Robert Moncuit "Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut"
At Hortensia, we change a Champagne by the glass on a six month basis.
Every time, we collect samples of candidates from importers. And all the staff members get together and blind-taste them!
It's so much fun!
But as a matter of fact, it's not democratic! Of course, I hear their opinions because I'm interested in what they think
to some extent but it doesn't mean that their opinions are fully reflected in the result! Actually, they are not!
(The first sip always tastes best?? Well, would you possibly take such an opinion seriously??)
I chose this champagne, Robert Montcuit this time.
Probably, Pierre Montcuit sounds more familiar if you are a Champagne lover.
Pierre Montcuit is a well known Champagne producer and absolutely more popular here in Japan.
And in US also it is that way if my memory is correct..
But there are no factors where Robert is inferior to Pierre, well, maybe except marketing!
Besides that, this cuvee is called "Extra Brut" which means they add less sugar or dosage.
But the more important fact is that it uses riper and healthier grapes so that it doesn't call for sugar that could not only add sweetness to round out the high acid but also it can mask the negative elements!
It is blanc de blancs, whose style is crisp and fresh with lots of mineral characters.
Great for spring and summer!
Lots of new rare wines!
Now I feel as if I worked in California, which absolutely makes me reminiscent, though.....
California Cabernet Sauvignon
1997 Paul Hobbs "Hyde"
2004 Robert Foley "Claret"
1999 Freemark Abbey "Sycamore"
2005 Blankiet Estate "Paradise Hills"
2003 Mt. Eden "Estate"
2004 Williams Selyem "Allen"
Washington Cabernet Sauvignon
1997 Quilceda Creek
The Ojai Vineyard "Melville" Syrah 2002 Sta. Rita Hills, California
Seemingly, the Syrah boom has been happening in California with some super stars emerging, such as Saxum and/or Booker!
It looks like a recent phenomenon but as a matter of fact, there are some producers who have been crafting great Syrahs since this variety was not so popular or even not well known 30 years ago.
Ojai is absolutely one of those greatest Syrah producers with a long history that the golden state is proud of.
However, the style is quite different from the new comers whose wines tend to be so big and rich that they have more in common with Shiraz from Barossa. (Recent Barossa Shiraz are getting more elegant, though.)
This wine obviously belongs to the old school Syrah, meaning that the wine shows more complex, earthy aromas and flavors that can be described as "UMAMI or the sixth taste with a more restrained structure.
The fact that it uses exclusively grapes from the Melville vineyard in one of the coolest areas helps enhance this complex style.
Besides that, the vintage is 2002, mature enough to show all the beautiful aromas and flavors!
The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir 2009 Dundee Hills, Oregon
If you are a savvy wine lover, you already know that Oregon has been producing
Pinot Noir of the world class quality. But for most of the people, particularly here in Japan,
Oregon is still an unknown wine region. And for some people, where is it?
Probably, it's been for the last 10 years that Oregon has gained a recognition as such.
But, the founder of this winery, David Lett a.k.a "Pinot Papa" believed in its potential as
a top class wine region for Pinot Noir and settled in Oregon in 1965 to produce top quality Pinot Noir
when little wine was produced in the area. Of course, the locals thought he was crazy.
But, it turned out that he was genius! Only 15 years later, did he achieve the global recognition
by competing with top wines from Burgundy at the Paris competition with Pinot Noir "South Block Reserve" 1975.
It is said that the style of classic Oregon Pinot Noir is supposed to be somewhere between California and Burgundy.
This wine tastes exactly the way it should.
Enjoy this wine with a variety of foods including Pan-fried Tuna or Roasted Duck that we offer on the current menu.
Hyde Pinot Noir 1994 Carneros, California
If there were a classification of vineyards in California as in Burgundy where the very best are called Grand Cru, this vineyard would be absolutely classified as such.
But locals always know which ones are great no matter what the authority says. And those locals in this case are not ordinary local people but specialists of the world class reputation, including Kistler, Ramey, Littorai, Paul Hobbs, Patz & Hall, etc who have been using the grapes and of course receiving great reviews. Well, seemingly, this vineyard doesn't need such an official classification because it's been proven to be as equally great by the market! Besides that, WOW, 1994!!!
I could barely purchase only several bottles but no hurry!
We are in Japan where not so many people know how rare this wine is although they would be snapped up in California!
Beringer "Private Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 Napa Valley, California
Beringer "Bancroft Ranch" Merlot 1992 Howell Mountain-Napa Valley, California
Beringer should need no introduction to California wine lovers.
But some people might have misconception about this great winery, believing that
Beringer only makes cheap, semi-sweet, fruity rose made from Zinfandel that has been a huge success
from a perspective of business. But the other side of the coin is that it's been somehow a negative campaign for
serious wine lovers in the same way as Liepfraumilch, successful German sweet wine, of course only businesswise.
Believe it or not, Beringer has been making some of the greatest wines in the gold country since its inception.
And these beautifully mature wines obviously prove it. And besides that, considering the vintages of the wines, they
successfully stand the test of time.
Try these great wines, particularly if you believe that California wines cannot age or Beringer is wine that can be enjoyed
only at the pool side!
Paul Bara "Reserve Brut" Grand Cru Bouzy Champagne NV, France
Finally, the fall has arrived here in Tokyo! Summer in this year was so long that
I felt as if we would get into severely cold winter immediately after summer without enjoying the most
pleasant season! But fortunately it's been fabulously comfortable lately, hasn't it?
We had been serving Diebolt Vallois Brut Prestige Blanc de Blancs during spring and summer
but it's time to change it to something richer and rounder in accordance with the season.
And this time I chose this great Champagne from Grand Cru village called Bouzy.
The Champagne uses 80% Pinot Noir with the balance Chardonnay so that it has a rich texture
and ripe fruit flavors along with abundant minerals without being heavy.
Enjoy this gorgeous Champagne not only for toasting but with a variety of foods!
Mayacamas Chardonnay Mount Veeder Napa Valley 1999, California
A lot of people including wine professionals (such as me from 10 years ago!)
believe that your success in making an elegant Chardonnay
in Napa Valley is as limited as the Jamaican bobsled team trying to make it to the winter Olympics!
Remember the movie?
What I mean is that there is nothing impossible!
If you believe that Napa Chardonnay is rich, buttery and simple, never changing in taste with time,
try this wine. You would be shocked by the firm acid and the complex aromas and flavors emerging with time and gaining
more weight with aeration. It calls for decanting in advance to realize its potential to the full.
Paul Hobbs "Hyde" Cabernet Sauvignon 1992 Carneros-Napa Valley, California
I was very thrilled to find this rare wine here in Tokyo!
Well, if you are a fan of California wine, you might think that Paul Hobbs is everywhere even here in Tokyo.
Well, that is true except that some key words are missing.
They are "Hyde Vineyard", "Cabernet Sauvignon" and "1992"!
The combination of the 3 words makes it this ubiquitous producer very rare.
You may want to add "Tokyo" to this combo., though!
The Hyde vineyard is so famous that you might have heard of it but it is usually associated with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir,
both of which are grown in a cool climate
but usually not this thick skinned variety. Yes, this is a cool climate Cab made in the supposedly warm region!
As a matter of fact, there are some spots in the vineyard that are protected from the cold winds coming
from the San Pablo Bay.
And the wine is 20 years old!!!
I opened one of the bottles just recently and confirmed that the wine was aging beautifully.
The wine reminds me of an elegant style Bordeaux such as Palmer, Pichon Lalande or Ducru Beaucaulle rather than
modern style, big and rich Napa Cabs.
I wish I could get more wines like this!!!
Reinhold Haart Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Mosel Kabinet Riesling 2007, Germany
Believe it or not, this is a name for just one wine! Overwhelmingly too long, isn't it?
Apparently, they have some problem with marketing although their wine making is undoubtedly fantastic!
This is a wine from one of the best vineyards in the Mosel region in Germany made by again one of the best producers in this country.
The wine retains some sweetness yet that is well balanced by the crisp acidity and the bracing minerality
so that it can be paired with various foods.
I particularly like the pairing of Steamed Abalone with Sea Urchin Sauce.
But surprisingly the wine extremely goes well with
Grilled Sea Weed (KONBU) marinated Iberian Pork! The fatty meat is harmonious with the sweetness of the wine, being reminiscent of the famous pairing of foie gras and Sauternes and the minerality of the wine really enhances the KONBU flavored Iberian Pork!
And it's a great way to start dinner with this semi-sweet wine when you are tired from this Tokyo's hot & humid summer
unless you believe in the recent study that claims that sugar is bad for your health!
One of the best grape growers in California
that a lot of top wine growers want to use for their wine such as Williams Selyem,
Kistler, Littorai, Failla, Siduri. What a gorgeous list of the fans of this
This cuvée called "M" is supposed to be "second
wine" but in this particular year, 2008, they didn't produce their top cuvée
called "San Andreas Fault", which means that this supposedly second wine is not
virtually a second wine although the price remains what a second wine is
supposed to be.
Enjoy this fabulous wine by the glass!
Hirsch "M" Pinot Noir 2008 Sonoma Coast
I'm a big fan of Condrieu that is a White wine made from Viognier and comes from the Rhone Valley in France.
The wine shows distinctive flowery aromas & flavors. Very unique and delicious!
But, unfortunately most of them are quite expensive. I'm not saying that they are not worth the price.
But, the problem with Viogner is that there are few wines of a middle class, in other words, wines that are reasonable and delicious!
Viognier is more about "one or the other".
But, finally I've found a solution with this Viognier that comes from Washington, USA
that is absolutely delicious and happens to be reasonable!
K Vintners Viognier 2011, Washington USA
I have encountered a Spanish wine called Rias Baixas here in Tokyo several times.
But almost all the wines that I drank were not serious ones unfortunately,
I understand that it's very difficult to sell wines with little name recognition at the same price as, say, Sancerre
even if the quality is the same.
That is one of the reasons why you are very likely to see Rias Baixas at Spanish bars here in Tokyo that are insipid.
But, this is undoubtedly a serious wine with distinctive minerality and ripe yet fresh fruit flavors
that are what truly authentic Rias Baixas has to offer. Very classic and delicious!
Valdamor 2009 Rias Baixas, Spain
One of my favorite producers in New Zealand, making great Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Not an American wine?
Well, although I was trained in Napa Valley, it doesn't mean that I have to stick to American wines!
Besides that, as a matter of fact, sommeliers in Napa Valley are all open-minded, meaning that they have unlimited curiosity and passion about wines from all over the world.
I have some wines from many countries on the wine list in addition to American wines.
But it reflects the wine scene of Napa Valley more precisely than having only American wines!
Let's get back to the wine. Probably, I don't have to explain about this well known producer to English speaking wine lovers
although it is little known here in Japan.
But, the other side of the coin is that you can still get the previous vintages of this fabulous wine fairly easily here in Tokyo!
Yes, basically these wines are leftovers! Unbelievable!! But I have to confess that it is quite possible here in Tokyo considering the fact that Japan is a French colony in terms of a wine culture...
Enjoy this delicious leftover that couldn't be left over in your countries!
Neudorf "Moutere" Chardonnay 2006 Nelson, New Zealand
Cristom, one of the best Pinot Noir specialists in Oregon. They owns four vineyards around the winery in Eola Amity Hills,
each of which is so distinctive and tastes so individual that you can't help but compare the producer with top Burgundy producers.
How different are the wines? Well, let's talk about it with me at Hortensia!
It's more fun than talking about differences between, say, Chambertin and Musigny
because it's been done so many times by so many people around the world
since centuries ago!
Let's do something new, shall we?
Cristom Pinot Noir Eola Amity Hills, Oregon
People always talk about how great a specific vineyard is against others in Burgundy.
However, it is quite rare to hear them talk about vineyards in California in the same manner
except the marketing guys... But as you can imagine, in California there are great vineyards that
should be more talked about. This vineyard, Sleepy Hollow is one of those! Very distinctive!!
Arcadian "Sleepy Hollow" Pinot Noir 2005 Santa Lucia Highlands, California
My recent boom is old, mature California wines which are rare to find mainly because there are not many such things!
But there are, as usual, some exceptions in this category too. This sparkling wine is one of them.
It has beautiful mature, complex flavors that are found on the elegant frame. Can this wine be called "Champagne look alike"?
No, in my view, this is very Californian except it's an old school style and is very rare to find nowadays. simply because for the last 15 years many winemakers in California have ceased to make wine like this. But I keep searching for wines of this elegant, complex style as long as there are "delicious left overs" from California!
Roederer Estate "L'Ermitage" 1999 Anderson Valley, California
This wine is well known for its capability of aging very long but it is extremely rare to encounter the wine that is mature enough.
But, finally, I happened to find the rare bottles of the mature Chardonnay!
Mount Eden Estate Chardonnay 1998 Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Have you traveled to a countryside and visited a wine shop (or a liqueur shop) where you surprisingly encounter a rare wine that you can NEVER find in a big city?
Obviously, Tokyo is a big city. However, Looking at the city from a perspective of California wine market, well I cannot help but consider my city as a rural countryside where few people pay much attention except French or Italian wines.
I happened to encounter this rare wine in Tokyo that you have little chance to find even in US!
Au Bon Climat "Sanford & Benedict" Chardonnay 1999 Santa Ynez Valley (now Sta. Rita Hills), California
Great Chardonnay by one of the top producers in California, using grapes from a great vineyard that would be called "Grand Cru" if it were in Burgundy. California sunshine and minerals coexist in this wine, which is a very rare combo!
Patz & Hall "Hyde" Chardonnay 2009 Carneros, California
One of the very best producers in the region, Champagne, crafting a classic style "Blanc de Blancs".
Beautiful minerarity and bright acidity that are well balanced
with creamy richness and complex mushroomy aromas & flavors.
It has everything you would expect from a fine Champagne. Precision and finesse are the words
that are constantly popping up in my mind.
We start serving this great Champagne by the glass in April.
Diebolt Vallois "Blanc de Blancs Brut Prestige", Champagne
I was very fortunate to encounter this wine again that had been sold out recently.
And as a matter of fact, this wine was "My Wine of The Year 2011!"
1998 was considered as a bad vintage because of El Nino. But you never know
until you open it! Voila, it turned out to be a very elegant and complex wine, being reminiscent of
a classic Bordeaux with no lack of finesse!
Anderson's Conn Valley "Eloge" 1998 Napa Valley, California
2007 in Oregon is a year that was less successful with more rain and less sunshine. But, the other side of the coin is that it turned out that the wines have more in common with Burgundy accordingly because of the resemblance to the climate of Burgundy! And it is a good thing for the Burgundy lovers but not for those who love big, rich Pinot from California!
WillaKenzie "Pierre Leon" Pinot Noir 2007 Willamette Valley, Oregon
A lot of producers in California don't take this variety, Sauvignon Blanc as seriously as, say, Cabernet Sauvignon but this producer
has been crafting their wine by focusing on this too often underestimated variety. Quite impressive!
Brander "Au Naturel" Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Santa Ynez Valley, California
One of the best "mountain Cabs" in Napa Valley, in other words, a wine that has a formidable tannin structure and extremely concentrated, rich fruit flavors! The fact that it is Cabernet might make you associate this wine with Bordeaux but if you are a big fan of mature, elegant Ch. Margaux, you shouldn't try this wine. It's a world apart!
Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Spring Mountain-Napa Valley, California
Very mature California Cab!
It tastes more like Bordeaux than other big and rich California Cabs that are more often found
so that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this wine to the French,
of course, unless they immediately show an adverse reaction to wine "made in America".....
Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 Napa Valley, California
It might be possible to find the same wine if you are lucky but not one with the same vintage!
Williams Selyems "Allen" Chardonnay 2001 Russian River Valley, California
The former winemaker of Peter Michael, Vanessa Wong makes this fantastic Chardonnay in the unique place formerly called "True Sonoma Coast" that is now given an official AVA that is Fort Ross Seaview .
Enojy this intense yet elegant Chardonnay by the glass!
Peay Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2009, California
One of the top Pinot Noir producers in California! Besides that, this is a special cuvee! Enjoy it by the glass!
Au Bon Climat "Knox Alexander" Pinot Noir 2008 Santa Maria Valley, California
California Syrah from a place that is famous for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or even Sparkling wine!
Pax "Kobler Family" Syrah 2004 Green Valley of Russian River Valley, California
Head Sommelier Kaz Chiba
Rare mature California Chardonnay from Ramey!
Ramey "Hyde" Chardonnay 2003 Carneros, California
Ramey "Hudson" Chardonnay 2003 Carneros, California
Head Sommelier Kaz Chiba