Refreshing and Unique Austrian White Field Blend

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking. The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines age typically for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

I recently wrote about the 2017 Glück from Werlitsch, which is a fun amber wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Ex Vero I

Field blend of Morillon (Chardonnay) and Sauvignon Blanc; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Ex Vero I is medium gold in color and transparent but slightly hazy. Per the back label, I gave this a lengthy decant which I found to be optimal around the 2 hour mark. The aromas are of pronounced intensity and the gorgeous nose showcases aromas of yellow apple, white peach, white wildflower, dried garden herbs, popcorn kernel, gravel, and chalk. There’s also a good deal of reduction (gunsmoke, matchstick) and some flint on the nose which plays somewhat of a dominant role. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of yellow apple, pear, honeysuckle, seashell, wet stone, dried herbs, and saline mineral. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $35. Though this is a very different white wine, I feel comfortable calling it a great value. It’s incredibly fun while also maintaining a winning profile of intensity, complexity, length, and balance. Very excited to try this again in a couple years.

Value Grand Cru Chablis

Today’s Story: Domaine Vocoret et Fils

Domaine Vocoret et Fils is a family-owned and operated domain, established in Chablis in 1870 by Edouard Vocoret. Today Domaine Vocoret is under guide of the fourth generation of the family, and their holdings are quite impressive at around 40 hectares of sustainably-farmed vineyards. Of these holdings, roughly 16 hectares are Village level, 17 hectares are 1er Cru, and 4 hectares are the Grand Crus of Les Clos, Blanchot, Valmur, and Vaudésir with the balance Petit Chablis. Though Vocoret invested in modern and high quality winemaking equipment, the production of their wines remains very traditional for Chablis. Grapes are hand-sorted before heading to the pneumatic press, and after fermentation the wines head into stainless steel for aging to preserve their fresh fruit and vibrancy (though the 1er and Grand Crus do see some new oak which is becoming more popular in Chablis today).

Today’s Wine: 2017 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2017 Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos is medium yellow in color. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of lemon zest, white peach, mango, white floral blossom, flint, chalk, and almond. Flavors on the palate are also of medium intensity, with the wine displaying notes of green apple, lemon, white peach, mild green herbs, wet stone, a hint of smoke, and mineral. This dry white is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. A very precise and youthful white Burgundy that should develop nicely over the years to come.

Price: $90. While I would like more intensity out of this wine, it offers very solid value for Chablis especially at the Grand Cru level. It’s precise and well-balanced already, but I’m looking forward to revisiting this as it adds complexity over the future.

Chuggable Austrian Amber Wine

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking. The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines age typically for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Glück

50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Glück is medium amber in color and slightly hazy. I found this better after it warmed from cellar temperature, so I let it sit in the glass for a little while. The aromas are of medium intensity but the nose is rather complex, showcasing aromas of dried apricot, orange peel, bruised apple, yellow wildflower, honey, mild mushroom, grass, chalk, and saline mineral. Flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of mandarin orange peel, apricot, crisp red apple, orange marmalade, honey, dried green herbs, sea salt, and chalky mineral. This dry amber wine is medium-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $47. I’m still relatively new into my exploration of amber wines, so I will refrain at this point from discussing an overall “value” perspective. However, this is one of if not the best I’ve had so far, and its quality, complexity, intrigue, and drinkability make it well worth the price for me.

Tense and Precise White Burgundy Built for the Cellar

Today’s Story: Domaine Vincent Dancer

Domaine Vincent Dancer is a small, rising star estate located in the village of Chassagne-Montrachet in Burgundy, France. Established by Vincent Dancer, the domain consists of about 5-6 hectares under vine and was the first certified organic producer in Chassagne-Montrachet. Vincent is originally from Alsace, and though he studied engineering in school he picked up a passion for wine along the way. After some urging from his father, Vincent spent time in Burgundy to learn viticulture and oenology before taking over small acreage of family vines in 1996. Known as a quiet and humble winemaker, Vincent quietly expanded his vineyards and today has holdings in Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Pommard, and Beaune. A staunch proponent of hands-off winemaking, Vincent hand-harvests his fruit from fairly low yielding vineyards and refrains from adding any commercial yeasts, enzymes, or acid adjustments during natural fermentation. He also resists bâtonnage, the practice of stirring the lees which is practiced by many producers in Chassagne-Montrachet to add flavors, aromas, and texture to the wine. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, with common descriptors of “tense,” “precise,” and “graceful.” Total production is I believe still under 2,000 cases annually, and not a lot of Vincent’s wines make their way to the US.

I previously wrote about Vincent Dancer when I reviewed the 2018 Bourgogne Blanc, which is a wonderful entry-level wine for the domain.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Vincent Dancer Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Tête du Clos

100% Chardonnay; 13% ABV

The 2018 Tête du Clos is pale yellow/gold in color. This needs about an hour and a half to two hours to really open up at this young stage, but the nose blossoms into aromas of pronounced intensity. The nose showcases aromas of lemon, crisp golden apple, white floral blossom, flint, wet river stone, a touch of smoke, freshly-baked bread, and saline mineral. Meanwhile the palate is also of pronounced intensity, showcasing notes of crisp pear, lemon zest, yellow apple, honeysuckle, almond, mild dried green herbs, wet stone, and crushed rock mineral. This dry white is full-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a very long finish. This is outstanding already, but I’ll wait probably five years before opening my next bottle. Very tense and precise.

Price: $175 (I paid $160). By no means an inexpensive white Burgundy, however I think this is absolutely worth the price and I would wager these prices rise further in the years to come. Vincent Dancer is making some of the greatest white Burgundy right now from the wines I’ve tasted, and these should be a must-try for any white Burgundy lover.

Ole Reliable From Reims

Today’s Story: Krug

Krug is a highly regarded Champagne house established in Reims, France in 1843 by Joseph Krug. Krug has maintained a reputation throughout its entire existence of producing incredibly high quality wines, being unique to this day as the first and only house to create only prestige Champagnes every year since its establishment. Krug’s most widely produced Champagne, the Grande Cuvée, is the house’s most popular and a blending of more than 120 wines to craft the best expression of time and place each vintage. The house produces several other wines, including a non-vintage Rosé, vintage Krug, a vintage single-vineyard Blanc de Blanc called Clos du Mesnil, a vintage single-vineyard Blanc de Noir called Clos d’Ambonnay, and Krug Collection back-vintage wines. Though the house is now owned with a majority by LVMH, the Krug family remains actively involved with sixth-generation Olivier Krug today.

Today’s Wine: NV Krug Grande Cuvée 168ème Édition

52% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 13% Meunier; 12.5% ABV

The NV Grande Cuvée 168ème Édition is pale gold in color with lively bubbles. The aromas are of medium intensity, showcasing yellow apple, pear, white blossom, brioche, slight reduction, and chalky mineral. Meanwhile the palate is also of medium intensity, displaying notes of crisp green apple, white peach, white florals, almond, brioche, and honey. This dry Champagne is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $170. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a great value, but that’s simply because there are so many grower Champagne’s out there that come in at half or less than half the price and drink just as well. Krug is, however, probably my favorite Champagne in this price range and this 168ème Édition is a great bottling based on the 2012 vintage. Krug is consistently exceptional and every Champagne lover needs to try some at least once.

Beautiful Representation of Chardonnay From Sicily

Today’s Story: Planeta Winery

Planeta is a large, family-owned and operated Sicilian wine estate that actually consists of six separate estates spread across Sambuca di Sicilia, Menfi, Vittoria, Noto, Etna, and Capo Milazzo. Though the Planeta family has been involved in Sicilian agriculture and viticulture for five centuries and 17 generations, they built their first winery under the Planeta Winery label only in 1995. Cousins Alessio and Santi Planeta founded the venture with their uncle Diego Planeta, who was already a well-established and highly regarded individual in the Sicilian wine world (particularly for his time with the Settesoli wine cooperative). Planeta is a major innovator when it comes to increasing quality of Sicilian wines, utilizing their vast terroir portfolio to trumpet both native and international varieties best suited for each individual site. Sustainability is a major push for Planeta, and they farm all vineyards with this in mind. Meanwhile winemaking can best be described as “open-minded,” a term that while vague speaks to the mission of producing wines with a sense of place and from the best varieties possible for each distinct estate.

To explore each estate in depth, peruse the extensive portfolio of wines, or simply view pictures of the incredible Planeta vineyards, I encourage you to visit their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 14% ABV

The 2018 Chardonnay is pale to medium gold in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the aromas are of pronounced intensity and include ripe yellow apple, stone fruit, lemon zest, pineapple, vanilla cream, a hint of butter, and clove. Meanwhile the flavors on the palate are also of pronounced intensity, showcasing notes of yellow apple, pineapple, peach, white florals, butter, vanilla, clove, and crushed rock minerality. This dry Chardonnay is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Comes across fairly Burgundian.

Price: $36. I think this actually offers pretty solid value, especially compared to the California Chardonnay and white Burgundy I tasted alongside it (they were 80% and 40% more expensive, respectively). The intensity and balance in this wine are quite good, and it should only improve with another 3-5 years in the bottle.

Grower Champagne of the Utmost Quality

Today’s Story: Champagne Lilbert-Fils

Champagne Lilbert-Fils is a small, family-owned and operated grower Champagne located in the village of Cramant in the Côte des Blancs. Though written records show the Lilbert family cultivating vines there back to 1746, it is suspected they have deeper roots to perhaps the early 1700s. Bertrand Lilbert runs the estate today, after he joined his father Georges during the 1990s and took the helm in 2005. The family only owns 3.5 hectares of all Grand Cru vineyards with roughly 60% in Cramant, 30% in Chouilly, and 10% in Oiry. These holdings are planted to 100% Chardonnay with an average vine age of 45 years for the exclusive production of Blanc de Blancs. Bertrand practices sustainable viticulture, makes his wines in stainless steel vats, and they do experience malolactic fermentation. Bertrand still riddles all of his bottles by hand, and they are disgorged without freezing the plug of lees in the neck of the bottle. Dosage remains pretty low in sugar because Bertrand prefers to preserve acidity over ripeness, and the resulting wines are filled with intense mineral and chalk characteristics alongside crisp and vibrant citrus and orchard fruit. Total production is typically a measly 2,300 cases per vintage, making these wines very difficult to find.

Today’s Wine: NV Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The NV Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs is transparent pale gold to a medium yellow in color, with incredibly delicate effervescence. On the nose, this gorgeous and utterly complex Champagne emits aromas of green apple, golden pear, a hint of lemon, white florals, white truffle, delicate green herbs, brioche, lees, and crushed stone minerality. The knock-your-socks-off palate then picks up the reigns with yellow apple skins, crisp pear, white peach, lemon citrus, honeysuckle, toast, cheese rind, toasted almond, chalk, and saline mineral. This is light- to medium-bodied and very dry (dosage 5g/L) with racy high acidity and a long finish that is both tantalizing and mouthwatering. My bottle was disgorged in Autumn 2017 and is a blend of 50% 2014 vintage, 35% 2013 vintage, and 15% Reserve Wines.

Price: $60. This is an incredible value Champagne and one that I buy whenever I find it (which isn’t easy because it is super small production with an almost cultish following). I’ve had these wines on 4 or 5 occasions and every time they punch up with the “big dogs.” Buy some if you can.

Unique White Blend for Napa Valley

Today’s Story: Massican Winery

I very recently wrote about Massican when I reviewed the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, however I loved that wine so much I wanted to return today for another bottling.

Massican Winery was established in 2009 by winemaker Dan Petroski (also of Larkmead Vineyards) and was born out of his passion for Italy and the country’s lifestyle, culture, and wines. Massican is a very unique endeavor in Napa Valley, focusing exclusively on white grape varieties including Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Bianco, and Greco common in northeastern Italy as well as the more “expected” varieties of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. True to Dan’s mission, the Massican wines are not only made with uncommon varieties for Napa but they are also not the stereotypical oaky white wines the region is known for. Dan uses varying amounts of new and neutral oak as well as stainless steel, also not allowing his wines to go through malolactic fermentation so they maintain the crisp, fresh, and refreshing characteristics of each grape variety. Another contributing factor is how Dan picks his grapes at lower sugar levels, preserving the vibrant acidity and resulting in often lower-alcohol wines.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Annia

53% Tocai Friulano, 39% Ribolla Gialla, 8% Chardonnay; 12.8% ABV

The 2019 Annia is pale yellow in color, and almost pale gold. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of yellow apple, tangerine, white peach, pear, honeysuckle, crushed stone, and mild green herbs. Meanwhile the flavors on the palate are also of medium intensity, with notes of white peach, lemon zest, pear, tangerine, white florals, and beeswax. This dry white blend is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length but well-rounded finish. I didn’t find this as vibrant or complex as the Sauvignon Blanc I recently reviewed, but it still makes for a fun summer wine and a perfect match for shellfish.

Price: $30. This is a fun wine for the price, however I do prefer the Massican Sauvignon Blanc and I think that offers stronger value given its complexity, vibrancy, and mouthwatering higher acidity. I still think this Annia is worth checking out though, because it’s uncommon to find these varieties coming out of Napa and it is a well-made wine.

Unique and Fun Willamette Valley Chardonnay

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded. Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

Big Table Farm has an outstanding website, filled with pictures, videos, and incredible detail. I highly recommend visiting them here.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.2% ABV

The 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color and slightly hazy. This really started to show nicely after 30-45 minutes in the glass, with the nose showcasing medium intense aromas of yellow apple, golden pear, a hint of lemon custard, white florals, chalky mineral, a hint of smoke, and mild white peppery spice. Meanwhile the palate is also of medium intensity, displaying notes of yellow apple, crisp pear, dried pineapple, wet stone, dried herbs, honeysuckle, dill, and a hint of oak. This dry Chardonnay is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Took some coaxing to pull apart the notes on this one, but the balance is incredible.

Price: $44 (I paid $28 on sale). I think the typical $44ish price tag is very reasonable here, as this is a fun, different, delicious, and well-made Chardonnay. If you are fortunate to find it on sale like I did, snag it because this offers tremendous value at the $28 level I paid.

A Marriage of Napa Valley and Burgundy

Today’s Story: Hyde de Villaine (HdV Wines)

Hyde de Villaine Wines (HdV) is a family owned and operated wine estate established in Carneros in 2000 as a joint venture between the Hyde family of Napa Valley and the de Villaine family of Burgundy. Spearheaded by Larry Hyde, a member of one of the region’s most highly regarded winegrowing families, and Aubert de Villaine, co-director of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, HdV came to fruition through Aubert’s marriage to Pamela Fairbanks who is Larry’s cousin. Using fruit exclusively from the coveted Hyde Vineyard in eastern Carneros, HdV crafts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and small amounts of Syrah as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend utilizing minimal intervention winemaking in an effort to allow the wines to speak of their terroir, variety, and vintage.

The vines which provide fruit for HdV Wines are farmed with a combination of sustainable, organic, and biodynamic practices to both ensure the land is viable for generations to come and this helps the grapes truly express themselves rather than a heavy hand. HdV receives first right of refusal in the vineyards, with remaining fruit sold to Napa heavyweights of the likes of Kistler, Patz & Hall, DuMOL, Ramey, and Schramsberg amongst others. HdV typically picks their fruit a couple weeks earlier than those around them, in large part to preserve more of the natural acidity and a beautiful minerality after the style of Burgundy. There is rigorous sorting in the vineyards, at the picking bins, and again at the winery to ensure only the highest quality fruit makes it into the wines. The winery itself is organized such that gravity plays a dominant part, and the wines see a combination of stainless steel, wooden vats, and oak barrels over time. Overall the winemaking philosophy is minimal intervention, again circling back to the idea that all wines should demonstrate a true sense of place. Chardonnay ages in 15-20% new medium toast French oak for about a year, followed by 3-4 months in stainless steel before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.

To learn more or explore the HdV portfolio of wines, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Le Début Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 13.9% ABV

The 2016 Le Début Chardonnay is transparent medium gold in color. After about 30 to 45 minutes in the glass, the nose showcases aromas of pineapple, ripe pear, peach, lemon zest, honeysuckle, dried vanilla, almond, and light butter with medium intensity. The palate is much more pronounced in intensity with notes of yellow apple, yellow pear, lemon curd, peach, pineapple, wet stone, dill, vanilla cream, and light smoke. This is dry and medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. 550 cases produced.

Price: $50. This is a very good Napa Chardonnay, and on a value perspective I believe it is relatively fairly priced. You can certainly find wines of this quality or slightly better for about $10-15 less, but naturally they become much harder to find. I would certainly explore more wines in the HdV portfolio.