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May 2020

Satellite Wine Club, May 2020

Austrian Oranges ☺︎

Michael Wenzel - ‘Wolf and Sheep’ - Skin Contact Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay - Rust, Burgenland, AT - 2018 

$36/Bottle $345/Case 

Solminer - Skin Contact Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, & Muscat - 'deLanda Vineyard' - Los Olivos, Santa Barbara, USA - 2019

$39/Bottle $375/Case


Hanging in there ok?

As I write this I’m feeling a sense of relief. Another month towards the end. At the same time… March 62nd seems more appropriate than May 1st, doesn’t it? 

I want to say a very loud and proud thank you to each and every one of you. Thank you for staying on with us. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for ordering meal and wine deliveries for you and your families. Thank you for supporting us and all of the other great local businesses who have adapted their service to serve a new world. Every order makes this more possible and every bit of contact brings us closer together. I cannot thank you enough for helping us keep this crazy ship afloat.

Thank you. 

Now, onto the serious business of making May more lovely.

With all of this social distancing I have yearned for closeness, community, affection… skin contact. Oh hello

So we’re focusing our palates, our thirst, desire for contact on wines that get just that. Call them orange wines, call them extended maceration whites, the point is that the wines in your club this month have had more skin contact than we’ve been allowed in months! Let’s channel that physicality. 

What does Skin Contact mean? Well it’s just that! The easiest way I can describe it to the uninitiated is this:

Red wines are made by harvesting red grapes and breaking them open to expose the clear juice to the red skins, Orange or Skin Contact Whites are made the exact same way, just with white grapes!

To go a bit further: Rosé wines are made with red grapes processed like White Grapes, with the juice pressed away from the skins early on, generally before fermentation begins.  

That’s the whole thing! You now know everything about wine! See ya!

Just kidding, you know I’m verbose and with all this social distancing I’m ready to sing like a bird! 

Let’s investigate these wines :)

Michael Wenzel - ‘Wolf and Sheep’ - Skin Contact Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay - Rust, Burgenland, AT - 2018 

$36/Bottle $345/Case 

Michael Wenzel is the best. 

His family started farming in his lakeside village, Rust, in 1647. With nearly 400 years of experience in the land, he has a truly deep understanding of how microclimates in his vineyards affect his wines. His family experience made his conversion to low intervention organic farming an obvious and easy decision. 

His 11 hectares rest on the western edge of the Neuseidlersee or Lake Neusiedl. This lake is odd. It’s one of the largest lakes in Europe by surface area, and yet it’s hardly 6ft deep at max. It’s an endorheic lake, meaning it has no out-flow. It also occasionally dries out, over 100 times in it’s roughly 14,000 year existence (most recently in 1866). Because of this weird, terminal basin status, the lake is saltier than most, with about 1/20th the saltiness of seawater. It, therefore, it hosts a particularly unusual climate, geography, and biology in the surrounding area of Austria’s Burgenland. 

What does this lake mean for the surrounding wine country of “Seewinkel” (The name means ‘lake corner’, encompasses all the towns in the area… and is very fun to say)? It means they have lots of ambient warmth and moisture! It’s the kind of muggy warm climate that allows for ripening of warmer weather grapes, and especially helpful for the bigger red Blaufrankisch wines of the region. It’s well adapted to other, more rare styles too. In fact, Wenzel’s local town is notable for its sapidly sweet “beerenauslese” style wines which are only possible via the foggy, wet mornings, and bright summery afternoons. These rare conditions promote Noble Rot (officially: Botrytis) which is a beneficial fungus that helps to raisinate berries while maintaining fresh acidity and complex, exotic flavors. While Michael still makes at least one of these style wines annually, his primary focus has always been on fresher, more elegant and airy style of wines. 

I first fell in love with Michaels wines when I tasted his 2016 ‘Wild and Free’ skin contact gelber muskateller (Muscat). It was one of the first orange wines I really fell head over heels for. A wine that is simply the essence of tangerine blossoms suspended in a warm, salty summer breeze. That wine is truly an accomplishment and something I repeatedly seek out annually. I fell for its balance of levity of weight and yet unavoidable palate texture, its airiness and yet crystal clear flavors. Its color in the glass seems to emit its own light. After that wine I was hooked on the orange stuff, and apparently, so were increasing hoards of winemakers the world-over. 

I see Wenzel’s style adapted by so many new skin contact wines and I regularly hear producers reference his wines when they talk about what they’re trying to accomplish. To be completely honest, when speaking with David DeLaski, the winemaker of your other wine this month, his inspiration from Wenzel inspired the entire theme this month. The skin contact blend from Solminer is truly a microcosm of a stylistic movement created by Micahel Wenzel. 

He is a master of balance, clarity, and texture. 

I’m extremely proud to introduce this month’s wines for a few reasons. First of which is that they are delicious. Full stop: these wines kick ass. Beyond that they are unfathomably rare. Just three barrels from Solminer and a single Concrete egg (maybe four barrels worth) from Wenzel. Additionally, the Wenzel wine arrived for the first time in the USA on Friday and we are quite literally the first and only retailer with it so far. I intentionally overstocked, don’t worry. 

What’s up with this wine? What makes it so special? 

This wine is an experiment. With about double the skin contact time as his ‘Wild and Free’ line, Michael is aiming to honor his own inspirations with this bottling: the wines of Dario Princic and Stanko Radikon, the Emperor's of Italy’s North Eastern Orange wine movement in Friuli. If those guys brought skin contact to the geeks, people like Wenzel are bringing it to the masses.  The wine is primarily Chardonnay with a touch of Sauvignon Blanc. It gets long skin contact, about 1 month, in a Concrete Egg (more on this in a sec). After a month, the wine is pressed from the skins and put back in the egg to slowly evolve for the following year. The wine is bottle without fining or filtration and only the minimum effective addition of SO2. 

WTF is a concrete egg? It’s literally an egg shaped concrete tank! The egg shape happens to encourage convection currents that keep the liquid in motion inside, leading to more refined texture as a softness on the palate as well as an increased flavor profile. Motion is the key, and the egg exploits thermodynamics to make it happen!

Ok, back to the juice. This wine is incredible. On the first pop there is an explosion of florality that catches me off guard. It’s an exotic and inviting experience that encourages deeeeeep exploration!

In the glass it’s got an orangey, amber quality that is classic orange wine. You’ll note that it’s significantly darker than the Solminer which spent 2 weeks rather than a month on skins. One could not be blamed for thinking this wine is oxidized. It is anything but! 

In the glass the wine effuses exoticism. All the sexiest characteristics of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in a dense and yet energetic approach that would be completely foreign in traditional Burgundy or Sancerre wines of the same grapes, and yet, this wine seems instantly classic. I find it so aromatic and floral, but amazingly there are no aromatic grapes like Muskateller in it… I think so much comes from the rich floral diversity in the vineyards soaking into and layering on to the already spicy grape skins. Note the smokey, flinty bit of reductivity that comes from it too, that’s an indication of very low oxygen exposure through the winemaking, and it evolves and effuses more, opening wide as more oxygen floods in. Backed by rich appley goodness, the wine is a

On the palate the wine is alive. It is one of these special wines that meets in the middle, finding real balance between the weight and the acidity, neither heavy nor stinging - the wine is buoyant and yet serious. Waves of apples, orange blossoms, sweet & savory spices, and salt… with the gentle tannins of the grape skins tickling and creating substance on the palate.

Michael set out to make a wine honoring his influences, and he’s done it. He meant it to be casual, and it is, yet the juice inside speaks volumes of serious farming and immaculate winemaking. A true wine grower, Michael continues to push this style of wine into the mainstream, and, I hope, into your glass!

I think I like it. A lot. I think you are going to freak!

Just a heads up, this wine is going to disappear & we have just a few extra cases on hand!

Solminer - Skin Contact Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, & Muscat - 'deLanda Vineyard' - Los Olivos, Santa Barbara, USA - 2019

$39/Bottle $375/Case

I love David and Ana DeLaski. 

The dynamic Austro-American couple met in 2009, fell in love, bought a farm, and decided to make their lives’ second act all about love. That love is infectious! 

Their biodynamically farmed property in Los Olivos, just 40 minutes north, is loaded with sheep, tiny horses, chickens, dogs, and awesome grape vines. I love to visit them if only to be inspired. It is the definition of a love farm and I am resolved to create something like it for my family one day… I yearn to ride a tiny horse. Yeehaw!

Ok, Ok, to the point: A few weeks ago I was ordering some of the Solminer Skin Contact Gruner Veltliner from David and mentioned I was hoping to work with them for the wine club. I asked him what inspired their new skin contact wine and he proceeded to rattle off all the things he loved about Michael Wenzel’s wines. A dream was born, a theme conceived, and a very large order placed. It all happened over a phone call, and I think we both incurred whiplash! David was even scolded by Ana for selling so much of her favorite wine… we did buy about 1/8th of their 68 case production… and I’m inclined to beg for more. This time I’ll be pleading with the real boss instead!! 

This lovely wine is made simply: from Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and a touch of Muscat Blanc au Petit Grains (Gelber Muskateller for you German speakers!) all harvested at peak freshness, capturing the bright acidity and fresh floral notes that work so perfectly in the spring. 100% estate grown, these vines have never seen pesticides and are very, very happy. 

The fruit is collected all together, thoroughly stomped, and left to ferment via naturally occurring yeast for two full weeks before pressing to steel barrels (very cool little fat keggy things) where they spent the next 4 months slowly evolving and growing up. Like the Wenzel, the wine is bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with minimal effective SO2 to help it stay perfect and fresh while not shutting it down. Here’s essentially the same thing but I like how David writes it:

“Yea man it’s all from our vineyard. We love how it turned out and works as a totally biodynamic, natural wine. All cofermented together and pressed right after fermentation and barreled into 3 steel barrels so it stays fresh“ 

- David DeLaski, Owner & Winemaker @ Solminer!

I think he’s done it! He’s made a wine that’s not only reflective of Wenzel’s airier ‘Wild and Free’ line but every bit as good! There’s a lot to unpack here in this wonderful spring treat, let’s get into it. 

Like the Wenzel, this wine efuses complexity from cork pop. A blur of orangey tangerine blossom, elegant floral perfume, and this spicy appley juice spill out into the air. 

Because this wine has the addition of the highly aromatic Gelber Muskateller (Muscat blanc au petit grains) you’ll notice even more overt florality in this glass. That influence comes direct from Wenzel specifically. I love how skin contact softens and rounds the perfuminess of Muscat - taking it from Grandma’s perfume flacon to a much more natural and softened expression. 

On the palate the wine is similar in feel to the wenzel, maybe slightly less pulpy and juicy, but both substantially weighted and yet airy because of it’s bright acidity. I love how it vasilates back and forth between that fresh apple cider, apple & orange blossoms, and exotic indian spice box. It leaves the palate refreshed and yet reverberates seemingly endlessly. That’s Hot!

What I’m so excited about in this wine is, well, I guess it’s everything! This is a wine that completely gets me:; it speaks my language, excites my passion for the new, the unexplored. It proves that grapes are magic, that they will adapt to all kinds human flavors - all types of real, remarkably clear ingredients we see in the natural world. 

This is the kind of wine to pop with Mom this Mother's Day, social distancing engaged of course. This is just the right wine to bring people together, to brighten a tough day, to tease out a smile. This wine is alive, it’s real, and it’s real good. 

Cheers to you Winestronaut.


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