Saturday, June 28, 2008


One of the most difficult things I have to do on this job is research, for no other reason than it is extremely time-consuming. Some of my distributors unfortunately, forget that time is a rare and valuable commodity in this world, so I have to make extraordinarily informed decisions in less than a weekend. Which is nice, because I love having to run through a crowd of people, naked and blindfolded… Research plays a huge roll in my work, and none more so than in what we affectionately refer to as “direct importing” or “pre-sales.” This action takes place when a distributor, representing a specific importer, offers either annually or bi-annually, the bulk of said importer’s portfolio, whereas throughout the year, only a small portion of that importer’s goods are supplied. We do a lot of this with importers such as Frederic Wildman, Palm Bay Imports, T.G.I.C. Importers, etc. Yet the most arduous research comes when it’s time to put together a Terry Theise order.

Terry Theise is a world-renowned figure in the wine industry as a leading importer of German, Austrian and “grower” Champagnes, and every year, he generates texts for each area that are chock full of information about the vintage, the wineries, and insight into which selections he feels are the most noteworthy. It’s a long and lengthy read – close to 100 pages, and that takes time, even for a speed reader like myself. For the first time, I am now afforded the time it takes to wade through the information, thanks to Terry Theise being represented by a new distributor for us in Kentucky – Vanguard Wines. The previous distributor would give me maybe 2 or 3 days to read up on all of Theise’s notes and make an informed decision – one that would affect my inventory for 6 months. That is not a lot of time, to be sure. And the fact that Terry Theise, as one of my English Lit professors from college would say, is a “heck of a good writer,” I usually was stuck with something too difficult to sell, or perhaps too expensive.

So today, I was able to sit down and read through his Austria 2008 report, and make determinations on how to expand upon my miniscule Austrian section in the store (which constitutes a total of 5 selections). Knowing that Austria is such an “undiscovered country” for our clientele, here are the selections I chose, and why I chose them:

1. Prieler Chardonnay Ried Sinner 2007. For starters, Austrian Chardonnay. Hmm. Interesting to say the least. This promises to be the antithesis for those California “butterbomb” Chards that everyone has drank to death. Just a clean, crisp Chardonnay with loads of appley minerality.
2. Heidi Schrock Furmint 2007. The grape variety made famous by Hungary’s Tokaji, this according to Mr. Theise is “…slow to unfold, but gorgeous once it does. Classic rosewater and quince aromas lead into a marvelously silky and spicy palate; both yielding and firm; peony notes to an atmospheric and sweet-toned wine.” Should be a lot of fun for the sweet wine fans.
3. Heidi Schrock Muscat 2007. This is actually a blend of Gelber Muskateller, Ottonel and Sauvignon which, according to Theise, has a “multi-faceted spicy aroma and a lively and precise palate.”
4. Walter Glaetzer Zweigelt “Rubin Carnuntum” 2006. An Austrian red, this is a cross between two indigenous Austrian varietals – Blaufrankisch and St.-Laurent. With lots of juicy cherry and plum fruit and hints of cinnamon and soy, this unique red is almost ideal for Asian meats.
5. Setzer Riesling 2007. What caught my eye right away was how Theise states in his report that 2007 Austrian Rieslings were fantastic, and what tipped me off about this particular Riesling was that he called it “the single best Riesling VALUE in this offering.” That’s a bold statement. And though most importers toot their own horn a lot to little avail, Mr. Theise hasn’t steered me wrong in over the last 10 years I have been familiar with his wines.
6. Ecker Gelber Muskateller 2007. Now we are talking Muscat, and the whole description of “elderflowers and nutmeg” caught my attention. These wines are only slightly sweet, with more spicy zip and zang that lends it to be a bit more adventurous.
7. W. Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner “Kamptal Terrassen” 2007. This one is more a “reload” of a really nice, full-bodied, dry white wine that continues to impress me. Brundlmayer is one of the top producers in Austria and this is considered his flagship offering.
8. L. Heidler Gruner Veltliner “November” 2007. I opted to put one GruVe in that would offer a bit more complexity and substance, an ageworthy GruVe that would really impress. Remarkably, even the inexpensive Gruners have the potential for aging at least 5-10 years. This one, you could maybe shoot for 20? 30? Who knows.
9. Hirsch Gruner Veltliner “Veltliner #1” 2007. Considered by Thiese as one of the best “cheap GruVes he’s ever offered, he raves about its ripe, even aromas, length of texture and solid finish.
10. Hirsch Riesling Zobing 2007. Also a reload, this is a beautiful, DRY Riesling that would really make all the naysayers stand up and take notice.

Austria arguably makes some of the world’s greatest dry white wines, and with the majority of the producers being certified organic, all the trendy points are there. But aside from all of that, Austria produces white wines that even the die-hard red drinkers can appreciate and enjoy. It’s high time that American consumers realize this, because hands-down, Austria producers some of the best values in wine, in relation to what’s going in the bottle, in the world. These wines are ideal for the foods we as Americans most love to eat. They are complimentary, not overbearing, and are not high in alcohol or residual sugar. There is structure, finesse and body, without sacrificing one for the other.

Aside from the Hirsch Riesling and the Brundlmayer, these wines will be due in sometime in September so look for them. And if you get the chance to try any Austrian wines between now and then, do so, and enjoy.

Friday, June 27, 2008


I was just having a discussion with someone who doesn’t see the big deal about Albariños. His comments to me were that there really wasn’t much to them; they were all watery and not much in the way of substance. Ha! I think the man is crazy! Albariño is a delicious varietal, and is full of complex fruit and floral nuances that make for an extremely expressive drink.

Case in point, the Burgans Albariño 2006 ($11.49), is full of white peaches, yellow plums and honeysuckle notes in the nose, followed by juicy apricot, peach and nectarines across the palate. There is good acidity present throughout, and with a low residual sugar content, it is quite dry, making it ideal for salty or spicy cuisine, such as our cheese of the month, Kefalotyri, or some zesty Paella.


I am Bordeaux-crazy these days, so sue me. I want structure, I want depth, I want complexity – things that I personally, cannot seem to find in relatively inexpensive California reds, but can still find enough in European reds to bring a smile to my palate. And these days, I think we can all agree that it’s all about value, thanks to the “recession-like” economy. One wine in particular that seems to be worth more than it costs is the Chateau Pey La Tour Bordeaux Superieur 2005 ($16.99 special). This tasty red is a medium- to full-bodied red blend of predominantly Merlot, with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon, and small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot that possesses rich, voluptuous, unctuous black and blue fruits from start to finish, with good tannic grip, an excellent acidic backbone and finish to spare.

Another delicious red Bordeaux from the folks at Dourthe and controversial enologist Michel Rolland, this is a perfect match for grilled meats and summer barbeque.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Our Fort Thomas store manager, Sean Glossner, reports in on Riesling, without fear:


As I think back on many wines that I have enjoyed over the past few years, I find that one my favorite varietals is Riesling. Yes that right, I said Riesling. Don’t be afraid to say it either. It’s ok, really. It is by far one of the most misunderstood wines that we carry in the store. It has probably the widest range of taste, appeal, structure… etc of any white wine and most reds. It is the only grape that can be sweet enough to use as pancake syrup if needed, or so dry that you have to peel your tongue off the roof of your mouth after each sip. In most cases you can take a $15 bottle of Riesling and throw it in your cellar for 10-15 years it and will be drinking just fine if not better. Some higher end Rieslings have been known to last 50 years or more. Try doing that with Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. Riesling is usually just thought of as a cheap, sweet white wine. Blue Nun QBA or Piesporters come to mind at the mere mention of Riesling. Honestly ask yourself what your initial gut reaction is to hearing the word Riesling, or to the word sweet. A lot of people associate sweet with sugar. Sweet is also used to describe fruit flavors present in wine. While White Zin is sweet, Riesling has sweet fruit flavors. See the difference? Get ready for some educational content.

Along with providing some basic educational info, I want to give you readers some suggestions as well as food and cheese pairings. Riesling can be broken down into 4 main categories. We’ll start at the bottom and work our way to the top. QbA (which stands for Qualitatswein bestimmter Anbaugebeite), is quite simply just a very basic blend of grapes from varying appellations. Kabinett is made from grapes from the first harvest and usually tends to be a dryer style Riesling. Spatlese is made from grapes from the second harvest so they have been sitting on the vine a little longer and thus are slightly more concentrated resulting in a slightly sweeter (fruitier) and usually little more expensive wine. And last but certainly not least there is Auslese. This is made from the third harvest and has a very rich and concentrated flavor and usually a hefty price tag. Riesling tends to pair very well with fish and seafood dinners. They are also excellent with sushi and spicy foods. For all you cheese heads out there (no not you Packer fans) Riesling pairs beautifully with semi soft cheeses such as Brie, Port Salut, and Gouda. (All of which are available at LD Fort Thomas) For those of you ready to stand up to society and enjoy a Riesling with out feeling guilty, I recommend the Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” ($10.59). It is a QbA with a great bouquet and lovely notes of peach, honeysuckle, and slate. Those of you looking for something a little more special try the Donnhoff Estate Riesling 2006 ($17.69) or the Fritz Haag Riesling Spatlese 2006 ($24.89).

One last quick tip before I sign off, if you’re really worried about getting too sweet of a Riesling; simply look at the alcohol content. The lower the content the sweeter the wine. So if its dry you want look for something 10% or higher. Hopefully this becomes an inspiration to become your own person, who can openly order a bottle of Riesling and not worry what everyone else thinks about it. .

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Shannon checks in with a bit on California Sparkling...

Cashmere and Roses and Lace, Oh My! by Shannon D.

I recently had the pleasure of trying Domaine Carneros Brut Rose. This California sparkler was so lovely, I was at a loss for words on how to describe the perfect and delicate embrace on my tongue. The color is a light pink, almost orange. It fizzes romantically in the glass, and has a dry and energetic finish. It left me thinking of roses, or more specifically, what an Alice-in-Wonderland-like nap in a bed of roses might feel like.

This wine may seem overly feminine to some, but to me it showcases the delirious and thrilling power that feminitiy can wield. Eileen Crane, president and winemaker of Domaine Carneros, wields that power in the wine world, and literally in her wine.

I enjoy her description of her winemaking style: “It's like Audrey Hepburn in the perfect little black dress. It's not just a black dress—it's a perfectly lined black dress, with the perfect strand of pearls, the wrap, the whole thing. It's not fancy, it's not overdone. In winemaking, I do that. I don't make blousy wines. I don't make wines that are heavily out front. I make wines that you need to pay attention to. As you sit there and sip the wine, its layers come to you piece after piece. You say, "Ah yes, it's got a really nice nose, but the body is there too."

I like that Eileen isn’t afraid to use such feminine descriptors for her winemaking style. It’s like a breath of fresh air in an industry too often inundated with the phrase, “This wine is big and bulky, pairs excellently with rare meat and hearty potatoes.”

Although women in the wine world are hardly new, they are somewhat of an outlier. I’m pleased whenever I hear examples of women winemakers, sommeliers and collectors. These women are a little like Domaine Carneros’s Brut Rose. They remind me that it’s possible to still be delicate, pretty and feminine, while competing with the big boys and getting your hands dirty.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


This weekend we got to finally get full-on behind the wines of Kermit Lynch. We’ve had a sort-of topsy-turvy access to them for the past few years, but now Heidelberg of Northern Kentucky has stepped up to represent a good portion of the wines in our fair state, and so we decided to host a tasting with 5 selections. The line-up was:
1. Chateau St. Martin de la Garrigue Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc 2007 ($15.98)
2. Domaine de Reuilly Reuilly “Pierres Plates” 2007 ($20.98)
3. Domaine Gachot-Monot Cote-de-Nuits-Villages 2006 ($29.98)
4. Kermit Lynch Cotes-du-Rhone 2006 ($14.98)
5. Tintero Moscato d’Asti Sori Gramella 2007 ($14.59)

Starting off with Chateau St. Martin de la Garrigue Blanc, this dry white is a blend of Picpoul, Terret Bouret, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, each lending subtle nuances that range from light d’Anjou pear to lilac to creamy apricot aromas and flavors. Soft and light, it is a terrific wine for this time of year, refreshing and easy-on-the-palate. Reaction was overwhelmingly positive.

Next was the Domaine de Reuilly, a tart, vibrant and exuberant Sauvignon Blanc from a less-recognized burg in the Loire Valley. For those of you unfamiliar with Reuilly, this village is separated from the Pouilly-sur-Loire (home to more notable Sauvignon producers like Sancerre and Pouilly-Fume) and lies far west, on the western border of the equally-unsung Quincy. This reminds me of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with all the dancing, prancing grapefruit flavors knocking about in the mouth. There are hints of lime zest, guava and subtle nuances of chalky minerality. A really nice aperitif wine. Reaction here was mixed, due mostly to the surprising tartness.

The Gachot-Monot was a beautifully crafted red Burgundy, with mouthwatering cherry and red berry fruit flavors, hints of spice and earth, and well-balanced acidity. Definitely the star of the show, this luxurious intro to the Cote de Nuit has remarkable personality in the glass and on the palate.

Kermit Lynch has his own signature Cotes-du-Rhone, made by Domaine du Durban of the Southern Rhone. A blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, this delicious, medium-bodied red is a real crowdpleaser, with spicy red raspberry, hints of blackberry and red currant with slight traces of white pepper. One of the best values from Rhone. Reaction was enthusiastic, especially when told the price.

The closer of the tasting was a new Italian entry into Kermit’s portfolio – the Tintero Moscato. Gorgeous aromas of white flowers, white peaches, fresh-picked apricots and freshly sliced nectarines. Slightly-sweet and effervescent, this low-alcohol beauty is the perfect reward to a hot and grueling day. Everyone loved this one.

There will be more Kermit Lynch wines tricking in over the summer and well into fall. Look for them soon.


Jesse reports in on dinner with an LD alum...


I had dinner at David Lazarus’ house last week and was lucky enough to taste some pretty fantastic wines along with getting my Labrador fill (which is well needed since my Lab, Mia passed away recently). Mia was somewhat pretentious and picky about her dog food along with having an incredible nose for good wine. Okay, so I’m making that part up but she was a wonderful fishing/canoeing/going everywhere with me buddy.

David recently purchased a collection of Long Shadow wines and had them opened for an hour before I arrived. Among them he had the 2004 Chester-Kidder and 2005 Pirouette. The Long Shadow Group is a personal wine adventure of Allen Shoup, retired CEO of Stemson Lane Wine Group (Chateau St. Michelle, Columbia Crest and others). His personal dream was to start is own wine venture with other renowned wine makers around the world. The goal was to bring their expertise to the Columbia Valley AVA. It not only worked, but was simply brilliant.

The purpose of creating Chester-Kidder, by winemaker Gilles Nicault, was to showcase two outstanding varietals of Columbia Valley: Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The wine opened up beautifully with well-integrated tannins and intense complexity. It was obvious the wine could lie down for several years.

The Pirouette, created by Phillipe Melka and Agustin Huneeus, presents an old world style of wine using new world technology. They used most of the red Bordeaux varietals and threw in a bit of syrah for good measure. The Pirouette was definitely old school/world with its earthy, leather, licorice goodness. Again, throw it down for a few years and it will be a beauty!

For those of you who may not know him, David Lazarus used to be a part of our wine staff team here at LD but has since moved on. I miss our daily ritual of walking around the store together as soon as I started my shift and telling me about the wines he tried while educating me like crazy. I feel slightly bad about bringing a dish to his house that consisted of predominately onions when he hates them. He ate them anyways…

Friday, June 20, 2008


Our resident teacher/wine consultant, Corey Bogdan, who can be found at our Fort Thomas store has a great little entry to our blogospere concerning wine pairing for my favorite food - Sushi.

"I adore sushi. I loathe sake. I fully acknowledge that the two are supposed to go hand-in-hand, like wings and beer. However, even the mere sniff of that fermented rice juice will instantly turn my stomach. Long story short, in college my roommate and I bought a magnum of sake because it had a really cool label of a dragon on it, and the whole event turned into an awful experience. But hey, we've all been there. Most of us have at least one type of alcohol that we, at some point in time, have had a bad experience with and just cannot ever go back.

In fact, it is only a recent notion to me to enjoy sushi. I admit, I was full of trepidation when approaching sushi. Raw fish was a dice roll that I was not willing to take. What turned me around was making it for myself. My lovely wife (though at the time she was only my lovely girlfriend) and I took an International Cooking class at Scarlet Oaks. Both of us were fair cooks in the kitchen, but wanted a) some new techniques to learn, and b) a change in our rather mundane life at the time. During one of the classes we learned to roll our own sushi. Instantly I was convert, because for the first time with sushi, I could control every aspect of what went into my roll. If I felt squeamish about an ingredient, I simply omitted it. By placing the control in my hands (literally), I was now able to move past my stubbornness.

So I've been eating sushi for a few years now, but still haven't found that perfect liquid partner. That is, until I recently discovered the Silvaner grape. I brought home a bottle of our Gysler Silvaner Halbtrocken 2007. Allow me to pontificate this bottle's merits...first of all, it's only $9.49. Second of all - and here is a serious bonus - this bottle is a liter! That's right, you get one-third more wine than your normal bottle! This will even allow you to easily share a bottle with a significant other. Third, this wine very clean, crisp, refreshing, and overall a perfect match for any light seafood. It allowed me to enjoy the subtleties of the sushi, and I will say it even enhanced them. This bottle would even be perfect by itself on a hot summer day. So pick up a bottle, whether you enjoy seafood or not, and experience a grape worth trying/revisiting."


After missing last week due to vacation, the latest buzz is available at


So in all my hurry getting back and settling into the office, I posted a note about my friend Michelle Lentz's latest fundraiser and lo and behold! I got the damn date wrong. Hopefully everyone figured it out since I directed everyone to her blog site. Still, I hope everyone made it on the right night.

I promised I'll get it right next time, Michelle.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So, I had someone just point out to me that there is no such thing as a grape tree. And I said to them, "duh!" Yes, I know it's grape VINES not grape TREES. Yet the concept of the name of this blog - Under the Grape Tree - comes from a poem I wrote a few years ago (it appears in my book, ALL THE GHOSTS IN MY HOUSE THINK I'M STRANGE). I'll share it with you guys, so that you may better understand the method to my madness...


I grew up in a great neighborhood;
I loved that old house on Woods Drive.
I loved each and every season that roarded up and down our street,
as the pears grew outside my bedroom window,
and the grapes swelled to the size of grapefruits,
each and every Spring,
Born from my old grape tree.

I watched the sun sitting high in the sky,
And I would like beneath that grape tree
Dreaming of Star Wars,
Playing Baseball,
and writing short stories.
I dreamt of warm summer days
and lazy afternoons
As I fell into a gentle malaise of eating grapes by the handful
And letting day turn into night.

I used to hide old KISS records in a box under there
Because my mom thought they (the band) were gross,
And I used to talk to the robins
That had a home they came back to each Spring,
Nestled at the very top.

I'd climb that grape tree whenever I had the energy,
But for climbers it wasn't much of a challenge.
It was just better to lie there
Languishing with an innocent indulgence,
Leaving troubles and turmoil far behind.

My mother would make grape jelly that was ambrosia
For my sister and I.
It helped create the ultimate peanut butter and jelly sandwich,
and fueled numerous dreams of endless adventures
And happy visions.

Sadly, we moved away when I was twelve,
The grape tree hung low in our neighbor's yard,
and the kids up and down the block
Came and plundered its wondrous bounty.
Its limbs and leaves would no longer shade my dreaming head
And wandering eyes,
And its nectar would no longer serve to instigate my imagination.

I think of that place now that I am older,
and a grin comes across my face so many times.
(Especially now that I know that there is no such thing
as a grape tree.)
I realize that the vines were ancient
And that I could imagine Tecumseh making wine
For his people, after a battle or a hunt,
And I could envision settlers partaking of its splendor
And making celebrations of simple meals.

It makes me smile knowing that my cousin Katie
Now has the place that I once held so dear,
and has made it her own.
I don't get back there often enough.
To be truthful, I haven't seen that old place in nearly a decade.

But not a day goes by,
and not a drop of wine passes my lips,
without remembering that old grape tree,
and the happiest times of my youth.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Just a quick mention – our good friend Michelle Lentz is holding a fundraising benefit at Max & Erma’s in the Crestview Hills Town Center tomorrow. 20% of your check goes to the Krystal Pepper Memorial Scholarship Fund. It’s a good cause and all done locally, right down the road. Go have a burger tomorrow at Max & Erma’s and help out our friend. For more info, go to (Michelle’s Wine Education blog).

Hope to see you there!


I had someone email me recently about my tirades against the critics. I think I will never win on this dispute, but this person disagrees with me in that he finds the ratings that wine critics such as Parker, Spectator and others use, very helpful. Awesome! Anything to get folks into wine, and talking about wine, and spreading the good word of Dionysus, I am all for it! I am softening my tone toward critics, I must admit, if only for the fact that not a lot of people care one way or the other. The debate will rage on for some time, I have no doubt. But if there was a point to all of MY fussing, it would be that the score is not the entire story. It would be like calling Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE: 89 points, and just leaving it at that. There’s more than just a score. Wine is a living, breathing thing, encompassing art, culture, and Life itself. Sure that may be a bit grandiose, but it is still quite true. Maybe there will come a day when the 100-point system will be obsolete, though I am not holding my breath.


Early into my vacation, I broiled up some petite Lamb Chops, served alongside roasted turnips and beets, and some fresh asparagus, and opened up a bottle of Montes Cherub 2007 ($13.49). Most folks would think me crazy to open up a rosé with Lamb, but screw it, I’m on holiday.

The trick of it all is that it actually worked, and worked well! It had to have been one of the best pairings I’ve ever had, if I do say so myself. My wife and I have been fans of the Cherub for awhile, but I think we were in agreement in that this vintage was about the best rosé we’ve ever had.

This beautiful, medium-bodied blush drinks like a Barbera or a Dolcetto, with good tannic grip, plush red berries, and hints of spice. Its color is dark and deep for a blush, thanks to the 100% Syrah. If you are looking for a rosé this summer, look no further than the Cherub.


So I took a week off from the hustle-and-bustle of wine buying to spend some quiet time at home with the wife and the herd, and get a fresh perspective on things. I’m sure that those of you who really know me can understand that me taking a week off is almost tantamount to an apocalyptic event. Aside from convalescing, I rarely take more than a day off, so I did it right by keeping my Blackberry holstered and keeping my laptop in the bag ALL WEEK LONG.

Leaving the shuffling of vino throughout the stores to the Wonder Twins (my endearing nickname for Jesse and Shannon), I embarked on a quiet sabbatical at home. I drank some wine, ate good, enjoyed some quality couch time with the Mrs., and watched my Magnificent Seven perform volatile comedy in between catching up with the second season of Weeds.
Alas, all good things must end, and I am back in the saddle, ready to dispense some serious hullabaloo.

An Odd Couple

Shannon's latest blog entry...

Beckham and Bordeaux: Palate Pleasers

Wine Spectator announced on Wednesday that David Beckham recently purchased a vineyard in Napa Valley for his wife, Victoria. Now, before going on, I must admit that I am a great fan of Posh Spice (for her beautiful wardrobe and fashion sense), and an even greater fan of David Beckham (for his god-like looks and fierce talent as a footballer.)

However, this little bit of gossip calls into mind the increasingly branded and commercial route that the world of wine has taken. Sure, celebrities marketing their own name on a bottle of wine is hardly original (look at Francis Ford Coppola; Greg Norman; Marilyn Monroe), but at what point does this become mundane, and what is it doing to the stature of wine?

On an opposite note, here at Liquor Direct we are abuzz with our delivery of 2005 Bordeaux. Ranging from $9.99 to $110.00, these austere bottles are a bit of celebrities themselves. I found myself Thursday evening tenderly wiping away the bits of dust that collected on their labels, gingerly stacking their heavy wood sleeping cases, and finding a cool dark space for them to rest until their new owner comes for them. Why do we baby Bordeaux?

Now, as I compare the Beckham’s vineyard in Napa and Bordeaux right and left banks, (an old world vs. new world styled sentence if I’ve ever read one!), I’m left thinking about who these two ‘brands’ are targeting. People opposite each other on the demographic totem pole?

I think that the Beckham’s purchase and the prestige of Bordeaux compared side by side reveal one thing: the ever changing, ever growing market for wine. As more and more young people in the U.S. become interested in the grape, it is only natural that they gravitate towards brands that they recognize and aren’t intimidated by. Instead of turning up our nose at the choices of these new oenophiles, we must embrace them with open arms, and more, we must learn something from them: that wine was intended to be fun, to be enjoyed, and shared together.

So next time you’re at your favorite wine store and perusing the shelves and happen to come by the ‘Posh Spice Zinfandel’, at the risk of sounding “silly”, try it!

Friday, June 6, 2008


This past week, the local wine business lost a good friend and passionate soul in Todd Nikolai, who worked for Vintner Select, a renowned distributor/importer in Mason, Ohio. Todd was crazy about wine, and it showed in his exuberant approach to this industry that so many of us love to work in. I’d known Todd for nearly 10 years, ever since he became my wine rep from Vintner Select while I was managing the bar at Café Boulevard in Dayton. I was quick to discover that Todd and I were both going to Wright State during the day, frantically trying to get the degrees we were slow to work on back in our twenties. Todd was one of my favorite reps, primarily because I never felt pressured by him to buy whatever it was he was tasting that day. He was just exuberant about showing his customers something new – something anyone truly geeked about wine would appreciate. And he was always laughing and joking whenever he came into the restaurant, which made things much easier – it’s pretty tough to be a jerk in this business though there are a few out there. Todd was certainly not one of those guys.

As I moved on from restaurant schlub to retail cork dork, Todd and I kept in touch. I think we actually graduated the same year though I don't think either of us did the cap-and-gown thing (no time). Inevitably I settled in Cincinnati, here at Liquor Direct, and Todd became more of a brand manager for VS. The last time we spoke was at a party at our friend Eric Jerardi’s house. It was small talk, introductions to our wives, and a moment of catching up on things. He told me he was going to come by the store sometime, he had a few things to show me.

Unfortunately, aside from a few emails since then, I never spoke to him again. Todd will definitely be missed. My prayers go out to his wife, his daughter, the Nikolai family, and everyone at Vintner Select.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Jessica Stambaugh is my other assistant wine buyer, and finally, she too has the time to chime in. Her first blog is a little something about the grape Mencia...

What the Heck is Mencia? (by Jessica S.)

Now that my partner in crime, Shannon, has come aboard I have the time to break my Liquor Direct wine blogging seal. I also have a little more time to see family, friends, and go out to dinner. Yay!! I have a life again! Even though Kevin is one of my favorite people, it’s still refreshing to know that his wife gets to spend more time with him than I do now. I did, however, make sure that he told Jen I never took him for granted and valued every waking moment we spent together (UUuuugghh).

Speaking of having time for dinner, I went to Dilly Deli in Mariemont with one of my wine snob friends (I still can’t convince him that wine doesn’t need to be so darnn pretentious). They have a wine retail shop next door where you can purchase wine at retail and have it with dinner for a small corking fee. We chose the Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos 2006, which I knew was 100% Mencia (because we carry it…not because I’m a know-it-all) but never had the opportunity to taste it. The only other Mencia I’ve tasted in the past was Luna Beberide and was a fan. . Mencia is predominately grown in the region of Bierzo Spain, in which the grape comprises of 80% of their harvest. Mencia tends to have a floral nose and I was getting Violets like crazy in the Petalos. Let’s just say the wine had poise with its delicate tannic grip, subtle creamy finish, and complexity that makes you want to savor every sip (or at least every other one). I love the wine you can get for your money in Spain!! Stop by Liquor Direct and let me hand-sell you a bottle for $21.98. I promise it will be worth your while.