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Pehu-Simonet June 2, 2015

Pehu-Simonet

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle first thing in the morning, and after meeting our adorable light blue Renault Twingo, we hit the road for Champagne. We checked into a rad Airbnb in the center of Reims, had a quick bite and then set off for Verzenay to visit David Pehu.

Easy to find in parking lots!

Easy to find in parking lots!

Pehu-Simonet was a fantastic first stop. David is friendly and easy going, his wines are a pleasure, and Verzenay is one of the prettiest areas in Champagne. Prior to the visit, I thought David’s wines were bold and easy drinking. They are also a reference point for MCR as the base for the dosage, the slight tropical notes are an indicator for me.

Pehu's tasting room, a bit of a bachelor pad with Champagne crates made into furniture

Pehu's tasting room, a bit of a bachelor pad with Champagne crates made into furniture

Tasting with David, confirmed my impressions, but I also saw a producer in the midst of a change. During the tasting and subsequent vineyard tour I saw a man who is becoming more interested in expressing terroir, not just making enjoyable wines. In the coming years he will release a series of single parcel wines to show off his holdings in Verzenay, Verzy, Mesnil-sur-Oger, Mailly, and Villers-Marmery. He also has vines in Sillery, but these will continue to be blended as David doesn’t feel that Sillery as much complexity as some of his other parcels.

Unlike other producers that I met with, David was still learning how his parcels express themselves and their terroir when made individually rather than in a blend. He feels, “vignerons must now create terroir to tell the story of Champagne instead of the negociants telling the story with blending and history.” I think part of his learning curve and struggles come from the fact that negociants own or buy a lot of the grapes coming from his villages and he hasn’t gotten a chance to taste many other single parcel wines from Verzenay and Verzy. He referenced Godme, who is also making single parcels as one of the few other producers trying to show terroir. David is excited that his villages are breaking away from the blends and starting to show their true character.  Despite not having tasted a lot of other people’s parcels, he was keenly aware of the differences in his plots depending on where in Verzenay they were located, closer to the lighthouse or the windmill which stand on opposing hilltops. Talking with him highlighted the struggles that vignerons are going through when they decide to breakaway from the norm of either selling the grapes or making perfectly fine, generic champagne. Its hard to get a feel for what’s going on around you, and so you have to be a bit of a trail blazer. It also was heartening for me because I’ve had plenty of difficult figuring out terroir of the villages of Champagne.

Windmill of Verzenay

Windmill of Verzenay

Lighthouse of Verzenay on the opposite hill as the windmill, still not sure why they need a lighthouse in this landlocked area.

Lighthouse of Verzenay on the opposite hill as the windmill, still not sure why they need a lighthouse in this landlocked area.

As we tasted, I learned a few more useful things about David’s wines. Unfortunately the black label Blanc de Noirs is going away as the fruit that made this wine will be separated into the Fin Lieux single parcel champagnes, of which the Les Perthois, Verzenay 2010 is the first and is awesome!  The neon labels that Pehu is so controversially known for, are going away in favor of a cross cut of a vine that are still eye catching but not as painful. Finally, along with the next visit at Marguet, I had some interesting thoughts on winemakers in the Montagne de Reims who are used to Pinot Noir, making Chardonnay from the Cotes de Blancs. I’ll discuss this in the next post.

Overall, I think Pehu’s wines are big and delicious now, and will continue to add depth and character as he gets his footing with terroir.

Savory

Last night I had a new taste experience. I was drinking Varnier-Fannière Cuvée Jean Fannière 09 base, and I experienced saffron for the first time in a champagne. Rodolphe Péters told me he notices this notes in wines from Avize, along with other “orange” aromas like tangerine. Over the last year, I’ve gotten a lot of these “orange” tones, but never saffron. It was compelling to finally taste that.

This minor taste experience brings me to a broader concept that I’ve been wrestling with in the bar and with my conversations with guests, that of savory flavors in wine. I think people are conditioned to think about wines in terms of fruit flavors and sometime earth and minerality. When I move past these descriptors I lose people. Obviously I lose people when I talk about a wine smelling like hay, but I don’t understand why others turn off when I talk about herbal notes, meaty flavors, and other aromas on the savory end of the spectrum. Lately I’ve found the champagnes that exhibit these flavors to be very compelling. They tend to be delicious, sometimes hedonistic, and the make you think a bit. If I convince a guest to enjoy one of these wines, they really get into it, but savory is a harder sell. Sometimes I just take the easy way out and talk about the fruit/nut/floral tones that come along with the savory as to not challenge them and sell a wine that I am confident will make them happy. Whenever I do this, it feels a bit like I’m cheating the guest out of discovering more depth in their wine.

Here are a few wines with savory tones, without getting too funky, if you’re curious:

Varnier-Fannière Cuvée Jean Fannière

Marc Hebrart Brut Selection

March Hebrart Blanc de Blancs

Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs de Aÿ

Marie Courtin Resonance

Jean Lallement Brut Rose(2011)

Dosage!

I realize its been a while since my last post, please forgive me making it through the holidays, starting a new business, moving, and a pile of other boring stuff. Anyway, here's a post that I finally completed about Dosage level as well as the type of sugar used. Enjoy!

Dosage  MCR vs Cane

Fair warning this post gets pretty technical, focusing on a small but very important part of the process of making champagne.

A while back I was fortunate to host a tasting with Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy of Champagne Geoffroy and Galaxy Wine Company. This tasting was very special because we were comparing dosage levels and base ingredient of the liqueur d’expédition for the dosage.  JB brought 6 bottles of the same base wine, his Expression Brut NV, all 6 were disgorge in September 2013. The difference between the 6 wines was two fold.

First, half of the wines had liqueur made from cane sugar, the other three wines the liqueur was from MCR. MCR stands for moût concentré rectifié or concentrated and rectified grape must. Beyond the difference in the liqueur, the wines were dosed at 3 different sweetness levels – 3g/L, 5 g/L, and 8 g/L. There was an example of each sweetness level with both types of liqueur, making for six wines total and a fascinating experience.

The purpose of these of tastings is to determine the best balance for the wine. The sugar and acid should be in harmony, meaning that the acid isn’t too sharp and the sugar not too overpowering to the natural flavors in the wine. Some producers don’t bother with this and just use the same dosage level every year. The committed producers on the other hand think this is very important to do every year since every vintage is different. That being said, few producers will test both MCR and cane. Most producers have their preference between the two and stick with it, tinkering only with the amount of sugar.

Base Ingredient of the Dosage

MCR versus cane sugar is a divisive topic, with both sides presenting solid arguments. Proponents of MCR argue that sugar is foreign to wine and alters the champagne too much. They feel that MCR is the better choice since its made from grapes it keeps in line with the champagne. Some also feel that cane sugar dosed wines oxidize more quickly.

Those that favor the cane sugar often feel that the MCR is heavy or syrupy, making for a less refined experience in the final wine. Additionally they argue that the MCR is foreign as well since its coming from grapes grown in the Languedoc or North Africa. Both sides have fair points and I’ve had fantastic examples of each style.

Additionally, JB thinks that the vintage must be taken into consideration.  In riper vintages the MCR works better because it respects the grapes. In leaner vintages, the cane sugar is better because it adds balance and harmony to the wine. Geoffroy discovered this in 1996 because the vintage was very ripe and had high acid so the cane sugar didn’t work. This was the first time he tried MCR and was very happy with the results because it allowed the wine to shine.

Since we’re already here, I’ll give you my two cents on base of the dosage before talking about the level.  After tasting all 6 wines, first blind then again knowing which was which, I found that the MCR wines smelled grapy-er while the cane had a sweeter smell. My actual thoughts were formed on the second day the wines were open, when I find many champagnes show better. With the additional time open, I found the cane wines showed a bit more of a honeyed or caramel tone. The MCR wines on the other hand showed a bit more fruit, and the MCR seemed to be more integrated. I felt there was a better harmony between the wine and dosage, meaning the MCR didn’t stand out as much as the cane sugar, so I got a purer picture of the wine as JB intended it.

Level of Dosage

Equally as interesting as the base ingredient, was the amount of sugar added to the wine. I’ve read about these tastings, so I was thrilled to finally do it myself. The MCR vs cane sugar was really just a bonus for me. The biggest surprise of this style of tasting, for myself and others,  is the fact that it is not a linear progression. More sugar doesn’t make the wine seem sweeter and vice versa, lower sugar doesn’t necessarily mean the perception of the wine is drier.  The need for these tastings is instantly justified as each year the grapes give the producers something different, so the dosage must be adjusted.

As above, I found the wines were much more expressive on the second day, making my thoughts on the subject clearer.

At the 3g/L level, I thought the wine showed the most purity and cohesiveness. However, it came with a lot of sharp edges and was the least pleasurable to drink. This speaks highly to the whole debate on expressing purity and terroir versus wine that most people will actually enjoy drinking. Intellect or hedonism?

The 8g/L wines were possibly the most compelling for what they illustrated. As the sugar level increased, the wine also seemed drier. Essentially too much sugar was creating a small version of the orange juice and toothpaste effect where the sugar brings out such a contrast with the acid that both become noticeable. I found the sugar seemed to sit around the acid, but never integrated with it. I found two distinct sensations in my mouth rather than one harmonious experience.

Finally the 5g/L gave the best of both worlds by creating harmony and balance. The sugar and acid integrated giving me a delightful wine. The sharp edges were sanded down by the sugar, but the sugar didn’t interfere with the wine itself. I thought there was still plenty of terroir and purity expressed but in a more enjoyable way than the 3g/L. 5g/L was the favorite of the group, but it was divided between MCR and cane with a few more people choosing MCR. The actual Geoffroy Expression available on shelves is 5g/L with MCR.

Overall this was an amazing experience that answered many questions, but also gave me much more to think about. I hope to participate in more tastings like this but with other producers so I can experience what its like to do this with pure Chardonnay or a blend from another area in Champagne. One other thing that my friend Eugenia Keegan pointed out that I didn’t specifically notice was the fact that these wines have a noticeable level of tannin! I was trained to think that there aren’t tannins in champagne, but there are and it clearly makes a difference with food pairing – light blanc de blancs with oysters because there’s no tannin versus blanc de noirs with steak because of the tannin and intensity. Fascinating stuff. 

I hope that you too can participate in this type of tasting some time, as it was truly enlightening. Thanks to Jean Baptiste, Terry Thiese and Skurnik imports, and Galaxy Wine Company for making all of this happen.

Grand Marque Rodeo

Grand Marque tasting

Recently, I hosted a fantastic evening where my guests and I tasted 8 of the most well known champagnes in 2 flights. It was fascinating to revisit these wines in a relaxed setting and side by side. I don’t think I’ve ever had all of these side by side ever. It was fun to see which wines actually lived up to their reputation both in terms of quality, but more importantly house style.

Here are the wines with my thoughts. A quick technical note, I did open all of the wines 1 hour before the tasting began, so they all had plenty of time to breath.

Flight 1

1.Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV – This was probably the biggest surprise of the night for me. I always thought of PJ as a lighter, more delicate style with floral tones. This wine however was much bigger than expected leaning toward the yeast, almond, brioche side of the house. I certainly wouldn’t have put this wine in the starting position had I realized how off my palate memory was, or how much the house has been tinkering with their style.

2. Taittinger La Francaise Brut NV – I was pleased with how this wine tasted, it showed its higher percentage of Chardonnay with bright lemon and mineral tones. The wine had a more pronounced acidity and lacked the rounder tones that arise with age. Overall, I feel that the continue to achieve their goal of making a fresh, light champagne that’s ideal for pairing with lighter foods.

3.Billecart-Salmon Brut Réserve NV – Certainly one of the highlights of the night. Despite not owning a significant portion of their vines, Billecart manages to reach impressive heights. The wine showed a spectrum of flavors both on the light citrus and mineral end, as well as a the bolder more pinot dominate notes. Balanced and easy drinking while showing its aristocratic roots.

4. Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut NV  - What to say about the most produced champagne in the world? The wine delivered what I expected, it was easy and enjoyable. I would be glad if this was what most people associated with champagne rather than Cook’s or some other garbage. It was also the wine that made the least impact on all of us. I suppose that’s the trade off, to produce that much wine, it’ll be a bit less complex.

Flight 2

5. Veuve Clicquot Carte Jaune NV – I had been hearing rumors that Clicquot was actively working on improving the quality of the Yellow Label, which had been sinking toward a very boring wine for a while now. I am happy to report that the quality of this wine has significantly improved. Possibly due to a good base year, but I’m guessing the work in the winery and vineyards is starting to show.  It wasn’t my favorite wine of the night, but it did make an impression. I will happy accept a glass of this in the future.

6. Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV – I was very happy with this wine, and I feel the additional time being open helped the wine considerably. The last few times I’ve had this wine I thought it showed more reductive qualities that I’d like, but it certainly had blown off at this tasting. The wine showed what I expected of the house and this wine – brioche and yeasty tones mingled with red apples, and minerality with an underlying grace. The ML played a wonderful role in making this wine very drinkable while remaining complex.

7. Pol Roger Cuvée de Réserve NV Brut – This was certainly the favorite of the group. It showed elegance and sophistication. A fantastic blend of almonds, brioche, red apples, and minerality. Well balanced and very drinkable. More or less what I expected from this noble house.

8. Bollinger Special Cuvée NV Brut – Bolli has been in the middle of a rough patch with their former Chef du Cave leaving, however I thought this wine showed very well. It was very much what I expected and enjoy about Bollinger – robust, full bodied champagne with a focus on brioche and nutty tones and the weight and flavor of Pinot Noir. If you enjoy bolder champagnes, this will treat you very well. I can’t help but wonder if some of this is due to their new bottle, which is designed to mimic the air to wine ratio of a magnum.

Overall, this was a fantastic tasting that confirmed that many of the houses are staying true to the perception of their house style. It was also a pleasant change to focus solely on larger producers. I get so wrapped up with the growers and focus on terrior and vintage character. I truly enjoyed tasting the crafted wines. I think in the excitement of wanting new and interesting, we forget that the established houses do truly make delicious wines.

Troublemakers

On Friday night I hosted a tasting that was pretty awesome on a lot of levels.  The tasting was call Troublemakers.  I chose 7 wines from winemakers that I think are causing a ruckus  by either doing something new and different in a traditional region, or being tradition in a region that is influenced by trends and technology.  I also used four Riedel decanters because like these winemakers, I think the Riedel family are a bunch of troublemakers.  In a few generations they have changed how the world serves and appreciates wine. 

The tasting was really cool because in addition to the wines and the glass, the guests ranged from novice to very experienced in the world of wine.  Sharing these fascinating wines with so many palates was great.  Its always a treat to see how people with varying experiences with wine react to things like orange wine. 


Here are the wines I poured, my thoughts on them as well as a bit of background. 

1. Bérêche et Fils Brut Réserve NV (2011) $47

Region – Champagne, FR  Grapes: roughly 1/3 each Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay

Raphaël has been working at the family estate for 10 years and is really coming in to his own.  He uses a number of controversial practices in including oak fermentation, oxidative wine making, a very definite love of pinot meunier, cork finishing his Champagnes, and making a number of single vineyard champagnes. 


2. Christ Gemischter Satz 2012 $21

Region – Wien, AU Grapes: Field blend of up to 20 different grapes

Rainer Christ is one of the very few winemakers to making a quality version of Gemischter Satz.  Most of the time this is a very boring wine made to be sold by the jug or glass from Heurigers in Vienna.  He and a handful of others are proving this style is capable of making top quality wine. 


3. Patrick Piuze Chablis Terrior Découverte 2012 $27

Region – Chablis, FR Grapes: Chardonnay

Puize moved from Montreal to Burgundy to learn about winemaking and ultimately wound up in Chablis.  He became very passionate about the terrior of Chablis, which has generally been overlooked.  He makes top quality single vineyard Chablis, as well as the more typical single vineyard 1er and Grand Crus.  He uses the same techniques for his Chablis that most use for only their top wines.  He’s definitely changing how people look at the non-cru areas of Chablis.

I did a quick decant of this wine table side with the Black Tie Face to Face decanter.   I chose this decanter because the Piuze only needs a quick bit of aeration to open up.  The base of the decanter is small so it limits the air contact, which is great for this wine.  The small base also helped keep the wine cool. Doing a quick decant  with the Face to Face tableside was also very dramatic due to the exceptionally long neck.


4. Radikon Pinot Grigio S 2010 $46

Region: Venezia Giulia, IT Grapes: Pinot Grigio

Stanko and his son Sasa are part of a handful of producers that helped put orange wine on the map.  They’re making wine like their grandparents did, before lots of technology and winemaking know how influenced the world.  They use long skin macerations and oak aging on whites to create a distinct, intense style of wine. This PG spent 2 weeks on its skin and a year in barrel before it was released. 

I decanted this wine with the Black Tie Bliss decanter before the tasting started.  I chose this decanted due to the small size.  It limits the amount of air contact, and I could put it back in the refrigerator if the wine was becoming too warm.

radikon decant.jpg


5. Luyt El País de Quenehuao 2011 $25

Region – Cauquenes, Chile Grapes: País

Louis Antoine Luyt gets the prize for biggest shit disturbed in this group as he’s actually gotten death threats and bricks thrown through his windows for what he’s doing. He studied in Beaujolais with the OG troublemaker Marcel Lapierre and has applied what he learned to amazing vineyards in Chile.  He’s focused on terrior and farming in a land of bulk crap. The Quenehuao vineyard was planted 300 years ago and it still producing today thanks to regrafting new vines on the old root stocks.


6.Tenuta delle Terre Nere Feudo di Messo Enta Rosso 2010 $50

Region: Etna, Sicilia, IT Grapes:  98% Nerello Mascalese, 2% Nerello Cappucio

Etna has a long history of producing underwhelming wines that nevertheless show off a sense of place.  Marc de Grazia, a wine importer, decided to purchase this estate a number of vineyards over 100 years old and change what’s going on here.  He started using top quality techniques to show off how great these wines can be and how well they show various parts of Mt Etna and its varies soils and expositions. This vineyard was planted in 1933 and expanded in 1973. 

I decanted this wine in the Swan decanter before the tasting began.  I wanted to give this wine plenty of time to open up and the larger base of the decanter and extended time helped achieve my goal. Without a doubt this is my favorite decanter to use.  It combines a dramatic appearance with an unexpected and elegant ease of use while pouring. 


7. Dunn Vineyards Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $75

Region – Napa, CA Grape:  Cabernet Sauvignon

Randy Dunn came to Napa in 1978 and began making Cab the way they did in Bordeaux. Unlike most of his Napa peers, he never stopped doing this.  He doesn’t bother with the tricks and the tech, he just makes top quality wine with old school techniques.  He’s a troublemaker because in my mind his wines consistently outclass his neighbors due of his focus on tradition.

This wine was decanted in the Amadeo decanter.  I chose the Amadeo because it has the largest amount of surface area for the wine to enjoy contact with air. Anyone who’s enjoyed one of Dunn’s wines know his wines flourish with time to open. 

dunn decanter.jpg

 


Veuve Cliquot Carte Jaune

So of all the topics I didn’t think I’d write about, Veuve Cliquot was high on that list.  So, here’s to a bit of humble pie.  Thanks Champagne!

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Carte Jaune NV, better know as Veuve Yellow Label, is one of the wines that many wine professionals and connoisseurs love to hate.  Its available everywhere, its made by the largest Champagne company, and many feel that you’re paying a lot for marketing rather than what’s in the bottle.  The list goes on and becomes more derogatory depending on the level of intoxication and wine snobbery of the speaker. 

All of that being said, there are amazing things about this wine.  Its many people’s first taste of Champagne.  It helps promote Champagne as a whole and cements the idea that Champagne is a better product and worth paying for relative to other sparkling wines.  The history of the wine, the house, and the widow are fascinating.  The technical prowess required to blend wines from so many vineyards and vintages and have a consistent and enjoyable product is pretty awe-some. 

I really don’t care to write more about the pro’s and cons of this iconic wine.  I was prompted to write about yellow label because a few days ago one of their wine makers, Pierre Casenave, was in Portland and, along with some great folks from Moët Hennessey, hosted one of the best tastings I’ve been to in a long time.  Rather than a standard dog and pony show where the range of wines are opened and discussed, they decided to a comparative tasting of Yellow label from different base years. 

This was an unusual choice as the thought behind non-vintage wines is that they should always taste the same.  This is true when they’re released, but after years in the bottle all wine starts developing its own character.  Its one of the secrets that’s been kept quiet to help sales and avoid the difficult questions of “is this a good vintage” that plagues(and helps) other wines. 

This begs the question of what is a base year? If you look at my menu you’ll see a number of wines with a parentheses behind them with a vintage, for example –

Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature (2010)

This tells us that the majority, if not the entirety of the wine is from that year but cannot be label as such due to the rules about vintage Champagne and labeling.

For this tasting we tasted(enjoyed), yellow label with base years of 2008, 2007, 2004, 2001, and 1990 all from magnum!  Yeah, that’s one awesome line up, particularly from magnum.  In magnums the wine age slower and beautifully.  You’ll find my tasting notes below, but here are my main take aways from this line up:

• This is exceptionally rare, the winemaker had only done similar tastings 5 times after years of working at Cliquot. 

• All of the wines showed distinct character while also showing the house style even after decades. 

• NV champagne does age quite well, particularly in magnum and I look forward to the producers being more transparent about base years and disgorgement dates so collectors can repeat tastings like this. 

• I love where vintages such as 04 and 07 that start off their lives lean and acidic add weight and become gorgeous over time.

• Bold rich vintages like 08 and 90, are incredible, but don’t seem to go through as much of a transformation as the leaner years. 

• If you can afford it, magnum is the only way to purchase Champagne you intend to cellar. 

Oh yeah, there was one other little thing, after the yellow label comparison we enjoyed a magnum of 1953 vintage Veuve Cliquot.  Fuck yeah 60 year old Champagne!  This wine was pretty amazing, distinctly aged nose, but fascinating and compelling.  The palate was still fresh and vibrant thanks to great acidity and a lively amount of bubbles. 

A big thanks to Veuve Cliquot and Moët Hennessey for adding significantly to my Champagne knowledge! 

Tasting notes:

Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label (2008) Magnum – The nose is fresh with lots of minerality and apple tones and a bit of sulfur.  On the palate the wine is bright with lots of fresh apple tones.  It’s a very bold wine and is showing its youth..

Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label (2007) Magnum – Immediately this wine is showing a softer, more elegant nose with brioche tones and a bit more age coming though.  The palate is gorgeous with more aged notes as well as intense citrus and minerality.  Very creamy texture with bright acid.

Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label (2004) Magnum – The nose is fascinating, complex, and aged giving aromas of raspberries along with nutty notes.  On the palate the wine was richer with plenty of brioche, yeast, nuts, raspberries.  Like the 07, this wine has great acid and a beautifully creamy texture.

Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label (2001) Magnum – The aged notes are really starting to shine here with rich coffee and almond notes.  On the palate the wine is simply gorgeous showing its age with honey, brioche and nuts.  Showing the family heritage, this wine too has fantastic acid and creamy palate feel. 

Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label (1990) Magnum – Unfortunately this wine was mildly corked.  I pushed past this and the wine still had traces of brioche and fruity notes.  It showed a wonderful balance between youthful and aged tones.  The wine was texturally the most balanced and delightful on the palate.  It’s a shame I couldn’t experience it in its full glory.

Veuve Cliquot Vintage 1953 Magnum – This wine is incredible, delivering a fascinating array of aromas including custard, coffee, and brioche along with a slew of others.  On the palate it was definitely aged, but very compelling with notes of coffee, mandarin orange, wood, and so much more.  It was a complex and fascinating with wonderful acidity, a vibrant mousse, and long finish. 

Drinking in NYC

Obviously I did my best to experience the dining scene in New York, but I really went out of my way to experience the drinking cultures of the city.  Partly because I like to drink, but mostly for research as to how other bars do things, I felt compelled to punish my liver.  Here’s the run down of where I went and my thoughts, I’m not pulling punches as most of the places I went were awesome.  There were a couple duds though.  I’m going to list them in the order of my trip, so unfortunately some toward the end of the trip are competing with expectations set from the beginning of the trip.

Terrior E.Vil – Without a doubt my favorite wine bar in the City.  Everyone behind the bar knew their stuff, and knew how to have fun while doing it!  This place could easily fit in Portland, which might contribute to me liking it, but it did it with an attitude that Portlanders might find a bit off putting.  It was more in your face than most places here.  The wine list is, frankly, balls out crazy.  There were wines I hadn’t heard of and I go out of my way to taste obscure and esoteric wines.  If you are in Manhattan you need to go here.  I had more tastes of more awesome wine than I can recount here. Huge credit to Jeff and Russell.

Flute – One of the three Champagne bars in Manhattan. I went to the Gramercy location, they also have a midtown location.  This place wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either.  I had been warned that the Champagne bars in New York were more nightclub/loungey than wine bar.  Its true.  Flute was a bit more of a lounge that looked like it was designed by a bored, middle aged housewife with too much money and an appreciation of Champagne.  The staffers were cute, but not particularly knowledgeable.  I had a glass of Lanson black label brut.  It was served in a horrible flute, even by flute standards - hotel brunch heavy weight with a short stem, yuck!  It’s a big producer that isn’t available in Portland.  It was as uninspiring as the surroundings. 

Proletariat – The gang at Terrior recommended this place for beer.  I hadn’t intended to drink much beer during my trip, but their singing recommendation prompted me to change plans.  I’m glad I did, it was awesome!  The passion and knowledge the bartender had for beer makes most beer places in Portland look like the junior varsity, which is saying quite a lot.  While I was there a few of the brewers of NYC came in, and the bartender, Cory, informed me I was looking at half of the NYC beer brain trust.  Amazing. If this place was in Portland it would be packed to the gills.  I had Del Ducato via Emilia lager, Thornbridge Kipling Pale, and Hitachino Nipponia.  Super Awesome! 

The Beagle – The cocktail list looked good, but I was there for Sherry.  They had a great sherry list, and lucky I was there for Happy Hour when it was half price.  Worth a stop if you have time.  I had the “I Think” en Rama Equipo Navaros Manzanilla and the “Solear en Rama” Barbadillo Manzanilla.  Both delicious.

Booker and Dax at Momofuku Ssäm – I didn’t think I’d actually get to go here but my new friend said it was right around the corner from the Beagle, and we popped over.  It was a cool bar, with some awesome cocktails.  I had the Gin and Juice which was a playful sparkling take on the “classic”.  Then I had the lechuga which is gin, lemon, and bibb lettuce.  Hell yeah!  That was delicious, and “healthy”! 

Corkbuzz – This is the big deal, newish wine bar in New York, run by one of my fellow F&W Sommelier of the Year recipients.  The list was impressive, and I wish I could have had more of the by the glass wines, but I was there with a friend and to hang out with one of the somms, so we went to the bottle list.  We did make a brief stop at Val de Mer Rosé from the glass list, which is made by a young gun of Chablis with the help of Moutard in Champagne.  Cool little wine.  After 10pm at Corkbuzz is Champagne Campaign, so all Champagne bottles are half off.  Worth going for that alone.  We had a bottle of Marguet Rosé 2007 from Ambonnay, pretty delicious juice.  I’m hoping someone brings this producer to town soon.  Beyond the wine, the space felt like it needs more time to settle into itself.  It felt a touch sterile, and I think more people having more fun over time will help this place develop a personality as a space rather than just letting the wine do all the work. 

Angel Share – I didn’t even know about this place but my friend took me there after Corkbuzz for a cocktail.  It’s a hidden bar, but it didn’t feel gimmicky.  For the life of me I couldn’t tell you what I drank.  Good conversation does that, plus I had quite a bit to drink by that point. I do remember it was tasty and well thought out.  If you have extra time its worth seeking it out behind the Japanese restaurant.  

Terrior Tribeca – I had some time to burn before going to Bubble Lounge, and this Terrior was right there.  I got there right when it opened so it was quiet.  The staff were nice enough, but not particularly engaging.  If I hadn’t had the E.Vil experience to bolster my view of Terrior I would have thought this place was fine, with a great list but blah other wise.  Actually the space itself was pretty cool, good bones. 

Bubble Lounge – Ugh.  I really don’t even want to write about this place.  It was a depressing place that showed a lot of wear and tear.  I was there when it first opened so it was hard to get a read on the clientele, but the staff was battle worn and could have given a shit less if I was there.  Their list was uninspired with a lot of big house plonk.  I had a glass of Alain Thienot Brut, it was fine.  The bathroom really sealed the deal – it reeked of bleach and had mirrors on 4 walls, it practically begged you to do drugs and have sex in there.  Given the industrial amount of bleach, I’m guessing people do that regularly all night every night.  Barf. 

Pearl and Ash – I ate and drank here, but saved it for the drinks section because I thought it was really more about the wine.  It was recently written up in the NYT and the reviewer talked about how people tend to buy bottles and share.  When I saw the list I understood why, the glasses were good and priced fairly by New York standards, but the bottle list was stupidly cheap!  I had a good discussion about the perlage preservation system with the somm/owner, Patrick. He’s super fun and knowledgeable.  I would definitely be happy to go have a drink with him.  I ended up ordering the Gaubicher & Chaussard You are so Bubbly from the Loire for $37!  Tons of fun, ended up sharing with my bar mates and getting some Foillard Morgon in return.  Great time eating and drinking fun wine. Highly recommended.  The food is not a second thought except in this write up, the octopus, skate, and “peas and carrots” were all awesome!  After Terrior E.Vil this was my favorite wine place in the city. 

Amor y Amargo – this is tiny bar dedicated to cocktails made with bitters.  It’s a ballsy concept and the drinks were good.  I ran into an old friend behind the bar, so she just poured me a couple fun drinks.  I liked it but didn’t completely understand the hype behind it. 

Death & Co – I’ve heard about this place, but again didn’t expect to go.  It just happened to be next door Amor y Amargo, so of course I had to go!  It was without a doubt cool inside.  I was impressed, sexy and dark, totally lived up to its name.  I just let the ladies behind the bar pour me whatever they thought was best which ended up being a Guns and Rose and Devil Inside.  I remember liking them but I was toasty by this point.  I’d go back for sure.  I’m glad they took such care of me because if I hadn’t be a buzzed, I would have been in a lot of pain on my walk home with the impressive blisters I had by that point. 

Bluebird Coffee – skipped breakfast the next day, just had coffee on the way to Le Bernadin.  Best coffee I found in the city.  These guys care and make good espresso. 

Bar Boulud/Boulud Sud – I tried to go to Bar Boulud but they were closed between lunch and dinner.  Lame.  I went next door to Boulud Sud.  Such a difference being in Midtown vs LES.  Everything was a bit more accessible and friendly for a older, wealthier crowd.  A bit tame for my taste.  Alfred Gratien Rosé was pleasant though. 

Ten Bells – Lots of people recommended this place to me, and frankly I didn’t quite get it.  The service was bad, the wine list was only on a chalk board that was hard to read, and the wine glasses were total crap.  They might as well have just used juice glasses, it probably would have been better.  They wines were good, not amazing.  Just naturally made.  I could see how people could have a really memorable night here if the server likes you and steers you well, but my experience was lacking.  Go to Terrior E.vil.  At least my drinking buddy was fun to hang out with, I can’t imagine going here alone.

Terrior E.vil – After dinner at Hearth, I went back because Jeff from Sunday night saw me at Hearth and made me promise to come back.  It was just as awesome as the first time, plus this time I got to meet Kim who also is a certified ass kicker.  Go here! 

Pouring Ribbons – My final bar in NYC, and it was a gem.  Both the guys behind the bar were great, one of whom was an owner who had been lured away from Death & Co.  They’re drinks were great.  I had a Mutiny Suppressor which as delicious and then the Sprezzatura Royale, which along with the lechuga from Booker and Dax were the two most memorable cocktails I had.  This one was made with lambrusco and amaro and was awesome!  The bar itself still felt like it was settling into itself and developing its personality.  I have no doubt that this place will develop a personality.  In the meantime just go and have some kick ass drinks. 

There you go, my liver abuse in full detail(not counting all the wine at lunch and dinner).