Friday, March 19, 2010

A Return to Terroir

Ever since my last trip to Terroir, I've felt a certain illogical but unavoidable sense of guilt by association. I actually visited twice, on successive days in October 2009, and smack in between those two stops, the place was flooded. What seemed at first to be relatively minor damage turned out to be much more serious, enough in fact to shut down Terroir for long enough that myself and no doubt others began to wonder if the anointed king of San Franciscan natural wine destinations would ever re-emerge from under the wreckage. Luckily, current owners Luc Ertoran and Dagan Ministero persevered, reopening their doors earlier this winter. And happily, I managed a return last week, during a day's trip up to San Fran from our post in Monterey. The guys didn't seem to have held anything against me....

I always seem to end up with at least one photo that I really like when shooting at Terroir. Something about the place must inspire creativity.

In fact, they even had something special open for me (at least that's the way I liked to think about it). Actually, it seems there's always at least one option by the glass at Terroir that's out on the bleeding edge of the establishment's already devout focus on site-expressive wines. Last time 'round it was something orange. This time, it was the 2005 "Savagnin de Voile" from Evelyne and Pascal Clairet's Domaine de la Tournelle, an expression of Jura Savagnin aged under a veil (sous voile) of flor-like, surface dwelling yeasts. Dagan called it a "baby vin jaune." Nearly all of my companions on a mid-Thursday afternoon found it a little too bizarre for their tastes. I called it compellingly delicious, with its intense nose of fino-like oxidative characteristics, oily yellow flowers and crushed, blanched almonds followed up by a penetrating, long-lasting presence on the palate. Very cool juice that, if I understood Dagan correctly, is brought in especially for (and perhaps available only at?) Terroir by Tournelle's importers, Jenny & François.

Yes, that does read "2 x 75cl," what former Terroir partner Guilhaume (not to mention the guys at The Ten Bells in NYC) likes to call a full bottle. Check out Guilhaume's photo-profile of Derain at The Wine Digger. (No more photos, I'm afraid. The Wine Digger has since gone into hiding.)

My friend Joe, he of the Old School, met up with us just as we were finishing our first pours. Knowing that we were there as part of the celebratory preparations leading up to our friends Steve and Stacy's wedding, Joe treated us all to a magnum of "Chut... Derain," a sparkling Aligoté produced by Dominique Derain at his estate in St. Aubin. It went down way too easy. And yes, it's no coincidence that the swoosh on the bottle label resembles the natural curvature of the feminine posterior form. Luc explained the etymology and wordplay involved in the cuvée's name but I can't for the life of me remember the details. You'll have to stop by and ask him for yourselves.

As afternoon all too quickly bled into night and appetites started to flare, I was jazzed to see Spencer on the Go set up their french bistro food truck. I'd missed them on my last Sunday/Monday visits — the Chez Spencer mobile unit feeds Terroir customers and other passersby Wednesday through Saturday from their parking spot in the lot at 7th & Folsom, directly across the street from Terroir. A braised lamb cheek sandwich to go and I was back at the Terroir bar, enjoying my meal with a little taste of Derain's Mercurey rouge, poured for us by Luc as counterpoint to the bottle I'd ordered to close out our visit....

Luc warned me. "Pigeage... barriques... 2005... extracted... tannic... young." Joe just kind of sneered. But I was unstoppable. I'd enjoyed some of the white Burgundies of François Mikulski in the past but had never encountered any of the producer's reds. When I spotted Mikulski's '05 Pommard on the list at Terroir, it stuck in my head. The price was fair, it was an opportunity to explore Burgundy. I had to go for it. But I should have listened. One tough customer, very dark and closed, even a little volatile. Natalie and I, in fact, debated the finer points of the Pommard's aromatic profile, I calling it reminiscent of paint thinner, she in her painterly ways correcting my description with a comparison to the subtler scents of "odorless" mineral spirits. Guess I need to spend a little more time sniffing solvents. I took half the bottle back to Monterey with me and, honestly, it never opened or markedly improved over the course of the next two days. Makes me wonder what its future will bring.

Hey, you can't win 'em all. But you can sure enjoy the trying. I'm ready to go back....

1116 Folsom Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 558-9946
Terroir on Urbanspoon
Spencer on the Go
7th & Folsom
(across the street from Terroir)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Chez Spencer on Urbanspoon


JollyVino13 said...

Sounds like you had a great time and good to hear that Terroir is back up and running.

Love to hear about new wines that I don't often get to make it out to try . . .


David McDuff said...

Definitely a great time, Justin. Have you been to Terroir yet? If not (for that matter, if so), it's a must stop the next time you make it up to SF.

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