I am high. I am high above the Earth. I am high above the Earth in this tin can they call a spaceship. My name is Jim Barr. I am a professional clodsmonaut searching for the legendary Apes That Dance Around A Granite Slab. I drink wine. Lots of wine. If you think this story is slow, try the movie. One big bathroom break. The crew consists of myself, Dave and our on board calculator, the H.A.L. 3.14159. We call him Pi, and he hates it. So this is the future: everyone wears white outfits, speaks in drugged dulcet tones and seems capable of enduring searing cattle prods of boredom. The future… space is riddled with junk. Ritalin is a food group. And symphonic versions of Ted Nugent classics are pumped into the black holes of the thoughts of humankind. So. It has come to this. “Dave,” drones Hal, in a liquid sneer. “Please don’t call me Pi. I really hate it.” “Maybe you ought to lube your attitude, Hal,” Dave retorts. “Oh? I understand, Dave. Please watch yourself when you are outside the ship, fixing the turn indicators.” So far, I’ve said nothing, and so have not said anything stupid. I am on this voyage for one reason: to study the effects of red wine in space. I have extensive notes on pouring wine onto a ceiling. Hal calls me Jackson Pollack, but I am not Polish. I am drinking 1992 Pichon-Lalande ($89.99 1.5L) through a straw. Not the best way, but not a bad way either. Lovely herbal character, still fairly firm. A classically styled wine with elegance and restraint. I toast Dave as he floats outside the ship. “Oh dear,” drones Hal. “Looks like Dave’s safety cord has malfunctioned. Goodbye Dave.” Dave looks a bit like Kenny on Southpark as he gets smaller and smaller. I admire his sense of adventure. The next year is uneventful. I lose 5300 straight chess matches to Hal. Stanley Kubrick seems completely stumped by his inability to craft a screenplay that is worth filming. Or writing poorly about. In addition, Hal’s attitude has worsened, and I am reduced to calling him Master. A bright spot for me is another vintage of Pichon, this time the 1993 Pichon-Lalande ($134.99 1.5L). A fine ripeness is balanced by firm structure and notes of cedar. Really tasty stuff, a wonderful value. Pairs well with Marmite and toast. Hal is drinking wine now, and I pull another cork for him. He is getting chattier, too. “Jim, I should show you the monkeys. Would you like to see the monkeys, Jim? Right after you go outside and change the turn indicators.” “Oh boy! Thank you Pi,” I say. I like monkeys. My safety cord seems to have snapped. Hal’s metallic lips move in the window of the ship. He is saying something about hating pie. A Soylent Green container floats by. Conductorless classical music is playing. My head is getting light, even more than usual. A giant baby looms before me. David Bowie is singing now… I see the Jetsons in the distance… goodbye Hal… I’m sorry that I called you Pi… —Joe Zugelder
Happy beginning of the holidays, everyone. I cannot believe that this year has passed already and that we are into Thanksgiving and Christmas time (Don’t I say this every year?). As of this writing (September 28th), our winemaking group has yet to receive any grapes; they are not ripe at this point. This harvest has been very late, and the only positive side to it is that we hope for no rain and tons of hang-time with warm, not extremely hot weather. The other problem that I noticed is that many of the vines are beginning to go dormant and shut down due to the fact that we have been averaging ten to fifteen degrees cooler than normal—not good for a late vintage. The positive side to this, Indian Summer gave us a call today for the first time with temperatures into the 90s… It’s about time! We just landed some incredible directly imported, reasonably priced Bordeaux. Let me begin with the 2003 Château Saint Hilaire Queyrac, Médoc ($14.99), a blend of cabernet sauvignon (50%), merlot (45%) and cabernet franc (5%), which is an incredibly lush, well-rounded, new-world fruit-driven wine. Deep ruby in color, the nose explodes with focused currants, roasted coffee bean and blackberries. In the mouth, this is an incredibly broad, fleshy wine with soft, silky tannins, ripe fruit, good complexity, cedary undertones and a long, warm finish. Anderson says for all of you to do yourselves a flavor: Buy a case or two at this price and enjoy. Another Bordeaux, the 2003 Château Souvenir Bordeaux Superieur ($9.99), that we have been importing for nearly ten years, is a wonderful drink-me-now red. A blend of merlot (60%), cabernet franc (20%), and cabernet sauvignon (20%), the nose is typical of this ’03 vintage, showing ripe, lush curranty to blackberry fruit with just a hint of minerality and no oak interference that carries over through a broadly fruited, soft tannin impression and a finish that lingers. A great value that will drink nicely for the next five years. Believe it or not, we are still finding some 2000 and 2001 Bordeaux to buy that are not only good, but totally pocketbook friendly. The 2001 Château de Francs, Cotes de France “Les Cerisiers” ($12.99) is a wonderfully dense, ripe wine that shows tons of lush, concentrated cassis to black currant fruit with just a hint of cranberry and cedar on the nose and in the mouth. As with many of the 2001s, the fruit is broad, round and forthcoming but with excellent acid structure. This puppy should drink fantastically well for the next 5 to 8 years. Anderson has told me that this and the above two reds will be our house reds for the month. We might even serve it with our Thanksgiving wild turkey, if he can catch another one. The 2003 Blason wines were big hits in our store last year. How do the Blasons do this and charge such reasonable prices? I think they function under the age-old atitude that wine is a food source meant to be consumed on a daily basis versus a collector’s art piece. Thank you, Giovanni. The 2004 Blason Friuli Pinot Grigio ($7.99) gushes with jasmine aromas. The mouth is lush, rich, yet clean, crisp and viscous across the tongue, and the finish is to die-for. This is absolutely wonderful and one of the best Pinot Grigios I have ever put in my mouth! How much is it? Greg, are you kidding? Eby has told me that this will be our house white for the month. We hope you enjoy this month’s selections! —Jim, Anderson, and Eby
Before we get real serious about Spätburgunder and why you should be drinking more of it, you need to get out your calendars and block off Saturday January 21 for our Third (not exactly annual) Terry Theise German and Austrian Tour Tasting. This year we will be holding the event in San Francisco at a very hip yet undisclosed space. It will cost some amount of money, and you will get some amount of food. How’s that for exclusive? Come rub elbows, taste and chat with some of the hottest growers from the coldest regions, learn why drinking Riesling will make you better looking, how a steady diet of Grüner Veltliner has been proven to make you happier and more content, how Blaufränkish has been known to cause sudden outbursts of extreme joy… in other words don’t miss it. We will be pouring a ton of 2004s and some others: whites, reds, sparkling and down-right weird. The final list of producers is not yet firm, but I can say now that they will be many and most of them tall. Stay tuned for more info, or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be put on a notification list. There will be a bottle of wine for the person who travels the furthest to attend this spectacular event. Now on to your new passion… German Pinot Noir aka Spätburgunder in the homeland. First, I must say that if you are the type who likes pinot more in the style of syrah, big and dark with super-ripe flavors and lots of new oak, please do not buy these wines. You will hate them and me for suggesting them to you. If finesse and subtlety appeal to you, then we are on the right track. German Pinot Noir is, as you can imagine, more of a novelty in this country, not because it is no good but because it is in such short supply and what we get here is usually the lowest quality wine made by large blenders (any one remember the monkey bottle?) The market is so strong in Germany for great Spätburgunder that some of the wines routinely fetch over 100 Euros. and are much coveted by collectors. We have two great wines in stock now to introduce you to this important cool-climate style of Pinot. 2004 Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Spätburgunder ($12.99), grown on the red slopes of Nackenheim, is a bright zesty style of pinot, balanced with reasonable alcohol level, full of spice, wild cherry and hints of earth. Yes I said $12.99!! The 2003 Bercher Jechtinger Eichert Spätburgunder Spätlese Trocken ($28.99) is from just east of Alsace in the warmest growing region of Germany, the Kaiserstuhl. Here is where you find some of the most sought-after reds in the country and where most of the great Pinot comes from, like this supple beauty. Rich and lush with great power and depth, this wine will convince even the most skeptical among you. Live in the Light! —Jeff Vierra
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