Monday, March 29, 2010

The Caymus Connection

We sat down with our friends Bob and Mike from Caymus (Belle Glos, Mer Soleil, Conundrum, etc.) to go over the new releases of the Belle Glos Single Vineyard Pinot Noirs that are featured in the Bounty Hunter Spring Catalog. These Belle Glos wines have been staff favorites for some time. All three are big, rich and opulent with slightly different nuances that express the vastly different soils and climate from which they are each grown. If ever there was Pinot Noir that deserves the title “Cab drinker’s Pinot” these are certainly it.
We started off with the ’08 Belle Glos “Clark and Telephone Vineyard” Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley (37.95/btl $34.15/btl. mixed case) and what a way to start. It is ripe and lush with strawberry fruit and hints of tea and spice keeps you begging for another sip. It’s as racy as Pinot Noir can be, without going over the top. Let’s just say this one shows off a little more leg than its two sisters.
Next we swirled the ’08 Belle Glos “Taylor Lane Vineyard” Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast (37.95/btl $34.15/btl. mixed case). Like cherry pie in a glass, this one was super fruity. We were all amazed by its deep dark color, coming from the cooler climate Sonoma Coast appellation. As it turns out, winemaker Joseph Wagner (son of Caymus founder Charles Wagner) started using a special trellis system that allows better sun exposure to gain more tannins and thus darker colored wine. This is hands down one of the most intense Sonoma coast Pinot Noirs I’ve ever tasted.
Last, but certainly not least, is the ’08 Belle Glos “Las Alturas Vineyard” Pinot Noir from Santa Lucia Highlands (37.95/btl $34.15/btl. mixed case). I’ve been a fan of Santa Lucia Pinot for sometime now. Those of you who have had the pleasure of sipping Pinot Noir from “Garys’ Vineyard” or the “Pisoni Vineyard” know exactly what I am talking about. The soil and climate in this region give the wines a more classic Burgundian expression of terroir than any other California Pinot appellation. The Las Alturas vineyard (which neighbors Garys’ Vineyard) is really coming into maturity. Earth and minerality take center stage with fruit and barrel spice bringing it all together into a luxurious harmony. This was my favorite of the three, though I will have a few bottles of all three in my cellar.
All in all, this was a very impressive line-up that had all of us clamoring with excitement. The spring catalog is in the mail now, so when it hits your mailbox, be sure to take a look at the bottom of page 6.

--Stefan Matulich, Sales Director & Spirits Buyer

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring 2010 Catalog Tasting

Twice a year, prior to our spring and fall catalogs hitting the mail, I gather with our sales staff to taste through the entire catalog lineup. We used to do it all in one day! That would be 120+ wines in a marathon five-hour session. It proved to be too much, even for seasoned palates, so for our latest offering, we broke it up into three sessions. It’s gentler on the tongue and a lot more productive.

I wanted to share some thoughts from the spring 2010 lineup in terms of standouts, great buys and observations. While I think the lineup overall showed very well, there were inevitably a few gems and categories that made a special impression. Some thoughts with that in mind:

- Tor Kenward and winemaker Jeff Ames are on fire. We tasted both the ’07 Tor Mast Cabernet Sauvignon and its badass brother from Andy Beckstoffer’s To Kalon property in Oakville. These are a pair of truly superlative Cabs. Pay attention to what Tor is doing.

- Value from Italy! I made a concerted effort to unearth serious bang for the buck in name brand regions. A $30 Chianti Classico Riserva, a $40 Barbaresco (!) and a $60 Amarone that drinks like it has a triple-digit price tag. I truly love Italian wine, more so when I can afford it.

- California Pinot Noir has never been better. Both the ’07 and ’08 vintages – especially from the coastal areas – are fantastic. As a whole, farming and winemaking are coalescing in a way that has never happened on such a large scale. It’s to all of our benefit.

- I’m very thankful we got a catalog deal done with Luc Morlet before the Parker press hit the street. I knew the wines were going to get big scores, but everything he reviewed was mid-‘90’s. Monsieur Morlet is quickly entering himself into the conversation of California’s most talented winemakers, and his latest offerings are simply fantastic.

I’m boarding a plane tomorrow for my annual buying trip to Europe. We’re going to be using Burgundy, Sicily and Tuscany as home bases, and the focus is going to be on the ’09 vintage in barrel. Folks over there are as excited as I’ve seen in awhile over what they have in their cellars. I’ll be posting from the road with new finds and my impression of what’s happening on the Continent…

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Legendary Clos de Tart

I’ve been dragged out of the Dark Ages and into the blogosphere, but I’ve been blessed by the gift of perfect timing! I’ve returned to Napa from a tasting in San Francisco of one of my absolute favorite wines on the planet… the legendary Clos de Tart in Burgundy. One of only a handful of Grand Cru monopoles (a vineyard wholly owned and farmed by one winery) in existence, the domaine is absolutely in the conversation of the world’s best Pinot Noirs, if not wines period. Forgive my fawning, but history doesn’t lie.

Founded by an order of Cistercian nuns in 1141, the estate has been owned by three entities in its entire existence. Think about that – three owners in more than 850 years. Only in Burgundy. This incredible property is perched like a sentinel above the village of Morey-St.-Denis and is now run by the brilliant Sylvain Pitiot, a man who arguably knows as much about the specific terroirs of Burgundy as anyone alive (see book recommendation below). It’s an almost frightening collision of gold-standard vineyard land and an uncompromising genius pulling the levers.

Organized by the winery’s importer, a small group of buyers and sommeliers were invited to Masa’s in SF for a private tasting. ( We started the ’06 and ’07 vintages of La Forge de Tart, the winery’s second label, to warm up the engine. I found the ’07 to be a little closed and tight, but these are generally wines that need at least few years to shine. The ’06 was more open-knit and effusively spiced with classic Burgundy hard red candy and cherry flavors. La Forge is comprised of “young vine” parcels, which the winery defines as 30-years old or younger (they also label it as Premier Cru - though it qualifies as Grand Cru - to heighten the distinction). Again, we’re talking about people who measure things by centuries, not decades or vintages.

If La Forge is a special wine, Clos de Tart is a monumental wine. Not in force or bombast, but in its profound combination of complexity and grace. We sampled the ’07 (young but extraordinarily promising), the ’03 (an amazing achievement in a very hot year that left many confounded), the ’01 (a Burgundy purist’s dream of spice, leather and earth) and the ’02 (find a bottle and pay whatever price is asked for it). All told, it was a resounding statement of this domaine’s ability to channel a given season through its terroir and express a growing season as well as any winery on the planet. Clos de Tart, j'adore.

Book Recommendation: Bound in a burgundy (what else) cloth cover in two volumes, Le Nouvel Atlas des Grands Vignobles de Bourgogne is a mind-boggling exercise in precision. I’m not sure if it’s available in the U.S. or if it’s been translated to English, but it’s worth an online search or having it shipped from France. It’s the most comprehensively detailed collection of maps, technical data and winery specs on Burgundy I’ve ever seen. A must for any student of Burgundy or collector of wine tomes. Written and conceived by Clos de Tart’s Sylvain Pitiot along with Pierre Poupon, it’s an heirloom-quality purchase for your shelves:

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Biography: Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

I never imagined that my first job – slinging sandwiches at a deli in Cleveland – would lead to a career. I was exposed to wine by the proprietor and soon realized I had a pretty good palate for a pup (I also realized that girls were more impressed by a bottle of wine than a cheap six-pack). After graduating with a psychology degree from the University of Georgia, I decided against further academic pursuits in favor of the good life. After some soul searching about what I enjoyed and could make a living doing, food and wine seemed like a mighty fine option. And so it has come to pass. Coming up on 12 years with the Bounty Hunter, as Wine Director I get to taste some of the planet’s finest wines, write about and recommend them and regularly visit the world’s top wine regions on scouting missions. I also get to interact with some pretty incredible people along the way. It sure beats working for a living!

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Biography: Stefan Matulich, Sales Director

Who am I? Well, in one sentence you could say I’m the Chief Wine Scout with an affinity for great wine, high proof goods and artisanal culinary delights. I work with Mark Pope and Rhett Gadke to keep you informed of the latest and greatest the world of wine has to offer. What was once a one man operation 16 years ago, has now grown into a pretty big small business with lots of moving parts. Everyone here has come from an area of expertise that helps drive this company forward. As for me, well before my days as a Wine Scout I was a waiter, bartender, Maitre’ d, Sommelier, General Manager and Consultant at some of the best restaurants in Napa Valley. My passion for food, wine and spirits surrounds my everyday life and my job allows me to share the wine country culture I love with the rest of the world.

As I comment on the blog, I’ll discuss the latest spirits that we’ve come across, share some of my personal recipes and wine pairings as well as discuss what’s happening in the culture of wine/sprits/food. First off, I am not some twit that’s going to try and impress you with my vocabulary and describe wine experiences like a verse from e.e. cummings. I live in the real world where most people don’t talk about wine using descriptors like gooseberries and sassafras. Wine culture was never meant to be pretentious, it was meant for all of us to enjoy the way we want. I try to describe my experiences in a way that all will understand, though I am sort of a foodie, so if I geek out on an obscure ingredient please grant me a little lenience at times.

We’ll since this is my first post I don’t want to bore you any further with more talk about me, let’s hear about you. I’d like to know how you all got into wine. Please tell me, what was your first wine epiphany?

I look forward to your stories. Until next time…

--Stefan Matulich, Sales Director & Spirits Buyer