It’s been days, and still the feeling lingers with me. Such is the power of a wine with soul. A new-found friend on twitter asked me the other day why I got into wine. I had to think. Have done so many a time, and can only get as far as being brought up in a family with a love for cooking, for flavors and textures and scents. I do have a sensitive nose. And have lived in France (granted – I have also lived in the teetotaler state of Utah, but that didn’t seem to do much good…) One event stands out as a tipping point; a Burgundy tasting with Michel Jamais, where one of the wines made me fluttery and giddy. Basically, I fell head over heels in LOVE and there was no turning back. But since I was at the tasting, held for professionals, I must have already drifted in to it by then. Either way, what makes wine such an extraordinary experience for me is those times when a wine somehow transcends the physical environment we operate in. Those are also the wines that stay with me for a long time after.
Last Monday, before heading to the Laguardia airport to fly to Utah, my sister and I went to the restaurant Diner in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We went early and the place was near empty, but the sincere and warm greeting by the waiter (Alex) gave the place instant atmosphere. We chatted for a while about the specials, and settled on an absolutely divine jaegerwurst with duck-fat fried lentils and wine-poached egg for me and a fresh mackerel for Cajsa.
Then came the wine. Sure, it was lunch, but it was our last one in NYC for this visit and I had spotted the wine list. All kinds of interesting small producers (of which I’m friends with at least one) and natural wines. Guess I should not be surprised, since I was recommended the place by Natural Wine convert Alice Feiring, whose books Naked Wine and The Battle for Wine and Love have meant a lot to me. Plus, if I got it right, Kermit Lynch‘s daughter works at or with Diner which should definitely inspire their choices to the more authentic and unusual.
But deciding was tough, so Alex, ever the perfect waiter (probably sensing a wine nerd desperate to discover as much as possible of the list) poured us tasters of all the open wines. They were beautiful. Not in a Bordeaux-grand-cru-classée sort of way, but these were wines with personality and (dare I say it) soul. I settled for Bernard Baudry’s “Les Granges” 2010 Chinon made from Cabernet Franc, and Cajsa on Francois Cazin “Cour Cheverny” made with the white Romorantin grape.
Cajsa loved her wine. Fresh but not simple, good mineral and acidity with an interestingly spicy, alcoholic mouth. Mine is still lingering in the back of my head. One of the special ones. It wasn’t the liquorish and dark fruit, or the fresh tobacco. Nor the pleasant, short tannins matching the jaegerwurst. It was something more, something above flavor and complexity. Maybe I was influenced by the good company, the excellent service and the nice sunny weather. But I’d like to think this wine did its part.
Maybe it sensed that, after all the negative feedback I’ve had lately on the possibilities of making a decent living as a wine writer, I needed to be reminded of why I’m doing this. Thank you.
Diner, it turns out, is owned by the same people who have the butcher shop Marlow&Daughters, so after lunch I went to buy some of the jaegerwurst, made with wild boar and venison, with me to Utah to serve to dad. Almost got run over by half a cow being carried in the door by the butcher. But really, I didn’t mind. I had found a wine to reinvigorate me, a restaurant to return to and a moment to remember. I was happy.
PS Also on the wine list was L’Ausseil “Du vent dans les plumes” from Rousillon, made from Carignan. Quite elegant. It’s an excellent wine at a very low price – if you can find it, buy it.