Wine Talk

Snooth User: JonDerry

Tasting with GregT: Vega, Burg, and Tokaj

Posted by JonDerry, Apr 20, 2015.

Had the pleasure to taste with GregT in San Diego yesterday evening. I had the idea to pair up Greg and a friend from the Netherlands who was in San Diego for a convention, due to their interest in Tokaj, and it seemed to work well, everyone having a good time.

Lessons Learned: Harslevelu is good stuff, and probably my new favorite white wine grape, especially the Tokaj kind! Greg brought a shiner from Hungary/Tokaj of the 2013 vintage, and I'm already interested in helping import the stuff, whether it be a case for me on my next trip or something bigger.

These CdlR's are not worth the price of admission. However, it made for a fun side by side comparison. The '97 being the more complete wine, very velvety, with nice precision, resolved tannins, etc. but something bothered me about it. It was too obvious, raisiny, and grapey for my tastes. The '01 was a little harder, and had some more tannin, not too complex and shorter than I would've liked, but it came off as more refreshing compared to the '97. I was the only one who preferred it. 

News Flash: Greg actually gave props to a Pinot Noir! It was the less esteemed, '99 Drouhin Morey Clos Sorbe. This is one everyone agreed was opened at the right time. It was open, expressive, with good fruit and tannin. Complete package, and more masculine than the CdlR, which surprised me.

Oh, yeah that '73 Vega Sicilia...Best dry wine of the night, probably WOTN. Here are some notes.

Integrated mint/menthol, mushroom, dirt, sweet soil, and some tart red fruit peaking through on the nose. Trust me, this smelled amazing. 

Very refreshing, killer entry and steely the rest of the way. With air, the palate becomes richer, with more length and a fuller finish. Would be about a perfect wine if scoring the nose through mid palate. It doesn't have a lot to offer a lot on the back end, but a legendary wine nonetheless. One to pop and pour, but still tough enough to evolve positively over a couple hours.

There was also a 2005 Fourrier Gevrey Village V.V. opened. There was some minor TCA taint on the nose suspsected, but by the end of the night it seemed to be clean, so who knows. Anyhow, it was another underwhelming Fourrier, and I may consider selling my small stach of CSJ.

What brought us all together was the Tokaj, and the two we tasted were fascinating. Kwine, my Chinese friend from the Netherlands brought a Szepsy from the communist era 1972, and Greg brought one from '99. Kwine insisted on keeping his at room temp, which surprised Greg and I, but it turned out to be not such a bad call, or not nearly as bad as we feared. Tasting the two at different temperatures also made for an interesting contrast. Greg's '99, did seem to improve as it warmed, and of course with additional air. It lead me to believe a serving temp somewhere in the middle would've been best, slightly chilled say. As far as assessing the wines, the '72 was complex, soulful, and showed big (partly due to the serving temp) fruit and finish. By contrast, the '99 came off as more pure and maybe a little more streamlined, perhaps due to who Szepsy was making the wine for, and not with complete creative control. At the same time, the wine was delicious.

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 21, 2015.

What were you guys eating--just the cheese (guessing though that was end of the meal)?

Nice batch of wines, and nice report, JD. Thanks for sharing.

And we all know that Greg is actually a closet pinotphile...

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Reply by GregT, Apr 21, 2015.

Nice notes JD. And thanks for the intros to those folks. Of course, I had no idea there'd be so much Burgundy or I wouldn't have brought the Termanthia! A good wine but it stood out like a sore thumb in the company.

The 72 was really interesting. One of the best older aszu wines I've had. I'm dying to find out what was used to top it off - it had to be a much younger vintage.Good wine though, whatever it was.

And as to the Drouhin 1999, it was simply a nice wine. In spite of the fact that it was PN. BTW, I do drink those from time to time - gotta have some data points!  The Vega Sicilia was my WOTN for the reds, but I did like that Drouhin.

Something was weird about the Fourrier and I don't know exactly what. I thought it was TCA initially but it kind of faded in and out through the evening so I don't think that was the case. I'd try another because it seems like it should have been a really good wine.

All in all it was a privilege to taste those wines.

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Reply by JonDerry, Apr 21, 2015.

Oh yeah, forgot to mention the venue, Solare,  that Greg has come to frequent was indeed the perfect place for this tasting. Nice, easy going, relaxed atmosphere, good friendly people (everyone was sincerely friendly and easy to get along with), and then the food also didn't suck, in fact it was quite good, every dish starting with the Calamari that included shrimp and breaded squash. 2nd were Pasta's stuffed with sausage, and others with spinach. There was actually something before it with egg & mushroom that paired well with the Vega. Then came the Oso Buco, and other steak that was just about perfect. We went for a 2nd on the Oso Buco and capped it with chicken breast which as Greg advertised, was killer. Perfectly prepared, juicy, and not over-breaded, good mild sauce. To top it off, it was easy on the wallet.

Also forgot to mention the dry red that Greg brought. It was definitely a huge contrast. I did think it was a nice wine, not quite as big or cloying as say a Paso wine like Saxum, and for that I appreciated it. Also liked the good medium + tannin and expansive spice on the finish. Would like to try in another 10 years.

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Reply by dvogler, Apr 21, 2015.

Greg got kidnapped!  :)

That looks like the kind of night that happens very seldom.  Great report JD, I nearly felt like I was there!

Funny you said the chicken was easy on the wallet.  Look at that wine!  By the way, I opened the Conterno Barbera d'Alba you gave me.  I had ambitions to hold it for a couple of years, but Sunday was a great dinner of lasagna my wife made.  We'd already had a couple of BC cab/merlot blends before dinner, so Chester had a look in my fridge for an appropriate dinner companion.  My only other Italian options were several Amarone and Brunello's, which need to be opened sooner.  The Barbera was a beauty.  Right out of the bottle.  It appears dark and brooding in the glass and knowing it's 15%, you think it's going to wallop you, but it was very sexy and elegant.  Definitely dark fruit and some spice I couldn't name, but great acidity and surprisingly not "hot".  The alcohol content on the bottle was a distractor!  It was perfect with the tomato sauce.  Wished you could have been here.  Thanks again!

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Reply by JonDerry, Apr 21, 2015.

Was wondering when the day would come DV, glad you enjoyed. For me that's a rich wine, though you tasted it with another year of aging which I think must have helped tame it a bit. That's what great winemakers do, make balanced wine. Now we should both get a bottle of the 2012, Cascina Francia if possible, for that next special occasion.

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Reply by dvogler, Apr 21, 2015.

Eric Guido noted that the Cerreta was bolder than the Cascina Francia, so maybe you would like it better?  I'm trying to get to Greg's for a visit this July.  I'll let you know.  You should pop down again!  :)

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Reply by GregT, Apr 21, 2015.

Well DV, if you like Barbera, the place is an Italian place with a chef from Sicily and an Italian wine list. The owner actually pulled out a La Gerla but we didn't open it. He has been collecting wine himself for many years and has a few thousand bottles he wants to drink with someone. He particularly likes Spain and when he heard that I had some Spanish wine one night, he came over and we chatted and now we're friends.

The egg and mushroom dish was something he sent out because he thought mushrooms and Tempranillo are a good match and he was entirely right. Funny thing is there was another restaurant I visited about nine months ago and the chef came out and looked at what we were having and he also sent out some mushrooms. I think mushrooms just go with a lot of wine.

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Reply by JonDerry, Apr 22, 2015.

July might work well for me, definitely better than June. Hope it works out.

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Reply by dvogler, Apr 22, 2015.

Greg, a man with good wine will always have friends!   (kidding).  That sounds like my kind of restaurant! That's pretty cool, but just make sure he isn't trying to purloin your Vega :)  Speaking of that, you could probably tempt William to come west with that!

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Reply by GregT, Apr 23, 2015.

It was JD's Vega! But Randy, the owner, has a lot of it. He showed me his home cellar. Custom built racks, 4000 bottles, and he's visited a lot of the bodegas I know in Spain. I think he just wants company! But he's a good guy and his two sons love wine too, so I think they're going to do some major damage to that cellar.

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Reply by Richard Foxall, Apr 23, 2015.

I was tempted to come down but really couldn't get away--we have way too much on our plate right now, with moving out for the renovation/addition, refiling two years of taxes (don't ask), and too much work on my calendar.  But July?  Hang out with the restaurant owner and drink some of our best bottles?  I am there if I am invited.  Maybe a Piedmont and Spain weekend? 

I generally have a hard time with the idea of Barbera that costs more than $20-ish, but the G. Conterno and the Cogno pre-phylloxera were the absolute standouts of my trip last year for that grape. 

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Reply by dvogler, Apr 23, 2015.

Fox, of course you're invited.  Greg has a couple of cots down by the garbage bins for us.  A totally appropriate spot for us by the time we get back from dinner!

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Reply by GregT, Apr 23, 2015.

I'm with you on the Barbera pricing. Drinking a $10 Barbera right now. A little on the sweet side, lots of fruit, but all in all a really good wine for the price and especially for a Wednesday night with pizza. Unfortunately I'm having it with some "previously frozen" Alaskan cod at the moment. The Conterno is a better wine but for the price, this one wins.

But time for a rant about a city on the Pacific Ocean that somehow has to have frozen fish and even worse, Atlantic fish all over??? WTF??? I'm used to fresh Atlantic cod. Seems like Pacific cod should be available w/out being previously frozen?

It's that restaurant that pointed me to the places to get good fish. Unfortunately, I went to Vons and I'm having the worst piece of fish I've had in years.

Anyhow, of course you're "invited". I'm not sure what that means exactly, but you are always welcome.

BTW, speaking of taxes, I should do something about those too.

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Reply by JonDerry, Apr 23, 2015.

With Fox on board, this is really picking up steam. I should be able to make it. If so, I'll bring that old '61 Barolo I've been hanging on to.

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 23, 2015.

Growing up doing a bit of surfcasting, pier and offshore fishing in LA, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties (out to even around the Channel Islands), and even a couple times down off San Diego (though more down the length of Baja), then traveling the world and fishing in other places, I never had the impression that SoCal oceans were as rich as others. Certainly at certain times for the runs of grunion or bonito or several other seasonal fish, yeah, and in the old days for abalone (and even marlin off SD) and not-so-old-yet-probably-going-if-not-gone for uni/sea urchin. Can't speak to the status for clams, mussels and other shellfish in those waters these days, though they were plentiful when I was growing up. I'd come back with red snapper (not snapper as SE from your old digs into the Atlantic folks think of them) and rock cod (not cod as NE into the Atlantic folks think of them) and barracuda (potentially poisonous so had to marinate them specially), and if I was diving an occasional octopus and the like, even a shark, though the latter not usually my preferred dining. The formerly massive tuna industry out of San Diego was from longlines boats going far offshore for weeks at a time. What plenty there was sufficed when fewer people lived in SoCal and even fewer ate seafood regularly (other than shrimp and maybe scallops and maybe halibut or salmon from up north). Compared to other oceans I've dived and sailed and fished in, the waters off SoCal are pretty much an extension of the desert starting inland. You want plentiful fresh seafood you need to go north, just as you have to for the better grape-growing spots in CA.

SoCal's weather being hot, and fresh seafood requiring a critical mass of demand for its special storage and handling to make economic sense, earlier generations never really built an infrastructure for it, especially down where you are. Nowadays trucks and planes can bring packaged versions easier than dealing with local boats and their catch, anyway, even if any of them are left. Plus huge portions of the US consumer population still don't understand good fish, what's required for it to be good, and how different it can be when it's good. They've been accustomed to eating what their supermarkets and chain restaurants feed them (back in the day it was mostly just shrimp cocktails and turf-and-surf which was often frozen and always transported in from far oceans, though things have gotten a bit better since in terms of variety of offerings), which is usually terrible, so they eat only a little and then go back to meat and dairy or vegan fare. Or generally just don't care.

So congratulations, Greg, you chose the worst region of the CA coast to move to for wine culture (even if OK nowadays for beer) and for seafood culture! You'd do better for the latter down into Mexico, as you also likely would've done better in a smaller, friendlier, more ethnically defined San Diego back decades ago before supermarkets, restaurant chains and mass-food-processing/packaging industries took over the earth.

Next time ask first! We'll be happy to steer you to happier locales. Or you could always take up surfcasting as a hobby...  ;-)

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Reply by dvogler, Apr 23, 2015.

DM,

I can't speak for the waters down there, but you're right about seafood and availability improving as one goes north.  There are only certain times of year when the grocery stores here have lots of fresh fish, but there a some fish markets that usually do, but it's getting increasingly expensive.  I couldn't help but imagine you this way as I read your post!

 

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Apr 23, 2015.

There's a pocket of Southern OC (San Clemente-ish) that's miles more vibrant than LA and San Diego for fishing...then there's Oxnard. Just have to get out of those densely populated areas.

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Reply by EMark, Apr 23, 2015.

 some "previously frozen" Alaskan cod

 I went to Vons and I'm having the worst piece of fish I've had in years.

 

Well, pretty soon you won't be able to kick around Von's any more.  They've been bought by Alberson's.  If it hasn't happened already, your local Von's is going to be converted to an Alberston's or, as happened in my neighborhood, a Haggen's.

Of course, Alberson'Haggen's is not going to solve your dilemma.  I really don't think that  any fish sold in any Southern California retail chain store has not been previously frozen.

There is no commercial fishing industry down here, Greg.  Yes, many local harbors have sport fishing.  You can go out for a day and, chances are reasonable that you will catch something.  I know that many years (make that decades) ago you could drive down to the pier at Newport Beach and buy fresh catches from commercial day boats.  I know you can't do that, today in NB.  I would be very surprised if you could do that at San Clemente, today.  That neighborhood has become pretty spendy to operate a commercial boat on revenues that could be realized from your daily catch.  It may exist in Oxnard, but I have the feeling that, if it does, you're going to have to move fast, because it is not going to last very much longer.  The way that area is being suburbanized, the only strawberries your grandchildren will ever eat will come from the Southern Hemisphere.

Retail stores like Von's, or Stater Brother's or, yes, my favorite, Costco, are buying seafood from large commercial purveyors.  Most of the fish is farmed.  If the label states "wild caught," that does not mean it was swimming just off-shore, yesterday.  The Alaska Cod, if it was wild caught was, probably, from waters off the Northwest U.S. or western Canada.  It was caught on ships/boats that are at sea for days if not weeks.  It was frozen on the ship.  When the ship returned to port its cargo was transferred to a processing facility and then trucked to the retail outlet--with a stop and transfer at, at least, one distribution center before delivery to your/my local store.

You already know that your best chance of getting good fish in SoCal is from an Asian market.  Around here (eastern Los Angeles County) where the Asian population is the ethnic majority, there are Supermarkets and fish mongers who sell live fish.  Those, I know, are not frozen.  Anything else, even the whole fish, I just assume have been frozen.

I have purchased fish from Whole Foods and have been satisfied.  Their price is outrageous compared to Costco.  So, you know why I don't by from Whole Foods that often.

Also, for what it's worth, I've had good luck buying frozen (hard as a rock) tuna, halibut and mahi mahi from Trader Joe's.

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Reply by jtryka, Apr 23, 2015.

Excellent report JD!

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Reply by dmcker, Apr 26, 2015.

At least San Diego has this! Can always be satisfied with better craft beer and better guacamole than Brooklyn...  ;-)

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