Meet The “Crazy French Woman” Behind RAW Wine Fair

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-4-14-24-pmIf you haven’t heard yet, here’s the good news: RAW Wine Fair, the natural wine expo originally founded in London, is popping-up in Bushwick next weekend, Sun + Mon Nov 6-7 (99 Scott Av in Brooklyn, a 5-minute walk from the Jefferson L Train). There’s still time to get tickets–and you can also plan to attend one of the after-parties happening around Brooklyn and Manhattan. For Vogue.com, I profiled Isabelle Legeron, the only French female Master of Wine and an incredibly passionate spokesperson for the natural wine movement. Check out the story here.

You can find out more info on RAW Wine here (I think if you show up on the day-of without a ticket, it should be fine, FYI). Below, I’ve compiled a broad representation of the after-parties and dinners happening around RAW. The easiest thing to do is just show up at The Ten Bells on any given night between Nov 4-8 to find winemakers parties and plenty of juice flowing. See you there!

RAW Wine After-Parties, Dinners, Events // note that prices generally do not include tax or gratuity

Sunrise Sunset: Post-RAW pop-up dinner party, Sunday Nov 6th, starting at 6pm 

Keep the party going post-RAW while staying in Bushwick, with Asian-themed bar food by chef Gary Kim (Sheep & Wolves / co-founder Anju) alongside wines BTG or bottles from Alexandre Bain, Chateau de Beru, Finca Parrera and Zanotto.

Rouge Tomate Chelsea: Jean-Pierre Rietsch and Tom Shobbrook, Nov 4, 6:30-10pm

These winemakers will be taking over the bar room of Rouge Tomate Chelsea, with special BTG offerings. No tickets or reservations necessary.

Also at Rouge Tomate Chelsea: Dinner with Sepp Muster and Franz Strohmeier Nov 9, time

The 16 seats at RTC’s communal tables will be filled for this dinner, with a family style menu featuring the hosted producers. To complement the pours from these Austrian natural wine rockstars, a vegetable-focused Austrian feast will be served (spaetzle and kraut!). $99; email or call restaurant for reservations.

Il Buco: Live music and Italian winemaker dinner, Tues Nov 8, 7-11pm

Producers will be on hand for the evening and chatting with guests, including: Franco Terpin, Il Cancelliere, Cantina D’Angello, Cantina de Barone, Fabio De Beaumont, La Maliosa, Andrea Scovero, Viña Enebro and Denis Montanar. Sugarman 3 will be performing live during dinner, featuring Neal Sugarman on saxophone, Adam Scone on Hammond organ, and Rudy Elbin on drums. Buy tickets here, $75/person (drinks will be charged separately).

Barano: Andrea Scovero & Franco Terpin dinner, Monday, Nov. 7, 7:30pm

At this new casual eatery in Brooklyn, these two iconic Italian producers will host a tasting of some of the finest offerings coming out of Piedmont and Friuli. Featured wines include: Scovero 2013 Nebbiolo, 2014 Dolcetto, 2014 Barbera; Terpin 2015 Quinto Quarto Bianco, 2015 Quinto Quarto Ramato, 2008 Ribolla Gialla, 2011 Sialis Pinot Grigio Ramato, 2009 Jakot, 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. Tickets $105; buy here.

Sel Rrose: Special dinner with Theo Milan (Domaine Henri Milan), Nov 9, 6:30-9pm

In the chic, intimate Sel Rrose space on Delancey, enjoy a specially prepared, 4-course menu with 8 delicious wines from this Provence producer, including a vertical of Clos Milan from ’06-‘09. $110; email doreen@diamondsommelierservices.com for reservations.

El Quinto Pino: Alta Alella dinner, Nov 7, 7-10pm

This is a 4-course dinner prepared by chefs Alex Raij & Eder Montero with winemaker Jose-Maria Pujol Busquet of organic estate Alta Alella in Northern Spain. $68; buy tickets here.

Brooklyn Wine Exchange: Zusslin wines seminar, Nov 2nd at 7pm

One of Alsace’s most iconic naturally-working estates, Marie Zusslin will conduct a seminar about her winery and her biodynamically made wines, showing a vertical of her Rieslings Grand Cru, no-sulfur-added Crémant de, and Pinot Noir. More info here, reserve seats by calling the store.

Diner Airstream: Joe Swick dinner hosted by Uva Wines, Nov 5th, 7:30pm

A 3-course meal paired with Joe’s beautiful Oregon wines, including some back-vintages—in a vintage airstream behind Diner! $85; for reservations email lucy@uvawines.com.

Tertulia: “Soleras & Smoke: A Night of Sherry And Wood-Fire-Grilled Fare” Nov 7, 9:30pm until late (un-related to RAW, but still cool!)

Pop-up sherry bar hosted by En Rama, with food from Speedy Romeo. Organizer Nick Africano aims to provide a relaxed, fun setting for discovering “the mysteries and myths of sherry,” for “novices and pros alike.”

The Ten Bells: “Meet the Winemakers” parties, Nov 5-8, around 8:30/9pm until late

As usual, The Ten Bells will be the point de rendez-vous for winemakers and wine lovers alike who want to get loud and rowdy. There will be 50 wines by-the-glass at low margin, so you can re-taste whatever you loved at RAW, along with—these are Sev’s words—“dancing on the tables, burning the place down!” On election night (the 8th, duh), there will be a special American natural winemakers night, featuring Brianne Day, Joe Swick, Evan Lewandowski, and more. Below is the complete line-up:

MEET THE RAW WINEMAKERS @ THE TEN BELLS

Saturday Nov. 5th, 8:30pm

Géraud Bonnet – Ferme apicole Desrochers

Jaques Perritaz – Cidrerie du Vulcain

Clémence Lelarge – Lelarge-Pugeot

Jérôme Bretaudeau – Domaine de Bellevue

François de Nicolay – Domaine Chandon de Briailles

Isabelle Jolly & Jean-Luc Chossart – Domaine Jolly-Ferriol

Luca Garbarolio – Carussin

Xavier Ledogar – Domaine Ledogar

Antonin Azzoni – Le Raisin et l’Ange

Philippe Chaigneau – Château Massereau

Even Bakke – Clos de Trias

Sunday Nov. 6th, 9pm

Marie Zusslin, Domaine Zusslin

Franz Strohmeier – Wein & Sektmanufaktur Strohmeier

Eduard Tscheppe & Stephanie Tscheppe-Eselböck – Gut Oggau

Sepp Muster – Weingut Maria & Sepp Muster

Rudolf Trossen – Weingut Rita & Rudolf Trossen

Ewald Tscheppe – Werlitsch

Petr Nejedlík – Dobrá Vinice

Kim Engle, Debra Bermingham & Katy Koken – Bloomer Creek Vineyard

Tracey & Jared Brandt – Donkey & Goat

Christian Tschida

Jason Edward Charles – Vinca Minor Wines

Hardy Wallace – Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery

Tony Coturri – Coturri Winery

Joe Pedicini – Montebruno

Monday Nov. 7th, 8:30pm (also Sev’s birthday!)

Jean-Pierre Rietsch – Domaine Rietsch

Ricardo Zanotto – Zanotto Col Fondo

Alexandre Bain – Domaine Bain

Athenais de Beru – Château de Beru

Alberto Anguissola & Diego Ragazzi – Casè

Fred Niger – Domaine de l’Ecu

Theophile Milan – Domaine Milan

Olivier Paul-Morandini – Fuori Mondo

Rubén Parera Renau – Finca Parera

Tom Shobbrook – Shobbrook Wines

Tuesday Nov. 8th – “bad ombrés and nasty women” theme, 8:30pm

Brianne Day – Day Wines

Deirdre Heekin – La Garagista Farm & Winery

Joe Pedicini – Montebruno

Joe Swick – Swick wines

Kim Engle, Debra Bermingham & Katy Koken – Bloomer Creek Vineyard

Evan Lewandowski – Ruth Lewandowski

Shaunt Oungoulian, Samuel Baron & Diego Roig – Living Wines Collective

Kenny Likitprakong – The Hobo Wine Company

Hardy Wallace – Dirty & Rowdy Family Winery

Tony Coturri – Coturri Winery

Shaunt Oungoulian – Samuel Baron – Diego Roig – Living Wines Collective

Darek Trowbridge – Old World Winery

Phillip Hart & Mary Morwood Hart – Ambyth Estate

Jason Edward Charles – Vinca Minor Wines

Lewis Dickson – La Cruz de Comal

Tracey & Jared Brandt – Donkey & Goat

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The Eclectic, Vibrational Wines of Christian Binner, In Alsace

A swooping, curving tangle of wood, elegant and calming yet also just a bit architecturally chaotic–this was my impression of the new winery at Domaine Binner, a biodynamic estate in Alsace. The first harvest in the finished winery took place in 2012; Christian Binner had it built in an effort to create a harmonious, integrated energy that’s in line with Rudolph Steiner’s anthroposophy. Its graceful curves lend it a sense of movement or time passing, and the pale wood provides a subtle, forestal aspect to the winery. Christian opted to use local wood and stone after visiting other biodynamic wineries and noticing that they were made of concrete, held together with chemical glue, which Christian felt was contradictory to the philosophy, plus smelled bad. With the new winery, Christian feels that his wines are more stable and have less issues with VA (volatile acidity, a wine flaw). Prior to construction, Christian hired someone to measure the “vibrations” of the space before construction began, and was told that it reportedly had the energetic quality of a monastery. In other words, good vibes.

The winery stands a short drive from the city of Colmar, in southern Alsace. I was in Alsace on a press trip and put in a specific request to visit the Binner domaine, having tasted and liked the wines here and there, and knowing that it was biodynamic, natural, and in a portfolio that I admire very much (Jenny & Francois).

Christian comes from many generations of agriculturalists in Alsace; in the 1970s his family focused on grape growing and winemaking. The Binner estate has several Grand Cru holdings (Alsace’s 51 Grand Cru sites are located on steep slopes, with very diverse soils), including the well-known Schlossberg hill, the nearby Wineck Schlossberg site, and Kaefferkopf. I can’t claim to be an expert on Alsace terroir, but generally speaking, the Grand Cru sites produce wines with much more complexity and ageability, as you might expect.

Binner Two Rieslings_Rsigner
Sulfur-free vs low-sulfur Riesling

As with many of the winemakers who interest me, Christian is something of an outlier in his region. He makes nearly all of his wines completely without sulfur. To this point, we tasted the exact same wine, vinified with a bit of sulfur in one bottling, and sulfur-free in another, side by side. (Christian aims to make wine without any sulfur, but occasionally adds it when the juice requires stabilization.) It was Christian’s 2014 entry-level Riesling, “Les Salon des Bains.” The low-sulfur version (10mg was added) had a golden color, a smoky nose, and stewed apricots and ripe fruits on the palate. The low-sulfur version also underwent a light filtration (I didn’t get details on what, exactly, was the method), whereas the sulfur-free wine did not (most of Christian’s wines are unfiltered). Christian likes to harvest grapes on the later side, and as a result I found the stewed stonefruit note present in all his white wines. The sulfur-free version of the same wine was, to me, livelier, with more acidity on the palate, and a touch of spritz. Both wines were very good, although if I had my choice I would drink the sulfur-free version.

As a winemaker, Christian likes to appreciate the unique qualities of each vintage; he enjoys being “spontaneous and experimental,” which perhaps makes it difficult to understand his wines, as they must vary from year to year. “I don’t want to make a brand, that’s bullshit for me. The vibration, you lose it when you want to be too much controlled,” Christian told me emphatically. Clearly, energetics are important to him.

Most of Christian’s wines are made in an oxidative style, with long élevage in barriques. The wines profess a lot of complexity, great acidity particularly with the Pinot Noirs, and exceptional personality. I feel that each time you drink a bottle of Christian Binner’s wine, you’re in for a philosophical experience. These are somewhat challenging wines, in my opinion. They demand a bit of attention, quite possibly a decanter, and a willingness to see where they lead you. Every wine I tasted was quite good, although my palate tends to prefer a touch of oxidization.

Binner tasting_RSignerMy favorites were the ’08 Auxerrois (purposely released late), a 100 percent varietal wine (highly unusual for this grape in Alsace) that displayed preserved peaches, a hint of nutmeg, and a rich, sexy, mineral quality on the palate, with a burst of acidity. As well, I loved the SI ROSE, a wine that Christian says was inspired by Sev Perru, the talented and knowledgeable wine director at The Ten Bells in Manhattan. It’s a stunning orange wine, made of 2/3 Gewurtztraminer (such an underappreciated grape) and 1/3 Pinot Gris. The structure and freshness were overwhelmingly impressive, and the nose was a beautiful mélange of rose petals and tangerines. As well, I found the 2013 Wineck Schlossberg Grand Cru wine to be quite good; it comes from a valley near the famed Schlossberg hill, spends 18 months in barrel without any topping-off or sulfur additions, and is a pleasant shock of acidity, with an overall austere and mineral quality, and that dose of stewed apricots I saw in all of Christian’s whites.

Something Christian said really resonated with me: he speculated that natural wines have become popular in cities like New York of late because we have a strong desire to connect with nature. I really do feel that, in the concrete jungle of the city, in a digitally mediated world, a bottle of wine can help us feel a bit less distant from the trees and the stars surrounding the world’s best vineyards, and certainly wine makes us feel more human. I wonder if it could be true of the Binner wines that many of them would best be enjoyed in France, where they don’t have to travel as far—I really don’t know. But I’d definitely be willing to test this theory out—so let me know if any of you would like to share a bottle of Binner sometime! And if you’re ever in Alsace, I do recommend visiting Christian, as he’s very hospitable and generous with his time, and speaks great English. In other woods, good vibes.