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This week’s offer is, in my opinion, one of the best we’ve put together. We’ve dug deep in a local warehouse and picked out twelve gems, four each from three top-level limited-production wineries.
The only problem? There isn’t much wine.
Most of the wines in this offer are allocated, and most focus on restaurant distribution. To be able to tap into a few of these wines with a retail offer is kinda unheard of, but we have it here for you.
Each winery represents passion, history, and off-the-charts quality. Let’s get to it.
Terlan, from Alto Adige, Italy
One of my most unforgettable wine experiences happened at Terlan, but more on that later.
Terlan is a winery in far northern Italy at the foot of the Alps, in Alto Adige. This is a region that, until 1912, was part of Austria. In Alto Adige, you don’t go to an enoteca for dinner; you go to a gasthöf. You don’t speak Italian at home; you speak German. The trains run on time! (The only area in Italy where this is so.) The wines are precise, detailed, edgy, and delicious.
It’s also, hands down, one of the most beautiful wine regions on the planet. Just look at this!
The tasting that changed my life
In October of 2011, Angela and I were attending the International Wine Bloggers Conference in northern Italy. We had a full day in Alto Adige, organized by the national wine board. We started at Tramin (another favorite), and had an incredible lunch with the best view imaginable.
Then we proceeded to Terlan, where something incredible happened.
We were met by Klaus Gasser, the long-time sales manager for the winery. We received an insider’s tour of the facility, exploring the caves and production facility, learning about the winery’s history, and much more.
Then the tasting began.
Gasser started the tasting by talking about some of their high-end and single vineyard wines, which we tasted and were astounded by. They were some of the most complex whites ever to hit our taste buds, and as we stepped through the Müller-Thurgau, Gewürztraminer (which is suspected of being born in nearby Tramin), Riesling, Chardonnay, and more.
Then came the Pinot Bianco. He was opening the current vintage (2010) of one of the least expensive wines they produce. This is their door-opener wine, the one that is served by the glass at (some finer) restaurants.
Of course, it was outstanding. It was like drinking a springtime afternoon with floral and bright fruit aromas.
“2010 is showing well. Let’s try 2008,” said Gasser.
2008 was, just like 2010, beautiful and bright. Wow. Very nice of him to pop another bottle for us.
Then he pulled another cork. “How about the 2000?” It was shockingly young for an 11-year-old wine.
“Let’s get into some 1990s …” and he opened a bottle of 1995, then a bottle of 1991 Pinot Bianco.
No color shift, evolved aromas, perfect acidity. What was happening here?
“Now it’s time for some fun,” said Gasser as he pulled out a 1985, a 1979, and a 1971 Pinot Bianco.
My only thought was, “holy shit!”
Only at the point of the 1971 did we see a dramatic color shift, but note that the aromas and acidity continued to be bright, floral, lively, and dancing. This was unbelievable.
Then the shocker that changed my life.
Gasser pulled out a dusty bottle with a tattered label. “Here is proof of the value of our wine library. Here is proof that patience is a virtue. Here is proof of the age-worthiness of our white wines, even our basic wines.”
And he slowly pulled the cork on a 1955 Terlan Pinot Bianco.
It looked like old white wine in the glass, but healthy old white wine. No browns, only dark yellows and greens in the color. The aroma was like marzipan meets lemon zest, and the flavor expanded to every corner of my mouth in a way few wines had ever done. This was made ten years after the end of World War II. I was still 15 years away from being born. And here I was, tasting history. This is why I love wine!
Our Terlan offer
Terlan is an exceptional winery to me for many reasons, and the story above is just one of them. The wines are some of the best in Alto Adige, one of my favorite wine regions worldwide.
So we have four wines: the basic Pinot Bianco, the basic Pinot Grigio, their crazy good Gewürztraminer, and the extremely special and limited Pinot Bianco “Vorberg Riserva” 2019.
Regarding the pricing, which may be more than expected, note how extreme the area of Alto Adige is to farm. These are hillsides, mountainsides, and precious little vineyard land. Everything is done by hand. It’s all about quality over quantity. This has nothing to do with the industrial plonk produced thirty miles south in Mezza Corona. This is, simply, some of the best white wine in the world.
The Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio need little explanation: both are sharp, crisp, precise, alpine, lovely wines that, as you have learned, have an excellent history of being able to age and evolve slowly in the cellar. Is my advice to tuck them away for ten or twenty years? No. Is my recommendation to buy multiple bottles and maybe spread it out over five years? That’s the ticket.
The Terlan Gewürztraminer is so powerful, so aromatic, and so damn good that you’ll regret not having a cellar full of it. Possibly the most fragrant wine of the year, this is a no-brainer for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast or any high-end occasion that deserves a special bottle. Insider’s hint: this is excellent with elevated Mexican cuisine.
The Vorberg Reserva Pinot Bianco, of which only 12 bottles are available, is so crazy good it will make your head spin. Tasting notes from the winery:
Color: sparkling straw yellowhttps://www.cantina-terlano.com/en/wines/vorberg-13/
Smell: The multifaceted aroma of this wine derives from a combination of ripe fruit, including honeydew melon, white peach, pear and Golden Delicious apple, together with the aromas of quince jelly, camomile and pineapple, on the one hand, and mineral notes of flint on the other.
Taste: The interplay of fruity aromatic and salty components is repeated on the palate. The compact structure and elegant creamy elements create a lingering, firmly minerally and spicy character on the aftertaste.
Simple pairings: Ideal in combination with a spicy fish soup, mussels in a pepper sauce and spaghetti allo scoglio as well as mussels au gratin, grilled ink fish and poached char; also one of the few good combinations with artichokes alla romana; excellent with mature Pecorino, a mature Parmesan and mostarda, and Tête de Moine.
Detailed pairing: Spiced lobster and grilled white Terlano asparagus with pancetta sauce and roasted pistachio nuts – Giancarlo Perbellini (Ristorante Perbellini)
Learn more about Terlan at https://www.cantina-terlano.com/en/
THE WINES OF BEDROCK and ONCE & FUTURE
California Wine Royalty: Joel and Morgan-Twain Peterson
Joel Peterson was a rebel, a renegade, and a risk-taker when he founded Ravenswood Winery in 1976. It was a winery focused on Zinfandel, which Peterson believed in passionately (following the lead of Ridge Vineyards and Joe Swan) but lacked public acceptance.
Like Paul Draper at Ridge, Joel Peterson also believed that the old zinfandel vineyards of California held some special magic.
Through the late 70s and 80s, Joel Peterson made some of California’s most stunning and age-worthy red wines. Vineyards such as Dickerson and Teldeschi became household names in the upper crust of wine consumers. He single-handedly launched the rise of Zinfandel as a serious go-to variety for wine lovers and collectors. The reviews kept getting better, and the scores ever higher. Before you knew it, going into the 1990s, Ravenswood was on top of the wine world and seemingly unstoppable.
By the time the late 1990s hit, the original investors wanted to sell. They were ready to cash in. To generate cash to buy out the partners, Joel Peterson at first took Ravenswood public. That failed to raise enough money, and the partners voted to sell the label. Peterson was the only ‘no’ vote at the table, but his hand was forced. Ravenswood sold to Constellation for $148 million, and Peterson stayed on as a winemaker and figurehead. Yes, he got a nice payout but at the cost of his baby.
As commonly happens when a big company takes over, quality went down fast. Quickly, Ravenswood was only playing the pricing game, trying to out-compete their competition by making ever more California Zinfandel and abandoning their single-vineyard focus. Those wines of the mid to late 2000s had nothing to do with the original vision of Peterson. The brand became a commodity, and in 2019 it was packaged along with 28 other wineries into a group sold to Gallo for $1.7 billion, and left the brand in limbo. Soon after, Joel Peterson received notice at his historic tasting room office in Sonoma that the tasting room would be closed for good. The founder was kicked out.
Isn’t just incredible how much big companies with considerable brands can screw things up?
When you have the kind of history Joel Peterson does, a natural inclination is to fight back for your reputation and legacy. And he did just that. But first, let’s talk about his son.
Morgan Twain-Peterson was born into wine in 1981. He actually made his first vintage at the age of five.
It “just sort of happened,” Morgan says, as he describes a childhood spent among the vines, riding bikes and playing. “I wanted to make Pinot Noir, because my dad didn’t, and asked Angelo Sangiacomo [a local grower and the winery’s landlord at the time] if I could buy some grapes. ‘Are you serious?’ he asked; my dad said yes.”
Angelo donated a small half-ton block of Pinot Noir grapes to the boy, and father and son sat down with several examples of Pinot Noir, tasting and talking about what the young artisan liked (or didn’t) about the different styles. Morgan leaned “toward the [Burgundy estate Domaine] Dujac…so I’m told. I don’t actually remember that part!”https://finewineconcierge.com/meet-the-winemaker-morgan-twain-peterson-of-bedrock-wine-co
When you grow up with Joel Peterson as your father, you see and learn many things. How to make great wine. How to care for old vineyards. How to sell your product. How to talk the talk.
And you also learn why it’s important to own your own future.
Fast forward, and when Morgan grew up he founded the Bedrock Wine Company along with business partner Chris Cottrell. They started in a converted chicken coop and goat barn, and started experimenting with sparkling wines (a rarity on today’s offer). Morgan also passed the exhaustive Master of Wine exam and is today one of the few winemakers with MW at the end of their title. He is also the founder of the Historic Vineyard Society, which catalogs old vineyards and lobbies for the protection of these special places.
BEDROCK WINE COMPANY
Bedrock makes upwards of two dozen wines every vintage, specializing in small and old plots of vines featuring Albariño, Grenache, Carignan, Zinfandel, and often field blends (both white and red). They have become keepers of one of California’s most important old vineyards, the historic Evangelho Vineyard (a super rarity offered below).
Their wines are limited, often allocated, and a treat for any cellar. Note these are not BIG wines in terms of pigmentation or alcoholic power. The strength of the Bedrock wines (beyond the obvious top-notch old vine fruit) is the balance they bring. They never overwhelm, they walk the tightrope and are, in my opinion, some of the best wines of California.
Bedrock Under the Wire Sparkling Pinot Noir 2014
This is the rarest of the rare. It was gathering a bit of dust in the wholesaler’s warehouse, not because of lack of quality (by no means!) but rather a lack of more stock to back it up. As a result, the sales reps didn’t take it out to show, and this last case fell off the radar.
This is INCREDIBLE sparkling wine, appealing to lovers of Bollinger or Krug. Time has helped it develop a yeasty personality, with layer upon layer of marzipan, cream, lemon rind, sea air, green apple, sweet tango apple, and peach skin aromas. The taste is dynamic and rich and will make any lover of top-grade Champagne happy.
And … only 11 bottles are available.
All notes below come from the winery website, which brings a huge amount of information to the consumer.
Bedrock Sonoma Old Vine Zinfandel 2020
We often feel the geographic diversity of our vineyards rationalizes all the extra driving, and the travails of 2020 underscored this with a big ol’ Sharpie. Though unfortunately we lost a few lots due to smoke exposure, we were able to lean into the strong vintage at Esola, Schmiedt Road, Evangelho, Old Hill, Bedrock, Nervo, and others to make a classic rendition of Old Vine Zin. The largest single component comes from the old vines at Bedrock, followed by the perfumed goodness of Esola, the softer but fresh Schmiedt, and the peppery, dark-fruited Nervo Ranch. As usual, almost all of the wine consists of declassified barrels from vineyard-designated wines, so it offers serious bang for the buck. 85% Zinfandel with the balance a blend of Carignan, Mataro, Grenache, and Alicante Bouschet, along with esoteric creatures like Aubun, Abouriou, and many more.
Bedrock Heritage Wine Sonoma 2019
Over the past few years, we have taken over more and more of the old vines at Bedrock that were previously contracted to other wineries. This has given us more flexibility in assembling the blends and, frankly, has allowed us to better understand our own vineyard—from the subtle shadings imparted by the contours of soil to the different varietal blends in each block. We have learned that Blocks 39 and 42 lengthen the backbone of the wine, provide elegance and substantial structure while the shatter-prone Blocks 27 and 29, a mere 50 yards away, are darker and opulent with an almost licorice-tinged spiciness. The tiny Block 41, with only 390 vines, showcases the white pepper and flowers you might expect from an extremely varietally mixed block laced with a large amount of Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Tempranillo. All of this means that we feel the Bedrock Heritage wine has ticked up a couple notches in the last few years and more and more truly represents all of the old vines at the vineyard. Though 2019 was generally a slightly less structured year, the natural weight and density of Bedrock continues to shine through along with the hallmark citrus-tinged perfume typical of the site. Fermented in open-top tanks that saw regular pumpovers. the wine was raised in a wide variety of larger and smaller format French oak barrels that ranged in size from 228 to 600 liters. This is always one of the best wines we make and the 2019 is no exception.
Bedrock Evangelho Vineyard Heritage 2018
2018 was our second vintage with full control of farming at our nearly 130-year-old estate site (still gives me chills to say that), and we enjoyed a mild and even vintage leading to a relatively late harvest at this amazing Delta site. This is a classic Evangelho, showing the bright and composed fruit we expect along with the savory bite inflected by the Mataro and Carignan, and one that should provide plenty of pleasure throughout the years.
Joel Peterson’s new project: ONCE & FUTURE
Back to Morgan’s dad, the legendary Joel Peterson.
After selling the winery to Constellation and getting kicked out of his office by Gallo, Joel came to a clear decision:
“I never want to produce more wine than I can physically make myself. Once & Future allows me to get back to what I always wanted Ravenswood to be: a small project with old vines and a keen sense of place.“
Everything offered below is handmade by the zinfandel Jedi Master himself, Obi-Joel-Peterson. It marks his return, after 50 years, to his original vision of quality, balance, elegance, and overall amazingness that single vineyards can bring.
All notes and vineyard photos below come from the winery website, which brings a tremendous amount of information to the consumer. Please check it out.
Once & Future Bedrock Zinfandel 2018/2020
[Disclaimer: Much of this history is stolen from the website of my son Morgan’s Bedrock Wine Company, which makes the spectacular Heirloom Blend from the same vineyard. It isn’t plagiarization if it’s your own genetic material, right?]
Situated on the Agua Caliente Bench, Bedrock is one of the premier vineyard plots in Sonoma Valley. When Eugene Hilgard, the most important viticulture professor of his time, was asked in 1890 if any place in California could grow grapes to rival the great clarets of Europe, he unhesitatingly singled out this vineyard, whose history is also rife with some of the most notable figures of the nineteenth century. Founded in 1854 by Generals “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker (just back from the Mexican-American War) and William Tecumseh Sherman (a San Francisco banker at the time!), the spot has grown grapes for more than 150 years. Following the first phylloxera epidemic in the mid-1880s, it was replanted in 1888 by Senator George Hearst, a mining magnate and father of publisher William Randolph Hearst; in the early 1900s, Hearst’s widow Phoebe sold it to the California Wine Association, which made wine from it until Prohibition. In 1934, the vineyard was jointly purchased by the Domenici and Parducci families, who ran the Valley of the Moon winery; when that relationship became acrimonious, the vineyard was split, with the Parducci’s taking the winery and smaller land parcel and the Domenici’s taking 152 acres that became as Madrone Ranch.
In 2005, the Domenici’s sold the property to the Deininger / Peterson family. We renamed it Bedrock with a nod to its soil: Tuscan Red Hill series, washed down from the adjacent Mayacamas Mountains to form the alluvial fan on which the vineyard is planted. Because the place had been cultivated harshly for 100 years, we broke up the pan with a mechanical spader and revitalized the soils with compost and cover crops of vetch, bell beans, and rye grass; the cobbly, well-drained loam, combined with long warm summer days and cool evening air flowing through the Bennett Valley Gap alongside Sonoma Mountain (a climatic profile similar to that of Joe Swan’s domain, the Forestville area of the Russian River Valley) is superb for growing Zinfandel, a tradition we’ve maintained with old-school, head-pruned viticulture.
Once and Future Zinfandel is crafted from the 128-year-old vines planted by George Hearst. The wines have an aromatic raciness and fine tannin structure that renders them elegant and long-lived.
Once & Future Green and Red Zinfandel 2019
I met Jay Heminway many years ago. He was thoughtful, clearly artistic, a little reserved (for a guy who raced motorcycles) but very enthusiastic about his winery project in Napa’s Chiles Valley. He and I started our respective wineries about the same time. He in 1977 and I in 1976. We were enthusiastic about Zinfandel, founding members, in 1992, of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP), and both had connections to Berkeley and Chez Panisse. When asked why he didn’t plant Cabernet Sauvignon like everyone else he would respond that he had tasted some Zinfandels that were the equivalent of any of the Napa Cabs that he had tried. I concur. So, he planted Zinfandel and some Petite Sirah on the steep slopes of red Chert that gave his winery half of its name. The other half of the name is derived from the green bands of Serpentine that are also found on the property. The Zinfandel he produced from these hard-won vineyards was wonderful, confirming his faith in the grape and the site. Jay became a mountain man in Chiles Valley. He didn’t like to leave his idyllic property much and as a consequence my primary connection with him was tasting and appreciating his wine. Not long before he passed away I managed to coax him off his mountain to be interviewed by me for a ZAP event in San Francisco. He was the same thoughtful, artistic, reserved but enthusiastic guy that I had met many years before but now I also noticed a bright note of smiling humor in his eye and a comfort in demeanor that you see in people who are living a fulfilling life.
After Jay was gone, his daughter Tobin took on the life project that she had grown up with. She, and the rest of the family, continue to produce wines that have the “unique to place” character that is so special to the Green and Red Vineyard. She has also began sharing some of the grapes that come from the vineyard. I count myself lucky to be among those chosen to share Jay Heminway’s legacy. My grapes come from the Tip Top vineyard that is one of the three sections of the Heminway vineyard as it is now being called by others, like Turley and Biale, who also get grapes from this vineyard. While I love the fact that Jay’s name is now attached to the vineyard, it will always be Green and Red to me. As a consequence, the Once & Future wine carries the Green and Red name. I am pretty sure that Jay would have loved the wine that also carries the “unique” sense of the place that he loved.
Once & Future’s Green and Red Vineyard Zinfandel is 80% Zinfandel and 20% Petite Sirah from the steepest part of the northeast facing slope of the section of the vineyard known as Tip Top. The two varieties are picked at the same time and co-fermented in an open top redwood fermenter employing the vineyard’s indigenous yeast for fermentation, and aged in 30% new French oak barrels.
Once & Future Oakley Zinfandel 2018
The soils at Oakley Road vineyard are so sandy that early growers in this region were disparaged as “sandlappers.” Little did those wags know that the delta sands, with their Phylloxera inhibiting properties, would be the key to the survival of some amazing 100-plus-year-old, own-rooted, unirrigated vines. The micro climate of Oakley allows grapes to ripen early. It is not so much that it is hot during the growing months—the average temperature is about 74 degrees with the nights in the mid 50s and the days in the 90s during the month of July and August—but that the sandy soils warm earlier in the year than most other areas in California, and vine growth starts sooner. As the season progresses, the grapes continue to ripen consistently in spite of the cooling maritime winds from the Carquinez straits, due to the reflected sun from the Antioch sandy soils.
The resulting wines can be, in a word, graceful. The combination of own roots, old vines, deep sandy soils, and cooling afternoon breezes seems to encourage gentle, suave wines. Some winemakers like to make big, powerful, dark wines from these grapes, though I believe the wines are much more enjoyable, interesting, complex, and finer when picked earlier.
These Oakley Road vines may not be around much longer. This part of Contra Costa (CoCo for short) is changing rapidly. It has been an industrial backwater for a long time. High tension electrical lines, a PG&E power plant, and motels that rent by the hour stand in contrast to an inordinate number of churches and an increasing reality of fast food restaurants that populate a disjointed human landscape. There is increasing urbanization as roads are widened and BART pushes east. Many of these vineyards are for sale with inflated land prices, having been designated as commercial land—the result being land costs that are more compatible with strip malls than farming. For now, the vines remain in the ground, producing viticultural treasure. And for now, we continue to make lovely wine and cherish our moment.
Once & Future Teldeschi Zinfandel 2018
From the Here and Now, the early 1980’s seem like a long time ago!
I was a long-haired bearded young man who found himself having an unexpected luncheon with Frank and Caterina Teldeschi and their sons Dan and John…. Welcoming hosts, they represented the most recent two generations of an Italian family that had been farming their part of Dry Creek Valley since the early 1900’s. The lunch included copious amounts of wine (some made by me, some by Frank) and extraordinarily delicious food cooked by Caterina. I can still remember the menu; stuffed zucchini, homemade pasta with meat sauce made from tomatoes that Catarina grew in the back yard from seeds she brought with her from Italy as a young bride, roast chicken from her chicken yard, and a pork roast with potatoes from a wild pig Frank had caught rooting around the vineyard. To finish the meal, perfect biscotti and delicate rolled anise flavored cookies.
I don’t know whether it was the food, the wine, the people or the amicable mix of all the ingredients that created the magic, but at the end of that lunch, Frank and I had a handshake deal for 4 tons of grapes and as it turns out, a 36 plus year friendship with the family.
Over the years from that small beginning, the wine made from the Frank Teldeschi family grapes grew into one of Ravenswood’s most successful and most awarded single vineyard designated wines.
Located in the heart of Dry Creek Valley on the Eastside bench land, Teldeschi Vineyard is in the best location of a valley that might be one of the best spots for growing Zinfandel in the world. Of course, Frank Teldeschi had his favorite blocks of grapes on the ranch; one of them was a small somewhat mixed block planted in the cobbly Tuscan Red Hill Series soils that Frank claimed was the oldest block on the ranch – that would mean it was planted sometime around 1900. “Frank’s Block” is low production – around a ton and a half per acre – and includes Carignane and Alicante Bouchet in the mix.
When I started Once & Future, it seemed right to honor Frank and my long friendship with the Teldeschi family by making this favored old vineyard block into a stand-alone wine.
Jason’s buying advice
Every single one of these wines is a gem.
For the Terlan selections, I think the regular Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio are must-have wines. If you’re into aromatic wines (and you should be) the Gewurztraminer is a must-try, especially with some good Vietnamese food on a plate in front of you. The Vorberg Reserva Pinot Bianco is the equivalent of a Grand Cru Burgundy (at a much lower price) but like Grand Cru Burgundy, it’s not for everyone. If you’re familiar with the upper crust of Alto Adige, it’s for you. It’s one of the best white wines available today, full stop.
With the Bedrock Wine Co. selections, it’s really hard to offer buying advice because every wine is so damn good. The Evangelho is historic and incredible (and medium bodied, so don’t expect hugeness … this is like watching a quarter horse run full tilt). The Bedrock Hertiage is history in a bottle. The Sonoma Old Vine is a bargain for the quality. And the sparkling wine is one of the rarest wines around (and I’m sipping it as I type, and can attest that even after being open for a couple of days it stays spectacular).
I think the diamonds here are the Once & Future wines of Joel Peterson. There aren’t many winemakers left that have his history, his stories, and his experience (especially that of growing a brand into a powerhouse then returning to micro-production). Every one of the wines is way above grade, and if you have Zinfandel lovers in your orbit, this is the ultimate gift.
Happy shopping, and thank you again for supporting what we do.
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education
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