Where does it come from:
The origin of Altesse has been the subject of some debate. It has been suggested that it's identical to Furmint, the noble Hungarian variety used to make the great sweet wine Tokaij. However others suspect that it is indigenous to the hills of Savoie. Today there are fewer than 1,000 acres under cultivation, mostly in France, though there is a small quantity in Switzerland.
What's it like for the farmer:
Altesse needs gentle care, as it is quite to susceptible to the most common forms of grape rot.
Bebame, Sierra Foothills, California, 2013
Distributor: T. Edward Wines, 66 West Broadway, New York, NY, 10007
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As Thanksgiving comes around and people start thinking about assembling the meal, the question of what to drink with dinner always comes up. But what once was a challenging issue is now an easier decision. New York's best wine shops and restaurants are full of wines that fit the bill. There are no real rules. The only demand is that the wine have enough freshness and energy to keep you feeling alive as you prepare for a third helping of stuffing. What's that you say? It should also be homegrown? Fine, we can cover that too. The current crop of forward-thinking domestic growers have plenty of bottles at hand to keep you from going thirsty on Thursday. For our Blue Ribbon Thanksgiving we've chosen Bebame, a Sierra Foothills red with the pedigree of a thoroughbred.
Bebame is a project conceived by a group of friends who wanted to make a California red wine that ordinary people could afford to drink on a regular basis without having to settle for an inferior product. Don Heistuman, long one of Portland's most respected distributors, wanted to grow and make a wine that said "Drink Me." So he enlisted Steve Edmunds, one of the true heroes in the California wine odyssey of the last 40 years. Steve's wines are favorites at Blue Ribbon, for the manner in which he respects the natural quality of the fruit and their endless drinkability. Steve in turn enlisted his friend Ron Mansfield, a grape-growing pioneer in the Sierras. They settled on Cabernet Franc, with a dash of Gamay, as a tribute to the Loire wines they all love.
The results are pleasant, to say the very least and while California produces quite a lot of delicious wine cut from Old-World cloth these days, it is rarely so affordable. Bebame is full of fresh, crunchy red berries, fresh green herbs and just a touch of bell pepper. The acidity races alongside a firm mineral backbone. The Sierra Foothills is notable for the same kind of ancient granite soils that distinguish Beaujolais and the Northern Rhone and that granite brings a freshness to wine that may not be explainable but is certainly welcome. All in all, this wine is a small joy to drink. We will be serving it all week by the glass and even you are staying at home for Thanksgiving we hope you will stop by at some point to try it out. Happy Thanksgiving!
Wine Director, Blue Ribbon Restaurants