Chef José Andrés introduced me to a challenging wine game called 3-2-1 when I visited him for my cover profile of him for the June 30 issue of Wine Spectator. He often plays the game with wine-savvy guests, which can include such illustrious wine folk as Mariano Garcia, currently winemaker of Bodegas Mauro in Ribera del Duero, Spain, and formerly winemaker of Vega Sicilia. He was in attendance the evening I visited.
Lately, it seems, every time I taste a few Washington Malbecs they make an impression. In the past year I slapped 90-point ratings on quite a few Malbecs from the Evergreen State. The wines tend to be supple, inviting and present flavor profiles that reshuffle the deck of Cabernet and Merlot. The wines come out with a freshness and plushness that combines charm with depth.
This movement has been going on for a while, but the phenomenon is limited enough to be flying below the radar.
Grant Achatz, already a culinary superstar with his avant-garde Chicago restaurant Alinea, has another hit on his hands with Next, the restaurant he and his business partner Nick Kokonas opened in April. It is, quite literally, the hottest ticket in town. And a ticket it is. For rather than take reservations and present a bill after dinner, Next sells your admission in advance. The menu is preset, just like a theatrical or musical program.
For their opening act, "Paris 1906," Achatz and his executive chef at Next, David Beran, harked back to the days of chef Auguste Escoffier at the Ritz.
For one lunch in Chicago last week I reached out to several vintners I thought might be in town early for Wine Spectator's Grand Tour event. Two responded that they would, and I invited them to join me at the Purple Pig, a relatively new restaurant with the enticing motto, "Cheese, Swine and Wine." Pork plays a pivotal role on the menu, which relies on Italian, southern French and Spanish dishes to use fresh and cured examples of food from the pig.
Neither Mark Tarlov, owner of Evening Land Vineyards, nor Gavin Speight, who imports Australian wines at Old Bridge Cellars, had met. They knew each other's wines, though. Here are my notes on both the pork-themed cuisine and some outstanding rare wines.
Michael Twelftree had an agenda. The owner of Two Hands Wines, which in only a decade has established itself as one of Australia's most compelling wineries, dug into his cellar in Barossa Valley to present a formidable tasting dinner in Los Angeles. The evening included a full nine-year vertical of Ares, Two Hands' tête de cuvée Shiraz, which Twelftree admitted he had never done before, not even at home.
The wines showed great. Here are my notes on the nine Ares Shiraz as well as a handful of other Two Hands cuvées.
One by one, the small Australian wineries imported by Grateful Palate, whose Australian business is in receivership, are re-emerging, including some serious cult classics. Drew Noon, a McLaren Vale producer whose Eclipse (a Grenache blend), Shiraz and Cabernet absolutely fit that description, stopped by for a visit this week. The wiry, soft-spoken Aussie was with his new importer, Ronnie Sanders of Vine Street Imports, whose portfolio includes such insider favorites as Bindi, First Drop and Spinifex.