Monday, November 30, 2009


Thanksgiving down. Next up Christmahanukwanzaa and New Year's Eve. The last 6-8 weeks of every year seem to be in constant high-speed motion in the retail biz - which is why most of us diehards are in it in the first place. We had a pretty nice, solid influx for T-Day, but to quote the late, great Karen Carpenter, "we've only just begun."

I just finished the last of the order faxes, and I am knee-deep in advert-planning, so I thought I might take a few to figure out what it is I am doing on UTGT this month. Obviously, we have my obnoxiously-self-serving "K2's Top 40 for 2009" - my own contribution to the vast array of narcissistic top wine lists out there in cyberland, as well as my cohort Shannon's top picks. Of course, I will be featuring the incoming wines of my new friend Terry Hughes and his Domenico Selections - amazing values from Italy, as well as some "champippley" reviews, a bit of reflection on the past year in the wine business, here in Kentucky and around the country, and the usual skewed perspective from yours truly.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


We'll be taking a break until the weekend. The next few days at the store will be busy and of course, Thanksgiving is Thursday. So from all of us at UTGT and D.E.P.s Fine Wine & Spirits, we wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving. We'll be back on Saturday.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Beaujolais. When you say the word in the context of wine, most people tend to think “Nouveau!” But despite the fact that Beaujolais Nouveau is the world’s most popular French wine, Nouveau is just scratching the surface of this great wine region. We wine geeks often lump Beaujolais in with Burgundy, yet the region was really never part of Burgundy. However, when the northern portion was annexed to the department of the Saône-et-Loire, Beaujolais administratively became part of Burgundy.

The strata of Beaujolais can be explained thusly:

1. A.O.C. Beaujolais and Beaujolais Supérieur = This is the largest portion of the appellation, and the simple Beaujolais classification constitutes 99+% of the production in this tier. These wines are simple, fresh, with only slight amounts of barrel aging.

2. A.O.C. Beaujolais Villages = This is the most common appellation of Beaujolais, and encompasses the center of the Beaujolais region, which is divided into 38 communes. These communes can legally replace “Villages” on the label with the name of their commune, yet most chose to remain a “Villages.”

3. A.O.C. Cru du Beaujolais = These wines are the best that this region has to offer. There are 10 communes, running along a narrow strip of land between the Mont-Brouilly and the Mâconnais. In order from south to north: Brouilly, Côte de Brouilly, Régnié, Morgon, Chiroubles, Fleurie, Moulin-à-Vent, Chénas, Juliénas and Saint-Amour. These wines see more time in oak, and some have the propensity for longer-lived wines in the cellar.

The primary red grape of this region is the Gamay noir à jus blanc, or the Black Gamay with the white juice. While Pinot Noir is also produced, as are Chardonnay and Aligoté (which are used for Beaujolais Blanc), the wine production is almost entirely made from the Gamay grape. These wines have gone hand-in-hand with the Holiday Season mainly due to the release date of Beaujolais Nouveau, the third Thursday of November, yet the softness of the Gamay grape make it an ideal pairing with the diverse menus that accompany all of the different holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.).

The most recognized producers in the Beaujolais are Georges Duboeuf and Louis Jadot, but some other wonderful winemakers such as Chateau Thivin and Michel Chignard produce some exceptional wines as well. Ask your wine store about cru Beaujolais, and see what they have in stock. They are terrific wines, especially for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It’s a bit of a mad rush leading up to Turkey Day, and I have done nothing but shuttle boxes of wine from our warehouse to the store. These days I rarely do anything else. It’s a good problem to have for a retailer, selling product. Yet one thing I had hoped to do sooner, was throw my two-cents out there in suggesting wines for Thanksgiving.

We get the question twenty, thirty, forty times a day in the week leading up to T-Day, and it’s fascinating the responses you get when you bring up things like Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Rosé, etc. Often the customer asking the question is a Cab or Chard drinker, and these wines are as alien to them as common sense is to a politician. And for those folks, I say unto you, “Drink what you like.” There is no real requirement to drink something you are most likely not going to enjoy.

The suggestions my retail brethren and I make to customers all over are merely the best guess scenarios. Sure, these wines are going to compliment the foods one serves for a traditional Thanksgiving Day feast much better, but that doesn’t mean that a Cab or a Chard aren’t going to offer as much enjoyment during said feast.

I have always been most partial to rosés, simply because they are some of the best food wines overall. I am a particularly huge fan of the Montes Cherub 2008 and the Mulderbosch Rosé 2009 right now. Both have a bit more power than most pink wines, yet both still have the balance and acidity to pair with lighter and more diverse foods. My wife leans towards Rieslings, and the Donnhoff QbA Riesling 2007 is a fairly dry, very balanced Riesling that is ideal for T-Day. A wildcard for me would be the Librandi Ciro Rosso 2007, a red akin to Pinot Noir – light, soft, with lots of berry and cherry notes – that is 100% Gaglioppo. But there is a laundry list of great wines that would work – just go into your favorite wine shop and ask the staff. Hopefully, your favorite wine store is D.E.P.’s Fine Wine & Spirits. But if not, there are a lot of great wine stores out there with a trustworthy staff that knows what will make your T-Day sing.


Thursday, November 19, 2009


The Venta Morales Tempranillo 2008 is a brand new La Mancha venture from Jorge Ordonez, the perennial leader in Spanish wine imports. 100% Tempranillo that is completely tank-fermented, this juicy, vibrant red really overdelivers, demonstrating loads of black cherry, raspberry and dried herbs. It possesses some balanced acidity and shows off good tannic grip on the finish. Never one to disappoint, Jorge Ordonez delivers yet another great value. Try it out!


One of my favorite wines is the Domaine de Nizas Rouge Coteaux du Languedoc 2005. Every year, I am continually impressed by this monster Syrah/Mourvedre/Grenache Noir blend. Always demonstrating both power AND grace, this Rhone-inspired red is a dark garnet color in the glass. Its aromas of black and blue berry fruit mixed up with a veritable spice rack speaks the language of a carnivore, and its flavors of herbs, spices and dark blackberry, blueberry, loganberry and black cherry notes instill visions of hearty meat dishes, hearth-baked breads, roasted root vegetables, and a warm night dining by the fire – Autumn or Winter time.

This wine has been, for the past several vintages, a favorite amongst our entire staff, even the folks that are NOT French wine drinkers. This wine speaks to a universal palate, bringing a little something to the table for everyone. Give it a try!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The Wine Spectator Top 100 list for 2009 is out, and my regular customers are just starting to blow up the phones. It is frustrating because it takes a lot of work to find out what is still available in the market, get it all in the stores, in our systems, priced and placed on the shelves, a list compiled and posted online, our staff trained on what there is, how much there is and where it’s at in the stores, and so on. All for a little bit of wine that will be almost completely sold out in a week or two.

As much as I bitch and moan about Spectator, their ratings, and their subversively elitist bent on the wine biz, I have to say that it is my last blast of fun when it comes to wine buying – at least during the holidays. With the constant shopping of our local competition, our Ohio competitors, trying to stay ahead of the whole extra tax thing this year, and just the usual keeping everything we sell a lot of in stock, it’s tough to allocate even a small amount of time to look for things like the WS Top 100 wines. Yet this year – perhaps coincidentally due to the large amount of more value-oriented selections – I was able to get a hold of the most Top 100 wines I have been able to get in the past 10 years. You can actually take a look at the list at

What intrigued me the most was that there were a lot of Australian wines on the list, which seemed extremely fortuitous considering the recent doo-and-gloom reports circulating about how abysmal the Australian wine business is right now. The presence of such wines as #14 Two Hands Bella’s Garden 2007, #24 Penfolds St. Henri 2005, #39 Yalumba Viognier Eden Valley 2008, and the values of Shoofly, d’Arenberg, Peter Lehmann and Heartland have to be a real shot in the arm for the industry Down Under right now.

And I had a vicarious sense of pride in seeing all the Washington state wines in there (#1 Columbia Crest, #26 Cayuse, #33 Novelty Hill, #36 Efeste, #38 Chateau Ste. Michelle, and so on. It was a beautiful thing.

So I guess I have to say that I have mixed feelings about this list. While it drives me crazy, and has for a decade at least, it is still a guilty pleasure to hunt these down and land a few. Hopefully, my customers will appreciate the acquisitions.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I was feeling a little bit “mushy” as my wife would call it over the weekend. It was one of those lazy Sundays where we listened to the cats and napped on and off all day, and I couldn’t help but think about spending as much time with her as I could, although she was pretty zonked out most the day. So I was trying to figure out what to write about for my Wine & Music Monday, and decided that the most apropos notion to speak of would be duets, duos, twosomes – like my wife and I. So for the music part, I found the duet between two of my favorite singers, Tori Amos and Tool’s Maynard James Keenan, performing Tori’s song “Muhammud My Friend.” I became enamored by Tori’s voice years ago when I was living in South Carolina. Her voice is haunting yet very angelic. And of course one of the best rock singers around, Maynard, is also an up-and-coming winemaker, with his Caduceus and Arizona Stronghold Wines out in the market (though not here in KY). And despite the fact that their music couldn’t be any more different, they have been known to collaborate over the years, like this performance:

A collaborative wine effort is the Eroica Riesling 2007, made by Washington’s Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany’s Dr. Loosen. A delicious, late-harvest Riesling made from Washington state fruit by Ernst Loosen, one of Germany’s top producers, the Eroica is seductive and alluring, with supple, rich stone fruit and honey notes, and a finish that leaves the drinker in a passionate state of euphoria. Tori and Maynard and Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica, a beguiling combination.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


One of the highlights of my trip out to Washington State last month was visiting the amazing Gordon Brothers winery near Pasco, WA. Their estate sits atop a hillside overlooking the Snake River, which was pretty breathtaking midday, with the vineyards interspersed amidst a sea of wheat-colored landscapes, and underneath a brilliant blue sky. It's enough to make me doughy-eyed just thinking about it.

Walking around with winemaker Tim Henley, we got a great sense of the land, and were made instantly aware of the fact that their wines are entirely from their own vineyards. Even though we strolled through some Malbec vines, the real star of the show at Gordon Bros. is Syrah, which we sampled out of bottle, barrel and tank.
The Gordon Bros. Syrah 2005 is a remarkable example of how Washington State is really getting this grape right, avoiding the easier Aussie comparatives by holding up the Syrahs of the Northern Rhone as the compass to guide them. Present is a deep, dark ruby-purple color, heady aromas of black cherries, blueberries, clove and cinnamon, and on the palate, a luxurious berry base with elements of cedar, leather, black and white pepper, fresh brewed espresso and spice box crescendoing into an enduring finish.

This certainly ranks up there amongst the best American Syrahs, and indeed their 2002 vintage received the International Trophy for Rhone wines over $10 from Decanter Magazine, beating out some of the Northern Rhone's best reds. This newest vintage is one of which the Gordon family and winemaker Tim Henley can be extremely proud. And I have to say that the upcoming releases for this wine are going to be even more incredible.

Friday, November 13, 2009


So while I was out on the Washington Wine Road Trip, and all of us roadtrippers were congregated within Precept Brands' Canyon Ranch, in the midst of a big Columbia Valley winery hoedown, I ran into the good folks at Milbrandt Vineyards. We had recently brought in a ridiculous amount of their Legacy Chardonnay, and upon seeing my name tag, they remarked, "so YOU'RE the one."

"Yes I am," I smiled, already a wee bit buzzed.

"I've got a deal on the Syrah too."

"Let's go," I eagerly replied, knowing the track record of Butch and Jerry and the folks at Milbrandt Vineyards. And thus, the arrival of the Milbrandt Legacy Syrah 2005 - the last vintage with the Legacy name on the package (a winemaker in California by the name of Jess Jackson wasn't happy with their use of the word "Legacy") - a remarkable Syrah with a little more than 3% Mourvedre splashed in to give this wine the complexity of a fine Chateauneuf du Pape. There is a richness and density that is amazing, with a thick, sanguinesque appearance in the glass, and lush aromas and flavors of black and red berries, leather, coffee, smoke, white pepper, violet and lavender. It is a superb red wine and added proof that Syrah is done well and done right in Washington State.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I am always on the lookout for a good white wine, seeing as how my wife doesn't like too many reds anymore - the tannins and phenols mess with her too much. So I am glad to have back in the store the Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco 2008 from Italy's Alto Adige region. I've always been a fan of Tiefenbrunner, and their Pinot Bianco is one of their best wines. Ripe Golden Delicious apples and hints of spicy pineapple are in the nose, and continue across the palate, alongside mineral, pear, nutmeg and persimmon. It's perfect for poultry, asparagus dishes, and seafood. And keep this one in mind for Thanksgiving too. Give it a go!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


[EDITOR'S NOTE: While I disagree with WS and the concept of the 100-point review, the following is merely the culmination of nearly twenty years of restaurant and retail experience and the headache the WS Top 100 list creates for those of us in this tier of the business.]

I knew I was dreading something…

Next week, the Wine Spectator Top 100 for 2009 will be revealed, starting with the teaser for wines #6-#10 on November 18th and #2-#5 on the 19th before the entire list is unvealed on the 20th. We in the retail business refer to it as Doomsday, Armageddon, the Apocalypse – you get the idea.

I would like to take a few seconds to reiterate to you out there in cyberville that this list is a compilation of previously released reviews, ones that may be 10-11 months old. Therefore, the wines in this compilation list are LONG GONE, SOLD OUT, or as Kansas would sing, “all they are/are dust in the wind.”

Like all the other retailers in America, we will be scrambling for the remaining wines, grabbing the list nanoseconds after it is posted to call our sales reps and drive them batshit crazy that morning until all the remaining wines are bled dry from our suppliers. We will all do our best to meet demand but in most cases, the ships have already sailed.

So continue the countdown, cue up the old Europe (“The Final Countdown”) or Iron Maiden (“2 Minutes to Midnight”), and wait for the air raid sirens to kick in and “at my command, unleash Hell.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


What seems to have been a difficult acquisition in years past, the wines of Tua Rita had more-or-less escaped me. Then, ironically, right before we were to cut ties with Winebow several years ago, we landed a couple. Fast-forward to now, and our realignment with Winebow has yielded the remarkably delicious Tua Rita Rosso dei Notri 2008. A young red blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, this little Tuscan jewel is remarkable.

Bright ruby red in the glass, there are expressive aromas of jammy blackberry, black cherry and dark plums, followed by more dark fruit flavors and hints of rich chocolate, spice and licorice for good measure. The tannins are soft and the acidity is well-represented, yet this is a juicy AND vibrant red that is ideal for grilled meats, lasagna, and pizza. Give this one a try!

Monday, November 9, 2009


I am not what you would call a big celebrator. Yeah, today is my birthday, but I’ve not a lot of special plans. I do take satisfaction in the fact that 20 years ago today, the Berlin Wall finally came down. Now that was a cool birthday present (I know it’s not all about me). So in lieu of self-serenading a few bars of that dreadful Happy Birthday song, I would much rather share with you one of my favorite blues guitarists, Albert King, and his hit “I’ll Play the Blues for You”:

I’ve been asked most of the day what kind of big plans I have. It’s funny, because my biggest superstition is not working on my birthday. I have maybe taken three birthdays off from work since I started working, and every time I took off, something bad happened. Hence my working today. And due to the craziness of this business I participate in on a daily basis, a nice quiet evening with my wife and my four-legged children is the best thing I could hope for, along with a simple dinner and a good bottle of wine. Tonight, I think it may be a Montes Alpha Syrah 2006. While not a big splurge, the Alpha Syrah has always been one of my favorites and a rock-solid example of great Syrah from anywhere in the world and the fact that the Alpha Syrah hails from Chile makes it even more special.

Albert King and Montes Alpha, two things that make for a very nice birthday, or any day for that matter. Cheers!

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Just mulling over the impending arrivals and new stuff that are on their way to our stores – it’s enough to make one’s head spin. First off, a big shout out to the great wines of Domenico Selections due in just in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Good friend Terence Hughes, owner of Domenico and blogger over at Mondosapore and Muddy Boots, along with our friends Wendy Huff and Mike Monnin, have orchestrated us getting in these extraordinary Italian wines for the state. Also due at some juncture, the wines of Washington State’s Airfield Estates and Terra Blanca, both recent finds from my adventure out in WA last month. I met Amy from Airfield and Heather from Terra Blanca at the Columbia Valley tasting us roadtrippers went to out at Precept Brands’ Canyon Ranch Vineyards. The wines from both wineries were awesome, and great values to boot. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas indeed. And we are also excited that some of our favorite Spanish wines are coming back to the market courtesy of importer Grapes of Spain. Don't worry, we'll keep you posted when they arrive.

Friday, November 6, 2009


The “silly season” (the holidays for those at home) is fast descending and as luck would have it, we here at D.E.P.’s Fine Wine & Spirits (the wine store formerly known as Liquor Direct Wine & Spirits) is short-staffed. Before the parade of “sounds-like-a-personal-problem-to-me” jokes come out, let me just say that not having enough people on hand to handle the business makes for a “tumultuous” holiday season. Hell, it’s no wonder my blood pressure is way up. Yet the guy bearing the brunt of it all, is our newly-ordained Fort Thomas store manager, Matt, who seems to already be working holiday hours, and we ain’t even in the thick of it yet. If he was getting paid by the hour, his overtime costs would probably bankrupt the company.

It has me thinking, “what irony?” because of the still recovering economy, and unemployment up in the double digits, we should, by a simple law of averages, have a stampede at the door looking for work. Yet it seems every able-bodied person we do hire decides to fuck-all and not show up for their first day. Nice, right?

It is just another little nuance to make the business we are in all the more interesting. BTW, if you are in the Cincy area, and know a little bit of something about wine, and you need a job – send us your resumé at Come join the team – we need ya.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


In keeping with the Italian bent I have been on as of late, the Altesino Rosso di Altesino 2007 is a "Super-Tuscan" style blend of 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that is fermented and aged completely in stainless steel tanks, giving it a lot of vibrancy in its color, aromas and flavors. Ruby red in the glass, it gives up scents of fresh berries and cherries, violets and red flowers, and a soft hint of mineral. Across the palate, there are loads of juicy red and black berry and cherries, notes of red tea, mineral, and herbs, with a firm grip and well-balanced acidity to lend generously to its dry yet lively finish.

Altesino is considered amongst the best producers of Brunello, and this "non-traditional" red blend gives them a chance to show the world what it can do with those "non-traditional" grapes (such as Cab and Merlot) while still keeping true to their Montalcino traditions.

Give it a try!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


The Di Majo Norante Ramitello Rosso is a blend of 80% Prugnolo (Sangiovese) and 20% Aglianico from the Molise region of Italy. I always used to confuse this blend with a Cab/Merlot, mainly because of its Bordeaux-like structure. A deep-ruby color is the canvas for a wine that smells of violets, plums and cherries with an essence of new saddle leather and licorice whips. Across the palate, more plums and cherries, with a soft expression of cedar and tar. The finish is long and dry, and the acidity resonates throughout. Seeing both tank and barrel fermentation, this wine has a lot of depth and complexity for a relatively inexpensive red, making it ideal for roasted or grilled meats. Try it out!

Monday, November 2, 2009


I’ve been a pretty big Bob Seger fan ever since I was a kid. I guess it had to do with his Midwestern sensibilities. So it is a bit of irony that I find myself thinking of Mr. Seger’s hit “Feel Like A Number” (from 1978’s “Stranger in Town”), what with the impending release of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list for 2009.

Most of you who are familiar with this blog know of my hate-hate relationship with wine scores. I am not a big fan of them in large part to their extremely arbitrary view on something as subjective as taste. Scores don’t really give you the entire story behind a particular wine – they are a feeble attempt at encapsulating all that a wine is supposed to be for the consumer in a mad rush to get from point A to point B without any pausing or stopping along the way. It is an abridgement, a synopsis, and a flawed one at that.

Yet this is the time of year that I am coerced into paying more attention to them than I would like to do. Often times, I will have tasted a wine during the course of the year, and will have chosen not to carry said wine for one reason or another – be it I found the wine boring, bad, or just one of those “I have 20 similar wines at the same price point, do I need one more?” Then all of a sudden, an 88-89-90 point score, and I am suddenly suppose to say, “Wow! That wine is really good!” Kind of hypocritical, I feel. Yet these are the decisions that I have to make. These reversals due to an overdependence of scores that seem to permeate the mindset of some in this industry and at this company. I have to accept it, though I find myself gnashing my teeth every day about it.

As for the impending release of Spectator’s Top 100 – the bane of my retail existence – there isn’t really anything I can do about it, except prepare myself for the onslaught. What I find amusing is that the scores ranked by WS are previously released scores, and for the most part, the wines have come and gone without much hullabaloo. The list seems to make those wines more desirable, even though the scores didn’t change. It’s one of those “where were you when the scores first came out?” kind of mentality.

Yeah, yeah. Whatever whatever. It is what it is.


So I leave you with Bob, and I will stop whining about the inevitable.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


A wine I had almost forgotten just how good it was, is the Librandi Ciro Rosso 2007 from the Calabria region of Italy. What on a map could be called the "toe of the boot," Calabria is a warmer climate, nestled between the island of Sicily and the other southernly mainland regions of Basilicata and Puglia. The Librandi Ciro Rosso is 100% Gaglioppo, a grape variety seldom seen outside of its Calabrian habitat. The Gaglioppo grape is usually left for blending, giving its blend a softer edge. The Librandi Ciro Rosso is much like that of a Beaujolais or red Bourgogne, with soft red fruit, hints of allspice and cinnamon, notes of walnuts, and a bright, acidic backbone that matches up nicely with spicy meats, stuffed peppers, and lamb.

This red makes for a fun alternative to the norm. Give it a try.