Charlie Opines About Wine

In my search for interesting wines to serve to guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, I attend many planned and impromptu wine tastings. I am happy to share my experiences with you. It's a tough job but someone has to do it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wine Tasting at its Best

Photo of Charlie the wine blogger.
Charlie’s weekly Wine-ings

New guests are arriving for their holiday and I feel the pressure to find new wines to serve them while they are with us at our bed and breakfast. Lucky for me, I have friends in the trade that invite me to some very unique wine tastings. Within a week’s time, I enjoyed two such special tastings. 

The first was billed as a ‘Trunk Show Tasting’ of wines by Heidi Berrett at the Embargo restaurant in Hyannis. As I learned, Heidi has an impressive resume, making wines for some of the Napa Valley’s super premium cult wines. Her works include perfect 100-point wines for Screaming Eagle in 1992 and 1997. I was excited to taste her latest project, Amuse Bouche. This is a big Napa Valley Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend created in a Pomerol-style to rival Chateau Petrus and Chateau Le Pin. These two first growth French wines often are almost untouchable with prices as, on release, they are in the thousands of dollars. I found the 2008 Petrus on-line for $2,799 and the 1982 for just over $9,000. It is not surprising that I have never tasted these wines, so I cannot honestly compare them to the 2009 Amuse Bouche I tasted. The 2009 may have been the best Merlot I have ever had and, at over $200 a bottle, may also be the most expensive. 

Photo of Amuse Bouche wine lable.
Another unique attribute of this wine is that a famous artist creates each vintage’s label. When the 2010 is released it will have a label by the late actor Toni Curtis. Only 575 case of the wine have been made, but each lucky person on the limited allocation list will also receive a lithograph of Cocktails for Two, numbered and signed by Curtis. I am sure the release price will also be reflective of the great wine and unique art the buyer will receive. I am sorry that I am not on the list. Some of us may have recognized the Berrett name from the famous 1976 Paris tasting when two California wines beat the best of the French wines in a blind tasting. Jim Berrett made the winning Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, and is the father of Heidi’s husband Bo Berrett.

Although the Embargo tasting was fun, a week later I had an even better experience at Cellar 55 where we tasted wines from Tom Eddy Wines. The key was that we tasted the wines with Tom Eddy himself, the owner and winemaker at Tom Eddy Wines.

What a great experience. Tom has been a force in Napa Valley since the 1970’s and has worked with some of the best-known names in the industry before starting his own winery in 1989. On his website he states:

Photo of winemaker Tom Eddy with a bottle of his wine.
Tom Eddy
“Making wine has been, and always will be, our passion, our work, and our play. But as we dedicate ourselves to quality in our wines, we are acutely cognizant that it’s also about the journey: relationships created, wines shared, concern for our community, and the environment; sprinkled with lots of laughter. Our goal is a life well lived, with honesty, humility and integrity, all of which we hope translates into our wine.”

We leisurely tasted five of his wines over two hours that just flew by as Tom told how he made his wines, but also told stories of his almost 40 years in Napa Valley. I liked his 2009 Elodian Pinot Noir the best and now proudly display a bottle signed by Tom in my cellar.

Tom’s stories included how he did not get one of the first jobs that he applied for in 1974 with Warren Winiarski at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Winiarski’s 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon was the red wine that beat the French wines at the afore mentioned 1976 Pairs tasting. We encouraged Tom to write a book to capture these great memories and share with us. He personally knows, and is one of, the great California wine makers that have made California the world leader in wine that it is today. 

What a week, tasting some of the most expensive wines I have ever tasted and then personally meeting and sharing wine with one of today’s wine maker legends. Stay with us at our Sandwich Inn and I might just share some this wine with you. 

Happy Wine-ing

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wine Tasting Notes

Photo of Wine Blogger Charlie Preus.
Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ing

Guests are arriving daily and I am hot on the trail to find new wines to share with them at our Sandwich Inn. The Belfry now has a formal tasting ever Wednesday, which gives me a close to home opportunity to taste new wines. It is also a time to see wine loving friends that I have not seen all winter.

Photo of Seven Heavenly Chardonnay wine.
Last week, the Belfry and Cellar 55 co-hosted a tasting featuring the Michael and David Winery and presented by Polly, the very knowledgeable Sales Consultant from Classic Wine Imports. Brothers Michael Phillips and David Phillips are the co-owners of this Lodi, CA. winery where their family has farmed since 1860. The family survived the dark days of Prohibition by selling their grapes around the country with detailed instructions on “how not to have the grapes turn into wine.” This early sense of humor and creative marketing can still be seen today in the wines we tasted.
Photo of Petite Petit red wine.
We started the tasting with the 2010 Seven Heavenly Chardonnay, a lightly oaked, crisp wine that was paired with Garlic Shrimp. The tasting notes say this is the sister bottling to their better-known Seven Deadly Zins but personally I liked the Zin much better. This white was quickly forgotten as we jumped to the reds.

Our first red served was the 2010 Petite Petit paired with Yellow Fin Tuna. I have had the last three vintages of this wine and have loved it every time. The 2010 stands right up to past years and is still a wonderful blend of 85% Petite Sirah and 15% Petit Verdot. The wine was big and too big for the tuna, but I still enjoyed it very much.

Next we moved on to the 2007 6th Sense Syrah paired with bacon wrapped pork tenderloin. I had not had this wine before, but it fits right in with Michael and David’s other cleverly named wines; it was very big and went great with the smokey pork.

Photo of a bottle of 6th Sense Syrah red wine.

We finished with the 2009 Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a chocolate mousse. Who doesn’t like Cab and chocolate, truly a match made in Heaven.

Photo of a bottle of Earthquake Caberner Sauvignon wine.So, it was a lovely night of new wines and old friends. Come and stay with us at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast and let me introduce you to some new wines and we may even become old friends.
Happy Wine-ing

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Special Wine With Friends

Photo of wine blogger and innkeeper Charlie Preus
Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

Yes, the busy season is right around the corner for us as Cape Cod Innkeepers and I am looking for wines to offer our guest. I have attended a few of the industry tastings and a few of the formal tastings at the Belfry Bistro. But a recent ‘impromptu’ tasting with my friends at Cellar 55 Wine Merchants introduced me to exceptional wines. As you may know, the same wines are not available everywhere. Limited distribution may be a factor if only a small number of cases were originally produced or selected placement could be the winery’s marketing strategy. You may find a wine you love in a restaurant that is not sold to retail stores, or select wines may only be available for purchase at the winery or to their wine club members. I belong to a couple wine clubs whose wines are not distributed to any east coast wholesalers or retailers.

Photo of a bottle of Sea Smoke Pinot Noir
As to the recent impromptu tasting, Cellar 55’s David just recently returned to Cape Cod from their seasonal yacht purveyor business on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. When he called to invite me to share some special bottles that he brought back, I was there before he got the corks out of the bottles. We started with a 2009 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir. I had only heard the name Sea Smoke from David when he would call over the winter to tell me about the great wines he had access to in the Islands. I loved this wine and with a little research learned it is a ‘world-class’ Pinot from Santa Barbara’s Santa Rita Hills AVA. This is the kind of wine that Miles, the lead character in that great movie Sideways, would have held up as proof of his belief that Santa Barbara is the perfect place to make perfect Pinot Noir. Then David tells me that as good as this wine is, the Sea Smoke ‘Ten’ offering is twice as good. Unfortunately for me, none of the Ten made it on the plane.    
Photo of a bottle of Turley Howell Mountain Zinfandel
Next we went to a 2009 Turley Cedarman Vineyards Howell Mountain Napa Valley Zinfandel. Unlike the Sea Smoke, I am familiar with Turley wines and have enjoyed their Zinfandel in the past. Actually, Jan and I visited the Turley Wine Cellars in Templeton, CA. (near Paso Robles) on our great 2006 wine adventure. At the time, I was doing a consulting project that required telephone conference calls at noon Eastern Standard Time. We were traveling in the RV and I planned my day around the 9:00 AM Pacific Time conference call and visiting Turley winery. We arrived in our fairly large RV at the tasting room’s small parking lot at about 8:30 a.m. and watched the employees coming to work as I conducted my call. After a few hours, I was afraid I would be asked to leave as tourist filled the lot. Thankfully, no one chased me off and I went in and tasted some great Zinfandels from some very old (over 120 years) vines.

Larry Turley is known for his big Zins, which he feels can only be made from these ancient vines. I did learn from this tasting that the first Turley Wine Cellars was, and still, is located in St. Helena, CA in the heart of Napa Valley, thus this Howell Mountain vineyard designation on the label. So, although I thought I was knowledgeable about Turley, unlike Sea Smoke, I again learned something new and enjoyed a great bottle of wine. 

What a life, a friend brings wines that we will never find in Massachusetts and shares them with me. Come and stay with us at our Inn in Sandwich, MA, and I’ll be happy to share some of my interesting wine finds with you.  
Happy Wine-ing

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts