I think the most exciting thing about wine is that there is always something new to discover. We met an extraordinary wine aficionado and revolutionary, Lyle Fass, at a fabulous tasting of 12 unique French and German wines organized by my new friend Bruce Frank. Lyle is breaking all the rules with a new direct to consumer approach to marketing really great wine.
The Wine: A wonderful selection of refreshingly delicious and remarkably affordable wines.
The Food: The artful and very wine worthy menu of Chef Bryan Gregg
The Place: Escape Montclair, with delightful images of precious European vineyards and cellars running through our heads as we learned about the wines.
With a long history working with some of the best wine stores, like Crush, Chambers Street Wines and The Wine Shop in Manhattan. The Wine Press, Brookline Liquor Mart and The Wine Botteg in Boston, Lyle really knows his stuff. This experience also provoked a mission to challenge the Three Tier System for distributing wine that not only makes wine more expensive than it needs to be but also utterly precludes some of the best wines of the world from even getting to your glass.
You see under the multitude of state laws that regulate liquor, except for a few exceptions, all wine must pass through the Three Tiers between the wine maker and you. These include an importer, a distributor, and a retail store or restaurant/bar. And yes, they all want their cut. It makes me mad too!
It is not that I am completely against the three tier system, in many cases it is essential to the distribution of wine, but not always.
The consumer unfriendly laws that enforce this system have started to change and in California I learned there is a licenses that now allows an importer to sell direct to consumers. There are still a number of legal and logistical complications to getting the European wine from California to you but that has been pretty much worked out.
We got a great tasting of 12 of Lyle’s selections. He searches many out-of the-way corners of Europe to discover and bring his followers the most amazing wines. And with his direct to consumer approach at a price which allows me to actually enjoy them.
I adored a glorious Chablis. Côte de Léchet, from Domaine Sebastien Dampt which had an amazing fullness, abundance of flavor not found in some Chablis.
Then there were unusual finds like this Scheurebe Rödelseer Schwanleite, by Weltner, a rather obscure wine from East Germany. With the scores of grapes I have tasted Scheurebe is a new one with beautiful seductive flavors.
Scheurebe was created by German viticulturalist Dr. Georg Scheu (1879–1949) in 1916, when he was working as director of a grape-breeding institute in Alzey in Rheinhessen, by crossing Riesling with an unknown wild vine. Wikipedia "Its intense bouquet is reminiscent of black currant, peach or ripe pear. Scheurebe wines go very well with aromatic, spicy foods." Wines of Germany
Another wine you don’t see to often was this Irancy Veaupesiot made from 100% Pinot Noir by a winemaker that Lyle believes could be one of the next superstars of Burgundy, Thierry Richoux.
I loved this wine that Lyle describes as “a journey wine. It takes you on a journey. It is about as profound a wine as I tasted in Europe last summer. It is packed and incredibly structured. So dense yet so flavorful.”
Of course the dishes we enjoyed at Escape went well with the wines like this delicious Duck Breast, Greens, Potato Puree, and Spruce.
I could talk a lot about these wines but your best bet is to read Lyle Fass’s own words on his blog at Rockss and Fruit or on Twitter Fass Selections and sign up for news of exciting wine offerings on his web site at fassselections.com
Some call Lyle a wine rebel because he is breaking the decades old rules, others call him a savior because he makes unique and wonderful wines available, where big distibutors do not. I call him a revolutionary because that is his game!