Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

September 20th, 2007

Sweet on BRIX

BRIX owners Wroblewski & Mally

After I learned from my more with-it colleagues in drink that obscure cocktail ingredients could be found at BRIX Wine Shop in the South End, I ventured over there with notebook and camera in hand. I just had to interview Carri Wroblewski and Klaudia Mally, the two self-described “chix” who own the place, and find out what they were up to.

If you’re used to the typical Massachusetts package store with its motley hodgepodge of wines o’ the world and dusty bottles of Leroux cordials, you might walk into BRIX and think, ‘Ooops, wrong tax bracket!’ Each bottle here seems to occupy its own special place on the sleek shelves, the way individual sweaters are displayed in high-end clothing boutiques. But take a closer look, and you’ll find reasonably priced wines along the bottom shelves, just like in any other liquor store. Luckily, these wines have been certified Not To Suck by Wroblewski and Mally, who forsake the usual suspects in favor of offbeat stuff they truly like, culling their selection from 39(!) different distributors.

The ladies are industry veterans — Wroblewski worked for J. Lohr Wines and Frederick Wildman & Sons importers, Mally waited tables at Grill 23 before working in mergers and acquisitions for a software company — and they’re all about education and service. They hold weekly public tastings and offer private ones by invitation or appointment. And they network with influential people in the Boston bar industry to stay on top of in-demand but hard-to-find spirits like Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, Amer Picon, Van Winkle bourbon and Peychaud’s and orange bitters. If you can’t find some oddity necessary for an obscure cocktail, BRIX will do its best to special-order it for you.

If you, like me, are closer to downtown Boston than the South End, you’re in luck — Wroblewski and Mally are opening a new store on Broad Street in October. It will look similar to the four-year-old mothership, but it’ll have a private tasting room for events. If you want up-to-date info on tastings and special offers, get on the BRIX mailing list. Oh, in case you were wondering, “brix” is the name of a scale used in winemaking to measure the sugar content in grape juice.

Posted in Cocktails, Drinking supplies, Wine | 6 Comments »

September 14th, 2007

Bin 26 Enoteca

Bin 26 Enoteca

Calling all winos — have you been to Bin 26 Enoteca yet? I checked it out for the first time recently and, I have to say, “thumbs up.” This place has been open for, what, a year or something, and it has received tons of good press. Once I wrapped my head around the extensive wines-by-the-glass menu and realized that the prices were fair (especially for Beacon Hill), I leaned back in my cool seatbelt-weave chair and let our doll of a scruffy-haired waiter take over. He was the embodiment of Bin 26’s mission to replace wine appreciation’s tweed blazer with a Ben Sherman track jacket.

Some observations:

The 250 ml portion of “wine by the glass” equals over eight ounces and can easily be split by two people. Prices for 250 ml start at $11. You can also get portions of 100 ml, 500 ml (about two-thirds of a bottle) and 750 ml (a whole bottle).

The bathrooms are decorated with upside-down wine bottles (see photo).

The beef carpaccio with aged parmesan and arugula appetizer ($11) is tasty, and so are the risotto balls stuffed with pecorino cheese ($8).

I got the impression that the staff can both banter with the connoisseur and guide the uninitiated.

The Thunderbird and Night Train listed on the first page of the wine menu: refreshingly irreverent or trying too hard to be hip? You make the call.

An “enoteca” in Italy refers to “a place where one can find simple foods to accompany the wines served there,” according to Bin 26’s website.

Posted in Boston bars, Wine | 1 Comment »

July 3rd, 2007

Freedom to drink French

Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion

Five years after the term Freedom Fries was coined, I’m glad we can once again enjoy French food and drink without Ann Coulter accusing us of supporting terrorists. In fact, I’m going to celebrate the 4th of July by throwing a copy of Treason into Boston Harbor and drinking a bottle of 2001 Chateau Larrivet Haut Brion.

Usually, you can find me lurking among the bins of under-$10 wines, searching for that gem of a rustic red from Spain, Italy or Portugal. But on a recent trip to the Wine & Cheese Cask in Somerville, I decided to splurge and spend forty whole dollars on a bottle of Bordeaux. I wanted something nice to bring to a friend’s birthday dinner. The staff at the Cask is really astute about recommending wines, and when I pointed to the bin of the Chateau Larrivet, I didn’t even have to ask the question before being assured that, yes, the stuff was worth every penny. It was. I’m not even going to attempt to re-create the flavor with descriptions of fruit, herbs and cigar wrappers. Put it this way, there was a lot going on in that bottle. It was delicious and complex. And the five other treasonous freedom-haters at the dinner party agreed.

Posted in Wine | 7 Comments »

November 28th, 2006

A friend shares his 1969 Romanée-Conti

1969 Romanée-ContiThe only serious study I’ve given to wine was during a Cambridge Adult Ed class I took back in ’94, so I had little idea how to react to a bottle of Burgundy with “Monopole 1969 Romanée-Conti” on the label. All I knew was that our friend D. had invited us over to celebrate his birthday on Thanksgiving night with an old French wine salvaged from his late father’s cellar. The bottle somehow escaped being uncorked when D. graduated from college, and later when he got married. So he decided to make his 42nd birthday memorable — and remember dad — by sharing the wine with his wife and four friends. We were honored.

Like a lot of people, we appreciate wine, but our feet are set firmly in the non-vintage, under $20-a-bottle territory. Our thoughts on this night were less “I wonder if this wine’s tannins will overwhelm its fruit” and more “How much does a bottle of this go for?” Between about $1500 and $4000 as it turns out. (Ten bottles of this vintage sold at a 2004 Sotheby’s auction for $23,500.) Romanée-Conti is “possibly the most desired vineyard on the planet” according to a recent issue of New York magazine. Not that we knew that at the time. All we were hoping was that any lapses in proper storage hadn’t turned this rare beverage into vinegar.

They hadn’t. The wine’s light reddish-brown color looked a little like vinegar, but its aroma was pleasantly raisiny. How do I describe the flavor? A delicate dried-fruit character dominated, and there was a lot of other really subtle old-love-letters-in-the-attic stuff going on. I recognized the basic structure of the pinot noir grape, but the acidity that is prominent in a younger Burgundy was greatly softened. This was a wine that compelled me to roll it around on my tongue, like it needed to be taken for a stroll. For me, that was the cool thing about the experience. Were any of us totally blown away by the Burgundy’s flavor? No. But none of us had tasted anything like it, and we all savored the mystery of a beverage that had been evolving in its bottle for 37 years before our friend, at a happy and generous moment in his life, decided to share it with us.

Posted in Wine | 1 Comment »