvest since 2005.”

This is the moment to uncork some Loire wines.

One wine writer out there is calling 2009 the “Smiley Vintage” and others have picked up on it. Why? Because the growers just can’t keep the smiles off their faces when they think about the 2009 harvest.

And, more than one Loire expert is comparing the 2009s to the 1989s. You have to understand something about the 1989s – that was and still is a revered vintage in the Touraine (the region of Saumur Champigny) sort of like the 1945 or 1982 in Bordeaux. You don’t make frivolous comparisons unless you are absolutely gaga over the harvest. So, the 2009 is a truly remarkable vintage that you cannot miss.

This Saumur Champigny from Domaine Lavigne is laden with fruit and has beautiful concentration and balance and is exquisitely ripe and delicious.

It was love at first glass for me with Saumur Champigny. It’s got the fruit, but also the structure. It’s not heavy. It’s great with food, but it’s also great before dinner. Because it’s made from 100% Cabernet Franc, it is very aromatic. There is no wood in the elevage of this wine; it is raised in stainless steel tanks which give it its backbone of acidity and freshness. There are lovely layers of black and red fruits and it is a smooth wine.

Domaine Lavigne is located in the commune of Varrains. There are only eight other communes (because of their superior terroir) who can put Saumur Champigny on their labels. Varrains is about five minutes south of the town of Saumur, which is stretched alongside the Loire River.

Domaine Lavigne is a family operation and the Lavignes and Verrons are very serious about their winemaking.

They have a new chai replete with many gleaming stainless steel tanks. They have invested in all the high tech gadgetry that is necessary to stay on top of their game. They run a very pristine operation. I’ve tasted a lot of Saumur Champigny and I’ve never found a better one than this. Oh, and I think you’ll like the price, too.

-Cynthia Hurley

About Cynthia Hurley French Wines

For more than twenty years Cynthia Hurley has been importing exceptional wines from nearly every major wine region in France. Cynthia’s selections are terroir driven wines from independent growers who use minimal intervention to create wines that are outstanding representatives of their individual appellations.
 
Cynthia Hurley French Wines
25 Lockwood Rd · West Newton, Massachusetts 02465
617-965-4251
 www.cynthiahurley.com

 

 

2009 Les Maître Vignerons de la Presqu’ile de SAINT-TROPEZ Rose’ Cotes de Provence Cuvee Premier (50% Grenache/50%Cinsault)

Summer in Provence

I suppose the one aspect of being a wine shop owner I miss most, aside from all the fabulous new wine discoveries, would have to be the trips I made to France so often. Being the die-hard French wine fan that I am, my first trip to France would not be to focus on the trappings of Paris but to trudge around the damp recesses of Burgundy and the Cote D’Or. From that first trip, I would visit the countryside of France dozens of times – perhaps even up to as many as 25 more visits if I really started counting – all with the intention of discovering every vinous corner of the country I could handle.

As enthralled with the sloping hills of Burgundy as I am, one little sun-coated region of France’s Deep South may be even more a favorite of mine. Nestled in the southeastern corner of France, to include such world renowned cities as Cannes and Nice, France’s Provence region is home to some of the most succulent dry wines you’ll ever experience. White wines from the Clairette and Marsanne grapes will be found under the Cassis appellation (not to be confused with the liqueur of the same name), while the more famous and profoundly robust red wine of Mourvedre will be bottled carrying the Bandol appellation. And while the whites and reds of Provence are thrilling examples of France’s treasures, to be sure, for THIS wine drinker, few drinks can match the pure pleasure of a fine Rose’ from the Cotes de Provence appellation.

The area under production, spanning some 45,000 acres, by anyone’s standard, is huge; finding a Cotes de Provence Rose’ shouldn’t be difficult. Finding one that resembles what the local’s drink – now that’s the real trick. One of my trips to France would see me spending a long week-end in a quaint, very sleepy, one-horse town called Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. Photos do the view zero justice. And the wines are as pure as everyone always brags: “You know, when we were over there, everything just tasted better.”  But in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer, from the oysters, to the herbs, to the wine, to the fish, it DOES all taste better.

And the wine we’re now drinking by the case at home reminds me of the Rose’ I drank on that long week-end in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer. The color is the palest salmon pink. The aromas are of fresh strawberry combined with that almost indescribable saline quality that comes from being so close to the ocean. And the flavors? Wow! Purity of red berry fruit, crisp acidity, strawberry, and a lusciousness that are all matched to a medium- bodied frame; so easily gulp-able pool-side with appetizers, grilled fish/seafood/chicken, or even raw oysters, like you won’t believe.

Les Maitre Vignerons Rose’ is one of those little treasures that I simply stumbled across one afternoon and have been lucky enough to find ample supply of locally. There seems to be no U.S. source on-line, so if you’re interested, drop me a note and I’ll divulge my source (no affiliation as always, I do this for sport).

Cheers!

chambertin@sbcglobal.net 

TODAY’S REBELS OFFERING A DIFFERENT APPROACH

"NATURAL WINE"

Back in 1994, I joined a small, dedicated French-wine import company that would later change its name from International Gourmet Corp – as we moved away from including olive oils and vinegars in our offers – to European Wine Group. Our focus was bringing to America what we discovered in the artisanal, family-owned and operated estates of France’s most dedicated of boutique wineries. Expanding our selections to include Spain and later Italy, our name would change to signal our broadening collection, but our focus would never stray from our roots as a primarily French-wine focused operation.

During the 1990s, the job of selling wine was a different animal than it is today. I would spend 5 days a week on the road; visiting distributors on Mondays, their retailers on the following days, and wrapping up my weeks in front of those same distributor’s restaurant clients. If I made it home by Saturday night, I was lucky. Monday came, and I was on another plane, off to another city, checking into another hotel and lugging another set of samples through the streets of yet another bustling city or rural town. There were no Skype meetings, no teleconferences, precious little use of e*mail and most of us still preferred pagers to cell phones.

But perhaps the biggest difference between the prehistoric 1990s and today’s techie style of sales was the reliance on one particular method of promotion in particular. In the 1990s, Robert Parker, Jr aka The Wine Advocate was THE mode of transportation to the top for your wines as an importer/wine-maker/any type of person in the wine business. A rating in the range of 90 points or higher by the man with the golden palate practically guaranteed your wine a place in this country’s wine shops, no matter the size or scope of that shop; you could also bank on a place at the table in just about any style restaurant you sauntered through. Yep, the points got the placements!

Today’s importers face a very different challenge, however. Finding placements in a terribly crowded marketplace, further complicated by an ongoing recession, has forced importers, especially the relatively new ones, to change their approach. The new methods employed by innovative importers reflect this imperative need for creative marketing. Thanks to attacks from bloggers, authors such as Alice Feiring and other professional wine publications, Parker points simply don’t pull the weight any more. Indeed, to place the wines, you need another gimmick.

Enter the phrase, “Natural Wine”. Back in the 1990s, we conservative importers never dreamed of this moniker. We used terms long-considered staples of the industry. Words such as artisanal, boutique, family-owned, un-fined, un-filtered, terroir; these were our selling points. We described our wines with full sentences and long, sometimes drawn out, presentations. Then we concluded the dog-and-pony shows with the coup de grâce, the omnipotent PARKER POINT.

Today, gifted importers turn NOT to Parker, and NOT to long-winded discussions of earth, soil, climate, hillsides, blah, blah, blah. They turn, instead to describing a method of wine-making that succinctly describes every wine offered in their portfolio. Rather than take wine after wine in their presentation and labor over the specifics of Burgundy, the Rhone Valley, Languedoc, Jura, etc, etc, these new wave, highly educated importers spend their time talking it up with young, hip retailers on the theories of “Natural Wine” practices and how those transcendental ideas make better wine. And seeing as these brave new souls of the import world have the writings of Feiring and other respected journals and magazines on their side, perhaps they’ve tapped into a whole new method of self-promotion. And if the placements are coming, that’s the whole point!

One of these new wave importers, whose wines I’ve personally consumed – and loved – on many occasions, is offered below. And while we still cannot find them here in Texas (so typical for our antiquated three tier system and the useless distributors in this State), a search of winesearcher.com, or better yet, a call to them personally will do the trick:

 

Jenny & Francois Selections: 

Importer of Natural Wines

Natural Wine Revolution Prevails!

BLOOMBERG PICKS:

2009 chemins de bassac isa Rose 

2006 Domaine des 2 anes corbieres fontanilles 

Link to full article:

http://worldwidewine.net/DOC020.pdf

NATURAL WINE WINNERS:

Precise elegant wines from Domaine Binner 

Excellent natural white – Derain’s Allez goutons

COTURRI 2007 Testa Vineyards Carignane

Domaine Des 2 Anes 2008 premiers pas Corbieres

Link to full article:

http://worldwidewine.net/FoodandWine.html

 —
Jenny & François Selections
o: 646 775 6400
m: 646 322 4254
Paris: 06 11 10 28 56
jenny@jennyandfrancois.com
www.jennyandfrancois.com
www.fromthetank.com

THE IMPORTER’S WACKY, THE WINE’S WONDERFUL

 

2007 HERETIQUES

Yet another bottle that exemplifies one of my proverbial answers to that almost weekly question posed by friends and family, “Hey Christopher, what ‘cha drinkin’ these days?”

I once shared the tale of a full afternoon tasting event that involved several wines from this importer, an afternoon degustation that I can still taste on my palate and that continues to reverberate across my taste-buds. One such wine of that afternoon was the value jewel I routinely order in case lots for weekly quaffing; the wine I’d like to introduce to all of you, again, for the first time.

And while Dressner is one of the wackiest men I’ve ever Twittered or Facebooked with, thanks to his “one-of-a-kind” personalities (to put it as politically correctly as possible), don’t let that come between you and this fantastic value from the South of France.

And like I always advise, buy it through www.winesearcher.com … Texas retailers are far too pricey, thanks to our 3-tiered system and the ridiculous profits taken by useless Texas-based wholesalers.

Check it out in more detail here (BTW, THE CURRENT VINTAGE IS THE ’07):

http://louisdressner.com/Iche/

Notice of Tasting Cancellation – My Involvement at Least

 

rubber_chicken

Well, after bringing lots and lots of folks to Mr. Smith for free business through my many blogs and weekly emails, I THOUGHT he and I had agreed to begin working together.

I have an e*mail string here that I’m reading, trying to make heads or tails of Mr. Smith’s latest knee-jerk reaction, but alas, I’m completely at a loss.

After several phone calls and emails to confirm same, Mr. Smith of French Country Wines sent to me a price list, complete with a salesman’s commission offer, and a welcome note, seemingly, per all we had agreed to, welcoming me to his company. 

He offered to pay me a commission to sell his wines and told me he looked forward to our working together.

Yesterday, the 21st, I phoned once more, to clarify that I would be emailing all of you with an invitation to join Smith and I for a private tasting at French Country Wines this evening. 

He concurred, was quite enthused at the prospect of having dozens and dozens of my former clients showing up at his place of business for this wine tasting and told me to feel free to invite as many of you good folks as I wanted to.

I expressed to Mr. Smith that I would word the invite as a private invitation, that my clients would need to respond directly to me to secure a seat and that I would tell my recipients that they could expect discussions of the wines from both Mr. Smith AND me, if they’d like to hear tales of the wines.  After all, as I made mention, not only had I sent many of you in to meet the man and buy his wines (with never a thought of commissions nor any sort of reciprocity in my mind) but I was a paying client too.  I had bought some wine from Smith for my weekly blogs and having done some research, I felt that my talk on the wines tonight may add to the flavor of the evening.

Yesterday’s conversation between Smith and I, and the jovial nature between us, gave way to the invite all of you received.

And then, as if someone threatened him with knee-breaking for being “affiliated” with me, Mr. Smith sent this out today:

“Some of you may have recently received an email indicating that tonight’s tasting was being co-hosted by the sender of that email.  It further implied that there might be a new partnership between ourselves and the sender of that email.

Let us stress to you that there is no such partnership in the works and tonight’s tasting is 100% sponsored by French Country Wines, Phyllis and myself.  Had the sender of the email had the courtesy to copy us on what he sent out we would have alerted you sooner.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as can make it for tonight’s tasting!”

“Best wishes,

Phyllis & Tim

Tim Smith
French Country Wines”

So, I’m rescinding my invitation from yesterday, as I’m obviously NOT going to be in attendance at this event.

AND, seeing as I’m pretty sure that Mr. Smith won’t be keeping his word and paying any commissions on the wines my former clients may buy tonight – or ever – any of you that felt even an inkling of loyalty to ol’ yours truly may want to consider discontinuing your ties to Mr. Smith (but that’s YOUR call to make…).

I truly thought that Smith and I had an arrangement.  Never a partnership (and I NEVER used that word), but an arrangement for sure.  These emails between us and the many conversations and phone calls certainly pointed that direction.

I guess it’s my fault.  I should have asked more clearly what his definition of a commissioned salesman was.

Any of you wishing to discuss your opinions with me may email me back.

And if you have thoughts for Mr. Smith, he is available at:  tms @ frenchcountrywines.com

 

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist

chambertin@sbcglobal.net

Tomorrow’s 1st Tasting at the “New Winery”

tastingwine

Afternoon,

Well it’s certainly been interesting out here for the past few weeks, that’s for sure!  I’ve witnessed countless hours of research, paperwork and travel, all aimed at the final goal of launching a new winery permit.  For the folks following the blog, you’ve come to understand the heartaches, the headaches and the occasional triumphs I’ve endured through this process.  I thank you all for following, and now I have an announcement – and an invitation.

Through my work to form this new winery, I have met a kindred soul.  You that have read the blog and bought some of the wines have undoubtedly recognized the similarities in taste between the offers emanating from Mr. Smith’s collection and the wines once so proudly displayed on the tables at my former establishment.  But what makes these offers from Mr. Smith even more appealing, and what has brought he and I together for our new found union, is the manner in which Mr. Smith brings these wonderful vinous specimens to the State.

I am pleased to announce that I have a limited number of seats to offer to the first 20 couples to respond to this letter – no later than tomorrow, the 22nd of April at 5PM.

Mr. Smith, owner of French Country Wines and I will be hosting our first private wine tasting together at his winery-licensed facility here in the heart of Houston TX.

This tasting of some of the finest, naturally-bottled, artisanal, (some 100% bio-dynamic) wines takes place tomorrow night, Wednesday the 22nd, from 6-7:30 PM at French Country Wines (2433 Bartlett, Houston 77098).

During this tasting, Mr. Smith and I will discuss the wines and the concept behind our mutual work together, explaining in greater detail the work being done to eliminate the antiquated 3-tier system that sets to punish the consumers of the State.

The wines will be offered for sale – AT DIRECT FROM THE WINERY PRICES – and you’d better be certain that these are wines that yours truly is already deeply in love with and currently stocking at home.

I have seating available on my ticket (read: free) for 20 couples – MAX.

To attend as my guest, respond via email, including your phone number so that I may call to confirm and establish your new account with the winery.

And do it now, seating at these events is always limited and the winery is always PACKED!

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist
chambertin@sbcglobal.net

Houston Wine Idealist Introduces French Country Wines (The Shop)

french-country-wines-logo

One of the finest aspects of this country’s fourth largest city, this city known as Houston Texas, is its inhabitants’ eager ability to embrace new and exciting trends.  “Feast”, that funky, fantastic creation by the eclectic, tattooed English duo of Knight and Silk, where diners will be just as shocked as overjoyed by the culinary ingenuity, has become an almost instant hit for we adventurous types.  And then there is “Beaver’s”, a place that entered this world as a self-described “ice-house” that now turns out such culinary shockers as Spam-based dishes on a Sunday brunch menu.  You read that right: Spam (the other canned meat): smoked, served with fried eggs and available with a side of one of the most freakishly wonderful Bloody Mary’s you’ll EVER try to down.  And the response from those of us in the know: “Keep it comin’ Monica & Co., we’re all in!”.

So it should come as no surprise really that I fully anticipate, and rightly expect in fact, the good folks of this adventurous city to wrap their arms around this latest discovery of mine.  With more than 25 years experience in the fine wine business, I now find myself covering the wine world from a very different perspective.  Looking at the wine business as a consumer’s proponent, self-charged with the goal of ferreting out this City’s most unique and consumer oriented wine establishments, I take to the streets on a daily basis to visit the unheard-of and the multi-unit chains alike.  This recent discovery of mine, while established for a couple of years now, falls squarely in the consumer’s best friend camp.

The place is called French Country Wines (2433 Bartlett / 713-993-9500 http://www.frenchcountrywines.com/index.jsp) and if you blink as you drive down Bartlett, just a couple blocks off of Kirby drive, you’ll pass right by.  In fact, if you don’t know that Bartlett is the street between South and North Blvd, you’ll hit I-59 and never know you’ve missed it completely, just as I did on the first Saturday I stopped by.  “Look for the blooming bougainvilleas out front and that’s our building…”, was the best description of the front entrance I received over the phone the day I called for directions.

Now if you’re expecting a typical store front, or even an electric sign that might be visible at night, you need to prepare yourself.  First off, this is not a retail shop – this place, owned by a very sharp, very forward thinking, very savvy Investment Banker / Attorney / Retired Francophile by the name of Thomas Smith – is a winery.  To explain: Mr. Smith established himself as a winery to allow him to work directly with wine-makers in his favorite regions of France.  Through his work, he brings these gems – most of them organically produced and / or biodynamic that I’ve tasted – right to the consumer here in Houston, direct from the estates of the very people who bottle the wines in the first place.

The shop itself defies all previous descriptions you have in your mind as to a retail shop, too.  There are no wine racks, no visible inventory upon entering and no cash registers or employees.  Until Mr. Smith escorts you to the properly cooled warehouse, to the far end of the facility, you’d have no idea there was any wine here at all.  But once you enter this 55 degree room, now you know the story.

Here Mr. Smith stores up to hundreds of cases of wine on warehouse styled wire racks at cellar temperature until orders come in from local restaurants or private clients.  Mr. Smith also hosts in-shop tastings from time to time for his private list of clients, and these cases will serve to satisfy the orders he hopes to receive at the close of those events as well.

But what most excites me, as a man of wine from more than two decades past, is not only Mr. Smith’s fantastic selections, but his absolutely untouchable prices.  Many folks in the game of acquiring unique wines (not just expensive wines mind you, for Mr. Smith has a lot of great stuff under $20, too) spend their time with a free service called http://www.wine-searcher.com.  This free on-line service brings to light the misconception that places such as Spec’s, for example, offer the best prices for wine.  By using this same service, I was able to confirm that Mr. Smith not only offers the best prices on his wines for the Houston shoppers, but his prices are simply the very best in the entire country!

One of my very favorites, a wine Mr. Smith personally placed in my hand after getting to know me, was the 2007 Domaine Rouge-Bleu Cotes du Rhone Cuvee Mistral.  A fantastic, 400 year old, recently converted to organics farm, this Domaine boasts vines of more than 70 years in age.  The color and the aromatics of this wine more closely resemble the triple digit beauties from Chateauneuf superstars I’ve consumed over the years and the flavors on the palate truly justify the lofty praise from wine critics world-wide.  One taste and most any wine lover would part with a couple of twenty dollar bills.  But Mr. Smith sells this extravagant beauty for a mere $16! 

As Houston’s open-minded, adventurous inhabitants continue to soak up the hot trends in food that promise to keep this town talked about in the papers from coast to coast, I for one (as a serious wine lover) truly pray that these same folks embrace this cutting edge retailer I’ve discovered off of Kirby Drive.  His style, his wines and the shop itself are like none other this great city has ever encountered.  And that’s exactly the sort of place we so desperately need to keep the cool and hip focused on hanging in there with us all.

All the best in wine and life,

Christopher Massie
Diplome D’Honneur de Sommelier
Houston Wine Idealist