Paradigmwine on the Air

Looking for more wine talk outside of the web?  Tune into KFAR 660AM on Thursdays at 5:45, where I talk wine with Michael Dukes of KFAR and Gavora’s Fine Wine manager Dave Clark.

Every week we’ll be talking about three wines that I selected that will be on special at Gavora’s Fine Wine.  Tune in and listen as we try to bring a little big city culture into little Fairbanks.

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Wine of the Week: Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse

In the winter I don’t mind Californian-Style Chardonnays, with their robust oak flavors, creamy mouth-feel and tasty notes of butterscotch and caramel.  As summer approaches, however, they can seem heavy and… excessive.  Sometimes all the oak and butter is all your palate can detect, and you lose the wine itself.  It reminds me of going to a restaurant, and when your main dish comes out, it is covered in so much sauce that you can’t taste what it is served over.  The sauce may be good, but it should act to complement the dish, not be the dish.

I enjoy the Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse (pronounced Puh-yee Foo-say) because it reminds you that excellent Chardonnay, like an excellent filet of fish, doesn’t need any sauce, and instead can stand proudly on its own.

Pouilly-Fuisse is from Burgundy France, and is named for the two of the four villages (Solutre-Pouilly, Vergisson, Chaintre and Fuisse) where it is produced.  Always 100% Chardonnay, the wines made there are light, balanced, and crisp.  While there is some oak influence in Louis Jadot’s wine, it is applied judiciously, complementing, rather than covering the delicate flavors of green apple and flinty mineral that make this Chardonnay so appealing and refreshing.

French White Burgundy ranges from cheap (and generally bad) to very expensive (and generally very good).  I like Louis Jadot’s combination of price and quality, and while it retails a little higher than most wines I’ve recommended (expect to pay $23-28 at most retail stores), it outperforms other Chardonnays twice it’s price.  For those that prefer to buy domestic wines to support U.S. business, you can buy this wine and stick to your principles, as Louis Jadot is the only French wine company owned by a U.S. business.

The Facts

The Wine: Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse
Appellation: Pouilly-Fuisse AOC, in the Maconnais region of Burgundy France
Composition: 100% Chardonnay
ABV: 12%
Production: 25,000 cases imported
Where you can find it in Fairbanks: By the bottle at Lavelle’s Bistro, on the store shelf at Gavora’s Fine Wine and Gold Hill

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Upcoming Tasting: Thursday, April 29th Blockbuster Reds at Gambardella’s Pasta Bella

Like big red wines?  This tasting is for you.

This week at Gambardella’s I’ll be pulling out all the stops, bringing some truly phenomenal blockbuster wines.  This will be my 12th tasting at Gambardella’s, and the last one for the season.  (We’ll start back up in October.)  In each previous tasting, I’ve had a central theme that I’ve based my tastings around – esoteric Italian wines, South-American wines, wines from Tuscany, etc.  This week, however, the theme is simply wines that I love – which means big, powerful,  mouth-filling reds.

This will be a great opportunity to taste some of the best wines available in Fairbanks: Columbia Crest Walter Clore Reserve, Col Solare, Franciscan Magnificat, D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz, Faust Cabernet and more.  For the low tasting price of $20, this is an amazing value.

The Details
Where: Gambardella’s Pasta Bella
When: Thursday, April 29th at 7pm
Cost: $20 Per Person
Please RSVP at 907-457-4992

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A Question of Complexity

Map of Bordeaux. If you think this is complex, you should see Burgundy.

Wine is mind-bogglingly complex, there’s no question about it.  Hundreds of grape varieties, thousands of appellations, and tens of thousands of producers world-wide make for a a subject that is impossible to master.  It’s not surprise, then, that those who set themselves up as wine experts often try to simplify it, or avoid its complexities all-together.

I can’t stand this approach, because in robbing from wine it’s complexity, you are also taking away the very thing that makes wine special.  If wine was simple, easy to explain, and homogeneous, then not only would there be little to talk about when it came to wine, but one of wine’s most alluring qualities – it’s uniqueness- would be missing.

One of the great joys of wine is exploring its seemingly endless horizon.  No matter how many wines you taste, from no matter how many countries, there are always more to discover, and always another vintage with a new set of finds, each one of them different, unique from the rest.

It has been said that the biggest lie in wine is that “If you like it, it’s good.”  By not taking the effort to explain why the wine is good, (or why it isn’t), as proponent of wines we prematurely close off the line of questioning that turns a wine drinker into a wine lover.  By making the drinker the authority on the wine, we’re not empowering them, we’re cutting them off from the uncomfortable but richer truth: that none of us are truly authorities on wine, and that all of us, from Master Sommelier to wine neophyte, are still learning, and on that road of discovery.

Wine Tasting Wheel

The appreciation of wine is a series of questions: Why do I like this? What makes it different?  What is the combination of climate, soil, fruit, and wine-making that produces this wine? By introducing  these questions in others heads, we can take wine drinkers and turn them into wine enthusiasts.

In addition to denying the joys of wine to others by not sharing it’s complexities, it only reinforces the perception that wine is only for the elite, that it’s complexities make it incomprehensible to the average person.  Instead some wine experts keep their knowledge shrouded behind the curtain, either offering patronizing explanations that don’t explore the true depth of the subject, or speaking in terms that they know the lay-person won’t understand in a paean to their own self importance.

What, then, is the answer if wine’s complexity is both it’s barrier to entry and it’s reward?  As I do more and more tastings with the public, I’ve grappled with this question, and I think I’ve found an answer: Embrace complexity with no assumption of prior knowledge.

Every wine educator has a wealth of knowledge in their head, but too often we forget to share that information.  We know why high-altitude impacts grapes, how oak imparts flavor to wine, why irrigation affects flavor concentration in grapes, but if we don’t communicate these concepts, then all of our talk about terroir is meaningless.

To others that love wine, and who want to share that love with others, I can only offer my own experience, which is that wine is made richer by it’s details, and that our ability to communicate those details is more important than we think.

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Upcoming Tastings: Kobrand at Lavelle’s Bistro and Unique Italian Wines at Gambardella’s Pasta Bella

Kobrand at Lavelle’s Bistro

On Tuesday the 12th at 7pm, Robert Koffman from Kobrand Wine and Spirits will be hosting a tasting at Lavelle’s Bistro for their Tuesday Tasting.

Kobrand got it’s start in 1933 when Robert Kopf started the wine and spirits division at Macy’s department stores.  Over time, he became one of America’s most trusted authorities on wine, and in 1944 he founded Kobrand Corporation as a wine supplier and importer, using the relationships he developed during his time at Macy’s.  Today Kobrand has a terrific portfolio of wines, including the French giant Louis-Jadot, the Italian wine-maker Michele Chiarlo, Craggy Range from New Zealand and the iconic Californian producer Cakebread.

At Tuesday’s tasting, wines will include Tattinger Brut, Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc, Michele Chiarlo L’Orme Barbera d’Asti, Sequoia Grove Cabernet and more.

Lavelle’s always provides an antipasto platter to go with the wines.  Tasting is usually $35 but Lavelle’s has lowered their price to only $20 this week!  Robert from Kobrand has a wealth of knowledge, so please join me in tasting his wines!

The Details
Where: Lavelle’s Bistro
When: Tuesday, April 12th at 7pm
Cost: $20 per person
Please RSVP at 907-450-0555

Tasting of Unique Italian Wine at Gambardella’s

It’s not secret to those who have been to my tastings that I have a particular fondness for Italian wines.  The sheer variety of different styles from the country means that I’m always finding new and exiting wines that I haven’t tried before.  On Thursday, I’ll be sharing some of my discoveries with you.

Aglianico from Puglia, two different Barolos from Piedmont, a fantastic Super-Tuscan, and an unique frizzante piquant white from Northern Italy are just some of the selections.

As always, Gambardella’s will provide a selection of hot and cold appetizers with the tasting.  I hope to see you there, and don’t forget to bring a friend!

The Details
Where: Gambardella’s Pasta Bella
When: Thursday, April 14th at 7pm
Cost: $20 Per Person
Please RSVP at 907-457-4992

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Upcoming Tasting: Thursday, April 7th

Chile and Argentina

This week at Gambardella’s Pasta Bella we will be tasting a selection of wines from South America.  Wines will include Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir from Chile, as well as a selection of Malbecs from Argentina.

As always, Gambardella’s will be providing a selection of fantastic appetizers as well.  I hope to see you there, and don’t forget to bring a friend!

The Details
Where: Gambardella’s Pasta Bella
When: Thursday, April 7th at 7pm
Cost: $20 Per Person
Please RSVP at 907-457-4992

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Upcoming Tasting: Thursday, March 31st

Australian Gems

When most people think of Australian Wine, they think bottles with a cute Australian animal on the label and a price point of under $10.  Cheap, quaff-able, but ultimately unmemorable as well.  We won’t be tasting any of those bottles.  We’ll be tasting the good stuff.

Australia made a name for itself on the world wine scene by exporting millions of cases of bottles of “critter wines” – value-oriented bottles that were technically sound but artistically empty.  It is perhaps because of these mass-produced, mass exported wines that the Australian wine industry finds itself in the position it is in now- losing sales every year as the American dollar gets weaker while the Australian dollar gets stronger, making Australian wines less of a value than they were.  Moreover, because Australia built it’s reputation on these value wines in the past 15 years and not their quality wines, Australian wines are about as exciting as C-SPAN for most Americans.  (No offense to C-SPAN, I love me some House Rules Commitee).

This is a shame, because Australia has produced, and continues to produce absolutely fascinating, small-production wines of tremendous quality.  At the tasting, we will be drinking some of my top Australian picks, including a great Australian sparkler from Taltarni, a great old-vine Grenache, and of course some amazing Shiraz, including the massive D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz, which I talked about a little in this entry.

This will be a fun tasting with some phenomenal wines.    As always, Gambardella’s will be providing a selection of fantastic appetizers as well.  I hope to see you there, and don’t forget to bring a friend!

The Details
Where: Gambardella’s Pasta Bella
When: Thursday, March 31st at 7pm
Cost: $20 Per Person
Please RSVP at 907-457-4992

I apologize for the late notice for this tasting.  One of my company’s largest suppliers has their “fiscal close” this month, which means that I’ve been working around the clock to meet their goals, which doesn’t give me a lot of time to update my blog.

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