Introducing: Cur Non
cur non · (Latin ) 1. Why not?
September 19, 2022 Update: 33 out of 48 slots are filled! Elizabeth and I just made plans to make a tour through northern Italy, the Rhone, and the middle of France in late October. I wonder if we'll cook something up for Cur Non during that trip?
September 7, 2022 Update: 28 out of 48 slots are filled! And yesterday I pitched the idea to a new winery on the edge of St. Emilion in Bordeaux. A young couple with a tiny and gorgeous site. Their winery is the size of a tractor shed. More to come...
The Back Story
It truly snuck up on me, my 30th anniversary in the wine business. Like so many life changes, it began innocently enough before morphing into my “métier” or trade.
As I was about to depart on a trip to Europe to visit a friend, a Philadelphia wine importer suggested I call on a few of his wineries while I was there. He made a few appointments, gave me a starting address, and sent me on my way. That was in August 1992.
Navigating my way to Morey-St. Denis early one morning, I found Claire Fougeray at her home, ready to attack the day. Mme. Fougeray pumped my hand vigorously, told me we would be speaking franglais, then gestured for me to load into her tiny Peugeot 1.6. “Let’s go see some vineyards!” She navigated those little roads at top speed, spoke even faster, yet managed to answer my questions patiently. After one hell of a bumpy, query-filled ride, we returned to her cellar where we tasted a range of vintages. I absorbed her story, and finally installed myself at her kitchen table for lunch.
At 4pm, filled with home cooking and red Burgundy, I retreated to my little auberge in Meursault, reflecting on my revelation.
I would become a wine importer.
I recount my beginnings in wine as a backdrop for an idea I've been batting around for many years. That first visit sowed the seed for my love for the small, independent, mom & pop winery. Sure, I've stepped through the door at some bigger places over the years, but it is in cellars (and kitchens!) like Claire's where I feel most at home. If you asked me about career goals, I’d say mine have to do with imprinting on you these moments and stories, so that when you finally open one of our winemaker’s bottles, you have a little more context than a score from a magazine could ever give.
I feel lucky to have carved out a niche working for and supporting farmers and winemakers like these. Selling their wines supports their sustainability and growth, while bringing unique and interesting products to our customers. Now, thirty years after my visit with Claire, I have an idea on how to be an even better partner to them, and in return, to you.
Here's where I spell it out, and ask you to come along with me for a brand new ride.
Micro-wineries are in it for the long haul. They must grow pas-a-pas, (step by step, bit by bit,) to be sustainable. Most don’t have visions of becoming part of the LVMH portfolio. That kind of thinking elicits eye rolls. They want to live simply, make a product people will appreciate and admire, and support their families. But often, needs arise early in their formation, and modest wineries don’t have the means or the connections to make things happen. I had a winemaker ask me recently if I might pay an invoice early in return for a 5% discount. Why? There was a labeling machine on the market that she wanted to grab but didn't have the funds on hand. (I paid the bill in full, and she got the machine) Small wineries, without the backing of a corporate bank, lean on sources like crowdfunding and receivables financing to raise small sums. That got me wondering, how could we more directly contribute to the growth and success of these wineries we champion?
Voilà — a project designed to make a real impact on a handful of our partner wineries. Our return? Great wines not available anywhere else.
- I will choose six, small, independent wineries from which to purchase, in advance, a single custom lot of one outstanding wine.
- We will then advance funds to each winemaker to produce 288 bottles at en primeur (up front) pricing,
- And together with them we’ll create a truly exclusive range of micro-production wines for a limited group of interested customers
I’m offering 48 total parts, units, shares, or whatever you want to call them. The basics of the program can be distilled into three bullets:
- Each unit costs $1250
- In return you will receive one 6-pack of wine from each of the six wineries (36 bottles in total)
- These wines will find their way into your hands over the next two years (depending on region, variety, vintage, etc.)
Please contact me at dan (at) roadcru (dot) biz with any feedback, questions, or to sign up!
What specific regions will you be looking to do?
I’m more interested in winemakers than regions, and I’m particularly interested in delivering a memorably delicious product to you at the end of the day. Everything is on the table–France, Italy, Spain, Portugal; Bordeaux, Rhone, Burgundy, Piedmont, Tuscany, Priorat, and on and on…
Will these be reds, whites, or a mix?
I would guess mostly reds, but if a white or two crosses my radar, and it’s special enough, then I’m going to go for it.
May I choose to purchase only red wines?
Sorry, no. Not at this time. But really, I think at maximum there would be two whites involved.
Can I share a unit with a friend?
Sure, why not?
What info will we receive ongoing?
Each time we choose a winery, and collaborate on a wine, we’ll report back to you to let you know what’s in the works. A little background about the producer, their family, and if the funds are used for a specific purchase, we’ll tell you about that too.
What materials will we receive with our six-pack deliveries?
Each six-pack will include a small booklet about the wine, winemaker, and vineyards. These will be artfully designed to peripherals you may choose to collect as the project continues.
What if I want to purchase more after I taste the wine?
These collaborations will be exclusive, so you’ll need to savor those six bottles. That’s all we’re going to get! The idea is for you to experience unique wines produced in small quantities just for us.
What does ‘Cur Non’ mean?
This is a Latin phrase that translates to Why Not? It was the self-styled name of Maurice Edmond Sailland, one of France’s most important gastronomes and travel writers from the late 19th and early 20th century. He went by the pen name Curnonsky, and his narratives eventually gave birth to the modern day Michelin guide. He even is credited with illustrating bibendum, the roly-poly mascot belonging to the Michelin tire company. Ever since I’ve read about Curnonsky I’ve felt something of a kinship. I’m guessing there are a lot of us that enjoy driving around the countryside meeting wineries and eating locally!
I may even denote each of our winery collaborations with something like “Cuvée Cur Non” or “A Cur Non Selection” on the back label so you can always identify it as such, and know by looking at the bottle that you were part of something exclusive.
But what is a ‘custom wine collaboration’?
I think this could take a few different forms. For example, I taste in cellars a lot. Now and then I hit one particular barrel that makes me want to say to the winemaker, “I want to buy the whole thing!” With this project, that could really happen. Or, maybe a winemaker has made a really delicious experiment that doesn’t quite fit into their current program. If I love it, and think it’s worthy, then let’s get it done!
And will it make a difference to the winemakers?
Yes, I believe it will. Receiving an advance payment like this gives a micro-winery so many opportunities to do things like buy labeling machines, grab that neighbor’s parcel, select a new barrel or two, or finally replace the chilling system in the winery. The possibilities are endless.
How is this different from the normal way I buy wine from you?
We’re going to give you a brand new layer of connection. This will be more than just saying, “Here is a great story about Vincent, and this is his wine. How many would you like?” Instead, I want to give a small group of insiders a window into a half dozen small wineries that we don’t normally open for our regular business. And in return, you’ll receive some wine that truly doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.
So I’ll get 36 bottles of wine over the next few years in return for an advance of $1250?
Yes, that’s right. That averages out to about $35/bottle. My estimate is that if we were to bring these bottles to market in the “normal way” they would be more in the range of $45-50 bottles. We’re going to be looking at a winery’s best stuff and getting it to you at a premium discount.