Stopping to Smell A Mad Rose – A Day with Neal Rosenthal

Oct 30, 2012 No Comments by

It happens every now and then.  ‘Those Moments’ that reminds us why we do what we do.  I had a day full of those moments this spring when I went to New York to meet with the Rosenthal group.

First, allow me a trip down memory lane.  There was a time when selling Kendall-Jackson and Beringer paid my bills.  Having started in the wine business with a large distributor, I was well schooled in the Gallo U principles.  “Stack them high and watch them fly”, etc.   But, when I would catch little glimpses of ‘authentic wine’ I always took notice.  Coming to Vintner was a natural progression for me, as I prefer to sell the kinds of wines that I enjoy on my own table.   The Vintner Select portfolio is really an embarrassment of riches.  From each country we represent there are relationships, families and stories behind the carefully selected wines.

In looking to add a stateside supplier of French wines to this portfolio, Rosenthal was my first choice.  Their company philosophy is so similar to ours here at Vintner, and their wines are chosen on the same principles.  Being a person of strong integrity, Neil insisted that we meet each other and taste the wines together before making a handshake agreement to work together.  So, he assembled a few other distributors that he has been working with for years, and we met in Brooklyn at the Mad Rose warehouse to taste thru an extensive collection of wines.  45 wines.  Before lunch.

Neil chose to pour mostly older vintages, some of them from more difficult years, chosen to demonstrate the producer’s quality in lesser years.  As we tasted, he gave us all an in depth picture of the people, processes and land behind each label.  We discussed Character, Typicity and Grace.  The overriding theme was BALANCE.  I couldn’t agree more with Neil as he stated that “Striving for balance is the human condition”.  To me, balance is what makes a wine resonate with us on a deep level.  It’s like recognizing that person in a crowd who has managed to find happiness and balance in their life – balanced wines just stand out.

As for the 45 wines, to say that they were all ‘unique and expressive of terrior  would be the grossest understatement.  We took hours to taste, but the wines were demanding of more time and attention.  Usually in that lengthy of a ‘lineup’, it’s easy to skim over most of the wines and easily assign them to certain categories of style.  Not so easy with these wines.  They made new categories for themselves – giving a gentle stretch to the part of my brain that stores tasting impressions.

Neil’s portfolio has a few unique defining characteristics.  Often the vintages are released years behind what is typical in this business, as traditional wines take time to in the bottle.  There is NEVER any acidification added to any Rosenthal wine.  Ever.  Sometimes there is chaptilization when necessary.  Also, there are no Stelvin closures on any of the wines for the following two reasons  - 1) the romance  2) ‘it’s not right for a living thing’  For natural wines that evolve in the bottle, this makes sense.  Wine should breathe, and stay balanced – as should we all.

Personally, I’d recommend seeking out a glass of Rosenthal’s Thevenet BrutSoucherie Anjou Blanc  or Chat. Peyre Bordeaux.  These wines pair beautifully with a wide variety of foods, but also are fully balanced and complete on their own.  Or, set up your own Rosenthal tasting, and share one of ‘Those Moments’ with friends.  Santé!

- Jennifer Stewart

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