Louis Dressner Selections Louis Dressner Selections Blog http://louisdressner.com/ Sat, 20 Sep 2014 10:55:25 GMT Jules Dressner <![CDATA[New Visit: Arianna Occhipinti in Vittoria!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/12/273/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/12/273/ Fri, 12 Sep 2014 24:07:21 GMT

Before visiting Arianna in her native Vittoria, we spent a night in the lovely town of San Leone. Serious sunset vibes.

The main reason we stayed there was because of this legendary seafood spot that was a pure joy.

Check out this before and after jam:

This whole octopus were pretty stellar as well:

On a much stranger note, our hotel was adorned with seriously bizarre artwork, including crying clowns and this police brutality portrait:

Way to set the mood...

Ok, on to the good stuff! Occhipinti time!

The big news is that Arianna has built a beautiful new cellar on the farm she acquired two years ago (read up on that in my first recap in 2012).

Besides the obvious advantage of having way more space, it has permitted Arianna to start a new regiment of concrete fermentation and aging for both SP68's (in the past everything was done in stainless steel and fiberglass). Some of the tanks are glass lined, some aren't. They are all 2mx2m, and with the way they are set up, the juice can be worked by gravity.

"We can smell and feel the grapes from the top, which is a huge step up from the old cellar."

From concrete tank, we tried both SP68 Bianco and Rosso. The Bianco is 40% Albanello and 60% Zibibbo this year, with no skin contact. SP68 Rosso is 70% Frapatto and 30% Nero d' Avola in 2013, with 30 days skin contact and 6 months aging in cement. For both blends, Arianna usually co-fermented the wines, though some years this is not possible.

We then tasted through the 2013's barrels of Frapatto, Siccagno and Cerusuelo.

Some 2012 Il Frapatto was also being bottled.

While tasting, Jill from Domaine LA asked Arianna for insight on why her wines are so elegant and light compared to most Sicilian wine. Besides the fact that Vittoria is located amongst many mountains that provide the vines with constant wind, Arianna had this to say:

"Not irrigating, harvesting late and not using fertilizers are the secret to making more elegant wines in the area. The freshness and minerality in my wines come from the subsoils. Any wine made from young vines or chemically grown vines feeding only off of the top soil will have the cooked, hot characteristics people associate with wine from warm regions."

After a great lunch where we tasted currently bottled offerings, Arianna showed us the old farm house she is currently renovating. More precisely, she showed us the Palmento, which pretty much a staple of nearly every farm-house in Sicily.

These Palmentos are extremely common, but also extremely abandoned. The reason is less that they were made illegal for "sanitary" reasons in the 1970's and more that there are simply a lot less people making wine on the island. Today only 600 hectare of vines are planted in the Vittoria region, and Arianna estimates it was 20 times as much in early 1900's.

We then took a coffee break, which served as an excellent moment for everyone to pet Arianna's dog Paco.

I decided to join the fun:

I then began fluffing him, which got Paco frisky.

Then, out of nowhere, he snatched my notebook!

Naturally, I panicked since all of my precious notes (including the ones used to write this) were in there! My reflex was to chase Paco around trying to get my book back:

This proved unsuccessful, but after some screaming on Arianna's part, Paco dropped the book. He was a bit bummed his mom wouldn't let him play anymore:

The book was more or less unscathed, but did suffer a bit of superficial damage.

After all that excitement, we walked over Arianna's new plantation of 3.5 hectares of Frapatto on red sand over limestone.

These were all grafted in place in massale. 19 000 plants will be re-grafted on the roots starting in August. Arianna will undertake this daunting task with the help of 3 local contadinos.

The visit ended with a quick tour of the bianco parcel, which is trained in Albarello.

While there, we were informed that Ari only performed 1 copper and sulfur treatment in 2014! That's crazy!

Walking back to the house, we were surrounded by a never ending amount of bright red poppies.

It was a great visit.]]>
<![CDATA[Benefit Screening, A Few Seats Left, This Thursday, Sept. 11th]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/8/272/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/8/272/ Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:50:48 GMT

Resitenza Naturale

This event has sold out! Thank you for the support!

Louis/Dressner Selections, Reynard at the Wythe Hotel and Indie Wines would be thrilled to see you at a pre-release screening of Natural Resistance, the new film directed by Jonathan Nossiter (here's a link to Jonathan's Film Quarterly article about the film). The screening will take place at the Wythe Hotel Screening Room & Bar on Thursday, September 11th at 8 PM.

In addition to the film, Jonathan will be there for a short talk and to take some questions directly after the film. Wines from the winemakers/protagonists (Stefano Bellotti of Cascina degli Ulivi, Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa, Stefano & Giovanna Tiezzi of La Pacina and, we hope, Corrado Dottori of La Distesa) will be available at the Screening Room Bar for purchase by the glass and half-glass before, during and after the screening.

The evening's proceeds will be donated to Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger and the Far Rock Farm Project.

For tickets go here at

Seats are limited, so hurry.]]>
<![CDATA[Rest In Peace Joe Dougherty.]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/2/271/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/9/2/271/ Tue, 02 Sep 2014 21:54:32 GMT

Yesterday afternoon I received the shocking news that Joe Dougherty is no longer of this world. I say shocked because Joe was one of those people I never imagined wouldn't be around; as both a friend to us but also to a staggering amount of the growers we work with, Joe seamlessly interweaved himself into both our personal and professional lives on such a profound level that it's impossible to envision who we are today without him.

I really wish my father was here to detail the early days of SFJoe's rise to prominence in our lives, as I don't have much insight on the matter. I have however been around Joe my whole life and have plenty to say.

I'm sure my dad met Joe Dougherty through wine. I know I met Joe Dougherty because of wine. And yes, SFJoe had an insane cellar, was the most knowledgable person about wine I've ever met and was always ready to open a bottle that most people would never dream of having the opportunity to try. But when I think about Joe, I never think about wine. Joe was one of the most fascinating human beings I've had the pleasure of knowing; I often joked that he knew everything about everything.

But unlike a smartphone or Google search, Joe wasn't just a scripted fact-sheet; he knew how to pull you in with the details. This could range from casual observations to humorous anecdotes and sometimes get as precise as the molecular composition or chemical reactions in food, wine or anything with molecular composition or chemical reactions, which is basically everything. No matter what you were talking about, you would learn something while laughing about another, all while drinking some Vouvray.

What was great was that you never felt intimidated by his intelligence or knowledge. Instead you felt welcome, invited to a world you had no idea was as interesting as it is, a world of details you constantly overlooked until Joe brought them to your attention. For example, I once opened a bottle of (surprise!) old Huet that Joe had brought to Terroir in San Francisco. I was convinced it was corked, but Joe busted out some empirical research he'd done because he'd often noticed that old Chenin Blanc tends to get get fungal aromas and flavors with age that many associate with cork taint, and that it blows off after about an hour or so. He also went into some next-level chemical reasons behind this that went way over my head, but that I appreciated anyway. As the hour passed, my skepticism subsided when lo and behold, a wine I found undrinkable was now showing beautifully!

For years, there has been a running joke of introducing Joe to growers as the "Average American Consumer". This gag has its origins in Joe joining us annually on our trip to the Loire valley every winter. Because Joe never had a professional stake in in wine industry, he was always the only consumer on the trip, so Joe (Dressner) and Kevin settled on "Average American Consumer" when introducing him. It was of course tongue-in-cheek, since most average consumers didn't have libraries of back vintage Huet or could guess blind that the moelleux François Pinon just poured us was a 1954 just off one sniff (a truly remarkable moment I'll never forget, especially François' face lighting up in surprise and delight). The "Average American Consumer" also didn't have to step out for 2 hour international phone meetings in his car out in the dead of winter and wasn't able to understand the chemical structure of a wine more than the person who had made it. But hey...

But in so many ways, Joe was the embodiment of all my favorite wine lovers and affianados. I think Joe's profound love of wine, besides the geeky scientist stuff, was that he had a firm grasp of how important it is in this world. Wine was an excuse to bring people together, to share stories, to excite the senses, to laugh, eat, drink and be merry. To live and to celebrate life. It's no surprise that his love for lively wines led him to lively people, be it my father, Eric Texier or David Lillie. Everything intertwined so perfectly.

Joe, you'll always be family. You will be sorely missed and I'll be drinking some Vouvray tonight for ya!

<![CDATA[New Visit: Marco de Bartoli in Marsala!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/29/270/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/29/270/ Fri, 29 Aug 2014 21:37:14 GMT

On our first day in Sicily, we got a day off to hang out in the incredibly photogenic town of Trapani.

While walking around, I kept noticing locals hanging outside burning huge candles. At first I thought little of it; after all I'm not from there and maybe that's how people hang. But then I started hearing marching band music!

And along with the marching band, a huge group of people where following a statue of this guy!

Our group was a bit stumped as to what this ritual pertained to, but with some googling we were able to figure out it was a celebration for Santo Padre, who, amongst other accolades, was the 2nd Pope. Ever!

As an aside, the best painting of all time was on proud display at the restaurant we ate at that night:

The following morning we drove over to Marsala to see the de Bartoli family. Their hamlet still looks like a cross of Miami Vice and a Spaghetti Western.

Here is their adorable dog Picasso, who many felt was the cutest canine of the trip:

Here I am angering Picasso by trying to do "extreme" maneuvers on a tiny, tiny skateboard not much bigger than my foot:

This video truly gives you all an inside glimpse in the sheer professionalism we here at Louis/Dressner profess with every visit.

Right on the outskirts of the de Bartoli cellar, a limestone quarry provides a good look into what the soils/subsoils of the area look like.

Interestingly, the limestone from Western Sicily is not only great for growing white grapes, but also for building houses.

"Half of Sicily was built from our area's stones."

I couldn't help but notice this everywhere we went for our remainder of the time on the island.

To the side of the quarry, 9 hectares are planted in Grillo.

These 9 hectares produce all of the de Bartoli Grillo based cuvées: Vigna Verde, Grappoli di Grillo, Integer Grillo and of course the beautiful line-up of Marsalas the estate is famous for. The Cataratto that produces Lucido are a short 4 kilometers away and the Pignatello that produces Rosso di Marco are 10km away.

From the vines, we set off to the de Bartolis' beautiful and elaborate cellar. Before I jump into the technical stuff, I highly recommend re-reading my visit re-cap from two years ago. There will certainly be some overlap (as well as a past Miami Vice reference), but many of the details I delve into below will complement the information from our past visit that I didn't catch the first time around.

The Marsala process begins in the ground level part of the cellar:

To understand how the solera process works, the first concept to grasp is that alcohol molecules are bigger than water molecules, and therefore water molecules disappear first with evaporation, leaving a more concentrated alcoholic liquid to be topped off with new wine each year.

The top floor cellar is where the Solera process takes place, going from top to bottom barrel, which if you scroll up will notice go from smallest at the top to biggest at the bottom. The new wine added each vintage is vinified like the Integer Grillo: barrel fermentation and aging without any added sulfur. Every year, Marsala is bottled from the small aging barrels in the underground cellar (we'll get to that shortly), and wine from the huge bottom barrels is racked back into the small barrels, where they will continue aging until they are bottled. In practice, this is a never-ending process that can continue endlessly:

"Marsala can age for hundreds of years."

The average mix in a big bottom barrel is 20 vintages.

From the ground level cellar, we walked two flights down into the aging cellar.

As explained earlier, these little barrels are where the wine that has already gone through the solera process age. It is at this point that the wine is either left to age on its own before bottling or fortified with mistella to produce the Superiore line.

"Traditional Marsala was never fortified, but my father wanted to look forward while also honoring tradition, and this is how the Superiore line came to be. Still, it is the territory, the grape and oxygenation that makes a Marsala, not fortification."

At the end of the cellar visit, Sebastiano drew this very helpful diagram to understand the whole process of making a de Bartoli Marsala.

It all seems so simple when you add a cute drawing!

It was time to taste, which is always a lot of fun since the family produces so many different wines from the same vines and land.

We also got to taste the Zibibbo based passitos from the island of Pantelleria, a project started in 1984. As a fun treat, Sebastiano pulled out a few bunches of the dried grapes that make the wine for us to taste.


We ended our visit with a tour of the late Marco's prized car cellar, which is full of rare automobiles from the 60's, 70's and 80's.

The funnest part was seeing his favorite sports car, this red Alpha-Romeo that served as the inspiration for the Rosso di Marco label!

<![CDATA[Natural Resistance, A Benefit Screening, Thursday, September 11th]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/26/269/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/26/269/ Tue, 26 Aug 2014 22:51:06 GMT

Louis/Dressner Selections, Reynard at the Wythe Hotel and Indie Wines would be thrilled to see you at a pre-release screening of Natural Resistance, the new film directed by Jonathan Nossiter (here's a link to Jonathan's Film Quarterly article about the film). The screening will take place at the Wythe Hotel Screening Room & Bar on Thursday, September 11th at 8 PM.

In addition to the film, Jonathan will be there for a short talk and to take some questions directly after the film. Wines from the winemakers/protagonists (Stefano Bellotti of Cascina degli Ulivi, Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa, Stefano & Giovanna Tiezzi of La Pacina and, we hope, Corrado Dottori of La Distesa) will be available at the Screening Room Bar for purchase by the glass and half-glass before, during and after the screening.

The evening's proceeds will be donated to Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger and the Far Rock Farm Project.

For tickets go here at

Seats are limited, so hurry.

<![CDATA[New Visit: Luca Roagna in Barbaresco!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/15/268/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/15/268/ Fri, 15 Aug 2014 19:59:20 GMT

Right next to the Roagna family house is the historic and majestic Pajé vineyard.

The Roagna family has been working this land for over 130 years, and have owned the majority of this Cru since the 1950's; they currently work 2 of the site's 4 hectares, which is shared two other growers. The site is shaped like an amphitheater, and exposed South-Southwest.

Many cuvées are bottled from the Pajé, all depending on the age of the vines and the conditions of the vintage: the base Pajé comes from 45-50 year old vines, Pajé Riserva is from vines that are 60+ and the Crichet Pajé is produced only in the best vintages, and from the oldest vines (70-100).

The soils are composed of marly limestone. The Roagnas never cut the grass at any time in any of their land:

Luca explained that this creates an incredible biodiversity in the vineyards and soil, which -amongst a multitude of herbs and flowers- includes more than 10 varieties of mint.

"If we ever fail at wine, we can become premium Mojito producers!"

The young Nebbiolo vines from Pajé (which are 20 to 50) partially produce the Roagna's Langhe Rosso, and the estates's Dolcetto is also planted here.

A short drive from Pajé, we visited the Asili Cru, the second of three lieu-dits within the village of Barbaresco that the Roagnas produce from.

The soils here are clay, limestone and sand. The youngest vines are 55.

A little further down, you can spot their tiny parcel of the Montefico Cru. Can you guess which it is?

Hint: grass grows wild...

If you guessed this:

You are wrong and chose a parcel with evident, heavy handed herbicide use!

If you chose this:

Then you are correct!!!!!!!!

All joking aside, the picture above is a very interesting contrast of the varying degrees of herbicide use in vineyards. From the full "Brazilian Wax" to "just in between the rows" to "let it grow free!", you get to see it all. Still, I feel I must ask the rhetorical question: which plot looks the healthiest and most full of life?

From Barbaresco, we hopped into our Dressner mobiles and drove the half hour to Barolo. It was looking like rain the whole way over, but we still felt that it was necessary to visit La Pira, the 8 hectare Cru and monopole Alfredo purchased in 1990.

The total property is 11 hectares, with 8 hectares of vines planted. The oldest vines here were planted in 1937, but there have historically been plantings here for at least 500 years.

In addition to the obviously planted Nebbiolo, La Pira is also where the Langhe Bianco and Barbera grapes are grown. As you can see from the pictures, the grass stays just as tall here as in Barbaresco. This is particularly useful for harvesting herbs and making their Chinato, which is one of the best in the game. La Pira is an isolated clos.

At the bottom of the hill, Luca is conducting a franc de pied experiment with the best clones from his various parcels.

The goal is to see which react the best to this situation in order to propagate them in the future.

Our visit ended in a visit in the brand new cellar installation Luca has constructed above La Pira. It is fucking huge and kind of looks like the Legion of Doom headquarters.

It isn't clear if all the vinifications will take place here, but the idea is to do all of the aging here; because space is longer an issue, this will permit Luca to age wines much longer than he has been able to in the past. Even though everything looks really new, the space already has that cold, moldy cellar feel.

Cages will eventually hold reserve bottles of wine.

Or maybe lock up pesky importers if they misbehave.

Luca has also started custom building his own concrete tanks because he doesn't trust the manufacturers.

"I want it to not have lining and the concrete to have very specific dimensions. I want it to to be the most neutral tank possible, and I cannot find what I am looking for on the current market."

Here are some pics:

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise; to this day Alfredo and Luca are the only ones allowed to prune the entirety of their land. That's two guys for 15 hectares!

We tasted wine, it was good. As we drove off, a nice rainbow led the way to Torino.

<![CDATA[New Visit: Vinirari in Quart!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/1/267/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/8/1/267/ Fri, 01 Aug 2014 23:31:25 GMT

That was the view from our hotel.

As you know, we here at Louis/Dressner are big fans of underdog regions and the crazy indigenous grapes grown there. We also are big fans of die-hard traditionalists, preservers of history and lovers of the land. After our visit with Giulio Moriondo of Vinirari, I can confirm he exemplifies these qualities to a tee.

First off, if you don't know Vinirari, rest assured that 99.3% of wine drinkers are right there with you. Giulio is truly a garagiste (his cellar in his garage), owns about 1 hectare of vines spread over a gazillion parcels, and tends vines/makes wine purely out of passion and love for his region's viticultural history. He's even written two books about it! And it's not even his full time job!

We only visited two micro parcels very close to Giulio's house, but still learned a ton. The first parcel we visited was planted in Pinot Noir for a long time, but Giulio has spent the last years re-grafting these with over 20 different massale clones of the indigenous Petit Rouge.

Here you can see the grafted vines.

When asked about getting rid of his Pinot, Giulio answered:

"This is not Burgundy. I've tried every vinification possible and still have never found a way to express the grape properly in this terroir."

If you're wondering how Giulio found 20 massale clones of a weird grape you'd never heard of before, it's because he's made it his lifework to discover, analyze, understand and preserve Aosta's indigenous grapes. Through his own rigorous, self funded research, which mostly involved talking to old timers but also DNA analysis, he's been able to identify and in some cases re-discover varieties long believed to have disappeared from the area.

We were lucky, because the only other parcel we'd visit that day (just a short walk from the Petit Rouge) is Giulio's training ground for all the clones he's been able to find and preserve over the years.

One, for example, is called Blanc Commun, a grape from the 18th century. Only 8 plants of this are planted within the vineyard.

Cornalin, another unknown indigenous variety, was considered to have disappeared in the area. Most confused the remaining plants as a strain of Petit Rouge. Giulio, armed with a hunch and DNA analysis, was able to identify the grape and help it regain its identity. But here is the confusing thing: What they call Cornalin in Aosta is actually Humagne Rouge in the Valais of Switzerland!

Other grapes in the vineyard include Oriou Gris, Fumin, Vien de Nus and Giulio's new darling, Nebbiolo Rose.

"This is a very different strain then the Nebbiolo grown in Piemonte. The traditional wine made with this grape was considered a luxury good. It was called a "Clairet", and made like a Recioto."

Petit Rouge and Fumin are the grapes with the longest historical standing in the area. Aosta used to have a much richer vitculutural history: in the 18th century, 4000 hectares of vines were planted on the region's mountains. Today there are barely 400.

"70 years ago, this entire mountain had vines as far as the eye can see."

As far as agriculture, the soils are very poor so Giulio lets grass grow wild, then selectively tills what he doesn't want. He also needs to have gates surrounding the vineyards because of badgers.

"If you don't take preventative measures with them, they can eat up to 70% on the crop."

Heading back to Giulio's house, he was excited to show us "the rarest wine in the world", a mutated strain of Petit Rouge that produces white grapes. Giulio had dubbed it Petit Rouge Blanc (not a confusing name at all...) and planted three rows in his front yard.

The vines are three years old and 2013 was the first year they produced fruit. 23 liters total!

When it came time to see the cellar, Giulio warned us to not expect much:

"My cellar is more of a workshop than anything."

It was indeed tiny and in his garage. The wines are fermented off their native yeasts. Giulio never filters or fines. The wines are usually bottled two winters after they were harvested.

Because he does 100% of the vineyard work alone, Giulio has customized this seat with wheels to make things easier on his back.

I had to make sure it was comfortable to be used on a daily basis.

This customized seat with wheels is Jules Dressner approvedu.

We ended the visit by tasting some wine, starting with the Petit Rouge Blanc. It had an aromatic, clean nose.

"It reminds me of Sauvignon Blanc."

It was fresh, with balanced acidity, minerality and again, slightly aromatic. Due to the vines' very young age, there was not much complexity in the body.

Someone asked for a spit bucket and Giulio replied:

"I'll go get a spit bucket for you, but remember that you are tasting the RAREST WINE IN THE WORLD!"

Next we tried the Saint-Ours 2011, a blend of 70% Cornalin and 30% Petit Rouge from the re-grafted parcel we visited. It was very good.

This was followed up by a 2009 Pinot Noir from the aforementioned re-grafted vineyard. This was the last year he made it, and Giulio blended it with 15% Cornalin. We all agreed it was "not bad".

"My wines really take time to develop. I wish I could age them for 4 of 5 years, but I just don't have the room."

We ended the tasting with a wine very dear to Giulio's heart, a "Clairet" style wine he made from Petit Rouge and Vien de Nus.

Lo Vrej translates to "The Real", and is Giulio's homage to the traditional luxury wines of the 18th century.

Unfortunately, both bottles were corked.

<![CDATA[New Visit: Franco Noussan in Maillod!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/21/266/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/21/266/ Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:42:34 GMT

Vallée d'Aoste. Holy shit.

In all of my years of visiting viticultural regions, Aoste just might be the most visually remarkable. You can't take a picture here without it looking majestic! Proof's in the pudding: the picture above, is the view from Franco Noussan's front yard.

Speaking of Franco, he lives in the commune of Maillod, which itself is part of the town of Saint Christophe. If all these names sound kind of French to you, that's because they are: Aoste used to be part of the Royaume de Savoie, and only became part of Italy in the aftermath of World War 1. In such, Franco speaks a local dialect called Patois with his wife and daughters, but is fluent in French and Italian.

"We are not French, we are not Italian. We are people of the Alps."

Though vines have been planted in Aoste since Roman times, the idea of terroir driven viticulture is a recent one, dating back to the 70's. This is because more traditional, rural ways of living were abandoned and forgotten during the Industrial Revolution.

As locals began working in the metal industry to build railroads, Aoste wine became for family consumption, while the more established viticultural region of Piedmonte began providing them their every day wine.

"Our tiny micro vineyards could not compete with our much more established neighbors in Piedmonte."

The first vineyard we visited was young Pinot Gris planted in 2007.

The vines are planted in very high density and in Cordon to reduce yields.

The elevation here is 1300m! As we walked through the vines, Franco started breaking down some of his viticultural practices.

In a new plantation, he always uses a small amount of herbicide along the rows for the first three years of their growth. This is because the area has a ton of cereal production, and the grains fly into vineyards because of the wind, then start growing wildly. This creates too much competition for young vines. He also irrigates the first three years, because Aoste only gets 500ml of annual rainfall.

"If the young vines don't get water in their infancy, their roots don't dig deep enough into the soil and won't fully express the terroir."

If the vines are over 3 years old or acquired at a later stage in their growth, Franco never uses herbicides or irrigation.

"After this initial step, I work organically."

Franco's "estate" consists of 1.5 hectares of vines, spread over 13 parcels in 3 communes. 7 different grapes are grown: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Vien de Nus, Mayolet, Cornalin, Fumin and Petit Rouge. He rents all of his parcels, but has fixed them up himself.

"Everything is small production here. You can't make a "commercial" wine in the sense of volume; the numbers just aren't there. The best you can do is produce a great wine of terroir that expresses its place."

Most of the people who currently live in Franco's commune are residential habitants who work in the nearby city of Aoste. Almost no agriculturalists are left.

The next plot we visited was some 20 year old Pinot Noir.

A tiny part of this parcel is a 90 year old field blend. Though he likes the current results, Franco believes it will take at least 20 more years before these vines produce "really great" grapes.

Driving to Franco's main site, we passed a 12 year old, very low yielding vineyard composed of 70% Petit Rouge, 30% Fumin.

Our final stop was Franco's main vineyard site, where 6 of his 13 parcels co-exist amongst his neighbors' vines. It is one of the most stunning vineyards I've ever seen.

The vines that produces Franco's Torrette are located here, and stand tall at a whopping 710m elevation. The soils consist of sand, and it was abandoned before Franco gave it new life.

The highest parcel here 800m elevation planted in Pinot Gris. In the same area, there is some very old Petit Rouge.

"I'm not sure how old these vines are, but they are definitely older than me."

Unlike the earlier parcels we visited, which were trained in Guyot, the much older vines here are trained in gobelet.

The soils in this particular section are very light clay that breaks up like sand.

The sun was beginning to set, so we decided to head back to Franco's house to visit the cellar. Unsurprisingly, it is tiny. So small in fact that Franco is forced to vinify all of his wines at different times. The wines ferment off of their native yeasts for 12 days.

Along with some incredible local charcuterie and cheese, we tried a bunch of wine. Each bottle features the date of harvest on the label, and looking at the lot number is the only way to identify the vintage, since it is not listed.

Blanc de Tzanté: means "little hill" and is all Pinot Gris. We tried 2012 and 2013, and both had a lot of Alpine Charmu. I'm trademarking that because it sounds like the name for a Febreze or Old Spice odor, and you never know with these multi-national corporations! I need to keep my creative endeavors safe!

Torrette 2012 had a dark nose, with a smoky, Mountain Freshnessu and herbaceous character. The blend always consists of 70% Petit Rouge, but the rest varies vintage to vintage.

11 Torrette had a fruitier nose which also marked the palate. It was the fresher of the 12.

Cuvée de la Cote is a blend of all his red grapes, all co-fermented. Both 12 and 11 were super glugable, easy drinking wines.

"You have to want to drink the wine. If finishing a glass seems like a burden, you haven't done your job correctly."

The tasting ended with a 2011 Pinot Noir that was my favorite of the night. Why?

Tune in next time...]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Odilio and Mattia Antoniotti in Casa del Bosco!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/10/265/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/10/265/ Thu, 10 Jul 2014 21:15:41 GMT

When you've travelled all the way from another continent to visit an estate, the last thing you want is getting rained out. It really dampens the mood!

This was unfortunately the case as we pulled up to Casa del Bosco to visit father and son team Odilio and Mattia Antoniotti; in the winter it's not the end of the world since the vines are hibernating and it's cold as shit out. But when you've just landed in Italy in early May and the vines bursting full of vigor and life, you definitely want to spend as much time as possible outside. Alas, the rain was coming down hard, and it looked like it was going to be an "inside only" visit...

Luckily, the Antoniottis have some nice inside stuff to visit. For example, their really old cellar:

The cellar is directly under their family house, divided in two parts and dates back to the late 1700's. What you see here is the vinification area.

Grapes come in through this window:

All of the wine ferments in these large concrete vats from 1910.

There used to only be a single huge vat, but Odilio split it in 2 to focus on more precise vinifications. The grapes are de-stemmed, and fermentations take about 3 weeks, with 2 to 3 remontages a day. The wine then clarifies (decants) in stainless steel before being racked to barrel about a month later to age. Many of their barrels are made from oak chopped down on their own land.

The Antoniotti family produces two D.O.C wines: Bramaterra and Coste della Sesia. Both are micro-appellations, with 8 producers bottling Bramattera and 20 for Coste della Sesia.

"And each producer has a tiny annual production."

Factoid: the tiny village of Casa del Bosco was originally built as a lord's hunting resort. The historical reason vines were planted in the area is because the lord and his crew naturally needed wine to celebrate after the hunt!

Moving on, Mattia showed us their labeling room, which is literally just a room where they hand label EVERY SINGLE BOTTLE ONE AT A TIME WITH GLUE AND A PAINT BRUSH!

That's what I call attention to detail!

From the cellar, we trekked upwards to the Antoniotti's semi-formal tasting room. Old bottles were proudly on display, including this 1964 produced by Odilio's grandfather.

From the tasting room, a large window faces a large hill right by the house.

While sitting down, Odilio explained how this entire hillside was planted in vines just 50 years ago.

Before getting to down to business, Mattia busted out some local cheeses.

There was also some Prosciutto thrown in for good measure.

Finally, there was some wine to taste!

We started the tasting with a first time experiment, a delicious Rosato made from 24 hour saignée. It follows the same blend as the Bramaterra: 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina (also known as Bonarda in Emilia-Romagna) 7% Vespolina and 3% Uva Rara (which literally translates to rare grape). My notes said it was "super good" with "super purity".

Next up was the Coste della Sesia 2011, which is always 90% Nebbiolo and 10% Croatina. It was dark and fully bodied but super fresh, with bright acidity and nice finish.

"This is the best Coste we've ever made."

Conditions were perfect in 2011: cool winds, no illness, no hail.

We ended with the Bramaterra 2010, which is aged 3 years in barrel before release. It showed more structure than the Coste della Sesia, and even though there is less Nebbiolo in it than the Coste, I felt the wine to be more marked by the Nebbiolo than the rest.

Someone asked about the lesser planted and known grapes used at the estate, and Odilio answered:

"Having many grape varieties balances the vineyard and ensures that if something goes wrong (with one of the grapes), you have the luxury of a back up plan."

By the time the tasting was over, the rain had majorly subsided and we decided to brave the elements to visit some nearby vineyards. Incredibly, Odilio had eight million umbrellas handy and was able to lend one to each of us.

Well, everyone but me. I actually had a broken parasol.

The first vineyard we visited is 450 m elevation and produces Coste della Sesia.

In better weather conditions, you can clearly see the Alps and the Sesia river in the background.

The vineyard is and isolated clos, exposed full South and is planted in Nebiollo and Vespolina. The soils here consist of volcanic Porphyry, which is a type of granite. Odilio decided to grab a huge chunk of it to break it down.

"Every different color you see in a different mineral, which adds much complexity to the wine."

Here's another, smaller piece to give you an idea.

The next vineyard we visited took us through a crazy, slippery and very uneven road that I have no idea how anyone could access without a 4x4 truck.

This is their main vineyard; the current vines were planted in 1978, but the Antoniotti family purchased the land in 1860 (Odilio still has the contract papers stashed somewhere!) The soils are also Porphyry, but much finer and pebbly.

The site is a proper viticultural amphitheater, and as such the exposition spans from South to South-West.

The Antoniottis have never used herbicides.

"We till the grass, and that becomes a natural compost."]]>
<![CDATA[New "Our Peasants" Article: Nüsserhof "Trapped Vineyard" by Wolfgang Mayer!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/8/264/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/7/8/264/ Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:46:09 GMT
How the wonderful Mayr-Nüsserhof Blatterle became a "B......." wine

When the Mayr family bought the Nüsserhof farm in 1788, Tirol was a country, France hadn't had a revolution yet, Andreas Hofer (trans. note: the future commander of the Tyrolean insurrection against Napoleon) had just traded his first horses, sold his first barrels of wine and the view from the Nüsserhof extended all the way to the church. Today, the Nüsserhof is the only original piece of land hasn't been devoured by the expanding town of Bolzano, and is all that remains of the once green Bozner land.

Surrounded by walls and bordering the Eisack Dam, the Mayr's family estate resembles a French "clos": an enclosed vineyard. But while such a thing is respected, even venerated in France, Germany or Austria –countries where old traditions and old vines are being defended against the fast moving Zeitgeist– the quiet, stoical Heinrich Mayr-Nusser and his entrepreneurial wife Elda remain quaint outsiders in the South Tyrolean wine landscape. This despite the fact that the Blatterle grape was the most common variety in the Bozen area as recently as the 19th century! An indigenous vine that, one would assume, would mean protecting the last remaining Blatterle area like Noah's Ark (note: Nüsserhof is one of only three remaining producers growing Blatterle, and has the highest holdings of the three)

But Saint Bureaucratus sees things differently: no large conglomerate cared for the Blatterle, so it fell to the wayside and doesn't have DOC status, just like the real Weißterlaner by the way, which still yields a few bottles thanks to the steadfast Waschtl Stocker. If you sow bureaucrats, a North Tyrolean grouser once remarked, you will reap insanity!

In the case of the Nüsserhof Blatterle, that means that Saint Bureaucratus doesn't allow the word Blatterle on the label of a wine made from authentic Blatterle. So the brave Elda and Heinrich quickly chopped off a "t" on their labels and bottled their "Blaterle" for years without being challenged. Until somebody recently pressed charges and accused Mayr-Nusser of fraud because "Blaterle" sounds much too close to the real, formerly important varietal Blatterle...

It's hard to believe: the last South Tyrolean vintner producing a 100% Blatterle from real Blatterle isn't allowed to put Blatterle on the label. If you sow bureaucrats, you will reap insanity. A "fantasy" name would be possible, said the magistrate: Tom, Dick and Harry wine or so. That's how Elda and Heinrich finally came up with the idea to salvage at least one last letter, and from 2011 vintage on the labels just say "B.......".

"Nüsserhof's Blatterle was one of the most intriguing whites I encountered... it is surprisingly full of flavor considering its light to medium-bodied texture", wrote wine pope Robert Parker enthusiastically, giving it 90/100 points. For friends of good taste and healthy opposition to bureaucrats, we are including the Mayr's address:

Elda and Heinrich Mayr, Weingut Nusserhof, Josef-Mayr-Nusser-Weg 72, Bozen – Tel/Fax 0471 978388 or mobile: 335 6207558]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Cascina degli Ulivi in Novi Ligure!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/6/27/263/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/6/27/263/ Fri, 27 Jun 2014 18:16:04 GMT

Cascina Degli Ulivi will always hold a special place in my heart. You see, when I was 19 years old, I felt a need to distance myself from my social scene (Montreal), and after an initial plan to "move to Vancouver", Joe proposed I go work in vineyards somewhere. I'd never been to Italy, and Joe, knowing that Stefano Bellotti runs a poly-cultural farm and there would be plenty for me to do there, proposed Ulivi. After a quick chat with Stefano, it was agreed I would get room at board at the Cascina in exchange for manual labor. I could (and probably should) write an entire entry on the 5 months I lived and worked there, but this is neither the time nor place. Suffice to say, my time there was -whether I was aware of it or not at the time- the catalyst in finding a personal connection with the traditions of peasantry and wine. Also, working in the fields gave em the only legit tan I've ever had in my life. But I digress...

After landing in Milan, we drove straight to the town of Novi Ligure, where Ulivi is located.

Though Novi Ligure is actually a modestly sized town (28,500) with a bustling urban core, the Ulivi farm is about ten minutes out, completely surrounded by woods and only accessible via a small road. Chickens, ducks and geese are just hanging around everywhere.

Love was definitely in the air.

Because of all the animal fornication going on around us, we assumed it was mating season. Later, Stefano confirmed we were wrong:

"It's like this all the time. They never stop."

As I mentioned earlier, the farm is completely self-sufficient. For example: 23 cows!

These are almost exclusively used for dairy: fresh milk, delicious homemade cheeses, and yogurts/panna cotta,etc... On average, only 2 male cows are slaughtered a year for meat, which is served exclusively at the restaurant/agriturismo within the farm grounds. That's right people: two cows last an entire year!

A lot of fresh fruits and vegetables are also planted throughout.

Look, a goat family!

As you can see, there are all types of animals at Cascina degli Ulivi! But Stefano's favorite, of course, is his Maremma sheepdog Guantanamobai.

You may recognize this big guy from the Filagnotti labels:

Well, that's not actually the same dog; Stefano has loved this breed for as long as he can remember, and owned many since his early 20's.

But beyond farming, restaurants and animals, the real bread and butter of Cascina Degli Ulivi is, you guessed it, WINE!

We started our tour by checking out Stefano's brand new experimental vineyard.

Planted last June, these 3 hectares are all planted in franc de pied aka un-grafted roots. Stefano explained that these 4 varieties were historically considered "shit", but that have also been historically proven to resist mildew and odium over the long term.

Stefano's discovery of these "shit" varieties stems from research dating back to 1910. A pépinièriste (whose job involves growing young vines in a nursery for future use) in Südtirol based his life work on this, and was able to find 25 hybrid grapes that resist the two of the most damaging fungal illnesses in viticulture. Stefano picked the ones that made the most sense for his soils and micro-climates, but also the flavors he liked.

"I didn't want anything aromatic."

Interestingly the soils here are not sand (where the phylloxera bug cannot survive) but heavy clay.

"They are already very alive."

Next, we headed over to the beautiful Filagnotti vineyard, which produces the aforementioned bottling of the same name.

The village you can spot in the background is Tassarolo.

In this vineyard, Cortese is planted on very acidic red clay that is rich in iron. Stefano has been working this vineyard since 1984, which coincides with his first year practicing biodynamics.

Looking in the distance, then back at the budding vines, Stefano proclaimed:

"This is my favorite time of the year. I love looking at individual buds and thinking: This will soon be a glass of wine!"

As with most of Piemonte, a lot of Stefano's vines have been dying for from Flavescence Dorée (read more about this lesser known disease here).

"The best way to fight this is franc de pied, but this directly confronts you with the problem of phylloxera. Still, I believe fighting a bug is easier than fighting a disease."

He continued:

"The problem is that all funded research is geared towards "fixing" these problems through chemical treatments. Any alternative means always falls on our backs, through our own independent experiments. In the end, their is not one magic solution. It will be a combination of many factors that will lead us to an answer."

Speaking of individual experimentation, Stefano has planted an entire portion of Filagnotti in Franc de Pied.

He feels that these much younger vines already have much more vigor and life than their grafted siblings.

Last but not least, we visited Cascina degli Ulivi's most prized vineyard, Montemarino.

Holy shit that's beautiful!

The soils here are clay and limestone. Standing in Montemarino, the difference in micro-climate between Filagnotti was clear: a constant wind sweeping through the vineyards (as opposed to Filagnotti's much dryer nature) creates a cooler, more elegant wine.

Though the vast majority of Montemarino is planted in Cortese, the oldest vines in the estate are planted here (94 years old, planted in 1920), and consist of Nibio, the local name for the region's indigenous strand of Dolcetto.

Stefano acquired the vast majority of this lieu-dit, which consists of 6 hectares, in 2000. To do so, he had to purchase individual plots from 39 different owners!!! Montemarino is exposed full South, at 310 meters of elevation.

After walking through the vines, it was time for Stefano's self-admitted "schtick I do every time": The Shovel Experimentu

"Of all my vineyards, Montemarino is the only one were I have a neighbor. And of course, he works more chemically than anyone I know!"

The Shovel Experimentu consists of shoveling a hunk of land from Montemarino as well as his neighbor's to compare and contrast the amount of life in both. Here's a side by side pick to give you an idea of what a vineyard heavily treated with herbicide where one doesn't work the soils looks like versus that of a biodynamic pioneer.

Keep in mind those are less than 50 meters apart!

At the top of Montemarino, Stefano's vinification cellar hosts all his future releases. He works almost exclusively with large wood vessels.

"I like using wood because it keeps the wine alive. This is because it is constantly dancing with oxygen. But it not's oxygenation I look for; it's so that the wine is in constant contact with something alive (air)."

We tasted through a range of 2013 wines, which were a solid vintage for Ulivi. By the time we were done tasting through the current releases, jet lag had started seriously kicking in so we sat down for an early dinner at the agriturismo which naturally consisted of all the meats, vegetables, dairy and fruit of the farm.

It was good to know that 8 years after my time there, Cascina degli Ulivi is still as magical as ever.]]>
<![CDATA[Continuing the Days in the Glamorous Life of the Importer...]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/6/25/262/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/6/25/262/ Wed, 25 Jun 2014 17:11:37 GMT
by Kevin McKenna.

Those of you who know me know that I don't like griping in public too much, let alone putting it down in writing and publishing it on our company blog. So the mere fact that Iem writing this is evidence that something (or some things) must really be bugging me... Let's call them a series of incidents, coincidences, etc. that have made me think a lot about what I (and by that I also mean 'we' at Louis/Dressner) do as a wine importer, what it used to mean, what it means now, what it continues to mean to me (us) and how these values seem to be irreversibly changing in the current context of specialized wine importation.

When I started working solely in the commerce of wine and finding bliss in a tireless interest for good wine and learning more and more, the wine "industry" was called the wine trade. It was full of people who were doing it as a job, but it was really as a vocation. Most were barely making a living. They were well-educated, had good manners and, for the majority, were eloquent or at least well spoken. They were individuals. There were only a few quality independent importers and the press had little influence on wineries or their winemaking. People trusted their local wine merchant, (of which there were relatively few quality stores).

So before I go on, let me say that I am not an old-skooler ruminating on the past and bemoaning the present, (about which, in fact, there is a whole lot to like!) But it seems to me there was an approach back then among the folks doing innovative importation to do one's work based on real research, with a personal point of view, finding a deeper understanding of the work involved in making a bottle of wine; this meant having an approach, or at least a basic thought, of what your imported wines represented vis-a-vis everything else out there. And most importantly, in the context of this writing, there was with little exception, a respect for other peoplees work, which meant putting in real efforts to not step on each other's toes. The wine trade played by Marquess of Queensbury rules, if you will. Because, after all, the British practically invented the commerce of wine.

And sure, maybe I idealize the past or perhaps was a bit wide-eyed and naïve. Or perhaps I was not in a position to see the uglier side of things, which I am sure existed. But I still believe that for the most part, there was guiding principle to work with integrity, manners and mutual respect (unless the other guy/gal was really a bastard or, importantly in those days and still important, a serial substance abuser.) You paid your growers and if you did not, you would have a Scarlet W, for W-E-L-S-H-E-R tattooed on your forehead.

Apart from the miracle of The Cloud, there is a downside to the internet. The rise of internet "journalism" and social media marketing allows for any creep to say anything they want (hey, look at me here) without any accountability for their words, mistakes, innuendo or near libel. And furthermore, there is an almost built-in incentive to be as exploitative of the lack of rules as possible to rise above the sea of self-involved open diaries posing as constructive critical thinking.

So here is what has passed over our desks in recent weeks:

Firstly, someone who has recently established his own business based on the idea that hees eliminating the outrageous importer and distributor mark-ups by buying directly from winemakers' cellars and selling retail, by power of his mutant abilities, directly to the consumer -thus somehow getting them "Better for Less", a motto I think was popularly chiseled in Latin on a stone in 1st century AD- recently offered a wine from Olga Raffault, a producer we have been working with for 22 years. This same "selector" professes undying fondness for our company, for us as people, for our work, for our winemakers and their work, etc. on each and every occasion we see him. His newsletter to private wine customers made an offering on an Olga Raffault bottling "La Singulaire" (not to poke too much fun at the obvious, but the wine is actually called "La Singulière", which could easily have been double checked with a simple web search), touting it as the first time offered in the United States and continuing with pithily slick schnook-speak and name-dropping comparisons ("Better than Baudry, Rougeard!"). Not to mention the few outright bloated boasts only someone-trying-to-sell-you-something would employ. Frankly, the whole tone of the piece smacks of smarminess.

We received calls from customers and colleagues who were understandably confused. The news perpetuated itself and people immediately started jumping to further conclusions, like Raffault was now working with another importer. You can see how this then goes on and on in a never ending cycle.

Here are the points of that email we would like to categorically shoot down and further illuminate:

This "selector" all but states that the reason we have left the wine for European clients and carelessly deprived the US Market of this, THE most amazing cuvée of the cellar, is that we have deemed the price too high to pass through the 3-tier system. Uhmmm, what can I say? Relative to the cuvées we bring from other producers, this wine is not even CLOSE to being too expensive. I canet give him the benefit of thinking that folks could read between the lines of his statement and see that perhaps we did not see that the price:quality ratio represented in the winees price. That would negate the entire point of his email.

The reason we don't bring this in is simple; this is a tiny cuvée that Eric de la Vigerie, who took over from his father-in-law Jean Raffault in the 00's, makes for a niche French clientele who are in fact searching for the more modern, extracted and oaked versions of Chinon found in some of the bigger, venerated commercial estates in the region. We were certainly always aware of this cuvée, and have tasted it every year with the same wan smiles. Ites just not for us or for our clients. It's concentrated, marked by oak treatment and has little Chinon identity. Eric never cared much whether we liked it or not, bought it or not. He knows how well we do with the other wines in his cellar, all of which are much more important to sell.

The gall in this is the man who shall be further known as Selector L, the man who professes to know us for years, would think that in the 22 years of importing Raffault we would not buy their BEST EVER Chinon. And that in all the years of LDM's work, all our intelligent distributors, hardworking retailers and conscious restauranteurs who have helped back the reputation of the estate and have tasted with Eric many times wouldn't ask for it if they wanted it.

Furthermore, the wine is not a direct purchase from the domaine's cellar. We are assured by the Raffault that it was not sold directly to Selector Les company, meaning he must have bought it from one of their other distributors or retailers in Europe. I think that counts as a "tier"...

One also has to ask, would this wine be offered by Selector L if it did not have the imprimatur of the Raffault estate and their wonderful reputation based on releases of excellent old cellared wines? And what about our company spending over 20 years getting the word out with so much expense and heart? It would seems the sale of "La Singulière" is pretty much a no-brainer relative to some unheard-of producer in Chinon like, for example, the imaginary Bertrand Onager's imaginary top level cuvée "Les Portes du Bain" which no one would realistically ever compare to Clos Rougeard's Saumur wines or Bernard Baudry's Chinon Croix Boissée.

And alright, alright, he is just some schmo, albeit one who garnered a reputation in New York for an expressive, investigative palate which he could manage to elucidate well in written form, and which was followed with some avidity by the mysterious wine cognoscenti underground. He is just trying to make a business he can call his own and we really do not see him as a threat or feel his sale of a small quantity of this wine is going to hurt ours or Raffault's sales or reputations. On the other hand, I certainly do not feel it is going to bring a whole new set of customers either.

One just wishes that the sale of the wine, and the structure and wording of the written sale offering weren't both built on the foundation that Louis/Dressner and Raffault have made. I hope some day he can find the confidence to start laying his own bricks. I also wished he had had the general professional courtesy to call/email/text us to inform us of his intended sale of a wine from one of our most high-profile producers. He should also have given full disclosure that the wine was not acquired directly from that producer to his mailing list. And it would also be all right if this were the first time that pejorative comparisons and ever-so-slight mudslinging were used as a tool to hawk the latest selection, but it isn't. We kept our mouths shut and took the high road the first few times, but now I feel a need to address this.

Moving on, I felt impelled to say something when I received an email from Monte dall'Ora in the Veneto, who we have worked with for the last seven years. Prior to our partnership, they sold mostly a special cuvée to the importer who worked with them before us: the style was more extracted, higher alcohol and it spent some time in (partially new) wood. Needless to say, it was not among our favorite wines at the estate. Well-made but modern-ish. We much preferred the racier, fresher and elegant wines that seemed to be evident vintage after vintage. Eventually, the production of this cuvée was ended.

Around the same time as Monte Dall' Ora's email, we got another email announcing that a famed "newsletter retailer" had just bought old bottles of Monte dall'Ora in the previous importer's warehouse, all that was available there to sell as his latest offering. The retailer is based in Seattle and ships to at least the 16 reciprocal state that allow sales across their borders, if not more. Their subscriptions reach a good number of people and I believe their business is good, if not brisk.

But the thing that caught my eye was the name of a certain person listed with the title of Buying Director of Italian Wines for said retailer. Turns out, this Wine Director had disappeared for a number of years from the wine trade and had reportedly moved on to another field, was once a maverick Italian importer who worked with about 5 Italian estates we now represent (not Monte dall'Ora though) More importantly, from what I last heard from these same growers, this guy burned each of them and owes them A LOT of money. Ieve noticed in the past that to most people working with wine, this is a "so what" moment and they are happy to buy wines that "fell off a truck" at a bargain price, never once asking themselves if the winemaker was paid. I think that too often, when there is an unclear ethics situation, people avoid thinking about said ethics or go into a state of denial. For me it's a craw-sticker: I am friends with the growers that lost that money (a situation that happens much too often, especially for Italian wine) and I know what personal, financial and emotional upset they went through. Some had resolved to not sell to the US ever again. We were lucky to be able to convince them to let us bring in the wines on very short terms.

I think in business we have to have some sense of right and wrong and draw the line somewhere. I will have real trouble doing any business with this Seattle based retailer unless his Buying Director of Italian Wines is no longer there or makes some reparations to the growers he stiffed... I am not requiring the Scarlet W. but donet tempt me!

The next incident, two weeks ago, really put us in a difficult place. In February at the hipster Natural Wine fairs in and around Angers (Dive Bouteile, etc...), there were many little wilding packs of New Selectors (Selecteurs Nouveaux?) and their coterie of customers. One of these guys avoided eye contact with me because, at a wine fair this past November in Italy, I had threatened to take him outside after calling him out as a brazen liar and a hack. This California based "selector" was targeting producers we have, through our own work and reputation, successfully established in the US market. His schtick involved (involves?) telling the growers the wines could not be found in the Bay Area and Southern California through our distributor -which in a vast majority of cases is a blatant lie- and that they should work with him.

When I confronted him in person, the guy denied he even knew whom we worked with. Subsequently, I found out from Ernesto Cattel of Costadilà that he was going around telling our growers he was somehow affiliated with Louis/Dressner. Then I found the emails sent to our growers. Another prominent "natural wine"importer (who works nationally and is based in New York like us) told me that all his growers had systematically received contact from the guy with offers to work with him in the California import market as their distributor.

It's not that we do not like competition, as this guy retorted when I told him to back off. In fact (as you shall see later) we in fact DO like competition and a good deal of our competitors. More good wine, more good winemakers getting represented in the market = everybody wins. But we don't like laziness, unoriginality, disrespect and deceit. Build a unique, personal portfolio.

Okay, if you are still with me, herees where the camel's back snaps. Another one of these new Selectors of California (whose "portfolio" is almost all wines already discovered and brought directly into the US by Chambers Street Wines in NYC and national importer Zev Rovine) convinced one of our producers, despite our strong arguments against it, to sell to them in California. There are really several sides to this story: between us, the domaine and the New California Selector it's a total Rashomon. In any event, the domaine went ahead and shipped wine to the New California Selector. We had many back and forths with the producer (whom we consider a long time friend) explaining why it was not in her best interest to go forward with this decision, but she insisted and we acquiesced for the good of her business. Still, the whole thing left a bad taste, which we hope to clear with the producer face-to-face the next time we see her.

In the meantime, the wine for California is arriving and it turns out the New California Selector has not done any of the required paperwork that the US government and customs require for entry of alcoholic beverages, putting him at risk for delayed container entry and the hefty charges that go with that. First he asks an old friend of mine in San Francisco to beg the favor from me in giving them permission to use our paperwork (which takes hours of work on our end) for their goods, without the chutzpah to contact me himself. That was a no go. He then contacted me by email with apologies for being new and not understanding what was needed to be done; and a vague reference that perhaps he was breaking some "importer orthodoxy". Okay, now we are getting into a left-handed swipe at a gentleperson's code of conduct being somehow wrapped in an impregnable secret Masonic code to which only a chosen few have access.

To me this is the height of self-serving disrespect and a turn of the tables, a rationalization for laziness and lack of preparation or due diligence, a marked inability to follow any rules, (no matter how petty, we are in a regulated industry and you cannot make the rules go away by just ignoring them) and a marked disrespect for the work it actually does take to represent a group of first rate wine estates.

On a much happier note, last Sunday Louis/Dressner got together with Zev Rovine, Selection Massale, Fifi and PM Spirits to do a tasting together under the same roof. The energy was incredible, the crowd was great and the festivities went well into the night. Nothing was poached, no one insulted or undermined their competition: it was truly a moment of working together towards the same goals and ideals. There is room in this world for everybody to get along, play nicely and act with responsibility, decorum and respect. Weere just not sure why ites so difficult for some people to understand that.

Do your work, Y-O-U-R W-O-R-K, donet use someone elsees. Ites fundamental.]]>
<![CDATA[Louis-Antoine Luyt Launches His New Website!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/6/10/260/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/6/10/260/ Tue, 10 Jun 2014 19:32:19 GMT

L.A's new website is live and full of great information!

Go check it out!

To celebrate the launch, L.A's friend put together the video above. It's a beautiful, short documentation of the 2014 harvest for L.A's Pipeño line. If you still haven't heard about this amazing project, it's Louis Antoine's homage to local Chilean farmers -many of whom appear in this video- who have been making wine for generations. These guys have always sold their wine locally and in vrac; by forming a partnership, slightly updating their cellars and giving them a hand with vinification, L.A has permitted them to bottle their wines for the first time (2013 was the first vintage), thus capturing previously undiscovered expressions of Chilean wine tradition and terroir for the export market.

As importers dedicated to traditional winemaking and farming methods, it is an honor being part of this. Drink up!]]>
<![CDATA[Something's A Bubbling at Louis/Dressner: Champagne Tarlant!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/6/3/258/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/6/3/258/ Tue, 03 Jun 2014 20:02:22 GMT

It is with much excitement that we OFFICIALLY announce our newest estate: Champagne Tarlant! Based in the village of Oeuilly (located in the Vallée de la Marne), head vigneron Benoît Tarlant is the 12th generation working this land under his family name. Benoît is the real deal: his great understanding and respect of history, tradition and nature, coupled with his experimental, forward thinking tendencies have been the driving force of some truly next level, terroir-centric Champagnes.

The estate consists of 14 hectares of vines spread far and wide over 55 parcels of Pinot Noir (50%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Meunier (20%). Small amounts of Champagne's "forgotten"grapes" -Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier- are also planted. In the vines, chemicals are never used and biodiversity is prioritized. Because of Marne's extremely diverse terroirs, Benoit adapts his viticultural approach parcel by parcel, using the soil, grape and micro-climate to guide him. 12 generations of know-how doesn't hurt either!

The house makes many parcel/terroir focused cuvées that will make it stateside in the future, but for our first drop, we are bringing in 3 cuvées: Brut Zéro, Brut Zéro Rosé and Cuvée Louis. Brut Zéro is the Tarlant's calling card, and consists of a non vintage, no dosage wine made equal parts Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. The Rosé is a majority Chardonnay with a bit of Pinot Noir. Cuvée Louis is Benoît's homage to his great, great, great grandfather (he's great!), and the top of the top from Tarlant's single vineyard offerings: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from a single parcel of 65 year old vines called "Les Crayons", vinified and aged in oak.

We've been groupie-level obsessed with these wines for many years now, always making a point to taste with Benoît at any given opportunity. We couldn't be more excited to be sharing these with you!]]>
<![CDATA[Louis/Dressner Does Italy: Spring 2014!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/5/13/257/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/5/13/257/ Tue, 13 May 2014 19:10:26 GMT

The team just got back from an incredible tour of Italy. Expect re-caps and a shit ton of pictures from Cascina Degli Ulivi, Odilio Antoniotti, Franco Noussan, Vinirari, I Vigneri, Arianna Occhipinti and maybe a surprise or two along the way!

Photo of best outfit ever taken in Naples by Jill Bernheimer of Domaine LA.]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Domaine Filliatreau in Chaintres!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/30/256/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/30/256/ Wed, 30 Apr 2014 21:47:54 GMT

After eating lunch in Saumur, Fredrik Filliatreau met us up for coffee before setting out to his vines. Before seeing any of his own land, he asked me (and consequently, the 6 other cars following us) to pull over to the side of the road.

"From here, I can give everyone a general overview of the area."

Saumur-Champigny is located between the Loire and Saône rivers, and was declared an AOC in 1957. It consists of 1600 hectares of Cabernet Franc spread over 9 villages. 100 independent growers make wine from their own land, and 40% of the AOC's vines are run and produced by huge cave cooperatives. With 45 hectares to their name, Domaine Filliatreau's is one of the biggest independent producers in the area.

The Filliatreau family has been based in the village of Chaintres for many generations. Fredrik's grandfather was the first to focus entirely on viticulture, and before that their main crops were asparagus and cereals. He was also one of the first 4 independent vignerons in the area. His father Paul started in 1967 with a very small production, but through many decades of successes and ambitious expansion, the estate now exists as 45h of land spread over 37 parcels.

The first site Fredrik showed were young vines from the lieu-dit La Croix.

As you can see from the photo above, it's been a rainy winter in the Loire.

We then walked by a clos whose name I didn't catch.

Fredrik had forgotten the key to this site so we couldn't go in. He shares this surface with a handful of other growers.

Just a short walk further, we entered one of Fredrik's favorite parcels, Clos Candi.

This 1.2 hectare clos' vines are 75 years old and some of the oldest at the estate. The soils consist of clay and limestone with limestone subsoils.

Fredrik explains how this is technically a "monopole" of a terroir, but since growers and consumers don't take things like that too seriously in the Loire, it makes it hard to justify bottling such a small amount of wine as its own cuvée. This did however happen once, and ended up as a Cuvée Buster.

Before getting back into our cars to go taste in the cellar, Fredrik wanted to show us a project very dear to his heart.

6 years ago, Saumur-Champigny became the first viticultural region in France to invest collectively as an AOC to transform into a bio-diversity zone. Bio-diversity has been discussed numerous times on this website, but the gist of it is a) to not use herbicides and b) to plant anything OTHER than vines. By taking these two steps, the growers of Saumur-Champigny are permitting a more balanced eco-system to form itself around its vineyards, thus attracting other types of life (plants, animals and bugs) that will help nature defend itself with minimal to no chemical aid.

30 km of hedges have been planted alongside many rows of vineyards.

These have brought insect populations that haven't been present in many generations. Furthermore, herbicides have been abolished completely in order to permit not only grass, but all of the flowers and plants that grow along with it to invigorate the vineyards' soil and micro-biological life.

"It's impossible to force everyone to work organically, but with this agreement we've found a way to reduce chemical use as a whole. I consider this a very important accomplishment."

From the rain soaked vines, we drove over to the Filliatreau's vinification cellar, built by Paul in 1978 and nicknamed Le Chai.

Originally, the entire production was made in concrete tanks. The resulting wines were very tannic, and often tricky to vinify due to lack of proper temperature control. In 1978, Paul discovered stainless steel and had a revelation: not only could this vessel be temperature controlled, but it could also permit him to make a lighter, fruitier wine in the style he'd always wanted to make. Domaine Filliatreau was the first to produce this style of Saumur-Champigny, which he jokingly labeled "Champigny Nouveau", a term which has since been banned.

Paris went apeshit for the "Fillatreau style", and as a result more and more producers started bottling similar wines to supply the ever-increasing demand of Parisian bistros and bar à vins. Unfortunately, as with most trends, big négoces and caves coopératives also started emulating and mass producing this style, eventually pushing things too far (à la Beaujolais Nouveau) and ruining that the reputation of the light gulpers Paul had pioneered in the late 70's.

Though thick and thin, Fredrik has continued to make this stainless steel style, which remain in high demand due to his knack for quality. Every year, a 50 to 60 person harvest team that works over the course of 2 weeks.

"You never really need to rush."

80% of the estate is hand-harvested. For the other 20% (young vines), Fredrik had this to say:

"If you make the decision to machine harvest part or all of your crop, It's very important to have your OWN harvesting machine, because it gives you control. Most people who machine harvest hire guys who are trying to get the job done as soon as possible, and don't care about timing or multiple passes."

Tanks macerate 1 to 5 weeks depending on the wine. The 13 Domaine had 10 days maceration.

In the tasting room, we got to try a bottle a bottle of 2013 Saumur Rosé.

"Every year, a local bar holds a competition for the best rosé. 3rd place gets an entire Serrano Ham, 2nd place gets 10kg of extremely rare and seasonal mushrooms, and first place gets:"

That's right, folks. First place for best rosé get you a weird boob statue. Fredrik in no way tried to explain how this made any sense (probably because it doesn't), and since we all know that a whole Serrano ham is way better than a weird boob statue:

"The secret is learning how to make the 3rd best rose!"

Fredrik then disgorged some Fillibule 13.

The wine is much darker in color this year, and slightly sweeter. Grapes for this PET NAT are sourced from the same parcel as the rosé, and it was delicious.

From Le Chai, we went to the Filliatreau's underground tuffeau cellar, which was built in the early 18th century.

As you may have noticed, all the barrel aged stuff is down here. A lot of old, moldy bottles also age down there, and we got to try a bunch of them.

2003 Chateau Fouquet was very fresh and balanced 95 Domaine Vielles Vignes had beautiful cherry fruit. I wanted V.V 1986 to be the best since it was my birth year, but Fredrik disagreed.

"It wasn't the best vintage. Still pretty good though!"

Thanks a lot Fredrik! The 85 V.V, on the other hand, was banging.

We then got to take a mini break back at the hotel before joining Fredrik for dinner at La Grande Vignolle, the lieu dit that produces the cuvée of the same name. This is what it looks like from a bird's eye view:

Yes, that's a vine maze. If you look towards, the top of the photo above, the beautiful monuments are built purely out of tuffeau limestone.

Outside, we spotted a super creepy and mysterious mannequin man.

Fredrik told us he has always been there, and any soul foolish enough to get too close has inevitably been hexed with a curse of getting drunk way too fast at public functions and making a total fool of themselves.

Dinner was awesome.

<![CDATA[New Interview: Giuseppe Ferrua of Fabbrica di San Martino!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/22/255/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/22/255/ Tue, 22 Apr 2014 22:32:08 GMT

"I've always been a fan of organic ingredients. Food that has been un-manipulated simply has more character, more content. It has its own energy and power. It simply tastes better."

Giuseppe Ferrua breaks down his past life as a restauranteur, discovering biodynamics, natural wine's relationship with narcissism and much more in his interview.


And as an added BONUS, here are some pictures from his 2013 harvest. ]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Cristiano Guttarolo in Gioia del Colle!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/15/254/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/15/254/ Tue, 15 Apr 2014 21:43:45 GMT

Cristiano Guttarolo is a pure joy. The guy is humble, enthusiastic, generous, respectful of his land and others, always up for a good laugh and most importantly, constantly questioning his work in order to improve. Not to mention his wines are ON POINT.

Most of Cristiano's vines surround his house and cantina. We began by checking out some young Primitivo planted in 2005.

The vines around the house are all trained in Guyot. The soils consist of clay and limestone. Currently, Cristiano works 6.5 hectares of land, with the possibility of planting 13.

The white flowers you can spot in every picture grow wild, and are closely related to chicory. Cristiano only does one light tilling in the summer, which is why the vineyards were so dense in greenery.

Cristiano has been doing biodynamic treatments for the last two years, and is extremely satisfied with the results. Though it is still very early, he already feels a new, inspiring energy he'd never noticed prior to the conversion. And while fully convinced, he has no plans of asking for certification. None of the vineyards have irrigation systems. Cristiano only did one copper and sulfur treatment in 2013, and none in 2012!!!

Continuing our walk through the vines, the sun started hitting the landscape in a way that, in alignment with the white flowers and lush greenery, struck Eben and I as the perfect photo-op for the cover of a cheesy rock album.

Here is the cover of my debut album, Reaching for the Sky.

Alternate titles: A New Beginning or Shine Your Light.

A little further, Cristiano showed us a small plot of Negroamaro.

You can't see those little guys amongst the flowers, but trust me, they're there.

These were re-grafted 3 years ago on Primitivo rootstock. Many haven't matured correctly because it has been too cool. Not too far off, he's also planted some Chardonnay, mostly as an experiment to see how they will behave in his terroirs.

"Limestone grabs macro-elements from the soil, which takes the vines longer to properly express the terroir. But when it does, it's splendid. This is why so many vines and great wines of the world come from limestone soils."

Has also recently planted some very young Sussumaniello, as well as 1 ha of a white grape I didn't catch the name of.

The last part of the the vineyard that we visited was an experiment on Cristiano's part, intentionally re-training some Primitivo vines to Albarello.

He doesn't mind the results, but prefers the superior yield controls of Guyot.

As we were chatting, our little friend Lady Bug decided to say hi.

By the time we were done walking through the vines, the sun was setting.

More importantly the picture above will serve as the back-cover to Reaching for the Sky.

Before we knew it, it was cellar time!

Most of Cristiano's vinifications are in stainless steel.

Here's the top-of-bottle waxing station in all its exciting glory.

And of course, here are the beautiful amphoras that produce the unique and extremely limited wines that instantly sell out as soon as we get them.

Interestingly, Cristiano does 3 passes on average each harvest, and has no idea what wines he will make until the last minute.

"I need to bring in the the new material (grapes) first to decide what I want to do with it."

His reasoning is that having a set game plan every year would standardize the process and be pointless.

We got to taste 2013 Primitivo Rose, 13 Susumaniello, 13 Primitivo, Lamie della Vina 12, and Antello Antelo delle Murge 10 from barrel. Everything was ON POINT: Cristiano's wines have this transcendent quality, where you forget you're drinking wine from Puglia or Italy. They are infinitely complex yet incredibly drinkable, and I'll let Cristiano have the final word on what really matters:

"Es fondamentale que GLOU GLOU GLOU!"

<![CDATA[Clemens Busch Interview!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/7/253/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/7/253/ Mon, 07 Apr 2014 23:51:14 GMT

"By 1976 I had already stopped using herbicides, and this was the first step towards organic production. It was a simple observation on my part: "Why can't we live with the herbs?" It just felt completely normal to respect this, and after 3 or 4 years, I started to notice more and more humus in the vineyards, which encouraged me to not use fertilizers."

The legendary Clemens Busch drops all types of knowledge in his interview.

GO READ IT!!!!!!]]>
<![CDATA[New Visit: Natalino Del Prete in San Donaci!]]> http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/3/252/ http://louisdressner.com/date/2014/4/3/252/ Thu, 03 Apr 2014 20:00:16 GMT

Having never been to Puglia, I'd always visualized the landscapes to be dry and barren, like Mad Max minus the evil guys with dyed red mohawks shooting at you with bows from a motorcycle. And though our Perrini visit kind of fed into my dystopian post-punk fantasy, our stop at Natalino Del Prete's estate threw me off completely. The last thing I was expecting was lush, green scenery, and Natalino's vines are amongst some of the most beautiful I've had the pleasure of experiencing.

Just kidding. Those vines Natalino's neighbor who bombards them with herbicide year round. Directly across the street though, you get this:





Ok, you get the idea...

This first vineyard we visited consists of 2 hectares of Primitivo planted in massale 30 years ago by Natalino, as well as some 50+ Negroamaro.

Factoid: did you know Primitivo has very thin skins?

"When you don't use chemicals, it keeps the grapes tender."

Natalino was planning to start pruning a few weeks after our visit, followed by an annual plowing. The vines are trained in "half-gobelet", which makes for low yields. The soils are clay.

Before checking out more vines, we did a quick stop to a field of Natalino's olive trees.

A short drive then landed us in the Torre Nova vineyard.


This 3 ha lieu-dit produces a bottling under the same name, and is planted in Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera. The soils consist of clay with rocky pebbles. Next to the older vines, Natalino recently replanted some Malvasia Nera in massale.

"Without fertilizing the soil, they will grow very slowly."

The end-game is for the vines to dig their roots deeper into the ground to feed themselves from the minerals of the subsoil, in turn leading to a greater concentration and minerality in the grapes. Not fertilizing means waiting a minimum of 3 vintages before these young vines start producing, but for Natalino it's totally worth the wait.

We ended our visit in the cellar to taste the 2013's.

The cellar used to belong to one of the area's biggest négociants, and it's huge. Natalino's total production takes up about a 20th of the space.

"All the big négociants around me keep claiming: "We have the best wine!". And then they close."

Besides those beautiful old-school concrete tanks, a lot of wine ferments and ages in these underground vats.

Natalino has so much room in his cellar that he bottles to order. So the later on in the vintage you're drinking the wine, the longer it has aged in concrete

The 2013's are stunning, and I know it sounds schnooky saying this, but this will be a blockbuster vintage for Puglia. I particularly liked the Torre Nova, a co-ferment of the the Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera mentioned above.

After tasting in the cellar, we went upstairs to have a banging lunch prepared by Natalino's wife Anne. It was a good chance to re-taste the 2012's, but my favorite part of the meal was having thirds of the best Eggplant Parmigiana ever. I didn't realize, but the red-sauce cooking that has become a staple of Italian-American cuisine mainly originates from the south of Italy. While I stuffed my face with more eggplant, Anne inadvertently answered something I'd always wondered about but had never actually looked up: why is is called "Parmigiana" when the cheese used is mozzarella?

Well, as it turns out, Eggplant Parmigiana originates from Emilia-Romagna, where parmesan is from. And since everyone loves melted cheese on things, the dish was adopted by other regions, who then adapted it to their local production. Since Puglia is the home of mozzarella, this became the go-to cheese to use, and this is the version that made it stateside.

Louis/Dressner Blog: You don't only learn things about wine, but also the origins of delicious dishesu

At the end of the meal, Anne busted out these Moscato grapes infused in really, really strong booze.

I had one and was semi-wasted for a few hours. Thankfully, it wasn't my turn to drive.]]>