Sunday, August 31, 2008


I have been a big Italian disciple ever since I crossed paths with Eric Jerardi, a fantastic blues guitarist who happens to run one of the coolest wine shops in Ohio called Jerardi’s Little Store. I did a stint at the store after fleeing the restaurant biz, and Eric was quick to show me just what Italy had to offer in the world of wine, which at the time, in my naïveté, proved vast.
One particular region that caught me and left me dumbstruck was Barbaresco, and one specific producer has become one of my dearest faves – Moccagatta. I have tried several vintages and have a few tucked away in my “cellar.” Though Moccagatta has three different single-vineyard Barbarescos (Basarin, Cole and Bric Balin), I have focused on what is considered the jewel of the three – the Bric Balin.

Started in 1952 by Mario Minuto, sons Francesco and Sergio continue with a small 11 hectare estate that focuses on Nebbiolo (though they do have small lots of Barbera, Dolcetto, Freisa and Chardonnay).

Looking back on my tasting notes, I wanted to present a “virtual” vertical tasting, using wines from my own cellar as well as the most recent vintages we have available in the store. So here it goes:

Moccagatta Bric Balin 1995 ($NA, tasted sometime in 2002): Gorgeous, well-structured, with notes of baked cherries, dried herbs, graphite and dark chocolate. Earthy tones with slightly floral nose. Beautiful, medium-bodied.

Moccagatta Bric Balin 1997 ($NA, tasted winter 2007): More concentrated than the 2005, from what I remember. Medium-to-full bodied, with oily black and red fruit, baking spices, dried herbs and cedar.

Moccagatta Bric Balin 1998 ($NA, tasted winter 2007): Surprisingly intact, I was fearful after reading the review that this was supposed to be past its prime. Medium-bodied, with spicy black fruit, tobacco and smoke. Supple tannins, and a really nice finish.

Moccagatta Bric Balin 2001 ($NA, tasted winter 2006): May have pulled the trigger early on this one. Much more massive than past Bric Balins I’ve tasted. Lush, opulent black fruit, loads of spicy oak, cedar, cigar box and earth tones. Gorgeous!

Moccagatta Bric Balin 2003 ($48.98, tasted Spring 2008): Young. Showing off almost-sludgy black fruit, tar, cigar smoke and Provencal herbs. Tannins are pretty big. Needs time to settle down.

Moccagatta Bric Balin 2004 ($52.99, tasted July 2008): Very young. Tightly-woven notes of herbs and spices, with lots of juicy black and red berry fruit flavors, hints of cedar and spicy oak, with well-integrated tannins. Needs considerable time in the bottle.

If you ever have the opportunity to try one of these wines, treat yourself. It will be worth it!

Saturday, August 30, 2008


"Not to be Unpatriotic…

Labor Day is usually thought of as the end of summer, or at least, the end of the summer holidays and beginning of the fall holidays. While planning out my weekend my mind wanders to the question, “What to drink?”

And I answer myself, “Rosés.” (Yes, I sometimes talk to myself. Don’t judge.)

Rose seems to me the perfect pairing for this holiday. It’s still hot, so I definitely want something I can chill. Also, I will probably be outside grilling, so I’ll need something with enough flavor profile to stand up to seared red meat.

But here’s my dilemma. Reaching for a couple bottles of rose, I don’t pick up anything domestic or anything showcasing my patriotism. Instead, I pick up 3 bottles of French rosé. Quelle horreur!

Not that I only like French rose, but something about their perfect dry/sweet ratio draws me in. So, while wearing red, white and blue and watching the fireworks in the sky, here’s what I’ll be drinking:

La Vieille Ferme Côtes du Ventoux Rosé 2007 ($6.98 special): An all-time favorite, this Frenchie is inexpensive and delicious. Mostly Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, it has just a touch of sweetness. If you haven’t tried it yet, run, don’t walk, to the nearest rose shelf and grab a bottle.

Monbousquet Bordeaux Rosé 2005 ($13.98): Everything you want from a Bordeaux Rosé…dryness, structure and complexity. In my opinion the perfect picnic/barbecue wine.

Domaine Lafond Tavel 2007 ($15.89): Tavel is the premier place in France for Rosé, so this bottle is little bit pricier than the previous two, but worth it. Another blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault, this wine is delicately balanced between dry characteristics and the sweet notes of strawberry. Yum!

A votre santé!"

Friday, August 29, 2008


The Mazzei family (Castello di Fonterutoli and Tenuta Belguardo) from Tuscany has a fantastic new wine from Sicily called Zisola. This Nero d’Avola 2006 ($21.47) is a picture-perfect example of all that is good in Sicily. With the ideal growing conditions (lots of warm sunshine by day, cool coastal breezes at night), the end result is a deep, dark red concoction of black cherry, cassis, and violet notes intermingled with lots of black and red fruit flavors, dark chocolate, cinnamon and earth tones. It’s a beautiful expression of the grape, with supple tannins, balanced acidity and a slightly dry, but lingering finish. It’s terrific with spicy meats and pastas.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I wanted to come up with something profound and celebratory for the 100th post on this site, but I still feel like an infant in the blogosphere so I will wait to start throwing confetti on myself. Instead, I would like to take some time to address a sentiment conveyed by Thomas Matthews, the editor-in-chief over at Wine Speculator. It seems that after the recent firestorm set off by the “sting” pulled off on Spectator concerning their Restaurant Awards really got to Mr. Matthews. In response to the overwhelming siege of negativity within the online community, Mr. Matthews retorted by saying that wine bloggers were “lazy,” insinuating that any hackneyed yahoo with a laptop can pop off half-cocked about wine or anything else for that matter, portraying wine bloggers as being too reactionary and not investigative enough to make any contributions to the conversation.

How very elitist of you Mr. Matthews? My thoughts are that 1) I have never really considered wine bloggers “journalists” anyway. The online community is really all about being connected to something tangible in this global rat race, where everyone seems to have to be somewhere all the time, and they don’t have the time to talk to each other – gotta get to work, get the kids to school, soccer practice, dance recitals, PTA, church groups, etc., etc. Blogging is a way to carry on conversations about mutually enjoyed subject matter, like wine. It’s not all Woodward and Burnstein, it’s more like hanging out at the general store, drinking coffee and swapping stories. 2) Shouldn’t we as an industry be bringing more people into the party instead of keeping it for ourselves? What is going to happen when the older readers of Spectator (those 50+ folks) start dying off in a decade or so? What then? What about the younger generation of wine drinkers out there? What about them? They have a different approach to everything, why not wine? Look at Gary Vaynerchuk, Jaime Goode, Eric Asimov (of the New York Times), Tom Wark (of Fermentation) and Alder Yarrow (of Vinography) – these guys and so many others, have taken wine to a whole new generation of wine drinkers. Sommeliers like Andrea Immer, Richard Betts and Rajat Parr have brought excitement to restaurant wine lists. I feel like the torch is being passed without these guys at Wine Spectator being aware of it. Why in the heck are they themselves blogging if they have such a low opinion of it? Granted, there are a lot of folks blogging that don’t necessarily have anything new to say, but hey, what harm are they doing voicing their opinions? 3) Lazy??!! Are you kidding? I’d like the S.O.B.s at Spectator to try and do my job for just ONE DAY. I move enough wine around in a day to fill a semi-truck trailer, and I do it every day, on top of calculating costs for various deals, scouring distributor books for clearance items, updating my web site, handling customer correspondence and special orders, managing and training a wine staff (only ten folks), generating a weekly newsletter, coordinating wine tastings at both stores, dealing with sales reps, updating pricing in our POS system, etc., etc. And what I do is no different than any other buyer in my position whether it’s wine, shoes or auto parts.

Which brings me to 4) Why couldn’t Spectator have just said that they dropped the ball, and should have been more thorough in their selection process? What is so wrong with owning up to your mistakes? Hell, if I screw up, I stand up and say, “Hey! I screwed up. Sorry.” Is that so hard? Apparently so. But when I screw up, it doesn’t cost my customers over a million dollars. I assume that Spectator feels that they do not have to defend their credibility – they obviously believe that they are above the general populous of the wine community – you and I – but I get the impression from the blog-o-verse that a lot of damage to their credibility has been done. Possibly irreparable. Time will tell on that front. The thing I do know is Mr. Matthews and Co. took a body blow to the ego, and I am sure that it still stings a bit.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


I’ve fallen a bit behind on the wine “critique” part of this blog – I must have 10-20 wines on my kitchen table awaiting a few kind words. First on deck is the St. Supery Virtu 2006 – one I have already tasted, but as of yet, have failed to form my tasting notes into some coherent diatribe, so I will attempt to do so now.


The St. Supery Virtu 2006 ($19.98 special) is a “white meritage” blend of 52% Sauvignon Blanc and 48% Semillon (percentages vary from vintage to vintage) that is akin to a top Graves from Bordeaux. Indeed the family behind St. Supery – Robert Skalli and winemaker Michael Beaulac - have their roots firmly planted in French winemaking. This 2006 version of the Virtu is crisp, racy and fruit-forward, without any form of syrupy madness. Lots of peaches and melon flavors abound, with well-balanced minerality throughout its fresh finish. While heading towards the upper end of the price spectrum as far as Sauvignon Blanc (blends) are concerned, it’s definitely worth the price.

I sautéed scallops in some butter, olive oil and lemon juice and served it with basil and lime jasmine rice. It married quite well if I do say so my damn self, but I think this wine would compliment most seafood and poultry dishes.

I’ve always been a big fan of the St. Supery reds, and now I have to say, I like the whites just as much.

Monday, August 25, 2008


It’s the little things that make Life great, I do believe. Yesterday, my wife and I slept most of the day, in the company of our 7 wild beasts, but we got up to spend the remains of the day grilling kabobs, watching a not-so-old TV show on DVD called Witchblade, and drinking some wonderful German Rieslings.

Now, I know a lot of you folks out there don’t find too much to get excited about whenever us cork dorks talk about Riesling, but I have to tell you, there is nothing more amazing and more sublime than a well-made Riesling. Often thought of as a perfect food wine, Riesling has just the right amount of fruit and acidity to compliment most any dish, and depending upon how much body it possesses, the wine-food combination could very well be heaven on earth.

My wife and I drank two different Riesling with dinner – one very dry (Robert Weil Estate Dry Riesling 2006) and one more mature (von Hovel Riesling Kabinett Oberemmeler Hutte 2002). While the dry Riesling was fine, the more mature actually complimented the kabobs well (they were beef, by the way).

Why do I bring all this up? Well, whenever a customer asks, “what white wines would you most recommend?” I almost always say Riesling. And their reaction is almost always, “I don’t like sweet wines.” Damn that Blue Nun!

There are so many different nuances and complexities from German Rieslings, particularly the appellation specific releases – such as ones from the Rheingau, Mosel or Pfalz. Truly each area has a particular profile, such as the wet-stone notes in a Mosel, the fuller-bodied, richer flavors of the Rheingau, or the juicy, creamy taste of the Pfalz.

The biggest obstacle always seems to be the label of a German wine, which in essence, tries to convey all the information about the wine as possible, right on the bottle. You can determine just how sweet it will be as well as what its general flavor characteristics, just by reading the bottle.

For example, here is a label for the Zilliken Riesling Spatlese Saarburger Rausch:

Zilliken is first of all, found in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany. Mosel wines, as I said before, typically have a slate, wet stone quality to them. This particular Riesling is a Spatlese, which designates both the time the grapes were harvested as well as how sweet this wine is. On a sweetness scale (0 being bone dry through 5 being dessert-style sweet), this would be around a 2, so fairly sweet. The village-vineyard designation – Saarburger (the village of Saarburg) and Rausch (the vineyard) will usually indicate dusty, earthy notes.

Granted, this is not an exact science, not even close. Every producer has a different style, and every vintage yields many different, complex wines. Take the Zilliken wine for example. Here is David Schildknect’s (of Wine Advocate) tasting notes for the 2005 vintage: “A pungent nose of spiced apple, cherry, and white raisin leads into a palate whose creaminess adds allure, while not at all detracting from this Riesling’s fundamental delicacy and duty to refresh. Suggestions of apple peel, citrus rind, and slate add counterpoint to a rich yet refined finish of ravishing persistence. Drink 2007-2030.” Nothing really mentioning a lot of earthiness or dustiness, but there is mention of slate.

Though it won’t give it all away, once you taste a few German wines, you should start to get an idea of the differences in style. My suggestion to you is try a few – especially next time you do take out Chinese or Indian for dinner – and do a little experimenting, and I firmly believe that you will be another German wine convert.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The blogosphere has lit up like a Times Square Christmas tree in the past few days with the recent sting operation pulled on Wine Spectator and their recent Restaurant awards list. The bloggers of the world, for the most part have united in their common mistrust of the magazine, though Spectator is not without its own supporters. The editors of the magazine have weighed in, vehemently rebuking the claims made by author Robin Goldstein (the man behind the sting) on their forum page.

I’ve been checking out the blogs this morning and it seems just about everyone has an opinion on the matter. For me, I have never really given the restaurant awards that Spectator doles out much credit. Though the restaurants who receive the awards for the most part are quite deserving of them, the true meaning behind these awards doesn’t hold much water. The reason I say this is not due to the recipients, but the benefactor. I’ve made no bones about my distrust and loathing of the magazine. While in the beginning they may have done a lot of good in the promotion of wine education, they have become a fat, bloated parody of itself, pompous and stodgy, with an elitism that wreaks to the heavens. Harsh yes, but unfounded? Why waste the energy in reviewing wines that virtually no one will taste? And why spend so much time reviewing wines that cost over $100? While they do review inexpensive wines, rarely is a $10 wine given 90+ points. And just how do they arrive at these scores anyway? As a wine judge, I am aware of giving 5 points for aroma, 4 points for flavor, 3 points for overall impression, etc., but Spectator, along with all the other points jockeys out there, fail to fully disclose the points allocation system that builds the 100-point scale.

I have spoken to so many winemakers over the years and virtually no one LIKES Spectator (or even Parker and the like). In fact most express deep disdain for them, yet they acknowledge that they HAVE TO USE them because of the power given to them over the past two decades. It’s actually sad because as a retailer, I see that it’s largely the retailers’ fault for enabling them in this capacity, thus putting the industry in a state of submission.

This recently divulged sting is just one more example of Spectator doing it for the money and the power. Are their greater injustices being perpetrating in this world? Without question, yes. Yet this particular occurrence, however trivial it may be to some, just serves to frustrate me more in the knowledge that I still have to pay attention to these guys, until the day when I no longer hear a customer ask, “what was the Spectator score?”

Friday, August 22, 2008


"As fashion magazines (and Cin Weekly) break their fall fashion line-up, hot trends surface to accompany the cooler weather we are looking forward to.

Since I follow fashion blogs like Kevin follows wine blogs, I have noticed some parallels and trends that strangely correspond to the trends in the wine world. Let me share some with you, so that all of you fashionable people out there can look great while drinking your oh so in style wine.

1.) New York Times Style says, “The best style is almost always a result of an unexpected combination of good and less costly things.” We find this to be especially true at Liquor Direct this upcoming season. While our palates may be refined and can notice the differences between Penfolds Grange and Yellow Tail Blends, just as a couturier notices the difference between a hand sewn hemline and a manufactured one, it doesn’t hurt to throw something inexpensive and delightful into the mix.

2.) You might call it the Spanish Renaissance. Featured in Cincinnati Magazine this month is the runway portfolio show for the seniors of the Cincinnati School of Design. One senior cited Spanish flamenco dancing as her inspiration for her fashion designs. My favorite section of the store for this fall happens to be Spain. Some of these wines are young and hip, and inexpensive at that. Take a look at Monte Oton Garnacha, or the crowd pleaser Red Guitar Tempranillo, both happen to be under $8.00, spicy, and leave something to the imagination. (One customer was even persuaded to buy this wine because her hair scarf matched the label on the Monte Oton!)

3.) The fashion people may be calling this fall’s most popular color plum, but we call it burgundy. That’s right, it’s time for you to put away your white wine and warm up with something red. Look forward to a delicious new Pinot Noir, hot off the racks this fall, Willamette Valley. The name comes from the appellation, and offers some very nice Burgundian-styled wines.

So there you have it, some effortless ways to drink chic (and cheap) this fall."

Thursday, August 21, 2008


The third winery I wanted to talk about this week was Col d’Orcia, a legendary Brunello producer in Montalcino, established in 1700. One of the largest properties in Montalcino (encompassing 1300 acres), the land lies between the Orcia river and Sant’Angelo in Colle. Winemaker Pablo Harri continues the long-standing tradition of crafting some of the most amazing wines from that region. Out of the 8 wines they produce, we brought in 3 to start: the Rosso di Montalcino 2006 ($22.97), Brunello di Montalcino 2003 ($49.96) and the Nearco 2002 ($63.96).

The Rosso di Montalcino 2006 is 100% Sangiovese, aged 9 months in new French oak barriques and Slavonian oak casks, as well as additional bottle aging before its release. Intense fruit flavors and oak spices abound with full-bodied, smooth tannins and a lingering finish. The Brunello di Montalcino 2003 is also 100% Sangiovese, and spends 3 years in French oak cases, with an additional 6 months in the bottle before release. A powerful red, with complex red and black fruit flavors, oak spices and fine, bold tannins. The Nearco 2002 is a blend of the non-traditional grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, each fermented independently of each other in stainless steel and then separately aged 12 months in French oak. Blended together, they then spend another 6 months in oak, and then aged one more year in bottle before release. The result is a dense, dark and powerful red with bold dark fruit, vanillin spice and clove notes. Layers upon layers of flavor.

All of the wines in Palm Bay’s portfolio are impressive – an importer fast becoming more than just Cavit.


I have always been somewhat suspect of Wine Spectator, primarily for the ratings but I have had suspicions on other subjects related to the magazine as well. Today, on two sites (Dr. Vino’s wine blog and Wine and Vines), I found the story on author Robin Goldstein’s recent discussion on the perception of real wine value at the conference of the American Association of Wine Economists in Portland, Oregon last week.

What he revealed was that he concocted an imaginary Italian restaurant, complete with faux menu and falsified wine lists (including a reserve list made up of some of the worst rating wines in Wine Spectator in the past 20 years), paid the $250 application fee, and completed the application process. His imaginary restaurant – called Osteria L’Intrepido – actually received a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in their most recent restaurant awards issue.

This isn’t the first time the proverbial wool has been pulled over Spectator’s eyes. In 2001 another author – Amanda Hesser – explored the concept of the Spectator awards in the Times. At the time the application fee was mere $175, and Hesser concluded that over 3700 restaurants netted Spectator over $625K in application fees. Projections with the $250 fee that Goldstein paid equal out to around $925K. Impressive little racket, eh? I would venture to say that it’s one more crack in their credibility veneer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


As I mentioned before, I brought in three new producers from Italian importer Palm Bay Imports – Castello di Fonterutoli, Poliziano and Col d’Orcia. These three producers were all previously with other well-known importers (Fonterutoli was with William Grant, Poliziano was also with Wm. Grant and more recently, (very briefly) with Vin Divino, and Col d’Orcia had been with Winebow). These producers are all well-respected, well-established wineries that as a wine buyer, I have come to trust over the years to produce quality product.

Poliziano is considered one of the top producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, which is one of Tuscany’s most recognized wines. Not to be confused with the grape Montepulciano (which is most notably from the Abruzzi region of Italy), this Montepulciano refers to the city in Tuscany and its surrounding outskirts. A fairly new winery by European standards – it was founded in 1961 – it takes its name from 15th century poet Angelo Ambrogini, nicknamed “Poliziano” (which is derived from his birthplace, Politanus). Of the 5 wines Poliziano is noted for, we choose to bring in 3:

1. Rosso di Montepulciano 2006 ($18.96). A blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot, fermented in tank, and aged partially in second-use American oak. Lots of bright cherry and blackberry notes mixed with red flower and hints of spice.

2. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2005 ($31.96). 85% Prugnolo Gentile (Sangiovese) and 15% Colorino, Canaiolo and Merlot. Fermented in tank and aged French oak for 14-16 months. Deeper, richer notes of black fruit, cedar and spice. One of the best Vino Nobiles.

3. Asinone 2004 ($56.96). Made entirely of Sangiovese. Fermented in tank and aged 16-18 months in French barriques. Rich and concentrated with black fruits, saddle leather, and rich baking spices. This wine is only produced in vintages the winemaker deems the best.

All of these wines are brought in via direct import, so supply is somewhat limited. Next I’ll talk to you about Col d’Orcia, one of the largest vineyards in all of Montalcino.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


So what has become the source of a lot of my Italian wines these days – Palm Bay Imports – has picked up several great Italian producers for the American market, with recent additions like Planeta, Anselmi and Sella & Mosca, and now the wines of Castello di Fonterutoli, Col d’Orcia and Poliziano.

At this time, we are purchasing the three aforementioned producers via direct import – a circumstance where the distributor special orders the products from a supplier and it is “cleared” through the wholesaler, keeping cost down. We’re very excited to now carry these wines, because they represent some of the best “classic-style” Italian wines available in the U.S.

Castello di Fonterutoli, which is owned and operated by the Mazzei family since 1435, lies in the heart of the Chianti Classico region, just south of Castellina in Chianti. Headed by Lapo Mazzei and his sons Francesco and Filippo, they represent the 23rd and 24th generation of family winemakers at the estate.

The winery is known for 4 wines, however, with such limited space, we are currently only bringing in two: the Badiola 2006($15.97) and the Siepi 2003 ($99).

The Badiola 2006 is what one could call a “baby” super-Tuscan. A red blend of 75% Sangiovese and 25% Merlot, this medium-bodied wine is aged in French and American oak “barriques” for 9 months to lend to its soft and supple feel on the palate. There are loads of black and red berry fruit aromas and flavors, with hints of cocoa and tobacco for a delicious glimpse into Tuscany.

The Siepi 2003 is a 50-50 blend of Merlot and Sangiovese, aged completely in new French barriques for more opulence and intensity. The black and red berries are intermixed with mint and Provencal herbs. Quite powerful in its concentration, the creamy spice notes and well-integrated tannins give it propensity for a long life in the bottle.

Next time, we'll take a look at the Vino Nobile producer, Poliziano.


I’d like to think that I have a fairly provocative imagination. But since I slipped, tripped and fell in blog, I discovered this very adventurous blog site called Wine Reviews at Chateau Petrogasm, which uses images instead of words to review wines. All I can say is they have to have one helluva clip art file. Without any words whatsoever, they manage to use the concept of “a picture is worth a thousand words” to the fullest. For an avant garde take on wine reviews, check them out.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Being a “bridge” store, we get a lot of customers from across the river, and many of them forget that we are in a different state. It makes things complicated when you’re part of a greater metropolitan area, that’s for sure. But the differences between Ohio and Kentucky are pretty vast when talking wine. You see, Ohio is a control state, which proves very advantageous to consumers and retailers. Everyone has to be priced the same due to a state mandated minimum markup, so competition is preserved. A particular wine producer/importer/broker wouldn’t do themselves much good to work with only one retailer, unless production was so small that there isn’t enough to go around.

However, the concept of exclusivity is not uncommon here in Kentucky due to the lack of state minimum pricing and the long distances between wet and dry regions. I often find it amazing at how backward Kentucky is in comparison to the rest of the country. At least, the archaic liquor control landscape seems more prevalent when I stare at the Cincinnati skyline every day.
We’ve fought a lot of these importers for several years, mostly to no avail. Most of these importers specialize in French wines, and most of these importers don’t make market visits in KY. The issue is that most of these importers are not aware of how dramatically the market in KY has changed. More and more consumers have begun their wine journeys and have become much more knowledgeable about wine. And there are many more wine retailers than there were some 10, 15, 20 years ago, when there was only 1 or 2 players in the state.

Liquor Direct is still pretty young in the game, shifting our focus to wine only 6 or 7 years ago. It has become such a frustrating aspect of the business to have to tell customers “no” based upon the ridiculous concept of exclusivity. Importers like Robert Kacher, Kysela, and Ex Cellars, as well as producers like Graham Beck, Tamarack Cellars and Quilceda Creek are off limits to us due to old contracts that don’t really make a lot of sense from a consumer standpoint. Customers look at things geographically, and when they can get wines from these companies at any store near their neighborhoods they expect to find them here. They come here because our pricing is better than Ohio (Kentucky has no state required minimum markup). Yet when the customers get here, they find there is more than just a river separating us from them.
I’ve made a lot of phone calls, questioning a lot of these agreements, and pointing out the proximity to Cincinnati and the illogic of the situation, yet I’d say 99.9% of these individuals aren’t interested in changing. One producer in particular, Bridgeview, has two wines by the glass at a local restaurant chain that operates in two locations – one is just 5 miles to our north, in Cincinnati, and the other is only 2 miles to the south, in Kentucky. We get requests for this wine all the time, but the producer has an exclusive agreement with a store chain that is 100 miles away from us! Trying to make since of the situation, I asked the winemaker to help me understand why he wouldn’t sell to us. He simply said he was happy with his current arrangement.

One could argue that this is just sour grapes on my part. Yet I don’t have to waste my time and energy contacting these people and arguing my points. There is PLENTY of wine to sell that IS available to us, and there are a lot of importers who are more than HAPPY to work with us, so what is the point? Customer service, that is the point. If a customer wants it, we at Liquor Direct want to accommodate them, but things like exclusivity make it difficult.


Sunday, August 17, 2008


So I just got in the Marti Fabra Selecio Vinyes Velles 2004 ($14.99 special) from Jorge Ordonez, and on the label was a wine region I had never heard of – Empordà. I feel that I am fairly well-versed on the up-and-coming Spanish wine regions (like Bierzo, Jumilla and Toro) but this was all new. So, a bit of online research (many thanks to the Spanish wine site, and viola! Empordà!

The region of Empordà (also known as Costa Brava) lies on the Spanish-French border, just northeast of Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast, along the shore of the Gulf of Lyon. It is a tiny wine region, possessing 39 bodegas (wine houses) and producing just over 6.2 million liters of wine annually. The main red wine grapes produced are: Garnacha Tinta (the local Grenache clone), Carineña, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo).

The Marti Fabra V.V. 2004 is a blend of all 5 red grapes, and with its slight bottle aging (the current vintage is 2005), it has taken on an almost Port-like nose, with supple cherry and red raspberry flavors, hints of tobacco and spice, and a dry yet lingering finish.

There are around 50 different wine regions in Spain – more than I had realized. Most are tiny in size, and with as diverse of microclimates as here stateside. I continue to advocate checking out Spanish wines to all our customers – they truly can’t be beat for value. I’ll revisit this topic in the weeks to come.


Saturday, August 16, 2008


Every now and then, I like to review things I’ve learned about wine, seeing as how I am supposed to be studying for several wine certifications. Take for example, Tempranillo, arguably the premier grape of Spain (though Grenache is more widely planted). The thing I find most fascinating about Tempranillo is that it has so many “aliases.” Depending upon the region from which it hails, Tempranillo can be called Ull de Llebre or Ojo de Llebre in Catalonia, Cencibel in La Mancha or Valdepeñas, Tinto Fino in the Ribera del Duero, Tinto Madrid in Arganda, Tinto de la Rioja in the Rioja, Tinto del Toro in the Toro, Grenache de Logrono, Tinto del Pais or Jacivera in other parts of Spain, Aragonez or Tinto Roriz in Portugal, and it may actually be the grape variety Valdepeñas in California.

The main reason Tempranillo has so many pseudonyms is that the grape mutates to adapt to the various microclimates throughout Spain and Portugal, enabling itself to flourish in its environment. The Tempranillo grape in Rioja is usually more Pinot Noir-like, given the much cooler climate in comparison to the hotter climate of the Toro (where it is Tinto del Toro). And the Tinto Roriz of Portugal is much more Zin-like, with spicy, brambly flavors, as opposed to the Tinto Fino of the Ribera, where it usually takes on an almost Cab-like quality, with heavier tannins and more cherry flavors.

The Tempranillo grape is durable, runs the gamut of styles, from soft and fruity to big and bold, and always has a style to fit anyone’s palate. Here are a few examples of just how different they can be:

1. Campos Reales Tempranillo 2005, La Mancha ($7.99). Medium-bodied with red berry fruit, nutmeg, mocha and earth.
2. Maurodos Prima Toro 2005, Toro ($15.99). Rich, lush red with smooth tannins, full-bodied flavors of chocolate, espresso, blackberry and black tea.
3. Vale do Bomfin Douro 2005, Portugal ($12.98). (40% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Barroca). Has all the appearances of a Zinfandel from the Lodi, with spicy blue and black fruit flavors, hints of peppercorn, and cinnamon.
4. Vacceos Tempranillo 2005, Rueda ($10.79). (10% Viuda). From the more northern part of Spain, this lively version has cherry, nectarine and even some apricot flavors.
5. Montebaco Crianza 2004, Ribera del Duero ($16.98). Fragrant nose with rose petals and vanilla bean. Loads of chewy raspberry and blackberry fruit with a slight bitter finish.
6. El Puntido Rioja 2003, Rioja ($47.98). Arguably one of Rioja’s best, this big, bold atypical Rioja possesses intense blueberry and cassis aromas and flavors, solid tannic grip and an unceasing finish.
7. Tittarelli Tempranillo Reserva 2004, Mendoza ($9.98 special). Oddly enough, you are seeing more producers in Argentina dabbling in this grape. This particular example shows their Italian influences, taking on the guise of a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano-styled Sangiovese with bright acidity woven throughout a tapestry of cherry fruit, plush tannins and a lingering finish.

Friday, August 15, 2008


"Well, since Kevin beat me to writing about our special trip to a nifty “little” warehouse, I guess I’ll gloat about the trip Shannon and I took to Louisville Monday for the Cutting Edge tradeshow. By the way, I spoiled my girlfriends with a bottle of Clio El Nido that I brought home from our little retreat to the warehouse (don’t let them fool you…they usually drink PBR or cheap wine with me).

We ended up showing up at the tradeshow a little early yesterday because we can’t help but be antsy about getting out of our LD gear and dressing up like girls to taste some awesome wines from Cutting Edge. This time we decided to do things a little different by tasting through all the whites first and then the reds (FYI… this is old school. We feel it is best to taste whites in between so you don’t have to stuff your face with so much cheese to cleanse your palate).

Just a few highlights among all the incredible wines we tasted:

Susana Balbo: The “reserve” Malbec gave me a gentle reminder of why I used to sell the hell out of her stuff. This one had tons of fruit with that patented toasty vanilla nuance.

La Posta: It was nice to taste the Malbec since the only bottle I’ve tried in the past was corked. Again, I can see why the blend flies off our shelf.

A to Z: I am sure most of you are already aware, but this producer has some pretty fantastic stuff. The Night and Day with a super complex nose and a funky Bordeaux taste stood out the most.

Bodegas Muga: For those of you who have not yet jumped on the Muga wagon, these wines are not overrated.

I think we will leave for the show a little later next time so we are able to hang with the crew afterwards (Mark, Steve, and Tom). Even with a busted kneecap from working out too hard, Mark offered to take us out on the town. What a nice guy!!"


Reading New York Times’ wine writer Eric Asimov’s review of the upcoming movie “Bottle Shock,” which loosely depicts the 1976 Judgment of Paris, where Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and Ridge Monte Bello won out over some of France’s top Domaines and Chateaux, is all I needed to hear as a movie fanatic. I loved the movie “Sideways” because while wine was a supporting character, the core of the story was a curmudgeon writer and his reconciliation with heartbreak and longing. Yet I fear that all “Bottle Shock” hopes to attain is a somewhat ethnocentric view of the French and old-world winemaking. After all, the irony served up in the real world is that Chateau Montelena – once the pride of Napa Valley – is now owned by renowned Chateau, Cos d’Estournel.

And though I am a huge fan of Alan Rickman (veteran Shakespearean actor who plays Decanter wine critic Stephen Spurrier in the film), I am not so much a fan of Bill Pullman (who usually has the same expression whether it’s the President of the U.S in “Independence Day” or the rube boyfriend to Danny Devito’s lover in “Ruthless People”), who plays Chateau Montelena owner Jim Barrett in the film.

I am a HUGE movie buff, and I love movies based on real life. Yet with all the ridiculous barrage of press releases – the store has received faxes and emails promoting the film – I think I’ll wait for this one to come out on Netflix.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Whenever I get into work, the first thing I do is check emails and check the latest wine news. Today on, the announcement that Southern Wine & Spirits and Glazer’s Distributing have joined forces to create Southern/Glazer’s Distributors of America met me with a fairly grim stare. I felt like that poor slub carrying the camcorder in “Cloverfield” did staring up at this huge beast, just before it ate (a big piece of) him.

Is that over the top? I can never tell.

Anyway, I have had my differences with Southern since coming to the great Commonwealth of Kentucky 6 years ago. And I still have nightmares about how Glazer’s gobbled up the late Bauer & Foss in Ohio while I was schlepping wine in Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio. Not really known amongst retailers for good customer service with their retailers, both have pretty subpar track records on their own, but now, YEA! They’ve joined forces to form the veritable supergroup of the wine and spirits industry. Oh, God, don’t make me break out the music analogies. Supergroups: Asia, GTR, The Firm, Audioslave, Rock Star: Supernova… hopefully some die hard wine and music fans get where I am going.

I saw great articles on Tom Wark’s Fermentation and the Good Grape blog, with Mr. Wark seemingly sharing my gloom-and-doom vibe, while the Good Grape dude was seeing a bit more silver lining in the deal. Why would all of this mean anything to the consumers? I will tell you. The merger between these two giants will dominate nearly 80% of the wine market in 38 out of the 50 states – with both my residence of KY and our brethren across the river in Ohio being affected. What this means is that they will effectively control nearly all of what the consumers in these 38 states will have access to, and what they won’t.

Funny how the Whole Foods-Wild Oats merger is again being contested by the government, and this deal is sure to pass through the FTC watchdogs. Monopoly laws be damned!

I have to admit that the sales force in Northern Kentucky and a few terrific folks down in Lexington and Louisville make it a bit easier to deal with SWS, but on the whole, the bureaucratic approach SWS seems to take, at least with us, has made doing business more complicated. I was told by one of my good friends at SWS that it will take months to shake out all the details. Given that we are getting ready for what we affectionately refer to as O.N.D. around here (October-November-December), business will be picking up, and there will be no time to worry about M&A’s in the wine business, but what the New Year will bring is anyone’s guess.

Wasn’t that the head of the Statue of Liberty, or was it just me?


I was reading Spectator online and in one of their most recent articles, “U.S. Government Puts Hold on Montepulciano and St.-Emilion Wines,” two of my favorite wine regions facing potential ban in the U.S. Why you say? Ah, for the sake of purity. Seems that while the FDA has been failing consumers in protecting the American public from toxic pharmaceuticals, foods and other products from infiltrating the U.S. market, the Tax and Trade Bureau has decided that in the midst of speculation that some Vino Nobile di Montepulciano producers are using grapes from Southern Italy in their Sangioveses, and that the French government has recently overturned the 2006 reclassification of St.-Emilion chateaux, they are going to protect American wine drinkers by assuring us that we are save from adulterated wines.

I am not sure if all this hullabaloo is really worth the effort, considering that there are far bigger fish to fry in the global market, not to mention the ongoing war in Iraq, tensions between Russian and Georgia, the crisis in Darfur, and all of the other sociopolitical calamities going on throughout the world. Not to delegitimize the issue discussed in the Spectator article, because people should be held accountable in the case of fraudulent products, however, I am not sure if a complete ban will solve the problem. Perhaps convince the producers in question to declassify their wines so that they can at least continue to do business, and those that wish to purchase the wines, can do so. Resolve the problem using the latest technologies, and clarify the situation expeditiously. Sounds easy enough, right?

Perhaps we could actually apply that methodology to the global tensions surrounding us. War, crime, terrorism – why not try to find peaceable solutions instead of force? It’s hard not to separate Life from politics these days, being inundated with sniping political ads and PowerPoint presentations on CNN, MSNBC and the evening news programs. Sometimes, it’s hard to drown all that out, no matter how much wine you drink. Although maybe, if we could sit all the leaders of the world down at a table, pour some wine down their throats, and stuff them with a fabulous meal, maybe they would be too sated to exacerbate hostilities.

Forgive me, you caught me philosophizing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


"I’m guilty of it. I’ve been guilty of it since I was 6 and my mom took me to the library once a week to switch out my pile of books. And usually, I must say, I chose right. The fun, bright colored covers with scrawling script and catchy titles actually turned out to be my favorite reads.

Fast forward to college, where, as an English Literature major I was in over my head with the classics of the canon. None of which had very fancy or colorful covers. But I still enjoyed them. It was as if, with a greater understanding and knowledge of literature, I could put aside my fanciful self who loved the bright books and come to appreciate more the bright words inside the binding.

I find this same theory, or pattern, is true for a bottle of wine. What kind of bottles did most people start out loving? Obviously, our eyes gravitated towards the bright, colorful labels. Perhaps one with some sort of critter on it. We loved these wines and loved the labels, but as our palate and sensibilities became more refined, we eventually found our selves loving the unremarkably labeled bottles, or perhaps an obscure French label.

However, I find more and more that it is possible to revert back to the popping in-your-face labels.

A week or so ago I tried Chateau Saint Martin de la Garrigue Bronzinelle 2006. This is a Kermit Lynch wine from the Languedoc, which was a stunning little bottle of wine. However, the label is plain. Aside from some gold lettering, there is nothing remarkable or overly interesting about its label. But what is inside is refined, elegant and takes a palate that appreciates it.

Compare this bottle with something like Venta la Ossa 2005. This is a large label that takes up nearly the whole bottle. It is a yellow color, with a large bear like animal sticking out his tongue and licking some grapes. It immediately grabs your attention, and is impossible to miss in our Spanish section. Since this is such a loud label, does it have to mean that the wine inside is of less quality?

My answer is no, certainly not. While these two wines are very different, the Venta la Ossa contains such interesting, jammy and deeply complex wine that its label seems to match its contents.

The moral of this story? Even if you’ve graduated into the classics (War and Peace/Chateauneuf du Pape), it doesn’t hurt to try something a little more colorful (Harry Potter/R Wines).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


To be completely honest, there were around 25 wines in total that I tasted with my distributor. And along for the ride, were my assistants Jesse and Shannon, as well as Fort Thomas store manager, Sean. Though our palates were invigorated by a great feast of fine cheeses, Italian meats, fresh baguettes, and some other great food, the wines that we tasted were all quite remarkable. Yet to just about finish the line-up were these two great Cabs from Dierberg/Star Lane, a new endeavor that boasts both David Ramey and Paul Hobbs as consulting winemakers.

Up first was the entry-level Three Saints Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from the Santa Ynez Valley. A truly gorgeous Cab with everything a California Cab fan could want – rich fruit, supple tannins, oak aging, and unparalleled depth of concentration. And all this for around $20. This is what you could consider to be a declassified version of the Star Lane Cab, which is designed to be similar to a grand cru classe Bordeaux. This Three Saints Cab, which would figure out to be like a Bordeaux Superieur is a lot of bang for the buck, demonstrating richness and the terroir of the Santa Ynez.

Then came the Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, which was truly one of the most incredible reds I’ve had from California. More power, more tannic structure than the Three Saints, this delicious, deep, concentrated red showed off loads of black fruit, cedar, mocha, espresso and cigar box notes, cascading into a hedonistic finish. Simply stunning stuff!
Like all great tastings, this intimate one came to a close, but not before a demonstration of Spain’s remarkable power. To close the night, we were treated to what could be called Spain’s best wine right now – the El Nido 2005 from Jumilla. The sheer intensity of this 100% Monastrell, crafted by Aussie superstar Chris Ringland, is out-and-out beautiful, with its dense, thick blackberry fruit, dark, velvety tannins and flavors of dark chocolate, espresso beans and roasted meats leaving our teeth darker than space. It’s not often a wine leaves you humbled but this one was awe-inspiring.

Thanks to our friends at this particular distributorship for showing us the glory of small-production wines.

Monday, August 11, 2008


The elongated recollection of my recent flight of amazing wines with a local distributor continues with two wonderful new wines from Jorge Ordonez, the master of Spanish wines here in the U.S. I have to say that we do considerably well with a lot of Jorge’s portfolio here at LD, but it’s a big book, and the sales force at this wholesaler cannot be faulted for not showing me every single wine in this guy’s stable.

Though we tasted several at this particular time, the two I want to highlight are the Volver Tempranillo 2005 from La Mancha and the Monte Oton Garnacha 2007 from Campo de Borja. The Volver is one of Jorge’s newest projects in the La Mancha region of Spain, which is a fairly large region by comparison, lying due south of Madrid. A much warmer region, it is typically known for producing powerful reds, full of depth, concentration and richness. This Tempranillo boldly leaps from the glass with aromas of red and black fruits, dark spices and tobacco. The tannins are surprisingly smooth, not at all what you would expect from such a strong bouquet. The red and black berries continue throughout its delicious, slightly decadent presence on the palate. Very well-made, and extremely affordable, this Tempranillo will certain win over anyone not already convinced of Spain’s value.

The Monte Oton is also brand new, and comes via Bodegas Borsao, producer of our staff’s beloved Tres Picos. This completely unoaked Grenache shows just how rich and dense a Garnacha can be. Originating from the Campo de Borja region, which lies just southeast of Rioja, is renowned for some terrific values and this wine is no exception. Medium-bodied, with mild tannins, supple red fruit, hints of spice and earth, and a truly satisfying finish, you should buy this by the case.

We’ll finish this showcase with two new standout Cabs from California and a reprise of what is amazing about Spain.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Continuing on the little treasure trip I took with one of my distributor’s (I won’t divulge the name), I was given the opportunity to try a couple of delicious white Burgundies, ones that this nameless distributor imports itself:

The first of these tasty Chardonnays was the Vincent de Vignaud Pouilly-Fuisse 2005. I usually find myself rolling my eyes every time I am introduced to a Pouilly-Fuisse because they are grossly overpriced. However, I was very pleased to learn that this was one I could sell under $30! Shocking! The aromas and flavors were that of crisp, ripe apples and pears, with hints of vanilla and nutmeg, splashes of nectarine and lemon, with a solid frame of acidity and a long-lasting finish.

The second of these beauties was the Chateau Philippe Le Hardi Hauts-Cotes-de-Beaune 2005, which comes from vineyards overlooking Puligny and Meursault. A bit rounder and richer, this lush Chardonnay offers up more baking spice, more stone fruit, more mineral, and more of that “terroir” you get from the Cotes-de-Beaune region. Exquisite wine at a remarkable price.

Both of these whites hail from the impressive 2005 vintage, a landmark all over France. Next up, I’ll reveal two jewels from Spain and legendary importer Jorge Ordonez.

Saturday, August 9, 2008


(Alfonse recaps our last staff training with an orientation of Kermit Lynch)

A few weeks ago we rounded up the entire wine staff for another of our informative wine workshops. We do one wine meeting a month where we try a myriad of new wines and learn about them from the winemaker or their designated regional representative. These people have been to the wineries themselves and pass on some keen insights on the blends, barrel types if there is a barrel at all and other cool stories behind each individual wine. I eat this stuff up with a spoon. In my mind winemakers take on a rock star persona. Over the years through the auspices of liquor direct we've met and learned from some true wine studs. George Hendry, Paul Hobbs, Patrick Campbell, Steve Edmonds, Wally Schug, Michael Havens, Michael Honig, Susan Selby, Susan Hugo, Laely Heron off the top of my head.

This was a Kermit Lynch tasting, a big-time negociant of French wines. Kermit “cherry picks” wines he wants to sell from a bunch of tiny winemakers all over the region. Trust me if you see Kermits' name on a wine it's a safe bet.

Wendy Huff from Heidelberg poured 8 of Lynchs' selections and all were pretty rockin':

1) Domaine des Reuilly '06 - Pure sauvignon blanc with a pale straw color and clean acidity. $20 Perfect seafood pairing. Not too sharp or citrusy, nice round finish.

2) Domaine Christopher Buisson Saint-Romain '06 $38.98 - Wow! Buttery, soft and approachable chardonnay with a hint of melon and pear on the finish. Built for an ahi tuna rare.

3) Chateau Saint Martin De La Garrigue '07 - Has hints of stone and high minerality like a chenin blanc or a crisp sauvignon blanc with citrus and racy grapefruit notes. A perfect $16 pairing with pan seared scallops wrapped in bacon.

4) Gachot-Monot Cotes-du-Nuits Villages '06 - This a freaking rock star. Pure pinot noir done with new oak and lots of care. Big and robust with strawberry and cinnamon notes heavy mouthfeel soft tannins and a perfect acidic balance that would pair with lamb like nobody’s business for $30 and worth twice that I do declare.

5) Kermit Lynch Cote-du-Rhone '06 - Pure Grenache and lots of panache. This is a Rhoner that is ready to go right off the bat. With a big robust nose, black cherry and blue fruit on the midpalate and spice and cedar on the long expensive tasting finish. Perfect for happy hour or steak and ribs on the bbq. Only $15. My pick of the month is what it is.

6) Chateau Saint Martin Bronzinelle '06 - Here we have a big chewy Languedoc from southern France that is inky dark and heavy with cinnamon and currant notes. Road tar and leather on the nose and a non-stop thrillride to the big finish. Grenache, syrah and mourvedre is the blend very Chateauneuf de Pape like without the price. A great “recco” for Barossa GSM fans for $23.

7) Domaine Rousset Croze-Hermitage '05 - This pure syrah plays no games. Just what you would expect from a Croze with a stygian color and a huge dusty nose this is an epic wine for the cellar or the decanter if one is under duress to produce a wine for a thick NY strip and a baked potato right this instant. $30 and good for 10 years in the cellar if one is patient one will profit.

8) J.M. Gobillard & fils '06 - A $60 dollar bottle of champagne that puts Dom Perignon to shame. We will have this excellent Champers in stock by 8-12-8 and it will blow Dom fans out of the water. All for now.

Friday, August 8, 2008


So this past week, I sat down with one of my distributor’s to taste through a bevy of wines that they wished to move through – clearance wines. Now before you start to groan and say that I’m going to talk about BAD wine, let me state, for the record, that this particular distributor prides itself on quality. No mass-produced stuff here, and forget about a hot warehouse, everything is cooled to the proper temperature and every wine is treated like a new kid at a day care center.
I will talk about a lot of these wines in the next few days because we bought a lot of them. What they presented us were exceptional wines, still in their prime, at drastically reduced prices, so that all of our customers – old and new – can purchase these wines at significant savings. It’s one of the cool things about this job – finding great wines at a steal, and then passing the savings off to the customers.

The list is long and varied, with wines from Oregon, Italy, France, Spain, California and elsewhere. But to begin, I’d like to talk about two wines arriving next week. (A bit unusual for me, I won't mention pricing until they actually arrive.)

The first wine is the Torii Mor Pinot Blanc 2005 from Oregon. Torii Mor is far more-renowned for their Pinot Noir, so it was something of a surprise to taste one of their white wines. I went online to find that the 2006 vintage of the Pinot Blanc is already sold out at the winery, so I am even more surprised to confess that this 2005 release is still quite drinkable. It shows off vibrant apple and citrus tones, with solid acidity balancing out its creamy edges. It’s quite a lovely example of Pinot Blanc, very Alsatian in style.

The second wine I will mention is the gorgeous Mario Schiopetto Bianco 2004 from the Friuli region in Italy. Revered as one of the great producers in Northern Italy, Mario Schiopetto wines are remarkably complex, and a bit expensive. This primarily tank-fermented white blend of Chardonnay and Tocai Friulano gives immediate aromas of fresh-baked fruit tarts and vanilla cream. Its soft presence on the palate leads you through a luxurious run of mineral, Oolong tea, quince, toffee, and orange cream. For being a 3 year old white, there is still a lot going on in the bottle. I actually won’t be surprised if there were a few more good years left.

Tune in soon for a couple of Burgundies, some Spanish jewels, and two phenomenal new California Cabs.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I recently tried two wines which couldn't be more opposite in style, character, everything: the Anselmi San Vincenzo 2007 ($11.97) and the Penfolds Riesling Thomas Hyland 2007 ($9.59). I've actually been eyeing both of these wines for some time, and have just now gotten around to trying them.

The first wine - the Anselmi San Vincenzo 2007 ($11.97) - I am glad to have back in the store. This declassified white wine from the Soave appellation of Veneto, is a delicious Italian white wine that most folks would overlook on the shelves if not lead right to it. A blend of Garganega, Trebbiano and Chardonnay, this wine shows of aromas of mineral, quince, pineapple and lemon zest. On the palate, the Chardonnay gives this wine depth and roundness, plushing out the juicy citrus notes and crisp acidity normally present in Soave Classico. The finish lends itself to a fresh-cut fruit salad, with tropical fruit juices all around the mouth. This would make for a terrific deck wine, or an accompaniment to grilled seafood or light salads.

The second - the Penfolds Thomas Hyland Riesling 2007 ($9.59) - is an elegant example of New World Riesling. Formerly known as their Eden Valley Riesling, this new packaging yields the same high-quality wine you have come to expect from Penfolds. With ripe stone fruit, white flower and mineral tones in the nose, this expressive white is quite reminiscent of an Alsatian white. There are hints of nectarines, slate, honeysuckle and apricots on the palate, integrated with elements of nutmeg, allspice and slight citrus flavors. Its dry and easy on the palate, light-to medium-bodied with a smooth, refreshing finish that would lend itself well to roasted oysters on the half-shell, or my favorite, sushi.


(Alfonse, senior wine consultant here at LD has put together a science of party planning, if you will. Use this as a guide and all is well.)

OK, so, your having 50 people over and your a little on edge. Maybe... your husband (wife) volunteered you to cover the 'booze' for your St. (state your saint) festival. Junior graduated? I'm in for what? Whadyamean your getting married! When? Download this my friends and pass it on to your friends because this information is golden.... golden I say.

The Basics: 100 people-4 Hours- 1 Bar

Use these for your particular numbers:
  • 1 case of red wine 750ml
  • 1 case of white wine 750ml
  • 2 1.5 white zinfandel
  • 6.5 cases beer or 1 1/2 keg
  • 2 1.75 vodka
  • 2 1.75 bourbon
  • 1 1.75 rum/spiced
  • 1 1.75 gin
  • 1 1.75 scotch
  • 6 tonics
  • 6 soda
  • 1 each 2L. Coke/Diet Coke/Sprite
  • 4 each 32oz. OJ/Cran/Grapefruit
  • Champagne toast 8 per bottle
  • Cordials as necessary

Remember if you deal with liquor direct what you don't use you can return for refund. If the weather is going to be hot get more beer and more white wines.

All for now.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


New from Jess Jackson’s new White Rocket Wines comes the Vin de Pays d’OC French Maid Wines. Though there are five varieties in all, I wanted to focus on the Pinot Noir 2007 and the Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (both $9.49 special). These new wines from France are at first, an offering of whimsy, with its kitschy, 60’s style caricature of a sultry brunette in vampy maid attire, yet surprisingly, the fun starts when you open the bottle.

The Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is slightly-yellow hued with an immediate bouquet of juicy citrus and guava fruit, with just a touch of herbs and fresh-cut hay. On the palate, you’re met with immediate lemon and lime flavors, with hints of pineapple, starfruit and mineral. There is clean, crisp acidity throughout, and the finish is lively and long.

The Pinot Noir 2007 has an almost grapey aroma leaping from the glass. It took just seconds after being poured to give off this baked blueberry/fresh grape jam bouquet. There are hints of baking spices and cocoa powder as well. Across the palate, glides mild tannins and more grape and blue berry notes, with pleasing acidity and a long-lasting finish. Light-bodied, this easy-drinker should accompany salmon or a light pork dish.


I recently received my first email link from a magazine, which makes me feel a bit legit as a wine blogger now. I received this link to Men’s Vogue magazine regarding Chinese Wines, which was pretty fascinating. At what one could easily call the early Renaissance period of Chinese winemaking, wine blogger Jim Boyce (Grape Wall of China) talks about the growing number of fascinating, if only palatable, Chinese wines. It’s an interesting article, one that any self-respecting wine geek should read. To see the article, check out

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Run for cover everyone, it’s the attack of the tarty clichés. Anyway, for a change of pace, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite Italian producers, Dievole, arguably the oldest winery in continuing existence in Italy, and perhaps the world. The first two vintners for Dievole began renting property in 1090 A.D. Over 900 years later, Dievole knows that to move into the future, you need a strong sense of the past.

Recently I tasted their supercool new Sicilian wine, the Fourplay Bianco 2006 ($10.49). Here is a blend unique to the market – a marriage of 4 native Sicilian grape varieties (Grillo, Insolia, Cataratto and Grecanico) evenly split, to create a wonderful, medium-bodied white that would be perfect for shrimp scampi or fruit de mer.

The color is comparable to Golden Delicious apple skin, and the aromas are fresh cut fruit salad consisting of banana, starfruit, lemon, orange, papaya and mango. There is a glycerol and lemon verbena taste up front, with finishing notes of tropical fruits, ginger and lemongrass. The acidity is balanced, and the finish lingers on and on. Try a bottle!


(Alfonse is our wine "point-man" at our original Covington store. He's been here for some 10 years, and all of our regular customers recognize him above all of us. He's our go-to guy for wine recommendations, as well as the smiling face that greets our "friends." 'Fonz is also a BIG sports fan, so for his first blog entry here, he opines his Cincinnati Reds while picking some great value red wines.)

In honor of my beloved Cincinnati Reds going down in flames this week I've picked some great reds for the grill. Grilling is my thing and lately I've discovered some hidden 'web' gems:

Coppola Malbec 2006 ($14.98) - A rare California Malbec that starts with spice and cedar and finishes with a beautiful chocolate and tannic finish. Well endowed and powerful but well balanced... If it was right handed we could put it in left field.

337 Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi 2006 ($9.99 special) - A classic california cab. Young and approachable with a little bit of Rutherford dust on the nose black currant and coffee on the mid-palate and a nice long finish. I thought this wine was a $20 bottle based on the quality... A fantastic bottle for relief after another blown save.

Cline Cashmere 2006 ($12.98 special) - A soft and lush california grenache, syrah and mourvedre blend that is perfect for some ribs and sauce on the side. This is a poor mans chateau neuf de pape with red fruit and bing cherry notes finishing long and smooth... the perfect glass to help you get over watching another of Adam Dunns' loooong singles.

Irony Pinot Noir 2005, Monterey County ($11.99 special) - This is the perfect hot weather red. With strawberry and cinnamon notes and crisp clean acidity this is the perfect accomplice for grilled salmon and chicken with corn on the cob... Perfect while waiting for your red legs to bat out of order again.

All for now.

Monday, August 4, 2008


So through 1 Wine Dude (Certified Specialist of Wine Joe Roberts’ blog), I discovered a fantastic new site called The 89 Project. This new blog site is chock full of wine blogging contributors, all chiming in on the poor red-headed step-bastard of reviewed wines – the 89 pointer. This score is probably the worst score anyone could bequeath a wine simply because it falls just short of the illustrious 90+ score. So many myopic wine shoppers, who base their purchases on scores alone, overlook the 89 point wines for no other reason than it didn’t rate 90 or higher.

With great consistency, the contributors to this site review a particular 89 point wine that has garnered that score from any one of the major wine publications (Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits, Wine Enthusiast, Stephen Tanzer) and shows just what people hell-bent on 90-plusers are missing.

It’s a beautiful site, a welcome addition to the Revolution of mind and palate on the World Wide Web. Check it out at The 89 Project.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


In a moment of study, I come across things that I’ve either A) forgotten about, B) know nothing about, or C) see things from a different perspective. Never do I ever get that, “I knew that!” epiphany. My grandma always said “arrogance is ALWAYS ugly.” Anyway, I had time during one of my wife’s doctor’s appointments to reread Jaime Goode’s THE SCIENCE OF WINE, which is at once a simple read and quite challenging. Simple in that it is put together in such a way that those without much (if any) scientific background can follow the book and come away learning what lies beyond wine’s base character. Yet the challenging part about this book is the level of expertise and unbiased presentation of empirical data.

It would take a few months’ worth of blogs to accommodate discussion on the entire book, but the chapter that I was most glad to read about was the chapter on “Biodynamics.” A lot of people bandy about the term, yet I haven’t come across too many individuals in this business that fully understand what Biodynamics really are.

First off, organic wines and biodynamic wines are two completely separate things. Organic wines deal solely with the fruit itself, with no pesticides or herbicides used in the vineyards, only manures and natural irrigation and the like used to “feed” the vines, and no machinery used to pick the fruit. However, Biodynamic agriculture applies that care to the land surrounding the vineyards as well. The use of other crops within the rows of vines to help with insects, fungi, and other vineyard pests, composting, using livestock to graze on surrounding land instead of using lawnmowers and other machinery – these and so much more are part of the “science” of biodynamic viticulture.

Jaime Goode explains that the birth of biodynamic farming can be credited with Austrian philosopher and scientist Rudolf Steiner. Through a series of lectures conducted in 1924, Steiner “created the “spiritual science” of anthroposophy.” Later in life, Steiner’s eight lectures entitled Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture helped form the foundation for the Biodynamic Farming movement that exists today.

Not to give too much of the book away, anyone who wishes to learn more about Biodynamics, or other aspects regarding the science of wine should pick up Jaime Goode’s book. Especially for the home winemaker, or über-cork dork, this book is fascinating.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


We felt compelled to change the look of the site after seeing that many of our Blogspot brethren have used the same look. Not wanting to be too much of a copycat, we went with a cleaner, more minimalistic feel to the site. Yea, nay, just let us know.


Yes, I am truly worked up into a frothy lather over Bordeaux. I just recently revisited the Chateau Lassègue St.-Émilion 2003 ($43.98), the debut vintage from Jess Jackson’s Bordeaux endeavor. Say all you want about Jess Jackson, the man knows how to turn out good wine. This gorgeous claret has a ruby/purple hue, with an almost crimson core in the glass. Elegant and fragrant, with red raspberry and red currant aromas springing forward, there are elements of red flowers, cedar, tobacco, cocoa powder and cinnamon intermingling in the complex nose. Across the palate glides silty, soft tannins, mocha, red berry and French Roast coffee. It’s medium- to full-bodied, with a very approachable tone set throughout its lengthy finish. It already has some age, and is ready-to-drink, but could go another 5 years in the cellar. A bit steep in price, it is definitely worth it.

Friday, August 1, 2008


(Corey Bogdan has become our resident Francophile at our Fort Thomas store. Here he discusses his love for this phenomenal wine region...)

New House of the Pope

It's one of the longest names for a wine, and definitely one of the best. It is by far the best known, largest, and highly regarded appellation in the Rhone Valley in France. It's none other than Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It is a wine that I really wish more customers would try.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the 19th century name for this top wine-producing area. In 1157, the Templars settled on the site, which was, at the time, a well known battle site between the Romans and the Gauls. Pope John XXII, who certainly encouraged viticulture, had a castle built here in 1323, where it became the Pope's summer residence (hence the name Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which means New House of the Pope). Despite a long history of growing grapes, the reputation of this region really didn't take off until after WWII, as before this the wines were primarily sold in Burgundy.

Overall, 13 varieties of grapes are permitted here, of which Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, Muscardin, Counoise, Clairette, and Bourbelanc are the main varietals used. Many of the top growers consider Grenache the most complex variety, and Mourvedre can give the wines some aging potential. Syrah is coming on strong, but many producers stray away from it as the climate of Chateauneuf-du-Pape can be too hot, which can take away some of the nuances for which the grape is known.

Okay, enough history and background. Here are a few reasons why I would like to see more customers buy a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

(1) Long story short, they're very yummy.
(2) If you have enjoyed Cote-du-Rhones, Gigondas, or Vacqueryas wines, why not now try the best stuff to come from this area?
(3) Never tried a Rhone? Well, if you like wines of strength, density, and finesse, now's the time to give this appellation a shot.
(4) You will get what you pay for...almost without fail these wines are rated 90+ (sorry Kevin) with some scoring high into the 90's in a good year.
(5) They make a great gift, either to yourself or someone you want to treat well.
(6) You can drink them now if you want a powerful wine, or age them for a smooth, complex wine.
(7) They are ridiculously versatile: I've enjoyed a recent vintage with a nice steak dinner at the Tropicana (it was a celebratory evening), enjoyed an aged Chateauneuf-du-Pape with dinner at a friend's house, and have also had one just sitting on my couch watching a favorite movie, without food.
(8) There are some fantastic recent vintages...look for bottles from 2005, 2001, and 2000, all rated 95 or higher as a vintage. Classic years (rated 90 to 92) were 2006, 2004, and 2003. These are available, ready to be purchased, and you can feel confident that you are getting quality for your money.
(9) Okay, these wines can be a bit pricey (35 to 50 for most, some as high as 110 bucks), but hey, YOU'RE WORTH IT!
(10) Did I mention that they're yummy?


I am always on the hunt for good value – you could say that’s my job – and everyone should know by now how I’ve been feeling about Bordeaux these days. So it’s a double treat to find a good Bordeaux at an inexpensive price. Case in point, I just got in the Chateau La Pierrière Côtes de Castillon 2005 ($14.49). Here’s a wonderful, ready-to-drink red from this phenomenal vintage. The color is cherry red, looking like my wife’s favorite gemstone, garnet. There is expressive Bing and black cherry notes in the nose, with a hint of cedar, earth, red flower and Macanudo® cigar. It’s a touch closed, but it still gives up nice aromas, a bit of a tease you could say. In the mouth, you get more cherry fruit, with hints of red and black currant, cloves, Darjeeling tea, bitter chocolate and pencil shavings. The tannins are soft, and there’s a just a slight kiss of acidity to keep things lively. It’s a fine, medium-bodied Merlot-dominated red that will show well with mild barbeque or grilled Filet Mignon.