Unique Wines Found in New York City - Adventures in NYC Wine Tasting
>> Vino Esoterico:
Let us, dear friends, revel for a moment in the wonderment, and, yes, eccentricity that is the world of wine.
Like any topic that stirs the passions, wine making has its share of heroes, oddballs, and loners. Though these wine-making rebels may not find their way into the local wine mega-mart, they are making wines with great fervor and soul, and the rebels deserve their 15 minutes of fame.
Allow me, therefore, to indulge a bit in the more offbeat bottles of wine that one may buy in New York City.
The wines highlighted in this article are not tasting notes, my friends! Instead, what I offer is a highly edited list of some truly great wines, accompanied by their great stories. You, then, can judge for yourself whether these wines live up to my enthusiasm. Email me and let me know what you think!
Picture the following: A lonely hermit in the hills of northeastern Italy, who, after starting a high-tech, white-wine revolution in the 1970s (using stainless steel and temperature-controlled fermentation), abandons these glossy vats and returns to an ancient - and I mean ancient - method of wine making.
Yes folks, Gravner is now fermenting and aging his wines in large clay amphorae (big, Greek/Roman vases) that he buries in the ground for years on end. In these large earthenware vessels, the wine ferments, ages, is exposed to air (oxidizes), and does just about anything else it wants to.
The wine world reacted to this nuanced, histronica (historical minutiae), naturally, with complete pandemonium. His followers abandoned him, wine critics lambasted him - and, in 1999, lawmakers in Italy even tried to keep the wine from the market! These politicians declared that Gravner's methods didn't fit into the appellation. In the process, of course, Gravner become a hero (again).
Genius or fool, the wines of Josko Gravner are hard to find. That said, New York City is, dear wine sleuth, prime hunting grounds for these distinctive wines (including on my own turf at Crush). Strangely, there are probably more wines by Gravner in New York City than are available in Italy (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter), but even at that, they are rare.
Let it be known, my friends, that controversy and buried amphorae ain't cheap. Most bottlings by Gravner easily push the $100 mark. Are they worth it? Well, try and see. If you don't consider $100 to be gambling money, split the cost with friends, then decide among yourselves whether you want to split the cost again (and again).
Domaine de Belliviere
Eric Nichols, the owner of and wine maker at Domaine de Belliviere, does not appear to be an eccentric fellow. He looks, in fact, like an average Joe.
Beneath Mr. Nichols' buttoned-up exterior, however, lies a freakishly passionate devotee of two grapes from France's Loire Valley: chenin blanc and pineau d'aunis. What he does with both is nothing less than miraculous.
Nichols' chenin blancs are, in my humble opinion, some of the most awe-inspiring wines currently being made in the Loire Valley. The reds, made from the super-esoteric grape pineau d'aunis, are lighter-bodied, yet deep with earthy fruit and minerality, crackling with a black pepper finish that makes syrah's spice seem like child's candy.
The good news is that the wines of Domaine de Belliviere are both more widely available and cheaper than Gravner's - most run in the $15 to $30 range. The bad news is that I spotted a review of one of his wines in the May 31, 2006 Wine Spectator (his Les Rosiers chenin blanc scored a 91), which might drive the price up as bottles become hard to find. Advice? While you're in NYC, buy now, and drink later!
Tablas Creek - while not as eccentric as Gravner and certainly more widely available than BelliviEre - has two key elements relevant to this article: a great story and great wine.
A true Franco-American collaboration, Tablas Creek is a partnership between the legendary Rhone Valley producer, Chateau Beaucastel, and the legendary American wine importer/guru, Robert Haas. Located in California's Central Coast, Chateau Beaucastel is becoming widely known for astounding, old-world quality wines.
The emphasis of this collaboration is on finesse and elegance, not size and heft. All the grapes selected for inclusion are organically farmed and hand-harvested, with only natural yeasts used for the final product.
While Tablas Creek signature wines are based on France's Chateauneuf-du-Pape (look for the affordable Cotes de Tablas, or the top-of-the-line Esprit de Beaucastel), they also experiment with cool, lesser-known varietals like Tannat.
As summer dawns, keep in mind that there is no finer rose than the hearty and complex rose from Tablas Creek. These wines are by far the most readily available of the bunch, so keep a sharp eye out for them as you meander in and out of New York City's finer wine shops. If you're visiting town and can't wait for your first taste, consider buying them for the ultimate New York BYO restaurant treat.
Crush Wine & Spirits
153 E. 57th Street
Between Lexington and 3rd Avenues
New York, NY 10022
About Stephen Bitterolf: In addition to knowing his way around a decent bottle of wine, Mr. Bitterolf is an accomplished fine artist, as you will see by visiting www.Bitterolf.org.
Article by Stephen Bitterolf. First published on 5/10/2006. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.