What I've been drinking:
2012 Yvon Metras Beaujolais
Just discovered an awesome new wine store, not too far from me in Prospect Heights, called Passage de la Fleur. Apparently it's owned by the same people who own the lower east side wine geek destination The Ten Bells. They have a ton of really interesting direct import stuff, and also a really impressive amount of large format bottles. They only stock natural wines. I bought both this wine and the following wine there.
Yvon Metras is a culty producer I've read about a fair amount, but I had never seen any of his wines in any of the stores I usually patronize. Major props to PdlF for stocking this. The woman working there, I believe her name was Emily, said she found the wine very "poulsard-like," and I totally agree. In fact, tested blind, I would probably mistake it for poulsard, with its light color, and rose petal and orange peel aromas. But it did have that telltale "vin de soif" transparency on the palate that makes good Beaujolais so lovable. Really awesome wine, improved for days, great value at 20 bucks. I couldn't keep my nose out of the glass.
2011 Nicolas Carmarans L'Olto
Very interesting wine, also recommended to me by Emily at PdlF. This wine is made by a producer I know nothing about, from a region I know very little about, with a grape I've never heard of called Fer Servadou. The wine was dominated by peppery/vegetal sort of flavors with a parsley/cilantro bitter herb kind of thing going on. There was a subtle berried fruitiness as well, but this was a far cry from anything I would call "fruity." Nice and light on the palate with an interesting savory, almost cheesy kind of thing on the finish. Honestly, the flavor profile was so bizarre I thought the wine could have been flawed, but I still really liked it, and I don't have the tasting experience to definitively say when a wine is flawed. Very interesting wine, if a little scary.
2010 Domaine Gabriel Billard Cuvee "Milliane"
Definitely an earth driven wine with nice minerality and a leathery licorice sort of component on the nose that made the wine feel almost nebbiolo-esque. Nice tart sour cherries on the palate. The grand cru drinkers among you might fine this wine to be a bit "thin" but I found it to be light and bright and unpretentiously drinkable. $24, for me, is a lot to spend on a bottle of wine, but for great burgundy it's a steal.
2011 Huet Vouvray "Le Haut-Lieu" Sec
I bought this wine because I wanted to try some good quality Loire chenin blanc, and Huet seems to be a very esteemed domaine, but to be honest I found this wine disappointing. It was very tight aromatically and just generally austere (even after a decent decant). Definitely had a nice mineral component and good acidity but if I'm going to shell out 30 bucks I want a little more. I found myself wishing I were drinking a $15 Muscadet. Maybe 2011 was a weird year in Vouvray, or more likely this wine just needs 10 years in the cellar. In any case, this wine just wasn't singing that night...
2012 Berhard Ott "Am Berg"
The wines of Bernhard Ott have already gotten a lot of hype and seem be to selling like Miley Cyrus albums this holiday season, so I'll just add that I too think this wine rocks. This is Ott's entry level Gruner Veltliner, which at $15 would be uneconomical NOT to buy. This wine is delicious, complex, very versatile with food, and working well above its pay-grade. Great stocking stuffer.
What I've been listening to:
Jorge Ben-A Tabua De Esmerelda
I love Brazilian pop music. I love the grooves, I love the sophistication, I love the singers, I love the songs, and most of all I love the unpretentious joyfulness that is hard to find in our overly angst-driven American cultural landscape. But, I will admit, I often struggle with the slick, cheesy, elevator style production used on a lot of Brazilian music. In some cases, I'm able to ignore the copious flutes and dated synthesizers and enjoy the music for what it is, but other times I find it completely unpalatable. However, with this record I don't need to compromise. I love the production, the record has a ton of "vibe," and the music is incredible. This record is a complete powerhouse in terms of vocal performance. And yes there still are flutes.
I think I'm a bit late to the party on Azealia Banks, but my god she is amazing. Just when you were starting to get dark on your city because all these articles by David Byrne and Patti Smith and the like started floating around talking about how New York City is on its way out as a place where the arts can thrive, and you start thinking about moving to Detroit or Poughkeepsie or Estonia, you hear something like this and your faith is completely restored. A friend was explaining to me how Banks writes the rhythms for her verses first and then after the fact plugs in words whose syllables match those rhythms. I don't know if that's true, but that would make sense to me considering the incredible dizzying musicality of her lyrical phrasing. Azealia Banks, you make me proud to live in the 212. WARNING: this track contains some pretty unsavory language. My 13-and-under readership should seek parental supervision before listening.
Ismail Jingo came up singing covers of songs by American musicians like Percy Sledge and James Brown in Kenyan night clubs. Supposedly he even performed for the Godfather of Soul himself at the airport upon his arrival in Nairobi and, as the story goes, was so good that Brown joined him onstage and sang "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing" with him. "Fever" was by far Jingo's biggest hit during his lifetime, and the track enjoyed a resurgence of crossover success when it was featured in the soundtrack of the 2006 film "The Last King of Scotland."* This is one of those tracks that is like candy for me. Whenever I don't know what to listen to immediately I put it on, and I've listened to it on repeat. I have a fever, and the only prescription is more "Fever."
That's right. I'll admit it. I love this record. When I first listened to it I was blown away: the minimalist palate and the dark industrial sort of textures were very striking. But I decided after that that I had no desire to ever listen to it again. I thought it was another example of high-concept, low-content music. But sure enough, this record has crept its way back into my consciousness and back into my listening rotation and, I have to say, I think it's really good. Does it seem a bit half-baked lyrically? Sure. Is the overall aesthetic a bit grating at times? A bit. Do I find some of the Justin Vernon stuff unnecessary and annoying? Definitely. But I'll be damned if it isn't one of the most adventurous and fearless hip-hop albums I've heard all year. And by one of the most commercially successful artists in the world no less. No one can deny the charisma and passion and intensity West puts into his delivery, even if the words, at moments, miss their mark. And the record has a fascinating patience to it—it's more about tension than release. It completely upends the dynamic contours (or lack thereof) that have become the status quo in modern hip-hop production. If nothing else, this record is important because it has set a new standard for how experimental and groundbreaking a commercial hip-hop record can and should be.
Anyway, I was given the job of curating the wines for Thanksgiving dinner, so expect an update on how that went soon...
*I got all this background info about Jingo from an amazing blog about African music called "Afro7." Check it out! http://afro7.net/