Greetings everyone! It's already been 10 days since my return from Italy, and the trip is still fresh in my mind. Ian Becker, Shawn Mead and Lauren Feldman have given me access to their pictures of the trip, so I'm glad to say these recaps will be a little more colorful than those covering our recent trip to France. Let's begin!
Here at Louis/Dressner, we're dedicated to getting as much bang for our buck as we can from these trips, so the plan was to visit Loris Follador of Casa Coste Piane approximately five hours after landing in Venice. So after a 9 hour flight, we grabbed the rental cars and it was a two hour drive to the lovely town of Conegliano. After an hour nap, it was time to drive to the famous village of Valdobbiadene!
I was excited, because if there's one thing I drank the most in 2011 (and the first third of 2012), it's Coste Piane. It never fails me, and I drink it almost every opportunity I get. It's gotten so bad that I was recently pulled aside by our Self Consumption Director Eddie Wrinkerman (S.C.D), who told me that I needed to leave some for the customers.
The visit began with Loris heartily greeting us, then almost immediately sitting us down in his dining room to taste Prosecco and eat lunch.
Food was not part of the plan, and everyone had just eaten in the anticipation of the visit. Well, everyone except me, who had napped instead (cause I'm smart). So after a 2010 bottle for the aperitif, a true feast began, which started off with this pan seared salami on a bed of local Friar's Beard.
It was delicious. Another fun thing was the opportunity to try Loris' new Brichet cuvée.
Brichet is a single vineyard of 50+ year old vines just outside of the village. Loris rents them from an old guy who recently retired, and they've been worked organically for years. The soils are composed of sandy limestone with red earth. Brichet is just as easy to drink as the base cuvée, but a little more structured, with pronounced minerality.
Having the group sit down for a meal gave Loris the opportunity to give us some insight on the estate. Coste Piane was founded by his grandfather; in those days, all sparkling wine from the village was made completely dry, with a méthode traditionelle secondary fermentation in bottle. But at some point in Loris' lifetime, two major changes occured: people began to develop a taste for a much sweeter style of Prosecco, and cave cooperatives began dominating local production. Today, almost all Prosecco is chaptalized and carbonated in the chermat method.
By the time Loris took over the estate in the late 70's, things were taking a turn for the worst. Since most vigniaoli were selling their grapes to a coop, the more they had to sell the better, which led many to aim for the highest yields possible (Loris then explained that Prosecco vines are already incredibly high yielding, and that you really need to act responsibly if you want the juice to retain any complexity). And with the dominance of chemical agricultural practices that began post-war (which became the norm in the region in the late 70s early 80s), chemical fertilizers were incredibly popular to beef up yields. But Loris was unfazed: he's always worked the vineyards organically and made the wine naturally. When he started, only 3 producers in Valdobbiadene worked traditionally. Now there are about 20, which makes him happy.
After lunch it was time to check out the vines.
This is what the 60 year old vines look like:
We also checked out some incredibly beautiful 120 year old vines that are apparently still very productive:
While most have shifted to intensive monoculture, Loris continues to let grass, wild flowers and various root vegetables grow free. Free roaming chickens and ducks hang out in the vineyard.
Before swinging by the cellar to taste the 2011's, Loris had to play with his 3 month old puppy.
He was the softest dog I've ever petted in my life, and was adorably cute. The only scary thing was that he was teething and has these uber-sharp vampire dog teeth. He was chewing on everything he could (mostly Kevin's shoe and Ian's pant leg).
In the cellar, we got to taste the 2011's. As always, the wine is direct pressed, then racked to stainless steel and cold fermented until completely dry. The wine ferments in about 12 days then settles in tank for 4 months. A must (which is usually purchased) is then added to the wine and bottled immediately, where it referents in bottle. We tasted the 2011 before pre-must, and the wine was bright, intensely acidic and mineral, qualities that definitely carry over into the final product. Loris always bottles the wine right after Easter (so just a few days ago! Yay!), so that magic re-fermentation should be happening as we speak. We ended our visit by drinking two bottles of 2005 to see how the wine ages. It ages well.
Tune in for Part 2 of Perusing Prosecco, when we swing by Costadila!
"As far as indigenous yeasts, it was obvious. I'd seen it function all over the world and knew it wasn't a risk as long as the juice was pure. If the grapes are clean, if they are well selected at harvest, you get much more substance. Fermentations are longer and harder to execute, but that's the price to pay for complexity."
New interview up from Laurent "the Alsacian Sensation" Barth. Learn about his globe trotting winemaking adventures, taking the estate back from the cave cooperative and much more on his profile.
Back in January we did a tour of the South, and one of the stops was Atlanta, Georgia. After a long day of touring and eating Chick-Fil-A with Arianna Occhipinti, Luca Roagna and Sebastiano De Bartoli, our last stop was Le Caveau. This is really the first retailer in Atlanta to focus exclusively on small production, independently bottled wines of terroir, the vast majority of which are the result of native yeasts, hand harvesting, low yields, and organic or biodynamic farming. For jaded New Yorkers and San Franciscans this might seem like no big deal, but we have to remember that it's a big country out there and even five years ago a place like this might not have been able to open in a city like Atlanta. I like Eric and I like Le Caveau, so I did a little email interview with him to find out what the shop is all about.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you got into wine and your inspiration for opening the wine shop.
My name is Eric Brown, owner of Le Caveau Fine Wines in Atlanta, Georgia. I started collecting wine about 13 years ago shortly after a brief stint working at a new restaurant in Atlanta and that quickly grew into an obsession with wine. My wife and I started traveling to different wine regions all over the world and meeting with small, grower-producers in each region to try to get a feel for what made their terroir so special. Shortly after returning from France in the summer of 2010, my wife Carrie and I decided to open a retail shop in a old warehouse that had been renovated and subdivided in Chamblee (an up and coming area in North Atlanta) near our neighborhood. I had been working in technology as a computer engineer for a large international company, and was inspired when a friend left a similar career behind to go out west to pursue his dream of making wine… and my wife said I really needed to do something healthy with my obsession.
Tell us about Le Caveau. How long has it been open, what kind of wines do you sell, what kind of events do you do etc...
Le Caveau has been open since the end of May, 2011. Our specialty is Old World, terroir driven wines with a focus on Natural/Organic/Biodynamic producers from all over the world. Tasting and education are very important to us so we host tastings in the shop most Saturday afternoons, where we discuss all aspects of the wines we're showing with respect to terroir, winemaking, and historical perspective. We also host wine dinners in the shop where we bring in different Chefs from all over the city to pair food with our wines and we host dinners at restaurants around town as well.
How do you feel about the state of real/natural/terroir/whatever you want to call it in Atlanta and Georgia?
I think the farm to table/slow food movement in the restaurants here in Atlanta set the stage for Natural/Biodynamic/Organic wines in this market. Our customers really want to know where the wines they are drinking come from, so when we talk about non-interventionist winemaking, they appreciate how much care is taken with these wines. While the idea of natural wines might still be foreign to a lot of consumers in Atlanta, I feel like people have been really open to exploring them with us and after tasting the purity of the wines, really understand why these wines are ultimate expression of terroir.
What are you particularly into drinking these days?
For reds I have been drinking Sagrantino di Montefalco from Umbria, Lagrein and Teroldego from Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Poulsard and Trousseau along with the whites from the Jura. I am also infatuated with Cour-Cheverny and Savennières at the moment.
Le Caveau Fine Wines
5256 Peachtree Road Suite 102
Atlanta, GA 30341
Hours: Tues - Sat. 11am -8pm
Time constraints have made it really tough to write posts on our current trip in Italy, but the good news is that when they actually are up there will be pictures of the visits. In the meantime, I've added my recent interview with the lovely Chiara Vigo (who we visit today) to tide you over! Check it out on the Fattorie Romeo del Castello profile.
We're in Italy. I'm going to write about it. Stay tuned for part 1: Pressure in Prosecco.
"I wanted to see things through with my work in the vines: when you work with a cave, you give them the grapes and they make the wine however they see fit. I wanted to know what my soils were truly capable of. It's funny because the grapes they paid me the most for at the cave ended up being the grapes I like with the least!"
Check out our interview with one of the Languedoc's finest (and definite contender for best mustache/facial hair) over at the Mas des Chimères profile.
If you go to louisdressner.com on your mobile device, you will now automatically be directed to our mobile site. Enjoy!
Back in January we did a tour of the South with Jean Paul Brun, Eric Texier, Arianna Occhipinti, Luca Roagna and Sebastiano De Bartoli. One of the biggest highlights was the tasting event at Green Goddess. Small groups started at Jean Paul's table, then navigated their way through the twists and turns of the tiny restaurant's crazy layout, visiting growers one by one. Throughout the tasting, the wait staff was offering up mini versions of chef Chris DeBarr's signature dishes, and when it was all over everyone got a full plate of suckling pig and collard greens (with a complimentary glass of Terres Dorées of course). I have to tip my hat to these guys because it was just a straight up party!
Chris is the owner, chef and wine buyer for the Green Goddess. One look at the menu and you know you're in for something special. The list is massive (keep scrolling it never ends): the restaurant barely seats 25 people and there are over two hundred wines! The focus is almost exclusively on small production, independent growers who work well. But the list is unique for more than its sheer size, with categories like "Killing me Softly" and "Wine Dungeon Treasures", as well as Chris' incredible notes for each wine, which actually manage to objectively teach you about the bottle you're drinking.
I like Chris and I like the Green Goddess, so I decided to interview him about the restaurant. The world needs more Chris DeBarrs. So many quotables...
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm a self-taught chef, Southern boy, storytellin' poet, and funky New Orleans has been home for nearly 20 years. I love my city so much, to the point that, as with wine, it's is the psychic terroir of my life. Everything begins & ends with New Orleans with me, so even though I am an adventurous, globe-trotting, and thirsty-to-learn person, I come at life with strong Nola filters. Which means I like to bring da party with me, have a good time, share what's in my heart & learn from my friends how they live & dream. Essentially, I am sympathetic with all committed terroir-istes who strongly represent their beautiful home on Earth as a singular experience, a love affair with the holy ground of terroir.
The federal levee failures in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina shook us all up. I lived through it my way, and was back cooking in New Orleans at The Delachaise before Halloween, 2005 (although I did take off that Halloween for a beautiful, wrenching, hard-won first little victory in a hard road back). My life since then has been epic, like some deranged soap opera, but I think my food is getting better and I love having my utterly awesome krewe at Green Goddess. They are young, hungry to excel, and we love bringing our swagger to the table!
Tell us a little bit about Green Goddess. The restaurant's history, its unique layout, the food you make,etc...
We have been here 3 years now. I signed the lease right around Mardi Gras, we opened a couple weeks after Jazzfest on May 19, 2009, heading into the teeth of a long, hot Nola summer and that year's fierce recession. At first, we didn't even have our liquor license until July...right before Tales of the Cocktail...and we never looked back!
The place is super dinky, all-electric kitchen that curls around a stairwell and elevator system for the apartments above. We are tiny, with barely 24 seats inside, but in good weather down here we use the enclosed sidewalk, which is a pedestrian-only alley where we live at 307 Exchange Place, New Orleans, zip: 70130. Basically, I have seen taco trucks with better kitchens than us, but we are bomb ass scientists who aim to destroy the perceptions of our severe kitchen limitations with relentless precision.
So far, it's working out pretty swell.
I have never been a fan of categorizing my food. I don't even like putting appetizers or main courses on my menu. It's all my cuisine, and we just want each plate to be both as focused and as bombastically delicious as can be. If pressed, or when feeling frisky, I will say I make psychedelic soul food with comfort in mind. We come from lots of global angles, but with a Crescent City flair.
We joke around a lot that we are pirates at Green Goddess. We are a real tight krewe, and we like to push ourselves to daring acts to make the food, the cocktails, and to support the wines we keep around. Philosophically speaking, being a pirate/chef means I like to fence the culinary contraband of pleasure & exotic ingredients to my guests. It amuses me that as one of the smallest restaurants, we nevertheless insist on mind-blowing, rare ingredients & pull it off.
For a tiny restaurant, you have a HUGE (and great) wine list. Can you explain your decision to feature so many wines from all over the world?
It's a love affair. I strongly believe that great food & great wine are, essentially, the meaning of life. But life has an amazing diversity, right? We are driven by the idea of site specific, artisanal, heritage ingredients & wines. We love defending unusual grapes that could be on the edge of extinction, or, as with the red grape Refosco, may only now be entering the global stage. I am so lucky to have enjoyed Giorgio Clai's "Crni" Refosco from Istria, Croatia from Louis/Dressner as my first Refosco! That is my "stranded on a desert isle" wine, and given my druthers and enough Clai Refosco, don't be in a hurry to find me....
We only buy wines we are passionate about, and luckily for all y'all, I am a man of gargantuan appetites!
From a business point of view, our commitment to this big list of natural winemakers shows an investment to the natural world, to celebrate our fellow band of small farms, small businesses, intimate connections to the world at large one handshake at a time. Our list is a bet that a greener future is the only way out to find sustainability and balance, but always the obvious fact remains: we buy great wines that go magically well with our food. Then with your palate as a guest, we dig trying to present that perfect wine for your tastes & experiences that pushes you forward in your love affair with wine!
For me, taking it next level is continued storytelling about wine in an ongoing video diary to discuss our food & our vast list of wines. I can see our wine encounters at initial tasting as a useful tool sometimes, but I really want to delve more into scripted territory based on the already notorious way I have written the wine list. For those who haven't heard my voice in the little asides, tales, & intrepid sleuthing on display in the 3 or 4 line prose haiku I write about every single wine on our epic list, check it out on the pdf from our website:
I have been one writing little son-of-a-gun, but we are working on some symbols and visual puns & memory aids that convey info hierographically. A few people remember my visual "sushi" cheese list from my Delachaise years, which had funny symbols so drunk people at a noisy bar could figure out what cheeses they wanted without reading, and then when I brought the platter out, I'd go over each cheese's salient qualities. I want to do something similar for our wine list, like incorporating my infamous sliding scale for white wines. I always say people usually will opt for "lean & crispy" whites, which is the low 1-4 side of the scale. I don't really believe that, as people enjoy richer whites which I call "Freddie Mercury's Fat-Bottomed Girls" and include varietals like Tocai Friulano, most Malvasia variations, Viognier, Gewürz, Grillo, Godello or Pinot Blanc, etc. I love the plush, dense aromatics of those big whites and the way they caress food, and so disarming people by getting a laugh from "Fat-Bottomed Girls" often results in piqued curiosity and a new wine, wherever you are leaning on the Freddie Mercury scale.
In the end, the vibe of New Orleans is one of opulence, carefully selected decadence, and a sense that nothing is forbidden. Our big ol' list sets Green Goddess apart as warriors for the truly serious pleasures of the table, and it elevates the perception of our our food from casual alfresco cafe to a dining destination by being able "to show & prove" that we can get all this wine & run our crazy little restaurant successfully.
You are a chef so obviously you love food, and you have a great wine list so you obviously love wine. This seems like a natural combination, but it always suprises me just how many chefs and restaurant owners don't care about wine at all. Can you explain why YOU care, and if you have any insight as to why some don't? Can a restaurant be great without great wine?
It depends on the joint. I'm a catholic drinker, meaning I can get behind great beers or hand-crafted cocktails on any night depending on the vibe, the company I'm keeping, or where & what we're eating. I don't usually drink much at lunch, unless it's a sprawling New Orleans party that starts early, and while I could think about great wines I might like with my favorite soul food, Vietnamese fare, great Chinese dishes, or old school poor boy, I'm not that dedicated to miss it when it's not there. Obviously, those meals are still GREAT.
One thing I think wine appreciation does for a chef is to bring a sense of balance to your cuisine. It's the interplay of contrasting tastes that give a dish complexity, and drinking wine with your own food will show you that dance of contrasts. A flabby, one note, or too aggressively seasoned dish will wear out its welcome with a great wine; the quiet conversation that wine & food always have going on between the plate and the glass raised to the lips will waver & falter if the food isn't pitched upon balanced flavors that let the Chef's ingredients shine. Great wine just doesn't lie, so when a chef hits a stride having great wine is the cook's best friend because when that dance of contrasts & balanced flavors gets going, everybody relaxes and the real pleasures of the table show up to let the good times roll.
Finally, as I said above in my paean to New Orleans and the links I feel with the terroir behind my beautiful city, there really isn't anything more sacred than caring for your special place on Earth, and to dig deep in the dirt to protect old vines has to be among the most meaningful enterprises we do as humans. Wine is a holy thing-- period! I think some people get so caught up in the game of profits, of restaurant real estate, of thinking about selling at the correct margins, that they lose that holy connection, or maybe they just haven't experienced truly great wine when it wasn't a commodity to be bought & sold.
I cannot imagine a great meal at Green Goddess without great wine but, unfortunately, that happens every night. I'm really only disappointed with water drinkers, but as long as you're enjoying the meal, I'm cool. I just hope that as people see what our list is now, which currently might seem like an audacious statement, they realize our pride & pleasure to be serious wine sleuths who adore unique, ballin', site specific wines made by real artists who are intimately tied to the Earth as good stewards for greatness. And someday soon, our list of natural treasures might become just a nice high standard for a basic, green, thoughtful wine list. After all, if I can get these wines, so can you. Unless you live in Pennsylvania or some other sad wine police state with stupid laws!
How do you feel about the state of real/natural/terroir/whatever the hell you want to call it wines in New Orleans?
It's probably behind the curve nationally, but because the city of New Orleans has such a strong sense of authenticity that we won't ever fall all over ourselves to be politically correct to market these wines as "organic" & "natural" as some righteous act. We like to drink a lot in New Orleans, so the wines have to compete somewhat in pricing, but the fact that so many of these winemakers do, in fact, make the best juice on the Planet will eventually bring New Orleanians to their knees. Repeated exposure to greatness always wins people over to the real thang.
What have you been drinking these days?
Actually I have been on a massive Beaujolais kick! As a chef, Beaujolais s such a friendly wine to share at the table with all kinds of food, and I find that my friends and guests @GG are truly shocked by the profound pleasures that great Beaujolais brings. For me, when we found some epic half bottles of 2001 Domaine du Granit Moulin-a-Vent, it ignited a burning flame for greatness from Beaujolais. We love young Damien Coquelet & revere the tasty diversity of wines from Jean-Paul Brun. I have some older Stephane Aviron, especially my favorite Morgon Côtes du Py & even stashed some Patrick Brunet Fleurie in NYC for an upcoming trip, from his old 1930 vines in the micro-terroir in Fleurie known as "Champagne." I love seeing the revival of beautiful Beaujolais; it warms the cockles of my proletariat heart. It's greater than you think, always affordable, and gives such pretty depth of flavor in any and all situations.
I also have been digging exotic bubbly, whether Nerello Mascalese from Mt. Etna in Sicily, bombastic Hungarian sparkling from Kiralyudvar (owned by Domaine Huet), Zweigelt Rosé from Austria, or Sparkling Moschofilero from Greece, exotic bubbly is so exciting & fun! I am actually waiting impatiently for the arrival of Jean-Paul Brun's terrific sparkling Beaujolais from you guys, so I can come full circle & enjoy both my obsessions in the same bottle! Yes...
The Green Goddess
307 Exchange Place
New Orleans, LA
Open for Lunch & Brunch every day, except Tuesday,from 11am – 3:30pm. No Lunch Service on Tuesday. Dinner is only on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday: 6:00pm – 11pm. Last Dinner Seating at 11pm. We won't give you the stinkeye if you come at 11pm. Honest!
"That's what great about Gamay. You can make a very fruity wine, but you can also make something structured without it being being too opulent or high in alcohol. It's always accessible, without ever being excessive."
More Beaujolais interviews! Dig in on the Domaine Desvignes profile.
"...in Roillette, our soils are 25% clay (as opposed to the rest of the A.O.C which is all granite). This clay is only found in a 50 hectare radius, and result is a more structured wine, somewhere between a "typical" Fleurie and a Moulin a Vent."
Find out who Roillette was and what the hell Greffe du Marquis means over on the Clos de la Roillette profile.