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Winemaker Veronica Santiago is one of the most well-respected winemakers in the valley and her palate has shown itself in blind tastings to be one of the best. The wines she and Nathaniel are making are at once elegant, informed, and remarkably old-world in style. These wines follow closely the natural wine-making style championed in the Loire and Saone valleys and emulate closely the body compositions and flavor profiles of the wines made in this area with minimal intervention. All wines are made from organically grown estate vineyards tucked into a tight fold on the valley wall of Valle de Guadalupe.
Made in an ancient winemaking style where white grapes were fermented with the skins to extract color, flavor, aromatics, and structure, this wine is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes that are left to ferment on the skins for 11 days. From this brief moment of contact comes almost everything that makes this wine sing. Apricot, peach, and other stone fruits on the nose dominate the first act that leads without intermission to a palate, unlike any wine you have ever tried before, again repeating the stone fruit show but adding to it notes of honeysuckle blossoms, fresh herbs, honeycomb, beeswax, and ocean breeze. If you get some, share it. It's the right thing to do. Only 55 cases made.
La Santa comes from centenarian, own-rooted Rosa del Peru (Moscatel Negro) vines grown at 2,400 ft elevation on sandy loam and granite soils in Tecate. The grapes were hand-harvested, de-stemmed, and fermented without temperature control in 450-liter concrete tinajas with 45 days of maceration. The wine was then raised for 3 months in ½ stainless steel vats and ½ older barrels. A lively vin de soif, La Santa is almost rosé colored in the glass, delicately floral, with red and dark fruits and juicy acidity. A lovely red wine to serve chilled with charcuterie and cheeses.
While Valle de Guadalupe has overall adopted a more technological and modern approach, Bichi adheres to traditional methods and minimal intervention. Bichi farms 10 hectares of their own Tecate vineyards biodynamically and collaborates with a growing family of organic farmers working vineyard land in Tecate and around San Antonio de las Minas (Valle de Guadalupe). Their work with Misión is notable, but you will also find Rosa del Peru (Moscatel Negro), Tempranillo, and in the case of the No Sapiens vineyard a mysterious grape variety that remains unidentified (possibly Carignan from Spain, or possibly Dolcetto from plantings brought over from Italy in the 1940s). In the winery, grapes are destemmed by hand and gently trodden by foot, and fermentations are carried out by wild yeast in locally made concrete amphorae. The wines are raised in a mix of neutral barrels and steel vats, with a minuscule 10 ppm of sulfur added at bottling to preserve the wine for travel, if needed.
La Casa Vieja is iconic viticulture of Baja California, which has an overlooked but equally important vitis history to Mexico’s better-known neighbors to the North. 18th Spanish Missionaries in Baja had a recipe to slake the thirst of their religious congregants: build a mission, plant a vineyard. They began in Las Californias Altas of New Spain (present-day California) before heading south and branching throughout Baja California’s rugged landscape.
This nearly forgotten vignette is one that winemaker Humberto ‘Tito’ Toscano was content sharing only with those lucky enough to stumble upon his 1800’s adobe ranch in San Antonio de las Minas, a sub-valley of the Valle de Guadalupe. Humberto was born on the property and returned in 2003. He nursed it back to health and has nurtured it ever since. Honoring history and taking a cue from the padres—his father, the missionaries, and local farmhands—Toscano tends his 120+-year-old, dry-farmed, original-rootstock-vineyards, including Mission and Palomino, naturally. When asked if he ever sprays his vineyards, Humberto responds, “With love and wisdom.”
The Mission vines are 120+ years old (some have speculated older), while there is a 150+-year-old ‘Mother Vine’ that anchors the property. The vineyard goes up a gentle slope on the back of the estate. Harvest usually starts in mid-September but can last over a month. Grapes are destemmed by hand, massaged in bunches over a kind of wooden zaranda. The grapes are then crushed by foot and transferred to plastic drums and one 450-liter concrete egg for fermentation and maceration. After native yeast fermentation, which takes about 2 – 3 weeks, the grapes are pressed off with a small, wooden, 55L, hand crank basket press and racked into to neutral, 225 L oak for 6-8 months. Before bottling, the wine is transferred to glass carboys. Everything is racked and nothing is filtered or fined. The entire bottling process, down to labeling, is done by hand. No sulfur is added at any time.
Family owned and operated, Delmas is the realization of the Robertsons’ dream, 35+ years strong, to honor a distinctive place; a distinctive taste. Born of unique geology found within The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater, as well as the climatic eccentricities of the Walla Walla Valley, Delmas is dedicated to producing exceptional wines of enduring value. Elegance is preferred to power and exoticism at Delmas; restraint, nuance, and those impossible-to-define, (pleasurable), qualities that elevate all great wines.
Owen Bargreen, 97 pts: A true heavyhitter, the 2017 Delmas Syrah is entirely sourced from their estate SJR Vineyard in the Walla Walla Rocks AVA, deftly managed by Brooke Robertson. Crafted by superstar winemaker Billo Naravane, MW, the wine is a stunning blend of 91.5% Syrah with the reminder Viognier. Aged for 14 months in 60% new French oak (Troncais) prior to bottling, this needs about an hour of air exposure in order to evolve to its full unveiling. The nose is nothing short of intoxicating, yielding some insanely good range. Potpourri, Umami, pipe tobacco, cedar, and shades of cran-orange aromas all create an amazing effect in the glass. The heady aromas push you back to the glass for more. The texture its astoundingly good, giving off a sexy, silky edge. Red cherry candy, Umami, Hoisin sauce, Asian spice and guava with citrus rind accents as well as shades of black truffle with minerals and stony accents all complete this scintillating new wine. While remarkable in its youth, this will evolve well over the next decade. Drink 2019-2029
Vinous 95 Points: “Full dark red. Pungent spicy lift to the aromas of raspberry, boysenberry, smoked meat, grilled herbs, rose petal and red licorice complicated by white pepper and black olive; coffee and mocha notes emerged with extended aeration. Really remarkably aromatic Syrah: supple, savory and concentrated, conveying strong Rocks salinity to its flavors of raspberry, plum, cured meats, spices and flowers. Shows a strong resemblance to the 2017 but that’s hardly a surprise as Steve Robertson’s wine comes entirely from the parcels of Syrah that he originally planted in 2007. Enticing sweetness and broad, ripe tannins give this seamless wine early accessibility but it has the energy and stuffing for mid-term aging. Really spreads out to saturate the palate on the long finish. This quintessential Rocks Syrah was even silkier with extended aeration. Incidentally, Robertson will make his first varietal Grenache from the 2020 harvest, from a one-acre parcel that he also planted in 2007 (i.e., its 14th leaf).”
From Kermit Lynch:
While viticulture on the slopes of Mount Etna dates back thousands of years, only in the last decade or two have the wines produced on Sicily’s mythical volcano entered the global spotlight. Eager to exploit the terroir riches of this stunning natural wonder, waves of newcomers from around Italy and abroad have settled, relying on both traditional methods and modern enology to search for Etna’s truest expression.
The fascination with Etna in the eyes of growers and consumers alike stems not only from its fertile soils of sandy, decomposed volcanic rock but also from the elevation that allows its wines to retain an uncommon freshness and delicacy at such a southerly latitude. Reaching over 1,000 meters above sea level, Etna’s vineyards are some of Europe’s highest, and the cool nights late in the growing season favor slow ripening and the development of extremely complex aromas at relatively low alcohol levels. Harnessing this potential to create wines of nuance and finesse, however, is another story altogether: it requires vision, dedication, and careful execution. It is with tremendous excitement, then, that we announce our collaboration with Vigneti Vecchio, a small family-run estate on Etna’s northern face.
Carmelo Vecchio and his wife, Rosa La Guzza, did not come from afar to make wine on Etna: they are true locals, raised in the heart of the vineyards. Carmelo began working at the nearby Passopisciaro winery at a young age, and after fifteen years of hands-on experience, the time came to strike out on his own. From barely one hectare of vines up to 130 years old inherited from Rosa’s family, the couple took matters into their own hands: sustainable farming by hand, with the goal of achieving an elegant balance in the grapes; micro-vinifications in the tiny cellar beneath their home, with respect for tradition and terroir; and aging the wines in used barrels before bottling without fining or filtration.
Armed with excellent raw materials along with Carmelo's years of experience and an appreciation for ancient local practices such as skin maceration for whites and blending white grapes into the reds, Rosa and Carmelo succeeded in crafting delicate, pure, and highly refined wines from their inaugural 2016 harvest. While Etna still searches for its identity, Vigneti Vecchio demonstrates that this towering volcano rising from the Mediterranean can in fact produce wines as beautifully nuanced as anywhere else in Italy.
Apple, apricot, nettle, white pepper
Escolha Azahar, Portugal
Storm Point, South Africa
Chateau de la Grange, France
Cellar Credo, Spain
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