Wednesday wine recommendations, 7/19/2017

We’ve had some glorious summer days of late, so to celebrate here are two new rosés as scene-setters to slake your thirst, plus a savory pinot noir, a white Burgundy and a fun Malbec.

Domaine de Fussiacus Saint-Véran 2015

***

Burgundy, France, $21

“Fussiacus” is the ancient Roman spelling for the town of Fuissé in a part of Burgundy known for producing some the world’s greatest chardonnay. This beauty is another reminder to buy 2015 vintage wines from France — any part of France — whenever we can find them. The ripe vintage chardonnay produces something akin to peach cobbler in a glass: Think juicy, sweet peaches with a buttery biscuit topping. Then drink it in. Alcohol by volume: 13 percent.

Distributed by Elite: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, Whole Foods Market (Foggy Bottom); on the list at Le Diplomate, Matisse, Mirabelle. Available in Maryland at Fairgrounds Discount Beverages in Timonium, Friendship Wine & Liquor in Abingdon, the French Paradox Wines in Stevenson, Reds Wine & Spirits in Kingsville, SoCo Fine Wine & Spirits in Deale; on the list at Ouzo Bay in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church, Grand Cru in Arlington, Libbie Market in Richmond, the Town Duck in Warrenton, Vino Market in Midlothian, Whole Foods Market (Alexandria, Arlington).

Brooks Pinot Noir 2014
***

Willamette Valley, Oregon $28

This wine was reticent when I opened it, as though it didn’t like being called to perform just yet. But a half-hour or so later, it opened into a lovely, savory wine with dark berry fruit and more than a hint of earth. ABV: 13 percent.

Distributed by Country Vintner: Available in the District at S&R Liquors; on the list at DBGB Kitchen & Bar, Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House, Mirabelle, Squash on Fire. Available in Maryland at Old Line Fine Wine, Spirits & Bistro in Beltsville; on the list at Artifact Coffee and Grand Cru in Baltimore, Carrol’s Creek Cafe in Annapolis, the Dish and Dram in Kensington. Available in Virginia at Oakton Wine Shop; on the list at 2941 in Falls Church.

Great Value
E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé 2016

 **-1/5

Rhone Valley, France, $16

From a top producer in the northern Rhone Valley, this rosé is a perennial favorite. It offers strawberry flavors, a hint of herbs, and good value. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Distributed by M. Touton: Available in the District at Best in Liquors, Cairo Wine & Liquor, Capital City Wine & Spirits, Capitol Hill Wine and Spirits, Eye Street Cellars, Pan-Mar Liquor, Rodman’s, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits. Available in Maryland at Bethesda Co-Op in Cabin John, Crestwood Liquors, Old Farm Liquors, Riverside Liquors, Village Mart Beer & Wine and Ye Old Spirit Shop in Frederick, Downtown Crown Wine and Beer in Gaithersburg, the Old Vine and Smitty’s Liquors in Baltimore, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington. Available in Virginia at Wegmans (various locations), Whole Foods Market (various locations).

Great Value
Petit Jammes Malbec 2015
**

Cahors, France, $13

Fans of Argentina’s malbecs should check out Cahors, the region in southwestern France that specializes in the grape. Cahors can be rustic and tannic, but this little charmer is more polished and modern in style. Enjoy it with red meat from the grill, takeout kebabs, pizza . . . you get the idea. ABV: 13.5 percent.

Distributed by Dionysus: Available in the District at New York Liquor Store, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s and Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda, Wine Source in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Balducci’s (Alexandria, McLean), Unwined (Alexandria, Belleview).

Great Value
Beauvignac Syrah Rosé 2016
**

Pays d’Oc, France, $10

This is a straightforward, delicious rosé, with berry and melon flavors and loads of refreshment. ABV: 13 percent.

Distributed by Kysela: Available in the District at Grape Intentions, Magruder’s, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor; on the list at the Black Squirrel. Available in Maryland at Eddie’s Liquors in Baltimore, Finewine.com in Gaithersburg, Libations in Millersville, Maple Lawn Wine & Spirits in Fulton, Orion Wine & Spirits in Frederick, Petite Cellars in Ellicott City, Port of Call Liquors in Solomons, Wine Loft in Pikesville. Available in Virginia at Culpeper Cheese Company, Kroger (various locations), Wine Seller in Williamsburg.

Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

(Originally published July 1, 2017, on washingtonpost.com.)

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Wine trivia #1 – What family is this?

Okay, wine peeps. What internationally famous wine family is represented in the symbol in this picture? Give me your answer in the comments, and I’ll do the reveal there too, after at least a few days. Hint: The name is spelled out in the family seal …

img_4252

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Maxwell Park adds somm pizzazz to DC’s wine bar scene

Daniel Runnerstrom, far left, Niki Lang and Brent Kroll are the team behind Maxwell Park in the District’s Shaw neighborhood. (Dave McIntyre)

A sometimes unheralded factor in Washington’s restaurant renaissance has been the active cadre of young sommeliers who have raised the bar for wine service. Some of them are now branching out, and they might just change the way we drink and think about wine.

They certainly may change our concept of wine bars. Maxwell Park, the brainchild of sommelier Brent Kroll, opened June 26 in Shaw, not far from the convention center. When I visited four days later, people poured through the door as soon as it opened at 5 p.m. An hour later, customers were standing and waiting for one of the 33 seats in the modest corner establishment.

Kroll, 31, has been a familiar face to the District’s wine lovers for nearly a decade from his stints at Ardeo, the Oval Room and Adour. He managed the lists for Iron Gate and the Passenger as wine director for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group before moving to Proof last year for a brief stint as general manager.

Kroll is not the only sommelier involved in the project. Max Kuller, owner of the Fat Baby restaurant group (Proof, Estadio, Doi Moi) and a sommelier himself, is a business partner. Daniel Runnerstrom, formerly of Iron Gate, and Niki Lang, formerly of Voltaggio Brothers Steak House and Fiola Mare, help manage the bar. Both are certified sommeliers through the Court of Master Sommeliers and can partner into ownership if Maxwell Park succeeds.

Named for a place in Detroit where Kroll played as a child, Maxwell Park oozes fun, right down to the chalk provided for customers to write or doodle on the slate bar. And because many customers today like to stay connected, the bar is lined with electrical outlets that include USB ports. Your check will be presented in a copy of a pocket wine guide by Oz Clarke or Hugh Johnson — another sign that “this is meant to be fun, not a dissertation,” as Kroll says.

Kroll modeled Maxwell Park after wine bars in New York rather than more food-centric examples in Washington’s first wave of a decade ago. “I want this to be a true wine bar, not a restaurant marketed as a wine bar,” he says. “If you have 20 dishes on your menu and a chef in the kitchen, you’re a restaurant.”

The wine list will eventually feature 600 labels, quite extensive for a place with 33 seats. Fifty wines are offered by the glass (with pours of varying sizes available), half of which will rotate monthly according to a theme. July’s theme is ABPG, or Anything but Pinot Grigio, emphasizing the variety of white wines from Italy.

“Not that we hate pinot grigio, but you’ve already had it,” Kroll explains. “Why not try something different?”

The July list includes one of my all-time favorites, the kerner from Abbazia di Novacella, plus a minerally saline pigato from Liguria and a fascinating sparkler from Mount Etna in Sicily. There is so much to explore. Some cocktails, beers and nonalcoholic drinks are also available.

And there is some food: Kroll plans to enlist Washington area chefs to design menus of about half a dozen snacks, to rotate seasonally. He also plans to have guest appearances by other area sommeliers. “You’ll always see one or more of us,” he says, referring to Runnerstrom and Lang, “but you may come in one night and see another somm behind the bar.”

Kroll does let his inner wine geek emerge when he talks about the four distinct temperature zones he uses to store and serve his wines. “Most restaurants have two storage areas, one for reds and one for whites. But all white wines are not meant to be served at the same temperature,” he says. A crisp falanghina might benefit from a good chill, for example, while a full-bodied Chablis should be served just slightly cool.

“I hope it catches on,” he says of the attention to temperature.

Sommeliers in charge might be catching on. Sebastian Zutant, formerly of Proof and Red Hen, plans to open his own wine bar, Primrose, in August in Brookland, with his wife, Lauren Winter. Jennifer Knowles, now wine director at Mirabelle, dipped her toe into winemaking last year, blending a pinot noir at Oregon’s Brooks winery. That wine is served by the glass at Plume in the Jefferson Hotel, where Knowles worked. She hopes to blend a cuvee for Mirabelle next year.

Maxwell Park is certainly catching on. The evening I visited, I encountered Pamela Margaux, a Charlottesville wine importer, and her husband, Claude Thibaut, maker of Virginia’s Thibaut-Janisson sparkling wines. As we surveyed the crowd of wine lovers, we realized we were decades older than everyone else in the place.

“Maybe I’ll come back when I’m 30 years younger,” quipped Thibaut, 59.

I’ll be back sooner, whether or not I fit in.

(Originally published on washingtonpost.com on July 8, 2017.)

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Rejuvenating WineLine

Well, it’s been two years since I’ve posted on this blog. I stopped because it was taking time and energy, and I was busy writing my weekly wine columns for The Washington Post. But many friends have asked me to resume, and I’ve long meant to. Now, it’s time. After all, I started Dave McIntyre’s WineLine in 1999 as an email newsletter, long before anyone called these “blogs.” It would be a shame to let it disappear.

There’s no shortage of material to post here. My columns will appear, as well as my weekly wine recommendations. But WineLine also gives me a venue to report on other news and wines that don’t make the column. I may even get wonky from time to time.

So thanks for your patience and your encouragement, and thanks for reading Dave McIntyre’s WineLine. Please share it with your wine-loving friends and encourage them to subscribe, or “follow” to receive updates as they are published. And don’t hesitate to send me feedback and encouragement. Of course, if you don’t see a new post for several days, remind me to get back to it!

Since I’m now dusting off the blog, I’ll leave you with a gallery of photos from my recent trip to South America, beginning with dusty wine bottles in the cellar at Santa Carolina winery on the outskirts of Santiago, Chile. I’ll post much more from Chile and Argentina in the weeks ahead.

Cheers!

Dave

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Philippe Sereys de Rothschild Brings Business Savvy and Impish Humor to a Wine Empire

Bordeaux is transforming itself. Change was widely on display during Vinexpo, the biennial trade fair held this month at the city’s Parc des Expositions with satellite parties at chateaux throughout the Left and Right Banks. The visible changes were magnificent new cellars at several wineries, including Chateau Margaux, which hosted the international press dinner to showcase its new facility adjacent to the iconic chateaux, and Chateau Montrose, which hosted the Fête de la Fleur at the end of the week.

There is also generational change. A prominent example is Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, who took over as “Chairman of the Supervisory Board” of Baron Philippe Rothschild SA last October following the death of his mother, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. Born in 1963, the Harvard-educated Sereys had a successful career in business and international finance before joining the family company in 2006. I had the pleasure of meeting Sereys and his companion, film actress Carole Bouquet, at the Margaux dinner. They added a little celebrity glitz to the old-fashioned glam of Bordeaux during Vinexpo.

And he has an impish sense of humor, I learned. At the dinner, I told Sereys my story of having met his mother, the Baroness, at the same function in 2009, on my previous visit to Vinexpo, and how my poor French and a functionary gatekeeper thwarted my opportunity to have lunch with her the next day.

Philippe Sereys de Rothschild at the Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA pavilion at Vinexpo, June 15, 2015.

Philippe Sereys de Rothschild at the Baron Philippe de Rothschild SA pavilion at Vinexpo, June 15, 2015.

“Well you must come have lunch with me tomorrow then,” he said. “My mother would insist.” When I told him I had a lunch appointment at a chateau in Pauillac, an hour away up the Left Bank, he exclaimed, “Cancel it!” We eventually negotiated a 2:30 meeting at the Baron Philippe pavilion at Vinexpo, and when I showed up out of breath at 2:45, he upbraided me: “You’re late!” I half expected to hear “Off with his head!” but he doesn’t seem to take the royalty part too seriously. I noticed the staff referred to him as Monsieur Sereys rather than Baron Philippe. Apparently he is crafting his own identity and leaving the royal moniker for his famous grandfather.

I asked Sereys about the challenges facing Bordeaux, from complaints about the high prices of the futures market (Mouton Rothschild struck a moderate stance in this year’s en primeur campaign) to a perception, here in the US at least, that Bordeaux is passé.

“There’s no perfect market,” he said, drawing on his business perspective. “Every market over-reacts, either up or down. For the moment, the futures market is as good as it can be.”

Globalization has created challenges, he said. “The routes to market are becoming more diverse. The market itself is more diverse, more global, more immediate. And people are looking for service. How do we adapt to those changes? At the end of the day, you have to get the bottle into the customer’s hands.”

Adapting to those changes may not be easy for an industry focused on its main task – making wine.

“People forget how our business is a long-term business,” he said. “It’s not private equity. Which is a luxury, because in a world where everything goes faster and faster, we cannot rush the climate. We cannot rush the terroir. Opus One took 30 years to develop, but now it is terrific. We started Alma Viva in Chile in 1998 – it’s halfway there. And there’s still a lot of work to do at Mouton. When you are at the top, you need to work hard to stay there.”

That led me to mention the visible transformation underway throughout Bordeaux, with significant investment in new production facilities and a focus on “precision viticulture” – a focus on specific soil types and small-lot fermentation to give vintners more flexibility in blending their final wines.

“Since the market has become more global and Bordeaux remains at the center, we have to reinvest to maintain and improve quality,” he said. “Although we do have to sell it, our core business is the production of wine. Speaking of which, are you thirsty?” He ran over to a nearby tasting bar, and a few minutes later a waiter brought two glasses of Mouton-Cadet rosé. He wasn’t being cheap, but playful. This referred back to our conversation at the press dinner the night before, where we had Clerc Milon 2006 and 1988 along with Mouton Rothschild 2006 and 1995.

He took a sip, smiled and shrugged. “It’s rosé.” And indeed, it was fine.

“I notice you had it placed as the exclusive rosé of the Cannes film festival, right in the heart of Provence,” I said.

He giggled and said, “Isn’t that cool?”

As I stood to take my leave, Sereys shook my hand and said, “My mother will be happy now. You made it inside the Baron Philippe pavilion.”

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Solving the Riedel of Coke

“How do most people drink their Coke?” Maxilimian Riedel asked as he popped open a can and placed it in front of me, alongside a plastic cup.

“From the can,” I said.

“Right! Take a sip – what’s the first thing you notice?” Not being a regular soda drinker for many years, I took a swig and remembered the impression of sweetness and the vague dried fruit flavor. But before I could say anything, Riedel continued his explanation. “You didn’t smell it. You can’t smell it from a can.”

We were at the small Riedel booth at Vinexpo, the biennial wine trade fair in Bordeaux. I was surrounded by other vendors offering first growth this or grand cru that, vintage Armagnac, almost any exclusive alcoholic beverage in the world, and this man was offering me a Coke.

IMG_0294He poured some into the plastic cup and directed me to touch the can, then the cup. “Notice the can is cold, but the cup is warm,” he said. (He didn’t give me the chance to point out that the can had been refrigerated.) “The plastic cup actually warms the drink.” He produced a glass – not just any glass, but a Riedel Coca-Cola glass, designed specifically for the famous soda and with a shape reminiscent of the iconic Coke bottle. He poured some into the glass, and a thick foamy mousse formed on top of the soda. “Notice the bubbles,” he said. “Yet the drink in the plastic cup has gone flat. The cup kills the effervescence.” The glass was also cold to the touch, reflecting the temperature of the drink.

I smelled the cup. There was that prune flavor again. But when I stuck my nose in the glass, I was hit with the sting of carbonation, a Proustian moment that took me back to childhood, a time when we drank soda out of a glass rather than a can or a honking-huge cup with a straw poked through the lid.

When the Riedel Wine Glass Co. unveiled its Coca-Cola glass in early 2014, I just shook my head. Was there nothing they wouldn’t try to sell us a special glass for, I wondered. (Yes, Riedel makes water glasses.) The skeptic in me has always balked at the idea that we need a special line of glassware for each grape variety, for instance. I recognize glassware does make a difference in the way wine tastes, but have always felt an expensive stem is most appropriate with the finer wines where nuance is crucial, and expensive. Riedel is the aristocrat of wine glasses; why would we need a Riedel for something a proletarian as Coke?

I took a sip from the fizzy glass and hiccupped loudly.

“Only two people in the world supposedly know the formula for Coca-Cola,” Riedel said. “But here you can taste lemon, lime, cinnamon and maybe some clove.” So much more interesting than sugary prunes.

Max Riedel may not have figured out the secret formula, but he reminds us of what we’ve lost in our modern craving for convenience over flavor.

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Traveling the World at Vinexpo

Greetings from Vinexpo! I’m in Bordeaux for only my second visit to this biennial trade fair, having first come in 2009. That was the year Bordeaux was chasing the China market; Asia is much less prominent this year, and in fact the Bordelais are once again wooing Americans. More on that to come.

Just walking through the immense hall at the Parc des Expositions is overwhelming. Within a span of two hours, I was able to whipsaw from Patagonia to Portugal to Champagne and then Austria. I tasted a savory Malbec from Portales del Fin del Mundo, then the exquisite White Stones and White Bones chardonnays of Catena Zapata, from select vine rows high in the Andes foothills of Mendoza.

Minutes later I was sipping a tawny port from Taylor Fladgate vinted in 1863, the year of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, and the year Ford, Royce and Peugeot were born, according to Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s executive director. Then a Champagne tasting – comparing not wines but the glasses they are served in. (For the record, Lanson Gold Label 1995 is delicious in any glass, but more expressive in a white wine glass rather than a traditional Champagne flute.)

Maximilian Riedel comparing glasses for Champagne

Maximilian Riedel comparing glasses for Champagne

After scarfing a sandwich of pata negra jambon on a crusty baguette, I was (in spirit) cruising the Danube tasting the electrifying Grüner Veltliner and Riesling wines of Gobelsburg and Bründlmayer. A few more steps took me back centuries in history to the very beginning of wine and the racy rkatsiteli white and savory saperavi reds from Georgia, fermented in clay amphorae called qvevri.

And just to wrap up the day, I did an espresso tasting with Maximilian Riedel – and even more enlightening, a Coca-Cola tasting. More on that in a future blog post.

Still, there’s a sense of ennui here. Many producers say the buzz and the crowds are thicker at Prowein, the annual fair held in Dusseldorf in March. That seems to be easier for the East European market to reach. And perhaps Vinexpo has diluted its brand by holding its fair in Hong Kong in alternate years (though it has always been every other year in Bordeaux).

But I’ve seen signs that Bordeaux is aware of the competition and is mobilizing — or has mobilized — to respond. This is still be the center of the wine world — albeit a more broad and diverse wine world than ever before — and producers here sense the competition and know they need to adapt to the changing global market. (That realization may not yet be reflected in en primeur  pricing for the latest futures market.)

There’s much to learn about and explore here this week at Vinexpo. Stay tuned.

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