Laureano is a force of nature.
Even though I still don't understand why he has some cabernet or merlot ( I think his brother had something to do with it) he has pure enthusiasm. Energy. Earnestness.
I found myself taking notes on many Lareano-isms. I like this one in particular. ++Every plant has his own life form. You can't treat a vine like a human being but you have to respect each one just the same. "What do you want?" I ask the vine. "Harvest?"After that making wine is easy.
His cave is on street level and it is quite warm, really warm. Tasting with Laureno is a roller coaster ride. The man makes more than 15 different cuvees, there are few similarities. Some are made in a reductive way, most are made in an oxidative, some have a flor.
YESS He uses a solera system here and takes the ends from all of his wines, and in wartime fashion, nothing goes to waste. 09 has wine from 2007 & 2008 and has a distinct Jura like voile thing going on. Delicious. Great aperitif wine.
2008 Mendall L'Abeurador Macabeau Two days of maceration, lots of fennel and slite fizz.
2009 Mendall L'Abeurador Earthier vintage, unripe peaer, a little radish and then it bursts into melon. 2009 Carabonica This is a cab/merlot/carignan blent. He starts the carbonic for a week then presses off, finishes with a normal alcoholic.
NV Mal de Sofre This is the one that the Diana Krall trio calls Gangsta Blanca. Do I have my own tasting notes? No. Why? I cannot imagine. Other than Laureno started to open wines with his shoe and I became distracted.
2006 BB Escollades This one is wild. It's Garnacha blanco and it has a story. It was very oxidated. quickly. He decide not to sell it. His wife used the wine to cook. One day she tastes it and it's not bad. She says to him, Laureano, why don't you sell it? Everyday she takes some and she says, "Laureano, this is really good!" "My wife likes normal wines, not artificial so he doesn't know what to think. I taste. It's not 'oxidated' anymore. " It sure wasn't. The wine was waxy, riesling-like, nutty, interesting, slite honey with a long beeswax fresh, rain water finish.
With that, Laureano left for home at about 5 in the morning. I was in bed before the departure. We left the rental house such a wreck we ran like thieves, to catch the last Laureano vineyard and head off to Barcelona. Next Stop Jura.
I've been trying to remember when I first met Laureano Serres..... .....Certainly before I took that scuzzy, blurred photo this winter at La Remise. Was it a Dive? Perhaps. We've emailed, met, tasted. I liked. But it was this winter when I really noticed his wines, his white wines in particular. They provoked double take. Personality? Sure. But then, Laureano is a bit of a mad genius man. Vision. Talent.
At that crazy tasting, because it is always tasting, I reacquainted myself with his macabeao, the '08 Abeurador (licorice!, with two days of skin contact) the 09 is earthier, with a little radish and melon. Needed some time to settle. I said to him, I'll visit. Laureano is pure. A New Yorker would have thought. Sure, she's coming. Right. It was no surprise to him when I wrote to ask if he could see me in June. He just assumed I was going to keep my word. He and JPJP a short pow wow, Benoit at Anima del Vi jumped on board. After some arm twisting, my publisher in Spain agreed to get my book ready for the evening. (pictures courtesy of Observatorio de Vino) And that's Benoit, His his shop might be the only store in Spain you can find people on the natural wine route. It was a fantastic time. Benoit blind tasted me on the three cuvees of Marcel Lapierre. Pretty fun stuff. Laureano, is the founder of vinosnaturales. I urge you to take a look at that link to see how seriously they take their charter. He convinced the crew from all over Spain to show up, and I'm still overwhelmed and I can't thank them enough.There they were, the whole Spanish hard core unSO2 group. So many thanks to Laureano and Benoit for an energetic and fairy tale evening. Many thanks to all. ++ (Back to the matter at hand--going to visit Laureano) Post blissful day at Jordi's, we headed out to Terra Alta (1.5 hours from Barcelona) where L lives and tends to family and vines. We were late. We were shameful about the late hour. But arriving after the heat of the day, happy to be there, venus was rising. What could be bad? Laureano's wines say, screw you if you don't like them. Someone else will. I like that. In writing we call that voice. (Part two coming up)
My articles are usually warehoused in the articles section, but I though this one on Leafroll Virus in the vineyards of California was worth taking up space here. New story in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Leafroll: A quiet threat in the vineyard. You can click on this link right over HERE, and see the photos, or you can just scroll down.
It's not imagined. The blood-red leaves in California's vineyards are appearing earlier and spreading more widely. While pleasing to the eye, the colors indicate a shutting down of photosynthesis, often dangerously close to harvest. They can also be a signal for a virus that's giving the wine industry a migraine. The grape leafroll virus has been around and causing trouble for at least a century. It has about 10 variations. But the newest, V3 and V5, are causing panic, with some vineyard owners ripping out vines or blasting them with chemicals. "If I'm going to believe what I hear, it's going to be the next phylloxera," says Stuart Smith, owner of Smith-Madrone in St. Helena. "Worried? You bet." The virus is also affecting vines on the East Coast and in South Africa and New Zealand, and was the topic of an international conference at UC Davis in 2008. Like that other scourge, the European grapevine moth, lots of farmers have it. But if they are willing to discuss the moth, they are often fearful to fess up to the virus. Unlike some other afflictions, this virus won't kill the vineyard, but it will greatly affect the quality of grapes by preventing normal sugar development and greatly reducing yields. But not everyone views those effects as detrimental. Lower sugars were more acceptable 15 years ago, but now they conflict with today's bigger style of wine. "The virus causes a lack of (the) maturity that most of today's winemakers are looking for," says Paul Jackson, owner of Colinas Farming Co., which farms for such Napa Valley wineries as Grgich Hills, Round Pond and Frank Family. Hesitant to talk And why are those afflicted so hesitant to talk? "It is probably because they are fearful that their vineyard will be perceived as having inferior fruit and lose sales," says Dave Whitmer, Napa County agriculture commissioner. But speak to farmers and the situation becomes more complex. Where many see no option but to learn to live with the virus, others have immediately yanked out vineyards and replanted, only to have the virus reappear. The spread of these variants of leafroll was noticed in 2002 in the famed To Kalon vineyard. The late Ed Weber, Napa County's previous viticulture farm adviser, and Deborah Golino, director of Foundation Plant Services at UC Davis, began a four-year study of the phenomenon. During the study, there was a threefold increase in the number of infections in that vineyard alone. Oakville is still one of the hardest-hit areas. The study was disturbing. Previously, this virus was believed to be transmitted by grafting infected budwood in vineyards, which is why many farmers were terrified of using field cuttings instead of buying certified plant material from Foundation Plant Services. But it turns out that's not the only way the virus is transmitted. While grafting is one way - and cleaning up the virus in the vine is Golino's focus - the major spreader is the vine mealybug, which is native to Mediterranean countries. Golino says it probably arrived on lowly table-grape vines smuggled in from Israel to Southern California. Unhappy with that sandy soil, the bug moved steadily north. It tends to breed more quickly than other mealybugs and gets carried around by wind, vineyard machinery and vineyard workers. The pests do double damage: As they suck on a vine, they excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, leaving a tacky, candlelike wax on grape bunches, ruining them; as they feed on new vines, they pass along the virus. Yet there are those who happily live with the virus. These folks seem to have found a working mix of good farming and the right rootstock. Vines on their own roots, those on an old type known as St. George, or even phylloxera-prone AxR1, might carry GLRaV3 and 5, but don't seem to show a major impact. Vineyard manager Frank Leeds, who farms Frog's Leap in Rutherford, was working on a 20-year-old plot of Cabernet Franc that needed replanting because of rabbit damage. "I couldn't get St. George, so I got something called Freedom," he says. "I planted the same budwood on the root, and after four years those vines were showing virus, yet not in any of the other vineyards." Cathy Corison's Kronos vineyard in St. Helena has organic methods and solid, old rootstock going for it. Kronos is planted on St. George, which is one of California's old drought-resistant rootstocks. At 40 years old, the rubrum-colored leaves indicate that the virus is present, but Corison doesn't care. "Few people would tolerate the yields I get off the vineyard," she acknowledges, "but I love the flavor from those grapes." The virus seems to prevent her grapes from maturing too fast and getting too sugary, exactly what she wants. Tony Coturri, a longtime organic wine grower and winemaker, almost has a response of "What virus?" even though it exists in the Hanzell vineyard in Sonoma, which he helps farm. "We just have to live with it," he says. "Sometimes the weaker plants bring a complexity to the wine." He considers clean vine material too simple to make good wine. Controlling the situation with chemicals isn't a solution, warns Kent Daane, an entomologist at UC Berkeley. Daane found that spraying, which some fearful vineyard owners had done, was not effective because the bugs hide under the leaves. Solution A better solution, he says, is a new $54,000 pheromone mating-disruption program, funded by Napa County. Plastic packets measuring 2 by 3 inches impregnated with pheromones hung in vineyards in Napa and St. Helena. The idea: Keep the mealybug population down and avoid the spread of the virus, allowing young plants to grow large enough to fend off infection. Golino is adamant that growers must purchase new certified vines - "even when it means giving up field selections that have been a longtime part of a winemaking program" - in order to reduce the virus' impact. But even that won't eliminate it. "There is not going to be a fast fix," she says. Susceptible to infection And certified vines are susceptible to infection, too. Sebastopol consultant James A. Stamp is often called in as an expert witness when vineyards have taken nurseries to court for buying certified clones that came up positive for the virus. Stamp notes that the desire to keep the complexity of virused vines has led to some unusual farming notions. "We joked about the idea to clean up the vines and then add viruses back in, to add back the potential for complexity," he says. "It would have been a little bit like having unsafe sex." Curiously, organic and biodynamic growers haven't necessarily witnessed the same dangers. Grgich Hills has 25 biodynamically farmed acres in Yountville, adjacent to an afflicted Dominus vineyard. In 2001, Grgich saw the spread of red leaves into its vineyard. The fruit couldn't top 23 Brix, a measure of sugar. In 2003, they started biodynamic conversion. "We saw red leaf slow down and our ripeness increase," says winemaker Ivo Jermaz. "In fact, since going biodynamic, we have to watch so the grapes don't get too ripe." Monica Cooper, Napa County's viticulture farm adviser, couldn't comment on the impact of farming choices, though scientists like Daane suggest organic farming might help. Research in this area has been poorly funded, even though circumstantial evidence shows that organically farmed environments might have natural predators for the mealy bug. "We don't see the problem in our organic vineyards as we do in our conventional," says Jackson, who farms using a variety of protocols. "But I'm not prepared to say that's the reason." Viticultural consultant Steve Matthiasson, who consults for Napa's Araujo Estate, among others, is not alone when he jokes that less color, flavor, alcohol and ripeness might be blessings in disguise. This reaction raises Golino's ire. "I would love to see California produce less alcoholic wines," she says. "But virus isn't the way to do it."
In the beginning, Oriol who with his wife Gloria and wee daughter Berta make up the GOB of the Penedes wine bottled as Els Jelipins, met Rene Barbier who said to him, "You're crazy like me." The superstar winemaker (Clos Mogador, married to Sara Perez) invited him out to the winery and to learn. Through Rene, Oriol met the whole intense Priorat the -fatter -the- wine- the- better crew and he learned how to make those 92+ point wines. Oriol said, "At first I thought wine was poetry. I realized it often was just the recipe." Part of the recipe was cold soaking up to a week with quite a bit of sulfur. Then, adjust the temperature to about 30-degrees centigrade (pretty hot) for fermentation to kick in and extract. Remember to punch down or/and pumpover often. Give plenty of oxygen into the juice (MOX aka micro oxygenation), rack into new barrels, MOX each month. "That's the low-tech version of a recipe wine," he said. Add the tricks like yeasts and enzymes etc, for the high tech version. Yet, the man grew unhappy using the recipe geared towards the big critic. Until one day, and there is always that one day, Oriol met the head buyer for Lavinia. "She was friends with a lot of people in France and she started to show me those wines and I started to think differently. I also met Maria Theresa Mascarello and she too told me that wine could be different. I realized that making wine in the way I had been trained was depressing me." Even in a bad picture, he and Gloria are lovely. He and Gloria who worked together at the Priorat winery, were by then a couple, and went out on their own, still making conventional wine before 2003 and then they broke out. That was the first year they vinified without yeast. "We were so afraid because everyone told us the wine wouldn't ferment. My wife was crying every day with fear." It fermented as if thumbing its nose at the cautionary tales of yeast and its vices. By then Oriol and I were on the road to rendezvous with three more Americans. We pulled up to a small cafe where wine importer Jose Pastor was waiting, with his two charges, Farm Wine imports Keven Clancy and Chris Barnes of Chambers Street. Chris's eyes were ringed in dark and his face was blending into a reptile green. I looked at the puddle of canned mussels in the middle of the table, next to a beer and I thought, "Uh, oh. Poor guy." Then we took off to the GOB's household and the road was so twisty I almost was reduced to crawling on my knees as well, this was more than just sympathy pains. I get car sick on those roads unless I'm behind the wheel. Note to self. Placed in the wilderness, in the middle of views, and smells, and dogs, was their house and garden and rustic winery, with a spring green wall as a backdrop and there, in front of the olive oil barrel like amphora, some more story was unwrapped. "We used to make Parker wine," Oriol started up his story once more. "In 2002 we were going to leave the wine world. It was depressing. Cynical. The way we worked with yeast and new oak and enzymes and everything was against everything we believed in. It was against our nature."" But now?? No temperature control. No SO2. No cold maceration. No pumps. No racking. Whole cluster (most of the years, but sometimes 20-30%). Some pigeage in small tanks. No battonage and no racking before bottling. Yes to amphora (2006 red and white were done in amphora), they don't like the lifelessness of stainless. "Inox reacts to electricity, it's not good for the wine," was the answer. The wine often macerates for 4-5 months. Sumoll is quite tannic and like Bea's philosophy for sagrantino, long maceration softens aggression. They also do a long elevage because they want their wine to be 1) stable 2) ready upon release. Right now look for the 2004. Upstairs. Gloria cooked chickpeas! Waiting in the bathroom were teensie kittens. I seemed to have an inexplicable draw to the toilet so I could cuddle the kittens. As a self-professed cat hater. Never say never. ++ 2003 Red---70% sumoll, 30% garnacha It's a different silty animal. Etheral and elegant. Brickish notes. Extremely spicy with a tumeric sort of nose and white fruit, something like gooseberries and almost similar to a barolo if the barolo has some dried cherry, Earl Grey Tea and firm expressive tannins. "Sometimes there's even a stem inside the bottle," Oriel says. "We work dirty." 2004: powerful acid punch on the long finish. Veru strong, mica like? Why do I say that? Who the hell knows. Cherry. Skunk, just a touch. But plenty of life and jumps. 2005: Firmer cherry, bluer in color, back to barolo and I'm stretching for something, slate-like nuance on top of a sun-dried tomato, ripe cherry and sangiovese grown on clay. 2006- this puppy had extended maceration up to five months and the result is almost a honeydew aroma and juiciness. 20% of this was made in amphora. But wait! Some puppy breath, or was it kitten breath? Just a hint and it is in conjunction with the cherry. They also do a little parellada which, in the Penedes usually finds its way into cava. The 2006 was bottled directly from the amphora. They make so little of it. One day they want to zoom up to a whopping 2.000 bottles, and maybe, just maybe they can one day quite their day jobs. What are they after? Oriol said as we gathered some wild mint for Chris to take in the car to guard against the bad mussels, "When you drink a wine, and you have an impression, and you are impressed, and you feel something so deeply you can't describe it, that is what I want."
++ If you want to try some of the wines, and they are expensive, Jenny & Francois brings the wine into the country except for California which is Jose Pastor Selections.
I might add that their friendly decision to share them is exemplary and makes me happy. Saying good bye, I started a two day voyage with the boys and who could guess that we were off to another paradise, complete with a disco for the wild boar under the lure of the cherry trees.
In the chapter, My Date With Bob, Mr. Parker and I had one or two rough spots. Oddly enough, Spain was an issue in both of them. Parker voiced his emphatic belief that Spain was the hot bed of originality because it was reclaiming many of lost vines and turning them into wines. He maintained that indiginous grapes were being celebrated all around the country. To me, most of Spain had lost it's soul. Now, to me, if something like Mencia is being tarted up to look like Syrah, that isn't saving much. Yes, it is so much better than grafting over to Merlot, if the right savior comes around to kiss the wood and make it blossom into its true self. But, I'm more interested in vine savers who are trying to delve into the mysteries of the grape, not to make it sing out of its range. I met an astrologer once (don't ask) who charmed me when he talked about the planets as if they were his best friends, when Pluto was squishing a Mars he felt the pain. The man transmorgophied planets, and I have come to see that the wines that I love the best come from vignerons who have the same relationship with the vines, such as Clos Roche Blanche and the 'old ladies' of Cot. The day after the conference, I waited in a parking lot under the shadow of the dramatic Monserrat for Oriol to pick me up. Oriol, with Gloria and the impossibly precocious Berta, comprise the winery, Els Jelipins of the Penedès. I climbed in and in ten minutes we were at the very vineyard I had noticed for its oddity the day before. "Wow!" I said. "Fantastic! I was wondering what these were, and they're yours?" These vines looked like spindly sumac trees. Turns out they are Sumoll, a strangely configured bunch of grapes, that barely is given a sentence in the last Oxford Companion. These are eighty years old and even though it's a grape that is native to the area, it is blocked from the DO, so table wine is what they make, pretty expensive stuff in the hands of Gloria & Oriol. So first a visit with Oriol.
I couldn't wait to get rid of my speech at the Ecosostenible Conference in the Penedes. I obsess about these things. I want to be perfect, to be funny, to have just the right touch of light and gravitas. In other words, until the presentation was over I was a basketcase. But I gave it. I said sustainable was meaningless and I didn't understand why the concept in wine even exists. I said other things, like I ragged on the attachment to Round Up, and the shame that an industry I'm close to cultivates the image of being close to nature while plumping up a wine with additives and process. I don't what else. I have to reread the speech, but at the Q&A a gentleman in the second row asked a question. He is writing a guide, he said... and why are the organic and biodynamic wines not as good as the conventional wines? I had no idea who he was. And I took the approach of I'd have to see what he was tasting and what his palate was like, I had the feeling he had a very different one than mine. I then went ahead and tried to explain terroir to him. Turns out.........he was Penin of the Penin Guide to Spanish Wine Who scripted that scene? There were some very excellent speakers during the few days. Such as Peter Hans Schmidt who has been researching biochar. His studies of how sprinkling the substance through the vineyard can impact water retention might have profound effect on lessening the dependence on irrigation. Then there was the stunningly slick presentation on Assessing Sustainability with Eco-Efficiency Analysis from one of the conference's sponsor's BASF, the company that brought us the new transgenic potato.
Mr. Mario Manaresi put forth his thesis that an apple out of season was more eco-minded than an apple in season. Ooof--the manipulation of carbon footprint for the companies greater good. He hit tremendously false notes with the audience as the hands shot up in attack, tempered with some politesse, as, after all, the company is a major EcoSostenible contributor.
Amongst other news was, well, it's not new, but another example of the way the EU seems intent on messing over the beauty of European wine. This time it's the definition of organic and the desire to eliminate a two-level certification, one for wine made from organic grapes and another for organic wine.
Enric Barta gave the report. All of the sudden I stopped emailing and started to take notes. The suited man next to me started to wiggle his jowls, angry but for a different reason. I raised my hand: "Do you mean that there really will no longer be a separate category for wines MADE with organic grapes?
My neighbor was outraged because his company could source organic grapes and get part of the market but did they want to invest in a whole other set of organic ingredients? This would be like having to have both a meat and a dairy sink. But what got me all on the edge of my seat was the allowance of any addition as long as the additive is 'organic.' So allowed in 'organic' wine would be" micro ox, reverse osmosis, and just about anything else including gum arabic and mega-purple. In other words, the new organic wine would be only organic by ingredient and not by soul. This seemed ultimately unfair and malicious. For once, I was on the side of big business. The guy next to me who works for one of the biggest commercial wineries in Spain almost blew his jugular out. The next day all was well for the moment as just like the rose folly of last year-the EU retreated. And the official comment from IFOAM was Commission withdraws draft proposals on organic wine EU Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Dacian Ciolos has today withdrawn the draft proposal to introduce rules for the production of organic wine. Organic wine was meant to be a new concept, as wine has so far been excluded from the EU organic regulation. Processed wine from organic grapes has been marketed as 'wine from grapes from organic cultivation'. The draft has been under discussion for several months within the Standing Committee on Organic Foodstuffs - and in a number of bilateral meetings - but it has not been possible to find a credible compromise which respects organic standards. Speaking this morning, Commissioner Ciolos stated: 'It is clear that conditions for such new rules are not right in a majority of member states. I am not willing to compromise on organic standards because it sends the wrong signal to consumers on the importance we attach to quality policy. Our hope would be that the industry and research can make progress, and the Commission can come back to these proposals in future.' Based on an independent study (Orwine), the draft proposals sought a number of changes, including: · A lower limit for sulphites than in conventional wine; · A smaller list of permitted additives and processing aids than in conventional wine; · Not permitting 5 oenological practices, and restricting the use of 3 others N.B. The rules for 'wine produced from organic grapes' continue to apply. With a great big sigh, I gave my presentation on how important sustainable wine was to the consumer, my message? What, are you joking? And with that, I went off to visit another entirely different world of beauty.