February 29, 2012
Late Night Import Tasting 2.0
You are invited to join us for another Late Night Buyer Tasting focusing on our direct import growers. Monday, April 9th from 10pm-2am @ Cream Wine Company's Wine Gallery
118 N. Peoria, Chicago 60607
RSVPs Required to Moe@creamwine.com
February 27, 2012
Brooks featured in Palate Magazine
Written by Cole Danehower January/February 2012
The story of Brooks winery is one of the most poignant—and ultimately uplifting—in the Northwest. Just before harvest in 2004 the popular upcoming young winemaker and owner, Jimi Brooks, suddenly died at age 38. It was tragic, yet his friends in the industry, including many legendary Oregon winemakers, stepped up and contributed their time and effort to harvest Jimi's contracted fruit (from 11 different vineyards), make his final vintage, and keep the winery open. Jimi's sister, Janie Brooks Heuck, took over managemnet of the winery and Jimi's son, Pascal Brooks, became the world's youngest winery owner.
A heartwarming story, true, but if Brooks didn't make superb wines it would just be another story. Today Brooks has a full-time winemaker in Chris Williams, a new winery in the Eola Hills, a biodynamically-farmed estate vineyard with 35-plue-year-old vines, and an ongoing reputation for crafting superb Pinot Noir and leading Riesling wines that remain a tribute to the winery's founder. I am embarrassed that I did not include them in the first edition of my book.
Brooks has always been a leader in Northwest Riesling. Their Ara Riesling is a blend of older area vines and offers rich dried apricot, minerals, white peach and lots of punch—one of the reference points for Northwest Riesling. The Willamette Valley Riesling is a bright, crisp, white peach and pear-nuanced wine that showcases the grape's elegance and vibrancy. Sweet P is the winery's "medium sweet" Riesling, with a creamy palate and sweet grass and spring blossom qualities; Tethys is made from frozen withered grapes for an intense, honeyed, late harvest version of Riesling.
The Brooks Rastaban Pinot Noir is a small-production barrel selection of estate-grown fruit that typically shows depth and power in good balance, with freshness of berry flavors and tight tannins—a good cellar candidate. More immediately accessible is the Janus Pinot Noir, a juicy wine with raspberry and blackberry notes combined with smoke and spice. The Willamette Valley blend is prototypical Oregon Pinot, with black cherry and raspberry character.
Brooks winery is no mere monument to its founder, nor does it seek to trade on the power of its story (indeed, most fans of Brooks wines are unaware of its history). Instead, Janie, Chris and Pascal have continued to employ the principals upon which Jimi founded Brooks winery (organic and biodynamic farming, promoting the potential of Pinot and Rieling, and a focus on non-interventionist winemaking), and have successfully grown the quality of Brooks wines, putting them in the top ranks of Northwest producers.
February 20, 2012
Salta: Wind-Carved Land of Strong Wine
Excerpts from the article By Daniel Altman for The New York Times
"Mention Salta to an Argentine, and the response is often the following: 'Ah, Salta the Beautiful.' That this northern province isn't better known to the rest of the world is an injustice. The road south from the province's eponymous capital to Cafayate, home to a cluster of vineyards, boasts breathtaking scenery, with cliffs of many hues shaped by water and wind. With the addition of tasty food, a rich musical tradition and powerful wines, the place should not be missed.
The city of Salta used to be known only for its colonial charms, like the late 19th century cathedral whose pink and custard facade looks down on the orange trees that line Ninth of July Plaza. But modern Salta has carved out a place as the leading city of Argentina's norhtwest.
The wines from Cafayate are strong and flavorful because of the area's microclimate, which can expose the grapes to a temperature difference of over 35 degrees in one day, said Fabian Mirando, an oenologist at El Esteco. Marco Etchart, whose family owns San Pedro de Yachochuya, added that Cafayate wines have an intense color too: 'The wines of Mendoza may be more refined, but here they have luminosity and power.'"
February 12, 2012
Cigare Blanc - Cloud of Ignorance Unveiled
Why I Love Cigare Blanc - by Randall Grahm
There has always been a received wisdom in the wine business about various "third rails," i.e. wines, no matter how great, the commercial prospects for which are believed to be essentially impossible. Alsatian white wines are generally believed to fall into this category (and their reds, well, hello!) And then there are white Rhônes, of the homegrown or expatriate ilk. Even the greats, the very greats - Chave, Chapoutier, Château Grillet, were believed to be largely unsaleable for many years. Against this backdrop and with the extreme predilection for lost but noble causes, we began making Le Cigare Blanc in 2003. On the one hand, it seemed to make perfect sense. We would use the principle grapes of white Châteauneuf-du-Pape - Roussanne and Grenache Blanc and create a companion bottling for our flagship, Le Cigare Volant. The first years were tough going, truth be told. The wines were generally not so prepossessing in their youth. (Roussanne has a fairly astringent skin - it is a russeted grape - and the young wine can be slightly tannic.) But we eventually got the hang of things. More intervention in the vineyard to get the two sides of the grape to ripen more evenly, better restriction of yield. I persuaded the grower of Beeswax Vineyard - the most aptly named vineyard from whence Cigare Blanc derives (there is an unmistakable beeswax character to the wine with a little bit of bottle age), to adopt an unorthodox irrigation style that promotes very deep and wide ranging root-system development. (That practice plus the use of biodynamic sprays and compost has really helped to accentuate the wonderful mineral aspect of the wine.)
The winemaking got better - very careful pressing to avoid astringency - and the wines, whether by chance or design, received some good bottle aging. And then suddenly I found that I no longer needed to shuffle my feet and vaguely apologize for the wine, but found that it was now blowing minds and thoroughly delighting palates. And most extraordinarily, it was selling, especially in fine dining restaurants with the capability of doing wine pairings. (I am told that white Rhônes in general as a category, are now seriously fashionable.) For Cigare Blanc is a gastronomic wine par excellence, a great foil to dishes with a little bit of fat - butter and cream sauces, even the generalized richness one finds in a lobster. There is a wonderful suggestion of autumnal fruit in Cigare Blanc - quince and perhaps Asian pear - the skin of the pear to be precise, possessing a most haunting fragrance. There is a lovely herbal, almost minty note - spearmint(?), a beautiful foil to the ripe succulent pome fruit aspect. I can't say that Cigare Blanc pairs with everything, but I did have it recently with sushi rolls served with fresh wasabi, and everyone at the table just went nuts with the felicity of the pairing. If you have the opportunity to find a bottle of Cigare Blanc with several years of age, you will be thrilled with its great complexity, and thankful for the cloud of ignorance that has surrounded this wine (and those of its ilk) for so many years.