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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Giving the Mailing List a Reboot

Almost exclusively a domestic wine phenomenon, the ‘mailing list’ is rejoiced in as often as it is reproached. Its maladies have been chronicled here ad nauseam, so I feel compelled to cite what endears me to it. While scarcity and exclusivity are obligatory reasons to march along the mailing parade, variety is what turns its necessity into a gift. Oddly, I think the two examples that provide me the most joy come from opposite coasts. Foxen, pocketed within a Santa Maria canyon, and Channing Daughters, near the edge of a fork at the east end, each exemplify all that’s right with the mailing list.

While each producer has their signatures, neither clings too tightly to a flagship. Channing Daughters finds their inspiration from Italian soils, crafting the only Tocai Friulano Pinot Bianco & Pinot Gris blends on the island. While its pulse may lay in Friuli, Channing breathes an air of all sorts of variety, including Gewurztraminer, Blaufrankisch, Aligote, Semillon, Muscat Ottonel & a mélange of the usual suspects one would expect form most any Long Island Winery. Over 25 different cuvees are made at Channing Daughters, experimenting not only w/ a variety of grapes, but clones, yeasts, oak casks (Slovenian, Hungarian, American & French oak all make an appearance in the cellar) and fermentation technique (whites co-fermented w/ reds, whites fermented on the skins, etc.) all vary from wine to wine. Channing Daughers not only sounds unique on paper, their wines deliver distinction to the more important senses of smell & taste. Their Tocai Friulano carries a telltale note of bitter almond, the native yeasts wildly punctuate the Sauvignon Blanc & each Chardonnay clone casts its own series of defining characteristics. The field blend, Mosaico, pays homage to Friuli by highlighting a particular spot in the vineyard, and their most novel blends, called Meditazione & Envelope, carry all the fiery layers of nuance that fermenting w/ grape skins can provide white wines.

Broadly speaking, Channing Daughters wines possess more punch & flesh than the vast majority of whites I’ve tasted from the east end. Each bottle exhibits a sense of creative artistry that is particularly daring when considering its humble origins. Imaginative wines that also manage to be pleasurable are some of wine’s richest discoveries, and thanks to the mailing list, I can relish in this find every other month.

Foxen, on the other coast, is a producer that I’ve had difficulty defining. Although they’ve upgraded their tasting facilities to a more contemporary dwelling, I can’t help but associate the Foxen label w/ the homey, unadorned shack that tugs you away from the road like a toy to a child. A quick glance at their line-up leaves you w/ the impression that Bill & Dick specialize in Rhone varietals, but that thought quickly dissolves into a soupy haze once your eyes crust over the words ‘Chenin Blanc.’ Not to be outdone, the Chenin anomaly finds company in various shapes & sizes, as their roster is filled with the likes of Sangiovese, Bordeaux & Burgundian varieties, Zinfandel and the Mission Grape (aptly listed in the ‘other wines’ section of their website). Wineries that attempt to master innumerable, finicky grapes usually render my intrigue idle, but not Foxen. There’s a spunky flash to be found in each of their wines, as if they were comedic on the surface but proud & humble at the core. Each bottle is packed w/ exciting, vivid flavors that remind you how fun good wine can be. In fact, tasting through Foxen’s wines is one of the first memories I have of anthropomorphizing wine. The personalities of each were too bright not to notice. While I’m certain I’d had other wines that were deserving of human characteristics before, I felt too mired in falsity to put a name to their faces. Sometimes I’m limited by environment, but at Foxen, the scent of pretension wouldn’t dare skulk through that shack’s stratum. A bit of irreverent wordplay always helps the young taster along too. Toasted Rope anyone?

The variety shared by each producer plays out like a bi-monthly gift, arriving at the base of my doorstep as if it were a Christmas tree rug. Each delivery finds me excited, with my interest on high and cynicism in the shadows. There’s something precious about the unpredictability of each package. I still view each bottle of Foxen as openly as their facade-less shack in Santa Maria, and each bottle of Channing Daughters as a liquid painted canvas, with all the artistry of one of their winery's wooden sculptures. The prices are modest and the shipments are small, keeping the debit dent well below the wife’s radar screen (nothing ruins child-like bliss more than fiscal responsibility). Foxen and Channing Daughters have taught me to embrace the mailing list, almost forgetting the four letter words attached to concepts like ‘allocation size’ and ‘waiting list.’
Yep, I can easily say that these guys do the mailing list right. Who out there has changed your perception of what is right w/ the mailing list? Or, if you are in more pessimistic spirits, who most perpetuates the odious connotation we have w/ the mailing list?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Brad's wife: Heyyy...the Channing Daughter's bill is on MY credit card. No need to be flying under anyone's radar : )

Wednesday, September 23, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I beg to differ. I have been on the "waiting list" to join Foxen's wine club since January, 2008. While I regularly receive emails from them, I still have not been informed of any openings & am not holding my breath. Sometimes I think wineries like Foxen & Rusack lie about having a "full" wine club just to increase demand & popularity of their wines without having to offer discounts & free tastings.

Monday, September 28, 2009  
Blogger Brad Coelho said...

That type of practice seems fairly standard for some wineries, but I've never gotten that impression from Foxen. I joined up after visiting the winery some years back and I think it took 9 months or so for me to get enrolled. Perhaps the wait has increased a bit over the years, but their prices have remained modest & the larger production cuvees see decent enough distribution to hit the shelves out east.

Most of the cuvees come in such small quantity that even the club members only get a bottle or two (and because they are only offered to the list members, there isn't an 'additional' discount).

Wednesday, September 30, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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Saturday, February 13, 2010  

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