A Fun Domestic Take on Grüner Veltliner

Today’s Story: Illahe Vineyards

Illahe Vineyards is a family owned and operated wine estate located in Dallas, Oregon within the Willamette Valley winegrowing region. The vineyards on the property trace back to 1983 when Lowell and Pauline Ford planted an acre of Müller-Thurgau, though they have since evolved into a concentration on Pinot Noir with 22 initial acres in 2001. Their son Brad joined the family business in 2004, and runs the property today as grower and winemaker alongside his wife Bethany who heads up sales. The Illahe holdings today consist of 80 acres, though only 60 acres are planted with about 50 of those planted to Pinot Noir. The remaining 10 acres of vineyards are planted to Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner, Tempranillo, Viognier, and very small quantities of Lagrein, Schioppettino, and Teroldego.

From a viticultural perspective, Illahe is mainly focused on the preservation of the land. They use cover crops throughout the vineyards to maintain the soils and provide an excellent environment for biodiversity, while refraining to irrigate more mature vines. Pruning and harvest are both accomplished exclusively by hand, and they only use Sulfur spray to combat mildew and botrytis. Taking tradition from some vineyards in Burgundy and throughout France, Illahe also uses two horses, Doc and Bea, to mow and bring all harvested fruit to the winery.

When it comes to winemaking itself, the name of the game is traditional and minimally invasive vinification. After being hand harvested and delivered to the winery by horse in small buckets, the fruit is hand sorted and either destemmed or left whole cluster depending on cuvée and variety. Following a two to six day cold soak, fermentation begins using only native yeasts and Brad uses up to 40 fermentation vessels ranging from oak to clay to stainless steel. The finished wines are meant to be a pure representation of place and variety, which one might gather from the overarching love for tradition in every facet of Illahe.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Estate Grüner Veltliner

100% Grüner Veltliner; 13% ABV

The 2020 Estate Grüner Veltliner is pale straw yellow in color and completely transparent in the glass. The aromas are of medium intensity and the nose rather delicate, offering up notes of green apple, cucumber, lime zest, white florals, wet stone, and white pepper. Flavor intensity is also medium, while the palate showcases notes of green apple, ripe pear, kiwi, lime, crushed gravel, grass, and white pepper. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Pretty good quality here, and fun to try a domestic Grüner.

Price: $22. Given the very good quality level here, I think this is a very fair price for the wine. While the intensity could be better, overall this is a very easy-going wine for a hot day and it’s a great representation of Grüner with some classic notes.

If this wine seems like something you might enjoy, you may find this link helpful in locating it.

A Great Representation of Austrian Grüner Veltliner

Today’s Story: Weingut Veyder-Malberg

Weingut Veyder-Malberg, established in 2008 by winemaker Peter Veyder-Malberg, is a relatively new estate and winery in the town of Spitz within the Wachau Valley of Austria. Peter studied Lithography in Munich in 1986 before wrapping up at the Business College at the Institute for Economic Development in Vienna in 1988, though he transitioned into wine while studying at the Napa Valley College of Viticulture in 1991. He also worked at Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa this same year. With a couple decades of winemaking experience under his belt, Peter turned to the Wachau and its steep, terraced vineyards to make wines of his own.

Peter’s philosophy starts with a focus on the land itself, particularly in the vineyards of the Wachau that were at risk of being torn out due to the incredibly labor-intensive farming necessary. Many of the vineyards in the Wachau are steep and terraced, requiring that all work be accomplished by hand. Peter started by acquiring plots with old vines aged 30 to 70 years and works exclusively with organic and biodynamic farming practices. When it’s time for harvest, Peter doesn’t focus as much on sugar levels but instead prioritizes pH levels to determine when it’s time to pick. Of course he looks at physiological ripeness of the fruit as well, but this focus on pH not only helps showcase the variety and terroir in a transparent fashion but makes the wines long-lived. All of Peter’s wines ferment with native yeast with no added enzymes, while the entire process is minimally invasive until a light fining for some of the wines at bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Liebedich Grüner Veltliner

100% Grüner Veltliner; 12.5% ABV

The 2019 Liebedich Grüner Veltliner is pale yellow in color. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing classic Grüner notes of delicate green apple, ripe pear, honeydew melon, peach skin, honeysuckle, white pepper, and crushed gravel. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of white peach, Asian pear, lemon zest, flint, white pepper, white chocolate, and stony mineral. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. This is a very nice Grüner and a solid representation of the variety, all while being easy-drinking and enjoyable.

Price: $44. I think this is a pretty fair price-point for this bottling. Even though it’s not incredibly intense or long on the finish, I find this to be a good representation and the quality is clearly very high. And I do imagine this only gets more expressive with age and a long life ahead. While you might find better “values,” this is a bottle to check out at some point in your Grüner ventures.

Fun Austrian Blend With a Unique Family Background

Today’s Story: Gut Oggau

Gut Oggau is an exciting, relatively new winery in the small town of Oggau in Burgenland, Austria and it was established in 2007 by Eduard and Stephanie Tscheppe. Eduard comes from a winemaking background, having helped his father make conventional wines in Styria. Meanwhile Stephanie has a culinary background, with her family owning the Michelin-starred restaurant Taubenkobel. The couple purchased an abandoned 17th century winery and about 20 hectares (~49 acres) of vineyards, working tirelessly to restore and renovate the facilities which included a 200-year-old screw press. The vineyards were abandoned for about 20 years, so Eduard and Stephanie commenced their venture with biodynamic viticulture without having to worry about any lingering chemicals or treatments that may have been used before. Working with the varieties of Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), and Gewürztraminer, Eduard and Stephanie craft wines in a minimally invasive and “natural” manner. All wines ferment spontaneously with natural yeasts, age in used barrels, and are bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with zero or minimal added sulfur.

I would be remiss if I did not discuss the interesting labels on these wines. As Eduard and Stephanie crafted their wines adhering to their biodynamic and natural philosophies, they realized that each bottling and each vineyard plot offered differing characteristics and personalities but still had a common thread to show they are “family.” Therefore the Gut Oggau wines are all part of a family tree, with Atanasius, Theodora, and Winifred making up the “young generation” and being more bold and energetic in style. The prior generation, or “the parents,” consists of Joschuari, Wiltrude, Emmeram, Timotheus, and Josephine with these wines characterized by riper notes and more body. Lastly the “grandparents” consist of Mechthild and Bertholdi, with the wines produced from vines up to 60 years of age and they are more traditional in style. Each label has a unique sketch for each fictional family member, and all have their own unique stories to share.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Timotheus

70% Grüner Veltliner, 30% Weissburgunder; 12% ABV

The 2019 Timotheus is medium gold in color and somewhat hazy. Aromas are of medium intensity, showcasing notes of tangerine, peach, apricot, mandarin orange, white wildflower, and slate. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of peach, apricot, dried green herbs, seashell, honey, white pepper, and saline mineral. This is dry and medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, light tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very fun and different, but also very, very good. One-third of the grapes ferment on the skins for about three weeks and the rest are directly pressed before they’re blended. The wine ages for about 12 months in used barrels before it’s bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with zero added sulfur.

Price: $60. Wines of this style are difficult to discuss in terms of value for me, for one thing because they are not “traditional” and two I haven’t had enough of the “natural” wines with some skin contact for comparison sake yet. However, I find this to be an incredibly fun, enjoyable, high quality, and intriguing wine and for these reasons it was worth the price paid for me.