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choucroutegarni's Profile

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Natural vs. Organic vs. Biodynamic

And, just because a wine is Bio-d or organically grown, doesn't mean that it's not manipulated in the cellar.

Dec 14, 2011
choucroutegarni in General Topics

Biodynamic and Natural Wines in LA

"Unfortunately, Louis/Dressner wines are hard to find in this town." You're not looking very hard. They're all over the place. Too bad you haven't bothered to seek out LDM wines in Los Angeles and pay shipping from NYC. I buy a lot of them, including Puzelat.

Dec 14, 2011
choucroutegarni in Los Angeles Area

How About A New What Are You Drinking ?

And I thought you detested organically grown wine.

Dec 15, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Cheap Wine Bar?

Haven't been there yet myself and I think the name is dorky, but this place looks like it may fit your requirements.

http://chicwinebar.com/

Nov 22, 2009
choucroutegarni in Los Angeles Area

Why are organic wines so bad?

so, you're willilng to admit that organically grown may be OK in your book?

Mar 12, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

We rarely/never sell certified USDA organic, and only occasionally Demeter-certified biodynamic.

Have you tried the Tissot Crémant du Jura or the Huber-Leger Crémant d'Alsace ? Bone dry, tight, focussed mousse, outstanding at their price point. Both are biodynamic, btw.

Mar 12, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

But note that they're not Demeter or USDA certified--which, to me, is besides the point. Just yesterday, I heard from a tremendously gifted young Piemontese winegrower (Varja--who makes perhaps the most elegant and delicous Barolo Chinato, btw) that his family's wines were, for a short while, certified organic by the Italian state, and stated so on their label. Later, they realized that they didn't care for the administrative overhead involved with keeping the certification, so they bailed on it. It's the same story I hear from many, many winegrowers.

Mar 12, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

As a sociologist, I would judge your tasting methodology suspect because you're not tasting these wines blind. Are you willing to accept that you may dislike the organic wines you're tasting because you expect to?

Imagine the following double blind study, which to my knowledge has not been conducted: a series of wine pairs poured blind, each pair consisting of one conventionally farmed wine, and an organic or biodynamically farmed wine. Control for vintage, region, quality level, typicity, and style. Have the testers rank each wine in the pair according to preference. I'd be curious to see the results. The null hyopthesis is that there'd be no statistically significant difference between the two groups of wines. Waferthin, your hypothesis is that there'd be a marked preference demonstrated for the conventionally farmed wines. My hyopthesis? Well, I'd like to believe that the testers would, in aggregate, prefer the organic wines, I'm not convinced that the preference would be statistically significant.

Mar 12, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Wafterthin, here are ten organic wines that are very, very good. If you've tasted any of them I'd be interested to learn what it is you dislike about them so much compared to non-organic versions of the same:

1. Guy Breton Morgon vielles vignes '06
2. Occhipinti nero d'avola '05
3. Clos Roche Blanche sauvignon blanc '07
4. Gerard Gauby Cotes du Roussillon vielles vignes '05
5. Francois Chidaine Clos Habert '05
6. Tissot Cremant du Jura NV
7. Palacios Bierzo "Petalos" '06
8. Movia Rebolla Gialla
9. Suronde Quarts du Chaume '05
10.Clara Marcellli Pecorino '07

Mar 11, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Heh heh, if you think that's weird, try Belliviere's "Rouge Gorge" '05 if you can find it. It's a Coteaux du Loir, 100 percent old vines pinea d'aunis made in a vin de garde style. Smells like clean, wet slate. The '06 is the current release and isn't quite as disturbing.

Mar 11, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Yep, that's what he does. As do legions of other winegrowers, too.

Mar 11, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Seasoning Wineglasses (split from Los Angeles board)

Per LA enviro health, you may not polish wine glasses with non-approved material, including, it turns out, vodka! That doesn't stop people from quietly using a spritz of it on a polishing cloth to assist in removing water spots (which here in LA will appear even with the use of soft water in the rinse cycle)--a tiny amount of vodka also goes a long way in removing any trace of sanitizer on stemware. If stemware emerges from the rinse cycle hot, most of the sanitizer should evaporate off as it quickly dries; the little bit that remains can be removed by vodka and a clean polishing cloth.

Feb 12, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

what do the grapes do, then, in her starter?

Feb 03, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Well, we always offer a number of what I call "non-confrontational" wines, for example, right now a lovely St. Emilion satellite wine that's ready to drink on release, the Balbium that you sort of enjoyed, Baker Lane pinot noir, Dampt Chablis cotes de lechet, a Collioure blanc made by Pierre Gaillard. a chunky, bistro-style ribera del duero--even the clos roche blanche sauvignon--though it is grown organically, it is a very likeable wine. You won't find any buttery chardonnays, ever, or oaky napa cab, which perhaps makes me a bad business person because there are folks who will only drink those (don't even get me started on people who will only drink pinot grigio), but that's how I roll. I suggest you continue to give natural wines a chance--try clos roche blanche sauvignon, if you like Beaujolais, try any Beaujolais we serve, try some of Gauby's wines (his Muntada is his friendliest, but also $$$). Are the wines of Thierry Puzelat the best place to start? Probably not. On the other hand, I've been really pleased to see folks light up when they've tried his brin de chevre (menu pineau)...so, YMMV.

Feb 01, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Here in Los Angeles we have a baker named Nancy Silverton. She started a bakery many years ago based on breads that are leavened with a wild yeast culture harvested from organic grapes. She has a method for keeping this culture alive over time so that you can use it dependably to bake bread. The mental model I have is that her method is essentially a small ecosystem for sustaining the original wild yeast culture. She doesn't bother to isolate the yeasts, she just keeps a mess of them growing happily, albeit slowly, in the fridge.

Feb 01, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Hmm, I thought for AOC Roquefort the mold had to originate from strains harvested directly from the cave to qualify as AOC cheese? Anyway, I think I didn't express myself very clearly: I only meant to establish a similarity between a good natural mold-ripened cheese and a good organic wine, insofar as terroir makes them both possible. Native yeasts are part of the terroir equation, but just one part. I guess you can take the extreme operationalist view and assert that because terror cannot be measured it cannot be, but any self-respecting Burgundy drinker would stare at you blankly.

Again, not to push Chauvet too much, but he does have an interesting take on just why organic wine making need not be a crapshoot. I really enjoy the wines made by his disciples; right now, I'm enjoying Guy Breton's Morgon vielles vignes very much. Note that this is not a USDA organic wine, as it is made with sulfur (a little bit). In addition, did you know that even our friend Tony Coturri uses sulfur with at least some of his wines? You’ll see the phrase “no detectable sulfur” on the label: that doesn’t mean it was made without sulfur, just that there was no sulfur left by bottling time.

Feb 01, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Um, not so fast about Estate...more news to come.

Feb 01, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

coming right back at you: the strain of penicillium roqueforti, at least for AOC cheeses, is/was cultured from a wild strain isolated, indeed, from aging caves. The idea is that the caves themselves are part of the terroir for producing a specific cheese. Today, the caves just provide a really good, naturally cooled environment for aging cheese, as the cheese is now innoculated, but innoculated with a strain that was originally isolated from the caves. That's why you cannot produce a blue cheese outside of the AOC area that tastes remotely like roquefort; it may be a delicious cheese on its own merits, but it won't taste like roquefort. I haven't double-blinded this assertion.

In addition, I think Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, properly ripened, are quite good--they use a mix of bacteria to bring back some of the complexity of raw milk cheese to a product that uses, because of idiotic USDA ideas of food safety, pasturized milk.

Note that this second scenario is used by some natural winegrowers, too: it's possible to create a culture of the originally wild yeast strains from your own cantina and use that to ferment with--you're still using wild yeasts, but also remove some of the risk in doing so.

Feb 01, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Vineyard Fresh Wine Preservation... any good?

If you can find it, the Preservin system works really, really well--indeed, if you gas the wines immediately after opening, via the specially designed "cork," and then don't disturb the cork, the bottle will stay fresh for a long time. Of course, if you've had the bottle out all night and it's half full, there's been a lot of air contact and no preservations system will do much, other than delay perhaps for a day or two the inevitable.

Feb 01, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Yes, I am ascribing the frutiness in part to his use of whole cluster, but you're right, some of it comes from the fruit ripeness, alcohol, as well as RS. Not all of his wines are so high in alc., e.g., the old vine carignan I think is "only" 14.5. I def get ethyl cinnamate in his wines, which probably contributes to the perception of sweetness.

I believe all of his wines start with whole cluster and then are crushed and fermented like any other conventional wine (but with a lot of punchdowns, a lot, plus very little or no sulfur).

Jan 31, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Joly started farming using conventional methods. He was alarmed by what he saw happening to the soil in his vineyards. He fell for biodynamics in a big way, and is now quite the evangelist. His vinyeards have been transformed by biodynamic practice, in simple-to-see ways (soil structure, earth worms) and also more subtle ways (microscopic differences in root structure). In any event, Joly himself that by converting to biodynamics, the wine he makes is better.

Jan 31, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Jules Chauvet has a well-thought position on why organic farming produces more interesting, honest, and complex wines. Part of his argument has to do with creating a healthy ecosystem in vineyard soils, which he argues creates a richer, more complex environment for wild yeasts. It's similar to why cave aged, non-pasturized cheeses are always more complex than pasturized cheeses.

Jan 31, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Coturri is a big believer in whole cluster fermentation, ergo, the frutiness. If you don't drink a lot of whole cluster wine, you might find his wines too fruity. I like 'em, some more than others. Personally, I think some of the wines have too much residual sugar, but I love that the guy has such an intensely personal vision for the wine he makes.

Jan 31, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

have you tried Quivira since Steve Canter took over as wine maker?

Jan 31, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

You like Piemontese whites, so do I! Have you tried Cascina Val del Prete arneis, and if so, I would like to hear your thoughts. It's biodynamic.

Jan 31, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Why are organic wines so bad?

Thank you for the thoughtful and kind words about my restaurant. I suggest that you give natural wines a chance--a lot of the wines I pour are "non-obvious," in that they do not reveal themselves to you at first. For example, the Briseau pineau d'aunis we're pouring right now--it's organically grown, and an old, fairly marginal Loire red variety. A really interesting and delicious wine that I think you would like, based on your preference for Piemontese wines. Then again, you may dislike Joe Dressner wines--admittedly, they are not for everyone.

Jan 31, 2009
choucroutegarni in Wine

Make Your Own Digestifs

I recommend fltering the Everclear in a Brita filter pitcher before use. To increase the effectiveness of the filter first soak it in water over night, and then, keeping it submerged in water (use your sink), fit it into the pitcher. Let water drain through and dump it; just when the last 1/16 inch of water is at the top of the filter (it's easier if you have the pitcher with the spigot on the bottom) start pouring the Everclear through and begin collecting. The trick is to keep the voids in the activated charcoal staurated at all times.

Nov 12, 2008
choucroutegarni in Features

Mandarin Orange Digestif

Fresh fruit/herb flavors are ephemeral. Keeping your decoction cold will preserve it. Oh, and I prefer to drink them cold, too.

Nov 12, 2008
choucroutegarni in Recipes

Pizzeria Mozza - your thoughts

You know what? The average slice of pizza in NYC can be pretty darn awful--you need to know where to go to find great pizza and if you just randomly walk in to an unknown pizza shop, more often or not you'll find yourself gumming through an oily, doughy mess. You can say the same thing about bagels--basically, they suck, here in LA and NY, and it has nothing to do with the water and 100 percent to do with the decline of bread baking as a trade. I assert this as someone who lived in NY for 18 years and had his fair share of great, truly great pizza, and also pizzas that fill you with dispair.

The bready crust you decry is actually what makes Nancy Silverton's recipe so great; it's not trying to mimic another form of pizza, neopolitan or otherwise--it's her riff, which you may love or hate. That said, I've had several pizzas at Mozza that made me want to resort to an old NY trick, which is to take a paper napkin and let it lie gently on the surface of the pizza for a few seconds to absorb some of the excess oil. Oh, another trick I just remembered from NY: folding the pizza length-wise and letting the oil drip into your paper plate.

Jul 03, 2008
choucroutegarni in Los Angeles Area

Mac & Cheese

BTW, technically it's a mornay sauce (mornay = béchanel plus cheese). Stovetop works just fine--you just need to add enough cheese to the mornnay.

May 21, 2008
choucroutegarni in Los Angeles Area