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Columns – Christy Frank

Piquettes: The Impossible Dream Come True
Christy Frank
May 11, 2022

May 11, 2022: Piquettes are one of those new old things - a blast from the distant past that's finding homes on shop shelves across the country. If you swim in the natural wine waters, you're probably already familiar with these delightful new arrivals to the scene. Yes, delightful. I'll be the first to admit that the word 'delightful' gets thrown around a bit willy nilly. But the best piquettes are indeed a delightful rainbow of liquid yumminess. The basic method for Piquettes: Take the pomace left over after wine production. (The non-technical term would be 'the gunk that's left in the tank after you press off the wine.') Add water and let it steep. Press the water-steeped gunk into another tank or barrel (at which point it will be flavored with memories of the original wine or cider.) Way back when, this would then have been bottled and given to field workers and, yes, children. But Todd Cavallo adds a few extra touches - he adds about 15% finished wine to the mix to stabilize it, and then pops it into the bottle with a small bit of wildflower honey. You won't really taste the honey, but the sugar kicks off a very light fermentation which gives the final wine a bit of a sparkle.

Tales of Catawba (and other Hybrids)
Christy Frank
Mar 23, 2022

Mar. 23, 2022: A long, long time ago, on an island far, far away, I used to drink wines made from the Catawba grape. Alright, that's only sort of true. It wasn't all that long ago (but I won't say how long, for fear of dating myself.) And the island wasn't that far away - it was Put-in-Bay, off the northern coast of Ohio in Lake Erie. And I really didn't drink that much Catabawa because I really didn't like it. It was sweet and a little funky in a very grapey way - a headache waiting to happen in a plastic cup. Skip forward to sometime in 2016, when I arrived late for a drink meeting at Rouge Tomate. My drink meeting mates were already sipping from two glasses - blind wines had been poured. They were both sparkling, with the more-foamy-than-full-on bubble that signals 'petillant naturel,' the newly cool old-school method of getting bubbles into bottles. I took a sniff and a sip. No way! Could it be? It was grapey, a little funky, floral and fruity…some might even say 'foxy.' But delicious.

Dispatches from Behind the Counter: How to be a Satisfied Customer
Christy Frank
Feb 1, 2022

Back in my wine shop days, I used to write a feature called 'That Customer.' Since then, not much has changed. Wine is still confusing. And wine shops are still confusing. But happily, they still tend to be staffed with people who like to talk (and talk… and talk) about wine. So, what you may think of as a silly question, shop people likely just consider an opportunity to…talk about wine. But all that talking doesn't amount to much if it doesn't result in a bottle that you'll like at the price you want to spend. What you'll find below are tips and tricks to make you a more satisfied customer.

Mead Me in St. Louis
Christy Frank
Nov 9, 2021

Last week I went to St. Louis for a mead competition, partly for the brilliant pun possibilities, but really because of a few sips of pyment I had earlier this year in Texas. A pyment is a co-ferment of honey and grapes, something I didn't know until Alisha Blackwell-Calvert, one of my fellow judges at the TexSom International Wine Awards, gave me a few sips of one she had made with Bluewood Brewing in St. Louis. It combined the pretty floral/peachy notes of Riesling with the wispy, heathery character of wildflower honey and walked the tightrope of freshness, delicacy and subtle power all at once. I was smitten. A few months later, Alisha reached out to ask if I would like to judge the National Honey Board's Mead Crafter's Competition in St. Louis and I gave her a quick yes (and a few terrible puns.)

Dispatches from Behind the Counter
Christy Frank
Sep 14, 2021

When I opened my first wine shop in 2008, I did the very 2008 thing - I started a blog about my adventures behind the counter. Some of the favorite posts involved peeks behind the magic curtain. Industry folks enjoyed them because they told the truth. And 'civilians' enjoyed them because, well, who doesn't love a little glimpse of an emperor in skivvies? Nearly 15 years later, I'm back behind the counter - and the adventures are as entertaining as ever. So, on occasion, I'll use this column to tell them. Well, some of them - I'll spare you the retail minutia on how to count out a cash drawer or break down a cardboard box.