Saturday, August 12
Taste natural wines with Critical Mass Selections
3-7 PM $12

Los Angeles natural wine organic biodynamic orange
Croci “Lubigo” Frizzante Emilia-Romagna 2014
Azienda Menicocci “Rhesan” Trebbiano Lazio 2016
Cantina dell Barone “Paóne” Campania Fiano 2015
Prana Rioja NV
Pereira “Tinto Bom” Vinho Verde 2010
Domaine de Gabelas St Chinian 2016

Today, we have our treasured friend, Ruby Martin of Critical Mass Selections, in the shop to pour a selection of natural wines from her import portfolio. We work extensively with Critical Mass, and try to stock whatever we can, when we can get our hands on them, as the wines move fast, both in New York and here in Los Angeles. Ross Bingham, one of the founders of New York’s pioneering Natural Wine Company, is the brainiac behind Critical Mass. Ross is an imposing fellow with the mien of a retired linebacker and a south Jersey accent so thick you can cut it with a knife, but don’t let his presentation-of-self fool you – inside lies a rapier wit and an unerring ability to locate oddball wines from hither, as well as yon. Ruby will be here to tell us all about the wines as well as provide illuminating stories behind the growers. Ruby selected a range of wines that are appropriate for a warm, summer Saturday such as today. We’re starting with a crisp, rustic, dry, and naturally fizzy white wine from Emilia-Romagna. If this wine does not refresh you, my condolences, you might be dead. We’ll continue with a mix of white and reds, to include a fiano from the volcanic region near Mt. Vesuvius, as well as a juicy, carbonic macerated Rioja. All wines are farmed without synthetic chemicals, and all are either made without or minimal sulfites.

Los Angeles natural wine organic biodynamic orange
The Dirty Guide to Wine
Special natural wine tasting with wine writer Alice Feiring
Wednesday, August 9 between 6-8 PM $12

The notion of terroir, the Venn diagram in which the animal, vegetable, mineral, and human dimensions of wine converge, asserts that wines can taste uniquely of their places of origin. Unique origins produce unique wines, and yet everything we do to wine in the modern world seems to destroy terroir. This is a central tenet of natural wine, that low-intervention, sensitive winemaking lets terroir speak while industrial winemaking erases terroir, masking it with yeasts selected to produce a specific flavor profile and rejiggering wine with enzymes, acidification, deacidification, and machinery seemingly capable of denaturing a wine and reconstructing it into a perfectly plastic nowhere wines.

Terroir is a fragile thing. The squares want us to give up our belief in it, daddy-o, and treat us like a parent explaining to her child that sadly, the tooth fairy does not exist. And yet some of us stubbornly cling to our belief that the earth transmits information though subtle frequencies—you just need to find it on the radio dial.

This Wednesday, August 8, we are pleased to welcome one our most eloquent advocates for terroir, wine writer Alice Feiring, to the shop for a natural wine tasting, book signing, and foo. Author of The Battle for Wine and Love, Naked Wine, and her Feiring Line newsletter, Alice has a new book, The Dirty Guide to Wine (in conjunction with New York natural wine sommelier Pascaline Peltier) entirely dedicated to the question of terroir.

When I asked Alice what she’d like to pour she floated the idea of pouring one or two wines that are affected by gôut de souris, a peculiar flavor that affects some natural wines and that present a challenge to the shibboleth of low-intervention. Gôut de souris, or in the inelegant and difficult to parse English translation, “mousy” flavors, is a peculiar sort of lactic, corn chip taste that, once you identify and name, is unforgettable.

Many consider mouse a repellant wine flaw. A hardy bunch, probably numbering in the dozens, savors the flavor and consider it a sign of authenticity, a signifier of the real. It’s not quite “some hate it, some love it,” but more so, most hate it, a few cannot taste it at all, while a small minority dig it. I cannot speak for Alice, but I do not find mouse the most repellent thing I’ve put in my mouth. I don’t like mouse and do not seek deliberately seek wines that have it, but sometimes one slips through. Mouse is a Hollywood party where nobody sleeps tonight; it’s going a mile a minute, but then you abruptly realize that you’re trapped in the corner with a witless narcissist who talks incessantly and oppressively about themselves—enough about me, let’s talk about me. And then the relief you feel when you’re finally able to excuse yourself, oh, I would like some more punch, whew! Unlike any other wine flavor, even musty TCA, responsible for corked wine, the flavor of mouse expands and grows inside your retronasal cavity, for five or maybe ten minutes. Personally, I consider mousy wine flawed, but that’s not why I don’t dig them. I don’t dig them because they drone on, and on, and on. They’re boring.

When you ask most natural winemakers about mouse, they make a sad face and despair about the appearance of mouse for it is not something that they ever deliberately seek. A minority but a persistent number of natural wines, grown and made without recourse to the crutches of contemporary wine engineering, exhibit mousy flavors; industrial wines are never so affected. To me, mouse is noise that makes it hard or impossible to hear the signals of terroir, because mousy wines always taste the same, regardless of their region of origin.

We will taste two wines affected by gout de souris: one is very lightly affected; the other is moderately so. We will also taste two natural wines that are certainly funky, but not mousy. You can decide how you feel about mouse after the tasting.

Saturday, August 5
3-7 PM
no reservations needed

Los Angeles natural wine organic biodynamic orange pet-nat
Today we’re pouring two very different tastings. Your choice (or live a little and do both): a tasting of four rosé wines, or a tasting of light, summertime red wines. The rosés are all dry. One is sparkling, one is so delicate, pale, and fleeting you question whether it is even a wine or the ephemeral nectar of an 11th-dimensional demigod, and yet another is aged in terracotta amphora. The reds are all light-bodied wines that could if you felt inclined to do so, be served on the cool side. Two of the reds represent the archaic practice, once quite common but today not so much, of making complex field blend wines in which various red and white grapes are co-harvested and co-fermented to make the characteristic wines of their regions. Each contains no less than six grape varieties, and represent a once upon a time when a wine was simply known as Bourgogne rouge rather than as one containing pinot noir.

Rosé tasting $15

Hauts-Baigneux Pétillant Naturel Rosé Vin de France
Marquiliani Rosé Gris Corsica 2016
Francesco Cirelli Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2015
Minimus “I have brett, I am OK with That” Oregon 2016

Light-bodied red tasting $15

Francesco Rinaldi Grignolino d’Asti 2016
Fento Rias Baixas 2014
François Ecot “Insolent” Vin de France 2015
Luis Seabra “Xisto Ilimitado” Douro 2016

Friday, August 4
6-8 PM / no reservations needed / $12

Los Angeles natural wine orange organic biodnyamic
Scar of the Sea pét-nat Santa Barbara 2016 (pre-release!) $29/btl
Scar of the Sea Newtown Pippin dry hard cider California 2015 $26/btl
Scar of the Sea Chardonnay Santa Barbara 2016 $29/btl
Scar of the Sea Pinot Noir Santa Barbara 2016 $29/btl

Join us tonight and taste wines and a dry cider from Santa Barbara with Scar of the Sea’s Mikey Giugni. We’re thrilled to be the first to taste the new vintage tonight of Mikey’s dry and leesy pét-nat, so new that he’ll label the wine in front of our very eyes. I first tasted Mikey’s chardonnay-based natural sparkling wine with some trepidation. We don’t sell a lot of varietally labeled chardonnay, and that’s a disgraceful reaction formation, albeit an understandable one. A lot of folks have long suffered from the California chardonnay formula: overripe fruit, lavished with lots of new oak, plus budder, so much budder that you can hear the plaque forming on your arterial walls.

But chardonnay is just a grape, unfairly pilloried by those who haven’t given it a chance. Chardonnay is an exceptionally transparent vehicle for terroir as well as winemaking intention. If you have a warm vineyard and pick your fruit late, chardonnay is perfectly happy to give you slutty, flabby, monolith wines. If you have a cool vineyard such as the Santa Cruz Mountains, or at least one in which the cooling breeze of the Pacific reaches out to caress the vines at night, and you pick grapes when they’re ripe but not excessively so, you get a more nervy, mineral, and nuanced wine. Wines that you’re happy to put in your mouth.

Tasting Mikey’s coastal-inflected pét-nat makes me a little melancholy, because I wish there were more chardonnays coming from California that dare to expose the nuances of this wonderful grape. We need to rebrand chardonnay and rename it to get folks to try it again—I suggest that we should now call it henrietta. Stop by tonight and try Mikey’s fizzy henrietta!

Thursday, 8/3
6-8 PM $15 no reservations

Los Angeles natural wine organic biodynamic orange
Le Soula “Trigone” blanc #15
Fabien Jouves “You Fuck My Wine?!” Vin de France 2016
Cazottes “Marcotte” Braucol-Duras Vin de France 2015
Nicolas Carmarans “Maximus” Averyon 2015
Elian da Ros “Lew Vin Est un F
ête” Côte du Marmandais 2014
Domaine des Costes Rouges “Tandem” Marcillac 2014

The southwest of France is a place marked less by a strict geographical delimitation than by a very old political-economic division between north and south. Bordeaux, geographically, is in the southwest of France, but politically and for our purposes viticulturally, is really in the north. You see, for centuries the Bordelaise exerted a hydraulic power over the south. Landlocked farmers and manufacturers in the southwest were utterly dependent upon the good graces of the Bordelaise, who controlled the Gironde and Garonne rivers with extortionate taxes and were thus able to favor their own exports. Sure, go ahead and send your stuff up the river, but we’ll tax the hell out of it! If you were a winegrower in the southwest and managed to get a few barrels of your wine into port, it would be a wash, as the taxes levied along the way would exceed your profit margin. Even though the Canal de Midi and the railroads would eventually break the stranglehold of Bordeaux, you can still see the effects of isolation everywhere, including wine.

Not to put a silver lining on the situation, but the forced isolation of the southwest meant that growers in the southwest satisfied the sensibilities of local markets and continued to cleave to their unique and antique local grape varieties, several of which will be on glorious display tonight. That which does not kill me makes me stronger. Grapes such as jurançon noir, fer servadou (of which we will taste in two very different wines), duras, and abouriou, but also white grapes, but we will wait for another day to tell the story of those.

Saturday, July 29
Taste pineau d’aunis
3-7 PM $15

Los Angeles natural wine organic biodynamic orange pineau d'aunis
Today we’re tasting five different wines made from the medieval marvel, pineau d’aunis. Pineau d’aunis (“pee-no doh-niece”)? Say the grape’s name out loud and it sounds slightly suspect or even lascivious to the ears of a juvenile Anglophone, but get your mind out of the gutter: the origins of the name are entirely G-rated. Pineau, an alternate spelling of pinot, refers to the variety’s pinecone-shaped clusters, whereas aunis refers to the tiny medieval province of Aunis, which was once situated on the central Atlantic coast of France. So, pineau d’aunis = that grape variety with pinecone shaped clusters that originated (or was favored by) the archaic province of Aunis.

But enough etymology, what about the grape? Other than sharing a morphological feature, pineau d’aunis has zero connection, genetic or organoleptically, to pinot noir. Pineau d’aunis is a unique, pre-modern grape variety that some love and some love to hate. It expresses something essential about the Loire valley, where archaic grape varieties such as menu pineau and fié gris are somehow permitted, if just barely, within an oft-times overbearing straight jacket of appellation regulations, a Cartesian system that vectors in on what’s right and wrong while erasing or simply ignoring what’s historic, specific, and wondrous.

First documented in the 13th century, pineau d’aunis is a grape whose heyday was probably the late middle ages, and although there are still about 1,000 acres of it under cultivation, it will be henceforth forever be consigned to the category of the vestigial and historical oddity. It’s not for everyone, but that’s OK. I don’t like or understand strawberry ice cream, but understand that there are those who do, and accept that it’s a legitimate flavor. For those of us who appreciate pineau d’aunis, we really, really dig it, and the only way to find out if you do is to taste. It’s an untamed, pre-modern grape variety that doesn’t really conform to modern notions of how a red grape must behave. Pineau d’aunis is Janus-faced: one side is light, crunchy, rhubarb-cranberry-sour cherry-white pepper; the other is dark, brooding, and inflected by graphite-y petrichor. Drinking these wines evokes a forested medieval landscape from which you half-expect Robin Hood to emerge. You really cannot grow wealthy by selling pineau d’aunis wine, but a hardy band of vigneron, I call them the Aunisienne, continue to work with it. If you see a wine made from pineau d’aunis, it probably comes an Aunisienne who give a shit about their viticultural patrimony and digs wines made from the grape.

Ludovic Chanson “Ich i Go” Vin de France pét-nat rose NV
Jean-Pierre Robinot “L’as des années folles” Vin de France NV
Dinocheau pineau d’aunis Vin de France 2016
Emile Hérédia “Le Verre des Poètes” Vin de France 2012
La Grapperie “Adonis” Vin de France 2015

Friday July 28
Taste the fantastic Beaujolais of Jean-Louis Dutraive
6-8 PM $15

Los Angeles natural wine Beaujolais organic biodynamic orange wine
I dig Beaujolais. So much so, I’ve self-consciously had to tone down my public exuberance for it, as I fear my incessant yammering about Beaujolais makes me out to be even more of an insufferable bore than I really am. My relationship to natural wine is a result of tasting a cru Beaujolais, Foillard’s Morgon, many years ago. Modern natural wine began in Beaujolais, and the wines of the appellation remain a touchstone for me. Why? Because the very good basic wines of the appellation are just about perfect adult beverages for Los Angeles: thirst-quenching and reanimating in the way few other light red wines can match; the more serious and structured cru wines manage to remain soif-y, but have tremendous depth of flavor without attendant extract or alcohol. You see, here I go, yammering again!

Tonight, we’re tasting five wines from Jean-Louis Dutraive, an under-the-radar Beaujolais grower who has become one of my very favorite in the appellation. Dutraive took over the family domain in the late 80s and has quietly made a name for himself in the region and beyond. Dutraive began transitioning the domain’s vineyards to organic farming and achieved ECOCERT certification in the late 90s. In the cellar, he employs traditional Beaujolais semi-carbonic vinification, but uses zero sulfites or other additives during fermentation — these are naked wines that are pellucid reflections of good old-fashioned farming and the exceptional terroir in which the vines grow. 2016 was a disaster for Dutraive, with hail destroying most of his Fleurie grapes. Fortunately, he could source some exceptional fruit from another rockstar Fleurie farmer, Jean-Claude Chanudet, and was able to make some lovely wine despite the vagaries of the weather in 2016. Jean-Louis reached out even further afield in 201 and purchased a bit of carignan and cinsault from the south of France. We’ll taste the carignan tonight, a wine that speaks of the sunny south of France but vinified semi-carbonic as are all Dutraive’s wines, so it’s juicy and light, light, light.

Famille Dutraive Chénas 2016
Jean-Louis Dutraive Fleurie 2016
Domaine de la Grand’Cour Brouilly Vielles Vignes 2016
Domaine de la Grand’Cour Fleurie Vielles Vignes 2016
Famille Dutraive “Cap au Sud” Minervois Carignan 2016

Saturday, June 22
3-7 PM no reservations needed

Los Angeles natural wine orange wine biodynamic
The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis asserts that the boundaries of our worldview are defined by the language we speak. Different languages parse the world in incommensurate ways. Perhaps the most famous, if alas inaccurate, popularization of the hypothesis is the claim that the Inuit have dozens of adjectives for snow. The Italians have two words with which to describe wines that have fizz, whereas in the US we’re stuck with just one. Frizzante wines are those that are gently fizzy; spumante wines are wines that are vigorously fizzy, like Champagne. While there are no true English language cognates for these phrases the difference between the two is easy to grasp, especially once you’ve tried the wines. And there’s more to the distinction than just differing atmospheres of pressure. Frizzante wines are often less expensive than spumante. They’re typically simple, everyday fun times wines, refreshing and great beverages with food, whereas spumante wines like Franciacorta are possibly more apposite for toasting special occasions. Today, we’re tasting five dry, rustic Italian frizzante wines that are meant for summertime drinking with food and friends. In addition, we’re tasting five light bodied red wines that have no bubbles but are equally appropriate respites for the heat, perfect for sitting on your ass in the shade and calling out for more.

Rustic Italian dry frizzante wine tasting $20
Quarticello “Despina” Malvasia Emilia 2014
Saliceto “Falistra” Lambrusco di Modena NV
Croci Gutturnio 2012
Quarticello “Neromaestri” Lambrusco Emilia 2013
Zanotto Col Fondo Rosso NV

Light red wine tasting $20
Domaine des Accoles “Le Cab’” Ardèche
Domaine La Grange Aux Belles “La Nina” gamay Vin de France
Domaine de la Pinte “Pinte Bien” Poulsard Arbois 2014
Pithon-Paillé “Grololo” Vin de France grolleau 2015
Boniperti “Favolalunga” Vespolina Colline Novaresi 2014

Thursday, July 20
6-8 PM
$20

Los Angeles natural wine organic biodynamic orange
Thursday, July 20, 2017
Goodbye, JD tasting!
Taste JD’s selection of exciting Spanish wines, et al. tonight
6-8 PM $20 + 10 percent off any wine tasted

JD’s last night at the shop is tonight. While I am sad to lose JD, I am also excited for him and am looking forward to following his trajectory in the wine world, as yet a terra incognita. JD has been an invaluable asset to me, helping me open the shop in 2014. He’s moving on to work with an importer that I work with very closely, and so his presence, intelligence, and wit will remain close at hand. Please stop by tonight and taste some exceptional wines and toast an exceptional fellow.

JD asked to pour a special flight of wines tonight—wines that mean a lot to him, and so that’s what we’re pouring. I think the tasting is a fitting farewell. We’re starting with two exemplary white wines, both bone dry and so packed with minerals you may want to remove your dentures before you take a sip. One is Sketch, an extraordinarily rare albariño from the masterful Raúl Pérez, which was and may still be aged underwater. The other is Arnaud Lambert’s Clos de La Rue, a chenin blanc that is scandalously underpriced but will surely not remain so as the rest of the world wakes up and sees the great work he’s accomplished in just a few short years at the historic Château de Brézé. Then, two red wines. One, from the Envínate project, an old vines mencia from vineyards so close to the Atlantic the growers fit each vine with grandma knit macramé hemp onesies so that they don’t take a chill in the evening. The other a nebbiolo from Luigi Ferrando, a brilliant grower in Alto Piemonte who makes tiny quantities of highly allocated and sought after red wine. We’re tasting his Etichetta Nera, a wine that he makes only in exceptional vintages, such as the 2013 we’re tasting tonight.

Château de Brézé “Clos de la Rue” Saumur 2014 $50/btl
Raul Perez “Sketch” Rías Baixas 2014 $60/btl
Envínate “Lousas” Ribeira Sacra 2015 $32/btl
Ferrando “Etichetta Nera” Carema 2013 $95/btl

Sat July 15
3-7 PM
Large Marge + Philippe Tessier
$30 (or $15 wine tasting only)

 
Today’s tasting:
Unnaturally delicious snacks from Large Marge + natural wines of Philippe Tessier
3-7 PM
$30 (or $15 for the wine tasting only)

Today, we have a don’t miss this tasting! We have Courtney McBroom of Large Marge in the shop to tender to you an array of unnaturally delicious snacks, with which we are pairing French natural wines of Philippe Tessier. We have Michael Tesarek, Phillipe’s importer, in the shop, too, to tell us about the wines. Frito croquettes paired with old vine romorantin? You’ve gotta see it to believe it!

Pizza wedges! Frito croquettes! Chili shrimp! There will be (edible?) Jell-O molds, too with floating doll; eyeballs.

Domaine Phillippe Tessier “Sables” Coeur Cheverny 2015
Domaine Phillippe Tessier “Coganis” Vin de France 2015
Domaine Phillippe Tessier Cheverny Rouge 2016
Domaine Phillippe Tessier “Pont du Jour” Cheverny Rouge 2015