|On Saturday, we have two special guests visiting the shop. To nourish us, we have our old friend, Zach Walters, from Salt’s Cure, here with his riff on the classic Vietnamese bánh mì sandwich, prepared with a mix of house-made charcuterie, including their fabulous pork trotter terrine. Zach’s even baking some French sourdough loaves, and there will be pickled vegetables. And to help us slake our collective thirsts we have our new friend, Ruby Martin of natural wine importer Critical Mass Selections, here to pour some fearless Italian and Portuguese natural wines. Ruby will pour an ultra-crisp, dry natural sparkling wine, made from the ultra-neutral, acid freak ortrugo grape, a superb friulano from a Fukuoka no-till organic vineyard, and then a rare red Vinho Verde, no spritz, yet fresh and zingy.
Salt’s Cure bánh mì + wine tasting: $20
Wine tasting alone: $12
Croci “Lubigo” Vino Bianco Frizzante NV
Borc Dodon “Sandrigo” Friulano 2015
António Pereira “Tinto Bom” Vinho Verde 2010
|Tonight, we are pouring three brilliant wines from the center section of the France’s Loire valley, all grown not far from the town of Tour. We’re starting with a wine from a singular young grower, Stéphane Cossais, who was, before his untimely death, well on his way to becoming one of the most electrifying practitioners of chenin blanc of his generation. This is a dry, organically farmed wine from a single vineyard, and it spent two years in large, older barrels. The wine was meant to age, and with eight years in the bottle, it’s just now ready to drink. We’re following this with two red wines: one, an old vine côt (AKA malbec), with some vines as old as 120 years, a little leathery, and the other, a wine made from a magical blend of côt, gamay, and the secret ingredient of medieval France, pineau d’aunis.
Stéphane Cossais “Le Volagré” Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008
Philippe Tessier “Coganis” Vin de France 2015
Le Rocher des Violettes Côt Vieilles Vignes 2014
Tonight, join us and Bethany Kacich from importer David Bowler, to taste five uncommon wines from one of Spain’s most dynamic and unexpected wine growing regions, the Canary Islands. We’ll taste a range of wines made from rare grapes such as marmajuelo and baboso negro, all organically farmed and made with honesty and integrity.
The Canary Islands were formed 11 million years ago by a volcanic eruption from the Atlantic sea floor. 11 million years is a long time for humans but for the earth, it’s fairly recent history, and the signs of prehistoric volcanism are visible everywhere here. It’s hard to imagine anything growing on what, to an outsider, appears to be a foreboding black basaltic landscape that is as hostile to life as that of the moon, and yet Canarians, as desperate as anyone for a drop of wine, have cultivated grape vines for centuries. The tradition on the Canaries is to dig out what amount to fox holes for each head-trained vine, sometimes supplemented with a small berm of rocks, to protect the vines from the relentless winds blowing west from Africa. The result is otherworldly vineyards that look like something cooked up by the fevered imagination of an adolescent science fiction aficionado. Complicating matters even further, the geographical and social isolation of these islands, lying hundreds of miles south of the Iberian Peninsula, means that you will find antique grape varieties there that originated on the mainland some time ago but are today extinct, save for plantations on the Canaries. All of this wouldn’t matter one whit if the wines were mere historic curiosities, but the wines are vivid and distinctive, with some growers pushing the edge of the envelope with what to expect from forsaken viticultural regions.
Bermejos Rosado 2015 Tenerife
Ignios Orígenes Marmajuelo 2014 Tenerife
Frontón de Oro Tinto 2014 Gran Canaria
Ignios Orígenes Baboso Negro 2013 Tenerife
Ignios Orígenes Listán Negro 2013 Tenerife
|Today we’re pouring two tastings. The first is of dry, minerally German rieslings because I advocate drinking riesling with your Easter meal, and in general drinking good riesling when you can. The other is of French red wines that, for various reasons, violate local standards and thus may only be called, simply, French wine, a moniker meant as a punishment yet one that adventurous wine drinkers increasingly ignore. The riesling tasting, all dry, acid-freak, minerally wines, starts with two vintages from Gunderloch (one of which is from a privileged, single vineyard); the third wine is from cult genius Florian Lauer. The red tasting starts with a brutal blend of mourvèdre and old vine carignan from France’s deep southwest, whole cluster fermented for your early drinking pleasure, continues on with a carignan-grenache blend from Roussillon, this one with a few years of bottle age, and then finishes up with a pineau d’aunis, light and spiced with the aromatics of a medieval apothecary in a glass.
Vin de France tasting $15
Brutal Wine Corporation “Brutal!!!” Vin de France 2012
Jean-Philippe Padié “Ciel Liquide” Vin de France 2011
Brendan Tracey Pineau d’Aunis Vin de France 2015
Ultra-dry & minerally German riesling tasting (no sugar, promise!) $15
Gunderloch Nierstein Riesling trocken 2014 Rheinhessen/Germany
Gunderloch Nierstein “Rothenberg” Großes Gewächs Riesling trocken 2015 Rheinhessen/Germany
Lauer “Saarfeilser” Großes Gewächs Riesling 2015 Saar/Germany
|Ricardo Zanotto is an animated and engaged Italian winemaker, now making any number of different wines, some more straightforward, others more on the spectrum. He’s mostly a maker of dry sparkling wines, although none are named Prosecco, the traditional sparkling wine of his region—though he could if he wanted to, produce a wine labeled as such. Instead, he tows a different line and makes the sort of yeasty, rustic sparkling wines that existed before the industrial era. Tonight, we’re starting out with two of his wines, one is a wine made from glera, the primary grape that goes into all Prosecco, but here fermented as a dry, wine, texturally chalky, but entirely without bubbles; the other, a dry sparkling red, a little funky, is made primarily from marzemino. We’re finishing the tasting with a delicately peppery grignolino, a Piemontese grape seemingly born for making gluggy, everyday red wines that appreciate being served cool. And, if you dare, a fantastic by-the-glass wine from Laura di Collobiano, a meticulous farmer of beautifully crafted, non-douchey Tuscan wine, biodynamically grown and mostly sangiovese, that, hell, I guess I could call a Tuscan, but I just can’t, as that name typically implies a ripe, fruit-forward oak bomb wine, whereas this wine is lean, earthy.
Zanotto “Fermo” Vino da Tavola NV
Zanotto “Rosso col Fondo” Vino Rosso Frizzante NV
Francesco Rinaldi Grignolino d’Asti 2015
Friday fancy by-the-glass: Tenuta di Valgiano Colline Lucchesei 2013 ($98/btl, $8 2 oz.)
|Tonight we have two French vigneron visiting from young domains, Domaine des Hauts Baigneux, and Clos Signadore, and another young French winemaker working from Bertrand, his established family’s domaine.
From the Loire we have Philippe Mesnier visiting from a very young domain indeed, the four-year-old Domaine des Hauts Baigneux. In 2013, Philippe and his partner, Nicolas Groisbois, purchased thirty acres of vines in Azay-le-Rideau, situated not far from Chinon. There they are part of a modest grolleau renaissance, a variety scorned by some and which yet finds itself undergoing a modest revival as vigneron reevaluate its telos, which is to produce thirst-quenching wines with startling low levels of extract and alcohol that a lot of us like to guzzle. We’re tasting grolleau in two forms tonight, blended with various other traditional grapes such as gamay and cab franc: one is a dry, naturally sparkling rosé; the other is a light-bodied, chillable red.
From Corsica, we have Christophe Ferrandis of Clos Sigadore. Christophe first studied classics and later enology, and worked at Chateau Pibnaron in Bandol for a stint in the late 90s. In 2001, he planted his own estate, mostly from scratch, up in the mountainous Patrimonio hinterlands in the north of Corsica. Certified organic since 2013, all his wines are fermented with indigenous yeast in stainless steel vats. He’s doing wonderful, fresh work there with the native nielluccio grape, and we’ll be tasting both his nielluccio rosé and red wines this evening. Nielluccio, some say, is identical or related to the Tuscan grape sangiovese, yet to me, the two grapes seem very different creatures indeed.
Finally, from Beaujolais, we have Yann Bertrand with a sparse bit of wine to show us (the current vintage is sold out, so this is a preview of wines that are not yet available to sell). Yann is a disciple of luminaries such as Foillard and Metras, and he’s taking his family domain in Fleurie to a new and exciting dimension. 2016 was a disaster for Yann in which he lost 90 percent of his grapes due to hail, so here’s your chance to preview wines
Hauts Baigneux Pétillant Naturel Rosé 2015
grolleau + gamay natural sparkling wine
Hauts Baigneux Touraine Rouge ‘Les Pentes” 2015
cab franc + gamay + grolleau
Clos Signadore Patrimonio Rosé “A Mandria” 2015
Clos Signadore Patrimonio Rouge “A Mandria” 2014
Yann Bertrand (limited quantities)
Fleurie “Phenix” 2016 June release
Fleurie Vieilles Vignes Rouge 2015 June release
Fleurie Vieilles Vignes Rouge “VVV” 2014 not for sale
|Today, two tastings of French wine, one of white wine, the other of red. These wines express something specific about their regions’ terroir and tradition, and I cannot imagine them originating from anywhere else in the world. Our white tasting starts with a wine from a brilliant new project from Alsace organic winegrower, Christian Binner, in which he’s helping to spread the word of organic farming and natural winemaking by showing young vigneron how to do it. Different vigneron grow the fruit under Christian’s tutelage and then he helps them vinify their wines without chemicals. The wine we’re tasting today is a blend of auxerrois (think of this as a demented chardonnay from Bizarro World) and sylvaner, and it’s dry, aromatic, and surprisingly fresh and lithe for an Alsace blanc. The red tasting includes a zero-sulfite cru Beaujolais and also a wine from France’s southwest that is made from abouriou by perhaps the only vigneron who holds dear the historic, honey badger grape variety of his region, cranky and rustic, as it may be.
French white tasting $15
Binner & Companie “Les Vin Pirouettes” Saveurs de Julien Alsace 2015
Domaine de Montbourgeau L’Éoile 2012
Domaine Ledogar Carignan Blanc Vin de France 2014
French red tasting $15
Dubost Moulin à Vent 2015
Elian de Ros Abouriou Côtes du Marmandais 2014
Maxime Magnon “Capgagnés” Corbiéres 2015
|On the rear label of one our wines tonight, the following epistle, in 8 pt type:
“We are simply modest size wine artisans. Sorry, but we don’t follow the market, we produce wines that we like, wines from our culture. They are what they are and not what you want them to be.”
This is a statement that might be made about all the wines we’re pouring this evening. All are wines that are what they are, made from unique, regional grape varieties that were cultivated for centuries because they do a specific thing in a specific place. No Cabernet from Tuscany but rather cesanese from the volcanic terroir of Lazio, where the locals have cultivated the grape since antiquity. These are wines that don’t try to please everyone, all the time, but some of the people, some of the time, and some of those people may be you. They are what they are not what you want them to be, wines tease us into coming out to play, to step outside of our air-conditioned nightmares and come to know what’s happening up ahead, on that island just over the horizon, where we don’t speak the language yet and nothing’s been entirely obscured by the invisible hand of the market.
Ricci “Elso” Colli Tortonesi 2007
Alagna Cesanese del Piglio 2015
Boccella Rasott” Irpinia Campi Taurasini 2010
Dettori “Chimbanta” Romangia Rosso 2013
Friday fancy by-the-glass: Ronchi di Cialla Schiopettino di Cialla 1983 ($173/btl, $15 2 oz taste)
|Not long ago, a beloved French customer was inquiring about a wine and asked me what it tasted like. I chirped, “it’s soif-y!” And he looked at me, slightly askance, and then laughed and agreed that the neologism, as awkward as it is, nevertheless works. The French phrase, “vin de soif,” typically refers to lighter bodied reds, sometimes profitably served cool, low in tannin and high in mouthwatering acidity, or crisp, crunchy dry white wines—wines that rehydrate our physiological, animal thirst, and moisten our mouths and parched throats. And yet there is a deeper, spiritual dimension of thirst that a good vin de soif also pleases, soothing not just the thirst in you, but also the beast. When you’ve been schlepping around Los Angeles on a hot day in a crappy old burnt orange Dodge Swinger, bench seats, slant six, or perhaps merely performing some mundane, routine task of the sort that saps your soul, there are wines that can wet your whistle and lighten your load. I do not know where a vin de soif will take me, but sometimes, it’s anywhere other than here, if only for a few minutes.
Stephane Serol “Turbullent” sparkling rosé NV
Domaine de l’Ecu “Classic” Muscadet 2015
Philippe Gourdon “Chenin Noir” pineau d’aunis 2014
Brendan Tracey “Wah-Wah” Vin de France 2015
|This afternoon we’re pouring two different tastings: one of white wines, the other of red.
The white tasting consists of three wines (with an optional grand cru wine for an additional $10) from the brilliant, and sadly late, Chablis grower, Stéphane Moreau. Stéphane died without warning in the summer of 2016 and although I did not know him I do feel, through his wines, that I do know something of him. This is profoundly delicious Chablis and I won’t worry about overselling you, as I don’t think it’s possible to be overly enthusiastic about Stéphane’s work. Stéphane took control of his family’s domain as a young man in the late nineties and through toil and spectacular, sensitive, organic farming, began producing some of the most beautiful and exciting wines of his region. We prize Chablis for its crisp acidity and minerality but to me, the wines are often austere and sometimes clinical-tasting, for sure more cerebral than visceral. Stephane’s wines have great acidity and minerality, too, but at their center lies a bright core of orange-lemon fruit (I want to say kumquat, but perhaps that’s just because my kumquat tree is fruiting), a striking and exciting facet of chardonnay and that makes the wines an exhilarating drink.
For the red tasting, we’re pouring three reds from the island of Sicily. Sicily has become, over the last 30 something years, a hotbed for some very good wine growing. Part of the story lies in the reevaluation of local grapes such as frappato and nerello mascalese, and we’re pouring three wines made from these two grapes today. We’re starting with two frappato based wines from the southeast of the island. First, a pure, foursquare frappato from Valle dell’Acate and then a traditional frappato/nero d’avola blend from natural wine growers COS. To follow, a remarkable, smoky nerello mascalese-based wine from the south slope of Mt Etna, Ciro Biondi’s Etna rosso, “Cisterna Fuori.” This is a single vineyard wine perched on the slopes of a volcanic crater, made from vines planted at 2,300 feet. Native yeast fermentation and aging in older barrel.