The other week on the Twitterverse 'we' had a discussion about Velcorin (dimethyl dicarbonate) the nasty little chemical that many folk employ to keep their wines safe from brettanomyces, affectionately known as brett. Brett is a yeast, responsible for lending tastes and smells of lanolin to a wine in small amounts or turn a bottle into a herd of sheep just before mating when the population is strong. In those small bits, many--guilty as charged--have tolerance. Yet those do exist who have a zero tolerance and a take no prisoner approach in the winery. Those often opt for the usage.
Out of the Twittersphere, an old editor of mine from the West Coast joined in. The last time I saw him was in Bordeaux, when I said, "If you give me your address, I'd love to send you my book."
He said, "Do yourself a favor, and don't."
I remember feeling stung. But still, I had thought he and I had friendly relationship, I liked him as an editor. After a few rounds of back and forth, he tweeted out in response to my admission that I had some tolerance for brett, 'If your idea of natural wine is brett.."
Non-sequiter. We were not on the topic. He plucked the word 'natural' from a frog's mouth and then continued to push the natural wine debate, throwing out the straw man argument of --you militant you--why don't you only drink wine made from wild grapes!
I twat back, "Please don't go right wing on me."
I meant to be light-hearted, but what ensued was a full-fledged, funny mirror circus trick.
This editor professes to prefer the kinds of wines that I drink. From his writings I doubt it. But I would actually love to see if the way we drink wine is reflected in this unfortunate communication we had.
Do you remember ever fighting with a lover, ( who shouldn't be a lover) and feeling caught in the no-communication zone? Basically, trapped in someone else's pattern is not a feel good moment. Once I realized the level of reality I was dealing with, I slid out the backdoor, with a friendly wave, regards to the wife, and ran for my life.
This is a long rambling entry into the topic of attraction through palate.
Have you, adorers of pineau d'aunis and cabernet franc and Savigny and Cornas vinified with stems, ever been in love with a cult-cabernet drinker? Or had a really close friend who glugged back Scarecrow? Is it possible? I'm not just talking Bordeaux vs. Burgundy, but full out assault of spoof vs. non-spoof? Or someone who just couldn't understand a wine as simply beautiful as Foillard?
I believe that there's something to this, and perhaps predicated on just how intimate and close a relationship is tolerated, like in brett. For example, a friend of mine used to drink lots of Santa Barbara wines and now stocks Puzelat and Cornelissen. Has his taste in love changed as well or is wine his safe zone, his man cave? Or are the chosen women just agreeable, they can drink but need not share this specific passion. I wonder. In fact, I'll have to ask him.
Someone I'm fond of in France said of a fellow winemaker,"He's my best friend, as long as we don't talk politics." What they can talk is wine. And drink wine. That is the even playing field, it is their glue. Myself, I've a very right wing dear, dear, friend, and her palate is in synchrony with my own, which means our senses are in tuned, and that is animal. An old boyfriend of mine, HS, only drank white wine. We may have had a coarse animal electricity, but it was skin deep. After we broke up I rebelled and didn't drink white for years. RB and I had a profound connection for over a decade and we shared the worlds of taste and smell and all of the senses to an exquisite degree. We differed and argued about wine and perceived things differently in the glass but there was still a shared animal understanding in and out of wine. However, that didn't insure our happy ever after.
It's so complicated, but there is something here to think about. I could very well spend the rest of my life delving into the nature of relationships based on how couples or the law of attractions as read through a glass of wine.
So, if you've ever hooked up with a lover of fruit forward while you crave grapes that speak slate, was the sex good, emotional good or kinky good?
What kind of a relationship was it? Was it one of those mating relationships, where children were the objective as opposed to connection? Was the conversation stimulating? Did you have a miserable break up? Are you still together?
Aristotle wrote about the senses (including the maligned taste) Metaphysics:..... the senses, makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.
So, the question I have for you, am I so truly strange that I am alone? Do you ever put your nose and smile deeply when the person you're sharing it with finds the iron thread and bits of blood and bone that you do?
Life on the road was intense. I changed hands and beds once more. Hooked up with my friend thegoddessofwine (yes, I know, but she's Linda, what are we going to do. She is the goddess as well as an amazing sommelier.) We were also meeting ma fille Francaise.
who really should have won le meilleur sommelier de France, except she wasn't wearing une petite talon(high heels! more on that farce later). The three of us are, and hopefully always will be....
photo by Annaick le Mignon
Our first stop was the Renaissance tasting, Nicolas Joly's roving biodynamic wine show. This is one of the years best tasting. The level of high quality wine far outnumbers any other show I go to. Nicolas, by the way, was the first person I bumped into.
Nicolas cracks me up. In fact over the next few days when I lapsed into oh-poor-me, I would think about him and start to belly laugh. Which in proper France brought side glances of shock and fear.
Near the coat rack we embraced and then he started to pick up exactly where we left off last February as if no time had past. Last year it was Haiti and the economy. This year the planets were in a different place and it was about Tunisia and Egypt. You see, the planets were are all lined up somewhere underneath Orion's belt and long underwear. Last year it was doom, gloom and brimstone.This year it was the planets and Tunisia. All was good. I went into the tasting in a fine mood, laughing.
Every one and his mother and uncle who ever lived in the United States was in that room. In fact, France was owned by the Americans this year, many of them looking to be the next Joe Dressner, if that could ever happen.
When Joe started out there were discoveries. Now, there are none. You're just not going to discover some savant shlep who's family has been making wine in a cave in some unknown appellation for six generations anymore. What you'll find are new kids on the block who are renting vines or others who have already recycled through importers, looking for love in all the wrong places. But yet, yet. ...we tasted.
What touched us? I hooked Linda's arm, Pierre André.
"Chateauneuf?" she asked. Quelle horreur! No.
In insisted. She was happy.
Jacqueline, Pierre's shy daughter took over years back. Old world here. This stuff is beautiful, refined even her white in the scary 2009 vintage. It was fresh!
2007: Fresh and depth.
2006 80% grenache with the rest syrah, mourvedre, cinsault etc, the wine is elegant, fresh, lovely and...balanced.
2005 More tannic, and that old fashioned shit called garrique. Bring it on.
2004 Shut down. One direction. Okay.
Alsatian producer, Francois Barmes, Barmes Buecher. New to me. Glad we took the chance. Especially because he's got some vines in Hengst and Rosenberg. Lovely wines.
2008 Rosenberg: grapes were washed over stone. This is the one that grabbed me.
(honorable mention goes to Josmeyer, very over-looked winemaker in this market)
Highlights for me were:
Stella di Campalto wines from Montalcino. Gorgeous and inspiring rossos and brunellos.
In Bordeaux? Sure! 2008 Gombaude-Guillot of Pomerol as well as the 2008 Ch. le Puy (roasted fennel, limestone/star). 2008 was difficult but the people who worked organically/biodynamically seemed to sing.
I continue to love the Clos Canarelli from Corsica, especially the cuvée from anfora. The 2009 Oray which is pie franc, planted en foule was roasted plum and delicious.
The Tourraine's Clos Roche Blanche, ah..my DRC. The '10 sauvignon is just gorgeous with a high dose of elderflower. When I had the '10 gamay, tannic, structure and velvet.
Pineau d'aunis alert! In '10 there is a CRB red Arpent Rouge! There hasn't been one since 2006. (My wine of the year for 2007).Right now it's rough, and angular but it will come together and Didier is just going to bide his time til it's ready.
Pithon Paille, Joe Pithon's comeback wines have hit their stride. '09 Les Treilles was angular and austere, like peroxide washing the teeth but you have to trust me, exciting if too young.
More Muscadet moments were had at Guy Bossard. 2010 gneiss, licorice on acid. limpid.
Orthogneiss- quieter, more restrained.
Granite: floral, fruity, hints of vermont mountain.
There was a muscadet for every mood. Terroir is really fun.
Les Sablonettes? Oui.Christine & Joel Ménard make better and better wine every year. Look for them in 2010. From their cabernets, Le Petite Blanc to the Diable and the Pivoine
Then, contemplating it all, I looked over at a New York sommelier, tasting at Agnes Mosse. She is used to grand cru for breakfast. She looked as giddy as a princess who went to dance with the common people.
Have to say, am loving tasting 2010. Just loving it.
The day after that gorgeous Les Clous (see below), I took the TGV to Avignon (will I ever actually see the town instead of the train station?) In the morning, we left Amy's puppies, we went to La Remise where I wondered if I'd ever return. There was something about tasting wines pre-malo, hard and unexpressed, especially when few wanted to seriously discuss their farming, the terroir and the vintage. Party atmosphere, the ubiquitous Utah Beach oysters. I found myself depressed.
Can I go home? Will I come back? Or was this merely jetlag. Not sure. Highlights? Natural wine from Greece! Finally. Crete and Santorini. No, I won't tell you now. You'll have to come back. Laureano's 2011's are tasting good. Great. And he has a new child in anfora which was damed tasty.
Andrea Calek was there with a new hair treatment, he told me he wasn't going to read my book but someone told him it was funny. He agreed. I don't know if he was laughing at me or with me, but it doesn't matter. He's a smart one, that one. I'll take with or at. It works.
That night, I went home with Amy by way of Le Tracteur where there was yet another tasting. Find? Yes. Jean-Sébastien Gioan's Domaine Potron Minet from Côtes-du-Roussillon.
Frankly it was hard to get me to taste another SW wine as so many just lack freshness, but this one, especially his white which is a blend of macabeu, grenache and muscat was peach, floral and apricot fuzz.
Once back with the puppies,
Millesime Bio is that organic wine fair in Montpelier and an event I'm getting more fond of with each year.
Cheapish for the vignerons.
Great tasting conditions and some very fine wines.
Greatest hits? I fess up, ones that I know from here. I zoomed right over to taste barolo and Erbaluna (Savio Soares imports). I love those barolos. Really, and the 2006 is fragrant, sturdy, sandalwood and chalk. I reaquainted myself with the find wines of Cascina Cornia in Tuscany. This domaine, also imported by Savio Soares, by the way, stopped using copper in the vineyards in 1996, a fact I found compelling, and so were the wines. Gorgeous. Long macerations here and a great box wine. Along with the new domaine of La Porta di Vetrine, remembered what sangiovese tastes like and why years ago I loved it so much. Thanks guys. The Saladin sisters make a fabulous white wine, Per El a blend of 5 grapes all peach and rock. Le Pinte from the Jura gets better and better, Bruno Ciofi is doing great over there, so why isn't this imported into this country? Hello poulsard! And I ended happily with the burgundies of Giboulot. Elegant, even in the vintage I might be scared of, 2009.
Purpled teeth, I dinnered in town with Les Saladins, Amy and The Shep, a place where the Italians were retiring from their two days at La Remise, kiss kiss goodnight, knowing I would see Francesca and Alessandra at the gare in Blois.
Maybe it's this time of waiting; waiting for my editor to get back to me with his comments. Maybe it's working on that damned navel, oh I mean, novel, a futile exercise headed for sorrow, but to tell you the truth, I have been enjoying not blogging.
I don't mind talking to myself, but that is what blogging has become to me, talking to myself and I' not sure if it's the best use of my time. Or anyone's time.
Also, there's vanity involved. I'm not sure if I'd rather do it in public, or down Prince Street behind my wool hat and sunglasses.
True, people read me, from all over the place, and I see the click throughs, and I see the stats so I now I am not as isolated as it seems, but I must tell you, writing on this site feels like one hand clapping. A tree falling in the forest with no one around. A meal without a diner. I'll figure it out, tomorrow I'll have a different story to tell, a different feeling, but right now?
I've been in the ether. I have been standing in the river waiting to get me a speckled trout.
Sporting my diaper-like rubberized waders, I waited for the speckled trout to nibnle, leaf brown or pea green, swim on.
Waiting, I saw what Beckett fabricated: Vladimir and Estragon fishing. V&E waited with a bat to bang the beast between its little bead eyes, to stun it and live bleed it. This is what it was all about.
But there were no fish. False advertising.
Like a pink pelikan, I stood in the water, a redhead with one leg up, and still, so still. It was frigid; cold. Snow and ice. In the end nothing to show for it except some shrapnel from some idiot who wanted to do that exploding fish in the water thing, what to they call it? Torpedo fishing? Dynamite fishing? There were the frozen fillets in my freezer, someone else sent to me. And I waited for guests to come.
I eased the cork on a new vintage of an old favorite, the Clos Roche Blance Cot, vintage 2009. Favorite. What a word. That is a favorite of mine. Seems meaningless and shallow, sort of like name that tune. Favorite. Indeed. When people ask me if I have a 'favorite' color, I have to stop the pity from crossing my eyes. No, I don't have a favorite color. I don't have a 'color.'
Favorite, and i call myself a writer? Is that the best I could do? A writer that is knee deep in the Roscoe River waiting for speckled trout? No wonder I didn't catch anything if I was calling wines like Clos Roche Blanche favorites.
We get sloppy, or I at times get sloppy. Favorite is an inferior word. Who wants to hear a tune when what you really crave is music? Yet, sometimes there's no word for love but the simple love.
I love this wine, the cot, in any vintage but I didn't know what to expect here. That, sir and madam, was a good thing.
A hint of sparkle, and as M. Chauvet said, one shouldn't be afraid of a little carbon dioxide. In this case it blew off in a few minutes. I have never heard Didier Barrouillet admit he had a hard year. Even in 2008 he said, it was fine. No problem. Was there a problem? It is a year, and they are all different, it is Didier against the challenges and if he spends every minute in the vineyard making sure the vines usher in the best fruit possible, there are no complaints. There are no problems.
What about 2009? It was crazy, anything but typical. Hot, cold, hot, wet and hot. "No problem," he said. He never wants to talk vintage, and he never complained, at least to me. Except he doesn't want to work so hard, but he is a master vigneron. Sly, funny, sly, smart. He just..is.
This cot. I first met this cot in 1999. I first met the vines in 2001. They were 110 years old then and the old ladies had plenty of softball sized yellowed limestones lodged into their winter soil like rosy bones waiting for the soup. I loved them then, and I love them now. Sometimes you just fall for a vine when you least expect it.
The wine, the '09, is packed with unfruited jam, a cloudy day with the sun shining. Sweet walnut skin, neat, tannic, 12.5% or so.
I missed the violet, I missed it so damned much. That violet sucked up through a chalk straw? It failed me. Where was that purple flower scented through that limestone straw. I needed it. I wanted it. Gone.
I had soup. I had brussels sprout sprinkled with hot green sauce, ages old, bought in NOLA in 1996, three years before I sipped the first CRB cot. I changed the strings on my guitar for the first time in seven years. I went back to the wine, no longer a favorite but a friend who had a new pair of shoes. A lover who had grown a beard.
The chalk straw was there. The tannins, very different, as if the wine had a new haircut, sassy, maybe a pincurl or a two. And wouldn't you know, the wine was sprinkled with a citrusy, blood orange like freshness. Then it stared at me and laughed so hard, the bottle almost split its seams.
It's about $21 if you can find it.
How about that 6000 year old winery found in Armenia. I guess Genesis got it right, Noah was the first winemaker. What I would like the writer to explain, however, was his supposition that the wine was like nouveau. Thermovinified, malo-blocked wine, yeasted, confabulated plonk. I think he must have gotten that one wrong.
The wind almost blew me off my bike, yet I arrived without incident. After locking my vehicle to the two-wheeled vehicle parking space in front of Astor Wines. I walked into the store, frozen, but came to life quickly because there is something magical about a wine store filled with people looking for help and it brings out the therapist in me. Though I was a miserable salesperson on the wholesale side, it turns out that I am brilliant on the floor where the extrovert in me sneaks out like Persephone from the other side.
I sauntered down Astor's Champagne aisle to see what they had these days.
I had been feeling out of touch and wanted to see if what I thought was true: that one cannot get a decent bottle under $30.
There is no wonder I am recommending sparklers from the Jura instead. Meanwhile, the champagne season is upon us and people will be wanting recommendations. So, while making notes what was available, I saw a slim, fashiony man in a short snorkel coat, fingering the Moet.
"Can I help you?" I asked him.
He was hesitant, and in a lovely Italian accent, tried to dismiss me. I insisted with uncharacteristic bravado, as if I was playing some grand role, "I hope you don't mind but I really would love to help you choose a wonderful bottle and I know this area well."
We perused the options in the under $41 category. Personally I would go for the Boulard Rosé ($39), which is wild and strawberry with a brilliant touch of volatility. Or the La Caravelle Blanc de Blancs ($36.), which I had the pleasure to have only once, last year in Louisiana, but was impressed with its clarity as well as nice squeeze of citrus. Either one, great deals. But I could see, he needed a box. There are sometimes that you need a box.
I directed him to the Roederer Brut Premier-NV @ $41. Sold. I saved him from a fate of Moet, and all was good in the world. And while another five dollars would get him the glorious B&B of Lassaigne, which can be found with its box, but they had none, sometimes you need a box.
Then he had a real question for me. "Do you know Bjork?"
Well, yes, not personally, but I live in the world and I often see her standing on Houston with mult-shopping bags of clothes hailing a cab.
"I'll be at her house on New Years Eve and do you have any suggestions? I was thinking of Dom Perignon."
Oh dear. First I had to steer him away from Moet, now I had to deal with the whammy of the 'DP' status. So I said, let's see if they have the 1996. That is the only vintage you should get.
Then I said, you know how Hermes is really about quality but LVMH is all about image? For all I knew, Arnault was his employer, but he understood. I followed up with , "Bjork is an organic kind of girl, if she or you ever saw the Moet vineyards, you'd swear you'd never buy another bottle."
Okay, he said. And we were off.
His budget was $200. I thought of a magnum, but I didn't like the options at Astor. (Had we been at Chambers Street he could have purchased a magnum of the Gautherot-Vouette et Sorbée NV (2007) Blanc d'argile for $175. )
Astor still has a good champagne lineup but it has never reached the greatness when Jeff Connell, now departed for parts north, was its prince. On Thurday, @ Astor, there was one wine to go for; and it had to be Selosse.
Not Substance because the Substance can be awfully slutty, but the Initiale? Now that is cut from stone. $129. (He could have also gone for the Paillard 1996 @ $199, great vintage, lovely wine, not that I had it recently, but let's just say I wouldn't kick it out of bed.)The thought process clicked in motion. "I thought rich, exuberant, flashy, but an element of eccentricity but not over the top, I didn't want to risk it, but the wine had to have lots of beauty and a story.
Never the less, I think the Bjork sensibility and the Selosse is a match made in heaven.
I adore doing this kind of wine matchmaking, something like I did for the Plumber. for one, I'm usually right. For two, I don't get blamed if the couple breaks up.
On this Christmas that fell on the day after the foggy moon, spend cleaning the bookshelves and the corners of my curly brain, I'll never know what the outspoken star thought of her bubbly, and that makes me sad. So if you happen to be at Bjork's this New Years, will you be my spy and let me know?
Readers of this blog can rightly assume that I'm no fan of the Suckling Tapes. I've heard others pose the theory that watching the high-gloss productions have the compelling magnetism of a train wreck. Yet, I've not been able to make it through the end of any.
In one disturbing episode he, Jay McInerny and David Sokolin tasted and scored a mashup of 1982 Bordeaux. None of these men gave context. There were no stories behind the chateau or the vintage, all they proffered were boring, (very) tasting notes and numbers.
Directed towards Suckling's target customer? Of course.
Directed to the collector who cares soley for status and not taste? It would appear.
God knows, there are enough of those types around, who view their 1982 Latour as their new Breitling, or their new piece of arm-candy. Yes, good luck to him.
While I turned the tapes off, I found myself thinking about how years back when I sat in the Angelika watching The Cook the Thief His Wife And Her Lover, I had to leave.
Not during this scene, but during the end of this:
Tell me, is this the scene where Michael is being force fed pages of his books? ( or that's what I thought. At the time, I was so troubled, I ran away from the wet sounds of Michael's strangulation, forced to eat the words from the volumes he so loved. My fantasy may have been worse than Greenaway's reality.) But I do know, that in this scene, Helen Mirren's character said, "What good are these books? You can't eat them."
Here was disrespect for man, words and literature. Here was a scene sobereft of humanity, much in the same way those Tapes respected neither word nor story. Where the Greenaway film was complex and layered, the Tapes had an obscene reductionism. The number was the parameter, not the taste. I felt I was being smothered by points.
I have no trouble with someone marketing themselves or making money, I do question Suckling's judgment for using social media. The crowd just doesn't seem to be his audience. He was slammed immediately for shamelessness, ego. He was cited for being as out of step with current wine trends and assuming a 'natural wine' was no longer for Birkenstock wearing hippies. People in 17th century France were guillotined for similar points of view. Social Media can also be brutal with its rapid lifecycle from Hero to Haman.
While Suckling innocently sauntered into a world he didn't belong, none are immune to the lifecycle and pettiness of Blogging and Tweeting where wings of both angels and dragonflies can be ripped off from the the scapulae. Applause is as common as jeers. Sometimes the bullies swarm; mean boys and girls drive their peers to thoughts of suicide. It's easy to see how the young and the weak, or merely the weak, can be provoked to self-destruct. I am not immune.
A good and famous friend once counseled me that I should never read what is written about me. He was right and I imagine Mr. Suckling will not read the Heimoff Blog. But what happens when the hate gets posted on Twitter or even in your mail box?
Over the past few days I have had pieces of hate arrive through email, through Twitter and to my face. I did not have the option of not reading. But it sure made me think hard about human nature and how modern technology is helping to feed the baser emotions.
How people see themselves as opposed to the reality is the stuff of both depression and therapy. I have no idea how Suckling views himself, perhaps a rock star, perhaps a wine 'expert.' While people view me as some sort of natural wine something (fill in the blank: diva, princess, high priestess) those are media's terms for me, not mine.
Creating a sentence and not an image or even a wine message is what gets me up in the morning. Unfortunately, no therapist to date has been able to wean my ego away from its obsession of syntax; not color, structure and aroma. True, wine is the majority subject and it fascinates me and I do love writing about it as cultural, philosophical and political metaphor, and the ones that I love, sure do taste good to me. So I fold these two obsessions into this complex tango.
I use is my tools and platforms to support my stories and the little guy, the under dog, the person and the wines and stories that I think need to be told. Vin nature is one of them, I am not a one trick pony and my stories don't come with a number.
This weekend, Leonard Bernstein's picture arrived in the New York Times.
I tore it out and pegged it with a slender needle to my book shelves, above my computer. Lenny is speaking to me.
Look at his focus. The coaxing look in his eye, the tension across the shoulder, the grip on his baton, the curl in his pinkie; every bit of his energy is going into the orchestra to squeeze out the sound he wants. Everything. There is no room for hatred, there is no room for anything but the music, there's no room for the audience. He is there with his art and with the art. That is it. That is beauty. That is brilliance. In that moment there is no room for pettiness. There is wisdom in this image. I will try to listen.
I've been working through some wines from Savio Soares and wanted to let you know about three that I'm liking.
From the Chignin region of Savoie, in the eastern part of France, we have a little Jacquère. At under $13 a bottle this Cellier des Cray is a refereshing, innoocent example with a splash of CO2 and orange essence. Nothing exciting, but wet and fun. Party wine white alert.
I have to say the Octavin Dorabella '08 Poulsard was delicious. Kind of the wine that you keep on coming back to you, it just kept on saying, Alice, come here. It was puls, lighthearted and ethereal but with a vein of tannin. At $30, a little steep, but the glass was empty.
Then we come to Domaine Le Picatier which was the most gamay-like pinot noir I'd ever had, which I suppose is a compliment coming from granitic soils of the Cote Roannaise, an area that gets no respect.
The ‘Auver-Nat-Noir’ is a VdT Pinot Noir, aged for 11 months in barrel. And I loved it. Tremendously complex. This is reported on Richard Kelley's site as being a traditional fermentation but it seemed methode (partial carbonic) in the best sense, in the way of Puzelat, where the grape (okay, even if I did think it was gamay!) shone through. It was spicy, cinnamon, perfume by the gallons, angels and angles, with a compelling floral finish. About $23.