It can't be easy being a wine rep. I can't say that I've ever done the job, so I don't know this for sure. But if dealing with me is any example, then this has got to be a job filled with uphill battles. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that I'm a difficult person, or that I'm horrible to deal with one on one. I just have quite a few people that I buy wine from and whose job it is to sell me as much wine as possible. I know that one of my jobs is to buy wine from them, but I never actually have the wine list space to buy everything they show me. It's really hard to say no to people who I consider my friends and I always worry that I'm hurting people's feelings when their tasting visit results in no sale. Obviously though, I don't always love what they bring me, which is what has been the issue with Stetson.
Stetson has been trying to sell me wine for a while now with very little result. He's already running against the wind with me because he specializes in Solvenian wine, something I haven't been that interested in so far. Week after week, he's brought a wine bag full of wines for me to try and I've disliked every one of them. It feels like this has been going on forever and I've been fairly convinced that meeting with him has been a waste of time, which is why when he walked in the door to Lucques the other day, I actually cringed a little. And then, something unusual happened. He poured a taste of wine for me that I actually liked. Let me just say that it came as quite a shock to the both of us.
The wine? 2008 Kabaj, Sivi Pinot, a Pinot Gris from Goriska Brda. The Goriska Brda is a range of hills in western Slovenia along the border of Italy. This is actually an ideal grape growing region that has a sub Mediterranean climate with mineral rich soils and an Adriatic influence. These hills are completely covered with vines, 55,000 of which belong to the Kabaj winery family. Kabaj belongs to Katja Kabaj Morel and her oenologist husband Jean Michel Morel, who previously worked in cellars throughout France and Italy. As their property had a long grape growing history, they decided to vinify and bottle their own wine, rather than sell off the grapes to others. They farm their vineyards sustainably, doing all of the work manually and focusing their efforts on the soils and tradition.
Jean Michel does the unusual thing of making his wine in qvevri, large sealed clay vessels in which the grapes ferment and age for nine months. After this, the wine and its lees are poured into large oak barrels and left to age for an additional year. The wine is then fined, filtered and bottled for yet another year of aging. This process is an ancient Georgian technique which Jean Michel feels connects his thoroughly modern wine to historical winemaking traditions.
This wine, made from 100% Pinot Gris shows delicate aromatics on the nose of green apple and white flowers. On the palate, this wine drinks a lot like a white Rhone blend in that it is dry yet rich, clean yet fleshy. It has a textural density with touches of exotic, talcum powder like spiciness and an ever so elegant minerality. Though it is not a fruity wine, the green apple notes are present along side a balancing acidity that is decidedly unaggressive, yet effective. This is just a really layered and complex wine.
I completely adored this wine and bought the last two cases available to put on the list at AOC. It is just seems perfect for our adventurous clientele and is so good that I'm sure it won't last long. I actually liked this wine so much that it ignited my interest in Slovenian wine and made me think that maybe Stetson wasn't so bad after all.