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We are in the midst of something entirely unprecedented. The view from New York right now is grim as we watch our friends and familys suffer not just from this inexplicable virus, but also widespread unemployment. The hospitality industry is an enormous part of the NYC economy and way of life, and the vast majority of bars and restaurants have had to close or scale down their operations immensely to take-out/delivery only. The New York Times reported that retail sales have seen the biggest decline in thirty years (since they began recording this data), which could have disastrous effects on the economy going forward. But it is not just the people who work for these businesses who are feeling the effects; it sets off a chain reaction that ripples through all of our suppliers. Larger corporations may struggle as they work to comply with health regulations and lower demand, but this can be devastating for small businesses. Many of our friends and favorite producers are, like us, holding on month by month, sometimes week by week. Because of the widespread "shelter-in-place" restrictions, small wineries in the US have had to lay off huge swaths of their already small staffs and close up and lose much needed revenue from tasting rooms, all while facing hugely diminished wholesale demand without the help of bars and restaurants across the country.
I've spoken to a handful of producers that we work with who are doing everything in their power to keep their teams employed, but have had to face the reality of distancing requirements and loss of income.
Kenny Likitprakong from Hobo Wines (Banyan, Camp, Folk Machine, Ghostwriter) tells me, "We are all working alone now, one person at the winery, two at vineyards but separated, and me, mostly at my home office or the vineyard. We have canceled all of our upcoming bottlings. We are likely faced with shrinking or canceling long term grape contacts that we have worked almost 20 years at securing."
Chris Walsh of Little John Lane/End of Nowhere echoed this sentiment and worries about what this next season will bring. "The loss of orders really puts into jeopardy my ability to meet my obligations going forward...paying farmers, bottling wines and what about the 2020 harvest? The uncertainty is the worst. Do you even make wine this year? Or how much?"
Brianne Day of Day wines is doing whatever she can to slim down costs and drive sales, "offering discounts on quantity, or free shipping really helps to drive product, but of course, packaging, employee hours, and shipping costs all take bites out of the margins."
It can be overwhelming these days, I know. If you're like me, desperately wondering what are the ways in which you can help out, please consider supporting these incredible winemakers who in turn supply us with wonder, exploration, pleasure, and deliciousness....otherwise known as: wine. It is the mission of Chambers Street Wines to champion the work of growers and producers who are committed to farming practices that support or restore the environment, who eschew additives and other chemicals that are found in many bulk commercial wines, and of course, who make beautiful, enjoyable bottles of wine.
Despite everything, everyone is abundatly hopeful! All of these producers are eager for more opportunities to get their wines on our shelves and into your glasses. Retail wine shops are, for now, one of the only ways to access these bottles and every time I get to order another case for our shop I know I'm putting a small, but meaningful dent towards keeping these businesses running.
Below are some of my favorite small producers from the US who could really use a little love these days! We've even put together a special case of wines including 5 whites, 2 rosés, and 5 reds in a range of styles to help out 12 different, fabulous, independent winemakers for $250! Michelle DeWyngaert
The Abbey Ridge Vineyard sits at one of the highest elevations in the Dundee Hills at ~600ft. These 40+ year-old vines are farmed organically and without irrigation; relying instead on cover crops to maintain the moisture/health of the soil. 2017 was a very successful and classic vintage for Oregon with no disease pressure. The winemakers describe this wine as having both rose petal and red fruit aromas as well as more savory notes of salumi, black pepper, and olive.
I can't say that I've had much Syrah from Willamette, and indeed the Havlin Vineyard is relatively young (planted in 2009), but I'm already intrigued to find more. The vineyard is 100% dry-farmed and LIVE sustainable certified. The soil here is silt loam over ironstone bedrock, which not only helps keep the yields low on these younger vines, but also imparts a distinct mineral backbone to this wine. 20% whole cluster in the fermentation, aged for 18 months in neutral French oak, and then bottled with just a bit of SO2 in accordance with Mike Hinds' minimalist philosophy. The nose is rich with a touch of dark, bitter chocolate, and the palate presents a really beautiful, concentrated texture with black pepper and dried herbs. Perfectly savory, this wine is calling to be paired with something roasted. Michelle DeWyngaert
Dollar per ounce this is one of the best values for Napa Valley fruit that you can find! Steve Matthiasson is a dedicated organic farmer and low-intervention winemaker. This is old-school California Cabernet Sauvignon at its finest. The blend for 2016 is from six different Napa vineyards; 85-90% Cabernet Sauvignon with a small percentage of Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. The wine is gently extracted with minimal pump-overs and fermented at a low temperatures. It is aged for 20 months in mostly used and less than 20% new French oak which adds just a touch of baking spice to the aroma and a silky texture to the tannins. This wine has a beautiful nose of freshly cut cedar, ripe purple plums, a touch of graphite and black tea, and the palate brings just a squeeze of lemon, fresh potting soil, savory herbs and raspberry. All signs lead to this being incredibly age worthy, but if you can't wait to open it, I recommend decanting for at least an hour. Michelle DeWyngaert
From the folks who run Hobo Wine Co., here we have the delicious new vintage of one of our favorite inexpensive Cabernets from California! Tart blackberry and ripe cassis mix with herbal hints and wildflower on the nose while broadly gracing the firm, rich, powerfully tannic palate. Sourced from many lesser known but sustainably or organically farmed vineyards throughout Sonoma county. Aged for nine months in neutral oak barrels.
It is Mimi Casteel's incredible dedication to 'regenerative agriculture' that makes this wine from the Willamette Valley so special and sought-after. Her farming practices go beyond organics and work to actively restore the health of the soil and the land surrounding the vineyard, creating a living, breathing ecosystem. She believes, and I can't help but agree, that this unlocks more flavor and complexity in the grapes because more nutrients and biodiversity is available to the vines. Positioned along an east-facing slope of the Eola-Amity Hills, the Hope Well vineyard experiences an intense diurnal shift that helps maintain freshness even in this warmer vintage. This year she destemmed the grapes completely, with very gentle extraction, and then aged the wine in 10% new French oak, with the rest in neutral barrels for 10 months. Michelle DeWyngaert
A native of Oregon, but thoroughly inspired by Burgundy, winemaker Doug Tunnell has been farming his 40 acre estate vineyard strictly organically for the last 25 years, and more recently certified Biodynamic. This bottling is a selection of barrels from various plots throughout his vineyard to get a true representation of the vintage each year. This years "Select" Pinot Noir has a beautiful nose of fresh roses, stems and all, red currant, raspberry, and juicy pomegranate. Indeed this is very Burgundian in style with just a bit more focus on the fruit. The wine is fresh and lively; for me it conjures a crisp, fall, afternoon. Michelle DeWyngaert
Clos Electrique is the organic and dry-farmed estate vineyard for Cameron Winery. As one of the warmer sites in the Red Hills of Dundee, the grapes are picked earlier to maintain a balance of ripeness and acidity. The winemaker compares the Blanc, which is 100% Chardonnay, to a creamy Meursault. It is described as being "perfumed with notes of honeysuckle, creme Anglaise, lemon curd, marzipan and straw."
I am really enamored with this single-block bottling from Kelley Fox! The Maresh vineyard was planted in 1970 and is prized for its biodiversity; home to several kinds of fruit trees, an array of wildlife, and an abundance of cover crops. The Royal Ann block runs along a row of 100 year-old Royal Ann cherry trees and borders the Star of Bethlehem Flower block. Fermented ~50% whole cluster, and then aged in neutral French oak for about a year. This wine seems to defy physics by being both rich and opulent and also crystalline and vibrant. It has a beautiful floral quality on the nose, with notes of pomegranate and white cherries, intertwined with fresh rosemary and crushed rock. The palate is a bit riper with silky texture and notes of bitter-sweet amaro on the finish. This is a definitely a bottle to cellar, but pretty captivating already. Michelle DeWyngaert
A beautiful example of Pinot Noir from the Demeter certified Johan Vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Exposed to cooling winds from the Van Duzer Corridor, it is the last picked of the Day Wines giving it a delicate freshness. The grapes are left 25% whole cluster during fermentation and then the juice is aged for 19 months in 15% new French oak, the rest neutral. This wine feels like Oregon to me. There is a perfect balance of richness and concentration to the flavor, while still showing enticing notes of fresh soil and dried herbs. The nose is a mix of fresh and stewed raspberry, rosemary, anise, and rose petals. The palate is plush with structured tannins that leaves me to believe that this will age nicely over the next several years. Michelle DeWyngaert
I continue to be enamored with the wines being made from this beautiful Demeter-certified vineyard in the Willamette Valley. Bow & Arrow usually prefers to vinify Gamay in stainless steel or concrete, but found that the wine showed so beautifully after aging in an old puncheon that they decided to bottle it; making only 42 cases! The Johan Vineyard sits atop marine sedimentary soils at a relatively low elevation, but because of its access to the Van Duzer Corridor, it remains cool and breezy throughout the year. The nose is distinctly earthy , with dried herbs and crushed raspberry, and the palate has a nice balance of soft, powdery tannins and juicy red fruit. Really intriguing and delicious with gamier proteins. Michelle DeWyngaert
'Honeymoon' is a delightful blend of 85% botrytized Colombard, and 15% Chardonnay leaving this wine ever so slightly off-dry (just 2g R/S). The Colombard comes from 70+ year old vines in the certified organic, dry-farmed Ricetti Vineyard, and the Chardonnay is sourced from the practicing organic Hawkeye Vineyard, both in Redwood Valley, CA. The nose is reminiscent of a Loire Valley Chenin Blanc with notes of honey, spiced apple compote and chamomile. On the palate it's even a little savory with a bit of white button mushroom and golden raisins. This wine is a perfect pairing for Thai food, but I look forward to seeing this evolve with a few years in the cellar! Michelle DeWyngaert
Drew Family Cellars was established in 2000 with a mission to create age-worthy, cool climate California Pinot Noir. They settled in the coastal appellation of Mendocino Ridge and planted their own estate in what was once an orchard, at 1250ft elevation. This bottling is a blend of fruit from their organically farmed estate and lots from like-minded farmers at the Valenti, Fashauer, Perli, and Wendling vineyards. The grapes are fermented with 20% whole-cluster bunches and aged in 10% new French oak, with the rest in neutral oak barrels. The nose is fully ripe, wild cherry, with a bit of stewed red fruit, licorice and dried herbs. The proximity to the coast and the abundance of fog keep the acidity well balanced with the richness of the fruit and that kiss of new French oak. MichelleDeWyngaert
'Wabi-Sabi' refers to the creation of something beautiful from things that are imperfect in some way. This red blend from Populis is an attempt to do just that with an unconventional mix from Mendocino of Carignane, Syrah, and Zinfandel made from 20-70 year-old vines. The grapes are partially destemmed and then aged in a mixture of polyethelene tanks and neutral oak barrels. Eben described this wine as "cheerful, a touch spicy, medium bodied and smooth with just a slight bit of tannins. Good with a slight chill but not too cold."
Before becoming winemakers, Hank and Carole were enamored with the wines of the Southern Rhône and Provence, especially of Domaine Tempier in Bandol. This 100% Mourvèdre rosé feels like a love letter to Tempier. Grown organically on volcanic soil from the Sumu Kaw vineyard, there is a beautiful balance of intense minerality and a mouth-coating silkiness to these sun-kissed grapes. This is a very Provencal style rosé with notes of ripe strawberry, bright cherry, and fleur du sel. A great pairing for grilled prawns, a giant bowl of mussels, and dreams about sitting along the Mediterranean in a wide-brimmed hat. Michelle DeWyngaert
The 'Elimelech' is 100% Riesling from Cole Ranch in Mendocino. Cole Ranch is one of the smallest AVA's in North America, a monopole planted in the 1970's. The high elevation, ~1500ft, keeps the temperature down, and the property gets a solid amount of rain so the vineyard is completely dry-farmed. These conditions, coupled with the warmth of the California sun, led to this bold, 14%ABV dry Riesling that the winemaker describes as, "flashy, fleshy, and flamboyant."
The 'Cotillon' red blend is the Frenchtown Farms' ode to classic Cotes du Rhone wines. Sourced from the organically farmed David Girard Vineyards at 1400ft elevation in the Sierra Foothills on well-draining volcanic soil. This wine displays the benefits of the extreme diurnal temperature shifts by being both beautifully ripe, and also full of vibrant acidity. The blend is 70% Mourvedre, 20% Grenache, and 10% Syrah all left whole-cluster, then foot-stomped and aged in old French barrels for 8 months. The nose is a an enticing mix of bright, maraschino cherry, juicy, red plum, and a savory meatiness with soft, fresh herbs. This will be perfect with Mediterranean fare or anything stewed with herbs de Provence! Michelle DeWyngaert
This is a truly unique expression of Zinfandel. It's not flashy, or bold, it embodies freshness and minerality (not words we generally associate with this grape). The Sky vineyards sit way up at 2100ft elevation on Mt. Veeder with 14 acres of Zinfandel, and a few of Syrah, on red clay soils. The vines are tended with only organic treatments, an abundance of cover crops, and no irrigation. Everything in the cellar is done by hand, fermented in open-top bins with native yeasts, punched down three times per day, pressed through an old basket press and aged in neutral oak barrels. All of that cool mountain air brings plenty of bright acidity to this wine with notes of fresh raspberry and blackberry, a touch of fresh herbs and white pepper. The palate has a beautiful, powdery texture from the clay soils, lifted by the wild, brambly fruit. Michelle DeWyngaert
California Sauvignon Blanc has a reputation for being either overly ripe or overly oaked, but in the hands of the Maître de Chai winemakers and with 50-year-old vines, it can show remarkable restraint and complexity. The Herron Vineyard in Sonoma Valley was planted in 1969 by an enthusiastic teenager from Oaxaca, Rudy Rodriguez, and has been farmed organically ever since by Rudy's family and Phyllis and Wynne Herron, the current owners. The soils are never tilled and only occasionally mowed to maintain the health of the soil and intricate micro-biome of the vineyard. Today the vines are super low-yielding creating concentrated, flavorful Sauvignon Blanc. The nose displays a mix of wet stone, nectarine, lime, and a touch of lemongrass. On the palate, the wine shows ripe pear and pink grapefruit with plenty of acidity, but with softened, rounded edges owing to the neutral barrel fermentation and élevage. Michelle DeWyngaert
In addition to perfectly elegant, age-worthy reds, Steve Edmunds produces one of California's lightest, purest white wines from Vermentino and Grenache Blanc. Heart of Gold exudes fresh white florals, mineral water, and tingly orchard fruit aromas; flavors are bright and defined, graceful and deeply mineral, with gentle rays of citrus pith and crisp pear, golden apple, and yellow peach. Acidity is abundant and well-integated. AR
A classic example of Sonoma County Zinfandel. Aromatically, it has explosive cherries and berries, and on the palate it is rich and textured on the finish. Produced from hillside grown vines and blended with 5% Carignane for texture and overall harmony
Let me start by saying this is not your parent's Zinfandel. This is a delightfully refreshing, 100% carbonic maceration of Zinfandel from the high elevation, Baldinelli Vineyard in the Shenandoah Valley. The vines here are roughly 30 years old, grown on sandy-loam soils, which comes through on the palate with powdery tannins. The wine is fresh and tart with notes of cranberry and fresh raspberry and savory qualities of salty black olive with just pleasantly grippy tannins to give this lighter red a nice back-bone. Serve this wine with a bit of a chill and pair it with a range of grilled proteins that will benefit from this juicy red.Michelle DeWyngaert
Margins Wine is a really exciting project from Megan Bell in Northern and Central California. Megan's mission is to find vineyards who are close to, or working towards becoming fully organic and create incentives for their transition. This bottling is 100% Mourvedre from the Sattler's Vineyard in Santa Clara Valley. Though there was one pass of Roundup used during this growing season, the Sattler's have committed to fully transitioning to organic farming by 2020 because of their agreement with Margins Wine. The wine is bright and juicy, pleasantly candied on the nose, but surprisingly more savory on the palate with notes of umami, salted plum and dried herbs. As it was a cool growing season in 2018 the grapes retained significant acidity and the wine fermented to a pleasant 10.4% ABV making this a perfectly chillable red and a great food pairing. Michelle DeWyngaert
I love the brightness and acidity that you get from shale and limestone bedrock of the Lamb's Vineyard in the Finger Lakes! The juice is fermented and aged in stainless steel to highlight these qualities and bottled with just a minimal amount of sulfur for preservation. The nose is a lovely mix of white flowers, green apple and lemon zest, and the palate is super fresh, a bit salty, and full of minerality. At just under 12% alcohol this Chardonnay is more reminiscent of Chablis than Sonoma, and would be just as great a pairing to shellfish and lighter fare. Michelle DeWyngaert