2005 Dunn Napa Valley Cabernet

Friday, January 23, 2009 3:56 PM

I’m not sure if I have ever written about Napa Cabernet for a Sunday email? Have I? I rarely write about domestic wines, because I like to look for that dynamic duo of quality and value which can be (though not always) oxymoronic in wines from the Golden State. I wondered whether I should let Napa take the spotlight on what could be my last (or 2nd to last) email, but this Dunn does offer exemplary value, and it sits at the top in terms of level of quality. I imagine Dunn will weather the current economic climate just fine, as their wines run between $60 and $80 per bottle while their competition has all inflated to over $100. These wines age like 2nd growth Bordeaux, they have so much soul that they stand out as individual/special in any company, and they’re priced like wines from the 90s.

I’m not going to go on forever about these wines, because they have a proven track record. You can look anywhere on the web to see that these wines age gracefully, they are always a favorite among Napa Cabernet drinkers and Bordeaux collectors alike, and it’s hard to compete with the praise heaped on them by critics like Robert Parker. Still, it should be said that the Dunn wines are benchmarks for California Cabernet. They are steeped in terroir, yet they bring all the power and energy we expect from Napa Valley. Almost every customer I talk to who is serious about California Cabs holds Dunn in high regard. They are one of 3 Napa producers that I allow into my personal budget for Cabernet. It should also be mentioned that 85% of the fruit for this bottling is sourced from Howell Mountain, and this wine is Dunn to its very core. If you want top quality Napa Cabernet from 2005, that is intensely cellar worthy as well as representing true value, then Dunn is for you. If you want a 10% discount off the already fair price of $64.98 (making it $58.48), then just order 6 bottles or more. Since it’s the season, I’ll mention it’s a great gift as well, whether you’re gifting friends and family or yourself. Wine will arrive by the end of the week. Special pricing available until December 25th. Ben Jordan

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Melons and Minerals

Monday, August 11, 2008 2:17 PM

I had a lovely wine Thursday night. It made sense for an email for at least three reasons.

1. It’s summer. It’s hot in most places. This wine is white. What’s more it’s a refreshing white. It is perfect for the next few months of warm weather. And it’ll be perfect for 12 months from now if you still have some left. Not that you can’t drink white wine in winter. I would never say something silly like that. Not that I would never say anything silly. I would never claim that, but this wine is perfect for summer. That is my only claim. For now.

2. It’s well priced. People seem to like value in their summer wines. This is a whole bunch of value.

3. I find it delicious. For a number of sub-reasons. It’s delicious in that if you put it in most anyone’s glass: your Chardonnay friend, your Muscadet friend, your martini friend, they all like it. That’s pretty cool, right? It’s also delicious in the “Man, I got a great deal,” way. There is nothing better than sitting with a glass and feeling happy about your wine-buying prowess. It just keeps getting even better with each sip when you’re thinking like that. Finally it’s delicious in “my way.” I love wines that exist in more than one dimension. It is easy to assume that everyday wines are simple because they don’t cost much, but luckily that’s not always the case. There are certain wines that offer more than just alcohol and fruit flavors, and those are the ones I am always looking for. This is a poster child. It has a mineral core that moves to and from the palate. The fruit is a clean, pure amalgamation of cantaloupe, honeydew, and some other melon that I have invented in my mind to match this taste profile. It is duality defined, and I can’t get enough of this kind of wine.

That’s where the melons and minerals title came from. Personally I love it when a wine achieves true minerality and charming fruit. You have Chablis and Muscadet which are undeniably stony and mineral. You have other wines that have delicious, ripe fruit. Rarely do you have both. Many times minerality comes at the expense of fully ripe fruit, or is it vice versa? Whichever, it makes for two camps of wine lovers. Those that love the dry smack of mineral and those who need lots of fruit (your Muscadet Friends and Chardonnay Friends, respectively.) And they don’t always get along with each other. But then one day the clouds part and a wine comes along that can bring these people together. Suddenly Zinfandel lovers are frolicking with Francophiles. Or not. The wine world may never find true peace and understanding, but this wine will at least bring a reprieve from the Old World snobbery and New World machismo. Until the bottle’s finished anyway. – Ben Jordan

Pinot Noir for Now

Monday, July 28, 2008 2:17 PM

Let’s talk about weddings … again. This Saturday I will be officiating my friends’ wedding. I’ve never done it before, but I’ve been practicing quite a lot. I feel prepared, and I’m looking forward to it. Wine figures into the ceremony, so we’re going to use some 2007 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that we made (still making, really) in their basement. The winemaking has been a group effort that their family and friends have been a part of, so it is appropriate in a symbolic way.



Since the wine isn’t actually done (it’s slowly and I mean slowly trudging through malolactic fermentation), or legal to sell for that matter, I can’t offer it here. It tastes pretty good though, so if anyone wants to meet me in a dark alley with an envelope of cash, I can offer you a small allocation on futures. In the meantime, I’ll pay tribute to the upcoming nuptials with this delightful Pinot Noir that recently landed in our warehouse. You may say it’s odd to honor such an event with e-commerce, but I’m complicated like that, that’s the way I roll, et cetera, etc. I am truly excited for them, they’re a terrific couple as well as great friends. It’s going to be both beautiful and a lot of fun.

Now, how about some analogical fun comparing this wine to the ideals of marriage? Yay! My favorite. In marriage we seek purity and honesty; we want to be true to ourselves, and it’s nice if we provide happiness along the way. We want the same from Pinot Noir. While some varieties such as Chardonnay take well to the morphing and molding of the winemaker, Pinot Noir must remain true to itself if it is to be successful. It also has to taste good. It’s time to stop drinking Pinot Noir just because it is Pinot Noir. That’s why we buy less and less in the $10-$15 range for our store. It’s no fun to make excuses for a wine whose only virtue is its price point. Luckily Chauvenet-Chopin is making Bourgogne. Peter wrote about the 2005, which was great, and now I’m charmed by the classic 2006. This is pure and honest Pinot Noir, true to itself and its lineage in Burgundy. It wins me with its lovely aromas, supple texture, and a light-on-its-feet quality. These are the tendencies of Pinot Noir, and this wine succeeds because it embraces them. While the 2005 needed some time to really strut, and many of you are probably holding some of it for a few years, the 2006 is ready to go. It is Pinot Noir for now.

When customers come asking to see our selection of Burgundy Pinot Noir under $25, sometimes I wish I had a little puppet that I could pop out laughing hysterically. If I, a human, started pointing and laughing at someone, it might be considered rude. But for some reason a puppet can get away with more. These ideas aside, I’m generally polite when I inform people they are dreaming the impossible dream. This time I don’t have to be a jerk, and I don’t have find a nice way to say ‘no’. I can say, “Right over here. This is true, this is good, and this is the fabled under $25 Burgundy … and you will like it.” Lest you think I forgot about the wedding angle, I had an epiphany while writing this: Wouldn’t my friends’ love it if a puppet pronounced them husband and wife? – Ben Jordan

2006 Domaine Chauvenet Chopin Bourgogne

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Burgundy;
$24.99

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$21.24 per bottle with case discount.

 

Tasting Notes

People talk about the delicate nature of Pinot Noir, but that’s hard to believe when you taste some of the dark, high octane, chewy versions that we sometimes find in our glasses. This Bourgogne is a case study in Pinot Noir the way the grape wants to be. The aromas are lively, juicy almost, with all that cherry and strawberry jumping around with red flowers and orange peel. The juiciness continues on the palate. It’s a lively wine not meant for tastings and points, but rather for tables and the meals that rest on them.

2007 Unstoppable

Thursday, July 10, 2008 2:22 PM

2007 Andre Brunel Domaine Becassonne Cotes du Rhone Blanc

White Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
$15.99

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$13.59 per bottle with case discount.

 

This wine is unstoppable. I was writing about it for the snail mail newsletter, and that phrase ran from my brain, to my fingers, to the screen in front of me. At first I balked, wondering if it was too much of a World Wrestling Federation sort of statement, but I decided I like it. Especially because I think it works, and not only is it describing white wine, but it costs$13.59 per bottle with the case discount. No, this is not a $300, big points, status symbol cabernet, it’s an everybody-pleasing Rhone white that is completely affordable. And it just happens to be unstoppable.

To be more specific: the vineyard is unstoppable. It’s no secret that I am a big fan of the winemaker, Andre Brunel, but I think the best thing he does to this wine is he lets it be exactly what the vines produce. It is not a winery-made wine, it is a vineyard-made wine. One sign of a great vineyard is quality across vintages. Good wine every year. I see this very clearly with the Becassonne vineyard: this wine impresses pretty much everyone every vintage. I served the 2006 at my wedding, I recommended it whenever I could, and many a customer was sad to find it sold out. There are enough wines out there that I could avoid writing about new vintages of wines I’ve already featured, but I would be ignoring high quality/high value wine in this case, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense. So here I am with the 2007, because this vineyard just keeps going, producing great wine every vintage. Brunel knows it, and unlike his other Rhones in this range, he pays homage to the site-place and bottles it under its name: Becassonne.

We don’t usually talk vineyard specifics with wines in this price range. That’s because many are blended from multiple sites. Vineyard designates are reserved for more expensive wines from famous names like Chambertin and To Kalon. Here, we have Brunel’s limestone vineyard planted primarily to Roussanne with some Granache Blanc and Clairette. The result rivals many of the whites made in Chateauneuf du Pape, but since it doesn’t have the C-d-P words on the label, it’s no where near as expensive. If I were the owner of the Becassonne vineyard, I would take pleasure in the fact I could produce such outstanding wines and share them with everyone, not just an affluent few. Also, I would be happy that I didn’t have to include in my budget the salary for a Luxury Lifestyle Director. I’m pretty sure those people are expensive, and I guess if you want to charge $100 for Napa Cabernet, it is industry standard to employ someone with experience in pairing wine with sports cars and private helicopters. Lucky for you Andre. You don’t have to worry about that. You’ve got a great vineyard producing great wine at a great price, and you get to sit back and watch it fly out the cellar door.

This is wonderfully classy white Rhone wine. A perfect companion to summer evenings and their meals. The Roussanne frames the limestone minerality with just the right amount of succulent fruit. I don’t know if Andre Brunel knew what he was creating when he planted this vineyard in 1978 (I suspect he had an inkling, he’s a smart guy), but 30 years later: this little point on the planet named ‘Becassone’, you can’t stop it. No reason to even try. – Ben Jordan

 

2007 Andre Brunel Domaine Becassonne Cotes du Rhone Blanc

White Wine; Rhone Blend; Rhone;
$15.99

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$13.59 per bottle with case discount.
A Full Case of the 2007 Becassone for $13.59 per bottle. Save $28!
$163.08

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Tasting Notes

I mentioned minerality earlier, and this has it. Not the sulphur-driven stuff you find in some Sancerre and other high acid screechers, but a more subtle, round, limestone minerality like we find in the Meursaults and the Chassagne and Puligny Montrachets. There is also a fresh-ripened stone fruit component to it that is lively, refreshing, and clean. ‘Class’ is the operative word here, as the wine is very comfortable in its harmony. If anyone is looking for a poster child for Roussanne based blends, this is both representative and impressive.

Love Potion

Wednesday, June 25, 2008 7:39 PM

2003 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Trassegum Rouge

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$21.99

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$18.69 per bottle with case discount.

 

AKA the man with the strawberry and bacon salad.

We’ll get to the salad later. Let’s address “love potion.” Trassegum means love potion. It’s funny that a staff favorite has so many less-than-pronounceable words on its label. The 2003 d’Or et de Gueules Trassegum Rouge. Feel free to just ask for the love potion. Feel free to ask in a husky voice.

Regardless of the difficulty of pronunciation, these wines are some of these best that we offer. Anya gave up a staff secret when she wrote up their “Select” (the red and gold wine), and that sold out faster than we could secure our stashes. We are trying to get more. The Trassegum sits at a higher level, and beats most every Rhone wine in this price range.We are the only ones in the country selling this blend of Syrah and old vine Mourvedre and Carignane. It is the chateau’s prestige level wine, which they don’t release until it has rested for the appropriate time in bottle. 2005 Chateau Margaux has hit the United States, yet it won’t be ready to drink for decades. Diane Puymorin, who is as close to a rock star as a winemaker can get if you ask me, ages this wine at her estate, at her own expense, and as a result we get something lovely.

There are a lot of good reasons to drink this wine, and I will go into some (not all), but the main reason is that it is exceedingly delicious. Seriously. If you like anything about Rhone wine and its myriad of flavors, this is for you. Another reason is that Diane is exactly the type of person we want making wine. She has strong beliefs and opinions, and she’s out there going for it, no matter what people say about big production and money making. She is on the cutting edge, yet there is an intuitive simplicity to the way she works. For example this wine sits in cask (no new wood) for a year in order to develop the mouthfeel. Then she racks into tank, where it sits for two more years, as she wants the wine to age before release, but she doesn’t want too much wood influence. Makes good sense, right? But this is not normal protocol. It’s something she figured out based on what she wanted from a wine. And it shows. The wines give genuine flavor with the fine texture that you expect from the well bred. When a winemaker is truly progressive, and her wines work, I want to support her.

Another reason is the sheer breadth of flavor and character. When you smell this, as it washes across your palate, immediately your brain starts running around looking for descriptors. It reminds me of speeding through beautiful countryside. There are many details that are no doubt very interesting, and you can try to concentrate on specific points in your panorama, but it’s much better if you take in the view as a whole. That saidthere are two flavors that really stuck with me. A beautiful ripe strawberry fruit accompanied by savory meatiness. It’s such an intriguing combo, I am always in danger of drinking too fast when this is in my glass. I wonder how a strawberry and bacon salad would taste? Not strawberries and bacon on salad. The two together, maybe with a light dressing, but that’s it. I think that sounds good. But I know better than to trust myself here. I’m the one who served my wife a balsamico Martini. That didn’t work. Not that it couldn’t, but when a martini looks like it is dosed with iodine, you should rethink your presentation. So I’ll stick with wine and leave the hipster salad and martini making to those gifted in these fields.

The point of the strawberry bacon comments is to point out how wine can pull off ultra-dynamic flavors. Even with top Ferry Building Farmer’s Market real estate, I bet the bacon-strawberry-salad man would have a hard time, cursing his creativity as shoppers mull past muttering, “Weird” and “Let’s get a chicken.” Wine is lucky in its freedom. Wine is also lucky to have Diane Puymorin as a creator and Trassegum as a representative. While I can’t promise your date will fall in love with you with this in their glass,they will fall for the wine. You just have to keep giving them more. –Ben Jordan

 

2003 Chateau d’Or et de Gueules Costieres de Nimes Trassegum Rouge

Red Wine; Rhone Blend; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$21.99

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$18.69 per bottle with case discount.

 

Tasting Notes

As I mentioned, specific tasting notes are not what this wine is about. It is a full Rhone experience. If you like the flavors of Gigondas, Chateauneuf, and Cote Rotie, this amalgamates them. I was worried that the wine would be too 2003, oversized and brooding, but Diane has a deft touch. She has the components working in unison. There is tannin, but it is rounded by age, and it melts into food. And the wine smells beautiful. Overall the experience well outpaces the price, making this a great buy.

2005 Domaine Xavier Monnot Maranges 1er Cru Clos De La Fussiere

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Burgundy;
$32.99

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$28.04 per bottle with case discount.

 

The second chance.

What’s so wonderful about this wine? For one thing, from my point of view, I get a second shot at it. I had planned on cellaring this because I enjoyed it out of barrel, and who passes up 2005 1er Cru red Burgundy at around $30? Not me. I stalk wines like this. Six bottles were as good as in my cellar except for the fact that a wholesale account swooped in when my back was turned and took our entire inventory. I remember the day well. I walked past the loading dock and saw a pile of wine. “What’s all the Monnot Maranges doing on the loading dock?” I inquired gently, yet firmly. “We sold it all to *name omitted to protect the semi-innocent*,” was the answer. My jaw dropped. I shook my fist. I howled. But there was nothing to be done. Or was there? Turned out there was still a bit more in France. It arrived in our warehouse last week.



The Xavier Monnot wines are relatively new to us, but we’ve already taken a shine to their verve and intricacy. Monnot’s 2005 red 1er Crus from Beaune and Volnay are notable for their depth and concentration. This is coupled with subtle tannin extraction that avoids any overwrought character brought on by carelessness in vintages of high dry extract. This Maranges is in the same mold except for the fact that it is a 1er Cru monopole for $28.04 with the case discount. Let’s look at that previous sentence. Less than $30 for a 1er Cru? True the Clos de la Fuissiere isn’t Richebourg, but the wine in this bottle is definitely high quality red Burgundy. You folks that were asking for vineyard designate Burgundy under $30 and I kept saying it doesn’t exist, well, I’m happy I’m wrong. For a few days anyway.

This is one of those wines that will slake our thirst for the reds from this vintage in 5 years. It will be hitting its stride when those broad shouldered $70 and up bottles are just beginning to peak out from their structure. It is technically drinkable now in terms of the tannin profile, in that it doesn’t tear the roof of your mouth off, but the wine is more shy now than it was 6 months ago, signaling it is heading off to sleep with the rest of the 05 reds. When we opened it one morning (yes, morning, we’re professionals and therefore allowed to open wine in the morning, it makes our palates stronger) it was reticent, but by the evening when I took it home, the aromatics had arrived, and the palate was just beginning to emerge. The next evening it started to hum, and now I have a nice stash of it in my cellar. So, if you are curious, be patient after you open it, but the best strategy is to be truly patient and wait till the two thousand teens. Besides Burgundy wants bottle bouquet, and the only way to get some of that is to age the wine in bottle.

Maranges is basically an extension of Santenay and the Clos de la Fuissiere is in the sweet spot of the appellation, half way up the hill. Though in normal vintages the wines are more delicate than the Cotes de Nuits powerhouses, 2005 finds it right where you want Burgundy: with concentration and finesse. Kind of like Chambolle Musigny at half the price. The mantra of ‘buy little wines in big vintages’ has never been so appropriate as the relatively obscure Maranges shows well ahead of it’s classification. Who knew that our best value 1er Cru from this vintage would come at the end of the campaign, but I think it is a perfect way to book end a years worth of wines from this outstanding vintage. – Ben Jordan

2005 Domaine Xavier Monnot Maranges 1er Cru Clos De La Fussiere

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Burgundy;
$32.99

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$28.04 per bottle with case discount.

 



Tasting Notes

As I said before, the wine was shy when we opened it, but the nose opened nicely with a few hours of coaxing. One trick I employ to get a sneak peak at the aromatics to come is to let the wine sit covered in the glass (we use the base pieces from broken stemware) for a while. When I come back to it, I don’t worry about swirling, just put it to my nose, and I find all sorts of perfume that was hidden by the wine’s youth. This practice brought my first shiver of excitement for this Maranges. Upon later inspection this wine was effusing the aromas without the aid of my trickery, and not to pour another glass for a drunk horse, but I love the magic of aromatics.



‘Cracked cherry’ is a tasting note term I would like to coin. In the same way cracking pepper releases the essence and flavor of the peppercorn, this wine has a snappy, essence of cherry character to it. There is also a ‘fleeting spice-rack’ aspect to the attack. It comes at you when you’re not looking and then runs off in the other direction before you have a chance to really detail it. When that happens to me I write things like ‘sandalwood’ because I don’t know what sandalwood tastes like, and I have a sneaking suspicion that no one else does either. On another level, the finish reminds me of Bordeaux. This may sound odd, but it has that lovely earthen character that sets Bordeaux apart from New World cousins. It is what I think we meant when we used to describe wines as “dry”, not in a sugar sense or in terms of the tannic interaction with the palate, but in terms of the flavor as the fruit finishes. It is both attractive and distinct. This is a sensation that always translates itself into class and poise in my notes. And that’s really what we should say about this wine. Lots of class, and lots of poise.

Anthill Farms Returns: 2006s

Sunday, April 20, 2008 11:36 AM

Anthill Farms 6 Bottle Sampler – $12 savings
$234.98

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One bottle each of five Pinot Noirs and one Syrah. See individual listings below.
Anthill Farms 12 Bottle Sampler – $45 savings
$449.98

  Add to Cart
Two bottles each of five Pinot Noirs and one Syrah. See individual listings below.

 

Last year, we debuted these wines without really knowing what kind of response to expect. I knew I liked them (a lot), but I had to wait until people got the wines in their glasses. We sold the carp out of them, like they were Varner or Carlisle with big points. A month or so later Alan Meadows at Burghound came out with high praise and high scores, and all of a sudden these guys were no longer a secret. Almost a year later, our customers are still asking for more. Which makes the release of the 2006s a welcome occasion.

We were lucky to get in with these wines when we did, which I proclaim a triumph of peskiness. Now we’re on the list, and the Anthill guys were nice enough to maintain our allocation. Which we appreciate, because restaurants are already starting to devour this stuff. When I went up to taste the 2006s from bottle, a buyer from a local wine bar ordered 20 cases of the Comptche for his by-the-glass program. When case production is in the low hundreds, 20 here and 20 there means sold out soon.

I tasted the 2006s from barrel and bottle, and it was a pleasure to remind myself of what initially drew me in. They are wines of refined succulence, seductive length, and intricate aromatics. They fold into food and quilt (quilt, the verb) across the palate. To call Anthill pioneers of California Pinot Noir might sound odd, but these guys are definitely in new territory, and their’s is a path worth following.

If you missed the wines last year, and you’re wondering what the deuce I’m going on about, Anthill Farms is a partnership of three winemakers/viticulturists who met in the cellar at Williams Seylem. Their approach is not complicated: The California wine industry is, for the most part, divided between growers and winemakers, and the result is that the two are not always working toward the same objectives. This can compromise fruit quality in the name of business. Anthill’s solution is to cultivate genuine partnerships with smaller vineyards. They end up doing some or all of the viticulture, and they coax the fruit to ripeness right alongside their growers. To paraphrase Webster Marquez, they are significantly (really, a whole lot) more involved in the day to day of their vineyards than most “estate” vineyards. The result is boutique, and in some cases micro-vineyards that produce wines the likes of which we don’t often see coming from California.

There is a tendency for us to call Pinot Noirs that we like (like these) Burgundian. I say that’s a simplification. What I love about these wines is that they succeed aromatically, texturally, and in the nuance and persistence of the flavors; they succeed as Pinot Noir. The Syrah succeeds as Syrah, in case you were wondering. They remind me that I like good Burgundy not simply because it is Burgundy, but because it is Pinot Noir from an excellent site. The best Burgundies succeed as Pinot Noir, and since Burgundy came first, we call successful California Pinot ‘Burgundian’. Which is strange because when we eat a nice chicken we don’t compare it to an egg. Yes, I’m saying the egg came first. Try and stop me. Let’s forget that terminology. These wines operate in many of the same ways fine Burgundy operates, but they are not insecure, trying to be Burgundy. Rather they know they are Pinot Noir, and they are Californian as a starting point. They build upon this and paradoxically become wines to cure California fatigue. They reveal their place as well as any wine from this state. They are distinct and exciting to have in your glass. The Anthill wines are Pinot Noir as Pinot Noir should be. And that’s why (the deuce) I keep going on about them.

We have two samplers again this year, a six pack and a full case, both with 5 Pinots and the outstanding-value Syrah. Both offer significant discounts off the normal retail and give you the chance to taste across the Anthill portfolio. I’ve included my notes on each wine below. – Ben Jordan

Anthill Farms 6 Bottle Sampler – $12 savings
$234.98

  Add to Cart
One bottle each of five Pinot Noirs and one Syrah.
Anthill Farms 12 Bottle Sampler – $45 savings
$449.98

  Add to Cart
Two bottles each of five Pinot Noirs and one Syrah.

 

Tasting Notes

Many times I won’t do formal tasting notes, but since none of the critics have published yet (they’ve tasted and liked a lot), I figured I should try to translate my chicken scratch into something helpful.

2006 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Anderson Valley

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; North Coast;
$34.98

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This is the first year for this appellation wine. It’s basically Demuth with a little Abbey Harris. This was the first wine they poured, and it jumped out immediately with the aromatics. Snappy and vigorous and with these black tea back notes that seem be an aromatic calling card for these wines. The palate is spicy and well fruited, and it’s already showing well, though this wine will really start to sing after a few more months in bottle.

2006 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Comptche Ridge Vineyard Mendocino County

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Other California;
$44.98

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One of the great examples of extreme ‘vineyarding’. Evidently you have to drive out to Mendocino and then back inland to get to this site. The nose is very perfumed, a perfect example of why people are excited about these wines. In the mouth it is cool fruit and spice, and finishes with cream and vanilla bean. It wants time, but it sure is delicious already.

2006 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Demuth Vineyard Anderson Valley

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Other California;
$44.98

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Probably showing the best in the lineup the day I tasted, its aromatics are quite refined and focused for a wine this young. The palate brings berries, herbs, tea and an expansive midpalate. A lot of length here, and the wood is well integrated for such a young California wine. Last year, this was one of the more muscular wines in the lineup, but this year it seems to revel in its subtlety.

2006 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Peters Vineyard Sonoma Coast

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Sonoma;
$44.98

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The shy subtlety of last year is replaced with more amplitude and denser fruit. There’s all sorts of clove and anise, making this a wine to stick with for as long as you can. I used to always ooh and ah over the Hirsch vineyard wines, but this is bringing more value while keeping with the high quality that you would expect from a well situated/farmed Sonoma Coast vineyard.

2006 Anthill Farms Pinot Noir Tina Marie Vineyard Russian River Valley

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Sonoma;
$48.98

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While the Peter’s and Demuth seemed to flip flop in power from last year, the Tina Marie continues with its more flamboyant Russian River personality. While it is tame compared to some of the Syrah-like versions from the appellation, it is certainly the exotic selection of the bunch showing powerful, earthy aromatics along with a ripe extended palate.

2006 Anthill Farms Syrah Windsor Oaks Vineyard Russian River Valley

Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Sonoma;
$27.98

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These guys are making their name with Pinot Noir, but they always try to make a wine that their “friends can afford to drink.” This Syrah was born of this goal, and after last year, I’d say they have a lot more friends. This wine wasn’t around long last year, so only a few of you got to try it before you came back and bought us out of it, so the rest of you couldn’t try it. It is all the things you love about California without anything you don’t. The nose is beautifully minty and meaty, and this carries into the creamy palate. As California wine goes, it remains one of the best deals going.



Want to hear more? Really? Email me at ben.winehouse@sbcglobal.net.

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Carlisle New Releases, and a few thoughts

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 3:32 PM

2006 Carlisle Winery Zinfandel Sonoma County

Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;
$19.98

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2006 Carlisle Winery Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley

Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;
$32.98

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2006 Carlisle Winery Syrah Russian River Valley

Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Sonoma;
$32.98

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With the Carlisle wines, we usually just send out an email saying, “Here they are. Buy soon, if you actually want some.” BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, RIGHT? You hear that all the time from us. In our defense we do focus on the small production stuff. If you hear us claiming that we have limited quantities of Yellow Tail or Veuve Cliquot, you would have reason to be suspicious, but I assure you we’re on the level. There isn’t much in terms of inventory, and Carlisle wines disappear without our saying much. However, I think we need to take the time every once in a while to remind everybody why we’re behind the wines we carry. Even wines that sell themselves. Even Carlisle. After all this is a small operation devoted to quality, like us. And what quality it is!



Since I work in a store with so many French wines, my sensibility tends toward restraint. I end up being pretty critical of the California wines that are presented to us. In fact, I’m probably a little too hard on some of the wines. A lot of wines get dinged for high alcohol, extraction, or over-ripeness, and that’s just how it is. That said, the Carlisle wines are not meek wines. They are robust and rich, and I think they are some of the most delicious wines being made in California. There is a certain refinement here even though we’re dealing with powerful Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. I imagine it comes from a perfectionist streak running through Mr. Officer.

And let’s talk about Mike Officer. The man lowers the price on a wine that he considers one of his best versions to date simply because he made a little more, and he wants to fight the idea that California wines are too expensive. The fact is he could easily charge $10 extra per bottle simply because the label says Carlisle. Not to mention the raves that Parker always heaps on the wines. The two more expensive offerings are a great deal, so when the Sonoma County comes out at $19.98, we can only reckon this is a price offered by a winemaker who genuinely wants to share his craft with as many people as possible. With that in mind, please limit your initial order to no more than four of each wine. We’d like to share these wines with all customers who are interested. If you would like more, just mention it in the customer comments section or send us an email.

Back to Carlisle. You can taste “perfectionist” in the wines. Not in an overbearing, tinkering too much way, instead this is someone who insists on quality everywhere. The attention to details doesn’t necessarily tame the wildness of Zin and Syrah, it adds a certain ‘fineness’, allowing the wine to exist on two seemingly contradictory levels. These are some of the most regal power-driven wines out there. And they show no signs of letting up. The motto of this winery seems to be, “We will never be finished making our wines better.” To me, that is the way it should be. And that’s why we keep selling these wines and asking for more than they can give us. – Ben Jordan

2006 Carlisle Winery Zinfandel Sonoma County

Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;
$19.98

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“Officer’s 2006 Zinfandel Sonoma (which comes from multiple sites and is his largest production wine – a whopping 860 cases) exhibits the ripeness of the vintage, with huge blueberry and raspberry fruit notes along with some earth, underbrush, and pepper. The wine has flashy aromatics, a full-bodied mouthfeel, and good underlying acidity, but the lushness and intensity will make it quite a stunning wine to drink now and over the next 5-7 years. 91-93 Points.” – Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #174.

2006 Carlisle Winery Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley

Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;
$32.98

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“The 2006 Zinfandel Dry Creek, whose largest proportion comes from the Teldeschi Ranch (planted in 1885), is blended with 14% Petite Sirah. Like most of these Zinfandels, this wine sees 25-35% new oak and, of course, is bottled unfiltered. The wine has a distinct terroir character to it – earthy, spicy, with a strong underlying mineral/steely component, some delicious sweet cherry jam notes as well as some blacker fruits. On the mouth, the wine has fabulous fruit, is full-bodied, relatively supple-textured, and beautifully pure and long. 90-92 Points.” – Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #174.

2006 Carlisle Winery Syrah Russian River Valley

Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Sonoma;
$32.98

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“The 2006 Syrah Russian River, which is 100% Syrah with 25% whole clusters used, displays impressive fruit, and plenty of roasted meat and herbal notes that are dominated by the blackberry and cassis fruit of this wine. Some creosote and tar also make an appearance in this full-throttle, juicy Syrah. 91-93 Points.” – Robert Parker, Wine Advocate #174.

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2005 Bordeaux In Stock: Pierre de Cartier

Tuesday, April 1, 2008 2:26 PM

2005 Chateau Couronneau Cuvee Pierre de Cartier Bordeaux Superieur

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$19.98

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$17.98 per bottle with 10% full case discount on this normally NET wine.

 

This vintage is beginning to flow, bringing the excitement of sampling some of the higher tiered wines. It also brings the ability to make generalizations, so let’s get started doing that. It seems that the 2005 Right Bank wines, and the satellites that follow their style, will be known for their jaw dropping intensity. If you thought the Château Couronneau Volte Face was powerful, wait till you try the Premier Vin, the Pierre de Cartier. It is endowed with the adrenaline and sinew to stare down most Bordeaux blends produced in the new world, but it also carries the dark minerality, bitter pencil and leather that we affectionately refer to as ‘old school’. We got an introduction to the power in the regular Couronneau, and the Volte Face brought a level of polish and concentration. This is like a Volte Face that needs 5 years extra bottle age.If you like rough-housing with a wine, in the way that some puppies like to get thrown around, (the exhilaration of going up against something stronger than you) then drink this wine now. And have it with meat. If you don’t eat meat, I’ll be honest: This would annihilate most every vegetarian or fish dish I have ever had. So you can cross over to the dark side, or shoot me an email, and we’ll find something a little lighter. For those who don’t have a young pup palate, put this away and forget about it. It is 2005 Bordeaux after all, and like all the prestige wines, it is stacked and layered upon itself, and it requires patience.



While I have compared the 2005 Couronneau’s to new world wines in terms of ripeness and scale, I must reiterate this tastes like France. Between the meat and pepper and leather, this is not filtered UC Davis wine. Upon opening, you’ll find these “old school Bordeaux” components dominate the aromatics, but as the wine opens in the decanter (or over three days as I like to do) the fruit steps forward and commands the attention. The other components become highlights that make this wine compellingly Bordeaux, while the vintage gives it plenty of crossover appeal.

With good storage this wine should coast easily to its tenth birthday and beyond. At $17.98 per bottle on the full case, this is an intriguing buy. In normal Bordeaux vintages or any Napa vintage you‘d have to pay between $30 and $40 to get this depth and intensity. I keep saying it over and over. As much hype as there is for the famous names in this vintage, there is so much compelling evidence for buying under the radar. And I’m going to keep stashing these types of wines away till the well runs dry. – Ben Jordan

2005 Chateau Couronneau Cuvee Pierre de Cartier Bordeaux Superieur

Red Wine; Bordeaux Blend; Bordeaux;
$19.98

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$17.98 per bottle with 10% full case discount on this normally NET wine.

 

 



Tasting Notes

If there is a definition of palate presence, this is it. From the flavors, to the body, to the textures that extend the finish, this is intense. We’ve tasted this wine over a number of vintages, and while it is always good, it has never had such an arresting presence. I mentioned the leather and pencil lead, the notes of classic Bordeaux, and they are there. There is also dark red and purple fruit that possesses great sweetness. As I mentioned the wine is stacked. You can chew on the structure. Many of the 2005 Bordeaux will be long lived, and this is one of them.

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South Continent Pinot Noir: The Instant Glow

Wednesday, March 26, 2008 2:59 PM

2006 Azul Profundo Pinot Noir Bio Bio Valley

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Chile;
$19.98

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Every once in a while something special drops in your lap. You can search through price books, go to tastings, visit wine countries, and find nothing. Yet some guy walks in and pours a glass, and you’re looking at him thinking “Where did you come from?” From the Bio Bio Valley in Chile (further south and cooler than the famous regions of Maipo and Casablanca) comes one of the most exciting sub $20 Pinot Noirs I’ve tasted in a long time. Where I’m normally looking for price points that are acceptable under $20 with this grape variety, this wine is impressive-delicious and more suited to the company of $30 dollar wines. You can imagine that winemakers, both Californian and Burgundian, would be happy buying this wine bottled but unlabeled. They could slap their label on it, give it a healthy markup and walk away with a profit, having done very little work. Of course, this won’t be $19.98 forever. They make 600 cases total and with the rising costs of everything, soon this pricing won’t make sense. Please take advantage if you’re into high quality/high value Pinot Noir. We have an allocation for this email, but after that, no guarantee.This wine came to us via the winemaker who is also an importer and wholesaler. He and his wife run the businesses together (she’s a winemaker too), and they had just picked up a label I had been buying direct. He asked if he could come by and pour the new vintage, and the Azul Profundo tagged along. I help a woman find wines for her club, and she was tasting with us. With one look we agreed we were both buying this wine. Beautiful pure fruit, deft oak use (you have to be looking to notice any at all), and a style that speaks to many palates. After watching my wife and mother-in-law fawn over it on Thursday, I started writing. When a wine lights up my wife’s face like that, I go back for more. I’m a Beverage Industry Professional (BIP) so I can get an “It’s good, I like it,” out of her most of the time, but to get that instant glow is difficult and therefore my constant challenge. This is instant glow wine.



I really enjoy this grape when it is done well, and most of the time it is not, so I end up being very picky. I think I’ve written about two non Burgundy Pinot producers total: Cima Collina and Anthill Farms (2006s coming soon!), and this made the cut to be number three. I love what this wine is doing under $20, and everybody who tries it seems to agree. Delicious, quality Pinot Noir with a retro price. There’s not a lot more to say than that.

SCD Dinner Report: Peter and I had two very successful dinners with SubCulture Dining last weekend. 9 courses, eight wines, and too many chocolates to count. There was an abundance of creative, delicious food, and the communal dining environment was a blast. If you were on the fence about attending, and you’re wondering whether you missed out: Yep. I wasn’t exactly sure what Peter and I were getting into, but now I’m looking forward to the next one. If you’re adventurous, you like to eat well, and you enjoy meeting foodies from all walks of life, we recommend checking it out. – Ben Jordan

2006 Azul Profundo Pinot Noir Bio Bio Valley

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Chile;
$19.98

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Tasting Notes (For the Pinot Noir, not the 9 course meal)

You know me, if the wine does’t smell good, it’s not going home with me. I was skeptical (as I should be) about a Pinot Noir with a price this low, but when I put my nose on it that changed. And then there’s the palate. There’s a wonderful mouthfeel that you can only achieve with this variety. But to really describe this wine we have to talk about the fruit. The way it charms you, the way it carries richness, and the way it harmonizes the experience of the wine as whole. When I’m recommending wine, I feel the need to describe it in terms of its components and how extreme or subtle they are. I do this because everyone has different tastes, and I want them to understand where on their taste spectrum these pieces-parts sit. You really need to do that so you don’t send someone home with exactly the kind of wine they despise. I don’t feel the need to do that here. This speaks the language of all palates.

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The Pinot Noir of the Languedoc

Tuesday, March 18, 2008 4:06 PM

2005 Domaine Sainte Eugenie Corbieres

Red Wine; other red varietal; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$11.49

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$9.76 per bottle with case discount.

 

This wine tastes nothing like Pinot Noir.But sometimes a wine hits me in a way that has nothing to do with the flavors and everything to do with impressions. And out come these semi-contradictory statements. I was talking to a customer the day after drinking a bottle of this, trying to explain why I liked it so much, and out came the title of this email. Call it new wave, call it false advertising, I call it sometimes my notes are more intuitive than logical. It’s the experience of the wine that conjures similar sensations. This Corbieres is medium bodied with less tannin than wines in its peer group, and it pairs eerily well with all sorts of meals. Though it’s not a muscle wine, it still has the ability to impress, and it is texturally pleasing. Pair this with the pepper and sandalwood of the south and you have an intriguing, dynamic wine. It’s one of those bottles that you pour without fanfare, but by the end of the bottle everybody is asking for more and complimenting your wine buying saavy. All for less than $120 a case.

Another way to frame it is that this is a wine that people who like Pinot Noir can enjoy as a substitute for what is passing for the variety in this price range. Why? It’s a wine that is fun to smell. I put it in one of those big bowl Burgundy glasses, and I was having a great time. It has a soft, caressing mouthfeel, and there’s no palate bruising. Then there are the flavors: Rhone, and South of France, yes, but instead of rusticity you have soft tannins and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It’s a best of both worlds situation except for the fact that there’s another world to take into account, and that’s value. When’s the last time you had an under $10 Pinot that you thought was any good at all? The under $10 Burgundy days are long gone, but this Corbieres marches on.

This wine is a great deal by the bottle, but a case gets our discount. That’s $9.76 per bottle, a price that makes me proud to work here. With all the talk of the down dollar and expensive imports, this Corbieres is having none of it. To me this is exactly the kind of wine that makes adventurous, small companies (like us) so valuable to the wine consumer. We have 25 cases from our LA warehouse scheduled to arrive tomorrow (Monday). We have more coming late Spring/early Summer. If you miss out, please email us with your needs and we will contact you when it arrives concerning price and availability. – Ben Jordan

2005 Domaine Sainte Eugenie Corbieres

Red Wine; other red varietal; Languedoc-Roussillon;
$11.49

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$9.76 per bottle with case discount.

 

Tasting Notes

I pretty much went over this earlier in the email, but I really like the aromatics on this wine. It has peppery, herb, spice mélange thing going on and it really does draw you in like good Pinot Noir does. It’s like having the flavors of the southern Rhone with the subtlety and class of Burgundy. I’ve had this wine four times now, and I keep coming back. Peter and I served it at our dinners with Subculture Dining Friday and Saturday nights. Every time I was impressed with the quality and versatility of this wine. For the curious: This is mostly old vine Carignan finished with Grenache and Syrah.

 

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2005 Red Burgundy: Morot Bressandes

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 6:08 PM

2005 Domaine Albert Morot Beaune Bressandes

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Burgundy;
$69.99

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$59.49 per bottle with mix/match case discount.

 

I’ve been asked to give last call on our Subculture Dining events next week. See Below.In last week’s email, I wrote about how I prefer to forego new clothes in order to stock my wine cellar. And wouldn’t you know it, on Wednesday a concerned customer gave me a sweater when he picked up his wine. I don’t think it was a new sweater, but he said he washed it, so that was very nice of him. This week I would like to point out that I have been foregoing those delicious ham and cheese croissants from Tartine in order to buy Burgundy. Man, those things are good. I think there’s a stick of butter in each croissant. Man, I love butter. And Ham. And cheese.One of the wines contributing to my lack of Tartine croissants is the 2005 Albert Morot Beaune 1er Cru Bressandes. I own this wine in 375ml, 750ml, and 1.5L, and I would probably buy 187’s or 3L’s if we had them available. Wouldn’t that be cool? 187’s of the great vintages, so we could sample them? I bet a winemaker would slap my face for saying that. This is officially a late arrival, and there was a short time when we thought we weren’t going to get the 750ml’s at all. But we raised a ruckus, as it didn’t seem right for us to miss one of the top vineyards of this appellation in this great vintage from a producer that we’ve carried for such a long time. Plus the Beaune Bressandes is a favorite of a number of us Wine Housers, we buy it every year for our cellars, and we weren’t willing to have a hole in our verticals. Personally, I love the wine, and I think it matches many of the Gevreys and Vosnes from the Côtes du Nuits in terms of depth and ageability, yet it costs anywhere from 20%-40% less for comparable 1er Cru quality. Even in less proclaimed vintages like 1997, the Morot Bressandes is a contemplative wine of smoke, forest floor, licorice and succulent length. In 2005, it aspires to Grand Cru, and it will outlast some wines labeled as such. Far from a snappy, red-fruited, early to medium term Beaune, this is darker, deeper vin de garde. Not that I’m old enough to call it like this, but I think it will be one of the masterpiece wines for this domaine, and it will be a benchmark for judging Beaune Bressandes. In some vintages I lack the financial wherewithal or enthusiasm to buy all over the Burgundy map, but this is the first wine I buy every year. I guess I should put that into context. I don’t chase micro-quantities of Grand Crus or the domaine names of the hour. I’m looking for high quality at a price that is reasonable. However, I think if I had unlimited means and a cellar full of Musigny and Griottes, I would still buy this wine.This will be one of the last 2005 red Burgundies I’ll write about, with one or two more on the horizon (hopefully) that are basically reorders of wines we sold out of immediately. I wouldn’t have been able to write about this had it not arrived later than everything else. It would have been long sold. As it is we have about 6 cases and a half case of splits, so it won’t be around for long, but I am glad I got to write about it, as I do love it so. – Ben Jordan

2005 Domaine Albert Morot Beaune Bressandes

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Burgundy;
$69.99

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$59.49 per bottle with mix/match case discount.

2005 Domaine Albert Morot Beaune Bressandes (half bottle)

Red Wine; Pinot Noir; Burgundy;
$36.99

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$31.44 per bottle with mix/match case discount. Two half bottles equal one full bottle for discounting purposes.

 



Tasting Notes

I’ve had this three times, twice at the domaine and once from 375ml in my apartment, and each time I’ve been impressed with the sheer amplitude of the material. Not amplitude in a Barossa Shiraz way, but in the way the flavor seems to replicate and expand across the palate. Even in such a young wine, there are layers and complexities that make it an exciting, convincing Burgundy. That said, you would be doing yourself a disservice to drink too much of this now. It is a wine for 2015 (2012 at least) and beyond, and that’s when we’re really going to say something about it. If you must taste it, I suggest snagging one of the half bottles. The wine is dense and structured, but endowed with that silken cream mouthfeel that I’ve noticed in the vintage, from Gallois’ Gevreys to Lamarche’s Grand Rue. For more detailed notes, I’ve included David S’s notes from the Wine Advocate below.



Wine Advocate Notes

From David Schildknecht in Wine Advocate Issue #171:“The Morot 2005 Beaune Bressandes displays scents of game, blackberry, wood smoke and sea breeze. Darkly-fruited on the palate, with hints of fruit skin bitterness, this is at the same time rich and marrowy, savory and juicy, as well as possessed of invigorating salinity. The tannins here are very refined and a creaminess of texture is already emerging. This has about it the aura of one of the Morot Beaunes of yesteryear – I think of the 1972 – that might become something really special. It would be most interesting and worthwhile to cellar. (Don’t be misled by my apparently conservative score: I can only rate what’s here today, and Morot wines in a vintage like this simply aren’t about being youthfully flattering and giving of themselves.) 91 Points.

Subculture Dining Event

Last call for reservations. Next weekend (March 14th and 15th), Peter and I will be dining and presenting wine at an “underground” evening with the Dissident Chef and Subculture Dining. In addition to dinner and wine, the folks at Recchiuti will be on hand to discuss and present their chocolate and confections. Peter and I are getting excited, so if you are too, we’ll see you there. Note: We are appearing on a volunteer basis, and all donations given will go to Subculture Dining.

SubCulture Dining WebSite

To order tickets/make reservations.

Questions/Comments? Email me at ben.winehouse@sbcglobal.net. For orders, please use our main email: winehouse@sbcglbal.net.

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