Last night I traveled to Brooklyn Heights to meet up with a few IWC classmates–Cathy, Georgia, and Shawn– so that we could study for our impending exam and sample some wines. Before hitting the books, we visited a couple of neighborhood wine stores–Heights Chateau and Zap Wine and Spirits–both of which were hosting tastings that night. Just a short walk separates these two shops, but the ways in which they choose to showcase their wines are as different as day and night.
Spacious with aisles wide enough to accommodate a drunken stagger or fall, Heights Chateau is the neighborhood’s super store. Unlike the ubiquitous boutiques that populate Manhattan and hipster Brooklyn hoods, Heights Chateau doesn’t specialize in hand-picked artisanal wines, but rather presents the consumer with a million choices and leaves the selecting up to you. That said, with such a dizzying array at hand, there’s bound to be something to tickle every palate.
The distributors of Italian wines must be working overtime, because it’s what we were offered at both sites. Beginning with a Pecorino that’s not worth writing about, we moved onto San Giovanni Axeé, Rosso Piceno Superiore, 2003, a wine from the Marche area near the Adriatic sea. Swirling and sniffing the contents of my plastic cup I sense butterscotch and a bit of barnyard (dried hay), perhaps inaccurate and influenced by the vessel-of-choice, who can say. Made from 70% Montepulciano and 30% Sangovese, this garnet colored wine possessed a medium-high acidity, tannins, vegetal flavors (parsley and grass) and minerality. At $18.99, it’s a wine I’d drink again.
Next we sampled Alberto Longo Cacc’e Mmitte, 2005, a garnet colored fruit bomb with berry, cherry, and plum aromas that are also present in the mouth. Aged in stainless steel and possessing a medium/high acidity, the Cacc’e Mmitte ($25.99) from Publia is made from Nero di Troia (a local grape), Montepulciano, and Bambino Bianco (from Apulia in southern Italy).
Around the corner on Court Street, stands Zap Wine and Liquor, a dusty store that sells lottery tickets and scratch off games. Once you squeeze past the cage of Champagne, where bottles are kept under lock and key, you’ll find a sooty world of old wine region maps and an interesting selection of wines.
The tasting wasn’t so interesting, but the man who was pouring the wine was. Born in a liquor store, he’s been in the business since birth and so claims to be tired, though he didn’t convince us, as he spoke passionately about his life in wine. The highlight was a cork covered bottle that resembled a kindergarden craft, Soletta, 2002. Made from Cannonau (what the Sardinians call Grenache), this is a light bodied wine with barnyard (dare I write manure?) and petrol on the nose, but again, maybe that last note had something to do with the plastic cup. Tasting of sour cherry, licorice, and the essence of barn, perhaps it’s not worth $31.99, but it was fun to try.
Todd, the guy who mans the cash register and floor, is quite knowledgeable and willing to share what he knows. The selection is small but surprising. I bought a bottle of Vier Jahreszeiten Dornfelder Rosé, from Pfalz; Dornfelder being a German varietal that I’d tried at VinoVino, and really enjoyed.
For our study session, we bought two bottles: Crozes-Hermitage Domaine du Pavillon Mercural, 2006, a Northern Rhone Syrah, and Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz, 2004, from Victoria, Australia. The Crozes Hermitage ($20) is an inky ruby medium bodied wine, with black pepper and pencil shavings on the nose, and sour blackberry and rhubarb on the palate. The Billi Billi smelled of chocolate and cassis. Garnet in color and flavored with plum and baking spices, this Shiraz seemed rounder than the Syrah, more balanced, and finished with a peppery kick.
[Where: Heights Chateau, 123 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11201]
[Where: Zap Wine and Liquors, 105 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11201]