I love music. Especially jazz.
Living in New York, it’s easy to hear some live music. Our office is just across the street from Jazz Standard, one of the best live venues in town.
It can be expensive though. An evening for two at the Blue Note taking in a big-name act, with dinner, can easily cost upwards of $200.
The other night I went to 55 Bar (www.55bar.com), a self-described “Prohibition-era dive bar.” The young tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin (www.donnymccaslin.com) was playing. I had just bought his new CD and had heard good things about him.
At 55, the cover is $10, with a two-drink minimum. It holds about 50 people. The place was packed during the first set, after which it cleared out. There were about 12 of us hanging in to hear the second set.
Despite the small crowd, McCaslin and his band played like their lives depended on it. And that’s what is so great about jazz in New York. There’s so much incredible talent around.
It got me thinking about wine.
You can buy the famous labels, and it will cost you. But there are lots of interesting, authentic and delicious wines made by dedicated growers and vintners that are very reasonably priced.
This year, I have discovered some tasty, inexpensive and very serious wines while buying a few cases for my parents and a birthday party for my wife.
Charles Ellner is a small Champagne house in Epernay. I have reviewed (and enyoyed) their wines since 2000 and met the family a few times at Vinexpo. Until recently, distribution in the United States was spotty. This year, I have been drinking the Brut Rosé NV, a rich mélange of strawberry and cherry with a hint of toast. It’s firmly structured, because the Ellner style is without malolactic fermentation. It cost me $27.
One of the wines I bought for my parents was Robert-Denogent’s Mâcon-Solutré Clos des Bertillones 2004 ($19). It is full of honey, floral and lemon aromas and flavors, very clean and pure, with richness and a dollop of mineral on the finish. After tasting it, I immediately bought a case.
Another instant purchase came after tasting a bottle of the Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2005 ($17). Its fresh aromas of macerated cherries, cinnamon and cherry flavors, with hints of tea and mineral on a light- to medium-bodied frame are captivating.
I have always been a fan of Cabernet Franc from the Loire since I lived in Paris years ago. When a friend who works for a retailer in Florida suggested the Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Bourgueil Vieilles Vignes 2005 for $13, I jumped at it. It’s a great year for Loire Valley wines, both red and white. The wine did not disappoint either, boasting a classic Cabernet Franc nose: black currant, with hints of raspberry and olive and concentrated mineral notes.
These are just a few of the inexpensive wines I have bought and enjoyed this year. Each one offers plenty of character and terroir. Like music, there’s a lot of good stuff out there if you scratch beneath the surface.