Aug 20, 200912:00 AM
All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans
Welcome to your own neighborhood
Native New Orleanians are making wonderful wines from California vineyards.
Every day new wines and new releases of known wines are sent into the marketplace to make their own way. Believe me, it happens every day.
And what’s going to happen with more frequency is that more new labels will be gracing our retailers’ shelves and our restaurants’ wine lists. We are going to see many new labels, maybe for only one season, due to economic factors that we will explore in more detail in next week’s blog.
For now, let’s focus a bit on two new labels that are, we hope, here to stay. The wines behind these labels are excellent, and, in fact, so are the producers. More important, these producers are not some talented group of University of California at Davis graduates. The producers of our featured wines this week walk among us. They are our neighbors right here in New Orleans.
Dr. James Moises is a dedicated physician who is on the emergency room staff at both Tulane University Hospital and Baptist Hospital.
Somehow, he has found time to craft pinot noirs into excellent wines from Willamette Valley in Oregon. Working from more than 40 acres in the McMinnville area, south of Portland, Moises is absolutely committed to producing pinot noirs of great structure and integrity.
His passion for this project is evident in every bottle. The first vintage of his eponymous wine was in 2006, and it is just now hitting the market. The only market in the U.S. where the wine will be sold is New Orleans. And let me assure you, it will disappear as fast as it has appeared. The purchasing of these wines at local outlets such as Swirl, Dorignac’s, Muriel’s and Ruth’s Chris Steak House at Harrah’s Hotel is proceeding at a rapid clip.
The wine labeled Vieux Carré, so named because native New Orleanian Moises just wanted to name it that way, is pretty and interesting. It’s not bold. Rather it is what pinot noir is supposed to be: elegant, easy on the nose and the palate, with a truly ideal garnet color. It’s the least complicated wine of his group, but that does not diminish the wine. Any other Oregon producer would be pleased to make something this good.
The next level in the lineup is the pinot noir from the Holmes Hill vineyard. This wine is a work-in-progress, still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. But keep in mind, these are absolutely brand-new wines, and you will be amazed at how far they have come to this point.
Last, and possessing the upper hand of the trio, is the Yamhill-Carlton AVA pinot noir. One sniff and one sip will have you stepping away from the glass saying, “You have got to be kidding me!” This is a complicated wine –– a bit rustic on the nose, which is an attractive quality in a pinot noir, with black and red fruit impressions intermingling. On the palate, plan on each glass taking you a long time to finish. You won’t want to rush the experience but rather allow the full length of the finish to completely move along before the next sip.
I absolutely shudder to contemplate what Moises wine will be in just a few years. This juice is going places. And you’ll want to say that you were there for the first release into the only market that’s receiving any at all.
Ron Christner is a professor of finance at Loyola University. His wife, Bonnie Curry, is involved in the local real estate market. Wine has been an important factor in their lives for a long time.
So, when the let’s-go-make-some-wine bug bit, off they went to sunny California to see what they could find. They found a bit of land just outside of Santa Rosa, the largest community in Sonoma County. Not a vineyard, just land, with a lot of rocks and boulders.
They were told that the land could support a vineyard, and from then on, the Christners have not had a lot of free time. For the past few years, they have been able to bottle merlot each year.
And what great merlot it is! Ron likes to note that people often confuse his merlot with bigger wines, such as cabernet sauvignon. He is right, but in actuality, this is wonderful and true merlot.
Big berry aspects punctuate a velvet quality that would go well with heavy meats, such as steak and game. Oh, go ahead and add duck to the list of foods against which this wine will stand toe-to-toe.
Merlot is sometimes described as a steel fist in a velvet glove. C Squared proves the wisdom of that statement. The wine carries the designation Bennett Valley, which is one of the newest and smallest appellations in all of California. But it denotes an area that sits low and benefits from a cool evening breeze off the Pacific, which is about 35 miles to the west.
During the day, the sun hits the area, providing the necessary temperature and light that brings about even ripening. The evening brings lower temperatures, allowing the vines to rest and not stress. Not much rain in the ripening season means the threat of mildew and rot is minimal. It also means that hail will likely not be the event that can ruin a vintage.
The Christners are considering expanding the vineyard up the hill and may even use that area to plant a bit of cabernet. They are red wine folks, so it’s no use talking to them about white grapes. But then again, their neighbors know a thing or two about white wines.
Just down the road is Matanzas Creek, which produces some incredible sauvignon blanc, and just over the hill sits the estate of Jess Jackson. Nice neighborhood.
C Squared has not yet hit the market but should be here in early September. Wide distribution is not the program here, either. A few restaurants and retail outlets in Sonoma will see some of the Christners’ wine, and so will New Orleans. That’s it.
Drinking wines made by neighbors used to mean something pretty rough. It may even have meant a hearty helping of Cherry Bounce.
Thankfully, in this enlightened age, we can lap up some excellent juice from great wine-producing areas and still feel New Orleans-patriotic for doing so. Gotta love it!