The Secret Life of White Wine

Version 1

White wine is the bleached, soulless tonic of joiners and dilettantes. White wine is a defensive drink, the set of one that remains after all the more libidinous alcoholic beverages are removed. Without tannin or color its sweetness is oppressive. White wine is simultaneously gaudy and sterile. It is “Productivity.” It is “Wine Lite,” and therefore a lie.

Version 2

White wine is steel piano wire nervously percussed by antique geologies. There is nowhere in white wine to hide. It is severe like Kirkegaard and his Russian school. White wine is precisely beautiful like Beethoven’s Waldstein sonata. Remorseless like Ceasar, white wine speaks with hard “S”s. It’s teeth are brushed with green tea and they are made of stone.

Version 3

White wine is a friendly party drink. A catch all with class. White wine is loved by elderly neighbors, the ones who always seem to be smiling, and is invaluable to deep thinking designers burning the midnight oil. It promotes clarity and moderation. It is background wine. It flatters a vegetable-based board and effortlessly follows yoga practice.

2013 Südtirol Pinot Bianco/Weißburgunder, Tiefenbrunner

This wine is made efficiently in virtually unlimited quantities. It is tasty. I’ve never seen an open bottle of it last beyond a session.

Maybe the bottles are too small.

IMGP4081 - Version 2

this youthfully fresh wine makes an elegant impression. Clear, bright yellow in colour, its nose exhibits fine floral and fruit aromas: hints of apple and tropical fruit are prevalent in the bouquet. An agreeable, fresh acidity accompanies this mineral wine through its fine harmonious finish.


Version 4

Embedded in white wine one can find verdant pastures, outdoor café society, birds fat on bugs, wagon wheels, and play.

In the darkest part of winter white wine symbolizes sunlight.

Happy winter solstice.


Natural Pinot Noir

Some wines are more natural than others.


Spoof – or industrial technique – is applied to vineyards and wine to increase yield, eliminate flaws and add specific marketable flavors and colors. Usually spoof is exemplified by specific chemical and microbiological interventions, but its utility can often be traced to the original choice of what to plant and where to plant it. This is why the dependence on varietal nomenclature – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet – has led to so much spoof on the market. These varieties are not optimal everywhere.

Systematic use of sprays can suppress pests, but it also eliminates beneficial yeasts and their ecological collaborators. After harvest and in the cellar it then becomes necessary to reintroduce isolated strains and nutrients for the functional purpose of alcoholic fermentation. Once the system is compromised it can become dependent on the winemaker’s pharmacopeia.

Spoof is a vicious cycle which at its worst produces wines both of superficially exaggerated character and an enduring sense of dullness. For the purposes of plain drinking, carefully judged spoof can work just fine. When its used to simulate something grandiose, it can be an awful waste.


There is also a virtuous cycle. Like all farming, vineyards are essentially interventions on the land. Major differences in results lie in the scale and discrimination of the intervention. Chemical weed killers tend to harm beneficial organisms in a way that pulling a weed by hand does not.

The best, most flavorful farm products tend to come from farms that use integrated, antique methods. Massale selections, for example, are better adapted and more distinctive than nursery clones. Similarly, and on a micro scale, wild yeasts produce more complexity and thought provoking flavor than do lab-selected yeasts. Wild yeasts occur in the presence of innumerable other microbes, each with its ecological place in the whole. The average human taster can easily recognize the difference.

IMGP4073 - Version 4

Short Name: Pinot Noir
Full Name: 2012 Bourgogne, Clos de Baccarat
Producer: Vincent Thomas
Geography: Yonne Department, Burgundy, France
$13 glass
Varieties: Pinot Noir 100%
Description: Aromas characteristic of Pinot Noir – tea, cola, mushrooms, berries – and a host of wild-fermented winemaking  clues, notably intense acidity, some volatile, carbonic maceration sweetness, and peanut shell.
Comparables: Pinot Noir is its own brand. There is no need to compare this to something else, but a taste for this wine might indicate a taste for Beaujolais, Mondeuse, and Barbaresco.
Pairings: The combination of relatively low alcohol – 11.9% – and intense mature fruit flavor, makes it thrilling with anything dry-rubbed and smoked. This type of pairing was unorthodox when Slows discovered it 8 years ago. Now all the cool kids are doing it.
Interesting Technical Facts: Produced from organically grown grapes, without added yeast or nutrients.

interview with the farmer – terrific

Natural Wine

Natural wine is a term that once caused a lot of controversy. Does it still? The principles of natural wine are clear, but applying the term to specific bottles becomes problematic. A natural wine becomes not a natural wine exactly when? With the addition of SO2 in the tank? That would leave out a lot of obviously natural wines. There just isn’t a prescription.

This does not invalidate the term. Natural wine is related to not natural wine – or spoof – in that it is farmed, fermented and aged within a relatively more thriving and diverse ecosystem. This means both macro and microbiological. And it matters because natural wines are more interesting and more pleasurable to drink than spoof.

So why spoof? Spoof is a good way to eliminate the risk of wine flaws. Also spoof appeals to short attention spans.

Spoof and natural wine are expressions of fashion in wine. In a world of weird natural wine with flaws, spoof might be a welcome correction. The reverse is certainly true too.

Next we have to talk about specific treatments and how they affect the flavor of wine. We can make this interesting by using illustrations. Get ready.

Wine Pairings

Red before white and you’re feeling alright.

And, white before red, just, eat a little bit of bread, and it’s just, you’re fine


Nebbiolo is the grape variety that makes Barolo and Barbaresco. Aromatic. Severe. Infectious. There is a mystique about great Nebbiolo. Sometimes it is erroneously compared to Cabernet – if they share an impression of great power then that is all. Nebbiolo is prettier and more detailed than Cabernet. It is more powerful than Pinot Noir. Nebbiolo is Nebbiolo.
IMGP3887 - Version 2
Short Name: Nebbiolo
Full Name: 2011 Nebbiolo d’Alba Perbacco
Producer: Vietti
Geography: Piedmont, Italy.
$10 glass, $40 bottle
Varieties: Nebbiolo 100%
Description: Violets, roses, truffles, poppyseeds. The tannins are pinpoints of fine granularity. Think less of its mouthfilling qualities and more about its perfume.
Comparables: Not really comparable. Sometimes I like to think of it like a tannic red burgundy flavored less on the warm end of the spectrum and more of the cool end – less mulch and more graphite, less black tea and more bay leaf, less red fruit and more black fruit.
Pairings: 1) Beef. 2) Anything with truffles. Garlic, black pepper and herbs, all yes. But avoid cooked tomato sauces.
Interesting Technical Facts: This is farmed and made identically to Vietti’s Barolo Castiglione. The only difference is that Perbacco is a selection of barrels that are judged to be suitable for earlier drinking.
More Info

Champagne City

Is the cost of living in Detroit high or low? And compared to what? Living requires shelter and transportation, certainly, but it’s in the specific that these costs are decided. What shelter; what mode of transit; how do these trade off, and how do they trade off with other essentials?


Living also requires Champagne. Really. And in Detroit it is sold for a fraction.


Forty-four dollars a bottle, with good company, a wine that took more than four years of hand work to produce, something impossible to simulate, and the manifested narration of Enlightenment gastronomy. Champagne pervades every great restaurant.

Do you think you don’t need Champagne? True, without Champagne you might wake and sleep, your metabolism might function and you might convert work units at a job. But is that living? What is the cost of not having Champagne? I look at my friends who love Champagne: Jessie, Dave, Lucy, Karla. They each seem to be tapped into some natural force, spontaneous, exemplary, and durable.

When dreams are ordeals, when one’s feet shuffle instead of walk, test this diagnosis: low on Champagne syndrome.

If you got a wish, wish it.


Cordon Bleu predates Cordon Rouge. This was the same Champagne served with Chef Josh Stockton’s epic charcuterie for the summer 2014 Write-a-House fundraiser @ the firehouse.

Full Name: Champagne de Venoge Brut Cordon Bleu
Producer: de Venoge (de ven OAZHE)
Geography: Champagne, France
Varieties: Pinot Noir 50%, Chardonnay 25%, Pinot Meunier 24%
Description: Dry, biscuit, apple and nougat sensations. Lingering.
Comparables: Champagne, of course.
Pairings: Absolutely utterly everything that is food. Everything.
More info

Pinot Noir

I started to write about this wine yesterday and instead … tangent!

One test of authenticity is age. And isn’t that true for just about everything? – friends, art, music, etc. – though maybe I’m biased. Sure, there are plenty of real wines best drunk while they are young, but the class of wines that age well excludes ones that are heavily manipulated, cosmetified, or otherwise tortured to resemble something disharmonious with their nature.

Accordingly, there are two Pinot Noirs: the Legend and the Brand. The Legend is often thought to be synonymous with great red Burgundy, but there are exceptions. La Cantera is a vineyard in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. The Brand needs the Legend, even if it can thrive without any tangible connection to it. The Legend, at this point, probably doesn’t need the Brand. The Legend, with its inherent scarcity and power over the imagination, sells itself. This is a wine of romantic contraditions. Fresh and old, powerful and delicate, fruity and earthy.


Short Name: Pinot Noir
Full Name: 2007 Wllamette – Chehalem Mountain
Producer: Bernard Machado, La Cantera Vineyard (24 acres)
Geography: Chehalem Mountain, Willamette Valley, Oregon
$14 glass, $55 bottle
Varieties: Pinot Noir 100%
Description: Age has a way of shedding force and simplicity in favor of complexity. Gone is the opaque purple of young wine. In its place is a pale rose and dried orange peel colored robe. In a proper wine glass the aromas are complex enough to defy neat lexical summaries. Cranberry, tea, wild strawberries, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms, like a walk through the tall grasses of Wabash and Temple … precise and yet infinite.
Comparables: Pinot Noir, Red Burgundy,
Pairings: Look for umami. Duck above all. And Potatoes are exemplary. Experiment with preparations that include miso, marsala, leeks, and fatty poultry. If its beef let it be either quite aged or slowly stewed without noisy volatile seasoning.

Why are you so into Pinot?

Tech Sheet

Great zoomable map!