The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2013

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Page 85 of 148

THE WANDERING SOMMELIER WHAT TURNS SOMMELIERS ON? GOOD QUESTION���AND ONE THAT WILL, HENCEFORTH, BE THE FOCUS OF RANDY CAPAROSO���S ���WANDERING SOMMELIER��� COLUMNS. ���ED. A New York Sommelier Rediscovers Lodi JORDAN SALCITO GETS A NEW TAKE ON CALIFORNIA WINE story and photos by Randy Caparoso W Sommelier Jordan Salcito with old vine in Lodi���s Bechthold Vineyard, originally planted in 1886. Salcito has her own line of releases under the Bellus Wines label. Sommelier Jordan Salcito with Wanda Woock Bechthold of Lodi���s Bechthold Vineyard. hat���s in the mind of today���s New York based sommeliers? For one thing, they can be very Eurocentric, which is understandable, since sommeliers along the Eastern Seaboard have access to nearly any European wine. This also means their tastes can be skewed more towards wines with lower alcohols, higher acid, less oak, more pronounced minerality and, often enough, earthy, even ���dirty��� components. They are not scared off by brick or brown colors, and what���s a little brettanomyces among friends? Jordan Salcito is a New York���based somm who has only recently seen the error of her ways, after ten years in the business, irst as a grunt in Daniel Boulud���s kitchen, then as a sommelier at Restaurant Daniel, Eleven Madison Park, Crown, Gilt, wd-50, and Nick & Toni���s. This past December, Salcito popped up at Copain Winery in Russian River Valley, standing in as sommelier for Momofuku���s David Chang during one of Copain���s lavish ���Supper Club��� events, selecting wines from Savoie, Alsace and Champagne. But she also found herself surprisingly drawn to wines like Copain���s Brousseau Chardonnay, in which she found the ���luxurious mouthfeel��� expected in California-style wine, but also ���citrusy and bright, balanced and intensely mineral��� qualities���very European! Upon returning home, a friend brought Salcito a bottle of 2011 Turley El Porr��n Cinsault, which proved to be another revelation. Salcito admits having ���preconceived notions,��� because the appellation on the El Porr��n label read Lodi, California. But, she says, ���the wine proved me completely wrong . . . it was beautiful���balanced, fresh, loral, complex and mineral-driven, and relatively low-alcohol!��� After also inding out that the Turley Cinsault came from vines planted in 1886, and were still thriving on their own rootstocks, Salcito says, ���I had to see it for myself.��� So less than three weeks after the Copain dinner, Salcito lew back to California, this time making a beeline to Lodi, where she knocked on the door of Wanda Woock Bechthold, whose great-grandfather, Joseph Spenker, originally planted the Cinsault vines that intrigued the somm. For Salcito, it was important to meet the heir to this legacy, who is now 82 years old, not so much because she owns a heritage vineyard, but also because of the ���passion for the past.��� Fifteen years ago, Bechthold was selling her fruit for barely $200 per ton. Today, thanks to demand created by specialty wineries such as Turley, Michael-David, Onesta and Bonny Doon, the fruit goes for well over $2,000 a ton. Meeting more of Lodi���s growers and winemakers gave Salcito a stronger feel for California���s historic plantings, ���gnarled vines,��� she tells us, that ���carry a century���s worth of stories.��� More important, she���s discovered that, as in Europe, there are winegrowers working in Lodi���s Mediterranean terroirs���including McCay Cellars, St. Amant and Harney Lane���who are ���fermenting with indigenous yeasts and vinifying in small vats . . . everything, from harvesting to pigeage to d��cuvage, done by hand.��� Salcito, who currently works with winemakers in Montalcino, Italy, and C��te de Beaune, France, to produce her own line of wines under the Bellus label, is now seriously considering producing her irst ���authentic��� American wine . . . from Lodi. New York sommeliers may know exactly what they want, but sometimes it takes a few years for them to discover that it can be found right in our own backyard! march 2013 / the tasting panel / 81

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