by Fabio Bartolomei
on May 23, 2013
At last! Hooray! After ten (10) years of thinking about it, and writing about it, and talking about it, I’ve finally done it! I’ve planted about 150 vines in the empty spaces in the Carabaña vineyard, where a vine was missing for one reason or another.
I decided to plant Tempranillo, because the vineyard is a field blend of Tempranillo and Airén already, but there’s not much Tempranillo – only just enough to make one barrel of crianza. I toyed with the idea of planting Malvar, or Torrontés or some other interesting local variety, but in the end I thought that there would be no point, as the quantity of wine I could make with it would be too small. I’ll leave that idea for another project for the future.
But the most crucial decision here was not really the choice of variety, but the choice of rootstock. In this case, the most important criterion (more important than resistance to drought, or resistance to disease, or resistance to limestone) was the fact that this is not a new vineyard and that the existing vines (about 50 years old) are very well established; and so their root systems will be very deep and wide and will be competing strongly for the water and nutrients in the spaces where the new baby vines will be struggling to survive and grow. So the rootstock had to be a vigorous and hardy one. The one that was readily available and which was recommended to me was one called “Paulsen 1103″, which is not only vigorous, but also tolerant to drought and to limestone soils.
Well, that’s half the job done this year. There’s more to do next year! There are also about 100 vines in the vineyard where the grafted variety has died, for whatever reason, but where the rootstock is alive and kicking. These will have to be cut back and grafted.
They are so vigorous that in summer they turn into monsters like this one below:
And there are also about 20-30 vines that are dead and which will have to be pulled out.
I’m so glad I managed to do that task. It gets depressing when you think about doing something for so many years but never get round to doing it.
by Organic Wine Journal
on May 14, 2013
International organic wine fair FIVE (Feria Internacional del Vino Ecologico) will be held online this year from June 21st to June 30th. The onsite fair with now be biennial. Registration on the site www.five-bio.com/ begins on May 24th.
by Paul Howard
on Apr 22, 2013
Regular readers of these pages will know of my predilection for sherry. However, I have failed to discover a sherry made by certified organic methods from the Jerez DO region. If anybody is familiar with one I would be grateful to know and investigate.
Fortunately for those looking for organic credentials there are one or two producers elsewhere in Spain that make wines in styles that are very similar to those sherries of Jerez, including a “fino style” and an “amontillado style.”
One such estate is the family run Bodegas Gómez Nevado. They are based at a small inland town called Villaviciosa, northwest of Córdoba, in the rugged mountains of the Sierra Morena. That’s over 200 km from Jerez and at least 50 km from Montilla-Morilles. Hence these wines cannot benefit from either the title or reputation of “sherry” and are classified merely as humble “wines of the land” (Vino de la Tierra). Although largely unknown, they do have quality aspirations and are made in a similar way to their more illustrious counterparts.
There’s neither Jerez’ onshore damp breezes or white crusted chalk soils in the Sierra Morena. Instead, a harsher continental climate with blistering summers and cold snowy winters is the norm. With true sherry, it is the Palomino grape that takes precedence. This region grows some Palomino but also the hardy Airén and Pedro Ximenez are common – hence the wines tare a combination of all three grapes and to me substitute elegance with brawn.
The wine featured here is their Pálido Seco, the dry “fino sherry” style white wine that derives its principal flavour from the biological action of yeast on the maturing wine. The wine is aged for between three and five years in old American oak casks forming a solera system. The yeast (Flor) feeds on the wine, so imparting those classic briny phenolic flavours.
Rather than worry overmuch about classifications, it’s best to see what the bottle has to offer, which thankfully is rather a lot. The wine is a deep and clear yellow colour, attractively so, but deeper than a true fino would be. Then the nose is powerful and is not confined to the glass. First off is the familiar salty seaside smell of the acetaldehyde imparted by the yeast. Underneath that appears caramel, dried apples and almonds. This really is all very appealing and draws you further in. The palate is explosive, very dry and big boned. In every way a big mouthful, the salt and almonds reprise with the apple really coming through in broad brushstrokes.
If you like fino sherry you really do owe it to yourself to try this. Of course it is perfect as a chilled aperitivo with anchovies and olives. Best of all, there are few dry white wines that have the body and flavour to stand their corner against the heat of Wasabi Peas! Perfect!
This an individualistic and traditional Spanish country wine with the added bonus of organic credentials made available at a value price. Being a strapping example I’d say you could open it, restopper it and it would keep in the fridge for a week. No need to worry about opening immediately after buying either, it’ll keep unopened for 2-3 years yet but won’t improve if you do so. No need to wait.
Meanwhile, I can also heartily recommend Gómez Nevado’s dry amontillado style wine, called Dorado Seco.
by Organic Wine Journal
on Apr 11, 2013
From The New York Daily News:
State Sen. Jeff Klein’s campaign cup is spilling over with $33,000 in cash from a national wine distributor that would almost singularly benefit from a bill the Bronx lawmaker authored.But Klein’s re-election war chest is growing at the expense of small merchants and wine-loving consumers in New York, who could end up paying an extra $7 per bottle, critics charge. Empire Merchants LLC is pushing a measure that would require all wine to be warehoused in New York for at least one day before being sold in local stores. Empire has poured more than $500,000 over the last eight years into the coffers of Gov. Cuomo, state Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and other key lawmakers. Critics say the measure would destroy Empire’s small- and mid-size local competitors, which store their vino in cheaper New Jersey warehouses.
Some commentary over at Dr. Vino:
Clearly, this is absurd, and it serves no-one’s purpose other than a large distributor such as Empire. As with Amazon, most of the small and mid-sized wine distributors have chosen to warehouse in New Jersey. To force that warehousing to NY would create jobs–always appealing to politicians–but it would doubtless raise the cost of business to the small and mid-sized distributors, likely raising prices for consumers or forcing distributors to trim their portfolios. The worst case scenario is that they would go out of business. Ironically, the 2005 Granholm decision on direct wine shipping could be invoked since this law discriminates against out-of-state products, violating interstate commerce.
Organic Wine Journal’s Editor Adam Morganstern wrote about this last year on Huffington Post:
The most important wine region to New Yorkers isn’t Bordeaux, Tuscany or the Mosel. It’s New Jersey, where almost all the fine wine they drink is warehoused before being delivered to local stores and restaurants. An amendment before the New York Senate would end this practice, and require wines to be stored in-state for 48 hours. Small wholesalers are up in arms, claiming this is an attempt to drive them out of business by the state’s two biggest liquor distributors, Southern Wine & Spirits and Empire Merchants, who already have their storage facilities within state lines.
“It’s two very large companies trying to monopolize the fine wine market by squeezing us out,” says Tina Fischer of Polaner Selections. “It’s bad for our retail and restaurant customers, and bad for consumers. Prices will go up, selections will go down. The only people this is good for are Southern and Empire.”
Here is a video submitted by Jon Torodash, who is running for NYC City Council, where he questions NY State Senator Jose Peralta over his support for the legislation.
by Dani Rozman
on Apr 4, 2013
Paul Shaked and Hudson Solomon opened up The Cleveland in the Nolita neighborhood of New York City in January. The restaurant features an all-organic and natural wine list to match their seasonal American/Mediterranean cuisine. We asked Paul and Hudson to tell us more about the restaurant and their support for organic wine.
What motivated you to exclusively offer organic and natural wines?
Paul Shaked: I was making adjustments to the wine list at my family’s restaurant, Sofia’s of Little Italy. I didn’t have a background in wine, so my only guide was my palate, and what salespeople tried to sell me. Being as my criterion was artisanal technique, it wasn’t long until I discovered the world of organic/natural wine. In my opinion, there are many reasons to serve natural wine, ranging from environmental benefits to supporting small vineyards. The key sticking point above all else, though, was that I find terroir driven, honest wine to be the best tasting.
What goes into putting together a thoughtful wine list?
PS: It’s difficult because you’ll never be able to satisfy everyone no matter how many wines you add to a list. Offering natural wines is a challenge because each cuvée we look at is a limited production wine. As a result, our by-the-glass selections must be on constant rotation. I have to work hard to keep slots filled with quality stuff, but as a built-in bonus, it also means that our guests are assured a tailored, seasonal selection.
How did you decide to open The Cleveland together? What are the advantages and disadvantages of owning a restaurant when you’re both 25?
Hudson Solomon: The Cleveland came about when Paul, who grew up in the restaurant industry, wanted to open up his own restaurant. What came about once we set our minds to it felt very serendipitous; the location at 25 Cleveland Place has a backyard garden and is only a few blocks away from his parent’s restaurant. We wanted to create a place around the garden that embodied that atmosphere. We thought that Mediterranean food, especially with Paul’s background being Israeli, really fit to that image.
PS: I think that our age provides us with stamina and the ability to work hard with the feeling that we’re really investing in ourselves. Some people don’t take us seriously, but we actually like that, because we view it as an opportunity to exceed expectations.
You have one chance to impress a customer with a wine/food pairing – what do you suggest?
HS: If it is a cold night, the NY Strip with beet puree and charred spring onions paired with the Donnas Nebbiolo/Freisa from Val d’Aosta in Northern Italy; it has a palate of rich alpine fruit that pairs excellently with the spices in the beets. We have an excellent trocken/dry Riesling, Clemens Busch grey slate cuvée, that you could pair with our whole roasted Branzino served with large herbed couscous, favas and harissa. Clemens Busch is one of the only biodynamic producers in Germany and it’s awesome to have them on the list – and even more awesome that we get to serve it every night.
Do you prefer reds or whites?
HS: I find more going on with red. The spectrum of flavors is broader, how tannic or full something is how light and fruity. I also find carbonic maceration’s effect on reds to be really interesting; particularly the strength of the initial effervescence and how it dissipates or not as the bottle is decanted or just left to open on its own. Every time you open a bottle of wine it is like reading a new book, it’s always going to be slightly different.
PS: White, almost always.
Can you really taste a difference with organic or biodynamic wine? Are they worth the effort?
PS: I do believe that it is worth the effort. I LOVE natural wine and can totally tell the difference as sulfite levels are reduced.
If we enter the argument of blind taste tests – there obviously are wines that can fool any sommelier. The argument should lend credence to the benefit natural and biodynamic products have to artisanal craft and to the environment: when you put it that way I think organic wins every time. Go to a mass produced winery like Yellowtail and then go to the Monteraponi Vineyard and tell me you don’t see a difference.
Visit The Cleveland online.
Dani Rozman is a wine consultant and contributor to Organic Wine Journal. Photographs courtesy of Daniel Krieger.
by Adam Morganstern
on Apr 2, 2013
Dan Rinke – Winemaker, Johan VIneyards
“Why would you go to school to learn how to make wine? You should learn how to grow grapes.”
After working for restaurants, wine stores and distributors, Dan Rinke developed an interest in organic/biodynamic wines and enrolled in winemaking courses at Fresno State in California. He attended a dinner with Michel Chapoutier and spoke about his intentions. “Why would you go to school to learn how to make wine? You should learn how to grow grapes,” said the famous Rhone producer. Dan soon switched his major to viticulture.
He worked as an assistant winemaker while in school and then answered an ad placed by Dag Johan Sundby – a Norwegian who after traveling the world, and serving as a UN rifleman on the Israeli/Lebanese border, decided he wanted to open a winery in Oregon. Dan says both he and Johan consider it advantageous to be new players in the established wine scene. “We’re a small winery with nothing to live up up to. We can be adventurous and try new things.”
Johan was completely open to Dan’s desire to transition their vineyards to organic and then go further and practice Biodynamics. Their vineyard was certified Biodynamic in 2010 and the winery was certified in 2011. They are producing around 3000 cases annually and sell the excess grapes from their 63 acres to other Biodynamic wine producers. Dan would like to see them double their own wine output in the future, but says selling grapes to other wineries will always be part of their business. They’re even looking into keg wine sales; Oregon is about to pass a growler law for wine sales at restaurants and stores.
They are producing two brands; Johan Vineyards is the flagship label and Farmland is their more affordable line. Their next goal is trying to create their own AVA. Johan Vineyards donate a portion of their proceeds to help lobby for small family farms and help other small producers.
The Johan Vineyards 2009 Nils Reserve came from a hot vintage in the Willamette Valley. “We harvested about two weeks after everyone else.” Great acidity with low alcohol and fruit-friendly. “It’s filtered, which I don’t normally do unless it really needs it.” About 70 cases were made and bottles retail for $45. “Nils” is a family name, which they trade off with “Johan” every generation.
Learn more about Johan Vineyards at johanvineyards.com.