New Wave Natural Wines from California Now Available

Natural wine has been getting a lot of press lately. CBS recently released this informative video about additives in wine, with cameos from winemaker Tony Coturri, the godfather of natural wine in California, and journalist Alice Fiering, the woman who literally wrote the book(s) on natural wine. Definitely worth a watch if you’re curious to know what goes into most of the wines you find on the shelves.

Want to know what all the fuss is about? Try some of these new selections from Winelandia. Made from grapes with love by some of the most exciting new winemakers in California (and one in Utah – Lewandowski).

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Delicious reds grown in the Golden State

2013 Methode Sauvage “Ley Line” Valdiguie/Syrah Blend, California
2013 Petard Cellars “Thee & Thou” Red Blend, Lodi
2013 Deux Punx Pinot Noir, Humboldt County
2o14 Lo-Fi Wines Cabernet Franc, Santa Ynez Valley
2014 Purity Wines Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley
2014 j.Brix “La Libresca” Grenache, Santa Barbara Highlands

Refreshing whites for the California “Winter”

2014 Methode Sauvage “Vista Verde” Chenin Blanc, San Benito County
2012 Wei-Chi “Good Luck” Semillon, Lake County
2014 Ruth Lewandowski “Naomi” Grenache Gris, Mendocino County
2014 Les Lunes Chardonnay, Mt. Lassen
2014 Populis French Colombard/Chardonnay Blend, California
2014 La Clarine Farm Petit Manseng, Sierra Foothills

Save 10% on every wine you purchase from us by joining our seasonal wine club. You’ll receive quarterly shipments of 6 delicious wines, including an informative full-color booklet with tasting notes, production information, and winemaker bios.

Cheers from Winelandia.

Califermentation Recap

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California’s natural winemakers tend to be an adventurous lot, and with good reason.  They take great risks foregoing the pesticides and chemical manipulations that have become a benchmark of most of the large well known California wineries, but it’s a risk they think is worth taking in order to produce something that’s honest.  Apparently so do several hundred San Franciscans.

Califermentation filled both of the rooms in Soma’s pioneering natural wine bar Terroir this past Saturday, with crowds turning out to drink local wines and meet the people making them.  It’s a testament to the ethos of natural wine in California, really, the marked difference this event had to the sedated atmosphere of bigger, more traditional wine industry gatherings.  There were no airs of pretention, just a lot of people happy to be drinking natural wine, and proud winemakers eager to share what they do.  There’s a lot of talk about “Farm to table” in California, but this was vine to table at it’s most raucous.  The mountain of empty bottles towering over the recycling bins at the end of the night was a testament to that.

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Surveying the room, it was hard to miss the general enthusiasm for what was happening, and the lineup of participating winemakers was reason enough.  California’s natural wine movement isn’t as old as it’s European counterparts, but some of the region’s early pioneers were pouring interesting bottles that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.  Gideon Beinstock from Clos Saron held court at the end of the bar, perched atop a stool to pour some of his older reds, including a rare magnum of his 1999 Pinot Noir.  Only 6 cases of these were ever bottled, so it was a hell of a gesture to bring out something that’s undoubtedly one of the last of its kind.  This presence wasn’t lost on the other winemakers, many of whom spent a great deal of the event crowded around one of the elder statesmen of California natural wine.

The afternoon was also an opportunity to meet a lot of small producers that aren’t yet on many people’s radar, and it was nice to see a wide diversity of styles (not to mention some grapes that don’t make many appearances in California).  A Pét-Nat made with Grenache isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think about San Diego, but Los Pilares are having a go at it, taking their inspiration from a deep love of Lambrusco.  Much closer to home are the wines of Noel Diaz, who turns out some interesting things under the Purity Wine label on Treasure Island from grapes grown in the Santa Ynez Valley.  His skin fermented Marsanne isn’t typical of what you’d find anywhere in California, and he even managed to sneak in a single bottle of the pleasantly dry Pét-Nat he makes with the leftover grapes.

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Old bottles and Pet-Nat experiments aside, there was something wonderfully buzzy in the air at Terroir, the sort of warm Dionysian glow given off from a large group of people enjoying themselves in a shared pursuit.  Wine is often categorized as an insider’s industry that’s closed off and secretive about its inner workings, so any opportunity to bring drinkers and producers together does a lot towards dispelling notions of exclusivity.  When asked why they don’t drink more wine, many people respond that they “…don’t know anything about it”.  Hopefully more events like Califermentation will pop up in the future to make sure that they get the opportunity to change that.  The nice thing about wine is that the best way to learn is by drinking it.

Not forgetting a quick shoutout to the two women who made Califermentation possible and wrangled together several dozen winemakers from across the state , Tala Drzewiecki and Pamela Busch!

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Local Natural Wine: The Living Wines Collective

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Wine elicits dictatorial feelings of taste in some people, which helps to explain the manipulative scoring schemes that have done so much damage to individual taste over the past few decades in California.  On the other end of the scale are the people for whom wine awakens something very different, a desire to share something honest for it’s own sake.  A wine collective is about as pure an expression of this feeling as there is, and It seems somehow appropriate that this winery would be dug into a hill beneath the home of one of the founder’s parents.  

The Living Wines Collective puts out a number of different labels between their four members, all of whom work under the principle that less is better when it comes to what goes into the bottle.  They sum it up very nicely: “Our goal is to grow wines that pay respect to the great wines of California’s past, before money, ego and points got in the way”.  By the time the grapes come off of the vine, most of the work should be done.  No added commercial yeast, no chemicals to change the color or flavor of the wine.  Just grape juice.

It helps that the fruit that they work with comes from what could rightly be called California’s version of vieilles vignes: Carignan from 1948, Chardonnay from 1972, Nero D’Avola from 1975.  Old vines that have been well cared for have a lot of interesting things to say for themselves when overseen by a light hand in the cellar, and all of the labels from the collective show this in their own way.

One of the most satisfying parts of drinking these wines is that they’re unmistakably Californian.  Having plied their trade in vineyards across France and Italy before pursuing things at home, it would seem reasonable that the wines of the collective would reflect the styles of regions further afield.  Instead, what comes out of the bottle are wines that are firmly reflective of where the grapes actually come from.

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The 2014 Nero D’Avola is a great example of this, and is the wine that could perhaps be most forgiven for tasting like the style of somewhere else.  Luckily, that’s not the case.  Martha Stoumen and Diego Roig are the two producers behind the Elizia label and both spent time working in Vittoria, the region in Southern Sicily that’s most often associated with Nero D’Avola. Instead of the initial blast of dark cherry that seems to be present in even the most structured Sicilian examples, this is more subtle, and comes with a nice bit of acidity.  It’s what happens when a grape adapts to a different part of the world, and having been planted back in the 70’s these vines have had plenty of time to become Californian   

The other pair that make up the collective put out wines under the Les Lunes label, and the four collaborate together on the style of the Populis wines, although it seems like everyone has a hand in each other’s wines to one degree or another.  Shaunt Oungoulian and Sam Baron both spent time in Burgundy, and promptly came home and managed to find 43 year old Chardonnay vines being grown at the foot of Mt.  Lassen.  Wines grown in volcanic soil have a special minerality to them, and finding a California Chardonnay that lets this come through without having to fight against the flavors of oak or chemicals is a wonderful surprise.  It’s pretty easy to see the influence of their time spent in Burgundy in this wine, but it’s in the background, and you have to look for it.  This is unmistakably a California Chardonnay, but in a way that makes you realize that people are using old techniques to make something new here.  It’s pretty rad.

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Why do you drink natural wine? I drink it because I want wine to tell me something about where it came from.  I don’t care if it comes from a picturesque winery, and in fact, I’m not that concerned with what the winery looks like at all.  I want to know about the grapes. I want to taste the soil, the sun, find out how the grapes lived and what they have to say for it.  The Living Wines Collective seems to feel the same way, and their wines are a very honest expression of California’s new wave of natural producers who are, for lack of a better term, doing their own thing.  But they’re doing it with techniques from some of the world’s oldest wine regions, using old California vines, and producing something that’s worth attention.

 

CALIFERMENTATION: A California natural wine fair – Nov. 12-13, 2016

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The Vinguard and Winelandia invite you to
Califermentation: The second annual wine fair showcasing California’s best in natural winemaking.
Saturday Nov. 12 – Sunday Nov. 13, 12- 4 pm

Terroir Natural Wine Bar and Merchant
1116 Folsom Street (7th), San Francisco

Unlike any other tasting before, Califermentation is featuring wines from California’s best producers dedicated to working without chemicals, with native yeast and using minimal sulfur. Not only are these methods better for the environment but also create more vibrant, expressive and terroir driven wines. More than 40 winemakers from across the state are joining us at Terroir, California’s original natural wine bar, for this exciting, second-annual fête. Hope to see you there!

Buy tickets here.

$45 each day or $80 for both days with 10% of proceeds benefitting Bay Area Hunger.

Participating Wineries:

AmByth Estate
Amplify Wines
Black Trumpet
Broc Cellars
Clos Saron
Coturri Winery
Deux Punx
Donkey & Goat
Enfield Forlorn Hope
Hardesty
Harrington
Hobo Wine Co.
Inconnu Wine
j.Brix
Krater Cellars
La Clarine Farm
La Onda Wine
Ruth Lewandowski
Living Wines Collective
Lo-Fi
Los Pilares
Methode Sauvage
Old World Winery
Petard Cellars
Preston
Purity Wines
Rein
Roark Wine Co.
Scholium Project
Sonoma Mountain Winery
Thistle
Two Shepherds
Unti
Unturned Stone
Verdad
Vesper
Vinca Minor

Follow us on social media:

Website: https://califermentation.com
Twitter: @califermentSF
Instagram: @califermentation
Facebook: http://facebook.com/califermentation

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!

 

 

Winery Visit: Idlewild Wines

With so many wineries in California, it’s incredibly important for new producers to find an angle or niche that sets them apart from the rest. Enter Sam Bilbro, a California native who makes soulful wines under the label Idlewild Wines. His focus is primarily wines made from Piedmontese grapes, such as Nebbiolo, Cortese, Arneis, Barbera, and Dolcetto. In a sea of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, these Italian-inspired wines are a breath of fresh air.

I first learned about Idlewild while tasting with their distributor last year. I was looking for interesting California whites and they showed me Idlewild’s 2013 Arneis. I was taken aback by how different it was – rich and broad on the palate, floral and aromatic on the nose, and balanced with a nice fresh finish. I introduced this wine to the Winelandia wine club last spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust last week I had a rare opportunity to visit Sam’s new production facility (sorry kids, it’s not open to the public) – a warehouse in Geyserville which used to be home to a mushroom farm. Sam informed me that the facility provides the perfect environment to make wine – cold, damp, and smack-dab in the middle of wine country. He is the first person to produce wine in the facility, which means that it’s unlikely commercial yeasts have set up shop in the building. This is important for winemakers like Sam who utilize “ambient”, “indigenous”, or “native” yeast fermentations, as commercial yeasts tend to be a lot stronger than native yeasts and can take over un-inoculated fermentations.

We tasted through a lovely lineup of Sam’s new releases, including his Arneis, The Bee (a muscat-based white blend), The Flower (a rosé blend), “The Bird” (a red blend), Barbera, and Nebbiolo. All of the wines seemed to follow a theme – bright, joyful, high-toned, aromatic, and varietally correct. Never before have I had a Nebbiolo from California that tasted like a proper Nebbiolo. I walked away from the tasting feeling invigorated and inspired; these are the kinds of wines that excite me.

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While we don’t have any Idlewild wines in the shop at the moment, we will be picking some up very soon. Keep an eye out in the Winelandia online store for these fantastic wines. If you just can’t wait, you can buy them directly from the Idlewild Wines website.

Spring Forward With These American Beauties

For many of us, the wines of California were our first love in our pursuit of the vine. Here in California, we’re lucky to have such a wealth of home-grown wines to choose from, which allows us to not just “eat local”, but also “drink local”! This week I am releasing several new bottles from my favorite California producers, listed below.

Interested in buying any of these wines? Just click on the link for the wine you’re interested in and buy it directly from the online store.

matthiassonrose2014 Matthiasson Rosé, California – $25
Steve Matthiasson has become a household name for many wine lovers in the golden state. He was the SF Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year in 2013, and a James Beard Award nominee for the last 2 years in a row. At his core, he’s a farmer; he grows vegetables between the rows of vines in his vineyard and can be found peddling his stone fruit at the Napa farmer’s market in the summer. Steve is such a humble guy, and an even better winemaker. When he started making rosé, there was no person more excited than me, and with his first vintage, he hit the nail on the head. A light, gauzy, quaffable, and balanced pink wine, with delicate aromas of grapefruit blossoms and fresh strawberries. On the palate, it’s bone dry with fresh acidity. The perfect wine for a springtime BBQ, and it will continue to improve all summer. Imagine it paired with chicken on the grill dripping with spicy barbecue sauce, or a fresh spinach salad with strawberries and goat cheese.

TenduWhite2014 Tendu White Wine, California – $20
Tendu is a collaboration between Steve Matthiasson and his friend/distributor Matthew Plympton. They wanted to make affordable, easy-drinking wines in larger-format bottles – an homage to the liter-sized bottles of Gruner-Veltliner from Austria. This fantastic white blend from California is made with mostly Vermentino grapes, with a little French Colombard and Chardonnay thrown in for good measure. Take this jumbo bottle to Tomales Bay to pair with oysters, or enjoy in style with some friends at Dolores Park on a sunny day. No corkscrew required, as it’s sealed with a crown (beer bottle) cap!

RymeVermentino2014 Ryme Hers Vermentino, Carneros – $24
Ryan and Megan Glaab have been quietly making some of the best wines in California for the last several years. They are shacked up with Wind Gap and Jolie-Laide at a co-op winery in Sebastopol, and the quality of their wines is more than up to par with their winery-mates. As a husband-and-wife team, they make two versions of their Vermentino – a “His” (skin-fermented), and a “Hers” (direct-to-press, classic style white). The Hers made it’s Winelandia debut in the wine club last fall, and this is the first time it’s been available in the online store. If you love Italian-style whites, snap up some of this fantastic juice before it’s all gone.

RymePinot2013 Ryme Pinot Noir, Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros – $32
Another fantastic bottle from Ryme – a beautifully juicy and balanced Pinot Noir from the sustainably farmed cool-climate Las Brisas Vineyard in Carneros. Made from two different pinot noir clones planted in the 1960s – Swan & Gamay Beaujolais – the wine is the perfect blend of delicately earthy, herbal, and fruity. Reminiscent of good Cru Beaujolais rather than your typical Cali pinot, and we love it for that. Pair it with roasted guinea fowl in fennel & tarragon, smoked duck breast, or a pizza with tomato sauce.

P81100082014 Lieu Dit Melon, Santa Maria Valley – $24
Do you love Muscadet and other dry, minerally wines from the Loire Valley? This “Melon de California”, as I like to call it, is a rare bird. I had no idea anyone was growing this grape which is widely planted in France’s Loire Valley, and this example is absolutely gorgeous. Aromatic and focused, with intense citrus and mineral notes. The perfect wine to pair with raw oysters or any other kind of seafood. Enjoy on the beach with a good friend, paired with some fresh Harley Farms goat cheese and a warm loaf of garlic & herb artichoke bread from the Arcangeli Grocery Store.

Love what you see? Want to subscribe to automatic quarterly shipments of wines like these? Sign up for the Winelandia seasonal wine club at https://club.winelandia.com.

Rosé season is here!

At long last, your wait is over. Spring is fast approaching, and with the warmer weather comes the release of rosé wine from our favorite producers. We’ve got two brand new rosés in the shop, on two totally different ends of the spectrum. Whether you’re looking for rosé that’s intense, textural, and soulful, or bright, floral, and fresh, we’ve got the juice you’re looking for!

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2014 Tatomer Rosé of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Santa Barbara County – $27
A brand-new rosé from Graham Tatomer, champion of Austrian & German grape varieties grown in California. From the highest elevation sites of John Sebastiano Vineyards in Santa Barbara County, the grapes for this aromatic rose are picked early to preserve freshness and aromatics.

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2013 Les Lunes GSM Rosé, Paso Robles – $20
For a richer, more savory rosé, look no further than Les Lunes GSM rosé from Paso Robles. Textural and lush, with racy acidity and delicate minerality. A great wine to pair with local King salmon, barbecue, charcuterie, salads, or just a warm sunny day.

Buy any six bottles from the online shop and save on delivery!

La Clarine Farm Cedarville Mourvèdre is back, and more!

We’ve just added three more incredible wines to our online shop, two of which have no added sulfites. They pair perfectly with seasonal ingredients such as pomegranate, roasted poultry, winter squash, persimmon, and chicories. Click the links to purchase from our online store.

La Clarine Farm Cedarville Mourvedre2013 La Clarine Farm “Cedarville” Mourvèdre – $28
La Clarine Farm’s Cedarville Mourvèdre is back and better than ever! Bright, fresh, exotic, and supple, it’s a seductive wine that will entice the most jaded palates. Notes of fresh guava, herbs, cranberry, and minerals are the highlights of this incredible, terroir-driven wine from the Sierra Foothills.

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2013 Christian Vernier ‘Les Hauts de Madon’ Cheverny Rouge – $25
An organically farmed, no-sulfur-added blend of Pinot Noir & Gamay from the Loire Valley’s Cheverny region. This super sexy and feminine wine is remarkably fresh, high-toned, delicately structured, and super juicy. It’s full of aromas of fresh red fruit, dusty earth, fresh herbs, and minerals. I can’t get enough of this wine, it’s definitely one of my top 5 picks for 2014. A must-have for those who love Loire reds and Pinot Noir.

Vinavanti Viognier2013 Vinavanti Viognier, San Diego County – $23
An incredible no-sulfur-added Viognier from San Diego County (you heard right). Sustainably farmed fruit is sourced locally and made into this great wine by Vinavanti. They produce their wines without any additives or oak, and ferment them whole-cluster. This voluptuous and fresh wine will entice you with it’s aromas of citrus, pear skin, herbs, and minerals. It’s a perfect pairing for roasted turkey or chicken.

Join the wine club today and receive 10% off your order with a coupon code that will be emailed to you after you join! We’re shipping the Fall wine club next week. Check out the selections here. Supplies are extremely limited (in fact we’re telling people we’re sold out, but we might have a couple of extras to go around).

Do you have questions or would you like some personal assistance selecting wines to suit your taste? Reach out to Tala directly by email – tala@winelandia.com.

Cheers!
Winelandia

Fall sale this weekend! 10%-20% off select wines

Our Fall sale is happening this weekend, Thursday Oct. 16th through Sunday October 19th! Save 10%-20% on select red & orange wines, including several wines with no added sulfites.

Roark 2012 Malbec Santa Ynez Valley
Juicy, fresh, exuberant Malbec from the Central Coast.
Regular Price: $28.00
SALE PRICE: $23.80

Grosjean 2012 Pinot Noir, Vallee d’Aoste
Elegant, delicate, restrained Pinot Noir from northern Italy.
Regular Price: $28.00
SALE PRICE: $23.80

Rafa Bernabé 2011 “El Morron” Garnacha, Alicante
Light-bodied, with minerals and pretty fruit from southern Spain. No added sulfites.
Regular Price: $25.00
SALE PRICE: $21.25

Adega Vella 2011 Mencía, Ribeira Sacra
Soft, supple, and stony, with juicy red fruit from the western side of Spain.
Regular Price: $15.00
SALE PRICE: $13.50

Celler Acústic 2010 Red Blend
A bold, spicy blend of garnatxa (grenache) & samso (carignan) from Spain’s Montsant region.
Regular Price: $24.00
SALE PRICE: $19.20

Andréa Calek 2011 “Babiole” Red Blend, Ardèche
An intense, earthy, and bold red wine from France’s famed Rhone Valley. No added sulfites.
Regular Price: $28.00
SALE PRICE: $22.95

Château Tire Pé 2012 “Diem” Bordeaux
The purest expression of Merlot, aged in concrete tanks. Certified organic.
Regular Price: $15.00
SALE PRICE: $13.50

Rafa Bernabé 2012 “Benimaquia” Moscatel, Alicanté
An intensely floral, structured, and profound skin-fermented white (orange) wine from southern Spain, aged in amphora. No added sulfites.
Regular Price: $23
SALE PRICE: $19.55