Monday, July 13, 2020

The Genesis of The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections




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 by Gerry Dawes, Founder & President
 The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group

Our Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group of artisan producers are a result of a long-time painstaking effort to find authentic and original wines that truly represent the unique places from which they come. Our producers are not making wines that "the market is asking for," nor wines that are made to please the palate of any critic in particular and certainly not the Parkerista-style overoaked, high alcohol palate. 

The wines of The Spanish Artisan Wine and Spirits Group – Gerry Dawes Selections are made by people trying to reflect the own terruño (the French call it terroir), a sense of place: the unique combination of native grape varieties, soil (minerals) and climate transmitted through the grapes and the prism of each winemaker's palate. Before wines began to be fabricated or fashioned to fit that supposed "what the market is asking for" profile, the wines of France and Italy, but also in some parts of Spain, were made primarily by artisan winemakers working with their own vines.  Obviously, in every region more commercial, negociant-style wines were made to hit a price point and fulfill a market need for cheaper Burgundy, Chianti, Rioja, Mosel, etc., but the reputation of the wines was made originally from the wines of quality artisan producers.

In the early days of the modern post-Prohibition wine importing era, Frank Schoonmaker set standards for selecting wines that would become the model for the next several decades.  
  
 Frank Schoomaker.

"It was obvious to Schoonmaker that prohibition would someday be repealed; the question was when.  First, he needed a network of suppliers. In France, by the late 1920s he had made a valuable ally in Raymond Baudoin, editor of La Revue du Vin de France in Paris.  Baudoin had shaped this scholarly publication into an influential review, which eventually played a major role in creating the appellation contrôlée laws of 1935-36. 

Schoonmaker traveled around France with Baudoin several times, and visited many winegrowers, particularly in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or. Baudoin introduced him to some of the best, and Schoonmaker soon followed Baudoin’s lead in selecting only certain lots, or casks, of a particular cru in a given vintage – writing everything down methodically in a little black notebook. 


In addition, Baudoin was emphatic in getting the growers to bottle their wine themselves and sell it under their own label, as opposed to the traditional method of selling it in cask to the shippers in Beaune for blending, under their label." -- Frank Schoonmaker, A Visionary Wine Man by Frank E. Johnson, Frank Johnson Selections.

Schoonmaker's style would prove to be the model followed by other French wine specialists such as Alexis Lichine (who began selling wine for Schoonmaker), Colonel Frederick Wildman, Robert Haas, Gerald Asher (an Englishman who began importing his wines into the U. S. and like Schoonmaker and Lichine became well-known as a wine writer) and Henry Cavalier (another transplanted Englishman, who was one of Asher's star disciples).  Asher's well-crafted and beautifully written Gourmet magazine articles were a benchmark for more than a decade for serious wine writers and for wine aficionados. 


Gerald Asher

"Inevitably I came to associate any wine I met with a specific place and a particular slant of history. I learned to perceive more than could be deduced from an analysis of the physical elements in the glass. For me, an important part of the pleasure of wine is its reflection of the total environment that produced it. If I find in a wine no hint of where it was grown, no mark of the summer when the fruit ripened, and no indication of the usages common among those who made it, I am frustrated and disappointed. Because that is what a good, honest wine should offer." - - Gerald Asher


The Spanish Artisan Wine Group - Gerry Dawes Selections was founded on the principles of the aforementioned pioneer wine importers.  I never knew Frank Schoonmaker, but I always admired the fact that he greatly appreciated the wines of Spain (he spent several years in Spain during WWII as an undercover O. S. S. officer; ironically decades later I would be assigned to Rota, Spain as a Russian linguist with a Top Secret security clearance [tracking the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean]).  

Schoonmaker died in January 1976 at his home at 14 E. 69th St. in New York City, shortly after I arrived in New York City after having lived in Spain for the previous eight years.  Another irony, a few months after Schoonmaker died, I went to work for another of the giants of wine importing in America, Frederick Wildman & Sons at 21 E. 69th St., just down the street from Schoonmaker’s home.  And at Wildman, I worked with Henry Cavalier, the exceptionally knowledgeable Gerald Asher disciple who soon became a friend and taught me a lot about fine wine. 


Colonel Frederick Wildman
Frederick Wildman & Sons

My employment at Frederick Wildman & Sons ended when I left to join the former President of that firm, Anthony J. Sargeant, and Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards in launching Havelock Gordon.  That company was short-lived, so I moved on to Mosswood, whose president was Gerald Asher, then I did a decade long stint as a restaurant wine specialist at the then fledgling company, Winebow, one of whose partners was Vineyard Brands owner Robert Haas, who was originally a Frank Schoonmaker disciple himself.   While I was at Winebow, Haas made me a Vineyard Brands Vice President, his representative inside that company.
Robert Haas and his son Jason, GM at Tablas Creek Winery, Paso Robles, CA

For more than 10 years, I also worked with Leonardo LoCascio, who founded Winebow with Peter Matt and became one of the best-known names for quality Italian wines.  I helped establish Winebow as a force in top New York restaurants.  I was Winebow's top restaurant sales consultant, selling $1,500,000 per year to sixty top restaurant accounts, at a time when wines sold for about 25% of their current prices. After Winebow, I spent a brief period with another New York distributor, then left that position to pursue my career as a writer on Spanish gastronomy, wine and travel.
Leonardo LoCascio, Co-Founder, Winebow, Inc.

During my time at Winebow, in 1989, I founded The Chefs From Hell Acrobatic Unicyclists & Winetasters Club, whose members included Thomas Keller, Tom Colicchio, Michael Lomonaco, Rick Moonen, David Burke, Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart, Andy Pforzheimer, Mario Batali, Tom Valenti and a number of other talented and now well-known chefs.


Chefs Quint Smith, Mario Batali and Bobby Flay at a Chefs From Hell Luncheon at Martha Stewart's home in Westport, CT.

Like Schoonmaker, Asher (and my friend Frank Johnson), I am a wine writer. Using my intimate knowledge of Spain, I specialized in writing about Spanish wines.  During the course of traveling for material for articles, also discovered more that a score of small wine producers who were not only not being imported into the U. S., they were not even known in MadridIn 2012, quite by chance, I found an interested party with an import license and I decided to bring some of these jewels to the United States.  I brought in two containers of selected wine to unprecedented critical acclaim.  Unfortunately, the partner proved unsuited to growing a fine wine company, so we parted ways after a year.
The style as defined by Frank Schoonmaker, Frederick Wildman, Robert Haas, Gerald Asher and Henry Cavalier (and subsequently by importers such as Kermit Lynch and Neal Rosenthal) over decades was to go to a wine producing region, seek out the best producers available from that region, many of which were small production jewels, bring them to market in the United States and tell their customers why each wine producer and wine was special.  

Except for a few wines that they imported for volume sales (very dignified wines such as Robert Haas Vineyard Brands La Vielle Ferme Rhône Valley wines from the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel fame and even then the interventionism was minimal), they did not encourage their producers to make the the hyper-commercial types of wines "that the market is asking for." 
Instead, they represented unique producers making the best wines that their grapes, their land, their wine cellars and their palates could produce and those discerning importers brought the producers' wines and their stories to market.  Those ideals are what The Spanish Artisan Wine and Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections hopes to carry forward with these exceptional artisan producer wines from Spain. 

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Spirits & Licores

And, given the interest in all things Spanish in the culinary world these days, we are using the same sourcing principles for our unique artisan spirits collection, we are planning to introduce in September 2016.  I have been steadily developing a stellar lineup of suppliers of unique Spanish spirits for more than two years now.  

This spirits and licores include a Vermouth from Burgos made from a 1912 recipe, a stellar gin made in Galicia and distilled from albariño grapes; from the same albariño grape distillations, some stellar aguardientes (grappa), a crema de café licor, chocolate with cherry licor and a superb cilantro-flavored liqueur; a cream licor from Catalunya that  could be the Spanish equivalent of Bailey’s Irish Cream; exceptional licor de naranja and a licor de limón, plus an orange cream licor from a producer in Valenciaa selection of high quality eau-de-vie type spirits from the top producer of cherries and other top quality fruit such as plums, raspberries, etc. in Extremadura; Patxarán (sloe-berry infused anís) de Navarra is one of the most famous and sought after spirits in Spain; aguardiente de manzana (apple grappa) and the Calvados-like Aguardiente Viejo de Sidra from Asturias; a Sherry Brandy de Jerez from Sanlúcar de Barrameda; and a line of artisan licores from one of the top chocolatiers and desserts chefs in Spain.

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Gerry Dawes is President-Jefe & Chairman of the Board of The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group - Gerry Dawes Selections



Gerry Dawes at The James Beard Foundation Awards 2014, New York City

  Gerry Dawes with owner-producer Eugenio Merino on a cold January morning in the old vines Cigales vineyards that produce one of Spain's finest rosados, Viña Catajarros Elite Rosado.  Photo by John Sconzo.

Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià.

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés. ". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 

 
Pilot for a reality television series
on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Four Black Bulls of the Spanish Wine Apocalypse: Severe Weather Hits Numerous Spanish Wine Regions Causing Potentially Catastrophic Losses in Several Regions

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For the past several weeks, The Four Black Bulls of the Spanish Weather Apocalypse have been raging through the vineyards of Northern Spain wreaking havoc. Their names are Helada (Frost), Lluvia (Torrential Rain), Pedrisco (Hail), and Viento (Wind)  have caused dim prospects for the 2017 wine grape harvest in areas such as La Rioja Alta, La Rioja Alavesa, Ribera del Duero, Bierzo, Ribeiro, Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei and some losses in the Albariño vineyards of Rías Baixas. 

The Black Bull of Spain looms over one of Luís Alberto Lecea´s frost-damaged vineyards around the Rioja Alta village of San Asensio, May 7, 2017.  The leaves on the vines nine days later are secondary growth that will produce little and are, under normal conditions, usually stripped off the vines by the grape farmers.  All photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

And in their wake, they have brought a great wave of demoralization, one which the brave men and women who farm the vineyards of Atlantic Spain will no doubt overcome.  Still, at this point, many predict crop losses of from 70-90 percent.

In mid-April, high winds in Galicia ripped off branches off vines in Rías Baixas according to Manolo Dovalo, owner of Adegas Rozas, who produces one of Galicia’s greatest artisan Albariños.    

 
Then on the night of April 28 a late frost that will go down in the history of the viticulture of this region hit La Rioja during the night of April 28 devastated much of La Rioja Alta and La Rioja Alavesa, causing 90% to 100% damage to this year’s grape crop prospects.  Luis Albert Lecea, owner of Bodegas Lecea in San Asensio, told me, “I have bad news.  There will be no wine next year.”  



 
 

Luis took me on a tour of his devastated vineyards.  Lecea and his crew laboriously laid water lines into his vineyards and spent 800 Euros on gasoil (diesel) to run the pumps, trying to irrigate the vines, which had also been suffering from drought, hoping that the water would provoke the growth of more leaves to replace those shriveled by the frost




The irony of Lecea´s frost-damaged vines, with no leaves left, surrounded by the dried-up remains of once perfectly healthy ripe grapes (the now dried-up dark bunches on the ground) that had to be cut off and left to dry up on the ground to meet the Rioja D.O. yield require- ments during the 2016 harvest.  Had the producers been able to use these perfectly good grapes to lay in more stocks, they would have been compensated for the big losses they will suffer from this frost in 2017 and maybe beyond.  The new grape leaves are secondary shoots that will produce little or no grapes and are under normal conditions are usually stripped off the vine.   All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.

 Rows of vines belonging to Bodegas Lecea in San Asensio where leaves should be beginning to flourish by May 7, 2017, when this picture was taken, are almost bare, their leaves frozen and withered by the cold wave on the night of August 28, 2017.  All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.


Three days later, I arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo and found roads still being cleared from mud slides, the Camino de Santiago in front of La Puerta del Perdón strewn with rocks washed down by the torrential rains, and mud across many roads, plus reports of hail and frost that, especially in lower lying vineyards, will mean a very short crop in 2017.

Vine trunk burst caused by late April frost.
Photo courtesy Gregory Pérez, Bodegas y Viñedos Mengoba, Bierzo.

On May 30, a month after the frost hit, star Bierzo producer Gregory Pérez, owner-winemaker at Bodegas y Viñedos Mengoba, told me in a telephone conversation: “Now is when we are really beginning to see the damage from the frost, the vinos are drying up, the bark of the trunks is bursting. . . and the only thing we can do is severely re-crop the salvageable vines, though we will have to rip out some that were totally killed, re-plant and begin anew.  “It has been a wide spread disaster—not only in Bierzo, but in la Rioja, Ribera del Duero and many parts of Galicia.”  

Ironically, where I saw the mud slides and rocks strewn across the road near La Puerta del Perdón in Villafranca del Bierzo was a wall mural of a hiker with the words AVE FENIX alongside.  It appears that the vineyards of much of northern Spain will have to do just that, rise like the Phoenix from the ruins of the 2017 frost, regroup and battle their way back what is sure to be a very hard economic blow to their winemaking efforts. 

 AVE FENIX: Mural on a wall just beyond the famous La Puerta del Perdón in Villafranca del Bierzo on the Camino de Santiago.   One hope that Spain´s grape farmer - winemakers will rise like the Phoenix from the devastation of the weather this Spring.  All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.


 
Later the same day, I visited Hacienda Ucediños in O Barco de Valdeorras, whose owners Eladio and Marcos Santalla Freile reported that one of their prime Godello Vineyards was hard hit by the frost and will produce little or no wine and they were also hit by torrential rains, but even at that they were luckier than many.  


Eladio Santalla Freile and Marcos Santalla Freile with a bottle of their truly stunning Hacienda Ucediños Valdeorras Godello 2016, which was a great match for a dozen remarkably good zamburiñas, or baby scallops, a cazuela or two of gambas al ajillo and a wooden plate of exceptional pulpo a feira, steamed octopus dressed with olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt. At Pulperia El Dorado in O Barco de Valdeorras, May 10, 2017.







 
At D’Berna in Córgomo in Valdeorras, higher up than some of their neighbors, escaped the frost, but were hit with mudslides during a downpour in which three inches of rain fell in just a couple of hours and brought tons of topsoil down from the vineyards that surround the winery and deposited several feet of mud and rocks in the parking lot at the side of the winery, buried their cooling unit and knocked out their water.  










When I arrived at D'Berna, several members of the family were hand shoveling the mud into wheel barrows and taking it away, while a front loader Caterpillar plowed mud out of the parking lot and road leading into the winery. 
  
 


And, in Ribeira Sacra, where I was last week, more reports of hail and torrential rains.  José Manuel Rodríguez, President of the Ribeira Sacra D. O. and producer of the superb Décima Mencía, suffered damage to one of his prime vineyards to add to the loss of much of his crop last year to a powerful hail storm.   Here there were also reports of frost and more damage from hail and torrential rains. 


























Undamaged vineyards of Manuel Rodríguez, President of the Ribeira Sacra D. O. and producer of the superb Décima Mencía, who lost much of his crop to a severe hailstorm last year.

In mid-April, high winds in Galicia ripped off branches of vines in Rías Baixas according to Manolo Dovalo, owner of Adegas Rozas, who produces one of Galicia’s greatest artisan Albariños.   I spent an afternoon with my Bodegas Artesanas Albariño producers in Rías Baixas, where though Dovalo of Adegas Rozas reported some wind damage in his vineyards, all six of my producers seemed to have escaped serious crop-crippling damage. 
  
Manolo Dovalo, producer of Rozas (third from left), with the Bodegas Artesanas Albariño producers' wines, which are some of the greatest Grand Cru quality white wines produced in Galicia.




 



 



Not so in Ribeiro, to the east and inland, where Manolo Formigo (pictured above) showed me frost damage and estimated that he may lose as much as 80% of 2017’s expected production.









In Monterrei, one of the last regions I visited Antonio Triay, his wife Puri García and their son Ivan showed me their frost-damaged vines and were very demoralized.  They are small very high quality producers of Triay Godello and Mencía and they believe that 85-90% of their 2017 crop was wiped out in the late April frost that hit the Monterrei D.O. particularly hard. 



 Antonio Triay and his son Ivan showed me their frost-damaged vines and were very demoralized.
All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Of all the regions I have visited so far, Viña Catajarros in Cigales and José Pariente in Rueda reported to me when I visited those area that they suffered little or no damage and, early in my trip, southern Navarra seems to have escaped damage.  In Corella (Navarra) Carlos Aliaga at Bodega Aliaga reported no damage.   

Ironically, the wall mural of a hiker with the words AVE FENIX was a harbinger.  It appears that the vineyards of much of northern Spain will have to do just that, rise like the Phoenix from the ruins of the 2017 frost, regroup and battle their way back what is sure to be a very hard economic blow to their winemaking efforts.

All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.
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About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.
 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Chef Dan Barber & Winemaker Randall Grahm on the "Roots" of Terroir in Wine



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“It turns out that the mechanism [mycorrhizal fungi] is a pre-requisite for great wine.  I learned this from Randall Grahm, the iconoclastic winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyard, in Santa Cruz California.  “Mycorrhizae are microbial demiurges—they bring minerals into the plants,” he told me.  “What does that taste like? Persistence.  The best wines are powerfully persistent.  You breathe out your nose and taste the wine over again, or you leave the bottle open for a week and the wine still tastes alive.  Persistence doesn’t fade, and it doesn’t oxidize.  That’s from the minerals.” - -  Dan Barber, The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food; Chef-partner, Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Blue Hill NYC

Chef Dan Barber and Gerry Dawes in the kitchens of Blue Hill at Stone Barns,
Pocantico Hills, New York, June 2015.

What my staff and I been finding out to our amazement with our terroir-driven artisanal wines from The Spanish Artisan Wine & Spirits Group – Gerry Dawes Selections, especially the ones with minimal intervention in the winery, that wines leftover after tastings that I merely put in a small refrigerator with just a cork in them and no Vacuvin stoppers, are still drinking beautifully a week later, often even better than when we opened them. Last night, August 30, 2015, I was reading Dan Barber’s book and came across this amazing quote from Randall Grahm, a winemaker from California, ironically where commercial producers have been trying to deny the existence of mineral terroir for decades.

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Gerry Dawes
Presidente-Jefe & Chairman of the Boar
370 Cushman Road
Patterson, NY 12563

Cell phone: 914-414-6982
Teléfono movíl (en España): (011 34) 670 67 39 34
and Gerry Dawes on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Spanish National Gastronomy Award 2003