HI, FRIENDS. CLOSED FOR A FEW DAYS. EMAIL US WITH WINE QUESTIONS, WE'LL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST NATTY FOR WHEN WE'RE BACK. HI, FRIENDS. CLOSED FOR A FEW DAYS. EMAIL US WITH WINE QUESTIONS, WE'LL HELP YOU FIND THE BEST NATTY FOR WHEN WE'RE BACK.

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A Contrarian Goes to France

A Contrarian Goes to France

I'm not sure when I became a side-eye-loving hater of all things "picture perfect." I think it was around two and a half in Mena, AR but, again, it’s hard to say. However, I have committed. In art school, I remember a rudimentary composition class that emphasized the importance of placement but also exclusion (i.e Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother). We looked at photographs before the final edit and something in me was crushed. The concept that everything is a construct and we as humans can shape almost any reality was suddenly so clear.

Since then what is excluded has always been more relatable to me. TO FRANCE: one thing that struck me was the strong support system that many winemakers (ie, the names on the labels) have. Herve Villemade’s team pouring the massive line up at his table, Thierry Puzelat's daughter, Zoe, explaining Clos du Tue Bœuf to a large group of people with unfiltered humor in French and English, or the quiet, consistent support of Adrien’s Baloche’s blonde-haired friend. If you weren’t there, you'd never know.

Yes, Les Capriades was king, Labet was powerful, and the Loire reigned supreme. But what I liked most about the trip was watching. When you're there, you make your own lens. It can be as blurry or as straight edge as you want. I saw that even the most revered travel in packs and need validation. And though maybe not always seen stateside, women are respected badasses in France and beyond. Blah, blah, blah...next year, I'll have less imposter syndrome, speak more, and learn not as much.

- Rebekah Pineda

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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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To France (As A Young Woman)

To France (As A Young Woman)

For the Domestique vacation, I made my inaugural visit to the Loire Valley to learn more about the producers and region that are the heartbeat of the shop. I spent six whirlwind days meeting new people, grasping at the French being spoken around me, and drinking wine. And I went solo. Traveling alone is often extremely rewarding. It's also, many times, challenging, especially as a young woman. I'm constantly explaining how I got there and why I belong. But then there are experiences like mine with Ariane Lesne.

Spending a day with Ariane was the highlight of my trip. She's new to the Selection Massale portfolio and also breaks the mold by focusing on Pineau d’Aunis. In the spring of 2015, she took over Domaine de Montrieux, in the Côteaux du Vendômois, from Emile Heredia. And I fucking love her. She is bold, smart, and unapologetic. Her Pineau d'Aunis is beautifully aromatic with acid structure and tannins that radiate.

During a week spent by myself in rural France, Ariane made me feel brave and want to be bolder. She's one of the few female producers in the Côteaux du Vendômois and she does all the vineyard (and cellar) work by herself. I was amazed and inspired by her.


- Rebekah Pineda

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Eric Goes To France: Part Deux

Eric Goes To France: Part Deux

After a wonderful morning and early afternoon, Adrien Baloche took me over to meet with Quentin Bourse from Le Sot de L'Ange. The roughly translated 'Idiot Angel' couldn't be anything further. Quentin is meticulous, determined, and committed to his vision for wine. His brain remains razor sharp despite moving at a clip that's honestly somewhat difficult to comprehend. The portion of the day that I spent with him was a complete whirlwind from the time we arrived. We started out by tasting through some of his new releases (they'll be here later this week!) and finished with a few too many brown spirits. A quick stop by the vines (certified biodynamic) for a brief stroll and then Quentin dropped me off with Frantz Saumon and Marie Thibault, just down the road. Frantz received us and kindly handed me a much-needed glass of water. We moved out back and into the cave where a handful of broken wine glasses littered the dirt floor.

“We had a few friends over last night.”

We breezed through some of Frantz's exquisite whites, with the ambient soundtrack of Marie’s wines fermenting in the background. She returned and took us out to her vineyards, with the wind ripping between the vines and the sun setting beautifully in the background. Our return to Chez Frantz and Marie was greeted with a beautiful, simple dinner. Fish stew, a salad, baguette, and of course delicious wine. That paired with the company of a loving family made for a day that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. 

- Eric Moorer

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A Domestique Dispatch from France: Part One

A Domestique Dispatch from France: Part One

I was fortunate enough to get to spend a day between the communities of Rivarennes and Azay-le-Rideau with a few of our friends who happen to be exceedingly talented vignerons. This was not my first visit with winemakers, but ended up as one of the more rewarding experiences I've had in my life in wine. 

The day started with a six AM wake up and a taxi across Paris to the train at Gare Montparnasse. Roughly two hours and a transfer later, I found myself at Azay-le-Rideau hoping for another taxi to help me to my first destination, a meeting with Adrien Baloche. Of course, there wasn't a taxi in sight, which made for an entertaining walk to the town center roughly a half kilometer away. So, I called Adrien, who was gracious enough to come out and pick me up from the post office. Our conversation in his hatchback Ford was a comical exploration of both French and English as we'd both speak to our limit and then switch to the more comfortable tongue. We pulled onto his property via a narrow road with two way traffic. As a couple of trucks passed us, Adrien made sure to acknowledge each of his neighbors on their way out. He pulled off onto a gravel bit where he and everyone else parked when visiting and we got out.

There it was, La Ferme du Plateau, an actual farm on an actual plateau where a man and his family lived in two combined circular yurts. Before his abode was a corrugated metal structure resembling a warehouse. This was where the goats were housed. Surrounding us was nature by way of forest, and, of course, vineyard. Adrien is clearly connected to farming as his land is filled with lush greens and beautiful, dense trees surrounding everything. He has a charming dog on the property, Tully, who was responsible for touring us through the vineyards and baby orchard. After a short walk, it was time to meet the goats. His girlfriend is responsible for them and the production of the cheese made on the farm. The goats are a cast of characters.

Next, back to the car to head to the chai for tasting. Adrien has many vessels; fiberglass, terracotta, stainless steel, but no oak. He carefully released liquid from the first, then second, then third, fourth, and fifth. The white, from Chenin, was vivacious, racy, and fruit-driven. This was the first white I had tasted from him and I was impressed. This, from his fifth vintage, was stellar. We moved through the reds, all full of that Baloche agility. The new vintages of both the Ovin and Grolleau showed the maturity he has gained as a vigneron, more expressive and precise than their predecessors. The entire time I spoke of my love of his wines, which I could tell made him a bit uncomfortable, but as we tasted through even he was surprised by the quality he had produced. 

Tasting is tiring work, so we decided to relieve ourselves to lunch with his family. His aunt had put out a delightful spread of meats and terrine from the one pig per year that they butcher. A salad of butter lettuce that had been traded for cheese offered a touch of levity to the meal. We all shared conversation in a curious melange of French and English punctuated with laughter. We drank freshly bottled offerings from the new vintage while I played fetch with Tully in front of the yurt. I took in the winter sun in the expanse of Adrien's farm and thought about how this was only the start. 

- Eric Moorer

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