Bohemian Rhapsody

If you like Sauvignon Blanc but sometimes want a wine with a little more body and complexity then you should try Grüner Veltliner. Grüner Veltliner is the signature grape of Austria and has evolved almost entirely as the result of natural hybridization over time in the region. It is a white Vitis vinifera grape also called Grûner Mushateller but is better known by the colloquial name “Grūner”. Grüner Veltliner is a versatile grape that can be made into a wide variety of wines ranging from light and easy-drinking to rich and packed with varietal character. Grüner vines have medium-sized leaves with 5-7 lobes. It’s grape clusters are medium to very large conical clusters of medium density with round or oval greenish-yellow berries. These vines have adapted perfectly to the wet mineral-rich loess and loam soils of the lower vineyard sites near the Danube River. The lots higher up the hill are planted with Riesling. The rocky soils of these sites force the Riesling to struggle to survive but result in a wine that has concentrated flavors and complex taste profile. This farming practice utilizes the attributes of the land and yields the best grapes possible from the prevailing conditions. Although the largest plantings of Grüne Veltliner are in Austria and surrounding countries it has been dispersed throughout many of the wine regions of the world. While most Austrian Grüners are dry, full-bodied and acidic with flavors of citrus fruit, spice, and white pepper you can easily find others that are weightier with a more structured body that requires years to reach maturity in the bottle.

If you haven’t tasted Grüne Veltliner and you’re curious about where to start I would suggest trying a few from Austria first then expand your search to

The United States and Italy to find good Grūner at very reasonable prices. Here are a

South Shore Wine Company Gruner Veltliner 2015

Gruner Veltliner 2018 Photo Courtesy: Fero Vineyards & Winery

few to get you started on your journey.

AUSTRIA: Singing Grūner Veltliner 2017 Niederösterreich, Austria or Domane Krems Grüner Veltliner 2018 Kremstal, Austria 

ITALY: Eisacktaler Kellerei Cantina Valle Isarco Grüner Veltliner 2018 Alto Adige, Italy

 

The United States of America: Grüner Veltliner Fero Vineyards & Winery

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania,  Grûner Veltliner South Shore Wine Company North East, Pennsylvania or Grüner Veltliner Hosmer Winery Ovid, New York (FLX)

Hosmer Estate Winery 2017 Gruner Veltliner

 

Winemaker: Adam Sabelli-Frisch

                As with most things in life the saying “What was old is new again” rings particularly true when it comes to trends in the wine world. Anyone that has read this blog can attest to my curiosity with the ancient wine grape Saperavi and its resurgence worldwide but more specifically here in the U.S. The Mission grape has a storied past in California but fell out of favor with the winemaking community in the early part of the last century. Countless acres of vines have been pulled out and the land used for other projects. When I heard of a winemaker producing wine from Mission grapes and other lesser know varieties I was intrigued. I contacted Adam Sabelli-Frisch owner/winemaker of Sabelli-Frisch Wines in Santa Clarita, California and asked him for an interview to find out more about him, his winemaking philosophy and his plans for bringing back some very interesting wine grapes that haven’t been widely produced in decades.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Adam for the time and honesty he shared with me for this article. What follows is my unedited interview with Adam Sabelli-Frisch of Sabelli-Frisch Wines.

 

                       How did you get started making wine?

Like so many others, I started with home winemaking. Very bad at first, but it gradually improved. Like most home winemakers, I harbored a dream of eventually doing it professionally, which

Mission Grapes Photo Courtesy : Sabelli-Frisch Wines

certainly isn’t a new idea by any means. And one of my bad or good character traits, depending on how you look at it (or if you’re my wife), is that when I decide something, I launch into it pretty quick and without much fear. So by the summer of 2018 I’d decided I wanted to try this for real, and in Sept of that year I was already doing my first harvest!

How would you describe your winemaking style?

I would say that I lean towards making more old world type wines in the new world. Not austere in any way, just a little more restrained than perhaps is the CA style that has prevailed in the last decades. But still embracing the possibilities of the warmer climate wines we can make here. Perhaps a more accurate description would be that I try to make them in the earlier California tradition of the 60’s and 70’s before the big

Flame Tokay Grapes Photo Courtesy : Sabelli-Frisch Wines

styles became the norm.

Who and what had the greatest influence on your winemaking?

I wish I could mention a mentor, but since I didn’t come up through a traditional winemaking background, and have another job to support this still, I never had the chance to work under others (which I very much regret). I would say that maybe Emile Peynauds book Knowing And Making Wine was the closest to something like that.

How did you get interested in growing and making wine from grapes not being widely grown commercially?

That is a long story that I will try to shorten as much as I can: During my early winemaking I was predominantly drinking and making so called ‘natural wines’ (I prefer to refer to them as low-intervention wines these days, rather than natural).That

Petit Manseng Grapes Photo Courtesy: Sabelli-Frisch Wines

was the focus I wanted to bring to making my own wines – naturally fermented, not filtered and with low sulphur additions. In any case, I thought it would be interesting to also take that concept one step further. And in my mind it didn’t make sense to do low-intervention wines and then use imported and non-native grape varieties to do it from. So I wanted to make my wines using the American native strands, vitis labrusca and vitis rupestris etc. But after personal research and trials, I came to the conclusion that they are very challenging to make good wine out of. It was just a bridge too far for a new winemaker. So I regrouped and said: “well, which is the oldest vitis vinifera strand in the US?” And the answer is of course Mission. It’s the oldest European grape in the New World and has been in the Americas for more than 500 years now. So that seemed like a good fit. Only when I started making wine from it did I fully realize how amazing and rewarding that grape is.

What are your favorite varietals to work with and why?

I love Mission with a passion. It has been maligned, discredited, mistreated and ripped out for over a century now. You open older winemaking books and they all refer to the grape as inferior and not suitable for making wine at all. It is completely misunderstood. And when you take the time to understand it, you’ll find it makes world class wines. That might sound hyperbolic, but I actually believe that is the case. Mission has a great future ahead of it, and I’m convinced it will have a big resurrection.

What are some of your favorite wines and from which regions and producers?

I used to be heavily into Amarone in my youth and have a good

Syrah Grapes Photo Courtesy :Sabelli-Frisch Wines

collection of them still. But as you get older, seems like the palate changes and you go for more subtler styles. Last years it’s for me mainly been California or Oregon wines with a good mix between natural wines from small producers and a lot of Pinot Noir. My knowledge is limited to CA and OR wine and I don’t have a lot of knowledge about European producers, which is kind of ironic as I’m from there myself. I really enjoy Lioco, Failla, Ceritas,, Stirm, Broc Cellars, Deux Punx, Sandlands and producers like that here in CA. It’s a very exciting time for CA wines and there’s a change of guard as we move away from the Napa style.

What wines are you working on now and what are your expectations for them?

Well, my interest for rare, underused or strange grape varieties continues. Beside Mission, this year I did a Petit Manseng white for my limited edition Milk Fed line. It’s a yearly recurring edition where the grape changes, but the vinification in amphorae and with light skin-contact doesn’t change. Very small production and one-off’s for each vintage, so they’re always exciting. I also came back to my Alicante Bouschet which turned out so well in 2018 vintage. Really a wonderfully subtle wine. And my Flame Tokay rosé I continued this year as it also turned out so nice last time (Flame Tokay is another almost extinct grape). In the future I’m looking to explore more varieties – I almost got some Negrette and Cabernet Pfeffer this year, so I hope I can revisit those down the line.

Please feel free to to add any personal thoughts and insights you think would be of interest to my readers.

Well, maybe that first release will be sometime early 2020. No fixed date yet, but I would guess around March. I bottle in January and depending on how long they take to get over bottle shock, that’s when they’ll come out.

For more information you can contact

Adam Owner/winemaker Sabelli-Frisch Wines Photo Courtesy : Sabelli-Frisch Wines

Sabelli-Frisch Wines via email at info@sabelli-frisch.com

Phone: 310-383-2944

Follow on Instagram @  sabellifrisch

 
 



The Pirate & The Pearl

I didn’t know of any Petite Pearl being grown or made in Pennsylvania so when I had

The tasting room at Greendance Winery Photo Courtesy: Greendancewinery.com

the opportunity to do a barrel tasting of a Petite Pearl wine that was grown and made just a short drive from my home I couldn’t wait to try it. First, a little background on the Petite Pearl wine grape and the winery growing and making it.

Petite Pearl is a relatively new red wine grape hybrid that was recognized by the federal government as a varietal in 2014. It was developed by renowned Minnesota grape breeder Tom Plocher and was introduced to grape growers in 2010. Petite Pearl has many of the traits vintners in the Upper Midwest value, mainly its cold tolerance (-32ºF) and the ability to ripen well in cool conditions. 

I visited Greendance – The Winery at Sand Hill in Mount Pleasant, Pa on a cold day in early March. I met with Rick Lynn, one of the owners of Sand Hill and his fellow winemaker Robert Blosser. Robert has been a winemaker at Greendance since it opened in September 2007. I asked Rick and Robert about the barrel fermenting technique they used to make their Petite Pearl. Rick said they destemmed the grapes and wrestled them into oak barrel then we all laughed when Robert told me of a mishap they had along the way. Even with all the modern technology available wine making will always remain an artful expression of a wine maker’s skill and intuition. They decided to put this barrel on Petite Verdot skins in an attempt to enhance the overall quality of the wine. Petite Verdot has a very thick skin and is very helpful in adding structure to a wine while increasing its acidity and tannin character. The skins used on this Petite Pearl had been used on a batch of Merlot before being added to the barrel and as a result we thought the remnants of the Merlot had rounded and softened the Petite Pearl. The wine I sampled was light-bodied and smooth with low acidity. It’s dark red color may have been lighted by the time it spent on the Petite Verdot skins but it still was a darker cool-climate red. In my opinion when this wine is ready it will be a very enjoyable wine and a solid first effort for Rick and Robert. They are already talking about the things they might try on their next harvest of Petite Pearl. Rick will be expanding his Petite Pearl vineyard this year to ensure he will have more grapes to work with as he hones in on how to coax all the flavors and aromas out of this intriguing new grape. The unrelenting desire to improve their wines with every vintage is the one trait that is a constant in every winemaker I have every met.

That day I got a bonus barrel tasting of Greendance Chardonnay that was made from grapes they sourced from Equivine Vineyard near Coatesville, Pa. Still early in its timeline

Greendance Chardonnay in new oak barrels

this Chardonnay displayed a very promising profile that should produce a good Pennsylvania Chardonnay.

If you are looking to spend an enjoyable afternoon in a picturesque setting consider visiting Greendance – The Winery at Sand Hill. For directions and a list of events go to http://greendancewinery.com

First Cut is the Deepest

When I arrived at the farm on Deer Field Road in Mount Pleasant, PA

Beautiful & productive vines like these are the result of careful pruning. Photo courtesy of Greendance Winery

that Sand Hill Berries and Greendance – The Winery at Sand Hill both call home, the windchill was hovering near O° and a thin layer of snow covered the ground. Rick Lynn had invited me to his vineyard to show me how he uses the VPS (Vertical Shoot Pruning) technique to prune his Marquette vines. Vintners prune their grape vines every year to make them more productive and to control how the vine develops during the growing season. The trimming is done during the winter when the vines are dormant. Pruning is a cold and labor intensive job that is essential to the success of the current year’s crop but is also necessary for the training and development of the vines for the future. Rick demonstrated how last year’s growth is removed and two of the best canes are left to be bent and attached to the trellis wire. The vine shoots that grow from the cane that was tied to the lower trellis wire are then trained to grow upward by having them attach themselves to catch wires above the cordon wire (lowest wire). The vines proceed to grow upward in a vertical curtain with the fruiting zone below the canopy. On the day we were pruning a lot of old growth had to be removed because Marquette vines are known for their vigorous growth. Greendance uses the VSP method on all of their vines except the American varieties (Vitis labrusca).

VSP pruning is the most common pruning method for cool-climate wine grapes but it is by no means the only one. Rick and I discussed some new ideas for managing vines in the field. I found the practice of planting vines very close together, about two feet apart, then pruning every vine back to one cane and tying down that cane to the right one year then doing the same the next year but tying the one cane to the left and continuing to alternate direction every year.

Another intriguing idea is “Wild Tail” pruning. Wild tail pruning leaves all the buds on the lateral cane that is tied to the cordon wire so the end buds develop first and delays the budding of the lower buds to protect them from a late frost. After all danger of frost has pasted you walk the vineyard and clip off all the “Wild Tails” back to the number of buds you want on each lateral. I am extremely curious to see if these methods would be successful in a cool-climate vineyard.

The goal of my visit was two-fold and with the first part completed we now turn our attention to the second part, Greendance’s planting of Petite Pearl. If you haven’t heard of the Petite Pearl wine grape you’re not alone. This hybrid grape from renowned Minnesota grape breeder Tom Plocher is just beginning to take root in Minnesota, Wisconsin and across the Midwest where it’s cold tolerance is greatly appreciated. I will be posting about my barrel tasting of Greendance Petite Pearl soon.

 

Interview: Duncan Savage, Savage Wines, South Africa

As winemaker at Cape Point Vineyards Western Cape, South Africa Duncan Savage crafted Cape Point’s signature white, Isliedh. Isliedh was critically acclaimed not only in South Africa but globally. This recognition catapulted Duncan upon the world stage and onto the radar of wine critics far beyond his native South Africa. Duncan has left Cape Point to pursue his dream of owning his own winery, aptly named Savage Wines.

I have found Duncan to be genuinely friendly and eager to share his passion for his new venture. When I approached him with an interview request he graciously accepted and responded with candid insight into his journey as a winemaker past, present and future. He confidently answered all the questions I posed to him. Covering the subjects of how he sources his grapes, what grape characteristics he seeks and his favorite wine grapes plus a description of his winemaking style were seamlessly blended with his personal commentary. Duncan covered all these inquiries plus much more in his honest and straight – forward reply. I decided that I couldn’t tell Duncan’s story better than he had himself. The following is my interview with Duncan Savage of Savage Wines in its entirety and verbatim.

Going on my own was the plan from day 1, I just did it a little later than intended. My initial plan was to do so at the age of 35 which to a certain extent I did as my brand was in the market.

I finally took the plunge last year at the age of 38. The time was essential to get the brand up and running. The reality is that if one starts from scratch without money in this industry it’s a very tough scenario. I would have been able to do so had I been single and prepared to rough it, but with kids that need to go to school etc. I needed time. We have no investors involved which I’m really happy with as it’s our family name and is really important to us.

As a result the plan was to lease cellar space, vineyards and purchase other fruit. We kicked off the 2017 vintage in a rented space with some mates with a 3 year plan to put together a home for the brand. A brand needs a home if it’s to be a serious player in the long term. I got a call from a mate in the end of Jan. who had decided to sell his place which was crazy as I’ve always loved his set up! It’s an urban winery in Salt River alongside Woodstock in Cape Town and absolutely epic! I grew up 10 minutes down the road from the place! My 3 year plan became a 1 week plan and a mad scramble to raise some cash…

The challenge with the whole thing is to commit. Is an urban winery what we want, isn’t there a farm option, trucking of grapes into the city etc. The reality is that had we bought a farm we would have continued to buy grapes from the 13 different growers we source from and have done so from the beginning. We have an established style and vision and we don’t want to mess with it. Sourcing fruit is sustainable if one has the relationships in place and is prepared to pay for the good stuff. Farming is tough and growers need to be able to sustain these old parcels that crop next to nothing. Growers that have been on their land for generations also have a deep understanding of terroir, even if the don’t make wine themselves. It’s an understanding of the land that Joe wine guy can’t expect to develop in the short term. 

I cut my teeth on maritime vineyards and always have liked the freshness one gets from such sites. We have always favoured the maritime or high altitude options and 4 of the 6 Syrah sites I work with have a view of the ocean. Many of the others might not have the view but get klapped by the prevailing SE wind off the cold Atlantic due their proximity. These elements and farmers mould what we do, the rest is basically early picking and gentle handling in the winery. I’m in the business of selling wine, if my wines were 15+ alcohol I’m not selling 2 bottles in a restaurant or drinking it myself. I want people to finish the bottle and be thirsty for more wine, whether it’s one of mine or one of my mates.

In SA, we have a warm climate conducive to many different varieties. I’m a big fan of the likes of Syrah and Cinsault as there is not real green flavour pressure, one can pick nice and early which is awesome. We are going to see more of an influence from Portuguese varieties like Touriga Nacional going forward, some good things happening already. I’m a massive fan of Burgundy and the Northern Rhone, love the finesse and elegance in many of these wines!

Our philosophy is very much finesse and elegance, wines that are not trying to take center stage. Wine is a part of life and needs to fit in rather than dominate. We want Savage Wines to become a fixture on the SA and world wine scene and that’s why we are investing all we have back into the business and industry. This is a not job, its what we do whether we were loaded or not, it’s our life. We will continue style wise as we have begun but will be introducing new wines into the range as we find awesome parcels where the results are what would drink and enjoy ourselves. The Savage story is just in the introduction, I’m not sure how it’s going to end but we are going to have a good time in between.” 

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Duncan Savage the winemaker, the visionary and the man. It isn’t often that we get to have a front row seat as the curtain rises on a new winery. We usually arrive late and rely on the comments of those who were there before us. Here is a rare opportunity to watch and taste a brand evolve from it inception. As for me, I’m going to settle into my seat with my glass in hand to see and taste how this show plays out.

http://Savagewines.com  E-mail: info@savagewines.com     Tel. +27 21 785 4019

 

Duncan Savage

Saperavi: The Next Big Thing?

Saperavi Grapes Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

Saperavi Grapes Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

     The Red Wines of the East Coast have never gotten the love that their White Wine counterparts have received over the years and in most cases for good reason.  But that may change if an old Eastern European grape can live up to its promise of becoming the foundation on which the future of eastern Red Wine is built.  The wine grape that I am talking about is Saperavi.  This grape variety originated in the Georgian Republic of Russia and features a dark skin with

Chuck & Daneen Zaleski Owners Fero Vineyards & Winery

Chuck & Daneen Zaleski Owners Fero Vineyards & Winery

pink flesh.  It is a teinturier variety of grape, meaning unlike most grapes that have uncolored flesh and produce clear juice a teinturier has red-tinted flesh that makes a vibrant richly colored wine. Saperavi vines are grown throughout the area connecting Asia and Europe know as the Caucasus and in various regions of the former Soviet Republic. Sapervai has long been viewed as an ideal ingredient for cheaper blended wines but in recent decades it has been proven to be capable of producing a varietal of high quality.  The best Georgian-produced Saperavi comes from the Kakheti Region that is near its eastern border with Azerbaijan.  These Georgian-made wines are available in the U.S. but you will have to do some searching to find them. The fact that this grape is late-ripening and thrives in a cooler climate while producing generous yields without sacrificing much in quality is the reason that vintners in the Finger Lakes and Central Pennsylvania are exploring its potential within their vineyards.  I have mentioned in earlier posts the pioneering work done by the Standing Stone Vineyards and Winery with Saperavi but I have recently learned of a producing vineyard in Lewisburg, Pa.  Chuck and Daneen Zaleski owners of Fero Vineyards and Winery have produced a varietal from Saperavi grapes grown in their Central Pennsylvania vineyard and made exclusively in their Lewisburg winery.  Chuck Zaleski at Fero and Marti Macinski at Standing Stone are on the cutting edge of this exciting reinvention of an Old World stalwart.  I am excited to have the chance to follow the evolution of the Saperavi wine grape in the Eastern United States from the persceptive of the wine makers themselves. For more information about these two fine wineries visit their websites at: www.standingstonewines.com  and  www.ferovineyards.com

Tom & Marti Macinski  Owners Standing Stone Winery Photo Courtsey:Examiner.com

Tom & Marti Macinski Owners Standing Stone Winery Photo Courtsey:Examiner.com