Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Category: "pinot noir"

Brooklyn Oenology

In recent years, Brooklyn's become synonymous with culinary trailblazing. Pickles? Chocolates? Ice cream? Salsa? Mayonnaise?  The borough's producing high-end versions of all these pantry staples, while challenging palates on the spectrum from familiar comfort foods to completely foreign cuisines. Given the burgeoning DIY attitude and homegrown pride of the borough, it makes plenty of sense that eventually someone would attempt wine.

I first became aware of Brooklyn Oenology a few years ago at a large wine tasting event.  I was intrigued by the concept of wine being made in Brooklyn as it felt like the one agricultural frontier still untapped in the borough, and after tasting through, I was rather impressed by the results. I soon learned it was spearheaded by a woman, Ali Shaper, which piqued my interest even further.  It stayed on my radar and eventually I had the opportunity to meet her and learn about BOE in depth.

Like many people I've met in the wine industry, her route was rather circuitous. She graduated from college with an engineering degree; however, after working for a while in the industry, she realized the passion wasn't there and quit her job.  From there, she started working in a tasting room in a vineyard in the Hudson Valley, which led to various positions in the wine and hospitality industry, from which her entreprenuerial spirit formulated the seedlings for BOE.  

She produces wine in a commercial winery out on Long Island, which she likens to renting time and space in a commercial kitchen, a common practice for chefs and bakers.  Currently BOE does not grow their own grapes but instead purchases them from other vineyards around the state, much like a negociant.  She says this allows her to purchase the grapes she wants and produce the exact style of wines she loves.  

In 2010, she opened the BOE tasting room in Williamsburg, which is not only a showcase for wine but a communal meeting place and event space. What's unique about BOE is the concept of terroir goes beyond the soil here and instead is thought of as New York culture. She proudly serves wine and beer from other winemakers, strengthening community ties. Bottle labels for BOE are designed by local artists and the shelves proudly display foodstuff from local food artisans. New York culture is the essential sense of place, not the plot of land where the vines grow.

Down the road, she has plans to purchase a vineyard plot and start growing her own grapes, an evolution for BOE.  For now, though, the wines shine and tease of the palate with the potential of what's to come.

Photo courtesy of

BOE Shindig White, 95% Vidal Blanc, 5% Riesling, Finger Lakes, 2011
Vidal Blanc, also known as Ugni Blanc or Trebbiano, was a prominent player during the Finger Lakes trip, which had a range of hits and misses so we approached this wine like a frenemy.  On the nose, a light ginger essence gave way to pineapple an minerality. On the palate, this snappy white was reminiscent of a Vinho Verde; green apple, lime and a hint of sea salt tingled with medium acid but finished rather quickly.  This is one easy drinker.

BOE Chardonnay, North Fork, 2010
This chard was aged in old French oak, so it was mercifully free of uber-oaky tones. Instead, our noses were caressed with sweet cream, butter and a little bit of pear. The palate showcased some of these tones as well but an almond nuttiness tempered the dairy.  Medium acid and medium body gave this wine some structure and was one of the rare chardonnays that I wasn't mad at. 

Tousey Winery, Rebellion Rose, Blaufrankisch, Hudson Valley, 2012
Good ole Blaufrankisch, or Lemberger, as many of the Finger Lakes wineries called it.  This was a little more lush than some of the leaner ones tasted on the Finger Lakes trip.  I'm interested to know if it's the Hudson Valley soil, or the vinification, that made the difference. The nose was tart and juicy with aromas of cranberry and dark cherry.  Drinking it, Thanksgiving came to mind with the sweet n' tart profiles and acidic berries. The underripe green notes that often come through in a Lemberger weren't there, but the lighter style body and medium acid were still present.

Thirsty Owl Pinot Noir, Finger Lakes, 2010
Thirsty Owl was a winery that came to our attention while on our trip but as we didn't make it over, this was a great opportunity to try one of the wines. Like many of the pinots we saw in the Finger Lakes, it was translucent in color.  However, the lack of pigment belied the flavor in the glass. On the nose, a little bit of plum, earth and a horse-y funk rode around with some green pepper. On the palate, the plum came through along with some branches and a hint of mocha.  It was very light bodied and could be a good summer red.

Roanoke Vineyards, Marco Tulio, Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc, North Fork, 2010
On the nose, prune, plum and ketchup made an appearance on the boldest red we tasted. However, cherry shyly appeared in the beginning of the tasting, only to be strong-armed out of the way by the riper fruits. Medium acid and medium plus body, this wine was definitely California dreamin' when it was made. 

We finished the tasting with Atsby Armadillo Cake Sweet Vermouth, Long Island, NV.  Spirits are definitely not my area of expertise, but this vermouth, which can be drank straight or mixed for cocktails, imparts the flavors of whatever it was infused with; in this case, it was botanicals and citrus, which gave it a semi-sweet herbaceousness, versus a honeyed sweetness.   

Keep tasting, friends....

Illicit Behavior by Sud de France

"Angel by day, devil by night!" screamed the tabloid headlines.   Apparently, Sud de France has fallen into its old ways with its reds.  Boring, insipid wines that lack intrigue, or even basic balance, have started to show up at the tastings.  There seems to be a blasé attitude towards creating anything worthwhile, even though the potential is there.  

The third tasting event for Sud de France yielded uneven results. While the region has been known to experiment with grapes and blends, showcasing its cowboy spirit, a couple of the bottles seemed to show disregard for fundamentals of quality winemaking:

Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet 2011 (approx. $15)
Like the Picpoul at the last event, this one showcased the same floral notes and apricot on the nose.  On the palate, ripe peach joined the apricot in the orchard, along with some lemon peel and slate-y minerality.  The salty essence that was so striking in the other Picpoul was very muted here, but it was still zingy and acidic.

Barons de Rothschild Lafite Val de L'ours, Chardonnay, 2011 (approx. $11)
Hooray! Another decent Chardonnay option.  Not quite as complex as Burgundy, this wine nonetheless gave Chard a little more street cred. Lemon and lime were immediately present on the nose and the palate, along with very ripe golden delicious apple.  There was a decent amount of stone and minerals on this wine to bring it back from the fruit side but had a round-ish mouthfeel, despite the fairly high acid.  

La Roche de la Chevaliere Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 (approx. $12)
And then, SdF fell off the wagon.  Raspberry, blueberry and blackberry coupled with green bell pepper and wet soil on the nose, but the palate was thin and flat and the fruit was marred by a stemmy, underripe green note.  It was all out of whack and felt almost like an identity crisis - what cab sauv tastes like this?

C'est La View Pinot Noir Syrah 2011 (approx. $11)
In theory, I understood how this should have worked.  Pinot's plum and prune fruits could have given a plush, rounded feel to the peppery edge of the Syrah and as both wines are rooted with soil characteristics, it could have led to a rich, luscious wine.  However, what it gave was  a medium minus body that didn't deliver on the potential complexity.  It was thin, tight and high-pitched.  

Keep tasting, friends....

Pinot Gets Weird

Weird can be good.  Think of the first time you ever heard of salt with chocolate - it sounded like stoner food, right?  But now, it's a THING.  Or, what about that strange guy who was obsessed with moldy bread?  Yeah, he invented penicillin.  

Sometimes, though, weird takes a turn for the worse.  Last weekend, we checked out a new restaurant, The Cleveland, in Nolita.  We were feeling something light-bodied with moderate fruit to pair with our earthy and vegetable-heavy (not to mention delicious) dishes, so naturally, Pinot Noir seemed like the way to go.  The wine buyer intrigued us with his recommendation: an organic Bourgogne that started off almost frizzante but then was supposed to become rounder and more supple. It sounded very unusual for a Bourgogne but I like bubbles, I like Pinot Noir and I like a wine adventure- sounded like a winner to me.

Whah, whah....

Les Faverelles "Le Nez de Muse," Bourgogne, 2011
This pinot noir started off slightly bubbly as it was poured into the glass, almost lambrusco-ish.  The nose and palate spoke to the traditional key tones of red berry fruits, earth and violets, but the light frizzante never quite seemed to dissipate and the body was so light I would actually call it weak.  That promised lushness that was supposed to appear deeper into the bottle?   It was never realized.  It stayed really thin and acidic the entire time, almost wimpering in fear every time it had to come into contact with food.  Sadly, this was not the quirky weird we were hoping for.

Keep tasting, friends...

What's In Your Suitcase?

I pride myself on my packing skills and can pretty much go anywhere with just a carry-on. Over time, I've learned how to edit so it's just myself and a bag on a plane. When I see people in the airport with an entire luggage train, I wonder, what could they possibly be carrying?

On a recent Friday night, one of my favorite wine stores, Le Du, hosted a last minute tasting of Burgundy wines from producer Benjamin Leroux of Maison Benjamin Leroux and Comte Armand.  Apparently, he was in the country for a visit and had a ton of wine with him - did the shop want to host a tasting? Forget the extra pairs of shoes, that's the kind of overpacking I want to do.

When we arrived, the tasting was well underway and a crowd bunched around a table lined with 11 wines. Seven of the wines were available in the store plus four "bonus" wines, two of which were  premier crus.  I wasn't able to note all, but below are some highlights.

Maison Benjamin Leroux Auxey Duresse Blanc 2010
Pale yellow in the color, the nose showcased some citrus fruits, slate, minerality and a twee bit of oak.  With the first sips, the wine showcased a moderate acidity and similar flavors to the nose.  The slight bit of oak persisted, which I personally found a little off-putting. However, it was restrained enough to not be confused with a California chardonnay.

Maison Benjamin Leroux Chassagne Montrachet Abbaye de Morgeot 2010
With this wine, lime is the name of the game:  lime fruits and limestone notes dominated the glass. There was more minerality in this one than the Auxey Duresse and the oak was absent. Again, the wine expressed a moderate acidity and was wonderfully balanced; here's a beautiful example of a white Burgundy.

Maison Benjamin Leroux Volnay Mitans 2010
Black cherry, strawberry, violets and bit of ash were immediately noticed when we smelled the wine and after sipping through, the fruits came through again.  It was traditionally light bodied structured with moderate tannins.  This was a very elegant wine - a real pinkie lifter.

Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru clos des Epeneaux 2010
"Purple" was the first word that came to mind with this wine.  Black cherry, plum and violets joined green pepper, rosemary and other herbaceous notes in the nose.  On the tongue, the fruits burst with bing cherry, blueberries and super-ripe plums.  The herbs planted themselves back into earthy notes and  you could taste the all the vineyard components with each sip.  Truly a stunning wine.

Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru clos des Epeneaux 1999
This is the oldest Burgundy I have ever consumed and was a prime example of how a wine ages.  Fruit was almost nonexistent in this wine and instead earth, tobacco, ash and a muskiness pervaded. An odd scent of sour milk also wafted through, though it was muted. On the tongue, I had to dig around for a bit to find traces of violets and overripe plums. The noticeable tannins gave this wine quite a bit of structure.  Crazy-complex and a good indicator of what its younger sibling is going to taste in a few years.

Keep tasting, friends...

Mega Magnums and Pinot Pours

"This is going to be a good time."

That was my initial thought upon first walking into Bar Boulud.

Why?  Because of these guys:

Ladies and gentlemen, we have magnums.  Ones that run the entire length of the bar.  Ones that hold some gorgeous French wines, like the Chateauneuf du Pape featured in the center. Any place that will unabashedly display such a huge collection of treasures wants you to drink wine and damn well enjoy it.

To my disappointment, the magnum du jour was a Beaujolais and while the entertainment value of watching a glass of it be poured from that enormous bottle was high, the actual glass of the stuff was going to be..... well, I'll be democratic and just say not what I was in the mood to drink.

However, the initial draw of Bar Boulud, as promised to me by my friend, was wine flights.  At this point, I think it's fairly well established that I love wine flights and I'm always happy to spend some time comparing and contrasting what's set in front of me.  A flight amidst all this wine peacocking?  Yes, please.

I went with a Pinot Noir flight, an interesting study in how differently the same grape can be vinified and the role of terroir.  Although it's one of the most widely planted grape varietals in the world, I don't drink many pinots, so this was going to be a fun experiment.

Chad Carneros Reserve 2010, California
Right up front, black cherry, earth and bell pepper came through on the nose.  Jammy, juicy fruits, such as raspberry and plum joined on the palate, as well as more pronounced tones of earthiness.  Vegetal notes rounded out the medium-bodied red, with moderate tannins.  I rather enjoyed this one.

Domaine David Renaud Vigneron a Irancy 2010, Chablis 
Chablis is an area in Burgundy that primarily produces premium chardonnays, so a red from this area is  rare. It's an interesting study in the various Bourgogne appellations and the effects the subtle differences in terroir can have on a wine.  This pinot was the lightest in color of the three.  Spices such as sage and rosemary joined ripe berry fruits and that pronounced earthiness again made an appearance.  However, this wine felt rather thin and flat in my mouth.  It was definitely my least favorite.

Domaine Petitot "Les Pimentiers",  2009, Savigny-les-Beaune
Burgundy.  World-class pinot.  Got it. My favorite of the three, this is an excellent entre into the world of Burgundies.  Juicy and round, this medium-bodied wine had pronounced but well-integrated tannins, giving it structure and depth.  The flavor profiles were similar in terms of fruit and earth to the Chablis, but far more complex.

This was definitely a great primer into the world of pinot noir; unfortunately, I think I'm going to be on a quest to drink some rather expensive Burgundies....