If there’s one thing I’ve discovered San Francisco and New York have in common it is definitely the enjoyment of brunch. During my 9 years living in NYC, brunch took on an almost religious routine in my life: the weary and ravenous gathering together for a hodgepodge of sustenance and the hair-of-the-dog. Brunch in San Francisco is equally regular and revered albeit a shade or two more healthful. Personally, I love the brunches at Nopa and Foreign Cinema and am always impressed with the balance on the menus of sinful and more saintly options. However, what’s a new experience for me, is that it’s an event hosted at home. Eating in an apartment in New York is a bit too close quarters for most people, especially for the fully pickled rough-and-ready residents of the boroughs. But in San Francisco where square footage is more plentiful, though certainly not less expensive, it’s an opportunity to share home cooking in an intimate and unhurried setting. Accomplished amateur mixologists notwithstanding, often I’m being employed to choose wines for such occasions, whether it be my own or for one of my customers. Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during weekend brunches past which I hope will be a source of inspiration for upcoming late-morning, weekend meals. This past weekend my beautiful wife surprised me with last minute brunch plans with friends at our house. Though I love being the head chef of the family, her plans roughly translate to me being booked as a personal chef in the morning hours before I go to work. When I need to make a meal for a group in a pinch that is easy, has minimal ingredients and holds well, I turn to Tortilla Espanola. One of my favorite tapas when I was living in Spain was room temperature wedges of simply seasoned potato and onion held together by egg. It’s a subtle, but filling dish that provides a rich base for a number of adult morning beverages. My choice for a morning that the more egg-centric brunchers will enjoy is a fruity Lambrusco, the often misunderstood sparkling red wine of Italy. On this occasion, we drank the 2017 Medici Ermete Lambrusco Concerto, a bright sparkling purple wine filled with fresh, ripe flavors of juicy strawberries, soft raspberries and blackberries, with a gentle touch of sour cherry at the end. If you have a sweet tooth in the morning use a lambrusco instead of a still wine to make an AM Sangria. Swap out the brandy for a half-bottle of blood orange vermouth if you can find it. I’m all for going against the grain with wine pairings, but one I will happily not is breakfast and riesling. Riesling, with its spring-like floral, fresh fruit qualities, invigorating acidity and touch of residual sugar is almost a breakfast in itself. Take the 2017 Muller-Catoir “Haardt” Riesling for instance. Though this bottling is a dry trocken style, it has tightly wound, but still ripe, meyer lemon and tangerine notes that juxtapose nicely with a whole range of brunch favorites. In a previous post, I celebrated the bounty of citrus winter brings to San Francisco. What better meal to feature such peak of the season produce than a brunch salad of bitter chicories, Cara Cara oranges and honey-spiked citrus mustard vinaigrette. The fruit and acidity of the wine meet the bitterness of escarole and Castelfranco radicchio at its apex, which has the effect of taming both extremes. Finally, for those, like myself, are more savory brunchers the sweeter beverages served often feel inappropriate. I love Bloody Marys and micheladas as much as anyone but those also don’t feel like a symbiotic and seamless pairings for dishes like chicken fried steak or a medium-rare breakfast burger. If the occasion calls for it, I don’t think we should be afraid of entertaining a red wine for brunch. Something light makes the most sense, particularly something with gentle fruit and minerality like the alpine wines of Italy. Giuseppe Mascarello’s 2016 Langhe Freisa “Toetto” is one that I thoroughly enjoyed recently that would work. Freisa is a relative of Nebbiolo that produces tannic, but still delicate wine with a remarkable nose of strawberries, violets and roses. On the palate, the fruit is translated to a mineral-nuanced flavor with touches of briar and herbs making it a textural complement to rich dishes with beef or pork. If it’s a meal shared with friends then it’s a meal that deserves wine, no matter the time of day. Now that I’m fully starving and my own Saturday brunch plans are still a full day away I wish all of you a happy weekend and delicious brunching.
Now that I’ve actually tasted some 2017s from Burgundy; it’s time to follow up my earlier post on the 2017s with some actual impressions, based on tasting. This blog follows a single event: the barrel tasting of Burgundies imported by Frederic Wildman for the trade, held February of every year. I tasted a lot of wines at the event and I also talked extensively with producers and other tasters. Here were my five main take-aways: 1. 2017 is a really good vintage, perhaps just short of being one of the legends like 2005 or 2010. The 2017s I tasted were delicious. They were balanced and fully ripe. They were transparent, accurately reflecting their respective terroirs. I really, really liked them. Did I have quite the same feeling I got when I tasted wines from 2005 or 2010? No. This may not be the vintage to buy with bequeathing to your grandkids in mind, but it is a great vintage to buy for drinking now, in ten years or, for top wines, in 20 years. To give it some more context, I thought these were a little better than the 2014s — a vintage that I really adored — as they had just a little more substance and ripeness, but also 2014’s freshness and transparency. 2. This is not a problem vintage. This may seem kind of obvious, given point #1. But, it’s a point worth making in a different way here. One of the most useful things I’ve learned at these Wildman barrel tastings is whether a vintage has any real problems. The very first tasting I attended was the 2004 vintage. My tasting book from that event was filled with comments like “what is that green note?”. A few months later, the wine chat boards on the internet were filled with discussions about the “greeny meanies” that have plagued 2004s ever since. I similarly noticed the phenolic under-ripeness of the 2011s, wondered about the high acidity in 2008, and so on. This is all to say, when a vintage has a problem, you can tell at this barrel tasting. The 2017s are problem-free. There is simply no reason to avoid or be wary of this vintage. 3. Some people have been under-estimating this vintage...sort of. Although the most widely-followed Burgundy critics have had very high praise for the 2017s, we’ve heard lots of people referring to this vintage as a “restaurant” vintage, often comparing the 2017s to the 2000s and the 2007s. To be fair, they do not mean this to be insulting. It is great to have “restaurant” vintages (vintages that you can drink young), and both the 2000s and the 2007s have ended up aging much better than expected (I mean, wow, the top wines from 2000 are so good today!). To the extent that the 2017s follow this pattern, nobody should be disappointed. But my own impression tasting the 2017s last week -- and this was a view shared by virtually all the other tasters that I spoke with — is that these wines are considerably more serious than either the 2007s or 2000s. My guess is that the wines have gained a little weight since those early impressions were first formed. It is true that the tannins are not at all aggressive, making the wines far more approachable in their youth. But the wines otherwise seem far more structured than either earlier vintage and they really seem like wines that will age very well, if not for as long as, say, the 2015s. 4. This is not a vintage that obviously favors red wines or white wines. Some of the earlier reports I read or heard about suggested that white was stronger than red. My impression form this event was that the reds were slightly better (and more serious!) than expected — as noted in #3, above — and that while I loved most of the whites I tasted I did find some of them to be just a touch too creamy and lacking the slightest bit of definition. They did not seem as crispy and crystalline as, say, the 2014s — though many of them really were excellent. My impressions may change over time, but for now, having slightly upgraded the reds and slightly downgraded the whites I’m now pretty much equally bullish on both colors of Burgundy from 2017. 5. Chablis is a sweet spot. As I mentioned in my first post, there seemed to be a wide range of opinion on Chablis from 2017. I tasted only from two producers — Christian Moreau and Billaud-Simon — but I loved them both! The Moreaus, in particular, were stronger than every vintage I have tasted since 2010, except maybe the 2014s. The difference between these 2017s and the 2014s is that the 2014s had a touch of austerity to them while the 2017s already give lots of pleasure. This might suggest that the 2014s will out-perform in the long run, and they probably will, but I did sense that there was plenty of power and stuffing lurking beneath the pretty 2017 fruit and I’m very confident that they will keep nicely as well. This was, of course, just a small sampling of producers. There is plenty more to taste, and very few of the wines have even been bottled yet. Impressions will surely evolve, but with few exceptions over the years, my general vintage assessments, based on the Wildman tasting, have held up pretty well. Another little observation not directly related to the wine: When I first started going to these tastings, only buyers from the top restaurants and retailers would come. Over the years, things have become more democratic, and I was really surprised at how well and how broadly attended this year's event was. I've long expected trickle-down effects in the Burgundy market, and maybe that's finally happening. By that I mean that all the immense hype at the very top level of Burgundy -- DRC, Roumier and all that -- is now spreading out across Burgundy and across the market, so now even smaller retailers are getting in the game by carrying wines from lesser-known corners of Burgundy. This is probably a great thing for Burgundy, though it does mean that we're inevitably going to see even second-tier producers becoming far more tightly allocated. Oh well. As I post this we are now in the midst of our Wildman pre-sale campaign, offering a lot of what they import had the best prices you’re likely to find in the U.S. Please be sure to email us if you’re not already on our list getting our pre-sale offers.
Friends of Flatiron, Happy Valentines day! Some people aren't the biggest fans of this holiday, but at Flatiron we embrace any celebration of love. And of course, our #1 love is delicious wine! Come taste some wine and take a look at our newsletter and fall in love yourself. Whether you're paired up or enjoying the single life there are ample reasons to raise a glass. In-Store Tastings: Wednesday 2/13, Meet the Winemaker: Kyle Jeffrey from Minus Tide: Founded by Kyle Jeffrey, Brad Jonas, and Miriam Pitt, Minus Tide is focused on making cool-climate, balanced wines that showcase the distinct, coastal, and rustic vineyards of Mendocino, California. Come taste the flavor of the far north and check out what Kyle is pouring. $5/tasting Thursday 2/14, Special Valentines Day Rose Tasting at 5pm: Whether you're married, dating, single or have a crush there's always a reason to enjoy a glass of blush. Sparkling, still and definitely some Champagne, coming in for the tasting will definitely up your game. $5/tasting Friday 2/15, Meet the Winemaker: Scott Young from Young Inglewood at 5pm: We love Scott Young here at Flatiron. Not only is he part of the family but his wines are off the charts! Young Inglewood is a prime example of a neoclassical Napa winery. His wines are restrained in style but still unmistakably Californian. This is an opportunity to taste the future of Napa and to grab a few bottles before the rest of the world gets savvy. $5/tasting In our weekly newsletter we'll be offering a perfect wine for Valentines day, Arnot-Roberts Rose 2018, the 2017 Anjous from Thibaud Boudignon, amazing value from Burgundy with Dureuil-Janthial's Passetoutgrain as well as an offer on a smattering of Rose Champagnes to tickle your fancy. 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. ;)
Friends of Flatiron, Valentines Day is just over a week away and you know what that means: time to pop a cork and drink a glass! Stay ahead of the curve and stop in for an impromptu date at one of our tastings and snag a bottle or three from our newsletter for that special dinner you're planning. In-Store Tastings: Wednesday 2/6, Tasting of Cavas from Raventos i Blanc at 5pm: When you're not drinking Champagne you should be drinking Cava. And if you're drinking Cava then you should be drinking Raventos I Blanc. The Raventos family was the family that first invented Cava and today makes arguably the best sparkling wines in the entire Iberian Peninsula. Join us for a tasting of their sparkling wines and bring home a few for date night. $5/tasting Thursday 2/7, A Pan-European wine tasting with Wine Wise at 5pm: Since 1989, WineWise has been importing some of the finest estate-grown wines from France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Portugal and Greece. Join us for a wide ranging tasting experience with wines from across the continent. $5/tasting Friday 2/8, Meet the Winemaker: Brianne Day of Day Wines at 5pm: There is a rising star in the Oregon wine scene and her name is Brianne Day. If what you look for in a winery is a producer that challenges the status quo and pushes the boundaries then Day Wines is perfect for you. Check out her super-geeky Vermentino-based Pet Nat Mamacita, her Oregonian take on an Alsatian Edelzwicker Vin Days as well as her lively natural Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. $5/tasting In our weekly newsletter we'll be offering fresh faced 2017 releases from Broc Cellars, a selection of unparalleled Anjou Blancs from Thibaud Boudignon as well as the 2017's from cult Brouilly producer Jean-Claude Lapalu. 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. ;)