I love the Jura.
This tucked away, off the grid wine region on the eastern border of France just touches me at my very core.
Truly delicious and unique wines that are at once both foreign and familiar. Indigenous grapes like Trousseau, Poulsard and Savagnin that call only the Jura home. Wines like Vin Jaune that make you shake your head with disbelief, and, in the hands of a few masters, nod and sigh with satisfaction.
You either love the Jura or you don’t. There are the curious who try but don’t get it. There are those that fall hard at first taste. I’m certainly one of the seriously smitten.
I don’t love Jura wine because its unusual, but because it’s wonderful. But unique and interesting it most certainly is.
The Jura is a great connector—to the culture of this place, to the traditional approaches to winemaking that have rolled on through the centuries, to unique grapes and to a taste of terroir like none other.
But more importantly to people, in a unique way that few of my other favorite wine regions do. And it has driven me to blog more about this area and a few rock star producers than any other wine region I’ve written about.
I credit my friend and Jura maven, Sophie Barrett from Chambers Street Wines who, for over three years, has been nudging me and has given me bottle after bottle, story after story to take home and try. She started me on this path. Thanks Sophie!
Friendships have blossomed over a love of this wine. With other wine shop owners, like Christy Frank at Frankly Wines, Dan Weber at Flatiron Wines, importers and distributors like Zev Rovine, Camille Riviere and Guilhaume Gerard, great wine lovers like June Winters and the ceaseless crusader for natural wine and author, Alice Feiring.
Not to mention the thousands who have read my Jura posts, friends who for three years now have celebrated the ‘Summer of Jura Reds’ on my rooftop. And to my son Asa, with whom, every year in Tulum, I crack a bottle of Tissot Trousseau, with our feet in the sand of the Mexican Caribbean.
Now enter Wink Lorch to this Jura ecosystem!
Wink, a veteran wine writer, penultimate wine educator and a great friend.
We have traveled and fallen hard together for the wines of Carso, Fulvio Bressan in Friuli and many producers in Etna. But we connect the most over the Jura. Wink is truly an expert of this area. She is the Yoda of Jura communications.
After some prodding and much cajoling, and with the support of a worldwide community of Jura wine lovers, Wink is writing ‘the’ book on the Jura—wine, food and the place itself.
As a friend this week said: “The Jura needs a book and Wink is the person to write it!”
I couldn’t agree more!
She has the support of my wine community here in New York, my blog readers. I am positive that the Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds will not only be successful, but will coalesce the worldwide community of Jura lovers around this project. The power of the web, crowdsourced funding and common passions combined!
Check out the Kickstarter project HERE!
There are a number of cool incentives to support this book on the Kickstarter page.
But honestly, support it because the world needs a book in English on this really special place, replete with unusual tastes that define the terroir like few other regions I’ve experienced.
And support it because I believe that Wink is the perfect person to write it with a rare blend of deep knowledge and honest humility.
And support it because it will bind the community together and gather in one place a treasure trove of information wrapped in an experienced storyteller’s words.
I’m sipping my second glass of Stephane Tissot’s La Mailloche 2010 from the Jura as I write this post. Chardonnay never had a more unique expression of place.
I’m convinced that those who learn about this region through this project will not only help to aggregate knowledge of the wine region and join the community of enthusiasts, but also just learn to love Jura wine.
It’s truly a gift.
There is something special going on in the New York wine community.
It has nothing to do with convention-sized festivals with VIP passes. Little to do with Grand Tastings and rows of tasting tables beyond the interest level of most consumers.
It’s happening at the neighborhood level. Grounded in retail shops and local restaurants, yet truly a community of interest across the city, bringing the most interesting and quality wines–in the most natural way–to the broadest group of consumers possible. One sip at a time.
We see this happening individually by the sheer number of tastings in the city (now 1000 in the last 6 months!) offered by the shops, importers and distributors, bringing winemakers from every part of the globe to pour for customers from Green Point in Brooklyn to Washington Heights in Manhattan. In single store festivals like the month-long WhiskeyFest. All toll, over 2000 different wines and spirits have been poured for free since August of last year at retail wine shops.
This street side festival trend is a step beyond, taking the success of tastings as both sales and celebration to a community level.
And forging a nod of cooperation across independent merchants, distributors and importers. It’s as if with visibility and transparency of supply-side availability through innovators like SevenFifty, and consumer-side visibility of tastings and online access through my own theLocalSip fledgling community, a corner is turning for the wine world as it has for so many market segments
This idea struck home to me last Fall when SherryFest 2012 took the city by storm. We tip our hats to festival organizers Rosemary Gray and Peter Liem, who not only created something new, but also understood the importance of free retail tastings. theLocalSip partnered with them, and on one Saturday in October, 27 wine shops in 20 neighborhoods, with winemakers at hand, poured Sherry to thousands of New Yorkers. Many found tastes they liked and walked out, bottles in hand.
For the last week and into this one, on a smaller scale, two festivals are happening which are breaking new ground at retail and bringing to our immensely complex city a new view of a grass roots festival. This isn’t a street fair in one place in Little Italy, it’s a celebration that is happening simultaneously in the Upper West Side, Chelsea, Flatiron, TriBeCa, the Village and throughout Brooklyn.
Two importers, Jenny & Francois Selections (a mainstay of natural wines in NY) is hosting Natural Winemakers Week, and Indie Wineries (a new boutique importer of artisanal wines) is hosting Indie Week. Together they are bringing to the New York, a celebration of natural and small production wineries from around the globe.
These are mini festivals, small in scale but powerful in quality and access.
A dozen or so shops participated, a handful of wine dinners and workshops, and really great parties. Jenny & Francois, free to all at the Ides Bar at Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. And from the guys at Indie Wineries, a tweet simply invited whoever wanted to join them and ten winemakers at 10 Bells in the LES for drinks and wine talk.
While modest in scope, this is grass roots at its best from the street level up. Over 30 winemakers are in town from across the country and all over Europe. They are pouring wine and chatting about how they make it. They are at bars and parties, meeting their fans and making new ones.
And there is a community of buyers, bloggers, shop owners, restaurateurs, sommeliers, importers, distributors and just hundreds of people who love wine, socializing, tasting, having fun, celebrating a love of wine as a connector of people and cultures…and buying lots of it from their neighborhood merchants.
This is a win for everyone.
The customers get to do what they must—taste before they buy, not in a convention center, but down the street in their neighborhood, kids and dogs in tow as they go about life, or post work on the way home. Shops are getting discovered by new wine lovers who didn’t know they were just down the street or around the corner.
And having a city-wide celebration across shops and restaurants, in many neighborhoods, percolates the buzz, lets the word spread broader and with more impact than it can possibly as a single event in one shop. It lets a wine tasted somewhere in Park Slope get shared online to a friend who can buy it or find it being tasted in Chelsea the next day.
I’m a believer that this is the start of something really interesting.
There will be many of these, cross distributor organized I bet, where we as consumers will find Saturday festivals on wines from the Jura, Savoie, Republic of Georgia, Beaujolais or the Loire Valley. Or themed around grape varieties, Alpine wineries or important to understand ideas like no sulfur wines.
All poured by experts. All poured for the consumers. Paired with restaurant menus. And everything purchasable.
I’m loving this. As a consumer. A wine blogger and enthusiast. And as a dreamer for web driven community commerce that happens neighborhood by neighborhood
A big shout out to everyone in the New York wine community who is making this happen. A big heads up to everyone across the country that all of this excitement may be happening here, but all of these wines being tasted are available online to be bought wherever you are.
Ever question that wine tasting is the perfect mix of learning, having fun and meeting new people? Check out the photos from theLocalSip community.
I’ve never written a post about food and wine pairing. Not going to start now.
But often I’m the bringer of libations, and when the gathering called for the odd combo of a pizza and sushi brunch, I pinged my wine community for some emotional support. It ended up a rapid-fire education, a veritable outpouring of favorites on a Facebook string some 50 comments long, with friends from down the block, to Finland, Sweden, Portugal, the UK…just about everywhere.
Articulate rules of thumb to be careful with the whites for fear of overwhelming the fish with too much acidity or stomping on the freshness of the pizza with too heavy tannins in the reds. A brilliant (but way over the top) lexicon of do’s and don’ts that suited each of the different types of toppings, from vegan to vegetarian to meat and tomato sauce.
A short discourse on sparkling sake as the penultimate sushi solution. A cultural reminder from my friends in Italy that they drink beer rather than wine with pizza.
And a veritable treasure trove of grapes and regions: each as the only possible solution, including Albarino, Bardolino, Chiaretto, Durello, Greco di Tufo and Vinho Verde. An articulate list of producers from Cos (his Rami white), endless great Rose´makers, Occhipinti (her Frapatto), Les Chais du Vieux Bourg Pinot Noir and even a Gannevat field blend.
Pure oenological concrete poetry to the wine enthused.
Wondrous silliness on the science of food pairing, as there may indeed be a science in here somewhere, but you are most likely to get it 95% right.
A great experiment nonetheless. I spent countless hours beyond the logic of the quest. And ended up doing what I honestly always do, which is follow my own inspiration to try something new-to-me, focus on the smallest and most natural producers I could find at the best value, and think mostly about the pleasure of the group I was pouring for.
Along with my wine network, a big thank you to my friends Ariana Rolich, Sophie Barrett and John Ritchie of Chambers Street Wines and Christy Frank of Frankly Wines for their patience and help as I made this quest a neighborhood event.
The final choices are in the picture above and the list below.
I bought twice what I needed, spent a delightful few hours pouring, talking about the wines and, at the end of it all, home made pizza (as expected) won the day. It satiated everyone’s expectation, was the takeaway memory, regardless of what was in the glass.
Francois Pinon 2009 NV Vouvray Brut (Non Dosage)
This was the first bottle opened. It vanished immediately with ahs and ‘what is this?’ remarks. Creamy palate. A bit of crusty effervescence that spoke of raw honey and really pleasing acidity. At $21, organic with no added sugar (dosage), this bottle is a new friend and permanent part of my cooler.
I’ve opened three bottles of this since. Each one a firm reminder that sparkling is indeed a daily wine to begin any meal and most every conversation with friends.
Vigneto Saetti 2011 Lambrusco Salamino di S.Croce
This is nothing like any Lambrusco I’ve ever tasted. It’s actually unbubbly. Quite delicate. Deep red, almost black in color.
Drinking this bottle just makes you happy. Happy if you are just sipping it, or grabbing a piece of pizza. Happy if you are a wine geek, sitting back amazed that this has no added sulfur, is made from organic grapes and with natural refermentation in the bottle.
Luciano Saetti and the Salamino di Sante Croce grape are on my watch to try and try again. At $17 a bottle, too amazing.
COS 2011 Sicilia IGT Frappato
I couldn’t find the Rami white recommended (still looking), ignored the plea for the Occhipinti interpretation of this grape and went with Giusto’s Frappato. A long-term favorite of mine from the very Southeast corner of Sicily. A really beautiful wine, reminiscent of fresh fruit from an orchard’s tree, faintly floral, easy on the palate.
Perfection for under $30.
Bernhard Ott Reisling 2011 Feuresbunn Wagram Riesling vom Rotem Schotter
Ott’s Gruner Veltliners are not my favorite but this Riesling is astounding. So crisp. So focused and gravelly to the taste, it’s a fingerprint of unique taste that has a structure you can visualize. I’m a convert. This bottle ended up at my side, I nursed it through the meal and took the remainder home with me at the end of the evening (manners be damned!)
Biodynamic at less than $30 a bottle.
Regnie 2010 Ducroux Beaujolais
I pulled this one from my cooler at home as I’m a long-term fan of Domain Christian Ducroux. And an unabashed lover of Gamay as the perfect daily red. This bottle is just delicious, quaffable and satisfying, with an underlying interest that lasts on the palate. As natural as wine can get, no sulfur added.
All I can say is Thank You for such a bottle being made, and offer a head nod of disbelief that this and all of his vintages cost less than $15.
Eric Texier (Vignenvie) 2011 Vin de Table L’Anecdot’hic Rose
I’m a fan of Eric Texier and chose this bottle based more on intellectual curiosity than on anything else. It’s a field blend of 26 (so it is said) different varieties. Completely natural with an adherence to Fukuoka school of no intervention agriculture.
A low alcohol Rose´, a bit too acidic for some, but fresh and light and sprightly to my taste. Impossible to find usually. Beyond organic and $17 a bottle.
[Cross posted from my New York wine community, theLocalSip blog.]
It’s the end of August.
My technical co-founder Gary LaRock is impatiently waiting for me to say ‘go’ and push theLocalSip site live.
I’m super nervous. We’re not ready. Nothing is vaguely perfect.
I’d been schlepping all over the city on weekends for months, laptop and mifi in hand, selling the dream of a connected New York wine community grounded in neighborhood wine shops.
We had a handful of wonderful early adopters signed on. But only five tastings were live for the coming week! We had a platform that worked really well (thanks Gary!) and immense enthusiasm from the shops…so we just did it and went live.
Five months later
Some 35 New York wine shops across 20 different neighborhoods have joined the community. They’ve hosted 575 tastings as of today, poured 1400 different wines to thousands of New Yorkers in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Over a thousand wines are available for purchase online today with a click for free delivery in your neighborhood or to be shipped nationally. We have inquiries from wine shops waiting for us to go West and South with the community platform should we decide to.
We are still very much a neonatal community. At the very beginning of an evolving social and commercial platform. But there is a dynamic rumbling going on. Something real has touched people and merchants. Something is resonating and taking shape with every interaction.
Thousands of people have discovered new shops, new tastings, new wines, and made new friends by having, for the first time, a way to look across the city: by neighborhood, by wine, by referral, by event.
We believe that wine needs to be sold, person-to-person. We believe that the web is an underused runway of immense power to connect people to their neighborhood shops, connect people’s wine referrals to their networks nationally, to make wine part of our social fabric and insure that every time we share a wine, you can buy it with a click.
We’ve discovered that wine shops produce great content (every word on theLocalSip is shop created), and are the prime influencers of taste. They are the pebble in the pond causing the ripples of awareness for new wines, for new regions and conversations around wine, amongst people everywhere.
With our sponsorship of SherryFest, we crossed a big threshold.
In October, twenty-seven shops across Manhattan and Brooklyn organized themselves through theLocalSip platform and hosted free tastings of Sherry to thousands of wine lovers and shoppers everywhere in New York. This is community education and enjoyment and commerce at its best. A real world reaffirmation that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when community dynamics catch hold.
We are deep into planning what’s next for theLocalSip. Changes are a-coming in the New Year.
If it is wine and food related in New York’s neighborhoods, theLocalSip will be the place to find it. Dinners, tastings, music and art events…you name it.
We are opening up the platform to bring in not just our core enthusiasts but also a broader swipe of New Yorkers who love wine as part of their lives, but don’t define themselves around it. We’ve also gotten to know our boutique distributors and importers and our local online mags and bloggers, and will be giving them real ways to participate in the community platform.
The toughest nut to crack is to figure out how to take the face-to-face, person-to-person exchanges that happen in a shop to the web, to allow our shops to become a national resource for launching and selling wine online. We are constantly moving the pieces around and will continue to do so until we find the secret human sauce to make this powerful connection work online.
Our dream is to grow theLocalSip into a wine tasting community that changes how people discover, taste, share and buy wine. A marketplace connecting wine lovers with the best wine shops in the country and the most interesting winemakers across the globe.
We are getting there. Community takes time and moves at its own pace. We’ve had a great start, taken with measured strides and care this year.
So thank you all for participating and contributing. Have a great New Year!
2012 in photos from the tastings on Facebook. We could use some help tagging!
Sometimes the precious can be as bold as it is rare, as approachable as it is unique.
This is certainly true for this oddly wonderful bottle of Malvasia from the Arenae coop in Colares, Portugal.
I’ve fallen hard for this wine. Winemaker Francisco Figueiredo somehow has bottled up a diorama of taste and living history in just 500 ml.
Honestly, I can’t untangle the rich silkiness of this greenish-hued, candied-floral, dry Sherry-like wine from the impossible conditions under which it is made.
This is not so much the discovery of a romantic corner of the world. It’s more like finding a living preserve, a jewel-box of history that is holding its own, just barely, against a changing, encroaching landscape.
Colares is the smallest D.O.C in Portugal, 40 minutes east of Lisbon, literally a beach community on the westernmost tip of continental Europe. This is an ancient wine region giving way steadily to vacation homes on this desirable chunk of Portuguese beach. One hundred years ago there were some 8,000 acres in the D.O.C. Today there are fewer than forty and still shrinking.
Mention Colares and wine enthusiasts will get geeky over how the sand in this area kept the phylloxera blight at bay, making the ungrafted Ramisco and Malvesia vines some of the oldest (many over 100 years old) in Europe.
This is true, but as Keith Levenberg says so well in his post on the area, that’s less than half the story:
“The thing about sand is that while it may be inhospitable to phylloxera, it’s not all that hospitable to serious winegrowing, either.”
Underneath the sand, up to 10 feet below, is the clay which holds the moisture, the nutrients, the feeding tube that enables the vines to exist in the windy, moist, brittling heat of the area. The vines are planted at the bottom of these trenches, then over the course of years the sand is slowly backfilled as the vine grows.
The terroir of this special spot comes at the intersection of the sand and clay, opposites intertwined with laborious human care and tending to create something distinct and unique.
The woody vines grow horizontally along the sand, protected by stone walls and stick fences from the strong winds. When the grapes start to form, the ground hugging vines are propped up from the beach by stakes to keep the leaves and grapes from withering on contact with the hot sand.
Crazy amounts of hand labor are necessary at every step from planting to harvesting. Painful that this ancient coexistence between hostile elements and doting winemakers should clash and be mostly vanquished by the desirability of the land for summering populations from Lisbon.
David Lillie, co-founder of Chambers Street Wines, told me how in the 70′s he spent three months learning Portuguese in anticipation of a rare visit of the Colares legendary winemaker Paolo Da Silva to New York. David is predictably understated and not at all prone to hyperbole but he lit up brightly, and, in turn, lit up my curiosity about this amazing place and its wines.
Hopefully I’ve shared a bit of this here.
Sometimes wines from obscure regions made in untenable circumstances with strange varieties just taste uncannily familiar. Not so with this bottle of Malvasia de Colares. The palate of this wine is like something far away and rarified, something rich, self-preoccupied and joyfully pensive. It floats in the mouth like a liqueur yet is light, freshly green and salty like the beach it is born from. It’s foreign, like a new spice, yet intriguing and feels naturally right. Preciously pleasing.
Most think of the red grape Ramisco when they think of Colares as it’s indigenous only to this area. I find the red wines a bit hyper tannic but I haven’t had the chance to taste a well aged one as yet. But I’ve fallen hard, at first sip, for the local variety of the white Malvasia. I’m momentarily obsessed and simply can’t stop drinking it.
This current vintage is ‘06 and somewhat pricey: $42 for a 500 ml bottle. Hardly available outside of Portugal, you can get it from Chambers Street Wines in TriBeCa. The quantities are small but well worth tracking down.
This bottle is above my usual budget but I feel great about the splurge and relish when I find a bottle. On one level, it creates a taste memory of a unique piece of history and wine making that is worth every taste as a learning experience. Each purchase also supports this tiny wine coop so that it can continue to make these special wines and preserve something local, unique and globally appreciated and shareable.
Ariana Rolich my friend and wine buyer from Chambers Street Wines who sold me the 06 vintage, captured it perfectly in her tasting note that ended:
“Evidence that great things come in small packages. Gift card: “Drink me.”"
I can’t say it any better.
Three excellent posts to check out for background and inspiration:
Feet Buried in the Sand
The Vineyards of Colares, A National Patrimony At Risk
The World’s Most Endangered Wine Region: Portugal’s Colares Appellation
A big thanks to Chris Barnes, good friend, now with Jose Pastor Selections for turning me on to this bottle. We miss you in the store Chris!
Photo credit for vines on sand: David Lincoln Ross