Pontet Canet 2007 & Pontet Canet 2008. A 'Vin de Plaisir' & a 'Vin de Garde.'

Jean Michel Comme holding court in full view of the vineyards of Pontet Canet.

Jean Michel Comme holding court in full view of the vineyards of Pontet Canet.

Jean Michel Comme pours his 2007 Pontet Canet.

Jean Michel Comme pours his 2007 Pontet Canet.

It was a brutally cold, windy, and rainy day in Pauillac when I visited Chateau Pontet Canet with other students from The Wine & Spirits MBA. But as I stood in front of a big picture window listening to Vigneron Jean Michel Comme speak about his struggles to create a biodynamic wine in Bordeaux's Left Bank, it was obvious there was something very special in this quietly humble man and the wines he oversees.

Obviously, I'm not the only one who thinks so.  Robert Parker, the great wine critic, has given Pontet Canet some of his highest accolades ever, including back to back 100 point (Perfect) scores for the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

Those aren't the wines we're discussing here.  We're discussing the 2007 and the 2008.  We're also discussing the French concepts of 'Vin de Plaisir" and "Vin de Garde."

2007 was the year that challenged Jean Michel Comme and Pontet Canet.  The weather conditions conspired against biodynamics and Comme felt like he had squandered the opportunity given him, but the owner of the vineyard.  And yet the wine is magnificent.  Why was he so disappointed?

Chateau Pontet Canet 2007 Pauillac.  $129.99 OH Retail.  "A purity to the red fruit that is almost magical in its beauty and intensity.  A pretty jellied richness marinading fresh cut herbs and bright fresh fruits.  A long finish is well cut tannins that lasts almost a minute."  95 points.  

2008 was a tight classic vintage in Bordeaux that didn't get a lot of respect in its youth because the wines were tight and need considerable cellaring.

Chateau Pontet Canet 2008 Pauillac.  $129.99 OH Retail.  "A beautiful red crimson color.  Dense, brooding, and primary.  Almost opaque in its power and tightness.  A forever wine meant for the cellar and consumption and lifetime from now."  95 points.

Here is the interesting question and the crux of this article.  How can two vintages of the same wine, using identical winemaking technique, have such completely different taste profiles and yet be the same quality?

It comes down to Plaisir vs Garde.  The French parse all wine down to two categories.

Plaisir (or pleasure wines) are ones that give immediate enjoyment.  They are often fruit-forward, generous, and hedonistic.

Garde (or 'to keep') are wines that will benefit from considerable time in the cellar.  They often produce more classic, traditional flavors and profiles.  Cellar wines also achieve a longevity and levels of complexity that Plaisir wines can't approach.

Which is better?  As usual, it depends.  Garde wines often reach higher levels of technical proficiency and complexity, but require time and proper cellaring to get there.  Plaisir wines can be enjoyed tonight.

What's the takeaway here?  When you are seeking out a premium high-quality wine (and spending some serious money,) vintage won't necessarily speak to the wine's quality.  It will, more likely tell you something about which style of wine you are going to get.

 

Experience More....

  1. Video Interview with Randall Grahm on Biodynamic Wine Making
  2. Video Interview with Rebecca Work of Ampelos on Biodynamics vs Organic

 

5 Values in 2008 Bordeaux

There is a real chance that the 2008 vintage in Bordeaux is our last opportunity to get premium Bordeaux for under $100 per bottle.  It was a good quality vintage that was massively overshadowed by the glories that were 2009 and 2010.  At the time, the wines seemed quite expensive, but then the new Chinese wealth started flowing into Bordeaux and pushed prices into the stratosphere.  All the wines that I mention took a 200% or 300% increase in price for the 2009 and 2010 vintages.

Photo Mar 08, 1 08 30 PM.jpg

If you are in Ohio, please buy these wines from me at Walt Churchill's Market.  If you are elsewhere, support this blog by clicking 'Buy Online."  The wines are reviewed in the order that I tasted them: from lightest to richest.

Chateau Carbonnieux 2008 Pessac-Leognan Blanc.  $59.99 OH Retail.  "A delicious and easily findable Bordeaux Blanc.  A beautiful golden color.  Luscious aromatics of orange and lemon-infused honey.  Gorgeous richness of flavor and texture while never neglecting a serious commitment to acidity.  Long finish."  90 points.   Buy Online

Photo Mar 08, 1 24 43 PM.jpg

Chateau Grand Mayne 2008 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.  $49.99 OH Retail.  "Dark crimson color for the only Merlot-based Bordeaux in the mix.  Smokey oak.  Dark red plum skins.  Sexy and sophisticated at the same time, but just when you think it is all hedonism, crushing powerful tannins drop on you."  93 points.

Domaine de Chevalier  2008 Pessac-Leognan.  $49.99 OH Retail.  "A beautiful red color.  Attractively classy in the purity of the red fruit.  It really keeps the hard stones of the appellation submerged - for now.  Minerals, red apples, and pleasant acidty.  Can easily be enjoyed now, but still has a long life ahead of it."  90 points.Buy Online

Photo Mar 08, 2 06 20 PM.jpg

Chateau Cantenac Brown 2008 Margaux.  $69.99  OH Retail.  "This wine changed dramatically over the five hours it was open.  It started a delicately, smooth interpretation of Cabernet Sauvignon, but moved quickly into becoming the wine I now describe.  Classic nose of black cherries and tar.  Tannics and young with a powerful grip that punishes you for opening a wine like this so young.  Still poised and graceful with black, blue, and red fruits.  Nice mouthfeel on a serious wine."  93 points.

Chateau Branaire-Ducru 2008 Saint-Julien.  $69.99  OH Retail.  "Red fruit in the dusty aromatics. A dark rich brooding wine with tight flavors and even tighter tannins.  Hard, cold, black fruits."  91 points. Buy Online

Okay, so none of these wines are inexpensive.  But you don't look to Bordeaux for inexpensive.  You look to Bordeaux for classically-styled wines of high quality, impeccable breeding, and reliable aging potential.  Value is a plus - if you can find it.  And you can find it in 2008 Bordeaux

If you want to learn more about Bordeaux and how Chinese money can drive prices dramatically upward - check out this phenomenal documentary called Red Obsession.


6 Bottles of Gigondas Worth Seeking Out

When I reach for a bottle of wine from Southern France, I'm often reaching for a bottle of Gigondas.  A small appellation at the feet of the Dentelles in the Southern Rhone Valley, this area provides the same Grenache-based blends that one had come to expect from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but at 1/3 or 1/4 the price.  There is also a grace a beauty to the wines of Gigondas that you don't necessarily find in many Chateauneufs. 

I recently tasted 6 of the top ranked Gigondas wines at Walt Churchill's Market in Ohio.  Most of the wines cost between $30-$45 (one was more)  and all had received critic reviews comparable to Chateauneufs between $70-150.  They are all worth seeking out.

The #3 Wine of the Day

The #3 Wine of the Day

Guigal 2010 Gigondas.  $32.99 OH Retail.  "Really pretty red fruit with gentle amount of spice.  Not a big structure here, but a wine that will appeal to California Pinot Noir drinkers or fans of modernist Spanish wine."  90 Points.

Domaine du Cayron 2008 Gigondas.  $34.99 OH Retail.  "The oldest and most traditionally made of the Gigondas I tasted.  Aromatics are dark fruit with stone, tar, and briar patch herbaceousness.  The wine is medium full with blackberry jam flavors and gentle tannins that hint at cocoa.  The finish really lingers."  95 points.

Alain Jaume 2009 Gigondas 'Terrasses de Montmirail.'  $34.99 OH Retail.  "Dark red color.  Palate is fresh blueberries and blackberries.  Full bodied modern luscious wine. with tannins that grip the sides of your mouth.  Very long and heavy finish."  92 Points.

The #2 Wine of the Day

The #2 Wine of the Day

Domaine Bertrand Stehelin 2010 Gigondas.  $33.99 OH Retail.  "Dark purple/black color.  A nose of grape jelly melting on a stone.  This is a dark, dry, brooding, tannic wine.  It is the most similar to a Chateauneuf and also the wine most in need of serious time in the cellar. You can tell quality is there."  94 Points.

Chateau de Saint-Cosme 2011 Gigondas.  $42.99 OH Retail.  "There is a reason that Saint-Cosme is so esteemed by Gigondas fans. This was a beautiful wine.  The quality of the flavors and aromas spoke of refinement and elegance.  Three things stood out to me.  1) Purity of the red strawberry/plum fruit.  2) Hints of premium cured meat like Prosciutto.  3) An ever present since of the earth and minerality.  Superb wine and great value."  96 Points.

The #1 Wine of the Day

The #1 Wine of the Day

Chateau de Saint-Cosme 2011 Gigondas 'Les Claux.'  $79.99 OH Retail.  "I almost weep when I taste a wine this good at this price, because this single-vineyard 100+ year old vine Grenache, is heading for the world of the unaffordable.  Red fruits and animal bloods mix over a complex cocktail of stones.  Both elegant and wild like a high-class seductress from a James Bond movie.    And it still will get better, the tannins are powerful and dominate your mouth on the crazy long finish."  98 Points.

I definitely recommend seeking these wines, and other Gigondas, when you are looking for superb wines from France that delivery superstar quality without the high price tag.

Also, if you want to learn more about the Gigondas region, I'll include a link to pick up the definitive work on Gigondas.  It's out of print, but you can still buy it used.  Enjoy.

Video: Anne Amie Vineyards - Winemaker Thomas Houseman

The first winery in Oregon that I visited was Anne Amie Vineyards in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA of Willamette Valley.  I got to the tasting room around closing time to find only the winemaker - Thomas Houseman.  We had a quick interview and talked about the distinctiveness of the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Anne Amie Vineyards, current trends in wine, and the meaning of wine.

Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman. Episode #45

Download the video in HD by clicking here.

The complete podcast is available in iTunes here.

35 Moments in Panama City. An Olympus Trip 35 Video

Talk about hybrid workflow.  In the 21st century, images captured on 35mm film and be scanned into the computer and turned into a music presentation that both resembles and transformed the dreaded vacation slideshow.

This video contains 35 images of Panama City, Panama taken in April 2013.  We visit the 'old town' area of Casco Viejo, which is undergoing rapid restoration while still retaining a rough vibe.  I also engage in some Street Photography (or Social Documentary Photography) taking candid moments of the people in Panama City.

The camera was the Olympus Trip 35.  This was the most successful camera ever made with 10,000,000 units created with essential no change to its design.  Selenium-cell metering that requires no batteries.  A hard metal camera that just does the job well.

The black and white film was 35mm Polypan F 50 - a european 'cinecopy' flm with no anti-halation layer.  It creates beautiful blooming highlights.

The color film in Kodak Portra 400 - one of the most modern sophisticated 35mm films with a gentle color palate.

Jidai Matsuri 2013 - Portraits in Kyoto, Japan

JidaiMatsuri12.jpg

On October 22, 2013, I found myself in Kyoto during one of Japan's most important festivals - the Jidai Matsuri.  This is a celebration of the approximately 1100 years that Kyoto was the capital of Japan, before the capital was moved to Toyko.

Over 2000 people dressed in authentic period costumes parade from the Imperial Palace to the Heian Shrine.  

It is a photographers dream, but rather than photograph during the parade, I chose to mingle with the costumed masses and capture some personal portraits.

I shot Kodak Tri-X, a 35mm black and white film known as the "photojournalist's friend" in my old Canon t70.  

These photographs are also featured on The 52 Rolls Project blog.

JidaiMatsuri01.jpg
JidaiMatsuri04.jpg
JidaiMatsuri06.jpg
JidaiMatsuri05.jpg
JidaiMatsuri09.jpg
JidaiMatsuri10.jpg
JidaiMatsuri11.jpg

5 Impressive Wines for Rediscovering Rioja, Spain

Spain produces the finest value wines in the world.

If you've been paying attention over the last 15 years in the wine business, you've seen the rise of 'modern-style' Spanish wines.  This rich and flavorful reds and white wines are notable for two major characteristics.  Luscious international-style wines and stunningly low prices.  In fact, if you are drinking wine under $10 a bottle, it is criminal if you don't buy mostly these wines.

And then there is Rioja.  Strong, austere reds that taste of tobacco, leather, and the entire spice red with a touch of red fruit.  This is Spain's classic region and the wines are as old-school as you can get.  

Here are 5 wines worth seeking out from top producers in Rioja.

photo-2.JPG

The Spanish tend to age their wines before release, so all of the following wines are available in the American market with these vintages.

Muga 2009 Rioja 'Selection Especial' Reserva.  92++/100 points.  $44.99 Oh Retail.

Very young with a long life ahead.  Strawberry jelly and gentle mocha on the nose.  Caresses the mouth with light toffee, cream, and spicebox.  Cherry fruit that darkens and becomes more tannic as it stays in the mouth.  Great for grilled meats.

Ramirez de la Piscina 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva.  93/100 points.  $39.99 OH Retail.

The value wine of this list.  A superstar vintage and a wine with 10+ years of bottle age.  Tawny colored rim with a red pitt.  The tobacco of a nice cigar with baking spices on the nose.  A light Rioja with finesse.  Gentle, elegant, feminine fruit.  Seduction.

Muga 2001 Rioja 'Prado Enea' Gran Reserva.  96/100 points.  $69.99 OH retail.

A masterpiece!  One of the finest Rioja's I've ever tasted.  Very spicy with an almost port-like intensity to the plum fruit.  Rich red color.  A complex series of flavors in a velvet texture that also is supremely spicy.  Classic.

La Cueva del Contador 2002 Rioja.  92/100 points.  $105.99 OH retail.

2002 was a very difficult vintage throughout Rioja and this is a very impressive wine considering what Contador had to work with. Dark color and dark plums and dusty aromas.  A smooth jelly of green pepper and red plums.  Very impressive body and richness with a dash of spice on the finish.

Remirez de Ganuza 2004 Rioja Reserva.  93/100 points.  $96.99 OH retail

Dark, smoked black fruit in a layered and opulent package.  Enough barnyard aromas to remind me of funky old Burgundy.  A blue/black smokiness finishes off this excellent wine.

 

These wines lack the fabulous low prices of the more modernist Spanish wines, but there is an argument to be made for classic, aged wines of very high quality.  In fact, if you compare the prices of old Rioja to that of ten-year-old Bordeaux or Napa Valley Cabernet, you may decide that these are still some of the finest values in fine wine.

But save me some 2001 Prado Enea.  I really liked that one.

Photographing Venice, Italy on Polypan F

For 2013, I have been involved in a photographic challenge with The 52 Rolls Project.  A small number of photographers from around the world agree to shoot one roll of film per week for the entire year and blog about the results.  I'm not going to inflict all my posts on you here, but the images were so wonderful in Week 36 that I'd like to cross post.

52RV1.jpg

The Week:  Week 36 was the week that I escorted a wine tasting trip to Italy for my customers.  My day job is Wine Manager of a Gourmet Foods Supermarket in Maumee, Ohio called Walt Churchill’s Market.  Once per year, I plan and create a wine trip to somewhere in the world that I then sell to customers at the store.  This week was Italy.  We started in Venice….

52RV2.jpg

The Camera and the Film:  My kit for Italy was a Canon A-1 and Canon FD 50mm f1.4 and Canon FD 24mm f2.8.  I also carried my Olympus Trip 35.  The films taken were a bunch of Polypan F 50 (hand rolled by the Film Photography Podcast Store) and Kodak Portra 400.

I also took a Canon EOS M Digital Camera to produce videos of the trip for my video podcast – Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman.  No digital pics for this page though!  (P.S. No video from this trip in on the podcast yet.  Editing video takes way more time than getting film processed.)

52RV5.jpg

The Shoot:  Venice was more touristy than expected, even off-the-beaten path, but the Polypan came through with some tremendous images.  Lacking the anti-halation layer, the whites of these images bloom naturally.  Very minimal post production.

52RV4.jpg

See more on  Flickr.   The 52 Rolls Group and My Personal 52 Rolls – 2013 Set.

52RV6.jpg

Barossa Valley Tourism Video Wins Cannes Grand Prix

It's an incredible video.  Lusty.  Sensual - in ever sense of the word.  It is a wonderful two minute introduction to the terroir of the Barossa Valley.  And now it has won the Cannes Grand Prix for 'Best Tourism Video in the World.'  Check it out. 

For more information on the video's production and the circumstances of the award check out this link to a news article at Adelaide Now.  

St. Innocent 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir - Vertical Tasting - 2007, 2008, 2009, & 2010

When St. Innocent Winemaker Mark Vlossak traveled to France, he noticed that many of his favorite wineries had one thing in common.  They all used Biodynamic farming.  So he began to search Oregon for some good Biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir.

This radical extension of the organic movement looks at the whole health of the vineyard, using organic practices, and also incorporated much pseudo-scientific thought.  Many have compared it to holistic medicine.  I don't agree with much of biodynamics, but do agree with Vlossak in the quality that this ideology often produced.

Vlossak purchases fruit from the biodynamically farmed Momtazi vineyard for St. Innocent and I knew that I had to try these wines.  Luckily for me, my Ohio distributor had four vintages in stock and I was able to throw a vertical tasting of St. Innocent Pinot Noir 'Momtazi' 2007-2010. 

It was no surprise that the wines were of excellent quality, but what surprised me was how the biodynamic farming seemed to moderate the effects of some extreme vintages. 2010 was one of Oregon's coldest ever and 2009 was one of the hottest ever.  Yet the heathy Momtazi vines seemed to not let the wines vary significantly.

Similar things happend with the phenomenal 2008 vintage and the 'Meh' 2007 vintage.  The wines were brought together stylistically.  Was this the health of the biodynamics?  I don't know the answer to that. 

For great discussions of Biodynamic winemaking check out my video interview with Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard or my video interview with Rebecca Work of Ampelos.
Momtazi Vertical.JPG

So let's get to the wines themselves.

St. Innocent 2010 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir.   92/100 Points.  $39.99 OH retail

A light pink-red color.  Bright red fruit nose with red apple skins.  Delicate red berry cream on the palate with a gentle texture.  Pleasant and undemanding, but still a super achievement.  Graceful, if even a little whispy at times.

St. Innocent 2009 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir.  89/100 Points.  $39.99 OH retail

Color is noticeably darker than the 2010.  More intensity to the aromas, but less depth of flavor.  Red plums, cherries, red dust on the palate with some oak and a strange citrus.  Can feel some awkward alcohol. 

St. Innocent 2008 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir.  91/100 points.  $39.99 OH retail.

Dark purple-red.  Aromas of intense red and black plums with brightness to the character.  Soft and silky with dark black fruits and (for the first time) some tannins.  This is young and tight with pronounced tannins, but just wait a few years. 

St. Innocent 2007 'Momtazi' Pinot Noir.  90/100 points.  $39.99 OH retail.

Brick red color.  Floral aromas with light herbal notes.  Palate is red and meaty with some warmth and hints of emerging herbs. 

In conclusion, there are some delicious wines here at pretty reasonable prices.  I'll definitely be looking for the 2010 'Momtazi' again.  The Biodynamic Winemaking thing is still up in the air, but all if you want is excellent Oregon Pinot Noir, you might find this something that works well for you.