Cool Wine Shop Alert: Forêt in Ridgewood, Queens

I’ve been spending more time in Ridgewood now that a very good friend lives there. If you find yourself in this part of Queens and are thirsting for some natural (“natty”) bottles, check out Forêt Wines.

Two visits in and its got all the things I like about a wine shop: small, charming, eclectic yet somehow focused. A selection that’s a reflection of the proprietor. Speaking of, that would be Marie Tribouilloy. She’s a co-owner of Ops in Bushwick, one of my favorite pizza spots. (It’s got lots of natty wine served w/o a list. You just say what you want to drink and someone will bring you a few things until you and a wine click. Though they usually nail it on the first taste.)

A duo of bottles I picked up were both aces. The first was a Meinklang Gruner Veltliner. Bottled with a screw cap, it is tailor-made for a BYOB spot. The red was more serious, with some body and heft: Simon Busser Pure Cot 2016. Cot* is what the French call Malbec. If all you have been exposed to is versions from Argentina, buckle up. Because this is a much different ride. Honestly this is probably the first Cot I’ve had from the Cahors area in quite a while. (This wine is a Vin de France so there must be a reason it’s not appellation labeled but the Cahors region is Busser’s stomping grounds.**) Most I’ve drank have been from the Loire Valley, and on the lighter side.

With these two bottles at dinner, normally I hit the white until it’s gone then begrudgingly shift to red. But after pouring a splash of Pure Cot, I went back to the red wine well again and again. Usually I don’t care for full-bodied wines but this one was voluminous in a totally compelling way. Juicy, fruity, complex, long fresh finish. Damn!

Anyway, if a wine shop can pick out a bottle like that for you, it is gold. (My mandate was full-bodied red and “unlimited budget.” I really did say the latter but I mean my idea of unlimited is like over $20 and under $50.) So check out Forêt Wines the next time you are in Ridgewood. I take the L to Myrtle and stroll there but you can also take the M to Forest. Or research bus routes. Ride share. Bicycle. Walk. Teleport, etc.

For more on Forêt Wines, check out Grubstreet and Bushwick Daily. Also it’s right next to Sundown, a lovely space of a bar. And my friend is one of the owners. So go have a cocktail/beer/wine and then buy a bottle next door. Or vice-versa.

*JR says with or w/o the circumflex. So there. I do like the hat on the “o” of “Côt.”

**Astor Wines has an explanation.

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My Profile of Odd Fox Coffee for Fresh Cup Magazine

Ever stop in a neighborhood spot and be totally charmed, then pitch an article about that place to a publication? And the editor says, “YES, WE WILL PUBLISH THAT.” (Ok, the reply was not all-caps.) I was delighted to write a profile of Odd Fox Coffee, located right in my Greenpoint neighborhood, for Fresh Cup Magazine. It’s in the February issue.

But you can read it on the internet, right now. Which would delight me. Here is a link:

Café Crossroads: Odd Fox Coffee

Ok, one of the coolest things about this spot and owner Adam Saucy is his love of Legos. There’s a diorama of the shop in Lego form where he re-enacts events of the day and posts them on his @legocoffeeshop Instagram account. (It’s a must-follow.) Here’s an example:

I’ll also mention Odd Fox has a very chill and large backyard. And a seating policy that doesn’t let one person at a two-seater table sit in one chair and put all their crap in the other. You may actually (gasp!) have to sit across from a…stranger! Though you are under no obligation to speak.

I do still miss Analog and Porchlight in Seattle. But I’ve settled into Greenpoint nicely over the last two-plus years. Getting to know the people behind a few of the places I dig helps make a deeper connection. And it’s amazing what you find out about a person when you simply ask them questions. There were definitely stories about Odd Fox and Adam that were surprising to discover. If you visit me in GP we’ll go there for sure, ok?

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Go Gamay Go: Two Bottles Starring My Favorite Red Grape

Gamay freaks unite! And they/we do, across the globe, thanks to #gogamaygo. Check it out on IG. I believe the origins of it come from my friend Treve Ring but I’m not sure. And though the grape is popping up all over the world, the best stuff is from France. Particularly Beaujolais. Here are two French Gamays I got for like $15 each at Grapepoint Wines. With their chugability, freshness, and chill ways, they will have you saying, “Go Gamay Go!”

Go Gamay Go for $15 or Less

Beau! Beaujolais 2016

Un-beau-lievable value here. The front label says, “cool – red – wine” and I have to agree. (Well, the name’s pretty corny but that’s right up my alley.) Anyhow, it’s cool in the way Ray-Ban Wayfarers are as well as cool like “serve chilled.” Made from 40-year-old vines. Sealed with a screw cap, which is excellent.

Emile Balland En Attendant Les Beaux Jours 2016

This is a triumph over (climate) tragedy wine. A freeze in the Loire Valley destroyed 80% of buds on the vines at Emile Balland. So this Gamay cuvée made from purchased grapes expands the name of the winery’s “Les Beaux Jours” wines to add a “En Attendant.” Which now means, “Waiting for Beautiful Days.”

I wish I could be this poetic about a turn of events that hurt my heart and bottom line, but that’s why I’m some milquetoast wine blobber and people like Emile Balland persevere when the chips (grapes?) are down.

Read about a Cru Beaujolais with a label making me sentimental.

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When Alsace Drinks Like Burgundy (Wait…Nah.)

Actually, why compare the Domaine Ostertag Pinot Noir 2016 Les Jardins to Burgundy? Like in Oregon, it’s time to say Pinot Noir (especially from a storied locale like Alsace in France) don’t need that “Burgundian” comparison so abused it should really be retired because it’s completely irrelevant. (Also there’s plenty of Burgundy thats, well, not very Burgundian. ANYWAY….)

This bottle was part of a small group of Pinot Noir from Alsace sent to me as samples. One was pretty “meh” and I was a little bummed out so I didn’t go back to that well for a bit. MY BAD!

The first thing I noticed when opening this wine is, “Wow, I’m actually opening a red wine.” I almost opened up a Kumeu River Chardonay from New Zealand, regardless of the weather dictating red wine time. 

Domaine Ostertag Pinot Noir 2016 Les Jardins ($34)

Photo via Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

Initial take after pulling the cork and giving this Pinot a whiff: earthy, forest-y kind of smells. These scents were so prominent I was wondering if drinking it would be like being in a Pacific Northwest rain forest, getting down on all fours, and eating handfuls of damp soil washed down with fern fronds.

BUT NO! There’s loads of bright, yet deep, black cherry flavor.


Cool fact: Domaine Ostertag is certified biodynamic. The wines are imported by Kermit Lynch, so you know it’s real-deal. A tip I always give is if you don’t know jack shit about an imported wine: flip the label and see who the importer is. If it’s someone like Kermit Lynch, you are gold(en).

There’s an interesting blurb about this Pinot Noir in an offer from said importer’s wine shop. Here’s what Kermit Lynch’s Dixon Brooke had to say:

André’s [Ostertag’s] son Arthur has joined his father and grandfather at their domaine in northern Alsace, three generations now working side by side. Much as his father did with him, André has given Arthur a lot of freedom to experiment in the cellar….One of his other initiatives has been to add more stems to their younger-release Pinot Noir to give it a bit more structure. Mission accomplished.”

So now you know one of the reasons why this Domaine Ostertag Pinot Noir is so memorable. It’s a touch acidic right now; I imagine it would settle down with a year or two in a cool, dark place. Or give it a good hour in your finest decanter or crappiest glass jar.

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Unexpected Wine and Food Match in James Salter’s Novel “Light Years”

Sometimes when you least expect it, expect it. That’s how wine sneaks up on me. Not like a bottle quietly tiptoeing behind me and then, “SURPRISE!” More of a coming across mentions of it while reading and thinking about the author’s experience with wine. Such is the case of the novel Light Years by James Salter.

Here’s a scene where the main characters, a married couple named Nedra and Viri, are prepping for dinner guests:

“Give them plenty to drink,” she said. “Do you want to taste something?”

It was the pâté maison. “Oh!” he moaned.


“It’s brilliant!

“Try it with mustard,” she said.

They were having Meursault, fromages, pastries from Leonard’s.

Usually with a luxury like pâté, red wine (particularly Burgundy) gets the nod. But a white wine from Burgundy, like the rich Chardonnays of Meursault, can be a great pairing as well. It’s a wine with enough stuffing and substance to handle the power of pâté. And with a judicious swipe of mustard, a chilled white wine sounds even better.

What Salter’s passage reminded me of is that so many “red wine” foods are actually great with white wine. Steak? You bet. Pizza? Hell yes.

But Salter’s not a one-wine pony. Dang, I’m only halfway through this book and there’s already mentions of Margaux and ruminations on Retsina (!).

Here are a couple of other posts about books with wine moments that got me thinking:

Considering Champagne in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

The Novel “New York 2140” and Wine

Have you read a book where a scene with wine made an impression on you, like Light Years by James Salter did for me? Let me know in the comments.

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Fossil & Fawn Alien Juice is From Outer Space

One thing I love about Fossil & Fawn is their labels. And since this wine doesn’t have a name (well ok “Oregon Red Wine” I guess but that’s a snoozefest) I dub it Alien Juice.

Fossil & Fawn 2018 Oregon Red Wine aka Alien Juice

First of all, this is one blend from outer space: 50% Muller-Thurgau, 25% Pinot Noir, and 25% Marechal “What The” Foch. The 100% carbonic part means the wine is made employing a technique you’d find, say, in Beaujolais that gives the juice a gushingly fruity nature.

This is most definitely a wine to chill. I think I watched football on a weekend afternoon while drinking the F&F AJ. Would recommend any low-key Saturday/Sunday activity. Kind of makes me think of this song by Small Faces:

This video is bonkers, BTW.

Lazy Sunday afternoon
I’ve got no mind to worry
I close my eyes and drift away

Yup, that sounds about right.

Purchased at Thirst Wine Merchants in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

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Persephone Wines Pét Nat is the Perfect Afternoon Wine

I met fellow scribe Rachel Signer in 2015 on a trip to Sicily, right before I moved to New York. We’ve been friends since. She lives in Australia (!) now and is producing her own wines. I was tickled to walk into Thirst Wine Merchants and pick up a bottle from her Persephone Wines label, a pét-nat.

These wines, and particularly Rachel’s, are a fizzy delight. As easy as they are to drink, it turns out pét-nats are very hard to make! I highly recommend reading Rachel’s dispatch from Australia detailing the trials and tribulations of the winemaking process. It’s both entertaining and educational:

Making Pét-Nat Is A Bitch (So Enjoy Drinking It!!!)

For a fizzy wine like this, no need for the fancy stemware. A small juice glass is perfect. I think I paid like $20ish bucks for it but I honestly can’t remember because I bought it along with a bottle of Fossil & Fawn‘s alien juice and the total was like $50something.

I should also mention Rachel’s non-liquid project: Pipette Magazine. It’s an independent, print-only publication about natural wine and the world in its orbit. She’s the editor and publisher, which I image keeps her busy to the point of many anxious yet rewarding moments.

Ok, now get your fizz on!

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An Interview with Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty Ciders

You know I love cider. I spend a dang January living on an idyllic organic family farm and cidery. (Read all about it.) So when I get a chance to taste (drink) it and learn about it, I jump at the chance. I attended a convivial dinner at Jeepney, a very cool Filipino gastropub, in the East Village. There I was introduced to Eleanor Léger. She is the founder of Eden Specialty Ciders in Newport, Vermont.

Not only was I impressed with the ciders, but also with the force of will and dedication Léger has when it comes to making cider in a way that honors the apple, the land, and the tradition. A word that was a theme of the event was “Heritage.” Afterwords it kept swirling around in brain for days. Not in a Citizen Kane “Rosebud” type of way but more thinking about the past, present, and future of hard cider. Regional producers like Eden Specialty Ciders are doing a lot for the, well, heritage of the beverage. So without further adieu, here’s the interview (conducted via email).

Just some of the Eden Specialty Ciders / Photo Ellen Mary Cronin

Q&A With Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty Ciders

Why is the word “heritage” important when talking about cider? What led that word to be a kind of rallying point for cider producers like Eden? Does it go beyond using heritage apple varieties?

Those of us making these kinds of ciders, from heirloom and tannic apple varieties and made like wine, have been trying to find a name for the category for a long time. Groups among us have tried at various times, including “American fine ciders,” “orchard ciders,” and others.  The United States Association of Cider Makers [USACM] put out an initial set of style guidelines for the industry last fall and created “Heritage Ciders” as a category. We are running with it.

It does go beyond using apple varieties that are grown for cider. It also implies ciders that are produced like wine rather than beer: one pressing per year at harvest time and fermentation and aging to develop the flavors of the fruit. This as opposed to pressing apples out of cold storage every few weeks, fermenting fast, and using a recipe to adjust flavor afterward, followed quickly by packaging, usually within 3-4 weeks of juicing.

With Heritage Ciders it is all about expressing the qualities of the particular fruit. With modern ciders it is about making a consistent product where the flavor is determined by a recipe and post-fermentation adjustments. The economic implications for cost are significant. [See Léger’s post on Cidernomics.]

Heritage Ciders tend to be packaged in 750ml sparkling wine bottles because that is the most efficient form for us, in addition to communicating that the ciders are more like wine than like beer.

An Interview with Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty Ciders

Eleanor Léger in the apple orchard.

Is “Heritage” something you want to see codified, defined in a legal manner for use on a label?

The Federal Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau has to approve all labels for cider that has more than 7% alcohol, which most Heritage Ciders do. The TTB in general does not enforce style definitions, except in a very few cases where they have been forced to by the World Trade Organization (ice wine and ice cider being one of those exceptional cases).  

I don’t think we expect or need the term Heritage to be defined legally, as long as the USACM is willing to help provide and support the use of standards. I think those of us who make Heritage Ciders feel that by listing the names of the apple varieties we use, and describing the methods, that is sufficient to get the point across.  If there are bad actors at some point that try to call a modern cider a heritage cider, I think we will just have to hope that the market will figure it out.

What about something similar to the AVA system that wine has for cider? 

AVA is geography based in this country, not process based.  In Europe it is both geography and process based, and very strict which is too much regulation for producers in the US (and starting to be for some people in France and Italy, too). Geography might tell you something about the fruit, but it doesn’t tell you anything about quality or process. I don’t believe there is help to be had from this discussion.

One of the things you talked about what how difficult it is to know what’s in your cider, how it was made, where it came from. Do you think ingredient labeling is something that will happen in the future? Are you for it? What kinds of things would cider fans be surprised are in their cider? What can you learn about what’s in (or not in) your cider based on the limited information on the front/back label?

An Interview with Eleanor Léger of Eden Specialty CidersI think listing the apple varieties is KEY, and that more and more, Heritage Cider producers are doing that.  I do think ingredient labeling is something that will happen for ciders and wines above 7% abv. Right now, most modern ciders are below 7% and are already subject to ingredient facts labeling requirements from the FDA.  

There is a LOT of squirreliness out there among modern cider labels. Shacksbury cans being an example where labels have talked about “English apples” rather than listing bulk hard cider from Europe as an ingredient. Also, processing aids are not ingredients if the compounds are filtered out of the final product. The things I think most people would be surprised about are water and added sugar/corn syrup/aspartame/other sweeteners, and then all those flavors that come out of bottles.

[Note: I reached out to Shacksbury for a response and received a reply from co-founder Colin Davis. Léger also added further clarification. You can read both at the bottom of this interview.]

How big are cans becoming in cider? What are the advantages? Do you think every cidery (with the means) is going to can their kind of go-to, everyday cider?

Cans are HUGE.  Craft beer made them cool again, they are convenient, easy to carry, no risk of broken glass, and most of all [impact] price point. It’s amazing to me how easily people forget the principles of supply and demand: when price is lower, people buy more.

Among Heritage Cider producers I don’t know how many are going to can. Mobile canners make it easier for smaller producers to do it. I think the price point for heritage cider in a can is still high for the general market, so we will see how well it works.

Is there still a stigma on sweetness in cider among a certain segment of beverage professionals? Like “fine” cider equals bone dry and ones with some sweetness are somehow less serious? 

I think there is still a stigma on cider in general! Sommeliers don’t feel comfortable recommending a cider with a dish on the menu as a great pairing. Juliette Pope was about the only person who could pull it off. And yet Heritage ciders are so versatile with food. It reminds me of high-end restaurants in the 80s who finally had great wine lists but would put a Heineken on the drink list to be able to say “yes we have a beer” to those guests uncouth enough to prefer it.

I guess I’m hoping that if the press and trade adopt the term “Heritage Cider” they can more heartily endorse ciders on the menu that will pair well with food and support the reputation of their establishments and their lists. Every good drink menu should have a “Heritage Ciders” section on it. Not some random cans and bottles mixed into the beer section!! Similarly, Cider should be made part of the wine buyer’s responsibility, not the beer buyer’s.


Response from Shacksbury/clarification from Léger regarding labeling (via email):

Colin Davis, co-founder Shacksbury:

I had a good conversation with Eleanor today to talk through this issue. Deciding what to put on a label is tough, both from a compliance perspective, and from a marketing one as well. It is not our intention to be misleading or evasive. We call out our production partners on our website. We often connect industry friends traveling abroad with Simon (England) and Ainara (Spain). We’ve also mentioned them numerous times in news articles and have done events with them in the US. We love Eleanor and her ciders and think that the lengths that she goes to to educate the consumer (on her label and otherwise) is a boon for the industry.


I want to reach out to say that I do believe that Shacksbury’s label is factually accurate and completely legal. I hope nothing I said implied that it is not the case. I’ve spoken with Colin and I have a better understanding of the challenges they have in how to describe the cider while keeping things simple.

While our objective at Eden is to put as much factual information as possible on our can label, that’s a marketing decision, not a legal one. And even then there are legal issues that can get in the way. We would love to say that there is no added sulfites in our can, but that would have required a lab certification and caused a delay in label processing that we weren’t able to get organized for. We wanted to say that our can was packaged by Green Mountain Beverage, but they wouldn’t agree to it.  So suffice it to say that all beverage producers face challenges, and I regret calling out my friends at Shacksbury in the manner I did in that response.

[For another interview with Léger, see Meg Houston Maker’s article in Terroir Review.]

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Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé is Good Any Time of the Year

I got an email from Little Green Pickle, a PR firm in Portland, asking me if I wanted a sample of Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé. It’s “a beautiful and unique rosé the transcends the hype associated with pink wine.” I was like, did you see my VinePair article about drinking rosé beyond the pale?!?

I do not want to be the person cleaning this countertop. / Photo via Hazelfern Cellars

Calling a wine a “winter rosé” would be kind of risky if you were sitting on it…after winter. Or perhaps in the dead of summer something with the word “winter” would transport you to a cooling, snowy oasis. A counterpart to soul-crushing heat and humidity. (In all seriousness, most rosés, even the pale/watery ones benefit from some time in the bottle as they are shipped immediately and usually bottle-shocked. I’ve no doubt this rosé would survive, and perhaps thrive in winter 2019.)

I’ve even written (2012!) about drinking rosé in winter, specifically a richer/darker Bordeaux style called Clairet. Which I was apprehensive about.

How the pink wine pendulum swings.

Now I welcome a deeper color and hue. And just like pale rosé shouldn’t be pegged to a season, nor should heartier ones. The point, of course, with the Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé is to plant their flag during a dead season for pink wine, making a rosé with extra richness and texture. Since it sold out (they held a few bottles back for privileged scribes like myself), obviously they are having success. From a marketing perspective, I like it, too: “Dangit, we’re so gung-ho about rosé lets stick our necks out and call it ‘Winter Rosé.’ TAKE THAT, SUMMER WATER!”

How do they do it? Let’s look at the wine.

Hazelfern Cellars Winter Rosé 2017 ($24)

A blend of 95% Pinot Noir and 5% Barbera, this rosé spent 10 months in neutral French oak. The alcohol clocks in at 12.9%. The back label accurately touts its versatility with poultry, winter veggies, and roasted meats.

I like what the barrel-aging and extra skin-contact bring to the wine. It’s still refreshing. Most boring rosé is closer to bland white wine, leaving you wondering how it even came from red grapes in the first place (besides the color). The Hazelfern Cellars WR definitely has that savory, fruity Pinot Noir character.

If “winter [rosé] is coming,” bring on the deeper-colored, richer, more savory rosés. Keep the White Walkers, tho.

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New Year’s Eve Champagne at Marta in Manhattan

I can’t believe this is going to be my fourth (!) NYE in NYC. One thing has remained constant about the last day of the year: I start the night with some New Year’s Eve Champagne at Marta. Why, you ask?

Just add Champagne. / Photo via Facebook/Marta

Well you can’t beat pizza and Champagne. Whatever toppings/sauce/crust you opt for, there is no more versatile wine to compliment/transform a wild/wide variety of flavors and textures. I don’t even mind (too much) that I’m not drinking it out of a flute.*

Even better: Marta pours from magnums and 3Ls on NYE. I emailed the wine director, Kimberly Ruth Cavoores, to get the inside scoop on what & when.

So starting at 5pm, and until they are gone, here’s what’s popping at Marta:

New Year’s Eve Champagne: Big Bottle Duo

Dhondt-Grellet ‘Les Terres Fines’ Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs 1er Cru (3L)

Bereche & Fils  ‘Reflet d’Antan’ Brut (Magnum)

Both are $30/glass. (Oh, Kimberly says, “And maybe one more….”)

If you are a night owl, you can head down the hall to Vini e Fritti for a complimentary midnight toast of Krug, poured from magnum. (Naturally.)

Of course on a night like New Year’s Eve I’d contact either spot in advance to see what the deal is with reservations and/or walk-ins.

I’ll be grabbing a bar stool at Marta around  4:30 because I do not want to be anywhere near(-ish) Times Square and the insanity pulsating all around. Retreating to Brooklyn after my initial New Year’s Eve Champagne. Then heading to a friend’s house in Red Hook for cassoulet and natty wine(s).

Need some more Champagne thoughts? I have you covered:

Champagne Henriot Makes for an Illuminating Evening

A Most Unique Champagne: R. Dumont & Fils Solera Reserve Brut

How about sparkling wine? Boom:

Crémant is Your Sparkling Wine for the Holidays

Happy New Year, y’all.

*I’m sure Marta has flutes somewhere (I believe a former wine director told me this) and they’d be happy to accomodate me. But pouring from big bottles at bar height is not easy so I will be merciful and drink from a white wine glass. So benevolent of me, I know.

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