Here is the second of our “friends & family” blog series, dedicated to all things we love
As gray, overcast December days begin to roll in, I steep in the reality that we are just at the beginning of another NYC winter—and we are still in the good part—the holidays! Afflicted with a mild seasonal discontent, Brendan Donovan introduced me to a temporary cure for the winter doldrums residing in a few bottles of wine from a vineyard in the South of France.
Brendan invited me over for another tasting in continuance of his search for high-quality, unique and of course flavorful wines for Donovan’s Cellars. My interest was piqued upon learning the wines du jour were both organic and biodynamic, as I had just finished a course in viticulture as well as spent time on a well-known biodynamic producer’s farm in California. Thus, I only recently grasped the amount of labor and love required to practice this philosophy, and therefore had a newfound appreciation for such efforts.
Bottle shot of Continuite de Nature
We met with Jacques Herviou of Natural Selection Wines. Jacques is a charismatic yet down to earth Frenchman living in Brooklyn. He has kids and worries about the future of our planet—what will be left after humanity’s version of Sherman’s March. He fiercely believes you can be a steward of the earth and still have a successful business model, thus NSW is “the first sustainable, carbon balanced fine wine agency of only certified Biodynamic wines in the US.” You can read more on their producers and his practices at http://www.naturalselectionwines.com/manifesto/, but let’s just say everything they do has been considered with environmental impact in mind, down to the soy-ink, recycled labels on their lightweight, recycled bottles. Fascinating stuff—seriously—but how did the wines taste?
The first bottle we sampled was Jacques’ baby, his own label produced from the Chateau Maris vineyard near Carcasonne in Minervois—Natural Selection Syrah 2009. The wine was perfumed with violets, and spicy, black fruit jam and carried a medium weight in the mouth, with flavors of wild, sun-baked blackberries and strawberries, herbs and pepper-spice layered throughout. The slightly chewy tannins lingered through the bright finish.
On a side note, the label for the Natural Selection Syrah is quite unique, and it unabashedly proclaims the wine’s biodynamic heritage. So distinct is the label that I recognized it when the bottle came to my table on Christmas Eve while dining at a local NYC restaurant. My husband had ordered a glass of “some biodynamic Minervois” that was on the list; I am happy to report the glass was as good on that special occasion as it was with Jacques.
Next up were two estate wines from Chateau Maris, a pioneer since 1997 of biodynamic farming and sustainable, carbon neutral winemaking; and bottling; and shipping; and sales; literally everything. An entire column should be dedicated to what this man and his business partner are doing with their winery—for instance, it is built from hemp—for now, you can read more at http://www.naturalselectionwines.com/chateau-maris/. Today, it’s just about the wines.
Malicieuse, one of our Percheron Horses we use to plow
First was the 2009 La Touge Syrah. The nose foretold notes of wild herbs, black pepper, roasted meat, ripe black and blue fruits and hay on the dynamic palate. This Syrah was alive and kickin’! The fog of winter was receding from my brain as this wine engaged the senses. The second bottle, a 2008 Grenache “Nouvelles Fraiches” was also a remedy for the winter blues. Medium in body, my glass was filled with freshly muddled strawberries and blueberries, baking spice, and a mood-lifting brightness that carried through to the chocolate-dipped strawberry finish. This was not a thinking man’s wine; it was a pleasure wine, perfect for reconnecting with family and friends around a fireplace during the holidays. Or over a summer picnic- but we know that’s a long ways off.
I can’t claim that my newfound appreciation of biodynamic farming made the fact that the wines were biodynamic any more evident to me when tasting them, but Brendan and I agreed they exuded an unusual liveliness and brightness not always expected of reds from Minervois in the Languedoc. These flavors were vibrant and I don’t think it was because of the steely sky outside. Again, Brendan has managed to track down another round of excellent wines—ones that I would gladly prescribe for winter maladies, no doctor’s note necessary.
Lauren Mowery, contributing writer for Donovan’s Cellar