Volume I, Issue 2: Laissez-Faire
by Leslie Pariseau
In what other place in the world do you get boxed into your neighborhood by marching bands and floats, cancel school, and dust an entire city in glitter for several weeks at a time? No-effing-where. Hence the theme Laissez-Faire.
As I was attempting to find a common thread to string among this month's wines, I was a little bit at a loss. Left to my own devices, I can tend toward the philosophical and existential weeds. I am told that this is in the nature of the Sagittarius. Luckily, I have a nice, bullish Taurus partner named Tony who was like, “Chill, just let it be fun.” Despite my theory that Mardi Gras is anything but chill (to keep a city-wide ritual going for three centuries—one that coordinates a mind-boggling amount of infrastructure, a lot of tipsy, costumed adults, and high school dance troupes, all while acting as a mirror of a hyper-local intersection of politics, economics, and social hierarchy—is not laissez-faire. See, existential weeds!), this set of wines really is.
Let’s not overthink it.
Kobal “Bajta” 2021, Rizling/Chardonnay, Ptuj, Slovenia
The Bajta label was a fan favorite over at the pop-up last year. Tie-dye labels. Fuzzy bubbles. Some silky sediment. Super-fresh flavor. What’s not to love? I talked to winemaker and vigneron Bojan Kobal to get an idea for how a fifth-generation winemaker started making pét-nat in a region where the agricultural customs are from Roman times (totally terraced!) and the pinot grigio deeply macerated. “We make pét-nat the classic way just like in the 12th century in Burgundy,” said Bojan. Really it’s a natural fit for a place full of historic reference.
So what’s pét-net?
Pétillant-naturel, or pét-nat, predates the champagne method. It’s created by methode ancestrale, which means the wine is bottled before it’s finished fermenting thereby trapping carbon dioxide, usually beneath a crown cap, which = bubbles and fizz. (Champagne gets its sparkle from added sugar and yeast, which kickstarts a second fermentation.) This is a good pét-nat primer from my buddy Zach Sussman who also happened to publish this fantastic new guide to sparkling wine a few months ago.
Bajta (by-tah), which means “old house,” is wild fermented, and made with welschriesling (misleadingly, not related to riesling), which gives it a refreshing, white flower quality, and a little chardonnay for body and texture. For a while, Bojan was alone in making this style of wine in his little corner of eastern Slovenia, but it’s since gained traction. Thank the wine goddesses.
Forlorn Hope “Queen of the Sierra” Rosé, 2020, Sierra Foothills, CA
Matthew Rorick’s wines are always a total delight, and his Queen of the Sierra series is a great way to get acquainted with his style. “The Queen wines, for me, speak to the character of the whole site [of Rorick Heritage Vineyards] as opposed to the single vineyard bottlings,” says Matthew. “The voice you get in the wine is the voice of the whole vineyard.” After a skateboarding career and a stint in the Navy, the Southern California native began rooming with his grandfather who taught him how to cook and had excellent taste in wine. After noticing Matthew had read through every wine book in the house, he suggested he attend UC Davis for oenology and viticulture. Which, happily for us, he did.
This year’s rosé—a mix of zinfandel, grenache, and tempranillo, came from a challenging growing season, which was “mostly famine in regards to water,” says Rorick. This generally means that the crop sizes are smaller with more intense fruiting (i.e. fewer grapes that get more of the vines’ resources). The result is juicy, salted watermelon rosé with a beautiful raspberry hue that should probably be your afternoon parade staple.
We are super lucky to have gotten four cases of this fabulous wine especially for the club. ENJOY.
Uriondo “Txakolina Bizkaiko” 2020, Basque Country
Chances are, if you live in New Orleans, you’ve had a bottle of txakolina (choc-O-lee-nuh)—likely Ameztoi’s long-necked, ballerina-pink Rubentis release. The stuff is rampant here (and so divine they call it Baby Jesus), and that’s a great thing. Thanks to its current vogue, you might be led to think it’s a relatively recent phenomenon, but txakolina is actually quite old in Basque Country.
Made by Roberto Ibarretxe and Isabel Viñas, Uriondo uses the local native grape varieties hondarribi zuri, mune mahatsa, and txori mahatsa, and displays the spritzy character typical to many txakolinas, granted by its natural in-bottle fermentation after a rest in stainless steel tanks. Though txakolina may seem like it’s everywhere, it’s actually made in a very small designated DO—this one nearly lost to time had it not been for Ibarretxe, Viñas, and their colleagues preserving the style. Their farm is only 2.5 hectares. A postage stamp really.
Uriondo has all of the acid, all the zip, and all of the electricity of a good txakolina, which makes it perfect for those hours between afternoon and evening parades, or perhaps even at breakfast, should you be in the mood to kick things off early.
On another a note, I believe Basque Country has some kinship with New Orleans—it has its own language, its own myths, and its own holidays, and, in some ways, raises a middle finger to the rest of its surrounding continent simply by being the way that it is. All of that is embodied in the singularity of txakoli, and, perhaps, apt for Carnival season drinking.
Mary Taylor "Valençay" Sophie Siadou 2019, Loire Valley, France
You may have seen Mary Taylor's wines around. They all have a simple white, embossed label that belies their layered mission. Mary, an importer who happens to live part-time in New Orleans, began her own eponymous label with wines from regions that don't get a ton of play in the mainstream. She works with producers directly who work entirely sustainably and speak to the hidden nooks of Europe, often overshadowed by splashier, household regions. Fabulously, they're often under $20 and punch above their weight both in flavor and quality.
This cuvée is certainly off the beaten path, named respectively for its location in the Loire Valley (Valençay) and the winemaker who farms the Caillouteuse soil—all gunpowder flint—biodynamically with her partner Francis Jourdain. Nearly equal parts pinot noir, côt (better known as malbec), and gamay, it was fermented with indigenous yeasts, and left on the lees (or spent yeasts) in neutral oak for 18 months. "These are really humble farmers that make amazing wines," says Taylor.
The Valençay is a lovely wine for these still chilly nights, and made in a true country style, it would be a real delight with red beans and rice, sausages, and front porch band times.
This concludes the second wine club, friends.
Happy Carnival. Be safe out there. Don't swallow too much glitter. Eat lots of king cake. Be nice to each other.
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. Tell us what you liked, what you didn't, and what you want more of.
Leslie and Tony