CLUB CRUSH PREMIER 3.20 AND CLUB CRUSH PINOT NOIR AND WHITE WINE 5.20
Buckle up, pop a cork, and get comfortable, because we have a lot of wines to cover for this month’s releases. From tiny appellations in Washington, to the coasts of Northern Spain, September’s Premier, Pinot Noir, and White Wine releases span the globe and offer a huge array of flavor profiles and styles. A common, yet unintended theme across a few of these wines are wines or wineries named after family members. So who better to enjoy them with over a responsible, socially distanced Sunday dinner? Now let’s get started.
CLUB CRUSH PREMIER SEPTEMBER 2020
Chris Camarda (owner & winemaker) founded Andrew Will Winery in Seattle in 1989 and named it after his nephew (Andrew) and son (Will). Their first five vintages were made in what some might describe as a shack, only 10 feet by 60 feet. Five years later, hoping to expand past the 2,000 cases that their existing space would allow them to produce, Chris moved the winery to Vashon Island, just off the coast of Seattle. Since then, little by little they have grown and expanded, no producing about 4,500 cases a year.
Over the last 30 years, Chris and his team have tried to stick to their main core of ideas while also improving and honing their skills with each new vintage. The most important of these ideas is that while a winemaker can make mediocre wine from a prestigious vineyard, it is all but impossible to make a world class wine from a mediocre site. With that belief guiding their practices, Andrew Will only sources fruit from four of the most highly regarded vineyards in Columbia Valley; Ciel du Cheval, Champoux, May’s Discovery, and Two Blondes. All of Andrew Will’s top level wines are single vineyard bottlings, as he wants to really showcase and highlight the specific characteristics of each site. Chris also believes that the best way to illustrate the quality of these vineyards is by blending all the best varietals grown there, which is why Andrew Will’s best wines are all Bordeaux-style blends. The winery does produce small quantities of single varietal wines from each of the vineyards made in large part with young vine or leftover grapes that don’t make it into the blends.
Champoux Vineyard has been featured on a number of wine critics’ top ten vineyards in Washington State over the years and multiple wines produced with its fruit have garnered 100 points from Wine Advocate. The vineyard is nestled within one of the southern-most sub appellations of Columbia Valley known as Horse Heaven Hills. Originally part of a larger ranch and leased by Paul and Judy Champoux, in 1996, the Champouxes created a partnership with Powers Winery, Quilceda Creek, Woodward Canyon, and Andrew Will to purchase the vineyard outright from the original owners. Andrew Will’s Champoux Vineyard Red Blend is dominated by Merlot, with a healthy dose of Cabernet Franc and smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. On the nose you’ll find ripe Rainier cherries, blackberries, purple flowers, eucalyptus and anise. Expect to find all those notes and more when you take a sip, accompanied with a rich, velvety mouthfeel, soft, but defined tannins, and a finish that lasts for days. I could think of nothing better than drinking this with a plate of steak frites.
Technicals: 51% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Verdot. Aged 18 months in 35% new French oak. ABV 14.5%. 700 cases produced.
Philippe Melka was born and raised in Bordeaux, so it might be surprising that winemaking wasn’t his original plan for his life. While at the University of Bordeaux working towards a degree in Geology, he took a class in winemaking for his final year and diverted course. After his undergraduate would was completed he continued his education by getting a Master’s degree in Agronomy and Enology. Once his schooling was complete, he began to build his storied pedigree by working at the First Growth Bordeaux Chateau Haut Brion. While working for the Moueix Company, he traveled to California to study the soils of the newly acquired Dominus Estate and fell in love with Napa. He would return to France for a brief stint at Chateau Petrus only to return full time to Napa Valley a year later. In 1995 he and his wife Cherie founded Atelier Melka, comprising of four different labels reflecting their philosophy of soil drive wines: Metisse from Napa Valley, Mekerra from Sonoma Valley, Majestique from all over the world, and this month’s Premier Club release CJ.
The Melkas’ CJ label was named after their two children Chloe and Jeremy and they are the inspiration for it as well. With it’s first bottling in 1996, the year Jeremy was born, CJ has always been created to be youthful and vibrant with fresh, ripe fruit notes. The 2017 is sourced in large part from two vineyards in the Soda Canyon region of Napa Valley: Evans and Broken Rock and is blended with small amounts of Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc for added depth and complexity. The balance on the nose is striking, with each different aroma being discernible but no one note standing out more than the others. Aromas of cassis, blackberry pie, vanilla, pencil shavings, and baking spice all play well together. The palate is just as balanced, with a rich, full-bodied texture, good acidity, and a lengthy finish. Although wine is intentionally made to drink young, it can no doubt hold up for another 10-15 years. I feel like I have been neglecting my vegetarian friends with a lot of these recipes, so I’m going to recommend a cheddar and poblano stuffed portobello mushroom with this that will satisfy any meat eater as well.
Technicals: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc. Aged 22 months in 40% new French oak. ABV 14.5%. 1,375 cases produced.
CLUB CRUSH PINOT NOIR SEPTEMBER 2020
Elk Cove Vineyards is one of Willamette Valley’s most historic family-owned estate wineries. Originally founded in 1974 by Pat and Joe Campbell, winemaking responsibilities have since fallen to their son Andrew who maintains their legacy of growing world class Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling. Elk Cove Vineyard’s ideology is to emphasize the characteristics of unique vineyard sites throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Today the estate consists of six vineyards from different appellations within Willamette Valley and with different soil types and microclimates: Winery Estate (Yamhill Carlton), Windhill Vineyard (Willamette Valley), Five Mountain Vineyard (Chehalem Mountains), Mount Richmond Vineyard (Yamhill Carlton), Clay Court Vineyard (Chehalem Mountains), and Goodrich Vineyard (Yamhill Carlton). While the winery does produce a appellation level Pinot Noir from younger vines and fruit remaining after their other bottlings, their true focus is on their single vineyard wines, attempting to show the nuanced differences specific terroirs can impart.
Goodrich Vineyard is the winery’s most recent acquisition, purchased in 2014. Originally planted in 2007, only 21 of its 69 acres are currently under vine, exclusive to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Located just outside of the small town of Yamhill, Goodrich is planted on marine sedimentary soil that lends to its wines’ subtle minerality. The 2017 offers up a big nose, with ripe red berries and black cherry, blood orange peel, and purple flowers. On the palate, you might find some slightly more savory elements such as black tea and baking spice. With a richer, more structured mouthfeel, this is a Pinot Noir that can stand up to the likes of a pan-roasted duck breast quite nicely.
Technicals: Clones 777, 667, and 115. Aged 10 months in 27% new French oak. ABV 13.5%. 751 cases produced. 94 points James Suckling, 92 points Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
Being extremely small production (no single wine is over 1,000 case production) and relatively new (first vintage was 2014), it is pretty likely you haven’t had a chance to try or maybe have even heard of Peake Ranch. Chances are much higher however that you have had wines from one of their three estate vineyards, and you may have even tasted in their semi-famous tasting room. Peake Ranch is a 105 acre parcel of a 650 acre ranch known as Rancho Jabali, owned by Richard Sanford and part of Alma Rosa Estate. In 2013 Sanford divided and sold the ranch to two parties; Robert Zorich would take ownership of El Jabali Vineyard and of Alma Rosa Winery itself, while John and Gillian Wagner purchased the Alma Rosa tasting shack made famous in the movie Sideways, and the land that would eventually become Peake Ranch Vineyard.
After purchasing Peake Ranch, John and Gillian would continue to purchase two more well established vineyards: John Sebastiano in Sta. Rita Hills and Sierra Madre in Santa Maria Valley. A number of familiar wineries source fruit from these vineyards, including Foxen, Dragonette, Ojai Vineyard and Paul Lato. And speaking of Paul Lato, the Pinot whisperer of Santa Barbara himself was the consulting winemaker for Peake Ranch for the first four vintages (including this 2017) before Wynne Solomon took over in 2018. The 2017 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot is sourced from just two of these vineyards (John Sebastiano and Peake Ranch) and is a classic example of Pinot Noir from the region. Balancing between fruit, spice, and earth, the 2017 expresses notes of Bing cherries, blueberries, black tea, dried herbs, and white pepper. A medium to full-body will translate those aromas to flavors with supple tannins and rich texture. I’m going to go vegetarian heavy this month and actually recommend this with a roasted beet and burrata salad.
Technicals: Clones 667, 115, Hyde, Swan. Aged in 100% French oak, 50% new. ABV 14%. Approximately 600 cases produced.
CLUB CRUSH WHITE WINE SEPTEMBER 2020
Let’s get this out of the way first…pronounced choc-o-leena. You’re welcome. If you have ever been to the region or have any familiarity with the language, you could probably guess that this wine is from the Basque Country of Northern Spain. Bodega Gaintza has a long history of producing wine in the region, with the fourth generation of the Lazkano family currently manning the helm. Gaintza translates from Basque to “on top of” and refers to the location of the winery, sitting on top and overlooking the beautiful Guipozcoa Bay in Getaria. The Lazkano family grows only the main varietals of the region, including Hondarrabi Zuri, Hondarrabi Beltza, Gros Manseng, and Chardonnay; the first 3 of which are found in this traditional Txakolina blend.
Guipuzcoa Bay is a surfer’s paradise within Basque country, attracting boarders from all over the world to catch the waves and enjoy the beautiful coastline and perfect Mediterranean weather. As one might expect, a wine coming from such an idyllic beach town will reflect its environment and be a perfect companion while enjoying it. So as summer winds down and we get our last few weeks of warm weather and bright sunlight, enjoy this wine outside and soak it all in. The wine’s bright and clean acidity, along with notes of lemon, green apple, and subtle salinity makes it an perfect pair with seafood and shell fish. Being one to never run away from a perfectly good pun, match this wine up with some light and fresh Mahi Mahi fish tacos for a perfect…wait for it…Txako Tuesday.
Technicals: 85% Hondarrabi Zuri, 10% Gros Manseng, 5% Hondarrabi Beltza. Aged 8 months sur lie in stainless steel. ABV 11.5%. 11,100 cases produced.
We realized we haven’t done as many obscure varietals this year in the White Wine Club as we normally do, so we are loading up September with them. Giornata is husband and wife (Brian and Stephanie Terrizzi) project in Paso Robles created out of a shared and intense interest in and love for Italian wines. Early in Brian’s wine career, he had the opportunity to travel to Tuscany and work for one of the most highly regarded estates in the area, Isole e Olena. After touring the country and its vineyards, and reconnecting with his distant relatives in Sicily, he got the idea to create authentic, traditionally styled wines from Italian grapes in Paso Robles. He met his now wife Stephanie at Fresno State, him studying Enology and her studying Enology, Chemistry, and Plant Science. She would later plant and manage Giornata’s two largest sources for grapes: Luna Matta Vineyard and Giornata Estate. Together, Brian and Stephanie also own and make the wine for Broadside.
Giornata’s main goal is to produce wines reminiscent of those of the old country. To this end, they use the same clonal selections for their grapes that you would find at the top producers throughout Italy, pick their grapes at lower sugar levels, and create wines with balanced acidity and tannin, making them excellent for the dinner table. Fiano is one of the many Italian white varietals most people have little experience with. The grape is normally found in Southern Italy (Campania) and the island of Sicily, producing medium bodied, aromatic white wine. Giornata’s rendition of the varietal is true to form, offering up notes of melon, orchard fruit (think Asian Pear), roasted almond, and honeyblossom. The slightly richer texture makes it really sing when paired with something like roasted chicken with oranges and rosemary.
Technicals: 100% Fiano. Native fermentation and aged 3 months in neutral barrels and concrete. ABV 13%. 150 cases produced.
In 1954, August Busch opened a family farm and animal park known as Grant’s Farm to the public, welcoming people from all over the world in to his family’s ancestral home. He told his grandson Andrew that their family business is making friends. If you’ve ever been to Grant’s Farm, then you already known I’m talking about those Busch’s. If you haven’t put 2 and 2 together yet, I’ll give you a hint, Andrew named his rosé Lilly after his great-grandmother Lilly Anheuser. As in Anheuser-Busch. Now I know what you’re thinking, “what are you guys doing selling Budweiser wine?” I guarantee you, this is not that.
Andrew and his wife Kim met in Santa Barbara when he was there for USA Polo World Cup, fell in love, got married, and decided to pick up roots from the ancestral home at Grant’s Farm, and raise their children along the California coast. They settled on Folded Hills Ranch. Wanting to continue his grandfather’s legacy of making friends and sharing his land with the world, Andrew decided to found Folded Hills Estate Winery. Along with Ruben Solorzano (vineyard manager at Stolpman Vineyards and all around grape whisperer) Andrew planted 15 acres of organically grown Rhone varietals on what is now the vineyard closest to the coast within Santa Ynez Valley. Then he brought in Grenache afficionado Angela Osborne (owner/winemaker of A Tribute to Grace) as winemaker. The effort to find this level of talent behind the wines, the dedication to organically famed, terroir appropriate fruit, and the focused, limited production of all their wines are exactly what The Wine Crush look for in our selection process, so don’t let the last name scare you off.
Folded Hills produces just a handful of wines, and they are all named after the family’s history. As mentioned earlier, Lilly Rosé is named after Andrew’s great-grandmother. Their Grant Grenache is named after Ulysses S. Grant, who originally built Grant’s Farm, now home to the Busch family mansion and over 900 animals. And their August red and white blends are named after Andrew’s grandfather who opened the farm to the public over 50 years ago. If you have ever had any other wines made by Angela Osborne, you’ll know to expect these wines to be nuanced, elegant, and precise. The 2019 August white is medium bodied, and showcases a beautiful bouquet of stone fruit, white flowers, citrus peel, and wet stone. A little time in neutral oak gives it a soft, round texture that fits the flavors perfectly and make it all the more approachable. I love Grenache Blanc with Mediterranean food, so I’m going to suggest you heat up the grill and soak some skewers so you can pair this with a healthy serving of chicken souvlaki.
Technicals: 89% Grenache Blanc, 7% Clairette Blanche, 4% Roussanne. Aged 10 months in 70% concrete and 30% neutral French Oak. ABV 13.6%. 530 cases produced.
Well thank you for bearing with me through the entirety of this issue, we had a lot of wines to get through. I hope you found it as enjoyable to read and learn about the new releases as I did researching and sharing with you. We hope to some day very soon to be able to enjoy this with you on our patio again, but until then, stay safe and stay well.
By Michael Fuller