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Posts Tagged ‘Eric Asimov’

"Brix," of Bowers Harbor Vineyards (photo courtesy of savoringsarah.com)

“Great Lakes, Great Times,” the highway signs promised on the way into Michigan from its neighbors — Indiana, Ohio, and in certain places even from the south, Canada — for most of my life. For the last few years, and perhaps more appropriately, “Pure Michigan,” has been the state’s motto. Because while the lakes remain great, the times have been better. But one thing that has never been better are the wines of Michigan.

We are all familiar with the heartbreaking tragedy that is Detroit. Less well known is Michigan’s bustling wine industry, which, I can only hope, might one day help stimulate the state’s economy through increased oeno-geekism, while simultaneously providing an elixir to Michiganders during the darker times.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Michigan,” wrote Eric Asimov, wine critic for the New York Times in a 2010 Diner’s Journal blog entry. “It has what I imagine to be a thriving wine country.” And while Mr. Asimov’s thoughts were focused on the award-winning rieslings of the Old Mission Peninsula AVA, don’t ignore the red wines of the mitten state, including those of Bowers Harbor Vineyards.

As you pull up to Bowers Harbor Vineyards on Old Mission Peninsula, near Traverse City in the north western part of the state, Brix, a 110 pound Berenese Mountain Dog, will give you a friendly greeting and may even rest at your feet while you sip wine. The tasting room is a rustic old horse barn turned winery, and the people of Bowers Harbor are eager to teach you about their wines and Michigan wine country.

I recently tasted the 2896 Langley: a blend of 65% cabernet franc, 32% merlot, and 3 % cabernet sauvignon, from the 2007 vintage. (Langley is the single vineyard designated to wine maker/proprietor Spencer Stengenga’s grandfather, and 2896 is the address of Bowers Harbor.) With a complex bouquet of strawberry preserves, licorice, ginger, mint leaves, and tasting of spicy green pepper notes on the mid palate, this midwestern American wine could easily be mistaken as old world — perhaps a byproduct of French oak barrel aging and the studying of French wine-making by Mr. Stengenga.

While 2006 proved to be an elegant vintage for Bowers Harbor, tasting room manager Kristy McClellan assured me that 2007 has been their best vintage to date for reds:

“We don’t make this wine every year, but 2006 and 2007 were great. We individually taste each barrel and come up with the wine after a few blending trials. The 2008 vintage will be the first time the blend has been predominantly merlot.”

The 2896 Langley can be found in the $40 to $50 price range — not an easy sell to those looking for value, but well worth it to experience the potential that is Michigan’s red grape terroir. Bowers Harbor also produces a pinot noir from Dijon clones, and a sweet red table wine called Red Wagon Red. But if you want to try excellent wines at recession prices, Michigan can deliver with its whites. Bowers Harbor produces a variety of chardonnays, dessert wines, a gewürztraminer, a rosé made from cabernet franc, and of course, rieslings.

At $14 the BHV Estate riesling from 2009 is a beautiful golden color, with green apples, melon, petrol, and figs on the nose, with a syrupy thick body, though not without great acidity. Well balanced lime and cilantro flavors make up the finish. Northern Michigan’s climate is ideal for a number of different styles of rieslings.

“The fruit doesn’t ripen too quickly because of our cool nights, so we get a wonderful quality while maintaining superior levels of acidity,” said Ms. McClellan. “Lake Michigan’s surrounding water extends our growing season for the late harvest styles, but for the BHV Estate riesling we pick on the earlier side to keep its bright fruit characteristics.”

The Bowers Harbor gewürztraminer, also from 2009, is straw fading to green in color, with tropical fruits and floral aromas on the nose: banana, pineapple, roses. It’s an off-dry, low acid wine on the palate, with a bitter back end of citrus peels to balance it out.

“Our gewürztraminer is very popular. We’ve made it more on the dry side in the past, but to be honest, the ones that balance with a little sweetness seem to better please our costumers,” Ms. McClellan tells me.  “Telling them to pair it with Thai or Chinese dishes helps them put an image in their mind as far as a use for such a unique wine.”

It’s still tough to find Michigan wines outside of Michigan, but that is changing. A recent night out at the New York City wine bar Castello Plan, in Ditmas Park Brooklyn, confirmed it: the Blue Franc (100% lemberger), from Shady Lane Cellars, a Michigan winery from the Leelanau Peninsula, is featured on the menu. “We used to serve it by the glass too, and it sold great,” bartender Justin Walsh told me.

I remember the first time I saw a sparkling wine from Gruet of New Mexico on a menu and thought, “huh?” Gruet is now served in close to 5,000 restaurants across the country. I’m not asserting the same will happen for Michigan wines, but with wineries like Bowers Harbor Vineyards producing well balanced red and white wines full of finesse, I can at least feel confident telling people that Michigan does indeed have great lakes and great wines.

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Wine Critic Antonio Galloni

Wine critic Robert Parker’s assignment of Antonio Galloni to cover new vintages of California for the Wine Advocate has the whole internet wine world blabbing. It’s About That Time reader Raja Elachkar shares his view below of Eric Asimov’s New York Times response to the news:

Asimov is so full of it. Parker’s influence has waned? People are less interested in Bordeaux? Nobody told me that. Is this why prices of Bordeaux continue to soar higher?

Serious wine buyers ask only one question: What is the RP rating? That’s it. But many critics like Asimov continue to take shots at him.

Asimov covers dozens of wines a month. The bloggers do the same, maybe a few a week (most of them with a different agenda — to sell wine, or advertisement typically). In the Wine Advocate, you get extensive coverage of about 1000 different wines per issue, or every other month (no promotions, kickbacks, or any wine to sell, etc). Only pure, unbiased opinions. It’s time for the NYT to get rid of Asimov and get somebody more relevant.

Incidentally, Parker will continue to cover CA; Galloni will provide more coverage of CA, and together they will cover more wine in CA. Below is a copy of the letter I received from eRobertParker.com:

Dear eRobertParker.com Subscriber:

I am thrilled to announce that Antonio Galloni will have expanded responsibilities for The Wine Advocate and www.eRobertParker.com as of February 1, 2011. I would like to take credit for my powers of persuasion over recent years in trying to convince Antonio of the virtues of covering additional wine regions, but if truth be known, the writing was always on the wall that his enviable talents and passion for this field would ultimately prevail, and the beneficiaries are the world’s wine consumers.

Antonio will continue to focus on the wines of Italy as well as Champagne, but two new areas of responsibility for Antonio will include the red and white Burgundies of the Côte d’Or as well as the crisp white wines of Chablis, and the wines of California. These vast regions will benefit from the increased depth of coverage, as will all the major wine regions of the world.

Additionally, sectors that merit dramatically more attention but have not had sufficient coverage, including Beaujolais and the Mâconnais (now economically as important as the Cote d’Or and Chablis) will be put under a microscope by David Schildknecht, who will continue with his other areas of responsibility but will be freed from covering the Cote d’Or and Chablis.

I will turn to something I have long played around with in The Wine Advocate but have rarely had enough time to do. Older readers may remember the vintage retrospectives called “What About Now?” With Antonio turning his attention to California, I am going to begin a series of horizontal and vertical tastings of perfectly stored California wines that will give readers insight into how they are developing. It has been a long-term ambition of mine to include more reports on older vintages, and this change will allow me to do this not only in California, but also to increase the older vintage reports for Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley.

In all other respects, the staff assignments at The Wine Advocate remain identical. I hope all of you share our great enthusiasm for the fact that Antonio Galloni has finally taken the plunge and will be devoting most of his time to his wine writing career, a job for which he seems particularly well-suited and sure to excel.

All the best in wine and life,
Robert M. Parker, Jr.

P.S. The Wine Advocate writer assignments are:

Robert Parker – Bordeaux, the Rhône Valley, older vintages of Bordeaux, Rhône and California wines

Antonio Galloni – Italy, Champagne, Chablis, Côte d’Or, California

David Schildknecht – Germany, Loire, Beaujolais and Mâconnais, Eastern U.S., Austria,
Eastern Europe, Languedoc-Roussillon, Jura

Jay Miller – Oregon, Washington, South America, Spain

Lisa Perrotti – Brown – Australia, New Zealand

Neal Martin – Critic-at-Large overlapping all areas, plus specific reviewer of South Africa

Mark Squires – Bulletin Board supervision and occasional articles on Israel, Portugal, and Greece

And the NYT headline gives you the impression (perhaps Asimov’s hope) that Parker is retiring. My interpretation of Parker’s eNews letter (the same one that Asimov read) is that he is praising Galloni by giving him more work. Parker will be covering more older vintages of CA and Bordeaux. I did not get the impression at all that he will be working less or retiring (from one end, he will cover less CA, on the other end he will cover more older vintages of CA and Bordeaux). I for one am very excited to see this: how the older wines will develop and what the new ratings will be (as in last year with the 1990 Bordeaux vintage).

People like Parker never retire (I see it in businesses all the time), the ones that are truly passionate about their work never walk away.

Raja Elachkar

IATT

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Stéphane Derenoncourt

Wine maker Stéphane Derenoncourt bleeds Bordeaux, but with his Napa Valley wines he allows the fruit to do the work.

I met my friend Ben Wood for a wine tasting on Tuesday at The Ten Bells, a wine bar on New York ‘s lower east side. Ben is a wine buyer at 67 Wines and Spirits, but he’s also a jazz guitarist. We recently became acquainted through our mutual interest in wine and the music of Django Reinhardt. Ben and I just finished up a two week residence subbing for the French guitarist Stéphane Wrembel, performing at the Empire Rooftop, a Columbus Circle hotel rooftop lounge. And a post gig excursion for a glass of wine resulted in what was for me an interesting jazz and wine coincidence. But first, the tasting.

We attended Stéphane Derenoncourt’s most recent New York tasting of his Napa Valley wines — his first American bottling. We tasted his single vineyard 06 and 07 Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Syrah. (more…)

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Wines to look for this summer.

Yesterday I had my windows open while I went out for a bit, only to come home and find my apartment full with fragrances of the season: grilling season. My neighbors had fired up their grill in the courtyard just below my bedroom, and a smoky, tough, petrol aroma caught my nose. Smoky, toughness, and petrol are just a few characteristics in wine that could enhance your summer’s barbecued cuisine. So I contacted my good friend Anthony Minne — formerly the sommelier at Esperance in Charlevoix MI, now working as a consultant for the wine department at the Plum Market in West Bloomfield MI — to pick his brain on some of his favorite wine and barbecue pairings. But before we get into the wines, I feel inspired to share with you how Anthony and I met, since it was a result of a summer wine article on chilled Zinfandel, from the wine blog formerly known as “The Pour.”

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