Mimi Casteel and colleagues (Courtesy of Polaner Selections)

Very Small Quantities of Truly Exciting Wines

Share

I have spent a good deal of time this week thinking about this offer. I have been looking forward to it, not only because of the sheer quality of the wines included, but because the producers here are all striving for the highest viticultural ideals under discussion today. All vineyards represented today  are farmed organically, without compromise, and nearly all of those have made the conversion to no-till agriculture, which rejects turning over the soil in favor of preserving microbial activity, trapping carbon and preventing erosion. But most importantly, these are all deeply delicious and satisfying wines, all marked with individual personalities that we call a terroir stamp.

First up are the wines of Hope Well Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon, made by the one and only Mimi Casteel. Mimi is a Willamette native and a vineyard child. Her family is behind the venerable Bethel Heights Winery. She has a masters degree in Forest Science and spent years with the Forest Service as a botanist, as well as a stint as the GM of her family's winery. Over the past fifteen years since planting Hope Well, Mimi has been perhaps the leading voice in the United States for what has come to be known commonly as regenerative agriculture (large-scale winegrowing in most of the world remains a monoculture, not so different from corn or soybeans or the Christmas tree farm that previously occupied the land upon which Mimi planted her vines). Her approach is a form of integrated agriculture that not only eschews chemicals and tilling of the soil but includes other crops as well as livestock, all with the goal of creating genuine biodiversity and healthy living soils. I was late to the party with these wines but had heard some of my colleagues wax poetic over them and so when Mimi came to the city earlier this year, I jumped at the chance to taste with her and I'm still thinking about it four months later. She is an arresting presence, intensely knowledgeable, and explains complex agricultural ideas with ease. Furthermore, her wines  spoke clearly and precisely and with real emotion. (I won't pontificate further but if you are interested in her ideas and work you can read her here or listen to her on any these podcasts here - you won't be disappointed).

Next up is a first time bottling from the team at Phelan Farm, helmed by the legendary sommelier-turned-farmer Rajat Parr. Phelan is tucked a few miles inland from the Pacific in San Luis Obispo Country on the Central Coast and though the Phelan family have been farming there since the mid-nineteenth century, it wasn't until 2007 that Greg Phelan planted some own-rooted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In the last five years, Raj has taken over the stewardship of the farm, instituting a regenerative farming program and eliminating not only tilling but sulfur and copper in the vineyards and instead treating them with a variety of homemade treatments from beneficial plants grown on the property or purchased from other local farmers. He has also moved to graft over a substantial proportion of the original vines to other varieties, notably Mencia from the legendary Camino Novo vineyard in Galicia, and Savagnin, Trousseau, Poulsard, Gamay and Mondeuse from the French Alpine foothills of the Jura and Savoie. This blend of Mencia, Trousseau and a bit of Palomino, all co-fermented and bottled with no added sulfur, feels utterly alive and brimming with crunchy red fruit and energy. (Only 12 btls available).

You may not yet know the name Cody Rasmussen of Desire Lines Wine Co. but chances are you've had his wines, as he has been the Assistant Winemaker at Bedrock Wine Company since 2013 where he has been helping make some of the most lauded and best-farmed wines on the West Coast. His work at BWC has given him access to some truly extraordinary vineyard sites and there are few more remarkable than Evangelho and Shake Ridge. Evangelho Vineyard in Contra Costa County has actually been farmed by Chris Cottrell and Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock and their gift for thoughtful organic viticulture is on full display here in this bottling of Carignan and Mourvedre. The vines are planted on their own roots in soils that resemble nothing so much as beach sand and it's those sandy soils that have sustained this vineyard for nearly 150 years. The second wine on offer today is from Anne Kraemer's Shake Ridge Vineyard in Amador County in the Sierra Foothills. When I tasted with Cody he suggested that Anne was the best farmer in California. He explained that not only is the organic viticulture first-rate (and is now no-till) but that Anne has a real gift for parsing the 42-acre property into smaller blocks and finding the right varieties for each one. She has also made a point of maintaining the existing forests on the property, providing a green bulwark that boosts the overall health and biodiversity of the  vineyards. Both of Cody's wines on offer today are intensely aromatic and full of soul, doing justice to the hard work of these farmers.

The wines of Matt and Audra Naumann at Newfound Wines,  were some of my favorite new domestic discoveries of the past year. The Naumanns established their winery in the Sierra Foothills in 2016 and have been farming and making wine from a variety of sites scattered between Mendocino, Napa and the Central Coast. The wines are invariably delicate and understated, combining drinkability with great aging potential, but their Grenaches have an extra bit of flair that really stands apart. The winemaking leans heavily toward infusion rather than extraction and so arrive at a style of Grenache that has much in common with Pinot, full of vivid red fruit and spice and a lacy mouthfeel. Today we have not one but two vintages of the Scaggs Vineyard Grenache, owned and planted by Boz Scaggs (yep!) on the northern face of Mount Veeder in 1998. Matt and Audra have been farming the vineyard of just over two acres since 2016.

After all this red wine, why not finish with something fizzy? In the anchor position today is Maître de Chai and their fairly astonishing sparkling Chardonnay, from a solera comprising six vintages. I met Alex Pitts and Marty Winters of MDC when their wines first came to market in New York, perhaps six or so years ago and my first reaction was that they were nerds very much in my own image. They both learned about wines first in restaurants and then in winery internships (Alex at Scholium Project, Marty at Leo Steen). They will talk about wine and taste it with pretty much anyone and have a good time doing it. They have been fortunate enough to forge relationships with a number of serious growers over the year, perhaps none more serious than our friends Steve and Jill Matthiasson. They have been purchasing Chardonnay from the Michael Mara Vineyard since 2012. Steve planted the site in 2006 and the work that went into planting the intensely rocky soil has become the stuff of legend (it's the site of an old landslide). Alex and Marty started building their solera from the first vintage and after the 2018 was finished fermenting, they bottled it and kept in bottle for 24 months before disgorging it and then aging it another 6 months. When we tasted this in the store, it pretty much sent the whole staff quiet - a brilliant and serious sparkling wine by any measure.

This assortment being offered today represents but a tiny sliver of the hundreds of great wines being made from any number of meticulously farmed vineyards today. The list is endless and goes up the coast from Baja to B.C. But everything here is today is superlative and absolutely deserves your attention, both for what's in the bottle and how it got there. We know how much these growers appreciate their wines being drunk and loved. So buy any six of these on offer today and get the case discount of ten percent. You will not regret it.

Sam Ehrlich

**All wines on today's offer are in pre-arrival and will be in stock Wednesday 6/1 and/or Thursday 6/2**

Desire Lines Wine Co. 2018 Amador County Shake Ridge Vineyard Syrah

What is it about Sierra Foothills Syrah? It is so appealing, so outright tasty. And this wine is TASTY. From the great Shake Ridge Vineyard, planted in soils rich with quartz, schist and slate, the DLWC Syrah includes a tiny fraction of co-fermented Viognier for heightened aromatic richness. The fruit is deeply blue in character, all blueberry and plum, with classic black pepper and olive notes. The percentage of whole-bunch is somewhere between one-third and two-thirds and it is worn well, showing plenty of spice and dried petals without ever veering into greenness. This is fabulous and will age beautifully if you have the patience (I sure don't). Sam Ehrlich

  • red
  • 2 in stock
  • $47.99

  • Organic

Desire Lines Wine Co. 2019 Contra Costa County Evangelho Heritage Red

A different side of Evangelho than you might be accustomed to. The predominance of Carignan makes for a much more red fruit profile and the 30% whole cluster (kinda carbonic) add real aromatic lift. This is crunchy and brambly, with lots of raspberry seed and allspice and fresh herbs. The texture is bright and crisp feeling, almost Beaujolais like. Just terrific and will be great with a chill this summer when you are grilling or next fall when things cool off and you start braising. Sam Ehrlich

  • red
  • 3 in stock
  • $47.99

  • Organic

Maître de Chai NV Sonoma Coast Chardonnay - Michael Mara Vine

We at CSW are a contentious bunch when we taste together. Rarely are we all in agreement and often it's because we all dislike a wine. But the day we tasted this, we were unanimously rapt. This sparkling wine made from a solera barrel of Chardonnay from Michael Mara Vineyard stopped us cold. The level of complexity is impressive, with lemon peel and an earthy peach pit character pushing up against brown butter and ginger juice. With air the mineral component becomes more apparent, chalky and salty and the finish is incredibly persistent and long. Like most really great sparklers, this is first and foremost wine and you should not be afraid to decant this. What you lose in fizz you will gain in detail. Sam Ehrlich

  • white sparkling
  • 2 in stock
  • no discount
  • $59.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
Sorry, the Following have Already Sold

Hope Well 2020 Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay

Mimi made no red wine at all in 2020 in the wake of the fires in Oregon and the whites were produced only after rain blew the smoke out to sea. She made just three barrels of the Chardonnay and it is a truly lovely wine. There is real weight and breadth in the mid-palate, full of white peach and Meyer lemon fruit and this is incredibly pleasurable today. But there is no shortage of acidity and freshness and so much detail in the long mineral-toned finish that if you want to put a bottle or two away, I have no doubt you will be richly rewarded. Sam Ehrlich

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $89.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Hope Well 2020 Amity Hills Chenin Blanc

The two Chenins on offer today are both wonderful. Grafted over from Riesling in 2019, this was the first vintage produced. There is incredible density to this wine. The nose hints at lime curd, blooming yellow flowers and canteloupe; on the palate there is a distinct mineral core. But the texture is what really stands out-brilliant acidity and a juicy quenching feel wrapped together. This would be impressive if it were many vintages down the road but for a first try it's incredible. This has many years ahead it so be patient or decant it for a couple of hours. Sam Ehrlich

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $49.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Hope Well 2020 Eola-Amity Hills 'Hunter's Moon' - Chenin Blanc

Picked two weeks later than the first bottling of Chenin, with virtually no shift in acidity or potential alcohol but some botrytis developed, this is quite a different wine and no less fascinating. The key lime and floral notes that make this wine so seductive are still there but there is more richness in the mid-palate pushing up against that spine of acidity that holds the wine firmly upright. I drank this last week with four Burgundy growers who were all VERY impressed with the combination of material and delicacy. Sam Ehrlich

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $94.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Hope Well 2019 Amity Hills Pinot Noir Sunday's Child

Sunday's Child was born of an experiment, in which several rows of Pinot were picked together, then separated into three lots and made as a direct press (almost) rosé , a very short macerated red and a traditionally made red - this one being the latter. This is as fine a Willamette Pinot as I can remember tasting, all fresh cut roses, tart crisp cherry and beautiful savory spice. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this had seen a high percentage of whole cluster - it's full of white pepper and herbal accents that suggest stems but in fact it is 100% destemmed. The overall sense of finesse and precision in this wine, combined with a high level of compexity, makes for one of the more exciting reds I can remember tasting this past year. LOVE it. Sam Ehrlich

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $89.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • Low Sulfur

Phelan Farm (Raj Parr) 2020 Central Coast Misturado de Cambria

Raj Parr's first release from Phelan Farm, this is 40% each of Mencia and Trousseau, with some Palomino making up the balance. It's really impressive wine, with bright raspberry and cranberry fruit at the core, but with all kinds of pepper and herbal notes coloring inside the lines and a salty cool freshness that illustrate the Pacific influence here. An incredible wine for the coming warm weather, this drinks more like white wine than it does red, though the Mencia gets the last word. Nobody who is familiar with Envinate's Galician wines would be surprised to find out that the cuttings came from the legendary Camino Novo vineyard. Really terrific. Sam Ehrlich

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $47.99

  • Organic
  • Biodynamic
  • No Sulfur

Newfound 2017 Napa Valley - Mt. Veeder Grenache - Scaggs Vineyard

The Naumanns make lovely wines but their feel for Grenache is really impressive. This is no exception. 50% whole-cluster and aged in 400L barrels, this is Grenache for Burgundy lovers, full of red and black cherry, fresh thyme, white pepper and little touches of roasted meat. The texture is silken, the wine almost floating-there is no heaviness of alcohol or over-extraction. California is seeing a surge of producers making world-class Grenache (Sandlands, Birichino, A Tribute to Grace to name a few) and Newfound belong firmly in that camp. Sam Ehrlich

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $54.99

  • Organic

Newfound 2019 Napa Valley - Mt. Veeder Grenache - Scaggs Vineyard

The Naumanns make lovely wines but their feel for Grenache is really impressive. This is no exception. 50% whole cluster and aged in 400L barrels, this is Grenache for Burgundy lovers. A fruit profile quite similar to the '17, this shows a bit more of the stem character, with rose petals and baking spice dominating rather than the garrigue notes that stand out in the older wine. The feeling of precision and energy here is great-the red fruit practically sparkles, gleaming with energy on the palate. This has many years ahead of it. Would love to taste this alongside a great cool-vintage Chateauneuf in a few years and see which comes out ahead. Sam Ehrlich

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $54.99