We'll be tasting two whites that are new-ish to the shop:
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.
WINEMAKING 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 fermentation 100% stainless steel fermented and aged The wine was bottled in February 2018 after bentonite fining and sterile filtration
AGING 5 months in stainless steel
TASTING NOTES Stone fruit, citrus, tropical fruits and pink grapefruit"
From me: 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"
From me: 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.
1. Taste with as clean a palate as possible. Try to avoid smoking or chewing gum just beforehand. If you have just eaten, drink some water to clear the flavors of the meal.
2. Keep an open mind. Try new things! We all get into ruts when it comes to our palates, but the fun of a tasting is that you don't have to commit to the whole bottle. If you don't like what you've tasted, you can spit it out.
3. Spit or swallow--it's up to you! Just make sure you use the spittoon!
4. See, swirl, smell, sip, savor. Give attention to all aspects of the wine. Here are a couple of links that explain the process:
5. Have fun! Wine tasting has an air of elitism around it, but unnecessarily so. Your palate is your own-it's as individual as you are-and the most important part of appreciating good alcohol is knowing what you like and why you like it. You don't have to use fancy words or spend a lot of money on a bottle. As the kids say, you do you!