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Epiphany Gifts from the Lizard King

This Saturday is the Epiphany which probably has little to do with wine except that we use the name Balthazar, one of the Magi, for a 12-liter bottle); and for the fact that a couple of our vigneron friends mark the day with a particular tradition. It sounded completely crazy when they told us about it over dinner some time ago but on this stormy day and during these tempestuous times, the story feels poignant. Like a little like a gift of the Magi.

Carolin and Nikolaus Bantlin of Domaine Enfants Sauvages are among our favorite folks in the wine world. Architects and mountaineers in their younger years, and like many independent vignerons inspired in farming, winemaking and life by tradition, history, literature, and in their case, music – in particular Jim Morrison and the Doors. Their domain, Enfants Sauvages, (French for wild children) was named for their then young children but also for the Doors song, Wild Child. Their top cuvée, Roi des Lézards (Lizard King), is an homage to Jim Morrison himself. These examples of their “non-traditional” thinking were my first introduction to their wines nearly 20 years ago. Their Epiphany tradition when I heard it last year was, well, an epiphany.

Jim watches over the wine
Well before dawn on the Epiphany, Carolin and Nikolaus Bantlin will dynamise a mixture of myrrh, incense and gold for an hour. At sunrise they’ll walk the boundaries of their land spraying this mixture outwards, into the garrigue and beyond to protect against “bad influences”. Foolish superstition? Perhaps, but I recently put a freshly slaughtered tree in my home and hung it with lights and gold-colored ornaments to celebrate the season so I’m no one to judge.
More to the point, whether their beliefs are literal or metaphoric, I can’t help but admire this gesture made in the low morning light at the beginning of the year: to physically stand with one’s domain, one’s life and beliefs at one’s back and send a message to whomever or whatever would mean them harm. I don’t know what the Bantlins message is. Maybe it’s, “I am the Lizard King and I can do anything.” I hope it’s something like that.
This New Year it feels especially right to start with a little act of defiance. I probably won’t be up at dawn but I will be thinking of the Bantlins on Saturday (and all the other vignerons who will be working out in the cold). I think I’ll take my tree to the curb and toss a few needles towards the world in hopes that at least one finds the eye of some “bad influence”. Not as grand a gesture as the Bantlins but then I don’t have a dynamiser – not to mention myrtle, incense or gold.
Everyone at Mise hopes you achieve your resolutions and that the year brings us all peace, joy and happiness. Cheers!
Roi de Lizard vineyard