Thursday, December 17, 2015

Grochau Cellars – At the Intersection of Agriculture, Chemistry, and Artistry

John Grochau readily admits that he does as little as possible. Not that the owner and winemaker at Grochau Cellars in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA in Oregon doesn’t work hard. He just believes that his wines express their true natures best with the absolute minimum of intervention.

Grochau grew up in the backyard of the Oregon wine industry in Portland. Later in life he was introduced to the world of wine while living in France, where he raced bicycles. After his retirement from the sport and return to the United States, he wanted to pursue wine as a career and was drawn to the idea of creating his own expression of the land he knew so well.

His first full-time job with a winery was at Brick House, which has been certified organic since 1990 and presently practices Biodynamic agriculture. This reverence for nature has deeply informed Grochau’s winemaking style and has driven his non-interventionist style.  “Brick House taught me about wine from bud break to bottle,” says Grochau. “By working with the right sites and letting nature take its course, you are best served with minimal work in the vineyard.”

When it was time to strike out on his own, Grochau wanted to make the expression of place his highest priority, and was drawn to the Eola-Amity Hills region of the Willamette Valley. With its thin and rocky volcanic soil, the water holding capacity of the ground is limited, resulting in small grape bunches that are highly concentrated. The Van Duzer corridor, a lowland route that leads directly to the Pacific coast, also provides a wide variation in daytime and nighttime temperatures, even in the heat of summer, which also prolongs the growing season and adds even more concentration to the grapes. The finished wine tends to show darker red and black fruit, high acidity, and earthy minerality. “This is what I feel like is classic Pinot Noir,” adds Grochau, “bright acids with earthy and mineral undertones.”

In addition to the Eola-Amity Hills and Bjornson Vineyard, Grochau also makes Pinot Noirs from Dundee Hills further north as well as a greater Willamette Valley designate. After manual harvest, all the grapes are hand-sorted and partially destemmed, with some whole cluster fruit being used in each wine. He uses native yeast fermentation and the wines are aged entirely in French oak, of which 15-30% of the barrels are new.

A newer addition to Grochau Cellars, the Commuter Cuvée is meant to be a go-to Pinot Noir at a price that makes it accessible for everyday drinking. Unlike the other wines, it is completely destemmed and also aged partially in stainless steel. “With the Commuter Cuvée, I really wanted it to be about the purity of the fruit,” says Grochau. “I want people to be able to smell the grape, which sets it apart from a lot of Pinot Noir at the same price point.” While still adhering to his sustainable tenets, he has managed to create a wine that is approachable and pairs beautifully with a variety of foods.  

In addition to the range of Pinot Noirs that form the core of his lineup, Grochau is also working to expand his range. He has already released a Gamay made in a Beaujolais-Villages style, with about a year of aging in used oak. Next up is a Burgundian-influenced Chardonnay from a slightly warmer site near Dundee Hills. This wine will have fairly low alcohol, somewhere between 12.5-13%, and is aged in only 12% new oak to preserve the flavors of the grape.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


© Quentin Bacon

Wine Wednesday: "The sauce fits the pasta,“ said chef Marc Vetri in praise of this tender veal ragu flavored with white wine, capers, thyme and rosemary, then tossed with the little ear-shaped orecchiette. “The meat, the capers–they hang on to the pasta when you lift up your fork.”

Recipe: Orecchiette with Veal, Capers and White Wine

This delicious winter pasta pairs beautifully with our “Olivar” white blend from Cesconi.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

French Harvest Reports 2015

Now that the grapes have been picked and baby wine is safely resting in barrel or tank, we thought we’d bring you some reports about the 2015 harvest in France:


Stay tuned for more vintage reports coming your way soon …

Monday, December 14, 2015

Jancis Robinson’s Cool Whites

Samuel Billaud’s Chablis “Mont de Milieu” has made Jancis Robinson’s list of “A Pick of Cool Whites:”

“Now that he is on his own, and gradually repossessing the old Billaud-Simon vineyards, Samuel Billaud is making some of the most precise Chablis around. Samuel Billaud, Mont de Milieu Premier Cru 2012 Chablis (£25.50 Haslemere Cellar) is already more expressive than many 2012 Premiers Crus with hints of both honey and smokiness. Very long and satisfying, this is the arch thirst-quencher.”

You can read the rest of the article here, and find out more about the wines of Samuel Billaud here.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Max Ferd. Richter - Three Centuries of History and Tradition in the Mosel

Making wine in the Mosel of northern Germany for over three centuries, Max Ferd. Richter produces world-class Rieslings from some of the most esteemed vineyards in the region. Langdon Shiverick has been importing their wines since 1986, making them a cornerstone in our portfolio. David Shiverick explains some of their history and what makes them special in the context of such a prestigious region:

“Dirk is the 9th generation of family that has been making wine in Mülheim since 1680. He joined his father after working for a couple of years for Martel (a well-known Cognac house). He came home and started working with his father. His father just passed away least year at the age of 94. And now Dirk’s son, Constantine, has joined him as the 10th generation. Constantine studied at Geisenhem, the famous wine school in the Rheingau, then worked for a while in the Finger Lakes district in New York. He is very involved in the running of the estate now.

It’s an impressive estate because they’re fairly large landowners. Most of the domaines are very small in this area, but they are one of the bigger ones and all their wines are estate bottled. Importantly, they control vineyard sites all throughout the Mittelmosel, particularly in Brauneberg, Brauneberg Juffer and Brauneberg Juffer-Sonnenhur, which is the grand cru. The Brauneberg vineyard faces the village of Mülheim, where the Richter family has lived for centuries, and they have a strong presence there. They also have two monopoles in Mülheimer Helenenkloster, which is where Richter makes his Eiswein, as he has every year since 1961, and Mülheimer Sonnenlay, which is where he makes the Zeppelin wine.  

The third monopole, Veldenzer Elisenberg, is a vineyard that was given to the Richter family at the time that Napoleon Bonaparte was retreating through Germany from Russia. The army was in a very bad way, as you can imagine, and were sacking cities as they went along. As they came towards the town of Mülheim, one of Dirk’s ancestors went to Napoleon’s camp and persuaded him to leave the town in peace. So as a reward, the town gave him the vineyard Elisenberg.”

Max Ferd. Richter has many years of traditions passed down from generation to generation. While the estate has also maintained an eye to the future in utilizing modern techniques, Dirk holds to some winemaking regimes that reflect the styles of times past:

“The estate is really unique in that he still ages his wines in barrels. In the big foudre, not small barrels, but bigger ones. And if you visit his cellar, you see these dark, brown, very old barrels. Most people have gone to vinify their Rieslings in tank. But Richter has stayed the course and it makes his wines very special.

What Richter does, he just got a new barrel five years ago, and he’s just now starting to use that barrel. For the first five years, he filled it with water, drained it out, and kept repeating the process to get rid of the oaky taste, which isn’t a component you want in Riesling. Barrel aging makes a difference because there is a porosity to barrels, and it allows wine to breathe as it ages, which the tank doesn’t do, resulting in a signature softness to the wines.”

Rieslings, both dry and sweet, have gained popularity in recent years for several reasons, not least of all because the grape is a natural fit on the dinner table:

“Riesling is the perfect food wine. It is the greatest, most noble varietal, because it goes with all kinds of food. First of all you’ve got the different styles of wine, sweet, dry, and they age so well, better than any other wine. People say minerality to describe wine from almost anywhere, you can use it for anything, it’s a new buzzword. But this is the real minerality. You’ve got a real earthiness with a mineral quality. You’ve got beautiful peach aromas, sometimes red currant, then you get this wonderful acidity that no other wines have and the combination of acidity, fruitiness, minerals, and earthiness, that’s what makes the wine age worthy and great with food.” 

In the excellent hands of Dirk and Constantine, Max Ferd. Richter promises to continue its attention to detail and quality. Form the QBAs on up through the Eisweins, their hallmark balance is evident in every glass.

Here’s a fun video with Dan from Deux Punx discussing his white Rhone blend. For more from the Wine Weirdos, including several more D.P. reviews:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Champagne - Not Just for New Year’s Eve

Champagne has long been the go-to for celebrations – the bubbles, the sense of occasion, even the pop of the cork. But a not-so-well-kept secret amongst wine professionals is that Champagne is also a food wine par excellence. A quick Google search reveals wine writers touting sparkling wine as an ideal match with macaroni and cheese, pumpkin pancakes, or steak.

Langdon Shiverick is proud to represent two Champagne producers who are part of the movement towards smaller, estate-grown wines that has become fashionable in the region. As opposed to large houses that purchase most of their fruit, grower producers have a greater degree of control over their fruit and the resulting wine more fully expresses the variation between vintages.

Founded in 1968 in the southerly village of Allemant in the heart of the Cotes des Blancs, Champagne Bernard Rémy debuted on the domestic market in France in the early 70’s to excellent reviews. With time and success comes expansion, and in 1983, Rémy built his own winery on premise to facilitate the purchase of more hectares of vine in other areas in Champagne. Now, 50 years after its inception, Rémy holds no less than 11 hectares under vine in prime parcels of Champagne, including Grand Cru areas. The sophistication of the wines and approachable price points highlight Champagne Bernard Rémy’s persistent quest for perfection in each aspect of their product.

New to our portfolio, Laforge-Testa was founded in 1900 by Emile and Léone Laforge. Originally, the winery was a supplier for Moët Chandon, however, after World War One, Emile and other local winegrowers collaborated to found a local union for the production of Champagne in the Marne Valley and Laforge-Testa was born. So strong are their ties to the union that they still ferment and partially age their wines in the co-op, though the grapes for their bottlings are kept separate from the other growers’ production. The family has long supported the growing of Chardonnay in the Marne Valley, a part of Champagne more famed for its Pinot Meunier, and currently Chardonnay vineyards make up 40% of the winery’s holdings. Today, Larforge-Testa is run by the fourth generation of the family and continues to provide estate-grown Champagne at an excellent value.

Enjoy Champagne through the rest of this holiday season and to toast the New Year. Then continue the good times into 2016 with bubbles making a regular appearance as an aperiftif, with dinner, or even at brunch!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Luis Gutierrez’s Best of 2015

Writing for The Wine Advocate, Luis Gutierrez names Domaine Macle’s Château-Chalon as one of his top three wines of 2015, writing, “The master of Château Chalon, the appellation dedicated exclusively to the production of Vin Jaune, is Domaine Macle. Their 2007 Château Chalon from a cool vintage has all that is needed to age superbly in bottle and reach world class status. After more than six years aging under a veil of yeasts in cask, this yellow wine is still young, and as much as it is pleasurable now, it will develop additional complexity in bottle. Patience will be rewarded.”