An archive of notes from 2015—2019
Sometimes a producer comes along and just blows you away at first sip. I know it sounds hard to believe, but the first magical moment I sipped something from Domaine Rollin, I was in love. Transfixed. Like when art lifts off the page and whips you across the face with its three-dimensional existence, or when a song captures your heart so unexpectedly, draping a magical, musical cloak over your soul that fits just perfectly. Soul wine. We’ve definitely met in a past life, this juice and I. How else could it be so constantly familiar and loving, and yet always revealing something new. I don’t always go all mushy for a wine, but when I do it’s for a small handful of producers, one of which is Rollin.
Past lives and wizardry aside, this wine has always been there for me. Sappy, I know. But in a less emotional (and at least, factual) account of history, everyone I have served this gem to has also fallen in love with it, on the spot. It just has that thing.
A quick lesson on Burgundy: if it’s red, as in Red Burgundy, it’s Pinot Noir, and if it’s White Burg, it’s Chardonnay all the way. So while it may sound like a far off land shrouded in French mystique, you already know these grapes.
And here’s the magic: most Burgundian producers choose to focus on either white or red, and do it really well. Rollin is a master at both and has been for decades. These wines are super limited, we only got a tiny amount! But here they are, both of them, in their Friday best, dressed to the nines, but effortlessly so. Chic and French, yes, but also willing to give you directions and share a ham sandwich with you.
There is perhaps no better producer with which to get acquainted with if Burgundy has always escaped, eluded, or intimidated you. Never mind that swirl and twirl pomp and circumstance; find a friend and fill a glass, get a good home-cooked meal going or slap together a Postmates order and just let it be the most beautiful and delicious part of your night. This wine is my spirit animal. Although, I do feel a strong connection to the alpaca.
Look, I like treats. Getting caught fist-deep in the Nutella jar is common occurrence for me and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But if I were to say I have a sweet tooth, then it’s also fair to say I have a salt jaw. Like the way you need something sweet to polish off a meal? But need something salty to balance it out. That’s Salt Jaw. It’s quite the cycle.
And something about this perfect little Jura gem tickles my salt jaw just so. A little geography lesson: the Jura is the tiniest of regions in France, nestled between Switzerland and Burgundy, and about as tucked away as sunshine in Seattle. That’s probably why their wine making traditions remain what they were centuries ago, unaffected by the modernity of the rest of the world.
It’s important to note that the Jura makes many wines that some consider an acquired taste: risky, a shock to the system even, like stinky cheese or yodeling pickles (oh yeah, that’s a thing).
Well, I happen to love stinky cheese, but not everyone does. And, not all Jura wines demand that you get weird and go straight to funk town. Montbourgeau’s super special cuvée of early-picked Chardonnay is just clean, stunning, herbaceous, and utterly drinkable. No weirdness required. This delicious quaffer also pairs exceedingly well with food, because of the lower alcohol, savory character, and higher acidity (which results from the early picking). Anything with lemon and herbs, behold your match made in heaven! And cheeses love this wine. This wine is totally disarming and friendly on the senses.
You might be asking, what makes it a ‘special’ cuvée? Well, for one, it’s made exclusively from Madame Deriaux’s special selection of Chardonnay from her best plantings.
She leaves it to age for up to 60 months – yeah, that’s 5 years!
** Tangential side note***
In the wine world, time passes as it does when you’re a newborn:
“Oh how old is he!” “He just turned 52 weeks!”
That’s a year, people. That’s one year.
Anyway, it is a wine for the ages, vibrant and complex, with a dense and concentrated body (think texture rather than heaviness) and if you’re gearing up for the holidays, have a few of these on hand. Turkey dinner will never be the same. If you’re not cooking, go for the wine win and bring this for your host – you’ll be voted best guest and easily avoid clean up duties for your grand slam wine share.
You will be amazed at how different and delicious it can be when it comes from this tiny region with their unique wine traditions.
That Swiss and French influence makes it an adventure and quite the conversation starter. Not unlike the yodeling pickle.
Yodel to this to be like the pickle:
Okay, so I’ve worked in restaurants for years, and when a wine director puts a wine program together, they’re usually pretty ego-busted when you bring your bottle of two-buck Chuck in and ask them (us, who am I kidding) to open it with your $40 steaks. Of course they’re going to charge you. Bringing a bottle is a double edged sword – if you bring a cheap grocery store bottle with an orange price tag stuck to the side, you’re going to get the stink eye. But, if you’re bringing in an awesome bottle to savor, most chill Somms will think of it as an honor to open your special gem. And if you offer to share it with the staff, you’re a hero.
In my experience on the other side of the restaurant fence, a good move is to order wine from the restaurant you’re at – trust their program and just have the full experience. But, there are a few exceptions – and even some perfect opportunities, to bring your own wine.
Here’s a quick road map to navigating the whole BYOB thing:
Side note: Jam on this.
This wine is a major hit. I’m warning you, it will make you dance, sway in the sun, and feel things. I’d like to swim in it really, refreshing and tickly, doing the backstroke through waves of pink and never taking off my rosé colored glasses.
It’s just so fancy free.
It’s a pét-nat (more on that below) from the Loire Valley and it’s a real gold track on the playlist of things to drink when it’s still a bit warm out and you can still pull off a backyard BBQ instead of fighting the crowd at happy hour. This is the good pop, the kind that makes you feel warm and forever young. Cue George Ezra, Blame it on Me.
And luckily, this jazzy pink pool party in a bottle will be there for you even when summer’s long gone. Fizzy and lively, its honeyed notes keep playing in your glass. You get a little strawberry Bubble Yum at first, which I loved because it made me feel like a teenager. Tiny bubbles carry those bright little flavors swift across the tongue, like the grown up version of a perfect shave ice, tangs of happiness spilling over.
There is a tiny hint of sweetness to this sparkler, but don’t freak out, it’s not actually sweet. This is an uber-natural wine that is left to its own processes to create magic in the bottle, and as a result, there’s a little residual sugar that forgot to convert into alcohol. It’s Van Morrison’s Honey (the Tupelo kind), not the saccharin in a Carly Rae Jepsen single that left us all with a headache and the musical equivalent of tooth rot.
I’m not sure how wine can inspire a teenage kind of summer nostalgia, but somehow this sparkling gem took me straight back to tailgating in the beach parking lot from sunrise to sunset…salt in my hair, first a bronze from the sun and then a second one from the bonfires to follow.
To balance out the loveable bit of juicy red fruit in this treat is a little bit of grit. It’s a simple, honest kind of dirt. Like you took your gum out to snack on fries and make out with your summer crush (around the corner from your house, so your parents didn’t catch you). You stuck that gum on the top of your soda can while you swapped spit and dreamed up a future, and then eventually put the same gum back in your mouth because summer was over and you had to go back to school. You little tart.
It’s okay, this sparkling pink gem is a strawberry-flavored kiss goodbye to summer and those teenage days of yore. And now that we’re all adults, we really can revel in the good stuff – like this wine jam. Swinging in a hammock, cooking in the backyard, snacking and chatting, you need this in your glass, perpetually. Roll down the windows, (extra points if you have a convertible) and let your hair down. Aim your face to the sun and turn up the tunes. Keep your glass full – whether or not you go skinny dipping is up to you, you’re a grown up now. Just don’t let that hold you back.
Fancy woman at the oyster bar: “I’ll have the Sancerre.”
You: “Whatever, Snob,” – to yourself, obviously, you’re not an animal. You then sheepishly order a glass of your own wine, shamed into sticking with what’s familiar because of how uppity she sounded: “just a glass of Sauvignon Blanc for me, thanks.”
Well, look, there’s a lot of bad info out there, and a lot of bad wine, too. And even though you don’t even know if you necessarily like Sauvignon Blanc, you know you’ve at least heard of it, and had it from various parts of the world. Nothing wrong with the go-with-what-you-know approach, and Sauvy B. is a friend that won’t let you down.
But – and I don’t want you to feel weird – there’s something I have to tell you. Whether you are just a die-hard Sauvignon Blanc loyalist, or only ordering it because it’s the one thing you know, we need to get this out in the open. Are you ready for the big reveal? Wait for it…Ok, here we go (sorry, it’s fun to build this up):
Sancerre IS Sauvignon Blanc! Seriously, no joke. I know geography can be dull, but Sancerre is an area that makes its white wine from only Sauvignon Blanc—and that’s your BFF, go-to wine grape!
ATTENTION: if you happen to be in the other half of the group who claims to hate Sauvignon Blanc, keep reading because you’ve never tried a wine like this before.
From Sancerre, a castle-ladden village smattered with beautiful old cathedrals and narrow cobblestone streets and the best cheeses ever, I bring you Lucien Crochet’s epic adventure of a wine. This is a Sauvignon Blanc like you have never had it before. Elegant, dreamy, salty, citrusy and sublime. Words like refined and precise come to mind, and there’s also a power and rich depth so that the flavors just mingle and linger on and on forever-ish.
Sauv Blanc can come from all over the world and take on different profiles like an actor can play many roles. But I dare say, this is the real person (grape) behind all of those characters. Stripped to the essence but still complete, technically flawless, hand-crafted perfection and honesty in a glass. It’s Sauvignon Blanc at its best and most pure – chalky and driven, with white flowers and herbs, all lively and lithe. A classic beauty, zest factor 100. I know. I’m going on and on.
Some wines are game-changers. Special creatures. This is one of them. The perfect example of what they are.
Share it with friends, a loved one, a meal of sea-flavored things, with anything salty and briny, or goat cheeses and lighter fare. You will never look at Sauvignon Blanc (or that fancy woman at the oyster bar) the same way again.
I love cooking. I don’t do it enough. I’ve picked up so many trade tricks standing in the kitchen and dipping my fingers in practically everything when the Chef wasn’t looking, and there are some things that you just don’t find out about until you’re standing under a commercial rotisserie dipping your bread in fat drippings while dodging hot fat drippings at the same time. Hot fan burns, but it’s worth it.
Since today’s wine pick was inspired by a home-cooked meal, here’s an easy recipe that will impress and satisfy, even if it’s just for you. The key element is pan sauce, a favorite discovery of mine and not unlike the rotisserie drippings…
The basics on pan sauce:
This style of pan sauce will work whether you’re cooking poultry, red meat, or pork, by the way.
Pan sauces come in a huge range of flavors because they depend on the protein you’re cooking but the fundamentals are constant:
BEFORE YOU START COOKING:
Turn on speakers and play track below. This is a must have ingredient.
Oven check: rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F.
Pat chicken breasts dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in an oven-safe medium stainless steel skillet over high heat until just starting to smoke.
Carefully lay chicken breasts into hot skillet skin side down with tongs (careful it will splash!)
Let ‘em cook without moving it for a good five minutes before you start peeking underneath at all – this is where the browning magic happens. Test by lifting the chicken with a thin metal spatula or tongs, but if doesn’t lift easily, let it keep cooking. When it’s ready to be flipped, it will come up without a fight.
That deep golden brown, ridiculously crispy surface is the goal here. Once you got that, flip the chicken over so you can see your artwork, a satisfying moment.
Carefully flip chicken breasts skin side up, and transfer entire skillet to the oven.
Cook chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breasts registers 150°F, about 7 to 12 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and transfer chicken to a cutting board. Set aside to rest while you make the pan sauce. PAN SAUCE!
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet and put the skillet back over high heat.
Add shallots and garlic, cook and stir until softened and fragrant – it only takes about 30 seconds.
Add wine first (from the glass that you’re drinking out of if you want to feel really European) and let it go wild in the pan, unleashing all the bits stuck to the pan into the sauce, then add stock and keep scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Then refill your glass, so you can keep the process on track.
Continue cooking on high heat until sauce is reduced by about two-thirds, 5 to 8 minutes. It will bubble and smell so good. When your spoon drags through the sauce and forms visible streaks that slowwwly close, it’s ready.
Stir in butter and cook at a hard boil until emulsified, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside.
Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper if needed. If it’s too salty, add more stock – that’s why low sodium is important, because reduction amplifies salt.
Slice chicken breasts into three pieces on a sharp bias and transfer to individual serving plates. Toss the fresh herbs into the pan sauce and stir them in to incorporate.
Spoon sauce over the chicken and serve immediately. If you’re lucky enough to have extra pan sauce, drizzle some over your salad and rice, or quinoa, or drag half a loaf of baguette through it and just soak it up.
Back-up recipe: in the event that your stove won’t turn on, or all of the Wholefoods in your 5-mile radius simultaneously and spontaneously closed the day you went to shop, here’s a back-up plan:
1. Open the Postmates (or Seamless) App on your phone
2. Hone in on your cravings, and decide (this can be the hardest part), but a burger, tacos, Italian and Chinese are good places to start…
3. Click “send order.”
Note: This specific recipe calls for two bottles, one for while you wait for the delivery, as this can take a while, the second for the actual dinner…
Is it a grape? A place?
The color of your strange Aunt Martha’s corduroy pants?
All of the above, kind of.
Forget the technical details and the expensive collector wines that cost you a month’s pay and just know this: Burgundian wines are both delicious and affordable. In the case of White Burgundy – also known as the world’s gold standard for Chardonnay – you don’t have to spend all yours to drink like a king.
This wine is sleek, generous and abundant in aromas like apples and honey with hints of the sea. One sip and you will be washed away to instant almond-pineapple-y bliss. For the record, this is a dry wine with laser-like structure. More voluptuous than Aunt Martha in her corduroys, but still toned, lean, and clean, to boot.
Domaine Cheveau has been hand-harvesting their grapes since the 1950s in Pouilly-Fuisse and the Maconnaise, making world-class wines that can hold court with some of the greats that come from Crus like Meursault and Puligny-Montrachet. I’m talking third generation family wine-growers, who are super conscious of the land, and that detail just gets passed into the wine so much you can taste it. It’s like when someone is just so Southern, and you’re like, welp, you can take the girl out of Texas but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl’s hair – or something like that? This wine has that, and wine nerds call it Terroir. Meaning, simply: it tastes exactly of where it’s from.
Aaaaghhh sorry. Don’t tell anyone I said something so Somm-y.
Side note: Cheese is my Achilles heel, and this wine + Fromager d’Affinois (fancy name for double cream effing brie!) is straight up heaven on earth. Grab some (Wholefoods usually has it), and score major points with your significant other. This cheese is insanely perfect – I’ve finished cake-size wedges on my own with little more than a good glass of this and a spoon. It also takes me back to the days of hiding in the cellar with my Somm buddies at work, pocketing slices off the bread service tray and washing it all down with the White Burg leftovers guests failed to finish.
You could also generously use this wine to make it up to your roommate for eating the last box of mac and cheese (again, an excellent pairing for this treat).
If you’re gonna indulge yourself solo and you’re fresh out of the d’Affinois, cue up Walking Dead and find something to cover in butter. Toast or pasta are personal favs, add parm for bonus points. Because, cheese.
Save the last glass if you have any left for tomorrow, this wine is bound to be even better on day two. Of course, I won’t tell anyone if you finish the bottle on night one. I have.
Street Cred: Bring this to a dinner party and you will have everyone thinking you spent way more than you did. You don’t have to be an expert to know when you taste perfection in a glass. It doesn’t get better than this, trust me. Burg’s the word and Cheveau is the move.
I know, it’s been hot out and the summer seems endless, relentless even. You’ve been glugging back crispy whites and anything pink like it was your job—just to stay hydrated, of course. And that’s fine because, yeah, I’ll take a glass (or three) of that kind of refreshment any day. But what about when it’s time to get cozy? You need a good red on hand. It’s gonna get dark earlier soon, the leaves are gonna change color no matter what the thermostat says.
If people are drinking pumpkin spice lattes, the time for a damn fine red is now.
If you like Chianti, this wine is gonna blow your mind. If you’ve never had Chianti, it’s still gonna blow your mind. Hannibal likes his with fava beans, and Jimmy Fallon is one of the world’s greatest cork soakers (self-proclaimed in his SNL skit). Tuscan wine has certainly made a name for itself, if not as much in the wine world, at the very least in pop culture.
From Tuscany, a place where power is often valued over purity, Montevertine is a delicate beauty to drink for yourself and a few appreciative guests (if you’re so inclined to share at all). It’s impressive company on its own, for its effortless purity and charm; elegant enough to feel more special than your everyday table wine, but also so freakin’ approachable it will become a love at first sip kind of relationship.
Sangiovese is the king pin grape of Chianti, beautiful, rustic, and slightly wild. It is altogether graceful on its own, and the founding wine maker at Montevertine understands its beauty. In fact, he prized Sangiovese so much that he withdrew from the Chianti Classico classification altogether! So even though he’s making wine with Sangiovese in the heart of the Chianti region, he refuses to call his wine Chianti, because he thinks the standards for Chianti are too low!
That’s crazy, I know, but I suppose Italians are as passionate rule-breakers as they are rule-makers, aren’t they? It’s part of the charm. Rebels. The funny thing is, the Montevertine Sangiovese is actually kinda more Chianti-ish than most wines championing the proud legal status on their labels (and that cute little Chianti rooster on the seal). This is a rare wine opportunity because so little of this wine is even made. It’s a chance to try what Sangiovese tastes like at its best – humble and bright, energetic and easy-going, delicious with almost anything (or nothing at all), and far too easy to drink.
Here is the perfect fall red to lift your spirits, transition you gently from late summer nights in the backyard to early dinners at home with movies after, all loungy and such. A red to drink now and for the rest of the year. Here today only, until we run out.
I’d snag a few bottles of this one – for now, for later, for you, for friends – there’s only a small stash available, and it’s gonna go quickly.
It’s hard to miss the infusion of pink into pop culture these days—White Girl Rose beckons basic beezies all over instagram to toss their Cabernet aside and sip summer water while getting ready to go to da club, or post selfies, because, “we grown.” Yacht culture and pink wine have become synonymous, and if Kendell Jenner is drinking it in the Hamptons, it must be time to take note. It’s only a matter of time before rappers start showering the groupies with the pink, Dom P. and Veuve be warned. Even the Pope is shown blushing on a post, in a snap captioned the rose-ery. Hashtag this is so us. As defining of current culture as the manbun and status beard, rose is happening.
But before we all go replacing jello shots with boozy rose cupcakes, slow your rose roll. Is there a reason everyone’s all about the trend? Yesway. It’s delicious. And refreshing. Three sips of a good rose and I start feeling so damn womanly that I think I could give beauty tips to Sophia Loren.
Trends come and go but I will always want rose in my glass, so I’m excited it’s having a moment. It’s the perfect year-round, nearly every meal drink. It’s easy and somehow nastolgic (I grew up on Shirley Temples so maybe the pink programming started then). And you know, maybe that’s part of its appeal, the unpretentious youth of it all. Rose is just meant to be consumed, now. Not later, after being aged in a dark cellar for decades.
It somehow simultaneously evokes child-like days of frolic at the beach and visions of French women shaped like dessert, pulling themselves up into a boat somewhere in the Riviera, masked in giant shades and wearing little more than the salt from the sea, en nautical route to Nice. And for both of those sensory-filled scenes, of course we want that in our glass. Plus, it’s been hotter than Hades and if your default happy hour order has been a glass of the Cabernet, the heartburn and the brow sweat are probably craving something cooler on your behalf. Just know that rose, like all other things, is a category of things, not a thing itself, per se: there are so many types to try and so many ways to enjoy it. The shades of pink are endless. And that’s a good thing, even if it is a bit daunting.
Before you reach for the random bottle (or can) with a pair of pin up girls’ sweet tangled legs on the label, a few things to note: Most good roses are vinified dry—meaning not sweet. They can be floral, bright and citrusy, herbal or minty, deeply fruit-driven and plush, or even meaty and savory. Dark color cues texture and weight, and the lighter shades usually imply a more delicate style, with grapefruity or floral notes. Rose’s gold standard comes from Provence, but there is great rose being made all over the world now.
Obviously I could wax on forever about how splendid rose is, because imagining myself swimming in a pool of it is really quite the retreat I seek in life.
Now that we’ve laid out the basics, here are a few of my favorites from over the years that continue to deliver; it was really hard to narrow it down to ten. As always, shoot me your wine questions if you want—I’m here to chat and sip.
Listen while you drink:
Dm Faillenc St Marie Corbieres Rose, Languedoc, France.
Lucien Crochet Sancerre Rose of Pinot Noir, Loire Valley, France.
La Rame Rose, Bordeaux, France.
Smith and Story Rose, Pinot Noir, Rheingau, Germany.
Red Car Rose, Sonoma, CA.
Dm. du Bagnol, Cassis Rose, Provence, France.
Chateaux Pradeaux Rose, Provence, France.
Parigot Cremant de Bourgogne, France (because, Sparkling)
Chateau Simone Palette Rose, Provence, France.
Scribe Winery Pinot Rose, California.