When I sold that first book in '06 I did the normal drill. I made the round of editors, had conversations, had the jitters, obsessed about what to wear and say, and then waited for an offer. Hands folded. Patiently. Not so patiently.
The second time was this past February. I was in Corbieres, staying with the Terrier's of Domaine Deux Anes. I checked home messages.
Magali makes a leek tart while I'm getting my messages
'Alice, it's Jane. Call me right away.'
I was so far away and my thoughts were so in the donkeys and the wines that I was tasting that I just couldn't compute. I couldn't feel. The heart/mind connection was disconnected. Nothing was real. I was not going to spend the next 14 months obsessing about arc and fact. In fact, I felt like I was reenacting my great, great grandmother's scenario. She was seventeen. Her father, an extremely religious man, came home after a day of struggling with talmud and said, "Mazel tov."
Great, Great bubby was not happy.
I imagine she very firmly, totally in control, with limited emotion, as if she were reading a headline, promised her father if he made her marry 'that man,' she would never speak to him again. She had two kids, Pop included. Divorced in 1890. Went on to find true love with a man not so religious and never spoke to her father again.
I just had to tell you that story because, it's not that 'm stretching for some drama, but that the similarity of the situation seemed overbearing; I was a mail order author.
An editor/author relationship is, well, a relationship, it is an engagement, an entwinement. But, but, but, who was my editor?
We finally met yesterday over lunch @ Gramercy Tavern.
I am a lot luckier than my great- grandmother was!
Not only did we break bread (and soup and sandwich and fish croquettes) but we toasted over
1) Donati Malvasia, 2008 (Ms. Juliette Pope, the fabulous wine directress serves this by the glass!)
2) Anne & Philippe Bornard Savagnin Les Chassagnes-Ouille, 2006 (Ms. Juliette Pope, the fine wine directress serves this by the glass!)
3) Herve Souhaut syrah, 2007 (by the bottle)
It was a leaf day. It had to have been. To me, everything seemed a little off, or perhaps the problem was one of expectation; wanting to wow him with Alice wines. Have you noticed? It's like showing of dog tricks and the damned dog does not roll over. Or howl. They did, however, give their paws.
The Donati was resplendent in its malavasia spring, touch of nail polish and great brush of tannin, but it seemed less lively, the Bornard seemed as if had been open for too long, and its acrobatic nature seemed a little stiff. The syrah was perfumed but it didn't dance. Perhaps it was my Sudafed.
Was he being polite? Disappointed in my choices? Was my failing confidence showing?
After too much wine in the middle of the afternoon, I suggested, 'Come to the Kermit Lynch tasting with me!'
He looked at his watch, he was meeting another author of his, who just published Kaboom for a celebratory beer at 4.
'You have plenty of time.'
That was all the encouragement he needed. We passed on coffee and zipped over to the packed, energetic tasting.
First stop the 2006 Domaine Maumes.
A Maume G-V from a fall tasting.
First words from his mouth, "Wow."
But it was the Maume Mazis-Charmes that really did him in. Oh, and then the 2004 Tempier Classique.
By that time I already knew, that this mail order bride lucked out.
The day started with a lunch at Chez Casamir near the Gard du Nord. I was meeting with Jean Paul Gene, columnist with Le Monde magazine (out the last Friday in February). My publisher Jean Paul Rocher was joining, he was under the weather, with a cold. Never the less, the three of us knocked off two 2008s; Dard & Ribo Crozes blanc and Overnoy Plouss. Made the interview cheerier. Actually the interview was stimulating and it started with a joke ( I think.) "So, Alice, people might ask you if you've saved the world yet, but what we really want to know is if you've found love yet." I blushed, stammered and was relieved this was not captured on film. But I thought about that moment, as my spoon was in the vegetable soup, for days. I wasn't obsessing about the reality or my answer, but about the cultural differences between Americans and the French and I'm glad that love is still on their minds. The last question he asked was another that sat in my brain. 'You wrote that it is easier to have friends with different politics than different tastes about wine. Why?" I realized that wine is my political platform, and as it is also emotional. My closest friends can understand my taste, as they can also understand me. Connection is about being seen, is it not? As if a cloak has been removed and one stops being invisible? But politics? That needs diplomacy, it is rationale, a dear friend is a right wing republican. I know it's all about her father. But the fact that she and I share similar tastes (for wine and really flavors of all kind) make our friendship possible. I don't think we would share the same communal space if our connection was about belief and party line. After the two bottles I was a little loopy, had to rush to get dressed and get to Lieu Commun interview with Gault Millaut. Bert Celce (Wineterroirs.com) was taking the photos and was kind enough to give me some of them. When my publisher told me who was pouring at the event, I paced back and forth for about 30 minutes crying. I hoped I could keep from tearing up at night. In the privacy of my own apartment, sure. In France? It would have been too much information. At 6pm, pouring their wines at the signing were three of the book's heroes: Philippe Pacalet pouring the AOC 2007 Gevrey, Catherine Roussel, pouring '08 Gamay and Sauvignon #5 (showed gorgeously), and Pierre et Sophie (Larmandier-Bernier) with Terre de Vertus and the Blanc de Blanc. Marc Fèvre and I are laughing about something or other. The fact that they showed up for me and this, who cared about anything else? Flanking me was a friend I hadn't seen in 25 years, Honey-Sugar's ex-sister-in-law, Philippe Pacalet and his wife, Monica. That night we were back at Casamir. I was too fagged out to even speak but I squeaked out a pathetic and inadequate thank you. Two days later, wishing I had gone back to the newest bar a vin naturel in Paris, in the Passage des Panoramas, Coinstot Vino, but was plenty happy with a farewell lunch at Verre Vole with Jean Paul Rocher and his daughter Marie (I do love that place) I was off to Spain.
After showing up to claim my rental car without a license, quickly thinking: don't panic, it's got to be in the mess of your apartment...somewhere! there were no other glitches. Taxi's showed up at my feet, easy, to ferry me back and from the apartment where I knew exactly to find the forgotten document. There was no traffic. There was no stress. I thought. I solved the world's problems in my head.
A great big, public thank you to Ted and Barabara who were responsible for bringing me out to the New Jewish Book Festival, Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation-Emek Shalom.
The event was terrific, at least for me.
I need to get out into the hinterlands a little bit more often because it is all too easy to sit here in the comfort of the shtettle where I can find everything I want. I get spoiled. I forget that not everyone knows who P***** is. And mostly I forget that not everyone deeply cares about wine. No wonder wine books are such a hard sell. Few people care.
People were curious whether natural wines aged (I talked about some of my favorite older wines that predated much technology and aged beautifully: yes, I'd bet money they age and the others don't.
Can they tell which wines have additives on the label? No, but you can read between the lines. Organic or sustainable or biodynamic grapes most probably means conventional wine. Look for Organic or Biodynamic WINE.
Are these wines more expensive? No, mostly cheaper and taste better.
But Ted, the organizer cared, as does his wife and a few of the people who showed up, One man actually drived up from New Jersey. One woman came because she and her partner wanted to grow/make wine biodynamically on a Napa mountain.
Most gratifying was seeing people cozy up to the Cot and the Fleurie-- little too warm but still lovely. The more conventional wines were not overoaked monsters but every single one of them were cloyingly sweet in comparison. The difference between natural and non were dramatic, yet not clunky.
I just fished my first copy out from the mailbox. Synchronicity was working to keep me humble and not enjoy the event too much, because almost in the same moment I received a note from an Ontarioan lacerating me for the mistakes in the Francais.
I know. I know.
Some were mine (in the book I do confess my French is awful) the ones that aren't mine are more embarrassing. In fact they are terribly embarrassing. Fingers and toes crossed that all are corrected in this version of the book.
The recession-priced book will hit the book stores the first week in May.
ALSO, LIVE IN THE WEST HARTFORD VICINITY? Come and shmooze with me at the Farmington Valley Jewish Center as part of the JCC book festival.
+++Join us on Sunday, April 19 from 4-6 p.m., for a fascinating talk from Alice Feiring, New York Times Best-Selling Author of "The Battle for Love and Wine." The book documents her journey to discover biodynamic wines. Feiring makes an argument for wine authenticity through adherence to old techniques. She's against what she calls Big Wine—viticulture as business and technology—and blames the shrinking appreciation for hand-vinified, long-aged Old World wines on, among other things, the UC–Davis School of Enology and Viticulture and the wine writings of critic Robert M. Parker Jr. Organic and biodynamic wines will be available for tasting. They will be accompanied by good food, including dessert from Mozzicato's, Harvest, and others.
Tickets are only $18 each before April 18, or $120 for a Table of 8. For more information, click here, or contact Barbara and Ted Fichtenholtz (FVJC.FeiringEvent@gmail.com, 658-0304) or Daryl Worobow (email@example.com, 404-0579).++++
A friend called me from Texas to read me the December 2008 review of my book.
The reviewer calls me a jolly green jihadist on a mission and his sign off is something like
I'm good at raising hell. My heart is on my sleeve, but isn't that the right place?
Here's the bit that got me.
"There's a nagging gap; raised in a Jewish orthdox household she does not eat meat or shell fish. Which raises a question she never addresses, with this sort of truncated regime, what for her is wine's purpose?"
Why do people think I have to eat meat to love and understand wine? Why is there pity in their eyes--no steak and claret? How can you live? And some take it even further. A few years ago a book editor once screamed at me at a dinner, you don't eat meat and write about wine? Off with your head!
Don't you know people who will eat anything that walks but that is because they have no sense of taste? I do. And what is so great about meat anyway? I stopped because I don't like it, not because I'm on a regime.
Have they ever had grilled mushrooms or truffles on pasta or stinky and lascivious epoisses? Because I don't eat tripe or kidney pie I don't get the sensual delight of food?
Yeah. I'm off on a rant. This is a hot button topic for me.
And, what does my Orthodox background have to do with anything, especially when it comes to my wine knowledge and passion? My background for a wine writer is unusual which is why I included these autobiographical bits in the book. I mean, most of the people I grew up with still consider Carmel extra sweet a fine wine, but why would someone take this as a cue to question my wine motivation or even my knowledge?
Last winter, my agent's British sub agent asked if I would consider editing out the few Yiddish words within the book's pages. Betsy and I had similar reaction to the suggestion...our anti-semite buttons went off, our respective red hairs bristled. The words stayed. Funny thing is that I sold Spanish rights to the book--it will be out in 2010--no one seemed to mind the Yiddish there.
In San Francisco this Wednesday ? Come hang out with me and Ceri and some Dressner Selections at Ceri's fabulous SF store, BIONDIVINO.
I have no idea what the hell we'll do from 6-8 on October 29th, but we'll work at making it fun.
1415 Green Street (Polk) 415-673-2320
on Russian Hill
Spanish wine is hot. But why are they so interested in me then? Might Spaniards be secretly pissed off with the style of wine that has taking over the country? (Errata report: they cite Parker as being with the Wine Spectator and not the Wine Advocate. Hey it's all the same to them.)
Then in my morning Industry Roundup comes a story in SIFY, an Indian on-line news source which distilled a spot that ran on British TV on the funny business in wine making. It's actually amongst one of the poorest pieces of journalism I've seen. They never do answer the question about why some wines give hangovers and others do not. (Could it possibly be too much drinking?)
Well, you know, I prefer not to buy wines with these 'additives'--but other than the chemical residue in the wine that is a by product of conventional farming, they're no worse for you than commercial bread, but yet it's "Oh, my God, they are adding yeasts to start fermentation, can you imagine?"
Why some wines give you hangovers and others don't
However, when asked, it was revealed that Hardys add yeast to their merlot red wine and use egg, milk and gelatine to fine their product and make it less cloudy.
Jacob's Creek added tartaric and ascorbic acid to their chardonnay and also used clay, enzymes and milk powder as a fining agent.
Blossom Hill accepted that they might add tartaric acids, enzymes and tannins to the grape juice and use yeast nutrients and malolactic bacteria during fermentation of standard red wine.
However, Stowells and Gallo simply said their wine was made in accordance with EU regulations.
Speaking of reverse osmosis, does anyone out there know how many California wineries believe they have to treat their wine for smoke taint this year?
On Tuesday Sept. 23,6:30!
If you live there or are visiting or can make it, I'll be at Kermit Lynch's in Berkeley, California, to read and chat.
Check the PDF link and head to page ten for the detail.
Sante Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta
(and if you have any clue how I should handle the men on my panel, please chime in!)
Wine Seminar: The Winemaker, The Owner, The Merchant, The Author and Her Book: The Battle for Wine and Love
"Winemakers like to say wine is grown in the vineyard, but more and more wine is grown in the lab," writes Alice Feiring, author of The Battle for Wine and Love, or How I Saved the World from Parkerization. Feiring leads a timely and compelling panel tasting of eight wines with wine merchant Neal Rosenthal, winemaker Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon and winery owner Jason Haas of Tablas Creek. Does the wine in your glass exhibit a sense of place? You be the judge.
1:30 PM to 2:30 PM, La Fonda
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.