May 2021: "Natural Fermentation"
You may have noticed over the last few months that we’ve been expanding our family of producers. In the wine world we sometimes have our own fan clubs, and here’s one that we geekily are excited to welcome in: Two Shepherds, a boutique winery located in Sonoma County. Run by William Allen and Karen Daenen, Two Shepherds focuses on a minimal, old world style of winemaking. You might be forgiven for thinking you’re drinking wine from France, or perhaps even Italy – in fact, young female winemaker Lorenza B. Allen (no relation to William) is from Torino, Italy. But in fact, the philosophy behind Two Shepherds is as pure and simple as it is historic – true expression of the variety, vintage, and vineyard. The winery focuses on uncommon Rhône varieties and crafts about 15 different wines each vintage, including some that are only 1 – 2 barrels. For this, they’ve rightfully earned the nickname as ‘insane masters of small lots’. For a long time, they’ve avoided being labelled as “natural” winemakers because the terminology has been poorly defined (perhaps we’ll embark on that treatise another day). Their wines are gentle on the earth and your palate, while being intriguing and vibrant.
Picpoul Blanc: A Mediterranean varietal, Picpoul is on the rise in the wine world. This certified organic vineyard is a rare find in California, with ~54 acres planted in total, and surrounded by organic fruit trees, which provides a healthier bio-diverse growing environment. While this region has a hot climate, it enjoys a 40-degree shift at night (in wine-speak we call this a “wide diurnal range”). Therefore grapes are able to be picked early, in August, while maintaining acidity, freshness, and a lean profile. The wine is purposefully crafted to be more complex than Picpoul de Pinet with skin contact, lees contact, extended elevage in neutral puncheons, and bottle aging. While it lives up to its translated name of “lip stinger” the wine also has texture and depth, making it a great pairing ranging from oysters to crab.
Dasca Vives is a family farm located just south of Barcelona and 20 kilometers from the Mediterranean Sea in an area of Catalonia known as the Alt Camp. Alba Vives and Josep Dasca have completely converted the family land where Josep was raised to biodynamic farming principles, and have been spearheading a group of other like minded wineries to share biodynamic inputs and make the practices of regenerative agriculture more possible as a community. The wines of Dasca Vives are treated with the same respect in the winery as in the vineyards, are allowed to ferment spontaneously with the yeasts on the skins, and have sparing use of sulfites to maintain freshness. Just simple, pure, natural wine. A few months ago, the Crit, a fuller bodied red, was a big hit with our members. We now introduce to you, Jovent, her younger sister.
Jovent: This light, refreshing wine is made of two local varietals, 70% Garnatxa (Garnacha), and 30% Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), from 1.5 hectares of dry-farmed land. Naturally fermented, 5 days skin maceration, 5 months lees aging, sparing use of sulfites, and ambient temperature for malolactic fermentation. Unfiltered & unfined. No oak, just fun, young wine. This wine does well with a slight chill on a warm night with a charcuterie board.
Scions of Sinai
This boutique Stellenbosch winery (< 900 cs/yr) is mostly a one-person operation. Winemaker Bernhard Bredell is on a quest to restore his family’s wine farming roots, sustainably. His father sold off his family’s seventh-generation vineyards, which were destined to be blended away into wine for a large co-op. He instead began to rent back the land, plot by plot, and converted the vineyards to organics. He is determined to showcase their inherent, old-age beauty. Bernhard follows organic, dry farming, and minimal intervention practices, which is something of a rarity in Stellenbosch, where big, bold, and conventionally made red wines are often crafted. In a short period of time, Bernhard has earned a reputation for making some of the best, small production, natural wines in South Africa.
Atlantikas: We love to play with Pinotage, and we love even more to challenge perceptions about the varietal. Here is a fun one. This maritime, bushvine wine has been dry-farmed since 1975, and comes from the closest Pinotage vineyard to the Atlantic Ocean- hence its name. The cooler climate yields a more vibrant, lower alcohol style of wine while retaining excellent acidity. Bernhard was aiming at a pure and lighter expression of the variety by means of natural vinification methods - no additives or alterations to the juice or wine, except trace amounts of sulfites, and no filtration and no fining. He used semi-carbonic fermentation to bring out the ripeness of the fruit. What is semi-carbonic fermentation? In short, it’s another way to ferment grapes that relies, in part, on anaerobic (no oxygen) conditions. The result is a fruity, fun, light and zippy wine. This is a great example of whole-cluster pinotages starting to take hold of South Africa.
Mario Geisse is a legend in Brazil. He was known for making premium wines in Chile, and was recruited to Brazil in the 1970s by Moet Chandon when they heard that Southern Brazil had decent terroir for making bubbly wines. At the time, Chandon was focused only on low quality bubbles, and Mario was unimpressed. He had become enamored by the region, saw the potential to produce world-class méthode champenoise wines, and left Chandon to start his own winery. He scoured the region for the best plots of vineyards- he now has over 40 of them, which he vinifies separately – and dedicated himself to the strictest, most intensive methods of making sparkling wine where everything is done by hand. The result is that he elevated the quality of wines in the region, put Brazilian wines on the map, and is considered the premium sparkling producer in Brazil. In addition, the Geisse Winery is committed to the health of the environment, its employees, and customers. They follow organic practices and use zero pesticides—a feat quite difficult in the region, but one they are committed to. So what is a polished winery like Geisse doing in a line up like this? Now that the next generation has started to take over, they’re having fun with experimenting new techniques.
Rustico Nature: This may be our weirdest/most unique wine yet. It’s a choose-your-own adventure wine. This is not a pet-nat, which has one fermentation, but rather a méthode champenoise sparkling wine with two fermentations. The difference between this and other method champ wines is that this one has not been disgorged yet! Because of this, the (dead) yeast cells are still in the bottle and the wine, as-is, is cloudy. The more time you let it sit (called the “lay down” time), the more complex the wine will become. When you are ready to drink it, you can enjoy the wine cloudy and it will be a bit funky. Or, DIY disgorge at home by following the super simple instructions on the neck tag, and the wine will be crystal clear. If you do the latter, you can add “Becoming A Wine Pro” to your list of 2021 accomplishments – most wine professionals we know have never disgorged a wine either! The wine’s destiny is in your hands.