Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Notes on the first anniversary of doing what I love full-time

Thirst has been quite a ride! I'm immeasurably happy to be able to do what I love full-time. Though it's incredibly hard work--and there's really no longer such a thing as free time--it's freeing and gratifying to apply my passion for food and wine and make a living. I want to thank each and every one of our customers for supporting our vision to bring Slow Wine to Brooklyn. I've learned that if you dream of a specific future, work hard in the present and make it happen. By being open yet determined, by following our instincts, and trusting our palates, we happily sustain our thirst, and we hope yours too.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Inspiring Thirst: An Evening with Kermit Lynch

I'm happy to announce a special upcoming event we've put together, in collaboration with Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant and the excellent people at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, INSPIRING THIRST: AN EVENING OF WINE WITH KERMIT LYNCH. It's a benefit for Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and will take place at their magnificent Palm House, BBG's Victorian Steinhardt Conservatory, on Wednesday, October 28th, from 6pm-8pm. 

The Palm House at Brooklyn Botanic Garden is located at 1000 Washington Avenue. This is a unique opportunity to meet Kermit Lynch and taste 25 of his wines -- plus a few rare older vintages that Kermit has selected especially for this event from his cellar. Tickets are $40 and are only available in advance here

Proceeds from the event will benefit Brooklyn Botanic Garden's community horticulture program, GreenBridge. For more than 15 years, GreenBridge has helped neighborhood organizations and schools improve the urban environment through education, conservation, sustainable gardening practices, and creative partnerships.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The South of France, Corsica, Paris

In the crush of daily business I thought we'd never get to France.

The major highlight was definitely working the harvest with Emanuelle D and Laurent B of Dupéré Barrera/Clos de la Procure. Hand harvesting is incredibly hard work -- but, oh, so rewarding and, ultimately, pleasurable. Laurent and Emanuelle are equally hands-on in the cellar. With them we saw firsthand that slow wine takes vision, a lot of hard work, and patience. The reward is great wine, which is worth all the extra care and effort.

Another highlight for us was visiting several of our Corsican producers: Yves Leccia, Antoine Arena, Domaine Maestracci. We've wanted to go to Corsica for a long time. What a beautiful island!

Will post more about this trip as soon as I can.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Slow Wine

There's more and more producers claiming to produce sustainable wines -- and wine stores claiming to sell them. But a lot of them aren't walking the walk. We're at a moment when Monsanto claims to be following a sustainable model.

Thirst was founded on the notion that we will sell only delicious wines made as naturally as possible. We search out wines that aren’t on steroids--what we like to call slow wines. Slow wines are the opposite of industrial wines. Industrial wines are mass-produced wines made from high-yielding irrigated vineyards, with grapes grown with herbicides and pesticides, mechanically harvested, engineered with lab yeasts, artificial flavors and stabilizers.

What's a slow wine? It's wine made from vineyards without pesticides or herbicides, and without chemical additives or added flavors in the cellar. Slow wines are made on a small scale from grapes grown in low-yielding dry-farmed vineyards farmed sustainably, organically or biodynamically.  Slow winemakers harvest by hand by careful selection. Slow wines aren't made with laboratory yeasts but with ambient yeasts so that the fermented grapes can naturally express themselves and the place from which they come (terroir). New oak barrels, if used, are used judiciously. Many winemakers who take these approaches do so without certification, simply because they believe it's the way wine should be made.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Domaine Faury

One of the most heartening things we notice as merchants, especially among Kermit Lynch’s producers, is continuity. Philippe Faury, for instance, works side by side with his son, Lionel (they’re pictured on the left). Philippe took over his family's 2.5 hectare estate in 1979. Since then he's expanded it to over 11 hectares. They now have vineyards in Cote Rotie, Condrieu and St. Joseph.

I've always had a particular affection for wines from the Northern Rhone. We especially love Faury's wines and have carried them at Thirst from the very beginning. Domaine Faury's wines are notable for their purity and elegance. We were eager to meet them, and excited to taste their wines, at their property last January.

Our special order of their 2008 Syrah has just arrived. It's essentially a baby St. Joseph meant to be drunk in its youth. The grapes come from young St. Joseph hillside vines and from older vines on the plateau above. Officially, it's classified as a Vin de Pays des Collines Rhodaniennes. It's juicy but a little meaty, with spice and pepper notes. An awesome inexpensive Syrah from the Northern Rhone--where Syrah is King. Great served slightly chilled.
We also have their Condrieu 2006, which is made from Viognier. A good Condrieu is hard to find and, unfortunately, they're not cheap. If you've ever wondered what a Condrieu tastes like, you must pick up a bottle. It's not screwed up, like many are, with new oak. It's piercing, powerfully aromatic. Of it Kermit Lynch has written: " I’ll start with what it is not: woody, cloying, flabby, showily shallow. Here are all the fireworks of Condrieu’s Viognier without it going too far. Stunning."

Their St. Joseph 2006 red is a benchmark Northern Rhone Syrah. The winemaker Steve Edmunds (Edmunds St. John): "[..]when I taste a wine like Philippe Faury’s Saint Joseph, with its textbook rendition of suave Syrah fruit and smoke and that spinetingling perfume of tender berries and violets, I feel a whisper of wildness in it, that presence of not just the human endeavour in that place, and that year, but of something elemental, behind those things, something inviting me to engage with it. Something very hard to name."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ask About Gramenon

Domaine Gramenon is located in the Southern Rhone in the heart of Drôme Provençal between Grignon and Nyons. Their vineyards extend over 24 hectares of slopes at 300 meters altititude. It’s one of the few producers that Thirst and Robert Parker both laud.

Gramenon is owned and operated by the charming and inspiring Michelle Aubrey-Laurent, with help from her son, Maxim-François. We were lucky enough to meet them at a salon tasting at their domaine last January. Their wines are featured in the best natural wine bars in Paris and are available at Thirst once again in very limited quantities. Gramenon's wines are always impeccable, pure, vividly colored, and dense, ripe (but not jammy or over-ripe). They farm their vines, ranging in age from young to over 130 years old, organically and biodynamically. They never fine or filter, use only indigenous yeast, and never add things like sugar or acid. Their bottling is unique: they bottle all their wines in late spring before their first summer following elevage with minimal to no sulfur. The soil is mostly calcareous clay with some parcels that have galets roulés and sand.

Newly arrived 2008 cuvées...
Poignée de raisins – "Handful of grapes" made mostly of young vines Grenache. A vin de soif meant for immediate consumption. Delicious slightly chilled.

La Sagesse – a powerful 100% Grenache cuvée that comes from old and wise vines.

Sierra du Sud – a 100% Syrah wine that tastes more like a St Joseph or Cornas than a Southern Rhone red.

Les Laurentides – an old vines blend of Grenache and Syrah that is like no other.

Two of our favorite Rhone producers, Catherine Le Goeuil (Domaine Catherine Le Goeuil) and Michelle Aubrey-Laurent (Domaine Gramenon).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Brunier Brothers

The Brunier brothers, Daniel and Frédéric, are the owners of Vieux Télégraphe, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. In 1998, with partner Kermit Lynch, they purchased Domaine Les Pallières, in Gigondas, which had been owned by the Roux family since the beginning of the 15th Century, the land passing from generation to generation for almost 600 years. The property was in disrepair when they bought it from the last remaining heir, Pierre, who, in deteriorating health, was left running the estate alone, and they have meticulously revived the vineyards and renovated the winery.

The wines? Gorgeous. Taste and you'll immediately understand the greatness of Grenache. Even though both the Pallières and Vieux Télégraphe reds are made primarily with Grenache Noir (Pallières has a higher percentage in the blend), they are each remarkably different, but each delicious in their own right. Whereas Vieux Télégraphe is chewy, spicy, black cherries, Pallières flirts and seduces with its wild strawberry-raspberry fruit. Drinking them side-by-side is an elegant way to grasp the notion of terroir.

Thirst has the 2005 Pallières Gigondas and their ravishing 2008 Au Petit Bonheur Rosé on hand. In fact, we have virtually all of the Brunier Bros. wines in stock, including 05 and 06 Vieux Télégraphe, as well as their fantastic Le Pigeoulet en Provence red and white Vin de Pays wines (currently 06 and 08 respectively).

Beginning with the 2007 vintage, there will be two cuvées of Pallières: "Les Racines," and "Terrasse du Diable," which we tasted early barrel samples of in January.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Mostly Off Day

On a rare day mostly off from the shop, Emilia suggested I fire up the grill. At first I resisted. Then I relented. As usual, her instincts were spot-on.

It's a primal pleasure starting a fire and cooking over it. I use natural lump charcoal because there's no unnecessary things added to it like with regular charcoal (such as sawdust, Borax, Sodium Nitrate, starch, limestone). Therefore it doesn't yield awful chemical smells but instead imparts a delicious flavor to whatever you grill. It also doesn't need nasty lighter fluid to get it started (I tend to use just a few old pages of a newspaper). Luckily, I had a big bag of natural charcoal around that I bought last summer, but it shouldn't be hard to find this time of year.

We kept it simple. Burgers, using grass-fed ground beef from Albert Wilkow at the Fort Greene Farmers' Market. Blue Cheese from Pt. Reyes. Terrebrune Bandol Rosé 2006. An assortment of Rick's Picks to garnish.

Simply divine to slow down and linger over lunch outside in the sunshine and talk. Of course we brainstormed about Thirst, but it was so relaxing not to be in the thick of things.

After a rather long winter, and all the rain we've had in May, we really savored this SF-like day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

More Reasons Why Chardonnay Doesn't Suck

I could live happily on a desert island with a cellar full of François and Antoine Jobard's wines.

In his 11/08 newsletter, Kermit Lynch described Jobard's 06s as "the best I have experienced from Jobard since his 1989s. Why? The vintage itself is opulent and showy. You combine that with the Jobard style—firm, mineral, discreet—and you have the best of all possible worlds. "

You should treat yourself to a bottle of their delicious Bourgogne Blanc 06. It gracefully hits all the classic notes (peach skin, toast, hazelnuts) but the vintage gives the wine a definite voluptuousness.

It's also reassuring to see, with François and Antoine, another example of continuity.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Vin de Pays des Gaules is Here!

Emilia and I are long-time fans of Lapierre's wines. We remember when the price for his Morgon was south of twenty dollars. His son, Matthieu, is now working alongside him. They make wine the way it should be made: vinify without SO2 and without adding additional yeasts. They cultivate their vines biodynamically, without weed killers or chemical fertilizers.

Yes, for a long time we've had an obsession with cru Beaujolais. From the time we opened, we sold the Gang of Four, and a slew of other cru (a kind of insane thing when you're operating a small store). There's something so alluring about the Gamay grape. It's hard to beat its versatility and food friendliness. What I love best, though, about the Lapierre wines is their purity.

Marcel & Matthieu Lapierre's Vin de Pays des Gaules 2008 is a true vin de soif (thirst-inspiring wine). It's super refreshing, best enjoyed with friends at picnics and barbeques. Serve it cool. It's a steal at $13.

We discovered the VdP des Gaules at a salon tasting with the Gang of Four Plus at the Lapierre property in January. I wish we weren't in such a rush to make it to the next stop because I could have spent an afternoon there, chatting with Matthieu, eating the delicious home-made food, and drinking the various wines. That's Matthieu on my right.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amiot & Fils BGO Chardonnay 07 has Arrived!

The wines from our January trip to France begin to trickle in.

One of our missions is to educate people about the beauty of Chardonnay, white Burgundy in particular. Early on at Thirst I conducted a tasting called "Why Chardonnay Doesn't Suck!" The wines from Guy Amiot & Fils we have in the store demonstrate how much finesse and structure Chardonnay can have. Yes, there's a lot of sucky over-oaked Chards out there, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

(Fabrice Amiot is pictured along with Claude-Geoffrey Thivin from Chateau Thivin at a Kermit Lynch Winemakers tasting at the store last October. )

I adore the supple richness of Amiot's old vines Chassagne-Montrachet, but the price tag isn't for everyone. When we tasted the latest vintage of Amiot's BGO Chardonnay at their property, we immediately became excited at the thought of selling (& drinking) it for a measly twenty bucks. It's delightful--un-oaked, crisp, with hints of limestone--a great Spring/Summer quaffer. It'll be regularly stocked in our personal refrigerator and I suspect, once you try it, you'll do the same

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Part of the fun of owning and working in a wine store is all of the awesome dogs and kids our customers bring in. Henry is a big-time fave.

A lot of dogs are excited to enter the store but Henry's entrance is like no other. He usually enters with a howl or two to announce his presence. He's handsome and really sweet. And he sports a mohawk. Here Emilia captured Henry happily licking his chops after being given a treat. If he were a wine, I think he'd be a feisty Regnie.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lunch with Lulu

There were so many highlights on our January trip. But THE highlight was meeting and having lunch with Lulu at Domaine Tempier. This was our last view of her prior to our departure. You can see her vivacity.

We learned about Lulu Peyraud, and her late husband Lucien, through two books that remain tremendous influences: Kermit Lynch's Adventures on the Wine Route and Richard Olney's Lulu's Provencal Table. Lucien was instrumental in the ascendence of the Bandol appellation and made Tempier into arguably the best winery in Bandol. I wish I could have met him.

Lulu is legendary for her food, generosity, and gracious hospitality. Meeting her was a dream realized. The reality far exceeded our expectations.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Very Happy Indeed

Here I'm pictured, looking very happy indeed, with Thierry Allemand. We'd just finished tasting his deep purple, richly textured, gorgeous wines in his small, immaculate cellar.
Thierry is another fantastic producer imported by Kermit Lynch, and another one who didn't come from a family with a history of winemaking. Thierry grew up in Cornas fascinated by the vines and the wines that surrounded him. He worked as a cellar rat and managed to purchase an abandoned vineyard, Les Chaillots, in 1981. His first vintage was 1982. Later, he acquired a plot of old vines, Reynard, from Noel Verset.
His Syrahs are a real treat. Unfortunately his production is very small. Even less of his wines are available than Barral. However, Thirst will be getting some so, if you're curious, inquire.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Didier Barral & Maxime Magnon

As you're beginning to see, on our January trip we had the pleasure of meeting many of our favorite winemakers, as well as discovering new ones. Here I'm pictured with Didier Barral on my right and Maxime Magnon on my left -- both true practitioners of natural winemaking.

Every year too little of Didier's wines are available. This year unfortunately there's even less than usual. Didier is a great champion of biodynamic farming and biodiversity. He firmly believes that his vineyards first and foremost must be diverse and healthy. His philosophy is that "all living things must be at home in my vineyards" -- and if
you go to his website you'll see the evidence. His wines are truly unique: stony schist, Mediterranean sun, no SO2. They have perfume, depth... Get them whenever you have the chance. We have a miniscule amount at the moment at Thirst of three of his cuvees.

Maxime is a winemaker I first came across when he was mentioned by Kermit Lynch in the profile Eric Asimov wrote about Kermit in the New York Times in November 2007. I immediately had to try his wines and, ever since, have had them in the store. He too farms organically and his wines are expressive and fruity -- truly Thirst wines. He started making his own wines about five years ago with no vines and no money, renting vineyards and an abandoned shed. His wines have a definite sense of a place -- Corbieres -- but infused with the spirit of cru Beaujolais (he apprenticed, he told me, with Yvon Metras).

Friday, February 27, 2009

One of My Favorite Young Winemakers

Christophe Buisson is one of my favorite young winemakers. I hadn't met him before this picture was taken. But from drinking his wines, learning his story, and selling his wines, I felt like I had. I was so excited finally to meet him! Most Burgundian winemakers inherit their vocation and their vineyards from their family. Christophe didn't, but from an early age KNEW he wanted to be a winemaker.

As you can sense, I'm very proud to represent his wines. His Sous le Chateau vineyard is on a slope that's super steep and faces east, which means morning sun covers the entire vineyard. The soil is chalky, which adds delicacy, pungency, character. He uses neither herbicides nor pesticides, and his approach is biodynamic. You must try his wines, which, because they come from a lesser known Burgundian appellation, St. Romain, are excellent values.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Meeting Marcel

I was particularly pleased to meet Marcel Lapierre and his son Matthieu. We've enjoyed Lapierre's Morgon for a long, long time, and have sold it from the moment we opened, along with all the other Gang of Four producers, and many other cru Beaujolais as well. These are wines that can be relished young but yield special rewards when aged for several years in a good cellar. Marcel is one of the leading figures in Beaujolais and a critical figure in the natural wine movement. It was refreshing to see his son Matthieu's enthusiasm to make wine and spread the gospel. One of the many items we picked up on this trip is their Vin de Pays des Gaules, which I think is going to be a big hit at Thirst this spring and summer.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Back in the saddle again

Since returning from our wine-buying trip in France I've been too busy to post. The trip was a super fantastic productive tasting marathon--and it felt exactly right. We learned a lot, tasted, tasted, tasted, tasted, tasted ... including many crazy older vintages, met some exceptional winemakers, and found some exciting new wines for the store. I will try to post more regularly and soon will put up pictures...