By Rosemary Liss, Co-Owner, Le Comptoir du Vin

+candlelit breakfasts
+West Wing walk-and-talks
+cannellini beans with EVOO and salt
+Friendship Radio
+deleting instagram on days off
+Finishing books

+Black Feast
+Mera Kitchen Collective
+tracee ellis ross
Le Comptoir du Vin is open Thursday to Sunday from 12pm to 6pm for in-store shopping and take away. The Sandwich of Jambon-Beurre w/ Raclette is one of the best things we've had this month (well worth a 45 minute drive, no question).

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Joan Hates Online Poker

Joan Hates Online Poker
By Jeff Segal, Owner, Domestique
I got into a shouting match with my grandmother, Joan, at my younger brother’s high school graduation dinner about whether online poker was a career. It was the early 2000s, the Chris Moneymaker days, and a few friends of mine had dropped out of college to make lots of money playing cards in front of a computer screen. Joan was unrelenting. She bellowed about value creation, communities, the fabric of society. I was a young, dumb contrarian and probably yelled the phrase “internet economy.” We retreated to the bar to let the rest of the table eat in peace, she ordered two scotches, and we moved on. 
I’ve been thinking about that argument from almost two decades ago. The places that we’ve always gone to escape daily life are shuttered, or transformed by plexiglass and tape on the floor. Small businesses that were built to support people and communities have become lean operations that take online orders and pack boxes.
Our days at the shop look very different now. We’re up earlier in the morning. Most of our time used to be spent talking to customers in our “library,” hosting tastings, enjoying the way that people navigate a wine shop when they don’t have time constraints. Now we spend most of our time pulling orders, boxing them up, and dispatching them for delivery (or putting them by the door for pickup). We do in-store shopping by appointment only, one person at a time, and the phone never stops ringing, but the balance of time has definitely shifted from the customer toward the logistical. 
That’s what being a brick and mortar retailer means in the era of COVID. But it’s also why brick and mortar retail matters more now than ever. There’s a new wave of online-only natural wine shops that have cropped up over the past six months. You know them, they’re the ones you see in your Instagram ‘Explore’ tab with lots of portrait mode shots, all selling the same bottles of “low intervention” wine (h/t Guilhaume, above). They’re usually one-person operations run out of a warehouse but with a wholesome front end. They’re the online poker players of wine retail.
Buying wine at good retail shops is largely what made me fall in love with wine. There have been a few that really, truly impacted my life: Village Corner in Ann Arbor, Chambers Street in New York, and Bi-Rite in San Francisco. Wine retail is special because buying wine is so fucking intimidating for most people. The best shops immediately put you at ease. They have incredible employees, that’s rule number one. Often they're people whose true love is music or art or literature (or some random shit, like charting tides or collecting old tractor parts) and yet they ended up selling wine. They don’t rush you, they focus on the atmosphere and not the transaction, they show you that wine is a beverage and not an idol. Sometimes the shops are messy, sometimes they’re clean, but they exist and take up space and they’re real.
We are undoubtedly real. We rent thousands of square feet of high-ceilinged, light-filled real estate. We have 12 employees. We have a cellar full of rare wines that we don’t plan on selling anytime soon. We have hundreds of vinyl records and beautiful stools and posters from natural wine fairs. We have a dishwasher and a bathroom. We keep our wine in beautiful white oak shelves made from old barns and not inside a locker in a dank fulfillment warehouse.
We’re training the people who will be the (much improved) future of wine. We invest in our community, whether it’s Manny from down the block who cleans and builds pallets for us, or our monthly donations to SOME. We’ve created a purposeful space that’s meant to be evocative. It stands for more than wine. And so do we. It’s not just us, of course. Some version of this is true for all wine retailers that have a vision and care about their craft.
Joan was right. There’s a difference between a transaction, the movement of money, and a business that creates value outside of itself. And even if it’s more packing boxes and less hanging out these days, we’re more glad than ever to be a brick and mortar shop.

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You Can't Really Explain a Bottle of Wine

You Can't Really Explain a Bottle of Wine  
By Peter Pastan, Owner, 2AMYS
Apparently, I have an issue with garbage. Maybe it has something to do with working in restaurants. The first task I learned at my first restaurant job was breaking down boxes. I’m still really annoyed when I see a dumpster full of whole boxes.

I started taking pictures of my bottle recycling on March 31, 2013. I was relatively new to Instagram and my DIL had to explain the concept of a hashtag to me. I’m still not sure that I use them correctly, but perhaps it doesn’t matter. There were so many Instagram pictures of trophy bottles — so carefully composed and so uninteresting — that I thought garbage might tell another side of the story, but I really don’t remember taking the first picture. Part of me wanted to push back a bit and find a fun way to tease people about the preciousness of what they were drinking. Unicorn bottles were big then. Initially, my posts were not really reflective of that week’s drinking (I don’t think I ever drank four bottles of Monfortino in a seven-day period), and it took a while to settle on a hashtag (#sundaynightrecycling). It’s become a nice way to remember what I was drinking without silly tasting notes. I’m not particularly good with my phone (iPhone 6E), so many of the pictures are out of focus and the lighting is terrible. I try not to edit much as it seems to defeat the whole purpose and I don’t like wordy Instagram posts. It’s a visual app.

I also have a thing about Roman trash trucks. I love the Roma sanitation department logo, which is a combination of a hand and the sun. I think it’s good to have some specific themes to post: empty bottles, trash trucks, and pictures of just-eaten plates of food. It’s more about the memory than the thing. For a while I took compost pictures (#mondaynightcomposting). I liked the way you could imagine a meal by looking at the sequence of what was discarded. Before that, I took pictures of my striped socks (#washingtoncolorschool) but this didn’t seem to resonate with many people. Twenty-five years ago, I was invited to participate in a fundraiser for a Lawyers for the Arts organization (perhaps the last group of people that needed to hold a fundraiser, but I did get to meet Stanley Marcus of Neiman Marcus). I made “Mark Rothko” sandwiches (olive paste, anchovy, and a sliver of tuna belly) on toast (I lifted the idea from E A. Carmine, Jr.’s article “The Sandwiches of the Artists,” — October, Vol. 16, Art World Follies (Spring, 1981), pp. 87-101— which I strongly recommend). We were really in the weeds, making all that toast, and people kept asking how we knew it was Rothko’s favorite sandwich. We also had a vat of lemonade with an upside- down, glow-in-the-dark crucifix. We called it Lemonade Christ, which really confused people as well. You can’t really explain a joke, and you can’t really explain why someone should like a bottle of wine. But having shared many wines with many people, I know that when you see a particular bottle in the trash it can trigger memories of sharing that bottle of wine with a particular person. It’s a nonverbal way to connect with friends and remember past joys.
2AMYS is open for takeout and everything can be ordered online, from the classics like suppli to a few surprises too.

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On Authenticity and the Real-Real

On Authenticity and the Real-Real
By Genevieve Villamora, Co-Owner, Bad Saint 
Reading the news these days makes me feel like our country is in a wrestling match with itself.

What is democracy? What makes someone an American?

What is real? What are facts?

I’ve thought a lot lately about how hard I’ve worked to feel like I belong in the country where I was born.

I wasted much of my youth wanting to be someone else. I wanted to be an Irish stepdancer, with the velvet embroidered dress, red hair, and freckles. I thought these totems would get me “in” with the cool kids at my Catholic school in Chicago.

I thought authenticity was something judged by other people. Show me you can fit in. Show me you deserve to sit next to me on the bus. Prove to me that you should be here.

It’s a sentiment that has echoed through most of my adult life. When people question my knowledge and my right to be in the room, the last thing I am is surprised.

When we opened a Filipino restaurant in 2015, I thought it would be different. Instead, many non-Filipinos tried to educate me about my own culture. Kababayan, fellow Pin@ys, told me that the food wasn’t Filipino enough. It prompted a lot of soul-searching about what it takes to be “authentic” in others’ eyes.

I’m done using others’ yardsticks to measure my life. This restaurant has given me the gift of realizing that no one else can tell me how to be Pin@y and no one else gets to judge whether I am Filipino “enough.” Self-definition is a superpower.

Others’ obsession with authenticity (the “most Filipino Filipino food,” “real Americans,” etc.) doesn’t suck me in anymore. It’s a distraction and a zero-sum game that denies our reality: human beings are messy, complex, and ever-evolving.

As we muddle through the apocalypse, I’m rooted by my experiences of true connection with other people. Walks with my son in Rock Creek Park. A phone call with a friend. Sharing our backyard produce with our neighbors.

What is really real?

People and experiences that make us feel connected, loved, and human. Those are the stars I’m using to guide me through this expedition.
Bad Saint currently does dinner takeout Friday and Saturday and breakfast takeout Sunday and Monday. They also have a Karma Farm Produce Box that is AMAZING. 

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By Guilhaume Gerard, Partner and Co-Founder, Selection Massale 

There are a few terms within the natural wine marketing world that I don't really get. The idea of "nothing added, nothing taken away" is one -- a cute, romantic idea but, no, the wine doesn't make itself. Zero zero (aka how to strip away taste and preference and replace them with a Parker-esque number) is another. The one that baffles me the most is low intervention, or whatever variance on non-interventionism is à la mode right now.

It's been around for quite some time and while I'm certainly all for less manipulation, less synthetics, less (or no) additions in the vineyards or to the wines themselves, I feel like there's a bit of a misunderstanding about the whole concept. Maybe it's just me, but when I visit a producer (the literal basic task of my job as an importer), I don't really get the feeling that many vignerons are non-interventioning all day. I've been on the road for about 11 years now. More or less three to four months a year, a visit or two a day, and with all the winemakers I visit (those I import, those I admire, even those I think are complete frauds), nobody talks about that idea. Well, actually, there is always one exception to the rule.

It was 2008. I was visiting a couple producers with friends and we spent some time with one, maybe the father of all non-interventionists: a truly, really lazy dude. My understanding is that his dad had bought him something like five hectares of vines and a big house. The house itself was quite non-interventionist too, or falling apart, whatever you want to call it. This genius zero zero intervention winemaker managed to completely ruin the whole operation within a few years. It was pruning season (if you were really, really late) when I was there, and he just couldn't get his ass out of bed. One morning while he was still asleep, drunk from the previous night, I kicked in the door of his cellar to find just about the dirtiest operation I've come across. Fruit flies copulating around every single fiberglass tank, rotten grapes from the previous harvest, leaking valves, and all that great zero zero turning into vinegar. It's still in fashion, I understand, that halfway to vinegar, and maybe I'm just being the new curmudgeon (Rest in Peace to the OG) but I still like the idea of wine tasting good.

I've also met a few vignerons that I think are actually creative and manage to deal with difficult vintages or fermentations by intervening without opening the door to yeasts, excessive amounts of sulfur, or lysozymes and all that crap. A couple of them, one in Cheverny, the other in Ontario, often use clean, fresh fermenting musts to help finish or clean a struggling fermentation. I was once told by a natty advocate that this was almost criminal and a big "no no" in their opinion and that the natty thing to do would be to let the petri dish of a wine develop fully in barrel until some newbie drinker decides that brett-infused, mousey juice is terroir and that flaws are a bourgeois concept.

So, no, I don't like non-interventionism, not in the vineyard where it takes so much more thought and work to farm organically, and not in the cellar, where non-intervention on a wine too often means letting it become vinegar. Making wine isn't about not intervening, it's about intervening at the right time, for the right reasons. It's about being smart about it, finding creative ways, making the right call, managing to avoid making plonk without using the pallet of oenological products available to you through the oenologists always advocating for more standardized, boring wine. There is a way beyond industrial plonk and vinegar: it's called good winemaking -- good natural winemaking even.

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A Fouzy Tout Summer

A Fouzy Tout Summer

The last time we saw Adrien Baloche of La Ferme du Plateau (more on him below) was at Anonymes, the zero sulfur salon held during the annual natural wine fairs in the Loire, in the waning days of normalcy before COVID took over the world. Adrien was set up next to a very prominent female winemaker. The biggest wine buyers from Copenhagen and Tokyo reached (and talked) over each other to get a tiny taste of her zero sulfur concoctions. Adrien stood a table away, running his hands through his hair, stressed as fuck about who was going to buy the upcoming vintages of his wine. He had also brought grape juice so everyone could refresh their palates after hours of ripping acid and a bit too much mouse. It was one of the best things that I tasted at Anonymes; thoughtful and practical. 

The rest of the trip, I kept pestering Jeff about Adrien and how much of his wine we could take. The trip went on, we came home, the world shut down, but I couldn't forget about Adrien. In May, we decided to commit to a significant amount of Adrien's wine, with the support of Eric and the ever-growing Domestique Wine Club (spoiler alert: September wine club is going to be lit). And I decided to help Adrien re-label our favorite cuvee, Fouzy Tout. Thanks to Google Translate, a printer in Tours who spoke a little English, and friend in the Loire, it got done just in time.

Drawing the label, I wanted something simple and optimistic. It was month two of COVID. At Adrien's farm, there's a rustic picnic bench that we once sat on together with his wife Anne, his best friend (whose name always escapes me), and a woman working with them that summer. I arrived after being terribly lost and taking the world's most expensive taxi ride there. We sat on the bench drinking coffee with lots of awkward silence. Looking back at that moment, it was a "fouzy tout." A muddle of people who didn't make sense together, but once we started tasting and talking wine, it clicked.

I wanted the label to reflect the messy and imperfect nature of many of our lives. It's a simple drawing. A doodle of a couple leaning on each other during a time when people were scared to leave their apartments and hadn't hugged loved ones in months. When I close my eyes and imagine visiting La Ferme du Plateau, I remember sitting on a bench feeling comforted by a group of complete strangers after a disastrous day of travel.

Fouzy Tout is a conferment of (primarily) Grolleau with Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. The word is French slang for a blend. According to Adrien, "in cooking, for example, it means there are a lot of different things inside! If by any chance it's good, you've got a new recipe!" It's a light-bodied red/white blend that even in a hot vintage comes in at a whopping 11.5% alcohol. My tasting note for it in August was, "delicious."

It was important to me to give Adrien a label that reflected his thoughtfulness and kindness. From the maker to the label, Fouzy Tout is special and significant. It's a gentler and softer story than most in this money-driven world. Adrien isn't a self-proclaimed rockstar, but he is making wonderful wines that we're very lucky to have imported by Selection Massale and at the shop. Enjoy. 

- Rebekah Pineda

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Duplessis is Back

Duplessis is Back

We're stoked to have Chablis from Duplessis back in the shop! The family domaine is run by fifth-generation vigneron Lilian Duplessis. He's made the estate one of the few certified organic producers in Chablis. His careful maintenance of the land is apparent as each wine is a precise expression of a specific plot or a blend of Chardonnay from multiple plots amongst his eight hectares. 

Each plot is vinified independently in stainless steel vats and all the wines spend 12-15 months there before racking. Most are then typically barrel aged for six months (Vaugiraut, Chabils, and Petit Chablis only see stainless and Les Clos is in barrel for nine months). Minimal sulfur is used at bottling, if necessary. Lilian makes a point to forego sulfur entirely if he can.

As anyone who's had them knows, these wines are really special. They give you a taste of each mindfully cultivated and cared for parcel. The beautiful expressions of clay and limestone soils come through a variety of aromas, flavors, and textures. These wines are all about terroir and they're a good match for the stormy days of August and the coming change that signifies. 

Here is one of our favorite offerings from Duplessis:

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains "27 Mois D'Elevage" 2015
The grapes that make this robust wine come from Montmains, two plots of clay-limestone rich soils in Chablis. This vineyard sits on the left bank of the Serein River. Its name means "medium-sized mountain," as the vines are elevated and surrounded by two taller peaks. 

2015 was the last vintage of high yields until 2018, and since Lillian holds his wines back in barrel long enough, he saw what frost and hail did to his crop in 2016 and 2017 (yields were down around 75%). Because of this he held back some 15s in barrel to release over the few years in between so he didn't have as severe a shortage of wine. This wine was vinified normally but saw around 40 months of elevage!

It packs in the minerality and acidity while remaining very delicate. It's the perfect marriage between savory, smoky notes, and some more tropical fruit flavors like mango. Enjoy it on a late summer evening. 

- Erica Christian

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Meet Kayla (Our First Major Taylor Fellow)!

Meet Kayla (Our First Major Taylor Fellow)!

We're incredibly excited to announce Kayla Mensah as the inaugural Major Taylor fellow at Domestique. She's an enthusiast of the high-low pairing and loves all things involving Italian wine and Caribbean food (especially when combined). Before coming to wine, Kayla studied and worked in mechanical engineering. Her end goal is to increase inclusivity in wine by cultivating a space that focuses on wine and food from underrepresented regions. Think: juicy pet nats with Jamaican patties.

We asked Kayla a couple questions to help everyone get to know more about her before the fellowship. Follow along @winegriot.

What are you drinking these days and why?
It currently feels like I'm swimming in the Devil's swamp, so I've been almost exclusively drinking bubbly and lighter reds. The "Monkey Jacket" red blend from Cruse Wine Co. and the "Le Temps d'Aimer" VDF Rouge 2018 from Le Briseau were fast favorites.
Why did you apply for the fellowship? For a long time, the wine industry has been all but inaccessible to people who look like me. As a consumer, I was stereotyped, and as a professional, I have been ignored and underestimated. This program creates a safe, affirming place for those of us who have been overlooked while disrupting the status quo. Being able to learn invaluable skills in an environment that is rooted in inclusivity and activism (plus really good natural wine) is a dream come true, and I’m very excited to have this opportunity.

Beyond wine, what makes you giddy with joy? The ocean (or any swimmable body of water) and good food. A combination of the two, if I'm especially lucky.

Identity is layered and complex, for everyone. Tell us a little about your background and what makes you you. I'm a New Yorker at heart. A mash up of all the cultures that raised me in a 90s version of the Bronx. As a child of Jamaican and Ghanaian immigrants, my happy places usually involved a lot of food, drinks, and impossibly loud music. I'm also queer, which doesn't necessarily always play with the aforementioned cultures nicely but leads to some interesting (if not exhausting) debates. All of these parts of me inform how I move through the world, including the wine world.

Fuck, Marry, Kill for mezcal, Savagnin, and zero sulfur wine: Marry Savagnin, fuck mezcal, and kill zero sulfur wine (I know, I'm sorry) .

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Baroque in its Own Kinda Way

Baroque in its Own Kinda Way

Ludovic Chanson Implicite

Bach the Goldberg Variations Glenn Gould

by Peter Njoroge, Domestique young gun

One of the (only) great things about being alive in 2020 is that for a pretty minuscule amount of money you can summon, like a deity, pretty much anything in the history of recorded music at all times. Music can be like wallpaper that follows you and your headphones around anywhere that you go. I try pretty hard to use this awesome responsibility to check out as much new material as I can, but I always seem to gravitate toward the things that never seem to get old. Glenn Gould’s 1981 recording of The Goldberg Variations is one of those special albums that I rarely miss a day without listening.

Gould’s playing here is non-sensational, unromantic, and the music is really baroque. Even as far as classical music is concerned, nothing here jumps out at you or, maybe, is even supposed to jump out at you. It’s not very cool, Gould isn’t very cool, and yet it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. His revisitation of the Goldbergs (he recorded the same variations in 1955) is so clear, so stylized, so full of artistic conviction that I can’t really get my head around what’s happening, and the music sounds brand new every time I listen to it. If you’re not paying attention, the temptation to check out can be overwhelming. In all honesty, to be very reductive, the album contains a lot of similar-sounding solo piano. But, if you really tune in, you get to be a part of something that was a lifetime in the making. 

This is what my favorite producers do and why I love their wines. I’m similarly floored by the dedication to craft and the manifestation of nuance that my favorite winemakers are able to create. In the same way as Gould, they marry expertise, understanding, and individual personality in a way that’s truly singular.

So, they might not all have the most beautiful labels, they might not all have the coolest story and, honestly, someone might just have to tell you about it. But, like few other things in this world, all my favorite wines inspire the same kind of ecstasy that listening to Gould’s playing does.  

- Peter Njoroge

WINE I'M DRINKING RIGHT NOW: Ludovic Chanson Implicite, baroque in its own kinda way
LISTENING TO: A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard, exploratory and meditative

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Miles and Mosse

Miles and Mosse

Domaine Mosse's Chenin

Miles Davis' The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965by Damion Reid, Grammy-nominated drummer

Within every craft there are trailblazers and trendsetters that push their own communities forward into
the future. Domaine Mosse does for Chenin Blanc what Miles Davis did for music. One can only be
inspired by what these individuals have done for their very different mediums.

I had the pleasure of speaking with natural wine pioneer René Mosse about what makes his wines so
special and he simply said, "terroir.” The soil and climate affect the vines, creating a unique product that's inseparable from its environment. This is similar in music, because your fundamentals must be intact when creating with a group of musicians so that you may fully express what is needed in every moment.

Mosse's Chenin Blanc always transports me because it remains on the palate, reminding me of why I love natural wine. The true essence of the variety is presented with an unpredictability that forces you to focus on the clean, slightly oxidative taste that only a Mosse Chenin seems to acquire from wooden barrels. Mosse is one of the originators of this progressive taste that's changed the wine world, in my opinion.

The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 by Miles Davis achieves the same life-changing effect on how I will hear music forever. Each song is correctly played in regard to form, harmony, and melody, while effortlessly interpreted in a manner that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is a box set that consists of eight discs, cataloging a week-long residency at the famous Plugged Nickel club in Chicago. I will dispel all rumors about Miles Davis being sick in the beginning of this residency because I got confirmation from his nephew, who spoke with a member of the quintet who said, “Miles was healthy.” This legendary quintet consists of Miles Davis on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. What this group was able to achieve rhythmically while playing each piece will change how you feel about the possibilities of interpreting a song. Not only did they effortlessly improvise but they reinvented how you will hear each song forever. Initiating countless alternate harmonies, while exploring triple or duple pulse, alongside tempo changes at will. It should remind you of a transcendent wine that forces you to swirl your glass, smell, and taste once more.

Mosse's Chenin forced me to respect Chenin Blanc as a variety in a different manner. Miles Davis' The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 similarly opened my mind up to the power one interpretation of a piece can have on how the listener will perceive that composition for years to come. 

- Damion Reid

WINE I'M DRINKING RIGHT NOW: Domaine Mosse's Chenin, the personification of avant-garde in Anjou
LISTENING TO: Miles Davis' The Complete Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965, for motivation and inspiration

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