May 2017 Wine Alliance

White, Blanc, Bianco, Blanco

With the weather finally turning the corner towards summer it seemed appropriate to focus on wines that pair with warm weather food, so puts your hands up for White Wine! To reveal the exciting diversity of white grapes I’ve selected four mono-varietal bottlings. Mono-varietal sounds boring, I know, but I promise it’s not! In fact, if you’re looking for a worthy summer study project, single variety wines can teach you how the soil, climate and a winemaker influence what’s in your glass. It will also enhance your understanding of blended wines.

Let’s get to work!
Is white wine white? Not really. White wine ranges in color from the palest of yellows to slightly greenish to delicately pink to rich gold to deep amber.  Elements that impact the color of your wine are the color of the grape skin, whether the winemaker chooses to allow for a period of skin contact*, the vessel in which fermentation and élévage** take place, oxidation and age. A quick glance at the color of your wine will provide some clues about the grape variety, the age of the wine and the style of wine making. Observing and noting the relationship between the color, flavor and texture will help you identify the character of a wine and determine with what meal it could work.
Generally speaking; 

-          The lighter the color, the lighter the wine. Fermentation and élévage likely done in stainless steel, concrete or clay.
-          Richly colored wines have bolder, richer flavors. Fermentation and élévage likely done in barrel.
-          Amber to brownish hues indicate oxidation and can be a sign of an older white, sherry or a wine that’s dead.
-          Orange wine has had extended skin contact. Fermentation and élévage likely done in clay, concrete or large format wood   

*Skin Contact= A period of time that the crushed grape juice and the skins of the grapes are left in contact with each other.
**Elévage = The time a wine spends in a tank/barrel/foudre etc. after fermentation and before bottling.

Club Selections
Everyday Club
2016 Alta Alella Tallarol, Alella, SP $20
Grape – Pansa Blanca. Pansa Blanca is the local Catalan name for Xarel-lo. This grape is typically blended with Parellada and Macabeo to make Cava. A still version is a rarity so enjoy being someone who gets to experience this wine.

Fun Fact – The wine is fermented in Amphora made from clay from the Alta Alella Vineyards

2014 La Viarte Friulano, Fruili, IT $20
Grape – Friulano. The folks of Friuli didn’t warm to the name Sauvignonasse because they renamed their local version Friulano. I guess that would be like us calling Merlot, WallaWallano. As you continue to taste and explore you’ll find that lots of grapes have regionally specific names.

Fun Fact - Sauvignonasse sounds like Sauvignon Blanc but they are unique varieties the first being both less acidic and aromatic.

Drink with Focus Club

2014 Domaine Henny Les Blancais, Pellé Menetou-Salon, FR $35
Grape – Sauvignon Blanc. Sauvignon Blanc is the most well-known grape in our lineup this month. It is the offspring of Savignan (found in the Jura) and the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s grown all over the world. You’ll find bottles from France, Italy, Slovenia, Autstria, Australia, New Zealand the U.S. and beyond. If you choose a grape to study you will find no shortage of SB but the true homeland of this variety is the Loire Valley where soil and grape are perfect companions. 

BTW – Menetou-Salon is a tiny region west of Sancerre in the Loire Valley.

2014 Domaine Yves Leccia Patrimonio Blanc, Corsica, FR $35
Grape – Vermentinu or Vermentino is an aromatic variety that is represented in lovely bottles like this from Corsica.  It’s a.k.a. Pigato in Liguria and Favorita in Piedmont and Rolle in Southern France. Though not as widely planted as Sauvignon Blanc you’ll find much to taste if you pursue a course in Vermentino. You might find bottles from Malta, Lebanon, California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Australia.

Fun Fact – Sandrine Leccia was at Vif earlier this month!

April 2017 Wine Alliance

Spring Pleeeease!

How many more days will Seattleites wake to the sound of the rain?
Did you catch the recent Times Article “Seattle just broke a 122 year-old record for rain”? Surprised?  Nope.  The fact that 44.67 inches of relentless rain has drenched our city and spirits since October helps me understand the general malaise that has been floating around our community.  44.67 inches-that’s 3.7225 feet of rain!! Can anyone blame us for whining?

Recently I overheard someone say, “this is like bottled sunshine” and because I’m bitter about the weather my internal self said “what*ever”. But still, the romantic image of captured sun kept swimming around in my brain and eventually developed into a nugget of truth.
Stick with me here...
A vine’s goal is to grow and produce grapes so it can propagate itself. A winemaker’s goal is to harness the vine’s natural potential so they can make wine. Winemakers do this by working in tandem with the seasons. All seasons are important for the health of a vine but essential to your tasty glass are ripe grapes. Grapes become ripe by hanging out in the sun.  In fact, the time between fruit set* and veraison** is 40-60 days. Then it takes another 30-70 days of vine time before grapes ripen enough to harvest. So, depending on the climate, that’s 70-130 days of solar energy captured by vines and ultimately transformed into wine.
Ta-dah! Captured Sunshine!

*Fruit Set – A period when the grape bunches are forming. The fruit at this stage is small, hard and highly acidic.
**Veraison – When grapes begin to soften, change color, increase in size and ripen.

All selections for this month’s club made me think of Spring. I hope they wake up your palate and bring to life all the sunshine it took to make them.

Interested in joining the club? All the info you need is here!
Want to order club wines? Send an email to hello at vifseattle dot com or call us at (206)557-7357.
Everyday Drinking Club

Gregoletto Prosecco Sui Lieviti DOC Treviso, IT $23
Grape- Glera
Sui Lieviti means on its lees so you’ll see them in the bottle. I like to gently tip the bottle over a few times before opening so they blend with the wine. Some decant leaving the lees with a little wine at the bottom and then drink it as a health shot.

2015 Domaine Gardiés Les Millères Rouge Roussillion, FR $18
Grapes - Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourvèdre
After seven generations of work in the region, the eighth, Victor Gardiés, has set the winery on a new course. He now focuses on freshness and liveliness over power.

Drink With Focus Club

I Clivi R_B_LFriuli, IT $30
Grape – Ribolla Gialla
I Clivi’s sparkling Ribolla is so tender and delicate it makes me want to build a case for capturing Spring in a bottle.

2010 Fattoria San Lorenzo Vigna Paradiso Marche, IT $50
Grape - Lacrima
The winemaker loves animals so much that he puts them on his labels. Ducks and Bunnies de-bug and weed the rows. Anyhow, don’t let the cute label fool you! This is the only aged Lacrima that I know of and it’s a seriously beautiful and floral wine.


March 2017 Wine Alliance


SloCro – It’s a thing

Slovenia and Croatia – Everything old is new again

Slovenia and Croatia, formerly part of Yugoslavia, have a wine making history that dates to 2200 BC! The wines of the region were well known and highly regarded for a long time before a series of “issues” i.e., Ottoman Invasions, World Wars, Communism and that nasty bug phylloxera drove down quality wine making. During the Communist period the focus was clearly on quantity and in the ’70s, prior to the break up, Yugoslavia was one of the top 10 wine producing countries. Because wine continued to be made throughout that long rocky history, vines remained in place and a connection to land and production was maintained. These are essential elements to the current resurrection of interesting, high quality bottlings. Add that to the fact that Slovenia and Croatia have become tourist hot spots (high on my list of destinations) and it becomes easy to understand why we are seeing more and more of them in the US.

In a nutshell…

Slovenia is divided into 3 major growing regions that further breakdown into 14 appellations. The major regions are Primorska-in the west bordering Italy, Podravje – in the Northeast and Posvje- in the Southeast. There are at least 52 indigenous grape varieties plus a handful of internationals. The balance of production tips toward whites but there are some really cool reds as well. Our club wines are from  Primorska, a growing region now considered a hot bed of natural and orange wines.

Croatia was divided into two big regions until 2012 when a group of “wine professionals” got together to study and further define the country’s various terroirs. As a result of their work Croatia now has 4 major growing regions with 12 sub-regions and 66 appellations, a pretty big jump from 2. There are 62 known indigenous grape varieties along with some internationals. Again white wines out size the production of reds which makes sense when you consider proximity to the sea and the region’s cuisine. We are highlighting a red, from the southern appellation of Dalmacija. It’s made from a local grape called Plavec Mali which is a descendant of Primativo (zinfandel).

I Love Maps!– Check out where the wines you are drinking come from and day dream about the drive you could take through these two stunning countries. Or, after seeing Primorvja take a ferry through the 1200 islands off Croatia from Istria down the coast to Split on your way to Pelješac Penninsula!

Interested in joining the club? All the info you need is here!
Want to order club wines? Send an email to hello at vifseattle dot com or call us at (206)557-7357.

Drink Everyday Club

2014 Slavček Cuvée Belo, Vipavska Dolina, Slovenia $18

Grapes – Rubula, Chardonnay, Tokay

2014 Andrović Plavac Mali, Pelješac Penninsula, Croatia $20

Grape - Plavac Mali


Drink with Focus Club

2015 Burja Estate Bela, Primorska, Slovenia $25

Grapes - Malvazija, Rebula, Laski Rizling

2014 Burja Estate Noir, Primorska, Slovenia $36

Grape - Pinot Noir

February 2017 Wine Alliance

What sort of questions do you ask yourself when drinking a glass of wine? Number one is probably, “do I like this?”. Quickly following; what is/are the grape variety/s, what region does the wine come from and then who is the producer? At some point we might consider what kind of vessel the wine is made in, the significance of soil type and health, or how farming practices impact a finished wine. The network of variables that contribute to what flows into your glass is immense.
In this month’s club I’d like to draw attention to a critical yet often unrecognized element in your experience - the wine importer. The reason the importer is so important is because they are the folks who are choosing the wines that come to the U.S. Without them our drinking options would be severely limited.
A great importer will select great wines…to their palate. A great importer’s palate will have a strong identity, a honed point of view, or, you might even say, an attitude. It can take years of experience tasting hundreds and hundreds of wines to develop the skill it takes to carefully select a group of wines that are thoughtful, true and delicious. It sounds fun but honestly, it’s hard work. Understanding where your own tastes meet an importers’ will make selecting wine (when you’re way from Vif!) much easier.
De Maison Selections is the importer that we’re highlighting this month. De Maison Selections was founded 21 years ago by André Tamers with a focus on high quality boutique producers from France and Spain. More specifically he searches for unique vineyard sites which are farmed in a non-interventionalist way. He cares deeply about the history of place and how the owners of the properties relate to its past.  André has had plenty of time to develop long standing relationships with producers and hone his “company palate” which he describes as “Francophile” (Keep that in mind because he imports a lot of Spanish wines which are noticeably more lifted than you might expect).
I always wonder what keeps someone doing what they do so I asked André and love his answers!
Shawn -What motivates y'all to keep going?
Andre -Sustaining and rehabilitating ancient cultures.
Shawn -What's captured your curiosity over the last year or so?
Andre - First rediscovering ancient parcels in forgotten lands and secondly insuring correct provenance from producer to Customer through proper handling of all wines.
BTW – you’ll find the importer’s name on the back label so when you love something turn the bottle around and see who brings it!

Interested in joining the club? All the info you need is here!
Want to order club wines? Send an email to hello at vifseattle dot com or call us at (206)557-7357.

Drink with Focus Club
Do Ferreiro Cepas Vellas Albariño Rias Baixas, SP
Grape – Albariño. This special Albariño from Do Ferreiro is sourced from 200+ year old vines. Pair the Albariño Cepas Vellas with shellfish and tasty fish.
D. Ventura Viña Caneiro Ribeira Sacra
Grape- Mencia. D Ventura’s top wine, from stunningly steep south-facing vineyards right on the Sil river. These are old vines are on slate soils, producing a wine that shows the Mencía grape at its deepest and most complex.
Drink Everyday Club
Do Ferreiro Albariño Rias Baixas, SP
Grape – Albariño. The Do Ferreiro Albariño is sourced from a variety of vineyards Gerardo Mendez owns and farms throughout the Salnès. This valley’s proximity to the ocean and protection by mountain ranges has gained it the reputation for being the best area in Rías Baixas for viticulture.
Joan d’Anguerra Altaroses Montsant, SP
Grape – Garnatxa. The Altaroses is Joan d'Anguera's first certified biodynamic and organic wine. The Anguera brothers have decided to label the wine as a “Granatxa,” the old Catalan name for Garnacha, as an emblem of their focus on adhering to the lighter, traditional style of wines that used to be made in Montsant.

January 2017 Wine Alliance

Natural Wine Club January 2017
Shed your expectations and listen to what a wine has to say for itself.
One of the great things about wine is that it will continue to be intriguing and surprising for as long as you continue to explore.  A glass of wine reveals a combination of elements; grape varieties, climate during a vintage, vineyard, and the person who ushers the winemaking process.  In natural wine the winemaker does his/her best to remain invisible so the other elements can be expressed in the most pure and honest way.
In this month’s club we consider a wide range of flavors and textures by touching down in four countries and checking out four wines, each made from a different grape. The challenge is to keep expectations from running roughshod over experience.  For me this means turning down the analytical volume, i.e. “purple-y red wine tastes like… or, I hate floral whites”, so I can appreciate the wine’s unique voice. Similar to people’s voices, some are baritone and rich, some high pitched, some smoky.  Ultimately we’ll find some wine/voices are easy for us to listen to and others more challenging. When taken together they create a fascinating and diverse array of the complexity achievable in wine.  
It’s likely that in this month’s selection of club wines you will only be familiar with one of the grape varieties-Merlot. The other three are more obscure-Tibouren, Scheurebe and País. Because Merlot is a grape most have some experience with it will be difficult to approach without expectations, but please try! I think you’ll find Le Due Terre from Friuli Colli Orientali a very original wine. With the less conspicuous grapes the task of open mindedness will be easier to achieve so your challenge will lie in not asking them to be something they are not.  
As you drink the wines from this month’s club remember to have fun!

Interested in joining the club? All the info you need is here!
Want to order club wines? Send an email to hello at vifseattle dot com or call us at (206)557-7357.
Drink With Focus Club
2014 Clos Cibonne Tibouren Cuvée Spéciale des Vignettes, Côtes de Provence, FR
Grape – Tibouren, a native grape of Provence.
Interesting Fact – This Rosé rests under a layer of fleurette (a blanket of yeast) for a year before bottling. This is similar to how wines are aged in Sherry production but the outcome is entirely different.
Food- Bouillabaisse, Salmon, Pasta with a light tomato sauce.
2013 Le Due Terre Merlot, Friuli Colli Orientali, IT
Grape – Merlot
Interesting Fact – Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) were brought to Italy as early as the 1700s. In some regions Merlot has been around so long the locals think of is as an indigenous grape.
Food – Seared steak, mushroom ragu.
Drink Everyday Club
2013 Gysler Scheurebe Halbtrocken, Rheinhessen, DE
Grape – Scheurebe
Interesting Fact – Scheurebe is a white grape that is the result of a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner. Halbtrocken means “half dry” but don’t let the term scare you. The fruitiness in this wine is balanced with great acidity.
Food – Spicy and or Salty dishes. I recently made Roasted Chicken with Clemintines and Arak from the cookbook, Jerusalam (include link to cookbook), and the Sheurebe was a terrific match!
2015 Cacique Maravilla Pipeño País, Secano Interior de Yumbel, CL
Grape – País is believed to have been brought to Chile by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century. (also known as Mission/Listan Negro/Criolla Grande).
Interesting Fact – Pipeño is an old and simple style of production that is meant to produce an easily quaffable glass of wine. The País vines are an incredible 200+ years old!
Food – Sausage, Lightly smoked meat, roast chicken.