Indisputably Natural in San Diego: Cornelissen, Dettori, López de Heredia

N.B.: Jaynes Gastropub does allow corkage, for a reasonable fee, for wines not offered on their wine list.

Chrissa, her husband Dan, Rikkers, and I opened a memorable flight of indisputably Natural wines last night at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego. I write “indisputably Natural” with a capital N because any mention of Natural wine these days seems to spark the ire of some of the more cranky among us here in the enoblogsphere. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the community of wine bloggers who have laid claim to this precious and widely coveted epithet would agree that the three wines in question fulfill the criteria prescribed by even the most rigorous enforcers of Natural wine doctrine and dogma.

Perhaps nowhere has more been written about the wines of Frank Cornelissen than at Saignee and, ubi major minor cessat, I will defer to Cory’s excellent blog for a treatment of Cornelissen and the cult that has taken shape around him.

The wines, raised on the slopes of Mt. Etna, are not easy to come by in this country and I was thrilled to finally get my hands on some. Together, we tasted the 2007 Munjebel Bianco (native yeast, skin contact, no SO2, no filtration). Munjebel is dialectal toponym for Mt. Etna, btw (akin the Sicilian Muncibeddu or the Italian Mongibello, meaning monte bello or beautiful mountain).

The synthetic cork bulged out slightly from the lip of the bottle’s neck and the shoulder was very high. I believe this was due to a second fermentation in the bottle and the wine had a slight spritz to it.

I don’t have time today to go into the epistemological implications of this wine, which I find fascinating (the wine and the implications). But I can report that I thoroughly enjoyed it (bright acidity, bright citrus fruit, balanced alcohol). I believe the wine has not yet stabilized (it had rested for about a week in my wine locker in San Diego before we opened it last night). I’m looking forward to opening the other bottles in my allocation: this wine is alive, IT’S ALIVE, as Dr. Frankenstein might say.

The 2006 Bianco by Dettori? This was simply one of the best wines I’ve ever had in my life. Not a great vintage for Dettori but sure to be a 20+ in its cellar life. Tannic and rich, bright bright acidity and a crunchy mouthfeel. It took some time for this wine to open up but it was purely sublime.

We also ordered the 1998 López de Heridia Tondonia Rosado from Jayne’s list. The oxidative wine was a perfect closer after the thought-provoking, intense whites (orange wines, really), and was a fantastic pairing for my schnitzel and spaetzle (recommended by Jayne). Anyone who visits Do Bianchi regularly knows just how much Tracie P and I love LdH — anytime, anywhere.

After dinner we went to a new club on El Cajon Blvd. to see Jon’s band the Fairmounts play their blend of 60s soul.

That’s A.J. Croce (yes, Jim Croce’s son!) on keyboards… how cool is that? They completely rocked the house…

Wrapping up this quick San Diego trip (to ship and deliver wine for my wine club, I just had to share this photo of my awesome nephews Abner and Oscar (brother Micah and sister-in-law Marguerite’s children).

Abner is holding a photo of his great-great-grandparents, mama Judy’s grandparents. It’s so remarkable to think about how far we’ve come from Russia, Poland, and Austria. And how radically the world has changed since then.

Would they have ever imagined that their progeny would be drinking unyeasted wines from the slopes of Mt. Etna on the far-flung shores of California?

Eating, drinking, and loving well…

at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego…

Many great bottles opened last night over a 5-hour dinner at Jaynes Gastropub last night, including this 2006 Bâtard-Montrachet by Pernot, unctuous and rich, rocks and fruit. THANK YOU ROBIN! :-)

Cory (left) was in town to visit his best friend who’s pursuing a graduate degree in communications at UCSD. A vibrant dialogue on Gramsci and his significance in the age of the internet undulated over the din of our munching. That’s Jon (of Jaynes) at the top of the frame and Yele (John Yelenosky) to the right.

How a schlub like me always gets to go home with the prettiest girl in the joint will always remain a mystery to me.

Post scriptum

Only because TWG has been objecting to my sartorial choices of late, I thought I’d include this photo from the gig the previous night at Zenbu (La Jolla).

Don’t read my wine blog (and great things I ate in San Diego)

Above: Fish tacos at Jaynes Gastropub (served only during happy hour). So good with the Grüner Veltliner by Domäne Wachau by-the-glass.

As my lovely and most definitely better half Tracie P will surely agree: it is a rare occasion that I am left speechless. Today is such an occasion.

I was left entirely FLOORED by Levi Dalton’s piece over at the 32 Days of Natural Wine.

Above: Camaronillas (corn tortillas stuffed with shrimp and then deep-fried) at Bahia Don Bravo in Bird Rock with the crew (SO MUCH fun last night). Bahia Don Bravo 5504 La Jolla Boulevard, La Jolla, CA, (858) 454-8940. (Thanks Salavdor, Roberto, and Dora! YOU’RE THE BEST!)

I highly recommend that you check out and follow the 32 Days and there are so many great posts to come.

Above: And only because Zio Alfonso is so concerned about my cholesterol level, I only ate half of the homemade pork sausage (generously studded with fennel seeds) at Pete’s Quality Meat in Little Italy on my way to the airport. Pete’s Quality Meat, 1742 India Street, San Diego, CA, (619) 234-1684.

I’m so stoked that I got to be part of this epic undertaking and entirely humbled by the caliber and talent of the contributors.

Here’s a useful link to see an overview of all the posts to date.

Buona lettura, as the Italians say!

Natural wine matters

Above: The wines produced in the Sierra Foothills of California by Hank Beckmeyer and his wife Caroline are among those recommended by Eric in his blog post yesterday on Natural Wine. (I’m offering two bottlings by Hank in my wine club six-pack this month.)

With all the trimmings of a lustful post-modernist dialectic on the semiotic implications of “the other” intrinsically expressed through the exile of “self” in the production of wine, the debate over what is and what is not Natural Wine (with a capital N word) is gearing up like a Hollywood summer box office block buster.

Joking aside, the Solomon of wine blogging, Eric, has opened the flood gates with a torrent of strength equal to a Texas summer flash flood.

We’re all gearing up for Cory’s 32 Days of Natural wines, which begins in a few days (I’ll be posting, as will Jaynes Gastropub, as will Hank above, and a lot of other friends of mine).

In the meantime, I can’t recommend Lou’s posts strongly enough: while Eric is our Solomon, Lou is our Rebi Akiva.

2003 Oddero Barolo in magnum: that’s what friends are for

Above: Giacomo Oddero 2003 Barolo in magnum was fantastic last night.

What can I say? Being a wine blogger has its perks. My buddy John Rikkers (whom I met through wine blogging) brought in a bottle of 2003 Barolo by Giacomo Oddero (one of my favorite traditionalist producers) to drink last night at Jaynes Gastropub following the Mamma Mia! tasting at the restaurant.

NOTA BENE: Jaynes does allow corkage. For a great guide on corkage, check out Lettie Teague’s article from a few years back, “Corkage for Dummies.” It’s a great set of rules-of-thumb for bringing your own bottle.

Above: John (right) and I met online through wine blogging and we always have a blast tasting together.

The 03 Oddero was simply singing last night: tar, goudron nose… earthy manure on the palate… mushroomy and elegantly tannic… Let me just go ahead and say it: cow shit in a glass and I loved it…

It’s a great example of how a lot of great wine was made in 2003, despite the challenging vintage, especially by those who take a traditional approach to Nebbiolo. It’s also a great example of how 2003 — an aggressively warm vintage — is drinking wonderfully right now. (I recently tasted 2003 Barbaresco by Produttori del Barbaresco and again, showing great right now.)

A propos wine blogging and folks I’ve met through the wine blogger community, check out this superb post by Gary Chevsky on his dinner with Mariacristina Oddero of Giacomo Oddero the other night at Donato Enoteca in Redwood, CA (a restaurant, I’m DYING to check out btw). Gary gives a great profile of the producer and the wines, definitely working checking out…

Thanks again, John. The 03 Oddero blew me away last night and was an awesome pairing for my Bangers and Mash. You R O C K!

Remembering our wedding day at Jaynes

After picking up Tracie P at the airport (on what was a no less than “Top Gun” gorgeous San Diego day), we headed to Jaynes for dinner: we hadn’t been at Jaynes together since our wedding day in January and so it was so fun to remember all the great moments! Tracie P had a Campari and soda to start (possibly her fav cocktail).

We opened some great bottles last night but one of the most fun was this bottle of 2006 Arnaud Ente Bourgogne Blanc, drinking so beautifully right now, a guilty-pleasure wine that Jayne and Jon carry on their menu and that we served, among others, at our wedding reception there. It’s one of those wines that prompts the question: why does new oak seem to work so perfectly in Burgundy when it fails so miserably in other wine-making regions we love? (With its wax seal, deep punt, and heavy glass, this wine has a very “naughty bottle” as Jancis Robinson might say.)

Thanks again, Jayne and Jon: you couldn’t have created a more perfect wedding reception for Tracie P and me.

And thank you Tracie P, for being such a beautiful bride, such a loving wife, and such a gorgeous and generous soul. What a wonderful memory and what an amazing day that was. You couldn’t make this adoptive Texas boy more happy. I love you…

Happy mother’s day, ya’ll!

Taste Piedmont rocks with me on Sunday at Jaynes in San Diego

The first winery distinguished Italian wine writer Franco Ziliani took me and Tracie P to visit on our February trip to Piedmont was GD Vajra in Barolo. Winemaker Aldo Vajra (below) keeps these rocks (calcareous marl, above) on the windowsill of his tasting room to illustrate what gives great Barolo its structure and minerality.

On Sunday, I’ll be speaking about the wines of Piedmont at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego, where we’ll be tasting Aldo’s excellent 2005 Barolo Albe.

Jaynes Gastropub
4677 30th Street
San Diego, CA
Sunday March 28

Call 619-563-1011 or Email Jaynes for reservations
Tickets will also be available at the door.

Piazza Colbert is the largest square in the tiny town of Barolo. “It’s kinda like the Oscars,” said Tracie P, as we waited there for the illustrious Mr. Ziliani to arrive in the piazza, scanning the names of the winemakers plastered to the homes and cellars around the square. “All the stars are here…” I’ll be giving my “Colbert report” on Sunday…

In the meantime, for a great profile of Vajra, check out McDuff’s posts (Vajra is to McDuff what Produttori del Barbaresco is to me). McDuff is a true friend…

Si parla l’italiano a San Diego

This morning, Tracie B and I arrived early for our appointment to get our marriage license in downtown San Diego and so we popped over to the newly revitalized Little Italy neighborhood of America’s Finest City for some breakfast. There was a group of men sitting — kibbitzing, you would say in Yiddish — outside Pete’s Quality Meats (above) and so we stopped and chatted with them in Italian. Their Sicilian faces were tan and furrowed from their years working on the San Diego tuna boats.

“Auguroni! figli maschi!” they called out as we said goodbye (“Best of wishes! May you have many male children!”).

It was wonderful to hear the sun-baked rhythms of their Sicilian cadence, a relic and a trace of the era in which they immigrated to the U.S. bringing theirs skills in tuna fishery (probably in the 1960s, gauging from their language).

Si parla l’italiano a San Diego…

In other news…

I think the Rueben has officially usurped the special place in my heart once reserved solely for the Jaynes Burger at Jaynes Gastropub, where a bunch of folks gathered last night to celebrate our upcoming wedding. It paired exceedingly well with the 2007 Dolcetto d’Alba by Cavallotto by the glass (one of me and Tracie B’s favorites).

My high-school friend and bff John Yelenosky and his wife Megan (both wine professionals) treated us to a bottle of 2000 Gaston Chiquet Champagne. Wow, I love that wine.

“I know how much you like Gaston Chiquet,” Megan teased me. “‘Cause I read your blog!” ;-) Sooooo gooood… and so sweet to drink in celebration! Thanks, Megan and John!

John is going to “stand up with me” at the wedding this weekend.

O, and, btw, the marriage license? CHECK! :-)

Mad World 2000 Brunello

il poggione

Above: The 2000 Brunello di Montalcino by Il Poggione rocked my world last night at Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego.

It’s been a mad, mad week already, between travel, wedding planning, business meetings with a California client, and catching up with old friends.

Last night, to celebrate Jaynes Gastropub family-member Nicholas George’s successful level 2 sommelier certification exam, Jayne and Jon treated the extended-family crew assembled at the bar to a bottle of 2000 Brunello di Montalcino by one of my favorite (and one of Tom Hyland’s favorite) producers, Il Poggione. 2000 was such a warm vintage in Tuscany (and throughout Italy) and many of the wines have that stewed tomato thing going on. But not this bottling: it was powerfully tannic and it rocked with bright acidity and plum and cherry fruit. I’m sure that winemakers Fabrizio and his son Alessandro Bindocci would tell me that their higher elevation in Sant’Angelo in Colle and their 40-plus-year-old vines allowed them to make great wine in a not-so classic vintage.

Congratulations, Nicholas! Chapeau bas!

mad world

Above: The famous upright piano featured in my buddy Mike’s version of “Mad World.”

Earlier in the day, I took time out to catch up with my good friend Mike Andrews and to visit his studio in Glendale. He loves to tease me that I was voted “most likely to have a successful career in music” by our high school graduating class: since launching his career as a film composer in 1999, Mike has scored countless hit movies. Mike let me take the above photo of the piano he used on his 2003 British number-one-Christmas-hit single version of Tears for Fears’s “Mad World.” He swore me to secrecy: I cannot reveal the technique he used to achieve the instrument’s unique sound on the recording (and had to photograph it obliquely). But it was a thrill to feel its aura, as Walter Benjamin might have said.

Check it out… The opening lines still give me goosebumps!

Today is another mad schedule of work and travel… More later on the California adventures of Tracie B and Jeremy P. Stay tuned…

K-tel presents “The Jar Sings Love Songs”

ktelRemember the K-tel records from when we were kids? My close friends Jayne and Jon from Jaynes Gastropub in San Diego just sent me this K-tel album cover (a lot of you probably don’t know that all my friends back home and everyone who knows me in the music business call me “Jar” or “the Jar,” a nickname given to me by high school friend Mike Andrews, one of the most talented and accomplished musicians I know).

I wanted to thank everyone for all the well wishes after yesterday’s post (on Facebook, too). It was such a good feeling to get back to Austin last night and get to hold Tracie B in my arms again. When the accident happened, I didn’t see my past life pass before me: I saw all the things I would miss if I were to leave this earth too soon.

So many folks have told me how much they liked the Tracie B song. So I’ve posted an MP3 here, in case you haven’t heard it yet or, for those of you who have, so you can have a “clean,” higher audio quality version (depending on your browser, you should be able to grab the file and import to your ITunes).

Thanks again for reading, listening, and all the thoughtful comments and well wishes.

Tracie B and I are headed out tonight to Virginia for a family wedding and so I’ll see one of my brothers, his family, and mama Judy together with the whole Judy side of the family. Man o man, do I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot of good things to live for.

Happy weekend ya’ll!