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Something in a Sunday

Something in a Sunday

Bottes Rouges Savagnin 'Album' 2016

Johnny Cash

by Rebekah Pineda, Domestique GM

Four brown-skinned, frizzy-haired kids piled into the car shouting: "There's something in a Sunday/Makes a body feel alone!"

In the lush Appalachian Mountains, we went feet dragging every Sunday to church. My mother, raised in those small-town Arkansas Baptist churches, only allowed for a deviation from the otherwise scheduled programming of Aretha Franklin, the Bee Gees, and plain old gospel on that seventh day. You see, there's something in a Sunday. His name was Johnny fucking Cash. I'm not sure if it was just his use of the word Sunday or the fact his voice made us all pray to Jesus, but somehow Johnny was allowed.

"Sunday Morning Coming Down" is the story of a man both lamenting and embracing the life he's made, depicted through the stark contrast of a Sunday morning. The song itself is ripe with contradictions.

Contradictions in the wine world, from the small scale to the monumental, have always been present. We are expected to describe wines with certainty using analogies to fruits we have never even tried (S/O Miguel de Leon). We have seen a powerhouse of a female winemaker getting into a labor abuse 'entanglement’ with her father. Being exposed to the concept of contradiction at a young age made me quickly realize that even the kindest human may do the most unfortunate things and the biggest business in the world may donate millions to charity. Contradictions make us interesting and wonderful (sweet ass riesling w/ electric acid), but can also lead to pain and deception (zero sulfur Champagne). 

What my mom (and her four annoying children) connected to was the idea that many times in life we can see that we are walking contradictions, and it makes us human. It makes a song about praying to God to be stoned a country music top 100 hit. I love clean wines, but sometimes drinking an "on the edge" zero zero wine makes me feel alive in a way that is 100% unrelated to the wine. If we can’t see our own inconsistencies, how will we ever fix the painful and dark contradictions of others/our industry?

- Rebekah Pineda

DRINKING RIGHT NOW: Bottes Rouges Savagnin 'Album' 2016, Uma Thurman of white wine
LISTENING TO: Insecure Season 4 Playlist, because it's summer

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Fermentation is Life, Life is Fermentation

Fermentation is Life, Life is Fermentation

Since the beginning of the pandemic, my kitchen has slowly been converted into a fermentation lab. I have two different sourdough starters, acetobacter fermented pickles, Koji mold rice, and, most recently, I got into making Jun (a type of Kombucha). Jun is the one fermented product that I find the most interesting. In order for Jun to become sparkling, the fermentation has to finish in the bottle under a crown cap. Because of the closed environment, that lovely byproduct of fermentation, CO2, is forced into the liquid and it becomes bubbles.

Microorganisms are just like us in many ways, they are alive. They eat, drink, inhale oxygen, and exhale carbon dioxide. Fermentation in the bottle is life under pressure, and it's what gives us bubbles.

Next time you enjoy a glass of fizzy goodness, be it pet nat, other sparkling wine, or kombucha, remember, it has bubbles because the yeast was forced to stay inside too.

- Vitalii Dascaliuc

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A Focus on Black Voices (in Natural Wine): Erica Christian

A Focus on Black Voices (in Natural Wine): Erica Christian

A week ago, after a slew of emails exclaiming “Black Lives Matter”, I received an email announcing Wine and Spirit Education Trust certification scholarships. The email acknowledges that POC are “vastly underrepresented” in the three-tier system for wine and spirits. Alongside this content is an infographic from a study that revealed a 2% Black/African representation in the three-tier system. Before the offering of scholarships, it is stated that this underrepresentation is both “disturbing” and “suspected”. That one email represents one of my greatest frustrations with the wine world and the mostly white representation in mentor and leadership positions. To be Black and work in the world of wine is to hold constant disappointment. It’s to hear the acknowledgment of how underrepresented we are and to know that everyone should have seen it all along. 
 
If diversity is an image and multiculturalism is a practice, the wine world partakes in neither. I continue to receive misguided messages about wine scholarship offerings and white sommeliers giving advice and mentorship to BIPOC. This is not inclusivity. Black voices in the wine industry need to be centered. I don’t need a scholarship to partake in an exclusive structural learning system, I need a platform. 
 
Wine is my passion. For me, the job is to give people an experience that leads to learning more about what they like and fuels their own passion to explore more. I want to do this for everyone, especially BIPOC. Moving forward, white leadership in the wine world needs to share and release their platforms to Black wine professionals and educators.  I see the changing of systems that determine deductive tasting descriptors. I see more Black wine educators and community efforts to get more Black folx engaged with information about wine. I see a wine world where I can be unapologetically me, unapologetically Black, and still be regarded as knowledgeable and professional. As Julia Coney, an incredible wine educator and boss seller, said, “I’m not hired to be peaceful.” We need to do more than just acknowledge these discrepancies behind closed doors, we need to correct and directly challenge those who uphold racist systems and participate in our exclusion. We must always speak up and demand consequences for those who continue to discriminate against Black folx, especially Black womxn in wine. I am of the mentality that we as Black folx build our own communities and our own table when we are excluded.
 
Wine is an agricultural product and we all deserve access as guests, sommeliers, growers, and winemakers. It is time we take action to disrupt these systems.

Erica Christian is a DC-based sommelier & activist.

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A Focus on Black Voices (in Natural Wine): Bianca Sanon

A Focus on Black Voices (in Natural Wine): Bianca Sanon

I’ve been “working in wine” for the past four years, give or take a few months. I started getting serious about my wine studies in late 2016 - early 2017, and my experiences have always been tied to service. Microaggressions have been at the forefront of my experience as a server, sommelier, floor manager, and every role in between. One time, when I was working in a restaurant in North Carolina, a guest asked for my name (Bianca), and upon telling him, he quickly responded “Beyonce?!?!” Everyone at the table loved that joke. And, somehow, almost as if on cue, I was subjected to that same experience three different times that week. 

Microaggressions are always difficult to navigate as a hospitality worker -- should I speak up and correct the guest, is that kind of interaction inappropriate, would I or should I even be able to control my emotions in addressing the issue? The tragedy of this moment is that it took the overdue recognition of Black death, one after the other, and a worldwide movement to make it possible for us as Black service industry workers to talk about and confront these instances of microaggressions and how they deeply affect us. The beauty of this moment, particularly in the time of COVID-19, is the realization that community has nothing to do with proximity, as my dear friend Imane Hanine put it so clearly. Although based in Miami, I have been able to process so many issues that I’ve had as a Black hospitality worker and as a Black sommelier with fellow Black women who are based throughout the country, from Philly to Napa, and we have had the actual time and energy to sit and listen to each other, a luxury we certainly would not have had under normal circumstances.

So many thoughts, scenarios and questions have come from our conversations: What happens when the world opens back up and the restaurant industry fundamentally changes? Who will be chosen to move forward when restaurants open back up? Do you respect me for my knowledge or are you afraid of being called out? What happens to people like us who decide to speak up and don’t have a community to fall back on? What do we envision when we talk about inclusion? How inclusive can we be as an industry if we have always been more interested in allocations than structural oppression? How do we envision an industry striving towards inclusivity when it is driven by the concept of exclusivity? What is our collective goal as an industry? How far are we willing to go?

In the few conversations I’ve had with both old friends and new, it’s been clear that we do in fact have the power to challenge the norms of our industry and institute change. When we ask about the repercussions of speaking up, we envision actual structural change in the business in question and amplifying the voices of the traditionally oppressed, offering them a platform to submit grievances, possibly through establishing a third-party HR department that can hold business owners accountable. When we ask about inclusion, we imagine a future where the concept of access is at the forefront of business practices, encompassing everything from approachable pricing, especially for businesses in gentrifying neighborhoods, to QTPOC/BIPOC-led events to de-escalation training for all members on staff. 

In short, we may not have all of the answers, but being Black in the wine industry has always come with a lot of questions, and it feels good to finally start asking them. 

Bianca Sanon is a sommelier and soon-to-be bookstore/café owner.

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M. Baguette Goes To The Bayou

M. Baguette Goes To The Bayou

Our staff loves to travel and we always get the pleasure of hearing about where they ate and drank. Most recently, Saman (AKA Baguette Hunter)...

This is the end of March, Jazzfest and Mardi Gras are over, the temperature hovers around 70, with an unexpected breeze at times; the delirious reveling hoards have moved on, and the swampy hurricane season has not yet arrived; maybe the perfect time to escape the Acela corridor for a long weekend in New Orleans. 

Consider staying in the Marigny for some calm, about a 10 minutes walk from the French Quarter. You can start every morning at Who Dat’s for strong coffee, White Russians, and stupid good brunch, served on the patio (the owner will set up more tables in front of his home next door if need be). Ashtrays at each table, no need to ask. The corn cakes rancheros and fried catfish bene are a must. The Elysian Bar, occupying the former 150 year old Saints Peter & Paul church rectory, possesses the elegance that Anthropologie and Restoration Hardware aspire to but never attain. The bar itself gets more tiki/art-nouveau, and opens to the courtyard; drink the Mai Tai there, made with Smith + Cross and El Dorado 5 year.

Passing through the French Quarter, you might stop at Touchet’s for a bathroom break, found in the carpeted basement that looks and smells just like grandma’s, and catch up on the PGA tour on one of the flat screens. Gayle, the charming proprietor, mixes a refreshing Pimm’s cup. She's working for a below ground pool someday, she says.

Didn’t pack proper clothes for Commander’s Palace et al. and wasn’t looking for latest Keith McNally/Sean Brock derivative restaurant but Marjie’s Grill slaps. Gulf jumbos tossed in lemongrass/sambal butter, “not too oily” ember roasted gulf fish, tom som salad, with a bottle of Viña Tondonia Blanco was worthy of a deathbed meal.

Back in Marigny, Mimi’s serves 'tapas’ and combos until very late. Order the Trust Me Tapa and see what happens. We got a giant delicious bowl of hot & sour soup, made with lots of smoked brisket, egg noodles, and shitake mushrooms. Maybe Kajun’s Pub for 24-hour karaoke after that.

A pilgrimage to Willie Mae’s for fried chicken, rice, and beans is mandatory. Arrive just after 2pm on a weekday for no lines. 

Snag a table late weekday afternoon at Bacchanal, bring a deck of cards to pass the time before sunset, and by then the floral sheen on the Tempier Bandol Blanc has faded to show more mineral clarity. The Bouchard Val de Vilaine does not disappoint, but order some bravos potatoes at least for nourishment. Many are eager to make Bacchanal happen in their own respective cities, but the old trees that canopy the yard, the buzz of crickets at nightfall, and the calibre of their musicians cannot be bought. 

We never found Bourbon Street. I got beignets from the Cafe du Monde airport kiosk before departure. 

- Saman Housseini

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A Maddening Quest for Flavor

A Maddening Quest for Flavor

If you ask me, there's no other way to end a whirlwind European escapade than by cramming one last unplanned stop via EasyJet onto the tail end of your trip. But, if we're being honest, how could anyone turn down 24 hours in Copenhagen? Long on my radar for a number of reasons, work finally nudged me over the line. The Selection Massale team invited me to tag along and check out exactly what was happening at Empirical Spirits, the flavor-obsessed brainchild of Noma alums Lars Williams and Mark Emil Hermansen, and I didn't say no.
 
We all met at Charles de Gaulle airport on Thursday afternoon with plenty of time for our evening flight, an experience with which I'm totally unfamiliar. If you’re not pressing your luck, are you really living? But things moved along smoothly and we landed just past 8pm with plenty of time for us to make our reservation at Baest. Denmark was not a place that I thought of for pizza but once you’ve had it alongside a bit of Dard & Ribo and some good Swiss Chasselas, it's hard to complain. The meal was fantastic and the city already felt welcoming beyond expectation. Not even a late night cab ride to the wrong address on the entirely wrong side of town could dampen our initial impression.
 
The next morning was our tour at the distillery. Empirical is located in what at one point must have been an industrial park but has now been restored as some sort of post-apocalyptic hipster paradise. The entire complex is like an advertisement for the vibrancy of youth. Once inside, you notice nothing but the joy of each person to be working in such an environment. In speaking with people, you could feel their passion for experimentation and how well they were supported in their venture to drive Empirical forward in exploring the concept of flavor. As we were led through each step of their process we stopped to smell and taste every component part and began to decipher how this maddening quest for flavor is truly a worthwhile and noble endeavor.
 
And the best part? Now we get to share that endeavor with you. Or even spark your desire to go and see it for yourself. Copenhagen and Empirical should be near the top of your future travel plans.

- Eric Moorer

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A Producer We Love: Ludovic Chanson

A Producer We Love: Ludovic Chanson

For Selection Massale, Ludovic Chanson was almost one that got away. As a friend of Frantz Saumon, he held a bit of sway, but was just getting started in winemaking when he met these dudes who were also just starting their import imprint. Ultimately, timing didn’t work out but an important friendship that would later prove fruitful was cemented. And, besides, would I be writing this if things hadn’t been remedied?

That’s fortunate for all of us because Ludovic is a vigneron who encapsulates the ingenuity and progressive thinking that’s defined Montlouis-sur-Loire over the past two decades. He trusts his process and focuses on farming. Ludo’s estate now stands at around six hectares, of which five are dedicated to Chenin Blanc. These are all planted on a plateau in the village of Husseau with clay-heavy soils that are littered with silex and feature a deep limestone base. He makes a range of wines both still and sparkling, none of which are red. He is certainly a specialist.

  • Pétillant Naturel ‘Ich i Go’ 2017: Ludo gets to show off his experimental side here. A rosé pet nat made from a Pineau d’Aunis heavy blend with a touch of Gamay. With this being Ludo’s only non-white wine, he wants to make sure he makes it count. The balance of fruit and spice here is on another planet completely.
  • Pétillant Naturel ‘Sans Pagne’ 2017: Keeping with the sparkling theme, we come to this wine, which is an equal parts blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. A great wine for anyone searching for an "intro to natural wine" for their friends. Co-fermented in fiberglass, there are just 15 ppm of sulfur added to this fresh and approachable wine.
  • Sauvignon Blanc ‘Gavroche’ 2017: This is Ludo's Pet Sounds. This wine is nothing like you’re expecting. It takes Sauvignon Blanc to the next level. So much texture, so much power. Beautiful intermingling of tropical fruits and minerals to create your new favorite every night wine.
  • Les Cabotines 2017: Chenin Blanc vines planted in Montlouis’ classic Aubuis soil, with some pebbles, limestone, and silex. Fully developed, dense, and powerful while showing off Chenin at its finest. Dry but ripe, seductive yet reserved. I love you, Chenin Blanc.
  • Les Pechers 2017: OFF DRY WINES PAIR WITH SPICY FOODS. OFF DRY WINES PAIR WITH SPICY FOODS. OFF DRY WINES PAIR WITH SPICY FOODS.
  • Implicite 2015: Let’s romanticize for a moment. It’s getting colder, days are getting shorter, and there’s one more pass of grapes to be picked before it’s all done for the season. That's what's in Ludo's Implicite Chenin Blanc. A stunning example of Montlouis terroir which is drinkable now, but why deny yourself the pleasure of laying this one down for a bit and seeing how it evolves. 
- Eric Moorer

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ROSÉ SEASON IS DEAD

ROSÉ SEASON IS DEAD

The temperatures are waning and the days are shortening, signaling the end of rosé wine being e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. The masses now quaff the refreshing pink drink as if engaging in a summertime rite of passage. That’s in sharp contrast to a few years ago, when serious people would laugh in my face if I suggested a pink wine to them. While it’s tempting to think rosé is now held in equal esteem, I’d argue all the people posting poolside “rosé season” shots aren’t helping any. Rather than being properly regarded as dynamic and diverse, this style of wine has been relegated to warm weather and buzzy articles about how to make [fill in the blank] from the same direct press, barely colored bottle.

Such homogenous drinking is an incredible bore. So, let’s spread the love to other months of the year and extend our interest to darker rosés from around the world! You haven’t truly lived until you’ve paired a rich cassoulet with Domaine Léonine’s ‘Que Pasa?’ Syrah rosé in the middle of December. A winter trip to the Dolomites would be severely lacking without the combination of Pizzoccheri and Marco Zani’s Lagrein rosé, whose shade is reminiscent of Pantone 199. These deeper hued wines paired with hearty meals will have you indoors with the heat blasting in your underwear wondering why you didn’t think of this before. Support the vigneron(ne) year-round and enjoy the gifts they’ve produced for us.

The death of Rosé Season will be best for all of us.

- Eric Moorer

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Producer Spotlight: Lilian Duplessis

Producer Spotlight: Lilian Duplessis

My desert island grape is Chardonnay and Chablis is a major reason why. 

In the time of fleeting insta-stories and poundable glou glou, Lilian Duplessis' wines are the other side of the coin. These wines are full of nuance and patience. Elegant and thoughtful producers like Lilian are the reason that I became infatuated with wine. Just as important, they're why I read about vineyards, soil types, and history. Below, I've jotted out a little information about the 12 new wines we have in the shop with the hope a few more grungy kids will want to drink Chablis with me. 

Domaine Duplessis is located in the heart of Chablis and is a 5th generation estate founded in 1985. Lilian Duplessis recently took over for his father, Gerard, and has been instrumental in converting the estate to organic farming. The vineyards have been farmed organically since 2007 and in 2013 the estate was certified (a rarity for the region). Lilian farms eight hectares all located in the Chablis and Petit Chablis AOCs. All vineyards used for village, Premier Cru, and Grand Cru wines are Kimmeridgian limestone, with the Petit Chablis coming from Portlandian limestone. Each plot is vinified separately in stainless steel and the Premiers Crus and Grand Cru spend six months in used barrels.

Lilian Duplessis' lineup provides an intellectual yet accessible way to explore the nuances of different sites from some of the best terroirs in Chablis (and in Burgundy period, for that matter). I hope that you'll temporarily abandon glou glou, buy a few, and come discuss these beautiful, serious wines with me.

- Rebekah Pineda

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Maison Blanche: That Other White House

Maison Blanche: That Other White House


My answer to someone asking if I’d like to buy eleven (straight from the domaine) back vintages of classic Bordeaux at ridiculously good prices would be an unflinching, unwavering vote in the affirmative. I'm aware that there are people out there who don't share my robust enthusiasm for the region, viewing it as passé or, even worse, boring! But what makes wine so much fun for me is that: 1) it's very subjective and 2) there's always an opportunity to change someone’s mind on a subject, region, or specific varietal. The best part of anything is often the discovery. Anyway, about Maison Blanche...
 
With the family having roots in the Bordeaux area for 300+ years, it's safe to say that what Maison Blanche may lack in notoriety it makes up for in consistency and perseverance. The house as we know it began in 1875, a product of the union of the Constant and Pineau families. Amélie Constant and Octave Pineau built an elegant white stone home that was a stark departure from the blond stones found throughout Saint-Émilion at the time. From there, Chateau La Maison Blanche was born.

In 1917, the land was passed down to their son André, a doctor who managed the property from a distance. André passed away in 1923 and everything went to his son, Fabien, who was then handicapped by a serious wound suffered in World War I and forced to sell. Just as luck seemed to be at an all-time low, Jean Barroy purchased the land from the Constant-Pineau family, only to turn around and sell six years later after several disastrous vintages. Then 1938 comes around and Louis Rapin from the Marmandais takes the helm and his endeavor leads to the resurrection of Maison Blanche. His ingenuity leads to expansion. The size of the house on the grounds is doubled, the farm buildings refurbished, and the vineyards replanted. From 1938 to 1959, Rapin’s vision for Maison Blanche was fully realized and became a model for excellent Bordeaux. From there, his son-in-law, Gérard Despagnes, took over and doubled cellar space, shed off useless land, and created another six hectares of land under vine.
 
The domaine of Maison Blanche is currently run by Nicolas Despagnes, who took over from his father in 1999. Nicolas immediately began pushing for organic and biodynamic certifications, both of which he now has, a true rarity in the region. His wines are blends of Merlot and Cabernet Franc that hang on the edge of ethereal. They're enchanting, classic, and provide tremendous value. They're real, natural Bordeaux. And they remind you of the reasons that Bordeaux has been held in high regard for so long and why we are fighting for people to fall in love with it all over again. In that fight, we always begin with the White House.

- Eric Moorer

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