I randomly visited Frank Cornelissen before I even knew what natural wine was; back before I knew that he was a controversial figure, making polarizing wines that continue to flare up into heated debates. Back then they were just wines: pure, precise, generous, almost dizzying in their complex generosity.
I was traveling in Sicily with Nicole. Our friends were getting married in nearby Cefalu, so we took 3 days and visited Etna. I called Frank and asked if we could visit. He said yes, which was nice, because he had nothing to gain from spending a long afternoon with two American tourists. We met at the pizza place and hopped in his Suzuki Trooper alongside his 10-year old daughter and started climbing into the vines, planted way up on the side of an active volcano. Frank pulled off the road and walked up to a vine. He explained that this vine requires a little more water so that's why he dug out a little bowl around the base of the trunk, whereas the vine a few yards away was too vigorous, so he mounded dirt around the base in order to discourage pooling. Turns out he had a personal relationship with every vine. I was accustomed to winemakers talking about vineyard specificity and climate, but this was something else: this was viticulture at a microscopic level. I couldn't believe it.
This almost impossible obsession with detail courses through all of Frank's wines. They are truly unique: rich but precise, bursting with fruit but also saline and smoky. Perfect wine for winter. On Saturday evening, we will host Frank and taste through seven new releases, including the single-vineyard Munjebels, of which we received a whopping six bottles each. The cost is $20. Also, Diego will be serving braised lamb, like old times.
Contadino 2015 $30 Munjebel Rosso 2015 $42 Munjebel Rosso 2014 CS $62 Munjebel Rosso 2014 VA $62 Munjebel Rosso 2014 MC $62 Munjebel Rosso 2014 PC $62 Magma 2014 Rosso $225