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Champagne!

Date: Mon, Apr 19, 2010

Just back from the International Champagne and Sparkling Wine Invitational, 2010, in New Orleans, which while off to a rocky start with a blowing up volcano, and a lot of stranded Champenois, organizers, Peter Wasserman and team, including the fabulous Laura Maniec, some locals, especially Sara Kavanaugh pitched in and pulled off an original idea that was begging to happen. Also on board, Peter Liem, Charles Curtis, Fred Dexheimer but mostly the stars were bottle and winemaker. The concept was unprecedented. A weekend devoted to champagne and sparklers from growers? 74 sparkling producers, many of the vignerons installed. two tired sommeliers And even more? They came from all over, and were grateful to be there. I shared a panel with the always frank Lisa Granik (MW) and we presented sparklers of the world. I asked the group who showed up, what are you doing here and not in champagne? The heart warming answer was, "To learn something." Curiosity! May it never leave human kind. That said, I was also pleased that the non champagne wine of the weekend was the Robert & Bernard Plageoles Mauzac. ($15). Full disclosure, I was pouring the wine for Jenny Lefcourt, who couldnt make it...

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Natural Wines, Part #2

Date: Sun, Apr 18, 2010

It's pretty easy to dismiss natural wines as a hot-pants kind of trend if you forget that it's been a growing movement over three decades that finally went viral. But it is a little irresponsible to be dismissive. And while parts of the WAPO piece was thoughtful it was in parts a little naive, and reliant on secondary research and even secondary opinion. I find that as more civilian writers are inducted into professional wine writing, these sketchy articles are more prevalent. Some might well wonder why I get upset? Because for some crazy reason I care deeply about the category of natural wines because of the people who make them, the care and passion that drive their metier and the pleasure they give me and my friends. This world is one I've been committed to for over a decade, have spent an insane amount of time drinking, thinking, walking, talking and visiting and hammering out the issues. And so, it's personal. When I used to be a Morris Dance foreman (long story) and the new crop of kids came on to the team, I was equally dismayed that they had no connection to the tradition of the Morris, they...

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Natural Ain't Perfect (isn't that the point?)

Date: Sun, Apr 18, 2010

I received so many private emails about this Dave McIntyre's Washington Post story that I felt it was time to call out the my inner Wine Cop and make some arrests. I'm on the road, in New Orleans for the ICSWI --champers, sparklers---and not sure how I'm going to address it, probably in steps...let me start here, meanderingly. My cousin lives a safe life. She is a teacher. Her life is measured. Other than drinking plenty of Diet Coke, she takes little risks and goes to the doctor often. She does not like spice. She doesn't like vinegar. It's not the taste. Ask her and she can't tell you why. And if she drank wine, which she does not, she would most likely drink the safe wines. No one debates whether a real tomato is truly superior to a hydroponic/ gmified one. Taste there is simple and direct and perhaps the politics. But whether a wine is made by proxy, by numbers and hyped up on hormones and additive and all sorts of adjustments? That one brings on the polemic, the rationalization, the fight, the right vs. left. Whether or not you're on board with natural wines is something like...

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Simonutti, Pascal. Please

Date: Sat, Apr 10, 2010

I'm flipping through notebooks to see which great wines I failed to shout out about. Here's a good one, tasted when I was in the Loire for the Salon. Okay, I'm a little late, but I've a question for you: How is it possible Pascal Simonutti is not available in this country? Do we have enough of these kind of wines for those of us who need them? No! (this is a page from Alice Sari Feiring's unsexy notebook.) I had his wines in 2009 and loved them. And, idiot I am, wrote not. This year I went directly to taste and bam--loved them again. The vines he works with are old. 80 year old pineau d'aunis? Sign me up baby! Yum. We've got a VDT here because he ain't allowed to bottle a 100% varietal of pineau d'aunis where he is in the Tourainne, so he's joining the fashionable line up of Table Wines. This was a rosy wine with plenty of charmin' charm. Cherry, berry and a holy shit rough finish. So why are they not imported??? Does anyone here want to explain that one to me? The pineau D' is the puppy with the orange label....

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John-Livingston Learmouth and Dard & Ribo

Date: Thu, Apr 8, 2010

Last October. Ten-Bells. Post the Dressner tasting. A carafe of K- Dard & Ribo's white Crozes-Hermitage of Marsanne and Roussane grown on Kaolin --provided by--Jeff Viera? Corey? Help, my memory of who's bottle I was pilfering --and I thank whoever you are/were. The bottle fueled a great conversation I had with Eric Texier about Chauvet and vins naturel. Anyway, the point? Alll roads lead back to Dard & Ribo. I suppose, knowing that, John Livingstone-Learmonth the British author of one of the terrific The Wines of the Northern Rhone and of the Drink Rhone website send me his latest article --entitled Les Vina Naturels. Also included in his discussion of sulfur was the write up from last visit to Domaine Gramenon as well as Francois & Rene Jean. John's site is by subscription --and it will cost you 40.00 GBP a year, but for serious Rhone folks, there's no better place. Here's a bit of what he sent to me. I know, Alice, such a tease. Les Vins Naturel Intellectually, I lean towards Les Vins Naturels. Let Rene-Jean Dard of the Crozes-Hermitage Domaine Dard & Ribo explain the terminology: 'Japan started this. My ex-wife is Japanese, and we have always...

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This Week's Press Release

Date: Mon, Apr 5, 2010

I was reading this months Wines & Vines something struck me about the piece entitled California Wineries Get Certified. ....' The 17-acre Deloach vineyards in Russian River Vallet, became one only 64-wineries or vineyards worldwide to achieve Biodynamic certification.' For a moment they had me. I know better (though last year, thanks to Kevin Hamel, I had an amazingly delicious blue hubbard squash from their certified biodynamic vineyard garden). But I questioned my own knowledge. Not that I knew the numbers of BioD vineyards but hell, there had to be more than eight squared. The piece makes Boisset look like some sort of Green Giant, One of 64 in the world? A movement that has had such power over the wine industry only has 64 certified wineries and vineyards in the world? How is that possible? It wasn't possible. Who was at fault, the trusting writer or the press release this I was sure it was lifted from? Sure enough the release wasn't too dififcult to find. Where the Charles C. release absolutely used (but did not explain) the little registered trademark after the Biodynamic the Wines & Vines piece omitted it. Never the less, the release used the...

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New in Wine Cookery

Date: Mon, Apr 5, 2010

Laurie Daniels covered a new wine enhancer in this month's issue of Wines and VInes. Reverse Osmosis move over, Flash -Detente it's your time. But @ Two million dollars a pop? That's what the Monterey Wine Company obviously paid to check it out. Everyone is looking for a better mousetrap. Punch down is so over. Daniels noted that the resulting wines lost varietal expression. That might be the point of the contraption-- make a wine with no personality, after all, did you read Alessandra Stanley's review of the Sarah Palin show? People wanted her unedited self and what they got was Palin as Spam. So, the device is an expensive homogenizer at best or a killer at worst. Instead of a RO machine working on the wine, this baby works on the prefermented juice--flash pasteurized at about 180 degrees F. Let's call it the reverse of cold-soak. When you check out the detente technique you'll find some of the amazing benefits. Increase and speed up the anthocyanin, colloid and tannin extraction Better management and performance of the vinification campaign: shortening of the fermentation time, improvement of the turnover Production of a wider range of wines and an enhancement of...

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AlchemyVinNatureliste43® enters the market

Date: Thu, Apr 1, 2010

Newly released on the market? Hold on to your C02, because there's a premium wild yeast product for sale that is going to forever transform the wine in your glass. I arrived home, after the rains, and instead of an ark on a mountain top I found a release on my desk at the end of a five-floor walk-up. I had heard gossip about a freak yeast when I was at La Remise. It was M. Calek who told me he heard there was a mother's little helper coming down the pike that would let him sleep peacefully during fermentations. He whispered something softly in my ear, "Alchemy." He told me that while it was being manufactured for the Cheval Blanc's of the world he knew there was something in it for him and perhaps even Marcel Lapierre too. Here's how it all started. Tired of hearing wine journalists yap endlessly about natural wine, conventional winemakers eager for some attention, have struck back. They've demanded tools from the laboratories and like the Jews in Eygpt, their prayers have been answered. Here's the dirt, the newly minted laboratory yeast is built to mimic the nature of vin -naturel, low-no sulfur wine....

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Last Minute Passover Wines

Date: Mon, Mar 29, 2010

I was dragging my feet because I've been hating everything and was confused. One thing is for sure, regardless that the techniques for mevushal wines (flash pasteurized so non-jews can handle once in the bottle) is senseless, harmful and insulting and rude to the wine. Had a big old fight when I ran that wine tasting in Detroit with the mashgiach in Detroit--the kosher cop on the job. I felt like I was fighting with Rabbi Heisler in 5th grade all over again. Very energizing. And it was neat to have knowledge of halachah (laws) under my belt. I still lost. But it was fun. Okay, here goes for what I am and am not drinking. I had one terrific bottle of 3 Celliers Chateauneuf du Pape 07 @ $44 but the second one stunk. The first one was exciting. I could not believe it REAL kosher wine. But the second one was one weird bird. Could not figure what went wrong but it was kind of a bacterial chocolate soup. NOT bad, especially if you like the New World Order are the Segal's --white and red. THEY were right, people pleasers. Then, I think the best red I've had...

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Caleb Picks Up Chalk

Date: Mon, Mar 29, 2010

So Caleb. I like intense men. Caleb has this whole messianic aura about him. You just know before he dies he's going to discover a new religion, as a matter of fact there I was in his near the airport winery, crammed with cement tanks and old wood fermenters and mostly old barrels getting down on the floor, squatting on his green Crocks, he wielded a piece of chalk. Other visionaries have done this thing with me, including Nicolas Joly and Jacques Lardiere, from Jadot. Jacques once drew so many diagrams I got dizzy. In a few minutes Caleb's lecture turned into this: The wines. Good. Like them. They have spark and spunk and foot stomping and plenty of stems! Stems I believe is the saving grace for those of us in the Anti-Flavor Squad. Wines to look for: '09 Semillon/Sauvignon with a nice lemon edge (shit, did I just recommend a Washington White wine?) Les Collines syrah. But frankly, all of his wines are worth giving a look see to see what is possible in that area. I leave it up to you--what do you think Caleb was getting at? Did I say you can't reduce Art through Science...

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Caleb Picks Up Chalk

Date: Fri, Mar 26, 2010

So Caleb. I like intense men. Caleb has this whole messianic aura about him. You just know before he dies he's going to discover a new religion, as a matter of fact there I was in his near the airport winery, crammed with cement tanks and old wood fermenters and mostly old barrels getting down on the floor, squatting on his green Crocks, he wielded a piece of chalk. Other visionaries have done this thing with me, including Nicolas Joly and Jacques Lardiere, from Jadot. Jacques once drew so many diagrams I got dizzy. In a few minutes Caleb's lecture turned into this: The wines. Good. Like them. They have spark and spunk and foot stomping and plenty of stems! Stems I believe is the saving grace for those of us in the Anti-Flavor Squad. Wines to look for: '09 Semillon/Sauvignon with a nice lemon edge (shit, did I just recommend a Washington White wine?) Les Collines syrah. But frankly, all of his wines are worth giving a look see to see what is possible in that area. I leave it up to you--what do you think Caleb was getting at? Did I say you can't reduce Art through Science...

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I'm a Sangio man: Matt Steiner of Stella Fino

Date: Fri, Mar 26, 2010

I didn't taste too many of the local wines when I was out for the lecture. The tone was set when Kevin and I met Robert Ames for dinner @ Brasserie Four. As promised Ames, a gentleman and a scholar, showed up with a Larmandier-Bernier 1996 Cramant. The depth and complexity, layers of litigation. Damn, it was so great that Allemand's 1998 Chaillot couldn't live up to it's patchouli nose. Under discussion was who was I going to visit? I wanted to revisit Caleb Foster of Buty. I met him when I was in Walla Walla in 2004 and had a good feeling about his future progression in winemaking. So that was in place. I asked Ames for some tips for my open slot. On the second morning of my visit, he picked me up and we raced along the road to visit some guy by the name of Matt Steiner. "Nice last name," he stated, with a wink. The name of the winery is Stella Fino. Turns out Matt is a thinker, a good wine maker and what's more he's got spunk as well as about 1200 cases and a day job. (sorry, bad and sloppy iphone) He...

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Basalt and Other Walla Walla Musings

Date: Mon, Mar 22, 2010

Delivering a lecture to about 200 about terroir is a little unsettling. Especially when a good chunk of them are in the wine industry. I'm better than Q&A than in the body of delivery, but what could I do but get up there and try to measure up. I hit some pressure points. I couldn't avoid them. All I had to do was bring up that the best sites are often not the most fun to farm or to live in. Or, perhaps there's too much reliance on irrigation and not enough on finding the right sites that don't need water. Another one that won me Miss Popularity was recounting the story of Pascaline being shocked, stunned, to see on Long Island vines planted next to corn. "Grapes for terroir wine," she said, "need different soils than corn and wheat need." And when I followed up with the musing that sometimes I wonder if the New World translates terroir into, "What a gorgeous view," was enough to get me tarred and feathered. Oddly enough, it was not. Oh sure, there were a few odd questions, as if some folk were out to get me, "Well, what about Burgundy. They get...

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1st Stop Cayuse

Date: Sat, Mar 13, 2010

Christophe Baron, aka the Bionic Frog, settled in Walla Walla when he fell in love with a river bed. He thought Chateauneuf. Well, a Chateauneuf with much darker stones. But you get the idea. Christophe said he was attracted to the vine freedom of America, but I'm not sure what exactly why he decided to go whole hog with biodynamics. It seems to suit him and the wines quite well. The whole operation is like an oiled glove and it smacks of Virgo with Leo rising. When I was there in 2004, the place was a work in progress. Now? He's got 55 acres and a real winery with Noblot eggs and other more conventional but gorgeous cement fermenters. Outside in the beginning of March the horse was plowing, the workers were toiling away rather happily. Each vine is tied with straw. The elements are obsessive. In biodynamic spirit, Christophe added pigs, bunnies, cows, chickens and sheep as well as cherry trees. He's even preparing this kind of land next, in the 'canyon.' There is no doubt that this is the work of a maniac, and I say this in only the most complimentary way, in fact he's a little...

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