Want to know what goes on inside The Feiring Line? This from a part two series and a visit to Martin from the June issue. For more info.
My story on new natural wine power in an old Georgian city, Sighnaghi is up now on Punch. While wine tourism has reached that hilltop town, do not expect Napa, do not expect Rioja. Humility is part of the DNA in this town and in the Georgian wine world. May it always stay that way.
So, go have a look, then come back here for the details, of places to visit and the faces behind the wines.
John Wurdeman, the man who many point to as fueling the Sighnaghi wine and spirits think tank. Here is is, above the fog. Photo by Vjera Babić.
Where to Eat & Drink
Not only can one drink the best of Georgia at the PT wine bar (and eat some of the best food in the country, but get a load of the line up of non-Georgian.)
City Wineries to Visit
Paul and Alexander Rodzianko
41 Baratashvili Street
tel: +995 355 23 19 29
7 Chavchavadze str, Sighnaghi, Georgia
tel: +995 551 622 228
That's Archil in the vines and this is him opening the q.
tel: +995 599 408 414
And that new protégé, Nathan? Watch for his crazy cider. I have high hopes.
So it goes. Just will leave you with a couple of back labels. This is what's going on there, in Georgia for some reason they're not afraid of the term, natural wine. Afterall, they're Georgians, they started this whole thing. No?
Where to eat? Drink?
18 Baratashvili Street
Walking down the street I was shocked to find a new wine bar, of course started by an alum of PT, as well as a great chacha maker (chacha? that's the direct path to heaven, John's wife Ketevan says of the Georgian grappa).
VinoFactura wine bar and shop
Nikoloz Nadirashvili's the owner.
5 Kostava street
Hotel Crown Restaurant
Tel.: (+995 355) 23 13 93;
Nettle or mushroom kinkali for about .35 each, or a plate of brains. Food is yummy.
Last week three requests rolled in, "Alice, what is your position on wine ingredient labels?"Three requests meant that even though I have expressed my opinions in Naked Wine and in interviews, perhaps I best spell it out.
For a long time I've been in favor of less government in wine instead of more, but in this instance I have to fess up that with so many additives allowed in wine, an ingredient label is best. If there's an ingredient list for soda, there needs to be one for wine. If you are warned about an orange juice from concentrate, the same should be true for wine that has been reverse osmosed/concentrated.
Perhaps the TTB's willful ignorance in this matter, and yes, I do believe that it is, comes down to the influence of a wine lobby afraid to lose market share if required to disclose all. Even though, if I take the TTB's definition of natural wine, I could be convinced that the TTB, what I can imagine a non-wine drinking organization, believes what the wine lobby tells them, that wine is made in the vineyard, or that it is not possible to make wine with grapes.
Either way, the innocent is not so innocent, and a child of the 70s, in this case as in so many, the money lobby speaks.
With the allowed additions for example, of; water, sugar, concentrated fruit juice from the same kind of fruit, malolactic bacteria, yeast, sterilizing agents, precipitating agents, PVPP and other approved fermentation adjuncts, what will it take for the TTB to understand that most wines should be labeled as a wine beverage like my neighborhood convenience store's Chateau Diana? Because real wine, it is not.
I have not been successful in getting the TTB’s spokesperson Thomas Hogue, to take my inquiry about a real ingredient list seriously enough to get a satisfactory reply. Instead he sounding quite straight-faced wrote to me that on the table is an ingredient list, but the joke here is that it is only for nutritional value, carbohydrates, and calories.
How many of us are drinking for our five fruits and vegetables?
As more drinkers want their wines as natural as the food they seek, more wineries are going to present themselves as natural. Of course you can rely on your palate to be your guide, but the customer who is buying on philosophy and not taste will have a harder time.
Unless wine ingredients and processes make it on to a label, nothing can safeguard the product for the consumer who believes no label means nothing added. Right now some wineries like Ridge and Bonny Doon openly and extensively list their ingredient optionally. But as others follow suit, my fear is that the TTB will outlaw them instead of insist it be required.
So, where do I stand? I give up. There should be. Yes. Get the ink rolling. I want one.
In February of 2014, I traveled to Australia for the natural wine fair, Rootstock (next one is August 2015). Then I went off to see what I could drink. Never did I think I would find some gamay from the older generation that sung and a whole lot of chirping was going on from the newer. Here's an snippet.
The morning wine writer and ukulele-meister Max Allen and I tanked up on flat whites and headed out of Melbourne, the bush fires kept the Victoria air smelling like barbeque. Our first visit was Bindi (conventional but snappy and sexy pinot and chardonnay). Then we hit the biodynamic and dry farming advocates, Jasper Hill and Castagna (“I make syrah not shiraz.”).
Finally in the late day, as the light started to turn blue, we drove the twenty minutes or so from Castagna to Barry Morey’s backyard to discover the wines he makes under the Sorrenberg label.
His sleepy neighborhood was all about bleached picket fences and scrubby rolling hills. I slammed the car door, the cool white cocktatoos, strung white lanterns in the trees, barely reacted. Barry came towards us. A friendly man with a bent posture, he reminded me of a character out of the Wind in the Willows. The man was humble, or was that merely from years of bending over the vines? We piled into his truck to head just up the road a bit to his vines. “I don’t do much to make wine,” he said in a way that registered with authenticity. In that moment I understood that Barry was incapable of producing any kind of wine other than an honest one.
There is rapid wine change coming on in Australia. And to read the rest of the article and the rest of the rest...please subscribe!
Franck Balthazar, who looks like a slighter, younger Sean Connery, was getting me car sick.
I had zipped down from Burgundy. For one day, I teamed up with my friend Amy Lillard, of La Gramière and we were in Franck’s clangy truck, taking the curves, and heading up into the heart of the Cornas terroir, an amphitheater of vines. With relief we reached his granitic plot in the esteemed Chaillot vineyard. That vineyard, along with Reynard are the appellation’s exalted crus. Sucking in the unseasonably chilled air at about 300 meters, the visual paradox of Rhône River and the nuclear power plant stretched way down below. With a good amount of forest embracing the bowl of vineyards, and the wind blown poppies, it was, save for the industrial sight below, beautiful. The area was even compelling a decade ago when I stood there in the baking and brutal sun on impacted soil with fellow Cornasien, Thierry Allemand. (Continued...for subscribers.)
In the introduction for The Battle for Wine and Love I talked about a screenplay I wanted to pen: girl journalist finds out about a global plot to kill of the authentic wines of the world, she springs into action.
The plot to kill off authentic wine is not such fiction.
Let's take the plight of tw wonderful wineries in different lands, in similar situations, penalized for not lack of quality, tastiness or stability, but solely on their lack of typicity.
Canada's Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) could almost be rebranded as the Anti-Quality Alliance.
All wines of Canada's Ontario must to go through a tasting panel. Even if a wine is good, solid, tasty, might even be delicious, if it isn't typical, the wine is penalized. It is eligble for export, but loses a financial advantage, putting a small winery through tremendous financial hardship. I offer you Pearl Morrisette.
Pearl M. is one of the few Canadian wine amassadors to the United States, it is one of the few wines here getting people excited about what is happening up to our north. Minimalist, it feels right at home on the wine shelves of those who drink naturally. Even though the winery has extremely high standards, even though it's well-regarded, the wines continually have problems have passing through the Alliance.
From a spokesperson within Morrisette, we have this reality, "Non-VQA wines within the province of Ontario are not eligible for LCBO tax rebate. E.g. on a $25 bottle of wine, with VQA - the winery keeps $20, without VQA, the winery keeps $12.56. For a small winery, the loss is getting unbearable and is threatens its existence."
This year their 2012 Black Ball riesling has been refused four times for things like, "wispy sediment,"oxidative aromas and flavours," "unbalanced characteristics." Yet, they at the same time the wine was considered stable. It was just that it was a different expression of riesling.
But, I loved that wine. I shared with my friend, Jeff Connell when in Toronto for the Terroir Symposium in May. Yes, I drank it and loved it. A gorgeous expression of riesling, so enjoyable, I just drank and forgot to take notes. Sorry, I was off duty. (Tasting notes are coming in The Feiring Line Newsletter when I can procure the bottle.) Perhaps the VQA couldn't recognize the varietal, but to me the expression of a riesling with skin contact was familiar and identifiable. ( By the way, I am seriously proposing the possibility that the panel couldn't recognize native ferments either, so are we saying that only yeasted wines are allowed to pass? I'll take up this varietal maddness at another date.)
So, I ask; how can a tasting panel with a lack of tasting ability is able to comment on typicity? In other words, what do they know and how can they threaten the financial stability of one of their finest wines?
Over in South Africa and New Zealand, the problem is even worse. If the wine doesn't pass the board, they can't export. Done. Just recently, the excellent winery Sato submitted their chardonnay and was told it was not typical of a New Zealand wine. If they don't pass, they can't export. This is all supposed to be to protect the image, (which needs a serious lifting). Same deal in South African; it seems there's no trouble letting the crap be exported. The bulk, cheap and nasty supermarket side of SA wine is alive and well. Like, when is the last time you went out of your way to drink a South African wine? Enough said.
We rarely see Lammershoek in this country. Which is a damned shame as Craig Hawkins is one of South Africa's finest wine producers (at least as far as readers of this page and the TFL is concerned). But, there you go, his wines have once again been denied by the tasting panel. His latest battle, is yet agin for Sink the Pink--denied for inappropriate color.
Give me a break. I had a rosé in the Loire this year that was completely white and delicious (Patrick Corbineau's). Because of color? Since when does a rosé have to have a typical color unless it's aimed for the supermarket, or for demise, as is Provencal rosé?
This is from the winery to me. The Sink the Pink is a nouveau-style Pinotage. It is actually a small portion of our LAM Pinotage which we bottle early. This year we only bottled 560 bottles as it has a limited shelf life and needs to be consumed within 6 months or so. So very bright, fruity, relatively simple and just nice and juicy to drink young. But it doesn’t taste like any other Pinotage produced in this country and so it fails for things like being un-cultivar typical, being too light in colour.
The official language for rejection was. Turbid, hazy. Insufficient colour.
At one point perhaps this seemed like a good idea, to protect the image of South African wine, but when you think that it was just in 2004 that South Africans were putting artificial flavoring in their sauvignon blanc, and those had no trouble passing the Wine Board. But with wines that aren't pink enough?
Lammershoek has been continually going through this ordeal, and not only with Pink. Right now it's possible that they will pass the next tests, they have a few more shots at the board, but he's feeling a little beat down and not terribly optimistic.
Craig tells me there are plenty of more people in the same boat in SA, which is encouraging because then there's life there, but one wonders why they are not speaking up or working as much to help change the system. He is working for the change with the Board, the problem is that the change is not coming quickly enough. It is encouraging that as a concept of what a wine is changing and it follows that if a country isn't going to ruin their reputation, the rules must shift. And they will.
The slow pace could extinguish a winery. Craig sells near to 90% of his wines out of the country. If they don't pass the final exams, those wines will not be able to be legally shipped, causing tremendous financial hardship to one of the countries leading winemakers, ( in the natural world, at least) and the most celebrated that country has. So, what is the Wine Board really accomplishing by muzzeling the winery?
Taking it to it's illogical extreme, what if tomatoes were not allowed in stores because they were purple, or all French women who were not skinny were not allowed passports? It is time for countries, including France (and that accursed Vin de France) to realize putting a supermarket mentality on wine will bring them only disgrace.
It's time to sink, but please not the Pink.
Hello almost August dog days...and so I've neglected the blog. Instead I'm posting some of my favorite stories I wrote in The Feiring Line in 2013. This was from my visit to Italy last spring to an iconic winery, just reemerging on the scene, Vallana. Please subscribe. That and a little peace on earth, is that too much to ask?
WHEN I said I was headed to Cantina Vallana in the Alta Piemonte—the northeast of the region—I saw the eyebrows arch. Then would come the “Why?”
After all, the Vallanas aren’t on the current list of hipster- approved wines. But from the 1950s to the 1980s—when I first encountered them—they had their celebrated moment. My friend Peter (aka the Young Collector in The Battle) discovered the wines while reading Frank Prial in The New York Times back in the late 70s. When we tasted them, we loved them for their sophistication, for their price and for their complexity and indestructibility—old-fashioned deliciousness. And then sometime in the late 90s they were gone.
I assumed wrongly they either went out of business or went barrique- crazy like the rest of Italy at the time. Now, thanks to Michael Skurnik Wines and the Rare Wine Company, the Cantina is back in the USA and still respectfully, unapologetically traditional: long bottle age, no perceptible wood, high on the acid, medium on the sulfur.
So, on my last night in Piemonte, I drove past the sea of designer outlets (Prada! Loro Piana!) and turned right into the parking lot under the imposing, flat signage.
Here’s the short overview of the Cantina: “Mummy,” Giuseppina Vallana, from the family’s 4th generation, fell in love with Guy Fogarty, a teacher from the UK. They married in 1980 and her father, Antonio, took his new son-in-law, who seemed to have a good palate and a love for the stuff, under his wing. Guy made the wines until 1996 when he died in an accident during the harvest, leaving two young daughters and a fifteen-year-old son, Frances.
The teenager started to work alongside his mother, bringing the number of winemaking generations to five. I have some knowledge of Guy’s wines, but it was mostly the grandfather, Antonio (third generation, if you’re keeping count) who’s glorious, indestructible vintages I drank too long ago.
While looking for Frances, I snooped around the deserted winery: Huge post war concrete vats, ancient destemmers...there was something untouched here, in that Lopez de Heredia way.
Hearing voices, I stopped snooping and climbed up the stone steps to find him, now 32, and Giuseppina preparing an extravagant tasting that was to stretch back to 1955. It was hard not to plunk myself down and taste, but with the sun still up,
I dragged him off to the DOC vineyards of Boca, beautiful, rural, rolling, and largely forgotten.
We drove to the rear of the 10 ha appellation where the sprawling Maggiorina trellising still thive.
Chemical farming also seemed to dominate. I wondered if this included my beloved Vallana.
I couldn’t really tell. Their vineyards in Boca had been grubbed up, awaiting replanting. But we arrived to the naked plot, isolated, on an incline overlooking the huge monastery. “See the different colored soils?” Frances pointed to veins of rose, red and white. He explained that the highly acidic, granitic porphyry soils might be why the wines have an even longer life than the wines of Barolo, where the grapes grow on limestone. Also the soil in Boca out- acids those of nearby Ghemme and Gattinara, perhaps the reason the DO rules requires the addition of the grapes vespolina and uva rara to soften up the wine and add gentle aromatics.
The soil lesson was intense, but I still wanted to see if Frances farmed as poorly as his neighbors. So I begged a trip to his vineyard in Gattinara, the most well known DOCG of this area that, along with Boca, includes Bramaterra, Colline Novarese, Fara, Ghemme, Lessona and Sizzana. Not exactly household names.
Ten minutes away, Gattinara is set at the top of rolling humps of hills. As we drove towards the Vallana vines, all of my worries were allayed. Frances’s massale selection vines were healthy, the soil so vibrant, as were the wines from this plot overlooking the Valley below.
Marina, Frances’s sister, says in their family “tradition is a religion,” and so this youngest generation still believes in the old-fashioned way of long bottle aging, natural malos and no other adjustments. Frances himself says that because they are small, they can take their time and give the bottles the aging they need. All oak used is ancient and if he had his way if it wasn't required by the DOC laws, he wouldn't use it at all.
But as traditional as all of this is, I do have some concerns about the future. Except for the Gattinara plot, the newly planted vines will be clones. And while I was snooping around, there was a package of organic yeast. Frances explained it away saying because harvest always happens in the colder weather, without temperature control he’s had experiences with irregular ferments, and so to pre-empt, he sometimes yeasts. And, as he says, “I don’t believe in dogma.
His mother laid out a little spread with savory cake and a neighbor’s cheese. As we started in, Frances couldn’t wait to show his first methode champenoise—a nebbiolo-based bottling. It was raspberry and fun. The next two wines seemed yeasted, but by the time we got into Gattinara 2004, I felt a more natural fermentation and felt more at home.
We went through three generations of winemakers in that afternoon. The wines were beautiful examples of the Italian bottles that lead me into the country decades ago. As we delved deeper into the older vintages, heading towards the 1955, Frances said with that family- inherited twinkle in his eye, “My grandmother used to complain that my grandfather Antonio never looked at her the way he looked at a glass of wine.”
And that 1955? It was a field blend of God knows what and from own-rooted vines, thanks to that high acid soil in Boca. It was certainly lively, changeable, leathery, a little pruney but juicy and frankly thrilling.
I do have my prejudices, such as my belief that native yeast ferments provide for more complex wines. But still, this is one case where I will just have to get over myself
Boca 2004 still has the old Boca vines and it is just luscious. Long acidity, cherry, strawberry, sage and licorice. Savory and a mile-wide finish. The taste of dirt in the best
of ways. The 2000 was beautifully evolved with a little bit of funk, with rust and blood, chocolate and spice. The 1997 went whoa! Nebbiolo! Acidity! The 1996 was Guy’s last vintage and Frances’s come to Jesus wine, his benchmark. It was far younger than the 2000,fleshy with a handful of Indian spices. Prices for new vintages of Boca seem to sit under $30.
Thus spake Bruce Palling.
Or, rather, so he wrote in his 2012 essay.
Palling's recent Newsweek piece was entitled much more astutely, Why Natural Wine Tastes Worse than Putrid Cider.
His title seemed inspired by the sensational Robert M. Parker Jr. and Michel Rolland. Yet the text seemed more in step with restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo.
It turns out that like Cuozzo, Palling (also a restaurant critic who loves his tipple) thinks he's the rare food writer who actually knows wine---as they say, a unicorn of the species.
Now, Palling still drinks 'claret' and 'vintages, ' and even though he knows as much about natural wine as I know about butchering, he writes about them as if he is an authority.
But there are signs he might not be the most reliable narrator.
+ The caption on the photograph accompanying the article refers to chasselat
While not in any grape book I can find, on Wiki it is one obscure synonym for the grape chasselas, too obscure to use in a caption. If I were the writer? I'd get on my editor's ass to fix it as soon as possible.
+ Natural wine isn't on the shelves of supermarkets.
Well....the Whole Foods in London --unlike most other Whole Foods--stocks plenty. At Marks & Spencer or Tesco? Most likely just industrial plonk there. But he takes it further to say they're not at wine merchants?
+ "The feeling goes that if the food served in a restaurant is best when it has no pesticides and herbicides, then the same must be true for wine."
Amen! Like this is bad? Especially if some are delicious?
+Real natural doesn't exist because all wine needs human intervention.
Such a tiresome straw man argument. There are brains out there. One of you guys, please jump to an original argument. Look, bread doesn't happen without intervention either. But there is Wonderbread and real stuff. Done.
+At least 30ppm of SO2 is needed to keep a wine without sulfur alive for a few days.
My experience? The more sulfur the shorter the lifespan of the open bottle. The little secret of drinkers and sommeliers is that the low or unsulfured wine lives dramatically over days and sometimes even months. Many natural wines love oxygen.
+ The natural wine movement kicked off with Noma in Copenhagen.
Now, where in heck did he get that one? The NWM kicked off in the Beaujolais in the late 70's. It came into its own first in Paris when in 2000 the natural wine bar of the city boomed. Thanks to the internet from 2006 to 2014 the category mushroomed. By now, the world's interesting winelists has exploded. Sure, Denmark is high on the natural hog, but they're relatively late to the game. Hello Japan?
+ Hibiscus has seen the light and gas "reintroduced top vintages."
According to the list's creator, Isabelle Legeron, she's always had some classic wines on the list.
+ Noma has seen the light and has "reintroduced top vintages."
That would be news to their wine maestro, Mads Kleppe.
Last month in Vienna I talked at length with Mads. The night was approaching the wee hours, there was some Overnoy involved. He confided to me that he is still trying to get rid of some of the earlier inventory which pre-dated him. The wines, he said, were an embarassment. Perhaps those are the very ones Palling thinks are new kids the list. I'm sure Palling would be appalled at Mads' wine pairings because he told me that those with preconceived notions have a hard time. Some were indignant, furious even. It was mostly the coffee pairing (very barely roasted coffee) that got them pissed off. "If you fuck with peoples conception what good wine and coffee looks and taste like they get really upset," Mads said to me.
Mad's pairings aim to challenge, inspire, break the fourth wall. He wants to provide an experience. To offer wines that were chemically farmed, yeasted, bacteriaed, tannined, acidified, deacidified, overly sulfured, megapurpled, RO-ed, micro-oxed etcetec, would be cynical. Devastating really.
Some of Mads' offerings would be gorgeous, easy to love. Others would be challenging, provocative, engaging. The purpose is journey, sensual, explorative. And at times, delicious. Or at least that's what I got from my conversation with him as I've yet to visit and dine.
I have no problem that Palling doesn't care, (nor can he taste) that his Cote Rotie has added tannin and the flint in his Chablis is actually too much SO2. What I have a problem with that he spoiled a perfectly good piece. He had a beautiful whine in the making of I can't go to eat the greatest restaurants of the world anymore (no, Palling, not the trendy ones, the greatest ones) of the world anymore because they've been invaded by the dreaded natural wines.
Ach, yet another case of a writer burying his lead, swapping for a piece for a flawed article a magazine like Newsweek should have never honored with publishing.
However, I will grant the critic three things:
1- Like in all wine worlds, some are sub-par.
But am I going to get in the way of someone who loves mousiness? No. But I won't be able to recommend them.
2- Dagueneau made some good wines, sometimes great ones.
But, if he wanted to drink them, he should have dug into his own pocket for his wallet and not wait for what was being offered to him.
3- I believe the critic that natural wines are just not his thing.
And while I have no doubt I could show him a completely no So2 added wine he would love.
I don't want to convert him. Let him drink claret! But believing him as a reliable narrator? Not so sure.
2004 is widely regarded as the worst Burgundian vintage of the last decade. There was cold, there was hot, there was wet and there was rot. And, for some reason there was an overabundance of ladybugs.
Some believe that this ladybug taint contributed to the compound called methoxypyrazines found in that vintage. But remember, even without ladybugs, this compound,which causes the pee in sauvignon and the bell in cabernet, often shows up in wet or cool years. So, how do you separate one from the other. Muddy flavors? Grilled hazelnuts? I've heard that those can be indentifiers as well. In fact the person who told me this actually keeps jars of crushed bugs in his 'fridge' to keep his nose on guard for the offensive smells.
I loved some 2004s when I first tasted them straight from the cask. I purchased far too few Chandon de Briailles. The village and 1er Crus were drinking early and lushly, but they were all gone by the time I started to ponder the bugginess and the veracity of the theory.
As luck had it, I found myself in the home of Becky and Russell a few weeks back. coinciding with the same June weekend critic Clive Coates held his 2004 ten- year -after tasting. There were to be 100+ examples in front of me. I was going to be well equipped to make my own assessment for this controversial vintage.
On the morning of the tasting --before 80 or so curious vignerons came to check out the bottles - Paul Wasserman, Clive, Jasper Morris, Ben Leroux and I snuck in a few hours of pre-tasting, tasting.
We had samples from all of the Côtes enough to construct an overview. Clive was wise when he summed it up, “It certainly wasn’t a great vintage. And, there was none of the usual bump up in grand terroir. But there’s quite a lot to drink and you don't have to wait on them.”
If you can find the right wines on a list or in a store, remember, this castoff vintage can be a bargain. Volnay (Hello Lafarge!) strutted nicely. Pommard, well, not so much. Savigny did a great job. (Lucien Jacob, Pavelot, Chandon de Briailles, Simon Bize.) Savigny's close neighbor Corton also did well. The news from Nuits was mixed. For example, Chevillon (bitter watercress, bugs or just weather?), Barthod (Les Cras), Rousseau (Clos St. Jacques) and Gouges were startlingly disappointing. Fred Mugnier, on the other hand was yowzerly, plumptuous yet elegant.
Honorable mention goes to: Jadot, Bouchard, Jean Grivot (the Richebourg) Giboulot.Nicolas Rossignol. Serafin.
The whites were a significantly different story. There it was pretty much Grand Cru or bust: The survivors were; Bouchard Chevallier-Montrachet La Cabotte (Jasmine!), Dujac Monts Luisants (Very balanced), Chandon de Briailles Corton (!) and also from Corton, the simply beautiful Bonneau du Martray.
The standouts of the day?
Côtes de Beaune Village and 1er Cru
*Rossignol, Volnay Chevrets
cherry, delicate, life and grit
*Simon Bize Aux Fourneaux
Life, lingering leaf, cocoa, great acidity.
*Comte Lafon Santenot Sandy balance corduroy plush. Medium length and lots of pretty.
Côtes de Beaune Grand Cru
*Domaine Chandon de Briailles Corton Maréchaudes
Just simply beautiful. Stunning. Spectacular and once again, plumptuous nose with patchouli. (Biodynamic in vine and cellar)
Côtes de Nuits, 1er Cru
*Frederick Mugnier, Nuits Saint George, Clos Marechal
This was his first vintage in the Clos and it's terrific. Purely direct but satisfying, entirely a pretty, yet firm wine. There's deep cherry plucked from the tree, slothed over in silk. It's actually kind of sexy.
Côtes de Nuits Grand Cru
* Frederick Mugnier Musigny
This was so Mugnier; that Mugnierness of it all, nit notes of cherry and a direct, drink me-ability, there's a reason he's a star, terribly seductive. Later in the day, it held on to its lovely bones. Young, could take more time, but oh, those roses mixed with the bone marrow of my youth.
* Domaine des Lambrays, Clos de Lambray
Pretty, spice, acid, depth, a mouthful and either some bug or as I saw it, star anise. (Biodynamic in vine and cellar)
* Camille Giroud Latricières-Chambertin
Satisfying, sensible and smart finish to its ride, with a dollop of red clay
*Dujac Clos de la Roche
Nice enough, lively, seems young with a touch of paint thinning volatility, with acid and a good deal of pleasant underleaf.
For a general overview, reds were greatly more yummy than the whites. Grand Cru or village, not that much difference. Many wines had chalky tannins (are those actual tannins or bentonite filtering?). More were brooding rather than sparky.
But were the ladybugs the culprits? The best domaines if bothered by a bug plague would have picked off each one by tweezers, whatever it took. Another thought that few bring up: In 2004 many were still reeling from the super-hot vintage of 2003. The vines were still screaming with fatigue. No one has studied the after effect of extreme weather on the taste of a grape.
Yet, there are some beauties and many fine wines of drinkability. That is why I am always disturbed when I hear other writers/critics warn that a consumer should avoid a vintage. In a difficult year, be more careful. Yes! But avoid? Erase the 2004 existence? What kind of real wine drinker would you be if you did that?
Talent was needed in 2004, for sure. Those who made and picked by recipe were lost. But no matter who or what you blame, (if you must), Burgundy always delivers its challenges. The highs are highs and the lows are low, even in the best of years.
I offer you this knish.
Knish, In Search of the Jewish Soul Food, by Laura Silver, came out in May from Brandeis University Press. I was impressed.
Silver's story begins on the one-year anniversary of her grandmother's death when she drove to Brighton Beach in search of her Grandma Fritzy's favorite, Mrs. Stahl's. She was craving a memorial knish. The storefront was intact, but Mrs. Stahl had dispatched for Florida. Shortly thereafter Silver was further crestfallen to find the shop retrofitted into a Subway franchise. All was wrong with the world.
Bereft, she embarked on the sentimental journey, needing to understand the knish in all of parts and history. Her search lead her to Poland, Israel, France, England, Israel, Minnesota, California and ultimately back to Mrs. Stahl's family, the legacy and lesson.
Evidenced from Silver's first line, "The knish situation in Brooklyn is not what it once was," the word for the savory or sweet pastry can't avoid its punchline power. But to devour a knish? Ah, that's quite a different matter. That's when this delectable snack shows its poetic side.
The knish, you see, is no mere madeleine. It is history, soul and literature. Not only does it tell the tale of the shtetl, to Silver, it is a symbol of strong women.
Silver's writing makes us care. Her loss is our loss. We crave kasha. We yearn for the potato and onion. We cringe at the idea of the liver. We question the use of shmaltz instead of oil. We marvel at the people who baked and peddled them. Through it all, we learn that the knish is bigger than all of us.
Unlike Mimi Sheraton's The Bialy Eaters, which was a pessimistic death march for the lox-loving disk, Knish ends on an up beat. The knish lives!
Yet, I mourn.
My cousins owned the now long gone Izzy's Knishes on the Long Beach Boardwalk. (The Boardwalk had two!) Those, hot-out-of-the-oven, became my benchmark. Yet, there I was at this book's end, saddened. If only I could have compared them to Stahl's. When I read how Silver described the Stahl knish, "If you cut it in half, the cross-sections revealed a membrane of dough that split the innards into chambers, like those of a human heart," I closed the book and said, "Now, that's a knish."
** And what to drink with a potato and kasha knish? They're actually pretty wine friendly and you can go red or white, but what I think is almost brilliant is the new Coup de Foudre rosé pet nat from La Garagista. Read about it in the next issue of The Feiring Line.