Monday, August 09, 2010

In honor of Jimmy Brennan

Quickly scrolling through my mail account at night, I'm prone to read those that come with great subject lines; "Honey for Cobbler" was one, and "Norton Complete List" was another. I grow weary of fighting a losing battle, so I wait until I'm already worn out to read the digest of terrible ecology news that comes to me everyday. I already know how we're all doomed, actually, and I already know that native ecosystems don't have a fighting chance when "we gotta have jobs, lady" and growth doesn't involve an actual planning process.

So I skip to the emails about wine from my friend from Louisiana, Judy, who lives in the Soulard and accompanies me on winery tours, and I readily read emails from The Norton Wine Travelers, a couple out of South Carolina who roam the country in search of great Nortons. (I look forward to sitting down with The Norton Wine Travelers this fall as they investigate Missouri wineries of the southwest region. I'm unfamiliar with so many of them, generally restricting myself to wineries along the way to elsewhere, so they've given me a reason to explore the Springfield Plateau to give them pointers.)

Tonight, Judy passed on the obituary for Jimmy Brennan of Brennan's Restaurant from the New Orleans' Times-Picayune. The writer of the obituary painted a lovely portrait of a man dedicated to protecting his wine cellar. As Katrina made landfall almost 5 years ago and the city lost power, many of us thought of the incredible climate-controlled wine cellars. Of course, Galatoire's and Brennan's had possibly the most extensive wine collections in town, and both of them lost it all in the oppressive August heat. Delicate bordeaux can't really handle 100 degree weather very well. And so, just as I had great hopes had happened, Jimmy Brennan of Brennan's opened his cellar to the staff that stayed behind to protect the restaurant from looters, an act so noble that it made it to his obituary.

Jimmy Brennan, built famed wine collection
Published: Tuesday, August 03, 2010, 2:20 PM Updated: Tuesday, August 03, 2010, 2:24 PM
John Pope, The Times-Picayune
Jimmy Brennan, an owner of the fabled French Quarter restaurant bearing the family surname who developed an award-winning wine cellar there, died July 18 at East Jefferson General Hospital. He was 70.
Jimmy Brennan
Mr. Brennan, who had been battling cancer, died of myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder that can be the result of cancer treatment, said Theodore "Ted" Brennan, one of his brothers.
A lifelong New Orleanian who graduated from De La Salle High School, Mr. Brennan attended Louisiana State University before heading to the Ecole Hoteliere de la S.S.H. in Lausanne, Switzerland.
From there, Mr. Brennan went to Houston in the late 1960s to run the Brennan's Restaurant there. He returned to New Orleans in 1973 to run Brennan's on Royal Street with his brothers, Ted Brennan and Owen "Pip" Brennan Jr.
His duty was to develop the restaurant's wine cellar. Although it started as part of the job, that task turned into an all-consuming passion, Ted Brennan said. By the time Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, the cellar had 35,000 bottles, and it had won Wine Spectator magazine's Grand Award every year since 1983.
"He knew his stuff," said Ellen Brennan, Mr. Brennan's sister-in-law. "That was his life."
Although the storm didn't inflict severe damage on the pink building, the power failure ruined the wine cellar.
"After four days, we knew the cellar was gone," said Ted Brennan, adding, "The wine broiled."
Among the casualties was the cellar's most precious bottle, a magnum of 1870 Lafite Rothschild. Bought at a 1976 auction, the bottle probably would be worth between $50,000 and $60,000 today, Ted Brennan said.
Before all the cellar's contents could go bad, Mr. Brennan embarked on what he called "the grand tasting" with Lazone Randolph, the chef, and a handful of people who had stayed in the restaurant to protect it from vandalism and looting.
"I'd call in from Dallas -- they couldn't call out -- and one of them would tell me, 'This evening, we're seeing if the Lafite '28 is better than the Lafite '29, '" Ted Brennan said.
When the restaurant reopened, restocking the cellar was a top priority. Mr. Brennan outlined the plan, and it is being followed, his brother said.
The cellar has about 14,000 bottles, he said. "It's coming along quite nicely. This was his baby."
In addition to the wine cellar, Mr. Brennan enjoyed planning private parties, being sure that he paired the right wine with the right food, his brother said.
In addition to his brothers, survivors include two daughters, Shawn Brennan Cerchiai and Samantha Scott Brennan, both of San Francisco, and a grandson.
The memorial service was private.
"We toasted him with a bottle of Dom Perignon 1990, his favorite Champagne," Ted Brennan said, "and wished him bon voyage."

But earlier this week, The Norton Wine Travelers, working with, compiled a list of the Norton producers in Missouri. While I am confident that no Norton existed on the Brennan's list, I have great hopes that one day Missouri Nortons will achieve the status they deserve and find themselves on great wine lists of the world. The wine travelers noted their favorites with an asterisk, and my favorites are noted with a +. If you know of other wineries making a Norton, let me know. Put "Norton" in the subject heading and I'll be certain to read it.

Missouri 68 wineries producing Norton

Bias Winery, Berger, MO

Mountain Grove Winery, Mountain Grove, MO

Three Trails Vineyards, Lexington, MO

Van Till Farms, Rayville, MO

7C’s Walnut Grove, MO

Adam Puchta Winery * Hermann, MO

Augusta Winery + Augusta, MO

Baltimore Bend Vineyard Waverly, MO

Bethlehem Valley Vineyards Marthasville, MO

Blumenhof Winery * Marthasville, MO

Bommarito Estate Winery New Haven, MO

Branson Ridge Winery Branson, MO

Cave Vineyard Ste. Genevieve, MO
Chandler Hill * Defiance, MO

Charleville Vineyards Ste. Genevieve, MO

Chaumette Vineyards & Winery +Ste. Genevieve, MO

Claverach Farm & Vineyards Eureka, MO
Cooper’s Oak Winery Higbee, MO
Counts Hollow Salem, MO
Crown Valley Winery + Ste. Genevieve, MO

Durso Hills Vineyard & Winery Marquand, MO

Eagle’s Nest Winery Louisiana, MO

Eichenberg Winery Cole Camp, MO

Grey Bear Stover, MO

Heinrichshaus Vineyard & Winery +*St. James, MO

Hermannhof Winery+ Hermann, MO

Indian Creek Winery Monroe City, MO

Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery Platte City, MO

Keltoie Vineyard Oronoga, MO

La Dolce Vita Vineyard & Winery Washington, MO

Le Cave Vineyard Billings, MO

Les Bourgeois Vineyards Rocheport, MO

Little Hills Winery St. Charles, MO

Louis P. Balducci Vineyards Augusta, MO

Meramec Vineyards + (esp. the 05) St. James, MO

Mountain Gove Cellars Mountain Grove, MO

Montelle Winery *Augusta, MO

Montserrat Vineyards Knob Noster, MO

Mount Pleasant Winery Augusta, MO

Native Stone Vineyard Jefferson City, MO

New Oak Vineyards Wellington, MO

Oak Glenn Vineyards & Winery Hermann, MO

Oovvda Winery Springfield, MO
Peaceful Bend Vineyard Steelville, MO

Red Fox Vineyards and Winery, Urich, MO

River Ridge Winery + Commerce, MO

Riverwood Winery Rushville, MO

Rolling Meadows Vineyards Warrenton, MO

Robller Vineyard Winery * New Haven, MO

Sainte Genevieve Winery Ste. Genevieve, MO
Seven Springs Winery + Linn Creek, MO

St. Francois Winery Park Hills, MO

St. James Winery *+ St. James, MO

Stone Hill Winery Hermann, MO

Stonehaus Farms Winery Lee’s Summit, MO

Sugar Creek Winery & Vineyards Defiance, MO

Summit Lake Winery Holts Summit, MO

Terre Beau Vineyards Dover, MO
Three Squirrels Winery St. James, MO

Tower Rock Winery Altenburg, MO

Traver Home Winery Willow Springs, MO

Twin Oaks Vineyards Farmington, MO

Vance Vineyards Fredericktown, MO
Villa Antonio Winery Hillsboro, MO
West Winery Macon, MO

Westphalia Vineyards + (07 and older) Westphalia, MO

Whispering Oaks Vineyard & Winery Seymour, MO

Yellow Farm House Defiance, MO


Travis said...

crown valley and st. james? swill!
that's like saying those frozen sara lee pies are better than one that has cooled on a windowsill and is made with love. obviously, i really don't care for either of those places, but especially crown valley!

Allison Vaughn said...

Ah, but Travis, isn't that a beautiful thing about Missouri wineries? They all make distinctive wines out of grapes grown in our distinctive soils on our dynamic slopes, and surely there's a Norton out there for everyone. And, really, if you haven't tried some of the sticky sweet Nortons out of Illinois, you don't know what swill is.

travis said...

Crown valley was created to function as a tax shelter. the grapes taste like pesticide and fungicide.
i have been at crown in august and september and seen them spraying their norton and chamboucin vines a week before harvest. fairly certain that's actually illegal since the residue goes straight into the wine.
illinois might make crap nortons, but they make outstanding chambourcins, far better than all but one missouri winery (claverach).

Allison Vaughn said...

Duly noted.