Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Demeter Certification

We've been selling a lot of Hawk and Horse Vineyards wines here lately.  If you go to their website they're all about their biodynamic certification.  Biodynamic is beyond "organic."  When I looked into how many other wineries could claim the certification I was struck by how many do carry this distinction.  They all readily advertise it too which makes sense when you consider they have to pay someone annually to inspect their digs.  You bet they're proud of their certification.

Demeter, by the way, was the Greek goddess of grain and fertility.  She must have resided somewhere prominently in Dr. Rudolf Steiner's consciousness back in 1928 when he started the certification program.  Steiner was a noted scientist in Germany who observed that industrial farming was doing long term harm to the soil and to all of us who rely on farming.  Actually he was confronted with the situation when farmers implored him to investigate why their crops were failing and their animals were sickly.

What Steiner came up with was a solution 180 degrees from the the factory farming model.  Steiner considered a farm to be a living thing, self-contained and self-sustaining.  It should be responsible for creating and maintaining its own health and vitality without adding anything from outside of its boundaries.  That means a farm must have livestock for manure, compost, nutrient catch crops and crop rotation.  It also must have biodiversity, predator habitat, adequate sunlight and air flow.  Any strategies for combating disease, insects, or weeds have to originate at the farm utilizing what is there.  This was the beginning of sustainable farming.

In 1985 Demeter Certification came to America, seventeen years before the USDA started its organic regulatory program.  Demeter remains the sole biodynamic certification program in this country and fifty countries around the world now offer their own Demeter programs.

Please join us this Thursday for the weekly wine tasting at the store.  We start at 5pm and go till 7.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

This Wine Pairs Well With Holidays and Relatives

That's what one of our wine gift bags says.  It's cute and it sells but who's kidding whom: Wine is personal and what one person likes the next person doesn't.  That is, unless it's one of the mass marketed types that is constructed to not offend anyone.  You can confidently pour one of those for friends and family over the holidays and no one will complain...unless they notice the wine has no character.

The way I see it the mass marketers have done two things to further their dominance in the industry.  Through technology they have been able to clean up ordinary grapes to remove bacteria that used to result in unsavory off-flavors and they have added extraneous flavors and texture to their product.  In their efforts to please everyone the mass marketers smooth out all of the wine rough edges and adjust the flavor profile to fit the contemporary palate template.  Unfortunately what can sadly result is a flabby unstructured amorphous wine that no longer has any claim to distinction.

Here are some alternatives that are neither too old world nor completely manipulated.

1.  Trifula "Truffle Dog" Rosso - This Barbera blend from Piedmont (!) Italy is made for the American market with its forward fruit and rich red fruit flavors.  And it's popularly priced!

2.  Chateau de Jarnioux Beaujolais - From Albert Bichot this one has the explosive brilliant Beaujolais fruit and polished profile that no one cannot enjoy.  This is fun wine!

3.  Villa Antinori Toscana Rosso - 100% Sangiovese that seduces with its softness and just enough acidity to keep it interesting.  This one not only complements pasta but any other lighter entree also.

4. & 5.  Need Chardonnay?  Here are a couple that don't go overboard with sweetness or oak.  Rutherford Ranch Napa Chardonnay is 1/2 Steel and 1/2 oak aged.  It is definitely California wine but a step back from being the fully-blown California Chardonnay style.  DMZ from South Africa is my corollary to Rutherford Ranch.  While still a new world venue, South Africa leans European.

6. & 7.  Need Cabernet?  BV Rutherford Napa Cabernet Sauvignon has always been a benchmark in Napa Cabernet.  It's a structured masculine example of what the product is supposed to be - steak wine.  The counterpart currently would be Ferrari Carano Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon which is not really feminine, just more complex with lighter complementary flavors.  Both Cabs offer the muscular grip that good Cabernet needs.

Please join us this Thursday after 5pm when Bob Reynolds presents a tasting of three from Italy and the Niner red blend from Paso Robles.  Then on Monday the 23rd Adam Bess returns for a tasting from his fine portfolio.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

GSM - The Rhone-Style Red Blend

First of all there are two Rhones, the northern Rhone Valley and the southern Rhone Valley.  In the north there is just one red grape, Syrah, and it is the veritable star of the entire valley.  In the southern valley the main grape is Grenache but it has company in the form of Syrah, Mourvedre and a slew of other minor players.  For our purposes here, we'll concentrate on the three majors which are shorthanded to GSM.  All three are indigenous to the region and exhibit an allelopathy or unity of purpose with the other historic plants of the region.  Sage, rosemary, thyme, juniper and lavender are often planted in the vineyards with that influence often finding its way into the makeup of the wine. 

Syrah is one of the great wine grapes of the world.  It offers big spicy dark (forward) fruit flavors of blueberry and plum complemented by black olive and bacon fat aromas.  Firm tannins and structure ensure Syrah will hold fast and improve in the cellar for the long haul.

Grenache is the lightest of the three yet still offers boisterous warm sometimes candied red fruit flavors along with herbs and cinnamon spice, leather and earthiness.  It also has a higher alcohol potential than the others.

Mourvedre adds a deep rich dark red color and flavors similar to Syrah.  It has floral aromas and a persistent length of flavors adding tannins in the process.

When you read their descriptions it's easy to understand why Grenache is the center of the blend.  Syrah adds to the front; Mourvedre, to the finish; and both to the structure and heft of the blend. 

Terroir being what it is and allowing for differences in clonal grape varieties, GSM blends in California and other venues around the world may offer entirely different results.

This Thursday at 5pm we'll be tasting some very special red wines at the store.  One of them may just be a GSM.  Please join us for the event.