|Tonight, we’re tasting three new California wines and because it’s Friday night and you deserve it, one, one and exactly one fabulous bottle of Pascal Agrapart’s “Minéral” extra brut Champagne. The California tasting starts with Mikey Giugni’s naturally sparkling pét-nat from cool coastal California. It’s wild yeast fermented, dry and salty. To follow, two California reds: La Clarine Farm’s 2015 Cedarville Vineyard mourvèdre from the Sierra foothills, savory, earthy, and lean (only 11.5% ABV), followed by the new vintage of Jason Drew’s organically farmed Rhône blend, mostly syrah, from coastal Mendocino Ridge, which is turning out to be one of the very best sites for syrah in California.
Special Friday Fancy by-the-glass: Champagne Agrapart “Mineral” à Aviz grand cru extra brut Champagne ($120/btl) Our go-to grower Champagne is Pascal Agrapart’s “7 Crus,” his reasonably priced entry level wine made from the fruit of seven different vineyards. Tonight, we’re tasting a much more serious and complex Agrapart Champagne, his 2009 Minéral cuvée. This wine is made from older vines growing on privileged, grand cru sites. 2009 was a ripe vintage and so the texture is rich and layered, yet, true to Agrapart’s style, the whole thing is laced together with vivacious minerality, making it a blast to drink. Part of the wine spends time in larger older barrels, while the other part sees neutral tank. This is a super yeasty wine, late disgorged, after spending five years in bottle on its fine lees.
|Tonight, taste three Italian wines that express something essential about the past, present, and possible future of Italian wine. Italy, of course, is a country with a millennia-long practice of making wine and yet to me, for the most exciting wines, the Italians are ever tinkering, futzing, and playing with their past and trying to make sense of it. We’re starting with a good example of what I’m talking about: a wine from out of the past, grown on the volcanic soils of Mt Vesuvius and made from the very local grape, coda di volpe, which may or may not have been used to make the falernium, the finest wine of ancient Rome. This is a grape that seems uniquely suited to expressing the essence of volcanism, and you don’t and probably will never see coda di volpe grown anywhere else other than the northern part of Campania, where it makes dry, smoky wines with stunning minerality and mouthwatering acidity. Although Italy is not renowned for producing white wines that can age, this is indeed one that can (sometimes, we carry library selections of this same wine with ten years of bottle age). Next, we’re tasting an exciting biodynamic wine grown on the Tuscan coast, 100 percent sangiovese, wild yeast fermented and aged in the outdated 3000 liter “botti grandi,” a technique from the past that is showing us today that it is really the only way to make great, honest sangiovese. And finally, a dark-as-the-night sagrantino, a red grape for centuries monopolized by the church and made into sacramental wine, until in the 80s it became the darling child of the smack-in-the-kisser, monolithic fruit bomb ultra-oaky set. Nearly undrinkable wines, and yet here’s a wonderful example of how to do it right: a nearly ten-year-old sagrantino, fermented first in stainless, that sees only older barrel, showing how sensitive treatment and extensive bottle age can sometimes tame archaic beasts and bend them into something lovely.
Villa Dora Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Bianco 2013
Vigna i Mandorli “Vigna alla Sughera” Toscana 2011
Adanti Sagrantino di Montefalco Umbria 2008
|Today we’re offing two unique tastings: one of dry, refreshing Austrian white wines, the other of reds from the northwest of Spain. The Austrian tasting starts with Bernard Ott’s entry level grüner veltliner, a wine made by a man who looks like a linebacker and makes wines of incredible delicacy and grace. We’re following up with two increasingly far-out wines: a single vineyard statement rotgipfler, a grape whose heyday was in the 19th century but which today has become, sadly, increasingly marginalized, followed by another setting sun, a gemischter satz, the traditional wine style of Vienna which today has also, sadly, become somewhat scarce (only about 1,000 acres of these historic vineyards remain). The red tasting starts with an organically farmed, juicy garnacha from Navarra, continues with a slate-y mencia-based wine from genius Laura Lorenzo, and finishes with a complex, earthy blend that also contains mencia, but blended with a host of other Asturian grape varieties, such as carrasquín and albarín tinto.
Austrian white tasting $15
Ott “Am Berg” Grüner Veltliner Wagram/Austria 2015 ($20)
Gebeshuber “Laig:Laim” Rotgipfler Thermenregion/Austria 2013 ($51)
Wieninger “Nussberg” Gemischter Satz Wein/Austria 2013 ($43)
Spanish red tasting $12
Viña Zorzal “Malayeto” Navarra/Spain ($22)
Laura Lorenzo “Portela do Vento” Galicia/Spain 2015 ($28)
Nicolas Marcos “Pésico” Asturias/Spain ($30)
|Tonight, we have importer Jeff Morgenthal in the shop to our orange wines from Dario Prinčič. Prinčič works in the northeast corner of Italy, a place that is hard against the Slovenian border and where intrepid winegrowers like Gravner and Radikon, untethered by the oppressive constraints of conformity, began experimenting with orange wines in the 90s (experimentation is not quite the right word here, as there were orange wines in Friuli before WWII). Orange wines, for the uninitiated, are white wines fermented with the skins of the grapes (most modern white winemakers press the juice off the skins and feed the skins to the pigs), and the results sometimes exhibit an alarming orange tint, neither white, rosé, nor red.
When you drive the autostrada east through Venezia at some point you begin spotting bilingual signs in both Italian and Friulano. Friulano employs Slovenian diacritics, but these are nothing to be afraid of (Prinčič? Say “prin-chitch”—that wasn’t so difficult, was it?), and they are one indication that while you’re no longer quite in modern day Italy you are also not quite yet in Slovenia.
These are just the sorts of wines that the Keeper of Conventional Wisdom, Robert Parker, loves to hate, and while the ire of Parker does not automatically make them desirable it does give you some indication as to what you are in for: Pinot grigio the color of the setting sun; ribolla gialla, an old-fashioned grape seemingly born for orangeness; and friulano, of which there is nothing more demanded of you than Alice’s simple command, “drink me.”
When you come to know the wines from here you begin to know a little bit about Friulian identity, set firmly betwixt the risorgimento in which the modern Italian state was forged and the old ways of regional identity. These are wines that live happily far outside the mainstream of homogeneous modernity and made with techniques borrowed from the very oldest winemaking traditions of Georgia yet using ultra-regional grape varieties such as ribolla gialla and friulano.
Prinčič Friulano Venezia Giulia 2013
Prinčič Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia 2013
Prinčič Ribolla Gialla Venezia Giulia 2013
|You feel comfy and snug in your eye-rolling disdain for riesling as a “starter” wine only suited for unsophisticated, infantile palates. But you’re doing it wrong—look into my eyes, my friend, and accept that you’ve possibly never tasted a drop of the good stuff. Rieslings, like people, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but unlike people, all of them can be loveable. Do not accept the accepted wisdom formed fifty years ago in the US that riesling is treacly sweet: that wisdom ruined an entire generation for the good stuff, sweet and dry. Is it a news flash that most riesling today is dry? Dry riesling, BONE dry riesling that is so dry, stop, look, what’s that sound? It’s the sound of tumbleweeds blowing through the parched landscape of your psyche, wines with zero residual sugar and packed with minerality and refreshing, zingy acidity that have magical powers to blast through the mental fog that accompanies the Sisyphean task of schlepping through rush hour traffic. We have John Winthrop Haeger, author of “Riesling Rediscovered,” is visiting the shop on Tuesday, March 21st to debrief us, and pour three different, exemplary rieslings, all BONE dry, dry as a whistle, whatever the hell that means.
Knoll Riesling Smaragd Wachau 2015 ($45/btl)
Schäefer-Frölich “Vulkangestein” Riesling trocken Nahe 2015 ($40/btl)
Von Winning “Forster Ungeheur” Gros Gewachs Pfalz 2014 ($60/btl)
By-the-glass: Knoll “Ried Schutt” Riesling Smaragd 2015 Wachau ($158/btl, 2 oz. pour $13)
|Today, two tastings: one of French rosé from all over the color spectrum, the other of 2015 cru Beaujolais from some of the very best growers in the region. The accepted wisdom is that rosé should be a wan hue, a pale salmon, and anything else is simply dreadful dreck, best dismissed with a flick of your wrist. I do not know where this idea originates and it is surely misinformed—a sort of rosé racism that we must fight against every day, and fight we will with today’s rosé tasting. Our cru Beaujolais tasting features tremendously gifted growers who have done much to lift the wines of their region from the Doldrums of Meh, saving their patrimony from the deep blue ocean of insipid industrial wine that threatens to subsume us all.
Rosé tasting $12
Gitton “Les Romains” Sancerre rosé 2014
Château Cremade “Cabri” Palette rosé 2015
Fabien Jouves “A Table!!!” Vin de France rosé NV
Cru Beaujolais tasting $14
Yvon Métras Fleurie 2015
JP Dubost Moulin a Vent 2015
Foillard “Cote du Py” Morgon 2015
|We live in a rubber stamp sensorial world that is ever more dominated by a corporate agenda of sanitized uniformity, little boxes on the hillside, and the satisfaction of our desires with mechanically produced experiences that someone else decided we should desire. Tonight, we have three groovy winemakers in the shop who militate in their own ways against the iron cage of conformity. They’re pouring their wines and are hungry to tell you about what they do and how they do it. Chad Stock, the madman genius behind Oregon’s Minimus, will pour new releases, including his müller-thurgau pét-nat. Sebastian David will pour his protean Loire valley cabernet franc, made with zero sulfites, a wine that manages to be funky without being fucked up. And Guillaume Reynouard will pour his pineau d’aunis, a grape straight from the middle ages that is, somehow, capable of producing just the sort of wines we want to drink today—now wines that are with it, daddio.
|Tonight, four winemakers deep from the twelfth dimension descend upon the shop for an unprecedented tasting of sixteen natural wines. Please join us and our pal, the intrepid Spanish wine importer José Pastor, and experience some of the most individual and compelling wines being grown today. Encounter this invasion of Spanish and Mexican natural wine growers, taste their far-out wines, and learn about how they perform their magic in what is possibly Los Angeles’s largest tasting of Spanish and Mexican natural wines this year.
Oriol Artigas — Catalunya
La Rumbera 2015
La Prats 201
Peca d’en Blanch Blanco 2015
Peca d’en Blanch Tinto 2015
Alfredo Maestro — Castilla y Léon
Rosado Classico de Vallodolid 2015
Viña Almate 2015
El Rey del Glam 2015
El Marciano Garnacha 2013
Goyo Garcia Viadero — Ribeira del Duero
Cobero Blanco 2015
El Peruco 2012
Viñas de Arcilla 2011
Noel Téllez — Baja California
La Santa 2016
Gran Listán 2016
No Sapiens 2016
|Today, we are offering two tastings, one of dry rosé, the other of real Chianti.
We’re receiving our first new rosés of the season and given that it will be unseasonably (or if you are Scott Pruitt, seasonably) warm this weekend, I figured, what the hell, it’s time for our first rosé tasting of 2017. Really, the entire premise of today’s rosé tasting is absurd here in Los Angeles, as we regularly have warm days during which one might sit comfortably in the shade and profitably swill a dry, crisp rosé. But, if you dare to flaunt the standards of consensus reality you could show up today and taste. We will start with a crisp, dry, méthode traditionelle wine from the Jura, made in part with the magical ingredient poulsard, a grape that is only capable of making wines of the most ethereal sort, and is, in situ, known to ease the furrowed brow of woman and beast (e.g., French bulldogs) alike. We’re also tasting a biodynamically grown Austrian rosé grown on vineyards located in the mineral-rich soils of what was once an ancient seabed, and a tangy, startling low-alcohol (11.5%) grenache-based rosé from our friends Tracey and Jared Brandt.
Our red tasting is all Chianti. I feel bad for Chianti, or more accurately, bad for folks that have only tried the garbage industrial wines of the region, wines devoid of character and entirely drained of élan vital, as bland and featureless as a slice of American cheese and just as exciting. At most, Chianti has become a bit of a joke, something always conjoined to liver and fava beans. But, these poor, deprived souls don’t know what they’re missing when they eschew Chianti—but how to know, when too many of the wines of this historic region are so terribly dull they should come bundled with complementary Adderall so you can stay awake whilst attempting to drink them? Seek out the real stuff, made by traditionalists of the region, those bitter clingers to the old ways of capacious, old barrels of organic farming, wild yeast fermentation, and near-Luddite winemaking: that’s what we’re getting into on Saturday.
Rosé tasting $12
Domaine des Bodines Crémant du Jura extra brut rosé Jura/France NV
Umathum “Rosa” Burgenland/Austria 2016
Donkey & Goat “Isabel’s Cuvée” Gibson Ranch Mendocino/CA 2016
Real Chianti tasting $12
Paterna Chianti Colli Aretini DOCG 2015
Com’era Toscana 2014
Montesecondo Chianti Classico 2015
|Please join us on Thursday evening, March 9th for a special winemaker tasting with Jason Drew of Drew Family Cellars. Jason and his wife Molly, had a dream to one day make wine from their own vineyards. Trained in viticulture at UC Davis, Jason later went on for a graduate degree abroad, worked with some of the great old school producers in Napa (he was assistant winemaker for Cathy Corison) and eventually with Bryan Babcock in the Santa Rita Hills. In 2004 Jason and Molly purchased an old orchard on the cool, coastal Mendocino Ridge, where they planted syrah, pinot noir, and, oddly enough, the Galician white grape, albariño (they also kept some of the apples with which to make cider).
The Mendocino Ridge viticultural area is due southeast from the town of Mendocino, inland just a bit and walking distance to the Pacific coast. Jason farms beautifully and tends his vineyards without synthetic chemicals. The proximity to the ocean brings fog, wind, and overall cool growing conditions, all of which help the grapes retain their freshness while hanging on the vine long enough to achieve full ripeness but not over-ripeness. Jason’s winemaking is minimalistic: wild yeast fermentation in older oak barrels, some of which is whole-cluster (for fruit and a bit less tannin).
Tonight, we’re tasting Jason’s cider, made from the old apple trees still flourishing on his property; his “Orbaun,” a more democratically priced Rhône blend; and finally his field selection pinot noir and Valenti Ranch syrah. Jason’s syrah typifies his low-key approach to winemaking: during vinification, he employs no additives other than a tiny bit of the white grape viognier, a traditional co-fermentation partner with syrah in the northern Rhône. The result is indeed very northern Rhônish in style: lean and earthy rather than jammy, savory, with mouthwatering acidity. A spicy and structured syrah that you’ll want to decant for an hour, or if you can, hold on to for a few years.
Drew “Sur La Mer” brut cider Mendocino
Drew “The Ornbaun” 2015 Mendocino
Drew “Valenti Ranch” Syrah 2015 Mendocino
Drew “Field Selections” Pinot 2014 Mendocino