Club Crush White & Pinot Noir: Shipment 3.20
I don’t think Club Crush has ever had a month where the combined total case production was smaller than what we have for this month’s White and Pinot Noir releases. The total amount of cases for these five wines is just over 1,200. The smallest being 150 cases and the two largest each at 365 cases. Just for sake of reference, there are 25 cases in a barrel. That means we could fit every barrel of wine used, socially distanced from each other, out on our patio. Forget small production wines, we’ve crossed into micro production territory. And speaking of combined totals, I think we might also have one of the lowest ABV (alcohol by volume) averages in recent memory, with only one of the five wines just barely hitting 14%. Low ABV is associated with a lighter body, which will be perfect for the warmer weather spring and summer will bring. Enough about math and numbers though, let’s get to the good stuff, the wines.
Our second Club Crush White release to feature three wines, this month’s selections are all single varietals. All three are clean, crisp, and delicious on their own, but will be even better when paired off with light summer fare.
First up we have a single vineyard Viognier from Elephant Seven. If you read our last post highlighting some of our favorite new arrivals (including Elephant Seven’s single vineyard Grenache), you might recognize the name. If not, I’m you’ve got some homework to do, but I’ll give you a quick recap. Elephant Seven is named after Elephant Six (obviously), and anyone who knows who Elephant Six are has earned my eternal respect. For the rest of you, prepare to be hipsterized (definitely a word). Elephant Six is a music collective/record label based in Athens, Georgia. Some of their “more well known” bands include Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Of Montreal. If those names mean nothing to you, I assure you, you are not alone. In brief, the collective’s belief is it is more important to be true to your artistic self and a deliver a product you enjoy than to be concerned with sales numbers and mainstream success. That belief is the inspiration behind Elephant Seven Winery. Elephant Seven focuses on Rhone varietals out of Walla Walla Valley, WA and produces maybe 1,000 cases total in a year.
Now on to the wine itself. Rhone varietals are not super common in Walla Walla Valley, even less so is Viognier. Domestically, you will see a lot of Viogniers that are farmed overripe, producing an oily, flabby, heavy white wine. Traditionally, Viognier from its birthplace in the Rhone Valley is more medium-bodied, with higher acid than its domestic counterparts, and extremely aromatic. True to that style, the 2018 Blue Mountain Vineyard Viognier is brimming with white floral notes (think jasmine), stone fruit, minerality, and bright acidity. Try this with simple seared scallops and the minerality and fruit will absolutely shine.
Technicals: 100% Viognier. Fermented and aged 5 months in neutral French Oak and stainless steel. ABV 13.7%. 150 cases.
What do you get when you combine a fungus and algae? Our second Club Crush White selection for May…kinda. Lichen Estate in Anderson Valley is a relative newcomer, their first vintage was in 2014. Named after the part fungus part algae of the same name, Lichen Estate found beauty and grace in the plant that grows throughout much of Anderson Valley and makes their wines with those same characteristics. Focusing entirely on Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, Lichen Estate produces both still and sparkling styles of the two, all with minimal intervention and a desire for the resulting wine to show a true sense of place.
The winery claims the 2018 vintage of their estate Pinot Gris is their richest to date, which may be true, but everything is relative. Do not take that to mean that this is a Pinot Gris masquerading as a Chardonnay. But also keep in mind that this is Pinot Gris, not the light, fruit forward, quaffable Italian Pinot Grigio. True to its Alsatian roots, the Lichen offers a slightly weighty mouthfeel and bursts with aromatics. Expect aromas and flavors such as citrus fruit, fresh green herbs, and hints of baking spice. The weight and almost savoriness of this wine begs for roasted chicken with fresh herbs.
Technicals: 100% Organic Pinot Gris. Fermented in stainless steel. Aged in neutral oak. ABV 13.7%. 365 cases.
At its core, Hudson Ranch is a farm. They grow grapes for wine, olives for olive oil, fruit and vegetables for their own grocery store, and even breed heritage pigs, lamb, and chickens. After over 20 years in the business of selling fruit to some of the best wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties, they finally decided that some of their fruit was simply too good to sell off. In 2004 Hudson produced their first vintage under their own label. Part of that inaugural vintage was the Pick Up Sticks red blend (now labeled as Grenache). Located on the Napa side of the Carneros appellation, Hudson’s wines offer unique cool climate wines you do not often seen with Napa Valley on the label. And being farmers at heart, the team at Hudson Ranch can’t help but experiment with oft unheard of varietals such as Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano, and Aleatico.
When our distributor plopped this on the bar for us to pour us a sample, Adam and I both asked what the breakdown of the blend was, and what the name Aleatico comes from. That just goes to show you that even after two decades of combined experience and knowledge, there is always more to learn when it comes to wine. As it happens, Aleatico is the name of a grape. A type of black muscat actually, native to the island of Corsica, and a favorite of none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. But isn’t this Club Crush White? In addition to being farmers, the team at Hudson Ranch are apparently also mad scientists. Somehow during planting and tasting of Aleatico, someone thought it would be a good idea to make a dry white out of a grape that would normally make a sweeter red. The result? A crisp, dry, extremely aromatic wine just loaded with notes of baking spice (nutmeg comes to mind), stone fruit, and honeysuckle. Some sushi with just a little bit of horseradish and ginger will bring out all the aromatics and make this sing.
Technicals: 100% Aleatico. Fermented and aged 5 months in stainless steel. ABV 12.6%. 170 cases.
The May Club Crush Pinot Noir shipment marks the third time in as many years we have been able to feature two single vineyard Pinot Noirs in one release (largely because of price and availability).
If you ever thought your passion for wine could lead to one day owning your own winery, Waits-Mast is proof positive that it is possible. Self-proclaimed wine geeks, husband and wife Brian Mast and Jennifer Waits turned their passion into a business in 2005 with their first vintage of Pinot Noir. In 2013 they were joined by winemaker Shalini Sekhar from ROAR Wines. Waits-Mast is extremely focused in their selections, offering almost exclusively (they branched out to make a Sauvignon Blanc in 2017) small lot, single vineyard Pinot Noir from Mendocino County. Their driving goal is to showcase the unique terroir of each vineyard site and of Mendocino County as a whole, and how that terroir impacts their beloved grape Pinot Noir.
The May Pinot Club includes their 2016 Nash Mill Vineyard, located in Anderson Valley. The vineyard is situated in one of the coolest parts of the valley and ripens almost two weeks after most of its neighbors. Cooler climates generally lead toward a light, more delicate Pinot Noir with more non-fruit characters and higher acidity. The Nash Mill Pinot Noir is a perfect example of this. The 2016 exudes grace and elegance. Extremely light garnet, you’ll get more aromatics than you might expect because of its pale color; red currant, dried herb, baking spice, and dried mushroom. The bright acidity will make this wine dance across your palate. I think a mushroom risotto would make fast friends with this delicate, and complex Pinot Noir.
Technicals: Clones 115, 777, and Pommard. Aged 16 months in French Oak, 33% new. ABV 13.3%. 160 cases produced.
Similar to Waits-Mast, La Follette Wines is also driven by the concept of terroir. The belief that each vineyard site creates a wholly unique wine from the same varietal, and that those expressions should be captured and bottled separately. Focusing exclusively on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma County, Greg La Follette sources from some of the highest regarded sites and attempts to capture a true sense of place from each. In 2017 seven of his ten wines were single vineyard bottlings, a large percentage for any winery. Two of his introductory appellation wines are available in the store and are a great way to familiarize yourself with La Follette’s minimal intervention style of winemaking.
Pinot Noir from Black Road Vineyard is sold exclusively to La Follette, and this is the first vintage of its single bottling, so count yourself amongst a lucky few. This site was planted by Russian River Valley expert Jim Pratt who manages vineyards for some of the biggest names in Pinot Noir (Kosta Browne, DuMol, and Siduri to name a few). Planted entirely two only two Dijon Clones (114 and 115), La Follette combines balances them perfectly to highlight the soft texture of 114 and the aromatics and structure that 115 offers. As with true Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs, anticipate a richer style wine, with juicy raspberry, cocoa, and firm tannins. Being on the heavier side of Pinot Noir, this really deserves a pan seared duck breast, perhaps something with beets to highlight some of the earthier notes hiding in the glass.
Technicals: 64% Clone 114, 36% Clone 115. Aged 11 months in French Oak, 27% new. All native yeast. ABV 14%. 365 cases produced.
And so concludes our closer look into the five wines chosen for this month’s Club Crush White and Pinot Noir. This is one of my favorite collections of wines in a single month’s release, obviously because the wines are all delicious, but also because I am just so excited that we were able to bring all of these limited wines to you at the same time. Now I don’t know about you, but after all this, I’m starting to get a little thirsty…and hungry. I hope there’s a bottle of the Lichen Pinot Gris in the fridge…
Written by Michael Fuller