Natural Wines: Zack Bruell Restaurant Group introduces organic, biodynamic vintages.

Have you ever tasted a wine that was truly alive?  I hadn’t, until I had my first sips (and glasses) of natural wines.  And now, I get it.  It was hard to understand, or believe, that a wine could change dramatically from first open, to first pour, to last sip.  But it happened, each time, as we tasted the new natural wine offerings from the Zack Bruell Restaurant Group. 

Restaurateur, Zack Bruell, recently brought on his son, Julian, as the Director of Service.  The younger Bruell brings with him experience from Michellin Star restaurants in New York City.  Inside his first three months, he and Direcotr of Operations, David Schneider, set about introducing ground-breaking wines to several of the ZBRG properties.  This week I was invited to taste some of the biodynamic offerings now available at Parallax and L’Albatros Brasserie.  


What makes a wine natural, or biodynamic ? They require a lot more labor, for starters.  They are made by small, passionate producers, with minimal intervention or modern technology.  No yeast, bacteria or sugars are added.  Simply produced, these wine makers stay true to traditional wine making.  The lack of things like sulfites (only added at bottling for stability) means you should drink it right away.  Alas, the minimum amount of sulfites, however, will not lessen a hangover, contrary to what some believe.  That’s according to Maggie, the wine rep who walked us through each variety. 


These natural wines aren’t filtered, so some, especially the white varieties, appear more cloudy than you’d expect.  And some, like the Chardonnary we tried had a bit of a yeast smell to them initially.  But inside five minutes of the pour, it tasted more buttery, like a classic Chardonnay you’ve come to expect.  These wines evolved rapidly, some “explode out of the bottle,” according to Bruell.       


The Chenin Blanc was a touch more sweet, warm at first.  But in minutes it gave off a green apple tartness to it. You can see how one like this would be a perfect pairing to the richness of Chef Bruell’s food.


The Nerello Mascalese, a field blend from Sicily, was produced from volcanic soil. It was light, like a Pinot noir, and had hints of kiwi and pomegranate.


My favorite was the French Syrah, from Crozes-Hermitage, Rhone.  It had more body, with raisin, tobacco and even light black pepper favors to it. 

The Mourvèdre out of Mendocino County was light, a little sweet and a little dry with strawberry and plum notes.  I thought  it would make for a lovely spritzer, come the warmer months. 


We had a great time sampling these food friendly wines, clearly the next trend in wine making.   To my surprise, the price points were much lower than I’ve seen such wines before. There will be 12 varieties, sold by the bottle on the menu at L’Albatros Brasserie and Parallax, ranging in price from $32-60.  Cheers!

The Calling. A toast to Jim Nantz and Chef Zack Bruell

“Hello, friends” (in my best Jim Nantz voice) Such an iconic sports figure and such a charming personality.  The legendary CBS Sports broadcaster is joining forces with a legendary Cleveland chef, Zack Bruell, for an excellent summer pour…courtesy of The Calling.

zack and jim nantz

I had the honor and privilege to attend a luxurious event this week, a multi-stop wine tasting featuring the wine label from CBS Sports Commentator, Jim Nantz, and his partner, Peter Deutsch.

The free, public event, offered pours from The Calling, with a side car of back story from Nantz, Deutsch and Bruell, three pretty excellent story tellers.  We were first offered their Chardonnay, a beautifully balanced 100% Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.  Tasting notes include stone fruit, citrus, melon, toasted nuts and vanilla bean.  It was creamy, which to me, is rare with this variety.

Next we were poured an incredible Pinot Noir.  Probably the best I’ve had in memory.  100% Pinot grapes from the same region mentioned above.  I could taste cherry, and cranberry.  What a velvety wine! Price point around $35.

And finally, we were offered a spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.  It’s 89% Cab, 5% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot and 100% DELISH!   It presented blackberry and plum tasting notes, with a hint of coffee and a lingering finish.

Fans of wine, Nantz, and Bruell could meet up with the trio at L’Albatros Brasserie, Table 45, Parallax or Alley Cat Oyster Bar, and hear about the goal of this new vintage: become the new great American premium wine brand. The big name broadcaster chose not to put his name on the bottle.  Instead he wanted the wine to stand on it’s own. He and Deutsch got together after a chance meeting at a restaurant in Connecticut right after Deutsch had just finished reading Nantz’s book about his father, Always By My Side.  Nantz had long wanted to get involved in the wine industry.  Both wanted to start an endeavor to honor their fathers.  Several years later, they have a brand their fathers would be proud of.

tour de bruell card

Nantz said he is competing to win.  In fact, he said he wasn’t even going to enter the arena unless he was going to win.  Sip for yourself and be the judge.  The Calling is the official wine of this year’s Tour de Bruell. (I got my first stamp this week!)  You can get it at all Zack Bruell’s restaurants and Heinens grocery stores.