Seventh (7th) Edition Wine Club
The holidays continue both IRL (in real life) and in Wine Club. This month, the theme is a little looser than wines to pair with foods, and more in the vein of wines to pair with moods, two moods in particular: cozy and celebratory.
"Premier Quartier" 2020
Saint-Joesph, Cote du Rhone, France
(Fuller Bodied Red)
I have to admit, I'm not usually drawn toward Cote du Rhone wines. When you have a name with international recognition, people tend to stay safe and conventional in both their farming and winemaking. La Ferme des Sept Lunes is one fantastic exception. It is a polycultural farm in the appellation of Saint Joseph between Vienne and Valence in the village of Bogy. "Founded in 1984 by current proprietor Jean Delobre’s grandfather, the estate is covered in vines, orchards and fields of grain. Over the years, acre by acre, the estate was converted to organic farming, and today Jean cultivates seven hectares of certified organic Syrah, Roussane, Marsanne, Gamay and Viognier. La Ferme des Sept Lunes is comprised of a patchwork of vineyards ranging in vine age and composition, all on a bedrock of granite. The terraced Saint Joseph vineyards below the converted barn-winery are majestic in their biodiversity. Wildflowers and grasses grow in and around the vines, and in Jean’s words, “a vineyard is a big garden”. All grapes are harvested by hand, with careful sorting to remove bunches that do not make the cut.
In 2017, Jean entered into a partnership with colleague Jacques Maurice who had also been involved at the local cooperative. Since 1997, Jacques has been organically farming apricots, pears, 5 hectares of grapes. Like Jean, his stringent commitment to natural farming and transparent winemaking forced him to seek independence from the co-op. Their shared philosophies led to a collaboration that combines years of experience, old vines, and an unwavering desire to understand and honor Mother Nature’s gifts." - Polaner Selections
This Syrah is from 100% Saint-Joesph fruit from older vines (meaning all the grapes come from the protected appellation of Saint-Joesph). After hand harvesting, they were partially destemmed and partially left in whole clusters. Both fermentation and aging took place in neutral oak barrels. This wine is perfect for the chilly winter days and nights we've been having. It has electric, plush red fruit, warming alcohol (14%), and the typical salty, black olive character quality that Rhone Syrah is known for.
Those of you who were 4 bottle members in the early days might be familiar with the Karnage wines. They're always a little challenging, but also extremely fun. In the case of this wine, I tasted it and immediately said to myself "holiday Wine Club challenge". I think this wine will be polarizing, but bear with me.
Karnage is the collaboration between longtime friends Charles Dagand and Stéphane Planche, who started their first vintage in 2020. Charles Dagand is the former partner of Alice Bouvot from Domaine l'Octavin where together they created the legendary domaine over 10 years. Since then, Charles has made his own wines under the name of Carlito, but after a couple of unfortunate vintages where he lost all his harvest to frost and disease, he decided to team up with Jura's infamous sommelier icon Stéphane Planche in this new project. Stéphane is the owner of the wine shop Les Jardins de Saint Vincent based in Arbois.
The grapes come from Charles' own vineyards, from friends in the Jura and the rest of France. They do the harvest themselves and vinify in Charles' cellar in Abergement-le-Grand just outside Arbois. In the case of this wine, the Pinot Auxerrois is negociant fruit (meaning they're grown by someone else and then purchased).
Pinot Auxerrois (pronounced Ox-heir-wah) is a white grape, most comfortable in places like norther Alsace and blended into wines such as Cremant du Alsace. Despite it's color in this case, it is not an orange wine, the grapes have been directly pressed. Bottled before fermentation has finished, this pet-nat has some residual sugar, meaning there is unfermented sugar still left in the bottle. It would be perfectly paired with oysters or potato leek soup.
Every once in a while, a wine makes me nostalgic, and this is one of those times. Lambrusco was one of my first loves, and specifically 'Sottobosco' from Ca' de Noci. In 2015 when I started working in natural wine, there was far less information and far less availability than there is now. This wine remained a constant year-over-year as both a customer and then a buyer. The natural wine world has changed plenty over the years, but this wine brings me back to the days when everything was available to whoever wanted and was excited about it. This wine isn't 'allocated' now (certain wines are in such low quantities that the importers choose which accounts are allowed to purchase them. They call this allocation. *HINT* it's mostly based on how much money you spend with them if you get allocated wines.) but the price has gone up. Even still, it has remains on the more affordable side, and has truly just gotten better. For me, sparkling red wines have a place on many tables and in many scenarios. They are perfect for the cozy evening in front of the fire, great on hot days by the pool, and a lovely celebratory bottle to open with friends while ringing in the new year.
Brothers Alberto and Giovanni started making wine on their family estate in 1993. Their father planted vines amongst his walnut trees in the 70s, when they took over the farm they converted to organic practices and focused on planting autochthonous (meaning indigenous to the area) grape varieties they saw slowly disappearing, including Spergola, Malbo Gentile, Sgavetta, Montericco and more. Along with the work in the vineyard they began to experiment with making wine as naturally as possible. Now they work 5 hectares of vines and make nocino, saba and fantastic Balsamic vinegar.
'Sottobosco' has uniquely fine bubbles that I've oft seen attempted, but rarely replicated. Low alcohol, with dense, fractured minerality and blackberry fruit, as well as typical herby freshness. This wine absolutely rips.
Marto is one of those winemakers that challenges you to rectify his projected light-heartedness and youth with his ability to make considered and precise wines. In his 27 or so years on this planet, Martin Worner has achieved a quality of winemaking that many can only aspire to. He comes from 3 generation of winemakers and inherited a 3 hectares of vines. His grandfather made serious German wines until his father took over during the 1980s. In this time, Rheinhessen wine was not well-renowned and was better known for making sweet non-grape fruit wines, without an emphasis on winemaking or agricultural quality. Marto saw to the other side and pursued knowledge through studying winemaking at Geisenheim University, as well as working at well-known wineries such as Matassa & Gut Oggau -- both of which show a clear influence on his winemaking style. After returning home, he took over his grandfather's cellar and began making the 'Marto' wines there.
Soon, he met this wine's namesake, Alanna de la Gamba, a Canadian ex-pat who once interned for Marto and never left. A winemaker in her own right, making celebratory and energetic wines under the name Vin de la Gamba and sharing a space with Marto, this wine is a marriage of sorts. Named 'Cuvee Alanna'
to differentiate it from the wines Alanna produces herself, this Pinot is made by Marto. This is cool climate Pinot at its best. Lean and lithe, crackly red fruit, light florals and lasting energy. Aged in foudre (large oak barrels), 'Cuvee Alanna' has a veracity and depth that differentiates itself from most of his cuvees, and most wines in general.