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Saint Joseph's Feast Day and the wines of Saint Joseph

by josh-cohen

Saint Joseph Rouge (the red wine of Saint Joseph) is made with Red Syrah and up to 10% of the white grapes Marsanne and Roussanne. Saint Joseph Blanc (the white Saint Joseph) is made from Marsanne and/or Roussanne). They are excellent wines with a variety of foods and we love any excuse to open a bottle with dinner. Sam Sifton’s most recent What to Cook this Week noted that Monday, March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph. That immediately put me in mind of the delicious wine of the same name from the Northern Rhone. What a great excuse to enjoy a Monday evening bottle of Saint Joseph! Then I read that the feast is traditionally a Lenten one, and my first instinct was disappointment. Saint Joseph is mostly known for intense red wines that you want to drink with hearty, meaty dishes: roasted lamb, Cassoulet, that kind of thing. White Saint Joseph But that’s silly. First of all, Saint Joseph is also home to stunning white wines that pair perfectly with all sorts of vegetarian meals. And it turns out we have two of the very top small-grower Saint Joseph Blancs in stock right now, wines that are especially fascinating to compare side-by-side, from Monier-Perreol and Hervé Souhaut. Souhaut has become a darling of the Natural Wine Movement™. His wines are pure and full of life and exploded on the scene as exemplars of what natural wine could be. Today they are chased almost as much as the other elites of that movement, Foillard, Lapierre, etc. Monier-Perreol, on the other hand, has stayed somewhat under the radar, collected mostly by in-the-know wine geeks and died-in-the-wool fans of M-P’s importer, the great Kermit Lynch. It’s hard really to understand why they haven’t blown up more. They’re a small family domaine of the very old style. They farm Biodynamically, even practicing a traditional polyculture, with apricot orchards on their land. The wines are delicious and, like Souhaut’s, pure and terroir-specific (John Livingstone-Learmonth even M-P’s wines “notably pure” and ranks them as one of his rare “soil to glass transfer” producers”—one of the elites of the old-school, terroir focused producers). These aren’t the kind of producers whose wines we expect to see stick around, so I was pretty excited to find them both in stock (for now). Particularly since they complement each other so well. You see, Saint Joseph Blanc can be made from Marsanne and/or Rousanne. There are no rules requiring any particular proportion of each grape, so some examples are a blend of the two grapes and others are 100% one or the other. And while Monier-Perreol and Souhaut have much in common in terms of philosophy and approach, their white Saint Joseph’s are polar opposites in terms of varietal: Monier-Perreol’s is 100% Marsanne and Souhaut’s 100% Roussanne. The differences between Marsanne and Roussanne can be a bit of a mystery, even to devoted wine geeks. So tasting these two wines is a rare and exciting chance to really dig into their identities. The received wisdom is that Marsanne brings power and richness, and Roussanne elegance and freshness. And these wines show why that’s the received wisdom: there’s no doubt some truth to the view. But tasted side by side, these wines also show the limits of the received wisdom. Souhaut’s Roussanne has plenty of acidity and a fresh, accessible feel of mountain air. But M-P’s wine is hardly lacking for freshness, either. And while it may be the slightly richer wine in the mouth, it’s not like Souhaut made a wine without any base notes. Both are accessible now (the M-P especially with a little air) but take on all sorts of complexity and depth with time in the cellar. These wines will be great with any vegetarian meals you cook up, in honor of Saint Joseph or otherwise. And with spring just around the corner, not matter what the weatherman says, these are definitely wines for the times. And don’t feel like they’ll only work with vegetables and fish. They’re also great with Chicken or veal, or with a plate of cheese after the meal. Red Saint Joseph Even if the Feast of Saint Joseph was traditionally a Lenten one, we would be remiss to let the day pass without grabbing some St. Joseph Rouge for later in the week. There will be meat on our tables and St. Joseph makes some of the most magical and under-appreciated wines for pairing with dinners of all sorts. We all think of Burgundy as an ideal restaurant wine, since it can work with so many dishes, from fish through steak. But Saint Joseph Rouge also has its own, broad range. There are the lighter, purer examples—almost like Syrah-based Burgundies—with very fine tannins and lovely fruit. They are delicious with white meats and even heavier fish dishes. Then there are the meaty, bloody examples that are naturals for roast lambs and game. Ordering in BBQ? Don’t sleep on the Syrah! It cuts through sauces, complements deep rich meaty flavors, and will keep you coming back to watch how the bottle is opening up, long after you’ve had your fill of meat! We have great examples of Saint Joseph Rouge from both ends of the spectrum, and one beauty from right in the middle. Big and Savory Saint Joseph – Domaine Faury Saint Joseph 2015 ($29.99) Faury’s St. Joseph is one of our favorite examples a perfectly-pitched meaty St. Joseph. It’s got the bacon fat and hints of black olive framed by the mineral notes and pure berry fruit. But it’s never clumsy or big for the sake of being big: like all the great Northern Rhones, it’s got elegance to spare. The 2015 is a super vintage and we only have a bit of this wine left. But we’re about to get the 2016—which will be amazing, too. If you want to hear about that as soon as it lands (and get a special, Newsletter-only discount, in the bargain) sign up for our Weekly Newsletter here, or using the form below. Light and Burgundian Saint Joseph – Jean-Baptiste Souillard Saint Joseph 2015 ($37.99) Souillard is a young up-and-comer who trained in Burgundy (among other regions) and is imported by Burgundy legend, Becky Wasserman. He takes a decidedly Burgundian approach to his winemaking. While his Syrahs taste like Syrahs, the emphasis is definitely on the airy and straight-up delicious aspects of his terroirs and variety of choice. Goldilocks Saint Joseph – Natacha Chave’s Domaine Aléofane Saint Joseph 2015 ($32.99) Natacha is from a family of vignerons, but set out on her own to make the wines she wanted to make: beautiful, fresh and balanced, with succulent Burgundian fruit, but pronounced savory notes too. This is great stuff, and not yet discovered in America. To help you celebrate Saint Joseph’s feast, we’re discounting all our Saint Josephs for the week on our web store. They’re 10% off, 15% if you buy 6 or more. But this is an online-only offer for readers of our blog: use coupon code FEAST18 to take advantage before end of day Sunday March 25th.  

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Great Dinner Party Wines with Spencer

by val

  Join us this Friday night as we pour a selection of wines from The Winebow Group, a distributor that focuses on small, family-run winemakers. These wines are balanced, complex and delicious. We've put together a selection of wines for this evening that would be perfect to serve at your next dinner party. The lineup: a light, crisp rosé from Long Island that you might confuse for a Provençal wine; a light and juicy Beaujolais; a mineral-driven but weighty Chablis; and a surprisingly Burgundian Pinot Noir from New Zealand's Central Otago, to round things out. Spencer will be your faithful guide, and we think you just might find one of your new favorite bottles.   Wolffer Estate, Long Island Rose, 2017 -- $18.99 Marcel Lapierre, "Raisins Gaulois", 2016 -- $15.99 Francine & Olivier Savary, Chablis “Vaillons”, 2016 -- $34.99 Two Paddocks, Pinot Noir, 2015 -- $47.99

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Domaine Gramenon's "Ceps Centenaire La Mémé"

by josh-cohen

There’s rare, and then there’s rare. And Gramenon’s top wine, the “Ceps Centenaire La Mémé,” has always been rare. For years, the New York allocation was so tiny that the local agent refused to work with it for fear of disappointing too many customers. But we begged and we pleaded, badgered and cajoled, and two years ago we finally got enough to offer to a sub-list of our newsletter readers. And last year we got enough to offer to our whole Newsletter. And this year we finally have enough to be able to put it a few cases online. Why all the fuss? Here’s a quick overview of Gramenon and their culty top wine. Who is Gramenon? Gramenon is a tiny, family domaine run by Michèle Aubèry-Laurent and her son, Maxime Laurent. Michèle and her late husband, Phillippe founded the Gramenon in the late 1980s, and when Phillippe died in 1999, Michèle took sole control, and built it into a true cult favorite. Michèle and Maxime work a tiny corner at the extreme northeast of the Southern Rhone, far from the legendary lands of Chateauneuf. They’re organic, biodynamic and very natural (minimal sulfur, even). Where Gramenon farm, Grenache's elegant side is in the driver's seat. It's a little cooler; actually, you're practically in the Northern Rhône, so it's no accident that Gramenon also grows plenty of Syrah and Viognier (we still have a very few bottles of their excellent Viognier “La Vie on y est”). Gramenon is also blessed with lots of limestone in their soils. So while Grenache from the Rhone usually tastes like it’s from the south of France, Gramenon's (like Rayas' and a few others'), tastes more like it’s from the north. The icing on the cake is that Gramenon has some very old vines. As you may know, Grenache likes old vines, and old vines seem to transmit terroir better. So Gramenon’s wines are not just delicious and dense and lithe, all at the same time, they also have a real gout du terroir. The Laurent’s make a range of great wines, including some stunning Grenaches from those vines of various ages: L’Elementaire ($27.99), from 45-year-old Grenache planted in stony, clay and limestone soils, isn’t quite a baby wine (that would be the Poignée de Raisins), but it’s close, given how old some of their vines are. The Elementaire is made with partially destemmed fruit that ferments for about 15 days in cement and then ages briefly in a mix of cuve and wood, giving it a fresh and crunchy Southern Rhone feel. La Papesse ($47.99) is from 60-year-old vines grown in similar soils. Again, the fruit is partly destemmed, but here the fermentation is in wood cuve and the wine ages 12 full months in barriques. The wine has a more substantial feel and definitely improves with age.   What’s up with this Ceps Centenaire La Mémé No matter how for real the Papesse is, it’s nothing compared to the Mémé. This is Gramenon’s top wine, and it comes from 100-year-old vines (that’s what “Ceps Centenaire” means). " Mémé” is a French term of endearment for grandmother—a logical-enough name for a wine made from 100-year-old vines. Those ancient vines barely yield any fruit, but the little juice they get is something special. Even in Gramenon's stellar lineup, the Mémé towers. Like Rayas, it's a super-tiny production, more talked about than seen. But more interestingly, like Rayas, its extreme elegance is married to a quiet sort of power. It finishes long and kaleidoscopic. Gramenon's light touch in the winery and all-natural (biodynamic) farming sure help. They make Grenache the way we really like it. We have just a little bit of the 2016, a bright vintage, radiant and with a subtle power. It may be the best we’ve seen yet. But there is, unfortunately, very little around. So if you’re interested, please snap it up now. And if it’s all gone by the time you click through, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter below (or here, if our handy form isn't displaying as described ;))so that you get the first word (and special, newsletter-only discounting), next time. Buy Gramenon, "Ceps Centenaires - La Mémé", 2016 - $65.99  

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Looking forward to the week ahead in San Francisco - March 11th 2018

by andrew

Friends of Flatiron Wines SF, Here is a quick look at the week ahead at Flatiron Wines & Spirits - San Francisco. Don't want to miss 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. ;) In-Store Tastings Tuesday 3/13, Eric Kent Wine Cellars | A expansive range of wines covering the full spectrum of wines, styles and terroirs of California. Thursday 3/15, Subject to Change Wine Co. | Started by four friends with a shared love for wine.  Quietly creating something unique in the vast world of California wine through the production of natural wines with a focus on single vineyard sites. Friday 3/16, Meet the Winemaker: Laura Brennan Bissell, Inconnu Wine | Named by the San Francisco Chronicle as a "Winemaker to watch" 2017, please join us in welcoming Laura to Flatiron Wines SF.  An interest in tattoo art brought her to California initially where a chance encounter with Jonathan Hajdu of Berkeley’s Covenant Wines led to internships at Unti and Matthiasson and the founding of Inconnu in 2013.  All in-store tastings are from 5pm - 7pm, unless otherwise stated. No need to RSVP, just grab a friend and show up. As always, low-cost to no-cost. Lastly, as we do every Wednesday, we're preparing quite the line-up of features for this week's newsletter, scheduled to be sent later today. A few of the highlights this week include: the 2016s from Beaujolais' rising star Julien Sunier, Didier Barral's 2014 Faugeres from the Languedoc-Rousillon, and more. Cheers to you and a week full of new discoveries, Your Friends at Flatiron Wines SF

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