Satellite Wine Club, October 2017
STiRM - 2015 Grüner Veltliner, Rancho Arroyo Perdido, Santa Ynez, CA
Alzinger - 2016 Grüner Veltliner, “Frauenweingarten” Federspiel, Wachau, AT
Happy Autumn! Happy Harvest! Happy October! Happy Grüner month at Satellite! This month we turn to Austria to reflect on the changing season, respite from the heat of the summer, and to look forward to the many bounties of the autumn harvest.
You may be wondering, “gee, why did this guy choose a white grape varietal as it’s getting colder out and I want to drink big gnarly red wines to warm the cockles of my heart”... I say to you, “Whatever man! It’s Grüner Veltliner and Grüner Veltliner don’t give a damn” It’s a perfect grape for the season and here’s why:
Grüner is autumn. It’s a late ripening grape, practically unusable in colder climates. It is filled with autumn fruits and spices, like ripe lemon citrus and golden apple, fresh white peach, white pepper, sometimes accompanied by with hints of radish, ginger, honey, and green beans! It’s a perfect vessel for showcasing the great soils of Austria and the world, both in texture and flavors. It has this unmistakable, captivating long finish that is so subtle yet pleasant that you can forget about it… and minutes later, in a different room of your house, you can be reminded that there is a delicious glass of Grüner patiently waiting to surprise you yet again in your next sip. Try it with this month’s wines. I dare you. These things are a master course in mind boggling length of finish.
Here are some quick facts about Grüner that I think are worth noting: It is the most widely planted grape in Austria (+49,000acres, over 80% of the world’s Grüner vineyard), where it gives us its very best examples from Kamptal, Wachau, Kremstal, Weinviertel, and Wagram (all of which are very fun to say aloud). It is a mid-ripening grape, making it all but impossible to grow in northern Europe. It is a high acid grape, making it terrific for ageing when grown and vinified with care. It comes in three general quality levels: Steinfeder (up to 11.5% abv, the lightest, cheapest, freshest), Federspiel (up to 12.5% abv, with plenty of character and potential for ageing), and Smaragd (minimum 12.5% abv,rich in body, suitable for long ageing and wide smiling. Named after the local vineyard-living lizard of the Wachau region).
Grüner is a fascinating varietal, with deep history in Austria, deep affection the world-over, and deep, endless capacity exploration. We love the wines of Grüner Veltliner because they encourage a long, slow, and deliberate approach to wine enjoyment.
This month we do the Grüner dance.
Alzinger, 2016 Loibner “Frauenweingarten” Federspiel
Loibenberg, Wachau, AT
100% Grüner Veltliner
Championed by the undisputed all-time greatest importer of both Austrian and German wine, Terry Thiese, the Alzinger story really begins with Leo Alzinger Sr. starting his own wine production from the family’s historic vineyards which were traditionally sold off to the local coop. There he took advantage of their prime real estate in the village of Loiben in the Wachau, where the gentle flow of the Danube river offers climate moderation and reflected sunlight to the vines of Frauenweingarten (The Women’s Vineyard). Just like the great riverside vineyards of the world, the Danube offers a perfect setting for the full expression of Grüner Veltliner.
The vines and cellar are now run by Leo Alzinger Jr, with father always nearby offering experience in the cellar and physical support in the steep terraced vineyards. Leo’s background apprenticing at another one of our favorite wineries in Germany (Pfalz’s Müller Catoir) gave him ample training in excellent viticulture and minimal interventionist winemaking.
This wine is fascinating. Supple, almost salty on the first sip with a silk-like texture. It is palate-enveloping. Broad, soft waves of shimmering ripe yellow apple, fresh green beans, peach blossom, beeswax, and white pepper all ripple across the palate (seriously, rippling, it’s like magic, I can’t describe it any other way). The intensity of the wine rises and falls as the flavors sink deeper and deeper into the finish. It’s a finish that will.not.quit. And for that I am so very thankful!
Grown on a gravelly, ancient riverbed soil (just like our STiRM wine this month!) it conveys all the delicate notes of the varietal alongside earth. It’s just a real reflection of its naissance. I like that and I hope you do too.
This wine is a classic, it is fun, it is bright and fresh, it is deep and compelling. It is Alzinger! ZING!
$30 @ Satellite SB
STiRM, 2015 Old Vine Rancho Arroyo Perdido, Santa Ynez Valley, CA
100% Grüner Veltliner
Ryan Stirm is a fanatic. He’s a fanatic farmer, he’s a fanatic riesling and grüner drinker, he’s a fanatic for fun. This wine is so much fun. Ryan is, first and foremost, a very serious farmer. He manages some of the best vineyards between Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. With a family background in foraging, a B.Sc. in viticulture and enology from Cal Poly Slo, and a serious litany of winery experiences including a harvest at Weingut Tegernseerhof in Wachau (LITERALLY THE WINERY NEXT DOOR TO ALZINGER!! THIS WINECLUB IS MAKING CONNECTIONS!) Ryan was deeply influenced and inspired by his experiences in Wachau and returned to California to make wines in the style of his mentors there.
Think of this wine as a direct descendent of the Alzinger Grüner in your other wineclub bottle. Ryan takes what he learned in Wachau and puts a western progressive winemaking approach on it with absolutely the least “winemaking” and most “winegrowing” he can do. As a grower, Ryan sees his essential work as farming the very best grape quality possible, using hard work rather than chemicals to respond to the vineyard’s needs. He allows spontaneous fermentations, eschewing industrial yeast, and works with whole clusters to capture the whole of the vineyard and vintage. These wines are a piece of living history, they are authentic, and they are a local treasure for us in California.
The Rancho Arroyo Perdido wine in your glass is fascinating. It leaps from the glass into the nose with peach blossom and green apple tart. It hints at the soft, warm salty breeze from the nearby california coast. It gives a clear, bright ripe palate reflecting salty peach blossoms and ripe fruit. I dream about this wine paired with fire-grilled peaches and burrata with a drizzle of fresh mountain honey. That’s honestly how it tastes. I am drooling all over my keyboard. Deceptively high acidity is a classic structural element of Grüner so well captured here. It finishes all honey and white pepper, forever. I can’t explain why these soft white wines finish so elegantly and long, but they do and it rocks.
Ryan Stirm and his crew make great wines. This is a really great wine. He’s a treasure and so is his Rancho Arroyo Perdido Grüner Veltliner.
$28 @ Satellite SB
@stirmwineco on instagram… worth the follow.
Serve both of these wines slightly warmer than you might expect. Around 55º and let them slowly warm up. You will find so much in them.
This is October at Satellite. It’s pretty Grü-vee