Ashley Ragovin

Hi I'm great. 

Secret Garden, Magic Wine.

A lot has happened in the last seven days: Lemonade dropped. G.O.T. is back on. We lost an icon. I seriously cannot accept the fact that Prince DIED. I’m still in shock. I wasn’t going to even attempt to capitalize on a legend’s passing with a bunch of song references as tasting notes and insensitive memes – that would be so tasteless.

Still, I needed a drink, ASAP.

But bottle of Champagne felt too celebratory and a heavy red felt depressing. I wanted something gentle, something ethereal, maybe magical, even.

What I wanted was a beautiful, natural, fleeting kind of wine. This moment called for a Pét-Nat.

Luckily, I had a bottle of Capriades Pet-Sec on hand. I poured myself a glass and it was infinitely more refreshing than #lemonade, sensual and magical, and as ephemeral and rare as Ghost himself (that’s Jon Snow’s direwolf, Ghost). It was just the uplifting dose I was looking for. This is a fairy of a wine that’s as delightful as it is practically non-existent – there’s so little of it even made! Pascal makes a few versions, but this is his driest one - mineral-laden and far from sweet, but with hints of white peach, golden apricot, fresh flowers mingling about wildly.

The thing about pétillant-naturel is that you have to have the right raw material. The work starts in the vineyard (like it does for all good wines), but because méthod ancestrale has no sulfur to stabilize it, all of the grapes have to be perfect. You can’t fake this kind of wine. And Les Capriades is probably the best in the game when it comes to this style of winemaking.

Here’s how it works: After the grape juice starts to ferment in a tank, the wine gets bottled and completes fermentation inside the bottle under a crown cap. Delicate bubbles form as the sugars convert to alcohol and the resulting CO2 is trapped. The bottles are turned upside down, slowly, where sediment collects in the neck of the bottle and is then disgorged by hand. The crown seal is opened and the pressure of the gas blows the dead yeast sediment puck out, and the bottle is resealed – ready for you and me to consume in the garden at lunch, surrounded by waist-high tomato plants and wild lettuces growing free of pesticides and other nonsense.

Speaking of flourishing vegetables, I recently discovered a secret garden of sorts – well, Hudson (my lovable "Dilbert" of a dog) discovered it. Led by his curious and mischievous nose, we found a hidden enclave – a secret treasure of a spot where the most incredible, abundant garden was thriving behind the trash bins.

Kale, mixed lettuces, tomatoes, nasturtium, and root vegetables were all growing prolifically and magically behind a nondescript garage. I sat in this mini paradise taking in the waft of fresh vegetables and flowers while a perfected Chenin Blanc leapt out of the glass, abundant with its own ripe orchard fruits and fresh-grown, garden-y scents. It was hard to tell what was coming from where and it was sublime. While I drank Capriades Pet-Sec, I discouraged Hudson from peeing on the successful fruits of someone else’s labor. He listened mostly, and sat with me in the sun in the middle of the day, taking it all in. Not literally - I didn’t steal so much as a bite of anything, don’t worry.

I did, however, peak inside a toolbox I found (I’m a curious person), where I discovered a different varietal of herb (you know what I’m saying), so I figured I could use this magical bottle of wine as leverage or barter if I got caught trespassing.

This is as unadulterated and natural as wine gets. Sure, there’s science-y stuff going on, but there’s also an art form at work here that you can’t really put an equation to. Even after harvesting grapes at the exact right time, bottling live-fermenting wine without disrupting the process, protecting the vines and nurturing them without any intervention, there is an intangible quality that just exists outside of human influence. It can’t be duplicated. It can’t even really be described.

When you get ahold of something that extraordinary, you have to enjoy it to the last drop, as much as possible – bathe in it, even. Why? Because things that special can vanish without any warning at all.

THE CHEAT SHEET

THE WINE: Les Capriades Pet-Sec, Méthod Traditionelle, Loire Valley, France 2014

THE GRAPE: Mostly Chenin Blanc (my fav) with a tiny bit of Cabernet Franc.  

HOMETOWN: Loire Valley, France, near Tours.

TASTES LIKE: White peach, flowers, apple, tea, herbs – everything that comes in a bouquet or from an orchard; super delicate with so much going on. Total, pure deliciousness that’s low alcohol and dangerously easy to drink.

GOES DOWN EASY WITH: This is day drinking at its best. Drink it with brunch, lunch or nothing at all – I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than skipping a work day and having a whole bottle of this next to a plate of fresh garden veggies. Yes, I’d drink a whole bottle. WITH A SALAD. Life’s about balance.

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