(more Gideon Bienstock from Clos Saron) Where Renaissance is all grandeur of things past, Gideon's place was almost back on the kibbutz. Vines surround his house. He's a farmer who borrows from all philosophies. I'd be interested to see the soil in the heat and drought of summer, after the flowers drain from life. Gideon adds a smallish amount of sulfur at the fermenter and then never again. ' At first I was nervous the way I was about not inoculation. To some degree it is dangerous. When we released an 03 pinot, we had a party. I was pouring it, tasted it, I realized it had a problem, lactic spoilage, the finish was this mousy, dirty. We pulled it off the market--all 20 cases---and started to watch. After four months the wine gradually started to recover. We served it two weeks ago, we sold every bottle. I began to see that sometimes the wines show problems immediately but so far, everything has rebounded. At times I've thought am I crazy? Don't I want the safety of another shot so there's not bottle variation? For me the answer is seeing the wine before and after, sulfur would clarify the wine, bring out more clearly defined aromas. On a deeper level though, it would crystallize, or pickle, the phenolics, and it would bleach the wine. But what it does to the aromas and tannins is the worst. The first two sips I say, this with SO2 is cleaner. But over time, my palate goes to the less clean, because it is more interactive. The wine without S02 is more exploring. It isn't sure what it is, it keeps on discovering. And that's what I love about wine. Does this make sense to you? I imagine it does.' He used to employ liquid sulfur, but after a colleague almost died, trying to jump off of a 14-foot fermentation tank to try to get away from the fumes, he stopped. "It paralyzes all of your functions and all you do when you're in its presence is getting away." Now, he uses sodium metabisulfite. "The first time I made a reductive wine I called Bernard Faurie and said, 'My wine stinks!' He told me to aerate it at bottling, don't give it sulfur.The wine took some years to clean itself up." ( I found this funny, because when I visited Bernard a few years ago the place was littered with little disks of sodium metabisulfite.) I believe that even though Gideon and I both love the wines of Faurie, he and I have different palates and the wines are indeed chewy and fruit forward, (he says this is from the crushed granite, I'm not sure and instead I point to the clay.) But I liked them far better than when he first sent me samples years back, when there was too much new oak and the wines had a muddy middle. The new oak, MOX and cold soaking of the past are no longer. He was introduced to MOX when he visited Madiran, the region that birthed the winemaking tool. Also he was/is good friends with Clark Smith who peddled the aerator machine. "I discovered that the downside of MOX is an amplification of the middle palate." To me, it's an eraser to the middle palate. Maybe he and I are using different words for the same effect. He stopped because the more he works with wine the less he wants to change its nature. If you are looking for a rose this summer, by the way, I can recommend his Tickled Pink. A syrah-based wine, silky, fresh and a touch animal on the loose. Also of note, Heart of Stone '05 syrah, comes from one of his vineyards on the Renaissance property. This a cherry, candied form of syrah, has good bones and with time could evolve into a less brash puppy. Also recommended is his 2005 Cuvee Mysterieuse, with mostly syrah and mourvedre. And---the 1994 pinot/chardonnay, which you won't be able to find, but was fun to drink. This is not pineau chard, but during his first Renaissance vintage he was so nervous he forgot about a barrel filled with pinot. When he realized it had turned into wine, he topped it off with the nearest liquid, chardonnay. Fifteen years later, sipped outside during lunch, the wine reminded me of forty-year old beaujolais. Hank and I had to get back on the road, I had to pick up my car and head to Healdsburg and was aiming to avoid rush hour, so all of those older vintages of Renaissance GIdeon had wanted us to taste would have to wait for another time. On the way back, Hank pointed out the large rocks that hold natural asbestos. Then there was the Gold Rush town of Coloma. Coming from the shtettle,second generation, I am disconnected from this part of history. I look to the east so often, it is true I look for my White Russian roots knowing had I had to cross the Prairie, I would have died. But still the beauty and wildness of California is beginning to settle in.