There I was, back in Italy. The roads were gorgeous. The vineyards snaked along these twisty roads, and over beautiful hillsides. You can’t visit the vineyards of Barolo and think the land is better suited to any other function than to bring pleasure to anyone lucky enough to open one of its bottles. The food, language and culture in Italy was a large influence on my finding a passion and thirst for wine. It would only make sense to connect with this feeling by producing wines from my favorite Italian region, wouldn’t it?
I had flirted with the idea of producing a German Riesling. I did. Honest. However breathtaking the vineyards and wines which are borne of them, I couldn’t find the connection when walking the vineyards. I need that connection, I live for it. This feeling that I have for the land places within me a feeling that I am walking on blessed soil, similar to a church or ruins from antiquity. The difference is that you can interact with a vineyard in a way that there is a literal consumption, a taking in of the place that truly separates the experience. And to have this sensation gives me the pleasure to simply do as little as possible, hoping to be as close as possible to the intensity of the experience while doing my best not to alter what is unfolding in front of my eyes. I do not want to control something, molding it into my vision. I want to see in detail how something special is created in order to understand it and appreciate it. The only way to do this, to have faith in this process, is to be in awe of the land and of its wines. I did not find this in Germany.
Last Harvest, I was speaking with Christian about 2014s harvest and what our plans would be. “How about Barolo.” I really never know how much I can get away with so it was said half seriously. She lit up. “Yes! I’d love to have a Barolo. When do you want to go to Italy?” “Right after harvest?” Ok, look. I have to admit, Christian backs me on nearly every crazy idea that I have, but I truly never know what she is going to say. All that I know is that a crazy idea was given legitimacy with the simple backing of my wife.
Back in Italy, Barolo. We enjoyed the food, my Italian started to come back to me (Italian for Dummies was written for me, if the title wasn’t indication enough) and the wines were impressive, despite being young. We had a good contact in the area, a great producer, and they connected us with someone that they said might have what we were looking for.
Alright, so here is what we were looking for:
Grapes from Crus in the Barolo region, vineyards known to be of excellent quality. 10 barrels in total to start off with.
I started to have a growing jones growing for Monvigliero, but I didn’t bother asking if there was any way to get some of this fruit. I’d be happy being able to get my foot in the door.
My contact calls a friend. Turns out that the friend is the only contact he has for grapes of high quality…that would sell to me of course. While on the phone his eye brows raise, his head nods, he searches for a pen and starts writing. I peak over and can’t make out exactly is being written, so I just relax and wait for the news. He tells the contact a little about me and says he’ll pass on my info. He gets off the phone and starts telling me about the single Cru available to purchase.
I meet the guy two days later and it turns out that I can also grab fruit from San Lorenzo, just across the road from Monvigliero. When I returned to the region this past weekend I was offered some generic “Barolo” from Verduno to go along with the other grapes for 2014. These would be nebbiolo grapes, but not from a specific cru. What I have access to would give me 6.5 barrels of each cru and 10 barrels of Barolo. I found a sweet location in the Heart of the commune of Barolo and it was all lining up. The legal aspects were already being mentally sorted out. It was going to take a little work to do being 5 hours away by car from home in Burgundy, and the harvest dates were only a month or so off from each other, but those things didn’t bother me. Small details. Besides, what detail is worth passing up something that brings you pleasure?
Well, here is the thing. I had in my one hand my beloved Burgundy. I drink Red Burgundy nearly every single time I drink wine. I’d say around 19 bottles of every 20 is red Burgundy. Things are going well here. My family is doing well, some adjustments here and there but we are as much home here as we were in California. And the wines. As much as I love my wines, I don’t think I’d do a thing differently even if I didn’t love them so much. I believe in what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. This is what gives me the conviction to continue, not how my wines are tasting at such a young stage (when nearly every wine should be cute, tasty and non-threatening). But I do, I adore my wines and what they mean to me. Would Barolo be the 20th bottle if I lined up 20 bottles on a table? I can’t say that it would. I love the wines (people, language, and food) of Barolo. Yet, at this stage, I have so much more to learn and experience, (and hell celebrate!) right here in Burgundy.
As much as I could juggle the two, why would I prefer to juggle instead of enjoying what I believe to be the pinnacle (sorry Bordeaux, I still don’t like you, and you were an asshole anyhow), at least on my table. With this renewed focus, don’t expect large (or any) changes at Ilan (besides the whole 12th century cellar location), just know that my smile is going to be even larger the next time you see me.
Thank you again for your tremendous support!