ALL RED WINE CLUB

DECEMBER 2020

WINE #1: BEDROCK WINE CO. “HERITAGE”

Zinfandel, Carignane, Mourvedre, etc
Evangelho Vineyard, Lodi, California 2019

ZINFANDEL + CARIGNANE + MOURVÈDRE 

[ZIN-fan-dehl] + [car-eeg-NYAHN] + [mohr-VED-dra]

While the previous two wines are creative takes on California’s potential- playing with grapes and styles that are mostly outside the normal CA playbook, Bedrock is firmly planted in the state’s viticultural history, and therefore inextricably rooted to Zinfandel. Zin is almost ubiquitous with California, though it only came here in the 1850s and was originally born in Croatia (as Tribidrag) in the early 1500s. But it certainly has claimed the Golden State as its kingdom and is little known outside of our borders. Carignan and Mourvèdre were also available very early on in California viticulture, and often seen as Zin accomplices in old plantings.

Bedrock is the synthesis of friends Morgan Twain-Petersen and Chris Cottrell. Morgan was born into Ravenswood wines, and allegedly at age five, Morgan could differentiate Merlot from Zinfandel and began making his own wine, creating Vino Bambino Pinot Noir from 1986 to 2001; experimenting with whole cluster fermentation, playing with French oak and various ripeness points. During college, he met friend Chris Cottrell working in a small wine shop called Pet Wines in Manhattan. Bedrock Wine Co. was born of this friendship in 2007, beginning in a converted chicken coop outside of Sonoma. In 2014, Morgan was named San Francisco Chronicle Co-Winemaker of the Year, and in 2017 Morgan passed the Master of Wine exam, becoming one of 45 MWs in the US and one of two CA winemakers with the qualification. The Evangelho Vineyard is a totally unique site that has withstood the ravages of modernization – planted in the 1890s, it is wedged between a PG&E plant, a Burger King, and a motel rented by the hour. Own-rooted on sand deposited by the Sacramento River Delta, the gnarled 130 year old vines are a field-blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, Mourvèdre, and other oddities like Palomino, making for wines that are fresh, bright, and brilliantly Californian.

A pile of purple berries popping with vibrant pizzazz! At first taste it’s almost carbonic – alive with fresh and vivacious pop, like…Grape Nehi soda pop. A hint of petrichor, like fresh rain on road tar. Try to tease out the Zinfandel plum from the Mourvedre herbal thyme and wild mint from the acidic sweet clay Carignan. It is at once both dense, full-bodied and opulent, and also refreshingly light on its feet for the varietals and the region; reminding us that old vines possess that mystical ability to convey tons of character and also ethereal expansiveness.

WINE #2: NOELIA RICCI 'GODENZA' SANGIOVESE

Predappio, Emilia-Romagna, Italy 2018

[san-GEE-OH-vay-say]

While the “blood of Jupiter” Sangiovese grape is ubiquitous with Chianti, it is believed, according to Emilia-Romagna lore, to actually come from the hills of Monte Giove near San’ Angelo di Romagna. The wines from this area were named Sangue del Giove, “Blood of Giove” – convincingly close to what we now call Sangiovese. While big, tannic Sangio is most famously made in Tuscany, it thrives in cooler climes in Northern Italy, such as the Sangiovese di Romagna DOC in the foothills of the Apennine mountains. In the sandstone and clay hills it expresses its herbal and earthy side with gusto.

The Noelia Ricci vineyard is planted to about 22 acres on clay and calcareous sand with southwest exposure at a lofty elevation of 1100 feet, making it one of the higher parts of all of Romagna, which is notoriously pancake flat. The small village of Predappio rests in the foothills of the Apennine mountains bordering Le Marche, and for centuries this area has been singularly obsessed with Sangiovese. Dating all the way back to 1383, the Predappio regional laws decreed quality parameters for yields, harvest and vinification. The Noelia Ricci estate is not only calcareous, sandy clay, but also rich in minerals and sulfur. The winery is dedicated to natural winemaking and minimal intervention, aiming to make transparent Sangiovese that shines through the best light possible. The grapes are fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel for 28 days, then aged for 8 months in stainless steel tanks, then bottled in its youth, and aged with a minimum of 12 months in bottle.

This is so very Pinot-like on the nose, with robust red fruits and an uncanny pretty herbal nose. It is reminiscent of high elevation alpine reds; and though it grows at only around 1100 feet, that’s significant elevation when in Emilia-Romagna. There’s fresh green coffee bean and green tea on the nose, and it’s almost flinty like gunpowder. It opens up to dried flowers and salty umami hoisin sauce, all on top of a helping of fresh fruit – think cherries and raspberries, a bit of pink grapefruit and tart cherry skins- making this an undeniably interesting Sangiovese, from exotic, lesser-known climes.

Emilia-Romagna is the cheese capital of Italy any way you slice it, with countless famous flavors from many DOP zones like Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, Provolone, and Squacquerone di Romagna.

WINE #3: RYME CELLARS SANGIOVESE + FRIULANO

Sangiovese + Tocai Friulano
Fox Hill Vineyard, Mendocino, California 2019

SANGIOVESE + FRIULANO 

[san-GEE-OH-vay-say] + [free’oo-LAH-noh]

 

While this blend is a RYME novelty, it is also a bit of a postmodern homage to the old fiasco-bottled Chianti. It was once standard fare to add copious amounts of white grapes, mostly Trebbiano and Malvasia, to Sangiovese in Chianti to increase the sugar, and therefore the body, and the alcohol, and the bottom line.  This practice was actually not uncommon in many regions, notably in Rhône wines, where to this day the thought is that white + red co-ferments make for more aromatic and concentrated wines. And RYME well knows, wine can be amazing without being overly contemplative.

RYME comes from the playful name-meshing of couple Ryan and Megan Glaab. The two met working as seasonal cellar hands at Torbreck Winery in Australia, and went on to various stints (together and separately) at Pax Wine Cellars, Peay Vineyards, Sine Qua Non, and Marcassin. They started their own Ryme Cellars wine project in 2007 with just one ton of the woefully under-represented Aglianico grape, and were so excited by the intensity and verve of the wine they made that they decided to delve deeper into the unexplored territory of intriguing varieties that California could serve up. They next made two definitely disparate Vermentinos (a skin contact His and a fresh and minerally Hers), along with Ribolla Gialla, Cabernet Franc and a few of the classics of Sonoma County – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They are like classically trained musicians who listen to hard metal, they appreciate the winemaking art in all its forms, and seek to play all its iterations as fiercely and lovingly as they can. 

What a fantastic Friulangiovese way to appreciate red and white coming together in the same glass! This is like Big Red gum crushing on Juicy Fruit gum. It’s a whole mouthful of Wax Lips. This is crushable like an adult juice box, full of nostalgia like sweet summer melon rind, seascape strawberries and “sangio” cherries. While it’s far better in the glass than chugged with a straw, you get the idea. All the voluptuous fruits finish with a surprise of cinnamon and a pinch of tannins that make for a slightly serious red white wine.

WINE #4: AZIENDA AGRICOLA GRAZIANO “FONTANA DEI BOSCHI” LAMBRUSCO GRASPAROSSA

Castelvetro di Modena, Emilia-Romagna, Italy 2018

[lamb-ROU-SKOE gah-rah-spa-ROH-sah]

Grasparossa is the star of the lambrusco show, often reaching greater ripeness, darker color, and making more concentrated, tannic and intense wines than its siblings. It prefers the slopes and hills of the Castelvetro area to the valley bottoms shared by its brethren. It makes what is arguably the classic Lambrusco full-fruited fizz, with tons of plum and black cherry and a touch of tannin. Grasparossa can only be 85% of the blend to qualify as Castelvetro DOC, showing that it gets by with a little help from its friends.

Though Vittorio Graziano’s family has always owned farmland and vines in the village of Castelvetro di Modena, his father built furniture for a living. Vittorio started drinking wine at 18 to please a girlfriend who loved the dry, sparkling reds of the area. After a few years working a miserable desk job as a youth, Vittorio decided it was time, with no formal training, to take on his family’s 1.25 acres of vines from his family farm. Vittorio soon began befriending the village’s old contadini, asking about farming methods, local varieties and soils, and heeding their advice, he started sourcing land and replanting vines.  The acquisition of more vines around his house in 1992 and re-plantings brought the estate up to 12 acres currently. 

 

Vittorio has never used chemicals in his vineyards and refuses to use manure, opting for wild herbs and planted legumes to improve his soil. He also grows about a dozen local grape varieties, and with the exception of Trebbiano, Lambrusco Grasparossa and Malbo Gentile, he has no idea what their names are. Both white and red grapes are destemmed,  then fermented in fiberglass containers. For the sparkling wines, Vittorio racks the wine off the lees with about 10g of sugar left before bottling, with refermentation in bottle for 2 to 3 months. Many consider Vittorio to be the maestro of traditional Lambrusco, and this bottling is an incredible insight into his bizarre and beautiful world.

This is a trove of winter baking spice, like the three C’s of Chai: clove, cardamom,and cinnamon galore. So dark and a bit meaty and brooding, this sparkling red finishes lean and lip-smackingly dry. The palate is perky with fresh-cracked black peppercorn, allspice and waxy black licorice, and so very super herbal with hints of Fernet Branca. This is a mineral driven, Christmas pellegrino! Pop this grasparossa and trim a tree, hang some lights, bake some goodies, and dare to pair with roast beast. 

“Fontana dei Boschi” means fountain of the forest, or maybe frizzante forest froth, bubbly of the trees, woodland lambrusco, thicket fizz or maybe jungle bubbly?