I’ve gotta hand it to the fine folks at Wine Spoken Here: they know how to show a guy a good time.
They’ve been one of the more active PR firms during the COVID pandemic, providing several excellent opportunities for we wine media folk to reconnect, share samples (virtually), and generally stay on top of some great sipping during SiP.
Such was the case, yet again, when I recently had the opportunity to (virtually) share samples with them that weren’t necessarily from their current client list, but are adult beverages that they themselves just happen to love imbibing in their spare time.
In that drinking spirit, let’s keep this preamble tight and get right to the goods, shall we?
NV Minenohakubai ‘King of the Modern Light’ Junmai Ginjo Sake (Japan, $45)
This one’s obviously not a wine; and I’ll be the first to tell you that my sake knowledge is limited (severely so, when compared to my years in wine tippling). Having confessed that, I can tell you that I love the stuff. It also helps to have sake ambassador, fellow wine competition judge, and friend Eduardo Dingler on your Zoom to walk one through the nuances of this particular gem, produced by the 16th generation Mineno Hakubai Shuzo. It’s Sakekomachi (100%), with 60% polishing. Only about 800 bottles of it were imported (pursued with great patience by Dingler himself). It’s made in western central Japan, near mountains that provide snow melt, creating very soft water and, therefore, silky, generous sake styles.
On the nose, it’s already killer: jasmine & perfume, orange blossom, green & yellow apples, white grape, Meyer lemon, and minerals. A slight earthiness shows up, too. This is just f*cking superb. The palate is smooth, pure, and fresh, with nectarine and spices, and one sip won’t be anywhere near enough if you’re even a casual fan of sake.
2016 Richard Böcking Burgberg Riesling (Mosel, $35)
It’s almost never not fun to revisit the region that first made me fall in love with what might be the world’s #1 noble wine grape. This one hails from the Traben-Trarbach sub-area, with fruit coming from a sustainably farmed vineyard on very steep southwest-facing slopes above the Mosel River. The soils there contain blue and brown slate, with quartz deposits near the vine roots – which in this case happen to still be mostly ungrafted, and up to 75 years old. Riesling vines have been cultivated on the spot since at least the 17th Century. Hand-picked/sorted, fermented using natural occurring yeast only, then aged on the same for 10 months, then moved to German oak barrels. Only 900 bottles were produced. If you think you’re getting set up for me waxing poetic on how good it is, you’re right.
Limes, quince, minerals, hints of jasmine, a touch of smoke… Pretty easy to get hooked on the nose early here. Seriousness and purity mark the drier styled palate, with lemon rind action and a lithe, citric-like acidity. Touches of just-ripe tropical fruits dance around with fantastic structure and pithiness, and a lingering finish that’s assertive in its freshness and minerality. It’s a bit of a departure for Mosel Riesling, but what it lacks in typicity it makes up for in… everything else!
2017 Clos des Brusquières Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône, $41)
This 80% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 9% Syrah, and 1% “other” blend is a red wine ringer in this friendly battle of who-brought-the-best. The average age of the vines at Clos des Brusquières is 40 years; however there are a few vines that are hitting the 100 mark. The outfit is run by the Courtil family (five generations in) on 21 acres spread over three main parcels: named “Tresquoys,” “Brusquières,” and “Le Parc.”
Concentrated red fruits, plums, wild berries, cherries, black pepper, ginger, herbs de Provence, lavender, dried violets, and bacon fat combine to let you know exactly what you’re in for before you even take a sip. The palate is predictably fantastic, with a great balance of structure, power, depth, and freshness. Yeah, it has potency, but there’s so much poise here that it just screams authenticity and craft.
2017 Experience Wines Trail 3150 Proprietary Red (Oak Knoll District, $60)
The kind of red that you wish Napa had more of a penchant for making, this is a blend of 38% Merlot, 25% Malbec, and 37% Cabernet Sauvignon from a family outfit founded by the daughter of a master brewer in London and an Sonoma area native who met by chance while traveling in the southern hemisphere.
On the nose, it’s all Napa, in good ways: blackcurrant, black olive, plums, tobacco spice, dried herbs, “dusty” minerality, a tiny touch of violet. In the mouth, it’s silky and supple, with juicy pluminess and hints of vanilla and cedar, graphite and oak. The long finish is as toasty and about as juicy as they come. This may be a tad on the younger side at the moment, but it’s clearly made to make friends and bring happiness, and it will do well at both, as it goes down both elegantly and easily.