Flatiron Wines SF: Celebrating one year

Aurélien Gerbais Popping Champagne!

Dear Friends of Flatiron,

We are excited to announce a very special event taking place tomorrow evening in our San Francisco shop. As we are a little over a year old now, it is only appropriate that we have a proper celebration. And what better way than to have a party with 7 winemakers from legendary importer Becky Wasserman? These growers have traveled all the way from France and Switzerland and will be finishing up their latest ‘tour de États-Unis’, so don’t miss out on the chance to meet them, imbibe, and be merry with us!

The event will take place on Tuesday (3/7) evening from 5pm-7pm and tickets will be only $15 to taste up to 16 wines & there will be cider too! Below is a preview of the goods:

From Champagne:

Pierre Gerbais

From Burgundy:

Sylvain Pataille
Domaine Michel Lafarge
Domaine La Soufrandiere

From Beaujolais:

Lafarge Vial Beaujolais

From Northern Rhone:

Jean-Baptiste Souillard

From Switzerland:

Cidrerie du Vulcain

No RSVP’s are necessary, space is first come first serve so get here on the early side to ensure you can taste through the entire line-up of fantastic wines, see you there!

-Your Friends at Flatiron Wines SF

P.S. For those of you who will not be able to attend – firstly, why not? – but, in all seriousness, we wanted to say thank you for your interest, support and friendship! It was quite the year and we are excited to take the learnings and experiences forward.

2Naturkinder: Wunder Nature Kids from Franconia

“The majority of wine drinkers aren’t aware of all the additives used to give wine the right taste, color and mouthfeel. Natural wines can look & taste unusual & crazy but it makes the wine a lot more authentic and individual. Our mission is to produce and bring natural wine from the vineyards of Franconia to the glasses of people appreciating pure wine.” – Melanie Drese & Michael Voelker

2naturkinder

The natural wine movement began in Beaujolais with the work of Jules Chauvet. From there, it spread to a few other corners of France, like the Loire, the Rhône, and the Languedoc. It then took a trip to Italy, especially Sicily. Bits of it are now showing up in California, Australia, and even, if you squint hard, Bordeaux.

But at the moment, the most dynamic and exciting locus of natural wine is in the German-speaking parts of Europe, in Austria and Germany. Today we are pleased to introduce 2Naturkinder. They are a couple—Michael and Melanie, quoted above—who abandoned a career in publishing to make natural wines from a small plot of vines in Franconia owned by Michael’s family for over 150 years.

They have quickly made a splash on the natural wine scene, turning heads at natural wine fairs throughout Europe. So far and so fast has their fame spread that we first heard about them from a Brazilian friend who publishes a wine magazine down below the Equator. He asked if we could get any of the wine, it being hard to find in Brazil. Our friend has a remarkable palate—not to mention a nose for the next great producer, so of course we searched it out.

Well, we here at Flatiron may be a little bit behind our Brazilian friend, but that’s certainly not true of Jenny & François. They were already on the case, and we were delighted to pick up what we could from the great 2015 vintage:

2Naturkinder, Fledermaus Weiss, 2015
80% Müller-Thurgau and 20% Silvaner. Fiedermaus means “bat,” and this refers to the guano that is used to fertilize the soils.

2Naturkinder, Spätburgunder, 2015
“Glou glou” style Pinot Noir raised in a 60-year-old vat. Franconia is actually well known (among some circles!) for its Spätburgunder.

2Naturkinder, Drei Freunde, 2015
The three major white wine grapes of Franconia are Bacchus, Müller-Thurgau, and Silvaner. These are the three “freunde” that make up this blend, which sees a fair bit of skin contact.

2Naturkinder, Heimat Silvaner, 2015
Silvaner is the greatest grape of Franconia, and this is what Michael and Melanie call their “fingerprint” wine. There is skin contact, so this is orange. They say “Light but enormously dense and intense.”

The Chablis-Like Red Wines of Dominique Gruhier

It was, of course, a thrill and an honor to host superstar Burgundy producers Lafarge and Mugnier at our store for a free tasting the other night. And it was no surprise that their wines are awfully good. The biggest revelation of the evening for just about everyone was Dominique Gruhier.  And “everyone” includes Freddy Mugnier, who had never tasted the wines before and was supremely impressed!

Wines of Dominique Gruhier

Wines of Dominique Gruhier

You see, Mugnier, like so many U.S. Burgundy drinkers these days, admires purity and clarity over power and ripeness. And Gruhier’s wines are so pure and clear that they seem to shimmer, like the water of a cool lake on a perfectly still morning.

Gruhier’s wines were new to Freddy, and to us for a simple reason: they are well off the beaten track. He makes wines in Epineuil, which lies on the northern side of Chablis, and which shares the same kimmeridgian soils. You would think this is white wine country, and in fact Gruhier makes some delicious Chablis-like white wine that provides tremendous value as well.

But Gruhier’s specialty is actually red wine. If you’ve had the red wines of Cotat, you know that Pinot Noir grown in kimmeridgian soils can taste wonderful and accurately convey that special terroir. Gruhier’s wines check both those boxes, but they also manage to taste more of Burgundy than any red Sancerre. There is a touch more density in the wines, and they strike a chord that really does evoke a floral and red-toned Burgundy from the Côte d’Or… sort of like Chambolle-Musigny.

Although great new wines seem to pop up in this crazy wine world all the time, it’s super-rare to find something brand new in such a thoroughly picked-over region as Burgundy. We couldn’t be more excited to present these:

Domaine Dominique Gruhier, Bourgogne Blanc “Tonnerre”, 2014
100% Chablis-like Chardonnay. A great value from a great Chablis vintage.

Domaine Dominique Gruhier, Bourgogne Rouge “Côte de Grisey”, 2014
Gruhier’s “village” wine, made in a classic style with 100% destemming.

Domaine Dominique Gruhier, Bourgogne Rouge “Côte de Grisey — Juliette”, 2014
From a 45-degree slope with thin, kimmeridgian soils. 50% whole cluster.

Free Shipping anywhere in California on orders over $129!

Nobody likes to pay shipping charges. So in February, we ran a special shipping offer from the California store: no extra delivery charges on orders above $150.

Thank you to all of our friends, new—and returning—customers, who tried it out!

In fact, so many people tried it and loved it­­ that we’ve decided to make it permanent!

So, starting today Tuesday February 28th, all orders over $129 from our San Francisco store will qualify for free shipping to any address in California!

Yup, whether you need a case of rosé for a party, a special bottle of Cabernet for a dinner, or a special gift for a client, we will get it there for you, no extra charge.

We’re going to try to keep tweaking and expanding this program, so please let us know how you like it and what we could do to improve it here or in the note of your order.

And if you do like it, please share it with your friends!

Here are some details:

· Your order must be over $129, before tax and after any applicable discounts.

· We will ship your order to a single California address.

· As always, an adult signature will be required to complete delivery.

· We will choose how to effect delivery. We will make some local deliveries ourselves. We will use Fed Ex ground for most deliveries, but may use other third party shippers.

· This offer does not apply to Flatiron Wine clubs and may not apply to certain other offers.

· This offer does not apply to express shipments, repeated delivery attempts or returned shipments.

· Shipping charges to a single California address are included in the purchase price of any order over $129. This offer has no other exchange or cash value.

· We hope to expand this offer in the future, and may need otherwise to change the terms of this offer in the future. If we do, we will update this blog post.

· Orders taking advantage of this offer are subject to our general terms and conditions, which you can read, here.

Getting to Know Aglianico — An FAQ

In the last few weeks we’ve been writing articles in our newsletters about Aglianico. We love the grape, and it is overlooked. We think it’s time to give it some space.

Our newsletter, though, does not have room for lots of detail. For anyone who wants to drill down and really get to know this wonderful grape, here’s an FAQ:

What is Aglianico?

Aglianico is a grape variety grown in Southern Italy, mostly in Campania and Bascilicata. Most experts consider Aglianico to be one of Italy’s “noble” varieties, alongside Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. It is the grape that makes Taurasi, the most famous red wine from south of Tuscany.

Why is it called Aglianico?

Most people will tell you that Aglianico is a bastardization of “hellenico”, and is a reference to the grape’s Greek origins. This myth has recently been demolished on two fronts. Linguists do not see any link between the words Aglianico and Hellenico. Geneticists do not see any link between the grape Aglianico and the grapes of Greece. The best evidence suggests that Aglianico is indigenous to southern Italy, and we don’t know how it got its name.

What makes Aglianico a special grape?

Aglianico has thick skins and naturally high acidity, which gives the wines tremendous structure. The combination is perfect for long growing seasons, often at high altitude, allowing the acidity to soften while the structural components of the grape develop full ripeness. The thick skins also help protect the grape from botrytis, which tends to develop late in the season.

What does it taste like?

Aglianico can taste an awful lot like Nebbiolo. Both are grapes that can produce fairly high alcohols but retain balance and freshness. They both have alluring aromas that evoke roses, other red flowers, and even porcini mushrooms. Aglianico often has the same kind of red fruits that you find in Nebbiolo (such as red cherry), but it is also more likely to have blacker fruits. Aglianico does not tend to have the herbaceous notes that you often find in Nebbiolo, but instead veers towards spice, coffee, cinnamon, and the like. Like Nebbiolo, they produce wines of high acidity and fine tannins, though the tannins in Aglianico tend to be a touch grainier. It is easy to mistake an Aglianico for a Nebbiolo in a blind tasting, though after the reveal you will usually notice the difference.

Are there different kinds of Aglianico?

We think of Taurasi, Vulture and Taburno as the three great DOCs for Aglianico. They are also three distinct biotypes. Taurasi berries are the smallest and least vigorous, resulting in very concentrated wines. Taburno is typically highest in acid and ripens soonest. Vulture tends to be the fruitiest.

Where are the best places to grow Aglianico?

Aglianico typically is grown on volcanic soils or steep mountain sites in Southern Italy. The world’s best examples come from the three DOCs mentioned above, Taurasi and Taburno, in Campania, and Vulture, in Bascilicata. You will often find it in other regions of Southern Italy, but with less frequency and often in a blend with other grapes. In Puglia, for example, Aglianico is blended with Primitivo, an “easy” grape that softens the severity of Aglianico.

There are experiments with growing Aglianico in other parts of the world as well. This has occurred mostly in Australia, but there are also promising experiments in New Mexico and Texas. Because of its unique physical properties and excellent resistance, Aglianico may be just the right grape for certain extreme conditions where wine cultivation doesn’t otherwise seem possible. It might be a generation or more before consumers can really start to enjoy the benefits of these early experiments. But no matter, in the mean time there is plenty of reasonably priced Aglianico from Southern Italy. On that note…

I want to try Aglianico. What should I do?

There are two directions to go in here. First, you should try a young, fresh, fruity example of Aglianico. The best region for these sorts of wines is Taburno. Here is one to try:

Fattoria la Rivolta, Aglianico del Taburno, 2013 – $17.99

Second, you will want to try a great Taurasi in all its mature glory. Because Aglianicos are so structured, they really need 10 years or more of cellaring. We have a great example from the 2006 for you to try at a reasonable price:

Molettieri, Taurasi, 2006 – $39.99

I am a collector. Should I add Aglianico to my collection?

Yes! Although wine writers and merchants have been extolling the virtues of Aglianico for years, it is still somewhat under-appreciated in the marketplace. This means you can get similar quality to a great Barolo for a lesser price. These are wines that age beautifully and for a long time. The 1968s from Mastroberardino are considered some of the best Italian wines ever made, and they are still going strong!

Probably the most collectable Aglianico on the market today is the Taurasi from Tecce. Tecce is a super old-school producer with very old vines. You can think of him as the Bartolo Mascarello of Taurasi. Check out his top wine

For something more modest that is really a great wine for the price and will totally improve in your cellar for many years to come, try Lonardo’s 2010 Taurasi.

Another Thought on Pouilly Fuisse

My article on Vincent Antoine and Chateau Fuisse has me thinking again about the advantages and disadvantages of AOC branding. Branding, of course, is really what the AOC system is about. It gives a group of vintners who share a geographic space and a set of norms and traditions the exclusive right to call their wines AOC “X”. It works out beautifully when the marketplace determines that X = Good, and suddenly the vintners can make and sell more wine for a higher price.

The great modern day example is Sancerre. As any American wine merchant will tell you, any bottle that says “Sancerre” on it will sell very easily. It is a brand, and a very successful one. But are there downsides?

In researching the article on Chateau Fuisse, I came across something interesting. I am too young to remember this, but apparently in the 1970s Pouilly Fuisse was the Sancerre of its time. So hot was Pouilly Fuisse in the American marketplace that half of the AOC’s entire production was exported here!

Guess what happened? Producers cut corners so that they could make more and more juice that they could bottle as Pouilly Fuisse. Farming became sloppy and yields rose; apparently, that flood of Pouilly Fuisse into America was filled with low quality wine.

Americans eventually noticed and they moved on. They started to drink Californian Chardonnay, and eventually Sancerre. Meanwhile, true artisans who made world class Chardonnays in the AOC — like Chateau Fuisse — were over-looked, and they remain vastly under-priced in today’s marketplace.

Is this now happening in Sancerre? We may be seeing the start of it. There is certainly a lot of low-quality, industrially produced Sancerre out there (though this is far more commonly found in super markets than in fine wine shops). There is also a certain anti-Sancerre snobbery that has set in among wine “elites”. This snobbery is already depressing the prices from great producers like Thomas Labaille and Pierre Boulay. When (and if) this snobbery starts to go mainstream (remember when the “ABC — Anything But Chard” movement caught on?), Sancerre could be in for a rough ride ahead.

Why does this happen? It may just be a good old-fashioned collective action problem. When a company has exclusive ownership over a brand, like Apple or Coca Cola, they have a strong incentive to maintain the brand’s value, by investing in product consistency and quality.  But when the brand is owned collectively — by a bunch of vintners in Pouilly Fuisse or what have you — it’s tempting to over-crop your vines and rely on everyone else to maintain the brand’s image. It’s free riding. An AOC can try to impose rules to curb this activity, like yield restrictions, mandatory harvest dates and so forth, but this is subject to a highly politicized process and comes with its own set of problems that plenty of people have written about (“What? I can’t harvest before September 1?  My grapes are perfect now!).

Of course, the easy answer for anyone who cares enough about wine to read this blog post is to purchase by producer rather than AOC. Hopefully, there are enough of us out there that the discipline of the marketplace will eventually overwhelm these countervailing forces. In the meantime, do take advantage of the great pricing from producers like Chateau Fuisse and Pierre Boulay!

2007 Cantalupo Ghemme: The Thrill of Something That’s Been Around

I’m as guilty as every other wine geek in America, and get super excited about the latest thing. A new vintage of my favorite Haute Cote de Bourgogne from Digoia-Rohyer shows up, and I have to bring it home and drink it immediately.  Because it’s new.  Even though I have a bottle from two vintages earlier that are readier to drink.

But I don’t make that mistake every night. Last night, my wife and I drank Cantalupo’s 2007 Ghemme. At Flatiron, we have been happily buying and re-ordering this wine since 2015. It’s now 10 years old, and it’s astonishing to think that we still have it on our shelves at its original release price.

Ghemme is one of those villages up above Barolo in the area called Alto Piemonte. Nebbiolo is the main grape there, though sometimes a little bit of Vespolino is blended in. This one is 100% Nebbiolo, so when you drink this wine it’s natural to make comparisons to Barolo and Barbaresco.

Essentially, Ghemme is softer and lighter than its cousins to the south, with a bit of spicy minerality thrown into the mix. It is a lot like Gattinara, but not quite as rich, and while Gattinara seems to emphasize rocks and minerals, Ghemme tends to have more of a smoky spice.

The great thing about all these Nebbiolo-based wines from Alto Piemonte is that they offer an opportunity to drink mature Nebbiolo far earlier than their Langhe counterparts. If you read our newsletter regularly, you might have noticed our reference a while ago to the 1980 edition of Hugh Johnson’s Wine Encyclopedia, where he reports that Alto Piemonte wines become wonderfully mature and truffly after just 5 years! And that’s from an English man.

Probably, the wines which are made now are better than back then. This Ghemme is certainly wonderfully mature and truffly now, but it took an entire decade to get there!

The truffles, the fruit, the spice…it was a truly satisfying wine. And to think that I could just pluck the wine of our store shelves and didn’t have to put it in my cellar for multiple years! As tempting as it is to taste only the latest, sometimes the best wines for the moment are just under your nose.

Pick up a bottle here

Free Shipping promo… this week only!

This week only (ending Sunday, February 19th at 11:59 pm) enjoy FREE SHIPPING on all orders of at least $150. You don’t need any special code to take advantage: You will see the free-shipping option at check-out, assuming you’re order is above $150 and you’re in one of the free-shipping states (listed below).

From our NEW YORK shop: All states bordering the Atlantic Ocean where we are able to ship, including all of New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, D.C., Florida, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and West Virginia.

From our SAN FRANCISCO shop: All of California, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona.

And more good news: You can combine this offer with our standing 10% MIXED CASE DISCOUNT for additional savings. 

So start shopping our New York store here, or our San Francisco store here. We have almost 3,000 artisanal wines and spirits in New York and almost 4,000 in California, including delicious gems at all prices from $10 party wines to rare collectibles. There’s something for everyone!

If you need help with your selection or any help processing the order, there should be someone available for on-line chat (just click the “Chat with us” button is at the bottom-right corner of your screen). Once you complete your order, our team will get to work confirming the details and arrange shipment when everything is ready to go. Simple.

Happy Shopping!

This offer is subject to the following rules and restrictions:
  • It applies only to online orders. No phone calls, emails, newsletter orders, or in-store purchases.
  • Orders must be for $150 or more, net of sales tax and after any case discounts are applied.
  • This offer is not retroactive and does not apply to any previous purchases that have not yet been shipped by us.
  • All orders will be sent by Fedex Ground, in all likelihood by no later than Monday, February 20, weather permitting. If weather does not permit safe shipping, orders will be held up to two months until a suitable shipping window becomes available. If you need faster processing, please let us know in the notes field at check-out, and we will do our best.
  • This offer does not apply to any requests for overnight or expedited shipping.
  • This offer is subject to all of our web site’s other terms and conditions, as well as any legal restrictions on shipping to your state. By accepting this offer you agree to these terms and conditions.

VIDEO: JR Breaks Down the Last 10 Bordeaux Vintages

For some time now, we’ve had a goal of shooting videos to educate and entertain wine enthusiasts near and far. Though we are now out of January, the month when all resolutions typically begin and end, we found a way to persevere and are proud to share our inaugural effort with you today!

As it turns out, even amongst our multi-talented staff there was no one who happened to moonlight as a professional cinematographer…so apologies if our first release is less than Oscar worthy. It can only get better from here, right?

So, without further ado, please press play (if the video hasn’t started already)!

-Your Friends at Flatiron Wines

P.S. We’d love your feedback so feel free to leave a comment below or at our Flatiron Wines YouTube Channel.

Foillard’s New Wine

In my book, Foillard is the absolute king of Morgon, akin to Rousseau in Chambertin, or Roumier in Chambolle. Foillard hits all the right notes, and more so than any other producers in his village, he achieves, what in my book, are four very crucial factors: deliciousness, consistency, age-worthiness, and terroir accuracy.

So I consider it a very big deal when Foillard adds a brand new wine to his line-up. Foillard already has two wines in his “classic” line-up of Morgons, his Cote du Py, and his Corcelette. (I’m excluding his Fleurie here, which is from outside Morgon, and his Cuvee 3.14, which seems stylistically different to me than classic Foillard.)

The Cote du Py is Foillard’s signature wine. It is grown on the most well known slope in Morgon, the Cote du Py (no kidding!). The soils have Morgon’s classic granite, but also schist and some manganese that gives the wine that extra oomph that you also find in Moulin-a-Vent (please see my post on Moulin-a-Vent for a bit of an explanation). The Corcelette is grown in sandier soils. It is decidedly lighter — or more “feminine” as the French would put it — than the Cote du Py, with less tannins.

And now we have the new kid on the block, “Les Charmes Eponyms”. Morgon is divided into seven climats, and Foillard’s Cote du Py and Corcellete represent two of them. Les Charmes is over on the western side of the AOC. Its soils are similar to Cote du Py’s. What makes it distinctive is altitude: it is the highest site in Morgon. The result is a happy mix between the Cote du Py and the Corcelette, with the soil contributing to a Cote du Py-like structure and the altitude giving Corcelette’s finesse.

Only ten cases came to New York and we took what we could. It certainly wasn’t enough to put in our newsletter. Hopefully when you read this we still have a few bottles available and you can give it a try.

Domaine Foillard, Morgon “Charmes Eponyms”, 2014