If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It
Innovators, explorers , boundary-pushers, classics. Every year there is more wine. New producers, new winemakers and more acres of vineyard make the choice of what to drink overwhelming because there are many more choices than there ever were before. It's hard to avouid, because we are always fascinated by something new, it excites us.
On the other hand, there are venerable wineries around the world who haven't changed for centuries. While the four wineries below have only been around for decades, many many decades in the case of Louis Latour, they have established themselves as standard bearers, as classic expressions of their respective regions and varities. So, in a year that has brought so much unexpected new-ness to our lives, let's go explore some things that haven't changed, maybe it will help reorient our future.
1. Heitz Cellar, Chardonnay, 2017 - This wine inspired the theme of this pack. Heitz embodies the old ethos of California winemaking from the 70s and 80s. Before the Parkification of Napa, the gluttonous use of new oak barrels and grapes ripened until they could barely feel, there was Heitz. Built through the sweat equity of Joe and Alice in 1961, Heitz established American fine wine. Through their nearly 60 year dedication to viticulture, winemaking and stewardship of their small slice of Napa they have become the benchmark of California wine among their peers and throughout Europe. Though styles have changed, they have endured.
2. Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs North Coast, 2017 - Just a 20 minute drive from Heitz, a completely different expression of Chardonnay was taking form. In 1965 Jack and Jamie Davies bottled the first American sparkling wine using Chardonnay, the classic grape of Champagne. That is what we have here, 100% Chardonnay, a light, bright and dry sparkling wine. However, thier history is older than 1965. German immigrant Jacob Schram built the first winery on Diamond Mountain in the late 19th century, Jack and Jamie resurrected it. In doing so they brought us the finest expression of sparkling wine in the New World. Sip this by itself, with hard cheese and any and all seafood.
3. Louis Latour Marsannay Rouge, 2017 - Currently run by the seventh Louis Latour, the company has remained family run since 1797. They are a winemaking, winegrowing and wine merchant family that has established itself the world over as champion of Burgundy. They currently make 167 different wines, representing all echelons and regions of Burgundy. Recently they were admitted to a highly prestigous club called, "The Henokiens", an international organization that grants membership to "companies who have been continuously operating and remain family-owned for 200 years or more, and whose descendants still operate at management level". That's quite the qualifier for a classic. As for the wine, they have built up a remarkable collection over the years, including the famous Chardonnay Grand Cru Corton - Charlemagne. While this wine is not a Grand Cru, those go for $175 a bottle (let me know if you want one), it is a magnificent expression of Burgundian Pinot Noir, Marsannay to be exact. Marsannay is an area just south of Dijon, along the Côte d'Or, the famous Golden Slope, that has rich iron soils that impart a robust, sturdy quality to Pinot Noir. While this will be light, as it is Pinot Noir, it will drink big with lively acidity and grippy mouthfeel.
4. Hedges Family Estate, Descendants, Syrah Cuvée Les Gosses Vineyard Red Mountain, 2015 - The newest kid on the wine pack block. First planted in 1987 with a winery built in 1995, Hedges has been making top quality Washington wine before any of us knew Washington wine was a thing, especially the potential of Syrah. Now in it's second generation, Hedges helped pioneer the Red Mountain AVA outside of Yakima. Sarah Hedges, the daughter of the owners took over winemaking in 2015 and immediately implemented biodynamic farming, so "the land expresses itself better." With this wine, the land expresses itself beautifully. Made of pure Syrah, this will grab your attention and hold it until your glass is empty.