Making Wine at Home

A few years ago, as my obsession with wine was picking up steam, I decided that I wanted to make my own wine. Some of my friends thought I was crazy, while others thought it was really cool and wanted to help out. I spent a few months reading winemaking books and home winemaker forums online, preparing myself for the 800 lbs. of Dry Creek Syrah grapes that were destined for my garage.

My first vintage was 2011, a notoriously difficult year for grape growers and winemakers in California. We had a long, cool summer, followed by rain at the end of the growing season. Anyone who picked their fruit before the rains were able to produce age-worthy, complex, structured, and focused wines, while those who waited until after the rain were running into issues such as the grape’s sugar content getting diluted by the rain water and mold. My grapes fell into the latter category, and we had to make a quick decision to harvest before the problems we were encountering in the vineyard progressed. We had to drop about 10% of the fruit before harvest, which had grown moldy from the moisture.

botrytis_grapes_webThe wine that I produced that year was rife with issues, and my inexperience compounded by my generally worrisome demeanor was a recipe for disaster. I cried a lot that year in the corner of my garage, not knowing what to do when I ran into various problems. I did eventually get that wine out of the barrel and into the bottle, as a last-ditch effort to see if it would come around – it smelled like the inside of a brand new garden hose from the moment it was finished with malolactic fermentation. I now have about 10 cases of home-made Syrah that smells like nail polish remover and rubber “aging” in wine storage. What I’ll end up doing with that wine is still TBD.

Fast forward another year, and I decided to give winemaking another shot. 2012’s summer was shaping up to be a short and hot one, and I was able to source some Russian River Valley Zinfandel from a gentleman up in Santa Rosa for just $1/lb. This was also the year I got married, just about a month before harvest – I actually planned my wedding to be early enough where it wouldn’t interfere with my winemaking (I’m a girl with priorities, okay?). Four friends helped me pick those Zinfandel grapes at 24 degrees Brix on the foggy morning of October 6th, 2012.

pickingpartyMy 2012 Zinfandel was a joy to make. I had all of the equipment I needed, better understood what to expect, and had my routine down a little bit better. I actually enjoyed the winemaking process, and didn’t shed a single tear the entire time! I had two 44-gallon fermenters bubbling away, along with a couple of carboys full of saignée that would make a lovely, early-drinking rosé.

My Zinfandel spent about 13 months in a neutral French oak barrel, and I was unsure how good it would be once bottled. I bottled it in May, and since then the wine has really come around. It’s absolutely delicious – floral, rich, balanced, fruity without being jammy, and spicy, with elegant structure for a Zinfandel. I still have a few carboys I need to bottle, which I swear I’ll get around to soon!

I am planning to make only rosé from that same vineyard this year, which means I’ll be picking my grapes a little earlier than I did in 2012. I just paid a visit to the vineyard a few weekends ago, to see how the fruit was coming along. They had just started verasion, and the farmer is planning to thin the fruit this week.

2014 ZinIf you are interested in making your own wine, and you have the space/resources to make it happen, I can’t recommend it enough. It’s hard work, and akin to having a newborn baby for the first few months. Should you wish to take it up, I recommend the following books and resources:

The Way to Make Wine by Sherridan Warrick
From Vines to Wines by Jeff Cox
Winepress.us – an online home winemaking forum, moderated by small commercial producers and home winemaking veterans.
MoreWinemaking.com – a website selling affordable home winemaking gear.

Most importantly, make sure you have plenty of friends who will be supportive of your endeavor and eager to consume your finished product.

colleen_23oaks

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

We Went on the Korbel Tour, Y’all

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If I had a nickel for every time Colleen and I drove past the Korbel winery on River Road in the Russian River Valley, I might have enough money for a BART ride to the East Bay. Truth be told, I hadn’t had a Korbel wine in many years, if ever. All I knew is that they mass-produce sparkling wine. Colleen and I have been saying that we need to go on the tour for years…

Well, just this last weekend, Colleen bought me a night at our favorite somewhat-sketchy wine country hotel, The Sandman, as a birthday gift. It’s a magical place; loads of pillows, hot tub, pool, Carrow’s across the parking lot, and most importantly a waffle iron in the continental breakfast room. That’s right, after sleeping atop your mountain of pillows, you can wake up and go eat as many waffles as you can before you rupture your stomach, then get into the hot tub. It’s heaven. Rooms are only about $100 per night and they have good availability.

Looking for things to do to pass the time while in wine country (or Winelandia, we we call it), we decided that a trip to Korbel was in the cards. We are big fans of cheap-or-free things to do, and we’ve pretty thoroughly burned ourselves out on wine tasting in the area. At the very least, we thought it would be fun to pretend to be wine tourists for the day.

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Above: Colleen being a wine tourist

The tour itself lasted about an hour and was led by a very enthusiastic guide. She showed us some of the older structures which were built when the winery was a saw mill. The land the winery resides on used to be a dense old-growth redwood forest, which was clear-cut to make room for the winery. They milled and sold the wood to builders in San Francisco, and later built a winery. Next, the guide took us down to the old cellars, by far the most interesting part of the trip. Down there they had huge, old, large-format oak casks, which until about 2012 were used for aging the Korbel wines. These casks were retired and left in the cellar since they would be difficult to remove due to their size. I noticed the barrel hoops were loose and the staves were beginning to separate, due to being left empty.

P7120018Next, we were taken to the area where the wines were riddled before riddling was taken off-site. The second owner of the Korbel winery actually invented an automated riddling rack, which made the riddling process much easier and faster than doing it by hand. It was a pretty cool machine, and with the flip of a switch the bottles on the riddling machine would rattle and shake, then jolt into another position. The tour guide demonstrated this process, which was both noisy and fascinating.

P7120026There were oddities all over this place, strange equipment from yesteryear that you would probably need a historian to identify. If anyone knows what this thing is, please let me know, because I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me (and was also too lazy to ask!).

P7120010At the end of the tour, we were taken to a room which hosted the World’s Largest Bottle of “Champagne”, as well as the World’s Largest “Champagne” Goblet. This was definitely the icing on the cake. The only thing left to do was taste the “California Champagne” that made Korbel a household name.

P7120027After being led to the tasting room, we tasted a flight of 8 wines, picking the ones we thought were most interesting. Our favorite was the Korbel Brut “California Champagne” made from organic grapes, which was the most palatable of all the wines. I lost it when we got to the “Moscato Frizzante California Champagne”, because there is just so much wrong with that sentence.

In conclusion, the Korbel tour is full of history and interesting factoids about the early California wine industry, how Korbel survived prohibition, and the industrialization of Korbel wines. We learned why Korbel is allowed to call their wine Champagne, which is something that France wants them to stop doing. The building itself is really cool, and worth checking out if you’re in the area with some time to kill. The tour is free, as is the tasting. More information can be found here: http://www.korbel.com/winery/

 

 

 

 

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!

Winery Visit: Two Shepherds

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Remember when Winelandia first got started? One of the first wines we offered was an interesting little Grenache Blanc made by wine blogger & garagiste-turned-pro winemaker William Allen under his label Two Shepherds. William makes a number of wines from Rhone varieties in very small batches – he only makes a half barrel of some of his wines. Many of these wines are classic in style, but William doesn’t shy away from experimentation – he makes a number of skin-fermented white wines and fringe varietal wines. I was fortunate enough to be invited to taste in his winery just this last Friday, and boy did he open a lot of new and exciting wines for me!

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We started with the 2012 Santa Ynez Valley Grenache Blanc – the original wine Winelandia offered from Two Shepherds. It has come along quite a bit since the last time we tasted it – more secondary aromas and mineral notes are emerging, which is a sign of quality in a white wine. One of the key factors in what makes this wine great is that it’s aged on the lees in a combination of neutral oak and stainless steel – giving body to and softening the wine while also preserving it’s freshness. A very rich and complex example of a varietal wine that is typically a simple porch-pounder.

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Next we tasted his 2012 Russian River Valley Pastoral Blanc, a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc from Saralee’s Vineyard – the only vineyard in the Russian River Valley AVA growing Marsanne and Roussanne. It was rich and velvety with notes of stonefruit, white flowers, mineral, and spice, with present and balanced acidity. While it’s showing beautifully now, I’m certain it will continue to increase in complexity for years to come. I loved this wine so much, I picked some up for the shop.

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One of the wines I was most excited to taste was up next, William’s 2012 Fanucchi-Wood Vyd. skin-fermented Trousseau Gris. Perhaps you’ve heard me shout from the rooftop, proclaiming my love for Trousseau Gris. It’s a special and rare variety, originating from the Jura region in France. Trousseau Gris is gray grape, a mutation of the red Trousseau variety, and there’s only 10 or so acres of it planted in California, most of which is owned by the Fanucchi family in the Russian River Valley. That’s the vineyard William got the fruit for this wine from (Wind Gap & Jolie-Laide also make delicious wines from this vineyard) and it was a treat to experience his interpretation of it. The color is a rich coppery-pink, and on the palate it’s full of texture and lovely, juicy fruit and spice. The wine spent a full 10 days fermenting on the skins, where it extracted truckloads of character – this is a geeky wine for sure.

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Next up was the 2013 Mendocino County Grenache Gris Rosé. A very special wine made from a rare grape, Grenache Gris, a mutation of the well-known Grenache Noir. The vineyard is a unique site, where the vines are dry-farmed, head trained, and over 100 years old. This brand-new 2013 rosé was simply beautiful – rich and herbal, with loads of texture from 7 days of skin contact. Although it’s a fuller-bodied rosé, it retains tons of brightness and energy – it’s absolutely lively and juicy on the palate. It’s showing beautifully now, and will only get better by Thanksgiving. Just 33 cases were made, and I picked up just a few bottles for the shop, which you can buy here.

All of these lovely white, pink, and orange wines aside, William also makes extraordinary red wines from Rhone varietals. There’s a cool-climate 2012 Grenache Noir from the Russian River Valley; a 2011 Syrah/Mourvedre from the Russian River Valley & El Dorado AVA; and his flagship red blend, the 2011 Pastoral Rouge – a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah. All of the red wines are rich and textural, without being heavy or over-extracted, while showing grace, finesse, and restraint. Two Shepherds is a winery to keep an eye on – it hasn’t been around for long but William is already making wines that rival those of the rockstars of the region.

Big thanks to William for hosting me at his winery and opening so many of his treasures to share – I am very excited to see how these wines age and what he’s up to next.

 

 

Introducing our Winter Wine Club Offer

We’re pleased to introduce you to the wines in our winter wine club offering! Not a member yet? Get in on the action by signing up for our wine club! https://signup.winelandia.com
P1240064-webIt’s been pretty warm around these parts, so instead of offering heavy winter wines we are focusing more on wines with energy and verve. Evocative of the impending spring, these wines are fresh and rich. A Chenin Blanc from the Loire that tastes like pure bottled sunlight; a Müller-Thurgau from extreme elevations in northern Italy; a rustic and juicy old vine Zinfandel from a cool-climate Biodynamic vineyard in the Russian River Valley; a dry Brachetto that smells like a bouquet of roses; a funky & geeky red blend from a French-born producer in Chile; and a feminine & seductive Mourvèdre from the decomposed granite soils of the Sierra foothills.

The Lineup

2012 Frantz Saumon Minéral +, Montlouis sur Loire, France
2012 Radoar “Etza”, Alto Aldige, Italy
2012 Poco a Poco Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, US
2011 Matteo Correggia “Anthos”, Roero, Italy
2012 Clos Ouvert “Primavera”, Maule Valley, Chile
2012 La Clarine Farm “Cedarville”, Sierra Foothills, US

2012 Frantz Saumon Minéral +, Montlouis sur Loire

P1240048-webWinemaker: Frantz Saumon
Bio: Setting out to make wine representative of its appellation, Frantz Saumon purchased a small plot of land in Montlouis in 2002. Since then, he has acquired more land and most of the 6 hectares are planted with old growth Chenin Blanc, which is all farmed organically and by hand.
Region: France>Loire Valley>Touraine>Montlouis sur Loire
Vineyard: Organically farmed, various parcels
Blend: 100% Chenin Blanc
Aging: Stainless steel tanks
Production Notes: Minéral + is made with grapes from all of Saumon’s Chenin Blanc plots in Montlouis. Mineral soils help produce a wine that is full of distinctive Montlouis minerality. The vines average age is 40 years and they are planted in a blend of soils composed of tuffeau (limestone) and silex (flint). Every vintage yields a wine with a little bit of residual sugar, but the wines taste dry. The sugar lends a textural element to the wine which helps balance it. 100% indigenous yeast fermentations and aged in Stainless Steel tanks.
Tasting Notes: Stonefruit, citrus and mineral, medium bodied, elegant, and rich with a backbone and texture that will compliment a wide variety of foods.
Food Pairings: Smoked fish, spicy Asian food, pâte, chicken in cream sauce

2012 Radoar “Etza” Müller-Thurgau, Alto-Aldige

P1240056-webWinemaker: Norbert Blasbichler
Bio: Radoar is located near the border of Austria in Northern Italy. Norbert Blasbichler took over in 1997 and is the 15th generation to farm this land, which has been in the family since the 1300’s. Radoar is, first and foremost, an organic apple farm. They grow Golden Delicious apples, and create distillates such as brandy from the fruit. In addition to growing apples, chestnuts, peaches, pears, and walnuts, Radoar grows several types of grapes from which they produce wine and Grappa.
Region: Italy>Trentino-Alto Aldige>Alto Aldige>Valle Isarco
Vineyard: Certified organic. 3000’ in elevation, the estate vineyards of Radoar are 1.5km from the farm.
Blend: 100% Müller-Thurgau
Aging: Stainless steel
Production Notes:  Müller-Thurgau is a cross between Riesling and Madeleline Royal, developed in the 19th century. Organically farmed, direct-to-press, and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of citrus and white flowers followed by ripe peach on the palate with juicy acidity and a lingering finish. This is a great wine to serve with hard-to-pair vegetables such as asparagus and Italian cheeses.
Food Pairings: Asparagus dishes, brussel sprouts, artichokes, seafood, smoked fish, spicy Asian food, fresh burrata with olive oil & sea salt

2012 Poco a Poco Zinfandel, Russian River Valley

P1240053-webWinemaker: Luke Bass
Bio: Luke Bass’s family has owned Porter Bass Vineyards since 1980, when the family discovered the century-old vineyard. The land had been subjected to decades of farming-induced erosion, so they slowly brought it back to life through Biodynamic and organic farming. Luke grew up on this property, and was a winemaker before he even had his first paying job. Previously, he interned at Flowers winery, which evolved into a position as cellar master. He has also worked at Hirsch & Tandem in Sonoma, as well as Flagstone in South Africa and Casa Marin in Chile.
Region: US>California>Sonoma>Russian River Valley
Vineyard: Demeter Certified (Biodynamic). The vineyards are protected from winds by the surrounding Redwood and Fir trees, while the fog produced by the nearby Russian River helps cool the vineyard in the summer.
Blend: 100% Zinfandel
Aging: 12 months in neutral French oak
Production Notes: Old vine Zinfandel. Native yeast fermentation and spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Very little sulphur dioxide (SO2) added.
Tasting Notes: Blackberry, dark cherry, wild bramble, spice. Medium-to-full bodied with zippy acidity.
Food Pairings: Fried chicken, sweet BBQ, burgers, pasta with rustic sauce, pizza, root vegetables.

2011 Matteo Correggia “Anthos”, Roero

P1240045-webWinemaker: Luca Rostagno
Bio: Matteo Correggia died in a tragic tractor accident in 2001. His wife, Ornella Correggia took over winery operations and hired Luca Rostagno as the winemaker. Ornella has continued to grow the winery’s reputation as the benchmark producer in Roero, and has introduced organic & biodynamic farming and winemaking practices.
Region: Italy>Piedmont>Cuneo>Roero
Vineyard: Organic. Sand, silt, & clay soils at 900’ elevation. East/South-east facing slope.
Blend: 100% Brachetto
Aging: 8 months in stainless steel
Production Notes: Brachetto is a native Piemonte varietal normally used to produce sweet, sparkling wines. This version is totally dry and exceptionally elegant. Estate fruit, organically farmed. Fermented with controlled temperatures in stainless steel. Minimal skin contact during indigenous yeast fermentation. Manually harvested in mid-September.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of fresh roses dominate, with notes of herbs, strawberries, and cherries. Light-to-medium bodied, with delicate texture and balanced acidity. Serve slightly chilled on a warm California winter day and enjoy on the patio by itself or with Italian-style snacks.
Food Pairings: Antipasto, light pasta dishes, salumi, BBQ poultry

2012 Clos Ouvert “Primavera”, Maule Valley

P1240046-webWinemaker: Louis-Antoine Luyt
Bio: At the age of 22, Luyt set out for Chile under the guise of wanting to brush up on his Spanish. Luyt learned that Chilean wines were homogenous, and wondered if great wines could be made there. He went back to France and began to study viticulture & oenology in Beaune. During his studies, he befriended Mathieu Lapierre, and eventually worked with the Lapierre family at their winery in Morgon for 5 vintages. There, he learned about natural winemaking, a skill he became determined to bring back to Chile. Clos Ouvert was founded in 2006 by Luyt and two partners, who backed out of the project in 2010 after a massive earthquake resulted in the loss of 70% of their 2009 wines. Luyt pressed on and expanded, which now involves many different types of grapes and parcels.
Region: Chile>Central Valley>Maule Valley
Vineyard: Various parcels, organic & dry farmed
Blend: 40% Carignan, 30% País, 20% Cinsault and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Aging: 8 months in neutral French oak barrels
Production Notes: País and Carignan are carbonically macerated. The Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon are destemmed and vinified in a Burgundian style. The finished wines are blended to produce Primavera.
Tasting Notes: Full bodied, structured, lively, and full of mineral. Smoky elements give way to ripe fruit, herbs, and black pepper.
Food Pairings: Smoked or braised meats, grilled sausage

2012 La Clarine “Cedarville” Mourvèdre, Sierra Foothills

P1240059-webWinemaker: 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 has been quietly making wines in the Sierras since 2001, and has a diverse lineup, comprised largely of Rhone wines, both white and red.
Region: US>California>Sierra Foothills
Vineyard: Cedarville. Organically farmed. Soils comprised of decomposed granite.
Blend: 100% Mourvèdre
Aging: 12 months in puncheons
Production Notes: This wine was made during an ideal vintage in California – lots of sun during the summer and no rain. Hank Beckmeyer decided to try something new this time around, and set out to make the wine more sensual by employing a new ‘recipe’. He shortened the length of time the wine spent on the skins, pressing early and letting the wine finish fermentation in the tank or barrel. The result is a brighter and more supple wine than the previous vintage.
Tasting Notes: High-toned tropical fruit and crushed red berries on the nose, with tart cranberry and mineral on the palate.
Food Pairings: Roasted poultry, braised root vegetables, grilled vegetables

Winery Visit: Porter-Bass Vineyard

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This drought is really something, isn’t it? There’s something eerie about it being 65 degrees on a January afternoon, wispy clouds dotting the horizon after the only rain we’ve had so far this winter – if you could even call it a rain. More like a dampening. Enough to keep the dust down. Anyway, it was this day after the “rain” that Tala and I headed out to Winelandia again, to visit a producer we love. Luke Bass is the wine grower/proprietor of Porter-Bass Wines outside of Guerneville. This property, deep in western Sonoma county, tucked right near the Russian River, produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel in small quantities. They sell fruit that becomes some of the most sought after Chard in the area – Ceritas makes a Porter-Bass Chardonnay, as does Littorai.

But Luke also makes his own wine from this property – entirely biodynamic in the vineyard and the winery, and we think a great secret of Sonoma wine country. The wines are fresh and lively, with great acid and subtlety. Perfect for sipping with friends, but balanced and very food-friendly too. Tala and I have been impressed with the Chardonnays for quite some time, because they’ve got a great zingy acidity that many California Chardonnays lack, but they don’t compromise on texture either. What a great find! The Pinots are bright and fruity, and the Zinfandels are almost ethereal. Floral, light, and just… Just delightful. I feel precious even describing wine that way, but they are just a delight to drink.

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On this afternoon, it was like the wines and the air were mimicking each other – each trying to upstage the other with more freshness and brightness. Surrounded by redwoods and pines, the small property is about as idyllic as it gets for California wine country. I mean, I think Healdsburg and Alexander Valley and Calistoga and the Santa Cruz Mountains and Forestville  –  all these places are stunning. But visiting Porter-Bass feels like you’re discovering something, which is hard to say about wine country these days. It kindof feels like a secret. Clean air, crisp wines, just you and Luke and a few bottles of his great product. 

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I hadn’t been to Porter-Bass in a year or more, and I was reminded how great these wines taste, and how great a property it is to visit. Luke is a character, with plenty to say about how he makes his wines and why, and great thoughts about the present and future of the industry that surrounds him. It was a wonderful Sunday adventure, and our first visit to the wine country in quite some time.  In particular, we recommend picking up a bottle of Zinfandel – you won’t regret it! It’s a great bottle to show you what Zin can become in a different setting, in a different pair of hands. 

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Porter-Bass is open by appointment only. They’re located on Mays Canyon Road outside Guerneville, CA. If you visit in spring or summer, ask Luke if he’s got any spare eggs. They’re amazing.

Winery Visit: Copain Wines

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s no secret that I’m obsessed with wines from the Jura. White, red, yellow, sparkling, rosé – I love them all. The red wines are particularly delicious to me, so you might imagine how excited I was to find that Copain – a local producer based in the Russian River Valley – was growing and making wine from the Trousseau grape. There are only a handful of Californian producers that I know of making wine from Trousseau – one being the renowned Arnot-Roberts – which they have made since 2009. It turns out, the Copain plantings of Trousseau are grafted from the original vines used to produce the Arnot-Roberts Trousseau.

Colleen happened to be the person to introduce me to this great wine from Copain. We enjoyed a bottle of it over dinner at her house one fateful night. I was taken aback by it’s freshness, finesse, texture, and the outright Jura-ness of it. A California red wine epiphany. It was like drinking red Jura without the reductive aromas often found in Jura reds. I was in love with this bizarre little bottle from our home turf.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(above photo is a Jura red, not the one from Copain)

I eventually found this wine again at Ruby Wine in Potrero Hill, and snapped up a bottle before it was all gone. Revisiting this wine really cemented how I initially felt about it, and it was showing even better the second time around. It was floral, spicy, and fruity all at once. It’s not often you can find a wine from California with so much elegance, complexity and femininity. It was full of texture while still being light on it’s feet. I was crushed when I found out that the Trousseau was all sold out for the year – I’d hoped to score some of it for the Winelandia Wine Club. I guess I can wait until next year.

The Copain Trousseau is what inspired a trip to the Copain winery in the Russian River Valley – just off Eastside road in Healdsburg. I headed up there just this past weekend to taste through their current offerings and to see the estate. You have to make an appointment to visit, so be sure to call before stopping by. It’s conveniently located just off Highway 101 in Healdsburg.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpon arriving, I was immediately enamored by the beauty of their estate. Small and rustic, it overlooks Riverfront Regional Park, a gorgeous little oasis complete with a redwood grove and multi-use trails for bikes, equestrians and hikers. The park would be a great place to enjoy a picnic at if you are visiting the winery, as the picnic area at the winery is reserved for wine club members only. They have 13 acres planted here – all of which is Picpoul Blanc, Trousseau and Poulsard. Everything is farmed sustainably, encompassing both organic and Biodynamic practices (although they are not certified for either). I took a seat at one of the comfy wooden chairs out front, and Phil graciously began my Farm Table tasting beneath the strangely warm January sun.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPhil poured for me all of their current offerings, beginning with their estate Picpoul Blanc. This neat little wine is aged in neutral French oak, which gave it body and character not normally found in your typical Picpoul Blanc porch-pounder. It was a great entrance to the wines that would follow, which included their entry-level “Tous Ensemble” Chardonnay, followed by several Pinot Noirs and Syrahs. The Pinot Noirs, mostly from the Anderson Valley area, showed rich and flavorful typicity of the region. The Syrahs – from the Yorkville Highlands – were dark, savory, and brooding. All of their red wines (the Syrahs in particular) showed tons of aging potential with great structure and balanced acidity. Copain wines are definitely Californian in style, but with restraint and balance normally reserved for the Old World.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Farm Table tasting also included a delicious spread of local cheeses, meats, and snacks. I especially enjoyed the crostini with white bean purée and fried rosemary. Everything paired beautifully with the wines that were served, the abundant sunshine, and the relaxing view. It doesn’t get much better than this – it’s the Holy Grail of the wine country experience.

I appreciate the warm hospitality shown to me by my host, Phil, and the beautiful wines made by Wells Guthrie. Winelandia hopes to offer wines from Copain in the future, as we feel they are one of the better producers in California. We highly recommend you stop by Copain for a visit if you’re planning a trip to the Russian River Valley – you won’t be disappointed. They are just an hour and a half north of San Francisco. Be sure to call ahead to schedule, as they are appointment only.

Copain Wines
7800 Eastside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 836-8822

Our 5 Favorite California Producers of 2013

DSC_81562013 was a bit of a renaissance year for wine in California. With American writer and columnist Jon Bonné championing the producers of “New California”, many local wine-makers are producing restraint, elegance, and a sense of terroir in their wines. There has been an influx of new blood, with young guns exploring both experimental and old-world winemaking techniques. Finally, we are able to shop in a wine store and buy a bottle of California wine that doesn’t reek of oak, stewed fruit, or buttered popcorn. Instead we can find mineral, forest sap, chapparal, white flowers and stonefruits.

The year has also been particularly kind to me. Having left my technology career in June to launch Winelandia, 2013 has been a year of soul-searching, experimentation, sometimes failing miserably, 14 hour work days, and exploring things way outside of my comfort zone. Trying to find my place in the wine industry has been trying at times, defeating at it’s worst, and absolutely transcendental at it’s best. That being said, I would much rather ride the wine rollercoaster than the tech dump-truck any day.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn 2013, I have most certainly tasted more wines than ever before. Colleen and I take every opportunity we can to go to industry tastings and visit small wineries, unearthing every stone we find in hopes of discovering something new to share with you. The most beautiful thing about wine is the sense of discovery and the sheer joy felt when you take a whiff and a sip of a wine that moves you. That’s what we want to share with you, that feeling of pure love. Wine is love.

Below is a list we have compiled of some of our favorite California producers of 2013, in no particular order. Some of them you may recall from your wine club shipments, seen in local wine shops, or read about in articles in the Chronicle. Next time you buy some wine, look for these producers, because we feel they are making some of the best wines today in California.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJolie-Laide Wines
Winemaker: Scott Schultz
Region: Russian River Valley
Style: Scott only makes a handful of wines (so far), but they unusual, thought-provoking, and unique. We have seen a Russian River Trousseau Gris with texture and unmatched complexity, an elegant Syrah from Phoenix Ranch in the cooler part of Napa, and a super-clean summertime quaffer of a Pinot Gris from the famed Windsor Oaks Vineyard on Chalk Hill. The labels for his wine change every year, are as mysterious and beautiful as his wines. He is definitely a winemaker to watch; his wines are quickly gaining cult status amongst wine geeks and are insane quality for the price.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARyme Cellars
Winemakers: Ryan & Megan Glaab
Region: Russian River Valley
Style: Ryan & Megan (a young married couple) make some really delicious, affordable, interesting wines. The style is both experimental and old-world, much like Jolie-Laide (and wouldn’t you know it, they share a winemaking facility). Some of our favorite wines made by Ryme are their Carneros Pinot Noir – a fresh and juicy wine reminiscent of cru Beaujolais, and their skin-fermented “His” Vermentino – a textural and savory skin-fermented white wine. All of their wines are super clean and beautifully balanced. We can’t wait to see what they have to offer next.
DSC_8196AmByth Estate
Winemaker: Philip Hart
Region: Paso Robles
Style: A Demeter-certified (Biodynamic) estate, Philip and Mary Hart planted their vines in 2004. They make wines in a super-natural way, mostly of Rhone varietals. It can get quite hot in Paso Robles, but the location of their estate is directly in path of the cooling coastal winds coming through the Templeton gap. The day-to-night temperature fluctuations can sometimes swing 50F, which preserves the acidity in the grapes. They tend to pick on the early side, so their wines are very unlike any others in the Paso Robles AVA (which are usually very ripe). Very little, if any, SO2 is used in the production of their wines. While they aren’t cheap, their wines are built for the long-haul. They were recently picked up by a well-respected wine distributor, so you can expect to see more AmByth wines in local shops. We highly recommend the Priscus white blend and the Mourvedre.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALa Clarine Farm
Winemaker: Hank Beckmeyer
Region: Sierra Foothills
Style: Hank Beckmeyer follows the ‘do nothing’ farming methodology of Masanobu Fukuoka, and his wines scream terroir as a result. Hank works mostly with Rhone varietals, both from his own farm and purchased from other vineyards. I can remember the first time I tasted his Cedarville Mourvedre; that was a wine that changed and excited me. I never knew that a grape which usually produces a rich, powerful, and extracted wine could make a wine with such femininity and finesse. We also love his white wines, which have so much character they can taste totally different from day to day. La Clarine wines are the Everlasting Gobstopper of the wine world, and a crazy good value to boot.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPorter Creek Vineyards
Winemaker: Alex Davis
Region: Russian River Valley
Style: Alex Davis has been quietly making some of the best wines in California for as long as I can remember. This is one of the first wine clubs I ever joined, and for good reason. They make my favorite California Pinot Noir, as well as a value-priced Carignan that is rustic, juicy and food-friendly. We love their Zinfandel, rosé, Chardonnay, Viognier… heck, we love everything they do. Alex spent a good amount of time in Côte-Rôtie, and naturally he also produces a slammin’ Syrah which is co-fermented with a little bit of Viognier, just like they do in the northern Rhone. Porter Creek is very consistent, so it will continue to be an old standby for us.

Honorable Mentions:
Arnot-Roberts
Dirty & Rowdy
Two Shepherds
Deux Punx
Massican
Matthiasson
Hirsch Vineyards
Copain
Wind Gap

 

Recipe: Savory Chanterelle and Gruyere Bread Pudding

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a recipe featured in our Fall wine club shipment. We chose to feature this recipe because it encompasses everything we love about fall food, and it perfectly compliments several of the wines we are offering in our Fall club shipment. Made with chanterelle mushrooms and delicious cave-aged gruyere cheese, this vegetarian dish is sure to delight your guests. It’s fancy enough for a holiday like Thanksgiving but easy enough to make for any day of the week. We really love it’s umami flavors and creamy/crusty consistency.

You can find Chanterelle mushrooms at your local specialty store during the rainy months. Right now we are getting Oregon chanterelles as well as Pacific Golden chanterelles. I prefer the Oregon variety because they are cleaner, have great flavor, and a better texture (in my opinion). They are smaller and more orange in color than their California-grown counterparts. Chances are you will see only one variety, so get whatever you can. You want to pick out the chanterelles that look the best. Look for firm, dry chanterelles without any red rot or raggedy edges.

Don’t skimp on the Gruyere, either. Get a good-quality cave aged gruyere from France, if possible. This should not be hard to find, as I believe even Trader Joes carries one.

Savory Chanterelle & Gruyere Bread Pudding
Adapted from 100 Perfect Pairings: Main Dishes to Enjoy with Wines You Love by Jill Silverman Hough

Special Tools
One 2 qt. casserole dish or six 1½ cup individual ramekins

Ingredients
3 cups milk
1½ tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the pan
12 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, coarsely sliced OR 2 medium leeks (white & light green parts only), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tsp. fine sea salt
5 large eggs
12 oz. crusty artisan French or Italian, with crusts, torn or cubed into ¾” pieces
8 oz. gruyere cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)

Method
Butter the casserole dish or ramekins and set aside.

Combine the milk, chopped herbs, and pepper in a medium pot with a heavy bottom. Set over medium-high heat until the milk just begins to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium heat. Then add the mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. (If substituting leeks, cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to prevent browning.) Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then temper the eggs by whisking in ⅓ of the warm milk mixture. Once combined, slowly whisk in the rest. Add the bread cubes, shredded cheese, and mushroom or leek mixture and stir until well combined. Set aside for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to let the bread absorb the liquid.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F with a rack in the center.

Spoon the mixture into the casserole dish or ramekins. Bake until the top is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Serve hot.