Tag Archives: etna

Friday Wine Tasting in the Shop, 5-8PM

May 4, 2018

Vignoble du Rêveur Pierres Sauvages Sec 2016, Alsace

Vignoble du Rêveur (The Dreamer’s Vineyard) is the side project of Mathieu Deiss, whose main duties are still working the vineyards and cellar at the family domaine, the famed Domaine Marcel Deiss. Vignoble du Rêveur was established in 2013 with 7 hectares Mathieu inherited from his uncle and his maternal grandfather. The parcels are located mostly in the commune of Bennwihr, just outside the valley of Kaysersberg, and are certified organic and biodynamic. Mathieu vinifies Rêveur and Deiss in the same winery, since, as he puts it, he “simply cannot be in two places at once during harvest”. 

Pierres Sauvages is Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir from 1.9 hectares of vines around 45 years old. It’s fermented via spontaneous fermentation in foudre (large oak barrels that hold up to a thousand liters, that are believed to preserve the vineyard character by minimizing both oak extraction and oxidation—they are also expensive, both to purchase and to maintain). It ages for one year on fine lees, and is bottled with minimal sulfur (Riesling Vibrations is bottled with no sulfur, and is available in the shop). The wine is richly aromatic, with peaches, pears, flowers and honey fluttering from the glass. It’s rich on the palate as well, the viscosity balanced by mineral tension and vibrant acidity. Delicious through and through. 

Domaine Frantz Chagnoleau Saint Veran ‘Prelude’ 2016, Burgundy

Domaine Frantz Chagnoleau is a small estate run by Frantz Chagnoleau and his wife Caroline Gon, who has herself been head winemaker at Les Héritiers du Comte Lafon since 2006; she holds two degrees, one in agricultural engineering, and another in oenology. After obtaining her degrees she worked at Newton Vineyards in Napa before returning to France to work with Dominique Lafon. Frantz graduated with a degree in Oenology from Bordeaux University in 2004, and then went on to work for Olivier Merlin at Domaine Merlin in the Mâconnais. The couple’s friendship with Lafon comes through in their elegant, pure, terroir driven wines. Since 2013 all of the vineyards have been certified organic.

Like Lafon, Frantz and Caroline believe in minimal intervention, and use only indigenous yeast. Harvest is by hand, and aging is in old French oak. This Chardonnay evokes the old vines and stony soil of the vineyards; flinty, chalky intensity, mineral-precision, pure and focused flavors of apples and white flowers…this is an elegant bottle of wine. 

Sclavos Tsaousi 2015, Cephalonia, Greece 

The Sclavos family can trace its roots back over many centuries on the Greek island of Cephalonia. In 1700, a branch of the family emigrated to the Black Sea port of Odessa, where they had contracts for using their privately-owned commercial boats for the distribution of wheat. Records from 1860 show the family owned a large winery and estate in Odessa. In 1919, following the Russian Revolution, the grandfather of present owner Evriviadis Sclavos returned to the family’s 6 hectares in the Paliki peninsula and planted his first vines of Mavrodaphne and Vostilidi, some of which are still bearing fruit today. The mountainous terrain of the area provides a number of microclimates that are ideal for growing a variety of grapes, like those grown at Sclavos. 

The property is situated on limestone and is farmed biodynamically (or homeodynamic, as they call it), and all wines are made the same way: from non-irrigated, low-yielding, original rootstock bush vines, via spontaneous yeast fermentaion, bottled unfined and unfiltered, and with very little sulphur. These are some of the most lo-fi wines produced in Greece. 

100% Tsaousi from vines that are 60 years old, or older, this wine is a little wild; it’s orangey—golden hued, not from skin-contact, but rather from intentionally oxidative style, kind of like a Jura wine, or sherry. It’s herbal, savory, hazy, a bit salty, and finishes like a lemon-edged, Mediterranean sunset. 

Calabretta, ‘Gaio Gaio’ Vino Rosso, Etna

The Calabrettas are the fourth generation farming their family’s seven hectares of nearly 100 year old, ungrafted, organic vines (as well as olive and fruit trees) on the north side of Mt. Etna. In 1997 Massimo and Massimiliano dug a new cellar and winery into the black, volcanic rock, where old oak an indigenous yeast work their magic. Before the new winery, the family only sold its wine in sfuso, or in barrel, to restaurants and private customers, many of whom would travel long distances to pick up their wine. Calabretta is old-school, and is known for long aging; the Etna Rosso ages much like Barolo and Brunello were aged decades ago: in massive, neutral Slavonian oak for 6 to 7 years… They don’t use any chemical herbicides or pesticides, harvest is by hand, and fermentation is with wild yeast. 

Gaio Gaio translates as Joy Joy (Gaio is the nickname of Gaetano Calabretta). It is 100% Nerello Mascalese from 2 plots of young vines, 50% on original rootstock, fermented in wood, and aged on fine lees in Slavonian oak barrels for about 11 months. Cherries and smoke, red berries and earth, medium-bodied, grainy tannins and fresh acidity; this wine is perfect grill-side! 

Domaine Glinavos ‘Vlahiko’ 2013, Zitsa, Greece 

Domaine Glinavos is in the semi‐mountainous region of DO Zitsa, Ioannina, more reminiscent of Austria or Switzerland than Mediterranean Greece. Limestone soils influence the production of wines that tend toward bright acidity and lacy minerality, and the cold winters and cooler summers produce wines that tend to be lower ABV, frequently struggling to achieve 12.5. 

Lefteris Glinavos was one of a handful of rogue winemakers who set out in the 70s to steer Greece away from bulk production and into smaller-scale, boutique winemaking. This group of young winemakers who all hailed from humble, winemaking regions, decided to travel abroad to hone their skills which they would bring back to Greece. Lefteris chose to pursue his studies in Bordeaux, returning in 1978 to establish Domaine Glinavos. Lefteris’ son Thomas is now in charge of the 20 hectare property, made up of multiple, high-elevation plots of indigenous varieties Debina, Vlahiko, and Bekari. 

Vlahiko (which may be blended with a bit of Bekari) has an old-world character, and not just because of the embroidery pictured on the label (for which the region is known). It ages for two years in French oak, and is full of earthy, peppery, spicy notes, as well as what the producer describes as “fresh cut mushroom”, and lots of wild/woodsy-berry goodness, and crackly acidity. Have it with something fatty and salty! 

Friday Wine Tasting in the Shop: L’Acino, Rayos Uva, Cornelissen, Pimpine

Dec. 9, 2016

L’Acino IGP Calabria Bianco “Chora” 2014

L’Acino is the communal effort of three friends (a film director, a historian, and a lawyer – in previous lives) to express the possibilities of Calabrian terroir with grapes indigenous to the region, and winemaking true to nature. The three friends started with one hectare of vines purchased from an old farmer in 2006; the property is right on the border of the Pollino national park, the largest natural park in Italy. As happens in nature, so happens in their vineyards: plantings are varied and diverse, creating a happy, healthy ecosystem. They then purchased a nearby 1.5 hectare parcel of the local red grape Magliocco (also in the shop, positively gluaggable). But they really wanted to get a parcel they could start from scratch, that had never had vines planted on it before. In 2007 they found a sandy plateau where they planted Magliocco and Mantonico from massale, much of it in franc de pied (on French rootstock). The Chora Bianco and Rosso come from this parcel.

The bianco is a blend of Mantonico, Guernaccia Bianca, Pecorello, and Greco Bianco. It’s lively, fresh, youthful, fruity and fun. Organic, wild yeast, minimal sulfur only at bottling.

Olivier Riviere Rayos Uva Rioja, 2015

Olivier Rivière was born and raised in Cognac, studied enology in Bordeaux (with an emphasis on biodynamic farming), and gained practical experience in Bordeaux and Burgundy. He had plans to set up a domaine in Fitou, in the Languedoc, but when those fell through, he went to consult in Spain instead.

Olivier rents, farms or owns vineyards in Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja, Rioja Alavesa and Arlanza. He first came to Spain in 2004 to help Telmo Rodriguez convert to biodynamics. In 2006 he started his own project, but because of the high cost of land in Rioja, he traded his farming abilities for access to grapes from the best sites he could find. In 2009 he joined Luis Arnedo at Bodegas Lacus and found a more permanent home to expand his repertoire of wines.

Rayos Uva is made from Tempranillo, Graciano and Garnacha (in some vintages), sourced from the sandy, gravelly and alluvial soils of Rioja Baja. It’s fermented whole berry with indigenous yeasts and aged for about 9 months in stainless steel, foudre and cement tanks. Olivier purchases these grapes from Bodegas Lacus, where he oversees the winemaking. Ramos Uva is vibrant, pure, ripe and fruity, with notes of flowers and citrus, and a long, silky finish.

Frank Cornelissen Rosso del Contadino 2015

Frank Cornelissen was a Belgian wine novice in the year 2000 when he landed on the side of a volcano in Sicily, and made a big splash in the natural wine world. Until then, Etna wines were mostly sold in bulk, and certainly weren’t being taken seriously. Cornelissen, along with Andrea Franchetti of Passopisciaro and Marc de Grazia of Tenuta delle Terre Nere, were newcomers bringing attention to the potential of Etna wines. Since then he’s evolved and learned from his sometimes combustible environment. He mixes the modern (gasp! fiberglass tanks!) with an unrivaled minimalist ethos; from the producers website:

Our farming philosophy is based on our acceptance of the fact that man will never be able to understand nature’s full complexity and interactions. We therefore choose to concentrate on observing and learning the movements of Mother Earth in her various energetic and cosmic passages and prefer to follow her indications as to what to do, instead of deciding and imposing ourselves. Consequently this has taken us to avoiding all possible interventions on the land we cultivate, including any treatments, whether chemical, organic, or biodynamic, as these are all a mere reflection of the inability of man to accept nature as she is and will be.

Cornelissen has 15 high-elevation hectares on the side of the mountain, 12 are planted to vine, 1 to olives. Biodiversity is key, and local fruit trees are interplanted with the vines, which probably keep the kept bees happy. New plantings are via selection massale, from pre-phylloxera vines. Yields are low.

Producer notes: Contadino is a field-blend of mostly Nerello Mascalese (85%) with other local varietals from all our old vine vineyards: Nerello Capuccio, Allicante Boushet, Minella nera, Uva Francesa and Minella bianco. Our Contadino expresses Etna as made in a traditional way of blending different varietals: fragrant, elegant, structured with personality.

Here’s a recent Cornelissen article from the NY Times.

Château Pimpine Bordeaux, Cotes de Francs, 2013

Château Pimpine is the second wine from Château Le Puy, a biodynamic property on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. Château Le Puy has been farming biodynamically since the early 1900s, so long that they don’t think it’s any big deal, it’s just the way they’ve always done things. Even so, they have all the certifications.

Pimpine, and Le Puy, are located in Saint-Cibard and share the same soils of clay, flint and limestone as many of Bordeaux’s most prized vines. The vineyards sit at 110 meters, on the same plateau as Saint-Emilion and Pomerol.

Jean-Pierre Amoreau and his son Pascal make the wine here and at Le Puy. The blend is mostly Merlot, with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Of course everything is done by hand, there are no added sulfites, sugars or yeasts during fermentation, and the wine is bottled unfiltered and unfined. The finished wine is rather traditional: balanced, elegant, herbal and fresh.