Looking forward to the week ahead in San Francisco- January 21st, 2019

Friends of Flatiron,

We hope everyone started their week off right with an enjoyable MLK Day. We have got two very interesting and very different tastings lined up this week and some exciting offers planned for the newsletter. Here is what we have on the docket:

In-Store Tastings:

Wednesday 1/23, Tasting of Turkish wines with Blue Danube Wine at 5pm:  Our favorite arbiters of taste in the world of Eastern European wines return! We will showcasing a few new additions to our selection including a Georgian Rkatsiteli from Wine Thieves as well as a few others from Slovenia and Hungary. $5/tasting 

Friday 1/25, Bordeaux tasting with Wilson Daniels at 5pm: Arguably one of the most important importers in the game, Wilson Daniels is a company that brings some of the world’s most sought after wines to our shores. Join us for a jaunt to both banks of Bordeaux with a tasting of wines from Chateau Clarke from Listrac-Medoc, Chateau Malmaison from Moulis-en-Medoc and Chateau des Laurets from Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion. $5/tasting

In our weekly newsletter we’ve got the hotly anticipated 2016 Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Lioco Wine Company, the 2nd to last vintage for legendary winemaker John Raytek. Also on offer are a number of cuvees from Cote-Rotie stylistic contrarian Jean-Marie Stephan as well as an opportunity to purchase the cellar staple 2014 Oddero Barolo, a must-have for any Italian wine lover.

Cheers!

Your Friends at Flatiron Wines SF

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2017 Burgundy: A First Look at the Vintage

This post is still very preliminary, as the wines are still in barrel and I haven’t even tasted barrel samples. Still, there is plenty we already do know, and plenty of well-respected commentators have already given useful guidance on the characteristics of the vintage. After I’ve tasted — I will taste plenty on February 6 — this post will link to a new post with my own impressions from tasting. So, stay tuned for updates and, until then, below is a summary of everything we already know. 


What’s the big picture on the 2017 vintage? What’s the one thing I need to know?

At this point, most commentators are saying that they like the vintage very much. We’ll break that down for you in further detail below. It’s also a very abundant vintage. After nearly a decade of below-average yielding vintages, the Burgundians will actually have some wine to sell — the most since 2009.

What was the weather like in 2017?

It was a warm year. I was in Europe for much of that summer, and I can recall some extremely hot days! But Burgundy itself was a little more moderate than elsewhere. There was enough cool weather early in the growing season that at one point in May they were about three weeks behind where they usually would be in terms of bud maturity. Between May and August there were plenty of hot days, but also quite a few moderate days and just enough rainfall to avoid drying out the vines. If there is a “good” kind of global warming, this was it!

It was certainly warm enough that harvest was on the early side. People started bringing in their whites at the end of August and their reds the first week of September. Conditions during the harvest were mostly dry.

Basically, the weather didn’t provide any of the challenges that we’ve seen in recent year, with frosts, hail, excessive mildew, and whatnot. That’s why quantities ended up so high. There was a scary moment of frost in April, but it didn’t end up doing any serious damage.

What kind of wines were made in 2017?

The French call this a “solar” vintage, a vintage of the sun. By all accounts, the wines are definitely ripe, but not to the same extent as vintages like 2009 and 2015.  Commentators also note quite a bit of “freshness”, and a little less concentration than those vintages. As a result, people are calling the vintage “classical”, and many are observing that it is very transparent: each site produced wines that really taste of the site. Reading around, I get the sense that it is a lot like 2014, but better, thanks to a little more density and slightly riper fruit.

Is 2017 a better vintage for red wines or white wines?

Unusually, 2017 appears to be a very high quality vintage for both red and white wine. Since it is a relatively warm vintage, I was expecting it to be better for red, but the commentators I follow consistently note how amazing the whites have turned out — better than the 2014s in many cases, they say. We’ll have to see how the wines turn out when they are finished, but it seems likely that whites will have a slight edge over the reds.

Don’t the large yields in 2017 mean that the quality must be low?

No. Lesser producers may have produced more dilute wines, but the producers that we work with — those that are the focus of America’s more respected importers and commentators — do what they need to do to optimize yields and ensure good concentration in the berries. Many performed green harvests, for example. I have not seen any reports of any decent producer making dilute wines in 2017.

Did the 2017 vintage turn out differently in Burgundy’s different regions or villages?

No doubt, as this is always the case! I will need to taste around before getting a full picture, because the commentators haven’t offered much yet in this regard, and some of what they say is a little inconsistent. I read somewhere that the Chablis did not have enough acidity, but somewhere else it was described as “classic”. One person said that Nuits-St.-Georges was his favorite village of the vintage; another said that it was a weak spot. We shall see.

What exactly do the commentators say about the 2017 vintage?

Here are some key quotes from some of the most followed commentators:

  • Burghound (on red wines): “The better 2017s are also well-balanced wines built for medium to occasionally extended aging yet they should also be approachable young if youthful fruit is your preference. Before I offer more detail, the short answer is yes on both accounts that the 2017s deserve a place in your cellars and there is no reason not to buy what you can afford as the wines should be generally available given the more generous quantities.

  • Neal Martin (Vinous): “there are some quite brilliant whites that, many growers are beginning to opine, equal or even surpass the haloed 2014s. The 2017 reds are very good, often excellent, and from time to time, bloody awesome.”

  • Julia Harding MW (Jancis Robinson): “A lovely vintage north to south: wines singing their heart out.”

  • William Kelley (robertparker.com): On whites: “For white wines, 2017 should be taken more seriously: classically balanced and beautifully defined by site, these white Burgundies are less tangy and tensile than the 2014s, but they approach and sometimes surpass that vintage in quality.” On red: “The reds are supple, charming and expressive, characterized by melting tannins and comparatively low acidities. Reminiscent of a richer, more sun-kissed version of 2007, or a cleaner, more concentrated 2000, the 2017 red Burgundies will offer more immediate pleasure than the more serious, structured 2016 and 2015 vintages, though they are unlikely ever to rival those years for depth, longevity and complexity.”

  • Steve Tanzer (Vinous; on white wines): “The largest white Burgundy crop since 2009 has yielded pliant, elegant, pure wines with considerable aromatic appeal and early accessibility, along with the balance and stuffing for at least mid-term aging.”

  • Tim Akin MW (Decanter):  On Chablis: “If you like classic Chablis for medium-term drinking, the answer is yes. Prices will increase on 2016 in many cases, but these wines remain comparative Burgundian bargains.” On reds: “Supple tannins and lots of sweet fruit on the reds.” On whites: “Focus, freshness and minerality on the early-picked whites.”

So, what is the bottom line on this vintage?  Should I buy them?

It sure looks that way. This is a vintage of good to excellent wines with abundant quantities, both red and white. Meanwhile, 2018 is looking like a vintage that will be too ripe for many Burgundy lovers. Probably, with global warming, we’ll have many more vintages like 2018 in the future. So the question becomes, how many more “classic” vintages like 2017 will there be in the next few years? And when they come along, what will the prices be like? If you’re the sort of loyal Burgundy consumer that buys in just about every vintage, this is clearly not one to skip. And even if you dabble in only the good vintages, 2017 seems like a solid candidate for your attention.

Great! When can I get started?

Note that a few Chablis, Macons and region-level wines are already available. Village-level and up wines from the Cote d’Or will start to arrive this summer, in 2019. A full tsunami of 2017s will hit in the Fall of 2019, though we will continue to see late releases throughout 2020.

But you can get started buying the wines before their arrival thanks to our pre-sale program that we’re launching this year, in combination with a number of pre-sale tasting events, many of which are free or nearly free, in both our New York and San Francisco shops. To make sure you’re hearing about the details for these events, sign up for our newsletter (when given the chance, be sure to indicate your interest in Burgundy.)

German Wine Maps

As the grand finale for Riesling week, we’re delighted to share our wine maps of Germany and the Mosel. For more information about German Riesling, please peruse our Riesling Q&A blog. And, if you are interested to explore German Riesling IRL, feel free to check out some of the top German wine producers–all at Rieslingfeier this weekend–here

 

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Rieslingfeier Roundup

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Hello again Friends,

It’s Riesling Week in NYC. And this week culminates with Rieslingfeier, the celebration of all things Riesling. Thank goodness it is finally here! The Grand Tasting and Gala Dinner are officially sold out, but we hear there’s a waiting list and if you’d like to be added you can call the shop at (212) 477-1315.

And even if you can’t make the festivities, we have a sure-fire way to help you through the weekend: Almost every featured producer’s wine, for sale with deep discounts.

If you’re new to Riesling and don’t know what all the fuss is about, look no further: Josh wrote a nifty blog to get you acclimated and answer your questions. And if you’re ready to dive into the deep end of the pool with the rest of the Riesling fanatics, I encourage to you choose a couple of the bottles below. Taste for yourself what all the fuss is about.

This is also an opportunity to get a sneak peak at some of what will be tasted on Saturday or re-live your tasting experience from the comfort of your own home.

If there is a wine you taste this weekend that is not on the list please reach out with your requests. I’ll do my best to hunt them down for you.


Cheers!
Clara

Alzinger
Alzinger is located in the Wachau region of Austria, and the family owns parcels in the two greatest vineyards of the region (Steinertal and Loibenberg), where they grow mostly Riesling with exemplary skill.


Alzinger, Riesling Durnsteiner Federspiel, 2017
Refreshing and brisk, this has plenty of waxy yellow and green apple and stony minerals to create a very balanced and polished wine. (Dry)


Alzinger, Riesling Ried Loibenberg Smaragd, 2017
This is concentrated and richly textured, but with fresh acidity and enough fruit to remain very balanced. This is a good candidate for the cellar, but its exotic profile is delicious even when young. (Dry)

Breuer
Georg was at the forefront to produce a drier style of wine in his hometown of the Rheingau, Germany.


Georg Breuer, Rheingau Riesling GB Charm, 2017
This fragrant wine reflects over a century of winemaking tradition. Peach and lemon mingle with stony minerality for a juicy and refreshing quaffer. (Slightly Off-Dry)

Dönnhoff
Arguably the best winemaker in the Nahe, Germany.


Dönnhoff, Riesling Estate, 2017
This entry level Estate Riesling is pure elegance. It is graceful and lithe in texture, with racy acidity and ample stone fruit and citrus. (Slightly Off Dry)


Dönnhoff, Riesling Trocken Kreuznacher Kahlenberg, 2017
Full of the smoky, stony quality we love in great German Rieslings. It has great finesse and great fruit — a mélange of ripe apple and tropical guava. (Very Dry)

Eva Fricke
The darling of the Rheingau in Germany. Eva didn’t grow up in a vineyard, but has quickly risen through the ranks of amazing producers.


Eva Fricke, Riesling Rheingau, 2017
Her entry level wine lacks for nothing. It is full of verve, with a lithe texture and bursting with yellow apples, nectarines and a dry finish. (Slightly Off-Dry, finishes Dry)


Eva Fricke, Riesling Dry Kiedricher 2017

Stony, flinty smoke, kumquats and lemon peel. This wine is so ethereal a sip is like drinking air. (Dry)


Eva Fricke, Riesling Off Dry Lorch Wisperwind
Aromatic ripe tropical fruit on the nose. Silky texture, broad mid palate filled with pineapples and ripe peaches, the lifts-off with searing acid to produce and incredibly balanced, yet full bodied wine. (Off-Dry)

Gunderloch
6 generations of winemaking and 300 years on the land give a leg up to this classic producer from the Rheinhessen, Germany.


Gunderloch, Riesling Dry Estate 2015
Classic Riesling tertiary notes of petrol, damp earth and candied lemon peel pop out of the glass. A dense palate with plenty of acid and a smoky finish. (Dry)


Gunderloch, Riesling Niersteiner, 2014
From the coolest part of the hillside, allowing delicate notes of unripe peach, orange zest and lemon juice to dance around like a Prima Ballerina. The 2014’s have sold out everywhere else, get a bottle while you still can. (Dry)


Gunderloch, Riesling Kabinett Jean-Baptiste, 2017
A crazy deal for such an amazingly juicy, vibrant wine. Pickle brine, just picked peaches explode with mouth-filling texture. This is happy wine. (Slightly Sweet)


Gunderloch, Riesling GG Nackenheimer Rothenberg, 2016
Vineyards so rocky and steep the land is nearly impossible to work, which hasn’t stopped the Gunderloch’s from excelling at it for 130 years. Layers upon layers of peachy, chalky, lemony, flinty, waxy wine portray what makes this site and this family the best of the best. Drink now or cellar. (Dry)

Jurtschitsch
Vanguards of the natural wine scene in the Kamptal, an Austrian region known for elegant and aromatic wines.


Jurtschitsch, Riesling Zobinger Heiligenstein Erste Lage, 2016
Showcasing the prettiness of the Kamptal from the get go: Barely ripe nectarines, heady orange blossom and minerality lingers on the finish for as long as you can wait to have the next sip. (Dry)

Hirtzberger
Franz Hirtzberger hails from the Wachau in Austria and is as meticulous in the vineyards as the cellar. He doesn’t control the environment around him as much as coax its potential into being.


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Riesling Federspiel “Steinerterrassen”, 2016
Floral aromas abound on the nose, a bright lemon zing and a mid palate peachiness with a slightly lighter bodied than the rest of the line up. The best dry riesling I have found for the money. (Dry)


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Riesling Smaragd “Setzberg”, 2016
The highest altitude vineyard holding giving it the brightest acidity with true potential for very long aging. The nose is floral with hints of lemon and unripe peaches. The minerality and spice abound with slight petrol and the finish is long. This will go great with food now, but really sing with a couple years of bottle age. (Dry)


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Riesling Smaragd “Hochrain”, 2016
I was lucky enough to drink a 2006 recently. All I can say is BUY THIS BOTTLE and WAIT. The 2006 nose was spicy, earthy, truffle-y, orangey with honey and butter scotch exploding like pop rocks on my tongue. The 2016 is already so delicious and zippy, but poised to show the same evolution as its 2006 counterpart. A dry magical riesling worth waiting for. (Dry)


Weingut Franz Hirtzberger, Riesling “Singerriedel” Smaragd, 2016
Singerriedel vineyard, one of the best in the Wachau, rises steeply right behind Weingut Hirtzberger. Very special attention is given to the site, and the family has been rebuilding the stone terraces for 20 years. The reason for their great efforts is the extreme minerality of the soil, comprising gneiss, mica, schist and other primary rocks. This unique terroir provides us with the foundation for our greatest Riesling Smaragd. The Austrian equivalent to Trimbachs’s Alsace masterpiece Clos Ste. Hune. (Dry)

Egon Müller
Considered by many to be the greatest producer of Riesling from anywhere. Although his home base is in the Mosel, Germany, he making wine to express terroir around the world.


Chateau Bela (Egon Müller), Riesling, 2016
From Slovakia, this is another one of Müller’s farflung Riesling endeavors, and easily his best value wines. It is bone-dry, and has soaring acidity. We love it! (Dry)
Kanta (Egon Müller), Riesling Adelaide Hills, 2014
Concentrated and intense in texture, this has a bit of the oiliness commonly found in Australian Rieslings, but well-integrated acidity and bright, tropical fruit to round things out. (Dry)


Egon Müller, Riesling Spätlese Scharzhofberger, 2016 (super limited)
“Scents of white peach, white currant, lime and grapefruit lead to a lusciously fruited palate strongly citric in its bright juiciness but with less naked sense of electric acidity than his other wines. There is even a hint of creaminess to the texture. A mingling of ripe honeydew melon with alluring, honeysuckle-like inner-mouth perfume further enhances the sense of advanced phenolic evolution…. To cite deftly integrated acids and residual sugar doesnt begin to do justice to what is displayed here. And yet the finish, as long-lasting as it is, comes off as restrained and tucked in at the edges, no doubt pointing to a wine very much in need of bottle age to show its true potential.” David Schildknecht, Vinous (Medium Sweet)

Nikolaihof
Thought to be the oldest winery in Austria, with the first documents of wine production dating back to 470 A.D. This Wachau estate was also one of the first Biodynamic farms in Austria.


Nikolaihof, Riesling Vom Stein Federspiel, 2017
“This is just excellent wine, Nikolaihof as we love them to be; lively, sorrel-y, ped-pod and chervil; just on the right side of funky, full of soul and energy. But it’s a reflective sort of energy, suggestive of reverie even as it chugs and puffs.” Terry Theise, Importer & Author (Dry)

Selbach-Oster
Possibly my favorite Mosel estate. Johannes Selbach is renowned for his ability to take a snap shot of a vineyard at one place in time with every bottling he makes.


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Kabinett Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017
“More middle, more umami, the same sense of deep-shade, a weird cool heat. Sure that’s crazy but this wine is massive yet inferential, not so much deep as subterranean.” Terry Theise (Off-Dry)


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Spätlese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017
Slate, lime, apple, butter-vanilla, rich, almost chewy earthiness, great depth and very full-bodied. (Off-Dry to Medium Sweet)


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Auslese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017
Auslese or “Special Harvest”, are grapes from even riper, select bunches of berries, sometimes infected with Botrytis (Noble Rot). Tropical notes of pineapple and mango with hints of marmalade are layered in with the rest of the slate, cream and earth, very full-bodied. (Sweet)


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Beerenauslese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017 (375ml)
Beerenauslese or “special harvested berries”, individual berries picked at optimum ripeness, usually infected by Botrytis. Rich full-bodied, all of the tasting notes above with a magnifying glass on each aspect. This is a flavor generator and can age forever. (Very Sweet)


Selbach-Oster, Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Zeltinger Sonnenuhr, 2017 (375ml)

Trockenbeerenauslese or “dried special harvest berries” are only picked when infected with botrytis. This is one of the most decadent, intense, complex, longest lived, wines in the world. A whirlpool of marmalade, saffron, lemon, honey, butterscotch, cream, slate, salt, earth, mushroom, and a never ending finish. (Lusciously Sweet)

Want to understand that idea of “terroir-transparence”? Try your own comparative tasting with friends. Taste through all 5 prädikat levels from a single producer and a single vineyard in a single vintage.

Spreitzer
A beautiful and ancient, family-run, sustainably-farmed estate in the Rheingau, Germany.


Weingut Spreitzer, Rheingau Riesling 101, 2017
Aromatic white flowers with a titillating blend of tropical fruit and citrus. A perfect pairing to spicy asian food. (Medium Sweet)

Von Winning
This family estate in the Pfalz in Germany produces wines of great clarity and polish. High-density planting and organic and biodynamic farming combine with historical traditions beautifully.


Von Winning, Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Riesling 1er Lage Trocken, 2017
An incredibly chewy Riesling, thanks to extended lees aging. This is a minerality bomb, with just a hint of lime leaf and salt. A long, lingering dry finish. (Dry)


Von Winning, Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling 1er Lage Trocken, 2017
More silky in texture than the Paradiesgarten, this has ample and limpid clarity, with a bright acidity and more of that incredible minerality. (Dry)


Von Winning, Kalkofen, GG, 2016
Grown on chalky soils, there is a sensation on the palate almost like a still Champagne. Pure mineral elegance with just a slight nuance of citrus and green apple skin. (Dry)

A Simple Guide to German Riesling: Flatiron Wines’ German Riesling 101

This week Riesling is the talk of the town. In conjunction with Rieslingfeier this weekend, we at Flatiron are embracing the opportunity to talk about one of the world’s favorite wines: German Riesling. Not everyone has been able to take a deep dive on Riesling, so our first post will give you the basics. Keep watching our site this week for a few more posts about Riesling. And, if you aren’t already, sign up for our newsletter so as not to miss out on the Rieslings we’re featuring at a deep discount.

Welcome to Riesling 101! 

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What is Riesling?

Riesling is a noble white grape that makes aromatic white wines.

Riesling grapes make a huge range of still, white wines ranging from bone-dry to unctuously sweet. Riesling is famously good at giving a taste of the terroir in which it is grown. So, for example, Riesling grown in France’s Alsace region will taste very different from Riesling grown in Germany.

Where does Riesling grow?

Riesling probably originated in Germany many centuries ago, but is grown today in much of the wine producing world, including: Germany, Austria, France, Australia, New Zealand, America and Canada.

What’s special about German Riesling?

No country focuses on Riesling like Germany. Top producers, top regions and top vineyards are all devoted to the grape. There are German Rieslings for everyone from the first-time wine drinker to the geekiest wine geek.

Is German Riesling Sweet?

Some German Rieslings are sweet, some are bone dry, and most fall somewhere in between.

How can I tell if a German Riesling is sweet or dry?

German labels can be a little confusing, but for a quick way to get a sense of whether a German Riesling is dry or sweet, just check out the alcohol level: the higher the alcohol, the drier the wines; the lower the alcohol, the sweeter.

So, if a wine’s alcohol is above, say, 12.5% or 13%, it’s dry. If it’s under about 11%, it will have at least a touch of sweetness.

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Now, if it’s in the middle, it can be tough to tell just how sweet a wine is. It will really help to know just a few German words to look out for, starting with Trocken, which is German for dry. Obviously, if you see Trocken on a Riesling label, the wine is dry. Likewise, any wine that says Grosses Gewachs is dry.

There are also words that mean a wine is at least a tiny bit sweet, like Feinherb. Other words, like Spatlese and Auslese, usually mean that a wine is sweet–unless the label also says Trocken or  Grosses Gewachs — in which case it’s dry.

Why are alcohol and sugar levels inversely related? Because you make alcohol in wine by letting yeasts convert sugar into alcohol and CO2. The more sugar the yeasts eat, the more alcohol they produce and the less sugar is left for the drinker.

What does German Riesling smell and taste like?

Many different things! Depending on where the German Riesling comes from and how ripe the grapes got, Riesling wines can have aromas and flavors ranging from (on the less ripe end) lime and other citrus, through apple-y flavors, all the way to stone fruit and even tropical aromas (at the riper end).

Germany’s best rieslings grow on very stony sites and are famous for also having intense mineral notes.

As Riesling ages, it develops complex flavors including a signature “petrol” note.

Why are German Rieslings so diverse?

The world’s greatest grapes taste different depending on where they’re grown. Factors like the kind of soils the vines grow in, the altitude, climate and exposition all make the final product taste a little different. That’s why Pinot Noir tastes very different when it’s grown in California than in Burgundy’s Vosne Romanee.

The name for the factors that contribute to these unique tastes is “terroir.” No grape does a better job than Riesling of tasting like the particular terroir in which it was grown. Wine geeks call grapes that do this “terroir-transparent.” Riesling is very terroir-transparent.

German Riesling is very diverse for two reasons. First, because German Riesling grows in some very diverse terroirs, and because Riesling is so terroir-transparent, wines from different regions will taste distinct. Second, because German Riesling is made in many different styles and ripeness levels, you can find German Rieslings of many different sweetness levels.

Is German Riesling expensive?

Not for what you get! In fact, German Rieslings offer some of the best values in the world of wine.

It’s true some German Rieslings are super expensive. But they’re rare, even though back in the day, German Rieslings were as expensive and sought-after as the very best Burgundies.

That’s just not the case anymore. The wines are out of fashion, which means they offer great values. You can find bottles under $40 dollars that offer the kind of complexity, intellectual excitement and straight-up deliciousness that would cost way more than three times that if you were buying Burgundy.

But look out: fashions change… and this one is changing fast! German wines are more and more talked about among wine geeks and tastemakers in the restaurant and culinary worlds. Already, top producers that we used to be able to stock year-round are now entirely pre-sold. Prices are creeping up.

It’s a great time to buy German Riesling, but the value window may close soon.

Can I drink German Riesling with Food?

Absolutely! It’s one of the best wines for food. No wine is better suited to a wide variety of hard-to-pair foods, from traditional German pork products, to complex Asian dishes and the modern haut cuisines blending of the two with novel techniques. German wines elevate the dinner as they enrapture the diner.

Dry examples are great substitutes for Sancerre or other crisp, dry whites. A fine glass of Trocken Riesling can enliven any simple fish dish. But Riesling’s real magical culinary powers come out when you look at hard-to-pair foods, especially spicy ones like Thai or Chinese.

The spice and sugar in those foods can make red wines taste austere or metallic, and dry white wines sour or just washed out. Rieslings with a bit of sugar will stand up to the sweetness and even temper the heat. The mineral cut and bracing acidity are like a squeeze of lime on southeast asian food, bringing out details and making you want more all the time.

You need to try it to believe it!

Do vintages in Germany matter?

Yes, but with a run of great vintages from 2015-2018, there’s all kinds of great stuff to chose from.

Give it to me straight: Why should I care about German Riesling?

  • Incredible values.
  • Delicious wines with a unique and ancient history.
  • Terroir-transparent wines expressing varied and unique sites
  • An incredible string of vintages from 2015, 2016, 2017 and, now, 2018
  • One of the most perfect food wines imaginable; wines that pair with everything from classic French food to spicy Asian cuisines.

Is German Riesling complicated to understand?

We’re going to make it simple for you! A deep dive into the intricacies of German wine can be complicated, but the basics aren’t that hard to wrap your head around. Over the next few blog posts we’ll show you how.

Keys to understanding German Riesling:

  • Regions. Germany is a country of wine regions. France has Bordeaux, Burgundy etc., and Germany has:
    • The Mosel, Nahe, Pfalz and Rhenheissen (and many more!)
  • Sweetness/Ripeness. Unlike France or Italy (or most wine countries) German wines from a single vineyard can run the gamut from bone-dry to unctuously sweet. German wine laws have categories (e.g. Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese) to help you understand what’s in a bottle.
  • Producers. Germany has generations-old wineries (and winemakers) preserving ancient traditions. But it has also enjoyed an explosion of interest among super-talented young winemakers who are rediscovering old traditions and terroirs, as well as breaking new ground in response to changing circumstances (including global warming).

Looking forward to the week ahead in San Francisco, January 14th, 2019

Friends of Flatiron,

If the weather starts getting you down this week, fear not. We’ve got some tasty wines lined up for you to enjoy at the store and available for you in our newsletter. Here’s what we have planned this week:

In-Store Tastings:

Wednesday 1/16, Portuguese wine tasting with Obrigado Vinhos at 5pm: Already a legend in the modern Spanish wine industry, Patrick Mata took a bold step in 2010 when he founded Obrigado Vinhos, a truly comprehensive and game-changing Portuguese wine company. From Alentejo to Vinho Verde, Obrigado Vinhos represents some of the finest Portuguese wine makers. Join us for a tasting of a selection of sensational Iberian wines. $10/tasting 

Friday 1/18, Natural wine tasting with Amy Atwood Selections at 5pm: There’s a woman taking the American natural wine movement by storm and her name is Amy Atwood. Not only is she the winemaker for Oeno Wines, but she also created a company that represents some of the coolest natural small producers around. Donkey & Goat, Cruz and Dirty & Rowdy all work with her plus MANY more. Come taste a selection of wines from the portfolio for a truly natty experience. $10/tasting

In our weekly newsletter lovers of tasty and non-interventionist Beaujolais will rejoice with an offering of wines from Marcel Lapierre. For something a little closer to home we also be featuring the fascinating wines of Thomas Fogarty based in the Santa Cruz Mountains. However if you’re craving something a little more muscular we’ve got a deal on the 2016 vintage from Domaine Saint-Damien that you simply cannot miss.

Cheers!

Your Friends at Flatiron Wines SF

Don’t want to miss a beat? Sign-up for our newsletter already!  As loyal subscribers already know, the newsletter is not only the best place to get first crack at your favorite, hard-to-find wines at special discounts but it’s also where we go in great depth about the producers, vintages, regions and trends in the world of fine wine.

We send it once a week on Wednesday, unless, you elect to receive more. You can do so by using the form below or, here, if our site’s sophisticated technology isn’t functioning as described. 😉

Where to Search for your Reasonable Cellar in 2019

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In his January 7, 2019 blog post, Jeff reviewed the concept of the Reasonable Cellar and his approach to buying and cellaring wine. Today he offers some more specific suggestions as to how to apply this strategy.

While shopping for your Reasonable Cellar does not involve the painful process of chasing scarce allocations, it does allow for the fun of figuring out what exactly makes good, cellar-worthy values. It’s something that changes all the time, as vintages come and go, new producers emerge on the scene, and old producers retire, lose their holdings, change their style, or whatever. Here are a few ideas for 2019.


 

Loire

If I had to pick one single place on Earth to source wines for the Reasonable Cellar in 2019, it would be the Loire. This, of course, has not been a secret for long, as for many years people have been touting the exceptional values — both red and white — offered here from Muscadet all the way to Sancerre. But two things are a little different in 2019. Just a few years ago, the wines in the marketplace came from 2011, 2012 and 2013, all weak vintages. Now, virtually everything available comes from 2014, 2015, 2016 or 2017 — a string of four very strong vintages! You almost can’t go wrong, as long as you stick to artisanal producers and stay away from the industrial brands.

The other important thing to realize in 2019 is that the secret is finally starting to get out. We have now seen two Loire producers reach off-the-charts cult-popularity: Clos Rougeard and Vatan. Additionally, we have seen a small handful of Chenin Blanc producers earning unicorn-like reverence. It is inevitable that other producers will soon follow. It’s impossible to predict which — we recommend just buying wines and producers you like for as long as you can afford them. And watch this space for a thorough guide to Loire Valley wines later this year.

Beaujolais

Beaujolais is another region that seems to perennially provide value. Yes, the region now has superstars, and wines that are allocated far too strictly — Metras and Foillard, for example — but even those wines are rarely above $50 and we were able to offer both wines in our newsletter in 2018 (we’ll see how much we can land in 2019!). Definitely keep buying your favorites, as the prices have barely budged over the years — producers like Clos de Roilette, Dutraive and Bouland. But, be careful not to miss out on new producers, as this is neighborhood where vineyard land remains affordable enough that talented and ambitious young folk can actually get their hands on excellent terroirs. Sunier and Mee Godard both come to mind.

Beaujolais is great in the Reasonable Cellar not just because it is inexpensive but also because it ages quickly — most hit their peak at age five or so — and offers a really interesting range of terroirs, all with their own nuances, and all very visible because the wines are all produced with the same grape. Check out our guide to the Crus of Beaujolais here — hopefully we’ll get to updating that this year.

Piedmont

This is a tough one, because Piedmont seems to be affected more by global warming than most of our other favorite regions, and yet, well, it really is one of our favorite regions and we can’t leave it off a list like this! 2015, 2017 and 2018 were probably all too warm to produce much in the way of classical Nebbiolo, sadly, although of course there will still be plenty of tasty wine. 2014 was also a poor vintage in Barolo because of rain.

So what to do? Two things. One is obvious: focus on the two monumentally great vintages that are on the market, 2013 and 2016. Most 2013s have come and gone, and unfortunately most of what’s left is outside of the Reasonable Cellar budget. But keep your eyes peeled, because we are going to do our best to uncover a few opportunities in the next few months. As for 2016, the trick is to look at non-Barolos. Barbera, Freisa, and Nebbiolo d’Alba from many great producers are all coming online now. We will start to see Barbarescos this year. Do not miss them!

The other opportunity is in the “off” vintage of 2014. People don’t realize yet that, despite the problems in Barolo,  it is in fact pretty awesome in Barbaresco. We have at least two 2014 Barbaresco opportunities in stock now at Reasonable Cellar pricing and we hope to uncover more this year.

Bordeaux

In Bordeaux, you finally have two great vintages after years of problems: 2015 and 2016. Find wines from small artisanal producers that don’t really change their prices from vintage to vintage like is true for the big guys that deal with negociants. If you want to stick to Grand Cru Classees, then sorry, those vintages are going to be very expensive. But vintages like 2014 and 2011 offer good value, and we continue to find opportunities in back vintages like 2008, 2006 and 2004. Meanwhile, there is a whole world of value from not-so-famous Right Bank terroirs like Fronsac and the Castillon. Do not make the mistake of lumping all of Bordeaux all in the “lux” category and missing out on the amazing values from those regions!

California

Despite global warming and terrible forest fires, California has pulled off a series of truly fantastic vintages. At the same time, the wines that are emblematic of “New California” have become so mainstream that I am probably considered silly by many observers just for using the term. Taken together, we are truly in a new Golden Era for California, not seen since the 1970s. The problem is prices, of course, but even here we are seeing break-throughs, as it is increasingly being recognized that artisans need to produce the lighter, drinkable wines that are so easy to find in Europe at the $20 price point.

But this is still a challenging area for folks who want to keep a Reasonable Cellar. Look for opportunities in less heralded grapes like Zinfandel or Valdiguié. Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Syrah are sadly really tough, though here and there we’re able to find something. Our big advice for 2019? Go for Chardonnay. Californians are increasingly producing this grape in a more restrained, reductive–even Chabli-like–style that holds well in a cellar, and the pricing is for the most part still reasonable. And I have still never come across a pre-moxed Californian Chardonnay!

Tuscany

Like Beaujolais, Tuscany — and for now I am focusing mostly on Chianti — is a region that seems to perennially earn a spot on this list. No matter how good the wines they produce,, no matter how great the vintages, the price of Chianti does not seem to increase that much. My absolute favorite purchase in 2018 was the regular Classico from Castell’in Villa. Under $30, and I am very confident that it will give me enormous pleasure over the next 15 years. I cellared a full case; I wish I had cellared two or even three. That’s gone now, but folks are releasing Chiantis from 2015 and 2016 right now, and they are also great vintages.

The wines may not quite have the easy drinkability of Beaujolais, but on average they hold better in the cellar. And they are just so…satisfying! Stock up while this opportunity lasts, though honestly the price has stayed so stable for so long that it’s hard to imagine the opportunity expiring any time soon.

Campania

It’s no fun just having all the usual obvious regions on this list every time I put it out, so every time I make sure to add something new. I can’t believe I haven’t talked more about Campania in the past. I drink it at home all the time. I have cases and cases of Aglianico in my Reasonable Cellar, plus a bit of Fiano. The signature wine of the region — Mastroberardino’s Taurasi — is still only about $50 on release, and there are plenty of equally great wines from lesser DOC’s that cost less. This is an area — like Saumur in the Loire or Sicily’s Mount Etna — where I sense something really special is happening and it frankly reminds me of where the Northern Rhone was five or ten years ago. Pay attention!

Northwest Spain

Galicia, like a few other regions on this list — the Loire mostly, but also California and Campania — succeeds at providing obvious candidates for the Reasonable Cellar that are both red and white. They are blessed with wonderful grape varieties like Mencia, Albarino, Treixadura and Godello. They have some pretty crazy terroir, with awfully steep vineyards, and a wide variety of minerals in the soils underneath. They have vines going back 60-70 years and even further. They have, like Saumur, a lot of newish producers who understand the specialness of all these assets, and are trying to show them off to the world with traditional, non-manipulative methods. Like Campania, I think this is a region that is sneaking up on us and could really break out in the next year or two.

Rieslings

The best Rieslings from Germany, Austria and Alsace are already beyond the Reasonable Cellar budget. But it is still shocking how much great Riesling is produced in these regions that costs less than $40, or even less than $25. We sold Kabinetts from J. J. Prum for less than $40 in 2018, and these were so obviously great wines that will improve for five years or more in the cellar. There are so many other producers out there like that. Maybe the GGs from Donnhoff are now a little out of reach, but he has a wide range of incredibly delicious wines that are easily obtainable for under $35. This is very different from the situation in, say, Burgundy, where a Donnhoff analogy — Mugnier? — has become totally impossible for regular wine buyers.

Germany, in particular, has had a very good string of vintages. You can’t go wrong with 2015s, 2016s or 2017s. I haven’t tasted yet, but I understand the 2018s are also likely to be very good. Prices are going up, and this does not seem to be a situation like Chianti where you can always count on the prices staying moderate. A lot of good wines have already gone north of $50 and we think this trend will continue, partly because the Germans themselves recognize how special their wines are and they buy most of then locally. Until they do, you should keep stocking up.

Edges of Burgundy

Burgundy epitomizes all that is good and all that is bad in the wine world. The bad? You can’t find or afford wines from the most famous producers. Sorry, that game ended over ten years ago when the 2005s were released. Top Burgundy officially became unReasonable.

So why is Burgundy on this list? Because of the good. Because of the Edges. The Edges of Burgundy are all the villages of Burgundy that produce Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that would be considered world-class were they in any part of the world other than Burgundy, but that happen to be in Burgundy and therefore are completely over-shadowed by villages like Vosne Romanee and Puligny Montrachet. I’m talking about places like St. Aubin, Fixin and Mercurey. There are plenty more — I wrote a whole series of blog posts about them!

But I bring this up now because finally Burgundy has a string of really good vintages including one — 2017 — that actually produced a good quantity of high quality wine in both red and white. Buy plenty of Chablis, Rully, and Auxey Duresses in 2019, and you won’t regret it.


 

We will kick off your Reasonable Cellar buying tomorrow with a special offering of 30+ wines that all make great candidates. Make sure you are signed up to our newsletter.

 

Looking forward to the week ahead in San Francisco, January 8th, 2019

Friends of Flatiron,

We hope everyone had an amazing New Years! Hopefully you haven’t done anything crazy like make a resolution to swear off drinking or anything like that. Here’s what’s in store to convince you to keep your January as wet as the weather.

In-Store Tastings:

Thursday 1/10, Tasting with Frenchtown Farms at 5pm: Aaron and Cara Mockrish quickly became one of North Yuba County’s rising stars when they established Frenchtown Farms. Under the tutelage of Gideon Beinstock, of Clos Saron fame, and with fruit from the vineyards of the inactive Renaissance Winery it’s easy to understand why. Join us for a tasting of their wines. $10/tasting 

In our weekly newsletter we’ll be featuring a selection of Burgundies from Michel Gros from the 2016 vintage, the must-have Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Santa Cruz Valley icon Thomas Fogarty and a truly classic Alsatian Pinot Gris from Famille Hugel.

Cheers!

Your Friends at Flatiron Wines SF

Don’t want to miss a beat? Sign-up for our newsletter already!  As loyal subscribers already know, the newsletter is not only the best place to get first crack at your favorite, hard-to-find wines at special discounts but it’s also where we go in great depth about the producers, vintages, regions and trends in the world of fine wine.

We send it once a week on Wednesday, unless, you elect to receive more. You can do so by using the form below or, here, if our site’s sophisticated technology isn’t functioning as described. 😉

The Return of the Reasonable Cellar

 

IMG_1088The Return of the Reasonable Cellar

Around the beginning of each year, we love to remind our customers and readers that maintaining a wine cellar doesn’t have to be an extravagance.

  • You don’t have to spend tons of money.
  • You don’t have to chase a small number of highly allocated trophies that are being sought by more and more millionaires and billionaires across the globe every year.
  • You don’t have to keep a cellar filled with wines that you never drink, because they aren’t quite ready yet or because you’re thinking about how much you could sell them for.

Instead, you can maintain what we’ve been calling for years the Reasonable Cellar.

What is a Reasonable Cellar?

We define it as a cellar filled with wines that cost less than $50 per bottle and that are likely to improve within just a few years of cellaring. They should be wines that can buy without having to fuss over tight allocations. The $50 cut-off is loose: we go a little bit above that for Champagne, and in fact most Reasonable Cellar wines are under $30!

The theory behind the Reasonable Cellar is simple: there are a lot of great, cellar-worthy wines out there that haven’t been hyped up to the point that they have become unReasonable. Take Clos Rougeard for example. It is a great wine, but so hyped up that it has become very expensive and very difficult to find. Meanwhile, there are half a dozen producers in Saumur — Rougeard’s home village — that produce wines that give you 95% of the pleasure that you’ll get from Clos Rougeard.

But is the price of those other producers 95% of what you’d pay for Rougeard? Of course not. It’s sometimes as little as 10%. Even the top producer in Saumur whose name isn’t Clos Rougeard — that would be Thierry Germain — makes a wine entirely from Les Poyeux that costs roughly 25% of Clos Rougeard’s. And you can buy the wine! As of this writing, there are 12 bottles sitting there in our stock for anyone to grab!

The objection I hear most often is that people want the best. I know the feeling, and when I have the opportunity to taste the best, I do take it. So often, the “best” is disappointing. At dinner the other night we opened a bottle of 1998 Les Cailles from Robert Chevillon. That’s a very sought-after cru from Nuits-St.-George’s “best” producer. Current releases cost around $130, and in top vintages you have to get in line for an allocation. The 1998 was good but not great. Frankly, everyone at the table had far more pleasure from a wine from our Reasonable Cellar that we also opened: a Brovia Barolo 2008 — just the normale, not one of the crus. That’s a wine we offered to our customers for $39.99 in an email offer just a few years ago. Hopefully, you bought a few bottles, because now they are just starting to open up beautifully!

Anyway, as we did at the beginning of last year, this week we’re going to help you start — or perhaps expand — your Reasonable Cellar. On Thursday, January 10 we will publish a blog post that will identify the best current opportunities for a Reasonable Cellar (good recent vintages in good regions where values abound). On Friday, January 11 we will send out an email putting 30-40 excellent candidates for the Reasonable Cellar on sale — Cru Beaujolais, non-classified Bordeaux, Saumur, Italian and Californian opportunities, Rieslings, and more. Discounts are pretty deep and last year this sale was extremely popular. Make sure that you are signed up for our newsletter (CLICK to subscribe!) and look for the email around lunch time in New York. The sale will go through the weekend until the end of day Sunday.

 

What to Drink this Weekend in San Francisco- Volume 2, Issue No. 6

Dear Friends of Flatiron,

I am compelled to write about what special wines I’ll be drinking over the Holidays as Christmas approaches despite the fact that you have, no doubt, already read a great deal on the topic. But what makes my musings a bit unusual is that this is my first time actually making such choices not just for myself. As a professional retailer, and someone who is loosely Jewish, I’ve always volunteered to work for my gentile co-workers on Christmas Eve. Christmas Day has always been a lazy day of watching movies (specifically Home Alone and Die Hard), drinking a nice red Burgundy and slowly devouring an entire Peking duck. Some may think that sounds lonely, but I love it. That being said, I am truly excited to be spending this Christmas with my wife’s family up in Napa. Here’s what I snagged from our shelves to share with my family during my first Christmas.

I’ll use any excuse to drink Champagne and Christmas is an easy one. My recommendation is to choose a Champagne that is a little rounder and fruitier so that it can easily be enjoyed with or without food. Lean Extra Brut wines can be a bit too sharp right off the bat and oxidative/savory versions might be a bit too esoteric for infrequent drinkers to fully enjoy without food. I’m bringing Jean Vesselle’s Brut Prestige Millesime 2008, a grower champagne from Bouzy. Made of 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Chardonnay and a dosage of 7 grams/L this is a perfectly fruity and floral champagne for everyone to enjoy. It’s filled with remarkable homey flavors of creamy lemon, cloves, cinnamon and wildflower honey and finishes silky with notes of raspberry and red apples.

We’re all traveling on Christmas Eve so we’re keeping dinner pretty simple with a casual make-your-own taco bar. This was always one of my favorite dinners when I was a kid. As an adult I’ve added Mezcal to the table as an essential fixture. I’m making a big batch of Palomas for a Mexican-inspired libation filled with local and deliciously ripe ruby red grapefruits and Cara cara Oranges. When we got the Mezcal from Verde Momento, which is the best value Mezcal I’ve ever come across, I knew this was something I had to make for the my family. This Mezcal is produced using 8 year old Espadin agave and roasted using three different types of wood. The smokiness is strong, but extremely pleasant with a musky grassy, peach pit quality that makes it great for cocktails. It also has a variety of quirky labels which make it a creative gift and affordable one at only $29.99.

Since our family isn’t bound by any particular tradition, on Christmas we’ll be feasting on dry-aged steaks and a version of potatoes au gratin that is truly an homage to the dairy gods. I’m going with a bottle of Francois Carillon Bourgogne Blanc 2016 for my white wine, a round and supple Chardonnay filled with flavors of candied citron, apple and distinct grilled pineapple note that doesn’t come across as over-oaked. For the red I chose a 2016 Rosso di Montalcino from Conti Costanti for the red. If Biondi-Santi is outside your price range, Conti Costanti is a great alternative. Their history in Montalcino dates back to 1555 and you can taste that fact in their wines. Their Rosso displays deeply pitched and brooding notes of leather and cigar box which often fools experts into thinking it’s a fully-fledged Brunello. This wine is young, but I’m going to decant it in the morning to let it open up.

But probably the most festive wine I’m bringing is a bottle of Palo Cortado sherry. The first one I ever had, Valdespino’s Calle Ponce Palo Cortado, immediately transported me to a warm antique rocking chair in front of crackling fireplace in my mind. Few wines can take you on a journey like this one, with flavors and scents ranging wildly from mushrooms, leather and tobacco to butterscotch, maple candy and dates. Our family eats ice cream by the bucket and this is a sensational wine to have with it, especially a really good vanilla version. Having something sweet and creamy in the background lifts all the nuanced flavors the wine has taken on from over 25 years of aging. Buy this for yourself as a Christmas treat.

Happy holidays to everyone!