And yes, so what was the wine of the year. I am stumped. I buy the same ones over and over. So I offer two that I can't seem to get out of my head.
Domaine Bornard Le Ginglet, Trousseau
I had it in the Jura and loved it. I had it with its importer Savio Soares at a sushi restaurant on 15th street where we saw a white rat loopy with drugs, in the corner but the Ginglet survived. And then when meeting
Hugh Johnson--what a thrill that was--and I was offered the chance to pick a wine under $100, I chose this one at $60. No matter what I ate, it stood up to it. And it stood up to Hugh's dazzling charm as well.
And finally,, the wine that my main reactions were...Yum and Yay---all for $17.
I opened this wine from the hands of Christian Venier (another Savio Soares) again last night, and granted I'm somewhat flu-ish and less than terribly enthusiastic about drinking or eating anything except zinc and aspirin, but what impressed me about this was the polish on this wine, with the markings of a vin natural. It had the spice on the nose, the rose, the perfume. As M. Chauvet would have said, it is all about the perfume. This is an intensely sensual wine and focused. Structured. Silky. There is no reason in the world why this is the wine of the year, except that it seems right in this moment and I can afford it. And if you can afford more? If you can afford to drink Chandon de Brialles or Gonon or Souhaut or Mascarello every night? You'll still love it.
Mostly at the risk of getting maudlin and sentimental, I want to thank all of you who stop by, pay your respects, read me because god knows why, you think I have something to say. Thank you for your friendship and your comments. It makes a difference. Happy new year.
A few years ago in reaction to other 'wines of the year' I decided to strike back. I mean if the WS can do it why not me? Of course I couldn't compile 100 wines of the year. Maybe if I jumbled it all up with memorable moments, but 100 wines that I can swear by seem like a lot. Then I read their selections and out of a hundred, there are maybe five I'd drink, but I've gone over that territory before.
But still, the wine of the year, the wine of the year? The most user friendly? The most delicious? (impossible) The wine I could go to every night of the year and could make me smile? Or was it, given the fact that once again it seems as if I've absolutely no future as a writer, the wine I can afford. Or is the wine I wish I could afford? Or was it the wine that made me laugh the hardest? Or was it the worst wine. You see the worst wine could as well be the wine of the year, why not if it was the most memorable.
The worst wine. Now that's a concept.
But oddly, I can't remember a bad experience this year and that is mostly because I've been very careful, perhaps too careful about what I put in my mouth.
Actually, now that I flip through my pix, I see there was a horrible wine and it was so awful, I can't mention the name. I'll give you a hint. Diamond Mountain cabernet in several vintages and from the very tippy top of the mount. So unfortunate because up there above the clouds, on the reddish soil I know that something lovely can be squeezed out of the vines. But not these to remain unnamed.
The most surprising wines of the year were the ones I had from Smith Madrone.
This was just one of the outcomes of this touching dinner
Tom Wark staged for me in Sonoma this past August at the Girl & The Fig.
I don't know what I did to deserve such an event, but I remain grateful for it. At that dinner I finally got to meet John Williams of Frog's Leap, (thanks for the 1964 Charbono!) and I can't wait to taste the cheese he's been making. It was also at the dinner where I finally overcame my resistance to Smith Madrone of Spring Mountain.
If you get to taste their older vintage releases--such as the 2001 riesling? Don't be shy. Waxy and complex, andi invigratinly lovely. That evening as the Sonoma temperature started to chill down, Stu Smith and I hammered away at each other. He was expecting a rabid supporter of biodynamics and I was expecting a hit the wine with all you can get. Neither one of us had pegged the other accurately.
I had to visit. And I did. It was Stu and his brother Charlie who made me remember what Napa mountain fruit can produce and it won my praise. Yes, those cabernets were the most surprising wines I've had this year.
I suppose I could also add another wine that made me stand up and listen. Terroir is part of man and man is part of terroir and if you don't believe me, go and order some of the wines from Hank Beckmeyer and his
I go to visit them every time I'm in town.
Best California trend? Concrete tanks! Thanks Steve Edmunds!
The best meal was in the Loire, with Pat de Griottes and Ben Courault etal with fresh caught mackeral.
The Loire wine I wish would come to the US Domaine Saurigny
I forgot to tell you that lovers of Chinato need to check out from the Jurassic Jean Bourdy
I forgot to mention David Lillie's star turn performance renewing Joe and Denyse's vows at Ten Bells--using a stack of Chauvet as a bible.
I forgot to talk about the technique that drove me most crazy this year: will someone PLEASE stop winemakers from obsessively stirring their lees? I am tired of the interfering cream and creaminess!
The most profound find at the Millisieme Bio fair last January? Andrea Calek, the wildest man in the Ardeche.
I can tell you the most blow out wine experience I had that made me feel like Cinderella, after all it was post midnight, was being part of the clean up crew with Slate's Mike Steinberger, and Michael Rockefeller after last Spring's La Paulee.
I can tell you that I am still in love with gamay and all of my other benchmark wines; Clos Roche Blanche gamay and cot.
One of the best new restaurants I went to in Paris, though I can't quite believe it, but true; 114 Faubourg, in the Hotel le Bristol.
Room like the inside of a Klimt painting. Food clean, expensive, but I almost think worth it? Fun and pure. High % of plastic surgery and stunning jewelry. Wonderful cepe soup and a stunning bass wrapped in fennel stalks like a sweet poisson package.
There was one wine worth drinking, 2002 Pibarnon. Thank goodness for it on this mostly crappy international wine list.
And, ah, that mad and crazy Polish vigneron, Andrea
If you can't read my writing; This is the 2007 version of Babiole, a blend of grenache, carignan,syrah, Can't believe this is the 'methode chauvet,' because I can't detect carbonic. There is a hi-ink tone and floral exotica with hefty licorice.
I lusted after shoes.True. I saw these hand made doojobs in Paris, taunting me in the shop right next to Marriage Freres in the Marais where I bought my extra tarry Lapsang
and these too, not far from Invalides
From my friend Stephen, the place you want to stay while in Fes. My wildly talented friend collects the King.
Separated at birth? At least as far as design and philosophy is concerned. This is a frivolous bauble, I just happen to like looking at these bottles side by side.
Left: Element Terre '06,Gamay Chaudenay--$27 Right: La Clarine Farm, '08 Sierra Foothill Syrah-$20
Absinthe: the notorious, myth-ridden, herb-infused anise flavored spirit that includes the bitter herb wormwood. The drink suffered--as it does today-- from an image problem. Wrongly believed to be a psychoactive, delusion-inducing, even poisonous, the perfectly harmless drink was banned in the United States and most European countries by 1915.
And thanks to a reader's tip this past summer, I became aware of absinthe being made up in Walton, New York, the town attached to the spot in the woods in which I overcame my fear of country.
I tracked the distiller down, and low and behold, it was a she and she was Cheryl Lins, a fellow obsessive, on the self-taught, alternative route lane. She works on the teensiest commercial still ever.
Eight gallon? You bet. That's about it. Her distillery is right on Main Street in a town so depressed, most of the storefronts are shuttered. CVS and McDonalds and the BBQ at the gas station are the big tickets. Out of place? I should say so. But perfect? Oh, yes indeed.
You can read about this past off-the-grid yurt-dwelling woman in my story for the New York Times. Meanwhile, check out this little video of her coloration process.
The other voice on the video is Linda St. John (D.L Cerney clothing store on east 7th Street. She, Duane and Suzie are the people who often dress Bruce Springsteen and are often costuming those Broadway shows looking for pieces fashioned after the 40's, 50's and early 60's.
"Boots is not going to be a switcher!" a friend said about her charmer of a daughter.
It took a few beats for me to understand that we weren't addressing Boots' sexuality, but proper utensil strategy.
Under penalty of spanking, the child would eventually (she was still on the bottle) feed herself with the same hand she pierced the morsel of foie and never, ever 'switch' that fork to her more dominant hand to eat.
I blushed, because I was harboring a shameful secret. I was raised by wolves. As a result I was switcher, fork went from left to right and then into mouth. I then realized I spent my life eating at the table as if it were the trough and my regrettable habits had been impediments to my getting ahead in life.
God is great (though a little too late) and opportunity came my way last year when I was putting the sagrantino to bed. Conveniently already on the west coast, I was invited to the Meadowood resort ostensibly to get a file applied to those rough edges.
This was a test drive for some 'Wine Etiquette" weekends they were going to offer (do not know if they still do.).
Their target audience was not the bull in the Lalique shop journalist, but those newly in love with wine, looking for Napa in other countries and needed to know how to fold their napkin, to make small conversation ( I should have listened harder) to flirt with their neighbors wife, how to eat in a way that would not provoke snickers and how not to switch, (should they choose.) Because it seems when you 'switch' you broadcast a class and breeding or lack of.
I have Deborah King to thank. She not only helped me use my fork with the dexterity of a violin bow, (tines and horsehair DOWN please) AND with my left hand, no switching from right to left, but I also learned a handy trick for walk around tasting, eating events. I suggest you try this in the privacy of your own home before you chance an accident in public.
A contender for the wine of the year might be in this trio. Not sure. Check back in ten days. These three are from Savio Soares
I'm a Beaujolais slut and I LOVE Domaine Chamonard's Morgon, often forgetting about the Fleurie. But the 07 has finally come around as well. V. pretty. Gosh, is that all I wrote? And they call me a wine writer? I guess I was too busy drinking.
Ah, Pet Nat! Annie et Philippe Bornard make gorgeous stuff out of Pupillon in the Jura! First note? Shut up and drink. After all, Tant Mieux means so much better. Well, it's a lot better than a lot of rose sparklers out there, that's for sure. I didn't want to think. I just slurped. This ploussard 08 goes gently. This is a Spot Hitter for any pink fizz drinker. With 9% alcohol, there was a slight bit of a honied finish, floral, raspberry and some sort of viscerality dancing on the tongue.
YAY! (I wrote as a first note, take that!) Christian Venier's Le Clos des Carteries, 08, has great grip. This gamay/pinot blend from Cheverny in the Loire is like green walnut with a touch of fresh picked teensie strawberries, and more green walnut. Imagine the bitter and sweet of brocolli rabe with pine nuts. Fascinating.
I'm stuck. Plunked in the mud. Stopped in the cold. Brain dull. Struggling to decide which wine is the ASF wine of the year. Such decisions. But the real one that has brought me to the knees is a blank page. What do I write for the post script on the French version of The Book?
I keep on staring at that page. What do I want to say to the country who still produces the lion's share of wines I want to drink?
My publisher requested that I address in a few words, maybe 1000 or so, how the wine world has changed since I started the book in 2005. "What do you want to say to the French?" he asked. "Why it was so important to be published in France?"
Good question. But it was. And is.
When my French agent told me that her country wasn't interested in wine and not interested in what an American woman thinks about wine, I went around her and targeted the publisher I wanted, Jean Paul Rocher.
My statement is due on Monday. What is it that blocks me? Is it the fear of sounding like an imbecile? Maybe. Is it the fear that I have said all I have to say and it's time for the ice floe? Perhaps. Or is it that I am so of hero worship, that I fear I'll come off like some blubbering sentimental fool about the importance of terroir and authenticity of wine. Because really, is it so important?
So that's where we are tonight. And if you have any ideas to help me out here, I'll be very happy, grateful, to hear them.
The Burgundy requester snuck in another question.
Alice- I'll like to stage a wine tasting. Maybe 6 bottles for a holiday get together with dear friends -- whites from Loire (Huet is a very happy discovery) or Jura. Sweet wines are okay, and if you think I should have a few reds I trust your judgment.
I have to give you the capsule version here because Jeffrey and I had MANY back and forths we came to the Jura, where he was really heading. We narrowed it to wines from the Jura: Savagnin vs. Chardonnay with a few Vin Jaune in there as well.
That said, I gave him my list of favorite producers and the actual selections? He's on his own.
Domaine de la Tournelle (Astor?)
Anne et Phillipe Bornard (Astor has a few)
Domaine Jean Bourdy (might check with the Garagiste, fab vin jaune)
For me, not in the same category as the above, but still quite Domaine Berthet-Bondet. (look for it on wine-searcher.com)
I'm hunting the Leon Trotskys, the Philip Roths, the Chaucers and the Edith Whartons of the wine world. I want them natural and most of all, I want them to speak the truth even if we argue. With this messiah thing going on, I'm trying to swell the ranks of those who crave the differences in each vintage, celebrate nuance and desire wines that make them think, laugh, and feel. Welcome.
And, if you'd like a signed copy, feel free to contact me directly.