| Lily Davis
Marketing Communications Manager
My love for wine began soon after graduating college. I had moved to Paris to teach English. While there I became friends with a group of people from Reims (the capital of the Champagne region), and was swept up in their passion for great bubbly. So naturally I jumped at the opportunity to move to Champagne and participate in the now legendary 2002 harvest. Fully smitten by the wine bug, I moved back to the US (Manhattan) where I immersed myself in the New York City wine scene. I began as the sommelier in an upscale Midtown destination restaurant. Never one to rest I also took a job as the Marketing Events Coordinator for the Loire Valley Wine Bureau. I eventually settled down at an ahead-of-the-curve wine shop in downtown Manhattan. But, after an auspicious seven year run in NY I decided to take my wine experience to the west coast and landed in Los Angeles. Everyone back east knows that Woodland Hills Wine Co. is the go-to place in this country for Burgundy so scoring a job here seemed the natural next step. As the Marketing Communications Manager for the store, I draft email offerings, manage our social media accounts and keep our blog current and happening. I also assist Wine Director Kyle Smith with our Burgundy allocations, and do some consulting on the sales floor. Even though Im a Francophile at heart, Ive been known to wax lyrical about wine from all over, especially central Europe. And I very much enjoy talking to people, so please feel free to get in touch at any time.
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Even if you’ve spent your Saturday picnicing with friends in sprawling Buttes-Chaumont park, munching periodically on Jambon de Paris and sliced Rosette de Lyon, pretty little chèvres rolled in shallots and pink pepporcorns or wrapped delicately in a grape leaf, baguette tradition, and cherry clafoutis, pâté dappled with vinegar cornichons, sticky, custardy mango, seasonal strawberries from Belgium, and blanched salad of Alsatian white and green asparagus as you sip gastronomic Bordeaux rosé and Corsican white cooled in the stream rushing by while gulping up rare heaps of pouring summer sun, you’re still going to be hungry for dinner come 10 PM.
To eat and drink in Paris: it’s almost an embarassment of riches. The light is starting to streak the sky with black pink and orange, twilight insects buzz busily hovering over slowly dampening grass, cigarettes crackle, the wine runs out – it’s time for red anyway. Decisions are always difficult when a warm giddy summer buzz renders you languid, lazy, and content. What to do? Meals in France are long and luxuriously casual: you owe it to yourself to think it through.
At Vin des Pyrenees on Rue Beautrellis in the Marais, across the street from the apartment building Jim Morrison lived and died in, you’ll find an rich southwestern specialties dished up by pretty, smiling, polyglot waitresses, their long wavy hair tied up in shabby chic head scarves. Convivial, cosmopolitan, and candlelit, this is a place where you can speak any language you like and no one will blink and eye. The cassoulet is righteous, and the Ravioles du Royan, tiny ravioli swimming in a cream broth that’s inconceivably light, stay on your mind for years to come. The perfect excuse to drink dark, tannic Madiran…
But then there’s that Saltimbocca alla Romana at Gli Angeli, a small Roman trattoria on Rue St. Gilles behind the Place des Vosges. The veal is pounded thin, and sauteed wrapped in proscuitto (Jambon San Daniele) and sage. It’s dished up next to a mound of house-made linguini and doused in white wine brown sauce. Their Fettucini in truffle cream with proscuitto is sinfully delicious and their Linguini alla Vongole can compete at the top. Happily, they serve Allegrini wines by the glass or by the bottle.
The evening’s descent into night brings with it a chill in the air – is it enough to justify the raclette at La Grolle de Montmartre? Tucked away at the foot of Sacré-Coeur within the maze of cobbled side streets, this red-walled Savoyard gem features a prix fixe of champions: 25€ gets you a raclette of your choice (reblochon is the best and most traditional) that comes with your own personal old-school raclette oven. This allows you to designate the level of melt to your liking. With it comes a plate of perfect charcuterie and boiled potatoes to pour it on, a giant bowl of green salad with dijon vinaigrette, and a carafe of brightly acidic white wine like Rousette de Savoie or Apremont to wash it down. Worth every calorie.
Suddenly a bloody hunk of beef pops into your ken – the Côte de Boeuf at Les Galopins in the Bastille. So hard to resist. At 42€ for 2 people you get pounds of gorgeous meat, plus hand cut frites, plus bearnaise sauce and mustard. With Croze-Hermitage it scratches the carvnivore itch like little else.
Or you can hit the streets in your ‘hood and wander into the first little place that catches your eye. Luckily for travelers, it’s hard to have a bad meal in Paris. Click the links for more food visuals…
It’s 7:30 PM on an overcast Thursday in the Paris’ 11th arrondissement. You’ve been walking the grey streets of the Right Bank all day, ducking in and out of galleries and boutiques in the Marais, snacking on Nutella banana crepes and tall fizzy bottles of Badoit, taking in the architecture and monuments of a city which is a museum unto itself. Dinner plans aren’t until 10 (which jibes with the 10:30 PM sunset in summer,) and just when you make up your mind to take your book to the dazzlingly green Buttes-Chaumont park and throw down in the grass for the long, slow build toward evening, the sky opens. Torrents of fat, cold drops slam down as you fumble for your umbrella and desperately look around for rescue. Luckily, shelter is never far from sight in Paris. Relieved, you alight on the covered terrace of a capacious brasserie at Metro Oberkampf (see pic).
Rain and labile weather are charming to those travelers accustomed to Paris and these downpours always provide a bit of excitement and a chance at an unforseen break, to watch people, write an email, or notes in a journal, and have an apéro. Now – you must task yourself with the wine list, which at Parisian cafés is neither long nor complex, but bears a bit of explanation all the same.
The whole point of brasserie or café wine is to drink something inexpensive and local. For reds you’re generally looking at a list of about five selections. Up to three of those could easily be cru Beaujolais: chilled Brouilly or Cotes de Brouilly, St. Amour, and normally a Morgon, always the most recent vintage. Take the Brouilly if you like a lighter Gamay quaffer, and the St. Amour or Morgon if your palate commands darker fruit and heavier mineral character. The other star ‘rouge’ of the café list is red from the Loire; carafes of Chinon or Bourgueil (both made of Cabernet Franc) abound as they are inexpensive, refreshing, and pair with most all typical brasserie fare, from Salade de Chevre to Steak Frites. If your palate prefers a briary black cherry, eucalyptus, and light leathery/animal flavors, take the red Loire, and make sure to ask for it “au frais.”
As for whites, you’re always looking at a Muscadet, which is a bracingly DRY white wine from around Nantes on the Atlantic Coast in the Loire. Not to be confused with Muscat, which can be vinified either sweet or dry, Muscadet is vinified from the Melon de Borgogne grape and profides ideal accompaniment to oysters, other ‘fruits de mer,’ as well as potato chips, which are always a good apéro snack. You’ll also see Tariquet, a winery in the South West of France (Cotes de Gascogne) that makes 11 different wines, both white and rosé, of blends of various local grapes (Ugni Blanc aka Trebbiano, Colombard, Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, Sauvignon, Grenache, etc.) Tariquet whites are always refreshing, round, and fruity, and sell for about 2€80 the glass (can’t beat that). Finally you’ll see Vinho Verde, Portugal’s answer to the call for a light-bodied summer quaffer. Bottled with just a little carbonation, Vinho Verde taps out at about 10% alcohol and is easy to guzzle without catching too much of a buzz.
If beer is your thing, there is always the tryptic: Kronenbourg ’1664′, a French lager, Stella, a Belgian lager, and Leffe. If your choice is between Leffe Blonde and Leffe Brune, decide simply if you prefer Hogaarden or Newcastle, and the choice will make itself. You may get lucky and find German selections like Franziskaner or Ayinger, but it’s a bit more rare. There are also lighter beer drinks like Panachés and Monacos which are made combining beer with lemonade (Panaché) or lager with lemonade and grenadine (Monaco). These can be are a refreshing and slightly sweet alternative to beer or wine.
Want to drink like a Parisian without the cost of airfare? Try these:
And feel free to get in touch if you want to talk more about French wines of everyday – firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about dry rosé? For most, it’s the Cotes de Provence, illustrious south-of-France motherland of pale pink juice for summer. I too venerate the gorgeous landscape, fields of sunflowers and artichokes, gravelly hillsides, seaside towns, bouillabaisse, and guzzlable wines. But while we do have Provence to thank for leading the charge on dry rosé, it is by no means the alpha and the omega. Rosé is produced all over the world now, from Seattle to Sagaponack to Stellenbosch, and stylistically they are as varied as the lands from which they inspire.
There are two common ways to produce rosé: skin contact, and saignée.With the first method, black-skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period of time, typically one to three days.The must is then pressed, and the skins are discarded rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain tannin and other compounds, thereby giving the juice structure. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the deeper the color and richer the texture of the rosé.
Rosé can also be produced as a by-product of red wine fermentation using a technique known as Saignée, or bleeding. When a winemaker wishes to impart more tannin and color to his red wine, some of the pink juice from the must is be removed at an early stage. The red wine remaining in the vats is intensified as a result of the bleeding; the volume of the must is reduced, and thus more concentrated. The pink juice that’s removed is the Saignée that’s fermented separately to produce rosé.
Some of my favorite south of France selections this year are the MIP which is gossamer pink in color. Made of Cinsault with Syrah and Grenache, it’s medium bodied with plenty red fruit, orange zest and clean acidity. Another light-colored quaffer is the Grimaud Golfe de St. Tropez, which is Grenache with Cinsault & Carignan. Bright and herbal, this wine smacks of freshness, and has a pretty label.
As for Pink Sancerre, the Reverdy Terre de Maimbray (100% Pinot Noir) is delicate, with raspberry and cherry on the nose leading to a mouthful of chalky minerals on the palate. Over in the Pfalz in Germany, Von Buhl is also doing nice rosé of Pinot Noir. Pale salmon in color, is lightly effervescent on the palate with plenty of vim and vigor. If spritz tickles your fancy, try the watermelon-colored Ameztoi Basque Txakolina rosé made of indigenous Basque grapes Hondarribi Beltza & Hondarribi Zuri. It’s attractive color conceals an equally appealing bitterness on the finish that makes it super food friendly. The Chidaine Touraine is the oddball of the group – orangy in color, it’s made of Pinot and Loire indigenous grape Grolleau and has good grip.
But sometimes you want something with a little more muscle. If you need something to match the ribs, burgers, or tuna steaks on the grill but don’t want to bring a red and think a white is too flimsy, Mulderbosch rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa is a sure thing. It’s dark red hue is sexy like a rosato cerasuolo, and it’s rich with pomegranite and eucalyptus on the palate and lavender on the nose. Another rosé of heft is Le Roc Fronton Saignée, which is made of peppery Negrette. It’s good with BBQ and pizza. The wines are inexpensive, which is always a good thing for afternoon parties, since chances are you’re going to need more that one or two bottles.
The Cotes to Provence will always be the spiritual home of rosé, as well as a powerhouse in production (80% of their output is the pink stuff), and you can generally count on it for a satisfying glass if you’re out at a restaurant or cafe and you need something to sate your thirst. But if you’re feeling adventurous, or if you love the diversity of rose as I do, try something different. I guarantee it will delight.
If you covet the zingy, electric minerality of Sancerre, and the lime-pungent funk of Smaragd Gruner, but want to keep the price per bottle below $20, do yourself a solid and check out Slovenian whites. They’re salty, offbeat little numbers that satisfy a craving for quaffing like little else.
I ordered my first glass of Slovenian white out of sheer curiosity at Hearth, Riesling Chairman Paul Greico’s New York City flagship, in 2008. It was an unpronounceable white, which I’d clearly never heard of. Intrigued, I tasted, thought, then tasted again. Exotic pink grapefruit and classy, restrained saline minerals on the finish lingered in my mind. I finished my glass and promptly another before we even sat down to table.
Fast forward a couple years: Blue Danube, a small import outfit out of Palo Alto specializing in central European selections is making headway; Slovenian autochthonic varietals are appearing on the lists of the cognoscenti: Anfora and Terroir in New York, Bar Covell , Lou, and Gjelina in LA. Skin macerated whites (see my earlier post on Orange Wine), a practice widely elaborated in Friuli, Primorja (Brda, Vipava,) and the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, are gaining appeal in somm and consumer circles alike. Slowly but surely, this tiny country nestled into an Alpine enclave between Italy (Friuli) Hungary, Austria, and Croatia, which has quietly produced wine for 2 millennia, is establishing itself on the radar of savvy wine drinkers.
Part of the allure is that Slovenian producers are widely iterating organic and biodynamic viticulture, and that small production wine opens the door for use of natural practices. Batic Winery (in the odd-shaped bottle) was founded in 1592; their belief in making wine with minimal interference long precedes the current ‘natural wine’ fashion trend. Fermenting with indigenous yeasts and without temperature control echo the customs of their predecessors, and also make for incredibly unique bottlings. Kabaj Winery, the culmination of a Brda viticultural family and a French oenologist, applies all organic treatments in the vineyards and ferments without added yeast. In the inland appellation of Podravje, Kogl is crafting fresh, bright whites of madcap combinations (their flagship Magna Dominica is Yellow Muscat, Auxerrois, and Riesling, vinified dry) that buzz with firm acidity and minerality.
These wines offer an enlightening alternative to the same old standby whites in your fridge. They also pair well with difficult-to-match cuisines like Thai, Malaysian, and Indian.
Here are a few of my current favorites:
2010 Kogl Mea Culpa Pinot Gris – Spritzy and fresh, medium-bodied with lime and white pepper. Guzzlable.
2009 Kogl Magna Dominica Albus – Yellow Muscat, Riesling, Auxerrois. Aromatic white flowers on the nose with pear and mirabelle on the palate. Long finish.
2009 Kabaj Rebula Goriska Brda – 100% Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) Clove, cinnamon and lemon peel on the nose lead to deep macerated orange on the palate. Lots of grip – funky spicy.
2008 Batic Pinela Vipavska Dolina – 100% Pinela. Autolytic apricot on the nose leads to glyceriny Golden Delicious Apple on the palate. Pleasantly oxidative, with a full mineral finish.
Give them a whirl as the weather heats up. And let us know what you think. Thanks!
Yesterday’s Dry Wine Tour hosted annually by Rudi Wiest Selections pulled a quite a crowd. And thank goodness, because the 35 dry German wines reds and whites we tasted ranged from superb to absolute knock outs, rife with the power, intensity, and the sleek minerality that only cool climate wines can amalgamate.
Dry Wine Tour (for whom LA was their 7th stop in 10 days) featured the wines of 7 different houses, and represented the gamut of regional styles, from elegant Rheingau, to exotic Pfalz, Mediterranean Baden, and fresh, fruity Franken. Palpable passion exhibited in the words and gestures of these German wine makers shone through any language barriers. It was a pleasure to listen to Markus Mleinek, winemaker at Dr. Heger/Weinhaus, who is a zaftig sort of guy, giggle about how important food-friendliness is to him in the Pinot Gris & Pinot Blancs he crafts. “As you can see by looking at me, I like to eat, I like to cook [pause] with a lot of butter and cream [laughs, audience laughs] and I want my wines to work well with the foods I cook.” We tasted through his Baden lineup and the whites were like no wines I’ve ever had from Germany, weighty, with some caramel and roasted notes, and lots of hazelnut.
Carl Erhard of Kunstler buzzed like the electric minerality and piercing acidity of his Rieslings. I got a chance to speak with this tall, gentle character briefly after the event to congratulate not only his wines but also his passion. I told him that one really can taste the love and joy that goes into his wines. “With wine it’s all about the passion you put into it,” he said with a smile, “that’s how you make good wine.” I was particularly taken with this man’s inspiration; though he spoke a bit more at length than some of the others, he wrapped by saying “My wife says, ‘when you talk about wine, you talk too much!’” The whole room had a good hearty laugh.
And it’s not all about Riesling. I was pleasantly surprised at how much good dry Pinot Blanc there is for quaffing and also at the richness and density of the Pinot Noir. For varietal expression, Rebholz in the Pfalz that stole the show. Each wine was unique and had its best characteristics teased out expertly. Wines were well-made, balanced, bright, and harmonious. Their 2009 Pinot Noir exhibited characteristics of smoke, red licorice, cinnamon candy, and tea leaves which coalesced in an integration whose result was both pleasurable and intellectual.
The large majority of the German dry wines were make organically and biodynamically. And frankly the more I pay attention to wines made without pesticides and in a sustainable environment, the more I notice how much better they taste, not only from mass produced wines, but also from smaller production wines that spray or fertilize with harsh chemicals. Below is a selection of my favorites – some of which will soon be available here at WHWC. Stay tuned.
2010 Pinot Blanc Estate: Bright, bold, dry, crisp, one of the better Pinot Blancs I’ve had. Guzzlable.
2010 Riesling GG Ganz Horn – Pepper, mineral, spicy, medium-bodied, big finish.
2010 Riesling GG Im Sonnenschein – Briny, saline, lime flower, & white rose.
2010 Riesling GG Kastanienbusch – red slate soil, hay, tea, dusty summer earth, dry herbs
2009 Pinot Noir Spatlese Dry Tradition – Smooth, velvety, sweet fruit, dense, cinnamon, clove
Wagner Stempel Reinhessen
2010 Riesling GG Hollberg – Gardenia, concentrated, ripe, stone fruit, mouthcoating
2011 Heger Pinot Gris Estate – Heavy Loess soil, medium body, round, lower acidity, drinkable, Food friendly, Rhone-ish
2010 Pinot Blanc Estate – Mouthfilling, delicious, ‘sweet’ fruit, lanolin, peach
2008 Pinot Noir GG St. Paul – Beachy, brambly, bright, orange rind, Campari, food-friendly
2011 Riesling GG Kostheim Weiss – Closed upon opening, after 15 mins steely minerality, beeswax, lemon curd, white flowers
2009 Pinot Noir Estate – Slate, smoke, currant, like a good Bourgogne rouge, woodsy, candied fruits, bright
The only real encounter I had with Greek wine before a couple years ago was in a dark little cafe in New York called Snack Taverna in 2003 – inexpensive pitchers of classic, cheap Retsina were the only thing we knew to order with our octopus salad and olives with salted almonds. The Retsina was fine, pleasantly pine-scented, and completely forgettable.
Then, about two years ago we started carrying a white called Moschofilero at my old shop in New York. I didn’t think twice about it. And then one day it was open. I pulled up a glass. The mineral, fruity freshness with a saline silver lining made me laugh out loud. Dang! I poured a little more, and swallowed. My curiosity popped.
All I knew of Greek wine before this synesthetic epiphany was the aforementioned Retsina, which had become the national beverage of Greece in the 1960′s. This gave Greek wine a reputation as frivolous, insipid, unserious. Luckily, Greek wine has been around for 6,500 years: clearly it can weather a storm. Appellation laws were established in the early 1970′s and now, armed with indigenous varietals, an ideal climate, interesting terroirs, forward-thinking winemakers, modern technology, moving-and-shaking exporters, and a hip little PR engine New Wines of Greece, Greece is back on the wine scene and poised to make Aegean-sized waves.
All the elements for success are in place, the most important of which are the wines themselves. Pink-skinned Moschofilero from Mantinia unleashes an awesome freshness on one’s senses, while steely Assyrtiko is full of salty minerals and bracing acidity (especially in volcanic Santorini) and begs for hot temps, sunny days, and light Mezes (Mediterranean tapas). Red Agiorgitiko from the Peloponnese is dark ruby red in color, complex of aroma and definitively ageworthy, while Naoussa Xinomavro will satisfy the Nebbiolo lover with its bright color, high acidity, and rich, strong tannins. This is the wine for your roasted lamb or meatballs.
Like I said, Greek wine barely passed my ‘who cares?’ test for the larger part of the last decade, but they’re onto something, and their siren song is certainly worth a listen if you’re into mixing it up a bit. Here are some of my current faves for contemplation:
2010 Zafirakis Malagousia – this wine is sprightly but mineral with good herbaceousness on the nose and an oily palate that’s balanced out with firm acidity.
2010 Tetramythos Roditis Patras – Bright and guzzlable, this inexpensive white is pretty, with lots of apple and bergamot.
2008 Kir-Yianni Xinomavro Ramnista – this rich, ageworthy red is finely built with good tannin and fresh acidity. Sun dried tomato and black olive on the palate make it super food-friendly.
We’ll be tasting all these and more with Greek Wine expert Markus Stolz of Elloinos, Friday January 27th from 5–7 PM if you’re interested in Greeking out with us here at WHWC in Los Angeles. Opa!
Something about Seattle. I fell for it last July after a sun-drenched and resplendent week on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. Something about the expanses of water, clean, clear air, dramatic skies and weather. The weather in the Northwest gets a bad rap – especially from people who’ve never been there. But statistics show that it actually rains less in Seattle than in Boston, New York City, or Paris, the three places I’ve lived to date (before LA). And everyone knows labile weather makes person thirsty and hungry.
Off the plane burning reds, oranges, and yellows were fully flushed against the grey and green backdrop. I dropped my things at my friends’ place and started in to take a bite out of the calm, clean city. First stop: Oysters and crisp Columbia Valley Semillon, Buty, at Taylor Fish Farm in Capitol Hill. Kumamotos latticed in lemon and minionette have a way of staying on your mind. Then onto Bar Ferd’nand where we bellied up to the bar in a sort of communal open market format. The wine list was esoteric and well-built except for the 2002 Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc they had by the glass. Credibility loss there, since 2002 was underwater in the southern Rhone and the wine crop was ruined. Sitka & Spruce next door just to say hi to one of the guys who runs the place, and then back out onto the cool grey streets. Patches of blue against the blazing red trees. My lungs fill with fresh ocean air.
At Oddfellows we had crisp, round 2009 Terlano Pinot Bianco and a little cheese for 4 PM ‘gouter‘; up the street at Anchovies and Olives, we drank 2008 San Falletto Manzoni Bianco and delighted in linguini tossed with butter, garlic, and Geoduck, a giant clam indigenous to the Northwest. It’s pretty gnarly to the eye – looks like a phallus – but quite tasty when sliced thin in pasta. Our crawl terminated at Bottlehouse in Madrona. Bottlehouse’ Somm is the brother of Eric Maclaughlin, Winery Director at Corliss Estates, the new chart-topping boutique Columbia Valley winery that we hosted a tasting for this October at WHWC. We were welcomed with effervescent glasses of Austrian Punkt Genau sparkling Zweigelt, the perfect end to the afternoon, since we had a house party to throw that night.
Up and at ‘em first thing. Breakfast at Skillet, an upscale diner born from a food truck, to share a plate of shrimp and grits with a dear friend. After a stroll through Pike Street Fish Market arm in arm, I’m fetched for my appointment at Andrew Will Winery, back on Vashon Island. We got a 10:20 AM ferry from the mainland. Gorgeous weather, cold fresh air on deck, Mt. Rainier showing its shy face against the crystalline blue backdrop to the left. Enormous barges cruised past us on their way into Tacoma Harbor, bearing cargo from South Korea, China
Started in 1989, Andrew Will Winery is headed up by winemaker Chris Camarda. Wines are made in made entirely of Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, and sourced from vineyards in the Columbia Valley of Eastern Washington. When I saw they’d received Top Winery of 2011 in Spectator, and already carried the accolades of Best Winery of 2010 from the Wall street Journal and 50 Most Influential Wnemakers from Decanter, I picked up the phone for an appointment (since I was going to be in the neighborhood). They don’t have a tasting room but the GM Celia was kind enough to accommodate me (trade perks). We tasted their flagship, 2010 Sorella, from barrel which was already delightful, full of fruit and structure though very young. We particularly like the 2007 Two Blondes (which is partially owned by the winemaker) and Ciel du Cheval. We hope to have both in stock shortly.
Always a Northerner at heart, I crave the perennial soft scents of Autumn, sweet air, drying leaves, roasting spices, and fires in the fireplace which we don’t so much get here in Los Angeles. So when I was invited to spend an October weekend in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley making wine with Anthill Farms, obviously I jumped.
Ready to go at 8 AM. Web Marquez, one of the trio of winemakers at Anthill (he also makes the wine at C. Donatiello) picks me up at his guest house, where I’ve had a short sleep after arriving very late. First stop: Copain Custom Crush in Santa Rosa. Cellar Master Shalini Sekhar transports barrels on her forklift. Interns of every nationality harnessed to the ceiling punch juice down hovering over colossal steel tanks. We climb latters, and siphon off Pinot Noir juice to test Brix levels.
Then to the barrels of Chardonnay. No yeast is added, which allows the wine to ferment naturally, however one of the barrels is lagging behind the others – it hasn’t begun to ferment yet. I take a long metal instrument and insert it into the barrel, all the way to the bottom, then stir back and forth. Batonnage sur Lie. Drop in one cube of dry ice and put my ear to the barrel, waiting for the slight bubble sound.
Back to the Pinot Noir. Uncover the plastic from atop a giant vat of fermenting juice and punch the wine down manually. This consists of pushing the berries below the surface, re-exposing the skins to the liquid. I punch a hole in the cap, which yields a frothy bubble. It reminds me of Lambrusco.
Around noon we head back to the house to make sausage. Cut organic Berkshire pork into chunks and send it through the grinder. Mix creme fraiche, salt, chili flakes, white pepper, and nitrites with the ground up pork, and let sit. Another attachment goes onto the Kitchenaid while we untangle the 100 ft. casings and gently slide them onto the machine to be filled with the ground up meat. We fill the tubes and tie the ends, then hang them in the garage. Sopresatta!
Afternoon – I take a cat nap on the porch in the sun sniffing the fertile air. Inside Web and his friend make chorizo and discuss the ancient rhythms of the harvest. I open my eyes and watch a sweet gum tree sway above me, its leaves ablaze. Sleep comes.
Later, we repair to Petaluma Gap to take a sampling of Chardonnay and Syrah at Peters Vineyard. I walk the rows picking berries at random to be mushed up, strained, and brixed. The vineyards are cool, breezy, and peaceful; Napa, Atlas Peak, and Sonoma Valley are in view to the east. Dusk approaches as we sample the Syrah and Viognier (which will co-ferment, like Cote Rotie). We finish and sit for a moment on the dusty earth. He smokes. I lie on my back and watch at the sky.
The next day we have just enough time in the morning to go into Dry Creek and have lunch at Papapietro, where the Anthill Wines are vinified. More punching down. But then the bottles get opened. We sip 2009 Peters Syrah, 2009 Campbell Syrah – both meaty, gamey, savory, at 11:30 on a grey Monday morning overlooking the misted vineyards.
I love my job.
The First International Qvevri Wine Symposium held this September in Tbilisi, Georgia to promote modern Caucasus winemaking with ancient techniques (primarily the use of amphora clay pots for aging) got me thinking once again about Orange Wine. Readily attended by a couple friends (globe-trotting wine aficionados willing to travel all the way to Eurasia from Los Angeles and New York for the weekend), this three day conference invited a select sixty foreign guests to travel through the wine regions of Georgia. There they learned about the antediluvian vessels used for fermenting and aging wine in the traditional Qvevri style.
The conference was established as a multi-million dollar initiative by the US government to attract potential tourist attention to Georgia. But the tweets and pictures coming through repiqued my curiosity in the Orange Wine movement as a whole. The result of white grapes left to ferment on the skins for more than four days, Orange wine is reestablishing momentum in Northern and Central Italy. Skins contain tannins, phenols, and pigments considered undesirable in traditional white winemaking approaches. But extra skin maceration culminates in a white with more color, flavor, and texture.
Granted Orange Wine is not for everyone. It resides solidly within the category of ‘geek wine.’ But these geeky specimens are precisely what drives wine professionals: the yearning for a taste of every version of every country and culture. So on a recent weekend in New York, I set out to Inoteca Liquori with two friends, a somm from Resto and a somm from Lupa, to delve into a few bottles of Orange. Here is what we liked:
2006 Tenute Dettori Bianco: 100% Vermentino from Sardinia ferments uncrushed on the skins for four days in cement vats (which are growing in popularity especially for biodynamic winemakers) No sulfites are added. The wine is cloudy and golden with a nose of exotic flowers. Its apple-cidery component paired surprisingly well with eggplant parmesan.
2006 La Stoppa Ageno: Malvasia, Trebbiano, and the rare, indiginous-to-Emilia Ortrugo ferment for 30 days on the skins using all natural yeasts. It ages for 12 months and undergoes no filtration of any kind. Saffron and Marigold on the nose lead to brown sugar, honeysuckle, and coffee on the palate. Amber in color and only slightly cloudy, Ageno will benefit from a good decanting. The acidity is pure and refreshing.
Back in Los Angeles, an importer friend came to visit toting a bottle of 2002 Gravner Anfora Ribolla Gialla: Grapes for this Friulian showstopper come from vineyards straddling the Slovenian border. The juice ferments on the skins in large open-topped amphorae without added yeast, temperature control, or sulfites. Natural winemaking in its apogee. This Gravner is honeyed, savory, and mineral all at once. Spiced and complex, it breaks with contemporary wine convention entirely.
So if you’re a trade geek like me or simply an interested consumer, check out the new face of age-old Orange Wine. And keep an open mind. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, it’s pretty fascinating in its own right.
It’s only since I’ve come to Los Angeles that Croatian wine has been on my radar at all. There are always those ‘buzz’ regions people talk up; it takes a certain level of time, skepticism, and patience to know if a buzzing region is actually going to emerge as a major player, and whether it’s worth getting on board. Thanks to the dedicated guys over at Blue Danube Wine Company, leading importer of high quality Central European wine, some serious red is starting to come in from Hungary and Croatia. Salty, savory Slovenian whites are also in the mix.
Croatian wine production dates back to the days of the Ancient Greek settlers who began making wine on the Dalmatian Islands of Vis, Hvar, and Korcula more that 2,500 years ago. Traditional indiginous varietals are currently thriving in Croatia’s Mediterranean climate along the coast. The hot summers and cold winters of its interior make excellent conditions for red wine production as well. Modern wine-production methods have taken over in larger wineries, and EU-style wine regulations are now ubiquitously in place, guaranteeing quality of the wine.
Part of the reason Croatia is of particular interest is because I was so skeptical. This country has been annexed in and out of countless regimes, from the Islamic Ottomans, to the Habsburgs, to the Communists. A former Balkan state making quality wine? i admit – I scoffed. Luckily, I’m someone who loves to have her mind changed. Here are my current faves.
2008 Terzolo Teran Istria. So baller. I tasted this wine in Los Feliz and promptly insisted it be brought on board here at WHWC. Clean and fresh, this red is bright and well structured. It can even take a light chill, which is a quality I love in a red.
2006 Milos Plavac Mali Pelijesac. This red is complex, elegant, and 100% unique. Its got a gorgeous balance of rich earthiness and soft dried fruits, fig and prune in particular. It’s unlike any red I’ve ever tasted which is, of course, all the more fascinating.
I’ve organized a Central European tasting here at WHWC this coming Saturday (Sept. 17th) from 2–6 to start to get the word out about these high quality, inexpensive reds. Please swing by, or feel free to email me email@example.com