Loire & More

The Chateau in Angers (in warmer times)

I’ve been swamped with work since I got back from France in late February, so this post is a tad late.  Apologies, as usual, and all that.  In any case, the rest of the trip went smashingly well.  Aside from a super nasty bug that sidelined me for most of the Loire shows (no Dive this year, sniff sniff), my time in France was super productive (and delicious!).

While in Angers (a beautiful city, I might add), I met up with Jean-Pascal Aubron, our Muscadet producer, who says Bonjour!, as well as Pascal Pibaleau (he was just everywhere this year).  I retasted Pascal’s INSANELY good 2012 Gamay, from vines planted in 1964, which underwent 18 days of carbonic maceration (he likes to take things low and slow, looking for depth and quality, not a quicky wham bam thank you Ma’am).  Guess what, Gamay’s arriving in late June/early July, so get your palates ready!

Catherine & Didier Tripoz getting all impish

There were some amazingly good meals, some great wines as usual, and visits to producers in Champange and Burgundy (sadly, nothing new from the Cotes de Nuits to report yet, but I keep trying!).  While in Burgundy, I did manage to revisit Catherine & Didier Tripoz, who make our lovely Macon Charnay Clos des Tournons.  The 9 ha walled-in plot is composed of 12 parcels of varying ages, and boy did we get geeky: we tasted each one and it was fascinating to see what they did even when handled in the same manner.  Didier hand-picks each parcel and vinifies each separately since they’re differing ages.  Each one offers something unique, so Didier assembles them only once they’ve done their own fermentations (in steel and cement tanks – no oak here!).

After a short relaxing stay in Paris, it was back to NYC and back to the grind (or I guess the press in this case).  Our business has exploded in the past 24 months, so it was time to tend to things.  I’d have much preferred staying in the vineyards of Europe, but alas someone has to import and sell them here.  And that someone is me (well, I’m one of the someones doing it, but you get the idea). But I still LOVE this job, even if it’s super difficult somedays.

Things have gotten crazy.  As of June 2013 we’re in 11 states, and pushing hard to grow.  New Orleans has been one of our biggest surprises and biggest markets, we’re working with an amazingly awesome team call Uncorked.  Great people, great food, great fun every time I’ve been down there.  Vermont is also turning into a nice change of pace, and Maine has begun picking up.  It’s been a tough slog, there’s a lot of competition (especially in NY, it seems like a new importer/distributor is popping up every day – I know of some stores dealing with 65 wholesalers), but the US is thirsty for more.

Which brings me to the next news: we’ve picked up some great new producers, so look for some new labels in Fall.  One of them is a small Biodynamic producer from the Gaillac region of Southwest France, northeast of Toulouse.  You’ll meet Nicolas Lebrun doing some crazy work in his fields, working with indigenous grapes like Duras, Braucol (Fer Servadou), Loin de l’Oeil (white) and Prunelart.  The wines are big and dark and velvety but beautifully balanced with sparkling minerality and long long finishes.  I had a bottle of his basic Gourmand Sec Rouge (Duras, Braucol) that took 7 days before it faded.  This stuff ROCKS.

Look for this label in Fall, coming to a store near you (hopefully!)

Best of all, I am pretty sure this will retail around $16-17, and will be perfect for the cooler weather or BBQs in summer 2014.  I am so excited about his wines it’s not even funny.  And I’m getting just as excited for our other new wine, as we’re branching out from France and Spain to… Italy!  Ciao Italia!  We found a lovely small farmer Organic Chianti, which again should retail under $20.  More details to come, but we keep looking for new small Organic or Biodynamic producers to import and get to a store near you.

Frankly I haven’t been this energized in a while, and planning for Fall and the future is taking up all my time.  If you can’t tell, I am really jazzed for what’s to come.  Heck, we even hired a COO (granted, I’m cheating a tad, it’s my wife, but she is quite the slave driver), as well as a part-time salesperson for the NY market.  AND we’re talking to another salesperson.  I guess it’s a testament to the quality of our wines that folks are coming to me and asking to rep our wines.

Which is why I’ve let this blog slide a bit, shamefully.  Once again, I apologize.  Next time you see me, feel free to berate me and if I have an open bottle I’ll pour you an extra-large glass of wine.  I promise to do to a better job at this.  Plus I forgot how much I loved writing, though there’s no telling if you enjoy reading this.

In any case, more to come, soon…

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