Thursday, November 07, 2013

Miley Cyrus and Bob Dylan: Harmonic Convergence in an Alternate Universe of Orange Wine

Bob Dylan and Miley Cyrus, now there’s a pair. It makes sense in a non-linear world. And so it was this week at FT33, which is one of the hottest restaurants in America.

We snuck in between work gigs, needed a low key place for a business-cum-pleasure moment. Unbeknownst to us, FT33 had just gotten a 5 star review (the highest possible) from Leslie Brenner of the Dallas Morning News.

I know how I feel when I read about other folk’s food and wine experiences. It’s difficult to digest another picture of someone drinking a fabulous bottle of wine. I find it hard to absorb another post about someone’s magnificent Italian (French, etc.) harvest trip. If I see another fabulous meal from some amazing restaurant that provided a once in a lifetime experience, that’ll be one more than I really need to see. So with that said, all I am going to do is offer a brief view of a couple of wines that married well together with two entrees. Read the review if you want more info on FT33. The wine list is a great read. And GM/Wine Director Jeffrey Gregory was spot on in his suggestion and in his meticulous attention he paid to our table.

So let’s talk about my orange wine affliction.

About 10 years ago I visited Gravner. I love the place. I understand the wines. I’m sympathetic to his philosophical yearnings. I even tried for years to sell the wines. I ended up drinking more of them than selling them. Maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. But for some reason, I couldn’t find the hook.

A few years later I was in Austin, at Uchi, and we ordered a bottle of Coenobium from the Monastero Suore Cistercensi. The wine was golden, not quite sunset in color. It reminded me of the first time I made wine. It was a time trip. By the way, I was 13. Yeah.13.

The Coenobium spoke to me. Ahh, so this was what orange wine was all about. Got it.
The one day, I was up in Padua and a bottle or two of Zidarich Vitovska made its way to the table. Again, I was lit up. I was beginning to get this orange wine thing.

Fast forward to 2013. Two experiences, a month from each other, one on Etna and one in Napa. Yeah. I said that.

Etna. Now all the young cats, the hipster sommelier crowd, they love to talk about Frank Cornelissen and his Etna experiment. I haven’t met Frank; got real close once. Hope to someday. What I have had from him has been a mixed bag, but I really need to meet him on the mountain, La Mutagna, see what he’s doing. I don’t quite grok him. Yet. Salvo Foti & Co. have set the bar for me on Etna wines. And they lay claim to a natural non-interventionist style of wine that I find intellectually interesting and overwhelmingly delicious. Yes, I still like things that taste good to me. Who doesn’t?

Napa. Just like opening a door, real easy. There she was. The underground movement was no longer in the shadows. Massican, Schoener, Ryme, Matthiasson, it seemed all up and down Highway 29, new wines folks were pretty excited about. Hairy armpit connotations no longer the identifying marker, orange wine had entered the mainstream.

That said, I’m open about orange wine. I don’t crave it like I do a glass of Carricante or any number of crisp, acidic Italian whites. But I’m not in hater mode. I just want to love the wine I drink, most of the time.

This week at FT33 the two wines we tasted together, Abe Schoener's Scholium Project Midan Al-Tahrir 2010 with Coenobium 2011 from the Monastero Suore Cistercensi was a Bob Dylan/Miley Cyrus moment. Not quite a twerk team. A little more cerebral. But like the words of her latest hit, Wrecking Ball, “We clawed, we chained our hearts in vain. We jumped never asking why.” Meanwhile Zimmy is responding, “Well, I don’t know, but I’ve been told, the streets in heaven are lined with gold.”

ricotta gnocchi, butternut squash, fall greens, wild mushrooms, ham broth
First off, the Midan Al-Tahrir, a blend of Verdelho, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. When Jeffrey brought it to the table it was quite cool. First sip was liquid pistacchio, just like the ones they harvest up on Etna, the DOP ones from Bronte. Wow. It was a revelation. Sexy, quirky, but we stayed with it. It came around with the food nicely.

sunburst trout, littleneck clams, fermented pickle, radish, carolina gold rice
The Italian? The Coenobium is Trebbiano, Malvasia and Verdicchio. Simple. Direct. Quiet. The wine has more of a golden hue than orange. Both of them do, actually. Coenobium is light in the flavor department, but with many layers of subtle flavors. Incense, must, high range flavors, not quite perceptible to the olfactory receptors. I think about Brian Cronin, when he moved to Hawaii and how he lost his sense of smell from the volcanic ash and sulfur from the island. I took another deep breath, and like that I was in a polyphonic space, singing DuruflĂ©’s requiem in a chrous. What a strange intersection of elements, sitting in a trendy restaurant in Dallas, in the month of November, with the U.S. President driving around the city. Another president driving around Dallas in the month of November. These wines were doing the trick.

Then it hit me. Not always are wines about pleasure. Sometimes they are meant to be evocative, meant to be a catalyst for other explorations. Cornelissen might be crazy. Or he might be Obi Wan.

I just knew, sitting there in a comfortable banquette, sipping on wines, one from a philosophy teacher and one from Trappist nuns, that life was indeed a series of coincidences. In this case it was quite marvelous.

Abe Schoener's Scholium Project Midan Al-Tahrir
Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium
Zidarich Vitovska
Frank Cornelissen
Salvo Foti
Josko Gravner
Brian Cronin
Bob Dylan
Miley Cyrus

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