We’re going to miss Lou on Vine

From the department of “Where do I begin? To tell the story of how great a love can be?”…

Above: Tracie P with Lou Amdur at a Kermit Lynch tasting back in May 2009 in San Francisco. Tracie and I had just been engaged.

It’s hard to explain the intrinsic role that Lou Amdur has played in our lives.

Lou and his Lou on Vine have been the backdrop for some of the most special moments of the last three years. It was the first place I took Tracie P (then B) when she visited me in California for the first time. It’s where I met Comrade Howard for the first time. It’s where Anthony and I would go nearly every week when I was living in Los Angeles. The first time I went there it was for a book reading by Alice.

Across the nation, from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, the wine world is reeling from the news that Lou is closing his amazing wine bar.

So many great wines tasted there. So many thrilling wine tales recounted. So many wine personages encountered.

But none greater than Lou, who could always — always! — surprise you with what he was pouring, a rare grape variety he was excited about, a biodynamic Pecorino that really turned him on…

I really liked this elegiac post by Cory (and recommend it). It reminded me of how Lou brought so many of us together — despite the vitriol that so often surfaces on the Natural wine scene.

He was our rabbi and Lou was his synagogue — a συναγωγή, a bringing together, etymologically speaking.

Where do I begin?
To tell the story of how great a love can be
The sweet love story that is older than the sea
The simple truth about the love he brings to me…

One night in Paris with Alice

Above: Alice F and Tracie B, two of my favorite ladies, and I went natural-winebar-hopping the other night in Paris.

If you ever get a chance to go natural-winebar-hopping in Paris — where many believe the winebar concept and the natural winebar were born — with the leading lady of natural wine writing, Alice Feiring, go for it. In perhaps the only city on earth where the maître d’s are ruder than the hosts at Babbo or Sparks Steakhouse, Alice your-table-is-waiting-right-this-way Feiring, Tracie B, and I ended up at Racines in the picturesque Passage des Panoramas at the end of the night a few weeks ago while we were in town for gigs with NN+.

Above: The first wine we drank at Racines was this entirely stinky, cloudy, dirty, oxidized Chenin Blanc by winemaker Eric Callcut, who calls it “The Picrate,” which I imagine is a reference to the picric acid. I imagine that picrate tastes like saltpeter since it is used in explosives but I didn’t get a gunpowdery note on this wine. Thoughts?

Between her popular blog Appellation Feiring and her wine-memoir/manifesto The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization, there is no denying that Alice is one of the wine writing world’s boldface names — whether you agree with her radical positions or you find yourself diametrically opposed to them (there’s really no middle ground with her, which is something we all love about her). But in Paris, she is considered a primissima donna and Tracie B and I were thrilled to be her companions: the toast of the Parisian natural wine circuit seemed to bow before her as if in audience with the queen.

Above: The charismatic owner, Pierre, already enjoyed quite a following even before Food & Wine called Racines “Paris’s hottest winebar.”

As it turns out, owner Pierre Jancou’s family is from Modena, where I taught for a summer many, many moons ago for U.C.L.A. When we discovered our Emilian connection, he insisted that we taste Donato Camilli Lambrusco, which was fantastic — bright with acidity but light in the mouth. Even though we savored the minerality in every last drop of the Chenin Blanc (The Picrate, above), we agreed that the Lambrusco was the wine of the night. (Franco, I know… I know… I’m the only dude who drinks Lambrusco in Paris. That’s HOW much I love Italian wine!)

Pierre is not the only one at his restaurant that speaks Italian with an Emilian accent. His charcuterie speaks Emilian dialect, too, and the lardo melted sumptuously in the mouth, with the natural fruit of the Lambrusco slicing through its liquid fat like a serrated ravioli cutter on a Sunday morning. I ate blood pudding (below) and beets as my main course (just to keep things light). Tracie B and Alice split the sole, which was also excellent if pricey.

Above: The artisanal and natural qualities of Pierre’s food really stood out in the blood pudding and beets. His radically natural ingredients brought a balance and lightness to a dish you would otherwise expect to be gut-splittingly heavy. I ate every last morsel.

For someone who once performed “One Night in Paris” at the Paris Paris nightclub in Paris (yes, it’s true), this was one night in Paris that I will never forget.