Here today, Morgon Tomorrow

by Anthony Lynch


An expedition to the Beaujolais last summer found the KLWM gang in fine form. Not only were the vignerons excited about the grand potential of the upcoming 2015 harvest, but also they reveled in the outcome of their 2014s, a vintage that began with some question marks but has finally yielded one delicious answer. Many among them described the resulting wines as très Beaujolais: that is, dominated by buoyant aromas of bright fruit, agile on the palate, and eminently drinkable. This month we feature three new arrivals from two of Morgon’s most reputable producers—be sure to satisfy your deepest Beaujolais desires before we are all sold out.


P’tit Max, as he is known, works some of Morgon’s highest-altitude vineyards, so much so that he harvests almost two weeks later than the average for the appellation. The word ethereal always comes to mind when tasting his wines, perhaps due to the cool microclimate that ensures lifting acidity year after year. He is also blessed with some very old vines, many of which are more than 120 years old. This age may explain the wine’s impressive structure, a granite constitution that provides a foundation for all the lively fruit mentioned above. It finishes with a mouthful of spices and a touch of funk—the kind that will make you want to get up and dance like James Brown.

$33.00 per bottle $356.40 per case

2014 MORGON • M. & C. LAPIERRE >

Mathieu Lapierre’s Morgon is just in! Beaujolais addicts around the country can breathe a collective sigh of relief—just call the store today to get your fix. Each vial contains a healthy dose of the finest fermented Gamay from the decomposed granite soils of Morgon. Our staff found the 2014 especially slippery, and by that I mean it has a tendency to slide right down your gullet no matter how hard you try to stop it. Silky and perfumed, with no rough edges, this is dangerously swallowable.

$34.00 per bottle $367.20 per case

2014 MORGON “marcel LAPIERRE”
m. & C. lapierre >

From vines over one hundred years old on Morgon’s splendid Côte du Py, this cuvée spéciale reinforces everything we love about Beaujolais while simultaneously shattering all the usual preconceptions about Gamay. The texture is pure velvet, to the point that you may forget about swallowing, it feels so good to swish it around over your palate. There is substance, flesh, serious density yet it is delivered with total finesse, seductiveness, even sexiness. While some might argue the price is high for a simple Gamay, I would counter that it is just right for a world-class wine that will entice and inspire for many years to come.

$48.00 per bottle $518.40 per case

December Newsletter: Values of the Month, White Burgundy

The December Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…


selected by kermit lynch

by Dixon Brooke

We’ve got two Kermit Lynch custom selections here, an old friend and a new face. We are excited about having a white selection out of Italy, even more so since it is from an area we rarely travel—the Marche region along the Adriatic coast, due east from Tuscany. Whites that deliver this much pleasure and value are elusive.


For those long familiar with our French portfolio, I’ll call this wine the Muscadet of Italy. With its inviting aromatics of yellow fruits, cut grass, and sea breeze, its dark straw yellow robe, and its pleasant roundness coupled with bright acidity, briny salinity, and invigorating finish, this checks all my boxes for well-made, traditional Melon de Bourgogne from the Sèvre et Maine. But it’s not. It is Italian to the core, from a region with a centuries-old tradition of growing the great Verdicchio grape, and makes an excellent apéritif or a tasty and fitting accompaniment to seafood and light pastas. Buon appetito.

$12.00 per bottle $129.60 per case


For decades, this reliable red wine has been one of our company’s calling cards. Maybe it is because Kermit has spent so much of his life in this area of France, steeped in its cultural, culinary, and vinous traditions. This bottling is kind of like an extension of his personality, and certainly of his habits at table. First of all, the drinkability factor. Here medium-bodied is not an insult—au contraire. Then the flavors: think of sun-baked, Provençal hillsides with their fruit trees and olive groves and (of course) vineyards, growing in fertile earth that hides pungent black truffles. Also, understand that we have the same requirements for value wine as for any wine we import: flawless, well-made, with character and sense of place, enjoyable to drink at table, providing pleasure (the deliciousness factor). Kermit has never hesitated to work as hard, or to express as much interest and giddy excitement, for a simple Côtes du Rhône or Beaujolais as he has for the most reputed grand crus. That is the culture he created at KLWM and one that we will never relinquish. We hope you enjoy our little Côtes du Rhône.

$12.95 per bottle $139.86 per case


by Anthony Lynch

2014 CHABLIS • francine et olivier SAVARY >

The Savary family consistently produces Chablis so classic you could look up the flavor profile on Wikipedia. Their 2014 truly tastes how Chablis should taste: an unmistakable product of soil and grape inimitable anywhere else in the world. You’ll appreciate the Savary for its typicité as well as the righteous price point.

$24.00 per bottle $259.20 per case


The Roberts are onto something very special in the rolling hills of the Mâconnais, crafting wines with a level of purity and drive that all Chardonnays should aspire to achieve. The first step is a diligent selection of terroirs: the lieu-dit in question here, La Croix, features rocky schist soils home to eighty-five-year-old vines. In the cellar, the wine ferments slowly with natural yeasts and ages in barrel for almost two years untouched on its fine lees. Finally, it is bottled unfiltered with a minimal sulfur dose. The 2013 edition comes out rich, generous, and toothsome, with layer upon layer of orchard fruit, flowers, and a subtle creaminess. Upheld by an intense, biting, stony sensation, this masterpiece will drink beautifully for many years.

$44.00 per bottle $475.20 per case


How about a grand cru you can dive into right away? This young Chablis will offer loads of pleasure should you choose to indulge tonight. I suggest a bit of aeration or decanting to optimize the experience; then immerse yourself in its unctuous Chardonnay fruit, fleshy, mouth-filling texture, and long finish suggestive of sweet butter and sea salt. It is a rich Chablis with an alluring lavishness, which I expect will slim down to show its mineral bones as the years go by.

$75.00 per bottle $810.00 per case

Visit the Loire

by Kermit Lynch

During my recent visit to the Chinon/Bourgueil region for tastings, I couldn’t help thinking of my readers and clients, and how much you might enjoy the same trip, but as a vacation. You will discover a special charm and dynamic. There is a lot of great old stuff to see—the plentiful historic châteaux, for example—and exciting current developments, like the increasingly organic and biodynamic wine and food scene.

The French call Corsica l’Île de Beauté, and their nickname for the Loire is Le Jardin de France. Every house and property appears to have its own flower and vegetable garden, which seem as thriving as gardens can be. Flowers, fruits, and vegetables galore!

To get there, you can fly to Nantes from London or Paris; rent a car and Bourgueil is only a two-hour drive from the airport by autoroute. Or meander on the small riverside routes for a more scenic, bucolic experience. Stop in Savennières and visit our producer, Château d’Epiré—beautiful village, lovely winery in the château’s rustic chapel, and the broad, shallow Loire River outside your car window.


The Loire’s Château d’Ussé inspired Walt Disney © Kermit Lynch

Or take the TVG from Paris to Tours (only 59 minutes), rent a car, and start your vacation across the river in Vouvray. Then drive west along the Loire on D952 toward Bourgueil and its glorious Cabernet Francs.

Stay at the eighteenth-century Château de Rochecotte in Saint-Patrice. I’ve enjoyed it for a decade or two. It provides about forty acres of garden, park, and forest to explore on foot. The restaurant isn’t bad if you don’t feel like venturing out, but my delicious Vouvray from Domaine Champalou, 2010, was not flattered by an overcooked slice of swordfish. Better dining awaits elsewhere. And anyway, there are no swordfish in the Loire.

I also spent a couple of nights in Restigné at a chambre d’hôte called La Dixmeresse. I generally avoid chambres d’hôtes because of a few experiences with intrusive hosts, but Bruno and Valérie seemed to value their solitude as much as I do mine.

We import wine from four domaines around there: Joguet, Breton, Baudry, and Chanteleuserie. All would be happy to see you. Be sure to check out Domaine Breton’s website for regional lodging and cuisine.

Between Bourgueil and Chinon, you’ll be thrilled to see an enormous nuclear power plant steaming away, ignoring the catastrophe that, the French are assured, will never happen.

Never mind. Chinon has a lovely center of old buildings dominated by the visitable ruins of the Château de Chinon, with its Joan of Arc and Richard the Lionheart connections.

Nearby, on the banks of the Loire, are the two villages Candes-Saint-Martin and Montsoreau. Walk their narrow streets—there aren’t many, but it’s a treat. At the west end of Montsoreau, go up a street or two from the Loire and turn right. A little path leads you alongside the chalk cliff in which habitations still exist. The cliff has doors and windows, plus deep caves where building blocks were excavated centuries ago. The caves come in handy today for aging wines, which can live longer than we do.

Candes has a good restaurant with about eight tables, right below the village’s Catholic church. The grilled cèpes were perfect in front of the fireplace on a cold, foggy night, and I had a heart-poundingly lovable dessert, mainly because the raspberries were the best I’ve ever tasted. Maybe I’m easy to please. The place is called the Auberge de la Route d’Or, and it is reasonably priced.


At Montsoreau near Chinon © Kermit Lynch

Back around 1980, Charles Joguet took me to the Bourgueil vineyards to taste at Domaine Lame-Delisle-Boucard, and I imported their wines for two or three years. I decided to drop in and say hello, and found that the current winemaker, Philippe Boucard, is the grandson of the fellow who was making the wines when I initially visited. Philippe pulled out all of the stops, uncorking his grandfather’s 1976, 1964, 1959, and 1947 Bourgueil reds. The 1964, especially, was a thoroughbred. But the most remarkable for me was the 1949 rosé. Yes! Still full of life, with ravishing aromas and a fleshy texture. We spent some time swallowing that one. It was vinified in an oak foudre and completed its malo, which is how Lucien Peyraud made Domaine Tempier’s Bandol rosé and is still the best recipe.

About fifty yards downhill from Philippe’s frigid limestone cellar, I found a gem of a restaurant and returned several times. Again, only a few tables and you feel like you are in someone’s home, which you are. Vincent and Olivia Simon do it right. Their luscious vegetable garden is outside the window, all organic, as are their chickens, ducks, guinea hens, and rabbits.

In the past, Vincent was a wine importer in Belgium and worked in a three-star restaurant. He and Olivia dreamed of a better day-to-day existence. They grew more and more passionate about changing. Then, to hell with profit, status, stability—they were after a certain quality of life. (We could use a new political party in the U.S. devoted to its citizens’ quality of life.) They are bursting with smiles after buying a farm in Bourgueil, and I was about to burst from overeating—not to mention the wine list, which had too many temptations. Try as I might, I didn’t get to the 1999 Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape at 95 euros. At a restaurant today in Bandol, I saw the 2012 Gros ’Noré at 72 euros, so you see what a giveaway the 1999 Châteauneuf was. Several Raveneau Chablis were available for a song, too.

The eggs en meurette (a red wine sauce with lardons and little onions) were a treat—eggs from their chickens, bien sûr! Their garden salad seemed plucked leaf by leaf from a huge variety of leafy greens. And the rabbit in rosé wine had just the right hint of mustard and was the best rabbit I’ve ever tasted. Another best ever? Vincent’s chocolate cake.

Their restaurant is Vincent Cuisinier de Campagne. I’m sitting here writing this thinking you should go. And who knows, but I’ll bet you become forever clients of our great Chinon and Bourgueil selections—the best there are, and they are here in Berkeley for your quality of life.

orn-1.1Interested in discovering some Loire wines? We have a special sampler this month featuring a diverse selection from across the Loire…


Faithful, open-minded clients have kept us in the Loire Valley wine business for years. As a sort of tribute to those of you who have supported and enjoyed these wines, we’ve assembled a diverse collection from across the Loire. Note the classics: Chinon from Joguet, Savennières from Epiré, Vouvray from Champalou. To dig a little deeper, we’ve included a single-vineyard Muscadet, a Sancerre rouge (made from Pinot Noir), and a rare Pinot Gris bottling from the village of Reuilly. Most of you must already be aware of the pleasure these wines deliver and the bountiful character that the Loire has to offer. Newcomers, you are in for a treat—at a discount!

November Newsletter: Introducing Weingut Carlotto, Toscana

The November Newsletter is now available.

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Highlights from this month’s newsletter…


by Dixon Brooke

The search for the holy grail of Lagrein ended at the humble doorstep of this tiny father-daughter estate in the town of Ora, just south of Bolzano in Italy’s Alto Adige. Ferruccio Carlotto and his daughter Michela farm five hectares of vines in the stony riverbed plains of the valley, surrounded by sheer cliffs. Precise viticulture and vinification along with patient aging in large Slavonian oak casks give birth to the Lagrein of our dreams.


Michela Carlotto © Gail Skoff


The locals drink Schiava by the gallon—kind of like Dolcetto in Piedmont. Feathery light, with very little tannin, it is slightly darker than rosé. So many examples are insipid and boring. I was thrilled to find one with so much fruit, floral character, and pizzazz.

$25.00 per bottle $270.00 per case



Black, inky, and dense, yet smooth as silk and weightless on the palate. What a combo! Not many wines out there have this kind of balance.

$32.00 per bottle $345.60 per case



by Anthony Lynch


The Castagnoli Estate © Gail Skoff


Perched at 450 meters above sea level atop a towering hillside overlooking the magnificent Tuscan countryside, Castagnoli enjoys a microclimate of its own, where cool nights favor bright, focused acidity that accentuates this red’s crunchy schist backbone. The winemaking is elemental: the harvest is brought in by hand, destemmed and crushed, and left to ferment naturally in open bins with occasional punchdowns and pumpovers. Aging in neutral wood conserves Sangiovese’s vibrant fruit and herbaceous qualities, yielding a delicious Chianti Classico for now or later, with extraordinary potential at table.

$29.00 per bottle $313.20 per case



The Sesti family’s Brunello marks our first arrival from the much-anticipated 2010 vintage. Already emanating a marvelous fragrance despite its youthfulness, this noble beast has lived up to—if not exceeded—the great promise of the millesimo. An exquisite aroma of scorched earth, dry herbs, and exotic spices leads to a dense and concentrated, yet graceful-as-can-be palate defined by majestic dark fruit enveloping a firm core. The sustained finish is nothing short of regal. This is a Brunello you’ll want to start drinking now and patiently follow over its long, fascinating life span.

$85.00 per bottle $918.00 per case

Remembering Paul Bara

Last week we were saddened to hear of the recent passing of legendary Champagne producer Paul Bara. Established in Bouzy in 1833, the House of Bara has passed family traditions from generation to generation for more than 170 years. The village of Bouzy and Champagne Paul Bara are practically synonymous. As the published village historian, Paul was, and forever will be, indelibly linked to the lore of his hometown. Many agree that he is their most renowned producer, being one of the rare récoltants-manipulants in a region inundated with the mass-produced wines of the large, corporate champagne houses. Today, Paul’s daughter Chantale continues his legacy. Our National Sales Manager, Bruce Neyers, has shared with us his memory of first meeting Paul. We hope you’ll join us in raising a glass to Paul Bara, a true champion of Champagne.


The cellar of Paul Bara © Champagne Paul Para

I learned earlier this week that Paul Bara of Bouzy died a few days ago, in Bouzy at the age of 93. I had to pause and collect myself upon hearing the news. I met Paul on my first trip to France for Kermit, in January 1993. He greeted us wearing a suit and a tie, along with a handsome cloth homburg that seemed to have come right out of a Marcel Pagnol film. He said he wore it all day because he never knew when he had to go into the icy cellars.

He collected all 12 of us in his office — prominently decorated with beautiful antique maps of the region. He poured each of us a glass of Champagne, then sat us down in classroom fashion and conducted a lecture replete with photos of the vineyards, and a history lesson of the Champagne region. He spoke of Champagne as three regions, and then talked about the historical, cultural and political reasons it had become divided. He was a big man, powerfully built and physically imposing, and he seemed even larger standing in front of us all, wielding his pointer to show this or that district and describe the Champagne from each respective area.

He then took us to the cellar and pointed out the pick marks of the tunnels in the chalk. He explained how they were dug by hand in the days before the ‘Great War’, and then showed the tunnel extension that he had dug himself, alone, without help. I seem to recall that he said he could get about two meters deep a day, about 2.5 meters high, and 2 meters wide. Their bottling system was most impressive, as it was an antique, capable of doing only one bottle at a time.

He would always disgorge a few bottles for us — I think he kept them on the riddling rack just to show off. No one could ever take a photograph of him disgorging Champagne, so fast was he able to disgorge it. He would do a dozen or so bottles in just a few seconds. He was an intellectual on his craft, and always affable, professorial and generous. And he loved to drink Champagne. He reminded me of why it is that Champagne makes us so cheerful. –Bruce Neyers


by Kermit Lynch



© Gail Skoff

Mold might be considered a tough sell these days, but here I go.

When I began to buy wine in Burgundy in the seventies, the vignerons had a saying: If you build a cave, a winery installation, and mold doesn’t grow in it, start all over in another location. They were saying that mold is a good thing in a winemaking environment. And I remember what a treat it was, descending underground and being greeted by the smells of wine, wood, and moldy stone walls.

You might imagine a moldy smell like fruits and other foods develop when they rot, but no, it wasn’t that at all. It smelled fresh and alive and healthy. The mold glistened with little drops of moisture. Mold was a sign of the right temperature and humidity for raising wine. Each cellar had its own particular mold and gave its own fresh aroma. Wines seemed to breathe in the distinct aroma of their cellar, and I could smell that in the aromatic components of each domaine’s wine.

Each growth of mold had a different color, too, which made the walls a thing of beauty. In Raveneau’s cellar, for example, the stone walls had gorgeous streaky blotches of red, purple, pink, orange, and ochre. When I tasted, it was often with my eyes on the walls. In my mind, I started framing certain areas of the walls and imagining them as abstract art, because they were so lovely. Chave’s cellar was another particularly beautiful garden of mold, and I often put photos of his mold-covered walls and bottles in this brochure.

One day at Raveneau’s, I decided to ask my wife to teach me to use one of her cameras so I could return another day, not to taste but to make color pictures of these weird shapes and colors. But I never did.

However, I’m writing this because the movement now in France is to clean up all the mold and make wine in a sterile environment. People want fresh fruit nowadays. Their taste has changed. Mold is a no-no.

Given that wine is a sponge and sucks up whatever aromas are in its environment, I’m afraid wines these days are sucking up sterility. Yes, the fruit is “cleaner” in a wine’s aroma, but without mold much less complex, less suggestive of extra-vinous influences, and less reflective of the site where it was made—sort of like the movement away from native yeasts to test-tube concoctions.

If people like mere fruit so much, let them buy fruit juice. It’s a lot cheaper.

October Newsletter: Mold, The Guardian of Burgundy, New Domaines

The October Newsletter is now available.

Click here to download the pdf.

Highlights from this month’s newsletter…


by Dixon Brooke

© Catherine & Pierre Breton

The Bretons are quite a couple. Let’s start with the fact that their last name, Breton, is literally a synonym for the Cabernet Franc grape in the Loire Valley. Both are relatively short, so they can easily walk through the openings of all the troglodyte cellars that dot their property along the Loire River. Both are little balls of explosive energy and are super-passionate about their wines. They continue to take on more and more projects even though they are already working seven days a week and never come up for air. Catherine is now making wine in Vouvray and running a retail shop on the Île d’Yeu. Despite all this activity, they make some of the most natural and the most consistent wines in France. It is just insanity. In their immense wisdom they thought to stash away vintages from their greatest Bourgueil vineyard over the past four decades in their cool, limestone caves, and here we are able to present you with a perfectly preserved vertical. Three to drink now, one to age yourself. Santé!


per bottle

per case

2012 Bourgueil “Les Perrières” >
A thoroughbred of a wine with great breed and poise, long future.



2003 Bourgueil “Les Perrières” >
Deliciously lush and full, remains fresh with backbone.



1996 Bourgueil “Les Perrières” >
A vintage that took a long time to come around but is now singing.



1989 Bourgueil “Les Perrières” >
La grande année—25+ years and still going strong.






by Dixon Brooke

Finally! Ever since I discovered this tiny family farm in the hills above Greve in Chianti, I have been doing everything I can to rush the wines over here. Alas, small sometimes equals slow: not as many hands on deck to prepare labels, bottle wine, work the vines, survey the previous vintages in cask, cook dinner, etc, etc. I have been doing my best to save part of the wheel of aged pecorino cheese that the owner gave me until the wine arrived, but I just missed it. He promised to send more. These beautiful expressions of pure Sangiovese rendered with Tuscan heart and soul will transport you to the magical place that is Tuscany.


Classic Chianti. Also textbook Greve. Dark, deep, infused with schist minerality, vigorous, bright, mouth-coating.

$30.00 per bottle $324.00 per case


The Riserva is more a wine of the earth than a wine of fruit. It has a lot to say and needs air, time, and preferably a bistecca to say it.

$42.00 per bottle $453.60 per case


From vines planted in their highest terraces in 1980, this is technically a Chianti Classico Riserva. Less technically, finesse, elegance, and pure deliciousness are a few of its most prized assets.

$57.00 per bottle $615.60 per case

That’s Serge with the ’stache

Celebrating 25 Years with Sang des Cailloux
by Kermit Lynch

© Gail Skoff

That’s Serge with the ’stache, this summer in Provence. When you drink Sang des Cailloux, you are drinking Provence. Yum. Tastes good.

Twenty-five years ago, I was thrilled (as a Dylan fan) that Serge’s wine in the glass fit the moniker. Blood of the stones. Oh yes, you can squeeze blood out of a stone. Serge does it every year.

Serge and I went through our earlier days liking wines with a wallop. We liked brawny mouth-fillers. But his also had intense flavors and great depth. Nowadays we are, of course, more sage. We like touch and finesse, and Serge achieves both without losing that impression of intensity. The stones are in the vineyard. The aromatic herbs fill the air. Both are in this perfect 2013.

To see vividly the difference between northern and southern Rhône, to fix the difference in your mind, pair Serge’s with the Côte Rôtie “La Viaillère” offered elsewhere in this brochure. You will enjoy a pristine, very expressive version from each region.

Serge has supplied us all with several memorable vintages over the past twenty-five years. I wouldn’t say this is his best, but none have been better.

2013 Vacqueyras Rouge
“Cuvée FlouretO >

$34.00 per bottle $367.20 per case

The World’s Greatest Syrah, and a Teardrop

Over the weekend we lost a great vigneron, and one that was close to our hearts—Noël Verset. Noël’s wines were a mainstay of our Cornas imports for decades, until his retirement after the 2006 vintage. Including the time he spent training with his father, Noël made wine for more than seventy years. Below is a remembrance written by our National Sales Manager, Bruce Neyers, of his first experience meeting Noël. We bid adieu to the great Syrah master.

Noël Verset

© Gail Skoff

I met Noël Verset in 1993, on my first trip to France for Kermit Lynch. Although he was then in his late seventies, he was still actively working the vines and making wine. Kermit had arranged a two-week trip for me to meet his growers; the itinerary that he laid out started in Alsace and ended 12 days later in Marseilles. My friend and former colleague, Ehren Jordan, had moved to France a few months earlier and was working for Jean Luc Columbo in Cornas. I was pleasantly surprised when Ehren offered to take some vacation time and join me for the trip. He said it would give him a chance to visit some other regions and taste a wide range of wines. I welcomed the prospect of another driver and especially an interpreter. After meeting at the airport in Strasbourg in early January, we traveled through France together — visiting many of Kermit’s suppliers and tasting their wines. I was learning as much as I could about the wines, their history, their production techniques, and any other details that would help me sell them.

After a short drive through Alsace, we continued on to Burgundy, then to Chalonnaise, Mâcon and Beaujolais. We entered the northern Rhône in Vienne. From Côte-Rôtie we drove to Condrieu. After stopping to visit a producer in St. Joseph, we drove on to Hermitage. All along this part of the route we tasted Syrah. In many places, we tasted Syrah like I had never tasted before, for we were in the home of that seductive wine. After a tasting with Gérard Chave, in Mauves, we drove on to Cornas for another visit, followed by dinner at a local hotel. Ehren was excited to return to Cornas; this was his new home. As the only American living in the region, he was a celebrity, well known by many of the locals. Everywhere we went, people would see his large white American car with its Pennsylvania license plates, and begin to wave at us enthusiastically. Since he didn’t want to be late for our appointment with Noël Verset, we sped through the tiny back streets of this ancient town. At the end of what seemed like a deserted alley, we parked the car and walked towards a sign noting the cellars of Noël Verset, Vigneron. We rang the bell and were immediately greeted by the short and cherubic Noël.

He was delighted to see Ehren. As I learned during our tasting, Noël’s wife of over 50 years had died four years before and, since his two daughters had long ago married and moved out of the area, he was living alone. Over the previous few months, he and Ehren had formed a close bond. Weekly, they prepared a dinner together and shared it, along with a bottle of wine, at Noel’s kitchen table. At one point, Noël confided in me that the meeting with Ehren had been important for him, coming as it did during a time when he was still trying to come to grips with the enormous grief he felt over the loss of his wife. We tasted several wines in his rustic cellars, then adjourned to the kitchen, where Ehren and Noël assumed their customary spots at the table. Before Noel sat down, however, he walked across the room and opened the door leading down to his frigid basement. Behind it stood a recently opened bottle of Verset 1988 Cornas.

The 1988 vintage in Cornas, as I was to soon learn, had been an especially good one. Knowing how much Ehren enjoyed this wine, Noël had set aside a bottle for us to drink while we sat and talked. In a few moments, he reached behind him and withdrew from the bookcase a large, plastic-covered photo album. Drawing a satisfying gulp of wine, he opened the book to the first page, careful to tilt it so that I could see the photo, a black and white of a strikingly attractive, slender woman in a bathing suit of the 1930’s, standing on a beach on a bright summer day. Her hair was wet, presumably from a dip in the Mediterranean, which could be seen behind her in the photo. Noël said that it was his wife, during a summer vacation they took in Cannes. She died, he said, in 1988, and whenever he drank a bottle from that vintage he liked to look at the old pictures of them, enjoying the early days of their life together.

With this, he slowly turned each page, and made a comment regarding when and where it was taken. Ehren translated for me. In a few minutes, I was transfixed, both by the magnificent wine and by this beautiful woman who was, sadly, no longer part of Noël’s life. He seemed cheerful, though, especially when talking about the photos. And then I noticed a drop of moisture as it fell from his eyes and splattered on the vinyl covering the photograph. I looked at him and saw his eyes full of tears. My eyes welled up, too.

Noël ran through the rest of the album quickly now, as his teardrops were coming a bit faster and the end of the bottle was in sight. With a final sigh, he closed the book, turned his back on us for a bit longer than he needed to, then turned back to face the table. He was entirely composed by then. I can’t remember if I was.

Noël looked at me, as he was taking a final sip of wine. “So what do you think of my 1988 Cornas?” he asked. I paused for a moment, composed myself, and replied, “I think it’s the greatest Syrah I’ve ever tasted.” Bruce Neyers

verset cellar-1994© Gail Skoff

Pasta with No-Cook “Umami” Sauce

Retail salesperson Jennifer Oakes is our guest blogger today and shares one of her favorite late-summer recipes.

© Gail Skoff

Umami is the so-called “fifth taste” after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, and you’ve probably been enjoying it all along. It was “discovered,” or at the very least proposed as a distinct flavor category, by a Japanese scientist a century ago and it is what gives that elusive meaty, savory character to foods. It is found in the highest levels in hard cheeses, dried, cured, and fermented fish, soy sauce, tomatoes, and mushrooms, to name a few. Despite my years as a professional baker of cakes, cookies, and other desserts (or perhaps because of) I’m not much of a sweets person. I’ve always been more in love with the salty/sour spectrum. But when I discovered umami, I knew I was home.

Foods with umami are very welcoming to wine. Some wines, such as Vermentino from Corsica and Muscadet Sur Lie from the Loire, can even be slightly savory in themselves. But savory foods can be enhanced by wines that have the complementary flavors of sweet fruit and bright acidity and even a slight bitterness or earthiness. Consider the magic that is the classic pairing of Chianti with red sauce pasta. That meaty, umami-rich sauce is delicious balanced with the fruitiness, high acidity, and just a tinge of bitterness that Chianti brings to the party. Below I’ve shared another pasta recipe that captures this essence of umami and is easily paired with whatever tasty red, white, or rosé you might happen to have around.  

Pasta with No-Cook “Umami” Sauce

I know this looks like a long list of ingredients for one dish but your time is mostly spent chopping, not actually cooking. All it takes is the time to cook the pasta and you can get the rest of the ingredients together while the water boils. On that note, I have a time-saving trick for cooking the pasta you might want to try. I add the pasta to the pot with the cold salted water and bring it to the boil together. As long as you stir the pasta often at the beginning, it cooks so much faster than the usual way, the pasta doesn’t get gummy at all, and the kitchen stays cooler. Anything to save time getting dinner on the table is a plus in my book.

You can also add anything that appeals to the “sauce” from your summer larder, especially anything that adds to the umami of the dish such as high quality tuna packed in oil or smoked mozzarella. Sometimes I can’t remember all of the ingredients and toss in other salty cheeses like feta or goat cheese because that seems like a good idea and it always works out. I also like it a bit spicy so I’ll put in more jalapenos and definitely use the hot smoked paprika. In other words, don’t worry if you don’t have everything on this list but make sure to at least to add the Parmesan and fish sauce and some variety of tomatoes because that’s where the savoriness really comes from.

½ cup arugula, chopped

¼ cup basil, chopped

2 tbsp Italian parsley, finely chopped

3 medium heirloom tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

3 tbsp cream

¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 scallion, chopped, both green and white parts

2 tbsp olive oil

juice of half a small lemon

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp Thai fish sauce

1 jalapeno, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ½ tsp Spanish smoked paprika, sweet or hot

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 pound dried pasta such as conchiglie, penne rigate or cavatappi

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of salt to make the water briny. Meanwhile, mix all ingredients except for pasta in a large mixing bowl and let stand while the pasta cooks. Once the water is rapidly boiling, add the pasta to the pot and return to a boil. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta well then return it to the pot. Off the heat, add all the chopped ingredients from the bowl to the pot and stir to combine. The heat of the pasta will wilt the herbs and bring out all the savory aromas. Serve immediately.  Serves 4