Joe Dressner Has Cancer, Doesn’t Give a Fuck About It

Or maybe/probably he does give a fuck, i don’t know. What i do know is that Joe Dressner, wine importer extraordinaire for LOUIS/DRESSNER IMPORTS, was out in full force at the Louis/Dressner Farm Wine Imports producer tasting, held at Terroir Natural Wine Merchant April 23, cancer and all.

i assume the tan is from walking in the vineyards
Joe Dressner puts on a smile

So why does this matter? Joe Dressner wants you to drink better wine (real wine in fact, but we’ll get to that), and to that end he flew in a number of the best, most interesting, most dynamic vignerons from France and Italy and shuttled them around the United States to tastings both professional and public, doing all this while battling cancer. Does any of this make any the wine he imports any better? No, of course it doesn’t. It doesn’t have any bearing on the quality of the wine. What it does mean is that Joe stands by and believes in his producers enough to be there, cancer be damned.

Lest you think otherwise, this a post about wine, and not some inspirational story about overcoming adversity. i don’t think i’m capable of writing something like that, and i doubt you would be much inspired if i was so touched by someone elses cancer i decided to write something as banal as a blog post.

Guilhaume Gerard, 1/3 owner of Terroir has excellent pics of this event up at WINEDIGGER

If you don’t know the wines of Louis/Dressner, they are one of the handful of wine importers bringing in real (there’s that word again, if i say it again it’s coming out of your mirror and believe me, it’s going down) wine from Europe, along with Neal Rosenthal, Kermit Lynch. Chadderdon, Polaner, Jenny & Francois amongst others. So what is real (check your mirror) wine? It is wine that isn’t conciously fucked with, for lack of a better term. It is wine that speaks of the place and the people who made it, rather than a stylistical mould it made to fit. It is wine made by farmers (no shit, most real winemakers are farmers, how else do they know how to grow anything?), rather than consultants, by hands, rather than machines. It is natural yeasts that taste like whatever they taste like, not yeast that is made to taste like something else. It is oak where tradition says oak, not the palates of critics or a fickle public. It is, in short, wine. Nothing else.

(that last part sounds like it was cribbed, Dr. Frankenstein style, from a variety of press releases and winery brochures and/or books on natural wine)

The lineup consisted of about 15 winemakers from both France and Italy, some old favorites like Christine Eric Nicolas of Domaine Belliviere whose wine changed how i think of wine a few years back, and Mauro Vergano who makes some mind bending chinatos.
The full lineup was:
Domaine François Pinon – François Pinon
Domaine le Briseau – Christian Chaussard
Domaine Franck Peillot – Franck Peillot
Domaine Luneau-Papin – Pierre & Pierre-Marie Luneau
Domaine Desvignes – Claude-Emmanuelle & Louis-Benoît Desvignes
Arianna Occhipinti – Az. Agr. Occhipinti
Silvio Messana– Az. Agr. Montesecondo
Francesca Padovani – Campi di Fonterenza
Luca Roagna – Roagna
Alessandra Bera – Bera Vittorio & Figli
Cristiano Guttarolo – Az. Vi. Cristiano Guttarolo
Mauro Vergano – Chinati Vergano
Eric Texier – Eric Texier
Christine and Eric Nicolas of Domaine de Bellivière in Jasnières
Jean-Paul Brun of Domaine des Terres Dorées in Beaujolais
Evelyne de Jessey of Domaine du Closel in Savennières
as well as possibly a Burgundy producer whom i never met and whose wines i didn’t get to taste.
Highlights included the aforementioned wines from Belliviere, whose Rouge Gorge pineau d’aunis from the coteaux du loir is my baseline for this grape variety, and the two vintages (’06 and ’07) l’Effraie which offered two interesting takes on chenin blanc, one softer and more honeyed (’06) and one tarter and sharper (’07). Alessandra Bera, whose wines i had never tasted, had a fabulous arcese (an offbeat white made from cortese, favorita and arneis), and an even better moscato d’asti. i don’t yet know if Terroir is going to carry her wines in the future, but i can say that if they do, i will be buying. Another knockout was the wines of Luneau-Papin a muscadet producer that i am unfamiliar with. They presented four wines from three vintages (’07, two ’05s, ’02) that showed the depth and range of this underappreciated grape, from the tartly acidic ’07 to the round and thoughtful ’02. Continuing on, Arianna Occhipinti’s frappato was as good as the last time i had it, and she informed me that she would be expanding into white wines, to the delight of anyone digging her deep-groove-funk Sicilian stylings.
Domaine Brieseau (Christian Chaussard) and Francois Pinon were two producers i was familiar with in name only and now i’m glad that i am familiar names. Chaussard makes wine with abstract names (you are so nice, beautiful, bubbly) that some might mistake for marketing ploys to hide substandard wines. that is until you taste them. His wines are earthy, deep, Loire vin-naturel masterpieces. Pinon, who was kind enough to round up the last of his bottles to let us taste, is a chenin producer who i should have tried a while back. Seriously get a bottle of his petillant Vouvray (no dosage!), kick back and enjoy. Mauro Vergano makes damn fine chinato, and a damn fine chinato cocktail. If you’re not familiar with chinato, Mauro himself described it as a cross between Campari and sweet vermouth, although his is better than both. Lastly Eric Texier makes a lot of wine, and he brought a lot with him. Like nine fucking wines. How am supposed to remember them all? Check him out if you get a cahnce, he is doing some great stuff, especially with grenache, a generally lousy grape.
i tried a number of other wines throughout the night, but at some point lost track of them in my notes and can’t possibly do the winemakers justice, so i won’t even try.

What surprised me the most about these vignerons/farmers was the lack of pretension or salesmanship on their part. Sure they were proud of their wine, but there wasn’t any bullshit. It was taste, spit, conversation. At no point did any of them (even the fluent english speakers) try to tell me what their wines tasted like, or give me input on tasting the wines because geography and nomenclature. Coming from California and having toured wineries and met winemakers this is a bit of an oddity, letting the wines do the talking. My hat is off (not literally, as i rarely wear hats) to all these winemakers for making the wine world that much more real.

Note: It has been widely reported by Joe Dressner himself that Joe Dressner paid off a number of influential wine bloggers to write favorably about his wines, but only in New York. Guess we don’t merit bribes on the West Coast. Seriously though, who bribes with a five dollar bill?

Note: Upon editing i forgot to mention that Closel and Franck Peillot both put me in awe, especially Peillot’s wines from grapes i had no idea could reach that far.

~ by Cory Cartwright on April 30, 2009.

13 Responses to “Joe Dressner Has Cancer, Doesn’t Give a Fuck About It”

  1. This is a great post and it’s amazing what Dressner is doing with that blog. He’s giving Norman Cousins a run for his money! I am loving your blog but I have to take issue with your grouping of Chadderdon with the icons of natural wine in this country (what about Polaner, btw?): Chadderdon imports some great wines but his elitist, extortionist attitudes and right-wing, pseud-fascist ideology set him apart from that group… a lot of Chadderdon’s wines are natural wines but ask him how he feels about Obama… sorry for the rant… Am seriously digging you blog…

  2. I have heard some odd rumblings about Chadderdon, but honestly i have no experience with him outside of his book, and the producers he brings over. I do know Dressner himself, on his own blog, has enough respect for his book to make the same comparison himself without any nod to the man’s politics or business practices. As for Polaner, I should add…Thanks for reading.

  3. I actually don’t have cancer. It is a marketing ploy.

  4. One might surmise that perhaps “i have cancer, buy my wines” would be a failure as a marketing ploy, but it seems to be working for you so far.
    Seriously though, keep up the good work and thanks for reading. I would probably still be drinking crap if it wasn’t for the producers you carry.


  5. Who really gives a fuck what chadderdon thinks about politics?
    i’m not to vote for him am i? Am’ i to boycott Huet, Kiralyudvar, Quintarelli, Bartolo Mascarello because the importer is supposedly some facist asshole barbarian baby eating nazi elitist….
    i’ve heard a whole lot of shit from peoples in the industry about Chadderdon or his team, mostly from peoples that cannot buy the wines because chadderdon doesn’t sell to everybody. I’m not saying his way of doing business is right or wrong, that he always makes the best choice on who he’s selling to or not, i’m just saying i’m not ready to give up on some of the best french and italian wines ever made.
    Did you know Joe Dressner was a communist? he wants to see you all working for nothing, driving the same little shit car, and who gives a fuck about what he thinks about bush, obama, or sarkozy!!!!
    bring cool wines, sell cool wines, drink them, talk about them….
    take issue about chadderdon being a great leader in that market if you want, you’re still drinking quintarelli….and i will keep on drinking huet as much as i possibly can.

  6. All those wines are great. And it’s a pity that Chadderdon will only share them with an elite group of buyers he deems “qualified” (because they buy a lot of crap that he sells as well since he won’t sell you the good stuff otherwise). I don’t care about his politics: what I care about is taking something that comes from the land, grown and crafted by farmers, and turning it into a tool for malignancy. Politics have nothing to do with (“fascist” was intended as a metaphor). Chadderdon is a thug and the fact is he doesn’t talk about his wines because he wants to keep them in the cabal of his sphere of influence. I wish more people could learn about Bartolo Mascarello but they can’t because ol’ Bob won’t let them.

    Is Dressner a communist? Good for him. I don’t care about politics.

    In any case, what I really wanted to point out was that Chadderdon doesn’t fit into the group of importers listed above. That’s all.

    Happy Sunday to all, as they say in Italy.

    Hope to see you on Thurs. at the show!

  7. I remember Floribeth from the jug shop in sf saying that she doesn’t care about importers, she only cares about the wines. At the time i had to disagree with her pointing to peoples like Joe DRESSNER, that, in my opinion are importers “you can trust”. While i would still argue the same point, the same way, there is something to be said about the wines coming first. I buy wine from southern wine and spirits, and a whole lot of distributors/importers that i don’t care about. If you have a great wine that i want to buy, i will, regardless of your color, religion, political views and all that crap… So, yes, CHADDERDON might not fit into the group above, but really, is kermit, rosenthal or even jenny and francois doing the same thing as DRESSNER? I don’t think so and i don’t want them to. Every single one of these portfolios are so different, to me there is no such thing as a “group” of importers bringing “real” wines. There is only two of them, Joe and Jenny, is that enough for a group?

  8. @ Guilhaume, your point is well taken and I was too hasty to post my comment. You’re right: the wines (and the people who make them) do come first. Sometime I hope we’ll all get a chance to hang and we can trade stories (that have no place being retold on a blog comment section) about the crummy things that certain importers do. Sometimes I tell people that working in the wine trade is the closest thing you can get to working in the mafia without having to kills someone (that’s a joke, btw). Seriously, we work in an extremely competitive and profit-driven industry where extreme measures are the rule not the exception. Hope to drink something great with you at some point (ideally some B. Mascarello!).

    • I’ll prepare a nice chadderdon line up for us to get drunk on and then we can wrestle. Let me know when your coming next, and keep up the good work.

  9. I’m actually going to be in SF on Thurs. (we’re playing at Rickshaw) so maybe I can swing by between sound check and the show. I LOVE Daumas Gassac, btw! Friggin’ killer wine…

    I’ll be in SF for the Kermit Lynch tasting, too…

    a presto, J

  10. P.S. sorry Saignée for co-opting your comments section! ;-)

  11. Again, so sad to have been out of town for that tasting. Love that chinato too, although don’t be too quick to knock vermouth; there are some good one’s out there.

  12. Not knocking vermouth at all. i have a bottle of Carpano on hand at all times at home. i’m just saying that i’d rather drink vergano, price permitting.
    DoBianchi, guilhaume i await the Wrestlemania this thursday, you can use Quintarelli olive oil to grease up.

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