May 28, 2009

Not Ungrafted

Regular readers know I'm quietly, diligently working on my Ungrafted Manifesto.

As I get little time away from my many responsibilities at the Lab, it is taking a little while longer to complete than I originally expected. And let's not kid ourselves. Manifestos are not that easy to write.

As part of my research, I recently happened upon some photographs of "grafting" -- which is not "ungrafting" but related. These photos were shot by Vincent Dancer at the Domaine Thomas Morey in Chassagne-Montrachet.

I love Vincent Dancer's wines. He makes stunning Burgundy. White, in particular. But I'm a real fan of his often haunting photography.

The rest of the grafting images are here.

The whole photo blog is here.

May 26, 2009

Mosel 101

For anyone interested in Riesling and Wine Science, Lars Carlberg, who exports fantastic Rieslings under the Mosel Wine Merchant Imprint, has generously provided a graduate seminar entitled: "On Aromatics: Wild Ferment, Sulfur and Slate" at the Brooklynguy College of Wine.

Lab Employees will receive 10 (ten) Continuing Education Credits for attending.

May 22, 2009

Tasmania: Postscript #2

May 20, 2009

Tasmania: Postscript

The rest of my Tasmanian journal arrived today, looking like Chinskirin's dog tried to eat it. I was able to recover these few fragments...

Newly arrived and have just had a taste of the Kreglinger Vintage Brut, 2003. Why am I going on a big search for sparkling wine? This is fantastic!

... local pinot noir is much touted, but not all that good. I'm hopeful to find exceptions...

The real destination for our quest should rightly be Stefano Lubiana Wines. I have it from several sources that these wines are hand-crafted and brilliant. But we received sad news this morning. Winemaker Steve Lubiana suffered the loss of a close family member and our visit must be rescheduled...

No real emphasis on a) keeping track of own-rooted vineyards; b) keeping phylloxera out of Tasmania (where it apparently does not presently exist). What's wrong with these people?

... enormous potential for wine here in Tasmania, but there seems to be too little focus on viticulture (sustainable, organic, etc). And the hobbyists seem to outnumber the professionals, for the moment...

(notebook: © Loraliu |

May 17, 2009

Kurtz's Bubbles

Sorry to keep you waiting.

Chinskirin is recovering comfortably in hospital. The doctors assure us there is little permanent damage.

We have reached for and grasped our sparkling grail. All that's left is to determine whether it is worthy of the journey.

Moorilla's owner may be circumspect about his art purchases and reluctant to discuss his casino winnings, but he is enormously forthcoming with technical notes on his wines (thanks Danny).

I jotted down a few which I reprint from my notebook in toto:

Moorilla 2004 Muse Sparkling Brut.

The fruit is from two vineyards, the St. Matthias (West Bank, Tamar River) and another in Winkleigh. Both sites are low yielding.

St. Matthias Vineyard fruit was all hand-picked on March 19, 2004.

Winkleigh Pinot noir was hand-picked on March 27, 2004 and the Chardonnay was hand-picked on the 30th.

Blend: 64% Pinot noir, 36% Chardonnay.

Fruit was whole-bunch pressed. Cool ferment in stainless steel tanks. Fine lees for six months except 32% which was held in oak barriques for maturation. No malo. Secondary fermentation in bottle. Disgorged in October, 2008. Total time on lees: 4 years, 5 months.

On the nose, the Brut has distinctive autolytics that I'm beginning to associate with the region, grape must and brioche. The fruit is bright and fresh, lemon and its zest. There is a faint mineral undertone throughout that emerges like cool granite on the finish. This is very elegant, very interesting and very, very young.

I have laid several down in Chinskirin's cellar. I think this, like Tasmanian wine in general, has huge potential.

And the Brut Rosé was even better!

May 15, 2009

Heart of Weirdness

April, I'll tell you when it's May.

As we moved further into the remote, upper reaches of the river, even the birds seemed to taunt us with the name.


A great sparkling wine. Or just the hallucinatory dream of one. We'd been on the river too long to know the difference. Chinskirin hadn't spoken for days. He just sat on the bow of the boat, mumbling to himself.

Until he sat up pointing, face flushed, eyes wide and wild. I followed his point. There it was. We had made it.


The site of one of Tasmania's oldest (modern) vineyards, planted in 1958, by an Italian textile merchant, it is now owned by David Walsh. If ever you dreamed of your own private Kurtz, the dream would be of David Walsh.

Walsh is enigmatic and outrageous. His extensive wealth was amassed through gambling schemes that left him banned from casinos all over the globe. He's building a museum for his collection of radical and controversial art. He makes his own beer. His winemaker, Conor van der Reest, is converting the vineyards to organics and bio-dynamics. I'm just waiting for him to shave his head and stack on 20 kilos.

But what of our quest?

We are so close. But Chinskirin has stripped nude and is dancing through the vines. Notes up as soon as he is recaptured and sedated.

May 13, 2009

Up Another Creek

All of this happened in April.

We left the Tamar Valley (catch up on our voyage here) and headed south, further south in fact than I have ever been. Any further south and I'm a penguin.

Though we were still searching for the perfect Tassie sparkler, I couldn't shake the taste of the Riesling we'd had at Goaty Hill.

Maybe it was an early sign of the fever, or maybe I was just feeling greedy, but I made Chinskirin stop at more than one cellar door along the way. I couldn't help myself from wondering, what if all the Rieslings here are that good?

Turns out they aren't.

But we did find one other gem. Winemaker Kate Hill, who has worked at Stefano Lubiana Wines and Riverina Winery, has recently launched her own label. Working with fruit sourced from several vineyards around Tasmania.

Her first Riesling vintage (2008) is, as the locals say, a fair dinkum beauty. The nose is lemon verbena, lime pith and Oolong tea. It's slightly off-dry, with a nice balance between sweet (passion fruit) and acid (tangerine). There's pear and glycerin mid-palate, and a flinty, mineral finish.

I would love to see what Kate might do with a single-vineyard. I made vague efforts to argue the point, but the whispers were growing louder, the rumors emerging as truth. Chinskirin was anxious to keep moving. Our quest now had a name.


May 11, 2009

Help Wanted

Fellow wine scientist and Auburn University postdoc, Tracy Rickman, is working on wine and something called blogging.

At the Lab, we're signing on to sponsor her research. Because Tracy needs a job, and we'd like to see her get one.

The flow chart looks like this:

Collect Data > Write Article > Get Published > Gain Employment.

So please, let's help Tracy get her data, so she can get to work.

Take her very short (3-4 minutes) SURVEY.

(After the fact note: Turns out it's more of a medium survey (7-9 mins). But it is serious research -- unlike most of our Lab activities -- and would be a big help.)

The survey is available HERE.

If you're still not getting it, this is another LINK to her SURVEY.

Everyone here at the Lab appreciates your time and thanks you for your effort.

To the Barricades, Mes Amis!

The French are revolting!

In Provence, at least, a revolution is afoot. The winemakers there are protesting a recent decision by the EU that would allow for the manufacture of rosé by blending red wine into white. This instead of the traditional approach of leaving pressed juice on the skins just long enough to stain them gris.

This is a prime example of the kind of thing that would totally piss me off if I cared about this kind of thing.

Because I don't think the issue is merely semantic. I think the Provencal have a point. I think rosé should mean something (so then perhaps it is merely semantic?). Rosé should mean you've allowed for a brief interval of staining maceration. It should mean you're old-school. It should not mean you've poured a little red wine into a lot of white wine to make it pink. If the point is merely pinkness then let's use drops of Red Dye #2, put an animal on the label and call it day.

But at the Lab were are not calling it a day. We are saying no to blended pinkness.

As a show of solidarity, we're drinking a true rosé, Robert Sinskey's Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, 2008.

(ed note: if you've noticed the last few posts all share a theme of "elaborately justifying what we're drinking at the Lab," well, then, you are paying close attention. Nice work by you.)

The nose on the Sinskey rosé is almost startling. It's fresh and bright, and smells exactly like ripe strawberries at first, then turns more vinous with time in the air. In the mouth, the wine almost floats. This is what liquid rose petals from some exotic bloom might taste like, mixed with Bing cherry essence and hints of pomelo acid. And it's all held aloft by a poignant minerality that lingers achingly on the finish. But the best part of all is the color. It's an elegant, almost coppery, hue of salmon pink. This is stunning wine.

It might be worth fighting for.

May 8, 2009

What Me Worry?

Turns out the stress test was the easiest exam I've taken since a mid-term for Intro to Haiku in College.

We passed without even breathing hard.

And now, the resulting bubble gives us a chance to raise capital in the public debt/equity markets which we can subsequently use to pay back our ill-gotten TARP funds.

So... (pay attention, this is going to go past quickly), as a result of the shackles of tyranny, the Lab will soon be free of the shackles of tyranny. This is awesome. God bless these United States.

And there is nothing arbitrary about this milestone! This is a legit celebration of our (economic) freedom (as qualified by the micro-physics of late-capitalist, macro-economic structures), and we're pouring Vilmart & Cie, Grand Cellier D'Or, NV, at the Lab today.

honeyed pain grillé
what I think Champagne should be
pure graphite finish

What do you want? I got a C+ in Haiku.

May 6, 2009

On Edge

Everyone at the Lab is a little edgy today.

There's been no word from Chinskirin. I'm worried the last two journal entries might not make it back from Tasmania. With hindsight, perhaps we shouldn't have left him in the jungle. He said he'd be fine. But maybe that glint in his eye that I took for a grass allergy was a hint of madness taking hold...

More immediately, we're worried about the results of the Stress Test. And wondering how the Lab will fair. Speculative rumors are everywhere. And we don't want to be forced to sell more of our hard won assets just to pretty up a balance sheet for some greenhorn regulator.

To take the edge off, I'm declaring an Arbitrary Milestone!

So for no reason at all, we are celebrating with a Ulysse Collin, Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut, 2005. This is the second vintage from a newish entrant in the grower Champagne category. This is "hipster" champagne (I think). Though I don't know exactly what that means. When I've heard the term used, it seems to be disparaging. But I love hipster Champagne (I think), but I live in Los Angeles which means, by definition, I'm vaguely superficial as a human being.

However, there's nothing superficial about this Champagne. This is beautiful. With complex sweet pear aromas and dense autolytics. There's an energetic, citric acid and a mineral finish that leaves grit in your teeth. But what stands out above all else is the structure; the architecture of this wine is practically Gothic.

If we end up punished by the Stress Test, we plan to take up residence in this Champagne.

(chart: © Kheng Guan Toh |

May 4, 2009

Not So Good

While waiting for more Tasmanian pages from Chinskirin, I froze another open bottle of wine. Red this time.

I did not get a good result (sorry, Doc).

I was hoping for another anecdotal win. On that basis, we could have petitioned the FDA for immediate research funds, formulated a broad experimental protocol, maybe even settled the matter once and for all.

It was a sample a wine producer sent to the Lab. The faults evidenced after freezing were in no way their fault, so in spite of all the recent chatter on the subject, I'm going to eschew transparency and protect the name of an innocent party.

We're obviously going to have get deeper into the freezer on this, with or without the FDA.

image: © Rafal Glebowski |