Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Burgundy's Renowned Pinot-land has a Chardonnay Surprise

There are places in this world so perfectly suited to winemaking that we often can’t help but rave about them... that is, when we’re not silent with awe. Burgundy’s regal and mystical Corton-Charlemagne is decidedly one region whose wines take our breath away. Every. Single. Time. Surrounding the hill of Corton just north of Beaune, red wines are prevalent, but for good reason, Corton-Charlemagne has become the premiere vineyard for white wine in the sub-region. In fact, it’s the only white Grand Cru to be found until about 20 miles to the south in the cluster of Montrachet parcels.
The Corton hill in Burgundy, France

The hill of Corton is a monolithic defining feature of the landscape, rising above the town of Aloxe-Corton, its slopes draped with neat rows of vines, while the crest – looking like it has grown a healthy head of hair – is capped in forest. On the southwest side of the hill is a piece of land gifted by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne to the Abbey of Saulieu in 775 AD. As legend has it, Old King Charlemagne was a big fan of wine, but his wife didn't care for the way red wine stained his beard. So, they compromised, and Corton-Charlemagne would become known as the birthplace of some of the finest Chardonnays the world has ever tasted. 
The Chardonnay vines are planted on the upper reaches of the slope where the soil is predominantly limestone. At this elevation, the vines are less at risk of damaging spring frost and benefit from nearly unobstructed southern exposure. Down the slope where the soil is heavier with clay, Pinot Noir is more likely to be found, where it would also fall under a different appellation name.

Already respected for centuries for producing some of the most expressive, full-bodied and extremely age-worthy white wines on earth, the Corton-Charlemagne appellation was officially codified in 1937.

The experts at Bourgogne-wines.com note that young Corton Chuck exhibits pale gold color that deepens with age to yellow and even amber. They can exude a delicate bouquet but also feature buttery notes of baked apple, citrus fruits, pineapple, lime, juniper, cinnamon, and flint. Filled with powerful exhilarations, “Corton-Charlemagne is an astonishing demonstration of what the Chardonnay grape is capable of ... Rarely do we see such a perfect synthesis between grape variety and terroir.” We couldn't have said it better ourselves. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

What were you doing in 1863?

1863 was a very important year when it comes to American history. Here’s just a few things that went down just to provide some perspective:

January 1 - Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation
January 8 - Ground was broken in Sacramento, California, on the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States
February 24 - Arizona was organized as a United States territory
April 29 – William Randolph Heart was born
May 10 – Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson died due to a gunshot wound from friendly fire during the Battle of Chancellorsville
July 30 – Henry Ford was born
August 8 – After losing the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee sent his resignation letter to Confederate President Jefferson Davis (Davis refused the resignation).

But what about on the other side of the world? Well, there were plenty of amazing events that occurred in 1863, but perhaps none more fascinating than the making of this fabulous Single Harvest Tawny Port from the folks at Taylor Fladgate. We were introduced to this bottle over a lunch at local sushi restaurant, Morimoto, and we can be honest when we say everyone else in the room was rubbernecking to see what magical bottle was about to emerge from its wooden cocoon. One taste, and we knew we had to offer some of this to our clients. This is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if you’re really looking for a showstopper in your cellar, look no further than right here!

From one of the icons in the production of port, and presented in a specially-made crystal decanter that rests in a gorgeous wooden box, this is much more than a collector’s item. Deep mahogany in the glass, powerful aromatics of spiced molasses, toasted walnuts, butterscotch, figgy pudding, vanillin, nutmeg, ginger and marzipan lead into a decadent palate that is in perfect balance. Extraordinary depth, grace and power all meld together to create one of the most memorable wines we’ve ever tasted. 

With only 331 bottles imported into the U.S., and at over 150 years old, this is one the greatest trophies in the world of wine to ever cross our path. The term rare doesn’t quite do this bottle justice, and we got our hands on a few of these beauties to make sure you had the chance of snatching up a piece of vinous history. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good! Make way for liquid royalty, because once this bottle steps foot in your cellar, all your other trophies will bow in its presence.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Quick Guide to Carneros

Region: Carneros
Resume: From pasture land to Pinot paradise, the lolling hills of this former sheep grazing region that spreads into the southern halves of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys is considered to be a dream locale for cooler, marine-air loving grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
What’s in a Name: Carneros, or Los Carneros, translates in Spanish as “the sheep.”
Totally PC: Declared an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983, Carneros holds the honor of being the first region to obtain its AVA-status based on climate rather than political boundaries. It’s parent AVA is ‘North Coast.’

While the first Carneros vineyards were planted in the 1830s and the first winery in the 1870s, Carneros truly began building its modern day reputation for producing some of California’s most elegant and balanced Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and sparkling wines in the 1960s and 70s. Early viticulturalists recognized the untapped potential in its gently sloping wind and fog-stroked hills. In 1972, about 200 acres had been planted to vineyard. By 1992, that figure jumped to just over 6,000 acres, and today that number exceeds 8,000.

The key to Carneros’ success is its proximity to the San Pablo Bay on the northern edge of the San Francisco Bay, which funnels cool Pacific coast air into the region. While vineyards here bask in plenty of sunlight, the constant wave of cool air keeps vines from becoming over-baked. Instead, the ripening season is slow and steady, and, when thoughtfully farmed, the resulting fruit possesses remarkably balanced acid, tannin and sugars.

Elegance is the name of the game in Carneros, and producers worth their salt, like Donum Estate, Saintsbury and Robert Sinskey (the latter winery is not located in Carneros but most of its fruit is), know just how to draw the most nuance and flavor fruit from Chardonnay and that “enfant terrible” Pinot Noir. And the flavors coming from this region are distinct.

What should a wine drinker expect from a Carneros wine? With Chardonnay, look for a core of citrus, apple and/or pear flavors. Carneros Pinot typically reveals fresh berry, wild cherry, jam and spice notes. As for the marriage of the two grapes known as sparkling wine, expect those same pure fruit tones along with a refreshing streak of minerality.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Champagne: In Victory and Defeat

Few people in the world today think of bloodshed and war when they think of Champagne. And yet, the Hundred Years’ War, the Thirty Years’ War, the violent civil war the Fronde, the Napoleonic Wars, the Wars of Spanish Succession, all were fought primarily on Champagne’s soils.

As Champagne authors Don & Petie Kladstrup say, it’s one of the greatest ironies that Champagne, “site of some of mankind’s bitterest battles, should be the birthplace of a wine the entire world equates with good times and friendship.” Napoleon was known to have said, after battle, that “I drink Champagne when I win, to celebrate…and I drink Champagne when I lose, to console myself.” And Churchill famously stated that “In victory, we deserve it, in defeat we need it.”

What is it about Champagne that has inspired so many men and women of influence to wax poetic about the region’s wines? Even Dorothy Parker famously wrote that “three be the things I shall never attain: envy, content and sufficient Champagne.” Most wine experts say Champagne’s magic starts in the region’s mineral and fossil-rich chalk soils (a quick note that True Champagne comes exclusively from the region of Champagne, France located about 90 miles outside of Paris), and ends in what was originally a complete accident.

As one of the coolest wine regions in France – and the world – some of Champagne’s first wines were made in the fall. Cool winter temps would halt fermentations before all of the grape sugars had been converted into wine, and when warm spring temps began to warm the wines, they would often begin to re-ferment in the bottle.  Many of Champagne’s first winemakers worked desperately to stop the fizzing and effervescence that resulted, however, over time, those same Champenois vintners realized that those bubbles were actually the thing that made their wines unique. They began to market their bubbly accordingly.

The appellation is divided into five sub-regions and its vineyards are planted with three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. While many Champagnes are a blend of all three grapes, wines labeled blanc de blancs are made exclusively from Chardonnay. Other styles of Champagne include blanc de noir and rosé.

Today, wine regions across the globe are turning out excellent bubblies. Spain has its cava, Italy its Prosecco, and California and Australia its sparkling wine.  We’ve even had some delicious cremants from the Loire Valley and Burgundy. None, however, seem to possess the magic found in a great bottle of Champagne. Billecart-Salmon, Tattinger, Krug, Bollinger, Morlet…these are names that roll off our tongue with joy and anticipation. Hoard away as many bottles as you can, to pull out in both victory and defeat.

As Lily Bollinger so famously stated, “I only drink Champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it when I’m not hungry and I drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it…unless I’m thirsty.”  Cheers!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Eddie Gilbert - Wine Manager Superstar

Colorful doesn't even begin to describe Eddie Gilbert, Wine Manager superstar here at Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Spirits. He’s been called an acquired taste by some of his closest friends, and when you get to know him, you’ll understand exactly why (and why one could see it as a compliment). 

Born in New York and raised in Granada Hills in Los Angeles, Eddie learned from an early age that his strength was in being an independent thinker. He’s one smart cookie who not only graduated with a BS in Human Organization and Development from Vanderbilt University, but was invited back for a Masters Degree in Organization, Leadership and Education. His academic path was exceedingly positive, but his inextinguishable zeal for life’s pleasures (food, music, and exploring new cultures) tugged him away from a very good job at one of the nation’s biggest talent firms. 

While in Los Angeles, Eddie dabbled in the culinary arts. Then, being the “jump in with both feet and figure out how to swim” type of guy he is, Eddie auditioned for a show on the Food Network. He won the part and cooked his heart out (simultaneously earning a rap as the season’s resident villain, but that’s a whole other story). Post production, Eddie took a vacation to Napa. It was on this trip that he and his then-girlfriend (now wife) decided to go all in and move to the epicenter of fantastic food and wine. 

Eddie admits, “I really enjoy wine, but I had absolutely no interest in working in the industry,” and with a shrug offers “that was [wife] Kit’s arena and her idea.” Fate had other plans though, and Eddie was soon lured into the fold via a local SEC football group where another Bounty Hunter employee just so happens to be a regular. 

He came aboard as a Wine Scout, but it is his writing acumen and talent for buying wine that make him a shining star. For the last two years his title has been “Wine Manager,” but his role has morphed into sales, strategizing, buying, e-commerce, email and ensuring the continuity of the Bounty Hunter voice. When he’s not a part of the strategy sessions, his days are packed with tastings, writing, buying, tastings and more tastings. It’s enough to make no two days similar, and keep him on his toes.

From finding the perfect wines for our catalog to making the right buys with your palate in mind, Eddie’s always working on something big. He’s like a poster boy for the Chinese proverb, “Be not afraid of growing slowly, be only afraid of standing still.” 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How ‘bout those Giants?!

How ‘bout those Giants?! THREE World Championships in FIVE years! Clear your calendars and come celebrate the Orange & Black Dynasty with us on Saturday, April 18th.  We’ll be back up in the Legends Suite and primed for a good time, as we watch our beloved Giants battle the Arizona Diamondbacks. You will also get to see the World Series Ring Ceremony before the game and will receive a replica World Series Ring as you enter the stadium!

We couldn't have picked a better time to see a Giants game with our loyal customers! Our Spring 2015 catalog will just be hitting your mailboxes, and we’ll have many of these wines available for you to taste in the suite. And as an added bonus, you’ll receive a 20% discount on any wines you purchase that day and will also receive a custom-etched a bottle of our 2012 Blind Justice to be part of this ticket package.

Suite seats are limited, so please call 800-943-9463 or email your Wine Scout today to secure your place before it’s sold out. It doesn't get much better than Bounty Hunter and baseball, so step up to the plate and reserve your spot in the lineup!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Nick Heinrich, Welcome back Chef!

There’s something about Bounty Hunter – it has its own gravitational pull. In fact, it’s not uncommon that customers who walk through our doors become employees. Once enveloped in the fold, we tend to stay for a respectable length of time, and if we leave, there’s a good chance we’ll be back.
Nick Heinrich is the latest to be pulled back to the mother ship. He’s a good ol’ Southern boy, proudly raised in Alabama (Roll Tide!), and while the boy left Alabama, it’s still in him as strong as ever… especially his cooking.
Nick trained under several prominent chefs in Alabama. It was there that he learned the joys of “New Southern Cuisine,” a term he dislikes, calling it “cliché, but whatever – that’s what it is.” In the early 2000s he moved to California, specifically San Francisco, where he worked at The Dining Room at The Ritz Carlton. Nick says that his time there turned everything he knew about cooking on its side, opening his eyes to an exciting world of gastronomy, technique and elegant preparations; “Back then, when I’d tell people about sous vide cooking, they’d look at me like I was crazy, and now there are cookbooks on the subject.” 
For years Nick kept a foot in both California and Alabama and in 2004 he worked harvest in Napa Valley at Carneros Creek. “It was awesome,” Nick beams, “Carneros was the new black.” He then jokes, “Imagine working 14 hour days with beautiful views, exciting new smells and experiences; as a chef it really brought it all together for me.”
But the kitchen is where Nick feels most at home and when a friend told him about this place in Napa called Bounty Hunter, he had to check it out. One meal and two days later he came back with résumé in hand – without a phone call or an appointment – and was hired on the spot. He stayed as Sous Chef for two years, then left to start a successful catering business. But eventually, the emails and clerical work got in the way. “It got to be a distraction, keeping me from my favorite part – the actual cooking.”
Nick’s cooking full steam these days and also inspiring and teaching his team; “I love sharing with my crew how something works, why we do a preparation a certain way, or how to make it better.” He’s also excited to embrace more local and seasonal foods, “We’re using whatever it is that’s coming out of the ground or off the farm that looks good,” he tells us. As your Napa Valley insiders, we’re pleased to say that besides fine wine and spirits, our realm includes farm fresh food too, thanks to Nick.