Introducing our Summer Wine Club Offer

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**Our Summer Wine Club selections are SOLD OUT! You can still join the wine club and we would be happy to put together a customized collection for you, or you can simply begin to enjoy your 10% discount and purchase directly from our online shop.**

Summer’s finally here, and so are our summer wine club selections. This time around we are featuring some of the best French and American wines we’ve had all summer, from some of the most exciting small producers in the industry. These unique and crowd-pleasing wines are perfect to bring along on picnics or summer barbecues, or simply to enjoy with a friend on a warm summer night.

Want to get in on the action? Join the Winelandia wine club by filling out the form at https://signup.winelandia.com/

2013 Mas del Périé “Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirees” Red Blend, Southwestern France
2013 Wind Gap Trousseau Gris, Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard, Russian River Valley
2011 Pierre Frick Cremant d’Alsace Riesling/Auxerrois Blend, Alsace
2013 Hervé Villemade Rosé of Pinot Noir & Gamay, Cheverny
2012 Forlorn Hope “San Hercurmer delle Frecce” Barbera, Amador County
2013 Jolie-Laide Pinot Gris, Windsor Oaks Vineyard, Chalk Hill

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2013 Mas del Périé “Tu Vin Plus Aux Soirees” Red Blend

Blend: Cabernet Franc & Côt (Malbec)
Region: France>Southwestern France>Cahors
Vineyard: Biodynamically farmed. 1100’ elevation.
Tasting Notes: A great wine for summer – it’s medium bodied, soft, and supple while retaining a juicy and inviting character that makes you want to take another sip. This is a burger wine if we’ve ever had one – beef or veggie, it doesn’t matter! A fun and versatile wine that everyone will love.
Food Pairing: Barbecue ribs, grilled chicken, burgers, carne asada tacos
Production Notes: Manually harvested, fermented whole cluster for 10 days with indigenous yeasts. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with minimal SO2. The name of this wine is a pun referencing a line from a popular French television show, and roughly translates to “You are not partying with us anymore”.
Winemaker: Fabien Jouves
Bio: Fabien Jouves is a young winemaker in Cahors who began converting his family’s estate to Biodymanic farming in 2004. He initially intended to study medicine, but instead went on to study viticulture and oenology as his parents were struggling with the family vineyard. He now farms all 22 hectares of the family’s estate.

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2013 Wind Gap Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley

Blend: 100% Trousseau Gris
Region: US>California>Sonoma>Russian River Valley
Vineyard: Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard
Tasting Notes: A light-bodied, bright and citrusy wine. It’s a perfect wine to drink on a hot day, and goes especially well with seafood and salads. It’s very easy drinking, but not simple – more like straightforward. Crisp, cool, clean.
Food Pairing: Nectarine & burrata watercress salad
Production Notes: Organically farmed grapes, whole clusters are foot crushed and fermented with indigenous yeasts in concrete eggs. This wine is aged in both stainless and neutral oak for just a few months and always released the year it’s made – it’s meant to be enjoyed fresh and young.
Winemaker: Pax Mahle
Bio: Pax Mahle is a cornerstone of minimal intervention winemaking in northern California. Mahle found his way to winemaking through his work as a sommelier, and has, since the mid 2000s, focused his efforts on the Wind Gap label – cool climate wines often made from single vineyards. His winery was first in Forestville, and has since moved to a convenient location in Sebastopol. Many other wines Winelandia has featured have been influenced by Mahle’s guidance and mentorship, including Ryme and Jolie-Laide.

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2011 Pierre Frick Cremant d’Alsace Riesling/Auxerrois Blend

Blend: 50% Auxerrois Blanc, 50% Riesling
Region: France>Alsace
Vineyard: Biodynamic (Demeter certified) since 1981. Clay & Limestone soil.
Tasting Notes: The bouquet of this elegant sparkling wine is rich with white flowers and coconut, while on the palate it shows lively citrus, almond, and white peach. The bone dry finish leaves a lingering limestone minerality. A gorgeous wine perfect for a casual gathering or a special celebration.
Food Pairing: Alsatian onion tart, cheese plates, oysters
Production Notes: Hand-harvested and whole-cluster pressed. Fermented in foudre with native yeast. Aged in 3000L foudre. Secondary fermentation with RS from the primary fermentation and acacia honey. No added SO2 during vinification, and a small amount added at disgorgement. No dosage. 2 g/L residual sugar.
Winemaker: Pierre Frick
Bio: Pierre Frick is the 12th generation to farm and make wine from his family’s land. He first converted the entire estate to organic viticulture in 1970, and went on to convert it fully to Biodynamic in 1981.

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2013 Hervé Villemade Rosé of Pinot Noir & Gamay

Blend: 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Gamay
Region: France>Loire Valley>Cheverny
Vineyard: Certified organic. 12-36 year old vines.
Tasting Notes: Floral, fruity, and light on it’s feet, with juicy acidity and abundant fruit flavors.
Food Pairing: Grilled salmon, arugula salad with goat cheese and roasted beets, charcuterie
Production Notes: Hand-harvested, fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks. Bottled with minimum SO2.
Winemaker: Hervé Villemade
Bio: Domaine du Moulin is Hervé Villemade’s family estate, founded by his grandparents. Hervé took over winery operations in 1995, and followed in his parent’s footsteps by initially farming using conventional methods. Following these practices, he found the work and wine to be bland. Soon after, Villemade both developed a serious sulfite allergy and discovered natural wine. Deeply inspired by the soulful wines of Lapierre, Gramenon, and Foillard, Villemade began converting the estate to organic viticulture in 2000. He now makes a variety of wines with little or no sulfur added.

P71700182012 Forlorn Hope “San Hercurmer delle Frecce” Barbera

Blend: 100% Barbera
Region: US>California>Sierra Foothills>Amador County
Vineyard: Shake Ridge Vineyard. Sustainably farmed. 1500’ elevation on sandstone, soapstone, quartz, schist, and decomposed granite. Iron-rich, large grain, 80% rocks.
Tasting Notes: A bright and fresh red wine with notes of red fruit, white pepper, and earth. The long finish leaves flavors of pomegranate, along with fine, grippy tannins. Excellent now but could also take some age.
Food Pairing: Barbecue ribs, burgers, grilled portobello mushrooms with balsamic reduction
Production Notes: This wine is named after a miniature donkey who was shot with an arrow by an unknown assailant and resides not far from the vineyard. Fermented whole-cluster with native yeast. Bottled without fining or filtration. Aged 12 months in neutral oak. 87 cases made.
Winemaker: Matthew Rorick
Bio: Matthew Rorick is a surfer and Gulf war veteran. After the war, he returned to southern California where his grandfather encouraged him to study enology. Forlorn Hope was started in the mid-2000′s. His focus is lost and forgotten varieties, age-worthy white wines, and easy drinking reds. Rorick employs minimalist winemaking methods; he ferments with indigenous yeasts, leaves the grape clusters whole, and only uses small additions of SO2. He was the SF Chronicle’s 2013 Winemaker to Watch, and yes, we are watching!

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2013 Jolie-Laide Pinot Gris, Windsor Oaks Vineyard

Blend: 100% Pinot Gris
Region: US>California>Sonoma>Chalk Hill
Vineyard: Windsor Oaks Vineyard
Tasting Notes: Aromas of citrus, melon, and orange blossom. Lightweight and electric on the palate, with a little spice and ample length on the finish. Far more complex and interesting than your typical Pinot Gris, and one of our favorite wines of the summer.
Food Pairing: Poached salmon with citrus, summer stonefruit salads, cheese plates, grilled seafood, grilled carrots
Production Notes: The grapes were gently foot-stomped whole cluster, then left on the skins overnight to soak. The juice was able to pick up a little color from the skins, without extracting any weight or tannins. Pressed whole-cluster into stainless steel, where it underwent a 12 day spontaneous fermentation at cool temperatures. Once dry, it was racked and aged for 6 months in 2:1 stainless steel and neutral oak vessels, with no malo or lees stirring.
Winemaker: Scott Schultz
Bio: About 2 years ago, I was up at the old Wind Gap tasting room with some friends. Scott made wine in the same facility, and he was the one pouring the Wind Gap wines that day. We chatted a bit about wine-making and the business, and afterwards it seemed like I’d run into him every time I was at an industry event. It turns out Scott makes some of the most unique and highly sought-after wines in California, in minuscule quantities of course. In 2013, his fourth vintage, Scott produced only 500 cases of wine.

 

 

 

One Wine A Week – 2011 Adega Vella Ribeira Sacra Mencía

Several months ago, Tala and I were discussing my waning wine consumption. There is only one in my household who drinks wine, and I was finding myself dumping a lot of wine down the drain because I couldn’t keep up with the open bottle. Now don’t get me wrong – I drink a lot of wine in general. At dinners, at tastings, at wine bars, etc. I just wasn’t opening a ton at home, which is kind of a shame. So Tala challenged me to drink one wine a week. And I’ve been keeping true to that, going through some older inventory from storage, and staying on top of my Winelandia subscriptions – you know we’re club members too! Which brings us here. A recurring weekly series cleverly titled One Wine A Week.

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This week’s wine was the 2011 Adega Vella Mencía, from Riberia Sacra. 100% Mencia, and 100% natural Spanish red.

Night opened: Monday

Days to drink: 3 nights, 2 days total (finished while writing this post!)

Paired with: whole wheat pasta with fresh mozzarella and doctored up, home-canned tomato sauce, baked with breadcrumbs on top. And padron peppers on the side.

This wine was a lot less rustic than I was expecting, which is a nice thing. I’ve become accustomed to Spanish reds that are in our area of preference (minimal intervention, focus on sustainability, good stewards in the vineyard and the cellar, etc.,) to be a little… rough around the edges. Maybe a little lacking in integration, or even a bit harsh. This wine is super fruity, delicious, and much more elegant than I thought.

It paired surprisingly well with my dinner of what’s in the fridge/on the shelf, though it wasn’t perfect. What would you pair with padron peppers, anyway? I’m not sure. However, the glass I had just by itself last night on the sofa was delightful. It had opened up nicely, with great flavors of cherry and bright, juicy fruit, but it wasn’t overwhelming or over-extracted. That was definitely its moment in the sun.

If I were to open this again (and you still can! There’s some in the shop right now!) I would do so, decant it – or pour it back and forth a few times between two large vessels – and then enjoy a glass of it on a warm evening. I often shy away from opening red wine “just to drink” because so many of them are overpowering, and knock you in the face or the teeth or the stomach. I usually just want something pleasant and easygoing in my glass. This was exactly that, in a red wine, and very worth the price.

Wine of the Week: Matthiasson 2013 ‘Linda Vista’ Napa Valley Chardonnay

Steve Matthiasson is quickly becoming a household name amongst wine lovers – he is making some of the best and most compelling wines today in California. A farmer at his core, Steve Matthiasson grows many things in addition to grapes, and is a highly sought-after viticultural consultant. His list of credentials is long, and he was even called the SF Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year.

I recently attended a trade tasting where Matthiasson was pouring his wines, and I was lucky enough to meet him and taste through his current offerings. I was particularly drawn to his Linda Vista Napa Valley Chardonnay, an affordable and beautifully balanced wine. It’s rich and flavorful, with acidity that’s balanced by body – a no-brainer for the Winelandia shop. Fermented and aged in 100% neutral French oak, from which it picked up texture and creaminess without any oak flavor (my favorite kind of chardonnay!).

The fruit comes from the Linda Vista vineyard in Oak Knoll, a plot of vines that are farmed by Matthiasson but owned by someone else. The vineyard is literally across the way from his farm, which I’m sure makes it easier to keep a close eye on the health of the vines and fruit. The care taken in the vineyard really shows in the wine, and it’s the finest example of an affordable California chardonnay that I’ve found all year.

This wine is SOLD OUT.

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Winemaker:  Steve Matthiasson
Bio: The SF Chronicle’s 2013 Winemaker of the Year and nominated for a James Beard award in 2014, Steve Matthiasson is one of Napa Valley’s top viticultural consultants. With over 20 years of experience, he is certainly no newcomer. He is known for championing Italian grape varieties in California, producing wines from grapes like tocai-friulano, refosco, and ribolla gialla. A Whittier college graduate and former San Francisco bike messenger, Steve now lives on his 5 acre Napa Valley farm with his wife and children.
Region: US>California>Napa Valley
Vineyard: Linda Vista Vineyard. Clay soil.
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Aging: Neutral French oak
Production Notes: Whole cluster pressed, settled for 24 hours in tank, then fermented in neutral oak barrels. During aging, half of the barrels were stirred once, which added creaminess while still preserving freshness and minerality. 2/5 of the barrels were allowed to go through malolactic fermentation due to the high acidity of the 2013 harvest. Never racked, fined, or cold stabilized. Sterile filtered before bottling.
Tasting Notes: Notes of apples, stonefruits, and melon, with a slightly honeyed character and mineral backbone. Balanced and elegant, this is a great Chardonnay for a hot summer day!
Food Pairings: Roasted chicken, oysters, cheese plates.

Our 5 Favorite Wines for Summer

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Summer is just around the corner, but the recent warm temperatures may have you thinking it’s been here for a while! The wines on my table have all been light-bodied and served with a chill, and most of them are the perfect pairing for a weeknight barbecue. Here’s a round-up of our five favorite wines for summertime, all available on Winelandia.com!

La Clarine Farm 2013 Rosé, Sierra Foothills – $19
Nothing yells SUMMER like rosé wine. We opened a bottle of this delicious vino from La Clarine Farm last night to enjoy with our hot links, grilled Tartine bread, and arugula salad. It is surprisingly expressive, with intense aromas of grapefruit blossoms and herbs. It’s luscious and textured while still having a zippy acidity to make it thirst-quenching on a warm summer evening, and it’s an absolute steal at this price. All of the La Clarine Farm wines are made in extremely limited quantities, so get some before it’s gone!

Rafa Bernabé 2011 ‘El Morron’ Garnacha, Alicante – $25
The joyful wines of Spanish natural wine producer Rafa Bernabé are a new discovery for us, and we just can’t get enough of them. This juicy Grenache is from the Alicante region in Spain (just off the south-eastern coast), which faces the Mediterranean ocean. ‘El Morron’ is fresh and vibrant, sees no new oak, and has no added sulfites. A really beautiful Spanish wine, perfect for a warm evening.

Jolie-Laide 2013 Trousseau Gris, Russian River Valley – $27
Jolie-Laide is one of our favorite California producers, and these wines cause quite a ruckus when they are released each year. We were lucky enough to get our hands on some of this rare and delicious juice that has earned itself a cult following. The 2013 Trousseau Gris is not quite a white wine and not quite a rosé – it’s a peachy-colored white wine with incredible aromatics and texture. Enjoy this delicious and unique wine with citrus and cilantro-stuffed whole grilled snapper.

Knebel 2012 ‘Von den Terrassen’ Riesling, Mosel – $23
Riesling is a wine often overlooked by casual wine drinkers, but it’s the summertime darling of fanatical wine lovers. It’s fresh, luscious, aromatic, zippy, and great with spicy foods. This particular wine from German producer Knebel is perfectly balanced and priced to be enjoyed any day of the week. It’s dry (but not too dry) with mouth-watering acidity, which will make it great with food or all by itself. An excellent wine for a pool party!

Matthiasson 2013 ‘Linda Vista’ Chardonnay, Napa Valley – $27
Steve Matthiasson makes the best Napa Valley Chardonnay we’ve ever had at a price point that’s hard to beat. This is not your Aunt Mary’s buttery, oaky chardonnay – it’s quite the opposite. This beautiful example of California Chardonnay has notes of citrus, apples, and honey, with balanced acidity. The wine was aged in neutral oak and allowed to undergo partial malolactic fermentation, so it has a touch of texture while still being fresh and juicy. Enjoy with friends on a grassy knoll, preferably under a blue sky full of puffy white clouds.

Interested in purchasing some of our delicious summertime wines? Check out our delivery terms and order yours today!

Wine of the Week: Forlorn Hope 2012 “Ghanima” Merlot, Napa Valley

The Forlorn Hope merlot is SOLD OUT. Thanks for your interest!

Matthew Rorick, the proprietor of Forlorn Hope, has a reputation for making soulful wines from fringe varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Sémillon, and Torrontes. He also makes a damn fine Napa Valley Merlot, which might as well be a fringe variety these days.

Most people associate Merlot with flabby, oaky, homogenous red wine from California, and varietal wines made from Merlot have been out of vogue since the movie “Sideways” came out (the protagonist hated Merlot because it reminded him of his ex). However, Merlot has been the primary grape in famous Bordeaux regions since the 1700’s, making some of the world’s finest wines from St. Emilion and Pomerol. Merlot also has a bit of history in United States, where it was once one of the most popular wines in the country.

Forlorn Hope’s Merlot, I’m told, is reminiscent of the fine Bordeaux-style wines made in Napa Valley in the 1970s. It’s old school in style; slightly herbal with plenty of rich red and black fruit backed up by low alcohol, balanced acidity, and dusty tannins. This wine is aged in 100% neutral French oak and fermented whole cluster, which allows terroir and varietal characteristics to shine.

If you’re a fan of old world red wines but prefer to buy locally grown and produced foods, give this beautiful wine a try. It’s the perfect pairing for grilled chicken, lamb, beef, or grilled sausages.

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Winemaker: Matthew Rorick
Bio: 
Matthew Rorick is a surfer and Gulf war veteran. After the war, he returned to southern California where his grandfather encouraged him to study enology. Forlorn Hope was started in the mid-2000′s. His focus is lost and forgotten varieties, age-worthy white wines, and easy drinking reds. Rorick employs minimalist winemaking methods; he ferments with indigenous yeasts, leaves the grape clusters whole, and only uses small additions of SO2. He was the SF Chronicle’s 2013 Winemaker to Watch, and yes, we are watching!
Region: 
US>California>Napa Valley
Vineyard: 
Hillside vineyard with white volcanic tufa soils
Blend: 
100% Merlot
Aging: 
16 months in neutral oak
Production Notes: 
100% whole-cluster fermented Merlot from a white volcanic tufa-laced hillside vineyard in Napa Valley. Aged 16 months in neutral oak. 47 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: 
This is about as old-school as California merlot can get. Red fruit is complimented by earth, dusty tannins, and a mineral finish. The antithesis of stereotypical “California Merlot”, this wine will seduce the most jaded palates.
Food Pairing: 
Filet mignon with green peppercorn sauce, braised lamb shanks, wild mushroom ragout.

Wine of the Week: Sébastien Riffault 2011 “Les Quarterons” Sancerre

It’s no secret that Colleen and I are not the biggest fans of Sauvignon Blanc. It can be aggressively green and grassy, or so overtly tropical that it borders on offensive. I never thought I’d find a balanced Sauvignon Blanc with enough finesse to find it’s way on to my dinner table, until I tasted this one…

This great wine from Sébastien Riffault is from the famous Sauvignon Blanc producing region Sancerre, located within the Loire Valley. Riffault’s vineyards are all certified organic, and he only uses sulfur and copper sprays in the vineyard when absolutely necessary. As a result, the grapes can become slightly botrytised; the wine takes on rich honey and baked apple undertones, while maintaining tension, mineral, and citrus at it’s core. All stainless steel fermented and aged, it’s fresh and lively while having an unusual richness from the natural farming methods and full malolactic fermentation.

Natural Sauvignon Blanc from a famous region and a producer with a cult following – get your hands on some of this amazing, affordable juice before it’s gone!

Buy now on Winelandia.com

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Winemaker: Sébastien Riffault
Bio: Sébastien has slowly been taking over winemaking responsibilities from his father, Etienne, since 2004, which began with converting the estate to organic, then Biodynamic farming. He can name every plant growing in his cover crop, and his winemaking methods are heavily influenced by the old traditions of the region.
Region: France>Loire Valley>Sancerre
Vineyard: Certified Biodynamic 5 hectare plot grown in silex, clay, and limestone soil. South & south-east exposure on 20% grade. 20 year old vines farmed with horse & plow.
Blend: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Aging: 18 months sur lie in stainless steel
Production Notes: Hand-harvested fruit. Native yeast fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. Aged for 18 months in stainless steel on the lees, with full malolactic fermentation. Unfined and unfiltered. Minimal SO2 added at bottling.
Tasting Notes: Layered, complex aromas of honey, baked apple, and lime zest lead to a rich, round palate with balanced acidity and flavors of apple, mineral, and herbs.
Food Pairing: Herb-roasted chicken, anything with wild mushrooms, fresh bread rubbed with garlic scape pesto.

Buy now on Winelandia.com

Organic Wine for Weddings and Events

Organic wine for weddings

Did you know that Winelandia can supply organic wine for weddings and events? We’ll work with your menu to create the perfect food and wine pairings for you and your guests on your special day. Whether you’re looking for crowd-pleasing standards like Napa Merlot or French Chardonnay, or fun & obscure wines such as sparkling Gringet from Savoie or Pineau d’Aunis from the Loire, we can get what you’re looking for!

Whether you’re planning a country-themed wedding at a local winery, or a modern event at a swanky hotel, Winelandia can help select wines that will perfectly suit the look and feel of your event. We can work within any budget and scale, providing affordable and delicious wines to suit your taste and menu. Best of all, we make sure your goods are delivered to the venue or caterer on time.

Most importantly, you can be sure all of Winelandia’s selections fit within our strict guidelines for sustainable & organic farming and production. We only sell wines that are made responsibly, in small batches, by real people. Check out our online store to get an idea of what we offer. We have organic and natural wine to fit into every budget.

Winelandia can deliver the wine for your wedding or special event within a 100 mile radius of San Francisco. Feel free to reach out to us and receive a free email or over-the-phone consultation! We can be reached at info@winelandia.com.

Organic wine for weddings

 

Wine of the Week: La Clarine Farm 2012 “Piedi Grandi” Red Blend

Many  of you already know how much we love La Clarine Farm wines – we feel that winemaker Hank Beckmeyer is making some of the most exciting wines in California today. They are honest and long-living with abundant layers of joyfulness, fragrance, intrigue, and soul.

“Piedi Grandi” is a nebbiolo-dominant blend including mourvèdre, syrah, and a wee bit of sémillon. It’s grown in deep volcanic soils of the Sierra Foothills, and is light in body while still being full of flavor. The nebbiolo offers structure and acidity; the mourvèdre delivers seductive, tropical, high-toned fruit aromas; the syrah brings spice and depth; the sémillon helps bring out the aromatics in the rest of the blend. While Piedi Grandi currently has a fun and fruity bouquet perfect for summertime fare, these wines can age for several years (Hank mentions the 2010 is currently drinking beautifully) and will present more spice and savory aromas as time passes.

No SO2 was added while the wine was being made, and only a small amount was added at bottling.

Enjoy this beautiful wine on a warm summer day, with a slight chill, and your favorite barbecue. Only 156 cases made.

Buy now on Winelandia.com

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Winemaker: Hank Beckmeyer
Bio: Run by Hank Beckmeyer, La Clarine Farm is a principled stand out in California winemaking. A follower of Masanobu Fukuoka’s “Do Nothing Farming” methods, Beckmeyer has created a holistic vineyard and winery experience, trying to leave the grapes alone to, in a sense, make the wine themselves. Beckmeyer sees himself as a guide for the transformation of grapes into wine. Beckmeyer understands that terroir is constantly changing, and everything he is doing to the vines, the grapes, and the land, is changing the terroir  – he is trying to keep it as pure and unadulterated as possible.
Beckmeyer has been quietly making wines in the Sierras since 2001, and has a diverse lineup, comprised largely of Rhone wines, both white and red. Hank’s laid-­back winemaking approach produces wines with texture and tons of interest -­ he simply lets each wine, each vintage, become whatever it might.
Region: 
US>California>Sierra Foothills
Vineyard: Deeper volcanic soils.
Blend:
 54% Nebbiolo, 42% Mourvedre, 3% Syrah and 1% Semillon
Aging: Stainless steel tank
Production Notes: 
Foot-stomped whole cluster and allowed to ferment spontaneously. Aged in stainless steel tanks with no SO2 added until bottling.
Tasting Notes: This bright and structured nebbiolo blend is full of high-toned fruit aromas, firm tannins, and juicy acidity. A perfect summertime red, and will continue to give for years to come.
Food Pairing: Grilled steak salad with balsamic dressing, braised short ribs, ossobuco, arancini, grilled leg of lamb.

Buy now on Winelandia.com

Pairing Wine with Dessert

As an avid pastry baker and consumer, I’ve thought a lot about how to pair wine with various desserts, and what wines are universally – or almost universally – good choices with sweets. There are a few that come to mind, but dessert is a difficult category to pair with wine because there are so many types of sweets, and what you’re looking for may be different. Wine pairing generally comes down to either complementing or contrasting with a dish, and this remains true when pairing with the last course of a meal. And then there are sweet wines in and of themselves, some of which pair nicely, and some of which ARE dessert on their own – treat them as such!

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The number one, almost-no-fail dessert pairing choice is a crisp, dry or semi-dry (demi-sec) Champagne. The bubbles cleanse the palate both between courses and between bites, and the acidity creates a nice complement with a bright, fresh dessert like a lemon bar, say, and contrasts nicely with something rich and custardy like creme brulee. If your final course has fruit or cream in it, you’re definitely safe with Champagne alongside. However, if you’ve selected a chocolate confection, Champagne may either be too stark a contrast, or simply lost in the intensity of your sweet, so think of something else.

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The classic choice for anything chocolate is to go with Port, which is generally a late-harvest, fortified red wine. It’s higher in alcohol (from the fortification, usually with brandy or grappa), and has some sweetness leftover from the fermentation process too, so it’s intense in several senses. The sweetness and intensity work together, and the toffee and toast in a Port wine will play nicely with the other flavors that often come in a chocolate pastry – nuts especially. Now, neither Tala nor I are huge fans of the Port-with-chocolate pairing. It can be overwhelmingly sweet and, well, saccharine. Another option with chocolate is a fizzy red like Brachetto, Lambrusco or sparkling Shiraz. The same principles from the Champagne-with-fruit-or-cream pairing apply, but with the structure and intensity that can only come from a red wine. Just keep the tenor of the wine in line with whatever you’re pair – more intense wine like Shiraz with a dark chocolate cake, and a lighter, brighter one like Brachetto with something maybe in the milk chocolate raspberry vein.

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Sweet wines like Sauternes, late harvest Rieslings, and Tokajis are very complementary to dishes that have some depth but also some sophistication – think Tarte Tatin, peach crostata or brown butter shortbread. Anything with butter or caramel will shine here, and pastry goes great too – which is how you know this is my favorite category. The nutty and subtle complexity of anything with a crust – pastry or just oven crispness really bring something out in these selections. The apple-y flavor of an aged late harvest Riesling will seamlessly integrate with a caramel-based sweet. These wines tend to be well aged, rare, and quite expensive, which means you should also consider serving them on their own. Let the wine be the finish to a great meal, and a great topic of conversation over the glasses you share.

Secret Wine Club: New California vs. Europe

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There’s been a lot of press lately about “New California” winemakers and the fantastic wines being produced by them. Small-scale winemakers from all over California are producing soulful wines from forgotten grape varieties, and are trailblazing a new frontier in American wine.

I wanted to demonstrate the similarities and differences between modern California wines and similar wines from Europe by hosting a side-by side tasting. Why? Well, most “modern” American wines seem to be modeled after famous wines or styles from Europe, and I think it’s important for students of wine to understand the nuances of both. Many people claim to prefer wine from one country of origin over another, but I don’t think as many people truly understand how American wines are different from their European counterparts.

I set forth to curate eight wines for the tasting, two from each wine color group. I chose two whites, two rosés, two orange wines, and two reds. For the whites, I chose a Santa Barbara County Chenin Blanc made by Ryan Roark and a French Chenin Blanc from the France’s most famous Chenin-producing region, the Loire Valley. For the rosé, I chose an old-vine Mourvedre rosé from California to taste next to a Mourvedre-dominant rosé from Provence. The orange wines were both skin-fermented Pinot Gris, one made by Wind Gap in Sonoma from the famous Windsor Oaks vineyard, the other from benchmark orange wine producer Radikon in Friuli, Italy. The reds were both made from the native Sicilian grape Nero d’Avola – the Californian version being made by Broc Cellars in Berkeley, and the European one from legendary Sicilian producer Arianna Occhipinti.

The wine list was as follows:

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Roark 2012 Chenin Blanc, Santa Barbara County
vs.
Domaine Patrick Baudouin 2012 “Effusion” Anjou Blanc
Pairing: Little gems chopped salad with peas, fresh corn, shaved radishes, and avocado green goddess dressing

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Bedrock Wine Co. 2013 Old Vine Rosé
vs.
Chateau Pradeaux 2013 Cotes du Provence Rosé
Pairing: Herbed crostini with fresh chevre, roasted red peppers, watercress, and fresh black pepper

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Wind Gap 2013 Skin-Fermented Pinot Gris, Chalk Hill 
vs.
Radikon 2010 S Pinot Grigio, Friuli
Pairing: Baby zucchini with toasted parmesan and sea salt

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Broc Cellars 2013 Nero d’Avola, Mendocino County
vs.
Arianna Occhipinti 2011 Nero d’Avola, Sicilia
Pairing: Braised meatballs in red wine tomato sauce with fresh basil and shaved parmesean

Overall, I think Europe had a slight edge over California, in terms of what people liked. I asked for a show of hands after pouring each set of wines, and everyone agreed that the California wines were easier to drink and more approachable, while the European wines seemed to have a little more going on. One thing that took me by surprise is how most people initially preferred the Wind Gap Pinot Gris over the Radikon Pinot Gris, until the food came out – there was a definite shift from Wind Gap to Radikon once the food pairing arrived. The Radikon may have been the crowd favorite of the evening.

Going forward, I think I will stick with this side-by-side format to help Secret Wine Club’s members better wrap their heads around the differences between domestic and imported wines, and how terroir and winemaking style influence the finished product. Everyone loved the new format, and I got some really good feedback on how to make it better the next time around.