Friday, May 16, 2008

A Husband's Eye View of Samantha Watching Lakers Playoff Basketball

I married a Saint, anyone that knows me knows that to deal with me day in and day out requires the patience of a Saint. For your typical, "girl" stuff I am pretty easy, I loathe shopping, don't care a thing about money, own two pairs of shoes...and a pair of flip flops, avoid the phone like the plague, know I "look fat" in everything so I never ask, would rather watch basketball or football than snuggle, and for the most part find babies icky. So the whole gender conflict is a non issue for my sweet husband but he is stuck with the challenging arguments about a, "woman's role" in history or the bible, (he is a religious studies major) the, "I don't care if we have known them forever. They bore the crap out of me and I don't want to hang out with them anymore" conversation, and if he ever tries to pull the, "because we are supposed too" is met with a raised eyebrow, slightly sneering Sam face and a, "Who says?". Poor thing right? The once or twice a year that we have a real fight...he knows he cant win, doesn't even really try but "Mans up" and tries to get all fierce on me..."Yea okay honey, that is kinda cute". Seriously the sweetest man ever, I am very lucky that he finds my difficult nature endearing...I make him laugh and shake his head a lot.

So what does this sweetheart get to see on game six of the Lakers vs Jazz game? Me rushing through the door, dumping off my purse and computer on the nearest chair. Changing out of my work clothes into my most comfy jeans and the biggest white T-Shirt I can find. Now tonight because it was like 400 degrees I soaked the shirt in cold water to cool me off....uh huh wet T-Shirt right?? Yea now imagine that if you will with me doing the fist pumping, screaming with little bits of spittle and standing up to do the whole pelvic thrusting, simulated spanking who's your daddy dance.....aww poor Sam's husband!

The one civil thing he got to see was me sipping away on the world's best Rose, the 2007 Tempier Bandol Rose (37.99). Try as I might to be angry at the ever rising price of this wine each time I have it I just say, "Damn". It really is worth the price as much as it makes me cringe to say so. The length, depth, texture, minerality and power just cannot be matched. You may not be able to buy it by the case but you really do owe it to yourself to savor at least one bottle, see what the best tastes like. We get only 10 cases for the year so while I assume it wont fly out the door you might want to get your hands on one or two as soon as possible.....last year we were hit hard with Internet sales from states that got less as a state than we got at The Wine Country!
Lakers up by 8 with 2 minutes....."Roarrrrr"!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Wine Country's 1st Wine Brunch! June 1st 2008

This last minute opportunity landed in our lap and even though we did not have time to get it in the newsletter and promote it properly I had to jump at the chance. We have never done a wine brunch before, not sure how people feel about getting all tingly in the middle of a Sunday but I for one am for it so there has to be others out there right? Some of you may have noticed that we have not been doing as many French wine dinners as we used to, and the number one reason is that I felt they were getting..."Crusty" for lack of a better word. We were kind of churning out the same ol' same ol' and the result was smallish turnouts and very little by way of sales. These events take a lot of planning and work and when they are not grabbing the crowd or generating sales then they just aren't worth it. We needed something new, cool and exciting and I think this brunch may be just the thing I was waiting for.

Amy and I have had lunches at Cafe Arte with Chuck Morris of Beaune Imports and I can tell you that the place is a steal. The food is always tasty, the portions on the larger side and the prices are beyond reasonable...almost laughable really....even this brunch 5 courses for $40.00 including wine? I mean, "Shut up"!

I am very excited and hope this first wine event with Cafe Arte is a smashing success. I think Amy, Jeremy and I are going to meet with Chuck Morris there on Monday, (May 19th) for know, just to do a little research, make sure the food is a good as we all remember...for all of you of course!

Sunday June 1st 2008 12:00 PM
Cafe Arte
12741 Towne Center Drive
Cerritos California
For Reservations Please Contact Cafe Arte 562) 865-2783

$40.00 Per Person Plus Tax and Gratuity

First Course
Frittata with Grilled Vegetables
2007 Chateau La Canorgue Rose

Second Course
Seared Scallops with Polenta
2006 Domaine Gaujal Picpoul de Pinet

Third Course
Mixed Greens with Almond Crusted Goat Cheese
2006 Domaine Henry Pelle Menetou-Salon Blanc

Fourth Course
Seafood Paella
2006 Xavier Clua Terra Alta Blanco
2006 Xavier Clua Terra Alto Tinto

Fifth Course
Caramelized Apple Crepe
2006 Eric Bordelet Apple Cider Doux

Hope to see you there!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Go Lakers!!!

I'm sitting here watching my Los Angeles Lakers in game five of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz and I only have two things to say;

1) Watching MVP Kobe Bryant is just damn exciting! I catch myself letting out a roar and pounding on my chest after watching one of those sweet layups or slick passes...oh and that dirty little dunk, don't get me started!

2) Where does Utah coach Jerry Sloan buy his ties? Is there like an ugly tie store out there that I don't know about?! Dude seriously....Macy's, look into it!

What a Difference a Winemaker Makes!

When we got the phone call from Anthony Anselmi, our Kermit Lynch Representative asking if we would be interested in doing an evening tasting at our shop with 8 Kermit Lynch Rhone producers all I could think to say was, "Well duh". This was an amazing opportunity to have our customers meet the people behind the bottle and there is just nothing like that experience to create life long relationships between the consumer and the estate.
Kermit Lynch has some of the most sought after estates in France's Rhone Valley but for some reason the wines, that sell out days after they are released in stores all over the United States just sit on our shelves. It has always astounded me and I knew that once people met these winemakers everything would click.

These French winemakers are not your, "I made a million on the Stock Market and want to make wine" kind of people. These are farmers complete with calloused hands, sun worn skin, humble demeanor and a knowledge of their little piece of land that flows through their veins just as it did the generations before them.

As each of these soft spoken farmers stepped before the sell out crowd you could feel their trepidation, their cheeks would turn slightly pink and they all took a second to ask us to forgive their was just so inviting and somehow made these, "special wines" all the more real, welcoming, familiar and in some way even more special now that you have met the people that make them for you. Meeting a winemaker is fantastic but meeting 8 was just remarkable and wines that at one time sat on the shelf flew out the door that evening...what a difference 8 winemakers make!

Philippe Faury:
Philippe and his wife Daniele Faury both stood to speak about their Condrieu and St. Joseph, Philippe in his fanny pack and Amish looking beard just smiled while his wife spoke of the estate and fielded questions from the crowd....Philippe was not so much with the English if you know what I'm saying. Their wines have both power and grace and I thought the Condrieu was perfectly balanced.
2005 Condrieu (57.99)
2006 St. Joseph (34.99)

Charbonniere Chateauneuf-du-Pape
The very young but square shouldered Caroline Maret was here on her second visit to the US to promote her family's wines. Her father is has been making the wines but she has been assisting him and has plans to someday take over wine making for the estate. She was very focused and didn't loose her cool when she was challenged about the 2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape we were pouring which was showing some baked, over ripe fruit, "That is the 2003 vintage" she said, "That is what the vines gives us and that is what is in the bottle". I loved that!
2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (27.99)
2006 Vacqueyras (N/A barrel sample)
2006 Chateauneuf-du-Pape Brusquieres (N/A barrel sample)

Auguste Clap
Olivier Clap is the third generation winemaker for this famed estate. No problems with English what so ever but still a touch shy, tall and lanky with a lumberjack looking beard hugging his very young looking face. So sweet and humble it was hard to wrap your head around the fact that he and his family make the most famous Cornas on the market.
2006 St. Peray (37.99)
2005 Cornas (99.99)

Gros Nore Bandol
Alan Pascal spoke not a word or English, was short but thick and looked like a man that could and probably has taken down a bear with his bare, rough hands!
2005 Bandol (34.99)

Tempier Bandol
Daniel Ravier was the tallest and definitely the most comfortable with the English language and helped translate for poor Alan Pascal from Gros Nore. Daniel was charming, funny and sucked the crowd in the second he opened his mouth and started cracking jokes. He had a confidence about him and that came through in his stunning wines...they were remarkable and my favorites of the night.
2005 Tourtine (sold out)
2005 Migoua (sold out)

Le Goeuill
Cathrine Le Goeuil had a slight advantage as her wine was the most affordable and the most accessible of the evening. We had a attendee named Randy Johnson that had been drinking her wine with dinner before the class..he didn't even know she was going to be there so it was quite a treat for him! Cathrine oozed a comforting feeling that reminded me of my 5th grade teacher and her wine was juicy, earthy, full of spice and very easy to drink. The three cases we had sold out that evening!
2005 Cotes du Rhone Cairanne Cuvee Lea Felsch (16.99)

Poor Guillaume Demoulin's wine was not cold enough to poor at the beginning as we had planned, (barrel samples as the wine had not yet arrived in the US) so he kept getting bumped back all night long. We ended up pouring his bright and zippy Tavel Rose at the end of the tasting and it ended up being a rather inspired way to end the night....after a bunch of big ass reds that tangy Rose just hit the spot!
2007 Tavel Rose (17.99)

It really was a eye opening night and I thank all that made time on a Tuesday evening to join us for what was a one of a kind tasting. I hope everyone learned as much as I did and found a new spot both in your home and in your heart for the wines from those wonderful people.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Night of Artisan Bubbles

While I love a lot of the tastings I do at The Wine Country there is one that gets me fired up like no other....Artisan Champagne. Most of my Champagne department is made up of small growers so it is not like it is unusual for us to be tasting, drinking or featuring wines from the small houses but this one night a year I put together my favorite wines from various estates that are drinking beautifully right now. See that is the thing about Champagne, it is ever changing, we get new batches, wines that were tight six months ago have filled out or we get our greedy little paws on some rare vintage wines that we cant wait to share. I spend weeks making a mental list of what to pour and spend the days before the event re-writing it. My goal each time is to show people what truly fantastic wines these are, not just yummy fizzy wine but wines with depth, texture, layers and length.

Anyone that has ever attended one of our bubbly events knows that it tends to be a party atmosphere. We start out trying to parcel out bits of information but by the second flight the attendees are in full chatter and the only time they look to us is when their glass is empty. This, "arrangement" works splendidly for me as I freak out having to be in the front of the class...seriously, my face starts burning, I can feel my stomach churning and it takes all my strength not to hurl. It's terribly traumatic but on this one night a year my desire to make a point, make them understand and make them really taste the wines crushes the nausea and leaves me just a little more steady on my feet.

This was the quietest party I had ever attended....these people were so quiet, they would whisper back and forth but for the majority of the tasting the crowd was shockingly studious. I was starting to get nervous and began asking the crowd if they had any questions....they didn' steady feeling became a full out panic complete with a stream of sweat trickling down my back. At that point if I could tap dance I would have....anything to entertain the crowd. We poured the third flight and the decibels increased, fourth flight we are in full roar and the final flight...silent again. The wines were simply stunning and the crowds reaction, while I didn't know it at the time was exactly what I wanted, they got it, they understood how serious these wines were and they were rendered almost speechless.

We broke records that night, those 27 people purchased more wine that night than we have ever sold on any night ever!! Hooray Artisan Champagne! See it's not just me!!!

Featured Wines
Flight One
NV Jean Milan Carte Blanche Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (48.99) Clean, bright and loaded with citrus. Would be awesome with oysters!
NV Jean Mialn Cuvee Speciale Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (48.99) Lovely lemon like flavors with a toasty bready quality.

Flight Two
NV Pierre Peters Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs (48.99) Always a special bottle for me, (those of you that have seen my tattoo know why) roasted apples, buttery crust and a beautiful long finish.
NV Agrapart & Fils 1er Cru Rose (49.99) Our favorite batch of Rose from the house so far! Tart but deeply fruited with bits of minerals and a creamy but bright finish.

Flight Three
NV Rene Geoffroy 1er Cru Cuvee Empreinte (52.99) So delicate and floral. A pretty wine with such a graceful gentle handed finish.
NV Rene Geoffroy 1er Cru Brut Rose (63.99) Packed with wild strawberry and cream, almost too easy to drink with tiny bubbles and a creamy finish.

Flight Four
NV Camille Saves Carte Blanche (59.99) The first blockbuster of the night, high in Pinot Noir the wine is both weighty and delicate with tons of baked fruit and buttered toast...scary good.
NV Camille Saves Brut Rose (68.99) Busting with deep sweet red cherry and vanilla. Seriously layered wine with a massive mouth feel and a powerful finish.

Flight Five
NV H. Billiot Grand Cru Brut Reserve (51.99) Another monster Pinot Noir based wine with a massive richness and loaded with baked fruit, red apple and yeast.
1999 H. Billiot Grand Cru Brut (63.99) The 1996 vintage of this lovely wine was our wine of the year a couple years ago and the 99 is no runner up I assure you. Doughy, full, sexy as hell and serious enough to shhhh even the loudest of party goer.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bad Blogger!

OK I admit it, I have been a bad blogger, not that I'm fully convinced that anyone, (other than Nancy) reads this thing! The last couple of weeks were insane with everything from Artisan Champagne, Michael Sullivan and Yves Orliac for a Beaune Imports/L'Hortus tasting, taking Yves Orliac, (L'Hortus) bar hopping "Wine Country Girl" style....lots of bars and lots of drinks, 8 French winemakers from the Rhone Valley, a wild trip to San Francisco, my wonderful son, Jeremy coming home from his first year of college and then Mother's Day......whew! I might just need a vacation from my work playtime. There are some notes on both the Champagne event and the Evening of Kermit Lynch Rhone Producers that I will post tomorrow as it is getting late tonight but I do feel terrible about waiting so I said, "Bad Blogger".

Saturday we had our annual Alsace tasting at The Wine Country and although the crowd was on the smaller side they were full of opinions and everyone seemed to be having a great time. Jack, Andy, Bruce and Dunbar, (regular Saturday tasters) were divided like I have never seen them before! It was pretty amazing to watch these four men that seem to agree pretty often jump up and down on each other arguing about which wines were balanced and which wines were too soft, too acidic or too sweet. It was pretty thrilling for me because it meant that the wines on the table were interesting enough to get these guys all riled up!

I'll post the wines poured along with short tasting notes very shortly....being a bad blogger I left my tasting notes at the shop. I just wanted to let anyone know, that might follow these posts that I have not given up posting, just been wicked busy and when not busy, recovering! There are a bunch of fun stories and really wonderful wines to come...still trying to get used to making this blog-thing a part of my daily/weekly rotation....I'll get better....maybe Nancy will rub off on me and I will rise each morning and post.....right now my mornings are coffee, jammies, cigarettes and me barking at MSNBC for an hour before my shower. Blogging might just be a refreshing change....but knowing myself for almost 37 years my guess is my posts will flow more freely after a glass or two of wine, after dinner, curled up on my ridiculously comfy couch with my laptop humming away and warming the tops of my thighs.
Thanks to all that have been reading and commenting, (to me in can post here ya know!) and I promise to try and keep you entertained and updated on what I've tasted, eaten, done and wish I hadn't done!

Friday, May 2, 2008

My Nightly Tango With My Inner Wine Monster

I have this "friend" that I visit with on a weekly basis. He loves to chat in my ear and I find him horribly seductive, he has this knack of creeping inside my brain and saying just the right thing...which in turn gets me do the absolute wrong thing. He can coax me like no other, and the mere knowledge of his impending visit can work me into a frenzy. "I will resist him tonight" I tell myself. "He will see how stalwart I can be" becomes my chant, but even as the words loop around in my head I can feel myself softening. I busy myself with other tasks but find that my head swivels with each sound....wondering if that is him at my stoop.

I pour myself a glass of wine to "fire my inner feisty" assured that this glass will strip away the protective layers and reveal the me that is willing to put up a fight. "Now I'm ready" I tell myself but find that with each crunch of a crushed leaf under someones foot my heart races...not ready yet....maybe one more glass. As I reach the bottom of glass number two a sense of gooeyness takes over. My body is warm and relaxed, there is a quiet hum that is pouring from the inside out, I begin touching my hair a lot while singing my favorite songs aloud..."Shit, this is lovey Sam! Must kill it" and here comes pour number three.

Half way through glass number three and my thoughts shift to my jammies, (I am a jammies freak! I have more pairs than are reasonable and there is no end in sight...I love them like most women love shoes...I have two pairs of shoes and two drawers full of PJ's) my eyes feel tired, I am super mellow and longing to wash the day's yuck from my face, but before I more sip. Returning to the couch freshly washed, moisturized and a touch parched from the vigorous face washing, I refresh with the last bit of glass number three.

With my mind shifting from relief to disappointment with regards to the non-visit I begin to think this is a good thing. No morning after feelings of guilt and yuckiness. My morning will be full of hope and promise. I will rise and take on the day with vigor leaping each challenge like OJ Simpson in those Hertz commercials, "Yes...hooray me" and just when I feel all empowered I hear, "Psst"....oh no!

My teeth dig into my bottom lip and I take a breath so deep my lungs feel like they might explode, "Not now...too weak" I think, but his warm breath swirls around my ears, "Dance with me Sam, don't you want to Tango with me tonight?" Can you say goner? As I let little bits of air excape I try to sound firm without letting him hear me almost gasping for air, "I...I shouldnt, I really cant. I have to work tomorrow, I should get to smell so good". Mellow, freshly washed, lovey, slightly tough, jammie clad, armour shed and so happy to hear his voice.

"Glug, glug"
I am yours number four....lets dance.