Allan Is Not On Strike
"Keep your 100 euros! We need some white to make pink."
A Winemaker's Philosophy
Paris:- Saturday, 30. November 2002:- Allan Pangborn is not on strike this week. Since last week he has, like many readers, been having Thanksgiving - and that was Thursday, so it may have been the first day of a long weekend in the United States.
Between dealing with wine issues involving credit cards and overseeing some painting - he hasn't actually said he is doing this himself - and sending me a 'wine joke,' his contribution to this week's 'News from the Moonlight Wine Cellar' has not shown up yet.
Because of the 'strike' going on here at the world headquarters of Metropole Paris - 'the only online magazine about Paris that you can drink while reading it' - I have been caught a bit short for wine connoisseur- type material.
I used to know quite a bit about wine. When I knew I was moving to Paris, I switched from drinking some of the dryer German wines to get to know French wines.
This was not hard to do in Hamburg, which has had a flourishing trade with Bordeaux since - oh, for hundreds of years - plus there are a lot of importers along the Rhine.
This was a good start. But I think there may be a difference between what people in the country of origin may prefer, and what importers in another country may think their customers may prefer. At any rate, French wines consumed in France were not quite the same as the ones I tried in northern Germany.
Just like it is very difficult to get some of those really dry German wines in France. I guess if they are available, they probably cost a fortune because they weren't inexpensive in Germany.
I do not know a lot about all of Allan's experiences in Europe, but he did tell me he did a stint working with Austrian winemakers. On a major level he has done some work with the big champagne-type producers in Catalonia.
And when he was making his regular mid-winter trips here, he always found time to go and spend a few days in Champagne and visit with some of the producers there.
When he writes below about making 'the best sparkling wine possible in Washington State' I know from conversations we've had that he does not intend to make wine using the méthode champenoise - to match the taste and finesse of French wines 'made for export.'
I think he is trying to do something a bit more ambitious. His goal is, simply, to make an American sparkling wine that tastes as much like the best French Champagnes as possible.The Nicolas wineshop chain was discounting Champagne last week in Paris.
This can be a matter of taste. Although it is a long time ago, I've tried my share of German sparkling wines, Russian sparkling wines, various kinds of French sparkling wines, and of course Champagne itself.
There are two kinds of the latter. There may be more - infinitely more. There are the big houses and their mass production, with their striving for a certain year-to-year sustainable level of quality. In exceptional years, a certain amount will be made from that year's grape harvest only. These years are fairly rare.
Then there are the smaller producers who tend to make their wines according to their own tastes, with the resources they have or can afford to buy. These small producers may have up and down years too, but their wines always 'taste' like something.
As much as Allan respects the big operators, I think he is more at home with the small producers and their striving for character rather than mass-produced consistency.
In a way, this explains some of the things Allan isn't explicit about. He mentions 'specific processes' and these are his trade secrets. Another is the exact nature of the 'dosage.'
Neither of these are fixed in cement. He tastes and remembers and thinks. He probably keeps notes and he probably keeps a considerable amount for sampling and comparisons. Then the next time around maybe everything gets changed a bit.
Every year is a 'next time around,' because the basic material grows out of the ground, exposed to the elements - and these are never constant. So everything changes, each time around.
The cartoon that opens this week's Café Metropole wine page is a variant of the joke Allan sent, but it is set in Paris - where everything is supposed to be possible, including making 'pink' by adding white to red - maybe on purpose.
The 'philosophy' below is largely unchanged from last week's version.
About Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc
The Philosophy at Moonlightô
by Allan Pangborn
Kennewick:- My goal for the Moonlight Sparkling Wine Cellar is to produce the best sparkling wine possible in Washington State.
The méthode champenoise gives the winemaker a huge number of variables to influence the end product.
These include the type of grape, maturity of the grape when harvested, temperature of the first fermentation, type of container - oak or stainless steel, that the wine ferments in, amount of aging of the cuvée before bottling for the second fermentation, the amount of sugar at tirage bottling determines amount of carbonation, amount and kind of reserve wine at tirage bottling, time on the yeast in tirage and the amount of sugar and other materials in the final dosage.
The random length of time the customer ages the wine before opening it is a factor too - all of the variables affect the final product.
I have some specific processes in mind to make a wine that is like no other produced in the United States. These are the result of 20 years of working with sparkling wine and observing how others make their wines. I have selected the steps which will give the most unique and enjoyable wine for the consumer.
The champagne process occurs in a bottle so expensive that barrels and caves are not needed. A 60 gallon French Oak barrel costs $550 to $650 today and the price is always increasing.
A temperature-controlled room has been built into my winery that will provide the bottles with the desired fermenting and aging conditions. My equipment is manual but it produces the same finished bottle as the mechanized high speed bottling and disgorging lines.
The advantage I have when I hand-disgorge each bottle is that I can inspect it for defects or other negative factors that would lessen the quality of the wine. I have heard literally hundreds of thousands of bottles disgorge, so the sound of the 'pop' when the frozen plug blows out of the bottle tells me if the pressure is acceptable, if the bottle is healthy.
I hold the bottle up and check the clarity to be sure the riddling was successful. I inspect the depth of insertion of the cork to make sure the customer can open the bottle. I fold the twisted end of the wirehood against the cork and make sure it is secure and will hold the cork in the bottle. I rub the bubbles out from under the label so it will lie flat and smooth against the bottle.
The bottom line is not to delegate any task. I am not dependent on someone who is an employee to do the task, and I must try to train to do the job the same way I would. I cannot give them 30 years of experience to guide their every move.
I have the luxury of taking the time to do this because I want to. And I know I can compete with the best of them because of my knowledge of the subject. I have amassed the tools necessary. I do not have a corporate structure to thwart creativity or waste energy in unproductive exercises.
The Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc is made from Chardonnay grapes grown near Prosser, Washington, which were harvested when the sugar was 19 percent. A sugar content of 18 to 20 percent is the range for grapes to be made into sparkling wine.
The wine was aged for a year in stainless steel before tirage bottling. The second fermentation and aging in the bottle took another year. Disgorging began on Friday, November 1, 2002.
The dosage is one percent residual sugar and there is a bit of cognac in the dosage. The wine to me is clean, lightly flavorful, and refreshing. The acidity is balanced by the sweetness, and it goes well with food or by itself.
My ideal of the perfect wine is one you drink with friends and the bottle is empty before you know it. In other words, you don't focus on the wine but it is a pleasing accompaniment to the enjoyable things in life. Sipping Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc at the café La Corona in Paris would be pretty close to perfection.
Visits to Moonlight
If you wish to visit 'The Shed,' please contact me prior to your visit. The laws controlling alcohol, tobacco and firearms probably account for 3/4ths of all the laws ever written in the USA. The fact that I must be notified before your visit is one of them!
Ordering and Shipping
Cafe Metropoleô Sparkling Wine is available now to the residents of the following States -
California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and West Virginia.
There are two packages available:
Two 750 ml bottles for $52.00
Six 750 ml bottles for $136.00
The price includes packaging, handling and shipping costs. Shipment will be by UPS '3-day Select' and an adult signature is required for delivery.
Overnight or two-day shipment is an option. The shipping charge will be slightly more, so email your order to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your ZIP Code so I can tell you the actual cost.
Terms: Payment by check or money order, to 'Cafe Metropole' is acceptable. It should be mailed to :
Cafe Metropole, 4704 West 12th Avenue, Kennewick, WA 99338
As the winery is just beginning operations, we do not yet have the means to process credit cards. We will be adding this service in the near future. Until then, we will appreciate your use of a check or money order.
Allan Pangborn, Winemaker
What This Is About
All the past 'news' and lore about Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc and the Moonlight Sparkling Wine Cellar can be found with the links below.
The Metropole Paris issue of six weeks ago introduced the new Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine here for almost the first time in world history. It make a brief appearance in a prototype form last December in New York, but in Metropole's issue 7.43 in late October it 'came out' officially.
This was followed up with some fascinating details about the winery itself, which is brand-new, constructed especially for this wine. The story continued with a report about a 'Cold Snap' that didn't affect Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc because of the new wood-burning stove in 'The Shed,' as the winery is called by Allan.
Three weeks ago, Allan's account of the wine's first public tasting was featured. More recently, a small champagne vocabulary was provided by Allan, with some news about possible changes to laws in New York about ordering wines from out of state.
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