Gravner, photos and notes from my visit

January 24, 2012

As I begin planning for my spring trip to Italy, Friuli’s been on my mind. It occurred to me that I’d never posted these photos from my visit to Gravner in September 2010.

Josko Gravner is an intense, intellecutal man and he doesn’t receive everyone. The day I visited, he was being filmed for a piece to appear on one of Berlusconi’s television networks. One of the gals from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia tourism office managed to get me on the “guest list.” The amphora-aging cellar at the winery is a magical room — in part because of his powerful presence and in part because of its spartan beauty.

During the guided tasting he led for the group of writers and TV producers who were there that day, he talked about “some of the mistakes” he’s made in the past. He said he would never age his wines in wood again.

All of his wines, he said, are now aged in amphora.

He also talked about how he believes that “zero sulfur” winemakers are mistaken: “Natural wine,” he said, “is not an excuse for bad wine. Even the Romans knew how to use sulfur.” (While there is no documentation of the Romans or Greeks using sulfur in winemaking, we do know that they used it to clean winemaking vessels and it’s likely that unbeknownst to them, it helped to eliminate unwanted bacteria. I need to a post on my research to date…)

The big news was that he announced to the group that he has been growing Pignolo for many years now and is currently aging some of the resulting wine. It won’t be released, however, he said, for many years to come. What a thrill it will be to taste those wines!

When you spend time with Friulian winemakers, many of them will tell you — particularly in Collio — how it was Gravner the grower that inspired and influenced them with his Natural approach to viticulture and his meticulous growing practices.

I was a bigger fan of his wines from the early to mid-1990s than those I tasted from the late 90s and when he was barriquing the wines too heavily for my palate. The 2004s that I tasted at the winery had that classic Gravner focus and intensity, their elegance overshadowed by their power in their youth.

Whether you like the wines or not, there’s no doubt that they are always thought-provoking and stimulating — both sensorially and intellectually.


Gravner’s amphorae

September 25, 2010

Serendipity delivered me yesterday to the doorstep of Joško Gravner. The above photo was taken in his cellar: those are his famous amphorae.

I think a lot of you are going to be surprised about what he had to say about anarchism, natural wine, and sulfur. A fascinating personage and a remarkable visit…


Mini-vertical of Gravner: it’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it

September 23, 2010

Shelley treated the group to a mini-vertical of Gravner last night at Borgo Comello, a wonderful trattoria in Farra d’Isonzo (Gorizia). Be sure to ask owner Claudio Comello about wines not listed.

We rarely see Gravner red wines in the U.S. and so I was entirely geeked for this: the 98 was friggin’ AMAZING, so light in body but rich in aroma (goudron and earth) and flavor (dark berry fruit).

Thanks, Shelley! You rock!


Scenes from an orange wine dinner

April 6, 2010

Tracie P and I had a blast at the orange wine dinner last night, at Vino Vino in Austin, where I poured and spoke about the wines. Life could be worse… Here are some “scenes from an orange wine dinner” for your virtual and vicarious enjoyment… Photos by Tracie P…

movia puro

Got it all going with a little bit of 2000 Puro by Movia, disgorged tableside (not really an orange wine, but a great place to start).

paolo bea

The first three wines were all by the hand of Giampiero Bea. Man, the Arboreus was outta sight… and I always love the Santa Chiara. The Coenobium, always a go-to for us.

gary clark jr

Shared a little Lunar by Movia with B3 player Mike Flanigin and Gary Clark Jr., who played later that night. Man, only in Austin: killer orange wine followed by some of the most insane blues musicians I’ve ever heard… I’m not shittin’ you, either…

lewis dickson

I was geeked to taste with Lewis Dickson, arguably the best winemaker in Texas and probably the only one who uses native yeast and a natural approach to winemaking.

seared flounder

Chef Esteban’s cooking was OFF THE CHARTS AMAZING last night. Seared flounder with purée of English peas. For the complete menu, click here.

vodopivec

I had a second glass of the 2005 Vodopivec Vitovska. Man, I dig that wine.

gravner

No, that’s not old man piss. It’s GRAVNER (2003 Ribolla Gialla Anfora)!


NPA and NN+ in SF CA

May 8, 2009

Above: A view from the stage. My bandmate Céline Dijon (Verena Wiesendanger, right) was in a super good mood last night at our show at Rickshaw Stop (hint: a fan was buying her Jameson). The show was a blast and we did three encores. Thanks again to Waldo of Rickshaw for letting us rehearse at the club: enjoy the Clos Roche Blanche Cot we gave you!

It was something of a blogger summit and a meeting of virtual friends last night between Terroir Natural Wine Bar and Merchant and Rickshaw Stop in SF.

Among them were my virtual and now real friends Cory Cartwright (author of Saignée) and his delightful wife Emily. We shared a bottle of the enigmatic 2002 Ribolla Gialla by Gravner. One blogger, who prefers to remain anonymous, noted (and I concur) that the Gravner is an “abstract” wine, a wine (in a certain sense) that you cannot drink. There’s no question that Gravner’s wines are fascinating, thought-provoking, and intriguing: as the wine aerated it revealed a remarkable array of fruit aromas — think dried and moldy apricot (but in the mouth, it still felt to me like the wood dominated). Owners Dagan Ministero and Luc Ertoran were on hand as well, and a lively discussion of “orange wine” ensued and they generously tasted us on a number of bottlings (including Ca’ de Noci and Damijan). Virtual friends Slaton Lipscomb and Simona (author of Briciole) were there, too, and Clark Terry of Kermit Lynch blog fame also joined up at the show.

The most interesting and unique wine of the evening was the Natural Process Alliance skin-fermented Chardonnay (above), sold only in reusable stainless-steel containers. (Spume has written about this wine as has Alice.) This wine is as stinky and cloudy as it gets and it is 100% delicious (maybe not for everyone but just right for yours truly). Slaton noted that it tastes slightly different every time because its malolactic fermentation has not completed when it ships. You can only get locally and I highly recommend it.

The crowd was fantastic last night and we did three encores, closing with a rocking version of “Ca Plane Pour Moi” by Plastic Bertrand. Tonight we play at an all-ages club in San Jose and I’m just passing time until tomorrow when I get to be reunited with my Tracie B, who’s flying in to visit with her girlfriends and see our show at Spaceland.

Highway run
Into the midnight sun
Wheels go ’round and ’round
You’re on my mind
Restless hearts
Sleep alone tonight
Sendin’ all my love
Along the wire


Emozionante! Produttori del Barbaresco Pora 2004

January 14, 2009

Above: No mixed emotions for me when it comes to 2004 Produttori del Barbresco. This is the stuff dreams are made of…

Last week took me to Dallas where I attended the Vias Imports tasting at the Italian Club of Dallas. It was an emotional occasion for me: I still hadn’t tasted any of the 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco crus and I was entirely geeked to taste the Pora (the only cru presented). I’ve been drinking 2004 Produttori del Barbaresco classic Barbaresco (i.e., blended from different vineyards) and the wine — from a cool and climatically balanced vintage — is showing gorgeously now. It’s going through a beautiful, open period in its youth. (Tracie B and I opened a bottle the other evening for dinner but finished it the next night with her killer nachos as we watched the Golden Globes: the wine actually became more tannic the next night!)

In my experience, Pora is among the softer Produttori crus and can be more approachable in its youth. No mixed emotion for me about this wine: I was thrilled to taste it and it’s sure to be one of the greatest expressions of this wine in my wine-drinking life.

Above: Always the gentleman, Alfonso Cevola jumped behind the tasting table to pour for food and wine writer Renie Steves.

I was also excited for my first taste of the 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco classic Barbaresco. The wine from this warmer vintage is more concentrated and not quite as elegant as the 2004. It is already very approachable and leans toward fruit flavor more than its older sibling.

Above: Salvioni’s 2003 Brunello di Montalcino is probably the best 2003 Brunello I’ve tasted.

Other highlights for me were the 2002 Gravners (Breg and Ribolla, less extreme than in previous vintages I’ve tasted — thank goodness!), Damijan 2004 (always), Dettori 2004 (probably my favorite wine from Sardinia, totally natural in style), Salvioni 2003 Brunello (incredibly balanced alcohol for this super hot vintage, so elegant and terroir-driven), and the 2006 bottlings of Dolcetto by Pecchinino (classic vintage for this wine, I really dug them).

Above: The Italian Club of Dallas has a busy social and cultural calendar.

One surprise was a wine that Robin really likes, Tenuta San Leonardo (Gonzaga) 2004 San Leonardo. I’m never such a fan of Bordeaux-style wines from Italy but this was showing nicely. It was interesting to taste it side-by-side with the 2003: I think that the cool summer of 2004 made for some great wines in Italy.

In other news…

Don’t forget to come see me, Tracie B, and NNP at the Mercury Lounge in NYC on Monday February 9. I’ll be posting updated info for our France 2009 mini-tour next week: we got bumped up to a better show than we thought in Paris… details to follow…

Above: Pickled jalapeños at a wine tasting? Only in Texas!

*****

The 1980s Richard Simmons look didn’t really work so well for Mick, did it?


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