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Today we'd like to introduce the second vintage of two awesome Pét-Nats from Chëpika, a collaboration between Finger Lakes winemaker Nathan Kendall and renowned Master Sommelier (and dear friend of the store) Pascaline Lepeltier.
What sets these wines apart is that they are made from two indigenous North American vine species: Catawba and Delaware. These grapes have a long history in winemaking in the United States that stretches back to the Colonial era. The first of the wines we offer today, the 2017 Catawba Pétillant Naturel, is made with a grape found growing wild outside Asheville, North Carolina in 1802. Within twenty years it had found its way to Washington, DC, thanks to a North Carolina senator. From Washington and Maryland (where it had been named Catawba after a river near its Southern home) it quickly spread throughout the Northeast, settling, among other places, in the Finger Lakes in New York. In fact, the Pleasant Valley Wine Company, the oldest winery in the region, produced 20,000 bottles of sparkling Catawba in 1865 alone. Some of their wines even went on to win awards at major European wine shows. This wine has some serious personality: the traditional character of native grape species, known as "foxy" notes (essentially a blend of animal fur and candied fruit), is sublimated here into a magnificent earthiness, with notes of animal hide mixed with candied lemon peel. The soft mousse is accentuated and amplified by the mouth-watering tartness. The fantastic natural acidity is placed in center stage, with the alcohol at only 9.2%. Some cider character is revealed on the long finish.
The next wine, the 2017 Delaware Pétillant Naturel, is made from a facinating grape, first cultivated in the Delaware River Valley in the early 19th century. There has always been confusion as to whether this is a fully native grape or a crossing between native and European vines. There are even rumors that it was originally planted at the estate of Joseph Bonaparte in Bordentown, New Jersey. Delaware is well known for its elegance and lack of "foxy" character. This made it especially well-suited to making sparkling wine, particularly in the Finger Lakes and the Ohio River Valley. Chëpika means "roots" in the Lenape language, spoken by the first inhabitants of the Delaware Valley. These wines are an attempt to resurrect and restore these grapes to the position of esteem they held before Prohibition relegated them to their reduced role as vines producing table grapes or grape juice. The Delaware is as soft, ethereal, and elegant as the Catawba is brusque. Green apple and honeysuckle aromas are perfectly integrated and rendered in a gentle, almost impressionistic manner. Great structure on the palate integrates with the limpid, mouth-coating mousse that stretches across into the long finish before dissolving into a whisper of cream at the tail end. Cleaner and more demure than the Catawba, this wine aptly shows what would have made sparkling wines from this grape so highly prized long ago!
The 2017 Catawba Pétillant Naturel is the funkier and edgier of the two Chëpika wines : a huge electric bolt of acidity is wrapped around a funky, musky, animal character. There's a juicy, honeysuckle character on the nose that is almost reminiscent of Muscat, while the palate is very dry, with the soft mousse accentuated and amplified by a mouthwatering tart candied lemon peel character. Native yeast fermentation, no added sulfur, and only 9.2% alcohol! This is a perfect summer sparkler with tons of energy, the perfect accompaniment to trout, guacamole, or tabouleh. Andrew Farquhar
This wine, made from the native Delaware grape, is an elegantly structured and delicate wine with finely grained green apple and honeysuckle notes. The soft, mouth-coating mousse is rendered in a beautiful, almost impressionistic manner. Fine structure and acidity on the palate presents in subtle counterpoint to the gentle bubbles that give this wine its distinct texture. A clean finish and delicate character make this a fantastic wine to pair with shrimp, baked Brie, or sushi. Andrew Farquhar