Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Encounters at the End of the Wine World

Today was the Vins du Jura tasting in New York. 23 growers from the Jura, imported and otherwise, pouring at tables layed out with their wines. Luckily, I was able to attend. Werner Herzog came along with me.

Werner was a regular at my old place of work. In truth, if Werner Herzog takes the time to visit your dining room, it may mean that your restaurant is somewhat difficult to find.
Werner was just back from the Ardeche in Southern France, where he was working on a film. He told me that he enjoyed to drink Savagnin quite often while there. I asked him if that was his first introduction to the wines of the Jura, and Werner kind of laughed bemusedly at that suggestion. "No, no" he said, "I've been drinking Savagnin for all my adult life." And then he showed me this picture from the 1970s
where he is seen arguing with a coworker over who will have the last glass of Chateau Chalon. "Damn those small bottles" he said. Werner told me that he brings this picture with him whenever he goes to Jura tastings, because in the past he has had a lot of trouble getting into professional trade tastings. Apparently, there was this one time where entry didn't go smoothly at all, as Werner had forgotton his business cards at the office. He had a picture with him from that day as well.
Werner told me that he doesn't go to Malbec tastings anymore.
We didn't have any trouble getting in this time, though. Werner explained later that this was because he had rubbed some Comte cheese under his chin before we arrived. "I always do this with the Comte" he said, "the natives can smell it on you, and then they trust you." Which made a lot of sense to me, I have to admit. I will probably rub some Comte under my chin before I go to the Jura tasting next year. Wouldn't it be nice if they would have this tasting closer to Christmas so that I could experiment with Vacherin Mont d'Or as well?

Our first stop was supposed to be the Bornard table, but there was an enormous mountain in our way. Quite big. This didn't stop Werner, though, and he devised an elaborate pulley system to get us and our tasting booklets over the mountain. 36 days later we got to meet Philippe Bornard, who was quite pleasant.

Here Werner explains how to best lay out the cables for a pulley over Mt. Bornard.

I asked Werner what originally drew him to these wines. "I knew that there was something else out there. A new reality. But where were those truths? I had to find them. I searched the books, but there were no listings. I went to the stores, but did not find the bottles. I kept at my search. I would go to the very ends of the world to find these wines, authentic wines, original wines." This was pretty heartfelt stuff, so I asked Werner if he had ever thought of doing a movie about the wines of the Jura. "I did, I did" he said, "but I had to scrap it." Apparently, and this is really a shame, Werner's movie in progress had been called Vin Jaune Tale, but the makers of a commercial Australian Shiraz had forced him to stop production. Something about copyright infringement. Sad.

Next Werner and I went to taste with Julien Labet. The bottles were showing quite well. "When I drink this kind of wine the very birds fall from the sky" said Werner, which sounded a lot like a compliment at the time that he said it.
Werner got very excited while talking about wine with Julien Labet.

We proceeded to the wines of Montbourgeau. Apparently, Domaine de Montbourgeau is experiencing increased demand. I was told that a single restaurant in Chicago wanted to purchase more Montbourgeau in a single drop than the importer brings into the country in an entire year. There are concerns that once the Montbourgeau Vin Jaune is sold out, that it will be become quite scarce. After all, you cannot hurry the production of this kind of wine along. It takes several years to come about. Werner already knew all about these problems, of course, and said that in fact, several of his friends are quite worried that Montbourgeau will become as difficult to obtain as Overnoy.

This man is not happy about the possibility of allocated L'Etoile.

Next I wanted to try some top flight Macvin, but the D'Arlay table was all the way in the next room. "It is nothing," Werner said. "A real man must walk to his Macvin. When I wanted to ask for my bride's hand, I walked a thousand miles through a forest to find her at her door and ask for her hand." And it was true that there was no forest in the way of the D'Arlay table, so I stopped making such a big deal about it. We walked over to try the red Macvin, which was my favorite wine of the day. Werner liked the D'Arlay Macvin so much that he ate his shoe, which I thought was pretty hardcore.

It was when we were tasting with Tissot that Werner became very introspective.
Somehow this lake was next to the Tissot table. I'm not sure how that got there.
"I have wanted to try a Cremant du Jura like this for so very long," said Werner as he sampled the Tissot "Indigene". I asked Werner if he really did like the Cremant, and he replied "I would travel to Mars for a taste of Cremant like this one," which sounded pretty cool until I thought about how the atmospheric pressure of a Cremant would be all weird on Mars. But I think I understood Werner's point anyway.

Werner was tasting at the Bourdy table by himself when he was shot. It was some sort of random sniper attack. But Werner didn't want to make a big deal about it, and just wanted to try the Cotes du Jura Rouge. "It's happened before," Werner said, as he was bleeding into the spit cup. "And it is not a surprise. There are a lot of challenges to tasting these wines. But the poet must not avert his eyes. You have to take a look at the Jura wines that are around you."

It was true.

I took Werner home, but he did not want to go to the hospital. "I have been shot at with much larger bullets in my life" he told me. "You have to ignore the stupidities and concentrate on the wines. That is how we find illumination. Where is the ecstasy without them?"

And this was also true.

I went home and took a nap and dreamt that I was Klaus Kinski in a tux with a large bow tie.


Brooklynguy said...

Why can't you post more tasting notes on the wines, instead of all of this insanely funny and wildly creative fine writing? It's the tasting notes we want! Please post Werner's tasting notes.

Scott said...

I think this is your best post yet. It strikes that elusive balance between generosity and indulgence that's often needed in say, a great dj or a lover or a wine bar. For instances.

Nathan said...

Good stuff right there, Levi. Thanks for writing.


Lyle Fass said...

I am just happy I got all the references.

Levi with an i said...


I think I missed some of them myself.

lars said...

I was recently told that it was the new Achatz place Next that wanted to buy all that Montbourgeau and was denied. They've evidently got an interesting set-up regarding wine, in that they are just doing set pairings and no list per se. So, I don't think we need to worry about Jurassic whites going big time just yet.

Oh, and can't you do tasting notes that are a bit more suited to cellartracker? Way too many words.

Keep up the great work.