Saturday, September 6, 2014

ADVENTURES IN BYO: Fuleen + Overnoy (no, not that Overnoy)

BYO nights and restaurants are one of the great not-so-secrets of the New York wine trade. It’s not about avoiding restaurant mark-ups. (We’re in the business so we all understand why a bottle on a wine list costs more than it does in a shop and assuming the list is well thought out and the mark-up doesn’t fall into the evil range, we’re happy to pay up.) BYO is really a way to tap into our own private stashes and share with friends…. Without the hassle of cooking dinner or washing the silverware. 

Many of these BYO joints are Chinese restaurants. There tend to be different tribes haunting different places – Grand Sichuan, Peking Duck House and Fuleen Seafood are three that come up often. If you have an eagle eye for your Instagram feed, you’ll be able to spot who’s drinking where even if they’re not “checked in.”

Shitty glassware and an ice bucket that’s literally a bucket (and yes, I feel this is an acceptable, old school use of ‘literally’) are part of the experience. If you’re feeling fancy, you can bring your own stemware, so if you happen to be at one of these places and notice a table in the corner where the bottles outnumber the guests more than two to one and their glassware is way way nicer than yours… chances are good you’ve stumbled upon a hoard of New York wine industry folks having a night out.

Our Sunday man David recently went to Fuleen Seafood (my personal favorite of the Chinese BYOs) for a dinner. After much discussion, I sent him off with a bottle I thought would go particularly well with the restaurant’s salty/savory seafood specialties. Did I pick well? Read below to find out. (Hint: of course I picked well… it’s my job!!)


DISTINGUISHED AND SURPRISINGLY VERSATILE

Fans of wines made from the Savagnin grape love their notes of walnut, salt and orange rind. The Overnoy-Crinquand Savagnin 2010 from the town of Pupillon in France's Jura region has sure possession of these notes. But a recent dinner at Fuleen on 11 Division St. in Chinatown showcased the stunning range of this -- wine, which spends several years aging in old oak barrels before release.

Fuleen - a Chinatown haunt for more than a few local wine geeks - has a generous BYOB policy, an extensive menu, and tasty, affordable food. At $4 each, the fried quail are a steal, particularly in service to the Overnoy-Crinquand. Its notes of toasted brioche complement the quail and the wine's unexpected acidity cleanses the palate between morsels.

But it's with the main courses that the Savagnin shines. Against a dish of shrimp, garlic, peanuts and red and green peppers the wine reveals a slight smokiness and then some honey to smooth the garlic. A plate of eggplant, chicken and salted fish elicits melon and then a little black tea from this wine, and a side of chive stems calls forth a hint of milk chocolate - not kidding, it's in there.
    
The wine's body is never thrown out of balance but oscillates from leaner to more opulent depending on the dish with which it's paired.

There are next-day leftovers of both meals - Fuleen portions are enormous - and wine, which when sampled with an Italian hard cheese reverts to the more expected flavors of walnut and fine honey. A pairing of Savagnin and Comte, the Jura's answer to Gruyere, is justifiably classic, but dinner at Fuleen shows just how much the Overnoy-Crinquand Savagnin 2010 has to offer.

Overnoy-Crinquand Savagnin 2010: Price: $47.99
buy it here

Fuleen Seafood Restaurant, 11 Division Street  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: WEDNESDAY

The week at the beach may be fading away, but all the bottles deserve their little write up... so the series continues....

If the Vincent Caille Gros Plant Vincent Caille  was grown up lemonade, then Wednesday’s bottle was grown up lemonade with bubbles. Another petnat, this one from Italy, where they call it Metodo Interrotto (“Interrupted Method”). I found this bottle of Furlani in at the Wine Bottega, one of my favorite Boston wine shops. Matt, who imports wine under his SelectioNaturael, has some of the tastiest selections from small, naturally-minded growers throughout Italy.

Furlani is one of his newest finds – true Alpine wine from up in the Dolomites. We’ve carried the still reds and whites and they taste like a liquid version of pure Alpine air – bracing, clean, intensely fresh with the texture of a river water over rocks (yeah, yeah, I know that’s little abstract, but just go with it.) The sparkling is more playful (blame it on the bubbles.)

We had it at lunch, with my attempt at copying the watermelon/tomato panzanella I had at Rouge Tomate right before leaving on the trip (and the day before they closed up shop at the Upper East Side location… but that lunch is a story for another post.)  
The panzanella was delicious (if I do say so myself) and the wine was charming – a major hit. And no, I don’t have commentary…. Just an empty bottle by 2PM. No further proof required.

I’m hoping to bring in some of the sparkling wine soon. So stay tuned. But for now, you have to head to the Wine Bottega in Boston to get it. Tell them Frank sent you.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

BOOKS & BOOZE PAIRINGS

We interrupt the Civilian Series to bring you something completely different! David, our Sunday man, kicks off the first in a series of booze and books pairings. In this case, the booze is a lovely summer rose that we snagged for your late summer enjoyment. Stuck in the city? Grab a bottle, grab the book, and pretend you're spending the last lazy days of summer on the shores of Corsica.

Summer Reader's Rosé

On the French island of Corsica, there’s a new force in terroir-driven wines and his name is Christophe Ferrandis. If you never knew the names that came before him, his still tops our list of Corsica’s serious rosés (no, that’s not an oxymoron). So, read on if you’re looking to fill both of your glasses this summer – wine and reading (yes, I speak for my bespectacled self on that second one).

Trade the city streets for a Corsican beach.
Ferrandis’ Clos Signadore Patrimonio Rosé “A Mandria fills glass one with a Corsican grape related to Sangiovese called Nielluccio, grown organically on marl and limestone. With the finesse he acquired producing rosés at Bandol’s great house Chateau Pibarnon, Christophe delivers a tricky balance of savory terroir, elegantly textured juice and lean, dry fruit that recalls Provence. This will soon find you lost in the novel’s pages while sporting glass two.

Many things make this wine an ideal literary accompaniment to Jérôme Ferrari's Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome (our staff pick for this bottle). But here are the standouts:
  • The terroir tells a story as rich and nuanced as this remarkable novel.
  • The novel is set in Bastia, a few miles as the gull flies from Clos Signadore vineyards.
  • Organic devotion is as passionate a philosophy for Ferrandis as is the study of life expressed in Ferrari's writing - cover crops between the vines, no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers, hand-harvesting and a 2013 certification are proof.

The apparent simplicity of Clos Signadore's rose will keep you sipping til you’re dizzy enough to forget whether it’s you or the novel’s two lead characters, Matthieu Antonetti and his best friend Libero Pintus, who dropped PhD philosophy studies in Rome to run a bar in the small town where Libero grew up and Matthieu spent summers as a child.

The tale’s title is borrowed from St. Augustine's Sermon on the Fall of Rome and traces the story of Matthieu's grandfather - born on the island of Corsica in the early 20th century – in his travels through French Africa as part of the diplomatic corps. The pages cross cultures, continents and lifetimes revisited from the tiny bar to bring our two weary travelers full circle, home to the island of their youth.

Elements of the plot echo Ferrari's own biography. Of Corsican descent, his journey took him from philosophy at the Sorbonne to small town teaching in Porte Vecchio and, then, home to organize his "cafes philosophies" in Bastia, on Corsica's northeast coast.

Perhaps Ferrari's philosophers, both real and fictional, consumed something like this delicious bottle - elegant, savory and well-chilled - to relieve the fevered dramas of the curious mind. Go grab your glasses, the wine, and the book and you can, too. Clos Signadore Patrimonio Rosé “A Mandria”: Price: $29.99

Friday, August 15, 2014

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: TUESDAY

The series generally starts to get a little sketchy at this point in the week. Yes, it’s only Tuesday, but beach brain sets in and the days … and the bottles… start to run together. So notes will be brief on this one – but don’t hold it against the wine!

Envinate Viña de Aldea “Lousas” 2012 (Ribera Sacra, Spain): From Alice's June selection. June was a fun month for the Feiring Line Wine Society and I brought in a few extra cases of two of the wines for the shop: the La Clarine Farm Rose 2013 and Bengoetxe Getariako Txakolina 2011, both of which I’ve been drinking as much as I can over the summer. But this one, the Envinate, we only got a few extra bottles which have been squirreled away until I had a chance to try one for myself, which I finally did on Tuesday evening. We paired it with a very nice, thinly sliced beef rib slathered in my friend Lori’s homemade New Rigel rib sauce. (New Rigel is a tiny town just outside my less tiny hometown of Tiffin. It's famous for it’s ribs, ribs, and ribs. And if you peaked at the menu - those prices are current and yes, decimals are all in the right places.)

Although the conversation was focused on the ribs, ribs, ribs, everyone liked the wine. The grape is Mencia and it’s grown on slate soil (Lousas is the local name for the slate soil in this part of Ribera Sacra.) It had more fruit than I was expecting – deep, dark, purple fruit, but it was balanced by an undercurrent of slate-y minerality.  And no.. that’s not just suggestive thinking – there was dark, grey earthiness that lurked beneath. I would be money that by day two, that earthiness would have broken through and become more overt. But I didn’t get to try it.. my mom turned it into sangria before I had a chance to stop her. (But it was very delicious sangria!)

Price: $28.99 

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: MONDAY: Bottle #2 (with TUESDAY leftovers)


And… the evening bottle.

Dirty and Rowdy Family Winery Mourvedre Especial 2013
(Santa Barbara, California)

Dirty & Rowdy & S'mores
This one wasn’t part of the Feiring Line Wine Society – not enough made to offer it up. We got 12 bottles for the store – and I snagged one for the trip… because I can.

The wine was a hit. My mom: “It tastes like wine’s supposed to taste… unlike that first one” (That first one, for those keeping track, was the Los Pilares petnat muscat. Which even if it wasn’t a Frank family favorite, was clearly memorable.) It’s a comment that makes me laugh a little because I don’t think this wineis at all like most people expect from a California red wine. It’s light in color – an almost pale red – vs. a deep, extracted purple. And it’s cloudy due to the (on-purpose) lack of filtration. It’s got plenty of fruit… but not deep, lush, overly ripe fruit. More like tart cranberries, pomegranates, just-shy-of-ripe raspberries, and if you look for it, a blood orange note. Citrus? In a red wine? And just 12.4% abv, which for a California red… it’s practically non-alcoholic!

Dirty & Rowdy is part of a growing group of “new wave” California producers. There are young guns (OK, a lot of them are my age, so they’re not all that young) who aren’t following the typical formula of big, ripe, oaked-up cabernets and chardonnays. They’re going for quirkier grapes (mourvedre, semillon, trousseau, valdiguie to name a few) which have the advantage of costing less and in many cases, coming from older (in some cases very old) vine stock. And they’re picking earlier, going for a lighter, more elegant style, toning down the oak use, working with natural yeast, whole clusters, carbonic fermentations, minimizing SO2 and acid additions. It all makes for wines that are unique, lighter in color and alcohol, but extremely flavorful.

Are these new wave wines wines typical?  Like wine is “supposed to taste?” Well, I think so. And apparently, so does my mom!

TUESDAY left overs

We made sure to leave a little Dirty & Rowdy for Tuesday lunch, since I know this is the kind of wine that shows really well over the course of days. My father asked “why do I like it even more today?”

The official answer: The flavors become more tightly knit when they have a chance to marinate. The tart blood orange edge softens up a bit, the tart fruit notes become a little less edgy, somehow a little riper, and earthy, herbal notes add a little more complexity. The real answer: Because it’s just better.  It just is.

If we had really been in a scientific mood, we would have left some wine for Wednesday, but this is a beach house… not a lab!

Price: $36.99 (and not much left so get it quick.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: MONDAY - Bottle #1

Our lunch time bottle:
I Vigneri Vinudilice Rose di Salvo Foti NV (2011).

It was pink, sparkling… and didn’t last long. It’s a Sicilian thing: a blend of alicante (known in other parts as grenache) and a mish mash of other local grapes. Normally, the grapes in this bottle would make a non-bubbly pink wine, but for whatever reason, they didn’t get ripe enough in 2011 so the vigneron decided to go the sparkling route. Unlike Saturday’s muscat bubbly, this one is not a petnat. It’s made using the same method as Champagne: make a still wine (a relatively low in alcohol one), stick it in bottle, then kick off a complete second fermentation – which actually raises the alcohol level a bit… and of course, makes for the bubbles because the CO2 isn’t allowed to escape this time around.

That’s a lot of technical info for a wine that didn’t stick around for more than half an hour.  Bubbly, with subtle fruit, a bit of a floral edge, and an undercurrent of firm, sneaky minerality (hello volcanic Mount Etna soil.) It was a fan favorite, which wasn’t a big surprise. Commentary was pretty straightforward – “I like this one.” “Can I have some more?” My mother’s note: “ I like it more than that first one we had.” Which would have been the muscat. Which I guess she didn’t like so much after all. Or at least not as much as she like this one. But she’s a sucker for pink bubbles. (Must run in the family.)

Price: $37.99 

(It will soon be available on the Frankly Wines web site. Meantime, send us an email if you’re interested in buying. We only have a handful of bottles available, left over from the July Feiring Line Wine Society.)

Monday, August 11, 2014

THE CIVILIAN SERIES: SUNDAY

Busy day with a few guests over and a major mission to swim, swim, swim. So wine wasn’t the day’s main focus (Such a thing happens often in the civilian world, I’m told.) But that didn’t prevent us from opening a bottle for a little lunch time sipping.  Today’s selection was another bottle from my parent’s Feiring Line Wine Society stash: Vincent Caille La Part Colibri Gros Plant 2013 (Nantais, Loire, France)

I was curious to see how this bottle went over. The grape is gros plant and it’s from the same general sub-region of the Loire as Muscadet. And if good Muscadet is considered the classic battery acid wine, then good gros plant is even more so – battery acid with a squeeze of lemon juice?

OK, “battery acid” may not sound like a turn on. But racy, crisp and refreshing? Those are words that can sell wine.  But selling it to someone and having them like it are not always the same thing. And while I love high acid, minerally whites, they aren’t always a hit if you’re used to something a fuller and fruitier.)

But today, they worked: the beach, the heat, non-wine-related conversation. It went down just fine.

Y thought it was a Riesling –  and it did have a lean, crisp mineral/citrus edge that recalls a troken riesling (which means he liked it, because remember, he likes Riesling!). My dad asked if it was Champagne. And if you’ve ever had a bottle of good blanc de blanc at the end of a long day being toted around in a sales reps bag, it has that rain-water-over-rocks thing going on that reads as Champagne without the bubbles. Our friends liked it. And my mom said she liked it more than the Los Pilares because it had “more going on.” Actually, it has less going on – no bubbles, no skin contact, no happy, floaty sediment. But then she said it really just tastes more like she expects a wine to taste – which makes sense because the Los Pilares is pretty crazy and defies easy categories.

This little gros plant is more simple. No skin contact. No funk.  No sediment. No bubbles. No funk. But it’s got everything you could want in a simple, easy wine. It’s not exactly fruity, but the citrus and mineral notes are concentrated enough to balance the super racy acid. It’s not full-bodied at all, but it has a certain texture to it – a weightless plumpness that keeps it from being inconsequential.  Grown up lemonade? Water with a kick? Liquid laser beams?

What more could you ask for $12.99? This one you can actually buy... just click here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

THE (THIRD ANNUAL) CIVILIAN SERIES: SATURDAY


Time for the annual Frank/Ohio-family pilgrimage to Sandbridge Beach, about thirty minutes south of Virginia Beach. There’s nothing much (make that nothing, period) to do here except go to the beach, make a few meals, and drink a few bottles of wine. (And of course, argue with Kids #1 through #3 about electronic time.)

This year, I’ve kept it simple: my parents are members of Alice Feiring’s Feiring Line Wine Society and are several months behind. So I just brought the bottles, along with a few other random selections. There are fewer of us along this year – but just as much wine. But I’m not one to let an unfinished bottle stop be from opening another bottle, so I am sure we’ll do just fine.

Sit back, relax, and if any of these bottles look intriguing… I might just know where you can buy them.

SATURDAY

Los Pilares LaDona 2013
(San Diego County, California)

A petnat from San Diego. Who knew? Apparently Alice knew because she managed to scoop up three of the 30 cases made of this wine – that’s about 10% of total production. Los Pilares is a tiny-scale wine project that tries to make wines as naturally as possible (I’m going to stop saying that with every post, because if the wine is from Alice’s line up, “naturally as possible” is a given.) For these guys (for all natural-minded guys/gals, really) it starts with the grapes. San Diego isn’t the natural home for grapes like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvingnon, so you won’t find those stand-bys under the Los Pilares label. Instead, they’re looking to grapes that are natural, traditional matches to the region's warm,
dry climate (which happen to be the same grapes you would find in the warm, dry south of France: Mourvedre, Grenache, Carignan. And for this one, they’ve chosen Muscat, which is traditionally grown a lot in those parts where it’s traditionally used for sweet dessert wines.

But this wine is neither sweet, nor dessert. It’s a petnat – short for petillant naturel. It’s a specific sort of sparkling wine that’s all the rage among the natural set – partly because you can make it without much mucking around. And partly because it makes for a charming and delicious bottle of bubbles. How to: fermentation begins. Natural yeast and magic gnomes are involved. (Alright, there are no gnomes, but the yeast thing is pretty magic.)  Before it’s finished, the partially fermented wine is bottled and capped and with a little luck and a prayer, it finishes fermentation into the bottle, where it’s transformed into a foamy, sparkly, bottle of happiness. Sometimes the end result might be sweet, sometimes dry. Sometimes it might be a overly funky microbial mess. Sometimes it might be delicious but um, explosive. The mystery is part of the magic. It seems like a simple process, but it’s not the easiest thing to get right and there’s no magic formula. But that’s part of the fun.

This particular bottle wasn’t a full-on gusher, but a slow, sneaky bubbly overflow was involved. The wine sees a bit of skin contact so it’s a bit orange-y -  a golden peachy color. A touch of tannic structure. Totally unfiltered so it's nice and cloudy. Taste-wise, there's a little bit of funk with floral, ginger-y, honeyed notes. Sort of a cross between beer and cider and a clean, tasty orange wine – more foamy than full-on bubbly.

I liked it. My mother liked it. Y wasn’t crazy about it (but he pretty much likes Riesling and Barolo and that’s about it…. Excellent taste, but not terribly adventurous.) The big surprise… my father didn’t really like it – at least he didn’t like the first glass.  But clearly not liking it didn’t stop him from drinking it.  By the second glass, he’d stopped trying to make it taste like any wine he’s ever had before and just went with it… and began to enjoy it for what it was – a funky, foamy, orange-tinted bottle of fun.

Price: $27, but really, priceless. Because if you’re not already a member of the Feiring Line Wine Society, there’s no more to be had.