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Gamay

Been hard at work developing the first polished video review. Making film is thirsty work. And even in hot weather, I like my reds. So what sumptuous wine did I sip on while figuring out how to use Corel?

Something French, of course. It’s summer, so without food I tend to avoid the big boys: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell etc.; instead I tend towards lighter, fruity reds I can chill a little. Still, sometimes it’s good to have a little structure to go along with the bounce, and this bottle provided exactly the right balance for the occasion.

The 2009 Cheverny Clos du Tue-Boeuf is made entirely from the Gamay grape, of Beaujolais fame, but this is from Cheverny in the Loire. With its cool climate and ideal growing season for this ancient varietal, the Loire produces many highly regarded wines made exclusively from Gamay. I love them in summer because they tend towards lip-smacking acidity, bright fruitiness and are light in weight. Gamay from the Loire makes a perfect companion for picnics and picnic foods. In this case,  I sipped a glass in my apartment while going through photos.

First impression was of bright red in the glass, with aromas of dusty cherry and some floral notes. A nice sour quality too. Bright and snappy in the mouth, but with a silky texture and great fruit. Just impeccably balanced, really fine in all its parts. Quenching, medium finish. An amazing value in top-notch Gamay for $13 a bottle.

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I held off from updating this forum for a good long while. Why? Lots of reasons. Busy with work, busy being lost in the grey of New York City. Perhaps I was readying myself for the long winter to come. Perhaps I was trying, as so many people do, to plan for ways to combat the icy dreariness of winter. As it turns out, feasting is often the best way to survive the cold months. In fact, this Wednesday I plan to get together with a group of friends and do just that: deny the loneliness of the coming winter. So we gather, and we praise the cleverness of cooking. We sit at the apex, the very culmination of our civilized state: cooking is now a celebrity act, and cooks are our demigods in media and in fact. Decadence, decadence: who’s to say what’s wrong or right about it? Bring it on, I say. Bring it on, and bring friends. And bring the following wines:

Prosecco Brut, Scu Dò, NV – There’s a reason everyone loves this bubbly. Light, dry and pale gold in the glass, this fizzing crowd-pleaser reveals citrus and baked bread aromas on the nose, with a nice mousse. Approachable, good for raising high in a toast. Perfect as an aperitif. $9.

2008 Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling – this wine will redefine what New York State wines can do. Beautiful. Dry, with a pronounced mineral element, this wine has definite notes of peach, mango, and apple blossoms on the nose. The mouthfeel is a nice balance of steely acidity and a touch of residual sugar, with more fruity notes of pineapple and citrus leading to a medium finish. Be ready. $15.

2009 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling – Why not go for Washington State, with its surprisingly good white wines on top of their internationally renowned wines made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon? This showing has a nose dominated by peach and apricot notes, as well as some interesting floral notes and lime zest. Great balance here, with the 13% ABV offset by the fruit itself. A soft-yet-strident mouthfeel shows more beautiful fruit, with a long quenching finish. $11.

2008 Silver Thread Gewürztraminer – Another New York wine for the table! This is one of the most unusual and excellent wines I’ve had from the Finger Lakes. Rich, almost unctuous fruit with breathy aromas of lychee fruit, rose petals, and peach drizzled in honey. At first I thought this wine was sweet, but it proved bone-dry on the palate. Exceptional with white meats and lightly spicy dishes (have you ever made curry with your leftover turkey?). $18.

2009 Four Vines “Naked Vines” Chardonnay – From Santa Barbara County in CA, this wine has the acidity that makes it a perfect companion for food. Beautifully aromatic nose of lemon and lime zest, as well as other white seed fruit and floral notes, almost like Sauvignon Blanc in its strident (but not biting) acidity. Reveals a nice silky texture on the palate, with mineral notes and more tropical fruit leading to a medium finish. $14.

2009 P’tit Rouquin “Les Vins Contés” VdT, O. Lemasson – A delightful wine made from the Gamay grape, showing vibrant cherry red in the glass. The nose bounces fresh raspberry fruit, with some slight earthy notes. Great quenching acidity in the mouth, with more red fruit and some minerality leading to a nice bright finish. $15.

2006 Côte de Brouilly, Christophe Pacalet – Pacalet is a star in the world of Beaujolais; his wines are renowned for their finesse and purity of character. Bring some finesse to the feast with this aged Côte de Brouilly, a fine Cru wine with exceptionally concentrated cherry and raspberry fruit, followed by hints of savory hung meat balanced to perfect acidity. Awesome with the turkey. $17.

2007 Heitz Grignolino – Oh snap! That’s right, I propose you foist a wine from the Napa Valley on your family this Thanksgiving. But this is no ordinary Cabernet fruit bomb. This is that finest of all things, a beautiful and honest rendition of an obscure Italian varietal produced by one of California’s premiere producers. Pale coppery red in the glass, with an explosion of aromatics when poured: raspberries, strawberries, orange peel, and violets. Nice balance and good poise; silk-like texture. Long finish, strong on fruit but with hints of earth. $19.

Touraine has been on my mind this summer… but not for reasons that other attractive, cultured New Yorkers might imagine. Nevermind the numerous Renaissance châteaux dotting the landscape, once ancient strongholds of Angevin kings. Forget the fabled meeting place of Joan of Arc and Charles VII. Shove off, Descartes; run away, Rabelais. Nope, for me Touraine is the place to go for great values in wine made from Gamay. Why? Because Gamay is sexy.


Some of the great stars in winemaking, vignerons extraordinaire, do their good work in Touraine. Chief among these is Thierry Puzelat, who parties hard, dresses well, and rigidly adheres to natural vinification practices. His wines are a solid reason to stick with reds on even the hottest summer nights. I personally experienced a brief out-of-body experience, became delusional with joy, after a glass of the subject of this post. So, that’s not true. But everything that follows is totally factual, almost.

The 2009 Clos du Tue-Boeuf “La Butte,” made entirely from Gamay, is the kind of wine you’d want to order on your third date, preferably one of those cultured New Yorkers mentioned previously. It isn’t expensive, and it doesn’t have the cachet of big-name Burgundies made from the ever-sensual and potently loamy-luxurious Pinot Noir. Swirl the glass, however, and you will stop everything else you are doing. You will cease to pay attention; you will risk your rapport with the new girl/boy, and you will sniff. Plump berries, cherries and raspberries with a nice tangy snap, will waft upwards. Swirl, sip, and the acidity comes into play, rocketing you to the wine’s next dimension. By now your date is either going very well, as your girl/boy gets into the action in his/her glass, or you have been dumped. Who cares? Beautiful balance, quenching finish. Goddamn.

Put a chill on it. Day or night, open this and say something romantic. It’ll work. $13.

Sometimes, I want to let loose and try wines based purely on the recommendations of strangers. On those rare days, I imagine strolling into a shop and ambling along until some helpful salesperson catches sight of me. “Oh,” I would respond offhandedly do their polite offer of assistance, “I was looking for a wine that smells vaguely of rose petals, cherries, and ferret.” A truly courageous connoisseur would look me dead in the eye and ask me: “Ferret, or weasel?” That, or they’d slowly back away and leave me to my browsing. More productive sessions of this sort would almost always land me with an interesting bottle for the weekend.

While this has never once in fact happened, I would like to try it. If I did ask for wine showing berries, roses, and faint notes of animal, it might well net me a bottle of the 2008 Rouge Madon, from genius natural winemaker Christian Venier; Madon is the hamlet in Touraine where he produces his wines. On pouring this wine into a glass, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful color, a pale garnet: perfect for a wine made entirely from Gamay, the grape of Beaujolais. Delicious aromas of, yes, cherries, cranberries, gamy musk, and slight floral notes dance a little dance. Then you find out, on tasting, that this is simply an ethereally beautiful woman cleverly disguised as a bottle of wine. Bright, excellent acidity zings like juicy lightning, red fruits, tender finish. Unbelievably tasty, and affordable: $16. Drink this with a slight chill, pair with thinly sliced salami, or prosciutto.


A modest, yet delicious estate-bottled Beaujolais, the 2006 Morgon Château de Pizay has a nose dominated by fairly intense blackberries and cherries, a silky palate with extremely gentle tannins, and notes of strawberry, raspberry, apricots and some earthiness. These combine to present a classic Morgon flavor profile. Beaujolais, located in Burgundy, is made from the Gamay grape, and enjoys a strong cult following. It is worth noting that this is not the same as the Beaujolais Nouveau that comes into our country every year. That is junk, plonk, and not meant to be tasted by serious wine drinkers. Morgon is one of the ten Cru level Beaujolais, the top of the wine-producing hierarchy in this region. Another I’ve tasted is a Brouilly, the Château de La Chaize. Château de Pizay was founded in the 14th Century, making it an extremely old site. About $15 a bottle. It’s an outstanding value, good for cheerful entertaining, and pairs well with poultry or hearty stews.