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2008 Harvest Starts!
I've spent the morning reading about how credit default swaps have put the world on the brink of economic collapse.
It makes me even happier to know that I make a living selling real, agricultural products.
The 2008 harvest is starting or in preparation and we have already started posting notes at our company's site:
Grapes Converted to Wine Version 2008
Some More Thoughts About Didier Dagueneau
It is easy to talk about Dagueneau in bigger-than-life clichés. He had the presence, the provocative manner, the wit, the bravado, the cutting edge and the courage to take risks. There was never anyone else like him and no one will ever take his place. But all these clichés, no matter how true, miss what was essential about Dagueneau and the contribution he made to viticultural life.
What many of us take away from knowing Didier is his total dedication to his vines. Didier started with nothing and became an international celebrity because he brought an insane level of rigor, love and attention to his vineyard. He was intense and extreme in everything he did but nothing matched his fanatic devotion to his vines.
Didier had one worker per hectare, the same ratio as Domaine de la Romaine Conti. That one worker had to spend time in every other aspect of the winery to learn the entire process of making wine. The vines were increasingly selections massales and were trained to suffer and ripen at low yields. Some of his finest wines came from his recent plantings in Monts Damnés, in an insanely inclined site, where the plantings were from cuttings Didier took from old sauvignon vines all over Sancerre and Pouilly. Dagueneau acted as a reverse Johnny Appleseed and put together a genetically varied, rich and interesting vineyard population that made sensational wine even though the vines were less than ten-years-old.
I talked today with Didier Barrouillet at Clos Roche Blanche. That Didier was a great admirer and student of the other, now gone. Barrouillet told me that Dagueneau would do chemical analysis of all his vineyards three times a year and would make adjustments by adding organic materials to insure the health of his sites. Barrouillet said that he doesn't know anyone else in France who worked that way and insisted on such preciseness.
Didier was not an advocate of biodynamie, he was not an advocate of natural wine, he used some sulphur, disliked natural yeast fermentations and did not want to sell his wine because it was organic. He wanted to make the very best wine imaginable by guiding the minerality of his sites into the bottle. He was a strong-willed guide and didn't suffer detours and dogmas.
In some ways he was an exception to every rule. Dagueneau didn't have a recipe, all he wanted to do was make great wine and he was prepared to sacrifice everything to get it done. Dagueneau became bigger than the AOC Pouilly-Fumé but he started with nothing and built it all by sheer will. Barrouillet told me how in the early years, Dagueneau didn't have hot water in his home, but the cellar was well equipped and well maintained.
Dagueneau's first vintage of Jurançon had some cork stain so he destroyed everything. Denyse and I visited him two years ago as he was about to bottle and he found the bottles that had been delivered to the winery had a small taint of plastic smell from the external wrapping. He called off the bottling immediately and told the bottle distributor to take it all back. It was summer and the distributor was closing. All the wine had been prepared for bottling, the equipment was in place, and Didier was not going to get replacement bottles for a few weeks. All his shipment schedules were going to be turned upside down and his cash flow would be hurt.
He didn't care, he was not going to risk the wine.
This winter we received a bottle of one of Didier's cuvées in our office before our shipment left France. There was no explanation why it arrived and we contacted his office to find out what happened. We were told that there had been a radioactive leak at a local nuclear plant and that Didier feared that the wine might have suffered from contaminating contact. He told us we were not obligated to take the wine if we tasted it and felt it was defective.
The three partners at Louis/Dressner Selections all did frantic internet searches and couldn't find a story about a radioactive leak, although there is a nuclear power plant in the area. Why was the leak so hush-hush? I volunteered Kevin to taste the wine who volunteered Denyse who volunteered me. Then the three of us suggested that Sheila, who runs our office make the definitive decision. Somehow, no one was in a rush to taste the wine.
Weeks later we finally opened the bottle. We found it reduced but felt worried we might anger Dagueneau if we didn't take this bottling. We sent a note and were told that the wine was no longer available and had been sold out.
Denyse and I visited Dagueneau this summer. We asked Nathalie, who runs his office, what the real story was with the radioactive wine. She looked surprised and fatigued at the same time and said: "Don't you know Didier?"
Turns out the wine had taken forever to ferment and Didier was unhappy with the results. He didn't want any of his customers to be stuck with the wine or take it out of obligation so he gave everyone an easy option out. Finally, his Belgian importer bought a large quantity.
That one bottle aside, tasting and drinking Didier's wines was always a wonderful experience. I don't know what the mineral Silex tastes like, but I can only imagine it must taste like Didier's cuvée of that name. I can't imagine it any other way.
Denyse said to me last night that when people die it is like when a light goes out. But Didier was more than a light, he was a natural phenomenon, a storm, a commotion and a celebration in a world that is often too dull and glum.
Yes, he was bigger than life. But Dagueneau was a man who didn't suffer fools and clichés lightly.
Didier Dagueneau RIP
Copyright Bertrand Celce
We visited Didier Dagueneau this summer to taste the 2007s and the bottled 2006s.
Didier had recently renovated The Temple, an ancient chapel next to his home which had fallen into ruin. He had decided to turn the Temple into a cultural center and had mounted an exhibition of Jean-Marie Périer's photography for its inauguration this summer. Périer was the most famous French photographer of the 1960s and the Temple was filled with photos of celebrities from that epoch.
Didier took us on a tour and Denyse and I had to name each celebrity. Of course, even I know Claude François but only Denyse knew Dani, Sylvie Vartan and Sheila. I didn't recognize Françoise Hardy but I did recognize Jacques Dutronc. Dylan, the Rolling Stones and all the stars of the Anglophone world were easy enough for me.
You could see how proud and joyful Didier was of putting together such an art show. While we were in the Temple, Didier talked about how every year he organizes a lavish dinner called Les Anciens, where he invites all the older vignerons of the area for a great meal, old bottles and good times. Didier was a maverick and a rebel, but he had great respect and love for all these anciens, like Edmond Vatan and Claude Thomas, who had taught him his métier.
Didier Dagueneau died this morning, September 17th, in a small plane crash in the Cognac region. The wine world has lost a great vigneron and the world has lost one of the most original, charming and mischievous characters to ever grace a vineyard row.
Special Promotional Offer to Attend our Tasting on October 21st
Members of the wine trade who work at restaurants between 14th and 96th Street will receive free magnums of the 1996 Clos Roche Blanche 1996 if they attend our national tasting.
This legendary wine has been refermenting in bottle for nearly 12 years!
No one has dared to taste the wine since August of 2004!
Of course, participants in this promotion will have to RSVP in advance like everyone else.
We are trying to reach out to the more traditional part of the wine trade and hope this gesture will encourage some of you to attend.
Louis/Dressner National Tasting on October 21st in New York City!
If you are a member of the wine trade and if you receive an invitation and if you RSVP.
It is going to be a great tasting.
We are celebrating 20 years in the wine trade and will be featuring a series of 1988 vintage wines which may be good or may not be good. We just don't know.
Last October's National Louis/Dressner Tasting
- Eric Texier will be there from the Rhône!
- Philippe Pacalet will be there from Burgundy!
- João Roseira from Infantao ports will be there!
- There will be surprise guests and surprise wines and surprise foods.
- The Northwest's most famous chef has been hired to prepare the food this year!
- Jeff Connell is coming from Canada!
- My Mother, Irene Dressner, will be there signing her new wine book: Joe Dressner, the Early Years
There will be many wines shown. Some are wholesaled in New York by Polaner, some directly by us.
This is the only wine tasting in New York which aggressively excludes hanger-ons and deadbeats. So get those RSVPs flying in to make sure we have a spot for you. We do this to make sure that you, the serious wine buyer, will have the time, space and leisure to taste in peace without being surrounded by imposters.
Our view is that our tasting is a private event. Our special guests from around the country and New York are invited by us as if we were inviting them to our home. No one has a "right" to attend because they have a business card and some sort of tangential relationship to the exciting wine industry.
Even I enjoy this event, so make sure to mark your calendar!
Wine Disorder: New Internet Wine Forum!
I've participated for years in Wine therapy, but unfortunately my friend Robert Callahan is ill and can no longer maintain that site.
Several members of Wine therapy have grouped together to set up a new wine discussion board. Wine Disorder claims to have better security, real names, and lots of spirited discussion. The leaders of this board call themselves the Politburo and no one is sure exactly who is involved, except for the obvious leadership of Brad Kane. But, I along with many Wine therapy members have joined the new group.
You can lurk, participate or ignore at:
These discussion boards are fun, but for me the more alarming problem is Robert's health. Robert has been through a very difficult time and I hope he is able to fully recover and get back to being the healthy Callahan we feared and loved.
Back in New York City!
We arrived yesterday on the fabulous Swiss International Air from Geneva.
A Carmel mini-van picked us up at the airport.
Buster was delighted to leave his cage and eight hours in the cargo of the plane.
We arrived on our street, Buster jumped out of the car and someone asked what breed he was.
Denyse replied Mutt. I usually reply Celtic Schwant.
We're back in town!
Members of the Exciting California Wine Trade Can Meet Me and Taste our Wines on September 9th in San Francisco!
Jesus, that's one long headline!
That's right though....our wholesaler Estate Wines Ltd. is hosting a big portfolio tasting on Tuesday, September 9th and I'll be there pouring lots of wines.
I'll be joined by the recently married and multi-faceted Shawn Mead.
Don't miss this event!
Only certified members of the wine trade will be admitted. You will have to show your badge at the door.
It starts at noon and finished at 4 pm.
Afterward, we're all going to La Taqueria on Mission and 25th to eat Tacos and Burritos.
No, we are not going to one of the Taco Trucks. I'm sorry.
I'll be the guy behind the Louis/Dressner table who looks like a Rabbi from suburban Philadelphia. Shawn Mead will be standing immediately to my left. She's clearly a gentile.
Meet the Wine Importer in San Francisco!
Some people call me The Wine Importer.
Others call me "le plouc distingué."
Both Personalities will be doing an exciting tasting at Terroir Natural Wine Merchant and Bar on Saturday, September 6th, from 2 pm to 5 pm. This is open to consumers but the details are vague to me. Maybe it will cost you a lot of money, maybe it is cheap. I'm really not sure, but it is probably somewhere in between.
Really, do you expect me to go all the way to San Francisco to serve you wines for free?
Regardless, it is going to be great fun.
Your best bet is to call Terroir to reserve a space. They can be reached at 415.558.9946. They are located somewhere on Folsom Street. Try a Google seach.
I'll be the hipster who looks like a Rabbi from suburban Philadelphia.
I'll be signing copies of someone's new book. Send me e-mail for details.
See you There!
Later that day, more or less at 6:30, I will be dining at La Taqueria on Mission and 25th Street. I will also be doing a book signing there. I'll be the guy stuffing himself with tacos and looking suspiciously like a Rabbi from Suburban Philadelphia.
See you there!
Two Things I Will Miss About Living in France
Quenelles with Morilles.
Stuffed Goose Necks.
I'm returning to New York on Wednesday.
I have received over a thousand e-mails this past week from someone named Sujal Patel warning me about impending doom for our wines in the Northwest market. All these e-mails come from fake e-mail addresses that are sent through some sort of identity blocking mechanism.
I did a Google search on this name and came up with several different Sujal Patel's.
I have deleted all these e-mails and written special filters in my e-mail to automatically delete any future correspondence from this alleged Sugal Patel.
Whoever you and whatever you want....please cease and desist!
Our corporate lawyers are working on this case.
Come Celebrate the 20th Birthday Party of Louis/Dressner Selections!
That's right, it will soon be twenty years in business for us!
We plan on celebrating at our annual, national tasting with a presentation of wines from the 1988 vintage.
Some of them might actually be drinkable!
Don't miss this event on October 21st. It is being held in New York City and you're invited to the special VIP hour, starting one hour before the regular tasting.
I've been traveling all over France. I'm now back at my home in Poil Rouge watching the French women's fencing team win silver medals. It's been a great Olympics.
I just heard from a neighbor here in Poil Rouge that Donald Trump is buying Ed MacMahon's house as a gift to Johnny's former sidekick. What a beautiful and generous gesture!
Zigzag trip to Beaune and then Southern France
We're off early tomorrow morning for a week of glamorous visits to vignerons highly regarded by Alice Feiring, the famous author.
I won't have access to an internet browser, so I will not be leaving exciting posts here for the readership.
I'll be in touch soon!
Louis/Dressner Wines Now in Georgia!
We recently signed on with Global Distribution, one of Georgia's premier distributors of fine wine.
We want to thank the Global team for taking on our wines and making the commitment to getting out our vignerons into the Georgia market. In particular, we would like to thank:
- Sydney Mendalow -- Import Director
- Morty Kimmel -- Sales Manager
- Herb Rosenfeltz -- Atlanta Area Brand Manager
- Sy Pearlman -- Logistics and Operations Manager
- Al Schumacher -- Atlanta On-Premise Manager
We have never had a solid distribution in the State of Georgia and we are delighted that our wines will finally be available in the great state!
Shawn Mead to Marry!
That's right, Shawn Mead is getting married next weekend.
Shawn runs our West Coast operations and is the resident voice of sanity at Louis/Dressner Selections.
The guest list is a virtual who's who of the American wine trade!
All our congratulations to the happy couple!
Michael Wheeler Almost Killed by Huge Truck this Morning!
I received an urgent e-mail this morning from Michael Wheeler, the famous wine legend:
Almost got killed!! An 18 wheeler didn't see us and changed lanes, and we had to go 1/2 way into the next lane ......and still it came withen inches, lucky there was no immediate car to bump, but they came at us rite as we moved back......it was like the movies......stay tuned this is gonna be one exciting vacation....It was scary but what amazed me is we didn't panic but just tried to stay alive.....
Mr. Wheeler is on Long Island, sourcing wine for Polaner Selections.
I was surprised to learn that Mr. Wheeler has grown a moustache since I left New York in mid-June.
David Lillie Hailed as Wine Revolutionary!
The current issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine has an article on the 10 Revolutionaries who have changed the wine world.
One of them is David Lillie, the partner at Chambers Street Wines, a long time customer of Robert Chadderdon and Louis/Dressner Selections.
David strongly deserves this praise and I hope everyone goes out and buys this issue!
Several Reasons Why I Have Only Blogged Four Times in the Past Six Weeks!
I've become a pathetic blogger and have received numerous e-mails from my readers complaining about my lack of blogactivity.
There are several reasons I have been inactive:
- I am in France
- I had house guests for two weeks
- My two children visited us and we took time off
- I toured the Loire Valley without an internet connection
- I traveled twice to Alsace to see my in-laws
- I spent huge amounts of time shopping and barbecuing for 14 house guests
- I received endless phone calls from the Pacific Northwest from 9 pm through 11 pm
- I have arthritic pain around my thumbs and it is painful to type
- I have been drinking great older wines from my personal cellar and feel no particular compunction to share this experience over a blog
- I'm hostile, aggressive and don't care
- I've been blogging so long, don't forget I personally invented the wine blog, that I fear constant activity will land me a profile on Tom Wark's wine blog
- Now that Alice Feiring's book is out, the battle has been won and I no longer need to crusade for real wine
- My home's sewage system overflowed when we had the 14 house guests and we had to have an emergency vehicle come here from Mâcon.
- I spend my afternoons fishing on the Saône River
- My main interaction with wine is through the vignerons we work with and the wines we import, not my blog
- I've been busy mounting and dismounting the new tent I bought at Decathlon
- I read Neal Rosenthal's autobiography three times since mid-June
- I read Eric Clapton's autobiography since I came here
- Eric Clapon finds he has digestive problems when he tours and he doesn't have to eat huge meals at vignerons
- Imagine how I feel! Clapton doesn't have to eat andouilettes!
- I don't get daily e-mails from Rick Franco
- I have been enjoying my dog Buster, who has had a burst of youthfulness out here in the Mâconnais
- I am demoralized by my feud with the Grocery Guy
- I'm an old man and it is inappropriate for someone my age to be blogging