Naveran Brut Nature Cava ($16.99)
From the producer:
"Naveran is the surname of a family dedicated to cultivating its vineyards and producing its own artisanal wines and cavas. Its cellars are located in the estate of Can Parellada (Torrelavit), in the center of the Alt Penedés. The fact that it’s run by grape growers and wine producers, allowing them to be intimately involved in the cultivation and production process, to oversee the growth and quality of the grapes and to create innovative cuttings of their own vines, sets this winery apart from the majority of wineries in this region.
Naveran cultivates its vines using purely ecological methods: no pesticides or herbicides, all fertilizers are organic. In the event of heavy rains, the grapes are allowed to fall to ensure a quality harvest.
Macabeo, Xarel.lo, Parellada , Chardonnay
Collection, pressing and fermentation of the four varieties takes place separately in stainless steel vats at a low temperature, coupage in November, tirage and second fermentation in bottles typical of the méthode champenoise for a minimum of two years followed by riddling, disgorging, corking and labeling before it arrives in your hands.
Pale and luminous yellow, regular and good detachment of small bubbles that form a crown on the surface.
First impression is pleasant, refined and light aromas, secondary aromas characteristic of ageing in bottles with hints of fruit, flowers and spice.
Exquisite in the mouth, full and creamy, very dry and refreshing at the same time, with balanced acidity and elegant, fruity and long-lasting after-taste.
Good balance, with a pleasant after-taste and a good presence."
Brut Nature is a style, and it means that after disgorgement and before corking no dosage (base wine + sugar) is added to the final product. That means that this is the driest of the sparkling wines. Brut Nature wines can be a little harsh, but I don't find that to be the case at all with Naveran. This is a well-made, bright wine that has just enough creaminess to balance the dryness.
Cantine Monfort Blanc de Sers Brut Nature ($21.99)
From the producer:
"Blanc de Sers Brut Nature is a sparkling wine produced in according to Metodo Classico method: nine months on the lees obtained from the grapes Valderbara, Vernaza and Nosiola cultivated on the terraced hills of Serso and Viarago. The optimal altitude between 550 and 700 meters a.s.l., the particular acidity of these grapes and their delicate aroma combined with the right period of ageing on the lees provide a quality creamy sparkling with a fresh and enchanting bouquet. Brut nature, zero dosage or pas dosé, the choice of our sparkling wine master to make in the flûte what grapes and terroir have to say.
Colour: pale yellow.
Bouquet: white flowers and a hint of green apple enhanced by a touch of hay.
Perlage: enhances the flavor and length.
Excellent as an aperitif, it goes very well with light appetizers, with dishes based on fresh water fish and seafood, soup and mushrooms."
I carry several wines from Cantine Monfort because they are doing a great job of making high quality wines from lesser known, indigenous grapes. This sparkling wine is elegant and delicious, and is a nice step up from Prosecco. Perfect for a hot summer evening's celebrations!
Domaine Mittnacht Freres Crémant d'Alsace ($23.99)
From the producer:
"It is at the foot of the fortified church of Hunawihr, that since three generations, the Mittnacht family elaborates wines of high expression.
Paul, the grandfather, passed on his know-how to his two sons, André and Louis. The latter, combining their efforts, created the Domaine Mittnacht Frères in 1963. The Mittnacht family currently has 23 hectares of vineyards spread over the best terroirs of Hunawihr, Ribeauvillé and Mittelwihr.
Marc, creator of the wine and son of André, and Christophe, commercial and son of Louis, have since 1995 given a new impetus to the company. The two cousins have been conducting their vineyards in respect of the environment for several years. No synthetic products in the vineyard, a great respect for the natural cycle of the vine and its soil, grape harvesting and sorting entirely manual, a minimum of interventions in cellar and no use of oenological products (except for one minimum sulfur content) in order to better respect the quality of the grapes. This philosophy naturally pushes them to engage their domain, since 1999, in organic and biodynamic culture, that which respects the environment, the health of the consumers and especially the personality and the identity of the wines resulting from the great Appellations of Origin Controlled. This approach is certified by Ecocert and Demeter, certification bodies approved by the French Ministry of Agriculture.
Demeter certified biodynamic
60% Pinot Auxerrois, 10% Pinot Blanc, 10% Riesling, 10% Pinot Gris, 10% Pinot Noir
25+ year old vines
High density plantings
Aged on the lees for 18 months"
This is one of my very favorite sparkling wines. The term "Crémant" simply denotes that this is a sparkling wine made in France, in the Champagne method, but outside of the boundaries of the Champagne area. It is from Alsace, where the Pinots of all varieties thrive, and it's partly the unusual blend of all of them that I find compelling and delicious. This is an "extra brut," which means that unlike brut nature, there is dosage, but with a smaller measure of sugar than you'd find in a brut. This is a beautiful and unique wine, worthy of attention.
Beckman Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($18.99)
Santa Ynez Valley, California
From the producer:
"After years as leaders and pioneers in the electronic music business, Tom and Judy Beckmen, joined by their youngest son Steve and more recently by their oldest son Jeff, set out to make wines as well-crafted and distinctive as the keyboards and synthesizers that built their successful careers as founders of Roland Corp, US. The Beckmens have established themselves as a leading grower and producer in Santa Barbara County, crafting wines of critical acclaim that have been served in the finest restaurants and houses in the country (including the White House) since their inception in 1994.
Biodynamic farming is organic farming, and then some. We go beyond organic farming by treating the farm as a living organism: self-contained, self-sustaining, and following the cycles of nature. We do not use herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, or nitrogen based fertilizer.
Biodynamic farming is a system based on the 1920s teachings of Rudolph Steiner, who was asked by his contemporaries to address the shortcoming in food quality from chemical based farming. Biodynamic is the first system that can be considered “organic” and is the root of organic farming.
The system emphasizes a holistic approach to your farm that views it as a self-sustaining organism.
The goal is to build soil health, diversity, and vitality creating a natural defense against pests and diseases for our vines. This is done through the use of the biodynamic preps, composting, livestock, and tilling while following the Biodynamic Planting and Sowing calendar which helps us understand the best times for working on our vines.
80% estate grown grapes from Purisima Mountain, 10 % Vogelzang
Vineyard and 10% Jack McGinley Vineyard fruit
Grapes were whole cluster pressed to stainless steel tanks
Cold settled for 48 hours
Inoculated with VL3 and X-5 yeast
After primary fermentation SO2 was added to prohibit malolactic
100% stainless steel fermented and aged
The wine was bottled in February 2018 after bentonite fining and sterile
5 months in stainless steel
Stone fruit, citrus, tropical fruits and pink grapefruit"
I got to meet Jeff Beckman, who is the brother in charge of sales at this family winery. He was a wealth of knowledge about the vineyards, and I was able to taste all of the Beckman wines with him. I chose the Sauvignon Blanc because it was the most unexpected for me; I typically do not care for California Sauv Blanc because I find them overly ripe and often "flabby," but this one has just the right balance of fruit and acidity. The flavor is wonderful, and the quality of the fruit and care in the vineyard really shows through in the finished product.
Astrolabe Pinot Gris ($17.99)
Marlborough, New Zealand
From the producer:
Named after the ship that in 1827 charted and explored the Marlborough Coast, Astrolabe is a personal project for winemaker Simon Waghorn and his wife, Jane. Astrolabe produces a range of wines that express the purity and intensity of fruit flavours naturally afforded by the climate and soils of the Marlborough region. All grapes are sourced from unique Marlborough sites, carefully chosen to add complexity and completeness in the wines. Simon is fascinated by the distinctive qualities of the Marlborough sub-regions, whether bottled alone or blended as part of the Marlborough classic. All Simon’s skill and experience combine to capture the essence of Marlborough in wines of purity, focus and elegance.
Astrolabe Wines is proud to be fully committed to producing wines sustainably.
All aspects of our production are sustainably certified under the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand programme, including all vineyards, the winery and the bottling line.
We deal fairly in all our relationships, maintaining good citizenship within our communities, locally and globally.
Our growers live on their land and have a commitment and relationship with their land which reflects a respect for the natural environment within which they live and work.
Our grapes are sourced entirely from unique Marlborough sites to add layers of complexity to our wines. Each site was chosen for the distinctive flavour it produces. We work with dedicated growers who understand the rhythms of the land and know how to grow grapes that express the terroir. The Astrolabe Province Marlborough Pinot Gris is made from grapes grown across three Marlborough sub-regions — the Wairau Valley, the Awatere Valley and the Kekerengu Coast.
Half of the grapes are machine harvested at night and whole-cluster pressed to preseve the lifted fruit characters and the rest is handpicked to add fine texture, weight and minerality. In the winery, we take great care to handle the fruit in a way which allows the flavours and aromas of the region to come through. I aim for an aromatic, crisp and precise Pinot Gris, with the ability to pair well with food and to bottle age gracefully.
Simon Waghorn, Winemaker.
Colour/Appearance Light Straw
Aroma/Bouquet Pear and quince, light peach and citrus rind and a whiff of cardamom and nougat
Palate Pure, focussed wine with a delicacy of structure, finishing crisp and dry. Stonefruit and pear flavours dominate, followed by some light citrus
Cellaring Will age gracefully over the next six years
Suggested Foods Great as an aperitif, with shellfish and seafood, pâtés, poultry, pork and light game as well as creamy mushroom or egg dishes
Serve Lightly chilled or at cool room temperature"
I've been trying to find a Pinot Gris that's elegant, flavorful, sustainably produced, able to age, and under $20 on the shelf. It was a tough job, but I found what I was looking for in Astrolabe. While Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are different names for the same grape, the former tends to be made in a style that is a little more mellow, smooth, and complex. This is wine that canbe enjoyed on its own, but is really wonderful when paired with food.
Cardinal Spirits Pride Vodka ($24.99)
From the producer:
"Cardinal Spirits Vodka is fermented and distilled on site in Bloomington, Indiana from white grapes.
This is not your average tasteless, odorless vodka. It has character by design. A very light entry, a full rich body, and a bright floral finish. We distill to 190.5º proof rather than blowing all of the flavor out at 192, leaving some of the grape aroma and flavor in the spirit before its final charcoal filtering.
It's some of the best vodka around, and many people have told us it's the only vodka they'll drink straight.
Here’s the deal with Pride Vodka: 10% of proceeds from each bottle goes to LGBTQ orgs in your community like @lgbtcenternyc and @btown_pride! A bottle of vodka won’t solve the world’s problems, but it will directly support the LGBTQ community, and that’s a damn good start."
This is a special bottling of Cardinal Spirits' signature Vodka, which is distilled from grapes and drinks as smoothly as any I've ever had. It earned 93 points from Wine Enthusiast and Triple Gold at the Micro Liquor Spirits Awards. This vodka is super versatile, and it passes my test: can I sip it neat? They aren't just slapping a rainbow on the bottle for a month, either: all year they put their money where their mouth is.
Etsu Japanese Gin ($38.99)
From the distributor:
"It is with great pride that Asahikawa distillery made this unique gin on the Northern island of Hokkaido in Japan. The main botanicals – green bitter orange peel, coriander, licorice and angelica root – macerate for more than 24h in neutral cane spirit distilled thanks to a copper still with a swan neck to 83% vol. It is then diluted down to 43% vol with water sourced from the Taisetsu Mountains and filtered through charcoal for optimal purity.
NOSE : Floral & vegetal, notes of citrus fruits with yuzu persistent
PALATE : Fresh and well-balanced, peppers with hints of green teas and berries
FINISH : Sansho pepper ending on yuzu aromas"
The minute I tasted this, it became one of my top three gins ever (#1 is Ki No Bi, also from Japan). The flavor is complex, but approachable. While I could drink this from the bottle with a straw, social grace and my liver dictate that I don't. This is perfect for sipping or a very dry Martini. I'd only add tonic if it were something like Q Original--neutral flavor and low sweetness. This gin might make you swoon, so be warned.
Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin ($34.99)
From the producer:
"Paying respect to the Chesapeake Bay watershed, in which our beloved Catoctin Creek does flow, this gin is a bit of a watershed itself.
Distilled from rye grain, with a secret recipe of herbs and spices, Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin® is unlike any gin you've tried. Amazingly complex, with a rye base that shines through subtle citrus and cinnamon notes, essences of fresh cut hay, and of course a crisp juniper character. Together, they make Watershed Gin a fine cocktail mixer.
Try it with the traditional tonic and a slice of lime (or a Meyer Lemon, for a real treat!). Or mix it into your favorite summertime refreshers."
I love this distillery, so I'm happy to have a second product from them. This gin is a great example of how the base spirit (and the grain from which it's made) can influence the flavor and texture of the finished product. Rye imparts a little earthiness and roundness, while the botanicals give the gin a nice lift. I really like this with almost any tonic, and I think it would also make a great Martini. If you like to "vote with your dollar," for progress, this distillery is solar-powered, uses organic grain, is LGBTQ-supportive, and the master distiller is a woman.
Oola Waitsburg Barrel-Finished Gin ($35.99)
From the producer:
"We’ve woven together thirteen Gin botanicals with 2 months and 28 days of oak aging in freshly emptied Waitsburg Bourbon casks. The result is a complex yet delicate spirit with layered aromas of warm baking spices, honey and herbaceous juniper. On the palate, soft maple sugar, toasted brioche and cream evolve into a vanilla finish. No sugar is added to this spirit, but a natural, pleasant sweetness comes from the mash of soft white organic Washington winter wheat. It is a nuanced, lyrical spirit with beautiful floral elements and a deep, rich wood influence."
If you are not usually a gin drinker, this might be for you. If you like brown spirits, this might be for you. If you like to flip the script on gin cocktails, this is definitely for you! The aging adds smoothness and a rounder flavor profile than typical gins, making this good for sipping as well
Principe de los Apostoles Mate Gin ($30.99)
From the producer:
"Within the realm of New World Gins, Apóstoles differs greatly from the classic winter flavors of London Dry. We present a nuanced profile that is more tropical and indigenous to the Southern Hemisphere incorporating our Argentine botanicals such as Yerba Mate, Pink Grapefruit, Peppermint and Eucalyptus.
When the Jesuits arrived in the Provence of Misiones they quickly found that the Mate leaf would produce a high quality tea and began to plant hundreds of acres. Mate soon became the national beverage of Argentina with Misiones the original plantings. We honor our land by incorporating fresh Mate leaves into our Gin.
Distilled in 200 liters batches in a German copper still, Apostoles is as craft as it gets. We macerate each botanical separately in a wheat alcohol base. The fresh leaves of Yerba Mate, Eucalyptus and Pink Grapefruit skins are macerated for 24 hours in stainless steel containers. Same for the Juniper and Coriander. The peppermint is macerated only for 2 hours. We then blend all the macerations and distill the blend. The result of the distillation is bottled and numbered by batch."
This is the first premium gin to be made in Latin America, and the ingredients reflect the land, the history, and the culture of Argentina. When I tasted this gin, I knew I had to introduce it in my store. A truly unique spirit, its flavor is nuanced and complex, though mint is clearly present. This makes excellent cocktails, though if I'm having it with tonic, I'm leaving out the lime and adding a little muddled mint or even a touch of mint simple syrup.
Domaine de Castelnau "Aigue Marine" Picpoul de Pinet ($12.99)
From the producer:
Night harvest to preserve the grapes' quality potential. Gentle de-stemming and pressing of grapes. Fermentation under temperature control. Grapes from different plots are separately vinified to keep each vine’s typicality and enable original blends. Aging on fine lees. Limited sulfites addition.
This Picpoul de Pinet cuvée pairs naturally with fishes, seafood and shellfishes in particular.
Light yellow color with green glints. The nose expresses exotic fruit and floral aromas as well as iodized notes. The palate is strong on fruits, followed by a weighty but balanced mid-palate and revealing a floral bouquet with lychees notes. The finish leaves a long-lasting candied fruit sweetness."
Piquepoul blanc is one of the oldest grapes from the Languedoc, and it is having a bit of a moment lately. Picpoul de Pinet denotes that the wine is 100% Piquepoul blanc, and that it is made in one of six desginated communes. The wine is a compelling balance of fruit, flowers, and bright minerality. It is smooth, approachable, and easy to pair with both light fare and dishes that have stronger salty or savory flavors.
Cuma Torrontés ($13.99)
Calchaquí Valley, Argentina
From the producer:
"Sourced entirely from estate vineyards high in Argentina’s northwest Andes. This extreme elevation lends itself perfectly to organic viticulture. Hot days, cool nights, lack of rainfall and a dry shallow soil allow for minimal human interference to the natural growth cycle of the vines.
Vinification: All organic practices are carried over from vineyard to winery where the wines are carefully handled throughout the entire vinification process. Cuma is produced to be drunk young, therefore little oak is used in the winery; instead the wines are aged at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks in an effort to showcase their natural complexity and deep fruit flavors.
The Cuma Torrontés shows a bright green/yellow color, the wine has aromas of rose petals and hints of jasmine and orange skin. On the palate, the wine exhibits fresh and floral fruit with a refreshing, bracing acidity. The palate flavors include fresh peaches and a floral taste that is typical with this grape."
Torrontés is a wine that flies below most people's radar. When we think of Argentina, Malbec is the grape that comes to mine. Torrontés is the most widely planted white grape there, though, and the wines made from it are aromatic and most appealing when enjoyed young. Cuma comes from some of the highest elevations, and as such, the acidity keeps the fruit in check. As with Picpoul, this wine shows both fruit and floral notes. Refreshing and summery!
Côté Mas"Aurore" 1 L ($12.99)
From the producer:
"Innovation and a passion for the Languedoc are what drives Jean-Claude Mas. Innovation and a passion for the Languedoc are what drives Jean-Claude Mas. Since taking the helm of his family’s winery in 2000, he has prioritized sourcing the highest quality grapes to craft wines of authenticity and refinement.
20% of estate vineyards are farmed organically; the rest is farmed using sustainable practices, certified under Terra Vitis.
Soil is composed of clay and limestone. The Mediterranean climate is warm and dry, with some regulating influence by the Atlantic ocean.
The grapes are destemmed and each variety is vinified separately. Gentle pressing occurred with a pneumatic press; only the free-run juice is used. The fermentation occurred at 62°F in temperature controlled stainless steel for two weeks. The wine was aged on its lees with regular stirring for 40 days in new coated cement vats. This process is to obtain maximum fruit flavor intensity while preserving natural acidity and aroma.
Aromatic with cherry, strawberry and floral aromas evolving toward soft candied fruit notes. The palate is rich and smooth with ripe red fruits and well-balanced acidity. Have an aperitif or pair with grilled chicken, shrimp, and goat cheese salads."
Light, bright, well-made for its price point, easy to drink, larger bottle. What more could you ask for? This is a larger production wine than I usually carry, and you do see it everywhere, but I hold onto it because I think it overdelivers for the price, and because I like to offer a bigger bottle size. I noticed that this vintage is a little more refined than last year's, too, so I'm 100% on board with this wine.
Mas de la Dame "La Gourmande" ($13.99)
Les Bau-de-Provence, France
From the producer:
"Cited in the predictions of Nostradamus, painted by Van Gogh, evoked by Simone de Beauvoir, the Mas de la Dame has been producing wines and olive oil for four generations.
Caroline Missoffe and Anne Poniatowski , the great granddaughters of the founder, today manage this estate which covers three hundred hectares including 57 hectares of vineyards and 28 hectares of olive trees.
Located at the foot of the mythical village of Les Baux de Provence , on the southern slopes of the Alpilles, sheltered by the mountain barrier, the wines benefit from a unique terroir and a very specific microclimate.
On a very draining soil, consisting of stony scree of clay-limestone origin, resulting from the disintegration of the rock, specific to this part of the Alpilles, the vines grow and mingle with the surrounding scrubland in a harmonious balance.
The persistent 'mistral' favors a good sanitary condition and the exchange of aromas.
WINEMAKING & VINTAGE NOTES
Entirely hand-harvested in late August early in the morning under cool temperatures. Elaborated partly by bleeding at low temperature, and
by direct press. Vinification in stainless steel at low temperatures. Each variety is vinified separately then blended. The wine was filtered and bottled late December.
Tender pink color. On the nose, ripe red fresh berry, blood orange, peaches and rose. On the palate, crisp on the attack, subtle, aromatic. Round and perfumed on the finish. This wine is best served chilled with any kind of relaxed meal like barbeque, salads, and pesto pasta, or fish and grilled meat. Also as an aperitif with olives and tapenade."
I was lucky enough to visit the commune of Les Baux-de-Provence when I was 14, and it left its impression. There's a small medieval mountain village whose streets lead up to a ruined castle--magical is not an overstatement for this place. In the area surrounding it, there are only a handful of winemakers, whose standard farming practice is, and always has been, organic. The wines are a little like Provence and a little like the southern Rhone, but they really are a thing unto themselves. This particular wine's light salmon hue belies the strength of its flavor profile, which is distinct enough to hold up to stronger meals.
Tres Palacios Rosé of Cabernet Franc ($10.99)
Cholqui Valley, Chile
From the producer:
"The Viña Tres Palacios winery and vineyards are located in the Cholqui sector of the Maipo Valley, 16 km (10 miles) from the city of Melipilla. Cholqui is a closed valley 9 km (5.6 miles) south of the Maipo River, although it is separated from it by a chain of hills that surrounds the area to the north, east, and south. The Horcon de Piedra Mountain, one of the highest peaks in the Coastal Mountain Range, lies toward the eastern end of the valley. The western side is open to the influence of the Pacific Ocean 30 km (25 miles) away, and cooling breezes from the sea and inter-mountain circulation refresh the vineyards in the summer. Tres Palacios is the only winery in the Cholqui Valley and all of the wines are estate produced.
A vibrant rosé of Cabernet Franc that is bursting with flavor. The Palacios family and winemaker Camilo Rahmer bring a zippy value from Maipo with the second vintage release of this wine."
I really like the balance of fruit and vegetal notes in this wine. It's not completely "savory," but you certainly know it's different from most other pink wines. It's clearly not from southern France! The unique flavor profile and the slight weight on the palate make this wine unusual, but very approachable. Particularly if you've not had Chilean rosé before, you should try this one.