Friday, October 31, 2008

Terroir Natural Wine Merchant & Catherine Breton's "La Dilettante" 2007

Last night Terroir Natural Wine Merchant and Bar hosted an event for winemakers Catherine Breton, of Domaine Catherine et Pierre Breton, and Jean Montanet, of the Domaine de la Cadette. It was my first trip to Terroir, but certainly not my last. It's the kind of wine bar you just want to hang out in for a long time. Wooden crates of wine are laid out on the floor and the walls, bursting with bottles and straw; a record player fills the room with jazz, as candles and exposed light bulbs illuminate the space just enough. An upstairs lounge area with couches overlooks the bar and shop below.

I counted at least 30 people there last night, and overheard one guy say to his friends: "I've never seen it this packed before..." with another replying "I don't like it like this."

Terroir is out of the way - it's on 1116 Folsom Street off of 7th in San Francisco, so I'm not sure how they do for foot traffic, but I have seen write ups about the bar and shop in several publications, so I'm guessing it's probably building a wine geek following for focusing on organic, biodynamic wines.

The shop had six or seven wines for us to try last night. While al were interesting, I thought it would have been a little awkward to pull out my tasting book in the middle of the crowd and jot down notes. I'm a professional journalist, so this sort of thing shouldn't bother me by now (I've been working in the field for eight years) but my natural inclination is to not stick out or draw attention to myself, and I often have to force myself to get out of my shell and speak to people when I'd feel much more comfortable observing things from a corner.

Anyway, what I'm trying to get at is that I only took notes on the '07 La Dilettante because it's one of the wines that Catherine produced by herself, it was the most interesting of the tasting, I talked to her for a few minutes about how she made it, and it's what I was able to write about in my notebook as BART sped me home that night.

So, onto the notes -

This wine, made with Cabernet Franc grapes, had a dirty funky nose. I got burnt rubber, tar and barnyard scents. These aren't negatives, these can be good things to smell in a wine, if you like that sort of thing. I do, and was surprised by how different the wine tasted on my palate. I call it a "double-take" wine, because while the nose is super funk, the wine itself tasted like rose petals and strawberries. Tannins were light, and this was a very enjoyable easy drinking wine.

Catherine said she used carbonic maceration to make this wine, which is a gentler process of pressing the grapes. Basically the grapes are put in a vat and carbon dioxide is pumped in. The gas spurs fermentation within the grape (as opposed to grapes being crushed) and the weight of the grapes and the pressure from the gas slowly presses the grapes. It leads to wines that are light and fruity with less tannins, which is why it's the method mostly associated with making Beaujolais. (For more on carbonic maceration, there's an interesting wiki page on the subject here.)

The shop was selling this wine for $21 last night, and they might sell it by the glass at the bar as well.

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