I love chugging, you love chugging. Why not put all that chugging to good use? Post your own #rosstest on Instagram with the #rosstest hashtag and tag me for a chance to win a personalized, signed copy of #wineallthetimethebook with probably a really silly note because that's just how I do. Excited to see everything you're drinking, and even more excited to share my book with you guys! Can't believe it's coming out in twenty fucking days.
Collecapretta Vigna Vecchia
Varietal: Trebbiano Spoletino
Region: Umbria, Italy
There is no place my mind wanders to more frequently than Italy. On both good days and bad, I often dream of picking up my life in California and unpacking it somewhere in Umbria; close enough to Rome, but far enough away to be alone, and explore more of what has quickly become one of my favorite wine regions. While I'd been a fan of the wines for awhile, visiting Umbria this past spring with Matt Mollo of SelectioNaturel seared the Italian countryside into my heart. (And into my ankle. Not sure if you saw on my Instastory where I stayed in an Umbrian hotel that was a converted grain silo, but my room had essentially a carpet slide to accommodate the original structure. After a lot of wine that evening, I obviously had to drunkenly slide down until Mary Bartlett and I got the perfect two second video, and subsequently I gave myself the gnarliest rug burn on my ankle bone which has since scarred, and I consider it my first, and only, tattoo.)
I first had the Vigna Vecchia at Collecapretta in Umbria this past spring. The tiny hamlet that has been helmed by the Mattioli family since the 1100's currently has about four hectares of old vines and the winemaking is mangaged by the head of the family, Vittorio, and his stunning daughter, Annalisa. I have this bottle today as a gift from Danilo Marcucci, basically the Yoda of Italian natural wine, who works closely with Collecapretta and considers this wine the one that changed his life. This particular type of Trebbiano is only found in Umbria, and has only recently been revived after decades of the region being gutted of indigenous grape varietals.
Drinking the Vigna Vecchia now, there are two sides of it. Or at least, I have two sides of it.
There is the side that conjures so much from my experience at Collecapretta. It's the barely budding maple trees and the white, dusty road that runs along the vines. It's the potted Meyer lemon trees and flowers that line the stone drive, with wafts of wet rock from recent watering. You can taste the closeness of the cellar we huddled in after a long lunch of homemade charcuterie and spinach ricotta ravioli (which this pairs perfectly with). It makes me want to move to the countryside and spend endless hours drinking this glass of emulsion blended sunshine and jasmine while watching the horizon disappear into the evening sky.
But then there is the side that I taste as though I never sat at that table or walked those hills.
And that side of this wine tastes like a decadent tropical vacation.
The Collecapretta Vigna Vecchia also tastes like that perfect day-buzz on a sandy beach with the right amount of salt in the air and some sort of rich, pineapple drink in your hand. It's confident, it's passionate, it's lusty. As a skin-contact white, with it's fuller body and modest tannins, it's even a bit grabby, and makes you want to rub tanning oil all over a lover's (or a hot stranger's?) back. And then be like, "Do me now. Don't forget to lift my straps... And no, you are right, I didn't quite get my sides..." and then you share a melon, smoke an indica-hybrid, and blow each other on lounge chairs after dark, or some equally romantic shit.
But this is what I love so much about wine: It is so subjective and based on your experiences. What you taste in this wine could, and very well may be, entirely different than what I taste.
But whether it takes you to Italy or to a distant beach, the Collecapretta Vigna Vecchia is a daydream of a wine you'll never want to leave. It is so warm yet so refreshing, that it is almost impossible to have another care in the world while drinking it.
Not only that, but it is constantly evolving. You will think you have it figured out, but each sip is slightly different. And before you hit your next pour, you will notice that the wine has taken on more petrol and cashmere qualities, almost reminiscent of a aged riesling.
The Collecapretta Vigna Vecchia is like a good lover: It just keeps giving.
Tasting Notes: Looks like strewn gold in direct sunlight. Smells like salted, wet rock and white floral breezes of pineapple, apple, and papaya. Tastes like concentrated pineapple, and like dousing jasmine in gasoline and burning aflame with green melon. Has a long, warm cashmere finish of orange peel. Constantly evolving and endlessly flavorful, this has to be one of my favorite white wines ever. I'm in awe of it.
Ross Test: Bitter pineapple juice. It's quite good, but not as good as out of a glass. But don't get me wrong. It's good.
Minimus "I Have Brett" Rosé
Varietal: Pinot Gris
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Retailer: Lou Wine Shop
This is my third attempt at writing this review. Which in and of itself, is a testament to the wine. It has perplexed, and hypnotized, me for two days. Just this afternoon, I literally cried a little over it. Because I could not find the right words, and because I was out of the wine. That sounds like a shallow and well-branded joke, but it isn't. I legit had tears. I then went back to Lou's and got another bottle.
And now, I am ready to tell you about the Minimus "I Have Brett" Rosé.
It's a Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood song.
If you have ever listened to Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood's LP Nancy & Lee, you know that it is an album of harmonious chasms. You have Nancy's flowery voice floating and Lee's deep, spicy baritone coming in hot. There's breezy tambourines and celestial violins mixed with deep bass lines and ominous drum beats. We won't get into the random trumpets and country crooning, but it's all there. A first spin leaves a listener confused, but a third listen has them obsessed. Even if they can't explain exactly how the extreme breaks in "Some Velvet Morning" went from jarring to joyful. It just is.
The Minimus "I Have Brett" Rosé reminds me of that album because it has so many conflicting notes that unexpectedly become an addictive melody. It's very dry and savory and reminiscent of a Tavel rosé, but has a tight, throbbing acidity, a punch of red fruit, and a floral halo. And then it has this incredible tannic structure and long finish. It's both light & bright, and warm & spicy, and that brett they make a point to call out is so well integrated into its complex profile that I doubt most people could pick a note of "barnyard" out of the glass while being so beguiled by its spiced cornucopia of cranberry and white flowers.
I attribute its multiverse of flavors and sensations to Minimus winemaker Chad Stock's proprietary "Reverse Saignée" method.
Alright so first things first, Saignée is a method of making rosé where a producer is making a straight-up red wine, and then bleeds off some of the juice early in fermentation. (This sort of thing is in my book BTW and you should pre-order it OKAY SORRY SORRY JUST TRYING TO MAKE A LIVING HERE.) Chad does not do this. Instead:
'Reverse Saignée' is what my team and I call the method where by we add additional juice to a fermentation on skins as opposed to the typical Saignée, where juice is removed from the fermentation. We fill a tank full of whole cluster Pinot Gris grapes, we then take a portion of the same fruit and whole bunch press it to collect white juice. We then pump the white juice into the tank full of whole clusters. The fermentation ensues for about three weeks to dryness. We wet the cap three times daily but otherwise never punch down, so the clusters remain whole and ferment carbonic with the white juice surrounding them.
And subsequently, Minimus has created a highly energetic yet extremely structured wine that is easy to ponder upon, and lose yourself in. And I'm sitting here still dazed by it.
This is not a wine you just drink.
This is a cerebral tongue fuck,
an endlessly stimulating yet ultimately unsolvable rosé Rubix Cube.
Tasting Notes: The color is close to Pantone's "Tangerine Tango," but with a touch more red, vibrant and glowing and expanding like a molten sun. Texturally it starts very smooth, like a well-polished gem, but softens in the glass. Smells like salted hibiscus and those freeze-dried full-sized raspberries from Whole Foods 365. Tastes like cranberry concentrate, red current, white lilies, and warm, spiced orange peels. And yes, that bit of brett, and all the mysteries left to ponder by this "Reverse Saignée".
Ross Test: Doable, but put it in a glass for me. I mean, for you, but do it for me.
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Milan Nestarec 'Forks & Knives' White
Varietal: Grüner Veltliner
Region: Czech Republic
Importer: Jenny & François Selections
The real reason I write about wine is because it has always been an escape for me. And not in the emotional, alcohol dependency way. But in the transportive way. I've always loved wine and writing about it because I can be somewhere, for even just a moment.
And the Milan Nestarec 'Forks & Knives' White takes me to one of my favorite scenes in the world: This photo of the Kaufmann House by Slim Aarons. I asked for this huge poster of it years ago, before I even had a wall to put it on. It sat unrolled and unframed for years, waiting for the moment I had a place to put it. Everyone asked why I would ask for a five foot poster of something I had nowhere to hang, and it was because I knew the next place I lived would have the perfect place to hang it. It was aspirational, and it still is.
I look at this picture every day, but the 'Forks & Knives' White is one of the few wines that tastes like that photo makes me feel. Like it's the Magic Hour on a perfect 81 degree Palm Springs afternoon. It has the fruitiness and acidity of an optimistic, tiki-inspired cocktail, something you would very much be drinking poolside in the early 1970's. The kind of drink that is so delicious and juicy, that you drink a few too many of, and consider becoming a swinger for a second because you're a bunch of rich people at the Kaufmann House in 1970 being photographed by Slim Aarons while listening to Henry Mancini and JESUS CHRIST, WHY NOT.
It's sophisticated, but mischievous.
Like all good hosts should be.
Tasting Notes: Looks like cloudy sunshine. I know that makes zero sense but just imagine a glass of cloudy sunshine please. FIIINE, IT'S LIKE STRAW GOLD AND CLOUDY. JESUS LET ME HAVE MY METAPHORS. Smells like Le Labo Jasmine Perfume and apples. Goes down so easy, but has a nice weight to it. Tastes like pineapple Martinellis with honeydew, a twist of lime and a hint of juniper.
Ross Test: "WAIT, IT'S GONE?!?!?!?!!" good. Watch for sediment, babe.
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Wine. All The Time. the book is happening. Like really truly happening, no going back now, HOLY SHIT I HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT ON JUNE 27TH 2017! really truly happening. It still hasn't quite hit me, even as I write this. This time two years ago, this book was barely a glimmer of a thought of a possibility. By June of 2015, I had spent everything I had emotionally and financially selling it. I had naively thought that would be the hardest part, but as it turns out, writing a book is really fucking hard. Quite frankly, I do not know how I am even alive right now considering how little I slept and how much I stressed in 2016. I probably shaved a few years off my life, but it was worth it. I'm really proud of this book, and am so excited to share it with you guys.
I've been getting a lot of questions about what the book is exactly. No, it is not a picture book (although, bless your sweet hearts for thinking I could sell a book of photos of me chugging wine) and no, it's not a memoir (also, very sweet to think anyone would read that lol).
Wine. All The Time. the book is my guide to wine, from how wine is made to how to taste wine to how to buy wine to how to drink with your boss and not get fired. It is me giving you everything you need to be a confident wine drinker, and a smarter wine buyer, without any of the heady shit. Of course, I hope the book inspires you to get into the heady shit too, but this is the book I wish had been around when I first started getting into wine. Obviously it is told in my voice, so there's lots of humor and personal anecdotes, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as you learn from it.
And! An audio version of the book will be available as well! And I'm reading it! AHH!
Also, it's so exciting to finally release the cover! Penguin and photographer Andy J. Scott did an excellent job translating my vibe, and I'm so happy with it. For those of you who have been following my writing since Tangents & the Times, you know this is totally my color scheme. Originally, I did not want to be on the cover (odd considering how vain I am, I know). I wanted it to look like an old, vintage cocktail book, but it only took like three super flattering emails from my editor and publisher to change my mind. I was nervous, but all the great friends (wines) I got to have in the shot with me really helped boost my confidence. And yes, those are the shorts. The same men's Levi's cut-off shorts I have worn for everything I've ever done for the last eight years, and while part of me believes they need to be retired, part of me is now convinced I'm actually a Never Nude.
So, there it is! My first book!
PLEASE PRE-ORDER IT! Because you love wine! Because you want to be a confident wine drinker that picks out notes of raspberry pop rocks and takes no shit and doesn't even care that you can't pronounce terroir correctly (although I will teach you how to do that too)! And because you love me? Maybe? 😁
Photography by Andy J. Scott, Hair & Makeup by Sydney Costley, featuring wines from Brendan Tracey, Vini Rabasco, Partida Creus, Michael Cruse, Scribe, Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Jean-Claude Lapalu.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was a draft I accidentally published. While it is technically unfinished, I'd left it up for days without realizing it, so I am against taking it down. Plus I drank all the damn wine so I couldn't finish it right now if I wanted to. Though I don't wax as poetic as I would have liked, the bones are here and they are good. Delicious bones. Licked 'em clean. Anyway, my apologies for the brevity, and I hope you try the Rue de la Soif for yourself very soon. xo MAR
The Rue de la Soif reminds me of when you pull a load of laundry fresh out of the dryer and then fold it ten minutes later. It's soft, warm, and welcoming, even more so than when you first pull it out of the Whirlpool hot as hell. It's fragrant but not overwhelming, and you want to dive into it.
Tasting Notes: A cloudy, yellow sapphire on the eyes. It smells like leftovers of my grandmother's (and now my sister's) apple pie reheated the next day, still cool in the center. Tastes like fresh laundry and bruised pears, with a sturdy and sustaining lemonade style acidity.
Ross Test: Good, but has a bit of a soapy quality, making it preferable out of a glass.
Bichi "Gran Listan"
Region: Tecate, Baja, Mexico
Retailer: Domaine LA
Importer: Farm Wine Imports
It's a new year but I'm still up to my old tricks. I'm starting 2017 off with this light bodied red despite one of my resolutions being to drink more white wine. Partly because I've been saving this bottle for months to write about because I love the font work so much, and partly because the New Year doesn't really start until the first business day of the year. And mostly because I do not give a shit. The proverbial New Year means nothing to me. I don't detox, and I have the same resolutions every damn morning: drink more water and make motherfuckers rue the day.
I'll get to more white wine when it gets hot again in like two weeks.
In the mean time,
MORE RED WINE.
Baja has been blowing up as a wine region over the last couple years, but Bichi is the only natural winery there. In fact, it's the only natural winery in all of Mexico. Headed up by one of my favorite Chilean winemakers, Louis-Antoine Luyt, and chef Jair Téllez of MeroToro, Bichi is bringing little known varietals like Misión into bottles. Named for the California Missions it was historically grown on, the Misión grape is very Gamay-like and subsequently (predictably), I fucking love it.
I popped the Gran Listan and couldn't help but belting out the first line of Marty Robbins' "El Paso" over and over, much to the annoyance of everyone in my house. Literally just the "Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl" part. So, very annoying.
It was love at first sip!
Energetic and poppy but so satiny and balanced, the Gran Listan reminds me of an amazingly untrained dancer. They can't formally salsa, tap, waltz or twerk, but god damn can they cut a rug. They are having the most fun out of anyone on the floor, and their moves are so fucking smooth. Like how did they take Dad-style double-gun shooting and segue it into sexy shoulder shimmying? I thought hips only moved like that in old Skinamax movies? And were they just crip-walking? A little? But it wasn't like try hard, it was just like, really great footwork? It's magnetic and delicious, and you can't help be drawn to it.
It's the wine you wish would be at the bar on a Saturday night, and the wine you want to hang out with on a Tuesday: casual, but always a good time.
Tasting Notes: Vibrant, gauzy purple-red on the eyes. Smells like a horse running down a dusty road of sour Skittles powder and crushed roses. Tastes like cold-pressed sour raspberries, dusty roses and a touch of eucalyptus on the back. A little dirty, but oh so delightful and smooth.
Ross Test: Yes. YES. YESSSSS!
Vin de California "Sans" Zinfandel
Region: Arroyo Grande, California
Retailer: COMING SOON
I have a boss. You may know him. His name is Adam Rapoport, otherwise known as Rapo. Or as I like to call him, Rapo Dad, because I always need his approval, from pitches to projects to personally just wanting him to like me and my work because he's Adam Fucking Rapoport.
A few days ago while discussing an upcoming trip the BA team is taking out to the best coast, I was saying we needed to drink wine and he agreed with the caveat, "But we're not gonna be sitting around on your sofa with our socks sipping chard and zin..." to which I exclaimed a big "PFFFFFT!!!" [hair toss]
And now here I am, with a brand new pair of knitted socks I bought at the army surplus store after a pet-nat rosé fueled brunch and whaddddaaayyyaaaknooowww, A ZINFANDEL. Dads, man. Sometimes they do know best.
The last few years have seen an increase in usage of "juice." In the wine world, this is a noun synonymous with "wine," and used for casual conversation, describing a wine that is super gluggy, or just being a cool guy? I don't know, I don't know anyone who would be like, "YO PASS ME THAT JUICE!" but it sounds like some shit we will be hearing on the next season of Fuck That's Delicious.
But the Vin de California "Sans" Zinfandel is LEGIT JUICE. Like some serious fruit that goes down easier than a Capri Sun with two straws. Forget about 16% ABV bullshit that tastes like hot Smuckers and makes you feel like you tried a vodka soaked tampon for the first time. That is not this Zinfandel (thank god). The "Sans" Zinfandel tastes like Zinfandel is having the best Sunday of its god damn life. It's youthful and sunny, but also chill, and oh shit! It just came back from a brunch with a serious buzz and everything is possible/hilarious. It's unfussy, delicious, and you want to drink it up.
And while it is delightful to sit on my sofa and sip, what I love about the Sans is it makes me want to not do that. It makes me wish I was sipping it on a faraway grassy and fantastical afternoon with friends at the Silverlake Meadow, a place I've only been to once but haven't nearly gotten arrested there for drinking Tecates on a Monday like I have at Echo Park so I feel like it's a safer bet for chugging wine out of the bottle.
Tasting Notes: Smells like a bag of melted cherry Starbursts on a leather backseat. Tastes like a blend of pure cherry and plum juice, with hints of raspberry and Red Vines. Lightly jammy, but in the best way possible. Like great jam that you want to AND CAN jam on. It's very fine lines with jam, trust I get it. But trust me. Natural with carbonic maceration and hints of BOMB-OLEEOOO.
Ross Test: It tastes like it was made to be drank this way, as you can see by the ease and pleasure I take in slugging this shit back. Fuck glassware, drink VDS.
Total side note, but I tore a page out of my homie Charles Ford's book of drinking wine in the shower and took a glass of Sans chilled in with me this afternoon. Of all the varietals in all the world, Zin would not be the first I would think of to sip on in between shaving my left and right leg, but god damn was it satisfying. After, I put on my new socks and curled up on the couch with the bottle to write about it, and felt equally charmed, and I've been here ever since.
Methode Sauvage Cabernet Franc
Region: Santa Cruz, California
Retailer: Methode Sauvage
I've had my eyes on the Methode Sauvage Cabernet Franc for awhile now. And like any good crush, it was relatively unobtainable. No one would shut up about how great it was, but I couldn't find it retail and it was sold out on the website. The last six months I'd been hoping we'd casually run into each other, with bated breath and bite marks along my lips. And so when it finally happened at a tasting at Lou with Adam Vourvoulis, I tried to play it cool, but I definitely caught some feelings. Just a few sips, and I was all heart-eyes and butterflies.
Needless to say, I am very pleased that it finally came home with me.
The Methode Sauvage Cabernet Franc is like having that first date and coming home and knowing FOR SURE you're destined to be together forever. Of course, nothing lasts forever, especially when it comes to bomb-ass wine, but that feeling. Also maybe the boning, but maybe not, whatever. Doesn't matter. It's still mmmmm, so good. It has this prominent, welcoming, warm black fruit that makes you feel right at home while then surprising you with a little spice, and a little levity. It's like they're wearing a very cozy wool sweater that begs for you to snuggle up into their shoulder, but they also have a great sense of humor and have you doubling over all night. There are no seams, only moments of forest and jalapeño effortlessly segueing into someone popping a fresh berry into your mouth, your tongue lingering on their salty fingertips (in a very attractive, non-awkward way I could only do in my dreams).
It's the kind of wine that makes you want to smile coyly, and bring a tuft of freshly shampooed hair to your nose while making eyes. It's the kind of wine that makes you want to drag my heels along the couch, knees knocking, thighs grazing. It's the kind of wine you can't wait to get under the mistletoe for an excuse to act on your instincts and put your mouth all over it.
Because this is the best California Cabernet Franc.
Today, and quite possible ever.
And while it may seem like a silly crush now, I am certain the Methode Sauvage Cabernet Franc will be the one you spend the rest of your life thinking of.
Tasting Notes: Dark-night plum in color, with a bouquet of spicy pine, raspberry, and your favorite pair of heavy denim Levi's freshly laundered. As for the taste, I'm floored. How it is possible for briny blackberries, dehydrated green bell pepper, with hints of toasted blueberries and big flakes of black pepper to come together smoother than lube is beyond me.
Ross Test: Sensual AF