Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday in San Francisco was full of blue skies and relatively warm breezes for the city on the bay.
I was in town to check out the annual Family Winemaker's Show. The show is held at Fort Mason, which has a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the SF bay.
I was accompanied by one of my favorite partners in wine crime, Clay Wallin,of VinTank and Wine 2.0.
I always seek out the domestic wineries that are producing wines made from organic and biodynamic grapes. This is a necessary vetting tool since there are hundreds of wineries present. One needs to approach such events with some method to avoid exhaustion.
Anonymous comments from various winemakers regarding organics and wine:
"We used to be certified organic but it was too difficult to control the weeds through tractor mowing. We let the certification go so we can use Round Up again."
"We are practicing organic but have not gone through the certification process yet. It seems costly and time consuming."
"Wines made from organic grapes are not any healthier to drink. We farm organically as a lifestyle decision. We live on the same land as the vineyard."
"We farm biodynamically because we believe in being proactive and preventative. We do not want to make decisions based on fear which is how most conventional wines are made. Fear of stuck fermentation so they buy commercial yeast, fear of insects so they apply chemical pesticides, etc."
I tasted dozens of delicious wines on Monday.
But here is a wine made from organic grapes that is affordable, easy to find and offers great value for money.
Clif Family Winery The Climber 2007 (white wine blend) $14
Very zippy and refreshing. Floral and citrus aromas with lush peach and nectarine flavors. Great summer seafood match. Varietal blend: sauvignon blanc, pinot blanc, chenin blanc, muscat
Clif Family Winery The Climber 2005 (red wine blend) $17
Amazing value for your money. This red wine is a definite crowd pleaser. Soft red berry fruit with just a touch of earth and pepper to give it an edge.
Varietal blend: red zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, petite sirah, syrah, merlot
Posted by Amy Atwood at 6:13 PM
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Been wondering what the heck is natural wine?
And whats all this noise about orange (!) wines?
What is the real story on wine and sulfites?
Well get out there in San Francisco next week and scratch that itch.
There is a whole week's worth of natural wine tastings and even a natural wine seminar to wrap it all up.
The widely respected wine writer, Alice Feiring, wrote a post about the definition of natural wine this week.
You can find out all about it here. SF Natural Wine Week.
8/24 Monday – Terroir
8/25 Tuesday – Biondivino
8/26 Wednesday – Uva Enoteca
8/27 Thursday – Arlequin Wine Merchant
8/28 Friday – Nopa
8/29 Saturday afternoon – The Jug Shop
8/30 Sunday – Natural Wine Symposium hosted at Terroir
Posted by Amy Atwood at 5:09 PM
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
A few years ago, during a hot muggy summer, I had an intense love affair with sauvignon blancs from New Zealand.
I was living in Texas at the time where the air was steamy and the food was heavy. The bright citrus and tropical fruit flavors of this crisp white wine were something to look forward to at the end of my day.
At the time I was selling wine as a distributor sales manager and we just happened to carry the Via Pacifica portfolio of NZ wines. They had some great brands that I loved to sell and drink: Huia Estate, Highfield, Thornbury, Olssens and more. All NZ wine brands you should seek out.
But my summer affair ended as they do and I have not had much of a craving for NZ wines as of late.
So it was a pleasant reminder to recently sample the Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from New Zealand.
Wairau River has dedicated much time and resources towards responsible grape farming. They are certified carbon neutral, recycle their wastewater and plastics and are currently being to audited to join Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand.
But my post title was referring to the style of the wine, rather than the winery's environmental efforts.
Wairau River Suavignon Blanc 2008 $15
Light golden-green color. Bright flavors of green gage plums and limes. Firm acids on the finish. Extremely refreshing on a summer day with grilled garlic prawns.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 3:02 PM
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I was lucky enough to attend the Vini Portugal tasting at the recent wine bloggers conference in Sonoma. I had been looking forward to this particular tasting for a couple of reasons.
1.I have not tasted as many Portuguese wines as I would like.
2.The Portuguese wines I have tasted have been delicious and different.
3.We would be tasting wines from Napa and Sonoma all weekend and I relished the change of style and pace.
4. I have been drinking the light crisp Vinho Verde wine from Portugal all summer and need to break out of my comfort zone.
The dynamic duo from Spain , Gabriella and Ryan Opaz, of Catavino were the event organizers.
The lineup was extensive and impressive.
Especially several interesting wines made from touriga nacional. This is the grape to watch for when buying red table wine from Portugal.
But my favorite producer was Quevedo.
Oscar Quevedo was a gentle and intelligent young man.
He is in the process of converting his vineyards to organic farming.
Quevedo Vintage Port 2005 $49.99
Rich dark color. Flavors of blackberry and plum with a touch of earthy, salty flavors (like a splash of worcestershire). Drink it with a a chocolate tart with fresh raspberry sauce.
Quevedo Rose Port 2007
This was the absolute stunner of the tasting. Beautiful salmon color. Bright flavors of fresh summer strawberries and cherries. Delicious chilled on its own. But I heard that mixing it with tonic and lime makes for a killer summer cocktail.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 11:43 AM
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Kevin Kelley is a winemaker to watch. In addition to making wine for Lioco and his family winery with wife, Jennifer Kelley, Salinia Wine Company, he also cofounded the Natural Process Alliance (or NPA).
I was lucky enough to be in Sonoma recently and taste the NPA Chardonnay. Made from organic grapes and nothing else. No added sulfites, acids or commercial yeasts.
It was delicious, fresh and had me looking around for more.
But alas, NPA wines are only available within a 100 miles of where they are made in Sonoma. And that is as it should be with natural, young wines.
The difference between drinking NPA Chardonnay and more traditional Chardonnay, is the difference between drinking store bought canned lemonade and making the real thing from scratch at home.
Kevin was gracious enough to answer a few questions below:
Who is the Alliance?
Our name pays respect to the thousands of process that must occur to bring wine into the world. From the microbes in the soil to the people that drink the wine, each member of this alliance is required and equally important. We are just one small part of this process and we listen closely to our composer, nature.
How and why did you become a winemaker?
As an avid reader, I happened across a local history called “Like Modern Edens” by Charles Sullivan in high school. This opened up the world of wine and its long history to me and I was hooked. There are very few things that have marched through time with and have had such a deep impact on civilization. To be a part of that history is exciting and humbling all at the same time.
What prompted you to start the NPA?
Jennifer and I fell in love with Vin en Vrac while we were in France. Being able to visit a local winery and buy wine fresh from the tank was a revelation for us. Surprisingly, this had fallen out of favor long ago in California. We wanted to bring this back and offer fresh young wine that has not gone through all of the rigors of production. In doing so, we are also eliminating the biggest waste stream in the industry, the packaging.
What are your future plans for the NPA? It would be great to see a NPA wine from other regions like Southern California or New York so locals there could taste the NPA goodness.
The NPA is a modest local project with a stated delivery area of within 100 miles of the winery. Currently we are delivering to restaurants and we hope to be selling directly to consumers this fall. We were not the first to do this and most certainly will not be the last. We truly hope that other wineries follow suit and revive this tradition. Please pick up the phone and call your local winery and tell them that you would support this
What has been the response to NPA from the wine trade and wine consumers?
The response has been great! From the conscientious farming and hands off winemaking to the reusable packaging we have been getting glowing reviews. The most important aspect of course is wine quality and the positive response has been overwhelming. These are not your average main stream wines yet the public seems to be embracing them.
What does natural wine mean to you?
The term natural wine in itself is a misnomer and means something different to each individual. We are as hands off as possible with the wines and only gently intervene when it is absolutely necessary. This however does not tell you any specifics about the wines. Because of this, we clearly define what we are doing with the wine day by day. Using Twitter and our web page, we update our followers on any changes that may be occurring. For example, the Pinot Gris was unsulfured until recently when it started down the road of oxidation. When we elected to add a small amount of Sulfur to stop this process, we immediately announced the change on twitter and changed the profile on the web page. Our Chardonnay came from an organically farmed vineyard was fermented on its skins and then placed in neutral French oak with out a single addition. Honest or transparent wine would be a better term; we will let you decide if it is natural wine in your book.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
Wow, there are too many to list. Champagne with anything, Beaujolais cru with a killer hand chopped burger, Muscadet with raw oysters.
What makes you happy?
When the sun rises on another day, I am happy.
Posted by Amy Atwood at 7:59 PM