Thursday, September 7 tasting
Bodegas Moraza!
6-8 PM / $12 / no reservations needed

Los Angeles natural wine organic biodynamic terroir rioja
Tonight, please join us for a special in-store tasting with two real live winegrowers whom we’ve imported all the way from Spain: Patricio Brongo and Janire Moraza. The Moraza family has long roots in Spain’s Rioja region and has been farming there for six generations (six generations ago, my people were farming, too, in-between exclaiming, “oh dear, torch-bearing Cossacks are at the door, again!”). Aging wine in new oak is terribly common today in Rioja, but the problem with this practice is that the resulting wines often end up tasting more of the barrel than the land from which they are borne. This may make a more familiar wine that pleases some imaginary international palate but also makes for a more boring and generic style of Rioja. The Morazas use little or no new barrels and believe that the voice of terroir in Rioja Alta speaks most eloquently when it is not choked by artifacts of élevage . They are committed to organic farming practices, native yeast fermentation, and vinification without additives. These are exciting, fresh style Riojas, and we have three wines to try tonight, each made mono-varietally from one of the three main Riojana grape varieties: a gluggy, tempranillo-based wine, fermented and aged in concrete; a perfumed wine made from graciano, a grape that was once considered the crown jewel of Rioja but today is mostly relegated to the role of blending partner; and a slightly more structured garnacha-based wine.

Bodega Moraza Tempranillo Rioja 2014 ($20)
Bodega Moraza “4 Caminos” Graciano Rioja 2015 ($25)
Bodega Moraza Garnacha Rioja 2014 ($25)

Saturday, September 2
3-7 PM

Los Angeles natural wine orange organic biodynamic
I have one word for you during these desperate dog days of summer: Gold Bond Medicated Powder. That’s four words, but nothing does a better job at combatting chafing than Gold Bond, believe me. I have some other words, too, but my heat-addled brain has deflated like a failed soufflé, and I cannot enumerate them: Loire Valley chenin blanc, and light-bodied French wines to serve as cold as you please. We’re pouring two tastings today. One tasting showcases different faces of the chenin blanc polyhedron, from lean and flinty to luscious yet dry-as-a-bone. The other tasting is of four red wines, all of which meet the Lou test of chillability: (a) low in tannin; (b) low in extract; (c) no or minimal use of new oak barrels; (d) low-ish in alcohol. You supply your own funnel.

Loire Valley chenin blanc tasting $15

Domaine Gigou “Cuvée Saint Jacques” Jasnières 2013
Thibaud Boudignon Anjou Blanc 2015
Bertin-Delatte “l’Echalier” Vin de France 2013
Stephane Cossais “Le Volagré” Montlouis-sur-Loire 2008

Light-bodied, cold French red wine tasting $15

Pithon-Paillé Bourgeuil 2014
Plageoles “Bro’cool!” Gaillac 2016
Domaine Gigou “Cuvée Gigou’t” Gamay 2012
Philippe Tessier Cheverny 2016

Saturday, August 26
3-7 PM / $12 / no reservations needed

Los Angeles natural wine organic biodynamic pet-nat
Today, we have two different tastings, one of crisp natural sparkling wines (aka “pétillant-naturel”), the other of light, savory red wines. The pét-nat tasting consists of three dry, wild-yeast fermented sparkling wines made using the archaic pétillant-naturel technique, in which the winemaker simply bottles a wine before it completes fermentation (there’s more to it than that, and it is a bit of black magic, but this is the gist of it). They do this to capture the last bit of bubbles created by the yeasts as they finish off the residual grape sugars, a process that creates a lightly fizzy wine often clouded with the remnants of yeast. The red tasting consists of three light bodied reds, perfect for sitting on your arse as the enervating sun sets and you begin to contemplate assuaging the demands of your cake hole.

Pet-nat tasting $12

Scar of the Sea Pet-nat 2016
Conestabile della Staffa “Il Brosio” Umbria Rosato 2016
Le Rocher des Violettes “Pétillant Originel” 2014
Light & savory red tasting $12

Heger Pinot Noir Baden/Germany 2014
Tiago Teles “Gilda” Bairrada/Portugal 2015
Benoit Roseau “Syrah de Rosette” Collines Rhodaniennes/France 2014

Friday, 8/25
$12 / 6-8 PM / no reservations

In the spring of 1907, the southern French town of Montpelier saw a succession of natural wine riots. These were riots instigated by agitated vigneron, furious about a flood of artificial “wines” made from distilled alcohol and who-knows-what-else, and cold-climate French wines, ordinarily thin and reedy but artificially plumped up, made so by unethical winemakers who added sugar on the down-low. In a market that was awash with dirt-cheap fake wines, the vigneron of the Languedoc stood by and watched while the value of their labor fell to near zero. The riots began small and then grew quite large and violent, with the June 9th riot reaching, perhaps, nearly a million people strong. The unregulated flow of fake wines was a disaster for a local economy utterly dependent upon grape growing and winemaking. By mid-June, the rioting had spread to Narbonne, where rioters freaked out and burned down a government building. The situation became so dangerous that Clemenceau sent in the army to quell the riot. This was a very bad idea, with soldiers shooting randomly into a mob of rioters, killing one man; the next day, more panicky shooting, and five more protesters dead.

Tonight, in honor of our natural wine brethren of days gone by, we present four natural wines from the south of France.

Henri Milan Brut Rosé 2015 $26
Henri Milan “Le Vallon” 2010 $24
Domaine Ribiera “Tintorela” Vin de France 2014 $20
Maxime Magnon “Campagnes” Corbières 2015 $47

Saturday, August 19
3-7 PM $12 no reservations

Los Angeles natural wine orange biodynamic organic Austria
Saturday, August 19 tasting
Meet winemaker David Laski of Solminer
3-7 PM / $12 no reservations required / 10% off any wine tasted

Solminer “Coquelicot” dry sparkling riesling Santa Barbara 2016
Solminer “Skin Ferment” grüner veltliner Los Olivos 2016
Solminer “Rubellite” syrah Santa Ynez Valley 2014
Solminer “DeLanda” Blaufränkisch Santa Barbara County 2015

We’re excited to have David and Anna de Laski of Solminer, back in the shop today to pour their poised Central Coast wines. Where most of the Central Coast takes its cues from the Northern Rhône or Burgundy, the de Laski’s vinous heart lies in Austria and they have taken the road less traveled. Anna is Austrian, and David has spent quite a bit of time there, but Mitteleuropa is more of a touchstone for them than a filial obligation. They work with the traditional aromatic varieties of Austria, grüner veltliner and riesling, but they transpose them in ways that make sense on California’s Central Coast. So, there’s grüner, but not a crunchy, mineral-packed grüner from the Wachau, but rather a dry, luscious skin contact orange wine, made by fermenting with the skins of the grapes. There’s riesling too, but made neither into dry or fruity still wine, but made into a dry, rustic natural sparkling wine, wild yeast fermented and with zero added sugar.

These are honest and beautifully balanced wines, made from organically farmed grapes and fermented with wild yeasts and aged either in neutral vat or in older barrel. Even their syrah—light and fresh rather than dark and extracted—is infected by a sensibility that’s half-way between Central Europe and the Central Coast. It’s picked early and co-fermented with a touch of riesling (much in the way northern Rhône syrah is often co-fermented with a touch of viognier), and we’ll serve it cold. We’ll taste these, plus the de Laski’s blaufränkish, a traditional Austrian variety that they thought might work well on the Central Coast, a gamble that turned out to be a good one.

Friday, August 18
6-8 PM no reservations needed $12

Los Angeles natural wine orange organic biodynamic no sulfites Greek wine
Sclavos Alchymiste 2015 Aenos/Greece 2015
Sclavos Meganitnion 2014 Aenos/Greece 2014
Domaine Glinavos Vlahiko Ionnina/Greece 2013
Economou Liatiko 2006 Crete/Greece 2006

Beyond the very occasional exposure to a cheap glass of retsina, be honest with yourself and ask: what does Greek wine mean to you? To be sure, there is a fair amount of Greek wine available to me as a wine buyer. There are many technically perfect modern wines that more often or not are not terribly inspired, very fine, but with only the modest ambition of meeting one criterion: price. No matter how well made and appealing, Greek wines feel bogged down in the labyrinth of the value wine. And this is a shame, as Greece is graced with all manner of historical, autochthonous, and peculiar grape varieties, many of which are grown nowhere else on earth.

All of this changed for me when I began tasting wines selected by New York based Greek wine importer, Dionysi Graventis, whose wines we will taste tonight. Dionysi’s portfolio was the first book in which each wine was bright and alive, ranging from a simple, inexpensive moschofilero, dry, crisp, and aromatic, to the tiny, odd-shaped bottle of skin-contact fizzy debina that makes me laugh every time I drink it, to the complex and perfumed liatiko that I’ve been stocking and restocking for the past two years. Dionysi is coming back to Los Angeles sometime this fall and we’ll surely hold a grand tasting with him then, but in the meantime, you really must taste these exciting wines and see what you’ve been missing.

Tonight, we have Dionysi’s distributor, Casey O’Brien, on hand to pour the wines and tell us about them. Casey’s pouring two very different white wines from the Greek natural wine grower Evriviadis Sclavos, a biodynamic grower on the island of Kefalonia. The alpha is dry, crisp and briny, made from roditis grape; the omega is luscious, nutty, and oxidative, made without added sulfites. Following that, two red wines, one from the mainland, dark-as-the-night and made from vlahiko, dry, earthy, and mineral; the other is an otherworldly liatiko from Crete that is dry, delicately perfumed, and with ten years of bottle age.

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!