Who doesn't remember this time of year as a child? My sister and I couldn't wait to open presents early Christmas morning and i had usually opened them weeks before having unwrapped and re-wrapped them with surgical precision. My parents would indulge in some treacherous egg nog (not from this list http://bit.ly/t5wmai) probably spiked with some Jack Daniels as we weren't allowed to touch it without being tackled. There always seemed to be copious amounts of homespun sweet and savory food lying around to dive into. Those days were a lot less frantic.
Every year i add to those memories as I try to shape new ones for my own family. My daughter, Kaela, saw an egg nog commercial for Ovaltine recently and asked me, "Why are those people drinking eggs?". I laughed and stated "I don't drink eggs, I drink wine". She followed, "You're always drinking wine daddy..". She's correct. I tried to explain to her that wine is sort of like medicine (wrong on many levels) and that these days mommies and daddies are involved in a lot more hustle and bustle. She asked, "What's hustle and bustle?". My response: "Well, dealing with things like …. adding children to the family, cold weather and additional layers of clothes, travel planning, holiday shopping, relatives, the sun going down earlier, becoming immune to caffeine, or simply just being old, etc.
Long story short, here is your Sour Grapes prescription for this Holiday Season. We hope it's a great one!
Jagdschloss Sekt Weiss Brut 2009 - Rheingau, Germany
Taking the name of the picturesque winemaking town on the banks of the Rhine, the Rüdesheimer Weinkellerei was founded in the mid-1800’s. Although thoroughly modernized, their extensive networks of cellars, fallen into disuse after WWI, were actually used for mushroom cultivation. Producing both estate wines and private labels from hillside, hand-harvested grapes, their Jagdschloss Sekt is vibrant and dimensional. Festive and versatile, pair light, dry sparklers with whatever comes your way. Ideal with smoked salmon mousse on pumpernickel squares, pan-fried trout fillets or a basket of chili-cheese fries. This has outsold all other sparkling wine for us this year (may have something to do with Summer of Riesling by Greico in NYC) and we're addicted. This is 100% Riesling, dry and full of slate, stone fruit and delicious.
Casa de Mouraz Encruzado 2010 - Dao, Portugal
In this old land of steep slopes and small valleys, located between the mountain ranges of Estrela and Caramulo, the Cister monks built the monastery of S. Pedro de Mouraz (12th century), giving rise to the farming of vineyards and wine in this region. Little has changed to the land but the original farming practices, since lost by industrialization, have now been brought back by Antonio Lopes Ribiero and his wife Sara Dionisio. They inherited the vines through several generations but converted it to the first certified organic vineyard of the Dao in 2000 (and since biodynamic as well). With the intent to use local varieties to the best of their terroir expression, the couple concentrates their creative efforts in respect to the cycles of nature. They farm 13ha of various grapes (5 red and 4 white) is divided into 10 parcels due to differences in soil (granite to clay), altitude (140 to 400m) and surroundings (chestnut, oak and pine trees). New plantings vie with nearly 50yr old vines. The cellar uses the best of modern technology yet with traditional methods applied first, in the stone house cut from the very rock beneath them. Gentle pressings, natural yeast starters, long lees contact in the wine and minimal handling otherwise, are the time honored practices. Stainless steel with temperature control and pneumatic presses enhance the prospects. The results are clear: pure expressions of the older grape vines, with distinct transparency to the terroir they have grown up in (documents show the parcels have been the same since the 16th century!) but fresh and pleasurable enough to be drunk young and often. Antonio and Sara are a dynamic team, active in promoting the spread of their philosophies to neighboring vignerons. The more they press, the better their wine, and the wines of Portugal at large, will be! We think the monks would be happy too. Tropical fruit, mint, orange blossom and apricot with fresh minerality and a long, light weighted finish.
Mas del Perié 'Les Escures' Malbec 2009 - Cahors, France
Fabien Jouves is a fourth generation winemaker from this original home to Malbec in Cahors, France. He is 27, young, energetic and has been making wines half of his life. He told me his first time assisting in the winemaking process was at age 13. He has quite a knack for drinking copious amounts of his wines and quickly saying that his thirst is due to his “labors in the vineyard”. Fabien is quite the workhorse at the estate. His uncle tends vines and they regularly plow with horses between the vines to aerate the soil (donʼt know if youʼve tried this, but it will make your arms double in size quickly) and everything is done by hand - even in the winery itself. His uncle also used to sell the Malbec to some classed growths on the right bank (did not get any names) and regularly laughs at the Bordelaise “jealousy” of how juicy the familyʼs Malbec is grown here. Iʼm also humbled by how much work goes into making the two wines of the estate. This intro Malbec is 20+ year avg vines, fermented in cement, all natural yeasts, organically farmed and finally has the new label. The old label was simply ridiculous, but Fabienʼs grandmother was holding onto it for some reason. Once you drink this, the new world stuff will never be a thought again.
Tinhof Blau+Red 2009 - Burgenland, Austria
Erwin Tinhof began his agricultural studies at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Vienna. Then at the University of Montpellier he began his winemaking studies and had quite an internship at one of the most prestigious wineries in the South of France (Mas de Daumas Gassac). Only through the natural course, farming biodynamically, without insecticides, herbicides or artificial fertilization does he pursue his passion of making wine. His vines are mostly 15-45 year old vines. The estate is located in Eisenstadt, the capital of the Burgenland region, in the Neusiedlersee-Hügelland wine-growing region in Austria. This Introductory red of the estate is comprised mostly of Blaufrankisch (70%) and the remainder is Zweigelt (30%). Classic spicy aromas of violets and dark fruits give way to a great balance of fruit, tannin & acidity. Erwin created a steal for the price you will pay for this biodynamically farmed blend from Tinhof.
Bodegas Ruchel Mencia 2009 - Valdeorras, Spain
This is a small, family owned winery that is located in the Villemartin commune of the Valdeorras region. Valdeorras translates to ‘Valley of Gold,’ as the Romans mined for gold before they moved forward with planting vines throughout the region. A continental climate loaded with slate, granite, calcareous clay, and alluvial soils throughout the seven major wine producing communes, along with a complex river system running through the zones, gives the wines of this 1945 D.O. a great sense of place. The family farms about 19 hectares of their own vineyards, primarily growing Godello, along with some Mencia to produce small quantities of red wine. The quality of each of their wines is a clear example of their focus on natural farming methods and vinification, as it is very important to Luciano and the rest of the Bodega. Having produced wine for only a couple decades, Ruchel is proud to already represent the tradition and style of truly great Valdeorras wine. The Ruchel Mencia is made from hand-harvested Mencia and a touch of Tempranillo. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and then left to age in the bottle for 9 months. Red cherry in color, this wine exhibits the lovely characteristics of quality Mencia. It is clean and well-balanced with red and black berry notes along with some good earthiness and a bit of spice. The finish is clean and pleasant with lingering notes of fruit and spice. This medium-bodied red is a good accompaniment to grilled fish and all types of meats and game.
Domaine l'Agapé Riesling 2009 - Alsace, France
Domaine l'Agapé sprang to life by collecting the fruit of some of Alsace’s best vineyards (including Grand Cru Osterberg, Rosacker and Schoenenbourg). In 2007, Vincent Sipp and Isabelle Boxler opened the doors of the cellar to receive this fruit from 8.5ha of vines. 1/3 of the land they farm organically is Grand Cru AOC vineyard, with vines no younger than 25 years of age. They began with pristine ingredients and have repaid the land with extraordinarily complex and aromatic wines. Vincent works the cellar to perfection and, with the renowned nose (and deft talent in the kitchen) of Isabelle, guides the wines to perfumed finesse. They both are descendants from old vignerons in the region, the Boxler family supplying them with access to their vines averaging 35yrs old. These are maintained with the balance and harmony to nature in mind. Homemade composts are used to stimulate natural soil health and biological defenses in the vines. Cover crop alternately decorates the rows and is ploughed for root propagation. Rot and mildew are kept in check with rigorous canopy management. The two handpick the fruit, keeping the clusters whole. The goal is to develop complexity in the fruit, without sacrificing the delicate aromas of each unique varietal. They hope to express the beauty that lives around them, that is encouraged to be free and creates the terroir that is truly of their wines. Their total production is less than 5,000 cases per year. Fine. Focused. Expressive. These are words to describe both the wines and the talents behind the wines at this young estate.