BlackBerry Chronicles: Friday Night Lights

This was my view for most of the night this past Friday.

Lights, cameras and Bizarre Foods action!

I was the sommelier for a one night dinner created by Andrew Zimmern. He was hopping around town shooting all over LA last week with the finale being a 5 course spread at Royal/T. All proceeds went to charity and some of LA’s best chefs were in the kitchen lending a helping hand- Michael Voltaggio, Lee Hefter of Spago and Ari Rosenson of CUT (my Wolfgang Puck homies from back in the day!), among others.

SO. The menu…

The menu was all about introducing the average diner to sea creatures and parts of animals they might not be accustomed to. There was uni, geoduck, pig-face bacon, pig’s blood, lamb and cow tongue, pig intestine among other things. What wine to pair with such fare? How about wines the average drinker might not have ever tried or would think to try; a 12 year old rosé, a sans soufre red blend from a whacky Spaniard, a grape called pignoletto, a pink pet nat topped with a crown cap…

Jill and I came up with the following, in order of course pairings:

2009 La Grange Tiphaine “Rosa Rosé Rosam” // 2009 Tedeschi Spungola Bellaria Pignoletto

2000 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rosado // 2010 Mendall “Poc a Poc” // De Bartoli 10 yr Marsala

Everybody loved everything! Warren Sapp, even.

PS- Pardon the truly shitty photos. But guess what? This is the last of the BlackBerry Chronicles. Why? Cause momma got an iPhone. Prepare yourself for Instagram Tales! Memoirs of an iPhone? I’ll figure something out.

Laureano & The Tale of Vegetal Water

The most interesting visit of the trip to Spain was without a doubt the one to see Laureano Serres in El Pinell de Brai, tucked away just south of Priorat wine country in Tarragona. Laureano is one unique dude, truly one of a kind. And so are his wines.

So, we arrived in El Pinell (I always think it a miracle that we find literally anything EVER while traveling.) We found his cellar door and soon after hopped in his car with his amazingly sweet dog Brisca and headed out to see the vineyards…and the day of quotable quotes began!

We walked, we talked, we touched dirt. We talked vegetal water.

Quote: Wine in its purest form is “vegetal water” or at least it should be, he said. If you spray your vineyards with herbicides/pesticides or add commercial yeasts or SO2 to your wine, the pure essence of the grape’s liquid/the soil/the sun becomes compromised. This is when vegetal water becomes soup.

There’s water and then there’s soup. I think I get it.

We headed back to his tiny cellar, which is beneath his home, and settled into the office where a few dozen wines awaited us. His wife brought down some plates of jamon, the most amazing jamon+ queso biscuits and pa amb tomàquet (the classic Catalan bread and tomato snack). His kids played with Brisca and swept up all the peanut shells she had been chewing on. There were piles of boxes, empty wine bottles you could tell he loved or at least wanted to remember, an old fan…

Outside the office were some small tanks, a few old barrels and 3 amphorae, which he started using in 2010.

The label Mendall is named after his mother’s childhood home. We tasted 2007 thru 2011 of the “Terme di Guiu”, which is 100% macabeu. In general- think a bit of skin contact, crunchy texture, spice, salinity and gentle oxidation. Basically, it should be the national white wine of Spain if we’re talking pairing abilities with the food.

As we continued to taste, I started to feel like all of these wines before us were some kind of little miracle. This tiny cellar, this one man, no added sulfites…and here they were and they were lovely. His white wines are really where it’s at; they’re unique but still so very Spanish.

We tasted. And tasted. The 2010 and 2011 “Abeurador” (macabeu), 2005 “BB Escollades del 5 (garnaxta blanca or barnatxa blanca/BB in local dialect), 2005 Miau- Macamiau del 5 (macabeu). Then we got into the reds. We tasted every single one from the 2011 harvest. Some whole cluster, some foot stomped, usually a short maceration period and still very young, fresh and vibrant. We then ventured into some 2010’s- “Espartel BP”(local garnatxa clone), “Rock ‘n Roll” (blend of all his reds), “Cabeilles” (10 month barrel aged carignan and cabernet).

All the while, Christina and I spit in our little bucket as Laureano certainly never spit out anything. He continued to tell us funny stories, get poetic about the importance of vegetal water…and sometimes get off track. One moment he stopped for more than a few beats and apologized, “I got involved with this wine.”

And thus is born my official new way of referring to intoxication.

To finish, or so we thought, we tasted “BRUTAL!!!” Complete with a scythe-wielding sulfite-killing Grim Reaper. This was the product of all the red wine that ended up having flaws, like some major flaws. Brett, VA, etc. They all came out to live it up at one big we don’t give a fuck party. And they were proud.

Quote: “My brutal is the most brutal of all brutals.” (Brutal pronounced “brew-tall”, of course.) Can’t say that I’d want to sit down and tuck into a glass of this wine, but I definitely admire his sense of humor.

This back label alone made me fall in love with this man, as if I hadn’t already.

When all was said and done, we had gone through about 2 dozen wines, a handful of which weren’t even his. He started pulling down any bottle that looked fun and enjoyable from his myriad of shelves and stacks. I mentioned my fondness for Olivier Lemasson’s Les Vins Contés wines. Well, wouldn’t ya know! He had some of his “Gama Sutra.” OK- let’s try that too!

Speaking of kick ass labels…how clever is that? I can’t even handle it.

This wine, Laureano said, was soup. “Very good soup, but soup.” Olivier adds very small amounts of sulfites at bottling. We enjoyed it nonetheless, but, I don’t think that Laureano actually swallowed this wine. He said he only drinks vegetal water- completely natural wines.

Did we want to pop open some half bottles of 2003 and 2004 Els Jelepins? All right then, let’s try those too. The night could have gone on like this for, I’m sure, a few more hours. But, we had a 2 hour drive back to our house still ahead of us.

And Laureano had some very good vegetal water to look after.

Riding in Cars with Winemakers

This is something I do often on trips like these and I thought I’d give you a glimpse from my point of view. We had a full day of visits (and driving and eating and drinking) yesterday- Clos Mogodor, Terroir al Limit and then Laureano Serres.

Rene Barbier of Clos Mogador in Gratallops.

Hello there Christina!

Laureano Serres of Laureano Serres Montagut/Mendall in El Pinell de Brai.

Little sweet Brisca! Christina and I fell in love with that dog! She loved running through the vineyards. And eating almonds.

Much more to come! Headed to Raventos and Els Jelepins later today and then off to Rioja tomorrow.