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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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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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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Under Pressure: Griselda & Pet Nat

Under Pressure: Griselda & Pet Nat

Les Cognettes Pet Nat

What Would Chine Gun Do by Griselda

by Erica Christian, sommelier and activist

Natural wine and hip-hop make for a perfect pairing. Yet, we fail to make that connection with certain styles of rap music. Yeah, we heard Jay-Z when he said, “ain’t no stoppin the Champagne from poppin” at the end of “Politics As Usual” on Reasonable Doubt. We felt that. People can ride with the celebration, but what about the grittier sounds? It’s easy to pop Champagne when listening to Jay, but rappers like Benny the Butcher, Conway the Machine, and Westside Gunn are rarely associated with wine so directly, especially bubbles. These three rappers and their group Griselda actually make the perfect pairing for pet nat. Is it really so surprising?

You see, hip-hop is terroir expressive; an expression of the holistic natural environment. Griselda’s style of rap is street rap: raw, organic, and gritty. They come from my hometown of Buffalo, NY. It's a poor, segregated industrial city plagued with violence and drug use. The struggle to grow up there is one I have been privy to and this environment is clearly represented in their music. Street rap is often painted as glorification of violence and drug use, but we value wine that's indicative of its home and don’t call that glorification. We should do the same when listening to Griselda, as it allows you a taste of their home, no different than a Loire Valley Folle Blanche/Chardonnay pet nat

More than being representative of the streets, Griselda is the result of the pressure to survive in that environment and the success of that story. Surviving under pressure is what produces the often soft but volatile bubbles of our favorite sparkling natty wines. We drink them during celebrations and gatherings. We love them because they transform in the bottle and bring artistry to the grapes that grew from struggling vines. Griselda deserves that same love alongside your natty bubbles. Their music is something to both contemplate and celebrate.

When we taste and listen, we engage with something new, but also very personal. To drink a pet nat while listening to Griselda's album What Would Chine Gun Do? (WWCD) is to immerse yourself in the extremely personal experience of navigating and surviving under pressures beyond any individual's control. Sit back. Crack a bottle open and enjoy while listening from beginning to end. Let the words and experience envelop you. Let them open your heart to something with which you may be unfamiliar. Let the wine carry you through their hardships and triumphs. Finish the last drop in celebration of their survival as it has truly created a work of art.

- Erica Christian

DRINKING RIGHT NOW: Les Cognettes pet nat, slightly sweet and rustic
LISTENING TO: What would Chinegun Do? (WWCD) by Griselda, honest and organic

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Damn, It's Hot: Living that Low ABV Life

Damn, It's Hot: Living that Low ABV Life

Kat Hamidi: Co-founder & MakerCapitoline Vermouth 

I first read about Valerie Forgues and her incredible story just a few months ago and immediately wanted to get ahold of her wines. I'm so glad Domestique picked them up! This Gamay hits all the juicy notes you'd expect but is also satisfyingly savory. I like it with a nice chill, on the patio after sundown, maybe with a pizza or two...

Prosecco done right makes me happy! Ca dei'Zago is unusual in its category in the very best ways, super satisfying as a midday sipper or part of a Spritz. Vivacious and proof that Prosecco doesn't (always) deserve a bad rap. 

If we're all drinking a little bit more and a little bit earlier, what's better suited to that than vermouth?? We love to highlight not just the wine but the botanical in our bottlings, and in particular the White Vermouth shows a lot of saffron, meyer lemon, cardamom, and tender herbs. Perfect tall over ice with seltzer, or in an ice cold 1:1 martini.

- Kat Hamidi

$70 / 3 bottles

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Damn, It's Hot: Bubbles & Beer

Damn, It's Hot: Bubbles & Beer

Tess Bryant: ImporterTess Bryant Selections

When it’s hot out - and really most of the year - I like drinking fresh, juicy wines that are light on their feet and thirst quenching, punctuated by a refreshing beer here and there. Finding a Champagne without added sulfites is unusual, and one of the reasons why I love the wines from Charles Dufour. I’m especially interested in wines like this Rosé that offer a touch more juicy, darker fruit than you would typically find in Champagne. Ginglinger is a favorite producer of mine, whose wines taught me to love what Alsace and aromatic varieties have to offer. Sonser Chenin is a playful wine from vines in the classic region of Vouvray, made by a young woman who splits her time between farming and making wine in the Loire and making wine in Southern Australia. It lends itself to sunny drinking at nearly any hour of the day. And, finally, I wanted to offer a beer break between bottles of wine: last autumn I discovered this Lunch beer while exploring the Northeast for the first time and watching the leaves turn. I can attest it drinks equally well during summertime.

-Tess Bryant

$125 / 4 bottles 

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Damn, It's Hot: Music Theory

Damn, It's Hot: Music Theory

Martha Stoumen: WinemakerMartha Stoumen Wines

I'm a slow sipper. I love the ritual of drinking wine. I drink like I eat. I spot a bottle in the morning and get excited to pop it open later that day, and drink it over the course of a few hours. It's the equivalent of asking what we should make for dinner while eating breakfast and then, when the time comes, savoring every bite. All of these wines will most certainly lift you up rather than bring you down in the dog days of summer, but are also perfect "sunset" wines to tie your afternoon to your evening to your late, long summer night.

LES ROCHERS DES VIOLETTES PÉTILLANT ORIGINEL 2015: The wines of Xavier Weisskopf always sing (like a chorus in a vaulted church) and this pétillant is no exception. Talk about lifting you up. And don't be fooled by the bubbles, this wine is built with bones and can be enjoyed over many hours as the bubbles soften and whisper themselves away.

MARTHA STOUMEN NERO D'AVOLA ROSATO 2019: Sticking with the singing theme (which makes so much sense for uplifting, acid-driven wines), this Rosato is like a long, sultry, female solo act. The Nero d'Avola is foot tread and soaks overnight on the stems and skins prior to being pressed and fermented to layer in deeper flavors and texture. I drink this when I want something between a wine and a cocktail. 

JULIEN GUILLOT MACON ROUGE 2017: Drinking this wine is like singing with your friends (some of whom have really great voices). Julien Guillot's wines are welcoming and easy to "get," but not at all simple. This Gamay will joyously fill up your (spiritual) cup!

METHODE SAUVAGE SYRAH 'BLOOD + FLOWERS' 2019: Well, well, well. I won't lie, I don't often immediately reach for Syrah (don't tell anyone I work with at Pax's winery). And no one thinks of Syrah as a way to beat the heat. But this Syrah from Chad somehow seems to bring together contradictions easily. Rich meaty funk with incredible lightness. I drank this with a slight chill, broccoli (flowers) and a steak (blood), but it could just as easily be enjoyed sans food. Contradictions: this is an angelic-voiced little girl singing while she's jamming out some funk on a synthesizer.

-Martha Stoumen

$130/ 4 bottles 

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Producer Spotlight: Valerie Forgues

Producer Spotlight: Valerie Forgues

Valerie Forgues, producer at Domaine de la Méchinière, has seen her fair share of difficulties in her efforts to preserve the estate. In 2008, with no viticulture or winemaking experience, she pursued learning from other nearby vignerons so as to save her home, the place in which her sons had grown up, from bankruptcy. With guidance from former producers Catherine Roussel and Didier Barrouillet of the famed Clos Roche Blanche, she began to work her 16 hectares. Fast forward to today and she's farming organically, using native yeast fermentations, and harvesting all of her grapes by hand.

Her story is powerful and Louis/Dressner Selections interviewed her back in 2017. Below are excerpts from that interview. Read it to learn more about her story, one of perseverance.

- Erica Christian

How did you end up heading Domaine de la Méchinière? I’m not from the area and have absolutely no agricultural or viticultural background. I do have some family ties to the Cher, but it’s a total coincidence I found myself living here. Like a good little Frenchie, I went to school to follow a career path.

To answer your question about the estate, love is what brought me here. It was a decision I made with my ex-husband about 20 years ago. I knew nothing about wine.

 
So how did you go about taking the estate over? My brother-in-law was a retired vigneron, and he was instrumental in keeping things together in the very beginning. He quite frankly ran the entire estate the first few months, and for that I will always be thankful to him.

He was also very helpful in actively engaging me, in encouraging me to come see the work in the vines, what different choices meant, etc... He also made me understand that if I really wanted to do this, just how much responsibility it really meant. From managing employees to working the tractor, he showed me the way.

It was hard though, because of course having him around meant a constant reminder of my ex-husband. It also bothered me because at that point Didier would swing by occasionally and point out that his work was extremely conventional. Didier’s philosophy and vision of agriculture resonated with me in a way my brother-in-law’s did not.

 
So how did the two of you go about creating the new direction for the estate? I can’t even remember how the process started. But I know that we constantly talked about what was possible in the vines and the cellar, and that his responses resonated with me. I’d ask him what he would have done in my place. This led to him visiting the vines and cellar with me and getting increasingly specific with his advice. Some of it I follow, some I don't; but if I’m asking someone for advice it’s either to follow it or have a conversation about it!

I think that it was around 2011 that the collaboration was fully under way. He was helping me in the vines, constantly tasting from vat, giving his advice... It all happened very naturally. As far as converting to organic viticulture, which I began in 2013, these are the moments of our collaboration that I remember most vividly. It started with an argument: he told me that at the point I’d progressed, that I should take the next step and convert the vineyards. I told him to hold his horses: this meant making an already demanding job even harder! I had to ensure I was bringing fruit to the cellar!

I could never have taken such a big risk without his help, so he agreed he’d be there every step of the way to help me convert. And you know how it is: for someone to commit voluntarily (and benevolently!) to such a huge undertaking, he’s got to believe in the final result!

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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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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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