Beaujolais Nouveau 2014

From our tasting on Thursday, November 20, 2014…
On the third Thursday of November, at one minute past midnight local time, corks pop and people celebrate all over the world—Beaujolais Nouveau is available for sale.  To make this possible, the wine is shipped early and held in bonded warehouses before its release.  Nouveau is a young red wine, seven to nine weeks old, which celebrates the harvest.  Beginning about a century ago, it was shipped downriver in cask to Lyons so that city folk would have something to celebrate with.  By the 1960s, some half-million cases were made; in the 1970s, there was a race to bring the first bottle to Paris.  Things really took off in 1985, when the French wine-governing body standardized the world release time.  While the largest share stays in France, Japan is by far the major overseas consumer.Today, nearly one-third of all Beaujolais is Nouveau.

Like all red Beaujolais, it is made from hand-harvested Gamay grapes.  The best wines are made traditionally, with ripe grapes harvested at low yields and fermented using natural yeasts and carbonic maceration.  Whole clusters are placed in closed tanks; the weight of the top grapes causes the skins of the lowest grapes to break, and normal fermentation begins. This releases CO2 and raises the temperature inside the tank, and the higher grapes begin fermenting inside their skins.  Fermentation lasts for 4-8 days, then the juice undergoes a second fermentation before it’s pressed and lightly filtered. The result is a fresh, grapey, berry-flavored wine, soft and full of fruity charm. Our fine wines are all made from sustainable or organic estate-grown fruit.  Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées L’Ancien Nouveau is unusual because it’s not made using carbonic maceration; instead, it’s vinified like a Burgundy (Beaujolais is technically part of Burgundy).  Natural yeast and minimal SO2 make this a pure, delicate and complex wine.  The Domaine Dupeuble Nouveau comes from an estate owned by the same family since 1512.  Soils are granitic; vines range from 50-100 years old; no chaptalization or SO2 are used in winemaking.  This is the real deal—Beaujolais as it was made 100 years ago.  Paul Durdilly Nouveau Les Grandes Coasses comes from a small, family-run estate with chalk soils and elevation unusual for Beaujolais. This distinctive, exuberant wine packs a fruity punch and is unfined and unfiltered.  Domaine de la Madone Beaujolais Villages Nouveau, made by the Bererd family, comes from another steep, high-altitude estate.  Grapes grown at higher altitudes ripen more slowly, adding to their complexity.  This is a Beaujolais-Villages property, meaning the vineyards are sited in one of the best villages in the region, further adding to its depth. Three brothers farm the old vines sustainably. This year we have a little surprise—a local wine from the 2014 harvest not made from Gamay but from a hybrid grape: Leon Millot Nouveau by Keuka Lake Vineyards.  Like the French offerings, it is easy-going and loaded with fruit and pert acidity. Beaujolais Nouveau is perfect for the Thanksgiving table, whatever you’re serving, but it’s not the only show in town.  Check out the holiday Demi-Sacs Red Feet has put together—the Gobbler, the Cellar Master, and the Locavore (highlighting Finger Lakes wine, great for out-of-town travel)!  But do your shopping early—Red Feet will be closed on Thanksgiving Day this year.


Wines for the Thanksgiving Table — From our tasting November 13, 2014

From our tasting November 13, 2014, we present five options (out of a couple hundred)…







Thanksgiving is about family, friends, food—and wine! Whether you’re host or guest, vegetarian or meat eater, there’s a great wine to pair with the fare. How food tastes is affected by the tastes our tongues tell us (salty, sour, sweet, bitter), the things our noses tell us (flavor = smell + taste), and the things our minds tell us. Thanksgiving brings all these into play, and we have to please a variety of folks. Let’s consider some general ideas rather than hard-and-fast rules.  Either similarity or contrast can serve as the basis for good pairing. Start with the weight of the food and the intensity of its flavors; here, similarity is called for–neither food nor wine should overwhelm the other. For meat-eaters, greater intensity and weight are more likely to come from side dishes than from the bird (usually of medium weight and intensity).


To start, a wine of moderate intensity and weight can pair with most foods on the table. Rich or sweeter dishes, such as squashes, need some contrast – some acidity for balance. In the white department, grapes such as Gewürztraminer and Riesling (both dry to semi-dry), and Chardonnay are good choices. The first two may seem sweet as they enter your mouth, but finish with refreshing tartness. Try the local Heron Hill Dry Riesling 2013. It has herb, orange blossom, and slate aromas, tart fruit and hints of white peach and apricot and well integrated acidity. It’s intense and very tasty.


New Zealand’s Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2012 is a restrained, focused, off-dry version of this grape, offering rose petal, lychee, and lime notes along with hints of cardamom and ginger, leading to a long finish.


If red is your thing, consider Beaujolais or Beaujolais Nouveau. It’s a classic match, with its fruity acidity, and Nouveau arrives the Thursday before Thanksgiving (November 20th). We’ll taste these next week!


Pinot Noir is also great at the table. Sean Minor Four Bears Pinot Noir 2012 is rich and complex, with an array of red fruits and touches of earth, bridging Old World and New World styles.


Château de Montfaucon Côtes du Rhône 2012 is a blend of five grapes that are fermented together. Medium in body, the wine sees no oak, resulting in a pure, fresh array of fruit and spice –and it loves cranberry sauce.


And then there’s dessert… Locally grown Eve’s Cidery Essence 2013 is an ice cider; late harvest apples are made into wine that is frozen and thawed several times to produce extremely concentrated apple flavor. Yum! Great with pumpkin or apple pies.


If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to make choices, grab one of Red Feet’s Thanksgiving Demi-Sacs: the Gobbler ($60), the Cellar Master ($90), and the Locavore ($92). Each is a half-case of wine, three whites (including a pear cider in the Locavore) and three reds, chosen to pair with a wide array of Thanksgiving foods.

–MP Rouse

Warming Reds–What better to discuss on a gloomy day?

From our tasting on November 6, 2014…

We’ve set our clocks back, and our bodies are getting used to the morning light and afternoon dark. We have a few lovely days followed by seasonal gray weather, and soon the cold will be a permanent resident. Red Feet suggests some hearty, warming red wines to stave off the chill. Five countries, five wines. Four of our pours today are single-variety wines, each from a different grape.

The Muri-Gries Lagrein 2013 comes from a working Benedictine monastery, and those monks know what they’re doing! The grape is local to about 450 acres in Italy’s Alto Adige, but is slowly spreading to other locations, including the Finger Lakes. It needs warmth to ripen fully, and oddly enough, the area around Bolzano is hotter in summer than any place on the Italian mainland. Pair with speck, flour or potato dumplings, or aged cheeses.

Jumilla in southeast Spain is the home of Juan Gil Monastrell 12 Meses 2012. The grape, known as Mourvèdre in France, probably originated in this part of Spain, and the Gil family has been making wines with it for almost 100 years. The berries are small, dark, thick-skinned, and sweet, high in tannin and alcohol, with an almost gamy, meaty quality. Partner this with peppery beef, duck with sausage, dark mushrooms, or Camembert and Taleggio cheese.

An Argentine Malbec is another warming red; we suggest Alfredo Merlo’s rich, unoaked Maal Biutiful Malbec 2013. Made from 25-year-old vines and fermented with natural yeasts, this is intense yet elegant, with crushed blackberries, bitter chocolate, and violet notes. This goes well with classic Argentine asado, cassoulet, sweetbreads, game, or rich stews. Slow cooked root vegetables (parsnips, rutabagas, carrots—perhaps with a bit of chopped prune) are also a good match. Blue cheese such as Gorgonzola dolcelatte is also tasty.

Syrah is a must-have grape on the warming reds list; try Small Gully Mr. Black’s Little Book Shiraz 2012 from South Australia. (We poured The Formula Cab-Shiraz blend from this producer at our Halloween tasting.) Stephen Black, the winemaker, uses ripe, old vines fruit and very little intervention in making this wine, using gentle handling and natural yeast in fermentation before racking the wine to older oak barrels for malo and two years of ageing. The wine is broad and fleshy; ripe, dark, and spicy; and finishes with hints of mocha and mint. Get out the grill for steak and vegetables or partner with a thick stew.

On to the blend: Cocobon 2012, a mix of Zinfandel, Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Petite Sirah made in a luscious, juicy, fruit-forward style by Romanian winemaker Georgetta Dane. Think of a big friendly puppy eagerly wagging its tail and you’ve got it. Drink it on its own or with your favorite burger.

Join us next week as we look ahead to wines for the Thanksgiving table!

–MP Rouse

Trick or Treat! What’s in the adult goodie bag for Halloween?

Wines from our Halloween Tasting held October 30, 2014…

All our offerings today are treats, but some have a trick or two up their sleeves (or on their labels). To match the cold weather predicted for Halloween and the weekend, we’re pouring warming libations to keep away ghoulies, ghosties, long-legged beasties, and things that go bump in the night. We have only one white, but what a delight, a good wine to sip as you answer the door and dole out goodies.

Olivini Lugana DOC Trebbiano 2012 is one of the best examples of this grape you’ll eve taste. It’s full and round (it went through partial malolactic fermentation), with mineral, citrus, and flowery components, balanced and fresh. A little goat cheese or Fontina, a few shrimp, even fish sticks—you’re in business!

Our red, all blends, reflect Halloween themes in their names and labels. Moving from the fewest to the most grapes in the mix, we’ll start with Small Gully The Formula Cabernet-Shiraz 2012. Each vintage of this wine offers different percentages in the mix, chosen on the base of a formula to enhance pleasure (one we’d all love to know!). Plump, spicy, and smooth, it offers cherry, eucalyptus, and chocolate notes. Have this with a steak dinner before you go out or a warm wine after you come home.

The Cleaver Red Blend 2011, an echo of too many horror movies or just a nod to the kitchen gods, is a rich and satisfying blend of three grapes from our friends at Renwood. This is a concept wine, with future vintages made in a similar style but from other places. Supple, silky smooth, and intensely concentrated, it offers black fruits and hints of licorice supported by threads of acidity and silky tannins. Full, weighty, and very food friendly, this nevertheless can stand alone on a chilly night. Its16 months in new French oak softened the tannins and integrated the flavors and alcohol. Light a fire if you can, kick back, and enjoy a glass!

We’ve seen Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno (say it fast) before, and the 2012 follows the pattern of the 2011, but with more richness. This five-grape blend is dark indeed, with a scary skeleton that hosts Rhône varieties and more in a well structured blend that partners game (pull that venison from the freezer), rich lentil-mushroom dishes, or Istanbul fare. It may be a sofa king, but it’s no couch potato!

Our final pour is an amaro, a digestivo usually drunk after a meal, either mixed with sparkling water or made into a Negroni or Americano cocktail. Herbs, fruits, and vegetables (a secret recipe) are infused into neutral spirits to produce a magic sweet-bitter mix of intense flavors that calm the stomach and satisfy the palate. Amaro is a “category”; staff member Jeff can lead you through Red Feet’s selection. Gran Classico Bitter is based on an 1860s Italian recipe now made by a Swiss company to precise standards, with 25 botanicals and nothing artificial. It’s a great introduction to this classic liqueur, and a fitting end to Halloween.

–M.P. Rouse