By Amy Loritali

16 December 2021

I get to enjoy some really lovely, interesting, hand-made wines from around the world. I am particularly excited about wines made with minimal inputs that come from vineyards grown holistically and sustainably and that present a real sense of place. I’m also a sucker for a surprising or unusual grape varietal. For many reasons, these wines tend to be limited in their production – some as little as 120 cases! I’d love to tell you about a few of them.

In no particular order, here are 5 groovy wines I tasted from Baytowne in 2021:

Aaron Burr Cidery “Appinette” 2020  Hudson Valley, NY  [$22]

Grapes and apples. Made from Finger Lakes Traminette grapes, a field blend of Hudson Valley ‘sharps’ (a term for acidic apples), Golden Russet apples, and Northern Spy apples. Traminette is a hybrid grape - a genetic blend of a European varietal with a native American varietal. Traminette possesses a gorgeous floral nose which does not go unnoticed in this cider. I love seeing hybrid (and native!) grape varietals being shown off. This co-ferment melds elements of each fruit beautifully.

220 cases produced

Kitá “T’aya” 2018  Santa Ynez Valley, CA  [$25]

In 2010, winemaker Tara Gomez’s tribe had recently acquired a parcel of land that included a vineyard. Ideally located in the heart of wine country, she was ultimately successful in convincing her tribe to open a winery and hire her as winemaker. This made Kitá the first commercial winery owned by Native Americans and Tara the first Native American commercial winemaker! This Rhône-style  white blend of Marsanne, Rousillane, and Grenache Blanc showcases tropical and orchard fruits on the palate, balanced by a pleasant creamy nuttiness. Fresh, nuanced, and elegant.

Heidi Schrock & Sohne ‘Muskateller’ 2020 Weinland, AT  [$24]

Made from biodynamically grown Gelber Muscat in an area of southern Austria that is being revived for wine production, this crisp, spicy wine caught my attention for the onion-y funk on the nose. Politely, we could call it “chive flower,” but not everyone spends their summers nosing every botanical that pops up in their yard. I understand that “onion-y funk” might scare some people off, but it’s pretty and floral too and you shouldn’t be scared of it.

Kelby James Russell ‘Grüner Veltliner’ 2020  FLX, NY  [$17]

Racy acidity. In case you didn’t know, there are many excellent wines being made in the Finger Lakes that don’t rely on heavy doses of sugar to make them palatable. Kelby Russell is the winemaker for Red Newt Cellars, but this is a separate project that utilizes the best grapes from all around Seneca Lake. This wine is full of sharp, bracing acidity. It’s lightly floral, it has a pleasant richness, and flavors of orchard fruits and stone fruits. I’m so excited that wines of this caliber are being produced in the Finger Lakes.

120 cases produced (and BayTowne got at least 5!).

Les Vins Pirouettes “Ultra Violet by David” 2020  Alsace, FR  [$22]

Red and white co-ferment. Why is there always such a division between white grapes and red grapes? Why can’t they be friends and work and play together? This wine makes a convincing argument for that very thing. A blend of 7 Alsatian varietals (in decreasing order):  Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat, all fermented together with native yeasts. Ultra Violet offers a delightfully vivacious combination of flavors of red fruits and white flowers. It is made from biodynamically grown grapes as part of a cooperative side project encouraging Alsatian growers to make interesting, quality wines, rather than simply selling their grapes off to nameless buyer. This wine is delicious and approachable, no matter what you usually drink.