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A Late Arrival

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Our first annual late night BYO Barolo party was one of those nights where every wine seemed to fire on all cylinders, and it set the bar for every party since. It was three years ago and the who’s who of the Los Angeles wine scene filed through the secret/not-so-secret passage and into the back room of Terroni, one of the city’s best Italian restaurants. The word got around and a slew of Italian wine importers and even the old guard came out for the show. Every producer from anyone’s list of top twenty Barolos found their way into the room that night. There were numerous vintages of the undisputed kings of the region: the Conterno clans, both Mascarellos, the Burlotto families from Verduno, the Rinaldis (the great and the less great), Giacosa, Vietti, Brovia mags. You name it, they were there. The decibels rose from DJ Nahchey’s mix as the room filled and began to spill into the main dining room and into the back parking lot. An hour in, you could hardly make your way through to the long, heavy wooden tables, pushed against the red brick wall, covered with a growing metropolis of Barolo bottles.
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Indirect Descendant

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Jose Luis Cuevas Self-portrait

Years ago, when I first thought about writing this story, I played with the idea of calling it, The Once and Future Queen.  It was to be a story about triumph and the destined resurgence of one of the world’s greatest forgotten wines.  Sadly, over the last year, it has felt more like a tragedy than a triumph.  As I began, the focus of my piece made an unexpected, yet natural turn.  It became about the dream of a boy that seemed to have been born for a special moment: the resurrection of Northern Piedmont’s lost wine queen.

Maybe if he were making wine from a famous place, like Barolo, or Brunello, instead of some nearly forgotten wine regions in northern Piedmont, he would’ve already been on the front page of one of the wine industry’s honorable publications.  Seventeen years ago, this thirteen-year-old kid from nowhere found himself in a bookstore staring at a wine journal.  The publication was written by the most revered Italian wine writer of the time, Luigi Veronelli.  He walked out of the store, book in hand, and began his unexpected journey. Continue reading

Further into Pandora’s Box

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For many years, I knew of this great geologist working her way through Burgundy. I saw her work for the first time when I received a disc, via Wasserman and Co., that Bruno Clair sent to help me with a Côte de Nuits educational seminar I was putting on. The disc, a dossier commissioned by the town of Marsannay, contains geological research submitted with the town’s request that certain lieu dit sites be elevated from village-level to the rank of premier cru. Her work is an extraordinary geological survey of Marsannay. The research goes as deep as you could imagine; any deeper and you’d be digging a hole with no end.

Today, the most welcome guest, in any cellar in Burgundy, would likely be the resident geologist, Françoise Vannier. Every vigneron wants her in their cellar so that she can help to literally unearth answers to their questions about the soils relationship with their historical terroirs and its influence on the resulting wine. She admits that it is challenging to be able to identify a soil through the taste of its wine, but she gives it her best shot. Many vignerons expect that  her findings will provide them with a more clear understanding of their wines. I’m sure that they are disappointed to hear answers that only lead them to more questions and further into Pandora’s Box.

On this day, it was our turn, and we were ready to be taken further in. Continue reading

Meeting Peter Pan

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Peter Pan

I met Peter for the first time in a small and unassuming house, deep in the Austrian wine country. He lives in a quiet town, Spitz, tucked into the far western end of the country’s most famous wine region, the Wachau. The first time I heard about Peter was from my friend Sariya, who supplies me with great Austrian wines. She insisted that I meet this guy because she was sure that we would get along. She said that he was very interesting and that he and I are a lot alike. I wasn’t sure how to take that, but Sariya knows that I am a bit of a Peter Pan myself: feet rarely on the ground and head always in the clouds. It’s true, like Peter Pan, I would prefer… Continue reading

The Greatest Forgotten Hill

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The first time I stood on the hill, I didn’t think much of it. It’s a quiet place just outside of the famous French wine town, Saumur. To tell you the truth, there wasn’t much to admire besides a quaint, but lifeless, chateau sitting on top of it. This insipid wonder attracts droves of tourists every year to snap photos and walk away with a lousy souvenir wine from the chateau. Indeed, the recent history of this chateau is one of making downright terrible wines. This hill, however, has a glorious history that has been almost completely forgotten –until now…

My addiction to this hill began about four years ago… Continue reading

The wine that broke me

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A couple of years ago, I asked a good friend what was new and cool in the French wine scene. He is one of those guys with the unusual combination of dark black hair and a reddish orange beard, so my brain conjured up the nickname Velour Rouge –it means “red velvet”. M. Rouge mentioned a friend he has in Paris, Nico, who sells wine for some great estates and usually has his finger on the pulse of what goes on there. Nico is a superstar sommelier in France and is connected at all the best Michelin starred restaurants in Paris.

Nico mentioned a couple of wineries but stressed one in particular Continue reading

The Master of Irancy

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IMG_8072A couple of months ago, I finally got the chance to order some bottles of Vincent Dauvissat’s Irancy, from a great retailer in New York called Crush.  Those guys really have it together –most of their offers are pretty hard to ignore. The Irancy has been here for a month now, so I decided to pull the cork tonight.  While Andrea and I were about halfway through dinner, I started getting the bug to get in front of my computer and start spewing again. It was building up like a pressure cooker in my head, and she could feel it.  As soon as she gave me the signal I quickly finished my dinner, shot up and marched over to my desk with the bottle and glass in hand.  Sadly, I’m on the last glass and I’m a little bummed that it’s almost over, especially now that I’ve just sat down to write about it.

For Vincent Dauvissat, Irancy is a bit of a side project: he’s got a tiny little parcel there.  I’m not sure how long he’s been making it, but I saw online that he’s been doing it at least since the 2004 vintage.  He’s a great Chablis producer, and one of my favorites.  I recently became interested in Irancy because of a wine I had with my Chablis producer, Gilles Collet.  To finally have the Irancy from Dauvissat imported to the US was exciting because it should bring a little bit of attention to this tiny Pinot Noir producing appellation, just west of Chablis.  I’ve been a little skeptical about Irancy; however, the fact that this one was made by Dauvissat made me believe that it should be, at the very least, good. I only dipped my toe in the water and ordered three bottles from Crush because I’ve had a lot of different Irancy wines over the last couple of years and all have been pretty dreadful, except for one producer –Thierry Richoux.

I had my very first bottle of Irancy on a freezing night in early 2011, in what must be the shittiest restaurant in Chablis.  Gilles Collet brought the wine for dinner.  I won’t tell you what the place is called (there are only like six restaurants in Chablis anyways).  It’s not the Kebab place, but it’s just down the street…  Each time I come to town, Gilles takes me to this place.  He admits: “Ce n’est pas un bon restaurant, mais il est l’un de mes meilleurs amis.”  Every time I go to this “classic” French bistro, I try to keep in mind that I don’t come to Chablis for its restaurants anyways.  I go there for the wine, and the wine that Gilles brought that night was about to do a serious number on me.

Despite the cheap red wine glass, I can still remember my first sip of it.  I am always surprised that the French, being born into wine and all, still don’t completely get it with the wine glasses.  Unless you are in a really swanky place, it seems like they often times drink great wine in the least flattering glassware they can find. This deficit echoes the quality of their coffee…  I just don’t get it…  Well, at least the coffee is getting better…  After my first smell and taste of this thing, I put the glass down and smiled.  It tasted special, even in those crap glasses.  It was a bottle of Thierry Richoux’s 2007 Irancy.  My business partner Donny, who was there at the time, had reservations about us importing it.  I understood his reaction given that it was a fairly esoteric category and the demographic for this type of wine was quite small –at least it was then. Also, the fact that Ted loves it doesn’t mean that everyone will –yeah, I get it…  It’s easy to buy a case of wine; purchasing a pallet of esoteric stuff, however, involves serious commitment.

2014-04-26 15.59.53Six months later, I returned to Chablis to visit Thierry Richoux, specifically because of that bottle.  Gilles had told me that this guy sends only a limited amount to England along with just a smattering to some of the better restaurants in France.  The shocker was that he doesn’t export to the United States –at all.  Given how good the wine was, I was surprised that no one had successfully hit this guy up yet.  Also, given that he has about 45 acres of vines in Irancy, that’s a serious amount of wine going out of the cellar door direct to private customers.  That’s about the same amount of vineyard land that Bruno Clair has!  Crazy…  I thought that this kind of practice only occurred in the States with these big ugly California cult wines and their fancy tasting rooms. Anyway, I was back in Chablis to see what this guy was all about.  I loved that first bottle so much that I was sure I had a winner on my hands.

Visiting new potential producers to import for the first time can be a challenging enterprise.  Even if they are really good, I always try to talk myself out of importing them.  I always think: “How is it possible that all the stones haven’t already been turned over in France?”  “This wine’s really good, so what’s the catch – how is it that no one is importing this stuff already?  Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks this wine is great…”  After importing wine to California for only four years, I can confidently say that many stones have NOT been turned over yet.  It seems like they are falling from the sky these days!  Around every corner, there is someone changing they way their father used to do it, and then they blow up a few years later.  Thierry Richoux was one of the most, if not the most, magnificent stone that I’ve turned over.  As a French wine importer, if Richoux were the only stone I’d be the first to turn, I would be just fine with that.  Believe me, if you told me what I was about to experience at Richoux’s cellar, I would’ve looked at you out of the corner of my eye, and smiled, thinking you were overenthusiastic and nuts –like me.  The truth is, what I experienced at Thierry Richoux’s knocked me back pretty hard.

The night before my first face to face with Richoux, I was in Champagne with one of my favorite friends Matt.  He’s a cool guy and a talented artist. We only talk every nine months or so, but it doesn’t matter: I really like catching up with him about all the time in-between.  Matt flew with me to Amsterdam a week before and we worked our way down from there.  We were hungry when we arrived in Reims, so we went to this restaurant located on the city square –it was jammin’! I was happy to practice my French with the waiter; we were chatting it up quite a bit.  It was good a warm-up for the next day.  I ordered moules et frites, one of my favorite French dishes.  I only wish I had known before eating them that the mussels were going to be a two-day affair…

Irancy, one of the most charming villages in France.

Irancy, one of the most charming villages in France.

When we –Gilles, Matt and I -arrived at his house, Thierry came outside to greet us and walked us down into the cellar.  It was obvious that Gilles and Thierry were tight.  I knew that Gilles loved this guy.  We started with a glass of Cremant.  It was, and still is, the best Cremant I’ve had in France.   The bubbles were like those in beautifully crafted vintage Champagne: sleek, racy and super fine.  This wine, with all of its delicate red fruits, stirred me up.  The second time I visited Thierry, I asked to taste that Cremant rosé again.  Thierry looked at me puzzled and said that he only makes a Blanc de Noir, but not a rosé.  I was thinking, WTF? I swear it was pink!  It’s made with all Pinot Noir and sings with aromas of red current and strawberry skin for days!  But with proper lighting, you can clearly see that it is not pink.  Funny thing is, recently I’ve shown the wine a few times to my buyers in LA and they’ve asked to order Richoux’s sparkling rosé.  The impression of that rosé with no color is just that strong.

We downed the Cremant and then headed to the barrel cellar. The mussels from the night before were starting to tear my insides apart; the pain was so intense that I had to excuse myself several times during the tasting.  I couldn’t concentrate at all.  The worst part was that each time I came back to cellar, I thought: “This can’t be happening, the wines bear hardly any resemblance to what I tasted in Chablis with Gilles six months ago. I had one single bottle, dreamt about it for months, and now we are here and I can’t relate at all to what we are tasting”.  Maybe I was flat out wrong about this Irancy thing. Maybe Gilles too –he said Richoux was the best.  Best or not, I wasn’t getting it.  They were intensely acidic and tannic, and at the same time, light and hardly aromatic.  I think the aromas were quiet mostly because Thierry skirts the edge with reduction in his winemaking process, which tends to shut down the nose in the cellar.  It’s a classic winemaking technique to keep the aromatics intact for the later years in the bottle. In some cases, however, it may never go away –it’s a real art to make wine like this.  It seemed like Thierry was speaking French a mile a minute –I couldn’t decipher a damn thing he was saying.  My brain was so twisted inside the glass that if you were speaking English to me I wouldn’t have understood what the hell you were saying either.  I was so lost in my head. You remember that old commercial about your brain on drugs? You know, the one with the egg in the frying pan.  That was me. I was toasted…. Finito.

We went back into the tasting cave.  At this point, I didn’t know what to think.  It was difficult to think.  I was just trying to keep it all together.  Thierry kept looking at me with patience and empathy.  He knew I was really hurting inside (he could see it on my face) but for my sake, he treated me like I wasn’t –that made me feel way more comfortable.  He brought out the first wine for me to try.  At that point, I just wanted to go back to the hotel in Chablis, and die.  He brought out a bottle of that 2007 Irancy that I had six months ago.  It made me sit straight up.  Ok, back on track here.  The brain was clearing and I was going back to the dream.  We tasted the ‘09, the ‘08, then the ‘05. I couldn’t tell if my palate was messing with me again, like it seemed to have done six months ago. My mood was quickly changing.  The wines were starting to bend my brain even further.  I kept thinking: “How could they be this clear to me in bottle and be utterly unreadable in barrel??  Was it trickery?  Or pure genius??”  Then, he brought out this “single-vineyard” bottling called Veaupessiot and at this point it seemed like I was starting to lose touch with reality.  I’ll tell you, the basic Irancy is a stunner, but the Veaupessiot is a serious wine to be reckoned with by all comers.  As he was bringing out wines for us to drink, I was starting to feel like a total novice.  There I was, tasting wines out of these huge barrels and losing my shit… because I didn’t understand them at all in their unfinished state. I’ve visited a zillion estates in Europe now and have never been mind-boggled like this.

Thierry Richoux

Thierry Richoux

Just when I thought my mind was already blown, Thierry asked if I wanted to try some older wines.  Of course I did! But I was on the verge of mental and physical collapse.  In addition, I was realizing, painfully, how elementary my knowledge of wine truly was. Seized by an existentialist crisis, I started to question the meaning of my life: I have committed twenty years to my passion for wine; yet, today I feel like I know nothing about it. Glass after glass, this man, Thierry, was serving me up major doses of humility.  He brought out a 1999.  I was in heaven.  Then ’96. Then ‘90.  I couldn’t believe what was happening.  And man, I gotta tell you, that 1990 was something else…  These were some of the most authentic and ethereal Burgundies that I had ever tasted.  They didn’t have the grandeur of the top crus from the Cote d’Or, but to me, they were equally noble.  I was hooked.  I was shocked…  Who is this guy and why is he not an internationally known legend?  He’s just Thierry Richoux from Irancy; to me, however, he’s a David in a world of Goliaths.  This humble master was dishing me up the most moving red Burgundy outside of the Cote d’Or that I’ve ever had.  Since then, I have drunk his wines numerous times next to some great wines out of the Cote d’Or and he has stolen the show time and time again.

The hands of Thierry Richoux, ..."a David in a world of Goliaths."

The hands of Thierry Richoux, …”a David in a world of Goliaths.”

Tonight, as I drank this beautifully crafted wine by Vincent Dauvissat throughout dinner, I started to reflect on my first experience at Thierry’s place.  That’s what gave me the urge to write. My mind was slipping into these thoughts and I had to put them down somewhere.  What I realized was that a man cannot simply waltz into a region and start making great, soulful wine with a terroir he doesn’t know well enough.  Drinking the Dauvissat tonight helped me understand that in order to make great wine, it’s necessary to be there with it, breathe it, drink it, work the land, experience its nature, make mistakes and be smart enough to learn. That day helped me realize that even though wine is always on my mind, I still don’t know much about it.  It is hard to believe what Thierry sculpted from that raw and rough material. In California, no one was going to believe what I experienced there until I had bottles in hand. Everyone would look at me sideways when I told my “big fish” story –until they drank a bottle of it with me.  As expected, most did look at me that way, until they sat with me to drink one.

I’ve gone in search of many wines from Irancy in order to see if one could surpass Thierry Richoux’s treasure.  The lovely wine from Dauvissat that I just finished is no doubt a good Burgundy and is clearly the second best producer I’ve tasted in the appellation –by a long shot. To use wine critic lingo, it was a stellar effort. Despite the hard green notes at the onset of the wine, after many gentle swirls and sips, the wine slowly unfolded to reveal a delicious and beautifully crafted Burgundy.  I like it.  I can’t wait to drink the next one.

As good as it was, however, this Burgundy can’t be compared with the wines of Richoux.  Thierry wines are singular and special –they are Irancy.  Thierry is Irancy… He is the benchmark and he is so far ahead of the pack, it’s crazy.  He is the Raveneau, the Guiberteau, the Veyder-Malberg, the Allemand, the I Clivi, and the Ferrando, of his appellation.  Thierry makes wines that give me the highest level of intrigue and pleasure –the sign of a great wine.  On my most recent visit, I told his wife Carine, that Thierry’s wines have really changed the way I’ve been seeing wine over the last couple of years.  I told her that in French.  Because my French isn’t perfect yet, I think she assumed that I didn’t mean it in the profound way I said it to her.  She laughed for about 30 seconds, then she realized I knew exactly what I said to her, and that I meant every word.  They have changed me.  They broke my brain wide open and dumped in infinite ways in which wines can be perfectly imperfect.  Thierry’s wines are the height of Irancy, an appellation that is just coming into the peripheral of the American market because the Cote d’Or Burgundies are pricing themselves out of the Burgundy-lover’s cellar –It also doesn’t hurt to have a famous winemaker like Dauvissat paving the way.

I didn’t know much about Thierry and his wines going in, but on that day, he set the stage for a lot of self-reflection, which has lead to a serious renovation for what I thought I knew about wine.  Through him, I have drawn new, unexpected, revealing parallels between the grape and our lives.  There are many secrets that wine will still hold from us all, and it’s moments like that that keep me mindful(l) of wine.


2011 Chateauneuf? Bring it on…

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2011 Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf-du-Pape

2011 Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf-du-Pape

I just pulled the corks on these 2011 Chateauneufs from Vieille Julienne. They are being shown in LA today with Jean Paul Daumen, the man at VJ. He’ll be here until Sunday. These two wines are so beautiful. Clearly, 2011 is an overlooked vintage. It’s never ceases to amaze me how the critical press kowtows to the bigger, more powerful vintages –like 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012 – and somewhat neglects a gorgeous vintage like 2011.

Jean Paul discussing the 2011s and 2010s with me.

Jean Paul discussing the 2011s and 2010s with me.

Last year in France, Jean Paul asked me what I thought about his 2011s, in comparison to the 2010s. For me, it was a no-brainer. For JP, the same. He said that the producers of C-n-P were already dropping their prices because they knew they were not going to get the same level of scores as their ’09 and ’10 counterparts, despite the overall success the vignerons, appellation-wide, think they have in bottle. I told him, after tasting the 2011s over an hour or so, that they were nuts to drop the prices so drastically. They dropped them about 30% across the board –so did JP. He felt pushed into it by the movement, so he followed suit. I appreciate how impressive the 2010s are, but four times out of five, I would drink the 2011 vintage over the 2010s, especially in a hot climate area like Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Honestly, I’m always waiting for vintages like this so I can enjoy Chateauneuf again – it’s the kind of vintage for drinkers that like their Southern Rhone wines with a more modest amount of alcohol, matched with the beauty of the high-toned red fruits and flowers of Grenache. These are the moments when Grenache really shines to me… That is the complaint these days: too much alcohol, too much power –no? Well, here it is, 2011 Chateauneuf, a vintage of beauty. It’s surrounded by 2012, 2010 and 2009 (not to mention 2007!), all of which were much more ripe vintages (2008, which can be more on the lean/harsh side, is tough but quite good when it is from a great producer). If you follow the track record of CnP in the last decade, it seems that an elegant and beautiful vintage like 2011 is more rare than these monster vintages that flare their VA, alcohol, aldehydes, “inner-animal” and excessive “use of force.”

If, like us, you are sick of being bulled over by these “tour de force” Chateauneufs, this vintage (from most producers, not just VJ) is a vintage that will help you rediscover the merits of one of France’s most treasured appellations. -tv

Mindful(l) Of Wine – Dutraive

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I was in New York for my friend’s bachelor party two months ago.  I ended up spending a full week in the city in the midst of a blizzard and got a chance to hang out with an old friend for a moment.  He’s a sommelier whom I greatly respect. He used to live in Los Angeles, but he picked it all up and followed his heart to New York City.  He went there for “the love of his life.”   He’s listed in my phone as ABCD-WXYZ.  I started calling him that because he loved wines that were extreme on both sides of the spectrum.  He loves the “Sine Qua Non” style and its antithesis too, you know, low-alcohol wines loaded with too much CO2, H2S, VA, Brett and too little SO2 – those are the ones they call “natural” wines.  He loved them equally and passionately.  Judge if you want, but I’ll tell you that he is one of the most talented sommeliers I’ve ever met.  He has his own taste; you can debate him on it, but you’re not likely to win.  He’s a clever boy…he’s changing a lot these days though, I think…  One thing that I really love about this guy is that he LOVES Beaujolais.  He even has more Beaujolais than wines from the Cote d’Or on his French wine list!  Awesome.  The guy’s got a remarkable palate and I just downright respect the man.  Cool fiancée too!

Anywho, we went to the restaurant where he works.  Andrea was with me, along with my friends Jeff and Karen who also happened to be there in the city.  Admittedly, I wanted to see what ABCD was up to since he downgraded the overall quality of LA sommeliers by moving away to New York.  I told him to pick some wines for our dinner that he would be certain I never had before.  Blind.  I knew he wouldn’t waste my time with a bunch of geek-junk only worth tasting, but not worth drinking.  You see, he and I are drinkers, not tasters.  When it comes to wine, tasting does not mean knowing.  Believe me, there are lots of guys out there with a big roladex of tasting experience who don’t know the first thing about how to drink the stuff.  He blinded me on a couple of things.  He knows my taste and is fully aware of my disdain for super-funky and super-modern stuff.  I like hands-off, but brains-on wines.  He put a bottle in front of me with a bunch of great charcuterie crafted in one of the restaurants by Daniel Boulud.  The wine was Jean-Louis Dutraive Fleurie, 2012.  It rocked my inner wine geek.  With the cold cuts, it was an eat-your-heart-out Schiava moment.  I know, douchey wine reference.

I love Beaujolais.  Another good friend of mine –a professional sommelier from the Saint Joseph wine area –put the concept of Beaujolais to me in a way I like.  Velour Rouge -that’s the nickname I gave this one –said that there are three types of Beaujolais.  The first is fruity, cute and dumb, but not interesting. The second is a bit like young “natural” Syrah from the Ardeche; but excessively fruity, sexy and delicious -unapologetically delicious.  The third, made by guys like Jean-Louis Dutraive, are beautifully structured, sleek Burgundy, made in Beaujolais, but in a Cote d’Or fashion.

I drank my first bottle of Dutraive that night with ABCD-WXYZ.  I could see his excitement when he watched me drink it.  It was love at first sight for me.  He knew it would be.  It was just like that with Chamonard (also introduced to me by ABCD) and Alain Michaud, both two of my favs in Beaujolais.  I import Michaud, whom I adore and hold in the highest esteem in all of Beaujolais.  Despite Eric Asimov’s numerous articles about him, Alain is one of the unsung greats of the appellation –mostly because the wines are not an en vogue flashy style.  You will know how great Alain’s wines are after drinking bottles from the mid-80’s and 90’s, especially out of mag.  This bottle of Dutraive represented what, I feel, a lot of the “great” Beaujolais of today lack –it had class, restraint, finesse and master craftsmanship.  It wasn’t an “open-legged” Beaujolais.  Don’t get me wrong, I do love being smothered by the bosom of unapologetically fragrant and overly delicious wines made by the likes of Foillard or Metras; however, I totally fell for this wine from Jean Louis Dutraive because it was intelligently crafted and seductive at the same time.  It was just a lovely wine.

After dinner, we went to this Air B & B – first time, weird – that Andrea booked over in the lower east side.  I got straight on the computer.  Half cocked, I started to write in French.  I was formulating a “drink and email” to Jean-Louis Dutraive.  I was surprised at how easy it was to find his email address online.  Who was this easy-to-find genius that no one is importing to the US outside of New York?!  I wrote to him about how much his wine moved me that night.  I don’t usually wax poetic in French on the first email.  I popped the question about importation to California because I knew that Dutraive was only imported in New York by Doug Polaner.  I respect what Doug has done in New York.  He has great selections.  I wrote that email in the dark, at 1:30 in the morning as my little one fell asleep next to me.  I double-checked the French, hit send, and passed out.

I woke up like a kid on Christmas morning, grabbed my computer with high hopes and there it was, just four hours after I sent him the message, he responded “…on peut essayer de voir cela ensemble, cordialement, JLouis.”.   Wow, what a surprise!  I didn’t expect such a quick reply.  It never happens like that, so I started to question the situation a little bit.  I tell this guy how much I love his wine, and then he offers me five different bottlings, plus magnums?!  I sent the list to ABCD-WXYZ.  He freaked out that I landed Dutraive in a matter of eight hours after tasting one bottle.  Dutraive may be his top favorite at the moment, granted he’s only had his 2012s (I think)…  He was beside himself.  So was I, but something in my head kept me thinking that this was too easy, and maybe I had given this wine too much credit. If getting his wine is that easy, why is he not already spoken for?  I was drinking a lot that night…

I’m drinking the 2012 Cuvée Vieilles Vignes while I write this.  It inspires me to write.  I literally just got it from New York yesterday in the mail.  I am aware of the risks of shipping shock, but I couldn’t help myself, I had to have it.   Upon first smell, I thought, f$%k…, I made a mistake.  I don’t mean a mistake by opening a clean “natural wine” that just had a five day trip from New York to Santa Barbara and landed yesterday.  I’m talking about a major misjudgment here.  My Little One (Andrea) smelled it, tasted it and said with a surprised curiosity, “it’s a little… sparkly”…  I grimaced, and agreed.  Not my thing…  Here is that insecure moment as an importer…  Did I make a mistake in a moment of excess?  I remembered it being so damn delicious in New York!  Now I’ve told this guy I’ll take whatever he’ll sell me!

I don’t subscribe much to decanting, so I impatiently waited it out, one sip at a time.  Gradually, I started to accept that my enthusiasm, for what I thought I had tasted in New York, may have been a mistake.   I was swirling less and sniffing more, waiting for that moment that would take me back to the lower East Side in New York.  Waiting, waiting, waiting…  My mind kept saying that I should have waited a couple of weeks to drink it because of the shipping shock, but I just couldn’t help myself.  Now I’ve ruined it…  no sleep for me tonight.  50 newly imported cases of closeouts coming up…

Well, just as it has happened countless times before, I smell the sound of a horn in the distance. Oh baby, she’s comin’!  The anxiety that built up while I was working my way through the first half of the bottle that wasn’t giving much, slowly started to fade away.  I was starting to re-experience the glory of the wine I had tasted in New York.  I was halfway through this bottle when she started to show that glimmer of pure seduction.  Taking shape in my glass was not a wine from the Cote d’Or, but this precise and classy Burgundy made with Gamay that could rival some of the famous wines from the north. The nostalgia of discovery came back.  The excitement was there.  Now I started to clearly see that bulls-eye that I thought I hit with a New York “shot from the hip” at very close range.

I’m on the last half-glass now.  I am completely taken by the wine, despite its jetlag.  Perplexed by the wine’s unique beauty, I find myself again short on descriptors.  It’s getting late and it’s been a long ride…  It is a completely different face of nobility from a grape that seems to have commonly found its place as the court jester of Burgundy.  This is a wine that doesn’t really fit in today’s supposed “great” and trendy Beaujolais wines.  Despite its crazy low yields and 70 year old vines, it is unique, individual, unapologetically sleek, perfumed and feminine. I love it. I really do.  I can’t wait to get my 50 cases in to spread around and freak out my friends in California.

I’m on my very last sip now…  It’s really beautiful.  F$#K, I should’ve waited…  It’s funny how many times in life we make the same mistakes over and over again because we are impatient.  I can only imagine its taste if I had waited.  I guess I’ll just have to keep my pants on for four more weeks before I start drinking the other five bottles I bought from New York.