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Date: Tue, Jun 22, 2010

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La Cocotte on Thursday, June 24

Date: Mon, Jun 21, 2010

This is a great little store in the Marais, so if you're in Paris, stop by, say hi, have un verre....

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COME TO THE JURA: TUESDAY JUNE 22

Date: Fri, Jun 18, 2010

The author is the lat to know! My publisher has been cooking up a BIG surprise for me. Would love to see you with Overnoy & Houillon. Download the Invite here...

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Andrea Calek and Blue Portuguese

Date: Tue, Jun 15, 2010

What is fascinating to me about this particular (still entrenched in punk-ism) winemaker-- other than my joke that I never grew out of my bad boy phase? Because the story behind drive is compelling. This man from Prague read Baudelaire and ended up in the south of France. He fell in love, drank Bordeaux left and came back, went to enoschool and met a few men who had a natural sensibility Andrea didn't know he shared. His brush with the band in Morgon changed his attitude about wine and wine life. Which lead him to farming, winemaking, growing slowly (his first vintage was 2007) and being very closed about his winemaking techniques. Calek, too, gives me the, "It's not me, it's the terroir," bullshit. But he knows he's giving bullshit, and that makes it charming. Perhaps it's what comes of growing up in Communism, you learn to be secret, but not without a fierce sense of irony. He has something else. Talent. Spirit. The touch. So far at least. He is a thinker and he doesn't need someone else's opinion. When talk about technique he admits to carbonic--now pigeage, no remontage. Just wine. Why? I ask. I'm lazy, he says....

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More Andrea Calek: A day in the Ardeche

Date: Tue, Jun 15, 2010

Calek has vagabondism in his blood. He came to France as runaway from the Czech army in the late 80's. He wanted to stay but his mother reported him as a bum, and he had to go back east. Thanks mom. When he did return to France, he found wine. Even after listening to my tapes I cannot find the point of entry, but along the way there was a very prime person, Petit Max--Max Breton, one of the Gang of Four in Morgon--which means Chauvet and Neauport. All roads lead to them. The Calek vines are right outside the village of Valvignieres are his vines, bought (about 5 hectares) from Le Mazel's Gerald Oustric. We walked through them as he disparaged a parcel of merlot soon to be grafted over to viognier. A short ride over to a barn in back of a bronzed, bikini-ed body near a pool, we walked through his fiberglass tanks, and talked carbonic maceration, and that he makes about twenty five wines, most of which he does merely for experiment, and then we were onto his Grande Arnaque, the big joke, a fat and slutty syrah he calls une belle pute..(beautiful whore) and then...

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The Ardeche

Date: Fri, Jun 11, 2010

In the intro to The Battle, I mused that in the screenplay version of the book, I'd find a secret enclave of extreme winemakers. Together, we'd hook up and deliver purity back to mankind and wine. I thought that might be in the Loire in a limestone cave. I was wrong. The band of wooley vignerons are in the Ardeche, the long stretch of interior Rhone land that stretches from south to north. Within that area, they possibly not only exist in my imagination but in the 250 meter high up . I went up there for the night with La Gramiere's Amy Lillard, who's vines were minutes away from bursting into flower and who's husband helped me find the source of the tumeric scent. We arrived an hour and- a -half late, never the less, with some good nature, Andrea Calek, bare-chested, shimmering with beads of sweat, fresh from the vines, slinked towards us in sarong like trousers, as if he were some exotic lemur . TBC...

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Rhone Aromatic Secrets

Date: Mon, Jun 7, 2010

Jet lagged, I teetered out the train station, Matt Kling, Amy Lillard's husband picked me up in Avignon. So far, I've been to the station twice in my life but never set foot in that much touristed city. On the way to their house we stopped off so I could see the progress in the La Gramiere vineyard. All lush, beautiful and happy, the grenache seemed perky and pleased to be luxuriating in their hard limestone habitat. Wild mint, thyme filled the air. And then this curry. The curry I smelled in Chateauneuf when I thought someone was cooking but it was in the air. We went around the vineyards like pigs, rooting around for the culprit. Found! So exciting. Sorry for the inarticulateness, I could barely talk english. I was in need of caffeine, wine and food, but at least I got a good whiff....

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In Which Our Heroine Meets With MrBigJ

Date: Sat, Jun 5, 2010

I might be editing this version, adding fleshing, but before I boarded, I just wanted to leave you folks with a good one. Maybe it's because Neptune and Saturn and Mars and Uranus are pulling their shots but after I came back from California, I thought someone was playing a joke on me. That person was Fred Dexheimer, past sommelier and present cocktail wine ambassador and he send me as message through facebook. "Guess who I'm with and guess who wants to meet you." I had been seeing his updates telling of the Chilean wine tasting extravaganza he was taking Wine Advocate critic, Dr. Jay Miller through for upcoming wine reviews. If Jay Miller wants to meet me, he probably is packing a gun, I thought, and started to look for that flak jacket I bought after that anti-Californian wine editorial I wrote a couple of years back. I looked in jest, I thought it was Fred playing a sport. Turns out he was dead serious. Then so was I. 'Ten Bells!' I threw down the challenge, thinking at least I'd have some defenders around me. 'Ten Bells it is!' Fred wrote back. And Dr. Jay will be there with...

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You Know What This Means

Date: Sat, Jun 5, 2010

I'll be in touch....

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The First Natural Kosher Winemaker? Part #3

Date: Thu, Jun 3, 2010

Could this man who lives and vines in Santa Cruz become the world's first modern natural wine maker? He is certified organic, in a do nothing way. He picks when there's still acidity. He keeps the cap wet twice a day by bucketing over as well as punching. down. He doesn't use sulphur until after malo is finished--which he neither blocks or initiates. He is pulling back on oak but he does like the taste. Okay. But what he thinks is oak is another's stainless. He racks to bottle, done. Yup, he mostly adds yeast, but all he has to do is go native and then... But Benyamin has other concerns that conventional winemakers do not. What happens when the Jewish Holidays come along--as they always do--right in the middle of a ferment? "Yom Tov comes during the harvest almost all the time," he said, " I think G-d designed it to be a communal event. It's part of the 'tallying up' the spirit of the season (RH&YK) as well as zman simchatenu (Succos). Then, I just cover up the fermentation and go to shul, come back two days later and continue where I left off. From time to...

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Kosher Vigneron. Part #2

Date: Wed, Jun 2, 2010

Benyamin uses a basket press the size of a large White Mountain ice -cream handcrank. He also has one of the more Lilliputian crusher/destemmers I've seen, made from redwood, with metal spokes, it seemed to cry weaver's studio rather than winemaker's. Just to keep it all going on this otherworldly theme, the labeler looked like a torah scroll. Stacked in the rear were fanciful-painted panels of his Sukkah --the temporary lean-to-like structure he dines alfresco in for the holiday, that marks the marathon of holy days in the fall. It was not that unlikely that I had landed in an unpublished chapter of I.B. Singer's In My Father's Court. I was somewhere in the refreshing Carpanthians. While turning over rocks as on the hunt for dybbuks I could smell the wild strawberries and the freshly milked cows . But the wind kicked some California dust into my nose and I realized I was quite far from the Polish mountains and wild berries and nymphs and spirits of the forest. I was merely in a Santa Cruz contradiction. He was amused when I asked to see where he raised the wine, as if to say, why? But he guided us around...

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The Kosher Vigneron of Four Gates, part #1

Date: Wed, Jun 2, 2010

The morning after the nettle pizza and face-lifted 1964 Faustino @ Chez Panisse cafe, with importers/distributors and friends, Jose Pastor, Keven Clancy (I've decided everyone in California is named Kevin) and his wife Gillian, Jose and I traveled to Santa Cruz on a mission--this county's and perhaps the worlds only frum kosher vigneron. I keep on thinking of that head winemaker of Moet Chandon I squared off with (not pretty) three years ago. He told me he wanted to be a winemaker because of the lifestyle. That is what the wine world has been reduced to. Lifestyle. And not because someone wants to be linked to the seasons and the land, but the dinners and the travel and the marketing and the richness, especially if you've landed at MH. Like, you think I wanted to be a writer because of the extravagant lifestyle? Likewise, even though he started this whole adventure just because he wanted to make his own kiddush wine, lifestyle was the last thing Benyamin Cantz had in mind when he ended up with Four Gates Winery and certified organic vineyards. His first commercial vintage was 1997. Jose drove up a petite mountain and hooked off the main...

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The NPA Tasting Room Opens

Date: Sat, May 29, 2010

Kevin Kelley, winemaker for Lioco and his own, Salinia, and masterminded NPA (which kicked off the wine within 100-miles fresh direct deliviery in a can craze.) Swell wines. Swell guy. The '09 Sauvignon blanc is brill, even though he said he made it because he never had a California SB he fell in love with. We talked about what is a natural wine, the struggle, the definition, but I'm sitting on that one for another post. Most people think that he's dogmatic about no sulfur, but if the wine needs it, an the volatility goes nuts, or oxidation seems out of control he'll dose, starting at 10 parts per million and then he'll wait. Unlike Gideon he uses liquid S02, 6%, because it's easy to control. He never uses powder because he doesn't want the potassium. To add a touch of spice he recently opened his after-hours tasting room in his not too cozy industrial part in Santa Rosa. NPA going to be the only tasting room in an industrial park? Stop by for some Salinia or NPA--bring in your cans for a refill or buy new ones. Whatever. Friday & Saturday all day and on Thursday PM, stop...

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Gideon Bienstock on Sulfur Addition and Natural Wine

Date: Sat, May 29, 2010

(more Gideon Bienstock from Clos Saron) Where Renaissance is all grandeur of things past, Gideon's place was almost back on the kibbutz. Vines surround his house. He's a farmer who borrows from all philosophies. I'd be interested to see the soil in the heat and drought of summer, after the flowers drain from life. Gideon adds a smallish amount of sulfur at the fermenter and then never again. ' At first I was nervous the way I was about not inoculation. To some degree it is dangerous. When we released an 03 pinot, we had a party. I was pouring it, tasted it, I realized it had a problem, lactic spoilage, the finish was this mousy, dirty. We pulled it off the market--all 20 cases---and started to watch. After four months the wine gradually started to recover. We served it two weeks ago, we sold every bottle. I began to see that sometimes the wines show problems immediately but so far, everything has rebounded. At times I've thought am I crazy? Don't I want the safety of another shot so there's not bottle variation? For me the answer is seeing the wine before and after, sulfur would clarify the...

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