Tastings & Events



Amazing Lebanese Wine That Isn't Musar: Chateau Belle-Vue

With Catherine Luke O'Rourke of Vias Imports

6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY 

Lebanon, like a lot of the Middle East, has a very ancient relationship with wine. Like a lot of the Middle East, war and violence has also ravaged Lebanon. Chateau Belle-Vue is an estate that literally rose from the ashes of the Lebanese Civil War that lasted from the end of the 1970s through much of the 1980s. Located in Bhamdoun, atop Mount Lebanon, much of the village was decimated in the early 1980s. The residents who didn't flee were killed. 
Naji Boutros was one who fled, and after many years studying and working in the US and the UK, he moved back with to Bhamdoun with his wife Jill in 1999. They brought his family's vines back to life, working with the old maze of terraces built into the mountainside. Not knowing much about the technical side of winemaking, their first vintages were made with native yeasts and low sulfur just out of simplicity. When they received awards and attention for the wines, they just kept doing it this way. 
With their new success, they were asked by neighbors to revitalize and replant their old terraced vineyards, too. Now Belle-Vue, with a restaurant and bed and breakfast along with the winery, is the largest employer in Bhamdoun. They have about 24 hectares of vines, all dry-farmed and worked with organic methods. Whereas the famous Chateau Musar is down in the Bekaa Valley, Belle-Vue is up at 3,300 meters, overlooking the Mediterranean. More rainful and lots of snow make for leaner wines with lots of phenolic, herbal elements. The Reniassance and Chateau bottlings we'll taste tonight are a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. They have the backbone and fine detail that will enable them to age like fine Bordeaux, and a freshness and liveliness that makes them very enjoyable now, definitely with the same type of foods Bordeaux shines with: steak, game birds, lamb, and probably turkey, too. They are not meant to be stunt wines or flashy show-offs, but they are aromatically complex, engaging, and classically balanced in a way that shows how well-suited this part of the world is for making fine wine. It also shows how oddly underrepresented these wines are.
The rebirth of these vineyards is a poignant example of the resilience of wine and it's ability to unite people after even the most extreme devastation imaginable. Very few things in our culture have survived through so much of humanity's destructive impulses over so many eons. Georgia, the Balkans, all of Europe after two World Wars, somehow wine survives all this bloodshed and brings people together in the same essential way that is has for 10,000 years: through shared work, shared pleasure, and the shared effort in rebuilding the fragile but essential parts of our better nature.


Left Bank Biodynamic Bordeaux: Clos du Jaugueyron

With Dhrubo Mazumdar of Selection Massale

6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY  

The first transcendent experience one has with a wine can be as memorable as a Proustian madeleine. As a barely legal adult, I tasted a 1989 Haut-Medoc and can still remember the light in the room, the neutral-colored walls, where I was seated at the table, and the mix of earthy tannin, dark fruit, tertiary leafy notes, and a sense of elegant power that was at once haunting and gentle. This experience has only been more elevated because Bordeaux was the opposite of what I sought out for years: pricey Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from estates with distant owners who were bankers and not crusty farmers, made in a style that was anything but gentle and haunting.
So it's been really exciting to watch the developments in the past few years, as Bordeaux has gotten more attention from the natural wine world. Slowly but surely the dynamic is changing. Long-dominated by the rigid 1855 classification of wines, in the 1980s, Bordeaux was ground-zero for the bombastic spoof of the Robert Parker era, rewarding garish use of oak and power, favoring cellar techniques at the loss of more subtle expressions of the various soils and terroir. For years Burgundy was for terroir, Bordeaux was for elevage. But Bordeaux is a huge region, and there have been winemakers devoted to better farming practices and enchanted by Bordeaux and its potential to reach people emotionally through wine. More and more of those winemakers are getting attention now, and bringing back the more delicate charm of Bordeaux that has been working its magic for centuries.
Michel Theron of Clos du Jaugueyron moved from the Languedoc to study winemaking in the late 1980s, caught the Bordeaux bug, and never left. He is an intense and meticulous grower, certified organic and Biodynamic for nearly a decade, and his work in blending together the elements of his parcels in the cellar is all about balance: graceful and subtle, yet easy to enjoy. If you look closer, you see the detail. If you just want to drink them, you will be satiated. If you want to age them, sure, but the Haut-Medoc is ready to drink now with a short decant. 'Le Clairet' is a direct press wine made in the spirit of the pale, clear (clair in French) Bordeaux of the 1400s, before the English used the word Claret for the more typical structured, sturdy reds we're familiar with. Michel is offering us the past, present, and future of Bordeaux. With any luck, one of his wines could someday be your Proustian Bordeaux. Maybe don't pair it with madeleines, though, steak or roast chicken will probably taste better.


Meet Corsican Winemaker Thomas Santamaria

6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY  

Sometimes when we hear about wine from exotic places, we have an expectation that the wines will be similarly exotic, quirky, off the beaten-path, quaint. Tasting wines from Corsica, however, is like finding out that somebody accidentally deleted a whole chapter from the wine atlas. It's not some obscure footnote of a wine region, there are some staggeringly impressive wines being made there. 
The Corsicans are a famously insulated group, as many island communities are, and it's taken a little while for American wine importers to go out there and search for producers. For a while it was mostly importer Kermit Lynch's Patriomonio producers who were known in fine wine circles, but Selection Massale has recently fallen hard for Corsica and picked up three growers: Clos Marfisi, Nicolas Mariotti Bindi, and Thomas Santamaria. They are all working organically and making serious wines with classical balance. If forced to pick a favorite of the bunch, Santamaria might be it. 
Thomas is the 6th-generation to work his family's vines, and they successfully fended off the pressure to start using synthetic herbicides and pesticides in the 1970s that most Corsican winemakers went along with. The limestone and schist soils give an important finesse and backbone to the wines. The mix of ripe and hearty fruit with mineral detail is irresistible in his wines.
Thomas has been on a North American tour, visiting Montreal and then Canadian winemaker Francois Morissette. Tomorrow he's off to Washington, D.C. and somehow we were lucky enough to book him tonight! Come say hi and let his wines bring a little pleasure to the dreary, soaking weather today.


*Please note: tomorrow we will be doing our normal Wednesday tasting, featuring Bordeaux from Clos du Jaugueyron.










The Guardians of Etna: I Custodi 

With Tess Drumheller of MFW Wine Co.
6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY 
I Custodi is a fairly straightforward project, founded by Mario Pauluzi and Maurizio Pagano, their goal is to be caretakers -- of the Etna winemaking traditions, carefully tending century-old vines and terraces in the shadow of the volcano, using no synthetic chemicals and doing everything by hand -- or by mule, as pictured above. Though straightforward in concept, the work is pretty intense.
So to assist in this project, they partnered with Salvo Foti and his team or local workers who skillfully maintain the terraces and the vines. Foti is a very well-known consultant and agronomist in Sicily, and also makes his own wines under the I Vigneri label. He combines a lot of technical training and with the knowledge passed down to him from his grandfather, focusing on the vineyards and the agricultural practices to make the wine, not the cellar. The lines between Salvo Foti's I Vigneri and I Custodi are a little blurry, but whatever is happening is producing remarkable wines.
In contrast to the wines of Frank Cornelissen, a Belgian transplant who uses some advanced modern technology to make wines without sulfur, I Custodi represents a more traditional approach that is arguably just as able to express the unique volcanic terroir of Mt Etna. They add sulfur, but sparingly, and make wines that really show off the structure and mineral umami unique to Etna. The wines are not light, but they are not over-extracted or going for power, either. They are strong but harmonious, deep but haunting. They have texture and soul, and the reds show off chewy tannins that you can feast on. 
The classical balance of these wines also puts them in a category where everyone immediately responds to them. Novices, jaded wine snobs, natural wine lovers, I Custodi brings everyone together, a tradition that is surely worth protecting.




 Meet Kyle MacLachlan of Pursued By Bear Wine, Columbia Valley, Washington

3-6 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY

Yes -- that Kyle MacLachlan! Twin Peaks, Dune, Sex and the City, Blue Velvet, The Flintstones, The Doors, etc! Actor and native son of Yakima Valley, Washington, Kyle began a winemaking project with his good friend Eric Dunham in an effort to do something close to their hearts and to support their Walla Walla homeland. After Eric's passing a few years ago, Kyle is working with winemaker Daniel Wampfler to continue this delicious passion project. 
Saturday Kyle will be here to pour and talk about his wines -- but nobody is pretending to ignore his aura of celebrity and his famous good nature -- so he will be signing bottles of his wine as well. This could make for very cool gift idea, a treasure to cherish, or just a great bottle of wine to enjoy. We don't endorse just any movie star winemaker who comes along. Kyle is making serious Washington wine and is quite gracious and humble about sharing his time, and his heartfelt wines, with everyone.
Normally we have to push people a little to come out and taste, but in this instance we are more concerned about the crowds that will be here. If you want to guarantee that you get a bottle of wine that can be signed by Kyle, we are telling everyone to get them now, since it will really help streamline the chaos on Saturday -- and we can make sure to have enough wine on hand for everyone. Otherwise, you may be out of luck. Links to purchase are below, you can also call us at (718) 349-1718 or drop by in person to reserve wine.
Kyle is leaving at 6 sharp, so don't miss out! It is Halloween weekend after all, so get ready for some craziness. Extra points if you come dressed as Feyd-Rautha from Dune, as portrayed by famous Tuscan winemaker Sting. 




















  Le Coste: Natural & Proud Of It; with Giovanni Pagano of Scuola di Vino 

6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY 

Though we often talk about wines and winemakers who use minimal sulfur, fractions of the amounts that their neighbors or their parents used, Gianmarco Antonuzzi and Clementine Bouveron are committed to using zero sulfur, and have for some time now. Organic since 2006 and Biodynamic since 2007, Le Coste is in northern Lazio, about halfway between Rome and Florence. They not only refuse to add sulfur to their wines but they don't like to drink wines with sulfur in them, either, and so have helped build a community of fellow hardcore natural winemakers who trade wine, visit, and support each other.
Making wine with absolutely no sulfur is not easy, and what's always striking about Le Coste's wines is not that they are clean and sleek despite the absence of sulfur, but that they still have a level of depth and expression that speaks of their terroir despite sometimes showing what many would identify as flaws: volatile acidity, reduction, mouse, etc. Do the 'flaws' overwhelm other elements and only taste like microbial chaos, or have Gianmarco and Clementine reached an apex of purity that few others are courageous enough to attempt? Perhaps they simply paint a picture of the ideas of terroir as seen through a lens we are not used to, since we are accustomed to the cleansing, preservative effects of sulfur. But if you accept the 'flaws' as part of a wine's inherent flavors instead of something to be corrected, then their presence become part of the competing elements that shape the overall balance. It's not a view shared by most in the wine world, but Le Coste does an excellent job of showing what this looks like over roughly a decade of vintages. 
With most hardcore natural wines, one has to shift their personal tasting template a bit to identify the markers of terroir in the wines. With Le Coste, this would mean the rich, dense soils near an old volcanic lake, the chestnut and olive trees, the oaks, the microscopic biome of the soils and the cellars, etc. They are unquestionably there, adding sulfur doesn't make them appear. Any wine has a mix of nature's influence and the winemaker's philosophy and style, and some of the most exciting wines are made by people willing to risk taking criticism for their ideas. With Giancarlo and Clementine, it is easy to identify their passion, their energy, and their earnest work. If nothing else, they provide fuel for friendly arguments. These days, it's a real privilege to argue about the abstract aesthetic and cultural statements of fringe winemakers instead of zero sum politics.
In that spirit, I would argue that they are some of the best at integrating so-called flaws into their wines and creating tension and layers that don't cover up as much as show another vision of what wine is, what wine might have been many generations ago, and what wine can be. They are wines made for sharing and eating the rich, earthy food of colder weather. They are singular and alive, consistent enough to exciting to drink every vintage or bottling. There is certainly no flaw in that.



division-harvest.jpg  New Releases from Oregon's Division Winemaking Company; with Sophie Barrett

 6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY  

For those wine drinkers who have a hard time leaving the European shelves, Division is often the catalyst that leads to American oenological experimentation. After making wine in France, Kate Norris and Tom Monroe took many of their lessons to Portland, Oregon. Along with like-minded wines from Minimus, Fausse Piste, Bow and Arrow, Teutonic Wine, and Swick -- just to name a few -- Division has been showing Europhiles that Oregon has plenty to offer. Cooler, rainier conditions allow for wines that are far closer to those of France than California's more Iberian climate. The so-called 'Loiregon' movement is at its best in the hands of Kate and Tom, who show off their ability to turn Oregon Chenin, Cabernet Franc, Cot, Gamay, and Pinot Noir into wines that are influenced by the Loire but have now transcended this categorization to build something new and delicious. Careful work in selecting vineyards, meticulous winemaking, and minimal cellar trickery have built Division a deep roster of wines that is consistently exciting from vintage to vintage. 

Sophie Barrett from Division will be pouring their Chenin Blanc; a Cabernet Franc-heavy blend of Loire varieties called Beton, named after the concrete vats used in the Loire for similar blends; and a world-class Pinot Noir that will once again convince the doubters and Francophiles that Division is quickly creating a new category of Oregon-ophiles.




DIVISION 2017 BETON $27.95






Indigenous Greek Varieties You Didn't Know You Needed In Your Life -- Malagousia, Vlahiko, and Xinomavro; with Rachel Palmer Stones of DNS Wines

 6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY  

Greece has one of the longest histories of winemaking in the world, and yet we've only begun to see what they have to offer in terms of natural wines and old, traditional methods. Dominated by bulk producers who bought fruit from family farmers and favored quantity over quality since the beginning of the 20th century,  the wines that got exported for much of recent history were not the quirky rustic wines of generations past but polished, commercial products made with chemical farming, added yeasts, and countless other 'state-of-the-art' techniques -- an old story at this point that happened everywhere, stripping away local identity in order to try for international appeal. In Greece as in many other countries, the demand for natural wine has emboldened some small family wineries to follow their hearts and put the extra work into organic farming and less additives in the cellar, knowing that they won't risk financial ruin for doing so.
Such is the case for the three wineries we're focusing on tonight. Leftaris Glinavos in Epirus was among the first wave of 'boutique' winemakers that sprang up in the 1970s, and his son Thomas has been encouraged to go even further towards natural approaches. The four-generation-old Domaine Zaferiakis became one of the first certified organic operations in Thessaly back in 2005, and Christos Zafeirakis put years of work into reviving local varieties that had been nearly wiped out by phylloxera or ripped out in favor of modern, efficient homogeneity. Up in the Macedonia region, the Tatsis brothers, pictured above, were among only 3 or 4 organic estates when they started taking over from their father in the mid-1990s, and now they are among the most dedicated natural producers in Greece.  
The wines tonight may be unfamiliar varieties -- Malagousia, Vlahiko, and Xinomavro -- but they aren't crazy, wild, or funky. They are all distinctive, yes, and deliciously crafted, showing off the influence of their respective climates and soil, the unique stamp of the historical varieties being put to use without spoof or unsubtle attempts to win international acclaim in favor of individuality. The growing enthusiasm and excitement their work is instead allowing them to farm and make wine the way they prefer, allowing them to create something more personal -- which may limit their audience to some degree, but for those lucky enough to drink their wines tonight, it will be an ever deeper connection to someone 5000 miles away.










Meet Yoni Rabino of New York's Neversink Spirits

 6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY  

There are a number of local distillers we like to support -- New York Distilling Company a few blocks away from us on Richardson Street, Forthave and Doc Herson's over on Flushing Avenue, for instance. Neversink Spirits in Port Chester is another favorite of ours, and their focus is on apple spirits. This makes sense, since New York is prime apple territory. But the level of clarity and precision they bring to their work has taken them beyond local curiosities into the greater realm of world-class spirits. 
Originally inspired by the tradition of French eau-de-vies and German/Austrian schnapps, old high school friends Yoni Rabino and Noah Braunstein purchased a German hybrid still. With this they made an eau-de-vie from New York State apples, a clear, 80 proof spirit that preserves a surprising amount of nuance and purity of the original apple base. There is no added apple flavor, there is no sugar, it is a clear, unaged spirit, like vodka but made from apples instead of grain or potato, and far more delicious.
When they take this same spirit and age it in oak barrels, it becomes a brown spirit -- their aged apple brandy, similar to Calvados. Whiskey lovers, take note, you may have a hard time going back to the ever-more-expensive whiskey shelf after trying brown apple spirits. 
Now they also use their apple distillate base to make a gin. They macerate it with juniper first, then add a whole host of other botanicals like cinnamon, grapefruit, star anise, elderflower, cardamom and more to create very expressive and unique gin that stays true to their original focus on apples but also stands out among all the American gins that are popping up these days. We'll be just focusing on the apple-based spirits tonight, but we also have their pear brandy, a very limited cherry brandy, and their new Bourbon on our shelves. Everything they do has a certain elegance and focus to it that is already getting them attention across the US, so we're glad their locals -- since maybe we'll get first dibs as these get more and more popular.

 Trickle Down Wine Economics, Loire Edition: Chateau Soucherie and Chateau du Petit Thouars

 6:30-8:30 P.M. at Vine Wine 616 Lorimer St Brooklyn, NY  

The rough (and widely debunked) theory of Trickle Down Economics is that when the extremely wealthy get even more wealthy, it will create such a gushing amount of generosity that they will then lavish the proles beneath them with jobs, money, public works, Wham! cassettes, colorful beads, etc. Though there is next to no evidence of this working on any measurable scale in America, maybe the French aristocracy still has some sense of duty to the lower classes, some kind of collective traumatic memory of Guillotines and Robespierre, that expresses itself every now and then in ways quite foreign to your average American robber baron. How else to explain the prices of Chateau du Petit Thouars' wines? New to the US market, they are wildly expressive, complex, detailed, and on the shelf for under $20. 
The idea that the majestic castle pictured about is 'Petit' must be some kind of upper-class joke, but it was in fact built as a hunting lodge by an attache of Cardinal Richilieu in the 16th century, and the same family still owns and occupies the estate, reviving the vineyards in the 1970s, and in organic conversion. They are not only new to the US market, but new to the Chinon appellation, as this area close to Saumur-Champigny was part of Touraine from 1937-2012, when Touraine banned 100% Cabernet Franc wines. The soil is more limstone and clay than the sandier Chinon parcels to the east, and the wines have a touch more power than classic Chinon, though the careful winemaking at Petit Thouars keeps things largely in check, balanced and approachable, instead of making forceful trophy wines for long-term aging.
Chateau Soucherie is another striking, fairy-tale-looking estate in the Loire, farther west than Chinon in Layon. They focus mostly on Chenin Blanc and the esteemed Savennieres and Coteaux du Layon appellations for dry and sweet wines respectively, but they also make a more basic Anjou Blanc exclusively for thirsty American plebeians that is remarkable for the price, a superb example of Chenin Blanc's ability to create layers and tension amidst pleasure. This vintage has a small amount of residual sugar (about 3 grams/liter, still legally dry) that adds even more character and excitement to the wine.
Will these wines continue to be a gift from French nobles who have already been blessed with enough riches, or will they be tempted to raise their prices as the American demand starts to climb? At the moment, they are some of the most glaring examples of the frustrating difference between what you get from American wine for $20 and what you get from French wine for $20. Liberte, egalite, fraternite has a nicer ring to it than 'trickle,' anyways.