Thursday, July 31, 2014

Celebrate International Albarino Day - August 3

Did you know there are four organically grown Albarinos made in the US? You can celebrate International Albarino Day with any of these praiseworthy fine wines:

1. From an Organic Vineyard

Bokisch Vineyards, Albarino, $18

Specializing in Spanish varietal wines, Lodi-based Bokisch is run by a Mark Bokisch (who is half Spanish). The winery's won high praise from critic Robert Parker for its Spanish varietals.

2. Certified Wine: Made with Organic Grapes

Marimar Estate, Albarino, $32 (Winery Only Wine)

Marimar Torres, proprietor of Marimar Estate in Sonoma, is a member of one of the world's most famous (and largest) winery families, the Torres, who make wine around the globe. Their brands comprise the largest  winery in Spain and one of the largest in the world.

Robert Parker's praised this wine, giving it a 90 point rating. : "...strikingly authentic floral notes intermixed with notions of chalky soil, white currants, apricots and peaches...crisp, mineral-laced, delicate yet authoritative…the finest Albarino I have tasted from California."

3. From a Biodynamic Vineyard:

Martian Ranch & Vineyard, $22

Inspired by a trip to Spain, Central Cost vintner (and Martian proprietor) Nan Helgeland decided to plant Albarino in her Santa Barbara County vineyard (near Los Alamos, just north of Buellton-Solvang-Los Olivos).

Her 2012 vintage garnered this praise from Jon Bonné of the San Francisco Chronicle, who called it"...pitch-perfect for summer, juicy and distinct…”

4. Certified Biodynamic Wine*:

Verdad, $22

"Virtually no one in California has been as committed to this grape as Louisa Lindquist," writes Jon Bonné of Verdad vintner Louisa Sawyer Lindquist's Albarinos. He goes on to praise this wine as "densely flavored...fresh mint-leaf and wet stone wrapped around citrus and guava flavors. A masterful effort."

Jeb Dunnuck of the Wine Advocate, rated the 2012 90 pts, writing the following: "A beautiful Albarino that’s worth checking out...offers up plenty of citrus blossom, pear, wild herbs, lime and tinges of minerality in a medium-bodied, crisp and balanced package."
And if that wasn't enough, S. Irene Virbilia of the Los Angeles Times picked it as a Wine of the Week.

The Verdad is probably the easiest one to find outside of directly contacting any of these four wineries.

Wouldn't it be great to try all four?


* This certification means that no additives other than sulfite have been added to the wine.

"Shades of Green" - Our Article Makes the Cover of Beverage Media Magazine's August 2014 Issue (Out Today)

Have a look at the article "Shades of Green" online here.

Click here for a (printable) pdf. (A few entries on the chart will be revised and available on the online version. Once the revisions have been added, I'll upload a new pdf here.)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ramona, The Mother Vine: A Trip to San Gabriel Mission and the Roots of California's Wine Industry

California's rich wine history lies beneath the surface in southern California's landscape today, but it reveals itself to travelers willing to seek it out.

I've made a 10 day research trip to discover the roots of California's first wine grape growing and wine making, which has led me to the Mother Vine - Ramona, a 250 year old grape vine planted in the San Gabriel Mission courtyard.

Visitors to the San Gabriel Mission can see the vine, along with the winery next to it. It's easy to miss  Ramona, so be sure to look for it beside the winery where its tendrils extend hundreds of yards, covering a large arbor.

This particular vine is said to date back to 1774.  Historians date the introduction of the grape vine to California to a shipment that arrived in San Juan Capistrano a short time before this date. However, it was at San Gabriel that vines truly flourished, along with other crops (in part, due to the availability of irrigated water from Pasadena and San Marino). More than 8 acres of Mission wine grapes were cultivated here. (The vineyards are now settled areas with no remaining traces of their former agricultural use).

San Gabriel Mission, Michael Hart illustration 
The vines at San Gabriel were widely used for cuttings that established southern California's wine industry, which grew to be the American powerhouse producing region in the 1830's-1870's.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ballard Canyon + Biodynamic = Beckmen Vineyards

Syrah producers got a great opportunity to introduce wine writers and bloggers to the new Ballard Canyon appellation at the 2014 Wine Blogging Conference, held this weekend in Buellton (in lovely Santa Barbara County).

Enjoy these photos from the event.

Steve Beckmen of Beckmen Vineyards with his
Purisima Mountain Syrah - made from the various
elevations on Beckmen's 125 acre Biodynamic vineyard.
Sixty percent of it is planted to Syrah.
Patrick Comiskey (left), wine writer for LA Weekly, made impassioned
introductory remarks about the love of Syrah, calling the varietal
"rebellion in a glass" for its wilder side (which may be somewhat of an
exaggeration but makes great copy for Twitterers - of whom there
were plenty at the conference.)
Ballard Canyon AVA organizer Pete Stolpman said while Syrah's
reputation had suffered for producers who have  Syrah but
don't specialize in it (i.e. a Napa Cab vintner with a Syrah on the side),
the Syrah specialist producers were doing just fine. 
To learn more about the panel, check out Tweets from #wbc2014 and/or
The Beckmen Purisima Mountain Syrah (top glass in this
For more information on Beckmen's Syrahs (the winery makes 4 different ones from certified Biodynamic vines), check out the Biodynamic Vine Finder app.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New - Pinot Noir Tasting Experience at Benziger

Looking for a new wine country experience to take in this summer? If you're traveling to Sonoma, consider Benziger's new Pinot Noir tasting.

It's much harder to grow Pinot Noir organically or Biodynamically - or so say most of the producers in the Pinot heartland of Anderson Valley, where only two vineyards are certified - Handley Cellars' organic estate and Filigreen Farm's Biodynamic vines. (In Oregon, 9 producers have certified Biodynamic vineyards; three more prestigious producers have organic vineyards.) 

In the Sonoma Coast AVA, the newest region making acclaimed California Pinots, there are precious few certified vineyards growing Chardonnay or Pinot Noir - let alone, making great wine from them. To find the others, check out the Organically Sonoma: Wine Finder app. (App link here for Apple and link here for Android.)

But in western Sonoma, in the Sonoma Coast AVA, Benziger's producing three Pinot Noirs with growing reputations from its Terra Neuma vineyard.

Now, the winery is showcasing its Burgundian wines in a new Pinot Noir experience, which includes only organically or Biodynamically grown Chardonnays and Pinots. 

For $40, experience a private tasting with these featured wines:
  • Signaterra, West Rows Chardonnay (Made with Organic Grapes)
  • Signaterra, Bella Luna Pinot Noir (Biodynamic Wine)
  • de Coelo, Pinot Noir - Arbora Sacra (Biodynamic Wine)
  • de Coelo, Pinot Noir - Quintus (Biodynamic Wine)
  • de Coelo, Pinot Noir - Terra Neuma (Biodynamic Wine)
Several of the 2011 and 2010 de Coelo Pinots ($75) have received ratings of 90-91 pts. from Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. The 2011 Quintus won a Double Gold medal in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Biodynamic Wines are the only wine classification that tells you the wine was made using only native yeast and no additives were added - a high bar indeed. It's one that few wines in the U.S. measure up to. In fact, there are only 18 Pinot Noirs in the U.S. that meet this standard. 

Find out how the terroir of the impressive de Coelo (pronounced day SHAY lo) site, near Freestone, actually tastes on this by- appointment experience.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Grand Cru Breakthrough - Bordeaux's Fonplegade Wines Labeled Organic

Congratulations to Fonplegade for putting organic on the label.

While many a winery grows grapes organically, few bottle label it - especially in Bordeaux.  Now, another name can be added to the list of those who are proud to say they are making an organically grown product.

Fonplegarde is owned by the American couple, Stephen and Denise Adams. Mrs. Adams is an organic gardener who enjoys organic gardening at their home in Connecticut.

The Adamses also have Adamvs, a Howell Mountain winery, with Philippe Melka as the consulting winemaker. (I visited recently - a great pleasure - and will share photos soon).
Fonplegarde, owned by the Adamses, is a Saint-Émilion Grand Cru and the
third in the region to put organic on the label