Saturday, May 17, 2014

Everyone Should Mourn the Death of Laurence Faller

Earlier this week, Laurence Faller of Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, died of an apparent heart attack at a very young 47. I met her on a few occasions when she traveled to New Orleans with her mother, Colette, building a rabid following for their wines. Beyond being stunned by her untimely demise and being reminded of the proximity of our ages, I mourn her loss for reasons we should all share.
The wine world in the 1990s was completely dominated by men. A few women had blazed trails, some owned wineries other made wine, but they were the exception rather than the rule. One of those leading quietly, by example, were the Fallers.
"____ et fils" ( ____ & sons) is prevalent in the wine world in France, but look at what Domaine Weinbach's website says "Colette Faller et ses filles"(Colette Faller & her daughters). That is a rarity, especially in patriarchal France.
Monks established Domaine Weinbach in 1612 and Théodore Faller and his brother purchased it in 1898. Théodore's son and nephew (Théo) inherited the property and later Théo's widow, Colette, took over, eventually getting both daughters involved as well. For a great overview of Domaine Weinbach and an opportunity to learn more, explore this link to their importer, Vineyard Brands.
Colette and her daughters, Laurence and Catherine, guided Domaine Weinbach masterfully. They traveled in support of their wines and got people to care about a much-overlooked part of the world. Colette and Laurence visited Martin Wine Cellar for tastings. Their looks initially attracted many but tasting the wines created the real relationship with the domaine.
In Alsace, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht and Domaine Weinbach arguably battled for top honors. While I always appreciated Z-H's wines and drooled over them for some years, their wines are over the top and unabashedly wild. The more subtle style of the Fallers won me over with time.
As I have grown and learned and tasted, I have decided that very often my palate prefers wines made by women. In the same way that testosterone-laden, he-man conversations bore me, so do 'bigger is better' wines. Certainly, not all women make elegant wines and not all men believe that going to 11 is the way to operate all the time but it happens frequently enough for me to have made a mental note.
The Faller women played a large part in helping me form this opinion and I am deeply saddened by the loss of one of the trio that created such magical wines. I sincerely hope Laurence's family will take some solace in the outpouring of grief and kind words currently being posted and shared.
Here are some: Decanter, Drinks Business, The Wine Society and Wine Searcher.
Rest in peace Laurence Faller, you are already missed.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Equus Run Vineyards - Midway, Kentucky

A recent trip to Keeneland afforded me the opportunity to explore a little and write a story about two official Kentucky Derby drink producers. One of them was Equus Run Vineyards, for my story on America's Best Racing website, click here. I won't rehash the background story but there is some more I would like to share that didn't fit in that story.
Every state in the United States now has at least one winery. Some are more serious in their approach than others and those are the ones that capture my attention. I was told Equus Run Vineyards produce all of their own white grapes and some of the red - the rest come from Indiana, New York and California.
The regular tasting room is under renovation so the entry took me through the grape-themed gates.

The driveway also led me past some exciting plantings - complete with signs(!), including Cabernet Sauvignon (not something I expected to find in Kentucky), Cabernet Franc (one of my favorite grapes!) and Norton, an unheralded but exciting grape (learn more about it here).

They lost some vines due to the severe winter weather and there are obvious gaps in both of the Cabernet photos.

An unusual piece of art greeted me inside...
This showed me they knew how to have fun...the test would be whether or not they knew how to make wine. There are no shortage of wineries selling dull, sweet wines - the residual sugar covers up all kinds of flaws - especially in regions not well known for their grapes.
Equus was a pleasant surprise, my only real disappointment on the visit was the fact that they were sold out of Norton and Cabernet Franc. The wines were not overly manipulated or obscured by sugar or oak and I hope to return again to explore some of the reds I missed this time. I also hope to taste at some other wineries in the area despite the very clear statement from some other guests that most of them were not worth the effort.
In addition to the Derby wines, I tasted two other wines:
Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc de Noir - This is a white from reds, in this case a rosé. I found it a bit mute on the nose, fairly typical for Cabernet, but the palate more than made up for it. The wine was lush and rich with a full mouthfeel. It was also dry, unlike way too many other pink wines. There were even some dry tannins on the finish. Overall, the wine was tasty and mouthwatering and while it might not be the ideal pool wine I wanted it for picnics and appetizers on the back porch - really anywhere there is food and nice weather. My favorite wine at Equus Run. $15.99 ($14.39 for club members)
Zinfandel - My experience with Zinfandel from wineries outside of California have been disappointing. Most of the fruit tends to come from Lodi and Sierra Foothills in California, relatively inexpensive sources for grapes, and I find most of them to have a baked fruit and brown sugar quality. The wines taste like the grapes were exposed to too much heat and the vibrant, juicy berry notes I crave in Zinfandel are missing. I am not sure where these grapes came from but the Equus Run version was decent. There was a slight brown edge to the wine indicating age or potentially some fading fruit but the aroma and palate displayed spice notes, especially pepper, and despite it not being huge and lush it was a solid wine that would do a great job at the table with some grilled sausages or lamb or duck. $21.99 ($19.79 for club members)

I look forward to my next visit.