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Fancy Pants Wines

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JURA DUTY: The Book Kind

jura wine book.jpgOver a year ago, we sent out a notice about Wink Lorch’s KickStarter campaign to fund her efforts to publish the first ever English language book on Jura wine. Wink has been visiting and writing about the region since 1999 – long before it had made the radar of even the geekiest wine geek. She was convinced (begged, really) to embark on this book project by those of us eager for more info on the mystical, magical place where the white wines challenge your conception of what a white wine can be, and the reds are shockingly light in color but surprisingly big in flavor.

The project was a huge success and the book is here! Consider it Jura duty of the best kind. You won’t find a better, more definitive guide to the region than her simply titled: Jura Wine

Not to get all infomercially, but at $29.99, it's less than ½ the price of a bottle of the region’s mythical vin jaune. So if you're a looking to learn more, it's well worth the investment.


You haven’t heard of the Jura??? Unless you happen to shop in a handful of wine shops scattered across the country, that’s pretty much expected. The region is a tiny, obscure part of France tucked over near Switzerland. You've probably never heard of some of the region's most important grapes (Savagnin? Poulsard? Trousseau?) And you probably haven’t had anything like the region’s light, ethereal, sneakinly complex reds. Or its slightly twangy, often oxidative whites. Or its top dog vin jaune that ages practically forever. No, unless you’re a wine geek or hang out with them, you probably haven’t heard of these wines. But there's a good chance you'll like them.



lamoresca mascalisi.jpgWe’re pretty sure that in The Godfather II, when Kay admonished Michael about “this Sicilian thing that’s been going on for 2000 years”, she wasn’t talking about wine.  But she could have been.  They’ve been making wine down there for a least that long.  But it’s really in recent years that the region has set the wine world a buzz (or aTwitter really.)  We’ve had a few Sicilian things in stock since we opened our doors seven years ago. The COS Cerasuolo was one of our can’t-fail red recommendations for anyone looking for something in the $30-range. And Arianna Occhipinti’s wines always add a little rock-star quality to the shelves whenever the allocations come out. But New York wine society has a certain always-searching-for-the-next-new-thing quality that I am not immune to. So I was thrilled to taste the wines of Lamoresca at a Zev Rovine portfolio tasting a while back.

Zev’s tastings are always a bit of an adventure. Way too many delicious wines in one place. Overflowing spit buckets (yes, even at Zev’s tastings, we must spit.) Nicolas Palazzi’s spirits set up somewhere along the bar. A couple random importer/distributors tucked away in the corner pouring things from Switzerland, or maybe that insane cassis. Price books that are about 80% complete (and that 80% will include descriptions like “Anfora Stuff. Price: ??? Arriving: soon.” And always something you weren’t quite looking for that seems to find you hidden among the madness.

filippo.jpgAt this particular tasting, it was the Lamoresca wines. Matt, from (well, not from…he is) the Italian wine importer SelectioNaturel, was pouring them – his latest finds from the region. I immediately wanted them all. The Rosso (a blend of nero d’avola and frappato – earthier and more rustic than the COS or Occhipinti), the Vermentino (crazy, voile-y, yet somehow not heavy), and the Nerocapitano (the old-school name for frappato, fresh, delicious, absolutely glugable.) Delicious, all of them. And a great backstory in vigneron Filippo Rizzo, who after years running a restaurant in Belgium, moved to Sicily with his (yes, Belgian) wife, bought a small bit of land, and spent a couple vintages working with his cult-worthy comrade, Frank Cornelissen.

And I cannot tell a lie – I was also thrilled that I could be one of the first to carry them. I love the Occhipinti wines, but if you were to only look at a certain segment of NY wine shops and restaurant lists, you would think they were everywhere. And at prices lower than what I could afford to sell them at (and I HATE looking expensive compared to other shops.) 

nerocapitano.jpgSo here was something new. And delicious. And brought in by an importer I was really happy to support. Made by a vigneron with a great story. So I put in my order for the full line up, whenever it would arrive (and remember, this is all at a Zev tasting, so the arrival date was…. well, 'soon'.)

Soon came. The wines arrived. And they quickly earned a permanent place (permanent being a permeable concept – there are stock gaps as these are tiny production bottlings) on the Frankly Wines shelf. Now, a couple years later (give or take a vintage or two,) Lamoresca is starting to be seen “everywhere”... or at least more often than 'no where.'

Which means Lamoresca is probably no longer the next-new thing on the New York wine scene. (That would be Georgia, the country, not the state.) But that's OK. Because Lamoresca is a Sicilian thing...2000 years and all that. It will do just fine.

We currently have the Nerocapitano 2013 in stock 100% frappatto and absolutely delicious, as always. In the Rosso blends (new vintage coming soon) frappatto plays light and fresh next to nero d'avola's more brooding seriousness. On it's own, it's absolutely charming, excellent with a chill, possibly the perfect autumn red that can bridge warm sunny days and nights with a chill in the air.

Price: 29.99



Ganevat label.jpgYeah, yeah, yeah, we know. More Jura. What can we say... it's an obsession. Another Frankly Wines obsession. Enough of an obsession that I generally have good, reliable stock of several producers, but
Jean-François Ganevat isn't one of those producers. We get what we get, when we can. We're never quite sure when, or how much, but we're always happy when it arrives. Like this little somewhat unexpected drop of handful of bottles, from a vineyard in the Arbois that Jean-Francois took over from an older, retiring vigneron. I'm not going to write much because there's plenty already written. If you know the name, you're probably already checking out the selection. And if you don't? Do a quick bit of research and place your orders, because the handful of bottles left won't last long. And I have no idea when I'll get more!

Any questions, send them to christy@franklywines.com. To check out the selection, click here, enter GANEVAT in the producer/vintage/region box, and hit search.

BRING ON THE BUBBLES: The Glamorous Pink One

La Caravelle Brut Rosé Champagne NV
(Champagne, France):

la caravelle.jpgNo this isn’t a trendy Grower Champagne. And it’s not meant to express the individual terroir of a single village or vineyard. It’s just meant to be a delicious. This is the “house” sparkling created by Rita and André Jamet, owners of the famed restaurant, La Caravelle. Grower Champagnes and the small farmers behind them may get all the press these days, but sometimes, you still want a little glamor in your glass.

Dry, subtle berry fruit, and a touch of brioche; this wine, like the Jamets themselves, is lively and elegant – a timeless classic. (And it also happens to be a great value.)

Price: $43.99


Buy Now, Or Forever Hold Your Peace: Robert Michel Cornas

photo 3-1.jpgI’ve been meaning to send this note out for months. For a year, really. Or even longer than that. But time flies and the days go by and the next thing you know, the wine is all gone, sold out, never to be seen again on a retail shelf. 

And no, I’m not being overly dramatic, at least not about the wines of Robert Michel. When these wine from craggy terraces of the northern Rhone’s Cornas region, are gone, they are really, truly gone. Monsieur Michel retired with the 2006 vintage with no one to follow directly in his footsteps. He has a protégé in Guillaume Gilles (who cellars the wine in the Michel cellar and works a parcel of the old Robert vines) but the Robert Michel label will be no more after the 2006’s sell through.

I could get all cranky and lament that his wines represent a dying breed of old-school, aging-required winemaking that’s fast disappearing from this planet. (But I won’t, because I really believe that old-school is the new new-school and we’re seeing a return to wines that reward a bit of time and patience.)  I could go all hype-monster and tell you that these wines WON’T LAST!!!! BUY NOW!!! (Ok, I am kind of doing that, but it’s true.)

Or I could just tell you that if you’re at all prepared to plop down $60 for a bottle of wine any time, ever, these are bottles you should plop it on. Aside from being pieces of liquid history, they are almost stunningly delicious  while still maintaing depth of geek complexity for those who seek it. The 2005 Robert Michel "Cuvee des Coteaux" which I am selling right now, is already approaching 10 years of age and is drinking beautifully… but still has plenty of years to go. Older wine is difficult to pick apart into notes of fruit and spice and earth and flowers, but all those things are there, wrapped in grace and power with a shocking amount of freshness.

Go ahead, hand over your $60 and I’ll hand over a bottle. Open it, drink it, and if you fall in love, come back for more… quickly. Because time flies, and then it will be gone.

Price: $59.99


THE UNICORN HAS LANDED: Chateau Musar Rose 2012

This exists.

musar rose.jpgAnd no, your eyes do not deceive you. This is an actual bottle of Chateau Musar rose.

It's not the Jeune, which we know and love as the deeply colored $20-ish cinsault-based rose. This is not that. This is it's own thing. A very rare creature...... dare I call it a unicorn?  I had heard of it, glimpsed images of it in the background of photos, perhaps seen it in dreams. But it wasn't until I actually visited the actual cellars of Chateau Musar - and had a very wonderful dinner with my traveling group at the home of the Hochar family, that I actually tasted it. And that was about three years ago, fresh of the plane, in the haze of jet lag... did I really taste it? Or did I just think I did?  Since then, I've asked about it, pleaded for some to make its way to the US market. And now it has..... the unicorn has landed.

Some technical details? It's the same base wine as the whites - made from the mystical old vines of obidah and merwah - with the addition of a bit of cinsault for color and a subtle berry note. It's gorgeously textured and subtly fruited. And given the extreme ageability of the both Musar reds and whites, it shouldn't be a surprise that this is a rose that can age as well. So don't be afraid to hide some away.

Price: $51.99


ADVENTURES IN BYO: Fuleen and Overnoy-Crinquand

BYO nights and restaurants are one of the great not-so-secrets of the New York wine trade. It’s not about avoiding restaurant mark-ups. (We’re in the business so we all understand why a bottle on a wine list costs more than it does in a shop and assuming the list is well thought out and the mark-up doesn’t fall into the evil range, we’re happy to pay up.) BYO is really a way to tap into our own private stashes and share with friends…. Without the hassle of cooking dinner or washing the silverware.

Many of these BYO joints are Chinese restaurants. There tend to be different tribes haunting different places – Grand Sichuan, Peking Duck House and Fuleen Seafood are three that come up often. If you have an eagle eye for your Instagram feed, you’ll be able to spot who’s drinking where even if they’re not “checked in.”

Shitty glassware and an ice bucket that’s literally a bucket (and yes, I feel this is an acceptable, old school use of ‘literally’) are part of the experience. If you’re feeling fancy, you can bring your own stemware, so if you happen to be at one of these places and notice a table in the corner where the bottles outnumber the guests more than two to one and their glassware is way way nicer than yours… chances are good you’ve stumbled upon a hoard of New York wine industry folks having a night out.

Our Sunday man David recently went to Fuleen Seafood (my personal favorite of the Chinese BYOs) for a dinner. After much discussion, I sent him off with a bottle I thought would go particularly well with the restaurant’s salty/savory seafood specialties. Did I pick well? Read below to find out. (Hint: of course I picked well… it’s my job!!)

Distinguished and Surprisingly Versatile

overnoy.jpgFans of wines made from the Savagnin grape love their notes of walnut, salt and orange rind. The Overnoy-Crinquand Savagnin 2010 from the town of Pupillon in France's Jura region has sure possession of these notes. But a recent dinner at Fuleen on 11 Division St. in Chinatown showcased the stunning range of this -- wine, which spends several years aging in old oak barrels before release.

Fuleen - a Chinatown haunt for more than a few local wine geeks - has a generous BYOB policy, an extensive menu, and tasty, affordable food. At $4 each, the fried quail are a steal, particularly in service to the Overnoy-Crinquand. Its notes of toasted brioche complement the quail and the wine's unexpected acidity cleanses the palate between morsels.

But it's with the main courses that the Savagnin shines. Against a dish of shrimp, garlic, peanuts and red and green peppers the wine reveals a slight smokiness and then some honey to smooth the garlic. A plate of eggplant, chicken and salted fish elicits melon and then a little black tea from this wine, and a side of chive stems calls forth a hint of milk chocolate - not kidding, it's in there. The wine's body is never thrown out of balance but oscillates from leaner to more opulent depending on the dish with which it's paired.

There are next-day leftovers of both meals - Fuleen portions are enormous - and wine, which when sampled with an Italian hard cheese reverts to the more expected flavors of walnut and fine honey. A pairing of Savagnin and Comte, the Jura's answer to Gruyere, is justifiably classic, but dinner at Fuleen shows just how much the Overnoy-Crinquand Savagnin 2010 has to offer.

Price: $47.99



balthazar.jpgDecidedly unfashionable for a very long time, this region is about to have its moment. The awesomeness of Cornas (we’ll call it… Cornas-omness)  has been brewing for a while: Pictures of bottles floating in the Instagram feeds of savvy somms, shop buyers, and wine writers. A profile of two of the region’s “new guard”, Franck Balthazar and Hirotake Ooka, in the most recent editions of Alice Feiring’s The Feiring Line newsletter. And just this week, a New York Times review coincides with perfect weather for curling up in a warm sweater with a bottle or two of the good stuff. (The weather? Seriously? Yes –never doubt the impact of weather on wine sales!)

We’re always happy to see producers we already work with on the NYT lists. (OK, we’re really a little conflicted, because it makes these wines that much harder to find.) And this week, there was a lot to be happy about. Franck Balthazar’s wines took up two slots on the list. A buzzy sort-of secret among the New York wine set, the Balthazar cat is now out of the bag.

You can read the NYT piece or subscribe to Alice’s newsletter if you want more detail, but here’s the quick scoop if you’re just learning about Corna-somness, especially Balthazar’s. The wines are dense with flavor but somehow manage to not be heavy. There’s minerally, granite, meatiness and floral notes, but buried underneath it all there’s a core of almost juicy fruit. The #1 wine on the NYT list, his Cornas Chaillot 2011, is long gone. But we did manage to snag one case of the Cornas Cuvee Casimir 2012 Sans Soufre (i.e. no SO2 added.) I just drank the 2011 Casimir last week and it was delicious straight out of the bottle. The 2012 can take a little bit of age, or a good decanting. So click fast to grab a bottle. Otherwise you'll be left out in cold, with your warm sweater and nothing to drink.

Franck Balthazar Cornas Cuvee Casimir Sans Soufre 2012: $49.99


BRING ON THE BUBBLES: The Lovely Little One

George Laval Brut Nature Champagne
laval.jpg(base 2010) 375ml (Champagne, France):

Baby Laval Brut. This is the 2010 base wine, which is a lighter, racier version than the 2008 base baby bottles we had earlier in the year. It’s a younger bottle, so the salinity shines through and begs…. BEGS!! for oysters. (Please, help the bottle out and give it some oysters.) But don’t think this is some too-cool-for-school-so-dry-it-hurts zero dosage bubbly. Laval manages lovely ripe fruit that give his wines a perfect balance of raciness and generosity. (Don’t believe me? Then believe the New York Times which listed Laval as one of its top producers in a recent article about low-/no-dosage champagnes.) This little guy is the perfect bottle if you're having a "just-the-two-of-you" New Year's Eve. Or if you want to keep something in your pocket just for yourself.

SALE Price: $39 (regularly $42.99) (375ml)

We also have the regular size Brut Nature (base 2009) for $84.99. Click here and search LAVAL to buy.


Yum Yum Yum & A Bottle of (Cask Strength) Rum

navazos.jpgNavazos Palazzi 15 Year Old Cask Strength Rum (Spain):

Love at first sip. And what a first sip it was. This is cask strength rum, meaning it's full proof, like 51% abv, pulled straight from the cask. Those casks happen to be old Oloroso casks, which impart a rich, nutty, sherry-like lushness to the rum. The rum itself is from the somewhere in the Caribbean. "Somewhere" being about as specific as it gets. At 5 years of age, it was sent to Sparin where it spent another 10 years in those Oloroso casks. Sipped straight, it's strong stuff. But almost shockingly smooth for such high proof stuff. Take a sip neat, then dilute it with a touch of water for maximum enjoyment of it's crazy cool blend of nuttiness, molassas and Oloroso twang. Read more about it in Jon Bonne's piece in the SF Chronicle.

Price: $159.99 (non-discountable)


Moo Roo Who? Moorooduc:Aussie Chardonnay Gone Good

moorooduc.jpgYou may think you know Australian wine. It’s all either cheap and cheerful critter labels. Or big, brash 100-point trophy bottles. All jammy shiraz and tropical/buttery chardonnay and maybe the occasional cabernet for a bit of variety. Right?

Not so much. OK, maybe much. But not only.

If you know where to look (and my shelves would be a good place to look) you can find bottles that stray way beyond the “sunshine in a bottle’ stereotype. Elegant wine. Subtle wine. Wine with freshness and funkiness – and not a marsupial in sight. Now the wines available in Australia have always been much more diverse that what was ever sold here, but that diversity has only increased. As in California, we’re now seeing new grape varieties, lesser known regions,  a focus on old vine stock, young winemakers moving away from the idea that a wine has to be 100% clean and fruity and hit the right pH level to be “good…”

And with a handful of new importers focusing on Australian wine, if you look, you’ll start to see more of this good stuff over here. And you’ll start to hear about it as wine writers and buyers begin to quietly buzz about what’s happening.

The most recent buzz is from the New York Times. Eric Asimov’s current Wines of the Times piece focuses on Australian Chardonnay. The findings: delicious, drinkable, lively wines that aren’t dripping in oak. Not a surprise for the panel, but if you’re still living in the land of kangaroo juice, give it a read. And note the #1 wine: Moorooduc Chardonnay 2011, Mornington Peninsula. Yup, we sell it. And obviously agree on its general deliciousness. Elegant but not lean, silky textured but not heavy. It gives California Chardonnay at a similar price some serious competition. It’s a wine that deserves to be called lovely. Because it’s just… lovely. Which sounds much better than Moorooduc-y.

Moorooduc Estate Chardonnay 2011 (Victoria, Australia): $34.99

P.S. The NYT piece mentions new guard Mac Forbes and cult classics Giaconda and Vasse Felix. All of these have spent time on our shelves – and will be coming back sometime this fall, so if you’re interested, drop us a note and we’ll let you know when they’re in.



CIDER.... Like You've Never Seen It Before

Orleans.jpgCider is all the rage this autumn. We’ve always stocked some, but this season, grown-up apple juice has finally hit the mainstream. Well, maybe not the main mainstream, but they’re starting to catch on beyond wine geek circles. Don’t believe me? Then check out this week’s New York Times piece. (That best value cider… we love it and have stocked it for at least the last year. It’s even in this month’s wine club!)

So now that we’re having a cider moment, we wanted to highlight one of our favorites: Eden Ice Cider Company’s Orleans Herbal.  This is crazy stuff and it’s like nothing you’ve ever had before. It’s a Vermont-based collaboration between Eleanor Leger of Eden and Deirdre Heekin who owns and runs the nearby osteria pane e salute.  Apples are pressed, the juice is frozen to concentrate the flavors and sugars, fermented dry and then infused with a secret blend of herbs. OK - the secret herbs are anise hyssop and basil. The result is a unique taste of Vermont - like walking through an apple orchard on a brisk spring day with the scent of fresh herbs wafting through the air. Yes, wafting. So let a bit of this waft over to your table this autumn.

Drink it neat and chilled, on the rocks with a twist of lime or a splash of sparkling water, or get all fancy and whip up some cocktails. Think of it as Lillet with a New England accent.

Price: $34.99



navarre PdC.jpgR. Navarre Pineau des Charentes Vieux (Cognac, France): You may not know about Pineau des Charents. But you need to. You really, really need to. Broken down to a simple definition, Pineaux des Charents are basically unfermented grape juice fortified with cognac. But what they really are is magic. Pure, delicious, crazy good magic. They are sweet, but the kick of Cognac gives them a sweet/n/strong attitude that makes them so irresistible. There’s some of the nutty, caramel notes a tawny port, but with of freshness and liveliness that makes them oh, so charming. At around $65/bottle, they aren’t cheap, but if you try one, you’ll understand why one customer said, “I really wish I didn't know these existed.” They’re just that good. You’ll find yourself thinking about them while typing away at your desk, mulling over spreadsheets and the number of emails you need to send (or maybe that’s just me.)

Price: $68.99

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