220 20th St S
Arlington, VA 22202
Coming to the Tasting Bar is a selection of great natural wine that is imminently quaffable, especially as the weather gets warmer! Some recent articles about natural wine has framed it as being at odds with everything else in the “traditional” wine world, but there is a huge range of natural wine that isn’t cloudy or sour. It isn’t wine that requires you to completely rethink your view and vocabulary of wine. Instead, it is made by producers who take special care with their vineyards (or work with growers that they share philosophical views with) and then treat the grapes well once they arrive in the winery. They don’t dose them with additives to clarify, improve color, stabilize, feed yeast, lower pH, raise pH, correct defaults, sterilize grapes/must/juice, inoculate grapes/must/juice, etc. Natural wine is made with grapes, indigenous yeasts (those found on the skins of grapes and in the atmosphere of the winery), and a pinch of sulphur (when needed at bottling for preservation, a tradition that has roots with the ancient romans).
Finally, many of the natural wines on our shelves are hidden in plain sight! Come check out a few that you might never know where in this category and ask us to point out even more …
- Donkey & Goat The Gadabout: Jared and Tracy Brandt have been making wine naturally in California since the 2003 vintage, they can be seen as pioneers of this style of wine in California. They had just returned from spending the year 2002 in France with famed winemaker Eric Texier, learning everything they could, from winemaking to marketing. Their wines are almost entirely unfined and unfiltered, and the only additive they use is a small amount of sulfur, at bottling. They have their own beautiful winemaking facility located in Berkeley, where they can assure that all their fermentations take place with only their vineyards own wild yeasts. This is a wine name that is apt: Gadabout means a pleasure seeker or social butterfly and this wine doesn’t disappoint. The Gadabout blend changes (sometimes, dramatically … this year, it is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Vermentino, & Chardonnay, probably) from year-to-year but will always be white, delicious, and a crowd pleaser! The blend of vineyards and appellations to get there evolve over the vintages but it is a thirst-quencher that brings pleasure!
- Omero Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2016: It is rare that we have multiple wines that list their ingredients on the label. It is rarer that we have one that list them on the front of the bottle, but Omero Cellars does just that! Omero pays homage to the Willamette Valley by crafting wines in a fresh and simplistic way that creates affordable and delicious wines. In other words, they use traditional methods and work without additives. This Chardonnay is comprised of fruit from unique and diverse sites across the Willamette Valley and is a blend of heirloom clones. It undergoes a long and hard pressing, to extract phenolic character and flavor from the skins. Fermentation and aging takes place in a combination of 140 L Chablis casks, half-barrels, neutral French oak barriques. The fermentation process can take up to 12 months, and malo-lactic fermentation often completes before primary fermentation. Bottled unfined and unfiltered with a production of 390 cases. This is a great warm weather Chardonnay that has a fun orange creamsicle vibe with a creamy body and nice cleansing acidity.
- Donkey & Goat The Gallivanter: Tracy has written a manifesto on their website which starts: “We make our wines for the table not the cocktail glass…Of late, natural is fashionable, which we do of course appreciate, but the reality is we’ve done this from the start because we feel it makes a superior wine while aligning with our environmental objectives.” They even have struggles getting their label approvals every year because they put their ingredients on them, which says only grapes and sulfur and the U.S. Government doesn’t believe that a winemaker will only use grapes to make wine! Again, this a wine name that is apt: Gallavanter means a person who goes off to travel for fun and adventure and this wine is a trip! A mixed bag blend that, like The Gadabout changes every year, it is always a delicious and inexpensive trip around California. While the vineyards and appellations are a mystery, revel in that and have some fun with this great natural wine!
- Château De Gaudou Puro Malbec: This ancient, 17th century château located about an hour from the city of Cahors is making some fantastic and well-priced cuvées. Winemaker Fabrice Durou has captured the beauty of the Malbec and Tannat grapes while subduing their legendary tannins. Their 37 hectares of vineyards, aged between 30 and 120 years old, are planted on southeast-facing gravel slopes for maximum exposure, with grass between the rows to force the vines to work harder. Grapes are sorted both in the vineyard and at the winery. The end results are very elegant but very “Cahors” wines, with beautiful black fruit balanced by lovely acidity and long length. The Puro Malbec comes from the domaine’s youngest vines: 40+ year old Malbec grown on steep rocky hillsides covered in clay and gravel using environmentally conscious methods. No chemicals are used in the field, grapes are hand-harvested, native yeast fermented in stainless and cement tanks, then bottled unfined and slightly filtered with a drop of SO2 for stability. It exhibits dark yet bright notes of blue and some red fruit on a medium bodied frame, ending with a crisp refreshing finish. A great example of French Malbec at a great price!