Von Donabaum Grüner Veltliner ($13.50)
From the producer:
"Volker Donabaum, the founder of Volker Wines, has been in the wine industry practically since birth. He grew up on the Donabaum family estate in the Wachau in Austria, where the family has been making wine since 1833. Volker worked several harvests in Austria before working as an assistant winemaker in California, France, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Oregon and Canada. In 2012, Volker moved to New York City, where he imports and distributes wines from around the world, including his Volker Wines.
Grüner Veltliner von Donabaum 2016 comes from a 25 year-old single vineyard in the Austrian village of Röschitz, which is located about 1 hour north of Vienna. The hand-picked and hand-sorted grapes are destemmed before crushing, and, after a cool fermentation in stainless steel, the wine rests for 3 months on its fine lees."
Grüner Veltliner mostly comes from Austria, and is a great alternative to either Sauvignon Blanc or Picpoul. This one is very dry with green apple on the nose and stony lemon on the palate, undercut by white floral notes. It is a zesty and refreshing wine that is perfect as an aperitif. I was lucky enough to meet Volker, whose wine I am pleased to support.
Scarbolo Il Ramato Pinot Grigio ($19.99)
From the producer:
"Since the birth of the winery, Scarbolo’s philosophy has been very clear: contribute to a wine culture surpassing easy generalizations and fast trends that don’t belong to the world of farming. They have consciously invested in the Grave area of Friuli that for a long time has been considered only capable of ‘quantity’ wines, despite its amazing soil characteristics.
Valter Scarbolo inherited a passion for the vine from his father’s interest in viticulture. They planted their first vineyards in the 80s, in their hometown of Lauzacco. Lauzacco is located in Friuli on the right bank of the river Torre, just south of the Colli Orientali. The Scarbolo family puts immense effort into the vineyards in order to produce structured and elegant wines that represent the distinct characteristics of their native land. Their philosophy includes densely planting the vines and rigorously implementing sustainability practices to help preserve the ecosystem.
Made in the Friulian “Ramato” style, this wine is bright copper in color, with a nose exhibiting apple, wildberries and fresh citrus. Generous and fresh but with a lasting finish."
You know that thin, nearly clear, one-note Pinot Grigio that's mass-produced? This is not that. This is, aesthetically, an "orange wine," which refers to the color that comes from elongated skin contact during the maceration process. While some orange wines can be a little funky, this one retains its freshness, mellowed slightly by lees aging, which also gives it a little richness on the palate. This is an elegant and interesting wine that will give you a new perspective on Pinot Grigio.
Schiopetto Malvasia ($19.99)
From the producer:
"Malvasia Istriana is one of the historic varietals of the hills of Friuli. It grows well in poor soil of marl composition with hot and sunny exposition where the grapes are left for a lengthy maturation. They are then picked by hand, pressed at low temperatures. This is followed by a static decantation in absence of sulphur dioxide and the vinification and ageing take place in stainless steel for 8 months. The wine thus obtained is rich and complex but at the same time fragrant and aromatic.
Bright straw yellow with golden touches.
Fresh and round balance marine aromas that are perfectly balanced with scents of flowers and sweet fruits.
Creamy, rich and warm. Sweet flavors are matched by a refreshing palate with a clean high acidity finish.
Food pairings: Perfect with apetizers and first dishes, both with fish
This is one of the many Italian indigenous grapes with which I've become slightly obsessed. I'm especially keen to have more people taste Italian whites that aren't as well known as the standards. There is so much elegant and complex white wine, and this is certainly an example of that.
POE Pinot Nouveau 2017 ($24.99)
Monterey County, California
From the producer:
"Samantha Sheehan founded POE in 2009 after being inspired by the wines she tasted in Burgundy and Champagne. The goal is not to replicate Burgundy, but rather create alluring, vineyard specific, age-worthy wines revealing the beautiful terroir of California. There is minimal intervention, judicious use of sulfur, and never any additives.
Our Pinot Nouveau is made in the style of Beaujolais Nouveau, and is an homage to the wonderful idea of celebrating the new vintage. We hand harvest the grapes from a vineyard in Salinas, not far from the ocean. We place the whole clusters into a portable fermentor and seal the lid for seven weeks. In absence of oxygen, the grapes undergo carbonic fermentation and malolactic at the same time. We then press the grapes and go to barrel for one week. We then hand bottle without any sulfur as the wine is to be consumed within the next two to three months. The resulting wine is delicate and fruity. Beautiful notes of wild strawberry, it is simply delicious."
Samantha Sheehan is a dynamite winemaker, and the "nouveau" style of Pinot Noir is her own invention. While this is meant to be drunk young, over the year in the bottle it picks up a lovely underlying earthiness that is unlike any other Pinot I've had. This wine is made without using added sulfites, which gave me some concern about shelf-life, but because the winemaking is so well done, this can take some bottle age without negative effects (to read about what sufites are and what they do in wine, please see my blog post here).
JB Neufeld Yakima Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($39.99)
Yakima Valley, Washington
From the producer:
"JB Neufeld produced its first vintage in 2008. The winery is the only of its kind in Washington, focusing exclusively on Cabernet Sauvignon within the Yakima Valley AVA. The winery was created by the husband and wife team, Justin and Brooke Neufeld. The goal of the brand is to not only showcase the diversity of the terroir found in the valley through its vineyard designate bottlings, but to use that diversity to build a more complex and balanced Cabernet Sauvignon by blending sites as well.
The Yakima Valley AVA has the most diverse terroir of all the AVAs in Washington. All the vineyards are located on south facing slopes created by a series of ridges that are oriented West to East, which is a geological anomaly unique to eastern Washington.
JB Neufeld's focus is to preserve not only the qualities of the wine, but also the place and time from which they were made. They aim to build a Cabernet Sauvignon that possesses multiple layers of complexity that reveal themselves as the wine opens up in the glass. JB Neufeld achieves this by having a winemaking style that is dedicated, thoughtful and precise to the terroir of their valley.
The nose opens with ripe huckleberry, black currants, and blackberry jam, supported by a backdrop of fennel and basil. Balanced on the palate with ripe tannins and well-integrated acidity. Finishes bright and clean with vibrant fruit.
91% Cabernet Sauvignon 9% Cabernet Franc
Aging: 23 months in 64% new French oak and 36% in neutral French oak Production: 6,000 bottles per year"
I'd had some good Washington Cab before tasting this, but JB Neufeld is in another league entirely. This wine is as bold as a Napa Cab with its own profile that, to me, makes it more compelling. The winemaker, Justin, has visited my shop, and he was a joy to talk to about his technique and approach to his wines. This is the entry level offering, and it drinks like a dream. Especially if you aren't familiar with Washington Cabs, try this!