Does singing to grapes make good wine?
Find out today June 25 from 3-7 PM
$15 no reservations required

13483235_10153767491863214_1877287552540507657_oMy Uncle Eli was an engineer by vocation but his true love was his avocation: grape farming and winemaking in the challenging short-season environment of Minnesota. I was recently back home in Minneapolis to celebrate his wife’s 93rd birthday and paged through a sheaf of his correspondence. I began to understand the outlines of what he was up to, with several letters from viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo describing UC Davis hybrids he’d created by hybridizing the earliest ripening vinifera grape varieties with various hybrid grapes. Eli farmed two acres in the then-exurbs of Minneapolis and passed away in the 1970s. The last drops of the wine he made were consumed decades ago and I know from good authority that he made respectable stuff, but what I didn’t know until last week was that he also sang to his grape vines. My aunt Roz mentioned that surprising fact casually in conversation and I had to ask her to repeat herself. She repeated herself and when I asked what he sang her response was, “I don’t know.” Perhaps singing to plants is a family trait, for although I do not grow grapes I do sometimes sing a little ditty to my olive trees and tomatoes. More to the point one of my favorite Corsican wine growers, Jean-Charles Abbatucci, also sings to his vines or more accurately plays recordings of traditional Corsican polyphonic singing to his vines and to his fermenting wine. I like to think Abbatucci is attempting to transmit information about human praxis to his vines (or, maybe he just likes to listen to Corsican polyphonic singing when he works), but leave this for you to judge, which you can today as we taste one of Abbatucci’s stunning red wines.

Punta Crena Pigato 2014
Moreau-Naudet Petit Chablis 2014

Abbatucci Rouge Frais Imperial 2014
Bermejos Listán Negro Carbónica 2014

Thursday tasting 6/23/16
$15 6-8 PM no reservations required

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Champagne, ain’t that just fancy beer? I do not have a definitive answer to this question but my gut response to it—bracketing the deflationary comeuppance it implies—is no, Champagne is not beer at all. Champagne, like beer, does have bubbles, but unlike beer Champagne is wine and is, therefore, raw and never cooked. Beer? You have to cook beer in order to make it. Beer is always, a priori, a product of human techne, whereas you need not light a fire to make Champagne. And who can even contemplate lighting a fire for anything in this weather (espresso machines do not count as fire)? The rawness of Champagne connects us with our dimly remembered pre-scientific and pagan past; the Dionysian magic of its bubbles an uplifting gift from unseen and mysterious forces that we try to imprecate. But before Champagne there were even more atavistic pleasures, pre-modern sparkling wines that were even less a function of human artifice; natural sparkling wines made so by bottling a wine before it had completed fermentation. The result was a lightly sparkling wine made effervescent by the carbonic bubbles of wild yeasts and captured in the bottle. Tonight we’re starting with one such rustic natural sparkling wine, a pétillant-naturel from Loire valley pét-nat guru, Pascal Potaire. This wine contains not one but three different types of gamay: gamay de bouze, gamay de chaudenay, and gamay fréaux. To contrast, we’re following up with a taut, ultra-dry and minerally zero dosage (no added sugar) Champagne from the zero dosage specialist, Drappier. Next, two red wines that are just about some of the best alcoholic beverages with to enjoy outdoor grilling and BBQing: a smoky red from Campania in the southeast of Italy, and a more delicate and haunting schiopettino from Italy’s northeast. And if this ain’t enough, we’re offering a fabulous Savennières from Thibaud Boudignon, who has ascended to the pinnacle of Anjou white wine producers.

Les Capriades “BCF” Vin de France 2013
Drappier Brut Nature Champagne zero dosage
Sangiovanni “Castellabate” Paesteum 2012
Duline Schioppettino 2011
Special by-the-glass ($10) Thibaud Boudignon Savennières 2014

Tuesday 6/21 tasting
6-8 PM $10

13458646_10154265531789254_6388454933834318230_oNot too long ago it was possible to obtain good Jura wines most any time of the year. A small number of folks (I was one) knew and enjoyed the wines, but for many well-travelled drinkers, the Jura represented terra incognita. For some unadventurous, tsk, tsk, convention-minding souls the Jura represented a fun house mirror of nearby Burgundy and the wines were just too freaky to mention. Well, the situation has changed dramatically and now wines from the Jura have become scarce as demand exceeds supply. Jura reds, lithe, fresh, and sometimes funky, correspond to the way a lot of us want to drink today, and the whites, too, reach an audience prepared for flavors from the twelfth century, if not the twelfth dimension. Tonight, we’re tasting a Jura red made from the trousseau grape. The wine is a second project from Jura genius Stéphane Tissot, who ferments in barrels so as to not mar this wine with the distractions of new oak. I do not know how long we will be able to keep it in stock before my customers realize it’s on the shelf, and it’s the perfect sort of red wine for this sort of hellishly warm weather (serve it cool).

Raúl Pérez “Muti” Albariño 2013 {some vines are over 100 years}
Benoît Mulin Trousseau Arbois 2010
Andrea Scovero “Ciapin” Barbera d’Asti 2014
Division “Béton” 2013 Oregon {Loire-style blend of cab franc, gamay, & etc.}

Saturday 6/18
3-7 PM $10 no reservations required

I don’t know what the “heat index” indicates but I gather it’s the reverse of wind chill, and see that the heat index for this Monday is forecast to read (gulp) 115 degrees F. I doubt you’ll want to turn your oven or even stove on for the next few days and will most likely want to dine outdoors, in the shade, and eat something simple and not too fussy, or perhaps you won’t be hungry at all and prefer, as I do, on days such as these to drink something simple and not too fussy. Today, a tasting of simple, not too fussy wines that may serve you well as anodynes for the oncoming onslaught. We’re starting with a delicate carricante-based wine, bright and stony, and grown on the east slopes of Mt Etna, an active volcano. There’s some minella in this wine, there, too, but I have yet to learn the significance of the minor blending grape minella, other than “contains minella.” Next, a mouth-watering Cour-Cheverny made from romorantin, a pre-modern grape that yields mouthwatering, mineral wines that are perfect for steamy days, to enjoy with your chalice of cóctel de mariscos or maybe just a cold turkey sandwich. To follow, two red wines great for outdoor grilling. First, a foursquare, earthy, and organically farmed Chinon from Pascale Lambert. This simple Chinon meant for near-term guzzling is from the gravelly soil near the Loire, a terroir that yields wines that are brimming with refreshing acidity but also low in tannin, making them perfect for serving cool. Yep, it’s a box wine but a really good box wine, and once you get over your PTSD regarding such things you’ll realize that it’s a genius form factor for serving at a party (each box is four bottles) or just keeping in the fridge for daily drinking, as it stays fresh after opening for about a month. Finally, something with a bit more meat on its bones: a mountain-grown teroldego from the master of this grape variety, Elisabetta Foradori.

Salvo Foti “Aurora” Etna Bianco Superiore 2014
Philippe Tessier Cour-Cheverny 2013
Pascale Lambert Chinon 2014
Elisabetta Foradori Teroldego Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT 2013

Thursday 6/16 tasting: As these things go
$10 6-8 PM no reservations

13442325_10209859525311552_7806657278537527707_nA few years ago during a wine trip to France I was fortunate to meet Phillipe Tessier over dinner with a few colleagues, during which, as these things go, a great many bottles of Tessier’s wine were consumed. I began the evening as a sober and dutiful student of wine, jotting notes about each in my notebook. As the night progressed so did my happiness, but, as these things go, my overall motor skills also regressed and at one point I realized that I’d been scrawling smiley faces and juvenilia such as “fuk!” and that further attempts at note taking would be futile. However, I did have my iPhone and drunkenly thought, “well, I will certainly remember why to took a photo of this bottle and all the details about it once I return to the States,” and spent the rest of the evening drinking, laughing, and, stupidly taking photos of bottles. Well, ain’t it the way of all flesh, I dropped my iPhone later on during the trip, rendering it inoperable. Insurance paid for a new phone but being the pack rat that I am I held onto the old, dead phone. Months later I decided to try to revive the phone to retrieve photos from the trip and was surprised to see a photo from that night of Tessier’s “Phil’en Bulle,” his Romorantin-based natural sparkling wine (there’s a small percentage of menu pineau), the same wine that I’d just taken at the shop. OK, this a dull anecdote but it does go to show you that, drunk or not, at least I am consistent. The anecdote is dull but the wine sure isn’t, as you will see at tonight’s tasting.

Apéro: Phillipe Tessier “Phil’en Bulle” Pet Nat NV no added sulfites!
Benoit Mulin Savagnin Arbois 2011
Benoit Mulin Trousseau 2010
Chateau Du Cayron Gigondas 2013

 

Tuesday tasting 6/14/16
$10 6-8 PM no reservations

13329587_10209792536156865_1458569248386171900_oUmathum Rosa Burgenland 2015 {rosé of blaufränkisch, sankt laurent, zweigelt}
Michaud “Prestige de Vielles Vigne” Brouilly 2014 {old vines cru Beaujolais)
Tenuta La Favola “Favolato” Terre Siciliane 2014 {frappato = yay!}
Partida Creus “Garrut” Penedès 2014 {garrut—if you have to ask}

Natural wine is terrific tasting
Saturday 6/11/16
$15 3-7 PM no reservations

13442373_1286781328021299_1408259703481011160_nToday, a tasting flight of natural wines from France. I dig natural wine and work with a fair amount of it at the shop, and I’m surprised, perhaps due to my naiveté, at how irate natural wine makes some folks. I hear folks splutter (use your best Foghorn Leghorn voice), “why, natural wines are flawed, I tell you, flawed! You cannot possibly make a sound, palatable wine without employing the armamentarium of modern industrial winemaking!” I do not believe that this is an accurate assertion, but I also don’t put natural wines on a pedestal: there are flawed natural wines just as there are flawed conventional wines. Of course, the elephant in the room is the unacknowledged flaw that keeps too many drinkers from discovering wines they like, and that is the flaw of conventionality and the ocean of dull, taste-alike wines that conform to someone else’s reified fantasy of propriety and “good taste.” Well, one thing you cannot say about today’s natural wine tasting is that it is dull! We’re starting with a declassified cru Beaujolais, and then moving on to an earthy pinot-gamay blend from the Loire. Next, a spicy, lighter-bodied (for the south of France) blend, heavy on the cinsault, and to finish, an alarming skin contact white wine made from terret gris (short maceration, longer time aging in concrete and old barrel). 

Christian Ducrox “Expetasia” Vin de France {gamay, declassified cru Beaujolais)Clos du Tue-Bœuf “Rouillon” Cheverny 2014 {blend of pinot + gamay}Zélige-Caravent “Ellipse” Languedoc 2011{cinsault-dominant blend}Léon Barral Vin de France {skin contact terret gris & blanc}

 

Tuesday tasting 6/7/16
Between 6-8 PM $10 no reservations

13350519_10154421409322018_1365410562899629359_oSome grapes are like those kids that you picked on, mercilessly, in elementary school. She was clumsy, ate toasted seaweed as a snack, had thick bifocals and halitosis, wore the wrong shoes and kept a Kleenex balled up in her jeans; he had high-water pants, white tube socks, pocket protector, and hornrims held together with a paperclip. In gym class, you loved lobbing dodgeballs at their heads, hard, or in the lunchroom, remember when you pulled the seat out from behind her so that she landed so hard on her coccyx bone so hard that, despite her resolve to not give in, she cried? You verbally humiliated and rejected them…to what end? As an adult you might find yourself reflecting upon your childhood motivations, and sometimes, years later when you encounter the geek, the nerd, the outcast, you wonder what the hell you were thinking. These kids were merely non-conformists—at the time you felt obliged to force them to submit to the regime of propriety—and yet now these are the folks who have it going on. Some grapes are like those kids you once relished humiliating. They get no respect when they’re young but when they grow up, they have it going on. Tonight we’re tasting an old vine white wine made from aligoté, a grape that fuels simple, boring, over cropped, industrial wine best known as the bland, high acid backdrop, blended with crème de cassis, in the Burgundian wine cocktail, the Kir. Yet, sometimes when such vines grow old, watch out—they’ll force you to reevaluate everything you ever said and did to those kids in the lunchroom.

Bouvier Bourgogne Aligoté Vielles Vignes 2014
Heinrich “Red” Burgenland 2014
Domaine Les Cantates Mondeuse Savoie 2013
Croizillon Cahors 2014

Thursday 6/2 from 6-8 PM
Italian cookout wine tasting
$10 no reservations required

13307305_10153707157203214_4515144807309144115_nWe’re starting tonight with a brilliant, light-as-a-feather vernatsch from the Südtirol, the German-speaking northwest of Italy. This is just the sort of red wine you need in your organoleptic quiver on a hot summer afternoon: translucent, dry, low in tannin, alcohol, and extract, but not low in flavor, making it a perfect candidate for chilling down in the ice chest. Serve this with grilled fish or smoked sausage. Next, a picture-perfect Chianti Classico made from organically farmed grapes. It’s packaged in the straw basket fiasco form factor through which Chianti was once identified once upon a red checkered tablecloth time, but today mostly seen housing thin industrial garbage wines. The proprietor of Montebernardi, concerned about how brand Chianti has been damaged by the poor quality of many of the wines, is on a mission to turn things around and so bottles really good stuff in the iconic bottles that your parents or grandparents may have enjoyed many a year ago. Next, a skin-contact fiano from Campania. It’s a smoky and tannic orange wine that spends one year on the skins in terracotta amphora—one year on the skins! I really dig this earthy wine, but admit that it is polarizing and not for everybody, so you tell me. Consummate corn on the cob wine. To finish, a fresh red wine from the northern part of Piemonte: mostly young vine nebbiolo, but vinified for near term glugging

Baron Widman Vernatsch Südtiroler 2014
Montebernardi Chianti Classico 2014 in fiasco!
Cantina Giardino “Sophia” Campania Fiano 2014
Le Piane “Mimmo” Vino Rosso 2014

Tuesday 5/31
Acid head tasting $10 between 6-8 PM
no reservations required

13342995_10154404763317018_2295863215656545320_nAcidity is one of the things for which I’m forever on the lookout when I buy wines for the shop, but it is also one of the adjectives I’ve learned to shy away from when discussing wines with customers. It’s easy to understand why the term “acidity” is such a no no: folks associate it with a bad trip, e.g., gastroesophageal reflux. That said, acid is a natural component of grapes and is one of the components that distinguishes wine from beer and spirits. Acid is what makes many wines mouthwatering, refreshing, and electrifying to drink, and attenuating the natural acidity in wine is what makes so many formulaic wines, buttery and oaky as they may be, inoffensive and not so exciting to drink. Tonight we’re tasting wines that have this magic ingredient in spades. Case in point: A Cour-Cheverny made from the obsolete romorantin grape, a premodern grape that’s become obsolete today precisely because of its exhilarating and near hallucinatory acidity, untamed and wild to the core. For adults only.

François Cazin Cour-Cheverny 2013
Dupasquier Marestel Roussette de Savoie 2010
Chateau Tour Grise Chenin Noir 2013
David Reynaud “Beaumont” Crozes-Hermitage 2013