Wine Club August 2018

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Welcome to the August edition of Vine Arts Wine Club! This month we have a diverse group, from a brand new German Riesling to a delicious red blend made by Spain's "Rockstar" winemaker. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to drop us a line. Cheers!

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Avia Chardonnay - Primorska, Slovenia $16.00

Where

Slovenia is a small country bordered by Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. Part of former Yugoslavia, this country of 2.06 million people joined the EU in 1991. Unlike neighbouring Croatia, Slovenia experienced little destruction after gaining independence. It’s diverse terrain includes the European Alps, the Dinaric Alps, the Pannonian and Danubian lowlands and hills, and a thin strip of Mediterranean coast. Mostly alpine or hilly, the only flatlands are located in the northeast of the country. 50% of all vineyards are planted on slopes with gradients between 16% and 30%. Although very diverse, the climate is described as 'sub-Mediterranean’. Slovenia has three key wine regions: Podravje, Primorska, and Posavje.
  

What

Slovenia produces 80 to 90 million liters of wine yearly. Of this, half comes from the eastern region of Podravje. Much is consumed locally. The average Slovenian drinks 40 liters of wine yearly. In fact 1 out of 79 Slovenians are winemakers, producing mostly for personal consumption. The most popular varietals are white, accounting for 65% of all plantings. Familiar names like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay rub shoulders with local varieties such as Ribolla Gialla. There are a total of 37 approved white varietals. The Avia Chardonnay sources grapes from the western subregion of Brda, at the foot of the Julian Alps. The vineyards here are situated between snow capped mountains and the adriatic coastline. The vines are planted to well-drained shale, marl and sandstone soils between 80 to 200 meters above sea level. Cooling sea and mountain breezes assure a moderate temperatures. In the cellar, the hand picked grapes are fermented entirely in stainless steel tanks. Maturation occurs in a combination of 80% stainless steel and 20% French oak barrels.

Who

Avia Wines is owned by Goriška Brda Wine Cellar, a cooperative of 400 winemaking families. Ever since their first harvest, they have been focused on sustainable viticulture. The driving principle is to best showcase the unique terroir of the Brda region. Up until World War II, this area operated under a colanate system where the farmers tended their vines exclusively for aristocratic landowners. With the establishment of the winery in 1957 this feudal system was abolished. The cooperative manages 1200 hectares of vineyards, with each average grower managing less than 2 hectares.

Taste

Pale straw in colour, this Slovenian Chardonnay is crisp and floral. A light palette displays notes of Golden Delicious apple, pear, and honeydew. The finish is refreshingly acidic and balanced with just a little oak spice. Neither overdone or austere, this wine is pleasantly understated, which makes it a great wine to drink solo without food. 

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Maximin Grünhaus Riesling QbA “Maximin” - Mosel, Germany $28.00

Description by importer and owner of Spur Imports, Alex Good

Where

The Maximin Grünhaus Estate is situated in a tiny tributary of the Mosel River in Germany called the Ruwer.  Traditionally, the Mosel region was called the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, because even though it is one wine region, there are two small tributaries off the Mosel river that are distinct – the Saar and the Ruwer.  Today, all three areas are grouped together and simply called ‘Mosel’.  The Ruwer district is tiny, but is home to a surprising number of great vineyard sites and wineries.  The greatest and most historic of all of those is Maximin Grünhaus. It is, in essence, one large vineyard that is divided into three distinct parts with different microclimates and soil series – Abstberg, Herrenberg, and Bruderberg.

What

The Rieslings from the individual vineyard sites are sought-after by enthusiasts and collectors for their extraordinary quality and aging potential.  The off-dry and sweet wines from these three sites in the Kabinett and Spätlese levels are uncommonly long-lived; in great vintages, 40 years of cellaring potential is not out of the question. This Riesling comes from all three of the estate vineyards, and a small handful of other Ruwer vineyards, and a little from the Mosel & Saar districts to create a ‘textbook’ Mosel Riesling for everyday enjoyment. The essence of the Maximin Riesling is to be an enjoyable starting point into the wines of the Maximin Grünhaus estate.  It offers a very concise picture of the style that has been historically desired by the winery – exotic, plush aromatics, buttressed by incredible acid structure, low alcohol, and a very finely measured amount of sweetness.  While most of the wines in the Grünhaus line-up are meant for long aging, the Maximin Riesling defers the need for extended cellaring and instead delivers authentic Grünhaus style for near-term enjoyment.

Who

Documents of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Maximin of Trier state that Riesling has been grown on the Maximin Grünhaus site since at least the year 966, although the discovery of Roman winemaking artifacts on the site suggest that wine was produced at the site since the 2nd century.  The wines of Maximin Grünhaus have been both historic and modern reference points for German Riesling, owing to the unique quality of their vineyard site, and the fact that over the centuries it has benefited not only from being well-situated, but has had a succession of obsessive, quality-focused owners.  In continuous operation for over a thousand years, the Maximin Grünhaus estate has been overseen since the early 1980’s by Dr. Carl von Schubert, whose uncompromisingly high standards have upheld the reputation of the winery as one of the world’s best producers of Riesling.

Taste

The nose shows the typical Grünhaus style which is aromatic and lush, displaying exotic, spicy notes that are a signature of their site. Slate, preserved lemon, honeysuckle, clove, and marmalade and apricot can be found on the nose.  On the palate the mineral/slate quality replays backed by crisp, crunchy acidity, with a flavour of wildflower honey-dipped granny smith apple, sugared lemon, and white peach.  A wonderful window into the wines of this legendary estate. Due to the never-ending versatility of this style of Riesling, there are almost limitless food options to accompany this wine.  It can certainly be enjoyed solo, but the high acidity, low alcohol, and a touch of residual sugar make for an unbeatable combination with a huge variety of food types.  Sichuan dishes like Palace Style Squid or Kung Pao Chicken are wonderful choices, as is Dim Sum.  It is equally impressive with Indian curries like Goat Rogan Josh or Lamb Jalfrezi.  With pork it is perhaps at its most triumphant – anything from crispy pork belly, glazed loin roast, braised pork shoulder, to bbq pulled pork will match perfectly with the Maximin’s sweet/sour character.  An all-time favourite is pan-fried pickerel or whitefish dredged in lemon & pepper seasoning, topped with dill & caper lemon butter sauce.          

 

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Le Grappin Côtes du Rhône Rouge - Rhône, France $31.00

Description by importer and owner of Juice Imports, Erik Mercier

Where

The Rhone Valley in South-Eastern France is home to some of the world's most acclaimed appellations: Hermitage, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côte-Rôtie, and so on. The Northern half of the Rhone Valley is cool and features steep, rocky hills. The south is more sprawling and features sand and dried riverbeds. The town of Nyons, where this vineyard resides, is right between the two climats. This vineyard is on terraces carved into the granite hillside. The vines are ferociously whipped by the northern Mistral, a relentless wind that can chill you to the bone mid-summer. 

What

This wine is made exclusively from Grenache. The sixty + year old vines are pruned into little bushes that cover the hillside. The grapes are hand-picked (the vineyard is way too steep for machine harvesters) and are dumped into a vat, stems and all. The grapes are gently crushed by foot; the wine macerates and ferments for three weeks before being pressed off into neutral burgundy barrels for seven months. 

Who

Andrew Nielson, the proprietor and winemaker of Le Grappin is a true wine geek. The larger than life Australian moved to Burgundy several years ago to pursue his love of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the world’s greatest vineyards. Over the last couple years, he realized he couldn’t produce those wines for entry level prices. He decided to venture further south. He stumbled upon this unbelievable vineyard, farmed organically, perfect exposure, glorious soils, a winemaker’s dream! After three years of crossing our fingers, hoping for an allocation, we can finally drink the wines in Alberta. 

Taste

This wine is a medium purple in the glass. The nose is immediately pleasant with aromas of candied cherries, wild violets, pink peppercorns, juicy plums, and crushed rock. The palate round and buoyant, exactly what you’d expect from Grenache, but with slightly less alcohol. Sweet fruit dominate here with summer strawberries and raspberry compote taking the lead. The tannins are mild but present, and the acidity ushers in a clean, thirst quenching finish. This wine is a wonderful pairing for lamb in all its forms: rack of lamb with wild herbs, lamb burger with pickled red onions, or lamb sausage on the barbeque. Frankly, you can also get this sucker chilled and crush it sans sustenance on a patio.

 

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Dominio de Punctum Pablo Claro Selección Graciano Cabernet Sauvignon - Tierra de Castilla, Spain $23.50

Where

Tierra de Castilla covers a large swath of central Spain. Covering the entire autonomous region of Castilla-La Mancha, it is part of the Vino de la Tierra. Similar to France’s Vin de pays designation, this system is less rigid than the more traditional Denominación de Origen (DO). Located close to the capital of Madrid, the region sits smack-dab in the middle of the arid plains of the Meseta. We’re talking about scorching hot days (reaching 40C) punctuated by cool nights. In the winter, temperatures can drop to below freezing. High elevation vineyards eke out an existence thanks to a handful of rivers that flow towards the Mediterranean Sea.   

What

Only the hardiest grape vines can be grown in this part of Spain. Wineries such as Dominio de Punctum choose to work with a broad palate of varieties. The Pablo Claro red is a blend of Graciano and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from vineyards free of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. Farming of these vineyards abides by organic and biodynamic principles. Most wine drinkers will be familiar with Cabernet Sauvignon, but fewer will be aware of Graciano. This grape, mostly seen in Rioja and Navarra, is rarely grown outside of Spain. An intensely aromatic variety, it is often chosen as a blending partner rather than a one grape show. Naturally low yielding and susceptible to disease, it is less popular with growers. A 50/50 blend, this wine is made fully from estate fruit that is harvested during cooler temperatures at night

Who

Located in the town of Las Pedroñeras and at the north end of La Mancha, Dominio de Punctum is owned by the Fernandez-Cifuentes family. With 8 generations of grape growing under their belt, the family established the estate in 2005. For a region known conventional grape growing, they have set themselves apart by practicing organic and biodynamic farming. The estate currently consists of 200 hectares of vineyards planted at an altitude of 750 meters above sea level. The average age of their vines is 10 years. In the cellar, winemaker Ruth Fernandez utilizes indigenous yeast for fermentation and stainless steel tanks to mature the majority of the wines. 

Taste

This wine really illustrates how Spanish wine can exist in a place between the “New World” and the “Old World”. Fruit forward with touches of spice, it’s a great alternative to the classic Californian field blend. Bold and lush, it delivers ripe notes of blackberry, black plum, coffee spice, and vanilla. Tannins are generous and sweet. A short decanting will let every element fall into place

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Cantine Lungarotti Rubesco - Torgiano, Italy $25.00

Where

North of Rome is the landlocked Italian region of Umbria. The “green heart of Italy”, Umbria is the only region in the country without access to a coastline or international border. Rolling hills capped by medieval villages would make a visitor think they were in Tuscany. The climate in Umbria is similar to it’s more famous neighbour, notable for dry, sunny summers; and wet, cold winters. The regions two most important subregions are Montefalco and Torgiano, both known for red wine. Located south of the capital of Perugia, the town of Torgiano sits 650 feet above sea level and is surrounded by tobacco fields and vineyards. It was the first Umbrian wine region to receive DOC (Denomination of Origin) status.

What

For a wine to be labelled as Torgiano DOC, the blend can include 50-70% Sangiovese, 15-30% Canaiolo, 10 % Trebbiano, and 10% of Ciliegiolo and Montepulciano. The “Chianti of Umbria”, this is the most famous wine of the region. Other wines made from international grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay may be labelled by varietal as long as they contain 85% of that grape. Winemakers can also produce Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG, where the blend is slightly different and the wine must be aged a minimum of 3 years. The Lungarotti Rubesco Rosso di Torgiano DOC is a blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Canaiolo harvested between September and October. The vines are planted to a mixture of clay-sand and limestone soils. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks with 15 days of skin contact, followed by one year maturation in casks, and additional year in bottle. The name Rubesco comes from the Latin verb “rubescere”, “to blush”. This is the signature wine of the estate.

Who
Giorgio Lungarotti put Umbria on the map. Founding his winery in the late 1950’s, he was the first winemaker to introduce modern techniques to the region. In part thanks to his efforts and campaigning, Torgiano received DOC status in 1968. Sisters Chiara and Teresa assumed control of the winery after their father passed in 1999. The estate farms 243 hectares of vines, of which 223 hectares are in Torgiano. In 2000 the estate expanded to include 20 hectares in neighbouring Montefalco, where a second winery was built. All of their vines are farmed according to sustainable principles. Beyond making wine, the Lungarotti name is also known for founding one of the countries finest wine museums, which is today managed by Giorgio’s widow Maria Grazia..

Taste

A benchmark wine for Umbria, this wine displays all of the hallmarks of central Italian wine. Deep garnet in color with a slight brickish rim, the nose is peppered with aromas of plum, tomato, and thyme. On the palate it is concentrated and firm, while still refreshingly acidic. Flavours range from savoury tart cherry, to black tea and bitter orange peels. Roasted meats and tomato heavy dishes are ideal pairing partners.

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Raúl Pérez La Clave - Bierzo, Spain $27.50

Where

The region of Bierzo is located in the northwest corner of Spain in Castilla y Leon. Officially granted DO (denominación de origen) status in 1989, the area benefits from a unique microclimate. To the west, the Atlantic brings an average rainfall of around 28 inches and moderate temperatures. To the east, inland Castile brings warmth and drier conditions. The average temperature is a cool 12°C, with lows of 3.5°C and highs of 24°C. The region is further divided into the two separate subregions of Alto Bierzo (hilly and mountainous) and Bajo Bierzo (flat plains). Both areas benefit from the nearby Cordillera Cantábrica mountain range, which shelters the regions vineyards from harsh weather.

What

Bierzo is no longer a hidden wine region, known only to wine insiders. This largely comes down to the success of one grape: Mencía. Pronounced “Men-thee-ah”, this varietal excels in the predominantly slate and granite soils of Bierzo. Typically producing medium-bodied wines, it is grown exclusively on the Iberian peninsula in Spain and Portugal (where it is known as Jaen). It is particularly fond of the steep hillside vineyards of Alto Bierzo. Tending towards low yields and susceptible to disease, Mencía is a demanding varietal. Its notable acidity is lost when left too long on the vine. As is the case with “La Clave”, Mencía is often blended with other local varieties. The blend here is 90% Mencía, 5% Tempranillo, and 5% Syrah.

Who

Raúl Pérez is the bearded rockstar winemaker of Spanish wine. As a teenager Raúl was already the winemaker at his family's Bierzo estate, Castro Ventosa. Young Raúl wanted to be a doctor, but he was destined to be the most prolific consultant winemaker in the country. Making wine all over Spain, his heart has always been true to his home in the northwest, with projects in Bierzo, Monterrei, Rías Baixas and Ribeira Sacra. Described as “part artisan and part mad scientist”, his approach to vinify wines by separate plots and terroirs has lead to comparisons with Burgundy. Many think that Pérez has been largely responsible for the rise of Mencía, and we applaud him for it.

Taste

Mencía is by nature a floral variety. Aromatically this wine is perfumed with notes of pomegranate, strawberry and rose water. Beaujolais fans may recognize some similarities here. Vibrant maroon in color, the palate yields persistent tannins and bitter pepperiness. A split personality, it is both inviting and a touch brooding. This is excellent food wine. A suitable companion to many roast meats. Try it with chicken piri piri and grilled vegetables.