La Cave éthique goes to Lyon, France
Value contributors Jonathan Russo and Deborah Grayson traveled to Renaissance town to experience the all-natural Odessa Comptoir wine bar.
Photos of Deborah Grayson
Mention Lyonnais and most minds and stomachs turn to gastronomic thoughts, not the modern kind with foams, under a vacuum and a vegan orientation. Rather, it is the house of bouchons, restaurants where classic French dishes like tripe (cow’s stomach), calf sweetbread (calf sweetbread / thyme glands) and pig’s feet (pig’s feet) are proudly served for centuries.
Even Renaissance scholar FranÃ§ois Rabelais, from the fame “Eat, drink and be merry”, might agree that after one or two dinners above, it is a pleasant surprise and a necessary relief to walk down a medieval street and, in front of a church 15th century, find five- Age Odessa counter, an all-natural wine bar with vegetarian options.
The owners, the Lyonnais Mathieu Kochen and the American David Shayne met 14 years ago in Buenos Aires. After a year there, they broke up but remained in close contact. Twelve years ago, Shayne visited Lyon and fell in love with the city. âThis town spoke to me. We don’t have cities of this size in the United States. It is easy to get around, but with 400,000 inhabitants and several universities, it is also a cultural center, âhe said. Value.
So in 2017, when Kochen had the vision to open Odessa, Lyon’s first all-natural wine bar, it didn’t take long for Shayne to become a partner in the business. At the time, stores sold natural wines by the bottle. What made Odessa unique was that customers could enjoy a drink prepared by knowledgeable staff.
Odessa quickly gained popularity for its original, mostly non-sulphite wines from small winemakers. âWe deal directly with the producers. We know them personally and have relationships with many manufacturers of the more than 300 wines we sell, âsaid Shayne proudly. âIt’s a place where people come to discover new wines. We have a lot of professionals.
Initially, the menu in Odessa was simple, but when COVID travel restrictions blocked Shayne’s friend, a professional chef Robert flaherty, in Lyon, Flaherty, who has worked in many great restaurants in Los Angeles and New York, including the Ace Hotel hotspots of April Bloomfield, The Breslin and John Dory, took the hat to Odessa.
His goals are to keep it simple, not to compete with wines and to make choices centered on vegetables, focusing on the ingredients he finds during his daily visits to one of Lyon’s many farmers markets. He makes all his bread with organic flour from a small farm in Beaujolais.
On the recent menu: a sublime turnip, apple, walnut and pecorino salad; cauliflower tempura with aioli and lemon; a mezze of every vegetable that Flaherty has marked on the market, cooked in different ways and served with socca (a galette of chickpeas from Provence); and a slice of pork coppa, simmered in beer. Flaherty’s goal? âI’m trying to channel my inner grandmother,â he said. âI love the culinary history here. It feeds me.
Le Comptoir d’Odessa was so successful that the team opened Odessa School, a few hours from Morvan, where Kochen and his wife have a second home. The weekend following our visit, The school hosted a natural wine festival with over 20 producers, food and music.
Lyon is a magical city, which is definitely worth a visit. It’s a mix of winding medieval streets and elaborate fountains set against the backdrop of bustling Vespas, street art shops, and vintage clothing. Odessa Comptoir is at home in this new cultural cassoulet.
Here’s what Shayne has to say about the wines he selected for us to taste in Odessa. With the exception of house wine and Pur Jus, all are available in the United States.
House wine – Chasselas (grapes from the south of France, made in Burgundy)
This is close to our hearts in Odessa, our first practical collaborative cuvÃ©e. We were present from the press to the two bottling, which are very different, giving us a deeper perspective on how certain choices ultimately decide the character of a wine. Delicious with chicken or pork lightly in sauce. As they are semi-dry, they go well with fruit desserts.
‘Pure Juice’ – Leo Dirringer, Alsace (Riesling, Sylvaner)
We love Alsace, pure and simple. LÃ©o is a young winegrower whom we invited to our wine party at L’Ãcole. Pure Juice is just that, pure juice. Lively and expressive, bursting with lemony minerals and Sylvaner peach undertones. With its moderate alcohol and high acidity, this is an all time wine for me, but it wants fresh food, salads, fish, seafood and even a cheese plate.
The Bidule – Pet Nat from Brand Philippe (Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir)
Delicious bubbles that love to be drunk with fries! A complex mix of all the colors of Pinot gives a super round complexity that I love to serve with our cauliflower tempura or even a tartare rich in umami.
The Farm of the 7 Moons – Jean Delobre, RhÃ´ne Valley (Syrah)
Perfect expression of Syrah. A balance between depth, tannins and acid, without being too alcoholic. Deep red fruits, herbaceous notes and powerful black pepper make it the ideal Syrah from one of the masters of the RhÃ´ne. We often have slow-cooked and long meats on the menu. It makes a perfect marriage.
GamayLeon, L’epicuriuex – Seb Congretel, Beaujolais (Gamay)
Easy to drink, but its wide range fits into a tasting menu. The explosive fruit and dark red color give Seb’s wine a little more density than many gamays.
Bowler Hat, Tendril and Butterfly, ArdÃ¨che (Merlot)
The super carbonic maceration brings out a ton of fruit while enhancing the terroir. Fun for the aperitif, to eat and all the rest. It’s the perfect foil for pork and turns me on for Thanksgiving dinner with white meat, gravy, and fruity sides.
Finisterre, Jean-Marc Dreyer, Alsace (Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois)
The godfather of Alsace orange wine. Complex dried citrus peels and strong herbal notes make it fun to drink with almost anything.
When asked why he chose the above for us, Shayne replied, âIn Odessa, there is no varietal or region that is not on the table. Rather, we are looking for new producers and wines across France and, occasionally, Europe. Natural wine is experiencing a moment on a global scale, and here in France the strongest reverberations are certainly to be found in a young generation of producers, who respect the rich and dynamic history and infuse it with evocative novelty.