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…spontaneously fermenting

back to the roots


Since it’s fall and root vegetables are in season now, I thought I would take this time to finally, after a quiet year (of not updating much), get back to my roots.

So here are two visuals of what I consider back to roots that stimulate me. Beet roots and Rosso del Contadino. Both come from the land and from nature. Both are natural. both are delicious


The Contadino 9 continues Cornelissen’s drive to create the best wine he can from the grapes that nature gives him. Thanks to Frank’s careful attention to not disturb nature, she gives him healthy grapes. But if it wasn’t for his intellect and expertise, the wines would not be as wonderful as they are. Because  I know, and especially he knows, and despite what many winemakers say, wine IS NOT made in the vineyards. The raw materials come from the vines, but knowing when to harvest the grapes and what to do next can only be decided on by the winemaker.

This is why Frank’s wines taste of the volcano. Deep, salty and bloody. They come from a place that is undisturbed by humanity and they taste that way. So, with all the respect that is due you Frank, thank you. Thank you for understanding nature and how to take what she gives you and produce some of the most compelling wines I have ever tasted.

Category: 1 WINE, 2 PRODUCER PROFILE, Frank Cornelissen - Mt. Etna (Sicila), Italy, natural wine (100% living wine)


VinNatur 2011 – producers to keep an eye on

Claude Bourguignon discussing soil life & microorganisims

Just got back from Zurich where I was cordially invited by Angiolino Maule of La Biancara. Not only does Maule make fantastic wines and value prices, he is also acting president of the VinNatur organization.   Day one was spent mostly attending a seminar with guest speakers such as Isabelle Legeron MW, Lydia & Claude Bourguignon, Federico Giotto, Terje Meling and Jonathan Nossiter (Mondovino). The day was interesting and long, but luckily concluded with an open tasting with 98 natural wine makers and their wines.

This is one of the reasons we attended the event, right?

All in all, there are not many tastings where so many amazing producers and wines can be found in one place. Overall the quality of the producers was high, especially in my opinion, the producers from Slovenia.  In any case, here is my quick rundown of the producers I felt showed promise, and were in my opinion the “ones to watch”

Davide Spillare showed real promise with Dolce Racrei Sparkling Passito

24-year old Davide Spillare from Gambellara, Italy (Veneto).  Worked under the guidance of Angiolino Maule, so it wasn’t surprising that his wines were not only good, but showed real depth and freshness without being “over the top” or overripe.  His whites (which I actually preferred) where made with very little sulfur added and his red was made completely without.  His Garganega-based sparkling pasito Dolce Racrei (which I have sold for about a year now at Jacob’s) is just delicious. Dried hay and fruit with a crisp acidic background and slightly smokey finish is perhaps one of the most interesting dessert wines I have tasted.

Next were the wines of Bodegas Bruno Ruiz (Toledo). These wines have been in Norway for a few  years now, but for every year they get better and better. The whites have a depth you don’t often find at the super-value price levels they are at. More and more of their wines are being made without the addition of sulfur indicating that their fruit quality has to be fantastically healthy. And their labeling is improving, or rather becoming more fun to look at..

The wines of Jean-Marc Espinasse of Domaine Rouge-Bleu from the Southern Rhône showed amazing fruit quality and depth. Yes, alcohol levels where high here, but still remained fresh. We tasted a very-old Grenache wine that was just so deep and delicious. He also splashed me an experimental, unlabeled Nerello Mascaslese that he was making on Mt. Etna. This also showed real promise, but a tad too much on the oak for my palate. Oh, and nice labels as well. these are actually what got me to his table to begin with

Dorado pictured here with Alice Feiring

Next were the wines of Marcial Dorado from Portugal.  I don’t have any wines from Portugal on my wine list. Not because there isn’t some quality wine in Portugal, but because I haven’t found any wines that I really like and that have the philosophy I search for in a wine producer. These wines were not only being made naturally, but again showed that real quality of fruit I expect in a wine, a living wine. Super-juicy, drinkable, low alcohol, deep and no oak. No oak in a wine is hard enough to find, but in Spain and Portugal even harder. The Alvarinho-based whites were especially interesting to me.

For me the highlight of the event was of course the wines of Frank Cornelissen whose wines never stop impressing me for their expressiveness. So deep and pure. I still have yet to taste wines like these. Love

Overall, the only criticism I had of VinNatur  is on the use of barriques by many producers.  There is still way too much barriques use for my palate and I wished that wine makers who prefer using oak, would use larger and older format wood so that their incredible fruit would shine through


Category: 1 WINE, natural wine (100% living wine), VinNatur 2011


Wine, wedding and thank you

I consider myself an extremely lucky guy in many many ways.  But, there are two things especially that make me smile and feel fortunate. The first you know about already if you are reading this blog, that is wine. The other thing that makes me smile and feel fortunate is my new wife.

I met my wife on January 1st, 2010, we were engaged 4 months later on May 8th, and we got married July 9th, 2011.   The ceremony was a beautiful one that took place in Tarnów, Poland amongst  family and close friends. The reception that followed was a blast and thanks to some close friends, fantastic wines were enjoyed (many of which were a surprise).

Thank you for the 12 Magnums of 2010 Munjebel Bianco. Thank you for the 6 magnums of 2010 Felice Nebbiolo.  Thank you for the Asinoi, Lia Vi and  Mosto Parzialmente Fermentato.  Thank you for the Grüner, Blaufrankisch and the Graupert.  Thank you for the Flon Flon and the Anne François Joseph.

Thank you family. Thank you friends. But most of all, thank you Magdalena.

I will be on a brief pause for the coming weeks to celebrate my new life with my new wife.  Don’t worry, I will be back before you know it with more short stories, tasting notes and whatever makes me smile.



Category: Events


ageing gracefully

I was raised in the Bay Area of California and have been enjoying what i believe to be authentically prepared Chinese food for many years.  Oh how I long for those “great” Chinese restaurants which are totally absent here in Bergen, so when a friend invited me over for homemade wonton soup, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Needless to say, the soup was truly excellent. But there was a surprise waiting to greet me.  An old friend whom I had not seen in a couple of years. And I must say, the years have treated my friend very well.  You know when you bump into an old friend and you notice how great they look?  You notice that they have lost some of that baby fat and they are just glowing…

Let me introduce you to my old friend. The 2007 Contadino 5.  Two vintages later, and this ’07 is looking, smelling and tasting better than ever.  This bottle hasn’t had the easiest two years either. I know it wasn’t stored under the greatest of conditions. But pay no matter, the wine was still alive and vibrant!  A few minutes in the glass and aromas of wild spring flowers and red berries started to jump out of the glass.  Even rose-colored rose pedals graced its aromas.  None of the “edges” this wine had in its youth were there anymore. They were replaced by sweet, ripe tannins and  a ripe acidity that was still keeping this wine on its toes!  No signs of oxidation, fatigue or development beyond her two years.  A glorious wine that rewarded its consumers for waiting those two years..

….thank you……

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, ageing gracefully, natural wine (100% living wine)

1 comment

Frank Cornelissen – 2010 News – Our 10th Anniversary Harvest!

Frank was kind enough to send me this email and allow me to post it here for my readers. Thank you Frank.

FrakeClaradipingere - Frank & Clara Painting

Dear friends,
The picking of the 2010 harvest finished on November 1st.
A special harvest in many ways for me. First of all as this is my 10th harvest (we survived the huge financial and economic risks), second as this was probably the most difficult one so far because of the risks of loosing over half of the crop (but we didn’t!) and third because of the new cellar we have inaugurated with this harvest (the extra space was a blessing!).

2010 was dominated by a lot of rain since the beginning of the season; a lot of vegetation resulted in vines with more vigor than usual, needing more canopy management, especially the vineyards in the lower quotes. The high vineyards did very well in terms of extra water overall during the year and this was a blessing for the vines. The summer was dry as usual and the ripening this year was accelerated over this period. Autumn was epic in terms of excessive humidity. Most of all we lacked the classic winds this year that keep the air dry; nights and mornings were dominated by humidity and the extra rain showers weren’t a help.
We have lost quite a bit of white grapes this year as at a given moment I decided to go for botrytis which in the end hardly didn’t develop and so we cut down lots of grapes due to the grey mould developing. It was either this or picking unripe watery grapes… difficult decisions especially when looking at all the grapes on the ground…

Frankfolature - Frank Punching Down

The difficulty in keeping grapes healthy was great and monitoring and cleaning to push to ripeness was extremely demanding this year with long days in the vineyards and even longer nights in the cellar. The new cellar with more space to work in an ordered and cleanly way came at the right moment and was a blessing in these difficult conditions.

All is fermenting for the moment and we will be pressing a bit earlier also as the fermentations on the reds are finishing faster than usual. The whites ferment slowly and doesn’t seem to want to stop… The rosato has been produced this year and was separated from the skins on November 7th. We used the running juice only and have 2 anforas aging with the malolactic nearly finished.

Another novelty is the arrival of a new person to our crew: Samuel Vinciulli, a graduate in enology who has “passed the test” during our harvest, will stay for two years to join us. Australian-Italian, Sam has worked in many different cellars and will be a welcome help with his positive energy and expertise in the cellar so that we can move into another level of quality and research over the next decade.

FrankeSamanfore - Frank & Sam Amphorae

During the winter period we will finally open our blog to be able to inform our clients and friends of our “works-in-progress”.
We will keep you updated!

Cordiali saluti,

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Frank Cornelissen - 2010 News, natural wine (100% living wine)


Molten Lava in Not So Frigid Poland

I recently had the opportunity to meet with some wine enthusiasts in Warsaw, Poland. I didn’t know what to expect before the meeting except the fact that I had promised to bring 3 bottles of Magma and that they were extremely interested in tasting them.  On their part there was the promise to taste some Josko Gravner which also gave me something to look forward to.

Wojciech Bońkowski

Andrzej Daszkiewicz

I have to admit that most of my wine knowledge and experience have been gained living in Norway over the last 7 or so years.  I have tasted among whom I consider to be some of the best wine tasters I have seen.  Norwegians have refined palates and an amazing ability to analyze wine. I certainly feel privileged to have earned my experience in this country.  This being said, I was blown away by the tasting abilities of the small group that was gathered at  Mielżyński’s for this tasting.

Tomasz Kurzeja

Ewa Wieleżyńska

In a country that is jumping economically by leaps and bounds, most of it in the last two decades, it is still more common to see large commercial brands dominating the market.  This year I have witnessed wine shops opening up like mushrooms popping up after a rainfall, and often disappearing as quickly as those prized mushrooms. It was certainly a breath of fresh air, and of relief, to meet with such a group that not only had accumulated enormous wine knowledge, but who also seemed to really understand and enjoy wine without being captivated by a label, and have been doing so for years.

We met at Mielżyński’s, a warehouse of sorts that is an import company, a warehouse, distribution center, wine bar and restaurant.  A concept founded by Robert Mielżyński,  born in Canada, studied Oenology in Fresno, California, then moved back to his native Poland.  A concept that seems to be working well for Robert judging by the fact that it was a Monday night and there were no empty tables.  The wine selection was quite diverse ranging from Domaine de Chevalier to Frédéric Magnien to Allesverloren. There was no wine list, just cases and cases of wine that you can pick and grab yourself, or have somebody help you with your selection.  Having lived in Norway for over 7 years now (where the government-run wine monopoly system is in full force), it has been a while since I have seen a place that you could buy wine to drink there or take-away.  The dinner menu was presented to us on a portable chalk board, like you might see in a Paris bistro, and included simple (and delicious) dishes like pumpkin soup, Cornish game hen and a couple of pasta dishes.

Robert Mielżyński

My first Polish wine experience

Katarzyna Niemyjska

We started with a wine produced in Poland. A wine made not with grapes from the Vitis Vinifera species of vines responsible for almost every bottle of wine we consume, but rather from the crossing of  the Vitis Labrasca family and Vitis Vinifera.  The grape was called Hibernal, a white variety developed in Germany derived from a Seibel 7053 (V. Labrasca) & Riesling (V. Vinifera) cross.  An interesting wine made by a winery owned by Katarzyna Niemyjska and her husband with grapes from organic vineyards a few hours south of Warsaw.  On the nose the wine was slightly reductive at first, but with some swirling of the glass, the wine had smoky, mineral notes with light scents of lemons and herbs, most noticeably basil.  On the palate, lemons and bitter oranges, minerals and chalk. A bone dry wine with a nice acidic back bone and a slightly bitter finish. A fine and very interesting wine.

We then tasted good efforts from Zind Humbrecht, La Stoppa, Ostertag and Chateau Tour des Gendres.  We then moved on to some astounding wines from Josko Gravner. A 2000 Ribolla Gialla aged in Botti followed by a 2001 Ribolla Gialla in Amphora.  The difference from one wine to the next was astounding.  The 2001 Amphora version of the Ribolla had layers and layers of complex aromas and nuances that the 2000 just didn’t have. Botti versus Amphora OR 2000 versus 2001? You tell me….

We moved on to the Damijan Ribolla Gialla 2002 from Friuli Venezia-Giulia, on the border of Slovenia.  Damijan Podversic pursues natural winemaking, which he learned from the aforementioned, great Friulian producer Josko Gravner.  He releases his vintages only when he deems them ready.  This was an intriguing effort from a not so intriguing vintage.  A skin macerated Ribolla, fermented only with indigenous yeasts, with a structure to rival most red wines  yet fresh enough to quaff even the most thirsty wine drinker.  This was my first time tasting the wines of Damijan and I look forward to the next.  There is very likely a bright future for Damijan Podversic.

We completed the tasting with 3 versions of Frank Cornelissen’s Magma 2. All hailing from the 2002 vintage, each bottle representing a different Contrada. We tasted the Marchesa, the Calderara and the Trefiletti.  All three wines showed extremely well, with the Marchesa being my favorite.

According to Frank, the Marchesa comes from the part of the vineyard that is normally very sun exposed and has a good balance between tannins and density.  The alcohol is rather low (13,7%) on this wine in this vintage.   The grapes were harvested on November 2nd and 504 bottles were produced.   Light red with very little age showing considering this was an 8 year-old wine made without the use of sulfur.  None to very little browning on the edges. Extremely youthful on the palate as well, with even a slight “spritz” on the tongue like you might find in a wine bottled within the last 12 months.  Very Poulsard-like fruit (think Overnoy here and you might get the idea), medium ripe acidity and tannins that increased with some time in the glass. A delicious wine with tons of drinkability.

The Calderara comes from a vineyard that is very stony and sun exposed.  In a cool vintage like 2002, the fragrances are very Pinot like according to Frank.  In general this contrada produces very high alcohol wines when picked ripe. Harvested on November 1st, 297 bottles produced.  This wine on the other hand showed its more serious side with hints of meat and herbs. The tannins held longer and the wine was darker and more “masculine” compared to the sensual femininity of the Marchesa.

The Trefiletti vineyard is located in Rovitello and is difficult to push to ripeness without losing all fruit due to rot (grey as well as noble).  “This is the only time I have been able to produce Magma there due to the above mentioned climatic difficulties. I love this place for its balanced tannins, structure and elegance when all odds and ends fall together in one vintage, like 2002 pushing all limits”.  Harvested October 30th, 515 bottles produced.  This bottle was the most advanced of the three wines and showed it’s higher alcohol (14,4%) a bit on the tongue with hints of olives and truffles not found on the other two Magmas.

When sharing my tasting notes of the Magmas with Frank, he came back with this:  “This is by far the most evolved set of wines I have ever produced. Beside this fact, I have always thought the Calderara was the most feminin/Burgundian of the three. Less tannic than for example the Marchesa which always needed a bit more time.
The Trefiletti was, I think, an off bottle. Too much oxygen exchange due to a lesser cork has led to a tired wine. This is the more younger and best balanced of all three crus.”

This day in Warsaw, amongst such people and great wines, created a warmth inside that helped me feel at home in Poland.

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, Molten Lava in Not So Frigid Poland


“I’m Not Drinking Any Fucking" Pinot Noir!

Have you’ve seen the movie Sideways? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. This is a movie about wine, and at the same time, not about wine. If you have seen it, you should remember this part of the movie.  It helped boost sales of Pinot Noir in The States and of course decrease Merlot sales. I witnessed this phenomenon first hand. I vividly remember drinking a glass of wine at Lavanda Restaurant & Wine Bar in Palo Alto when this movie hit the screens. I also remember that the movie was showing right next door to Lavanda and after the movie let out, people often wandered in and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir.

It’s been 6 years since the release of this movie and everyone still talks about Pinot Noir. In fact, to most wine connoisseurs, there is no more seductive grape than the Pinot Noir.  We knew this before the movie, and we still know it today. I too am a sucker for the great Burgundian Pinot Noir.  It’s a grape that can truly seduce with aromas of raspberries, cherries, forest floor and even flowers.  The Pinot Noir’s high acidity gives the wine freshness and longevity.  When you drink a truly great Pinot Noir, it can make you smile.

This being said folks, it’s time to move on and say “I’m not drinking any fucking Pinot Noir!” It’s time to give other (red) grapes a chance. Other grapes that I often look to to seduce me and make me smile!  Even getting me to jump out of my chair!  So what grapes am I talking about? Which grapes am I drinking most often these days?? Read ON!! Read the rest of this entry »

Category: "I'm not drinking any fucking Pinot Noir!", 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, natural wine (100% living wine)


The supermodel & the girl next door

2005 Ghislaine Barthod Bourgogne Rouge (supermodel) VS. 2005 Frank Cornelissen Munjebel Rosso (girl next door)

Many of you are going to think this wasn’t a fair comparison, so I will start this post by addressing that issue.

Ghislaine Barthod has been among my favorite wine makers in Burgundy for many years. Her Chambolle-Musigny “Les Charmes” can make me dance. I know I am not alone in this opinion.  Ghislaine Barthod owns approximately 6.75ha in the Burgundy village of Chambolle-Musigny.  Ghislaine took over the wine-making responsibilities from her father Gaston in 1987, and from the 1992 vintage, her name appears on the labels.  Ghislaine has since brought down the yields and added a sorting table. There is more temperature control during vinification now, more pigeage (punching down of the cap) and less remontage (pumping over).  She now bottles herself rather than contracting out and only fines and filters when absolutely necessary.  Her 2005’s are known to be great, even at the Bourgogne Rouge (Village) level. Read the rest of this entry »

Category: 1 WINE, natural wine (100% living wine), The supermodel & the girl next door


My Top 9 List – February 2010

I thought that publishing my top 9 list would be fun for people to see and also for me to look at in the future to see if my favorites remain my favorites and also to watch my moods change!  Why is it a top 9 list instead of a top 10 list?  Why not?   For now, the wine style I can’t seem to get enough of is that lightish red colored, fresh and slightly CO2’d wine sitting at between 11 and 12% alcohol. Wine number 2 is a good example of what I am talking about (although the last bottle I drank noted an alcohol of 12.5.5% – there’s no mistake in my post, this is exactly the way it was printed on the label)!  (I have left out vintages because I didn’t feel that they were necessary here.. )

  1. 1.  Frank Cornelissen Munjabel Bianco
  2. 2.  Jean-Marc Brignot Rayure
  3. 3.  Camillo Donati Rosso della Bandita
  4. 4.  Laureano Serres Montagut Vinyes Arrencades Blanc 2008 *
  5. 5.  Maison Pierre Overnoy Arbois Pupillin
  6. 6.  Domaine Le Mazel Cuvée Raoul
  7. 7.  Camillo Donati Malvasia Secco
  8. 8.  Domaine Griottes P’tite Gâterie
  9. 9.  Jean-Pierre Robinot Concerto d’Oniss

* (I noted the 2008 vintage here because this is the first and only vintage of this wine I have ever tasted.)

Of course I have many more favorites and could have made this list quite long… but these are my favorite 9 for now!

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, My Top 9 List, natural wine (100% living wine)


Unfiltered Wines & Deconstructed Grapes


And along came natural wines. Pure, fermented “grape juice”. I find it difficult these days to drink wines that I can see through.  I’m not saying I want to have a glass of super-dark, jammy, inky wine.  In fact, I like wines that are lighter in 2009-11-06_24702009-11-06_2499color and fresher in taste.  What I am actually saying  is, I prefer my wines to be totally unfined and unfiltered.  I love cloudy wines, wines with bits and pieces of “deconstructed grapes” floating around freely. A glass of wine that I can’t see through because of the living particles afloat in the glass.  I believe that fining and filtering a wine is partly to blame for the “death” of a wine, along with over-sulfuring. Read the rest of this entry »

Category: 1 WINE, 9 WINE THOUGHTS, natural wine (100% living wine), Unfilterd Wines & Deconstructed Grapes