news and views from michael rollins in tokyo

Category: Wine (page 3 of 3)

Pairing wine with vegetables

Stumbled across this great article on pairing vegetables and wine on the NPR website today. It also includes some tasty-looking recipes that I’ll be preparing sometime soon.

Koru Pinot Noir 2005

I picked up this exceptional Pinot for around 50% off the list price at Enoteca’s online store. (They have a clearance page which changes often and offers some great deals on good wines.)

Many medium- to high-end New Zealand Pinots offer an astonishing balance of acid, fruit and alcohol, and this one is no exception. Light purple-ruby in color with notes of strawberry and plum in the nose, the Koru Pinot is silky smooth on the palate with a level of finesse hard to find in similar offerings from warmer Oregon and on par with a good Cote de Nuits. The length was quite long, and this wine will probably hit its peak in another 1-2 years.

Pinot Noir is the red grape variety best suited to New Zealand’s cool, wet climate, and along with Sauvignon Blanc helped finally put them on the map wine-wise. Drink a wine like this Koru to make you understand why.

Conclusion: Not one to miss, especially if you like the Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir.
DWR: 93 Points

Our wine site is online!

It’s been more months in the works than I want to think about, but we’ve finally launched our online wine shop. We partnered with local wine importer and restaurant operator Le Petit Tonneau (“the little barrel”) to launch this new web shop for their range of French wines hailing mostly from the South of France, particularly the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

Southern France offers incredible diversity in terroir and wine styles, and in my opinion wines from that region are as good or better than any of the low- to mid-priced wines coming out of Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rhone Valley. If you’re a fan of Spanish wine then you’ll love the offerings from Northern Catalan near the Franco-Spanish border, which have the same rustic, spicy character.

For red grapes think Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre, and Carignan in addition to more familiar varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The majot white grape is Chardonnay, with Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Viognier figuring prominently as well.

The site is fully bi-lingual, of course, and we offer free shipping anywhere in Japan for orders over 15,000 yen. If you want to jump right in and see what’s happening wine-wise down South I recommend the Summer Tasting Set, six carefully selected wines that I’m sure you’ll love, including two of my absolute favorites, this Vacqueyras from the Rhone Valley and the always lovely Fitou Cuvee Privilege. Order yours now!

You’ll probably notice some of the English on the site is a bit dodgy. We’re still refining it, and much of what you see there comes straight from the translator with little or no polishing. One step at a time…

Anyway, have a look. We hope you like it! If you do, help us spread the word…

Freeman Pinot Noir

Friend Rick and his new girlfriend joined us for dinner Sunday night, a four-person collaborative affair that produced an exceptional four course dinner and a good evening for all of us, kids included. The food was great, of course, but the real star of the evening was the Freeman Pinot Noir from Californian that Rick brought along. The 2004 vintage we enjoyed has ruby-brick hues and an earthy nose with notes of cherry and raspberry, followed by a hint of peppery spice. Fruity on the palate, the wine is light- to medium-bodied with a silky, balanced flavor. The finish is long and exquisite, and makes you want to go right back for more. This is a wine to pair with duck and a fruit chutney or grilled salmon with dill sauce, served perhaps with a rucola, walnut and apple salad on the side. An exceptional wine, though not cheap at 6,500 yen.

WSET Wine Course

I signed up for a six-month wine course offered by the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a UK-based educational body that provides education and training in wine and spirits. The course I joined is the Level 3 Advanced Certificate in Wines and Spirits. While most of the WSET courses here are taught in Japanese, the thought of learning the names of French chateaus and German grapes in katakana seemed a bit counter-productive, so I was glad to see that this course has a single slot taught in English. Better still, the instructor is none other than my friend and client James D., a fellow eminently suited to the job as he brings to it both an encyclopedic knowledge of wine and a wonderfully charming English accent.

We meet once a week on Mondays in Ginza for two hours. The first hour or so we cover the topics for that week (the history of wine, viticulture and vinification, etc.) and then in the second hour we taste 5-6 wines. (The second half is really the better of the two.) Much of this course involves learning how to properly taste wine using a systematic method, and later we will be required to identify wines based on our tasting experience and a basic knowledge of the wines of the world.

WSET Course, day 1

The course goes through to October of this year. I’m really looking forward to learning a lot more about wine and the opportunity to learn from someone as knowledgeable (and pleasant to listen to) as James. As we’ll be launching our own wine site sometime in May the timing really couldn’t be better. More details on that later…

The Vine Wine Tasting at Legato

I attended my first wine tasting dinner by The Vine (one of our clients) last night at Legato in Shibuya. Legato’s parent company Global Dining is also a customer of ours, so you could say it was a familiar setting even though the event was my first.The Vine’s owner James conducted the proceedings and did a fine job of discussing the wines, answering questions and generally keeping things interesting.

All of the wines featured that night were all of the appellation Châteauneuf-du-Pape, one of my recent favorites from the Soutnhern Rhone valley. These are rustic, strapping wines of often dazzling complexity, and are seen as some of the best value-for-money wines coming out of France these days (mostly thanks to vigorous promotion by Robert Parker).

James prepared a selecton of reds and whites from the 2005 and 2006 vintages, with the former generally thought of as being the better year of the two due to perfectly timed rains a month before the harvest that year. These rains, which spelt disaster for some of the other wine producing regions, arrived at just the right time in the Rhone to plump up the grapes, infusing them with a rich and vibrant succulence. The extra juice lends a fruitiness to the smoke and pepper undertones of these great wines.

The wines served that evening were:

1. Bois de Boursan Blanc 2006.
2. Clos du Caillou Blanc 2006.
3. Pierre Usseglio 2005.
4. Bois de Boursan 2005.
5. Charvin 2005.
6. Clos du Caillou 2005.
7. Bois de Boursan Felix 2005.
8. Clos du Caillou Quartz 2005.

My favorites of the evening were all of the Clos du Caillou and the Charvin, while I found the offerings from Bois de Boursan to be a bit too pungent and leathery. James attributed my ranking of them this way to a simple lack of appreciation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s intrinsic rustic nature, which the Bois de Boursan wines apparently typify. For me, I just found them to be a bit too, well, stinky, and stuck by my guns (and the Clos du Caillou!).

The food was great (if a bit spare), with each of the four courses matching the wines perfectly. All in all a great tour of some recents offerings from the “New Castle of the Pope,” but I have to say the premium attendance price means I’ll probably not be joining all of the Vine events that come along. My budget for such things is closer to the 5500 yen or so charged by ORCA International for their wine parties, unpretentious one-glass affairs which involve less “tasting” and more drinking of their fine Pacific Northwest wines.

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