Wine of the Week: Celler Frisach Vernatxa Blanca, Terra Alta

Like most wine geeks, I go through phases. Right now, that phase is white wines from Spain. As many of you know, we’re working with a new importer of Catalan wines (read all about him here) who’s focus is terroir-driven, full-flavored, natural wines grown at high elevations. He has a surprising number of incredible white wines from this region – something entirely new to me. I’m completely captivated by them – intensely mineral, textural, and unlike anything else. This week’s Wine of the Week is my favorite yet – Celler Frisach Vernatxa Blanca.

Celler Frisach is a very small, family-run operation out of Tarragona. It’s 100% Grenache Blanc, grown in soils that are essentially petrified sand dunes, at 1200′ elevation. Fermented on the skins for 14 days like a red wine, it’s technically an “orange” wine, but you’d never know it unless I told you. Pale in color, rich in texture, with incredible minerality that’s hard to find in wines at this price point. I imagine this wine on your fall dinner table, because it’s robust enough to pair with rich fall fare. Winter squash, roasted game birds, hearty salads, and cheese plates will all shine with this beauty of a wine.

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Blend: 100% Garnatxa Blanca
Region: Spain>Catalunya>Terra Alta
Vineyard: Organically farmed 24 year old vines in petrified sand dune at 1200′ elevation.
Tasting Notes: A captivating, intensely mineral, full-bodied white wine with superb balance. Textural and complex with flavors of citrus and a hint of summer fruit, with a persistent mineral backbone.
Food Pairing: Marcona almonds, hard Iberian cheeses, olives, tortilla española
Production Notes: Fermented with indigenous yeasts on the skins in stainless steel for 14 days until dry.  Aged 6 months in French oak. Bottled with minimal SO2. 
Winemaker: Francesc Ferre
Bio: Ferre’s family has been farming organic grapes in the region for 200 years, but only since 2009 has the family made wine, when 21 year old Francesc took over operations. Their high elevation and unique climate with warm days and cool nights is perfect for growing pretty, fresh garnatxa.

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Wine of the Week: Foradori 2011 Teroldego, Trentino-Alto Adige

It’s no secret, Italian wines are fantastic. The wines of Trentino-Alto Adige in northern Italy are by far some of our favorites. Bordered by Austria and Switzerland, it’s an extremely mountainous region that lies within the Dolomites and southern Alps. There are many intriguing grape varieties grown in this unique alpine climate, such as Teroldego, Lagrein, and Müller-Thurgau. The high elevations, rocky soil, warm summers, and cold, snowy winters produce wines that are intensely aromatic and fresh.

Now that fall has arrived, so has a place on our dinner table for full-bodied red wines. This lovely red is from Elisabetta Foradori, who began converting her estate to Biodynamic farming in the year 2000. It’s made from 100% Teroldego, and it’s her flagship wine. Dark in color and intense, it’s full of fresh black fruit flavors peppered with minty herbal notes. On the palate, it’s surprisingly soft and supple, with fresh acidity and minerality. If you love full-bodied red wines, give this one a shot. It’s showing beautifully now and will age gracefully for years to come.

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Blend: 100% Teroldego
Region: Italy>Trentino-Alto Adige>Vigneti Delle Dolomiti
Vineyard: Certified Biodynamic. South-facing vineyard with alluvial, sandy, stony soil.
Tasting Notes: A striking, inky red wine with aromas of fresh black fruit, mint, and spice.  On the palate, the wine is silky, soft, and polished, with excellent length, texture, juicy acidity, and saline minerality. An unbelievable wine at an incredible price.
Food Pairing: Filet mignon with roasted mushrooms, smoked sausages, salumi
Production Notes: Hand-harvested fruit is fermented with indigenous yeasts in open top tanks. Aged for 15 months in a blend of neutral botte and stainless steel tanks.
Winemaker: Elisabetta Foradori
Bio: Elisabetta Foradori lives at her estate in Northern Italy, near the Austrian border. Originally established by her grandfather, the estate was later taken over by her father who died very young. Being the only child, Elisabetta took over the winery’s operations at the age of 20. She farms 18 hectares of primarily Teroldego, a red grape variety indigenous to the area. In the year 2000, Elisabetta began converting the estate to certified organic and Biodynamic.

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Wine of the Week: Domaine Belluard 2010 “Mont Blanc” Brut

With summer coming to a close and the onset of fall, I wanted to feature a Wine of the Week that will pair well with the transition of seasonal ingredients. In summer, you see tons of summer squash, tomatoes, basil, corn, stone fruit, and berries. When fall arrives, so do the hard winter squashes, chicories, wild mushrooms, apples, pears, potatoes, fennel, and beets. I like to think of wines as seasonal, too, and the arrival of fall makes me crave different types of wine. I want wines that are less fruity; I look for wines that are more herbal and savory.

One of the wines in our shop that seems best suited for fall is the Domaine Belluard 2010 “Mont Blanc” Brut. It’s a biodynamically farmed sparkling wine made from a nearly extinct grape called Gringet, which there are only 22 hectares of in existence. Belluard seeks to preserve this rare and delicious grape by making a number of varietal wines from it. The “Mont Blanc” brut is produced from grapes grown on steep slopes and in poor soil. The wine is intensely mineral – if you’ve ever doubted the existence of minerality in wine, get a bottle of this and you will no longer doubt it. It smells intensely of crushed rocks, what you might imagine a quarry smells like. Along with the notable minerality, there are aromas of ginger, lemongrass, white flowers, and fresh alpine air. This is an elegant, profound, complex wine that is perfect to pair with a variety of fall foods.

This is a very rare wine, and it’s beauty is equal to it’s scarcity. Most of it was sold out across California before it recovered from bottle shock due to being transported across the globe. I opened a bottle of this just the other night at a friend’s house, and it’s singing right now.

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Blend: 100% Gringet
Region: 
France>Savoie>Haute-Savoie
Vineyard: 
Biodynamically farmed. Vines are planted on chalky scree slopes with southern exposure.
Tasting Notes: 
A profound sparkling wine, with notes of white flowers, ginger, lemongrass, and crushed rocks.
Food Pairing: Comté cheese, smoked trout, quiche, roasted hard winter squash with maldon salt
Production Notes:
 Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Fermented and aged in concrete egg. Minimum of 3 years on the lees. Bottled with minimal SO2.
Winemaker:
 Dominique Belluard
Bio: Deep in the eastern French Alps, near the Swiss border, the Belluard family has been making wine in the village of Ayse since 1947.  They are one of the region’s top Biodynamic producers. They started with vineyards of Gringet (a rare grape variety endemic to the region) and fruit orchards. They now own 12 of the 22 remaining hectares of this nearly extinct grape, and are doing their best to preserve it. Their vineyards are certified Biodynamic, and all of their wines are fermented and aged in concrete eggs instead of wood or stainless steel. Great care is taken in the production of these wines, utilizing only native yeasts, and even aging their own sparkling wines in the bottle (most producers outsource this).

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Wine of the Week: Broken Arrow Wine Co. White Blend, North Coast

This wine is SOLD OUT, but available by the case if you special order – just email orders@winelandia.com. Thanks for the interest!

It’s been a little while since we’ve featured a Wine of the Week, and we are coming out of the gates with one of our favorites yet! This white blend is from winemaker Aran Healy, a San Francisco resident, winemaking consultant, and Potrero Hill wine shop owner. His Broken Arrow wines are totally under the radar, mostly found in his shop and at local restaurants.

This white blend is mostly Rhone varieties from the North Coast AVA, including 50% Roussanne, 30% Viognier, 15% Vermentino, and 5% Picpoul. It’s rich and full of Rhone-y texture that’s perfect for heartier fare, while still having enough acidity to pair well with sunshine or seafood. The screw-cap closure gives you easy access, which makes this wine a no-brainer for a late summer picnic. It’s hard to find a white wine with so much stuffing at this price point, so pick some up today!

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Blend: 50% Roussanne, 30% Viognier, 15% Vermentino, 5% Picpoul
Region: California>North Coast
Vineyard: Various sites, sustainably farmed.
Tasting Notes: If there was ever a perfect everyday white wine, this would be it. It finds harmony between voluptuous and bright, offering loads of texture and body while having plenty of freshness and acidity. Honeysuckle, stone fruit, and mineral are at the forefront of this luscious white wine, which makes it great to pair with a variety of foods.
Food Pairing: Pan-roasted halibut, roasted root vegetable salad, cheese plates
Production Notes: Hand-harvested fruit. Bottled with 10ppm SO2.
Winemaker: Aran Healy
Bio: A native of Mendocino county and current resident of San Franisco, Healy dabbles in many areas of the wine business. A former assistant winemaker at Beauregard Winery, he is currently a winemaking consultant, winemaker, French bulldog caretaker, and owner of a little wine shop in Potrero Hill called Ruby Wine. Aran is a well-rounded wine professional with a passion for natural wine. Broken Arrow is his own label geared towards well-balanced, responsibly made wines at everyday prices.

Wine of the Week: Mas del Périé “You Fuck My Wine?!” Jurançon Noir

Are you looking for a fantastic red to compliment your favorite summertime fare? Check out this cheerful Biodynamic wine from French artisan winemaker Fabien Jouves in South West France. It’s made from 100% Jurançon Noir, a grape that was once a staple of Cahors (AOC rules now mandate Cahors be Malbec-based). Jouves seeks to bring this forgotten grape into the spotlight with the obscenely-named “You Fuck My Wine?!”, a title which conveys how the winemaker feels about these AOC rules.

Medium bodied with plenty of spice, fruit, juicy acidity, and freshness, this easygoing red is rustic enough to stand up to summertime fare such as barbecue, but will also be delightful on your Thanksgiving table in the fall. Farming and production on this wine goes beyond organic, with Biodynamic farming in the vineyard and minimal intervention in the winery. At $20 per bottle and extremely limited availability, you’ll want to pick up at least a few of these.

THIS WINE IS SOLD OUT

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Blend: 100% Jurançon Noir
Region: France>Southwestern France>Cahors
Vineyard: Biodynamically farmed. 1100′ elevation. Hillside vineyard with soils composed of red clay and limestone.
Tasting Notes: A fresh, vibrant, and medium bodied red wine that is an homage to the roots of Cahors. Up until 1992, Jurançon Noir was permitted in Cahors AOC, but that is no longer the case. Jouves explains the name of the wine as a question: “It is a question because I don’t understand why the people of AOC Cahors destroy this beautiful grape.”
Food Pairing: Anything off the grill – pork chops, tri tip, salmon, carne asada, burgers, tofu, vegetables, you name it.
Production Notes: Hand-harvested and fermented with indigenous yeasts for 10 days. Aged for six months in neutral barrels and bottled without fining or filtration. Minimal SO2 added at bottling.
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.

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.

Wine of the Week: Mauro Vergano NV Vermouth Bianco

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Vermouth – most people associate this beverage (and yes, it is a beverage) with Manhattans and Martinis, but few know the pleasure of an expertly crafted vermouth served all by itself (maybe with a spritz of soda and a twist). What is vermouth, anyway? It’s an aromatized and fortified wine, infused with a blend of botanicals to make it herbal, aromatic, and bitter. Vermouth was first produced Turin, Italy during the 18th century, used primarily for medicinal purposes. Soon it became a popular aperitif, and by the 19th century bartenders started using it in cocktails.

There are many styles of vermouth, including red, white, rose, and amber, which can be either sweet or dry. The vermouth featured in this blog post is a white vermouth with a bit of sweetness, which I feel is necessary to balance it with the bitterness so it can be enjoyed on it’s own. This was the first “craft” vermouth I ever consumed as an aperitif, which pretty much ruined me for all other vermouths of inferior quality – this is the best one I’ve ever had. Made from Moscato & Cortese (two very aromatic Italian white wines, with floral and citrus notes) and a secret blend of botanicals, it’s the perfect beverage for lovers of bitter drinks such as coffee, negronis, and martinis.

Enjoy this delicious vermouth with a spritz of soda water, a twist of orange, and a sprig of bruised rosemary to make one of the most special and delicious libations you’ve ever had.

This product is SOLD OUT. Thanks for your interest!

P6190001Winemaker: Mauro Vergano
Bio: Mauro Vergano started his career after earing degrees in chemistry, viticulture, and oenology. He spent 15 years working for a company in the “flavors and fragrances” sector where he learned a variety of skills, including how to recognize the nuances of fragrances. During this time, he experimented with making his own aromatized wines for friends and family – a craft he learned from his uncle. In 2003, Vergano moved on to making vermouth and chinato full time, and makes some of the finest and most highly sought-after aromatized wines available.
Region: Italy>Piemonte>Asti
Vineyard: Various
Blend: Cortese & Moscato
Aging: N/A
Production Notes: The wines used in this classic vermouth bianco are sourced from neighboring natural wine producers in Asti. Vergano uses a secret blend of herbs and spices to aromatize and sweeten this classic Piemontese-style vermouth bianco.
Tasting Notes: Most people associate vermouth with cocktails, but across the world it’s one of the most popular aperitifs on its own. The style of this vermouth is highly aromatic, with notes of flowers, citrus, honey, and herbs. On the palate, it’s perfectly sweet with balanced acidity and bitterness – it achieves a perfect harmony not often found in vermouth. Enjoy it over ice with a spritz of seltzer water, a twist of orange, and a sprig of rosemary for a mind-blowing treat you won’t believe you’ve been missing your whole life.
Food Pairing: Enjoy as an aperitif to whet your appetite and stimulate your palate.

This product is SOLD OUT. Thanks for your interest!

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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