BROC CELLARS - CRAVEN WINES - LA CLARINE FARM - DIRTY & ROWDY - DON / KINDELI - FORLORN HOPE - FRANZ WENINGER - GUT OGGAU - LES LUNES - LAURENT SAILLARD - MEINKLANG - MILAN NESTAREC - PETER WETZER - PIERRE OLIVIER BONHOMME - POPULIS - TESTALONGA - SWICK WINES - STIRM WINE CO. - WEINGUT STROHMEIER - WEINGUT SINß - WEINGUT WALLDORF
Chris Brockway is the owner and winemaker at Broc Cellars. His ultimate goal is to work with organically or biodynamically farmed fruit from vineyards in unexplored or forgotten Californian appellations. He isn’t shy about using heritage or unorthodox grapes. His winemaking practices are minimal, often avoiding sulphur right until bottling and letting everything ferment via natural yeasts.
After being Demeter Certified, he came across the works of Masanobu Fukuoka and realized biodynamics was still focused on treating symptoms. He has cut out fertilizer and sprays (organic or otherwise) almost entirely. He works with fruit from his own vineyard as well as a couple of his neighbours high in the Sierra Foothills.
In the winery he has eschewed sulphur, crushes most of the grapes by foot, uses dominantly whole clusters, ages his wines in neutral vessels and bottles without fining nor filtration. Fermentation is carried out exclusively with wild yeasts; if it takes a long time to ferment, it really isn’t the end of the world.
Mick and Jeanine are producing elegant wines in Stellenbosch, South Africa. They are challenging preconceived notions of ripeness, and are championing underrated grape varieties like Cinsault and Clairette Blanche. Single vineyards are the norm across their range; their wines are as much conveyers of time and place as they are delicious beverages.
Before we started importing Dirty & Rowdy, I would wait patiently for the bi-annual email from the winery, purchase what I could, and would drive down to Montana to pick up my loot. The wines were so confounding I could hardly contain my joy and confusion. They were unapologetically Californian, yet low in alcohol, and had all the drinkability I craved. Read On...
I got off the plane in Nelson (a modestly sized town at the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island) after a two-hour flight from Auckland. Alex Craighead, the winemaker and proprietor of Kindeli, picked me up. I was to spend the next two weeks working with him, learning his philosophy and techniques. As is the norm, we headed straight out to the vineyards.
After a quick dip into Marlborough to see some Sauvignon Blanc being grown for a client of his, we headed to the Upper Moutere where their winery and home vineyard is. The site is planted on Moutere Series Clay and features Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. They farm organically and opt for using sulphur, seaweed, compost, bat guano, and copper (only when absolutely necessary) to maintain the health of their vines. Between the rows you’ll find a stand of local trees, a small creek, and plenty of wild cover-crops. Plants like clover help restore nitrogen to the soil. Read On...
Matthew Rorick, owner and winemaker at Forlorn Hope, jumps headlong into the unknown as often as the opportunity arises. His mantra seems to be giving a voice to the misfit grapes and regions of California. When it comes to wine making he is decidedly minimalistic. All his wines are fermented using native yeast. Additives like enzymes, acid or tannin are not necessary and therefore avoided. The wines are only aged in neutral containers, including a sixty gallon vessel from the nineties. Sulphur is added in small doses either before bottling or after fermentation.
Franz Weninger (Jr.) is incredibly dedicated to the land he farms. His father understood the importance of organic farming and revitalizing local grape varieties, but Franz has taken it to the next level by converting the entire estate to biodynamics and replanting many sites to the appropriate traditional grape varieties: Blaufrankisch and Furmint. Despite his conviction, he refuses to pull out his father’s old-vine Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah – as long as Franz Sr. is alive, the vines will remain.
Their location at the southern end of the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland permitted them to purchase land across the border in Hungary. The Sopron region was once part of Burgenland and contains some of their favorite sites. Franz took over this part of the estate early in his career after graduating from Klosterneuburg and travelling the world on internships. In 2011, he took over production on the Austrian side of the boarder as well and has really fine-tuned the winemaking.
On the western side of the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland you’ll find the quaint town of Oggau. As we drove in from the north, the rolling hills funnelling down towards the lake were dotted with perfectly angled vineyards, tucked amongst the forests and wildlands. We arrived at Gut Oggau’s heuriger (a traditional Austrian eatery that serves cold food and local wine) and were immediately surrounded by friendly faces, guzzling glass after glass with vigour and cheer. Read On...
After years as a chef in New York, Laurent Saillard fell in love with the places his produce was grown. This honest connection to the land, coupled with his enthusiasm for Natural Wines and holistic farming inspired him to move to the Loire Valley, where he started a miniscule domaine. He began working with Noella Morantin and Junko Arai, renting a tiny plot of vines and room in their cellars to make his own project on his days off.
His first vintage was in 2012 and since then he has sold almost all his wine to his restaurant friends in New York (In particular Wildair, Contra, Four Horsemen). He has since doubled his vineyard holdings (now 6ha) yet still works the vines by hand all by himself.
I met Shaunt and Diego in November 2016 at the Raw Wine Fair in Brooklyn. After days of tasting and drinking and ingesting, my palate was getting a little exhausted. You can only taste so many wines with overt volatile acidity before you spiral into a natural wine depression, and crave mass produced Californian Chardonnay. Then I tasted the wines from Les Lunes and felt re-inspired and refreshed. Read On...
With throbbing heads and bleary eyes, we drive up to Meinklang’s gorgeous little winery. It is nestled into the back streets of a small town in Burgenland. The esthetic is half Austrian efficiency, half Japanese wabi-sabi. Nikolas approaches us beaming and we jump in his car and head towards their farm. Read On...
Milan Nestarec is barely into adulthood, yet is making some of the most captivating wines in eastern Europe. He is a second generation winemaker and a proud member of the Autentisté group, a collective of Czech winemakers dedicated to holistic farming and producing wines with minimal additives. Milan studied under Aleš Kristančič of Movia and learned the art of skin fermented white wines.
His vineyards are located in Moravský Žižkov and Velké Bílovice, 15km north of the Austrian border in the Czech Republic. 8ha are farmed organically and herbicides are avoided entirely. Vine density is roughly 5000/ha. There are a dozen or so varieties planted here which gives them plenty of room to experiment and come up with new and wonderful cuvées.
The fact that Peter Wetzer makes any wine at all is a little astonishing. Firstly, he is located in Sopron, a small region on Hungary’s boarder with Austria. His absolutely tiny cellar (if you can even call it that) is in the basement of his family house, in a suburb; shockingly, it’s more complete than his newly obtained cellar, several stories under a house built in the 1700s that looked more like a demolition zone than a winery.
This Cider House has existed for almost 500 years, and the Otaño Goikoetxea Family has been its proprietors for the last century (5 generations). Their involvement in the Basque Cider community can’t be overstated. They are currently working on the frame work for a D.O. for ciders made in the area, using traditional methods and indigenous apples. They currently farm 5ha and purchase grapes from an additional 40ha of family run orchards. Their goal is to continue planting in better sites, exclusively with local apple varieties.
Pierre Olivier Bonhomme’s history is inseparable from that of the legendary Clos du Tue-Boeuf, a Domaine located in Touraine. Thierry Puzelat, the visionary at the helm of the estate, sought to diversify his project twenty years ago. In addition to opening a wine bar featuring unadulterated renditions of Loire Valley wines, he began a small négociant business to help support local organic grape growers, and stabilize his production size in bad years. As the project grew, he took on a twenty-something cellar worker to help him: Puzelat-Bonhomme was born.
Craig Hawkins is located in South Africa’s most thrilling wine region: Swartland. Here he has planted a small vineyard with his wife on schist in the area’s northern-most mountains. In addition to traditional varieties like Grenache, he is pioneering Maccabeu and Vermentino. He also sources grapes from the legendary Observatory Vineyard and Lammershoek Vineyard. He farms using a handful of Biodynamic practices but is not actively seeking certification. Strong arguments are made for dry farming, stating that appropriate varieties and biotypes can survive and thrive in Swartland without irrigation.
Before starting his own project, Craig worked with Eben Sadie, Dirk Niepoort, and (perhaps most influential on his style) at Domaine Matassa. He began Testalonga in 2008 while making wine for Lammershoek.
Ryan Stirm is a true Riesling fanatic. His arguments for why Riesling works so well in California are hard to refute after tasting his wines. He started his winemaking career in the US, teaming up with the now legendary Justin Willett from Tyler and Lieu Dit. After four years, he ended up working in the Wachau, Austria where he fell further in love with Riesling as well as Grüner Veltliner.
His winemaking philosophy is quite simple. They whole cluster press everything, allow for short periods of skin contact, avoid SO2 until fermentation has completed, let indigenous yeast do their jobs, and fine/filter as minimally as possible. The ultimate goal is to let the vineyards shine through.
Joe Swick is a young, 5th generation Oregonian trying to bottle the most unadulterated visions of the Pacific Northwest he can. He started off as a cellar hand at Owen Roe but has travelled extensively since then, working in Tasmania, Portugal, and Piemonte to name a few. In nine years he worked 15 harvests, after which he started his own project.
The focus is on organic, biodynamic, and sustainably farmed vineyards in the Pacific North West. This means he is working with fruit from both Oregon and Washington including the up-and-coming Columbia Valley Gorge.
His farming methods are calculated. They come from experience and sharing information with similar grape growers, both locally and internationally. Instead of sulphur in the vineyard, he uses whey, which has been incredibly effective. Copper sulfate is unavoidable, but the amount he uses year to year varies drastically based on conditions; he listens to the vineyard. He farms as a permaculture. Bees, deer, birds, and a plethora of wild vegetation contribute to the health of his vineyard. He believes that vineyards can build up resistances to certain ailments the same way humans can when they’re not babied. He may not subscribe to biodynamics but he certainly uses many of its teachings.
Early in 2017, I was fortunate enough to go to Germany to hunt for new and worthy producers for our portfolio. After tasting through over four-hundred wines, I narrowed our search down to a handful of producers, including Weingut Sinß. I met with Markus Sinß a couple days later to chat about their winemaking and grape growing philosophy as well as taste through the rest of their line-up. I was completely floored – in fact I was almost angry I hadn’t been introduced to these wines earlier.
Max Dexheimer was born the same year the Probstey Vineyard was replanted: 1992. A mere quarter century old, and he’s already producing some of the most captivating wines in the Rheinhessen. He originally learned winemaking and grape growing from his Father, but to further develop his skills he supplemented his schooling by working harvests in places like Austria and New Zealand.
In 2012 he started Weingut Walldorf by leasing small parcels from his parents all around Saulheim. He converted the vineyards to organics and uses certain biodynamic preparations as well (stinging nettle and horsetail tea for instance). The vineyards haven’t been fertilized in ten years now to help restore them to their natural balance.