Friday Wine Tasting in the Shop with Chris Wichern + German Wine; 5-8PM

Oct. 26, 2018

Hild Elbling, Mosel, Germany

Matthias Hild farms 5 hectares of old, terraced parcels of Elbling in Upper-Mosel, a place a bit more known for quantity over quality, with most of the grapes going to cooperatives. Elbling is an ancient grape (one of Europe’s oldest) that is still planted in this region, though not much anywhere else. Its history isn’t known for certain, but it’s either indigenous to Germany, or was brought there by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago. DNA testing links it to Gouais Blanc, an ancient variety of white grape planted in Northern and Central France throughout the Medieval era. It grew where Pinot and Chardonnay didn’t do well, and made simple acid-driven wines for the peasantry. It is also a descendant of Traminer, a finicky, green-skinned grape from a German speaking area in what is now northern Italy. This parentage links Elbling to Riesling, Chardonnay, and Furmint. It makes high acid, tart, low alcohol, wines and it is particularly well-suited to sparkling wines.

Unlike the famed slate vineyards of lower Mosel, the vineyards here are mostly on limestone. And where Riesling makes up over 60% of grapes planted in Mosel, Elbling is the least planted, at just under 6%. It’s more a labor of love for Hild than a successful financial venture. Hild works his vineyards responsibly and is on the way toward organic certification.

Here’s what the importer has to say: The fact that Matthias is single-handedly trying to save the old, terraced parcels of Elbling is a move that is equal parts romantic and completely insane. The financial realities of working these vineyards by hand while accepting their lower yields simply do not add up. This is an act of cultural preservation more than anything else. He calls the wine “Zehnkommanull” which means simply 10% — the wine always ferments bone dry and is 10% ABV or less. The few cases that I’m able to get of this wine are, to me at least, semi-sacred voices of a time long past. Sacred voices that end up on the $20-and-under table and most often overlooked.

We’ll pour the 2017 Elbling Trocken and the NV Brut Sekt. These are spirited, zippy, start-the-party wines.

Eva Fricke Rheingau Riesling Trocken 2017

Eva Fricke is not from Rheingau and she is not from a winemaking family. But she went to oenological school, and after finishing her studies she did wine stints in Bordeaux, Piedmont, Ribera del Duero, and Australia. She settled in the lower Rheingau area of Lorch, where she is biodynamically farming steep-sloped, low-yielding plots that were forgotten (or intentionally avoided) by the larger producers because they’re so difficult to work. The vineyards are on loess, clay, slate, and quartzite soils.

This Riesling has the touch of richness that Fricke’s wines tend to exhibit, along with peaches, lime-zest, and mouth-watering, precise minerality. Here’s more on Eva Fricke.

Shiba Wichern Willamette Cuvée Pinot Noir and Havlin Pinot Noir

All notes from Chris: The main goals are balance and elegance. As it turns out a great way to do this is via minimal intervention during ferment and cellaring. On the other hand it requires that we spend a lot of time in the vineyard during the growing season and during harvest for field sorting. One thing that Akiko insists on doing differently from a very big portion of the industry -big or small- is actually work the vineyards ourselves. Our grapes don’t grow in picking bins on flatbed trucks. She refuses to hire a crew to do the field work. Almost every step is done by Akiko, friends & family and me. This gives Akiko such a high level of control and understanding of the grapes, the importance of which should not be under estimated.

Finally, Akiko much like the Japanese cliché, observes, learns and collects what she deems to be the best practices for wine-making. Implementing what she learns is not always easy and sometimes doesn’t work out as we expect, but that is also key to the learning process. Over the past 5 harvests we have worked out a lot of kinks. Give us about 20-25 more years and we might actually admit to knowing what we are doing…

2014 Willamette Cuvée

Our goal with the Willamette Cuvée is to offer an excellent quality Pinot Noir at a very approachable price. At the same time we try to capture a little bit of character from each of our three vineyards and present them as a well-balanced package. Mild red and black fruits from the Havlin Vineyard, smells of summer-forest and black tea from Barrett Hill Vineyard and powerful dark fruits and spices from Eola Springs Vineyard all play well together to make the Willamette Cuvée complex, but not muddled. As the wine breathes the character continues to expand and present more depth.

Food pairings with the Willamette Cuvée are easy, because it goes well with everything. That statement isn’t very useful. So, try it with roasted pork, which is the go-to-meal for Pinot Noir. Try it with Asian food like Korean Barbeque or Japanese Pizza (okonomiyaki). For Sushi, however, it’d be better to stick with our Rosé. You can also drink the Willamette Cuvée with no more accompaniment than the glass you poured it in.

Willamette Cuvée was blended after barrel ageing in 12% new French Oak for a little over 18 months and has been in the bottle since May 1st, 2016. Details about cellaring and grapes can be found in the single vineyard descriptions.

2014 Havlin Vineyard Pinot Noir

Havlin Vineyard is in Perrydale directly in the so-called Van Duzer Corridor, which is known for bringing cold coastal winds to the Willamette Valley in the afternoon and evening. These winds are exactly what Pinot Noir grapes need for balanced ripening, in other words developing sugar and flavor while retaining acidity. We made 137 cases of Havlin, which is 5 and one half barrels.

The 2014 Havlin retains a lot of its Havlin-ness (strong black and red fruits), but is at the same time very different from the 2013. In 2013 Havlin was our burliest wine –in as much as our wines are ever “burly.” In 2014 Havlin is feminine, subtle and almost delicate, but It still shows the very punchy red fruit that we had in 2013. And the red fruit still evolves with time into the typical Oregon Pinot Noir black fruit and lavender, but now the amplitude of the fruit is more balanced with the tartness and other non-fruit tones.

Friday Wine Tasting in the Shop, 5-8PM

October 19th, 2018

Il Farnetto Rio Rocca Spérgle, Emilia-Romagna, Italy 2016

Il Farneto was established in the 1990s by Marco Bertoni. It’s a 34 hectare bio-diverse farm located between the hills of Scandiano and Canossa, with 8 hectares planted to vineyards. Although it is close to two residential areas (Castellarano and Sassuolo) it sits at high elevation and is somewhat isolated. Farming is organic, no chemicals or additives are used, and the wines are unfiltered and unfined, and bottled with little to no SO2.

The name Rio Rocca comes from a valley in the province of Reggio Emilia. Spergle (or Spergola) is an old grape variety (dating back to at least the 15th century) from the Scandiano Hills in Emilia Romagna. It was on the verge of extinction until a farmer decided to resurrect it.

This wine is a perfect white for cooler temps. It’s honey-hued, low-toned, and punctuated with orchard fruit. The palate is broad, but fresh. Think root vegetables, creamy bisques, figs & prosciutto, tortellini in creamy sauce or chicken broth…

Vincent Wine Co. Willamette Pinot Gris “Noir” 2017

Notes from Vincent: “This is Gris made like a red wine, inspired by Cameron Winery locally and Josko Gravner from afar. Natural fermentation on the skins for 18 days, pressed at dryness, settled and racked into older French oak barrel and puncheon (500L casks) for a year. No filtering. The result is a light red wine with tons of peppery personality, it honestly makes me think of old school Grenache-based Cotes du Rhone, with some grip and pepper earthy notes amid red cherry fruit. Not the heat of Grenache and with more acidity, but it’s fun and gluggable.”

Owner and winemaker Vincent Fritzsche launched his winery in 2009 after years of working at other wineries in Oregon and California. He sources fruit from several sustainably farmed vineyards in the Willamette Valley. The name, Vincent, is of course the owner’s name, but also the name of his uncle and maternal grandfather, and pays homage to the 4th century Saint Vincent of Saragossa, Spain, the patron saint of vintners. Formerly a member of Portland’s Southeast Wine Collective (tasting is still available here), the winery is now located at Grochau Cellars in the Eola-Amity Hills near McMinnville. All of the wines are fermented using native yeast. Vincent sulfurs minimally, with the view that SO2 is similar to a camera lens. “It can help bring what’s there into better focus and clarity, rather than adding something that doesn’t need to be there. I don’t use it as an extractive or color stabilizing device.” All wines are bottled unfiltered.

This is a versatile food wine, and will be a lovely Thanksgiving pair should we have any left by then!

I vini di Giovanni ‘il Chiaretto’ Umbria 2017

Giovanni Battista Mesina is known locally as “the shepherd who makes wine”. 2017 was the first vintage he bottled, before that his wines were for local consumption only. His family is originally from Sardinia, where they go back generations, but they relocated to central Umbria when Giovanni was a child. They family business has always been raising sheep; from a flock of over 1,000 sheep on their tiny hilltop farm they make milk, cheese, wool, and pasture-raised meat. Sangiovese, Ciliegiolo, Montelpulciano, and Vernaccia Rossa are the primary red grapes, while Vermentino, in a nod to the family’s Sardinian roots, is the white grape of choice here. These are minimal-intervention wines, with no chemicals or additives.

Notes from SelectioNaturel: ‘Chiaretto’ is to Sardegna what ‘Cerasuolo’ is to Sicily….often a lighter, fresher blend of bright, acidity-driven grape varieties. In this case, being in Umbria, the wine is 90% Vernaccia Rossa with 10% Ciliegiolo. The blend will vary from year to year but bright, fresh and spicy is what this one is all about. Serve chilled. Made in stainless steel/cement, no sulfur. ~1000 bottle production.

Scholium Pergamos Red 2011  

Notes from the producer’s website:

We are small. Our hands, our feet, our minds are in the wine. We make wine from vineyards that are distinguished sometimes by being ignored. Our wine often does not resemble other wines, but we are not renegades. We are students. Our projects are not always experiments– sometimes we know what we are doing– but they are always acts of emulation, looking up at the work of others we admire.

Thus, “scholium,” from the Greek <<scholion>>, which shares the same root as “school, scholarship.” It signifies a modest project, not a preeminent one, undertaken for the sake of learning, understanding– hence a commentary, an essay, a study. But no matter how much we learn, no matter how interesting our studies, if the wines do not bring pleasure, they are worthless.

We are about to commence on our greatest undertaking yet: to build a winery in Los Angeles, on the banks of the river. On land that nearly one hundred years ago was a vineyard. You may read more about it and offer to support us here.

Campus interjection: It kinda feels like we should insert some Stravinsky-esque music here, doesn’t it? Such drama!

The wine:

This hilltop vineyard (Dick Vanderkous Paradise vineyard) in Martinez, not far from the San Joaquin delta, did not have problems with rot or ripening in 2011, as many of the vineyards in northern California did. Perhaps it is the constant wind blowing off the water. We picked the grapes late in the year– on the 26 and 29 of October– it was our last fruit of the year– and made twice as much wine as we did in 2010.

The wine is predominately merlot with 25 percent sangiovese. We co-fermented about half of the fruit, all in puncheons, with foot treading four times per day. Punishingly intense, extracted, with amazing tannic structure.

Click here for more on Abe Schoener, Scholium’s founder.

Friday Wine Tasting in the Shop, 5-8PM

October 5, 2018

~notes from Wine Traditions

Domaine des XIII Lunes Vin de Savoie Apremont 2017

Winemaker Sylvain Liotard has been farming a little village in the alps at the foot of Mont Granier since 2014. He is dedicated to biodynamic farming practices, using buried composts and silica, plant based tinctures, closely guarding the health of the soils, keeping use of copper to a minimum. He practices minimal intervention during vinification, with indigenous yeast and very small amounts of sulfur at bottling. Sylvain has been certified organic and Demeter certified for 2 years.

Domaine de XIII Lunes produce 6 cuvées, 4 white and 2 red, from local indigenous grape varieties. The white grapes are Jacquere, Altesse, Velteliner, red grapes are Mondeuse, Gamay.

Savoie consists of many isolated sub-regions and plots of vineyards scattered across four French departments: Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isère, Ain. Savoie neighbors Switzerland (to the East), the Jura region (to the North) and the little-known Bugey region, which is west across the Rhône river. All told, the region is under 5,000 acres (2000 ha) accounting for a mere 0.5% of French wines. 70% of the wine produced in Savoie is white.

The Domaine des XIII Lunes Vin de Savoie Apremont 2017 is made of 100% Jacquere grown on clay and limestone within the Savoie sub-appellation Apremont. It is a lovely, high-toned wine, with good acidity, deliciously fresh and fruity with refreshingly low alcohol at 10.5%.

Domaine du Crêt de Bine “Cuvée Bio’Addict” 2017 Beaujolais

François and Marie-Therèse Subrin farm 5 hectares of land in the village of Sarcy, a village situated on a high plateau tucked between the Monts Beaujolais and the Monts Lyonnais in the southwest corner of the Beaujolais appellation. The Subrin’s vineyard is planted on granite soils with significant deposits of quartz and feldspar. On average, the vines are 40 years old. François and Marie-Therèse farm organically and biodynamically. To insure maximum health and ripeness for their grapes, they severely limit the yields and harvest late into the growing season.

Cuvée Bio’Addict” is from hand-harvested grapes that are partially de-stemmed and fermented with indigenous yeast at low temperatures. NO SO2 is used in the fermenting process, and only a dash is used at bottling–less than 20mg. This is a smooth and spicy Beaujolais, accented with red fruit and stones.

Château Les Vieux Moulins “Pirouette” Cote de Blaye 2017

Château Les Vieux Moulins is the property of Damien Lorteau. He took over in 2010 from his parents and grandparents. He inherited 20 hectares, 11 in the village of Reignac and 9 in the village of Anglade. In acknowledging the difference between the terroirs, Damien produces two wines, one from each village. His vineyards are certified organic and Damien has increased the density in his vineyards so that nearly all the parcels have 7,000 plants per hectare. His winemaking philosophy is non-interventional. He allows the indigenous yeasts to ferment the juice and uses very little SO2 throughout the process. Fermentations are carried out in small cement tanks and Damien avoids both pump overs and moving the wine by pump after fermentation. The labels were designed by a Swedish artist named Madlen Herrstrom.

The Pirouette cuvee is produced from eight parcels in the village of Reignac, mostly in the lieu-dit Freneau. The largest parcels sit on the summit of a small hill and benefit from frequent wind which certainly helps with organic farming. The soils range from a sandy clay (80%) which is planted to Merlot, to a sandy gravel ( 20%) which is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. After harvest the grapes are destemmed and then put in a tank for three to five days at a low temperature to have a pre-fermentation maceration. The fermentation and extended maceration lasts typically 20 days and an assemblage is made from the different tanks before the malo-lactic fermentation. The wine is matured in cement tanks for 12 months before bottling.

Domaine de Clovallon “Les Indigènes” 2016

The Orb River runs for 135 kilometers from the Larzac Causses in Haut-Languedoc down to the Mediterranean Sea. Domaine de Clovallon is situated in the Haute Vallée de L’Orb which refers to a small stretch of the river valley that runs east to west with exposed hillsides and excellent southern exposure. Spanning geological periods from the primary to the quartenary, the Haute Vallée de L’Orb contains virtually every soil type found in France, and many of them are present in Clovallon’s 10 hectares.

To be in the company of Catherine Roque and her daughter Alix, is to be in the company of and feel the energy of passionate farmers. Catherine says that seeing the results of her bio-dynamic farming practices has greatly inspired her. In the vineyard, the Roques use fertilizer from their neighbor’s cows along with a mix of valerian and dolomite. In between the rows, the natural grasses are left to grow and Alix is contemplating buying a few sheep to help with the “mowing”. They already employ the help of their chickens. As non-interventionist winemakers, their wines naturally convey their respect for and delight in their land and vineyards.

The cuvee “Les Indigènes” is produced from a single “clos” of less than a hectare that was planted around two hundred years ago and retains pre-phylloxera vines. As was the custom “back in the day” the vineyard was co-planted with a wide variety of grape types both white and red. Most of the grapes have been identified and include Carignan, Cinsault, Clairette, Grenache, Grenache Blanc. Grenache Gris, Macabeu, Malvasia, Muscat a Petits Grains, Ugni Blanc, Aramon, Terret, and Jacquet. The clos itself sits high above the town of Bedarieux and is accessible only by a narrow lane that winds its way up from the town to the vineyard at the top of the hill. It is hidden from the eye because it is both walled and shielded by fruit trees.

To gain entrance to the small vineyard one has to pass through an entrance gate and then a bit further on pass through a doorway framed by a stone arch giving the whole experience a “secret garden” quality.

All varieties are co-fermented in old oak foudres using indigenous yeasts and without temperature control. The wine is unfiltered and unfined.