Wine. All The Time. Bookplates for the holidays!

Planning on gifting Wine. All The Time. The Casual Guide to Confident Drinking this holiday season? I think that is a great idea too! Such a great idea in fact, that if you send proof of purchase, along with your name, your friend's name, and your best shipping address to WineAllTheTimeTheBook@Gmail.com, I will send BOTH OF YOU personalized bookplates! One for your dog-eared copy, and one for your lucky bud's brand new copy. 

Also, if this "friend" you're purchasing the book for happens to just be you, that's totally chill, I think it's important to be our own best friends. Also if you're like, "I'm actually gifting it to many friends and will need multiple bookplates," that is also very chill. 

I will do my best to get the bookplates shipped to you before Christmas, and will be accepting submissions up until 12/31/2017. It makes a good New Year's Resolution gift too! 

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Happy holidays and lots of cheers!
xoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

PS. Thank you to Ted of Monster Rally for allowing me to use his music in my videos for the last five years. If you don't already listen to Monster Rally, I don't know what you're doing with yourself. It's the best. 

PPS. I've been getting a lot of people requesting I start posting my Instastories on YouTube. Well, here is the first one, that documents how great shooting this video went.

Posted on December 13, 2017 .

Ruth Lewandowski "Dinos to Diamonds"

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Ruth Lewandowski "Dinos to Diamonds"
Varietal: Riesling
Region: Cole Ranch, California
Year: 2016
Price: ~$26
Distributor: Sylvester/Rovine

Full Disclosure: This bottle was sent to me as a gift from Evan Lewandowski. It was not in trade for a review, nor were there any other pretenses or promises of coverage. I just opened and loved it and now here we are, as we are with all wines posted. 

It was 2014, and I was a bit drunk at a tasting at Silverlake Wine, when a bottle of Ruth Lewandowski's "Boaz" Carignan started making the rounds. The wine was incredible, but what struck me the most was that it was made by some dude in Utah. I didn't actually meet that dude, Evan Lewandowski, or taste through his entire portfolio until this past March, but he has quickly become one of my favorite domestic winemakers. 

"Dinos to Diamonds" was only an adorable Instagram mirage as far as I knew, as fleeting as everything else enviable on my feed. Until it showed up on my doorstep. The story behind this wine is just as endearing as its label, but it's also so much more: 

Way back in the day, in my 11 year old brain, it was perfectly reasonable and logical to hold the belief that diamonds were made of dinosaurs. Diamonds were simply former lumps of coal, compressed under mind boggling amounts of pressure while being subjected to a similarly unimaginable amount of heat for a bazillion years. This very same coal was merely ancient remains of animal and plant life, and I preferred to think that it was mainly comprised of extinct dinosaurs. “They’re called fossil fuels for a reason,” I figured, “and most of the fossils in the books at school are dinosaur bones.” Petroleum products from companies like Sinclair only confirmed my hypothesis. Being the sensitive kid that I was, I found the extinction of dinosaurs a bit disheartening. Ever the hopelessly optimistic child, however, I could still find solace in the fact that all these years later, something beautiful has come from such a horrendous situation. They may have gone extinct, but something incredible exists today despite the horror. Get it? Dinos to Diamonds. Its the same old story I’ve been hammering home from the beginning. Even in death, there will be beauty, there will be life. There will be light.

Dinos to Diamonds is a wine that will, in essence, “go extinct” each year, a complete one-off and an excuse for me to experiment with whatever may come my way each vintage. Despite the demise of each version, a great deal of life will spring forth because of its existence. All profits from this wine every year will go to charity. The organizations upon which we will focus will be ones that exist to give hope to the hopeless, to support and uplift individuals walking in darker days to help show them that there will be light. So, in the wake of the devastating wildfires that took so much from so many last month, I’ve chosen to donate 100% of the proceeds of this, the first iteration of Dinos to Diamonds, to wildfire relief efforts. More specifically, to an organization known as Undocufund.
— Evan Lewandowski

I didn't know any of that when I opened this bottle and decided to write about it, so I have to be honest and say it was for selfish reasons: Because I fucking loved it, and it's rare for me to fucking love white wine. 

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A single sip struck me like the brightest, shoulder-season sunshine beaming in through the windshield like the morning miles of a highly anticipated road trip. It's the first day of vacation, optimistic and excited, venturing into the treasured frontiers of America without any traffic or Burger Kings, because this is my god damned fantasy and you best believe it's taking place in a time when Perry Como would sing things like, "From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific." 

Ahem. Anyway, as I was saying, "Dinos to Diamonds"...

It's like rolling down the windows and fresh wind rushing by your face. Everything is on the tip of your nose-- you can smell everything you're driving towards, and you can feel it. Desert roads, forest breezes. It's jazzy, but it's easy and cheery, like Lawrence Welk coming on shuffle. It's like breaking fresh citrus in half in your hands, and biting into a pear that's gotten warm in the passenger seat pocket, and licking the juice as it drips off your salty hands. 

And like all days that start bright, "Dinos to Diamonds" inevitably melts into a golden, liquid sunset of more pears and spiced tropical fruits. It's a very certain comfort, a warmth that comes from knowing you're close to your destination. It's a full experience, and an earnest, beautiful, and well balanced one at that. 

It's the shit postcards are made of. 

Aside from its complexity and incredible balance, I am also so impressed by how clean "Dinos to Diamonds" is. Zero flaws at bottle opening, and after being corked and refrigerated for two days, only saw the slightest oxidation, which did not affect the taste of the wine negatively at all. It just made those pear and papaya notes a little deeper and a little nuttier, and I have no complaints. This is a wine you could serve to anyone, and they would have a hard time finding a reason not to drink the whole bottle.

And then plan a road trip to Utah to drink even more of it. 

Tasting Notes: 1960's dandelion yellow in color. Smells like fresh guava with dewy leaves still clinging to its branches, pear, pine, and a splash of margarita mix. Tastes like a juiced mix of lemons, pineapple, grapefruit pith, spiced papaya, sea salt, and pine needles cascading down the limestone terraces of Yellowstone's Mammoth Hot Springs. Squeaky clean with shining acidity, a waxy texture and a long finish that keeps you thirsty for more. 

Ross Test: Like chugging passion fruit lemonade from a cold limestone goblet. GAHHH!!! 😍😍😍

marissa a. ross dinos to diamonds

Cruse Wine Co. Valdiguié

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Cruse Wine Co. Valdiguié
Region: Napa, California
Vineyard: Rancho Chimiles
Year: 2016
Price: ~$30
Distributor: Amy Atwood Selections

Full disclosure: I received this bottle as a gift from Amy Atwood. Not that it mattered since I still managed to spend a couple hundred dollars on Cruse's latest allocation, as one does. 

There are two types of wine that don't make it to the site for review: Wines I don't like enough, and wines I like too much. It's safe to say the latter is why Michael Cruse's wines have been all over my Instagram, yet I've never written about here. Which is weird-- or perhaps not weird at all-- considering how much I love Cruse and his wines.

It was seventy-eight here in Los Angeles today. I (begrudgingly) had to go to the mall, and there wasn't a line outside the Apple store as I was expecting, but there was a line outside Santa's Workshop that wrapped around a Christmas tree twice the size of the duplexes on my street. I couldn't have felt less holidayish, or even close to winterish, sweating in a breezy linen button-up. 

I came home and opened Cruse's latest Valdiguié. As soon as it hit my lips, I was immediately transported somewhere else; somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you know when it's not a holiday but it still feels festive. Somewhere stress-free with no Secret Santa stealing gift exchange shit, somewhere just purely relaxing. Somewhere where there's winter and people my age can afford homes with fireplaces and listen to jazz and wear cashmere and you're extremely comfortable, both physically and like, ~spiritually~.

The Valdiguié is cozy but energetic, like a cold night spent warm inside with good friends. It's so toasty with ripe red fruit and well-integrated French oak that you want to curl up in it. It makes you want to wear layers and offer a guest your favorite throw blanket. But it also has a rippling acidity that rings of clinking glasses over conversation and laughter and flipping records. Imagine if you dunked your soul into a pot of mulled cranberry wine, and then had the best one-liner of your god damn life that everyone actually heard, and loved. That's what this wine tastes like. Like being completely at home, and being so alive. 

Tasting Notes: Stunning raspberry garnet in color. Smells like smashed cherries & raspberries in a thin pie crust made of sand, lightly dusted with fresh ground pepper, and garnished with spearmint. Tastes like crushed cranberries in a steel bowl with clove, zested orange peel, a dash of salt and a pinch of dirt. Serve slightly chilled and allow to warm to room.

Ross Test: Punchy, savory, fuzzy, YUMMMYYY. 

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Posted on November 20, 2017 .

VIETNAFEAST

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Celebrated Antoin's mother last night, starting with Catherine et Pierre Breton “La Dilattante” Vouvray Brut (always a classic), and Com Thit Nuong & shrimp paired with the Peillot Altesse, as suggested by Lou. Cut “like an express lane” through the spice; green apple & honeydew on a limestone slab with shavings of pear & a liiiiitttllle pecorino.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana & Collecapretta “La Cese” Sangiovese

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Bucatini all’Amatriciana & Collecapretta “La Cese” Sangiovese is the closest you can get to having sex while eating dinner in sweatpants. Bucatini all’Amatriciana is an especially spicy dish in this household, but the “Le Cese” tempered the heat while flattering the tomatoes, and is overall an herbal, ripe cherry chutney with dusty gravel & liquid pheromones. An absolutely perfect pairing. 

Posted on November 20, 2017 .

HELP NORTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRE VICTIMS!

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THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTED!
TOGETHER WE SENT OVER 1,800 ITEMS--
AND MOST OF THOSE WERE BULK ITEMS!--
TO NORTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRE VICTIMS!

Mentor Me has let me know they are at capacity for goods and sends a million thank you's! 
I will be updating this post soon with more ways to help! 
❤️❤️❤️

Also, there seems to be some confusion. Some people think this was a shop I set up and was selling the goods personally or that I was in collaboration with Amazon and was receiving commission. I want to be clear that I did not profit from any of the donations that were made. This was an Amazon wish list that I set up on my own accord, that I promoted and maintained, it was filled with goods from many different sellers, and it was sent straight to Mentor Me. The only thing I got out of this was knowing I was helping in a way that I could, and it breaks my heart to think that people think I was exploiting an emergency in my home state, with my own community, for monetary gain.

---

Dear friends, I made an Amazon wish list with supplies that will be sent directly to the Mentor Me at the Cavanagh Rec Center in Petaluma. The center already has 500+ evacuees and is helping distribute goods to ten other evacuee centers in the area. Face masks, blankets, pillows & pillow cases are much needed and at the top of the list, but the list contains everything from toiletries to baby supplies to pet food to phone chargers. Please help in any way you can and share the list with others! Also please let me know if something on the list isn’t working and I will fix it! ❤️❤️❤️

Posted on October 11, 2017 .

Nicolas Carmarans "Maximus" Aveyron Fer Servadou

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Nicolas Carmarans "Maximus" Aveyron Fer Servadou
Varietal: Fer Servadou
Region: Midi, France
Year: 2015
Price: $28
Retailer: Lou Wine Shop
Importer: Fifi's Import

There's a Seinfeld reference for everything. But over the years, there has been one particular Seinfeld reference people associate with me over all other Seinfeld references. It is episode one, season six. "The Chaperone." This is the episode in which Elaine is told you either have grace or you don't. I am not known for being graceful. I'm brazen & boyish, high strung & kind of aggressive, very polite but equally inappropriate. And you can't acquire grace, you can't just pick it up, not even at the Silverlake farmer's market. And it's fine because I don't have grace, I don't want grace, and I definitely do not say fucking grace. But Nicolas Carmarans' "Maximus" makes me think that maybe I could have grace. 

The title boasts machismo and excessiveness, and you almost expect to be hit over the head with the bottle after pouring. Instead you are met with an inextricable mix of soft and bold. It's driven by its acidity and carbonic quality, and that is the electric spine the wine is build upon. After the initial hit of acid, you are met with a smooth femininity of floral and red fruit that gives way to a sinewy, dark berry quality; the strength, the muscle of the thing. It has bite with astringent tannins and some brett, and carries a little bit of weight with touches of oak. But it all comes together harmoniously, making a wine that is both light and charming while warm and interesting. It's fucking graceful. 

Because having high energy or bite or even slight flaws doesn't mean something can't also be graceful. Grace isn't just a singular quality of pristine elegance, grace is also fluidity, cohesiveness, the sum of its parts. And perhaps we're all a little more graceful than we give ourselves credit for. 

Tasting Notes: Smells like cranberries & cherries tossed with gravel and roses, dusted with warm black pepper and zested with lime. Tastes like unadulterated cranberry juice, bright pomegranate, and roses & peonies, with hints of peppered ripe cherries tucked into a cigar box with some brett. Light, dry, with astringent tannins but oh so drinkable. This is my third bottle this week so. Proof is in the purchases. 

Ross Test: Gets super herbal, but still quite quaffable! 

Hervé Souhaut "La Souteronne" Gamay

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Before we get started, just want to clarify the deal with the wine's attribution: Hervé Souhaut is the winemaker and Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet is the winery he founded. Souhaut is on the front and the winery is on the back. Cool? Cool!

Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet (Hervé Souhaut) "La Souteronne Vin De Pays" Gamay
Varietal: Gamay
Region: St. Joesph, Rhône, France
Year: 2016
Price: $34
Retailer: Lou Wine Shop
Importer: Jenny & François

I try to only write about wines I've had at least two bottles of. Not right before I start writing, jesus christ, I'd never get anything done. I mean, two bottles I've drank previously before writing. Or at least have the second bottle be the one I'm writing about. This is very helpful in my reviewing/writing process.

If I know I definitely want to write about something, I buy two bottles. But often I don't know if I'm going to want to write about something, so I buy one bottle and usually go back and get another. The problem is that sometimes those bottles are then GONE. EVEN WITHIN TWO DAYS.

All this to say, I opened this bottle and wanted to write about it. I got my tasting notes in and then went back to Lou today and they were gone.

This wine is delicious and super small production,
so if you see it, BUY IT. TRUST ME.

Tasting Notes: Smells like raspberries over a wood fire, dusted with mint. Tastes like cranberry tires burning out on a eucalyptus tree lined suburban street paved with schist in a cloud of fine black pepper smoke. Smooth, juicy, structured. There is a touch of VA, but well integrated in this bottle. 

Ross Test: Juicy and spicy and bigger than most Ross Tests I recommend, but bigger sometimes is better. 

Posted on October 9, 2017 .

Cantina Ribelà Garbagorba Rosato

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I'd been saving this bottle of Ribelà Garbagorba rosato since June for this exact moment, for immediately after I came home from Italy. You may be thinking, "Who needs more Italian wine after drinking only Italian wines for over a week?" and bless your naive heart. Of course you need more Italian wine when you get home from Italy, you can't just quit this shit cold turkey. Italy is the strongest drug in the world, with the hardest come down. I knew I was going to need a spectacularly dreamy wine to take the edge off returning to the states and take me back to my travels with winemaker/oenologist Danilo Marcucci and distributor/travel sage Amy Atwood, who I now never leave home without. 

But I didn't realize what this bottle was when I was saving it. I knew it was Ribelà, I knew it was Cesanese, and I thought it was the red I had in April. I loved that red, so I put a tag on the bottle reminding myself not to be an asshole and drink it while feeling mischievous (which I am liable to do), and hid it in the back of my wine fridge. I had no idea it was a rosato that there were only a handful cases produced of until I was in Italy last week. We shared glasses over a few al fresco lunches, each bottle ending with a joking "Please don't write about this."

Because wines like this are not just wines, they're trysts. They are romantic in their rarity, held intimately in their inaccessibility, and are so personal that its impossible not to feel possessive. They're Bobby Darin lyrics, Humphrey Bogart quotes, and ultimately, ships passing in the night. They are idealized and nearly impossible to have, which is why I probably shouldn't write about them.

Which is why I have to write about them.

Because while you may never drink this wine, I want you to know these wines are out there. For me, and for you. With natural wines, these precious gems are often as close as your favorite wine shop. They may not be the same wines I'm drinking, but you must know there are wines in the world that are so small in quantity yet large in love, and to not seek those big hearted wines out with the same burning ambition that drives us to find anything else desirable in this life, is a mistake. 

It's not about having THIS ONE.
It's about having YOUR ONE

(Also, please note, by "one," I mean "as many as you can find.")

Anywayyyyyy. I came home from Italy, and had to have this exact wine for this exact moment. It took a long time for it to open up-- approximately two & a half hours in a decanter in the refrigerator. But like any good love, it was well worth the wait. 

The Ribelà Garbagorba rosato doesn't taste like it did last week, but they never do. I don't know if the wine is lighter and more carefree in Italy, or if I'm lighter and more carefree in Italy, but it doesn't matter. Leaving Italy changes you; whether you're a wine or a woman, the distance weighs upon you. But even with barbells in each side of your ribcage, this wine does nothing but make your heart want to sing. It doesn't matter what it tasted like last week because today, it is still lovely.

This wine is so fun and spontaneous. It is a crush pushing you into the pool at dusk on a balmy summer night. All the plants have just been watered, and while you're immediately plunged into refreshing minerality, the breeze is hot and heavy with fresh cut fruit and warm flowers cooling in the shade of twilight. And while it seems like simple flirting, you know it's something you will remember until the end of time.

Ribelà is one of my favorite wineries, not just for its Roman oasis of a vineyard, but because their wines are so modern while still honoring the history of the region. I have a lot to say on this subject, which is another piece for another publication after I have more time to properly contemplate it all, which up until this moment has felt overwhelming. This trip to Italy changed me in ways that only my future work will be able to adequately demonstrate, and I'd be lying if I didn't say it has been keeping me up at night. Often with clarity comes anxiety, the "I KNOW WHAT I HAVE TO DO!" meeting the "FUCK. HOW DO I DO THAT? CAN I DO THAT?"

But with Garbagorba by my side, tackling the incredible topic of the evolution of Italian natural wines doesn't feel so enormous. It feels, and tastes, very exciting. 

Tasting Notes: Looks like gauze made from the brightest tropical coral. Smells like bing cherry morning dew dripping off cold gardenias. Tastes like you're devouring a watermelon filled with pomegranate juice trimmed with limestone, lemon rinds, and almond shavings. Refreshingly modern with a depth of terroir and tradition. Mio cuore canta (one of three Italian phrases I have DOWN). 

Ross Test: This is my first time Ross Testing from a decanter. And it was good, although, if you're going through the trouble to decant your wine you should probably put it in a glass. Also, you just straight up do not get enough wine when you're drinking out of a decanter without risking spilling the whole thing all over your face and wasting all this wine you are madly in love with.

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Strekov 1075 "Vavrinec" Svätovavrinecké

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Strekov 1075 Vavrinec
Varietal: 
Svätovavrinecké (St.Laurent)
Region: Slovakia
Year: 2014

Price: ~$25
Importer: Jenny & François Selections

I first met the Vavrinec in May, and it was love at first pour. And I poured, and I poured, and I poured. What was meant to be a wine review turned into a whirlwind romance; fast, lusty, effortless. It was everything I loved in a wine-- light and bright with crunchy, tart red fruit, floral wisps, and dashes of salt. Gamay who? This Svätovavrinecké was a most delicious wine, and I devoured it passionately without a thought of consequence. I watched the bottle slowly empty like watching the sun inevitably rise from the depths of a night you never want to end. But those nights, those bottles, those romances always end as swiftly as they started.

And the next day I was left without Vavrinec, and without a review. 

It's not uncommon for me to finish a bottle before I finish writing about it. Often I'm sharing the bottle with Ben, or I simply need more time to think about it. This usually isn't a problem because usually I can just go buy another bottle. Except this was a huge problem. Those consequences I ignored while blissfully glugging the Vavrinec? They were that the wine was gone and no one fucking carried Strekov 1075 in Los Angeles. And it was a 2014 vintage. I was madly in love, and totally fucked.

BUT I HAD TO WRITE ABOUT THIS WINE. HAD TO. After calling everyone I knew trying to track it down, I finally broke and shamelessly begged my friend Phil Sareil of Jenny & François Selections,* who gifted me the bottle, for another. There was only one case left, and Phil, sensing my deep thirst (on so many levels), generously sent me another bottle from New York.

After a month & a half, tonight I pulled that bottle out of my fridge. I was nervous. What if things weren't the same? What if it was weird? What if I wasn't really in love? What if it was only meant to be one magical night between me and the Vavrinec, never to be had again?

I poured it slowly, brought it to my lips, and took a small, deliberate sip.
And it tasted as though we had never parted.

It was like hearing a favorite song; familiar but just as moving as the first time time you heard it. The acidity is like an electric guitar pumped through a twangy pedal, both strikingly energetic and dreamy. It keeps the wine moving as idyllic, sour summer berries and perfumed flowers softly float along as the melody. 

The difference was I knew the song was going to end this time, for good. No rewinds, no repeats. This would be my last dance with Strekov 1075's 2014 Vavrinec. And while it tasted just as beautiful as I remembered, it broke my heart knowing I would never have this wine again. 

The magic of wine is also its misery. The variations from vintage to vintage are what keeps it interesting and endlessly enchanting. But they are fleeting; it's that one night, it's that one cologne mixed with the oils on that one neck, it's that one year of grapes in a bottle. 

But as they say,
It's better to have drunk and lost than never drunk at all.

Or something like that.
Who the fuck knows,
I hate the participles of "drink,"
and am just drunk enough not to care. 

Tasting Notes: Looks like unpolished garnets in the sun. Sour blackberries, cherry blossoms and almonds on the nose. Tastes like salted raspberry fireworks over a farm on the Fourth of July, exploding with acidity, and glittering with rhubarb, cherry, and barely budding, super green, red roses. So juicy and fresh, with a pleasantly tart and herbaceous finish. It is fun and flirty, but also a balancing act of grit and grace. One of the true loves of my wine life.

Ross Test: Like something I dreamed into life [weeps].

*Full Transparency: Yes, this wine was gifted to me from Phil from Jenny & François Selections, but was not in trade for a review. Just wine buds sharing wine!