January 17, 2022
By Amy Loritali
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]
-Gregor Samsa, special correspondent to Baytowne Wine
Three weeks into January means that most of us have already scrapped all the ‘Dry January’ hullabaloo. If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for? I know, better health and all, but dammit, we’ve been in extenuating circumstances for the past two years. No? How about a compromise? I.E. low(er) alcohol, DRY wine from Austria – specifically from vineyards that go back to 1171 CE!
It’s not in my nature to peer pressure anyone, but the thing is… we just got a *small* allotment of high-scoring wines from acclaimed Austrian estate, Schloss Gobelsburg. Weighty, powerful Gruners. Sleek, volcanic Riesling. The 2019 Gobelsburg’s pack a punch and are as good a reason to call it quits on ‘Dry January.’
Schloss Gobelsburg traces its roots back to the Zwettl Monastery founded in 1074. The Heiligenstein and Gaisberg vineyards (now planted with Riesling) were granted to the Monastery 100 years later – the oldest documented vineyard sites in Kamptal. The estate has been controlled by 19 different families in the preceding… 900 (or so) years. Eva and Michael Moosbrugger are in charge of winemaking and viticulture since 1996, with Michael picking up Austrian ‘Winemaker of the Year’ from Falstaff in 2006.
Schloss Gobelsburg maintains a large number of parcels in Erste Lagen, or 1st Growth, vineyards in the Kamptal and continues to utilize organic winegrowing which was begun by the monks of Zwettl Monastery as early as 1958.
While many international cellars are attempting to produce clean, uniform wines, Moosbrugger is convinced that the future Gobelsburg lies in individuality and character. Moosbrugger believes that individuality can only be achieved through the reduction of machines, developing the ‘Dynamic Cellar Concept’ for Gobelsburg in which wines are no longer pumped from one location to the other but instead transported in ‘barrels on wheels’ from one section of the cellar to the other. A labor-intensive, hands-on approach he feels best captures the essence and individuality of Schloss Gobelsburg.
We currently have 6 bottles of the following 2019 releases:
Ried Gaisberg Riesling 1st Growth. 96 Points James Suckling $46
Spicy with juicy, ripe mango and pineapple. A long, mineral finish with shades of dragonfruit, passionfruit, and guava on the palate. Powerful, spicy, and rich while maintaining a sleek balance.
Ried Heiligenstein Riesling 1st Growth. 95 Points James Suckling $62
This is iconic Kamptal Riesling. Weighty, dense, powerful, and tannic. Dried orchard fruit and loads of spice. Definitely, one to lay down in the cellar for a while. Give this until 2026 and be REWARDED.
Ried Renner Gruner Veltliner 1st Growth. 96 Points Wine Enthusiast $45
A champagne lover's Gruner. Biscuity with white pepper, sage, lemon-lime citrus, and green apple. Slightly spritzy. Tasty though a bit young still and would be worth waiting a couple of years.
Ried Lamm Gruner Veltliner 1st Growth. 96 Points James Suckling $65
Candied tropical fruit and savory dried herbs float above a rich creamy palate. Tremendous structure and a long, spicy finish. A Gruner that has a certain gravitas – drinks great now but will also be long-lived. Something you might find in a cellar in 30 years and be blown away by.
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.