Of the many benefits of our nightly libations, one is that Shawn-Marie drinks with me. Not only do we get to drink together, but she has actually become my wine student; a mini-oenophile if you will. My wife is a phenomenal business mentor for female entrepreneurs and to say she has great taste would be an understatement. It’s clear that has carried over to our love for great wine. By day, she works with women who want really want to take their business to the next level and helps those who need expand, get things back on track or who are ready to take the leap of starting the business they have always dreamed of having. She guides them, helps them get connected to what they really want in their lives and how to make money doing it. As Shawn Marie says, “Entrepreneurship is ‘not’ for the faint of heart and having fearless passion and knowing what you’re good at is a great start... but it’s not enough.”
If she’s working with someone who has just left the comfort of a cushy job or a position in the corporate world to pursue their dream of owning their own business, but they aren’t sure where to begin or how to put the much needed structure in place, Shawn-Marie takes them by the hand and with the most creative, savvy, professional, committed and reliable guidance (think Gordon Ramsay), she teaches them how to become self-confident, tap into their worth and create a life and business they love. I share all of this with you because it is that same level of tenacity, attention and passion that she shares with me, when I show her the color of a true Pinot Noir shining through a glass. She is completely and ever present. It is also how she responds when she brings the wine’s aroma to her nose and finds the flavor in the grapes and at times, she finds it faster than I do.
Here is the truth: a good teacher is nothing without the willingness to be continually educated. I bring up all these fine qualities of my wife because during dinner the other night she leaned into me after she took a long drink of a mid-range Pinot Noir (Testarossa Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, 2009 - $29) and said in the sexiest of voices you’ve ever heard, “I have come to believe that there is no Pinot Noir under $45 worth drinking.” And with that a wide smile appeared on my face, like Master Kan did when Kwai Chang Caine snatched the stone from his hand and sent Grasshopper on his journey. I put my glass down, wiped a tear from my eye and said “You had me when you said that the winemaker lacked passion in his vines and that the aroma smelled hurried and the fruit was scared.” This woman my dear reader is my partner in wine and this month we celebrate 15 years of wedded insanity. A long and winding road it has been and yet, we have continued to find ways to always discover the passion in one another. I am sure it doesn’t hurt that my day job is working as a Marketing Manager and Designer for one of the world’s largest adult toy manufacturers. On a weekly basis, I’m brining home boxes of vibrators, dildos, paddles and so on… for her/us to test and critique. Those horribly written 50 Shades of Gray novels have nothing on the level of adventure we find.
As a side note, 15-Year anniversaries are celebrated traditionally with gifts made of crystal. Since both of us find crystal very old fashion we have decided to go one step beyond and celebrate November 9th with a different kind of crystal (and I don’t mean meth). Ladies and gentlemen may I present:
Louis Roederer Cristal, 2005
Produced by: Louis Roederer
Winemaker: Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon
The only bad thing about Cristal is that over the last 10 years many music and celebrity folk have created an allure for this champagne simply because of its price tag, thinking it adds ‘cache’ and sadly not for the spectacular liquid that it is; if you are an economics major you would know this term as a Veblen Good. Yes… it’s expensive, not as much as some, but more than most, however if you have the palate for wine and you’ve taken the time needed to understand and appreciate why Cristal (among others) fetches the kind of price it does, you will know the instant you taste it why it is classified as ‘remarkable’ and trust me, it’s not the cost. If you don’t believe me then go ask a pretentious hipster why they drink Cristal and have them explain its finer nuances. Good luck with that.
For this month’s column, I am not going to go into the 230+ years of the company’s history or tell you about Louis Roederer himself. Instead, I am going to put the focus on this legendary champagne and what makes it so amazing. You see it appear in music videos (mostly hip-hop), in books and in movies. One of my favorite movies where Cristal appears is Four Rooms. Quentin Tarantino puts Cristal on the map by saying “This is Cristal! Everything else is just piss!” And there you have it… enough said! I will admit that albeit certainly not a true statement, Cristal is hands down extraordinary champagne and his ‘quote’ gives you an idea of the magic that happens when you blend Pinot Noir and Chardonnay together. Still to this day, in the age of modern technology, Cristal continues to be hand riddled (1) - one bottle at a time.
Something to be aware of is that even champagne needs a few minutes to open up and breathe. I usually ice bucket the wine after I’ve opened it, allowing it to remain cold and to give it a chance to take in some air, get its legs. I like my champagne about 50° - 55°, in a nice tall champagne flute. The shape of a flute allows the bubbles to remain compact in the glass; as Marilyn Monroe would state after a sip of champagne “That tickles my nose.”
Winery: Louis Roederer
Varietal: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Appearance (Color): Champagne
Aroma (Complexity): Peach, Pine, Fig, Clove
Body (Texture and Weight): Crisp, bursting and poised
Taste (Balance of Flavor): Peach, Walnut, Clove, Ginger
Finish (What lingers): Peach, clove, lavender
Food Paring: Bright Cheeses, Caviar, Fine Hors d'oeuvre
Final Rating: 95
Drink now through 2025
My rating system is based on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale.
Wine Points How Good the Wine Is
95-100 Classic: a great wine
90-94 Outstanding: wine with superior character & style
85-89 Very Good: wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid, well-made wine
70-79 Average: drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
60-69 Below Average: drinkable wine but not recommended
50-59 Poor: undrinkable wine, not recommended
Wine Serving Temperatures:
64° - Full Bodied (Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec)
62° - Tawny Port
60° - Pinot Noir, Rhone, Burgundy
55° - Beaujolais Nouveau
54° Full Bodied White Wines (Chardonnay)
52° Medium Bodied White Wines (Sauvignon Blanc)
50° Rosé, Light Bodied White Wines (White Zinfandel)
48° Champagne and Sparkling, Ice Wine
Riddling: (from Wikipedia) In this stage, the bottles are placed on special racks called pupitres that hold them at a 45° angle, with the crown cap pointed down. Every two days the bottles are given a slight shake and turn, alternatively on right then left, and dropped back into the pupitres, with the angle gradually increased. The drop back into the rack causes a slight tap, pushing sediments toward the neck of the bottle. After 8 to 10 weeks the position of the bottle is straight down, with the lees [residual yeast and other particles] settled in the neck.
John Turi has had an impulsive career as a writer, wine aficionado, and artist. He has two published books of short fiction and poetry. He is a former child actor with the anxiety to prove it. He began college with a major in Mortuary Science. With a desire for writing he switched to Creative Writing and then finally finished at a free love hippie art college in Southern California as a graphic designer / sculptor. For over six years he worked in the wine industry and acquired a delicate palate for varietals. For the last 20 years he has become a private rare book and wine collector. He desires California Pinot Noirs, but his true love is the Italian Sassicaia. As a way to pay for his wine collection he works as a senior marketing manager / designer for an adult sex toy company. He is also training to be a certified master sommelier. Currently he resides in Southern California with his lovely wife Shawn-Marie, a deaf, blind and diabetic dog named Buddy and an angry orange cat properly named Orange.