I’ve been spending a good amount of time in Oregon wine country lately and I’ve found all kinds of great bottles. Some of the best values I’ve found come from producer Scott Paul’s second label WildStock. These wine’s normally retail for $20, but we’re offering the red as a club wine this month. As expected, the wine is made of Pinot Noir grapes but what’s unique is that they come from outside the Willamette Valley. Much of the fruit is sourced from Umpqua which is in the southern part of Oregon. This valley can create wines with bigger body than you might expect, but Scott Paul wine is picked a little earlier giving the wine freshness and vibrancy.
We all love Pinot but it’s rare to ever find one under $20 that actually tastes like Pinot. What I mean is that most Pinot under 20 is often too ripe or too fruity for the lighter skin variety. A lot of Pinot in that price is blended with Syrah or manipulated with acidification or grape extracts. WildStock doesn’t have these issues. It tastes natural and it’s got everything a good Pinot should have. Except the high price tag.
There’s a lot of qualities that this wine has that are lacking in most mass produced wines. First, it’s older vines. Including some that are bush vines instead of trellised. Instead of neat uniform rows of vines, picture short bushes with a small canopy that shades the grapes from sunlight. The yield is also much lower because of this. Low yield means more concentration and more flavor from the fruit. Wine that is similarly priced to Domaine de la Dourbie Petit Canet d’Oc rarely is made form bush vines, and rarely is made with a low yield.
Another quality that is unique here is the use of indigenous yeast. Most wines, including much of the new world is made by inoculating the juice with a specific cultured yeast. These cultured yeast give a wine a specific flavor or fermentation. It’s my opinion that the very best wines are made with out adding yeast. Natural yeast exists all over the skin of the grapes from the vineyards and also in the cellar. This wild yeast is unique to the vintage and place and it’s what gives great wine complexity. Domaine de la Dourbie Petit Canet d’Oc ferments entirely on indigenous yeast.
Arneis is one of those grapes that you don’t hear too much about. It’s grown almost entirely in the Piedmont region of Italy where red grapes Barbera and Nebbiolo steal the spotlight. It’s a great variety though with crisp acidity, bright fruit, and subtle white flower notes. It’s so fragrant that there’s an old story that it was only planted in Piedmont to detract the birds away from the more valuable Nebbiolo grapes. I’m sort of doubtful that this is true but it makes for a good story.
Scraping the lees out of a tank. Doesn’t look tasty, but it makes great wine!
What is true though, is that these are great values. If you can find a solid producer, they’re some of the best values around. This particular bottle comes from the Sartirano family, who have made wine for generations. This wine is fermented entirely in stainless steel which keeps it pure and fresh. However, it develops complexity from the extended maturation on lees.
What is lees you ask? It’s actually the dead (maybe”spent” a better word) yeast cells. These yeast cells are super important in a lot of styles of wine from Muscadet to Champagne. For one thing, they tend to add a richness mid-palate without making the wine “fat” or “overblown”. They also break down into natural preservatives which will help facilitate aging. Super high acidity grapes like Arnies need the lees aging to give balance.
Costieres de Nimes has a storied past to say the least. It’s located between the ancient city of Nimes and the Rhone valley, but was classified as part of the Languedoc until recently. They’ve made wine in the area for thousands of years, and indeed Costieres de Nimes has some of the oldest vines in Europe. For this reason, it has some amazing values compared to the rest of the Rhone and Languedoc. With a mediterranean climate and sea influence, the wines from Nimes tend to be more elegant than extracted. Further, they seem to have a noticeable influence of “Garrigue”. Garrigue is a wine term and terroir aspect that “refers to the low-growing vegetation on the limestone hills of the Mediterranean coast… There are a bunch of bushy, fragrant plants that grow wild there, such as juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender. Garrigue refers to the sum of them.” Those notes show through here in this bottle, as well as an amazing fruit character.
Quick Tasting Notes: Garrigue herbaceous qualities, a slight smoky note, and beautiful ripe cherry fruit qualities. Pairs great with dishes like steak, but it’s also elegant enough to substitute for pinot noir style pairings like duck.
The Loire Valley of France is home to some of best white wines in the world. Sancerre, Vouvray, Pouilly-Fumé, Cour-Cheverny, Muscadet sevre et Maine… All classics from a wide range of terroirs, styles, and grapes. This month’s wine is an amalgam of what Loire has to offer being a blend of the three main grapes of the region: 50% Melon de Bourgogne, 30% Chardonnay, and 20% Sauvignon Blanc.
“Domaine de la Fruitière farms over 40 hectares of this and produces both Muscadet Sèvre et Maine as well as Vin de Pays from grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Regardless of the varietal, the vines are planted on rock, and in most cases, sheer cliffs of rock through which the roots have to bury for meters for any hydric source. The vines, and the wines, are fed by water that is awash in wet rock.. Combine this with the cold Atlantic breezes and you’ve got an amazing cool climate, high cut, precise bottle of white wine.”
Quick Tasting Notes: Considering the terroir, it is not surprising that this white has extreme focus and precision. A touch of tart apple and pear soften a mineral driven finish. Pairs great with Oysters and other seafood, but also great with goat cheeses or creamy Brie.
Domaine de Montfaucon is a famous and historic producer in the Rhone village of Lirac. They of course make some amazing bottles of Lirac, Chateauneuf du Pape, and others, but you are unlikely to find a more fresh, approachable bottling than the “Les Gardettes”. Technically a table wine, this red contains a mix of Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Syrah and is maybe “less serious” than there Cote-du-Rhone wine. However, it makes up for this with a fresh, aromatic brightness that pairs great with almost any food (even spicy!). You’ll also notice a peppery, gamey note on the nose which indicates the importance of syrah in the blend.
Quick Tasting Notes: Campfire and loads of leather. A little spicy funk with menthol. Very plum skin on the palate. More bramble than fruit, but a great little touch of black pepper and game.
“Wine is Dead” said Aimé Guibert, the famous winemaker behind languedocs’ most prized red wine. Of course, he was not talking about his own wines, but rather the trend of mass produced, manipulated wine made by “money worshipping corporations”. Guibert never used chemicals in the vineyard. When the corporation behind mondavi wanted to move in next door, clearing the forest to build a giant commercial tasting room – Guibert stopped them. That was ten+ years ago. Guibert died last year at the age of 91, but his wine and philosophy lives on in the natural and sustainable wine movement.
His most famous wine, Daumas Gassac is 100% Cabernet and is often compared to 1st Growth Bordeaux. This month we are featuring the little brother of this wine, called Moulin de Gassac. Instead of Cabernet, it’s made of local grapes Carignan and Syrah. It’s a simple and honest wine with great acidity and freshness. There’s a sense of minerality and earthiness here but overall it’s very easy going. It’s goes to show that you don’t need chemicals or flavoring agents to make an affordable wine.
The terroir and climate of upstate New York couldn’t be any more different than warm California; so don’t expect this delicious NY chardonnay to taste anything like the butter oak-soaked wines of sunny California! This wine is actually produced by the Frank family, one of the most important producers in all of Finger Lakes. Dr. Konstantin Frank , the namesake of the winery, earned his doctorate in viticulture with a speciality in cold climate growing. He put his esearch to practice and opened a winery in the finger lake region west of Keuka Lake, and his first vintage was in 1962. As for the style of NY white wines, they closely resemble the wines of Northern France like Chablis or Alsace. This
particular Chardonnay has amazing acidity, great concentration and drive. With a natural alcohol level of only 12 percent, it’s crisp and refreshing. I have no doubt that even Sauvignon Blanc drinkers will appreciate this unoaked Chardonnay.
Quick Tasting Notes: “The floral and fruity bouquets of this wine, with mineral and toasty elements, are in harmony with this style of Chardonnay. The aromas of white peach, quince and melon on the nose give way to a supple texture with good fruit concentration, vibrant acidity and a clean finish.
This is the exact type of wine people describe being common place in Europe but hard to acquire here in the USA. It’s a wine that is balanced, fresh and easy to pair with food. Too many bottles that end up in supermarkets around the country are chasing scores, and there for are ultra extracted, sweetened and oak forward. This wine still tastes like it was made my people instead of manufactured in a lab. You can almost taste the feet that tread the grapes! All kidding aside, this wine is a classic example of old world sensibility and finesses.
It makes sense that Ferreira knows how to make a solid wine. They’ve been doing it since the 1700s and have learned a thing or two. They’re located in the Douro region which is more known for the sweet dessert wines than dry reds. However the region which has a hot and dry climate produces great red wines too.
Yes, Grenache (Garnatxa as they call it in Spain) has a white spin-off! It’s delicious too. This bottle comes from Eric Solomon who is one of my favorite Spainish importers. It’s made from a hodge podge of vines in the Terra Alta region which is just west of Catalonia. Some of the vines get up to 100 years old which is necessary to pull complexity out of the sandy limestone soils.
As far as the style goes, this wine isn’t quite as high in acid as some of the other wines for the club. It’s a bit more soft and approachable; but in no way is it over blown or too oaked. It’s still fresh and clean. It’s a great summer white that should pair well with just about anything you throw at it.