Apparently I still have a thing for smug, artsy dudes. Domaine de La Chappe's “André” Pinot Noir is a wild romp through brambles of high acid raspberry, black cherries and the orange-hued innards of early summer plums, wet from rhythmic suburban sprinklers. It has these overtones of Brett and whispers of VA that make me suspicious, and somehow make me love it more. It's so easy and fun, I want to fight with it, in the same way you want to fight with a grade school crush. I want to push its buttons, because it's pushing mine. It's making me want to use the word "funky," which is my least favorite descriptor. I feel like it's poking and prodding and teasing me into submission. Like I'm going to end up rolling around on the rug laughing and screaming "ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, FINE OK 'FUNKY' IS AN OK DESCRIPTOR AND ISN'T JUST A WORD WE USE TO IGNORE TRULY FUCKED UP WINES OK OK YOU WIN JUST MAKE OUT WITH ME OR WHATEVER YOU FUNKY DICK... WAIT THAT CAME OUT WRONG... yeah, no you're right, my mom is going to be home soon."
“Pithon-Paillé 'Grololo' Grolleau smells like the all sprinklers just went off at dusk in late July across an entire neighborhood; lawns of peppered strawberry and blackberry, wet sidewalks wafting. And it tastes like a spiced raspberry juice hot tub with the acidic shock of a peer-pressured dive into the pool. It's not THAT cold, so it's cool [bahhh-dumm-chhh] but it still fucking hits ya, man. It's a pure and simple pleasure, the kind of thing you don't have to think too much about until you decided to hit the bong because you have the worst cramps ever and now here we are. [Ahem] Yeah, I mean this wine is mad chillable & chuggable & perfect for pairing with feminist porn... not because there are ladies on the label. But because it's juicy, soft, and subtle but spicy, angular, and vibrant. It's carefree... Ah, fuck I have more to say but I have to go eat dinner because I promised Ben I would be done before dinner. Whatever the point is, yeah. I'm stoned. But mostly that this wine is really great and fun and okay, I do have to go but drink this wine I'm serious it's delicious, wait is he back? I can't see from the new desk that faces the wall... ok yeah g2g my guys”— cool review I wrote last night we’re just gonna have to go with bc we drank all the wine it was so good. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
François Saint-Lô "Hey Gro!!"
Region: Loire, France
Retailer: Lou Wine Shop
Importer: Terrell Wines
There's only so long one can go before they're back on their bullshit.
Approximately three months if we're talking about me and light red wines.
I've been flirting with méthode Champenoise bubbles, lusting traditional Burgundy, and sneaking around with vintage Barolo. But no matter what transcendent Chardonnay crosses my dinner table or what new wave Merlot that "gets me thinking" is poured, what really gets my thighs tingling is a light-bright, tart-pop red.
But not all light reds are the same. Just because a bottle is natural and under thirteen percent does not make it great, just like ninety-five points or a buck-fifty price tag doesn't make a bottle even enjoyable.
Same goes for hip-hop. And François Saint-Lô's "Hey Gro" Grolleau drinks like a Chance the Rapper album. Yes, you can party with it-- it's extremely fun and poppy-- but at the same time, it has a real flow, is engaging, and worth musing over. Its acidity pulls off energetic spikes effortlessly and its vibrant red fruit notes ring with raw enthusiasm ("AH! AH! AH! AHHH!"), like an Echo iMessage of the full-grinned emoji in your mouth. It pulls you in with its technique, and holds you with soft roots of spice. It's bold, it's bouncy, it's quick, but it's also rhythmic, smooth, and at times emotional.
Perhaps that last part is just me.
Some of the recent conversations around natural wine have been disheartening at best. At worst, they have been uninformed, petty, and/or downright fucking crotchety. But when I drink a wine like this, I can taste with every bud on my tongue and feel with every ounce in my being that those people are wrong. Natural wine isn't just poorly made bullshit with "cool" labels, and glou-glou is still great, god damn it.
And if you'd like to try to stop me, I'll be the crazy "Hey Gro!!" fan waiting in the lobby.
Tasting Notes: Translucent but cloudy, red poppies on the eyes. Goji berries and cranberries tossed with white pepper & allspice on the nose. Light bodied and high acid, the palate is bright and bursting with tart, crunchy cranberries, jellied raspberry seeds, and a lasting air of salty eucalyptus and breathy tannins. There is Brett, but well-integrated. A truly joyous bottle that is easy to drink yet interesting and endlessly delicious. Good open for hours, although I dare you to not drink it all in thirty minutes flat.
Also, revisited a bottle I opened three days ago and had in the fridge corked, and I'm floored that it is still good! The Brett is more pronounced, a little VA, and there is the slightest hint of mouse, but as someone who is super sensitive to mouse, I don't think most people would notice it. I mean, I'm currently having a glass of it, that's how good it still is. Fine. I had two glasses. Who's counting.
Ross Test: I know pearl clutching usually refers to someone reacting to something scandalous or heinous, but you can also clutch your pearls and rip them off out of pure ecstasy as proven by chugging this wine. #1 ROSS TEST OF JANUARY 2018 FOR SURE.
Ah, Lasagna, or as I like to call it, "Sweatpants for your insides."
Frankly, the lasagna and the wine didn't pair very well together and I knew it wasn't going to, but frankly my dears, I GAVE NO DAMNS. Because when you want to drink Lamoresca, you drink Lamoresca, because nothing else will do.
Their Mascalesi is one of my favorites. This blend of Nerello Mascalese and Frappato is like drinking a bright sweater woven with 50/50 cranberry wool & black cherry cotton that was tossed in the dryer with Bounce sheets made of pressed red roses, pepper & thyme. Volcanic and grippy, yet light enough to drink leisurely, this is hands down one of the best wines to curl up with on a cold evening.
And while this warm & fuzzy sweater didn't quite match the sweet tomato bolognese sweatpants, it's still an ensemble I'd gladly wear every night around the house.
Cruse Wine Co. Valdiguié
Region: Napa, California
Vineyard: Rancho Chimiles
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.
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.
Nicolas Carmarans "Maximus" Aveyron Fer Servadou
Varietal: Fer Servadou
Region: Midi, France
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!
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.
Strekov 1075 Vavrinec
Varietal: Svätovavrinecké (St.Laurent)
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!
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!