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.