A River Runs Through Them

WOW!  How fortunate was I to have been invited to travel  to all the major wine regions in France with a group of twenty U.S. wine buyers.  We drove from village to village visiting small family estates in a clockwise tour de France. Led by Bruce Neyers, national sales manager for Kermit Lynch and well known gourmand in many of the finest culinary stops in France.  Each domaine of the 100 we visited had prepared a tasting of current releases as well as a small selection of library wines.

It just came to me that for the nearly three week tour with big time American buyers not one single word was uttered about sales or marketing.  No wonder it was a good fit for me.  I am allergic to excel spread sheets and love pretending I am a big fish.

At each domaine Bruce informed us of the number of cases available and we ordered accordingly.  I had a wine budget when I got there, but left it in my hotel room in Paris along with my back up pair of jeans.  If I sell what I bought this year, I will be able to go back next year with Melinda.   If I do not, there is always a weekend swing shift selling hamburgers in Sidney.

An evening in a small village in Alsace wedged between the Vosges Mountains and Rhine River was capped off by a tasting and dinner with André Ostertag.  He served us a ten year old Heissenberg Riesling. It was fresh and alive like the look in his mischievous eyes.

André is a leader and teacher of biodynamic viticulture. His passion to create in harmony with the earth and moon is both his inner belief system and is matched by his actions in the vineyard and winery.  He practices yoga off the matt in his life, and reminds me of a Dylan lyric (and what doesn’t), “he knows too much to argue or to judge.”

I bought three cases of Ostertag grand cru wine on the condition that starting in ten years we open one bottle of each wine per year, alternating visits between Montana and Alsace.  André agreed after asking if I knew the dude from Montana who took his shirt off in his tasting room seven years ago revealing a huge tattoo of a riesling grape cluster covering his back and upper arm.  I told him the dude has since added a matching cluster of Pinot Noir, paying homage to the two greatest fruits in the universe.  I did not tell him I had sent said dude, my friend the chef, on that wine tour.

Expect an Ostertag tasting just before the two of us turn 70.  We are skipping early retirement.

André Ostertag

Andre Ostergag


We followed the Loire River upstream beginning in Muscadet to the wine villages of Chinon and Bourgueil, tasting young and well-aged Cabernet Franc with Joguet and Breton.  At the A.O.C.’s of Vouvray and Savenniere we tasted young and well-aged Chenin Blanc with Champalou and d’Epire.  I bought a Bourgueil from 1976 and Epire from 1991 and 1996.  Then, we drove past a nuclear plant arriving in Pouilly sur Loire where we recreated by hitting golf balls into the river at night with Regis Minet.  His abode resembled a small, dudes only hunting lodge, with knotty wood paneling and old paintings of old relatives.

Regis invited me back for nine holes with his sixty something buddies, Daniel Chotard and Hippolyte Reverdy.  Check out that threesome on the KL web site.  Their stars shine bright from the terroirs of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.

They were busy serving us lentil soup and baguettes and cleaning up broken dishes while the Americans were tasting wine, moaning about how fresh and seamless they were.  Bruce sat across the room preparing his order journal.  I called out for five cases of a rare red Sancerre made from Pinot Noir before Herve, the KL buyer from Winebow, NY, could swallow his bread.

My tasting notes read like an open air market in Anjou: fresh, grapefruit, white flowers, stone fruit, mineral, a Pouilly Fume gave off a whiff of honey. I copied and pasted one of my notes below:

Daniel Chotard
2012 Sancerre Rose tank sample.
400 cases
Very fresh, cloudy, salmon color, peach.
Smells like rosé, lively acid. Very gourmand.
Ship date March, no malo.  Order 5 cases.


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