Through some happy coincidences I've become acquainted with the French side of the fun yet food-serious team at Vespaio. And by that I mean Claude, one of the owners, who is French. At a celebration dinner Friday night at Vespaio, with a friend who is a good friend of Claude, I reminisced about how much Austin has changed since I first visited Vespaio in the early 2000s. I've been doing a lot of that--reminiscing--in these 2 weeks of getting used to being 50.
Sure, the Enoteca next door was always a favorite. But Vespaio seemed back then to me very meat-heavy and overly decadent and dark for a weekday dinner with all those rich interior colors. Decades later, there I am, ensconced in the Vespaio lushness--and loving it--enjoying an exquisite meal. It is all light and friendly, buzzing with impeccable and attentive service. Though maybe everyone s on their extra-special best behavior with Claude working the front of the house while the manager is out on his honeymoon.
A real treat was Claude's declaring that once we ordered, he would pick out our wine. Yes!
Ever since a 2010 stay in Paris, when I said "no" to the nice Frenchman from the apartment agency who offered to open the bottle of Bordeaux for me as he finished handing over the keys and the introductory tour of that adorable Place Monge one-bedroom apartment, my rule of life has been to never say "non" when there is wine and a Frenchman concerned. This means that the rule is always say "yes" to the offer of a Frenchman picking out wine.
We had order fish and what we learn are the first of the season's soft shell crabs.
Claude asks for my preferences. I try to think of something more interesting than: "Anything you pick out."
I'm a red wine gal, except for summers in Austin (or Paris), when it's rosé all the way, man. I know from past experience Claude is not one to be rigid about what wine goes with what--when it comes to the notion of white wine with the seafood. I am not concerned then to admit that I am leaning toward something red. In that case, he says, perhaps a Pinot Noir and keep it light. As we are celebrating France this night, of course the wine has to be French. He decides this little esoteric gem is the way to go. And once we hear his colorful account of visiting this small production vineyard in the Jura, the answer is of course a resounding "Yes!" to this selection.
Today I see that this was perhaps even more of a treat than I appreciated Friday night.
The producer, Jacques Puffeney, something of a legend for his wine production in the Jura, is stepping down. No one in the family to take over the family business:
The son of a vineyard worker, Puffeney and his father began working little more than an acre of vines in 1962; Puffeney started bottling wines in the 1964 vintage and soon won acclaim. Though Puffeney has never traveled overseas, in the past 20 years his wines developed a loyal American following, with demand outstripping supply of just over 800 cases annually in the U.S. (about 40 percent of his total production).
“My heart is broken,” said Neal Rosenthal, who imports Puffeney’s wines to the U.S. “He was one of the Jura’s best traditional producers. It’s sad to lose this great tradition and heritage.”
Puffeney, whose two daughters were never involved in the domaine and were not interested in taking over, said he would have preferred a solution that would have kept his 15-acre domaine intact, but no plan could meet both his own needs and comply with the restrictions of French law.
Read more here. More good reasons to visit Vespaio: Will need to drink up the rest of what Claude has left of this beautiful wine.