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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Entries in 2009 Beaujolais (5)


2009 Beaujolais by the Wednesday Night Fatally-Flawed Palates

A stormy Beaujolais. Photo by Karaian from Wikimedia Commons.In the summer of 1974, a small group of amateur winemakers, including yours truly, formed a tasting group that met every other Wednesday. Ten years ago, we decided to meet just the first Wednesday every month. I eventually named this group the Wednesday Night Fatally-Flawed Palates. We have had some amazing tastings over the course of all these years, and I have watched our group of eight grow to include 21 fatally-flawed palates. The group is incredibly social, opinionated and highly vocal about what they like and don’t, always resulting in some very interesting tasting results. Although I have been working on compiling all my 39-plus years of tasting notes on my computer for a future manuscript, I have decided to begin posting the results of each tasting here on our K&L Blog. 

There is always a central theme at each tasting, the wines are tasted blind and rankings are based on the total rankings from each taster—really empirical. On Wednesday, February 2nd, we conducted, for the first time ever, a Beaujolais tasting from the stunningly great 2009 vintage. The rankings, below, and subsequent scores, with commentary, are from my score sheet. The pricing is K&L’s, which is the best in the universe. I still use the old-fashioned UC Davis Scoring System (how unique versus the hundred point system created by the self-anointed demi-gods?), which awards one point to the top-ranked wine, two to the second wine, three to the third and so on. This means the lower the score the Map of Beaujolais. Image by Cyril555 from Wikimedia Commons.better. Like golf.  

First: Georges Duboeuf Julienas "La Trinquée" ($14.99) Medium-deep ruby in color, this wine possesses aromas of a well-made Côtes-du-Nuits-Villages Burgundy, with meaty undertones, and upfront, opulent notes of violets and cherries. In the mouth it is bright and flashy, with some oak, wonderful complexity and a pretty, lengthy finish.  (Earned 48 total points based on the following rankings: 0 people ranked it first, 3 ranked it second, 4 third, 5 fourth, 2 fifth, 0 sixth, 0 seventh, and 0 eighth. I ranked it fifth out of the eight wines, with 18 points.

Second: Domaine de Collett Regnie "Vieilles Vignes" ($14.99) Medium-deep ruby in color, bright, flashy, pretty aromas of wild plum and cherry. Its Burgundian floral notes are distinctive and well-defined. In the mouth, this beauty is lush, broad, framed by cedary oak, with good complexity, soft tannins (?), hints of minerality and a fairly long finish, which is quite unusual for Gamay Noir. (51 total points: 2/1/4/4/0/2/1/0. I ranked it third with 18 ½ points.)

Third: Domaine Foillard Morgon "Cuvée Corcelette" ($32.99) Medium-deep ruby in color. A bit austere at first, but opening to show a ton of red fruits and rose petals; pronounced, bright and distinctive. Bright, flashy, lush fruit on the palate, with good complexity, excellent structure and a long, warm finish. A great Beaujolais. (58 total points: 2/4/1/0/3/0/2/2. I ranked it second with 19 points.)

Fourth: Domaine Julien Sunier Regnie ($18.99)  Medium-ruby in color, with a bright, pretty nose of strawberry and violets. Bright flavors, simple and linear. The finish falls off, though. (61 total points: 3/2/2/0/2/0/2/3. I ranked it eighth with 17 points.)

Fifth: Domaine du Vissoux, Moulin-à-Vent "Trois Roches" ($27.99) Medium-deep ruby in color; the aromas are bright, flashy and red-fruited driven, with floral undertones. Balanced, red-fruited fruit flavors, with good complexity, and a lovely, pretty, lingering finish. This is a near-term puppy that drinks great right now. (63 total points: 1/2/1/3/3/0/4/0. I ranked it seventh with 18 points.)

Sixth: Château De Pizay Morgon ($13.99) Inky in color—I have never seen a Beaujolais this deep in color. Opulent aromas of currants, blackberries and rose petals that are ripe and lush. (This is Beaujolais?) Deep, rich flavors that are complex, with excellent complexity, concentration and fullness, with intense flavors and an amazing length. The major complaint with my tasting group was that this was too big to be a Beaujolais, and I agree, but it is a phenomenal wine, regardless. (65 total points: 3/2/0/0/2/2/4/1. I ranked it first with 19 ½ points and the comment: “One of the greatest “young” Beaujolais that I have ever tasted!”)

Seventh: Domaine du Vissoux Brouilly "Pierreux" ($26.99) Medium-deep ruby in color, the bouquet was opulent and pronounced, with bright plummy to rose petal floral notes, while in the mouth, this Gem is deeply flavored, complex, fleshy and showing brilliant, vibrant fruit. The finish is long and satisfying. (67 total points: 2/0/2/2/1/5/0/2. I ranked this fourth with 18 ½ points.)

Eighth: Henry Fessy Fleurie ($16.99) Medium-deep ruby in color, the nose shows rose petal tones and is plummy with good opulence and lush, ripe tones. This Gem is incredibly balanced and fleshy, with good complexity and depth of flavor, plus a wonderful structure and a long, warm finish. (91 total points: 1/0/0/0/1/5/1/6.  I ranked it sixth with 18 points.)

Every so often, we have a tasting that totally frustrates this group, and does so because the quality of the wines are so close that it becomes almost impossible to rank them. This was one such tasting. Please note that the first place wine from Duboeuf received no first place votes, but won the tasting. My personal feeling is that the most amazing wine in this tasting was the Morgon from Pizay. The group didn’t know what to do with it—and, yes, in terms of how we view Beaujolais, this wine is atypical. But, so are the rest. In any case, this was a wonderful tasting that needed no excuses for the ranking results.

Jim Barr


Wine of the Week: 2009 Charly Thevenet Regnie "Grain & Granit"

Poor Beaujolais. It's long been treated like the redheaded stepchild of Burgundy. Wispy and one-dimensional or with the same flavor profile as a brick of grape-flavored Bubble Yum, the worst of Beaujolais is usually deserving of the disdain. But there are so many fantastic Beaujolais available, from Crus like Moulin-à-Vent, Morgon, Brouilly, Julienas, Fleurie and St-Amour, among others, that writing off the region is like kicking Einstein out of school for some silly pranks. And the 2009 vintage, which was pretty spectacular across Europe, was phenomenal in Beaujolais. Wine writer Jancis Robinson declared 2009 the "Year of Beaujolais" in an article for the Financial Times, and Jon Bonné, wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, called it "en fuego" in a recent article. K&L's Burgundy buyer Keith Wollenberg wrote in his forthcoming March newsletter article that he thought it might be the best Beaujolais vintage he's tasted in 30 years in the business.

Now that the 2009 Beaujolais are arriving in stores for us to sample for ourselves, we're finding that many are living up to (and some are surpassing) the hype of this near-perfect vintage. A recent favorite comes from Charly Thevenet, the 20-something son of famed Beaujolais producer Jean Paul Thevenet. The 2009 Charly Thevenet Regnie "Grain & Granit" ($26.99) comes from 70-year-old old-clone Gamay vines in Regnie, just north of Lyon, that Charly farms biodynamically and organically. The grapes are hand-harvested, and Charly does not use carbonic maceration, a process that lends many a Beaujolais their tutti fruity character. And the Grain & Granit is anything but tutti fruity. Or frivolous. It's the color of obsidian with flashes of purple and crimson, and its nose is smoky and herbaceous, with faint suggestions of black cherries and wet stone. On the palate, the wine is tense, with raspberry, pluot and black cherry fruit underscored by floral aromas and roasted meats, all framed by fine-grained tannins that catch you a bit off guard. Despite its density, the wine is far from over-extracted, with plenty of acidity to keep it lithe and lively and distinctly Gamay. This wine is really delicious now, but it promises to wow you and your wine-loving friends for a long time to come. 

Leah Greenstein

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