Thank you, Jackie Hamilton, for working with Jean-Marc's design and then doing this wonderful drawing for the Ephemera wine label.
Jean-Marc and I hope to see many of you at our wine tasting/booksigning in Colorado--at The Bookworm of Edwards on March 10th, at 2pm.
Also, Jean-Marc and Max will be attending a wine dinner in Houston at Bistro Provence on 03/21. Reservation needed at [email protected] or at 713 827 8008. He will also attend a wine tasting on March 23rd from Noon to 6 PM, at French Country Wines, 2433 Bartlett St, Houston. Tel : 713 993 95 00
Today's Word: la cuve
: vat, tank
EPHEMERA by Jean-Marc Espinasse
In September 2017, as we had just moved out from Mas des Brun and when I was still grieving about the loss of this magnificent piece of promised land, Robert Camuto, who had already related our story in the Wine Spectator, went to interview me to figure out what happened i.e. my fiasco...
I won't say much about this "painful" experience (you can actually read it there) but, at the end of the interview, Robert asked me what might be my next wine project...and I responded :
"If I had a chance to make wine in Oregon … that would be my first choice."
As I had already done a wine project in another place (Rosso Azzurro in Sicily), I thought I could reproduce the same idea in OR where I have built such a wonderful relationship with many people. I knew Jay Somers for many years and decided to ask him if I could make a little batch at his fantastic amazing J. Christopher winery...and he kindly agreed to make this dream come true.
Here is how I made this wine :
Tasting berries on the wonderful slopes of Dundee Hills
I decided to make a light, fresh and easy drinking Pinot Noir for many reasons. First and most important is that more and more I tend to enjoy drinking these kind of wines, made only from grape juice and no other additives/intervention (industrial yeasts, sugar, sulfur, filtration...). Those kind of wines do have a high level of "drink-ability" and you enjoy them with joy and pleasure casually, like wine should actually be, for me. The other reason I decided to make this style of wine is that I was hosted by a winery where I was not going to stay more than 2 weeks and I wanted to make sure they would not have to worry and work too much on my wine. In making this short and light maceration, I knew this wine could be bottled soon and then be soon out of the winery's hands.
"Pied de Cuve" fermenting
Jay sourced for me some grapes on the beautiful Dundee Hills Slopes, grapes that would fit with the style at which I was aiming. Those grapes would bring a higher acidity and smooth tannins. And while tasting the berries, I started to collect some clusters to start what we call in France a "Pied de Cuve" or starter. This is actually a little fermentation happening in a big bucket which will permit us to start right away the fermentation once the grapes are received. The reason to start the fermentation right away is because there is no sCuveulfur addition which preserve from oxidation.
Actually, wineries use sulfur when grapes are in the tank to eliminate the unwanted bacterium. Sulfur is also an anti oxidant which protects the grape juice from oxidation.
My beautiful, impeccable sanitary Pinot Noir Grapes
Since I was certain my grapes were in perfect sanitary conditions, I did not have to use sulfur but I needed to avoid the grape juice oxidation and that is why this starter is great since it permits me to start the fermentation right away, avoiding any oxidation before this process starts since when fermentation happens, the grape juice is then totally protected by the carbonic gas produced.
Grape juice fermenting
I did 3 fermenting tanks, one with 100% de-stemmed grapes, one with half de-stemmed and half whole cluster and one 100% whole cluster.
During the first days of fermentation, I pumped over the cap to homogenize the tank and bring some air into the juice...
Pumping over the cap
But as I intended to make a light wine, I only kept the juice in contacts with the skins for 5 days and then shoveled all the grapes to the press machine.
Shoveling grapes and tasting the fermented juices
This fermenting wine finished its process without skins and after be racked to separate the lies, just a touch of sulfites have been added to protect this finished wine from oxidation during bottling, which happened early January 2019. As I am typing this note, I have to admit that I have not yet sampled the bottled Ephemera but here are tasting notes from Kory, winemaker at J. Christopher Wines and from Tim who created French Country Wines, an Importing wines business in Houston TX : Kory : "I really enjoyed Ephemera. The wine is bright and has a nice lushness in the mid pallet...light red fruited... strawberry / tart cherry. Lively and bright, lingering finish" and Tim : "Very fresh, bright & well balanced for such a young wine - thoroughly enjoyable!"
To finish this story, I can't help thanking Jay and all the people at the winery who helped me. Many thanks also to Eugenia Keegan and David Adelsheim who hosted me at their guest house located just a mile from the winery during the first week. Thank you Donna and Bill Sweat who own the delicious Winderlea winery in Dundee and who also took care of me when I was there, loaning me their car. Thanks a lot to Kim Dement-Smith from the famous Smith Tea in Portland and in memory of Steve who we all miss for hosting me the second week. Thanks Diana and Neil Goldschmidt who have been one of my angels in Portland, who treated me to a meal at wonderful place with a memorable 2002 Pinot Noir they made. Thank you Debby, Marc and all the Accuardi family who own the very best restaurant in town : Gino's. Many thanks for my beautiful wife Kristi who always supported me in all my wine adventurous journeys and who helped me in many ways to make this dream come true.
And my last thanks will be for the Estelle Imports team who will take care of the distribution of the few cases of Ephemera staying in OR (800 bottles) and especially to my friend of 20 years, Chris Davis who has always supported my wine passion.
This leads me to the conclusion of this post and a little secret that I will unveil now :
You think this wine is 100% Pinot Noir but this is not totally right. A few Syrah clusters from a vine planted by Chris and given by our regretted (he's passed away) common friend Jean-Jacques Clapie have been used for the "Pied de Cuve". They probably represent 0.01 % of the blend but they are so meaningful to me.
65 cases of Ephemera have stayed in Portland and are now in the hands of Estelle Imports. If you are interested in getting this wine, please contact Chris at [email protected] who will direct you to the best place, depending on where you live in the US.
The rest of this tiny production is currently on its way to France. If you live there or in Europe and if you are interested in getting some, please contact me at [email protected]
Update: Ephemera wine should be available in the following places:
Avalon Wines, 3115 NE Sandy Blvd #127.
Tel : (503) 206-8589
Division Wines, 3564 SE Division.
Tel : (503) 234-7281
Providore, 2340 NE Sandy.
Tel : (503) 232-1010
Pastaworks at City Market, 735 NW 21St.
Tel : (503) 221-3002
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