I’ve recently discovered an importer whose wines I admire very much. Years ago I began to pay attention to who was importing the wine that I was buying. Ferrando ErbaluceSimilar to trusting the taste in art of your favorite gallery or taste in music of a certain label, I recommend putting your trust in a wine importer whose wines consistently satisfy you. The first such importer for me was Neal Rosenthal. I was living in Providence, RI at the time, and shopped at a wonderful little store called Campus Wines. The buyer, Michael, had an insatiable enthusiasm for great wine, and he was a fan of the Rosenthal portfolio. I remember enjoying my first Erbaluce di Caluso by Luigi Ferrando on his recommendation. His portfolio is full of traditional, handmade gems from Italy and France that reflect a specific sense of place. The Vouvray is beyond a doubt, from Vouvray.

Louis/Dressner is another favorite of mine. Like Rosenthal, they focus on French and Italian wines. “Real wine” is how they describe them, unique wines made with the least amount of intervention possible.Renardat-Fache Bugey Cerdon I believe my first Louis/Dressner wine was a lightly sparkling, slightly sweet rosé made from the Poulsard grape in the Bugey-Cerdon appellation of the Savoie. Renardat-Fache is the producer.

In New York, while working at Appellation Wine and Spirits, I discovered another favorite — Terry Theise. I suppose Michael Skurnik is technically the importer, but he imports Terry’s distinctive and soulful selections of German, Austrian and grower-champagne. The first wine of Terry’s that I tasted was A.J. Adam‘s 2002 Dhronhofberger Tholey Riesling, a mesmerizing QbA from the Mosel.

Jenny & Francois is yet another favorite importer of interesting, real wine. Cousin GrolleauI’ll never forget my first Jenny & Francois wine — Olivier Cousin’s “Le Cousin” Rouge made from the Grolleau grape in the Anjou region of the Loire. I somehow got away with ordering it at a family dinner at the Brooklyn restaurant, Sorrel, and I loved everything about it! The crazy smells, the quaffibility, the mosquito cartoon on the label.

Jon-David Headrick is an importer whose wines I was just getting to know when I left New York for California. The first of his wines that I tasted was Domaine St. Nicolas’s Pinot Noir from the little known, seldom seen Loire Valley appellation Fiefs Vendéens. It smelled like graphite, proudly showing the terroir, rather than the varietal character of the grape. I look forward to trying more of his wine, though I haven’t seen much of it out here in California.

Now I can add Oliver McCRum, importer of very good Italian wine, to this illustrious list. The first McCrum wine I had was found at Corti Brothers in Sacramento. Barbolini LambruscoLa Cassacia’s Grignolino del Monferrato was everything I want out of Grignolino — a wine most people can live without, but I’m not one of them — bitter cherry and anis and acid all wrapped up in a translucent crimson package. It was excellent with my husband’s equally excellent pasta e fagioli. I adore McCrum’s Lambrusco producer, Barbolini, and wish it was available in Sacramento right now. We picked it up at Solano Cellars in Albany and drank it around a campfire in Big Sur. Recently I found his dry Trentino Moscato Giallo from Bolognani at Taylor’s Market in Sac, and it was great with a spread of radishes, turnips, anchovies, and walnuts. I’m excited to know that the Oliver McCrum name on a wine indicates deliciousness, and will continue to use it as criteria for picking out unfamiliar wines.

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