Gravner, photos and notes from my visit

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.

Scenes from an orange wine dinner

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.


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


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

Nobody said it better: Jayne on natural wine

Above: Yesterday, my friends Alex Stuempfig (left) and John Rikkers (right) and I tasted Lunar together — some very orange wine — at the first-ever San Diego Natural Wine Summit at Jaynes Gastropub. Photos by Tracie B.

Tracie B and I had a blast yesterday at the San Diego Natural Wine Summit. A big heartfelt thank you from me to Jayne and Jon (owners of Jaynes) and the staff, to the suppliers who generously poured and spoke, and to all the folks who came out to taste, to trade notes, and to share in our passion for natural wine.

Above: It was super fun to float around the tasting, talking to people and tasting wine. At one point, I jumped behind the Kermit Lynch table. That’s me, riffing on some killer Guy Breton Beaujolais Morgon.

As I floated around the tasting, talking to people, tasting, and comparing notes, I couldn’t help but think about how natural wine is so much more than just a style or philosophy or ideology of winemaking. As I watched and enjoyed the many oohs and ahs of people tasting a vivace (gently sparkling) blend of Cortese, Favorita, and Arneis (the Arcese by Bera, which Tracie B noted was THE wine of the tasting) or the killer Mikulski Aligoté (which has got to be the best Aligoté I’ve ever tasted), it occurred to me that natural wine is also a lifestyle, an attitude about food and wine and what we put in our bodies, and a culture that brings like-minded folks together. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone drank natural wine?

Above: Even Aria loves natural wine. Her daddys are the nicest folks and just another reason why I love natural wine.

Nobody said it better than Jayne: “Whatever it is — food or wine — the things I like the best are the things that are manipulated the least.” Great words to live, eat, and drink by, no?

I’ll be posting more on the tasting here, at the Jaynes blog, and at the 2Bianchi blog as well, so please stay tuned… and thanks to everyone for your support!