My latest at Newsweek on the new, (sometimes rasta, sometimes roll) energy in the Hautes-Côtes.
Vermont makes wine? Yup. And I presented them along with Sean Buchanan this past Sunday. A week before hand, I had only had La Garagista's--and that's it. So it was a moment of discover for me and that? Always fun.
They're focusing on the winter-hearty hybrids which makes sense. But one of the problems I found was a desire to make a wine that tastes a certain way rather than a wine that is what it wants to be. Reminds me of when my father bought me a pair of purple knickers when I was 14 years old. They weren't me. They were what he wanted me to be. Loud instead of shy. Most new wine regions--fall into this pitfall. As the region grows, so will the wine's identity.
However, the wine star for me was Louise Swenson which seems like it could be similar to kerner and ice cider--tart, sweet and zingy. Le Crescent could also be a winner. And the reds? Those are a little more difficult, but I know something interesting there can work. After all, slate and schist? I don't know, I am thinking, mondeuse?
Anyway, here was our program of wines, posted as promised.
Cheese: VT Butter & Cheese Bonne Bouche
Wine: Lincoln Peak Louis Swenson
+ Shelburne Vineyard La Crescent
Cheese: Grafton Village Cheese Bismark
Wine: East Shore Vineyard Frontenac Rose
Cheese: Springbrook Farm Raclette
Wines: Lincoln Peak Marquette
+ Shelburne Vineyard Marquette
Cheeses: Consider Bardwell Pawlet & Shelburne Farms Smoked Cheddar
Wines: Snow Farm Vineyard Vidal Ice Wine
Boyden Valley Vermont Red Ice
Cheese: Shelburne Farms 2 Yr. Cheddar
Wines: Eden Ice Cider
Newhall Ice Cider
The Rensselaerville has got to be one of the precious, adorable, historic villages in New York State and still running a sweetheart of a library in the north east. I've never seen anything like it. Built in 1798, it was one of the first in Albany County. As narrow as Anne Frank's house, and writing and reading hormones run through the shelves with abandon. I curled up on a victorian repro sofa to indulge in the wifi and promptly curled up and took a cat nap.
When I agreed to be part of this festival of writers I had no idea I would be so taken with the small town trying to make sure it survived. If you're around tomorrow the $52 for the tasting and talk will be well worth it, and I'm not talking about me or the wines, the wines will be great, but drinking to support literature and a house of books? Oh, that one is a good one.
Wine outlaws, we'll call it. Up for drinking and discussion:
Outlaw Wines *
Fizzy from Italy
Casa Coste Piane Prosecco (glera) ($27)
Puzelat-Bonhomme La Tesniere 2010 (menu and chenin) $20
Puzelat-Bonhomme Touraine 2011 (sauvignon blanc) $18
Puzelat-Bonhomme Pouilly- Fumé 2009 (sauvignon blanc) $28
Loire Reds + (one Spanish Rioja)
Olivier Cousin Le Cousin (grolleau) $20
Olivier Cousin Le Breton 2009 (cab franc) $20
Bodegas Pecina Senorio De P Crianza 2005 (tempranillo) $25
Puzelat-Bonhomme Le Telquel ? (gamay, touch of pineau d and) $17
Puzelat-Bonhomme in Ko we Trust 2010 ( cot) $25
•Prices all estimated high. Can be found for less if you search around
I just hope I can live up to this poster.
Picking up the car at Enterprise I was asked, the SUV or this?
So what was the matter with the 'this?" (my girlfriend Ronni and me up in Shelburne--see next post). So I fired up the black Mustang convertible and even though it took me 8.5 hours to get to Vermont for my wine dinner, I didn't mind; it was the Grateful Dead radio all the way up for a special dinner from the dynamic duo, Deirdre (do check out her wonderful book, Libations, a bitter alchemy) and husband Caleb of Pane e Saluté resto in Woodstock.
They closed the restaurant and staged this event at their their picture perfect cottage out in the gorgeous Vermont night, La Garagista, where they are also making Vermont's only organic grown and naturally made wine. Her Le Crescent rosé -like wine was startling with a strong, precise strawberry perfume--direct from foot-press. Hard work but someone has got to do it.
Puzelat Pet. Nat. '10
Clos Roche Touraine Sauvignon'10 (utterly delicious)
Sanfeliu Rosé '10 (hit of the night. People were crazy about this)
Pierre and Catherine Breton Le Senechal '10 (serious and structured)
Texier Indigene Sulfureux Eluney '10 (no syrah but pleasurable)
Andrea Calek Chanton de Garde '10 (a little disjointed)
Dinner was delicious. Conversation fun. Questions, stimulating. What can I say, it was one of those magical nights. And the food, delicious.
Two years ago I sent the importer (okay, it's José Pastor) a photograph of a wine I fell for. It wasn't like most of the crap Txakolina that is available in this country (even the hip stuff--even that rosé, which frankly, I find a little toxic).
He said, hey! I'm bringing it in.
Two years, José? Well better late than never.
It's a wine pared down. Apple skin and lemon pith --and subtle complexity so it's not a one-noter. It didn't make me sweat from the sulfur like most of the summer of rieslings do.
Currently this winery is only organic operation left in the area of spoof and more spoof. Where chemical agriculture, super S02, added yeasts, deacidification and added C02 reign.
The owners, Iñaki and Rosa Mari Exteberria ran his family's dairy farm. But in 2001 they laid down 3.8h of vines on their farm, 45 miles south west of San Sebastián. They were organic from the start. The grapes?95% Hondarribi Zuri and 5% Gros Manseng.
Most of the areas producers are clustered near the coast, yet they are inland, on heavy clay soil. As a result had to fight to be granted DO status, a fight he won when he proved historically the wine was was made there.
Taste? Go down the muscadet road but go to a Protestant church in the Hebrides. I'm not religious, but this could turn me into one of them. This is the real deal. 11.5%. The fizz might be a little more gentle than you'd expect, but that's because any trapped co2 here is natural.
About $19. Too expensive. Should be $8, but the world isn't like that anymore. So, I'll pay.
The label says it all.
The Drinks Business (a pub that sometimes does get it wrong) reports:
Five batches of the company’s Krug Champagne have been withdrawn as consumers allergic or intolerant of sulphites have been advised not to drink the products and the Food Standards Agency has issued an allergy alert.
The products withdrawn are: all sizes of Krug Grande Cuvee; and 75cl bottles of Krug Rose, Krug Vintage 2000, Krug Clos du Mesnil 2000 and Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1998.
The official Krug response: sulfur is a natural byproduct of fermentation. Well, yes, but show me the wine that produces maximum legal amounts and I'll show you a tab of petrochemical Campden at work.
Actually, at first read I thought, wow, they over-sulfited the wines. But no, they were just buttonholed because they neglected to stick the warning label on. In a house as corporate as Krug, that is a surprising flub. Someone's head is going to go down the bowling alley.
Make sure you read the comments, they're hilarious.
I think so. Yes. Mostly.
+When it come to making wine list? Perhaps.
+Is it accident that four of the more interesting and thoughtful lists gathered in New York (and Brooklyn) right now are created by women? I don't think so.
+Why? Because women tend to react more emotionally-- even to wine, they also seem less likely to gouge on prices. They also tend to create more personal wine lists. Just as in writing, the best ones have voice, point of view with little pandering to market concerns and somehow also manage to hit decent price points for lovely wines.
These pros have their own distinctive style of working the floor, from classic to rock. Their lists show their individual style and when needed how they work their personal point of view into the vagaries of necessity.
She's got that fetching combo of clear in her palate but yet has a slight, sincere insecurity-- in the most charming way. It was no surprise when she told me, I think the job a sommelier is to curate wine and make people happy. If someone wants to discover new regions, esoteric grapes or wants a wine they recognize I feel they can find it at Corkbuzz. Both Morgan Harris and Stacey Gibson (sommeliers) help me to curate the list of about 250 bottle selections and our 40 by the glass.
She submerges her ego for the greater good--education. The CB list covers a lot of ground, (of note, she only offers mature Bordeaux, with the youngest vintage 2007). But Laura should get this summer's finest wine fairy award for her Champagne Campaign.
Head to Corkbuzz tonight, at 10pm to witness and drink Laura's ground breaking idea of great self-sacrifice! Until she decides to stop, at every night, beginning at the 10pm witching hours, they sound the gong. That means? 50% on all bottles of champagne. This is the best bargain in the NYC wine world. $50 for Lassaigne? $72 for Marie-Noelle Ledru? Pascal's Sagesse for $70? She can't be making money off this but she is turning people on to champagne and it's a thrill to hear the bell tinkle every time someone orders a bottle. She is developing a following, she is growing champagne drinkers, and she is happily taking one for the team.
We are all forever indebted to her for not only this but for Muscadet out of magnum.
Afer her stunning tenure at Louis/Dressner Ms. Lee Campbell
is back. And if you go to visit her at Reynard's (she's not on every night) you'll need sunglasses, that's how much she sparkles in fact her wine list is a French jewel box,
which sidesteps the cliché. Lee has little tolerance for wines that aren't flat out delicious. Unlike Laura, she is not trying to educate, just shut up and drink something good. In her words, "It's a wine list with a particular point of view and welcoming without trying to be everything to everyone," she explained. She also adds that the list reflects the restaurants ethics, "careful sourcing, sustainable farming, good value, distinctive flavors and supporting people we admire and often count as personal acquaintances."
Like Laura (and forthcoming, Pascaline) these femmes all love their bubbles and I love that Lee democratically lumps the champagnes under Les Bulles, mixing it up with Eric Bordelet and two sparklers from Muscadet. She's got the Strohmeier Schilcher for $54! Yet, imbedded is a tight ten champagnes ever, ranging from $78 (Drappier) to $198 for Fleury 1995. Who else? Léclapart, Prévost, Bouchard, Vouette & Sorbbé, Lassaigne and Colin. Then she has the guts to avoid all Bordeaux, and instead push twelve wines from the region of Nantes (muscadet alert!), 12 rosés. Serious burgundy is a little weak, but look at those 11 beaujos. When there last I opted for the $60 Foufone (look it up) the Crozes from Les Chaps Libres. In other words, this that follows my own heart with a ton of stuff between $40-$50.
When she came back from France/Belgium to take over the Rouge Tomate list four years back, she had to contend with some real listicular damage. She proceded to weed out the noxious weed-type wines that 'somehow' popped. She pared and primed until she arrived to where she is today, almost happy with her list. 600 or so references, and vying for one of the top lists in New York City. Honest. This is a list of seriousness, complete with large selection of different formats, and the important references, eccentricities such as 5 deliciously different Barolo Chinato.
This is the only 1-star Michelin restaurant in NYC (possibly in the states) that elevates biody, org and stripped down, to its proper place--great wines made minimally. She has some compromise issues, she's struggled to find enough New World bottles, she has included wines 'she can live with,' because she has to have certain wines for certain clients, I'm sure she would rather have more Loire Valley reds than Bordeaux, but it doesn't take much to find where her personal stamp is.
Again, prices for everyone, even in this location right across from Barney's. 33 champagnes from $63 for La Caravelle La Nina. $780 for 1996 Salon, "Le Mesnil - Blanc de Blancs." Then, let's talk the Loire. Here, a Sancerre will be either Vatan ($119) or a Gaudry ($56)--truly excellent stuff. Chenin? 18+ ($51-$152).
Not saying men don't make great lists, (Michael Madrigal, Aldo S., William Fitch) but often there's an intellectual touch that replaces the caretaking. There had been one notable exception, and that was Levi Dalton. When Levi reigned over Alto and Convivio, yes, he brought that formal service, he slipped into that slicked back hair role, but his selections were marked by Levi's palate and he was going to cover that gentle price point if you needed it. He sensed his customer, he vibed the customer, and he let them gently into their world.
Last night I was at Edy + Wolf, a fun spot on Avenue C. The wine list was mediocre, oh, there were some bottles to drink, but it was near to impossible to find anything under $60. Which brings me to Juliette Pope at Gramercy.
Enough said. Juliette is one of the finest wine directors in New York, possibly the country. So, will you tell me why she's never been nominated for a James Beard award unlike some of her Danny Meyer colleagues? I know, this is more my issue than hers, but still we all need some recognition and she's been going about her non-self-promotional self, just doing the best she can and that is at the top of the heap.
Like Laura and PP, she'll have a wine for everyone, no matter what you want to drink. Yes, this is a mature list and a deep list, she has the benefit of momentum. But still, from $38 to the heavy thosands, these are the kinds of lists that will thrill a drinker, whether broad, or a specific point of view and a trustworthy palate. I would trust any of them to take me there, never upsell, find me a bargain and a little joy.
Back in May The Drinks Buisness interviewed Nicolas Joly where they quoted him as saying, "The term natural wine is nothing more than a drawer in which to put all the winemakers who didn’t make enough effort to convert to organics and biodynamics.”
The somewhat lukewarm New Yorker review of Francesca's located in the old Frankie's space on Clinton didn't bother me, but the writer's take on drinking there made me do a double take.
The most notable risk that Francesca takes is encouraging patrons to drink sherry with dinner instead of wine (one waitress joked, “It’s not your grandmother’s sherry,” as if that were a selling point). There’s nothing wrong with simplicity or grandmothers, of course, but suggesting that diners forego wine in favor of the sweet stuff bespeaks an eagerness bordering on impatience to show off what Francesca knows about Spain.
From the look of it right now, Francesca's does not have a destination-worthy selection of sherry, though they do have some very interesting looking sherry cocktails. However, if you go there for a copita check out the Byass ($8) and El Maestro ($11). (There had been better offerings over at The Beagle (closed for renovations) hope they keep up the good work when they reopen. $24 will get you a copita of La Bota 30 @ Tertulia, and I think Casa Mono might have some better options, at least by the bottle.)
But getting back to the matter at hand, I wanted to call the writer up and just let her know that sweet sherries are the minority. "Really, you can be sure, no one was suggesting you drink a PX with your Fideuà."
But, such is the reality the makers of sherry have to deal with. I wanted to guide the writer to Eric Asimov's tone poem to the wines of Jerez. I wanted to point her to the writings of Peter Liem. And also wanted to tell her about my evening with the wonderful Jancis Robinson. This past May, after tasting many saperavis with some Georgian friends at Jancis Robinson's home round table she graciously insisted we stay for dinner. When she insists, if you're smart, you obey. We did.
But first Jancis had a big problem to solve. She knew the Australian riesling wasn't going to work for me. "What am I going to give you to drink." (It sounded more like , what the hell am I going to give you!)
No problem there: she played sure-footed sommelier as she said, "This is the only thing I can think of." She then disappeared and emerged with what could have been my personal bottle of Gonzalez Byass Palmas fino, but it was not too be. The other's loved it too.
How wonderfully thoughtful, and I hope to one day return the favor. I might have polished off the 500ml myself, enjoying everything as a pairing. Herring and fino? Excellent. (by the way, the herring rivaled Russ & Daughters.)
But meanwhile, over at The New Yorker, there's no range of sherries, there is only the equivalent of Harvey's Bristol Cream, a syrupy, one note aberration. I could cut the publication some slack, blame the gaffe on a summer intern syndrome, but even if it was the fault of a sub-drinking age word-picker, the assumption flags the issue at hand: most people don't know shit about sherry.
Now, it's fine if the writer doesn't like sherry, but that she doesn't know there's a wide rainbow of ocean-air-like sherries under the categories of Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso and Palo Cortado, was not due diligence, even though it is the tragedy of sherry. But the good news it is finally starting to reclaim its reputation, because we live in the age of the oxidative wine revolution. Maybe one day, she'll learn what she missed: the angular, salty, nutty, umami side of the Palomino grape.
I shouldn't be too harsh, though. After all, if I were given an assignment to write about baseball, I too could make this kind of mistake, afterall, aren't the Dodgers a New York team? But you know, the chances that I'll ever cover baseball......