7 minutes reading time (1380 words)

"Invitado" with Michele D'Aprix


The partner to Comunica, Invitado is a project by Patri Morello in Montsant, Spain that includes Friend of MetroWines and one of our favorite winemakers, Michele D'Aprix. Invitado is made entirely from Marselan, a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache.  The color is dark and intense. On the nose, you will find plum. The dense and rich palate carries forward the plum with low acid and balanced tannins.

About the project:

Catalonia’s Montsant, like neighboring Priorat, makes wins that for the most part are rather big and often rough-hewn, needing age to tone down and come together.

Winemaker Patri Morello was here to explain his different idea. Riper fruit, destemming, and temperature controlled fermentation of whole grapes make for smoother more sophisticated wines, what importer Chris Campbell calls a cru beaujolais style.

He is right that the Comunica wines are lithe and alive and smooth in texture, but neglects their flavors. Although they express terroir like cru Beaujolais, they are filled with the creamy warm flavors that southern grapes, Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan give when grown in southern climates.

The La Comedia is hgher-toned and spicy, with the lean precision that limestone soil gives its Grenache and Carignan. The Comunica on granitie is lower toned and to my palate deeper, with Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan.

Winemaker Michele D'Aprix showed her very interesting Comunica Invitado, which is made entirely from Marsalan, a cross Grenache and Cabernet. it was true to its origins with sensual notes reminiscent of grenache over a firm Cabernet-like structure. It maty have been the favorite of the tasting and is available pn pre sale with arrival in mid September.

About Michele D'Aprix:

As a student of organic chemistry, viticulture & enology, I have all the educational resources, lab skills, text books and molecule sets needed in order to turn that stale glass of water next to your bedside into something that would look and taste like wine.  You wouldn’t want to drink it, but I learned how to do this.  (The wedding feast at Cana is a parlor trick for any good Davis grad who paid attention.)  But while attending UC Davis’ V & E program, I also learned how to make wine that you would not only want to drink but also could get paid to make.  V & E is one of the coolest academic programs out there, and I learned things in those labs and lecture halls that I still don’t know how to fully make use of within my professional pursuits in the wine world.  But Davis taught me, just in case.  I learned what aroma looks like, learned how to create things and then, how to make them disappear (color, flavor, scent…not even kidding…this can be done).  Davis provides its students with a basis of education and the practical chops anyone seeking work in a professional winery could need.  To make a comparison, culinary schools are exactly like Davis, and nothing like Davis.   And I’ve been shown why this metaphor makes sense.

Culinary schools teach their chefs proper techniques like sous vide, using induction burners, and molecular gastronomy to keep their students informed of the cutting edge that they’ll encounter once they leave the classroom.  Davis does this too, and because the science can be so intense and all-consuming for the student enologist-in-training, things more philosophical like balance, character, and quality can get short shrift in the dialogue on how to make great wine.

But unlike Davis, great culinary schools and great chefs teach why temperature or acid matters in cooking via a conversation that involves eating, tasting & smelling – none of which are quantifiable, all of which are important in the assessment of fine food or a well-composed plate.  The concept of how to make a great wine with a sense of place is not a focus of Davis’s program.  It’s more elemental there.  They breed and train eager, young enologists, via the molecule, from the bottom up.  It was absolutely fascinating, and completely scientific.  We were taught what wine is, where it comes from and how to change its physical & chemical properties.  I was one of the lucky students because I happened to be there at a time when the trail blazing professors and researchers who founded the program were actually still teaching.

But…they don’t teach you what quality or feeling is at UC Davis.  They can’t, because those things aren’t measurable; they’re not science.  Nor is great wine, as I am finding out on a daily basis.  Vintage to vintage, bottle by bottle, glass by glass.

I met Stéphane Derenoncourt in 2004, 2 years after I graduated from Davis.

Stéphane is not an enologist.  He did not go to school to learn about vine physiology or the biochemistry of fermentation.  In fact, I’d bet he doesn’t know off the top of his head what the molecular formula for TCA is, and I’m certain he doesn’t care.  But he, a bit like Yoda maybe, can stand in a vineyard and tell you from a quality perspective, why  one is better for Merlot, and not Cabernet Franc.  And once the vineyard grows in, he knows how you better prune it, and once the fruit is picked, what temperature to keep the fermentation at, and how many times to look under the lid & give it a stir while it’s evolving.  All of this is done by feel, loosely at times, and totally precise in moments.  He learned wine could be ‘made’ without doing anything to it, other than letting it follow its natural progression once the vineyard has been shaped into what the soils, sun, wind, precipitation, personnel and winery can provide it.

Every vineyard has its limit with regard to the quality of wine you can grow there.  Like he sees people, Stéphane sees vineyards as places to be brought to their full potential without crossing the line where they need to be manipulated.

Christopher Imports is a conduit to the work and philosophy of Stéphane Derenoncourt.  As a portfolio of wines, it may not be limited to only the wines he makes.  (I make a few myself.)  But this project was begun with a desire to represent these ideals that I too have come to apply to my work in wine and I go forward grateful for having had the education (all different kinds), and responsible for teaching it to those who would listen.  And taste.


About the importer, C&PWines:

c & p imports

Wine details

"After some reckless stints in the world of publishing and film, it was eventually self-determined that the safest place for me to do my work was ‘behind bars’. During my incarceration behind the various worn 
surfaces of mahogany, pine and marble, I found my calling as a purveyor of drinks in the city of Manhattan. This lead me down many roads, some thrilling, others mundane, but I ended up most contented by my arrival in the vineyard. 
Wine became my medium of choice after much exploration. My love for the interaction with people, food, and wine was never in question. The subsequent friendships I forged with winemakers met over the years left me with the realization that importing could be the way to build a business of my own and still stay connected to the world of food and wine beyond my well-worn path behind the bar. 
As a Spanish-speaking, white, Irish Catholic kid, born in New York, my passion for and knowledge of Spanish wine threw many for a loop, but I have always felt this was the case in point for my mission. Good wine at a good price with a sense of place is a unifying force. So, into the deep end of the wine pool I went, as an importer of fine wines from Spain, my company to be known from that point forward as C & P Wines. C for Calidad, and P for Precio. Quality and price go hand in hand. 
I believe that wines should not be manipulated. I believe the great wines are made in the vineyard, not in the boardroom. I believe you have a palate that knows the difference between good wine and bad. And I believe you love Spanish wine.” 

abadia de la oliva blanca

Jassarte, Guado al Melo, Toscana 2011
GUILD Rose' 2015

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