Archive for the ‘French Wine’ Category

New Yummy Wines at LUSH

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

So we’ve gotten in a few new fermented gems that we are so geeked about that we just had to share…

2008 Benoit Ente, Chassagne Montrachet “Les Houilleres”

From a small (7 acres total) estate based in Puligny-Montrachet, with holdings in both Puligny and Chassagne Montrachet. Benoit Ente is considered a master of white Burgundy. So is his older brother, Arnaud, by the way who’s famous for making chardonnay in a slightly bigger style. This is the villages level Chassagne Montrachet, from a tiny (one acre) plot of vines replanted in the late nineties called Les Houilleres, which sits right below the Grand cru vineyard of Batard-Montrachet. The estate farms as organically as possible and maintains painfully low yields. This cuvee sees 25% new oak, so expect a mild oakiness that should integrate with age. 2008 was a very tough vintage where some parcels struggled to reach maturity, but great winemakers often produced whites of great purity and minerality, with an energetic acid structure – this should be one of them, though with white burgundies the acid and the citrus notes are often balanced by a smack of richness and toastiness from the oak.

There seems to be a consensus that this wine drinks well above its villages level, towards a premier cru. It should be great to drink now for those who like to have a little oak in their chardonnay – it’s also a good candidate for customers who want a white to cellar for a few years. The oak should integrate and create something mineral and very pure.

2010 Graffito Malbec

Jimena Lopez worked in Australia and California before she returned to Argentina and set her eyes on this gem of a vineyard; the vines were planted in 1908 (105 year old ungrafted vines!!!), at 3051 feet at the heart of Argentina’s oldest appellation (Lujan de Cuyo), tended by Don Pepe, whose father planted the vines. This goes through the whole range of what Malbec is supposed to be, the dark, ripe fruit, the tannins, and the smoky earthiness. Once fermented, the wine produced by these beautiful vines is aged in 70% new French oak for 12 months (expect lots of spice and a bit of tannins here) and bottled unfined. Sounds like steak wine to me.

2008 Chateau Grand Traverse Gamay Noir

Gamay from Michigan! Chateau Grand Traverse is a beautiful winery established at the base of the Leelanau peninsula, just miles away from Traverse City. They make two Gamays, a ‘regular’ bottling, and this reserve one, which sees extended time in French oak barrels. Expect tart red fruit and a lingering earthiness, plus some spice from the wood barrels. This is a great Pinot alternative, and since Gamay has the ability to go well with almost any food you throw at it.

NV Landron Atmospheres Sparkling

Jo Landron has been making organically produced, naturally vinified and achingly pure and transparent Muscadet for about twenty years now. He is a master of minerality. And this is his bubbly! Not made with Melon, like muscadet, but with 20% pinot noir and 80% folle blanche, an obscure Loire variety that is somehow related to picpoul from the Rhone/South. Like Melon, Folle Blanche has the sad reputation of being a somewhat pedestrian grape, and like Melon, it shines in the hands of Landron. It’s vinified with no added yeasts, and then bottle conditioned. Disgorged 6 months before release and with a little bit of dosage. This is a rather structured bubbly (think blanc de noir), with serious acidity and a finish that is all minerals laced with tart pears.

LUSH: Secret Wine

Monday, September 27th, 2010

I love contests. I am fairly competitive, and always love a good game and friendly challenges.  And, if wine is involved, all the better.  Thus, when Ms. Cara of Decant Chicago blog mentioned the Secret Wine contest, I just couldn’t resist.  Exhilarating!

The simple rules involved registering as one of the first 85 bloggers, eagerly awaiting 3 bottles of blind wine, and then voting.  At stake, a trip to France! Awesome. I am SO in. And game.

The wine arrived, re-bottled, re-corked, and labeled with ‘Secret Wine’ and a number.  Instructions were to guess the appellation. Just the appellation. Not the grapes, or the year, or the producer.  Seems simple, right?  Not so much.

After completing some very brief research into the host company, Clare de Lune, a French wine PR company, I surmised that the wines are most likely from the regions the company represents in France.  However, even with all that narrowing down and focus, it is still extremely difficult to pick just one. And, yes, I am also well aware that making assumptions when blind tasting is involved is risky business.

The contest is still running, but we have been encouraged to share, in detail, our tasting experience and reasoning process.  Much tasting.  Very fun.  And surprising.

One vote only. Apparently, all guesses thus far are not quite correct. So, the waiting continues while the remaining bloggers catch up and vote. Until then…the wines are still secret.


Day Off; or, The Best Lunch I’ve Eaten Recently

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

We all know what grand plans get made for a day off work:
“I’m totally going to do all that laundry! And, like, go grocery shopping! Yeah!”


Hum has arrived.

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The newest local spirit to debut, HUM is the brilliant beverage concocted by Mr. Adam Seger. This spirit is incredibly versatile and extra delicious, bursting with flavor and quite tasty herbs, flowers, and fruits. HUM is essentially a botanical spirit, or, rather, a mingling of a strapping base of rum infused with hibiscus, cardamom, ginger, and kaffir lime. A spirit and a liqueur, HUM is lovely as a twist on classic cocktails, or can pump up your favorites with a burst of flavor. Or, if you like to be told what to do, Mr. Seger has developed an extensive list of tried and true tasty cocktails. Sip it neat, stir, shake, or share.

Wine Geek: Beaujolais Nouveau

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Ah, Beaujolais Nouveau. What originally began as a celebration of the harvest in France. Wine, just pressed and fermented, would run free from fountains, and people congregated in the streets, drinking the splendor of the year’s grapes. It was never fashioned as ‘great wine’, but was always tasty juice, special because it never saw barrel or bottle.

That is why it never made sense to me what has become of this tradition and the craze for Beaujolais Nouveau in the United States. The whole premise of Beaujolais Nouveau is defeated and deflated. Take this wine–just off the press–and bottle it. Send it across the world. So that everyone at once can celebrate the harvest…by drinking wine that’s been loaded up with sugar and sulfur to preserve it for travel. Hmmmmm. Something’s not right here.

Let’s go back the the basics. Beaujolais is a region in southern Burgundy that grows primarily Gamay, a thin-skinned red grape (and a little bit of Chardonnay. If you get the chance to try a Beaujolais Blanc, jump on it!). There are many parts of Beaujolais (known as the crus or villages), that grow Gamay and vinify it in a way that produces exceptional wine. These wines will never be the complex and elegant Pinot Noirs of the Cotes d’Or (the most prestigious growing region in Burgundy), but they can be age-worthy, exceptionally food friendly, and a delight to drink. Beaujolais is actually a cutting edge region in terms of natural agriculture: winemakers here are devoted to using natural methods to let the grapes speak for the land. No new American oak. No synthetic fertilizers. No foreign yeasts.

Unfortunately, what’s become the industry of ‘Beaujolais Nouveau’ has nothing to do with this ethos. First of all, this style of wine is made using a process called carbonic maceration. Carbonic maceration means that grapes are sallied up with CO2 before they are crushed. Fermentation begins to occur inside of the skin, before the juice ever leaves its boundaries.The flesh inside gets a little bit of color from the skins during this process. Then the grapes are crushed and have no further contact with the skins. The resulting wine is bright and fruity (sometimes cloyingly so), and has no tannins. Experts maintain that this wine needs to be drunk young, and has relatively no aging potential.

Another impact of Beaujolais Nouveau (besides creating insipid juice that has given a bad name to all of Beaujolais) is environmental: because Beaujolais Nouveau has to reach its intended audience within weeks of bottling, it is often air-freighted. Dr. Vino has written many articles on how much more of a carbon footprint this has than the traditional method of shipping wine. He suggests drinking something local to celebrate the harvest: embrace the tradition of Beaujolais Nouveau by drinking the juice that is fresh and close to home. Come to LUSH, and we’ll show you some brews, spirits, and wine from your own backyard. Cheers!

A Quick & Dirty Intro to Bordeaux: Right Bank vs. Left Bank

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

In honor of our Merlot tasting this week, we thought we’d talk a bit about this grape’s birthplace and noble heritage, which lie in the tumultuous and prestigious river banks of Bordeaux. Being the largest fine wine region in the world, and having no fewer than 57 appellations to speak of, with loads of history, intrigue, and hype, Bordeaux can be a little bit intimidating to the everyday wine drinker. But lucky for us, there are a few sweeping generalizations that can be made about Bordeaux, which can help us to get a grasp on this all too mysterious region.

Let’s talk about the rivers: Bordeaux is cut down the center by the Gironde Estuary, which splits apart into the Dordogne River and the River Garonne. You’ll hear a lot of wine folks talk about Bordeaux in terms of ‘Right Bank’ and ‘Left Bank’, and the land that straddles these rivers is exactly what we’re talking about. The Left Bank/Right Bank distinction, however, is not just something wine snobs throw around to look smart: it is the most fundamental step to understanding Bordeaux. Not only does a huge shift in terroir occur from one bank to the other, there is also a major switch in terms of grape variety planted (and if you master this one little bit of information, you will know a lot more about Bordeaux than you think!): Merlot is the dominant planting on the Right Bank, and Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant planting on the Left Bank.

If you can remember a few other differences between the Left Bank and Right Bank, you’ll have enough info to not only make some educated wine decisions, but also impress friends at cocktail parties (well, maybe).

Left bank:

  • Planted largely to Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Cab Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
  • Gravelly top soil with a limestone bedrock. The stony top soil makes the vines reach down deep for their nutrients, creating a more desirable environment for old vines that create age-able wines.
  • Generally flat
  • Most famous regions: Medoc, Graves, Sauternes, St. Estephe, Paulliac, Margaux, St. Julien
  • All the original chateaux from the original 1855 classification are on the Left Bank.

Right Bank:

  • Planted largely to Merlot, with a lot of Cab Franc, some Cab Sauvignon, Petite Verdot, and Malbec.
  • Limestone emerges at the surface here (rather than being buried, as it is on the Left Bank). Gravel is less predominant. The only exception is the Pomerol (called by some a mini-Medoc), where a tributary of the Dordogne has dumped millions of tons of gravel and created a bed rock of sandy clay deposits and a layer of iron rich sands.
  • Generally flat as well, with the exception of St. Emilion and Cotes de Castillon, which make a dramatic slope toward the river.
  • Most famous regions are St. Emilion, Pomerol, and Fronsac.

Both the Left Bank and the Right Bank are home to some fantastic wines (and even — shocker! — some good value wines). And the best way to get a grasp on the differences is to taste, taste, taste. Hard work, we know.

Posted by Jane.

On Vacating

Monday, June 8th, 2009

I’m not good at vacation. I thrive on being productive, and vacation, by its very etymology, implies absence and departure…not, as I tend to practice, a continuation of self-imposed obligations and tasks. Having said that, I did manage to leave that all behind for moments on my recent sojourn to California. And, working at LUSH, I can consider cooking and drinking wine to be important work-related research projects, right? Right. Well, here’s one such research project.

On my last night in California, I cooked up jalapeno crab cakes. Served with some salsa and a simple salad, it was an easy, delicious meal. I got the recipe from Bon Apetit magazine. In the future, I think I would pair the crab cakes with, instead of salsa, perhaps a garlic and lemon aioli. Yumm…

And, then, the pairing: my options were limited to the bottles of wine I’ve periodically sent out to my parents. Most of their own stash, bless their hearts, is $5 Chardonnay from California (which, needless to say, is not my favorite). Rifling through their wine collection, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for: perhaps an oily, heavier white that still had freshness to it? Something that could stand up to the crab, but had the acidity to jive with the salsa…Le Cetto Chardonnay? Nah, too oaky. Te Aro Grenache? A red was not the right fit for this meal, even one as delicious as this. And then I saw it: the 2007 Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Viognier from the Languedoc. Perfect! A nice rich body, stone fruits, a hint of vanilla oak, but still very fresh and floral. Success!

A very productive evening…

Posted by Jane.

French Wine Series: Sessions 2 & 3

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

We just finished up the final session in our French series last night. And what a way to end it, focusing on the wines of Bordeaux and Champagne! Two heavy hitting regions that can be rather intimidating, we wanted to provide an overview of the terroir, the grapes used, how the wines are made, and important information for buying wines from these areas. And we wanted to open wines that would demonstrate the variety that each region has to offer! The wines we poured were:


French Wine Class: Session One

Monday, March 9th, 2009

Last night we taught the first in our series of three classes on French wine. The focus of the first class was the wines of Alsace, Loire, Languedoc, and the Madiran. These are some of my favorite regions in all of France (hell, all of the world!). So many delicious wines, different terroirs, and exciting winemakers. We chose to group these regions together because of some similarities in winemaking mentality and aesthetics. These are smaller regions, for the most part (okay, the Loire Valley is about 700 miles long!), with the best producers being small, family owned wineries. A lot of these producers are proponents of non-interventionist and biodynamic winemaking, really fulfilling the legacy of terroir so painstakingly implemented by the AOC system. (more…)

Drinking at work.

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Cream Wine Company just did a very unprecedented thing, considering.  They put some very obscure, very delicious wines on sale.  Apparently, not every wine shop and restaurant in the city of Chicago buy weird wines from small producers.   But, as a lush, I love it!  Hopefully not too many other shops catch on before I can drink, er, I mean sell it all.

But, this inspired me to open a few really cool things on this very sunny and warm ‘spring’ day.  So, please read on for an account of what happens when I drink at work…and then do a bit of research and spout random facts that are cluttering my head.