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! 

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Photo: Andy J. Scott

Photo: Andy J. Scott

Collecapretta Vigna Vecchia

collecapretta vigna vecchia

Collecapretta Vigna Vecchia
Varietal: Trebbiano Spoletino
Region: Umbria, Italy
Year: 2016
Price: $30ish
Importer: SelectioNaturel

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.

collecapretta vigna vecchia color

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. 

But....

collecapretta marissa a ross ross test

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

minimus i have brett

Minimus "I Have Brett" Rosé
Varietal: Pinot Gris
Region: Willamette Valley, Oregon
Year: 2016
Price: $30
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. 

minimus i have brett rosé

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. 

Posted on May 19, 2017 .

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Milan Nestarec 'Forks & Knives' White

milan nestarec grüner marissa a. ross

Milan Nestarec 'Forks & Knives' White
Varietal: Grüner Veltliner
Region: Czech Republic
Year: 2015

Price: $25
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. 

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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. 

WINE. ALL THE TIME. THE BOOK. THE COVER. THE PRE-ORDER.

wine all the time marissa a ross

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER FROM YOUR PREFERRED BOOK SELLER NOW

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. 

Brendan Tracey "Rue de la Soif"

rue de la soif marissa a. ross

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

Brendan Tracey "Rue de la Soif"
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
Region: Loire, France
Year: 2014
Price: $21
Retailer: Lou Wine Shop
Importer: Goatboy Selections

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.

marissa a. ross rue de la soif

Bichi "Gran Listan"

bichi gran listan marissa a. ross

Bichi "Gran Listan"
Varietal: Misión
Region: Tecate, Baja, Mexico
Year: 2015
Price: $26.99
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.
AND PANTS. 

marissa a. ross bichi gran listan 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.

But whatever!
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!

marissa a. ross bichi ross test