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The Search For The American Vigneron

Date: Fri, May 28, 2010

It's on---going. I have a difficult time accepting the reality of California's new world---the industrial approach to winemaking, the surrogate mother approach to winemaking, the disconnected approach to winemaking. And so I was on a mini-mission to find more like Hank, people who grow their own grapes, till (or no til) their own soil, prune their own vines (or most of them) and then make their one wines. To hell with local and industrial, if it's local and hand tended, I'm interested. So that's how I happened on Gideon Bienstock--a few years back. We corresponded. A while back when I wrote theirrigation story for the SF Chronicle he and I emailed about irrigation and I was always moved by his words. The very best fruits I have ever tasted were found in a deserted experimental farm established by the Russians in the Sinai desert. The trees (apricots, peaches, apples) were left unirrigated and unattended for years in the desert dunes. They were stunted, crippled, more like half-dwarfed bushes than like the trees we know, but the fruits, cherry- size apples and peaches - were so incredibly intense and concentrated in flavors, like nothing I have ever tasted before or since....

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On the Road to Natural Wine

Date: Fri, May 28, 2010

Did you ever ride down from Lyon to the Rhone on the motorway and there past the toll is Vienne and its cliffs, granite, that shock back the sun. This was the same feeling I had when I first made the drive up those Sierre footed hills to the Beckmeyer grape and goat residence. There's terroir in those hills. And, Hank is a the medium that puts it into bottle. I talk alot about Hank Beckmeyer and I don't want to beat this one into the ground, but anyone reading my blog knows that I think he is extremely talented and wise as a winemaker. Those vines were quite different than in August. It was green. There were flowers. There was a lush, sensual wildness to it, screaming..... BRING ON ZERO SUMMER. Filled with bumble bee fresh clover and stinging sage, crushing profoundly underfoot. And the vines looked robust and dewey and almost prepared to take on the summer drought and deprivation. The day was cold, I wore mittens. And then we went to see Hank's new toys. Outside Caro, who is sort of taking a year off from making cheese (and our palates are screaming in protest) was feeding...

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Fizz-Geek Alert. Bermejos, non-dosage

Date: Tue, May 25, 2010

Ever since I visited Walla Walla and spent a few days pondering porous volcanic rock with geologist Kevin Pogue I've been intrigued with its strange, coral-like texture and possibilities for grape growing complexity. I mean, yes on limestone, slate, schist and granite, but might not basalt also fit into to the parameters of great terroir? So there I was, about to leave San Francisco. And it wasn't merely the bread or the ginger shortbread cookies from The Cheese Board (which I forgot to get) or the amazing meal at Chez Panisse cafe (1998 LDH rosado!), or hanging out with sweet Luc @ Terroir or meeting Collin-Peter Casey and nodding my head over his inventive wine list at Baker & Banker, or having lousy Thai food, or seeing dawn reach across the bay with Venus disappearing... but, I was leaving in all of this sweet bitterness. At that moment the pop flew on a fancy bottle of Bermejos, a non-dosage, 100% Malvasia from basalt riddled Lanzarote, one of the strange, windy Canaries, closer to Africa than to Spain. They deal with the vine and the wind by either sinking nest like vines in craters ( mimicking the volcanic hills) or building...

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Spain

Date: Fri, May 21, 2010

Coming to Spain in June...

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Jason Lett takes Alice on a Sans Souffre Adventure

Date: Thu, May 13, 2010

When I arrived in Portland in March, first stop was food and Jason Lett, Lisa Donoughe and I went to Clyde Common for a fantastic (though) loud lunch. Jason pulled this wine out of his bag. and asked if I was I up for an experiment. This is the one Tissot wine that I really like. The poulsard is quite pure, rosy, and yet is extremely dancey on the palate with a great precise point of view. The others just seem to messed with to me, whether it's stirring the lees or whatever. But this one? Like lots. Jason Lett, that's the Eyrie Vineyard Lett and if you haven't had his wines, you should correct that now, and I have been having this sulfur in wine conversation for a few years. It is an ideal to make wine without Sulfur but...but....ideally....but will the results be delicious? This poulsard is delicious. And ever curious, Jason wanted to find out if Tissot wasn't pulling that old hanky panky wool over our palates and slipped an SO2 pellet into the wine while no one was looking. A fellow cynic! Alice gets a lab lesson Jason's Confession Flashing the Tannins and Black Teeth Low...

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Los Angeles Natural Wine Week---NOW

Date: Thu, May 13, 2010

Off to LA tomorrow to take in the tail end of Los Angeles Natural Wine week and I am really looking forward to it! Lou's on Monday night. Domaine LA on Saturday night. What I hope will be a very fun clash of minds on Sunday morning. 8:15 PM Sunday May 16 What Natural wine symposium with Alice Feiring, Jonathan Gold, and real life winemakers Randall Graham, Abe Schoener, Jared Brandt, and Hank Beckmeyer.Taste natural wines and get schooled by natural wine growers. When 12-2:30 Where LACE 6522 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028 (323) 957-1777 Cost $25 Here's Patrick Comiskey's take on the week...

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The Sulfur Dilemma

Date: Tue, May 11, 2010

Eric Texier, master genius and all round great guy, is one of the best treats for me at the Dressner tasting--especially the conversations @ Ten Bells in the evening. The night was getting late, two Italians super star winemakers, one north and one south were eagerly soul searching each other's mouths at the west side of the bar, ( Rene Barbier & Sara Perez, move over) while I wrenched my eyes so I could talk sulfur and carbonic maceration with Texier. Damn, I admit, it was almost as exciting. (It wasn't that I'm such a voyeur, but this could be the beginning of a new natural wine dynasty!) There will be more coming on this (not ThEm but This) when I go to visit Eric in June. I'll tape him and talk and get to the botton of the 'sameness' of the carbonic effect has been something I've been chewing over for years now. The technique can make a nice vin de soif, but it seems so often to reduce expression of terroir. According to Eric there is a connection between sulfur and the use of the carbonic (methode Chauvet) and it's effect on acidity, pH and stability and instablitity,...

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The Making of a 100 (Minus 2) Point Wine

Date: Tue, May 11, 2010

Every chapter of The Battle was supposed to start with Parker review, this was back when Parker wrote all of those hormonal busting wine blips and the language was as fat and purple and alcoholic as a 2007 Parkerized Chateauneuf. My idea--while a fun and good-humored roast-- didn't make it past Harcourt legal. Sniff. Then, yesterday, I was alerted to this amazing review, snapped off the DeMaisonSelections website, from Dr. JM'S Spain 2010: Let the Good Times (Rock 'n) Roll. Wow! What fun! I figured, all was fair in love and war....it was just too good not to share. Issue #188 2006 Hermanos Sastre [Vina Sastre] Pesus Ribera Del Duero, Castilla Leon, Spain $750 (not $17.50, no5 $7.50, not $75.00 but $750?) The flagship 2006 Pesus comes from a small parcel of 82-year-old Tempranillo vines blended with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. After fermentation in a special stainless steel tank, (HOW SPECIAL ARE THEY? LIKE ESPECIAL? YOU KNOW IN THE FRENCH WAY, WHEN THEY ARE REFERRING TO SOMEWHAT UNFORTUNATE? OR SPECIAL WITH MACRO OXYGENATION OR??) the wine was transferred into new French oak. It was racked further into new oak three times (WAIT! RACKED FOUR TIMES INTO...

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Portland Indie Wine Festival: Wine Watch

Date: Thu, May 6, 2010

The Portlan Indie Festival is staged this coming weekend. The fest was by Lisa Donoughe (and a friend) who had the idea to give a little help to the little guy; wineries and winemakers too small to get into other exhibitions, and it's worked. Lisa's lemonade stand fesetival kick off plenty of new and exciting names in the Oregon wine world. No! That's not Oregon, I'm just kidding you! Oregon mostly irrigates--so where is this? (Clue, most of this place irrigates as well, but just not this vineyard) I was there in March to help judge the wines for presentation. These aren't scored, just judged to see which wines should be shown. As a judge, we did not taste all the wines, just those assigned to out panels. I'm sure I missed out on a wide assortment of goods. But here are some impressions from my modest sampling of sixty wines. #1- 2007 was a hard year to mess up for pinot--at least that's what I thought for the first flight! #2- Except for the exception (such as Eyrie Vineyards who can do no wrong) many just do not know what to do with pinot gris. #3- By the second...

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Joe Vs. the Volcano; Dressner tasting 2010. P. 1

Date: Mon, May 3, 2010

What did I love @ the LDM, Louis/Dressner tasting? Well, the wines! Mr. Dressner, while looking fine, was not in the best of moods. He hung in there but I bet he was disappointed many of his vignerons were stuck behind the wall of volcanic ash and not on Lafayette Street. Then Obama was in town. Mr. O promised to show, but never did. He has no idea what he's missing. We could have set the White House right. Then because of the traffic, the food was stuck on the Brooklyn Bridge. But that was okay. We were more than well taken care of! Jean-Paul Brun always has something surprising to show. And If you're looking for a great Cremant, he's got one. Cremant de Bourgogne, NV--fizz and mineral. Totally refreshing. House sparkling stuff. VDP Roussane '08! Charming. Charming. Charming. for the '09 Beaujo? Brouilly-- had lots of ground ivy and you know how I love that. Fleurie--angularity Damien Coquelet Chiroubles '09--velvet and easy on the eyes. Georges Descombes '07 Bouilly VV--this held my interest. '07 Morgon VV--depth, the fruit is deep inside the texture. Baudry '09 Rose alert! This is one for you. Sorry, anti-flavorites, there's plenty of it...

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Mail Order Author

Date: Thu, Apr 29, 2010

When I sold that first book in '06 I did the normal drill. I made the round of editors, had conversations, had the jitters, obsessed about what to wear and say, and then waited for an offer. Hands folded. Patiently. Not so patiently. The second time was this past February. I was in Corbieres, staying with the Terrier's of Domaine Deux Anes. I checked home messages. Magali makes a leek tart while I'm getting my messages 'Alice, it's Jane. Call me right away.' I was so far away and my thoughts were so in the donkeys and the wines that I was tasting that I just couldn't compute. I couldn't feel. The heart/mind connection was disconnected. Nothing was real. I was not going to spend the next 14 months obsessing about arc and fact. In fact, I felt like I was reenacting my great, great grandmother's scenario. She was seventeen. Her father, an extremely religious man, came home after a day of struggling with talmud and said, "Mazel tov." Great, Great bubby was not happy. I imagine she very firmly, totally in control, with limited emotion, as if she were reading a headline, promised her father if he made her...

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Putting Natural Wine in Context

Date: Sun, Apr 25, 2010

Thanks to Martesi who linked a comment of his to this video which in a way, puts the vin naturel movement in context. The only thing missing is how lovely so many of the wines are. Veuillez installer Flash Player pour lire la vidéoRévolution BIO 2.0 / Episode n° 1 : La genèse sélectionné dans TV et Reportage / Docu / ITW...

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What is Natural Wine?

Date: Wed, Apr 21, 2010

I've been emailing with Dave McIntyre about his WAPO piece. I hate being written about so I can't blame him if he was peeved, but you know what? He was a complete mensch. He did sign off the last email by saying... "I look forward to your Part 3 if you do one - I hope it will be a full-throated oratory on the merits of natural wine rather than a reflexive attack on those who may not see eye-to-eye with you about it." I think one of the great misconceptions about me is that I want to convert the world to natural, or my natural wines. I actually don't care. What I do care about is 1) misleading the drinking public by making them believe an industrial is natural. 2) I do care about there being enough of 'my kind of wines,' for me to drink. Ten and twenty years ago one didn't have to worry about a definition of natural wine. It was obvious at first sniff and taste. It was either volatile like a chemistry experiment gone wrong, or it was vibrant, precise and fluid, sparking with energy and sometimes strangeness. The good and the great...

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