The Feiring Squad

I realize that the wine world needs a new blogger like I need a new skirt of inappropriate length (How does that song go again? “Everyone can play guitar…”). That said, I’m excited to write this for the very simple reason that as I maneuver around in the wine industry I have a knack of encountering the most interesting people. People whom, by and large, are not writing about themselves and love dragging me about, lobe-first, on some rather grand adventures.


…this past Sunday found me stomping around downtown with Wine Yenta and all-around-lovely L. Alyson Careaga who wriggled her nose, crossed her arms, and blinked us into the cute and cozy inner sanctum of renowned wine-writer Alice Feiring. Alice, a fervent naturalist and fellow natural redhead, was doing research for an upcoming piece on gamay.

For the occasion Alice invited a dozen or so close friends (and one hanger-on burgeoning blogger!) to her 4th floor Soho walkup, prepared a dazzling vegetarian feast, and divided 30 Gamays from around the world into four geographically distinct flights.

Now, I don’t generally truck with the strict-herbivore set. When asked, I proudly rattle off the parts of animals I indulge in as a dedicated traveler displays his passport stamps. Though if I had Alice Feiring as my personal cook, it might take a while for me to notice that meat was missing from my diet.

The apartment was warm and perfect and fit the hostess like a favorite sweater. All wines were tremendously well-wrapped– tiny Christmas packages complete with military corners. The attendees spanned both age and occupation, including a winemaker, his daughter, an importer, an actor from The Wire and the obligatory New York Video Artist.

Excited to help explore a grape for which I already knew I had a deep love, I plucked a glass from the table and dove right in– only to be slapped in the face by a sour saccharine nightmare! 12 wines came and went (the whole first flight) and not a winner in the bunch. No investigative treatise on Chiroubles, this was nothing more than a tedious domestic starting lineup! Surely this was some sort of cruel hazing ritual designed to alienate the new girl. But no, Alice’s intentions were pure; this was merely an example of the trials and tribulations of research meticulously wrought.

The next flight, my favorite of the night, featured gamay from the Loire. This was followed by Brouilly+Fleurie, with Morgon (plus one sneak-attack Rhone) bringing up the rear.

Gamay is a grape that I adore. Arguably best when young, it is bouncy and bright and light (when done right), has interesting aromatics, edgy acidity, funky earth, and great food applicability. So it was sad to see so many fluffy ho-hum gamays dominating the selections. This is not to say that there weren’t any shining stars…

For me, the two most winningest wines were:

2007 Clos Roche Blanche (Touraine, Loire)– a beautiful pink peppercorn and spicy radish nose. In the mouth, the bright blue raspberry fruit was perfectly balanced by a brilliant acidity and a sense of freshly grated clove dominated the finish.
2005 Domaine Romaneaux-Destezet \”La Souteronne\” Gamay D\’Ardeche (Rhone)– a lean, mean, herbal machine. Dried thyme, black cherry and that lovely gamay pepperiness combined to form a perfect match for the epoisse bread I was stuffing my face with… I mean delicately sampling.

Also amazing:
2004 100% Julien Courtois (Touraine, Loire)
2006 Laurent Martray Corentin (Brouilly, Beaujolais)

…After these 4 highlights, 23 of the remaining wines drunkenly walked the mediocrity median, ranging from the almost-really-good to the nearly-terrible. Of the whole tasting, 3 (and only 3) wines were truly terrible and they were ALL FROM GEORGES DUBOEUF. Big and fruity and ghastly and confected… Not only does the emperor have no clothes, he has a giant banana where his codpiece should be!

(for those missing the inside joke, google “banana yeast”+Duboeuf for the reference)

After the identity of all the wines were revealed and discussed, our hostess, her tribe, and the drinkable wines retired to the kitchen where plates were heaped and thirsts, thus far academically tantalized, were slaked.

Then suddenly, from the buzzing chatter of mingling strangers, burst the sweet school-marmish throat-clearing of one Alice Feiring. Urged on by relentlessly inquiring mind AC, studiously shy Alice transformed into a bespectacled whirling dervish of literary enthusiasm! Pirouetting her fingers through the pages of several favorite Philip Roth novels, AF read aloud to an audience as excited by the chance to experience this unplumbed side of their hostess and friend as to marvel over the fine fiction stylings of Mr. Roth. And then, like a spent match, and seemingly startled by her own outburst, Alice retreated to the comforts of wine, opening a gorgeous bottle of 2006 Clos de la Roilette (Fleurie) and busied herself with the kissing of goodbyes.


14 responses to “The Feiring Squad”

  1. Diane White Avatar
    Diane White



  2. Diane White Avatar
    Diane White


  3. Nicely done Kelly, thanks for the heads up on the blog.

  4. Ari Soroken Avatar
    Ari Soroken

    Great writing. I think we’ll see you in print soon!

  5. hey thanks for the Laurent martry mention!

  6. Jerry Izzo Avatar
    Jerry Izzo

    Well done, Kelli. I will skip the overtly obvious (I tend to be redundant, when excited) oppurtunity to praise your approachable and comfortably accomodating writing style. Instead I commend your choice of blog. Gamay is often times the shy kid at school that most people pick on and ridicule. To further extend the metaphor, if one were to actually spend some time with the grape, they would find it to be excellent company, versatile with food and just the right wine to have around when most others will simply not do. Though often times there is not much to contemplate (with the exception of well made Morgon) a Chiroubles is a delightful summer wine that is the perfect answer to humid weather. As a wine professional, it never ceases to stupify, how many incorrect preconceptions limit peoples enjoyment of wine. If there ever existed a realm of intrigue that requires throwing caution to the wind, it is wine. Far too many “authorities” hold far too much power of persuasion in far too subjective of an art. Your opinion and style are both refreshing and desperately needed.

    By the way, two natural redheads in one room? Is that even possible?
    In my experience redheads tend to be not only fiesty as hell, but territorial and tend not to migrate in flocks or herds.

    Perhaps it was the wine…
    …in vino veritas

    -Jerry Izzo
    Wine Consultant
    Chicago, Il

  7. Impressive Kelly, you are really amazing!

  8. david burke Avatar
    david burke

    kelli white is cracklingly intelligent, devoted to good wine from good people, funny, warm and, not hard on the eyes. she’s got all the tools and “gets it”.
    those who turn to this blog from time to time are in for a treat.

  9. Hi Kelli,

    Nice distillation of the tasting and it was very nice to meet you. I would argue, though, that there were some worthy American examples which showed better with time – even the next day.

    How’s the heel?


    Kevin Hamel

  10. Kelli; I enjoyed the read, nice job. One frequent drawback to tasting wine in flights of more than two or three, is the wines fight with each other, and you may not get the chance to really get to know the ins and outs of a particular wine in the more commonly-encountered context of that wine by itself with a meal, or a course in a meal. I’m completely seduced when I taste Clos Roche Blanche, and, in that state, I don’t even want to think about any other Gamay.

  11. Kelli White Avatar
    Kelli White

    Hello all,

    Thanks so much for all the comments and support! It really is amazing to receive such copious feedback. I want to especially thank Kevin Hamel and Steve Edmunds for bringing up an interesting and difficult point.

    Obviously, in a format such as a “blog” wherein the reporting is, by nature, more broad than deep, certain pieces get swept under the rug of snappy writing. Within the maligned initial domestic flight there were a couple of wines that really were quite good… they just suffered the misfortune of acting as prelude to some truly dazzling French beauties.

    As Kevin pointed out, I didn’t get more than a moment with any one wine– the equivalent of those speed-dating events that were so popular earlier in the decade. And who ever met their soul mate that way?

    I open my arms to domestic gamay, and will certainly continue to explore and enjoy them as the occasions arise. Who knows? Perhaps there will be an OWJ Gamay Blog Part II.

    Again, thanks for the support.

  12. Florence Beronie Avatar
    Florence Beronie


    Am I right in thinking that the wines you mention are not organic or biodynamic?


  13. Hi Florence, All the wines (with the possible exception of the Martray–I’m just not sure) are practicing organic–or utilize some other form of practicing no-chemical farming and are naturally made. Clos Roche Blanche is certified. Steve Edmunds grapes (right Steve?) comes from a practicing organic vineyard.

    Kelli, great job. Always hard to be written about but instead of a cringe, I read this breezy entry with a smile and often a laugh. –Alice

  14. Jon Sherwood Avatar
    Jon Sherwood

    You rock! Congrats on the blog. I love your writing style, and I agree with your mom… Pulitzer caliber!! Keep up the good work, and keep in touch…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *