Vol. I, Issue 1: Strangers in a Strange Land
by Leslie Pariseau
This month, the atmosphere of the club is Strangers in a Strange Land. Every wine in this inaugural set is made with a technique that was forged in one geographic location and translated to another. Sort of like me and Tony—sculpted by Midwestern manners and Jersey spice, respectively, and mapped onto the weird, wonderful land of New Orleans. Same philosophy, different flavor.
I had the pleasure of talking with each producer to give you a taste of the obsession with which they shepherd these wines into the bottles you are uncorking, hopefully at this very moment.
The Marigny Piquette "Wine Like Beverage" 2020, Willamette Valley, Oregon
To be honest, I’ve had a hard time getting into piquette. What is piquette, you ask? Piquette is made from pomace—the goopy dregs leftover after grapes have been pressed of their juices to make wine—mixed with water and fermented, which makes a second, slightly fizzy wine. It’s an old French tradition, bien sûr. As you might imagine, this "second wine" is a notch or two down in alcohol from full strength wine. Some people wouldn’t even call it wine. Which is why winemaker Andy Young calls it “Wine Like Beverage.” My own struggle with piquette, Andy very astutely pointed out, was that perhaps I was trying to think of it as I might sparkling wine.
“I don’t really consider it wine,” says Young. “It doesn’t play by the same rules. I think of it as an aperitif on its own or use it in mixing spritzes. It’s a fun thing to throw it in a punch bowl in place of champagne.” No more convincing needed.
Young, who is from just over yonder in Covington, founded St. Reginald in 2015 after working in advertising in Portland. Under that label, the Marigny wines are his soif-y, often carbonic, modern table wines. The piquette itself is inspired by those of Wild Arc Farm, a wonderful place in New York’s Hudson Valley that kicked off America’s interest in the style.
The bottle you’re drinking was made in the spring of 2020. It’s mostly pinot noir skins and stems macerated in stainless steel tanks with a bit of sauvignon blanc, which Andy says gives it a subtle floral component. Then it all gets racked, filtered, carbonated, and delivered safe and sound to the Patron Saint wine club. Magic. It’s zippy with great acid and a good bub. The platonic ideal between a raspberry Spindrift and what you always imagined a wine cooler should taste like.
I picked this bottle 1) because it struck me as a wonderful thing to have around for carnival season—it’s 4.5% ABV and Mardi Gras is a marathon, not a race, 2) it was made by one of Louisiana’s own and 3) it changed my mind about a category I’d potentially written off.
Put it in a punch. Top your cocktail with it. Drink it with lunch. Personally, I would mix it in spritz. Get yourself a bowl of castelvetrano olives, a bag of salty potato chips, park it on the porch, and make your neighbors jealous.
More info on The Marigny piquette here.
Agricola Grillos Cantores "Mi Neno" 2019, Itata Valley, Chile
Last year at the pop-up, I was really excited to see the number of wines coming in from the Itata Valley in Chile, especially the influx of país, a grape with a long, pre-colonial history, defying the outmoded framework of “new” and “old” world. (A primer on rethinking the myth of “old world” wine here.) So, when this Itata Valley newbie popped up, I jumped on it.
From winemaker Paco Leyton (also of Clos des Fous), Grillos Cantores is a single vineyard project of old vines along Chile's southern coastal Andean range. When I say old vines, I mean old. Like 150 years old. These steep, non-irrigated vineyards are plowed by hand and farmed naturally. Paco says what he’s seeking in this corinto, or chasselas as you might know it, is “soil translation.” Paco feels corinto is a “neutral” grape, and therefore an ideal conduit for telegraphing the terroir of this hidden corner of the Itata Valley. “Itata has been here all these years and we haven’t paid attention to it,” says Paco. “Thank god we have started paying attention to our treasures.”
This wine is actually what kicked off the idea for “Strangers in a Strange Land.” The Mi Neno is partly fermented under flor, which is very exciting. Nerd alert. “Flor,” as my friend Talia Baiocchi writes in her book Sherry is “the layer of yeast that naturally grows on the surface of [sherry].” All wines need yeast to ferment. At Patron Saint, we seek wines made with native yeasts, meaning yeasts that occur naturally, as opposed to cultivated yeasts, which many conventional winemakers introduce to control consistency. Here’s the thing though: Sherry is produced in the Sherry Triangle. In Andalucia. In Spain. That, my friends, is not Chile. Flor is magical because it grows in one particular place and sets sherry apart from all other wines in the world. The fact that Paco is making wines under flor in a different hemisphere on the other side of the equator is magnificent.
I’m drinking a glass of this wine right now, and I hope you’ll keep an open mind when trying yours: The reason sherry has such a particular flavor—super dry, sometimes saline, sometimes nutty—is thanks to flor. It eats up all the sugars and leaves behind incredibly dry minerality. In this corinto, it’s almonds, withered apple, freeze-dried banana, and a brisk crispness that I find addictive. As Paco says: “It’s not a big, profound wine, but it’s pure. For me, it’s a wine you don’t know if you’re liking it or not, but it seduces you in the end.”
Try it with a pot of brothy beans, pork chops and greens, or an aperitivo spread of conservas, salumi, and olives.
Iraui "Giallo" 2020, Shasta-Cascade, California
One of my favorite producers in the U.S. currently is Iraui (formerly known as Methode Sauvage) from Chad and Michelle Hinds in the Shasta-Cascade mountains waaaaay at the top of California. This is dramatic, high elevation land where virtually nobody else is making wine right now. There are lots of cool things about what the Hinds are doing—letting their vines grow how they might in the wild; permaculture à la Masanobu Fukuoka; illustrating their own wine labels—but the thing that attracted me to Giallo was its unlikely convergence of grape varieties.
Because of the high altitude and mix of mountain prairie and wintery forests, the Hinds focus on grapes that grow in the Alps of Europe. Makes sense, right? Though all the grapes present in Giallo are Alpine varieties, they’re grapes that would never appear together in a wine from the Alps. The Alps cross so many countries—France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia (don’t forget Lichtenstein and Monaco too), but the nebbiolo from Italy would never mingle with lagrein from Austria. In Iruai’s Giallo, we find teraldego, nebbiolo, refosco, and lagrein in an inky, bloody blend that just doesn’t exist anywhere else. (For more of this pan-Alpine intimacy, check out their Shasta-Cascade red, which is a lovely, summery number with lots of smoky fruit and spunk.)
To the name: “Giallo” refers to the genre of pulpy horror-thriller films that started coming out of Italy in the 1960s and ’70s. The term literally means “yellow,” which references the color of the mystery paperback covers from which they were adapted. I LOVE horror films of a certain flair, and Giallo checks all the boxes: super stylization, very good fashion, beautiful Italian people, psycho-sexual tension, and gloved killers. Chad Hinds also happens to love horror films and Giallo, obviously. “It’s fun, wild, pulpy, it’s got a disco vibe,” he says. As it relates to wine, he says there’s no answer to the genre from another country—much like this particular bottling. “Giallo is Giallo. It’s particularly appropriate for this wine because a lot of what’s in it—aside from nebbiolo— are family members of the syrah family. When you describe them, they start to be bloody, smoky, meaty—visceral, borderline violent descriptions.” Iruai’s Giallo is all these things. It’s "savory, heady, and kind of sexy,” says Hinds.
So, Italian horror movie wine. But don’t let that freak you out. Let it be romantic, wintery wine. It’s cold out there. Grill some steaks, pan fry some smashed potatoes, roast a rack of lamb, or make yourself a bowl of Amatriciana. Smoke a joint, gaze out the window broodingly. And if you are into horror, rent Dario Argento’s Deep Red, as Chad recommends, or the original Suspiria, and ruminate over your animalistic nature.
More info on Iruai’s Giallo here + a playlist from the Hinds.
This concludes the first wine club, friends.
I must admit, when I sat down to write this, I did not expect to spill 1800 words, but voilá. Hope you enjoy. Please send feedback. I’d love to know what you liked, what you didn’t, what you want more of, what you ate with your wines, and if this was entertaining or a snooze.
If you’re the Instagramming type, and you feel compelled to take pictures of your wine and tell other people about it, tag us @patronsaintwine. Especially if it includes a Mardi Gras costume and/or a punch bowl and/or your pets.
Leslie and Tony