Last year at the NYC La Paulée a very prominent producer of California pinot brought several bottles with him to share. At the end of the evening, as I was scouring the room for the dregs and trying to dodge the phony bottles of Henri Jayer, I saw an empty. I put my nose to work and sure enough. My first pot wine. I was wondering if Aubert de Villaine had had any, as it was at his table. But there was none for me.
It wasn't that I was such a pothead, ever. In fact, it was never my comestible of choice. I tend to desire tobacco way more often, and Burgundy or Pineau d'Aunis as well. But I really want Irrelevant, to see what those girls and boys in the North Country were up to. Was it a mere urban legend that ME made a fantastic one and another woman. And did HT did too? Perhaps, but still, none ever turned up in my brief California travels.
But then life took its course.
I was recently at a festive little gathering with a number of winemakers in for the various tastings. After the cheese but before the beets, a friend, a critic actually, always is toting something of interest, had a strange looking barrell sample. "Want to try?" he asked. "West County stuff."
I had just downed the last of an 1989 Robert Michel Cornas and was ready. I stuck out my glass, he poured heavilly from the red electrical tape labeled bottle.
I stuck my nose in it and said, "Stems!" I was a little slow on the uptake.
Then I looked at him and it registered. I said, "Finally."
I took a big glug back and yes, it smelled like fresh, strong, skunk weed with quite a bit of barolo chinato stuck in. I was told five pounds were sunk into the warm ferment, but didn't get the ratio to tonnage. I also have no idea how or whether it went through malo. Perhaps one of you could chime in here. But I do know that it was tasty and at first I thought, I'm in for it. I got a little fuzzy, a little disconnected, but not exactly what I could consider 'high.' As I remember, brownies of yore were way more potent.
The fragrant brew in my hand, I ran over to winemaker, Eric Texier. He stuck his nose in it and chuckled a sly, 'heh, heh.' But the best reaction was le roi de la muscadet, Marc Olivier. His eyes flashed as wide as a bass's mouth, with such sweet mirth, I wondered whether I can expect more stems in the red blend, La Pépière
With a little warm, cold, hot guessing, I was able to figure out the vintner.
The funny truth is that their herb wine was a lot more to my liking, and made me think that I really should revisit the 'domaine.'
However, it was a little difficult to determine the grape, (seemed like ploussard, actually) it could have been some other Jura red but I was told syrah, and just today I was told that we blew it. The way to drink the stuff is the first wine of the evening, not the last. Also, I was told the cépage was nebbiolo--coincidental given that my second reaction to the wine was Chinato that had its base as nebbiolo. Trust me, this was pure coincidence.
Nevertheless, it seemed carbonic spicy and fragrant, low in alcohol. I would guess natural yeast fermentation, and no Jesus juice additions or acidity. I would be very curious whether these wines have an easy time going through malo and what the nature of the alcoholic is.. If any of you out there know, please drop a comment.