Comedian-vintner Eric Wareheim has been busy on the wine scene lately: releasing his first cuvée of pét-"not," bottling a carbonically-macerated, no-sulfur-added Mendocino Charbono, manipulating the WineSpectator.com poll "Who Is America's Next Top Celebrity Winemaker?" in his favor ….
This week finds the taller half of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! in New York, where he's rolling out the Las Jaras ("haras") wine label he created with friend Joel Burt, a Chandon winemaker by day. In addition to the new market, Wareheim has the new wines, his slightly bizarro versions of Champagne and Beaujolais Nouveau.
"We have wines that are intended to be our really terroir-driven wines, which are our Cab and our Carignan, and then we have our party wines," Burt told Unfiltered. And party they did Monday night at Lower East Side natural-wine hangout Ten Bells, to celebrate the new bottlings and the expansion of the brand into the state, plus New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the latter of where Wareheim grew up: "Finally, my mom can buy my wine!"
The pét-"not," from Mendocino Carignan, is a little different than typical wines made in the pétillant naturel style, kept on the lees in bottle for a year, which gives it a flavor and CO2 pressure more akin to full-on Champagne-style sparklers. Making that work was less of a party: One bottle exploded during secondary fermentation; some "leakers" had to be weeded out. "I basically forced Joel to make a pét-nat," joked (?) Wareheim. The Charbono, called Glou Glou after "the French term for chuggable red wine," Burt explained, is meant to be "a wine that's boisterous and fun and juicy-delicious."
What's on the horizon? "I just want to be up there [in Mendocino wine country] a lot more!" said Wareheim. "Meeting with the growers, and then working in the winery, Joel teaching me along the way—I always ask him to talk to me like a kindergarten kid, because he's very advanced and scientific." The pair are now casting for a white wine—Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc, ideally—and in keeping with Burt's pursuit of the "zeitgeist": wine in cans.
The earliest evidence of intentional ("interventionist," we suppose) human winemaking was scraped off the bottom of some pottery shards dating back to 6000 BC found in the Republic of Georgia last year. Fast-forward eight millennia, and winemakers around the southern Caucasus Mountains are still fermenting their grapes in clay vessels buried in the ground. Call it habit or "intangible cultural heritage," as UNESCO does, the tradition of winemaking with qvevri is the subject of the new documentary Our Blood Is Wine, which premiered in February at the Berlin Film Festival; it has since become available to stream on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime and YouTube, and the DVD will be out May 22.
Directed by Emily Railsback, the film depicts the culture of winemaking throughout the former Soviet Republic; though the qvevri survived the area's many occupations from the Ottomans to the Soviets, the Georgian government in recent years has turned its focus to mass-produced, mostly sweet wines destined for the Russian market.
But Our Blood Is Wine is more interested in the some 100,000 registered “family producers,” in the country, especially those where a younger generation is dedicating itself to following and preserving a winemaking tradition that's literally prehistoric. During the Q&A at a recent New York screening, Railsback and sommelier Jeremy Quinn, who stars in the film, said the new old wines of Georgia would find a place at the table of American wine lovers: ”Winemaking is returning to the traditional method that will give Georgia a larger audience. They have something that no other culture can offer us. … These types of artisanal wines are sought after by the natural wine scene and have put Georgia on the map for their energetic taste.”
Unfiltered’s favorite wine wonderland, the Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, last appeared in this space as a forum for wondering if wine counts as a performance-enhancing supplement in sports. The question of whether it's one for music has been asked and answered countless times since Joe Neolithic Georgian cracked open his first qvevri (it is, then isn't).
So the Cité had plenty of material for its new audiovisual exhibition, “Wine and Music, Harmony and Dissonance,” that runs from March 23 to June 24. The museum is displaying nearly 150 works of art, from oil paintings to ornamental goblets, spanning the Renaissance through the 19th century. Snatches of music, from traditional drinking songs to operas, serenade visitors as they explore. You start in a gallery devoted to Dionysus, the OG music-loving enophile, and make your way through themes like “Love and Drunkenness” before finally winding up, as one does, in “Banquets, Taverns and Cabarets.”
Accompanying the exhibition are free evening musical performances; next up is April 6, featuring works from composers Jean-Philippe Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Pawnee, Indiana, is turning out to be a real incubator of wine-entertainment talent, with star Amy Poehler heading to wine country for Wine Country, and now Ben Schwartz—whose previous foray into the drinks business as lovable local dirtbag Jean-Ralphio Saperstein on Parks and Recreation ended questionably for all involved in the making and partaking of "Snake Juice"—is out in California hosting a wine podcast with E. & J. Gallo.
“The Wine Down by Wine Dialogues” is a wine-education series starring the self-proclaimed wine novice, his comedian friends and winemakers from Louis M. Martini, Talbott Vineyards, the E. & J. Gallo flagship label and others, dropping knowledge about stuff like wine history, vineyard techniques, pairings and, of course, rosé.
“It’s our hope with ‘The Wine Down by Wine Dialogues’ podcast to help break down these barriers, especially among younger consumers, by offering an entertaining, on-demand way to learn about and enjoy wine,” podcast publisher Suzanne Denevan-Brown told Unfiltered via email.
The seven-episode podcast debuted March 28 with “Can I Ask You A Question, Sweet Winemaker?”, a discussion of the best places to drink wine, featuring William Hill winemaker Mark Williams and comedian Scott Aukerman, host of podcast and TV show Comedy Bang! Bang!. The first two episodes are available free on iTunes, and new ones will air each Wednesday through May 9.
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