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July 2019

Satellite Wine Club, July 2019

Solminer - Blaufränkisch - deLanda Vineyard, Los Olivos, Santa Barbara, CA - 2017

Rosi Schuster - Blaufränkisch - St. Margarethen, Burgenland, AT - 2017


Blaufränkisch… WowFrankisch. Wow, Blau, Pow Pow. Have you had this grape? I remember my first time. This grape is special. This grape defies convention. It lights up the palate. It excites and inspires wine-makers and wine-drinkers alike. It’s hardly grown anywhere in California but we’re the lucky recipients of a truly crazy local passion project. 

Let me tell you a bit about Blau. This is a truly Austrian wine varietal. Coming out of relative obscurity thanks to the heroic efforts of a few great farmers, this grape is still hugely under-appreciated around the world. The name “Blau-Frankisch” roughly means Blue French. ‘Frankisch’ is appended to Austro-Hungarian grapes thought to be of superior quality. Blaufränkisch is the second most commonly planted red grape in Austria (second to it’s progeny Zweigelt) and is the undisputed top quality red grape in the country.

The varietal is thought to have become its own distinct varietal in old Dalmacija (Dalmatia), part of the ‘Pannonian Basin’ spanning from Southern Austria through the Coratian coastline where Roman winegrowers first planted grapes in the region. The limestone-loaded soils there still support superior quality Blaufränkisch (and it’s Croatian equivalent: Kekfrancos). The grape is a vigorous grower, budding early in the spring and ripening late in the autumn… a recipe requiring warm, sunny climates. You wouldn’t think that southern Austria could be that place… but tomorrow’s high is 85º, 10º warmer than Santa Barbara… and one of the most distinctive creatures in the region is a large green lizard whose presence is synonymous with quality winegrowing in the region. Yes, Austria isn’t just Famous Composers and Downhill Skiing… it’s hot days and long summers!

So what the hell is this grape all about? It’s a spicy, well structured varietal who’s long growing season makes for deeply complex flavors, incredible texture, retention of acidity, and good potential alcohol. While it can be produced in a carefree, thin, and sift style, the best wines carry zesty citrusy notes on top of blue, black, and red fruit characteristics. The intensity of fruit pairs well with judicious use of oak, not unlike the great wines of Burgundy or Bordeaux. I truly believe that this grape can produce wines every bit as compelling as the other great Red wine regions of the world, it’s just a matter of showing people the Pow Pow that is Blau!

So climb aboard the Blau Bus, let me take you all the way to Austria where Hannes Schuster is showing the world what a value Blaufränkisch can be, and more locally, where David and Anna deLaski are setting new styles of Austrian classics, deeply honoring the grape and the vineyard itself. 

It’s time to chow on the Blau!

Rosi Schuster - Blaufränkisch - St. Margarethen, Burgenland, AT - 2017

Rosi Schuster is a legend. Just west of the Neusiedlersee, Austria’s largest lake, is the small bucolic village of St. Margarethen where she and her family have farmed their 11 Hectares of vines in tune with nature since founding the business in 1979. Their oldest vines now exceed 60 years! Largely retired, Rosi focuses her energy on assisting in the vineyards, while her son Hannes officially runs the estate. 

They work organically in all that they do, with a special focus on the health of the vineyard and on a clean, natural approach in the winery. All of their wines are spontaneously fermented in both primary and secondary fermentations. Generally their wines are fermented in open-top wooden vats and aged in the enviably soft-influencing Austrian Stockinger 500l barrels. The wines are handled with delicate precision, without any additions and only light racking. The winery absolutely is not about over-doing it, but instead, preferring to showcase the purity and exceptional elegance of well-farmed Austrian varietals. 

Hannes has the luxury of great holdings and great mentors. The hand that brought Austrian Blaufrankisch out of obscurity, Roland Velich of Weingut Moric, took Hannes on as his right hand for over a decade and is one of his closes confidants to this day. The wines of Moric are legendary and truly the ‘source code’ for growing great Blau in Austria. His approach is so clearly imprinted on Hanne’s style, 

The Schusters farm all of the significant Austrian varietals including Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent (for which they have a cult following) & a cacophony of minor white varietals. 

In the glass this Blaufränkisch has a bright ruby core with rich shades of blue emanating to the edges, offering a purple-ish tone that exudes a feeling of freshness and exoticism. It just looks delicious. The wine is intensely colored all the way to the edges and while quite a see-through wine it is powerfully bright and vibrant! Now let’s see how that’s reflected on the palate!

This wine strikes every part of the nose and mouth. The initial scent is crunchy fresh  and deeply spicey cherry and blackberry backed with a resinous pineiness. It’s a full-blown, full-face experience. On the palate the wine explodes. It’s got the freshness of a young, boisterous wine, with levity and plenty of acidity to refresh and yet simultaneously showcasing a layered complexity of fruit, terpenes (that piney resinous quality), sweet spices, and stemmy herbs. The wine strikes an ideal balance, somewhere between entrancing and carefree. 

The finish is brilliant and lengthy. All the quality of fruit lays bare and clear with a residual texture of sultry tannins clings to the tongue while the refreshing acidity in the wine tickles and zings. There is a citrus-rind experience to be had here, as though the Blau carries a hint of orange oil that kicks up the whole experience. As it fades, the unfiltered softness of the wine shines through with a delicately creamy farewell. Good, Great, Excellent, Exemplary. All of these words apply. This is a hallmark wine not only for the Schuster family but for Austria itself. 

While this wine is drinking exceptionally well right now, I highly recommend pursuing older vintages when you find them. Not only Schusters but Moric and Pittnauer, P{rieler, and others. These wines do not exist in a vacuum, and truly all of the winemakers creating great Blaufrankisch in Austria owe each other a debt of gratitude and a high-five, for shining light on this excellent varietal. We are at a special point for Blau, not only is the quality and quantity in Austria exploding, but they are inspiring a new generation of winegrowers across the world. From Austria to Australia, Neuseidlersee to BC to Napa Valley - Blaufrankisch is coming for you! I’m so proud to share this wine with you, in so many ways. 

Solminer - Blaufränkisch - deLanda Vineyard, Los Olivos, Santa Barbara, CA - 2017

Who could have thought that an Underground House Music Producer from LA would fall in love with an Austrian forestry researcher only to retire to the countryside of Santa Barbara where they would convert a conventional Syrah vineyard into a poly-cultural biodynamic love-farm loaded with uncommon Austrian wine varietals?

There is nothing more romantic than visiting David and Anna deLaski on their small ‘deLanda’ family farm in the Los Olivos District of the Santa Ynez Valley. Their project has been immersed in nature from the get-go. Their love of wine, animals, gardening, and the birth of their young son Linus led them to pursue a natural approach to all that they do. Their small acreage is loaded with a diversity of Vines, Fruit Trees, Farm Animals of all types, and big beautiful historic red barn that invites visitors to break into song… Old Macdonald Had a Farm - e i e i - blau!

David and Anna do everything themselves, whether it be pruning the thousands of vines by hand, preparing biodynamic preparations to invigorate their soils, herding their sheep to turn over cover crops, to hand-riddling their legendary sparkling wines (one of which wine club members will remember from December). Their tiny farm production is augmented by a few other organically certified vineyards in the area, but they still top-out at less than 2000 cases of production. Between the huge demand for their wines growing in LA and SF, their burgeoning wine club, and my fascination with their wines - there is hardly enough to go around! Wines like this Blaufrankisch are available for literally days each vintage… be amazed by Satellite’s speed in locking down your shipment! 

This wine is so cool. Blaufrankisch, lover of sunshine, long growing seasons, dry warm air, loves Santa Barbara County. This vintage comes entirely from the deLanda estate, from vines that formerly produced Syrah. The vines were topped and grafted to Blaufrankisch in 2009 and have begun to produce deeply profound and exotic characteristics. These vines love their western-facing vineyard, catching the afternoon sun as it scorches the valley. Downey Mildew and Grey Rot are no problem here, and the richness of biodiversity in the deLanda Vineyard eliminates most invasive species pressures. 

Like Schuster the wines here are all fermented spontaneously and neither filtered nor fined. Similarly, David focuses his efforts on clean fruit and a clean, small winery where nature can safely take its course. The wines he makes are stylistically energetic, electric, powerfully fruited. The wines are very age-worthy too if you can control yourself! This particular Blau is aged 12 months in neutral oak barrels to open it up and let it breath and spread its wings. 

The wine is darker in color with a slightly more blue notes but not quite to intensity to the rim. More wildly bold and less ripe than the Schuster, this wine clocks in at 12.2% ABV to Rosi’s 13%. Stylistically it is more of a ‘natural wine’ with greener characteristics, zippier acidity, and  more up-front fermentation characteristics. Brace yourself for a nose of fresh flowers, smashed tart cherries and blueberries, and young pine trees. The wine is electric from start to finish. 

On the mouth it hits like a fruit basket, all blueberry raspberry cherry with that same terpene (piney) characteristic that pervaded the Schuster. Where the Schuster is ripe and dark, the Solminer flies a tart-er profile and benefits from a slight chill and even a decant if you’re feeling spicy. The wine has huge structural characteristics, most important of which is the immense intensity of flavor that does not quit from start to finish. The wine screams with refreshing acidity, substantial texture pervades the mouth, offering a fun and fascinating feeling to explore, and the tannins are smooth but simply do not quit. Fruit-Roll-Up and Blue Gushers pop into mind while a natural vibrance shines in from the edges. 

When we talk about Blaufrankisch as an age-worthy, significantly structured, essential grape varietal: both of these wines are screaming proof of that. Whether it’s an old school producer shining a new light on traditional Blau in Austria or a New-Wave California dreamin’, love-farm natural Blau, the proof is in the pudding (or the blue hued juice). This grape varietal deserves the praise and I am so happy to share them with you all. 




That’s Blau

This is July  at Satellite

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