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The Thief

Our blog was created to help make the world of wine and beer easier to understand and fun to navigate.  There are a million things to know in this industry, we just want to help you understand the latest news and trends from around the globe.  So sit back with your favorite sip and let's go on an adventure.

 

Allan Crum
 
August 3, 2020 | Allan Crum

Sparkling Wine Style Guide & Info About the 6 Battle Bubbles Wines

BATTLE BUBBLES 6-PACK - SHOP HERE

Sparkling wine labels can be confusing as heck. Traditional method, Charmat method, brut, extra dry, Prosecco, Cava, Champagne, BLAARGH...I just want bubbles in my glass!!! Here’s a handy guide to help you find the right bottle the next time you’re celebrating a promotion, an anniversary, or even a Tuesday.

Traditional Method - The method used for Champagne, Cremant, and other fine sparkling wines around the world. First, the grapes are picked and pressed, just like regular white wine. The juice is then fermented, usually in stainless steel tanks or oak barrels depending on the winemaker’s preference. The highly acidic still wines that are produced are called the vin clairs. These are blended with reserve wine from previous vintages (unless the producer wants to make a single vintage wine) before being bottled with a small amount of yeast and sugar. As the yeast ferments the sugar, it produces carbon dioxide. This trapped CO2 from the second fermentation stays in the bottles. Blammo, we’ve got bubbles.

As the yeasts die, they drop out of the wine and form sediment in the bottle known as lees. The amount of time a sparkling wine spends on the lees has a huge impact on its aroma and flavor, contributing notes of baking bread or roasted nuts which round out and soften the wine.

After the lees are removed through a process known as disgorgement, the wine is dry and still very tart, so a small amount of sugar is often added to balance the wine. This is the dosage, and it determines the finished sweetness of the wine. Brut is the most common level (~12g sugar), but drier styles have become more popular recently, with some producers choosing to forgo this step in favor of brut nature or zero dosage wines (more on that later).

Cava - Spanish (Catalonian) DO that produces traditional method sparkling wines, often based on Macabeo, Parellada, and Xarel-lo. Often excellent quality vs price.

Prosecco - Italian DOC or DOCG in the Veneto and Friuli (northeastern Italy), often produced from the Glera grape (itself formerly known as Prosecco, recently renamed to avoid confusion). Made in the Charmat method, where a wine is refermented in tank, rather than in each bottle as with the traditional method. The lower production cost allows Prosecco to be sold at very reasonable prices.

Sweetness - The sweetness of a sparkling wine is determined by the residual (unfermented) sugar. In the traditional method, the winemaker will often add a dosage of wine and sugar after disgorgement. In the Charmat or tank method, a dosage is often added after sterile filtration.

Here are the sweetness levels for European sparkling wines:

Brut Nature - 0-3g/l. No added dosage, the driest of the dry.

Extra Brut - 0-6 g/l. Not to be confused with Extra Dry.

Brut - 0-12 g/l. The most common sweetness level. Still drinks fairly dry because of sparkling wine’s high acidity.

Extra Dry - 12-17 g/l

Demi-Sec - 32-50 g/l

Dulce - 50+ g/l

If you’d like a sparkler with more perceptible acidity, a drink to pair with a full meal from salad to main course, head for drier climes. If you prefer a softer, fruitier sparkling wine, or you need something to pair with dessert, aim for the sweeter end of the spectrum. Most importantly, taste a range of styles and learn what you prefer. After all, bubbles are about enjoying yourself!


BATTLE BUBBLES 6-PACK - SHOP HERE

Juve Y Camps Reserva de la Familia Cava Brut Nature 2016

  • Cava
  • 40% Xarel·lo, 30% Macabeo, 20% Parellada, 10% Chardonnay
  • Full malolactic fermentation
  • Traditional method
  • Aged on lees for 36 months before disgorgement
  • Brut nature, meaning zero dosage
  • Orange peel, white grapefruit, almond

Camp Viejo Cava Brut Rosé NV

  • Cava
  • 100% Trepat
  • Traditional method
  • Aged on lees for 9 months
  • 9g/l sugar
  • 89 points WW
  • Raspberry, strawberry, tarragon

Clos Lentiscus Rosé Brut Nature

  • Penedes, Catalonia
  • 70% Carinyena, 30% Xarel-lo
  • Certified organic vineyard
  • Zero So2 added
  • Native yeast fermentation
  • Traditional method
  • Unfined, unfiltered
  • Brut nature, meaning zero dosage
  • Plum, red cherry, jamon

Cleto Chiarli Vecchia Modena Lambrusco di Sorbara 2018

  • Lambrusco
  • 100% Lambrusco di Sorbara
  • Charmat or tank method
  • No malolactic fermentation
  • 2 months on lees
  • 8g/l sugar
  • 93 points JS, 90 points WE
  • Orange rind, tangerine, ginger

Sommariva “Il Rosa” Spumante Brut Rosé

  • Veneto
  • 90% Raboso, 10% Pinot Noir
  • Clay soil
  • Handpicked
  • Fermented in stainless steel
  • No malolactic fermentation
  • Charmat or tank method
  • 12g/l sugar
  • Raspberry, rainier cherry, lemon basil

Bisol Jeio Brut Rosé NV

  • Veneto
  • 50% Merlot, 50% Pinot Noir
  • Cold maceration for 36 hours
  • Cold fermentation for 15 days
  • Charmat or tank method
  • 10g/l sugar
  • 92 points JS
  • Cantaloupe, dried strawberry, cherry pit

BATTLE BUBBLES 6-PACK - SHOP HERE

Time Posted: Aug 3, 2020 at 5:39 PM
Allan Crum
 
July 27, 2020 | Allan Crum

Sicilian Scirocco (Not just a bunch of hot air) & Info on our Etna Whites 3-Pack

We love the pyrotechnic wines of Mt. Etna, but it would be a shame to forget about the wines from the rest of Sicily. The shop just received a large shipment from one of our favorite Sicilian producers: COS. This is the hottest week of the summer so far, so it seems appropriate to daydream about olive trees, fried eggplant, and spicy wine.

COS was founded in 1980 when three friends purchased an old estate in Vittoria, in southeastern Sicily. At the time, they were the youngest producers in the region. Sicilian wine was just beginning to wake from its post-phylloxera, post-war slumber, and its wines were often marked by a tarry rusticity that is the hallmark of inelegantly made Nero d’Avola. COS quickly established a new paradigm with fragrant, energetic wines based on two local red varieties: Nero d’Avola and Frappato.

Nero d’Avola is the darker varietal of the two. Giusto Occhipinti (the O in COS, and Arianna Occhipinti’s uncle) likens it to Syrah. It has many of the same structural and aromatic qualities, with dark plummy fruit, black pepper, and violets, as well as the ability to retain acidity in Sicily’s warm Mediterranean climate. Frappato is lighter, with red berries (especially strawberry) and intense florality, reminiscent of Cru Beaujolais.

COS bottles several monovarietal renditions of Nero and Frappato, but the varieties really shine when they’re blended. Sicily’s only DOCG, which COS was instrumental in establishing, is Cerasuolo di Vittoria (“cherries of Vittoria”), which must be a blend of 50-70% Nero d’Avola and 30-50% Frappato. Nero d’Avola provides structure and density while Frappato brings lift and aromatic potency. This inherent balance, especially when combined with limestone soils and COS’s attentive organic viticulture, makes for a sun-kissed, unabashedly Mediterranean wine with surprising vivacity and freshness.

Their pursuit of freshness does not end in the vineyard. COS was one of the first wineries in Italy to revive the ancient practice of fermenting and aging wines in unlined terracotta amphora (that’s big clay pots to you and me). The amphoras are neutral vessels that allow the wine’s fragrance to shine without the obstruction of oak, while their porosity provides small amounts of oxygen (as opposed to an anaerobic stainless steel tank).

The wines of COS are distinctive and iconic (much like their squat, old-timey bottles), and they have helped to revive the winemaking industry in Sicily. Fry up some eggplant, boil some pasta, and enjoy a bottle or two as the summer heat shimmers.

Click red names to shop:

COS Pithos Rosso Amphora 2016

COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2015

COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico delle Fontane 2012

Azienda Agricola COS Contrada Nero D'Avola 2011

 

Some of our other favorite Sicilian producers -

Arianna Occhipinti - the student becomes the master. Arianna formed her domaine at 22, after helping her uncle for several harvests. Her wines share many qualities with COS’s, from organic viticulture to cutting edge winemaking. Her Frappato is frankly Burgundian.

Arianna Occhipinti Frappato IGT 2017

 

Feudo Montoni -  a new addition to the shop. Value priced, well-made wines for a Tuesday pasta.

Feudo Montoni Lagnusa Nero d'Avola 2016

Feudo Montoni Vigna del Masso Catarratto 2017

 

Il Censo - Another organic producer, inspired by Umbrian legend Paolo Bea. Deep, dark, Syrah-y Nero d’Avola perfect for roasted lamb.

Il Censo Provvido 2016

 

Colosi - a shop favorite, punches well above its price. Screams for anything with grill marks.

Colosi Nero d'Avola 2018

 

Planeta - wonderfully floral Frappato makes a great red wine pairing for lighter fare, including rich seafood.

Planeta Frappato Sicilia Vittoria DOC 2017

 

Tasca d'Almerita - Salty, spicy Grillo from near Marsala. A maritime white for squid, shrimp, or even, gasp, green vegetables.

Tasca d'Almerita Mozia Fondazione Whitaker Grillo 2018


Volcanic Etna Whites 3-Pack, SHOP HERE

“Etna is like an immense house cat who quietly roars and sometimes wakes up, yawns, with sluggish stretching and, of a distracted paw, now covers a valley now another, erasing villages, vineyards and gardens. And just as Eliot's cats have three different names: Etna, Mongibello, and the third secret. Immense. " Leonardo Sciascia

Tenuta di Fessina Erse Etna Bianco 2016

  • Named for the Greek goddess of dew
  • 80% Carricante, 20% Catarratto and Minnella
  • Volcanic sand
  • 50-100 year old vines
  • 3,000 foot elevation
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • 91 points WE, 90 points VM
  • Lemon, green pear, verbena

Benanti Etna Bianco 2018

  • 100% Carricante
  • Volcanic sand
  • East and South Etna
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • 2,000-3,000 foot elevation
  • 20-60 year old vines
  • Green apple, white flowers, smoked salt

Tenuta de la Terre Nere Etna Bianco 2018

  • 60% Carricante, 25% Catarratto, 10% Grecanico, 5% Minnella
  • Volcanic sand
  • North side of Etna
  • 25-60 year-old vines
  • Certified organic
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • 93 points JS
  • Dried apple, preserved lemon, sea spray

SHOP HERE

Time Posted: Jul 27, 2020 at 4:54 PM
Allan Crum
 
July 22, 2020 | Allan Crum

Walla Walla Valley Summer Celebration Wine Packages

Walla Walla Red Wine 3-Pack, SHOP HERE

Vital Wines Quintessence Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Vital is a non-profit winery founded by Ashley Trout of Brook & Bull working for better healthcare for vineyard and cellar workers. Many of the materials are donated by Washington state vineyards and wineries.

Time & Direction Syrah 2017

Time & Direction is a boutique, Rhone focused winery run by one-man-show, ex-sommelier, and former Thief employee Steve Wells. His Syrahs have already received high accolades from several wine publications, and he is just getting started.

Prospice Merlot 2017

Prospice Wines consists of the winemaking duo Jay Krutulis and Matt Reilly. Their first shared project was a WWCC Merlot, and now years later they continue to produce fantastic “f@#$@$% Merlot!” Take that Miles.

Walla Walla White Wine 3-Pack, SHOP HERE

itä 2 of 2 Semillon 2019

itä Wines is a new winery from WWCC Enology program graduate Kelsey Albro Itämeri. She crafts elegant, balanced wines from high elevation vineyards on Walla Walla’s east side.

Rotie Cellars Grenache Blanc 2018

Rotie’s Sean Boyd has been a driving force in Walla Walla’s Rhone scene for more than a decade, producing wines with power and finesse from some of the region’s finest vineyards.

Aluvé Estate Chardonnay 2018

Kelly and JJ of Aluvé Winery use estate-grown fruit from the vineyard adjacent to their home for this succulent, ripe Chardonnay. After 20+ years in the Air Force, harvest is a breeze.

Celebrate Rosé! Walla Walla 6-Pack, SHOP HERE

Lagana Pinot Noir Rosé 2019

Jason Fox sources the Pinot Noir for his rosé from Breezy Slope Vineyard, one of the highest elevation vineyards in Walla Walla. The elevation helps this notoriously finicky variety hold its acid, making it perfect for refreshing rosé.

Grosgrain Blush 2019

This dry, concrete fermented Grenache rosé from Matt and Kelly Austin is a cheeky nod to the California Blush wines of the past, though it’s done in the light, refreshing house style of this new winery.

Smak Summer Rosé 2019

A local rosé pack is not complete without one of Fiona Mak’s delicious bottles. Her label is rosé exclusive, with releases reflecting the changing seasons. Rosé all year!

Hoquetus Cabernet Franc Rosé 2019

Advanced Sommelier Robert Gomez’s new label, with its striking artwork and thoughtfully crafted wines, has quickly become a shop favorite. He hit it out of the park with this rosé from Blue Mountain Vineyard.

El Corazon Red Frog 2019

El Corazon is a party, and Spencer Sievers is the MC/DJ/disco ball/Winemaker. This Malbec rosé will cool you down like a lake in July. Rbbbbt.

The Walls Cruel Summer Rosé 2019

This blend of Grenache and Syrah from French Creek Vineyard is always one of our favorite rosés, and the new vintage has not disappointed. Consulting winemaker Todd Alexander has produced an aromatic, fresh pink to beat the Walla Walla heat.

Time Posted: Jul 22, 2020 at 9:00 AM
Allan Crum
 
July 15, 2020 | Allan Crum

Brunch Drinks Pack a Punch

Brunch Sippers 3-Pack, SHOP HERE

There are some wines that are meant for contemplation, for decanting and incanting, for polished goblets and crystal flutes, for making new friends and for shaming your enemies - wines that scoff at crudité and salads, that demand steaming hunks of beef like a demi-god demands at a sacrifice.

These, however…these are decidedly not those wines. These are wines for a pool, or a boat, a sprinkler in the backyard, or a sprinkler in a pool on a boat. These are wines for grass and sunshine. These are wines for brunch and prolonged brunching. Brunch isn’t just a meal, it’s your own personal holiday, and you get to pick the date.

These wines are gulpable and unpretentious, the perfect base for a brunch drink, or brunch punch, if you will. Try one of these out the next time you’re tired of mimosas. Heck, try them out when you’re sick of orange juice – we won’t tell.

Zardetto Bellini

2 ripe white or yellow peaches

1 bottle Zardetto Private Cuvée Brut

Blanch peaches for 1 minute in boiling water. Remove to ice bath. Peel peaches, then cube, removing pit. Blitz in food processor or blender. In a flute, combine 1 part peach puree with 2 parts Zardetto. Presto!

Cappelletti Rosé Spritz

1 part Cappelletti (can substitute Aperol or Campari)

3 parts Rosé Limé

Serve with a slice of lemon or orange. Put on a caftan and pretend you’re in Miami.

Bugey Cerdon Sorbet Float (don’t you dare judge me)

Valpolicella lovers in need of a summer beverage – this one is for you! Add a small scoop of Colville St. Patisserie rhubarb sorbet to a mug of ice-cold Raphael Bartucci Bugey Cerdon. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, make your own watermelon-orange sorbet.

Watermelon-Orange Sorbet

½ ripe watermelon, cubed

Zest from one small orange

Warm water, as needed

Place watermelon cubes on a lined baking sheet. Freeze for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight. Place frozen watermelon chunks and orange zest in a food processor or blender, allowing 5 minutes to begin thawing. Blend until smooth, pressing down with a spatula and adding warm water in small increments to facilitate smoother texture. Santé!


Brunch Sippers 3-Pack, SHOP HERE

Zardetto Private Cuvée Brut

  • Located in Prosecco
  • 60% Glera, 25% Chardonnay, 15% Moscato
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • 12g/l residual
  • Navel orange, white peach, orange blossom

Rose Limé

  • Entre-deux-Mers, Bordeaux
  • Popular in the cafes and brasseries of Paris in the 1950’s
  • Red fruit and citrus aromas
  • Touch of fizz
  • Lemon, grapefruit, cherry

Raphael Bartucci Bugey Cerdon

  • Savoie
  • 95% Gamay, 5% Poulsard
  • Certified organic
  • Taught by Pierre Overnoy and Marcel Lapierre
  • No added sulfur
  • Native yeast fermentation
  • Method ancestral - bottled before primary fermentation has finished. Trapped CO2 provides effervescence.
  • Disgorged
  • Off dry
  • Strawberry, plum, dried orange

Time Posted: Jul 15, 2020 at 2:04 PM
Allan Crum
 
July 7, 2020 | Allan Crum

The Thief Staff's Favorite Pairings for Grilling

The staff of the Thief likes to eat nearly as much as we like to drink wine. Spicy Spanish red wines are a no-brainer when you’re grilling, but here are a few more ideas to get you through the summer.

(Click name in red to shop)

Emily - Argentine-style steak with chimichurri sauce paired with Laurel Priorat.

Karin - Chipotle marinated flank steak and grilled tomatillo salsa with Lapostolle Carmenere.

Matt (that’s Curly to you) - Peppered ribeye with Produttori del Barbaresco Montestefano 2013, or coconut grilled shrimp with Pichot Vouvray.

Devin - Honey-cider vinegar glazed pork chops with Château d’Orschwihr Riesling.

 

As for me (Allan), I recently wrote about a great experience with slow-grilled pork brisket and lightly chilled Beaujolais-Villages from Foillard, but I also love harissa grilled lamb with Hervé Souhaut Syrah. I’m kind of surprised no one called for steak and Champagne!


Spanish Reds for BBQ Season 3-Pack, SHOP HERE

 

Primitivo Quiles Raspay 2012

  • Alicante
  • 100% Mourvedre (Monastrell)
  • 80 year old vines
  • Destemmed, lightly crushed
  • Aged 24 months in neutral American oak barrels
  • 91 points VM
  • Dried cherry, raspberry, leather

  

Vegas Altas Tempranillo 2018

  • 100% Tempranillo
  • Extremadura
  • Biodynamic viticulture
  • Clay soils
  • Native yeast fermentation
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • Unfiltered
  • Dried strawberry, cranberry, licorice

Camins del Priorat 2018

  • Priorat
  • 40% Garnacha, 20% Samsó (Carignan), 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, plus others
  • Alvaro Palacios
  • Regional blend of 101 blocks from 8 villages
  • Organic viticulture
  • Destemmed
  • Fermented in stainless steel, cement, and large format oak
  • Aged in barrels and wood vats
  • 94 points JS, 91 points WA
  • Raspberry, fennel, slate
Time Posted: Jul 7, 2020 at 10:08 AM
Allan Crum
 
June 23, 2020 | Allan Crum

Grenache Innovation & Groovy 3-Pack

Grenache Innovation

The oldest Grenache vines in the world, planted in 1848, McLaren Vale, Australia

“Yes, there are some pretty things in life.”

-Louis Reynaud, Chateau Rayas, over a glass of Grenache.

 

Grenache is a warm hug in the sunshine from an old friend.  It’s a joyful variety, filled with red fruit and spice draped in a soft, silky texture. Unlike Pinot Noir, another thin-skinned variety, it is precocious and generous, sometimes to a fault. In fact, one of the few criticisms of Grenache is that it often carries too heavy of a crop. Randall Grahm, Grenache innovator and enthusiast, says that it “really walks a fine line between elegance and rusticity.”

As a vine, it thrives in hot, dry, windy locales where less exuberant varieties would struggle. Grenache probably hails from the Spanish region of Aragon (also known as Strider, ranger of the North) between Madrid and Barcelona, though Sardinia also claims it as its own (known regionally as Cannonau). It swiftly spread throughout the world’s Mediterranean climates. In France, its pepper and raspberry intensity became the hallmark of southern Rhône blends like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas. Grenache was also used to bolster prestigious wines from regions with more marginal climates: 19th and early 20th century negociants in Burgundy bought large quantities of Gigondas to stiffen and sweeten poor vintages of Pinot Noir (much like the relationship between the Bordelaise and the sturdy Syrahs of Hermitage).

Grenache was planted around the same time in Australia, especially in the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, for fortified wine production. While the Australian government has occasionally subsidized vine-pulling, many old vineyards still endure, including the oldest commercial Grenache vineyard in the world. Taras Ochota, owner and winemaker of Ochota Barrels, started his company with a 70-year old Grenache vineyard he named Fugazi (after an 80s rock band formed by Ian MacKaye, a famous teetotaler). He discovered the vineyard during a heat spike. Younger surrounding vineyards were struggling with the heat, but the deep-rooted old vines were verdant and healthy, with small clusters of intensely flavored fruit.

Age seems to tame some of Grenache’s difficult tendencies throughout the world. Patrick Comiskey described early efforts in California as ”a large-pawed puppy that refused to settle down. While you might appreciate the exuberance, you may long for a little gravitas.” Age brings yields down, trading exuberance for efficiency (like it often does in us as well).

Grenache is one of the few varieties that everyone in the shop seems to love. As a thin skinned, low acid variety, the wines are unique in that much of their structure comes from their ripeness and alcohol. Some producers, especially old-school producers in the Rhône and the new kids on the block in Australia, use whole cluster fermentation to fortify the tannins of Grenache. Earlier picked examples often smell like fresh strawberries and white pepper, while riper examples can lean towards black cherry or currant with accents of licorice root. Regardless of the country of origin, ripeness, or vinification, a glass of Grenache should always be fun.

Sierra de Gredos, Spain


Groovy Grenache 3-Pack, SHOP HERE

Granito del Cadalso 2017

  • Vinos del Madrid
  • Bodega Cooperativa Cristo del Humilladero, co-op of over 400 families
  • Winemaking consultation by Dani Landi and Fernando Garcia of Comando G
  • 100% Grenache
  • 20-70 year old vines
  • 15-20 day maceration in concrete
  • Aged 6 months in concrete
  • 92 points Jeb Dunnuck
  • Raspberry, orange peel, jamon

Ochota Barrels The Green Room 2019

  • Mclaren Vale
  • 82% Grenache, 18% Syrah
  • Planted 1946
  • Limestone and schist
  • 85% whole cluster fermentation
  • 28-88 day maceration
  • Aged 2 months
  • Unfined, unfiltered
  • Red plum, black cap, thyme

Rhône By Roger Sabon 2017

  • Cotes du Rhône
  • 85% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Cinsault
  • Clay and limestone
  • 10-15 day maceration
  • Aged 6 months in tank
  • 91 points Jeb Dunnuck
  • Raspberry, dried strawberry, fennel

Groovy Grenache 3-Pack, SHOP HERE

Time Posted: Jun 23, 2020 at 8:40 PM
Allan Crum
 
June 16, 2020 | Allan Crum

Regional Viticulture & Jet-Setting Pinot Noir & Chardonnay

Regional Viticulture - Where vs. How

Chuy Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Chardonnay

Puligny-Montrachet, Cote de Beaune, Chardonnay

Both of the above vineyards are planted to Chardonnay, though that is where their similarities end. Chuy Vineyard (RIP) was planted at very low density in a warm, Mediterranean climate with vigorous soils. The Puligny-Montrachet climat is planted at a very high density on meager limestone and clay soils in a cool, wet, continental climate. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir call Burgundy home, but they are perfectly happy in California, Oregon, or Patagonia. Grapes generally travel well (looking at you, Nebbiolo), and lucky for us they like to talk about where they are from. A tropical, full-bodied, lush Chardonnay probably comes from a warm climate, whereas a steely, lemony version most likely hails from a more marginal region.

Most winemakers will tell you that fine wines are made in the vineyard. They’ll also tell you, “If you want to make Chablis, you should probably move to Chablis.” Regional identity is not just about weather, soil, and aspect (what I think of as the where of a vineyard). Farming techniques, the how, can also have a huge impact on the finished wine. Just like the Cru system rigidly defines the geographical boundaries of individual Burgundian vineyards, the appellation system also sets limits on yields, styles of pruning, vineyard density, and other viticultural practices. The set-up and farming of a vineyard is the integration of people with a place. You have to answer both of the questions: the how as well as the where.

These Assyrtiko basket vines in Santorini are shaped by the black volcanic soils, the whipping winds, and the beating sun of the island. They are also literally shaped by human hands to compensate for these environmental pressures. The basket pruning protects the clusters from the wind, and the sparse planting density allows the vines to survive with very little rain. Let’s explore some of the regional farming choices that create the wines we love.

Bethel Heights Vineyard, Willamette Valley, Pinot Noir

Romanee Conti, Cote de Nuits, Pinot Noir

Density

Density is the number of vines in a given area, usually calculated by acre or hectare. The Pinot Noir vineyards above show two different regional approaches. Bethel Heights, one of the oldest vineyards in the Willamette Valley, was planted at fairly low density, with wide vineyard rows and lots of space between the vines. Romanee Conti, like most of the vineyards in Burgundy or Bordeaux, is planted much more densely, with 4,000 vines per acre. This becomes consequential when we look at yield on a per plant basis. In order to produce 2 tons/acre (which is close to the maximum allowed yield for Grand Cru vineyards), each of the Burgundian vines will only have to produce 1 pound of Pinot noir grapes, whereas the vines in Oregon need to crank out 5 times as much fruit per vine!

Vine Structure

Gobelet-trained vine in Châteauneuf du Pape

Vines come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny single-guyot vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux to hulking head-trained, spur pruned vines in Lodi or Mendocino, some of which have to be picked using a ladder. Each vine is touched every dormant season, usually by human hands, blending, sculpting, and farming. Oftentimes a region will have its own signature style, as in Châteauneuf du Pape’s gobelet vines (Syrah is the only variety that is allowed to be trellised there, as its sprawling growth makes it difficult to head train).

Vine Material

Before the advent of certified clones, vines were propagated more like loaned books. Exceptional vines would be replicated, traded, and passed around. Many vignerons still refuse to plant certified clones, preferring to propagate massale selections from distinctive vines within their own vineyards. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are both known for their diverse selections. There are hundreds of clones of each, some sanctioned, some illicit (suitcase clones). Oregon’s early wine industry was built on the backs of just two Pinot selections: Pommard and Wadenswil. California has many heritage selections, often named after famous vineyards and winemakers (Swan, Calera, Mt. Eden, etc).

For whites, it’s hard to imagine what the California Chardonnay landscape would look like without Wente clone, often called shot Wente because of its propensity for “shot” berries (millerandage). This old selection has become highly sought after because of its distinctive aromas and ability to retain acidity in California’s sun.

 

There are many, many other cultural and regional vineyard choices that impact the way the vines grow and how a finished wine tastes, such as vineyard floor management, canopy management, or irrigation. The next time you’re drinking a bottle of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, whether it be from Burgundy, Oregon, or California, remember that you’re not just tasting the grape, you’re not just tasting the dirt – you are tasting the choices made at every step by the people involved.

 


 

Jet-Setting Pinot Noir & Chardonnay 6-Pack - SHOP HERE

Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Pinot Noir VV 2017

  • 100% Pinot Noir
  • Cote de Beaune and Cote Chalonnaise
  • 30-80-year-old vines, average 50 years old
  • 4000 vines per acre
  • Clay and limestone soils
  • Native yeast fermentation
  • 80% barrique aging, 20% stainless steel
  • Red cherry skin, strawberry, clove

Maison Nicolas Potel Macon-Villages Blanc 2016

  • 100% Chardonnay
  • Handpicked
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • Bosc pear, honey, fresh almond

Hahn SLH Pinot Noir 2016

  • Santa Lucia Highlands AVA
  • Estate-grown
  • ⅓ new French oak aging for 11 months
  • 91 points WE, 90 WS, 90 points VM
  • Black cherry, blackberry, oolong tea

Flowers Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2017

  • West Sonoma Coast
  • Aged in <20% new French oak for 11 months, then stainless for 3 months
  • 94 points James Suckling, 93 points WE, 90 points WA
  • Orange blossom, fresh pineapple, allspice

McKinlay Vineyards Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2018

  • Willamette Valley AVA
  • Dry farmed
  • Native yeast ferment
  • Up to 25% new French oak, depending on vintage
  • Unfined, unfiltered
  • Strawberry, rose, cola

Big Table Farm The Wild Bee Chardonnay 2018

  • Willamette Valley AVA
  • Barrel fermented in French oak
  • Native yeast fermentation
  • Unfined and unfiltered
  • 93 points James Suckling
  • Green apple, lemon curd, pie dough

 

Jet-Setting Pinot Noir & Chardonnay 6-Pack - SHOP HERE

Time Posted: Jun 16, 2020 at 9:11 AM
Allan Crum
 
June 10, 2020 | Allan Crum

Headlong into Summer: Panzanella and Italian Wine for Long Evenings

Tuscan Sangiovese at Salvioni la Cerbaiola

"Only two things money can't buy,

That's true love and homegrown tomatoes."

-       Guy Clark

 

There will come a point this summer when someone you care about will offer you a garbage bag full of ripe tomatoes. You will take the bag, thank them, and promptly make yourself a BLT, or an A(vocado)LT if you don’t eat meat, or a T(urkey)BLAT if you like attempting to eat sandwiches that are too tall to eat. In the following days, maybe you’ll enjoy your tomatoes plain, just sliced with a little olive oil, flaky salt, and black pepper. Perhaps there is a Caprese salad or two in your future. Somehow, you’ll whittle your way through the giant pile of lovingly-grown tomatoes, thanking your friend with every ruby slurp. How did you make it through the previous 3 seasons without a real, ripe tomato?

There will also come a point this summer when that same loved one will show up on your doorstep with an even larger “put the money in the bag” bank robbery-style duffel filled to the brim with tomatoes that are approximately 27-minutes from overripe. There will probably be a cloud of fruit flies, and your friend will have a wild, desperate look in their eyes. Today is the day - you’ll think - break out the confetti. We have reached Peak Tomato.

It happens every year. Driven mad by 6+ consecutive months without a decent tomato, amateur gardeners throughout town will plant an array of heirloom varieties, filling their yards/garden boxes/highway medians to the brim. “Look how tiny those seeds/starts are,” they’ll think, forgetting the tomato leaf jungles of the previous summer, “I should put in a few more.” The tomatoes will grow tall and heavy in the Walla Walla sun, propped and cradled by cages like deliciously swaying suspension bridges.

This year’s quarantining has led to an explosion of gardening. Everyone has been trapped at home with images of empty supermarket shelves. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but I’m predicting a Peak Tomato season the likes of which this county has not seen in decades. Luckily, many folks have also been experimenting with bread baking. Tomatoes + Homemade Bread + a few odds and ends = Panzanella! Panzanella is a Tuscan bread and tomato salad that is delicious, easy to make, and infinitely customizable. Toss in some cheese, omit the olives, trade the basil for some other leafy herb, add some arugula, etc. As long as you’ve got tomatoes, a country loaf, and good olive oil, you’re set. It’s never too early to prepare for Peak Tomato!

Pair your Panzanella with a medium-bodied, Sangiovese-based wine from Tuscany, like the ones found in our Italian six-pack. Sangiovese’s combination of red fruit flavors (especially cherry), fresh acidity, and savory balance of leather, clove, and yes, even tomato leaf, make it a fantastic pairing with homegrown tomatoes. As always, the original rule of wine pairing applies - drink what they drink in the region that the food is from.

 

Panzanella

1 loaf of homemade bread, regardless of how successful, cut into 1” cubes

15-20 basil leaves, torn or chiffonaded

1 cucumber

Some amount of homegrown tomatoes, up to and including 1 metric garbage bag full. (or, ya know, 2 of them), cut into bite sized chunks

½ red onion or 1 large shallot, thinly sliced

½ cup olives, halved and pitted (squish them with the back of your knife or a plate)

Kosher salt

Black Pepper

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

At least 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1-2 cloves garlic, grated or otherwise smooshed


- Preheat your oven to 350F.

- Place your chunked tomatoes into a colander in the sink. Season with 1-2 teaspoons kosher salt, tossing to coat. Drain for at least 30 minutes. I found this technique on Serious Eats, and it really makes the difference between a crunchy Panzanella and a squishy one.

- Toss your bread chunks with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then toast for 10 minutes on a baking sheet, or until crunchy and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

- Cut your cucumber in half. Scoop out the seeds, then chop into bite sized chunks.

- In a bowl, whisk together your garlic, shallot, and wine vinegar. Drizzle in your remaining olive oil, whisking constantly, to form a dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

- Toss together your dressing, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, basil, and bread. Adjust seasoning accordingly.

- Open your bottle of Sangiovese. You should know what to do next.


ITALIAN WINES FOR THE SUMMER 6-Pack, Shop HERE

 

Alois Lageder Terra Alpina Pinot Grigio 2018

  • 100% Pinot Grigio
  • Calcareous dolomitic limestone
  • Vines mostly trained on pergolas
  • Converting to organic viticulture
  • Aged 4 months on lees
  • Vegan
  • Lemon, poached pear, white flowers

Umani Ronchi CaSal di Serra Verdicchio 2018

  • Castelli di Jesi DOC
  • 100% Verdicchio
  • Organically grown
  • Clay loam
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel on lees
  • 91 points Wine Enthusiast
  • Apricot, yellow apple, jasmine

Casanuova delle Cerbaie Rivale 2011

  • Toscana IGT
  • Just south of Montalcino
  • 70% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot
  • Mixed clay
  • Aged 10 months in french oak
  • Red cherry, fresh plum, leather

Bibi Graetz Casamatta 2018

  • Toscana IGT
  • 100% Sangiovese
  • Translates to “crazy house”
  • Fermented and aged 6 months in stainless steel
  • 90 points James Suckling
  • Raspberry, cherry, iron

Pecchenino san Luigi 2017

  • Dogliani DOCG
  • 100% Dolcetto
  • 25-35 year old vines
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • 92 points VM, 90 points W&S, 90 points James Suckling
  • Blueberry, elderberry, lavender

Sommariva Il Rosa Spumante Brut

  • Just outside Prosecco Superiore
  • 60% Raboso, 40% Pinot Nero (Noir)
  • Clay soil
  • Hand-picked, direct pressed
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • No malolactic
  • 12g/l dosage
  • Strawberry, honeydew melon, cucumber

Italian Wines for the Summer 6-Pack, Shop HERE

Time Posted: Jun 10, 2020 at 12:25 PM
Allan Crum
 
June 5, 2020 | Allan Crum

In Support of Walla Walla Wineries & Rosé 6-Packs

In Support of Walla Walla Wineries.

Our local wineries have lost out on more than two months of prime tourism due to COVID-19. Tasting rooms that often serve as a winery’s first introduction to new customers have been shuttered, and the restaurants that normally fly through local wines by the glass or bottle have been limited to takeout service. Luckily, working in the wine industry has always demanded creative solutions to unforeseen problems. “How am I going to fit five tons of fruit into that 3-ton press?” “What do I do with this Zinfandel rosé from a stuck fermentation?” “How do I make this steel container smaller?” (the answer to the last one was a big hammer). Most importantly, “How do I get my wine to consumers safely and efficiently in a time of social distancing?” Here are some inventive solutions from the wineries featured in our rosé six-packs. Please support our local wine community. These are all local business owners, but they’re also our neighbors and our friends.

The Walls

The Walls is offering personal private tastings from home featuring 3-4 bottle flights (at a substantial discount), tasting notes, and a virtually led tasting. They are also offering $10 flat rate shipping on 6 bottle purchases.

http://www.thewallswines.com/

509.876.0200

reservation@thewallsvineyards.com

El Corazon

El Corazon’s tasting room will be open beginning June 5th. They have offered free shipping on 3+ bottle shipments to the Pacific Northwest, as well as curbside pickup and local delivery.

http://www.elcorazonwinery.com/

509.520.4408

info@elcorazonwinery.com

Aluvé

Aluvé is offering tastings at the winery with a scheduled appointment. They are adhering to the guidelines of Phase 2 with indoor or outdoor seating (weather permitting) for up to 4 groups of up to 5 guests. Appointments include a 45-minute tasting and zero contact checkout, with a 15-minute buffer for sanitizing before the next reservation.

https://aluvewine.com/

509.520.6251

info@aluvewine.com

Gramercy Cellars

Gramercy has posted a Cayuse Weekend live tasting YouTube video to their website featuring co-winemakers Greg Harrington MS and Brandon Moss. Their tasting room will reopen for tastings June 5th with appointment, and there will be slots available Tuesday-Saturday.

https://gramercycellars.com/

509.876.2427

nichole@gramercycellars.com

College Cellars

College Cellars is offering a 20% case discount, as well at $10 flat rate shipping on packages of 6 bottles or more. They have not reopened their tasting room yet, but they are offering delivery to the Walla Walla area. Also, Sabrina Lueck has been posting some fantastically informative wine videos to her YouTube channel, and there is also a video of her sabering the sparkling Grenache using a roofing hammer floating around the interwebs.

https://collegecellars.com/

509.524.5170

collegecellars@wwcc.edu

Hoquetus Wine Co.

Robert Gomez, winemaker for Hoquetus, has hosted several blind tastings on Instagram, including head to head battles with Time & Direction winemaker Steve Wells. Hoquetus is offering $20 flat rate shipping on 6+ bottle orders.

https://www.hoquetuswine.com/

509.312.9148

info@hoquetuswine.com

SMAK Wines

SMAK is offering free local delivery in Walla Walla, Dayton, Waitsburg, and Milton-Freewater, as well as curbside pickup. Their tasting room will reopen on June 5th under the guidelines of Phase 2.

https://www.smakwines.com/

509.629.9643

info@smakwines.com

itä Wines

Itä’s new tasting room at the airport is now open to the public on Thursday-Sunday. Reservations are encouraged, but walk-ins will be accepted on a first-come basis. Folks can reserve a tasting on the website or by phone. They are offering $15 flat rate shipping on 6+ bottle purchases and free local delivery.

https://itawinery.com/

.509.593.9055

info@itawinery.com

Prospice

Prospice is rolling out two different options for scheduled tasting appointments. They will offer a 45-minute seated tasting for groups up to 5, or a 75-minute cellar tasting hosted by one of the winemakers. They are also offering curbside pickup or Walla Walla area delivery for folks who would like to purchase without a tasting. They are waiving shipping on orders of more than $400.

https://prospice.wine/

509.204.3184

info@prospice.wine

Grosgrain Vineyards

Grosgrain has gotten the message out with its first live-streamed interview and an assortment of options for consumers including curbside pickup, free local delivery, and $10 flat rate shipping. They are now open for scheduled appointments in their tasting room.

https://grosgrainvineyards.com/

509.876.4045

info@grosgrainvineyards.com

Lagana Cellars

Lagana is offering $10 shipping on 3 bottle purchases and free shipping on 6+ bottle orders. They are giving back to the community with a 5% donation to the BMAC food bank on all 6+ bottle purchases. Their tasting room is now open for walk-ins or scheduled appointments, and they will continue to offer curbside pickups and local delivery.

http://www.laganacellars.com/wp-data/

509.876.0001

jason@laganacellars.com

 

Walla Walla Rosé Six Packs Include:

PACKAGE #1 - SHOP HERE

Hoquetus Rosé 2019

  • 100% Cabernet Franc
  • Crushed, left on the skins for 6 hours
  • Fermented in neutral oak for 8 weeks
  • Blue Mountain Vineyard
  • Walla Walla Valley AVA

SMAK Wines Spring Rosé 2019

  • 100% Sangiovese
  • Walla Walla Valley AVA

ïta Rosé 2019

  • 100% Primitivo
  • 6 hours skin-contact
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • Les Collines Vineyard
  • Walla Walla Valley AVA

Prospice Rosé 2019

  • 55% Syrah 25% Counoise 20% Grenache
  • Fermented in stainless steel
  • Aged 5 months in 80% stainless, 20% neutral oak
  • Resurgent Vineyard (Syrah), Breezy Slope Vineyard (Counoise, Grenache)
  • Walla Walla Valley AVA

Grosgrain Rosé 2019

  • 100% Grenache
  • Foot trod, whole cluster pressed
  • Grown specifically for rosé
  • Aged primarily in concrete egg
  • Angiolina Farm
  • Yakima Valley AVA

Lagana Rosé 2019

  • 100% Pinot Noir
  • Dijon Clone 115
  • 92% stainless steel 8% acacia barrel
  • Breezy Slope Vineyard
  • Walla Walla Valley AVA
  • 85 cases

PACKAGE #2 - SHOP HERE

The Walls Cruel Summer Rosé 2019

  • 78% Grenache 28% Mourvédre
  • Direct pressed
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel

El Corazon Red Frog Rosé 2019

  • 100% Malbec
  • Birch Creek Vineyard

XOBC Cellars Evangeline Rosé 2018

  • 60% Syrah 40% Grenache
  • 91 points Washington Wine Blog
  • Rocks District of Milton Freewater AVA

Aluvé Rosé 2019

  • 100% Sangiovese
  • Seven Hills Vineyard
  • Walla Walla Valley AVA
  • 75 cases

Gramercy Cellars Rosé 2019

  • 44% Cinsault 28% Grenache 28% Syrah
  • Brief maceration before press
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • Grown specifically for rosé production
  • Olsen Vineyard
  • Yakima Valley AVA
  • 93 points Washington Wine Blog

College Cellars Sparkling Rosé 2018

  • 100% Grenache
  • Walla Walla Valley AVA

 

BUY BOTH PACKAGES & SAVE 10%

(USE COUPON CODE CASEDISCO)

 

 

 

Time Posted: Jun 5, 2020 at 10:31 AM
Allan Crum
 
June 2, 2020 | Allan Crum

South American Wines Take You Higher

Shop the South American 6-Pack HERE

Argentina

The highest elevation commercial vineyard in Washington state (that I know of) sits at 2,900 feet, or about 2,000 feet higher than my Walla Walla apartment. That seems really high! The highest elevation vineyards of the world, however, rise to more than 10,000 feet.1 They perch on the sides of mountain ranges from the Alps to Himalayas, battered by wind and hail, so high that even the sun is a hazard.

Every wine region has its own definition of “high elevation”. Here in Walla Walla, any vineyard about 1,200 or 1,300 feet is pretty high, and the AVA stops at 2,000 feet. This is also true throughout Europe, where very few vineyards sit above 1,500 feet.2 In Argentina, where many vineyards have been planted above 3,000 feet, elevation is a symbol of quality, a feather in the cap for winemakers that is often printed on the wine’s label.

Valle D'Aosta

High elevation vineyards face many challenges. Growing seasons are often truncated, starting later and ending sooner than valley floors. As you climb, temperatures drop, especially at night, making ripening a constant struggle. Catastrophic weather events, especially frost and hail, can eliminate whole crops in a matter of minutes. Some producers in Argentina have even invested in giant, very expensive nets to repel hail.

The benefits, though, are well worth the struggle. Colder nights may slow ripening, but they also maintain acidity in the grapes, a valuable attribute in an otherwise warm region like Mendoza. Mountain soils tend to be very (sometimes excessively) well-drained, driving roots deep in their search for water and nutrients. Then there is the sun: for every 1,000ft increase in elevation, there is a 10% increase in ultraviolet intensity. This extra UV causes the grapes to grow thick skins with increased polyphenols and tannins, sort of like natural sunscreen. This also leads to more intense wines. 

Laura Catena, Managing Director of Bodega Catena, knows a thing or two about high elevation vineyards. Her father pioneered extremely high elevation planting in Argentina with Adrianna Vineyard at 5,000+ feet. Her new project, Domaine Nico, takes inspiration from her father’s pioneering work with Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon and applies it to Pinot Noir. While Malbec and Cabernet are naturally thick-skinned varieties, Pinot Noir has famously thin skins. The increased UV from Domaine Nico’s 3,500-4,000+ elevation vineyards lends intensity and grip to Pinot’s traditional suave perfume. These tightly wound mountain wines impressed the heck out of us at a recent tasting, so we are currently featuring three different bottlings in the shop. Bring a bottle home, give it a long decant, and try not to get vertigo.


[1] 11,000 feet for the aptly named “Pure Land & Super High Altitude Vineyard” in Tibet.

[2] Vineyards in the Valle d’Aosta and Canary Islands extend as high as 4,000-5,500 feet.

 

South American 6-Pack

 

Bodega Amalaya Blanco 2019

  • Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina
  • 90% Torrontes/ 10% Riesling
  • Planted at nearly 6000 feet elevation
  • Sandy soils
  • Amalaya means “hope for a miracle”
  • 91 points James Suckling
  • Green apple, grapefruit, honeysuckle

Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc 2018

  • Casablanca, Chile
  • One of the first vineyards planted in the region
  • Organic viticulture
  • Less than 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean
  • Decomposed granite soils
  • Largest contiguous vineyard in Chile
  • Pineapple, green banana, candied citrus

Vina Mayu Pedro Ximenez 2018

  • Elqui Valley, Chile
  • Name means “river of stars”
  • 100% Pedro Gimenez, a different grape than Pedro Ximenez from Jerez
  • 65-70 year old ungrafted vines trained alberello style without trellis
  • 6,320 feet elevation, the highest vineyard in Chile
  • Limestone soils
  • Fermented and aged in stainless steel
  • No malolactic fermentation
  • Aged on the fine lees with battonage
  • 90 points Wine Advocate
  • Lime, white flowers, powdered rock

Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir 2018

  • Patagonia, Argentina
  • 94 points James Suckling, 93 points Wine Advocate, 91 points Wine Enthusiast, 90 points Vinous
  • Biodynamic vineyard
  • 10-15% stem inclusion
  • Aged 11 months in 50% concrete, 50% French oak (15% new)
  • Unfiltered
  • Blueberry, cherry, earth

Domaine Nico Grand Mere Pinot Noir 2017

  • Uco Valley, Argentina
  • Winery named after Laura Catena’s great-grandfather
  • Planted 1993 to Dijon clones
  • Limestone soil
  • 3675-4921 feet elevation
  • 20% whole cluster fermentation in small vats
  • 7-10 day maceration with punchdowns
  • Aged in 2nd fill French oak barrels for 14 months
  • 92 points James Suckling, 90 points Wine Advocate
  • Raspberry, red cherry, cinnamon

Casir dos Santos Maipe Malbec 2018

  • Maipu Valley, Argentina
  • From one of the oldest Argentinian wineries, founded in 1862
  • Name means “lord of the wind”
  • 2017 named Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Best Buy
  • Produced from 34 acres of old Malbec vines, some up to 100 years old
  • Aged 4 months in oak
  • Plum, fig, allspice

Shop the 6-Pack HERE

Time Posted: Jun 2, 2020 at 12:01 AM

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