Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hipster wine tasting: Perspectives of selected participants

Participants in the recent Hipster wine tasting (curated and hosted by Ron Siegel and held at the International Drive Capital Grille, Orlando) were very pleased and excited to be part of the tasting team and to have tasted these wines which are not readily available on the Orlando market. I gained some insight into the views of three of those participants  -- Andrew Montoya (The Wine Barn), Adam Crane (Prato), and Steve Alcorn (wine competition judge and collector) -- and present them herein. Fundamentally I sought to understand what types of wines they normally drink and how do the wines in the tasting stack up against those.

As it relates to Champagnes, Andrew prefers Blanc de Blancs. "I really enjoy razor sharp, high acid styles the most but it is equally compelling to taste slightly earthy styles such as the Georges Laval's Rosé, which, I thought, had a peculiar nuttiness and funk, reminiscent of Selosse. I really enjoyed the Bereche Brut Nature. It was very complex. This was the first time I had ever heard of this producer."

Steve's favorite Champagne in that price range is Louis Roederer and he did not feel that any of the Champagnes at the tasting were as good.

Adam owned up to a love of Champagne. "I wouldn’t say there is a particular style that moves me more so than another. It’s completely dependent upon the situation, mainly food. Out of all categories of wine in the world, I’m probably the most open-minded when it comes to enjoying anything from the region (assuming it hits a standard quality level). Maybe I have just never had a Champagne that I really hated ... the great Champagnes are legendary for a reason. I have had mind blowing experiences with Jacques Selosse. Nobody would say the same about Cliquot Yellow, Piper Red, or the many other readily available house Champagnes made on a large scale."

Adam's perspective on the individual Champagnes are as follows:

Chartogne-Taillet - Favorite of the flight. Loved the oxidative notes that gave it a richness and full bodied appeal. Layered and complex.
George Laval - Exotic. Blood, iron and a gaminess that I rarely see in Champagne. I totally understand why NYC somms are wild about this. It is a unique style that instigates deep thought. I would love to try the full line up from Laval. 
Bereche - An enjoyable Champagne but not sure it did a whole lot for me outside of the norm. Maybe it was just overshadowed by the other two in the flight for me. More crisp and something I would enjoy with a cold shellfish appetizer. 

White Wines
In terms of whites, Andrew is focusing mostly on Etna. "I really think there is magic in those volcanic soils ...  I also am loving the whites from Jura, especially the Savagnin examples, both oxidative and not in style." His standouts in this area were:

Ganevat Chardonnay (Jura) - waxy, nutty, star anise, chamomile, like spring water: invigorating 
Arena Grotte di Sole (Corsica) - metallic in mouth (flinty?), powdered (crushed) stones, Chablis-like.
Stephane Cossais Montlouis sur Loire Chenin  - stone fruits, intense, high acid, very, very complex. Great finish, like a Meursault!

Steve's wife "drinks mostly California style Chardonnay when we are at home. However she would like the Vementinu, as it was luscious and oaky."

Some of Adam's white wine favorites were:
Arena Patrimonio Vermentino - Really like this varietal for its minerality more so than the subtle fruit qualities. I get a petrol character that reminds of Mosel Riesling. The wine is clearly very well made and I think that the fact that it comes from Corsica adds to the hipster appeal! Beats any Vermentino I have had from Tuscany.
Cossais Montlouis - This guy studied under Clos Rougeard, so of course all the NYC somms are going nuts for this! But really….what a great wine. Orchard fruit, white peach, and a stunning balance between texture and acid. This will age gracefully and can’t wait to try it when it does!

Red Wines
Andrew is drinking and focusing mainly on Etna Rosso but is also really enjoying Northern Rhone reds, especially cool-climate, no-oak style wines from Cornas, Crozes Hermitage, Hermitage, St. Joseph, and, to a lesser degree, Cote-Rotie. And the cooler climate Nebbiolos from Valtellina along with amphorae-aged whites and reds (Corsica, South Spain, Languedoc). 

Steve likes "complex wines, and at home drinks mostly Rhone-styled wines from France, California, and Australia. His favorites are old Burgundies and Bordeauxs, but those are not every day wines."

The reds tasted at the session are shown in the pictures below and the favorites of these three gentlemen follow.

Flight 1. Courtesy Steve Alcorn

Flight 2. Courtesy Steve Alcorn

Flight 3. Courtesy Steve Alcorn

Andrew's favorites:

Pierre Gonon St Joseph - Wow. Mind-blowing quality here! Extremely eye opening...This is what amazing Syrah is about!
Benetiere Cote Rotie Cordeloux 2012 - Fresh game (blood), orange rind, elegant and refined finish.

Thierry Allemand Chaillot Cornas - Packed with layers of earth, game, spice, olive and fresh herbs. Very polished, very tight. 

Adam's favorites:

Bénetière Cote Rotie- Beautiful. I hope this producer stays under the radar because I could definitely see these wines doubling in price in the near future. I loved the finesse for a region that typically commands aging to be accessible. Jet black minerals, black olive, and dark brooding fruit yet it came with a snap and brightness I wasn’t expecting. This guy only owns 2.5ha, if I come across it, I will buy it!
Jean Michele Stefan Cote Rotie - This particular producer is really hitting it for me! This is the third vintage I have had and all have been very consistent. Top 3 wine of the day for me. Will be purchasing more for my myself, no doubt. This showed a tremendous amount of true Cote Rotie terroir. 
Pierre Gonon St. Joseph - The epitome of hipster juice! I’ve seen this skyrocket in attention on Delectable and other forums. Somebody figured it out and prices are already on the rise. I put this alongside Jamet Cote-Rotie with its hipster upbringing. 

Closing Thoughts
Andrew thought this was "a masterful event! Absolutely one of my favorite tastings ever and very educational too! Wow, did I learn a lot."

Steve: "When we go to restaurants that offer tasting menus we generally have their wine pairings. I felt these wines were representative of what you'd find in those pairings, and I would have been happy with any of them as part of a pairing. Very few of them were wines I would intentionally order, although I did purchase a case of Benetiere Cordeloux 2012 as a result of the event. The other wine that impressed me was the Vermentinu."

Adam: "To sum it up…The reason why these wines are being recognized and popularized is because of the way the wine market has evolved over the last decade or so. Sommeliers studying 20 years ago could afford to taste the benchmarks in a specific region. A bottle of Batard-Montrachet could have been purchased for an evening's pay, today that bottle would be close to a week's pay for me. What do you do to keep interest? Go next door to the Jura and drink Ganevat!"

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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