Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tom Clare Of LONGBOARD Vineyards Here W/ Jody Jackman Tasting " New " Releases Today, Thursday Noon Feb.19th, 2009 At Cleveland Park Wines, Wash. D.C.

I met Tom today, Thursday February 19th, 2009 around noon at Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits ( 3423 Connecticut Avenue N.W. Washington D.C. 20008, Tel:202 363-4265 ) where I manage the wine department. Jody Jackman our local(excellent, give her a raise please! ) Winebow rep called me yesterday and told me about Tom. She had only the highest praise for him and thought strongly that we would get along fabulously. She also told me what wines Tom would be bringing me to taste.

I had never heard before of either Tom Clare or the LONGBOARD Vineyards CA. wines. But if Jody spoke so highly of Tom and the LONGBOARD wines then I was game to try them. I didn't think another second about any of this. It's always busy at the store and there is always more than one or two things vying for my attention.

So here it was today and Jody calls to tell me that she will be a few minutes late. Jeremy of Kysela calls, too and asks if he can bring Frederic the owner/vigneron of DOMAINE MANOIR DU CARRA of Beaujolais by? Of course I respond immediately as we have been selling Frederic's wines for years now and it is perhaps his forth visit to our store. All exciting, the morning is shaping up to be quite exciting. I like meeting very much all these principles in the wine business. I learn so much from these meeting , and come away feeling really excited and alive most times. This was definitely true here in both instances.

Jody and Tom came by first and started to taste me on these " new " LONGBOARD CA. wines. I noticed the long surf boards on the labels, they caught my attention. Jody went off to Firehook Bakery to get me a coffee ( thanks Jody ) and so I had a brief moment to talk with Tom.

I asked him what part of the equation he played at LONGBOARD Vineyards : wine owner / maker or rep? He responded " rep ". And so now were were " on " and Tom began to launch into his spiel about the vineyard and himself and the three principle partners backgrounds. He pulled out a color picture to show me of the three : the winemaker was in the center of the three. It was a good, animated picture of the three and it made one like myself curious to know more. I did not have to wait long as Tom began to explain why he was bothering to show me this picture? I was all ears , all seven senses and acutely hanging on the words of his that either caught my fancy or intrigued, beguiled, amused, entertained me.

Tom spoke pretty much a mile a minute talking in all these surfer terms as he spoke about the vineyard and the wine maker. Turns out that the three had all been quite involved at the JORDAN winery helping to make the sparkling " J " there. This immediately caught my attention and I asked him to repeat what he had said. He spoke about all three having worked making the " J " sparkling at JORDAN for about eighteen years. Wow, that's a lifetime as far as I am concerned.

I asked Tom immediately if he knew Claude Thibaut? I also added quickly that I had been told by Claude that he had made the very first " J " for JORDAN. I asked Tom if in fact this was not a true statement ? He said it was but that he had never met Claude. I showed Tom Claude's picture up on our round tasting table. Jody chimed-in about now ( as she also had met Claude while herself out there in California making wine at SAINTSBURY ) and was speaking to Tom. She has since seen Claude again in our store and they have talked about meeting each other out in California.

Tom talked about the winemaker for quite a bit of the time : born in Israel, grew up loving to surf, had gone to Portugal to surf, made about three hundred bottles ( or cases ? ) of Pinotage after leaving the JORDAN winery. He made the red South African grape variety Pinotage at LONGBOARD. I told Tom that I really wanted to taste it : Tom said that because it was only sold at the winery that he would have to send me a bottle ( n'oublie pas Tom / don't forget Tom ! ). I'll thank you now in advance.

Tom spoke about the winemaker getting away to surf in California. That the winemaker needed a way to live and earn a living and surf as well. He spoke about the fog and the mist and the particular, special microclimate that the vines enjoyed and how it imparted different qualities- special - to the LONGBOARD wines. He talked about the winemaking phylosophy, he talked about minimizing the oak contact, getting just the right contact- preserving both the character and the fruit of the grapes.

Tom was pouring me the wines all the while that he was speaking both with his words and the motions of his hands. I was taking lots of pictures now. I have a great one with Tom's hands speaking as loudly as his words. See it, get it?!? I liked that quite a bit. I even took one picture that I am proud of with both Tom's two hands and those of Jody as well as my left hand holding the glass of LONGBOARD wine.

Again I kept asking Tom to explain all the surfer references like " bangin' " ? I asked him what the origins of these words were before surfing? He smiled, had to pause and collect himself. Jody stepped in and talked about " centering " and " getting back to the center " with each of these terms, especially " bangin' ". It was all some mischievous fun.

Then Tom talked about a visit to France and Reims, champagne and falling into a thousand pieces being able to finally see there in the smaller cathedral the Chagall stained-glass windows. It was like a wonderful epiphany to him - as if he could not believe what he was seeing, he was transfixed, caught-wrapped-up completely, deliciously-wondrously in the moment that he wanted to never end! He just stayed their in their presence - soaking up the experience and the filtered-colors of the  sun's rays as they broke through the stained glass and entered into the cathedral. His friends had to come search for him / find him. They asked if he was not hungry? He was happy just being there, could have stayed from what I understood. It was a wonderful, life-enhancing experience for him.

I knew these stained-glass windows! I had seen them stood there, been moved also by them! I told this to Tom. It was a great moment for the both of us. I could not believe I was hearing another man speak about them and about Chagall and about art. Wow, this was a lot to absorb along with everything else.

I loved the Sauvignon Blanc and kept raving about it and it's acidity and saying that it was one of the " best-ever " California Sauvignon Blancs for me! It was a rush, a thrill for me to discover a lively dry Sauvignon Blanc with this much acidity and both mineral and lemon-lime zing-ping,splash-dash! It just kept pining and ponging back and forth as the flavors intensities and multiplied in a centered and focused way ; concentric circles of flavors just building and expanding outward. Wow, impressive : kudos to you all at LONGBOARD!

Tom then tasted me on the Cabernet Sauvignon and kept mentioning Rafanelli or was it Richioli? I think it was Rafanelli. He spoke about LONGBOARD being the only vineyard making a Rafanelli Cabernet Sauvignon. I tasted, liked it and yet was less impressed because it was so elegant and fruit-forward and bright but seemed at this stage ( it's a 2006 - 2nd-to-last vintage as the root stocks have been grafted over to the Pinot Noir ) to be really quite un-evolved - too young, too simple, too pleasing.

I wanted some more grip, some more " highs and lows " and I got all this in the following Merlot. I liked the Merlot because of this lovely grains-sandpaper grit and grip and tug and pull and resistance to " hang " my tongue, slowly, a gradual slip, a gradual loss of " grasp ". I was more committed to the Merlot. It did not let me off as easily. Of course I told all this to Tom.

I am getting ahead of myself now. After the dry and wonderful Sauvignon Blanc I tried the Pinot Noir and again was very-much impressed with it. I loved it's polish and shine ( good spit and buff to get it's sheen and preen just right. Medium-to-lighter-bodied : really pure and attractive toasty berry red flavors. Like a good violin when you played it, the strings were nice and taut and the resulting taste of flavors over the expanse of my palate was engaging as well as intriguing. I liked it and will buy some as the weather warms.

For the moment I told both Jody and Tom that I will focus on the Sauvignon Blanc and on the Merlot. The Cabernet Sauvignon was just too expensive for the moment. It will have to wait. I'd like to have it and tell the story. It's a great one of relationships and trust and working as a team and piggy-backing off each other's strengths to minimize one's weaknesses. Is that a surfer term : piggy-backing? I doubt it.

At some point during all this both Jeremy our rep for Ksela Pere Et Fils Et Fille ( he has one of each that I know of ) came along with Frederic of DOMAINE MANOIR DU CARRA. I introduced everyone and invited them both to taste with us if it was alright with Tom? He welcomed the opportunity and spoke some French with Frederic and was a gracious host along with Jody who poured, too. We all were having a merry time indeed.

Tom had another three wines for me to try from another vineyard DRUMMER : a Syrah called " Rumpus " red, a DRUMMER Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc red blend,  and also a DRUMMER Cabernet Sauvignon. I liked best the last : the Cabernet Sauvignon because of it's overall flavors , intensity, fullness on the palate and general excellent character. I could see myself buying some of that one later in the fall when things get colder again and the economy settles/readjusts a bit more so that we may all better know our places in this new world-structure? Is that going to happen anytime soon?

Tom got a chance to try Frederic's 2007 DOMAINE MANOIR DU CARRA Julienas and seemed pleased. He told me with a twinkle in his eye as he quickly departed through the back with Jody. They had spent a whole lot of time with us already and were probably late for the next appointment?

Here are the pictures I took of Tom Clare of LONGBOARD Vineyards ( 85 Prospect Place , Rutherford, N.J. 07070 - Tom's address. Tel: 201-675 1621 ) here at Cleveland Park Wines & Spirits today at noon on Thursday, February 2009 here in our nation's capitol. There were a gadzillion surfing references throughout the whole tasting!

I have asked Tom to call me and to list for me all the references that he used while speaking of the wines. I'd like to hear them once again so that I might recollect what he had said with them? I will add them once I hear from him.

Tom wrote in our store journal : " Mahalo Bruddah, So cool to meet a friend who knows the Chagall windows at Reims. Bangin' ... Thanks for enjoying the joy with me and our wines ".

I will edit this tomorrow morning and add whatever else I need tomorrow and then post it afterwards. I will sleep on what I have written already and see if anything " new " surfaces overnight. It was a very fun, special tasting moment for me and I am thrilled to have met you Tom and tasted your LONGBOARD wines with you.

I hope you come soon and taste your wines here in the store with our customers. We will have a blast , really we will. Cheers, TONY

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