Vin de California "Sans" Zinfandel

vin de california marissa a. ross
Full disclosure, this is Adam Vourvoulis' wine and he is a good friend. But I am not writing this because of that. I'm writing it because I tried Adam's wine at a tasting a few weeks ago, and felt compelled to tell you about it.

Vin de California "Sans" Zinfandel
Region: Arroyo Grande, California
Year: 2016
Price: $23
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. 

marissa a. ross vin de california ross test

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

methode sauvage marissa a. ross

Methode Sauvage Cabernet Franc
Region: Santa Cruz, California
Year: 2015
Price: $30
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

methode sauvage marissa a. ross

Puzelat - Bonhomme "Golden Salope"

marissa a ross golden salope

Puzelat - Bonhomme "Golden Salope"
Varietal: Chenin Blanc
Region: Loire, France
Year: 2011
Price: $28.99
Retailer: Exclusively at Domaine LA 

Importer: Louis/Dressner

There are a number reasons I'm effectively "over" Los Angeles. It's mostly that I grew up forty-five minutes away and have only managed to ever get this far, and the constant grind of the ever-present "industry" has finally worn me down. But if there's one reason I love Los Angeles, and am hesitant to leave, it is because of the amazing wine and food community that is here. Not only because of how delicious it all is, but because of how complimentary they are and how they work together, even when the status quo says "NAH."

Night + Market has been one of the most innovative and important restaurants in Los Angeles not only for its incredible Thai street food, but for its integration of natural wines. Thai food by all 1990's Robert Parker standards was deemed notoriously "unpairable" with wine, and yeah, that makes sense. Big-ass Cabernets do not pair with much outside of big-ass steaks. But we don't eat that way anymore. Food is not governed by French classics, but by freshness and a certain litheness that emphasizes flavor without forcefulness. And Chef Kris Yenbamroong's graceful and creative yet commanding cuisine at Night + Market embodies all of that. But more importantly for our current subject, is that he recognized how well those same qualities in natural wines work with his food. His wine list is jam-packed full of natural wine fan favorites and straight up unicorns I've legit peed my pants a little over, each working with the entire span of a meal from Party Wings to Burmese curry to the Pad Thai you ordered for the sheltered one in the group (but it's so fucking good you can't believe you're about to say you love Pad Thai).

And the rest is a bit of history. No one questions whether wine pairs with Thai food anymore-- you order the spiciest thing on Night + Market Song's hot pink menu with a Clos Roche Blanche and you're in heaven. Or at least I am, as I am lucky enough to live walking distance (but far enough not to be too embarrassed to Postmates) from Night + Market Song.

So when Jill Bernheimer of Domaine LA told me that she and Kris Yenbamroong came together on a release with winemakers Thierry Puzelat and Pierre-O Bonhomme it made perfect sense. Because for me, great wine and great food have always gone hand in hand, but in a way, so do Jill and Kris. Each of them is a Los Angeles purveyor of the best god damn shit the worlds of wine and food have to offer, and it's not like you don't see them reveling in each other's respected work. It is not uncommon to find Kris at Domaine or Jill at Night + Market Song. It's the law of attraction: like attracts like. And I really, really like their release, "Golden Salope."

Essentially Night + Market's house wine, this Loire Pet-Nat is exclusively poured at the Night + Markets and sold exclusively by Domaine LA and is exclusively the Pet-Nat of all my Crispy Rice Salad dreams. No shit, I crave Night + Market's Crispy Rice Salad on the regular, and I can't think of anything that I would rather enjoy with it (or any of N+M's dishes) than this sparkling Chenin Blanc. 

"Golden Salope" has a bouquet candied ginger, the glitzy sugared ones, dipped in honey with a side of basil and vased peonies across the table. Breezy but so damn classy, it is reminiscent of wafting, rich, and numbered perfume drifting on the wake into the sunset. It smells like I imagine it feels like to be hitting the high seas with Rihanna, like you're not entirely sure if you're qualified to be there and keep looking around for someone to tell you to fuck on outta here, but she keeps passing you blunts and complementing you on your bikini, and you've never felt more at home.

For how good it smells, it tastes that much better, like an aspirational best friend. Bubbly but not overwhelming, this Pet-Nat is the perfect tag-teamer whether you're crushing Thai food or breaking hearts. Bright and stunning acidity with plenty of green apples, savory pears and Sour Patch Kids powder, it's impossible not to drink the entire thing. It's as intoxicating as new friends named Rihanna, and Night + Market's food. You only want more. 

But it hits another note. It's so fun, but it is also a grand gesture. This wine is a gift. While it is rousing in many ways, what I mostly take away from it is its ability to bring everything together. It is the outstretched arms welcoming you to the table of Kris Yenbamroong, but also the love of those around you. My obsession with wine comes partly from its ability to bring people together, and this is a wine you and those you love can congregate around. It is so versatile and delicious, and warm and infectious. I want dinner to last four more hours with this wine. It makes me miss the old times, and clamor for new ones. Clean but hearty, it is all that I want and all that I have, all at once. 

This wine makes me feel golden and grateful, for life, love, and Los Angeles. 

Tasting Notes: Please see above

Ross Test: PASS. BEST BUBBLES ROSS TEST IN RECENT MEMORY. LITERALLY DRANK EVERY DROP.

marissa a ross golden salope

Hello Blog, My Old Friend

So much has happened since my last post, it would be impossible for me to know where to begin; not only because of how much has happened, but also in part because my brain is still mush from being up for thirty-six straight hours last week.

It was by far one of the dumbest things I've ever done. Strung out on caffeine, Les Capriades, and obsession, I worked for twenty-five hours straight before turning in my revised manuscript, poorly packing a suitcase on the verge of mental collapse, and then jumping in an Uber to LAX, almost puking out the window in terminal traffic from the strongest air freshener of all time and horrific, pulsating Russian club music. "I'll sleep on the plane," I thought to myself, something I would never think because I never can, but I was banking on my body forcibly shutting down and the comforts of first class we got a deal on. But then I got a great email from my editor, and started to watch Frozen for the first time and was so delirious I started bawling during "Do You Want to Build A Snowman?" and an LED light strip from the flight attendant's tiny prep kitchen area was beaming directly into my eyes, and first class on American for domestic flights apparently don't come with eye masks (or anything, I was very disappointed). So no, I did not sleep until that evening, thirty-six hours later, because life is cruel even when you're working your ass off and are in first class and trust me me when I say, I know what an asshole this whole thing makes me. Quite frankly, I don't care. I don't want to live a life in which working myself damn near insane doesn't land me in first class half dead in a fur coat. 

Aside from my poor personal choices, many other things have happened. We have a flaxen-haired Chia Pet for a president-elect, and I am still suffering from some severe post-election depression. Most of us have been disowned or at the very least been harassed and unfriended by family members, and are pretty damn positive the world is going to end. Just like our grandparents and parents before us. The world has always and will always be ending. All we can do is the best we can before it actually does. 

And to that I say, protest the bullshit, never accept hatred as "normal," donate to causes you care about, and drink more natural wine. 

Posted on December 6, 2016 .

Franco Terpin "Quinto Quarto"

Terpin Quinto Quarto Pinot Grigio Marissa Ross

Franco Terpin "Quinto Quarto" 
Varietal: Pinot Grigio
Region: Delle Venezie, Italy
Year: 2015
Price: $23.75
Retailer: Domaine LA 
(Thanks for picking it out for me, Courtney Walsh!)
Importer: Critical Mass Selections

Californians complaining about the weather has to be one of the most obnoxious things about us to other Americans. But I'm going to do it anyway. It's been fucking hot for a really fucking long time, and I'm going a little nuts. Even though today was supposed to be 71, it's still too hot to wear a big fuzzy sweater and it's too sunny to even pretend it's anything but perpetual summer; something I naively wished for in my youth so, sorry guys. This is my fault. 

As much as I love light bodied wines, come "fall", I long for big bodied wines that make me feel like my insides are wearing wool pull-overs while being serenaded by Tom Waits' crunchy leaf-ed voice. I want to curl up in everything, transcend into hibernation, and cross my fingers to awake in four to six months a brand new bear.

That isn't happening.

I'm bra-less in a paper thin shirt and light sweatpants and feel like I need to turn the AC on. So, it's depressingly not anything near hibernation is what I'm saying. 

But Terpin's "Quinto Quarto" is comforting me in the best way possible. Chill on the outside but warm on the inside, this skin-contact Pinot Grigio is refreshing to my lips but sweater weather to my gut. It has immediately transported me to some waspy-exotic east coast dreamtown with weather-worn brick buildings, cool breezes, and piles of leaves that children dressed better than I ever have spend their afternoons jumping into. There's also golden retrievers. Because. 

Usually Italian wines take me back to Italy, especially Veneto wines, but not this one. This one gives me houndstooth and hounds and Stars Hollow. Part of me wants to say, "It's because that's what I want." Maybe that's true, but also I drink plenty of wines all year that don't necessarily transport me to Gilmore Girls, a show I have only seen eight episodes of. 

It's crisp but cozy, orange and fuzzy. It's a fall wine, and I think it will take you where ever you close your eyes and imagine J.Crew photoshoots of camel colored trench coats taking place. 

This is one of those thinking wines, that you can ruminate on but can also ruin if you think too hard. The bouquet is off-putting if I give it more than a genuine sniff before diving into drinking, and honestly, I think it needs to be enjoyed alongside a meal. It has me craving some sort of light pasta dish, or some roasted tomatoes slathered onto some focaccia. Alone it is a little dense and overwhelming, but alas, all I have is sharp cheddar cheese, and despite its savory charcuterie aromas, I can tell you from experience that it does not pair well with sharp cheddar cheese. 

But it does pair well with daydreaming of cinematic seasons, and that is most important for today.

Tasting Notes: It smells like sweaty prosciutto and soppressata, with warm orange pith and tangelo zest. Medium-light body, with a satin texture. Tastes like almost-over-ripe ruby grapefruits, stalky green herbs and hints of malty beer.

Ross Test: Do-able, but bitter. Better in a glass.

Domaine des Sablonnettes' "Les Copains d’Abord"

Domaine des Sablonnettes

Domaine des Sablonnettes' "Les Copains d’Abord"
Varietal: Grolleau
Region: Loire Valley, France
Year: 2015
Price: ~$20 (Can't find my receipt, but definitely under $25) 
Retailer: Lou Wine Shop
Importer: Jenny & François Selections

 

Two years ago, I did a thirty-minute one woman comedy show called "From Franzia to Cab Franc: The Evolution of My Drinking". I went through tasting notes from the worst wines of my "college" years to the wines I drink now, sharing them with the audience. Domaine des Sablonnettes' "Le Bon Petit Diable" Cab Franc was the Cab Franc, so to say that Sablonnettes has a special place in my heart is an understatement. 

I was recently at a Gamay tasting where one of the hosts referred to Gamay as the Rodney Dangerfield of wines because it "can't get no respect". But I think a more accurate grape for that title would be Grolleau. Grolleau is a native grape to the Loire Valley and seriously, it gets no respect. Grolleau as a red wine is not AOC approved, and most of Grolleau is being eradicated by new Gamay and Cab Franc plantings. Grolleau is a light and acidic red wine, not unlike Gamay in body and chuggability, and is one of the grapes that often gets me deemed as a "hipster" amongst sommeliers who are talking about the likes of Egon Muller-Scharzhof Scharzhofberger Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese before asking me what I've been drinking lately, only to roll their eyes when I say, "I had a really nice Grolleau last week!"

Grolleau is only AOC approved to be used in rosé. 
And you know what I have to say about that?

LET GROLLEAU LIVE ITS GOD DAMN LIFE!

I want to take Grolleau aside like a young girl, grab her shoulders and tell her that she doesn't have to be a rosé just because some old French men say she has to. Grolleau has so much potential, and can be anything she wants to be-- a red wine or even president! Because lord knows Grolleau is a better presidential candidate than the old bag of Cheetos the GOP dumped on the debate stage on Monday. 

Politics aside, Domaine des Sablonnettes' full-blown, red, Grolleau is delightful. It tastes like a bouquet of dried roses was dipped into macerated plums. Mineral-driven over fruit-driven, it is fresh, lively and quick on its feet. Yes, it is thin and acidic, the two characteristics the red rendition of Grolleau is most criticized for, but I dig it! It's disco wine; high energy, funky, and addictive. Easier to drink than water and keeps you coming back, and back, and back... And you don't even need to eat with it! This is the kind of wine you want to take to the dance party, and feel fine drinking it out of a Solo cup (because you have to, and not because anyone thinks Solo cups are the best for wine drinking, because they are absolutely the worst, aside from when they are the only option and you're about to bust some serious moves to "Brick House" that will have you feeling your age you didn't even know was old in the morning). 

Funkytown? Nah. The destination is Grolleautown. 

Tasting Notes: Light, acidic and quaffable. Thin, but clean, structured and smooth. Plums and black cherries, gravel and dusty, dried roses.

Ross Test: Let's just say I Ross Tested three-fourths of a bottle for a photoshoot I ended up not being able to use and cried and ate a cheeseburger and don't regret any of it. 

Lilian & Sophie Bauchet "Californie"

californie wine lilian sophie bauchet marissa a ross

Lilian & Sophie Bauchet "Californie"
Varietal: Gamay
Region: Fleurie, Beaujolais, France
Year: 2013
Price: $24
Retailer: Lou Wine Shop
Importer: Percy Selections

When I saw this bottle on Percy Selections' Instagram a couple months before it was available retail, I knew I had to have it. A small-production Fleurie cuvée from Lilian & Sophie had to be mine. And to be called "Californie" of all things. I almost went back to nail-biting I was so anxious for this wine. Because like the lofty daydreamer that I am, I was already convinced this was my wine. A BEAUJOLAIS CALLED "CALIFORNIE"?! HOW COULD IT NOT BE MINE!!!

I don't recommend this type of thinking to anyone. It's unhealthy, arrogant, and nearly all disappointments in life come from having any expectations at all, let alone the expectation that a wine you haven't tried can somehow represent your entire being. It's fucking stupid, and I know it. And what may be stupider is that, I needed to think that way. 

The last four months have been some of the hardest of my life. If selling the book was hard, finishing the manuscript was like dragging myself through hell with two corkscrews for hands. I isolated myself, working twelve to sixteen hours a day, and had never felt more alone. I had this incredibly huge project on my hands-- a fucking book, being written by a college dropout who never has done a long term project in her life-- plus the big California piece for Bon Appétit and that whole full-time writing job, wedding planning, family emergencies, realizing that many of my friends really aren't. It's been a fucking lot, without any time for anything else. Not even time to write here, which is not only my passion, but also my escape. 

So, yes, I had put a lot of feelings into a bottle of wine. Stupid, for sure. But I needed something to look forward to. I needed to know that after the manuscript was in, I was going to be able to sit down with a wine and love it, and feel loved. To remember why I do what I do, and how all this happened. Because I love wine. 

AND I FUCKING LOVE THIS WINE.

The "Californie" tastes like one of those idyllic days that slowly transitions into a magical evening, one of those Saturdays that feel like its never going to end but you know it will eventually, so you do your best to drink up every last minute of it so you will remember it forever. It's bright, gluggy and a bit salty, like a long afternoon full of laughing. You know when everyone is laughing so hard but no one even remembers what they're laughing about anymore? And your laugh goes totally silent as the tears pour down your face? That's what it tastes like. Like you're catching your own laughing tears on your lips and washing it down with some cranberry lemonade. But there is a warmth and a softness to it. It's slightly spiced, and it is enticing. It's your lover's sweatered shoulder you could bury your face into until the end of time, under the stars you just now realized were out and shining. 

I love this wine so much because it reminds me of well, love. And I don't necessarily mean "love" like significant other status. "Love" isn't always this heavy serious thing between two people. Often it is just having fun, with people who make you feel good, and remind you that you are alive, and you're all alive together. It's an all-encompassing energy; it's laughing and hugging and dancing and singing and sweating and swearing and eating and drinking and kissing and talking. It's welcoming, it's exciting, and it's comforting, all at once. 

And that energy is what this wine tastes like. Real love, baby. 

marissa a. ross californie ross test

Tasting Notes: Tart, poppy and saline cranberries and red currant, with hints of spiced vanilla and dusty sun-dried bougainvilleas, with a lemonade finish. I drank a whole case of this wine; suffice to say it tastes fucking great. 

Ross Test: PASS, IN FACT SOMEONE PASS ME BACK THE BOTTLE PLEASE

So Much To Say About Bon Appétit

From the September issue, at check-outs next to the Jenners now. Photo by Sunny Shokrae

From the September issue, at check-outs next to the Jenners now. Photo by Sunny Shokrae

The last two months have been HUGE for me at Bon Appétit. August's print issue featured my four page piece on California wines, a piece that was insanely close to my heart and also the first time BA has given wine a four page feature to wine! Hopefully you got to check it out. If not, well, here's a podcast from last week with us discussing it. 

We don't do much prep before these podcasts, and I thought this was just going to be a quick ten minute thing we tagged onto the back of another podcast. To have BA not only dedicate four pages to California wine, and then dedicate a whole podcast to me (anxiously) talking about them, was such a dream. It took everything out of me not burst into tears or confetti or both when Adam asked if he could read the intro to the piece. I respect and admire Adam so much, for fistfuls of reasons, and to be able to write this and have him enjoy it, meant so much. 

AND THEN! I got a full fucking page in the September Issue! I couldn't be more proud of my men's cut-off Levi's shorts I made for myself seven years ago and worn everyday since to be considered a fashion statement. Juuust kidding. Although I can't believe little old me got a full page in the stunning Restaurant issue. The piece is a really fun one about just drinking and not worrying, and I feel is my big, official introduction to the Bon Appétit audience. Hope you check it out. 

And, on the web, as always:

4 Outdated Wine Rules You Never Have To Follow Again

7 Common Mistakes When Ordering Wine

5 Questions to Ask When You’re Buying Wine (And Know Nothing About Wine)

Chardonnay, the Most Misunderstood White Wine

Meet the Winemakers Behind California’s (Finally!) Cool Wines

Posted on August 29, 2016 .

MAR x Crow Canyon Enamelware

Marissa A. Ross Crow Canyon Wine Cup

I'm pleased to announce my collaboration with Crow Canyon! 

Last September, Crow Canyon was like, "Yo, would you be interested in doing a collaboration?" and I said, "HELL YES!" because obviously I aspire to be a Martha-Stewart-ass-bitch one day and nothing says Martha-Stewart-ass-bitch like my own collection of enamelware. 

Inspired by my grandmother's vintage Pyrex and illustrations from my collection of 1950's Better Homes & Gardens and Sunset Magazines, these limited edition wine tumblers mean a lot to me. Designed by hand with help from my love and in-house designer, Benjamin Blascoe, the scene embodies the rotating circle of wine in my life, from pouring bottles to breaking glasses. Upon closer inspection, you'll find that there are bottles from my dogs Zissou and Kaw-Liga, as well one commemorating the year Ben and I met, my Grandma & Papa who lived in Malibu, and my mother-in-law, Marcia, who loved Chianti and kiss marks. We tried to get our cat in there, but he declined based on his drawing looking too much like Kaw's and said he prefers bourbon anyway.

Marissa A. Ross Crow Canyon

Fun and unbreakable (thank god), these sturdy wine tumblers are great for poolsides, campgrounds, backyards, and bedside tables. They're 10oz, which is twice the size of a shitty standard pour, and just right for a generous Ross sized pour, and come with either a Burgundy or Champagne rim. Porcelain with a steel core helps keep wine (or water, because let's be real, you gotta hydrate in order to drink as much as I do) cool, and just like other wine glasses, hand-washing is encouraged. 

I hope you love them as much as I do! They're available for $9 each from the retailers below!

Posted on July 25, 2016 .

On Bon Appétit: A LOT