Groovin’ to Radikon (FINALLY!) in Austin

Above: The rainy 2002 harvest was not a great one in northeastern Italy and so the Radikon family decided to bottle their entire crop that year in 500 ml bottles. Because they made so little wine, the unusual format (for them) allowed them to release a great number of bottles. I’ve tasted the wine a number of times now and it’s stunning — a great example of what a great winemaker can do in a challenging vintage.

Over the weekend, I took Tracie P out to dine at Austin’s newest “white table cloth” dining establishment, Congress, a swank and high-concept dining experience with a wildly ambitious menu (sure to be the hottest table to snag during the upcoming SXSW music festival when a tide of rock ‘n’ roll celebrity rolls over this central Texas town).

I was THRILLED to experience our friend June Rodil’s much anticipated list and OVERJOYED to find one of my favorite wines in the world: Radikon (the first time I’ve seen it here in Texas).

Above: “Wild Arugula, Artichoke Confit, Mozzarella, Holiday Grape Agro Dolce” at Congress. I wish folks would abandon the “truffled olive oil” mania around here. It’s one of the world’s greatest misunderstandings. But I have high hopes for high-concept dining in future at Congress.

Most people (including the Radikon family) point to Radikon as the winery that started the loosely knit orange wine movement in Italy when they began to ferment their Ribolla Gialla with skin contact in the 1990s. I tasted at Radikon back in September of last year and am a HUGE fan of these wines.

Above: A photo I shot of Radikon’s 2010 Ribolla Gialla, not long before harvest. Heavy rains in northeastern Italy during the fall don’t bode well for this vintage — in many ways, similar to the 2002 vintage. The fruit was beautiful (as you can see) but last-minute rains during the harvest ruined a lot of the crop.

I disagree entirely when people say that these wines aren’t for everyone. In fact, everyone SHOULD taste these wines so that they can begin to explore the magic of the place where they are made and the amazing people who make them — founders of the Natural wine movement in Italy and some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met in this business.

The 2002 Ribolla Gialla (in 500 ml bottle) was brown and crunchy and salty, with bright acidity and loads and loads of ripe and dried apricot and peach flavors… utterly delicious. What a thrill to see these wines on a list (at a fair price, btw) in a town that — ready or not — needs to learn what great Natural wine can be. Chapeau bas, June!

We drank the Radikon after dinner, with the chef’s cheese selection. With dinner, we ordered this 1999 (!) Mersault by one of my favorite Burgundy houses, Grivault. Normally, a wine like this would be out of our range but June has it at a more than reasonable price on her list (a reflection of her pricing strategy, sharing good deals she receives with her clientele). Lots of wonderful savory flavors in this wine, which has had more than a decade to evolve (and has many years ahead of it)… RUN DON’T WALK…

According to The Wall Street Journal, “the Brookings Institution recently found the capital of Texas to be the country’s most popular destination for the 25-34 demographic.”

I’m glad to say that we also have some kick-ass wines and kick-ass sommeliers ready to turn on all the hipsters arriving daily in the Groover’s Paradise!

NPA and NN+ in SF CA

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