Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Destination Cellars organized two champagne house tours for us that provided us with one on one tours at the Gosset Champagne House and Tattinger. We were met at Gosset by Phillipe, the head of international marketing for the winery, who spent 2 hours with us showing us the winery, the caves and then enjoyed a tasting of all of their champagnes, which were great. He even gave us a gift to thank us for visiting. It was a great start to the day.
Destination Cellars arranged lunch for us next at L'Assiette Champenoise, a restaurant just outside of Reims, which was just amazing. Chef Arnaud Lallement met us at the door and guided us to our table where we had some of the most amazing food and champagne of our trip. The service was exceptional and overall was one of the best meals we've ever had.
After that, we toured the Tattinger Caves and winery. It was also very interesting and afforded individual time with a knowledgeable guide who then provided us with a private tasting of all of their champagnes as well. It was very worthwhile and gave us a new appreciation for champagne and how it's made, stored and experienced.
Overall we had a great experience and would highly recommend using Destination Cellars on all our future wine and champagne tours, not just in France, but around the world.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The ritual of decanting has always had a certain allure or mystery associated with it. The beautiful glass vessels and careful service of the wine illuminated by the flickering light of a decanting candle makes any dinner a special occasion. I know sommeliers who decant every bottle served in their restaurants Others very rarely decant anything. So, how do we decide what to decant and when and why do we do it? In this installment of our periodical sommelier tips, I will dispel some myths and explore good habits for successful decanting.
At its most basic function, the purpose of decanting is separating the wine from any sediment, which may have accumulated in the bottle. Modern winemaking equipment and techniques make it possible to remove any particles from the wine through fining (the use of substances to bind smaller particles together and cause them to settle out of solution) and filtering (the use of a physical filter.) These advancements render traditional decanting useful only for older wines, which throw sediment from the ageing process, or for unfiltered wines.
As we decant wines, we expose them to oxygen, which degrades the wine over time eventually making it far less enjoyable. If the wine is an older wine, that process happens much more quickly, sometimes as quickly as mere minutes. Hence with wines older than 10-30 years depending on variety, vintage and region of production, you may wish to forgo decanting and live with the sediment so the wine maintains its aromas and flavors throughout dinner. In a younger wine, this process could take days or hours depending on the grape variety or winemaking style. With younger wines many people decant them to make them more enjoyable in their youth., Often the structure of a young wine seems to relax and the fruit flavors and other aromas become more present. There are many theories as to why this happens. I won’t bore you with the dozens of hypotheses I have discussed with top chemists, winemakers and other well-respected members of the wine industry, but rather relate to you the remarkable conclusion at which we arrived. Tannins and acids will react with the oxygen, to be sure, but this process takes hours if not days. There are sulfur compounds in every wine that often mask fruit and these can very quickly react with oxygen and disappear, accounting for some of the changes in the decanter over several hours. However, the most marked change is immediately upon decanting the wine. Why? The way humans perceive flavors is largely to blame here. We are acustomed to experiencing the most broad range of flavors in the presence of air. We chew food in the same place air enters our body as we breathe. This process adds oxygen or air to the food we are tasting and allows us to experience the full range of flavors. Similarly, the process of decanting also adds more air to the wine, which allows our senses to have an advantage when trying to process the flavors of a liquid.
If decanting for flavor really relies heavily on the way we perceive flavor, the most important yardstick you can use in deciding what to decant and when is your own palate. Try it at home. Open a bottle and pour a glass. Decant the wine and pour some wine from the decanter into another glass and taste the difference for yourself. Drink it the way you find it most delicious. Below I have included a few helpful tips on decanting wines properly. Until next time, may your glasses be full and only your bottles be empty. Cheers!
1. Always make sure that the decanter is clean and without aroma.
2. Decant to remove sediment or to make a young wine softer and more accessible.
3. While decanting can sometimes help a young wine become more drinkable, an old wine can collapse if left in a decanter too long.
4. If you plan to decant an older wine, try to set it on end the night before so all of the sediment collects in the bottom.
5. Using a candle or a flashlight is the best way to see through the neck of the bottle as your pour. Pour slowly and steadily. Do not stop the decanting process once it has started. Stopping abruptly would cause the sediment to stir up within the remainder of the wine. Stop pouring only when the sediment reaches the neck of the bottle.
6. Stainless steel filter/funnels are available as well.
Sean Q. Meyer, Estate Sommelier of Destination Cellars
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
When you are a sommelier you come to enjoy and appreciate good food and wine as a part of your daily routine. As a sommelier in Napa Valley first class food and the very best wine become almost expected at every turn. Still, every once in a while you are treated to something so unique and exciting that you end up thinking about it for days. I recently had one of those experiences at Meteor Vineyards.
About 10 years ago Barry Schuler (of AOL fame) and his wife Tracy fulfilled their longtime dream and purchased a beautiful property in Napa to begin planting grapes and making wine. Together with Dawnine and Bill Dyer, they produced their first vintage of stunning Cabernet Sauvignon in 2005. Today they use about 4 acres of the 22 planted. The other 18 are under long-term growing contracts with stars like Philippe Melka (Vineyard 29, Matisse, Hundred Acre, Gemstone) and Annie Favia/Andy Erickson (Screaming Eagle, Favia Wines, Ovid, Dalle Valle). Clearly this site produces spectacular fruit. We had a chance to visit this beautiful estate and taste nearly everything that they have ever made. As introductions to a newer property go, this was about as perfect as they get.
2005 Meteor Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine is showing beautifully right now. It is soft, elegant and rich with fine tannins. The nose is profoundly floral with an exotic perfume which includes lilac, lavender, tobacco leaf and black cherries. Black cherries are dominant on` the palate with hints of boysenberry and black currant leading to an elegant finish with hints of baking spices and cocoa. Cellar this wine if you like for another 5 years or so, but why wait. It t is absolutely delicious now.
2006 Meteor Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 was an interesting vintage. The slightly cooler weather was an insurmountable difficulty to some. But to talented viticultural teams, it provided an opportunity. The 2006 Meteor fell into the latter category. The aroma of this wine was delightful though slightly less floral that the 2005. On the palate, the black cherries hold slightly less sway with a mix of red and black berries taking the lead. The acidity and structure of this wine was a little more tightly wound but relaxed quickly in the glass. While tasting this wine I almost reflexively started thinking about all of the wonderful foods it would accompany. Short Ribs? Yes, Please. Duck Breast? Absolutely! Lamb? Fantastic! Truly an outstanding example of what was possible in 2006.
2006 Meteor Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Special Family Reserve”
The Special Family Reserve was introduced to provide a contract in character with the original Meteor Cabernet. This wine sees more new oak than the others and is almost entirely made from the blocks planted to clone 7 (more cassis and blackberry influence with a more plush texture). This wine seemed to be the favorite among most of the guests. Its bold fruit, rich texture and vanilla-mocha finish were a huge hit.
2007 Meteor Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Perseid”
From the 2007 vintage release the Meteor lineup has changed. Current mailing list members will have two wines offered; the “Special Family Reserve” and the “Perseid”. Dawnine said that the Perseid was born out of their better understanding of the property, which has allowed them to be more efficient in there harvesting and blending. With the increased availability of fruit (previously, they would only get enough for about 500-800 cases) they decided to split the line into two wines. The Perseid is reflective of the original Meteor Cabernet Sauvignon though perhaps a little lighter and not quite as aromatically complex while the “Special Family Reserve” is much richer, darker and has a more substantial use of new oak. The prices are $125 and $300 respectively on release.
The 2007 vintage was legendary here in California. Near perfect conditions allowed for a large crop of amazing fruit. Wines from this vintage are immediately accessible with rich fruit, great texture and an open flavor profile much like the 1997 on release. This Perseid really shows the vintage. The nose again shows the floral and sweet tobacco balanced with fruit elements which became like a signature as I tasted through the entire lineup. The texture of this wine was rich and silky while still showing great elegance. This is a brilliant offering at $125.
2008 Meteor Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Perseid”
The 2008 Meteor had recently been blended and its flavor components were just coming together. That said, this is a vintage in which the unique aspects of the vineyard allowed them to produce an extraordinary wine. 2008 was a vintage plagued by frost problems. Overall, the crop level in Napa was down at least 30%. The unique climate of this vineyard in Coombsville is much more temperate. They were spared largely from any problems with frost. I expect that this 2008 on release will show great concentration of fruit and will be a slightly more robust wine than the sleek 2007.
All in all, each and every wine I tried was nothing short of fantastic. To inquire or acquire, contact us at Destination Cellars or email me by clicking here.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
We only hope we can bring you some luck! Cheers!