December Wine Club Wines

Our relentless endeavor to find our ‘Wine Clubbers’ the utmost examples of wines that speak of type and topography invariably bring us to Europe or older worldly locales, so it is exciting to discover something from just around the corner.  December has two picks ripe for whatever holiday you have planned.

2011 Madame Elke Vintage Brut Sparkling Wine - Mendocino, California

Two hours north of San Francisco stretches a mere fifteen mile lateral terrain known as the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County.  From the majestic Pacific Ocean’s shore to the charming town of Boonville, this is California country in its truest form.  The diurnal shift from cool mornings to sunny days to foggy nights creates ideal climactic conditions for specific wine grapes.  Pinot Noir stands tall here, with quite a few superb Alsatian offerings - some Gewürztraminers are delightful - and the conditions reflect Champagne; best for sparkling wine.  
The Elke family have been farming here for more than three decades, originally with apples (Mary Elke was renowned for her organic apple juice), planting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Most of their production had been procured by Mumm and Roederer Estate, sparklers that have arguably put California on the world class bubbly list.  In 1997 they began to hold some of their favorite parcels to make their own wines.
Named after the Madame of the Elke Estate, this method traditionelle sparkler represents a lifetime of working the Mendocino landscape, understanding each vine and it’s environ, forming a California sparkling that everyone can toast to and toast with.   [52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot noir], the wine dances with life, showing aromas of Asian pear, lemon zest and a touch of marzipan, resting into a wonderfully satisfying finale.  
Bring a bottle of this to celebrate anything you want to raise a glass to!

2015 Lieu Dit Cabernet Franc - Santa Ynez, California

This month we’re stickin’ with Cali for both the white and red selections.  No obscure varietals none of us have ever heard of this time…
This month we’ve selected a Cabernet Franc from sunny Santa Barbara from the Lieu-Dit Duo, Eric Railsback and Justin Willett.  These guys are kind of a big deal in the wine world these days, Eric was connected with the fancy-schmancy Burgundy-centric RN74 in SF, among countless other notable California restaurants and Justin is the winemaker behind “Tyler”  a high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay project out of Santa Barbara.  They started Lieu Dit in 2011 to focus on varietals found in the Loire Valley, made in a style that showcases the unique micro-climates and marine based soils of Santa Barbara County.    

I love that this wine actually tastes like Loire Cabernet Franc.  This is no big inky bruiser, it’s bright, juicy and has a peppery quality that’s found in the classic wines of the Loire.   The Santa Barbara sunshine brings a nice core of fruit that makes it (maybe too) easy to drink.   

Maybe It’s cause I’m dreaming of warmer weather on this chilly December night, but this wine makes me want to picnic at the beach.  A deli sandwich, maybe some pate and a very full glass of Cabernet Franc sounds like a great plan.   It’s unfussy, easy to drink and darn tasty.  We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

November Wine Club Wines

2013 Marangona Lugana "Tre Campane" - Veneto, Italy
            Soif is blessed with a great diversity of customers, testimony in some measure to our selection, but more likely attributable to the varied manifestations of curiosity and experience held by our customers.  People drop in and ask for Vin Santo and Lambrusco and Amontillado and “Natural” Wines and sulfite free wines and local Pinot Noir and the occasional “What do you have in Petillant Naturel at the moment?”  There is much at Soif that evokes memories of Monty Python and Leonard Cohen, though in this instance we do have all the cheeses in the cheese shop routine.  Let us take a moment to celebrate Leonard Cohen funky sparkling wines and praise “Halleluja!!  Periodically a customer will stop by looking for a nice inexpensive white wine, but without great familiarity with the broader wine world.  “What sort of things typically attract you?” we ask.  “I really like Pinot Grigio” is not an uncommon response.  “What do you like about Pinot Grigio?” we continue with the interrogation all the while smiling.  And here the conversation breaks down.  For many consumers begin their wine drinking experience with a technically correct, if reasonably soulless bottle of innocuous Pinot Grigio and medium acidity marked up in price six times at their neighborhood Italian restaurant. 
            What was all that about?  There are very few exceptional examples of Pinot Grigio.  There are however a large number of delicious, non-flamboyant, crowd-pleasing [which should not be confused with boring though there is an alarming correlation], medium-bodied, medium acid white wines which are excellent sippers and versatile at the table. 
            To read tasting notes for the Marangona Lugana, one might conclude there is little exceptional to be found here.  Pomme fruits, medium acidity, lightly creamy, modestly aromatic.  Indeed making a wine which is entirely friendly to the novice while being distinctive and vivacious to the professional is no mean feat.  This delightful wine manages to slip effortlessly slip into any imbibby situation and perform brilliantly without stealing the scene, sort of like J.K. Simmons before he blew up.   Close inspection will also reveal a lovely persistence, spatial completeness and a real energetic quality on the palate. 
            Marangona is run my Alessandro Cutolo on the south shore of Lake Garda, on the eastern edge of Lombardia.  The grape here is Turbiana aka Trebbiano di Lugana, though often thought to more closely related to Verdicchio than Trebbiano.  Tre Campane, meaning Three Bells and signifying the three best communes of Lugana from which the grapes derive, is Marangona’s special cuvée.  A portion of the grapes are picked in September, and a portion of month later in mid-October, accounting for the freshness and brightness [September fraction] and creaminess [October fraction]. 

2015 Kalleske GSM - Barossa Valley, Australia

The Barossa Valley is in many ways Australia’s equivalent of Napa Valley – a not terribly large swath of dreamland viticulture of outsized reputation which is subject to admiration and derision [a consequence of envy?] from those not fortunate enough to own a small slice.  Grapegrowing in Barossa began in the early 19th century with the arrival of several German-speaking immigrant families from Silesia, then part of Prussia and now part of Poland.  Johann Georg Kalleske , the first of seven generations of the family to run their prosperous farm, arrived in Australia from Prussia in 1838 and established the Kalleske farm in 1853, in the northwestern corner of the Barossa.
            The Kelleske estate, now overseen by Troy Kalleske, practices a very orthodox form of Biodynamics.   That is, they view the farm as a holistice organism, requiring few if any inputs from the outside.  Preparations 500 through 507 are applied according the principles elucidated by Rudolph Steiner, and most grapegrowing and winemaking operations are informed by lunar, planetary and stellar rhythms.  To read more from Troy Kalleske on their practice of Biodynamics, click here.
            Biodynamics is viewed with great suspicion, doubt and even hostility by its many detractors.  Indeed many sincere practitioners will admit they have no idea why or how it works.  What is apparent is the strong correlation between the practice of Biodynamics and the quality of wines produced by those practitioners. Among the iconic properties which incorporate Biodyamic practices in their winegrowing are:  DRC, Leroy, Dujac,  Lafon, Rougeard, Nikolaihof, Pingus, Dagueneau, Leflaive,  Zind-Humbrecht, Ostertag, Deiss, Beaucastel, Huet, de Montille, Cayuse, Araujo to name but a few.  In short, many of the very greatest wine estates on Earth. 
            Like most Barossa producers, the Kalleskes concentrate on Rhône varieties.  The “Clarry’s” bottling is a blend of shiraz, mourvèdre and old vine grenache.  If there is one recurring [and valid] complaint regarding Barossa wines, it is their inherent ripeness and scale and sometimes careen toward 11.   While lush and juicy, this wine’s consumption requires neither scheduled naptime following, nor fire suppressing equipment during.  Four months in barrel refine Clarry’s nicely without encumbering it with a gruesome, oaken vaneer.    
            We have always loved grenache-based wines not merely for the exuberant, liqueur like fruitness, but also for their universal solvent character at the table.  If a red wine seems appropriate for what your are contemplating at the moment, this Clarry’s will likely not disappoint.  




October Wine Club Notes


Chateau Thivin Beaujolais Blanc “Clos de Rochebonne”

This month’s white wine comes from one of our favorite regions in all of France, Beaujolais.  If you’ve been in the club for a while, chances are you’ve had a bottle or two of the red version, made from the Gamay Noir grape.  But unless you ‘ve come in to the shop asking for one of the geekiest bottles around,  it’s a lot less likely that you’ve tasted Beaujolais Blanc.  
Yep that’s right there is such a thing—though it is a rarity.   Beaujolais Blanc constitutes only about 1% of the region’s total production.   The grape here is Chardonnay, which is not too surprising considering Beaujolais is sometimes considered part of Burgundy, home to some of the fanciest Chardonnay neighborhoods in the world.  
Vineyards were planted in Beaujolais as early as the roman times, the most notable of which was in the southern part of Beaujolais on Mont Brouilly, an extinct volcano that has been home to the Thivin Estate since the 1500s.  Travel about ten miles south of the domaine and you’ll hit the quaint town of Theize, home to the Chateau de Rochebonne, a grand 14th century chateau that is definitely google-worthy.   The “Clos de Rochebonne” is a walled vineyard that was historically attached to this chateau.  The soils here are limestone and clay, quite different from the granitic soils on Mont Brouilly, but exceptional for Chardonnay production.   
I recently poured this wine blind (unfairly) for some fellow wine nerds.  Needless to say they were stumped, because it doesn’t fit in a traditional Chardonnay box.  It’s not oaky or fruit driven like a ripe California example.  It’s not chalky and lithe like a classy Chablis nor structured and crunchy like white Burgundy from the Côte de Beaune.  It’s decidedly old-world with no oakiness (the wine is aged in neutral wood) and ample acidity, but it’s also soft and gentle with notes of white flowers and cream.    In Beaujolais they have a word to describe the way the best wines of the region effortlessly slip down one’s throat—Gouleyant.   Damn, whatever that is, we want it!     

This wine definitely applies.   Go all out and drink it with some delicate white fish and new potatoes with butter or cream.  Whole thirty can wait.

Pecchenino Dogliani Dolcetto “San Luigi”

I recently had the pleasure of dining at a very fancy, Michelin-starred restaurant.   Every very bite was intentional, thought out to the minutest detail.  Every sip was expertly paired, and there was an army of people making sure I had a fresh napkin every time I left the table.  It was spectacular.  My brain was on overload trying to keep track of exotic salts and fish I’d never heard of and invisible mozzarella.   Though an incredible thing to experience, it was not something I could do every night.    
Wine is the same for me.  I love a beautiful bottle of fancy Barolo just as much as any wine geek, but sometimes I want a bottle just to drink without any fanfare.    Sometimes I don’t want to think about the secondary and tertiary aromas, what percentage is aged in new oak, or if it’s in the proper drinking window.  That being said, I still want to drink something GOOD.  
It’s like the scene in Chef when John Favreau makes the perfect grilled cheese.  It’s not a fifteen course tasting menu, but it’s still delicious.  
Dolcetto is important for similar reasons.  It’s a wine drank nightly in Piemonte, while Barolo and Barbaresco age in the cellar.  Dolcetto literally means “little sweet one” and while there are differing ideas about how it got this name, when tasted next to the fiercely acidic Barbera and Nebbiolo wines of the region it makes sense.   Its natural tendencies toward lower acidity can amplify its bright fruitiness giving the impression of sweetness.  
Needless to say, we all need a little more Dolcetto in our lives.
This month’s wine is from the Pecchenino estate (stop what you’re doing right now and check out their website!  It’s probably what Piemonte looks like right about now).    This family-run estate is based in the commune of Dogliani, an area especially suited to Dolcetto production.   Records indicate that Dolcetto has called these rolling hills home since the 1400s.  At Pecchenino, 70% of the production is devoted to Dolcetto, and they are recognized as a specialist in the area.  The “San Luigi” is their entry-level wine, and consistently one of my favorites.  It’s raised in stainless to preserve the ripe blue fruit and licorice-y herbal aromas making it the perfect accompaniment to pasta, pizza, or even exotic cuisines like Moroccan foods. 

September Wine Club Wines

2015 Cataldi Madonna “Giulia” Pecorino – Abruzzo, Italy

This month’s white wine comes from the ancient hamlet Ofena, a picturesque mountain town perched at the base of the Appenine Mountains in central Italy.   It’s confusing, but Pecorino is actually the name of the grape (no, we are not offering you a salty cheese in lieu of a tasty white wine).   Like Pecorino cheese, the name derives from “pecora,” the Italian word for sheep—fitting, as legend claims that the sheep that were herded through this region had a particular affinity for these sweet crunchy grapes.    

Though the varietal’s roots can be traced to Abruzzio centuries back, actual wines made from Pecorino didn’t appear on the market until the 1990s.  Before that time more prolific grapes like Trebbianno were preferred, while the low-yielding Pecorino became painfully uncool and all but extinct. Thankfully, wineries like Cataldi Madonna  championed for the local varietals and are now making serious wines worth seeking out.  The Pecorino has been a favorite at Soif for the past several years; It’s just immediately good.  The winery is located below the town of Ofena in an area locally known as the “Oven of Abruzzo,” thanks to an amphitheater at the foot of the Appenine Glacier that collects heat.  The natural sweetness of the Pecorino grapes and the warm days give the wine a lovely fullness, while cool evening temperatures and salty breezes from the nearby Adriatic keep the wine briny and refreshing.  

Though the options are endless for a versatile white wine like this, we challenge you to attempt some traditional central Italian dishes: fried Castelvetrano olives stuffed with sausage, grape-studded focaccia or chitarra pasta with lamb and sweet pepper ragout.


2015 Mateo Correggia “Anthos” Brachetto Roero – Piemonte, Italy

This wine has been a “Soif wine” since the very beginning (14 years ago now)!  Brachetto, an aromatic varietal from Piedmont, may never achieve world domination, but in our minds it’s important and it has a place at your table and in your glass.
 Sweet, sparkling versions from the Brachetto d’Acqui DOC are probably the best known, but it also has a history as a still, dry wine like this month's red selection.  The “Anthos” Brachetto from Matteo Correggia shows the varietal's more serious side with bright notes of red strawberry, dried rose petals and pink peppercorns.  The grapes come from the Roero region, just across the river from Barolo and Barbaresco.  The sandy soils allow for wines with bright juicy fruit and perfumed aromatics--Brachetto shines here. 

Matteo Correggia inherited his family’s vineyards in 1985 at the ripe old age of 23.  With the support of several great producers in the area, he continued his family’s tradition of farming excellent fruit, established a winery and began to make serious wines from Roero--an area that did not have much acclaim at the time.  Thanks to Correggia and several other forward-thinking producers, Roero has been elevated to the highest quality level, DOCG.  Sadly, in 2001, Matteo passed away in a tragic accident, but his wife Ormella is now carrying on his legacy.  She farms the grapes according to organic and biodynamic practices and is committed to low intervention in the cellar.  If this is not a club candidate, we aren’t sure what is.  

If you’ve never had this wine, you’re in for a treat.  

If you already know and love this wine, you’ve already popped it in the fridge (it’s delicious slightly chilled) and stocked up on some salumi from el Salchichero to munch on while you sip on this aromatic stunner.  Cured meats are divine with this wine, but for something more adventurous, try pairing it with exotically spiced Thai red curry.  


August Wine Club Wines

2013 Denis & Didier Berthollier Chignin Bergeron “Exception” -- Savoie, France

I’m pretty excited about this month’s white wine.  It’s an obscurity for sure, but not the least bit challenging flavor-wise.    One thing that we constantly search out when tasting and analyzing wines for the shop is tension.  Verve, electricity, energy, whatever you want to call it, we’re drawn to wines with some snap, crackle and pop.   For those of you who have been in the wine club for some time, this may not be new information...

Following our love for tension, we chose a Chignon-Bergeron from the mountainous Savoie region south of Lake Geneva on the eastern edge of France.  The wine is called Chignin-Bergeron, referring to Chignin, the village it comes from, and Bergeron, the local name for the Rousanne grape.  It’s labeled under the larger Vin de Savoie appellation, which is a widespread patchwork of vine growing areas southeast of the Jura.     Chignin-Bergeron, is an oddity in that it’s the only cru in the Vin de Savoie appellation allowed to bottle the Rousanne grape. 

 Rousanne is probably best known in the Northern Rhone Valley, where it produces opulent, almost oily white wines, travel a bit east to the mountainous region of the Savoie where the vines in Chignon are planted on the slopes of the towering Montgelas mountain, however, and the grape takes on a different tone.  Though the area is actually quite cool (France’s most fashionable ski resorts are not far away), the vines get plenty of sunshine hours thanks to a southwest exposure.   70% of the wines produced in the Savoie are white, most from the Jacquere grape with a crisp and distinctive alpine quality.  Bergeron is by far the most opulent, thanks to the natural richness of the Rousanne varietal, but the cool-climate acidity helps keep a lovely balance to the wines.  

This particular expression comes from the Bertollier brothers, who come from a long line of Savoie wine making tradition.  Their grandfather was one of the first to bottle Savoyard wine for the mass market in the 1970s.  They farm their 10 hectares of vines without the use of all the bad stuff…no insecticides, herbicides or fungicides.  Natural yeasts and low SO2 might put them in the sometimes funky natural wine category, but the wines are clean, bright and elegant.  The “Exception” bottling is floral like chamomile tea, has a rich mouthfeel, and is tangy like fresh ginger.  It’s a wine you can’t quite pin down-- complex and yet so simply pleasing.   Try it with cheeses or exotic cuisines.  

2009 Brigatti "Mot Frei" Colline Novaresi -- Piemonte, Italy

People often ask me what type of wine is my favorite.  I rarely give a straight answer, there’s just too many to choose from, but a look at my sales history reveals a different story.  I naturally gravitate towards Italian wine, specifically Piedmont and specifically Nebbiolo.   I just can’t seem to get enough of that rosy, cherry, leathery, licorice-y goodness.    

This month, we are heading to Piedmont, but breezing past the more well-known Barolo and Barbaresco and driving about an hour and a half North to the Colline Novaresi.  These gentle rolling hills about 30 miles west of Milan have been home to Nebbiolo for centuries.  MötZiflon is the local dialect for the name of the hill where this month’s red is grown, and literally means “hill of singing birds.”  Say no more--the birds are happy and so are we.  

The wine is a blend of Nebbiolo (called Spanna), and local grapes Uva Rara, and Vespolina.  If you’ve never heard of the last two, don’t worry, they’re rarely seen outside of this region and are typically only used in small amounts as a part of a blend with Nebbiolo.   

At Brigatti, the yields are low, allowing for nice concentration, the vineyards are cultivated with maximum respect for the environment, no chemicals are used, and all fruit is had harvested—a perfect club candidate.

The wine itself is bright and fragrant with notes of red cherries, dried rose petals and fennel seeds.  The vintage is 2009, but even with seven years of age, the wine is still a beautiful ruby color and very fresh and youthful on the nose.  The age helps soften some of the otherwise angular qualities of the wine resulting in nice integrated tannins and mellow acidity.  

This is a food wine.  While delicious on its own, it will really shine alongside a hearty bowl of pasta. Go to the farmers market, buy some juicy early girl tomatoes, some aromatic licorice-y basil and find a recipe for a simple tomato sauce.   pour yourself a glass while your sauce is simmering and finish with a small spash...not too much though,  you're gonna wanna drink it.  








July Wine Club Wines

2015 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Rosé - Loire Valley, France

Rosé is finally having its moment.   Once shunned because of a reputation for being a low-budget, innocuous and sweet, it’s finally emerged as the must-have wine for summer.  While we smugly sit here thinking, “we told you so” we are actually thrilled that rose now generates the appropriate amount of excitement.
That being said, just because it’s pink doesn’t mean it’s good.  Everyone is making a rosé these days, so how is one to choose?
You want the real answer? 

Taste a lot of them.  

Guess what? We’ve done that for you… I know, I know, how nice of us.   

After much arduous pink wine swigging and sloshing, we selected the very classy, very tasty Sancerre rosé from Pascal Jolivet.  Sancerre is a village in the eastern Loire Valley in France known for white wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Red and Rose wines made from Pinot Noir.  The rosé wines from this area are generally a bit higher toned with lots of acidity and bright citrus notes.  Think fresh squeezed pink grapefruit and tangy strawberries coupled with the classic Sancerre "chalky" minerality.  
This rosé is a blend of both direct press and saignée juice (free run juice from just-crushed grapes).  Pascal Jolivet practices a minimalist winemaking style, allowing nature to take it's course, and focuses on natural wines that are easy to drink, not ‘technical wines’ that are heavy and don’t go with food. 
While this is a perfectly appropriate poolside beverage, don’t hesitate to pair it with a green salad with avocado, radish and citrus for a delicious summer lunch.  


2013 Domaine du Pas de L'Escalette "Les Clapas" -  Côteaux du Languedoc, France

For this month's red wine, we found Domaine du Pas de l’Escalette in Terraces du Larzac, a sub-appelation within the Côteaux du Languedoc in Southern France.   
Though the region has a history of winemaking that dates back to the Roman times, Terraces du Larzac wasn’t recognized as its own appellation until 2005.  Honestly, maybe it's because it was just too hard to get to--not long ago, mules were the main form of transportation around these hills.  It’s rugged to say the least.   

Thankfully some people aren't afraid of rugged...

After cutting his teeth as the winemaker at Domaine Pelle in the Loire Valley, Julien Zernott and his wife Delphine Rousseau decided to wander south to look for a new wine making opportunity.  In 2003 they found this off-the-beaten path estate with a collection of parcels already well situated and organically farmed.  The 15 hectares of mature vineyards are divided among almost 30 separate parcels nestled on high terraces supported by “clapas”, the local name for the stone walls that surround the vineyards planted on the limestone hillsides.  This is one of the coolest areas of the Languedoc, temperatures can vary as much as 68 degrees from day to night.  This diurnal swing allows the grapes to retain their lively acidity--a necessary component to a balanced finished wine.

The 2013 “Les Clapas” is a blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Carignan and 20% Grenache.  It's a medium-bodied wine full with notes of red fruits, dried flowers, spices, and savory herbs. Tannins are there, but are very fine and supple. Drink this with a hearty lamb dish to emphasize both the strength and elegance of this tasty wine. 

June Wine Club Wines

2011 Ludovic Chanson "Les Cabotines" Montlouis sur Loire

Oh Chenin Blanc, there’s nothing quite like it.  Exotically honeyed, yet taut, bright and briny, it is one of the most satisfying wines one can drink.   Upon first sip, a synesthetic drinker might even experience a vision similar to a photographer’s golden hour--a world bathed in warm sunshine and dreaminess. 

Well, maybe that’s taking it a little far, but there is something sunny about it…

I have a very distinct memory of my first Chenin Blanc experience.   French and funky, it was unlike anything I’d ever had.  Immediately I was entranced by its aromas of yellow apples, honeycomb and something else, something at the time I didn’t recognize, something savory and even salty.   This savory character has since been described to me as wet wool, wasabi, hay, ginger and oddly even coleslaw.  (I’m not sure I get the coleslaw thing, but you get the picture).   However you experience it, it’s unique to this varietal.

Though Chenin Blanc is now planted all over the world, the benchmark examples come from the Loire Valley in France. While Vouvray is perhaps the most famous appellation for Chenin Blanc production, lately Montlouis, its much smaller neighbor across the River  Loire has been gaining the affection of Chenin lovers everywhere.  Because of the cooler northern exposure and slightly sandier soils, wines from Montlouis can be a bit leaner and more mineral focused.   They are typically vinified in a dry or dry-ish style as opposed to Vouvray which can be dry (sec), half dry (demi-sec) or in-your-face sweet (moelleux).   Montlouis once had a reputation for austere wines of no great providence, but a new generation of growers has been working tirelessly to change that sentiment.  Many of them recognize the importance of organic farming, hand-harvesting to ensure ripeness and minimal intervention in the cellar, practices that have greatly elevated the reputation and the quality of this once underappreciated area. 

Ludvic’s wines are no exception.  In 2006 after spending 14 years in pharmaceutical research, Ludvic quit his job, purchased a plot of land in Montlouis and decided to pursue his wine hobby.  Just a decade later, and with no previous winemaking experience, he is widely recognized as one of the rising stars in the area. 

His 2011 “Le Chanson” Montlouis-sur-Loire is quintessentially Chenin-y with aromas of ripe yellow apples, honey and lanolin on the nose, and persistent mouthwatering acidity on the palate.  It is dry without being austere, holding the impression of sweet fruit without being cloying or heavy.  This wine begs for a cheese plate.  Despite popular belief, wine and cheese are not an easy match at every go of it, but this will work beautifully with most.  


2013 Lime Rock “Kota” Pinot Noir

For our red wine we travel to the northern island of New Zealand, to Central Hawke’s Bay, the oldest wine region in New Zealand.   This crescent-shaped region, which looks suspiciously similar to a pacific-lined bay nearby, is relentlessly sunny allowing for ample ripeness of both red and white varietals. 

This month’s Pinot Noir comes from Lime Rock Wines, aptly named after the limestone ridge formed from a 3 million year old seabed that stretches through Central Hawkes Bay.  A tromp through the vineyards at Lime Rock would reveal crushed barnacle shells embedded with large scallop and oyster shells, locally called kota, that can be as big as its namesake bottle.

The Lime rock winery was founded in 2000 by husband and wife winemaking duo Rosie Butler and Rodger Tynan just next door to Rosie’s family home on the “Limestone Loop” in Central Hawkes Bay.   The couple  spent the 15 years prior working in Australia, Rosie in oenology and viticulture and Rodger in Bio-diversity and ecology.  To describe their approach to farming and vineyard management, they coined the term “Vit-ecology”--the healthy combination of viticulture and ecology.   They believe minimal disturbance to the soils is key to preserve natural biological processes and site complexity.   Weeds and plant cover are welcomed in the vineyard and are recognized as nutrient recyclers and erosion protection for the soils.  Their high elevation steep vineyards have little risk of diseases thanks to the breezy weather and do not require large inputs of water, nutrients or energy.  I think it's safe to say these grapes are pretty happy; the wines can’t help but be lovely.  The highly drinkable 2013 “Kota” Pinot Noir is fresh and fragrant with with crunchy red fruit, dried citrus peel and a warm spiciness.  The palate is lush without being heavy and there’s a beautiful balance between ripeness of fruit, mellow acidity and silky tannins. 

Chill it 20 minutes prior to serving to optimize your Kiwine experience. 






May Wine Club Wines

2014 Lantieri Malvasia delle Lipari Secco, Sicily, Italy

This month’s wine comes from the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago in northern Sicily.    The photos alone are enough to make us want to flee for the nearest airport, but for your sake (these notes would be replaced by pictures of us chillin’ in volcanic mud baths) we will refrain for now.

It’s no surprise that we love volcano wine and will talk your ear off about it given the opportunity, so this especially rare selection was irresistible.  The grapes come from the island of Vulcano, one of 8 tiny islands that make up the Aeolian archipelago perched off the northeastern coast of Sicily.  This island by the way is only 8 square miles total…how there is even enough wine for the thirsty island dwellers, let alone enough to send all the way to California is beyond me, but I digress.

Wines from volcanic terroirs have often been described as salty, noticeably aromatic and surprisingly age worthy.  There are different ideas about why this may be, but I’ll spare you the details for now…all you need to know to enjoy this wine is that the black, loose and almost sandy soils found on Vulcano, produce a Malvasia that is rich with vibrant acidity and exuberant aromatics.

So let’s chat a bit about Malvasia.  The grape is used widely to describe a complex web of varieties that are typically ancient, most likely of Greek origin.  The name itself is a corruption of the Greek “Monemvasia,” the name of a bustling medieval port famous for the distribution of sweet wines of the Mediterranean.  Today, Malvasia is grown all around the globe and is responsible for many iconic dry and sweet wines. 

I mentioned earlier that this wine is an anomaly...that's because it's dry.  Most of the wines from Vulcano are intensely aromatic and sweet, made from dried grapes that have been withered in the sun.  The recipe hasn’t changed much since the 600s, so they must be doing something right, but sometimes the golden nectar of the gods is a little intense, and one just wants some light refreshing white wine, so at Lantieri, they make about 500 cases of dry wine as well.  

In the glass, the color of the wine coincidently matches the sunshine yellow of the label, which doesn’t always influence the taste, but in this case it helps.  The heady aromatics change from savory to floral to citrus oil-y with each swirl of the glass.  This wine is for dreaming about island vacations and warm patios.  If you’re feeling ambitious enough to leave your deck chair, sip this alongside grilled fish with a squeeze of lemon and some buttery olives.


2014 Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes, Rhone Valley, France (biodynamic)

Cotes-du-Rhone...a gateway wine for those looking to try something other than their usual "Pinots and Cabs".  Cotes-du-Rhone is an appellation in Southern France that stretches 125mi from Vienne in the north, to Avignon in the south, and from the foothills of the Massif Central in the west to the fore-slopes of the Vaucluse and Luberon mountains east of the town of Orange. Juicy blends of several different varietals are very common (mainly Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre), but the appellation is quite large, so quality can be  variable.  No doubt, you've played the grocery store gamble and ended up with something surprisingly decent for the price tag, but for you loyal soifeurs, we bring you arguably one of the best examples we've tasted.   This Cotes-du-Rhone is on a different level.  Here's why...

Le Clos du Caillou is located in Courthézon, on the eastern border of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation.  The  estate was purchased in the late 1800s to be used primarily as a hunting reserve (though the original owner did have the good sense to build a cellar for winemaking, which is still in use today).   All was well and good in the forest until 1923, when boundaries were being drawn up for the prestigious Chateauneuf-du-Pape appellation.  The soil experts wanted to include the property in the newly formed appellation, but when they arrived to survey the land they were promptly met with a shotgun and a shouted warning to stay off the reserve.  They listened, so the property became (and has stayed) an island surrounded by Chateauneuf-du-Pape vines.  

The 2014 vintage is made from 85% 65 year old Grenache, 10% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre grown on the same stony soils that are found throughout Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The stones serve both as a protective layer to retain moisture during dry summer months as well as heat retainers during cooler nights.  

The wine has ample fruit and richness without feeling lazy or overripe. The Grenache provides the wine with pretty raspberry and red plum flavors while the Syrah and Mourvedre round out the structure. Typical Rhone scents such as lavender, incense and black truffle are to be found in this wine as well.   We are pairing this with a grilled pork chop with cheesy grits, braised chard and pickled blackberries.