Almost 10 years ago, Peter Pastan decided to invest in a Southern California wine start-up launched by a former Obelisk kitchen drone named Sashi Moorman. The owner and chef of the Dupont Circle restaurant essentially viewed his investment as a donation.
“I sent him a check and I was like, ‘I don’t expect to ever see this money again, so please surprise me,” says Pastan. “Since then it’s only gotten worse.”
For years, Pastan used his investor status to take trips to Ballard Canyon during harvest season to, among other things, prepare dinner for Moorman and the crew. For Pastan, it was a nice break from the toil of running two busy kitchens, including 2 Amys, that noisy monster of a pizzeria on Macomb St. NW.
But about a year or so ago, Pastan’s wife, writer and editor Amy Pastan, formed the Piedrasassi New Vineland Winery with Moorman. Peter Pastan was personally prohibited from being a partner since he holds a D.C. liquor license, he says, but he does consult with Moorman, a .professional winemaker, on the viniculture process. Pastan says he has been encouraging Moorman to break the Parker spell — okay, it’s better known as the Parker Effect, but work with me here — and produce lower-alcohol wines with good acidity, a style that’s generally food friendly.
Piedrasassi has produced exactly that with its 2010 vintage of “carbonic” sangiovese, which is made by fermenting whole grape clusters, stems and skins and all, in a sealed fermenter. It creates a more tannic sangiovese, “which is fairly rare for a California sangiovese,” Pastan says. “It has a lot of tannins from the stems.”
The wine is also incredibly drinkable, with an initial fruit blast that gives way to a pleasing acidity. Pastan prefers to describe his sangiovese, which has 12.6 percent alcohol by volume, in less wine-geek terms. It has “good slammability,” he says. “It’s like a session beer. You can drink a lot of it.”
“I think this [vinification] gives it kind of a bitterness and a brightness that really works well with food,” Pastan says in the basement of 2 Amys, as he pours a couple of samples from a carafe. “Chianti 20 years ago and 30 years ago had that quality. I think it has been internationalized to a degree.”
You can determine for yourself how slammable and food friendly Piedrasassi’s sangiovese really is. 2 Amys started tapping a keg of the ”pizza wine” about six weeks ago. (A keg of Piedrasassi’s syrah should be arriving later this year, too.)
That’s right: tapping a keg, which is kept at a cool 55-degrees.
“It has a serious fun factor to have a tap at the bar,” Pastan says. “It’s supposed to be a fun wine. It’s not supposed to be a serious wine.”
The price is certainly fun — and recession-friendly. A glass runs only $7; a half-liter will cost you $19, a full liter $38.
So Pastan must finally be seeing a return on his initial investment all those years ago, right?
“No, not at all,” he says, declining to say how much he’s put into Moorman’s operation. “It’s the most expensive wine I ever drank in my life.”