The Sip

good wine brings us all closer.

ACT NATURAL!

Ashley RagovinComment

I’m pro-natural – no bra, eating from the season's bounty, barefoot in summer – let’s do this.

But I’m worried the word is falling from grace. Like artisanal and organic, it’s veering into #nomakeup territory – eight filters? We know you’re wearing lipgloss and brow gel.

And when it comes to wine, you’re probably thinking, of course it’s natural. It’s just grapes! Well, mostly true in some, not all cases... But wine doesn’t make itself.

Ideally, sure, very little goes into wine. For centuries, the basic approach has been simple: take care of the land, harvest grapes, ferment and bottle the damn stuff.

Then industry pressures (1980s consumerism) steered wine from farming tradition to economy of scale, flooding the market with shortcuts, trickery, and mass-produced swill (see below).

It’s easy to get caught up on the idea of "natural" being paramount, but it's also important to note lots of small wineries make adjustments in the cellar like assisting fermentation or using sulfites. Winemaking requires expertise and guidance for a quality end product. And that’s a far cry from industrial-made wine.

It gets a little confusing but it comes down to practicality vs. purity: do we support minimally influenced wine that’s delicious, or do we have to actually drink our principles? Every time I try swallowing principle I choke and not because it’s well endowed.

Natural wine is a virtuous goal, but it’s being appropriated as a trend, a buzzword, a fashion statement, even a marketing ploy.

And, since you can’t drink movements or political views, I’ll get off my high horse (not a pedestal, I was just plowing a vineyard naturally, forgive me) and present a (slightly opinionated) road map:

Natural wine laws: simply put, they don’t exist. The word “natural” isn’t defined legally or environmentally. Zero interventionist winemaking means no temperature control, no added yeasts, no tampering – at all. Some say it’s the only definition of natural wine even if it yields something tasting like vinegar and looking like apple juice.

And while the bush is making a comeback, I’m not going to stop shaving my legs and I’ll retain the right to wax, thanks. Some super cool wines are made in this unkempt manner, it’s just not the only way.

A little grooming in the cellar – like minor use of sulphur or yeast – stabilizes wine and secures consistent fermentation. It doesn't make it fake or even unnatural. 

What I’m saying is, there’s a huge difference between mascara and getting ass implants: 

Winemakers face challenges every year because nature is unpredictable. You can’t just follow a recipe. It seems unfair to demand they throw away an entire year’s work because sulfur is the new gluten allergy.

Where to buy: If there’s one thing you can absolutely change, it’s this: stop buying wine from grocery stores, liquor stores, and chain retailers. A local shop or good e-comm store (shameless plug) employs passionate people who talk directly to winemakers, ask questions and taste constantly, in order to source great wines. Buying wine is about trust, like letting someone cut your hair.

Oh! This brings me to an important, slightly unrelated tangent about how a terrible see you next tuesday of a hairdresser cut 8 inches off my mane, then BROKE UP WITH ME VIA TEXT - the day before an important appointment - for no apparent reason! I would never be so savage as to out the hairdresser, but I would never recommend or go to Lucas Salon in Echo Park ever again. Oops. Sorry, that just felt like the natural thing to say at this juncture.

Anyway, if you forge a relationship with a solid retailer, you support the growers who make the good stuff. And that's the whole point, isn't it?

Chemicals: That’s easy – they’re bad. The worst. Pesticides and Fungicides (like Round Up) get into the water supply, rob the earth of vital nutrients, are carcinogenic and destroy everything they touch. Of course they’re terrible for wine, avoid them! But it’s not always easy to navigate which wines are truly free of chemicals. So what can you 

Drink wine made by real people: Sure, Sunday Funday sounds cute at first, but that bottle isn’t from a winemaker. It’s a brand made by a company. Commodity wines use chemical colorants, sugar, wood chips, artificial thickeners, stabilizers, and flavoring in the wine itself, not to mention pollutants and chemicals in the vineyards.

Real winemakers grow or source grapes; they don’t buy them in bulk from an industrial supply chain. They also prioritize the environment because they’re invested in its long-term health.

Look for clues to a wine’s origin on the label: vineyard name, site location, a real person’s name, the words hand-picked. These are indications there was a human maker at the source.

Biodynamic and Organic: These words mean something, but not everything. Organic refers to how the grapes are grown, not the wine inside. An organic wine isn’t necessarily without additives, and U.S. wines labeled as such can’t use sulfites, European ones can.

It’s also pricey to certify. Lots of tiny producers actually implement holistic methods but can’t afford the official creds, so they can’t state it on their labels.

Biodynamics refer to even stricter standards that apply beyond just how grapes are grown. Cover crops, using living organisms as pest control, pruning according to the lunar cycle – these are just some of the radical, holistic, and even spiritual tenants of biodynamics. Demeter is the official seal, and it’s expensive to obtain. But good wine sellers will know whether the winemaker practices sustainably, even if they’re not certified.

Drop a little coin. You don’t have to start hunting triple digit baller bottles. But if you can drop $60 on a manicure and hundreds on shoes (worth it), spend an extra $20 on a bottle of wine. Local strawberries are pricier than the ones you get at Ralph’s, but you know damn well they’re better from taste alone. Added bonus: environmental and ethical points, plus better Snapchat fodder at farmer’s markets than grocery stores.

Ditch the ego. Everything has its politicians, its dogmatists, even its romantics. But when pros gets on a soapbox to champion natural as some sort of crusade, advocate weird-tasting flaws as intentional, and condemn any human touch on wine whatsoever, it’s ironically elitist and self-serving. Like punk rock for money. That insiders-only shit almost kills my thirst. Sometimes, those wines are good, they’re just not the entire picture.

Wine is not for survival and it doesn’t spontaneously exist. Wine gets made, hopefully injecting pleasure into a meal, a gathering, all things it touches. And while I’m a socially responsible adult making mostly healthy choices, I'm a pleasure-ist first. Which is why I also order Frosted Flakes at 1am from Postmates. True stroy.

Life is about balance and so is good wine.

 

COLD TACOS, ROOM TEMP WINE

Ashley RagovinComment

Sure it’s been a little while since I’ve served up a Daily Pour. But I promised I wouldn’t send you any old wine and I meant it. It’s funny but I just can't fake this sort of thing. And It's better that way, because when I feel it it hits me hard.

I took one sip of this golden treat and its lime and lemon-melon-y curves took me on an easy ride, winding me gently downhill to take in whiffs of yellow flowers and summer fruits. It washed over me like an old friend.

I packed a bottle of this Soave (type of white vino but also Italian medieval village; I packed the former) in my basket bike (a 1984 Stumpjumper, the bike). We pedaled off in tandem to the new taco joint across the river (LA River, not a fancy one in Verona quite yet, but stay tuned…).
 
This is a white wine with smooth lines: gradual dips and turns that both allow you the opportunity to sprint your stuff and skid out like a showboat and also to coast effortlessly, the dragging buzz of the freewheel your sweet soundtrack – on cassette, if you will (#bikereference).

Like crickets in the night, that soulful, summer bike song squeezes me right in the heart muscle every time. I love it.

1984 Stumpjumper, 1986 Bridgestone

1984 Stumpjumper, 1986 Bridgestone

Wine in tow, once we got to the taco spot, parked our (gorgeous) bikes, waited for a free table (hot new joint) and sat down, the juice wasn’t exactly icy; when we poured ourselves the end of the bottle, it was room temp.

*This is actually ironic because the al pastor and potato tacos arrived piping not-hot-at-all; pretty cold, in fact. But being a new restaurant, we forgave, and they were so damn good anyway!
 
Then with the wine!? Ay dios mio.
 
Cold tacos, room temp Italian white, all things perfect in the universe. Delicious is an understatement: my mouth is watering as I write this thinking about the pineapple and pork tucked inside the best flour tortilla I’ve had in ever, washed down with its unpredictably perfect match: this Italian gem of a white wine that proved its ability to shake maracas and socialize with guacamole no problemo!

This wine is impossibly satisfying, and I discovered it totally unexpectedly, like the best meals, and things in life, really, seem determined to be.

Soave is ancient and goes back to Roman times, like this statue we found in the backyard!

Soave is ancient and goes back to Roman times, like this statue we found in the backyard!

CHEAT SHEET


WINE: Coffele Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy

GRAPE: Biodynamically-grown Garganega, from old vines, harvested by hand.

HOMETOWN:  Soave, Veneto. Gladiator battles and medieval executions aside, Verona is an ancient city of love; Soave is also ancient itself – the volcanic region has grown grapes on its hills since Roman times.
 
TASTES LIKE: Fruit-filled with lime, white peach, and honeydew melon but clean and focused; lilac and yellow flowers like marigolds, too. Tastes like the smile of someone you’ve known for ages that you haven’t seen in a little too long, like whole a day. Where have you been!
 
GOES DOWN EASY WITH: Richer seafoods hold up well, and I’ve R&D’d the taco thing for you and it’s a flying-colors pass; anything with an Italian accent is just pure extra credit - gnocchi, pesto, scallops, risotto, polenta, pizza with anchovies, game on.

WEIRD FACT: Soave’s a city so famous for amore that people send love letters addressed simply “To Juliet, Verona, Italy.” Oddly, there’s a team of volunteers who’ve assembled to reply to these lovesick folk... if only they were sending them this bottle of this Soave instead!

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

I'm Old-Fashioned Sometimes!

Ashley RagovinComment

So you want to make a good drink? Have at it!

Per drink:

teaspoon each of sugar, sparkling water

5 dashes Angostura bitters

grapefruit zest (peel from the skin)

muddle all of the above in the glass, then add 2 oz of bourbon and remember: like anything the better the input the better the output so use good stuff - and stir it all with ice (use good ice too you turkey!) - then strain it over new ice in a beautiful rocks glass. 

Garnish with a grapefruit peel after you zest it over the drink! 

BARTENDER JOKE ALERT!!!

Question: What's the difference between a bartender and God?

MF'in punchline: God doesn't think he's a bartender.

HAPPILY EVER-AFTER KIND OF WINE

Ashley RagovinComment

Ahh Sancerre: a time-burnished town full of history and beauty, a tapestry of steeples and emerald forests and half-timber houses. We’re talking Loire Valley, where castles and sprawling hills form a landscape so impossibly fairytale you’re practically waiting for Charles Perrault to join you for a sip and invite you on a stroll around some geometric garden or lily pond. 

The wines from here also straddle the realm of reality and fantasy, so easy to enjoy and accessibly tasty, but otherworldly and serene like a chateaux on a postcard.

Enchanting is a word you don’t get to say often, but when it fits, it fits like a custom glass slipper. Cinderella went to the ball, and the King’s son was always by her side, and his pretty speeches to her never ceased, as it was written.

But the part Perrault failed to mention (probably he was drunk) was that this was all because they were sharing a bottle of this same damn Sancerre Rosé while walking across the castle grounds!

That might sound made up (the best fairytales kind of are), but it’s not. And princesses in towers aside, this wine tastes like it rode in on a Pegasus with trumpets playing in the background.

Pinot Noir is the central character, and in this beautifully restrained iteration, it is sheer like a dress that lets the light in just right, tastefully but generously. It’s a rosé is plucked from a plot of botanical pleasures, with roses and irises and ripe berry and citrus pouring over. But it’s also so mineral-laden, chalky, and dry that it rivals those Provençal dreamboats we love to claim as the best rosés on earth.

This wine is fit for modern-day sleeping beauty, a hammock-slung damsel, lounging in perpetuity. Not to be woken, no thirst to be quenched, unless by this majestic pink liquid equivalent of a harp singing, bluebirds chirping, brook babbling.

I say, surely this is the sought-after antidote – not to rouse you from slumber, but to cure endless emails and phone calls, traffic jams and city sounds, gently resolving any such ailments with a faint magical kiss under a canopy of bougainvillea.

I imagine Perrault would delight in this charmer, too: he’d fancy up a new prince, one in dire need of just such a mystic therapy that would strengthen him – not to battle dragons, but rather to take finally take a wine break for once and recline in the hammock himself, with the hot piece of princess ass dozing under his arm midday.

CHEAT SHEET:

WINE: Domaine Lucien Crochet, Sancerre Rosé, Loire Valley, France 2015

GRAPE: It’s entirely made of Pinot Noir, noblest of grapes, harvested by hand.

HOMETOWN: Sancerre, gem of a wine town in Loire Valley, France.

TASTES LIKE: Blissfully easy to drink, but not without substance, depth, and texture. Salty and dry, floral and citrus and berry, all things amounting to a rosé from the chivalric days of yore, delicate as a glass slipper.

GOES DOWN EASY WITH: foods of all kinds, the obvious rosé fare like fresh vegetables, seafood, sandwiches, breakfast…oops wait what?

If YOU LIKE: Happily ever-afters and once upon a times.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE PINK FLING

Ashley RagovinComment

I'll start by saying this wine trumps everything you thought you knew about rosé. It's not some waif that disappears with a hint of grapefruit and a brunch reference. It’s deeper than that - in color, for starters. It's darker but delicate, filled with forest-y, brambly fruit and flowers that spontaneously bloom at dusk.

You know when something’s so heavenly you just want to inhale it all at once, as fast as possible? Guzzle it with no manners like the glutton you’re free to be (because you’re an adult)? But then, you want to slow time way down and savor every little sip, too…

Well it’s impossible to do both. I tried.

I was conflicted! I wanted to dive in head first! Swim around and maybe even drown myself in this liquid strawberry portal to wine utopia. All these rustic, deep flavors – so much to discover!

I delayed the rush because I was worried it might be fleeting. When I finally tasted it, it reminded me of those Turkish Delights from the Chronicles of Narnia - rose-flavored and enchanting, each subsequent sip bringing an insatiable desire for more as its consequence. Just delicious.


It was the color of a bouquet that just appears on your doorstep, then came the waft of those same flowers leaping from the glass, confirming what I already knew it would taste like before I even dared try it. I had to marvel at all of its sensory wonder.

In case you're wondering, I did stop to smell the roses as they say, like I aim to do in life always, and also whenever walking Hudson.

Why would you take a jet plane to paradise when you can go on the road trip? I'll admit, once I got a little sample, the bottle drained quickly. So I opened another (two or three).

You only get the first kiss once, and this is that kind of singular wine. Better to savor it than chug it, but it wouldn’t be hard to do that, either. I'd get a few bottles so you can press rewind as much as possible. It’s summer.

CHEAT SHEET

WINE: Vini Rabasco Cancelli Rosato, Abruzzo, Italy 2015

GRAPE: Organically-grown Montepulciano from 40-70 year old vines that have never once seen the use of chemicals or pesticides. Simple ingredients, incredible wine.

HOMETOWN:  The 3.5 hectare Rabasco estate is in the village of Pianella, province of Pescara, in the heart of Abruzzo. Italy! This is a region known for junk wines or cult-like wines that under deliver…this is neither.

TASTES LIKE: strawberries, roses, love potion. Blushing with red fruit but not over done; juicy and wholly satisfying, but keeps you going back for more as each sip brings new flavors of berry treats and savory bites and just enough texture to make it the fairest of light reds and still also rosé; unexpected but right on time, like the breeze showing up for an afternoon nap in the hammock.

GOES DOWN EASY WITH:  Started drinking it before it got all the way cold because we were thirsty - salty tortilla chips and guacamole is a verified match. By the time the steak was ready (a perfectly-cooked bone in rib eye to be precise – If you know me you know: the meat should always be bone-in), it was chilled. This isn’t a pairing wine, it’s damn drinking wine. Steak and vino found each other effortlessly, a match made out of something bigger than lust, but the more we drank the thirstier we got. We ate the entire meal without silverware including the steak, if that tells you anything about this wine’s capabilities to elevate things.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This is one of those natural beauties you don’t need to over explain, but it is extremely small production and so I took the liberty of offering it up here even though this wine is also part of the July Monthly Pour (of which there is very limited supply). No other producer in this tiny region is taking the care to make wine as special as this.

Here’s your one chance to get more than a single bottle if you’re already a member, and if you aren’t (not sure what you’re waiting for), this is a way to sample the flavor of me making good on my promise to fill your glass with the absolute best.

 

Melons in a Bottle

Ashley RagovinComment

I've been on a melon kick lately. And also I've been dreaming about going back to Italy. A lot. 

So I opened this golden Italian quaffer from Cinque Terre. And to my delight, it was filled with the same saltiness as the Ligurian ocean and a complex twang that reminded me of that addicting Tajin my fruit stand homie is always sprinkling on my fruit! As much as I miss the Italian Riviera, I love LA. 

I drank three glasses and gorged on more crunchy, cold melon; summer couldn't have been riper for the picking. 

This wine gets extended contact with the skin, and you know I'm all about that. Because when you leave a white wine in touch with its skins a little longer, it imparts mucho depth and texture to the wine.

There's a sexy richness to this white, but it's still as clean as that sweet Italian babe boarding a yacht, wearing no more than salt from the sea.

And it tastes just like her, too.

oh Sophia...I'll have what she's having

oh Sophia...I'll have what she's having

CHEAT SHEET


WINE: Bisson Marea, Liguria, Italy 2014

GRAPE: LOCALS ONLY: Bosco, Vermentino, Albarola

HOMETOWN: Cinque Terre, Italy. Liguria. Land of perfect everything, Slim Aarons style.

TASTES LIKE: This is no lightweight white. It's refreshing as a dip in those cool blue waters, but it has richness and depth - more like Sophia Loren than Taylor Swift. Think yellow melon, waxy citrus, flowers from some seaside town. Complex and lush with a crunchiness like that melon I've been slammin. 

GOES DOWN EASY WITH: The best seafood I ever ate was in Liguria. I had prawns that were magical and tasted like créme brülee of the sea. Any of those briny flavors will dazzle with this one and highlight the deeper fruit flavors and complexity. 

TELL YOUR FRIENDS: Not trying to be a jerk, but there's barely any of this left - 18 bottles total. But I couldn't keep it from you, that's just rude. So tell them you win - which is not rude, it's just true.
 

MAKE THIS: Watermelon Salad is a summer jam you should have on repeat. Easiest recipe ever, but I gave you a list of ingredients and instruction just in case, see below. 

Ingredients

(SERVES 8)

  • 1 package baby arugula (5 oz)
  • 8 cups 3/4-inch cubes seedless watermelon*
  • 1 package feta cheese, crumbled (7 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar - This is my favorite of all time, but you can cheat a little and buy a reduction or a glaze too...  
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Chopped basil

*watermelon is not hard to cut, but my brother was in awe when I dropped my technique on him. I'll share it with you in case you've been struggling, too: Slice melon in half, width-wise. Place cut side face down on the cutting board, then cut into slices. Lay slice on its side, trim rind off, then cube. Done.

ITALIAN SUMMER, MELON PERFUME

Ashley RagovinComment

Dear Bologna

photo by David Marcinek

Whenever summer comes around I start thinking about the one when I lived in Italy. I'd ride my bike to school every morning, stop for two cappuccinos at Antica Bologna, drink them one at a time with the same barista, then I'd have about 17 more espressos before it was time to switch to Campari and wine. It swells my heart just to think back to those days (also that's a lot of caffeine and alcohol, so that probably had its effects).

School got out at 3p and everything was shut down, because, Europe. I'd walk my bike instead of riding, in no rush to nap with the rest of those lazy bastards. Joking, I loved every single one of them. But the city in the afternoon had all these distinct smells and no one was around to take even a sip of them, so I'd inhale greedily and flood my whole being with them like the glutton Italy grants you free will to become. 

 

There was this fruit stand I'd take the long way to pass by, where the smell of ripe melons was so intoxicating it would hit me before I could even see the stand. I'd intentionally slow down walking by. The owner was probably named Claudio and was probably thinking I was interested in him and his fruits.

But really I was just getting drunk on that smell. I never bought a melon because that heavenly scent was so perfect I am certain no taste on earth would've matched it. I can still smell it like it was yesterday. 
Hot afternoon sun, quiet streets, melon perfume...

What's that got to do with this wine I'm not exactly sure, except that the pull of those scent memories from my time in Italy are so vivid and encompassing I can feel the weight of them on my chest like a hug to the heart.

I wish I could drink them all up.

Instead, I wanna share this little taste of the blissful state I lived in that summer, when every bite, every smell, every sound was something beautiful. 

It's bright and easy-going but far from simple. Made by a woman in Chianti, Giovanna, who withdrew her splendid wine from the official Chianti designation because they didn't respect the indigenous grapes and quality to her standards. And while there are some good Chianti here and there, it's true that it's mostly the Budweiser of the wine world. You can't mass produce something and expect it to live up to its full potential. I can tell you with certainty I've never found a melon that smelled half as good as those...

Anyway, this wine is enchanting and delicious and yes, it's scarce. Less than 100 cases make it into the country for us americanos. It's special like the naps are long, and the gelato is cold, and the melons are ripe. 

CHEAT SHEET


WINE: Podere Le Boncie '5' Tuscany, Italy, 2014

GRAPE: Mostly Sangiovese, with dashes of locals Mammolo, Colorino, and Cieliegiolo - that last one means cherry in Italian, and that's no coincidence because the fruit in this gem is Bing and Rainier all day.

HOMETOWN: Tuscany, where so much wine is made commercially, but this one is as pure as the sun is warm. 

TASTES LIKE: something you can't put your finger on, but tangible and delicious. Late summer evenings with smells like purple flowers and red fruit that either come from your glass or the garden you're sitting in, smoke from the bonfire or maybe it's the wine. Not that it matters, this one drinks seamlessly with all of those things. 

GOES DOWN EASY WITH: I imagine something home-cooked with this one, like a whole chicken and some bitter greens and some burrata with peaches because that's what I ate cooked most often in Italy, and in Italy you don't order chicken at a restaurant, you cook it at home. Pasta, sandwiches and even salmon would also fare well.

TELL YOUR FRIENDS: You're pouring them a wine that's more authentic than any Chianti they'd probably pick - it's not their faulty, it's not because they're lazy, it's just what they know. But sometimes you have to take the long way home in order to smell the melons. It's definitely worth it.

 

UNDER THE STRAWBERRY MOON

Ashley RagovinComment

a cosmic kind of wine

favorite color, strawberry moon sky 

favorite color, strawberry moon sky 

For the first time in 70 years the other night, the full moon fell on the same day as the summer solstice and I spent the longest day of the year riding bikes, eating Vietnamese food in the back of a 1968 Ford F100, drinking this perfect strawberry-colored and completely magical wine, with one of the greatest humans on the planet. Or under the sun, you could say, which happened to be sitting motionless at its northernmost point, waiting patiently still at the tropic of cancer, before switching directions. 

And all of this beneath a lunar miracle.  I'd call it a win in all directions. 

To be honest, cruising through the wide open streets on a Monday night, smelling the night smells and eating dinner under the giant fruit pie in the sky, we didn't even know that it was a special stellar happening, except that it just was. 

Then my mom texted me (she's better than the NPR app for news updates and happenings and I've just been informed it's now shark week), and her message said mysteriously: it's a strawberry moon tonight. I asked her what that meant, and she replied with the brevity of someone in bed not interested in texting. So I googled it. I liked what I read more than I had for blue moons and super moons. I wanted to name a song or an ice cream flavor after it. Something about strawberry moon lured the tides of my heartstrings and then I couldn't stop staring at it, feeling its pull and thinking about outer space and heavenly bodies.

Before I get too sentimental on you (too late?), I'll cut to the chase: This gem is rare as the Strawberry Moon. And just as delicious. Also, you can't get this wine ANYWHERE else. I know I say things are limited often (always true). But in this case, I was lucky enough to get nearly the entire allocation - me! And I'm sharing it with you. You don't hoard good music, delicious cookies, funny jokes, or the rarest wines all to yourself, it's not right. I wish I could see your eyes light up at first sip of this, because I do believe this is the best pét-nat that exists, under any moon that has ever risen. 

AWESOME FUN FACT: Piége å Filles translates to "girl trap" literally, and figuratively, wait for it: PANTY DROPPER! No joke. 

AWESOME FUN FACT: Piége å Filles translates to "girl trap" literally, and figuratively, wait for it: PANTY DROPPER! No joke. 

Get your lips on this treat, it's as fleeting as the last light of a long summer day, and honestly, it's just as moving. 

(I know - I've been on a BØRNS kick lately, but the sentiment of this song is just perfect). What did you expect, some cliche Fly Me To The Moon bit? I'm not some show pony, let's get real.

CHEAT SHEET

WINE: Les Capriades Pétillant-Naturel, Rosé Piège à Filles, Loire Valley France 2015 (Piége å Filles translates to "girl trap" literally, and figuratively, wait for it: PANTY DROPPER! No joke). 

GRAPE: Mostly Gamay, with sprinkles each of Grolleau, Cab Franc, and Cot - all farmed organically.

HOMETOWN: Loire Valley, France, from master winemaker, Pascal Potaire. 

TASTES LIKE: past lives, simple beauty, the color of the sky after dusk and before dark, the first bite of a ripe strawberry with a hint of the earth that the vine emerged from; as gentle and temporary as linen in the breeze and lace lingerie. Sorry I'm just feeling very romantic about this one.

GOES DOWN EASY WITH: there is no wrong answer to this - you can drink it with anything. Or nothing. This wine special enough to be the centerpiece, and subtle enough to welcome any type of gustatory delight; especially friendly with southeast Asian flavors, BBQ, and lunchy foods. Don't be fooled though, this single wine can carry you through the whole night and the whole meal, the whole game of Cards Against Humanity.

IF YOU LIKE: We've been down this road before. The last time I offered up Les Capriades (the Chenin Blanc) you thirsty pups snapped it all up in 20 min - none left for me! And good on ya. THIS ONE IS BETTER. If you liked the Bugey-Cerdon (the panty dropper juice), imagine an even more refined and delicate bird of the same feather. And then get it, so you're not stuck just imagining. 

TELL YOUR FRIENDS: You scored a wine made by THE master that no one else can buy. And you're pouring it for who?! Choose carefully. This one won't come around again till next vintage and it's never the same twice; similarly, the Strawberry Moon won't overlap with summer solstice again until 2062, so you could say this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing on all accounts. 

can't stop staring:

*check out the recent words I threw down for VICE Munchies on the merits of Thai food and wine - together - Capriades is a pick, get some in your glass!

THE GREEK LIFE

Ashley RagovinComment
white on white 

white on white 

I gotta tell you: I’m on a summer high, embracing the heat wave …kind of, I just ordered an AC unit; but somehow all I can think about is basking in the sun against the backdrop of that stark blue and white that’s so famously Greece. Sweating in my apartment with Hudson, who’s unfortunately still wearing fur, I’m riddled with wanderlust. And while architecture’s nice and everything, you can’t drink pictures and they’re making me thirsty AF along with this heat.  

Enter: the liquid equivalent of time suspended, seashells gathered, and salty-lemony snacks under the glowing Greek sun and that impeccable shade of blue.

FYI: Greece has been a winemaking region for say, 3000 years! NBD. Greek wine went out of fashion for a while due to some mishap with retsina, a wine dosed and flavored with pine resin. Originally that was to preserve the wines from oxidizing, but then everyone thought all Greek wine tasted like pine resin and so they shunned it. All of it.

Typical Winecism. But Greece is back in a big fat way, with a small collection of producers, like Sigalas, championing indigenous varietals the old-fashioned way.

This wine tastes like thousands of years of sunlight. And one of the coolest things about this wine from Greece is the vineyard itself: instead of the traditional rows, the vines are coiled in a circular fashion, held close to the earth like beautiful, leafy crowns, to protect them from the intensity of sun, wind and sea. It is a mysterious and enchanting sight. It’s almost as if a Santorini island alien colony, fueled by the local nectar, installed a secret message millennia ago. Well, I decoded it for you – it says: YOU NEED THIS IN YOUR GLASS. They plan to return for the wine we are too stupid not to enjoy and finish, so get to sippin.’ Also, they come in peace.

crown of the vines in Greece on Santorini aka alien messaging to drink this jucie

crown of the vines in Greece on Santorini aka alien messaging to drink this jucie

CHEAT SHEET:

WINE: Domaine Sigalas, Santorini, Greece 2015

GRAPE: Greece grows so many native grapes. Assyrtiko is arguably the best; it has the feel-good energy of a high octane summer anthem and the precision and beauty of a concert cellist. There’s also a teeny bit of Athiri dosed in for aromatics and balance

HOMETOWN: Santorini, the premier winegrowing region in Greece. These ancient grapes come to life in an ancient vineyard sitting afloat on an island in the south of the Aegean; volcanic soils, salty sea air, and a winegrowing history that dates back THREE THOUSAND YEARS – this is an unadulterated and completely pure expression of place.  

TASTES LIKE: beach-like, dry, satisfying; like dangling your feet in the Santorini breeze after a swim; ripe yellow citrus and maybe a hint of honeydew melon; salty, with minerality from the volcanic soils, and a super subtle-but-beautiful bouquet of fresh herbs.

GOES DOWN EASY WITH: all the fare you’d expect with Mediterranean flavors: olives, fresh cheeses like burrata and feta, thyme, white fish, fried calamari, anything in the key of salty-lemony – OH! Squeeze a lemon on some fish and chips and drink this!!

If YOU LIKE: Um, vacation and breathing air? C’mon. Get this in your glass.

 

 

FRUIT PUNCH ME IN THE MOUTH

Ashley RagovinComment

Remember how fruit punch was the best thing on earth as a kid? I wasn’t allowed to eat junk food but friends always had the stuff on hand so when I was invited over, I'd grab it out of the fridge, run to the backyard, and guzzle it like a savage in the grass. By the time my mom picked me up, my big mouth always gave me away, stained lips-to-tongue that bright ruby red. A scolding about the poisonous nature of refined sugar always followed... and guess what?


SO WORTH IT.

When I was young, my parents monitored what I ate soo strictly. Couldn't have candy, but I have a scar two inches long on the top of my right hand, from reaching into a busted piñata and scraping it across a dangling wire while trying to pull out the biggest grip of Smarties and Pixie Sticks I could get my paws on; No soda allowed, so I snuck Shirley Temples whenever I ate at the Old Spaghetti Factory with the soccer team; red meat was bad for you, so I ate three hot dogs at summer camp in one sitting and got sick for days. Not as worth it as the fruit punch, but still.

Don't get me wrong, I had a great childhood. I grew up singing Dire Straits in the car with my dad, running around outside all the time, eating the best pizza bagels known to human kind. The memories are warm and tasty. It's just that carob chips never tasted like real chocolate (THEY'RE NOT), and that bullshit Honey Vanilla flavor Haagen Dazs tried to pawn off as healthy AND delicious never really worked for me, either. What a weird assault on the absolute best ice cream flavor* ever to exist. To this day I'm not a real fan of honey, it just gets in the way of the taste of other things. 

Despite my junk food depravations as a kid, I still got fixes when the parents weren't around. Kudos bars at soccer games - the best! Now I think I live a pretty balanced life, minus a Postmates delivery of a dozen donuts every now and then (it's only a dozen because there's a minimum order, relax I share).

Somehow, this Carignan from the Rhone reminds me of the smacking, juicy red kind of rebel-good time I'd live for whenever I could steal the punch.  

And, I'm older now. So I can drink whatever I want. This summery, entirely pleasurable, punch-like treat is my new house red. I’ve been drinking it out of a juice glass in a bathing suit (one piece, of course) - for nostalgia. And I can't help offering it up to anyone who's thirsty.

This is also the FIRST VINTAGE EVER MADE of this wine! Less than 700 cases were made. Which is not a lot at all. It'll be gone quick, especially at the rate I'm drinking it...

The point is, you need this easy-chugger in your stash. For medical reasons. And practical ones, too. IT GOES WITH SERIOUSLY EVERYTHING! So gluggable, no wine glass required.

*vanilla is absolutely the best ice cream flavor on earth; French vanilla, vanilla bean, and other various forms of vanilla are not the same, and if you don't understand this then we have to start talking about an open relationship.

CHEAT SHEET:

WINE: Domaine la Manarine, Carignan, Southern Rhone, France 2014 - FIRST VINTATE EVER OF THIS WINE!
 

GRAPE: Carignan from 40 year old vines - that's old; aka the FOOD GRAPE. This wine is so versatile, it's almost like an ingredient itself in whatever you’re eating. It used to be treated as a loser grape, but conscious producers are respecting now, making it with care and love - like this one made with organic practices and low yields. 
 

HOMETOWN: Carignan comes from several places, but this is from a sustainable family-run estate in Rhone, France.
 

TASTES LIKE: cranberry, raspberry, and a hint of spice and cured meat – don’t be weirded out just because I said meat; it’s like having a good spread of preserves, cheeses and meats where you’re just blissfully snacking the day away on the grass. This wine tastes like happiness and is a liquid picnic treat.
 

GOES DOWN EASY WITH: It does cartwheels with warm spices like cinnamon, star anise, and dried herbs; it brings out berry goodness in dishes with red fruits and umami zing in roasted, smoked or cured foods. Try cured meats or a turkey sandwich - do dark meat! Sorry, I can't stop saying meat; ALSO: its body is so Goldilocks! Handles sturdy fare like a champ but won’t overpower lighter dishes, and even works with vegetables - not always easy for a red.
 

If YOU LIKE: Zinfindel, Cotes du Rhone blends, or even Merlot, get this in your glass. It’s about as easy-going as they come, and quite the crowd pleaser of a red gem. Chill it down for a bit of extra punch on a hot day.

 

 

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