Wine Club December 2018

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Season’s greetings! Welcome to the final Vine Arts Wine Club of 2018. For this Christmas edition we have brought together a very fun and tasty lineup of wines. We have also included a delicious bottle of cider perfect for Christmas or New Year’s merry making. If you have any questions, or would like any further details about the wines, please let us know. Cheers!

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2014 Weingut Bürgermeister Willi Schweinhardt Scheurebe - Nahe, Germany $20.75

Where

Situated in southeastern Germany, the Nahe takes its name from the river of the same name that flows through it. A smaller wine region that was originally cultivated by the Romans, it was lesser known up until the 1990’s. Prior to 1971, the wines were sold simply as "Rhine wine". Altogether there are around 4000 hectares of vineyards, which are separated into 7 Grosslagen (wine districts). The topography of the region ranges from flatter sites with loam, loess and sand soils, to steeper sites with distinctive reddish volcanic slate soils. These steep slopes, reminiscent of the neighbouring Mosel region, are particularly difficult to farm.
  

What

Scheurebe (pronounced SHOY-roo-beh) is a white grape variety that was first bred in 1916 by German winemaker Dr. Georg Scheu. The director of the Landesanstalt für Rebenzüchtung, a grape-breeding institute in Alzey in Rheinhessen, he created Scheurebe by crossing Riesling with Bukettraube. The variety is also known as Sämling (German for “Seedling”) 88, which derives from the serial number given to the vine. Accounting for only 1.4% of total German vineyard plantings, it is also a notable variety in Austria. Thanks to its parentage, Scheurebe is similar to Riesling, although less acidic and more aromatic. For this wine, 100% Scheurebe grapes were harvested from estate grown 35 year old vines planted in the vineyards of Rothenberg, Königsschild, Lohrer Berg. Fermented partially with indigenous yeasts, only 300 cases were produced.  

Who

The history of Weingut Bürgermeister Willi Schweinhardt goes all the way back to 1608. Located in Langenlonsheim, a small traditional wine village near the Hunsrück Hills, the 30 hectare estate is today managed by Axel Schweinhardt. The name Bürgermeister, or “mayor”, pays homage to Axel’s grandfather Willi Schweinhardt, who was the mayor of the town from 1946 to 1969. Of his 30 hectares of vines, 50% are planted to Riesling, with additional plantings of Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. 

Taste

This “Scheu” shows distinctive varietal character with notes of black currant, passionfruit, grapefruit, and sage. Light in color and body, the palate is refreshingly acidic with crisp minerality. Slightly grassy, it is an interesting alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. When serving with food, this wine’s sleek delicacy and aromatic intensity make it an excellent option for spicy foods.

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2017 Maetierra Atlantis Hondarrabi Zuri - Txakoli de Álava, Spain $21.00

Where

Called Euskadi in the local tongue, the Pais Vasco is a proudly independent region with a unique identity. The people of the region, the Basque, or the Euskaldunak, have lived in the area for over 7,000 years. Although incorporated by modern Spain, the Basque Country is regarded as an autonomous region by the Spanish constitution. Rolling hills, fertile valleys, and steep mountains, lead north to where the Bay of Biscay carves a dramatic rocky coastline. Land closest to the coast endures 1200 mm of rain a year on average. This is what is referred to as Green Spain. Further inland and sheltered by mountains, the climate shifts towards continental influences. Precipitation is a miserly 300 mm per year. P

What

The production of Txakoli (pronounced "Chac-o-lee") is a key ingredient of Basque culture. This light and zesty white wine is the mainstay of pinxtos bars in Bilbao and San Sebastian, where it is served alongside some of Spain's most delicious small bites. Three DO’s in Pais Vasco are recognized for the production of Txakoli: Txakoli de Bizkaia, Txakoli de Getaria, and Txakoli de Álava. The mainstay Hondarrabi Zuri is the essential variety in all three areas. Named after the town of Hondarribia, this grape is able to cope with the wet and often cold weather of Pais Vasco.

The Maetierra Atlantis Hondarrabi Zuri is made from grapes hand harvested from the youngest of the DO’s to produce Txakoli, Txakoli de Álava. Located very close to the Atlantic, the vineyards here see plenty of rainfall and 20 degree celsius peak temperatures. Sited on steep slopes, the vines are exceedingly difficult to farm. In the winery the grapes are pressed softly through a pneumatic press, and fermented at low temperatures. Although Txakoli can often retain a touch of spritz, this wine is fermented fully to stillness.

Who

Atlantis by Maetierra is a project from the team at the Vintae wine company. Overseen by brothers Ricardo and José Miguel Arambarri, the lineup includes 4 wines made from five different regions in Atlantic influenced northern Spain. Originally an experiment based out of the School of Oenology of La Rioja in southern Pais Vasco, production shifted to a new bodega in Calahorra in 2005. Located next to the Castillo de Maetierra, it is the only winery in the region to focus exclusively on white wines. In his arsenal, winemaker Raul Acha has over 50 wine making vats, ranging between 500 and 40,000 litre in capacity. Combined with the fact that the winery was built semi underground, these vats allow for tightly controlled cool fermentations and the extensive separation of cuvees.

Taste

Very slender in colour and body, the Atlantis is the kind of wine desired for refreshing sips and seafood pairing prowess. Silvery hued, it presents subtle aromas of waxy apples, lemon zest, and wet stones. It’s slim palate is braced by the tangy acidity of citrus fruits. A persistent pinch of spice compliments an invigorating finish. Certainly not a wine shouting at you through a bullhorn, this wine charms in its simplicity. The white wines of Basque Country are served with the best seafood in the world, so this wine deserves a place at the dining table.   

 

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2016 Domaine Lyrarakis Kotsifali - Crete, Greece $21.50

Where

Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, is a land awash in history and mythology. Home to Minoans, Europe’s first advanced civilization, this is where the great hero Theseus dispatched the half-man/half-bull known as the Minotaur. This elongated island spans 260 km from east to west and is no more than 60 km wide. It is largely mountainous with a Mediterranean / North African climate. Visitors to the islands sunny beaches may be surprised to know that snowfall is common at higher elevations in the interior. Most of the vines planted on Crete are located on the north side of the island, sheltered from hot North African winds. Cooled by the Aegean Sea, vineyards are mostly planted higher up, reaching 900 meters above sea level. There are four EU official Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) appellations: Peza, Arhanes, Dafnes and Sitia.   

What

Across Crete archeologists have found evidence of ancient viticulture. Archaic wine presses and terracotta amphorae known as pithos, point to a bygone era of viticulture. Used to store wine, these containers have been recovered all over the Mediterranean basin. One would think that with such favorable beginnings, Crete would be a winemaking veteran. As fate would have it, much of the islands winemaking knowledge was lost during a period of Ottoman rule (1669 to 1898). Modern winemaking didn’t arrive on the island until the 1970’s. Cretan wines are made from a selection of international and local varieties. The light red-skinned indigenous variety Kotsifali is grown exclusively on Crete and it’s Aegean island neighbour, Rhodes. Although commonly blended with Mandilaria, the Lyrarakis Kotsifali is a one variety show. The grapes were hand-harvested from the Alagni area in central Crete, from northeast facing vines planted to loamy sand soils at 500 meters above sea level. Fermentation transpired on skins for 7 days in temperature controlled vats with selected yeasts, with maturation following in barrel.

Who

Domaine Lyrarakis was founded in 1966 in the Cretan village of Alagni. Situated south of the city of Heraklion, this family owned winery has played a pivotal role in saving the islands indigenous varieties from obsolescence. If not for Manolis Lyrarakis and his brother Sotiris, grapes such as Plytó, Dafni, and Vidiano, would have likely been forever lost. In fact, they were the first to ever produce a single varietal Plytó for commercial sale. Today only 6 hectares are planted to this variety on Crete. So small was their winery, that up until 1992 their entire production was sold in bulk. Today the winery is managed by Sotiris’ son Bart, who produces wines from both local and international varieties.

Taste

Although made from an obscure variety, there is something recognizably “Mediterranean” about this wine. Displaying a bright cherry red colour, the nose radiates sunny aromas of black fruits and snappy spices. The medium bodied palate is fruity with round tannins and soft acidity. Despite its reputation for producing wines high in alcohol, this particular Kotsifali is a measured 13%. The finish is soft and peppery. Ready to drink now, or to hold for a few years, this wine will happily marry with meaty plates. The ubiquitous lamb souvlaki is a no brainer.

 

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2017 Château Combel-La-Serre Le Pur Fruit du Causse - Cahors, France $23.50

Where

Located in the southwest of France, Cahors is a wine region 160 km east of Bordeaux. Halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the vineyards of the appellation spread over 40 km along the riverside of the Lot. Downstream from the lux châteaux of the Medoc, Cahors was traditionally kept underfoot by protectionist wine traders in the port of Bordeaux who applied higher taxes to outside wines. Ironically though, Bordelais winemakers would often enrich their wines with the darker bottlings coming from Cahors. Relishing a mixed Mediterranean/Continental/Atlantic climate, Cahors has warmer and sunnier summers than nearby Bordeaux. Receiving less rain, vines need to work deep down into the soil in search of water, increasing sugars and phenolics in the grapes.

What

The hallmark varietal of Cahors is Malbec (known locally as Côt and Auxerrois). The very same Malbec that spread like wildfire in Argentina. When planted in Cahors plateaux of limestone soils, Malbec vines yield concentrated and tannic grapes. Vines planted on gravelly soils closer to the river yield less concentrated and fruitier grapes. With around 4,200 hectares planted to vine, any wine labelled as Cahors must be red and can be blended with up to 30% Merlot and Tannat.

Produced by Château Combel-La-Serre, Le Pur Fruit du Causse is made from 100% Malbec sourced from seven different sites around the village of Cournou. Planted on the clay-limestone Causse plateau, 320 meters above sea level, the vines average 35 years in age and produce only 45 hl/ha. Once hand harvested, the grapes are crushed with 20% of the clusters left destemmed. The fermentation occurs with indigenous yeasts in cement tanks for 10 days. The resulting wine is aged in cement through the winter and bottled in the Spring.

Who

Julien Ilbert was born in Cournou, a short distance away from the village of Cahors. Raised in a winemaking family that farmed not only vines, but also cereal grains and cows, Julien joined the winery in 1998. Up until that time all of the families grapes had been sold to the local cooperative, a practice that Julien would cease. He reintroduced the family estate as Château Combel-La-Serre officially in 2005. His holdings include 26 hectares of vines planted almost solely to Malbec on the Causse plateau. Together with his wife Sophie, Julien has strived to continually elevate the quality of his production and bottle wines that are less extracted and more terroir specific. Certified organic since 2013, they use minimal amounts of sulphur and avoid any unnecessary intervention in the vineyard or the cellar.

Taste

Le Pur Fruit du Causse is the antithesis of brooding Cahors. Bright cherry in colour and medium bodied, the nose combines supple aromas of blackberry and black raspberry, with a note of wet earth that dissipates with a little time in the glass. On the palate it is lifted with lush sour cherry liqueur and plum flavours. The tannins are gripping but not overbearing. Given the attention paid these days to “natural” wines, this Cahors over-delivers with purity of fruit and approachability. Served with a slight chill, this wine will goes well with simple spreads of meat, and decadent dishes such as Tajine de porc aux pruneaux (pork and prune tagine).   

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2016 Weingut Pittnauer Red Pitt - Burgenland, Austria $35.00

Where

A short drive from the capital city of Vienna, the Austrian state of Burgenland is a popular destination for wine lovers and tourists alike. With close to 14,000 hectares planted to vine, it’s the most prolific wine producing region in the country. Part of Hungary until 1929, it still maintains some of its pre-Austrian spirit. In terms of landscape, it is more similar to Hungary than it is to the rest of Austria. Across the border, the Hungarian region of Sopron is essentially an extension of Burgenland. Key to viticulture here, the large and shallow Lake Neusiedl (Neusiedlersee) moderates temperatures and boosts humidity. The lakeside subregions of Neusiedlersee and Neusiedlersee-Hügelland benefit most from this climate, which makes the production of highly sought after sweet white wines possible. Heading south to Mittelburgenland and Sudburgenland at the southeastern edge of Austria, production turns to red wines.

What

The Pittnauer Red Pitt brings together a cuvée of international and Austrian varietals, including Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. A crossing of Saint-Laurent and Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt is the most widely planted red-wine variety in Austria. Blaufränkisch, known as Kékfrankos in Hungary, is planted across Austria but is at its best in Burgenland. Separated by variety, the grapes for this wine were fermented using only indigenous yeasts. Once vinified the wines were kept separate and aged for 18 to 24 months in large 500-litre barriques prior to blending.

Who

Gerhard Pittnauer took over the reins of his families winery in Gols at a difficult time with the unexpected death of his father. Only 18 years old and figuring things out as he went, Gerhard had to learn fast as Austria was in the midst of a devastated wine scandal that had rocked the Austrian wine industry. Consumer confidence was low, so young Gerhard needed to focus on finding a clear direction. He decided from the onset to experiment with Austria’s local varieties. Impressed by the great wines of France, he set out to apply sustainable and biodynamic methods. Manually farming 15 hectares of vines (half of which are rented) and joined by his wife Brigitte, Gerhard strives to create what he calls “living wines”. Combining old-fashioned elbow grease and current technology, in the cellar the couple use a modern pneumatic press and temperature controlled steel tanks to preserve the purity of their fruit.  

Taste

This cuvée showcases the multifaceted nature of Austrian red wines. Combining the tartness and spice of Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch, with the broadness and structure of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon; it is both mouthfillingly flavorful and piquant. A peppy full bodied palate displays notes of cranberry, bramble, and peppery spice wrapped in glossy tannins. A backbone of firm acidity serves to keep everything in place. A juxtaposition of fullness and dexterity, this wine pairs well with grilled meats, and medium to firm bodied aged/smoked cheeses.

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Sea Cider Sassamanash Cider - Vancouver Island, Canada $ 21.50

Where

Sea Cider Farm and Ciderhouse can be found on Vancouver Islands Saanich Peninsula, only minutes from the city of Victoria. Home to the Coast Salish peoples, this is the driest part of Vancouver island. Sitting in the shadow of the Vancouver Island Ranges and the Olympic Mountains, it receives only 635 millimetres of rain annually. Described as Vancouver Islands “Provence”, the landscape consists of flat pastures and rolling hills. Never too far away from the beach, this area has largely been reserved for farmland    

What

Sassamanash, meaning cranberries in the Algonquian language, are grown across the Pacific Northwest. In making the Sassamanash Cider, the team at Sea Cider have brought together BC farmed cranberries and blended them with fermenting apples. Prior to blending, the cranberries were soaked along with hibiscus flowers in eau de vie from their neighbours at Victoria Distilleries. After steeping for 3 months, they were hand crushed in a wooden basket press. The red juice is then added to the apples, lending flavour, bitterness, and a light pink hue. The fermentation finishes with a touch of residual sugar remaining and effervescence. Part of the Canadian Invasion Series, a part of the proceeds from this cider goes to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, to aid in the elimination of invasive species of plants in Canada.

Who

Opened in 2007, Sea Cider Farm & Ciderhouse has 4 hectares of land planted to 1,300 apple trees, made up of over 50 varieties of heritage apples. The types of apples can be broken down into 4 categories: sweets, sharps, bittersweets and bittersharps. Owned by third generation apple grower Kristen Jordan, the farm produces 7,000 cases of organically made ciders every year. Her first orchard was planted in the interior of BC on the shore of Shuswap Lake at Eagle Bay. The next orchards to be planted were on Oldfield Road on the Saanich Peninsula, and a few miles up on Mt. St. Michael Road, where the cidery is today located. Certified organic by the Pacific Agricultural Certification Society, the cidery applies minimal intervention in the orchard and prevents the spread of disease through encouraging soil biodiversity and tree care.

Taste

Kristen intended the Sassamanash Cider to “accompany your Holiday gatherings. Try it with Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner, and everything in between!” Light cerise in colour with fine bubbles, on the nose the combination of fresh cranberry and floral hibiscus draws you in. Crisp and slightly sweet on the palate, a touch of tannin evokes the texture and flavours of a fresh red apple. Refined and unadulterated, this cider is as fresh as a west coast ocean breeze. Serve with your holidays spread, be it turkey or ham.