Kick-Ass Organic Spanish Wines Taking San Francisco By Storm

Many wine consumers do not fully understand or appreciate the role of the importer when it comes to imported wine. Sure, you’ve all heard the name Kermit Lynch, or maybe even Louis/Dressner. Whomever is listed on the back of the bottle is the person or entity who went to the French countryside or coastal Catalan vineyard to find these incredible wines to share with American consumers. They are the taste-makers, the ones connecting with the farmers and winemakers, sampling each barrel, and grasping at handfuls of rocky soil to better understand the mysterious elixir inside of the bottle. These are the people and entities putting these wines into containers and on to a ship, directly from the wineries on the other side of the world. They then sell these wines to retailers, distributors, and in some cases, directly to the consumer.

I’ve run into San Francisco-based importer Andrew Yandell on several occasions over the past few months – a passionate, young importer of organic Spanish & Catalan wines. His friendly, dimpled smile makes him quite conspicuous. Yandell recently started his own import label, Trumpet Wine, and has been canvassing the local wine shops and restaurants to peddle his wares.

Yandell primarily imports wines from Catalonia, an autonomous community flanking the Mediterranean sea on the eastern border of Spain. Catalan culture is rich with wine-making history, including rare, indigenous grape varieties, and high elevation ocean-side vineyards. This seaside nation is most famous for Cava, a sparkling wine made from indigenous Spanish grape varieties such as Macabeu and Xarel-lo.

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So how did this local guy get into the business of importing Catalan wine? I had to know, and so I met with Andrew over coffee to hear his story.

Trumpet+Winelandia(left: me, right: Andrew Yandell)

When Yandell was 13 years old, his family lived in Barcelona for a year, where he began to develop a taste for local flavors. He spent the next decade going back in forth between SF and Barcelona, maintaining friendships, expanding his network, and exploring his palate. He studied art history abroad for a year at the Complutense de Madrid to nail his Spanish down, and decided that one day, he would import Spanish wine. Yandell spent summers cooking and learning in German wine country while he finished school, and wrote his thesis in finance on applying weather derivatives to protect Champagne growers from poor harvests. After a brief stint working for a high-profile dot-com straight out of school, he decided to listen to his heart and ended up at Bi-Rite Market selling wine. Nine months later, he left to start his import label, Trumpet Wine.

Recently, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to taste through much of Yandell’s portfolio. It didn’t take me long to realize that he was doing something very special. Yandell’s selections showcase full-flavored, structured, balanced, clean, terroir-driven wines that are organically or Biodynamically farmed, with minimal intervention in the bodega. He feels that some natural wines can be too austere for a broad audience, and seeks out examples that are cleaner and more accessible. All of the love without any of the funk! Trumpet’s wines are an insane value, as well – wines of this quality from other parts of the world easily cost double what these do.

I picked up several of Trumpet’s wines, some of which can be found in the Winelandia online shop, and another that’s only available to the wine club. You can also find his wines at restaurants all over San Francisco.

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Celler Frisach 2013 “Selecció” Garnatxa Blanca, Terra Alta – $14
Remember when I said that Spanish wines were an incredible value? This high-altitude Garnatxa Blanca is a far cry from the bland, oily GBs we’re used to. Textural, fresh, structured, mineral, and elegant. I would easily pay $25 for this wine, so you all should buy it up at $14 before I drink it all.

oct-6

Mas Candí 2013 “Desig” Xarel-lo, Penedès – $18
Xarel-lo is one of the primary grapes used in Cava blends, but it lends itself very well to a varietal wine. It’s intensely mineral, with a stony quality that echoes the calcareous soil it’s grown in. A day on the skins lends the wine some elegant structure, and makes it an absolute pleasure to drink. I’ll take my Xarel-lo still, not sparkling, please!

oct-4

Succés Vinícola “Cuca de Llum” Trepat, Conca de Barberà – $18
Trep-what? Trepat. A red grape indigenous to Spain, traditionally used in Cava blends. The winemakers found that this misunderstood red grape makes a lovely, aromatic red wine, not just rosé. Yandell sees similarities between it and young Beaujolais, which I can totally appreciate. Fresh, bright, and floral, with a delicate herbal quality and just a little bit of baby fat.

In addition to these wines, I just ordered a case of Biodynamic Cava that’s going to retail for around $17 – keep an eye out for that! In the meantime, let’s all thank Trumpet Wine for bringing affordable, accessible, natural wine from Spain to our homes and tables.

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.

Buy now on Winelandia.com!

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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).

Buy now on Winelandia.com!

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.

4 New Wines Just In Time For Fall

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It’s been busy here in Winelandia, and we’ve got tons of new wines to share with you! Fall releases from our favorite producers are being announced every day, and we’re jumping at the opportunity to pick up some of our favorites. Below is a list of some of the fantastic new wines in the shop. Buy 6 and save on local delivery!

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Teutonic Wine Co. 2013 Pinot Meunier, Willamette Valley
Pinot Meunier is an obscure red grape variety usually only found in Champagne, where AOC rules allow it’s use in blends. This 100% Pinot Meunier varietal wine from Oregon is fresh, feminine, and pure. Gorgeous red fruit aromas dominate the nose, with delicate floral accents and earthy notes in the background. On the palate, it’s juicy and lush, with plenty of acidity to help it pair with a variety of foods. This is an excellent wine for lovers of Pinot, Trousseau, Poulsard, or Gamay.

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Salinia 2013 “Twenty Five Reasons” Petillant White Wine, Mendocino
A departure from the ultra-tropical & fruity previous vintage, the latest 25 Reasons is full of mineral and restraint. Citrus, exotic fruit, crushed rocks, and delicate, tiny bubbles make this wine a joy to drink in any season.

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Domaine Guiberteau 2013 Chenin Blanc, Saumur
An expertly made, mineral driven Chenin Blanc from one of the most intriguing terroirs of the Loire Valley. Aromas of hay, white flowers, and stone fruit lead to flavors of lemon and almond, with a fine mineral finish. Elegant, complex, and refreshing, this gorgeous wine is great now and will just get better with age.

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Foradori 2011 Teroldego, Trentino-Alto Adige
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, pair this with hearty fare from fall through winter.

All wines listed above are in stock and ready to ship! We also have more new wines not listed here in our online shop. Build your order at https://winelandia.com/shop/ for delivery this week.

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.

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 Review: La Clarine 2012 “Sumu Kaw” Syrah

Buy 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 laid­back winemaking approach produces wines with texture and tons of interest ­ he simply let each wine, each vintage, become whatever it might.
Region: US>California>Sierra Foothills
Vineyard: The Sumu Kaw Vineyard is at 3000′ elevation atop a ridge in the Sierra Foothills, and is located in the middle of a pine forest. The soils are composed of volcanic loam, which help create intense aromatics in the wine.
Blend: 100% Syrah
Aging: 600L puncheons
Production Notes: Fermented whole cluster. Racked once with a single 20ppm SO2 addition. 345 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: Dark fruit and herbs with smoky, meaty undertones. Nicely balanced with tannins and acid. Showing nicely now, but could easily age for 6+ years. Give it 6-8 hours of air prior to drinking.
Food Pairings: Game, sausages, pizza with smoked mozzarella

Buy on Winelandia.com!

Secret Wine Club: Jura

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis weekend, Colleen and I hosted another wine tasting for our friends. The theme was Jura wines.

The Jura is a a cool-climate, mountainous region in France between Burgundy and Switzerland, and is composed of six regions including Arbois, Macvin du Jura, Côtes du Jura, Crémant du Jura, Château-Chalon, and L’Étoile. Within these regions, wines are produced from poulsard, trousseau, savagnin, chardonnay, and pinot noir. White, red, rosé and sparkling wines are produced from these grapes.

The most famous wine from the Jura is called vin jaune (literally, yellow wine). This wine is made from the white savagnin grape which is picked when it’s very ripe. The finished wine is put into large oak barriques, and is allowed to evaporate through the staves of the barrel until a pocket of air forms at the top. A special strain of indigenous yeast forms a veil (or voile, au Français) over the surface of the wine, imparting a unique salinity and oxidative quality that gives vin jaune it’s trademark aroma and flavor. Vin jaune is quite intense, an acquired taste, and very hard to find.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany white wines from the Jura have a similar (but not as intense) oxidative quality to them, since they are often made in the same method. However, the difference between vin jaune and standard white wine from the Jura is the duration for which it’s aged. Vin jaune must be aged for a minimum of 6 years, while other white wines aren’t required to age for as long. Some whites from the Jura are aged in a barrel without that pocket of air, creating wines that are still very uniquely Jura, but much fresher in flavor and less intense.

The red wines from the Jura are very unique as well, and a little more approachable than their white counterparts. The reds are light but structured, with aromas of fruit, spice and earth. Poulsard makes the lightest of the red wines, while trousseau makes more robust (but still pretty light) reds. Pinot noir is also grown in the Jura and made into red wine, but the straight varietal wines are difficult to find.

Our wine list for the evening:
2011 Les Dolomies Savagnin, Côtes du Jura
2009 Domaine de Montborgeau Chardonnay/Savagnin, L’Etoile
NV Phillipe Bornard “Tant-Mieux” Pétillant Naturel of Poulsard
2012 Michel Gahier Trousseau, “Les Grands Vergers”, Arbois
2011 Jacques Puffeney Poulsard, Arbois
2006 Jacques Puffeney Vin Jaune, Arbois

Choosing the correct food pairings for these wines was really fun, as they are wonderful with food and the Jura has some really interesting regional culinary specialties. Wild mushrooms seemed to be quite common in the Jura, and in the winter I’ve been told that potatoes topped with melted raclette are a staple. The Jura is also a fly-fishing destination (weird, right?), so I wanted to make something out of freshwater fish. We also found some regional cheeses, and a rustic cream tart sort of thing called a Toétché, for which I could only find a recipe in French. Our resident Francophile Colleen was able to follow it just fine, no surprise there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur menu for the evening:
Toétché (above)
Trout rillettes
Fresh baugette
Sautéed wild mushrooms (yellow foot, black trumpet, oyster, hedgehog)
Warm salad of roasted rose finn potatoes and wild mushrooms
Morbier & Comté cheeses
Wickson apples
Breakfast radishes with cultured butter and grey sea salt
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found that the Toétché paired perfectly with the vin jaune. This made me very happy, since I wasn’t sure what the Toétché would even taste like. Big ups to Colleen for making it come out perfectly, it was absolutely beautiful and delicious. The morbier and comté cheeses were also wonderful with the white wines, although they did not pair particularly well with the reds. The trout rillettes were lovely with all of the wines, while the apples provided a nice, palate-cleansing counterpoint to all of the savory foods. I especially loved the breakfast radishes with cultured butter and sea salt, while others in the room weren’t so enthused (I learned of this snack from a Frenchman who was so graciously hosting me at a winery some time ago). Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but I find that radishes are an excellent vehicle for butter. The sautéed mushrooms were lovely piled atop fresh bread and enjoyed with the poulsard and trousseau.

As for the wines, we found that most people loved the ‘Les Dolomies’ ($28)– a white savagnin aged in a topped-up barrel. It was fresh, rich, and awesome with food. The Gahier trousseau ($39) was definitely the stand-out, everyone really loved it (it was my favorite as well). The Puffeney vin jaune ($80) was intense, too intense for a lot of people in the room. I also wish I’d opened it earlier and possibly decanted it, but my decanter was full of the Bornard ‘Tant-Mieux” ($32)which was absolutely reductive, sweet, and generally awful (not surprisingly, it tasted much better the next day). A friend also brought a bottle of Chardonnay from Côtes du Jura, which was great to balance out all the savagnin in the room.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hope everyone who came had a great time and learned a lot about these rare, unusual wines. I had a blast curating the list and finding foods to pair. I hope that everyone took away some useful knowledge and would feel confident ordering a glass from the Jura section on the wine list at their favorite French restaurant.

Introducing the Winelandia Fall Lineup

The Fall 6-pack is sold out. Contact orders@winelandia.com if you have questions about re-ordering any of these wines by the case.

We’re very excited to introduce you to the delicious wines in our Fall offering!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn this lineup, we have included some outstanding wines from lesser­-known regions all over California. These are all sustainably produced, food­-friendly wines with a sense of terroir. We wanted to focus on local, artisanal, natural, small-production wines to pair with your favorite Thanksgiving foods and really show you what New California has to offer. We currently only have these wines available to wine club members, and we are almost sold out. Register for our wine club at https://club.winelandia.com if you wish to get in on the action.

Deux Punx 2011 Grenache Noir
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Winemakers: Dan Schaaf & Aaron Olson
Bio: Dan Schaaf and Aaron Olson are the Deux Punx. Living in San Francisco, Schaaf and Olson started making wine at home and the project just ballooned from there. They work with several vineyards in both California and Washington, and prefer a hands-­off, experimental approach to winemaking. Always willing to take chances, Deux Punx are still finding their style and perspective, and we’re excited to be part of that journey with them.
Deux Punx are wine lovers and music lovers, their labels are creative and done by artist friends of theirs, and they definitely think wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed, not cellared and ignored – that’s how we feel too! We just can’t believe that both of these guys have full­time “day jobs” and families in addition to making and selling this wine. Superhuman!
Region: Lake County
Vineyard: Tejada
Blend: 100% Grenache
Aging: 18 months 100% neutral French oak
Production Notes: Produced from sustainably farmed Grenache grown by the Tejada family, this is a pure expression of warm­-climate Grenache. Native yeasts were used for fermentation and aging was done in 100% neutral French oak to show off what was done in the vineyard. 125 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of ripe red fruits & spice with firm tannins and juicy acidity. This would be a great wine to have with anything grilled, roasted, or barbecued.
Food Pairings: Burgers, grilled lamb, pizza, sausage, roasted poultry, BBQ red meat.

Verse 2012 Pinot Noir
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinemakers: Ryan & Megan Glaab
Bio: Ryan and Megan Glaab have been making wine as Ryme Cellars for only 6 years, which is hard to believe considering how good this Pinot Noir is. Ryan is the assistant winemaker at another of our favorite wineries, Wind Gap. They met and fell in love during a harvest at a winery in Australia, and, now married, turned their relationship toward business too. Ryme wines ­and their accompanying Verse label ­are all made from Sonoma county grapes, and seek to highlight restraint and food friendliness. We really think these two have a bright future in winemaking and can’t wait to drink what’s next.
Region: Carneros
Vineyard: Las Brisas
Blend: 100% Pinot Noir
Aging: 10 months neutral French oak
Production Notes: This bright & fresh Pinot Noir is a blend of two different clones – Swan and Gamay Beaujolais (which is neither gamay nor from Beaujolais). It’s made from 20 year old sustainably farmed vines grown near the convergence of the San Pablo Bay and the Petaluma Wind Gap in the Carneros AVA. The grapes were mostly de-stemmed but 25% were left whole cluster and they were fermented with native yeasts in open-­top fermenters. This wine was aged for 10 months in neutral French oak and bottled without fining or filtration. 290 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of red raspberry, wild fennel and tarragon, rounded out by dusty red clay earth and juicy cherry on the palate. This bright and juicy Pinot Noir has a beautiful texture and will be sure to dazzle on your Thanksgiving table!
Food Pairings: Roasted cornish game hens, duck breast with pomegranate gastrique, aged goat cheese, pork loin, wild salmon.

La Clarine Farm 2012 White Blend No. 1
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinemaker: 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 let each wine, each vintage, become whatever it might. Very different from most California producers, that’s for sure.
Region: Sierra Foothills
Vineyard: Various
Blend: 47% Viognier, 41% Marsanne, 12% Petit Manseng
Aging: 100% Stainless steel
Production Notes: Produced from organically grown grapes, fermented with native yeasts, aged in stainless steel, and unfined/unfiltered prior to bottling – this is about as real as wine gets. Minimal SO2 used. Only 155 cases of this wine were produced, which means it won’t be around for long.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of white flowers and herbs with tons of mid­-palate richness, medium body and zingy acidity on the finish.
Food Pairing: Roasted game hens, chanterelle & gruyere bread pudding (see recipe), cheeses, smoked meats, fish, Indian food, lobster, salads.

LIOCO 2011 Indica
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinemaker: John Raytek
Bio: Started by two sommeliers who wanted to make the kinds of wines they loved to drink, Lioco has developed into a great example of clean, food-­friendly, cool­-climate winemaking. Matthew Licklider and Kevin O’Connor are endeavoring to make transparent wines – wines where the customer knows what goes in, and comes out of the wine. Lioco has only been around since 2005, and recently one of their proprietors took over as winemaker, so we’re looking forward to the next evolution of this label. Their lineup includes the Indica wines, which are food-­friendly, drinkable, and affordable, as well as some single­vineyard Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that are at a higher price point. Something for everyone!
Region: Mendocino County
Vineyard: Various, Redwood Valley
Blend: 98% Carignan, 2% Grenache
Aging: 11 months neutral French oak
Production Notes: Produced from organic, dry­-farmed, head trained, old vines. 25% whole cluster fermented, and bottled without fining or filtration. Neutral oak aging brings out the best in this wine. This wine will drink beautifully now, as well as age for a few more years. 684 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of sour plum, red licorice, and lavender with blackberry, salted plums and orange pekoe tea on the palate. This rustic red wine with medium body is extremely food friendly, so don’t be afraid to experiment with pairings.
Food Pairings: Cracker crust pizza, carnitas, sausages, barbecue.

Two Shepherds 2012 Grenache Blanc
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinemaker: William Allen
Bio: With a name like Two Shepherds, you’re probably surprised to find out that William Allen is a one-­man show. Allen is a longtime wine industry professional, and garagiste (home winemaker), who decided to start a professional winery with an emphasis on Rhone varietals. His first release was only in 2010, but he’s called on many of the great low-­intervention winemakers in California for advice, and it shows in his wine. He works out of a small winery in Santa Rosa, shared with two other wineries.
Allen only works with Rhone grapes, and even planted his own vineyard of Grenache recently. His wines are balanced, with both texture and acid, and really shine with food.
Region: Santa Ynez Valley
Vineyard: Saarloos
Blend: 100% Grenache Blanc
Aging: 80% 7 months sur lie neutral French oak, 20% 6 months in stainless steel
Production Notes: The winemaker aims for long hang­-time with these grapes, allowing for flavors to become more complex while preserving the grape’s acidity. This wine is from a particularly cool site in the Santa Ynez Valley. The wine is barrel fermented in neutral French oak, and then aged on the lees for another 7 months. It is then blended with 20% of the same wine aged in stainless steel, adding freshness and balance. Serve slightly below cellar temperature, do not over-­chill. 125 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of green apples, white peach, orange blossom and honeydew with juicy acidity and elegant minerality.
Food Pairing: Miso­-cured Black Cod, chanterelle & gruyere bread pudding (see recipe), ceviche, grilled chicken, pasta with lemon & spinach.

Porter Creek 2012 Rosé
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinemaker: Alex Davis
Bio: Porter Creek sits in a quiet corner of West Sonoma County, with a tiny tasting room and several lovely chickens you can visit and talk to. Winemaker Alex Davis has been profiled by many media outlets, but that doesn’t diminish the understated character and approach that he takes with all of Porter Creek’s wines. Their backbone is cool­-climate Pinot Noir, but Porter Creek produces a variety of other wines as well. The winery and vineyards have been organic for some time, and they are currently pursuing Demeter Certification – that’s the certification for Biodynamics. Davis speaks of being a wine crafter rather than a wine maker, because he feels it implies the minimal intervention approach he takes in all he does.
All of Porter Creek’s wine are consistent in their balanced profile and food friendliness. While each is different, they all possess acid and texture, and even the higher end, single vineyard pinot noirs are affordably priced for how much technique and skill went into their production.
Region: Sonoma County
Vineyard: Various
Blend: 75% Zinfandel, 25% Carignan
Aging: 6 months neutral French oak
Production Notes: Made from organically farmed, head-­trained grapes, this is a rosé for people who love the rosés of Provence and Bandol. Bone dry and balanced with delicate acidity, this wine was fermented 100% whole cluster with 95% native yeasts. 620 cases produced.
Tasting Notes: Focused aromas of spice and fruit with a mineral finish.
Food Pairing: Raw kale harvest salad, roasted cornish game hens, salads, pizza, salmon, hard winter squash, wild mushroom risotto. 

Wine Review: 2010 Fort Ross Vineyard Symposium

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Remember the Picture Cows? Remember the amazing views? Remember how I took the day off to have an adventure with Tala where we ate oysters and drank wine? I sure do. Here’s a reminder, just in case you forgot.

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This guy lives at the bottom of the road that leads to the breathtaking Fort Ross Vineyard tasting room, outside of Jenner. Perched high on a ridge within a stone’s throw of the Pacific Ocean, Fort Ross Vineyard’s tasting room has only been open for about a year, and it’s the only tasting room in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA. It’s small, quiet, and well-appointed, with a great back deck that overlooks the ocean and the forest that this here Picture Cow lives in.

All their wine is from estate grown fruit, and you know by know that both Tala and I love Sonoma Coast wines, especially Pinot Noirs. When we visited, we took home a bottle of the 2010 Symposium, a Pinot Noir with 4% of Pinotage blended in. This wine had the classic new world Pinot nose – cola, some cherry, some earth, a touch of oak, and smells like velvet, if that’s even possible. Smelling this wine makes your mouth water – it makes you eager to drink it.

Upon drinking, I liked it more than Tala did for sure. I thought it was bright and delicious, with more of that earthy/mushroomy characteristic, and a medium/heavy body. I’m guessing some of that weight comes from the Pinotage. It also has some spiciness to it, which was unexpected. It’s a beautiful ruby color, but this photo doesn’t capture that it’s also kind of brick-colored – reminiscent of the color of an older wine. The finish is a tad bitter, which I actually quite enjoy in wine. Overall, I liked it quite well, but if I bought another bottle, I’d keep it in storage for a couple of years. I think that the oak, tannin, and spice will integrate more in 2-3 years, and this wine will come  out all the better for it.

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If you’d like to pay a visit to Fort Ross Vineyard, their tasting room is open 7 days a week from 10am-5pm. It’s about a 2 hour drive from San Francisco, and as you read with us earlier, it’s a great opportunity to make a full day of adventure.