September Wine Box: Under the Radar Catalan Wine

September is upon us, which means it’s time for a new wine box! This month we’re drinking some interesting things from Catalunya, a long-overlooked wine region in the Northeastern corner of Spain that’s best known for it’s Cava, and is finally getting the recognition it’s lesser known wines deserve. Some of these are familiar grapes, like Grenache (Garnatxa in Catalan), but others will probably be completely new to you (Trepat, anyone?). We’ve got two reds, a white and a very interesting Cava that provide a nice introduction to the natural wine being produced in this part of the world.

 

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2013 Mas Candí Cava Brut Nature
D.O. Penedès

The four farmers behind Mas Candí are producing some really interesting natural wine on the edge of a national park with vines taken from their grandparents holdings, including a few unique cavas. Their Cava Brut Nature is a mix of the traditional cava grapes (Macabeu, Xarel•lo and Parellada) with the unexpected addition of some Garnatxa Blanca, and is perfect as an apéritif for the beginning of San Francisco’s summer (September and October).

Co-fermentation of Macabeu (40%), Xarel•lo (30%), Parellada (15%), Garnatxa Blanca (15%)

2013 Celler Frisach Selecció Garnatxa Blanca
D.O. Terra Alta

Terra Alta means highlands in Catalan, and this white Grenache stays true to its namesake appellation, coming from vineyards perched in the hills nearly 1300 feet above sea level. Minerally and with subtle hints of peach, this is great for a big salad or just on it’s own.

100% Garnatxa Blanca from 20 year old vines in iron-rich calcareous clay

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2014 Succés Vinicola Cuca de Llum Trepat

D.O. Conca de Barberà

Trepat is a red grape that’s indigenous to Catalunya, and tastes like a combination of the better-known varietals Pinot Noir and Barbera. This wine manages to be soft and herby while also tasting of chalky minerals and soft fruit. Definitely nice with something from the grill, or a meatier fish like salmon.

20-47 year old vines in calcareous clay

2011 Bodegas Puiggròs Sentits Negres Garnatxa
D.O. Catalunya (Anoia)
The Puiggròs family has farmed the same vineyard since 1843, and this Garnatxa comes from 70-80 year old vines nestled 2250 feet above sea level. This is definitely heavier than the Trepat, with subtle minerality supporting a bouquet of herbs and earthy fruit.

The September box features four bottles for $88.  To order, buy directly from our online shop (don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list to receive 10% off!) or if you’re a returning customer or wine club member, simply email orders@winelandia.com

The art of the French apéritif with Bon Appetit Box

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These days you can get pretty much anything delivered in a box. Wine (from Winelandia.com of course), meals, dog toys, nail polish, clothes, liquor, makeup, and groceries are all on the list. This is a testament to the “on-demand” culture that’s quickly gaining traction in our busy, plugged-in lives. Delivery of artisan goods is 2 parts luxury, 2 parts discovery, and 1 part convenience. You could walk or drive to the store, but it’s so much more fun to have these goods thoughtfully selected by an expert and then brought to your house in a pretty box.

Many of these subscription boxes bring us curated items that we would otherwise have a hard time finding on our own. Winelandia’s entire business is based on this model, and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all of you lovely wine lovers who wish to explore the world of natural wine with minimal effort on your part.

The only thing missing from your Winelandia box is some food to go along with it.

bertrand_zoeEnter Bon Appetit Box, an SF-based company founded by a young couple from the South of France, Bertrand and Zoé. They are epicureans who import speciality foods from their motherland and put them together into their thoughtfully themed Bon Appetit Boxes. There’s a Bon Appetit Box for every mood; whether you’re looking for something to enjoy before dinner, with wine, after dinner, with coffee, or for breakfast, they have a box that will bring the rich and flavorful traditions of French culture to your table or picnic blanket.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Bertrand and Zoé to discuss the French tradition of the apéritif, a word derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open”. An apéritif is meant to open your palate and stimulate your appetite before a meal. We discussed how food is usually enjoyed with wine in France and how it seems odd to them that anyone would enjoy wine without food. It was a no-brainer that Winelandia and Bon Appetit Box would be BFFs, as together they are greater than the sum of their parts.

P8030148Bertrand and Zoé were kind enough to give me some samples of their lovely imported products, and in return I gave them some wines that I thought would pair well with their foods. I was very excited to dig into my Bon Appetit Provence Apéritif Box, which features vegetable spreads (olive tapenade, artichoke, eggplant & red pepper), crackers, and toasts. They threw in some items from their Paris Apéritif Box as a bonus, such as the cornichons, whole grain mustard, Duck & Pork Pate with Orange and Duck Rillette.

My husband and I are finding every excuse we can to enjoy the goodies from our Bon Appetit Box. A few weekends ago, we took some to a redwood forest to enjoy beneath the trees on a hot day. The quality of the food is top-notch, and I felt as if I was being whisked away to a springtime picnic in France.

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The fun part is pairing these flavorful and piquant snacks with the appropriate wine (or beer!). For the Provence Apéritif Box, I settled on an organically farmed Chablis from the Premier Cru vineyards of Montmains. The fresh acidity and ample minerality of such a wine is a perfect pairing for rich and flavorful vegetable spreads. For the Paris Apéritif Box, I chose a light-bodied Burgundian gamay from Macon-Bussieres which was a lovely compliment to the richer, meatier spreads.

Bon Appetit Box is offering a $10 off coupon to Winelandia customers. Sign up for our mailing list below or simply email info@winelandia.com to receive this special offer. Wine club members will have received a coupon with their Summer Wine Club delivery.

Big thanks to Bertrand and Zoé for sharing their wonderful products with the Winelandia family.

 

 

Winery Visit: La Clarine Farm

A few weeks ago, I finally made my way up to the Sierra Foothills to check out the local wine scene and get some rest & relaxation. I was fortunate enough to make it up there before all of those crazy wildfires and spent some quality time sitting in the American River and putzing around Placerville.

The highlight of my trip was a visit with one of my favorite California winemakers, Hank Beckmeyer of La Clarine Farm. He has quietly been making phenomenal, soulful, natural, terroir-driven wines in the Sierra Foothills since 2001. La Clarine Farm was a gateway for my foray into the world of natural wine, and all these years later those wines still delight me with every sip. Every vintage is a little different, and the wines age incredibly well.

Hank’s farm is a testament to how organic farming can work even in extreme climates like the Sierra Foothills. He uses no chemical pesticides at his farm, recently began dry-farming all of his vines, and from this vineyard he creates his “Home Vineyard” wines every year. He grows mostly tempranillo, with a few other varieties scattered throughout. There was even a “volunteer” grapevine that sprouted forth from his compost pile, and after having it ID’d at UC Davis, they found it to be a grape that has never been identified before (though it appears to be closely related to Sauvignon).

Mystery Grapes
Mystery Grapes

Hank was kind enough to guide us through a tasting of all of the wines he currently had aging, which included a barrel fermented rosé, his 2014 “Piedi Grandi” (a nebbiolo-based blend), his 2014 Petit Manseng (an obscure high-acid, high-sugar white grape), as well as several of his wines already in bottle. The hallmark of Hank’s red wines is a high-toned tropical fruit profile framed by herbs and minerals while his whites tend to be full and luscious with loads of acid and texture.

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Delicious Jambalaia Rouge & Blanc

One of the most striking qualities of La Clarine Farm and Hank’s approach to winemaking is how laid-back it feels. It’s not as much about natural wine dogma as it is about practicality. His winery is small yet efficient, with barrels and flex tanks packed tightly in an orderly way. He doesn’t indulge in expensive and unnecessary winery equipment; instead he makes wines that are delicious, accessible, affordable and pair well with food.

Piedi Grandi aging in Flextank
Piedi Grandi aging in Flextank

Not only does Hank grow grapes and make wine at his little farm, but he also raises goats and has several adorable dogs. One of them had been bitten by a rattlesnake on her snout the day before, but fortunately survived the ordeal thanks to a vaccine and swift treatment. Her poor little nose was swollen and sore, but she found time to hang out with us during our visit.

Since Mr. Beckmeyer’s winery is not typically open to the public, I felt very honored to be able to spend a little time with a person who unknowingly guided me through the early days of my adventure in natural wine. La Clarine Farm’s wines are a favorite amongst my wine club members, and every day I’m so grateful that I can share this experience with others.

I have a few of Hank’s wines for sale in my online shop. I deliver throughout the Bay Area and ship all over California. Please see my Delivery Terms for details.

2013 La Clarine Farm “Cedarville” Mourvedre – $28
2014 La Clarine Farm “Jambalaia” Rouge – $24

I hope that you come to love La Clarine Farm’s wines as much as I have over the years. Cheers!