December 27, 2010
Wine Advocate Issue #192
The Best of Northern California, Part 1, Napa Mostly
Blackbird 2008 Arise 91 pts in stock
Blackbird 2008 Illustration 90 pts 2007 in stock
Blackbird 2008 Paramour 91 pts 2007 in stock
Bryant Family 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon 97+ pts sold out
Bryant Family 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 94 pts tba
Byrant Family 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (94-96) pts tba
Hourglass 2008 Cabernet Franc Blueline 87 pts in stock
Hourglass 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 92+ pts tba
Hourglass 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Blueline 88 pts in stock
Hourglass 2008 Merlot Blueline 90 pts in stock
Kamen 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 93+ pts 2007 in stock
Kamen 2008 Syrah 91 pts 2006 in stock
Lewelling 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 96 pts tba
Lewelling 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Wight Vineyard 95+ pts tba
Maybach 2008 Materium 96 pts tba
Mayback 2009 Materium (96-98) pts tba
Mirror 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon 91 pts in stock
Mirror 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 91 pts tba
Outpost 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 94+ pts tba
Outpost 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (91-93) pts tba
Outpost 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 'True Vynd' 96 pts tba
Outpost 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon 'True Vynd' (94-96) tba
Outpost 2009 Grenache 89pts tba
Outpost 2008 Petite Sirah 'The Other' 92+ pts tba
Outpost 2009 Petite Sirah 'The Other' (91-93+) pts tba
Outpost 2008 Zinfandel 92 pts in stock
Outpost 2009 Zinfandel (92-94) pts tba
Foley 2008 Claret 96 pts in stock
Foley 2008 Merlot 95 pts in stock
Foley 2008 Petite Sirah 91+ pts 2007 in stock
Foley 2008 'The Griffin' 93 pts in stock
Switchback Ridge 2008 Cab Sauv90+ pts in stock
Switchback Ridge 2008 Merlot 90 pts in stock
Switchback Ridge 2008 Petite Sirah 95+ pts in stock
Tutu 2009 Pinot Grigio 87 pts in stock
Argentina 2010: The Best Over $20
BenMarco 2009 Malbec 91 pts 2008 in stock
BenMarco 2008 Expresivo 92 pts 2007 in stock
Crios de Susana Balbo 2009 Malbec 90 pts in stock
Crios 2010 Torrontes 91 pts in stock
Luca 2009 Malbec 92 pts 2008 in stock
Luca 2007 Nico 93 pts tba
Luca 2009 Pinot Noir 93 pts 2008 in stock
Luca 2008 Beso de Dante 92 pts 2007 in stock
Luca 2009 Syrah Laborde Double Select 92 pts 2008 in stock
Mendel 2008 Malbec 91 pts 2007 in stock
Mendel 2008 Finca Remota 95 pts tba
Mendel 2008 Unus 92 pts 2006 in stock
Mendel 2009 Semillon 90 pts in stock
Susana Balbo 2009 Torrontes late harvest 90 pts tba
Susana Balbo 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 91 pts 2006 in stock
Susana Balbo 2007 Nosotros 93 pts in stock
Tikal 2009 Amorio 92 pts 2008 in stock
Tikal 2008 Jubilo 92 pts 2007 in stock
Tikal 2007 Locura 94 pts 2006 in stock
Tikal 2009 Patriota 92 pts 2008 in stock
New Releases from Champagne
Duval-Leroy NV Brut 88 pts in stock
Duval 1996 Brut Femme de Champagne 91 pts in stock
Selosse NV Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs 'Substance' 96 pts in stock
Selosse NV Brut Rose 95 pts tba
Selosse NV Brut Blanc de Blancs 'Initiale' 94 pts tba
Selosse NV extra Brut Grand Cru la Cote Faron 92 pts tba
Selosse NV Brut Grand Cru les Carelles 93 pts tba
Selosse NV Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru V O 96 pts tba
New Releases from Piedmont
Cascina delle Rose 2006 Barbaresco Tre Stelle 88 pts out of stock
Cascina delle Rose 2007 Barbaresco Tre Stelle 90 pts in stock
Cascina delle Rose 2006 Barbaresco Rio Sordo 90+ pts in stock
Cascina delle rose 2007 Barbaresco Rio Sordo 92 pts 2006 in stock
Elio Perrone 2008 Barbera d'Asti Mongovone 91 pts tba
Giuseppe Mascarello 2008 Dolcetto d'Alba Bricco 88 pts tba
Giuseppe Mascarello 2008 Dolcetto d'Alba Santo Stefano di Perno 90 pts in stock
Giuseppe Mascarello 2006 Barolo Monprivato 96 pts 2005 in stock
Giuseppe Mascarello 2003 Barolo Riserva Monprivato Ca' d'Morisso 94+ pts tba
Giuseppe Mascarello 2006 Barolo Villero 91 pts tba
Giuseppe Mascarello 2006 Barolo Santo Stefano di Perno 94 pts tba
Australia's South Australia: Through Thick and Thin
Aramis 2007 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 87 pts tba
Aramis 2005 O'Aristocratis Sparkling Syrah 91+ pts tba
Aramis 2006 The Governor Syrah 92 pts tba
Blackbilly 2009 GSM 90 pts tba
Blackbilly 2008 Shiraz 88 pts 2007 in stock
Blackbilly NV Sparkling Shiraz SB4 88 pts tba
Blackbilly 2009 Tempranillo 87 pts tba
Elderton 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon 90 pts 2006 in stock
Elderton 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon 'Ashmead' 93 pts tba
Elderton 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Ashmead 93 pts 2005 in stock
Elderton 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Friends 87 pts tba
Elderton 2008 CSM Ode to Lorraine 92 pts 2006 in stock
Elderton 1992 Command Shiraz 94 pts tba
Elderton 2004 Command Shiraz 96 pts 2006 in stock
Elderton 2007 Command Shiraz 95 pts 2006 in stock
Elderton 2009 Shiraz 90 pts 2006 in stock
Elderton 2009 Shiraz Friends 88 pts tba
Elderton 2009 Neil Ashmead GTS Elderton Estate 92 pts 2008 in stock
Grosset 2010 Riesling Polish Hill 94 pts 2008 in stock
Grosset 2010 Semillon/Sauv Blanc 90 pts tba
Grosset 2007 Gaia Proprietary Red 90+ pts tba
Grosset 2010 Off Dry Watervale Riesling 90 pts tba
Grosset 2010 Springvale Watervale Riesling 92 pts 2008 in stock
Grosset 2008 Chardonnay Piccadilly 88 pts tba
Parker Coonawarra Estate 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Terra Rossa 88 pts in stock
Parker Coonawarra 2006 Merlot Terra Rossa 87 pts tba
Parker Coonawarra 2005 Terra Rossa 1st Growth 92+ pts tba
Torbreck 2009 Natural Wine Project 87 pts tba
Torbreck 2009 Saignee 87 pts tba
Torbreck 2010 The Bothie 88 pts tba
Torbreck 2007 Highland Fling 91 pts tba
Torbreck 2009 Juveniles 91 pts in stock
Torbreck 2009 R/M/V 90 pts in stock
Torbreck 2005 The Laird 100 pts tba
Torbreck 1996 The Steading 94 pts tba
Torbreck 1995 Run Rig 98 pts tba
Torbreck 2007 Run Rig 98 pts 2006 in stock
Torbreck 2007 The Celts 94 pts tba
Torbreck 2008 The Gask 92 pts tba
Torbreck 2009 Viognier 91 pts tba
December 17, 2010
Duval-Leroy: a name we should be a little more familiar
Duval-Leroy remains, at the beginning of the 21st Century, a family-owned firm; for that we should be grateful, as Champagne has already had more than its fair share of big business buyouts. Also, the range of wines has a number of surprisingly good high-points (although there are also some low-points), considering that this name is not one bandied about alongside other favorites such as Bollinger or Pol Roger; yet another reason to be grateful. Duval-Leroy is perhaps a name with which we should be a little more familiar.
Established in 1859, Duval-Leroy has been, for over a century, an 'also-ran'. Good wines were made here, but nothing to challenge the real grandes-marques of Champagne. In recent years, however, this situation has been turned around. The change came in 1991, when Carol Duval-Leroy took on the mantle of running the family firm, following the death of her husband. Carol's dynamic influence on the company, together with the applied skills of winemaker Hervé Jestin, has been a great benefit. Since she assumed control, quality at Duval-Leroy has soared, and during the 1990s the wines were easily of the quality one expects from a grande marque. Carol shifted the focus of Duval-Leroy away from producing Buyer's-Own-Brand wines, and turned her attention to building up the Duval-Leroy brand. Updating, innovating and improving was the name of the game. Many of the wines which today form part of the Duval-Leroy range have been introduced by Carol during the 1990s, including the Femme prestige cuvée. Her influence has been considerable, and it extends beyond the limits of her own house; in 2007 Carol Duval-Leroy became the first woman to take up the position of president of the Association Viticole Champenoise, a local trade organisation.
Duval-Leroy is based in Vertus, a village in the Côte de Blancs, and is now one of the largest land-owners in all Champagne. The firm owns vineyards in all the Grand Cru villages of the Côte des Blancs. A number of the wines reflect this location, as they demonstrate a certain quality of Chardonnay not to be found elsewhere. The house style here is elegance, freshness, with good fruit. This should be carried throughout the range, which is extensive, including several non-vintage cuvées, rosés and prestige wines.
Article written by Chris Kissack for www.thewinedoctor.com
Duval-Leroy wines in Cream Wine Company's portfolio
Duval-Leroy 1998 Blancs des Chardonnay 91pts WS 12/2006
Duval-Leroy (375 ml) NV Brut Rose de Saignee 91pts WS 11/2006
Duval-Leroy (375 ml) NV 'Lady Rose' (Sec) 93pts WS 12/2006
Duval-Leroy (187 ml, 375 ml, 750 ml, 1.5 L) NV Brut 91pts WS 12/2010
Duval-Leroy (1.5 L) 1986 'Cuvee des Roy' 92pts WS 11/2004
Duval-Leroy 1996 'Cuvee Femme' 92pts WS 10/2010
Duval-Leroy NV Rose 'Prestige'
December 07, 2010
Why Croquet? Why Not! Insider Profile on Melissa Saunders of OCD
"It's this elitist game, but there's nothing elitist about any of us. We're running around playing in a public park in Brooklyn."
When you work hard and play hard, it helps to have a sense of humor. It's even better to have family and friends who share your irreverence.
That certainly was true for mom and entrepreneur Melissa Saunders, who left her job as a lawyer working with victims of domestic violence to start her own wine distribution company, Communal Brands.
A food and wine connoisseur, she also wanted to create, market and distribute her own brand. She got a nudge from her friend and business partner, Chris Antista, who showed up at her apartment one day with a label he had designed: a head, in profile, featuring a phrenology diagram with nothing but wine on the brain.
"Part of it was a joke, and [part] an ode to me," Saunders says. Antista even came up with the name OCD, because Saunders was so obsessed with wine. But when federal regulators didn't laugh (they don't allow medical terms on labels), the brand was changed to Otto's Constant Dream (still OCD, but in a good way).
The name Communal Brands references the close collaboration between Saunders, Antista, Saunders' husband, Dan, and their team of office workers and salespeople. "The brand is all about the communal table and the importance of this notion of community," Saunders explains. Their collaboration — creative and otherwise — extends outside the office and onto the lawn of Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where they play not-entirely-friendly games of croquet.
Why croquet? "My husband's family is from New Zealand, and they are big croquet players," Saunders says. "That's something we imported with our friends. It's fun because it's team-oriented, but it's also highly competitive, which we really like. And it's very social. And, in the right context, you can sip wine while doing it. So it makes it that much more fun."
With Antista and other friends and colleagues, they founded the Brooklyn Croquet & Drinking Club, even creating business cards with the cheeky tagline, "We Only Show Mercy at the Bar." They meet up every other month or so for a match. "It's this elitist game, but there's nothing elitist about any of us," Saunders says. "We're running around playing in a public park in Brooklyn."
When she's not leading her crew in the office or on the lawn, Saunders isn't necessarily taking it easy — at least not in the traditional sense. She and her husband enjoy long-distance running, and might take a run as long as 15 miles on the weekends. "We would incorporate Manhattan into that," she says. "It depends on the route. My favorite bridge to run over is the Manhattan or the Williamsburg Bridge."
Both bridges are relatively easy to access from Clinton Hill, where she lives in a pre-war co-op building with her husband and 6-month-old daughter. With a variety of restaurants in the area — such as iCi, which features local and seasonal foods — the neighborhood has been ideal for someone so immersed in food and wine.
Saunders also partakes in the nearby farmers market on Saturday mornings. "I go get my coffee and my chocolate croissant at Choice Greene, and we head over to the farmers market," she says. "That's definitely a nice ritual that's part of our weekend. My husband travels every week for work, so that's our family time."
December 02, 2010
So Damn Pretty: Gaston Huet 2009 by Neal Martin
It recently came to my attention that I had failed, and failed miserably I might add, to post my tasting notes with respect to Domaine Gaston Huet’s 2009s. This is especially unforgivable since they represent outstanding alumni, but by delayed publication I am able to include a tasting note of the Cuvée Constance that was taken at a later date. The 2009 vintage offers the full panoply of styles that for want of a better word…are just so damn pretty.
The suite of dry Vouvrays should not be overlooked for the sweeter styles, if only because I believe they offer a better, more flexible complement to cuisine. The Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Sec 2009 is a great way to start with citrus peel and dandelion on the nose, the palate crisp and taut with a twist of sour lemon on the finish that left the palate tingling and demanding where the plate of mussels had got to? The Vouvray Le Mont Sec 2009 is on equal par, not quite as complex on the nose but demonstrating great precision on the palate and stupendous weight on the finish. I was not quite so taken with the Vouvray Clos du Bourg Sec 2009 since it lacked the tension I like to see in my Loire Chenin Blanc and I felt it lacked the same typicité on the nose compared to the Le Haut-Lieu or the Le Mont Sec.
I did not try any Demi-Sec, so moving onto the sweet stuff, the Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moelleux 2009 has a delectable bouquet of apricot, orange blossom and a hint of rosewater, the palate beautifully balanced with a tactile, almost sherbet sensation as if it fizzed on the tongue (and no, there did not appear to be any secondary fermentation going on.) It is certainly a pretty little thing. Similarly, the Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux 2009 is just so, so pretty, showing a more volume in the mouth and once again beautifully balanced. But my personal pick is the sensational Vouvray 1er Trie Le Mont Moelleux 2009 that is blessed with an entrancing bouquet of dried honey and almond, all with wonderful delineation, as if one is peering down into the vineyard itself. The palate is succinctly balanced with touches of dried apricot and hazelnut, as if Noel Pinguet had blended a little Meursault Perrières into his Le Mont.
Stunning! Now, go buy some.
The Vouvray 1er Trie Clos du Bourg 2009 was more laconic on the nose, perhaps cowed by the Le Mont Moelleux, although the palate is round and generous with hints of acacia honey and fresh ginger on the long aftertaste.
Finally, the Vouvray Cuvée Constance 2009, the Domaine’s most revered release that debuted with the mesmerizing 1989. Was it unfair to taste the nascent ’09 against that sensational debut at Handford’s 21st Anniversary tasting? It is a testament to the ’09 that it held its own against the ’89. The aromatics took a little coaxing and I afforded ten minutes of coaxing before I was rewarded with a heavenly bouquet of fresh pineapple, kumquat, dried apricot and a touch of oyster shell. The palate is vibrant, tightly wound and supremely focused with hints of quince towards the viscous finish. I’m sorry, but this was too delicious to spit out and what the hell, it was the final wine of the tasting.
All that is left for me to say is that these represent outstanding values considering their complexity and longevity.
2009 Gaston Huet Vouvray Le Mont Sec 91
The Le Mont Sec does not have the same complexity as the Haut-Lieu Sec, with more apricot and orange –blossom, though not the same level of precision. There is certainly more fruit character on the palate compared to the Haut-Lieu Sec with lovely dried apricot, lemon curd and a touch of vanilla. It displays superb weight on the finish and length with lime cordial and sour lemon on the aftertaste. Just a whisker from the Le Haut-Lieu Sec. Drink now-2018+ Tasted August 2010.
2009 Gaston Huet Vouvray Clos du Bourg Sec 88
This is a little bashful on the nose at first, with touches of cooking apple, pear, a hint of watercress and cucumber. There is something quite Antipodean about this Chenin Blanc. The palate has a fresh and lively entry with orange zest, lemon peel and very fine minerality. Nice poise here, more like the Haut-Lieu than the Le Mon Sec. Again, that lovely bitter lemon/sherbet finish although it just needs some more persistency. Drink now-2016+
2009 Gaston Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Moelleux 93
The Le Haut-Lieu Moelleux has a very pretty, feminine nose with apricot, rosewater and orange-blossom. Very fragrant but still a little bashful. The palate is very well balanced with subtle touches of orange zest and an almost like-like tactile sensation, as if this Vouvray ‘fizzes’ on the tongue. Perhaps it just lacks a little poise on the finish, but very harmonious and coquettish in its youth. A little ingénue. Drink now-2020+ Tasted August 2010.
2009 Gaston Huet Vouvray Le Mont Moelleux 94
The Le Mont Moelleux is less generous on the nose than the Le Haut-Lieu, with touches of melon, dried apricot, almond and a touch of passion fruit. The palate is quite rounded in texture with touches of sour lemon, apricot, passion fruit and Kaffir lime. There is an attractive fullness to this Moelleux, good volume although it clams up on the finish. There is such enormous potential here. Drink now-2020+ Tasted August 2010.
2009 Gaston Huet Vouvray 1er Trie Le Mont Moelleux 95
This has a beautiful nose with dried honey, almond and orange-blossom that is just beautifully perfumed with wonderful definition. The palate is very well balanced with touches of dried apricot, almond, a hint of hazelnut and orange zest, with nice build towards the finish and great persistency with apricot and white peach. Superb. Drink now-2025+ Tasted August 2010.
2009 Gaston Huet Vouvray 1er Trie Clos du Bourg 94
This is quite reticent on the nose so I leave this for few minutes in the glass, but I feel it does not ‘get motoring’ like the Le Mont Moelleux. Touches of pear skin, peach and apple-blossom. The palate is rounded and generous, very good weight, perhaps needing a little more tension a la Le Mont but good persistency yet again towards the finish with hints of acacia honey and a little ginger on the aftertaste. Lovely. Drink now-2025+ Tasted August 2010.
2009 Domaine Gaston Huet Vouvray Moelleux Cuvée Constance 97
This is a brilliant Cuvée Constance that may well rank as their best since the immortal ’89. The bouquet demands coaxing from the glass, but suddenly blossoms with tinned pineapple, Kaffir lime, kumquat, clear honey and oyster shells. The palate displays a vibrant entry that roots feet to the floor, brilliant definition and poise, very intense and focused, almost edgy with a harmonious honeycomb and quince-tinged finish that caresses the palate. Tempting to pop this early, but it will last for years. Drink now-2030+ Tasted October 2010.
December 01, 2010
Celebrating Chicago Sommelier Shebnem Ince: A Lifetime Full of Wine
Shebnem Ince remembers the flavor profile of the first wine she ever tasted. She was nine years old, and her father, who worked in a Gold Coast wine shop, would bring home bottles from the store. In their Rogers Park home, Ince (pronounced IN-ja) remembers, there was a "huge, long hall, maybe 30 feet, and he just filled that hall with wine." Her father sat down with her at the dining-room table before dinner: "He was sitting at the head of the table, and I was to his left." He opened a bottle of 1978 Spring Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay. "I just remember," says Ince, "it had this kind of golden apple and pear flavor profile, with a lot of caramel, toasty caramel. It was oaked in French oak, but I didn't know it at the time."
Following her father's passion, Ince worked in his wine shop, Bragno World Wines, during high school and over the summers while at the University of Iowa, doing the daily bank deposit, cleaning, gift wrapping, and helping to carry cases. Her father, who was a singer in Turkey before coming to the States, had cultivated a huge collection to fill the half-city-block cellar underneath the store. "It was filled with bordeaux and barolo and barbaresco and burgundy," she says. "That's kind of where I cut my teeth."
She moved away from the food industry for a few years while living in Seattle after college, living with her then-boyfriend and (unsuccessfully) trying to find a writing job. She worked as a photographer, traveling in her Toyota Corolla to high schools to take pictures of the sports teams.
But she continued to build her wine knowledge over the years. Too poor to go to tastings and fancy restaurants, she would stop every day at Seattle's huge public market, with "all the fresh produce." She'd bike there from the photography studio and pick up vegetables and fish and a bottle of wine — never the same one twice — from one of the small wine shops nearby. "I was fixing dinner and drinking wine every night for like four and a half years, so that's a really good way to learn." Her wine memory — she would take notes in the "wine journal of [her] mind" — is so sharp that she remembers, for example, the first time she had a Côtes du Luberon: drinking it was "like being on a country road in France," she thought.
After Ince's son was born in 1995, she went back to work in the restaurant industry: "I wanted to work nights so I didn't have to put him in day care." With her huge amounts of wine knowledge, she was able to "sort of fake" her server knowledge, and she got a job in the four-star Dahlia Lounge. Moving back to Chicago in the early 2000s, Ince worked with the wine programs for Blackbird and mk .
But it was at Que Syrah Fine Wines, a small wine shop in Lakeview, where Ince really found her way into the Chicago wine scene. As the store's general manager, she was also responsible for its marketing, and she worked there for four years. "It was peaceful and allowed for a lot of creativity and autonomy," she says. "But it is a difficult way to scrape out a living." In 2006 restaurateur Billy Lawless hired Ince as a consultant to his new Michigan Avenue gastropub, the Gage, but he soon expanded her role to wine director and sommelier.In late 2009, Lawless asked Ince to curate the wine list for Henri, the fine-dining sister restaurant to the Gage, as well as serve as its wine director and sommelier. "The interior of Henri had been one of architect Louis Henri Sullivan's last Chicago commissions in 1902," Ince wrote in Organic Wine Journal in July. "This is the last of five buildings left standing of all the prolific work from this important figure in modern design. It deserves to have a distinctive wine list to match."
So Ince decided to create a fully biodynamic and certified organic list, according to the rubric developed by French biodynamic viniculture pioneer Nicolas Joly. For example, to earn one star — the minimum requirement for Ince's wine list — the farmer can't use weed-killers or chemical fertilizers. A three-star rating, the maximum, prohibits any chemical changes that will change the wine's acidity, among other requirements.
There is a lot of misinformation about biodynamic viniculture, she says. Many articles about the process focus on its New Age-esqe aspects, like the mostly ritualistic burial of the manure-filled cow horn — farmers bury the dung-stuffed horn at the fertile time, and during the wintertime, they bury one stuffed with silica. This practice, says Ince, reminds farmers of the time to be fertile and the time to rest. But the ritual has nothing to do with growing the grapes or the flavor of the wine, and Ince thinks it's not even worth bringing up to customers. "I don't want to talk about manure with my tables," she says. "I am not going to talk about horns, and I'm not going to talk about cow poop."
Instead, Ince focuses on how biodynamic practices help a wine express its unique origins, through a winemaker's dedicated, intensive focus. "You have to be really present, physically and mentally," she says, during the farming process. "You have to be out there pruning, you have to be out there making sure your cover crops are alive, you have to be out there looking and seeing what pests are there and how you combat them naturally." And winemakers also have to remain vigilant during fermentation, using naturally grown yeast instead of exogenous yeast.
Henri's wine menu includes statements on biodynamics from two of Ince's inspirations: winemakers Alois Lageder (Alto Adige, Italy) and Ted Lemon (Sonoma County). "A farmer working in harmony with the forces, rhythms, and cycles of nature improves the health of the soil," writes Lageder, "increases the vitality of the grapevines, and thus, as well, the quality of the grapes he harvests."
"Through careful observation of our farms," Lemon writes, "we can learn to apply less invasive techniques and more natural materials, we can re-learn what our ancestors felt intuitively, how to work with the rhythms of nature."
I met with Ince at Henri in early September, about two weeks after the restaurant opened, to taste a selection of her biodynamic wines. She asked me to come around 3pm (they had not yet started serving lunch): At that time of the afternoon, in late summer, she said, "the light at Henri is breathtakingly beautiful." The 65-seat interior, with its robins-egg blue, brown, and gold shades, look fit to seat royalty — or at least those who can afford the restaurant's expensive menu.We sat by a window overlooking Michigan Avenue, and Ince set nine open bottles of wine on the table. We'll talk about some of the restaurant's glass pours, she said. (The wine menu changes about every six weeks — depending on how much Henri has in stock or if Ince is "tired of seeing the same bottle everyday" — so some of the glasses I tasted are no longer on the menu.) Since I'm trying to develop my palate and learn how to taste wine, she offered to break each glass pour down with me, talking me through the look, smell, and taste and trying to help me understand the individual flavors within each bottle. One of the unique elements of biodynamic wines are the honey flavor present in so many of them: "In a lot of biodynamic wines," she explained, "you have an extra layer of ripeness because the vines and the stems themselves and the seeds become more physiologically ripe. I don't know why, but it happens. The plants' ability to ripen at an even rate, like the soluble grape sugars in the pulp, are in tune with the seeds and the skin and the stems."
The technique of component tasting that we practiced, Ince says, didn't happen back when she first started tasting wine, when her father sat with her at the dining-room table. At that time, wine wasn't even broken down into varietal terms, like pinot noir or sauvignon blanc. With burgundy, for example, says Ince, people "never talked about red burgundy being pinot noir." Instead, they discussed "the different vineyard sites and the expressions of their terroir" (a word Ince says as if she had a bad taste in her mouth: "It's a really complicated concept, and I think the word gets thrown around with a lot of snootiness"). Now, says Ince, "people really hyper-focus on varietals."
The shift happened in the early 1980s, with Robert Parker, a wine critic who broadened people's capacity to describe wines. Before him, there was a "limited set of adjectives," says Ince, but he "really went out there on a limb," using descriptors like "cigar ash" to describe a flavor. "It inspired people to dig a little bit deeper." The shift — the way the media began to talk about wine and the changes in people's perceptions about wine — would be worth a book, Ince thinks. "Maybe I should write it. I'll take a Saturday night off from Henri, and I'll write my book."