Antiquum Pinot Noir Juel 2018
During my time at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I was privileged to work with the livestock team on the farm. The team manages a heard of cattle and sheep that co-graze on about 300 acres of pasture. They are constantly gathering data on and perfecting the technique of regenerative intensive grazing, in which animals are moved very quickly from pasture to pasture, stimulating the soil in each spot to enhance the growth of the grassland without ever damaging any spot due to overgrazing. This technique looks extremely promising in improving soil health and storing massive amounts of carbon in the increased organic matter that grows as a result of the grazing.
I bring this up because when I saw how incredible the pasture and soil was at Stone Barns, I immediately thought about how this could be applied to viticulture. Cows would probably destroy a grapevine just by looking at it, but the sheep seemed to be gentle enough that they might be able to work this system onto vineyard land. And, after a bit of searching, I found out that I was not the only one who had come to this conclusion.
Antiquum farm in the southern Willamette Valley is one of those wineries that I discover and am totally dumbfounded why they are not mini wine celebrities. If the current zeitgeist in wine could be defined as those made with balance, terroir focus, and grown with the greatest possible respect for the environment, Antiquum farm's picture would be at the top of the Wikipedia page. They are the only winery that I can find in America that have really based their entire viticultural design on implementing the method of intensive grazing. Here is a little quote from their website to give a bit more insight.
"A flock of Katahdin/Dorper (sheep) crosses are the cornerstone of our fertility management. We use intensive rotational grazing to cycle nutrients from diverse cover crops to the vines. This intermittent grazing creates cycles of root die-off which release and retain microbial life and organic matter. Top dressings of consumed cover crops are carried back to the vine roots by these stimulated microbes and other creepy crawlies. Several years of this practice have lead to a vineyard that needs no fertilizer from outside the farm, creating a unique wine that is truly site-specific."
Needless to say, I was very excited to try their wines based on their farming, but they exceeded my expectations in terms of pure pleasure. The Juel comes from pure estate fruit, and is their Pinot that is blended for the most immediate appeal. Lot's of beautiful red and black fruit, really bright acidity that is balanced by a rich texture. Absolutely delicious wine with just 300 cases produced, and just a few dozen of those made it to NYC.
Vocal Alfaro Vineyard Gruner Veltliner 2015
The vocal is a collaboration project between famed Sommelier Ted Glennon and Ian Brand, last year's San Francisco Wine Chronicle winemaker of the year. The focus of the project is to make great single-vineyard wine from the Santa Cruz mountains, which despite housing some of California's greatest estates such as Ridge and Rhys, remains relatively sparse in terms of wineries. The result is some of the cleanest, most transparent California wines I have tasted in a while, and this bottle, in particular, knocked my socks off.The Alfaro Vineyard is at the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains about four miles from Monterey Bay. Sitting at 500+-feet elevation and facing southwest, right in the path of the wind and fog whipped up by the Bay, its situation and rocky, sandy soils bear a strong resemblance to the vineyards of Gruner Veltliner’s Austrian homeland. It is the only vineyard planted to Gruner in Santa Cruz and must be one of the only in all of California.
But this wine isn't only special in being unique, it also offers an incredible sensory experience. It isn't quite as savory and spicy as many top Gruners from Austria, instead, the wine has this undeniable inflection of the salty sea air of Santa Cruz, yet still with the rich citrus texture of the grape. The few years of bottle age mean that this wine is ripping and ready to go. A totally great wine that is perfect for turkey and green bean casserole.Bedrock Wine Company, The Bedrock Heritage Vineyard Sonoma Valley 2018
Bedrock Wine Co. was started in 2007 by Morgan Twain-Peterson out of a small converted chicken coop in a friend’s backyard. It has since become one of the most important wineries in America and is at the forefront of recovering the legacy of pre-prohibition wine in America. Morgan Twain-Peterson is the son of Joel Peterson, former proprietor of Ravenswood and one of the most famous Zinfandel producers in the country. Whereas his dad has gone mass market, however, Bedrock was founded with the goal of making just a single wine, that of from their family estate's Bedrock Vineyard. They have since expanded (slightly) to work with and protect just a handful of other heritage, pre-prohibition vineyards. But the Bedrock vineyard continues to be the heart and soul of the lineup and their best wine.The Bedrock heritage vineyard was founded in 1854 by Generals William "Tecumseh" Sherman and General "Fightin’ Joel" Hooker, Bedrock Vineyard has grown grapes for over 150 years. Following the first epidemic of phylloxera in the mid-1880s, the vineyard was replanted in 1888 by Senator George Hearst - a mining magnet, an early father of California, and the father of publisher William Randolph Hearst. It is from those 125-year-old vines that the Bedrock Heritage Wine is crafted. The vineyard has over 22 varieties interplanted, but it is mostly made up of Zinfandel. This is one of the great red wines being produced in America, an incredible piece of American history, and the heart and soul of one of America's greatest winemaking family's. It's delicious, steeped in history, and deeply personal; it's basically Thanksgiving in a bottle.