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As we lurch towards the holidays, I wanted to put a spotlight on some domestic wines that are in stock that we typically get just a few bottles of (and in one case, that we won't be able to purchase ever again). Each of these wines is defined by its vineyard site, made by people who care deeply about exploring terroir.
We have always been huge fans of Bow & Arrow at CSW. Since 2010, Scott Frank has been crafting truly memorable wines from fruit farmed by some of Oregon's best and most serious organic and biodynamic growers. His devotion to Loire varieties has always appealed to us and the wines are invariably full of personality and character. One real staff favorite has always been his Sauvignon Blanc from the Chenaie vineyard in Eola-Amity, a wine that has always been been a lighthouse in a sea of underripe and anodyne Sauvignon. So today is bittersweet. We recently learned that the 2019 release will be the last iteration of this vineyard from Bow & Arrow - today's bottles are the last available (at least as far as we can find). So grab them while you can. Limit six per customer, please.
For fifteen years, Phoebe & John Raytek at Ceritas have been making some of my favorite California wines. They have made a living working with a handful of the most challenging vineyard sites in the state, from Mendocino down to the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the wines they produce are intensely focused and brimming with soil and stone. I had a chance a few summers back to spend several days with John and some of his Sonoma Coast colleagues and he was generous enough to share some older wines that I had not tasted since their release years back. If you can squirrel these away, you will be richly rewarded down the road.
The last producer on the docket today likely needs no introduction—at Sandlands, Tegan Passalaqua has been making some of the most soulful and affordable California wines of the last ten years. He has been doing this by relentless exploration of the state's viticultural landscape, finding old vineyards and working with growers to improve soil health and reduce reliance on irrigation. These are consistently delicious wines that drink well in their youth but still show potential for cellaring.
Everything on offer today would make a marvelous gift for any wine lover, or a great partner for a holiday meal (and when something is gone, it's gone...)
Created entirely from the biodynamically farmed Le Chenaie Vineyard in Eola-Amity Hills, this Sauvignon Blanc feels singular and unique. The nose shows notes of fresh chamomile flowers, dried Meyer lemon peel, stone fruits, sweet basil, and a touch of sea salt. The palate has more weight than you'd expect from an Oregon Sauvignon Blanc but not at all heavy, and because of the ideal ripeness there is no overt "greenness" to the wine. Truly delicious and hard to put down, it's a shame we get so little every year! -MD
One of the finest sites in California for Chardonnay, these vines are nearly forty years old and farmed organically (they share the parcel with Ted Lemon of Littorai). The resulting wine is invariably full of bounce, with great length and intensity on the palate and real mineral freshness at the back end.
Both this and the Hellenthal vineyard Pinot are located firmly in the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, smushing up against the legendary Hirsch vineyard. Elliot was planted in 1981, using the Mount Eden Pinot clone. The soil is fractured shale, rich with sedimentary deposits and the vines are farmed organically, without irrigation. The fermentation is routinely done with a high percentage of whole bunches that add savory dimension and aromatic richness.
Along with the legendary David Hirsch, Gard Hellenthal is one of the pioneers of viticulture in the heart of the Sonoma Coast known today as Fort Ross-Seaview. He planted the Old Shop Block and Elliot vineyards at the beginning of the 1980s. Both sites are farmed organically and with no irrigation. Old Shop is distinguished by the material selection, relying on the Calera clone rather than Mount Eden. Furthermore, the vines are own-rooted!
The Peter Martin Ray vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon in the 1920's and today is farmed with minimal intervention, dry-farmed, with only organic treatments. It sits high up at 1,800ft elevation on Franciscan shale soils with minimal topsoil, allowing these vines to truly struggle for nutrients. The winemakers describe this wine as "taught, vibrant and boasts refined tannins and singularity unlike any other Cabernet other than the neighboring Ridge Monte Bello wines."
This comes from forty-year old vines planted at 1500 feet above sea level in volcanic and decomposing granite, dry-farmed and on their own roots.
Sandlands is a project by acclaimed winemaker Tegan Passalacqua to explore the unsung, lesser-know grapes thriving in California. This blend comes from three of the oldest California vineyards and is in equal parts Cinsault from the Bechthold Vineyard (planted in 1886), Carignane from Spenker Ranch (1900), and Zinfandel from Kirschenmann Vineyard (1915). The winemakers describe this vintage with notes of "black cherry, apricot, black tea, granular, smooth finish."
This classically styled Lodi Zin is sourced from the Kirschenmann Vineyard in Lodi. The vines were planted in 1915, in white sand soils.