Earlier this year, NYT wine critic Eric Asimov published an article that might as well have been a love letter to natural wine, sharing his insight on the joys (and pitfalls) of these stylistic wines that have ignited a worldwide movement. Natural producers span the globe, even in the Old World's most staunchly classic regions like Bordeaux.
Michel Théron and Stéphanie Destruhaut, owners of Clos du Jagueyron, farm seven hectares in Margaux and neighboring Haut-Médoc. Margaux is known for its gravel-based, well-draining soils, allowing the vines to grow deep and transmit this graphite-laced terroir. Generally, the wines are perfumed, full-bodied yet balanced, and have soft, silky tannins. Current standouts are the 2016 Haut-Médoc and 2014 Margaux Perrain: The Haut-Médoc is the more ready-to-drink wine with mineral-driven and herbaceous notes, while Perrain is more serious and polished, with darker savory notes of cedar and tobacco leaf.
Clos du Jagueyron began with a single parcel in 1993. They have practiced biodynamic farming since 2008 (Now Demeter certified) and never used chemicals on their vines. In the cellar, these Cabernet-dominant wines spontaneously ferment in cement tanks and age in French barrels with minimal new oak. Apart from our other go-to, Chateau Le Puy, this is the most pleasurable, terroir-driven Bordeaux I've had this year—and without the stuffiness, expensive price tag, or decades of aging demanded by other top châteaux here.
"Giovanna's wines are pure, bright, fresh and juicy, with bracing acidity and lingering flavors of red fruit and flowers." — Eric Asimov, NYT
When I have the opportunity to prove that Chianti Classico can show grace and pristine fruit quality akin to Red Burgundy, I use Giovanna Morganti's Le Trame as my first example. I implore you to trust this will be your moment of clarity for Sangiovese.
Importer Neal Rosenthal's Montevertine is a benchmark for the region, but his other discovery, Le Boncie, better illustrates Sangiovese's sometimes elusive, fruit-forward profile and silken tannins. Earlier this year, Eric Asimov of the New York Times included Le Trame in his top ten list of Chianti Classicos.
Giovanna farms her fives hectares using organic and biodynamic principles. I could go down the rabbit hole on farming, fermentation, and aging specifics, but I'd like to cut this one short and say: This is a profound wine that's a joy to drink. I've lost count of the number of times I've used this bottling to convince friends that Sangiovese can be fun, approachable, and deadly serious. Below is a photo from my 2017 visit and the gorgeous color of the barrel sample that had me in love.
A burgeoning wine scene is forming in the Columbia River Gorge, just an hour east of Portland. "Little by little other Oregon wine regions like the Gorge are demonstrating that the state has much to offer beyond the Willamette Valley," wrote Eric Asimov, who highlighted Hiyu as one of those examples in an article published last year. This region is also known for its apples and pears, and it didn't take long for winemaker Nate Ready to pique interest. In collaboration with a nearby Biodynamic orchard, Hiyu produces a refreshing and complex cider with a lasting impression.
Floréal has white florals and nuanced apple aromas ranging from freshly sliced to golden brown apple crumble. The palate was fresh and glimmering with yellow citrus and stone fruit notes, with a hint of fresh hay on the long finish. Hiyu paired it with a side of sorrel soup made with herbs from their garden, which brought out even more of the cider's aromatics. This cider consists of at least 20 apple varieties. The apples are crushed in a basket press lined with straw, then the juice ferments and ages in neutral barrels. The following vintage, they use fermenting juice to begin secondary fermentation in bottle.
In 2010, former Master Sommelier Nate Ready and China Tresemer combined their curiosities for winemaking, farming, and culinary art and created what is now their 30-acre Biodynamic farm and vineyard. When you arrive, it almost feels like stepping into the pages of a Brothers Grimm fairytale. Nate takes a curious, playful, and philosophical approach to farming and winemaking, so it is exciting to see him experimenting with cider.